Monthly Archives: April 2019

Legislators Could Green Light Savings Program for First-Time Homebuyers

Legislation that would create a First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program in Pennsylvania was re-introduced in the both Pennsylvania House and Senate in the 2019-2020 legislative session. House Bill 128 (Brown, R-Monroe) has moved to the Senate for consideration, while companion legislation, Senate Bill 309 (Mensch, R-Montgomery) moved to the Senate Appropriations Committee in April.

The program would allow Pennsylvanians to save money toward the purchase of a home and the money saved would qualify as a tax deduction on their state income tax. Parents and grandparents would be eligible to save for children and grandchildren as well. And research from the National Association of Realtors® shows that more than 80 percent of Pennsylvanians support the First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account program.

“The First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program could result in an increase of home purchases of up to 4,000 annually in Pennsylvania.”

“Pennsylvania Realtors® worked tirelessly during the last legislative session to move this bill,” said PAR President Bill McFalls Jr. “It received overwhelming support, but the legislature ran out of time at the end of the year before either bill was passed. We’re pleased that these legislators recognize the importance of homeownership and see the need to help Pennsylvanians achieve the dream of owning a home. The program would also provide a boost to the state’s economy.”

Many first-time homebuyers need help overcoming obstacles to homeownership. Low wages and college debt make it difficult for young people to save money to purchase their first home. Research conducted for PAR showed that 56% of Pennsylvanians identified college student loans as an obstacle to homeownership. A study by LendEDU ranked Pennsylvania as having the highest average college loan debt per borrower at $35,185.

The First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program could result in an increase of home purchases of up to 4,000 annually in Pennsylvania, according to research conducted by the Anderson Economic Group. The increase in the number of home purchases would have an overall positive impact on Pennsylvania’s economy, spurring additional economic activity and job creation. It’s estimated that the economic impact could range up to $68.8 million. The increase in state tax revenues collected from realty transfer taxes, income taxes on increased earnings and sales taxes on increased consumption would exceed tax revenue forgone due to FHSA deductions.

To learn more about the proposed Pennsylvania First-Time Homebuyers Savings Account Program and to contact your legislators, visit

Strategies For More Workforce Housing Abound

With the unemployment rate at its lowest point in more than a half-century and an influx of jobs in the United States, it’s easy to assume the economy is booming, which, in turn, would benefit the housing market.

Not so fast.

Despite an influx of jobs, wage growth hasn’t… well…  grown. As such, middle income Americans are still feeling a financial squeeze and are often unable to find available affordable housing.

The market is impacting cities in such a way that the housing gap has grown larger and larger.

Cities are starting to realize that entire swaths of their workforce are bearing more of the weight of housing costs than ever before, and that isn’t going to end any time soon unless steps are taken to rectify it.

“The allure of a major metropolitan areas… is causing a simple macroeconomic conundrum – demand is greater than supply, which drives up the price.”

Land and development costs are expensive and that makes it more difficult for cities to develop and build new affordable housing, which is a significant problem in urban metro areas.

With an influx of talent coming into cities as these new jobs are created, the need to live within a short driving distance to work or to have convenient mass transit options plus the allure of being able to enjoy what major metropolitan areas have to offer in terms of activities and entertainment is causing a simple macroeconomic conundrum – demand is greater than supply, which drives up the price. However, with wages stagnating, affordability is the biggest issue.

The problem stems from cities not being proactive during the recession and building more affordable housing at a time when it would have been more affordable to do so. With a lot of belt tightening going on at the time, there wasn’t a concentrated focus on what would happen when things took a turn for the better with the economy, as it is now.

Some cities are trying to eradicate this issue now by emboldening themselves to create incentives to build more affordable housing for these new workers in the forms of tax breaks for developers and less red tape for builders to cut through as they develop multi-family units.

Philadelphia’s West Poplar Neighborhood

Take Philadelphia for example. The city has ramped up efforts to create more workforce housing. Earlier this year the city released a comprehensive plan to address this need which would create 6,000 new workforce units by 2028.

A model effort in the West Poplar neighborhood of Philadelphia finds 26 new homes being built that will have a capped sale price of $229,999. Each home will be a two-story, brick townhouse with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a private yard.

The big catch? A 10-year tax abatement on each of the properties.

Additionally, these properties aren’t available to the average investor looking to earn money either through flipping it down the road or eventually renting the property.

Instead, the target audience is hard-working, middle income Philadelphians who make up to 120 percent of the area’s median income.

In Philadelphia, the median income is slightly north of $73,000 for a single person, $84,000 for a couple and roughly $105,000 for a family of four.

These first 26 homes are being built on land coming from the Philadelphia Land Bank, a fledgling institution that was established by the Philadelphia City Council to make the sales and acquisitions of vacant or tax-delinquent land easier.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer there are 40,000 vacant parcels of land in the city, and approximately 8,500 of those are owned by the city.

The concept of the land bank is to take those parcels of land and turn them into affordable or workforce housing or other tax-generating projects.

But it goes beyond that.

The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority offered the developer of these 26 parcels additional support through its credit enhancement program.

As such, the authority will assume 25 percent of the default risk on the loan taken out to develop these parcels, helping the developer to get the construction financing from the city’s Reinvestment Fund.

The plan is to use this as a template to help build more workforce housing across the city.

But it’s not just in big cities like Philadelphia where there is an intense focus on developing workforce housing or making existing units more affordable to potential renters or buyers.

New Incentive Programs

In Vermont, the state Senate wants to expand an existing incentive program that offers cash to workers who relocate to the state. The Senate is seeking $1.5 million annually for incentives, to offer new workers up to $7,500 each, which is an attractive amount toward the purchase of a home or would cover a several months rent.

In Delaware, the Governor recently certified a comprehensive plan for Sussex County that outlined the creation of a Community development Fund that would stimulate construction of workforce housing.

And in Washington, D.C., the Mayor recently announced enhancements to the existing Opportunity Zone program to target more affordable and workforce housing in the Nation’s capital.

These upgrades would include the creation of the OZ Community Corporation, enabling community organizations and small businesses to tap into pro bono advice from lawyers and other experts; an online Opportunity Zone marketplace that anyone can access where projects can be submitted online; and a commitment of $24 million to other projects that support affordable housing, workforce development and the growth of small businesses.

Investors Are Taking Notice

As more and more states and their cities work to create more programs and incentives to develop affordable and workforce housing, more and more investors will be willing to cannonball into the pool to help make it happen.

For example, Round Hill Capital, one of the top global real estate investment, development and asset management firms in the world, announced recently that it is sinking its dollars into a workforce housing development project in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. that qualifies as an Opportunity Zone under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

That legislation provides tax incentives for certain long-term investments in order to spur economic growth.

The project will create 142 moderately-priced rental units in Ft. Lauderdale with high-quality amenities included for those who have been priced out of living downtown.

This is the first of a series of investments Round Hill will be involved in along with their local partners in Florida with the intent on creating more housing options for middle income workers in the city where they work.

Many cities and states recognize the conundrum that has grown in terms of a housing gap for hard-working residents, the process is under way in many places to find ways to close that gap and find homes that are far more affordable for both homeowners and even renters.

Prospective NYC Homebuyers Are Moving to New Jersey

As soon as your neighborhood bodega’s $1.50 cup of coffee doubles in price, you know rental prices are the next thing to rise.

As the property values in New York City, along with surrounding areas such as Ridgewood in Queens and Kingsbridge in the Bronx, continue to ascend, dozens of once ignored neighborhoods and boroughs around Manhattan and Brooklyn are popping up on everyone’s radar as viable alternatives and piquing interest in both renters and prospective homebuyers.

Many residents are even considering moving across the river to New Jersey, where the commute is still manageable and the cost of living as well as the median home price is less than half. Another neighboring city, Hoboken, was once the go-to for budget-conscious New Yorkers willing to make the move to the Garden State, but as the prices there have surged as well, Jersey City is quickly becoming the next hot destination.

Jersey City

All of the alluring qualities of New York City are steadily reaching the outskirts in areas such like Jersey City, which has essentially become an extension of Manhattan. Not only are many considering the move to Jersey City, but it has become a common stopover on a visit to the Big Apple due to its rich culture, nightlife, and an array of different cuisines. With ferry service, the Holland Tunnel, and PATH trains, residents can easily access everything in the region within forty minutes or so, which is an even faster commute than experienced by some citizens living in southern Brooklyn and Queens boroughs.

Everyone is well aware of New York’s bustling food scene, but is Jersey City the underrated culinary haven we’ve been missing? On this side of the Hudson River, you’ll find rich culture in the most culturally diverse city in the country, as ranked by a 2019 study. Within minutes you can find authentic Portuguese food in the Ironbound District, Cuban flavors in Union City, and bold Indian spices in Little India.

Don’t say this too loud around any New Yorkers, but many say that the best pizza in New York City…isn’t actually in New York. Razza Pizza Artigianale in Jersey City has been voted time and time again as not only the best pizza in the area, but second best in the country. NYT top food critic Pete Wells has given it the highest praise, and it turns out that no one can argue with him when it comes to Dan Richer’s brick-oven pies.

Bills to pay

“…this city may be one of the last affordable East Coast options for urban living.”

Considering Jersey City’s population increase of 9.3% since 2010, now is the ideal time for potential homebuyers to start looking. If you’re one of the recently polled 10 million Americans with the goal of homeownership, this may be the perfect place to start house hunting. The city is growing at more than twice the statewide average and shows no sign of slowing down.

A senior designer in lower Manhattan, Jennifer Tobias, had the right idea when real estate prices in NYC were out of her budget. When describing her 310 square foot studio near Van Vorst Park that she purchased in 2007 for $195,000, she describes, “a similar apartment in New York City would easily cost twice as much.” In a mere 7 years her property’s value has climbed up to $312,000, meanwhile the cost of living in NJ is substantially lower than Manhattan.

For those already residing in other boroughs of New Jersey, Jersey city has the same appeals as it does for those in NYC. If you’ve been searching for the right place to settle down and become a homeowner or you’re looking to make an investment, you don’t have to travel far. In the past, many Jersey families have moved to the suburbs after a couple of years once their children were a bit older. Today, Jersey City has so much more to offer. Between the beautiful parks, public transportation ranging from only $1.60-$2.25 per ride versus the MTA’s $2.75 fee, great public school systems, a booming arts scene, record-breaking diversity, and a thriving sense of community, this city may be one of the last affordable East Coast options for urban living.

An NYU grad, Lina Dorkhman, had a soft spot for her home state of New Jersey, but always planned on moving back to New York after saving up some funds while living at her parents house in Middlesex County. After endless showings of windowless apartments in NY, Lina and her soon to be roommate, Olivia Zhang, gave into the charm and appeals of Jersey City. When speaking of potential New York apartments, Olivia says, “I knew that I’d be able to find a place in my price range, but I also knew the kind of places you can get for that.” You certainly get more bang for your buck in Jersey City, with all of the same opportunities at your fingertips. Not to mention you can avoid the New York City tax, which ranges from 2.9 to 3.9 percent of your income, if you reside in NJ. In addition to paying a substantially lower income tax, as low was 1.4 percent, compared to NY’s 4 percent. Yet, you can still work in NYC and reap the salary benefits.

“You certainly get more bang for your buck in Jersey City, with all of the same opportunities at your fingertips.”

Between the higher cost of living, real estate prices, and property taxes, creating a home in a fast-paced metro area may seem impractical, but there are handfuls of options when searching for your dream home.

Think outside of the box and consider surrounding areas where you’re able to enjoy all of the perks of city life, but also have a backyard. The neighborhoods in many resident’s budget, in Brooklyn for example, are miles from a train stop and quickly lose the city-feel. As Michael Barry, the president of Ironstate Development Company conveys, “Jersey City has been maturing for decades. At this point, it’s an extremely well-known marketplace and is seen as a housing opportunity for anyone moving to the New York scene.”

Beat the crowd and begin your search where your dollar, well twenty dollars, can still go a long way. Whether you’re a New Yorker fed up with spending half of your income on housing, a New Jersey resident looking to make the move to a waterfront city, or even someone living across the country interested in the East Coast urban lifestyle, Jersey City may be calling your name.

Flood Insurance At Risk

Forty thousand home sales hang in the balance as Congress debates the renewal of our National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) this May. Because home and rental insurance doesn’t cover flood damage, flood insurance is often the only way homeowners can receive the funds they need to repair and rebuild. Without it, homeowners are left dependent upon the federal government for rebuilding assistance after major floods.

However, FEMA only steps in if the flooding is declared a disaster by the president – and the payout is nowhere near comparable to what NFIP delivers. According to the Insurance Information Institute, NFIP “provides coverage for up to $250,000 for the structure of the home and up to $100,000 for personal possessions.”

The Advocate, a newspaper serving Baton Rouge, Louisiana, tells readers what kind of payout they could expect from FEMA after a disaster – and it’s not $250,000.

“Roughly half of the flood disasters since 1990 occurred in landlocked states. According to years of NAR research, about 40,000 home sales stall each month that Congress fails to reauthorize the NFIP.”

“Although a federal aid program to help disaster victims can provide as much as $33,000 per household, typical grants run a fraction of that amount, averaging $8,000 or less, according to an analysis by The Advocate of payouts in a dozen recent high-profile disasters.

March floods in Louisiana and Texas averaged in the $5,000 range. The average payout for those affected by Hurricanes Rita, Isaac and Gustav was about $3,000, according to data provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”

If the NFIP fails to receive another extension this spring, it isn’t just coastal homeowners that will suffer. “Roughly half of the flood disasters since 1990 occurred in landlocked states” Austin Perez, Senior Policy Representative at the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) explained. “According to years of NAR research, about 40,000 home sales stall each month that Congress fails to reauthorize the NFIP.”

NAR supports long-term reauthorization and reform, and believes that continuing the existing pattern of renewal after renewal only postpones – rather than fixes the program. On March of this year, NAR’s representative, Chicago REALTOR® Mabél Guzmán testified before the House Financial Services Committee, advocating for reform and sustainability.

Guzmán called for improved flood mapping as well as fair premium setting and increased mitigation funding – changes that would allow the program to stay in place for the long term. She also talked about how removing regulatory obstacles would give homeowners access to a more robust, competitive private flood insurance market.

“The embattled National Flood Insurance Program is central to U.S. disaster preparedness efforts,” Guzmán said in her testimony. “According to NAR research, the program is also essential to completing half-a-million home sales per year, each of which contributes two jobs and $80,000 to America’s economy. However, the NFIP was not designed nor intended to address the catastrophic loss years we have seen since 2005, meaning the program is not sustainable as currently structured.”

Infographic: Affordable Housing in Tennessee

Nashville is strumming along to growth and development while becoming a major destination for tourists. The adverse effect: Skyrocketing housing costs. Nearly a quarter of homeowners and close to half of renters are paying more than they can afford for housing in Nashville. There is a major need for more affordable housing options and innovative solutions to this growing problem in the Music City.

Learn how REALTORS® are addressing the housing supply and affordability issue across the country here.



Download the Infographic

Infographic: Affordable Housing in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is home to some of the country’s largest and most expensive single-family home lots. In fact, the median home price in Massachusetts is $398,000, compared to $209,000 nationally, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. The problem isn’t just rising home prices though, there are disjointed municipal laws across the state that make it more difficult to provide alternative options for home seekers. Massachusetts legislators needs to make housing supply and affordability a priority.

Learn how REALTORS® are addressing the housing supply and affordability issue across the country here.



Download the Infographic

Vote In Our Poll

According to a survey conducted earlier this year by the National Association of Realtors®, about 75% of non-homeowners believe homeownership is part of their American Dream, while nine in 10 current homeowners said the same.

How do you feel about homeownership? What does it mean to you? Vote in our poll about homeownership.


Protecting Tax Deductions Will Make Kansas Feel Like Home Again

May 29, 2019 UPDATE: The legislature failed to override the governor’s veto of this bill.

One of the famous lines from the movie The Wizard of Oz comes when Dorothy first arrives in Oz and says to her little terrier, “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Some 80 years later, Kansans looking at their tax returns are having the same feeling.

Of course, they are still standing in their homes in places like Wichita or Topeka or Salina, but they can’t help but notice they are paying more taxes than they did last year, and that certainly doesn’t feel right.

That’s because after Congress reformed the Federal tax code in 2017, many Kansas taxpayers no longer get to take the deductions they have received for decades on their state income taxes.

Because Congress doubled the standard deduction for Federal income taxes, many Kansas taxpayers are no longer able to claim charitable deductions, medical deductions or the mortgage interest or property tax deductions on their state income taxes because Kansas requires taxpayers who take the federal standard deduction to also take the state standard deduction. In short, homeowners are now being taxed more.

The Kansas legislature can fix this with some reforms of their own at the state level, but a recent tax bill that was passed in the House and Senate that included these fixes was vetoed by the governor because of other unrelated items in the bill.

Based on IRS data from the 2016 tax filings in Kansas, 247,110 Kansans claimed the mortgage interest deduction (MID) while 307,420 Kansans claimed the real estate property tax deduction.

It is expected that up to 75% of those who took the MID and up to 80 percent of those who deducted their property takes couldn’t do the same for the 2018 tax year.

The Kansas tax policies have had several facelifts and changes over the past decade, but the one thing that has been maintained throughout all those permutations has been the ability to claim the MID and property tax deductions on state income tax returns.


It seems the reason the governor vetoed the bill centers primarily around decoupling deductions for major Kansas corporations when it comes to foreign money.

“Many believe that if the income tax deductions were alone by themselves in a “clean bill” and not tied to other tax issues, they would pass with wide bi-partisan support and would be signed by the Governor.”

It’s become a lightning rod of sorts and in turn has become a political football. And yet, lost in that scrum is the income tax deductions.

The legislature returns to session on May 1 and negotiators are expected to craft another bit of proposed legislation.

Many believe that if the income tax deductions were alone by themselves in a “clean bill” and not tied to other tax issues, they would pass with wide bi-partisan support and would be signed by the Governor.

But tax legislation is never that simple. There are always caveats and codicils. And there’s always politics.

It is difficult to pass any piece of tax legislation with any perceived fiscal impact on the state at the same time that the Governor wants to pass a school funding plan or Medicaid expansion. These are big ticket items that are going to cost a lot of dollars.

So timing is important, too.

And the data that is being culled this quarter is starting to show the adverse effects of how doing nothing will impact homeowners.


“The two key reports we need are the actual revenue numbers from the state of Kansas that came out for March and they were $24 million above estimates,” said Patrick Voglesberg, Government Affairs Director for the Kansas Association of REALTORS®. “A majority of that cash windfall is coming from an income tax increase from individuals (about $23 million). We believe that’s the amount of new revenue the state is getting because people aren’t able to deduct their mortgage interest or their property taxes or their charitable contributions.”

Voglesberg added that the next big report comes in April.

“Our budget estimators will calculate how much revenue the state has and project a profile and if that number comes in higher, that will be positive for the tax bill,” he said. “In short, the policy has to prevail. These are historic deductions that have existed in Kansas for decades and the legislature has consistently protected them. That must continue.”

Tax bills are often the last train to leave the station in state legislatures, so it’s not surprising to anyone that this will drag into May and likely be the final item up for discussion in the legislative session.

But it’s important for all Kansans that their elected officials in the House, the Senate and the Governor’s mansion find a way to click their heels three times and remember that “there’s no place like home.”

Do’s and Don’ts for First-Time Homebuyers

Homeownership is the bedrock of the American dream. For many people, owning their very own home is a major life ambition and motivator for how they lead their professional and personal lives. It can often seem like this goal is impossible to achieve considering the huge toll it takes on one’s bank account, but thankfully that is not the case.

To support long-term economic growth, the U.S government provides a great deal of support for homeowners. By decreasing the risks mortgage lenders take on, the government keeps interest rates low. As long as you educate yourself with helpful resources, you’ll be as equipped as the professionals when it comes to avoiding costly mistakes and taking the next step towards homeownership.

Now that it’s time to make the leap and buy a home, you’re most likely balancing your excitement with a great deal of jitters. You can breathe easy—we’ve got your concerns covered with our comprehensive Do’s and Don’ts for First-Time Homebuyers.


As exhilarating as it can be to hear your first mortgage offer, don’t make the all too common mistake of locking down your first offer. Even if your initial rate quote seems like a great option, there are various other factors to take into consideration such as closing costs and mortgage points. Mortgage interest rates vary based on the lender, so do yourself a favor and apply with numerous lenders. Debra Grog, an agent with Movoto Real Estate, has a great rule of thumb when choosing a mortgage, “When considering your price point, start with the amount of rent you are paying now, not necessarily what the bank/mortgage company says they will loan you.”


Your credit score is quite possibly the most important determinant when it comes to being approved for a loan, as well as the first building block to secure a financial foundation for yourself. The first thing lenders will take a look at is your credit history and the greater your history is, the higher your chances are for acquiring a good interest rate. While achieving the highest credit score you’re capable of before applying for a mortgage is probably a given, often times checking for errors isn’t. Even the smallest glitch on your credit report could result in your interest rate skyrocketing, so this is certainly not a step to skim past. A great resource to use is Annual Credit Report, which is the only credit report website that is authorized by the federal government and good news—it’s free!

“When considering your price point, start with the amount of rent you are paying now, not necessarily what the bank/mortgage company says they will loan you.”

You’ve probably heard people mention that you “have” to make a down payment of at least 20%, but today that is far from the truth. The National Association of REALTORS® conducted a study this past year showing that the median down payment for new home buyers was only 6%. While this percentage may not come as much of a shock when assuming what young homebuyers can afford, it may seem surprising that it is even possible to put down as little as 6%. Making a larger down payment is a completely viable option as long as you don’t entirely empty your savings or neglect factoring in additional expenses. Just because a loan program allows you to purchase a home with 0% down, that doesn’t mean it is the right financial choice for you. As Michael Nicholas, the director of U.S. Mortgage Sales and Service at BMO Harris Bank, says, “You don’t want to be house-rich and cash-poor—feeling comfortable and confident with the decision you make is the most important factor of all.”


As we touched on earlier, there are dozens of programs created solely for first-time homebuyers just like you. There is no need to put your dream of homeownership on the backburner for decades while you save up every penny. Depending on where you’re located, there are an abundance of programs that offer low down payment loans, closing cost assistance, and reduced interest rates. States all over the country are proud to be offering these plans. In addition, these programs hike up home sales which improves the economy in the long run. There are also federal programs to consider, such as an FHA loan, which is a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration that allows borrowers to make a down payment as little as 3.5%.


Although it seems like the most appealing and fun way to begin the homebuying process, shopping for a house before a mortgage is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. If you’re not clear on how much you can borrow, visiting properties will result in just that; a visit. To ensure you’re viewing homes that are in your price range, begin by reaching out to a mortgage professional and consider getting pre-approved for a loan. This will not only set you apart from other bidders, but give you ease when house hunting. Don’t tease yourself by jumping 10 steps ahead with a home that isn’t realistic for you.


Once you reach the home inspection step, that means you’re on the cusp of closing on your new home! There are just a couple more measures to take before closing your mortgage. To ensure you save as much money as possible, finding the perfect home inspector is crucial. A home inspection isn’t just a second or third viewing. The inspection is your chance to take a good hard look at the building and note any defects. Double checking your home inspector’s credentials will help avoid surprise repairs later that you’ll have to pay out of pocket as opposed to the former owners.

By taking all of these commonly encountered mishaps and tips into account, you’ll cruise through the homebuying process with comfort and ease. You don’t have to pinch pennies well into the future in order to turn your dreams of homeownership into a reality, you just have to enlighten yourself on the steps of purchasing a home and make financially responsible decisions along the way.

Don’t keep telling yourself tomorrow, when you can change your life today.

Supply of Inventory in New York Increases

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The weather in New York in February, which has been impressively cold, rainy and snowy, has impacted the residential real estate market throughout large portions of the U.S. for February 2019 by stalling some buying and selling actions. Nevertheless, housing markets have proven to be resilient despite predictions of a tougher year for the industry.

New Listings were down 4.1 percent to 13,562. Pending Sales decreased 1.5 percent to 8,915. Inventory grew 0.7 percent to 60,966 units. Prices moved higher as the Median Sales Price was up 9.8 percent to $280,000.

Days on Market decreased 2.3 percent to 85 days. Months Supply of Inventory was up 3.8 percent to 5.5 months.