RisMedia Consumer Advice

Syndicate content
Updated: 4 hours 54 min ago

Breaking Down the Hottest Patio Trends This Summer

July 14, 2018 - 12:00am

Summer patio season is ramping up. The experts at Infratec say that outdoor design trends for 2018 are all about incorporating affordable luxury into your own backyard by turning your patio into a peaceful, lush oasis through low-maintenance water fixtures, a color refresh and vintage materials.

The company sees many homeowners gravitating toward easy-maintenance exterior garden designs that enhance physical and mental wellbeing with spa-inspired touches, like meditation benches, fountains, reflecting pools, rock waterfalls and zen gardens.

According to Infratec, low-maintenance water features can add visual interest and soothing sounds to a yard—even in drought-prone climates—because they actually require little water (and recycle the water they do use).

Kate Simmons at Decoist.com says cabana stripes can be found in this year’s collections, and this trend shows no sign of fading. She says that linen, teak and rope are a few of the materials designers are incorporating into exterior furnishings and accessories to give this year’s easy-breezy trend pizazz.

When it comes to outdoor style this year, Simmons says pink is the accent color of choice, especially if a hint of blush is introduced into your furniture vignettes.

Meanwhile, at FamilyHandyman.com, trend watchers are seeing patio furniture that mixes materials, such as metal and wood, instead of a single material, such as wicker.

If you have a covered deck or patio, the site says you can bring it up-to-date by adding a ceiling fan. If you haven’t installed a ceiling fan before, rest easy—you can do it yourself in less than a day, and you’ll be comfortable even on the hottest summer days.

FamilyHandyman.com also says that the days of small, bistro-style dining tables on the deck and patio are over, and that large-scale square and rectangular tables are hot.

As far as accessories are concerned, think bright and bold when it comes to fabrics for your patio furniture cushions in 2018. Go with yellows, reds and pinks that will pop against all that natural greenery, and your guests will be raving about your impeccable sense of style all summer long.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Breaking Down the Hottest Patio Trends This Summer appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Is Amazon Embarking on Home Insurance?

July 12, 2018 - 4:21pm

July 16 is Prime Day, and this year’s deals feature double discounts on Alexa-enabled smart home devices, including Echo, Fire TV and Fire tablets, Amazon reports. As the marketplace giant gets more and more involved in the lives of homeowners, could consumers start to see offshoots into other home-related services?

Amazon-run home insurance could be the company’s next endeavor, according to The Information, a technology website. Although Amazon has not yet provided concrete evidence for insurance plans, it would make sense due to the company’s most recent partnerships. From plans to create a line of robots to be used as homeowners’ personal assistants, to the latest collaboration with Lennar showrooms to promote its line of smart home products, Amazon is already deeply entrenched in the lives of homeowners.

The alleged reason for this possible next phase in Amazon’s services? The company’s various tech products could help monitor for dangers such as burglaries and fires, resulting in more affordable premiums, reports The Information. Amazon has already made moves into the healthcare industry to build out its medical supply business, so an insurance division isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

If Amazon did form its own insurance division, what would it look like? In order to beat out the competition, there may have to be a sizable price difference in premiums and an added catch for consumer convenience. A traditional financial model may not be feasible for a company that needs to juggle its Prime audience base, along with several other technological innovations, to stay relevant.

However, this could be more of a partnership than a foray into its own segment of home insurance. Since regulations vary by state, it would be difficult for Amazon to establish a national presence under its own umbrella without investing an abundance of time and money to maintain a legally intricate service. Another concern? Amazon would need to have the necessary funds available to create a pool of reserves for any upfront claims payments.

In order to cut costs, Amazon may be able to sell consumer information it gathers from its smart home devices—in December alone, the installed base of Amazon Echo devices in the U.S. amounted to 31 million units, according to Statista. This way, the company would be able to barter data in order to profit from already-established insurance institutions and further negotiate consumer discounts, similar to the way insurance companies currently provide credits to homeowners who have security systems installed at their properties.

According to Statista, the global smart home market will reach an estimated value of over $53 billion in the U.S. by 2022. Will future homes be run by Amazon? It’s starting to look that way.

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.

The post Is Amazon Embarking on Home Insurance? appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Buyers: Challenged by Student Debt? Consider Down Payment Programs

July 8, 2018 - 1:02pm

Student loan debt is one of the biggest factors impacting millennials’ ability to purchase a home. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), 80 percent of millennials do not own a home, and, of that, 83 percent say student loan debt is impacting their ability to buy. Millennials expect to be delayed from home-buying for a median of seven years, the NAR research shows.

There are alternatives, however, that millennials may not know about. In fact, according to a 2016 ATTOM Data Solutions survey, few buyers and real estate agents know about the close to 2,500—mostly local—down payment assistance programs. Across the 513 counties surveyed in the ATTOM Data Solutions report, buyers that used these programs saved, on average, $17,766 over the life of their loan.

From offerings that benefit first-time homebuyers to options for refinancing costly student loan interest rates, it’s important that today’s homebuyer is aware of all the viable options for purchasing a home.

What’s Out There?
For consumers who are having trouble saving for a large enough down payment, there are plenty of options that offer grants or down payment assistance. The National Homebuyers Fund (NHF), for example, has multi-state Down Payment Assistance (DPA) programs that offer closing assistance or down payment grants for up to 5 percent of the loan amount.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also has low- and no-down payment options via its Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program, which assists lenders in offering low- and moderate-income households with purchasing opportunities in rural areas, for which closing costs and other related expenses can be rolled into the loan.

Additionally, there are more localized options available on a state-by-state basis. Here are a few examples:

  • Baltimore, Md./Washington, D.C. – The Maryland Mortgage Program offers a discounted mortgage rate and up to $5,000 in down payment assistance when consumers purchase in a sustainable community.
  • Ohio Grants for Grads offers reduced-rate mortgages for first-time homebuyers who’ve earned their associate, bachelor, master or doctorate degrees within the last four years.
  • Rhode Island – The First Down Program allows first-time homebuyers to purchase a one- to four-family home or condominium with down payment assistance of $7,500, forgivable after five years of owning the home as a primary residence.

More and more companies are introducing homebuyer assistance programs to tackle the student loan debt challenge that many of today’s buyers are facing, as well; however, buyers and agents should first consult a financial expert before participating in or recommending these programs. For example, the student loan cash-out refinance that multiple lenders offer, which allows homebuyers to use their equity to pay off high-interest student loans, may not make as much financial sense with the introduction of the new tax bill. as home equity financing is no longer tax-deductible.

With other incentive programs, such as the Eagle Home Mortgage’s Student Loan Debt Mortgage Program, homeowners can pay off outstanding student loan debt (up to $13,000 for this specific program) by redirecting 3 percent of their purchase price to student debt payoff when buying a new home from the home builder. Buyers should carefully assess whether these programs are financially worthwhile.

These are just a sampling of the available down payment assistance and grant programs that can help consumers with high student loan debt achieve their homeownership dream. It’s imperative that real estate agents research these offerings in order to assist consumers who believe homeownership is still out of reach.

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.

The post Buyers: Challenged by Student Debt? Consider Down Payment Programs appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Millennial Buyers Face a Tough Housing Market

July 5, 2018 - 4:02pm

(TNS)—Yvonne Jimenez Smith and her husband, Brandon Smith, spoke in whispers recently as they visited a white stucco house they planned to buy on a leafy street in San Jose, Calif.

After six months of aggressive hunting, they were on their way to a small suburban home of their own after spending most of their 20s in noisy city centers.

“It was so quiet, it just seemed weird to speak out loud,” Jimenez Smith says. “We lived over a freeway entrance in San Francisco. It was always loud and we were always surrounded by people. It’s a big change.”

Like the couple from San Francisco, who are 28 and 30, other millennials are starting to follow in the footsteps of earlier generations and buy suburban houses after fueling a boom in city apartments. The share of 25- to 35-year-olds who own homes, which had been falling since 2005 as renting grew in popularity, rose slightly in 2017, according to a Stateline analysis of Census microdata from IPUMS-Current Population Survey.

Last year 32.3 percent of young people were homeowners, a slight increase from 2016 when it was 32.2 percent. That’s still well below the 45 percent in 2005 and the peak of 55 percent in 1980.

Millennials are hitting the market at a difficult time, though, with rising prices and few houses to buy as the housing industry has shifted to building more downtown rentals. Some people seeking to buy houses have been discouraged and have postponed the step, just as many have had to put off moving out of parents’ houses, forming couples and having children as they tried to build careers delayed by the recession.

Between 2011 and 2017, home prices grew 48 percent, while income for all age groups rose only 15 percent, according to National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) statistics.

“It just feels irresponsible right now,” says Jayme Fraser, a 28-year-old freelance journalist who considered buying a house in Missoula, Mont., three years ago but found prices too high. She and her husband, who is in graduate school, are now looking for a more rural home in Montana they can afford to buy while paying off student debt.

Student debt is a big obstacle to buying a home for many millennials, says Jessica Lautz, director of Demographics at NAR. The median student debt for millennials is $41,000, and they typically put off buying their first home for seven years after they wanted to buy, Lautz says.

Young people with college debt typically spend close to half of their income on loan payments, according to a 2017 study in The Journal of Consumer Affairs. This makes it almost impossible to qualify for a home mortgage with a small down payment.

“Contrary to popular opinion, millennials are not buying avocado toast instead of saving for a down payment; they’re paying their student debt,” Lautz says. “Somebody with $41,000 in student debt is going to be buying something far away with a long commute, or in a bad school district, or something too small. They’re not going to be able to stay there for long.”

Thirty-two is the median age for first-time homebuyers, according to a survey by NAR. That means many first-time buyers are squarely in the millennial generation, the oldest of whom reached their mid-30s in 2017.

The apparent increase in ownership in 2017, the first since 2005, was so tiny that it’s hard to say if the trend toward less buying and more renting is really over, says Chris Porter, chief demographer for California-based John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

Ownership is still “considerably lower than 10 years ago,” Porter says. “We may need another year or two of data to understand whether this is truly a reversal.”

Some young people who could buy houses are still on the sidelines, like Connor Coyle and his fiancée, Amy Branchini, both in their late 20s. Coyle, who works in wealth management, moved a few years ago from Manhattan to suburban Westchester County, N.Y., where he rents an apartment.

“Both of us were at the point where we wanted to get out of the city and live a more relaxed lifestyle,” Coyle says. The couple is ready to stop renting and own a house, but they just haven’t seen a house they love in their $500,000 price range.

“If we end up renting for another three years, that’s OK,” Coyle says. “What you’re getting for your money right now, to my mind, is subpar. Maybe in a few more years we can get something in the $600,000 to $700,000 range, and it will make more sense—we won’t have to put in $100,000 in renovations.”

In some expensive states, such as Hawaii, California and New York, and the District of Columbia, fewer than one in five millennials is a homeowner, according to the Stateline analysis. But in Iowa, the Dakotas and Minnesota, it’s close to half.

Today’s first-time buyers are increasingly living in ad hoc situations while they save, Lautz says, citing a survey from NAR. Twenty-one percent lived with parents, relatives or friends before buying in 2017, up from 12 percent in 1993.

Stateline’s analysis showed that the share of 25- to 35-year-olds in ad hoc situations, neither renting nor owning, has grown steadily from 21.2 percent in 2012 to 24.2 percent in 2017. Most in those situations are living with parents or other relatives.

A shortage of housing for sale is also driving prices up in some booming areas such as the San Francisco metropolitan area, where Jimenez Smith and her husband work and live. The area has added 189,000 jobs in the past three years, but only 14,000 housing units—the largest discrepancy in the nation, says Lawrence Yun, economist for NAR.

Other areas facing similar crunches are Boston, Washington, Orlando, Fla., Phoenix and Chicago, he says.

Even so, 25- to 34-year-olds are likely to insist they want to own a home in the future, according to the NAR survey.

The San Francisco couple felt the pressure to buy because their rent was rising and they were afraid that the price of a house would soon outstrip their income, even though they already could afford a $4,000 monthly mortgage and had saved about $150,000 for a down payment. Smith is a video graphics programmer for Apple, and Jimenez Smith is a policy aide for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

But in six months of shopping, they lost bidding wars again and again. Once they bid $350,000 for an empty lot with the facade and rubble of a burned-down home, figuring they could build a new home there for another $250,000. But someone else offered $480,000 for the same lot and is now trying to sell it for even more.

The couple feels lucky to have bought a modest two-bedroom house with 1,000 square feet of living space from a seller who turned out to be an acquaintance and helped them by accepting an offer matching the highest bid, not exceeding it.

“We were going through disclosures and praying it would appraise right,” Jimenez Smith says. “Fortunately, it did appraise right at $795,000.”

There were other scares. The couple had been counting on a new transit stop in the neighborhood that would have allowed Smith to commute to San Francisco, a doable but grinding hour and 40 minutes each way. The new stop was delayed, but Smith got his new job at Apple, about a half-hour away in Cupertino.

“Sometimes we worry that this is the top, that prices will go down, but our bigger worry was what if it goes up?” Jimenez Smith says. “If it went up to $900,000, we’d never be able to buy a house.”

©2018 Stateline.org
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Millennial Buyers Face a Tough Housing Market appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Blockchain Lending: Reduced Fraud or Increased Risk?

June 30, 2018 - 12:04am

Traditional lenders are transforming, adopting cutting-edge technology to stand apart from competitors and introduce an added level of security to financing. From AI-run algorithms to smart contracts, obtaining a mortgage could soon be a vastly different process than buyers experienced just 10 years ago. Industry disruptors, however, are looking to shift from the traditional model completely, threatening to take over the role typically performed by bank intermediaries, which buyers are accustomed to.

One new business claims it is the first company to apply blockchain to mortgages. Block66 is a blockchain-based marketplace for lenders, from which they can access vetted buyers looking to finance their mortgage. Co-founded in 2017 by CEO Joe Markham, CPO James Tuckett and COO Kamil Mieczakowski, the platform is set to launch in early 2019. The most significant benefit the company is advertising? Reduced risk for mortgage fraud.

“We created Block66 to offer new opportunities for borrowers and end the time-consuming and paper-driven processes in the mortgage industry,” said Joe Markham, founder and CEO of Block66, in a statement. “Our platform will make it easier for everyone to find what they need so mortgages can be approved and funded faster. By storing the history of each transaction on the blockchain, we will provide a valuable audit trail for lenders, which will help mitigate mortgage fraud.”

Additionally, Block66 states the addition of blockchain to a real estate transaction will reduce costs for buyers, as they will not have to be vetted via banks; instead, applicants’ information will be made public to any lenders using the platform. Block66’s loans, which will become asset-backed tokens, will reportedly play a role in leveling the lending playing field, allowing all types of investors (not only big banks) to participate, and giving way to increased applications for buyers who would not be considered worthwhile by larger banks.

“The idea behind mortgage tokenization is to bring in smaller lenders,” said Markham. “They are often reluctant to tie themselves to longer repayment plans but are more willing to lend capital to customers who aren’t always favored by traditional banking institutions, even though they are creditworthy.”

The risk? While bank intermediaries are often more costly—resulting from the manpower needed to not only vet candidates for creditworthiness, but to ensure financials are in order and paperwork is completely submitted—they often add another layer of security to the transaction that the new technology cannot be trusted to replicate at this time. Often, these banks become reliable vendors for real estate agents who have partnered with them, providing buyers with vetted mortgage lenders who not only get clients to the closing table, but also prioritize customer service and become community resources.

There are other challenges, as well. Smart contracts are not yet recognized by courts on a global level, an obstacle for Block66 when transacting across borders. Additionally, while applicant and property information is publicly displayed on the blockchain, the technology is still new, adding uncertainty into the equation for smaller banks who do not typically risk lending long-term loans. Applicants may still find ways to bypass this technology-based security and fraudulently represent the assets or financial history necessary to buy.

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.

The post Blockchain Lending: Reduced Fraud or Increased Risk? appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Analysis: The Price of a Property Ripe for Summer

June 24, 2018 - 1:06pm

With more activities, daylight, outdoor parties and vacations, summer is a precious time of year. Do you have amenities at home that make the most of the season?

According to new realtor.com® research, features that scream “summer” can earn homeowners more profit. An outdoor shower, for example, is at a 97 percent price-per-square foot (PPSF) premium—exceedingly high, because most are on properties on the water—while a barbecue grill, associated with summertime, is at 26 percent, and a pool and/or spa is at 25 percent.

“Buyers love special features that enable them to get the most out of the summer months, and are willing to pay more for a home that has them, according to our analysis,” says Javier Vivas, director of Economic Research at realtor.com.

MORE: Is ‘Green’ at a Premium? Depends Where You Purchase

However, location matters. According to the analysis, Massachusetts, Hawaii and New Jersey contain the most listings with outdoor showers, but New York, New Jersey and South Carolina have the highest premiums for them, at 256 percent, 164 percent and 140 percent, respectively. When it comes to BBQs, Arizona, California and Utah have the most listings with them, but only Arizona and California have the highest premiums (33 percent and 23 percent, respectively). Arizona and California are also contenders for the most listings with pools, but New York has the highest premium for one, at 224 percent.

When marketing a property primed for summer, the description is key, the research shows. In Michigan—where bitter winters and lake life meet—descriptions on listings mentioning “summer days” or “summer fun” command a 36 percent premium.

For more information, please visit www.realtor.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.

The post Analysis: The Price of a Property Ripe for Summer appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Smart Homes: The Way of the Future or a Risk to Homeowners?

June 23, 2018 - 12:01am

Glitches of early iterations aside, AI-based technology has come a long way, and has an increasingly active presence in the lives of homeowners who are looking for convenience and savings in a pushed-for-time era. From adaptive thermostats that automatically gauge energy usage and alter temperatures for optimal savings, to smart home speakers that use sophisticated artificial intelligence to provide services and information in real-time, a smart homeowner can now cross off a variety of menial tasks from their daily to-do list without doing more than speaking a phrase out loud or clicking a button on their mobile device.

What is the true cost of this convenience? Some gadget adopters are reporting invasion of privacy, security risks, and more. For those who have not yet invested in smart home technology, these factors are largely holding them back; in fact, it is the second-biggest reason for hesitation for 17 percent of non-users, behind price (42 percent), according to a recently released report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), “Smart Home, Seamless Life: Unlocking a Culture of Convenience.” In addition, 56 percent of surveyed individuals stated they would choose encryption to protect their data when creating their own smart home.

What are these misuses of technology that could lead to privacy or security risks? These are a few of the reported instances thus far:

  1. Gadgets May Be Susceptible to Hacking
    Last August, Wired published a story about a British security researcher for MWR Labs, Mark Barnes, who was able to install malware on an Amazon Echo device, turning it into a surveillance device that silently streamed audio to his own server. While newer models cannot be jailbroken this way, Amazon has not released any software to fix the issue with older units.

For the typical owner, this may not seem like a significant violation; however, this could lead to another type of home theft in which fraudsters break into homes looking to steal identifying information via smart home gadgets, leaving little to no evidence of their break-in behind. While Barnes installed code for the specific purpose of audio streaming, he clarified that the installation of malware could serve other uses, such as stealing access to a homeowner’s Amazon account, installing ransomware or attacking parts of the network.

  1. Smart Technology Could Lead to Location-Based Tracking
    Earlier this month, security investigator Brian Krebs reported on a privacy vulnerability for both Google Home and Chromecast—found by Craig Young, a researcher with security firm Tripwire—that leaks accurate location information about its users.

According to Young, attackers can use these Google devices to send a link (which could be anything from a tweet to an advertisement) to the connected user; if the link is clicked and the page left opened for about a minute, the attacker is able to obtain a location.

“The difference between this and a basic IP geolocation is the level of precision,” Young said in the article. “For example, if I geo-locate my IP address right now, I get a location that is roughly two miles from my current location at work. For my home internet connection, the IP geo-location is only accurate to about three miles. With my attack demo, however, I’ve been consistently getting locations within about 10 meters [32 feet] of the device.”

Google initially told Young they would not be fixing the problem; however, after going to the press about the issue, Young reports that Google will be releasing an update in mid-July to address the privacy leak for both devices.

  1. Glitches Could Lead to Invasion of Privacy
    According to local news stations in Portland, Ore., a resident (reportedly named Danielle) received a disturbing phone call from one of her husband’s employers telling her to shut off her smart home devices. After using Amazon devices throughout her home to control temperature, lighting and security, Danielle was made aware that a private conversation was accidentally recorded by Amazon’s artificial intelligence system, Alexa, and was sent to a number on the family’s contact list.

Amazon has since reported that the Echo speaker picked up words in Danielle’s background conversations that it interpreted as “wake words” for recording and sending audio to a contact; however, an article published by website The Information last July states that Amazon was considering obtaining recorded conversations and sending transcripts to developers so they can build more responsive software, making it unclear if these devices automatically record audio without waiting for “wake words.”

These Vulnerabilities Could Impact Real Estate
Smart homes are increasing across the country. According to Statista, a statistics website, the estimated value of the North American smart home market will be $27 billion by 2021.

Of course, the vulnerabilities that have cropped up for some users could have an impact on the selling process. For example, some sellers have already begun using their security systems as a way to listen in on prospective buyers or watch them as they visit the listed home, regardless of whether local laws prohibit these recording practices.

Additionally, if homeowners have devices such as Google Home or Amazon Echo, but do not have security cameras, how can they be sure that visiting buyers are not accessing sensitive information through these speakers? While agents always play a role in adding a measure of security by being present during showings, fraudulent activity that is internet-based only, such as obtaining online data through links, will be difficult to identify.

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.

The post Smart Homes: The Way of the Future or a Risk to Homeowners? appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Housing Starts Spike to 11-Year High, Permits Stumble

June 19, 2018 - 4:54pm

Following a dip last month, housing starts rebounded in May, up 5 percent to 1.35 million from the revised April estimate of 1.286 million, according to recent data released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Commerce Department. Meanwhile, single-family housing starts jumped up 3.9 percent since April to 936,000, the second-highest reading since the Great Recession, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Multifamily starts (five units or more) dropped slightly to 404,000.

Permit approvals fell 4.6 percent since April to 1.3 million; however, they are still 8 percent above the May 2017 rate, according to the data. Approvals for single-family builds were down 2.2 percent to 844,000 permits, and multifamily approvals came in at 421,000.

“Ongoing job creation, positive demographics and tight existing home inventory should spur more single-family production in the months ahead,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz, in a statement. “However, the softening of single-family permits is consistent with our reports showing that builders are concerned over mounting construction costs, including the highly elevated prices of softwood lumber.”

As for completions, rates bumped up 1.9 percent from April to 1.291 million, with single-family completion rates rising dramatically—11 percent from April numbers to 890,000. Multifamily completions came in at 389,000, down 14.1 percent from April rates.

“We should see builders continue to increase production to meet growing consumer demand even as they grapple with stubborn supply-side constraints, particularly rising lumber costs,” said NAHB Chairman Randy Noel.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Housing Starts Spike to 11-Year High, Permits Stumble appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

A Handy Guide to Starting a Home Remodel

June 18, 2018 - 4:48pm

(Family Features)—Apprehension and inexperience keep many homeowners from pursuing renovation projects that would make their homes more functional, enjoyable and comfortable. Getting your hands dirty on the front end—with some planning and preparation – is the best blueprint for a successful home remodeling project.

To help you start your remodel on the right track, consider these tips from Gary White with JCPenney Home Services.

Start with a plan
Although it may sound obvious, the first step really is to decide what you hope to accomplish with your renovation. At the least, begin to outline rough ideas to discuss with an expert. Reaching out to contractors before you’ve determined a basic idea for your project can waste time and money. Spend time listing the features you must have, as well as some nice-to-haves if budget allows. Also think about overall functionality, design and layout. If you get overwhelmed or need ideas, don’t hesitate to turn to online showrooms or magazines for inspiration.

Set a budget
If the sky is the limit, skip ahead, but if you’re like most homeowners, money matters. Have a clear idea of what you can afford to invest in your renovation before you get started, and if necessary, research the financing options available to you. Look for financing that provides deferred interest or low monthly payments to help manage the project cost. Setting a clear budget can help keep your contractors accountable, and it goes a long way toward ensuring you can enjoy your finished project without regret.

Draw up the plans
To help set your plan in motion, there are numerous online tools you can utilize to simplify each step of the process including design, budgeting and more. If you’re planning a home remodel, it can be helpful to find a comprehensive resource that offers a one-stop-shop for bathroom remodeling, countertops, custom window treatments, flooring, heating and cooling, water heaters and whole-home water treatment.

Involve a professional
Unless you have the time and skills, you’ll want a licensed and insured contractor to lead the project when you’re ready to get your renovation in motion. It can be wise to solicit multiple bids, not only to ensure you get the best value, but also to find someone whose work, style and experience is most in line with the needs of your project. After all, this person will be a big part of your life during a fairly stressful time period. Always check references and verify the contractor’s standing with local associations.

Get ready for work
Remember that you’ll need to create a work environment that is safe for your contractors and protects your valuable possessions. Establish a clear path to the project space for easy access and removal of debris. Furniture, appliances, room furnishings, valuables and breakable items should be removed from both the path to the work site and the work site itself. If your renovation project will involve an essential room, such as the kitchen or a bathroom, make alternate arrangements such as creating a makeshift kitchen with the bare necessities in another part of the house

Countertops 101
Kitchens and bathrooms are among the most common renovation projects, and countertops are often a focal point of these redesigns. However, choosing the right countertop can be overwhelming. Here are two of the most popular choices:

Granite countertops have long been the mainstay of a beautiful kitchen or bathroom. Granite is a natural stone, quarried from large stone deposits around the world. It can have many different variations of patterns and colors, giving each slab a unique appearance that is visually rich and dynamic.

In addition to its distinctive beauty and classic elegance, granite is also extremely durable. Granite is highly resistant to heat and scratches and, with proper sealing, offers good water and stain resistance and is easy to clean.

Granite typically needs to be sealed, both prior to installation and at least once per year. If properly maintained, a granite countertop will last for as long as you own your home, making it a potential long-term investment.

Quartz is another popular choice for countertops due to its durability, stain resistance and ease of maintenance.

It’s an engineered product made mostly from up to 93 percent quartz, a non-porous natural stone, combined with a small amount of binder and color. Small particles of glass or reflective metal flakes can also be added to some quartz designs to achieve a more unique look. The result is an attractive slab that can be made in a wide variety of tones and colors, and can be finished to duplicate high gloss polished stone.

Quartz is one of the most durable countertop materials and one of the easiest to maintain. It is highly resistant to heat, water and stains, including stains from coffee, wine, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar and more. Unlike granite, quartz does not need to be sealed, making it easier to maintain over time.

Source: JCPenneyhomeservices.com

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post A Handy Guide to Starting a Home Remodel appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

That Frequent Flyer Seat May Be Easier to Book—Here’s Why

June 11, 2018 - 4:15pm

(TNS)—Airlines are making it easier for frequent flyers to redeem their travel rewards, as major carriers work harder to keep their most loyal customers happy, according to a seat availability survey released recently.

American Airlines showed the biggest improvement, rising from the bottom of the pack to ninth in the annual survey, with members of its AAdvantage program able to book reward seats on more than 82 percent of flights, up nearly 28 percentage points from last year.

Overall reward availability for the 25 airlines surveyed increased to 73.6 percent, up 1.2 percentage points from last year.

“There is a recognition among the big airlines in the U.S. that there’s got to be a minimum amount of reward seats available, and you’re seeing them all kind of drift towards a band close to each other in the charts,” said Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorks, an airline consulting firm near Milwaukee, which conducts the annual survey.

Southwest Airlines repeated as frequent flyer champion, with 100 percent of seats available for booking through its Rapid Rewards program. The MileagePlus loyalty program at United Airlines ranked 12th at nearly 76 percent, up about 11 percentage points from last year.

The survey, sponsored by travel technology firm CarTrawler, was conducted in March and used 7,420 booking inquiries to assess reward availability for two passengers traveling from June through October. The maximum price for domestic travel was capped at 25,000 points or miles, depending on the loyalty program.

Frequent flyer programs have been around for decades, but the advent of credit card miles has increased traveler participation and competition among airlines in recent years. Sorensen said airline-associated credit cards account for more than 60 percent of reward miles accrued and represent an increasingly important revenue source for the airlines.

“When you are a cardholder who uses your charge card for everyday purchases, who buys tickets on the airline, you’re a really good customer because they are getting revenue from you from a variety of different sources,” Sorensen said. “Plus, you’re really engaged in a relationship with the company. You become tied through this net of accrual and flying the airline.”

Discount carriers such as Southwest and JetBlue, whose TrueBlue program ranked fourth at 94.3 percent, tend to make more seats available to frequent flyers than traditional carriers, the survey showed. But the huge gains by American represent the growing importance all airlines are placing on making loyalty rewards easier to access.

Josh Freed, a spokesman for American, said the carrier’s gains were part of a “long-running effort” to improve availability and catch up with its peers at United and Delta Air Lines, whose SkyMiles loyalty program ranked 13th in the latest survey with 72 percent reward seat availability.

“Our long-term goal is to be roughly comparable to the other big network airlines in terms of availability, and this is evidence that we’re making progress” Freed said.

A key change in the AAdvantage rewards program was opening up connecting flight availability, Freed said.

“That enabled people that don’t live in a hub city to have a better chance of getting the reward ticket that they are seeking,” he said.

©2018 Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at
www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post That Frequent Flyer Seat May Be Easier to Book—Here’s Why appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

June Is National Homeownership Month

June 5, 2018 - 4:28pm

June is National Homeownership Month, and the industry is recognizing the importance of homeownership as a milestone of the American Dream.

This year’s theme, set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is “Find Your Place.” HUD is one of many agencies that provide resources to help consumers obtain and sustain homeownership. Through its network of housing agencies, consumers can seek out counselors for homeowner education, foreclosure prevention and budgeting assistance. With mortgage options through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), consumers with low credit or low-down payment funds can reach their homeownership goals faster—a significant method of aid for millennials and upcoming buyer generations flooded with student loans, making it difficult to amass the funds needed for conventional financing. According to HUD, over 47 million homeowners since 1934 purchased a home with a mortgage insured by FHA, and around 40 percent of all borrowers purchase their first home using an FHA loan.

“Homeownership serves as an enduring symbol of security and prosperity, and it provides many Americans with a legacy they can pass down to their children and grandchildren,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson in a statement. “During National Homeownership Month, we recognize the abiding value of owning a home, and we rededicate ourselves toward helping hard-working families to find their place in the American dream.”

Although homeownership rates are currently stalled at 64.2 percent, experts say the lack of dramatic increase is a reflection of a market that is withstanding challenges such as low inventory and rising interest rates. While the number has not moved much since the first quarter of 2017, there have been gradual increases since 2016, following a significant drop after the housing crisis.

While the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) celebrates its commitment to homeownership year-round through resources provided on its Homeownership Matters and HouseLogic sites, NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall recognized June as a pivotal time to reaffirm the association’s mission to promote homeownership.

“National Homeownership Month is a time to celebrate and promote the modern American Dream of owning a home,” said Mendenhall in a statement. “Homeownership changes lives and enhances futures, and many Americans see it as one of their greatest hopes. These individuals are counting on the nation’s 1.3 million REALTORS® to champion and protect homeownership and help make it more affordable, attainable and sustainable. REALTORS® pledge to continue to lead efforts to ensure that the dream of homeownership is not only possible, but very real, for any and all who want to achieve it, so they can have a place of their own to make memories, start growing their financial futures, and build strong communities.”

In addition, Freddie Mac’s website for National Homeownership Month provides valuable resources for homeowners, such as educational articles, homeownership program statistics and opportunities consumers can take advantage of in order to make their homeownership dream a reality.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), primary residences are ahead of all other financial assets, business interests and retirement accounts, accounting for nearly one-quarter of all assets held by households in 2016, as reported in the latest edition of the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

“Homeownership is a primary source of net worth for many Americans, and is an important step in accumulating personal financial assets over the long term,” said Randy Noel, chairman of the NAHB, in an interview on NAHBNow.

In recognition of National Homeownership Month, NAHB is making a toolkit available for its members; the toolkit includes a video on the value of homeownership, sample social media posts, radio scripts and other talking points, relevant articles, and even print ads showcasing the benefits of homeownership.

Citing the passing of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act and this past year’s tax reform bill as recent progress, President Donald Trump released a statement pledging the administration’s commitment toward increasing homeownership incentives across the country:

“During National Homeownership Month, we affirm the joy and benefits of homeownership. For millions of Americans, owning a home is an important step toward financial security and achieving the American Dream. My Administration is committed to fostering an economic environment in which every family has the opportunity to enjoy the sense of pride and stability that can come with owning a home.”

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.

The post June Is National Homeownership Month appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

At Home in Retirement: Boomers Facing a Hard Truth

June 3, 2018 - 1:03pm

Baby boomers are on the cusp of retirement, but the ability to afford their desired lifestyle is at odds with their preferences, according to a recent report by The NHP Foundation (NHPF), an affordable housing nonprofit.

Of the boomers surveyed for the report, 85 percent want to be in the home they have now in retirement, but, of those, 76 percent have no budget for retirement, or anticipate half of their income will be Social Security—not enough to sustain, according to The NHPF. Despite the disconnect, 83 percent are confident their current home will be their home in retirement; just 17 percent believe they will have to move.

There are boomers who are concerned about housing, however; in fact, housing is one of their three top worries: being unable to afford healthcare (cited by 36 percent), being dependent on their kids (28 percent), and having to live in a home outside their standards (22 percent). For boomers, affordability is the No. 1 factor in their housing in retirement.

One-thousand Americans aged 50 and older (non-retirees) participated in the report.

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.

The post At Home in Retirement: Boomers Facing a Hard Truth appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Dodd-Frank Reform Could Make It Easier to Get a Mortgage

June 2, 2018 - 12:00am

(TNS)—It should be easier for you to get a mortgage now that President Donald Trump has signed legislation that will lift lending restrictions on community banks.

Congress on Tuesday voted in favor of rolling back Dodd-Frank banking rules, and Trump signed it Thursday. The reforms will ease some of the mortgage laws from the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, a massive financial law enacted in response to the financial crisis.

Thanks to the new law, more homebuyers are likely to get approval for a mortgage from their local community bank or credit union.

“Any changes to soften the lending aspects will make it easier for borrowers to get loans,” says Rick Sharga, executive vice president of Ten-X, an online real estate marketplace.

Here’s the Problem
Many lenders say the mortgage laws have become too restrictive for them to make mortgages outside of the so-called Qualified Mortgage rule. The rule is based on your ability to repay the mortgage by requiring that your debt does not exceed 43 percent of your income, but there are very specific requirements when proving your income. The task gets trickier if you’re a business owner, for example, and don’t have consistent income flows.

“Lenders, particularly retail banks, have just stopped taking on any risk at all,” Sharga says. “Getting those smaller lenders back into the game could have a material impact on the housing market.”

What the Bill Fixes
The new changes will allow community banks and credit unions to offer mortgages outside the typical Qualified Mortgage rule so long as they don’t sell that mortgage but keep it in-house. By holding that mortgage on the books, it would be deemed a Qualified Mortgage. The carve-out would apply to institutions with less than $10 billion in assets.

Many lenders think this change will allow more community lenders to offer mortgages. It will also be helpful for homebuyers, when mortgage rates are rising but still low.

It’s unclear how much of an impact the change to the mortgage laws will have on the housing market. A large portion of homebuyers already meet the requirements within the Qualified Mortgage rule. The Urban Institute says the Qualified Mortgage rule has had “little impact” on credit availability, though there are fewer mortgages being offered for under $100,000.

Congress’ move received praise from David Stevens, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

“I want to commend the House of Representatives for joining the Senate and passing this bill, which will protect consumers and provide greater access to mortgage credit,” Stevens said in a statement.

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

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Dodd-Frank Reform Could Make It Easier to Get a Mortgage appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

$1 Million: What It Buys in the U.S. Housing Market

May 29, 2018 - 4:17pm

One-million dollars is a lot of money to most of the world’s population, but it’s a drop in the bucket to a billionaire. The housing market in the U.S. seems to have a similar relationship with homes valued between $900,000 and $1.1 million: Some of them are sprawling estates, while others are considered middle-of-the-road homes.

HouseCanary examined homes valued around $1 million in different metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) across the country to determine what an “average” million-dollar home looks like, from San Francisco to Tuscaloosa, Ala. We found that what a million dollars will buy can vary widely from place to place—so if you’ve got $1 million to spend on a home, here’s what you can expect to get in return.

Where $1 Million Is Big Money
In most markets, $1 million will get you a lot of house, but they might not be considered mansion material. We found that in the preponderance of markets (110 out of 375 metro areas), a million-dollar home is somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet. But there are also some markets where you can buy a true mansion or estate if you’re willing to spend between $900,000 and $1.1 million.

Those markets tend to be at least somewhat off the beaten path, so you may be sacrificing some shopping convenience, access to airports, or proximity to cultural, sports, or other local assets. And those markets may not also have relatively high household income, meaning you’ve got to save for a lot longer to make that million-dollar down payment. But the amount of room you’ll get to spread out and do your thing might make that kind of sacrifice well worth it!

Ohio is one state with several big cities, but it’s in unassuming Lima, about 90 minutes northwest of Columbus, where you’ll find the best deals for $1 million. The average million-dollar home in Lima, Ohio, is 9,435 square feet and sits on a four-acre lot. It has five-plus bedrooms, four bathrooms, and 4-5 parking spots. For that million-dollar home, buyers pay about $105.99 per square foot.

In Lima, most homes are very affordable. To pay a mortgage on a median-priced home in Lima, the median-income household would spend 17.30 percent of its income. The median household income in Lima is $45,575, and you can still buy a home there for much less than $100,000. So it’s not surprising that the two million-dollar homes in Lima are much larger than average!

You’ll find similar bang for your million-dollar buck in Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, Ala., about an hour and 20 minutes northeast of Birmingham, where the average million-dollar home is 8,354 square feet and sits on a five-acre lot. It has three bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, and 4-5 parking spaces. The price-per-square foot in this corner of Alabama for a million-dollar home is about $119.70.

Homes are also very affordable in Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, with the median household spending just shy of 17 percent of total household income ($41,954 annually) on a median-priced house.

Texas is another state with several big cities—Houston and Dallas are two of the biggest cities in the country. In Wichita Falls, Texas, about two hours and change northeast of Dallas, your average million-dollar home comes on a whopping 60-acre lot and is 7,852 square feet. The price-per-square foot is about $127.36—still very reasonable. It has five bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms and four parking spots, and the median household in Wichita Falls spends just 13.94 percent of its annual $46,043 income on a median-priced home.

$1 Million in the Middle
Even though there are more homes between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet than between 4,000 and 5,000, the average square footage for a million-dollar home across all metros studied is 4,305 square feet—which is quite a bit of room to stretch out, but still only about half the size of the biggest million-dollar homes in the country.

In the Nashville MSA (which also includes Davidson, Murfreesboro and Franklin, all in Tennessee), an average million-dollar home is 4,302 square feet, with 3-4 bedrooms, four bathrooms, and three parking spots nestled on a 0.96-acre lot. The price-per-square foot is $232.45—more than double the price per square foot in Lima, Ohio.

Affordability in Nashville is also middle-of-the-road: Most economists suggest that households spend no more than 30 percent of their total income on housing, and in Nashville, a median-priced house costs 30.5 percent of the median household income, which is $56,152 annually.

Richmond, Va., and St. Louis (spanning both Missouri and Illinois) are also relatively average markets. In Richmond, an average million-dollar house is 4,312 square feet on an 0.85-acre lot, with four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and two parking spots. The price-per-square foot is $231.91, slightly lower than in Nashville. A median home for a median household in Richmond uses 29.17 percent of its $61,124 annual household income.

And in St. Louis, the average million-dollar home is 4,330 square feet on a 0.93-acre lot. It also has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and two parking spots. The price-per-square foot is very close to both Richmond and Nashville at $230.95. In St. Louis, the median household (which makes $56,726 per year) spends 21.83 percent of its income on a median-priced home.

Million-Dollar Babies
It makes sense that in areas where housing is more affordable, million-dollar homes are larger. But what happens when affordability starts to creep up (and up…and up)?

As you might guess, when affording a home captures more and more of a median household’s income, the million-dollar homes get smaller. The smallest average million-dollar home in the country is in San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., at 1,576 square feet, on a 0.13-acre lot. It has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and two parking spots, and in this MSA, the median household spends 76.33 percent of its income ($100,469 annually) on a median-priced home. The price-per-square foot is an eye-popping $634.52, almost six times what you’d pay in Lima, Ohio, for a home.

In San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., you’ll find a slightly bigger average million-dollar home at 1,600 square feet, on a 0.13-acre lot, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and two parking spots. The price-per-square foot is $625, just $9.52 lower than in San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara. A median household in the Bay Area makes $85,947 per year and typically spends 80.20 percent of its total income on a median-priced home.

Honolulu is another market with small average million-dollar properties. In Honolulu, the average million-dollar home is 1,846 square feet on a 0.15-acre lot, with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and two parking spots. The price-per-square foot for a Honolulu million-dollar home is $541.71—definitely more reasonable than its San Francisco counterparts, but still almost double what you’d pay in Nashville, Richmond or St. Louis. The median household in Honolulu (which makes $77,161 per year) spends 61.62 percent of its income on a median home—still more than double the recommended amount, but much more reasonable than San Jose or San Francisco.

In Boulder, Colo., you can get slightly more square footage for a million dollars than in San Francisco. The average Boulder million-dollar home is 2,270 square feet on a 0.24-acre lot, costing $440.53 per square foot. It has four bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, with two parking spots, and the median household spends just over half (51.39 percent) of its $72,282 annual income on a median home.

If I Had a Million Dollars…
Would you rather have a vast estate in Lima, Ohio, or Wichita Falls, Texas, or a cozy family home in San Francisco or Honolulu? Maybe opting for something middle-of-the-road in St. Louis or Nashville makes more sense…and it’s less square footage to clean!

This was originally published on HouseCanary. For more information, please visit www.housecanary.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post $1 Million: What It Buys in the U.S. Housing Market appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Listing This Summer? The Best Investments to Make Outdoors

May 28, 2018 - 4:01pm

Are you listing this summer? Get your outdoors in shape—it can pay off.

According to National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) research, certain exterior improvements are likely to recoup at resale. Based on feedback from REALTORS®—who, through their experience, know what house hunters are ready to spend on—the best enhancements are lawn care, landscape maintenance and tree care, and installing an irrigation system. Landscape/lawn care pays for itself—generally 100 percent of the expense or more is recovered, according to the research—while irrigation has a promising ROI of 86 percent.

For homeowners not selling yet, exterior improvements can be satisfying in and of themselves. Assigning a “Joy Score” from one to 10, with 10 anteing up the most enjoyment, both a fire feature and an irrigation system earned 10s, followed by a new wood deck or water feature (both 9.8s), “statement landscaping” (9.7) and an “overall landscape upgrade” (9.6), the research shows.

“REALTORS® understand that a home’s first impression is its curb appeal, so when it comes time to sell, a well-manicured yard can be just as important as any indoor remodel,” says NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall. “Even homeowners with no immediate plans to sell can gain more enjoyment and satisfaction from their home by taking on a project to revive their outdoor spaces.”

MORE: A Front Door, Flooring and Other ‘Happy’ Home Upgrades

Additionally, appearances matter beyond the residential space. Forty-three percent of REALTORS® have advised a commercial owner to improve the outside of the property, including lawn care, landscape management and an “overall landscape upgrade,” the research shows.

“It is not just homeowners that need to think about curb appeal when it comes time to sell; a beautiful exterior is just as important for commercial property owners,” Mendenhall said. “In fact, 81 percent of REALTORS® said they believe curb appeal is important in attracting a buyer.”

“This report validates that landscaping is an investment worth making, offering the immediate benefits of increased enjoyment of your property, as well as desirable long-term value that holds if or when it comes time to sell,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president, Public Affairs, at the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), which collaborated with NAR on the report. “From lawn and tree care to installing a new fire or water feature or landscape lighting, there’s no shortage of opportunities to enhance your landscape and to reap the benefits these upgrades provide.”

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

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.

The post Listing This Summer? The Best Investments to Make Outdoors appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Zillow: $40 Billion to Flood Into Housing Market, Even as Homeowner Incentives Limited

May 22, 2018 - 3:51pm

Americans’ earnings, generally, have gotten a lift on payday as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. With cuts come more discretionary spending—and, although there are changes to homeowner incentives, almost $40 billion of it is going into the housing market, according to a new report by Zillow.

“Despite new limits to two longstanding tax benefits for homeowners, the typical American taxpayer saw their tax burden fall in 2018 as a result of tax reform,” says Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “Some of these tax savings will still find their way into the American housing market, even though they were not explicitly targeted there, as renters and homeowners decide to use their tax savings to rent or buy a bigger home, or renovate their existing home.”

Approximately $13.2 billion is estimated to flood into market as owners and renters trade up, while $24.7 billion is expected to be invested in remodeling projects, the report reveals. With an average $1,610 saved per taxpayer (according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center), homeowners are projected to spend 15 cents on the dollar to renovate; renters, 11 cents to trade up.

The disparity between dollars for remodeling and trading up is in line with a growing trend: homeowners are forgoing moving up and investing in projects instead of purchasing. While the existing housing stock is in need of updates, when homeowners stay put, inventory shrinks—and currently, inventory is at its lowest on record.

According to the report, compared to higher-income households, Americans in the bottom income tier—who average $60 in savings from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—are allocating more of those savings to trade up.

“Lower-income households will spend more of their tax cut on buying or renting a bigger home, adding demand to an already rapidly appreciating housing market,” Terrazas says.

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.

The post Zillow: $40 Billion to Flood Into Housing Market, Even as Homeowner Incentives Limited appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Appreciation Linked to Population Rise

May 21, 2018 - 3:52pm

Appreciation and demand go hand in hand, and for investors, both are key to profit, according to a new report.

Assessing the association between growing interest and mounting prices, analysts at HouseCanary found that appreciation is higher where inbound migration numbers are swelling. Boise, Idaho, for example, has had a high influx of new residents, and a corresponding increase in prices across all property types—from 2010 to 2017, Boise greeted more than 57,600 new residents, while apartments appreciated 7.7 percent year-over-year, condo prices rose 7 percent year-over-year, and prices on single-family steepened 5.7 percent year-over-year.

In addition to Boise, HouseCanary found the migration pattern-price relationship in the Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach and Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla., metros (a combined 404,000-plus new residents); the Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev., metro (approximately 181,900 new residents); the Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, Calif., metro (approx. 99,200 new residents); the Salt Lake City, Utah, metro (approx. 71,200 new residents); and the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., metro (310,560 new residents).

Beyond the correlation between demand and prices, apartments and condos, generally, have faster-growing prices than in the single-family segment, according to the report.

For more information, please visit www.housecanary.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.

The post Appreciation Linked to Population Rise appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Hawaii Volcano Victims Can Get Relief on Mortgage Payments

May 21, 2018 - 3:37pm

(TNS)—If you live in an area of Hawaii that’s been impacted by the Kilauea volcano eruption, your mortgage lender may offer you relief. The eruption has destroyed 26 homes (at press time), and more homes are still at risk.

Wells Fargo and Bank of Hawaii have implemented disaster relief policies for those affected by Kilauea. If your home was destroyed or damaged by the eruption, call your mortgage lender to see if it’s offering assistance.

Wells Fargo will postpone payments for up to 90 days when the customer contacts them to discuss their situation.

“During this time, all negative credit bureau reporting, late fees, collection calls, and foreclosure referrals and sales are also suspended,” says Paul Gomez, vice president of Corporate Communications at Wells Fargo.

Bank of Hawaii offers a grace period for borrowers who either can’t make their mortgage payments or are facing foreclosure.

“We are definitely suspending foreclosures and evictions during this time of hardship, says Stafford Kiguchi, media representative for Bank of Hawaii. “The initial period of time is for the length of the emergency loan program, which is six months for forbearance; however, we will work with each borrower to suspend foreclosure for as long as it takes to recover their repayment capacity. If the hardship turns out to be more than a temporary situation, we have other, long-term relief programs, such as our loan modification program, which permanently lowers a borrower’s monthly payment.”

Bank of Hawaii is also making cash accessible for people in need through special loan programs. Some features include low interest rates; deferred payments for the first three months; fast approval; reduced payments, with loan terms up to 60 months; and loan amounts up to $25,000.

Qualified borrowers can use funds for:

  • Emergency supplies and living essentials
  • Home or vehicle repairs or replacement
  • Bridging working capital needs

Bank of Hawaii customers may also be eligible to receiving forbearance and extensions on loans.

When homes are damaged or destroyed by fire, even if lava flow causes it, standard homeowners insurance policies should cover the damage, says Kirk Christman, principal at the ACW Group, headquartered in Hawaii.

Standard homeowners insurance policies are usually “all risk” policies, which cover any risk except for specifically excluded perils. Excluded risks typically include events such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and floods.

“Because most of the damage is caused by fire due to the heat from the lava, homeowners should be able to file a fire claim, which is normally covered in most policies,” Christman says.

Be sure to turn in your claim to your insurance company and let them determine coverage.

If your lender is not proactively offering forbearance or other help, you can go directly to the websites of the Federal Housing Finance Agency or the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to see what type of relief you might be eligible for, and then bring it up to your lender. You also can use these sites to find the name of the lender that owns your mortgage and where to go if the company doesn’t cooperate.

Just because a lender provides “relief” does not mean it’s forgiving you for any of the mortgage debt you owe. Even with the forbearance programs backed by the government, the amount that is deferred will be owed down the road.

Be cautious of calls from people claiming to offer mortgage relief on behalf of a government agency or asking for fees upfront for a loan or service.

When talking with the lender, ask for written confirmation and contact information in case you have any follow-up questions or concerns.

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

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Hawaii Volcano Victims Can Get Relief on Mortgage Payments appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Amazon Experience Centers Look to Transform Smart-Home Shopping

May 19, 2018 - 12:01am

Amazon is making moves yet again. As a way to market its smart-home business segment without having to invest in conventional store locations, the online marketplace giant has partnered with Lennar Corporation to provide connectivity demos of Alexa-enabled products—everything from video doorbells and smart shades to lighting and scheduled deliveries—within the homebuilder’s model homes, calling these showrooms Amazon Experience Centers.

“Amazon’s ability to bring a home to life with Alexa smart-home experiences, entertainment and services—coupled with their obsession with customer experience—is a natural extension of our Everything’s Included approach to home-building,” said David Kaiserman, president of Lennar Ventures, in statement. “We picked Amazon because of our shared commitment to customers, their Amazon experts across the country, and their ability to connect customers with thousands of service providers through Amazon Home Services.”

These Centers are already open to the public in certain Lennar communities, including in Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Within these model homes, prospective buyers can test-control thermostats, lights, shades, locks, televisions and more using Amazon’s trademark smart speaker, Echo, and Alexa AI.

“We wanted customers to experience a real home environment that showcases the convenience of the Alexa smart-home experience, great entertainment available with Prime and Home Services,” said Nish Lathia, general manager of Amazon Services, in a statement. “We are excited to extend our relationship with Lennar with the launch of Amazon Experience Centers. As one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, Lennar offers the potential to enable this experience within easy driving distance of millions of customers.”

Along with its smart speaker offerings, Amazon is also promoting Prime and Home Services, creating an intelligent home environment that is being touted as a money- and time-saver. For example, with Amazon’s Dash series, homeowners would be able to simply press a button to reorder any essentials, such as household items, favorite snack foods, pet supplies and more.

No doubt Lennar will see increased traffic to its model homes because of the partnership, but is this just Amazon’s next step in a larger campaign to fully entrench itself in the real estate industry? Its recent progressions pointing to—yes—talks of a robot give a glimpse into Amazon’s planned future for AI-run households.

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.

The post Amazon Experience Centers Look to Transform Smart-Home Shopping appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Voice Activated: Do You Talk to Your Tech?

May 15, 2018 - 3:58pm

How many of us are talking to our tech on a regular basis?

Ken Olmstead at the Pew Research Center recently highlighted the fact that nearly half of U.S. adults (46 percent) say they use voice-controlled assistants and applications to interact with smartphones and other devices.

Just over half (55 percent) say “a major reason” they use voice assistants is to permit hands-free interaction with devices.

The Pew study affirmed that voice assistant technology is being widely used to remotely control connected systems, including “smart home” lighting and heating devices. In fact, more than a quarter (26 percent) surveyed use voice assistants to connect remotely to those apps and devices.

So where are the newest voice control technologies being integrated in 2018?

Kohler, the global designer of kitchen and bath products, has introduced Konnect. This new platform allows consumers to conveniently personalize their experience with a growing number of the company’s products through voice control.

Claiming to have delivered the first voice-activated product line for the kitchen and bath, Konnect offers support through Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit.

Say the word and adjust the company’s lighted mirror, order up a soak with their voice-activated bathtub faucet, pick your spritz with their voice-command shower systems—and, yes, even apply a number of controls to the toilet!

Kristen Hicks at SeniorAdvisor.com says voice-activation improvements like these are helping countless homeowners age in place, by turning lights on and off, keeping grocery and to-do lists, reminding folks to take meds, changing interior temperature settings, using voice-activated technology to be sure doors are locked, and, most importantly, calling for help in an emergency. Hicks says while many home alert systems require reaching a phone or a button, a voice command can be issued without having to move.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Voice Activated: Do You Talk to Your Tech? appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News