What do today’s buyers want in a home?

NEW YORK – Aug. 5, 2015 – What building materials are trending in new-home construction? The latest Annual Builder Practices Survey, conducted by Home Innovation, reveals what buyers can expect to see in the new-home market.

1. Garages: The garage door is getting more enhancements, including windows, insulated doors, and doors made of composite or plastic materials. In 2014, 32 percent of all new single-family homes had bays for three or more cars – the most ever recorded in this study’s history.

2. Flooring: Carpeting continues to be the most popular flooring option for new construction, included in about 83 percent of all new-home bedroom installations. However, only about 40 percent of living rooms now have carpet. Hardwood flooring – both solid and engineered– is the second most popular type of flooring included in 27 percent of all new-home installations. Ceramic tile (which appears in 72 percent of all bathroom floor installation) follows in third place, making up 20 percent of all new-home floor installations.

3. Countertops: For kitchen countertops, granite continues to reign in two out of three homes (64 percent of new-home installations). Quartz/engineered stone is gaining popularity while laminate, solid surfacing and ceramic tile are losing appeal.

4. Appliances: Cooktops and wall oven combinations are gaining in popularity and make up about 24 percent of the market, compared to freestanding ovens (45 percent). Freezer-on-bottom refrigerators are gaining in popularity at 19 percent, while side-by-side has fallen to 28 percent of the share.

5. Kitchen sinks: More buyers are paying attention to their kitchen sink, with the single basin kitchen sink making a comeback, growing from 5 percent to 20 percent of all new single-family homes in the past decade. Also growing in popularity are granite/stone kitchen sinks (at 8 percent). One-piece cultured marble lavatories are continuing to decline in demand.

Source: “Material World: The Hottest Trends From the 2015 Builder Practices Survey,” BUILDER Online (July 29, 2015)

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

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4 Florida cities tops for seriously underwater homes

IRVINE, Calif. — July 30, 2015 — RealtyTrac released its second quarter (Q2) 2015 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report, which listed four Florida cities at the top of the list for homes seriously underwater – properties where the homeowners owe at least 25 percent more than the home’s current market worth.

Areas (population greater than 500,000) with the highest percentage of seriously underwater properties included Florida markets such as Lakeland (28.5 percent), Cleveland, Ohio (28.2 percent), Las Vegas (27.9 percent), Akron, Ohio (27.3 percent), Orlando (26.1 percent), Tampa (24.8 percent), Chicago (24.8 percent), Palm Bay(24.4 percent) and Toledo, Ohio (24.3 percent).

In addition, RealtyTrac looked at underwater homes that are also in the foreclosure process.

In the same Florida cities, over half of the homeowners going through foreclosure were seriously underwater:Lakeland (54.8 percent of foreclosures seriously underwater), Tampa (51.7 percent), Palm Bay (51.5 percent) and Orlando (51.2 percent).

Statewide, 23.6 percent Florida of homeowners with a mortgage were seriously underwater in the Q2 2015 – a drop from 23.8 percent in the first quarter and 30.3 percent year-to-year.

On the flipside, RealtyTrac found that 17.6 percent of Florida owners with a mortgage were “equity rich” with at least 50 percent equity. That’s a slight drop for the first quarter’s 17.8 percent but an increase from 15.9 percent year-to-year.

Looking only at homes in foreclosure, 62.8 percent in Florida were seriously underwater, while 18.6 percent, even though going through foreclosure, were equity rich.

“Strong South Florida price increases over the past few years have moved many homeowners from negative to positive equity. We would encourage the remaining distressed homeowners to ask for a Broker Price Opinion (BPO) regarding the value of their property – many may be surprised at their improving value,” says Mike Pappas, CEO and president of Keyes Company in South Florida.

National numbers

Nationwide, 13.3 percent of all properties with a mortgage were seriously underwater in Q2, an increase from 13.2 percent of all homes in the first quarter. However, they dropped from 17.2 percent year-to-year. At the peak of the foreclosure crisis in 2012, the percentage was 28.6 percent.

“Slowing home price appreciation in 2015 has resulted in the share of seriously underwater properties plateauing at about 13 percent of all properties with a mortgage,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

“However, the share of homeowners with the double-whammy of seriously underwater properties also in foreclosure is continuing to decrease and is now at the lowest level we’ve seen since we began tracking that metric in the first quarter of 2012,” he adds.

© 2015 Florida Realtors®

Blame game begins when bank-owned homes decay

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – May 3, 2012 – Thousands of vacant properties in South Florida’s hard-hit housing market have deteriorated into eyesores that violate health and safety laws, depress property values and spread blight. The owners of these homes: some of the world’s biggest banks.

In an extensive investigation of foreclosed homes, the Sun Sentinel found more than 10,300 property code violations lodged against banks in 10 South Florida cities since 2007.

Municipalities cited the banks because they had title to the homes. But some banks deny responsibility for neglected houses for reasons that ordinary homeowners could not, the Sun Sentinel found.

Banks shift the blame, saying maintenance isn’t their job but the responsibility of another bank or company, known as a “loan servicer.” And they delay or evade accountability simply because they are large institutions, usually based in other states, even other countries.

The Sun Sentinel, in its investigation, identified banks as owners only in cases in which they held title to the property. But the newspaper also found that years after launching foreclosure suits, some banks or their agents balk at completing the process and taking title to homes that are unlikely to sell for much. That practice fuels a separate legal “limbo” problem that traps thousands of vacated homes in years-long court cases, often as they tumble into ruin.

Banks pay little price for letting neighborhoods rot.

In South Florida, property code violations are civil matters, dealt with mostly by fines, which when left uncorrected can compound daily and grow to be ludicrously steep – as much as $4.7 million, for example, on a rundown Fort Lauderdale house owned by Germany’s Deutsche Bank.

Ultimately, banks negotiate with local officials to dramatically cut the fines so as not to hinder a home’s sale.

The results of these practices are on stark display on street after street, where vacant properties sit decaying and forlorn.

They are eyesores. Many have been looted. Some have caught fire. They attract vagrants and vandals, lead to increased crime and can depress the value of nearby homes, particularly if there is an abundance of them in a neighborhood.

Some vacant homes pose extreme danger.

In Miramar, Fla., in October 2009, a common worry of parents came true. While his family was busy unpacking boxes and moving into the house next door, a toddler wandered into the backyard of an unoccupied, bank-owned house and drowned in the pool.

The boy’s mother, Margarette Francis, told investigators the water was so dark and thick with “garbage” it was unrecognizable as a place to swim.

“It was, oh, disgusting and I don’t think the baby knew there was a pool,” she said. “The only thing I can tell you is the slide attracted him. … He probably thought he was walking into a playground and he walked right into the … water.”

The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Miami against U.S. Bank, which had title to the house, and 16 other corporate entities that had some contractual relationship or responsibility for the home after foreclosure. A spokeswoman for U.S. Bank declined comment.

In a report released earlier this month, the National Fair Housing Alliance, a Washington advocacy group, charged that banks are violating the federal Fair Housing Act by neglecting the upkeep on homes in minority neighborhoods and steering real estate agents to the banks’ better-preserved homes elsewhere.

The organization has called on federal regulators and law enforcement to investigate the banks for housing discrimination practices.

Wells Fargo, one of the banks identified, denied the allegations. The bank “conducts all lending-related activities in a fair and consistent manner without regard to race; this includes maintenance and marketing standards for all foreclosed properties for which we are responsible,” said company spokeswoman Vickee Adams.

Since the real estate crash six years ago, dozens of South Florida municipalities have passed laws requiring that homes in foreclosure be registered by lenders or their agents once they become vacant. That has helped foster communication with the banks and led to quicker responses to local concerns.

“I’d say most banks want to do the right thing,” said Brian McKelligett, Fort Lauderdale code enforcement supervisor.

But banks can be bad neighbors. In the cities surveyed by the Sun Sentinel, four of 10 bank-owned properties on average were cited for violating municipal health, safety or appearance codes in 2011.

Copyright © 2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Megan O’Matz and John Maines. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service. Sun Sentinel staff researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.

South Florida housing prices have hit bottom, Zillow analysts declare…..

By KIMBERLY MILLER
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

There are three little words South Floridians have longed to hear since the housing slide began: “We’ve hit bottom.”

Analysts at the online real estate database Zillow are declaring just that for Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties in a report to be released today that shows tri-county home prices bottomed out in the latter part of 2011.

Although the first quarter Zillow Home Value Index was down 2.3 percent in Palm Beach County on a year-over-year measure to $140,600, small increases in monthly and quarterly measures were enough for senior Zillow economist Svenja Gudell to predict an end to free-falling prices.

“The last two years we’ve seen the rate of decline slow and now we’re seeing this uptick for the first time, where instead of sloping down, the curve is sloping up,” Gudell said.

Of the 30 largest metropolitan areas measured by the Seattle-based Zillow, 14 were declared to have hit bottom either at the end of 2011 or between January and March of this year, including Orlando and Tampa.

The optimism was echoed by Florida International University real estate economist Ken Johnson, who began predicting a bottom in November when prices hit 2002 levels.

“It just makes really strong financial sense to buy right now,” Johnson said. “We can’t go down anymore.”

Zillow’s index considers the value of all homes, not just those that sold during the measurement period, and South Florida Realtors are often skeptical of the company’s South Florida data. Zillow’s website states that as of February, its estimates were within 5 percent of the actual sales price of a South Florida home just 27 percent of the time. About 49 percent of the time the estimates were within 10 percent of the price.

Zillow estimates the national home value during the first quarter of 2012 was $146,200, a 3 percent decrease from the same time in 2011, and predicts the country as a whole won’t hit bottom until the end of the year.

That’s more in line with some other reports released this week that offered mixed signals on the state of the housing market.

Nationwide, new home sales in March fell from the previous month, according to a U.S. Department of Commerce report released Tuesday, while the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index was down 3.5 percent in February from the same time in 2011.

South Florida, however, was a bright spot in Case-Shiller, showing a 0.6 percent bump up from January and a 0.8 percent increase from February 2011.

Gudell said investors are driving South Florida’s price increases, which Zillow estimates will climb 5.6 percent in the next year.

Still, there are 373,550 foreclosure cases backlogged in Florida’s courts that could depress prices once they hit the market. Johnson said he’s less concerned about the so-called shadow inventory because people are finding creative ways to dispose of current foreclosures, such as with bulk sales.

“They may hinder the speed of the bounce-back, but I don’t see prices coming down anymore,” Johnson said. “My hopes and intuition tell me it will be a slow but steady recovery.”