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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

With home values up and mortgage rates still low, some buyers are seeing a great opportunity to buy their retirement home now instead of waiting until they retire years later. 

For example, in one of the largest retirement areas in the nation — Century Village in Boca Raton, Fla. — the average age of a new home buyer has dropped from the mid-70s to the low 60s in the last year.  Charlie Rocque, 56, may not be ready for retirement but he already bought his retirement apartment there for $20,000 (though it was valued at around $75,000). 

"People are looking at this in terms of their long term future," Ben Schachter with Century Village Real Estate Inc. told CNBC. "They recognize that with the time value of money they are better off investing now, taking advantage of 20, 40, $60,000 price points, because if they look back just a half a decade ago, prices were 3-4 times what they are now. They're looking at the market as it increases, as the economy is strengthening, and they want to buy now while it's the best opportunity to do so."

Younger investors also may even rent out the property until they need it years later for their own retirement. 

source:  CNBC


More Americans are showing a preference for living closer into the city than the outer suburbs, according to U.S. Census data. The annual rate of growth in American cities and surrounding urban areas recently surpassed the outer rings or 'exurbs' for the first time in two decades.

Residential exurbs on the edge of metro areas once were a popular place for city dwellers to flock for bigger and more affordable housing options, but the trend is reversing.

“The heyday of exurbs may well be behind us,” Robert J. Shiller, a Yale University economist, told the Associated Press.

Rising gas prices are certainly one factor behind the shift, economists note, but demographic changes are also playing a part. More young singles are delaying marriage and having children, and thus find they don’t need the extra roominess the exurbs tend to offer in housing. Older populations are also showing greater preferences for living in walkable urban centers.

Many outer suburbs that had been experiencing booming growth just a few years ago are now seeing growth stall. In fact, 99 of the 100 fastest-growing exurbs and outer suburbs of 2006 experienced small or no growth at since, according to Census data. (Spotsylvania County, Va., south of the Washington, D.C., metro area, was the only exception.)

“The sting of this experience may very well put the damper on the long-held view among young families and new immigrants that building a home in the outer suburbs is a quick way to achieve the American dream,” William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer, told the AP.

source:  Associated Press


CEOs of the largest companies renting out single-family homes say they plan to raise rents up to 5.7 percent this year.  Investors are switching their focus from buying properties to optimizing the revenue from the thousands of properties they bought, taking advantage of the increased demand for rental homes, Bloomberg reports.

"We’re really seeing the ability to move rents,” David Singelyn, chief executive officer of American Homes 4 Rent—the largest publicly-traded single-family landlord, with about 35,000 homes—said at a conference in Miami Beach, Fla.

Large-scale investors—those who purchase at least 10 properties a year—have spent about $68 million snatching up 528,000 single-family rental homes since 2011, according to a report last month by Haendel St. Juste, a Morgan Stanley analyst. Now the CEOs of Silver Bay, Starwood Waypoint, American Residential Properties, and Blackstone Group all say they plan to raise rents this year.

“We are focusing aggressively on rent bumps,” Stephen Schmitz, American Residential Properties CEO, said during a panel discussion. “There’s a supply imbalance in some markets. The same thing that keeps occupancy high also drives rents.” Schmitz says they plan to bump up rental rates by 4 percent on renewals and up to 5.7 percent for new tenants.

source:  Bloomberg


For now, first-time home buyers have mostly found themselves in a sellers market, faced with above-average price appreciation and bidding wars due to limited inventories of homes for-sale.

But in the second half of the year, the market is expected to shift toward more of a balance as more sellers – motivated by higher home prices – put their homes on the market, alleviating the inventory shortage. This will help provide buyers with more choices of homes to buy as well as likely soften the speed at which home prices are rising.

For potential first-time home buyers, the housing market will soon be more inviting, writes Jonathan Smoke,®'s chief economist, in recent commentary.

"Combined with a temporary reprieve from rising mortgage rates and slightly easier access to credit, buyers should find it easier to purchase a home in the months ahead," Smoke says.

For-sale listings have risen, on average, 4.5 percent,® notes. Also, new construction is finally stepping up to relieve inventory pressure too, with single-family permits up 9 percent over last year.

What's more, it's getting easier to get a mortgage. Mortgage credit availability was 5 percent higher in June than a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

"The upcoming change of season should favor you first-time buyers, assuming you are flexible about timing and can find a home that fits your needs," Smoke notes. "Families with school-age children are far less likely to compete for homes on the market after the beginning of the school year, which for many is in August. While inventory levels will also be lower due to the season in most areas of the country, the fall could turn into a great time to buy."



Consumers need to be extra vigilant about checking for any errors on their credit reports, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

One in four Americans report they’ve found an error on their credit report, according to a study conducted by the FTC, which analyzed 1,001 consumers’ credit reports from the three major agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Researchers helped the consumers spot potential errors on their reports.

Five percent of the consumers found such large errors on their report that they could have gotten stuck paying more for mortgages or other financial products, if they hadn’t taken steps to correct it before applying, according to the study.

Twenty percent of the credit reports studied that were found to have errors in it were ultimately corrected after the consumer took steps to dispute it, which resulted in about 10 percent of consumers receiving a higher credit score, according to the study.

Consumers are entitled to receive a free copy of their credit report each year from the three reporting agencies.

source:  Associated Press


Home buyers are looking for storage, energy efficiency and outdoor space, according to the latest preference survey released by the National Association of Home Builders and Better Homes and Gardens.

Some of the top new-home desires cited by home buyers of all ages include separate laundry rooms, energy-star appliances and windows, exterior lighting, and a patio.

On the other hand, buyers are showing less interest in cork flooring, elevators, pet washing stations, expensive outdoor kitchens and fireplaces, and two-story entryways and family rooms, the survey reveals  

More homebuilders are particularly focused on the wants of the millennial generation when it comes to home design, ensuring they build a home that this anticipated large wave of buyers will want to buy.

“They are the first generation to walk into home ownership with a smartphone in their hands,” says Jill Waage, executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens Brand.

Millennials are showing a strong desire to be able to use technology for entertainment and monitoring in the home. They also are looking for well-equipped kitchens and casual, comfortable living spaces and outdoor living spaces, she says.

"This generation is searching out ideas, following bloggers, and creating Pinterest boards with their preferences," Waage says. "They've already curated their dream home online, saving it on their boards so they can [be ready] when the day finally comes."

source:  National Association of Home Builders



Household formation, which stagnated when recession kept many young Americans from leaving their parents' home or forced others to return to them, is finally on the rise.

The number of households increased underpinned by gradual labor market gains and steady economic improvement.

RBS analyst Guy Berger remarks, "The rise in household formation bodes well for the housing recovery. Instead of having too many houses, we are turning to a situation where there aren't enough."

The gains are being felt the most in the rental market, where rising demand has triggered a spike in new apartment construction. Increased building activity, in turn, has also stimulated such related areas as furniture sales. By comparison, the U.S. homeownership rate has not risen much from a 15-year low reached in the first quarter of last year.

Gary Painter, a public policy professor at the University of Southern California, forecasts, "We are going to see more recovery in the rental market, in the very short run. As the market improves, people will start to face higher rents and over time, that will spill over into the owner-occupied market."

A monthly National Association of Home Builders survey shows that growing demand and tightening supply have pushed home builder sentiment to a near seven-year high. NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg states that more residential developers appear undaunted by the possibility that banks could dump an increasing number of foreclosed homes onto the market as conditions improve. He estimates that approximately 916,000 new residential projects would break ground in 2013 versus around 780,000 last year.

source:  Reuters


Despite this still being a roller coaster time for home builders, more new homes were designated Energy Star green properties during ther last year.

These energy efficient properties accounted for nearly 20 percent of all new single-family homes, up from 12 percent in 2007.

"Consumer acceptance has been outstanding," says Walter Cuculic of Pulte Homes, which builds Energy Star homes.

Owners of existing homes also are spending money on things that make their homes more energy efficient. A survey by USA Today showed that 68 percent of those surveyed spent money this year on energy renovations – 68 percent to save money and 26 percent to save the environment.

source: USA Today


Renters in some cities may face a long road toward home ownership. Faced with high rents, some may even have to wait a few decades before they'll be able to save enough for a down payment – that is, if they keep saving at the same rate, finds a new survey by Apartment List

Millennial renters in San Francisco may have the most trouble saving for a down payment. Renters living there will need to wait, on average, 28 years in order to save for a 20 percent down payment on a home (assuming rates of saving remain the same), the survey finds. In places like Sacramento, renters can expect 27 years of saving, and 18 years in Denver.

Apartment List researchers analyzed median prices of starter homes in 130 cities and 93 metro areas and then asked survey respondents to reveal how much they were saving and what they think their family or friends would also chip in for a down payment. From there, they calculated how long it would take renters to buy a home in their city.

Researchers found that for many survey respondents, they just aren’t saving enough for a down payment. For example, in San Francisco, millennial respondents estimated that they need about $69,650 for a down payment, which is about half the $142,800 really needed for a 20 percent down payment (the median home price in San Francisco is $1.2 million, according to®). In Sacramento, millennial renters said they’re saving about $26,720 for a down payment, but they really need about $43,580 for a 20 percent down payment.

“It’s not really surprising, as home prices have really shot up so much,” says Andrew Woo, a data scientist at Apartment List. But “it seems like a lot of millennials don’t realize they’re not saving enough.”

The survey does not take into account those who can use other savings accounts, such as a 401(k) to fund a down payment, and those with strong credit who may be able to qualify for a mortgage with only a 10 percent down payment. Also, there are special loan programs that require only a 3 percent down payment, in some cases.

In some places, renters aren’t having a problem and won’t need to save nearly as much to jump into home ownership. For example, in Detroit, many young home buyers already have around the $3,600 down payment needed to buy the median price starter home there at about $18,000. In Dallas and Houston, renters need about six years to save for a down payment in their city, the survey finds.

source:  Apartment List and® 


It's common today for backyard space to be used as an extension of a home's livable space. Creating an idyllic and cozy outdoor environment can also benefit when it comes time to sell. While there are many functional and financial benefits of maintaining a home's outdoor space, there are also many health benefits.

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) recently shared seven reasons why it pays for owners to have an enjoyable backyard.

  1. Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces. Knowing and experiencing nature makes us generally happier, healthier people.
  2. Getting dirty is good for you! Mycobacterium vaccae in soil mirrors the effect on neurons that Prozac provides.
  3. Residing near living landscapes improves mental health. Research found that people moving to greener areas experiences an immediate improvement in mental health.
  4. Children gain attention and working memory benefits when they are exposed to greenery. Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children.
  5. Walking or running in nature, rather than a concrete-oriented, urban environment, resulted in decreased anxiety, rumination and negative affect, and produced cognitive benefits and increased working memory performance. Grass can be 31 degrees cooler than asphalt and 20 degrees cooler than bare soil thanks to the process called evapotranspiration.
  6. Living landscapes help kids and pets be healthier. Playing outdoors increases fitness levels and builds healthy, active bodies.
  7. Your lawn produces lots of oxygen-- 50 square feet of lawn generates enough oxygen each day for a family of four – and reduces the code red effect since grass removes pollutants from the air we breathe.

OPEI also created an infographic showing the primary benefits of maintaining a home's green space.

source:  The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI)