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I'm John Askins of Royce Realty in Houston, or text me directly at (832) on my blog I'll keep you updated on the latest trends and info about our local and state real estate market. Member - HAR Technology Advisory Group

Tornado seasons send the sales of storm shelters skyrocketing, and even prompt more home buyers to add it to their home shopping wish-lists. 

Joe Zinser, the owner of Tornado and Storm in Flower Mound, Texas, says he has sold more than 600 storm shelters this year, which is double what he typically sells in a year. A basic shelter, on average, costs about $5,000 and can seat eight people.

However, nationwide, shelters can cost as much as $10,000 once installation is factored in. 

Home owners most weighing storm shelters tend to live in the Midwest and South, particularly around Oklahoma--where more tornadoes are produced than anywhere else on Earth, says Greg Carbin, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center. 

source:  CNNMoney


Some sellers are deciding to not list their home formally, but they want buyers to know it’s still for sale. These small group of sellers work with a broker, who they rely on to bring them buyers, but seek to avoid the hassles of showing homes or fielding lowball offers. 

Referred to as “pocket deals,” these are when a seller informally works with a broker but doesn’t sign a contract. Brokers who find a buyer will still be paid a commission. 

Going against the grain, these “pocket deal” sellers don’t want their homes to appear on online listings, hold open houses, or see any advertisements for their property. They seek buyers who are willing to meet asking price and act quickly--leaving brokers having to work their network to hunt for a buyer. 

So why are some sellers taking the “pocket deal” route? According to The New York Times, these sellers say they don’t want their home to linger on the market and then risk being considered “tarnished.” They also don’t want to entertain lowball offers from buyers or have to deal with the hassle of constant showings. 

However, some real estate pros say that pocket deals often aren’t worth a brokers’ extra efforts. Pamela Liebman, president of the Corcoran Group, says a person who doesn’t want to list is usually not that serious about selling. 

“I think ultimately the sellers hurt themselves,” Liebman says. 

source:  New York Times


Most home sellers are seeing plenty of equity when selling their home. In March, sellers on average sold for $30,500 more than what they had paid for their home – a 17 percent gain, according to RealtyTrac’s March and First Quarter 2016 Home Sales Report. That marks the highest average price gain for sellers in any month since December 2007, the onset of the Great Recession.

“Home sellers in many markets are now seeing average price gains close to or above what home sellers experienced during the last housing boom,” says Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac senior vice president. “That should encourage more home owners to take advantage of the prime seller’s market and list their homes for sale this year."

The report reveals that sellers are seeing the largest average gains in the following metros:

  1. San Francisco: 72% average gain
  2. San Jose, Calif.: 60%
  3. Boulder, Colo.: 53%
  4. Prescott, Ariz.: 51%
  5. Los Angeles: 48%
  6. Denver: 42%
  7. Portland: 40%
  8. Austin: 40%
  9. Seattle: 38%
  10. Baltimore: 38%
  11. Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif.: 37%
  12. San Diego: 36%
  13. Sacramento: 35%

source:  RealtyTrac


Construction has started on Kent Donahue's $1 billion resort-anchored development along the shores of Lake Ray Hubbard.

The project, known as Bayside, will include two condo towers, a resort and marina, luxury apartments, single-family homes, and over one million sf of mixed-use retail, entertainment, restaurant, and office space all centered around an eight-acre Cabo-inspired blue lagoon.

The lagoon, which is being developed using​ technology by Miami-based Crystal Lagoon, will be the first in Texas and the 12th in the nation. It will also have the largest show fountain in the state and a filtration system that will cleanse the water.

source:  Dallas Business Journal


Loyalty to cell-phone carriers may be waning as more smartphone users say they’ll consider trade-in programs the next time they decide to upgrade their phones, according to the NPD Group.

In an NPD survey of 1,000 smartphone users, only 13 percent said they had traded in their last mobile device. However, 55 percent said they would take advantage of trade-in programs the next time they upgrade their phones.

“This means that the consumer may not necessarily shop at the carrier store for their next device, but instead may look to big box retailers if the trade-in price is right,” wrote NPD analyst Eddie Hold in a blog post. “Roughly 30 percent of respondents are willing … to switch carriers in order to gain a better trade-in value, suggesting that carriers need to get the trade-in values right if they want to maintain consumer loyalty. Further, over 60 percent of respondents are willing to change retailers (but not necessarily the underlying carrier) in exchange for a better trade-in value.”

Some carriers, such as T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T, have recently revamped their trade-in programs. Blackberry is offering a trade-in program called Trade Up, and Samsung now offers an Upgrade program. Apple is rumored to be launching its own trade-in program for the iPhone, but no announcement has been made, Forbes reported. 

source:  Forbes and The NPD Group


If income growth is key for greater household formation, housing analysts say some recent progress on the salary front may increase housing demand among younger adults.

While all age groups, except for those above age 65, continue to experience lower incomes than in 2007, according to a U.S. Census Bureau Current Population chart, analysts say a notable change that started last year is continuing among younger households — those under age 35 — who are seeing income gains.

“The Great Recession and housing bust hit young adults hard,” writes Patrick Simmons, director of strategic planning for the economic research group at Fannie. “The unemployment rate for 25- to 34-year-olds more than doubled between 2007 and 2010, and real median household income for this group fell by nearly 10 percent during the downturn. As economic conditions deteriorated, young-adult household formation and home ownership fell sharply. In recent years, however, young Americans’ economic circumstances have begun to brighten, with the unemployment rate for 25- to 34-year-olds dropping and their income stabilizing.”

Also, the rate of housing cost burdens among young owner-occupants continues to fall: Fewer than one in four young home owners spent more than 30 percent of household income on housing expenses. That rate is 13 percentage points below the 2007 peak as well as “significantly lower than in 2000, prior to the mortgage credit bubble,” Simmons notes.

“The continued slide in household formation and home ownership among young adults suggests that more robust labor market improvements, among other factors, are needed for young Americans to get a stronger foothold in the housing market,” Simmons says. “The large decline in home owner affordability problems among young adults indicates that substantial housing market changes in the wake of the housing bust have created a generation of young home owners who have housing costs that are much better aligned with incomes.”

source:  National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing and Fannie Mae 


The average time to close on all mortgage loans dropped to 44 days in March, the shortest amount of time in a year, according to Ellie Mae's latest Origination Insight Report.

New mortgage rules went into effect last October, pushing closing timelines from 46 days in October to 48 days in November and December, and then to 50 days in January. But lenders and real estate professionals have had time to adjust to the new rules, and closing times are speeding up again.

The average time to close on a loan for a home purchase fell to 45 days in March, while closing times for refinancings dropped to 41 days. Times to close on FHA loans also fell to 44 days in March, while VA loans averaged 48 days to close.

What's more, Ellie Mae's report shows that the average closing rates for all loans continued to rise to the highest level since tracking began in 2011. Closing rates for all loans rose to 70.6 percent in March (closing rates on purchase loans was slightly over 75 percent). Ellie Mae calculates the closing rate on a 90-day cycle, since most loan applications require one-and-a-half to two months from application to close.

Sixty-seven percent of all closed loans had FICO scores above 700. The average credit score was 722. Only 12 percent of the closed loans had scores below 650, according to Ellie Mae's report. The average loan-to-value ratio was 80 percent, and the average debt-to-income ratio remained constant at 25/38.

source:  Mortgage News Daily


Midway Cos. has started construction on its Memorial Green mixed-use project, which has just signed on six tenants.

​​The luxury residential, commercial, and retail project will sit on 14 acres at 12601 Memorial Dr. Midway purchased the land from Houston Methodist in 2014. 

Memorial Green will include 91 luxury single-family homes, a central green plaza and gated community parks, 50,000 sf of Class A office space, and an additional 25,000 sf of boutique retail and restaurants.

So far, the development has signed tenants for 17,866 sf. Tenants include Dish Society, Define Body & Mind, Vine Wine Room, Minuti Coffee Stores, Old Republic Title, and Heritage Texas Properties. 

Homebuilders include Jeff Paul Custom Homes, McCollum Custom Homes, and Pelican Builders Inc.

Heritage Texas Properties LP is marketing the homes in Memorial Green. Colvill Office Properties is handling office leasing for the development.

The project is expected to deliver in 2017. 

source:  Houston Business Journal


The real estate market has turned some very popular retirement destinations into bargains.

To determine where the prices are most attractive, U.S. News & World Report examined price-to-income data for 384 metropolitan statistical areas. This expresses the relationship between owner income and home values.

Here are 10 retirement havens where homes are most affordable by this measure:

Bend, OR.
Napa, CA.
Fort Meyers, Fla.
Fayetteville, Ark.
Las Vegas, NV
Sante Fe, N.M.
Punta Gorda, Fla.
Phoenix, AZ
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Burlington, VT.

source: U.S. News & World Report 


One result of the continued traditionally low interest rates which have helped the average American to save more than $3,000 a year, according to a USA Today analysis. 

Interest payments on mortgages have contributed to some of the largest savings. USA Today reports that mortgage interest payments have fallen 30 percent since peaking in 2007. 

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Americans spent 5.8 percent of their after-tax income paying interest on mortgages, credit cards, car loans, and on other debts — the smallest share since 1977.

Indeed, interest payments have fallen drastically on debt. Interest payments averaged $469 per month at the end of last year compared to the $728 per month peak in 2007.

source:  USA Today