Study: Florida No. 1 in Welcoming New Residents In 2016, new residents brought $30.2 billion into Fla., with about 72% of that increased income coming from new residents age 55 and over.

NEW YORK – Using IRS data from 2016, LendingTree found Florida the most popular place to move. New residents that year bought in a combined adjusted gross income of $30.2 billion.

According to the study, the age 55 and up demographic accounted for about 72% of incoming adjusted gross income to the state. In a look at household income, people who earned more than $100,000 annually accounted for 85% of the state’s income growth in 2016.

“We are seeing first-hand the highest percentage of affluent buyers go to Florida. Several factors have come together between lifestyle, great value (and) quality of living combined with the boost from tax reform,” says Shahab Karmely, CEO of New York-based KAR Properties, who has developed two ultra-luxury condo projects in Miami. “Buyers have huge purchasing power and pay fewer taxes for the rest of their lives, so they think, why not move there?”

“I’m seeing more people moving here from California,” says Noam Ziv of the ELAD Group, developer of the luxury ALINA Residences in Boca Raton. “It’s definitely become an emerging market for us. Since the taxes are extremely high there, Florida is perfect if you like the casual beach lifestyle.”

Ziv says the “schools in Boca are top-rated. You can actually move your family here and work remotely from your company headquarters in New York, which we are also seeing more of.” 

 “Over the last few months, we have noticed a significant increase in buyers from the Northeast and Midwest,” says Jay Parker, CEO of Douglas Elliman Florida. “While historically, many purchases in South Florida were vacation homes or investment properties, now more than ever we are seeing buyers relocate to become full-time South Florida residents. Similarly, many of the buyers are relocating their businesses as part of the relocation.”

“A year or two ago, New York buyers were coming here to avoid state income tax,” says Chuck Luciano, principal and founding agent of Compass Boca Raton. “Now we see them coming for the truly good value they get when they trade New York for South Florida.”



From Florida Realtors:

Fed Calls Housing the Economy’s Bright Spot 


While the overall economy has shown signs of sluggishness, a NY Fed report is optimistic about new-home trends and strength in the overall housing market.

NEW YORK – The economy shows signs of sluggishness – but not the housing market, according to a new report released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Consumer spending is softening and wage growth is “moderate,” but the housing market has rebounded, according to the Fed.

“Housing activity indicators displayed further gradual improvement in August,” according to the report. Over the last three months, single-family housing starts and permits have rebounded. New home sales gained 7.1% in August month over month and are 18% higher than a year earlier. Existing-home sales saw a 1.2% increase in August.

Homebuilding has also seen some increases, surging 12.3% in August to reach the highest level since June 2007, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. A good portion of that has been in the multifamily sector, which includes apartments.

“A still-strong labor market and low mortgage rates could continue to provide support to housing,” the report notes.

The report did note the shortage of for-sale homes as one major hurdle that could limit continued growth in the housing market.

“Favorable labor market conditions and a substantial decline in mortgage interest rates continue to act as positive forces,” the report notes. “Inadequate inventories in affordable price ranges continue to be a drag on sales and fuel home-price increases.”



From Florida Realtors:

Fla. Seeking $633M in Federal Money for Disaster Mitigation


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to access more than $633M in first-of-its-kind federal funding to help prepare for disasters. “Damage brought by recent hurricanes has made it abundantly clear that Florida must prioritize disaster mitigation projects,” he says.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wants to access more than $633 million in first-of-its-kind federal funding for disaster mitigation projects.

These funds are available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) newly created Community Development Block Grant – Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) program, which formed in response to the 2016 and 2017 presidentially declared disasters.

“The damage brought by recent hurricanes has made it abundantly clear that Florida must prioritize disaster mitigation projects to better protect our communities from future disasters,” says DeSantis. “Florida has an incredible opportunity to leverage this first-of-its-kind federal mitigation funding to help our communities reduce the impacts and damage from future disasters.”

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) will lead state efforts to create a State Action Plan – a high-level strategy for how the funding will be used to address communities’ disaster mitigation needs – in partnership with state agencies working on resiliency efforts, as well as with input from local communities and stakeholders.

“The sooner our plan is approved, the sooner we can get these much-needed funds into the communities impacted by these storms,” says Ken Lawson, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

DEO will develop and submit the State Action Plan to HUD for review by Feb. 3, 2020. Upon approval, DEO will work with statewide partners to distribute the federal funds.

In the coming weeks, DEO says it will announce upcoming regional workshops, additional webinars and other opportunities for community partners to learn more and provide input on the State Action Plan.

More information about Florida’s CDBG-MIT program is available online. A copy of the Federal Register outlining the mitigation initiative is also posted online.



From Florida Realtors:

Report: Fla. Needs 48K Apartments Built Each Year


The Florida Apartment Association says Fla. will need 600,000 new apartments by 2030 to keep up with the state’s growing population and rising rental demand.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A growing number of Florida residents are turning to renting instead of homeownership, spurring a shortage of apartments. Data from the Florida Apartment Association indicates that the state would need to add more than 600,000 new apartments by 2030 to keep up with both the increase in population and demand.

“We have over 900 people moving here every single day, and if we don’t have housing for them, at some point, those individuals and their companies and their economic opportunity will go to another state,” says Amanda Gill, the association’s government affairs director.

The report estimates that builders would have to construct 47,814 new apartment homes annually to address the state’s needs over the next decade. However, Florida is projected to add only 33,688 apartments in 2019.

Gill also warns that a growing apartment shortage is driving up rental costs.

Meanwhile, developers statewide face higher material costs and regulatory fees. Gill estimates that about 32% of a developer’s construction costs come from a combination of federal, state and local regulations, such as fire codes and inspection requirements.

The Florida Apartment Association recommends that developers and government officials work together to reduce upfront construction costs and pass on savings to consumers.


Hipsturbia: The Act of Ditching Cities for Trendy Small Towns


Millennials who want affordable housing are moving to smaller towns – but they prefer mini-versions of those big cities rather than traditional small-town life.

NEW YORK – The latest annual “Emerging Trends in Real Estate” report from the Urban Land Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers touched on the growing trend of “hipsturbia” – “cool” suburbs with vibrant downtowns that offer walkability, public transit, and a mix of restaurants, retail and recreation.

Increasingly, millennials are leaving the city for these suburban communities in search of a quieter lifestyle that still has a city feel, and empty-nesters seeking to downsize are also staying in their towns instead of relocating to the city.

The trend was identified in New York back in 2013 but has since expanded to other major metro areas, including Silicon Valley, Chicago and Atlanta, according to the report.

Even smaller markets like Charleston and college towns like Tempe, Arizona, are becoming part of the “hipsturbia” trend.



FHFA Aug. House Price Index Up 4.6% Year-to-Year

Based on millions of home sales under Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Finance Agency found that the index rose 0.2% month-to-month in Aug.


WASHINGTON – U.S. house prices rose in August, up 0.2 percent from the previous month, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI). House prices rose 4.6 percent from August 2018 to August 2019. The previously reported 0.4 percent increase for July 2019 remains unchanged.

For the nine census divisions, seasonally adjusted monthly house price changes from July 2019 to August 2019 ranged from -0.8 percent in the East South Central division to +0.9 percent in the New England division.

The 12-month changes were all positive, ranging from +3.9 percent in the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions to +6.5 percent in the Mountain division.

FHFA HPIs are built on tens of millions of home sales and offer insights about home price fluctuations at the levels of the nation, census division, state, metro area, county, ZIP code and census tract. The numbers are based upon a weighted, repeat-sales statistical technique to analyze transaction data from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.



Upscale Touches Can Make Cookie-Cutter Homes Stick Out

While unusual elements may turn off some buyers, classic elements used in a unique way generally have mass appeal. One example: A herringbone-pattern wood floor.


NEW YORK – Cookie-cutter homes and apartments look similar to their competition, making it harder for a single listing to stand out. But developers and designers suggest some ways to make one abode seem better than its identical twins.

“Everybody’s looking at what everybody else is doing,” says Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants, to The New York Times. An apartment can be “really nice and special and unique – and not dissimilar to the other five places you just looked at.”

To stand out, designers and developers use materials, finishes and tech they believe will get noticed, including:

  1. Herringbone patterns

  1. : Intriguing floors may be one way to lure buyers, designers say. Planks of wood flooring are often in parallel lines. But flooring installed in zig-zag patterns with herringbone or chevron details is getting noticed, as the look provides a flooring update, designers say. With herringbone, the ends are cut at a right angle and have a woven effect. The technique can be applied in other rooms, too, such as in bathrooms – or as an accent wall in the living room or even a backsplash in the kitchen.

  1. Marble: Marble is popping up all over homes, from kitchen countertops to stove hoods and bathrooms. “Calacatta, a gray-veined marble quarried in Carrara, Italy, remains the go-to-choice,” The New York Times reports. The polished stone is increasingly being “honed,” which has a softer sheen, making marble less flashy than it has been in the past.

  1. Smart-home tech: A cookie-cutter home with great technology stands out. Homeowners can check the temperature or security of their home from their phones. The lighting and curtains can be controlled through an app. A marketing team called Centrale is recommending Nest Learning thermostats for the apartments in Ceruzzi Properties in East Midtown, N.Y. The smart thermostats have occupancy sensors that will turn the heat or air conditioning on or off based on whether someone is in the room. “It doesn’t make sense to manually operate thermostats anymore,” says Tariq Mahmood, director of construction for Ceruzzi’s New York division.


Fla.’s Housing Market Shows Positive Trends in Sept.

Sept. statewide single-family home sales rose 11.5% year-to-year, and the median price rose 5.3% to $256K. Condo sales rose 6.1%; median price up 5.8% to $193K.



ORLANDO, Fla. – During September, Florida’s housing market reported more closed sales, higher median prices and increased pending inventory compared to a year ago, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 23,510 last month, up 11.5% from September 2018.

“Mortgage rates that remain historically low and strong economic trends continue to help fuel Florida’s housing market,” says 2019 Florida Realtors President Eric Sain, a Realtor and district sales manager with Illustrated Properties in Palm Beach.“In another positive sign, pending inventory for existing single-family homes was up 1.7% year-over-year, while pending inventory for existing condo-townhouse properties was up 0.9%.

“Staying on top of trends in local housing markets can be challenging for buyers and sellers – turning to a local Realtor for expert guidance can ease stress and help with peace of mind.”

Pending inventory is the number of listed properties under contract at the end of the month or data collection period.

Statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and condo-townhouse properties have risen year-over-year for 93 consecutive months.

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $265,000, up 5.3% from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Last month’s statewide median price for condo-townhouse units was $193,000, up 5.8% over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less. 

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in August 2019 was $280,700, up 4.7% from the previous year; the national median existing condo price was $257,600. In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in August was $617,410; in Massachusetts, it was $430,000; in Maryland, it was $310,000; and in New York, it was $296,900.

Looking at Florida’s condo-townhouse market in September, statewide closed sales totaled 9,007, up 6.1% compared to a year ago. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

“With inventory levels continuing to dwindle, low mortgage interest rates remain the major reason we are continuing to see strong sales and price growth throughout much of the state,” says Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor. “And with both sales and prices continuing to rise, it should come as no surprise that the dollar volume of sales throughout the state also increased significantly this September compared to September of last year. Statewide, closed sales of single-family homes totaled about $8 billion, a year-over-year increase of 17%. Dollar volume for sales of townhouses and condos, meanwhile, rose by 7.5% to about $2.4 billion.”

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.61% in September 2019, a significant drop from the 4.63% averaged during the same month a year earlier.



More Millennials Using VA Loans In 3 Florida Cities

The number of VA-backed loans rose 2.3% year-to-year in September, with millennials much of the reason. Of the top, 10 VA-loan cities in the U.S., three are in Florida.


WASHINGTON – Millennials increasingly use Veterans Affairs (VA) loans to become homeowners. The number of loans backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs rose 2.3% year-to-year in September, led by a 14% jump in the number of mortgages to millennial veterans and active-duty military personnel, according to a report by Veterans United, one of the nation’s largest VA lenders.

Of the top U.S. cities for millennial VA borrowers over the year, three are in Florida: Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destin (No. 5), Jacksonville (No. 7) and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (No. 8).

“There has been a question in real estate circles for years about when millennials are going to start buying,” says Chris Birk, director of education for Veterans United, and some young buyers are jumping in sooner than their peers because of VA loans, he says. “They don’t have to spend years saving for a down payment,” he notes.

VA loans allow qualified veterans and service members to purchase a home with no down payment and no mortgage insurance.

Borrowers aged 23 to 38 comprised 211,276 loans – a 34% share of mortgages backed by the VA from September 2019 to September 2018. The total number of VA loans issued during that time period was 624,332. The number of borrowers between the ages of 23 to 38 who took out a VA loan during that time is up 30% from a year earlier.

Millennials and Generation Z (those younger than 23) buyers comprised 45% of all VA purchase loans during the last fiscal year.

The top 10 cities for millennial and Gen Z buyers using a VA loan

  1. Jacksonville, N.C.

  2. Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood metro area, Texas

  3. Oklahoma City

  4. El Paso, Texas

  5. Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destinmetro area, Florida

  6. Austin-Round Rock, Texas

  7. Jacksonville, Florida

  8. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area, Florida

  9. Augusta-Richmond County, Georgia

  10. Las Vegas

Source: Veterans United Home Loans and “VA Mortgage Lending Increased 2.3% Led by Millennials,” HousingWire (Oct. 23, 2019)

© Copyright 2019 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Airbnb: Florida Has 7 of Top 10 Short-Term-Rental Cities

Miami Beach leads the U.S. short-term rental list followed by Kissimmee. Four of the top 10 cities are in South Florida and three are in Central Florida.


MIAMI BEACH – Airbnb has seen explosive growth in the last few years, even as some cities fight to manage short-term rentals, fearful that they’re taking over their communities. But some homeowners and investors are cashing in.

Florida is Airbnb’s hot spot, finds a new study released from IPX 1031, a 1031 exchange resource. The Sunshine State is home to seven cities of the list’s top 10 cities based on the most rentals through Airbnb per every 50,000 residents.

Miami Beach tops the list with more than 3,400 Airbnb listings per 50,000 people. Kissimmee, Fla. – near Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios – came in at number two. Only one Florida city in the top 30 fell outside the highest 10 spots: Fort Myers at No. 29 with 507 Airbnbs per every 50,000 residents. While Jacksonville fell outside the top rankings, it came in at No. 3 for the greatest growth (up 54%) in Airbnb rentals since 2017.

Top 10 U.S. Airbnb listings per 50,000 residents

  1. Miami Beach: 3,416

  2. Kissimmee: 2,880

  3. Bend, Oregon: 1,659

  4. Daytona Beach: 1,108

  5. Asheville, North Carolina: 1,042

  6. Miami: 1,034

  7. Atlanta: 1,017

  8. Fort Lauderdale: 1,016

  9. Orlando: 988

  10. Hollywood, Fla.: 984

Airbnb has bloomed into a multibillion-dollar company since launching in 2008. The company allows investment property owners to rent out their homes, apartments and condos. To find those with the most Airbnb properties per capita, IPX 1031 analyzed 350 cities data via a short-term rental analytics database called AirDNA.

Charlotte, N.C., has seen the most growth in the number of rental listings through Airbnb since 2017 – a 54.7% jump in Airbnb listings since 2017. Following close behind is Fresno, Calif., with a 54.4% increase, and Jacksonville, Fla., with a 54% uptick.

On the other hand, cities like Chicago, Austin, Boston and Los Angeles have seen the most limited growth in short-term rentals. Washington, D.C., has seen a decrease.

“Some of these cities have been dealing with tighter regulations and restrictions on Airbnbs, which may be the reason for these stagnant numbers,” the IPX 1031 Insight Blog notes.


Realogy Announces Cash-Back Program with AARP

To attract the growing older-adult market, Realogy will give AARP members cash-back rewards if they buy/sell a home through brokers working under the Realogy brand.

MADISON, N.J. – Realogy Holdings Corp. announced an agreement to create a new real estate benefits program for AARP members. Realogy says it will launch nationally in early 2020, making it the first-ever real estate services program designed for nearly 38 million AARP members.

The program will allow AARP members to earn a cash-back reward or bonus if they buy or sell a home with one of Realogy’s residential real estate brands, including Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Corcoran, ERA and Sotheby’s International Realty.

As baby boomers age, the number of Americans over age 50 continues to grow, and older adults tend to be active home buyers and sellers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 113 million Americans over 50, and that number is expected to grow by another 16% (nearly 18 million people) by 2030. In its 2019 generational trends survey, the National Association of Realtors® reported that adults over 50 made up nearly 40% of homebuyers and were the largest group of home sellers (55%).

“This is a great example of Realogy leveraging our tremendous scale, world-class brands and deep market expertise to forge new relationships to drive more high-quality leads for our affiliated agents and franchisees and to benefit AARP members,” says Ryan Schneider, Realogy’s chief executive officer and president.

Realogy says the cash-back bonus is offered in most states; however, in some states, a gift card or commission reduction at closing may be provided in lieu of the bonus.


Florida’s Housing Market Shows Positive Trends in 3Q

From Florida RealtorsSales, prices and pending inventory rose statewide year-over-year. Single-family sales up 8.1%, median price up 3.9%; condo sales up 2.2%, median price up 4.1%.  

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida’s housing market experienced positive trends in 3Q 2019, with more closed sales, higher median prices, more pending sales and rising pending inventory, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 78,759 in 3Q 2019, up 8.1% from the 3Q 2018 level.

“Median sales prices for both existing single-family homes and for condo-townhouse properties rose in Florida during the third quarter – continuing the ongoing trend,” says 2019 Florida Realtors President Eric Sain, a Realtor and district sales manager with Illustrated Properties in Palm Beach.


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“Florida’s business-friendly outlook continues to attract investment and growth, as well as new residents, which provide a strong foundation for the state’s housing market. The latest report from the state’s economists show that Florida’s annual private-sector job growth rate of 2.8% continues to outpace the national job growth rate of 1.6%. Job growth, an unemployment rate of 3.2% in September and a growing population continue to keep Florida’s economy strong.”

The statewide median sales price for existing single-family homes in 3Q 2019 was $265,000, up 3.9% from the same time a year ago, according to data from Florida Realtors Research department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. The statewide median price for condo-townhouse properties during the quarter was $190,000, up 4.1% over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

Looking at Florida’s condo-townhouse market, statewide closed sales totaled 29,539 during 3Q 2019, up 2.2% compared to a year ago. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

“Inventory levels – particularly among single-family homes for sale – continued to fall throughout the third quarter,” says Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor. “But so did mortgage interest rates, which provided opportunities for both prospective and current homeowners. Many current owners locked into low mortgage rates from a few years back have been waiting for a chance to buy a bigger or better home at similar rates, and that’s exactly what we saw happen throughout the summer. As a result, we saw an increase in new listings as well as closed sales across all price tiers above $200,000, with many first-time buyers getting a shot at those newly listed homes located at the more affordable end of the price spectrum.”

In 3Q 2019, new pending sales for existing single-family homes rose 4.4% while pending inventory was up 1.7%. During the same three months, condo-townhouse new pending sales rose 0.5% while pending inventory increased 0.9%. Pending inventory is the number of listed properties that were under contract at the end of the month or data collection period.

Inventory was at a 3.6-months’ supply in 3Q 2019 for single-family homes and at a 5.3-months’ supply for condo-townhouse properties, according to Florida Realtors.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.67% for 3Q 2019, significantly lower than the 4.57% average recorded during the same quarter a year earlier.

To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to Florida Realtors Research & Statistics section on Realtors also have access to local market stats (password protected) on Florida Realtors’ website.



National Association of Realtors Installs 2020 Leadership

Christine Hansen, Florida Realtors 2018 president, will serve as NAR’s vice president, advocacy. Vince Malta, a Realtor from San Francisco, will serve as president.

SAN FRANCISCO – Vince Malta, a third-generation Realtor®, was installed as 2020 president of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) during the recent 2019 Realtors Conference & Expo.

Florida will also have representation in NAR’s 2020 leadership team: Christine Hansen, broker-owner of Century 21 Hansen Realty in Fort Lauderdale. This year Hansen served as 2019 Realtor Party Director and focused on “ensuring Realtors understand the strength of their collective voice on Capitol Hill and in state and local legislatures while advocating on behalf of the many critical public policy issues affecting the real estate industry.”

NAR says Hansen had a “culmination of many years of service in Florida governance roles,” and “held numerous committee and task force posts in the Greater Fort Lauderdale Association, now the Realtors of the Palm Beaches and Greater Fort Lauderdale (RAPM-GFLR).

Malta served as NAR’s 2019 president-elect and 2018 first vice president. He’s been in the industry for 40 years and is a broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco. On the national level, he’s testified before Congress multiple times on behalf of NAR, served on its Board of Directors since 2002 and was the association’s 2011 vice president of government affairs.

In 2002, Malta became a California Association of Realtors honorary member for life, in 2006 he served as CAR president, and in 2007 he was named the state’s Realtor of the Year.

Charlie Oppler, 2020 NAR president-elect:Oppler has been a Realtor for more than 30 years and is CEO of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in Tenafly, New Jersey. He holds the At Home with Diversity certification from NAR and has served on NAR’s Board of Directors since 2003. He has served on four of NAR’s Presidential Advisory Groups while chairing the Realtor Party Coordinating Committee twice and the RPAC Trustees Committee for one term. In 2005, Oppler was NAR’s vice president for Region 2, representing New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. He was president of the New Jersey Association of Realtors in 2004.

Leslie Rouda Smith, first vice president: A Realtor for nearly 35 years, Rouda Smith is a broker associate at Dave Perry-Miller & Associates in Dallas, along with her husband Brian and their children, all of whom are Realtors. She’s been a member of NAR’s Board of Directors since 2009, and has served several years on the Executive Committee.

In 2017, she was NAR’s Vice President for Region 10, comprised of Louisiana and Texas, and chaired the “Future of the Realtor Party” PAG that same year. In 2013, she served on the NAR Leadership Team as vice president. At the state level, Rouda Smith served as the 2016 chairman of the board for Texas Realtors.

John Flor, 2020 treasurer: Flor has been a Realtor for more than 20 years and is the managing broker of Six Lakes Realty. At the national level, Flor has served on several committees, a presidential advisory group and the NAR Board of Directors. The Wisconsin Realtors Association elected Flor as its board chairman in 2010, after the Realtors Association of Northwest Wisconsin elected him president in 2009.

Mabél Guzmán, 2020 vice president, association affairs: In 2014, she served as chair of the Conventional Financing and Policy Committee, where she testified on behalf of NAR’s more than one million members before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Urban Affairs and Banking on for its hearing, “Inequality and Opportunity in the Housing Market.”

In 2014, 2015 and 2018, she received the Illinois Realtors President’s Medallion for Outstanding Service. She was the 2011 president of the Chicago Association of Realtors and named 2012 Chicago Realtor of the Year. Guzmán is a broker at @properties in Chicago.

Christine Hansen, 2020 vice president, advocacy: Hansen has been a Realtor for more than 20 years and is currently broker-owner of Century 21 Hansen Realty in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a full-service real estate company with residential, luxury homes, rental and relocation department.

John Smaby, NAR’s 2020 immediate past president: Smaby’s a second-generation Realtor from Edina, Minnesota. He has been in the industry for nearly 40 years and is a broker at Edina Realty. Smaby was NAR’s 2019 president, 2018 president-elect and 2017 first vice president. He’s held numerous positions nationally and with Minnesota Realtors, where he served as president in 2015 and treasurer in 2013. In 2013, Smaby received Minnesota’s Ed Anderson Political Achievement Award, and in 2014, was named their Realtor of the Year.

NAR 2020 Regional Vice Presidents

  • Gene Fercodini, Wolcott, Connecticut, Region 1: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont;

  • Drew Fishman, Absecon, New Jersey, Region 2: New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania;

  • Deborah Baisden, Virginia Beach, Virginia, Region 3: Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia;

  • J.D. Rinehart, Jr., Rock Hill, South Carolina, Region 4: Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee;

  • Pam Powers, Greenwood, Mississippi, Region 5: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands;

  • Greg Hrabcak, Westerville, Ohio, Region 6: Michigan and Ohio;

  • Bruce Bright, Brownsburg, Indiana, Region 7: Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin;

  • Pat Ohmberger, Lincoln, Nebraska, Region 8: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota;

  • Dave Momper, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Region 9: Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma;

  • Kaki Lybbert, Denton, Texas, Region 10: Louisiana and Texas;

  • David R. Tina, Las Vegas, Nevada, Region 11: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming;

  • Angie Tallant, Fairbanks, Alaska, Region 12: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington; and

  • Kevin Brown, Oakland, California, Region 13: California, Hawaii and Guam.


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  • Expert Tips to Search Google Better, Faster

  • Edward C. BaigAn internet search is as much art as science, and “information at your fingertips” is only true if you can find it. These Google search shortcuts can save you time.

    NEW YORK – Searching on Google has become second nature for billions of people. Yet even though you long ago mastered the essentials, there’s still a lot most of us can learn about how to search faster and more effectively.

    • If you’re searching for a specific quote but one of the words slips your mind, put an asterisk in its place.

    • Google does not recognize uppercase or lowercase letters and punctuation. But pay attention to characters such as “$”,” %” and “+,” which do make a big difference.

    • Leave common terms in the correct order. “Blue sky” yields very different results than “sky blue.”

    Senior Google research scientist Daniel M. Russell recently published “The Joy of Search: A Google Insider’s Guide Going Beyond The Basics.” USA TODAY caught up with Russell in New York, where he was teaching a “Grow With Google” class on search strategies. Here are some of his key tips:

    Think an extra second about what it is you are really asking for: Consider the following search query: “When did Santa Clara (the city) begin?” Seems simple enough, right?

    But depending on how you ask the question, the date that comes up in search results will vary considerably: You might see when Santa Clara was “founded. Or when it was instead, “incorporated,” “established” or “first set up as a city government.” Which answer do you want?

    Now take another search example from Russell. “What is the distance to the sun?”

    Again, seems simple. But where are you measuring from? The center of the Earth to the sun? From another planet to the sun? And so on. Think about the precise thing you are looking for in entering the search, keeping in mind that you can always try again. It doesn’t cost a thing to do a second search on a complex topic.

    Don’t include your answer in a search: People sometimes bake the “expected answer” into their search query. So it’s better to ask, “What is the average length of an octopus” rather than “Is the average length of an octopus 21 inches?”

    Why? You may indeed see search results “confirming” 21 inches, but is that truly the correct answer? Maybe other sources got it wrong.

    “You’re leading the witness” when you include the answer in a search query, Russell says, thus biasing the results.

    Use ‘context’ search terms: You want to help the kids with homework but have forgotten all your high school math. You could search for “quadratic equation” and find lots of results. But if you add the context search term “tutorial,” as in “quadratic equation tutorial,” you may get to more useful results faster.

    There are numerous “context” terms that will help you better pinpoint a search, including words such as lesson, background, summary, define and history.

    In general, Google’s advice is to add or remove words in your query to see different results, starting out with a broad search and narrowing it down as you go along.

    Search by voice for a spelling: Do you know how to spell “hors d’oeuvres” or “pneumonia”? If you didn’t know that those spellings began with an “h” or a “p,” respectively, you can say them out loud using voice search. The search results Google spits out will almost certainly reveal the correct spelling. You can also type in something close to how you think a word is spelled. If you type “nimonia,” say, Google will surface the correct spelling.

    Using voice or text, you can also determine how a word is pronounced – you may get the answer in a YouTube search result or when you ask Google to “define” a word.



    Fla. Building Code May Get Update Thanks to Rising Seas

    Alex Harris

    The last Fla. building code update required new coastal construction to be elevated one foot. Three years later, there’s a call for it to be raised by another foot.

    MIAMI – The last time the Florida building code changed, it required any new construction along the coast to elevate buildings a whole foot. Just three years later, that doesn’t look like enough. There’s a call to go up yet another foot.

    The rising base elevations of homes are a clear sign that – despite waffling political rhetoric from the federal and state level – the people who plan and build in coastal Florida consider the threat of sea rise very real.

    “If we’re going to build a resilient Florida, the hurricanes aren’t going away. Climate change isn’t going to stop,” said Craig Fugate, Florida’s former director of emergency management and FEMA head under Barack Obama. “We cannot keep building the way we always have and expect a different outcome in future disasters.”

    Florida’s long and winding coastline is packed with people, with more arriving by the day. That makes the state more vulnerable to sea level rise and increasingly powerful hurricanes than any other.

    But as of 2019, Florida’s massive, nationally renowned statewide building code still doesn’t have much to say about how to build with climate change in mind. That could change this year, as a new Florida International University (FIU) study commissioned by the Florida Building Commission makes its way through the building code bureaucracy.

    One of its first recommendations: bring all new construction along the flood-prone coast up another foot.

    “The building code doesn’t currently take sea level rise into account,” said Tiffany Troxler, associate director of science for the FIU Sea Rise Solutions Center and co-author of the report. “One recommendation was simply to try to account for that uncertainty that we cannot currently account for, including sea level rise, to add one foot to the elevations that are already recommended.”

    Another idea involves following in South Florida’s footsteps and developing a region-specific sea level rise curve that’s updated every five years to guide building. The South Florida projection calls for two feet of sea rise by 2060 and is due to be updated in 2020.

    A third recommendation calls for the state to review groundwater maps before allowing septic tanks to be installed. Rising groundwater from sea rise has already caused dangerous (and gross) septic failures across Miami-Dade County, a problem that could cost $3 billion to solve in Miami-Dade alone.

    Elevating buildings, however, was the report’s most dramatic suggestion, and potentially the most impactful.

    Every extra foot a building is built over the base flood elevation, the minimum height for new construction to qualify for flood insurance, is a discount on flood insurance. Elevating a single foot could drop annual flood insurance premiums 17%. A second foot could shave 37% off a premium.

    Roderick Scott, board member of the Flood Mitigation Industry Association, said agencies that grade a city’s credit (and determine how much it will pay for bonds) have increasingly started factoring in how a city is adapting to sea level rise.

    “If you don’t have a foot of freeboard, you’re going to have higher bonding costs,” he said.

    Florida wouldn’t be the first flood-prone place to require extra height on new buildings. New Jersey and New York instituted two feet of freeboard after Superstorm Sandy. Annapolis, Maryland, requires two feet. Nashville calls for four feet.

    Even Miami and Miami Beach have a minimum freeboard of one foot, with the option to go up to five feet.

    In Fugate’s time with the Obama administration, the president even signed an executive order mandating all federal buildings be built two feet above FEMA’s base flood elevation. It was reversed under President Donald Trump.

    Two feet in Florida makes sense, he said.

    “It’s a good first step, but in New Orleans they go three feet above. And the other challenge is this only happens for homes that occur in the flood zones,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of flooding outside of the special risk areas. If we’re only doing it in the high-risk areas, what does it do for the people outside of that? It does not appear FEMA is updating their flood maps soon enough or fast enough.”

    A Florida example of this, he noted, is Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle. More than 80% of homes flooded by the storm weren’t in FEMA flood zones, so they weren’t required to have insurance or elevate their homes very far off the ground.

    Reinaldo Borges, an architect and member of Miami’s Resilience Board, called freeboard one of the most effective strategies to protect a property from sea rise, but said he has a hard time convincing clients to elevate a home or building if they’re not required to.

    “When you give a developer a minimum, typically they go with the minimum. Rarely do they go above it,” he said. “Unless you codify things, things don’t just happen.”

    The biggest barrier to adding more freeboard is cost. Homes built directly on the ground, known as slab on grade, are some of the cheapest to build. Homebuilders across the country have fought local governments trying to add more freeboard, saying it will drive up prices and exacerbate affordable housing issues. The report passed an initial panel review, the full building commission has yet to review it for proposed 2020 code changes.

    “For an additional one foot, that’s a considerable increase,” said Truly Burton, government affairs director for the Builders Association of South Florida. “We just did it 18 months ago.”

    Elevating a 2,000-square-foot home can range from just under $900 per foot for concrete block piers to almost $5,000 per foot using only dirt, according to a 2006 study from the American Institutes for Research updated with 2017 construction costs. Proponents argue the discounted insurance premium pays off the investment over time.

    Burton said her organization has supported previous requirements to keep homes hurricane safe, and they see sea rise as a serious issue. But in the balance between affordability and resiliency, Burton said, they try to stay “right in the center.”

    “You gotta stay safe. We build houses that are affordable, please God. And they have to be safe,” she said.

    Fugate said higher freeboard upsets the profit margins for homebuilders, who are in the business of transactions, not long-term risk. And if those buildings aren’t strong enough to withstand a hurricane or a flood, rebuilding takes longer and costs more.

    “The question is which is more expensive? Building resilient homes or rebuilding them all post-disaster?” Fugate said. “I think Florida’s got some rude awakenings that there are no good, cheap, easy answers to adapting to climate change.”



    New iBuyer Option Allows Customized Upgrades Before Closing

    iBuyers are seeking an edge as more companies enter the market, and Offerpad just unveiled a new buyer benefit: Customers under contract will be able to customize their home online before closing and have the cost of the upgrades rolled into the mortgage.

    PHOENIX – iBuyers are seeking an edge as more companies enter the market, and Offerpad just unveiled a new buyer benefit: Customers under contract can customize their home online before closing and have the cost of those upgrades rolled into the mortgage. The service will roll out later this year in Phoenix and Tucson, with an expected national rollout completed by 2021.

    According to Offerpad, homebuyers will be able to select customized upgrade options online and add them to their shopping cart. The upgrades will be considered part of the purchase and completed prior to move in. Offerpad claims it can complete all upgrades within 12 days.

    “In the time it takes for a seller to research, find and meet with a contractor, we’ve already completed the renovation job,” says Cortney Read, Offerpad’s director of communications. “Our in-house renovation team’s staggering 12-day completion average delivers quality projects in record speed. We’ve had more and more people come to us asking how they can take advantage of our resources and connections to customize their home, and so we are proud to soon deliver a fully rounded new feature for those wanting to skip another hassle of the moving process.”

    Offerpad say the homes it purchases already go through a “renovation review” after possession followed by upgrades, typically paint, flooring, appliances and curb appeal. As a result, it says it the upgrades will be provided to new buyers “at cost.”



    Is Marijuana Legalization a Business Opportunity or Headache?

    From Florida Realtors

    Florida legalized medical marijuana and could one day approve recreational marijuana. That has a downside and creates legal confusion, but it also offers opportunities, according to NAR speakers.

    WASHINGTON – Industry and legal experts weighed in on the expanding state-level legalization of marijuana and its impact on Realtors® and real estate markets during the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) recent convention.

    The forum, “Marijuana Legalization: Business Headache or Opportunity?” was led by Megan Booth, NAR’s director of federal housing and commercial policy; Rick Payne, president & CEO of Cannabis Real Estate Consultants; and Neil Kalin, assistant general counsel for the California Association of Realtors.

    “As of today, 14 states have approved adult use of cannabis, while a total of 33 states and territories have some form of comprehensive public legal medical marijuana,” Booth said at the event. “So why do we care? Because marijuana has to be grown, processed, distributed and used on real property. Every property type that’s out there, marijuana laws are impacting.”

    Booth opened the forum by noting that signals from the Trump administration indicate that the federal government will not prosecute state-legal marijuana entities.

    “I think that provides some comfort, I don’t think it provides all the comfort,” she said. “There is still a federal law called civil asset forfeiture that allows the federal government to seize any property associated with an illegal activity. That’s something you should know if you get involved with cannabis businesses. It is not very often used by the federal government for state-legal activities, and I don’t think it is a tool the federal government will use randomly.”

    NAR does not have an official policy on marijuana legalization, but it does have defined policy on cannabis banking.

    “Right now, businesses in a state that has legal marijuana – because they remain illegal under federal law – do not have access to FDIC-insured banks,” Booth said. “This means they can’t accept credit cards and most of their businesses run in cash.”

    Of particular importance to NAR members is the added liability of operating with cash-only businesses that are exposed to added risks and security concerns not typically applicable to traditional entities.

    As a result, NAR has lobbied on behalf of H.R. 1595, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, which overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives on Sept. 25 of this year.

    “It is apparent that the state-legal cannabis industry’s connection to other markets – including real estate – will continue to grow in the coming years,” then-NAR president John Smaby said following the House vote. “With current laws keeping the industry’s money out of America’s banking system, our nation is jeopardizing economic growth while forfeiting critical opportunities for oversight and transparency.”

    Payne, who founded Cannabis Real Estate Consultants after recognizing a void in the industry for knowledgeable commercial real estate professionals, said his company has refocused its attention on local regulatory policy. The firm recently opened a compliance division which evaluates potentially impactful regulations on the state and local levels.

    “The reality is that the federal government could at any point in time decide to enforce this issue,” said Payne, who has been in the cannabis industry since 2011. Today, his company offers guidance on the complexities associated with finding legally compliant locations and preparing them for the intended cannabis use.

    Kalin also offered guidance to Realtors working with clients involved in the cannabis industry.

    “On the federal side, there is no way to minimize risk. So you have to ask yourself, are you willing to live and work in a field where you are subject to federal prosecution?” Kalin asked.

    Kalin also stressed the importance of ensuring clients understand and have a plan surrounding their management of what essentially amounts to an all-cash business.

    “What are you going to do with the money that you’re making – are you going to keep it in a drawer in a back room? Are you going to purchase a safe? Are you going to try and find some sort of entity to hold the money? Because you’re not likely to find an FDIC bank that is willing to do so,” he said. “If the client is unsophisticated, you’re going to have to research this area and figure it out.”



    It’s official: Facebook is taking 1.5M sf in Hudson Yards

    Tech giant will take space in 30, 50 and 55 Hudson YardsTRD New YorkNov. 14, 2019 01:50 PMBy Eddie Small


    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Hudson Yards (Credit: Getty Images)

    Facebook has officially inked its long-rumored lease at Hudson Yards.

    The tech giant will take more than 1.5 million square feet of office space across three buildings and 30 floors of the development, landlords Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group announced on Thursday. This includes about 1.2 million square feet at 50 Hudson Yards, 265,000 square feet at 30 Hudson Yards and 57,000 square feet at 55 Hudson Yards.

    “We’re excited to expand our offices there starting in 2020,” Facebook’s vice president for global facilities and real estate John Tenanes said in a statement.

    Facebook’s deal means that 30 Hudson Yards is now completely leased, while 55 Hudson Yards is 99 percent leased, and 50 Hudson Yards is 75 percent leased. The overall Hudson Yards development is 91 percent leased, according to the developer.

    Facebook had been in talks to lease 500,000 additional feet at Hudson Yards since at least August. The company had also reportedly been looking at space in SL Green’s One Madison Avenue and Vornado Realty Trust’s 15 Penn Plaza.



    Fear the Uptick in Risky Loans? It’s Nothing Like 2008

    In 2018, the number of unconventional mortgages was less than 3% of the market; in 2006, they were 39%. And negative-amortization loans have all but disappeared.

    NEW YORK – Housing analysts are hoping it’s not a case of déjà vu. Unconventional mortgage lending is on the rise, in 2018 reaching its highest level since the financial crisis of 2008. These mortgages include subprime loans, financing offered to borrowers with blemished credits.

    While these riskier loans are on the rise, some economists shrug off the notion that the economy is headed for another mortgage meltdown.

    Despite the uptick in these types of loans, the number of unconventional mortgages is still less than 3% of loans made in 2018. In 2006, for comparison, unconventional mortgages made up 39% of the market. Negative amortization lending, in which the balances on the loan grow, have generally vanished from the market.

    And today’s unconventional mortgages aren’t quite as unconventional.

    Guy Cecala, publisher of Insider Mortgage Finance, told Kiplinger’s Money Power that the unconventional mortgages of today aren’t quite as risky, in part because most lenders must make an effort to determine if a borrower has the “ability to repay” the loan. Lenders also may try to counter some of applicant risks, such as offsetting a high debt-to-income ratio, limited documentation, or interest-only loan with a high credit score and a large down payment.

    The largest concentration of nonconventional loans in recent months has been among borrowers with limited or alternative documentation, such as the self-employed, those with debt-to-income ratios above 43%, and those desiring an interest-only loan, according to CoreLogic.

    Lenders are also loosening up underwriting in some cases to add more mortgage business and distinguish themselves from competitors, Cecala says.


    Climate Change and Real Estate: It’s Attitudes More than Science

    A study looked at the impact of rising seas on real estate prices and found residents’ beliefs a contributing factor. If a city’s population generally believes in climate change, housing values in higher-risk areas suffer some – but values aren’t affected as much if residents don’t.

    MIAMI – Cities from New York to Miami and from New Orleans to Los Angeles are feeling the impact of climate change – and in some areas, rising water levels, heat waves, droughts and fire risk are putting a serious dent in real estate values.

    But what happens in locales where a significant proportion of people don’t believe in climate change?

    According to a new study from the UBC Sauder School of Business, buyers could end up paying significantly more for a home.

    Nearly 65% of people in the U.S. own homes, and on average, those homes represent 40% of their assets – as well as a major source of household debt.

    At the same time, some climate experts predict that approximately 2% of U.S. homes – worth $882 billion – are at risk of being underwater by 2100; in low-lying coastal regions such as Florida and Hawaii, between 10 and 12% of homes could be inundated.

    For the large-scale study, researchers combined sea level data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), geographic data about climate change attitudes from the Yale Program on Climate Change, and proprietary data on millions of repeat real estate transactions from Zillow to examine patterns in high-risk areas.

    They found that, even after taking myriad variables into account, homes projected to be under water located in climate change “denier” neighborhoods sell for roughly 7% more than homes in “believer” neighborhoods.

    “If everyone were to say, ‘I’m not buying beachfront property here because it’s going to get flooded,’ then prices would collapse. But if you don’t believe in climate change, you might say, ‘You guys are crazy. Climate change isn’t a real thing, so I see a buying opportunity,’” explains UBC Sauder School of Business assistant professor and study co-author Markus Baldauf.

    Because so many people live close to coastlines, adds Baldauf, the effects are amplified.

    “If you wanted to create a society that’s really susceptible to climate change,” he says, “you would arrange it like they have in the U.S., because the population centers are really close to the water.”

    The study did not examine the effect in other countries, but Baldauf expects it wouldn’t exist in Canada or Europe because belief in climate change is much more ubiquitous in those areas. Within the United States, however, the differences are significant; for example, in California, the effect is much less, likely because there is more agreement on climate change, whereas in Florida the gap is substantial, even though climate change risks in the waterfront-heavy state are especially high.

    The researchers also examined political party affiliations, and while right-leaning communities were heavier on climate deniers, the effect still occurred even when accounting for political differences.

    Of course, calculating risk has always played a part in real estate, but historically, banks, Realtors, investors and homeowners typically looked at past occurrences of things like fires and floods to price in future pitfalls. But because of the growing effects of climate change, past events no longer provide an accurate sense of what is likely to happen in the future, and predictions rely more heavily on future-focused climate science.

    Baldauf emphasizes that when it comes to climate change and real estate pricing, the thing that nobody can accurately predict is who is right.

    “Which price is the appropriate one? We don’t know. Based on the data, all we can say is there’s disagreement, but it could be that the deniers are right, or it could be that the believers are right. Or it could be that they’re both wrong,” says Baldauf. “All our study says is that


    Florida’s Sunshine and Tax Benefits Beckon Billionaires

    While the president is the most famous rich person moving to Fla., he’s not alone. But it’s too soon to determine the impact of tax migrations on states’ budgets.

    NEW YORK – In addition to President Donald Trump, a number of high-profile financiers have ditched northeastern states for Florida’s warmer climate and lower taxes. David Tepper, Paul Tudor Jones and Barry Sternlicht are among prominent transplants who pulled up roots in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut and headed for the Sunshine State – and Carl Icahn says he’s moving his company from New York to Miami next year.

    The exodus of billionaires can put a damper on their previous states’ budgets, though New Jersey and Connecticut tax officials said it is too early for state revenue data to show whether the 2017 tax law imposing a $10,000 cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions has caused high earners to flee.

    The most recent tax data available covers 2017, and the SALT cap went into effect in 2018.

    Both Connecticut and New York have been losing residents; Connecticut’s population of 3.57 million in 2018 was down 22,000 since its last peak in 2013, according to Census figures, and New York’s population slipped to 19.54 million in 2018, a loss of about 119,000 from its last peak in 2015.

    Some of the reasons ultra-wealthy individuals give as reasons for moving to Florida include the 2017 tax law change, the high costs in New York compared with the greater purchasing power of a dollar in the Sunshine State, and the warmer weather.

    For many, it’s not a completely new beginning. Many of the transplants already owned vacation homes.


    8 Signs a Buyer Is Ready To Stop Renting

    Many renters have a nagging dream to own a home but a general attitude that it won’t work out, so why try? The answer to these questions might help them commit.

    NEW YORK – Renting a place to live may give you the freedom to move when you want and relieve you of the responsibilities of homeownership, but at some point, most people yearn for their own home.

    Buying a house is a good way to start building financial security. As you pay down the mortgage, you build up home equity, which is a valuable financial resource.

    Mortgage rates are low right now, so if you think you’re ready to buy a home, it’s a good time to make the move. “For prospective and actual homebuyers, the decline in mortgage rates has provided a much-needed boost to housing affordability,” says Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate. “This comes after home prices have risen steadily on a national basis since 2012.

    “For those who were inclined to buy a home anyway, the drop in the cost of financing translates to a potential reduction in monthly mortgage payments. For those who weren’t initially intending to buy a home, the improvement in affordability might be what helps them to get off the proverbial fence.”

    Deciding whether to rent or buy a home is a major decision. How do you know you’re ready? Here are eight signs that you’re ready to make the switch from renter to homeowner.

    1. You’re tired of rising rent prices: Rental prices are on the rise nationwide, according to ApartmentGuide, which tracks trends in the rental market. The average rent on a one-bedroom unit climbed 4.2% in 2018, to $1,140; two-bedroom units rose to $1,354 and studio apartments rose 5% to $1,065.

    Rising rent makes it harder to budget for monthly housing costs and to save for other financial goals. When paying rent begins to feel like a bad investment and you want to build equity for the future, it’s time to figure out what loan you qualify for, says Bill Golden, a sales associate with RE/MAX Around Atlanta who has more than 30 years in the real estate business.

    Golden says many renters are ready to buy a home once they are financially stable. Many are motivated by the pride of ownership and wanting more control over their dwelling place.

    “If one or more of those is tugging at your heart, at least look into the possibility of owning rather than renting,” Golden says. “If you’ve seen your rent escalate significantly but you feel trapped renting, it means the balance may be tipping toward buying. With today’s escalating rental rates and low (mortgage) interest rates, chances are your monthly outlay could be less on a purchase than on a rental.”

    2. Your credit score has improved. Some renters are locked out of homeownership because they can’t qualify for a mortgage. A low credit score is a common reason why renters can’t make the leap to purchasing a home. A history of late payments and too much debt will hurt your score.

    One sign that you’re ready to buy a home is having a healthier credit score, says Bruce McClary, vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C.

    Although borrowers with a credit score as low as 500 can qualify for some home loans, they will be required to make bigger down payments and pay higher mortgage rates. A good credit score gets you better interest rates and loan terms.

    “Establishing a credit history or recovering from a credit setback can take time, but the goal of homeownership is still realistic under those circumstances,” McClary says. “Receiving help from a nonprofit housing counseling agency that also offers credit counseling programs can make a big difference for anyone struggling with those barriers to homeownership.”

    Before you apply for a mortgage, get a free copy of your credit report.

    3. You’re good at managing debt. Another thing lenders look at when screening mortgage applicants is their debt-to-income ratio, or DTI. This is a key metric that’s calculated by adding up all monthly debts, then dividing the sum by your gross monthly income. The higher your DTI ratio, the more risk you pose to a lender.

    Some conventional loans allow a DTI ratio of up to 50%, but many lenders prefer a ratio of no more than 43%. If you previously had a high DTI ratio and have since paid off some high balances, you’ll be in a stronger position to get a mortgage.

    You’ll also have more wiggle room in your budget to put money into an emergency fund for home repairs and other unexpected expenses.

    “Keeping credit card balances low and debt under control is beneficial in many ways,” McClary says. “It’s important to consider that keeping credit card balances at or below 30% of the available credit limit has a positive influence on the credit score.”

    Use Bankrate’s DTI calculator to figure out your debt-to-income ratio.

    4. You have enough set aside for the extra costs of owning a home. When a pipe bursts or the air conditioner goes out in a rental unit, you don’t have to worry about paying for it; that’s the landlord’s responsibility. The same goes for property taxes, routine maintenance and homeowners insurance.

    That’s not the case when you own a home. All those costs are your responsibility. If your income has risen or you’ve been able to set aside savings, you might realize you have enough extra money to handle the added expenses of homeownership.

    “Clearly, if you put everything you have into the down payment and such to buy a house, then you have no money to do repairs should they come up,” Golden says. “You’re better off spending less on the house so you have some money to make improvements and repairs.”

    5. You can afford the down payment and closing costs. “First-time homebuyers don’t have proceeds from another home to help fund the down payment. It’s one of the main reasons why the down payment is the biggest hurdle to homeownership,” says Rob Chrane, CEO of Atlanta-based DownPayment Resource, which finds programs that help people buy homes.

    The down payment requirement depends on the type of home loan you get. For conventional loans, 20% down is usually required if you want to avoid paying private mortgage insurance, or PMI. Some mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, known as FHA loans, require just 3.5% down. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back some mortgage products that require just 3% down; and loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) require no down payment.

    Renters interested in buying a home should compare different loan programs to see which one is best for them. In addition, there are grants and programs to help homebuyers with down payments. There is a wide range of programs for homebuyers today – more than 2,500 homeownership programs across the country administered by federal, state, county or local government agencies, nonprofits and employers.

    Another expense you have to be ready for is the closing costs, which typically equal 2% to 7% of the property’s sale price. The good news is that some closing costs are negotiable.

    “Because the buyers are putting so much of what they have into the down payment, we usually try to get a seller to pay some, if not all, of the closing costs,” Golden says. “Even if (the buyers) have to pay a little more for the house, it doesn’t hurt their pocket as much.”

    6. You’re ready to settle down in one place.Buying a home involves a lot of upfront costs that can take a few years to recoup, so if you anticipate moving before you can recover those costs, homeownership might not be right for you.

    No one works at the same company for decades anymore, but a renter who is ready to buy a house should have job security, says Hamrick. A stable job means stable income, which lowers the risk that you will stop making your mortgage payments and default on the loan.

    “For two-income households, obviously the risk and opportunity are twice that of situations where there’s just one wage earner,” Hamrick says. “In a perfect world, (buyers) would buy a home well beneath their means so they aren’t devoting so much of their income to the mortgage and other related costs.”

    7. You’re going through a major life change.Many renters decide to purchase a home after a major life event, such as getting married, says Henry Yoshida, a certified financial planner and CEO of Rocket Dollar, a Texas-based provider of self-directed retirement accounts.

    Marriage, a growing family, a new job and children leaving the nest are catalysts for people to buy a home.

    “The four major cities in my home state, Texas, are simultaneously on top 10 lists for raising a family and retiring, so I see this firsthand,” Yoshida says. “My own neighbors on either side are retirees from California and a young family who relocated from the Northeast for a job.”

    8. You know what you want. It’s smart to have a good idea of the area or neighborhood you want to live in and the type of home you want before you begin your quest. Houses, townhouses, condos, co-ops, duplexes – there are lots of options out there and each one has its own considerations for costs, upkeep and personal enjoyment.

    If you buy a condo, for example, you don’t have to do the yardwork, but in addition to your mortgage, you must be able to afford the homeowners association fees.

    Determine what you need and what is most important to you. Is it being near a good school or within walking distance of your job? Do you mind navigating stairs or having neighbors live above you? Do you want lots of amenities?

    If you’ve moved to a new city or state to take a job, it might be a good idea to rent until you’ve familiarized yourself with the area. That way, you are more likely to choose a home and neighborhood you feel good about.

    Ready to leave renting behind? Here’s what to do next

    Before you start looking at homes for sale, shop around, compare lenders and get preapproved for a mortgage. Getting preapproved helps you know how much house you can afford, what loan program is best for your situation and what price range to focus on so you don’t overextend your budget, says Ben Creamer, principal and managing broker of Downtown Apartment Co. in Chicago.

    “This sets a realistic expectation for what the buyer is qualified to purchase, as well as what financial resources will be needed for closing,” Creamer says. “Knowing this upfront allows sufficient time to save and test the budget constraints.”

    Choose a fixed-rate loan for 15 or 30 years if you want predictable, stable mortgage payments. However, don’t forget that owning a home involves a lot more than the monthly principal and interest payments for a mortgage. Property taxes and homeowners insurance are additional expenses that can increase your monthly payments over time, as is PMI if your down payment was too low. Then there are repairs, maintenance and utility costs to budget for, too.

    As you weigh the decision to buy a home, make sure you can reach your other financial goals, Hamrick says. A new mortgage shouldn’t prevent you from paying down student loans and credit cards or from saving for retirement.

    “In order for (buyers) to have a good chance of achieving a range of financial objectives, they should also have emergency savings,” Hamrick says. “That’s because of the inevitable expenses associated with homeownership.”


    The Most-Used Listing Description? ‘Granite Countertops’


    A study of 1.2M listings ranked agent’s descriptive phrases based on MLS appearances. “Hardwood floors” and “stainless steel appliances” came next. “A home description should play up a property’s main assets and complement the pictures,” the study says.

    NEW YORK – Words matter in your property descriptions. In a new study from Point2 Homes, researchers pored over 65 million words while examining 1.2 million listings nationwide to find which words agents use the most.

    “Creative, engaging home descriptions based on adjectives – as well as practical details – make a big difference when it comes to how buyers perceive a property,” the study authors note. “A home description should play up a property’s main assets and complement the pictures, to help home seekers imagine their new life in the new home.”

    Regardless of price range or geographic region, the three most popular phrases used in home descriptions are “granite countertops,” “hardwood floors” and “stainless steel appliances.”

    Overall, listing descriptions for homes in the $250,000 to $500,000 price range versus those in the $1 million to $5 million range contain fairly similar listing descriptions. For properties over $5 million, the most popular words include “chef/gourmet kitchen,” “pool and spa,” “wine cellar,” and abundant adjectives, the study finds.