Are bidding wars here to stay?

WASHINGTON – March 12, 2015 – The housing bubble was known for bidding wars as buyers with a limited number of for-sale homes sent prices soaring over list prices.

Even though the housing meltdown is in the rearview mirror, however, bidding wars have not returned to pre-recession levels. They haven’t disappeared in some markets – and they aren’t likely to go away anytime soon, new research suggests.

Before the housing bubble, about 3 to 4 percent of U.S. homes sold through a bidding war, according to new research published in the journal Real Estate Economics. In the study, researchers evaluated National Association of Realtors® data dating back to the 1980s.

During the peak of the housing bubble, they found, nearly 30 percent of homes in metro Washington, D.C. sold via bidding wars – the highest share of any other metro analyzed. In Los Angeles, 26 percent of homes sold via bidding wars during this time; 23 percent in Las Vegas; and 22 percent in Baltimore and Norfolk, according to the study.

Since the housing crisis, the percentages have dropped considerably, but they remain elevated, according to the analysis.

“The persistence of this suggests that people have decided that this is a good way to think about selling these kinds of goods, selling houses in a more auction-like way,” says William Strange, an economist at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and a co-author of the study.

Today’s bidding wars don’t take place in only areas with limited inventories of for-sale homes, researchers note. They suggest that real estate professionals may be strategically listing homes below their value to spur bidding wars.

“With the rise of bidding wars, we shouldn’t think that the housing market – like other markets – is just going to keep doing things in the old traditional ways forever and ever,” Strange told The Washington Post. “There are going to be changes.”

Source: “A Legacy of the Housing Bubble That Won’t Go Away: Bidding Wars,” The Washington Post (March 10, 2015)

© Copyright 2015 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Consumers say getting a mortgage is easy

McLEAN, Va. – March 12, 2015 – Fifty-four percent of Americans say that they believe getting a mortgage is easy – a record high number for Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey, which is a monthly poll of about 1,000 Americans’ attitudes toward the housing market.

The February 2015 survey cites a strengthening employment sector and consumers’ growing economic confidence as key to their improved attitudes about the housing market.

“Continuing improvements in consumer attitudes in this month’s National Housing Survey lend support to our expectation that 2015 will be a year of the economy dragging housing upward,” says Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae. “The share of consumers who think the economy is on the right track rose to a record high since the inception of the survey nearly five years ago, and for the first time exceeded the share who believe it’s on the wrong track.”

Duncan says consumer confidence is getting a big boost from employment growth, which also leads to increasing optimism over the ease of getting a mortgage.

“We continue to see strength in attitudes about the current home buying and selling environment and consistently high shares of consumers saying they expect to buy a home on their next move,” Duncan notes. “At the same time, we still need to see further growth in consumer optimism toward personal finances and income for more robust improvement in housing market attitudes.”

Additional findings from February’s survey

The average 12-month home price change expectation remained at 2.5 percent.
The share of respondents that says home prices will go up in the next 12 months declined to 46 percent, while the share that says home prices will go down dropped to 6 percent.
The share of respondents surveyed that say mortgage rates will rise in the next 12 months returned to 48 percent.
The number of those surveyed that say it’s a good time to buy a home remained at 67 percent in February; the number that say it’s a good time to sell fell by 4 percentage points to 40 percent.
The percentage of respondents that expect their personal financial situation to improve over the next 12 months dropped to 46 percent.
The percentage that says their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago dropped 5 percentage points to 24 percent.
Source: “Consumer Optimism Toward the Economy Reaches New All-Time Survey High,” Fannie Mae (March 9, 2015)

© Copyright 2015 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Rising Rents, Falling Wages Leave More Cash-Strapped

Renters are increasingly becoming cash-strapped, facing higher rents while their paychecks are shrinking or stagnant, RealtyTrac reports. Nationwide, rents have risen by 6 percent over the last decade, according to data compiled from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Meanwhile, incomes have plunged, falling 13 percent over that same time period. More than half of all renters now are devoting 30 percent or more of their income to paying rent, up from 12 percent a decade ago.

Among some of the least affordable rental markets (in which the percent of income spent on rent is 42 percent or more) are: Bronx County, New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa.; Baltimore City, Baltimore-Townson, Md.; Philadelphia County, Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md.; Kings County, New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa.; and San Francisco County, San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif., according to a RealtyTrac analysis.

Coinciding with the increase in renting, home ownership rates have been falling.

Traditionally, home owners have long outnumbered renters by more than three to one, according to RealtyTrac. But since the recession, the rate of home ownership has steadily been dropping, falling from a 69.2 percent peak in the fourth quarter of 2004 to 65.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to Census data.

The number of renter households has risen to 43 million, or 35.4 percent of all U.S. households, which is up from 31 percent in 2004, according to Harvard data.

“The American Dream of owning a home is still alive and well today in the United States, but it is increasingly under assault by a growing number of renters,” RealtyTrac writes in a recent article.

Source: “Will Rents Fall?” RealtyTrac (Sept. 12, 2014)

6 Design Trends You’ll See More Of

What home-design trends will likely catch on in new construction? Builder Online recently spoke to Mollie Carmichael, principal at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, and Nick Lehnert, executive director at architecture firm KTGY, about the design trends that are gaining popularity in the new-home market this year:

Private space
Baby boomers, empty nesters, and Gen Yers are showing a preference for homes that have more private outdoor spaces, straying from the traditional “public” backyard, according to surveys. One way some builders are fulfilling this desire is by positioning the home’s architecture strategically around the outdoor space to enclose it more and allow it to be more open to the interior living spaces. They also are creating more covered outdoor spaces.

The “Super Kitchen”
Besides being a place for cooking, the kitchen is also the entertainment/conversation area in a home. Open-kitchen layouts have continued to grow in popularity, putting kitchens more front-and-center and visibly exposed to other areas of the house. Kitchen islands are offering extra seating and prep space while larger pantries are offering greater storage. “As the hub, it becomes a consumer’s dream to design these elements together with function, practicality, and flair,” the designers say.

Bigger Media Hubs
More home owners are looking for a place for their large flat-screen television. Larger television sizes are prompting more builders to realize the need for greater wall space to hang the televisions and larger entertainment rooms to accommodate more seating.

Larger Garage Spaces
If home owners had their way, garages wouldn’t be just for parking the cars. More home owners want spaces for hobbies and storage, and builders are taking notice by creating larger garages for multi-use purposes.

Home Offices
An office and den space is becoming a bigger desire among home buyers, and the location of it in the home is becoming increasingly important. Placing the home office off the entry is no longer considered the most practical location for it, but builders are experimenting with moving it closer to the “living” area, such as off the kitchen or the family room.

Two Homes in One
As multigenerational living gains popularity, builders are responding by carving out more separate spaces for several generations to live together. For example, some builders are offering semi-independent suites with separate entries, bathrooms, and kitchenettes.

Source: “14 New-Home Design Trends for 2014,” BUILDER Online (Sept. 5, 2014)

South Florida is No. 2 in US for all-cash deals

Forget financing — all-cash new and existing home deals are becoming commonplace throughout South Florida, according to RealtyTrac.
In the first quarter of the year, all cash sales represented 67 percent of new and existing home purchases in South Florida, according to RealtyTrac data cited by the South Florida Business Journal.
In fact, South Florida ranked second in the nation for all cash deals – only the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area had more, with 74 percent of purchases being made with cash.
Moreover, Florida metro areas took the top seven spots nationally for the highest percentage of all cash home sales. [SFBJ] – Christopher Cameron

Want an interest-only mortgage? Go to a credit union

NEW YORK – March 10, 2014 – Buyers shunned by major lenders may have better luck checking with their local credit union, some of which have again started offering no-interest mortgage loans.

It’s not a high-risk venture that could lead to another real estate bubble, according to Bob Dorsa, president of the American Credit Union Mortgage Association. “(Credit unions) never got into the negative-amortization loans and any of those goofy teaser rates,” he said in a New York Times article. “They are interested in what’s in the best interest of their members.” That “best interest” includes any loans considered high risk.

Many of the new qualified mortgage (QM) rules impact loans that a bank hopes to sell to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. They don’t apply to loans a bank plans to keep in its own portfolio. Since credit unions tend to retain more of their mortgages, they have more flexibility in what they offer.

Since each credit union has its own policies and can change them at anytime, buyers should check what’s currently being offered. But the New York Times cites the following examples:

• Pentagon Federal Credit Union in Alexandria, Va., rolled out a 15/15 adjustable rate mortgage (ARM). Buyers opting for the loan get a lower interest rate than they would with the more common 30-year loan, but it can adjust later – though only once. If an owner is in the house for 15 years, the rate will adjust, but stay at that new level for the remainder the loan’s term.

“This is an excellent opportunity for anybody who doesn’t think they’re going to be in the same house for 15 years,” says Craig Olson, Pentagon’s senior vice president.

The loan qualifies for purchases up to $750,000, and the 15-year adjustment cannot rise higher than 6 percent.

• Pentagon Federal also has a 5/5 ARM – but buyers can opt for an initial rate 1/4-percent higher rate and pick the times they want the rate to reset.

• Redwood Credit Union in California has a 5/5 ARM that adjusts only once every five years. The rates are generally better than a longer-term ARM – and owners have peace of mind for at least a five-year interval between possible changes. The lender says it appeals to a buyer who expects to own the home less than 30 years.

• Navy Federal, with more than 4.5 million members, has rolled out an interest-only loan – a buyer’s monthly payments include only the interest without any of the principal – which has not been common since the mortgage meltdown. Buyers must generally have the ability to pay the full principal and interest payment, however, and, to qualify, have higher incomes than most other buyers.

• Navy Federal also has a “Homebuyer’s Choice Program” that offers buyers 100 percent financing.

Source: The New York Times, Feb. 27, 2014, Lisa Prevost

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

Many renters, landlords don’t understand rental laws

SEATTLE – March 11, 2014 – Demand for rental housing remains strong, but a survey by Zillow finds a lot of confusion over existing rental laws among landlords and tenants.

On average, renters and landlords answered about half of the survey questions incorrectly (47 percent incorrect for renters/50 percent for landlords) when asked about their respective rights and responsibilities.

• 82 percent of renters and 76 percent of landlords lack understanding of laws on security deposits, credit and background checks
• 77 percent of renters and 69 percent of landlords lack understanding of privacy and access rights
• 62 percent of renters and 50 percent of landlords lack understanding of laws on early lease termination

The survey included people who rent the home they live in (renters) and those who own the home they live in and plus one or more additional homes that they lease (landlords).

Renters and landlords alike demonstrated the least amount of knowledge about credit and background checks, security deposits, early lease termination, and privacy and access rights.

Both renters and landlords showed the most knowledge around discriminatory advertising for rentals, responsibility for repairs and maintenance, and requirements for terminating month-to-month agreements.

“It’s concerning that so many renters and landlords are signing a legal contract without fully understanding their basic rights,” says Carey Armstrong, Zillow director of rentals. In doing so, landlords and renters could be setting themselves up for future disputes and legal costs.”

Two major rental misconceptions

Misconception 1: Security deposit laws
Eight-two percent of renters and three-quarters (76 percent) of landlords said they believe the landlord has 60 days after a lease ends to refund a security deposit (or provide an itemized deduction statement and refund the balance).

Truth: In most states security deposits must be returned between 14 and 30 days. In Florida, a landlord that does not intend to impose a claim on the security deposit has 15 days to return it together with interest if otherwise required.

Misconception 2: Early lease termination
Nearly two-thirds of renters (62 percent) and half of landlords (50 percent) said the landlord has the right to terminate a lease in order to rent the home to his or her family member.

Truth: Landlords may not evict a tenant during the term of the lease simply because they would prefer to rent the unit to a friend or family member, or even to someone willing to pay higher rent.

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

Study: Vacation rental owners making more money

AUSTIN, Texas – April 1, 2014 – In industry research from the “HomeAway Vacation Rental Report: Owner Edition,” HomeAway Inc. reports strong performance of its vacation rental owners during the 2013-2014 winter season, and predicts a strong 2014 summer season.

The top vacation markets with the highest traveler demand are, not surprisingly, in Florida, HomeAway says. It claims 39,159 vacation home listings in the Sunshine State.

Bookings and profits

• More than eight in 10 vacation rental owners (84 percent) report that this year’s bookings are about the same or better than the previous year.

• 93 percent of owners says they did not lower rental rates from last winter, and 21 percent of owners raised their rates.

• Owners who say winter is their peak rental season had a 70 percent occupancy rate. In comparison, Smith Travel Research reports that overall U.S. hotel occupancy rates averaged 57.5 percent booked in the fourth quarter of 2013 and 60.2 percent thus far in 2014 1.

• More than half (54 percent) of the owners surveyed who had a mortgage covered at least three quarters of their mortgage payment from renting their home – an increase of nine percent year-over-year from 2012. Additionally, about two-thirds (65 percent) cover at least half of their mortgage payment.

“What stands out to me from this year’s survey the most is not only the consistency we see year-over-year with successful bookings, but those bookings are taking place at gradually higher rental rates each year,” says Brian Sharples, co-founder and chief executive officer of HomeAway.

Vacation rental profits

• On average, HomeAway vacation rental owners charge a weekly rental rate of $1,520 ($217/night) and make their home available to guests for an average 36 weeks each year – an annual rental income of $27,360 for the average owner.

• 65 percent of owners says their goal for renting the vacation home is to “cover some” or “all of my expenses.” A profit is especially important to 19 percent of those owners.

Expenses and time

• The average owner spends $961 per year to market their vacation rental, which includes costs for listing site subscriptions, local print advertising, property manager fees and paid search efforts.

• Assuming an average annual income of $27,360, the cost to market a vacation rental is 3.5 percent of total rental revenue.

• Vacation rental owners spend an average of nine hours per week marketing and managing their vacation rental properties.

“It’s interesting to note just how much profit is made from the work our owners put into their vacation rental operations,” says Sharples. “With ROI as strong as $84 per hour, the efforts you’re putting into the marketing and management of your property reflect in your bottom line.”

Future retirement homes

• 14 percent of respondents purchased their vacation rental as a future retirement home.

• The average buyer age was 47 years – a drop of seven years compared to two years earlier.

• The average age when owners started renting their vacation home was 50 years – the same as in 2013 but six years younger than owners in 2012.

• 65 percent of owners spent more than two weeks in their vacation home over the last year.

Renter attributes

• 59 percent of owners cite the location of their homes in beach communities.

• Guests typically book a vacation rental 90 days before their trip, making March and April the prime summer booking months.

• Currently, more than half (52 percent) of owners have booked 50 percent or more of the upcoming summer season.

Florida rentals

• A few smaller Florida vacation markets have emerged on this summer’s list including, Mexico Beach, Cape San Blas and Cape Canaveral – all favored for families and groups.

This summer’s top growth markets for increases in vacation rentals stretch from coast to coast. Appearing on both the top markets for travelers and for increased vacation rental listings is Cape San Blas, Fla. and Lavallette, N.J., showing a strong rebound from Hurricane Sandy nearly a year-and-a-half ago.

Top 10 markets for overall rental demand

• Mexico Beach, Fla. (Panhandle)
• Cape San Blas, Fla. (Panhandle)

• Lavallette, N.J.
• Cape Canaveral, Fla.
• Moonridge, Calif. (Big Bear)
• Balboa Peninsula, Calif.
• Manteo, N.C. (Outer Banks)
• Cocoa Beach, Fla.
• Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.
• Crested Butte, Colo.

Top 10 markets seeing the greatest increase in rental demand

• Dauphin Island, Ala.
• Moab, Utah
• Cape San Blas, Fla. (Panhandle)
• Winter Park, Colo.
• Bryson City, N.C.
• South Padre Island, Texas
• Lavallette, N.J.
• Carolina Beach, N.C.
• Clearwater Beach, Fla.
• Park City, Utah

Fla. recreational, ranchland transactions down, prices up

LAKELAND, Fla. – April 3, 2014 – The volume of sales transactions for recreational and ranchlands in Florida is down 50 percent over the past year, but the median price per acre is higher, according to statewide 2013 land sales data compiled and reported in the 2014 “Lay of the Land” Market Report.

This and other key facts important to buyers, sellers and developers will be discussed during the Lay of the Land Conference on Friday, April 4, 2014, at the Streamsong Resort in Polk County.

Florida Realtors Research Economist Brad O’Connor will address Florida’s residential real estate market in 2014 as one of the featured speakers.

“Since 2010, we have been compiling and verifying sales of large tracts of Florida land to help buyers, sellers and developers understand their market value,” says Dean Saunders, owner/real estate broker of Coldwell Banker Commercial Saunders Real Estate. “This is the only verified data available to enable smart transactions when it comes to Florida land sales.”
The Lay of the Land Conference where the 2014 Market Report will be unveiled is held annually.

“The Lay of the Land Market Report is outstanding,” says Robert Thomas, chair of the Florida Land Council. “It provides concise and accurate information on a broad spectrum of land use and values and is an important and very valuable resource for Florida land owners.”

For more information about the Lay of the Land Conference, visit its website.

© 2014 Florida Realtors® 

U.S. foreclosure inventory down 35% year-to-year

IRVINE, Calif. – CoreLogic released its February 2014 National Foreclosure Report.

“Although there is good news that completed foreclosures are trending lower, the bigger news is the impressive decline in the foreclosure and shadow inventories,” says Dr. Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Every state has had double-digit, year-over-year declines in foreclosure inventory, which is reflected in the $70 billion decline in the shadow inventory.”

“The stock of seriously delinquent homes and the foreclosure rate are back to levels last seen in the final quarter of 2008,” adds Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “The shadow inventory has also declined year over year for the past three years as the housing market continues to heal, including double-digit declines for the past 16 consecutive months.”

Feb. National Foreclosure Report details

• The U.S. had 43,000 completed foreclosures in February, down from 51,000 in February 2013, for a year-over-year decrease of 15 percent.

• On a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures decreased 13.1 percent from 50,000 in January.

• National residential shadow inventory – seriously delinquent, in foreclosure or held as REOs by mortgage servicers, but not yet listed on multiple listing services (MLSs) – was 1.7 million homes in January 2014 compared to 2.2 million year-to-year – a decrease of 23 percent.

• In February 2014, about 752,000 U.S. homes were in some stage of foreclosure, known as the foreclosure inventory (not completed foreclosures), compared to 1.2 million in February 2013 – a year-over-year decrease of 35 percent.

• Month-over-month, the foreclosure inventory was down 3.3 percent from January 2014.

• The February foreclosure inventory represented 1.9 percent of all homes with a mortgage, compared to 2.9 percent in February 2013.

• At the end of February, 1.9 million mortgages or 4.9 percent were in serious delinquency, defined as 90 days or more past due, including those loans in foreclosure or real estate owned (REO).

Regional highlights

• The five states with the highest number of completed foreclosures for the 12 months ending February 2014 were Florida (118,000), Michigan (50,000), Texas (39,000), California (37,000) and Georgia (34,000). Altogether, the five states accounted for almost half of the nation’s completed foreclosures.

• The District of Columbia (60 foreclosures), North Dakota (421), Hawaii (519), West Virginia (571) and Wyoming (705) had the lowest number of foreclosures.

• As a percentage of all mortgage homes, Florida ranked second (6 percent) compared to New Jersey (6.2 percent) in total foreclosure inventory, followed by New York (4.7 percent), Maine (3.4 percent) and Connecticut (3.2 percent).

• Wyoming (0.3 percent), Alaska (0.4 percent), North Dakota (0.5 percent), Nebraska (0.5 percent) and Colorado (0.6 percent) had the lowest foreclosure inventory.

Shadow inventory

• As of January, year-over-year inventory of seriously delinquent homes decreased in all states by double digits.

• Twenty-four states had year-over-year declines of at least 20 percent.

• Year-over-year, the shadow inventory is down 22 percent.
• For the year ending in January, shadow inventory has decreased at an average monthly rate of 41,000 units.

Florida has 15 percent of the nation’s distressed properties, with an additional four states – California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois – accounting for 42 percent.

© 2014 Florida Realtors®