Category Archives: Association News: Reprinted with permission Florida Realtors. All rights reserved

Buyer-Seller Survey: 1/3 of First-Timers Get Down Payment Help

NAR’s 2019 survey finds the percentage of first-time buyers at historic lows – and many of the ones who do enter the market get financial help from their family.

SAN FRANCISCO – With housing costs rising and no signs of deceleration, many first-time buyers turn to their families for help. In spite of this, the percentage of first-time buyers remains at historic lows, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. NAR releases the report yearly. It covers demographics, preferences and experiences of buyers and sellers across America.

Initial results find that a third of first-time home buyers received down payment help from family and friends. The share of first-time home buyers remained at 33% in 2019 – a percentage that continues to be below the historical norm of 40%.

“Pre-recession, the number of first-time buyers was higher, in part, because buyers had more options,” says NAR President John Smaby. “However, over the past few years, we have unfortunately experienced scarcity in housing inventory, especially at the middle- and lower-end of the market.”

Buyers report the most difficult step in the process is just finding the right home to purchase, and what buyers want most from their real estate professional is to help them find the right home to purchase, according to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Low inventory conditions hurt would-be first-time buyers most,” he says. “Their homeownership dream and the opportunity to build wealth gets delayed until more inventory choices reach the market.”

Although tightened inventory has taken a toll on home seekers and raised median home prices, sellers in many U.S. areas have benefited. Over the one-year period, sellers received a median of 99% of their asking price and sold their homes typically within three weeks.

Fewer sellers reported a delayed selling this year because their home was worth less than their mortgage. This share of sellers declined from 9% in the 2018 report to 7% in 2019. However, 20% of sellers who bought their home 11 to 15 years ago – during the pre-recession years – reported a stalled home sale.

Homebuyers’ behaviors change

The NAR report found that the share of new homes purchased dropped to an all-time low of 13% – yet another indication of a significant inventory deficiency. Also, 23% of first-time buyers moved from a family or friend’s residence directly into their home – nearly twice the historic rate of 12%.

The age of repeat buyers – which has steadily increased over the course of several decades – continues to show a notable increase. In the 1980s, the average repeat buyer age was in their mid-30s; today, the average repeat buyer is in their mid-50s.

Yun says no area has seen a more rapid and consistent increase than the median age of repeat buyers, which was at a record-high of 55 years old in both 2018 and 2019. However, the median age for first-time buyers also increased to 33 years old in 2019 – the highest share recorded in the series history. However, the share of senior-related housing purchases was 12% in 2019, a slight decline from one year ago.

Yun says the demographics of home buyers shifted as home prices crept higher. “Buyers and sellers, individuals and families – they all had to adjust to changing market conditions.”

  • 35% of all buyers had children under the age of 18 living at home, an increase from 34% last year but a drop from a high of 58% in 1985.
  • 12% of homebuyers purchased a multi-generational home, which consists of a home with adult siblings, adult children over the age of 18 and parents or grandparents – or both – within the same household. Respondents gave varying reasons: 44% did so to accommodate aging parents, 34% to accommodate adult children and 29% to save money.
  • The share of married couples who purchased their first home continued the decline from a historical high of 75%. Although the percentage of married repeat buyers remained constant at 67%, the share of first-time buyers who were unmarried couples rose to a historical high of 17%.
  • Buyers purchasing first homes as roommates jumped to 4% from 2%.
  • 14% of recent home buyers own more than one home, down from 17% in 2018. Owning more than one property was most common for homebuyers 65 years old and older, at 19%.
  • Overall, the internet has become the main source for buyers in terms of finding a home that they ultimately purchase. Today, 52% of recent buyers found their home while searching online, an increase from last year’s 50% share. In 2001, only 8% of buyers found their home this way.
  • Finding a home through a Realtor or an agent has shifted from being the most common source for finding a property to the second most common. While more traditional sources – yard signs, relatives and neighbors, friends and home builders – remain at last year’s levels, they all have declined as a primary source through recent years as the internet became the go-to information source.

Embracing industry changes

While the housing market has changed and transitioned, the NAR report finds that many changes had positive impacts, especially in regards to the home down-payment requirement. In 2019, the median down payment was 12% for all buyers, 6% for first-time buyers and 16% for repeat buyers. Lower down payments among home buyers are another result of rising home prices as buyers find it difficult to save: 17% of all buyers and 25% of first-time buyers used an FHA loan to purchase, likely taking advantage of low down payment programs.

NAR’s survey asked home buyers about their personal experience with securing a mortgage. In 2019, 31% said obtaining a mortgage “was more difficult than expected.” Although a considerably higher amount of people had this same answer in 2009 and in 2010, fewer respondents have had this response every year since then.

“Today, repeat buyer behavior is more similar to first-time buyer behavior as tenure in home has increased,” says Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at NAR. “All buyers are doing their homework – going to open houses, following housing news – and are more reliant than ever on the expert advice of real estate agents and brokers.”

Lautz’s observation about Realtors®’ contributions is echoed in the report’s findings:

  • 89% of those who sold a home worked with a real estate agent in the transaction, and personal relationships and connections were said to be the most important feature of the agent-buyer/seller bond in both 2018 and 2019. Agents most commonly received referrals from customers’ friends, neighbors or relatives, according to the report.
  • Buyers most want their agent to help them find the right home to purchase. Buyers also wanted assistance in negotiating the terms of sale and help with price negotiations.
  • Homebuyers typically interviewed only one real estate agent before deciding to work with them, and said the most important factor was that the agent was honest and trustworthy. In addition, agent experience was another important factor.
  • Overall, recent buyers were pleased with their real estate agent’s skills and qualities: 90% said that they “very satisfied,” and would use their agent again or recommend the agent to others.

Seller characteristics

  • The typical home seller this year was 57 years old, with a median household income of $102,900. Sellers said they ultimately sold their homes for a median of $60,000 more than they purchased it.
  • The most frequently cited reason for selling (16% of those surveyed) was a desire to move closer to family and friends – the first time it’s been the top-cited reason in the series’ history. The next most common reason was that the home was too small, and the third was job relocation at 11%.
  • Sellers typically lived in their home for 10 years before selling it, an increase from last year’s share, and higher than the historical tenure of six years.
  • 66% of sellers were “very satisfied” with the overall selling process.
  • Only 8% of recently sold homes were for-sale-by-owner sales, or FSBO – a number that’s close to the lowest share recorded since NAR began collecting records in 1981. The median age for FSBO sellers is 60 years, and 65% of FSBO sales were married couples with a median household income of $94,000. FSBOs sold for less than other residences at a median of $200,000, compared to agent-assisted homes that sold at a median of $280,000.
  • 48% of all sellers bought a newer home than their previous home, while 28% purchased a home the same age and 24% purchased an older home.
  • 44% “traded-up” and purchased a home that was more expensive than the one they just sold, while 30% bought a less expensive home and 26% purchased a home that was similar in cost. Sellers who are 64 years of age and younger generally bought a more expensive home than the one they just sold. Those aged 18 to 34 purchased the most expensive trade-ups in 2019, recording an increase of $110,000. Conversely, sellers aged 65 and over typically bought a less expensive home.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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FEMA Postpones Flood Insurance Changes for One Year

“Risk Rating 2.0” now goes into effect Oct. 1, 2021. Rather than rely heavily on flood zones to determine policy premiums, Risk Rating 2.0 will consider more variables and charge premiums that vary by home. 

WASHINGTON – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has postponed the roll-out date of Risk Rating 2.0 – its plan to update and extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The original effective date of Oct. 1, 2020, has been moved back one year to Oct. 1, 2021.

This federal program, which is crucial to the Florida real estate industry, helps keep insurance affordable. Take a look at why the NFIP is so important.

“Some additional time is required to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the proposed rating structure, so as to protect policyholders and minimize any unintentional negative effects of the transition,” FEMA said in a prepared statement. The extension will also allow “all National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies – including, single-family homes, multi-unit and commercial properties – to change over to the new rating system at one time instead of a phased approach.”

Risk Rating 2.0

Although the Risk Rating 2.0 program is still being developed, it’s expected to change the way NFIP calculates flood-insurance rates. As a result, it could save some homeowners money and raise the coverage cost for others.

Rather than levy premiums based on the dollar amount of insurance a homeowner wants, NFIP could operate more like traditional property insurance by weighing a roster of risk variables. Currently, rates are generally based on the amount of coverage a homeowner wants and the risk of flood their home faces – largely whether the home is inside or outside a FEMA-designated flood zone.

FEMA originally said the plan would consider multiple variables, such as the potential for hurricanes, a home’s distance from a body of water and its risk from coastal surges. It would also consider using new “loss-estimation technology” that predicts a home’s risk from climate change. It could also offer replacement cost coverage.

Florida – home to about 35 percent of all NFIP policies – could be impacted, though it’s not yet clear how a specific homeowner might be affected. However, it’s likely that some homeowners in FEMA flood zones would see flood insurance costs increase, and that potential for higher costs led some lawmakers to push for a Risk Rating 2.0 delay.

“We’re encouraged that FEMA is listening to Congress’s concerns about the impacts of Risk Rating 2.0. FEMA’s promise to protect policyholders and minimize any unintentional negative effects in the transition is vital to ensuring the NFIP remains successful,” according to a joint news release issued by six lawmakers, including three from Florida: Reps. Charlie Crist, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Francis Rooney.

NFIP currently expires on Nov. 21, 2019, and Congress is working on a solution to extend it for at least a few years. Should lawmakers reach agreement, it’s unclear how a legislative fix might impact FEMA’s Risk Rating 2.0 regulatory fix.

Under U.S. law, FEMA is limited in its ability to raise rates. It’s also unclear how those limitations might impact increases under NFIP’s new risk model.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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Florida Realtors Wins NAR’s C3 Challenge to Promote C2EX

Pres. Eric Sain and CEO Margy Grant accepted a $10K check from NAR for Florida Realtors successful “You, Only Better” campaign to encourage participation in C2EX.

SAN FRANCISCO – Hearing, “You won $10,000!” started this year’s National Association of Realtors® (NAR) 2019 Conference and Trade Expo off with a bang for Florida Realtors® President Eric Sain and CEO Margy Grant.

The duo accepted a $10,000 check from NAR for Florida Realtors’ successful “You, Only Better” campaign to promote C2EX, NAR’s Commitment to Excellence program. Florida Realtors was named the winner of the state association category in NAR’s C3

Challenge contest, which sought creative campaigns from real estate brokerages, local Realtor association and state Realtor associations that encouraged participation in C2EX during the challenge period, May 1-Sept. 1, 2019.

“I’m delighted and honored to be here on behalf of Florida Realtors to accept this recognition for our efforts to promote C2EX to our members,” said 2019 Florida Realtors President Eric Sain, a Realtor and district sales manager with Illustrated Properties in Palm Beach, and 2020 chair of NAR’s Commitment to Excellence Committee. “Our ‘You, Only Better’ campaign was creative, easy-to-understand and fun, which sparked excitement among our members and generated enthusiasm to participate in the program. From our animated C2EX logo to the C2EX T-shirt to the animated video explaining C2EX and how the program can help Realtors increase their professionalism, ‘You, Only Better’ has been a hit with our members.

“And now, with this $10,000 award from NAR, we look forward to continuing our C2EX promotion and to even greater success in 2020!”

The C2EX program is not a designation or course. The online self-assessment isn’t a requirement, but a benefit available to Realtors 24-7, at their convenience. The online resource measures a Realtor’s proficiency in each of 10 elements of professionalism – 11 elements for brokers. Based on individual results, the platform generates customized learning paths, recommends experiences, and provides tools and resources to increase that Realtor’s knowledge and skillsets.

C2EX is NAR’s answer to Realtors’ call to raise the bar for professionalism.

 “From the very beginning, when NAR launched C2EX this past January, Florida’s Realtors embraced the program,” said CEO Margy Grant. “Our members are passionate about Realtor professionalism and have long supported efforts to showcase that value to consumers. I’m proud to share that during the C3 Challenge period, Florida Realtors’ participation increased by 306% – and we’re excited to build on that enthusiasm in the coming year.”

The Realtors of the Palm Beaches and Greater Fort Lauderdale (RAPB + GRFL) was also recognized by NAR for their creativity and successful campaign to promote C2EX during the C3 Challenge contest. RAPB + GRFL was named one of only six finalists in the contest’s local association category; the winner was the Realtors Association of Central Massachusetts.

NAR’s C3 Challenge contest winners and finalists

State association

Winner: Florida Realtors
Finalists: Colorado Association of Realtors
Oregon Association of Realtors
Pennsylvania Association of Realtors
West Virginia Association of Realtors

Local association

Winner: Realtor Association of Central Massachusetts (Auburn, Massachusetts)
Finalists: Baldwin Realtors (Robertsdale, Alabama)
Cheyenne Board of Realtors (Cheyenne, Wyoming)
Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina)
Peoria Area Association of Realtors (Peoria, Illinois)
Realtors of the Palm Beaches and Central Florida (West Palm Beach, Florida)

Brokerage

Winner: Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Real Estate Professionals (Salem, Oregon)
Finalists: Front Gate Realty (Ridgeland, Mississippi)
Coast to Canyon Real Estate (Mission Viejo, California)
BHHS Towne Realty-Chesapeake Office (Chesapeake, Virginia)

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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Tight Inventory Starting to Discourage Buyers

Fannie Mae’s latest report finds that only 21% of Americans say it’s a good time to buy, down from 28% in Sept.; and “good time to sell” dropped from 44% to 41%.

WASHINGTON – Fannie Mae’s latest monthly report finds that only 21% of Americans say it’s a good time to buy a home, down from 28% in September; and 41% think it’s a good time to sell a home – down from 44% in September.

“The ‘good time to buy’ component has declined notably despite low mortgage rates, due in part to the persistent challenge of a lack of affordable housing supply,” says Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “In turn, the net share of consumers expecting home prices to increase over the next 12 months has fallen to its lowest reading in seven years.”

Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) reported that 93% of metropolitan housing markets saw price gains in the third quarter, up from 91% in the second quarter.

“Incremental price increases are to be expected, but the housing market has been seeing reacceleration in home prices as more buyers want to take on lower interest rates in the midst of insufficient supply,” says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Unfortunately, income and wages are not rising as fast and will make it difficult to buy once rates rise.”

“It’s not just the overall supply of new construction that’s gone down, but the supply of starter homes, so it’s the affordability challenge at the entry level that’s been a particular challenge,” adds National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist Rob Dietz. “Right now only about 10% of newly-built home sales are priced under $200,000. Five years ago, that share was 1 in 5, and 10 years ago it was 40% of new home sales.”

At the same time, though, lower mortgage rates and a robust labor market mean overall consumer sentiment in housing remains strong, but fewer people in the survey said their household income was slightly higher than it was a year ago.

“I think what’s going to hold them back from over-heating is that prices have risen so fast relative to incomes,” says Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “Any time prices get too high, there’s going to be this reaction where there just aren’t enough homebuyers to purchase those homes.”

Source: CNBC (11/07/19) Olick, Diana

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FTC Cracks Down on Second Real Estate Seminar Scam

The seminars often use real estate TV stars’ names for promotion. In the latest case, Nudge LLC allegedly enticed people to pay $1,100 for three-day workshops.

WASHINGTON – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is going after companies that tout get-rich real estate flipping schemes that convince attendees to pay thousands of dollars for special real estate training packages. FTC and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection sued Nudge LLC and affiliated companies over its real estate seminars, the second seminar promoter to be targeted by the FTC recently.

The Nudge seminars tout “amazing profits” for attendees to learn so-called secret strategies to real estate investing. The FTC and Utah Division of Consumer Protection allege the free seminars are designed to sell additional training. Attendees are given a sales pitch to spend more than $1,100 to attend a three-day workshop to learn more about the system. Attendees are later presented an option to receive “advanced training” that costs up to $40,000.

“These defendants presided over a sales process that started with empty promises of future wealth and ended with many consumers left in financial ruin,” says Andrew Smith, director of FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The lure of easy income is strong, but consumers should stop and evaluate the facts behind the money-making promise.”

The FTC complaint says that Nudge’s revenues from its real estate seminars was more than $400 million from late 2014 to late 2017.

The complaint names several television celebrities – such as Scott Yancey from A&E’s “Flipping Vegas,” Doug Clark from Spike TV’s “Flip Men,” Drew Levin and Danny Perkins from HGTV’s “Renovate to Rent,” and Josh Altman from Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing Lost Angeles” – as appearing in advertisements for the seminars.

The complaint follows on the heels of another real estate seminar that grabbed headlines last month. The FTC ordered a temporary halt to seminars from Zurixx LLC that were endorsed by HGTV stars Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead of “Flip or Flop.” The complaint alleged the real estate seminars endorsed by the HGTV stars were “misleading” and made “bogus” claims about how people can strike it rich in real estate.

The latest complaint from the FTC against Nudge LLC was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah.

Source: “FTC Working to Shut Down Companies Operating Real Estate Seminar Scheme,” St. George News (Nov. 5, 2019)

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Florida Realtors and Toronto Real Estate Board Sign Agreement

At the NAR conference, Pres. Eric Sain met with TREB leaders to establish a mutually beneficial relationship that will generate more business opportunities.

SAN FRANCISCO – Florida Realtors® and the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Conference and Trade Expo taking place in San Francisco, Nov. 8-11, 2019.

The MoU agreement establishes the cooperation of the two Realtor organizations in developing a mutually beneficial relationship for their respective members, setting the stage for increased business opportunities.

“As professionals in the real estate industry, we take pride in providing our knowledge and expertise to clients in Florida, in Toronto, in Canada and across the globe,” says 2019 Florida Realtors President Eric Sain. “Florida Realtors and the Toronto Real Estate Board share common goals. For several years now, our Realtor members have eagerly participated in Realtor Quest, Canada’s largest real estate conference and trade show, hosted by TREB. We look forward to continuing our partnership, building on that success and developing more business opportunities for all of our members.”

As part of the agreement, Florida Realtors and TREB “affirm the value of international collaboration and agree to exchange information in the general field of real estate, promote professionalism in the real estate industry and engage in other activities that provide mutual benefits.”

According to TREB President Michael Collins, establishing these relationships between Florida Realtors and TREB enables both organizations to develop a greater mutual understanding and more opportunities for collaboration.

The Toronto Real Estate Board is a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1920 by a small group of real estate practitioners. Today, as Canada’s largest real estate board, TREB serves more than 54,500 licensed real estate brokers and salespersons in and about the Greater Toronto Area. It is the collective voice for both its commercial and residential Realtor members.

Attending the signing with President Sain and TREB President Collins were: Florida Realtors 2019 President-Elect Barry Grooms; TREB CEO John DiMichele; TREB President-Elect Lisa Patel, Garry Bhaura, past president of TREB; Brian Woods, current chair, Florida Realtors Global Business Committee; Paula Angelopoulos Urbinati, current vice chair and 2020 chair of Florida Realtors Global Business Committee; and Maria Grulich, director of global business for Florida Realtors.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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Florida’s Housing Market Shows Positive Trends in 3Q

Sales, prices and pending inventory rose statewide year-over-year. Single-family sales up 8.1%, median price up 3.9%; condo sales up 2.2%, median price up 4.1%.  

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida’s housing market experienced positive trends in 3Q 2019, with more closed sales, higher median prices, more pending sales and rising pending inventory, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 78,759 in 3Q 2019, up 8.1% from the 3Q 2018 level.

“Median sales prices for both existing single-family homes and for condo-townhouse properties rose in Florida during the third quarter – continuing the ongoing trend,” says 2019 Florida Realtors President Eric Sain, a Realtor and district sales manager with Illustrated Properties in Palm Beach.

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“Florida’s business-friendly outlook continues to attract investment and growth, as well as new residents, which provide a strong foundation for the state’s housing market. The latest report from the state’s economists show that Florida’s annual private-sector job growth rate of 2.8% continues to outpace the national job growth rate of 1.6%. Job growth, an unemployment rate of 3.2% in September and a growing population continue to keep Florida’s economy strong.”

The statewide median sales price for existing single-family homes in 3Q 2019 was $265,000, up 3.9% from the same time a year ago, according to data from Florida Realtors Research department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. The statewide median price for condo-townhouse properties during the quarter was $190,000, up 4.1% over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

Looking at Florida’s condo-townhouse market, statewide closed sales totaled 29,539 during 3Q 2019, up 2.2% compared to a year ago. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

“Inventory levels – particularly among single-family homes for sale – continued to fall throughout the third quarter,” says Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor. “But so did mortgage interest rates, which provided opportunities for both prospective and current homeowners. Many current owners locked into low mortgage rates from a few years back have been waiting for a chance to buy a bigger or better home at similar rates, and that’s exactly what we saw happen throughout the summer. As a result, we saw an increase in new listings as well as closed sales across all price tiers above $200,000, with many first-time buyers getting a shot at those newly listed homes located at the more affordable end of the price spectrum.”

In 3Q 2019, new pending sales for existing single-family homes rose 4.4% while pending inventory was up 1.7%. During the same three months, condo-townhouse new pending sales rose 0.5% while pending inventory increased 0.9%. Pending inventory is the number of listed properties that were under contract at the end of the month or data collection period.

Inventory was at a 3.6-months’ supply in 3Q 2019 for single-family homes and at a 5.3-months’ supply for condo-townhouse properties, according to Florida Realtors.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.67% for 3Q 2019, significantly lower than the 4.57% average recorded during the same quarter 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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Mortgage Rates Fall From Their 3-Month High

The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell from last week’s 3.78% to 3.69%, and it’s still almost a full percentage lower than it was one year ago.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Mortgage rates slipped this week from the highest level since July and remain at historically low levels that are helping would-be purchasers to buy homes.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.69% from 3.78% last week. That’s also down more than a full percentage point from a year ago when it was 4.94%.

Lower rates are helping support the housing market. Sales of existing homes rose nearly 4% in September from a year ago, while new home sales have soared 16% during that time. Yet potential homebuyers still face a shortage of available homes, which is pushing prices higher.

The average rate on a 15-year mortgage fell to 3.13% this week from 3.19% a week ago.

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NAR: 3Q Home Prices Up in 93% of U.S. Metro Areas

Across the U.S., metros saw a continued low inventory of for-sale homes and buyers who wanted to jump into the market while mortgage rates remained low.

SAN FRANCISCO – An overwhelming majority of metro areas experienced price gains with very limited inventory growth in the third quarter of 2019, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

Single-family median home prices increased year-over-year in 93% of measured markets in the third quarter, with 166 of 178 metropolitan statistical areas showing sales price gains, up from the 91% share in the second quarter of 2019. The national median existing single-family home price in the third quarter was $280,200, up 5.1% from the third quarter of 2018 ($266,500).

Sales, prices and pending inventory rose statewide year-over-year. Single-family sales up 8.1%, median price up 3.9%; condo sales up 2.2%, median price up 4.1%.  

“Incremental price increases are to be expected, but the housing market has been seeing reacceleration in home prices as more buyers want to take on lower interest rates in the midst of insufficient supply,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Unfortunately, income and wages are not rising as fast and will make it difficult to buy once rates rise.”

Ninety-six out of 178 metro markets under study have price growth of 5% or higher. Ten metro areas experienced double-digit increases, including Montgomery, Ala. (12.6%); Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash. (12.6%); and Salt Lake City, Utah (12%).

Yun, who has repeatedly called for more homes to be built, said some areas may finally receive at least moderate relief on that front.

“In some markets, yes, we’re seeing construction companies ramp up plans to build more houses,” Yun says. “But in an overall comparison of 2019 and 2018, fewer homes have been built. So hopefully home builders will expand their plans in order to better address the national inventory shortage.”

The metro areas where single-family median home prices declined included the high-cost areas of San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., (-4.6%), San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., (-2.5%) and San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif., (-0.8%).

The five most expensive housing markets in the second quarter were the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., metro area, where the median existing single-family price was $1,240,000; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., $964,000; Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, Calif., $826,000; Urban Honolulu, Hawaii $813,500: and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale. Calif., $649,600. San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif., came in sixth at $645,000.

The five lowest-cost metro areas in the second quarter were Cumberland, Md.-W.VA, $105,300; Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa., $106,800; Decatur, Ill., $107,900; Elmira, N.Y., $115,200; and Peoria, Ill., $123,600.

Third quarter affordability improves

Even though prices rose, home affordability improved in 2019 Q3 compared to 2019 Q2 as a result of historically low mortgage rates. The national median price for single-family homes rose to $280,200 during the third quarter of 2019, but average monthly mortgage payments fell to $1,033. When viewed as a share of the estimated national median family income of $79,2152, monthly mortgage payments fell to 15.6% (16.5% last quarter and 17.4% one year ago).

First-time homebuyer affordability improved as well. The starter median home price in 2019 Q3 rose to $238,200, but the monthly mortgage payment decreased to $1,019, assuming a 10% down payment. First-time home buyers needed a lower level of income to afford a mortgage payment, at $48,912, compared to the qualifying income in the second quarter of 2019 ($50,976).

“It is promising that first-time buyers needed a lower level of income to afford a mortgage payment,” Yun says.

At the end of 2019’s third quarter, 1.83 million existing homes were available for sale, which is 2.7% less than the total inventory at the end of 2018’s third quarter. Average supply during the third quarter of 2019 was 4.1 months – down from 4.3 months in the third quarter of 2018.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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Apartment List Analysis: Rent Increases Start to Stall

In Winter Springs, apartment rental rates rose 6.0% year-to-year but in Jupiter they fell 1.4%. Overall, Florida rent rates rose 1.3% year-to-year in the latest Apartment List report.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Apartment rents are moving up at a much slower pace, veering from a different pattern seen earlier this spring according to Apartment List’s analysis of the U.S. rental market.

The state needs to add more than 600K new apartments by 2030 to keep up with the state’s growing population and demand for rentals, according to the Florida Apartment Association.

From March to June, rents rose by 1.3% – the fastest growth over any comparable period since the summer of 2017. However, researchers say that a closer look at the data shows that rents have essentially been flat since June, marking an early end to the summer spike in rent prices.

Florida saw similar results in the analysis. Overall, median state rental rates rose 1.3% year-to-year in the latest Apartment List report – but the analysis also found a month-to-month median decrease in 40% of Florida’s cities. However, the amount of rental increases and decreases varied widely based on location. In Winter Springs, for example, apartment rental rates rose 6.0% year-to-year, while in Jupiter they fell 1.4%.

The median rental rate for a one-bedroom apartment statewide was $977, while the median rate for a two-bedroom apartment was $1,219.

“The robust growth we saw from March through June was one of the sharper seasonal spikes that we’ve seen in recent years,” researchers note in Apartment List’s November report. “That spike ended relatively early in the season though, and we have since seen a return to the stagnant rent growth that characterized the market earlier in the year.”

The year-over-year growth rate for U.S. rents in the latest report is 1.4%, which is below the rates that ranged between 2.1% to 3.5% from 2014 through 2017.

Rent growth is lagging the growth in average hourly earnings, which have risen 2.9% over the past 12 months, researchers note. That likely is a welcome relief to renters, many of whom may still be continuing to struggle with housing affordability.

Florida city — Median rent for 1-2 bedroom — month-to-month change — year-to-year change

Apopka — $956-$1,145 — down 0.6% — down 0.5%

Boca Raton — $1,509-$1,914 — up 1.5% — up 4.5%

Bradenton — $951-$1,221 — up 0.4% — up 2.8%

Brandon — $1,026-$1,278 — down 0.1% — up 1.4%

Cape Coral — $917-$1,139 — down 0.4% — up 1.6%

Casselberry — $1,078-$1,291 — up 0.2% — up 2.1%

Clearwater — $980-$1,220 — up 0.7% — up 2.7%

Deerfield Beach — $1,205-$1,528 — up 0.5% — up 1.7%

Delray Beach — $1,201-$1,523 — up 0.4% — up 2.3%

Deltona — $882-$1,100 — down 1.4% — down 1.3%

Dunedin — $1,024-$1,275 — down 0.2% — up 3.5%

Englewood — $566-$738 — up 1.0% — up 1.0%

Fort Lauderdale — $1,130-$1,433 — up 0.4% — down 0.9%

Gainesville — $788-$966 — down 0.3% — up 0.9%

Hollywood — $1,122-$1,423 — up 0.7% — up 0.7%

Jacksonville — $889-$1,088 — 0.0% — up 1.0%

Jupiter — $1,238-$1,559 — down 1.9% — down 1.4%

Kissimmee — $1,047-$1,259 — up 1.2% — up 2.3%

Lake Mary — $1,345-$1,612 — down 0.9% — up 0.2%

Lakeland — $832-$1,084 — up 0.3% — up 3.7%

Lehigh Acres — $793-$985 — down 0.1% — up 1.4%

Longboat Key — $1,507-$1,937 — up 0.2% — up 3.5%

Melbourne — $968-$1,228 — up 1.1% — 0.0%

Miami Gardens — $1,143-$1,449 — down 0.1% — down 1.3%

Miami — $1,084-$1,375 — up 0.5% — up 0.9%

New Port Richey — $832-$1,036 — down 0.8%— up 0.6%

North Port — $900-$1,157 — up 1.0% — up 0.7%

Ocala — $826-$1,003 — down 0.6% — up 2.9%

Orlando — $1,085-$1,299 — down 0.2% — up 2.0%

Ormond Beach — $949-$1,184 — up 0.9% — up 2.7%

Palm Bay — $829-$1,051 — up 1.3% — up 1.3%

Palm Beach Gardens — $1,387-$1,758 — up 1.8% — up 1.1%

Palm Harbor — $1,088-$1,355 — down 0.5% — up 1.0%

Pembroke Pines — $1,899-$2,408 — down 0.7% — up 0.0%

Pompano Beach — $1,159-$1,470 — up 0.3% — up 0.4%

Port Orange — $986-$1,230 — down 0.8% — up 1.0%

Riverview — $1,057-$1,316 — up 0.8% — up 0.8%

Sarasota — $1,086-$1,395 — up 0.0% — up 0.6%

St. Petersburg — $962-$1,198 — down 0.2% — up 1.5%

Tallahassee — $816-$1,010 — up 0.7% — up 1.6%

Tampa — $1,035-$1,288 — up 0.4% — up 2.4%

Tarpon Springs — $897-$1,117 — up 0.2% — down 0.3%

Wellington — $1,507-$1,911 — down 1.0% — up 0.4%

West Palm Beach — $1,089-$1,381 — up 0.6% — up 1.0%

Winter Haven — $682-$892 — up 0.6% — up 2.3%

Winter Park — $1,063-$1,274 — down 0.1% — up 0.6%

Winter Springs — $1,134-$1,359 — up 1.5% — up 6.0%

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NAHB: Home Affordability at Highest Level in 3 Years

With low unemployment and mortgage rates that hit a three-year low in the third quarter, more average American workers can now afford the average American home.

WASHINGTON – With mortgage rates at a three-year low and a healthy job market, housing affordability rose to its highest level in three years in the third quarter of 2019, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI).

Over the next 20 years, the 80-plus age group will be the fasting growing in the U.S., and 1 in 3 will spend 30% or more of their income on housing.

In all, 63.6% of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of July and end of September were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $75,500 – up from the 60.9% of homes sold in the second quarter of 2019 affordable to median-income earners and slightly higher than a first quarter 2019 reading of 62.6.

The national median home price remained steady at $280,000 in the third quarter, flat from the previous quarter but a jump from the first quarter when the median price was $260,000. At the same time, average mortgage rates fell from 4.07% in the second quarter to 3.73% in the third quarter, reaching a three-year low.

“With mortgage rates at historic lows, consumers are experiencing greater buying power and increased affordability,” says NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde. “Despite this positive development, builders still struggle with rising construction costs due to labor shortages and excessive regulations, which will continue to make housing affordability a major challenge.”

“While the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy has helped offset some of the rising construction costs, these headwinds are still affecting builders’ ability to increase inventory, particularly for entry-level buyers,” adds NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “These higher production costs and other factors have caused a major decline in housing affordability over the past few years, and we expect that to remain a concern going forward.”

In the third quarter, Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton, Pa., was the nation’s most affordable major housing market – 89.3% of all new and existing homes sold in the third quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $67,000. Monroe, Mich., was the nation’s most affordable smaller market, with 95.3% of homes sold in the third quarter affordable to families earning the median income of $79,000.

San Francisco again ranked as the nation’s least affordable major market. There, just 8.4% of the homes sold in the third quarter of 2019 were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $133,800. Other major metros at the bottom of the affordability chart were located in California.

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Investors Still Like Student Housing but Worry About Prices

Investors still like student housing, but they’re finding fewer good deals. Stabilized properties within walking distance of campus are also few and far between.

NEW YORK – While investors continue to be eager to buy student housing properties, good deals are hard to find. “There haven’t been those massive portfolios that we saw in prior years,” says William Vonderfecht, co-leader of the student housing team for real estate services firm CBRE.

Few student housing portfolios are available for investors to buy right now. Stabilized properties within walking distance of campus are also few and far between. However, potential buyers have also become more picky. They are offering less money to buy properties in places with a lot of competition from new construction. That has pushed the average cap rate for student housing higher, despite steady demand, according to Dorothy Jackman, executive managing director of the national student housing group based in the Tampa, Fla. office of real estate services firm Colliers International.

Lots of demand, but market dynamics are changing

Demand for student housing properties is still high, but fewer sellers are bringing properties to market. That is because if they sold their student housing assets, these investors might struggle to find a higher-yielding alternative to invest their capital in.

“Owners with core pedestrian assets are holding onto them,” says Vonderfecht. “People are not willing to trade because these deals are so hard to duplicate.”

As a result, cap rates on student housing properties went up in the first half of 2019. Cap rates in the sector inched up to an average of 5.8% in the first three quarters of 2019. That’s up very slightly from 5.7% in 2017, according to data from research firm CoStar.

In addition, as buyers worry more about potential overbuilding, they are including these worries in the prices they are willing to pay for student housing. “The spreads are widening in Tier Two and Tier Three markets between the expectations of sellers and the risk profiles of buyers,” says Jackman.

In some case, potential buyers are also including the skepticism of their lenders in their low bids. “Lenders are getting more conservative in underwriting student housing loans,” Jackman notes.

Fewer giant portfolios sold

So far, fewer portfolios of student housing properties have come up for sale this year. By contrast, in 2018, the market saw Greystar’s $4.6 billion purchase of the real estate investment trust EdR from its shareholders. “We haven’t seen that large splash of big transactions,” says Vonderfecht.

As a result, the total investment sales volume in the sector has dropped as well in 2019.

“Transaction velocity is likely to be down for third and fourth quarters of 2019 compared to past several years,” says Jackman. “Sales volume is trending more in line with earlier years, which did not include large portfolio transactions.”

Investors spent just $3.2 billion on student housing properties in the first three quarters of 2019, according to CoStar. “It looks to be another year of decreasing trades,” says Alexander Levy, a consultant with CoStar Portfolio Strategy. At these rates, investors are unlikely to match the $6.7 billion they spent on student housing properties in 2018.

Foreign investors bid for properties

Private investors, including smaller companies and high-net worth individuals, are still the most important buyers of student housing properties, but other kinds of investors are taking a larger share of the market.

“Since 2010, institutional investors have grown to match the share of investment activity seen by private investors,” says Levy. “Since 2016, private equity investors have also become more active.”

Institutional investors, including private equity funds, spent $1 billion on student housing properties from the start of 2019 through the beginning of October, according to Real Capital Analytics (RCA), a New York City-based research firm.

Cross-border investors are also becoming more active in the sector, even though the large, portfolio transactions they favored a few years ago are more difficult to find. “International buyers are starting to buy one-off transactions,” notes Vonderfecht.

© 2019 Penton Media, National Real Estate Investor, Bendix Anderson

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Recession Lesson: Fewer Owners Tapping Into Home Equity

Using HELOCs and cash-out refinancings, some homeowners once thought of home equity as their personal piggy bank. But the housing recession changed many minds.

NEW YORK – Fewer U.S. homeowners are tapping home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) to help pay for expenses such as renovations and college tuition.

The open-ended loans use homeowners’ properties as collateral so that spending built-up equity is as easy as writing a check. However, they now represent less than 2% of the nation’s banking assets – down from 5% in 2009, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The change comes in spite of a huge increase in total U.S. home equity. Black Knight Inc. reports that Americans collectively boasted $6.3 trillion of housing equity they could borrow against as of June – more than double the $2.6 trillion total in 2009.

Finance industry executives attribute the decline in HELOCs to an unusual trend in interest-rate spreads, easy online access to unsecured personal loans, and psychological fallout from the 2008 housing crisis.

Source: Bloomberg (10/28/19) Everett, Gwen; Nasiripour, Shahien

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Tax Breaks Available For Home Renovation Costs

Under certain conditions, the cost for a home improvement project may be tax deductible, such as repairs to a home office or certain energy-efficient upgrades.

NEW YORK – The home improvement industry is booming as owners across the country spend about $425 billion a year on everything from new roofs to redone kitchens.

Aside from the enjoyment of a renovated house, some owners may also qualify for a tax break.

And that’s a good thing since Americans are shelling out more than ever on home renovations. That $425 billion in spending represents a 53% jump from a decade ago, according to a March report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. The increase has been partly driven by the aging of America’s housing stock, with owners upgrading their older homes, as well as more renovations on investment properties.

But knowing when and how to claim a tax benefit isn’t always easy. The biggest tax breaks are enjoyed by owners who work from home and can claim a home office deduction – as well as deductions for improvements to their offices or homes – and rental property owners, experts say.

Below are four ways homeowners can claim tax benefits for upgrades.

Home office repairs and renovations

Business owners who work from a dedicated home office – meaning it’s not used for any other purpose besides business – can deduct repairs made to their office in the year they are made. Bigger renovations, which affect the long-term value of the home, can be depreciated over time.

“You’ll have the most tax benefits if you have a home business,” says Jeff Tucker, an economist at Zillow. “Then, the cost of improvements you make to your home office is deductible.”

Christine Mancuso and Nick Crawford, who write novels under the pen name C.N. Crawford, say they are in the process of renovating an enclosed porch in their Burlington, Vermont, home to make it an office, a step that was partially prompted by their accountant, although they also needed more working space because of their two small children.

“My CPA always asks about it,” Crawford says. “We probably will try to claim a little this year.”

Capital improvements to your home

Regular homeowners, on the other hand, can’t deduct ordinary repairs, like a leaky faucet or broken light fixture. But renovations that are considered capital improvements – or upgrades that substantially add to the value of a home – may provide a longer-term tax benefit.

That’s because the expense of capital improvements is added to the cost basis of the purchase price of a home, notes Eric Bronnenkant, head of tax at financial services firm Betterment. For instance, a homeowner who bought a house for $200,000 and spends $50,000 on a kitchen renovation would boost their cost basis to $250,000.

That matters when you sell your house because it could lower your capital gains tax from the sale, although it will only affect homeowners whose homes have steeply risen in value.

“That may or may not be an issue depending on how much of a gain you have,” Bronnenkant says. “A married couple can exclude $500,000 of gains from a sale, and for a single person it’s $250,000.”

In other words, unless your profit is more than $500,000 for a married couple or $250,000 for a single homeowner, the step-up in cost basis won’t make an impact because anything smaller than that is exempt from capital gains taxes.

Energy-efficient upgrades

Homeowners may also get a tax break for energy-efficient upgrades through a number of programs, such as the federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. This credit amounts to 30% of the cost of alternative energy equipment, such as solar panels or a solar water heater, that is installed before the end of December 2019.

States and cities may also have their own tax incentives for homeowners who undertake energy-efficient upgrades or repairs.

Investment properties

Owners of investment properties can also get tax benefits for repairs and investments in their homes, experts say. For instance, necessary repairs to rental properties – like fixing a leak – are deductible in the year they occur.

Thanks to changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, some landlords may also be able to take bigger deductions for other upgrades, such as the costs of new furniture and equipment to gussy up a rental. That’s valuable for Airbnb landlords who want to boost their rental income by creating a more attractive rental, says Karen Campbell, the co-owner of 1ChicRetreat, which provides decorating services to vacation rental owners.

“We tell them, ‘Have you talked to an accountant? Do you know the benefits you get from this?’ You have to look at every single facet,” Campbell says. “You aren’t just running a house. Businesses take tax write-offs, and you should take a tax write-off.”

Copyright 2019, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY

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Weather-Related Property Damage Broke Record in 2018

Mother Nature hit housing harder than usual last year. Hurricanes, wildfires and hail led to a 17% increase in catastrophic insurance claim damages, a study finds.

NEW YORK – Last year set a record for weather-related losses to property, according to the LexisNexis’ Home Trends Report. More than half of all catastrophic claims in 2018 centered in four states: California, Colorado, Florida and North Carolina.

The Disaster Relief donation, which NAR will distribute, helps support those affected by a disaster, such as the recent flooding in Texas and wildfires in Calif.

Hurricanes, wildfires and hail prompted a 17% increase in the severity of catastrophic claims among insurers last year, the study shows. Some of the biggest weather-related events that shaped 2018 included hurricanes Florence and Michael, as well as several California wildfires.

Catastrophe claims comprised more than 30% of all peril claims in 2018.

“In the context of increased volatility and severity of weather-related events, this year’s report provides key insight into alarming by-peril trends,” says George Hosfield, senior director of home insurance at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. “It is extremely important for home insurers to stay informed of the challenges outlined in this report, especially the volatile and dynamic nature of weather-related loss trends in recent years.”

Fire losses have continued to rise since 2012. Fire losses accounted for nearly 40% of catastrophe claims in 2018, the highest level in a decade.

Last year also marked the worst year on record for wind severity, up 15%. The increase was blamed on hurricane devastation in North Carolina and Florida. September 2018 proved to be 17 times costlier than a typical September in North Carolina due to Hurricane Florence.

Hail also caused plenty of damage in 2018. Colorado had the highest costs in losses due to hail, but Texas continued to have the highest number of hail claims (29% of its total claim volume).

Source: “LexisNexis Home Trends Report,” LexisNexis (October 2019)

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Legal Q&A: Loud Contractors In the Condo Next Door

The neighbors went out of town to avoid contractor reconstructions, but they make a lot of noise and work late at night. What laws govern this kind of noise?  

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: Our neighbors are remodeling their condo while they are out of town. Their contractors are rude, loud and messy, and we have smelled a strong odor from the paint fumes. They seem to work at all hours. I don’t want to be a

Be sure to take the time to research the community, talk to residents, review the condominium documents and study other data.

bad neighbor, but it is getting overwhelming. What can we do? – Wendy

Answer: It is never wholly smooth when a neighbor is having work done to their home. At best, it is a minor nuisance and, at worst, a nightmare. While your neighbor has the right to remodel their home, it must happen in a way that minimizes the disruption to those around them.

Your first step is to bring this to the attention of your out-of-town neighbors. Call their cell or send an email if you have that information. Most people want to do the right thing, and since they are out of town, it is likely they do not know what is going on. If this is not possible or does not work, your next step would be to report the problem to the property manager.

In my experience, most property managers will take steps to enforce contractor time restrictions and will call out workers who make a mess. The manager will first try to educate the contractor on the community rules. If that does not produce results, your community should hold the owner responsible for their contractor’s carelessness. While it can be easy for your neighbor to blow off your concerns, few will ignore fines caused by their contractor.

If the problem continues, or your property manager refuses to take action, you will need to seek help from the legal system. Everyone has the right to enjoy their home, and you can request an injunction and compensation from the courts to stop the problem. The lawsuit can be based on privately enforcing your condo’s rules, or by suing for the “nuisance” caused by your neighbor.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation.

© 2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Study: More Older Adults Struggle with Housing Costs

Over the next 20 years, the 80-plus age group will be the fastest-growing in the U.S., and 1 in 3 will spend 30% or more of their income on housing.

NEW YORK – Households in their 80s will be the fastest-growing age group over the next two decades, according to a recent study

The housing industry is monitoring older American’s evolving housing needs. In 2012, 27M household heads are 65 or older. In 2017 it was 31M; by 2013 it will be 34%.  

by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

The study also found an increase in the number of cost-burdened older Americans – ones forced to spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

“Within the next decade, some 18 million adults will be in their 80s – many living alone and on limited incomes,” according to the report. “The need for affordable, accessible housing and in-home supportive services is therefore set to soar.”

The number of cost-burdened households age 65 and over rose by more than 200,000 between 2016 and 2017 to a new high of nearly 10 million. Of those, about 5 million were severely burdened, which means they spend more than half of their incomes on housing. Of this group, about 54% are cost-burdened renters and 26% are cost-burdened homeowners.

Since the homeownership rate is higher for older Americans, the number of cost-burdened homeowners totaled 6.3 million compared to 3.6 million cost-burdened renters.

“While many households now of retirement age have the means to age in place or move to other suitable housing, a record number are cost-burdened and will have few affordable housing options as they age,” the report says. “In addition, many older renters are less well-positioned than homeowners because they have lower cash savings and wealth. Providing the types of housing and neighborhoods needed by an aging population depends on concerted action by both the public and private sectors. Commitments to create age-friendly communities and the recent funding of affordable housing construction for older adults are promising starts.”

Source: HousingWire (10/17/19) Smith, Maleesa

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1 in 5 Americans Say They’ve Lived in a Haunted House

In a survey, 23% of Americans said they’ve lived in a haunted house and an additional 20% may have. 

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Nearly 60% of people who have lived in a haunted house didn’t know it was haunted before they moved in, according to realtor.com’s, fourth annual Haunted Real Estate Report.

In a Halloween-season publicity move, the iBuyer’s listing ads will include info on unusual electrical fields, unexplained movements and feelings of being watched.

The survey of 1,000 people across the United States was conducted by Toluna Research through online interviews.

Some of the spooky findings

  • 43% of respondents may have had a ghost roommate.
  • 58% of respondents said they have never lived in a haunted home
  • 23% of respondents said they have lived in one (58% had no idea it was haunted before moving in, but 37% did and decided to go for it anyway.)
  • 20% think they may have lived in one.

What made you think your house was haunted?

  • 65% said strange house noises made them think so
  • 52% saw strange shadows in the house
  • 48% said items moved on their own
  • 47% said certain rooms felt haunted
  • 46% said they felt a touch
  • 44% said the home had hot and cold spots

“Moving into a new home is a really exciting time, but finding out that your new abode has an unwanted guest can definitely put a damper on the celebration,” says Nate Johnson, realtor.com’s chief marketing officer. “We conduct this survey annually and it’s always interesting to see the results. This year, we were surprised by how many people had unknowingly moved into a haunted house at some point in their lives, and even more so by how many people knew and decided to move in regardless.”

Would you move into a haunted house?

When asked if they would ever consider moving into a haunted house, 54% of respondents said there was no way, while 21% were prepared to brave any spooky happenings plaguing the house, and 21% were on the fence and responded with “maybe.”

Interestingly, survey responses weren’t that different if the homebuyer didn’t actually buy the home. When asked what they would do if they inherited a haunted house, 51% said they would sell it immediately, but 23% would try to flush the ghosts out by renovating the home; 20% are willing to take the risk and simply move in, while 6% said they’d tear the place down.

A ghost next door?

While only one in five respondents (21%) were okay living in a haunted house, almost half of them (43%) were willing to live next door to one. Still, 31% aren’t willing to risk it even if the house next door is haunted.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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More Millennials Using VA Loans In 3 Florida Cities

The number of VA-backed loans rose 2.3% year-to-year in September, with millennials much of the reason. Of the top, 10 VA-loan cities in the U.S., three are in Florida.

WASHINGTON – Millennials increasingly use Veterans Affairs (VA) loans to become homeowners. The number of loans backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs rose 2.3% year-to-year in September, led by a 14% jump in the number of mortgages to

A look at the top things today’s younger buyers are looking for in house. (Example: Even though they eat out more, they still want an amazing kitchen.)

millennial veterans and active-duty military personnel, according to a report by Veterans United, one of the nation’s largest VA lenders.

Of the top U.S. cities for millennial VA borrowers over the year, three are in Florida: Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destin (No. 5), Jacksonville (No. 7) and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (No. 8).

“There has been a question in real estate circles for years about when millennials are going to start buying,” says Chris Birk, director of education for Veterans United, and some young buyers are jumping in sooner than their peers because of VA loans, he says. “They don’t have to spend years saving for a down payment,” he notes.

VA loans allow qualified veterans and service members to purchase a home with no down payment and no mortgage insurance.

Borrowers aged 23 to 38 comprised 211,276 loans – a 34% share of mortgages backed by the VA from September 2019 to September 2018. The total number of VA loans issued during that time period was 624,332. The number of borrowers between the ages of 23 to 38 who took out a VA loan during that time is up 30% from a year earlier.

Millennials and Generation Z (those younger than 23) buyers comprised 45% of all VA purchase loans during the last fiscal year.

The top 10 cities for millennial and Gen Z buyers using a VA loan

  1. Jacksonville, N.C.
  2. Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood metro area, Texas
  3. Oklahoma City
  4. El Paso, Texas
  5. Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destin metro area, Florida
  6. Austin-Round Rock, Texas
  7. Jacksonville, Florida
  8. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area, Florida
  9. Augusta-Richmond County, Georgia
  10. Las Vegas

Source: Veterans United Home Loans and “VA Mortgage Lending Increased 2.3% Led by Millennials,” HousingWire (Oct. 23, 2019)

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New Homes Sales Fall 0.7% in September

The slight Sept. decline follows a  7.9% surge in August. And while month-to-month new-home sales dropped, they’re 15.5% higher than they were in Sept. 2018.

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. new home sales fell slightly in September with all regions of the country except the Midwest showing declines.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that sales of new homes fell 0.7% last month following a big 6.2% surge in sales in August. Homes were sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 701,000, 15.5% higher than a year ago.

Many economists had expected sales to keep rising in September, reflecting declining mortgage rates and ultra-low unemployment.

However, the housing industry is combating a variety of factors that are holding back growth ranging from a shortage of construction workers to a lack of available land for new homes.

The median price of a new home fell 7.9% last month to $299,400, down from an August price of $325,200.

The only region to post a sales gain was the Midwest where sales rose 6.3%. Sales in the West fell 3.8% and were down 2.8% in the Northeast and a slight 0.2% in the South.

The National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that sales of previously owned homes , the biggest part of the market, fell 2.2% in September with rising prices and lower inventories blamed for the decline.

Homeowners in both the existing sales market and the new market have had to face a shortage of available properties this year, especially at the lower-priced end of the market.

The inventory of new homes for sale fell 0.6% in September to 321,000, or a 5.5-months supply at the September sales pace.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press, Martin Crutsinger. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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RE Groups Criticize Lenders’ Focus on Debt-to-Income Ratios

Realtors, bankers and builders issued a joint statement saying many factors should be used to determine a borrower’s risk of default – not just DTI ratios. “Credit history, cash reserves, property equity and liquid assets also help to paint a more complete picture.”

WASHINGTON – The National Association of Realtors, Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Home Builders and the American Bankers Association issued a joint statement about regulators’ “single-minded focus” on a mortgage qualification measure known as the debt-to-income ratio (DTI).

“The discussion on mortgage risk has been colored by a single-minded focus on just one factor that lenders use to examine a borrower’s likelihood to repay a mortgage: the debt-to-income ratio,” the letter said. “Yes, the DTI is important. But it is just one of many considerations lenders use in combination when evaluating whether a borrower can and will repay a loan.”

The importance placed on DTI should be more in line with other qualifications, the groups said.

“Other factors including credit history, cash reserves, property equity and liquid assets also help to paint a more complete picture of a borrower’s true credit profile and the true risks assumed by a lender,” they added.

The amount of cash a borrower has is a better indicator than DTI, the groups said. The average “front end” ratio, measuring income compared to the debt incurred by the new monthly mortgage payment, was 24% in September, according to Ellie Mae data. The average “back end” ratio, measuring all recurring debt including housing payments, stood at 37%.

At the start of the year, the average front end ratio was 26%, and the average back end ratio was 39%.

Source: HousingWire (10/22/19) Howley, Kathleen

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Mortgage Rates Rise to 3.75% – a 3-Month High

Rates still remain low in a year-to-year comparison – less than a percentage point below their 4.9% level at this time last year.

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. long-term mortgage rates rose slightly this week to their highest point in 12 weeks, though they remain far below their levels of a year ago.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage rose to 3.75% from 3.69%the previous week. That’s down from 4.9% at the same time last year and by historic standards is very low.

Lower rates have helped reinvigorate the housing market, which stumbled last year. Sales of existing homes reached a 17-month high in August, though they fell modestly in September. New home sales jumped 15.5% in September from a year earlier. Single-family home construction has also ticked up.

The average rate on a 15-year mortgage moved up to 3.18% from 3.15% a week ago.

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 0.5 point, while the average fee for the 15-year mortgage was also 0.5 point.

The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 3.4% from 3.15% last week, while the feed was 0.3 point.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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FHFA Clearinghouse Offers Chinese and Spanish Translations

The home buyer/seller resource offered by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and government agencies plans to continue expanding the number of language translations offered.

WASHINGTON – The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Freddie Mac  and Fannie Mae announced the addition of traditional Chinese language resources to the Mortgage Translations clearinghouse. The clearinghouse already offers translations in Spanish.

According to a media release, the goal for a Chinese translation is to “help consumers whose primary language is Chinese to gain confidence and improve their ability to navigate the mortgage and homebuying process.”

Mortgage Translations launched in October 2018. It’s goal is to provide a centralized source of industry-standard resources to assist lenders, servicers, housing counselors and other real estate professionals serve borrowers with limited English proficiency.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey, 4.8 million Chinese-Americans currently live in the U.S. They make up one in four (23%) of the overall Asian American Pacific Islander community – the fastest-growing population demographic and projected to become the largest minority population.

“FHFA will continue to work with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the Language Access Multi-Year Plan, which may include adding more translated mortgage documents to the Mortgage Translations website,” says Sandra Thompson, FHFA deputy director, Division of Housing Mission and Goals.

The FHFA, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae collaborated with industry experts, consumer advocates and other government agencies, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to translate the online collection of mortgage documents, educational materials. It also includes a glossary, which FHFA says should be “particularly helpful in standardizing translations across the mortgage industry.”

FHFA says three additional languages commonly spoken by limited-English-proficiency households – Vietnamese, Korean, and Tagalog – will be added to the Mortgage Translations clearinghouse in the coming years.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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Opportunity Zones’ Tax Breaks Off to a Sluggish Start

For investors, Opportunity Zones offer one of the best real estate tax breaks ever – but so far they’ve only raised 15% of the total private capital predicted.

NEW YORK – Opportunity Zones may be one of the biggest real estate tax breaks ever offered, but a study finds that investors have hesitated to take advantage.

The tax breaks – which spawned from the 2017 federal tax overhaul – aim to spur economic growth in nearly 9,000 designated low-income communities across the country. Investors who hold onto Opportunity Zone investments for 10 years receive the greatest tax breaks.

Last fall, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin predicted that Opportunity Zones would attract more than $100 billion in private capital.

So far, however, Opportunity Zone funds have raised less than 15% of their goals, according to an analysis by San Francisco accounting firm Novogradac & Co. The firm reviewed 103 funds that were created to invest in Opportunity Zones. Those funds have raised a combined $3 billion of the $22.7 billion they’re seeking, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“Every manager I talk to is saying gaining traction is slower than expected,” says John Lettieri, chief executive of the Economic Innovation Group, a nonpartisan think tank.

One investor concern: The length of time they have to commit to revitalizing an area. It’s 10 years to achieve the maximum benefit, Chris Loeffler, chief executive of Caliber Cos., says Caliber has raised about $50 million towards its $500 million goal.

Housing analysts say that investors have been slow to embrace Opportunity Zones because regulations are not yet finalized. In addition, the markets pegged for revitalization are new for many investors. The Treasury Department released its second set of guidelines this spring.

“As investors continue to learn more about this policy, the amount of capital flowing to new and expanding businesses in those communities will only increase,” a Treasury spokesman says.

California has the most opportunity zones in the country at 374, according to a study by ATTOM Data Solutions, which analyzed 3,073 federal opportunity zone areas. Following California, Florida has the most at 317; Texas has 164; Pennsylvania has 154; North Carolina has 145; and Tennessee has 138.

Source: “Opportunity-Zone Funds Are Off to a Slow Start, Lagging Behind Heady Expectations,” The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 22, 2019) [Log-in required.]

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NAR Issues Scam Warning Over Invite to Its Annual Conference

Be on the lookout for a fraudulent email. The subject line says “Register for the 2019 Realtors Conference,” but the sender is altappraisal@comcast.net.

SAN FRANCISCO – The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) issued a warning to members: Be on the lookout for a fraudulent email with the subject line “Register for the 2019 Realtors Conference.”

While the email appears to be from NAR, the “from” email address says it’s actually sent by altappraisal@comcast.net.

If you receive the email, NAR encourages you to take a screenshot of it and file a report about it to the FBI IC3 website. Do not click on the links. After you take the screenshot, delete the email.

If you already received and clicked on the email, alert your IT department immediately to protect your devices from malware.

NAR says it has reported the email scam to the FBI.

While the email appears legitimate, one sign that the email’s fraudulent is that the subject line does not include the registration mark (®) after the word Realtors®. Emails from NAR always include the mark.

However, an “®” following “Realtor” doesn’t guarantee that an email is legit. Scammers may also include it, so recipients should always verify emails using the “from” address and other information.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

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Economists: An Unseen Force Holds Back Affordable Housing

Study: Builders lost workers, went bankrupt or got absorbed during the recession. That led to a drop in competition and potential loss of 150K new homes each year.

WASHINGTON – According to a working paper by economists Luis Quintero and Jacob Cosman of Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins, the number of builders that controlled 90% of a typical market fell by a quarter between 2006 and 2015 – and this drop in competition cost the country about 150,000 additional homes per year, all else being equal.

The change in the makeup of builders also influenced prices. They found that home prices grew more than twice as fast from 2013 to 2017 as they would have if the market hadn’t consolidated during the recession.

According to Quintero and Cosmans’ theory, having only a few builders controlling many markets exacerbated the nation’s affordable housing crisis. With fewer competitors, builders face less pressure to beat out rival projects and can time their efforts to produce fewer homes while charging higher prices.

However, industry experts attribute this consolidation to issues like the scarcity of land, rising labor costs, restrictive zoning, NIMBYISM (or not-in-my-backyardism) and the financial markets.

The National Association of Home Builders reports that mergers among large home builders boosted the market share of the top 20 builders to 29% last year from 21% in 2008. While many may not consider the housing market an oligopoly given the thousands of builders across the country, oligopolies in housing are fundamentally different due to “location, location and location.”

Quintero says that buyers shop for homes in a narrowly defined town, suburb, neighborhood or other market. And in some of those areas, the only competitors that matter are those operating within the same market.

Jenny Schuetz, an affordable housing expert at the Brookings Institution, praised the analysis. “If zoning and other local permitting processes are complicated, land is expensive and the time needed to develop a project is long, then only large, well-capitalized, politically savvy developers will be able to build.”

Source: Washington Post (10/17/19) Van Dam, Andrew

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Upscale Touches Can Make Cookie-Cutter Homes Stick Out

While unusual elements may turn off some buyers, classic elements used in a unique way generally have mass appeal. One example: A herringbone-pattern wood floor.

NEW YORK – Cookie-cutter homes and apartments look similar to their competition, making it harder for a single listing to stand out. But developers and designers suggest some ways to make one abode seem better than its identical twins.

“Everybody’s looking at what everybody else is doing,” says Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants, to The New York Times. An apartment can be “really nice and special and unique – and not dissimilar to the other five places you just looked at.”

To stand out, designers and developers use materials, finishes and tech they believe will get noticed, including:

  1. Herringbone patterns: Intriguing floors may be one way to lure buyers, designers say. Planks of wood flooring are often in parallel lines. But flooring installed in zig-zag patterns with herringbone or chevron details is getting noticed, as the look provides a flooring update, designers say. With herringbone, the ends are cut at a right angle and have a woven effect. The technique can be applied in other rooms, too, such as in bathrooms – or as an accent wall in the living room or even a backsplash in the kitchen.
  1. Marble: Marble is popping up all over homes, from kitchen countertops to stove hoods and bathrooms. “Calacatta, a gray-veined marble quarried in Carrara, Italy, remains the go-to-choice,” The New York Times reports. The polished stone is increasingly being “honed,” which has a softer sheen, making marble less flashy than it has been in the past.
  1. Smart-home tech: A cookie-cutter home with great technology stands out. Homeowners can check the temperature or security of their home from their phones. The lighting and curtains can be controlled through an app. A marketing team called Centrale is recommending Nest Learning thermostats for the apartments in Ceruzzi Properties in East Midtown, N.Y. The smart thermostats have occupancy sensors that will turn the heat or air conditioning on or off based on whether someone is in the room. “It doesn’t make sense to manually operate thermostats anymore,” says Tariq Mahmood, director of construction for Ceruzzi’s New York division.

Source: “Six Must-Haves Needed to Seduce Buyers,” The New York Times (Oct. 18, 2019)

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Fla. Pays Off Sugar Lease to Build Algae-Fighting Reservoir

State will pay sugar grower $2.4M to end a 1,234-acre land lease. A reservoir leading to the Everglades should help lessen blue-green algae in Central Fla. rivers.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida will pay $2.4 million to a sugar grower as part of an effort to clean and shift water south from Lake Okeechobee through the Everglades.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet – Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Attorney General Ashley Moody – agreed Tuesday to pay $1,940 an acre to New Hope Sugar Co., a subsidiary of Florida Crystals, to terminate a 1,234-acre lease of state-owned land. The land is to be part of a project that involves building a reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

“This is clearing the way now to be able to do this reservoir,” DeSantis said after the Cabinet meeting. “If we had not done that, then it would have been delayed and delayed. It’s going to be hard enough to get the (U.S.) Army Corps on this (project), that delays on our part would have been bad.”

The money, which will come from the state’s Everglades Trust Fund, is a required termination fee for New Hope and is expected to save the state about $16 million in construction costs by advancing the timeline for a stormwater management area linked to the reservoir, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein said.

“Every year that there is a delay in construction projects, what we’ve been seeing is a 3% increase in costs,” Valenstein said.

Valenstein said with the lease termination approved, the first of three phases of the stormwater management area could begin in late fall if the project is approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The lease included a notice requirement that would have prevented the state from getting the land until at least three years after receiving a permit from the Army Corps. But Florida Crystals agreed to waive the requirement.

 “When we saw the governor’s expedited schedule, we knew our support would be integral to the success of the EAA reservoir project’s new timeline,” Gaston Cantens, vice president of corporate relations for Florida Crystals, said in a statement. “We then contacted the state with a solution, offering to waive the state’s contractual obligations to a three-year termination notice in order to facilitate immediate access to the land needed to move the project forward early. Agriculture has been an active partner in Everglades restoration for more than 25 years, and we are proud to continue our successful collaboration with today’s action.”

State lawmakers approved the roughly $1.6 billion reservoir project in 2017. The reservoir is aimed, at least in part, at helping reduce the amount of polluted water going from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, which have faced major problems with toxic blue-green algae.

Audubon Florida Executive Director Julie Wraithmell said the stormwater management area and reservoir “will help reconnect Florida Bay to its historic freshwater source in Lake Okeechobee.”

“After the recent seagrass die-offs that we saw in 2015 in Florida Bay and the multi-year toxic harmful blooms that we’ve seen in the northern estuaries, there is really no time to waste in increasing our capacity to send more clear freshwater south to where it is needed the most,” Wraithmell said.

Valenstein said the 2017 law set aside $30 million that can be used to fund the New Hope lease termination.

The district applied for permits from the Army Corps in June and August for the stormwater-treatment area component of the reservoir project. The Army Corps is expected to build the reservoir, while the district constructs the water-cleansing treatment area.

The 2017 law, spearheaded by then-Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, allows Florida to issue up to $800 million in bonds for the reservoir, with the rest of the funding coming from the federal government.

The bill capped annual state funding at $64 million and placed the reservoir on state-owned land rather than private farmland in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

Source: News Service of Florida, Jim Turner

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$600K Grant to Help Study Impacts of Red Tide

How much did last year’s red tide hurt the state? NOAA will study the total cost of red tide, including hits to human health, real estate, fishing and restaurants.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A federal agency has set aside $600,000 to study the socioeconomic impacts of red tide blooms here, like the one that gripped Southwest Florida from the fall of 2017 until this past spring.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is putting more than $10 million in total this fiscal year toward studying and better understanding algae blooms in places like Southwest Florida, the Great Lakes, California, Alaska and New England.

The grant will be awarded in the coming months and is one of 12 new research projects around the country aimed at better predicting, responding to and understanding the impacts of harmful algal blooms like red tide.

“NOAA is funding the latest scientific research to support environmental managers trying to cope with increasing and recurring toxic algae that continue to affect environmental and human health and coastal economies,” said NOAA’s Steven Thur. “Improved understanding of these coastal (harmful algal bloom) threats will lead to better bloom observation and prediction, and help to mitigate effects along the U.S. coast.”

Red tide is caused by the organism Karenia brevis and is naturally occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, although many water quality scientists say nearshore blooms can be fed by nutrient pollution from agriculture and developed areas.

A particularly nasty red tide bloom that started in October 2017 and lasted until earlier this year killed hundreds of dolphins and sea turtles, millions of pounds of fish and eels and a whale shark.

The study will focus on the obvious losses to hoteliers and restaurants as well as more difficult aspects of economic impacts.

“A lot of us, when we think about red tide and the economic impact, the first thing you think about is people in the tourism industry and their losses and the folks in the restaurant business who had empty tables for months,” said Shelton Weeks, chair of Florida Gulf Coast University’s department of economics and finance as well as an affiliate professor at the school’s new Water School. “It’s going to capture those costs plus it’s going to include the health and human costs. If you think of the people who had respiratory illnesses, it’s going to consider that. It will even look at the opportunities lost.”

FGCU is not involved at this point in the project.

Some factors are much more difficult to calculate, Weeks said, which is why the study is needed.

“We don’t really know the costs of people with respiratory issues who missed work but didn’t go to the doctor,” he said. “How do you measure that?”

Jim Beever with the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council said the study will look at things like lost beach visits.

“You’re looking at things which didn’t happen because the red tide was occurring,” Beever said. “People couldn’t go to the beach safely, which reduces the economic activity of going to the beach – which is one of the most lucrative activities in Florida.”

The bloom shut down coastal economies tied to tourism, fishing (commercial and recreational), real estate and restaurants.

“People weren’t fishing, so there were losses from commercial fishing not occurring and people not chartering guides to go out fishing and party boats and all of that,” Beever said. “Realtors and people in the real estate industry were saying people were looking to move to this area and deciding not to because of the red tide. People were trying to sell houses that didn’t sell.”

Beever said news of red tide impacted other areas of Florida because national perception seemed to be that all of the state was inflicted.

“The news of a red tide, the way they put it in national media, often leads to other parts of the state being impacted even though those areas aren’t being impacted,” Beever said. “(Like the 2010 BP oil spill) we had economic impacts even though no oil ended up on our shores.”

© 2019 Journal Media Group, Chad Gillis

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Americans’ Commute Times Expand to Record High

Feel as if you spend all your time in the car? You’re not alone. In 2018, the average commute time rose to 27 minutes as more buyers moved to new exurb communities.

WASHINGTON – Consumers spend more time getting to work. On average, Americans’ one-way commute times rose to just over 27 minutes in 2018 – a record high according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

The average American has added about two minutes to their one-way commute since 2009 – 20 more minutes per week for commuting, and, over a year, 17 additional hours on the road just getting to and from work.

Compared with 1980, American workers have lost nearly an hour a week in commuting. The average American worker spent 225 hours – the equivalent of nine calendar days – commuting in 2018.

“Rising commute times reflect the challenges of life in many metropolitan areas where new housing isn’t being built fast enough,” The Washington Post reports. “As a result, many workers are forced out to far-flung suburbs and exurban areas in search of affordable homes. … Rising commute times are likely to spur more workers and employers to experiment with remote work.”

The census data shows a growing share – albeit still relatively small at this point – of Americans who telecommute and working from home. In 2018, about 5% of the workforce telecommuted.

Source: “Nine Days on the Road. Average Commute Time Reached New Record Last Year,” The Washington Post (Oct. 7, 2019)

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