Monthly Archives: June 2018

What’s Next: Improving Access to Opportunity

Fair Housing Opportunity Group

We understand where people live has a direct impact on the quality of their health, education, and access to economic opportunities. Discriminatory housing practices create racial and economic segregation in communities that can lead to disparate outcomes in overall quality of life.

It is clear that the National Association of REALTORS®, local REALTOR® associations and REALTOR® members across the country have the opportunity—and responsibility—to increase efforts to support diversity and inclusivity in the real estate market. Fair housing supports the development of racially and economically diverse communities, based on three important factors:

1. HEALTH: Where someone lives affects both their physical and mental wellbeing. Three important and inter-related aspects of residential housing that have links to health include the physical conditions within homes; conditions in the neighborhoods surrounding homes; and housing affordability, which not only shapes home and neighborhood conditions but also affects the overall ability of families to make healthy choices. Fair housing has a role in fostering healthy people and neighborhoods.

2. EDUCATION: Housing factors that affect education include housing quality, residential stability, affordability, and neighborhood location. Often, children are assigned default public schools based on neighborhood locations. While other options may exist such as out-of-boundary public schools or private schools, a range of factors may prevent parents from choosing these options. The presence of affordable stable housing can support holistic community development, including new or improved schools, tutoring, and strong out-of-school-time programs. Communities with high concentrations of poverty and a history of disinvestment may have less access to the type of housing that can bring about positive change to local schools. Fair housing has a role in creating and expanding educational opportunities.

3. ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY: Neighborhoods are becoming more segregated economically. The number of poor people living in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty doubled in 2000 to 6 million in recent years. At the same time, high-income households have become more likely to live in largely high-income neighborhoods. Housing plays an important role in low-income households’ ability to achieve and maintain the stability necessary to pursue their financial goals and escape poverty. The stability provided by affordable housing can help households secure and maintain employment, increase their savings, and take steps to become self-sufficient. Fair housing has a role in creating neighborhoods that are economically diverse.

New challenges for today. It’s been reported that 50% of the LGBTQ population lives in states that do not prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 28 states currently do not have housing non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation and gender identity, and 3 states have laws preventing the passage or enforcement of local non-discrimination laws. These laws protect LGBTQ people from being unfairly evicted, denied housing, or refused the ability to rent or buy housing on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

What can you do? Redouble your efforts to understand fair housing laws and how your actions and words impact housing choice. Engage in community dialogue about the issues tied to housing choices, like schools, healthy communities, residential displacement and economic opportunity. And if you see discrimination, challenge it. Report it. Be informed, and take action to expand protections to groups who continue to experience discrimination, such as the LGBTQ community. By protecting the rights to housing—free from discrimination for ALL people—the Fair Housing Act preserves and advances opportunities for everyone. As the REALTOR® community, let’s take ownership of fair housing rights and uphold the promise of the Fair Housing Act.

A Bipartisan Effort to Make Homeownership More Affordable

The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act was hailed as a significant step towards eliminating barriers to safe, affordable mortgage credit for condominiums when it passed in July 2016.

Two years later, 52 Senators and 120 members of the House of Representatives from both sides of the aisle are calling on HUD Secretary Ben Carson to finally make condominium ownership a more feasible option for American families by issuing the final rule for this legislation.

According to industry statistics, condominiums remain one of the most attainable and affordable options for first-time homeowners, minorities, and older residents.

Members of Congress Request Final Rule

In part, the Senators wrote:

“…the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act was signed into law on July 29, 2016.  Section 301 of the statute makes a number of changes to the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) condominium rules that would streamline and simplify requirements for condominium buildings to qualify for FHA approval…  Unfortunately, nearly two years later, the final rule has yet to be issued.  At a time when homeownership remains out of reach for far too many families, the FHA should expand affordable and sustainable access to home mortgage credit by issuing a final condominium rule.”

Members of the House wrote:

“Unfortunately, the final rules have yet to be published, and these markets remain stymied from new growth. FHA’s current rules place significant restrictions on the purchase and sale of condominiums, even though they are often the most affordable homeownership option for first-time buyers, small families, and urban and older Americans. Condominiums offer residents access to amenities, services, and public transportation that build stronger communities and promote sustainable homeownership.”

US Senate
While the cost of condos has increased, overall condos are more affordable. The median existing single-family home price was $267,500 in May, which is $23,500 more the median price for a condo.

As an example of how condominiums offer a more affordable path to home ownership, in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area the average cost of a condo is 40 percent less than the cost of a single-family home. However, the current pace of the FHA’s approval process for condo applications for FHA insurance coverage has not kept up with demand. More than 80 percent of condos in consideration for FHA insurance coverage in South Carolina have outstanding applications.

Impact Of The Final Rule

In the end, the rule is design to:

  • help stabilize condominium associations
  • ensure that homeowners will be able to sell their units more easily
  • provide homebuyers more opportunities to buy affordable properties

When finalized, the rule will be easier for individuals to finance condominium loans, while continuing to protect borrowers and maintain necessary safeguards to the FHA Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund.

Most Americans Believe Homeownership Strengthens Communities

New findings from the National Association of Realtors® show that a high number of Americans, 75 percent, believe that now is a good time to sell a house, while 68 percent think it is a good time to buy.

That’s according to NAR’s second quarter Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) survey, which also found that a majority of consumers believe prices have and will continue to increase and that homeownership strengthens our nation’s communities.

 

Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) survey

Who Are the Homeowner Heroes?

When tracing our ancestral roots, we might find that the first homeowner hero of record was President Abraham Lincoln.

That’s because he signed the Homestead Act of 1862 into law, which was the first of several key federal programs that championed the concept of homeownership being a positive for our country.

The Homestead Act of 1862 gave 160 acres of government-owned land to any family leader, including freed slaves at the time, with the lone requirement that the family live on the land, improve it and cultivate it to improve American agriculture.

It was one of the most impactful pieces of legislation of the 19th Century. Efforts to create Homestead legislation previously died in Congress as Democrats and Republicans couldn’t agree on the language of the legislation.

But, when southern Democrats seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy, Republicans took control of Congress and adopted all sorts of legislation that they believed in, including banking and railroad legislation as well as homestead legislation.

The Homestead Act remained in effect until 1976, and in those 114 years, 10% of all U.S. lands were covered by the Homestead promise and 1.6 million individual claims were made.

The Homestead Act was an essential part of westward settlement after the Civil War, and really was the beginning of the concept of the American Dream of owning a home for your family.

Homeowner Heroes

As part of Home Ownership month, we are recognizing Homeowner Heroes through history and today.

Heroes today can be for something as small as mowing the lawn to brighten up the neighborhood; or helping to drive your elderly neighbor to the voting booth; or walking door-to-door to advocate for change in your community because you are invested in it.

But over the course of time, we’ve had some other Homeowner heroes too.

The Homestead Act may have been where it started, but it continued in other ways following the other great wars in which the United States were involved.

After the First World War, a public-relations campaign dubbed “Own Your Own Home” — originally launched by the National Association of Real Estate Boards was taken over by the U.S. Department of Labor in 1917 and became the first federal program explicitly aimed at encouraging home ownership.

There were no financial incentives offered to prospective home buyers or builders, so it was more of a promotional campaign, but it worked as it became more enticing to own a home than to rent a tenement in the big city.

The Labor Department handed out “We Own Our Own Home” buttons to schoolchildren, sponsored lectures on the topic at universities, and distributed posters and banners extolling the virtues of home ownership and pamphlets on how to get a home loan.

Following World War II the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944 was passed. You probably better know this piece of legislation as the G.I. Bill.

Signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, another homeownership hero, the bill provided benefits for veterans who served during World War II who were not dishonorably discharged.

These benefits included money for education, low-interest loans to start small businesses and one year’s worth of unemployment compensation.

“But one of the most important provisions of the G.I. Bill, was low interest, zero down payment home loans, with more favorable terms for new construction as opposed to existing homes.”

But one of the most important provisions of the Bill, was low interest, zero down payment home loans, with more favorable terms for new construction as opposed to existing homes.

This encouraged millions of Americans to move out of urban apartments and into suburban homes and by 1950, for the first time in American history, more than half of all Americans owned their own homes.

President John F. Kennedy was a homeownership hero as well, when he issued an executive order in 1961 that prohibited segregation in federally-owned or federally-funded properties.

President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, so he couldn’t see his full plan come to fruition, but his successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, picked up where Kennedy left off and created the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1965 as part of his War on Poverty program and followed that by signing into law the Fair Housing Act of 1968, banning discrimination in housing based on race, religion, origin and gender.

President Barack Obama approved a multi-billion-dollar housing stimulus program in 2009 that included an initiative to help homeowners avoid foreclosure through refinancing and reduced monthly payments.

If and when HUD issues the final rules on the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act passed by Congress in 2016, President Donald Trump would be the latest Homeowner Hero to occupy the White House.

State and Local Homeowner Hereos

Since then, new programs are starting at the state level – like the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Accounts that have been created or are in the works in several states that allow individuals or families to save money tax-free over the course of several years to go toward the purchase of a first home, or to re-enter the housing market after having not owned a home in several years.

Parents and even grandparents can open those accounts for their children and grandchildren, so that when they are ready to buy their first home, they have the wherewithal to do it – making them homeowner heroes as well.

So, you see, homeowner heroes are everywhere in American history. From the homestead to the White House. From our military veterans to your next-door neighbor.

Homeownership helps build strong neighborhoods, better economies and helps improve our schools and create new and better jobs.

That’s why we have a month to celebrate it. That’s why we have homeowners to be recognized for what they do every day.

In doing so, we continue to build a path into the future for more great moments in homeownership history.

Celebrate Homeownership Month! Share the images below.

A Millennial Couple in Minnesota Does What It Takes to Buy Their Dream Home

Millennials

Most Millennials feel uneasy about the home buying process. Still, they accounted for about 34 percent all all homebuyers in 2017. Millennials in Minnesota are no different. In a state with the third-best real estate market in the country, these Millennials can get a leg up on the competition with a little education, a little help from community resources, and guidance from a REALTOR® and loan officer.

“The best REALTORS® will ‘let you know up front you’re going to give me more paperwork than you ever wanted to and I’m going to ask you for some paperwork you’ve already given me,’ said John Horton, a vice president and senior lending manager at Associated Bank in Chicago. ‘I’m going to ask for it again and again.'”

Read more about the story of Nick and Ashlea Garrison, a Millennial couple that bought a house in St. Paul’s in just a few weeks, in Fredrick Melo’s story, “Millennials are jumping in the housing market. Here’s a few things they should know,” on TwinCities.com.

Iowa REALTORS Join Hands for Fair Housing

Joining Hands
« 1 of 4 »

Click on the arrows above to view the photo gallery.

The Southwest Iowa Association of REALTORS® collaborated with the Omaha Area Board of REALTORS® on the pedestrian bridge crossing over the Missouri River from Iowa into Nebraska.

The Southwest Iowa Association reached out to the Omaha Association to invite them to join hands (literally joined hands) across the bridge in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Federal Fair Housing Act.

The event, “Bridging the Gap” Fair Housing Makes U.S. Stronger, was a great success. There were approximately 50 members from Southwest Iowa and 100 members from the Omaha Area.

As another show of unity, many wore t-shirts with the Fair Housing logo.

Both boards invited their mayors to recite the Fair Housing Proclamation and join us on the bridge.

Infographic: Housing Market Movers – Baby Boomers

In recent years, baby boomers have been active in the housing market, coming in at a close second to millennials as the largest generation of home buyers, while home prices have remained high and inventory conditions tightened.

The National Association of Realtors®’ 2018 Profile of Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends identified that baby boomers are now more likely to buy homes not just for themselves—but also for their aging parents and adult kids saddled with student debt.

As baby boomers continue to grow in the market, here is how they compare to other generations of buyers:

  • Second largest generation of buyers (after millennials): 32 percent
  • Most likely to buy a new home: 20 percent
  • Bought a single-family home: 81 percent
  • Most likely to move to another region: 18 percent
  • Obtained a conventional mortgage loan: 66 percent

 

Pennsylvania REALTORS Urge Passage Of First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program

Home Inspection

Pennsyvania Association of REALTORS® Urges Passage Of First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program To Coincide With Homeownership Month In Pennsylvania

In Quakertown, Alicia and Jeremy Walck recently achieved a milestone. Living on a strict budget to pay off college loans while saving money for a down payment, they became first-time homebuyers.

Emily Dietz and boyfriend Ed Brown have similar plans in State College, as do Jesa Hollinger and fiancé Kyle Mundy in York County.

Yet contrary to what these examples suggest, the ranks of first-time homebuyers have dropped from 45 percent of the national home market to 32 percent since the start of the Great Recession in 2009.

“This is a troubling trend for all that we know about the positive benefits of home ownership,” said state Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny). “Owning a home is a good investment for families, and it makes for more stable and safer neighborhoods.”

Fontana is helping to lead the effort to boost first-time home ownership across Pennsylvania. On Monday, he introduced a resolution declaring June as “Homeownership Month” in Pennsylvania and noting that “owning a home is an essential part of the American dream.”

Todd Umbenhauer, president of the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS®, commended Fontana for the resolution.

“But we’re even more excited and hopeful for the prospect of the General Assembly giving Pennsylvanians a tangible tool to help them achieve this part of the American dream,” Umbenhauer said. “They can do it with bipartisan passage of the proposed First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account program. There’s a great opportunity here.”

Earlier this year, Fontana and Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Bucks/Montgomery) introduced Senate Bill 1066, which would create the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account program. (Similar legislation was introduced as House Bill 1981 by Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie) and Rep. Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe).)

The legislation would allow first-time homebuyers or buyers re-entering the housing market to set up 10-year tax-deductible savings accounts for purchasing a home. Parents and grandparents also would be eligible to contribute to these accounts on behalf of children and grandchildren.

The program offers the potential of boosting home sales by 4,000 per year across Pennsylvania while delivering an economic impact of up to $68.8 million. In a survey, more than 80 percent of Pennsylvanians said the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account would be beneficial to the state.

The program would help consumers overcome hurdles to homeownership, such as low salaries and college debt that can make it difficult to save for a down payment.

In State College, Dietz and Brown see homeownership as a better investment than continuing to rent. But Dietz, a dental hygienist, has several years left to pay on her student loans, and the couple is running into a seller’s market in which they are competing against investors buying homes as rental properties or as second homes for Penn State football weekends.

In York County, Hollinger is a full-time dental assistant while studying to become a dental hygienist; Mundy is a sheet metal apprentice who is furthering his training by attending night school through his employer.

With an eye toward a fall 2019 wedding, they are living with Hollinger’s parents to continue saving money for their first home.

Alicia Walck, the Quakertown first-time homebuyer, said she and her husband support the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account program – even though it would come too late to help them – for the sake of “families like ours who dream of owning a place to call home.”

For more information about the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account, visit FirstHomePA.com.

New York home sales stay at elevated level during April

Against the backdrop of fewer homes on the market, homebuyers in New York State closed 8,640 sales during April, falling only 2.6 percent from April 2017, according to the housing market report released by the New York State Association of REALTORS. The median sales price growth trend continued, increasing by nearly 12 percent compared to last April to reach $260,000 for the month.

Click on the arrows below the infographics for more statistics from the association’s annual housing market report.

NYSAR_April_Infographic_1
« 1 of 3 »

 

Why We Need to Reform the Home Inspection Process in Park Forest

Home Inspection

The Village of Park Forest requires every home to be inspected before it can be sold to a new owner.

But, the village will not conduct this inspection until after the sales contract has been signed.

Waiting this far into the sales process can cause serious delays in the sale of the property. In fact, it could cause the sale to fall through completely as well as put undue stress and pressure on the seller to have to pay for repairs in a very short window of time.

This doesn’t have to happen in Park Forest.

Instead, the Village should conduct its inspection as soon as possible after a home is listed for sale. This way all code violations can be discovered up front, which improves transparency for the sale while giving the seller adequate time to make necessary repairs before ever signing a contract to sell their home.

It’s a win-win scenario for everyone – and all it takes is a little cooperation from the Village.

But this won’t happen without your help.

You can be a great Park Forest neighbor by taking action today and letting Village Officials (Board of Trustees and the Mayor) now that you support the notion of house inspections as soon as a home is listed for sale, and not waiting until it is under contract.