Monthly Archives: November 2018

Six Texas Counties Reject Forced Annexation

Homeowners in some Texas counties no longer have to worry about their property being unwillfully incorporated into a neighboring city after voters made a strong statement at the polls on Election Day.

Voters in Parker, Palo Pinto, Wise, Johnson, Freestone and Atascosa counties approved ballot measures that would change the status of their counties from Tier 1 to Tier 2 when it comes to forced annexation. The outcome was supported by a significant voter education effort spearheaded by the Texas Association of REALTORS®.

Tier 1 counties can have cities incorporate land outside their borders without the approval of the residents of that land, or neighborhood. Texas is one of the last states in the U.S. that allows for this type of action. It’s called forced annexation. However, Tier 2 counties have far more stringent rules on annexation – namely it requires permission from property owners in the land to be annexed approving the new incorporation.

Annexation has both pros and cons.

Residents in annexed areas will now have access to services such as law enforcement and city utilities, but they also would be subject to new regulations on their land as well as city taxes that didn’t apply to them before the annexation.

Now, the residents in these six counties can decide for themselves if they want to be annexed into a new city or stay in unincorporated land.

In 2017, Texas legislators passed a law that put Texas counties in two categories for annexation purposes, based on their population. However, the law provides Tier 1 county residents a process to become a Tier 2 county by petitioning to include a proposition on their ballot.

Voters passed these tier changes overwhelmingly, with an average approval of 75.5%.

The first step for a Tier 1 county to become a Tier 2 county is for at least 10% of the registered voters in the county to sign a petition to put that request on the ballot. Then, if the ballot measure passes, the county will be considered Tier 2 and the affected residents will be able to vote on future annexation.

Voters in the six aforementioned counties passed these tier changes overwhelmingly, with an average approval of 75.5%.

And considering that success, it’s likely going to lead to more changes across the state as several more counties are looking to add similar measures to their May 4, 2019 ballots.

Additionally, forced annexation could become a thing of the past in the entirety of the Lone Star State as the Texas Legislature is expected to consider legislation that would eliminate the practice altogether.

State Rep. Phil King added the amendment to the 2017 bill that allowed communities to get petition signatures to get these measures onto a ballot.

“It passed overwhelmingly everywhere,” King told the Weatherford Democrat. “Many other counties around the state are working toward being on the ballot next election cycle. I think this reflects Texans’ high esteem for property rights. It wasn’t a vote against cities, but rather a vote for property owners. I look forward to discussions this session about possibly extending this statewide since our voters have made it clear they do not support forced annexation.”

Passaic Community Rallies Around Local Family Dealing With Pediatric Cancer

Every year the Passaic County Board of REALTORS® (PCBOR) hosts REALTORS® Care Day, a statewide initiative organized in conjunction with the New Jersey Association of REALTORS®. The event strives to make life a little better for local homeowners who are in need of a helping hand. PCBOR members come together to put in a day’s work making home improvements like gutter replacements, landscaping and painting.

“REALTORS® Care Day, is a great opportunity for us, as REALTORS®, to show our communities that we are here not only to sell or purchase homes for them but to show that we are dedicated to improving our local neighborhoods as well,” Passaic County Board of Realtors® President Judy Mizzone said. “Not only is it a great cause but fixing our homes, parks and school grounds raises the value of properties, which is beneficial for everyone.”

This year, The Valerie Fund, an organization that has supported children with cancer and and blood disorders since 1976, reached out to nominate The Alamancar Family for this years REALTORS® Care Day. PCBOR frequently partners with The Valerie Fund and was immediately on board with the their suggestion.

“Seeing the smiles on their faces really did make all the hard work and labor worth it.”

The Alamancar family had been having a particularly tough time since their two year old daughter Carly began fighting cancer. Carly was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma in February and went through her second bone marrow transplant this past August. The family needed help with general property cleanup, landscaping, painting and repairs to their foundation and retaining wall.

PCBOR volunteers spent the day checking off tasks from the Alamanacar’s to-do list. They worked hard to deliver on every request the family had made. “My favorite part of the day was when the father came home and called his wife and daughter to show them the transformation of the front of house and the yard,” Mizzone said. “Seeing the smiles on their faces really did make all the hard work and labor worth it.”

REALTORS® Care Day is just one of the many events that PCBOR does to give back to the community. This past June they hosted a charity golf outing at the Black Bear Golf Course with proceeds of more than $10,000 going to The Valerie Fund.

Beverly Hills Community Host Multicultural Expert Panel

Mississippi

REALTORS® across the country commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the passing of the Fair Housing Act last April. The largest event in California took place at the Proud Bird – the iconic restaurant that overlooks runways at Los Angeles International Airport – and was hosted by the Beverly Hills/Greater Los Angeles Association of REALTORS® (BH/GLAAR).

Hundreds of REALTORS® and other civic leaders from Los Angeles County, gathered to commemorate the anniversary while also looking at where the Fair Housing Act has brought the Los Angeles community to this point and where it can take Southern California in the future.

The event was co-hosted by the Downey Association of REALTORS®, Malibu Association of REALTORS®, Palos Verdes Peninsula Association of REALTORS®, Rancho Southeast Association of REATORS®, South Bay Association of REALTORS®, Southland Regional Association of REALTORS®, and the Southwest Association of REALTORS®.

Attendees heard from several multicultural expert panel discussions on the barriers minority communities have faced — and continue to face — in the Los Angeles area.

The information shared during the discussions were surprising to some, especially the younger members in attendance, and certainly provided an educational experience for all.

One of the keynote speakers at the event was Rev. “J.” Edgar Boyd, pastor of the First AME Church of Los Angeles. His impassioned speech, focusing on the value of fighting for equality even in situations where odds are long, was punctuated with a rousing and spirited standing ovation of approval from those in attendance.

In addition, the BH/GLAAR Cultural Diversity and Commercial Committees were present at the event, promoting REALTOR® involvement and answering questions about fair housing and how it is a constant priority for the association.

The Asian Real Estate Association of America, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, the Consolidated Board of REALTISTS® and the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals also partnered with the local California REALTOR® associations to make this inspirational event a memorable one.

Single Family Homes Sales Increase in Houston

For the latest sales information on single-family homes and condos in Houston, see these three infographics below.

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

HAR October Infographic 1
« 1 of 3 »

Salem Residents Consider New Bridge

The City of Salem continues to grow. With growth, comes additional infrastructure needs. In this community, the chief infrastructure need has been to build a third bridge over the Willamette River.

Mid-Valley residents need a new bridge to reduce traffic congestion and to help ease their commutes for work, school and entertainment, not to mention help save their cars from guzzling gas or wearing down faster from constant stops and starts.

Salem City Council’s next meeting on Monday, Nov. 26 at 6:00pm will include a motion asking that Council take the required actions to respond to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) remand and support the completion of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Salem River Crossing.

The City staff has not responded to the LUBA. This motion will require the staff to address the issues on remand to keep the Salem River Crossing Project moving forward.

Currently there is only one access point connecting East Salem, West Salem, the coast and the surrounding communities. The traffic has become onerous. The Latest traffic volume numbers over the two Salem bridges are the highest ever and they continue to rise. In 2017, 72% of all weekday traffic counts exceeded 100,000 vehicles per day.

Accidents or events at the bridge (such as the overturned hay truck on October 19th) happen frequently and negatively impacts the traffic flow of goods and services as well as the previously mentioned mobility needs of Mid-Valley residents.

There may not be any long-term answers to seismic threats that the current bridges can address. By the Fall of 2019 a better understanding of the feasibility of a seismic upgrade for the Center Street Bridge and approaches will be known. However, due to its design and age, the Marion Street Bridge is not being considered for any seismic upgrades. Mitigation for seismic hazards using modern standards would be part of the structural design of the new bridge.

Efforts to get a third bridge built go back decades. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), the city of Salem and the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS) have had a funding agreement since 2006 to examine this possibility of a new bridge. Since that time, more than $8 million has been spent on the Salem River Crossing Study and the Environmental Impact Study (EIS). The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has extended the deadline on a decision for this potential new bridge to Sept. 30, 2019 at which time ODOT and SKATS may be asked to pay back a portion or all of the federal money expended on this project.

Completion of the Final EIS and a Record of Decision is only a first step in the process. It gives SKATS permission from FHWA to take the next steps. Construction of a new bridge and other parts of the plan will take many years and potentially be done in several phases. Funding and actual construction phasing won’t happen until a later date.

Abandoning the process now, though, could set back the Mid-Valley region for decades.

Poll: Why is Homeownership Important to You?

A recent survey from realtor.com ask different age groups what was their most important reason to be a homeowner.

What do you think? Vote in our poll…


Which is the most important reason to be a homeowner to you?

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Student Loan Debt Roadblock to Homeownership

More kids are going to college today than ever before. From an academic perspective, that’s a great thing. From a real estate perspective, it’s a cause for concern because of debt they face after they graduate, and how it impedes their ability to buy a home for the first time.

According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 2018 Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers, the share of first-time home buyers fell for the third straight year to 33 percent. Prior to the end of the first-time buyers’ credit in 2010, the rate of sales to first-time homebuyers was 40 percent – or higher.

“Low inventory, rising interest rates and student loan debt are all factors contributing to the suppression of first-time home buyers,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement. “However, existing home sales data shows inventory has been rising slowly on a year-over-year basis in recent months, which may encourage more would-be buyers who were previously convinced they could not find a home to enter the market.”

“Low inventory, rising interest rates and student loan debt are all factors contributing to the suppression of first-time homebuyers.”

The biggest hurdle for first-time homebuyers is saving for a down payment, and according to the NAR data, 50 percent of respondents said that student loan debt was the chief roadblock to saving for that down payment. A whopping 40 percent of first-time buyers surveyed indicated they had a median debt of $30,000.

“Even with a thriving economy and an abundance of job opportunities in many markets, monthly student loan payments coupled with sky-high rents and rising home prices make it exceedingly difficult for potential buyers to put aside savings for a down payment,” said Yun.

Even though down payments are as low as three percent now, most respondents are putting down much more. The median down payment was 13 percent, a three percent increase from 2017 and the biggest percentage since 2005. First-time homebuyers saw a two percent increase from 2017, up to seven percent – the highest since 1997.

However, there are tools available to first-time homebuyers that can make the path toward home ownership a little smoother.

Some states have adopted first-time homebuyer savings accounts, where individuals or couples can save money – tax free – in a savings account at a local bank to go toward the down payment of a future home purchase. In some states, parents and grandparents can contribute to this account.

There are many federal loan programs that can be of assistance as well:

  • Veterans Affairs (VA) loans – These loans are insured by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for certain veterans, service members, spouses and other eligible beneficiaries. They don’t require a down payment or mortgage insurance but do charge a one-time funding fee of 0.5% to 3.3%, depending on the type of loan, the size of the down payment and the nature of your military service.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans – The U.S. Department of Agriculture insures home loans for low-to moderate-income homebuyers in eligible rural areas. Like VA loans, there is no down payment for a USDA loan. But there is an upfront fee of 1% and an ongoing annual fee of 0.35%, both of which apply to purchases and refinances.
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans – Insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), borrowers can get an FHA loan with a down payment as low as 3.5%. Additional fees include an upfront mortgage insurance premium of 1.75% and an annual mortgage insurance premium of 0.45% to 1.05%, depending on the type, size and length of the loan and the size of the down payment.
  • Conventional loans – Some mortgage lenders offer small down payment mortgages—as little as 3% down payment (HomeReady) —to borrowers who qualify. These loans, however, aren’t insured by a government agency, so the lender will require private mortgage insurance (PMI). The cost of PMI varies but is often between 0.5% and 1% of the loan amount. You can typically request to have your PMI dropped once you have at least 20% equity in the home.

NAR conducted its survey in July by mail among a weighted random sample of recent homebuyers. A total of 7,191 responses were received from persons who had purchased a primary residence between July 2017 and June 2018.

For more tips and resources for first-time homebuyers, click here.


Infographic: Navigating First-Time Homebuying Today
Be an informed homeowner. Learn more about the impact of student load debt on the housing market and your community.

Vicksburg REALTOR Goes The Extra Mile

Mississippi

Brenda Love is a popular REALTOR® in Vicksburg, Miss., but not because, as she says, she can sell a house faster than you can fry an egg.

No, Love does much more than sell houses. In Vicksburg, and the surrounding communities, Brenda is a life saver. She helps anyone and everyone, regardless of their financial situation, be able to find a home they can own.

“Everyone has a right to own a home,” she said. “Even those people who lenders will shy away from, I will work to get them the money they need so they can buy that home.”

Love considers herself a real estate advisor and consultant. When potential clients come to her, she does a detailed buyer consultation session and she works with them to fix their credit and get their score to a place where they can secure a loan.

“A lot of people would shy away from these folks, but not me,” Love said. “I’ll talk to them, advise them, check in with them and work with them for months, even more than a year before we even look at buying a home. I want to help them do the things they need to do to fix their credit so that they can buy a home and become a homeowner in Mississippi.”

And she does it all by word of mouth. She does not pay for online leads or spend money marketing her agency like most other brokers do. Nope. Love believes in a personal touch – help one person who never thought they could buy a home, and they’ll tell five friends, who will tell their five friends each, and the Brenda Love real estate assistance tree grows many roots.

And she helps everyone – people with no credit or bad credit. She helps them establish lines of credit and teach them how to borrow and pay it back to improve their credit. This is what makes her happy.

“Seeing the look on their face when they realize they can now get the money they need for a down payment is what warms my heart,” she said. “I stay in touch with my clients after the fact too. I want to be sure they are making their payments and doing what they have to do to be a homeowner.”

Homeowner At 23-Years-Old

It reminded Love of what she endured as a young woman in Vicksburg. She was only 23 years old when she purchased her first home. She and her husband Jacob were working for the Corps of Engineers at the time, and they were doing seasonal work on the Mississippi River.

Since the work was seasonal, they also used to collect unemployment checks. They saved their unemployment money to buy their first home. In the process, Love started taking real estate licensing classes in 1990 – not because she wanted to get a license. Heck no. She never showed up for the licensing test. Nope, she just wanted to learn more about investment properties and what went into the purchase of them. It was something she and her husband started doing around town – buying properties and renting them out as landlords.

That’s when she realized this community needed help.

There were good people out there in Vicksburg. Hard-working families who banks wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole if approached for a loan. These folks were living paycheck-to-paycheck renting properties rather than owning them. It was a vicious cycle, and one Love decided she wanted to fix.

So, she went back to the licensing class in 2002, and this time she took the test – and passed.

A Labor of Love

She’s been helping the people of Vicksburg ever since. She focuses her efforts on the underprivileged, the poor. The uneducated and uninformed. It’s a segment of the population too often forgotten by the hustle and bustle of everyday America.

But it’s a labor of love, so to speak, for Vicksburg’s most popular REALTOR®.

“I like to take the underdog and show them how to win,” Love said. “And it doesn’t matter how young or how old. [Earlier this year] I helped a 72-year-old woman buy a home for the first time in her life.”

But Love also knows that in the deep south, there are still roadblocks to traverse – some that aren’t as prevalent in other parts of the country. Most of those hurdles have to do with lenders being unwilling to work with people who might not have the best credit – or any credit for that matter, but Love indicated there are still some local lenders who might be letting a level of discrimination factor into their decisions to deny loans.

“I know the people I can go to and who not to go to,” Love said.

But even more daunting in Mississippi are the attempts to scare minorities from purchasing properties.

Which reminded Love of an incident back in May.

“There was this property for sale, and I had an African-American woman who wanted to buy it and convert it into a church,” Love said. Everything was moving along fine, but then there was some talk in the community about not wanting to have this church come into the area. That’s when I knew something wasn’t right.”

The whispers among some whites in the neighborhood was that they didn’t want a black church in their community.

“We were supposed to go to closing on the Friday before Memorial Day,” Love said. Then, all of the sudden, the closing was cancelled. When I asked why, I was sent a copy of the deed and there was a covenant written in there that under no circumstances was this property to be sold to a black person or family. Of course, those covenants aren’t legal, but by sending that to me to share with the buyer, that was a blatant attempt to scare her and to get her to change her mind about buying the property.”

The sale eventually went forth a couple weeks later. The covenant was removed from the deed, and the buyer became the new owner of the property. But Love said the buyer decided not to make it a church.

“She got the feeling that it was probably not the best place for it at this time,” Love said.

Challenges Continue Across the State

Brenda is not alone in Mississippi, where the challenges that the Fair Housing Act was supposed to eradicate when it was signed 50 years ago still exist today.

“As we reflect on the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act in Mississippi, we have a story to tell that is uniquely ours and that we resolutely own,” said Karen Glass, 2018 President of the Mississippi REALTORS®. “At Mississippi REALTORS®, we do not hide from the pain of the events that sparked the Civil Rights movement. We embrace our history and offer a shared bond and commitment to help ensure equal housing opportunity for all Mississippians.

“Throughout the state, we pride ourselves on our servant leadership and hearts as property professionals but also community champions. As we celebrate our fair housing commitment all year long, Mississippi REALTORS® Diversity Task Force is planning a portfolio of benefits, services, and education outreach to affirm what we know is true. That in Mississippi, all are welcome and deserve the highest opportunity to call Mississippi home.”

Delivering that message is of the utmost importance in Mississippi for the REALTORS®, which is why their Fair Housing Task Force is so active all-year long.

The Fair Housing Task Force

“Diversity in Mississippi to a REALTOR® is a pretty complex issue because Mississippi is not a normal place,” said Chris Wilson, a REALTOR® and member of the task force. “It has a pretty painful history, but it was true. My generation came of age in the 1960s and civil rights was the most pressing thing this side of war. We were sure we were going to change the way we face civil rights. President Kennedy and President Johnson made significant changes, but we still have to educate people in Mississippi and that starts with our own members.”

Wilson is one of nine members on the task force. He said of the nine, seven are millennials. “It’s really wonderful to see colleagues who have a completely different perspective at their age than most people my age did when we were that young,” Wilson said. “They grew up accepting diversity. But we also have to show that to our members. We need to have diversity not only in the numbers in our membership, here in Mississippi, but diversity in leadership too.

“And not just making it a black and white thing either. We want Russian immigrants, [Middle Eastern non-Christians] and members in the LGBT community to be an equal part of our association. That’s the only way to make sure fair housing stays in our conscience.”

It’s why fair housing is an ongoing priority for the Mississippi REALTORS®. They earned a diversity grant from the National Association of REALTORS® and created a nearly five-minute video that drives home the importance of fair housing in Mississippi. That video is prominently displayed on their home page, has been shared on social media and has been sent to several Mississippi civic organizations.

Wilson said that his best REALTOR® buddy today is an African-American woman.

“We both grew up here and she never went to school with a white person and I never went to school with a black person and we’re good friends today,” he said. “We sit around and say, wouldn’t it have been great if we could have been just as good friends back then too.”

For more on Brenda Love and other Mississippi REALTORS® championing fair housing in their community, be sure to check out this back issue of the Real Estate Leader, which had an entire section dedicated to fair housing in Mississippi.

Gen Z Is Saving Early To Become Homeowners

Generation Z is ambitious about homeownership, and it shows through their savings habits.

According to a new survey conducted by realtor.com®, Gen Z-ers (ages 18 to 24) interested in homeownership are two times more likely than previous generations to be saving or plan to be saving for a home by age 25 with two of five Gen Z-ers aiming to become homeowners by that age.

Gen Z-ers don’t just want to become homeowners; they want to do it at a younger age and we found that they’re saving or planning to save for it accordingly,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com®.

The survey was conducted in conjunction with Harris Interactive, which included responses from 3,372 Americans across Generation X (ages 35 – 50), millennials/Generation Y (ages 25 – 34) and Generation Z, to better understand the generational differences in relation to homeownership and aspirations.

Each of the groups were asked why they did/do want to become a homeowners.*

Answers: Gen Z Millennials Gen X
I want to customize my space 61% 54% 47%
It’s how I want to raise my family 55% 55% 46%
Financially able to afford a home 37% 43% 39%
Real estate is a good investment 29% 38% 39%
I want to live the American Dream 29% 37% 35%
Want to put down roots in a particular community 27% 34% 32%
There are tax benefits to homeownership 16% 23% 29%

* Asked only of those who answered “yes” or “maybe” to desiring homeownership

Read more: Zealous Gen Z: Saving Early To Be Homeowners By Age 25, from realtor.com®.

Metro Home Prices Rise Nearly 5 Percent

The latest data from the National Association of REALTORS® shows low inventory levels of moderately priced homes, which continue to stifle sales. As a result, home prices in metro areas continue to rise.

Nearly all metro markets saw increases in single-family home prices with a handful of markets increasing by double digits.

Overall, the national median existing single-family home price in the third quarter was up 4.8 percent from the third quarter of 2017 ($266,900 vs. $254,700).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says low inventory persisted in suppressing the market during the third quarter. “Though inventory is more than adequate on the upper-end market, the insufficient supply of low to mid-priced homes in metro markets with strong job growth continues to drive up prices and push prospective buyers out of the market,” he said.

While median family income increased in this most recent quarter, affordability decreased due to higher mortgage rates and home prices.

“Aspiring middle-class home buyers continue to face affordability issues, as buyers are increasingly being priced out in the West while the rest of the country struggles, too,” said Yun. “The market desperately needs homebuilders to begin constructing more moderately priced single-family home and condominiums to help satisfy demand and mitigate rapid price growth.”

The five most expensive housing markets:

Metro Area Median Price
San Jose, Calif. $1,300,000
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. $989,000
Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, Calif. $830,000
Urban Honolulu $818,600
San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif. $650,000

The five lowest-cost housing markets:

Metro Area Median Price
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio $97,600
Decatur, Illinois $102,800
Cumberland, Maryland $110,300
Wichita Falls, Texas $115,600
Elmira, New York $121,600