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Florida Realtors® NewsCash sales down – but some Fla. cities don’t noticeOct. consumer confidence bids a hasty retreatCourt: Lawmakers should decide insurance controversyStop Congress from taking money from homeownersFlorida Realtors supports disaster recovery effortsNAHB forecast: Housing to pick up steam in 2016Investors’ sweet spot: Older, less-expensive homesBundling insurance helps – but not so much in Fla. Florida Realtors®, formerly known as the Florida Association of Realtors®, serves as The Voice for Real Estate® in Florida. It provides programs, services, continuing education, research and legislative representation to its 115,000 members in 67 boards/associations. NEW YORK – Oct. 27, 2015 – Cash sales made up 30.8 percent of all home sales nationwide in July, down from 34.2 percent the same month a year ago. It’s the 31st year-over-year monthly drop in a row. According to CoreLogic, cash transactions slipped 0.5 percentage points on a month-to-month basis. The five states where these deals were highest during July were Alabama (47.4 percent), Florida (44.7 percent), New York (42.8 percent), West Virginia (41.1 percent) and New Jersey (39.5 percent). REO properties accounted for 56 percent of all cash home purchases. Cash deals for resales and short sales made up about 30.2 percent and 28 percent, respectively. All-cash sales of new homes, meanwhile, tallied 15.6 percent of the total sales volume in that niche. Of America’s 100 biggest metro areas, Florida is home to all five markets with the greatest percentage of July cash sales: West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, at 53.2 percent; Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, at 52.2 percent; North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, at 50.1 percent; Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, at 48.4 percent; and Cape Coral-Fort Myers, at 47.9 percent. Source: 24/7 Wall St. (10/23/15) Ausick, Paul © Copyright 2015 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688   Tue, 27 Oct 2015 08:58:58 +0000 en NEW YORK – Oct. 27, 2015 – The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index declined a bit in October after increasing moderately in September. The Index now stands at 97.6, down from 102.6 the month before. The Present Situation Index decreased from 120.3 to 112.1, while the Expectations Index that gauges attitudes about the future edged down to 88.0 from 90.8. “Consumer confidence declined in October, following September’s modest gain,” says Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers were less positive in their assessment of present-day conditions, in particular the job market, and were moderately less optimistic about the short-term outlook. Despite the decline, consumers still rate current conditions favorably, but they do not anticipate the economy strengthening much in the near-term.” Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions was somewhat less positive in October. Those saying business conditions are “good” decreased from 28.1 percent to 26.5 percent, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” increased from 16.4 percent to 18.3 percent. Consumers were also less upbeat about the job market. Those stating jobs are “plentiful” decreased from 24.8 percent to 22.2 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” edged up to 25.8 percent from 24.9 percent. Consumers’ optimism about the short-term outlook was also more subdued. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months was unchanged at 18.1 percent, but those expecting business conditions to worsen inched up to 10.6 percent from 10.4 percent. Consumers’ outlook for the labor market over the long term was also slightly less optimistic. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead declined moderately from 14.9 percent to 14.5 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs increased from 15.9 percent to 16.9 percent. The proportion of consumers that expect their incomes to increase declined from 18.7 percent to 18.0 percent, while the proportion expecting a decline increased from 9.9 percent to 10.7 percent. Nielsen conducts the monthly Consumer Confidence Survey for The Conference Board. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was Oct. 15. © 2015 Florida Realtors®   Tue, 27 Oct 2015 08:55:35 +0000 en TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Oct. 27, 2015 – A Florida appeal court said yesterday that it’s up to state lawmakers – not the court system – to tackle a controversial issue in the insurance industry known as “assignment of benefits.” A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal refused an insurer’s request to rehear a case decided in June. It also won’t ask the Florida Supreme Court to take up a key issue in the case – a process known as “certifying” a question to the Supreme Court. “Assignment of benefits” means homeowners’ ability to sign over policy benefits to contractors, which allows the contractors to complete repairs and work directly with insurers for compensation. It often occurs when homeowners need repairs for problems such as water damage. In the original June decision, the appeal court backed actions by the state Office of Insurance Regulation that turned down a request from Security First Insurance Co. Security wanted to restrict its policyholders’ ability to assign policy rights without the insurer’s approval. The insurance industry argues that “assignment of benefits” can lead to inflated costs and fraud, while contractors argue that the practice helps homeowners quickly hire contractors for emergency repairs. However, the appeal court Monday said a “century of precedents” have found that policyholders can make assignments without insurers’ consent. “We again conclude … that it is for the legislative branch to consider this a public policy problem, not the courts, at this juncture,” said the ruling, written by Judge Scott Makar and joined by judges Stephanie Ray and Ross Bilbrey. “Legislative review provides a more detailed inquiry into the current situation in the industry and greater flexibility in achieving meaningful reforms, if deemed necessary. On the other hand, courts are ill-equipped to pass judgment on the merits of the policy debate at hand, and less likely to be able to formulate a remedy that is mutually beneficial to insureds and insurers.” Source: News Service of Florida   Tue, 27 Oct 2015 08:56:23 +0000 en ORLANDO, Fla. – Oct. 27, 2015 – Every Realtor® in Florida can take action now to help protect Florida homeowners from having housing funds hijacked by Congress to repair potholes or other transportation issues. Make your voice heard: Respond to the National Association of Realtors®’ (NAR) ongoing Call for Action. Tell lawmakers you strongly oppose a proposal to use Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s credit risk guarantee fees (g-fees) to pay for roads and transportation. Florida Realtors stands more than 140,000 members strong – Realtors who can make a difference by protecting future homeowners now. However, you have to take action to be counted – currently only 5.5 percent of Florida Realtors’ members have responded to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) Call for Action, ranking Florida near the bottom in national response rates. State Realtor associations at the top of the participation rankings (20 percent or higher) include South Dakota, Arkansas, Minnesota and Utah. “It’s crucial that all Florida Realtors respond to NAR’s Calls for Action,” says Carrie O’Rourke, vice president of public policy. “No other industry speaks with one voice on behalf of homeowners across the country. At a time when many housing markets are beginning to rebound, we need to protect the programs that allow the average citizen an opportunity to achieve the dream of homeownership. Raiding these funds will have serious ramifications on low-w and moderate-income borrowers and first time homebuyers.” Don’t let Congress tax homeownership to pay for roads: Money generated by housing should pay for housing. Don’t let Congress saddle future homeowners with an unnecessary long-term burden caused by extending this g-fee to fund transportation projects. Show that Realtors in Florida care about protecting homeowners and make your voice heard through NAR’s Call for Action. © 2015 Florida Realtors®   Tue, 27 Oct 2015 08:58:23 +0000 en ORLANDO, Fla. – Oct. 27, 2015–Florida’s Realtors® reached out to fellow Realtors and others in South Carolina and the Pacific Northwest who are reeling from the aftermath of recent flooding and wildfires, pledging a $150,000 donation from the Florida Realtors Disaster Relief Fund to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Realtor Relief Fund for recovery efforts. “Florida knows first-hand the kind of devastation that a natural disaster leaves in its wake – we understand and appreciate the tenacity it takes to rebuild and carry on for your families, friends and communities,” says 2015 Florida Realtors President Andrew Barbar, a broker with Keller Williams Realty Services in Boca Raton. “As always, Realtors are leading the efforts to clean up and restore people’s lives and livelihoods. Please know that our Realtor family is standing strong beside you, ready to lend a hand and help in whatever way we can. “On behalf of our more than 140,000 Realtor members, it’s my privilege to announce we have sent $150,000 to the Realtor Relief Fund to help our Realtor colleagues, their families and their communities in both South Carolina and the Pacific Northwest states as they rebuild their lives.” Bob Caldwell, the current chairman of the Florida Realtors Disaster Relief Fund and an Orlando Realtor, says the Florida Realtors Disaster Relief Fund was established to help the Realtor family and others in times of disaster not only within Florida but throughout the country. “Whenever major hurricanes like Andrew hit Florida, the national association, along with other Realtor associations and individual Realtors from across the U.S., came to our aid in our time of need,” Caldwell says. “We have reached out to help after 9-11, Hurricane Katrina, tornados in Alabama and the Midwest, flooding in the Panhandle and many other catastrophic events. The Realtor family cares.” Find out more or make a contribution to Florida Realtors Disaster Relief Fund on Florida Realtors’ member website. © 2015 Florida Realtors®   Tue, 27 Oct 2015 08:54:13 +0000 en WASHINGTON – Oct. 26, 2015 – Steady employment and economic growth, pent-up demand, affordable home prices and attractive mortgage rates will keep the housing market on a gradual upward trend in 2016, according to speakers at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Fall Construction Forecast Webinar. However, the builders agree there are also persistent headwinds to a full recovery, related largely to a shortage of lots, the availability of labor and the rising cost of materials. “This recovery is all about jobs,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “If people can get good jobs that pay decent incomes, the housing market will continue to move forward.” The good news, Crowe added, is that total U.S. employment of 142 million is now well above the previous peak of 138 million that occurred in 2008. The one caveat is that job growth has been concentrated heavily in the service sector, which tends to pay lower wages than goods-producing jobs. Meanwhile, home equity has nearly doubled since 2011 and now stands at $12.5 trillion. “The single biggest asset in most people’s portfolio is the home they own,” said Crowe. “That’s important because the primary purchasers of new homes are the sellers of existing homes. The more equity they have, the more comfortable they feel about purchasing a new home.” Mortgage interest rates are expected to rise over the near-term, averaging 4.5 percent in 2016 and 5.5 percent in 2017, but Crowe said it’s not expected to have an impact on the housing recovery because “as the economy gets better, job and wage growth should keep pace. So even though mortgage rates will rise, they will still be low by historical standards and very affordable.” Supply headwindsCrowe pointed to several factors that are hindering a more robust recovery. A NAHB survey of members found 61 percent of builders said that the cost and availability of labor was a significant problem in 2014 – it was only 13 percent in 2011. About 58 percent of builders noted a short supply of lots in 2014. In 2011, only 20 percent said the same. Concerns over building materials stood at 58 percent among builders in 2014, up from 33 percent in 2011. Single-family continues to post gainsNAHB projects 719,000 single-family starts in 2015, up 11 percent from the 647,000 units produced last year. Single-family production is projected to increase an additional 27 percent in 2016 to 914,000 units. On the multifamily side, production ran at 354,000 units last year, slightly above the 331,000 level considered a normal level of production. Multifamily starts are expected to rise 9 percent to 387,000 units this year and post a modest 3 percent decline to 378,000 units in 2016. Residential remodeling activity is forecasted to increase 6.8 percent in 2015 over last year and rise an additional 6.1 percent in 2016. Suburbs still hotLooking at home buyer preferences, Trulia Housing Economist Ralph McLaughlin said that contrary to popular belief, millennials prefer to own a home in the suburbs rather than rent in the cities. “Many believe that homebuyers are bucking the trend of previous generations in that they want to live in urban areas and want to rent,” said McLaughlin. “What we are finding from our surveys is just the opposite. Among millennial renters, almost 90 percent say they eventually want to purchase a home. That is significantly higher than Gen Xers, who were hurt by the recession, and quite a bit more than current baby boomer renters, who are at 40 percent.” However, an overwhelming majority of millennials, who are still starting households and paying off college debt, say it will be at least two years before they are ready to buy. Roughly half of all Americans prefer to live in suburban areas, about a quarter prefer urban areas and just over 20 percent prefer rural communities, according to a Trulia survey conducted last November. “As we get into the recovery, suburban areas are growing faster than urban areas,” said McLaughlin. “That is a sign that the urbanization trend we saw start to happen at the beginning of the recovery was more of a blip rather than a new rule.” Moreover, the percentage of households living in urban neighborhoods in 2013 was lower among nearly all age groups compared to 2000. “So again, this shows there really isn’t an urbanization trend among households,” said McLaughlin. “Homebuyers are saying they prefer modern and modest-sized homes in the suburbs with amenities,” he said, adding that 44 percent of Americans say they want to live in a house between 1,400 and 2,600 square feet. Recovery in all regions, but pace variesNAHB Senior Economist Robert Denk said that housing market conditions are improving in all regions, but the pace of recovery continues to vary by state and region. “We’ve gotten to the point in the recovery where we no longer have problems that came with the housing bust,” said Denk. “It now is really a matter of housing markets reconnecting to the fundamental drivers, and that is employment. Production has been rebounding in all regions, prices have been moving up and new foreclosures are back to more normal levels.” Using the 2000-2003 period as a healthy benchmark when single-family starts averaged 1.3 million units on an annual basis, NAHB projects that single-family production, which bottomed out at an average 27 percent of normal production in early 2009, will rise to 74 percent of normal by the fourth quarter of 2016 and 91 percent of normal by the end of 2017. Single-family production currently stands at 53 percent of normal activity. The hardest hit areas during the downturn were a combination of the bubble states – California, Arizona, Nevada and Florida – and the industrial Midwest. The bubble states had the most excessive price and production spikes, while the problems in the Midwest were related more to fundamental economic weakness. The most successful recoveries are happening now in the energy states, including North Dakota, Wyoming, Texas, Montana and Louisiana. Other states exhibiting strong employment and housing growth include South Carolina, Utah, Tennessee, Idaho, Oregon and North Carolina. Another way of looking at the long road back to normal: By the end of 2017, the top 40 percent of states will be back to 99 percent or more of normal production levels, compared to the bottom 20 percent, which will still be below 73 percent. “Keep in mind that with all of these buckets, the numbers keep getting higher,” said Denk. “There is broad-based improvement across the country.” © 2015 Florida Realtors®   Mon, 26 Oct 2015 08:28:25 +0000 en IRVINE, Calif. – Oct. 26, 2015 – In many markets, high rents and relatively low home prices are providing solid investment returns for single-family home rentals. “It’s still a good time to buy rental single-family homes,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president with data firm RealtyTrac. The highest yields for these types of properties can often be found in secondary and tertiary neighborhoods in secondary and tertiary markets, however, far away from the places where the largest institutional investors have bought their thousands of rental homes. Somewhat older homes in older neighborhoods are benefiting from rent growth and strong demand for rental housing. The rents are rising at single-family rental homes across the country. Rental rates on new leases rose an average of 4.5 percent nationally over the past year, up from a rate of 3.4 percent in July 2014. “Strong job growth and historically high occupancy rates are fueling higher rents,” according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting. The average investment return on rental homes is strong and getting stronger. The average gross rental yield is nearly 9 percent, according to the latest report from RealtyTrac. “A 9 percent yield is pretty decent, given other choices for investors,” says Blomquist. The firm arrived at that figure using the fair market rents set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for three-bedroom rental units and average sales prices for three-bedroom houses. RealtyTrac’s yield does not include operating expenses or possible capital appreciation. There’s a catch, however – the properties that earn these high returns are rarely located in the markets where the largest investors have been most eager to buy. The list of counties with the highest rental yields starts with Clayton County in the Atlanta metro area and includes Bay County in Michigan and Mahoning County in Ohio, in the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman metro area. “In secondary or tertiary markets, maybe class-B or class-C homes, in not as good neighborhoods – those are the markets where we are seeing the best returns,” says Blomquist. “The common theme is the Rust Belt and the Southeast is a great place to go.” The strongest zip codes are in towns like Harper Woods, Mich.; Tobyhanna, Penn. and Forest Park, Ga. These are places where the average home price is well under $50,000 and average rents are significantly higher than $1,000 a month, adding up to annual rental yields of over 30 percent, according to RealtyTrac. Largest investors pull back The largest institutional investors are responding to the changed environment by slowing down their purchases. “We are seeing them definitely pull back,” says Blomquist. “That number has plummeted.” So far in 2015, only 2 percent of all single-family homes and condominiums were bought by institutional investors, according to RealtyTrac, which defines “institutional investors” as buyers who purchase more than 10 properties a year. That’s a huge falling off from last year, when institutional investors bought 11 percent of all single-family homes and condos bought and sold. In 2013, institutional investors bought a much larger 13 percent. “In many of these markets, they have priced themselves out,” says Blomquist. Larger investors like Blackstone and Cerberus Capital Management bought thousands of houses in places where home prices had fallen sharply in the housing crash. “These investors have focused on class-A homes that are less than 20 years old in really good neighborhoods,” says Blomquist. “That type of property is harder to come by.” A few of the largest institutional investors are still buying single-family homes, however. In June, Cerberus announced its plan to buy 4,200 rental houses for $402 million from BLT Homes, according to Bloomberg Business. That works out to a little less than $100,000 per house, spread through seven states: Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Kansas and Tennessee. The largest institutions are also finding ways to invest indirectly in these less-expensive rental homes, by lending money to spin-off companies that buy and manage them. Blackstone Group, for example, has created B2R Finance, while Cerberus owns a majority stake in FirstKey Lending. Copyright © 2015 Penton Media, Bendix Anderson   Mon, 26 Oct 2015 08:49:10 +0000 en WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Oct. 26, 2015 – Let’s not get into what it means for political donations, but bundling can mean good things for insurance customers – to the extent you can find it in Florida. Bundling means discounts for having, say, home and car insurance together with the same insurer or its partners. Florida residents save an average of $243 a year by bundling, finds a report by, which is affiliated with of North Palm Beach. Those savings are up about 65 percent from last year, the biggest jump of any state besides Hawaii, the report says. But at the end of the day, Florida still has the lowest average savings for bundling on the total bill, 8 percent. Georgia residents save much more, an average of 22 percent, researchers found. That’s discouraging because Florida has the dubious honor of ranking No. 1 for costliest home insurance in the country and No. 4 in car insurance, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Louisiana had the highest bundle savings overall, $548. It is right behind Florida in home insurance costs and ranks ahead in car insurance. Nationally, customers save an average of 16 percent or $295 by bundling. Unfortunately, bundling isn’t a slam-dunk to find in South Florida’s fragmented market. Big national insurers such as State Farm and Allstate have been writing little or no new property insurance. Sometimes agents have the power to grant a bundle discount with other carriers through agreements, so it’s worth asking. But often people wind up buying home policies from small, Florida-based companies that are not necessarily in the car-coverage business. In any case, it is wise to compare prices from a variety of combinations, bundled or not, analysts said. “In most cases, you’re going to save money by bundling your policies together, but I always tell people to get quotes together and separately,” advised Laura Adams, senior analyst for, in a statement. “Every situation is unique and some people are able to save money by splitting their policies between different insurers.” The insurance shopping site said it commissioned Quadrant Information Services to examine the average economic impact of bundling auto insurance with property coverage. It used a hypothetical 45-year-old married woman with a bachelor’s degree, excellent credit score and no lapse in coverage, comparing the average premium discount for three types of bundling in 50 states plus Washington, D.C. Copyright © 2015 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.), Charles Elmore. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.   Mon, 26 Oct 2015 08:29:51 +0000 en

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