Florida tops list of most-desirable states

NEW YORK – Dec. 18, 2015 – For the first time since 2001, Florida – the nation’s 27th state – is back on top as Americans’ most desired state to live.When asked where they would most like to live (excluding their current state), Florida landed at the top of the list. Overall, sunshine and waterfront acreage were consistent themes among the most popular states, with California (2) and Hawaii (3) rounding out the top three. However, non-beach states Colorado (4) and New York (5) closed out the top five states.
This year’s top five were, for the most part, also top-five honorees the last time this question was asked in 2013, Harris reports. The sole exception is New York, which edged into the top-five after a sixth place showing. Texas, meanwhile, dropped out of the top five to No. 6.

The remaining 9 states on the “top 15” list include diverse geographies, though most do fall within a few general categories:

The coasts are well represented: Along with Florida, the Carolinas – North (7) and South (12) – and Georgia cover most of the southeastern United States beachfront. Meanwhile, Oregon (9) and Washington (14) make for full west coast coverage (when combined with California). Perhaps for some it’s not the coast but the warmth, which takes precedence, as landlocked-but-sunny states Arizona (8) and Tennessee (10) also make the list.

Many states have both admirers and detractors, according to Harris.

California may be 2nd on the list of states Americans would like to live in, but it also tops the list of states where Americans would least like to dwell. New York and Alaska may both be top 15 performers when Americans say where they would like to live, but they also round out the top three states where Americans would not want to live (2 and 3, respectively). Mississippi (4) and Texas (5) complete the top 5 for the dubious list, with Alabama (6), Florida (7), Illinois (8), Michigan (9) and the District of Columbia (10) completing the top 10.

Favorite and least favorite cities

Americans continue their love/hate relationship with New York City, which has topped The Harris Poll’s list of cities where Americans most want to live for well over a decade – but it also tops the list of cities they’d least like to live.

California and Florida are well represented among the top 10 most desired cities, with San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco nabbing the 2nd, 4th and 6th spots for the Golden State, while Miami and Orlando bring the 5th and 10th spots home to the Sunshine State.

Denver, CO (3) fills in the lone gap in the top five, while Honolulu, HI (7); Atlanta, GA (8) and Seattle, WA (9) fill out the rest of the top 10.

The top three cities Americans would least want to live in have remained the same since this question was first asked in 2010 with New York, followed by Detroit (2) and Los Angeles (3). Chicago repeats in 4th place, while Dallas, Texas (5) rounds out the top five. Miami (6); San Francisco (7); Houston (8); Washington, D.C. (9) and Las Vegas (10) complete this less desirable top 10 list.

The Harris Poll surveyed 2,232 U.S. adults online between Nov. 11 and 16, 2015.

Buyers: Set priorities when searching for a home

BARTOW, Fla. – Dec. 14, 2015 – Most people start a house hunt with a wish list.

Must-haves might be a garage, a yard, plenty of natural light or simply, or not so simply, a specific neighborhood. But anyone who has gone to a house showing knows that as soon as you step in that door, priorities move up or down.

One thing is certain – they rarely all exist in one magical, perfect place.

“The reality is that whether it’s $500,000, $5 million or $15 million, I’ve never seen a purchase without a compromise,” said Matthew Pucker, a New York-based associate real estate broker with The Corcoran Group.

But how do you decide which factors matter most? Do you want your dream neighborhood even if it means a bit less space? Or perhaps that third bedroom is a must, and you’re willing to browse a few different areas. Navigating these needs is an imperative part of what buyers and real estate agents encounter.

Pucker said he advises clients to first list their need-to-haves, their want-to-haves and their can’t-haves.

For example, a pet, if you have one, might be a need-to-have. But if you’re just thinking about becoming a pet owner, a pet-friendly locale might be a want-to-have. Can’t-haves might be a walk-up apartment, for example.

“That’s a daily conversation,” he said.

Some buyers will sacrifice an enormous master bedroom, for example, not needing an en suite fireplace or bath.

“I have clients who really want to be in a neighborhood and are really willing to compromise on space to be there,” he said. Others might want the neighborhood but prioritize other things like space, leaving them open to seeing other spots.

“Often times people, if they’re open to that, then they’re pleasantly surprised at things they might find,” he said.

Consider how much you want the neighborhood versus other factors, he advised. He also suggests visiting potential locations without looking at property. Take the commute. Visit shops. “Breathe it in,” he said. “Go for a run. Get a glass of wine.”

Lynnette Bruno, vice president of communications for online real estate site Trulia, is seven months into a house hunt – and she’s betting that a long search will deliver one of two specific San Francisco neighborhoods.

“The neighborhoods are super important to me, because I like to have things to do on the weekends,” she said.

Location is a must. Her other must-haves – garage and at least a speck of a yard – spur from living in a place that has a garage six floors below. Right now, getting her car takes about 10 minutes, often while juggling packages.

“I would have a better chance securing a house if I wanted to live in some other neighborhood,” she said. But she is willing to wait.

Along with the time spent – she expects to spend as much as 18 months home hunting, the average, she said – she is OK compromising on space.

“I’m fine if it’s a smaller space, because I think of this as a long-term play,” she said. “It’s somewhere that I want to live and call home for a long period of time.”

And she’ll live with a fixer-upper, too. “I really don’t care if it’s a complete disaster or (has) pink tile from 1940.”

Along with deciding your musts, do your research.

“Home is not just an investment,” Bruno said. “It’s really where you want to go home and feel comfortable. … Really be patient. Just do your homework.”

As a single woman, she looked at crime data as well as commute times and walkability.

Looking at what homes are selling for is an obvious homework assignment, too.

“Are expectations in line with practicality?” Pucker said. “That’s usually a starting point.”

And open the lines of honest, direct communication. If you’re moving in with a roommate or spouse, be clear about your expectations. Work on your wants list together. And if you are purchasing on your own, talking through your options with someone can still be helpful.

During this discussion of options, ponder where you will be in a few years, said Amy Bohutinsky, chief marketing officer at Zillow.

“Think about how long you plan to live in the home,” she said.

With her husband, they bought their first house in Seattle following their wedding.

“All I could think of was, ‘Wow, what an adorable nursery this will make,'” she said. Unexpectedly, they had two children within the first few years of living there. Despite being cramped, they also found themselves in a housing downturn.

“The big lesson for me there was I was only thinking the next year or so, our immediate needs,” she said.

Buying a second time, they faced different priorities – schools, space – and they had another conversation about must-haves. They left the convenience of the city and found a place farther from work – securing a suburban family neighborhood with a great school for their two kids. Bohutinsky’s commute went from 15 minutes to 45 minutes.

Centered around this question, Bohutinsky said: “Will it meet our needs, and where am I willing to make trade-offs?”

© Copyright 2015 Polk County Democrat


How will higher interest rates affect housing?

WASHINGTON – Dec. 11, 2015 – The timer is ticking: The Federal Open Market Committee is less than a week away from a vote to raise the federal funds rate for the first time since June 2006, according to most analysts’ predictions. An uptick in the federal funds rate would then prompt interest rates to move higher.
Some housing analysts say just anticipation of a rate hike has already affected the housing market.

“The housing market’s capacity for existing-home sales is declining with the expectation of a Fed rate increase, pre-adjusting mortgage rates and a slowdown in house price appreciation,” says Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American Financial, in a new report on the fourth quarter Real Estate Sentiment Index. “Market capacity remains modestly in excess of actual sales due to leverage-assisted housing asset inflation, which is home price appreciation fueled by low mortgage rates. Rising mortgage interest rates and moderation in house price appreciation were the most important market fundamentals that reduced market capacity this month. Now that interest rates are pre-adjusting in response to signals from the Fed for a highly expected increase in December, demand is also declining.”

A 25-basis point rise in the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, for example (which was at 3.95 percent this week), would likely slow home appreciation by 1 percent more than expected without the rate increase, Fleming says. He also predicts that existing-home sales would then slow by about 2.5 percent on annualized and seasonally adjusted basis – a decline of less than 150,000 sales a year.

“The housing market isn’t doomed by a Fed rate increase, but demand would fall modestly,” Fleming maintains.

Just how big of an impact could it have to potential home shoppers’ wallets? Forbes.com cites an example based on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, 10 percent downpayment, $350,000 home and 4 percent interest rate. Under that example, it would cost home purchasers about $1,503.86 per month plus taxes, homeowner’s insurance and Private Mortgage Insurance. That same 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 4.5 percent interest rate would cost a homebuyer $1,596.06 per month – an extra $92.20 per month, or $33,191.54 over the 30-year life of a mortgage. If rates rise to 5 percent, the costs would jump to an extra $184.40 per month and $66,383 over the 30-year life of the loan.

Despite the uptick in rates, “expectations for future homeownership demand remain positive, despite changing market conditions,” Fleming notes.

According to the First American report, interest rates would need to reach 5.1 percent before significantly influencing the volume of residential transactions.

Source: “What Will the Looming Fed Rate Hike Do to Housing?” HousingWire (Dec. 9, 2015) and “How Much House Will a Rate Hike Cost You?” Forbes (Nov. 8, 2015)
© Copyright 2015 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Study: Buying beats renting in most Fla. metros

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Dec. 11, 2015 – The latest national housing market index produced by Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and Florida International University (FIU) faculty indicates the housing market in several cities – including Dallas, Denver and Houston – may be nearing pricing bubble territory.

Based on numbers from the end of the third quarter, the latest Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent (BH&J) Index comes on the heels of the recent S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which found home prices across the nation rose 4.9 percent in a 12 month-period ending in September.

“The U.S. housing market across the board is moving toward rent territory,” says Ken Johnson, Ph.D., a real estate economist, one of the index’s authors and an associate dean of graduate programs and professor in FAU’s College of Business.

The BH&J Index measures the relationship between purchasing property and building wealth through increasing equity versus renting a comparable property and investing in a portfolio of stocks and bonds. It examines the entire housing market in the United States and isolates the markets of 23 key cities.

Currently, Dallas, Denver and Houston are at or above previous index scores that strongly favor renting as opposed to buying in terms of wealth creation.

“It is no longer a matter of if, but when and to what extent, we will see a downward pricing event in these three cities,” Johnson says. “Prices are rising too fast in these cities, and there are no underlying fundamental changes in their economies to support current pricing, especially in the face of a booming stock market.”

The housing markets in some cities, such as Miami, Honolulu, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle, are considered a tossup between ownership and renting in terms of wealth creation. While prices are on the rise, they are nowhere near the danger point for triggering dramatic pricing declines.

“A continuation of rapid and dramatic price increases in these real estate market places will almost certainly lead to pricing bubbles and resulting local real estate crashes,” Beracha says. “On the other hand, a slowdown in pricing in these areas should allow these cities to pull back from the edge.”

Some cities – Chicago, Cincinnati and Cleveland – remain strongly in buy territory with negative BH&J scores. These scores are suggestive of vibrant real estate markets that have room to grow in terms of pricing. The only real danger is that of market contagion, in which negative pricing events in one real estate market lead to downturns in other markets.

“Interestingly, Houston had relatively low BH&J scores back in 2006 and fared pretty well during the collapse,” Johnson says. “Unfortunately, Houston is now leading the pack in terms of renter friendly markets, which is not good in terms of future expected housing prices.”

The BH&J Index is published quarterly and is available online.

© 2015 Florida Realtors®

New visa rules could impact some Fla. homeowners

WASHINGTON – Dec. 9, 2015 – Visas used by foreigners to travel to the United States are getting new scrutiny in the wake of shooting massacres in California and France.

House lawmakers passed legislation Tuesday tightening controls on visa-free travel and requiring visas for anyone who has been in Iraq or Syria in the previous five years.

Some lawmakers said they also planned to re-examine a visa used by Tashfeen Malik, the Pakistani wife accused in the San Bernardino attacks that killed 14 people, to come to the country.

Here’s a breakdown of how some of these visas work:

What is the visa waiver program?

The visa waiver program lets citizens of 38 countries travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less.

Travelers must submit data through an electronic counterterrorism screening program maintained by the Department of Homeland Security before boarding a plane, but they aren’t required to show up at a local consulate and apply for a visa as tourists from other countries must do.

Those who fail to pass the screening are required to apply for a visa.

About 20 million visitors come to the United States each year for business or tourism under the program, largely from European countries.

What changes have been proposed to the program?

House lawmakers passed legislation to deny visa-free travel to anyone who has been in Iraq or Syria in the last five years.

The move aims to prevent attacks here by citizens of countries that participate in the U.S. visa waiver program.

The concern is that most of the Paris attackers were citizens of Belgium and France.

The bill proposed by Republicans and backed by the White House would also require participating countries to share counterterrorism information with the United States.

What is a fiancé visa, and how is it different?

A fiancé visa, also known as K-1, is issued abroad to people who plan to marry American citizens upon traveling to the United States.

It is one of the smallest visa categories managed by the U.S. – accounting for 0.3 percent of the nearly 10 million visas issued in fiscal year 2014 – and was created to try to root out marriage fraud.

Applicants must give at least one in-person interview, fingerprints, be checked against U.S. terrorist watch lists and have their family members and travel and work histories reviewed.

Malik entered the U.S. in July 2014 on a K-1 visa and married American citizen Syed Farook a month later. She was approved by the U.S. government as a conditional resident, and eligible to seek a permanent green card in two more years.

Since the San Bernardino shootings, the Obama administration has said it is reviewing the program.

How does refugee screening compare with the visa process?

Lawmakers are also looking into the screening process for refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war. Some Republican lawmakers have raised concerns that terrorists might try to hide among those genuinely seeking safe haven.

Like K-1 visa applicants, refugees must submit to in-person interviews overseas and provide their fingerprints and biographical information to U.S. officials.

However, the process takes much longer and U.S. government officials say foreigners applying from Iraq and Syria are given additional scrutiny.

Those awarded refugee status can apply for permanent green cards after a year.

AP Logo Copyright 2015 The Associated Press, Alicia A. Caldwell And Amy Taxin. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

NAR report: Remodeling helps even if not selling

WASHINGTON – Dec. 9, 2015 – Homeowners preparing to sell often make home improvements that can help yield positive results and garner top dollar from buyers.

But according to the 2015 Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), remodeling projects can also be a major benefit for homeowners who choose to remain in their homes.

“Realtors know that certain home upgrades and remodels can be beneficial to get more buyer eyes on a property, potentially bring in more offers or gain more equity from a home,” says NAR President Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida. “But remodeling projects are just as valuable to homeowners who simply want to get more joy out of their dwellings. Regardless of the situation, Realtors know what remodeling projects bring the biggest bang for the buck and what projects are most likely to improve a homeowner’s impression of their current place.”

According to NAR’s report, 64 percent of homeowners said they enjoyed their home more after completing a remodeling project. Additionally, 75 percent said they felt a major sense of accomplishment when thinking about their completed project. Fifty-four percent felt happy about the changes to their home, and 40 percent felt satisfied.

As for their reasons to complete a remodeling project, 38 percent of homeowners said they wanted to upgrade worn-out surfaces, finishes and materials; 17 percent wanted to add features and improve livability; and 13 percent believed it was time for a change.

Realtors named kitchen upgrades, complete kitchen renovations, bathroom renovations and new wood flooring as the interior projects that most appeal to potential buyers. Realtors also ranked projects based on expected value at resale (without accounting for project price). They include complete kitchen renovations, kitchen upgrades, bathroom renovations and the addition of a bathroom.

When looking at interior projects that yield the biggest financial results upon resale, Realtors ranked hardwood flooring refinishes (100 percent of project cost recovered upon resale), insulation upgrades (95 percent recovered), new wood flooring (91 percent recovered), and converting a basement to a living area (69 percent recovered) as projects to consider.

Looking at the exterior of homes, Realtors said new roofing, new vinyl windows, new garage doors and new vinyl siding appeal most to potential buyers and are highly valued upon resale (considering project price and disregarding project price). Upon resale, Realtors said new roofing would recover 105 percent of its project cost, a new garage door would recover 87 percent, new vinyl siding would recover 83 percent and new vinyl windows would bring back 80 percent of their cost.

As for exterior projects that bring the most happiness for those not necessarily intending to sell, homeowners said new fiber-cement siding, new fiberglass or steel front doors, new roofing, and new garage doors brought the most satisfaction.

The 2015 Remodeling Impact Report, the first of its kind from NAR and available online, surveyed Realtors, consumers who have completed their own remodeling projects, and members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

“Realtors know that remodeling projects aren’t just done to get more money for a home once it’s time to sell – a home is your sanctuary, the place you raise your family and where you make lifelong memories, which is why the report can also help consumers decide which projects could enhance their current quality of life and happiness,” says Salomone.

© 2015 Florida Realtors®

What amenities do renters want most?

NEW YORK – Dec. 8, 2015 – Renters are fairly practical when it comes to what they most desire in an apartment. But among a variety of options, they rate high-speed Internet access as the most important amenity.

A new survey from the National Multifamily Housing Council and Kingsley Associates reveals the amenities that renters want most – and are willing to pay for. The survey is based on responses from nearly 120,000 apartment dwellers.

“Magnificent clubhouses and media rooms may look great on tours, for both prospective residents and equity investors, but they often don’t get used as much as you’d think,” says Jay Denton, senior vice president for research and analytics for apartment data firm Axiometrics.

Renters’ most-desired amenities

  • Fast Internet access
  • Parking
  • Walk-in closets
  • Soundproof walls
  • Private outdoor spaces, such as patios or a balcony
  • Washer/dryer in unit
  • Microwave
  • Refrigerator water/ice dispenser

Four out of five residents also said they were interested in pools as an amenity in their building, and they’re willing to pay extra to have one.

“It’s all about an extra place to hang out with your friends,” says Denton. “I’ve seen more cabanas and other gathering spots near the pool so that it has some functionality during the winter.”

Location is another important element for renters. More than half of residents surveyed said they prefer to live within walking distance of a grocery store or a neighborhood restaurant.

Source: “Apartment Renter Preferences Revealed,” National Real Estate Investor (Dec. 1, 2015)

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