Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Why More Americans Are Heading South

A rising number of Americans are heading to southern states, lured by a combination of warmer weather, affordable housing, lower taxes, and less congested cities, according to a new report published by RealtyTrac called “The Next Great Migration of ‘Housing Refugees’ On the Move.” 
Where Are People Going?
New census data confirm the findings. Since 2014 alone, more than 1.4 million people have moved to the Sun Belt, mostly from the Northeast and Midwest, according to Census Bureau data.
That marks a stark difference to previous mobility trends. For more than a century, Americans predominantly headed west to cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle. But lately, that migration trend is taking a turn south.
“This 20th century movement west, which has dominated American demographic patterns for decades, may now be reversing itself in the 21st century as rising housing costs, stagnant job creation, restrictive land-use laws and no-tax states, pull Californians, Midwesterners and Northeasterners eastward and southward to less costly regions and more business-friendly states in the Sun Belt,” RealtyTrac’s report notes. 
Americans are fleeing pricey coastal states like California and New York and heading to states considered more affordable, such as Texas, Florida, and the Carolinas, according to a recent United Van Lines report.
During the Great Recession, populations in the Sun Belt saw a decline, but now analysts are saying there’s a renewed “Snow Belt–to–Sun Belt migration pattern,” notes William H. Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
Florida is especially feeling a heat wave of new residents. For the first time in nearly a decade, Florida added more people than California between July 2014 and July 2015, according to Census Bureau data. That helped Florida emerge as the third most populous U.S. state, jumping ahead of New York (and following California and Texas).
Source: RealtyTrac

Foreclosure Firms Look to Rebrand Themselves

As foreclosures lessen their imprint around the nation, firms who specialize in foreclosures are finding they may need to expand their services to attract more clients.
The Turnaround Continues
This trend is especially apparent already among mortgage servicers, The Wall Street Journal reports. For example, Nationstar Mortgage Holdings Inc., which was mostly known for servicing delinquent loans, plans to change its name entirely to “Mr. Cooper” this summer. It plans to expand its traditional mortgage servicing business under its new name “Mr. Cooper” (a name that it hopes will project a more personal image to customers). Auction.com recently changed its name to “Ten-X.” Also, in expanding its business among investors who want to buy or rent out single-family homes, the firm Altisource Portfolio Solutions purchased last year RentRage, a rental data firm, as well as Investability, a real estate investment website.
By the end of last year, about 3.4 percent of mortgages were 90 or more days past due. That is far off from the peak of 9.7 percent during 2009, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.
“Many companies that made their bread and butter addressing the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis are expanding into other areas of the mortgage and real estate businesses, in a bid to remain relevant or maintain growth as the housing market continues to strengthen,” The Wall Street Journalreports. “Some are buying or launching completely new business lines that they hope can thrive as home prices rise. In the most extreme cases, the companies have decided it makes sense to take on a completely new identity to separate themselves from their foreclosure-related pasts.”
For those who don’t change their business change, “there's a risk of extinction for companies that are either slow to realize the change in the market or simply don't adapt,” says Ed Delgrado, chief executive of the Five Star Institute, an education and training program for the mortgage industry. “You can expect to see both contraction and extinction of some of these organizations.”
Source: “Foreclosure Firms Reinvest Themselves,” The Wall Street Journal (March 30, 2016) [Log-in required.]

Memory Loss From Aging Raises Housing Concerns

As baby boomers begin to enter retirement years, new challenges will likely arise with “significant implications” within home ownership, notes researchers in a new report, “Cognition and the Housing Behavior of Americans,” released by the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Research Institute for Housing America.
"In particular, given the impact of aging on memory and other cognitive skills, there is a need to consider the implication for financial decisions made by older individuals,” notes the paper’s author, Gary V. Engelhardt, a professor at Syracuse University. “By the time individuals are arriving into traditional retirement ages, when many important financial decisions are made, cognitive skills are already in decline as part of normal cognitive aging." 

Among some of the report’s key findings are:
  • 28% of home owners and 36% of renters aged 65 and older in 2012 rated themselves as having a fair or poor memory. 
  • 7% of home owners and 16% of renters aged 65 and older in 2012 self-reported a medical diagnosis of memory disease.
  • For older home owners, memory and cognition hold relatively stable until the late 70s, then decline fairly rapidly. By age 90, about 20 percent of older home owners suffer from memory disease.
  • Typical declines in memory and cognition are associated with substantial increases in difficulty with managing money. It can also lead to big changes in home ownership and shared living arrangements.
  • Memory and cognition declines were also found to be linked with an increase in mortgage delinquency, especially for older women. 

Fireplaces Spark Interest in Buyers

Fireplaces are eye-catchers across all levels of homes, and savvy selling agents know that buyers will linger over a photo of one in a listing. With HVAC and smart-home technology controlling the environment, fireplaces have become purely a pleasure item, to the point where you can just watch a fireplace YouTube video on your smart TV.
Logging Quality Time
For buyers who want the real thing, one design element they consider is the depth of the fireplace. A deeper firebox, according to Curbed.com, shows that the emphasis is for pleasure over function and allows a safer layout, keeping the burning logs away from the room.
But buyers who plan to use their fireplaces look for the Rumford fireplace design, a shallower design that reflects more heat back into the living area while moving air efficiently to keep smoke out.
Benjamin Thompson, who dubbed himself a Count during a stay in Europe, published an essay in 1796 that presented his design for a more efficient fireplace. By having a shallow firebox with widely flared sides, "the design... draws air into the fireplace very efficiently," says Bruce Irving of Hammond Real Estate in Cambridge, Mass., a renovation expert who was a producer of PBS series "This Old House." "That allows the flame to have plenty of oxygen to burn strongly and cleanly. And, on top of that, it effectively reflects heat into the room."
Rumford's design is a mainstay of homes built in the first half of the 19th century, but still comes up occasionally in modern homes designed for those who appreciate the element.
Source: "What's the Deal With Old Fireplaces?" Curbed.com (March 24, 2016)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Banks Want More Owners to Tap Into Equity

As home prices rise, banks are touting home-equity lines of credit (HELOCs), trying to get more home owners to take equity out of their homes.
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. started contacting customers in January, marketing the benefits of cash-out refinances for making home repairs, debt consolidation, and tuition payments. PNC Financial Services Group Inc. also increased its marketing on HELOCs.
But TD Bank may have the most unusual approach. The bank has sponsored a tour bus that travels to hardware stores along cities in the East Coast that invites home owners to step in, grab an iPad, and fill out an application on the spot.
The bank “is placing a bet…home equity will play a bigger part of our business,” Mike Kinane, senior vice president of home-equity lending at TD Bank, told The Wall Street Journal.
A growing number of banks are trying to offset a recent decrease in mortgage originations and refinancings by trying to ramp up a more robust home-equity lines of credit business. They are hoping to hook home owners who are looking to renovate or need cash for other expenses.
Last year, lenders extended more than $156 billion in home-equity lines of credit – the largest amount since 2007, according to data from CoreLogic. The average line of credit extended to home owners last year reached a record-breaking $119,790, according to CoreLogic’s data, which dates back to 2002.
“Lenders are opening up their spigots,” says Sam Khater, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic.
Still, the volume of HELOCs is well-below what it was during the housing boom. At that time, lenders were extending more than $300 billion in credit lines a year – about half of what they currently are extending.
This time around banks also are requiring higher credit scores and in the majority of the cases, borrowers must have at least 20 percent of equity in their home after receiving the credit line. The average FICO score for borrowers who received a home-equity line of credit was 781 in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to Black Knight Financial Services data.
Source: “Banks Ramp Up Push for Home-Equity Lines,” The Wall Street Journal (March 27, 2016)

How Much Space Buyers Really Crave

For the majority of home buyers, they want a home with about 9 percent more space than they currently have. A new study translates that to a median of 2,020 square feet.
But the amount of desired square footage can vary quite a bit among the different age groups, according to findings from the National Association of Home Builders’ “Housing Preferences of the Boomer Generation: How They Compare to Other Home Buyers.” For example, millennial and Gen X buyers desire the most space, at more than 2,300 square feet. Baby boomers and seniors, on the other hand, mostly would be happy with homes that are under 1,900 square feet.
Take a look at this chart below from NAHB that shows the gap between current and desired home sizes among the various age segments:

NAHB’s study also found that more than half of all home buyers across all age groups would like to have a home with three bedrooms. Thirty percent of respondents say they’d prefer four bedrooms or more. Millennials and Gen X’ers are most likely to want a home with at least four bedrooms.
Source: “Housing Preferences Across Generations (Part II),” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing (March 17, 2016)

10 Cities with the Biggest Foreclosure Discounts

Rents on single-family homes continue to soar, and it's causing some investors to remain on the hunt for where they can snag the best deal on their next investment. The data firm RealtyTrac recently pulled together a list of the 10 cities – with populations of 1 million or more – that offer the largest price discounts on bank-owned homes.
The following cities topped its list:
1. Pittsburgh
  • Median sales price of bank-owned homes: $48,180
  • Foreclosure discount: 63%
2. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wis.
  • Median sales price of bank-owned homes: $72,900
  • Foreclosure discount: 59%
3. Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio
  • Median sales price of bank-owned homes: $47,900
  • Foreclosure discount: 59%
4. Cincinnati
  • Median sales price of bank-owned homes: $56,600
  • Foreclosure discount: 58%
5. Memphis, Tenn.
  • Median sales price of bank-owned homes: $52,000
  • Foreclosure discount: 58%
6. Birmingham-Hoover, Ala.
  • Median sales price of bank-owned homes: $64,000
  • Foreclosure discount: 56%
7. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Mich.
  • Median sales price of bank-owned homes: $58,000
  • Foreclosure discount: 55%
8. Columbus, Ohio
  • Median sales price of bank-owned homes: $68,788
  • Foreclosure discount: 55%
9. Philadelphia-Camden, N.J.-Wilmington, Del.
  • Median sales price of bank-owned homes: $91,000
  • Foreclosure discount: 54%
10. St. Louis
  • Median sales price of bank-owned homes: $70,246
  • Foreclosure discount (compared to overall median sales price): 53%
Source: “Top 10 Cities for Foreclosure Discounts,” National Real Estate Investor (March 28, 2016)

These Cities May Offer the Best Backyards

Which cities have the most public park land available for home owners to enjoy? These parks – which may offer sweeping views of mountains or untouched landscapes – could offer more opportunities for backyards with tranquil views to residents.
BUILDER took a look at cities that offer the most public parks relative to the number of total households. The following cities ranked highest:
1. Fremont, Calif.
  • Adjusted City Area: 49,516 acres
  • Parkland: 25,109 acres
  • Number of households: 73,007
  • Parkland per 1,000 households: 343.9 acres
2. New Orleans
  • Adjusted City Area: 107,655 acres
  • Parkland: 27,208 acres
  • Number of households: 152,788
  • Parkland per 1,000 households: 178.1 acres
3. El Paso, Texas
  • Adjusted City Area: 159,763 acres
  • Parkland: 29,767 acres
  • Number of households: 218,127
  • Parkland per 1,000 households: 136.5 acres
4. Henderson, Nev.
  • Adjusted City Area: 68,542 acres
  • Parkland: 14,558 acres
  • Number of households: 107,007
  • Parkland per 1,000 households:  136 acres
5. Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Adjusted City Area: 116,051 acres
  • Parkland: 27,463 acres
  • Number of households: 219,867
  • Parkland per 1,000 households: 124.9 acres
6. San Diego, Calif.
  • Adjusted City Area: 205,918 acres
  • Parkland: 48,405 acres
  • Number of households: 493,446
  • Parkland per 1,000 households: 98.1 acres
7. Honolulu
  • Adjusted City Area: 36,329 acres
  • Parkland: 12,006 acres
  • Number of households: 127,394
  • Parkland per 1,000 households: 94.2 acres
Source: “Cities Offering the Most Public Parkland Per Household,” BUILDER Online  (2015)

Seniors See Their Home Equity Soar

Homes owned by seniors are seeing equity soar over their pre-recession peak. Seniors saw an estimated $140.2 billion increase in the aggregate value of their homes to a total of $5.83 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2015. That marks an all-time high, according to the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association/RiskSpan Reverse Mortgage Market Index.
“Significant gains in senior home equity are adding stability to the traditionally three-legged retirement funding stool of savings, social security, and pensions,” says Peter Bell, NRMLA president and CEO. “For retirees leaving the workplace with a defined benefit plan, home equity is a fourth leg of the stool, available to tap when needed. For the millions of seniors without a pension, home equity is a valuable resource and can be an integral part of their retirement funding strategy.”
NRMLA’s index shows an increase of 8.1 percent year-over-year in equity among seniors in 2015. What’s more, the fourth quarter senior equity value also represents a 16 percent increase from the pre-recession peak. In the fourth quarter of 2006, senior equity levels reached an estimated $5.04 trillion.

Own an Entire Nevada Desert Town for $8M

An entire town is for sale, just 60 miles south of Las Vegas. Cal Nev Ari, a 640-acre town of about 350 residents, is for sale for $8 million.
The sale includes the town’s casino, restaurant, motel, convenience store, and mobile home park. Also, an extra 520 acres remains undeveloped.
"It's a very large tract of contiguous land, which is rare in Nevada since the federal government owns 80 percent of land in the state," says Fred Marik, the listing agent.
The town has an abandoned airstrip that was once used in World War II for General George Patton. It also has a residential airpark that has a dirt runway. Some of the homes in the town have airplane hangars, where “people can walk out of their living room and fly down the taxiway and take off,” Marik says.
The city’s founder Nancy Kidwell, 78, owns all the businesses in town. The sale requires the airport's name stays the same -- Kidwell Airport -- and the town must also keep its name: Cal Nev Ari.
Originally, the town was listed for sale in 2010 for $17 million. After the Great Recession, Kidwell removed the town from the market. Kidwell decided to relist in February with a lower asking price of $8 million. 
Marik says so far the interest from buyers contain a variety of business plans to develop the town, including as a marijuana resort, retirement community, or for more residential buildings.
Source: “You Can Buy This Nevada Town for $8 Million,” CNNMoney (March 28, 2016)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Why Your Home Buyers Really Need to Hurry

Home buyers are expected to outnumber home sellers this spring, which likely will drive up asking prices, Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®, told The Wall Street Journal.
“Given that prices are rising, more people will be pushed on the borderline of conventional mortgage limits and may need a large down payment or a jumbo mortgage,” Yun says.
Nationwide, the median price for an existing single-family home in January was $213,800 – up 8.2 percent just from a year ago, according to NAR’s housing data. Home prices are moving at the highest rate since April 2015.
“There’s a decade of pent-up demand,” Bob Walters, chief economist of Quicken Loans, told The Wall Street Journal.
One piece of good news for home buyers this spring: Mortgage rates are expected to stay low, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage not likely to rise above 4 percent before May, says Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH.com.
As such, lenders are predicting that the spring season will be a busy one. To avoid closing delays, buyers need to get into the market sooner rather than later, says Paul Anastos, president of Mortgage Master in Walpole, Mass., a division of loanDepot.
Like a traffic jam, “every minute later you leave costs you 10 minutes,” he notes. “Every day, the audience looking for houses increases exponentially.”
Anastos also urges home buyers to get preapproved for a loan prior to home-shopping -- a step above pre-qualification. He says that alone could save home shoppers up to 10 days in the closing period.
“If you find a home this weekend, you look highly competitive” too, he says.
Source: “This Spring, Expect Higher Home Prices,” The Wall Street Journal (March 10, 2016) [Log-in required.]

4 Online Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

You know buyers are most likely to start their home search online, surveys attest to that. And, sure, you know online is where you then want to form a strong presence – you’ve heard that plenty before too. But could you be messing up your digital marketing efforts by lacking a clear strategy?
By not having a clear strategy, you could be throwing random darts all over cyberspace or just relying on the latest “tactic” or “technique” that is making all your efforts not truly gain you a stronger presence online in the end.
Neil Patel -- cofounder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics and a contributor for Forbes.com -- recently offered up some common mistakes when it comes to digital marketing.
1. You’re omitting mobile.
Have a mobile-first strategy to your digital marketing, or you could risk alienating more than half of your potential audience, Patel notes. This means ensuring all of your sites are optimized to be viewed on a mobile screen, whether that’s a smartphone or tablet.
2. You’re underestimating SEO.
Ninety-three percent of people who go online begin with a search engine, and 68 percent use Google. What’s more, the first five results in Google tend to generate 67 percent of all clicks. That’s why SEO is so important, notes Patel. “SEO remains – and will continue to remain – one of the building blocks of a technologically sound and competitive web presence,” Patel writes. “Without an understanding of SEO, your marketing presence will falter and fail.” To improve your SEO, offer up relevant content, label any images, provide relevant links and references, ensure your site’s standards are compliant with HTML, and have relevant page titles. 
3. You’re simply overdoing it.
Don’t just try every social media network. After all, social media that is done right requires time and energy for each, Patel says. You can’t be everywhere. Pick the top three platforms where your audience hangs out and focus there. Patel recommends one way to prioritize your online marketing focus: First, figure out what your audience wants; then identify where they are; and next adopt a strategy to reach them.
4. You’re forgetting about content marketing.
Deliver content on home buying or selling that caters to your clients’ most pertinent questions or what they’re facing in the current market. Delivering content geared to your audience should be at the core of your digital marketing strategy, Patel writes.  
Source: “12 Things Not to Do When Using Digital Marketing in 2016,” Forbes.com (March 10, 2016)

NAR’s Tech Team Nabs 2nd Place in Hackathon

The National Association of REALTORS®’ Center for REALTOR® Technology recently came in second place out of more than a thousand teams in the Koding Inc.’s 2016 global virtual hackathon.
Catch up with all of the latest CRT happenings on their blog.
For the hackathon, CRT, part of the ChicagoHacksBig team, used modern sensing technology to better understand how residents live and move around in cities. The team generated a map visualizing time-series data of 10,000 people in 16 cities moving between 4,500 venues over the course of one evening.
“Down the line, sensing devices like these could help REALTORS® in both commercial and residential real estate to identify the overall health of a neighborhood, not by identifying individual people, but by aggregating data throughout a city,” an NAR press release states.
The team – which also included individuals from Gimbal Beacons, Bank of America, CartoDB, DoStuff app and Groupon -- won a $30,000 prize for its second-place finish. The team will donate its winnings to the Smart Chicago Collaborative, an organization that helps Chicago residents gain Internet access and sets out to improve tech skills.
“Embracing new technologies is an essential part of how REALTORS® conduct business, and over the years NAR has invested a lot of time and millions of dollars in developing and building online real estate tools, ” says Tom Salomone, NAR’s president. “We are so excited to be on the cutting edge of this new technology, demonstrating our organization’s commitment to continuously provide REALTORS® with the latest and greatest tools available in the industry.”

Where Americans Buy Second Homes

Second homes are not just centered in beachfront communities. In fact, 913 counties within 49 states had second homes that accounted for at least 10 percent of the local housing stock, according to a new analysis by the National Association of Home Builders.
Which counties have the largest share of second homes? NAHB pinpointed the number and the location of second homes that qualify for the mortgage interest deduction using the Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey. (NAHB considered a second home to be a non-rental property that is not used as a taxpayer’s primary residence.)
The following are the 10 counties with the largest share of second homes, according to NAHB’s analysis:
  1. Hamilton County, N.Y.: 79.3%
  2. Forest County, Pa.: 74%
  3. Rich County, Utah: 72.7%
  4. Alpine County, Calif.: 72.1%
  5. Daggett County, Utah: 71.8%
  6. Valley County, Idaho: 71.2%
  7. Lake County, Mich.: 68.4%
  8. Mineral County, Colo.: 66.4%
  9. Hinsdale County, Colo.: 65.7%
  10. Dukes County, Mass.: 62.7%
The counties with more than 25,000 second homes are mostly located in or near metro areas, researchers found.
The following is a list of the top 10 counties with the most second homes, by number:
  1. Maricopa County, Ariz.: 118,282
  2. Palm Beach County, Fla.: 98,627
  3. Lee County, Fla.: 93,152
  4. Broward County, Fla.: 92,907
  5. Miami-Dade County, Fla.: 88,940
  6. Riverside County, Calif.: 76,700
  7. Pinellas County, Fla.: 65,867
  8. Barnstable County, Mass.: 62,317
  9. Collier County, Fla.: 61,905
  10. Los Angeles County, Calif.: 59,742
Source: “Where Are the Nation’s Second Homes?” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing Blog (March 10, 2016)

3 Tips to Keep Stainless Steel Shining

Stainless steel appliances can be prone to smudges. How can you keep that metallic look shining for open houses and home showings? RISMedia recently highlighted some of the following simple tips for cleaning stainless steel:
A smudge-proof alternative?Black Stainless Gains Popularity
Use water and a microfiber cloth. Avoid using paper towels. Microfiber cloths can be the best option because they absorb water and won’t scratch the surface. If wiping the appliance, dry gently along the grain so you don’t leave water spots behind.
Use glass cleaner. “Fingerprints on stainless steel is one of the biggest complaints and it’s a valid concern,” the article at RISMedia notes. “No matter how careful you try to be, fingerprints will always end up on your fridge.” Spray glass cleaner on a microfiber cloth and then wipe away any fingerprints with soft, circular wipes.
Use stainless steel cleaner too. To remove any stains or scratches, reach for a stainless steel cleaner. But be sure to test the product first in an unnoticeable location. Stainless steel cleaner or glass cleaner can help make your appliances shine, but always rinse thoroughly and then towel dry, the article suggests.
Source: “Kitchen Counsel: Tips to Keep That Stainless Steel Shining,” RISMedia (March 12, 2016)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Housing Trends Portland Region and Portland Region Real Estate Market Updat

Housing Trends Portland Region and Portland Region Real Estate Market Updat

Target vs. Walmart: The Best for Home Prices?

Which superstore offers home owners the best returns on home prices? Target is more likely, a new study concludes.
Real estate data firm RealtyTrac researched the effect that living near a Target or Walmart could have on home prices. For its study, RealtyTrac analyzed home values, appreciation, and property taxes in ZIP codes with a Walmart or a Target.
Home owners living near a Target tended to see a greater home value appreciation than home owners living near a Walmart. However, home owners near Target also pay more and have higher property taxes, on average, too.
Homes near Target stores that sold in 2015 averaged a 27 percent price increase since the sellers purchased them, with an average price gain of $65,569. On the other hand, home owners living near a Walmart saw an appreciation of 16 percent and had an average price gain of $24,900, according to the study.
Home owners living near a Target typically have higher home values too, averaging $307,286 – 72 percent higher than the $178,249 average value of homes near Walmart stores, RealtyTrac found.
But home owners near Target stores can expect to pay higher property taxes, too. Home owners living near a Target pay, on average, $7,001 in property taxes – a whopping 123 percent more than home owners near Walmarts, who pay $3,146, on average.
Before you start spotlighting the distance of every Target superstore near your listings, keep the stats in perspective.
“This is not necessarily showing that Targets are the reason that these homes are gaining value,” says RealtyTrac spokesman Daren Blomquist. That said, “Targets are picking neighborhoods where the homes tend to be higher value.”
The findings echo last year's Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe’s debate, when RealtyTrac conducted an analysis pitting these two rival grocery store chains against one another to measure the impact of nearby home values. See which grocery store tilts more favorably to home owners.
Source: RealtyTrac

1 Million Borrowers Regained Equity Last Year

Spread the good news: The nation increased its number of financially secure households by a significant amount in 2015. By the end of the fourth quarter, about 46.3 million – or 91.5 percent – of all properties with a mortgage had equity, according to CoreLogic’s most recent analysis, released this week.
Highest Equity by State
The following states had the highest percentage of properties with a mortgage in positive equity territory:
  • Texas: 98%
  • Alaska: 97.6%
  • Hawaii: 97.6%
  • Montana: 97.3%
  • Colorado: 97.1%
Highest Equity by City
At the metro level, the following areas had the highest percentage of properties with positive equity:
  • San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, Calif.: 99.3%
  • Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas: 98.1%
  • Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo.: 98%
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif: 95.5%
  • New York-Jersey City-White Plains, N.Y.-N.J.: 93.8%
Source: CoreLogic
“The number of home owners with more than 20 percent equity is rising rapidly,” says Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “Higher prices driven largely by tight supply are certainly a big reason for the rise, but continued population growth, household formation, and ultra-low interest rates are also factors. Looking ahead in 2016, we expect home equity levels to continue to build, which is a good thing for the long-term health of the U.S. economy.”
The majority of residential properties with positive equity tend to be at the higher end of the housing market, according to CoreLogic. Ninety-five percent of homes valued at $200,000 or higher have equity, compared to 87 percent of homes below the $200,000 mark.
Despite recent gains, many home owners are still “under-equitied,” according to CoreLogic’s report. More than 50 million residential properties with a mortgage – or 18.9 percent – have less than 20 percent equity in their properties, and 1.2 million home owners – or 2.3 percent – have less than 5 percent equity.
Some home owners still don’t have any equity. About 4.3 million home owners with a mortgage, around 8.5 percent, owe more on their home than it is currently worth as of the fourth quarter of 2015. That marks a slight increase from 8.3 percent in the prior quarter, but a 19 percent year-over-year decrease from 2014.
Source: CoreLogic
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Many Retirees Defy Real Estate Stereotypes

Eighty percent of adults 45-plus say that they plan to age in place and “remain in my local community” when they retire, according to a survey by the AARP. But as they approach retirement, some are choosing to do the opposite of what they once thought: They’re either moving to the city or choosing to upsize their digs.
What Retirees Want
In 1999, Charlene Zimmerman and her husband Jack moved away from the suburbs of Chicago into a loft-style condo in the West Loop neighborhood near downtown. She told The Chicago Tribune that they have no regrets about moving to the city in retirement. “When I lived in the suburbs, the last thing I wanted to do when I got back from work was drive downtown to do something,” she says. “And now I go places all the time, and I think it’s the most wonderful change.”
Some retirees are not always choosing to downsize either, despite their empty-nest. A survey by Age Wave – a firm that studies the aging population – shows that only about half of retirees 50-plus who move after retirement choose a home that is smaller than their previous one. About 19 percent move into a home that is similar in size while 30 percent opt to upsize and increase their square footage in retirement.
For some retirees, the upsize may not come in the form of square footage but instead in the amount they pay for their home, especially if they’re heading into places in the city.
“I find a lot of sticker shock,” Matt Silver, president-elect of the Chicago Association of REALTORS®, told The Chicago Tribune. “Lots of people living in the suburbs are sick of home maintenance, sick of shoveling the driveway. They want an easier way of living.”
Still, couples like the Zimmerman’s – who moved to the city and increased the amount they paid for their home – are exceptions to the norm in retirement. Data from the National Association of REALTORS® shows that only about 12 percent of “repeat buyers” (who are most likely to be in the baby boomer and Gen Xer cohort) buy a home in an urban area. As for the others? About 12 percent of “repeat buyers” buy a home in a rural area, 20 percent head to small towns, and the majority – at 53 percent – buy in the suburbs.

End of Internet Tax Will Boost Real Estate

Ten states today levy what are known as Internet access taxes.
That might come as a surprise to many people, since the taxes are largely invisible.
They’re levied on companies like Verizon and Comcast, the Internet service providers (ISP) that manage the infrastructure through which Internet traffic flows. These companies pass the taxes on to consumers in the form of higher fees.
Back in 1998, Congress limited the taxes to just the 10 states—Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin—by passing the Internet Tax Freedom Act. Since then, Congress has gone back and reauthorized the law every few years, because the original ban was only temporary.
That will change now. Congress just a few weeks ago passed the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, and, as the name implies, makes further bans unnecessary. What’s more, the 10 states that levy the taxes will have to stop by June 30, 2020. The National Association of REALTORS® has been one of the biggest advocates for making the ban permanent and ending the taxes because of the importance of the Internet to the industry.
Other top real estate stories featured in the video include:
Photo copyright risk management: This has become a major issue in real estate because of the ubiquity of property photos online. What do you do if a copyrighted photo shows up on your website through a feed or by other means? If you’re found in violation of someone’s copyright, the penalty can be big: as much as $150,000. But there’s good news here. A law has been on the books for some time that provides liability protection. But you have to put a process in place to make it work.
You can watch all of the Voice for Real Estate episodes here.
NAR’s latest contract signings numbers: They’re down a bit, but NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun doesn’t think the dip signifies much, given how weak economies around the world are right now. The weak economies have dampened the U.S. economy, yet contract signings are holding up remarkably well, he says.
Making international connections: NAR and eight associations of REALTORS® are hosting a big booth at the upcoming MIPIM conference in Cannes, France to boost the interest of investors around the world in U.S. commercial and residential properties. About 100 real estate professionals from around the country are going, hoping to make connections with investors in other countries.
—By Robert Freedman, REALTOR® Magazine

Mortgage Rates Spring Forward, Only Slightly

For the second consecutive week, mortgage rates edged higher. But even with slight increases this week, mortgage rates still are “very attractive for the upcoming spring home-buying season,” Freddie Mac reports.
“The [30-year] mortgage rate remains 33 basis points lower than its end-of-2015 level,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.
Freddie Mac reports the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending March 10:
  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.68 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.64 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.86 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 2.96 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing slightly from last week’s 2.94 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.10 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.92 percent, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 2.84 percent average. Last year at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.01 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

The Truth about Zillow Zestimates

Do you know how much your home is worth? No, really, do you? Homeowners and buyers across the country often answer this question by turni...