Monthly Archives: October 2022

FinCEN Renewed for 6 Months, Cities Added

The order to name actual corporation owners if buying real estate in S. Fla. (Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach) and other metros was extended to April 24, 2023.

WASHINGTON – The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced another renewal and expansion of its Geographic Targeting Orders (GTOs) that require U.S. title insurance companies to identify the natural persons behind shell companies used in non-financed purchases of residential real estate.

In Florida, the order directly impacts three counties, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. The order includes information on how it impacts cash real estate transactions.

“Renewing the GTOs will further assist in tracking illicit funds and other criminal or illicit activity, as well as inform FinCEN’s future regulatory efforts in this sector,” the U.S. Department of the Treasury said in a statement announcing the extension.

In addition to cities and counties already covered by the regulation, FinCEN expanded the geographic coverage to two more Texas counties that include the cities of Houston and Laredo.

U.S. metros under the FinCEN GTO order

  • Texas counties: Bexar, Tarrant, Dallas, Harris, Montgomery, Webb
  • Florida counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach;
  • Boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Staten Island, Manhattan in New York City
  • California counties: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara
  • Hawaii counties: Hawaii, Maui, Kauai, Honolulu or the City of Honolulu
  • Nevada County: Clark
  • Washington County: King
  • Massachusetts counties: Suffolk, Middlesex
  • Illinois County: Cook
  • Maryland counties: Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Howard
  • Virginia counties: Arlington, Fairfax, or the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church or Fairfax
  • Connecticut County: Fairfield
  • The District of Columbia

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Negotiate Without Speaking: Body Language Tips

Does a competitor know you’re anxious about negotiations the minute you step into a room? It helps to know what your body – and everyone else’s – is subtly saying.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – When agents meet with clients, walk into a colleague’s office or meet with an investor, their body language may say, “I’m very confident” or “I’m really anxious.” That means their simple presence can strengthen trust or trigger suspicion.

Agents should prepare their body language before walking into a room. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy suggests that striking a Wonder Woman pose for a minute or two, with hands on hips, helps to open up the body and assume a power mindset.

To improve body language, agents should check their facial expressions in a mirror, and even practice expressions and find their best angles. The ability to purposefully convey subtle cues can help propel negotiations.

Body language also works both ways, and agents should be alert to insincerity indications in others. Harvard Law School research found that if someone nods as they’re saying no, for instance, may indicate a divergence between their thoughts and their communication.

Chandler David Smith, an expert door-to-door salesman, recommends agents smile and nod to encourage feelings of alliance and positivity with others. They also must keep themselves focused on the conversation and avoid internal negative thoughts, which can appear through body language without them even knowing it.

What critical body language signs should agents look for in other people? Note a red face and/or throbbing neck or forehead, which suggests that a person is angry, embarrassed or both. If a person’s forearms are hardly touching the desk, this indicates that they’re ready to make a quick retreat. Tightly clasped hands or fists, or involuntary hand gestures that deviate from facial expressions usually indicate a negative reaction.

Source: Inman (10/19/22) Murdock, Christy

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


More Economists Predict a Mild Recession

NEW YORK – A recession is now likely next year, most economists say. But so far that grim warning has been accompanied by this silver lining: Any downturn almost certainly will be mild.

In recent weeks, however, the odds of a more severe slump that would mean millions more job losses have been rising, they say.

Some economists blame a Federal Reserve that’s aggressively raising interest rates in a single-minded mission to tame stubbornly high inflation, even if it risks a recession.

“If the Fed keeps raising rates, it could cause more damage,” says Bob Schwartz, senior economist at Oxford Economics.

Economists also point to intensifying economic troubles in Europe, Chinese COVID-19 lockdowns that could escalate this winter, a sharp U.S. housing slowdown and even a U.S. job market that has been so resilient it’s prompting even bolder Fed action, among other factors.

Is there going to be a recession in 2022?

The most likely scenario is still a modest recession that lasts six to nine months or so. Eighty-eight percent of economists predict a downturn will be mild, according to a survey earlier this month by Wolters Kluwer Blue Chip Economic Indicators. But that’s down from 95% in October. That means the share of doomsayers has climbed to 12% from 5% within a few weeks.

What is a mild recession?

A mild recession could cost the economy 1.8 million jobs if the nation’s gross domestic product, or economic output, declines 1.2%, and the unemployment rate rises from a 50-year low of 3.5% to 5.4%, estimates Wells Fargo Chief Economist Jay Bryson.

That outcome would be roughly similar to recessions of the early 1990s and early 2000s and less severe than the average downturn in which GDP declines 1.6%, say Bryson and Joseph LaVorgna, chief economist of SMBC Capital Markets.

It also would be far less damaging than the Great Recession of 2007-09 (with its nearly 4% drop in output and 8.7 million job losses) and the COVID-19 recession of 2020 (with about a 10% drop in output and 22 million job losses).

What is a severe recession?

A severe recession could mean 3 million to 4 million job losses, a 2% to 2.5% decline in GDP and a 7% unemployment rate, Bryson says. Such a slump, he says, probably would last longer, perhaps a year or 15 months, as a virulent cycle takes hold, with widespread layoffs leading to less consumer spending, which would spur more layoffs.

Most economists are forecasting a mild slump because consumers and companies are in good shape financially and so have at least some wherewithal to keep spending even if the economy weakens and some people lose jobs. Household debt amounted to 9.6% of disposable personal income in the second quarter, up from 8.4% early last year but well below the 13.2% peak in late 2007 and the average over the past 40 years, according to the Federal Reserve.

Also, consumers still have nearly $2 trillion in pandemic-related savings, though that’s down from a peak of $2.6 trillion last year, according to Moody’s Analytics.

Meanwhile, the outstanding debt of nonfinancial corporations hit a record high of $12.5 trillion in the second quarter but it comprised just 3.7% of corporate profits, down from 4.8% in late 2019, according to the Fed and Oxford Economics. And despite sharply rising interest rates, many corporations refinanced their debt when rates were low, Bryson says. Seventy percent of it won’t reset to new rates for 12 months or longer.

Also, the economy isn’t beset by imbalances, as it was during the commercial real estate crisis of the early 1990s, the dot com meltdown of 2000 and the housing crash of the late 2000s, says Ian Shepherdson, chief economist of Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Still, several emerging forces could turn a mild recession into a severe one:

Even bigger Fed rate hikes

The Fed already has raised its key short-term interest rate from near zero to a range of 3% to 3.25% this year – its most aggressive campaign since 1980 – and has signaled it will push it up another 1.25 percentage points by the end of the year. Futures markets expect yet another half-point rise in early 2023, bringing it to a level designed to restrict economic growth.

The central bank repeatedly has ratcheted up the pace of the hikes despite growing recession risks, citing inflation that set a new 40-year high early this year and has since hovered just below that level.

If inflation continues to ease more slowly than anticipated, the Fed could bump rates even higher and keep them there even as the economy falters.

“If they raise rates to 5% and beyond, that could do real damage to the economy,” Schwartz says.

Fed rate increases already have clobbered the housing market with 30-year, fixed mortgage rates more than doubling to about 7% this year, and increasingly will dampen car purchases, credit card usage and business investment, Schwartz and LaVorgna say.

What’s more, LaVorgna says, the Fed for the first time is lifting rates even while the economy is sharply slowing.

“If they do what they say they’re going to do, we’re going to have a deep recession,” LaVorgna says, adding he believes Fed officials will reverse course before that happens.

Is the job market too strong?

Job openings have declined from a near-record 11.2 million in July to a still robust 10.1 million the following month. Because of persistent labor shortages, many companies are reluctant to lay off workers or sharply scale back hiring on fears they won’t be able to find employees when the economy bounces back.

Normally, a resilient job market helps cushion an economy against a recession. But now it likely will spur the Fed to continue to raise rates aggressively to temper wage gains that have helped fuel inflation. That could increase the risk of a deeper downturn “They’re trying to take steam out of the labor market without causing a recession,” Bryson says. “That’s a really tough thing to do.”

A Deutsche Bank study out this week says the Fed will need to raise its key rate enough to push unemployment near 6% to lower inflation close to its 2% target by the end of 2024.

Will housing prices go down in 2023?

Existing home sales fell for the eighth straight month in September. Home prices fell for the second straight month in August for the first time since 2011, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index.

Housing, mostly through new home construction, makes up just 4.6% of the economy, Schwartz says, adding he’s not worried about the sector contributing to a severe recession. Plus, the market looks nothing like it did in 2007, when banks doled out millions of subprime loans to unqualified borrowers, leading to massive foreclosures and layoffs.

But Gregory Daco, chief economist of EY-Parthenon, says housing wealth accounts for about half of total household net worth. He expects home prices to fall 6% by mid-2023.

“Rapidly falling prices could dampen household consumption and magnify the recessionary dynamics expected to grip the economy in 2023,” Daco wrote in a note to clients.

Could a deep recession in Europe ripple to U.S.?

Goldman Sachs now expects winter weather to trigger a more severe European downturn, one that’s being driven by soaring energy prices linked to Russia’s war with Ukraine.

S&P 500 companies generate about 14% of their revenue from sales in Europe, according to FactSet. Bryson worries a deeper downturn could further dent the outlook and investments of U.S. companies.

Could COVID in China impact U.S.?

Chinese cities are already imposing lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Bryson worries those efforts could intensify if a harsh winter triggers more cases, worsening supply chain bottlenecks for U.S. companies. Those snarls have eased, reducing product shortages and raising hopes for a drop-off in inflation.

Could corporate debt be a problem?

Although corporate debt levels are manageable, a slowing economy could hurt revenue growth, leaving companies with less cash to make payments, says Oren Klachkin, Oxford’s lead U.S. economist. S&P 500 earnings are projected to rise 1.5% for the third quarter, the slowest clip since 2020, FactSet says. That could further hammer business investment and cause U.S. banks to restrict lending even more.

“It’s a potential catalyst for more severe financial and economic stress,” Klachkin says.

What’s the risk of an unforeseen financial crisis?

Sharply rising interest rates can lead to crises that aren’t even on anyone’s radar, such as the implosion of the mortgage-related derivatives market in 2007, Schwartz says.

It could be a foreign country’s debt crisis as interest rates rise and a strong dollar makes repayment more challenging, or an overleveraged hedge fund, he says.

“It’s the unknown,” Bryson says.

Copyright 2022, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY


Mortgage Payments Accelerate Faster than Sales Prices

Florida Realtors economist: Interest rates have an oversized impact on buyers’ ability to secure a home – and the challenge is growing.

ORLANDO, Fla – Sale price and interest rate are the two things locked down when financing the purchase of a home. This one number dictates how much an individual shells out each month for their mortgage payment – and for most households, this number is far and away the largest share of their monthly expenses. It matters more than most other line items on the household spreadsheet as it directly impacts their ability to pay for other things and is often a driving force behind where a family chooses to live.

We know that the median sales price for single-family homes has been increasing at a quick clip over the past few years. We also knew that interest rate increases were bound to happen. Keeping rates artificially low was never to be a long-term recovery strategy from the COVID recession.

However, the pace of those increases has been nothing short of breathtaking. Couple that with sales prices hovering near this cycle’s peak and we have the makings for trouble.

June 2022 appears to be the cycle peak, with the median sales price for a single-family home coming in at $420,000. The cost to service that debt with interest rates just below 6% was $1,851. In that peak month, the sales price had increased by 33% from the same month two years before – but the monthly payment increase was 47%.

The enhanced purchasing power of buyers, both first-time and existing homeowners, has eroded. The low interest rates that allowed people to stomach increases in sales prices has evaporated. We’re now left with high (relative to 18 months ago) rates and high sales prices.

Of course, this is all for new mortgages. People locked in at low rates are positioned well to weather this storm. However, the prospect of entering a higher interest-rate environment may keep current homeowners from selling, potentially further pinching already low inventory. First-time home buyers are particularly impacted by this current moment in the cycle, as historically high sales prices with relatively high interest rates makes that all-important number on the household spreadsheet too high to make the rest of their obligations balance out.

How did we get here?

When interest rates are low, a buyer can afford to pay a higher sales price because the monthly payment to service that debt offsets the increased price; more of the payment goes toward principle and less toward interest. This simple equation helped propel an already healthy market into a frothy one since May 2020. Debt became so cheap that buyers didn’t mind paying a higher sticker price – the monthly payment was still palatable and didn’t upset their household budget.

In June 2020, three months after lockdown started, the median sales price for a single-family home in the state of Florida was $282,000. Interest rates were hovering around 3%, about 150 basis points (1.5 percentage points) lower than they had been the same time a year before. The estimated monthly payment at that sale price and interest rate was about $980. This monthly payment was well within reach for most Floridians, as only the highest cost areas like South Florida and a few counties in the Panhandle had prices that exceeded the median income needed to qualify for a mortgage. This compelled more people, including first-time homebuyers, to enter the market and lock in rates that enhanced their purchasing power. People itching to upgrade did so as well, often getting into pricier homes bolstered by a sudden increase in equity from their existing homes.

The impact of the low interest rate environment was prolonged and significant. In March 2021, we published an article, The Invisible Stimulus Package: Homeowners Who Refinance, that showed how low interest rates were akin to an invisible stimulus package to homeowners who refinanced at lower rates. Interest rates remained low for about two years, unleashing a game of musical chairs in the housing market that we haven’t quite seen before. Migration of people from other states flush with cash-out equity further pushed the market to beyond historic norms.

The result – sky high sales prices. Sticker price was getting out of control, but monthly payments were able to somewhat withstand these steady increases.

In June 2021, the median sales price increased year-over-year by 19.7% to $351,000, but the monthly payment was $1,178, or a 16.8% year over year increase. The still-low interest rate helped keep the overall cost of a home within the realm of reason for the typical household budget.


We all know that interest rate fluctuations are important to anyone in the process of qualifying for, and ultimately purchasing, a home. Typically, a potential buyer can expect some moderate swings as the market fluctuates week to week. Rarely, however, are these swings so wild that a person’s monthly payment would change from “affordable” when they pre-qualify to “no longer qualified” by the time they get to the closing table. It’s not the level that we’re at that is causing pain – it’s how fast we got here that’s become so disruptive.

While the residential real estate market is particularly vulnerable to interest rates, it is also the roof over a person’s head and not an asset that people try to time with market cycles. People will transact, and the fundamentals underpinning deals do not resemble anything like what we saw running up to 2008. Just understanding the environment we’re in will help brace you for the impact of a potentially not-so-soft landing.

Jennifer Warner is a Florida Realtors economist and Director of Economic Development

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Denied FEMA Assistance? Start an Appeal

A denial is not the last word, according to FEMA. “People see that first paragraph, throw it away and think that’s the end,” says FEMA spokeswoman Renee Bafalis.

SARASOTA, Fla. – Applicants who receive a denial letter after applying for Hurricane Ian relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency should not take that as the government’s final answer. Instead, officials say, that’s a signal to start an appeal process.

“People see that first paragraph in that letter, and they just throw it away and think that’s the end of the road,” FEMA spokeswoman Renee Bafalis said Wednesday. “But we want you to know that’s the first step in the process and we want you to appeal until you’re satisfied.”

There are a variety of reasons a first application for aid may be denied, though chief among them is that an adjuster with a property owner’s insurance company hasn’t finished providing an assessment on what the policy will cover.

“If indeed we are able to assist you, you should know that we can’t duplicate what your insurance would cover,” Bafalis added.

After that, the application may not be complete, have incorrect address information or a transposed digit in something key like a Social Security number.

Bafalis did note that while thousands of people had received initial $700 payments through the Critical Needs Assistance Program – either via check or direct-deposit – about 400 individuals had received notice that they would get paid without receiving funds, or had money initially deposited and then withdrawn.

In those cases, the holdup is missing or incorrect information, Bafalis said.

“FEMA is reaching back out to those folks to try to resolve the issue,” she added.

While FEMA urges people to call 1-800-621-3362 or take advantage of the agency’s app or the disasterassistance.gov website to register for assistance and appeal decisions, one of the best ways to find out why your application has been denied and what’s needed to make it complete is to stop by a nearby Disaster Recovery Center.

Three Disaster Recovery Centers open in region

In Sarasota County, a Disaster Recovery Center is at Shannon Staub Public Library, 4675 Career Lane, North Port, and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.

In Charlotte County, the Englewood Disaster Recovery Center is at the Tringali Park Recreation Center, 3660 N. Access Road, Englewood, and is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.

A Disaster Recovery Center opened in Manatee County Wednesday at John Marble Park, 3675 53rd Ave. E., Bradenton, and is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Go to the closest recovery center, regardless of whether it is in your home county, and bring the denial letter to submit an appeal.

“Our folks at the recovery centers will actually help you write the appeal,” Bafalis said. “They become your advocate; they want to help in whatever way they can.

“There are other aids in there besides just FEMA but when you come in and meet with our representative, they become your advocate,” she later added. “You can come back to that same person every time and they know your situation.

“We know how difficult it is, especially when you’ve lost everything and you’re in a state of disaster and you don’t know where to turn.”

The Disaster Recovery Centers also have representatives from the Small Business Administration, state agencies, nonprofits and faith-based agencies that may be able to offer assistance.

People need three things to apply for FEMA assistance: a Social Security number, the name of their insurance company or insurance agent, and proof of residence. Bafalis noted that FEMA has been working with counties and municipalities to establish proof of residence, if need be.

As of close of business Tuesday, 49,920 people in Sarasota County had registered for FEMA assistance and roughly $45.4 million has been approved through the agency’s Individual and Household Program. About $27.5 million of that has been for housing and rental assistance programs and the other nearly $18 million has gone to other needs, such as reimbursement for initial repairs, transportation needs, child care costs, storage or medical and dental assistance.

Statewide, about $1.4 billion in federal assistance is scheduled to be disbursed from FEMA, the Small Business Administration and the National Flood Insurance program. Of that, $642 million in Florida has come from the Individual and Household Program.

Again, Bafalis stressed, the initial FEMA denial letter is not the last word.

“We want you to appeal over and over and over again,” Bafalis said. “More information may become available to you, more documentation may become available.

“You may be doing repairs for your home and you have receipts for things that aren’t covered by your insurance,” she added. “Whatever it is, please use our centers.”

For more information on Hurricane Ian recovery efforts and survivor options, visit Florida Realtors Hurricane Recovery Center.

© Copyright, 2022, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, all rights reserved.


Should Sellers List Now or Try to Wait It Out?

With home prices’ peak likely in the rear-view mirror, should sellers waiting to maximize profit jump in before it’s too late or wait and hope for another market reversal?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – As the housing market has cooled considerably, sellers are now wrestling with whether to sell their homes as soon as possible or hold off on selling.

Two years ago, it was an easier decision: Prices were at record highs, interest rates were lower than they had been in years, and buyers were so desperate to get into a home that they often bid up on homes and waived any appraisals.

But now, with more homes coming to the market and higher interest rates, buyers have started to reclaim more of the power, throwing sellers into unfamiliar territory.

With the market having shifted, is it more beneficial for them to sell now or wait for another boom?

“We ask them a simple question: ‘Do you think your house will be worth more in six months or a year than it is today, looking at the way the economy is and what interest rates are?’” said Alex Platt, a Realtor with the Platt Group at Compass in Boca Raton.

A seller’s perspective

For Dr. Imran Mirza, the decision to put his home up for sale was an easy one. He saw the bidding wars around him and properties flying off the market, and decided to capitalize on South Florida’s record boom before a possible correction took place.

He finally closed on his five-bedroom, five-and-a-half bathroom house in Boynton Beach about a week ago for $1.4 million, a down adjustment from the price he wanted – $1.895 million.

It was still a significant profit from the $900,000 he paid for the home in 2017. There are “these kind of profits where people live in their homes for 20 years, and they don’t see these kind of profits,” he noted.

For potential sellers looking to list now, there is some anxiety around deciding to sell: Have they missed the peak of the market in terms of prices? Will holding off on selling decrease their ability to get a high price even more?

“If they are moving out of town, or if it’s a second home or investment home that they want to pull money out of in the next five years, they should really sell now,” said Brian Pearl, principal agent with the Pearl Antonacci Group in Boca Raton, said. “We are really trying to paint the picture, are you OK waiting for another 5 to 10 years? If you are not, you should strongly consider selling now. If you need to move, sell now because the future is uncertain.”

For Mirza, he believes that if the time is right in a seller’s life and if someone wants to sell, they should do it now rather than wait out the shifting market.

“I figured we were at the peak for selling it and you don’t want to wait another seven years for this to happen again,” he said. “If they put their house out now, they have a good chance of selling it.”

What sellers need to weigh

Most experts agree: If a seller needs to move and wants to, then they should put the home up for sale. However, if a seller likes their home and is comfortable with their current payments, then they should stay in their house.

“While things have cooled off in South Florida, this is still a good time to sell,” said Jeff Tucker, senior economist with Zillow. “I don’t see a whole lot to gain from waiting, in part because the market is turning and the higher interest rates are having a snowball effect and cooling the market even more.”

Stephan Gehrig, 38, sold his home in Delray Beach in August for about $2.2 million, a little before prices started to adjust in South Florida.

“I saw how I was kinda at the end of the peak,” Gehrig said. “I was one of the last homes that sold in the neighborhood. I waited to list and I saw how previous homes, they had all sold within a week or two, and I got concerned [when] mine didn’t.”

Interest rates and inventory levels have been the main driving force of the housing market. Right now inventory levels, while they have risen compared to last year, are still low enough to keep prices high, a plus for sellers. Should more homes become available on the market, sellers would face more competition in selling their homes, Platt noted.

“It does appear that prices will come down a lot more because people are cutting their asking price,” said Eli Beracha, director of the Hollo School of Real Estate at Florida International University.

For Gehrig, his home sold in less than 30 days, and while he had to compromise on price a little bit as he witnessed the beginning signs of the incoming cooldown, Gehrig still feels that the price was enough to make it worth listing his home.

“I do wish I listed sooner,” Gehrig said.

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


Appeal Court Halts Orange County Rent Control

The court reversed a lower court decision about a rent-control ballot measure opposed by Florida Realtors. The court focused on the definition of “housing emergency.”

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed a lower court’s ruling about stopping an Orange County ballot initiative on rent control in the metro area. It’s a win for Florida Realtors® and the Florida Apartment Association (FAA), which opposed Orange County in court.

Had the lower court’s ruling not been reversed, Orange County voters would have been given an opportunity to approve rent control measures for a limited number of homes in their county, pending approval by area voters in the upcoming election.

The State of Florida has a statute that limits local governments’ ability to impose rent control, however, and the court’s majority found it unlikely Orange County would prevail in a court trial. As a result, it issued the reversal, stopping the initiative. Since ballots have already been printed, however, local voters will still see the question on their Nov. 6 ballots.

“Florida Realtors is pleased that the Fifth Circuit DCA reversed the lower court’s ruling and recognized that this proposal is unconstitutional and misleading,” says Margy Grant, CEO of Florida Realtors. “Years ago, the Florida Legislature passed a state law that clearly laid out what a municipality needs to place a rent control measure on the ballot, and that standard was not met. We appreciate the judge’s decision and the immediate reversal. Studies show that rent control has unintended consequences that can make issues worse.”

What is a “housing emergency”?

The court’s 34-page opinion focused heavily on the definition of a housing “emergency,” which is a mandatory prerequisite under Florida law if a local government wants to impose rent control. The law does not offer a clear definition of “emergency,” however, leaving it up to the courts to decide.

The Fifth Court of Appeal cited previous cases to answer the question. In a Miami case, a court ruled that “[a]n increase in the cost of living (an inflationary spiral) alone is not a justification for rent control legislation, which limits the amount of rent which a tenant may be required to pay.” The court said it assumed the current Orange County case “carried a similar meaning.”

It decided that an “emergency” must be “sudden or unexpected, creating a temporary condition necessitating immediate or quick action.”

What is a “serious menace to the general public”?

Even if Orange County could prove an “emergency,” the court said, Florida law also requires the rent problem to be “so grave as to constitute a serious menace to the general public.” Citing an earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision, the appeal court said “menace” is one impacting “the health, morality, comfort, and even to the peace of a large part of the people of the state.”

“The Florida Apartment Association is grateful that the 5th District Court of Appeal ruled to remove this dangerous and illegal measure from consideration on the ballot,” says FAA Executive Vice President Chip Tatum. “Moving forward, we remain committed to working alongside state and local policymakers on real solutions that bolster the supply of housing and address the needs of a growing population.”

It’s unclear what will happen as Orange County voters head to the polls. Judges say they “considered the Supervisor of Elections’ arguments about his options, given the timing of the ruling and the upcoming election, but, “We decline to dictate precisely how the Supervisor of Elections should effectuate the relief.”

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


NAR: Sept. Pending Home Sales Drop 10.2%

It’s the fourth decline in as many months, and the impact affects all regions of the U.S. Year-over-year, pending transactions slid by 31.0%.

WASHINGTON – Pending home sales trailed off for the fourth consecutive month in September, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). All four major regions recorded month-over-month and year-over-year declines in transactions.

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) – a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings – slumped 10.2% to 79.5 in September. Year-over-year, pending transactions slid by 31.0%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

“Persistent inflation has proven quite harmful to the housing market,” says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “The Federal Reserve has had to drastically raise interest rates to quell inflation, which has resulted in far fewer buyers and even fewer sellers.”

Yun noted that new home listings are down compared to one year ago since many homeowners are unwilling to give up the rock-bottom, 3% mortgage rates that they locked in prior to this year.

“The new normal for mortgage rates could be around 7% for a while,” Yun adds. “On a $300,000 loan, that translates to a typical monthly mortgage payment of nearly $2,000, compared to $1,265 just one year ago – a difference of more than $700 per month. Only when inflation is tamed will mortgage rates retreat and boost home purchasing power for buyers.”

Regional breakdown: The Northeast PHSI descended 16.2% from last month to 64.2, a decline of 30.1% from September 2021. The Midwest index retracted 8.8% to 80.7 in September, down 26.7% year-to-year.

The South PHSI faded 8.1% to 97.0 in September, a drop of 30.0% from the prior year. The West index slipped by 11.7% in September to 62.7, down 38.7% year-to-year.

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Key Ways to Convert Business on Instagram

What does your key lead look like? Instagram is essentially free advertising, but hone your message by first identifying the type of person you hope to attract.

NEW YORK – One of the benefits of Instagram for lead generation is that it essentially offers free advertising for businesses.

However, real estate professionals must first identify what their ideal lead looks like – and also outline their personal goals, such as recruiting agents or generating new buyers or sellers. Using more granular data will make it easier for agents to carry on conversations they initiate.

Agents should also know what they sound like when they ask someone for business and even practice the conversation flow to help make a connection.

Conversations should end in a “what,” “why” or “how” synopsis. Agents should also identify who they help, how they help them, and the result they guarantee – and avoid using phrases such as “helping you find your dream home,” or “anyone looking to buy a home in the X area.”

The next step is requesting a Zoom or coffee meeting, but doing so based on the value you initially provided a customer and giving the person a specific option. An exact date and time or day of the week can be the 1% difference agents need to generate a conversion.

Source: Inman (09/28/22) Berman-Mikel, Michelle

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


Does Technology Play a Role in Rising Rents?

A ProPublica report suggests that AI software tells landlords how much they can charge for rent and, once they do, nearby landlords are told they can charge even more.

NEW YORK – A new ProPublica report suggests that an algorithm from software giant RealPage, called YieldStar, could be artificially driving up rents across the United States, amounting to anti-competitive practices.

According to the company’s website, YieldStar lets property managers “price each unit daily by reviewing all property, market and concession data to set the best rent to help stabilize occupancy and maintain profitability.” RealPage says the software can help property managers “outperform the market 3% to 7%.”

The ProPublica reports says these statements are evidence that the software increases rents. It suggests that managers use the software’s recommendations to justify rent hikes they might not otherwise have attempted, and that higher rents in one building become the basis for rent recommendations in other nearby buildings.

ProPublica says the software is widely used across a multitude of rentals and has “upended” the historical practice of negotiating for rent. It also encourages managers to leave units empty.

Some experts worry that managers use the software to “indirectly coordinate pricing, potentially in violation of federal law.”

Source: Inman (10/18/22) Dalrymple II, Jim

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


Owner’s Insurance Cancelled the Day Ian Hit

Important note for homeowners: Due to a hiatus, insurers cannot cancel policies until Nov. 28. But some cancellation decisions were made before the storm arrived.

TAMPA, Fla. – A Tampa Bay man got a crash course on Florida’s property insurance crisis when Hurricane Ian hit last month. Many Floridians have had property insurance issues but Tom Colantuono’s experience really takes the cake.

The night before Hurricane Ian hit Florida, Colantuono and his wife were getting ready. They were buying supplies and prepping their house when they got the news nobody wants.

“She was white as a ghost,” he recalled. “She said, ‘We just got cancelled by Frontline.’”

The notice of cancellation was effective Oct. 22, 2022.

It was the second time this year Colantuono had a policy canceled.

“Tell me why I was canceled?” Colantuono said during an interview with Nexstar’s WFLA in May.

Colantuono was one of more than 68,000 Floridians canceled by FedNat Insurance Company in May. In July, WFLA spoke with him again when he was faced with a double-whammy. FEMA changed its flood maps, meaning Colantuono’s flood insurance costs went up along with his premium. He called Florida’s insurance market “out of control.”

Colantuono reached out to WFLA again recently, concerned about the rights of homeowners.

“They just can’t cancel our policy the night before a hurricane is going to make landfall,” he said.

That’s true – they can’t.

As Hurricane Ian hit, Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier issued an order to temporarily protect residents. It reads, in part, “from September 28 – November 28, no insurer or other regulated entity may cancel, non-renew or issue a notice of cancellation or nonrenewal of a policy or contract except at the written request of the policyholder.”

They can, however, cancel you after the two months are up. It’s why Colantuono’s agent signed him up with another carrier.

“I just found a policy with Citizens,” Colantuono said.

Like one million other Floridians, the state’s insurer of last resort is Colantuono’s only resort. It’s a Florida insurance tale with no happy ending in sight.

WFLA asked Colantuono if he’s concerned he’ll eventually get priced out of Florida.

“Sure – just this year the increases have gone up, probably doubled, almost tripled,” he said.

So why was the company allowed to cancel his policy? Insurance experts said the cancellation was likely in the works weeks before Hurricane Ian.

The Office of Insurance Regulation says any cancellation issued 10 days before Hurricane Ian must be withdrawn.

Residents who experienced anything similar are encouraged to call their agents. The agent will call the company and tell them to withdraw the cancellation, pursuant to the state’s order. However, an agent might just decide it’s best to move your policy.

For more information on Hurricane Ian recovery efforts and survivor options, visit Florida Realtors Hurricane Recovery Center.

© 2022 WCBD, Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved.


Florida Still No. 1 for International Buyers

About one in four (24%) international buyers opt for a home in Fla., finds Coldwell Banker study, compared to No. 2 Calif. (11%) and No. 3 Texas (8%).

MIAMI – Florida is still the No. 1 choice for international home buyers, according to the Coldwell Banker International Buyers Guide. About one in four 24% of international buyers purchase a home in Florida.

Percent of international buyers by state

  • Florida: 24%
  • California: 11%
  • Texas 8%
  • Arizona: 7%
  • New York: 4%

In 2022, the highest dollar volume among international buyers in the United States came from China, followed by Canada, India, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia.

“Florida and Arizona tend to attract buyers from Latin America, Europe and Canada, who are looking to purchase properties in warm climates for vacation purposes,” according to the guide. “Affordability and diversity of housing in these states also are considerations for many international buyers.”

Although international-buyer purchases slowed during the pandemic, buyers have returned to the market.

“According to the National Association of Realtors®, the sales volume generated by international home buyers in 2021 hit its lowest level since 2011,” the guide says. “International buyer purchases accounted for just 1.6% of existing home sales, down from a peak of 5.2% in 2017. While transactions further decreased in the most recent period, dollar volume of foreign buyer purchases rose 8.5% to $59 billion in the period ending March 2022.”

Source: South Florida Agent (10/26/22) Regan, Patrick

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


Automation: The Way to Get Things Done

Some jobs require hands-on client contact, and there’s more time to do that if you automate the ones that don’t – like contact management, social media, etc.

NEW YORK – Real estate professionals striving to be top producers should turn to automation, so they can get more done in less time and with less effort, according to Jeremy Knauff, founder of Spartan Media.

The first step is determining which tasks to automate, notably those that are repetitious and routine.

For instance, Knauff’s company automated the onboarding process for new clients. Once a client agrees to move forward with a project, they receive a form that gathers everything needed for onboarding. The next step is setting an onboarding call, after which a project is created for the client in the company’s project management system.

Other tasks agents can automate include

  • Adding new leads to their CRM after they fill out a contact form
  • Adding new leads to the CRM after they call, assuming they use call-tracking software
  • Sending automated messages after a prospect contacts an agent via forms, email, text or phone

Automation tools are fairly easy to use, and many have a free version that offers more limited options – though paid versions offer full functionality and a greater number of automations.

Available automation tools include Zapier, IFTTT, Make, Automate.io and Workato. These programs essentially sit in between other applications and pass information back and forth to create added functionality, and they also integrate with many programs agents typically already use in their daily operations, such as G Suite, Microsoft Office, and Salesforce via simple drag-and-drop interfaces.

Automation can also facilitate uploading signed documents to Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox as soon as agents receive them.

Source: Inman (10/18/22) Knauff, Jeremy

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


Mortgage Rates Cross the 7% Mark this Week

For the first time in 20 years (April 2002), the 30-year, fixed-rate average hit 7.08%. Last week it averaged 6.92%; last year it was 3.14%.

WASHINGTON (AP) – The average long-term U.S. mortgage rate topped 7% for the first time in more than two decades this week, a result of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive rate hikes intended to tame inflation not seen in some 40 years.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average on the key 30-year rate jumped to 7.08% from 6.94% last week. The last time the average rate was above 7% was April 2002, a time when the U.S. was still reeling from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but six years away from the 2008 housing market collapse that triggered the Great Recession.

Last year at this time, rates on a 30-year mortgage averaged 3.14%.

The Fed has raised its key benchmark lending rate five times this year, including three consecutive 0.75 percentage point increases that have brought its key short-term borrowing rate to a range of 3% to 3.25%, the highest level since 2008. At their last meeting in late September, Fed officials projected that by early next year they would raise their key rate to roughly 4.5%.

Mortgage rates don’t necessarily mirror the Fed’s rate increases but tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. That’s influenced by a variety of factors, including investors’ expectations for future inflation and global demand for U.S. Treasurys.

Many potential homebuyers have moved to the sidelines as mortgage rates have more than doubled this year. Sales of existing homes have declined for eight straight months as borrowing costs have become too high a hurdle for many Americans already paying more for food, gas and other necessities. Meanwhile, some homeowners have held off putting their homes on the market because they don’t want to jump into a higher rate on their next mortgage.

The Fed is expected to raise its benchmark rate another three-quarters of a point when it meets next week. Despite the rate increases, inflation has hardly budged from 40-year highs, above 8% at both the consumer and wholesale level.

The Fed rate increases have shown some signs of cooling the economy. But the rate increases have seemed to have little effect on the job market yet, which remains strong with the unemployment rate matching a 50-year low of 3.5% and layoffs still historically low.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission. Alex Veiga reported from Los Angeles.


FEMA Sending Temp Housing to 4 Fla. Counties

On Wed., FEMA approved a state request to house Ian survivors by sending travel trailers and manufactured housing to Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto and Lee counties.

WASHINGTON – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved the state of Florida’s request for direct temporary housing in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto and Lee counties. It will send travel trailers and larger manufactured housing units to help eligible Hurricane Ian survivors get a roof over their head.

FEMA says it agreed to provide the temporary housing because rental assistance is enough to meet the housing need in those counties.

FEMA will notify applicants who are eligible for direct housing, noting that it will take time to transport, permit, install and inspect the units before they’re available. Direct Temporary Housing Assistance may be provided for up to 18 months from Sept. 29, 2022, the date of the federal disaster declaration, to March 28, 2024.

According to FEMA’s latest updated numbers, it has provided more than $1.4 billion so far through federal grants, disaster loans and flood insurance payments to the state and households to help survivors after Hurricane Ian. Florida has received $322 million to date, and individual households have received $643 million to households.

FEMA’s latest update on other Hurricane Ian efforts

  • FEMA extended the proof of loss requirement for National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policyholders in Florida from 60 to 365 days. For more information on how to file a flood insurance claim, visit How to Start Your Flood Insurance Claim.
  • FEMA offers assistance in 26 counties in Florida: Brevard, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Flagler, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Monroe, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns and Volusia counties.
  • Survivors can visit one of 19 Disaster Recovery Centers operating in Brevard, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee (2 locations), Manatee, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns and Volusia counties. As centers are added, real-time locations will be updated at FloridaDisaster.org.
  • FEMA will pay hotel and motel costs for eligible survivors in some cases. Along with the state of Florida, it activated the Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program, which allows FEMA to make payments directly to participating hotels and motels in Alabama, Florida and Georgia that provide emergency shelter to survivors. To date, the program provides housing to 2,127 households with 5,393 members.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration approved $264 million in low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters and business owners so far. Business Recovery Centers are located in Collier, DeSoto, Hillsborough, Lee and Seminole counties.
  • FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program has received more than 42,000 flood insurance claims and paid more than $184 million to policyholders, including $123 million in advance payments.
  • NFIP policyholders may receive up to $1,000 to reimburse the purchase of supplies like sandbags, plastic sheeting and lumber. They may also receive up to $1,000 in storage expenses if they moved insured property. Policyholders should file a claim for flood loss avoidance reimbursement, regardless of whether it was successful in preventing flood damage.
  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance is available to eligible survivors. Floridians can file a claim by going to Disaster Unemployment Assistance – FloridaJobs.org and selecting “Apply for Hurricane Ian DUA,” visiting a local CareerSource Career Center, or calling (800) 385-3920. Customer service representatives are available Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET.
  • Low-income Florida residents may be eligible for assistance from the Department of Agriculture’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP). Survivors can find more information on Florida’s D-SNAP program by visiting the Florida Department of Children and Families’ Hurricane Ian Response & Recovery website.
  • Operation Blue Roof has installed 12,657 roofs so far. This is a free service is currently operating in Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Lee and Sarasota counties. Residents impacted by Hurricane Ian can sign up at BlueRoof.us or call toll-free at 1-888-ROOF-BLU (1-888-766-3258) for more information. The call center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.
  • If a household uses adaptive or accessibility items that were damaged by Hurricane Ian, FEMA may offer help. Visit Update to FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program and Policy Guide for more info.

For more information on Hurricane Ian recovery efforts and survivor options, visit Florida Realtors Hurricane Recovery Center.

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Recession Avoided in 2022 – Maybe Next Year

The U.S. economy grew 2.6% in the third quarter after a decline in the first half of 2022. Next year might be different, but benchmarks keep sending mixed messages.

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. economy grew at a 2.6% annual rate from July through September, snapping two straight quarters of contraction and overcoming high inflation and interest rates just as voting begins in midterm elections in which the economy’s health has emerged as a paramount issue.

Thursday’s better-than-expected estimate from the Commerce Department showed that the nation’s gross domestic product – the broadest gauge of economic output – grew in the third quarter after having shrunk in the first half of 2022. Stronger exports and consumer spending, backed by a healthy job market, helped restore growth to the world’s biggest economy at a time when worries about a possible recession are rising.

Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of U.S. economic activity, expanded at a 1.4% annual pace in the July-September quarter, down from a 2% rate from April through June. Last quarter’s growth got a major boost from exports, which shot up at an annual pace of 14.4%. Government spending also helped: It rose at a 2.4% annual pace, the first such increase since early last year, with sharply higher defense spending leading the way.

Housing investment, though, plunged at a 26% annual pace, hammered by surging mortgage rates as the Federal Reserve aggressively raises borrowing costs to combat chronic inflation. It was the sixth straight quarterly drop in residential investment.

Overall, the outlook for the overall economy has darkened. The Fed has raised interest rates five times this year and is set to do so again next week and in December. Chair Jerome Powell has warned that the Fed’s hikes will bring “pain” in the form of higher unemployment and possibly a recession.

“Looking ahead, risks are to the downside, to consumption in particular, as households continue to face challenges from high prices and likely slower job growth going forward,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a research note.

With inflation still near a 40-year high, steady price spikes have been pressuring households across the country. At the same time, rising loan rates have derailed the housing market and are likely to inflict broader damage over time. The outlook for the world economy, too, grows bleaker the longer that Russia’s war against Ukraine drags on.

The latest GDP report comes as Americans, worried about inflation and the risk of a recession, have begun to vote in elections that will determine whether President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party retains control of Congress. Inflation has become a signature issue for Republican attacks on the Democrats’ stewardship of the economy.

Economists noted that the third-quarter gain in GDP could be traced entirely to the surge in exports, which added 2.7 percentage points to the economy’s expansion. Export growth will be difficult to sustain as the global economy weakens and a strong U.S. dollar makes American products pricier in foreign markets.

Thursday’s report offered some encouraging news on inflation. A price index in the GDP data rose at a 4.1% annual rate from July through September, down from 9% in the April-June period – less than economists had expected and the smallest increase since the final three months of 2020. That figure could raise hopes that the Fed might decide it can soon slow its rate hikes.

Last quarter’s U.S. economic growth reversed annual declines of 1.6% from January through March and 0.6% from April through June. Consecutive quarters of declining economic output are one informal definition of a recession. But most economists have said they believe the economy skirted a recession, noting the still-resilient job market and steady spending by consumers. Most of them have expressed concern, though, that a recession is likely next year as the Fed steadily tightens credit.

Preston Caldwell, head of U.S. economics for the financial services firm Morningstar, noted that the economy’s contraction in the first half of the year was caused largely by factors that don’t reflect its underlying health and so “very likely did not constitute a genuine economic slowdown.” He pointed, for example, to a drop in business inventories, a cyclical event that tends to reverse itself over time.

Higher borrowing costs have weakened the home market, in particular. The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, just 3.09% a year ago, is approaching 7%. Sales of existing homes have fallen for eight straight months. Construction of new homes is down nearly 8% from a year ago.

Still, the economy retains pockets of strength. One is the vitally important job market. Employers have added an average of 420,000 jobs a month this year, putting 2022 on track to be the second-best year for job creation (behind 2021) in Labor Department records going back to 1940. The unemployment rate was 3.5% last month, matching a half-century low.

Hiring has been decelerating, though. In September, the economy added 263,000 jobs – solid but the lowest total since April 2021.

International events are causing further concerns. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has disrupted trade and raised prices of energy and food, creating a crisis for poor countries. The International Monetary Fund, citing the war, this month downgraded its outlook for the world economy in 2023.

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


Fla.’s ‘Cat Fund’ Eyes $10B in Ian Losses

The Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund – essentially an insurer for insurance companies – says it can handle the loss but now has limited funds heading into 2023.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, a state program that provides critical backup coverage to property insurers, is estimated to have $10 billion in losses from Hurricane Ian, officials said Wednesday.

The program commonly known as the “Cat Fund” will be able to handle Ian’s financial hit, though it will go into the 2023 hurricane season with reduced amounts of cash.

“We feel very confident that we can cover our obligations from Ian because going into this year we had a very healthy cash balance,” Gina Wilson, the fund’s chief operating officer, said during a meeting of the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund Advisory Council.

The Cat Fund provides relatively inexpensive reinsurance to carriers as a way to help stabilize the property-insurance market. Carriers also buy private reinsurance, which serves as backup coverage to help pay claims in situations such as hurricanes.

Under state law, the maximum potential liability of the Cat Fund this year is $17 billion. The fund went into the hurricane season with $15.8 billion in cash and proceeds of what are known as “pre-event” bonds.

Estimates of overall industry losses from Hurricane Ian have varied but are in the tens of billions of dollars. The firm Raymond James, which serves as a financial adviser to the Cat Fund, presented a report Wednesday that said a consulting actuary estimated the Cat Fund’s share of losses at $4 billion to $12 billion and projected a “conservative point estimate of $10 billion.”

“There is significant uncertainty regarding the ultimate loss amount, as losses are just beginning to develop,” the report said. “Estimates are based on the output of models and are subject to significant uncertainty; therefore, there is no guarantee that actual losses will fall within the projected range.”

But Wilson said the fund has received initial information that at least 82 companies expect to get Cat Fund reimbursements, with 28 drawing their maximum amounts. By comparison, she said, nine carriers received maximum amounts after Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Ian made landfall Sept. 28 in Lee and Charlotte counties as a Category 4 storm before crossing the state. Data posted on the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation website Wednesday said 410,251 residential property-damage claims had been reported from the storm.

While the Cat Fund expects to be able to handle Ian losses, it will go into the 2023 hurricane season with substantially less money than it otherwise would have expected.

The Raymond James report said the fund is projected to have “liquid resources” of about $7.4 billion. That includes a projected $2.3 billion in cash left at the end of this year, $1.6 billion in premiums paid by carriers and investment income and $3.5 billion in pre-event bond proceeds. If necessary, the report said, the fund also would be able to issue up to $8.4 billion in bonds after a storm.

Even before Hurricane Ian, the private reinsurance market was tight in Florida, contributing to widespread financial problems of insurers. Lawmakers during a May special legislative session approved spending $2 billion on a program to provide another “layer” of reinsurance coverage to carriers.

But Ian has raised concerns that private reinsurance will become more costly and harder to find for carriers. As an example, the reinsurance giant Swiss Re last week estimated its claims from Ian at $1.3 billion.

© 2022 The News Service of Florida. All rights reserved.


FREC Approved Two Rules at Latest Meeting

An emergency rule focuses on Hurricane Ian’s impact on completing an in-person course online. The second rule updates course certificates’ requirements.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – At a meeting of the Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC) on Oct. 19, the commission approved two rules. An emergency rule focuses on Hurricane Ian’s impact on completing an in-person course online. The second rule updates course certificates’ requirements.

They expect to publish the rules shortly as part of the approval process, following which there will be a comment period.

The language of the two rules as released by FREC are below.

Rule No. 1: Emergency rule, ‘Use of Live Streaming Technology for Delivery of Approved In-Person Education Courses’

OCTOBER 19, 2022

Rule No. 2: Notices of Satisfactory Course Completion

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Why Price Drops if RE Is an Inflation Hedge?

Home prices go up over time – but not necessarily over months. Investors also find tax and financial advantages to home investing in difficult economic times.

NEW YORK – The U.S. inflation rate was 8.2% in September. This is a slight drop from the 8.3% rate in August but more than the 8.1% economists were forecasting for the month.

At the same time, the average median house price declined to $389,500 in August, compared to a high of $413,800 in June. But the median house price is still higher than a year ago.

Over the years, real estate has been promoted as a hedge against inflation. But how can that be true when housing prices are declining? Is real estate really an inflation hedge?

What is causing current inflation?

Inflation is a rise in prices that causes a decline in the purchasing power of the dollar. For example, an item in a store that cost $5 last year may cost $5.50 this year. That’s inflation.

The inflation rate has increased so much this year for several reasons. First, the price of crude oil has risen because of the Ukraine war. The recent agreement among the OPEC member nations also cut oil output, which will affect the price of crude.

On top of that, a great deal of money has been injected into the U.S. economy because of the federal economic stimuli that took place during the COVID-19 crisis. Everyday life has pretty much returned to normal after the pandemic lockdowns. People have returned to work, they are eating out again, and the $2 trillion people saved during the lockdowns are now burning holes in their pockets. There are still plenty of shortages worldwide because demand far exceeds current supplies. As a result, prices go up and up and up.

Why is real estate promoted as an inflation hedge?

Real estate is promoted as an inflation hedge for many reasons:

  • As home values rise because of inflationary pressures, fixed-rate mortgages stay the same. An investor’s equity in the home increases without mortgage costs increasing.
  • Renting out properties with short-term leases can be especially beneficial during times of higher inflation. This especially holds true with multifamily dwellings, where the annual turnover rate is almost 48%. If a property owner can raise rental rates regularly while mortgage payments stay the same, there’s an opportunity for increased income to balance out the rising inflation rate.
  • Over the long term, real estate increases in value – in spite of the ups and downs of the economy. Real estate prices collapsed in 2008-2009. But in less than 10 years, prices recovered to levels previous to the Great Recession.

If real estate is an inflation hedge, why are properties declining in value?

Month-to-month changes in the value of property do not make a trend. Take 2022 so far as an example. Although housing prices have declined over the past few months, they are still 8% higher than a year ago. Considering the reasons already discussed – and in spite of monthly ups and downs – real estate can indeed serve as an inflation hedge for investors.

© 2022 Benzinga.com – Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.


OK for ‘Testers’ to Sue Over ADA Compliance?

BOSTON – A “tester-plaintiff” had standing to sue for a hotel reservation website’s alleged failure to comply with federal regulations governing accessibility for the disabled, even if she had no plans to actually book a room at the hotel, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

Plaintiff Deborah Laufer sued defendant Acheson Hotels for allegedly failing to comply with regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that require hotels to make information about the property’s accessibility available on any reservation portal.

The plaintiff is disabled with limited mobility, and identifies herself as an ADA “tester” and advocate for the disabled. As a tester, the plaintiff has filed hundreds of similar ADA suits in federal courts across the country.

The defendant hotel moved to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff lacked standing to bring her suit because she never intended to book a room when she visited the hotel’s website.

U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal in Maine agreed and dismissed the case.

Addressing an issue that is dividing the federal circuits, a 1st Circuit panel reversed, reading U.S. Supreme Court precedent as standing for the proposition that the denial of information that a plaintiff is statutorily entitled to have can make for a “concrete injury in fact.”

“The [ADA regulation at issue] recognizes that the public information on accessibility features is necessary to make sure disabled persons are ‘able to reserve hotel rooms with the same efficiency, immediacy, and convenience as those who do not need accessible guest rooms,’” wrote Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson for the panel. “Denying Laufer the same ‘efficiency, immediacy, and convenience’ as those not requiring accommodations is exactly the discrimination the regulations are trying to stamp out.”

The 39-page decision is Laufer v. Acheson Hotels, LLC, Lawyers Weekly No. 01-211-22.

Supreme Court review?

Attorney Thomas B. Bacon of Orlando, Florida, represented the plaintiff in her appeal before the 1st Circuit. Bacon also represents Laufer in a number of similar ADA actions around the country.

He said that the panel’s decision falls in line with a well-established history of courts recognizing tester-plaintiff standing.

“Starting from the 1950s, civil rights advocates have been granted standing to sue to eradicate discrimination,” Bacon said. “In [the 1958 U.S. Supreme Court case of] Evers v. Dwyer, the [Black] plaintiff only got on that bus to eradicate discrimination, to encounter it and then file a lawsuit in court to remedy it.”

Bacon makes no apologies for the work of testers such as Laufer.

“Because nobody is entitled to damages, only a very, very limited number of zealous advocates are filing these cases,” he said. “The result is, you have very few people filing a lot of cases, but they make places accessible for everybody else.”

The plaintiff’s attorney in U.S. District Court, Daniel G. Ruggerio of Newton, Massachusetts, said he and his client are waiting to see if the defendant files a petition for rehearing en banc. Ruggerio added that he expects the standing issue to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

“But my inclination is that this defendant will not be the one to bring it,” Ruggerio added.

He said that the 1st Circuit’s decision is on solid footing, because “the Supreme Court has said that informational injury is an injury.”

The hotel is represented by attorney Sally A. Morris, of Portland, Maine. She said her client is reviewing its options.

“My client is a small business owner, one of many being sued by this particular plaintiff in Maine and other places around the country,” Morris said. “It’s definitely a challenge for [my client] to be faced with this.”

Grace V. B. Garcia, an ADA defense attorney in Boston, echoed that point.

“My concern is that often testers target smaller hotels and businesses,” she said. “For most of my clients when faced with similar situations, when given notice a call or letter telling them that someone can’t get on their website they want to change it because it’s to their benefit.”

According to Garcia, the problem is the ADA’s lack of a notice requirement, and the fact that the costs and attorneys’ fees that plaintiffs demand to settle their lawsuits can put some defendants out of business.

“In terms of hotel reservations and restaurants, I’ve yet to see a case of intentional misinformation or an unwillingness to ensure [the availability of] the correct information so that those with disabilities can have full and equal access,” she said.

Attorney Richard M. Glassman is the director of advocacy at the Disability Law Center in Boston. In an email, Glassman called the 1st Circuit’s decision “well-reasoned and soundly grounded” in the language of both the applicable ADA regulations and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1982 decision in Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman.

The tester-plaintiff cometh

According to court records, the plaintiff is a resident of Florida. She has limited mobility and needs a wheelchair or cane to move around. To get around in her wheelchair, she needs passageways of sufficient width and moderate grade. In addition, certain surfaces need to be lower in order for her to reach them, and she requires grab bars in bathrooms to get into and out of her wheelchair.

The defendant operates the Coast Village Inn and Cottages in Wells, a small town on the southern coast of Maine.

The plaintiff claimed the hotel’s website didn’t identify accessible rooms, provide an option for booking accessible rooms, or provide sufficient information for her to determine whether rooms and other features of the hotel met her special needs. According to the plaintiff, she faced the same problem when she visited the inn’s reservation service through 13 third-party websites, including Expedia.com, Hotels.com, and Booking.com.

Under 28 C.F.R. 36.302(e), a “public accommodation” operating a “place of lodging” must “with respect to reservations made by any means [i]dentify and describe accessible features in the hotels and guest rooms offered through its reservations service in enough detail to reasonably permit individuals with disabilities to assess independently whether a given hotel or guest room meets his or her accessibility needs.”

When a public accommodation discriminates against a disabled person in violation of the ADA, the statute and its governing regulations authorize private individuals to bring enforcement actions in federal court.

Pursuant to that authority, the plaintiff sued the defendant in Maine federal court for violations of 28 C.F.R. 36.302(e).

Thompson noted some confusion in the record as to whether the plaintiff ever had any intent to use the hotel’s services. In a footnote on page 12 of the 1st Circuit opinion, Thompson observed that the plaintiff had previously filed an amended complaint in the trial court alleging her intent to travel to Maine. On appeal, however, the judge said that Laufer disclaimed any such intent.

Injury in fact

Thompson said there was a circuit split on the issue of whether a tester-plaintiff who searches the internet for non-compliant websites has standing to sue under the ADA, even if she has no plans to book a room at the defendant’s hotel.

In a 2022 case in which Laufer was the plaintiff, Laufer v. Arpan LLC, the 11th Circuit concluded that there was standing.

However, Thompson noted that a contrary conclusion had been reached by the 2nd Circuit in a 2022 case, Harty v. W. Point Realty, Inc., the 10th Circuit in a 2022 decision in Laufer v. Looper, and the 5th Circuit in a 2021 case, Laufer v. Mann Hospitality, Inc.

Thompson wrote that the issue in the case boiled down to whether a plaintiff in Laufer’s position suffered a “concrete and particularized injury in fact” necessary for standing to sue under Article III of the U.S. Constitution. The judge pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins for the guiding standard.

In Spokeo, the Supreme Court instructed that, to have standing, a plaintiff must show that she: “(1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.”

Here, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s tester status plus her lack of intent to act on information provided by the website made the information irrelevant and therefore, not a concrete injury for standing purposes.

But Thompson found that argument was foreclosed by the Supreme Court’s 1982 decision in Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman. That case involved the use of testers to determine whether an apartment owner violated the Fair Housing Act by falsely representing the unavailability of units because of the plaintiff tester’s race.

“Importantly, this Black plaintiff [in Havens Realty] was a tester, too she had no intent of ever renting an apartment from the defendant and went posing as a renter only to figure out if the defendant was violating the law,” Thompson wrote. “Yet the Supreme Court said that she still had standing.”

Rejecting the defendant’s argument that dicta in Spokeo and TransUnion marked a change of course from Havens Realty, Thompson concluded that Laufer had standing.

“[I]f the Black tester plaintiff had standing in Havens Realty where the statute gave her a right to truthful information, which she was denied, then Havens Realty would mean that Laufer, too, has standing because she was denied information to which she has a legal entitlement,” Thompson wrote.

Copyright © 2022 BridgeTower Media. All rights reserved. © Copyright, 2022, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (MA)


VantageScore Approved for Most U.S. Mortgages

The VantageScore model could help up to 37M more Americans qualify for a mortgage. But while FHFA OK’d it, it’s still up to individual Fannie and Freddie lenders.

SAN FRANCISCO – VantageScore announced that the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) approved VantageScore 4.0 for use by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which back more than half of all U.S. mortgages.

VantageScore operates as a credit score for consumers seeking a loan, but the information it considers varies from other credit scorers, such as FICO. The goals are the same, however – to identify the potential homebuyers most likely to pay their monthly premiums on time and approve them for a loan. However, VantageScore considers details that open up the process to some people who have thin or nonexistent traditional credit scores.

According to VantageScore, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lenders all now have permission to use VantageScore. If they all did so, the scorable population will grow by about 37 million Americans. VantageScore calls it “more equitable access to mortgages.”

Not all lenders will participate

While FHFA approved the use of VantageScore, however, individual lenders have existing systems, and it’s unlikely that they’ll all offer the new credit-scoring service.

And while newly approved, individual lenders must apply to use the service, so it won’t be widely available right away. Buyers who think a VantageScore lender could improve their chances may have to shop around for a participating bank.

“We would like to extend a sincere thanks to FHFA Acting Director Sandra Thompson, the FHFA and the GSEs for their leadership in undertaking this thorough process and the many advocates that, for over a decade, have elevated this important initiative,” says Silvio Tavares, president & CEO of VantageScore. “We look forward to continuing to help industry stakeholders quickly and smoothly transition to VantageScore.”

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


New-Home Sales Drop 10.9% in Sept.

After a brief Aug. uptick, Sept. new-home sales slowed again as steadily rising mortgage rates moved a newly constructed home out of reach for more buyers.

WASHINGTON – Rising mortgage rates approaching 7% along with declining builder sentiment stemming from stubbornly high construction costs and weakening consumer demand pushed new-home sales down at a double-digit rate in September.

Following a brief uptick in August, sales of newly built, single-family homes in September fell 10.9% to a 603,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.

“New home sales are down 14.3% on a year-to-date basis compared to 2021,” says National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “Moreover, sales are now down 1.9% on the same basis compared to 2019 levels that were prior to the Covid-related changes to interest rates.”

A new-home sale occurs when a sales contract is signed or a deposit accepted. The home can be in any stage of construction: not yet started, under construction or completed. The September reading of 603,000 units is the number of homes that would sell if the monthly pace continued for the next 12 months.

NAHB also suggests that the numbers are actually a bit lower because new-home sales data doesn’t include cancellations. NAHB says its survey found that cancellations have more than doubled compared to a year ago.

“Builders continue to face lower buyer traffic due to declining affordability conditions as the housing downturn continues,” says Jerry Konter, chairman of NAHB. “Builder sentiment has declined for 10 consecutive months. The entry-level market in high-cost areas has been particularly affected, with growing numbers of first-time and first-generation buyers priced out of the market.”

New single-family home inventory remained elevated at a 9.2-months’ supply (varying stages of construction). A measure near a 6 months’ supply is considered balanced. The count of homes available for sale, 462,000, is up 23.2% year-to-year. Of this total, only 56,000 of the new home inventory is completed and ready to occupy. The remaining have not started construction or are currently under construction. 

The median new home price in August was $470,600, up 13.9% from a year ago. However, NAHB surveys indicate that a quarter of builders are now cutting prices, thus recent months’ price data reflects a composition change, with sales lost at the low end of the market pushing the median price higher. In September 2022, there were 20,000 sales priced below $300,000; in September 2021, it was only 6,000.

Regionally, on a year-to-date basis, new home sales fell in all four regions, down 8.1% in the Northeast, 21.2% in the Midwest, 12.1% in the South and 17.6% in the West.

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Legal Q&A: Dealing with Difficult Homeowners

HOAs have rules and sometimes a homeowner ignores those rules. What if the color of a newly painted home falls outside the HOA’s approved color range?

SARASOTA, Fla. – Question: We have a homeowner in my HOA who does not like to follow the rules. Recently, he painted his house a color that is not within the HOA approved color palette. What are the HOA’s options in getting him to comply? – D.L., Plantation

Answer: Your homeowner’s association has several options in order to obtain compliance from this owner. The Board of Directors can either choose to fine, suspend use rights to the association’s common areas and facilities for a reasonable time period, pre-suit mediation or, eventually, an injunction lawsuit in the courts.

If the association chooses to either fine or suspend use rights to the association’s common areas and facilities, the Board of Directors needs to consult with its legal counsel to ensure that the association follows the proper process.

Generally, the first step is to send an owner a warning/compliance letter in order to see if the association can obtain compliance without further legal action. If the owner does not comply, the next step is for the association to levy fines or a reasonable suspension time period from the use of the common areas and facilities. This process will require that the association allow the owner to plead his/her case in front of a committee of at least three owners who are not officers, directors, or employees of the association, or the spouse, parent, child, brother, or sister of an officer, director, or employee. It is the committee’s decision whether to uphold or reject the Board levied fine or suspension.

The association’s other option is pre-suit mediation and, eventually, an injunction lawsuit if no settlement is reached in pre-suit mediation. The association will need to send a pre-suit mediation notice to the owner. Mediation is a process whereby both parties work together toward a resolution with the help of a third-party neutral mediator. If no settlement is reached in mediation, then the next step would be an injunction lawsuit in the courts in order to obtain a judgement requiring the owner to paint his house in an association-approved color.

The association has several options and one option may be a better fit for this situation than the others. As such, I strongly recommend that the association consult with its legal counsel regarding the best option for this situation, as well as adhering to the timelines required under your governing documents and Florida law.

Question: I am a unit owner in a condominium association. Last month, I sent the association a request to email me the meeting minutes from the last six months of board meetings. As of today, they haven’t sent me the meeting minutes yet. What are my options here? – A.T., Fort Lauderdale

Answer: First, it is important to clarify that the association’s obligation under Florida law is to provide you with access to the official records. It does not require the association to send you any records. This means that the association is compliant with Florida law if the association representatives reach out to you to confirm a time for you to come to the association office or the management company office to view the official records.

That being said, Florida law is clear that the association must provide you with access to the records within 10 business days of receipt of the request. As such, if it has been more than 10 business days, you may have recourse to file a complaint with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The association may also be liable to you monetarily for its failure to provide you with access to the official records. At this point, I recommend speaking to legal counsel regarding your options and next steps so that you can view the association’s official records in a timely manner.

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

© Copyright, 2022, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, all rights reserved.


Case-Shiller: Home Prices in ‘Forceful Deceleration’

Prices are higher year-to-year (13% in Aug.), but the Fed applied brakes, and that’s down from July’s 15.6%. Yet at 28%+, Miami and Tampa still surge.

NEW YORK – The latest results for the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller measure of U.S. home prices finds continuing gains – but the rate of those gains is rapidly slowing across the U.S., in large part due to Federal Reserve interest rate hikes that have made mortgages more expensive and homebuyers more skittish about committing to a purchase.

Year-over-year: The index covering all nine U.S. census divisions, reported a 13.0% year-to-year home price gain in August, down from 15.6% the previous month. The 10-City Composite annual increase came in at 12.1%, down from 14.9% in July, while the 20-City Composite posted a 13.1% year-over-year gain, down from 16.0%.

Miami (28.6% year-to-year increase), Tampa (28% year-to-year increase), and Charlotte (21.3% year-to-year increase) topped the list of U.S. cities for price increases. However, all 20 cities reported lower price increases in the year ending August 2022 versus the year ending July 2022.

Month-over-month: Before seasonal adjustment – a statistical way to make months comparable in spite of seasonal fluctuations – the U.S. National Index posted a -1.1% month-over-month decrease in August, while the 10-City and 20-City Composites both posted decreases of -1.6%.

After seasonal adjustment, the U.S. National Index posted a month-over-month decrease of -0.9%, and the 10-City and 20-City Composites both posted decreases of -1.3%.

In August, all 20 cities reported declines before and after seasonal adjustments.

“The forceful deceleration in U.S. housing prices that we noted a month ago continued in our report for August 2022,” says Craig J. Lazzara, managing director at S&P DJI. “For example, the National Composite Index rose by 13.0% for the 12 months ended in August, down from its 15.6% year-over-year growth in July. The -2.6% difference between those two monthly rates of change is the largest deceleration in the history of the index (with July’s deceleration now ranking as the second largest).”

Lazzara says the data clearly shows that “the growth rate of housing prices peaked in the spring of 2022 and has been declining ever since.”

“Florida continues to hold the top two spots, with Miami taking the lead over Tampa,” Lazzara says. “Price growth continued strongest in the Southeast (up 24.5% year-to-year) and South (up 23.6% year-to-year).

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Change Should Help Buyers Getting Conventional Loans

Costs will drop for many conventional loans after FHFA reduced “loan-level pricing adjustments” levied on most mortgages, a changed backed by NAR.

WASHINGTON – When applying for a mortgage, the rate a lender quotes a borrower isn’t always what they expect – or what they’ve read about in the media. Part of the costs rolled into the quote are “loan-level pricing adjustments,” and a move by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to lower those adjustments should make a loan more affordable for most U.S. home borrowers.

In March 2008 the FHFA’s mortgage-backing agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, created loan-level pricing adjustments, which are additional fees based on “more than a dozen risk characteristics,” according to Dan Green writing in “The Mortgage Reports.” He cites a few examples that include:

  • Mortgaging a home as an investment property
  • Mortgaging a condo with less than 25% equity
  • Mortgaging a multi-unit home
  • Doing a cash-out refinance at any loan-to-value
  • Subordinating a second mortgage via a piggyback loan

FHFA’s loan-level pricing adjustments will help most homebuyers.

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) “applauds FHFA for reducing loan-level pricing adjustments for first-time homebuyers, low and moderate income buyers, and a broad swath of homebuyers,” says NAR President Leslie Rouda Smith. “NAR has long advocated for these reductions, but the benefit of reduced fees to homebuyers is even more important today as we confront the highest mortgage rates in almost two decades. Our members believe that this reduction reflects the strength of (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), and that supporting the housing market and taxpayers is their top priority.”

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


HUD: Emergency Funding for Disaster Homelessness

HUD’s Rapid Unsheltered Survivor Housing (RUSH) program grants money after a disaster-caused uptick in homelessness. The state and seven counties will get funding.

WASHINGTON – Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge traveled to Orlando to announce a first round of funding allocations under HUD’s new Rapid Unsheltered Survivor Housing (RUSH) program.

According to HUD, RUSH fills in assistance gaps specifically in addressing homelessness following a natural disaster. The first round of funding consists of $6.8 million to the State of Florida and seven of the state’s local governments impacted by Hurricane Ian.

Florida RUSH recipients

Collier County: $861,716

Lee County: $288,673

Orlando: $666,918

Polk County: $374,935

Seminole County: $386,784

Tampa: $799,599

Volusia County: $391,184

Florida: $3,000,000

Total: $6,769,809

Rapid Unsheltered Survivor Housing (RUSH)

RUSH funding is available to help communities provide outreach, emergency shelter, rapid re-housing, and other assistance to people at risk of homelessness in a disaster affected area if they cannot access all services provided by FEMA programs. HUD currently has $56 million set aside for this purpose.

To balance the need to rapidly assist people affected by disaster and accurately allocate funds based on need, HUD says it plans to use a two-step allocation process. This first will use existing data on the extent of homelessness and the capacity of recipients to administer homeless assistance programs. The second will come later in 2022 and employ data on the extent of damage, particularly for rental units occupied by very-low-income households.

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


U.S. Consumer Confidence Pulls Back a Bit in Oct.

Americans’ attitudes improved in Aug. and Sept., only to retreat in Sept as inflation worries flared and short-term outlooks remained “dismal.”

BOSTON – The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index decreased in October after back-to-back monthly gains. The Index now stands at 102.5, down from 107.8 in September.

The Present Situation Index – consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions – declined sharply to 138.9 from 150.2 last month. The Expectations Index – based on consumers’ short-term future outlook for income, business and labor market conditions – declined to 78.1 from 79.5.

“The Present Situation Index fell sharply, suggesting economic growth slowed to start Q4,” says Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. She calls consumer expectations for the short-term “remained dismal,” and longer-term expectations are “still lingering below a reading of 80 – a level associated with recession.”

While inflation fears have seemed to recede since July, they bounced higher this month, perhaps due to a political season that serves up constant reminders. Franco says both gas and food prices served as main drivers.

“Vacation intentions cooled; however, intentions to purchase homes, automobiles and big-ticket appliances all rose,” Franco adds. “Looking ahead, inflationary pressures will continue to pose strong headwinds to consumer confidence and spending, which could result in a challenging holiday season for retailers. And, given inventories are already in place, if demand falls short, it may result in steep discounting which would reduce retailers’ profit margins.”

Present situation

  • 17.5% of consumers said business conditions were “good,” down from 20.7%
  • 24.0% said business conditions were “bad,” up from 20.9%
  • 45.2% said jobs were “plentiful,” down from 49.2%
  • 12.7% said jobs were “hard to get,” up from 11.1%

Expectations six months in the future

  • 19.2% of consumers expect business conditions to improve, up from 18.6%
  • However, 23.3% expect business conditions to worsen, up from 21.9%
  • 19.8% expect more jobs to be available, up from 17.4%
  • However, 20.8% anticipate fewer jobs, up from 17.8%
  • 18.9% expect their incomes to increase, up from 18.3%
  • However, 15.1% expect their incomes will decrease, up from 13.8%

© 2022 Florida Realtors®


Ian Barely Scratches New SW Fla. Community

Babcock Ranch’s first residents arrived in 2018, and thanks to solar panels, underground cables and more, no one lost electricity, water or the internet.

BABCOCK RANCH, Fla. – When Hurricane Ian struck as a Category 4 storm, Babcock Ranch residents opted to shelter in place in homes built to withstand natural disasters. During and after the storm, no one lost electricity, water or internet.

The community lies north of Fort Myers and 30 miles inland to avoid coastal storm surges. It’s first residents moved there in 2018. Home prices start at around $250,000.

Power lines are all underground and large retaining ponds surround the development to protect houses from flooding, and the streets are designed to absorb floodwaters.

Even though the community faced 100-mph winds, residents did not lose power. The only notably damage after the hurricane’s battering was a missing traffic light at the development’s main entrance, flattened palm trees and broken street signs.

Babcock Ranch used its community center to shelter people from other storm-affected communities.

Jennifer Languell, a sustainability engineer who helped design the community, says Hurricane Ian provided “proof of concept” for the community’s design. Babcock Ranch has allocated 870 acres for 650,000 photovoltaic panels operated by Florida Power & Light. The solar array can supply 30,000 homes, although the development currently has only about 5,000 residents. The surplus electricity goes back into the grid and is used to power surrounding communities.

Source: NPR (10/06/22) Neuman, Scott

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


D.C. Firms Paying $10M for Housing Discrimination

It also includes some company execs. The prosecutor calls it the largest settlement in U.S. history and allegedly focuses on procedures to avoid Sec. 8 vouchers.

WASHINGTON (AP) – A trio of real estate companies will pay $10 million for illegally discriminating against renters using government housing vouchers in the nation’s capital, in what Washington Attorney General Karl Racine said was the largest civil penalty in U.S. history for a housing discrimination case.

“When landlords break the law and refuse to accept vouchers, it’s reminiscent of Jim Crow-era housing discrimination policies intended to restrain opportunities for Black residents,” Racine said Thursday in announcing the settlement. “We’re sending a message to all landlords: If you follow this playbook, you will face consequences.”

Some company executives also are included in the settlement.

Racine filed a lawsuit in 2020 accusing DARO Management Services, DARO Realty and Infinity Real Estate of violating local civil rights and consumer protection laws by either denying housing to low-income applicants with housing vouchers or imposing additional and illegal fees and requirements.

The three interconnected companies own and manage units in 15 buildings across Washington. As part of the settlement, the companies have agreed to stop managing residential properties in the city and will hand over management of its properties within 18 months. In addition, DARO Management President Carissa Barry will relinquish her local real estate license for 15 years.

A phone call to DARO Management seeking comment on the settlement did not receive an immediate response.

Racine said his investigation uncovered “mountains of evidence,” including multiple emails between company executives indicating a clear intent to block prospective renters using vouchers from the city’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, generally known as Section 8. About 95% of Section 8 voucher holders in D.C. are Black, Racine said.

Under terms of the district’s limited status as a non-state, Racine’s office does not have authority to prosecute felonies or several categories of serious misdemeanor crimes. Those cases are handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. However, Racine was able to file suit against DARO and its related companies as a violation of Washington’s consumer protection laws and Human Rights Act, which prohibits income-based housing discrimination.

“Vouchers are a critical tool that help our vulnerable residents,” Racine said. “Too many residents, especially people of color, face serious obstacles in finding safe and affordable housing. This displacement is not just the result of market forces. Instead it’s often caused … by a deliberate, illegal and unethical business model.”

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


To Millennials Who Nixed Home Buying: What Now?

While many millennials are disappointed that their homeownership plans have stalled, it’s a good time to reevaluate and adjust their interest-rate expectations.

NEW YORK – Millennials are in peak nesting mode. We want the outdoor space many apartments lack, or the room to grow that a starter house doesn’t offer. There’s just a not-so-small problem.

The median existing home sales price of U.S. homes was $389,500 in August, according to the National Association of Realtors®. That’s a 7.7% increase from August 2021. The average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages topped 6% as of Sept. 15 this year, according to Freddie Mac. Compare that with an average rate of 2.86% just one year prior – that’s a 110% increase.

It can be hard to compete when an open house feels like a cage match. It’s enough to make anyone retreat to a rental for a while. “We’re seeing that those who were thinking of buying a home just aren’t interested anymore,” says Natalie Slagle, a certified financial planner and founding partner of Rochester, Minnesota-based Fyooz Financial Planning. “People aren’t as willing to make big financial moves when it feels like there’s uncertainty.”

Though you may feel stuck right now, you don’t have to be forever. Here’s what to do in the meantime.

Reevaluate your current situation

In slowing down your house hunt, you’ve given yourself the gift of extra time. You can reassess what’s realistic for you. Over the next year or so, your life may change a lot, meaning your list of must-haves for a home might need a few edits.

When Jason Fletcher was looking to buy his first home in Orange County, California, in 2019, he was single. At the time, he didn’t find The One, real estate-wise, but it wasn’t long before he met his now-wife. They’re currently expecting their second child and still hoping to swap their rental for a home they own, one quite different from what Fletcher searched for three years ago.

However, their search is coming up short. “I’d say right now, at least in our area, we have not seen inventory increase a whole lot,” he says. “That indicates to me that people are comfortable with the interest rates they have and they aren’t selling.”

Amanda Astey moved to San Francisco with her husband seven years ago. They considered buying a home after living in the city for two years, but backed out after they were unable to find anything in their price range at the time. Now, they’ve advanced in their careers and are open to resuming the search. “Even with that, we’ve been pretty discouraged,” she says.

They’re open to living farther from the city – and even to leaving the state in search of more space for the money. “We’ve had a huge exodus of friends to Portland. A whole bunch of friends have gone to Denver,” she says. “It’s seeming more and more likely that another city would be our best option.”

Become an even more attractive buyer

If your budget and mortgage preapproval were so-so this time around, take the next few months to beef up your finances so you’re in a stronger position later on.

One place to start is with discretionary spending. If you can cut back, and possibly increase your income with a promotion, job or freelance work, you can add to your savings and be prepared to make a larger down payment. You may also be able to increase your overall budget for a home. Fletcher and his wife cut back on buying new clothes and are keeping their paid-off cars longer to avoid car loans. “At this point, we’re trying to make more money and get promotions,” he says.

Paying down existing debts can help, too, as that will lower your debt-to-income ratio.

A higher credit score can help you qualify for better mortgage terms, hopefully ensuring you can get as low an interest rate as possible. If you already have excellent credit, keep it there by paying your bills on time every month. Late payments can ding your credit, and you’ve already worked hard to get where you are. If your credit score is lower, on-time payments can still help you, as can limiting what other loans or credit cards you apply for in the months before you apply for a mortgage.

Adjust your interest rate expectations

Sometimes your life plans don’t line up with economic conditions, so you may not be able to wait indefinitely for interest rates to go down (assuming they will, which is never guaranteed). In that case, you’ll have to stomach higher monthly payments, and if interest rates go lower in the future, you can refinance. You may have to make some concessions to accommodate a more expensive loan, like reducing your overall budget or widening your search over a larger area.

Phil Lawson, a real estate agent in Richmond, Virginia, notes that even now, interest rates are low, historically. When he bought his first home 20 years ago, he paid 7.6%.

“This is a stupid cliche, and I’ve said it over the years,” he says. “Marry the house but date the rate.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission. This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet.