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NAR: U.S. home sales decline slightly in April

WASHINGTON – May 21, 2019 – Existing-home sales declined slightly in April after a drop the month earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Two of the four major U.S. regions saw a slight dip in sales, while the West saw growth and the Midwest stayed the same.

Total existing-home sales – completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – fell 0.4% from March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.19 million in April. Total sales are down 4.4% from a year ago (5.43 million in April 2018).

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, isn’t overly concerned about the 0.4% dip in sales and expects moderate growth very soon.

“First, we are seeing historically low mortgage rates combined with a pent-up demand to buy, so buyers will look to take advantage of these conditions,” he says. “Also, job creation is improving, causing wage growth to align with home price growth, which helps affordability and will help spur more home sales.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in April was $267,300, up 3.6% from April 2018 ($257,900). April’s price increase marks the 86th straight month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of April increased to 1.83 million, up from 1.67 million existing homes available for sale in March and a 1.7% increase from 1.80 million a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 4.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 3.8 months in March and up from 4.0 months in April 2018.

“We see that the inventory totals have steadily improved and will provide more choices for those looking to buy a home,” Yun says, and sellers have to realize that price growth has moderated. “When placing their home on the market, home sellers need to be very realistic and aware of the current conditions.”

Properties remained on the market for an average of 24 days in April, down from 36 days in March and down from 26 days a year ago; 53% of homes sold in April were on the market for less than a month.

Yun says that college student debt continues to hinder millennial homebuyers. “Given the record high job openings in the construction sector, some may want to take a gap year to work there and save, and thereby lessen the student debt burden.”

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 4.14% in April from 4.27% in March. The average commitment rate across all of 2018 was 4.54%.

“I think the market had a bit of a slow start in the Fall, but Realtors all over the country have been telling me that April was a nice rebound. We’re hopeful and expect that this will continue heading into the summer,” says NAR President John Smaby. “Homes over the last month sold quickly, which is not only a win-win for buyers and sellers, but it’s also great for the real estate industry.”

First-time buyers were responsible for 32% of sales in April, down from the 33% reported last month and one year ago.

All-cash sales accounted for 20% of transactions in April, down from March and a year ago (21% in both cases). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 16% of homes in April, down from March’s 18%, but up from a year ago (14%).

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – represented 3% of sales in April, equal to the 3% in March and down from 4% in April 2018. One percent of April 2019 sales were short sales.

Single-family and condo/co-op sales
Single-family home sales sat at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million in April, down from 4.67 million in March and down 4.0% from 4.81 million a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $269,300 in April, up 3.7% from April 2018.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 570,000 units in April, up 5.6% from the prior month and down 8.1% from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $251,000 in April, which is up 3.4% from a year ago.

Regional breakdown
April existing-home sales numbers in the Northeast decreased 4.5% to an annual rate of 640,000 – 4.5% below a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $277,700, up 0.9% from April 2018.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales saw relatively no percentage change from the month prior, as the annual rate remained 1.17 million – 7.9% below April 2018 levels. The median price in the Midwest was $210,500, an increase of 5.5% from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South modestly dropped 0.4% to an annual rate of 2.27 million in April, down 1.7% from a year ago. The median price in the South was $236,800, up 4.4% from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West grew 1.8% to an annual rate of 1.11 million in April, 5.9% below a year ago. The median price in the West was $395,100, up 1.3% from April 2018.

© 2019 Florida Realtors

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The future of the RE market? 3 predictions – all good

WASHINGTON – May 21, 2019 – According to speakers at the National Association of Realtors®‘ (NAR) recent meetings, continued economic expansion, rising home sales and an increase in wage growth on par with home price growth are expected for the second half of 2019.

Three economic experts offered insights, including Dr. Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com and Dr. Johannes Stroebel, associate professor of finance at New York University.

Yun predicts changing future migration patterns as buyers search for more affordable markets. Inventory in the U.S. has grown for eight straight months on a year-over-year basis, and Yun expects that to continue.

“Home sales should be much stronger based on the economic fundamentals of jobs, interest rates, population and consumer confidence,” says Yun.

After several years of home price growth outpacing wage growth, both are more closely aligned this year as average hourly wages accelerate.

“With strong job creation, wages are growing at a faster pace,” he adds. “Finally, wages and home prices are aligning. This is good news for employees.” He says this shift is a healthy development toward keeping housing affordability stable.

That said, Yun notes some other influences on the real estate market. Because of significant differences in home prices between metro markets, he says there may be a steady shift in the relocation of people and companies into more affordable regions of the country. Housing affordability had been falling according to NAR’s Housing Affordability Index.

“While affordability has been sliding, it is still better than we saw in the year 2000. This is due to much lower mortgage interest rates today,” Yun says.

Hale projects that year-over-year inventory growth will be moderate nationwide, noting that realtor.com saw listing prices rise 6.9% year-over-year in April. The Realtors Affordability Distribution Curve and Score produced by NAR and realtor.com shows that higher income households have more access to available inventory.

“We used to see home price growth only around the coasts, but now we’re seeing it throughout the country,” Hale says. “Nationwide, there are not enough affordable homes on the market, and those numbers have been declining.”

Stroebel discussed a recently developed paper on behavioral economics and housing, and his analysis went beyond data on jobs and home prices. His research evaluated how Facebook data and individual beliefs about the local housing market can influence friends’ purchase choices.

Is buying a house a good investment? According to Stroebel, people’s beliefs about whether buying a house is a good investment are driven by the house-price experiences of their friends. “Friends’ experiences are fundamentally related to personal beliefs of the housing market investments and influence personal behavior.”

According to Stroebel, having Facebook friends who experience a 5% increase in home prices over the past two years can increase the probability that a renter buys a home over the next two years by 3%. “Individuals do discuss property value with their friends, and this changes behavior,” he says.

Positive experiences were even shown to increase size of the home individuals purchased. “When home prices in socially-connected counties go up, it causes a reaction that changes home prices locally.”

© 2019 Florida Realtors

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FHA working on plan to approve more condo mortgages

WASHINGTON – May 21, 2019 – Realtors® in Washington last week met with Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Acting Deputy Secretary and Federal Housing Commissioner Brian Montgomery. During that meeting, Montgomery told them about a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) effort to finalize a new rule surrounding condominium policies.

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) supports changes because it will open up more affordable housing opportunities to first-time buyers and others. The regulation currently in the works would allow owner-occupancy level determination on a case-by-case basis, up to 45% commercial space without documentation, and a five-year approval period for project certification.

“As you all know, one opportunity is condominiums, which have been traditionally a mainstay of affordable housing for both first-time homeowners and seniors,” Montgomery said. “We’ve been in the process of revising our condominium project approval requirements to get to a final rule and update our policies.

“We anticipate that the updated regulations will be more flexible, less prescriptive and more reflective of the current market than existing provisions. It may also include single-unit approvals for loans that meet HUD standards for unapproved projects, allowing HUD to set the specific percentage.”

The final rule is currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget, but Montgomery believes the end of the process is in sight.

Housing affordability

Montgomery spoke at length about current U.S. affordable housing problems.

“You all know better than most that affordability is an enormous challenge in many markets around the country,” Montgomery said. “Large constraints on the housing market by regulations have exacerbated the shortage for hard-working families who are employed and willing to buy but continue to be priced out. The good news is that in today’s economy, we have job growth, low unemployment and wage gains that have provided an additional shot in the arm.”

Montgomery said that overregulation and misguided zoning laws have helped contribute to the housing affordability and accessibility issues facing many U.S. markets.

“The combination of regulatory overreach and an aging housing stock has meant not enough affordable units are left – or worse, being built,” he said. “Zoning, environmental and sometimes labor restrictions have made it more difficult for areas across the country to meet the growing [housing] demand. We will need continued wage and economic growth and regulatory reform to mitigate affordability constraints. This will also require that not just HUD, but states and localities ease the regulatory burden and other impediments to development.”

© 2019 Florida Realtors

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Down to the WIRE: ‘Women in Real Estate’ pre-registration

Only a few seats remain for Florida Realtors Women in Real Estate (WIRE) conference on June 5, and pre-registration ends on May 29 – one week from today. Be inspired.

 

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Florida Realtors names Danielle Scoggins VP of public policy

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – May 21, 2019 – Florida Realtors® named Danielle Scoggins as its new vice president of public policy.

“Danielle has proven herself to be an invaluable part of the public policy efforts of Florida Realtors where she has delivered a multitude of key legislative victories since joining the team,” says Florida Realtors CEO Margy Grant. “She has shown true leadership within our public policy office, and I am confident she will bring even more success to our organization and our industry in her new role as vice president.”

The vice president of public policy oversees the government affairs team as well as the Realtor Political Action Committee (RPAC). In addition to day-to-day operations of the public policy office in Tallahassee, the vice president of public policy oversees all initiatives related to Florida Realtors’ legislative agenda, fundraising and political activities of RPAC, and coordinating member involvement in Florida Realtors’ public policy-related matters.

Scoggins joined Florida Realtors in 2015 as a senior public policy representative. Prior to that, she was the director of legislative and cabinet services for the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) where she advocated for the department’s legislative priorities and worked with members of the Florida Cabinet.

Before joining DOR, she served in multiple roles within state government, including deputy legislative affairs director for the Executive Office of the Governor and policy chief in the Office of Policy and Budget.

Scoggins earned her bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems (MIS) and master’s degree in Applied American Politics and Policy (MAAPP) from Florida State University.

© 2019 Florida Realtors

 

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Online estimates more accurate but still just estimates

NEW YORK – May 21, 2019 – The conversation happens almost every day. And it often starts the same way.

“‘Zillow says,’ ‘Trulia says,'” Re-Max real estate agent Mike Bernadyn hears from clients trying to settle on a listing price. “It’s almost nails on a chalkboard for us.”

Because one way or another, there’s usually a disappointment – at first.

In the information-overload age, the proliferation of online estimates of millions of homes both on and off market puts the real estate agent in a variety of awkward or advantageous positions, depending on one’s perspective. It’s a key to an educated public, a tool in the agent’s trade, or the thorn in their side that makes them justify their own estimates.

In Bernadyn’s experience, online estimates from listing sites often value homes too high.

“Folks are like, ‘Are you kidding me, that’s it?'” when he tells them his suggested price, he said.

There’s no choice but to make light of the situation, even laugh it off, he said. It’s now a fact of a real estate agent’s life.

A generation ago, the Multiple Listing Service – the holy grail of data on home listings, market trends and forecasts – came in a thick three-ring binder exclusively to the offices of real estate brokers, sending agents in a mad dash about every two weeks between the massive catalog and the copy machine.

They held the key to that information. Now, thanks to websites such as Zillow, Redfin and Trulia, everyone has a copy.

“They do the industry a big favor by helping us distribute that information out there more effectively than we could before,” said Craig Sachse, a Keller Williams real estate agent in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “But like any great thing, it’s a double-sided coin.”

On the other side is a clientele armed with computer-generated estimates: prebaked expectations of what their homes should sell for put up against their local agent’s calculation, which is almost always different.

The developers of these tools call them a conversation starter. Real estate agents have mixed feelings about the conversation.

Origins of the online estimate

Power to the people – that’s Zillow’s whole shtick, company senior economist Skylar Olsen says.

The Zestimate – an estimate of a home’s market value based on data points encompassing the home’s dimensions and its neighbors, among hundreds of others – predates the Zillow of today, where agents pay top dollar to advertise listings or snag potential clients. It was born in 2006 on the premise of the democratization of previously protected MLS data, Olsen said. That it ruffles feathers comes as no surprise.

“We were aware it would be provocative,” she said.

In the early days, it was a hurdle to overcome in a new agent-homeowner relationship, said Sean LaSalle, an associate broker with Berkshire Hathaway. People took the website estimates as gold.

“In the beginning it was, ‘This is what my house is worth,'” he said.

In reality, home value estimations that appear on these websites are automated valuation models: computer-generated formulas based on data from the MLS. The floodgates opened after a 2014 decision by the National Association of Realtors® to require Multiple Listing Services to make their data available to any broker that wants to use it to create an automated valuation model, which provides property values using comparable properties, through a third party.

Redfin, which started as a brokerage, jumped in on the action and created the Redfin Estimate in 2015. The extent of what Redfin spokeswoman Rachel Musiker can say about the Redfin Estimate is that it takes into account hundreds of data points, including data it collects from its local real estate agents.

Plenty of brokers run their own automated valuation models. LaSalle uses his as a launching point before going on a listing appointment. The tough part of the conversation is urging the client away from basing their offers solely on them.

“Under no circumstances do I look at them and say this is the value of a house,” LaSalle said.

The box conundrum

Zillow thinks of homes as boxes, Olsen explains: boxes with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and 1,600 square feet.

That’s the sticking point for local agents: The computer models cannot look inside a home. A finished basement, for example, could add $12,000 to $15,000 to the value of a home, LaSalle said. Or the neighbor down the street with a nearly identical exterior and floor plan could have foreclosed.

The box paradigm is less of a problem in cookie-cutter neighborhoods where Zillow can draw data from transactions happening at neighbors’ similar houses. But the fewer neighbors one has, the tougher a job the algorithm has.

In the Lehigh Valley, which has a mixture of densely and not-so-densely populated areas, agents say it is not uncommon for online estimates from a host of websites to be 10-20% off.

Take Bernadyn’s former listing on Newport Avenue in Northampton, for example. Zillow places it at $123,000. Redfin is even higher: Its estimate is $129,000, but its estimated range goes up to $136,000.

The house sold for $116,000.

Even smaller disparities in price throw off the marketing of the home, particularly when it’s priced too high, he said.

In Emmaus, LaSalle listed a five-bedroom house on Westminster Drive a month ago for $740,000. In those 30 days, the Zestimate increased by more than $32,000, landing at $761,000 and moving further away from the target.

The larger the list price, typically, the larger the estimated range online platforms provide. The Westminster Drive home could be anywhere between $715,000 and $799,000, according to Zillow.

“If I provided that kind of range, no one would list with me,” LaSalle said.

And then there’s the rare case that defies explanation, like Sachse’s $6 million listing overlooking Hawk Mountain, a 13,800-square-foot mansion dubbed Blue Mountain Estate.

Zillow’s estimate of $424,000 even has its own robot confused. The listing notes: “The list price and Zestimate for this home are very different, so we might be missing something.”

“It certainly doesn’t help to have an estimate up there one-12th of what you’re asking,” Sachse said.

Secluded and “unique” homes like the Blue Mountain Estate are prone to inaccuracies in the Zestimate, Zillow acknowledges in its online FAQ.

For these homes, Olsen said, “a box doesn’t cut it.”

Hitting the mark

Zillow’s first sample of 75 million homes carried a median error rate of 13%, meaning half of Zestimates came within 13% of what the homes actually sold for, and half landed outside the 13% window, Olsen said. Now, with 110 million homes assessed, that window has closed to 4.5%, she said.

The Redfin Estimate launched in 2015 with a median error rate of nearly 2% for homes on the market and just over 6% for homes off the market, according to the company. It says the current median error rate for homes for sale is 1.73%.

Zillow also breaks down its error rate by city and county. Lehigh County’s is 4.7%; Northampton’s is 5.2%.

With the improvements in the algorithm and the gift of time, LaSalle said, public understanding that the estimate is just that – an estimate – has also mildly improved.

Though the exact formula for its estimates are trade secrets, Zillow has made public its efforts to expand it.

The company has crowd-sourced ideas for data points over the last couple years, Olsen said, including road noise, rent data and a factor called “view shed”: how much of a view your home has and how many nice things are in it.

And they may soon fight back against the adage that they do not consider the inside feel of a home. Zillow is testing algorithms for predicting quality from indoor photos posted to its website.

“That’s not yet – that’s down the road,” Olsen said.

Zillow and Redfin emphasize in their online materials that their estimates are not appraisals, but starting points, dedicating FAQ entries that defer to the local knowledge of a real estate agent.

“As with most fine print, consumers don’t always look at it that way,” Sachse said. “People put a lot of faith in those models.”

In many cases, the public has the freedom to help change estimates on their homes. On both Zillow and Redfin, a homeowner or their agent can update the facts on their home and request the companies consider these updated facts in a recalculation of the estimate. Last year, Redfin launched an “owner estimate” tool for homeowners to come up with their own estimation to display alongside Redfin’s estimation.

On Redfin, only the owners or agents of homes for sale can request the estimate be taken down, Musiker said. The Zestimate never gets taken down, Olsen said, but her team constantly uses feedback to adjust the algorithm.

That’s tough, Bernadyn says, when small subdivisions can behave like entirely different neighborhoods.

Andy Santana, a Keller Williams agent serving the Lehigh Valley, said he uses the conversation about online estimates as an opportunity to gain rapport with his clients and show the more nuanced aspects of the pricing that only he knows. This, Olsen says, would be the ideal outcome.

“Democratizing this information changes the value proposition of an agent, but I don’t think we’re removing the value of the agent,” she said.

Not even for the senior economist at Zillow, who said when she’s ready to sell, she calls her agent.

© 2019 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.), Kayla Dwyer, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Fla.’s housing market: Sales, median prices rise in April

ORLANDO, Fla. – May 21, 2019 – Florida’s housing market reported more sales, higher median prices and increased inventory (active listings) in April compared to a year ago, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 26,992 last month, up 6.2% over April 2018.

Still-low mortgage interest rates and a strong jobs outlook are positive trends for Florida’s housing market,”says 2019 Florida Realtors President Eric Sain,

In April, statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and condo-townhouse properties rose year-over-year for the 88th consecutive month. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $259,470, up 2.6% from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Last month’sstatewide median price for condo-townhouse units was $194,050, up 2.1% over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in March 2019 was $261,100, up 3.8% from the previous year; the national median existing condo price was $565,880; in Massachusetts, it was $390,000; in Maryland, it was $285,000; and in New York, it was $270,000.

Looking at Florida’s condo-townhouse market in April, statewide closed sales totaled 11,817, up 3.2% compared to a year ago. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

April was easily the strongest month we’ve seen so far this year for home sales in the Sunshine State,” says Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor. “Prior to April, single-family closed sales for 2019 were actually down year-over-year, but with April’s little surge (up 6.2%), sales in 2019 are now up by 1% compared to where we were through the first four months of 2018.

“The statewide inventory of active listings continued to rise on a year-over-year basis in April, but the rate of this growth continues to slow somewhat. As of the end of April, there were about 95,000 single-family homes listed in Florida’s MLSs (Multiple Listing Services) or 6.6% more than were listed at the same time last year. The total of active listings of condos and townhouses was closer to about 58,500, up 6.4% compared to last year.”

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.47 percent in April 2019, compared to the 4.14 percent averaged during the same month a year earlier.

To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to Florida Realtors Research & Statistics section on floridarealtors.org. Realtors also have access to local market stats (password protected) on Florida Realtors’ website.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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A home has tons of amenities – which do you list first?

NEW YORK – May 20, 2019 – Homeowners are sometimes hesitant to upgrade when it’s time to sell. After all, you won’t be living there much longer, and most home remodeling efforts only increase home values by 50%-80% of the average project’s costs, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value report. For example, the average cost of a mid-range bathroom remodel is $20,420. You’d recoup about $13,717 (67.2%) of that amount during a resale.

While you may not want to spend the extra cash, the cost of inaction can be far greater than the small loss you’ll incur on any home-improvement projects.

“Making small upgrades over time serves a seller immensely,” says Brian Lewis, a real estate broker with New York City-based realty firm Compass. These don’t have to be break-the-bank alterations, either. Even merely keeping the color palette up-to-date will go a long way.

“Getting stuck in time with your home isn’t a smart move and is rarely rewarded financially at sale time,” he adds. In fact, it may cause your house to linger on the market longer. As a result, you’ll likely have to pay ongoing mortgage, maintenance and staging costs.

To make the most of your remodeling budget, focus on features that most homebuyers really want to see.

Home features most coveted by today’s buyers

Laundry room
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 91%
Cost to install: $1,000 to $5,000 for a small-scale project

More than anything else, homeowners want a room other than the guest bedroom to stack all the clean laundry in until it finally gets put away. A separate laundry room tops the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) list of most-wanted home features by buyers.

“Having a separate room [to use for things such as folding or ironing clothes] helps to keep the mess out of your living space … Potential buyers will see it as a huge benefit,” says Paul Sullivan, founder and president of the Sullivan Company, a Newton, Mass., remodeling and custom-building firm.

If you don’t have an existing laundry room and want to add one, the basement is usually the easiest (and cheapest) place to put it, Sullivan advises. The utility lines are already there, and in many cases the basement is unfinished, so you won’t have to demolish anything first. Adding a laundry room in the basement can cost as little as $1,000, he says.

However, homeowners who prefer a laundry room or laundry closet (which fits just a washer and dryer) closer to the bedroom can expect installation to cost around $5,000, Sullivan notes. The cost of a full laundry room complete with a sink and storage cabinets could easily surpass $10,000, he says.

Energy efficiencies (appliances and windows)
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 89%
Cost to install: Varies by appliance

Would-be buyers looking to limit utility bills will likely be drawn to properties with energy efficiencies, such as Energy Star-qualified windows and appliances. “Buyers are most impressed with smart, energy-efficient choices that in no way limit their comfort, but in every way save them money in the long run,” Compass’s Lewis says. Sellers should be sure to play up these features in their home listings.

Energy-efficient windows can trim heating and cooling costs by 12%, while individual appliances, such as an Energy Star-certified washing machine ($528 to $1,800 at Home Depot), can save homeowners $45 a year or more on their utility bills. Replacing an existing clothes dryer with an energy-efficient version could save as much as $245 over the appliance’s lifetime.

Energy Star-qualified windows have an invisible glass coating, vacuum-sealed spaces filled with inert gas between panes, sturdier weather stripping than regular windows and improved framing materials – all of which reduce undesirable heat gain and loss in the home. An Energy Star-certified dishwasher (ranging in price from $230 to $1,709 at Home Depot) uses soil sensors to assess how dirty your dishes are to minimize water use.

Patio
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 87%
Cost to install: $963 per 120 square feet for a concrete patio

It’s important for homeowners not to neglect the backyard area when prepping for resale, says Mike McGrew, former treasurer of the National Association of Realtors and CEO of McGrew Real Estate, a Lawrence, Kansas-based realty firm. In today’s housing market, outdoor living spaces have become the most coveted outdoor home feature.

“When most buyers see a house with a really nice backyard, they start to envision themselves sitting outdoors with friends having drinks,” McGrew adds. Outdoor areas offer more living space without the cost of a large-scale home addition.

Thanks to the popularity of backyard renovation TV shows, such as HGTV’s Going Yard, DIY Network’s Yard Attack! And Bravo’s Backyard Envy, buyers now envision everything from a traditional ground-level patio to an elevated deck to a backyard kitchen area.

Ceiling fan
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 85%
Cost to install: $466 per fixture with light kit and remote control

In addition to improving a home’s aesthetic, energy-efficient ceiling fans (ranging in price from $69 to $1,300 at Lowe’s) can also help lower cooling costs when used in conjunction with an air conditioner during the warmer months.

Ceiling fans create a wind-chill effect that helps cool the people sitting in the room. Homeowners should be able to raise the thermostat level by four degrees without a reduction in comfort while the fan is in use, according to Energy.gov.

Energy.gov recommends that ceiling fans only be used in rooms with a ceiling height of at least eight feet. The fans work best at that height and when they’re hanging 10 to 12 inches below the ceiling.

Garage storage space
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 85%
Cost to install: $2,025 – $2,363 for 380 square feet

Buyers with growing families need lots of storage space. Sellers should keep in mind that “streamlined living equates to more dollars in your pocket at sale time,” Compass’s Lewis says. Carving out some space in your garage to help keep clutter out of the main living area could help your bottom line. “Make sure the bonus space is easily accessible and wonderfully organized,” he adds.

Unlike an attic or a backyard shed, the garage is accessible – generally, just a few steps away from the rest of the house – making it easier to transport items such as tools, patio chairs or boxes to and from other parts of the house.

The installation cost includes adding cabinetry and shelving, peg wall boards for tool storage, overhead lighting and additional electrical circuits.

Exterior lighting
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 85%
Cost to install: $65 per fixture

Illuminating a well-manicured lawn with exterior lighting can help grab potential buyers’ attention before they even set foot in the front door. In fact, exterior lighting is the second most-wanted outdoor feature (patio was first), according to the NAHB. Options include spotlights, walkway lights and pendant lights.

Aesthetics aside, exterior lighting also serves as an added safety feature for your home, says Daniel Hurst, owner and general manager of Hurst Design-Build-Remodel, a Middleburg Heights, Ohio-based home remodeling company. Motion-sensor lights, for example, turn on automatically whenever there is movement outside your house.

Walk-in pantry
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 83%
Cost to install: Varies based on design

Home buyers with families know that the kitchen can quickly become overcrowded when there’s not enough space to store the essentials (think: canned goods, condiments and food storage containers). That’s why many are including a walk-in pantry on their must-have list for potential homes. In fact, it was the most-wanted kitchen feature among buyers polled in the NAHB’s report.

Unlike reach-in closet pantries with sliding doors that offer limited space, walk-in versions allow homeowners to store larger quantities of non-perishable food items and other kitchen essentials just steps away from the food prep area, suggests Neil Parsons, project designer for Move or Improve, a Matawan, N.J.-based home design firm. This can be especially helpful for those who like to shop in bulk at warehouse clubs.

Walk-in pantries are typically 5 x 5 feet and have U-shaped open shelves or cabinets with a countertop. Make sure the pantry is situated somewhere that is cool and dry.

Hardwood floors
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 83%
Cost to install: $999 per 120 square feet of red oak flooring

Hardwood flooring offers a cleaner look, is easier to maintain and is more durable than carpet, which needs to be replaced every eight to 10 years. “Hardwood can be refinished periodically and lasts a lifetime,” Sullivan says.

Sellers on a budget may want to buy engineered wood flooring (which is a hardwood veneer wrapped around several layers of plywood, fiberboard and hardwood). The cost to install 120 square feet of engineered wood flooring is $858 – nearly 15% cheaper than pure hardwood flooring.

Walk-in closet (master bedroom)
Cost to install: Varies based on design

While walk-in closets aren’t among the top demands of all homebuyers, they’re quickly gaining in popularity among first- and second-time homebuyers, according to a 2018 NAHB survey that focused on new buyers. A walk-in closet in the master bedroom ranked among their top five features.

If you live in an older dwelling with a reach-in closet, you may want to consider revamping it, suggests Maria Zamora, a realtor associate with Realty Consultants Network in Addison, Tex. Couples generally want a closet with more space because they’ll be sharing it. Singles desire the flexibility of being able to store their personal belongings – from clothes and shoes to jewelry and other accessories – in one place, while keeping them organized.

“Homes without a walk-in-closet in the master bedroom are more of a challenge to sell and will attract less buyers,” Zamora adds.

If you live in an older home with less space, a full closet renovation in the master bedroom may not be practical. However, you still have options that will help make your property more appealing. Update an existing reach-in closet by installing an organization system complete with shelving units and hanging rods for clothes. You can purchase a prefabricated system from Ikea, which range in price from $155 to $2,077. Go the DIY route or have an Ikea professional install the unit for an additional fee.

You can also hire a consultant from a custom closet design firm, such as The Closet Factory, to come to your home and design an organization system that fits your space. The cost will vary based on your requirements.

If you’re an empty-nester, you could even turn a nearby smaller room into a custom walk-in closet. Depending on the quality of the materials used (for example, solid wood shelving vs. wooden veneer shelving), this type of project could range in price from $1,000 to $6,500, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

Eat-in kitchen
Cost to install: $1,000 – $10,000

Eat-in kitchens are also a must-have among first- and second-time home buyers. They’re especially attractive to families with children. It’s a space where they can congregate in the morning for breakfast before the kids head off to school and parents to work, or in the evening for dinner so everyone can share highlights from their day.

Removing a non-load-bearing wall to create space for a small table and chairs in your kitchen is relatively inexpensive (as little as $1,000), but that price can quickly escalate if your demolition reveals plumbing, duct work and electrical wiring that needs to be removed, Move or Improve’s Parsons says.

If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford to knock out a wall to create more space for a table and chairs, consider adding a center island with room for bar stools, he suggests. You can purchase prefabricated kitchen islands with space for seating at Home Depot (starting at $540) and Lowe’s (starting at $464).

Dining room
Cost to install: $1,000 – $6,000 to add ceiling fixtures or structural columns to open floor plan

In recent years, formal dining rooms (and closed floor plans) have taken a backseat to open floor concepts in today’s home models. While open floor concepts help maximize space when entertaining, there are still home buyers who desire a separate dining area distinct from the kitchen. In fact, a separate dining room is among the top 10 essentials for first- and second-time home buyers in the NAHB survey.

“A meal in the dining room creates a sense of importance … It makes people feel special, whether it’s for holiday gatherings or a quiet sit-down dinner with your family,” says Shannon Lynch, a Realtor with Savvy + Co. Real Estate, a Charlotte, N.C.-based realty firm.

If your home has an open floor plan, there are still ways to create a dining space that’s distinct and will attract buyers who desire such a feature. You can add an over-the-table lighting fixture or incorporate a tray ceiling to help define a particular area of the main living level – perhaps just off the kitchen. Another option: Install decorative columns instead of a solid wall. Adding the tray ceiling or decorative columns would skew on the higher end of installation costs and includes materials and labor, Parsons notes.

For those with older homes that have a closed floor plan, it may be time to reexamine your dining room. The cost of a small-scale remodel to a 190-square-foot space ranges in price from $5,832 to $6,804, according to HomeWyse.com. This includes installing new flooring, doors, switch plates, decorative hardware and recessed lighting.

Copyright © 2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Andrea Browne Taylor, online editor

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AI won’t replace Realtors – but prepare for a change

WASHINGTON – May 20, 2019 – From chat bots that talk to your clients on your behalf to voice technology that can guide you through your workday, artificial intelligence is changing the way real estate professionals work.

Speakers at the National Association of Realtors®’ (NAR) Emerging Business Issues & Technology Forum on Thursday briefed attendees on how AI is evolving to help automate real estate professionals’ tasks, and why it’s so important to stay ahead of the trends.

“We can automate anything, but we have to be prepared for what the consequences are to that, and make sure that automation doesn’t do more damage than good,” said Jeff Turner, entrepreneur-in-residence with Second Century Ventures, the strategic investment arm of NAR.

“Your biggest decision for the future could be: How will you distinguish yourself from a chat bot? How are you going to create more value than a chat bot?” Turner said during NAR’s recent meetings in Washington.

Real estate is embracing more AI tech tools to automate routine tasks, such as responding to basic home buyer questions in a pre-search of homes or a community.

“AI is being used to generate stronger leads, establish meaningful client relationships through warm transfers, nurture home buyers at any stage in the search process, and increase successful transaction rates,” said Amy Chorew, vice president of learning at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.

Bots/personal assistants
This AI tool communicates through conversational chats. Chorew said BHGRE uses Ojolabs, which can help groom online leads that come in through your website. A visitor comes to the website and the Ojo bot pops up to ask: “Can I help you?” The bot’s question prompts and responds to customers’ questions and learns more about their home search and preferences. When they’re ready to look for properties, users are instantly transferred to an agent for the human, personal touch.

“We’ve been able to increase transactions and closings with this,” Chorew said. She showed a timeline of one example in which a customer first connected with the Ojo bot – presented to the client as a “digital real estate agent” – on Nov. 22. The customer inquired about a certain property and was soon transferred to an agent for instant follow-up. By Feb. 21, the customer closed on a property.

Property image recognition
These AI tools allow you to more easily search photos using AI tools, such as calling up images of properties for-sale featuring white kitchens. Chorew gave an example of restb.ai, which uses AI to scan listings and provide detailed information through image recognition analysis. Property photos can be called up by architectural design or certain home features and offer similar home styles – without the agent having to input the information themselves.

Voice assistants
Alexa, Google Assistant and other voice-powered assistants are experiencing explosive growth with the public, while serving plenty of business uses, too.

“Brokers and MLSs can capitalize and be leaders in the voice space, such as with listing searches, AVM delivery, real-time business intelligence for agents, training and information delivery,” Chorew said. BHGRE uses Agent X, a voice assistant for Realogy-brand agents that uses the Amazon Alexa platform to help agents in a variety of ways, providing performance scorecards, real estate news, listing details, calendar appointments and more. Voiceter Pro’s voice-activated tools can be branded for your brokerage in offering home search listing tools.

As AI becomes mainstream, are your relationships with clients at risk? Technology will never fully replace the real estate professional’s importance, speakers said.

“Those who connect with others are going to become more valuable, not less,” Turner said. “Emotional intelligence is going to be way more important than actual intelligence.” The technology can be used to free up some of agents’ time, allowing you to focus on more high-level tasks to completing a transaction.

“You add value that cannot be replaced,” Turner said. “But I also think a dismissiveness to this technology is dangerous. It’s important for the real estate community to know what is possible with technology and then educate yourself on it and create specific skillsets and value that are added only by being human.”

Source: Realtor Magazine, Melissa Dittmann Tracey

© 2019 Florida Realtors

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Pres. Trump addresses Realtors in Washington last week

WASHINGTON – May 20, 2019 – President Donald Trump spoke before 2,000 Realtors® Friday in Washington, D.C., during the Realtors Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo. Meeting attendees who didn’t get into the ballroom were directed to overflow rooms or to watch the event via a live stream.

From the 20% pass-through tax deduction for independent contractors to the promise of opportunity zones to revitalize struggling communities, Trump extolled the impact of an array of achievements that have benefited real estate practitioners.

“Deregulation may be the biggest of our successes over the past two-and-a-half years – maybe bigger than the tax cuts,” Trump said during the speech, which ran a little over an hour. “There’s truly never been a better time, in my opinion, to build or break ground in America.”

The president spoke about real estate, the economy and tax cuts. He’s the first U.S. president to address the National Association of Realtors while in office since President George W. Bush’s appearance at the Washington meetings in May 2005.

“I’m here today because Realtors play a special role in the economy,” Trump said. “When a young family needs room to grow; when a new job sparks a new adventure in a brand-new, beautiful city; when parents want to find the right neighborhood and schools for their children, Americans put our trust in you.”

A longtime real estate developer who said he is simply taking a “hiatus” from the business, Trump highlighted the professional passion that he and his audience members share.

“It’s in our blood, right? I feel like home. I love the business,” he said, adding that “there’s nothing like a great broker. It’s no different than a great surgeon.”

Acknowledging the important trust built between real estate professionals and their clients, he said, “In what other business can you go away for three weeks, put a key under the mat [and let your agent have access to the home]? You can only trust a great [agent] to do that.”

The strong economy was another theme of the address, including record low unemployment – 3.6% recorded in April. “More people are working today than at any time in the history of our country. Many of those people will go out and buy a house,” said Trump, spurring a roar of applause.

He spoke of asking federal agencies to speed up the approval process for building new roads and bridges and the need for federal housing finance reform. “We don’t want the taxpayers to be on the hook if another crash happens,” he said. “We need to protect taxpayers and preserve homeownership for years to come.”

Trump welcomed Tennessee Realtor Bob Turner, a land broker with 40 years of experience, to the stage. Turner is investing in an opportunity zone in his market, building apartments and single-family homes, which he expects will amount to $40 million in economic development.

He also introduced Teresa McKee, CEO of Nevada Realtors, who noted that more than 1,000 Realtors in her state have been able to obtain quality, affordable health insurance through association health plans offered by the state association and the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors since the beginning of the year. Nearly 27% of those insured under the association’s programs had not had insurance coverage prior to enrolling in the Nevada plans.

Introducing the president to the attendees, NAR President John Smaby noted, “I can think of no better way to wrap up our time in Washington than by sharing our Realtor story with our nation’s chief executive. A longtime real estate developer, President Donald Trump knows how real estate drives economic growth, creates jobs, and benefits the country as a whole.”

Every year, the association invites the sitting president to its legislative meetings. Trump’s attendance does not constitute a political endorsement, however, since NAR doesn’t endorse presidential candidates.

Source: Realtor Magazine, Wendy Cole

© 2019 Florida Realtors

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NAR’s board meets, make changes

WASHINGTON – May 20, 2019 – The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Board of Directors met Saturday and approved a three-year extension of the $35-per-member annual special assessment to fund its national ad campaign through 2022. In its first 60 days, the “That’s Who We R” campaign garnered more than 676 million impressions and earned 47.5 million social media engagements.

In an independent research study, 80% of consumers said the campaign makes them more likely to use a Realtor, and NAR member research found that 86% of members support additional advertising in the future.

“‘That’s Who We R’ is our foundational story,” Tiffanie Mai-Ganske, chair of NAR’s Consumer Communications Committee, told directors Saturday during the Realtors Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C.

The board also approved the 2020 NAR budget with no dues increase, as well as a Finance Committee recommendation that NAR return to a more prudent 50% reserve requirement of gross operating expense (from the current 40%) and that NAR target a 75% reserve. The 2019 budget adds $11.5 million back to NAR’s reserves.

For 2020, membership is budgeted at 1,340,000, and annual dues remain at $150.

Other measures the board approved

  • Code of Ethics: Amending Code of Ethics Standards of Practice 1-7, stating that Realtor will continue to submit offers on a property to the seller until the transaction closes. The amendment requires listing brokers to notify cooperating brokers “as soon as practically possible” that an offer has been submitted. The change takes effect Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Disaster policy: NAR will develop a national disaster policy that includes emergency financial assistance to affected regions but also emphasizes pre-disaster planning for members and clients. NAR will also promote the benefits of a private insurance market for flood and other disasters.
  • MLS policy: Adopt an MLS policy allowing association-owned MLSs to charge differentiated fees based on association membership, as long as the difference reasonably reflects the cost of delivering service.

2020 officers elected
Board members elected New Jersey broker Charlie Oppler as 2020 president-elect and Texas broker-associate Leslie Rouda Smith as NAR’s 2020 first vice president. Declaring her gratitude to supporters after the board vote that put her on the path to the NAR presidency in 2022, Rouda Smith said, “It takes a village to do this. I look forward to serving you, our members, and this awesome Leadership Team that we have.”

Rouda Smith was a NAR regional vice president in 2017 and chair of the Texas Realtors in 2016. She also served as an appointed vice president of NAR in 2013 under President Gary Thomas of California. She’s the daughter of the late Harley Rouda of Columbus, Ohio, who served as NAR president in 1991.

She’ll be the fifth NAR leader from the state of Texas.

Commitment to Excellence (C2EX) gains traction
Commitment to Excellence Chair Hagan Stone provided an update on adoption of the program. The online program, available at no additional cost to members, empowers Realtors to demonstrate their professionalism and commitment to conducting business at the highest standards.

More than 23,000 Realtors have begun the C2EX program, and 900 have completed it, earning the C2EX endorsement, Stone said. The program includes 10 elements of professionalism for agents and 11 for brokers. The top three completed competency areas so far are advocacy, technology and the Code of Ethics Article 10.

A second phase of the program is expected to be rolled out at the Realtors Conference & Expo in San Francisco in November.

Realtors Property Resource (RPR)
RPR COO and General Manager Jeff Young and RPR and Vice President of Member Experience Emily Line provided an update on the service, saying RPR has reached record growth, with an average of 300,000 users per quarter and 2.1 million mobile user sessions so far this year. In addition, new features are being added to RPR’s interface, including an “experience layer,” which highlights action items for users. RPR costs about $13.50 per member annually, Young said.

Realtor.com
From Suzanne Mueller, senior vice president of industry relations at realtor.com: The relationship between NAR and Move Inc., which operates realtor.com, remains strong, and realtor.com’s brand awareness is at an all-time high, increasing 86% from a year ago. Additionally, realtor.com has posted a 48% increase in social media impressions.

The website has added features to “deepen the local real estate experience,” Mueller said. “We truly believe in making buying homes easier and more rewarding for everyone – and that means both consumers and professionals.”

Realtors Information Network
Ken Burlington, chief operating officer for the Realtors Information Network, closed the board meeting with stats about NAR’s top-level domains, .realtor and .realestate, saying they’re ranked as the No. 1 and No. 2 most visible top-level domains related to real estate in online search results.

See a complete rundown of board actions.

Source: Realtor Magazine, Graham Wood

© 2019 Florida Realtors

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U.S. House OKs bill giving LGBTQ fair housing protection

WASHINGTON – May 20, 2019 – The U.S. House of Representatives took a step on Friday that sought to stop housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. It’s a move that several housing groups, including the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), have long advocated.

The House voted 236-173 to approve the Equality Act, H.R. 5, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, credit, employment, public education, federal funding, and the jury system. The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration.

The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by expanding its antidiscrimination protections to the LGBTQ community.

“For more than 50 years, fair housing has protected the American dream for millions of people in this country, breaking down walls of discrimination that restricted the fundamental right of property ownership for far too long,” NAR President John Smaby said. “Today, lawmakers continue considering new ways to strengthen the landmark Fair Housing Act. … This bill will prohibit all forms of housing discrimination against the LGBT community.”

The National Association of Realtors is one of nearly 500 major associations to support the Equality Act, as well as about 200 major U.S. firms, including numerous real estate and mortgage firms. In 2009, NAR amended its Code of Ethics to extend antidiscrimination protections in housing to the LGBTQ community.

“This is a monumental step for the LGBTQ community in our continued fight for equality,” says Jeff Berger, founder of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP), about the bill’s passage. “It has been gratifying to see so many in our industry publicly support the bill.”

Earlier this year, NAGLREP conducted a survey of about 2,000 people who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender about their housing experiences, and 46% of respondents said they fear discrimination in their future homebuying process. NAGLREP says it believes that is a reason LGBT homeownership rates continue to lag behind national averages – 49% versus 64%, respectively.

Also, in the survey, 44% of LGBTQ respondents said they would be anxious about how welcoming potential neighbors and the community would be of them; 36% expressed caution about hiring the right professionals to help them in the buying process.

NAGLREP, NAR and other housing groups vowed Friday to continue to advocate for the bill’s final passage.

“Although much work towards this goal remains, NAR continues to engage with policymakers and Congressional leaders in our effort to secure the strongest, most inclusive, and most economically viable real estate industry possible,” Smaby said.

Source: Realtor Magazine, Melissa Dittmann Tracey

© 2019 Florida Realtors

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The easiest way to protect yourself from legal risks?

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Thinking about running an Airbnb? You must offer this

NEW YORK – May 20, 2019 – Short-term housing rental companies are allowing property owners to turn their homes into investment properties and giving hotels some serious competition.

But short-term renters seek specific amenities, according to a survey from IPX1031, a firm that provides exchange services. They survey asked 2,000 consumers what they look for when they rent an Airbnb.

Four items were considered most important by over 50% of respondents each:

  • Wi-Fi – 74%
  • Kitchen – 66%
  • Private bathroom – 60%
  • Air conditioning – 58%

However, five amenities were considered important by less than 20% of respondents:

  • Netflix/Hulu/streaming – 20%
  • Dishwasher – 18%
  • Hot tub – 16%
  • Free snacks – 12%
  • Hair dryer – 12%

Some of the other factors that consumers said prompted them to choose an Airbnb over a hotel were privacy, uniqueness of rental, free parking and pet friendliness. Survey respondents also said that Airbnb rentals were more accommodating when traveling in groups for events, such as weddings or family reunions.

With a short-term rental, hosts may offer to rent out just a room, a guest house or an entire house. But more than half of renters say they prefer to rent the entire house without the host being on the premises when they’re there, according to the survey.

Several characteristics can also be a big turnoff on Airbnb listings. The survey found the top gripes were deceiving photos, slow or no Wi-Fi, an unresponsive host, and a long list of “house rules.”

Source: “Survey: What Guests Want in an Airbnb,” IPX1031 (April 25, 2019)

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Long-term mortgage rates hit 4.2%, up for 4th week

WASHINGTON (AP) – April 25, 2019 – U.S. long-term mortgage rates rose this week for the fourth straight week, though they remain historically low as a spur to home sales in the spring buying season.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage increased to 4.20 percent from 4.17 percent last week. By contrast, a year ago the benchmark rate stood at 4.58 percent.

The average rate for 15-year, fixed-rate home loans rose this week to 3.64 percent from 3.62 percent last week.

After peaking at nearly 5 percent in November, long-term rates started trending downward, helping to boost home sales after a rocky 2018.

Despite the recent increases, lower borrowing rates and improved affordability of homes “should push housing activity higher in the coming months,” said Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater.

Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week to compile its mortgage rate figures. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.

The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was unchanged this week at 0.5 point.

The average fee for the 15-year mortgage also remained at 0.5 point.

The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages slipped to 3.77% from 3.78% last week. The fee rose to 0.4 point from 0.3 point.

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Assignment of benefits bill heads to governor

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – April 25, 2019 – Homeowners win! A six-plus-year effort to pass property insurance Assignment of Benefits (AOB) reform legislation came to a close on Wednesday after the Florida Senate passed HB 7065 on a 25-14 vote. The measure still needs Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature to become law, but he issued a statement saying he plans to sign it. Once signed, the law becomes effective on July 1, 2019.

“Florida Realtors joined the effort to bring meaningful reform to the AOB process because we recognized the growing problem for what it was – a threat to homeownership,” says 2019 Florida Realtors President Eric Sain,

AOB was designed to help property owners streamline repairs to their home by empowering them to “assign” their insurance benefits to a private contractor who would then complete the task and work directly with the homeowner’s insurance company to secure payment.

But a growing number of contractors, such as water remediation companies and roofers, have been inflating the cost of repairs and filing lawsuits if insurers refuse to pay. Rather than go through a potentially expensive court fight that could require insurers to pay all of the homeowner’s court fees, insurers often settled these claims and passed the cost off to policyholders.

What does the AOB reform bill do?

The House passed the bill April 11, and the Senate ultimately went along with the House’s plan. An example of changes in the bill:

  • Non-AOB policies: Insurers will be allowed to offer policies that don’t include, or restrict, AOB claims. A contract that does not allow a homeowner to assign benefits should cost less than one that does.
  • Limit attorney fees: Another key part of the bill would effectively limit attorney fees in AOB lawsuits filed by contractors against insurers. The fee changes, which involve a formula, would apply only to vendors assigned benefits – not lawsuits filed by policyholders, who can still have their attorney fees paid if a court agrees that the insurer owes them money.
  • AOB requirements: It must be in writing; it must include an itemized estimate; it must include a written disclosure; it must include a 14-day rescission period. Once completed, assignees have three business days to notify the insurer.
  • Homeowner protection: If a homeowner’s policy doesn’t allow AOBs yet they sign one anyway, the AOB assignee must hold policyholders harmless from all liabilities.
  • Emergency repairs: Capped at $3,000 or 1 percent of the coverage limit in a homeowner’s policy.
  • AOB assignee rules: A company holding an AOB contract must follow new rules: They must give documents to insurers when requested, answer questions under oath and agree to participate in alternative dispute resolution.
  • Pre-litigation requirements: If an AOB firm wants to file a claim against an insurer, they must inform the homeowners before filing the lawsuit.
  • Insurer requirements: If an AOB assignee plans to sue a property insurer and submits a pre-suit notification, the insurer has 10 days to respond with a settlement offer or other alternative, such as a new appraisal or other form of dispute resolution.

Will property insurance rates go down?

HB 7065 does not force private property insurers to lower prices, but most of them have cited the high cost of AOB lawsuits as a major reason for rate-hike requests. As a result of this change in the way insurers operate and their new no-AOB policy option, private-market competition should lower overall rates and benefit Florida’s homeowners.

Under the bill, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. – the state-owned “insurer of last resort” – must lower its 2019 perils rate by the amount it will save under the legislation. Citizens currently has an 8.2 percent rate-increase request filed with the state, but spokesperson Michael Peltier says that request will be recalculated and resubmitted to Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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Try the Marie Kondo method for organizing contacts

ORLANDO, Fla. – April 25, 2019 – Tidying expert Marie Kondo has sparked a fad with her methods for solving household clutter, but writer Lalaina Rabary for the Keller Williams blog says you can apply that same “KonMari” method to cleaning up your database.

Contacts can pile up over time, and a disorganized database can lose its usefulness.

“Your database is your business,” Gary Keller, CEO of Keller Williams, writes in The Millionaire Real Estate Agent. “To succeed at a high level in real estate sales, you must commit to frequent contact with a database with the intent of building close relationships.”

Try applying this KonMari method to your database cleanup:

  • Visualize: Kondo first advises her clients to close their eyes and visualize where they want to be as they tidy up. In this case, if your contacts are split between CRMs, Excel spreadsheets and more, visualize how you can get all those contacts in one place and set a specific date to do that.
  • Tidy by category, not location: Focus on finding commonalities between contacts so that you can place them into categories. “You have the ability to add a contact to as many groups as you want, and there is no limit to the number of groups you [can] create,” writes Rabary. “To really set yourself up for success, add tags to your contact so you can quickly place your contact in the appropriate group (or groups) and pull them up at the right time.”
  • Ask the joy question: Kondo’s method centers on keeping what brings you “joy” and removing what doesn’t. As you evaluate your database, you may come across a contact that does not spark joy for you, and maybe even brings a sense of dread. Remove contacts from your database when an experience with them in the past was toxic or the contact asked you to do something unethical or illegal, Rabary notes.

Source: “KonMari Your Contacts – an Epic approach to Organizing Your Database,” Keller Williams Blog (April 23, 2019)

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It’s official: AARP designates Fla. an Age-Friendly State

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – April 24, 2019 – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis joined American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) CEO Jo Ann Jenkins to announce that Florida has been designated an Age-Friendly State, making Florida the fourth state in the nation to join the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities.

“As our state continues to grow, we must ensure that we do all that we can to meet the needs of our residents. I am proud that Florida is leading by becoming the largest state to commit to this important effort,” DeSantis said.

Florida’s designation as an Age-Friendly State demonstrates a commitment to building livable communities that enrich the lives of people of all ages. Member states develop and implement plans that address any or all of the eight Age-Friendly domains: Transportation, housing, public spaces, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, social participation, community and health services, and communication and information.

In addition to state recognition, AARP already has a number of Florida communities included in their Age-Friendly list:

  • Coral Gables: Joined 2018
  • Cutler Bay: Joined 2016
  • Dunedin: Joined 2018
  • Fort Lauderdale: Joined: 2017
  • Hallandale Beach: Joined 2016
  • Hollywood: Joined: 2016
  • Lakeland: Joined 2016
  • Longwood: Joined 2016
  • Miami: Joined 2018
  • Miami-Dade County Joined: 2016
  • Miami Lakes: Joined 2018
  • Miami Shores: Joined 2018
  • New Port Richey: Joined 2018
  • Orlando: Joined 2019
  • Palmetto Bay: Joined 2017
  • Pembroke Pines: Joined 2017
  • Pinecrest: Joined 2016
  • Pinellas County: Joined 2017
  • Pompano Beach: Joined 2018
  • Sarasota County: Joined 2015
  • Satellite Beach: Joined 2016
  • St. Petersburg: Joined 2016
  • Tallahassee: Joined 2015
  • Wilton Manors: Joined: 2018
  • Winter Haven: Joined 2015

“This designation opens the way for important partnerships in many parts of state, city and county government, and in the private sector, to make Florida an even better place to live for people of every age,” said AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson. “For the more than 8 million Floridians age 50-plus and the 2.8 million AARP members statewide, this is a big step forward.”

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More brokerages entering the iBuying business

NEW YORK – April 24, 2019 – To compete against the growing list of firms in the iBuyer world, brokerages are entering into the race of instant offers. Keller Williams plans to launch its own iBuying service next month called Keller Offers.

Keller Offers will first launch in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, and then expand to six to eight “major” markets by the end of the year, MarketWatch reports. The company plans to devote $100 million to instant offers in 2019.

“We see iBuying as an important additional offering for our agents to offer to home sellers,” the company stated.

Unlike several other iBuying programs, Keller Offers consumers will have a fiduciary (a Keller Williams real estate agent) serving them in selling their home via the instant offer route.

“While we believe the addressable market for iBuyers represents less than 10 percent of the overall market, we do see this as an important additional option for KW agents to be able to offer their sellers,” Keller Williams spokesman Darryl Frost said in a statement. “Our goal is to minimize the cost to the consumer.”

The iBuying movement has caught the attention of the real estate industry. Wall Street has invested in millions to buoy startups in the space. The growing iBuyer firms use technology to make instant cash offers to sellers who want a quicker, more convenient sale – one that also bypasses listing the home publicly in the MLS.

Keller Williams’ announcement follows on the heels of iBuying giant Opendoor, which launched a new initiative called Opendoor Agent Partner Program, which also adds real estate agents to the iBuyer process. Opendoor says that it wants to partner with real estate agents they can pair with buyers and sellers that choose the traditional option or if a home doesn’t fit inside Opendoor’s buy criteria.

Agents are finding ways to take advantage of an iBuyer world. Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, Redfin and ERA are among the brokerages that have been testing their own version of an iBuyer-type program. Their programs, however, are being created to ensure that real estate agents remain at the center of the transaction, no matter which selling option a homeowner prefers.

How big a bite can iBuying take out of the market?

Dod Frasier, Opendoor’s vice president of capital markets, told MarketWatch that he does not believe instant offers will gain traction in every market. “Real estate is a big market,” Frasier says. “But we are a great option for a subset of customers.”

Source: “Sell Your Home With a REALTOR® or an Algorithm? Maybe Both.” MarketWatch (April 22, 2019)

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New realtor.com ads make fun of real estate reality TV

CHICAGO – April 24, 2019 – Realtor.com’s new ad campaign tries to show viewers that “reality TV” doesn’t always reflect reality.

The firm’s new “public reality announcement” ad spots focus on people watching reality TV in order to remind them of the big differences between the homes they’re seeing on screen and the real-life process of buying a home.

The campaign, called “Homes for the Real of Us,” was created around the idea that real people need real places to live rather than a “fantasy frequently implied in a majority of real estate advertising,” according to realtor.com.

“By poking fun at these misconceptions, our campaign reinforces that people want and need real information and expertise during their home search,” says Andrew Strickman, head of brand and chief creative for realtor.com. “Although the drama-filled lavish lifestyles of reality TV and luxury amenities of real estate shows can be really entertaining, they also create unrealistic expectations about the homebuying process.”

The campaign seeks to offer a realistic picture of a home search – not luxurious homes that the average consumer can’t afford.

The ad campaign features short video spots that will appear on HGTV, MTV, and The Food Network, as well as several digital platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. A sample of the ads can be viewed on the National Association of Realtors®‘ website.

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Time for a brand overhaul? Here’s how you can tell

NEW YORK – April 23, 2019 – “Your brand is the essence and soul of your company. It is every experience and interaction that your clients have with your business and the perception that they have of it,” says Laura Ure, CEO of Keenability, a marketing agency specializing in lifestyle marketing that targets the affluent buyer.

“Your brand should communicate the value you offer to your audience, and it should establish trust and credibility,” she says. “Of course, with time, it’s natural for a company to evolve; after all, clients are constantly changing.”

Ure recommends conducting a brand audit, which helps real estate firms determine whether their brand needs to be rebuilt or, alternately, whether it’s still relevant and valuable.

When conducting a brand audit, companies should consider how their brand stacks up against the competition. Are the visual brand components modern? Does the brand align with their values, mission and reputation? An audit will determine if a brand still reflects the correct message.

If firms determine that an update is wise, they should ensure they understand their brand’s purpose, vision, message, position and promise to help establish the personality of their brand and formalize their strategy. They should:

  • Analyze the market to determine what makes them different from the competition
  • Update the visual components of their brand to match their new brand strategy, going beyond just a logo redesign to include photography, colors graphic elements, etc.
  • Fortify their brand by ensuring consistency
  • Develop guidelines regarding logo usage, colors, tone and voice
  • Ensure there is marketing in place to support their rebrand
  • Get their existing client base excited before launching

Source: Inman (04/12/19) Ure, Laura

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March new-home sales pace highest since Nov. 2017

WASHINGTON – April 23, 2019 – Sales of newly built, single-family homes rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 692,000 units in March after a slightly revised February report, according to newly released data by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s the highest sales pace since November 2017.

“These numbers indicate that builders who can produce housing at affordable price points will experience sales growth,” says Greg Ugalde, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). “However, builders are still dealing with a shortage of construction workers and buildable lots, which limits housing affordability.”

“We saw a large gain at lower price points where demand is strong,” adds NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “In March 2019, 50 percent of new home sales were priced below $300,000 compared to 39 percent in March of 2018. These are the price points that are attractive for renters seeking to become homeowners.”

A new home sale occurs when a sales contract is signed or a deposit is accepted. The home can be in any stage of construction: not yet started, under construction or completed. In addition to adjusting for seasonal effects, the March reading of 692,000 units is the number of homes that would sell if this pace continued for the next 12 months.

The inventory of new homes for sale was 344,000 in March, representing a 6 months’ supply. The median sales price was $302,700 with strong gains in homes sold at lower price points. The median price of a new home sale a year earlier was $335,400.

Regionally, and on a year to date basis, new home sales fell 17.6 percent in the Northeast, 8.1 percent in Midwest and 5.9 percent in the West. Sales rose 9.6 percent in the South, where 58 percent of new home sales occurred in March.

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Florida Legislature: Update for the week ending April 19

By Danielle Scoggins

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – April 23, 2019 – Only two weeks remain before the scheduled end of the 2019 session, and week seven was a busy one.

To recap week seven: On Tuesday, our remote notaries bill, HB 409, passed the House Judiciary Committee on a 17-1 vote. Then, in that same committee, HB 721, a bill we are supporting regarding emotional support animals, passed on a 17-0 vote. Both of these bills are now headed to the House floor.

Wednesday was all about the Senate Rules Committee, which took up and passed three of our bills. First, for the first time ever in the Senate, an AOB (property insurance assignment of benefits) reform bill made it through all its committee stops, with SB 122 heading to the Senate floor on a 11-6 vote. Second, our open and expired permits bill, SB 902, is headed to the floor after a 15-0 vote. Finally, our remote notaries bill, SB 548, is headed to the floor after a 14-1 vote. What a week!

Looking ahead into this week, the budget conference is set to begin.

We also hope to report on the final passage of many of our bills. On Tuesday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on our AOB reform bill, SB 122. The House has already passed its version so it’s up to the Senate now.

Also on Tuesday, the House will be voting on our remote notaries bill, HB 409. Its Senate counterpart is already on the floor on second reading. On Wednesday, the House is set to take up HB 447, our open and expired permits bill. Its counterpart is on the floor of the Senate waiting to be scheduled.

Priority budget issues

Water quality and environmental funding
The House budget includes $607 million that will be spent on water quality, Everglades restoration and other environmental projects. The Senate budget includes $660 million for these same environmental priorities. All signs point to the final environmental spending plan landing somewhere close to the governor’s proposal of $625 million.

The overall appropriation for Everglades related projects is $360 million. A third of this money will be used to begin moving dirt on the EAA reservoir which will be used to store and clean water that is released from Lake Okeechobee and will eventually be moved south to the Everglades and on to Florida Bay. There is also a line item in the Department of Transportation budget that uses money from the DOT trust fund that will fund the remaining money needed to complete the raising of Tamiami Trail. This will be a huge step to send more water south through the Everglades and on to Florida Bay. These, and other projects, will all have positive impacts on limiting algae once they are completed.

Two other important environmental issues that deserve mentioning are red tide and septic tanks. The Senate has included $27 million for water quality improvements related to a red tide/blue green algae task force with the House including $19 million for the same project. There is also a bill that will direct funding to the Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota to study red tide. On septic, the Senate has included a straight $25 million for septic-to-sewer projects, while the House has included a dollar-for-dollar match program for these projects up to $50 million.

Housing trust funds
For the first time in more than 10 years, the Senate proposes to fully fund the State and Local Government Housing Trust Funds at $331.9 million. The House proposes to sweep $200 million from the housing funds into general revenue, spending only $123.6 million on housing. Florida TaxWatch released a report last week that analyzes the Legislature’s history of not using housing funds for their dedicated, intended purpose. Florida Realtors is urging the House to accept the Senate’s position on the housing trust funds.

Tax cuts
A final compromise on taxes appears headed for conference. Back-to-school and disaster preparedness tax holidays will likely be part of the final package, as well as a reduction in the Business Rent Tax (BRT).

The House Tax Package, HB 7123, passed the Appropriations Committee. It includes a .35 percent reduction of the BRT and two sales tax holidays.

The Senate tax bill, SB 1112 passed the Finance & Tax Committee. It would address remote sales tax collection and use the additional revenue to reduce the BRT from 5.7 percent to 3.5 percent.

Division of Real Estate
The House and Senate budgets include $500,000 for the Division of Real Estate to combat unlicensed real estate activity.

LIDAR
The House and Senate budgets include language that allows the Division of Emergency Management to continue spending the $15 million currently being used for LIDAR mapping.

Priority bills we’re watching

Stay up to date on the legislative priorities we are actively supporting this session.

  • Open and expired building permits
    HB 447 – Provides requirements related to open and expired permits. Current status: Placed on the special order calendar for 4/24/2019. SB 902 – Companion bill to HB 447. Current status: On Senate floor. Committee substitute text filed.
  • Assignment of benefits (AOB)
    SB 122 – Attorney Fee Awards Under Insurance Policies and Contracts. Current status: Placed on the special order calendar for 4/23/2019. HB 7065 – companion bill to SB 122. Current status: Passed by the House on a 96 – 20 vote. Awaiting Senate action on SB 122.
  • Online remote notaries
    HB 409 – Authorizes online notarizations. Current status: Placed on the special order calendar for 4/23/2019. SB 548 – Companion bill to HB 409. Current status: On second reading in the Senate.
  • Emotional support animals
    HB 721 – Provides that individual with disability who has emotional support animal is entitled to access to housing accommodation. Current status: On second reading in the House. SB 1128 – Companion bill to HB 721. Current status: On second reading in the Senate.
  • Taxation
    HB 7123 – House tax cut bill that includes a reduction of the Business Rent Tax. Current status: Passed the Appropriations Committee on an 18 – 9 vote. On second reading in the House. SB 1112 – Senate tax bill that includes a reduction of the Business Rent Tax. Current status: Passed the Finance and Tax Committee on an 8 – 0 vote. Committee substitute text filed.
  • Private property rights/vacation rentals
    SB 824 – Preempting the regulation of vacation rentals to the state. Current status: Temporarily postponed by the Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee. This committee is not scheduled to meet again. HB 987 – Companion bill to SB 824. Current status: Passed by the Commerce Committee. Senate companion bill temporarily postponed so bill will move no further.

Other bills of interest

  • Deregulation of professions and occupations
    HB 27 – Removes regulations on specified DBPR professions. Current status: On second reading on the House floor. SB 1640 – Companion bill to HB 27. Current status: On Senate floor. Committee substitute text filed.
  • Growth management
    SB 728 – Authorizing sufficiently contiguous lands located within the county or municipality which a petitioner anticipates adding to the boundaries of a new community development district to also be identified in a petition to establish the new district under certain circumstances. Current status: On Rules Committee agenda for 4/23/2019 at 2:00 p.m. HB 437 – Companion bill to SB 728. Current status: Passed the House on a 106-9 vote.
  • Homeowners’ insurance policy disclosures
    SB 380 – Revising circumstances under which insurers issuing homeowners’ insurance policies must include a specified statement relating to flood insurance with the policy documents at initial issuance and renewals. Current status: On second reading in the Senate. HB 617 – Companion bill to SB 380. Current status: Passed the House on a 113-0 vote.
  • Local tax referenda
    SB 336 – Providing that a referendum to adopt or amend a local discretionary sales surtax must be held at a general election. Current status: On Senate floor. Committee substitute text filed. HB 5 – Companion bill to SB 336. Current status: Passed House on a 69-44 vote.
  • Property development
    HB 7103 – Prohibits local governments from imposing certain requirements relating to affordable housing. Current status: Placed on the special order calendar for 4/24/2019. SB 1730 – Companion bill to HB 7103. Current status: On Rules Committee agenda for 4/23/2019 at 2:00 p.m.
  • Military affairs
    SB 620 – Prohibiting a landlord from requiring a prospective tenant who is a service member to deposit or advance more than a certain amount of funds. Current status: On Rules Committee agenda for 4/23/2019 at 2:00 p.m. HB 891 – Similar bill to SB 620. Current status: On second reading in the House.
  • Insurance
    SB 714 – Citing this act as “Omnibus Prime”; increasing the required reimbursement of loss adjustment expenses in reimbursement contracts between the State Board of Administration and property insurers under the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. Current status: On Senate floor. HB 301 – Similar bill to SB 714. Current status: Passed the House on a 114-0 vote. In messages in the Senate, awaiting action on SB 714.
  • Limitations on homestead assessments
    SB 324 – Revising the timeframe during which the accrued benefit from specified limitations on homestead property tax assessments may be transferred from a prior homestead to a new homestead. Current status: Not considered by Appropriations Committee. HB 1391 – Companion bill to SB 324. Current status: In State Affairs Committee waiting to be scheduled.
  • Homestead property tax assessments/increased portability period
    SB 326 – Proposing amendments to the State Constitution to increase the period of time during which the accrued benefit from specified limitations on homestead property tax assessments may be transferred from a prior homestead to a new homestead. Current status: Not considered by Appropriations Committee. HB 1389 – Similar bill to SB 714. Current status: In State Affairs Committee waiting to be scheduled.

All of the bills that the Public Policy Office is tracking can be found on Florida Realtors Legislative Tracker.

Danielle Scoggins is interim vice president of public policy for Florida Realtors

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Study: Consumer demand continues to be more eco-friendly

WASHINGTON – April 22, 2019 – The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) released its Sustainability 2019 Report to coincide with Earth Day, April 22. It found that consumer demand in real estate continues to trend eco-friendly.

The report is in its third iteration. It surveyed Realtors about sustainability issues in the residential and commercial real estate markets, and the preferences they’re seeing in consumers in their communities.

According to the report, 59 percent of respondents found that residential consumers were very or somewhat interested in sustainability. Seven in 10 residential and commercial agents and brokers said that promoting a property’s energy efficiency in listings is either somewhat or very valuable.

“The state of the environment is important to our members and their business practices, and the report shows that sustainability impacts consumers’ home buying decisions as well,” says NAR President John Smaby. “Realtors remain on the cutting edge of sustainability and continue to lead the conversation about energy efficiency in real estate.”

A large majority of respondents (83 percent) said that solar panels were available in their markets, and 36 percent said that solar panels increased the perceived property value. However, only 8 percent of those surveyed said that solar panels decreased the perceived amount of time a home spent on the market. Solar panels are most prevalent in the Northeast (available in 94 percent of markets) and respondents in the West were the most likely to report they increase property value (41 percent).

Twenty-five percent of brokers indicated that tiny homes – homes that are 600 square feet or less – are available in their markets, a 2 percent increase from 2018. Only 13 percent of respondents said that wind farms were available in their markets.

The transportation and commuting features that Realtors stated are very or somewhat important to their clients include: easy access to highways (82 percent), short commute times and distance to work (81 percent) and walkability (51 percent) – the same as 2018.

Forty-one percent of respondents were aware that their Multiple Listing Service (MLS), has green data fields; 14 percent were unaware. Among those that do have green data fields, 35 percent of respondents use them to promote green features, 26 percent use to promote energy information and 14 percent use to promote green certifications.

Two out of five Realtors (39 percent) said they’re comfortable or extremely comfortable talking about green features; 40 percent of respondents said they’re confident or extremely confident in their ability to connect clients with green lenders; only 6 percent said they’re not at all confident.

When asked what they consider the top market issues regarding sustainability, agents and brokers named understanding lending options for energy upgrades or solar panels (38 percent), the lack of information and materials provided to real estate professionals (32 percent) and improving the energy efficiency of existing housing stock (31 percent).

Respondents were also asked about sustainability in commercial real estate: 70 percent indicated that promoting energy efficiency in commercial listings was very or somewhat valuable. Sixteen percent said that their Commercial Information Exchange had green data fields and that those fields promote energy information and green features.

The top building features clients specified as very or somewhat important to their agents or brokers were utility/operation costs (81 percent), efficient use of lighting (67 percent) and indoor air quality (64 percent).

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NAR’s Good Neighbor Awards celebrate 20 years

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Fla.’s housing market: Pending sales, median prices up in March

ORLANDO, Fla. – April 22, 2019 – Florida’s housing market reported more pending sales, higher median prices and increased inventory (active listings) in March compared to a year ago, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 25,013 last month, about the same level as March 2018.

“Along with low mortgage rates, the pressure on home prices is easing due to increased inventory, which is a positive trend for housing affordability and could encourage some buyers to enter the market,”says 2019 Florida Realtors President Eric Sain,

In March, statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and condo-townhouse properties rose year-over-year for the 87th month-in-a-row. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $256,000, up 2 percent from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Last month’sstatewide median price for condo-townhouse units was $189,500, up 3.6 percent over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

According to the National Association of Realtors(NAR), the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in February 2019 was $251,400, up 3.6 percent from the previous year; the national median existing condo price was $534,140; in Massachusetts, it was $377,000; in New York, it was $280,000; and in Maryland, it was $273,762.

Looking at Florida’s condo-townhouse market in March, statewide closed sales totaled 10,340, down 6.1 percent compared to a year ago. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

According to Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor, March is typically a busy month for real estate in Florida and March 2019 was no exception.

On a statewide basis, more homes typically go under contract in March than in any other month of the year,” O’Connor says. “And compared to March of last year, new pending sales of single-family homes this March were up by 2.6 percent to a total of 31,383. In fact, this is the highest number of new pending sales we’ve seen in any month across the previous 11 years in which Florida Realtors has tracked this statistic.

“New pending sales in the condo and townhouse category, by the way, were also up, rising by one percent from last March’s total. Of course, not all homes that go under contract end up as closed sales, but this is a pretty good sign for the market going into spring.”

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.27 percent in March 2019, compared to the 4.44 percent averaged during the same month a year earlier.

To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to Florida Realtors Research & Statistics section on floridarealtors.org. Realtors also have access to local market stats (password protected) on Florida Realtors’ website.

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TV shows give owners a can-do attitude about renovations

CHICAGO – April 22, 2019 – House renovation and design television programs may be prompting more buyers to shed some of their fixer-upper fears.

Nearly 60 percent of home shoppers recently surveyed said that home renovation programs have made them more optimistic about renovations, according to a new realtor.com survey of about 1,000 consumers planning to buy a home in the next 12 months.

As inventories remain tight in some markets, homebuyers are eyeing properties they once cast aside to look at them under a new lens of how they could renovate it. Nearly 60 percent of the homebuyers surveyed say they’re considering a home that needs renovation, the survey showed.

“Whether it’s seeing the project unfold in a tidy 30-minute segment, or just getting inspired by the before-and-after shots, home shoppers are turning to home renovations to make their dream home when finding one as-is turns out to be difficult,” the survey notes.

Rising home prices and a limited number of entry-level homes are pushing springtime home shoppers to consider other homes that need renovating, says Danielle Hale, realtor.com’s chief economist. “Replete with inspiration at their fingertips – like Pinterest, Instagram and various home renovation TV shows – some home shoppers are comfortable tackling home renovation jobs to find a home that balances their needs with their budget,” she says.

Buyers expect their renovations to make a big difference on the value of the home, too. Ninety-five percent of buyers said they expect some home remodeling will result in a positive return on their investment. Nearly a quarter of buyers surveyed said they expect a positive return of more than 50 percent from their remodels.

They’re willing to spend the big bucks, but is it enough?

Slightly more than half of homebuyers considering a home that needs some TLC said they are willing to spend more than $20,000 on the remodel. Twenty-eight percent are willing to spend up to $10,000, and 22 percent are willing to spend between $10,001 and $20,000. However, a kitchen remodel costs around $66,000, and even a minor kitchen remodel will cost about $22,000, according to realtor.com. A kitchen upgrade was the top home renovation project that buyers said they would consider. Other popular projects include a bathroom renovation or a hardwood flooring refinish.

Regardless if a buyer wants to DIY (do it yourself) or not, it’s important that clients fully understand the benefits and setbacks that can come with taking on a home project, as opposed to hiring professionals to complete the task.

Source: realtor.com

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First-time buyers biggest stress? Affordability

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – April 17, 2019 – The biggest stressor for many of today’s first-time homebuyers is home affordability, according to a new survey by LendingTree, an online mortgage lender.

LendingTree asked Americans who plan to purchase a home within the next two years a wide-ranging series of questions about their priorities, thoughts about the market and financial profile. In addition to finding homeownership to be a top priority among millennials, the survey also suggests that the want-to-be buyers would benefit from education about the mortgage closing process.

Key findings about first-time homebuyers

  • Two out of three first-time buyers worry about the shortage of affordable homes. Most are looking for a home priced at $150,000 or less, and nearly 85 percent would consider purchasing a fixer-upper to cut costs.
  • They underestimate how long the mortgage closing process takes. Nearly half think they’ll get to the closing table in 15 to 30 days – far less than the average closing time of 43 days.
  • More than one in four first-time homebuyers have poor credit. Just 15 percent have a score of 740 or higher, and nearly two in five aren’t satisfied with their credit score. By contrast, more than 70 percent of repeat buyers are happy with their credit score.
  • Low income and a lack of savings are the top two barriers to homeownership, and finding a home within budget is the most stressful part of buying a home for almost half of first-time shoppers.
  • Almost one in four millennial buyers want to own a home before heading down the aisle, and 43 percent of first-time buyers across all age groups are single.

“Although the homeownership rate is lower among millennials than earlier generations at the same age … purchasing a home is still a significant milestone for many. However, strengthening your financial profile is crucial for those thinking of buying a home,” says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree.

“First-time buyers should prioritize strengthening their credit score and shopping around for the best mortgage rate,” she adds. “There are many programs available for those with lower scores, but buyers will save more money if they can raise their score, especially considering the potential difference in monthly mortgage payments over time.”

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