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Prescription drug abusers reportedly are posing as home buyers and using open houses to raid medicine cabinets and night stands in search of drugs.

A group of real estate agents, organizations, and businesses have teamed up to form the Safe Homes Coalition to raise awareness. The group’s initial focus is in San Diego County, but it hopes the message will spread across the country.

The Greater San Diego Association of REALTORS® has joined law enforcement and drug rehabilitation experts in the coalition to launch a public service ad on local TV and radio stations to raise awareness about prescription drug abuse. The goal is to warn others about prescription drug thefts that are occurring at open houses and to urge home owners to secure and dispose of their prescription drugs properly.

The Greater San Diego Association of REALTORS® will provide its real estate members with plastic bags to urge their clients to collect prescription drugs prior to an open house.

Watch the coalition’s public service announcement below or at YouTube.

source:  Associated Press 


While housing booms may be uneven in many parts of the country, more buyers are placing an emphasis on green -- with some studies showing that green homes can sell for higher dollar than non-green homes. 

In Portland, Ore., an analysis from the Earth Advantage Institute found that green-certified new homes sold, on average, for 8 percent more than non-certified green homes--and in one of the counties included in the study even more than 23 percent higher. Earth Advantage Institute analyzed sales data from from the Portland Regional MLS. 

The study found that the sales price was even higher for existing homes outfitted green -- an average of 30 percent more, and one county reporting a more than 61 percent premium on green-certified homes. 

The green certifications on the homes were from Energy Star, LEED for Homes, Earth Advantage, or an Earth Advantage/Energy Star combination. 

This was the fourth year that the Earth Advantage Institute has conducted such a study and has found green-certified homes sell for higher prices than non-certified homes. 

“There's certainly a premium there to be had,” says green builder Josh Wynne from Sarasota, Fla. “Clients are naturally skeptical of green building. If you're disingenuous or sell green as an upgrade like a granite counter,” it won't work.

But the hook, experts say, is to promote the upgrades by showing the energy savings that green homes can offer. (Learn more from NAR’s GREEN certification program.)

source:  EcoHome


Real estate professionals say incentives to sweeten a real estate deal are certainly good ways to generate buzz about a property, but the asking price is the real key to getting a home sold. 

Incentives to get home buyers’ attention have gotten lavish. Recent examples include a new BMW, season tickets to football games, a boat for waterfront properties, $3,000 gift cards at interior design studios, and even the home owners’ pet. 

"We're in a price war and a beauty contest," Tony Vehon, broker and owner of Weichert Realtors Lake Realty in Gold Canyon, Ariz., told Fox Business News. "Every home has to be priced right and look perfect. After that, a special incentive might drive traffic, especially if you offer something that grabs attention, something a little beyond the norm."

Martha Thorn, a real estate pro with The Thorn Collection at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Tampa, Fla., told Fox Business News that one of her sellers for a home priced less than $200,000 tried to lure home buyers by offering up season tickets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ football games.

"The buyers were thrilled with the tickets, but that certainly wasn't the reason they bought the house," Thorn told Fox. "The most important thing is always the price."

Price is still key, agrees Linda O'Koniewski, broker-owner of RE/MAX Heritage in Melrose, Mass.

"An offer to pay condo fees for a year or so will definitely create some buzz, and at least get a buyer to take a second look at a property," O'Koniewski says. But she says sellers must realize that "no amount of marketing will make a dent if the price is not right. If you are not competitive on the price, you cannot sell your house."

source:  Fox Business News


The number of home owners who find “strategic default” socially acceptable is growing in most states.  Last year, 27 percent of foreclosed home owners say they strategically defaulted on their mortgage.

Strategic default is when a home owner is financially able to make their mortgage payments but decides to stop, usually because the property is underwater.

For those who decided to walk away from their mortgage, 40 percent said they had been advised by their lender or financial adviser to stop paying their mortgage so that they could qualify for more assistance with their home loan. 

A recent survey also found that despite the plague of foreclosures in their state the last few years, most Nevadans still overall favor home ownership. Nearly 80 percent of home owners surveyed who have faced foreclosure say they want to buy a home again one day, according to the report.

source:  Nevada Association of REALTORS®


Home prices across the Houston region jumped again in March as inventory remained at historic lows, making house shopping a frustrating exercise for many Houstonians.

"We have an employee whose children are in school and they'd love to buy up, but they can't find anything in the school district," said Chaille Ralph, chairwoman of the Houston Association of Realtors. "There's no place for them to move."

Housing inventory fell to a record low of 2.6 months in December of last year, and it hasn't budged. Prices, on the other hand, have been climbing for two years.

Some of the hottest neighborhoods in town are close-in subdivisions like Timbergrove, Oak Forest and Garden Oaks, all of which have a low supply of houses for sale combined with high demand. Suburban areas like Katy and neighborhoods near the Energy Corridor are also places where sellers can generally call the shots when it comes to negotiating a sale.

"It's not until you get to the extreme outlying areas where you get into a stable market," Ralph said.

Area wide, the median price of a single-family home - the figure at which half the homes sold for more and half for less - jumped 9.8 percent to $189,900 in March, the local realty association reported Wednesday in its monthly report.

Values are expected to keep rising as long as the limited supply persists and the local economy remains healthy.

Not any easier

"We don't think it's going to get any easier anytime soon," said Cheri Fama, president and chief operating officer of John Daugherty, Realtors.

She said homeowners are getting multiple bidders, and many are selling after one day on the market.

"It's happening every day in all price ranges," Fama said.

Even with the ultra-low inventory, sales were strong last month, rising 3.7 percent over March 2013, the report showed.

Single-family homes priced from $250,000 through the millions saw the most sales activity and helped account for the latest jump in prices. Sales of houses that sold for at least $500,000 were up 28 percent over the same time a year ago.

Lower-priced properties continued to experience declines, however, as did sales of townhomes and condominiums, which fell for the first time in two years.

The reason for the declines could have been because of the lack of properties for sale.

"In closer-in markets, we continue to see them go quickly," Ralph said of townhomes and condos.

Overall, buyers closed on 5,971 single-family homes in March, based on transactions handled through the Multiple Listing Service in Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties, as well as parts of Brazoria, Galveston, Waller and Wharton counties.

Sales are likely to rise again in April, as 4,596 homes were preparing to close at the end of March. That's a 3.7 percent increase over last year at the same time.

Waiting to sell

Melissa Levin is preparing to put her 3,500-square-foot ranch house in Old Braeswood on the market, but she can't move into the house her family recently purchased until late this summer, so she's been waiting.

"Every real estate agent has told me, 'If you don't want to move until August, don't list it now,' " said Levin, who's moving to Bellaire.

She plans to list her four-bedroom 1950s house for $985,000. It has a double-wide driveway and carport, but the garage was converted into a yoga studio/playroom.

source:  Houston Chronicle


In business, population and income, there’s no doubt that Texas is on the rise. 

Texas experienced more high-paying job growth than the rest of the country over the last 13 years, according to new research from the Dallas Federal Reserve. The state has also been the top domestic immigration destination in the country since 2006, the Fed found. Businesses are coming to Texas in droves, hiring new employees and raising salaries for existing workers. 

Because of the migration and job growth, the Dallas-San Antonio-Austin economy now produces more than $700 billion in economic output per year, ranking among the biggest 25 economies in the world, according to an analysis from the Martin Prosperity Institute.

Our top Texas cities on the rise are spread across the state and include border towns, oil-producing regions and booming suburbs. Our analysis examines the following variables:

  1. Population growth. We measured growth in the working-age population from 2009 to 2012.
  2. Employment growth. We evaluated growth in the percentage of employed residents from 2009 to 2012.
  3. Income growth. We calculated growth in the median income for workers from 2009 to 2012.

For a more detailed review of our methodology, please see the “Methodology” section at the bottom of the study.

The Top 10 Cities on the Rise in Texas

1.    The Woodlands

The Woodlands, located about 30 miles north of Houston, is the fastest growing area on our list. Selected as a new home to ExxonMobil, the company’s new complex will house 10,000 employees when the campus opens near Springwoods Village, just south of The Woodlands, in 2015. This means that the 3.6% job growth from 2009-2012 isn’t an anomaly. ExxonMobil’s arrival will not only create jobs in the energy industry but also support fields such as retail, restaurants and construction. Infrastructure in the area is also getting an upgrade: a new section of Houston’s Grand Parkway will open in 2015 to ferry thousands more workers to The Woodlands each day. Schools in The Woodlands, served by the Conroe Independent School District, are adding more than 1,500 new students each year and two new elementary schools will open in the 2014-2015 school year. Already, the area hosts 60 companies with more than 27,466 employees, according to Gil Staley, CEO of the Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership. Staley recently touted the growth in high-paying energy jobs during The Woodlands Chamber of Commerce 28th Economic Outlook Conference.

2. Mansfield

In Mansfield, strong population and job growth launched the city near the top of our list. The area’s population increased by 33.9% and the percentage of people employed increased by 5.6% from 2009 to 2012. Recently, Methodist Mansfield Medical Center announced plans to add 200 new jobs by creating a new wing of the hospital, and Chicago-based Klein Tools announced a plan to add 585 jobs in Mansfield when they open a new advanced manufacturing technology center in town. Klein chose Mansfield in part because of incentives from The Texas Enterprise Fund, which was created by Governor Rick Perry to entice businesses to relocate to Texas. Mansfield, located south of Fort Worth in Tarrant County, is part of the 10-county North Texas region expected to grow to as many as 12.3 million residents by 2030, according to Vision North Texas, a public-private-academic partnership committed to planning for growth in the region.

3. Del Rio

Incomes in Del Rio increased by 18.1% between 2009 and 2012, even while the number of jobs in the community grew by 10.4% during the same period. Located on the Texas-Mexico border on the banks of Lake Amistad, the second largest lake in the state, Del Rio is the county seat of Val Verde County. The city is also home to Laughlin Air Force Base, which employs 1,455 civilian local residents. Other major employers are federal agencies, the San Felipe Del Rio school district and Val Verde Regional Medical Center.  Border-crossings to Del Rio’s sister city of Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, are among the shortest of any border city in Texas.

4. Big Spring

Located in a rocky gorge in West Texas, Big Spring offers residents a chance to strike it rich. The discovery of oil in the Cline Shale, a 140-mile patch underneath Big Spring and its surrounding communities, potentially holds 3.6 million barrels of recoverable oil per square mile, making it the largest deposit in the United States.  Crews are continuing to explore the patch and with Big Spring being one of the largest towns in the region, people are moving in and salaries are going up. The median income increased by 14% between 2009 and 2012 and the population increased by 13.8% during the same period. Oil isn’t the only economic driver: jobs in manufacturing, wind energy and health care support the local economy. City officials and the Big Spring Economic Development Corporation are working on plans to help the community thrive in the coming months as workers stream in to take advantage of jobs in the Cline Shale.

5. Schertz

Schertz’s strong employment growth won it a spot on our top 10 list: the percentage of residents in the workforce grew by 7% between 2009 and 2012, according to U.S. Census data. At the same time, the city’s population grew by 17.8% and median incomes increased by 4.8% to $37,558. Schertz is the largest suburb of San Antonio and is part of the Randolph Metrocom, a group of cities northeast of San Antonio with close ties to Randolph Air Force Base. Schertz is surely tied to the base: 24.2% of people employed in Schertz work for the government, according to U.S. Census data. Still, it’s private companies that are driving job growth in town: the Schertz Economic Development Corporation announced that GE Oil & Gas would add 175 new jobs to the community and hundreds of area workers have found jobs at the new Amazon fulfillment center located in town. The Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District expects enrollment to increase by at least 600 students each year from now until 2022. Schertz isn’t just a great city for business but it tops for homeownership as well—it was NerdWallet’s number 5 pick for best cities for homeownership in Texas.

6. University Park

A winning combination of job growth and income growth secured University Park, an inner suburb of Dallas and home to Southern Methodist University, a place on our top 10 list of Texas cities on the rise. The percentage of employed residents grew by 9.8% between 2009 and 2012, one of the highest employment growth rates on our list. Median incomes increased by 6.3% during the same period. Small businesses thrive here: Southern Methodist University’s Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship holds workshops for entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to investors, earn a small business certificate and take more than a dozen classes in entrepreneurship.

7. College Station

Home to Texas A&M University, College Station’s growth is closely tied to the large research university. And that’s a good thing, because Texas A&M’s Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing is now the host of a national biosecurity center, which is estimated to create more than 6,800 new jobs and over $41 billion in expenditures within the State of Texas over the next 25 years. Cognizant Technology Solutions is relocating to College Station from New Jersey, and has pledged to create 750 new IT-support jobs in Texas. The city recently passed the 100,000-population mark, according to Morgan Hester, a staff planner for the City of College Station Planning and Development Services Department. The population growth is encouraging small business to open, and entrepreneurs can get help from the Research Valley Innovation Center, a science and technology incubator/accelerator formed by the Research Valley Partnership, Inc., which encourages economic development in the engineering, agriculture, animal health, energy and bioscience in the College Station region.

8. Mission

Mission’s population growth was 20.2% between 2009 and 2012, earning it a place on our top 10 list. Part of the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metropolitan statistical area located on the Texas-Mexico border, Mission’s median age is 30 years old, younger than the statewide median age of 33.6 years old. The area’s largest employment field is trade, transportation and utilities, which accounted for 53,200 jobs in December 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce encourages small business growth in town by hosting weekly meetings with entrepreneurs and experts from the University of Texas-Pan American Small Business Development Center Network where entrepreneurs can get help with business plans, financial projections and other small business start-up questions. Mission added more than 400 new jobs between 2012 and 2013, according to data from the Texas Workforce Commission and the Mission Economic Development Corporation.

9. Greenville

This exurban community northeast of Dallas saw the median income for workers increase by 12.3% between 2009 and 2012, one of the highest income growth rates on our top 10 list. The city is also adding jobs: Fritz Industries will open a plant and offices in Greenville, creating 250 new jobs manufacturing products for the oil industry. The relocation also got assistance from the Texas Enterprise Fund, which also helped secure a new plant in Mansfield, our number 2 pick. Greenville’s population hasn’t exploded like other Dallas suburbs, but planners expect it’s the next area to take off. In anticipation of the growth, planners are considering building a toll road to connect Greenville with Wylie, which will make it easier for commuters to navigate to jobs in the north Dallas region.  To prepare workers for new companies that might relocate to the region, Greenville offers workforce training at the Paris Junior College Greenville Campus, and the North Texas Workforce Solutions Greenville Workforce Center.

10. Nacogdoches

This city located near the Gulf of Mexico and the Louisiana-Texas border had the state’s highest median income growth from 2009-2012: a whopping 51.2% increase to $16,748 per year. The increase in income is likely due to job growth in the area from the Haynesville Shale, an oil deposit that lies beneath Nacogdoches and other East Texas and Western Louisiana communities. In response to the growing demand for skilled oil and gas workers, the Economic Development Corporation of Nacogdoches partnered with nearby Angelina College and Panola College to offer a petroleum technology degree program at the Nacogdoches Technical Training Center to ensure that local workers from Nacogdoches and surrounding areas can benefit from the oil boom. The Economic Development Corporation also offers an entrepreneurship certification program and small business loan program to encourage local residents to start small businesses in the community.



The share of first-time home buyers on the market is falling to historical lows, despite recent record levels of housing affordability. With low mortgage rates, many would expect first-time home buyers to be flooding the market for their chance to get part of the American dream.

However, the number of first-time home buyers is shrinking, falling to around 32 percent of buyers who purchased their first home. The historical average tends to be 40 percent.

Investors offering all-cash deals for properties has increased over the past few years, prompting some analysts to point the finger at cash investors for increasingly shutting out first-time home buyers in the market.

Investors, with their attractive cash bids, have flooded the market with purchases of entry-level homes and foreclosures, while first-time home buyers continue to struggle to secure financing from banks’ tightened lending standards as well as save for a downpayment.

source:  The Oregonian

The water temperature may be just right, but the cost of buying and operating a pool is scalding.

Anyone who contemplates owning a pool should expect it to cost at least $3,000 a year, or $5,000 if they turn the job of maintaining it over to a pool service, estimates Susan Elser, a certified financial planner in Indianapolis.

Installing a pool along with the required extras like a high fence costs at least $25,000 and probably $50,000 is a better estimate. And in most parts of the country, it isn’t likely that pool owners will get their money back when they sell.

"I question whether it adds anything to the [sale price]," says Ed Rose, a financial planner at Bayside Wealth Management in Pensacola, Fla. "It may contribute something, but you'll never get your money out of it on the resale."

source:  Wall Street Journal

The Chicago metro area tops the list of the most affordable major markets this year, according to ZipRealty’s newly released list of the 10 most affordable housing markets in 2014. To create the list, the real estate brokerage analyzed median home sales price data from 30 major metro areas as well as family income data from the Department of Housing & Urban Development.

“In the most affordable areas of the nation, homes are available for just over twice the annual average household income,” says ZipRealty CEO Lanny Baker. “While the cost of a home is still a very significant expenditure for families everywhere, it’s interesting to see these regional differences in affordability. The cities at the top of our list are far more affordable than other places, particularly the large California metros.”

The following metros emerged at the top of its list for most affordable this year:

1. Chicago
Median home sales price (as of February 2014): $160,000
2014 estimated family income: $72,400

2. Philadelphia
Median home sales price: $190,000
2014 estimated family income: $78,800

3. Orlando, Fla.
Median home sales price: $140,000
2014 estimated family income: $54,800

4. Richmond, Va.
Median home sales price: $187,750
2014 estimated family income: $72,900

5. Dallas
Median home sales price: $180,000
2014 estimated family income: $67,900

6. Raleigh, N.C.
Median home sales price: $203,000
2014 estimated family income: $75,800

7. Baltimore
Median home sales price: $229,000
2014 estimated family income: $83,500

8. Houston
Median home sales price: $185,000
2014 estimated family income: $66,000

9. Tucson, Ariz.
Median home sales price: $157,000
2014 estimated family income: $56,300

10. Nashville, Tenn.
Median home sales price: $187,000
2014 estimated family income: $64,000

source:  ZipRealty


A new report by RealtyTrac shows that 96 percent of the counties that they track are better off than they were four years ago. But still, there’s a ways to go in the housing market, with only 8 percent of the 410 U.S. counties analyzed faring better than they did during the housing boom eight years ago.

RealtyTrac analyzes housing market health by gauging four main categories: home price appreciation, affordability, percentage of bank-owned REO sales, and the unemployment rate.

“The housing recovery has taken root in hundreds of counties across the country, and almost all local housing markets are better off than they were four years ago when foreclosure activity peaked in 2010, with more than 1 million homes lost to foreclosure in that year alone,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “We saw less than half that number of bank repossessions nationwide in 2013. Even in hard-hit markets like Stockton, Las Vegas, and Lansing, Mich., where REO sales represented more than half of all sales in 2010, the percentage of REO sales has been cut at least in half.”

Home prices in three-fourths of the counties analyzed are still below 2006 levels, but low inventory has helped home prices accelerate past pre-recession levels in markets such as Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, and Oklahoma City, Blomquist notes: “Those rapid home price gains are causing a concerning drop in affordability rates in some cities, but home builders and home owners with regained equity should help provide more supply to balance out many of those markets in 2014.”

The analysis also found that 80 percent of the housing markets were better off than they were two years ago in 2012, when median home prices had reached bottom. Also, 30 percent were better off than six years ago in 2008, at the beginning of the Great Recession, according to the report.

The following link features a heat map, produced by RealtyTrac, charts the drops and rises of the housing market across U.S. counties over the last eight years.

source:  RealtyTrac