Askins Online Real Estate Blog

View Housing TrendsFollow Me@ My ProfileYouTube Channel

Askins Online Real Estate - From Tweets to Trends
        EMAIL ME        4740 Ingersoll # 107, Houston, TX 77027     Phone: (713) 942-9200     Fax: (713) 864-5423
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

Americans age 65 and over are holding onto home ownership instead of downsizing into rentals or moving to senior centers, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

Indeed, the largest jump in buyers this year was among people between the ages of 65 and 74. This age segment increased to 13 percent of all buyers from 10 percent a year earlier, according to National Association of REALTORS® data.

"They want to remain as home owners now because it represents stability, so they don't have to deal with generating fluctuating payments for rent," says Chris Mayer, a real estate professor at Columbia University Business School in New York.

Even during the housing crisis, the home ownership rate for Americans 65 and over stayed around 80 percent while it dropped for every other age group, according to Census Bureau data. Since then, Americans under 35 have seen the largest decline in home ownership, falling to 36 percent from 48 percent, Census data shows.

In 1982, the home ownership rate for every age group was higher than it was in 2013 — except for those 65 and over.

"This group has been a ballast for the market," says Chris Herbert, acting managing director at Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. "If not for them, we would have seen a much lower home ownership rate overall, more homes on the market, and more weakness."

Seniors usually have less mortgage debt than younger home owners, greater wealth than they had four years ago, and longer lifespans than previous generations, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. For those aged 65 to 74, their median net worth rose 5 percent to $232,100, which is the largest gain for any age group from 2010 to 2013, according to the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances.

"They have a quadruple bonus: They benefited from real estate, the best in equity and bond returns, plus higher GDP per capita growth well before the crisis during the 1980s and 1990s," says Amlan Roy, head of global demographics and pension research for Credit Suisse Group AG's investment bank in London. "It's unlikely to repeat."

While older Americans are staying in real estate, they are carrying more mortgage debt than previous generations, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In 2010, about 40 percent of those over 65 were still making house payments compared to more than 70 percent of those 50 to 64, according to a report earlier this year by the Joint Center for Housing Studies.

source:  Bloomberg Businessweek 


Empty homes still plague a lot of cities across the country. In fact, since 2000, vacant properties have risen by about 43 percent nationwide, according to Census Bureau data. (Homes are defined as vacant by “unoccupied rental inventory” or homes unoccupied that are for-sale.)

Vacant properties can affect home values nearby. For example, a study earlier this year found that a vacant home has the potential to decrease the value of nearby homes by at least 1.3 percent, according to the Cleveland Federal Reserve. In higher income neighborhoods, the impact can be even more drastic—possibly lowering nearby home prices by 4.6 percent.

The following are the six cities with some of the largest home owner and rental vacancies:

1. Orlando, Fla.
Home owner vacancy rate: 2.2%
Rental vacancy rate: 18.8%

2. Dayton, Ohio
Home owner vacancy rate: 5.4%
Rental vacancy rate: 11.3%

3. Memphis, Tenn.
Home owner vacancy rate: 3.1%
Rental vacancy rate: 15%

4. Detroit
Home owner vacancy rate: 1.7%
Rental vacancy rate: 16.9%

5. Richmond, Va.
Home owner vacancy rate: 2.4%
Rental vacancy rate: 15.1%

6. Las Vegas
Home owner vacancy rate: 3.9%
Rental vacancy rate: 11.9%



High unemployment among young adults is prompting a big loss in household formation that is critical for long-term housing demand, according to housing experts. 

Of 25 to 34 year olds, about 75 percent were employed, about the same as the levels during the recession, The Wall Street Journal has reported. 

Young adults who are unemployed are mostly opting to live with their parents and aren’t renting or owning their own place. Indeed, the number of adults under the age of 35 who are living at home is at the highest level since 1981. More than 30 percent of those aged 18 to 34 are living with their parents. The typical average is 28 percent.

As young adults put off home ownership, the number of first-time home buyers continues to be constrained. But when young adults do get off the sidelines, it could prove a big boost to home sales. 

“Assuming consistent population to household ratios and home ownership ratios, the 1.8 million individuals currently living at home would translate into an additional 590,000 households and roughly 200,000 additional home owners -- roughly a boost of about 4 percent to the projected level of sales,” according to NAR’s Economists’ Outlook blog. 

source:  NAR Economists’ Outlook and The Wall Street Journal


The percentage of Americans struggling below the poverty line is the highest it has been in 16 years, and interviews with poverty experts and aid groups said the increase appears to be continuing.

One way embattled Americans have gotten by is sharing homes with siblings, parents or even nonrelatives, sometimes resulting in overused couches and frayed nerves but holding down the rise in the national poverty rate, according to the report.

“A lot of people would have been worse off if they didn’t have someone to move in with,” said Timothy M. Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin.

Dr. Smeeding said that in a typical case, a struggling family, like a mother and children who would be in poverty on their own, stays with more prosperous parents or other relatives.

The U.S. Census has found an 11.6 percent increase in the number of such multifamily households over the last two years.

“This is the first time in memory that an entire decade has produced essentially no economic growth for the typical American household,” said Lawrence Katz, an economist at Harvard.

source:  New York Times

Luxury sales have been soaring in recent months, outpacing the rest of the housing market. Deals on existing homes priced above $1 million climbed more than 16 percent in October compared to a year ago, according to National Association of REALTORS® housing data. The increase was bigger than that of any other price segment.

So what home features are these luxury buyers on the hunt for in their million-dollar–plus homes?

The real estate brokerage Redfin recently uncovered some trends in home features and interior designs by looking at what’s in demand among their luxury clients as well as what’s trending on luxury listings. Here are some of the luxury home design trends they noticed driving 2014:

1. Luxury showers: Forget the Jacuzzi tub. The luxury buyer wants a luxurious shower. “Since most people take more showers than baths, they want to have a stand-alone shower with multiple shower heads,” notes Charlie Baker, a Redfin real estate professional in San Diego.

2. Fire pits by pools: Fire pits and gas fireplaces beside a pool are gaining in popularity, says Roseann Cossman, a Redfin real estate professional in Phoenix. “One quick way to warm up after a dip in the pool is to curl up next to a fire, and now that fire is just steps away,” Crossman says.

3. Tasting rooms: Wine cellars are no longer a dark place in a basement or a closet. Home owners are placing more in living areas to host tastings with friends.

4. White kitchen cabinets: High-end kitchens with cabinets in white, gray, or black with matching or contrasting countertops are gaining in popularity among the luxury market, notes Anna Schwoerer, a Redfin real estate professional in Virginia. Meanwhile, natural-colored wood cabinets are on their way out, she says.

5. Quartz countertops: Luxury properties are showing more quartz or sandstone in countertops and making granite countertops look more outdated, says Jordan Clarke, a Redfin real estate professional in San Diego. “Quartz comes with a few benefits over granite; it is not as porous and therefore requires less maintenance, it is less prone to staining, and it is better able to withstand abuses during its lifetime,” Clarke says.

6. Grand powder rooms: The powder room is getting a big makeover. These half-baths are getting more attention and fancier with elaborate mirrors, sinks, and lighting fixtures.

source:  Redfin Blog


During summer months when gardens are in bloom and the sun is shining bright, curb appeal comes naturally to many homes. But when the autumn chill turns to winter cold and the sun sets earlier in the day, it becomes more difficult to create that inviting exterior look that grabs buyers from the curb.

Fortunately, it is still possible to create striking winter curb appeal without expensive or complicated exterior changes, says Charlene Storozuk, a home stager and designer with Dezigner Digz in Burlington, Ontario—a city that averages 51 inches of snow per year. It just requires a little creativity.

She and other home-design experts offer these eight tips:

1. Add splashes of green and purple.
Plants, grasses, and evergreens can liven up a home’s winter landscape. Experiment with tall grasses, such as fountain grasses, that survive harsh winters. And in late fall and early winter, plants from the cabbage family add a vibrant purple color. Make the front door the focal point with a large wreath adorned with a colorful ribbon. To finish the look, place large, colorful planters filled with evergreens beside the front door, suggests Elizabeth Lord, broker with Carolina Farms & Estates LLC in Rock Hill, S.C.

2. Give it seasonal sparkle.
Transform an unused bird bath or fountain into a seasonal display by adding twigs with red berries. Or fill frost-resistant urns with twigs, winter greenery, and sparkly baubles (sold at most craft stores), Storozuk says. For extra sparkle, roll twigs in glitter and incorporate a gazing ball—a mirrored glass ball available in various colors—into the display.

3. Make the garden statuesque.
Roman-or Greek-themed outdoor sculptures can add class and elegance to a garden in winter. Be sure to use frost-resistant statues so they don’t crack, Storozuk says. Place the statues strategically throughout the garden to draw buyers’ eyes around the outdoor space.

4. Light it bright.
During the winter, it’s more likely that buyers will be viewing home after sunset. Use clear flood spotlights to focus on the home’s architectural features, Storozuk says. Keep exterior lighting fixtures at maximum wattage and clean them regularly. When harsh weather strikes, Michele Thompson, broker-owner of White Fence Real Estate in Vevay, Ind., takes photos of listings at night with all of the interior lights on—the light bounces off the the home to create a warm, inviting glow. For the best results, turn off the flash, and use a tripod to avoid blurring, she says.

5. Show off the lifestyle.
Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t use the deck. Clear your backyard sitting area and leave your grill uncovered so buyers can envision themselves using the space, Storozuk says. If the home has a hot tub, leave that open and running during showings as well.

6. Make the deck an extension of the house.
Set up your outdoor tables and chairs just as you would in warmer months. “Home owners often cover their furniture and place lawn objects haphazardly on the deck,” says Kitty Schwartz, president and owner of Classic Home Staging in Katonah, N.Y. For added appeal, she adds a weatherproof cafe set with pillows that play off of interior accent colors. “Glancing out onto this type of vignette can make the indoor space feel larger and more interesting,” she says.

7. Create a photo display of sunnier days.
Show buyers what the outside of the home looks like during other seasons by displaying some landscape photos in frames or using a digital photo frame with a slide show of images. “This will give a sense of what the property looks like at other times of year,” Storozuk says. If the home has a garden, make a list of what’s planted where. “Perennials can be expensive,” she says, “so treat them as a selling feature.”

8. Don’t forget to clear a path.
If the ground is wet, the simplest and most important thing you can do is clear the driveway and sidewalks and keep the home’s patios and decks as clear as possible so buyers can get a sense of their true size.

source:  Realtor Magazine


Your credit score is an important factor in qualifying for the lowest, most competitive interest rate when purchasing a home. A new analysis by the credit bureau Experian reveals which cities tend to be more creditworthy than others. 

In Experian’s State of Credit list, it compiled rankings of the nation’s cities based on the average of residents’ VantageScore, which has credit scores that range from 501 to 990. 

Cities With the Highest Average Credit Scores

  1. Wausau, Wis.: 789
  2. Minneapolis: 787
  3. Madison, Wis.: 785
  4. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: 781
  5. San Francisco: 781
  6. Green Bay, Wis.: 780
  7. Boston: 779
  8. Peoria, Ill.: 778
  9. Sioux Falls, S.D.: 778
  10. La Crosse, Wis.: 777

Cities With the Lowest Average Credit Scores

  1. Harlingen, Texas: 686
  2. Jackson, Miss.: 701
  3. Corpus Christi, Texas: 702
  4. Monroe, La.: 706
  5. Shreveport, La.: 706
  6. Augusta, Ga.: 709
  7. Bakersfield, Calif.: 709
  8. Las Vegas, Nev.: 709
  9. Tyler, Texas: 710
  10. El Paso, Texas: 710

Overall, the national average for credit scores was 749, according to the study. The cities with the lowest credit scores tended to also have high foreclosure rates and high unemployment. On the other hand, cities with the highest average credit scores -- which were mostly in the Midwest -- tended to have a better employment picture.

source:  REALTOR® Magazine Daily News


Homebuilders continue to incorporate solar power, energy savings and green building techniques into their new home construction. National builder KB Home says that sales in communities with solar power as a standard are 30 percent higher than in communities that don’t offer homes with solar panel as a standard. 

In the southwest, the firm plans to make solar power a standard home feature in nearly all of its developments in Southern California starting next year, the company announced this week. 

“The strategy is part of the builder's effort to make more energy efficient homes and lure buyers away from foreclosed properties and other previously occupied homes that often sell for less,” the Associated Press reports. 

The solar standard in homes is expected to trim energy costs about 30 percent for a 1,800- to 2,000-square-foot home. Upgraded solar systems could even reduce monthly energy bills by up to 80 percent, according to KB Home. 

source:  Associated Press

Not spending money you don't have simply makes good (dollars and) sense. Just ask the City of Houston.

The city spotlights it's "pay-as-you-go" ReBuild Houston program, which is designed to pay for street and drainage infrastructure improvements without the city incurring debt.

Under program guidelines, a project is not started until enough cash is available to cover the costs from start to finish. The result is that no debt is incurred, and there is no longer interest to be paid on debt for new projects.

The program uses data and a technical evaluation to determine improvement needs. City officials have adopted a “worst first” mantra so that the most critical street and drainage needs are addressed first.

According to Texas Government Insider, the “lockbox” funds for these projects have reduced the city’s debt by more than $130 million. City council member Stephen Costello said the program has not only reduced debt but has resulted in an additional $42 million for capital projects through last year, with another $33 million expected this year. The program also contributes more than $100 million a year to drainage improvements.

ReBuild Houston's funding sources include property taxes, third-party funding such as money from federal grants and agencies such as the Texas Department of Transportation, a drainage utility charge and a developer drainage impact fee.

source:  Texas Government Insider

Diversity can be a good thing for the housing market in keeping housing prices strong, HousingWire reports.

What are the most diverse neighborhoods in the country? 

The most diverse city is in Irving, Texas, where the racial make up is 26 percent Asian, 25 percent black, 23 percent Hispanic, and 23 percent white, according to a trend report by Trulia.

The following are the most diverse neighborhoods in the country, according to the report:

  1. Irving/Dallas (ZIP: 75038)
  2. Queens Village/New York (ZIP: 11428)
  3. Treasure Island/San Francisco (ZIP: 94130)
  4. Lakemont/Houston (ZIP: 77407)
  5. Wahiawa/Honolulu (ZIP: 96786)
  6. Kahuku/Honolulu (ZIP: 96731)
  7. Rainer View/Seattle (ZIP: 98178)
  8. Dorchester/Boston (ZIP: 02125)

According to HousingWire, diversity can be good for housing markets. “When comparing diverse neighborhoods – no racial or ethic group accounts for more than 50 percent of the population – the more diverse, the higher the population growth and stronger housing price growth,” reports Christina Mlynski.

source:  HousingWire