Saturday, April 23, 2016

3 Ways Sellers Can Show Off Outdoor Space

Take a close look at your listing from the eye of a home buyer. Are the bushes overgrown around the front windows? Has the mulch all washed away? Is the paint on the shutters fading?
These are the questions Jon Coile, chairman of the multiple listing service MRIS in Rockville, Md., asks in a recent column at The Washington Post that aims to help sellers examine the exterior of their homes. Here are some simple ways to solve common curb appeal issues:
Check out some more sources for amping up your listings’ curb appeal:
Stick to similar plant groupings. Aim for a continuous flow with a landscape. “It can often make small spaces feel much larger,” Coile says. To do this, select only few different types of plants for the landscaping, instead of selecting a wide variety. The majority of the landscaping should consist of similar plants so the landscape doesn’t look look broken up into too many different sections, Coile notes. Then, feel free to use a small number of accent pieces to add color and visual interest.
Use visual markers. Visual markers help draw buyers’ eyes from one end of the yard to another. “The easiest way to do this is to lay a path that subtly transitions in the same places the yard does, at slight changes in elevation or where shaded areas transition to open sun,” Colie notes. “If that isn’t possible, then a few strategically placed taller plants, subtle decorations, or lighting fixtures can create the same impression.”
Show off the entertainment value. Show grassy areas where kids can play safely as well as places where adults can socialize, Coile writes. Consider these features for an added touch to show the possibilities of a space: Fire pits and outdoor gas flames, outdoor speakers, or a wet bar near a grill.
Source: “How to Enhance Your Home’s Curb Appeal,” The Washington Post (April 11, 2016)


Gen X Home Ownership Likely to Stay Low

Generation X suffered the most compared to any other age segment during the housing crisis, and they’re still in the process of recovering. In fact, home ownership rates will likely stay low for Generation X – those born between 1965 and 1984 – for years to come, according to a study by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Generation X has gone from being the most successful in terms of home ownership rates in 2004 to the least by 2015. In 2004, Gen Xers aged 25 to 34 at the time had a home ownership rate of 49.5 percent, the highest compared to any other age group, according to U.S. Census data. But last year, the home ownership rate for the now 35-to-44-year old age group fell to a more than three-decade low of 58.5 percent.
Baby boomers, who entered the housing market prior to the housing crisis in the early 2000s, have fared better in the aftermath than Gen Xers.
Generation X "came into the market at precisely the wrong time," says Rick Sharga, executive vice president at Ten-X.com, an online real-estate brokerage. "We've effectively wiped out a group of home owners who historically would have been on their second or third properties by now."
As such, housing analysts have mostly centered their talks on the millennials, those born between 1985 to 2004. Generation X consists of around 83 million people compared to the larger 87 million that make up the millennial cohort. By 2025, millennials are expected to grow to 93 million too, due to immigration. Generation X is expected to stay the same number. Housing analysts are betting on the millennials to have the largest impact on the housing market.
However, they may need Gen Xers to get moving. As Generation X continues to recover from the housing crisis, fewer middle-aged buyers are trading up with their homes. That is contributing to the severely limited inventory of homes available, which is plaguing many housing markets.
Source: “Housing Bust Lingers for Generation X,” The Wall Street Journal (April 9, 2016) [Log-in required]

4 Factors Boosting Housing This Month

Warmer weather across the country is drawing more people to look at open houses and available homes this month, says Jonathan Smoke, realtor.com®’s chief economist.
Here are four current housing market factors that will likely translate into greater sales this April:
1. Low mortgage rates: Mortgage rates have moved lower this month and are hovering near the lowest averages in the past three years. Lower mortgage rates help boost home buyers’ purchasing power as well as buyers’ ability to qualify for a mortgage.
2. More urgency: Many buyers were frustrated last year with their inability to buy. This spring, they’re heading to the housing market more determined. Mortgage applications for home purchases are up 20 percent compared to last year.
3. More searching: Realtor.com® reports a record number of people searching and looking at its website for homes. Nevertheless, there are 2 percent fewer homes for sale that they’ll find when compared to last year.
4. Faster sales: The time that listings spend on the market has dropped dramatically. Nationwide, the median days on the market dropped 14 days in the first two weeks of April compared to the first two weeks of March.
Some of the places seeing the fastest sales are in Colorado, including Aurora, Arvada, Littleton, and areas of Denver, where the median age of a listing is less than 7 days. Gladstone, Ore., and areas of Seattle are also seeing the median age of listings at less than 7 days.
Other areas seeing median listing ages of less than two weeks are: Cambridge, Mass.; Pacifica, Berkeley, Los Altos, and Sunnyvale, Calif.; Centreville, Burke, and Henrico, Va.; Berkley, Mich.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Boise, Idaho; Clifton, N.J.; Salt Lake City and Sandy, Utah; Fort Worth, Texas; Louisville, Ky.; and Buffalo, N.Y.
Source: “Mid-April Forecast: Warm Weather Will Bring Out Home Buyers,” realtor.com® (April 15, 2016)


First-Time Buyers Use Guest House for Savings

Some first-time buyers are finding ways to cover the costs of home ownership by purchasing a multi-unit home that can accommodate a mother-in-law apartment or another rental unit. The added money can then help them cover their mortgage.
“Renters like the privacy and homey feel of an accessory dwelling over renting a room in an apartment complex,” notes a recent article at RISMedia “Thanks to this demand, savvy buyers know they can rely on a steady stream of income from a rental unit. Many home owners use this money source as a way to save for retirement or pay down their mortgage.”
What’s more, at resale, buyers stand to net more for their multi-unit home. According to an article in the New York Times, 15 percent of buyers say they are willing to pay extra for a home with an accessory dwelling. These buyers say they want the extra space for a tenant, relative (multi-generational households are growing), or for a detached home office.
Taxes can also work to the advantage of multi-unit home owners. For example, owners may be able to deduct expenses from their taxes like repairs, maintenance, insurance, supplies, and travel.
Still, buyers to these properties likely will need to expect to pay more. Multi-unit homes tend to sell at a premium. Some fully permitted units fetch up to 60 percent more than single dwelling homes, according to some surveys. Also, buyers need to carefully consider whether they truly are ready to step into a landlord-type role and the responsibilities that can hold.

10 Best Housing Markets for Millennials

The share of first-time home buyers plunged to the lowest point in nearly three decades in 2015, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. First-time buyers comprised 32 percent of all home buyers last year.
But first-time buyers aren’t shrinking in numbers in all locations. Realtor.com® recently identified the markets that are most attractive to real estate’s newcomers in the 25-to-34-age group. The team analyzed the 100 largest metros and then factored in affordability, inventory levels, job growth, mortgage availability, and livability with schools, retail, and entertainment.
Here are the top 10 markets that made its list as the best for first-time home buyers:

Buyer Cheat Sheet for a Seller's Market

In a seller's market, home buyers need to be willing and able to act fast to snag the home they want. This spring, areas across the country are facing a limited number of homes for sale. Realtor.com® offers up a cheat sheet for surviving a seller's market.
  • Be on call. "If you're only looking now and then when it's convenient, you're probably wasting your time," says James Malmberg, a real estate professional in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He suggests treating house hunting like job hunting. If someone calls with a lead, follow up promptly to gauge whether it could be a good fit and don't linger.
  • Bring the paperwork. To be taken seriously, buyers would be wise to get a mortgage pre-approval letter as well as a "proof of funds" form from their bank to show they have enough to cover a down payment. They'll be able to act quicker when they do find the right house.
  • Limit the contingencies. In a seller's market, buyers may need to drop some of the contingencies to score the house. Sellers prefer the fewest number of hurdles to closing as possible. If your buyers come in with several contingencies — such as "if" they secure financing — the sellers are more inclined to bypass their offer and take another with less hassle. Also, "don't waste your time lowballing a seller," advises Sean Kelley, a real estate professional with Howard Hannah in Pittsburgh, Pa. "Always put in an aggressive offer."
  • Cast a wide net. Search for homes outside prime locations if faced with limited or high-priced choices. Buyers need to carefully consider what they're willing to compromise on. "Sometimes properties sit, even in a seller's market, because of a problem that is scaring other buyers away," such as some renovation work that may need to be done, Malmberg says. Those "flaws," however, might not be a big deal to your buyers. "Finding a house this way can also cut down on the amount of competition you will face," Malmberg adds.
Source: “Surviving a Seller’s Market: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet,” realtor.com® (April 7, 2016)

Mortgage Rates Staying Near Yearly Lows

Home buyers and owners can still lock in low mortgage rates. Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey that rates mostly remained unchanged this week, staying near their low mark for the year.
"Volatility in financial markets subsided over the past week, allowing Treasury yields to stabilize," says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac's chief economist. "As a result, the 30-year mortgage rate was mostly flat, up only 1 basis point to 3.59 percent. The release of March's existing-home sales report, which shows monthly growth at 5.1 percent, suggests home buyers are taking advantage of low mortgage rates as the spring home-buying season gets underway."
Freddie Mac reports the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending April 21:
  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.59 percent, with an average 0.6 point, rising from last week's 3.58 percent average. A year ago, 30-year rates averaged 3.65 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 2.85 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week's 2.86 percent average. Last year at this time, 15-year rates averaged 2.92 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.81 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week's 2.84 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 2.84 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Closing Times Are Speeding Up

The average time to close on all mortgage loans dropped to 44 days in March, the shortest amount of time in a year, according to Ellie Mae's latest Origination Insight Report.
New mortgage rules went into effect last October, pushing closing timelines from 46 days in October to 48 days in November and December, and then to 50 days in January. But lenders and real estate professionals have had time to adjust to the new rules, and closing times are speeding up again.
The average time to close on a loan for a home purchase fell to 45 days in March, while closing times for refinancings dropped to 41 days. Times to close on FHA loans also fell to 44 days in March, while VA loans averaged 48 days to close.
What's more, Ellie Mae's report shows that the average closing rates for all loans continued to rise to the highest level since tracking began in 2011. Closing rates for all loans rose to 70.6 percent in March (closing rates on purchase loans was slightly over 75 percent). Ellie Mae calculates the closing rate on a 90-day cycle, since most loan applications require one-and-a-half to two months from application to close.
Sixty-seven percent of all closed loans had FICO scores above 700. The average credit score was 722. Only 12 percent of the closed loans had scores below 650, according to Ellie Mae's report. The average loan-to-value ratio was 80 percent, and the average debt-to-income ratio remained constant at 25/38.
Source: “What TRID Delay? Turn Times Lowest in a Year,” Mortgage News Daily (April 21, 2016)


Survey: Real Estate Is the Best Investment

Americans ranked real estate as the best long-term investment, even over stocks and gold, according to a recent Gallup Poll of about 1,000 U.S. adults. Real estate has been the top investment choice for the past two years, and it's lead is increasing over four other popular investment choices.
Investing in the Future
Thirty-five percent of Americans selected real estate as their top investment choice compared to 22 percent for stocks and mutual funds; 17 percent for gold; 15 percent for savings accounts/CDs; and 7 percent for bonds. By comparison, 34 percent of Americans said gold was their top long-term investment choice in 2011 while 19 percent said real estate.
"As the average sale price of new homes in the U.S. increased from $259,300 in August 2011 to $348,900 in February of this year, the percentage of Americans picking real estate as the best long-term investment almost doubled," according to Gallup. "During approximately the same time span—from August 2011 to April of this year—gold prices plunged from $1,910 to $1,254 per ounce, and the percentage thinking gold would be the best investment was cut in half."
The poll also revealed the following:
  • Men are more likely than women to say gold is the best long-term investment. Women tend to favor savings accounts more so than men.
  • Those surveyed who are younger than 30 years old were the least likely age group, at 26 percent, to think real estate is the top investing choice. They are most likely to choose savings as the top long-term investment choice.
  • Renters (32%) and home owners (34%) are about equally as likely to choose real estate as their top long-term investment choice.
Source: Gallup.com

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Why Americans Really Buy Homes

For more than half of Americans, the main reason to buy a home is simply because they want a place to call their own, according to the “Homebuyer Insight Report” recently released by Bank of America.
“Home buyers today are motivated by both emotional and practical reasons,” says D. Steve Boland, the consumer lending executive. “Nearly all want more space, but a majority of home buyers, especially those purchasing their first home, are also looking for a place to call their own, put down roots and make memories. They value the emotional benefits of owning a home as much as financial ones.”
The survey revealed the following top emotional triggers for buyers:
  • Want a place to call their own: 52%
  • Always something they wanted to do: 43%
  • Want to put down roots: 31%
  • A place to make memories: 28%
As for the most influential financial factors, the survey found Americans are motivated to buy a home for these reasons:
  • Better than paying rent: 37%
  • Saved enough money: 26%
  • Have a steady job: 21%
  • Good time to buy a home: 15%
Survey respondents also were asked to define home ownership. Here’s what they said it means to them:
  • Security: 60%
  • Family: 58%
  • Responsibility: 58%
  • Happiness: 57%
Source: “The Top Reasons Why Americans Buy Homes,” Keepingcurrentmatters.com (April 13, 2016)

Has the Apartment Sector Reached Its Peak?

Developers are building more apartments than there are renters to fill them, reports the National Real Estate Investor. The number of vacant apartments is growing, and rents are finally showing signs of growing at a slower pace.
“The gap between demand and supply in the first quarter was a little larger than anticipated,” Greg Willett, chief economist for market intelligence firm MPF Research, told the National Real Estate Investor.
The number of occupied apartments increased by 20,077 during the first quarter of this year – less than half the 40,000 to 50,000 new occupied units the industry has been seeing over the last few years, according to MPF’s data.
“Uncertainty about the nation’s near-term economic outlook appears to be constraining new household formation and demand for all forms of housing,” says Willett. “The slight backtracking seen in the first quarter is significant because it runs counter to the normal pattern of seasonality in performance statistics.”
Regardless of vacancy increases, landlords are still raising their rents. Apartment rents increased 0.9 percent in the first quarter. However, the pace has slowed considerably from the 5 percent growth the year prior, according to MPF.
Over the last 12 months, developers have opened 200,142 new apartments. That is the highest number of apartments opened in any 12-month period since 1988, according to Reis. About one-third of the apartments to be delivered this year are in Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, New York City, Seattle-Tacoma, and Washington, D.C., according to the brokerage firm Marcus & Millichap.
Source: “Demand for Apartments Slowing Down,” National Real Estate Investor (April 12, 2016)

Get to Know the Transitional Kitchen

When it comes to kitchen design, it's time to throw some of the old traditional rules out and embrace the mix-and-match transitional kitchen approach.
What is a transitional kitchen exactly? It's a style that equal parts functional and expressive. It accommodates the individual needs of the family, showcases the personality of the home owners, but is also universally appealing and homey. And it's hotter than ever.
In a recent survey by the National Kitchen and Bath Association, home owners listed the transitional kitchen as their top style pick, beating the traditional kitchen for the first time in many years.
John Reha, editorial director of Black & Decker's Home Improvement Library, recently shared tips with Houselogic on how your clients can embrace the mix-and-match approach of the transitional kitchen.
4 common elements that make up transitional kitchen design:
  • Mixing neutrals: Neutral tones like black, white, gray, and tan are a staple of transitional design, and mixing different textures and neutral colors keeps the space from looking clinical and dull. A wood kitchen floor offset with black cabinets will be equal parts homey and visually interesting.
  • Balancing old and new design elements: Why narrow down your taste to one design concept when you can incorporate many? A transitional kitchen can be minimalist and contemporary and also include older, more rustic elements like wood floors, a subway tile backsplash, and farmhouse doors.
  • Adding unusual materials: Transitional design is at its heart functional and a blank canvas, and owners should not be scared to add dramatic unconventional paint accents or choose counter materials like concrete instead of the popular and more traditional granite.
  • Embracing quirkiness: A transitional kitchen is supposed to be designed for the individual needs of the owner, so a kitchen including objects that have personal meaning to the family like antiques, family member's artwork, a chalkboard for writing messages, and one-of-a-kind fixtures will never feel out of place.
Bottom line: A transitional kitchen at its essence should be functional for owners' specific needs, but the other main rule is that there are no rules. The days where kitchen design had to solely embrace one style may be over, and buyers and owners alike are looking for a space that mixes and matches elements that reflects their individual personality.

Millennials’ Attitudes Toward Buying By Region

Ninety-one percent of millennials living in the South believe that home ownership is part of the American dream, according to the latest HOME (Housing Opportunities and Market Experience) survey. The survey includes a breakdown of millennials’ desire to own by region.   
Millennials make up the largest generation of buyers at 35 percent, and they tend to be upbeat about housing too. The survey showed that 85 percent of buyers aged 34 and under believe that buying a home is a good financial decision.
Take a look at this chart offering a regional breakdown of millennials’ attitudes toward buying.
Source: “Millennials and the Desire to Buy by Region,” National Association of REALTORS® Economists’ Outlook Blog (April 18, 2016)

Which Appliance Is More Green?

The kitchen and the laundry room use more than 30 percent of the energy in a home. So when it comes down to judging appliances, is gas or electric more energy efficient, and which one will save home owners more money? In the energy-efficiency battle, gas typically trumps electric.
It's Easy to Be Green
If home owners are looking to make their home more eco-friendly, here are some things to consider with the appliances:
Stove: The price range for a gas stove versus an electric stove tends to be fairly similar. Gas ranges, however, tend to use less energy and, therefore, are known for being a better choice for the environment, according to greenmoxie.com.
Laundry machines: The washer and dryer can comprise a considerable amount of energy that home owners use. Again, a gas dryer tends to be the most eco-friendly and helps lessen how much energy owners use when drying their clothes. “The reason for the lower price is it is harder to turn coal into electricity, so you lose efficiency when using electricity instead of gas,” according to the greenmoxie.com article.
Heat: The majority of furnaces do use gas to provide heat to the home, which tends to be the more energy efficient option too. To improve the efficiency more, clean and change filters regularly and keep the thermostat at a fixed temperature.
Water heater: A household uses between 14 and 18 percent of its energy to heat water, according to the Department of Energy. Gas water heaters tend to be cheaper to use since they use less energy. They also can heat water more efficiently than electric ones.
Source: “Gas or Electric? Eco-Friendly Appliances Examined,” Greenmoxie.com (2016)

Existing-Home Sales Kick Off Strong Spring

After dismal numbers in February, home sales were back on track in March, ramping up for a strong spring selling season, the National Association of REALTORS® reported Wednesday. In particular, gains in the Northeast and Midwest helped fuel the rebound.
Total sales for existing homes surged 5.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million in March — up 1.5 percent from a year ago — according to NAR's latest existing-home sales data. The report shows that all four major regions of the U.S. posted gains.
"Closings came back in force last month as a greater number of buyers overcame depressed inventory levels and steady price growth to close on a home," says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Buyer demand remains sturdy in most areas this spring, and the mid-priced market is doing quite well. However, sales are softer both at the very low and very high ends of the market because of supply limitations and affordability pressures."

5 Stats to Gauge the Market

Here's an overview of some of the key stats from NAR's latest housing report:
  1. Home prices: The median price for an existing home in all housing types was $222,700 in March, up 5.7 percent from a year ago.
  2. Days on the market: Forty-two percent of homes sold in March were on the market for less than a month. But the overall average for time on market was 47 days, below the 52-day average a year ago. Short sales tended to linger on the market the longest, at a median of 120 days, while foreclosures typically sold in 50 days and non-distressed homes averaged 46 days.
  3. Distressed sales: Foreclosures and short sales dropped to 8 percent in March, down from 10 percent a year ago. Broken out, 7 percent of sales in March were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales. On average, foreclosures sold for a discount of 16 percent below market value while short sales were discounted 10 percent.
  4. All-cash sales: All-cash transactions comprised 25 percent of the market in March, up from 24 percent a year ago. Individual investors account for the bulk of cash sales and purchased 14 percent of homes in March, unchanged from a year ago.
  5. Inventory: The number of homes for sale rose 5.9 percent in March to 1.98 million. Still, that remains 1.5 percent lower than a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 4.5-month supply at the current sales pace.
"The choppiness in sales activity so far this year is directly related to the unevenness in the rate of new listings coming onto the market to replace what is, for the most part, being sold rather quickly," Yun says. "Additionally, a segment of would-be buyers at the upper end of the market appear to have been spooked by January's stock market correction."

Regional Breakdown

Here's a look at how existing-home sales fared across the country in March:
  • Northeast: Existing-home sales surged 11.1 percent to an annual rate of 700,000, which is 7.7 percent higher than a year ago. Median price: $254,100, up 5.8 percent from a year ago.
  • Midwest: Existing-home sales rose 9.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.23 million, which is 0.8 percent higher than a year ago. Median price: $174,800, up 7 percent from a year ago.
  • South: Existing-home sales increased 2.7 percent to an annual rate of 2.25 million, which is 2.3 percent higher than a year ago. Median price: $194,400, up 4.6 percent from a year ago.
  • West: Existing-home sales increased 1.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.15 million, which is 2.5 percent lower than a year ago. Median price: $320,800, up 5.9 percent from a year ago.
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'Love It or List It' Couple Sues Over Reno

A Raleigh, N.C., couple is suing the producers of HGTV's "Love It or List It," along with building contractors, claiming renovations done to their home on the show left it in disrepair.
The show follows designer Hilary Farr as she makes renovations to an owner's home while Canadian real estate professional David Visentin finds them a new house. In the end, the owner must choose whether to keep their renovated home or list it and buy the new property.
Get Real
In the couple's lawsuit, Deena Murphy and Timothy Sullivan allege that the flooring in their home was left "irreparably damaged" after the HGTV renovation. The suit claims duct work left holes in the floor that were covered with low-grade industrial carpeting, some surfaces were left unpainted, and windows were painted shut. The show also did not use a licensed architect for the renovation plans, and the couple was never shown any houses for sale by a licensed North Carolina real estate agent who could have brokered the sale of a new home, the suit says.
The couple is also suing Canadian production company Big Coat TV and North Carolina contractor Aaron Fitz Construction, the company hired to complete the renovations. The HGTV episode featuring Murphy and Sullivan aired in April.
"The show is scripted, with 'roles' and reactions assigned to the various performers and participants, including the home owners," the lawsuit alleges. "Big Coat's purported agreement admits that it is in the business of television production, not construction. The home owners' funds essentially pay the cost of creating a stage set for the television series."
The lawsuit says the couple was asked to deposit $140,000 into a fund for the production company. The funds go to paying contractors and subcontractors.
"We are aware of the lawsuit," Big Coat TV CEO Maria Armstrong said in a statement. "Because this matter involves ongoing litigation, we feel that making a comment would be inappropriate at this time. However, we do intend to vigorously defend what we consider to be false allegations."
Source: “HGTV’s ‘Love It or List It’ Sued,” Cox Media Group (April 18, 2016) and “‘Love It or List It’ Homeowners Sue Over Raleigh Renovation,” The News & Observer (April 17, 2016)
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Dorms for Adults Is a Trend Gaining Steam

Cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., have been seeing an explosion of micro apartments—units ranging from 175 square feet for a studio to 550 square feet for a one- or two-bedroom—in an effort to combat skyrocketing rents for larger spaces. But many of these apartments are now coming with new social layers that foster more community among residents.
Closer Together
So-called coliving apartment complexes, where units typically start around $1,800, feature shared kitchens and lounges for potluck dinners and movie nights—a veritable dorm hall for adults. But is this a lasting trend that young adults will embrace as a means to move into an affordable home?
Many of these buildings are trying to attract resident with services that often come with luxury properties, such as maid service. What's the future of this trend? Find out in our article, "Will Renters Embrace the Adult Dorm Trend?"
—REALTOR® Magazine
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7 Start-Ups Aiming to Change Real Estate

Second Century Ventures, a strategic investment fund of the National Association of REALTORS®, announced this week seven start-up tech companies selected for the NAR REach class of 2016. The REach program is a tech accelerator that helps to launch companies into the real estate, home services, or financial sector.
The seven early- to mid-stage companies will gain access to the expertise, mentorship, and influence of NAR during the eight-month program to help them launch into the "trillion-dollar real estate space,” NAR said in a statement.
"This year's class represents an incredibly diverse mix of organizations that are providing both real estate professionals and their clients with tools and resources to simplify and elevate their personal and professional lives in a real, tangible way," says NAR CEO and SCV President Dale Stinton. "We're looking forward to providing these seven companies with unparalleled insight that comes from being ingrained in an industry for more than 100 years."
Already, the seven companies in the 2016 accelerator class have raised more than $30 million in funding. Meet the 2016 class:
  • Flipt: helps real estate professionals to win more listings by connecting them to millions of home sellers at the earliest stages of their selling decision.
  • Homeselfe: helps real estate pros engage more prospects and close more deals by helping their clients lower their utility bills by 30 percent, as well as earn rebates for upgrades and increase their home's value.
  • HomeDiary: allows home owners and buyers to better visualize updates to their homes by using an interactive 3-D rendering while also recording items, inventory, and improvements.
  • Sindeo: sets out to make the home financing experience more simple and transparent by helping real estate pros qualify more clients and close more deals.
  • Trust Stamp: compiles more than 200 public records and social data to provide reliable ID verification in just under one minute for real estate professionals meeting new prospects or clients.
  • VA Loan Captain: provides real estate agents with a comprehensive set of personalized tools allowing them to attract military and veteran home buyers.
  • Zenergyst: aims to make real estate transactions easier with a fully integrated broker management and transaction system.
"We are looking forward to kicking off this year's class and working with the companies announced today to help build on their ideas and meaningfully grow their customers and users," says Mark Birschbach, managing director of REach. "The exposure and feedback they will receive from working with some of the best in the business through one-on-one meetings and at real estate events will set them up for success in ways not possible through any other program."
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Fewer New Homes in the Pipeline

Homebuilding slowed in March, dipping to its lowest level since October, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Housing starts fell 8.8 percent compared to a month earlier and were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.9 million.
The bulk of the nationwide slowdown was attributed to the Midwest, where single-family and multifamily starts dipped 25.4 percent month-over-month. (Starts were also down by 15.7 percent in the West and 8.4 percent in the South.) Construction of new homes, meanwhile, rose in the Northeast, pushing upwards by 61.3 percent month-over-month. Economists say the weather may have been a factor in regional decreases.
Single-family starts — which account for about two-thirds of the market — dropped 9.2 percent last month to 764,000. Still, single-family construction is up 22.6 percent year-over-year. Starts on multifamily buildings of five or more units dropped 8.5 percent to a rate of 312,000 in March.
"Single-family starts are off from their strong showing in February, but this slowdown represents a return to a long-run, gradual growth trend that is consistent with builder confidence levels, which are overall positive," says Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders. "While we are also seeing a monthly decline on the multifamily front, multifamily construction is expected to level off at a solid rate given the high level of rental housing demand."
But that rebound may take some time. Building permits, which are a gauge of future construction, fell 7.7 percent in March to 1.086 million.
"That is somewhat more worrisome as the permit demand has lagged starts for the last two months," Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors Inc. told The Wall Street Journal. That "could signal continued softness in the market."
Source: “U.S. Housing Starts Fell to Lowest Level Since October,” The Wall Street Journal (April 19, 2016) and National Association of Home Builders

Housing shortage spreads to Oregon coast

Housing shortage spreads to Oregon coast : NEWPORT, Ore. — Hot housing markets in major cities like Seattle and Portland have pushed the ci...