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Real Estate

Analysis: The Price of a Property Ripe for Summer

Daily Real Estate News - June 24, 2018 - 1:06pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Real Estate

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

Daily Real Estate News - June 23, 2018 - 12:01am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Real Estate

Housing Starts Spike to 11-Year High, Permits Stumble

Daily Real Estate News - June 19, 2018 - 4:54pm

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Real Estate

A Handy Guide to Starting a Home Remodel

Daily Real Estate News - June 18, 2018 - 4:48pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: JCPenneyhomeservices.com

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Categories: Real Estate

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

Daily Real Estate News - June 11, 2018 - 4:15pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Real Estate

June Is National Homeownership Month

Daily Real Estate News - June 5, 2018 - 4:28pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Real Estate

At Home in Retirement: Boomers Facing a Hard Truth

Daily Real Estate News - June 3, 2018 - 1:03pm

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories: Real Estate

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

Daily Real Estate News - June 2, 2018 - 12:00am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2018 Bankrate.com
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Categories: Real Estate