Monthly Archives: July 2023

White House Steps Up Renter Protections

While properties under HUD may be directly affected, five federal agencies “strongly encourage” some changes, such as a public posting of renters’ rights.

WASHINGTON – In January, President Biden released the Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights, which outlines principles and best practices at the federal, state and local level to strengthen tenant protections and increase fairness in the rental market. On Thursday, it expanded on some of the protections in a push to:

  • Ensure all renters have an opportunity to address incorrect tenant screening reports
  • Provide new funding to support tenant organizing efforts
  • Ensure renters are given fair notice in advance of eviction

Actions announced this week

Ensuring fair tenant screening practices. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and three independent agencies, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Housing Financing Agency (FHFA) are each releasing guidance or best practices to landlords, operators, and stakeholders who rely on tenant screening reports when evaluating applications from renters.

The guidance communicates expectations on informing renters on what information in their screening report caused their application to be denied.

Funding tenant education and outreach. HUD announced $10 million in new funding for tenant education and outreach in properties supported by HUD.

Providing more time for tenants to avoid eviction. HUD will undergo the required steps to create a new rule. If finalized, it would require that tenants of “public housing and properties with project-based rental assistance” receive a written notice at least 30 days prior to lease termination for nonpayment of rent. Public housing tenants are already entitled to receive a 30-day notice, but HUD says a rule would permanently memorialize the requirement in HUD’s regulations.

Increasing resident engagement. HUD published new guidance for public housing authorities and multifamily housing owners participating in the Rental Assistance Demonstration. It will, HUD says, strengthen resident engagement requirements, including active monitoring of property owners’ level of engagement.

Private companies participating in the program

  • Next year, Zillow will include a new tool that allows visitors to search for affordable rental units, including listings that may meet requirements for programs like the Housing Choice Vouchers and income restricted affordable housing. Zillow will add easy-to-understand info about local laws to help ensure users know their rights related to leasing and remaining housed.
  • AffordableHousing.com will deploy “Clear and Fair” digital leases that advocate the principles outlined in the White House Blueprint for a Renter Bill of Rights. Property owners who use these “Clear and Fair” leases will be acknowledged on the site, which receives more than 100 million property searches each year.
  • Last week, Zillow, Apartments.com, and AffordableHousing.com announced they will provide consumers with total, upfront cost information on rental properties, which can be hundreds of dollars on top of the advertised rent.

© 2023 Florida Realtors®


White House Issues Affordable Housing Policy

$85M in funding for HUD will reduce barriers, such as zoning restrictions, that have “become a hurdle to increasing the supply and density of affordable housing.”

WASHINGTON – The White House is taking steps aimed at increasing the supply of affordable housing while also bolstering protections for renters.

The housing measures announced Thursday include providing communities with $85 million in funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to reduce barriers to affordable housing, such as zoning restrictions that in some places have become a hurdle to increasing the supply and density of affordable housing. HUD would provide grants upwards of $10 million.

“HUD recognizes that communities have unique housing challenges and that’s why the resources announced today are not one-size-fits-all,” HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said in a statement. “Today, we are acting to increase the supply of affordable housing, which is crucial to lowering housing costs. We look forward to continuing this work in partnership with local communities.”

The White House also announced that it was forming an inter-agency task force to develop ways to fund efforts to convert more commercial buildings to residential housing, especially zero emissions and affordable units. Across the country, office-to-housing conversions are being pursued as a potential lifeline for struggling downtown business districts that emptied out during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The mismatch between the demand for housing and the inadequate supply of affordable and available homes is at the heart of today’s housing affordability crisis,” Dennis Shea, executive director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s J. Ronald Terwilliger Center for Housing Policy, said in a statement.

These measures are part of a larger effort by the White House to address a chronic housing shortage, with the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimating the nation needs 7.3 million affordable rental homes to make up the gap. Meanwhile, evictions have returned to levels seen before the pandemic and are spiking in several cities across the country.

Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, welcomed the news but said more needed to be done.

“As rents rise, homelessness increases, public housing deteriorates and millions of families struggle to keep roofs over their heads, robust federal investments and actions are badly needed and long overdue,” Yentel said. “But the administration can’t solve this crisis on its own. Congress must also act with similar urgency and enact badly needed housing investments and tenant protections.”

Measures aimed at helping renters include a requirement that landlords notify public housing tenants 30 days before a lease termination due to nonpayment of rent as well as $10 million for tenant education and outreach.

“We must provide renters with the necessary resources to safeguard their interests and enhance their communication with landlords,” Fudge said. “HUD is dedicated to collaborating with renters and ensuring they are well informed about their rights.”

The White House noted the policy directed at renters builds on earlier efforts during the pandemic including providing 11 million emergency rental payments as part of $46.5 billion in emergency rental assistance and funding systems aimed at preventing evictions in several cities and states.

Other measures highlighted Thursday but announced earlier include $27 billion from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with money designated for retrofitting homes as well as the construction of zero-emission buildings. A $3.2 billion U.S. Department of Transportation program will target low-income communities with poor access to transportation.

Other background information

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


‘Rolling Recession,’ ‘Richcession’ or No Recession?

WASHINGTON (AP) – Despite more than a year of widespread warnings that a recession was near, America’s economy is, if anything, accelerating.

Even as the Federal Reserve has sent borrowing costs sharply higher, the economy’s resilience has been on plain display: Consumers keep spending, and employers keep hiring. Inflation has reached its lowest level in two years, helping Americans stretch their paychecks.

The government estimated Thursday that the economy expanded at a solid 2.4% annual rate in the April-June quarter, an unexpected pickup from the 2% pace in the first quarter. Businesses helped drive the growth, with robust investment in equipment, software and buildings.

The latest snapshot of the economy coincides with rising sentiment that it may achieve an elusive “soft landing,” in which growth slows and inflation falls without igniting a full-blown recession.

Analysts point to two trends that might help stave off an economic contraction.

Some say the economy is experiencing a “rolling recession,” a circumstance in which only some industries shrink while the overall economy manages to stay above water.

Others think the nation might have experienced what they call a “richcession.” Major job cuts, they note, have been concentrated in higher-paying industries like technology and finance, heavy with professional workers who generally have the financial cushions to withstand layoffs. Job cuts in those fields, as a result, are less likely to sink the overall economy.

Still, threats loom: The Fed raised its key interest rate on Wednesday to about 5.3% – its highest level in 22 years – and may do so again before the end of this year. Those rate increases impose heavy borrowing costs on consumers and businesses. That’s why some economists caution that a full-blown recession may still occur.

“The Fed will keep pushing until it fixes the inflation issue,” said Yelena Shulyatyeva, an economist at BNP Paribas.

Here’s how it could all play out in the United States:

It’s a rolling recession

When different sectors of the economy take their turns contracting, with some declining while others keep expanding, it’s sometimes called a “rolling recession.” In that way, the economy as a whole manages to avoid a full-fledged recession.

The housing industry was the first to suffer a tailspin after the Fed began sending interest rates sharply higher 16 months ago. As mortgage rates nearly doubled, home sales plunged. They’re now 19% lower than they were a year ago. Manufacturing soon followed. And while it hasn’t fared as badly as housing, factory production is down from a year earlier.

And this spring, the technology industry suffered a slump, too. In the aftermath of the pandemic, Americans were spending less time online and instead resumed shopping at physical stores and going to restaurants more frequently. That trend forced sharp job cuts among tech companies such as Facebook’s parent Meta, video conferencing provider Zoom and Google.

At the same time, consumers ramped up their spending on travel and at entertainment venues, buoying the economy’s vast service sector and offsetting the difficulties in other sectors. Economists say they expect such spending to slow later this year as the savings that many households had amassed during the pandemic continue to shrink.

Yet by then, housing may have rebounded enough to pick up the baton and drive economic growth. And other sectors should continue to expand, providing a foundation for overall growth. Krishna Guha, an analyst at Evercore ISI, notes that some areas of the economy – from education to government to health care – are not so sensitive to higher interest rates, which is why they are still hiring and probably will keep doing so.

If the U.S. economy achieves a soft landing, Guha said, “we think these rolling sectoral recessions will be a big part of the story.”

It’s a ‘richcession’

Affluent Americans aren’t exactly suffering, particularly as the stock market has rallied this year. Yet it’s also true that the bulk of high-profile job losses that began last year have been concentrated in higher-paying professions. That pattern is different from what typically happens in recessions: Lower-paying jobs, in areas like restaurants and retail, are usually the first to be lost and often in depressingly large numbers.

That’s because in most downturns, as Americans start to pull back on spending, restaurants, hotels and retailers lay off waves of workers. As fewer people buy homes, many construction workers are thrown out of work. Sales of high-priced manufactured goods, such as cars and appliances, tend to fall, leading to job losses at factories.

This time, so far, it hasn’t happened that way. Restaurants, bars and hotels are still hiring – in fact, they have been a major driver of job gains. And to the surprise of labor market experts, construction companies are also still adding workers despite higher borrowing rates, which often discourage residential and commercial building.

Instead, layoffs have been striking mainly white collar and professional occupations. Uber Technologies has said it will cut 200 of its recruiters. GrubHub announced 400 layoffs among the delivery company’s corporate jobs. Financial and media companies are also struggling, with Citibank saying it shed 1,600 workers in the April-June quarter. Ford Motor Co. said it was laying off several hundred engineers, after having cut 3,000 white collar jobs last year.

Many of the affected employees are well-educated and likely to find new jobs relatively quickly, economists say, helping keep unemployment down despite the layoffs. Right now, for example, the federal government, as well as employers in the hotel, retail and even railroad industries are seeking to hire people who have been laid off from the tech giants.

Tom Barkin, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, notes that affluent workers typically have savings they can draw upon after losing a job, enabling them to keep spending and fueling the economy. For that reason, Barkin suggested, white collar job losses don’t tend to weaken consumer spending as much as losses experienced by blue collar workers do.

“It’s easy to imagine that this might be a different sort of softening labor market … that has a different kind of impact, both on demand and on things like the unemployment rate than your normal weakening,” Barkin said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Or maybe no recession

The most optimistic economists say they’re growing more hopeful that a recession can be avoided, even if the Fed keeps interest rates at a peak for months to come. They point out that a range of recent economic data has come in better than expected. Most notably, hiring has stayed surprisingly resilient, with employers adding a robust average of roughly 300,000 jobs over the past six months and the unemployment rate, at 3.6%, still near a half-century low.

Manufacturing, too, is defying gloomy expectations. The government reported that companies stepped up their orders of industrial machinery, railcars, computers and other long-lasting goods.

Many analysts have been encouraged because some threats to the economy haven’t turned out to be as damaging as feared – or haven’t surfaced at all. The fight in Congress, for example, over the government’s borrowing limit, which could have triggered a default on Treasury securities, was resolved last month without much disruption in financial markets or discernible impact on the economy.

And so far, the banking turmoil that occurred last spring after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank has largely been contained and doesn’t appear to be weakening the economy.

Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs, said that the ebbing of such threats led him to mark down the likelihood of a recession within the next 12 months from 35% to just 20%.

Other economists point out that the economy doesn’t face the types of dangerous imbalances or events that have ignited some recent recessions, such as the stock market bubble in 2001 or the housing bubble in 2008.

“The risk of recession is receding, rapidly,” said Neil Dutta, an economist at Renaissance Macro. Whether we are having a rolling recession or “richcession,” he said, “If you have to call it different names, it’s not a recession.”

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


Have a Strong Visual Identity?

Agents work hard to set themselves apart from the crowd, and an easy-to-recognize brand uses logos, colors, graphics and styles across all marketing platforms.

NEW YORK – Real estate brands can stand out through a strong, well-designed visual identity.

Visual identity is an inclusive look for your brand that extends to all produce. It includes things like a logo, color palettes, graphic style, imagery, layout/design, brand guidelines and typography. A good visual identity creates a cohesion achieved by consistent application of colors and fonts across all marketing content and touchpoints.

A striking visual identity establishes a sense of credibility and trustworthiness for the real estate brand. It also sets an agent apart from competitors.

What kind of visual identity works best? Colors and images can evoke emotions in a target audience and, by doing so, create connections. Consistency perpetuates a brand’s presence and makes it more memorable.

A visually appealing and consistent brand identity also contributes to a brand’s longevity and equity, making it more resilient to market fluctuations and developing trends.

Source: Realty Biz News (07/26/2023)

© Copyright 2023 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


First-Timers’ Need 13% More Income this Year

Nationally it’s 13%, but in Fort Lauderdale it’s 28% – the highest in the U.S. In Miami, a first-time buyer needs to earn 25% more than they did a year ago.

SEATTLE – A first-time homebuyer must earn roughly $64,500 per year to afford the typical U.S. “starter” home, up 13% ($7,200) from June a year ago, according to a report from Redfin, thanks to the one-two punch of higher mortgage rates and higher home prices.

It’s even worse in many Florida metros, with the strongest demand for a higher income occurring in Broward County. Fort Lauderdale buyers need to earn $58,300 per year to purchase a $220,000 home, the typical price for a starter home in that area – 28% more year-to-year. Of the 50 most populous U.S. metros, it saw the biggest uptick.

Next comes Miami, where buyers need to earn $79,500 (up 24.8%) to afford the typical $300,000 starter home.

Rounding out the top three is Newark, NJ, where buyers need $88,800 (up 21.1%) to afford a $335,000 home. Fort Lauderdale (up 15.8%), Miami (up 13.2%) and Newark (up 9.8%) also had the biggest starter-home price increases.

While starter-home prices have risen most in Florida, however, the state is still generally less expensive than places like Austin or Phoenix, where home prices skyrocketed during the pandemic and have since come down some.

Prices are rising in Florida because out-of-town remote workers and retirees that are flocking in despite climate risks. That’s largely due to warm weather and relative affordability. Even though prices soared during the pandemic, homes are still typically less expensive than a place like New York, Boston or Los Angeles. Five of the 10 most popular metros for relocating homebuyers are in Florida.

Nationally, the typical starter home sold for a record $243,000 in June, up 2.1% from a year earlier and up more than 45% from before the pandemic. Average mortgage rates hit 6.7% in June, up from 5.5% the year before and just under 4% before the pandemic.

New listings of starter homes for sale dropped 23% from a year earlier in June, the biggest drop since the start of the pandemic. The total number of starter homes on the market is down 15%, also the biggest drop since the start of the pandemic. Limited listings and still-rising prices, exacerbated by high mortgage rates, have stifled sales activity. Sales of starter homes dropped 17% year over year in June.

San Francisco, Austin and Phoenix are the only U.S. metros where starter-home buyers need less income than they did a year ago

“Buyers searching for starter homes in today’s market are on a wild goose chase because in many parts of the country, there’s no such thing as a starter home anymore,” says Redfin Senior Economist Sheharyar Bokhari. “The most affordable homes for sale are no longer affordable to people with lower budgets due to the combination of rising prices and rising rates. That’s locking many Americans out of the housing market altogether, preventing them from building equity and ultimately building lasting wealth. People who are already homeowners are sitting pretty, comparatively, because most of them have benefited from home values soaring over the last few years. That could lead to the wealth gap in this country becoming even more drastic.”

Home prices shot up during the pandemic due to record-low mortgage rates and remote work, and now rising mortgage rates are exacerbating the affordability crisis, especially for first-time buyers. A person looking to buy today’s typical starter home would have a monthly mortgage payment of $1,610, up 13% from a year ago and nearly double the typical payment just before the pandemic. Average U.S. wages have risen 4.4% from a year ago and roughly 20% from before the pandemic, not nearly enough to make up for the jump in monthly mortgage payments.

© 2023 Florida Realtors®


Buy 2nd Home with Family, Friends? Get a Lawyer

“We all get along great” isn’t much help if there’s a disagreement about guests, repairs or maintenance. A lawyer can pre-solve problems before issues arise.

NEW YORK – Homebuyers purchasing vacation homes with family or friends face unknown risks, such as disputes about guests, repairs and maintenance. It can unravel the arrangement and even lead to court battles.

Booming home prices compound the situation. Attorneys and financial advisers say clear communication and a plan created before potential problems emerge can prevent ruptures with family or friends.

Planners, in fact, often discourage sharing ownership of a vacation home with extended family or friends, since it’s not assured that even small disagreements will find swift resolution.

UBS Financial Services adviser Michele McCallion says more frequent natural disasters have also escalated conflicts, often over who will cover improvements, renovations and maintenance on the property, and an upfront plan for how bills will be paid will minimize this discord.

Another recommendation is to formulate an exit plan. It can prevent future disputes, even if the solution is for one party to leave the agreement.

A co-worker of St. Petersburg, Florida-based financial planner Brent Weiss inherited a vacation home with his three siblings, for example. After the first year of co-ownership, two siblings wanted to sell the property, and the other two wanted to keep it and rent it out part time, which led to a legal fight.

“If clear expectations aren’t set early on, pressure can build and eventually blow the top off the partnership,” Weiss says.

Source: Wall Street Journal (07/24/23) Dagher, Veronica

© Copyright 2023 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


5 Fla. Metros in Top 10 for Out-of-State Buyers

In 2Q 2023, Fla. remained a top go-to state, with the lion’s share relocating from New York, but Chicago provided more buyers for Cape Coral, No. 7 on the list.

SEATTLE – A record one-in-four national homebuyers (25.5%) searched for homes in metros outside their current state in the in the second quarter, up from 23% one year earlier, according to a report from Redfin. Before the pandemic, it was 19%.

The total number of out-of-state-seeking buyers declined 7.5%, however the percentage grew because the number of people interested in in-state moves declined even more, down 18%.

Of the top 10 states eyed for residency, Florida metros made up 50% of the top 10 go-to state metros. Tampa ranked highest at No. 3, and Las Vegas moved into the top spot based largely on the number of Los Angeles residents looking for a new out-of-state city to call home.

Top 10 out-of-state metros in 2Q

  1. Las Vegas: Net inflow 5,700. Top origin: Los Angeles
  2. Phoenix: Net inflow 5,300. Top origin: Seattle
  3. Tampa: Net inflow 5,000. Top origin: New York City
  4. Orlando: Net inflow 4,900. Top origin: New York City
  5. Sacramento, Calif. Net inflow 4,800. Top origin: Chicago
  6. North Port-Sarasota: Net inflow 4,700. Top origin: New York City
  7. Cape Coral: Net inflow 4,100. Top origin: Chicago
  8. Dallas: Net inflow 4,100. Top origin: Los Angeles
  9. Miami: Net inflow 3,700. Top origin: New York City
  10. Houston: Net inflow 3,600. Top origin: New York City

Las Vegas topped Redfin’s list for the first time. The report notes that a typical Las Vegas home sells for $412,000, or less than half the price of a home in Los Angeles, and, “It’s a similar story for the other popular migration destinations, which include Phoenix, Sacramento and several Florida metros.”

Of the top 10, nine have lower median sale prices than the top origin metro of buyers moving in.

© 2023 Florida Realtors®


Mobile Marketing: Many Agents’ Missed Opportunity

People use cellphones constantly – computers not so much. That means websites and ads that work just as well on smaller screens will be seen by a lot more people.

NEW YORK –  Real estate professionals must focus on mobile marketing, which means promoting their business to potential customers via smartphones and other mobile devices.

The first step? Agents should ensure their website is mobile friendly. This includes prioritizing responsive design, fast load times and easy navigation. Short message service (SMS) marketing has an open rate of 98%, making it useful for sending property alerts, new listings and open house invitations to clients. SMS messages should be clear, concise and provide value to the recipient.

Many agents should also consider the value of a dedicated mobile app to give users a more interactive experience. A real estate app can list properties with high-resolution images, property details and virtual tours. It also enables easy direct messaging with agents. Features like push notifications can also help agents directly engage with their clients.

Even if using more traditional email marketing campaigns, it’s important to make sure the emails are mobile friendly. Most consumers check emails on their smartphones, so it’s important to create tech adaptable ones that work well on cellphones – ones with compelling subject lines, concise content and strong calls to action.

Analytics tools can monitor the effectiveness of mobile marketing campaigns. It’s a way to identify things, such as which platforms drive the most traffic, what types of content perform well, and which ads provide the most conversions.

A/B testing is another good way to determine what works best for an audience. With A/B testing, two almost identical emails are sent out, but something is different – often the subject line, though there are other options. By monitoring A vs. B, agents can determine which type of approach works best.

The final and ongoing step is to regularly optimize campaigns based on insights gained from analytics.

Source: Realty Biz News (06/27/2023)

© Copyright 2023 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Good News/Bad News: Economy Accelerates in 2Q

The U.S. economy grew 2.4%, up from 2% in the first quarter, indicating a still-robust economy that adds pressure on the Fed to raise interest rates again.

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. economy surprisingly accelerated to a 2.4% annual growth rate from April through June, showing continued resilience in the face of steadily higher interest rates resulting from the Federal Reserve’s 16-month-long fight to bring down inflation.

Thursday’s estimate from the Commerce Department indicated that the gross domestic product – the economy’s total output of goods and services – picked up from the 2% growth rate in the January-March quarter. Last quarter’s expansion was well above the 1.5% annual rate that economists had forecast.

Driving last quarter’s growth was a burst of business investment, which surged at a 5.7% annual pace, the fastest rate since late 2021. Companies plowed more money into factories and equipment. Increased spending by state and local governments also helped fuel the economy’s expansion in the April-June quarter.

Consumer spending, the heart of the nation’s economy, was also solid last quarter, though it slowed to a 1.6% annual rate from a robust 4.2% pace in the first quarter of the year.

Investment in housing, though, fell, weakened by the weight of higher mortgage rates.

“This is a strong report, confirming that this economy continues to largely shrug off the Fed’s aggressive rate increases and tightening credit conditions,” said Olu Sonola, head of U.S. economics at Fitch Ratings. “The bottom line is that the U.S. economy is still growing above trend, and the Fed will be wondering if they need to do more to slow this economy.”

In fighting inflation, which last year hit a four-decade high, the Fed has raised its benchmark rate 11 times since March 2022, most recently on Wednesday. The resulting higher costs for a broad range of loans – from mortgages and credit cards to auto loans and business borrowing – have taken a toll on growth.

Still, they have yet to tip the United States into a widely forecast recession. Optimism has been growing that a recession isn’t coming after all, that the Fed can engineer a so-called “soft-landing” – slowing the economy enough to bring inflation down to its 2% annual target without wrecking an expansion of surprising durability.

This week, the International Monetary Fund upgraded its forecast for U.S. economic growth for all of 2023 to 1.8%. Though that would be down from 2.1% growth for 2022, it marked an increase from the 1.6% growth that the IMF had predicted for 2023 back in April.

Fed Chair Powell: We no longer expect a recession

At a news conference Wednesday after the Fed announced its latest quarter-point rate hike, Chair Jerome Powell revealed that the central bank’s staff economists no longer foresee a recession in the United States. In April, the minutes of the central bank’s March meeting had revealed that the Fed’s staff economists envisioned a “mild” recession later this year.

In his remarks, Powell noted that the economy has proved resilient despite the Fed’s rapid rate hikes. And he said he still thinks a soft landing remains possible.

By any measure, the American job market has shown itself to be remarkably strong. At 3.6% in June, the unemployment rate hovers just above a five-decade low. A surge in retirements after COVID-19 hit in early 2020 has contributed to a shortage of workers across the country, forcing many companies to raise wages to attract or keep staffers.

Higher pay and job security are giving Americans the confidence and financial wherewithal to keep shopping. Indeed, consumer spending, which drives about 70% of economic activity, rose at a 4.2% annual rate from January through March, the fastest quarterly pace in nearly two years. Americans have kept spending – crowding airplanes, traveling overseas and flocking to concerts and movie theaters.

And the Conference Board, a business research group, reported Tuesday that Americans this month are in their sunniest mood in two years, based on the board’s reading of consumer confidence. Indeed, many consumers are finally enjoying some relief from spiking prices: Year-over-year inflation, which peaked at 9.1% in June 2022, has eased consistently ever since. Inflation-adjusted hourly pay rose 1.4% in June from a year earlier, the sharpest such gain since early 2021.

“Inflation is easing, moving in the right direction,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “In other words, the Fed is achieving what it wants without causing damage to the economy, so they don’t need to push too hard from this point on.”

Still, Farooqi suggested, the surprisingly healthy GDP report makes it somewhat more likely that the Fed will raise rates again because the economy appears to be “much stronger” than what the central bank would like to see. With stronger growth comes a greater likelihood of high inflation.

At the same time, the risk remains that the weight of ever-higher interest rates will eventually slow borrowing so much – for homes, cars, renovations, business expansions and other costly expenses – as to pull the economy into recession.

Among the economy’s weakest links has been the housing market. In June, sales of previously occupied homes sank to their slowest pace since January. The problem is that a near-historic low number of homes for sale and higher mortgage rates kept many would-be homebuyers on the sidelines. Sales fell 19% compared with June 2022 and were down 23% through the first half of the year.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


NAR: June Pending Sales Rose 0.3%

“The recovery has not taken place, but the housing recession is over,” says NAR’s chief economist, after the first pending-sales increase in three months.

WASHINGTON – Pending home sales registered a modest increase of 0.3% in June month-to-month – its first increase since February – according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). The South and West posted monthly losses, while sales in the Northeast and Midwest grew. All four U.S. regions saw year-over-year transaction declines.

“The recovery has not taken place, but the housing recession is over,” says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, “The presence of multiple offers implies that housing demand is not being satisfied due to lack of supply. Homebuilders are ramping up production and hiring workers.”

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) – a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings – rose 0.3% to 76.8 in May. Year over year, pending transactions fell by 15.6%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

Forecasting the future

NAR predicts the 30-year fixed mortgage rate will hit 6.4% before the end of this year and then decline a bit in 2024, dropping to 6.0%. It believes the unemployment rate will rise slightly to 3.7% this year and then increase to 4.1% in 2024.

“With consumer price inflation calming close to the Federal Reserve’s desired conditions, mortgage rates look to have topped out,” Yun says. “Given the ongoing job additions, any meaningful decline in mortgage rates could lead to a rush of buyers later in the year and into the next.”

NAR expects:

  • Existing-home sales to decrease 12.9% from 2022 to 2023 and settle at 4.38 million, before climbing 15.5% to 5.06 million in 2024.
  • National median existing-home prices will remain steady, declining 0.4% to $384,900 before rebounding by 2.6% to $395,000 in 2024.
  • The West – the country’s most expensive region – will see reduced prices, while the more affordable Midwest region is likely to see a small, positive increase.
  • Housing starts will drop 5.3% from 2022 to 2023, to 1.47 million, before increasing to 1.55 million (5.4%) in 2024.
  • Newly constructed home sales will increase from last year by 12.3% in 2023, to 720,000, due to additional inventory. And it will increase by another 13.9% in 2024, to 820,000.
  • The national median new home price will decrease by 1.9% this year to $449,100, and then improve by 4.2% next year, to $468,000.

“It is critical to expand supply as much as possible to widen access to homebuying for more Americans,” Yun says. “Home prices will be influenced by how much inventory is brought to market. Increased homebuilding will tame price growth, while limited construction will lead to home price appreciation outpacing income growth.”

Pending home sales regional breakdown:

  • The Northeast PHSI rose 0.6% from last month to 67.1, a decrease of 16.7% from June 2022.
  • The Midwest index jumped 4.3% to 77.6 in June, down 17.1% year-to-year.
  • The South PHSI fell 1.4% to 93.3 in June, down 14.3% from the prior year.
  • The West index fell 1.0% in June to 57.7, dipping 15.5% from May 2022

© 2023 Florida Realtors®


30-Year Mortgage Rates Head Back Up, Hit 6.81%

After moving closer to 7% and then falling last week, the 30-year, fixed-rate moved a bit higher from last week’s 6.78%. A year ago, the rate averaged 5.3%.

WASHINGTON – The average long-term U.S. mortgage rate ticked back up this week, remaining a barrier for Americans trying to upgrade or buy their first home.

The average rate on the benchmark 30-year home loan rose to 6.81% this week from 6.78% last week, which was the lowest level in a month, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday. One year ago, the average rate was 5.3%.

High rates can add hundreds of dollars a month in costs for borrowers, limiting how much they can afford in a market already unaffordable to many Americans.

High inflation has driven the Federal Reserve to jack up interest rates since early last year. Beginning with its first hike in March 2022, the central bank has lifted its benchmark interest rate to between 5.1% and 5.3%, its highest level in 22 years.

Inflation has retreated since last summer, which has many on Wall Street hoping that the Federal Reserve’s quarter-point interest rate hike on Wednesday will the last of this cycle.

Mortgage rates don’t necessarily mirror the Fed’s rate increases, but tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. Investors’ expectations for future inflation, global demand for U.S. Treasurys and what the Fed does with interest rates can influence rates on home loans.

The average rate on a 30-year mortgage remains more than double what it was two years ago, when ultra-low rates spurred a wave of home sales and refinancing. The far higher rates now are contributing to a dearth of available homes. Homeowners who locked in those lower borrowing costs two years ago are reluctant to sell and jump into a higher rate on a new property.

The lack of housing supply is also a big reason home sales are down 23% over the past six months.

The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, popular with those refinancing their homes, inched up to 6.11% from 6.06% last week. A year ago, it averaged 4.58%, Freddie Mac said.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


5 Ways AI Can Boost Real Estate Marketing

It’s hard to underestimate the impact of artificial intelligence (AI). International deals, for instance, will be easier even if no one speaks a common language.

NEW YORK – According to Forbes Advisor, artificial intelligence (AI) could contribute a 21% net increase to the U.S. GDP by 2030.

In the real estate arena, AI can help agents create content in a unique voice – either their own or a voice selected by their broker. And it will soon be able to send a message to hundreds of people at once, with the information in the message adapted to be personal to each person who receives it.

AI can also be given prompts to write in various tones – casual, technical, playful and so on, as well as mirror a specific content creator’s style.

A Forbes Advisor survey found that one in three businesses intend to use ChatGPT for creating website content. In addition, 44% seek to use ChatGPT for multilingual content creation.

AI can also create marketing simulations that aid agents’ planning and strategy process. For example, AI could simulate customer reactions to a new pricing strategy or a new product feature, which help creators modify their approach before sending the marketing material to real, live people.

AI’s overarching goal is to become a strategic partner by offering data-driven insights.

In addition, AI could suggest new or better marketing ideas based on the brand’s identity and customer demographics.

AI could even develop a comprehensive marketing plan. It would do that by breaking the process down into manageable steps and aligning each step with the company’s’ business goals.

Some 64% of businesses expect AI to increase productivity, such as by helping define marketing objectives, allocating budgets, and setting KPIs and success metrics, Forbes Advisor said.

Source: Inman (06/08/23) Pollinger, Chris

© Copyright 2023 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Fed Raises Interest Rates a Quarter Point as Expected

Observers looked for clues on whether the Fed will raise interest rates again later this year, and the Fed seemed to imply it was likely, but not a sure thing.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised its benchmark interest rate by another 0.25 percentage point following a pause in June, recognizing the need to do more to contain inflation.

The increase, announced after a two-day policy meeting, brings the federal funds rate, which banks charge each other for overnight borrowing, to a new target range of between 5.25% and 5.5% — a 22-year high.

This is the 11th hike since March 2022, when the U.S. central bank raised the key rate from near zero. At the June meeting, the bank’s policymaking Federal Open Market Committee left the rate unchanged following 10 consecutive increases, saying it wanted time to assess the effects of its past decisions and labor market figures.

At the time, Fed Chair Jerome Powell also said the pause was needed to examine any fallout from the banking turmoil that shook the U.S. financial system earlier this year, while noting that most of the central bank’s policymakers viewed additional rate hikes as necessary later this year to cool down the economy.

Inflation in the United States has declined considerably since it peaked last summer at 9.1%, a level unseen since more than four decades earlier.

Although inflation also broadly slowed in June, with the consumer price index rising 3% from a year earlier to register the smallest increase since March 2021, it is still far above the Fed’s 2% target.

Moreover, economic data have shown that the U.S. labor market remains robust. Citing income gains, the International Monetary Fund earlier this week revised upward its 2023 growth forecast for the United States to 1.8%, compared with the 1.6% projected in April.

Economists and investors are keen to find any clues as to whether the latest hike will be the Fed’s final move this year in its inflation fight. The Fed has ruled out the possibility of cutting the key rate anytime soon, but it has become increasingly careful not to set the stage for the world’s largest economy to tip into a recession by raising the cost to borrow too much.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


Why Don’t You Have a Listings-Based Business?

A very general rule of thumb: Half an agent’s income should come from representing sellers. If that’s not you, here are things to consider.

NEW YORK – Real estate professionals should ensure that at least half  their business comes from listings.

Obstacles they may face include:

  • Insufficient market knowledge: When working with listings, agents need to be competent pricing the home, provide insights on how to prepare the home for sale to potential buyers, market the home to gain maximum exposure, and provide the seller with detailed feedback on showings and offers.
  • A unique selling proposition: An agent’s goal is to provide homeowners with a clear and unique reason why they should be the listing agent – why their services are superior to any other agent’s services. They should clearly communicate how their process will help the homeowner sell for the highest possible price in the least amount of time, and with the least number of issues.
  • Marketing plan: Agents need a marketing plan that gains seller confidence. This likely involves syndicating the listing to all major websites, placing a sign in the yard, and any other tasks that gain exposure for the home. It’s also important to cite other actions that will benefit the owner, such as sending Just Listed cards, using professional photography and videography, and conducting targeted social media campaigns.
  • Geographical farming: To gain a better focus on listings – and then get more of them – agents should concentrate on geographical farming, using predictive data analytics from companies like SmartZip, or shifting to more seller-focused social media content. Agents also need to have a neighborhood or area for which they are known as the expert and are consistently adding value.

Meanwhile, outbound prospecting calls should involve checking in with past buyers, circle prospecting after a sale, and calling FSBOs and expired listings.

Source: Inman (06/22/23) Burgess, Jimmy

© Copyright 2023 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Remote Work and Thriving Cities: How to Keep Both

Hybrid work means fewer people downtown on any given day. Cities must adapt, a report concludes, by building multifamily structures to boost thin crowds.

WASHINGTON – Hybrid work is here to stay, and if cities are to thrive, they must adapt to the new reality that workers will be downtown less often. That’s according to a new report, Empty spaces and hybrid places: The pandemic’s lasting impact on real estate, that analyzes the COVID-19 pandemic’s lasting impact on office and retail space.

“What has fundamentally changed is just the broad uptake and the persistence of hybridity,” says Ryan Luby, an associate partner at McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm that released the report. “And that has knock-on implications for demand for office, for residential, for retail, what kind of space is demanded, where it is demanded, and that has real implications for urban vitality, vibrancy and the kinds of buildings that we demand.”

Now that they aren’t making their daily commutes to downtown offices, people are doing their eating out and shopping elsewhere. The report finds that foot traffic near stores in urban areas is still 10% to 20% lower than pre-pandemic levels, and office attendance is still down by about 30% on average in major cities across the world.

The New York City metropolitan area lost 5% of its population from mid-2020 to mid-2022, while the San Francisco area lost 6%. The numbers suggest that many of the people who left big cities during the pandemic are not moving back, the report said, which presents another challenge for cities trying to bounce back from pandemic-driven losses.

In Washington, the daytime population plunged 82% from February 2020 to February 2021. And a 2023 poll finds that two-thirds of Washington-area workers whose jobs can be done remotely prefer to work from home a majority of the time. Thirty-eight percent of people surveyed said they’d like to work from home all of the time.

City leaders and planners are preparing for a future that adjusts to this new reality.

“About 50% of our population can still remote work,” says Salah Czapary, director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture. “Some neighborhoods have not returned to pre-COVID levels of economic activity. Our short-term strategy is activating the space, attracting festivals and making it easier for people to close streets – whether it’s for a farmers market or a music festival downtown – doing that to support what has traditionally been our economic engine of the city, which has been downtown.”

Luby, one of the report’s authors, says the most resilient cities have a mixture of office, residential and retail real estate.

“People are coming into those areas for reasons other than work,” he says. “I think the imperative, as we think about it from the public policy perspective, is really to encourage or incentivize what we think about as mixed-use development, in which folks will be present in these areas for reasons other than just work.”

Washington’s city leaders, for example, are looking for ways to meet the moment.

“Our long-term strategy is really attracting new residents to downtown by changing the buildings from commercial to residential,” Czapary says. “That will eventually attract grocery stores and other types of nightlife and restaurants and things that make neighborhoods attractive to live in.”

By 2030, demand for office space will be an average of 13% lower in major cities around the world than it was in 2019, according to the report. San Francisco is the most affected city in the United States in terms of demand for office space, with sale prices per square foot down 24% compared with 2019, while the asking price for rents is 28% lower than in 2019. The report also predicts that demand for retail space in San Francisco will be 17% lower in 2030 than in 2019.

Adjusting to this new reality could take time, Luby says, because people who own office space in major cities are still expecting prices to rebound as they did in pre-pandemic times.

“Because a commercial real estate office, in particular, tends to be on a five- to-10-year lease, you’ve got a slow-motion dynamic playing out,” Luby says. “And until you get buyers and sellers in the market to agree that we’re in a new normal and adjusting prices downwards, it’s really going to be difficult to get at-scale adjustment.”

Copyright 2023 Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc.


What Month Has the Most Home Options? July

The summer months saw the most available homes – to buy or rent – between 2020 and 2022. After July, it was Aug. and then June.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Searching for a new home can depend on several factors, but perhaps the most important is how many properties are available at the time. Moving experts at movingfeedback used Zillow data to analyze the number of properties available to rent or buy in the U.S each month from 2020-2022.

  • July had the most properties available with a total of 1,456,259 homes to rent or buy nationwide from 2020-2022.
  • August is close behind with 1,436,279 properties available over the last three years.
  • June is the third most popular month, with 1,383,191 properties available.

The summer months offer more convenience when moving into a home, as the weather is likely to be warm and rental leases start to expire, causing more people to look for properties. June, July and August are also typically the end of the academic year, so many parents will wait until the summer to move as it will not disrupt their child’s education.

However, with most choosing to move at this time of year, moving companies are busy and costs are expensive.

January had the least number of homes available, with only 843,530 in total across the last three years. December and February also had a low number of available homes, with 887,744 and 868,836 respectively from 2020-2022.

The winter months are consistently quieter due to the weather and holidays. They can also be the cheapest months to move, as companies may have reduced moving rates during this time due to a lack of demand for services.

Harrison Gough, content writer at movingfeedback, commented on the findings:

“When moving (to a) home, it’s important to consider what you’ll need to complete the move. The weather is a major factor in traveling to a new property and the findings support this, with the coldest winter months having the lowest number of listed properties.

“Holidays can also be a huge factor in moving as offices and companies close around Christmas. However, the study does show that September has a large number of properties which coincides with the start of the new academic year. This could be due to parents looking to move to more desirable neighborhoods for their children. From this perspective, if you lease your house in summer time, you are highly likely to get more money out of this, as a vendor will need it when their kids are off of school.

“Labor Day typically marks the start of the off-season when it comes to moving home. This period from November to April is often cheaper than the summer months as people begin to start planning a move. The data from 2023 follows the trend set in previous years, with 384,305 listed properties as of April 30th.”

Copyright © 2023 BridgeTower Media; and Copyright © 2023, The Mecklenburg Times (Charlotte, NC). All rights reserved.


June New-Home Sales Cool As Mortgage Rates Rise

Newly built home sales fell 2.5% last month. NAHB cited higher mortgage rates and some supply chain issues for electrical transformers as the leading cause.

WASHINGTON – June sales of newly built, single-family homes fell 2.5% to 697,000 (seasonally adjusted annual rate) from a downwardly revised reading in May, according to newly released data by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.

However, new home sales are up 23.8% year-to-year.

“Rising mortgage rates in June, coupled with elevated construction costs and supply chain issues for electrical transformers, acted as headwinds on the new home sales market,” says Alicia Huey, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

“Demand for new homes cooled in June primarily due to a more than quarter-point rise in mortgage rates over the previous month,” says Danushka Nanayakkara-Skillington, NAHB’s assistant vice president for forecasting and analysis. “However, the lack of existing inventory and the Federal Reserve nearing the end of its rate hikes signal that demand for new homes may rise in the coming quarters.”

A new home sale occurs when a sales contract is signed or a deposit is accepted. The home can be in any stage of construction: not yet started, under construction or completed. In addition to adjusting for seasonal effects, the June reading of 697,000 units is the number of homes that would sell if this pace continued for the next 12 months.

New single-family home inventory in June was 432,000, down 3.6% compared to a year ago and representing a 7.4-months’ supply at the current building pace. A measure near a 6 months’ supply is considered balanced.

Of that total inventory, 67,000 were completed, ready-to-occupy homes, up 91.4% from a year ago. Still, completed homes made up only 15% of total inventory.

The median new home sale price in June was $415,400, down roughly 4% year-to-year.

Regionally, on a year-to-date basis, new home sales rose 4.7% in the Northeast and 3.2% in the South. They were down 7.6% in the Midwest and 16.5% in the West.

© 2023 Florida Realtors®


Wells Fargo Settles Lawsuit that Alleged Appraisal Bias

A N.C. couple sued Wells Fargo and others after alleging an appraisal came up $52K short. Wells Fargo didn’t admit guilt or dispute the statistical findings.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Wells Fargo & Co. has agreed to an undisclosed settlement with a Black couple, who sued the bank over accusations they were deliberately low-balled by $52,000 on an appraisal for a mortgage refinancing application.

The lawsuit was filed on Sept. 13 in the Middle District of N.C. by Brigid and Joseph Washington of Raleigh.

The Washingtons claimed the defendants had violated the Fair Housing Act during the refinancing and appraisal process. They also made state law claims of fraud, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and civil conspiracy. The Washingtons claimed the defendants discriminated against them “by dramatically undervaluing their home in an appraisal because of plaintiffs’ race, notwithstanding that the home is located within Oberlin, an affluent, mostly white neighborhood.”

The settlement comes about 5½ months after Judge Catherine Eagles allowed in January certain federal Fair Housing Act and federal civil rights claims to proceed. A mediation conference was held July 12, a complete settlement was agreed upon July 17 and filed July 19.

The parties have until Aug. 31 to disclose details of the settlement. Besides the bank, defendants were Accurate Appraisal Service and licensed appraiser Bryan Klosterman.

“We are happy that we have resolved this matter, but have nothing further to add,” Wells Fargo said in a statement Tuesday.

In the complaint, the couple said they paid $440,000 in March 2018 for a 1,581-square-foot home with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The couple said they spent $65,000 on home improvement projects that included the kitchen, window replacements, finishing the basement and buying new appliances.

In June 2020, the couple applied to refinance their loan to 15 years with the goals of obtaining a lower interest rate and ending the need for private mortgage insurance on the loan.

An appraisal typically is required by the lender for a refinancing. Before the appraisal was conducted, the complaint listed Wells Fargo as estimating the home’s market value at $525,000. However, the appraisal from Klosterman came in at $488,000.

According to the complaint, Klosterman’s appraisal didn’t rely on any comparable homes in the plaintiffs’ neighborhood, but rather on less expensive homes in another neighborhood. Brigid Washington said Klosterman spent about 10 minutes in-house on the appraisal, and he was “curt, abrupt and dismissive” to her.

The couple said Wells Fargo accepted Klosterman’s appraisal in evaluating the refinancing applications, then declined their requests for a new appraisal from a different appraiser.

The couple said that accepting Klosterman’s appraisal would’ve meant continuing to pay private mortgage insurance. They claimed they would have been required to pay higher refinancing mortgage loan fees and costs than non-minority borrowers.

The couple chose to apply with another lender, Movement Mortgage.

After the couple conducted what the complaint called a “whitewashing” – removing all family photos from the residence, not putting down a race on their application and having an older white friend be at the Movement Mortgage appraisal – the second appraisal came in at $540,000.

The couple said the defendants failed to take into consideration rapid increases in values in the Oberlin/Raleigh/Wake County markets over the two-year period.

Wells Fargo asked for the dismissal of the complaint, saying “these allegations and other generalized and conclusory allegations do not meet the law’s heightened pleading requirements necessary to support claims of racial discrimination in violation” of the federal statutes cited in the lawsuit.

In January, Eagles dismissed claims against Wells Fargo for fraud, civil conspiracy, and unjust enrichment, along with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act claim. She cited the Washingtons did not claim that the bank had rejected their refinancing application. The Washingtons were allowed to continue with their claims of racial discrimination under North Carolina consumer protection laws.

According to Bloomberg News, the Washingtons’ suit is part of a wave of litigation, including a consolidated class action in federal court in California, accusing Wells Fargo of discrimination in refinancing. A 2022 Bloomberg News investigation found that Wells Fargo rejected half its Black applicants during the mortgage refinancing boom.

Among major lenders, only Wells Fargo approved a smaller share of refinancing applications from Black homeowners in 2020 than a decade earlier, the report said. Nationwide, only 47% of Black homeowners who completed a refinance application with Wells Fargo in 2020 were approved, compared with 72% of white homeowners, the report said.

Wells Fargo didn’t dispute Bloomberg’s statistical findings. It said it treats all potential borrowers the same but is more selective than other lenders.

© Copyright 2023, Winston-Salem Journal, Winston-Salem, NC


Disney ‘Lists’ Iconic Haunted Mansion For Sale

The 5 bed/2 bath, 13,195 square-foot New Orleans mansion – actually Calif. –  “dates back to the late 19th century” and has a steep asking price: Your soul.

NEW ORLEANS – A famous mansion has landed on the fake real estate market in New Orleans, Louisiana, for an extremely high price: One – or more – human souls.

Disney’s famous “Haunted Mansion” is listed on Zillow just in time for its newest adaptation that’s ready to hit the theaters on July 28. But, unfortunately, the 13,195-square-foot undead-filled estate isn’t really for sale. And if it really was, the listing would be downright terrifying.

“It is important to disclose that this property is indeed haunted, and its inhabitants inflict terror and promise eternal entrapment to all who enter,” the listing says. “We are certain that you will find this place irresistible and promise that once you see it in person, you will find it impossible to leave it behind.”

Features of the estate include:

  • Foyer: A grand entryway with statues that threaten your life
  • Great Hall: Ideal for entertaining invited and uninvited guests.
  • Library: A collection that inspires unforgettable nightmares.
  • Ballroom: Lovely space where ghostly souls celebrate and imprison.
  • Séance Room: Perfect for summoning the dead and human possession.
  • Hallway: Didn’t get your steps in? Keep walking. Forever.

And more.

The movie is based on the famous Disney ride with the same name and stars LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Rosario Dawson, Jared Leto, Dan Levy and Owen Wilson.

Ahead of the film’s premiere, which was held at Disneyland on July 15, SAG-AFTRA announced that actors in the Hollywood industry would be joining film and TV writers on the picket line after negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers failed on the evening of July 12, The Hollywood Reporter said. None of the actors attended the movie’s red carpet premiere, so instead, the studio sent out famous Disney characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse to engage with fans during the two-hour event, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

© 2023 The Charlotte Observer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Fla.: Highest 2-Year Home Price Rise on East Coast

Over two years, Fla. home prices rose 35.16% – the highest increase on the East Coast – with Ga. and the Carolinas seeing something just short of 30%.

NEW YORK – Real estate website New Jersey Real Estate Network has analyzed data from Zillow showing historical average house prices in each East Coast state. The study shows which state has had the highest percentage increase from 2021 to 2023.

  1. Florida is the state with the highest increase in property prices. The average price of a home is now $385,157, an increase of 35.16% from 2021. The county with the highest increase is Collier County with 50.35% and the county with the lowest is Washington County with only 21.95%.
  1. Georgia has an increase of 29.55% with the average price of a home in 2023 coming in at $311,253. Wilcox County sees the highest increase with 40.29% while the smallest increase of just 2.41% belongs to Chattahoochee County.
  1. North Carolina has the third highest increase. House prices in the state are now 29.48% higher than in 2021. Richmond County has the largest increase in the state, with prices in 2023 being 45.16% higher than in 2021. The smallest increase within the state is that of Bertie County, with average house prices in 2023 being $42,522, a 2.93% increase from 2021.
  1. In fourth is South Carolina with a 29.31% increase in prices from 2021, now averaging $279,015. House prices in Chester County average $169,044, an increase of 41.96% from 2021. In Marion County, house prices have only increased by 2.94%.
  1. The state with the fifth highest increase is Maine. House prices have increased by 24.60% since 2021, with properties now averaging $360,951. Piscataquis County has the highest increase in house prices with 33.16% whereas York County has the smallest increase, at 19.64%.
  1. New Hampshire is sixth with house prices averaging $435,383, an increase of 22.04%. Within the state, Coos County real estate prices have increased by 35.11% since 2021, while in Hillsborough County they have increased by 16.26%.
  1. Delaware’s property prices have increased by 18.28% since 2021, with a property now costing $365,168 on average. In Sussex County, the price of a home reaches $450,648 on average, a 26.96% increase from 2021. New Castle County prices have only increased by 14.22% in comparison.
  1. Properties in New Jersey cost $457,044 on average, an increase of 17.79%. Cape May County has a price increase higher than the state’s average, coming in at 28.33%. On the lower end of the scale is Hudson County, with an increase of only 9.98%

Rounding out the list is Connecticut with 17.78%, Rhode Island with 17.05%, New York with 15.93%, Pennsylvania with 15.81% and Massachusetts with 13.37%.

A spokesperson for New Jersey Real Estate Network commented on the findings: “Growth in the housing market slowed during the pandemic, although there was an increase in people moving to suburban or rural areas due to companies choosing to implement work from home structures.

“2021 saw a more rapid growth and this study shows that this has continued into 2023. Currently the average price for a home in the U.S. is $339,048, up by 3.3% from last year.

“The findings show that states with a lower population density are experiencing the highest increases. Florida is 13th in population density while Georgia is 23rd. This could mean that prospective homeowners are looking for quieter neighborhoods. It will be interesting to see if the next few months will follow the trend and prices will increase again.”

Copyright 2023 The Mecklenburg Times (Charlotte, NC), and BridgeTower Media. All rights reserved.


RE Q&A: What If the Buyer’s Check Bounced?

The sellers have a check but without bank funds to support it. Is the contract dead? Delayed? What should the seller do next?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: We are trying to sell our home and need to move out of the area in the near future because of a job change. We are under contract with a lovely couple, but their deposit check did not clear. What should we do now? – Minnie

Answer: Occasionally, a check may fail to clear for reasons not the drafter’s fault. Ask the buyers why their check did not clear, and if they share a good reason, have them immediately make the deposit with certified funds or a wire.

If they cannot or will not cooperate with your reasonable request, move on and find a new buyer.

However, if they can do it, you can move forward with the deal while looking for other warning signs.

The initial deposit, or “earnest money deposit,” is how purchasers show they are serious about purchasing your property. With most purchase contract forms, a seller is limited to getting the deposit amount if the buyer defaults, so make sure to get a sufficient amount.

It would be best to ask for a minimum of 5%, but more is better, with 20% of the purchase price being the goal. A larger deposit keeps the buyer motivated to purchase your home. It is easy for a buyer to walk away from a $1,000 deposit but much harder to walk away from $20,000, so a larger deposit makes your transaction more likely to close.

Remember that nice people are not always good, and these buyers have already shown a warning sign. Carefully review your contract and write down all of the deadlines. These important dates should be strictly enforced.

In my experience, most failed transactions have multiple warning signs, such as issues with the deposit, missed deadlines, or attempts to renegotiate the terms after the ink is dry.

While one of these issues, standing alone, does not mean your transaction will fail, when more issues show up, you should be concerned.

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


Florida Living Too Expensive? Not in These 10 Places

Fla. isn’t getting too expensive – only some metro areas are. An inexpensive Sunshine State retirement still exists for people who embrace a more rural lifestyle.

MIAMI – If you’d like to live in Florida but the housing prices in some areas are way over your budget – we’re looking at you, Florida Keys – some of the lesser-known counties in the state may have what you’re looking for.

A study by SmartAsset ranked the wealth in Florida’s counties by compiling data from the Census Bureau, real estate site Zillow and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

While some areas have scary price tags, others have ones that are more within reach. The counties on this list, smaller and more rural than others in the state, all have median home values less than the state’s median home value of $326,286.

Here’s the list of counties with, according to SmartAsset, the least wealth:

  1. Glades County
    Median income: $38,088
    Investment income: $20,804
    Median home value: $235,335

  2. Taylor County
    Median income: $43,563
    Investment income: $24,074
    Median home value: $171,209
  1. Hamilton County
    Median income: $39,346
    Investment income: $26,916
    Median home value: $177,420
  1. Holmes County
    Median income: $41,809
    Investment income: $18,255
    Median home value: $161,515
  1. Madison County
    Median income: $39,503
    Investment income: $24,856
    Median home value: $169,071
  1. Dixie County
    Median income: $44,287
    Investment income: $40,304
    Median home value: $180,077
  1. Calhoun County
    Median income: $38,098
    Investment income: $27,705
    Median home value: $164,711
  1. Hardee County
    Median income: $41,395
    Investment income: $29,886
    Median home value: $201,299
  1. Liberty County
    Median income: $42,438
    Investment income: $11,358
    Median home value: $164,392
  1. Jackson County
    Median income: $43,416
    Investment income: $24,477
    Median home value: $173,204

© 2023 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


U.S. News & World Report’s First Lender Ranking

Best lender for lower mortgage rates? PenFed Credit Union. Best mortgage lender – AmeriSave. Best mortgage refinancing lender – New American Funding.

WASHINGTON – U.S. News & World Report, one of the best-known ranking and consumer advice companies, announced the winners of its first-ever Banking, Investing Platforms and Lender Awards.

“Today’s homebuyers are contending with an affordability crisis fueled by high interest rates and unyielding home prices, so it’s important to find a mortgage lender that can provide some financial relief,” says Erika Giovanetti, loans expert and reporter at U.S. News.

U.S. News’ new awards come as rising interest rates, inflation and a generally unpredictable investing market continue to impact the financial lives of consumers. The group says its awards “highlight trusted resources to help consumers identify the financial institutions most likely to meet their needs.”

2023-2024 U.S. News Banking, Investment Platforms & Lender Awards Winners

  • Editors’ Choice: Best lender for beating high mortgage rates – PenFed Credit Union
  • Best mortgage lender – AmeriSave
  • Best mortgage refinancing lender – New American Funding
  • Best private student loan lender – Earnest
  • Best private student loan refinancing lender – Laurel Road
  • Best personal loan lender – Discover
  • Best debt consolidation loan lender – SoFi
  • Best checking account – Axos Bank Rewards Checking
  • Best savings account – Bask Bank Interest Savings Account
  • Best CD account – Barclays Bank 12-month CD
  • Best investing platform – Charles Schwab
  • Best investing platform for Beginners – Fidelity Investments

U.S. News says it determined the winning institutions using data-driven methodologies including factors specific to their respective categories: annual percentage yield, ATM availability, customer complaints and more for banking; useability, product and account offerings, customer support and fees for investing platforms; and affordability, eligibility and customer service for lenders.

© 2023 Florida Realtors®


Senior Housing Lags Even as Baby Boomers Age

Analysts are trying to find out why the senior-housing occupancy rate is in decline. Many think work-at-home changes play a part – and perhaps fear of another pandemic.

NEW YORK – Real estate analysts are trying to figure out whether remote work is negatively impacting senior housing.

The occupancy rate for senior-housing facilities was 83.7% in the second quarter of 2023 – an increase from the pandemic’s low-point but still below the 87.1% rate in the first quarter of 2020.

Plus given the age of baby boomers, senior-housing demand should be growing rather than shrinking, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, and it’s no longer difficult to visit family members after Covid protocols have eased.

Why the change? Analysts cite a lack of demand, and wonder if remote and hybrid work schedules keep many older Americans from moving into senior-living communities. For the increasing number of adults who worked remotely during the pandemic, it became easier to check in on aging parents during typical workdays. That greater flexibility in caring for aging parents may have caused a delay in transitioning older adults to expensive senior-housing accommodations, says John Pawlowski, an analyst at Green Street.

Other analysts think remote work could be having some impact, but point out that seniors have seen their home values decline from their pandemic peaks. That could make some reluctant to sell and move into senior-living communities.

The age when people enter senior housing is also increasing, another sign that people are choosing to delay the transition, says Vikram Malhotra, an equities analyst at Mizuho Securities.

For some caretaker adults, however, it could be the fear of separation based on memories of the pandemic, which highlighted media photos of older adults staring out windows, unable to see their families for extended periods of time.

Source: Wall Street Journal (07/11/23) Parker, Will

© Copyright 2023 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


RE Q&A: ‘As-Is’ Contract OK for Flipped Home?

A prospective buyer of a renovated home worries that an “as-is” contract may release the seller from not-yet-discovered problems. Should they sign it?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: We are looking to purchase our new home from a real estate renovator who bought it last year and fixed it up. The contract has a lengthy, one-sided addendum making the sale “as-is” and releasing them from any issues with the renovations, including compliance with the building code.

Should I sign it? – Gregg

Answer: Probably not unless you get a long time to check things out and ensure all the work was completed correctly.

Many real estate investors will purchase a distressed home and fix it up to sell it at a profit. Sometimes, everything is on the up and up, and the buyer gets a renovated home at a favorable price. However, some of these lack the skill or the motivation to do a good job and end up cutting corners.

Every buyer of a newly renovated home needs to be extra diligent to ensure all the work is done correctly.

Hiring a talented home inspector is always important – but it is crucial in this situation.

Remember that a home inspector is a “generalist.” If a problem is found, they recommend you follow up with a properly licensed specialist, such as a roofer, plumber or electrician. You should follow this advice and get more detailed reports to ensure the house is in great condition.

You will also need to make sure that the proper permits were pulled and closed out after the city approves the work. Many cities have this information online, while you must go to the building department for others.

You must take all of these extra precautions to protect yourself due to the contract terms you mentioned.

Also, most renovators own these investment properties in companies they create solely for this property, closing the company after the sale. This makes it hard to sue and collect from your seller even if they breach the seller-centric contract.

Finally, remember to factor in the additional risk and cost of this additional effort in your purchase price offer.

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


NAHB: Regulations Hurt Affordable Housing

Builders told Congress that regulations make it difficult to construct more affordable housing – and they created a list of six specific regulatory roadblocks.

WASHINGTON – The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) told Congress this week that government regulations and mandates supporting environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies impede the industry’s ability to increase production of quality, affordable housing.

Testifying at a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing, NAHB Chairman Alicia Huey said a growing number of ESG policies at the local, state and federal level have a direct impact on housing production and affordability.

“ESG policies already have caused home insurance companies to drop out of some areas and raise rates in others,” testified Huey. “Bank lenders are being urged to minimize the risks associated with their portfolios, causing concern they may cease lending in certain locations or increase their borrowing rates. And as supply chain woes continue to stifle residential construction projects across the nation, we worry that ESG disclosure requirements could further impede or prevent availability of needed building supplies and/or transportation to their required destinations.”

With the nation experiencing a housing affordability crisis, “now is not the time to create or support additional regulations that add more uncertainty, delays and costs to the home building process,” she said.

Huey’s list of regulations/code issues

  • Transformer standards. Soaring costs and shortages of electrical distribution transformers are delaying housing projects across the nation at a time when the Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking to minimally increase the energy efficiency standards for these products. The DOE proposal would force manufacturers to retool production lines to produce new transformers and worsen the historic 18-to-24-month backlog that is hampering development across the country.
  • Building energy codes. The Inflation Reduction Act included $1 billion in grants to state and local governments to adopt updated energy codes that are more costly and restrictive, such as the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Adoption of the 2021 IECC can add as much as $31,000 to the price of a new home, yet can take as long as 90 years for the homeowners to see a payback from this investment. Implementation of these grants will result in fewer families being able to achieve the American dream of homeownership.
  • Electrification and gas stoves. ESG policies that seek to effectively ban the use of natural gas and propane within new construction and existing homes are extremely concerning. A study conducted by the Home Innovation Research Labs in 2021 found that the additional up-front cost to build an all-electric house (as compared to a house with natural gas equipment and appliances) ranged from $3,832-$15,100 depending on climate zone. Natural gas is a clean fuel that contributes to lower carbon emissions and NAHB remains committed to promoting energy choices for consumers.
  • Waters of the U.S. The Supreme Court recently struck down key parts of the Biden administration’s waters of the U.S. rule, but administration officials have indicated that they will not issue any new federal jurisdictional determinations until a new rule is instituted. Federal agencies need to issue interim guidance and move the process forward. Land acquisition, permit processing and home building cannot be paused until a new rule is implemented.
  • Intersection of the National Flood Insurance Program and Endangered Species Act. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is suspending processing of certain floodplain map change requests in parts of California. FEMA’s decision is the result of a confidential legal settlement between FEMA and environmental advocates who claimed that the simple act of revising floodplain maps negatively impacts federally protected species or their designated critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

    The practical effect of this regulatory action is that it increases the ownership costs for tens of thousands of new housing units because the properties will be required to obtain flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program.

  • Property and Casualty Insurance. Due to increasing perceived risks and pressure to address ESG, among other reasons, many private insurance companies are denying the sale of new property and casualty insurance policies, declining to renew existing coverages, and/or drastically raising policy rates in certain states. To make matters worse, reinsurance companies are rapidly increasing the costs of insurance for insurance companies on all lines of coverage due to recent national and global disasters, burgeoning bureaucratic expenses and to make up for reduced participation.

    Taken together, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for both existing and potential new homeowners to secure available and affordable insurance, which is harming housing affordability.

“These are just a few examples that illustrate how regulatory costs, which account for about 24% of the price of a typical new single-family home, contribute to the housing affordability crisis,” said Huey. “NAHB continues to urge Congress and the Biden Administration to address these factors that hamper the ability of home builders to increase the supply of quality, affordable housing.”

© 2023 Florida Realtors®


What Are Florida’s Wealthiest Counties?

Monroe County tops the list with a median home value just shy of $1M ($957,819) – but it’s not No. 1 for median income ($73,153).

MIAMI – If your retirement plan is a vision of luxury, maybe one of Florida’s wealthiest counties will catch your attention. Or maybe you want to live out your youthful days in one of those rich places.

The wealthiest county of Florida’s 67 counties has a median home value of almost $1 million – almost three times the state’s median home value of $326,286.

A study by SmartAsset ranked the wealthiest counties in Florida by compiling data from the Census Bureau, real estate site Zillow and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Here’s the Top 10 list:

  1. Monroe County
    Median income: $73,153
    Investment income: $221,843
    Median home value: $957,819
  1. Collier County
    Median income: $75,543
    Investment income: $196,655
    Median home value: $594,299
  1. St. Johns County
    Median income: $88,794
    Investment income: $62,320
    Median home value: $515,056
  1. Miami-Dade County
    Median income: $57,815
    Investment income: $119,023
    Median home value: $479,969
  1. Palm Beach County
    Median income: $68,874
    Investment income: $149,636
    Median home value: $458,834
  1. Martin County
    Median income: $69,769
    Investment income: $155,692
    Median home value: $460,905
  1. Broward County
    Median income: $64,522
    Investment income: $62,691
    Median home value: $414,387
  1. Sarasota County
    Median income: $69,490
    Investment income: $82,509
    Median home value: $460,560
  1. Seminole County
    Median income: $73,002
    Investment income: $37,534
    Median home value: $395,298
  1. Sumter County
    Median income: $63,323
    Investment income: $37,116
    Median home value: $407,525

© 2023 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


U.S. About to Lose 200K Affordable Housing Units

Some affordable-housing developers have 30-year federal tax credits hit that mark in the next five years. After that, landlords can charge whatever rent they want.

NEW YORK – The United States is at risk of losing about 200,000 affordable housing units over the next five years, as government protections end at hundreds of rental properties and landlords become free to set their own rents.

The federal government relies on a 30-year tax credit as its main program to encourage developers to build affordable housing, and a wave of agreements that helped low-income renters is set to expire. Once that happens, it gives apartment owners the option to charge market rate for their units instead of continuing with the government program.

In this case, many landlords are expected to drop out of the program since the U.S. just saw one of the highest periods of rent growth in history.

By 2033, some 100,000 units of tax-credit housing could expire each year unless owners opt to secure longer affordability agreements or obtain new subsidies, according to Peter Lawrence, director of public policy and government relations at the Novogradac accounting firm, which specializes in tax credits.

Some owners of tax-credit buildings have found ways to keep rents down. Many are nonprofits and obtain new tax credits or other local funds to maintain building operations for many more years.

In Florida, for example, many expiring buildings have already taken on additional subsidies to keep tenants locked into lower rents for longer periods, according to an analysis of tax-credit properties by the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida.

Source: Wall Street Journal (07/10/23) Parker, Will

© Copyright 2023 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Market Yourself Like a Luxury Agent

A survey of 1,000 luxury agents about their top marketing strategies finds them focused on personal websites, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and SEO.

NEW YORK – A report based on a survey of over 1,000 luxury real estate agents identified the sector’s top marketing strategies. The result? Agents’ efforts should be concentrated in websites, Instagram, search engine optimization, Facebook and YouTube.

The report from Luxury Presence and Sell it Like Serhant found that three-quarters of responding agents still expected their business to see gains this year, with a large portion driven by marketing. They identified brand strategy and lead generation as their primary marketing areas. Luxury agents can enhance their brand using personalized messaging facilitated by customer relationship management (CRM) software.

The report noted that “agents are particularly recognizing the value in professional websites, which allow them to communicate their brand, showcase their listings and services, and provide valuable information to potential clients. This is especially important in the luxury real estate market, where a memorable online presence plays a big role in differentiating agents from their competitors.”

Agents also cited social media as one of their most important channels for generating leads, though an estimated “63% of sellers found their agent through a referral and 73% said they would recommend their agent.”

For effective luxury agent marketing, the report called for agents to request testimonials, create newsletters and incentivize previous clients who send recommendations their way. It also suggested luxury agents “use automated reminders to stay on top of important tasks and follow-ups, and capitalize on opportunities to meet in person.”

Source: RealTrends (07/10/23) Lee, Audrey

© Copyright 2023 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


HUD to Public: ‘What Can We Do Better?’

HUD put out an online suggestion box: Could forms be simplified? Should AI play a future role? Are protected groups served fairly? How much data should be shared?

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a Request for Information, but instead of a specific program or question, it’s essentially an online suggestion box for recommendations on what it can do better.

HUD says it’s taken a number of recent actions to streamline and improve programs, and highlighted them in a recent White House report to Congress, including streamlined income verification processes in public housing and multifamily programs. But the latest call for comments boils down to, “What more can we do to further reduce burdens and increase access to programs?”

“Administrative burden – the time and effort spent learning about, applying for or documenting eligibility for government programs – has a disproportionate impact on marginalized and underserved communities,” says David Gonzalez Rice, policy advisor in the Office of the Secretary. “Reducing those burdens advances equity and furthers HUD’s mission to build inclusive, strong communities.”

Specific suggestions HUD hopes to receive

  • Which application and eligibility forms could be simplified?
  • How can HUD reduce the burden for people with disabilities, limited English proficiency and other vulnerable groups?
  • What data and information should be responsibly shared among federal agencies and/or with the public?
  • How could artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning improve or streamline HUD’s processes?
  • Most HUD programs are administered by recipients of HUD funds, so what can be done to reduce the burden these administrators of HUD funding?
  • How can HUD encourage fund recipients and administrators to simplify their processes?

The comment period is open for 30 days, through Aug. 12, 2023.

HUD opened the comment period to everyone, and specifically mentions “members of the public, including beneficiaries of HUD programs, as well as recipients and administrators, such as public housing agencies, states or local governments, tribes, housing providers and social service providers.

Comments may be submitted electronically through regulations.gov, or through methods described in the request for information.

© 2023 Florida Realtors®