Monthly Archives: July 2018

Some Homeowners Don’t Know the Interest Rate They Pay

Nearly three in 10 mortgage borrowers either don’t know the rate they’re paying on their loan or decline to disclose it, according to a new survey by Bankrate. Consumers who don’t keep track of their mortgage rate may be making an expensive mistake, financial experts caution. “Most homeowners should know what their rate is,” says Martin Choy, operations manager at Westwood Mortgage in Seattle. “If they have an adjustable-rate mortgage, then they should contact their lender immediately and get their current rate.”

As mortgage rates inch higher, lenders are urging homeowners to check their rate and see if refinancing makes sense. As of July 11, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage had increased to 4.7 percent from 4.13 percent a year ago, Bankrate reports.

“For example, a $200,000 mortgage with a 4.7 percent interest rate can cost $119 more per month than the same mortgage with a 4.13 percent rate.”

The increase can have a big impact on monthly mortgage payments. For example, a $200,000 mortgage with a 4.7 percent interest rate can cost $119 more per month than the same mortgage with a 4.13 percent rate. Homeowners with adjustable-rate mortgages or fixed-rate mortgages may be able to lock in a lower rate if they’ve held the loan for a long time, financial experts say. “There are many variables in determining whether refinancing is a good option,” Choy says. “How much do you owe? How much is your house appraised for? Is your credit score good? If you’re in better financial shape now—both with your monthly debt ratio and credit score—than when you got your mortgage, then you could qualify for better rates.”

The cost to refinance can vary, but, on average, borrowers can expect to pay between 3 and 6 percent of their balance in refinancing fees, according to Bankrate.

Source: “Don’t Know Your Mortgage Rate? You Could Be Costing Yourself Thousands,” (July 18, 2018)

Reprinted from REALTOR Magazine.

Homebuyer demand keeps New York housing market moving

The New York State housing market posted a solid first half of the year with 60,043 closed sales, falling only 3.8 percent behind the 2017 record sales pace, according to the latest housing market report released by the New York State Association of REALTORS. The statewide median sales price continued to grow though the first six months of 2018, climbing 8.9 percent from the first half of 2017 to reach $262,500.

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

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Community Joins In Ottumwa Revitalization Effort

In Meredith Wilson’s renowned Broadway musical “The Music Man,” there is a song in which the chorus goes, “You really ought to give Iowa a try.”

It’s a feeling that many in the small town of Ottumwa have, which is why they have been hard at work at turning the town into a destination location for businesses, families and community engagement.

Situated about an hour north of Des Moines, Ottumwa (population, approximately 25,000) has seen its share of hard times over the years. Ottumwa became the hub of southeast Iowa when English meat-packing mogul John Morrell brought his U.S. Headquarters to Ottumwa in 1915. Although the slaughterhouse has changed hands a few times in the last 60-plus years and is now owned by JBS meatpacking, it, along with a John Deere manufacturing plant, remains the town’s biggest employer.

However, corporate belt-tightening with other big-name retailers, saw a lot of major businesses pull out of Ottumwa in the past decade. K-Mart, Target and J.C. Penny pulled out. M.C. Sports filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors in 2017. Herberger’s was sold to Saks Fifth Avenue, and eventually Bon-Ton, and liquidated the business in the summer of 2018 after being in operation for 91 years.

None of these decisions were a reflection on the economy in Ottumwa, but the town became a sad side story to corporate mergers and business decisions being made on a national scale.

The attitude toward Ottumwa changed too, as the center of town decayed, fewer people were interested in staying in Ottumwa and sought elsewhere to raise families, or start their small businesses.

The Ottumwa Main Street Project

To enliven this community and its residents, the Ottumwa Main Street Project began, and in the process, Fred Zesiger, executive director of Main Street Ottumwa, discovered The Better Block, a nonprofit that educates, equips, and empowers communities and their leaders to reshape and reactivate built environments to promote the growth of healthy and vibrant neighborhoods.

Ottumwa was just the kind of place The Better Block could help, but more was needed locally.

That’s when the REALTORS® stepped in.

First, Jamie Rix, the REALTOR® Party Advocacy Coordinator from the Iowa Association of REALTORS® secured a Smart Growth grant from the National Association of REALTORS® to help with the project. Then, Steve Campbell, a REALTOR® with the Southeast Iowa Association Board of REALTORS® and a resident of Ottumwa, got involved to help revitalize a portion of the downtown community and start Ottumwa on the path back to a destination town.

Along with the Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Iowa, the Iowa Economic Development Authority, and an additional grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a project began last year that would lead toward a weekend celebration in downtown Ottumwa.

Dozens of volunteers met with The Better Block to plan revitalization efforts that included improved streetscapes, outdoor seating, vibrant decorations around the city center, the rehabilitation of the long-closed Ottumwa theatre, which hosted a rock concert during the weekend event.

“It was just a good fit to bring the REALTOR® Party funding and the Better Block Project together in Ottumwa,” Rix said.  “That city has so much potential, and the weekend event made that clear to so many people.”

Locals Build A Better Block

More than 150 people worked together to build the Better Block in just eight hours.

“So many people came together to really make this happen,” Campbell said. “And it seemed like overnight, our town magically turned into what we all knew it could be –  a place to come together to shop, to eat, to play games and to enjoy live music.”

Before the Better Block, Ottumwa’s Main Street District has 134 buildings, out of which 41 were vacant. There also are 57 historic buildings along three blocks of Main Street, 26 of which were vacant.

During the event, pop-up shops, eateries and food trucks moved in to test the waters of what business could be like in a revitalized downtown Ottumwa.

And the event was a smashing success.

Campbell said several incubator businesses have taken root in downtown Ottumwa since the event last October. Not only that, but many of the vacant spaces on the second floors of these Main Street buildings have been converted into apartment spaces, and people are moving into them to help re-populate the area.

“This project pushed the town to believe in itself and that it can be successful,” Rix said. “With entertainment and art there, it’s drawing people in. The Better Block left its mark and the city is motivated to continue the success of that weekend.”

Revitalization so far has included rehabbing alleyways, restoring building facades to their original form, and sprucing up those apartments over the street level shops—all 55 of which are occupied today.

Additionally, local celebrity Michael Lemberger, who was a photographer who had arguably the largest individual collection of photographs – more than 1.5 million pictures currently housed at the University of Iowa library – was celebrated posthumously with his photos of everyday life in Ottumwa being turned into posters and wall art that now dot the sides of buildings and cover damaged windows and storefronts in town.

“We are so proud to be a part of this wonderful downtown revitalization project in Ottumwa,” said IAR President Carla McAtee. “Our members understand the importance of volunteerism, and this effort is extremely gratifying for all of us.”

Shortly after the Better Block, Joe’s Burgers, relocated to downtown Ottumwa. According to Better Block’s website, Jefferson Tyler, who runs Joe’s Burger cited the Better Block and the energy around downtown as a major reason for the relocation.

Blaine’s Bagel’s, a pop-up restaurant during the Better Block, opened a brick and mortar location in downtown Ottumwa in April after selling out each day of the weekend festivities last October.

Momentum Continues

The City also recently passed a bond package that included many infrastructure improvements to downtown that were tested and showcased during the Better Block.

“When you get into a downward spiral situation, you are fighting many enemies,” Campbell said. “There are negative attitudes and there are economic setbacks. It takes a lot of energy just to stop that from trending in the wrong direction. It takes even more energy to then get things moving back in the direction they should be heading. The Better Block event helped us to stop that trend. And now we seem to have the momentum to continue this revitalization ourselves. More people are walking around town. Traffic is up. We’ve doubled the number of places to eat in town from as recently as five years ago. This is a good time for Ottumwa.”

Moving forward, Ottumwa is looking for ways to utilize the specialties of their local colleges to attract even more business to town so that the college graduates will look to stay in their hometown.

“Indian Hills Community College is connected with Buena Vista University and they have tremendous programs in laser technologies and aviation repair and services,” Campbell said. “We are trying to pair them with incubator businesses and those looking to hook into our industrial airport.”

As for that song that Meredith Wilson wrote? Its title is “Iowa Stubborn.” It’s all about a small town, middle class, blue collar community, with a little bit of industry and manufacturing that wants to do more for its community – but it wants to do it in its own way.

“Yep, that’s classic Iowa,” said Rix with a laugh. “Des Moines is only an hour away and it’s pretty big – 300,000 people – so these folks could just drive elsewhere for their entertainment or their shopping or dining experiences – but the people in Ottumwa are really engaged in their community and they want these same options in their backyard.”

It seems they are well on their way.

Poll: Is Now a Good Time Buy a Home?

New findings from the National Association of REALTORS® show that a high number of Americans, 68 percent, believe that now is a good time to buy a home. What do you think? Take our poll!

Is now a good time to buy a home?

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NAR’s second quarter Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) survey also found that:

  • Seventy-five percent of people believe that now is a good time to sell a home, an increase from 61 percent from past and matching the high recorded in Q3 2017. Forty-six percent believe that strongly in Q2 2018.
  • Sixty-eight percent of people believe that prices have gone up within their communities in the last 12 months, which is an increase from Q1 2018 at 63 percent.
  • Sixty-seven percent of respondents believe that homeownership strengthens a community a great deal.

Existing Home Prices Reach New All-Time High

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A New All-Time High

Did you know June marked the 76th straight month of year-over-year gains in the median price of an existing home? The median price hit $276,900 in June, up 5.2 percent from this period last year.

This ongoing supply and demand imbalance across the country helped push June’s median sales price to this new all-time high.

Existing-home sales decreased for the third straight month in June, as declines in the South and West exceeded sales gains in the Northeast and Midwest, according to the latest numbers from National Association of REALTORS®.

Time to Sell?

According to a recent NAR survey, seventy-five percent of people believe that now is a good time to sell a home. What do you think?

Is now a good time to sell your home?

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REALTORS “Bowling for Freedom” Events Raises Funds For Veterans

The Edmond Board of REALTORS® (EBR) was looking for a way to do something to support veterans in 2016 when Tonya Coffman, then the Chair of the Board’s Public Relations Committee, had an idea.

She had developed a friendship with Major Ed Pulido, a director with the Folds of Honor, an organization dedicated to providing educational scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service members.

“In talking with Major Ed I learned that the Folds of Honor had other events that were being held in other states that were mostly golf events,” Coffman said. “But we did find a couple that were bowling events and I thought that would be a great idea here in Edmond.”

Bowling for Freedom

So, Coffman presented the idea to EBR, and an event was planned called “Bowling for Freedom.” The Bowling for Freedom Task Force was created and working in tandem with Folds of Honor and Warriors for Freedom, another local veterans group, the event went off without a hitch.

Thus, there was no surprise that Bowling for Freedom returned for an encore in March, 2018.

This time, they invited area veterans to also take part in the festivities.

More than 20 veterans were on hand, and at least half of them bowled in the event, including some of those who were on organization-assisted scholarships at the University of Central Oklahoma.

“The organizations do wonderful work and we were proud to partner with them for this event and hopefully many more to come,” said EBR president Mike Cassidy.

Event ParticipantsArea veterans participated in the festivities.

Lane sponsorships were sold to local REALTOR® offices, lenders, and title companies. and teams of bowlers who wanted to take part and bowl three games could rent a lane for $250.

And it wasn’t just bowling. The event was catered with food and beverages and there were plenty of donated door prizes and a 50/50 raffle that split $1,200.

In the two combined events, more than 400 people participated and roughly $26,000 was raised for the two veteran organizations.

A Growing Relationship

“Our support of Veterans goes back several years,” said Coffman, who now serves as Chair of the Bowling for Freedom Task Force. “We have done different things with them. They participate with us in our Liberty Fest parade on the 4th of July. I also work with Vets through the Edmond Chamber of Commerce.”

According to Coffman, the EBR not only supports veterans financially, but also allows for great networking opportunities with local heroes.

As for the possibility of a third Bowling for Freedom event in Edmond?

“Oh you can bet on that,” Coffman said. “Everybody had such a good time that I think we might even be able to make this an annual event, not just a bi-annual one.”

Cincinnati Fair Housing Month Proclamations

City of Cincinnati and the Ohio River

The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners were presenting a proclamation recognizing April as Fair Housing Month. What they weren’t expecting was a bit of a civics lesson.

Michelle Billings, president-elect of the Cincinnati Area Board of REALTORS® (CABR), was joined by CABR President Phil Morrical, III and other members of the CABR leadership team to receive the proclamation – as they would do a second time two weeks later when the Cincinnati City Council also issued a similar proclamation.

But Billings decided to share an anecdote with the County Commissioners, that likely still came as a surprise.

A Reminder of Former Housing Policies

“A lot of people feel fair housing is non-existent today,” Billings said. “But the reality is you are sitting at closing with an owner who has never sold their property before and there on the deed it says, ‘No negroes allowed.’ You can’t sell, rent or transfer the property to African-American families.”

Billings said this has happened a few times in her 16 years as a REALTOR® in Ohio, and although the deeds are updated and the transactions can go through for African-Americans, the reminder of a different era of close-mindedness still exists in the 21st Century.

“It really brings you back to reality,” she said. “This is not that long ago and it’s quite amazing that this is still listed on the deed.”

Billings said the county has been trying to clean all of those old deeds up to remove such antiquated and prejudiced language, but that because there are so many deeds in the county offices a few are likely to be missed.

“I’m glad that it happened though because it’s so easy to take fair housing for granted,” Billings said.

It’s because of moments like these that these proclamations remain important to communities and aren’t just photo opportunities for local politicians and REALTORS®. This marked the second consecutive year that both the County and City recognized Fair Housing Month.

“We’ve enjoyed a great relationship with both the city and the county,” said CABR Government Affairs Director Mark Quarry. “Fair housing is always something that is discussed among REALTORS®, but not so much in the media as we would like it to be. That’s why it’s great to have events like these and to have the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) bring a lot more attention to it. It’s important to keep the conversation going and to continue to raise the overall awareness.”

Building that awareness is what the NAR commemoration is all about this year. It’s not just about acceptance, but also about how fair housing can improve the quality of life for everyone in a community.

“Housing affects everything directly related to a person,” Billings said. “It affects education for a child. Careers. Socio-economics.

“Housing affects everything directly related to a person,” Billings said. “It affects education for a child. Careers. Socio-economics.

“Studies show that if you take a family that owns a home and one that does not, the child that grows up in the more stable home is going to be more successful than the one that does not because of that stability. When you have more people owning homes and more people with access to own homes, they can access the educational system.”

And despite 50 years of fair housing, disparities still exist related to housing and educational opportunities. It’s why Billings moved her own family out of the city and into a suburban area. She wanted the opportunity of a better education for her children.

“Had I not done that, there was a good chance that my kids would have ended up in a less desirable scenario,” Billings said. “When you live in places with less homeownership and more rentals, there’s not enough buy-in to the community. When there isn’t a buy in, the parents aren’t as involved in the schools and the schooling. Whereas, in areas with higher rates of home ownership, then the schools tend to be a lot stronger because of school involvement and the community buy-in.”

Fair housing advocates across the country are working to increase access to quality education by creating avenues for families to move to areas of higher opportunity. Other important efforts involve initiatives and investments from the public and private sectors to turn underserved communities into vibrant neighborhoods with strong schools.

Promoting Fair Housing

Receiving proclamations and sharing anecdotes aren’t the only steps being taken by CABR to promote fair housing.

CABR has partnered with other Cincinnati-area organizations to promote civil rights – and especially fair housing – and will do so throughout the year.

In May, they were a sponsoring benefactor of the Cincinnatus Association’s annual Donald and Marian Spencer Spirit of America Awards. CABR has sponsored the event in each of the four years of its existence.

The event presented three awards – one to a non-profit providing job training, one to a non-profit support service, and one to a non-profit organization that exhibits conspicuous and enduring contributions to creating greater inclusion and promoting diversity in the community.

The late Donald Spencer was the first African-American on the Cincinnati Park Board, the first African-American broker on the CABR and the first African-American trustee at Ohio University.

Marian was an activist who started her activism in 1952 when her sons heard a radio ad inviting children to Coney Island to meet a local TV personality.

She was later told by a Coney Island representative that the invitation did not extend to “negro children.” She was banished from the front gate by an armed guard on July 4, 1952.

Spencer filed suit and subsequently won the case, which desegregated Coney Island.

Afterwards she became the first African-American president of the Woman’s City Club and the first African-American Councilwoman in Cincinnati.

At the awards dinner, CABR took out a full-page ad commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act with a headline that reads, “There is no America without diversity. There is no community without unity. There is no justice without equality.”

“We should really be doing things like this all year as opposed to just every April,” Quarry said. “Beyond this event, we have different continuing education classes that go on all year long that have a fair housing slant, but we should be doing something all year and are working to come up with other ideas.”


Lakeland REALTORS® Are Building A Safe Community for All

Every year the Lakeland REALTORS® association hosts an Annual Charity Golf Tournament at the Cleveland Heights Golf Course in Lakeland, Florida. Funds raised at the tournament go towards improving the community of Lakeland.

For the past two years, the funds raised by the benefit have been used to purchase a furry new addition to the Lakeland Police Department K9 Unit. K9 dogs are no small investment either, with many costing upwards of $10,000. The association was able to raise $11,300, covering the cost of the new dog entirely. Lars II is the name of the most recent police dog who will grow into his role as a top narcotics officer and K9 team member.

Lars II of the Lakeland Police Department K9 Unit.

Melissa Sanchez, the association’s Communications & Community Outreach Director, explained why the organization felt it was important to fund the purchase of a K9 dog. “Safe communities are happy communities. And we believe that police dogs bring a higher level of safety to Lakeland. They are able to identify potentially harmful materials, detect evidence such as drugs and protect their handlers in dangerous situations.”

This year’s Annual Charity Golf Tournament will be on Friday, September 28, 2018 and benefits the Lakeland Habitat for Humanity “Tiny Homes for Heroes” initiative. Habitat for Humanity will be building a Veterans Community of Tiny Houses.

Kyle Vreeland, Lakeland REALTORS® President, shares that “Many of the veterans who will move into these new homes are currently living in deplorable conditions and are hanging onto their pride by a thread. We want them to be able to live out the rest of their lives having a wonderful time in a safe, clean, affordable and fun community.”

REALTOR® and Events Committee Chair Susan Conner said, “I am proud and honored to be involved in raising funds for the Tiny Homes for Heroes. This all Veteran community will serve a huge need in our area and will be a small way to say “thank you” to the men and women who so bravely served our Country.”

Fair Housing in Lakeland, Florida

Lakeland REALTORS®, an association dedicated to helping Florida homeowners, was proud to join forces with the National Association of REALTORS® in order to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. The act was first passed in 1968 and later amended in order to prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status and national origin.

In an interview with the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, association President J. Kyle Vreeland shared why marking the act’s anniversary was important, “REALTORS® continue to recognize the significance of this important act and reconfirm our commitment to upholding fair housing law.”

Vreeland also shared that, “Fair housing protects the American Dream of homeownership for all citizens, and Lakeland REALTORS® looks forward to commemorating the anniversary and supporting the development of healthy and diverse communities.”

Click on the ad above to see a larger version.

The association read a proclamation at a City Commission meeting in April that announced their support of the act, and reaffirmed their commitment to raising awareness around the act’s continued importance. Additionally, they purchased ad space in local print and social media to ensure that Lakeland residents would be reminded of the importance of the Fair Housing Act. Lastly, the Lakeland team came together to make video that showed REALTORS® announcing that, “Fair Housing Makes Us Stronger” in different languages.

Vreeland shares that, “REALTORS® work hard to build strong communities and neighborhoods where all people can live and prosper.” Melissa Sanchez, the association’s Communications & Community Outreach Director, echos Vreeland’s statement and said that the association will continue to be on the lookout for more opportunities to talk about the Fair Housing Act.