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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

In the Center for Housing Policy's Paycheck to Paycheck study, researchers reveal the gap between wages for workers in the vacation industry and the costs of housing in more than 200 U.S. metro areas. 

"One of the most overlooked aspects of this recovery is that for many workers, incomes are not rebounding in step with local housing markets," said CHP senior research associate Maya Brennan, co-author of the report. "Even in a strong sector like travel and tourism, wages have not kept pace with the rising costs of renting or homeownership." 

Paycheck to Paycheck: A Snapshot of Metropolitan Housing Affordability for Travel and Tourism Workers details trends in housing affordability for workers in five jobs: waiters and waitresses, automobile mechanics, housekeepers, flight attendants, and front desk managers.  Of those five, only flight attendants earn an average wage high enough to afford the mortgage on a median-priced U.S. residence.  Workers in two of those jobs — housekeepers and wait staff — are unable to afford the typical rent on either a one- or two-bedroom apartment in any metro area. 

"The continued improvement in housing markets across the country is good news for current homeowners...however, the turnaround in housing prices — driven by investors in many markets — along with the still-tight mortgage market, has kept it very difficult for moderate-income families to afford to buy a home," noted CHP Director Lisa Sturtevant. "There is a fundamental tension between a housing recovery and housing affordability.  The solutions are higher wages or greater access to affordable housing."



To see the speed of demographic change in Texas, look no further than its largest city — Houston. Only 40 percent of the city's population is non-Hispanic white, and by a Rice University count, it's the most racially and ethnically diverse city in America.

"Houston is an immigrant magnet," says Glenda Joe, a Chinese-Texan community organizer whose extended family came to Houston in the 1880s.

"Texas looks like me. I'm half-Chinese; I'm half-Irish," she says. "I also do business; I work with universities; I also ride horses. That's what Texas is."

At about 35 percent of the population, Latinos make up the second-biggest group in Houston after non-Hispanic whites or Anglos, according to Census numbers. But Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing group — doubling between the 1990 and 2010 census to about 7 percent.

"There is no majority group here, not even close," says Michael Emerson, a Rice University sociologist who studies Houston's demographic change. He and his research partners put together the analysis that gave Houston the title of most diverse metropolitan area in America. If you look at the four major ethnic groups — Anglo, black, Asian and Latino — all have substantial numbers in Houston, with no one group dominating. It comes closer to having an equal balance of each group than you would find in New York or Los Angeles.

The city's transformation to an international megalopolis happened quickly, and only within the past few decades. As the metro area shot to nearly 6 million people, 93 percent of all that growth was non-white.

"Houston runs about 10, 15 years ahead of Texas, 30 years ahead of the U.S., in terms of ethnic diversity and immigration flows," Emerson says. "So it is fundamentally transformed in a way that all of America shall transform."

Jobs fuel the transformation. The energy industry remains a huge player, but there's also the Texas Medical Center, burgeoning biotech and a bustling shipping port. Despite crippling humidity, long commutes and a reputation for refineries, Houston's cheap land, affordable homes and low barriers to doing business have lured immigrants from all over.

"You are here to make your fortune; you are here to move ahead in the world. You are about making things happen. There's no way that you could be a leader here in this community and not recognize that," says Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is a minority among politicians. She's the only female mayor among the top 10 most populous cities, and she's one of the only openly gay politicians, period. And she's learned a few lessons about governing a place where different cultures combine.

"Too often what happens in a state capital or in Washington is that it is about parties and partisanship, not about the practical realities of running something. Cities have to run," Parker says.

For her, running the place means embracing the sociological situation. Houston is remarkably practical that way. Just ask seventh-generation Chinese-Houstonian Glenda Joe.

"It's inexorable. The change in terms of leadership, the change in terms of how we look — it's inexorable," Joe says.

source:  NPR


Home owners may find higher electricity costs are taking a bigger chunk from their wallet. The average price of electricity to residential customers reached its highest point in May than in the past two years, increasing 3.4 percent year-over-year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In May 2012, customers were paying an average of 11.90-cents per Kilowatthour nationally. Flash-forward to May 2014, customers are now paying 12.84-cents per Kilowatthour.

The New England region has seen some of the largest price increases year-over-year. Prices in the region have soared 11.31 percent in the past year. The Middle Atlantic had the second highest year-over-year increases at a 5.53 percent increase from May 2013 to May 2014.

The seven most expensive states for electricity costs are:

  • Hawaii
  • New York
  • Connecticut
  • Alaska
  • Vermont
  • Rhode Island
  • New Hampshire

Meanwhile, in these seven states you can expect to pay some of the lowest costs for electricity:

  • Washington
  • Idaho
  • West Virginia
  • North Dakota
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • Montana

source:  BUILDER online


The priciest ZIP code in the country boasts a median home price of more than $4.5 million, according to a list by Forbes that tracked home prices of more than 20,000 ZIP codes nationwide to determine the most expensive areas. 

Appraiser Jonathan Miller, chief executive of New York’s Miller Samuel, told Forbes that he’s seen an increase in listings that fall under the luxury bracket this year. “It’s not that we’re seeing prices rise, it’s that we’re seeing more activity,” Miller told Forbes. 

Here are the five priciest ZIP codes in the country, according to Forbes. 

1. Alpine, N.J.: 07620 

Median home price: $4,550,000

2. Atherton, Calif.: 94027

Median home price: $4,295,000

3. Sagaponack, N.Y.: 11962 

Median home price: $3,595,000 

4. Hillsborough, Calif.: 94010

Median home price: $3,499,000

5. Beverly Hills, Calif.: 90210

Median home price: $3,469,891

source:  Forbes


Violent crime in the U.S. has fallen, according to FBI crime data. However, violent crime increased in more than half of the cities that have among the highest crime rates in the nation, according to a review of crime data by 24/7 Wall St.

“The cities with the highest crime rates tend to have particularly high poverty rates, high unemployment, and low median income,” according to its analysis.

The six most dangerous cities in the U.S., according to 24/7 Wall St., are:

1. Flint, Mich.
Violent crimes per 1,000: 23.4

2. Detroit, Mich.
Violent crimes per 1,000: 21.4

3. St. Louis, Mo.
Violent crimes per 1,000: 18.6

4. Oakland, Calif.
Violent crimes per 1,000: 16.8

5. Memphis, Tenn.
Violent crimes per 1,000: 15.8

6. Little Rock, Ark.
Violent crimes per 1,000: 14.9

source:  24/7 Wall St.

The American Lung Association, which has compiled the list of dirty cities, said the 20 million residents that live in these areas are at increased risk of asthma and chronic bronchitis.

Seven of the dirtiest cities in the U.S. are in California.

The 10 dirtiest cities are:

1. Bakersfield, CA
2. Los Angeles, CA
3. Fresno, CA
4. Visalia, CA
5. Hanford, CA
6. Phoenix, AZ
7. Birmingham, AL
8. Modesto, CA
9. Sacramento, CA
10. Pittsburgh, PA

source: Forbes

Minneapolis-St. Paul serves as the best local market predictor of where nationwide housing prices will be heading over the next year. On the other hand, you don't want to try to apply Texas price trends to your local market, a new study suggests.

That may be good news for sellers, considering that Twin Cities' home prices were up 4.7 percent year-over-year in June, with a median sales price of $219,900, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS®. A study conducted by Trulia attempted to find housing markets that often serve as the nation’s crystal ball—those markets that regularly run ahead of national pricing trends. The company evaluated home price changes between 1980 and 2014 in the nation’s 100 largest metro markets using the Federal Housing Finance Agency home price index. They created a “crystal ball” score that was derived by the correlation between the year-over-year home price changes in a metro with the year-over-year home price change for the U.S. one year later. The Twin Cities earned the highest “crystal ball” score, followed by California cities San Diego, Ventura County, and Sacramento.

Here’s the full list of the local markets that may hold the key to the future of the nationwide housing market by next year:

  1. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.-Wis.
  2. San Diego, Calif.
  3. West Palm Beach, Fla.
  4. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.
  5. Ventura County, Calif.
  6. Washington, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va.
  7. Sacramento, Calif.
  8. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.
  9. North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, Fla.
  10. St. Louis, Mo.-Ill.

On the other hand, some of the markets ranked as the worst predictors of next year’s home price movements are in Texas. The article where the findings were published notes that “Texas home prices are influenced by the swings in the energy industry, which means real estate in Texas and Gulf Coast tends to beat to a different drummer more than any other market in the country.”

The study found the following metros are the worst predictors of where the nationwide housing market is heading within the next year:

  1. Baton Rouge, La.
  2. Houston, Texas
  3. San Antonio, Texas
  4. Austin, Texas
  5. Tulsa, Okla.
  6. Oklahoma City, Okla.
  7. Salt Lake City, Utah
  8. El Paso, Texas
  9. Greenville, S.C.
  10. Buffalo, N.Y.



As more generations pile under one roof, the median size of homes has risen by nearly 1,000 square feet in the last 40 years—from 1,525 square feet in 1973 to 2,491 square feet in 2013.

The resurgence of multigenerational living is in full swing as young professionals face greater “generational dependency” on their parents, Bloomberg/Businessweek reports. Also, aging adults are moving back in with their older children, which has caused the number of people squeezing under one roof to grow.

A record 57 million Americans—or 18.1 percent of the population—lived in a multigenerational household in 2012, according to Pew Research data. That is up from 28 million – or 12.1 percent of the population – in 1980.

Builders are responding by launching home designs targeted at multigenerational home owners. For example, Toll Brothers is offering guest suites with a kitchen to better accommodate the trend. Lennar has launched a NextGen brand of floorplans geared to multigenerational living. The floorplans include separate main entrances and options such as a 500-square-foot attached suite for a private residence.

Lennar’s CEO Stuart Miller said earlier this summer in a conference call that “sales continue to benefit from the execution of our NextGen product strategy.” Sales of its multigenerational brand soared 58 percent in the second quarter. The builder offers NextGen plans in 201 communities nationwide, and the average sales price for NextGen homes is reportedly 39 percent above the company’s average.

source:  Bloomberg/Businessweek


Even though renters insurance is relatively affordable, 65 percent of renters don't purchase coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The average renters insurance plan costs about $16 a month, or less than $200 per year, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. 

"It can be extremely expensive to have to re-buy the entire contents of your home, so a renter’s insurance policy provides very important financial protection when there is a hurricane or other covered disaster," Jeanne M. Salvatore, I.I.I.'s consumer spokeswoman and senior vice president, told Realty Times.

Renters insurance typically covers “belongings against losses from fire or smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm and water damage — including if the upstairs neighbor's clogged tub overflows and damages items in an apartment below,” according to I.I.I. The coverage also often covers temporary housing if a rental home needs to be repaired or rebuilt. 

source:  Realty Times


Some people ask why should they still use a Realtor, when today's technology allows clients the ability to search information online?

Why?  Because home shoppers may not be getting a full or accurate picture when they view listing information on some of the most popular real estate Web sites, suggests a study conducted by the WAV Group on behalf of Redfin.

The study evaluated the accuracy of information contained in more than 6,000 listings among 33 ZIP codes on five sites: Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, and two regional real estate brokerages — Windermere and Long & Foster. And don't expect it to get any better when the first two combine forces.

The Redfin study found that 36 percent of the agent-listed homes shown as active listings on Zillow and 37 percent of those on Trulia were no longer for sale on the local multiple listing service.

“Zillow and Trulia do not dispute that their listings have some gaps and inaccuracies, though they dispute some of the particulars of the Redfin study,” The New York Times reports. “There’s a simple reason they don’t have everything their rivals do: Neither of them belongs to the local MLSs, which provide the most complete set of agent-listed properties.”

Zillow and Trulia are not real estate brokerages. Real estate brokers can provide electronic feeds or add their listings so they appear on the real estate sites. As such, some agents that do provide feeds to the sites don’t take listings down quickly after the property sells, says Glenn Kelman, chief executive of Redfin.

Trulia says it is forming stronger relationships with brokers so that it can improve the accuracy and completeness of its listing information, according to The Times. Zillow said it was making a similar effort.

“There is no gold standard for listings data, so comparing Zillow’s MLS-only listings to an MLS isn’t going to give you the whole picture,” says Cynthia Nowak, a spokeswoman for Zillow, adding that Zillow also includes items that aren’t often listed on the MLS, like for-sale-by-owner listings and new construction.

So, if these online companies are 'forming stronger relationships' with realtors on the ground, it begs the question:  "Why aren't you?"

source:  New York Times