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5 Great Cities for Millennial Homebuyers

March 11, 2018 - 1:02pm

(TNS)—For millennials who are ready to become homeowners, finding an affordable house in a great community can be challenging. With housing inventory historically low, real estate in major metro areas is at a premium. It’s no surprise, then, that young buyers are moving to the suburbs, according to the 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report by the National Association of REALTORS®.

Among millennials surveyed, 57 percent bought a house in the suburbs, spending an average of $205,000. Meanwhile, only 12 percent bought in an urban or central city. Affordability, convenience to work and neighborhood quality were among the top requirements for these buyers.

Using this information, we identified five cities that offer some combination of affordable housing, economic growth, job opportunities, proximity to major metro areas and recreational activities.

Great cities for millennial homebuyers:

  • Lancaster, Pa.
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Garner, N.C.
  • St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • West Des Moines, Iowa.

Lancaster, Pa.
Population: 59,218
Median value of housing: $109,300

One of the oldest inland cities in the country, Lancaster boasts unique features, such as the country’s oldest continuously running farmers market. It’s also home to an established arts community and a network of independently owned businesses.

There are a number of homes available in Lancaster, including new construction. There were 200 new housing units built in Lancaster in 2017. This year, the city is on track to add 125 more, according to Marshall Snively, president of Lancaster City Alliance.

“In the last 10 years, we’ve had more than $1.5 billion in public and private investment, including residential development, and more is on the table,” Snively says.

Nestled between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, Lancaster is a good option for people who want to work in one of these larger cities but own in a more affordable location. Residents can take a train to Harrisburg in less than 35 minutes, and trains into New York City take about two-and-a-half hours.

Local businesses abound, so many residents don’t have to look beyond the city for jobs. Medical center Lancaster General Health has a network of 300 physicians and more than 3,600 employees. Fulton Bank, one of the region’s most prominent financial institutions, is headquartered in Lancaster.

The city has a strong arts culture, which supports a variety of vintage and antique stores, as well as outdoor markets and performing arts. Gallery Row downtown consists of three blocks of galleries, restaurants and retail.

Columbus, Ohio
Population: 860,090
Median value of housing: $131,800

You can own a home in Columbus without breaking the bank. Even in some of the more expensive neighborhoods, like Harrison West, you can find three-bedroom, two-bath homes for under $250,000.

Columbus supports many industries, including healthcare, education, finance, manufacturing, retail and technology. Columbus’ largest employer, the Ohio State University, has more than 30,000 full-time workers. Nationwide Insurance is also headquartered here, with about 13,000 full-time employees.

Columbus offers amenities for just about everyone. Kayakers can enjoy Columbus’ waterways, like Big Darby Creek, Griggs Reservoir and the Scioto River. There are also miles of bike trails and thousands of acres of parkland to hike.

Nightlife includes comedy clubs and live music venues, as well as hundreds of restaurants. Additionally, there are many large-scale attractions, like the Center of Science and Industry as well as the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Garner, N.C.
Population: 28,776
Median value of housing: $164,800

This small town is about six miles south of Raleigh and is also near the Research Triangle, which includes Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For people who work in any of these areas, Garner offers more affordable housing than some of the other nearby communities.

Garner’s business landscape is a mixture of information, utilities, retail and public administration. Companies like Butterball and Direct Distributors are headquartered in Garner. The median household income in Garner is $59,812, above the national median of $57,617, according to Census data.

Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate Garner’s 1,200 acres of parkland and open space. White Deer Park offers bikers, runners and walkers two miles of paved trails, playgrounds, an arboretum and a 2,500-square-foot nature center.

Garner also has a mix of chain stores, shopping plazas and locally owned businesses. Local watering holes, like The Beerded Lady, offer a place for residents to see live music.

St. Petersburg, Fla.
Population: 260,999
Median value of housing: $154,800

St. Petersburg has rejuvenated its downtown, which is home to a mixture of business offices, residential property, restaurants and entertainment.

The Gulf Coast city boasts more than a dozen companies that employ over 1,000 people, including HSN, Raymond James Financial and Jabil Circuit, in addition to many other mid- and small-sized companies.

Mayor Rick Kriseman, who was just recently awarded the 2018 Small Business Advocate award by the U.S. Conference of Mayors for his commitment to small businesses, said that creating opportunities for young people is a top priority for St. Petersburg. The city’s Grow Smarter initiative developed by the city and the Chamber of Commerce to assess, develop and create programs to grow the local economy is an example of that focus.

“We are working hard to ensure we are an inclusive and welcoming city where people of all ages can grow and thrive,” Kriseman says. “We are specifically aiming to bolster and support our population of young professionals, as their skills and interest align well with our Grow Smarter economic development strategy.”

St. Petersburg is home to world-class museums, such as the Salvador Dali Museum and the Fine Arts Museum, as well as chefs honored with James Beard awards, including Lauren Macellaro of The Reading Room.

The city hosts events like the Firestone Grand Prix and is home to the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team.

West Des Moines, Iowa
Population: 64,560
Median value of housing: $195,500

West Des Moines borders Des Moines to the west, about eight miles from Des Moines International Airport. This small city reaps the benefits of the booming financial and publishing industries in Des Moines while retaining a grass-roots community.

“What we’re seeing is that a lot of young people are buying in our older neighborhoods,” says Clyde Evans, director of Economic Development for West Des Moines. “They’re fixing up houses from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. It’s affordable for them to do that here.”

Finance and insurance companies, including Wells Fargo, Farm Bureau and Athene, are located in West Des Moines. Small businesses also make up a large part of West Des Moines’ economy, adding to the 2,800 businesses in the city, according to the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce. West Des Moines is only 11 miles east of Waukee, the future home of Apple’s $1.375 billion data center announced last year.

West Des Moines has a variety of restaurants and shopping destinations, including Jordan Creek Town Center and Valley West Mall. There are also microbreweries for beer connoisseurs, like locally owned Twisted Vine.

The 632-acre Raccoon River State Park offers an array of activities like fishing, boating and even swimming along the 500-foot beach, which is part of Blue Heron Lake. There’s also an extensive network of almost 50 miles of greenway trails, park trails and side paths.

©2018 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Categories: Real Estate News

Consumer Confidence Leaps

March 5, 2018 - 5:04pm

Consumer confidence leapt in February, posting a 130.8 reading in the latest Consumer Confidence Index® from The Conference Board. The Expectations reading of the Index rose to 109.7, while the Present Situation reading rose to 162.4. January’s reading was 124.3.

“Consumer confidence improved to its highest level since 2000 (Nov. 2000, 132.6) after a modest increase in January,” said Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, in a statement. “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was more favorable this month, with the labor force the main driver. Despite the recent stock market volatility, consumers expressed greater optimism about short-term prospects for business and labor market conditions, as well as their financial prospects. Overall, consumers remain quite confident that the economy will continue expanding at a strong pace in the months ahead.”

The percentage of consumers who believe business conditions are “good,” as defined by the Index, increased from 35.0 percent in January to 35.8 percent in February; the percentage of those who believe business conditions are “bad” decreased from 13.0 percent in January to 10.8 percent in February. The percentage of those who expect business conditions to improve increased from 21.5 percent in January to 25.8 percent in February; the percentage of those who expect business conditions to worsen decreased from 9.8 percent in January to 9.4 percent in February.

The percentage of consumers who believe jobs are “plentiful” increased from 37.2 percent in January to 39.4 percent in February, according to the Index; the percentage of those who believe jobs are “hard to get” decreased from 16.3 percent in January to 14.7 percent in February. The percentage of those who expect more jobs in the coming months increased from 18.7 percent in January to 21.6 percent in February; the percentage of those who expect less jobs in the coming months decreased from 12.5 percent in January to 11.9 percent in February.

The percentage of consumers who expect higher incomes increased from 20.6 percent in January to 23.8 percent in February; the percentage of those who expect a decrease also increased, from 7.9 percent in January to 8.6 percent in February.

Source: The Conference Board

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Categories: Real Estate News

Tax Scammers Use Refund Ruse

March 5, 2018 - 5:03pm

(TNS)—Wait, what? You didn’t file your income tax return yet, but, suddenly, somehow, you spotted a bunch of money in your bank account from a refund?


Believe it or not, criminals are using real bank accounts in a fast-spreading scam that could gain more traction as we move into prime refund season, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

“It’s super sophisticated,” says Luis Garcia, a spokesperson for the IRS in Detroit. “If you haven’t filed your taxes—especially if you’re not expecting a refund—and money shows up in your account, don’t touch it.”

Last summer, the IRS reported that cybercriminals had been targeting tax professionals. According to the IRS, 177 tax professionals or firms reported data thefts involving client information relating to thousands of tax filers from January through May 2017. Much of that theft started with a phishing email sent to the tax professional posing as a potential client to gain access to the professional’s computer systems and collect the personal information of existing clients.

After stealing the data from tax professionals, criminals could have your bank account number if you requested direct deposit of a refund earlier.

Now, the crooks who file fake tax returns to steal refund cash could be giving the IRS your bank account information for direct deposit of fraudulent refunds.

How do the crooks then get the cash?

One scheme includes an automated call that claims that you’re a willing participant in tax fraud and demands that you return the money. Of course, if you follow their directions, you’re handing the money over to the crooks.

Garcia says some people could be caught off guard by such calls, especially when they suddenly spot a deposit from the U.S. Treasury in their account.

“It’s jarring when somebody calls you and they know your bank account,” Garcia says.

The IRS began issuing tax refunds as of Feb. 27 for many early filers who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit, so the ID thieves who filed fake returns claiming those credits will be looking to collect soon, if they used your bank account for direct deposit.

As part of the crackdown on tax-related ID fraud, the IRS has been taking extra steps to avoid depositing refunds onto suspicious prepaid cards. That’s why the scam could involve a new twist.

After the money hits your account, a con artist might pose as a debt collection official working on behalf of the IRS. The crook might say the refund was deposited in error and they ask the taxpayer to forward the money to their collection agency.

Don’t do it.

Or a robocall claims to be from the IRS and threatens the person with an arrest warrant unless refund money is turned over. Some calls talk about “blacklisting” the Social Security number of the real taxpayer, if the taxpayer doesn’t follow the appropriate steps to return the refund cash.

Don’t do it.

“This isn’t your refund,” Garcia says. “You’re the victim of tax fraud. But don’t complicate things by not returning that money to the IRS—not the scammers.”

What should you do? Contact your bank. Don’t plan to spend the money. Follow the proper steps to return the fraudulent refund to the IRS.

Some consumers have reported that their bank accounts ended up being frozen as banks try to deal with this odd criminal twist. Your account could have to be closed to prevent fraudsters from gaining access.

The IRS said taxpayers who receive an erroneous refund should contact the Automated Clearing House department of their bank. The bank would return the erroneous refund directly to the IRS.

The taxpayer should contact the IRS at 800-829-1040 for an individual filer or 800-829-4933 for a business.

You’re going to want to file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit when you file your own tax return to state that you were a victim of a tax preparer data breach. Once a victimized taxpayer tries to file his or her own return electronically, they may fear that their tax return will be rejected because a 2017 return bearing their Social Security number has already been filed.

Tax fraud remains a threat, even though the IRS said the number of tax returns with confirmed identity theft declined by 32 percent to 597,000 returns in 2017, compared with 883,000 returns in 2016.

A spokesperson from Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, said its fraud detection program includes providing suspicious activity reports to the IRS and validating internet protocol addresses to block high-risk transactions from suspect geographies.

But experts say cybercriminals are always developing new lines of attack, like the direct deposit scam. So if you’re hit, it’s important to take action.

The IRS outlines the steps to take to return an erroneous refund in its “Tax Topic Number 161 – Returning an Erroneous Refund.” See www.irs.gov.

Many times, scammers likely could try to use direct deposit. But some could have a fraudulent refund check sent to your home. They’re hoping you cash it—and don’t spend it—and then hand over the money. Or maybe they’re planning to steal that check out of your mailbox.

The steps for returning an uncashed check include writing “Void” on the back of the check where you’d sign it. The IRS wants you to submit the check immediately but no later than 21 days to the appropriate IRS location listed online. The IRS lists 10 possible locations for where you’d mail that erroneous check.

You will want to include a note saying that you’re returning an erroneous refund check and give a short reason.

And what if you’ve cashed an erroneous refund check?

You will need to send a personal check or money order to the IRS. Make sure to write on the check or money order: “Payment of Erroneous Refund” and the tax period for which the refund was issued.

If you don’t act promptly to repay an erroneous refund, the IRS could charge interest on the money.

©2018 Detroit Free Press

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Categories: Real Estate News

Sinkholes: Avoiding Collapsed Transactions

March 4, 2018 - 2:06pm

In 2017, multiple regions were severely impacted by natural disasters—and the real estate industry has been affected by them all. But one event which often occurs across the U.S. has largely been out of the limelight.

Sinkhole activity typically occurs in areas of Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. These events take with them land surfaces, which oftentimes include homes, when rock in the underground space dissolves and creates an unsupported cavern, ultimately giving way and collapsing.

The recent resurgence of sinkholes in Florida is leaving homeowners with questions. Are there signs to look for? Can they be prevented? What if a home is destroyed during the selling process? There are steps that homeowners can take to protect themselves and their assets in the case of sinkholes.

Seek Out the Signs
Does the property have noticeable sinking, sagging or cracking walls? These are all tell-tale signs of a sinkhole, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Lou Nimkoff, president of the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association, tells RISMedia.

EarthTech.com provides even more signs to look for, which can vary depending on the severity of the situation:

  • Tilting or falling trees or fence posts
  • Slanting foundations
  • Sudden pond drainage
  • Wilted vegetation in a specific area
  • The sudden appearance of earthy odors
  • Infestation of bugs, such as slugs and centipedes

Homeowners should also look out for holes or depressions in which surface or storm water disappears. If a vortex emerges through which stream or pond water swirls down, this is another sign of a sinkhole.

Evaluate the Property
If a sinkhole is thought to be present, homeowners must act quickly to have the home inspected. The first step is to report it to the state’s department of environmental protection. If the property is on the market, the buyer can request that the home be inspected by a geotechnical engineer.

“An evaluation by a geotechnical engineering company (often done in concert with the homeowner’s property insurance company) will provide recommendations regarding safety and options for repair,” says Nimkoff.

Manage a Sinkhole-Impacted Transaction
Both buyers and sellers will be affected if the property in question is in danger of being damaged by a sinkhole. To ensure clients are protected, real estate agents should recommend they hire attorneys with sinkhole experience.

“Buyers whose under-contract property becomes involved in a sinkhole should turn to their REALTOR® for a referral to a real estate attorney,” Nimkoff says. “Options for the buyers moving forward (cancellation or renegotiation of the contract; reimbursement or withholding of escrow) are subject to legal interpretation of the contracts and the language contained therein.”

If the sinkhole is discovered before the home goes on the market, both homeowners and real estate agents must follow local real estate disclosure laws. In Florida, the sinkhole must be fully disclosed using the appropriate forms.

“Sellers and their REALTORS® are required by Florida law to disclose the presence of a sinkhole; REALTORS® are further obligated to disclose by the REALTOR® Code of Ethics,” says Nimkoff.

Buyers wishing to walk away from a sinkhole property may be protected depending on the type of contract they sign. These contracts can vary by location and by attorney.

“Buyers whose accepted purchase contract includes an option to cancel pending satisfactory inspection results (or a maximum estimated repair amount) will most likely be able to walk away without losing their escrow,” Nimkoff says. “However, those buyers who utilized other types of contracts (such as an AS-IS) or who included minimal contingencies and wish to cancel the contract should consult with a real estate attorney.”

Remediate the Sinkhole
The good news is a sinkhole can be remediated if it is discovered before its collapse. The process varies depending on the severity of the sinkhole. Shallow, isolated sinkholes are typically repaired through excavation and the installation of a plug. If the sinkhole is deep, however, geotechnical contractors need to use special drilling equipment in order to fix the sinkhole without disrupting it. Some companies install injection pipes in which grout creates a concrete cap.

Of course, remediation does not always translate into a cooperative buyer. Sinkholes can be a deal-killer; however, a property should be remediated in any case to ensure the safety of the homeowner and their property. Insurance also plays a role, as added coverage may be required by the state once a sinkhole is discovered and remediated.

“The decision of whether or not to move forward on a property involved in a sinkhole is dependent on many factors that are personal to each buyer’s intent, the type of property, and the type and age of the sinkhole,” says Nimkoff. “Buyers should rely on their REALTORS® to guide them through all the things to consider as they make a decision.”

The best thing buyers and sellers can do is to become knowledgeable of which areas are more prone to sinkholes. While unpredictable, sinkholes have an easier time forming on specific land.

“According to the Florida Department of Environmental Projection, the entire state of Florida is made up of underground terrain (carbonate rock) in which sinkhole-forming processes are continually taking place, and there is no way to predict the formation of a sinkhole; however, there are definite regions where sinkhole risk is considerably higher,” says Nimkoff. “In general, areas of the state where limestone is close to surface or areas with deeper limestone—but with a conducive configuration of water table elevation, stratigraphy and aquifer characteristics—have increased sinkhole activity.”

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Real Estate News

HQ2: How the Experts Think Amazon’s Decision Will Shake Out

March 1, 2018 - 5:38pm

Since Amazon announced its search for a second headquarters site, experts have speculated on what city will become home to HQ2. In January, the company narrowed down its selections to 20. The area Amazon chooses can expect its economy to surge, and, in the housing market, an influx of new residents.

According to experts recently surveyed by Zillow, Atlanta and Northern Virginia are frontrunners. Twelve of the 85 experts who participated in Zillow’s 2018 Home Price Expectations Survey believe affordability, the availability of land and business-friendly incentives are what make Atlanta a prime spot.

Another 12 experts believe that, though costly, Northern Virginia is ideal for its proximity to Washington, D.C. Eleven others chose Austin, nine chose Raleigh and six chose Denver.

Los Angeles, Miami, Newark and New York are the least likely to be selected, according to the experts, chiefly due to congestion, high home prices and lack of incentives.

Whichever city wins, how Amazon has benefitted Seattle—where its current headquarters is located—could indicate how it will impact HQ2’s market.

“As the experience of Seattle suggests, Amazon will not only directly bring thousands of high-paying jobs to the chosen city, but also has the potential to transform the regional economy,” says Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “The local jobs boom that Amazon’s HQ2 promises will spur demand for the full spectrum of housing types, ranging from urban apartments to suburban single-family homes.

“Atlanta has the benefit of being one of the most affordable markets in the country, and is undergoing an urban renaissance with new public infrastructure providing attractive opportunities for employers seeking to lure young urbanites,” Terrazas says. “Northern Virginia has its benefits, as well, as it’s close to a highly educated workforce and a well-developed public transit infrastructure in the D.C. area.”

Amazon’s benefits, however, could come with drawbacks. A boom in the housing market could pressure prices, and more commuters could impact infrastructure.

“The potential economic benefits of hosting Amazon HQ2 are tantalizing, and will tempt the 20 municipalities still in the hunt to dangle significant tax incentives to get a deal done,” says Terry Loebs, founder of Pulsenomics, which conducted the survey with Zillow. “These cities should be prepared not only to justify their financial inducements, but to carefully weigh the social risks and costs that could accompany their HQ2 commitment. The mix and degree of these potential risks, such as diminished affordable housing stock, more congested roadways, and greater income inequality, vary considerably across the 20 markets.”

Amazon announced it would build the headquarters in October. The contenders: Atlanta, Ga.; Austin, Texas; Boston, Mass.; Chicago, Ill.; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colo.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Miami, Fla.; Montgomery County, Md.; Nashville, Tenn.; Newark, N.J.; New York, N.Y.; Northern Virginia; Philadelphia, Pa.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Raleigh, N.C.; Toronto, Canada; and Washington, D.C.

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Real Estate News

Property Coin: Crypto Investors Looking to Fix and Flip

February 28, 2018 - 5:18pm

Is blockchain the future of real estate transactions? So far, only a few contracts have closed through Bitcoin or other forms of cryptocurrency; however, with offerings being introduced, that could quickly change.

Aperture Real Estate Ventures, a real estate technology and investment firm based in Los Angeles, Calif., claims it has launched the first-ever real estate-backed digital currency, Property Coin. Aperture’s model relies on coin proceeds to power its real estate investment business, which focuses on acquiring distressed residential properties and rehabbing them, as well as writing loans to smaller investors who have the same objective.

“Unlike many cryptocurrency offerings, Property Coin’s proposition is straightforward,” said Andrew Jewett, co-CEO of Aperture, in a statement. “One-hundred percent of the net proceeds from sales of Property Coins will be used to invest in properties and loans identified by our proprietary software and our experienced team. Accordingly, Property Coin is designed to be 100-percent backed by real estate assets, giving each coin holder a fractional economic interest in the investments made by Aperture or its affiliates with the net proceeds realized from the sale of Property Coins.”

When buying Property Coins, investors are not only receiving a fractional percentage of assets owned by Property Coin and its entities, but coin holders will also own 50 percent of the net profits from the loan and property investments.

Built on Ethereum—another blockchain-based cryptocurrency not far behind Bitcoin in popularity—Property Coin is completely backed by U.S. real estate assets. Aperture asserts that all investments will be made using the experience of Wall Street and real estate investment professionals while also incorporating industry technology powered by data science.

Property Coin’s public sale began on Feb. 26 for its initial offering at 50 U.S. dollars each, or through the equivalent value of Ethereum or Bitcoin currency. Property Coin purchases are restricted to Accredited Investors who buy at least $1,000 worth of coins.

“We’re very excited to be able to offer this proprietary formula to cryptocurrency investors who want access to a diversified, tech-powered, professionally managed portfolio of real estate assets through Property Coin,” said Matt Miles, co-CEO of Aperture.

Of course, volatility remains an issue with blockchain technology. Aperture is relying on its reinvestment strategy to add token stability and to create renewed interest in the real estate investment market.

Stay tuned to RISMedia for more developments.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Real Estate News

Volatile Market Threatens Retirement Real Estate

February 26, 2018 - 4:57pm

The stock market has been on a volatile patch after plunging nearly 1,600 points at the beginning of February—and, while stable now, consumers and investors are watching closely. With many public pension plans tied to stocks, the incoming retirement community is hoping for a full recovery to recoup losses.

Many public pensions have already reported a loss. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System—the largest public pension fund in the nation—lost $18.5 billion in value over 10 trading days at the beginning of the month, according to the Wall Street Journal. While diversifying from traditional stocks and bonds decreases the risk of massive losses during a market drop, investing in alternative assets can introduce complex selling regulations and added fees.

Millions of government workers are relying on these plans, and with various states in a pension shortfall, employees are at risk of losing much-needed funds. The Wall Street Journal reports that most pension funds need to earn between 7-8 percent each year in order to pay for future benefits. According to Kiplinger, a few states are struggling to meet this goal: Illinois, Connecticut and Kentucky need to recover half of their estimated liabilities. In order to meet these objectives, hired firms are setting aggressive investment targets, which can potentially fund these accounts at a quicker pace, or may cause a steep fall-off, depending on stock market activity.

While most pension plans do not provide enough funds to financially carry an individual through their retirement, for many, they are the primary benefit they will rely on. For 30 percent of public-sector workers in 12 states, Social Security is not an option, according to CNN Money. The inability to control which assets their employer’s hired firm decides to invest in can be frightening for soon-to-be retirees who are watching funds diminish in the wake of this month’s market downturn.

What does this mean for real estate?

Future retirees, for one, may not have as many options when it comes to housing and paying off existing mortgages. Retirement-aged consumers who owe on their mortgage and do not receive the necessary funds to pay their debt, in addition to living expenses, may find themselves in a difficult situation. Individuals that were initially planning on downsizing and/or investing in a vacation property may find they need to refinance or risk losing their home to foreclosure or bankruptcy. These public pension plans in relation to stock market activity may also prompt homeowners to stay in their homes and at their jobs longer to secure more funds and ensure a financially safe future. With less downsizing, market inventory may be affected, creating shortages for move-up buyers.

With pension funds dwindling, the Public Pension Project—created by the Urban Institute’s Program on Retirement Policy and State and Local Finance Initiative—is working toward reform by examining current public pension trends and activity throughout the U.S. A State of Retirement map compiles this data to present detailed state-by-state information on plan rules.

Firms are adapting to the volatile market, selling off stocks and diversifying where needed, but only time will tell if these are sound investment decisions that will provide enough funds for the millions of Americans that need this income for their retirement and future real estate needs.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Real Estate News

IRS Clarifies Home Equity Loan Tax Deductions Under New Law

February 25, 2018 - 2:05pm

This year’s tax season is bringing to light taxpayer confusion surrounding The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which could impact homeowners in next year’s tax filing. The IRS is taking steps to clarify what the new provisions mean for the real estate industry and homeowners.

One of the most misunderstood provisions in the new tax law expires in 2026 and prohibits the deduction of interest paid on home equity lines of credit and home equity loans except when the funds are used to substantially improve the taxpayer’s home. The IRS recently issued a statement clarifying that the deduction has not been removed, but is instead available under new home improvement restrictions:

“…despite newly-enacted restrictions on home mortgages, taxpayers can often still deduct interest on a home equity loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC) or second mortgage, regardless of how the loan is labelled,” according to an IRS release.

Homeowners must continue to meet the requirements of the previous law, which stated the loan must be secured by the taxpayer’s main or second residence, and the funds cannot surpass the cost of the home.

National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) President Elizabeth Mendenhall commended the IRS on its efforts to clarify how homeowners can take advantage of the HELOC tax provision.

“The National Association of REALTORS® is pleased with the IRS announcement clarifying and confirming that under the new tax law owners can continue to deduct the interest on a home equity loan, line of credit or second mortgage when the proceeds are used to substantially improve their residence,” said Mendenhall in a statement. “There has been much confusion on this issue, and the continued deductibility will bring real benefits to those who choose to take on remodeling projects to bring more resale value to their home or gain equity that may have been lost during the downturn.”

Randy Noel, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders NAHB), also supported keeping this provision within the new law.

“The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) applauds [this] announcement by the IRS clarifying that households can take a tax deduction on a home equity loan or home equity line of credit if the loan is used for home improvements,” said Noel in a statement. “This is a major victory for remodelers and for homeowners who want to invest in their homes. NAHB has been pushing hard for this outcome since December, when The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was signed into law. We will continue to work with Congress and the Administration as they hammer out the details of the new tax law.”

Stay tuned to RISMedia for more developments.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Real Estate News

Why Your Mortgage Is Getting More Expensive

February 21, 2018 - 4:48pm

(TNS)—World events are conspiring to make it more expensive for you to borrow money to buy a house.

Mortgage rates have increased for five consecutive weeks, according to Bankrate data, bringing interest on a 30-year fixed rate loan to 4.44 percent—the highest level in 11 months—while home prices continue to rise due to a lack of available homes.

After years of tepid economic growth, animal spirits are aflame. Inflation and wage growth recently found a groove, while the Federal Reserve’s plan to raise short-term interest rates multiple times for a consecutive year has reduced the value of government debt. The yield on 10-year Treasuries is close to a four-year high. (Bond prices and yields are inversely related.)

Oh, and China may reduce its appetite for U.S. bonds.

Homebuyers Should Get off the Fence
Mortgage rates are moved by the yield on 10-year Treasuries, rather than short-term rate hikes by the Fed. That’s why mortgage rates fell throughout 2017, for instance, even as the central bank raised the federal funds rate three times.

Rates remain cheap, however, compared to historical prices. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage came with an interest rate above 6 percent just before the Great Recession in 2007.

Potential homeowners should get off the fence and make a bid, assuming you have an affordable home target and adequate savings, because rates are likely only heading north.

Why Mortgage Rates Are Increasing
You’ve seen this movie before.

Immediately after the 2016 election, investors sold government debt en masse, causing the 10-year yield to rise from 1.88 percent on November 8 to 2.60 percent five weeks later. That dramatic rise was predicated on investors thinking a newly Republican-controlled Washington would bring about faster economic growth through infrastructure spending and tax cuts.

Optimism waned throughout 2017, though, as the GOP failed to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, casting doubt on their cohesion as a governing party. The long-promised massive infrastructure bill never materialized, while the prospects of a tax overhaul dampened. By the first week of September, the 10-year yield was 2.05 percent.

But then Republicans made progress on a $1.5 trillion tax bill, while the employment picture continued to brighten, and the U.S. economy grew at a solid clip over the last six months of the year.

With Congress agreeing to a $300 billion spending bill—which will only throw more coal on the burning economy—investors see fewer reasons to own bonds. Economic growth and higher pay could result in long-awaited inflation gains. Prices have been rising below the Fed’s 2 percent target, according to the central bank’s preferred prices gauge, for years now.

Higher inflation is a boon for fixed-rate borrowers but hurts debtors. The January jobs report, which showed a 2.9 percent-year-over year earnings increase, was a signal to market observers that inflation may be coming.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported in January that China, the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, may reduce or cease U.S. debt purchases, causing market jitters.

Should You Be Worried?
Given the recent run-up in yields, you may be worried—but don’t panic just yet.

“This is not alarming,” notes Chris Vincent, fixed income portfolio manager at William Blair. “There is no significant drama in the credit markets.”

Markets, after nearly a decade of low rates and low growth, are adjusting to the new normal and corresponding volatility—and while China may own over a trillion dollars of U.S. debt, that’s less than 20 percent of all debt owned by foreign nations, and a fifth of what America owes itself.

You are entering a world where it’s going to become more expensive to borrow money. It’s time to get used to it.

©2018 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Categories: Real Estate News

Survey Finds Hidden Costs of Homeownership

February 19, 2018 - 5:04pm

(TNS)—Your day burns brightly on both ends.

You prod your kids out of bed at daybreak, get them dressed, fed and off to school. You drive to work, endure meetings, colleagues, power lunches, memos and strategy sessions, only to return home through gridlocked traffic just as the sun sets, beg your kids to eat dinner, wash them, coax them to sleep, do the dishes and then mercifully collapse in front of the television set.

You fret over your emergency savings account, retirement savings account, credit card debt, mortgage rate, health insurance, college savings, and on and on.

It makes sense, then, you’d opt to pay a cleaning or lawn service every week to lighten your load. Hiring someone to keep your property in working order, either on your own or through homeowners association fees, doesn’t come cheap, though.

More than three in five homeowners—63 percent—use at least one recurring home maintenance provider, while 35 percent use two, according to a recent Bankrate survey. The average homeowner pays $2,000 annually on maintenance services, the survey finds.

Costs of Owning a Home
The price of biweekly landscaping probably never factored into your calculus when deciding how much house you can afford.

The average home mortgage neared $250,000 last year, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, which came with a monthly principal and interest payment of $973, or about one-sixth of median family income.

Homeowners saw an average property tax bill of $3,300 in 2016, according to ATTOM’s most recent data, adding another $275 to your monthly budget. You’ll also owe hundreds more in insurance premiums depending on where you live and what type of house you own.

That doesn’t even include the money you need saved in case something unexpected happens. If your air conditioning unit or washer and dryer gives out, you could immediately owe hundreds, if not thousands.

Kevin Mahoney, CEO of fee-only financial advice firm Illumint, recommends to designate a savings account as a “home maintenance fund.” Mahoney, who recently bought a renovated row house in Washington, D.C., contributes $100 to $200 a month as a hedge against unexpected repairs and wear-and-tear. Maintaining a house fund will inoculate you against high-interest debt, leaving your budget open for routine maintenance services.

Cost You Probably Didn’t Think About
After the years required to amass a sufficient down payment—the average among new homebuyers is 11 percent—and all the big costs staring homeowners in the face, it’s little wonder if you don’t account for smaller fare.

But the price tag for convenience can rise quickly.

People who opt for housekeeping shell out an average of $285 a month, while HOA dues ($210) and landscaping ($144) followed behind. A home security system costs $130, slightly more than pool care ($123). Snow removal ($84), septic service ($67) and trash and recycling collection ($55) proved more affordable.

Unsurprisingly, renters are less likely than homeowners to pay for recurring maintenance services, and when they do, they pay less for most services.

On average, renters pay less for housekeeping ($128), HOA dues ($71), pool care ($70), landscaping ($61) and snow removal ($24); however, they fork over a little more for security systems ($142), septic service ($113), and trash and recycling collection ($63).

Nate Masterson, a director of Finance for Maple Holistics, pays $1,000 annually for gardening services, and another $70 to clear his Riverside, N.Y., home of snow.

“It would require a lot of strenuous work to perform either task, and it’s simply more worthwhile for me to pay a professional,” says Masterson, 34.

Make Sure You Account for All Costs
Americans broadly struggle mightily to save.

The average person wouldn’t pay for an unexpected $1,000 expense from their savings, per a recent Bankrate survey, while the median amount in a savings and checking account for a middle-income household has essentially remained flat over the past 27 years, according to Federal Reserve data.

Credit card debt recently hit an all-time high, while the personal savings rate has dropped precipitously over the past two years.

If you don’t have a fully-funded emergency fund comprising three to six months’ worth of expenses in a high-yield savings account, strongly consider suspending as many as these services as possible until you do. Dropping almost $300 a month on housekeeping while lacking $1,000 in the bank is simply too risky. What if the roof caves in? At the very least, start contributing to a home maintenance fund.

You may not have a say in other costs—trash collection and HOA fees were two of the three most common—but make sure to account for those expenses into your budget prior to moving in, and in your emergency fund.

Life’s hard, and there’s nothing wrong with paying someone else to mow your lawn. Unless you can’t afford it.

©2018 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Categories: Real Estate News

Buyers Entering the Market Solo Struggle

February 12, 2018 - 5:33pm

Accumulating a down payment is a struggle—and even more so for singles, according to a new report.

Singles are facing more than 10 years of saving, assuming they make a 20 percent down payment on a median-priced property, an analysis by Zillow reveals. Conversely, couples can do it in half the time: 4.6 years.

In addition, buyers have limited options when solo: 45 percent of inventory, compared to couples, who can afford 82 percent of supply.

“Nearly two-thirds of Americans agree that buying a home is a central part of living the American Dream, but for unmarried or un-partnered Americans, that dream is increasingly out of reach,” says Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “Single buyers typically have more limited budgets, which means they are likely competing for lower-priced homes that are in high demand. Having two incomes allows buyers to compete in higher-priced tiers where competition is not as stiff.”

The challenge is intensified in markets with rising values, the report shows. Couples face 14 years of saving in San Jose, Calif.—already a haul—but for singles, that span stretches over 30 years. In San Francisco, Calif., couples can amass enough for 20 percent down in 12.6 years, but singles have a longer road, at 27.8 years.

A handful of markets are more realistic for singles: Indianapolis, Ind. (7.5 years of saving); Cleveland, Ohio, and Detroit, Mich. (8 years); and St. Louis, Mo., and Pittsburgh, Pa. (8.1 years).

Across the largest metros:

Analysts assumed buyers are portioning off 10 percent of their income each year to savings. According to 2016 Census data, annual earnings were a median $80,800 for couples and $34,500 for singles.

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Real Estate News

Automation and Customization: Renter Wishes

January 27, 2018 - 1:01am

Apartment dwellers’ preferences are shifting…toward what owners want, new research shows.

According to the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), an apartment industry organization, convenience, personalization and smart home technology are high on renters’ wish lists. In the NMHC’s 2018 Consumer Housing Insights Survey, 92 percent of respondents believe convenience and ease are important in a rental. Further necessitating the need are the 63 percent of respondents who say they are busy with a “hectic” life.

Homeowners have similar tastes—in fact, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) found that two generations of homeowners are looking for walkability, and Coldwell Banker Real Estate research reveals 32 percent have incorporated smart technology, including smart locks and thermostats.

The ability to customize is also in-demand, according to the NMHC survey. Ninety-four percent believe personalization is significant, and 60 percent believe their home is indicative of who they are.

Seventy-eight percent, meanwhile, are after a rental that can be altered easily to meet their needs, whether in the future or the present. Tellingly, 40 percent expect to remote-work, highlighting interest in office space, or, at the very least, reliable cell reception and internet.

Source: National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC)

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Real Estate News

Amazon Closes In: What HQ2 Means for Housing in the Top 20

January 25, 2018 - 5:07pm

Amazon is a step closer to finalizing its HQ2 plans, having narrowed its sights on the top 20 contenders after receiving over 230 proposals from across North America. While the winning city could be any one of the short-list nominees, Amazon has made one thing clear: It is looking to build HQ2 away from the West Coast, which currently houses its principal headquarters in Seattle, Wash. Although Los Angeles is still in the realm of possibility after making Amazon’s top 20 list, most of the other locations are closer to the East Coast, with a few others scattered across the country.

Here are the cities Amazon is zoning in on:

  • Toronto, Canada
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Indianapolis, Ind.
  • Chicago, Ill.
  • Denver, Colo.
  • Nashville, Tenn.
  • Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Austin, Texas
  • Boston, Mass.
  • New York City, N.Y.
  • Newark, N.J.
  • Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Montgomery County, Md.
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Raleigh, N.C.
  • Northern Virginia, Va.
  • Atlanta, Ga.
  • Miami, Fla.

“Amazon will bring thousands of high-paying jobs to one of these cities and will boost overall local economic growth—all of those highly-skilled engineers will need doctors, real estate agents, barbers, babysitters and baristas, too,” said Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow, in response to the top 20.

With new job opportunities, the chosen city can expect a surge in relocations or commuters from those seeking employment.

“We would pull from other big cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati and even outside of the state,” says Lee Ritchie, REALTOR® and team leader of the Ritchie Realty Group at RE/MAX Metro Plus in Columbus, Ohio. “We are already pulling in people from outside of the community.”

Daniel Evenchen, REALTOR® with the Mike McCann Team, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach REALTORS®, believes Philadelphia’s prime location nearby other massive metro areas is one of the biggest reasons Amazon has short-listed it.

“Of a location perspective, we’re very close to Baltimore, Washington D.C. and New York, but, comparatively, we have a lot of room for growth,” says Evenchen.

If Amazon attracts more individuals willing to relocate rather than commute, the winning location will need to prepare for an influx of incoming buyers and renters. The top 20 cities are already making plans for the possibility of HQ2.

“It is affecting the decisions of buyers and sellers right now,” Evenchen says. “I have a lot of clients who are thinking of selling and brought up Amazon. They are kind of holding off on selling and are thinking of renting their homes instead so that the value of their home appreciates if Amazon comes through. Buyers are thinking this is a great time to buy, as well.”

However, adapting to a flood of new buyers will not be easy. Many of the top 20 cities are currently dealing with tight inventory, a problem that will only be exacerbated if Amazon moves in. The proof is in Seattle.

“…Accommodating growth on this scale will be a challenge for any city,” Terrazas said. “As Amazon grew from a startup bookstore into the nation’s dominant retailer, Seattle grew alongside it—which caused some growing pains. Seattle home values have almost doubled and rents have increased by half, straining affordability.”

Evenchen foresees a challenge in the new construction market. Since the rental market in Philadelphia is moving quickly, any incoming buyers who are looking for new housing may be met with few options.

“The Philadelphia real estate market is probably going to experience a very sharp increase,” says Evenchen. “Right now, the market is extremely soft. We are seeing tenants and renters really negotiating in a tough market. At this point, vacant land is extremely difficult to come by. It’s highly sought-after. [Amazon] would probably just reinforce what’s been going on.”

Ritchie believes Columbus will face similar challenges.

“Our struggle would be that we wouldn’t have enough inventory,” Ritchie says. “We need builders to construct more houses, and prices on existing homes would go up for sure. The Downtown Columbus market—the urban market—is very hot, and a lot of people want to work here. There will be plenty of rentals, but, at this juncture, we may have difficulty in this market.”

Regardless of challenges, these cities made Amazon’s top 20 list for a reason. Ritchie believes Columbus caught Amazon’s eye because of its ability to attract millennials, and its talented workforce, moderate housing costs and standard of living. Terrazas agrees.

“Columbus may be a surprise to some, but it has long featured a dynamic combination of size, affordability, access to higher education and room to grow,” said Terrazas, stating that the top 20 list is made up of well-established cities.

“Boston is home to some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, and clearly fits Amazon’s requirement for ready access to top-tier tech talent,” Terrazas said. “Austin has been among the nation’s hottest markets for several years now, and is also home to Whole Foods, which Amazon recently acquired. Atlanta and Pittsburgh have the benefit of being incredibly affordable markets, with some of the lowest median home values and rents among the top 20 list. Amazon clearly has a tough job choosing between these 20 unique communities, and it will be interesting to see how things shake out in the coming months.”

As for Philadelphia, Evenchen believes the location’s potential is in its diversity.

“It’s very much a big little town,” Evenchen says. “It’s a city of neighborhoods. It’s extremely walkable and bike-able. Our public transportation is pretty robust and there has been a great deal of investment in parks and recreation. They just dedicated $90 million to connect the Delaware River to the hub, making it a little more accessible to the waterfront.”

Meanwhile, other cities, such as Los Angeles, are already dealing with more severe challenges.

“With very dense buildings, there are only a few places in Los Angeles where there are walkable areas,” says Natalya Shcherbatyuk, broker/owner of Flat Rate Real Estate. “At the same time, traveling around the city by car is a nightmare. The streets and freeways are overloaded all day, and not only during rush hour.”

However, with every challenge comes an opportunity. Shcherbatyuk believes one of the city’s biggest obstacles may turn out to be an advantage.

“Right now there is a construction boom in L.A.,” Shcherbatyuk says. “There is an acute shortage of housing for rent [at an affordable price] and the expensive apartments are empty, so maybe it will not be necessary to build a lot of new housing for high-salaried Amazon employees.”

Over 85 percent of the cities that submitted proposals didn’t make the cut, and many feel Amazon is losing out on their location’s advantages.

“Obviously, we are all disappointed Amazon did not name Detroit as one of the 20 cities they will be further evaluating for their new ‘HQ2,'” said Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, in response to the top 20. “We are not deterred in any way, shape or form. Detroit is the most exciting city in the country right now, and the momentum continues to build every single day.”

Cities that were not chosen should not discount the possibility of other major tech giants making their way over. With the new tax bill in place, various companies have announced they are putting their tax cuts to good use.

“We have no doubt our best days are ahead of us,” Gilbert said of Detroit. “There are numerous large and small deals you will continue to see develop into reality in the months and years ahead.”

Apple, for example, announced its plans to build a new major campus stateside; however, the New York Times reports that Tim Cook, the company’s CEO, will not be following in Amazon’s footsteps, and instead using a different strategy to find Apple’s ideal location, rather than relying on a public bidding process.

Regardless of how these companies decide on new ventures, the winning cities can expect a bustling local economy that creates new jobs and a busy real estate market.

“It would be good for everyone,” Ritchie says. “For jobs, for new inventory, and, of course, for sellers whose home values would increase.”

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Real Estate News

Home Laundry: To Vent or Not to Vent

January 16, 2018 - 4:30pm

I once believed it was a forgone conclusion that when adding certain laundry appliances to a home, it would mean installing exhaust ducting and cutting a hole to the outside for venting.

However, a recent report from Michele Weaver at Design Basics, LLC highlighted a growing trend in ventless dryers that can be easily located and relocated within a home because vent piping, exhaust holes and venting to the outside are not needed.

The mechanics of a home dryer can cause energy and safety problems if lint becomes trapped in the vent. This demands more energy use and frequent cleaning. Weaver believes one of the major trends consumers will be seeing in these key appliances will be the further refinement of ductless technology.

She says vent hoses snaking through a home’s framing have become a leading cause of the 2,900 (average) home clothes dryer fires reported annually, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

J.D. Wollf at HomeSteady.com recently explained that a ventless or condenser dryer— also known as a Heat Pump Clothes Dryer (HPCD)—doesn’t need a vent because instead of expelling the hot, moist air, a heat exchanger removes the moisture from the hot air and “recycles” it, passing it back through the drying clothes. The excess water is then drained away or caught in a container that is later emptied.

The trade-off for energy savings and safety is a requirement for slightly more maintenance than vented dryers. Wollf says the condensing unit must be cleaned about once a month to remove any lint.

A study at the Florida Solar Energy Center at the University of Central Florida states that while an unvented HPCD uses less electricity than a standard resistance dryer, it was found to release significantly more heat than a conventional dryer during operation, demanding additional cooling energy that may compromise overall savings.

However, the study points out that with a current retail cost of $948, there is only a small premium on the HPCD dryers, making them cost-effective when chosen at time of replacement.

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Categories: Real Estate News

Infographic: How Recent Buyers Purchased Their Home

January 13, 2018 - 1:01am

Demand and home prices are increasing, but that has yet to keep homebuyers out of the market. Here is how they did it:

 For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.

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Categories: Real Estate News

‘Aging in Place’ Begins Early: Report

January 8, 2018 - 5:09pm

Homeowners are getting older, and to continue on in their current house, improvements are necessary.

“Aging in place,” however, is not just about adding railings and ramps—in fact, 46 percent of homeowners aged 75-plus began improvements early with the expectation that they would grow older, but stay put, according to a HomeAdvisor report. The most common remodels, the report shows:

  • Add Lever-Style Doorknobs
  • Add Pull-Out Shelves
  • Add a Smart Fire Detection System
  • Add a Smart Security System
  • Replace Stone/Tile With Carpet/Wood

Homeowners at an earlier stage, aged 55-75, are also making modifications, but not necessarily due to aging concerns (though they are, fortuitously, ideal for just that). These include adding automated features like a programmable thermostat or voice activation, and, in bathrooms, grab bars and higher toilets.

According to HomeAdvisor, a “holistic” movement is occurring—a comprehensive, and, at times, preventative, approach to living over the years. Early on, that could mean addressing issues that could be unsafe, like a cracked walkway. Later, that could mean cutting clutter and organizing (accessible storage, for example), or eliminating labor-intensive chores, such as adding gutters that clean themselves. The outcome is a lifestyle that is not only beneficial currently, but also crucial down the line, when age can impede the ability to carry out chores and upkeep.

Other key improvements to consider, the report shows:

  • Lighting
  • Modifications in Shower (Bench, threshold)
  • Moving Master Bedroom to First Floor
  • Ramps
  • Wider Doorways

Source: HomeAdvisor

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Real Estate News

Would You Play Pretend Neighbors With These TV Characters?

January 4, 2018 - 5:05pm

Good neighbors are hard to find—unless you live near your favorite fictional star. Which character on the small screen is the most sought-after in 2018?

The best on the block, according to the annual Celebrity Neighbor Survey by Zillow, are Leonard and Penny from “The Big Bang Theory,” with 19 percent of the vote. Leonard is played by Johnny Galecki, whose ranch in San Luis Obispo was destroyed in a fire last summer. Penny is portrayed by Kaley Cuoco, who, after briefly residing at Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian’s former home in Tarzana, made headlines with her single-gal spread.

One TV twist: Nine percent of respondents to the survey said they’re not fans of “Big Bang” characters Sheldon and Amy. The most nightmare-ish, however? Thirty-one percent said they’d dread living in proximity to the titular Simpsons—but 11 percent, still, said the opposite.

“‘The Big Bang Theory’ is one of the most popular shows on television, so it is not surprising that American adults chose its leading couple as the most desirable neighbors for 2018,” says Jeremy Wacksman, CMO at Zillow. “On the other hand, it wouldn’t be easy to live next to the Simpsons, who have spent nearly 30 seasons causing chaos for neighbor Ned Flanders and the rest of Springfield. However, as the stars of one of TV’s longest-running shows, the Simpsons are certainly beloved by some: they also tied for second on the most desirable neighbor list.”

The faves following Leonard and Penny in the ranking: The Dunphys from “Modern Family” (No. 2 alongside the Simpsons); Will and Grace from “Will & Grace” (No. 3); Jack and Rebecca Pearson from “This Is Us” (No. 4); and The Johnsons from “Black-ish” (No. 5).

After the Simpsons, the neighbors not welcome are: The Lannisters from “Game of Thrones” (No. 2); Olivia Pope from “Scandal” (No. 4); and the Jennings from “The Americans” (No. 5).

2018’s choices differ from those in prior years, when Americans were asked to pick a real-life star to share a fence with. In 2017, that honor went to the Obamas.

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Categories: Real Estate News

Borrowers Beware: These Mortgage Rules Could Soon Get a Facelift

January 4, 2018 - 5:04pm

(TNS)—Getting a mortgage today is much different than it was before the financial crisis.

Loans have to meet certain standards and there are many rules lenders and servicers have to follow. But after a shakeup in leadership at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the future of some policies is uncertain.

Here’s why: The new acting director of the CFPB, budget director Mick Mulvaney, is expected to review regulations that haven’t been finalized, and he may try to alter rules that are already in place.

Here are three policies Mulvaney could change and what adjustments to them might mean for homeowners and homebuyers. The CFPB has already announced plans to reconsider certain rules.

Home Mortgage Disclosure Act
When you apply for a mortgage, some information—including your race, ethnicity and sex—could be released to the public.

For thousands of lenders, reporting mortgage information is mandatory under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). While the law has been around since 1975, the amount of data made publicly available is increasing, and not everyone is thrilled.

The mortgage industry believes that publishing so much data raises concerns about consumer privacy. And there’s no way to opt out of having your information shared, notes Richard Andreano Jr., partner at the Ballard Spahr law firm.

“They expanded the data set so much that there was a concern that if it was all made public, at what point are borrowers able to be identified using HMDA data?” asks Alexander Monterrubio, director of Regulatory Affairs at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions (NAFCU).

Consumer advocates want more information released. Doing so, they argue, protects borrowers from discriminatory lending. It also holds lenders accountable for their actions, says Jaime Weisberg, senior campaign analyst at the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD).

The latest HMDA requirements went into effect Jan. 1, 2018, but the CFPB, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency announced that lenders won’t be penalized for mistakes made while collecting data in 2018 or reporting it in 2019. They also won’t have to resubmit data unless errors are “material.”

The CFPB also said that it would revisit certain aspects of HMDA.

“HMDA could be made almost worthless,” says Peter Smith, a senior researcher at the Center for Responsible Lending. “We need a good body of rules to make sure lenders are playing a fair game with consumers.”

Ability-to-Repay and Qualified Mortgage Standards
Another rule that has been subject to debate is the qualified mortgage (or ability-to-repay) rule implemented in 2014. It requires most lenders to make a “good faith effort” to determine whether someone can afford a mortgage and eventually pay it back.

Critics say the new standards have kept many people, including low-income individuals, from becoming homeowners.

The CFPB is obligated to review the ability-to-pay rule since the Bureau is required to assess existing regulations within five years.

With the CFPB’s change in leadership, there may be pressure to loosen lending requirements, says Barry Zigas, director of Housing Policy at the Consumer Federation of America. There’s already a Senate bill aiming to give qualified mortgage status to loans offered by many banks and credit unions without requiring the lender to meet every condition under the ability-to-repay rule.

The bill’s supporters say it would give more consumers access to mortgages. But Zigas calls it a “dangerous effort to undermine consumer protections.” If it passes, a financial institution may legally avoid going through all of the steps lenders take to ensure borrowers can repay their loans, like considering their debt obligations, verifying income and employment history, and calculating their monthly debt-to-income ratio

In 2015, the CFPB combined the mortgage disclosure obligations required by the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act under the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rule. One result of the TRID rule is that consumers preparing to close on a house have two documents explaining their closing costs and mortgage terms, rather than four.

While the new forms helped simplify the closing process for homebuyers, the TRID rule created other problems. For one, it could prevent buyers from closing on their homes as quickly as they want to, says Brandy Bruyere, vice president of Regulatory Compliance at NAFCU.

For many items on the disclosures, there’s little or no tolerance for last-minute changes, and lenders have had to choose between rejecting borrowers’ requests and eating additional fees.

The CFPB has worked to fix the TRID rule and clear up confusion for lenders. But it hasn’t addressed every issue, leading members of Congress to create a bill that would make additional adjustments.

“The TRID disclosures are solid, and any significant change would add additional costs and uncertainty to the closing process,” says Smith from the CRL.

Rules Won’t Change Overnight
The CFPB’s final rules can’t be modified without issuing a notice and asking the public for feedback. Take these steps to ensure your voice is heard, especially if you’re concerned about how rule changes could affect you.

Comment on any potential policy changes. When the opportunity arises, visit the CFPB’s website and comment on the rules the agency is proposing. “The CFPB doesn’t have to do what the comments say, but they have to provide a reason for not doing so to avoid the rule being struck down as arbitrary and capricious,” says Benjamin Olson, a former deputy assistant director for the Office of Regulations at the CFPB.

Contact your representative. Congressional leaders can review certain rules issued by the CFPB and potentially overturn them. That’s what happened with the CFPB’s arbitration rule. The policy would’ve made it easier for consumers to file class action lawsuits against banks, but lawmakers used their powers under the Congressional Review Act to kill it before it could take effect. Legislators are now considering the CFPB’s final rule on payday lending and may seek to repeal it.

Use the complaint database. If you’ve had issues with your mortgage lender or servicer and you’re having trouble resolving them, file a complaint with the CFPB. Typically, you’ll receive a response within 15 days. You can use the same database if you’re having problems with other financial entities, like the bank managing your checking or savings account.

If you’re looking at mortgage rates and preparing to buy a home for the first time, read reviews and do your homework before choosing a lender.

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