Monthly Archives: October 2015

Americans Think Homeownership is a Sound Investment

Americans believe that buying a home is a solid financial decision, according to a new survey from the National Association of Realtors®. The 2015 National Housing Pulse Survey also found that a preponderance of Americans think that now is a good time to buy a home.

When asked for reasons about why home ownership matters to them, respondents’ answers did not change significantly from past years. Top reasons to own a home include:

  • Building equity
  • wanting a stable and safe environment
  • having the freedom to choose their neighborhood

The survey, which measures consumers’ attitudes and concerns about housing issues in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas, found that

  • 80 percent of Americans believe that purchasing a home is a good financial decision
  • 68 percent believe that now is a good time to buy a home
  • 71 percent believe they could sell their house for what they paid for it, a jump of 16 percentage points from 2013.

“Homeownership is part of the American Dream, and this survey proves that dream is alive and thriving in our communities,” said NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark.

The number of renters who are now thinking about purchasing a home has increased since the last survey in 2013, up from 36 percent to 39 percent. Sixty-one percent of renters stated that owning a home is a priority for their future.

Perceived obstacles to homeownership have remained mostly unchanged compared to recent years:

  • 78 percent of respondents point to college debt and student loans as the main obstacle to making a home purchase affordable
  • 76 percent of participants said they have a full-time job but still did not make enough money to purchase a home
  • 74 percent believe they do not have enough money for a down payment and closing costs.

As the market has improved, concern about the cost of housing has increased. Two-thirds of survey participants said that home prices are more expensive than they were a year ago. There is additional concern over the lack of available housing; 41 percent said the lack of affordable homes is either a very big or fairly big problem in their area, an increase of 9 percent points from 2013.

For adult millennials under the age of 35, the burden of student debt is their chief concern, with 86 percent of respondents naming college debt as an obstacle to homeownership. Over half reported that their housing costs are a financial strain on their budget, 65 percent are concerned about high rental prices, and 60 percent are concerned about high home prices.

However, millennials tend to have a more upbeat and positive view about the future of the nation than older Americans, with 42 percent of millennials saying that the country is headed in the right direction compared to only 20 percent among those aged 50 and older.

View the infographic.

Illinois Residents Empowered By Property Tax Knowledge

Brookfield, IL homeowners Lindsey and Adam Burghgraef were not pleased when they noticed their new tax bill had increased considerably. They weren’t sure what had caused the increase until a friend mentioned that they should start by looking at their most recent home assessment to see if it had changed. “We were grateful for the direction our friend gave us, but frustrated that we weren’t sure how to begin on our own.” said Lindsey.

The Burghgraef’s aren’t alone in discovering a property tax increase, and then wondering where to turn to find out what they might be able to do about it.

One Illinois non-profit organization is working to make sure all property owners know how taxes are assessed and what they can do about it if they feel the assessment is in error. Real Property Alliance, which partners with the Illinois Association of REALTORS® (IAR), has a short video which steps property owners through the process on its website called “Learn How Illinois Property Taxes are Assessed.”

“In a state where there are so many taxing bodies, we felt it was important that property owners have a resource to gain a basic understanding of what can at first glance seem like a very complicated, bureaucratic process,” said IAR spokesman Jon Broadbooks. “If you know how an assessor arrives at the number on a tax bill, then you are going to be better prepared to do something about it.”

The video is part of an array of information available on the website, www.realpropertyalliance.org, The organization offers free downloads of publications on topics ranging from how to stage a home for a quicker sale to understanding the costs of buying a home. The organization also provides housing data for the state and updates on issues of interest to property owners.

“The idea behind Real Property Alliance is to de-mystify the property ownership process and give consumers the tools they need to better protect their private property rights,” Broadbooks said.

Lindsey and Adam followed their friend’s advice and contacted the Cook County Assessor’s office. The office suggested they begin by looking at comparable properties on cookcountyassessor.com to determine if an incorrect assessment was actually playing a part in their larger tax bill. In the end they did determine their assessment was too high and filed a successful appeal.

Lindsey admitted that it would have been great to have been aware of resources like the Real Property Alliance’s video before they began. “Not having a full understanding of how the Illinois property tax process worked made it difficult for us to feel confident we were approaching everything correctly.”

“Placemaking” – One Way REALTORS Help Make Your Community a Better Place To Live

Fast Fact: Placemaking happens when neighbors work together to turn underutilized places into a vibrant places —improving the surrounding community for everyone.

Across our nation, homeowners are coming together, taking ownership of their communities in order to make things better for everyone.

It’s called “Placemaking.”

Placemaking helps people develop a strong stake in their community and a commitment to continuously make things better. Strong communities draw an ethnically, culturally, and socially diverse population, which in turn, helps make communities more vibrant.

How do you initiate a Placemaking project? Look to REALTORS®! They are prime candidates to lead or initiate the efforts needed. REALTORS® are motivated stakeholders with deep knowledge and historical perspectives of their neighborhoods.

The National Association of REALTORS®’Placemaking Initiative provides grants ranging from $500 to $2,500 to help state and local REALTOR® Associations plan, organize, implement, and maintain Placemaking activities in their communities.

Some Examples

With funding from NAR, the Michigan Association of REALTORS® awarded $20,000 in Placemaking grants to nine applicants from the Greater Lansing Area. Grants of $500 to $2,500 were given to projects for the first phase of MAR’s Lighter Quicker Cheaper (LQC) Placemaking initiative. Projects include:

  • The historic Dimondale Walking Tour: Residents and visitors can now take a walking tour of Dimondale and learn about historic places and events. New signs along the trail provide the historical perspective, and new benches provide opportunities to stop and rest, or simply reflect.
  • The Trowbridge Village Neighbor Station: Amid the hustle and bustle of Michigan State’s south campus, the Trowbridge neighborhood established a free library, along with a comfortable place for residents of all ages to relax, learn, and share.
  • The Barnes Street Community Garden: Multiple local groups and volunteers joined in the effort to build a community garden and gathering area that enables neighbors to grow fresh produce and enjoy art in the company of friends.

Your state and local REALTORS® are leading Placemakingprojects and partnering with other organizations to enhance neighborhoods and make a difference for you and your family.

More on this topic



Prop 1 Gives Texas Residents An Opportunity To Lower Property Taxes

While the phrase, “Everything is bigger in Texas” might be a bit overused, it certainly holds true when it comes to property taxes. The consumer loan website Wallethub.com recently conducted a Census-based property tax study that claims Texas has the fifth highest average real estate tax in the United States. Part of the reason for the inflated property tax bill is that the state collects no state income tax, making it primarily dependent upon property owners to fund the state budget.

It’s not just homeowners who are paying the cost of inflated real estate tax, renters are experiencing the financial squeeze as well. “We all pay for property taxes, whether directly or indirectly, as they impact the rent we pay as well as the finances of state and local governments,” states WalletHub.

Texas homeowners and renters will have the opportunity work together to ease their tax burden by voting YES to Prop 1 in the upcoming November 3 election. If passed, Prop 1 will put money back in the pockets of Texans by increasing the homestead exemption from $15,000 to $25,000. It will also ban real estate transfer taxes, which target home sales as another state taxing source. Seniors and people with disabilities on limited incomes will also experience financial relief as a result of the lower property tax cap Prop 1 proposes.

“Prop 1 is a great step to begin to removing he tax burden from property owners in Texas.” Says Larry W. Johnson President/CEO of the Arlington Board of REALTORS®. Johnson goes on to say, “The banning of the transfer tax makes perfect sense. The property owner took the risk on the property value, maintained the property and paid the taxes on the property while owning it. Why should the state tax a property owner for being a good citizen when they sell their property?”

Stamford Board of REALTORS Awards Young Community Leaders With College Scholarships

The Stamford, Connecticut Board of REALTORS® was proud to have recently honored eight promising high school seniors with Community Service Scholarships at their downtown association headquarters.

John Pellegrino, Stamford Board of REALTORS® President explains the scholarship requirements, “Every year the Stamford Board of Realtors offers 8 $1,000 scholarships. Students must attend a Stamford public, private or parochial school, demonstrate leadership ability and been of service to their school and community. This year we had approximately 30 applicants, the committee certainly had a difficult time due to the high level of community service that each of the applicants achieved.”

scholars
First row, left to right: Daphne LaFortune of the Academy of Engineering and Technology, Michael Nunziante of Stamford High, Bridget Smith of the Academy of Engineering and Technology, Jessica Chen, of Westhill, Storm Marie Corrow of Stamford High, Renee Cooper of Stamford High, Paulomi Rao of Stamford High, Emery Tedesco of Trinity Catholic and Scholarship Committee Chairperson Millie Sanislo. Back row: Scholarship Committee Member Joelle Bentley, Valerie Willey and Nancy Hadden, Board President John Pellegrino.


Homeowners Are Getting A Say In Chicago’s Rogers Park Neighborhood

Homeowners in the Roger’s Park neighborhood of Chicago are thrilled with the installation of a new spray water pool at their local Pottawattomie Park. The water feature is one of many improvements the neighborhood has seen since Alderman Joe Moore launched the participatory budgeting initiative in the 49th Ward. The community has also voted to transform a vacant lakefront space into the family friendly Hartigan Park, plant cherry trees at Touhy Park and extend the Hartigan beach path to make it handicap and stroller accessible.

Before

Pottawattomie Park before installation of spray water pool.

After

Pottawattomie Park after installation of spray water pool.

Participatory budgeting is a democratic process that is empowering Chicago homeowners with the ability to truly impact neighborhood improvements and property values. Through a year-long cycle of meetings and voting, community members decide how a significant portion of the public budget will be used. This collaborative fiscal approach means that area homeowners help determine how taxpayer money is spent, rather than just electing politicians to make those decisions for them. “After many years, we have a voice in how our ward spends its money!” said an excited resident.

Chicago Alderman Joe Moore launched the very first participatory budget process ever in the United States, in which residents in Moore’s ward decided how to spend $1 million of his annual discretionary capital infrastructure funds. Since 2012, participatory budgeting has grown to include seven Chicago communities engaging over 9,000 residents and homeowners in directly deciding how to spend over $12 million in public dollars.

To learn more about bringing participatory budgeting to your area contact Thea Crum, Director of Neighborhoods Initiative at UIC at tcrum3@uic.edu or reach out to your local alderman.