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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
McMansions have more or less fallen out of favor, according to a new study by the American Institute of Architects.

The survey of 500 architects showed that only 4 percent thought their clients wanted more space in their new homes, compared to 16 percent in 2008.

Home builders have already taken that information to heart with 59 percent of builders surveyed in May by the National Association of Home Builders saying they plan to build smaller homes in the coming year.

But don't dismiss big houses. The builder association says that homes are stabilizing at 2,500 square feet, the average size of home in 2007 at the height of the housing boom.

source:  Wall Street Journal

Traditionally when Americans retired, they would make big cross-country moves or head south to Sunbelt states. But times have changed and now more seniors are opting to stay put or make a short-distance move. 

Indeed, only 1.6 percent of retirees between the age of 55 and 65 moved across state lines in 2010, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data. 

Florida once was the retiree haven, attracting more than one in four retirees who did move. That number now has dropped to one in seven. 

"Americans are moving to cities all over the country today when they retire," says Richard Johnson, director of retirement policy research at The Urban Institute, who conducted the analysis. 

The most popular retirement areas today are: 

  • Atlanta 
  • Las Vegas 
  • Dallas 
  • Phoenix

More retirees are opting to stay near where they once worked, moving out of the pricey real estate metro areas to places an hour or two outside of the city, where real estate prices tend to be cheaper. Property taxes are often lower too.

As an article in Reuters illustrates: “A retiree could sell a home in Montclair, New Jersey, near New York City, where the median home price is $560,800 and move 90 miles to Allentown, Pennsylvania (median home price: $135,400) — pocketing about $425,000 in extracted equity, assuming a mortgage-free transaction and excluding closing costs.”

source:  Reuters News


A released study lends more support to the idea that where you live can affect your health. In an experiment that started in the 1990s, the federal government offered thousands of low-income women living in public housing in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago, New York, and Boston an opportunity to move to a more affluent neighborhood and see if it improved their health.  

Now more than a decade since the experiment began, researchers have found that the relocated women had lower rates of obesity as well as lower rates of extreme obesity. For example, 16 percent of the women who were relocated had diabetes compared to 20 percent who remained in public housing. About 14 percent of the women who were relocated were extremely obese compared to nearly 18 percent who stayed in public housing. 

"This study proves that concentrated poverty is not only bad policy, it's bad for your health," said Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD arranged for the study, which appeared this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"This is one of the first studies to show that where you live — the circumstances of your neighborhood, the social characteristics of the people around you — all these things may play a role in your own health," Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at the Yale School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, told the Los Angeles Times. "Your health is not just what happens to you, but is influenced by all of those around you and the environment. … Some environments are toxic to health."

source:  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Los Angeles Times


Short sale and foreclosure transactions can be fraught with potential legal problems for real estate professionals. And as the number of these transactions continues to skyrocket, agents need to be careful, says Stella Ling, managing senior counsel of the California Association of REALTORS®.

Short sales success rate is only about 50 percent, Ling said, so "the best thing to do is to prescreen the short-sale listings.” For example, she encouraged agents to look for home owners who have refinanced in the mid-2000s and to avoid listings where a second trustee lender can come back for a deficiency through a judicial foreclosure or might not agree to a short sale. Ling also recommends checking to see if the seller has considered a bankruptcy. 

Another danger she points to is “reverse staging.” With reverse staging, sellers trash the property in order to devalue the property. Ling says real estate professionals should ensure sellers don’t do any damage and if they suspect any, they should reconsider proceeding with the transaction. 

"If a seller does reverse staging, destroying their own home, what else are they going to do? What other misrepresentations are they going to make?" Ling told the crowd of real estate professionals. 

Ling also suggests when handling REO transactions that real estate professionals read the REO addendum carefully that lenders often add to the purchase contracts. Oftentimes, these addendums make buyers give up a lot of their rights, she notes. 

source:  Inman News

Foreclosed homes may have a lot of negative energy lurking, from missing appliances, dirty carpets, cracked walls, and any number of other problems from not being cared for properly from the previous home owner.

The foreclosure crisis has sparked an increase in an unusual business: More buyers are asking for ritual house cleansings before they move in to rid the home of it’s bad auras.

Witches, psychics, priests, and feng shui consultants are being asked to come in to homes to bless or exorcise the homes of their bad spirits. Sellers are joining in too, in the hopes of trying to sell their home faster.

One buyer in Salem, Mass., two weeks before closing had a witch and warlock visit his three-story home to clang bells and spray holy water to cleanse the bad aura and break up the negative energy in the home. They poured kosher salt on doorways and raised iron swords at windows to keep evil spirits away.

"It's not entities or ghosts that we're dealing with anymore," Julie Belmont, who refers to herself as an intuitive, told The Wall Street Journal. "With foreclosures, a lot of it is energy imprints from past discussions, arguments, money problems. All of that is absorbed by the house."

Real estate pro Tamara Dorris in Sacramento, Calif., is a believer in feng shui for speeding up the sale of a property. For example, she placed a jade plant, which is believed to bring financial luck, in a designated “prosperity corner” in one home.

"Within two weeks, I had two offers," she says. "Most homes have at least one or two prosperity flaws. Foreclosed homes have five or six flaws."

source:  Wall Street Journal

In an odd twist of fate, a suburban home in Silver Spring, Md., where a middle school principal was shot to death had been the previous site of a 2002 murder of a man and his 9-year-old daughter.

Real estate professional Ron Phipps, former president of the National Association of REALTORS® says a stigmatized property like that one will often sell at a discount unless the crime was so notorious that it appeals to certain buyers with a penchant for that kind of drama.

Two states require that sellers disclose that a property has been the scene of a murder or a suicide: Alaska and South Dakota. Otherwise, widespread reporting of the crime generally ensures that word will reach buyers.

(above photo-Lizzie Borden's house)

source: USA Today

Working professionals tend to use their cars frequently. While staying accident-free may be one of your chief concerns when it comes to safety on the road, there's a new warning about hackers who may want to target your car. 

McAfee, a security software provider, earlier this year issued a report that warns of a possible new danger lurking for vehicles coming from hackers who can tap into a number of connected autos, such as those using Bluetooth. McAfee warns that hackers could potentially gain access to any Bluetooth-connected device inside a car, such as a smartphone or tablet.  

Recent studies also have demonstrated that hackers can gain access to the radio frequency identification (RFID) tags of newer cars that allow them to receive pressure data from small sensors inside the tires that can be used to track a vehicle. Also, McAfee notes that key safety components can be compromised remotely by hacker’s gaining access to a car’s electronics system using a system called CarShark. 

source:  TechSpot


Real estate mobile apps continue to be a growing market. 

So which real estate mobile apps rank the highest?

Inman News reviewed the most popular real estate apps across several platforms, including the Android, iPhone, iPad, and BlackBerry.

Inman News based its app ratings and rankings from, Apple’s App Store, the Android Market site, and the BlackBerry App World site. Here are some of the apps that emerged as front-runners for the iPhone, Android, and iPad.

Top 6 Free and Paid iPhone Real Estate Apps

* Zillow Real Estate

* Real Estate Search

* Trulia Real Estate Search

* LoopNet Commercial Real Estate Search

* Property Evaluator

* Real Estate Calc

Top 6 Free Android Real Estate Apps

* Zillow Real Estate

* Real Estate Search

* Trulia Real Estate Search

* Craigslist Browser

* Real Estate 114

* Real Estate by Smarter Agent

Top 6 Free and Paid iPad Real Estate Apps

* Zillow Real Estate Search

* Real Estate Search

* Trulia Real Estate Search

* Property Evaluator

* LoopNet Commercial Real Estate Search

* Property Flipper

source:  Inman News

More home owners are falling prey to scams that promise to “stop the foreclosure” and “save your home.”

The Federal Trade Commission has released a report to help borrowers avoid falling victim to such scams, here are a few of its tips:

1. Watch for outlandish claims. "Eliminate your debt!" and "We guarantee to stop the auction" are too good to be true. If it sounds like an easy way out, don’t believe it, the FTC warns.

2. Don't pay up-front costs. Consumer investigator Dale Cardwell warns home owners to beware of any deal that requires you to pay up-front fees. Cardwell says you shouldn’t pay any business or person who promises to modify your loan because only your lender can do that.

3. Beware of those imitating government agencies. Watch out for scammers who may capture logos, names, photos, and Web sites to make it look like they are part of a government agency.

4. Make payments only to your lender, no one else. Never write a check to someone else instead of your lender for your mortgage. Scammers may present an official looking reinstatement package and tell you to pay everything to them. Send payments only to your loan servicer, experts recommend.

source:  Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

Americans continue to fall prey to a growing number of real estate scams — most often rental scams — on free classified ad sites. Craigslist, in particular, has been a site that housing experts have warned visitors to beware of when it comes to real estate transactions. 

In Lynchburg, Va., a couple responded to an ad to rent a vacant home in the area, wiring $1,000 to the so-called landlord who posted the ad. The couple received keys to the home and moved in, only later to have police arrive at their front doorstep. While the home actually was listed for rent, a “fake” landlord — who had no claim to the property — had reposted the ad on Craigslist.

Near Houston, TX., the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s office arrested three people accused of posting fake rental listings on Craigslist and then scamming unsuspecting renters out of thousands of dollars.

Ariel Sustaita, 23, along with her mother Flora Sustaita, 39, and husband Gabriel Jimenez, 20, were arrested and charged with Felony Theft.  According to media reports, at least six families fell victim to these particular people due to this scam.

While all three are currently in custody, the Harris County Constable’s office would like to hear from anyone who might have dealt with any of these people or if you have had other similar scams involving your listings.

If you have any information that could assist the authorities, please contact Harris County Assistant Chief Deputy Mark Herman at 281-401-6231.

Janet Hart from the Better Business Bureau told AOL Real Estate that Craigslist real estate scams are particularly prevalent and online visitors need to be careful. One of the most common scams is  selling and renting “fake” homes, she says. She advises renters or buyers in these real estate transactions not to wire transfer any money unless it is to a reputable organization. Housing experts also suggest a simple online search may help avoid others from being duped: If the home appears elsewhere on the Internet for sale or rent and it’s from someone else, this should serve as a red flag.

source:  AOL Real Estate