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Mortgage rates change little after last week’s big drop

WASHINGTON (AP) – April 4, 2019 – U.S. long-term mortgage rates moved little this week after the key 30-year loan rate marked its steepest weekly drop in a decade the week before.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage ticked up to 4.08 percent from 4.06 percent – which had plunged from 4.28 percent last week. The average rate on the benchmark loan stood at 4.40 percent a year ago.

The average rate this week for 15-year, fixed-rate home loans slipped to 3.56 percent from 3.57 percent last week.

The decline made purchasing a home a lot cheaper, and potential buyers have been rushing to take advantage of the cheaper borrowing costs. Lower mortgage rates, slowing home price increases and a pickup in the number of available homes appear to be rejuvenating home sales after a slowdown last year.

An index measuring applications for mortgage loans soared 18.6 percent in the week ended March 29 from a week earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

With economic growth showing signs of slowing in the U.S. and abroad, interest rates have eased. Reflecting dampened expectations for growth, the Federal Reserve recently left its key interest rate unchanged and signaled that it’s unlikely to raise rates this year.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has said the U.S. economy faces several headwinds, including slowing global growth, a trade war with China and fading impacts from the tax cuts that took effect last year.

Mortgage costs are more directly influenced by the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which rose last year as many investors shifted money into stocks. Bond yields rise as prices fall.

The yield on the 10-year note has fallen sharply since last year, when it touched 3.21 percent in November. It was at 2.51 percent around midday Thursday, up from 2.39 percent a week earlier.

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 was steady, at 0.4 point.

The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages fell to 3.66 percent from 3.75 percent last week. The fee increased to 0.4 point from 0.3 point.

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How well do you know millennial buyers?

CHICAGO – April 4, 2019 – Millennials are the largest buying force in the housing industry, according to the National Association of Realtors®‘ (NAR) newly released 2019 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Report. This generation of buyers, between the ages of 21 and 38, account for 37 percent of all home purchases.

“The largest cohort in America is growing up and becoming more traditional in their buying habits,” the report notes.

Older millennials – those ages 29 to 38 – make up the largest share of married buyers, at 69 percent, and are the most likely to have children under the age of 18 living at home, at 58 percent. Their top motivating factors for purchasing include the desire to own their own home (42 percent), the desire for a larger home (15 percent), relocation for a job (9 percent), a change in familial status (7 percent), and the desire for a home in a better location (6 percent).

Older millennials have a median household income of $101,200, according to NAR’s report, and purchase homes with a median price of $274,000. That’s comparable to Gen Xers, who have a median income of $111,100 and purchase homes with a median price of $277,800, and younger baby boomers ($102,300 and $251,100, respectively).

“Older millennials are now entering the prime earning stages of their careers, and the size and costs of homes they purchase reflect this,” says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Their choices are falling more in line with their Gen X and boomer counterparts.”

Millennials are the generation most likely to make compromises on their home purchases, the report found. They also plan to stay in their homes for 10 years – a shorter time than Gen Xers, who plan to stay 16 or more years.

Millennials also rely on real estate agents when completing a home purchase, with younger millennials between the ages of 21 and 28 being more likely than any other age group (87 percent) to use an agent’s services. Some of the top benefits that millennials said real estate agents provide are:

  • Help to understand the process (72 percent)
  • Point out unnoticed features/faults with property (58 percent)
  • Negotiate better sales contract terms (49 percent)
  • Provide a better list of service providers, such as home inspectors (49 percent)
  • Improve buyer’s knowledge of search areas (41 percent)
  • Negotiate a better price (35 percent)

Millennials place high value on communication with their real estate agents. They value agents who personally inform them of all activities; send updates as soon as a property is listed, price changes and a warning if one goes under contract. They also like communication via text message or email, providing they address their specific needs.

Among features on agents’ websites, millennials found these to be most important: photos, detailed listing information, floor plans, information on recently sold properties and virtual tours. They found videos (23 percent) and real estate news or articles (8 percent) the least helpful, according to the report.

Additional millennial highlights from NAR’s report

  • Commutes are a major factor in millennial real estate decisions. Commuting costs were also one of the top factors weighed when choosing which home to buy.
  • They often have financial help. Buyers aged 38 and younger are the most likely to receive a gift from relatives or friends to help with their downpayment to purchase a home.
  • One in five younger millennial buyers is unmarried, and the share of single first-time buyers is growing.
  • They’re fleeing the nest. Thirty percent of younger millennials lived with their parents prior to buying their own home.
  • They’re searching for affordability. One in five younger millennials purchased a home in rural areas, and 13 percent in small towns. Those figures are the same for younger baby boomers.
  • They want to stay close to family. Younger millennials – just like baby boomers and those from the silent generation – are the most likely to say they want to be near friends or family when they buy a home.

Source: “2019 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report,” National Association of REALTORS® (April 1, 2019)

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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How do you break into the luxury market?

CHICAGO – April 4, 2019 – Most luxury agents don’t start out as luxury agents – they move up to it. It takes fearlessness, knowledge and a willingness to network and gain trust in order to break into a more expensive market, panelists shared during Coldwell Banker’s recent Gen Blue conference in Las Vegas.

Ricardo Rodriguez, for example, emigrated to the U.S. from Colombia when he was 21 in 1993 with $25 in his pocket. He taught himself English and began looking for real estate work. Today, after having done consulting work with developers, architects and interior designers, he runs one of the top real estate teams in New England.

He called it a lengthy journey. “Every day that I go to a buyer or a developer or a listing, regardless of price point, I’m shaking,” Rodriguez said. “My advice is to be fearless because if you don’t get the business, it’s going to someone else. Get in front of it, give it your best shot, and don’t be afraid to go after the business. Someone is getting paid for it – so let it be you.”

Jade Mills, leader of the Jade Mills Estates team at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Beverly Hills, Calif., grew up on a dairy farm and chose a career path in real estate instead of returning home to live with her family At first she struggled to raise a three-month-old daughter while working as a cocktail waitress. A retired police officer-turned-real estate agent encouraged Mills to go into the business.

In 1978, Mills sold her first home for $42,000, but she didn’t break into the luxury market until the late 1990s.

“I received a call on a Sunday from a family asking me to sell their property, and it ended up being a $50 million house in Bel Air,” Mills said. “That is what pushed me into Beverly Hills luxury – the high-dollar market.”

Mills said that soon after that, she met singer Lionel Richie at a charity event on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. She ended up helping him sell a home and buy another. That marked her first time working with a celebrity, and she soon was receiving referrals to work with other high-net-worth clients.

“If you meet new people, that helps you with that big break and next step up,” Mills said.

Since then, she’s represented Charlie Sheen, Britney Spears and Jennifer Aniston. Her team, which includes three of her four children, represented the buyer of the Playboy mansion, which sold for $100 million in March 2018. Mills has branded herself the “$5 billion woman” – reflective of her team’s total sales volume.

The support of family and friends, as well as building trusting relationships with clients and other agents, helped her reach her professional goals, Mills said.

“Half of the business is trusting each other,” Mills said. She added that it’s important for agents to be active in their communities and charities, which can also have a positive impact on their businesses. She is on the boards of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

“All of these things get you out in front of people who are doing business and who may refer you to business managers,” Mills said. “I think it’s very important to be involved with your city and other businesses and keep your name out there and let people know you are working in the community.”

She added that it’s important to pay attention to your environment, wherever you are, because you never know where you might get business – even if it’s at the grocery store or pharmacy. “You never know when the checkout person will say, ‘The person before you wants to sell their house,'” Mills said. And that person may just live in a neighborhood where homes sell for more than $20 million.

Every client, though, should be treated like they’re buying or selling a multimillion-dollar property, no matter the price point, Mills said. Each person has their own idea of what constitutes luxury.

“I think luxury is a perception, and I think in the last five to seven years, people are very intrigued by the word,” Mills said. “Luxury is honest, and it’s for everyone.”

Lauren Muehlethaler, director of luxury marketing for Coldwell Banker Real Estate, agreed: “The fundamentals and principals don’t ever change. It’s a mindset. It’s not about a price point but about lifestyle.”

Source: Realtor® Magazine, Buck Wargo

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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Bank of America offers $10K to lower-income buyers

NEW YORK – April 4, 2019 – Bank of America (BofA) announced on Tuesday the rollout of a new $5 billion affordable homeownership initiative that includes downpayment or closing cost help for low- to moderate-income and multicultural homebuyers. The program will launch in the second quarter of this year.

BofA says the program should help more than 20,000 individuals and families over the next five years move toward homeownership.

Bank of America’s Neighborhood Solutions program includes a downpayment and closing cost assistance option, as well as low-downpayment mortgages and grants that can be applied to non-recurring closing costs.

BofA says it also plans to form strategic partnerships with real estate professionals and a national network of affordable housing nonprofit partners. The goal is to offer homebuyer education and counseling help to low- to moderate-income and multicultural homebuyers hoping to become homeowners.

Through the bank’s new downpayment and closing cost program, the bank will give eligible borrowers up to $10,000 to be used toward their downpayment or closing costs when they get a Freddie Mac Home Possible mortgage.

Eligible borrowers could also qualify for a lender credit up to $7,500 that could be used toward nonrecurring closing costs, such as title insurance and recording fees, or to permanently buy down the interest rate. The funds don’t require repayment.

The bank also announced the Affordable Loan Solution mortgage – a fixed-rate loan for low- and moderate-income borrowers with a competitive rate, a downpayment as low as 3 percent and no required mortgage insurance. The majority of these loans go to first-time home buyers, the bank said.

Source: Bank of America

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Study: Home shoppers optimistic but expect a recession

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – April 3, 2019 – Nearly 70 percent of home shoppers this spring think the U.S. will enter a recession in the next three years, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to close on a home, according to new survey data released by realtor.com. Even though they expect another recession, they don’t believe it will be as bad as the 2008 one.

Overall, nearly 30 percent of 1,015 active home shoppers surveyed expect the next recession to begin sometime in 2020; 12 percent expect sometime in 2019; 16 percent expect sometime in 2021; and 12 percent expect 2022.

Nearly 10 percent don’t expect a recession until 2024 or later, and another 21 percent said they didn’t know. The online survey was conducted earlier this month with Toluna Research.

According to the survey, even though 63 percent of shoppers report that home prices are increasing compared to last year, 56 percent of shoppers believe home prices have hit their peak.

The feeling that home prices have topped out could be a reflection of shopper beliefs that a recession is in the not too distant future. In fact, those expecting the recession sooner were more likely to report that home prices had peaked, says Danielle Hale, realtor.com’s chief economist.

“The U.S. economy has been on a hot streak for the last seven years, producing steady economic growth and low unemployment rates. Historically, this type of growth hasn’t continued indefinitely, and U.S. home shoppers think it will come to an end sooner rather than later,” says Hale.

When asked if the U.S. housing market would fare better or worse than the 2008 economic recession, 41 percent responded with better; 36 expect it would be worse; 23 percent expect it to be the same.

The fact that some home shoppers expect the next recession to be harder on housing than the last recession suggests that they are buying homes with eyes wide-open and very sober, Hale says. This buyer outlook stands in stark contrast to the years leading up to the last recession when “irrational exuberance” about the market’s future was more common. It’s also another reason to expect the next downturn to be very different for housing than the last one.

“When the U.S. enters its next recession, it is unlikely that the housing market will see a sharp nationwide downturn. The same record low inventory levels that have made buying a home so difficult recently will likely protect home prices in the next recession,” Hale adds.

According to the survey, 45 percent of home shoppers feel at least slightly more optimistic about homeownership after the 2008 recession. Less than one in four – 22 percent – feel at least slightly more pessimistic about homeownership, while 33 percent reported no impact on their feelings about homeownership.

The duration of the recovery from the last recession could explain the optimism reported by some buyers. Since 2010, home prices across the U.S. have grown by 49 percent, the U.S. economy has grown by $3 trillion and 18.7 million more jobs have been created. This persistent optimism toward homeownership is likely a key reason that home shoppers are confident and looking to buy, even as they expect a recession to be approaching.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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VA loans turn 75, celebrate with home loan giveaway

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – April 3, 2019 – Realtor.com and Veterans United Home Loans announced that they’re celebrating 75 years of the VA loan program with the “$75,000 Veteran Homebuyer Giveaway.” It’s their fourth collaborative giveaway for veterans.

“For three quarters of a century, the VA loan has fulfilled its mission of providing our veterans and service members the American dream of homeownership,” says Kris Farmer, chief marketing officer at Veterans United, which says it provided more VA loans in 2018 than any company in the nation.

VA purchase loans surged nearly 60 percent from fiscal 2013 to 2018, according to national data released by the U.S. Department of Veterans. The VA’s fiscal year runs Oct. 1 – Sept. 30.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the success and longevity of the VA loan and how many people it has helped become homeowners over the past 75 years,” adds Anthony Perry, vice president, media sales, at realtor.com. “We at realtor.com are thankful for those who have given so much to this country and are proud to have a role in giving back to a service member.”

The giveaway is open to qualifying U.S. military service members and U.S. military veterans, subject to the official rules. Entries to the giveaway will be accepted until 11:59 a.m. Eastern Time on May 31, 2019. Candidates can apply online through realtor.com’s website.

The winner will receive $75,000 (may be subject to tax withholding) at the closing of a home purchase transaction, subject to the official rules. Full prize details, conditions and sweepstakes rules are also posted on realtor.com’s website.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

 

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DACA ‘dreamers’ may have trouble with FHA loans

WASHINGTON – April 3, 2019 – The media recently reported that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) changed its position on the eligibility of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) home loan borrowers, which brought the issue to national attention. Three U.S. senators sent a letter to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to find out what was happening.

In a response to the senator’s letters, FHA said policy does not allow it to lend money to homebuyers who don’t have legal residency status. It said that turning down DACA applicants was not a policy change.

However, Fannie Mae – which will still back loans to DACA applicants – has a similar rule yet say it will still back home loans made to DACA recipients.

Tim Rood, the chairman of The Collingwood Group, explained in a recent opinion piece in DSNews, that the issue centers on a single question: Do DACA recipients have lawful residence in the U.S.?

Rood says that it was once up to lenders to determine whether DACA was a legal residency status, and that FHA “appears to have made an internal determination, based on language from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), that DACA does not provide legal residency.”

A key to understanding the change is that DACA recipients are considered “legally present” rather than a “legal resident.” Interpretation of the words “legally present” appear to be key in understanding both Fannie Mae and FHA’s decision whether to lend money to DACA recipients.

“Fannie Mae purchases and securitizes mortgages to non-citizens who are lawful permanent or non-permanent residents of the United States under the same terms available to US citizens,” the government-sponsored enterprise said in a bulletin. “If a borrower can provide documentation of three-year income continuity when required, the fact that their status is renewed only every two years is not a factor – the borrower is legally present and has met the continuity of income requirements.”

According to Rood, FHA apparently thinks “legally present” is not the same thing as a lawful resident, adding that “Lenders who make FHA loans to DACA borrowers should be prepared to make a strong legal case that FHA’s interpretation is wrong.”

Source: Situs Newswatch

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

 

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What does a ‘normal’ housing market look like? This one

NEW YORK – April 2, 2019 – The spring home-buying season could be the best in years, with falling mortgage rates and rising inventory already reducing bidding wars and resulting in price cuts.

“It’s been a rough go for homebuyers since the bottom of the housing market, and there are signs we’re entering a period of normalcy,” says CoreLogic Deputy Chief Economist Ralph McLaughlin.

McLaughlin believes current conditions could be the most favorable for buyers since the housing market bottomed in 2012.

However, economists say that even as activity rises, it’s unlikely that the market will return to a period of booming home sales. Nationally, home prices have jumped more than 50 percent since the bottom of the market in 2012, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which has made affordability a challenge for many buyers.

Economists note that inventory is rising – not necessarily because more homeowners are putting their homes on the market but because homes are taking longer to sell.

“All the signs are pointing to the fact that people are just having a harder time selling their homes,” says Trulia chief economist Issi Romem.

However, it appears that buyers are reaching deals faster, with Redfin data showing that the time it takes a buyer to find a home has hit a six-year low of 73 days.

Mike McCann, an associate broker at Keller Williams Philly, notes: “It’s a good time to buy as long as you’re going to stay in the property five-plus years.”

Source: Wall Street Journal (04/01/19) P. A1; Kusisto, Laura

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Best day of the week to add a new listing? Thursday

SEATTLE – April 2, 2019 – Thursday is the best day of the week to list a house, according to a new study released by Redfin. Homes listed on Thursday statistically fetch more money at sale and spend less time on the market than homes first listed on other days of the week. The study analyzed more than 2 million home sales across 148 metro areas that were listed and sold in 2018 to pinpoint the best day of the week to list.

Homes listed on Thursday also sold, on average, for $3,015 more than homes listed on a Monday (the worst day of the week to list for sales price, the study showed).

Homes listed on Thursday sold, on average, for 0.74 percent more than homes listed on Monday.

Also, homes listed on Thursday tended to go under contract six days faster than homes listed on Sunday (the slowest day of the week for listings), the study found. And homes listed on Sunday typically take longest to find a buyer, spending an average of 47 days on the market compared to properties listed on Thursday, which tend to spend 41 total days on the market.

Homes listed on Thursday may perform slightly better because they allow potential buyers to get a head start on their weekend plans, real estate pros say.

Also, “psychologists have found that people tend to remember the last information they saw the best,” says Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather. “If you list on a Thursday, buyers will be more likely to see your listing as a ‘new home for you’ right before they go out and tour over the weekend.”

Listing on Friday may be too late and listing earlier in the week may have the home pushed aside by newer listings that surface closer to the weekend, the study notes.

Source: “Thursday Is the Best Day to List Your Home for Sale,” Redfin Blog (March 28, 2019)

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Last month to sign up for Florida Realtors 2020 committee

Us + You. Realtors can accomplish anything when they work together. Download and review committee descriptions, and submit your service request before May 1, 2019.

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Senator to FEMA: Explain your flood insurance proposal

WASHINGTON – April 2, 2019 – Congress is working on a long-term flood insurance extension and, separately, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced similar changes. With a government agency pursuing the same goal to update the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), it was unclear how the two initiatives would work together.

On Monday, Senator Charles Schumer issued a response to FEMA’s proposal while standing in front of a Long Island home with its owners. He said he wants FEMA’s plan, called Risk Rating 2.0, halted immediately until key questions by Congress are answered.

According to Schumer, FEMA’s plan has not been fully outlined, and FEMA has not explained how it would impact property values on Long Island, part of the New York area he serves. He also said the plan should not be solidified until FEMA officials answer “a litany of questions by Congress.”

Specifically, Schumer wants FEMA to answer at least four questions as soon as possible:

  1. How will these new rates be calculated and what is the full criteria considered as part of the calculation?
  2. How does FEMA define “logical rating variables” and how many private data companies will be gathering and measuring data – and who will independently peer review such data?
  3. Has the agency considered the systemic implications of insurance rates that could spike and the impact on homeowners and property values in vulnerable communities? If so, how would the agency possibly assist homeowners facing unaffordable premiums?
  4. What, if anything, will FEMA do to ensure better oversight of insurance companies participating in the NFIP and guarantee that individuals are actually receiving the flood protection from the system they’ve been paying into?

Schumer said the explanation for the new Risk Rating 2.0 plan so far is only 221 words even though it goes into effect nationwide on Oct. 1, 2020.

Schumer’s main complaint appears to be that FEMA moved forward with a plan, yet did not explain the details and did not consult Congress even though it knew lawmakers were also considering a long-term extension and update for NFIP.

“I have long been pushing for the NFIP to be improved, but we cannot try to prop up the program on the backs of Long Islanders, who, under this plan, would likely become the bullseye of back-breaking costs,” Schumer said.

NFIP currently covers approximately 5 million policyholders nationwide.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®  

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Florida Legislature: Update for the week ending March 31

By Danielle Scoggins

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – April 1, 2019 – With week four of the 2019 legislative session in the rearview mirror, Realtors should be feeling very good about several legislative priorities.

Both of our supported open and expired building permits bills cleared their second committee stops with zero votes against. SB 902 passed out of the Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee on a 10 – 0 vote and now moves on to its final committee stop, the Rules Committee. HB 447 passed out of the Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on a 14 – 0 vote and now moves on to its final committee, the Commerce Committee.

We also saw more positive movement of our supported House AOB reform bill, HB 7065. It was voted favorably out of the Judiciary Committee on a 14 – 3 vote and will now move to the House floor for a full vote.

Additionally, we have good news for our supported House remote notary bill. HB 409 is moving on to its final committee stop, the Judiciary Committee, following a 10 – 1 vote in the Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee.

And finally, we saw the first action on our supported House vacation rental bill, HB 987. It passed the Business and Professions Subcommittee on a 10 – 5 vote. Its companion, SB 824, was expected to be heard this past week in the Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee, but time ran out. We expect the bill to be heard in the Senate at a later date.

In terms of what to expect in week five, it is going to be a busy one again. SB 548, our supported remote notaries bill on the Senate side, is scheduled to be heard today at 4:00 p.m. in the Judiciary Committee. We will also see our supported House vacation rental bill, HB 987, receive its second bout of committee action in as many weeks. It will be up today at noon in the Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee.

Priority bills we are watching

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

Private Property Rights/Vacation Rentals

  • SB 824 – Preempting the regulation of vacation rentals to the state. Current status: In Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee waiting to be placed on the agenda.
  • HB 987 – Companion bill to SB 824. Current status: On Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee agenda for 4/1/2019 at 12:00 p.m.
  • Open and Expired Building Permits
  • HB 447 – Provides requirements related to open and expired permits. Current status: In Commerce Committee waiting to be placed on the agenda.
  • SB 902 – Companion bill to HB 447. Current status: In Rules Committee waiting to be placed on the agenda.

Assignment of Benefits (AOB)

  • SB 122 – Attorney fee awards under insurance policies and contracts. Current status: In Rules Committee waiting to be placed on the agenda.
  • HB 7065 – Companion bill to SB 122. Current status: Waiting for floor vote.

Online Remote Notaries

  • HB 409 – Authorizes online notarizations. Current status: In Judiciary Committee waiting to be placed on the agenda.
  • SB 548 – Companion bill to HB 409. Current status: On Judiciary Committee agenda for 4/1/2019 at 4:00 p.m.

Other Bills of Interest
The below are some additional bills of interest that we are watching.
 
Deregulation of Professions and Occupations

  • HB 27 – Removes regulations on specified DBPR professions. PLEASE NOTE: this bill does not currently impact the real estate industry, but we are monitoring it for amendments and will update you if that changes. Current status: In Commerce Committee waiting to be placed on the agenda.
  • SB 1640 – Companion bill to HB 27. Current status: On Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee agenda for 4/2/2019 at 10:00 a.m.
  • Permit fees
  • SB 142 – Requiring the governing bodies of counties and municipalities to post their permit and inspection fee schedules and building permit and inspection utilization reports on their websites. Current status: Passed by the Senate and substituted for HB 127. Bill will now go to the governor.
  • HB 127 – Companion bill to SB 142. Current status: Passed by the House. Bill will now go to the governor.

Impact Fees

  • SB 144 – Revising the minimum requirements for impact fees adopted by a local government. Current status: Placed on second reading in the Senate.
  • HB 207 – Companion bill to SB 144. Current status: Passed by House. Awaiting final Senate vote on SB 144.

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 Infrastructure and Security Committee agenda for 4/2/2019 at 2:00 p.m.
  • HB 437 – Companion bill to SB 728. Current status: Placed on second reading in the House.

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

Danielle Scoggins is Florida Realtors interim vice president of public policy

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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NAR releases Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study

WASHINGTON – April 1, 2019 – One in six Gen Xers purchased a multi-generational home, overtaking younger boomers as the generation most likely to do so – and 52 percent of those Xers said they did so because their adult children either moved back home or never left, according to the National Association of Realtors®‘ (NAR) 2019 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study.

The report also found that older millennials who bought a multi-generational home, at 9 percent, were most likely to do so in order to take care of aging parents (33 percent) or to spend more time with those parents (30 percent).

“The high cost of rent and lack of affordable housing inventory is sending adult children back to their parents’ homes either out of necessity or an attempt to save money,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “While these multi-generational homes may not be what a majority of Americans expect out of homeownership, this method allows younger potential buyers the opportunity to gain their financial footing and transition into homeownership. In fact, younger millennials are the most likely to move directly out of their parents’ homes into homeownership, circumventing renting altogether.”

Older vs. younger millennials

Millennials as a whole accounted for 37 percent of all buyers, making them the most active buying generation for the sixth consecutive year. For the first time, the 2019 report separated younger and older millennials, which accounted for 11 and 26 percent of buyers respectively. NAR says the “separation was deemed necessary as younger millennials now account for a larger buying share than the silent generation (7 percent).”

Gen X buyers were the second largest group of buyers (24 percent), followed by younger boomers (18 percent) and older boomers (14 percent).

Dividing millennials into younger and older cohorts highlights the disparities between the two age groups and paints a picture of older millennials that is much closer to Gen Xers and younger boomers. Older millennials have a median household income of $101,200 and purchase homes with a median price of $274,000, comparable to Gen Xers ($111,100 income, $277,800 median home price) and younger boomers ($102,300, $251,100 respectively).

Yun says this is to be expected as millennials continue to age and advance through various stages of their lives and careers. “Older millennials are now entering the prime earning stages of their careers, and the size and costs of homes they purchase reflect this. Their choices are falling more in line with their Gen X and boomer counterparts.”

Younger millennials, meanwhile, are purchasing the least expensive homes and smallest homes ($177,000 and 1,600 square feet), meaning they face the greatest challenge in finding affordable inventory. They also report a median household income of $71,200.

Downsizing to a smaller home is not currently common among any of the generations. Sellers over the age of 54 only downsize by a median of 100 to 200 square feet. Gen Xers and boomers who may have been interested in downsizing could have been hindered by a lack of smaller inventory; or may have been impeded by the increase in multi-generational living these generations are reporting to accommodate the needs of adult children and aging parents.

Student loan debt remains barrier to homeownership

Older millennials and Gen Xers carry the most substantial amount of student loan debt, with a median amount of $30,000. Younger millennials rank second with a median amount of $21,000.

However, younger millennials are the most likely to have student loan debt, with 47 percent indicating that they carry some amount of student loan debt, while only 42 percent of older millennials and 27 percent of Gen Xers report student loan debt. Younger and older boomers also report carrying student loan debt but a lower amount, 10 and 4 percent respectively.

Younger millennials were the most likely to say saving for a downpayment was the most difficult task in the home process, 26 percent. Among them, student loan debt delayed their home purchase (61 percent); however, they indicated that this particular debt only delayed them a median of two years − the shortest delay of all generations.

“These buyers are the most likely to receive some or all of their downpayment as a gift from family or friends – usually their parents,” says Yun. “This could explain why their debt is not holding them back from homeownership as long as other generations, who are less likely to receive downpayment assistance.”

Buyer household compositions shift from married couples

While the majority of buyers in all age groups are married couples, single buyers and unmarried couples continue to make a mark on the real estate market. Single females accounted for 25 percent of all younger boomers and silent generation buyers.

“Many of these buyers are entering the market after a divorce, which is the case for younger boomers, or the death of a spouse in the case of those in the silent generation,” says Yun.

While only 8 percent of buyers as a whole were unmarried couples, they accounted for 20 percent of all younger millennial homebuyers compared to 13 percent for older millennials, 8 percent for Gen Xers, 4 percent for both younger and older boomers and 3 percent for the silent generation.

A majority of all buyers and sellers work with a real estate agent

Buyers and sellers across all age groups continue to seek the assistance of a real estate agent when buying and selling a home. At 92 percent, younger millennials were the most likely to purchase a home through a real estate agent.

“Help understanding the buying process” was cited as the top benefit younger millennials said their agent provided (87 percent). Across all generations, 87 percent of all buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent.

Gen Xers were the largest group of sellers, accounting for one-quarter of all sellers. They were also most likely to have wanted to sell earlier (15 percent) but could not because their home was worth less than their mortgage.

Out of all sellers, 92 percent used an agent during the process, with older millennials and Gen Xers most likely to have used a full-service agent who offered a broad range of services and managed most aspects of the sale.

“Consumers of all ages understand that working with a Realtor is the advantage they need to compete in this fast-moving, constantly evolving real estate market,” says NAR President John Smaby. “Buying a home is an exciting, complicated and sometimes daunting process, and Realtors have the knowledge and expertise to guide buyers and sellers through this experience.”

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Court strikes down NAR’s health insurance plan

WASHINGTON (March 29, 2019) – A federal judge ruled last week that the Department of Labor’s act allowing associations to offer healthcare plans was illegal. In the ruling, District of Columbia-based U.S. District Court Judge John Bates said it allows participant to “avoid the most stringent requirements” of the Affordable Care Act.

In response, National Association of Realtors® (NAR) President John Smaby issued a statement opposing the court’s ruling.

“As independent contractors, Realtors have long struggled to find and secure affordable health insurance options,” said Smaby in the statement. “This is why NAR strongly supports the U.S. Department of Labor’s final rule expanding access to Association Health Plans. This rule has been successful and is growing in many states, providing high quality, lower cost coverage alternatives to many of NAR’s 1.3 million members and their families.”

The Labor Department disagrees with the report, and the Justice Department announced that it would consider “all available options” after the ruling.

The Labor Department said in a CNN report it disagreed with the decision while the Justice Department said it will consider “all available options” after Bates’ ruling.

“The administration will continue to fight for sole proprietors and small businesses so that they can have the freedom to band together to obtain more affordable, quality healthcare coverage,” a Justice Department spokesman said.

“We are extremely disappointed in this week’s District Court decision, which threatens the progress Realtor associations have made in offering much-needed health insurance solutions,” Smaby said in the statement. “NAR is reviewing this ruling to determine its potential nationwide impact and we vow to continue to fight for more affordable, quality health insurance options for our members.”

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

 

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$290,900 vs. $300,000: Which is better for pricing a listing?

ORLANDO, Fla. – March 15, 2019 – Price a can of beans too low and it hurts profits. But price it too high and the drop in sales will offset any additional profit per can. As a result, proper pricing is both science and art in the retail world.

In real estate, however, it’s not always so simple. However, online searches have changed some of those dynamics. Buyers now have price options when they do a listing search, and those often end on even numbers, such as $300,000-$350,000. In these cases, a listing agent pricing a client’s home using the drop-down method might advertise at $299,000. But a homebuyer using the noted range would then never see it.

As a result, homes with a recommended listing price close to natural break numbers offered in online searches can expand the number of people who will see the listing by using an even number. If that $299,000 listing is advertised at $300,000, the people looking for homes in the $250,000-$300,000 range will also receive it in their results.

Robert McTague suggests four ways psychology can influence price in a recent Inman article:

1. The nine-at-the-end price

Beyond the online search reason to use round numbers, what should be done for a home recommended at $310,000? List it at $309,900?

A nine at the end seems to make sense psychologically when trying to attract buyers. A 99¢ can of beans is somehow cheaper than its $1 competitor, for example. In home sales, agents may think it makes a home sound more affordable.

McTague writes that smart people aren’t fooled by this, however, and “You should position your client’s home as luxury brands do, not as discounters.” In the retail world, rounding down by a few cents suggests bargain shopping. Using an even number – a tactic used by Godiva Chocolates and Ferrari – suggests a luxury, top-notch item.

2. Odd prices seem more legit

McTague called the “power of four and seven … evident.”

Translated into real estate, a buyer who sees a home listed for $354,000 or $357,000 is more likely to assume that some thought went into that listing price. “Why the extra $4,000?” they might wonder. “Why didn’t they at least round up to $355,000?”

A precise price such as those ending in four or seven, McTague says, suggests to the buyer that a full analysis went into the pricing and that the asking price is exactly what the seller thinks his home is worth. The buyer may also think there is less room for negotiation.

3. Nix the commas and decimals

A study found that the way people read numbers affects how they feel about those numbers – and the less thinking they must do, the lower they think the price is. Here are three ways to write the same number, with the final one sounding more affordable to some buyers:

  • $350,000.00
  • $350,000
  • $350000

Good pricing is not always good grammar.

4. Add the commas and decimals

This is the flipside of No. 3, McTague says. If lowering a home’s asking price, add in the commas and decimal points to make it seem like more of a change, as in “Price lowered $5,000.00 – now listed at $354000.”

Source: Inman News, Robert McTague

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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4 out of 5 buyers’ agents say home staging helps

WASHINGTON – March 15, 2019 – A new survey from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) found that 83 percent of buyers’ agents say staging makes it easier for buyers to visualize a property as their future home. The survey, NAR’s 2019 Profile of Home Staging, is available online.

“Realtors understand the importance of making a residential property as welcoming and appealing as possible to potential buyers. While every Realtor doesn’t use staging in every situation, the potential value it brings is clear to both homebuyers and sellers,” says NAR President John Smaby.

More than half of sellers’ agents said that staging a home decreases the amount of time a home spends on the market, with 25 percent saying that it greatly decreases the time and 28 percent saying it slightly decreases the time.

Television’s impact on homebuyers

The report contains a new section called “Buyer Expectations,” which focuses on how home buying television shows impact Realtors’ businesses and how they’ve changed homebuyers’ views about the home buying process.

While 38 percent of respondents say that television shows on the home buying process have had an impact on their business, 32 percent witnessed no impact and 31 percent do not know if they have an impact.

The report found that 20 percent of buyers were disappointed by how “real” homes look compared to homes they saw on television shows; 39 percent of respondents found the home buying process more difficult than they expected; and 10 percent of respondents say that buyers felt homes should look the way they do when staged on TV shows.

Only 6 percent of buyers’ agents said that staging had no impact on buyers, while 40 percent said staging has an effect and 52 percent said staging affects some buyers.

Staging’s impact on the home sale

Buyers’ agents say that the living room is the most important room to stage (47 percent). The next most important are the master bedroom (42 percent) and then the kitchen (35 percent). Sellers agents agree but in reverse order. The guest bedroom is considered least important.

Forty-four percent of buyers’ agents report that staging increased the financial offer on a home; 25 percent say it increases its dollar value by 1 to 5 percent, and 12 percent said it increases the dollar value 6 to 10 percent. But 29 percent of buyers’ agents say it has no impact on dollar value. Only 1 percent of buyers’ agents felt it has a negative impact.

Sellers’ agents report even more value added from staging: 22 percent reported an increase of 1 to 5 percent in dollar value; 17 percent reported an increase of 6 to 10 percent; 5 percent reported an increase of 11 to 15 percent; and 2 percent reported an increase of 16 to 20 percent.

No sellers’ agents reported a negative impact from home staging.

When deciding which homes to stage, 28 percent of sellers’ agents say they stage all of their clients’ homes before listing them, while 45 do not stage homes before listing them, though they do recommend that sellers declutter their homes and fix any faults within the property. Another 13 percent said stage only difficult-to-sell homes, and 7 percent stage only homes in higher price brackets.

“Realtors have the expertise and local market knowledge to know which properties and specific rooms will benefit the most from staging, which is why working with a Realtor is so vital for sellers in today’s housing market,” says Smaby.

Who pays for the home staging? The seller pays before listing the home 18 percent of the time, while sellers’ agents personally provide funds in 26 percent of cases; 17 percent of the time, agents will offer home staging services.

In addition to staging, 95 percent of agents recommend decluttering the home, 89 percent recommend an entire home cleaning and 83 percent recommend removing pets from the home during showings. Other pre-sale projects include carpet cleaning, depersonalizing the home and making minor repairs.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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Congress could add fair housing protections for LGBT

WASHINGTON – March 15, 2019 – Bills were introduced into both the U.S. House and Senate last Wednesday extending Fair Housing Act protections to LGBT individuals – a move supported by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

“Realtors have worked for [nearly] a decade to ensure the American dream of homeownership is not unfairly denied to those in the LGBT community,” NAR President John Smaby said in a statement.

NAR amended its Code of Ethics to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2011 and gender identity in 2013. Last year, the association supported the Fair and Equal Housing Act, which would make those protections part of the Fair Housing Act. However, Congress adjourned before the bill could come up for a vote.

The legislation introduced Wednesday, called the Equality Act, includes the NAR-supported housing protections of the Fair and Equal Housing Act and also extends LGBT protections in the areas of employment, public accommodations, credit markets and voting.

Shannon McGahn, NAR senior vice president for government affairs, will appear at a policy summit hosted by the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals next month in Washington, D.C., to talk about next steps for the legislation.

Source: Realtor Magazine, Robert Freedman

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Top day to list a Fla. home? Depends where you live

ORLANDO, Fla. – March 14, 2019 – Realtor.com analyzed listings on its website with an eye toward the best day of the year to put a home on the market. The ideal day? April 1.

That’s close to ideal for Jacksonville – one of four Florida metro areas included in the analysis – but less so for other areas. According to Realtor.com, the best time to list a home in Jacksonville this year is March 31.

The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metro area’s high-point for listing a home is less than two weeks later, April 14, 2019, but the peak time to put a house up for sale in Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater doesn’t occur until early summer, June 9, 2019. And the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach doesn’t follow the spring selling season pattern at all. Realtor.com says the top day to list a home in South Florida is Aug. 4, 2019.

“June is often considered the peak of home buying season, but our analysis found the first week of April is best for sellers looking to maximize list price, and also reduce the risk of price cuts and competition from other sellers,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com. “Given the time it takes from listing to close, putting a home on the market in early April positions sellers to attract buyers seeking to close and move before the beginning of school year.”

The analysis is based on trends in median listing prices, views per property on realtor.com, home price drops, median days on market, and number of listings on the market over the last three years.

Why the first week of April?

The market is bustling with buyers, but the number of homes hasn’t peaked yet, according to the analysis. Homes listed the first week of April see 14 percent more views, on average, and 5 percent less competition compared to the rest of the year’s weekly average. As a result, homes are likely to sell 6 days (about 9 percent) faster on average.

Although the typical June listing is 7 percent more expensive than the best week to list, waiting until June could mean a higher likelihood of a price reduction as buyers bow out toward the end of summer.

In addition to more views, homes listed at the beginning of April are approximately 1 percent less likely to take a price cut, on average, compared to the rest of the year. On the flip side, homes listed in June are 1 percent more likely to have their price reduced and see nearly 2 percent fewer listing views than other times of the year, on average.

Another factor likely to boost April buyer demand this year is the surprising decline in mortgage rates that started in November 2018. Rates are now below 4.5 percent vs. nearly 5.0 percent in November 2018. These lower rates could entice demand earlier than usual.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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ATTOM: Fla. year-to-year foreclosure starts up 68% in Feb

IRVINE, Calif. – March 14, 2019 – In ATTOM’s latest foreclosure report, Florida topped the list for the increased number of homeowners (68 percent) who received a first letter of delinquency in February, though the percentage varies by metro area.

Nationally, ATTOM reported a total of 54,783 U.S. properties with foreclosure filings in February 2019, down 3 percent from the previous month and down 11 percent year-to-year – the eighth consecutive annual decrease in foreclosure activity.

Counter to the national trend, however, 13 states posted year-over-year increases in foreclosure starts in February 2019, including Florida (up 68 percent), Oregon (up 46 percent), Louisiana (up 34 percent), Illinois (up 9 percent), Texas (up 9 percent) and Colorado (up 3 percent).

Metro areas with a population greater than 1 million that saw an annual increase in foreclosure starts included Los Angeles, California (up 7 percent); Chicago, Illinois (up 15 percent); Houston, Texas (up 73 percent); Washington, D.C. (up 11 percent); and Miami, Florida (up 74 percent).

The foreclosure rate represents all homes somewhere within the foreclosure process, including REOs (bank-owned).

Florida metro foreclosure rate changes – month-to-month – year-to-year

  • Jacksonville – Up 6.26% – Up 14.45%
  • Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent – Up 20.65% – No change, 0.00%
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater – Up 40.58% – Up 42.42%
  • Lakeland-Winter Haven – Down 32.51% – Up 25.38%
  • Ocala – Up 18.42% – Up 80.00%
  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach – Down 0.47% – Up 31.25%
  • North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton – Up 50.25% – Up 92.90%
  • Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford – Up 7.27% – Up 42.05%
  • Cape Coral-Fort Myers – Up 27.00% – Up 41.11%
  • Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville – Up 7.64% – Up 35.20%
  • Tallahassee – 125.58% – Down 1.02%
  • Port St. Lucie – Up 67.57% – Up 18.10%
  • Gainesville – Down 6.85% – Up 23.64%
  • Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach – Down 16.42% – Up 1.20%
  • Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island – Up 4.71% – Up 48.33%
  • Florida (statewide total) – Up 10.18% – Up 30.97%

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

 

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Hurry: Fla. license renewal deadline is March 31

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Average mortgage rates fall again: 30-year at 4.31%

WASHINGTON (AP) – March 14, 2019 – U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, with the benchmark 30-year home loan reaching its lowest level in more than a year as a potential inducement to homebuyers.

Continued uncertainty over Britain’s scheduled departure from the European Union suppressed interest rates on U.S. Treasury bonds and consequently mortgage rates.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage declined to 4.31 percent from 4.41 percent the previous week. The latest 30-year average rate was the lowest since February 2018. The average stood at 4.44 percent a year ago.

Mortgage rates climbed for much of 2018 and peaked at nearly 5 percent in early November.

The average rate this week for 15-year, fixed-rate loans slipped to 3.76 percent from 3.83 percent a week earlier.

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Is your website bringing you business?

LAS VEGAS – March 14, 2019 – Real estate professionals need to be able to drive people to their websites. They can accomplish this through email, blogging and print marketing, but it can be a challenge to do this right the first time.

To create the perfect website, they must first select the right domain name; choose a web host and web designer; and get a template that will allow them to change the text, pictures and links without paying additional money to the designer to add more content.

They should then work to add additional content every month, keeping in mind that creating a website isn’t an overnight process. Once they have created their website, they can enhance it by focusing on the consumer and providing relevant information; offering property search features with multiple, high-quality digital images; providing virtual tours; and creating forms where visitors can offer their personal information in exchange for valuable information.

Ultimately, they need to ensure their site stands out, which can be accomplished by incorporating online video, among other things.

Source: Realty Times (03/13/19) Devitre, Doug

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Register now for Florida Realtors Convention and Trade Expo

Florida Realtors Convention & Trade Expo offers CE credit, Expo, ed sessions, Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing’s Ryan Serhant and more for only $150 – and free for 300 first-timers.

 

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FEMA flood insurance plan might upend premiums

WASHINGTON – March 13, 2019 – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is working on a plan to update and extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which Congress may or may not go along with as it considers new flood insurance policy. The proposal could change the way NFIP calculates the rates for homeowners, possibly saving money for some people but raising the cost significantly for others – notably those in flood areas or facing other risk factors.

Rather than levy premiums based on the dollar amount of insurance a homeowner wants, NFIP might operate more like property insurance, weighing a roster of risk variables and personalizing premiums.

Currently, flood insurance rates are generally based on the amount of coverage a homeowner wants and the risk of flood faced – largely whether the home is inside or outside a FEMA-designated flood zone.

Florida – home to about 35 percent of all NFIP policies – could see a major impact from proposed changes if they become official, though plan details have not yet been announced, and it’s unclear how any specific homeowner might be affected. However, it’s likely that homeowners in flood zones would see an increase in their flood insurance costs.

When asked by Bloomberg to comment on proposed changes, FEMA offered a statement by David Maurstad, deputy associate administrator for insurance and mitigation. He said the new system “will help customers better understand their flood risk and provide them with more accurate rates based on their unique risk.” According to the theory, homeowners who understand their flood risk will be more willing to buy coverage.

Bloomberg says FEMA’s document offers an example of two homes in a 100-year flood plain. One may sit near the edge and be threatened by only one type of flood event. FEMA says this home might see its costs drop by 57 percent. A second home in the middle of a flood plain facing multiple types of flood threats, though, could see its flood insurance costs more than double.

However, a FEMA spokesperson also said that some of the information given to Bloomberg is no longer accurate – but didn’t say which parts.

FEMA calls its new flood-pricing proposal Risk Rating 2.0 and says it’s being released at a time when climate change is influencing the national program, which is already in deep debt.

Congress is simultaneously working on its own flood insurance update, and committees meeting this week will discuss it. It’s unclear how much FEMA’s plan could influence Congressional actions. However, FEMA says it has the authority to update NFIP on its own even if Congress fails to pass a comprehensive plan.

Source: Bloomberg, March 12, 2019, Christopher Flavelle

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Dear agents: We still need you. Love, home sellers

NEW YORK – March 13, 2019 – According to a new survey by Clever Real Estate, homeowners are often unaware of the costs associated with selling a home. Of those who plan to sell through for sale by owner (FSBO), 53 percent are not comfortable negotiating without an agent. Moreover, 62 percent of all home sellers and 46 percent of FSBO sellers are uncomfortable filling out and completing the necessary paperwork by themselves.

The survey of 1,000 home sellers found that 45 percent of home sellers believe buyers pay their own commission, even though sellers actually pay the commission fees in almost all transactions.

Further, just 35 percent of sellers had any realistic idea about commission fees, though only 19 percent of those polled felt Realtor fees are reasonable and fair.

Ultimately, the survey underscored the importance of real estate agents taking the time to explain the home selling process and commission structure when starting any relationship with a seller.

Source: Realty Times (03/06/19) Babich, Luke

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Lawmakers looking at algae and water quality

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – March 13, 2019 – A pair of environmental bills aimed at boosting water quality regulations began moving in the Florida Legislature with bipartisan support Tuesday as lawmakers work to address the algae problems that have plagued the state.

One bill would result in fines for municipalities after sewage spills, while the other would increase regulations on the spreading of biosolids, or human waste left over from the municipal sewage treatment process.

The nutrients found in human waste can feed algae blooms such as toxic red tide, brown tide and blue-green algae.

All three types of algae impacted Florida in 2018, killing fish, fouling waterways and hurting local economies.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has made water quality a top priority, and lawmakers from some of the affected regions have filed a slew of environmental regulation and funding bills.

Environmental advocates said the two measures dealing with municipal sewage are the first major algae-related water quality regulation bills to gain traction in the 2019 legislative session, which began last week.

The sewage spill measure sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, would fine municipalities $1 for every gallon spilled. To avoid paying the fine a utility provider could also “spend $2 for each gallon (spilled) to upgrade or remediate the problems that gave rise to the unlawful discharge,” according to the legislation.

The bill also includes a public notice requirement that would put pressure on municipalities by forcing them to send a letter to homeowners when there is a spill nearby. Fine said the idea is to get homeowners incensed enough to demand local officials take action.

The biosolid and sewage spill bills cleared their first committees in both the House and Senate Tuesday with broad support and the backing of environmental groups, a rarity in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Gruters and Fine both come from regions impacted by severe algae problems. Red tide plagued Sarasota and communities through Southwest Florida last year, while Fine lives in Brevard County, which has experienced a series of brown tide algae blooms.

Fine noted that Brevard had a massive sewage spill after Hurricane Irma in 2017. The hurricane overwhelmed sewage systems across the state and led to sewage discharges in 39 counties, including Sarasota and Manatee. Irma caused about 30 million gallons of sewage to be dumped into the Indian River Lagoon, according to Florida Today.

The sewage may have contributed to a brown tide bloom in the lagoon that persisted for months after Irma, with dead fish and human feces floating in the waterbody. Brown tide has been a problem in the region for years. Some have blamed the algae outbreaks on septic tanks, which Fine tried to regulate two years ago without success. Gruters and state Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, are pushing a similar septic tank inspection bill this year in response to the red tide algae bloom.

Fine said after encountering resistance to new septic rules from homeowners who said local government should clean up their sewage problems first, he decided to switch gears and focus on municipal sewage spills.

At the same time Brevard was experiencing a big sewage spill last year, Fine said the county approved spending millions on parks and other programs, including a kayak launch near a location where sewage was spilling.

“For too long we’ve had a problem where parks are more fun to talk about than pipes,” Fine said.

Local governments are not doing enough to update their wastewater systems, he added. He believes part of the reason is that the penalties are not severe enough.

No municipal leaders spoke during the environmental committee meetings in the House and Senate Tuesday, but some city leaders have concerns about the bill.

“I think it all sounds good and it’s all well intended, but I think we have to look at a more effective strategy,” Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin said recently in arguing that local governments need more financial assistance from the state and federal government to improve wastewater infrastructure. The city of Sarasota had a sewage spill in December that released 900,000 gallons of wastewater, with some of it flowing into Sarasota Bay.

Aging infrastructure is a major problem that can lead to broken pipes, but spills also can be triggered by storm events, human error and a host of other causes. Barwin said Sarasota’s spill was a freak accident brought on by heavy rains. He has argued that penalizing municipalities would place a great strain on local governments and their taxpayers.

Fine said he had little sympathy for cities and counties complaining about the cost of fixing infrastructure. He argued that local governments need to prioritize their spending.

Some lawmakers wondered about the cost of the legislation during the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing Tuesday. “How do we prevent them from passing that charge on to their customers?” asked Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola.

Fine said local officials ultimately are accountable to voters. Environmental groups largely praised the bill, including Florida Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club. But Sierra Club lobbyist David Cullen told a Senate Environmental & Natural Resources Committee that there has been “considerable resistance” in the Legislature to helping local governments with infrastructure improvements.

“We are looking forward to working with the sponsor to make sure that any fines are devoted to addressing the problem, perhaps on a statewide basis,” Cullen said. “We don’t want to assume that everything is due to incompetence.”

The debate on biosolids – also known as sewage sludge – stretches back decades but flared up again in many communities during the recent spate of algae blooms.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection developed rules for the use of biosolids – which are used on farms as a fertilizer or disposed of by burning or dumping in landfills – in 1990 and then updated them in 1998 and 2010, according to the House staff analysis of the biosolid bill. The 2010 revision was partly aimed at improving “nutrient management.” It incorporated “nutrient management plans” into biosolid permits issued for agricultural sites.

But some communities have continued to express concerns that the biosolids rules were not strong enough to prevent water quality problems. Last year DEP created a biosolid technical advisory committee that met four times to discuss the problem.

Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne, said the biosolid bill she sponsored (SB 1278) is the result of that committee’s work.

“This is addressing right now what we think is an inferior permitting process,” said Lisa Rinaman, who advocates for water quality issues in the Northeast Florida area around the St. John’s River.

Mayfield said that as communities in the southern reaches of the St. Johns worked to restrict the land application of biosolids within their boundaries, the problem was pushed to the north and continued to impact the river.

The regional planning councils that help coordinate land-use management in two other areas impacted by recent algae blooms – Southwest Florida and the Treasure Coast – also have expressed concerns about biosolids. Both passed resolutions last year during the height of the algae blooms calling for the eventual elimination of biosolid application in those regions.

The biosolid bill instructs DEP to begin rulemaking later this year to tighten the rules on biosolids. It directs DEP to adopt rules that “permit the use of biosolids in a manner that minimizes migration of nutrients and that prevents impairment of surface water and groundwater quality.”

A range of environmental groups expressed support for the bill.

“We do believe this is a step in the right direction,” Rinaman said.

© 2019 Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla., Zac Anderson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.   http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/floridarealtors/~3/oBE-5kYib_M/article.cfm

Fla. homes spark almost 1 in 10 mortgage requests

CHICAGO – March 12, 2019 – Florida ranked as the No. 1 place for buyers, according to a recent Lending Tree survey.

Out of all mortgage requests made during the study, 9.1 percent were for homes in Florida, and moving companies that worked with out-of-state homebuyers reported that 12.4 percent of all requested destinations were in Florida. Builder magazine calls Florida’s growth “explosive.”

The study broke Florida down into five distinct housing markets.

“In Southwest Florida you have a lot of retirees. In central Florida you have retirees and international buyers,” says Tony Polito, Metrostudy’s regional director for the Tampa area. “In South Florida you have a lot of international buyers.”

The largest pool of buyers in Jacksonville are first-time and entry-level buyers impacted by a lack of choices and affordability. In Central Florida, there is local demand as well as a diversified base of buyers that includes investors, seasonal residents, international and vacation homebuyers.

High demand and low inventory have pushed prices up, according to Toby Hoff, Metrostudy regional director.

“Builders moving out of the core areas of Central Florida have been able to bring more affordable homes online. Buyers in this supply-constrained market are now willing to deal with longer commutes or less-than-desirable schools in order to find something that is both new and in their price range,” he says.

Although Tampa, Sarasota and St. Petersburg are all interconnected, they are very different housing markets, with Tampa booming and generating new jobs.

“We have two counties that account for 90 percent of the housing activity. Hillsborough, which the city of Tampa sits in, and Pasco County to the north,” says Polito. “Between Pasco and Hillsborough County, today we have a 14.8 month supply of vacant lots. Market equilibrium in this market is 24 to 36 months. Anything below 24 months means land prices are still rising. You can’t even find a small orange grove to develop.”

Source: Builder (03/11/19) Sowers, Scott

© Copyright 2019 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688   http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/floridarealtors/~3/Xa3RzzO0qbs/article.cfm

Great American Realtor Days: Last chance to register online

Help your fellow Floridians March 18-20 at GARD – your chance to explain real estate industry concerns to state lawmakers. But hurry – online registration ends today. https://www.floridarealtors.org/LegislativeCenter/Great-American-Realtor-Days.cfm  

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Simple steps can protect your identity from cybertheft

NEW YORK – March 12, 2019 – Brace yourself for some cold, hard facts.

Cybercriminals will steal an estimated 33 billion records by 2023, according to Juniper Research, a firm that forecasts tech trends. Half of all data breaches globally will occur in the U.S. alone, Juniper says.

Joshua Lamont, 44, founder of JRL Strategies, a communications consultancy in Menlo Park, California, knows the crushing impact of cybertheft firsthand.

“In 2015, my dad and I were traveling for Thanksgiving,” Lamont says. “That day, we woke up to find more than $25,000 in fraudulent charges on my credit cards, and cash had been stolen from my bank account.”

Lamont’s mom had recently died; the bank believes someone got hold of her Social Security number, and later his. Lamont thinks it’s because he was added to a joint account his father had shared with his mother.

Over four weeks, thieves spent $13,000 from his personal and business accounts combined, $7,400 on his business credit card, and $5,800 out of the joint account shared with his father. Says Lamont: “They spent the money on an adult website with models who were tipped or given tokens paid for with my identity.”

“With data breaches occurring so frequently, much of your personal information has become available for sale on the Dark Web to identity thieves,” says Steven J. J. Weisman, a lawyer in Amherst, Massachusetts. “Being aware of this, the best place to find help is at the end of your own arm.”

Here are seven ways to protect your digital assets online.

Use strong passwords

A common mistake is using the same password for each account.

“Once a hacker figures out your easy password, then they can access all of your accounts,” says Mark Moss, a market analyst in California, who uses LastPass, a free web browser plug-in that creates and manages his passwords.

Moss, who is based in Orange County, California, advises creating passwords with at least eight characters, uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols and special characters.

Two-factor authentication

The username and password are easy bait for cybercriminals.

“Add another layer of security to an online investment portal by enabling 2FA in your account’s privacy or security settings,” says Frances Dewing, CEO of Rubica Inc., a cybersecurity solutions firm in Seattle. “A code is sent via a text or app to your smartphone, and anyone trying to gain access will need both your password and this code, which changes each time you log in.”

Freeze your credit

A security freeze prevents lenders from accessing your credit reports. “A fraudster trying to open an account in your name should be promptly rejected because the lender will be unable to verify the borrower’s creditworthiness,” says Taylor Jessee, a CPA and CFP in Richmond, Virginia. “This is a highly effective precaution, and it’s free and easy to do.”

To place a security credit freeze on your files, contact Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian directly. If applying for new credit, the bureaus are legally required to “unfreeze” your credit, Jessee says.

Use biometrics

“Biometrics utilizes your unique physical or behavioral characteristics to grant access to your most secured files,” says Daniel R. Hill, president of D.R. Hill & Associates, an investment advisory in Richmond, Virginia. “I suggest clients use it for bank accounts, retirement portfolios, and credit cards to employ fingerprinting, vocal vibration, or retina scan to receive access to digital files.”

Understand your risk

Shortly after his 67th birthday, James Shambo of Colorado Springs, Colorado, received a letter congratulating him on initiating his Social Security benefits. Though he was a retired CPA, he opted to wait until age 70 to receive benefits.

“Further digging uncovered that a thief had received $19,235 of my benefits,” says Shambo, now 68. “I was dumbfounded.”

Anyone age 62 to 70 who has yet to apply for benefits is at risk, particularly if your personal information was exposed in the July 2017 Equifax breach, advises Shambo.

Before the breach, he had frozen his credit files. However, the thief had Shambo’s benefits direct-deposited into an account opened with a bank that does not perform credit checks before issuing prepaid Visa debit cards.

Shambo contacted Social Security, and it froze further payments. He also filed a police report with a case number and had electronic access to his account blocked. Now, he will have to battle with Social Security, the IRS and later Medicare to sort things out.

To protect themselves from identity theft, people should to check out the American Institute of CPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy site, says Jon Lynch, manager of public relations for the institute.

Seek out fraud protection

Ask about security for each entity with which you have accounts.

“Consumers can password-protect bank accounts so that an individual can’t go into a branch and conduct transactions without it,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit that helps identity theft victims resolve cases at no charge.

Act to minimize losses

Lamont, the cybertheft victim from California, snapped into action once thieves gained access to his accounts.

“I switched banks and opened new accounts with extra measures, so I receive alerts for nearly every transaction,” he says. “I also worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs to get an independent fiduciary appointed to handle my dad’s VA disability benefits.”

Next, he eliminated all credit cards. Now, he constantly changes passwords, uses two-party authenticators and keeps two months’ rent, cash and prepaid Visa cards on hand.

“We’ve recovered, but we’ve never been the same.”

Copyright 2019, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY, Tanisha A. Sykes   http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/floridarealtors/~3/43c57KDu3PY/article.cfm

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