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Recruiting Better Agents Starts with Research

Bernice Ross says an agent’s job description is short: “Generate leads, convert leads, close transactions” – and a lot can be discovered before an interview.

NEW YORK – Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, offered advice in a recent column for vetting top agent talent. Ross emphasizes steps a broker should take before a first interview.

She says preparation is key and starts with the creation of the job description, saying it should boil down to six words: “Generate leads, convert leads, close transactions.”

Prior to the interview, research the candidate. Look at how many listings the agent has taken in the last 12 months and whether they have a website. Read their social media posts and their customer reviews.

She also says brokers should ask their agents about the person. She also recommends asking a trusted member of staff call the prospective agent to inquire about a listing. The goal is to find out how they treat incoming buyer and seller calls from strangers, as well as how quickly they respond to inquiries.

During the interview, ask where they went to school, any previous jobs they may have held, and where they’ve worked since they became licensed. If all the prep work goes well, the first interview should be by phone and the second face-to-face in the office.

Finally, follow up appropriately once the interview process is finished.

Source: Inman (11/18/22) Ross, Bernice

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

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/recruiting-better-agents-starts-research

2023 RE Trends: What’s Ahead for Fla. Real Estate?

Want to prepare for this year? On Jan. 19, virtually and in-person, top economists like Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor will share insights for 2023.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Real estate drives Florida’s economy, and having a look into what may lie ahead in a still uncertain 2023 is key for policymakers, residents and Realtors. As part of this year’s Florida Real Estate Trends summit, Florida Realtors® Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor will share his outlook for Florida’s economy and housing market in the months to come.

A highlight of Florida Realtors 2023 Mid-Winter Business Meetings, the Real Estate Trends summit takes place Jan. 19 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. at the Renaissance SeaWorld Orlando. Box lunches will be available for purchase near the session room. The agenda includes the economic outlook for the U.S. and Florida; the state’s housing market outlook; migration trends for Florida; and also consumer motivations and expectations.

“Elevated mortgage interest rates and the economic well-being of consumers are two of the biggest stories going into 2023’s housing market,” says Dr. O’Connor. “At this year’s Florida Real Estate Trends event, we’ll be walking everyone through the current state of the market and where we expect to go from here. Inflation finally seems to be slowing, which is good news, but a lot still needs to happen before we’re going to see interest rates recede significantly.

“We’ll also have Morning Consult Chief Economist John Leer on hand to give a comprehensive breakdown of how consumers – including potential homebuyers – are feeling as they continue to wrestle with these higher rates, as well as inflation and the widely perceived sense that the U.S. economy is slowing. 2023 is likely to be a bumpy ride, but there is at least some light at the end of the tunnel, so be sure to join us to get a head start on this year’s Florida housing market.”

Morning Consult uses its high-frequency survey data to capture unique insights to keep a constant pulse on consumer sentiment, according to company officials.

There are two ways to attend the 2023 Real Estate Trends event on Jan. 19, either in person during Florida Realtors 2023 Mid-Winter Business Meetings or virtually. For more information, go to 2023 Real Estate Trends on Florida Realtors’ member website.

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/2023-re-trends-whats-ahead-fla-real-estate

RE Q&A: If Common-Area Tree Falls, Who Pays?

A condo owner’s pool cage suffered damaged after a tree in the common area fell during Hurricane Ian. Who pays for repairs? The owner or the association?

NAPLES, Fla. – Question: When Hurricane Ian went through my community, several oak trees in the association’s common areas fell. Unfortunately, one of those oak trees fell on my pool cage and destroyed it.

I have asked the association to reimburse me for the amounts that I spent to have my pool cage fixed. However, the association has refused saying that they don’t have to reimburse me. Is this right? – L.T., Naples

Answer: The association may be right. When it comes to tree damage from a neighboring property, the question is whether the property owner failed to maintain the tree prior to the storm, thereby causing the tree to fall and damage someone else’s property.

If the tree owner failed to maintain the tree and it subsequently caused damage to someone else’s property, then the tree owner could be deemed negligent. If deemed negligent, then the tree owner is liable for damages caused by the fallen tree. In your situation, it will be important to determine if the tree was healthy prior to the hurricane. If the tree was healthy and Hurricane Ian caused the tree to fall, then the association was likely not negligent and would not be liable for the damage caused by the fallen tree.

Question: My homeowners’ association just posted a notice that the Board meeting to approve the 2023 budget will be held at our clubhouse in five days. I thought the homeowners’ association was required to post and mail the notice of budget board meetings and the proposed budget to all owners at least 14 days prior to the Board meeting. Is what they did correct? – E.S., Hollywood, FL

Answer: What the homeowners’ association did could be correct depending on whether there are other provisions in your community’s governing documents on additional requirements of the association when it comes to the budget Board meeting.

Chapter 720, F.S., the HOA Act, does not require mailing and posting of the budget Board meeting notice and the proposed budget at least 14 days prior to the Board meeting. In fact, the only requirement is that the notice of the Board meeting be posted in a conspicuous place within the association at least 48 hours prior to the Board meeting, and the meeting notice must state that assessments will be considered at the meeting.

Additionally, after the budget is approved, the association is required to provide each owner with a copy of the annual budget or a written notice that a copy of the budget is available upon request at no charge to the owner.

The time period and process of mailing and posting that you’ve stated in your question is required of Florida condominium associations. Many homeowners’ associations have also voluntarily begun to comply with this process.

However, unless an association’s governing documents explicitly require it to comply with the longer notice requirement and the requirement to mail the notice and proposed budget, a homeowner’s association is only required to post a notice at a conspicuous place within the association at least 48 hours prior to the budget Board meeting.

The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, 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. S. Kyla Thomson, Esq., is a partner of the law firm Goede, DeBoest & Cross.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/re-qa-if-common-area-tree-falls-who-pays

DeSantis Outlines 2nd-Term Environmental Plans

The governor will ask the Florida Legislature to approve $3.5B for Everglades restoration, algae bloom mitigation and other environmental concerns.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans Tuesday to spend $3.5 billion in his second term on environmental projects, such as restoring the Everglades and addressing water-quality problems. The money, which needs legislative approval, would be spread over four years. The bulk would go to Everglades and water-quality projects.

“This may be a bigger, more comprehensive executive order than we did four years ago,” says DeSantis, who was re-elected in November. “But I think that’s the right thing to do. You can make progress, you can do good things, and you just got to keep pressing forward.”

DeSantis issued an executive order that called for “meaningful” funding for the Florida Forever land-acquisition program and continued support for the Resilient Florida Program, which is designed to help protect communities from sea-level rise and other effects of climate change. He also called for speeding work on a wildlife corridor project and protecting coral reefs.

“We are also going to establish a coral reef restoration and recovery initiative to increase coral deployment, to enhance coastal flood and storm surge protections,” DeSantis said. “That is something that is very, very important, and we are going to continue to make progress there.”

In addition, DeSantis directed the state Department of Environmental Protection to identify and prioritize projects to clean the Indian River Lagoon, with the Legislature asked to provide $100 million a year for the work.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recorded 800 manatee deaths in Florida waters last year, after 1,101 died in 2021. Many of the deaths occurred in the lagoon, where poor water quality and algae blooms have depleted seagrass beds that provide a key food source for manatees. For example, 346 manatees died last year in Brevard County, where manatees often congregate in the lagoon.

Shortly after first taking office in 2019, DeSantis issued an executive order that called for spending $2.5 billion over four years for Everglades restoration and water resource protection. After the budget for the current year was signed in June, the governor’s office said the state had topped the spending goal by $800 million.

Everglades Trust CEO Anna Upton issued a statement Tuesday calling the new plans “unquestionably historic.”

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, has made a priority of the wildlife corridor, which is planned as a network of about 17 million acres of greenspace running up the center of the state.

“I believe that 50 years from now our children and grandchildren will say that the greatest thing the Florida Legislature did in the 2020s was the creation of the wildlife corridor and the preservation of millions of acres of farmland and ranch land for conservation,” Passidomo told reporters in November. “It will be our Central Park.”

As with spending over the past four years, a large chunk of the proposed money is expected to flow from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. Voters in 2014 passed a constitutional amendment that requires setting aside one-third of the revenue from documentary-stamp taxes for land conservation. That money, which is generated through real-estate transactions, goes into the fund.

During the current fiscal year, $1.26 billion went into the fund. Lawmakers have designated portions of the money to various work across the state, with at least $200 million a year for Everglades restoration projects, $64 million to an Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir project, $50 million for a Lake Okeechobee watershed restoration project, $50 million for natural springs and $5 million for Lake Apopka.

Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral, and Rep. Jim Mooney, R-Islamorada, have proposed legislation (SB 54 and HB 135) that would designate $20 million a year for the restoration of the Florida Keys and ecosystems that include coral reefs.

© 2023 The News Service of Florida. All rights reserved.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/desantis-outlines-2nd-term-environmental-plans

How Will Facebook Changes Affect Real Estate?

The DOJ alleged housing discrimination, and Meta changed ads to “reflect the eligible target audience” and measure “age, gender, and race/ethnicity distribution.”

NEW YORK – Meta is updating the way it delivers advertisements to users in order to foster a more positive experience. The changes can be divided into two parts: one will restrict how companies target teenage users, while the other aims to make things more “equitable” and less discriminatory.

It appears Meta is forcing companies to generalize more with their ads instead of honing in on a specific group. Starting in February, advertisers will no longer be able to target teens based on their gender on either Facebook or Instagram. Advertisers will only be able to use a user’s age and location as their metric. This tightening of the rules follows a similar update from 2021 that restricted advertisers from targeting underaged users based on their interests and activities on other apps.

And in March, teens will be given more tools in Ad Topic Controls to “manage the types of ads they see on Facebook and Instagram.” It doesn’t look like they’ll be able to stop seeing ads altogether. Like or not, teens will continue to encounter them. But at the very least, they can go into Ad Preferences on either app and choose “See Less” to minimize the amount of commercials seen.

Fighting discrimination

The second update will focus on Meta’s new Variance Reduction System (VRS) to create a more “equitable distribution of ads” on its platforms; namely those that relate to housing, employment, and credit in the US.

VRS comes after the company settled a lawsuit with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) over allegations that it “engaged in discriminatory advertising in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).” Apparently, Meta would allow advertisers to not show ads to certain groups of people “based on their race, color, religion, and sex,” among other metrics.

The technology behind VRS is said to use a new form of machine learning to serve advertisements that “more closely reflect the eligible target audience.” According to Meta, the system works by first sending out housing ads to a wide array of people. From there, it will measure the “aggregate age, gender, and estimated race/ethnicity distribution” of the people who encountered said ad.

VRS will then compare its findings to the measurements of people that are “more broadly eligible to see the ad.” If it detects any discrepancies, the system will adjust itself to be more fair so that people aren’t excluded.

Privacy in mind

Privacy is of great important for VRS. The measurements made by the system will include “differential privacy noise” to stop the system from learning and retaining that information so it won’t act on specific information. It also won’t have access to people’s actual age, gender, or race as the data are all estimations.

The DOJ seems to be pretty happy with these changes. U.S. attorney Damian Williams said the DOJ appreciates Meta working with the government and “taking the first steps towards addressing algorithmic bias.”

Currently, VRS only works with housing ads in the United States, but there are plans to expand into both employment and credit ads later this year. We asked the company if all of these changes are exclusive to the U.S. or will they roll out globally. This story will be updated if we hear back.

© 2023 Future Publishing Limited Quay House, The Ambury, Bath BA1 1UA. All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/how-will-facebook-changes-affect-real-estate

Fla. Releases County-by-County Property Ins. Report

An Office of Insurance Regulation report on property-market stability found the lowest single-family costs in Sumter ($1,533) and the highest in Monroe ($7,162).

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation issued its first Property Insurance Stability Report for 2023 last week. On a county-by-county basis, it found that Sumter County has the lowest average cost for single-family home property insurance at $1,533, while Monroe County had the highest average cost at $7,162.

Property insurance: 10 highest priced Florida counties

  1. Monroe County: $7,162 (single-family homes)
  2. Miami-Dade County: $5,391
  3. Palm Beach County: $5,247
  4. Broward County: $5,164
  5. Martin County: $4,756
  6. Walton County: $4,337
  7. Franklin County: $4,267
  8. Collier County: $4,230
  9. Indian River County: $3,386
  10. Gulf County: $3,020

Property insurance: 10 lowest priced Florida counties

  1. Sumter: $1,533 (single-family homes)
  2. Baker: $1,694
  3. Marion: $1,730
  4. Hernando: $1,767
  5. Lake: $1,859
  6. Wakulla: $1,870
  7. Gilchrist: $1,874
  8. Citrus: $1,876
  9. Alachua: $1,877
  10. Columbia: $1,885

However, the numbers were collected before the December special session of the Florida Legislature, and new laws should slowly show improvement during 2023.

The report notes one of the big historical problems in Florida: In 2021, Florida had 6.91% of all U.S. insurance claims in the U.S. – but three out of four property insurance lawsuits (76%) were in Florida. The high rate of property insurance lawsuits cost a lot of money, which insurers added to their individual property owners’ coverage quotes.

A number of insurance experts think December’s legislative changes – coupled with changes made earlier in 2022 – will slowly have a positive impact on the Florida insurance market and the cost to individual homeowners. Specifically, Senate Bill 2A, passed in December and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, will impact two high-cost areas of concern:

  • One-way attorney fees: The chief driver of Florida lawsuits is a provision known as “one-way” attorney fees that allow a plaintiff (the policyholder) to recover attorney fees, but not the defendant (the insurer). The practice incentivized unwarranted litigation. 
  • Assignment of Benefits (AOB): Under AOB, homeowners who suffered a loss “assign” insurance benefits to a contractor that then deals directly with their insurance company. The contractor-insurer negotiations also led to lawsuits.

Florida county – Single-family ins. average cost – Condo ins. average cost

  • Alachua: $1,877 (single-family) – $830 (condominium)
  • Baker: $1,694 – $745
  • Bay: $2,737 – $1,921
  • Bradford: $786 – $1,151
  • Brevard: $2,760 – $1,212
  • Broward: $5,164 – $1,548
  • Calhoun: $2,538 – $3.171
  • Charlotte: $2,364 – $1,081
  • Citrus: $1,876 – $945
  • Clay: $1,933 – $747
  • Collier: $4,230 – $1,795
  • Columbia: $1,885 – $933
  • Desoto: $2,500 – $784
  • Dixie: $2,254 – $878
  • Duval: $2,096 – $855
  • Escambia: $2,929 – $1,471
  • Flagler: $2,016 – $1,1113
  • Franklin: $4,267 – $1,246
  • Gadsden: $2,034 – $900
  • Gilchrist: $1,874 – $1,698
  • Glades: $2,681 – $772
  • Gulf: $3,020 – $1,338
  • Hamilton: $2,023 – N/A
  • Hardee: $2,502 – $778
  • Hendry: $2,483 – $1,157
  • Hernando: $1,767 – $878
  • Highlands: $2,037 – $840
  • Hillsborough: $2,513 – $1,073
  • Holmes: $2,283 – N/A
  • Indian River: $3,386 – $1,646
  • Jackson: $2,192 – N/A
  • Jefferson: $2,160 – N/A
  • Lafayette: $2,304 – N/A
  • Lake: $1,859 – $861
  • Lee: $2,735 – $1,125
  • Leon: $1,973 – $716
  • Levy: $2,118 – $1,286
  • Liberty: $2,283 – N/A
  • Madison: $2,138 – N/A
  • Manatee: $2,334 – $1,139
  • Marion: $1,730 – $825
  • Martin: $4,756 – $1,408
  • Miami-Dade: $5,391 – $2,440
  • Monroe: $7,162 – $3,657
  • Nassau: $2,282 – $1,156
  • Okaloosa: $3,014 – $1,418
  • Okeechobee: $2,797 – $1,227
  • Orange: $2,629 – $960
  • Osceola: $2,155 – $908
  • Palm Beach: $5,247 – $1,923
  • Pasco: $2,058 – $821
  • Pinellas: $2,938 – $1,142
  • Polk: $2,090 – $898
  • Putnam: $1,910 – $844
  • Santa Rosa: $2,745 – $1,477
  • Sarasota: $2,686 – $1,461
  • Seminole: $2,608 – $916
  • St. Johns: $2,296 – $1,121
  • St. Lucie: $2,713 – $1,291
  • Sumter: $1,533 – $833
  • Suwannee: $2,094 – N/A
  • Taylor: $2,119 – $1,014
  • Union: $1,976 – N/A
  • Volusia: $2,192 – $987
  • Wakulla: $1,870 – $1,369
  • Walton: $4,337 – $1,619
  • Washington: $2,312 – N/A

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/fla-releases-county-county-property-ins-report

Ukraine RE Hurt by War – but Deals Still Close

From Feb. 24 to Dec. 12, Ukrainians sold 52,605 different properties – 4.6 times less than the same period in 2021 (242,893).

KYIV, Ukraine – Since the beginning of the great war, Ukrainian real estate market has undergone dramatic changes. During the period from February 24 to December 12, Ukrainians sold 52,605 different properties. This is 4.6 times less than in the same period in 2021 (242,893).

The lion’s share of sales is residential real estate. From February 24 to December 12, buyers have purchased 47,023 apartments and residential buildings. This is 4.6 times less than in the same period in 2021 (216,994).

Also, sales of industrial real estate and garages have fallen significantly: 4.3 times to 4,622 objects, commercial real estate 5.2 times to 502 objects and administrative real estate 7.9 times up to 458 objects.

Where does the State Property Fund get the indicators of the real estate market? The Fund is a regulator of the valuation market in Ukraine, which is inextricably linked with the real estate market. The SPFU maintains a Unified Database of Valuation Reports, on the basis of which real estate sellers subsequently pay taxes.

“We are reviewing these reports to prevent understatement of the value of assets and, as a result, tax cuts. In 2022, thanks to such monitoring, the State Property Fund managed to prevent a reduction in budget revenues by about UAH 1.5 billion,” Yuliya Byelova, deputy chairman of the State Property Fund, said.

Only individual sales are included in the calculations.

© 2023 Euclid Infotech Pvt. Ltd. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/ukraine-re-hurt-war-deals-still-close

What Social Media Platform Works Best for You?

Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter: Agents can spend hours on social media, but often one or two platforms work best to create a balance for time spent securing leads.

NEW YORK – Which social media platform should an agent use to expand their business?

To choose the best platform, real estate agents should consider factors like comfort and confidence levels. They should look for a platform that has:

  • Users engaged in the agent’s locale
  • A large audience in their target age range
  • People who want and are looking for what the agent is selling
  • The ability to target potential clients and generate high-quality leads

Facebook is the No. 1 starting point for agents because it boasts a massive pool of users, vast volumes of data, and highly effective and accurate ad targeting.

YouTube has also proved its value by allowing agents to post helpful, valuable and consistent content for generating leads, while its searchability ensures the long-term relevance of that content.

Instagram’s colossal user base and outstanding ad functions make it a great platform for agents, especially those targeting a younger clientele.

Meanwhile, LinkedIn is a highly effective marketing tool for agents mainly catering to real estate investors or commercial businesses.

TikTok can also be valuable, although it tends to best support agents with a niche focus, and they should perform extensive testing to find their target audience.

Twitter isn’t conducive to supporting long-lasting relationships between agents and customers despite its popularity, although it is possible to generate leads on the platform.

Source: Realty Biz News (01/03/2023) Parker, Zach

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

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/what-social-media-platform-works-best-you

Fannie Mae: Buyers’ Moods Improve in Dec.

Buyers went from unhappy to not-quite-as unhappy. “Even small declines in rates and home prices … may not produce sufficient purchasing power,” says economist.

WASHINGTON – Fannie Mae said Monday that sentiment over the U.S. housing market improved slightly in December, though survey respondents said that now is not the time to buy a new home.

Survey results from Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index showed modest improvement in December as would-be buyers reacted to a slight decline in mortgage rates and average home prices.

Doug Duncan, the chief economist for Fannie Mae, said the index remains very low and respondents remained concerned about pricing.

“As we enter 2023, we expect affordability to remain the top challenge for potential homebuyers, as even small declines in rates and home prices – from the perspective of the buyer – may not produce sufficient purchasing power,” he said.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index showed the average price of a home increased by 9.2% on an annual basis in October, the last full month for which it has data, down from the 10.7% increase reported in the previous month. The decline marked the fourth month in a row for a slump in home prices.

The National Association of Realtors, however, showed existing home sales declined 7.7% in November, relative to October levels. Year-over-year, sales fell from 6.33 million in November 2021 to 4.09 million during the same month last year.

Fannie Mae’s survey found that 79% of the respondents feel this is clearly not a buyers’ market. Duncan added that availability could be stifled too as would-be sellers with lower-than-average mortgage rates may be sitting on their house until market conditions improve.

“We think the resulting tension will contribute to a continued decline in home sales in the coming months,” he said.

Copyright 2023 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/fannie-mae-buyers-moods-improve-dec

DOJ and HUD File Statement on Rental Algorithm Bias

In Mass., DOJ said people make rental screening algorithms and can violate the Fair Housing Act because they’re susceptible to the biases of the people who create them.

BOSTON, Mass. – The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that they filed a Statement of Interest to explain the Fair Housing Acts (FHA) application to algorithm-based tenant screening systems.

The Statement of Interest was filed in Louis et al. v. SafeRent et al., a lawsuit currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, alleging that defendants use of an algorithm-based scoring system to screen tenants discriminates against Black and Hispanic rental applicants in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

“Housing providers and tenant screening companies that use algorithms and data to screen tenants are not absolved from liability when their practices disproportionately deny people of color access to fair housing opportunities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This filing demonstrates the Justice Departments commitment to ensuring that the Fair Housing Act is appropriately applied in cases involving algorithms and tenant screening software.”

“Algorithms are written by people. As such, they are susceptible to all of the biases, implicit or explicit, of the people that create them,” said U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins for the District of Massachusetts. “As the housing industry and other professions adopt algorithms into their everyday decisions, there can be disparate impacts on certain protected communities. Stable and affordable housing provides a unique pathway to success, opportunity and safety. We must fiercely protect the rights and protections promulgated in the Fair Housing Act. Today’s filing recognizes that our 20th century civil rights laws apply to 21st century innovations.”

“Tenant screening policies are not exempt from the Fair Housing Acts protections just because decisions are made by algorithm,” said HUD General Counsel Damon Smith. Housing providers and tenant screening companies must ensure that all policies that exclude people from housing opportunities, whether based on algorithm or otherwise, do not have an unjustified disparate impact because of race, national origin or another protected characteristic.”

The Louis lawsuit was filed on behalf of two plaintiffs, Mary Louis and Monica Douglas, Black rental applicants who use housing vouchers to pay part of their rent. The plaintiffs applied for rental housing but allege they were denied due to their SafeRent Score, a score derived from Defendant SafeRents algorithm-based screening software. The plaintiffs allege that SafeRent scores result in disparate impact against Black and Hispanic rental applicants because the underlying algorithm relies on certain factors that disproportionately disadvantage Black and Hispanic applicants, such as credit history and non-tenancy related debts, while failing to consider one highly-relevant factor, that the use of housing vouchers funded by HUD makes such tenants more likely to pay their rents.

The defendants have moved to dismiss the case, and the plaintiffs have opposed the defendants motions. Through the Statement of Interest, the department seeks to assist the court by correcting two questions of law erroneously represented in the defendants motions to dismiss.

First, the statement sets out the appropriate standard for pleading disparate impact claims under the FHA. Second, the statement clarifies that the FHAs text and caselaw support the FHAs application to companies providing residential screening services. The motions to dismiss are currently pending before the court.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status (having one or more children under 18), nation origin, and disability. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at justice.gov/crt.

Individuals who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination can submit a report online at civilrights.justice.gov. Such individuals also may contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9977 or file a complaint online.

© 2023-2022 Legal Monitor Worldwide. All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/doj-and-hud-file-statement-rental-algorithm-bias

DOJ: Meta Rolls Out New Ad Delivery System

Meta, parent company of Facebook, finished its new real estate ad delivery system after DOJ accused it of targeting ads in a way that violated the Fair Housing Act.

NEW YORK – Meta has built a new advertisement delivery system to prevent discriminatory housing adverting practices, the Justice Department said Monday, some seven months after the social media behemoth agreed to implement the changes.

Federal prosecutors and Meta officials announced in June that the social media company had agreed to implement changes to its housing advertisement system in order to resolve a 2019 lawsuit filed against the company.

The Justice Department had accused Meta of permitting landlords to target and deliver housing advertisements to some Facebook users while excluding others in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Specifically, federal prosecutors said the company employed algorithms to find Facebook users to advertise to based on protected characteristics, including sex and race.

The department said Meta has since built a new system, called the Variance Reduction System, that addresses these algorithm issues, and the two parties informed the court on Monday that they have reached agreement on compliance targets.

The agreement also ensures that Meta will be under court oversight and be subjected to regular compliance review until June 27, 2026, the Justice Department said.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York called Monday’s resolution “a new standard for addressing discrimination through machine learning.”

“We appreciate that Meta agreed to work with us toward a resolution of this matter and applaud Meta for taking the first steps towards addressing algorithmic bias,” he said in a statement. “We hope that other companies will follow Meta’s lead in addressing discrimination in their advertising platforms.”

The Justice Department vouched for the new system Monday, stating that it will “substantially reduce the variances between the eligible and actual audiences along sex and estimated race/ethnicity in the delivery of housing advertisements.”

Meta said in a statement Monday that it has launched the new system in the United States with plans to expand it later this year to employment and credit advertisements.

“Across the industry, approaches to algorithmic fairness are still evolving, particularly as it relates to digital advertising,” Roy Austin, vice president of civil rights and deputy general counsel at Meta, wrote in the statement. “But we know we cannot wait for consensus to make progress in addressing important concerns about the potential for discrimination.”

Copyright 2023 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/doj-meta-rolls-out-new-ad-delivery-system

Did Condo Board’s Unwise Declaration Skirt Obligations?

In spite of a reserve study, a condo board increased the useful life of its tile roof to 50 years to keep reserves lower and “make it more palatable to members.”

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Question: I live in a condo and in November, when there was a regular budget approval meeting, the board approved the budget but said that the owners could not vote on the reserves because they board voted for full funding. The board said in that case, the owners had no say in the matter. Is that correct?

In addition, even though we had a reserve study in 2022, the board changed the useful life of our tile roofs to 50 years to make the amount of the fully funded reserves lower and more palatable to the owners. Nobody has a tile roof for 50 years in Florida. I think that was just the way to get around having the owners vote on the reserves. Did the board cross a line with this? – A.S.

Dear A.S.: As to your first question, the Condominium Act obligates every board to pass an annual budget with full statutory reserves. After that, whether the board allows owners to vote to collect less than full reserves (or no reserves at all) is typically up to the board.

Procedurally speaking, I can see an argument that, where a set of bylaws allows a percentage of members to petition to raise an issue for membership vote, the owners could force the board to conduct a reserve waiver vote – but I am not aware of this ever being used or tested in court. Usually, the board either allows owners to vote to waive reserves (or sometimes even encourages owners to waive reserves), or not, and that’s the end of the matter (as you have described).

On the roof, and if I were advising your board, I would be somewhat concerned that they were risking a breach of fiduciary duty claim. Section 718.112 expressly says that the amount to be reserved must be based on the most recent structural integrity reserve study (the one that must now be completed by Dec. 31, 2024).

Essentially, your board hired an expert to tell them how much money they needed to collect toward repairing their roofs based on a specific estimated life, yet they have supplanted their expert’s opinion with their own lay opinion about the roofs’ lifetime.

Now, Section 718.112 does say that “the association may adjust replacement reserve assessments annually to take into account any changes in estimates or extension of the useful life of a reserve item caused by deferred maintenance expense of the reserve item.” But that’s not what happened here. Instead, an expert told them how much to collect, and by your description, they simply decided to take a lot longer to collect that amount.

The fact that they are expressly ignoring their expert may give rise to a claim that they were willfully reckless, in which event they could be held personally liable for damages due to this breach of their fiduciary duty. If I were on a board that made a decision like you describe, it would make me uncomfortable. Now, it could be that the full facts of your situation are a bit different, and the board had good reason to adjust the roof life – but, like you, I have also never heard of a regular tile roof that is rated to last for 50 years.

Question: I live in a 55+ condominium association. Is it possible for the association to establish an age restriction of 55 years or older to be eligible to be on the board of directors? The U.S. Constitution has a minimum age of 35 for an individual to be president. So, why can’t a condo association have an age restriction for an association board seat? – D.C.

Dear D.C.: There are a lot of different types of 55+ communities, and I am assuming that your community does not require 100% of owners to be older than 55.

The Condominium Act, at Section 718.112, provides that all unit owners are eligible to serve on condominium boards, other than as expressly provided in the statute (such as delinquent owners or owners who have been suspended by the Division of Condominiums).

As a result, your governing documents could not further restrict owners from serving on the board, for example on the basis of their age. Assuming that you have some owners younger than 55, those owners have a statutory right to be candidates.

© Copyright 2023 The Palm Beach Post. Ryan Poliakoff, a partner at Backer Aboud Poliakoff & Foelster, LLP, is a board certified specialist in condominium and planned development law.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/did-condo-boards-unwise-declaration-skirt-obligations

Seller Home Staging Tips

First, cleanliness does more for a sale than staging, so keep the home clean. Also consider different styles throughout to make the home appeal to a range of buyers.

DES MOINES, Iowa – Misty Soldwisch, a broker/owner and team leader with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate in Des Moines, says staging is essential to her company’s success. She estimates that sellers who opt to stage receive 5% more in sales price and their homes sell 20% faster. Real estate professionals should have a dependable relationship with at least one or two stagers whom they can call on short notice.

However, Soldwisch says cleanliness is more important than staging to potential homebuyers, so it’s essential that staged homes be immaculate.

In addition, a solid, consistent design throughout the home is critical for a unified look. It’s also important to note that staging begins at the curb, so pay attention to the outside of the home. This includes the front yard, foundation plantings, walkway to the front door, and the front porch area inclusive of house numbers, mailbox and door décor.

Any un-staged areas – a basement, attic, or garage, for example – must remain neat and organized. A professional stager can help sellers determine how to use their existing items.

Sellers should also consider using different styles in different rooms. It can make a home appealing to a wider audience, and they should highlight their home’s standout feature, such as an unusual backsplash. The aim of staging should always be to elevate the experience of a home.

Finally, agents may consider incorporating a staging consultation into their listing presentation and home selling process – and guaranteeing that cost with a clause in the contract.

Source: Inman (01/06/23) Soldwisch, Misty

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

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/seller-home-staging-tips

RE Q&A: Tips to Navigate the Market in 2023

The best legal defense is to never need it. To avoid messy legal trouble, owners should document damage, get a permit for any work and follow HOA rules.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Another year passed, and it was a doozy in the real estate world. 2022 turned out to be quite the roller-coaster ride, with rising interest rates, cooling prices, and the shift away from being a seller’s market.

In this space over the past year, we discussed new problems and rehashed some classics. I have put together a few thoughts to help you navigate the ebbs and flows of the 2023 real estate market.

  • Records: Document everything. When something happens, take notes and photographs as soon as you can. If you communicate with someone on the phone, follow up with an email. It is easy for someone to deny what was said on a phone call, but a follow-up email or photo creates a permanent record. In my experience, photos, notes, and emails carry more weight with the court than recounting the memory of what was said a long time ago.
  • Damages: When your home is damaged, the first thing you should do is stop it from getting worse. Too many people will let the problem fester while they try to get the person who caused the problem to fix it. If the problem later turns into a lawsuit, it is hard to recover for damage you could have avoided.
  • Insurance: No one likes to pay for insurance, but you should still maintain the best insurance you can afford. Repairs are expensive and tend to be necessary at the most inconvenient moments. Lawyers are expensive, and even a small lawsuit, like one from your downstairs neighbor because of a leaking pipe, can lead to a massive legal bill that proper insurance would have covered. And yes, this applies to individual insurance covering your condominium unit. The building’s policy rarely provides the unit owner with much help.
  • HOAs: If you live in a community association, be ready to follow the rules. Association living is a trade-off. Know your community’s rules before you agree to live there.
  • Permits: Even though getting permits is a hassle, if you get in trouble for unpermitted work or if the work is not done to code, it will be difficult and expensive to fix. And unpermitted work is usually found when trying to sell your home, which is far from the best time to deal with it.

Thank you for trusting me to help with your real estate law problems. I hope that my words have helped, at least a little. I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2023.

Copyright © South Florida Sun Sentinel, Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. All rights reserved.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/re-qa-tips-navigate-market-2023

The Future: Augmented Reality and Generative AI

A photo that “looks so real” may not be, and the ability to manipulate images or create whole new ones can now redefine RE photos and even virtual tours.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Augmented reality and image generation through generative artificial intelligence are two emerging technologies that could play a key role in the future of real estate, according to experts who spoke at the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) convention in Orlando last fall.

Dan Weisman, NAR’s director of emerging technology, said augmented reality could become a mainstream tool that creates a new experience for home buyers and sellers. He noted that virtual tours are often used in the real estate industry, but augmented reality may change how consumers preview a potential house.

“Through the use of a phone, augmented reality will allow us to scan rooms, get dimensions, detect objects, remove them and even replace them with a décor that may be more fitting to your client. This technology will create a totally different virtual experience for a potential buyer of a home,” Weisman said.

Weisman also discussed how the evolution of artificial intelligence has allowed consumers to easily create and manipulate photos. He showcased examples of tools like Dall-E 2 and Google Imagen, which can take a text prompt and use artificial intelligence to produce and alter images with an extraordinary degree of photorealism.

“There is power in this technology that ties into the real estate space,” Weisman said. “It could have an impact on renovation previews, listing photo modifications and stock photo generation.”

Weisman showed an example photo of a backyard with a sandbox. With a simple text prompt, the sandbox was removed. With an additional prompt, it was replaced by a fire pit.

“This technology will give you the power to change photos to better portray what your client may envision for the space,” he said.

Matt Troiani, NAR senior counsel, director legal affairs, shared copyright best practices and discussed some of the legal and ethical ramifications the new technology may create. He said the new tools currently pose more questions than answers as the law tries to keep up with technology.

“The biggest takeaway is to be very mindful about how you use these tools,” Troiani said. “Ensure that you have copyright protection for the works that you are creating. Make sure you have a directive element over the generative AI, and be careful not to infringe on someone else’s copyrighted work.”

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/future-augmented-reality-and-generative-ai

Study: A Hurricane’s Impact on Fla. Neighborhoods

Areas tend to gentrify slightly in the years following a hurricane – the average income of new buyers increases while long-term demand stays stable.

CAPE CORAL, Fla. – A new peer-reviewed study, which analyzes Florida housing markets battered by hurricanes, finds that affected areas tend to gentrify slightly in the years following a storm: The average income of new buyers increases while long-term demand stays stable.

The authors of the paper – who are based at Resources for the Future (RFF), the University of California San Diego, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office – use data from county tax assessments, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Zillow to gauge conditions of the housing markets and population turnover in Florida from 2000 to 2016.

The finding that housing demand didn’t decrease – and, perhaps counterintuitively, attracted wealthier inhabitants – was particularly surprising to the authors, especially given Florida’s reckoning with hurricane adaptation and resilience measures in the face of climate change.

“Hurricanes are projected to get stronger,” coauthor and RFF Fellow Yanjun (Penny) Liao said. “Our findings show that the idea that people will naturally retreat from hazardous areas may not necessarily hold up. In Florida, at least, it appears that market forces are not encouraging people to move to safer places.”

The authors find that hurricanes cause a temporary increase in home prices, likely due to the sudden decrease in housing supply from storm losses. However, they find that prices subside to baseline levels after an average of three years, which is approximately how long it takes for areas to build up housing stock to pre-storm levels. But during those pivotal three years when housing prices are higher than normal, the authors note several important tendencies:

  • In the three years following a hurricane, the average income of new buyers increases proportionally to the rise in home prices. By the time prices stabilize, more than a quarter of all homes are occupied by households with a higher income than before the hurricane arrived.
  • Home prices in hurricane-ravaged areas are 5% higher on average than unaffected ones during the three years following a hurricane. After three years, prices return to – but do not drop below – pre-storm levels.
  • There is no significant change to the socio-demographic characteristics of neighborhoods after a hurricane other than income.
  • Hurricanes do not fundamentally change the long-run demand for housing in affected areas. One hypothesis for the gentrification phenomena is that wealthier households may move into communities at a higher rate following a storm because they have a greater ability to both absorb the temporary price increase and any insurance cost increases.

“In some ways, this indicates a market flaw given the current state of the climate,” said coauthor Joshua Graff Zivin of the University of California San Diego. “Policies may be needed to ensure that these communities have strong adaptation and mitigation measures in place to deal with future storms.”

The findings in this study are something that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and federal disaster assistance programs could find useful. Gentrification in Florida could lead to higher post-hurricane insurance claims from the NFIP, which could place a heavier burden on federal taxpayers, who back the program. In addition, federal spending in disaster assistance could also increase as a result.

The authors note that future research should examine the equity implications of post-hurricane housing markets, particularly in the context of fluctuating housing prices and options available to lower income buyers and renters in the years following a hurricane.

© 2023 Buzz Future LLC Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/study-hurricanes-impact-fla-neighborhoods

Approvals Going Out for $10K Improvement Grants

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida homeowners seeking up to $10,000 in state funding for windstorm protection improvements are already being notified that they’ve been approved for the matching grant.

An approval means that homeowners who spend $15,000 on improvements are eligible to get $10,000 and reduce their project cost to $5,000.

There’s a newly disclosed catch: To get reimbursed, homeowners will have to pay their contractor in full for the job and submit a reimbursement invoice along with proof of full payment to the contractor. That’s different than what program officials said a few weeks ago.

But 0% short-term financing options are available that will cover the cost until the reimbursement check arrives, contractors say.

The My Safe Florida Home program, funded by the state Legislature last May, began accepting applications for windstorm mitigation inspections on Nov. 18. With $115 million earmarked for grants, the program estimated that 11,000 to 12,000 homeowners would be approved for up to $10,000 each.

Homeowners can begin the grant application process by requesting an inspection at mysafeflhome.com or calling (866) 513-6734.

Grant funding is being made available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and 13,840 inspection applications were in some “form of status” as of Jan. 4, according to a program official.

Windstorm mitigation inspections to identify improvements needed to bring homes up to modern construction codes were quickly scheduled for earliest applicants, and inspection reports identifying qualifying improvements started going out a week or two later.

Upon receiving inspection reports, applicants were invited to apply for grants of up to $10,000 each, and this week, the program began notifying earliest applicants that they have been approved.

As of Jan. 4, about 5,160 inspections have been completed, and 213 grant applications have been submitted. The low number of grant applications suggests that a majority of applicants are still awaiting their inspection reports.

The program offers $2 in state funding for every $1 homeowners contribute for improvements that include impact-resistant windows, exterior doors and garage doors that meet current windstorm codes, new roof coverings, upgraded roof-to-wall connections and other roof upgrades.

The improvements will better protect homes against damaging winds and qualify those homes for insurance premium discounts.

Jeff Torrey, a Deerfield Beach retiree who applied for an inspection on the day the application portal opened, found out on Thursday that he is approved for a grant.

“I’m getting 13 impact windows and a new front door,” Torrey said by phone. “On two jalousie windows at the gable ends of my house, I’m going to put accordion shutters.”

Torrey had been looking into the program’s requirements even before it started accepting applications. He reached out to a local contractor and urged him to participate in the program, and so now he’s ready to commence work.

The email notifying him of his grant approval included a link to a list of participating contractors. As of Friday, 44 contractors had registered to work on homes in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. Most of the contractors are registered to work in all three counties, according to the list, which can be accessed at neighborlysoftware.com/dashboard/mysafefloridaprogram.

A guidebook available for download at the My Safe Florida Home website spells out required steps that homeowners must follow to be eligible for reimbursement. To find the guide, go to www.mysafeflhome.com and click the Resources tab at the top of the page.

After the program began taking applications for windstorm mitigation inspections in late November, officials of the state Department of Financial Services, which oversees the program, did not immediately specify whether homeowners would have to pay for the improvements upfront before getting the $10,000 grant. However, recent published guidance clarifies that homeowners must provide proof that contractors have been fully paid before reimbursements could be obtained.

“After further review, the [program] has determined that it is in the best interest of the homeowners and program-approved contractors for homeowners to pay for mitigation improvements when completed and then submit this documentation for reimbursement,” Department spokesman Devin Galetta said in an email on Friday.

The requirement could be a burden for applicants who don’t have $15,000 to spend. Yet, many have options to defray the full upfront cost.

Several contractors approved to participate in the program said they can help consumers secure short-term 0% financing so they won’t have to prepay the $10,000 they expect to get from the state.

Not all contractors will provide financing for their projects. But many do, and applicants should ask contractors what options are available.

Luke Amorseano, owner of Fort Lauderdale-based Luke Skybuilder LLC, said his company can help homeowners obtain a short-term home improvement mortgage that would be payable when the homeowner receives the $10,000 reimbursement. Cost to the homeowner would be a 1.5% loan servicing fee ($150 if financing $10,000) plus a $75 county recording fee.

Although interest rates would begin to accrue daily at 16% APR if the customer defaults, “The upside to this is that the homeowner will have a paid-in-full receipt for getting their rebate because Luke Skybuilder will be shown as paid,” Amorseano said. “The mortgage note will be under the loan servicing company.”

Mattias Colombo, manager of All-Weather Protection Services in Pompano Beach, said his company offers various financing programs that won’t accrue interest for six months to 18 months that will also allow homeowners to present proof of full payment when they apply for reimbursement.

Another option, Amorseano said, is for homeowners to sign up for PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing. PACE financing requires no upfront cost, no credit check, and can be repaid at any time, all at once or over a period of years at a fixed interest rate. But borrowers are charged program fees that add up to $2,000 to the principal.

© 2023 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/approvals-going-out-10k-improvement-grants

Hurricane Ian Victims Face Jan. 12 Deadline

Floridians harmed by Ian only have a few more days to apply for federal (FEMA) or small-business (SBA) physical property damage loans or grants.

BRANDON, Fla.  –  More than $4.4 billion in federal grants, disaster loans and flood insurance payments have been provided to the state of Florida and to households affected by Hurricane Ian. But time is running out for Hurricane Ian survivors to apply for disaster assistance.

If your primary residence is in one of the 26 counties designated for federal disaster assistance and you incurred storm-related loss or damage caused by Hurricane Ian, you have until Jan. 12, 2023, to complete your application.

Survivors who have insurance are encouraged to file a claim for disaster-caused damage before they apply for FEMA assistance. You do not need to wait for your insurance settlement to submit a disaster assistance application. FEMA may provide financial assistance to eligible survivors who have uninsured or underinsured disaster-caused damage or loss.

Apply online at disasterassistance.gov or call 800-621-3362. Assistance is available in most languages. Calls are answered every day from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET. Survivors can also register at any Disaster Recovery Center operating throughout Florida’s disaster-damaged counties.

The Jan. 12 deadline also applies to applications for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property.

FEMA’s Housing Assistance and Other Needs Assistance grants for medical, dental, and funeral expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, applicants referred to SBA must complete and submit an SBA loan application to be considered for additional forms of disaster assistance. Applicants who do not qualify for an SBA loan may be referred back to FEMA to be considered for aid under the Other Needs Assistance provision.

The SBA Disaster Customer Service Center’s number is 800-659-2955. Help is also available by sending mail to: service@sba.gov or by visiting www.sba.gov. Survivors may apply online at SBA’s secure website: disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/ela/s/

Businesses that have not yet submitted an SBA disaster business loan application, may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/ela/s under SBA declaration #17644. Businesses, homeowners, renters, and non-profits may visit the Business Recovery Center or Disaster Recovery Center for help in submitting an application or in seeking reconsideration of their loan decision.

Disaster loan information and application forms can be obtained from the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, please dial 7-1-1 to access telecommunications relay services) or by email at disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is Jan. 12, 2023. The deadline to return economic injury applications is June 29, 2023.

For the latest information on Florida’s recovery from Hurricane Ian and Nicole, visit floridadisaster.org/info and fema.gov.

© Copyright 2023, Highlands News-Sun, all rights reserved.

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/hurricane-ian-victims-face-jan-12-deadline

How Does a Home Equity Loan Affect Credit Scores?

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Homeowners with significant equity may be able to tap some of that through a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). Before they do, however, it’s important to consider how taking on an additional loan or line of credit may affect their credit score.

According to the myFICO blog, home equity loans and HELOCs both allow homeowners to access some of the equity they have in their home, either in the form of an installment loan or revolving line of credit. With a home equity loan, they receive the full loan amount upfront and pay it back over a fixed period – often five to 30 years – with a fixed interest rate.

A HELOC is a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card. Upon approval, they can draw from their home-equity line of credit, typically via a debit card, bank transfer or even paper check. During the draw period, which can last up to 10 years, borrowers are only required to pay interest on the amount they’ve borrowed. However, if they max out their credit limit, they’ll need to pay down the balance if they want to continue making draws.

Once the draw period ends, they enter a repayment period, which can last up to 20 years, during which they’ll pay down the remaining balance. During the draw period, a homeowner can spend their home equity and repay it as their needs change.

Unlike home equity loans, HELOCs typically have variable interest rates, which can fluctuate over time. In some cases, though, the lender may allow them to convert some or all of the balance to a fixed-rate payment plan.

With both types of credit, homeowners may be able to deduct the interest they pay, providing they use the loan funds to buy, build or substantially improve the home used as collateral for the debt. If they use the proceeds for other purposes, though, the interest isn’t tax-deductible. Owners should contact their tax professional for more advice on this, however.

Do home equity loans and HELOCs affect FICO scores?

There are several different ways that second mortgages may impact credit, for better or for worse. Here’s a breakdown:

Payment history: If equity borrowers make payments on time, home equity loans and HELOCs can help them increase their FICO Scores over time. However, if they miss a payment by 30 days or more, it could have a significant negative impact on their credit.

In addition, they’re using their home as collateral. As a result, defaulting on payments could lead to foreclosure. That not only has a major impact on their credit score, they also lose their primary residence.

Amounts owed: How much a borrower owes also impacts their credit score. The debt carried via a home equity loan or HELOC can impact FICO Scores via the “Amounts Owed” category of their score, under the “amount owed on all accounts” subcategory.

How much of the installment loan amounts still owed compared with the original loan amount may also be a factor.

Length of credit history: Adding a new tradeline (the home equity loan) to credit reports will result in the average age of all credit accounts going down. And that could have a negative impact on a FICO Score.

However, home equity loans and HELOCs often have long terms, so they can have a positive impact on credit scores over time, particularly if they’re managed responsibly.

New credit: Each time a consumer applies for credit, a lender will typically run a hard inquiry on their credit reports to evaluate creditworthiness. A new inquiry may knock fewer than five points off a FICO Score, but if they apply for multiple credit accounts it could have a compounding effect.

Inquiries and other changes to a credit report impact everyone’s scores differently, however, depending on their credit history. Some people see bigger changes than others.

The good news: If consumers want to shop around and compare interest rates and terms before deciding on a lender, they can usually do so without worrying about damaging their credit score too much. With newer FICO Score models, mortgage, auto and student loan hard inquiries made within a 45-day rate-shopping period are combined into one for scoring.

Credit mix: Having different types of credit can help boost FICO Scores because it shows that the borrower can manage a range of credit options. Adding a second mortgage could potentially improve the credit mix component.

Check credit scores before applying for home equity

If thinking about applying for a home equity loan or HELOC, it’s important to understand the requirements. Like conventional mortgage loans, second mortgage loans typically require a FICO Score of 620 or above, though some lenders may provide flexibility. Regardless, the higher a FICO Score, the better the chances of securing a lower interest rate.

Additionally, many lenders only allow homeowners to borrow up to a combined loan-to-value ratio (CLTV) of 80%, which means the balances on both their primary and second mortgages can’t exceed 80% of their home’s current value. But again, some lenders may be more flexible with some even going as high as 100%.

In addition to credit history and home value, lenders will also consider debt-to-income ratios (DTI) – the percentage of a homeowner’s gross monthly income that goes toward debt payments. DTI requirements vary by lender, but generally expect a limit of 43%.

Before applying for a home equity loan or HELOC, check FICO® Scores and review credit reports to determine if improvements should be made first. Then, calculate DTI and how much equity is in the home to determine the odds of approval.

Questions? Reach out to individual lenders to learn more.

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/how-does-home-equity-loan-affect-credit-scores

Don’t Cut Service Because Markets Slow

When income drops, business people cut expenses. But in real estate, customer service shouldn’t be reduced as competition heats up.

NEW YORK – With the near-time future of real estate still uncertain at the beginning of 2023, agents need to think about changing market conditions and how the brokerage can help them navigate those changes.

The number of future transactions may decline, but brokerage services shouldn’t be reduced because productivity and efficiency are essential for success.

One area where brokerages shouldn’t skimp? Technology systems, such as applications and tools that can automate daily processes. There are a range of helpful tech products, and the one a brokerage chooses to use often reflects the business model of the company more than the software.

HomeSmart’s RealSmart Agent portal, for example, enables real estate professionals to automate marketing and paperwork processes and provides tools that help with client relationship management, among other things.

Additionally, a comprehensive orientation, onboarding, training and mentorship program can help new agents jumpstart their careers with the knowledge they need to succeed. An agent-centered approach will help ensure business success in 2023.

Source: RISMedia (12/27/22) Bowers, Ashley

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

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/dont-cut-service-because-markets-slow

In 2022, 1 in 17 Floridians Displaced by Disasters

A first-of-its-kind survey by the Census Bureau found 1.3% of Americans were displaced by natural disasters last year, with Fla.’s hurricanes the top reason cited.

MIAMI – More than 1.3% of the adult population in the U.S. was displaced by natural disasters in the past year, with hurricanes responsible for more than half of the forced relocations, according to first-of-its-kind survey results from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Household Pulse Survey results said that 3.3 million U.S. adults were displaced by either hurricanes, floods, fires, tornados or other disasters. The two-year-old online survey asked for the first time about displacement from natural disasters in results released Thursday.

Some states were impacted more than others.

In Florida, nearly 1 million people – about 1 in 17 adult residents – were displaced in a state that was ravaged by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole in the fall. More than 409,000 people – or almost 1 in 8 residents – were displaced in Louisiana, which had a comparatively calm hurricane season in 2022 even though residents still were dealing with the devastating impacts from Hurricane Ida the previous year.

Among the states with the lowest rates of the adult population being displaced by disasters were Indiana, Maine, North Dakota, Ohio and Oklahoma.

Of the 3.3 million displaced adults, more than a third were out of their homes for less than a week. About 1 in 6 residents never returned to their homes, according to the survey.

The demographic makeup of the displaced didn’t deviate much from the overall race and ethnic background of the U.S. population, but they tended to be poorer. About 22% of the displaced adults reported having a household income of less than $25,000 a year, compared to 17.4% for the overall U.S. population.

The Census Bureau sent invitations to more than 1 million households to participate in the experimental survey and collected a total of 70,685 responses in mid-December.

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

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/2022-1-17-floridians-displaced-disasters

2023 Forecast: East Will Be a Sellers’ Market

Knock’s market index forecasts a divided nation in 2023, with sellers retaining an edge on the eastern side of the U.S. and buyers gaining leverage on the west.

NEW YORK – As the reality of high home prices and higher mortgage rates sets in, U.S. homebuyers will gain some leverage in 2023. However, shoppers are in for different experiences depending on where they want to move, according to the Knock Buyer-Seller Market Index 2023 forecast.

The Index analyzes key housing market metrics and measures whether the nation’s 100 largest markets favor homebuyers or sellers. The new index notes that the Mississippi River generally divides the country in 2023, with the top 5 buyers’ markets west of the Mississippi and the top 5 sellers’ markets concentrated along the East Coast.

“With home prices and interest rates cutting into purchasing power, the relocation hotspots where prices grew quickly during the pandemic will increasingly favor buyers in 2023, while more mid-sized markets offering good job opportunities and affordable housing will be the top performing real estate markets in 2023,” says Knock Co-Founder and CEO Sean Black. “This will usher in a more balanced housing market. However, home shoppers will find different scenarios depending where in the U.S. they are looking.”

Based on the November 2022 Buyer-Seller Index, the latest month of available data, inventory rose in 80 of the 100 largest housing markets and all but two moved at least marginally toward favoring buyers.

For 11 months in 2022, the top buyers’ markets were all west of the Mississippi and popular relocation spots during the pandemic, which caused home prices to accelerate at a faster pace than the rest of the nation on average. Prices in the top five buyers’ markets rose by 44.6% on average between January 2020 and last month compared to 34.9% for the rest of the nation during the same period.

No Florida city made the index as a top 25 buyer’s market.

Top 5 buyers’ metros for 2023

  1. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, Ariz.
  2. Colorado Springs, Colo.
  3. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev.
  4. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas
  5. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo

Although these markets will see median home price growth moderate and even decline from pandemic peaks in 2023, prices are forecast to end the year 38% above pre-pandemic levels, 3% higher than the national average change.

A sign of a slowing market, inventory is expected to grow significantly (54.4% on average) in the top buyers’ markets. Denver will see inventory grow by nearly 100%, ranking second behind Charlotte, N.C., which is projected to lead the nation in inventory growth at 148.3%.

Sellers advantage in smaller, more affordable markets

Concentrated in the East Coast, the top sellers’ markets are forecast to see the strongest growth in home sales and listing prices in 2023. They tend to be smaller to mid-size markets with populations under 1 million, where home prices have remained affordable.

Despite increasing by as much as 50% since January 2020, prices in the top sellers’ markets remain well below the national median home price of $374,000.

Top 5 sellers markets for 2023

  1. Fayetteville, N.C.
  2. Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.
  3. Syracuse, N.Y.
  4. Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, Conn.
  5. York-Hanover, Pa.

Florida metros in ‘top 25’ for a seller’s market

Markets – Sales change in Nov. 2023 – Price change by Nov. 2023

  • 15. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater – sales down 5.5% – prices up 9.9%
  • 20. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach – sales down 6.9% – prices up 3.3%
  • 21. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford – sales down 7.6% – prices up 6.7%
  • 22. Jacksonville – sales down 7.6% – prices up 1.4%

Home sales across the top sellers’ markets are forecast to rise by between 5% and 18% over the next 12 months except in Hartford, Conn., where they’re projected to dip by 1.7%. In contrast, sales are forecast to decline by 16.3% for the rest of the nation by the end of 2023.

On average, the median home price in these markets is expected to increase 8.3%, compared to the less than 1% increase forecast for the U.S. as a whole. Days on market will average 15 days, half the forecasted national median of 30 days, while average months’ supply will be just one month, compared to 3.1 months for the 100 largest markets.

Forecast for November 2023

According to the Index, the nation’s 100 largest housing markets will continue to teeter in neutral territory over the next few months, gain some momentum toward sellers in the spring, and then move firmly into buyers’ market territory by summer – a trend that will continue through the end of the year.

By November 2023, 36 markets are forecast to be buyers’ markets (up from 14 in November 2022), 41 markets will remain sellers’ markets (down from 46), and 23 will be neutral.

As the market continues to cool, the 100 largest markets are projected to see home sales decline by 16.3% year over year. Fayetteville, Ark., will face the largest falloff at -22.9%.

By the middle of 2023, months’ supply will surpass three months for the first time since the summer of 2019. Charlotte, N.C., is forecast to lead the nation in months’ supply at 12.7 – double that of Port St. Lucie, Fla., which is forecast to have the second-highest months’ supply at 6.2.

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/2023-forecast-east-will-be-sellers-market

Florida Realtors Wins NAR Diamond Global Award

The global awards honor the most active Realtor associations working internationally. Diamond, the highest level, requires platinum level 5 years in a row.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) honored Florida Realtors® with a 2022 Diamond Global Achievement Award for its activity in developing and promoting the state’s international real estate market. Florida is the first state association in the U.S. to receive the Diamond Award; before applying for Diamond status, Florida Realtors had to receive NAR’s Global Platinum Award for five consecutive years.

“We’re proud and honored to have NAR recognize Florida Realtors with the Diamond Global Achievement Award – our global Realtor family working together made this possible, and we thank everyone involved,” says Florida Realtors Director of Global Business Maria Grulich, CIPS, AHWD. “Florida Realtors’ Global Business Committee’s goals are to provide resources to our local global councils, promote Florida real estate to international buyers and provide a platform that helps Realtors engage and connect with real estate professionals all over the world.

“We encourage members to join us for our international events in 2023 and go global!”

NAR’s Global Achievement Program Awards recognize the most active associations in global business. Among over 110 global business councils nationwide, each of these organizations has demonstrated “exceptional commitment to building members’ awareness of the global and multicultural business opportunities in their local markets.” 

Participating councils are divided into four status classifications based on their level of activity: Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. A number of local Realtor boards and associations in Florida also were recognized by NAR for their global business activities, including:

2022 Diamond

  • Florida Realtors (achieved in 2022)
  • Miami Association of Realtors (2016)
  • Broward, Palm Beaches and St. Lucie Realtors (2017)
  • Orlando Regional Realtor Association (2018)
  • Osceola County Association of Realtors (2019)

Platinum

  • Greater Tampa Realtors
  • Pinellas Realtor Organization/Central Pasco Realtor Organization
  • Naples Area Board of Realtors

Gold

  • Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee
  • Bonita Springs-Estero Realtors
  • Northeast Florida Association of Realtors
  • Royal Palm Coast Realtor Association

For more information, visit Florida Realtors’ website.

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/florida-realtors-wins-nar-diamond-global-award

Square Footage Costs Higher in Suburbs than Cities

A fall study comparing price-per-square-foot costs found the highest increase in urban areas of Fla., notably hurricane-hit Cape Coral, North Port and Tampa.

SEATTLE – As home prices fall fastest in cities and mortgage rates rise, the value of a square foot in the suburbs has caught up with that of urban centers, according to a report from Redfin. Price per square foot is considered a valuable tool for comparing price growth across different neighborhood types because it’s a direct comparison of how the value of space is changing in one neighborhood type versus another.

The typical home in suburban neighborhoods nationwide was worth $206 per square foot during the four weeks ending Sept. 25, just slightly higher than $205 in urban neighborhoods.

In urban neighborhoods nationwide, price per square foot increased 3.5% year over year– up from a year ago but down significantly from its pandemic peak. It’s smaller than the 9.5% growth in suburban areas and 8.4% (to $180) in rural areas.

Per-square-foot price rose most in Florida city centers

Price per square foot increased most from a year ago in urban parts of Florida, especially in places hit hard by Hurricane Ian in September, Redfin found.

In urban neighborhoods in Cape Coral, price per square foot rose 31.4% to $278 in the 12 weeks ending September 25. The top increase list includes:

  • Cape Coral – 31.4% to $278
  • North Port – 27.9% to $444
  • Lakeland – 25.1% to $201
  • Tampa – 22.4% to $272
  • Fort Lauderdale – 22.2% to $300
  • Orlando – 19.3% to $219

Cape Coral, North Port and Tampa were among the places with the nation’s highest price growth last year as scores of homebuyers move into coastal Florida from other parts of the U.S. The area is popular with remote workers, retirees and second-home buyers, even though it faces a high risk of climate-related disasters such as hurricanes.

National changes

The typical home in urban areas nationwide sold for $310,000, up 2.7% from a year earlier. That’s compared with a 6.6% increase to $385,000 in the suburbs and 4% to $333,000 in rural neighborhoods. Homes are least expensive in urban areas because they’re typically the smallest.

Although space now costs just as much in the suburbs as it does in urban neighborhoods, moving farther from city centers has historically meant that homebuyers could get more space for their money. That mindset is still common, and today’s house hunters are searching for deals as high mortgage rates, inflation and high home prices cut into their budgets. Another reason why price growth is slowing particularly fast in cities is because it rose so much last year.

“Urban neighborhoods will likely see prices – and price per square foot – fall on a year-over-year basis before suburbs and rural areas,” says Redfin Senior Economist Sheharyar Bokhari. “House hunters may want to shift their search to urban neighborhoods, where they may find lower prices to help counteract the costliness of today’s mortgage rates. And now that space is just as valuable in the suburbs, it’s less likely that they’ll sacrifice space.”

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/square-footage-costs-higher-suburbs-cities

‘First-Time Buyer’ Season 3 Streaming on Hulu

NAR’s unscripted TV show that features real first-time homebuyers has entered its third season, with the latest filmed in Tampa and Houston.

CHICAGO – The third season of First-Time Buyer by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) can now be viewed on Hulu. All episodes from seasons one and two can also be streamed without a paid subscription on YouTubeFacebook and at firsttimebuyer.realtor.

NAR created the unscripted television series in 2020 to provide an accurate representation of the American homebuying process that also highlights the role Realtors® play in helping consumers achieve the dream of homeownership.

“Through this series, we hope to inspire and educate aspiring homebuyers, and to showcase the valuable role that Realtors play in supporting their clients,” says NAR President Kenny Parcell.

The eight new episodes – filmed across Houston and Tampa – follow different individuals, couples and families through their first homebuying journey.

First-Time Buyer is an extension of NAR’s consumer advertising campaign, “That’s Who We R”, which works to elevate the Realtor brand by highlighting unique differentiators, such as Realtors’ commitment to the association’s Code of Ethics.

NAR Head of Production Alicia Bailey says the First-Time Buyer stories are meant to be relatable and inspiring.

She says, “They showcase the diversity of the American homebuying experience, as well as the various emotions that come with it. We hope that viewers will be able to relate to the experiences of these homebuyers and learn from their journey as they navigate the complex world of real estate.”

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/first-time-buyer-season-3-streaming-hulu

EU Regulators: Facebook Violates Privacy Rules

Parent company Meta could pay over $400M U.S. over privacy rules because it refused usage to anyone who wouldn’t allow their personal data to be used for advertising.

LONDON (AP) – European Union regulators on Wednesday hit Facebook parent Meta with hundreds of millions in fines for privacy violations and banned the company from forcing users in the 27-nation bloc to agree to personalized ads based on their online activity.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission imposed two fines totaling 390 million euros ($414 million) in its decision in two cases that could shake up Meta’s business model of targeting users with ads based on what they do online. The company says it will appeal.

A decision in a third case involving Meta’s WhatsApp messaging service is expected later this month.

Meta and other Big Tech companies have come under pressure from the European Union’s privacy rules, which are some of the world’s strictest. Irish regulators have already slapped Meta with four other fines for data privacy infringements since 2021 that total more than 900 million euros and have a slew of other open cases against a number of Silicon Valley companies.

Meta also faces regulatory headaches from EU antitrust officials in Brussels flexing their muscles against tech giants: They accused the company last month of distorting competition in classified ads.

The Irish watchdog – Meta’s lead European data privacy regulator because its regional headquarters is in Dublin – fined the company 210 million euros for violations of EU data privacy rules involving Facebook and an additional 180 million euros for breaches involving Instagram.

The decision stems from complaints filed in May 2018 when the 27-nation bloc’s privacy rules, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, took effect.

Previously, Meta relied on getting informed consent from users to process their personal data to serve them with personalized, or behavioral, ads, which are based on what users search for online, the websites they visit or the videos they click on.

When GDPR came into force, the company changed the legal basis under which it processes user data by adding a clause to the terms of service for advertisements, effectively forcing users to agree that their data could be used. That violates EU privacy rules.

The Irish watchdog initially sided with Meta but changed its position after its draft decision was sent to a board of EU data protection regulators, many of whom objected.

In its final decision, the Irish watchdog said Meta “is not entitled to rely on the ‘contract’ legal basis” to deliver behavioral ads on Facebook and Instagram.

Meta said in a statement that “we strongly believe our approach respects GDPR, and we’re therefore disappointed by these decisions and intend to appeal both the substance of the rulings and the fines.”

Meta has three months to ensure its “processing operations” comply with the EU rules, though the ruling doesn’t specify what the company has to do. Meta noted that the decision doesn’t prevent it from displaying personalized ads, it only covers the legal basis for handling user data.

Max Schrems, the Austrian lawyer and privacy activist who filed the complaints, said the ruling could deal a big blow to the company’s profits in the EU, because “people now need to be asked if they want their data to be used for ads or not” and can change their mind at any time.

“The decision also ensures a level playing field with other advertisers that also need to get opt-in consent,” he said.

Making changes to comply with the decision could add to costs for a company already facing rising business challenges. Meta reported two straight quarters of declining revenue as advertising sales dropped because of competition from TikTok, and it laid off 11,000 workers amid broader tech industry woes.

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

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/eu-regulators-facebook-violates-privacy-rules

Higher Share of Sellers Give Concessions to Buyers

Study: The percent of sellers who agreed to a buyer concession rose 11 points year-to-year to 41.9% in 4Q. It was lower in Miami, higher in Orlando and Tampa.

SEATTLE – Home sellers gave concessions to two out of five buyers (41.9%) in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to Redfin. It’s an increase from over 30% in 3Q and the previous high of 40.8% in 3Q 2020, the early days of the pandemic. Redfin’s records are based on sales reported by Redfin agents.

Concessions have made a comeback as rising mortgage rates, inflation and economic uncertainty dampen homebuying demand. It’s a notable shift compared to late 2020 and 2021, when record-low mortgage rates fueled fierce competition, forcing most buyers to bid over asking price and waive every contingency just to have their offer taken seriously.

In Florida, the percent of seller concessions in Miami (28.7%) and Tampa (37.3%) lagged the average number nationwide (41.9%), but Orlando was higher at 47.8%. However, the year-to-year increase in both Tampa (up 13.2 points) and Orlando (up 17.8 points) was greater than the national average.

Concession increases reported in Fla. metros

  • Miami: 34.8% in 4Q 2022 compared to 28.7% in 4Q 2021, a 6.1-percentage point increase
  • Orlando: 47.8% in 4Q 2022 and 30.0% in 4Q 2021, a 17.8-point increase
  • Tampa: 37.3% in 4Q 2022 and 24.1% in 4Q 2021, a 13.2-point increase
  • Overall U.S.: 41.9% in 4Q 2022 and 30.9% in 4Q 2021, an 11-point increase

“Buyers are asking sellers for things that were unheard of during the past few years,” says Van Welborn, a Phoenix Redfin agent. “They’re feeling empowered, partly because their offer is often the only one, and partly because they know sellers have built up so much equity during the pandemic that they can afford to dole out sizable concessions.”

Homeowners increasingly sell for below their desired price as the housing market slows. A record 22% of home sales recorded by Redfin buyers’ agents in the fourth quarter included both a concession and a final sale price below the listing price, while a record 19% included both a concession and a listing-price cut that occurred while the home was on the market. A record 11% included all three.

“It took a while, but seller expectations are coming back down to earth. Concessions were common before the pandemic, and we may be returning to that norm,” Welborn says. “Sellers realize they’re not going to get $80,000 over the asking price like their neighbor did last year.”

© 2023 Florida Realtors®

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/higher-share-sellers-give-concessions-buyers

Fed May Rethink Rate Hikes if Employment Weakens

Just-released minutes suggest the Federal Reserve sees positive signs in the fight against inflation, but it can’t ease up until it sees weakening employment.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal Reserve officials suggested at their most recent meeting that a continuing streak of robust hiring could keep inflation elevated and was a key reason why they expected to raise interest rates this year more than they had previously forecast.

In the minutes of their mid-December meeting released Wednesday, the officials also underscored that a slowdown in their rate hikes – from four three-quarter point hikes in a row to a half-point increase – “was not an indication of any weakening” in their resolve to bring inflation back down to their 2% target.

Nor did the smaller increase signal “a judgment that inflation was already on a persistent downward path,” the minutes said. Instead, the risks remained that inflation could stay higher than expected, officials said.

That message reflected concern that Wall Street traders were too optimistic that the Fed would soon suspend its rate hikes and even cut them later this year. Such a “misperception,” the minutes indicated, would complicate the Fed’s drive to lower inflation. This would occur if bullish traders sent stocks up and bond yields down, which would counter the Fed’s efforts to cool the economy.

Overall, the minutes showed that Fed officials remained determined to keep rates high to quell inflation and have taken little comfort from inflation’s decline from a peak of 9.1% in June to 7.1% in November. The hardline message caused the stock market to tumble after the Fed announced its latest rate hike and projected that there would be more hikes this year than had been expected.

“The minutes stress that the Fed is going to reduce inflation at the risk of hurting the labor market and the broader economy,” said Ryan Sweet, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.

At a news conference after last month’s meeting, Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged that inflation had been subdued in October and November. But he stressed that “substantially more evidence” of declining inflation would be needed for the Fed to pause its rate hikes.

“We have a long way to go,” Powell said, “to get to price stability.”

The Fed’s higher rates have increased the costs of mortgages, auto loans and other consumer and business borrowing.

In a set of quarterly economic projections they issued after the Dec. 14 meeting, the officials said they expected to raise their benchmark rate to a range of 5% to 5.25% and to keep it there until the end of the year. That was a quarter-point higher than financial markets had expected.

The policymakers also forecast that inflation would end this year at a higher level than it had projected in September, despite signs that price increases have slowed in recent months. Officials predicted that inflation, according to its preferred measure, would be 3.1% by the end of this year, up from 2.8% in its September estimates.

The Fed’s 19 policymakers were unified in projecting a higher rate this year, with 17 of them forecasting a rate of at least 5% to 5.25% and just two coming in slightly below.

Many economists have warned that the central bank’s aggressive rate hikes will plunge the economy into recession this year. The Fed officials predicted last month that the unemployment rate would rise to 4.6% this year from 3.7% now – a pace that typically has coincided with a recession.

Yet so far, the job market has remained resilient. On Wednesday, the government reported that the number of available jobs in November stayed near the elevated level of the previous month, a sign that businesses were still determined to hire despite 18 months of high inflation and rising interest rates.

Also on Wednesday, Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, said he supported lifting the Fed’s rate to about 5.25% to 5.5%. That is higher than most of his colleagues favor and a full point above its current level.

“While I believe it is too soon to definitively declare that inflation has peaked, we are seeing increasing evidence that it may have,” Kashkari wrote on the Minneapolis Fed’s website. “In my view, however, it will be appropriate to continue to raise rates at least at the next few meetings until we are confident inflation has peaked.”

Kashkari also said he favors leaving the Fed rate at the 5.4% level to assess what impact higher rates have had on the economy. But he added that if progress in reducing inflation fades, leaving price gains higher for longer, he would support raising the Fed’s rate “potentially much higher.”

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

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/fed-may-rethink-rate-hikes-if-employment-weakens

Mortgage Rates Move a Bit Higher to 6.48%

Rates declined for six weeks and edged higher for two. If a longer drop does occur, Freddie Mac expects “a large demographic tailwind of Millennial renters” to appear.

WASHINGTON (AP) – The average long-term U.S. mortgage rate rose for the second straight week following six weeks of declines that had given prospective homebuyers a glimmer of hope.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average on the benchmark 30-year rate inched up to 6.48% this week from 6.42% last week. A year ago the average rate was 3.22%, less than half of the current average rate.

The average long-term rate reached a two-decade high of 7.08% in late October and again in early November as the Federal Reserve continued to crank up its key lending rate in an effort to cool the economy and tame inflation.

At its final meeting of 2022, the Federal Reserve raised its rate 0.50 percentage points, its seventh increase last year. That pushed the central bank’s key rate to a range of 4.25% to 4.5%, its highest level in 15 years. The Fed has signaled it may raise its rate another three-quarters of a point in 2023, which would be in a range of 5% to 5.25%.

Rates for 30-year mortgages usually track the moves in the 10-year Treasury yield, which lenders use as a guide to pricing loans. Investors’ expectations for future inflation, global demand for U.S. Treasurys and what the Federal Reserve does with interest rates can also influence the cost of borrowing for a home.

The big increase in mortgage rates has sunk the housing market, with sales of existing homes falling for 10 straight months to the lowest level in more than a decade.

While home prices have fallen as demand has declined, they are still nearly 11% higher than a year ago. Higher prices and a doubling of mortgage rates have made homebuying much less affordable for many people.

Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said that the higher rates have pushed mortgage application activity to a quarter-century low, but offered some optimism for 2023.

“Homebuyers are waiting for rates to decrease more significantly, and when they do, a strong job market and a large demographic tailwind of Millennial renters will provide support to the purchase market,” Khater said.

The rate for a 15-year mortgage, popular with those refinancing their homes, also rose modestly this week, to 5.73% from 5.68% last week. It was 2.43% one year ago.

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

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/mortgage-rates-move-bit-higher-648

U.S. Rent Increases Slow After Two Years of Rises

Some cities with high rent increases over the past few years saw a bit of correction mid-2022, including Tampa where rents dropped about 1% between April and Oct.

NEW YORK – Apartment rent hikes are decelerating as tenants and apartment seekers draw limits on how much income they can spend on rent.

Apartment List estimates that between April and October of 2022, rents slid 3% in Las Vegas, 2% in Phoenix and 1% in Tampa. All three cities saw rents increase more than 30% during the preceding two years.

Rising interest rates have cut into rental-property-investment profitability, and lower rent growth should help curtail inflation and offer some relief to tenants whose wages have not kept pace with the rising cost of renting.

Analysts suggest some markets could see a full year of negative rent growth starting sometime in 2023 if migration and new household formation continue to cool.

Meanwhile, CoStar Group calculates that nearly 500,000 new apartment units should complete construction by the end of this year, following the completion of more than 400,000 units last year.

Yardi Systems’ Jeff Adler suspects some cities with higher-than-average construction activity could see full-year rent declines. Miami, Austin and Raleigh are cited as metros that have an especially large amount of new inventory expected to open this year.

CoStar says the coming growth in new apartments is most likely to impact rents at higher-end buildings because fewer people might now be earning enough to rent them. Few housing economists expect job and wage increases to be strong enough to sustain rent hikes this year.

Source: Wall Street Journal (01/03/23) Parker, Will

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

https://www.floridarealtors.org/news-media/news-articles/2023/01/us-rent-increases-slow-after-two-years-rises