12M consumers may get July credit-score boost


WASHINGTON – June 22, 2017 – The three largest credit-reporting agencies will begin cleaning up credit reports in July, which could help lift the credit scores of about 12 million consumers.

In a survey by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), one in four people say they spot errors in their credit reports, most commonly concerning tax liens and civil judgments.

Up to half of tax lien data on a credit report is inaccurate or incomplete, says Eric J. Ellman, senior vice president for public policy and legal affairs at the Consumer Data Industry Association. Civil judgments – which means a court has ruled a person owes money – also tend to be ripe with errors or omissions on a credit report, experts say. Consumers can dispute the errors, but the process can be cumbersome.

Beginning July 1, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion will automatically exclude tax lien and civil judgment records from credit reports if they are missing a person’s name, address, Social Security number or date of birth. Claims that do contain this key information, however, will remain on credit reports.

Six percent of Americans with a credit score – or 12 million – likely will see their score go up once the new policy takes effect. About 11 million could see an increase of about 20 points.

“A lot of people who have liens or judgments against them already have crummy credit to begin with,” says Keith Gumbinger, vice president at HSH.com, a mortgage resource website. “A 10- or 20-point increase isn’t going to make a difference for a lot of borrowers.”

But borrowers who are on the cusp of qualifying for a home loan may stand to benefit the most. For example, Gumbinger says, a would-be buyer with a credit score of 570 who receives a 10-point uptick may be able to qualify for an FHA loan. FHA loans require a minimum 580 credit score.

Source: “Have a Bad Credit Score? It Could Soon Get Better – But Is It Enough to Buy a Home?” realtor.com® (June 22, 2017)

© Copyright 2017 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Affordable housing: Americans want help getting in

WASHINGTON – June 22, 2017 – Most Americans and Canadians say their nations aren’t doing enough to address and solve affordable housing needs, according to Habitat for Humanity’s Affordable Housing Survey. Escalating costs remain a top barrier preventing families from accessing decent homes with affordable mortgages, the survey says.

“In many ways, housing is an invisible crisis,” says Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “There are still too many families without access to safe, secure and affordable housing. This survey highlights the value all of us place on a decent place to call home and underscores the critical need to increase access to affordable housing.”

Owning a home is a key rung on the ladder of economic advancement. What happens if that rung remains elusive for many?

According to the survey, nine out of 10 Americans say owning a home is one of their greatest achievements in life. Also, 68 percent of U.S. renters say owning a home is one of their chief goals, according to the survey. PSB, on behalf of Habitat for Humanity, surveyed 1,000 people in the U.S. and Canada to gauge their perceptions of, and challenges to, affordable housing.

Ninety-one percent of American homeowners credited owning a home with making them more responsible, and 44 percent said it helped them build a nest egg. Forty-one percent say homeownership has given them stability.

But homeownership remains out of reach for many. Nine out of 10 Americans and Canadians say it’s important to find solutions to the lack of affordable housing. At 59 percent, concerns regarding U.S. affordability in particular easily topped other housing issues like safety (16%) and quality (11%).

One major barrier to homeownership cited among survey respondents: the high cost of rent. Eighty-four percent of survey respondents said the high cost of rent was preventing them from buying, followed by 75 percent who said obtaining a mortgage was proving to be a big barrier.

Many of the survey respondents said they’ve struggled to pay housing costs at some point in their life. Among U.S. respondents, 27 percent of respondents said they struggled to pay housing costs in their 20s; 22 percent in their 30s; 11 percent in their 40s; and 9 percent in their 50s.

Source: “Nine Out of 10 Americans and Canadians Call for Affordable Housing Solutions,” Habitat for Humanity (June 20, 2017)

© Copyright 2017 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

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

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®

Miami Home Prices, Sales Continue to Strengthen, Housing Inventory Shortage a Reality

Submitted by Lynda Fernandez on September 19, 2012 – 11:33am


Miami, FL – Miami home prices rose again in August, marking nine consecutive months of appreciation, according to the 25,000-member MIAMI Association of REALTORS and the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system.   The median sales price of Miami-Dade condominiums, which has increased each of the last 14 months, increased 28.4 percent to $146,500 compared to a year earlier.  The median sales price of single-family homes rose 10.8 percent to $195,000.  

“Despite the shortage of housing inventory, Miami home sales remain strong and continue to drive significant price appreciation,” said 2012 Chairman of the Board of the MIAMI Association of REALTORS Martha Pomares.  “There is evident demand for Miami properties, particularly from foreign buyers and investors who recognize Miami’s desirability and profitability.  Miami remains the top market for foreign buyers in the nation, and local international activity continues to grow.” 

In August the average sales price for condominiums in Miami-Dade County increased 20.9 percent to $283,497.  The average sales prices for single-family homes increased 28.4 percent to $408,810.  

Florida Statewide Home Prices
Statewide median sales prices in August increased 5.8 percent to $147,000 for single-family homes and 13.2 percent to $102,980 for condominiums, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department and vendor partner 10K Research and Marketing. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $187,400 in August, a 9.5 percent increase from August 2011, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Miami Home Sales Rise Again in August
Total residential sales in Miami-Dade County increased 7.0 percent compared to a year earlier, compared to record sales levels in August 2011.    The sales of existing condominiums in Miami-Dade increased 8.0 percent, from 1,382 to 1,492.  Sales of single-family homes increased 5.0 percent, from 1,009 to 1,059, year-over-year.   

Statewide sales of existing single-family homes totaled 18,669 in August 2012, up 10.8 percent compared to a year ago.  Statewide condominium sales totaled 8,767, up 5.7 percent from those sold in August 2011. Nationally, sales of existing single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops increased 7.8 percent from July and were 9.3 percent higher than they were in August 2011, according NAR.

“Miami is experiencing a mini-boom fueled mostly by demand from international buyers but also by population growth resulting from migration from other states, baby boomers, and local consumers,” said 2012 MIAMI Association of REALTORS Residential President Patricia Delinois.  “Miami’s firm position as a major global city is expected to continue to draw demand long into the future, as businesses, residents, visitors and tourists, investors, and vacation and second homebuyers take advantage of all that our vibrant and unique city has to offer.”

Shortage of Housing Inventory in Miami-Dade 
Over the last year, the inventory of residential listings in Miami-Dade County has dropped 26 percent from 15,405 to 11,431.  Compared to the previous month, the total inventory of homes decreased 0.2 percent.   Currently, there are 4.2 months of supply in Miami-Dade.  Total housing inventory nationally increased 2.9 percent at the end of August and was 18.2 percent below year-ago levels, which represents an 8.2-month supply at the current sales pace.  

Distressed Sales Decrease
Strong demand for bank-owned (REO) properties and improved processing of short sales continues to yield absorption of distressed listings and to contribute to price appreciation.  In August, 45.8 percent of all closed residential sales in Miami-Dade County were distressed, including REOs (bank-owned properties) and short sales, compared to 56 percent in August 2011 and 47 percent the previous month.  Nationally, distressed sales accounted for 22 percent of August sales.

Cash Sales Reflect Strong International Presence 
In Miami-Dade County, 64 percent of total closed sales in August were all-cash sales, compared to 62 percent in August 2011 and 64 percent the previous month.  Cash sales accounted for 45 percent of single-family and 78 percent of condominium closings.  Nearly 90 percent of foreign buyers in Florida purchase properties all cash.  Reflecting the stronger presence of 
international buyers in the Miami real estate market, all-cash sales nationally were unchanged from the previous month at 27 percent of transactions in August; they were 29 percent in August 2011. 

Note:  Statistics in this news release may vary depending on reporting dates. Statistics reported by MIAMI are not impacted by NAR’s rebenchmarking efforts.  MIAMI reports exact statistics directly from its MLS system.

Miami Beach development decision delayed after complaints ….

Miami Beach’s interim city manager pulled a vote on pricey proposals to redevelop public parking lots off Lincoln Road after one bidder alleged Sunshine Law violations.




A major Miami Beach redevelopment project has been thrown into limbo because a losing bidder said city officials illegally held a closed door meeting to evaluate competing teams’ proposals to lease and develop city-owned land near Lincoln Road.

The City Commission was expected to vote this month on whether to partner with one or more teams to build shops, apartments, restaurants and cultural venues on three city parking lots.

But interim City Manager Kathie Brooks yanked the vote off the commission’s July 18 agenda after Lincoln Road Development LLC, which was ranked fourth of four, said Miami Beach’s selection committee should have discussed the competing offers in a public meeting.

City lawyers says they’re not convinced the city violated Florida’s Sunshine Law as alleged, but it may be better to play it safe and hold a do-over meeting or re-start the bidding process.

“If we’re going to err, we’re gong to err on the side of Sunshine,” said City Attorney Jose Smith.

Brooks pulled the vote off the table on July 5 after the city received letters from attorney Rafael Andrade, a lobbyist for Lincoln Road Development, in which he raised concerns about the city committee that evaluated and ranked proposals on May 11.

Andrade said the city should have publicly noticed the meeting and opened committee deliberations to the public. He also said the committee failed to consider the benefits of a hotelier on Lincoln Road Development’s team, and that the committee’s chairwoman failed to “disclose her association” with the leading bidder.

“It would be in the city’s best interest for the administration to declare the evaluation committee’s recommendation null and void,” Andrade wrote on July 3.

Smith said Brooks, who declined to comment, is now weighing her options, out of caution.

What that means for the teams of bidders is unclear.

For now, as the committee’s recommendations still stand, developer Robert Wennett’s team √No11i remains the frontrunner to partner with the city on a $59 million project to build apartments, restaurants and shops on the two city lots on either side of Lenox Avenue. Terranova Corp.’s second-ranked team proposed a $131 million project. The third-ranked Tri-Star projected its development costs at $100 million. Lincoln Road Development’s costs were estimated at $40.5 million.

Wennett referred questions to a member of his staff, who didn’t return calls for comment.

Attempts to reach Terranova and Tri-Star representatives through their attorneys were unsuccessful.

Evaluation committee chairwoman Elsie Howard, however, said Andrade’s criticisms of her “association” with Wennett, as well as her husband’s, are off-base.

Andrade said Howard should have disclosed that she is associated with several companies that, according to Florida records, have their principal place of business at Wennett’s 1111 Lincoln Road. Howard said she leases an office in that building, but “I’m not sure he [Wennett] even knows my name.”

“I’m insulted by the insinuation,” she added.

As for the alleged Sunshine Law violation, Smith said the issue Andrade raised stems over “a difference of opinion as to whether the deliberations of the committee have to be in the Sunshine.”

The law that regulates meetings in which contractors reveal information about a sealed bid or negotiate with representatives of a government says “any portion of a meeting at which a negotiation with a vendor is conducted pursuant to a competitive solicitation, at which a vendor makes an oral presentation as part of a competitive solicitation, or at which a vendor answers questions as part of a competitive solicitation is exempt from” the Sunshine Law.

Miami Beach interpreted that law, which was changed last year, to mean that the entire meeting must be recorded but closed to the public.

Other governments, however, have closed only portions of the meeting. For instance, the city of Miami recently allowed the public to view portions of a committee tasked with evaluating proposals for new development at the Scotty’s Landing site in Coconut Grove.

“There aren’t yet any Attorney General (or other) opinions, or case law, on point to provide guidance, so this is, in many ways, a new issue for local governments,” Raul Aguila, Chief Deputy City Attorney and the current head of the city’s purchasing department, wrote in an email.

That issue could have broader implications for the city, which also closed its $1 billion convention center redevelopment evaluation committee to the public.

“Nobody has asserted a challenge to the convention center process,” said Smith. “But it’s probably a matter of time before somebody does.”


Miami sales prices up 17.7 percent, but gains reflect a complex picture

Distressed inventory made up 40 percent of all sales

July 12, 2012 12:01AM 
By Alexander Britell


The median sales price of Miami’s coastal residential properties rose 20.9 percent in the second quarter of 2012, compared to the same period in 2011, according to a report from Douglas Elliman Florida. Miami’s average sales price also jumped 17.7 percent in the same period.

But while Miami prices have been trending upwards for some time, these recent gains reflect a more complicated picture.

There were two major reasons for the price jump, according to Jonathan Miller, whose firm, Miller Samuel, prepared the report: reduced inventory and a decrease in distressed inventory coming to market.

“The sharp drop in inventory is one of the reasons why I would characterize the market as stable or better than stable,” said Jonathan Miller, whose firm, Miller Samuel, prepared the report.

Through the second quarter, distressed inventory represented around 40 percent of all sales — a significant turnaround from a year and a half ago, Miller said, when distressed inventory represented a market share of almost 60 percent.

And it was that shift that contributed in part to the price increase, said Douglas Elliman Florida CEO Vanessa Grout. “For now, it’s pushing pricing up — there is a direct correlation to that,” she told The Real Deal. “Because if you simply look at non-distressed market prices, prices are up modestly — so it is sort of an artificial gain.”

But part of that price jump was caused by the recent penthouse boom in South Beach, which led to a few mega-sales partially distorting the data.

“We’ve had some real anomalies, especially this year,” she said, pointing to the $25 million purchase of a Continuum condo in May. “There were some really crazy sales happening recently, and that’s going to skew the averages.”

There are some fundamentals supporting Miami’s gains, however.

“It’s relatively positive,” Grout said. “We have less inventory on the market, and the number of closed sales is up majorly.”

Miami’s residential inventory has fallen 28.2 percent in the last year, while closed sales have decreased, both signs of a tightening market, Miller said.

Miller and Grout warned that prices could take a hit as more distressed inventory comes onto market, particularly with lenders ramping up their foreclosure processing activity in recent months.

The robo-signing scandal of late 2010, which led to a large-scale freeze on foreclosure processing activity by lenders, may have contributed in part to the drastic shift in distressed market share, Miller said, inventory that still looms over Miami’s residential sector.

“The catch is that we may start to see more distressed inventory appear on the market in the next few months,” Grout said.

Palm Beach Sale – Former Sony Music Chairman Tommy Mottola sells Palm Beach home

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Palm Beach Sale - Former Sony Music Chairman Tommy Mottola sells Palm Beach home

302 Caribbean Road, Palm Beach

Former Sony Music Chairman Tommy Mottola, and his singer-actress wife, Ariadna Sodi Miranda have sold their Palm Beach home for $6.53 million, according to the Palm Beach Daily News. The buyers were Connecticut natives Stephen and Muffie Bancroft Murray, who were represented by Liza Pulitzer of Brown Harris Stevens. The sale of the home, which is located at 302 Caribbean Road, netted $530,000 more than Mottola originally paid for it in 2008. It had originally been listed for $7.45 million by Corcoran’s Paulette Koch and Dana Koch

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Home Improvement Trends

Home improvement trends

CHESTER, Pa. – March 19, 2012 – Continuing uncertainty in the real estate market has homeowners asking a major question as the market warms this spring: Is it smarter to move or to improve?

Cost is the driving factor behind home improvement projects again this year, and many owners want to choose projects that provide the biggest return on investment. Power Home Remodeling Group, one of the nation’s largest home remodeling companies, empowers homeowners to get the biggest bang for their home-improvement buck this spring, whether updating a home to increase its resale value or infusing the place with some personality to create your dream home.

“Giving your home some added curb appeal with an exterior makeover will automatically boost the resale value of your property,” says Jeff Kaliner of Power Home Remodeling Group. “If you plan to stay put, focus on cost-effective renovations that make your home more comfortable, functional and low maintenance for your family.”

Cost-effective home improvements

• Energize the exterior. Exterior home improvements are still king when it comes to return on investment this year. Projects like updating siding, window replacement and refreshing entry doors have a dramatic effect on a home’s curb appeal for a relatively low cost. Seven of the top 10 home improvement projects for 2012 are exterior projects garnering anywhere from 69 to 78 percent return on investment – the highest of any other projects this year.

• Choose bold and bright finishes. Fiberglass entry and garage doors are a popular alternative to their pricey wooden counterparts in 2012. A fiberglass door is weather resistant, durable and, above all, maintenance free. The material allows owners to achieve the stylish look of an elegant craftsman or rustic design with decorative glass at a fraction of the price. Bright, bold exterior colors are also popular this year. Make curb appeal pop by choosing a shade of tangerine, yellow or deep purple for an entry door.

• Energy efficiency is still supreme. The top green home trend for 2012 is renovating to reduce a home’s heating and cooling costs. Making the most of empty attic space by adding a bedroom, or at least finishing it with insulation, is a way to keep conditioned air from escaping through the roof. Updating the attic is this year’s third most cost-effective home improvement, garnering a 72 percent return on investment.

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

What you should not do when listing your home….