Monthly Archives: May 2021

April Pending Home Sales Drop 4.4% Month-to-Month

Year-to-year, however, pending sales skyrocketed 51.7% since April 2020 was the start of nationwide lockdowns to fight a spreading pandemic. NAR Economist Yun says contract signings now are near pre-pandemic levels after the big surge during COVID-19 lockdowns.

WASHINGTON – Pending home sales took a step backward in April, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). All four U.S. regions saw year-over-year increases, but only the Midwest had month-over-month gains in pending home sales contract transactions.

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) – a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings – fell 4.4% to 106.2 in April. Year-over-year, signings, however, jumped 51.7% higher, in part because April 2020 had a wave of pandemic-related shutdowns. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

“Contract signings are approaching pre-pandemic levels after the big surge due to the lack of sufficient supply of affordable homes,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “The upper-end market is still moving sharply as inventory is more plentiful there.”

Yun thinks that housing supply will improve as soon as autumn. He points to an increase in the comfortability of homeowners more willing to list their homes, as well as a rise in sellers who might have to make difficult decisions after the eviction moratorium expires and their mortgage forbearance comes to an end.

“The Midwest region, which has the most affordable homes, was the only region to notch a gain in the latest month,” Yun adds. “Some buyers from the expensive cities in the West and Northeast, who have the flexibility to move and work from anywhere, could be opting for a larger-sized home at a lower price in the Midwest.”

April pending home sales regional breakdown: The Northeast PHSI declined 12.9% to 85.3 in April, though it was up 96.5% jump from a year ago. In the Midwest, the index increased 3.5% to 101.1 last month, up 39.4% compared to April 2020.

Pending sales transactions in the South fell 6.1% to an index of 128.9 in April, up 45.3% from April 2020. In the West, the index decreased 2.6% in April to 92.0, up 57.3% from a year prior.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


NAR Partners with LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance

The National Association of Realtors says the new partnership will “identify training opportunities … cultivate LGBTQ+ leaders and mobilize members.”

WASHINGTON – The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) announced a new partnership with the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance. The Alliance was founded June 2020 and has chapters throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

According to NAR, the collaboration will allow the groups to identify training opportunities that cultivate LGBTQ+ leaders and mobilize members in support of mutually beneficial federal policies, including pro-LGBTQ+ and real estate industry initiatives.

“NAR has long championed LGBTQ+ rights in the housing market, and we’re proud to continue leading today’s industry in the fight against discrimination,” says NAR President Charlie Oppler. “As the nation recognizes Pride Month this June, we’re excited to announce this partnership with The Alliance and begin our work toward initiatives that will provide tremendous benefits to American real estate and our society as a whole.”

NAR amended its Code of Ethics in 2011 and 2014 to ensure Realtors® were upholding housing protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community. More recently, it worked with the Department of Housing and Urban Development as the agency reformed its enforcement of the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“This partnership between NAR and The Alliance is built on a mutual desire to advance the shared interests of our members, supporting both the Alliance’s mission and NAR’s core values to lead change while advancing diversity and inclusion,” says NAR CEO Bob Goldberg.

The Alliance advocates on behalf of the LBGTQ+ community on a variety of home-related topics. A 501(c)6 non-profit, it also provides its members with learning and business opportunities.

“Having the leading trade association in the U.S. as a part of The Alliance is a huge step for our members and the entirety of the LGBTQ+ community,” says John Thorpe, The Alliance’s national president and board chairman.

Thorpe also commended NAR for its “prominent” role in the push to secure fair housing protections for LBGTQ+ Americans in states where those safeguards are not already codified.

“NAR’s support has been present for several months through acts of solidarity in the face of discriminatory acts against LGBTQ+ Realtors, their participation in our Policy Symposium this past April and their incredible support for our National Convention this September in Vegas,” says Ryan Weyandt, The Alliance’s CEO.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


Florida Realtors Donates $500K to NAR’s Realtor Relief Foundation

The 1-time donation will help RRF develop a sustainable reserve fund. Pres. Lambert: “I’m always so proud of how Realtors respond when someone needs a helping hand.”

ORLANDO, Fla. – Reaching out to help seems to be part of a Realtor’s DNA, whether it’s organizing a food drive or helping to rebuild communities after a hurricane. In that spirit, Florida Realtors® has donated $500K to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Realtor Relief Foundation (RRF) to help it prepare for the future.

“We do a tremendous amount of charitable work behind the scenes,” says Florida Realtors CEO Margy Grant. “It’s part of the Realtor heart and part of the Realtor family. To honor the 20th anniversary of its Realtor Relief Foundation, NAR has implemented a campaign to establish a sustainable reserve fund to ensure that RRF is always ready to help when disaster strikes. Demonstrating how much our Realtor members care, Florida Realtors Leadership and Executive Committee generously approved a one-time contribution of $500,000 to the Realtor Relief Foundation to help support their mission of helping those in need during times of crisis.”

RRF was launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In the 20 years since, the generosity and support of NAR’s members and partners, and its state and local associations, has enabled RRF to distribute more than $33 million to help people affected by natural disasters in 39 states and U.S. territories. NAR covers 100% of administrative expenses – every dollar donated goes directly to victims of disaster.

“I’m always so proud of how Realtors respond when someone needs a helping hand,” says Florida Realtors President Cheryl Lambert. “Our members believe in strong communities. They volunteer their time, talent and labor to give back in so many ways, whether it’s organizing food and supply drives, raising money for a good cause or helping to rebuild following a hurricane. As the largest state association in the nation, Florida Realtors is honored to stand with NAR and support the Realtor Relief Foundation as it shifts to this new sustainable way of raising funds. We know that other Realtor organizations will join in this worthwhile campaign, too.”

In its current state, RRF is distributing funds almost as quickly as they are received, according to NAR. When a major disaster occurs, the Foundation promptly mobilizes its outreach efforts and turns to NAR members and other constituents for financial support. While this has produced meaningful results, it also results in uncertainty about the extent to which RRF will be able to provide financial aid for any given disaster.

NAR officials note that RRF grants nearly $1.7 million on average every year to help those struggling after hurricanes, flooding, wildfires and other crises. The ultimate goal? To never say “no” to those in need during a time of disaster.

© Florida Realtors®


Pandemic Buyer Survey: Almost 75% Happy They Did

Despite a cutthroat market with multiple bids and successive failures to secure a home, 71% of successful pandemic-era buyers say their new home meets their needs, 75% say it was a good decision, and 45% wish they moved sooner. Only 19% say they should have waited.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The frenzied housing market where buyers must act quickly and compete against multiple bidders prompts conversations about buyer’s remorse, but of those who successfully closed on a home during the pandemic, more than two-thirds say they found happiness, according to a survey by HarrisX sponsored by realtor.com.

Of 1,000 homeowners who purchased a home during the pandemic (March 26, 2020, to April 7, 2021), 71% feel buying was a good decision and 75% say their new home meets their needs.

“Most of us spent more time at home during the pandemic than ever before, so it’s no surprise that it changed what many people want from their homes and neighborhoods, and created a greater sense of urgency to find a home that satisfied those needs,” says George Ratiu, senior economist at realtor.com. “With the number of available homes for sale in short supply, buyers didn’t have many choices over the past year – or a lot of time to consider their options in a very competitive market. However, as our survey shows, pandemic buyers generally feel good about the choices they made; and while the homebuying process itself is stressful, new homeowners feel their new homes meet their needs and do not regret the choices they made.”

Finding happiness in a new home

  • 55% had a new home that is exactly what they need for working or schooling from home
  • More than 70% felt “happy”
  • 45% wish they had moved sooner
  • 19% say they should have waited

Not rushed, on-budget and no regrets

  • 75% of new homeowners surveyed were planning to buy before the onset of COVID
  • 25% decided to purchase a home because of the pandemic

In many regions, pandemic buyers had to do more of their home search virtually and make quick decisions. As a result, buyer’s remorse could have been a common outcome.

Despite the frenzy, however, buyers have few regrets when it comes to how quickly they made their purchase and how much they paid. Less than one-third said they wished they’d spent more time on the home search, and nearly half (48%) did not feel rushed or pressured into making a home-buying decision. A majority also didn’t feel as if they overpaid, with 61% saying the purchase price of their new home was either at or under their original budget.

Prioritization key in a fast-paced market

With a lack of inventory and quick home sales, buyers had to move quickly, but they often had to compromise their priorities. Trade-offs are inevitable even when inventory isn’t tight, and part of the process, especially for first-time buyers who don’t have equity from a previous home sale to use as a down payment.

“Buying a home is the biggest financial decision most people make and, while there’s pressure to move more quickly, especially today, it’s not a decision you want to make lightly,” says Lexie Holbert, home and living expert at realtor.com. “Nothing in life is perfect, and a new home is no exception, so compromises are always part of the buying process.”

Holbert suggest that buyers start with their budget and then move on to priorities. “Is it square footage, number of bedrooms, outdoor space or location? Once you have an idea of what’s most important, you’re ready to make confident decisions.”

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


Why the Buyer Frenzy? Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

What if today’s tight inventory gets even tighter? What if mortgage rates go up? NAR’s chief economist says strict lending laws keep a real estate bubble at bay.

NEW YORK – Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), summed up the current state of the housing market in one word to NPR recently: “Incredible.”

Homes for sale are, on average, getting 5.1 offers before they sell and reports of homes getting 20 or 30 bids are growing; home prices are up 19.1% from a year ago, and the median sales price has reached a record high of $341,600, according to NAR housing data.

But strict mortgage underwriting is ensuring people can afford the homes they’re buying, unlike the frenzy that led up to the housing bubble more than a decade ago, without “toxic mortgages” granted to buyers who could not afford them. Today, a limited number of homes for sale is driving up home prices.

“So is ‘FOMO,’ or the fear of missing out,” Yun says.

Home prices are rising quickly and mortgage rates are near historical lows. As a result, some homebuyers may be panicking, believing they need to buy a home right away before things get worse.

“They are experiencing the fear of missing out,” Yun told NPR. “But at the same time, people feel very uncomfortable needing to make a rushed decision on such a major expenditure.”

Home prices are expected to continue to rise, but not at such a fast clip over the coming months. Prices have been outpacing income growth for several years now.

“We anticipate that the market will be steadily calming down,” Yun told NPR. Realtors recently surveyed by NAR predict that over the next year, a smaller gain will occur in home prices of just 2.5%, considerably lower than the 19.1% jump this year.

More housing inventory is expected to hit the market too as more of the country gets vaccinated and pandemic-related housing protections such as forbearance moratoriums expire.

Source: “Record Prices for Red Hot Housing Market: ‘Fear of Missing Out,’” NPR (May 21, 2021)

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Most Important Part of Email Marketing? Your Subject Line

Not just any subject line will do, according to a recent consumer survey. “Just sold in your area” and “real estate market snapshot” topped the list of winners.

NEW YORK – Messages constantly flood consumers’ email inboxes, so how do you make yours stand out? Use effective subject lines that make them take notice.

A consumer survey from ActivePipe, an email marketing firm, found the following subject lines generate the most opens on emails sent from real estate professionals:

  1. “Just sold in your area”
  2. “Real estate market snapshot for your area”
  3. “Have you been wondering what your home is worth?”
  4. “List now or later – why the [enter season] market pays dividends”
  5. “Six steps to get your home ready for a listing”
  6. “Thinking about a vacation home?”

According to the survey, regular electronic communications via email tends to deliver the highest level of client loyalty, especially if the receiver already has a relationship with that Realtor. Clients are more likely to open an email and follow up if there’s an existing relationship and some level of trust.

What type of emails do existing clients prefer?

Once an agent has landed a client, the goal is to keep them engaged but not feeling pressured. For this group, the survey found the highest engagement among buyers tended to be current listings and comps. Among sellers, market trends for the area landed at the top, while “recently sold” data interested both buyers and sellers.

After a transaction, consumers say they prefer monthly emails and newsletters, quarterly phone calls, emails or texts on special occasions, such as birthdays or holidays. They also appreciate a follow-up via telephone follow-up after the transaction to verify satisfaction and success.

Source: “Driving Buyer and Seller Loyalty in Real Estate,” ActivePipe (2021)

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


1 in 5 U.S. Homes Now Multi-Generational

NEW YORK – When Alena Shifrin’s parents in 2014 moved in with her family of four in Mount Kisco, New York, she knew she’d have to expand her 1,200-square-foot home.

Soon the Cape Cod-style home about 37 miles northeast of Manhattan underwent a major renovation and grew to 2,300 square feet.

Having her parents living with her allowed her to keep a close eye on her mother, who had suffered a stroke a few years earlier. It also allowed Shifrin to take a job as a fitness instructor without worrying about watching her young children, then 9 and 5.

She had been a full-time, stay-at-home mother to accommodate her husband’s busy schedule as an orthopedist. Now, her father could drive her children to their activities.

But once the pandemic hit, the space started feeling cramped. And the family wasn’t alone.

While the number of Americans living in multi-generational family households has continued to rise in recent years, the pandemic seems to have further accelerated the trend.

Before March 2020 – when cases of COVID-19 began to surge and the economy sputtered – approximately 11% to 12% of primary residence buyers every year bought multi-generational homes. In the first three months of the pandemic, however, that number jumped to 15%, according to a National Association of Realtors analysis.

The association’s survey, based on 8,000 people who bought a home between April to June, found the top reason for buying a multi-generational home was to take care of aging parents.

As for Shifrin, her children were now 16 and 12, and they were attending school remotely. Her husband needed a quiet place while he treated his patients from home via telemedicine. Her fitness classes also had moved online.

“I was the one being loud. I have a little music and I’m singing and I’m like ‘let’s do this,’ and everyone’s home and it’s chaos and my parents are like, ‘It’s so loud. Why are you guys so loud?’” she said “Not to mention, everyone was trying to find the best Wi-Fi spot in the house.”

By November, right after Thanksgiving, Shifrin says she realized the multi-generational family had outgrown the house. The pandemic made the need to find a bigger home more pressing.

“I was just so desperate. I was like, we’ve got to get out. This is not healthy. Everybody’s getting miserable. It’s time to go,” she says.

Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics research for the National Associations of Realtors®, said taking care of aging parents and spending more time with them and relatives was a “top priority” for purchasing a multi-generational home.

Lautz added that other reasons included adult children moving back home and cost savings that result from multiple incomes purchasing a larger house together.

In 2016, 64 million people, or 20% of the U.S. population lived with multiple generations under one roof, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data. That number was the highest since 1950 when three or more generations living under one roof composed 21% of all households.

John L. Graham, professor emeritus at the University of California, Irvine and co-author of “All in the Family: A Practical Guide to Successful Multigenerational Living,” says the growth in multi-generational households is a cultural shift back to the way things once were and that the arrangement is mutually beneficial.

“It’s only in the last 50 years in the United States and the Northern European countries that people have tried out the nuclear family living,” he says. “It just doesn’t work well. Grandparents and grandkids are supposed to be near each other.”

Graham says families living together provide enormous psychological benefits, particularly for the elderly when they are around younger people.

“Especially during the pandemic, with a shortage of health care workers, the family is going to be the saving grace of home health care,” Graham said.

When the pandemic hit, Shobha Bhatnagar and her husband, Gaurav, found their adult children back at home in Scarsdale, New York, about 20 miles south of Shifrin’s family. Their daughter had returned from college to learn remotely, and their son, who was working in Brooklyn, moved back home with his partner. The couple’s mothers, who live in India, also were slated to join them later in the year.

While the family had planned to move to Connecticut to escape the high tax school district where they were living, they’d never thought of buying anything much larger than their 2,400 square-foot-house.

The pandemic convinced them otherwise.

The couple knew they no longer could plan to alternate the mothers’ visits and would need more space.

That’s when they found the house of their dreams. In June, they saw a 5,000 square-foot home in Stamford, Connecticut, with six bedrooms, a cottage and a pool for which they paid less than the smaller Scarsdale home. They said the best part about the house was that it had two bedrooms and two bathrooms on the lower floor so their mothers wouldn’t have to use the stairs.

“It was a place where each person could have their own space and be together to watch TV. The other thing was that they kept each other company and did not feel isolated,” says Shobha Bhatnagar, who co-owns a management consulting firm with her husband. “We were working extra-long hours. They would spend the mornings cooking and feeding us and then watch TV afterwards.”

The rise in multi-generational living can be attributed to racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. population, according to Pew Research. Among Asians living in the U.S., 29% lived in multi-generational family households in 2016, according to census data. Among Hispanics and Blacks, the shares in 2016 were 27% and 26%, respectively. Among whites, 16% lived with multiple generations of family members.

For Shifrin, having her parents at home where she could watch them was a major source of comfort during the pandemic.

“A lot of seniors are suffering depression from isolation because they can’t see their families,” she says. “I was able to make sure that my parents got their vaccinations, and I could drive them without worrying about getting them sick since we were all quarantining together.”

Copyright 2021, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY


Want to Invest in an Airbnb? 8 Things to Consider

Many concerns mirror other real estate investments, but some are unique. Location is important, for example, including the neighborhood – not just “close to attractions.”

NEW YORK – Reader question: We are a four-person group looking at buying an Airbnb. We have invested in other commercial property types, but this would be our first bed and breakfast. The six units generate an 8% cap rate. 2019 was the first year in service. There are numerous significant attractions within 5-10 minutes by car, but Airbnb is a new category.

What is your opinion about Airbnb projects as an investment?

Monty’s answer: While there are differences in operating an Airbnb instead of apartments, I see Airbnb as a different operating model rather than a new category. Bed and breakfast operators have been around for many years, Airbnb’s reservation system organized them under one banner. Here are some questions to consider as you perform due diligence on the offering:

  • When an investor changes course so early in the life of a project, is it a red flag event? Why sell a new cash-flowing project now? Also, they base the projections on a 35% down payment. I would ask a local commercial banker if they finance a six-unit apartment project the same way they would finance an Airbnb. Then I wonder if these units were rented as apartments, would those rents support the returns on the project. Having a plan B may be a good idea.
  • Street address. I would be more interested in the surrounding neighborhood than 5-10 minutes from major attractions. Is this building part of a larger project? If it is part of a larger project, is the larger project not working?
  • Built in 2019. Why would an investor sell an almost new building? A short rental history lacks the test of time. Are the numbers accurate, or are they a projection? Is it a pandemic-related sale or is the pandemic an excuse?
  • Sales of new buildings mean proceed with caution. In commercial real estate courses, there is a seminar titled “Buyers’ Reconstructed Statement,” where we learned to reexamine the seller’s information to determine if the seller is truthful. Two years old? Any engineering studies on soil conditions to determine if the soil will be stable long-term with a four-story building weight?
  • Is property management baked into the projections? What do the actual numbers for the past 90 days reveal? Airbnb properties require a lot more oversight and expense, like a hotel, and those extra costs should translate to higher returns. Old unkempt two families in a declining neighborhood can produce 15-20% and higher returns. I suspect a new Airbnb would have a better return than a new apartment building.
  • If this property is on Airbnb, there will be reviews from customers. Sometimes, a check will create a new question.
  • Have you done due diligence?
  • Have you toured the property? Are the comparable sales really comparable? Drive the comps.
  • Are you in a bubble? That is an excellent reason to sell as an investor, but it may not be a good reason to buy. If there is a significant correction, how would it affect your investment? For example, would people stop traveling?

USA Today Network

© Copyright 2021 Beaver Newspapers Inc., All rights reserved. Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money – An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He advocates industry reform and offers readers real estate advice.


April’s New-Home Sales Flatten – Builders Blame Affordability

Rising home prices, material costs and a labor shortage have taken their toll, builders say, and more potential new-home buyers have been priced out of the market.

WASHINGTON – Rising building material costs and low inventory caused new-home sales prices to jump 20% year-to-year, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). And that has hurt housing affordability and driven down the pace of new home sales.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), sales of newly built, single-family homes fell 5.9% in April (863,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate), following a significant downward revision of the March estimate.

“Affordability factors are clearly affecting new home sales,” says Chuck Fowke, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a custom home builder from Tampa. “A growing number of builders are limiting sales in order to manage supply chains, including access and cost factors associated with lumber, appliances and other building materials.”

Fowke again called on policymakers “to find ways to improve the supply-chain by facilitating more domestic production, or in cases where that cannot be done, suspending tariffs to allow for more imports.”

A new home sale occurs when a sales contract is signed or a deposit accepted. At that time, the home can be in any stage of construction – not yet started, under construction or completed. In addition to adjusting for seasonal effects, the April reading of 863,000 units is the number of homes that would sell if that month’s pace continued for the next 12 months.

“After a period of builders holding back price increases, new home prices were 20% higher year-over-year per the April Census data,” says NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “Higher costs have priced out buyers, particularly at the lower end of the market. A year ago, 45% of new home sales were priced below $300,000. In April 2021, only 27% … were priced below $300,000.”

The median April sales price was $372,400, up from the $310,100 median sales price posted a year earlier. Inventory also remains low at a 4.4-month supply. There were 316,000 new single-family homes for sale – 33.3% lower than April 2020.

Completed homes also continue to fall as a share of the market, representing only about 11 percent of the inventory in April compared to 24 percent a year ago.

Regionally, new home sales rose in all four regions year-to-year, up 50.7% in the Northeast, 45.7% in the Midwest, 45.5% in the South, and 3.6% in the West.

However, those seemingly notable sales increases are due, in part, to the pandemic that started to take hold in April 2020. It’s not that April 2021 sales were so high, so much as April 2020 sales were so low.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


May Consumer Confidence Virtually Unchanged Since April

Americans feel a lot better about their current situation and less excited about the future. However, global consumer confidence indexes soared higher.

BOSTON – The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index held steady in May (at 117.2) following a gain in April (at 117.5). However, the two index components – current situations and future expectations – moved in different directions.

The Present Situation Index – based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions – increased from 131.9 to 144.3. But the Expectations Index – based on consumers’ short-term future outlook for income, business and labor market conditions – fell to 99.1 in May, down from 107.9 last month.

“After rebounding sharply in recent months, U.S. consumer confidence was essentially unchanged in May,” says Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers’ assessment of present-day conditions improved, suggesting economic growth remains robust in (the second quarter). However, consumers’ short-term optimism retreated, prompted by expectations of decelerating growth and softening labor market conditions in the months ahead.”

Franco also speculates that that drop in future expectations might be due to consumers being “less upbeat this month about their income prospects – a reflection, perhaps, of both rising inflation expectations and a waning of further government support until expanded Child Tax Credit payments begin reaching parents in July.”

Still, Franco says consumers “remain optimistic, and confidence should remain resilient in the short term, as vaccination rates climb, COVID-19 cases decline further, and the economy fully reopens.”

In other consumer confidence studies conducted around the world, however, the latest indicators moved notably higher, between eight and 11 points. Globally, the tally of all consumer confidence indexes rose 10 points:

U.S. current conditions: Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions improved in May. The percentage of consumers claiming business conditions are “good” fell from 19.4% to 18.7%, though the proportion claiming business conditions are “bad” also declined, from 24.5% to 21.8%.

Consumers’ assessment of the labor market notably improved. The percentage saying jobs are “plentiful” climbed from 36.3% to 46.8%, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” declined from 14.7% to 12.2%.

U.S. future conditions: The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months fell from 33.1% to 30.3%, while the proportion expecting business conditions to worsen rose from 12.1% to 14.8%.

Consumers were also less upbeat about the job market. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead fell from 31.7% to 27.2%, while those anticipating fewer jobs rose from 14.4% last month to 17.3% in May.

Regarding short-term income prospects, 14.5% of consumers expect their incomes to increase in the next six months, down from 17.4% in April. The proportion expecting their incomes to decrease also fell, from 10.5% in April to 9.3% in May.

The monthly survey, based on an online sample, is conducted by Toluna for The Conference Board. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was May 19.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


More Younger Buyers Appreciating Older Homes

Affordability is important, but for some, an older home is like comfort food during pandemic lockdowns. Plus, more buyers now want a home without a great room.

NEW YORK – Homebuyers are showing a renewed interest in older properties, not only for affordability but also due to an appreciation for the traditional elements of century-old spaces. The trend is particularly noticeable in San Francisco, typically a mecca for modern architecture, where older Victorians are now making a comeback. Many of these homebuyers also want to restore historic properties to their former glory.

Views of Victorian and Edwardian properties in San Francisco climbed 80% year over year. The median asking price per square foot of such properties was $1,050 in January – up 8.7% from a year ago, according to realtor.com’s listing data.

For comparison, views per property of modern single-family homes in the city were down 5.7% over the same period, and the asking price per square foot was $831.

“For the last 10 to 12 years during the massive economic boom here, houses were in such demand that you had people buying Victorians, painting them a solid dark gray, and stripping out the interiors in an effort to modernize the appearance of a house that they obviously didn’t like that much,” says Lynne Rutter, president of Artistic License, a coalition of local artisans dedicated to period revival work. “Recently, I have seen far more thoughtful restoration happening and younger homeowners who are doing more considerate work. They are eager to know more about their homes and will ask a lot of questions.”

Also, open floor plans, which have dominated newer home designs, may be losing appeal because of noise as more people work from home. Victorian homes’ original floor plans with separate rooms may offer greater appeal in today’s work-from-home culture.

In the Philadelphia area, older homes are growing in popularity, too. In 2020, 14,093 homes built between 1800 and 1921 were sold in the metro area – up from 9,266 in 2019, according to Bright MLS data.

During the pandemic, “I found that my historic listings were not only going under contract much more quickly, but these very specific old homes were even garnering multiple offers,” says Trish Keegan, a real estate pro with Styer Real Estate in Chester County, Pa.

Keegan says she believes part of the appeal is the desire for more individual spaces and separate rooms that cater better to home offices or remote learning spaces for children. Also, “people are beginning to value unique and handmade, versus a big white box with empty spaces that don’t really support how we used to live and how we’re evolving in the time of the pandemic.”

Homeowners Paul and Karen Chung said they were willing to travel farther outside Philadelphia to find an older home that didn’t have an open floor plan. They settled on a four-acre property in Chester Springs, Pa., with parts of its stone facade dating back to 1850.

“A historic home is like living in art,” Paul Chung told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Source: “Young Residents Are Restoring These San Francisco Homes to Their Original Glory,” The Wall Street Journal (May 22, 2021); “Historic Homes Draw Wider Interest as Buyers Adapt to the Pandemic in a Market With Limited Choices,” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Feb. 3, 2021); and “Buyers Looking for Older Homes as Building Material Costs Continue to Rise,” WJBF.com (May 4, 2021)

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Affordable Fla. Homes Scarce – But Especially in SW Florida

Florida Realtors economist: Whatever the price point, buyers have fewer options this year than they did last year. But the affordable home supply suffered the most. The amount of single-family homes with a value of $300K or less declined over 60%.

ORLANDO, Fla. – We’ve traveled once around the sun since the COVID-19 virus rocked the real estate world. In the early days, fears about overall market health were common, but now the problem child targeted by economists is housing inventory.

Supply has been constrained for both new construction and the existing home market – that isn’t new. Data from Florida Realtors indicates statewide inventory has been low for years, with “Months’ Supply of Inventory” dipping below the generally accepted “balanced” level of six months since 2013.

Florida Realtors®’ March 2021 metrics reveal single-family inventory is 31,658, or about a 1.2 months’ supply of inventory. Similarly, townhomes and condos have just above 30,000 active homes on the market, though that’s equivalent to a 2.8 months’ supply of inventory since this property type has fewer closed sales.

As a metric, “months’ supply” indicates the amount of time it would take to deplete the current active inventory if no new properties are listed. To say new listings are essential to keep the well from drying up is an understatement. In just over a month, Florida wouldn’t have a for-sale inventory at all if no new listings came onto the market.

To provide a different perspective, inventory is 62% and 42% lower than last year’s levels for single-family and condo/townhomes, respectively.

The situation is more dire when considering affordable homes.

Let’s consider a typical Florida family. They have a household income of roughly $60,000, according to the 2019 American Community Survey. Based on a recommendation of allocating no more than 28% of your monthly expenses toward housing, the family could reasonably spend $1,400 per month. Using a one-percent rate for property tax and roughly $2,000 for property insurance calculates to a purchase price of $300,000.

Fees for homeowners’ and condo associations and other household expenses are not included, and a 20% down payment is also assumed; but for simplicity, we’ll use $300,000 and below as our basis for affordable.

Under one-third of Florida single-family homes on the market at the end of the first quarter of 2021 (roughly 10,000) are listed below the $300,000 price cap. Affordable inventory dropped over 69% from a still-low level of 33,000 in March 2020. Inventory is stretched even thinner in many areas of the state – particularly Southwest Florida.

Unfortunately, no area in Florida can breathe a sigh of relief. All metropolitan statistical areas have fewer active listings now than a year prior. Declines in most metro areas ranged from 60% to 90%.

Typically considered an alternative to detached single-family homes, townhomes and condos are pushing toward a similar fate. Inventory of homes priced less than $300,000 was cut nearly in half from March 2020 to March 2021.

The tailwind of higher new listings for both single-family and townhouses and condos in March 2021 wasn’t enough to combat the downward pressure on supply. Buyer demand remains strong amid modestly increasing mortgage rates, and new construction grapples to make up ground from prior years while struggling with increased material and labor costs.

But wait, there’s more! Affordable homes are also ripe for investors, both institutional and individuals, adding another layer to already intense competition. Continued demand is anticipated, so unless supply increases, inventory is likely to dampen even further.

Erica Plemmons is an economist and Florida Realtors Director of Housing Statistics

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


March Home Prices Soar – Highest Increase Since 2013

S&P Case-Shiller: An army of buyers competing for fewer homes pushed prices up 13.3% in March, for the biggest year-to-year home price gain since December 2013.

WASHINGTON (AP) – March U.S. home prices jumped by the most in more than seven years as an increasing number of would-be buyers compete for a dwindling supply of houses.

The March S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, rose 13.3% from a year earlier, the biggest gain since December 2013. That increase followed a surge of 12% in February.

The large gains suggest that the pandemic has spurred more Americans to seek out the extra room provided by a single-family home. Yet at the same time, COVID-19 has discouraged many homeowners from selling and opening up their homes to would-be buyers.

As a result, the number of homes for sale fell 21% in April compared with a year earlier, to just 1.16 million, near a record low on records dating back to 1982, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

That has pushed buyers into a near-frenzy. Properties were on the market for just 17 days in April, and 88% of homes sold were on the market for less than a month, NAR said. The resulting bidding wars raised the price of the typical, or median, house to $341,600 last month, NAR said, a record high.

Some of the year-over-year gain likely reflects slower sales and reduced demand a year ago at the onset of the pandemic. All 20 cities in the Case-Shiller index reported faster price gains in March than in February.

The largest increase was in Phoenix for the 22nd straight month, where prices rose 20% compared with a year ago. San Diego saw the next largest gain, at 19.1%, followed by Seattle, with 18.3%.

The housing market has gotten so out of whack that nearly half of all homes are now selling for above the seller’s asking price, according to real estate brokerage firm Redfin, the highest in the decade the company has tracked such data. That’s up from roughly a quarter of sales in April 2019, the year before the pandemic.

Still, the market may cool off in the coming months. With vaccinations spreading and COVID-19 waning, more sellers may be willing to list their homes.

And Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin, said many Americans are likely to start spending more money on services, such as vacations, dining out, and other entertainment, and focus less on new homes.

The number of people signing contracts to buy homes dropped in May, and fewer people are applying for mortgages.

“At a certain point, buyers just back off and you get more stable price growth,” Fairweather said. “I think this is the peak, but it’s going to be hot for a long time. It’s more like a plateau.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


HUD Offering $145M to Help Homeless Youths

Up to 50 local or rural communities can apply for money through a competitive funding program that’s designed to help youth “change the trajectory of their lives.”

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has $145 million in competitive funding available to help homeless youths.

HUD calls it a “competitive funding arrangement” because local communities must apply for money. It says up to 50 communities can receive funding, based on a plan to “build systems intended to end youth homelessness in local and rural communities through HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP).”

Any Florida community that wants to apply should refer to HUD’s Notice of Opportunity.

“Getting and keeping young people off the streets and helping them find a safe, stable home can change the trajectory of their lives,” says HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “Local leaders who are on the ground every day know what it takes to meet the needs of youth experiencing homelessness, and this funding will empower them to do so. I am pleased to announce this funding and encourage local groups to apply.”

The Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program was developed based on recommendations from young people who had experienced homelessness. HUD says it’s continued to work closely with young people with “lived experience” as it reviews applications for funding; and it also relies on their advice to provide technical assistance to communities striving to include youth voices in their local work.

Selected communities can use the funding for rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, and/or to fund innovative programs, such as host homes. YHDP can also support youth-focused performance measurements.

To date, HUD has funded almost 300 projects in 44 communities across the country through the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


Florida To Have 3 Tax ‘Holidays’ – Disaster Prep Starts Friday

Consumers won’t pay sales tax for many disaster supplies starting Friday, a back-to-school holiday is in Aug., and a new July holiday nixes sales taxes on leisure events.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Floridians preparing for the looming hurricane season can avoid paying sales taxes on many types of disaster gear starting on Friday, May 28, after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a $196.3 million tax package last Friday.

Along with a 10-day tax “holiday” for disaster-preparedness supplies, it also includes a tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers and a “Freedom Week” tax holiday designed to encourage people to participate in outdoor activities and entertainment events.

“We’re proud of being open. And we want taxpayers to be able to benefit if they’re participating in all these things,” DeSantis said.

House and Senate leaders negotiated the tax package as they put together a $101.5 billion budget (SB 2500) for the fiscal year that will start July 1. The budget, bolstered by billions of dollars in federal stimulus money, has not formally been sent to DeSantis.

The tax package (HB 7061) has 22 separate parts. For most Floridians, the benefits will be found in the three sales-tax holidays.

Scott Shalley, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation, on Wednesday called the holidays generous for Floridians and retailers as the state continues to emerge from the pandemic.

“As we come out of COVID, and people are getting out and about, we don’t want them to forget about the fact that hurricane season is just around the corner,” Shalley said. “It provides a good opportunity for Floridians to prepare, but it also gives the local retailer a little infusion of business that they certainly need as we come out of a tough year.”

2021 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday

The disaster-preparedness tax holiday runs from May 28 through June 6 and is expected to save shoppers $10.5 million in state and local sales taxes. Its timing is tied to the June 1 start of hurricane season.

During the period, shoppers will be able to avoid paying sales taxes on such things as reusable ice packs that cost $20 or less; portable radios, gas tanks and packages or batteries that cost $50 or less; non-electric food coolers that cost $60 or less; tarps that cost $100 or less; and portable generators that cost $1,000 or less.

State Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie encouraged Floridians to take advantage of the period to stock up on supplies.

“When a storm is approaching your area, that is not the time to build your kit,” Guthrie said at the Home Depot in Pensacola. “The time is now, starting next week during this sales tax holiday, to stock up on your critical supplies.”

The other tax holidays, meanwhile, are expected to have a bigger impact on state and local coffers.

Freedom Week Tax Holiday

State economists projected that the “Freedom Week” tax holiday, which will start July 1, will save $54.7 million for shoppers. During the following week, people will be able to avoid paying sales taxes on tickets purchased for such things as live music, athletic contests, in-theater movies, cultural events and entrance to museums and state parks. Tickets could be purchased during the week for events that occur later in the year, including annual passes.

The holiday will also provide sales-tax exemptions for such outdoor equipment as tents, grills, bicycles, kayaks and fishing gear.

“We’re going to celebrate that freedom with a dedicated freedom week on sales-tax cuts on everything ranging from sunscreen to sporting goods to camping to state park admission to concert and sports venues,” House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said. “Our message to our Floridians is very clear, and that is we want you to celebrate that freedom. We know that this year more than most families have been cooped up, sometimes their businesses were hurt.”

Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday

A 10-day holiday in August for back-to-school shoppers is expected to provide a $69.4 million tax break. During the period, shoppers can avoid paying sales taxes on clothes costing $60 or less, school supplies costing $15 or less and the first $1,000 of the price of personal computers.

The tax package includes numerous other issues, such as setting aside $17.5 million for taxpayers that clean up contaminated brownfields, changing a formula for distributing cigarette tax revenues to boost funding for the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and repealing an unused pool of state money approved in 2014 to help build and renovate professional sports stadiums.

Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said the funding change should help Moffitt become a global leader in cancer research.

“The state of Florida, now in the next five to 10 years, will have the leading, what I believe will be, cancer research and institute in the United States, probably in the world, and it’ll rival any institution anywhere in the country,” Simpson said. “And it’s something we’ve worked very hard on for many years.”

The Tampa cancer center has received about $15.5 million a year through the current formula, but the changes will lead to it receiving $26.9 million starting next fiscal year and $38.4 million starting in the 2024-2025 fiscal year, according to a Senate analysis. The change will reduce the amount of cigarette tax dollars going into the state’s general revenue.

Source: News Service of Florida


Property Coverage Cancelled? Avoid Force-Placed Insurance

MIAMI – Has your home insurance company notified you that your policy is being canceled or won’t be renewed? If so, you should quickly secure a new policy if you are still making mortgage payments on your home.

Don’t procrastinate. Don’t blow off the notice. Buy a policy from state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. if you have no other choice.

You won’t like the alternative.

It’s called force-placed insurance, and your mortgage contract gives your lender the right to protect its interest by putting one on your property if you let your policy lapse.

It’s expensive – as much as two to 10 times as costly as normal insurance. You will be required to pay the inflated premiums, increasing your monthly mortgage payment.

You might lose the right to sue over claims disputes.

And it won’t cover your personal property or medical care for others who get injured on your property.

Consumer advocates fear that Florida’s insurance crisis and the expiration of federal moratoriums on foreclosures will lead to an increase in force-placed insurance, which is also known as creditor-placed or lender-placed insurance.

“I expect an explosion in force-placed policies as [pandemic-related] protections subside,” said Birny Birnbaum, a former Texas insurance regulator and current director of the Texas-based Center for Economic Justice, an advocacy and education organization representing low-income and minority consumers on issues involving insurance, utilities and credit.

Andrew Pizor, attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, said he expects force-placed policies to increase as Florida’s insurance crisis worsens.

Ryan Papy, president of Palmetto Bay-based Keyes Insurance, said that while his agency hasn’t yet noticed issues with force-placed policies among potential clients, increases in policy cancellations over the past few months could spur “a higher frequency in the future.”

Florida has highest share of force-placed insurance

Florida already leads the nation in spending on force-placed insurance, according to data reported to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Florida borrowers were charged $795 million of a total $3.3 billion in premiums nationwide for force-placed coverage against flood, wind and all other perils, the data shows. The state’s 24.1% share of the force-placed insurance market is down from 35% in 2009-11, the worst years of the housing bust that triggered the Great Recession.

That era was marked by abuses by home loan servicers and insurers that triggered class action lawsuits, multimillion-dollar settlements and federal protections for borrowers of loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Servicers and insurers were accused of working together to reap windfall profits on policies placed on troubled properties. Regulators found that insurers were paying lucrative commissions or other incentives to loan servicers that purchase force-placed policies. Loan servicers were accused of force-placing insurance on properties without giving borrowers adequate warning. Insurers were accused of issuing policies on properties serviced by affiliated companies, and providing reinsurance for properties insured by companies owned by loan servicers.

And insurers were discovered providing kickbacks to loan servicers in the form of free or below-cost administrative services, including monitoring borrower databases to identify which ones stopped carrying their own insurance and were thus eligible for forced-placed coverage – a service called insurance tracking.

“In some cases, mortgage servicers were getting close to 50% of premiums kicked back in the form of commissions, reinsurance and free or below-cost services,” Birnbaum said.

In 2014, Wells Fargo and two lender-placed insurers, Assurant Inc. and QBE, agreed to repay affected customers up to 11% of their premiums to settle a class action lawsuit filed in Miami. Bank of America settled a similar case that year for $228 million, while settlements were reached in cases against J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc.

In arguing for increased protections, Birnbaum cites data showing that the top seven force-based insurers in Florida reported a combined loss ratio of 34.2% in 2020. That means that for every $100 in premium paid by borrowers, the insurers had to spend only $34.20 on claims, leaving them awash in cash.

Traditional insurers in Florida have been reporting far higher loss ratios – 68.5% in 2019, according to ratings agency A.M. Best.

Loopholes still hurt consumers

State and federal-level reforms, including in Florida, barred insurers from paying commissions to loan servicers but did not prohibit them from providing insurance tracking and other free and below-cost services, Birnbaum said. In fact, because the cost of the tracking is recouped from premiums paid by borrowers, consumers with force-placed coverage are essentially paying for tracking of all insurance customers, he said.

Florida also allows loan servicers to force-place coverage that names only the lender as the policy beneficiary. That left Ethel Reconco unable to sue Integon National Insurance Co., which was force-placed by her lender, for a claim related to Hurricane Irma in 2017. In January, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that the Fort Pierce woman had no standing to sue because she was not a named insured on the policy.

Currently, fewer than 10% of Florida policies don’t name the borrower as a named insured along with the lender, but Birnbaum says even that percentage is unacceptable.

Federal reforms have offered consumers some protections, including requiring loan servicers to continue making payments for traditional insurance if the borrower has an escrow account and cannot afford to make the insurance payments. That requirement, however, does not cover borrowers whose policies are canceled or not renewed.

Loan servicers are also barred from force-placing insurance without a reasonable basis to believe that the borrower failed to maintain insurance coverage as required in the loan documents.

Servicers must send two notices before purchasing a force-based policy. The first must be sent at least 45 days before purchasing the force-placed policy. The second must be sent no earlier than 30 days after the first notice and at least 15 days before charging the borrower for the force-placed insurance. This notice must include the cost or a reasonable estimate.

If a borrower with force-placed coverage provides proof that a traditional policy has been purchased for the property, the servicer is required to cancel the force-placed insurance within 15 days of receiving the evidence and refund any premiums charged while both policies were in place.

Loan servicers don’t always comply with that requirement, according to a lawsuit filed May 7 by Kimn S. Sullivan, a Palm Beach Gardens homeowner who has been trying to persuade Bank of America to remove a flood insurance policy placed on her home since 2009. In her suit, Sullivan, who lives in an area at high risk for flooding, says her mortgage loan contract exempts her from having to buy an individual flood insurance policy if her house is covered by a master policy purchased by her homeowner association.

But Bank of America won’t recognize the contract provision and has added more than $21,000 to the balance of her loan to recoup the force-placed policy cost, her suit states. A Bank of America spokesman said the company had no comment on the lawsuit at this time.

Low-income borrowers are most vulnerable

Most Florida home loan borrowers facing cancellation or nonrenewal understand the risk of failing to maintain insurance coverage, Papy says.

“Typically, the cancellation letters are drafted in an alarming way to push the insured to find other coverages,” he said by email. “In most cases the cancellations provide significant notice and the insureds are aware that not having coverage will lead them down the path to force-placed coverage.”

Paul Handerhan, president of the consumer-focused Federal Association for Insurance Reform, said he expects rising costs of traditional insurance will trap vulnerable homeowners, such as low-income borrowers, people who speak English as a second language or those who don’t understand the difference between traditional and force-placed coverage.

If their escrow account doesn’t have enough money to cover a sudden insurance rate increase, their lender will ask them to come up with a lump sum to cover the shortfall. If they can’t afford the lump sum, their policy won’t be renewed and their loan servicer could then force-place a more expensive policy. That could make their new mortgage payment unaffordable, triggering foreclosure and possible loss of their home, he said.

Others will struggle to make their payments not knowing they are paying more than they should for insurance that doesn’t cover as much and doesn’t name them as a beneficiary of the policy. “And they won’t know that until it comes time to file a claim,” he said.

© 2021 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Visit sun-sentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


U.S. Could Double Tariffs on Canadian Softwood Lumber

A rising cost for lumber has added thousands to the price of a new home, and an ongoing U.S.-Canada dispute could make things worse. Pres. Trump raised tariffs to 20% in 2018 and later lowered them to 9%. The Biden Admin. now proposes an 18.32% tariff.

CALGARY, Canada – A move by the U.S. Commerce Department to increase preliminary tariffs on softwood lumber imports from Canada, if finalized, will raise producer costs and cut into their profits but is unlikely to affect prices to consumers of wood products, analysts say.

The department’s recommendation to more than double the “all others” preliminary countervailing and anti-dumping rate to 18.32% from 8.99% on Friday drew criticism from the Canadian government and industry, and applause from the lumber industry south of the border.

The increase is unlikely to result in higher lumber prices because they’ve more than doubled in the past year to all-time record highs, said Kevin Mason, managing director of ERA Forest Products Research.

“Prices are supply-and-demand driven,” he said. “(Tariffs) drive the cost up for producers but it’s not going to affect prices.”

Because it’s a preliminary tariff rate, current cash deposit rates will continue to apply until the finalized rates are published, likely in November.

“U.S. duties on Canadian softwood lumber products are a tax on the American people,” said Mary Ng, minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, in a statement. “We will keep challenging these unwarranted and damaging duties through all available avenues. We remain confident that a negotiated solution to this long-standing trade issue is not only possible, but in the best interest of both our countries.”

In a note to investors, RBC analyst Paul Quinn said finalized rates from the previous administrative review process wound up being largely in line with the preliminary rates.

“We think higher rates will incentivize producers to push harder for a resolution to the softwood lumber dispute, which could unlock significant cash,” he said, noting an estimate that collected tariffs from Canadian producers on deposit add up to more than $4 billion.

Former president Donald Trump’s administration imposed a 20% “all others” tariff on Canadian softwood in 2018, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but lowered it to about 8.99% late last year after a decision favoring Canada by the World Trade Organization.

The increased tariffs will hurt American consumers faced with a market where supply can’t keep up with demand, said Susan Yurkovich, president of the BC Lumber Trade Council.

“We find the significant increase in today’s preliminary rates troubling,” she said in a news release. “It is particularly egregious given lumber prices are at a record high and demand is skyrocketing in the U.S. as families across the country look to repair, remodel and build new homes. As U.S. producers remain unable to meet domestic demand, the ongoing actions of the industry, resulting in these unwarranted tariffs, will ultimately further hurt American consumers by adding to their costs.”

She called on the U.S. industry to end its decades-long campaign alleging Canadian lumber is unfairly subsidized and instead work with Canada to meet demand for the “low-carbon wood products” the world wants.

In a separate news release, Jason Brochu, U.S. Lumber Coalition co-chair, applauded the Commerce Department’s commitment to enforce trade laws against “subsidized and unfairly traded” Canadian lumber imports.

The coalition says the U.S. industry remains open to a new U.S.-Canada softwood lumber trade agreement “if and when” Canada demonstrates it is serious about negotiations.

© 2021 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.


Small-Town Buyers Having Big-Town Investor Problems

As more urban dwellers moved to small towns with affordable home values, investors moved with them. In many smaller towns, more first-timers are losing bids to cash investors.

NEW YORK – Deep-pocketed investors are snapping up properties throughout small-town America, frustrating homebuyers who increasingly lose out to their all-cash offers.

One of those buyers is Dominic Pollock from Bethlehem, Pa. He and his fiancé have viewed more than 50 houses and made more than 20 offers on houses over nine months. But they’re constantly getting outbid, despite bidding above asking price. The couple bid $20,500 above asking price on a house this week and waived the right for a home inspection. But the result was the same. Their real estate agent received an email back from the listing agent: There were 14 bids and they had lost out again.

“There were days that I came home crying,” Brooke Terplan, Pollock’s fiancé, told The Wall Street Journal about her frustration over rejected bids and the couple’s inability to find a house before they get married. “A couple people told us that it was going to be tough,” Pollock added, “but we couldn’t even fathom what we’d walk into.”

Small-town America is seeing the same bidding wars that have become the norm for most markets. Local homebuyers find themselves increasingly up against investors, who comprise about a fifth of annual home sales nationwide.

Investors are being drawn to smaller towns because home prices and taxes tend to be lower – and the cash flow opportunities in buying properties to rent out may be greater than in the city. As a result, individual homebuyers are finding it difficult to compete. Investors often offer an all-cash sale with no inspections and may make “sight unseen” offers, and they do it quickly.

This unusual housing demand in small towns has caught local homebuyers off guard.

For example, the median list price for a house in the metro area surrounding Allentown, Pa., surged 24% in January compared to a year earlier, according to realtor.com data. Martin, Tenn., a small town 150 miles outside of Nashville, is seeing median asking prices climb 159% over the same period. In Kendallville, Ind., about 30 miles outside of Fort Wayne, prices jumped 56%.

Buyers are feeling the pressure to make quick decisions if they are to have any shot at competing against investors or other buyers. As a result, more buyers are waiving inspections in their bids and making other concessions.

“If you’re a buyer, this is the most frustrating time,” Jonathan Campbell, vice president of DLP Realty in Bethlehem, told The Wall Street Journal.

Source: “Real Estate Frenzy Overwhelms Small-Town America: ‘I Came Home Crying,’” The Wall Street Journal (May 20, 2021)

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Fed: Pandemic Laws Make Credit Scores Less Reliable

Agencies can’t ding credit scores of owners skipping monthly payments via forbearance. As a result, their scores are up 14 points; non-forbearance owners are up only 7.

NEW YORK – The Federal Reserve Bank of New York warned that credit scores – which can be used to determine if consumers qualify for a home loan, auto insurance loan or any other type of loan – may have become less reliable during the coronavirus pandemic.

Banks and financial companies use credit scores to determine a consumer’s willingness and ability to pay them back. During the pandemic, however, unemployment surged and large mortgage lenders offered forbearance options to borrowers, allowing them to delay payments for as long as 18 months.

As part of the forbearance rules, credit agencies couldn’t lower or even consider a person’s forbearance when calculating their credit score.

As a result, however, scores of homeowners who took advantage of mortgage forbearance relief saw their credit scores rise an average 14 points over the course of the pandemic, according to a new analysis by the New York Federal Reserve – a bigger jump than the seven-point increase among borrowers who didn’t take forbearance on their loans.

“Current foreclosure data and delinquency statistics drawn from credit-bureau data do not accurately give a clear indication of housing-market stresses” now, some analysts warn.

Source: Bloomberg (05/19/21) Surane, Jennifer

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Want to Thrive on TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube? 7 Tips

An Arizona agent with 427K TikTok followers says a lot of her leads come from parents who say their child saw one of her educational posts and told them about it.

SAN FRANCISCO – Arizona-based broker Allison Glutz has over 427,000 followers and 3.9 million “likes” on TikTok. She recently shared her tips for success on the platform.

Glutz says agents should consider the parents of their audience because younger people often see the content first and tell their parents about it. She says she constantly has parents contacting her because their school-age children watched one of her TikTok videos about improving their credit.

Glutz says one of the best ways to gain viewers on TikTok is to entertain and educate. She uses text boxes and bubbles to share content rather than using words in the audio feed, since many of the videos are viewed without sound.

In her descriptions, Glutz often provides additional resources for the viewer. She also uses several hashtags for each video to make it searchable and easy to link to additional videos on the site that focus on the same topic.

Glutz also uses trending audio snippets on the platform, looking for videos that can tie in with the topic she is covering.

As with any social media platform, posting consistently is the name of the game. Those who succeed using short-form video also recommend posting multiple times per day.

Source: Inman (02/24/21)

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688