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ROYCE REALTY
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I'm John Askins of Royce Realty in Houston, Texas...call or text me directly at (832) 418-1055...here 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
OCT
29

Keeping with the Halloween season, not only are today's home buyers more receptive to living adjacent to cemeteries, say real estate agents, some are even proactively seeking out these locations.

Large, open cemeteries that allow for peaceful strolls are especially popular, rather than densely populated graveyards.

"The views are great," remarks agent Steve Castellon of New York. "The taboo is gone."

Besides the beautiful landscaping, a lot of people like having cemeteries for neighbors because that means that there will not be additional development going up next to them.

source:  CBS New York

OCT
29

The date of Halloween has always been one of the easy ones to remember: Oct. 31, plain and simple. No first Tuesday-after-the-first-Monday-of-November nonsense (that's Election Day), no fourth-Thursday-in-November (Thanksgiving), no second-Monday-in-October (if you don't know, ask a Canadian). Just the last day of October.

But for the past two years, matters were not quite so simple. Across the country, people monkeyed with the optimal day to dress up. In some cities, residents decided to celebrate Halloween on Saturday, while others would rather not choose between Halloween and college football. There was even a vote for Monday.

Officials in Chatham County, Ga., which includes Savannah, also invoked a third reason — the desire to move Halloween off a school night — when they asked residents to trick or treat on Saturday.

"You're in the Bible Belt," said Laura Raschke, 37, a clerk at the LifeWay Christian Store, who supported the switch. So religion "is always going to be part of anything. But it's also school. We have kids out there as early as 6 or 6:45 in the morning." 

The Savannah mayor, Otis S. Johnson, who was at a news conference where officials suggested the switch, said that as a lifelong resident of the city, he could not remember another time anybody complained about Halloween on a paticular day. But he said he supported the decision.

"Sunday is the Christian Sabbath," Mr. Johnson said. "But also since celebrating Halloween normally takes place at night, and the Jewish Sabbath ends at sundown, we would not be disrespecting their Sabbath either. And Muslims celebrate their prayer on Friday. So if there were religious concerns, we have covered all of them!"

Mr. Johnson's reasoning was not good enough for a Savannah Morning News columnist, Tom Barton, who
wrote that Mr. Johnson had violated the Linus Rule, after the Peanuts character who once said, "There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin."

"The county's top elected officials ignored this sage advice," Mr. Barton wrote. He added: "Saturday night is the absolute worst night for extracurricular candy-bar grubbing. As everyone who has gone beyond Sesame Street knows, Saturday is reserved as the night when Savannah's adults go out and do stupid things (think partying, clubbing, driving drunk and fighting over girlfriends and baby daddies at 24-hour IHOPs)."

Chatham County is not alone in its disobedience of the Linus Rule. Towns in Washington County, Okla., also trick or treated on Saturday. "And a lot of people in this part of the country go to church on Sunday night," said Mike Dunlap, a county commissioner. In Livingston Parish, La., the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana sent a letter to local leaders objecting to a part of the parish code that states that when Oct. 31 falls on a Sunday, "trick or treat will be held the following Monday, Nov 1."

In Jacksonville, Fla., City Councilman Don Redman, responding to requests from constituents, submitted a nonbinding resolution asking residents to trick or treat on Saturday. But after people pointed out to him that the Florida-Georgia football game, known far and wide as "The World's Largest Cocktail Party", would be in Jacksonville, he withdrew the resolution. "The more I thought about it, I realized it would create a dangerous situation," Mr. Redman said.

Perhaps there should be a Lucy Rule, after Linus's older sister, who yanked the football away from Charlie Brown. The Lucy Rule would take into account collegiate football rankings and a town's population. Consider Oxford, Miss., even though the town has in the past urged Saturday observance of the trick-or-treating ritual.

"Basically, we had the Auburn game as a conflict," Mayor George Patterson said in a telephone interview. So it didn't seem practical to move it."

Not everyone believes Halloween can be moved. Many Roman Catholics celebrate a vigil Mass the night before All Saints Day, which is Nov. 1. In fact, the A.C.L.U.'s letter argued, in part, that because Halloween is religious, the government may not move the date without treading on a Catholic feast day.

And despite the Savannah mayor's protestations, moving the date might offend still other religious groups, said Jon Butler, who teaches religion at Yale.

"Savannah's shift of Halloween from Sunday to Saturday," Professor Butler said, "privileges only Christians who worship on Sunday, but ignores Seventh-day Adventists and Seventh-day Baptists, among the several Christian groups who worship on Saturday."

At the Oglethorpe Mall in Savannah, whose food court and carousel serve as a modern-day town square, the wisdom of making the change was up for debate.

"Religion's not my forte, so I kind of wish they'd leave it alone," said Tami Waters, 25.

Still, her two young sons trick or treated on Saturday. As their grandmother, Penny Bumgardner, said: "Sooner was better for them."

But you can still enjoy Halloween wherever you are on October 31.


source:  New York Times

OCT
28
This year will end as the second best year ever in Texas in terms of existing home sales, said a housing market expert with the Real Estate Center.
 
“Last year was the second best year ever in the state of Texas for home sales volume,” said Center Research Economist Dr. Jim Gaines. “It was second only to 2006, which was at the height of the housing boom and all the easy financing. And 2013 wasn’t that far off from that. This is going to become the new second best year ever. We are having a really terrific year.”
 
The latest Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data show that sales of existing single-family homes in Texas were 7 percent higher last month than in September 2013.
 
About 24,640 homes were sold last month, over 1,600 more than the same month last year, but almost 2,800 less than in August. Gaines said the August-to-September downturn is the normal seasonal falloff.
 
So far this year, 217,690 homes have been sold, about 1 percent more than this time last year.
 
“We’re getting exactly what we thought we were going to get, and that’s a slowdown in the rate of increase,” Gaines said. “Last year sales went up about 16 percent. It was a big, big jump. This year it’s a little jump. Home prices are doing a very similar kind of thing. There’s been a step-up in prices the last five years, and we’re still seeing that step up. But the rise of the step isn’t quite as high.
 
“As our prices have been going up progressively here in Texas, incomes really haven’t been going up at the same pace percentage-wise. Home prices going up faster than income means that ultimately affordability and what people can afford to pay becomes an issue.”
 
Gaines said homebuyers getting hit the hardest are those on the lower end of the home-price spectrum.
 
“Very few homebuilders are building homes under $200,000 or $250,000 in most of our markets,” he said. “So there’s no increase in supply on that low-priced end.”
 
In addition, credit tightness is affecting first-time buyers and first-time move-up buyers much harder than older buyers at higher income levels.
 
“The good news for Texas is that our prosperity is, in general, still continuing,” Gaines said. “On the horizon, it appears that it will continue. The only cloud on that horizon is what’s happening in the energy sector. In the last couple of weeks, the price of oil has dropped appreciably. When the trend is downward in the price of oil, you start looking ahead and saying ‘okay, just how far can this trend go before it really becomes a problem?’ Right now it doesn’t appear to be, but it’s one of those things we’ve got to keep our eye on.”

source:  Texas Real Estate Center
OCT
28
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is on a mission to end housing discrimination and arm local communities with tools to better enforce the Fair Housing Act. To do that, it's offering $38.3 million in grants to more than 100 fair housing organizations and nonprofit agencies in 43 states, as well as the District of Columbia.

The agencies will use the grants to conduct investigations into alleged housing discrimination as well as provide education and outreach to housing providers and local government leaders about their responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act. The agencies will also use the grants to educate the public about their rights under federal, state, and local fair housing laws. 

"Ending housing discrimination is at the core of HUD's mission, and it takes dedicated people on the ground to address it," says HUD Secretary Julián Castro. "These funds support community-based organizations that do great work every day on the front lines in the fight for fairness and equality in our nation's housing market."

In recent months, HUD has fined numerous lenders over allegations of housing discrimination, including a $5 million settlement with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage over alleged discrimination against women borrowers on maternity leave. Last month, HUD fined U.S. Bank National Association over allegations the lender refused to refinance the mortgage of an American Indian couple in North Dakota because their property is located on a reservation.

HUD's Fair Housing Initiatives Program "provides the only federal grant support to private fair housing enforcement and education," says Gustavo Velasquez, HUD's assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity. "Dispersed throughout the country, these grants enable our partner agencies to stand beside us in the fight against housing discrimination, and we couldn't do it without them."

source:  HousingWire

OCT
28

A study by mortgage giant Fannie Mae showed that 90 percent of renters aspire to be home owners one day, and the top reason behind that desire is for the sense of gaining greater control over their living arrangements. 

The survey revealed the following top reasons why renters want to own: 

  • “Control over what you do with your living space”: 84% of renters said this was their main desire for owning;
  • “Having a sense of privacy and security”: 80%
  • “Having the best investment plan”: 78%
  • “Having a good place for family or to raise your children”: 78%
  • “Living in a nicer home”: 71%
  • “Building wealth”: 70%
  • “Saving for retirement”: 69%

In the survey, renters identified the following reasons for why they are renting: 

  • “Living within your budget”: 57% 
  • “Having less stress”: 52%
  • “Making the best decision given the current economic climate”: 50%

source:  TheStreet.com

OCT
28
A credit study estimates that 17.3 million prospects for new mortgages are being overlooked by lenders. Many of these prospects hold little credit history and, therefore, may be viewed as a risk to some lenders in making a loan.

Experian, a credit analytics provider, notes that lenders will need to widen their market base if they are to grow their portfolios. That may require lenders to expand who they're lending to, including finding creditworthy prospects who may have lower credit scores than the typical prime borrowers.

"Identifying near-prime borrowers is a trend in place for the last eight years, but lately there is a renewed focus as small- to medium-sized lenders get into the mortgage space more," Michele Pearson, vice president of product management at Experian, told HousingWire. "We want to give those folks a chance to identify those borrowers."

Otherwise, lenders may miss out on the potential to grow new mortgages at an estimated $3.86 billion, Experian estimated in a recent white paper.

source:  HousingWire

OCT
27
The ZIP code of the country's best place to call home is 20004, according to real estate company Movoto.com. Right smack in the heart of the nation's capital, it's where you'll find portions of the Smithsonian museums, Ford's Theatre, and it's close to the White House. 

The ZIP code boasts an average household income of $131,111 and an unemployment rate of 1.93 percent.

Movoto ranked the following top 10 ZIP codes top for 2014:

  1. 20004: Washington, D.C.
  2. 77005: Houston
  3. 98039: Medina, Wash.
  4. 95497: Sea Ranch, Calif.
  5. 11930: Amagansett, N.Y.
  6. 92121: San Diego
  7. 60603: Chicago
  8. 60602: Chicago
  9. 67230: Wichita, Kan.
  10. 64113: Kansas City, Mo.

To compile its rankings, Movoto factored in data from the U.S. Census' American Community Survey, researching ZIP codes for median household income (the higher, the better); unemployment rate (the lower, the better); average commute time (the lower, the better); median rent (higher rents indicate a more desirable area); median house worth (higher values indicate a more desirable area); and more.

source:  Movoto.com

OCT
27

Is Texas getting too hot?

Two metro areas in Texas, Austin and Houston, topped CoreLogic's list of markets that are seeing skyrocketing appreciation. The oil and gas boom there, along with rapid job and population growth, has pushed home prices above historical sustainable levels, according to CoreLogic.

Home prices in Austin are 22.8 percent above their historical peak levels, and in Houston, prices have broken that barrier by 16.2 percent.

Two other housing markets also at risk of being overvalued are Miami and Washington, D.C., which both saw prices rises significantly in 2013, making homes less affordable and future rises less sustainable, CoreLogic notes. However, those two markets remain down from their peak levels: Miami is still 30 percent below its historical peak level while D.C. is 13.1 percent below, according to CoreLogic.

Austin, Houston, Miami, and D.C. were the only four metros singled out as at risk of being overvalued in CoreLogic's list of the top 50 markets nationwide. Despite national home-price gains of 11 percent last year and 6.5 percent this year, the majority of housing markets overall are still in recovery mode. Most markets will likely continue to lag their long-term sustainable level through 2016, CoreLogic notes.

source:  HousingWire 

OCT
27
When a real estate professional is first dealing with you as a prospect, they have a list of criteria you must meet in order to become a client, taking into consideration the amount of time and effort spent on each transaction.

To avoid wasting time and energy, real estate professionals gauge the buyer or seller's motivation by determining when they plan on moving; and they find out whether you have the financial resources to close the deal by requiring you to provide a pre-approval letter from a lender or meet with the agent's lender.

Real estate professionals also determine whether you have reasonable expectations, respects their time and expertise, tells the truth, and does not pose a moral or ethical compromise.

Finally, they try to assess whether you could become a satisfied client and whether the commission to be earned is appropriate for the time and energy they will commit to the transaction.

source: Realty Times
OCT
27

More builders are raising the bar when it comes to greater energy efficiency in homes. The new-home industry is using it as a lure to attract buyers, but they’re also, in some cases, being forced to adopt more stringent state energy code standards for new residences.  

While greater energy efficiency in new homes can serve as a selling point to potential buyers, some builders are also growing concerned that the tougher energy codes being adopted by a growing number of states are coming at a high price tag at a time when the industry is still struggling. 

"There's definitely been a lot of movement by states to adopt more energy-efficient codes," Max Neubauer of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, told USA Today.

While energy building codes are usually updated every three years, the last two updates have called for greater leaps in increasing energy efficiency. 

Paul Karrer of the Online Code Environment and Advocacy Network estimates that moving from the 2006 energy code to the more stringent 2009 energy code alone led to about $840, on average, in extra costs to a new home. On the other hand, Karrer says it has the potential to cut home owners’ utility bills by $243 each year. 

The present International Energy Conservation Code calls for about 30 percent greater efficiency than homes that were built five years ago.

Also offering up new standards, the International Green Construction Code serves as a voluntary guide for commercial and public buildings aimed at curbing energy and water use as well as improving indoor air quality. More states are planning to adopt it.

source:  USA Today

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