Monthly Archives: February 2022

The Toughest-to-Learn Success Skill?

Technology and smart marketing decisions may attract customer interest, but agents who quickly build rapport with potential clients can land the most deals.

NEW YORK – Real estate professionals should develop a key skill – the ability to quickly build rapport, says Jimmy Burgess, chief growth officer for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida.

Burgess recommends a book by Nicholas Boothman, “How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less,” which covers topics such as listening and body language. As the world moves faster, the average person’s attention span lasts only about 30 seconds, which gives additional weight to “It’s important to make a good first impression.”

Managing time effectively is another key skill agents might find challenging to learn. Agents should develop a daily schedule that includes generating new business, managing existing business and nurturing past clients for future business. The schedule should also include time-blocking.

In addition, agents today should study video production. They need to be skilled in producing content that attracts the ideal client, as well as gain proficiency in social media marketing. Agents can experiment with different types of posts, and after amassing 30 to 40 of them, study which ones created the most engagement.

Agents also should develop self-awareness to maximize personal success, identifying what they do well to get positive results. To this end, agents can make a list of all their transactions over the past few years and break down the activity that led to each of these transactions.

Another skill: Learn how to successfully delegate lower-value activities. Many agents struggle with hiring people who can assist them with tasks that aren’t high-yielding activities.

Source: Inman (02/18/22) Burgess, Jimmy

© Copyright 2022 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Fla. Property Insurer Placed in Receivership

The Fla. Dept. of Financial Services is the receiver for St. Johns Insurance Co, which was declared insolvent. DFS hopes to move policies to Slide Insurance Co.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In another blow to the state’s troubled insurance market, a Leon County circuit judge Friday appointed the Florida Department of Financial Services as a receiver for a property-insurance company that records described as “insolvent.”

The department will liquidate the Orlando-based St. Johns Insurance Co. The department’s website said it was seeking court approval of a “transition plan” that would move policies to Slide Insurance Co., effective Tuesday.

The order Friday by Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey came two days after Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier sent a letter to state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis saying the company agreed to receivership and acknowledged that “it is insolvent.”

“The referral of this company to the (Department of Financial Services’) Division of Rehabilitation and Liquidation is the first step in a comprehensive plan to provide a seamless transition for all St. Johns Insurance Company policyholders,” Altmaier wrote.

The letter, which was attached to the petition for receivership filed in court, did not detail how many policies are involved. The information on the Department of Financial Services’ website said the court order triggered a process in which the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association and the South Carolina Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association will cover existing claims.

St. Johns Insurance sold homeowners policies in Florida and South Carolina, according to its website. The Florida Insurance Guaranty Association is a longstanding agency created to pay claims of insolvent insurers.

Dempsey’s order came less than two weeks after St. Johns Insurance notified agents that it was halting writing new business.

The Feb. 15 notice said the company had used “many strategies to manage our risks,” such as not renewing policies, using new rules for eligibility for business and making rate changes. But it said, “At this time, St. Johns Insurance has made the difficult decision to suspend all new business writing statewide as of February 15, 2022, … This closure applies to all lines of business.”

The receivership is another sign of problems in Florida’s property-insurance market, where insurers are shedding policies and seeking large rate increases because of financial troubles.

The problems have led to a surge in policies at the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which was created as an insurer of last resort but has become a dominant player in the market. As of Jan. 31, Citizens had 776,790 policies, about a 75% increase over the past two years.

Source: News Service of Florida


Some Condo Boards Refuse New Mortgage Questions

PASADENA, Calif. – Can the condo world live without mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their more affordable financing terms?

A fast-developing crisis is hitting condominium association boards and property management companies across the country tasked with filling out Draconian questions required of HOA property management companies.

In consideration of last year’s Champlain Towers condo collapse that killed 98 people, Fannie and Freddie rightfully want to know if America’s condo complexes have deferred maintenance or structural safety issues. To that end, the agencies on Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 instituted new questionnaires for certain applicants regarding the structural integrity of the condo community and whether any code violations are anticipated.

And now a questionnaire boycott of sorts is happening.

“The questionnaire is Draconian. It’s freaking out boards of directors and managers,” said Adrian Adams, founder and managing partner of law firm Adams-Sterling, who advises and represents condo boards. He said several boards have already decided “do not answer these questionnaires. They don’t even want Fannie and Freddie loans.”

Erik Rivera, president and CEO of Manhattan Pacific Management, manages 60 condo (specific) community associations. “Four to five will probably go the (Fannie, Freddie) boycott route,” Rivera said.

The condo questionnaire, it should be noted, is not applicable for certain associations, such as townhouses or planned unit developments, for example. Another exclusion is a single-family neighborhood with a community association.

Beyond the matter of righteous safety matters, other probing questions, such as, “Is the HOA/Cooperative Corporation aware of any deficiencies related to the safety, soundness, structural integrity, or habitability of the project’s building(s)?” may be legal traps, of sorts, to deflect future liability away from Fannie and Freddie.

Recently, Community Associations Institute (CAI) sent a survey to its condo and co-op boards and managers. Early results from 48 respondents indicate 36.8% of mortgage applicants in their HOAs were denied credit because of the new Fannie, Freddie questionnaire. Separately, 31.5% of borrower closings were delayed, according to survey results. Seven of the 48 HOA respondents were from California.

It’s not clear if these denials were purchase loans or refinance applicants. It’s also not clear what information provided in response to the F&F backed questionnaires caused the loan denials, according to Dawn Bauman, senior vice president of government affairs at CAI.

More than 89% of the survey respondents feared exposure to liability because the questions were beyond their knowledge and expertise. Almost 74% of respondents feared exposure to liability for not answering questions (on behalf of the mortgage applicants). From my view, the perception seems to be if the HOA representative does not answer and the lender denies the loan, then the HOA rep and others may be liable to the borrowers.

It’s very early in this new HOA questionnaire world, but Rivera already knows of one lender denial due to the way the HOA answered.

“When an engineering report is pending, for example, and we respond to the questionnaire as such TBD, sometimes that’s not good enough for the lender,” Rivera told me. “Other questions we refer the lender to the association attorney, and they don’t like that, either.”

Fan and Fred have been touting the new questionnaire as optional, not mandatory. I’ve read it on their websites, and I observed it on a webinar featuring Fannie and Freddie condo experts. And they made that claim in a Wall Street Journal article on Feb. 20.

As an alternative, Fan and Fred offer to accept underwriter assertions of several board minutes reviews, engineering report reviews and local government inspector reviews. However, there’s a fat chance any underwriter has the enormous amount of time needed to research (or the expertise) to understand these complicated matters.

And if the underwriter provides this “good to go” assertion and something was missed or was not addressed at all, then the underwriter’s employing lender may eventually be liable.

Lenders I spoke with literally laughed when I raised this Fan and Fred alternative to the HOA questionnaire.

To be fair, about 50% of the loans we run through Fannie and Freddie’s underwriting engines at my mortgage brokerage shop provide for a limited review. For many lenders, this limited review means a much shorter list of HOA questions. These limited review questions may not include the matter of deferred maintenance. But even that topic is getting murkier by the day as lenders worry about these condo safety concerns.

Mortgage lenders are in the business of making mortgages. Every lender I’ve interviewed (all off the record) about this new HOA issue is hopping mad. They complain Fannie and Freddie are providing little clarity and direction. They are leaving it to subjectivity and underwriter judgment when they receive these wonky HOA responses.

Since Fan and Fred have had a long history of making lenders buy loans back later over sometimes nonsense issues, lenders don’t trust the agencies in the abstract. So when in doubt, decline the loan. It’s simply not worth the battle or the expense of the buyback.

“Freddie Mac’s requirements are designed to help ensure residential buildings with aging infrastructure are safe for their residents and the condos and co-ops needing critical repairs have a plan to do so,” said a Freddie Mac spokesperson.

Condos typically represent the most affordable homeownership. The biggest losers in this new, temporary HOA format are folks that need more affordable housing, underserved borrowers, minority borrowers and first-time buyers.

It’s obvious the very important safety and maintenance questions could have been posed on the HOAs in a much less threatening way. Taxpayer-owned Fannie and Freddie are on the inside looking out. They think it’s their gold and it’s their rules. It’s too bad it usually takes a policy crisis for them to pay attention.

“They will likely change (these forms) this summer,” said Robert Nordlund, founder and CEO of Association Reserves who consults with Fannie and Freddie. “They are government entities. They move slowly.”

Fannie and Freddie declined to comment for this column.

© 2022 Pasadena Star-News. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc. Jeff Lazerson is a mortgage broker.


Will Sales Rise or Fall this Year? Experts Divided

Even experts don’t know what will happen. About half think rising costs and rates will deter buyers, but the other half think more listings will boost demand.

CHICAGO – An outside panel of economists and housing experts is evenly split on whether sales will rise or fall in 2022 as concerns over worsening affordability collide with expectations for rising inventory.

When asked whether sales will rise or fall in 2022 compared to 2021, 41% of participants in the latest Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey (ZHPES) said sales will grow, 41% predict a slowdown, and 18% believe sales will remain roughly the same.

There were about 6.32 million homes sold from January through November of 2021, the most sales in that time period since 2006. Of those, roughly 5.61 million were existing homes. Zillow’s own forecast calls for sales of existing homes to increase a bit in 2022, drawing on recent sales performance, household formation rates and the expectation that mortgage rates will remain relatively low, offering attractive financing for home buyers.

“In America’s frenzied pandemic-era housing market, buyers and sellers have both defied expectations: Buyers have forged on in the face of record-fast price appreciation, and homeowners have steadfastly demurred from cashing in on this selling opportunity,” said Jeff Tucker, senior economist at Zillow.

“The outlook for home sales in 2022 hinges on which side yields first. If buyers finally balk at unaffordable prices, sales volumes could fall. But if homeowners finally start listing their homes en masse, we could see a sales bonanza, cooling the pace of appreciation. Our expert survey panel was split right down the middle on which scenario to expect.”

Panelists who foresee lower sales in 2022 point to financial strains on buyers as the main driving factors. Worsening home affordability was cited by 54% of respondents as the most important reason for a sales decline, while higher mortgage rates were noted by 28%. As home values skyrocketed in 2021 up a record 19.3% year over year in November affordability saw its greatest decline since at least 2014.

Among those panelists who anticipate an uptick in sales, additional inventory is overwhelmingly cited as the key; 51% said an increase in existing homes listed for sale will be the most important factor, while 21% pointed to more new homes being completed and listed for sale. Inventory began to recover through the summer of 2021, but lost ground in the fall.

Suburban strength expected to continue

Over the past two years, home value growth in many large metros has been higher in areas with longer commutes to the downtown core, a reversal of past trends. Most ZHPES panelists believe these trends will continue in 2022, with 46% expecting growth rates in downtown to slow more than those farther out, compared to 34% who believe downtown values will rise faster than those in suburban areas.

Faith that the shift to working from home is becoming more permanent and pronounced was the top reason behind respondents’ confidence in the suburbs. A demographic shift scored second, as a growing wave of young people form families and move to larger homes. Pandemic-related health concerns for dense living conditions and a loss of urban amenities due to COVID-19 were rated the least impactful.

Price growth should ease while remaining positive

Although every respondent in this latest survey expects nationwide home price appreciation to slow in 2022 from last year’s record-breaking pace, the average of their long-term projections remains among the most bullish outlooks for home values in ZHPES history. On average, panelists expect home values to grow another 6.6% this year, and by 23.5% over the coming five years.

“Although a handful of experts foresee a modest price correction on the horizon, none expect a crash, even as the confluence of unusual forces impacting U.S. housing markets continues to generate significant uncertainty,” said Pulsenomics founder Terry Loebs.

Loebs said the range of home price predictions from panel participants is the widest he’s ever seen. The most optimistic group of experts expects more than 37% cumulative home value appreciation through 2026, while the most pessimistic group expects a gain of less than 8% over the same period.

Copyright © 2022 BridgeTower Media; and Copyright © 2022, The Mecklenburg Times. All rights reserved.


A Buyer Floated the Idea of a 3D Home?

OCALA, Fla. – For Apis Cor, a construction company based in Melbourne, Fla., building certain kinds of homes relies an awful lot on a key team member named Frank. Frank has an arm that reaches more than 16 feet, said Anna Cheniuntai, the company’s founder and chief executive, and can follow a computerized design blueprint while pushing out a steady stream of beaded construction material used to make walls.

Frank, you see, is a large, mechanical component of the technology used to build 3D-printed homes. Proponents of the technology in recent years have pointed to 3D-printed homes as an innovative step toward addressing housing needs in the United States and elsewhere. Several projects are underway as communities cope with housing shortages and experiment with options.

The nonprofit housing organization Habitat for Humanity unveiled its first 3D-printed home in December in Williamsburg, Va., and is due to unveil another in Tempe, Ariz., in February.

“We’re at the very beginning of 3D printing,” said Janet V. Green, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg in Virginia. “I hope that this does help some of the affordable housing crisis that we have across the nation.”

Other examples exist inside and outside the U.S. In northern Italy, 3D-printed dome-shaped houses were made out of raw materials, such as clay. And in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the Dubai Municipality, a government building, stands as the largest 3D-printed structure in the world.

Here’s some of what several construction business officials and observers described as key points to know about 3D-printed housing:

Homes built with 3D-printed technology use large-scale equipment for much of the construction, but also rely on traditional techniques for other basic needs of a home, such as roofing, electrical wiring, insulation and window installation.

Andrew McCoy, professor and director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech, said a general idea of what to expect in the U.S. would be a 1,600-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 3D-printed home that sells for about $264,000 to $330,000. As with any home construction, factors such as the region where the home is built, floor plan design, number of stories, textures and finishes can change the price of the home.

In September, researchers at the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., also known as Freddie Mac, estimated the current shortage of available homes in the United States to be close to 3.8 million.

Here are examples of 3D-printed home projects underway in different parts of the country:

  • In Palm Springs, the Oakland-based construction company Mighty Buildings is working on a 3D-printed community of 15 homes in the Coachella Valley.
  • In Austin, Texas, a development of more than 500 homes is underway by the Icon Co. The company had already broken ground in 2020 on a 51-acre development called Community First! Village that is expected to provide 3D-printed housing to approximately 480 homeless people when complete.
  • Fabian Meyer-Broetz, head of 3D construction for Houston-based construction company Peri, said his company expects to complete construction on a 3D-printed home for Habitat for Humanity in Tempe by mid-February. Peri officials said the company’s 3D-printed projects included an apartment building in Beckum, Germany.

Peri, like several construction firms, hopes to make housing more affordable and viable to a broader range of people, Meyer-Broetz said.

Cheniuntai of Apis Cor said one of her company’s overall missions is to complete construction on a $336,000, 1,700-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom house and make it move-in ready in just seven days. Apis Cor has received 25 reservations for 3D-printed homes, mainly in Florida, which are scheduled to begin construction in 2023.

“Today, the average time for a wood stick house is at least seven months,” Cheniuntai said. “So with the technology that we have, we can build a house in up to two or three months.”

How might 3D-printed homes perform against Mother Nature?

A study conducted by Pew Research in 2020 showed that 63% of Americans live in communities directly impacted by climate change, and that number is expected to increase. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that $145 billion worth of houses and infrastructure were lost or damaged in wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes and other climate-related disasters in 2021.

“By far, weather is your biggest problem variable,” said Zach Mannheimer, CEO of Alquist 3D, an Iowa City-based construction company specializing in 3D-printed buildings. Alquist 3D was the construction company behind the 3D-printed Habitat for Humanity home in Williamsburg, Va. The company had built a model home in Richmond before breaking ground on the Habitat home a few months later.

Mannheimer said that because 3D-printed homes rely on concrete, they’re resistant to threats such as hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires.

What are some concerns tied to 3D-printed homes?

Although concrete is versatile and has high durability compared with other construction materials such as wood, it has a nasty carbon footprint, emitting lots of greenhouse gases and making it the third largest source of industrial pollution, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

McCoy of Virginia Tech said some efforts exist and others are underway in the construction industry to develop options that reduce such environmental damage and create “a better footprint.” Some builders and contractors worry that some jobs traditionally done by people are being handled with the new technology, Mannheimer said.

The U.S., however, is facing a soaring demand for construction workers, with an estimated 345,000 open jobs in construction unfilled, according to a November 2021 study by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. A survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America in September 2021 found that many contractors and firms are struggling to find qualified workers to fill open positions for builders and inspectors.

Some analysts said it’s too soon to tell whether 3D-printed homes will hold up to traditional construction in the long run. Even some of those people in favor of using the technology said they can understand why potential homeowners might tread lightly when considering a 3D-printed home.

“For some homeowners, buying a home might be the biggest investment they’ll ever do,” Meyer-Broetz said.

Timothy Turcich, who lives in Orlando, has reserved a 3D-printed home with Apis Cor. He said he read the news over the holidays about the 3D-printed home that was built in Williamsburg. The next week, he was on the phone with Apis Cor to submit a deposit for a reservation.

“When I first started saying I wanted to build something, it was a fringe idea of mine, but I actually feel like it’s less fringe,” Turcich said. “This offers the lightest friction to building a house that I’ve seen.”

© All rights reserved The Jerusalem Post; 2022 Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc.


Russia-Ukraine War May Affect Housing, Economy

Stocks and cryptocurrencies lost value, which can impact luxury sales – but a general drop in economic confidence can affect every level of the real estate market.

NEW YORK – Russian airstrikes battered Ukrainian cities this week, and the conflict is being felt around the globe. Financial markets worldwide likely will feel the impact from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the largest military operation in Europe since World War II. Economists are warning that the U.S. housing market should brace for some possible changes in consumer behavior.

The luxury real estate market may feel the disruption the most, as financial resources homebuyers use to pay for home purchases, such as stocks and cryptocurrency, have been volatile since the conflict began. The global unrest also could give American consumers the jitters and prompt them to cut back on spending and economic activities, The New York Times reports.

But aspiring homebuyers in all price ranges may become more hesitant to make large purchases amid stock market uncertainty and fears of how a potential full-blown war in Europe might affect U.S. inflation – which is already at a 40-year high. Escalating inflation is hurting renters, buyers, and homebuilders who are facing rising construction costs, realtor.com reports.

“It’s all bad for the economy and housing. It’s just a matter of how bad,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told realtor.com. “There’s a number of different ways in which Russia’s actions will hurt housing.”

The conflict could put more pressure on rising oil and food prices, which, in turn, could weigh more heavily on consumers’ household budgets. Russia is the second-largest oil producer in the world, and although the U.S. imports little Russian oil, the conflict could roil global energy markets, the Times reports.

“If oil prices go up, that raises costs throughout the economy,” says Danielle Hale, realtor.com’s chief economist. “It means more inflation.”

Higher oil and gas prices likely will affect home heating costs and cause even more global supply-chain disruptions, which are being felt widely in the homebuilding industry. Inflation and supply chain problems likely will prompt even higher construction costs.

Prices for construction materials have already climbed 22% annually because of inflation, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Lumber prices have jumped 40% over the past 13 months alone. Higher material costs coupled with higher mortgage rates, which are likely looming in the next few weeks, will hamper housing affordability, economists say.

“Higher mortgage rates will slow homebuying demand over the course of 2022, and the Russia-Ukraine crisis will add short-term volatility to the bond market,” says Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist.

Source: “How Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Is Already Rippling Through the U.S. Housing Market,” realtor.com® (Feb. 24, 2022); “Watch Out for the ‘Angry U.S. Consumer’ as Russian Invasion of Ukraine Threatens America’s Fight Against Inflation,” MarketWatch (Feb. 25, 2022); “What Does Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Mean for the U.S. Economy?” The New York Times (Feb. 23, 2022)

© Copyright 2022 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


NAR: Jan. Pending Home Sales Drop 5.7%

Buyers have difficulty finding a home, says NAR’s chief economist. He won’t be surprised to see demand decline given current “mortgages, home costs and inventory.”

WASHINGTON – Pending home sales slumped in January, continuing what is now a three-month decline in transactions, according to the National Association of Realtors®’ (NAR) monthly report.

Of the four major U.S. regions that make up NAR’s full report, only the West registered an increase in month-over-month contract activity, and all regions posted a year-over-year decline.

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) – a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings – fell 5.7% to 109.5 in January. Year-over-year, transactions decreased 9.5%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

“With inventory at an all-time low, buyers are still having a difficult time finding a home,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

Alongside persistent supply constraints, Yun says house hunters are contending with a number of additional market issues, including escalating home prices and rising interest rates. Rates jumped by nearly a percentage point in January compared to December, further adding to monthly mortgage costs.

“Given the situation in the market – mortgages, home costs and inventory – it would not be surprising to see a retreat in housing demand,” Yun adds.

NAR expects economic conditions to be volatile in the coming months. The impending conclusion of the Federal Reserve’s asset purchase program in March paves the way for higher interest rates. Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is also likely to affect global oil supply, imposing further burdens on inflation and bringing about more aggressive rate hikes.

“There’s also the possibility that investors may flee toward safer U.S. Treasury bonds, which may result in temporary short-term relief to interest rates,” Yun says.

Realtor.com’s Hottest Housing Markets data in January showed that of the largest 40 metros, the most improved markets over the past year were Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla.; Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn.; and Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev.

January regional breakdown: Month-over-month, the Northeast PHSI dropped 12.1% to 84.3 in January, a 16.7% decrease from a year ago. In the Midwest, the index fell 5.9% to 104.4 last month, down 5.9% from January 2021.

Pending home sales transactions in the South slipped 6.3% to an index of 134.6 in January, down 8.7% from January 2021. The index in the West increased 1.5% in January to 95.2, down 9.7% from a year prior.

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Aging Housing Stock Fuels Home-Improvement Boom

Lowe’s says same-store sales rose 5% in 4Q 2021, in part because the housing stock is aging and more frustrated buyers are opting for 30-plus year-old homes.

NEW YORK – The home improvement boom shows few signs of slowing down. Lowe’s told shareholders Wednesday its same-store sales were up 5% in the fourth quarter. The company also raised its sales forecast for the year to $99 billion. That was after Home Depot reported an 8% increase in same-store sales the day before.

One big reason for the growth: a housing stock that’s getting old.

In 2005, the median age of an owner-occupied house in this country was 31 years. It’s been climbing ever since, to about 40 years today. Why?

“Well, the fact that we’re not tearing down and building new as quickly as we might want, or as quickly as we need to, to meet the new demand,” said Grant Farnsworth, president of the Farnsworth Group, a home improvement research firm. According to him, years of underbuilding following the mid-2000s housing crash have pushed up the overall age of the housing stock, along with demand for updating homes.

“The older the home, the more need, true need, there is to do projects such as [heating, ventilation and air conditioning], windows, efficiency, related projects, roofing,” Farnsworth said.

Those kinds of replacement projects make up about half of home improvement spending, according to Abbe Will, who follows the industry at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. She projects that home improvement spending will grow 17% this year nationally, partly driven by inflation. The long-term average is about 5%.

“So, anything above 5% is strong growth. And then certainly when we’re in the 10 and 15 and 20% range, that’s, that’s incredibly strong growth,” she said. Unsustainable, even. Will expects that growth to peak this year.

Rising mortgage rates could slow down homebuying. And a lot of home improvement happens right before and right after a sale.

Even so, said Sam Khater, chief economist at Freddie Mac, the shortage of homes for sale will continue to fuel demand.

“For those that want to move but can’t find the right home, then they sort of look at their own home and say, ‘OK, well, how can I change this into, if it’s not my dream home, you know, maybe my close-to dream home?’ In fact, we’ve got a neighbor, and that’s exactly what they’re doing,” Khater said.

It’s great if you can afford it, and many homeowners with rising equity and pandemic savings can. But the problem with an aging housing stock is that a lot of people can’t.

© Marketplace, Copyright © 2022 APM. All rights reserved.


29 Mortgage Servicers Committed to Homeownership

Which mortgage servicers are consumer friendly? Fannie Mae provides feedback to companies and says 29 have shown a commitment to improving homeownership.

WASHINGTON – Fannie Mae announced the 2021 Servicer Total Achievement and Rewards (STAR) Program results, which recognized 29 mortgage servicers for competency, capacity, and overall performance. Since 2011, Fannie Mae’s STAR Program has acknowledged mortgage servicers for their effective, standardized processes that help drive their performance and operational success.

“We’re proud of the 2021 STAR Program recipients, and their dedicated efforts to support and facilitate equitable and sustainable access to homeownership,” said Cyndi Danko, senior vice president and single-family chief credit officer, Fannie Mae. “Whether helping homeowners emerge from forbearance or providing the resources needed to refinance their loan, these 2021 STAR Program recipients demonstrated their commitment to improving the homeownership journey.”

For the past decade, the STAR Program has provided consistent, specific, and measurable feedback to servicers; aligned servicer performance with Fannie Mae’s business goals; and promoted servicing knowledge and excellence across the housing industry. The program’s participants are evaluated annually across three categories: general servicing, solution delivery, and timeline management through the Servicer Capability Framework and STAR Performance Scorecard.

The 2021 STAR Program recipients are:

  • General Servicing
  • Bank of America
  • Broker Solutions Inc DBA New American Funding
  • Freedom Mortgage
  • PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.
  • Solution Delivery
  • Associated Banc-Corp
  • Gateway First Bank
  • Guild Mortgage Company, LLC
  • Home Point Financial Corporation
  • Regions Financial Corp.
  • Rocket Mortgage, LLC
  • RoundPoint Mortgage Servicing Corporation
  • Rushmore Loan Management Services LLC
  • U.S. Bancorp
  • Timeline Management
  • Community Loan Servicing
  • Mr. Cooper
  • General Servicing and Solution Delivery
  • Caliber Home Loans, Inc.
  • Colonial Savings, FA
  • Computershare Limited (SLS)
  • Fidelity Bank, National Association
  • Fifth Third Bancorp
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • M&T Bank Corporation
  • PennyMac Corp.
  • Planet Home Lending
  • Provident Funding Associates, L.P.
  • Truist Bank
  • General Servicing and Timeline Management
  • LoanCare, LLC
  • General Servicing, Solution Delivery, and Timeline Management Recognition
  • PHH Mortgage Corporation
  • Wells Fargo & Company

© 2022 Euclid Infotech Pvt. Ltd. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).


Fla. House Passes ‘Hometown Hero’ Amendment

The drive to offer an additional property tax break to people like teachers and the military now goes to the Senate. If approved, it will then be considered by Fla. voters.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida House on Thursday unanimously passed a proposal that would ask voters to increase homestead property-tax exemptions for first responders, teachers and military members, with the issue expected to go before a key Senate committee Monday. Florida Realtors® announced its support for the initiative earlier this month.

The proposal has been a priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican who has pointed to the potential property-tax reductions as being more beneficial to Floridians than other proposals.

If approved by voters in November, the proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 1) would be projected to save $80.9 million for the targeted property owners next fiscal year, with the annual savings growing to $93.6 million in five years. House members also passed an accompanying bill (HB 1563).

Sponsor Josie Tomkow, R-Polk City, said the proposal is “targeted relief” to first responders and other Floridians who have jobs that people rely on daily. It would apply to classroom teachers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, child-welfare services professionals, active-duty military members and Florida National Guard members.

The proposal is expected to be considered Monday by the Senate Appropriations Committee, according to a Senate calendar.

Sprowls touted the homestead proposal while noting that a separate tax-savings proposal for gasoline sales would end up providing tax breaks to many out-of-state visitors.

“I think that our best estimate is hundreds of millions of dollars of that gas tax (break) would go to people who don’t live in the state,” Sprowls told reporters on Feb. 10. “You take, for example, HJR 1, which is a homestead exemption that applies to police officers, firefighters, first responders, child protection investigators, active-duty military, that’s something that obviously applies not only to Floridians but to people we need to live and work, you know, close to our community. So that’s a priority of the House. And that’s what we’re focused on.”

Under current law, homeowners can qualify for homestead tax exemptions on the first $25,000 of the appraised value of property. They also can qualify for $25,000 homestead exemptions on the value between $50,000 and $75,000. Any higher property value is taxable.

Under the proposal, homeowners in the targeted professions could receive an additional $50,000 exemption, which would apply to the property value between $100,000 and $150,000.

The current exemption for the value between $50,000 and $75,000 doesn’t apply to property taxes collected for school districts, and neither would Tomkow’s proposal.

Source: News Service of Florida


1 of 5 iBuyer Homes Sold to Institutional Investors

A Bloomberg analysis of 100K property records found that big investors bought 20% of homes purchased by iBuyers – and twice that amount in some Sun Belt cities.

NEW YORK – A Bloomberg News analysis of over 100,000 property records found that Zillow (before it shut down Zillow Offers) and two other large iBuyers, Opendoor Technologies and Offerpad Solutions, sold thousands of starter homes to landlords supported by major institutions like KKR, Cerberus Capital Management and Blackstone. For first-time homebuyers, it means fewer starter homes come onto the market for their consideration.

Bloomberg says two out of 10 homes flipped by iBuyers last year were bought by investors and other entities – and double that rate in certain Sun Belt metro areas where the companies are most active.

“These companies go around saying, ‘We’re going to help mom and pop and inject liquidity into the market,’” says the University of Colorado Boulder’s Mike DelPrete. “They don’t say, ‘We’re going to suck up houses from the ordinary market and sell them to Wall Street.’”

The three biggest iBuyers snapped up more than 27,000 homes in the third quarter of 2021, nearly twice as many compared to the second quarter, and owned over $10 billion worth of real estate at the end of September.

Shortly before its decision to terminate its iBuying service amid mounting losses, Zillow marketed thousands of homes to institutional landlords, which played a role in the business winding-down. Zillow’s Viet Shelton said its remaining inventory represents a small segment of U.S. homes sold annually, and it plans to sell houses to diverse buyers, including families, small investors, institutional landlords and nonprofits.

National Rental Home Council Executive Director David Howard says that when a landlord purchases a home from an iBuyer, they often add a unit of rental housing to a market that needs it. However, institutional buyers are also concurrently offering homes in desirable neighborhoods to households struggling to come up with a down payment.

Source: Bloomberg (01/07/22) Buhayar, Noah; Clark, Patrick; Holman, Jordan

© Copyright 2022 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Treat Top Tool with Respect: Your Phone

NEW YORK – I paid more for my latest smartphone than I did for my first car. That is to say, the little everything-devices we’re all glued to these days could very well be among the most valuable of our everyday possessions – give or take a wedding ring or Rolex. Maybe because they feel like an extension of our hands (and sometimes brains) we simply don’t treat them with the respect they deserve. Either way, I beat my smartphone up quite a bit and, chances are, you do too without meaning to or even realizing it.

Here are five of the most common mistakes we make, along with some critical dos and don’ts when it comes to taking proper care of our precious smartphones.

1. DON’T: Burn out your battery

Your smartphone is your most powerful communication tool, but it’s no good if it’s dead. You might be abusing your battery, especially if you have a habit of leaving the screen on, shutting down apps or tossing it in your bag on a particularly frigid morning.

Smartphones are designed to keep apps open in the background. Forcibly closing them may satisfy that little part of your brain that wants to keep things neat and tidy, but because it takes more juice to start an app fresh than to wake it up, you’re beating up on your battery every time you do it. Stop!

If you’re in the habit of treating your smartphone, tablet or laptop as though it were designed with temperature torture tests in mind, that’s another big problem. Apple, Samsung and most other device manufacturers say to avoid letting the temperature of your battery-powered gadgets dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit or soar above 95 degrees. In either case, damage can occur, lowering – in some cases, dramatically – the life of your battery.

Never leave your laptop or mobile device in a hot car or attempt a sub-zero bike ride with your smartphone strapped to the handlebars. If it’s particularly cold outside, keep your phone in a pocket, so it can benefit from the warmth of your body, and conversely, keep electronics out of direct sunlight for extended periods of time.

2. DO: Charge early and often

Stop with the “all or nothing” thinking when it comes to your smartphone battery. Petri Hayrynen, senior product marketing manager of Global Smart Devices at HMD Global, said that charging your phone to 100% may seem like a good idea, but if you’re using a high-voltage charger, it can put a strain on your battery. Instead, he said to pull the plug at 80%-90% for optimal usage.

“Old nickel-based batteries had a memory effect, which meant that if you didn’t charge them from 1-100%, they started to ‘forget’ their maximum capacity. As for the modern-day lithium batteries, the most stress is put on the battery when charging or discharging them fully; both reduce the charging cycles and overall battery lifecycle,” Hayrynen said.

Hayrynen explained that people should do “more fast top-ups during the day,” versus charging smartphones overnight. “Once batteries reach 100%, they will start doing trickle charges, which means that the phone will allow the charge to drop down a little and then recharge to 100%,” he wrote in an email.

Try to keep the battery above 30% or so, letting it discharge occasionally to calibrate the sensors, and you’ll keep your battery healthier longer.

Even the most battery-conscious among us find our phones totally drained from time to time. If you’re at home it’s not a big deal, but what if you’re stuck in an airport terminal or about to jump into an Uber? To get the absolute fastest charge, toggle on Airplane Mode after plugging it in. Doing so will cut off data connections and should prevent virtually all notifications from lighting up the screen. Leave it this way for as long as possible before disconnecting and turning Airplane Mode back off. The difference won’t be dramatic, but you might score an extra percent or two of battery life, and that can make all the difference.

3. DO: Use a password manager

There’s absolutely no excuse to not use a password manager. Both iOS and Android have them built in. The most popular browsers all sync passwords across multiple devices and it doesn’t even matter if you’re on Mac or Windows. Despite the convenient and secure options, some of us use our birthdays or other incredibly easy passwords to hack such as our pets’ names, hometowns and other information readily available to nefarious types.

Want to see if hackers can get at your passwords? There’s an easy way to check on iOS:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. In Settings, navigate and tap on “Passwords.”
  3. Enter your passcode, Touch ID or Face ID.
  4. Under “AutoFill Passwords,” check if the “Security Recommendations” have found any security risks. A number will appear to notify you of how many risks have been spotted.
  5. Tap on “Security Recommendations.”
  6. Your iPhone or iPad will list the accounts that have been compromised and have passwords appear in a known data leak. Tap on “Change Password on Website.”

Password manager apps such as 1Password, LastPass and Bitwarden are great choices if you want to use a single app-storage solution across all of your apps, websites and gadgets. The built-in password saving tools in your web browser or mobile operating system are also great, and they’re free. When the password manager on your browser or mobile device pops up to suggest a password, it’s OK to use it. That’s what it’s there for.

For an added layer of security, enable two-factor authentication on your phone or tablet. In most cases, this requires you to input a special code that arrives via text message. Then, if a crook tries to break into your account, he’ll need your username, password and your phone to make it happen – which to be honest – is incredibly rare.

You can check the site Have I Been Pwned to see if your email addresses have been involved in data breaches.

4. DO: Take advantage of privacy settings

People love to complain about big tech companies intruding in their private lives, but very few of us take advantage of the tools right at our fingertips to do anything about it. It’s easy to revoke a great deal of access to our data with a few tweaks.

The two easiest changes you can make is to limit the power of intrusive ads and ax location access from any apps that don’t absolutely need it. Giving apps permission to access personal data usually produces more personalized ads, but with so many security leaks from big companies these days, you never know where that data will end up. The same goes for location data, which is often requested by apps that have no business knowing where you are.

On iOS, head back to the Privacy section of your Settings. Toggle off “Allow Apps To Request To Track,” then select Location Services. On the Location Services screen, toggle location access off for apps that you know don’t need it, or if don’t really use maps apps, toggle location access off entirely.

Android users can find similar options under the Permissions Manager menu under Privacy within Settings. Toggling off location access for most apps won’t pose a problem. Apps that use your location to provide a service, such as Waze or Weather, still need access to work as intended.

5. DON’T: Forget to cancel ‘free’ trials

Free app trials are tempting. “Sure,” you think, “I’ll remember to cancel this cool new photo editing app within the next week.” No, you won’t. What’s worse is that you won’t realize you forgot for six months. It can be hard to find your app subscriptions, and that’s probably not a coincidence.

On iOS, go into Settings, then click your name at the top to open your Apple ID settings. From here, click Subscriptions, and you’ll see a list of all the apps you’re subscribed to, with renew dates.

On Android, it’s slightly more laborious. First, open Settings, then click Google, then Manage your Google Account. Tap Payments & Subscriptions, then select Manage Subscriptions.

Chances are you’re going to find at least a couple of apps that you signed up for but either never use or forgot to cancel. Tap on these apps and unsubscribe to save yourself unwanted charges.

Bonus Tip: DO: Protect it

Be sure to keep your phone in a decent case. Not having a case on your phone is like driving around in a car without a bumper. If you consider yourself especially klutzy, consider getting a tempered glass screen protector.

Copyright 2022, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY


Mortgage Rates Drop a Bit this Week, Average 3.89%

A number of economic indicators suggest higher mortgage rates, but competition from refinancing homeowners also declined after rates rose to almost 4%.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell slightly this week, after rising to their highest level in three years last week.

The average rate on a 30-year loan declined to 3.89% this week from 3.92% the previous week, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday. A year ago, the long-term rate was 2.97%.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, popular among those refinancing their homes, ticked down to 3.14% from 3.15% one week earlier. It stood at 2.34% a year ago.

The Federal Reserve has signaled that it would begin the first in a series of interest rate hikes in March, reversing pandemic-era policies that have fueled hiring and growth but also contributing to inflation levels not seen since the early 1980s.

The Labor Department reported earlier this month that consumer prices jumped 7.5% last month compared with 12 months earlier, the steepest year-over-year increase since February 1982. Higher costs for nearly everything have wiped out Americans’ pay raises, reinforcing the Federal Reserve’s decision to begin raising borrowing rates across the economy.

Home prices are up even more, climbing about 14% in the past year and as much as 30% in some cities. Available housing has been limited since before the pandemic began in 2020, and higher prices and rising interest rates will make securing a new home even harder.

On Wednesday, the Mortgage Bankers Association said that applications for mortgages fell more than 13% last week from the previous week, the lowest level since December of 2019.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


Fla. Builders Can’t Keep Up with New-Home Demand

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Brand new homes in South Florida are not immune to the outrageous demand in the housing market. Buyers are finding out it all comes down to what you are willing to sacrifice.

Owning a new home has always been Terrance Diaz’s dream, but he never foresaw the challenges he would face in a market with little inventory, high demand, and increasing prices.

“It’s all about your will. How bad do you want it?” Diaz said.

It turns out you have to want it bad.

“It’s definitely way more challenging than it’s ever been with new construction,” said real estate agent Karen Moody. Moody said she doesn’t always jump at new construction these days. The competition is nothing like she’s seen before.

“Some of these buyers are having to put in offers at the sales centers, and they don’t know what they’ll get,” she said. “You go over $100,000; are you competing against the sales center? Or are you competing against another buyer?”

Bidding wars are a new part of the insatiable demand for new homes.

“There is no shortage of buyers,” said Tonia Abrahamsson, vice president of sales at Minto Communities, a known developer in the area currently building a master plan neighborhood in western Palm Beach County. At the Minto Communities’ building site located in Westlake off Seminole Pratt Whitney Road, developers build a city within a city. Even with a plan to build 4,500 homes in the next 10 years, though, more buyers than lots are available.

“We are limiting the amount of home sites that we release at a time just to control what’s going on in the market,” Abrahamsson said.

With supply chain issues and worker shortages, Abrahamsson said it’s all-new territory for builders who must order materials six months in advance instead of 60 days.

“Initially, when someone came in, in the beginning, prior to the pandemic, and what’s going on, our build time was anywhere from six to eight months,” Abrahamsson said. “Now, what we’re looking at about 11 months.”

So, what do buyers have to do if they want that new home?

“Me, I’m always reaching for the stars,” Diaz said. Diaz and his wife, Veronica, live in Broward County and set their heart on a brand-new home for their growing family in Westlake. “They have a resort, living style waterpark. Let’s start with that, for the family,” he said. “And I’m more excited because I’m back in my hometown, you know, Palm Beach County.”

Ken H. Johnson, a real estate economist and Florida Atlantic University’s associate dean of graduate programs, said a higher percentage of people move into Palm Beach County than move south to Miami-Dade.

“Palm Beach County, for example, in the next 10 years, is expecting an increase in population of slightly over 14%,” Johnson said. “That all puts a strong high demand on homes in Palm Beach County.”

For Diaz, that meant it wasn’t going to be easy to get his dream home. “We slept in the back of her SUV, and it was all night, all morning,” Diaz said.

He and his wife learned the system to purchase at Sky Cove homes in Westlake. A few lots are released every couple of weeks, but only to those willing to be the first in line.

“You think, how many times am I going to have to do this?” said Veronica Nieto-Diaz, Terrance’s wife.

Two times the Diazs waited outside the sales center on release days, hours before the office would open, but were too late. Other buyers arrived before them and got the first pick for the only three lots released. He arrived 20 hours before lot release time the third time, spending the night in his car.

“When you got there, you took your picture, you signed in,” Diaz said. “The tough part is, you couldn’t leave; you had to stay.”

Not all new developments at Westlake have the same system. Minto Communities has a confidential electronic system where those buyers on the waiting list are sent an email to submit a form when lots are released. The first buyers to submit the form get a chance to secure the very few lots released. This process can take months for many buyers before they are first in line.

The Diazs overnight adventure landed them on spot No. 2 out of three. They secured a lot, but it’s going to cost more. Every release date, the lots to build are increasing at different increments. Sometimes those increases are $10,000, $20,000 even up to $40,000.

“Don’t go by the signs you’re seeing on the road,” said Moody regarding homes no longer selling starting in the $300s.

The market’s challenges and demand are driving up new builds costs.

“If you keep waiting, prolonging it, it’s only going to go up,” Diaz said.

While demand is not slowing down, the Diazs are finally in the home stretch.

“A story that we have to tell behind this home,” Veronica Nieto-Diaz said.

“It may be our ‘Happy New Year’ present. At the latest, January of next year, we should be moving in,” Diaz said. “It’s brand new, from the ground. Yes, American dream.”

Realtors say if you have your heart set on a brand-new home, there are a couple of things that can help you above the competition in this market:

  • Make sure you are pre-approved for your home loan before you start looking.
  • Hiring a real estate agent, even with new construction, can help you deal with the sales centers and building process.
  • If you really like one specific developer and location is flexible, check to see what other communities are being built by the same company.

Copyright © 2022 Local TV LLC, all rights reserved.


Housing Test: Is it Harder on Buyers or Renters?

ORLANDO, Fla. – Linda Goddard started looking for a new place in August. A retired English teacher who works part-time at Valencia College and UCF, she was told she would have to move from a room in a friend’s house in Maitland where she was living.

The first place Goddard looked wanted $1,600 per month, which was out of her range. So she kept searching. “As I continued to look, the prices went up exponentially,” she said.

By the time she looked back at that first place, the asking rent had already gone up another $200.

Rent in metro Orlando rose faster over the past year than any other city in America’s Sun Belt, according to CoStar, a real estate analyst. An influx of residents combined with a red-hot housing market is pushing demand for apartment and house rentals to previously unseen levels.

It’s a trend that’s worrying affordable housing advocates, demoralizing renters and leaving many out in the cold.

“The reason rents are jacking up so high is because landlords can,” said Lisa McNatt, director of market analytics in Orlando for CoStar. “This is a Sun Belt issue. And it is becoming a Florida problem.”

Rents rose around the country by about 13% in 2021, but significantly more in the South. Asking prices for rent in metro Orlando jumped 24.3% last year, CoStar found. The next closest city in the Sun Belt was Tampa with 24% growth. CoStar includes Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties in its metro data.

The issue, according to McNatt, is inventory.

“Orlando is outpacing the demand nationally and in other Sun Belt metros,” she said. “We don’t have sufficient housing to accommodate all the demand coming into the market.”

Last year, renters moved into 15,441 units in metro Orlando, more than double the number in 2020. But only 14,830 units were under construction, meaning Orlando is taking in more people than it is building housing for.

Orlando’s average monthly rent is $1,680, or $120 more than the national average. Downtown’s average rent is $1,870. The highest neighborhood is Lake Nona with $2,100, while the lowest rents are found in south and west Orlando, where rent is about $1,520.

Orlando’s per capita income, however, is $32,085, according to the Census Bureau. For a single person, that means the average rent is about 63% of the average wage. The federal government considers a household overburdened when rent is more than 50% of the income.

‘Our goals felt shattered’

The increases have come as a shock to many renters. Catherine Hemperly had been living at the Enclave at Lake Underhill with her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend since September 2020, paying about $1,500 for a three-bedroom, two-bath apartment. In July, she was told that would go up.

“The first quote was if I signed the lease within seven days, it was going to be $2,100,” Hemperly said. If she waited longer, it would go up to nearly $2,500.

In an unsigned statement, management from the Enclave said the rents have been raised because of the high demand combined with “an increase in apartment operating costs,” though those costs were not enumerated.

Hemperly, 42, said she just couldn’t afford that rise. A paralegal in Baldwin Park, she and her family had to move into a two-bed, two-bath apartment in Altamonte Springs.

“This was a serious downgrade,” she said. “It’s about 300-square-feet smaller. My counters are from the ‘70s.”

Even the search for a new place can be costly.

Speech therapist Natalie Loye and her husband and child had to leave the house they were renting in Lake Nona for $1,900 per month when the home’s New York-based landlords decided the market was right to sell.

“We were given 30 days to get our stuff together and get out,” she said.

Loye, 34, said application fees at other apartments ran on average $75 to $100 per person (meaning for both her and her husband), and there was no guarantee of acceptance. “We were told that, for each place, there were 14 to 15 candidates, and the owners pick who they like,” she said.

“We spent over $2,000 in application fees, and no one was choosing us,” she said.

Eventually, they found a house that fit their needs for an additional $700 per month. Those expenses set them back on their plans to buy a home of their own.

“Our goals felt shattered,” she said.

No relief in sight

Demand is not expected to cool any time soon. CoStar predicts rents will continue to rise for at least the next three years, hitting an average asking rent of $2,012 by 2025.

Although COVID-19 has contributed to soaring rents, advocates say the problem is much deeper.

“Before the pandemic, Central Florida had a lack of affordable housing,” said Jeffrey Hussey, an attorney with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida. “The pandemic ripped the Band-Aid off, and now everything is exposed.”

Over the past two years, the federal government approved $46 billion in emergency rental assistance. One of the services of Hussey’s organization is to help people apply for that money, which is administered through programs from the state as well as some counties and cities.

Hussey said his organization has been inundated with requests from desperate renters over the past year.

Attorney Jorge Acosta Palmer, who works closely with many of those clients, said, “Our demand is infinite.”

Kissimmee resident Zacari Zagal’s rent went up $200 in October, prompting him to apply for assistance from Our Florida, the state provider of the money. The fund covered three months of rent, but Zagal, 25, says that even though he applied for the next three months more than a month early, he says he couldn’t get anyone at Our Florida to tell him if he was approved.

“You wait for hours, and when you finally get someone, they tell you, ‘Oh, we’re backed up. Sorry,’” he said.

Goddard, the retired teacher, was eventually saved by a church acquaintance who offered her a condo in Maitland for $1,600 per month, and her son paying for it.

“I don’t know what I would have done,” she said, adding that her close call with homelessness has prompted her to start giving water and other necessities to people she sees seeking help at intersections.

“It reminds me of my own fragility,” she said. “And the people who turn their faces away from them don’t want to face how fragile life is for all of us.”

© 2022 Orlando Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


CFPB Wants to Remove Bias in Algorithm Appraisals

An automatic appraisal that uses historical data can simply mirror existing discrimination, says the national consumer agency, now reviewing loan algorithms.

WASHINGTON – An automatic appraisal sounds fair, as if taking the human element out of lending decisions can erase bias by lenders who may not even know they’re making biased decisions. However, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says it doesn’t work that way.

CFPB announced an initiative to make sure computer models that help determine home valuations are fair, the Small Business Advisory Review Panel for Automated Valuation Model (AVM) Rulemaking. The options will now be reviewed to determine their potential impact on small businesses.

“It is tempting to think that machines crunching numbers can take bias out of the equation, but they can’t,” says CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “This initiative is one of many steps we are taking to ensure that in-person and algorithmic appraisals are fairer and more accurate.”

An algorithm is a complicated math formula loaded into a computer. It can take a wide range of data, weigh the importance of each item and generate a decision based on the criteria programmed within the algorithm.

When underwriting a mortgage, lenders typically require an in-person appraisal – an estimate of the home’s value – but many now also use algorithmic computer models. The technical term for them is automated valuation models (AVM).

However, both in-person and algorithmic appraisals appear susceptible to bias and inaccuracy, absent appropriate safeguards, CFPB says. Given automated valuation models’ crucial role, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act required CFPB and other regulators to implement rules on the models because both too-high valuations and too-low valuations cause problems.

Overvaluing homes can lead to higher rates of foreclosure. During the run-up to the 2008 collapse, for example, housing prices became inflated, and one reason for that was lenders extending mortgage credit – often with toxic or predatory terms – without regard to borrowers’ ability to repay because overvaluations suggested that lenders’ risk was lower than believed.

Low valuations can jeopardize sales and prevent homeowners from refinancing. In some cases, systematically low valuations can exacerbate and extend already existing disparities in the housing market, CFPB says. The Federal Housing Finance Agency recently identified discriminatory statements in some home appraisals, and both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have found appraisal disparities for communities and borrowers of color.

CFPB says it’s “particularly concerned that without proper safeguards, flawed versions of these models could digitally redline certain neighborhoods and further embed and perpetuate historical lending, wealth and home value disparities.”

CFPB says its goal, along with federal partners, is to:

  • Ensure a high level of confidence in the estimates produced by automated valuation models
  • Protect against the manipulation of data
  • Seek to avoid conflicts of interest
  • Require random sample testing and reviews
  • Account for any other such factor that the agencies determine to be appropriate

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


NAHB: Jan. New-Home Sales Lower but ‘Still Solid’

New-home sales dropped 4.5% in Jan., but builders say demand remains strong. They blame supply-chain issues that increase costs and slow construction time.

WASHINGTON – January’s new-home sales declined in the face of rising interest rates and supply-chain problems within the building industry, but demand remains strong, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Sales of newly built, single-family homes in January fell 4.5% to an 801,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate compared to an upwardly revised reading in December, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau.

“Demand is strong given a lack of existing home inventory,” says Jerry Konter, NAHB chairman. “Builders are grappling with supply-chain issues that are extending construction times and increasing costs.”

“New home prices continue to rise as the cost of materials increases,” adds NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “Higher mortgage rates will slow home buying demand over the course of 2022, and the Russia-Ukraine crisis will add short-term volatility to the bond market.”

A new home sale occurs when a sales contract is signed or a deposit is accepted. The home can be in any stage of construction: not yet started, under construction or completed. In addition to adjusting for seasonal effects, the January reading of 801,000 units is the number of homes that would sell if the current pace continued for the next 12 months.

New single-family home inventory was up 34.4% year-to-year, rising to a 6.1 months’ supply, with 406,000 available for sale. However, just 37,000 of those are completed and ready to occupy.

The median sales price rose to $423,300 in January from $395,500 in December. It’s up more than 13% compared to a year ago, primarily due to higher development costs, including materials.

Regionally, new home sales fell in three regions, the Northeast (down 10.7%), the Midwest (down 3.7%) and the South (down 7.4%). New home sales were up 1.2% in the West.

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Why Do Some Developments Have Silly Names?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Feeling leisurely these days? Not many of us are, as we cope with lingering effects of COVID-19, supply chain shortages, inflation and uncertainties about the economy.

But if your home is in one of two South Florida communities called Leisureville, you might be resenting a developer’s half-century old dictate that you must live as if you don’t have a care in the world.

Developers in Pompano Beach and Boynton Beach chose the name to market a specific lifestyle to a post-war generation of retirees – with prices at the Pompano site starting at $8,995, according to a 1967 Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel ad. Named in an era that led to the leisure suits, both Leisurevilles remain as 55-and-over communities today, and stand as reminders of just how goofy development naming can get.

Modern-day developers are still at it, conjuring names that will likely be just as baffling to future generations.

The Seinfeld-esque name for developer Lennar’s townhome community, Viewpoint at Vista Lago, currently selling in Miami Gardens, literally means Viewpoint at Lake View when translated from Spanish. And the name chosen by Toll Brothers for its upscale community currently selling in Davie for prices starting at $2 million, Millstone Ranches, makes one wonder whether the company intended for buyers to think of their neighborhood as, according to Merriam-Webster.com, a “heavy burden.”

We asked readers on Facebook to share some of the most baffling subdivision names they’ve noticed while living in South Florida. They shared names that homebuilders obviously thought would evoke feelings of comfort and security but today prompt residents to wonder, “What were they thinking?”

Features that don’t exist

Some of the most common head-scratchers are names that have no association to geography found in or anywhere near the community.

Hollywood Hills, platted by Joseph W. Young at the same time as he was developing the city of Hollywood and resort hotels on Hollywood beach in the 1920s, was obviously inspired by the Southern California version that was evolving into mythical status at the time. Unlike the “Hollywood hills” that Bob Seger lamented in 1978, Florida’s version has no hills.

Sierra Vista, off South Military Trail in western Delray Beach, has no sierra, which is a Spanish word that Merriam-Webster defines as “a range of mountains especially with a serrated or irregular outline.” The highest elevation in Florida is 345 feet, and that’s 500 miles away in the Panhandle.

Lauderdale Lakes has a few retention ponds and canals running through it, noted Jaime Parnther-Richards. “The kicker – their city logo has a sailboat,” she said. But there are “definitely no waterways for a sailboat.”

Lauderhill lies on a flat plain west of Fort Lauderdale.

Isles of Tamarac, you guessed it, is completely landlocked.

The Falls at Parkland has no falls other than the fountain at the development’s entrance.

Golfview Harbour in Boynton Beach has “no golf, no view, and no harbor,” said Christine Tagle Reed. “The British spelling is a nice touch, though.”

Tam O’ Shanter, in North Lauderdale, was named after a well-known golf course built in Pennsylvania in 1929. One of its main roads is called Boulevard of Champions and most of the residential streets are named after golf courses, including Pebble Beach, Broadmoor and Doral. Yet “there never was a golf course,” noted Jim Mcanally. “They promised everyone a half course but it was never built.”

Loggers Run, off West Palmetto Park Road in West Boca, is an 1,814-acre community in southwestern Palm Beach County comprising several neighborhoods and a county park. But there’s no logging operation, noted Mike Gleeson. According to a 1977 edition of the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel, Oriole Homes Corp. chose the name because “it typifies the dense stands of timber forest, large cypressheads and extensive lakes and waterway system which form the topography of the site.”

Gone but not forgotten?

Other readers pointed out activities, animals or plants that their namesake developments pushed out.

Ancient Tree, a residential community recently platted next to Sandhill Crane Golf Course in Palm Beach Gardens, was cleared of all large trees before construction began, noted Janice Gruenwald Aponte.

Pheasant Walk was built in the late 1970s west of Congress Avenue in Boca Raton. Ali Weniger Lynch said she grew up in the neighborhood but “never once seen a pheasant in this part of Florida.” She added, “I always wondered why they picked a pheasant over tons of other bird options.”

Woodfield Hunt Club in West Boca was named after an equestrian training center at the site. No hunting took place at the center, which was built in 1964 by Harold and Ruby Butts for their children and other riders to practice for competition. Hunter and Jumper are two of the sport’s disciplines.

Turtle Run, neighborhoods in both Plantation and Coral Springs, might have been home to turtles before they were developed in the 1980s and 1990s. Eastern Box turtles are native to Florida’s southern regions, “preferring grasslands, marshes and woodland areas,” according to Allturtles.com. Turtle Run “sounds like an oxymoron,” said Christina Darmos Curry, nodding to the reptile’s slow reputation. To be fair, a run is a creek, but if a turtle got a look at what’s left, they’d high-tail it.

What were they thinking?

Journey’s End, mentioned by three readers, is the name of a 213-acre development in Lake Worth that suggests residents won’t be moving anywhere else. Like in the Eagles’ Hotel California, you can move in, but can you ever leave?

“I always thought [it meant], ‘This is where you come to die,” said Charlie Pickett.

The community’s property manager did not immediately return a phone call asking what the name was meant to evoke. But a 1999 newspaper advertisement marketed the then-new community as ideal for young families, with a clubhouse, children’s movie theater, video game room and play area for toddlers. “Journey’s End is the community you’ve been searching for,” the ad said.

The name game

How do these names happen?

Ken Johnson, associate dean of Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business, spent 12 years as a real estate broker before entering academia. “I think they’re usually just trying to differentiate themselves from existing subdivisions,” he said. “I always assumed they were thought up and settled on during Happy Hour.”

Several websites poke fun at the notion that developers combine words from lists of generic terms. A Houston-based real estate consulting firm, Community Development Strategies, posted a quiz inviting readers to guess home many Houston-area suburbs share common names.

Some of the answers: Creek appears in 67 names. Wood is part of 80 names. Oak shows up 58 times. And five words – Estates, Park, Villa, Place and Ranch – each show up at least 40 times.

The quiz’s author, Ty Jacobsen, senior GIS and market analyst for the firm, said he’s noticed developers moving away from words that sound too generic and easily forgotten. Houston, for example, is home to separate developments called Cypress Lakes Estates and Estates at Cypress Lakes. Instead they’re trying to connote authenticity by incorporating unique aspects of the properties where the developments are located, or last names of owners who previously held the tract.

Behind the marketing curtain

Lavidge, a Phoenix-based advertising agency, came up with 10 tips for naming subdivisions, and shared them in a recent blog post. The firm urges developers to avoid language that give the wrong impression, like using the word Estates in a lower-income area.

“If you aren’t in the foothills, nowhere near a river or don’t have a park, do not (I repeat, do not) include those words in your community name,” they write.

As for attaching a notion of authenticity to a suburban subdivision, Lavidge echoes what’s going on in Houston, and suggests “incorporating the name of a previous owner’s project.”

Authenticity (or an attempt at it) is what drew Toll Brothers to select Millstone Ranches as the name of its Davie development, said Fred Pfister, the company’s Southeast Florida division president. The company chose the name, not to suggest that their homes will be heavy burdens, but because Millstone Ranches was the original name of the parcel when the company purchased it from the previous landowner, Pfister said in an email.

“It was based on the primary definition of millstone, which are large flat rocks fashioned for the purpose of grinding grain and milling. We believe this represents the rich rural history of the Town of Davie and decided to keep the name when we purchased the land.”

© 2022 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


How ‘Tax-Friendly’ Is Fla. Compared to Other States?

A MoneyGeek study including IRS, state, property and sales taxes listed Fla. as the No. 4 least-expensive tax state. Total tax costs are about 5.6% of total income.

TAMPA, Fla. – It’s tax filing season and depending on where you live in the U.S., you could be forking over a very different-sized chunk of your income.

An analysis by MoneyGeek ranked every state by how “tax-friendly” it is. The analysts didn’t just look at income tax – they also factored in property taxes, plus state and local sales taxes.

To determine where people pay the highest tax burden, MoneyGeek looked at a hypothetical average family: a married couple with one kid, earning the median national income of $82,852, owning a $349,400 home. The study breaks down how much this fictional family would pay in taxes in every state.

The states with the lowest tax burden, according to the analysis, were:

  1. Wyoming (estimated taxes: 4% of income or $3,279)
  2. Nevada (estimated taxes: 4.7% of income or $3,879)
  3. Alaska (estimated taxes: 5.4% of income or $4,507)
  4. Florida (estimated taxes: 5.6% of income or $4,632)
  5. Tennessee (estimated taxes: 6.5% of income or $5,377)
  6. Washington (estimated taxes: 6.5% of income or $5,414)
  7. North Dakota (estimated taxes: 6.7% of income or $5,556)
  8. Arizona (estimated taxes: 6.8% of income or $5,665)
  9. South Dakota (estimated taxes: 7.2% of income or $5,938)
  10. Delaware (estimated taxes: 7.3% of income or $6,074)

The states with the highest tax burden were:

  1. Illinois (estimated taxes: 16.8% of income or $13,894)
  2. Connecticut (estimated taxes: 15.1% of income or $12,545)
  3. New Jersey (estimated taxes: 14.3% of income or $11,872)
  4. New Hampshire (estimated taxes: 14.1% of income or $11,694)
  5. New York (estimated taxes: 13.9% of income or $11,495)
  6. Iowa (estimated taxes: 13.8% of income or $11,398)
  7. Wisconsin (estimated taxes: 13.2% of income or $10,976)
  8. Vermont (estimated taxes: 12.6% of income or $10,453)
  9. Nebraska (estimated taxes: 12.6% of income or $10,446)
  10. Michigan (estimated taxes: 12.4% of income or $10,239)

Based on its analysis, MoneyGeek also gave every state a letter grade on its “tax friendliness.” The states with A grades have the lowest tax burden on an “average” family, while the states with D or E grades have the highest tax burden.

MoneyGeek’s estimates only hold true for that hypothetical family,earning about $82,000 a year with a $349,000 house. A family who just bought a $1 million house in California would probably be paying a lot more in taxes, while a single person earning $40,000 in Texas would be paying less.

© 1998-2022 WFLA, Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved.


NAR Study Finds Drop in Black Homeownership Rate

The U.S. homeownership rate grew a record 1.3% in 2020 – to 65.5%. It also grew over 10 years for all groups but one: The Black rate dropped to 43.4% from 2010’s 44.2%.

CHICAGO – Black Americans continue to face significant obstacles along the path to homeownership, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) latest housing study, a Snapshot of Race & Home Buying in America.

The study found that the homeownership rate for Black Americans – 43.4% – has fallen compared to 10 years earlier (44.2% in 2010). Conversely, white Americans (72.1%), Asian Americans (61.7%) and Hispanic Americans (51.1%) all achieved decadelong homeownership highs in 2020.

The overall U.S. homeownership rate climbed to 65.5% in 2020, up 1.3% from 2019 and the largest annual increase on record. More Americans are likely to own a home now than during any year following the Great Recession (65.4% homeownership rate in 2010).

NAR’s 2022 Snapshot of Race and Home Buying in America report examined homeownership trends and challenges by race and location to explain current racial disparities in the housing market. Using data from the 2021 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the report looked at the characteristics of the people who purchase homes, why they purchase, what they purchase and the financial background of buyers based on race.

“As the gap in homeownership rates for Black and white Americans has widened, it is important to understand the unique challenges that minority homebuyers face,” says Jessica Lautz, NAR vice president of demographics and behavioral insights. “Housing affordability and low inventory has made it even more challenging for all buyers to enter into homeownership, but even more so for Black Americans.”

Housing affordability has eroded for many consumers since the start of the pandemic due to the combination of record-high home prices and record-low inventory. Since 2019, home prices have spiked 30% – about $80,000 for a typical home – while housing inventory declined to under one million units available for sale. Approximately half of all homes currently listed for sale (51%) are affordable to households with at least $100,000 income.

Nationwide, nearly half of all Asian households annually earn more than $100,000. However, 35% of white households, 25% of Hispanic households and only 20% of Black households have incomes greater than $100,000.

In terms of renter households, half of Black Americans spend more than 30% of their monthly income on rent. Almost three out of 10 Black renter households (28%) and one in five white renter households (20%) are severely cost-burdened, defined in the study as spending more than 50% of their monthly income on rent.

Nationwide, NAR estimates that 47% of white renter households and 36% of Black renter households can afford to buy a typical home when comparing the qualifying income to purchase a home and the median income of renter households.

Student loan debt

“Black households not only spend a bigger portion of their income on rent, but they are also more likely to hold student debt and have higher balances,” Lautz says. “This makes it difficult for Black households to save for a down payment and, as a result, they often use their 401(k) or retirement savings to enter homeownership.”

Black households (41%) are more than twice as likely as Asian households (18%) and nearly twice as likely as white households (22%) to have student loan debt. Approximately a quarter of Hispanic households (26%) reported having student loan debt. The median student loan debt for Black households ($45,000) exceeded that of Hispanic ($35,500), white ($30,000) and Asian ($24,400) households.

Student debt is often a major impediment for prospective homebuyers in saving for a down payment. Black and Hispanic applicants (7% each) were rejected for mortgage loans at greater rates than White and Asian applicants – 4% and 3%, respectively.

Funding a down payment

Black Americans (14%) and Hispanic Americans (12%) were at least twice as likely as white Americans (6%) to tap into their 401(k) or pension funds as a down payment source for a home purchase. Such actions can diminish future wealth growth.

Conversely, almost four out of 10 white Americans (38%) used the funds from the sale of their primary residence to serve as a down payment for a home, compared to only 25% of Hispanic, 21% of Black and 16% of Asian Americans.

Discrimination experience of buyers and sellers

Study participants were asked if they witnessed or experienced discrimination in a real estate transaction. Nearly a third of Black respondents (32%) said they did, facing stricter requirements because of their race, compared to 19% of white respondents, 16% of Hispanic respondents and 4% of Asian respondents.

About one-third of Black and white homebuyers (32% each) and almost a quarter of Hispanic homebuyers (23%) said they witnessed or experienced discrimination with the type of loan product offered.

Approximately seven in 10 white Americans (69%) purchased a home in a neighborhood where the majority of the residents were of the same race. However, about a quarter of Hispanic Americans (26%) and less than a fifth of Black (17%) and Asian Americans (15%) said the same.

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


RE Q&A: Condo’s Co-Owner Disappeared 20 Years Ago

A no-longer “significant other” walked out the door decades ago, leaving behind a condo he co-purchased with a partner who now wants to sell. What happens now?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: Several decades ago, I bought a condo with a significant other. A few years later, we broke up and he moved out. I kept paying the mortgage and have not seen or heard from him in over 20 years.

I want to sell the condo to move closer to relatives, but his name is still on the deed. What can I do? – Fran

Answer: The principles of modern property law have evolved from their roots over 900 years ago in feudal Europe.

After the conquest of England in 1066, King William “the Conqueror” became the owner of all land. When he granted estates to his vassals, he retained the right to get the property back under certain circumstances, such as when the owner died without known heirs.

All land passed from the owner to their heirs at the moment of death, and there could never be a gap in ownership.

If no heir could be found, the property was returned to the government. This is called “escheat” and is still in effect today.

Simplified, it means that someone always owns real estate, and if it cannot be determined who does, the property goes to the state.

In your situation, you will need to find your ex or his heirs if he passed away. It’s tricky to track down someone you have not heard from in decades. There are tools and services that can find almost anyone.

Once he, or his heirs, is identified, you will need to get them to sign over the property to you or your buyer. Most likely, they will want to be paid for this, and the amount can often be negotiated.

If you cannot find him or his heirs, or if you do but they are not reasonable about the decades you paid all the condo expenses, you will need to sue.

The court can have the property sold and split the proceeds fairly between you and your ex or his heirs or have their share held to be escheated to the state if no one comes forward to claim them within a specified time.

Copyright © South Florida Sun Sentinel, Gary Singer. All rights reserved.


Surfside Collapse Complicates Condo Buying

New Fannie, Freddie mortgage-approval rules require info on a condo building’s soundness. But few boards have easy access to data and often don’t understand it.

NEW YORK – Following the June collapse of the Surfside condo tower that killed 98 people, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac started asking questions about the safety and soundness of condos and co-op buildings. Prior to that, the mortgage firms said they’d stop buying loans connected to buildings with significant deferred maintenance or safety issues.

Anything that makes it more difficult to get a condo mortgage can hurt buyers who need a loan, and confusion on the part of both buyers and lenders seems to be having an impact.

Banks planning to sell their loans to Fannie or Freddie have been given new in-depth questionnaires about a building’s condition to be completed by condo management companies, associations or boards. However, many of those groups aren’t sure how to answer all the questions. Some have said that some of the questions don’t even apply to their buildings.

Lenders that hope to sell mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, however, want detailed answers so they don’t get stuck holding too many loans on their books.

“It’s somewhat difficult to answer unless you’re a structural engineer,” says Kevin Hirzel of Hirzel Law PLC, which represents condo associations in Michigan and Illinois. “If you’re just a volunteer board member or property manager, you’re not going to know by looking at the building that it could have a significant issue.”

The confusion is slowing down loan approvals and could make it more difficult for condo and co-op buyers to get mortgages.

A Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) spokesperson said the agency “will work with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to minimize industry disruptions related to the questionnaires so that condominium associations, lenders and other stakeholders more clearly understand the requirements.”

The questionnaire is optional, but condo representatives need to find a way to make assurances that the building is in good condition – but they contend that there’s little clarity about how much alternative information Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will accept.

Wall Street Journal (02/20/22) Eisen, Ben; Friedman, Nicole

© Copyright 2022 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Less Land Means Smaller New Developments

In Jupiter, an 8.5-acre single-family lot will be a 20-home development, an opportunity being considered across Fla. as most buildable land moves farther out.

JUPITER, Fla. – A new housing community is being built in Jupiter on a small parcel just east of Interstate 95, as developers continue to seek out any plot of land for homes.

Symphony at Jupiter features just 20 homes on land that formerly had a single-family house on it, said Craig Heger, a real estate agent with Echo Fine Properties, which is marketing the project. A partnership that includes residential and retail developer 21st Century Property Group of Jupiter bought the 8.5-acre property recently after a prior sale fell through.

Now a boutique housing community will rise on prime, in-town land, meeting the demand for buyers willing to pay a premium to live close to shops, restaurants and the beach, Heger said. Symphony at Jupiter is at 6270 Roebuck Road.

With sales just launched, at least five of the 20 homes already are pre-sold. Prices range from $2 million to $2.5 million for the homes, which feature modern and contemporary architecture.

The home prices depend on the coast of the lot, the size of the home plus any add-ons, such as a pool, a gas line or a summer kitchen. The homes, ranging in size from 3,000 square feet to 4,300 square feet and featuring four to six bedrooms, are in demand from families wanting to live in Jupiter and its well-regarded private and public schools, Heger said.

Construction at Symphony is slated to begin in a couple of months, with homes expected to be ready for occupancy by mid-2023.

With housing demand strong but land scarce, builders either are venturing far west to build new homes or seeking lots along the coast that can accommodate small developments. In fact, any small plot of land is being eyed for housing because developers know that in-town projects are sought-after by buyers.

“People will pay more to live close to a city center,” said Ken Johnson, a real estate economist with Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

Craig and Alison Heurich moved to Palm Beach County from Annapolis, Md., nearly two years ago, seeking sunshine, year-round outdoor activities and respite from the coronavirus pandemic. Both work remotely, which made a move to Florida possible, Craig Heurich said.

Heurich said he and his wife weren’t interested in living in new western communities that lacked established shops, stores and other amenities. Instead, they decided to buy a home at Symphony because the community is close to restaurants, golf and the beach. They also liked the modern architecture of the homes.

“The real estate market here is super crazy, but we saw a sign for these cool, modern-looking houses, which we like,” Heurich said.

So-called “in-fill” communities such as Symphony can spring from unused golf courses, rezoned commercial plots or large homesites that are subdivided into smaller parcels. For instance, late last year, an empty lot on U.S.1 in Juno Beach was proposed for a mixed-use project featuring 95 condominiums.

But even though demand for housing is great, when it comes to gaining municipal approval for such projects, it’s not always a slam dunk. Mattamy Homes recently tried and failed to gain county approval to build 282 housing units on the shuttered golf course at Sherbrooke Golf & Country Club near Lake Worth Beach.

Jeff Lichtenstein, president of Echo Fine Properties, said he expects to see more “creative uses” of land for transformation into homes.

“I think there will be more creative types of development like this,” said Lichtenstein, who mused that even a boat storage area in his community could be turned into a couple of houses. “Everything could be housing.”

© Copyright 2022 Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.


Don’t Underestimate a Strong Email Subject Line

Do you scan 50 new emails and delete 80% of them without reading? Most people do. A simple “subject line” is often key to guaranteeing your emails will be read.

NEW YORK – When it comes to email marketing, a strong subject line is essential. It draws clients’ attention and encourages them to open the email. Many emails get deleted without reading, and a strong subject line is your foot in the door.

How to make a subject line compelling? First, keep them short and to the point. Agents should sum up the email’s content in 10 words or less – and ideally less. The software receivers use varies, and some can automatically cut off the last few words if it’s too long.

If there is a time element or deadline in the email, add it to the subject line.

Many times, a subject line stands out because it’s different, and agents shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box. For an upcoming open house, for example, the subject line could be, “Have You Seen This Tampa Home?” or “Tampa Home Sneak Peeks Available This Sunday.”

Another important aspect of email marketing is personalization. Keep the contact list up-to-date so that the subject line can be customized to meet the needs of recipients.

Agents should also carefully choose their words, and make sure the subject line is logical – something a person could easily search for later if they wanted to revisit the email.

Excessive sales-oriented or promotional language and punctuation should be avoided. To check this, some agents send a test email first to a colleague or marketing professional within the organization to gauge their reactions.

Once sent, most automated email marketing systems offer a function that allows agents to see the open rate and if recipients clicked on any links within that email.

Source: Inman (02/15/22) Stace, Laura

© Copyright 2022 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Nov. U.S. Home Prices Up 18.8% Year-to-Year

The increase in the top 10 and top 20 cities in S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index’s was slightly less, but Phoenix, Tampa and Miami had highest year-over-year gains.

NEW YORK – A leading measure of U.S. home prices, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, reported an 18.8% annual gain in November. While a strong rate of price appreciation, however, it’s down from 19.0% in the previous month. The index covers all nine U.S. census divisions.

The index’s 10-City Composite (largest cities) found an annual increase of 16.8%, down from 17.2%. The 20-City Composite posted an 18.3% year-over-year gain, down from 18.5% one month earlier.

Phoenix, Tampa and Miami reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities in November.

“Phoenix’s 32.2% increase led all cities for the 30th consecutive month,” says Craig J. Lazzara, Managing Director at S&P DJI. “Tampa (up 29.0%) and Miami (up 26.6%) continued in second and third place … Prices were strongest in the South and Southeast (both +25.0%), but every region continued to log impressive gains.”


Before seasonal adjustment, the U.S. National Index posted a 0.9% month-over-month increase in November, while the 10-City and 20-City Composites posted increases of 0.9% and 1.0%, respectively.

After seasonal adjustment, the U.S. National Index posted a month-over-month increase of 1.1%, and the 10-City and 20-City Composites posted increases of 1.1% and 1.2%, respectively.

In November, 19 of the 20 cities reported increases before seasonal adjustments, but all 20 cities reported increases after seasonal adjustments.

“For the past several months, home prices have been rising at a very high, but decelerating, rate,” says Lazzara. “That trend continued in November 2021 … (but) in all three cases, November’s gains were less than October’s.”

Still, Lazzara says November’s increase remains noteworthy, because it’s “the sixth-highest reading in the 34 years covered by our data – and the top five were the months immediately preceding November.”

Index analysts have suggested for months that housing market strength is driven, in part, by a “change in locational preferences as households react to the COVID pandemic.” However, it’s still too soon to tell if the change in demand is unique or largely consumers who would have made the same buying decisions with COVID-19 but strung them out over the next several years.

“In the short term, meanwhile, we should soon begin to see the impact of increasing mortgage rates on home prices,” adds Lazzara.

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Vacation Rentals Look More Like Theme Parks

How to maximize short-term-rental profit? To stand out from online competition, more are offering amenities such as themed bedrooms and private arcades.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Vacation rentals in Orlando increasingly add amenities that make them more like boutique hotels, with elaborately themed rooms for kids, large backyard pools and sleeping quarters for more than 30 people.

Not long ago, theater rooms and arcades set these homes apart. Now they’re standard in homes built strictly to entice out-of-town guests to stay for at least a few nights.

Vacation homes “are becoming almost like mini theme parks within themselves,” says Ryan McNally, vice president of McNally Construction Group. “The next guy always wants to one-up the latest and the greatest that’s been done.”

McNally’s latest 10,630-square-foot creation sold last year for $5.9 million. It features a two-story themed playroom with a ball pit and slides, a dress-up area, a “princess” bedroom, a race-car bedroom, a chef’s kitchen, six en suite bedrooms for the adults, a 12-seat theater and a huge pool.

With large homes built expressly as short-term rentals, more amenities add up to more bookings. According to Penny Stokes-Hilton with Top Villas Realty, buyers of these high-end homes can expect an 8% to 10% return on investment and still have the property at their disposal for vacations of their own.

Source: Realtor.com (02/21/22) Sherman, Tiffani

© Copyright 2022 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


More Buyers Drop Out Due to Prices, Stress

Buyers can only lose so many bids before “stop trying for now” starts to sound good. Moderating prices result, in part, from buyers deciding to wait.

MIAMI – It would seem the sky’s the limit when it comes to pricing for South Florida’s high-rise living with sales prices reaching new heights in January. House hunters, however, are catching some relief – as prices steadied or dipped for the first time in months.

Condo sales

Median sales prices increased for condos for the fifth month in a row in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, according to new housing data from the Miami Association of Realtors. In Miami-Dade, prices grew to $360,000 in January, up from $355,000 in December. Prices rose in Broward to $240,000 in January, slightly higher than $236,000 the month before.

The month-to-month growth mirrors a year-over-year jump in condo sales prices. Miami-Dade experienced a 27% rise in condo prices to $360,000 in January 2022 from $280,000 in January 2021. Prices rose by 15% in Broward, to $240,000 in January from $209,000 a year ago.

The price bumps follow a 2021 trend of rising home prices, further increasing the difficulty for area residents to afford homes.

Single-family sales

Single-family home price growth cooled in January compared to the previous month. In Miami-Dade, sales prices fell for the first time since September, dropping to $520,000 from $525,000. Meanwhile, in Broward, they remained the same for two months in a row at $500,000. The sales prices are higher compared to a year ago when median sales prices for a house reached $469,500 in Miami-Dade and $420,000 in Broward.

Buyers continue to flock to Miami and pay for a home because they trust in the growing economy, said Nancy Klock Corey, regional vice president of Coldwell Banker Realty’s Southeast Florida region.

“This real estate market is built on a strong economy; there isn’t something negative that’s driving this. People want to live here from all over the country,” she said. “You add the demographics, the unemployment is low. It gives confidence to the buyers. If they feel they can have a job and hold a job, they feel like they can pay more for a home.”

Interest rates rose to 4.05% for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage for the week ending Feb. 11, the highest level since 2019. But an uptick in interest rates will do little to detour prospective buyers at least for the remainder of the quarter, said Corey.

“That’s not high in the large scheme of things,” said Corey, who considers anything below 9% interest rate low. “Buyers know they have more buying power.”

A decision to wait

Some prospective buyers prefer to wait on the sidelines for activity to cool, including BoardroomPR Founder and CEO Julie Talenfeld. She’s been looking to co-sign on a condo unit for four months with her son Jonathan Zobel, a recent graduate from Nova Southeastern University. Zobel, who works on a private yacht, wants to move out of his parents’ house in Plantation and into a unit of his own in downtown Miami, Edgewater or Miami Beach.

The search dragged on for four months and Talenfeld and Zobel got outbid three times. “I’m not going to play this game,” Talenfeld said. “When I play, I win. There’s no winning here.”

Talenfeld and other buyers are competing in a market with slim pickings. Miami-Dade has 1.8 months of supply of single-family homes and 2.9 months of condos. Broward has a 1.1 months’ supply of houses and 1.6 months of condos.

Sales activity exceeded even Sergio Pino’s expectations last year. Pino, the founder and president of the Coral Gables-based Century Homebuilders Group, said his firm aimed to sell about 210 residences during 2021, after selling just under 200 in 2020. His team ended the year selling 552 single-family homes and townhouses.

“I don’t have enough supply for the demand that we have in Miami,” said Pino. “I see demand remaining the same for years to come.”

Cash remains king in Miami and popular among buyers coming from the Northeast, said Pino. The firm sells hundreds of its own houses and townhouses across 25 different communities under construction or recently completed in Miami, Cutler Bay, Palmetto Bay, Florida City and Homestead. At least 20 New Yorkers paid in cash to live in one of Pino’s communities.

Like Pino, nearly half of sellers received cash offers in South Florida. Data from the Miami Association of Realtors shows that 40% of deals closed in cash in Miami-Dade and 41% in Broward in January 2022, higher than the 27% national average.

© 2022 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Competition Pushes Investors into Tertiary Markets

NEW YORK – Apartment investors are jumping at the chance to buy properties in Manhattan at 6% cap rates – Manhattan, Kansas, that is. Buyers that used to dismiss such tertiary markets as “flyover country” are now stopping to take a second look.

Capital chasing better yields and growth opportunities in secondary markets is spilling over into even smaller cities. According to Real Capital Analytics (RCA), investment sales volume in tertiary markets jumped to $147.0 billion in 2021.

Although tertiary markets account for a smaller percentage of the overall sales market at about 18%, last year’s sales volume represented a 56% increase over the $94.2 billion in sales transactions recorded in 2019. (RCA defines tertiary markets as those outside the top 40 MSAs it tracks as major and secondary metros.)

Investors may not always agree on the exact definition of a tertiary market, but there is growing interest in opportunities in smaller metros beyond the top 30 or 40 MSAs that include the likes of Columbus, Ohio, Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Omaha, Neb., and Boulder, Colo., among others. The biggest motivator is yield, especially as cap rates in gateway and secondary cities have dipped below 4% for most in-demand assets.

“We’re in a low-yield environment and people are reaching for yield. So, if you can get a higher cap rate in some of these tertiary markets, that is very attractive to investors,” says Joseph Biasi, a senior consultant at the CoStar Group. “The only trick with a tertiary market is that people are a lot less familiar with them, and it is a lot harder to get foreign dollars there.”

According to CoStar, transaction volume in tertiary markets in 2021, generally those outside of the top 25 metros, was 10% higher than 2019 levels as compared to a 14% increase in secondary markets and a decline of 18% in primary markets.

Competition for assets in Sun Belt states such as Florida, Texas and the Carolinas is pushing cap rates to almost ridiculously low levels, notes Tyler Hague, a senior vice president in the Chicago office of Colliers International. Hague heads the firm’s Midwest multifamily investment sales group. “Because of that, buyers that would have never come to secondary markets in the Midwest, let alone tertiary locations, are starting to explore those opportunities,” he says.

Hague’s team currently is selling multifamily assets in metros such as Columbus, Louisville, Ames, Iowa, and Manhattan, Kan., where the team has sold over 1,000 units in the past year. Investors buying apartments in tertiary markets generally are finding discounts of 50 to 100 basis points compared to similar quality assets in bigger metros, notes Hague. For example, an apartment in Manhattan, Kan., that sells at 6% would go for 4.75% in nearby Kansas City, he says.

Searching for yield

Net lease investors have been ahead of the curve when it comes to moving into tertiary markets, largely because the assets they’re buying are backed by credit tenants with long-term leases that reduce investment risk, such as Walgreens, AutoZone and Taco Bell. However, the pool of buyers these days is larger with interest from investors across the spectrum, from high-net-worth individuals and family offices to REITs and private equity funds.

One of the drivers for that is simple supply and demand. There is more capital chasing too few deals, which is prompting investors to widen their searches, notes Matthew Mousavi, a managing principal in the national net lease group at SRS.

SRS recently sold a net lease Home Depot distribution center in Salem, Ore., for $50 million at a cap rate of about 5%. The deal attracted interest from both private buyers and institutions from around the country. The winning bidder was a high-net-worth investor, which also reflects the shift in the bidder pool, adds Mousavi.

“Twenty years ago, that property would have sold to an institution, a pension fund or a life insurance company. Now we have private individuals buying $50 million net lease deals in tertiary markets,” he says.

Technology and greater transparency also have made it easier to buy properties in smaller cities. An investor in New York that is interested in a property in Ohio can use Google Map’s street view option to look at that site on their phone or tablet, and they can easily pull market and sales comp info.

“It’s a vastly different technology for our business that makes those markets more efficient and brings in more capital,” says Mousavi. Real estate is still a hands-on business and people need to go look at the physical asset, but it is easier than ever to assess a property remotely, he adds.

Worth the risk?

Traditionally, larger institutional investors have been wary of the greater risk and reduced liquidity in smaller metros, as well as the challenge of being able to place capital at scale. However, many smaller metros are posting strong growth, which has been further fueled by the pandemic and remote working.

According to the NAIOP research brief, How the Other Half Builds: Small-Scale Development in Tertiary Markets, tertiary markets are home to about half the U.S. population and represent a significant share of the commercial real estate market. The brief noted that while higher exit risk may discourage developers with shorter time horizons from entering a tertiary market, higher yields and less competition tends to favor longer holding periods in smaller markets.

“Investors are attracted to the very compelling returns and good fundamentals that are driving strong long-term returns in tertiary markets. Additionally, strong job growth and continued in-migration from gateway markets are contributing to the growth of secondary and tertiary markets,” says Matthew Lawton, executive managing director and investment sales and advisory platform leader at JLL Capital Markets.

However, investors are being very selective and not just painting these markets and submarkets with a broad brush. They are applying similar strategies as the ones employed in primary markets, such as looking at employment hubs and demand drivers such as tech, STEM, “eds and meds” and state capitals, he says.

One question is whether investors are getting adequately compensated for the risk.

“I’m kind of surprised to see some of the yields investors are accepting in tertiary markets,” says Mousavi. Those investors chasing yield almost have no choice but to go to tertiary markets. However, there also are those investors that have looked at tertiaries that don’t feel that the yields justify the risk and would rather buy a property at a 3 or 4% cap rate in a top MSA rather than accept a 5% or 6% cap rate in a smaller city with greater risk, he says.

In addition, the cap rate spread between top markets and tertiary markets is shrinking. According to CoStar, property pricing in both secondary and tertiary markets in 2021 is up significantly over 2019 levels at 26% and 22% respectively. Cap rates also have declined significantly. In multifamily, for example, the spread in average cap rates between secondary and tertiary markets has thinned to 30 basis points, according to CoStar.

“Cap rates have really been pushed down as demand has exploded,” says Biasi.

Cap rates on net lease assets in a top 25 MSA used to be 5% compared to 8% or higher for tertiary markets, notes Mousavi. These days net lease assets in tertiary markets might be priced at a 5.5 or 6% cap rate compared to a 4 or 4.5% for a top tier market. The yield is not as great, but investors are still looking to tertiaries for that higher yield, he says.

© 2022 Penton Media


A Higher March Interest-Rate Hike? Fed Discussing It

While most Federal Reserve Governors seem to favor a 0.25% March interest-rate increase, one gave a speech suggesting she’d be OK with 0.50%.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal Reserve Governor Michelle Bowman said Monday that she was open to lifting interest rates by more than the traditional quarter-point at the central bank’s next meeting in March.

Bowman’s comments came after several officials on Friday pushed back against the idea of a half-point increase in the Fed’s benchmark short-term interest rate. The Fed is looking to raise rates as inflation surged to 7.5% in January compared with a year earlier, the biggest increase in four decades.

The debate over how quickly to raise interest rates is being closely watched by financial markets and also could have an impact on the broader economy. Many economists have said the Fed has moved too slowly in response to an unexpectedly persistent surge in prices, raising the risk that inflation could remain high. But if it raises rates too quickly, the Fed risks choking off growth and hiring.

The bank is almost certain to start lifting interest rates at its March 15-16 meeting, with most officials who have expressed views backing a quarter-point increase. However, James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, has expressed support for a half-point hike sometime at the Fed’s next three meetings.

Any increase next month would be the first since 2018.

Bowman said in prepared remarks to an American Bankers Association Conference in Palm Desert, California, that she supported lifting rates next month and that “if the economy evolves as I expect, additional rate increases will be appropriate in the coming months.”

“I will be watching the data closely to judge the appropriate size of an increase at the March meeting,” she added, suggesting she is open to a half-point hike.

The Fed’s rate increases typically push up borrowing costs for consumers and businesses, slowing the economy’s growth. Average mortgage rates have already risen to nearly 4%, the highest since 2019, as markets have moved in anticipation of the Fed’s increases.

Before joining the Fed’s board in 2018, Bowman was the top bank regulator in Kansas and has not been a leading voice on the Fed’s interest rate policies. Still, as a Fed governor, she has a permanent vote on interest rates, and three of the seven governor seats are now vacant.

Bowman also said “inflation is much too high” and “is a heavy burden for all Americans, but especially for those with limited means who are forced to pay more for everyday items, delay purchases, or put off saving for the future.”

She said higher prices will likely continue for the first half of the year, potentially declining in the second half, “but there is a substantial risk that high inflation could persist.”

Disrupted supply chains have slowed the production of goods like cars, furniture, appliances and electronics, even as demand for those items has soared, a key reason for higher inflation. Bowman acknowledged the Fed can’t do anything about supply problems but said it could address strong demand by ending its ultra-low interest rate policies that are “no longer needed.”

John Williams, president of the New York Fed, said Friday that he did not “see any compelling argument to take a big step at the beginning” of rate hikes, indicating he supports a quarter-point boost next month.

Most economists expect six or seven rate hikes this year, which would be a quicker pace than the last time the Fed tightened credit, from 2015 to 2018. Investors have priced in a 70% chance of at least six increases this year, according to CME’s Fedwatch.

Fed Governor Lael Brainard said Friday that she expected the Fed to initiate a “series of rate increases” at its meeting in March. She also said the financial markets’ expectations are “aligned with” the Fed’s plans, suggesting she supports investors’ view that there will be six rate increases this year.

The Fed also has said it will start reducing its $9 trillion in bond holdings later this year, which would likely have the effect of pushing up interest rates.

Brainard and Williams are considered part of a “troika” of close advisers to Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


Feb. Consumer Confidence Down – but Only a Bit

The index fell to 110.5 from Jan.’s 111.1. Attitudes about current conditions improved, however, while attitudes about the future were less rosy.

BOSTON – The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index changed little in February, falling by less than one point, from January’s 111.1 to February’s 110.5.

However the drop came in only one part of the index – the measure of consumers’ expectations for the future. Attitudes about current conditions rose.

The Present Situation Index – based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions – improved to 145.1 from 144.5 last month. The Expectations Index – based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions – declined to 87.5 from 88.8.

“Consumer confidence was down slightly for a second consecutive month in February,” says Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “The Present Situation Index improved a touch, suggesting the economy continued to expand in Q1 but did not gain momentum. Expectations about short-term growth prospects weakened further, pointing to a likely moderation in growth over the first half of 2022.”

Franco says the number of consumers who said they plan to make a major purchase over the next six months – homes, automobiles, major appliances and vacations – also fell.

“Concerns about inflation rose again in February, after posting back-to-back declines,” Franco adds. “Despite this reversal, consumers remain relatively confident about short-term growth prospects. While they do not expect the economy to pick up steam in the near future, they also do not foresee conditions worsening. Nevertheless, confidence and consumer spending will continue to face headwinds from rising prices in the coming months.”

February’s present situation

Business conditions:

  • 18.7% of consumers said business conditions were “good,” down from 20.0%
  • However, 24.7% of consumers said business conditions were “bad,” down from 27.4%

Labor market:

  • 53.8% of consumers said jobs were “plentiful,” down from 55.0% – but still a historically strong reading
  • However, 11.8% of consumers said jobs are “hard to get,” down from 12.0%

February’s future expectations

Short-term business conditions:

  • 23.4% of consumers expect business conditions will improve, slightly down from 23.6%.
  • However, 18.1% expect business conditions to worsen, down from 19.7%

Short-term labor market:

  • 21.3% of consumers expect more jobs to be available in the months ahead, down from 22.1%
  • 17.9% anticipate fewer jobs, up from 16.6%

Short-term financial prospects:

  • 15.7% of consumers expect their incomes to increase, down from 16.2%.
  • 12.1% expect their incomes to decrease, unchanged from last month

Toluna conducts the monthly Consumer Confidence Survey for The Conference Board. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was February 16.

© 2022 Florida Realtors®