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Real Estate News

A Long Wait for Home: Affordable Housing Assistance Lacking for Low-Income Families

Low-income families already vulnerable due to strained finances have had to contend with lengthy waiting periods and closed waiting lists for affordable housing, a recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) reveals.

Importantly, affordable housing applicants are being shut out of the Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) program, according to the report, entitled Housing Spotlight: A Long Wait for a Home. Fifty-three percent of HCV waiting lists were found to be closed to new applicants, and 4 percent were found to be available only to certain types of applicants.

“Most of the poor families that are unable to obtain affordable homes spend more than half of their limited incomes on housing,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of NLIHC, in a statement on the report. “They face impossible choices between paying the rent or paying for food, medicine, transportation, or child care.”

According to the report, 65 percent of the HCV waiting lists closed to new applicants were closed for at least a year, with those on the waiting list having to wait a median of at least 1.5 years for assistance. One-quarter had to wait at least three years.

The amount of households on HCV waiting lists, on average, is 2,013, the report found.

“Congress can make more housing affordable to the lowest income people by significantly increasing investments in deeply targeted and highly effective tools like Housing Choice Vouchers, Public Housing and the national Housing Trust Fund,” Yentel said.

Bills on the docket, according to the NLIHC, include the Pathways out of Poverty Act (H.R. 2721), the Ending Homelessness Act of 2016 (H.R. 4888) and the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (S. 3237).

“Home is the foundation for success in every aspect of our lives,” said Yentel. “Investing in homes is an investment in education, healthcare and economic mobility. As a nation, we understand the housing affordability crisis we face, we have the solutions, and we know how these solutions benefit families, communities and the economy. We lack only the political will to rebalance housing policy and target resources towards those with the greatest need. When we achieve that, we will end the long wait for a home for the nation’s lowest income families.”

To view Housing Spotlight: A Long Wait for a Home in full, click here.

Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)

Strengthening Our Commitment to Sustainability in the Real Estate Industry

In a move driven by the wishes of its members, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has initiated a new Sustainability Program designed to position NAR as a leader in the conversation about sustainability in real estate for Realtors®, brokers, allied trade associations and consumers. The new program’s efforts will focus on coordination and articulation of NAR’s existing sustainability resources, while also supporting a growing area of interest for consumers, helping members to assist homebuyers and sellers.

Why Now?
With each passing year, interest in sustainability continues to grow. Research shows that consumers have a strong preference toward the benefits provided by resource-efficient homes and communities. The building, design and home product industries have responded with various solutions that improve a home’s performance by reducing its operational costs—features that will continue to evolve and become increasingly common in the marketplace.

Many real estate agents have already observed this trend in their local markets and recognize that a resource-efficient home, especially one that holds a certification (such as ENERGY STAR® or LEED for Homes), has a competitive market advantage. Research also shows a correlation between sustainable development and property values. But how do brokers and their agents easily identify such shifts in local markets, and locate such properties and features?

After increasingly grappling with these and other questions, members turned to NAR, asking for a fully coordinated effort to address sustainability within the real estate industry. NAR has been actively involved in various sustainability initiatives for many years, including NAR’s Green Designation, Smart Growth Program, Complete Streets, home automation research, legislative initiatives, and greening the MLS, to name a few. What had been lacking, however, was a central point to consolidate, evaluate or articulate matters that impact members, brokers, associations and consumers.

Finding Answers to Complex Questions
Sustainability is a complicated topic that’s too big for any broker to tackle individually. In addition to questions regarding preferential home features and adjusting home values accordingly, brokers and their agents also need to identify helpful resources for buyers and sellers.

To make matters more complex, sustainability topics and solutions are constantly evolving. The Sustainability Program will help increase awareness on the topic within our national association, our members and other industry associations, and the broader real estate and sustainability industries. This program will benefit NAR members through the dissemination and delivery of existing and new resources, information and education, including a new Sustainability Summit in Washington, D.C. It will also introduce corporate social responsibility and triple bottom line concepts into NAR’s decision-making practices.

As a broker, the Sustainability Program also helps you discover ways to incorporate sustainability into your business model so your brokerage can stand out among competitors as a resource that shares a core value with more and more consumers.

Additional Benefits
Other cooperating industries already focused on sustainability include appraisers, builders, architects and MLSs. Each of these provide resources, direction and outreach on sustainability for their members.

NAR is even better positioned to respond more directly to members’ sustainability questions and informational needs. The new program also strengthens influence for the association’s legislative and regulatory staff in D.C. by elevating NAR’s involvement in sustainability issues.

It’s increasingly clear that the product Realtors® are selling is changing. Consumer demand related to the benefits of sustainability is growing. Staying abreast of these changes and supporting members’ efforts requires a fully coordinated effort. As issues continue to evolve, NAR is prepared to play a leading role, incorporating sustainability into its mission as “the voice for real estate.”

For more information, visit www.realtor.org/sustainability.

Famous Encino, Calif. Home Hops on the Market

Fans of the Fox show “24,” listen up: Jack Bauer’s fictional home is now for sale for a cool $3.9 million. The posh space, located at 4620 Rubio Ave in Encino, Calif., was also featured in “CSI” and the 90s classic “Beverly Hills, 90210.”

Stretching 6,000 square feet with five bedrooms and six bathrooms, the modern home was designed in 1939 by prominent architect J.R. Davidson, who went on to design three Arts & Architecture magazine Case Study homes.

The one-story home sits on two-thirds of a seriously lush acre, with a pool perfect for lounging, sleek spaces for entertaining both indoors and out, a home gym, an outdoor kitchen, fireplace and fire pit. If that’s not impressive enough, you’ll be comforted to know that early photos of the residence hang in the Getty Center.

Listed by: Alan Taylor of the John Aaroe Group

Listed for: $3,999,000


Photos by James Moss

This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Visit the blog daily for housing and real estate tips and trends.

September Sales Strong as First-Time Homebuyers Hit Stride

First-time homebuyers propelled existing-home sales in September, attaining a 34 percent share of sales for the first time in four years, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reports. All major regions saw an increase in closings last month, and distressed sales fell to a new low of 4 percent of the market.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, hiked 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.47 million in September, from a downwardly revised 5.30 million in August. After last month’s gain, sales are at their highest pace since June (5.57 million) and are 0.6 percent above a year ago (5.44 million).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the two-month slump in existing sales reversed course convincingly in September. “The home search over the past several months for a lot of prospective buyers, and especially for first-time buyers, took longer than usual because of the competition for the minimal amount of homes for sale,” he says. “Most families and move-up buyers look to close before the new school year starts. Their diminishing presence from the market towards the end of summer created more opportunities for aspiring first-time homeowners to buy last month.”

“A boom in first-time buyers drove September’s rebound from lower activity in July and August, and now sales of existing homes are back to last spring’s swift pace,” says realtor.com® Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke. “First-time buyers made up 34 percent of sales in September—the highest share in more than four years.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in September was $234,200, up 5.6 percent from September 2015 ($221,700). September’s price increase marks the 55th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of September rose 1.5 percent to 2.04 million existing homes available for sale, but is still 6.8 percent lower than a year ago (2.19 million) and has now fallen year-over-year for 16 straight months. Unsold inventory is at a 4.5-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.6 months in August.

“Inventory has been extremely tight all year and is unlikely to improve now that the seasonal decline in listings is about to kick in,” adds Yun. “Unfortunately, there won’t be much relief from new home construction, which continues to be grossly inadequate in relation to demand.”

“Though the supply of homes for sale remains pretty limited, buyers now face less competition in the traditionally slower fall market, which means that more first-time buyers are finally landing homes,” Smoke says. “So listen up house hunters: If you are looking to buy your first home and you are in a position to buy now, this is the best time of the year to do so.”

Matching the highest share since July 2012, first-time buyers were 34 percent of sales in September, which is up from 31 percent in August and 29 percent a year ago. First-time buyers represented 30 percent of sales in all of 2015.

“There’s hope the leap in sales to first-time buyers can stick through the rest of the year and into next spring,” explains Yun. “The market fundamentals—primarily consistent job gains and affordable mortgage rates—are there for the steady rise in first-timers needed to finally reverse the decline in the homeownership rate.”

“This is just the beginning of the return of the first-time buyer,” Smoke adds. “We could see substantial growth in this segment of the market if the economy continues to grow and mortgage rates rise only gradually, potentially driving overall market growth.”

On the topic of first-time buyers, NAR President Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Fla., says government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a duty to ensure there’s access to mortgage credit for creditworthy borrowers wanting to buy a home.

“Unfortunately, overly burdensome fees at the GSEs are making homeownership difficult for moderate-income buyers. Fannie and Freddie can reduce the cost of borrowing while still protecting taxpayers, and we’re hopeful they’ll take these steps to ensure prospective buyers are able to enter the market,” he says.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage inched up in September for the first time since March, rising to 3.46 percent from 3.44 percent in August. The average commitment rate for all of 2015 was 3.85 percent.

Distressed sales—foreclosures and short sales fell to a new low of 4 percent in September (since NAR began tracking in October 2008), down from 5 percent in August and 7 percent a year ago. Three percent of September sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 15 percent below market value in September (12 percent in August), while short sales were discounted 11 percent (14 percent in August).

Properties typically stayed on the market for 39 days in September, up from 36 days in August but down considerably from a year ago (49 days). Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 118 days in September, while foreclosures sold in 67 days and non-distressed homes took 38 days. Forty-four percent of homes sold in September were on the market for less than a month.

Inventory data from realtor.com reveals that the metropolitan statistical areas where listings stayed on the market the shortest amount of time in September were San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., 34 days; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., 35 days; Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., 38 days; and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo., and Salt Lake City, Utah, both at 39 days.

All-cash sales were 21 percent of transactions in September, down from 22 percent in August and 24 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14 percent of homes in September, up from 13 percent both in August and a year ago. Sixty-five percent of investors paid in cash in September.

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
Single-family home sales increased 4.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.86 million in September from 4.67 million in August, and are now 0.6 percent above the 4.83 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $235,700 in September, up 5.6 percent from September 2015.

Existing condominium and co-op sales declined 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 610,000 units in September from 630,000 in August, and are unchanged from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $222,100 in September, which is 6.1 percent above a year ago.

Regional Breakdown
September existing-home sales in the Northeast leapt 5.7 percent to an annual rate of 740,000, which is unchanged from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $261,600, which is 2.1 percent above September 2015.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales grew 3.9 percent to an annual rate of 1.32 million in September, and are now 2.3 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $184,500, up 5.9 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South in September ticked up 0.9 percent to an annual rate of 2.16 million, but are still 0.9 percent below September 2015. The median price in the South was $204,000, up 6.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West jumped 5.0 percent to an annual rate of 1.25 million in September, and are now 1.6 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the West was $345,400, up 8.1 percent from September 2015.

For more information, visit www.realtor.org.

13 Metros with the Most Real-Life Haunted Houses

In 2016, a visit to a haunted house is on the Halloween agenda for about one-fifth of Americans, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. Kids and adults alike will be shelling out millions of dollars to snake their way through haunted attractions with names like House of Torment and 13th Gate.

“From locations in creepy old industrial districts to country farms and hayrides under the stars, each location has a unique approach to interactive horror, but all deliver the thrills and excitement that Halloween fans are seeking,” says James Olmsted, a spokesman for HauntedHouses.com.

We get that these attractions are fun and frightening, but they’re just temporary, Hollywood-inspired spots. They’re not real haunted houses. So we went looking for the metro areas in the U.S. where you’re most likely to find real haunted houses that’ll give you a real scare.

Old and Vacant
To come up with the list, we sifted through two sets of data for the 100 largest metro areas: the number of homes built before 1940 and the number of vacant homes. LawnStarter pulled the data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey.

Why did we pick these two sets of data? Because older homes and vacant homes have a perceived, if not actual, chance of being haunted. In our ranking, we assigned 75 percent of our score to the percentage of homes in a metro that were built before 1940 and 25 percent to the percentage of homes in a metro that are vacant.

Tragedy and Trauma
Paranormal investigator Sharon Day says that the older a home is, the more residents it’s probably had and, therefore, the house has more of an “emotional and traumatic history” tied to any number of tragedies. Furthermore, she says, older homes might have been used in the past as hospitals, morgues, TB clinics and retirement homes—all of which are associated with death.

“Whether you believe in ghosts or not, one thing is certain: an old house has so many little quirks and creaks that the thought of ghosts definitely messes with your head,” writer Shannon Lee says on Old House Web.

‘Reclaimed by Ghosts’
As for the likelihood of a vacant home being haunted, Sarah Petruno, a shaman who serves as an intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds, says “something interesting can happen” when homes, apartments and other structures don’t have human inhabitants. Petruno says vacant homes can be spiritually “reclaimed by the land” and then ghosts can freely take up residence.

“Abandoned and mostly abandoned homes can become inhabited by ghosts forever if they remain mostly vacant indefinitely,” Petruno says.

In those situations, you might come across some uninvited guests, she warns.

“If you own a vacation home or are considering buying or renting a mostly vacant or abandoned home, do consider the spirit inhabitants that are almost assuredly present in the space. It may take considerable work to get them to leave,” Petruno says.

Here, for your Halloween pleasure, are the 13 metro areas that potentially have the most real-life haunted houses, based on their mix of old and vacant homes. For purposes of this ranking, LawnStarter included houses, apartments, condos and other dwellings.

  1. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pa.


Credit: Scranton Ghost Tours

Number of homes: 259,918
Number of homes built in 1939 or before: 96,993
Percentage of homes built in 1939 or before: 37.3 percent
Number of vacant homes: 38,718
Percentage of vacant homes: 14.9 percent

  1. Albany, N.Y.


Credit: Discover Albany

Number of homes: 398,555
Number of homes built in 1939 or before: 118,984
Percentage of homes built in 1939 or before: 29.9 percent
Number of vacant homes: 55,789
Percentage of vacant homes: 14 percent

  1. Syracuse, N.Y.


Credit: The Daily Orange

Number of homes: 290,445
Number of homes built in 1939 or before: 74,858
Percentage of homes built in 1939 or before: 25.8 percent
Number of vacant homes: 36,444
Percentage of vacant homes: 12.5 percent

  1. Toledo, Ohio


Credit: HauntedHouses.com

Number of homes: 273,783
Number of homes built in 1939 or before: 69,616
Percentage of homes built in 1939 or before: 25.4 percent
Number of vacant homes: 31,142
Percentage of vacant homes: 11.4 percent

  1. Cleveland, Ohio


Credit: HauntedHouses.com

Number of homes: 957,518
Number of homes built in 1939 or before: 232,103
Percentage of homes built in 1939 or before: 24.2 percent
Number of vacant homes: 108,043
Percentage of vacant homes: 11.3 percent

View the full list of top 13 real-life haunted houses on Housecall.

This post was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Visit the blog daily for housing and real estate tips and trends.

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