Monthly Archives: October 2021

FEMA Taking Stronger Steps to Deal with Climate Change

Calling it “the crisis of this generation,” FEMA created a single unified agency to ensure all department decisions and actions address the threat of a changing climate.

WASHINGTON – The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) says it will boost efforts to confront a changing climate. It announced two key initiatives with that in mind, a Climate Adaptation Enterprise Steering Group and its stakeholder engagement process established to help develop the agency’s 2022-2026 Strategic Plan.

“Climate change is the crisis of this generation. Combating it, requires mitigating future risks and reducing impacts,” says FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. “In partnership with federal science agencies, we are analyzing how climate change will increase the frequency and severity across all hazards.”

FEMA says the Climate Adaption Enterprise Steering Group will be a unified agency addressing the impacts of climate change across all its programs and operations. It’s co-chaired by leadership from FEMA’s Office of Response and Recovery, Office of Resilience and FEMA Regions.

FEMA says it will also step up internal processes to “increase climate literacy among emergency managers, build climate resilient communities and empower risk-informed decision making, all with a whole-of-community approach.”

Additional resilience measures FEMA says it adopted

FEMA says it continues to develop initiatives to respond climate crisis through its existing authorities and responsibilities:

  • FEMA’s National Risk Index, which uses sea-level-rise data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to provide an easy-to-use tool for identifying locations most at risk for 18 natural hazards.
  • Funding opportunities to prepare communities for extreme weather events through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance grant programs. The grants include $1 billion for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, as well as $160 million for the Flood Mitigation Assistance grant program.
  • Expanding funding to advance mitigation. More than $5 billion in is available to states and communities.
  • Implementing the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard for all federal investments. FEMA issued an interim policy for requirements involving structures, partially implementing the standard.
  • Funding mitigation through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program. The program helps homeowners rebuild disaster-damaged homes to make them better able to face the next disaster.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


It’s Not Final, but Infrastructure Bill Seems Good for Real Estate

NAR says the deal that appears close to finalization includes many real estate goals it wanted, including $150B for affordable housing and keeping like-kind exchanges.

WASHINGTON – Congressional leaders released a long-awaited framework Thursday for President Joe Biden’s signature Build Back Better plan. It proposes a top-line price tag and an outline of new social programs.

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), the $1.75 trillion framework includes many Realtor® priorities, like investments in affordable housing and down-payment assistance. It also spares real estate investors from some feared taxes. Biden announced the proposal at the White House after a morning meeting at the Capitol. 

“NAR’s advocacy operation is built for crossroads moments like this one,” says Shannon McGahn, chief advocacy officer at NAR. “For the past year, we have educated lawmakers on the effects of misguided and harmful taxes on real estate and the need for affordable housing investment.”

The framework agreement is also key to unlocking a vote in the House on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan “hard” infrastructure bill, which has already passed the Senate. Progressives want a deal on the social spending plan before voting on the bipartisan bill that funds traditional infrastructure championed by NAR like roads, bridges, broadband and the power grid.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled she may bring the bipartisan infrastructure bill to a vote as soon as today. While passage is now generally expected, however, it’s not assured.

“Support for this framework and the bipartisan bill’s passage is far from certain, but this announcement shows increased momentum for the effort to get the bill to the president’s desk,” McGahn says.

Historic investment in affordable housing

The framework includes a $150 billion investment in affordable housing, a key NAR priority and focus of its advocacy efforts for the past year. Under the agreement, public housing and rental assistance would both get funding boosts. The plan would also create more than one million new affordable rental and single-family homes, and it would invest in down-payment assistance.

The White House says the down-payment assistance under the plan would allow “hundreds of thousands of first-generation homebuyers to purchase their first home and build wealth.”

The massive bill engaged many Washington lobbyists, and not all celebrated the final version as much as the real estate industry. AARP, for example, says it’s outraged because the bill “completely fails to address the high price of prescription drugs.” During bill negotiations, NAR feared the same might happen to real estate aid after reports ran in some media outlets.

In response to those possible real estate cuts, NAR CEO Bob Goldberg joined other housing leaders and key members of Congress last week near the Senate steps for a press conference, calling for the inclusion of affordable housing provisions in the final bill.

 “As a nation, we have to find ways to close the supply shortfall,” Goldberg said at the press conference. “Doing so will be particularly meaningful for lower-income households, millennials and households of color.”

“We continued to press both publicly and privately for these provisions,” McGahn says. “Affordable housing is the key to unlocking prosperity for millions of Americans currently excluded from the American Dream. This investment is critical for closing the racial homeownership gap and addressing income disparity. It opens up homeownership for first-generation and first-time buyers.”

Housing sector programs included in bill, pending further action

  • Public housing
  • Housing Trust Fund
  • HOME
  • Down-payment assistance
  • Housing vouchers
  • Minority Business Development Agency

Tax provisions spare real estate investments

Early reports suggested the plan might remove like-kind (1031) exchanges, perhaps the most feared tax change, according to NAR.

“Some of the earlier tax proposals floated would have devastated the real estate sector, which makes up nearly one-fifth of the entire economy,” McGahn says. “This framework has no 1031 like-kind exchange limits, no capital gains tax increases, no change in step-up in basis, no tax on unrealized capital gains, no increased estate tax, no carried-interest provisions and no 199A limits. The tax provision of this framework is very positive for consumers, property owner, and the real estate economy.

“We worked for more than a year to educate lawmakers on these issues and launched a targeted Call For Action on taxes,” McGahn adds. “The tax provision of this framework is testament to the effectiveness of our education campaign in Washington.”

The plan does not mention State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction relief. However, congressional leaders still support an increase in the SALT cap, and a group of bipartisan House members is still demanding a solution.

“Congressional leadership can address SALT through an amendment once a bill is under formal debate,” McGahn says. “We won’t let down our guard on SALT and are still hopeful for a solution.”

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


Get More Open House Leads: Consider It ‘a Performance’

Buyers judge agents at open houses. Agents should be sharp and well rested, and come armed with info that makes them sound like the go-to neighborhood expert.

SAN FRANCISCO – Agents should invest sufficient time and energy into open house preparations and consider them “a performance.”

Agents must be at their peak, which includes eating a healthy breakfast and avoiding partying the night before.

At the open house, agents must be the expert, not just about the house itself but also able to talk intelligently about that home’s particular neighborhood or price point, including a list of relevant comps and sales history around the house for the past five years.

For marketing the open house, agents should invest in as many signs as they can afford, and place them on all strategic corners. Alternatively, agents can pay a sign company or someone else to put the signs out at 8 a.m. and pick them up at 8 p.m.

The house itself should appeal to all the senses. For instance, agents can light a natural and subtle smelling candle, open up the windows to get fresh air, turn on lights and lamps, and have bottles of cold water and healthy snacks in the kitchen.

The COVID-19 pandemic still makes many buyers uneasy with in-person open houses, so it’s essential for agents also livestream the open house on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. This calls for good lighting and ensuring clear sound. To boost this effort, agents should also arrive 30 minutes early to shoot a room-by-room video tour and post it on YouTube so potential buyers to access the tour at any time.

During the open house, agents need to read the room and make quick decisions about who to spend time with. Note: To ensure safety, a family member, friend or fellow agent should be told that the agent is hosting an open house.

Finally, agents with new leads should follow up soon after the open house – but no later than the next morning.

Source: Inman (10/19/21) Brown, Danny

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


Why Is Fall a Big Opportunity for Buyers?

Several signs suggest it may be a good time to buy. Competition has cooled, listings receive fewer offers, and about 1/3 of metros have seen an uptick in new listings.

NEW YORK – The housing market has been fiercely competitive over the last few months, but hopeful buyers who keep getting shut out may soon find better luck. Several signs to a potential opening to buy this fall, housing analysts say.

For one, competition reportedly cooled and listings receive fewer offers. In September, Redfin reported that bidding wars among its agents reached their lowest level this year.

Also, more listings are coming to market, offering buyers more choices. A recent realtor.com report shows housing inventory at a high for 2021 – and nearly one-third of the 50 largest metros saw increases in the number of newly listed homes compared to last year.

“This September, buyers had more options than they’ve had all year, and while that’s typical of early fall, that’s not what happened in 2020,” says Danielle Hale, realtor.com’s chief economist. “Still, it’s important to remember that while buyers may have an easier time this fall than they did in the spring, the market remains more competitive than it has been historically at this time of year.”

There are still fewer homes for sale than a year ago, and less than half as many as two years ago before the pandemic, Hale says.

Hopeful buyers should watch “days on the market” to indicate it’s a good time to buy in their area – and they should compare days on market to all local neighborhoods, cities and metro areas, says Terri Robinson, a real estate professional with RE/MAX Distinctive in Ashburn, Va. “If things are staying on the market a little longer versus staying for a couple of days, then it might be time for [buyers] to get back in the market,” Robinson says.

Robinson says home inspectors are also reporting that the demand for walk-and-talks is lessening. A walk-and-talk is an abbreviated home inspection completed while a potential buyer views the property. Many homebuyers have been waiving formal home inspections to try to compete in a market with multiple offers. But fewer homebuyers waiving home inspections “indicates that sellers are more amenable now to a buyer coming in and asking for a home inspection, so that’s good news for buyers,” Robinson says.

Potential buyers will never be able to wait out the market perfectly, however.

“If you’re trying to wait for the perfect time, I feel like you’re going to sit and wait forever,” Rob Heck, head of origination at the online mortgage broker Morty, told NerdWallet.

Source: “Hopeful Home Buyers: Here Are Some Signs That You Should Make Your Move,” NerdWallet (Oct. 4, 2021)

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


Borders Open Nov. 8 for the Vaccinated – But Rules Vary

NEW YORK – Thomas Rowland and his wife have spent days scouring the internet for more information on the new U.S. air travel system that goes into effect in less than two weeks.

Rowland, of Stockholm, Sweden, made plans to celebrate his birthday with a trip to Florida on Nov. 8 with his wife and 5-year-old son. The family has been planning and saving up for the trip for years, and Rowland said his son hasn’t been able to stop talking about Disney World or the beach.

But after taking a look at the fine print on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, Rowland worried that he would have to postpone the vacation.

While the new travel rules laid out by the CDC say his son would be able to forgo the vaccination requirement since he is under 18, they also say all unvaccinated travelers will need to quarantine for seven days upon arrival.

“(It’s a) two and a half week vacation, so quarantine for seven days is not an option for us,” said Rowland, adding that he and his wife are fully vaccinated. “We’re fine with that, but we would like to know and get exact, clear information. To us, it hasn’t been that clear yet.”

He’s not the only traveler who was thrown off by the quarantine requirement. Travel forums and social media sites have been filled with travelers with unvaccinated kids wondering whether they’ll need to quarantine upon arrival.

Cindy Friedman, the CDC’s chief of the traveler’s health branch, said in a Tuesday news conference that unvaccinated children under 18 traveling with vaccinated adults will not need to quarantine but would still need to take a post-arrival test. That detail has yet to be laid out on the CDC’s website.

“We’re working on clarifying that in the Order,” CDC spokesperson Caitlin Shockey told USA TODAY. “It should be up later this week.”

Come Nov. 8, nearly all unvaccinated foreign nationals are going to have a hard time entering the United States.

Nearly all. There are exceptions.

While most foreign nationals who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents will need to show proof of full vaccination before boarding a flight to the U.S., travelers who are under 18, have had an adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine, or citizens of countries with limited access to COVID-19 vaccines are among a select group that will be allowed to enter the U.S. unvaccinated.

But there are trade-offs to avoiding the vaccine requirement: Unvaccinated foreign nationals face additional testing requirements and many will need to quarantine upon arrival. Failing to do so can result in penalties and fines.

Unvaccinated foreign nationals who can bypass the vaccine requirements to enter the U.S. must provide a document that details why they are exempt. The attestation document can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Unless they have recovered from COVID-19 within the past 90 days, these travelers must agree to be tested with a COVID-19 viral test three to five days after their arrival and self-quarantine a full seven days, even if their post-arrival test comes back negative.

Friedman, a CDC official, said unvaccinated children can skip the quarantine mandate if they travel with vaccinated adults.

The U.S. will accept nucleic acid amplification tests, such as a PCR test or antigen tests. Unvaccinated travelers who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents must also agree to self-isolate if their post-arrival test is positive or if they develop COVID-19 symptoms.

“By filling out and signing the form, those excepted, unvaccinated travelers are attesting to making arrangements for post-arrival testing and self-quarantine,” Shockey told USA TODAY in an emailed statement.

Willfully falsifying this information can result in a maximum fine of $10,000 and/or up to five years of imprisonment.

Shockey said the form applies only to exempted foreign nationals entering the U.S.

Which travelers are exempt from the vaccine requirement?

Travelers under 18

Travelers under 18 do not need to be vaccinated to enter the U.S., but those 2 and older will still need to take a pre-departure coronavirus test. Children who are traveling with a fully vaccinated adult can test three days before departure, while kids traveling alone or with unvaccinated adults will need to get tested within one day of departure.

Unvaccinated children traveling with vaccinated adults do not need to quarantine, but they will need to take a second coronavirus test three to five days after arrival.

Medical contraindication to COVID-19 vaccination

History of a negative reaction to COVID-19 vaccines, such as an immediate or severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) after a previous dose or component of the COVID-19 vaccine, can exempt a traveler from the vaccine requirement.

These travelers will need to offer a signed letter from a licensed physician for airlines to review. This document can be submitted as a paper or digital copy, but must be signed and dated on official letterhead with the name, address and phone number of the physician and include details on the type of vaccine product received by the passenger and their medical condition. The letter must also include the passenger’s full name and date of birth.

The CDC says objections to the vaccination based on religious or moral convictions do not qualify for an exemption.

Airlines can require a medical consultation by a third party at their own discretion.

Which countries have limited availability to COVID-19 vaccines?

Unvaccinated travelers living in nations with limited vaccine availability can enter the country, so long as they have a passport and a nonimmigrant visa that is not a B-1 business visa or B-2 tourism visa.

As of Oct. 27, the countries the CDC considers to have limited COVID-19 vaccine availability (less than 10% of its population vaccinated):

  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Armenia
  • Benin
  • Burundi
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Congo
  • Cote d’Ivoire Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Haiti
  • Iraq
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar
  • Namibia
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Solomon Islands
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Syrian Arab Republic
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • United Republic of Tanzania
  • Vanuatu
  • Yemen
  • Zambia

Vaccine trial participants

Travelers who are participating in certain COVID-19 vaccine trials won’t have to show proof of vaccination to enter the U.S. These travelers will need to prove their involvement in the trial with official documentation, such as a clinical trial letter, participant card or modified vaccination card.

The documents must include the name of the vaccine product and the date it was received, and show that the traveler has received a full series of a non-placebo COVID-19 qualifying vaccine candidate or a vaccine emergency use listed by the World Health Organization. The trial must be in or past the third phase with one of 12 qualifying vaccine candidates:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Bharat Biotech, India
  • CanSinoBIO
  • Clover Biopharmaceuticals
  • Johnson and Johnson/Janssen
  • Moderna Biotech
  • Novavax
  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Serum Institute of India (Covishield)
  • Serum Institute of India (Covovax)
  • Sinopharm/BIBP
  • Sinovac

Humanitarian or emergency exception

Unvaccinated passengers with an official U.S. government letter saying they are exempt for humanitarian or emergency reasons can enter the country by air.

Members of the U.S. armed forces, their spouses

Unvaccinated travelers with a U.S. military identification document that shows their status as a member of the armed forces are exempt from the vaccine requirements, along with their spouses.

Sea crew members with C-1 or D visas

Airline and aircraft operators traveling under a nonimmigrant visa with an official letter from their employer showing that their trip to the U.S. is required to operate a vessel departing from a U.S. seaport will be exempt from the vaccine requirements.

U.S. national interest exemption

Travelers can be exempt from the vaccine requirements with an official U.S. government letter.

What are the exemptions to the testing requirement?

There will also be testing accommodations for travelers who can prove they recently recovered from the coronavirus. These travelers will need to show a positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before their flight’s departure and a letter from a licensed health care provider or public health official saying they are cleared for travel.

Copyright 2021, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY


Those Falling Lumber Prices? They’re Going Back Up

High prices last spring stemmed from supply problems as the industry emerged to non-pandemic operations. Now it appears to be a demand problem.

NEW YORK – High lumber prices are returning, and homebuyers should brace themselves for its impact. Lumber prices can affect not only the cost of a new home, but also many remodels, such as decks and flooring.

After peaking in the spring, lumber prices had been falling this summer, but that respite appears short-lived. In August, lumber prices bottomed out, but framing lumber is up 40% since then.

Lumber prices remain below the peak reached in May – about $1,515 per 1,000 feet, however. On Tuesday, lumber futures traded for about $735.70 per 1,000 feet, which is still more than double its pre-pandemic five-year average of around $356, National Mortgage News reports.

But housing analysts also warn that lumber prices aren’t finished climbing.

Lumber is critical for both the new-home construction process and remodeling, and builders blamed high lumber costs for price increases in the new-home market. In May, builders reported that soaring lumber prices added $36,000, on average, to the price of a new home.

This summer it looked like the new-home industry was going to catch a break when lumber prices started to plummet. However, pent-up demand refueled the market and is leading to another round of price increases, Scott Reaves, director of forecast operations at Domain Timber Advisors, told Fortune. Supply shortages are pressing on prices.

“We expect the demand for lumber to continue increasing through 2022 and beyond in response to demographically driven housing needs, which will bode well for not only lumber mills but forestland owners,” Reaves says.

Source: “Here We Go Again: Lumber Prices Shoot Up 40%,”Fortune.com (Oct. 21, 2021) and “Pricey Lumber Is Back – Boosted By Supply Cuts, Labor Shortage,” National Mortgage New (Oct. 27, 2021) [Log-in required.]

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


Condo Q&A: Is It Legal for HOAs to Have 50/50 Raffles?

Also: A condo owner lives in a 125-unit community, and was told they need a website and must post certain official records. Must they? And: An independent contractor/handyman doesn’t legally need workman’s comp insurance. Is it okay to use him?

NAPLES, Fla. – Question: My homeowner’s association is considering hosting a social event where there will be a 50/50 raffle. Basically, everyone who comes to the event will be asked to donate a specific amount and a drawing is held for a winner. Half of the collected funds go to the winner and the other half goes to the association to fund future social events. Is this legal? – S.R., Delray Beach

Answer: Unless your homeowner’s association qualifies as an “organization” under the applicable Florida law, it is illegal for your homeowner’s association to conduct a 50/50 raffle. The applicable Florida law can be found in Section 849.0935, Florida Statutes.

This law allows certain organizations to conduct raffles such as 50/50 raffles. However, the word “organization” is specifically defined as an organization which is exempt from federal income taxation such as a 501(c)(3), (4), (7), (8), (10), and (19) organization and which has a current determination letter from the IRS.

For organizations that qualify, any brochures, advertisements, notices, tickets or entry blanks used in connection with the raffle must conspicuously disclose:

  1. The rules for the drawing
  2. The full name of the charitable organization and its principal place of business
  3. The source of the funds used to award the cash prize
  4. The date, hour, and place where the winner will be chosen, and the prize awarded
  5. That no purchase or contribution is necessary

Item e. above can be tricky. While you cannot mandate that to enter the raffle you “must” pay an entry fee, you may “suggest” a minimum donation. However, legally, if someone wanted to enter for free or for less than the suggested minimum donation you must allow it.

I do not believe that your homeowner’s association would qualify under the definition of “organization” under Section 849.0935, Florida Statutes. However, in order to make sure, you should consult your legal counsel or accounting professional. If it does not qualify, your homeowner’s association cannot legally conduct a 50/50 raffle.

Question: Our homeowner’s association has an Architectural Review Board, ARB. The ARB’s responsibilities include reviewing and approving or disapproving proposed architectural changes within our community. The ARB does not provide notice to the community when they meet and they do not keep any minutes of their meeting. Is this proper? – J.K., Hollywood

Answer: Chapter 720 is the Florida law that governs homeowner’s associations. Section 720.303, Florida Statutes requires board of directors’ meetings to be noticed at least 48 hours prior to the meeting, open to all members, except for limited circumstances, and that minutes must be kept of all the board actions at the meeting.

These same requirements apply to any committee or other similar body vested with the power to approve or disapprove architectural decisions with respect to a specific lot in a community. This means that your community’s ARB is required to notice its meetings, keep it open to all members of the community and to keep minutes of its decisions.

Question: Our condominium has 125 units. We are being told that we must have an association website and are required to post certain official records on it. Is this true? – S.S, Plantation

Answer: No that is not true. Florida Statute 718.111(12)(g) provides that an association managing a condominium with 150 or more units must have a website and post certain documents on it.

Since your condominium is less that 150 units you are not required by law to maintain a website. Note that there is no website requirement for cooperatives of homeowners associations.

Question: Our association has a handyman that we regularly use as an independent contractor. It is only him and sometimes a helper. He does not have workers compensation insurance as he is legally exempt from being required to carry it.

Our management company is telling us we should not use this person if he is not insured. Our association has its own workers compensation insurance and general liability so I am not sure I understand the problem. What is your opinion on this topic? – A.C., Fort Lauderdale

Answer: Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee’s right to sue his or her employer for the tort of negligence. So, workers compensations protect the employer not the association directly.

If an accident occurs you have general liability insurance to cover the association, and if the person somehow could prove he was an employee of the association, that is what the association’s workers compensation is for.

The downside of the employer not having worker’s compensation is that if the employee gets hurt and the employer is not well financed, the injured person will only have one entity to sue, the association.

If the employer has workers compensation, then some of the liability can be laid off on the employer and presumably less on the association. But another real problem is that if the handyman causes damage to the association property or injures someone, he has no general liability insurance to pay for it.

For those reasons, we do not recommend the association hire persons without worker’s comp., even if not legally required, and certainly not without general liability coverage.

The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, or any of our attorneys. Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.

© 2021 Journal Media Group. John C. Goede, Esq., is partner of the law firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross.


Condo Q&A: Lots of Questions About Committee Hearings

Also: The board passed a motion to do something and the meeting adjourned. Now a board member wants to cancel. How can this be done?

NAPLES, Fla. – Question: I have several points – eight are listed – to ask that pertain to rules about the fining/suspension committee hearings.

Question 1: Can the owner who appears before the hearing committee bring a witness or their attorney to the hearing?

Answer: Yes. Within reason. They should not be allowed to parade in 10 witnesses. You should allow them to bring an attorney, but if they have not given you notice of doing so, the committee should consider postponing the hearing so the homeowners association (HOA) can decide whether or not to have its attorney attend. So, I would suggest you add some type of “pre-hearing” rules to the fining committee hearing notice that if the owner is intending to bring an attorney, they need to tell you in advance otherwise the attorney will be excluded.

Question 2: If not, can such people be excluded?

Answer: The only people legally entitled to attend would be the owner and other owners as witnesses. All others including an attorney could be excluded, but I would allow the attorney as long as you were notified in advance.

Question 3: If they are permitted, must they be allowed to speak?

Answer: The owner accused of a violation should be given a reasonable amount of time to present their defense. So yes, you should allow their witnesses to speak.

Question 4: Am I correct that the committee does not have to defend or justify the board’s action to the owner?

Answer: Correct. The only role of the committee is to listen to the evidence from both sides and determine if the board’s imposition of a fine was valid or invalid based on if the violation occurred or did not occur, and if the owner has a valid defense, such as – “Yes I did leave my garbage can out for three days but that was because I was in the hospital following a car accident.” In that case, the committee could decide that the violation was not intentional and there is a valid reason not to impose the fine.

Question 5: And, they do not have to answer questions. They only need to listen to the owner and consider the owner’s comments?

Answer: Correct. But the committee can ask questions.

Question 6: Their role is to approve or disapprove the board’s sanction.

Answer: Correct.

Question 7: They do not have to deliberate, decide and advise the owner of their decision at the hearing?

Answer: This depends on how your governing documents address committees. The statutes do not expressly require the committee to deliberate at the open meeting. But depending on whether you are a condominium association or homeowners association and what your particular governing documents provide, you may have to do so.

Question 8: Last, am I correct that the hearing committee’s decision is not subject to appeal by the owner? The board does not have to agree to an appeal. The committee’s decision is the final word?

Answer: Correct. There is no statutory right of appeal of the committee’s decision. The fining/suspension committee is essentially the appeal. It is an appeal of the board’s decision.

Question: Our board passed a motion to do something. The motion passed and the meeting was adjourned. Now someone on the board wants to cancel the action for which the motion was made and passed. How can this be done? – R.I., Treasure Coast

Answer: There are two different ways to do this but, in your case, both must be made at another proper board meeting since the first motion passed and that meeting was adjourned. If the meeting was not adjourned, then the following motions can be made at the same meeting before it adjourns.

The first way: A “motion to reconsider” is a two-step process allows the original motion to be voted on again exactly as originally presented at the first meeting. To do this you must do the following four steps to complete:

  1. Someone that voted “in favor” of the original motion must make a “motion to reconsider” the first motion. Someone that voted “no” on the first motion cannot make the “motion to reconsider.”
  2. The “motion to reconsider” can be seconded by anyone.
  3. The “motion to reconsider” must pass by a majority vote.
  4. Then, the original motion made at the prior meeting that passed is back on the table exactly as it was made the first time. Then, it is voted on and can be passed again or voted down by a majority of those at the meeting.

Or a second way: A “motion to rescind” the original motion, requires two steps:

  1. Anyone can make a “motion to rescind” the prior motion.
  2. The vote on the “motion to rescind” must pass by a two-to-three vote in favor of those at the meeting.

The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross or any of our attorneys. Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.

© 2021 Journal Media Group. Richard D. DeBoest II, Esq., is partner of the law firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross.


NAR: Sept. Pending Home Sales Drop 2.3%

Chief Economist Yun: The overall market is still running comfortably ahead of pre-pandemic levels, and the drop is a sign of a “calmer home price trend.” However, there will continue to be less inventory through the end of the year – a normal fall drop following the summer months.

WASHINGTON – Pending home sales dipped in September after an increase in August, just one month before. Each of the four major regions the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) tracks for the report saw fewer sales month-over-month and year-over-year.

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) – a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings – decreased 2.3% to 116.7 in September. Year-over-year, signings decreased 8.0%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

“Contract transactions slowed a bit in September and are showing signs of a calmer home price trend, as the market is running comfortably ahead of pre-pandemic activity,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “It’s worth noting that there will be less inventory until the end of the year compared to the summer months, which happens nearly every year.

“Some potential buyers have momentarily paused their home search with intentions to resume in 2022,” Yun adds.

While housing supply remains low, Yun expects inventory to turn a corner in 2022.

“Rents have been mounting solidly of late with falling rental vacancy rates,” Yun says. “This could lead to more renters seeking homeownership in order to avoid the rising inflation, so an increase in inventory will be welcomed.”

Once all home sale data has been tabulated by year’s end, NAR expects home sales to have risen by 6.4% in 2021. In its projection for 2022, NAR now projects sales to decline by 1.7% due to higher anticipated mortgage rates. Yun says home prices will moderate, and prices will rise only 2.8% in 2022 after a double-digit price gain of 14.7% this year.

September pending sales regional breakdown: Month-over-month, the Northeast PHSI fell 3.2% to 93.1 in September, an 18.5% decline from a year ago. In the Midwest, the index dropped 3.5% to 111.4 last month, down 5.8% from September 2020.

Pending home sales transactions in the South decreased 1.8% to an index of 139.1, down 5.8% from September 2020. The index in the West declined 1.4% in September to 105.3, down 7.2% from a year prior.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


Mortgage Rates Continue Heading North, Hit 3.14%

After floating in a just-below 3% range for months, mortgage rates headed higher for the past two weeks. The likely reason: Increased optimism and a drop in COVID cases.

MCLEAN, Va. – The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.14% this week, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey. For months, the average rate has hovered somewhere just below or above 3%, making the last two week’s larger-than-usual increases stand out.

However, even mortgage experts have difficult predicting future rate movements based on past performance.

“The yield on the 10-year Treasury note has been trending up due to the decline in new COVID cases,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. He says that’s due to “increasing consumer optimism, as well as broadening inflation and persistent shortages.”

The result is rising mortgage rates, but “purchase demand remains firm, showing that latent purchase demand exists among consumers.”

Average mortgage rates for the week of Oct. 28, 2021

  • The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.14% with an average 0.7 point for the week, up from last week’ 3.09%. A year ago, the 30-year FRM averaged 2.81%.
  • The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.37% with an average 0.7 point, up from last week’s 2.33%. A year ago, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.32%.
  • The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.56% with an average 0.3 point, up from last week’s 2.54%. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.88%.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


Builders Seeking Alternative Materials for Faster Construction

Different supplies cost more but are cheaper than delayed closings, builders rationalize. They’re asking, “What else can I use?” for things like plywood and insulation.

NEW YORK – Builders are up against short supplies of a variety of materials needed to build homes, such as wood paneling, ceiling joists and pipes. As a result, they’re searching for substitutes to keep construction schedules on time, but the process is also adding to their costs.

Supply shortages have become a common story in the homebuilding industry over the past year. More than 90% of builders say they’ve faced a shortage of appliances, framing lumber, plywood and oriented strand board (a type of engineered wood), according to a survey from the National Association of Home Builders conducted in May. And 87% of builders cited shortages of windows and doors.

A winter storm in Texas earlier this year made the problem worse. It diminished supplies of several building materials.

That prompted Straub Construction in Shawnee, Kansas, to switch to different insulation materials for its projects after that storm made it difficult to get some types of petroleum-derived roof insulation boards. But that switch added about $20,000 to the costs for the construction of two apartment building projects they’re building. The alternative by not switching though? Wait six to nine months for the boards.

“I’ve been in the industry for 30 years and never seen anything like this,” Parker Young, president of Straub Construction, told The Wall Street Journal.

Builders are showing more willingness to pay for the substituted materials in order to try to avoid construction delays. They fear that not doing so could cost them some lost sales.

Demand for new homes has surged. Shortages of materials first started when the pandemic began and some factories temporarily shut down. Since then, factories have had a tough time catching up due to high demand, staffing shortages and other challenges.

The uncertainty of the availability of materials is challenging builders to price out homes.

“We’re just concerned that this is not going to get any better right now,” Tony Rader, vice president of National Roofing Partners in Coppell, Texas, says.

Source: “Builders Hunt for Alternatives to Materials in Short Supply,” The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 6, 2021) [Log-in required.]

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


3D Homes Going Mainstream: Lennar Building in Texas

In Austin, Lennar teamed up with ICON to build the largest community of 3D homes to date. The builder says the method will help it avoid current supply chain shortages.

AUSTIN, Texas – Printed homes are coming to a new community in Austin, Texas. Lennar, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, announced a partnership with startup ICON to build the largest community of 3D-printed homes to date.

The builder says the high-tech construction method will allow it to overcome current labor and materials shortages that have challenged the new-home construction industry over recent months.

The community will have 100 homes that are 3D-printed, which are faster to build and less expensive. The project is slated to break ground in 2022.

“Labor and material shortages are two of the biggest factors pushing the dream of homeownership out of reach for many American families,” says Eric Feder, president of LEN(x). “Lennar has always expanded the boundaries of technological innovation to keep quality homes affordable, and 3D printing is an immensely encouraging approach. We are excited to collaborate with ICON to develop solutions to emerging challenges in the coming years.”

The public has seemingly already warmed up to the idea of 3D-printed homes: 66% of more than 3,000 consumers – and 75% of millennials, in particular – say they’d consider living in a 3D-printed home, according to a survey conducted this summer by realtor.com.

Lennar says its 3D-printed homes will be as resilient and energy-efficient as any site-built home, and they’ll be built faster than conventional construction methods. ICON’s Vulcan construction system can create homes and structures up to 3,000 square feet that are built to code. ICON says that its wall system and materials are strong and longer-lasting than traditional building materials and can withstand extreme weather. It also says its products can be printed at high speeds and at scale.

Jason Ballard, ICON’s co-founder and CEO, called the 3D homes a “watershed moment in the history of community-scale development.”

“ICON exists as a response to the global housing crisis and to put our technology in service to the world,” he says. “Construction-scale 3D printing not only delivers higher-quality homes faster and more affordably, but fleets of printers can change the way that entire communities are built for the better. The United States faces a deficit of approximately 5 million new homes, so there is a profound need to swiftly increase supply without compromising quality, beauty, or sustainability.”

Source: Lennar

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


Technology Delays Hurting Offices and Other Businesses

Time to update tech equipment? Good luck finding it at a reasonable cost. It’s taking up to 120 days to deliver some types of commercial computers.

NEW YORK – Companies eager to bring employees back to the office have a problem: Delayed delivery of some office equipment could postpone those returns even more. The backlog for getting commercial desktop computers and other equipment is reportedly surging.

“We are looking at up to 120 days’ wait for some large enterprises if they have specific components required, and right now they are planning to receive devices in January and February,” Mikako Kitagawa, a research director at Gartner Inc., told The Wall Street Journal. “Generally, large corporations are desperate to find devices.”

Despite high demand, shipments of personal computers in the U.S. dropped 8.8% in preliminary third-quarter data compared to the same period in 2020, according to Gartner. Tech giants like HP Inc. report a growing backlog of unfilled orders.

Semiconductors, plastic, resin, copper and steel – all used in computer manufacturing – are in short supply. Desktops, laptops, keyboards and monitors are all affected. Manufacturers expect the supply of semiconductor chips – a product traditionally made overseas rather than in the U.S. – to remain constrained through at least mid-2022.

Factory closures in Southeast Asia, power-supply issues in China and slower production are also limiting shipments.

Source: “Return to Office Meets Supply-Chain Snarls,” The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 26, 2021) [Log-in required.]

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


Think Only Felonies Are Reported to the Division of Real Estate?

Chapter 475 oversees real estate licensees, but Fla. licensees also have other obligations under Chapter 455. It’s a growing problem for licensees called before FREC, because “I didn’t know I had to report that” doesn’t carry much weight.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Are you aware of your obligations under Chapter 455 of the Florida Statutes? Most Realtors understand they must comply with Chapter 475, but many don’t understand that there are additional compliance requirements under Chapter 455.

Having just attended the lasted FREC meeting, it’s evident that one of the most commonly misunderstood provisions under the chapter requires a licensee’s obligation to self-report to the department, within 30 days, if they’re convicted, found guilty or entered a plea of nolo contender or guilty, to a crime in any jurisdiction.

If this is new information for you and you’re called before the Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC), claiming “I didn’t know about that rule” isn’t going to help your case.

Non-compliance can result in fines and additional education requirements.

Chapter 455 details general provisions for business and professional regulation, and they apply to all types of Florida licensees. Some examples of Chapter 455 violations include:

  • Practicing or offering to practice beyond the scope they’re permitted to do under the law
  • Accepting and performing professional responsibilities the licensee knows, or has reason to know, they’re not competent to perform
  • Making or filing a report that the licensee knows to be false

Many agents are aware of the Chapter 475 requirement to report felonies, but Chapter 455.227(1)(t) expands that obligation.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) has an online form licensees can be used to comply with this self-reporting requirement. It can be found at: myfloridalicense.com/DBPR/criminal-self-reporting.

Meredith Caruso is Associate General Counsel for Florida Realtors

Note: Advice deemed accurate on date of publication

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


Duty to Cooperate: Do They Have to Call Me Back?

A listing agent told a buyer’s agent that they’d call back to follow up. But they didn’t. Is there a cooperation requirement that says an agent should always return calls and texts?

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dear Joey: We’re all extremely busy in this market, however, I recently had a situation: I contacted a listing agent who said they would follow up with me, but never actually did. Don’t we have a duty to cooperate with one another? – Busy Agent

Dear Busy Agent: As you know, the real estate profession is moving fast and very busy. However that does not eliminate the duty to cooperate per the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual. So, yes, all Realtors have a duty to cooperate with one another.

Per the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual, Article 3 states, “Realtors® shall cooperate with other brokers except when cooperation is not in the client’s best interest. The obligation to cooperate does not include the obligation to share commissions, fees or to otherwise compensate another broker.”

Moreover, Standard of Practice 3-10 states, “The duty to cooperate established in Article 3 relates to the obligation of share information on listing property, and to make property available to other brokers for showing to prospective purchasers/tenants when it is in the best interests of sellers/landlords.”

With that in mind, your unfortunate scenario of a listing agent not reaching back to you, there isn’t a direct reference that states every communication must be followed up. But if a listing agent blatantly refuses to reply to any request for communication, they could be leaving themselves open to an Article 3 violation, based on the concept of “How can we cooperate with one another without any communication from one side?”

Real estate is a relationship and networking-based business. At the end of the day, it would be in everyone’s best interest to reply to as many texts, emails or calls as you can. It is also important to note, that everyone communicates differently and some more than others may be inundated with communications regarding multiple listings, with multiple offers.

Try to be courteous to one another, as you’ve all been there before when communications get backed up. But always, remember you have a duty to cooperate and when you do – great things can happen.

Joey Sale is the Director of Local Association Services for Florida Realtors

Note: Advice deemed accurate on date of publication

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


Be on the Lookout for Fake Sellers

Scam alert: The pandemic led to an increase in online transactions, giving scammers a new window of opportunity: They’re contacting members as sellers who want to list their “home” – but it’s for a property they don’t actually own.

ORLANDO, Fla. – We’ve heard an unwelcome trend on Florida Realtors® Legal Hotline lately: people fraudulently posing as property owners. They enter into listing agreements with our members and contracts with unsuspecting buyers.

Fraud has long been an issue surrounding the sale of real property. The Statute of Frauds, which requires a contract for purchase and sale of real property be in writing and signed to be enforceable, originated in England in 1677. Florida has its own history with fraud, as people such as Charles Ponzi (whose last name is the origin of the phrase “Ponzi scheme”) sold swampland in Florida to unsuspecting purchasers in the 1920s.

Within the last few months, members have been reporting a new trend to Florida Realtors Legal Department: People sending electronic communications to brokerage firms, trying to convince them to enter into a listing agreement to sell property they don’t own.

We’re currently sifting through diverse stories to see if any trends make these fake sellers easier to spot. Please keep an eye out for any red flags so you can avoid becoming a victim of these fraudsters.

The first story we heard was reported in the newspapers, so it’s the most detailed report we have. A residential homeowner in Central Florida was staying at his family’s second home, which is located outside Florida. Some caretakers of his Central Florida home called to alert him that his locks had been changed, and that a lockbox had been placed on the front gate.

The homeowner was alarmed by this news, so he checked security footage, which showed people he didn’t know walking through his house. He quickly flew home and filed a police report. Two days later, he learned the rest of the story when a real estate licensee and photographer showed up to take listing photos. The stranger he noticed in his home on the security camera was the real estate licensee.

Someone posing as the owner had been communicating with the licensee through email and WhatsApp, and instructed the licensee to change the locks, claiming to have lost the keys. Thankfully, the owner’s intervention ensured the fraudulent listing didn’t progress beyond this point.

The rest of our reports are more second or thirdhand snippets of stories, but I’ve catalogued as many different pieces as I can, so you can be on the lookout for similar stories. Feel free to reach out to our Florida Realtors Legal Hotline with any additional examples you encounter. The more we know about these fraudsters, the better we can help our membership understand this issue and avoid becoming victims themselves.

  • A few of the fraudulent sellers provided copies of forged passports as evidence of their ownership.
  • Some provide excuses as to why they can’t provide identification. One recurring excuse blames the embassy, with a story like “I’m currently renewing my visa, so the embassy has my passport.”
  • One listing relationship with a fraudulent seller was terminated early on when the real estate licensee heard from local residents that the actual owner loved that property, so they were surprised that he would ever want to list it.
  • In one instance, a member with a real listing had to call a different brokerage firm to find out why their yard sign was already on the property. The answer, of course, is that one of their “sellers” was the actual owner, while the other was a fraudulent seller.
  • Another listing relationship progressed to the point of opening a file with a title agent. However, the title agent was able to discern that the passport provided by the alleged “owner” was fraudulent.
  • One likely fraudulent seller claimed to be a German citizen who would be traveling throughout South Africa during the term of the listing.
  • At least one of the fraudulent listings was for vacant lots owned by a person who is deceased.
  • Many of the properties listed for sale were vacant land, although we have also heard about residential and commercial properties.
  • Many of the listings seem to be for properties outside the member’s usual farming area, so they are less familiar with the local scene.
  • A number of these listings have moved to the contract stage, where the fraudulent owner is willing to e-sign an agreement and begin moving towards closing.

As you can see by these bullet points, it’s hard to pick out a consistent red flag. In some cases, the fraudster makes excuses about why they can’t provide identification. In others, they provide fake identification. Sometimes, the owner is deceased or foreign, while other times the owner is alive and well – and in one case actively trying to sell the property themselves!

We haven’t heard any confirmed stories of a fraudster who made off with someone else’s money, whether by deposit or a transaction that made it all the way through closing. That said, we’ve only been hearing these stories for a few months now, and it’s a new fact pattern for us. We will continue to monitor the situation, and any insights you can share from the field are welcome! Florida Realtors members are welcome to call our Legal Hotline Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at (407) 438-1409.

For more information, visit WINK’s website. This television station posted a newscast that outlines a number of these scam attempts in Southwest Florida.

There is a similar scam that has been around for a while, and it’s worth mentioning, as a reminder. It’s the fake landlord scam. In this case, a scammer locates vacant residential property and posts a fraudulent rental listing, often on Craigslist or similar message boards. Many unsuspecting tenants have been defrauded out of deposits and advance rents delivered to fraudulent landlords, so they should always be on the lookout for red flags when renting.

Joel Maxson is Associate General Counsel for Florida Realtors

Note: Advice deemed accurate on date of publication


Updates: Florida Realtors/Florida Bar Residential & AS IS Contracts

New FR/Bar Contracts Effective Today: Nov. 1

Following a two-month education program, the Florida Realtors/Florida Bar Residential & AS IS Contracts officially changed to the updated version this morning. Still have questions? A list of tools – videos, redlines, blacklines, etc. – can be found on Florida Realtors’ website (login required).


Business Economists Less Optimistic Over Next Year’s Growth

Most economists in an annual survey agree that the U.S. economy will continue to grow next year. Two out of three predict 3%-5.9%, but 1 in 3 says only 0.1%-2.9%.

WASHINGTON (AP) – The nation’s business economists are slightly less optimistic about growth prospects over the next year, noting a number of threats ranging from higher-than-expected inflation to lingering disruptions from COVID-19 and snarled supply chains.

The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) released a new report Monday that found 66% of NABE members responding to a survey expect the economy to grow by 3% to 5.9% over the next year while 28% were less optimistic, pegging growth over the next year at a far slower 0.1% to 2.9%.

That result represented a downgrade from the previous survey in July which had found an identical 66% who believed growth would be 3% to 5.9% but 20% of those surveyed expected growth to come in at an even stronger 6% to 8.9%. In the new survey, no NABE member saw growth higher than the 3% to 5.9% range over the next year.

The NABE forecast for GDP over the next year is generally in line with the expectations of many private forecasting firms.

The government on Thursday will release its first look at economic growth, as measured by the gross domestic product, for the July-September quarter. Economists are forecasting GDP grew at an annual rate of around 3% in the third quarter, a marked slowdown from growth rates of 6.1% in the first quarter and 6.7% in the second quarter.

The slowdown has been attributed to a surge in cases from the delta variant over the summer and supply chain problems which disrupted manufacturing output in many sectors, especially auto production, and helped send consumer prices rising at the fastest pace in 13 years.

The NABE survey found 33% of those responding saw increased cost pressures as the biggest risk to their company’s outlook, followed closely by 28% of NABE survey respondents who saw the possibility of higher COVID-19 cases as the biggest threat. Twenty percent saw further problems with supply chains as the biggest threat.

On the other side, 31% of the business economists saw an improving coronavirus outlook as offering the biggest potential for stronger growth than they are forecasting, followed by 26% who saw faster improvements in the supply chain problems as offering the biggest upside potential.

The NABE survey found that 47% of the survey group indicated their companies were experiencing worker shortages, up from 39% in July. None of the NABE survey members felt these labor shortages would be resolved by the end of this year, but 36% felt the labor situation will improve in 2022 while 14% said the labor shortages would still be around in 2023 or even later.

In terms of the supply chain problems, half of those surveyed said their companies were experiencing delays or shortages in receiving materials, up from 40% in the July survey.

Two-thirds of the NABE survey group, 65%, reported that sales had increased at their firms in the third quarter, down slightly from the 66% who had reported rising sales in the second quarter.

“It is clear that the finance, insurance and real estate sectors experienced a strong third quarter according to survey respondents, while the transportation, utilities, information and communication sectors suffered the largest deterioration across the board,” said Eugenio J. Alemán, chief economist at the Energy Information Administration and the chair of the NABE business conditions survey.

The NABE survey represented responses from 91 NABE members to the survey conducted Oct. 6-14.

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


How Many Shadow Homebuyers Pulled Back Temporarily?

NEW YORK – Amber Otto hadn’t considered buying a home with any urgency until the pandemic forced her to start working out of her 630-square-foot apartment in Seattle last year.

In the past 18 months, she’s seen more than 50 homes in the $300,000 range, made offers above asking price on four of them and been shut out of several more as bidding wars drove prices out of reach. Then there was the accepted contract that fell through two weeks before closing day.

The 37-year-old Seattle resident has now decided to put her frenetic search for a home on hold and renew her apartment lease.

“I’m just exhausted, honestly,” says Otto, who designs training materials for nurses and managers at a medical center. “Being told that you can’t afford it, or you can’t compete. I mean, it’s just draining.”

As home prices continue to rise with demand far outpacing inventory, Otto is not the only one grappling with what real estate agents and experts are calling “buyer fatigue.”

In fact, the share of respondents who believe it is a bad time to buy rose to 66% in September, up from 63% a month earlier, according to the Home Purchase Sentiment Index survey by Fannie Mae released this month. Last September, only 38% of respondents thought it was a bad time to buy. The home purchase index, which is constructed from consumers’ answers to topics including whether they think that it is a good or bad time to buy or to sell a house, the direction they expect home prices and mortgage interest rates to move, and concerns about losing their jobs, is at its lowest level since last December, data shared by Fannie Mae shows.

“The September measure of consumer sentiment about homeownership may have been eroded by concerns about home prices,” says Doug Duncan, the chief economist at Fannie Mae. “While mortgage rates are low by historic standards, home prices have risen steadily.”

The median existing home price for all housing types in September reached $352,800, up 13.3% from September 2020, marking 115 straight months of year-over-year increases, according to the National Association of Realtors.

But some homebuyers are hopeful the hot market will cool.

The Fannie Mae home purchase index survey found that the percentage of respondents who say home prices will rise in the next 12 months fell to 37% from 40% while those who say mortgage rates will decline over that same period increased four percentage points, from August to September of this year.

That might explain why some buyers are hitting the brakes on their home purchase plans.

“The recent past spring buying season was extremely heated. Multiple offers automatically mean multiple losers,” says Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. “And there are people who have submitted bids four or five or 10 times and lost on every single one,” he says, adding that “some of these homebuyers are feeling dejected and taking a timeout.”

Yun believes people who have put emotional energy into searching for homes and making contract bids are serious buyers.

“So even if they say they are taking a timeout, they’re constantly looking for that inventory to show up,” he says. “They’re looking at the mortgage rate and waiting for a better market condition to buy.”

Nish Shah and his wife, Niyati, who live in a townhome in Old Bridge, New Jersey, started looking for single-family homes in 2019, scouting various towns and paying particular attention to highly ranked school districts for their two children, ages 9 and 5.

By the time they had homed in on a couple of towns, including Westfield and Summit, the pandemic had supercharged the housing market in the area. But with the two children learning remotely at home and his wife working part time, Shah says their need for a single-family home became a priority.

“I was constantly going from one room to a basement, to other rooms to take my calls,” says Shah, a partner at EY. “It became very clear that I needed a working space.”

What followed was a rude awakening. The Shahs, who are looking for a home in the $1.4 million to $1.7 million range, found that the houses they’d seen just months before the pandemic were suddenly selling for $200,000 to $400,000 more. The exodus of people from New York City to the suburbs looking for more space has driven up property values in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

“It’s the same neighborhood, similar houses. There’s no difference outside the pandemic,” says Shah. “I keep asking myself, ‘Is this here to stay, or should I wait until this bubble bursts?’ he says. “To pay 30%, 35%, 40% more than what the price was just two years back is a very, very difficult decision to make.”

After losing multiple bids, Shah offered $1.75 million for a home listed for $1.675 million.

He lost the bid. The house was sold for $1.825 million.

The frenzied pace of home sales and the lack of room for negotiations were sources of anxiety. Since August, Shah says he stopped looking aggressively.

“My wife and I still talk about homes we wish we could have gotten,” he says.

When Sammy Arroyo put her house on the market in San Antonio after a breakup with her partner this summer, she said she couldn’t believe the offers pouring in.

“We had six offers on the first day,” says Arroyo, who works as a paralegal.

Eager to close that personal chapter of her life, Arroyo picked the offer that was most over asking.

But finding a place of her own would prove daunting. After seeing close to 15 homes in the past four months and being outbid on six, including one where she offered $15,000 above asking, Arroyo says she’s weary.

“I don’t want it to be like 2008 when the housing bubble burst,” she says. “This is very stressful for me.”

She’s now planning to put her house-hunting efforts on hold until next spring when she hopes there will be more inventory.

“I am just waiting to see if the market changes,” she says.

The average price of a home in San Antonio rose by 15% from September 2020 to September 2021, according to the San Antonio Board of Realtors. Liza King, the real estate agent who has been helping Arroyo, says the city is at 1.2 months’ supply of single-family homes.

“Anything below four months is a sellers’ market,” she says. “We are having 10, 20, 30 offers on each of the homes that are coming on the market.”

Otto, of Seattle, was all set to move into her new home. But two weeks before the closing, the seller told her he couldn’t kick out the tenant because of Seattle’s eviction moratorium, which is still in effect.

“I can’t afford to buy a house and not live there,” she says.

The furniture she’d ordered arrived and was sitting in unopened packages around her small apartment.

“I’ve got two 24-foot monitors and my computer desk fits in between my couch and my kitchen,” says Otto. “It’s two steps to the kitchen and two steps to the couch. It’s basically here in my face all the time.”

Copyright 2021, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY


HUD Settles Case Alleging ‘National Origin’ Discrimination

HUD’s complaint focused on a Phoenix-area renter who said their landlord didn’t provide needed language services. The owner will pay $34K and update procedures.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it reached a Conciliation Agreement/Voluntary Compliance Agreement with MGM Investment Company, the owner of Roosevelt Plaza Apartments in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as its property manager, resolving allegations that they violated the Fair Housing Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to HUD, the group “failed to provide adequate language services for a resident with limited English proficiency (LEP).” Roosevelt Plaza Apartments receives funding from HUD.

Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (and Supreme Court in Lau v. Nichols), financial assistance recipients must take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by limited English proficient (LEP) persons.

When it considers “meaningful access,” HUD often considers whether a provider offered any reasonable alternatives before it pursues a case.

“Having access to important information related to federally-financed housing, such as details about application procedures and the terms of lease agreements, shouldn’t depend on being fluent in English,” says Demetria McCain, HUD’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Title VI requires housing providers to make this information available to all applicants and tenants, regardless of what language they speak, and HUD is committed to ensuring that they meet that obligation.”

The case came to HUD’s attention when a woman from Chad with limited English proficiency filed a complaint alleging that the owner and manager of Roosevelt Plaza Apartments, where she and her daughter live, failed to provide her with the language services she needed to make informed decisions about her housing. The woman also alleged that respondents insisted that she sign English-language housing documents when she cannot adequately speak or read English.

Under the Agreement, MGM Investment Company will pay the woman $1,000 and each household with limited English proficiency $500, up to a total compensation of $34,000. It will provide interpretation services, and ensure that signage – in English, Somali, Arabic, Kinyarwanda, Tigrinya and Spanish – states that interpretation services are available to current and prospective residents, free of charge, and post it at the property’s entrances. It will also develop and implement a language access plan to provide translated documents and have its employees attend fair housing training.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


Will More Closings Fail and Buyers Lose Deposits?

In 5 days, new FR/Bar contract versions will be released. Are you ready? Florida Realtors Legal Hotline already expects calls from members who didn’t prepare.

A detailed look at the 2021 changes to the Florida Realtors/Florida Bar Residential Contract for Sale and Purchase, the “AS IS” version and 10 Riders.

ORLANDO, Fla. – In just a few days – Nov. 1, 2021 – major updates to the Florida Realtors/Florida Bar Residential & AS IS Contracts go into effect, and the old versions won’t be accessible via Form Simplicity any longer. In addition, seven Riders have been updated and three new Riders created. The latest version will appear through Form Simplicity and other licensed vendors.

Contract changes are both large and small, but updates to Financing Paragraph 8(b) could create major problems for Realtors who don’t understand the changes.

A worst-case yet possible scenario: A buyer misses key deadlines, loses their dream home, and doesn’t even get their deposit back.

Florida Realtors’ website has a page dedicated to explaining the updates. It includes redlines (old forms with changes noted) and blacklines (versions of the forms debuting Monday), links to webinars and PowerPoint presentations.

Prepare now. If you wait for Monday, it might be too late.

Questions? Call Florida Realtors Legal Hotline.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


Coalition Pushing FHFA to Fund More Affordable Housing

20 housing groups want more out of Fannie and Freddie’s “Duty to Serve” regulation – specifically more funding for manufactured, rural and affordable housing.

WASHINGTON – In the face of a mounting housing affordability crisis exacerbated by COVID-19, 20 affordable housing organizations are urging the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) to substantially improve their “Duty to Serve” proposals before a regulator approves them.

Under the Duty to Serve regulation, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must facilitate housing opportunities in three areas: manufactured housing, affordable housing preservation, and rural housing. The Enterprises submitted mandatory three-year plans for how they will comply in May 2021.

“Amid a housing affordability crisis that requires bold and aggressive action, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have set forth plans that fail to effectively reach those not served or not served well by the conventional mortgage market.” The organizations, known as the Underserved Mortgage Markets Coalition, wrote a letter to FHFA Acting Director Sandra L. Thompson.

The coalition says it wants FHFA to make regulatory changes to enable Duty to Serve to function as intended and reach underserved mortgage markets more effectively. At the same time, it supports FHFA’s initiative that requires Fannie and Freddie to create plans to reduce racial or ethnic homeownership gaps and reinvest in formerly redlined neighborhoods.

“Solving our housing affordability crisis requires multiple actions by all levels of government and the private sector, and an invigorated role for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is one of them,” says George W. “Mac” McCarthy, president of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, convener of the coalition. “The Underserved Mortgage Markets Coalition seeks to hold Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac accountable and uphold their founding purpose: to bring housing finance opportunities to American families not traditionally served by the private market.”

The coalition says it will use a new tracking tool to closely monitor the performance of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac related to Duty to Serve and racial equity. It’s also conducting in-depth research to compare the Enterprises’ performance to the broader U.S. mortgage market, so it’s easier for outside experts to assess how well they’re serving their public mission.

“The coalition seeks to work constructively with the FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to meet the urgent needs of millions of Americans who are locked out of the opportunities that come with safe, stable, and affordable housing,” adds Dr. Akilah Watkins, president and CEO of the Center for Community Progress, a member of the coalition.

Members of the Underserved Mortgage Markets Coalition

  • Center for Community Progress
  • cdcb
  • Enterprise Community Partners
  • Fahe
  • Grounded Solutions Network
  • Housing Assistance Council
  • Housing Partnership Network
  • Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
  • Local Initiatives Support Corporation
  • National Council of State Housing Agencies
  • National Community Stabilization Trust
  • National Housing Conference
  • National Housing Trust
  • NeighborWorks America
  • Next Step
  • Novogradac
  • Opportunity Finance Network
  • Prosperity Now
  • RMI

© 2021 Florida Realtors®


Inflation, Fed Action Set Stage for Higher Mortgage Rates

Planned changes by the Fed will likely push mortgage rates higher – but refis will dry up, and lenders may still offer deals as they compete for homebuyers’ loans.

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Mortgage rates have hovered near all-time lows for much of this year, even as inflation has increased sharply across much of the economy. That could begin to change in the weeks to come, now that the Federal Reserve has signaled it could announce as early as next month plans to begin rolling back the measures it has taken to shore up the economy during the pandemic.

The Fed is widely expected to announce a timetable for reducing its monthly bond purchases at its next meeting in early November. Those bond purchases have helped keep mortgage rates at ultra-low levels for much of the last 18 months.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note has risen steadily since the central bank’s last policy update in mid-September, reaching 1.64% this week. Home loan rates, which tend to track moves in the 10-year Treasury yield, have also moved higher.

The average rate for a 30-year mortgage climbed to 3.09% this week, the highest level since April, when it peaked at 3.18%, according to Freddie Mac.

Signals from the Fed and signs that inflation remains pervasive set the stage for mortgage rates to move even higher in coming months, economists say.

“The biggest influence is that the Federal Reserve is poised to start dialing back their bond purchases as soon as next month,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate. “However, in the months ahead, inflation will likely be the single biggest determinant of what happens with mortgage rates. Whether or not they go higher, and if so, how much higher.”

McBride expects that long-term mortgage rates will average between 3% and 4% over the next 12 months.

That’s along the same lines as a forecast this week by the Mortgage Bankers Association, which projects the average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage to close out this year at 3.1% and then rise to 4% by the end of next year.

The National Association of Realtors also sees rates moving higher from here, reaching 3.5% by mid-2022.

“The Fed will likely raise interest rates by the middle of next year,” Nadia Evangelou, a senior economist at NAR, wrote in an inflation analysis last week. “When the Fed increases its interest rates, banks do, too. And when that happens, mortgage rates go up for borrowers.”

Last December, the Fed said that it would buy $120 billion a month in bonds until the economy had made “substantial progress” toward its goals of maximum employment and inflation that averages 2% over time. The bond purchases are intended to spur more borrowing and spending by keeping longer-term interest rates low.

The central bank has also kept its short-term benchmark rate at nearly zero, but rising inflation has turned up the pressure on the Fed to dial-back its low-interest rate policies.

The consumer price index, a key measure of inflation, climbed 5.4% in September from a year earlier, the largest increase since 2008. Inflation has historically been lower than the average rate on a 30-year mortgage. But since April, inflation has been above the average long-term mortgage rate. The last time inflation ran higher than the average rate on a 30-year home loan was August 1980, according to the Federal Reserve.

With mortgage rates coming off rock-bottom levels – the average rate on a 30-year mortgage hit an all-time low of 2.65% in the first week of January – an uptick in rates is unlikely to derail the ultra-competitive U.S. housing market. But it still means would-be homeowners will have less buying power. It also means homeowners who’ve been considering refinancing may miss their chance to lock in a lower rate.

“The lowest lows may be in the rearview mirror, but mortgage rates are still lower now than anything seen prior to the summer of 2020,” McBride said. “If you haven’t yet refinanced, do so now. The likelihood is that we’ll see higher rates, not lower rates in the months ahead.”

The volume of mortgage refinancing has slowed in recent months after surging last year. Mortgage refinancing accounted for 70.7% of home loans originated in the first three months of this year, according to the MBA. The share fell to 56% in the second quarter and 55% in the third.

The MBA projects that mortgage refinancing will fall 62% next year to $860 billion from a projected $2.26 trillion this year.

Even with higher mortgage rates, the housing market is expected to remain fiercely competitive given the shortage of homes for sale relative to demand. As such, the MBA expects mortgages for purchasing a home to increase 9% next year to a record $1.73 trillion.

One bright side for homebuyers: If demand for mortgage refinancing continues to slow, banks eager to make up for the lost revenue may be more willing to lower fees in order to woo would-be homebuyers shopping for a mortgage.

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


Paint Brick Exteriors to Be Trendy? There’s No Going Back

Refreshing old brick exteriors with paint gives a listing a new, clean look. But what if the current trend fades? Removing paint later is close to impossible.

SEATTLE – It’s trendy to paint a brick house white, and some homeowners are jumping on the bandwagon.

However, many people have strong views and believe you should never paint over original brick.

Painting a house offers a modern update to a home’s exterior and can boost curb appeal, according to a 2021 report on the exterior and interior color trends by Clever Real Estate.

“Going with a trendy color is a great way to maximize your home’s appeal – but don’t get lost in the crowd” so the home’s exterior looks the same as every other house on the block, the report notes.

Exterior color schemes usually change every 10 to 20 years. Some of the trendiest exterior colors for 2021 include whites, grays or darker slate tones, according to Consumer Reports.

To get the white-house look, homeowners are painting over their brick, and there are some advantages to doing so. Painting original brick can offer some additional benefits, notes a recent blog post at Redfin on the pros and cons of painted brick. Original brick can deteriorate over time and trap water within the pores. Paint can lock that moisture out.

Painted brick can also be easy to maintain, simply by using a hose to remove dirt and debris. Note: Pressure washing could damage the paint.

But the biggest con to carefully consider before painting the brick?

“Getting back to the look of the original brick is nearly impossible once it is painted,” Redfin’s blog post warns. “Not only is it difficult to retrieve the authentic look, but painting with the wrong paint can trap existing moisture and cause damage.” The home will likely never be restored to how it looked before.

Also, unpainted brick is relatively maintenance free, but after a few years, paint will begin to peel. Homeowners who sign onto the white-house trend will likely need to apply a new application every three to five years.

Source: “Painting Brick: To Paint or Not to Paint Your Home,” Redfin Blog (Oct. 20, 2021) and “Best Colors to Sell a House,” Clever Real Estate (Aug. 13, 2021)

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


Judge Rejects COVID-19 Property Rights Case

In Walton County, commissioners shut down beaches during the pandemic, including private ones. Homeowners sued claiming they deserve compensation, but a judge said no.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In a dispute that started after a Northwest Florida county temporarily closed beaches early in the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal judge ruled against waterfront property owners who contended that they should receive compensation.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a 19-page decision rejecting arguments that moves by the Walton County Commission to close beaches in spring 2020 resulted in an unconstitutional “taking” of property. The lawsuit focused on people being unable to use areas of the beach that they own, rather than on beaches being closed to the general public.

Hinkle wrote that the plaintiffs were still able to use much of their property and that the county commission was using its “police power in a public-health emergency.”

“The bottom line is this. The Board of County Commissioners faced an escalating pandemic that posed an enormous threat to public health,” Hinkle wrote in the decision issued last week. “There was no way to know at that time how many people would die or become gravely ill and how best to minimize the number. Decisive action seemed appropriate. In closing the beaches, the county exhibited no animus toward these plaintiffs or anyone else. Instead, the commissioners exercised their best judgment, based on the limited knowledge available at the time, on how to preserve life and health.”

Hinkle also pointed to the temporary nature of the closure.

“The plaintiffs had full, unfettered, exclusive access to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches for 337 days during 2020. … That the plaintiffs’ access to part of their property was restricted for 29 days in an effort to safeguard the community was not an unconstitutional taking,” he wrote.

Beach closures were a closely watched issue early in the pandemic, as images of crowds of beachgoers, including spring breakers, flashed across the country while the numbers of COVID-19 cases began to soar.

Walton County, between Panama City and Destin, has seen a building boom in recent years, with multimillion-dollar homes popping up along its beaches.

Hinkle wrote that the Walton County Commission passed an ordinance on March 19, 2020, that prohibited members of the public from accessing beaches and followed up April 2, 2020, with a revised ordinance that applied to all people. Beaches reopened May 1, 2020, and have remained open since then.

Under Florida law, privately owned beach property generally extends to a point known as the mean high-water line. Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit also cited property owners’ “littoral” rights, which provide access to the water.

In a court document filed last year arguing for summary judgment, the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote that “for 29 days the plaintiffs were prohibited, under threat of arrest, from entering their own private property (i.e., their backyards).”

“This (April 2, 2020) ordinance was not designed to reduce transmission of COVID-19 on this private land but rather was designed to make enforcement of the County’s public-beach closure easier,” the document said. “Because Walton County deprived the plaintiffs of every strand in their bundle of property rights while the ordinance was in effect, the plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment as to all counts of the complaint.”

Source: News Service of Florida


More Buyers Adding ‘Inclusive Community’ to Their Lists

Recently aware that some communities have historically been one race or another, an increased number of buyers are adding “racially diverse neighborhood” to their list of must-haves. But that doesn’t always help lower-income neighborhoods if it causes gentrification and rising home prices.

NEW YORK – More homebuyers and renters across the United States are looking for socially, racially and culturally diverse communities to live in. Developers are responding to this by formulating strategies to list more-inclusive properties on the market, like combining affordable units with market-rate homes, adding space for resident services and incorporating neighborhoods in planning.

Others aim to soften the negative effects of gentrification, with California-based architecture firm Studio One Eleven spurning any projects that directly displace existing residents from a neighborhood.

“Developers – for profit, market rate or mixed income – are thinking deeply about issues of social equity and doing the best they can to address some of these broader societal issues we’re all talking about,” says the Urban Land Institute’s Rachel MacCleery.

These strategies align with the changing makeup of the American population, characterized by more people identifying as multiracial and more mixed marriages.

Maryland-based Urban Atlantic is developing a mixed-income community for both affluent and low-income residents in Washington, D.C., in partnership with Houston-based Hines and Washington-based Triden Development.

Real-estate companies say projects with social benefits also boast economic incentives, including tax rebates.

Still, in a 2020 Urban Land Institute survey, many real estate professionals are reluctant to include social considerations in planning new projects, citing higher costs, few implementation strategies and limited time or capacity.

Source: Wall Street Journal (10/13/21) Rohwedder, Cecilie

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


Fla. Climate Change: Days Aren’t Getting Hotter – Nights Are

ORLANDO, Fla. – Low temperatures in Vero Beach and Fort Pierce were 1.5 degrees above normal this summer, continuing a statewide pattern of rising overnight lows that’s increasing cooling bills, changing the way food tastes, and harming human health.

“Across the state of Florida, we’ve seen a very significant warming trend, especially over the last 10 years,” Florida’s state climatologist David Zierden said.

Meteorologist Derrick Weitlich has kept a list of daily weather records set in East Central Florida since 2015. By his count, 807 warm overnight low records were broken from 2015 to 2020 at sites from Orlando to Daytona Beach to Fort Pierce. That’s more than double the number of maximum temperature records, 361, broken in the same timeframe.

“Pronounced warmer-than-normal conditions have largely dominated the weather pattern across the area since (2015), with annual average temperatures from 2015 onward ranking in the top 10 warmest for most sites across East Central Florida,” said Weitlich, who leads the Climate Program at the National Weather Service in Melbourne.

At the weather station at the Daytona Beach International Airport, the average summertime overnight low has risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1960s, according to an analysis by The New York Times. The percentage of abnormally hot nights has climbed from 5% to 26% in the same timeframe.

Zierden said there are four mechanisms combining to produce this effect:

  1. At nighttime, the boundary layer of the atmosphere, which is closest to the earth, grows more stable. Because of urbanization and development, the land absorbs more heat during the day, but when it’s released at night, the atmosphere is less prone to mixing.
  2. The atmosphere is becoming more humid, especially over Florida. A more humid atmosphere is similarly less efficient at radiating heat.
  3. Warmer coastal waters lead to warmer overnight temperatures and both the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean have seen their surface temperatures rise.
  4. The whole global climate is warming, up 1 degree Celsius since the mid-1800s.

What is the effect of increased overnight low temperatures?

Zierden said there are a number of downstream impacts, from ecological ripples to increased energy use and cooling costs.

The associated stresses, both physiological and psychological, can pose risks to human health, according to Sarah Lindley McKune, a research assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Department of Environmental and Global Health and the Center for African Studies.

“While two degrees may feel inconsequential in some ways, it is not,” McKune wrote in an email. “Specifically, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and renal disease can be negatively affected by these hot nights.”

Those health risks disproportionately impact vulnerable populations, she noted, saying the inequities must be addressed.

“Certainly, populations in low-income areas may be less likely to have air conditioning, or be in less well-ventilated or screened areas,” McKune said, which increases the risk for mosquito-borne illnesses. “In addition to income, there are also age differences in risk, with both the elderly and children being at increased risk for poor health outcomes following hot nights.”

Zierden added there have been some studies linking extreme heat at night to negative prenatal health outcomes, such as premature labor.

A warming pattern was evident in spring, when average overnight lows were 1.2 degrees above normal in Fort Pierce and 0.7 degrees higher in Vero Beach. Winter and fall were about normal, with a 0.3 degree increase detected in Fort Pierce for both seasons, while Vero Beach had a slight 0.4 decrease for each. Information was not available for Stuart.

Zierden said it’s contributing to the spread of invasive species, the posterchildren of which are iguanas and pythons, which are making a northward march.

“We haven’t had a very cold winter in a number of years, so the range of these iguanas are spreading farther and farther north,” he said. “Natural species like mangroves are doing the same, so changing temperatures are having a negative impact on the ecology of the state.”

There are also agricultural impacts in a state that produces well over $7 billion worth of farmed goods annually. Zierden said elevated temperatures can affect livestock’s ability to cool down at night, whether that’s with cattle out in the field or chickens in a coop.

Volusia County Resource Stewardship Director Brad Burbaugh said they’ve seen good and bad. On one hand, a warmer climate means there’s less frost damage, improved winter growth and earlier planting.

“It also means increased heat stress on crops, elevated pest and disease pressure, and potentially increased water use. Our local farmers are protecting against these negative impacts by adopting new varieties that are suited to the warmer weather, offer improved pest and disease resistance, and moving towards more efficient watering systems like drip or micro-irrigation,” he said in an email.

Volusia County Farm Bureau Executive Director Steve Crump said higher low temperatures have been the only climate change impact he’s noticed in his 25 years of farming. He spoke at a panel this summer that Burbuaugh hosted as part of a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension “Climate Smart Floridians” program.

“I’ve always traditionally been worried about weather impacts. Is it going to rain today? Is it going to rain this week? Is it going to freeze in December?” said Crump, who farms citrus and vegetables. “I really haven’t thought about climate change impact – other than, the winters seem to be warmer and I’m no longer nearly as concerned about freezing temperatures as I was at the start of my career 25 years ago.”

University of Florida horticulture extension agent Karen Stauderman said at her farm, she hardly ever has to turn the water on anymore to freeze protect her crops. She said the grapes don’t need it, but the strawberries do if there’s a frost.

Climate change means the varietals are changing, and so too is the taste.

“In Florida, cooler weather makes the berries sweeter,” Stauderman said at the same panel. “I would say the berries aren’t really that sweet. They’re sweet after a cold snap.”

She said the UF/IFAS Extension office is bringing in an intriguing array of new crops to Central and North Florida, including pomegranates, olives, macadamias, coffee, and finger limes.

“The crops we are getting now are from more semitropical areas,” she said.

The Volusia Forever program, which has used property taxes to conserve 38,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land in the past two decades, is one strategy for mitigating rising temperatures, Burbaugh noted.

“Land conservation is a smart growth strategy because preserving ecosystems can help steer urbanization to existing infrastructure; as such, it prevents greenhouse gas emissions that would result from urbanization. Additionally, by conserving our natural landscapes we are providing natural carbon sinks which can efficiently absorb greenhouse gases,” Burbaugh said.

Zierden said the only way to stop things from getting far worse is to address the root of climate change: carbon emissions.

“Globally and realistically, the goal is to slow down or halt the progression of climate change. In order to do that, we have to drastically reduce our carbon emissions. That’s just to stabilize things,” he said. “It all depends on that. As of now emissions are still rising.”

Emissions are on track to hit a record high worldwide in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency.

“These rising temperatures are something we have to live with at least for the foreseeable future,” Zierden said.

© 2021 Journal Media Group. TCPalm staff writer Lamaur Stancil contributed to this report.


The Latest Buzz in Multifamily? Biophilic Design

Biophilic design attempts to bring a suburban atmosphere into urban cores. The main tool? Plants – and lots of them, often incorporated into a building’s design.

NEW YORK – High-rise apartments are getting in touch with nature. Living on the 40th or 45th floor, for example, can make tenants feel far away from it – and since the pandemic, apartment dwellers are craving closer ties to greenery. In response, more plants are coming to rooftops, lobbies and balconies.

The Wardian London development in London features two newly built towers of 50 and 55 stories that have greenery cascading over each balcony. The lobby contains 100 different species of exotic plants from all across the globe. The swimming pool is lined with palm trees.

During pandemic lockdowns, Kenny Yeo, 32, told The Wall Street Journal that he felt “almost a desperate need to reconnect to nature, and having all the plants in the building is very calming and relaxing.” In his previous apartment, he did not have any greenery. Now, he has about 16 different types of plants.

Renters and homeowners alike are embracing biophilic design – the integration of natural elements into everyday living spaces. Features may include plantings and greenery, outdoor space, large windows and natural ventilation.

“It is about making our buildings more symbiotic with nature,” Mat Cash, a partner at Heatherwick Studio, the British company that designed the Eden development in Singapore, says. Each of Eden’s balconies is filled with tropical plants. “There is a human desire for the restorative and calming benefits of nature. It is something which is innate in humans. It is not just about planting but about fresh air and natural light, and even in a very hot and humid climate, natural ventilation works very, very well.”

U.S. developers also noticed the desire. The project One Beverly Hills will begin construction next year on a 17.5-acre neighborhood that centers on biophilic design principles. Two apartment buildings will contain 300 homes. Each home will have sliding glass doors that lead out to a curved terrace filled with plants. The development will also feature an 8-acre botanical garden. The development is to be completed by 2027.

“The connection to nature starts when you look out of the window,” says David Summerfield, head of the architectural studio at Foster + Partners, which has planned One Beverly Hills. “The residence lower down will look straight out onto the park, and as you go up there are huge terraces. It is almost like the park is coming up the building and into your apartment.”

Optima Inc. has been adding biophilic design principles to its communities for more than 40 years. It has been offering green roofs, courtyards and gardens. A vertical landscaping system is on display at its Optima Camelview Village in Scottsdale, Ariz. Several colorful plants grow up and over the ledge of private terraces on each floor of the building.

“This system helps enhance the natural beauty of our projects by allowing a palette of vibrantly colored plants to grow up and over the edge of each private terrace on every floor of the building,” David Hovey Jr., president and COO of Optima Inc., told Multi-Housing News earlier this year.

Source: “Biophilic Design Is Helping Big-City Apartment Towers Get Back to Nature,” The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 24, 2021) [Log-in required] and “Biophilic Design Gets the Green Light in Multifamily,” Multi-Housing News (April 29, 2021)

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


Millennials Worry Less About Using Their Home Equity

14% of millennials would use home equity for a vacation compared to 3% of boomers. But 64% of boomers would tap it for home improvements, compared to 49% of millennials.

NEW YORK – A recent Bankrate.com survey reveals that 14% of millennial (ages 25 to 40) mortgage holders would tap into their home equity to bankroll a vacation, compared with just 4% of Generation X (ages 41 to 56) and 3% of baby boomers (ages 57 to 75).

Additionally, 10% of millennials would pull cash from their homes to pay for non-essential purchases, such as electronics or a boat – but just 3% of Gen Xers and boomers would.

On the other hand, older generations are more willing to use equity to improve the house that generated it. While only 49% of millennials would tap equity for home improvements, 64% of Generation X and 66% of boomers consider that a reasonable use of the money.

Part of the generation gap is tied to ultra-low mortgage rates. Baby boomers lived through 30-year mortgage rates topping 18% in the early 1980s, while Gen Xers experienced rates hovering at 9% in the 1990s. Millennials barely remember 5% rates. From Jan. 1, 2010, to Jan. 1, 2020, the average rate on a 30-year loan was just above 4%.

Part of the reason also relates to a stage of life, and Gen X and boomer answers may be different if they were surveyed 30 years ago.

Experts say millennials aren’t thinking about retirement and building up their wealth. Many are focused on living their lives rather than saving for a distant future.

An additional factor: Millennials are buying in a time when home values continue to rise, with the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller home price index reporting that home values jumped 19.7% from July 2020 to July 2021 across the country. They may have difficulty imagining a world where home values don’t increase at a rapid pace, even though the Great Recession’s downward push on home values occurred just over a decade ago.

Today, according to mortgage data firm Black Knight, Americans had more than $9.1 trillion in “tappable” home equity as of mid-2021.

Source: RISMedia (10/12/21) Ostrowski, Jeff

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


Industry Leaders Go to U.S. Capitol, Advocate for Housing Money

NAR and others held a meeting and pushed for Congress to keep housing dollars in the massive infrastructure project, saying it “must stay in the reconciliation package.”

WASHINGTON – A group of housing stakeholders gathered at the U.S. Capitol, calling for “substantial investment in housing” to be part of the budget reconciliation package currently being negotiated in Congress. The group included:

  • National Association of Realtors® (NAR) CEO Bob Goldberg and representatives from the National Housing Conference (NHC)
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA)
  • National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP)
  • National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
  • National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA)
  • National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)

They were joined by members of the U.S. house, including Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown and House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters.

“Housing is fundamental to an economy that works for all,” Brown told attendees. “Democrats and President Biden understand this. Robust housing investments support families and kids, improve health outcomes and address climate change – while creating good-paying jobs. That is why these investments must stay in the reconciliation package.”

“For decades we’ve neglected our crumbling housing infrastructure. This pandemic has exposed the toll that the housing crisis is taking on families and on the stability of the U.S. economy,” added Waters. “Millions of people each day are forced to choose between keeping a roof over their head, putting food on the table, seeking medical care, investing in their children’s education, or saving for retirement. If we are serious about supporting families, children, and workers, we must understand that we cannot tackle childcare, healthcare, climate change or racial equity without addressing our nation’s affordable housing crisis. Now is the time to prioritize housing and make the robust investments needed to provide every family with a stable foundation and set our country on a better path for the future.”

Goldberg said that NAR’s 1.5 million members work across the U.S., in every zip code, with the goal to ensure a fair and equitable housing market.

“Making sure everyone has a place to call home isn’t just the foundation of our economy,” Goldberg said. “It’s the fabric of our communities, our families, and each of our lives. Today, lawmakers here in Washington have a tremendous opportunity to make lasting, meaningful changes that will increase access to safe and affordable housing throughout the U.S.”

NAHB Chairman Chuck Fowke praised Brown and Waters for “their principled stand” as advocates for housing. “Regulatory barriers, coupled with the current building material supply chain crisis, have priced thousands of hard-working American families out of housing at a time when housing demand is at an all-time high,” Fowke told the crowd. “An investment in housing will provide the best economic bang for the buck. Safe, decent and affordable rental housing provides the pathway to owning your own home, and the American Dream of homeownership can be the gateway to the middle class.”

© 2021 Florida Realtors®

Topics: NAR