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Most states require home sellers to disclose “material” facts. But the question is, what’s material?

In general, says real estate author Dian Hymer, a fact is material when it would affect a buyer’s willingness to buy at the asking price. She says too much information is almost always better than too little.

Sellers who are reluctant to be straightforward about their home’s potential problems should be aware that failure to disclose relevant information can result in expensive legal action that will also be stressful and time consuming, Hymer points out.

source: Inman News 


Retirees are increasingly flocking to cooler climates and smaller towns than sunny, southern havens in states like Florida or Arizona that generally are popular retirement hot-spots. Baby boomers are looking elsewhere, from Maine to Washington.

"Boomers and retirees these days are considering a much wider range of destinations for retirement, often choosing states that don't commonly come to mind, such as Maine and Montana," says Mary Lu Abbott, editor of Where to Retire magazine. "Yes, the Sun Belt remains popular, but many people prefer a four-season climate and enjoy the changing of seasons. They seek towns that are safe and have active, appealing downtowns and good hospitals nearby, and increasingly they're looking for places with a lower cost of living and lower overall tax rate."

As they retire, baby boomers are increasingly looking at places that are familiar to them, such as where they’ve once vacationed or spent time at as a child, David Savageau, author of "Retirement Places Rated," told the Associated Press. They’re looking for places that are walkable and have volunteer opportunities and college courses, he adds.

Florida and golf communities are "the old view of retirement," Savageau says. "And it's kind of dying out, the desert Southwest and South Florida. That was for our parents; for us it might be somewhere closer to home, a college town, a ski resort or a historical area that gets some kind of tourism in season."

source:  Associated Press


Sales of newly built single-family homes fell 6.8 percent in June to the lowest level since last November, the Commerce Department reports. But builders remain upbeat that the housing recovery is still intact. 

New-home sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 482,000 units in June. The drop follows a report last week that showed builders were increasing production of new homes, with housing starts climbing nearly 10 percent in June month-over-month. Most of that increase was due to a surge in multifamily construction.

New-home sales continue to be volatile month-to-month.

"We knew that there would be ups and downs on the road back to a normal housing market," says Robert Denk, senior economist at the National Association of Home Builders. "As the economy and job growth strengthens, we expect to see gradual, continued momentum in the coming months."

This is the second consecutive month for declines in new home sales. However, new home sales remain up 18.1 percent compared to June of last year.

The inventory of new homes for-sale was 215,000 units in June, representing a 5.4-month supply at the current sales pace.

Regionally, home sales increased by the largest amount month-to-month in the Northeast, where sales were up 28 percent. However, sales fell by 17 percent in the West; dropped by 11.1 percent in the Midwest; and also fell 4.1 percent in the South.

source:  National Association of Home Builders and Reuters


Over the next three years, Starwood Hotels will open nine Aloft brand hotels across the state. They are:

  • Aloft College Station (102 rooms and 1,500 sf of meeting space) in August 2015;
  • Aloft Houston Downtown (165 rooms and 2,000 sf of meeting space) in the historic Stowers Furniture Building, in 2016;
  • Aloft Austin Northwest (131 rooms and 1,000 sf of meeting space) in 2016;
  • Aloft Richardson (nine stories in the CityLine development, 148 rooms and 3,000 sf of meeting space) in 2016;
  • Aloft Austin Downtown (260 rooms that will join a 150-room Element hotel near the intersection of 7th St. and Congress Ave. in a 32-story dual-branded Starwood development) in 2017;
  • Aloft Dallas Love Field (133 Aloft rooms, 91 Element rooms and shared facilities with 6,500 sf of meeting space) in 2016;
  • Aloft Houston West (117 rooms and 2,000 sf of meeting space) near Westgate, in 2017;
  • Aloft Arlington Entertainment District (136 rooms, an outdoor splash pool, fItness center and 580 sf of meeting space), in 2017; and
  • Aloft Shenandoah - Near The Woodlands in 2018

In downtown Houston, a 165-room Aloft will open in the redeveloped  Stowers Furniture building, a historic building on Fannin Street.

“Aloft is experiencing phenomenal growth in Texas, in addition to key markets across the globe, due to the tremendous appeal of the brand’s tech-forward mind-set, vibrant social scene and innovative global programming,” said Brian McGuinness, Senior Vice President, Specialty Select Brands for Starwood. “On the cusp of opening its 100th hotel worldwide, Aloft remains one of the fastest growing brands in the history of hospitality with a rapidly growing pipeline.”

Aloft hotels feature modern design, loft-like rooms and innovative technologies for the early adopter. Known for its buzzing social scene and innovative global music programming, Aloft Hotels has put the spotlight on up-and-coming artists since the brand’s 2008 inception with of Live At Aloft Hotels, the signature ongoing music series offered at every hotel worldwide. The popular, no-cover acoustic sets showcase emerging talent with live, intimate performances in WXYZ bars for both guests and music-loving locals.

source:  Realty News Report


After buyers move in to their new home, they should be prepared for some home fixes to present themselves each season, says Rich Escallier, a handyman in Chicago. "If you can go six months without finding something that raises your blood pressure, you're lucky,” Escallier says. 

CBS MoneyWatch recently released a checklist of routine maintenance and small home repairs that home buyers should expect to do their first year to help avoid more costly problems from surfacing later on: 

During move-in week: Turn on all major appliances and run them for a complete cycle. Even if the buyer already completed a home inspection, they should test again, experts say. After all, “if you have a minor leak under the dishwasher, that water leaks into the subfloor and you can't see it," says Daniel Cipriani with Kade Homes & Renovations in the Atlanta area. "But you'll start to notice the hardwood floor buckling." 

45 days after move-in: Change the HVAC system filter and vacuum out the air intake vents. “Capturing dirt and dust with the right filter can go a long way toward preserving the new home appeal for a few years,” CBC MoneyWatch notes. 

Six months after move-in: Inspect the exterior of your home in both the summer and fall to ensure rainwater is draining away from the home properly. Also, clean out clogged gutters and downspouts. "Landscaping should be negatively graded away from the house," Cipriani says. "People don't think it's a big problem, but otherwise water pools against the foundation and doesn't have anywhere to go."

Every year: Inspect the home’s roof for any missing shingles and gaps around the chimneys. Also, check the ceilings inside the home for any water spots and indications of potential leaks. 

Experts also note that every two years, home owners would be wise to hire a professional HVAC contractor to inspect their furnace, air conditioner, and hot water heater. A ruptured reservoir could potentially spill 40 gallons of water in a mere few hours so experts recommend home owners install a water alarm with sensors in the collection pan underneath the hot water heater. The sensors cost about $25 and can help save home owners from costly water damage. 

source:  CBS MoneyWatch


As home equity rebounds, cash-out refinances are making a comeback, The Los Angeles Times reports. In the wake of the housing boom, cash-out refinancing was derided as a practice wherein home owners used their home's equity like an ATM. But the situation has changed somewhat, as today's transactions are occurring under much tighter lending guidelines.

Home owners are opting to use cash-out refinances for more financially sound purposes than in the past, says Bob Walters, chief economist for Quicken Loans. Walters says many of their borrowers are using it for debt consolidation. Charles Brown, Insignia Bank's chief executive, says many of their borrowers are using the money from the cash-out refinancings to consolidate high-cost credit card, mortgage, and other floating-rate debt into fixed-rate home loans.

But another type of cash-out client also is emerging, notes Paul Skeens, president and owner of Colonial Mortgage. Skeens says they're seeing investors from the recession who had purchased homes at bargain prices with little or no cash. These investors have built up equity in the past few years and are now looking to take out some cash to make new investments.

source:  Los Angeles Times


The rental market zoomed to new highs in June as rental prices continued to surge. The national annual effective rent growth rate was 5.1 percent in June, a 47-month high for the national apartment market, according to Axiometrics.

Effective rent growths have been at least 5 percent for five consecutive months, the longest streak since Axiometrics began its annual tracking of annual apartment data in April 2009.

"Rent growth is just shy of the post-recession peak, and the June metrics reflect the continued strength of the apartment market," says Stephanie McCleskey, Axiometrics vice president of research. "The demand for apartments is still strong, despite the record number of new units being delivered this year."

What's more, occupancy rates remained at 95.3 percent in June.

"Tight occupancy is why landlords can push rents higher," McCleskey says. "Axiometrics considers a market or property essentially full at 95% occupancy, so there are just not that many apartments available. There's a reason for all the new supply: The market is still playing catch-up for all the apartments not built during the recession."

Axiometrics reports the following markets had the highest effective rent growth in June:

  1. Oakland, Calif.: 14.4% (annual effective growth in June 2015)
  2. Portland, Ore.: 13.6%
  3. Denver: 10.9%
  4. San Jose, Calif.: 10.4%
  5. Sacramento, Calif.: 9.8%
  6. San Francisco, Calif.: 9.1%
  7. Riverside, Calif.: 7.6%
  8. Seattle, Wash.: 7.5%
  9. Atlanta, Ga.: 7.3%
  10. Phoenix, Ariz.: 7.1%

source:  Real Estate Economy Watch


Home buyer foot traffic can be a strong indicator of the demand for housing, and foot traffic has been strong this spring, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, which measures foot traffic by the number of times SentriLock lock boxes are opened.

"Despite a steady upward movement in mortgage rates in the spring, demand for housing remains strong," NAR notes on its Economists' Outlook blog. NAR's index for foot traffic was 13.8 points higher than the same time last year. A measure above 50 indicates that more than half of about 200 markets analyzed had stronger traffic in May than the same month a year prior.

Of the 14 cities that NAR tracks on a local level, the strongest improvements in foot traffic compared to last year were in San Diego, Iowa City, and El Paso, Texas.

"Foot traffic continues to signal a positive summer trend for home sales," NAR notes on its blog. "Improvements to economic fundamentals like employment, access, and pricing support for current shoppers, but rising rates will create a headwind later this year. Over the long-term, wage growth and expanded supply can help to ameliorate these factors."

A few markets saw foot traffic contract compared to last year, such as Salem, Mass.; Boulder, Colo.; Kingston, N.Y.; and Honolulu. But NAR says that it isn't necessarily alarming.

"While foot traffic is falling in some markets, that is not necessarily an indication of a decline in demand," NAR notes. "After nearly three years of low supply, traffic may fall in certain markets due to lack of opportunities for an open house."

source:  National Association of REALTORS® Economists' Outlook Blog


Home inspections don’t always turn up everything wrong with a home, but unknowing buyers can quickly turn unsatisfied when they move into their new home if they find a bunch of problems. 

"The purpose of a home inspection is to look for material defects of a property: things that are unsafe, not working, or that create a hazard," Kurt Salomon, president of the American Society of Home Inspectors, told the Chicago Tribune. However, most buyers "think we can see through walls and predict the future.”

Home inspections, for example, don’t specifically test for environmental safety hazards like lead, asbestos, or radon--which can be costly to remove. Inspectors also may overlook mold or vermin when its hidden behind floorboards. 

As such, buyers also should be on the lookout for common hazards because pinpointing these before closing at least allows them the opportunity to ask sellers to help pay for removal costs. 

Experts warn that buyers should take note of homes built prior to 1978, which usually contain lead and possibly asbestos in 9-by-9 floor tiles in basements. 

To help avoid post-move-in surprises, buyers also might consider bringing in additional safety inspectors to evaluate the home, such as chimney inspectors, electricians, or experts for leading or radon testing.

source:  Chicago Tribune 


A bad neighbor can bring down the value of a home, possibly by even up to 10 percent, according to the Appraisal Institute.

“I’ve seen many situations where external factors, such as living near a bad neighbor, can lower home values by more than 5 to 10 percent,” says Richard L. Borges II, president of the Appraisal Institute. “Home owners should be aware of what is going on in their neighborhood and how others’ bad behaviors could affect their home’s value.”

What qualifies as a bad neighbor — or “external obsolescence” in appraisal speak? Home owners with “annoying pets, unkempt yards, unpleasant odors, loud music, dangerous trees and limbs, or poorly maintained exteriors,” according to the Appraisal Institute.

The organization recommends home owners take action. For example, banding together with other neighbors to approach the “bad neighbor” together and check if the home is violating any municipality codes or subdivision restrictions that you can report. In some cases it may be worth hiring an attorney. “If all else fails, the cost of an attorney likely will be less than the home’s potential loss in value,” according to the Appraisal Institute.

source:  The Appraisal Institute