Posts

How Irma will affect real estate market

Like it did to everything else in Northeast Florida, Hurricane Irma dealt a significant impact to the residential real estate market.

But, like much else, it will come back, according to real estate professionals who’ve weathered the storms for years.

Bill Watson, founder and chairman of Watson Realty Corp., said the local effects of the hurricane began Sept. 8 for his 1,600 employees in 43 offices in North and Central Florida and South Georgia. That was two days before the storm made landfall in the Florida Keys.

“The first phase is when the hurricane warning comes. When the schools close, that affects your workforce,” he said.

Most Realtors are independent contractors and when schools are closed by an approaching storm, they take care of their children and families, Watson said.

After Irma, it was time to assess the damage on the personal and corporate levels and return to work. For many, that began about 12 hours after the storm left the area.

“We reopened Tuesday at noon. Two agents took clients to see houses and we also closed two contracts on Wednesday,” said Sherry Davidson, co-founder of Davidson Realty, which has offices in Jacksonville Beach and St. Augustine.

Linda Sherrer, CEO and president of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty, said five of her firm’s eight offices opened Tuesday, followed by the other three on Wednesday when power was restored to those locations.

The first step was to determine if properties had been damaged.

“Our agents started calling all of their listings and all of their buyers,” Sherrer said.

The post-storm phase brings its own challenges that involve title companies and lenders.

Unless a contract was executed, lenders won’t fund the loan until the home is inspected to determine whether the property was damaged. That will probably mean adding about a week or 10 days to the process, Davidson said.

Watson said damage to a property that’s under contract doesn’t necessarily void a sale, provided repairs can be completed within a set time.

“You have 10 days to determine whether the damage is minor and if so, the seller has to notify the buyer,” he said. “If the damage is minor, the seller has 30 days to repair it.”

If the damage is more than what’s considered minor — about 3 percent of the value — the buyer has the option to continue to closing or walk away from the contract, Watson said.

After the initial disruption, the market will return to its previous level, said Sherrer, who has been selling real estate in Northeast Florida through good weather and bad since 1979.

“We’ve got low inventory and low interest rates and demand is very strong. That points to a strong rebound,” she said.

The number of that were damaged will make the untouched properties increase in value.

“If you have an undamaged house that’s ready to move in, you’ll be able to bump up the price. There are still plenty of buyers, but not as much inventory,” Watson said.

He also said Hurricane Irma probably will change the market for the next several months.

“We’ll never get the September business back. And it probably won’t be really back in October, but November and December will be better than they should have been.”

A key Fed official just admitted the central bank got inflation wrong and so it may delay a hike

Fed unlikely to hike rates this year: Clearnomic's James Liu

Fed unlikely to hike rates this year: Clearnomics’ James Liu  

The Federal Reserve appears ready to accept that its inflation assessments have been wrong, indicating an important shift in how it will approach rate hikes ahead.

In a speech Tuesday, Fed Governor Lael Brainard said the long-standing assessment at the central bank that persistently low inflation is the result of transitory factors that eventually will pass does not add up considering current circumstances.

As a result, she said, policymakers should reconsider the current path they expect for future rate hikes.

“I am concerned that the recent low readings for inflation may be driven by depressed underlying inflation, which would imply a more persistent shortfall in inflation from our objective,” Brainard told the Economic Club in New York. “In that case, it would be prudent to raise the federal funds rate more gradually.”

Brainard’s comments are important because she is considered a close ideological ally of Fed Chair Janet Yellen. While Yellen herself has indicated that the end of the rate-hiking cycle could be near, she and her fellow Federal Open Market Committee members have stood by the belief that inflation ultimately will gravitate toward their 2 percent target.

Tuesday’s speech challenges that notion.

Specifically, Brainard pointed to the current low unemployment rate — 4.4 percent — and compared it to the last time the was around “full employment” from 2004 to 2007. During that run, inflation averaged about 2.2 percent. Currently, the three-year average is 1.5 percent.

Brainard acknowledged that certain factors driving down inflation, such as a drop in cellphone rates, are transitory. But she said there also are temporary factors pushing up inflation, such as a rise in prescription drug prices.

Lael Brainard, Federal Reserve Governor

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Lael Brainard, Federal Reserve Governor

“What is troubling is five straight years in which inflation fell short of our target despite a sharp improvement in resource utilization,” she said.

At the core could be a general drop in “underlying” or long-term trend inflation that is feeding on itself and keeping the rate low, simply because that is what consumers have come to expect. Economists have long accepted the notion that inflation can stay high or low simply because of public perceptions.

“Households and firms have experienced a prolonged period of inflation below our objective, and that may be affecting their perception of underlying inflation,” Brainard said. “In short, frequent or extended periods of low inflation run the risk of pulling down private-sector inflation expectations.”

The Fed has hiked its benchmark rate four times since December 2015 and was on target for one more before year’s end. Traders in the fed funds futures market, though, have shifted expectations and now don’t expect the next rate hike until at least June.

Brainard said the Fed should follow through on its intentions to begin reducing its $4.5 trillion balance sheet of bonds that it acquired mostly during stimulus efforts that started during the financial crisis.

But she believes it should tread carefully when it comes to future rate hikes.

If her sentiments reflect the majority of FOMC members, the shift could pull the Fed away from the majority’s preference for slow but steady rate hikes and more toward the sentiment expressed by Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari and some economists who believe rate hikes should wait until inflation becomes more pronounced.

In fact, Brainard said the Fed should consider letting inflation run “modestly above” the 2 percent goal before hiking again.

“I will be looking closely at the evolution of inflation before making a determination about further adjustments to the federal funds rate,” she said. “We have been falling short of our inflation objective not just in the past year, but over a longer period as well. My own view is that we should be cautious about tightening policy further until we are confident inflation is on track to achieve our target.”

Home sales drop—again—and will continue ‘unless supply miraculously improves’

House . Real Estate Sign in Front of a House.

After a brief improvement in June, home sales continued their downward slide in July, with buyers signing fewer contracts to purchase existing .

An index of so-called pending home sales, which represent closings one to two months from now, fell 0.8 percent compared with June, according to the National Association of Realtors. That is the fourth monthly drop in the past five months. June’s reading was also revised lower. The index is now 1.3 percent below a year ago and has fallen on an annual basis in three of the past four months.

“Buyer traffic continues to be higher than a year ago, the typical listing has gone under contract within a month since April,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors. “The reality, therefore, is that sales in coming months will not break out unless supply miraculously improves. This seems unlikely given the inadequate pace of housing starts in recent months and the lack of interest from real estate investors looking to sell.”

 The supply of homes for sale at the end of July came in at 2.11 million, 9 percent lower than a year ago. That has fallen year over year for 26 consecutive months.

The housing market remains stuck in a holding pattern with little signs of breaking through. The pace of new listings is not catching up with what’s being sold at an astonishingly fast pace,” Yun added.

Closed sales to buy existing homes fell more than expected in July, with Realtors citing the lack of supply as the primary reason. Prices are also a factor though. The median price of a home sold in July hit $258,300, the highest July price on record. Mortgage rates have been falling through the summer and are now sitting at 2017 lows, but they are still slightly higher than one year ago. Rates have been so low for so long that they provide little relief from the fast-rising prices.

California, which boasts the priciest and tightest in the nation, saw sales slip across the board in July. The number of homes for sale fell yet again and prices hit decade highs.

“The San Francisco Bay Area posted modest year-over-year gains in home sales this May and June, but a tight inventory and waning affordability have taken a toll, and July 2017 sales fell to the lowest level for a July in six years,” said Andrew LePage, research analyst at CoreLogic.

Pending home sales in the Northeast fell 0.3 percent for the month and were 2.4 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest, sales decreased 0.7 percent for the month and were 2.8 percent lower than July 2016. In the South, sales declined 1.7 percent from June and were 0.2 percent below last July. In the West, sales rose 0.6 percent for the month but were 4.0 percent below a year ago.

Yun noted that national sales numbers could weaken more than expected this fall, due to the disruption in the Houston housing market from Hurricane Harvey.

U.S. Mortgage Rates Move Lower in Mid-July

According to Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the average U.S. mortgage rate dropped in mid-July, after two straight weeks of increases.

Sean Becketti, chief economist at Freddie Mac, “Continued economic uncertainty and weak inflation data pushed rates lower this week. The 10-year Treasury yield fell 5 basis points this week. The 30-year mortgage rate moved with Treasury yields, dropping 7 basis points to 3.96 percent.”

Freddie Mac News Facts:

  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.23 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.29 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.75 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.21 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.28 percent. A year ago at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.78 percent.

Existing-Home Sales Retreat 1.8 Percent in June

Existing-Home Sales Retreat 1.8 Percent in June

WASHINGTON (July 24, 2017) — Existing-home sales slipped in June as low supply kept selling at a near record pace but ultimately ended up muting overall activity, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Only the Midwest saw an increase in sales last month.

Total existing-home sales1, https://www.nar.realtor/topics/existing-home-sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, decreased 1.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.52 million in June from 5.62 million in May. Despite last month’s decline, June’s sales pace is 0.7 percent above a year ago, but is the second lowest of 2017 (February, 5.47 million).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the previous three-month lull in contract activity translated to a pullback in existing sales in June. “Closings were down in most of the country last month because interested buyers are being tripped up by supply that remains stuck at a meager level and price growth that’s straining their budget,” he said. “The demand for buying a home is as strong as it has been since before the Great Recession. Listings in the affordable price range continue to be scooped up rapidly, but the severe housing shortages inflicting many markets are keeping a large segment of would-be buyers on the sidelines.”

Added Yun, “The good news is that sales are still running slightly above last year’s pace despite these persistent market challenges.”

The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in June was $263,800, up 6.5 percent from June 2016 ($247,600). Last month’s median sales price surpasses May as the new peak and is the 64th straight month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory3 at the end of June declined 0.5 percent to 1.96 million existing homes available , and is now 7.1 percent lower than a year ago (2.11 million) and has fallen year-over-year for 25 consecutive months. Unsold inventory is at a 4.3-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.6 months a year ago.

First-time buyers were 32 percent of sales in June, which is down from 33 percent both in May and a year ago. NAR’s 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released in late 20164 – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 35 percent.

“It’s shaping up to be another year of below average sales to first-time buyers despite a healthy that continues to create jobs,” said Yun. “Worsening supply and affordability conditions in many markets have unfortunately put a temporary hold on many aspiring buyers’ dreams of owning a home this year.”

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate(link is external) for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage declined for the third consecutive month, dipping to 3.90 percent in June from 4.01 percent in May. The average commitment rate for all of 2016 was 3.65 percent.

Properties typically stayed on the market for 28 days in June, which is up from 27 days in May but down from 34 days a year ago. Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 102 days in June, while foreclosures sold in 57 days and non-distressed homes took 27 days. Fifty-four percent of homes sold in June were on the market for less than a month.

Inventory data from realtor.com® reveals that the metropolitan statistical areas where listings stayed on the market the shortest amount of time in June were Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., 23 days; Salt Lake City, Utah, 26 days; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., 27 days; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., 29 days; and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo., at 30 days.

“Prospective buyers who postponed their home search this spring because of limited inventory may have better luck as the summer winds down,” said President William E. Brown, a Realtor® from Alamo, California. “The pool of buyers this time of year typically begins to shrink as households with children have likely closed on a home before school starts. Inventory remains extremely tight, but patience may pay off in coming months for those looking to buy.”

All-cash sales were 18 percent of transactions in June, down from 22 percent both in May and a year ago, and the lowest since June 2009 (13 percent). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 13 percent of homes in June, down from 16 percent in May and unchanged from a year ago. Fifty-six percent of investors paid in cash in June.

Distressed sales5 – foreclosures and short sales – were 4 percent of sales in June, down from both May (5 percent) and a year ago (6 percent) and matching last September as the lowest share since NAR began tracking in October 2008. Three percent of June sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales.

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales dipped 2.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million in June from 4.98 million in May, but are still 0.6 percent above the 4.85 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $266,200 in June, up 6.6 percent from June 2016.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 640,000 units in June (unchanged from May), and are 1.6 percent higher than a year ago. The median existing condo price was $245,900 in June, which is 6.5 percent above a year ago.

Regional Breakdown

June existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 2.6 percent to an annual rate of 760,000, but are still 1.3 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $296,300, which is 4.1 percent above June 2016.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales rose 3.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.32 million in June (unchanged from June 2016). The median price in the Midwest was $213,000, up 7.7 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South decreased 4.7 percent to an annual rate of 2.23 million (unchanged from a year ago). The median price in the South was $231,300, up 6.2 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West declined 0.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.21 million in June, but remain 2.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $378,100, up 7.4 percent from June 2016.

State OKs new 100-bed UCF Lake Nona

The University of Central Florida and HCA Healthcare will start building a new 100-bed teaching hospital adjacent ‘s 50-acre College of Medicine campus in southeast Orlando’s Lake Nona community within 18 months. The campus currently has two facilities for classrooms and research.

The state’s Agency for Health Care Administration this week gave final approval for a hospital that’s expected to open for patients by the end of 2020.

The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s 12 public universities, approved the public/private hospital in March after the state had given the facility preliminary approval. That approval allows UCF to grow the hospital to up to 500 beds without further approval from that board. The planned new hospital will:

  • Train third- and fourth-year medical students from Day One.
  • Allow the UCF medical school to expand its clinical research mission. The university-based teaching hospital is expected to help lure more grants to fund research.
  • Provide more opportunities for medical residency programs.
  • Be a living-learning lab for training medical, nursing, physical therapy, pharmacy and social work students in teamwork skills and communication.

Building the new hospital also will bring opportunities for designers, builders and vendors, as well as new permanent, high-wage jobs.

Nashville-based HCA’s North Florida Division will contribute $175 million to build and begin operating the hospital, called UCF Lake Nona Medical Center. UCF will provide the land and its academic brand. No state dollars will be used to build the facility. “Together with our partners at HCA, we look forward to strengthening our community’s health, training more doctors and powering economic growth through research,” said UCF President John C. Hitt in a prepared statement.

He has described building the hospital as one of the university’s most important decisions of this decade.

A hospital to advance teaching and clinical research programs has been a UCF priority since the university opened its medical school in 2009. “This hospital and its research mission are part of the economic impact we promised the community when the medical school was built,” said Dr. Deborah German, founding dean of the College of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs, in a prepared statement. (See the photo gallery for a look inside the medical school.) “In the United States and around the world, the best health systems have an academic component at their heart and the best medical schools have teaching hospitals. UCF Lake Nona Medical Center will help Central Florida become a national, then global health care destination that will benefit all of our partners and our community

Central Florida home sales up 8.8% in May

More and townhomes/condos sold and the median sale price increased in the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area in May when compared to the year-ago period, according to the latest housing data released by Realtors. In May, 3,428 homes and 983 townhomes/condos sold in metro Orlando. The number of homes sold was up 8.8 percent from May 2016, while the number of townhomes/condos sold rose 17.6%.

Along with an increase in units sold in the Central Florida area, median sales prices also were up. Last month, the median home sale price in the area grew 7 percent to $240,788 and the median townhome/condo sale price increased 12.1 percent to $150,000.

These year over year increases are no surprise to President of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association, Bruce Elliott. “Orlando has strong job growth and a great quality of life that makes this area a great place to live. There have been a lot of third-party sources, from Forbes magazine to WalletHub, showing a variety of different statistics about how good Orlando is.”

Along with higher numbers in metro Orlando, the state also saw an increase in the number of homes and townhomes/condos sold in last month when compared to May 2016.

“Closed sales of existing homes in the Sunshine State not only rebounded from a relatively flat April, they positively surged to record highs in May of 2017,” said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Brad O’Connor. “To be more specific, May’s sale totals of 27,850 existing single-family homes and 11,538 existing condos and townhomes were the most ever recorded [by Florida Realtors] for a single month in either property type category. In both cases, these totals were also markedly higher than the very strong number of sales racked up in May of 2016.”

The median sale prices also rose when compared to last year. Last month, the median sale price for a home in Florida grew 7.7 percent to $239,000 and the median sale price for a townhome/condo rose 8.1 percent to $178,000 when compared to the year-ago period.

New York Real Estate

Tavistock preps plans for 2 new Lake Nona apartment projects

Tavistock Development Co. LLC has plans in the works to bring two new multifamily projects — including one it’s calling “micro apartments” — to southeast ’s booming Lake Nona community.

Early planning is underway for a second multifamily development in the Lake Nona Town Center, temporarily being called The Distillery, which would be 11 stories high and include a mix of uses within it, according to documents.

The most unique part about the project is the residential units themselves, which is something Tavistock plans to experiment with by making them about 10-15 percent smaller than what’s now available in Orlando, Vice President of Development Operations Ralph Ireland told Orlando Business Journal.

The plan is to test out six “truly micro” units, at about 375 square feet each, Ireland said. If that’s successful, Tavistock may try to do some in its next apartment project.

“Because we’re always trying to innovate, we want to do things in Lake Nona that haven’t been done elsewhere in Central Florida,” Ireland told OBJ. “Of course, we can’t just roll out 150 micro units because we don’t know how it’s going to work. But we’re trying to get something more efficient. And they will be well amenitized within the units and in the common areas.”

Tavistock already has secured a foundation permit for this project, and is seeking city staff approval on a final plat. is expected to start in May or June next year.

Kimley-Horn & Associates Inc. in Orlando is the civil engineer, the project architects are Silver Springs, Md.-based Torti Gallas & Partners Inc. and Columbus, Ohio-based M+A Architects, and the landscape architect is Dix.Hite + Partners LLC.

What to Consider in a Remodel

The kitchen should reflect your lifestyle. It should accommodate your cooking needs, provide the type of space you need for dining and offer plenty of storage. Its décor should complement your home’s architecture and set the tone for gatherings that happen there. A lot of factors play into kitchen design, but the first step before choosing appliances or visiting a cabinet showroom is to set some goals for your space.
Start by reflecting on why you’re remodeling and what you really need to get out of it. A kitchen remodel is not an easy task, so why are you doing it? Download and complete the Day in the Life of Your Kitchen Questionnaire and Kitchen Goals Worksheet. Your answers to these questions will help you create a remodeling checklist and budget.
When Deborah Pierce, principal, Pierce Lamb Architects, West Newton, Mass, works with clients, she works through an organic process that involves addressing each of these key variables:
  • Size of the space
  • Orientation of sunlight
  • Connection of kitchen to adjacent rooms
  • Homeowner’s lifestyle
  • Budget
  • Condition of the building

Kitchen Remodeling Considerations

As you start planning your remodel, consider these factors:
Size (Square Footage). “Every inch of space is important, especially in a small kitchen,” Pierce emphasizes. The size of your kitchen will dictate the layout: Is there room for an island? Does space allow for a prep sink? Where can you squeeze in extra storage?
Will you knock out a wall or extend the kitchen by adding on to your home? How much space can you conceivably add to your kitchen layout? These are questions to consider with a kitchen designer or architect, who can help you devise a solid plan.
Existing Layout. Don’t feel married to your kitchen’s existing footprint. “Windows and doors are seldom in the place you want them,” Pierce says. “They might be on the wrong wall, or in the wrong place entirely.” If you must maintain the windows/doors of your kitchen, you may be locked in to your layout—but there are always ways to modify. For instance, you can add a peninsula to an L-shaped kitchen and create a horseshoe layout that offers more counter space and efficiency. Learn about different kitchen layouts.
As you consider kitchen layout, take time to think about what you like about your current kitchen:
  • How do you move in the space?
  • Does the workflow accommodate your cooking routine?
  • Can you easily move from the range to the sink?
  • How effective is your kitchen when more than one person is cooking?
These are just some of the questions you should be asking yourself as you begin to plan your kitchen remodel. To see a complete list of questions you’ll need to consider, download the Day in the Life of Your Kitchen Questionnaire.
Infrastructure. Depending on the age of your kitchen, you might confront electrical or plumbing concerns as you remodel. Work with an architect-engineer team to ensure that the “guts” of your kitchen can accommodate the technology (appliances, lighting, etc.) you will install.
“In an older house, you may find yourself with sagging floors that need to be addressed or crooked walls that need to be straightened out,” Pierce says, pointing to a couple of budget busters that many homeowners do not plan for. “Keep an open mind at the start of the process,” she continues. “Understand your needs, but recognize the variables that a designer or builder might need to deal with during the process.”
Lifestyle. How will you use the kitchen? What type of cook are you? How do you entertain? Answer the questions in the Day in the Life of Your Kitchen Questionnaire as you prioritize features for your new kitchen. Peterson likes to keep the conversation general when first identifying kitchen likes/dislikes, “identifying problems rather than solutions, and wishes rather than details,” she says. “This is because the design will evolve as all variables are considered, and locking on to a specific feature at the start may solve one problem but preclude a better design that solves five other problems.”
For example, choosing professional appliances that take up 80 percent of the space may not allow enough room for cabinetry storage or area to expand a window to let more light into the kitchen.
Budget. For a more detailed discussion, visit our Budgeting Your Project section. As Roberta Bauer-Kravette, LEED AP, AKBD and director of Nieuw Amsterdam Kitchens in New York, N.Y., says, “The fastest way to go over your budget is to change your mind on materials and finishes.”
Decide where to save and where to splurge. Set a realistic budget, figuring between 6 and 10 percent of your home value for a complete kitchen remodel. Brad Burgin, Burgin Construction Inc. in North Tustin, Calif., says his clients that spend about 10 percent of their overall home value realize a return on their investment at resale. View and download our budget worksheet to help you decide where to spend your budget.