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Voice Activated: Do You Talk to Your Tech?

Daily Real Estate News - 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.

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Categories: Real Estate

20 Desirable Neighborhoods: Popular, but Not Sought-After

Daily Real Estate News - May 3, 2018 - 4:07pm

Homebuyers often idealize their wants on their wish list—and, for many, location is at the top.

The aspiration for a certain location, however, may be just that: an aspiration, according to a new report by Zillow that identifies what areas buyers are interested in the most:

20 Desirable Neighborhoods, Ranked

Led by L.A.’s The Oaks, Atlanta’s Tuxedo Park and San Francisco’s Presidio Heights, the majority of neighborhoods ranked by Zillow are enclaves with high price tags, suggesting that although buyers have a demonstrated interest in them, it is more out of curiosity or desire than an intent to purchase. Zillow based its list on the neighborhood’s number of pageviews during the first three months of 2018.

“Real estate shoppers are usually very aspirational, so it’s no surprise we have a lot of shoppers looking outside of where they can likely afford and instead, looking at beautiful homes in desirable areas,” says Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “We see these more posh neighborhoods drawing shoppers in, but ultimately, these probably aren’t the neighborhoods most will end up in—the typical price of entry in the majority of neighborhoods on this list is generally much higher than their city as a whole.”

Homes in Malibu’s Point Dume—No. 7 in pageviews—are the steepest: a median $5,995,000, according to the report. Bel Air (No. 4) follows at a median $5,385,000. Homes in Crestwood, in Yonkers, N.Y. (No. 17), are at a median $559,735—the most affordable, relatively, of the top 20. Six of the top 20 are in the San Francisco metro, five are in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metro, and three are in the Atlanta metro—the majority, markedly, are on the West Coast.

“It’s hard to blame these buyers, because, really, who hasn’t dreamed big when home shopping?” Terrazas says. “Oohing and ahhing over beautiful homes has become one of America’s favorite pastimes.”

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

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

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Categories: Real Estate

Taxes Filed—Time to Chill? Not So Fast, Says IRS

Daily Real Estate News - May 1, 2018 - 4:15pm

(TNS)—The April 18 federal tax-filing deadline has come and gone. Your taxes are paid, and maybe you already have your refund in hand. Nothing to do now but sit back and chill for eight months or so, right?

The Internal Revenue Service respectfully disagrees.

Given recent changes in tax tables created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, IRS officials are urging taxpayers to do a “paycheck checkup” and other double-checks, the better to avoid a possibly unpleasant surprise in early spring next year.

“The IRS is taking special steps to help taxpayers understand these tax law changes,” said Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter. “We encourage people to do a paycheck checkup to help make sure they’re having the right amount of tax withheld for their unique personal situation. To help with this, the IRS has added and updated a variety of tools and information to help taxpayers.”

The IRS says taxpayers should start by determining how much money they want employers to withhold from their paychecks.

That can be done on the “Withholding Calculator” link on www.IRS.gov. Having too little tax withheld can mean a surprisingly high tax bill next year, and with the average refund topping $2,800, the IRS said some taxpayers might prefer to have less tax withheld up front and receive more in their paychecks.

Taxpayers can use the calculator to estimate their 2018 income tax. It compares that estimate to the taxpayer’s current tax withholding options. Some may wish to change their withholding with their employer. The IRS notes that it’s helpful to have a completed 2017 tax return with you when you visit the website.

Taxpayers who need to adjust their withholding will need to submit a new Form W-4, also known as an Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, to their employer. If an employee needs to adjust withholding, doing so as quickly as possible means there’s more time for tax withholding to take place evenly over the rest of the year. Waiting until later in the year means there are fewer pay periods to make the tax changes, which could have a bigger impact on each paycheck.

The IRS said the paycheck checkup is highly recommended for two-income families, people working two or more jobs, parents who claim credits such as the Child Tax Credit, people who itemized deductions in 2017 and those who received either large tax refunds or large tax bills in 2017.

The IRS also has launched a series of “tax reform tax tips” at www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-reform. The periodic notices offer tax changes and other information in plain language.

For some, tax season goes on even now. That includes citizens who filed for an extension, others who did not file or pay what is owed, or those awaiting refunds. The IRS said it has help available for them, too.

There’s no penalty for filing a late return after the tax deadline if a refund is due. Penalties and interest only accrue on unfiled returns if taxes were not paid by April 18. IRS “Free File” is available through October 15 for incomes less than $66,000. To get more information to file electronically, visit www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free.

If a federal return is filed more than 60 days after the April due date, the minimum penalty is either $210 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax, whichever is less. This means that if the tax due is $210 or less, the penalty is equal to the tax amount due. If the tax due is more than $210, the penalty is at least $210.

In some cases, taxpayers filing after the deadline may qualify for penalty relief. If there is a good reason for filing late, the IRS said taxpayers should attach an explanation to their returns. The IRS also noted that taxpayers who have a history of filing and paying on time often qualify for penalty relief. The agency said a taxpayer will usually qualify for such relief if they haven’t been assessed penalties for the past three years and meet other requirements. For more information, do a “first-time penalty abatement” search on www.IRS.gov.

Still looking for your refund? Go to www.irs.gov/refunds, where multiple options are explained to check on your refund status.

Those who owe taxes can get information on payments or applying online for a payment plan at www.irs.gov/payments/view-your-tax-account.

The IRS said it routinely corrects math errors on returns and subsequently notifies taxpayers by mail. If a taxpayer discovers a major error or omission, however, the federal tax agency suggests consulting this site to determine if an amended return is necessary: www.irs.gov/help/ita/should-i-file-an-amended-return.

Finally, the IRS stressed that it never makes initial, unsolicited contact via email, text or social media on filing, payment or refund issues. The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail. Any email that appears to be from the IRS about a refund or tax problem is likely a scam attempt. Don’t give out any key personal information in an email. The IRS wants those suspicious emails forwarded to phishing@irs.gov.

©2018 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Categories: Real Estate

5 Challenging Markets for Millennials

Daily Real Estate News - April 30, 2018 - 4:27pm

Across the country, buyers are competing in what has been called the “harshest market yet“—but for millennials, the competition is fiercest in higher-income metros, according to an analysis by realtor.com®:

  1. San Jose, Calif.
    List Price (Median): $1,244,000
    Millennial Income: $109,800
    Millennial Population: 14.3 percent
  1. Seattle, Wash.
    List Price (Median): $553,000
    Millennial Income: $78,300
    Millennial Population: 15.4 percent
  1. Salt Lake City, Utah
    List Price (Median): $394,000
    Millennial Income: $67,800
    Millennial Population: 15.5 percent
  1. Minneapolis, Minn.
    List Price (Median): $283,000
    Millennial Income: $73,600
    Millennial Population: 13.8 percent
  1. Omaha, Neb.
    List Price (Median): $283,000
    Millennial Income: $63,500
    Millennial Population: 13.8 percent

Across the five markets, the economies are flourishing, and Gen Y is raking in more than the average millennial, who earns $59,800 yearly.

The issue?

“Millennials want to buy, but record-low inventory is making it extremely difficult,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com. “Our analysis shows millennials are facing challenges in both established markets such as San Jose and Seattle, as well as more recently popular areas like Omaha and Salt Lake City.”

The dearth of inventory is a nationwide problem, but intensified in the markets ranked. According to the analysis, there are 8 percent fewer listings nationally year-over-year, but across the five markets, there are 9 percent less—and though the age of inventory nationally is down 7 percent, in the five markets, age of inventory is down by double, roughly: 13 percent.

The paradox is pronounced in San Jose and Seattle, in that there are blinding-bright employment prospects, but severely short supply. In both cities, the demand from the influx of residents, including younger workers, is exceeding what the market has to offer. Both have above-average pay, but earnings are failing to keep pace with prices—and the challenges in the top two are manifesting in Minneapolis, Omaha and Salt Lake City, where burgeoning demand is impacting inventory.

According to Hale, however, millennials are undeterred.

“Despite the difficulties, first-timers are optimistic and more than willing to weather the challenges this spring has to offer,” Hale says.

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.

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Categories: Real Estate

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

Daily Real Estate News - April 21, 2018 - 12:01am

Who says you need “green” to get a green home?

According to an analysis by realtor.com®, eco-friendliness is becoming the norm—and being a green homeowner may not be as pricey as thought. While California’s costlier markets have high concentrations of green homes, there are also affordable pockets outside the Golden State—and, in many markets, eco-features are no longer at a premium.

The greenest:

  1. Fort Collins, Colo.
    Green Home Listings Share: 36 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $170.4
    Green Local Median PPSF: $171
  1. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas
    Green Home Listings Share: 35 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $139.1
    Green Local Median PPSF: $144
  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
    Green Home Listings Share: 35 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $738.9
    Green Local Median PPSF: $701
  1. San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas
    Green Home Listings Share: 34 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $128.8
    Green Local Median PPSF: $130
  1. Tulsa, Okla.
    Green Home Listings Share: 33 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $96.7
    Green Local Median PPSF: $115
  1. Boulder, Colo.
    Green Home Listings Share: 25 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $257.7
    Green Local Median PPSF: $267
  1. Salinas, Calif.
    Green Home Listings Share: 21 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $498.5
    Green Local Median PPSF: $429
  1. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga.
    Green Home Listings Share: 20 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $121.5
    Green Local Median PPSF: $132
  1. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas
    Green Home Listings Share: 19 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $93.2
    Green Local Median PPSF: $107
  1. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.
    Green Home Listings Share: 17 percent
    Local Median Price-Per-Square Foot (PPSF): $565.7
    Green Local Median PPSF: $544

“Although Southern and Western states still lead the way in green technology adoption, eco-friendly features have grown in popularity across many regions of the United States,” says Javier Vivas, director of Economic Research at realtor.com. “Many buyers have come to expect standard features, and homes integrating specialty green features are becoming more mainstream.

“However, in today’s inventory-starved market, location still reigns supreme and the price of land can easily override the allure of special eco-friendly features,” Vivas says.

Analysts defined a “green” home as one with bamboo flooring, dual-pane windows, ENERGY STAR appliances and/or rating, Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) ventilation and/or solar panels.

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.

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Categories: Real Estate

New Data Finds Homeowners Struggle When Selling, Despite Hot Market

Daily Real Estate News - April 19, 2018 - 4:01pm

Twelve days before Thanksgiving, Mark and Sue Meaney decided to put their 109-year-old house on the market. They looked at comps of similar-sized homes near their St. Paul neighborhood, agreed on a price with their agent and waited anxiously for their first offer to roll in.

Mark and Sue knew their timing wasn’t ideal. The holidays loomed, and the market was slowing; worse, St. Paul was entering its notorious subzero season.

The couple felt torn. After one year of searching for a new home, they had found the perfect place a few miles away. It was spacious enough to raise their kids and had a first-floor bedroom and bathroom for Sue’s aging parents.

As first-time sellers—Mark and Sue had lived in the house for 20 years—the couple took a leap of faith. They bought the new home, moved in Sue’s parents and dropped nearly $20,000 to spruce up their old house to help it sell quickly.

Several weeks later, their vacant home remains for sale, its exterior weathering the forces of yet another Minnesota winter.

Selling a Home: Truth in Data
Skim any number of news articles on the U.S. housing market and chances are you’ll run across the phrases “low inventory,” “sellers’ market” and “strong demand.” This rings especially true in larger metropolitan areas, where stories of bidding wars abound, leaving the impression that sellers in these markets simply list their homes, sit back and receive offers above the asking price.

For much of the U.S., however, the data reveals a starker reality.

According to new findings from Zillow Group—which used data from the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017—selling a home in the U.S. is not only fraught with anxiety, but often culminates in unmet expectations.

In fact, close to one-third of sellers said they felt unsatisfied with the selling process. Of first-time sellers, nearly 30 percent were unprepared for how long it took to sell their homes and said they wished they would have started the process sooner, according to the analysis.

Furthermore, 76 percent of sellers across the U.S. ended up making at least one concession, with lowering the price the most-cited compromise. Thirty-six percent said they either struggled to sell their homes within their desired price range or time frame.

“This data shows there is a huge opportunity to create a better end-to-end experience for sellers and help them turn over their homes faster,” said Jeremy Wacksman, chief marketing officer at Zillow Group.

More Information, More Stress
Much of the stress sellers feel stems from that nail-biting wait to get the right offer. Fueling this collective anxiety is, of course, more access to information.

While the internet has greatly democratized the buying and selling process, it has also created a state of seller vigilance. Sellers are more involved than ever in the sale of their homes—and more stressed out.

Take Mark, for instance. He’s constantly monitoring how many views his house gets on Zillow and how it ranks compared to other homes coming on the market. Despite working with an agent, Mark is immersed—and stressed.

While Zillow’s findings show that 82 percent of sellers valued having an agent guide them through the process, America has entered a new era of how deeply involved homeowners are in selling their most expensive investment, Wacksman said.

Sonia Krishnan is a senior writer at Zillow Group. This article was originally published on the Premier Agent Resource Center on Feb. 16, 2018. See the full story here.

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Categories: Real Estate

Weighing Risk and Reward: Crypto-Investing in Home Equity

Daily Real Estate News - April 16, 2018 - 4:50pm

For homeowners that are looking to access home equity funds, but don’t want to take out a second loan, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or a reverse mortgage, there are not many options; however, blockchain technology is looking to change that by offering investment opportunities that are tied to a home’s equity and rising values.

Quantm Real Estate (QuantmRE) is a membership-based real estate investment network built on blockchain technology. It allows the primary issuance and secondary trading of investment tokens backed by fractional equity interests in single-family homes. This means that QuantmRE invests in a fraction of the home by paying the homeowner a pre-determined amount of money (USD) to later benefit from rising home values when the homeowner decides to sell.

Any funds gained are used by QuantmRE to continue investing in single family homes—of which the portion purchased goes into a pool of other equity from other homeowners. The company also invests in non-homeowner occupied single-family homes that are held as investment properties.

“Having to borrow from a bank simply to access the wealth that you have built up in your home is deeply unsatisfactory,” said Matthew Sullivan, CEO and founder of QuantmRE, in a statement. “Our ability to digitize the value of a homeowner’s equity and realize the locked-up value will solve a huge problem for homeowners worldwide. It’s time for people to be able to access more affordable homeownership options, flexibility and less financial risk.”

Although the company makes a consistent effort to stay away from the term loan—because the process lacks monthly payments and interest charges—it is, in fact, a type of loan that needs to be paid back. The company does not charge interest, but homeowners are required to pay more than the original sum provided as QuantmRE becomes a partner with the owner of the property and is entitled to a fraction of home value gains—a lien is placed on the property to make sure of that.

So, what’s in it for homeowners? At the moment, fast cash without having to worry about monthly payments and a small chance to profit should the property values dramatically increase from the time of investment. Of course, QuantmRE funds are on the line if the property doesn’t appreciate or goes down in value; but if it does, homeowners will typically receive less for the sale of their property than if they had not engaged in a shared equity contract in the first place.

The question is, do these blockchain investment companies make out better than the homeowners? That may be the case. QuantmRE will typically make its initial investment amount back, and has the chance to profit from home value appreciation. Homeowners, on the other hand, are automatically in debt—a term QuantmRE chooses to refuse—and are then on the line for an even larger balance should their home’s value rise.

The pros? Risk of volatility is reduced, as the tokens deal with only real estate assets instead of other less reliable crypto-investments. When it comes to home improvements, QuantmRE is not entitled to a fraction of the property value gains earned from these updates. Homeowners can also pay QuantmRE before the sale of their home; however, the company may add provisions to ensure they don’t take a loss in the case of unfavorable market conditions. Although QuantmRE’s website states that tax consequences are not known until a future date, homeowners should speak to their tax advisors to confirm before participating.

As with most investments, profitability is determined on a case-by-case basis. While this is a chance for homeowners to participate in a blockchain-based investment, they should consult a financial advisor to determine if this is the right choice for them or if traditional equity-funded loans make more financial sense.

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

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Categories: Real Estate

Prepaid Property Tax Debate Undecided

Daily Real Estate News - April 12, 2018 - 4:02pm

Just a few days shy from the 2018 tax deadline on April 17, and controversy surrounding the new tax law—the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—is leaving multitudes of homeowners uncertain about whether they should claim their prepaid property tax deductions. The new law imposes a $10,000 cap on state and local tax write-offs (previously unlimited) for both single filers and married couples, leaving tax consultants and taxpayers searching for ways to make the most of the decreased cap before it takes effect in next year’s filing.

Interpretation of the new law has been varied. The ruling clearly states that state and local income taxes are not eligible for prepayment. With no mention of property taxes, many homeowners rushed to prepay in December; however, on December 27, the IRS released a statement, clarifying that prepaid taxes are only deductible under certain circumstances—homeowners cannot deduct the prepayment for property taxes that have not been assessed prior to 2018.

The IRS provided the following examples:

“Assume County A assesses property tax on July 1, 2017 for the period July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018. On July 31, 2017, County A sends notices to residents notifying them of the assessment and billing the property tax in two installments with the first installment due Sept. 30, 2017 and the second installment due Jan. 31, 2018. Assuming taxpayer has paid the first installment in 2017, the taxpayer may choose to pay the second installment on Dec. 31, 2017 and may claim a deduction for this prepayment on the taxpayer’s 2017 return.”

“County B also assesses and bills its residents for property taxes on July 1, 2017, for the period July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018. County B intends to make the usual assessment in July 2018 for the period July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019; however, because county residents wish to prepay their 2018-2019 property taxes in 2017, County B has revised its computer systems to accept prepayment of property taxes for the 2018-2019 property tax year. Taxpayers who prepay their 2018-2019 property taxes in 2017 will not be allowed to deduct the prepayment on their federal tax returns because the county will not assess the property tax for the 2018-2019 tax year until July 1, 2018.”

Not all tax experts agree, and several members of the Ways & Means Committee are petitioning the IRS for higher deductions of reasonable estimates, according to the Wall Street Journal. The issue has not been resolved across the board, but with a low audit risk due to limitations on IRS resources, some taxpayers are urging their tax preparers to claim the deduction without disclosing the write-off on the required IRS form (8275).

“There is no reason to believe that Congress made a mistake in omitting property tax prepayments, and there was certainly no basis for the IRS to substitute its own policy judgements that departs from the act of Congress, especially when the consequence of the IRS’s determination may have cost taxpayers millions of dollars,” states the Ways & Means Committee letter.

Stay tuned to RISMedia for more developments.

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

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Categories: Real Estate

With Fast-Growing Prices, Gains in Equity Are Exceeding Minimum Wage

Daily Real Estate News - April 10, 2018 - 4:16pm

For many Americans, homeownership is a vehicle for wealth—an appreciating asset that, more often than not, earns a profit at resale.

In the market today, homeowners are all but promised to reap the rewards. According to an analysis recently released by Zillow, appreciation is so healthy that homes in many markets are producing more than a job for minimum wage would. Although the average homeowner is earning $7.09 in equity for every hour spent at work—16 cents less than the federal minimum wage—homeowners in half of the 50 largest markets are earning more in equity than their local minimum wage. The analysis assumed eight-hour days, or 2,087 hours of work per year.

“As home values continue to rise at a rapid clip, many homeowners have earned more in home equity over the past year than they would have by working a minimum wage job—and in some areas, more than they’d have earned even if they had a job paying a six-figure annual salary,” says Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow.

The areas earning the most are on the West Coast: San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. In San Francisco, appreciation has been $60.13 per hour worked; in San Jose, $99.81; and in Seattle, $54.24.

In the 25 largest markets:

“Equity ‘earnings’ are a lot different than the salary typically taken home on the first and fifteenth of each month; it is not money that accumulates directly into a checking account or that can be spent on daily needs,” Terrazas says. “Equity is only available once a homeowner chooses to sell a home, and even then is often subject to various taxes and other expenses. Still, particularly for homeowners that have already or are very close to paying off a mortgage, this supplemental ‘income’—especially if allowed to accumulate over several years—can essentially serve as a kind of second job that pays directly to a homeowner’s bottom line, without nearly as much actual work involved in collecting it.”

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

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

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Categories: Real Estate

Consumer Confidence Retracts

Daily Real Estate News - April 7, 2018 - 12:00am

Consumer confidence retracted in March, posting a 127.7 reading in the latest Consumer Confidence Index® from The Conference Board. February’s reading was 130.

The Expectations reading of the Index, which gauges how consumers feel about their business, employment and income prospects six months out, fell to 106.2; in addition, the Present Situation reading, which gauges how consumers feel about conditions currently, fell to 159.9.

“Consumer confidence declined moderately in March after reaching an 18-year high in February,” said Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, in a statement. “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions declined slightly, with business conditions the primary reason for the moderation. Consumers’ short-term expectations also declined, including their outlook for the stock market, but overall expectations remain quite favorable. Despite the modest retreat in confidence, Index levels remain historically high and suggest further strong growth in the months ahead.”

Source: The Conference Board

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Categories: Real Estate

5 Things a Federal Reserve Interest Rate Hike Means for Your Wallet

Daily Real Estate News - April 5, 2018 - 3:37pm

(TNS)—Consumers tend to pay far more attention to the swings in their March Madness brackets than the latest moves by the Federal Reserve. The reality is the Fed’s action will have a more lasting impact on your wallet.

The Fed moved to raise rates by 25 basis points, as expected. The Fed’s benchmark interest rate increases to 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent.

“Job gains have been strong in recent months, and the unemployment rate has stayed low,” the Fed said in its statement. “Recent data suggest that growth rates of household spending and business fixed investment have moderated from their strong fourth-quarter readings.”

Going forward, consumers will continue to see an uptick in the cost of borrowing on everything from credit cards to car loans to mortgages.

This is the first rate hike of 2018 but it’s not the last, according to economists. Another two or three rate hikes are anticipated for this year, according to Robert Dye, chief economist for Comerica Bank.

“Higher interest rates are negatives for most households,” Dye says.

The U.S. economy has much going for it on the upside—strong job growth, rising home values, some wage growth and higher consumer confidence, and a federal tax cut that is putting more money in many wallets.

“I think the positives will outweigh the negatives this year and we will see a strong year for non-auto consumer spending,” Dye says.

Here are some things to pay attention to now in a rising-rate world:

  1. Budgets, unlike college basketball brackets, aren’t likely to be busted.
    The theory is that the Fed has room to raise rates because the job market is so strong. As wages rise, consumers may not be under so much pressure to borrow or they’d be able to afford slightly higher rates.

Rates are expected to climb gradually, so consumers still have time to refinance or borrow earlier in the year to avoid higher rates later on down the road.

Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, says his expectation is that mortgage rates and car loan rates will be up by at least a half a percentage point a year from now. For savers, new CD rates are expected to be about a quarter percentage point higher a year from now.

“The economy is set to boom,” Zandi wrote in a report this week. “Growth is already strong—well above the economy’s potential—and will soon accelerate. A massive dose of fiscal stimulus measures, including both deficit-financed tax cuts and federal government spending increases, has just begun to hit the economy.”

  1. Consumers aren’t stressing out.
    Policy wonks and bankers keep a close eye on all things Fed, but a recent NerdWallet survey indicated that 62 percent of respondents claimed that they didn’t know the Fed raised rates last year. The Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

As of the last hike, the Federal Reserve will have raised rates six times since December 2015. The Fed raised rates three times in 2017, once in 2016 and once in 2015.

  1. Borrowing costs aren’t sky-high.
    Mortgage rates rose for a good part of 2018 on strong jobs reports. The average 30-year fixed rate has gone up to 4.54 percent from 4.15 percent in early January, according to Bankrate.com.

“Borrowing costs are still relatively low, but moving higher and that’s why consumers need to get out of variable-rate debt and lock in fixed rates to insulate themselves from further increases,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com.

McBride says he’s expecting mortgage rates to remain around 4.54 percent by year-end, but he’s expecting plenty of volatility. At some point, mortgage rates could drop significantly if geopolitical issues arise or the U.S. economy slows down.

As for other rates, McBride says he’d expect the average five-year car loan rate to be 4.85 percent by year-end, up from 4.46 percent now.

Consumers aren’t seeing anything close to the average 8 percent for a car loan consumers faced in January 2006, according to Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis for Edmunds.com.

Savers are likely to see higher rates, too. McBride expects the average rate on a one-year CD to be 0.7 percent by year-end, up from 0.49 percent now. The average rate on a five-year CD is expected to be 1.5 percent by year-end, up from 1.10 percent now.

  1. Ignoring the trend toward higher rates won’t help.
    As rates edge higher, savvy consumers will want to take extra care to shop around for loans and CDs.

Making sure to pay bills on time—and not get overburdened with debt—will help keep credit scores higher and borrowing rates lower for individuals.

The average rate for credit cards is the highest ever, at 16.84 percent—and those rates would edge even higher once the prime rate goes up, according to McBride.

“But consumers with good credit can still get 0 percent offers for purchases and balance transfers that last as long as 15 months,” McBride says.

The key, of course, involves maintaining a strong credit score.

Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist for Cox Automotive, notes that rates on car loans are near five-year highs, but rates remain relatively affordable, particularly for those with good credit.

“Higher lending costs impact car buyers in different ways,” Chesbrough says. “For customers with good credit, the monthly payment on a $35,000 five-year car loan will rise about $15 a month from a 1 percent interest rate increase.”

Consumers with lower credit scores are seeing much bigger rate hikes on the car loans they’re taking out.

“Assuming a continuation of credit tightening, subprime borrowers will see much larger cost differences,” Chesbrough says.

  1. Consumers can control some borrowing costs.
    Most credit cards have variable rates and the interest rate goes up every time the Fed raises rates. Most home equity lines of credit have a variable interest rate that’s tied to the prime rate. The prime rate goes up when the Fed raises short-term rates.

“Variable-rate debt, such as credit cards and home equity lines of credit, will only cost more as interest rates rise,” McBride says. “Transfer balances to low-rate cards, refinance into a fixed-rate home equity loan, or just pay down the debt aggressively—but do it now.”

©2018 Detroit Free Press
Visit the Detroit Free Press at
www.freep.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Categories: Real Estate

Home-Selling Can Come With $18,000-Plus Price Tag

Daily Real Estate News - March 28, 2018 - 3:37pm

Are you a homeowner listing your property for sale? Consider the expenses that are often overlooked by sellers: cleaning costs, moving costs, painting, staging…

“Even in the hottest housing markets in the country, selling a home takes time and costs money,” says Jeremy Wacksman, CMO at Zillow, which assessed the costs that come with listing in the recently released “2018 Hidden Costs of Selling” report.

“From decluttering and staging to pre-inspections, agents and homeowners often spend months behind the scenes prepping a home—well before it’s listed on the market,” Wacksman says. “If you’re planning to sell this year, try to take some time to research what costs you may be responsible for and how they could affect your profit, or even budget for your next house.”

According to the analysis by Zillow, the average homeowner is on the hook for $18,342 when selling, with $4,985 allocated to prep projects and $13,357 going to the agent’s commission and sales taxes. The data was drawn from Thumbtack, which offers quotes for professional services.

Costs differ by market, the analysis found. In San Jose, Calif., where the median price is one million-plus, the average cost to sell is $81,507; in Cleveland, Ohio, where the median price is $137,600, the average cost to sell is $12,986. (Get the complete data for the largest markets.)

Carrying out improvements, though pricey, is worth it, says Lucas Puente, economist at Thumbtack.

“While there could be some initial sticker shock associated with the costs of selling a home, investing in home improvement projects like painting and home staging often proves to be very valuable in the long run,” Puente says. “Homeowners starting to think about selling should take time to research and budget for the projects that can ultimately help sell their home faster and at a higher value.”

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

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Categories: Real Estate

Buyers Have High Hopes for Spring

Daily Real Estate News - March 25, 2018 - 1:04pm

Getting Equipped to Win

Buyers are flocking to the market this spring, with high hopes even as they face a frenzy of multiple-offer situations, according to new realtor.com® research.

Currently, inventory is down 8.5 percent year-over-year. In addition to the buyers out in droves for the first time, many have been on the hunt for a while. In fact, 40 percent of buyers have been looking for more than seven months; another 34 percent have been searching for four to six months. Moreover, 35 percent are anticipating “a lot” of competition this season.

“We’re only a few weeks into March and already seeing the market heat up,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com. “Holdover buyers hoping for greener pastures this spring are likely to find sparse options that require them to pay top-dollar or make other concessions.”

To combat competition, buyers are employing strategic tactics, like checking in daily on listing portals and getting notifications about prices, as well as above-asking offers and having a down payment higher than 20 percent.

“The majority of buyers are aware of the tough competition they’re up against this spring,” Hale says. “Having been in the market awhile, they’ve likely lost a few homes to better offers, which has given them more time to save and up their bidding strategies.”

Even against hurdles, buyers are optimistic—an impressive 60 percent believe they will close in the next six months, and 34 percent believe they will close in four to six months.

The data comes from more than 1,000 responses to a survey by Toluna.

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.

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Categories: Real Estate

5 Great Cities for Millennial Homebuyers

Daily Real Estate News - March 11, 2018 - 1:02pm

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

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

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

Great cities for millennial homebuyers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Real Estate

Consumer Confidence Leaps

Daily Real Estate News - March 5, 2018 - 5:04pm

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Conference Board

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Categories: Real Estate

Tax Scammers Use Refund Ruse

Daily Real Estate News - March 5, 2018 - 5:03pm

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

Seriously?

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

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

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

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

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

How do the crooks then get the cash?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t do it.

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

Don’t do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2018 Detroit Free Press

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Categories: Real Estate

Sinkholes: Avoiding Collapsed Transactions

Daily Real Estate News - March 4, 2018 - 2:06pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Real Estate

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

Daily Real Estate News - March 1, 2018 - 5:38pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Real Estate

Property Coin: Crypto Investors Looking to Fix and Flip

Daily Real Estate News - February 28, 2018 - 5:18pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned to RISMedia for more developments.

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

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Categories: Real Estate

Volatile Market Threatens Retirement Real Estate

Daily Real Estate News - February 26, 2018 - 4:57pm

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

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

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

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

What does this mean for real estate?

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

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

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

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

The post Volatile Market Threatens Retirement Real Estate appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate