Archives

Sioux Empire Housing Market Update

Interactive

Note: These are interactive charts. Hover over values.

Closed sales of homes in Sioux Falls, South Dakota decreased by 0.8% compared to the same month last year.

Housing affordability has increased by 8.3% year-over-year.

The months supply of Sioux Falls homes for sale decreased 39.6% since June of last year.

See the latest report from the REALTOR® Association of the Sioux Empire, Inc.

What Happens If You Can’t Afford Your Home Insurance Payment?

The coronavirus (COVID-19) lock-down has caused many homeowners to reevaluate where their money is going and to look for ways to cut unnecessary costs. Even though making your homeowner’s insurance payment may not feel like a priority when there is a long list of pressing budget concerns, canceling or defaulting on your property insurance can leave you open to major financial trouble should you be sued or your home or your property becomes damaged.

What typically happens if you miss a home insurance payment?

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, a missed insurance payment would usually spur a reminder sent out a few days after the due date. If you paid late, but within the standard 30-day grace period, you’d likely be hit with a late fee, but you wouldn’t see any lapse in your coverage. That said, missing a payment could still cause insurance premiums to rise. Missing more than one could even result in a loss of coverage, and a bill may even be sent to a collections agency.

How insurance companies changed their response to late payments during the pandemic.

Recognizing the unique circumstances surrounding COVID-19, insurance companies across the country are being urged by state insurance departments to lighten up on penalties for late payments, offer flexible payment plans, hold off on cancellations for nonpayment, and extend their grace periods for missed payments.

  • Pennsylvania: Among other concessions, Pennsylvania is urging insurers to extend their grace period for missed or late payments. The Insurance Commissioner, Jessica Altman, is instructing insurers to only cancel or non-renew policies when they’ve tried extensively and failed to work with the policyholders.
  • North Dakota: The Insurance Department of North Dakota Commissioner, Jon Godfread, issued guidance for insurers to provide relief to policyholders by extending premium payment deadlines and extending premium payment grace periods.
  • Indiana: The Indiana Department of Insurance issued a moratorium on policy cancellations and non-renewals for policyholders statewide. This moratorium allows a grace period of 60-days for missed premium payments.

While these efforts will buy you more time to pay your insurance, it is not a forgiveness program and all late or missed payments will eventually need to be paid in full. To find out if your insurer is offering similar relief, contact your insurance company or your state insurance department.

What else has changed for current policyholders during the pandemic?

The short answer is, not too much. You can still file claims during the coronavirus. In typical times filing a claim would mean an adjuster would come to your home to document the damage. However, due to social distancing protocols, your insurer may rely more heavily on photos and videos to support your claim.

If you’ve recently moved your business to your home, you may want to consider expanding your coverage to include a home business coverage endorsement. This additional coverage will protect any business equipment you have in your home.

What’s changed for first-time homebuyers in need of homeowner’s insurance during COVID-19?

The process of obtaining homeowners insurance for first-time homebuyers has changed very little in response to the pandemic. Lenders are still requiring homeowners insurance and, in typical times, a first-time homebuyer would begin shopping around from insurance at least 30 days before closing. You would get a quote, decide on the amount you want to be insured (it’s advisable to insure your home for what it would cost to rebuild it), and pull the trigger. This process remains unchanged.

However, first-time homebuyers are being offered the same payment solutions as current policyholders. Meaning extended grace periods and payment plans should be an option if you’re unable to pay your premium. You should be upfront with your insurance company if you anticipate you won’t be able to keep up with payments on time and ask what relief they are offering during the coronavirus.

Don’t let your insurance lapse because you’re short on funds. Reach out to your insurer early to see what kind of payment solutions are being offered in your state.

Indiana Tenants Are at Risk for Eviction Despite Moratorium

As the world faces a plethora of financial concerns with the pandemic forcing businesses to close their doors — both temporarily and permanently — impending bills are causing stress amongst renters. Many states are putting a halt on evictions, but Indiana, unfortunately, will not be one of those states for much longer. Governor Eric Holcomb issued a moratorium on March 19 banning evictions, although it was scheduled to expire on May 5. The expiration day has since been extended, but a new June 30th expiration date hasn’t solved the anxious nerves of renters. Advocates for both landlords and low-income tenants are expressing that renters require additional help, and that is clearly the case.

The moratorium

The comfort of temporary rental protection is just that — temporary. The federal government has also issued a moratorium included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that forbids evictions for renters living in homes covered by a federal mortgage, although not every home falls under that umbrella and, even those that do, can still count on a July 25th expiration date on that moratorium.

These suspensions are extremely helpful, of course, but more can certainly be done to aid residents. With nearly 40% of low-income households having lost their jobs, the U.S. hasn’t experienced unemployment levels of this nature since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Those struggling financially who have recently filed for unemployment – more than 36 million people – can’t come back from even one missed rental payment. There is no certainty that those citizens will be back at work come mid-summer, so how will they afford to pay their rent without a job once that eviction ban expires?

Prior to receiving the federal government’s stimulus money, only 69% of tenants paid any of their rent by April 5th. and after Americans began receiving their $1,200 stimulus checks, that percentage increased to 84%. That one-time check won’t do much for renters down the road, especially considering Gov. Holcomb’s moratorium doesn’t forgive their agreement to pay rent, which can easily be misinterpreted by renters. Once the moratorium ceases, this will result in a lump sum of debt for approximately 200,000 low-income households who need short-term rental assistance.

Organizations are taking note and developing initiatives to help protect renters. The Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition, for example, recently formed to assist in sourcing better protection against eviction for renters during the pandemic. This group’s first stride is to get the state to designate one official to handle correlating issues and lead the way when it comes to informing the public of their resources. The Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition specifically recommends this appointed official sets up a “hardest-hit fund” for renters and puts together a website for citizens to apply for emergency rental assistance. Another advocate, and executive director of Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, Amy Nelson, conveys how crucial it is to be gung ho “…so that we can try and stave off an eviction pandemic that might be coming when the moratorium is eventually lifted.” It may come as a surprise to some to hear that Indiana has some of the highest eviction rates in the U.S., so it is imperative that the state supports a fair reaction to the worldwide pandemic and assists their loyal Hoosiers as much as possible.

“If nothing else changes and evictions continue as normal, then this public health crisis will turn into a full-blown homelessness crisis.”

 Even with the governor’s halt on evictions, some citizens have still received threats and eviction notices due to loopholes that some landlords have uncovered. As Garvin Senn, Vanderburgh County Legal Aid Society Attorney, tells 44 News, three renters have reached out to him in just the past few weeks to inform him that their landlord had turned off their water in hopes to push them to move out. Matthew Desmond, a professor of sociology at Princeton University, runs The Eviction Lab which has been tracking the various eviction statuses across the U.S. and assesses each state’s ability to prevent homelessness. Indiana’s outlook is not so good, scoring less than 1 out of 5 stars on Desmond’s scale. “If nothing else changes and evictions continue as normal, then this public health crisis will turn into a full-blown homelessness crisis,” he says.

Army veteran T.J. Shuck is baffled by his landlord’s complete disregard for Gov. Eric Holcomb’s eviction ban. After only missing two weeks of payments, a total of $440, Shuck began receiving threatening messages almost daily from REW Investments informing him that he would be evicted if rent wasn’t paid in two days. The taunting messages continued, yet he never received a tangible eviction notice, only a photo of an apparent official eviction complaint registered in Clinton County Superior Court which ordered him to show up to Small Claims Court for an eviction hearing, despite the governor’s order prohibiting landlords from initiating court proceedings to boot their tenants.

So, the question is how are landlords getting away with this? They’re not. They’re simply scaring tenants.

To no one’s awe, what Shuck is experiencing, along with a slew of other renters in Indiana, is likely illegal. Statewide order aside, any filing involves a long process. “Even when there is a filing, it’s not an immediate thing. The courts will have to accept a filing, process it and set a court date because tenants have protected due process rights,” explains Brandon Beeler, the director of the Housing Law Center at Indiana Legal Services. It is clear that some landlords are skirting around even the standard eviction procedures due to desperation. The Clinton County Sheriff, Rich Kelly, explains that no actual civil paperwork is allowed to be served by the sheriff’s department until the governor removes the eviction ban, but many residents would naturally be jarred and frightened to receive numerous messages and they would have no reason to believe those threats are false. As Shuck says, “Not knowing whether you’re about to be kicked out on the street with your kids is really stressful. What we’re going to do if that happens, I have no idea.”

Impact on Landlords

The issue does reach both sides of the dilemma, as some more independent landlords rely on each and every rental payment in order to survive. As a local landlord, Arnold Epstein, shares, “I don’t have a pension. I need the rent. I have a disabled adult son. I have to pay his housing, his medical issues, I need money to support him.” It’s a difficult situation, as the moratorium does not mean that tenants don’t need to pay rent – they just cannot be evicted. Considering the estimated 43,000 Indiana residents that are becoming low-income renters due to COVID-19, they simply cannot afford their rent.

If a tenant is experiencing threats of eviction, Indiana Legal Services suggest they contact the Attorney General’s office and file a complaint. Concerned renters can also contact the Indianapolis Tenant Hotline to receive legal information regarding tenant’s rights and quick access to legal aid if necessary. As Beeler tells IBJ, “I don’t really believe that any landlord really wants to file to evict tenants from properties. I don’t think anyone wants to do that. Work with your landlord early, be transparent about your situation, and try to get a plan in place.” Speaking with your landlord is an excellent first step, as some landlords are able to waive rent for tenants.

This is definitely a time to come together as a community and do whatever we can to assist others in making it safely through this pandemic. A spike in eviction cases will only further damage the economy, so it is in everyone’s best interest to fight to help these citizens. As Sheriff Rich Kelly asserts in regards to the extensive steps tenants have to take if they fear being evicted, “To be honest, nobody should have to deal with that right now. It’s not a good thing for families to be dealing with that. People just need to have some patience and some compassion right now.”

Chattanooga Housing Market Update

Interactive

Note: These are interactive charts. Hover over values.

The median sales price of homes in Chattanooga increased 7.8% since May of last year.

This month, the number of homes sold in Chattanooga decreased by 24.1% year-over-year.

Homes in Chattanooga spent an average of 49 days on the market in May 2020, down 4.7% since the same month last year.

Data provided by Greater Chattanooga REALTORS®.

Miami Housing Market Update

Interactive

Note: These are interactive charts. Hover over values.

The median sales price of a single-family Miami home rose 4.4% compared to May 2019.

The townhome and condominium median sales price increased by 7% year-over-year.

The number of active listings of Miami single-family homes decreased 16.2% compared to the same month last year.

Read more: “South Florida Market Stats,” from Miami REALTORS®.

COVID-19 Related Scams Are Surging—Protect Yourself with These Tips

With the worldwide pandemic, there is enough to worry about in regards to our safety and livelihood — the last thing individuals and communities need to be concerned about are scammers trying to con their way into lives and wallets using the fear of the coronavirus as their “in”.

Fortunately, there are plenty of precautions that can be taken to stay physically safe such as staying home when possible and washing your hands, but what about the precautions to stay safe financially and in turn, mentally? Preventative measures such as avoiding online offers for vaccinations, being wary of ads for test kits, and not handing out any personal information via phone or internet are great steps to keep yourself secure from online scammers.

As everyone is spending much more time online, in both personal and professional capacities, various scams are surging amongst communities. These scams are taking advantage of individuals’ and families’ concerns, worries, and desperation. These cons are not only affecting personal lives but companies’ viability as well, as scammers are exploiting those who let their guard down.

We’ve compiled some of the most prominent scams you may come across and identified tools to help you avoid them:

1. Fraudulent Coronavirus Insurance

As scammers begin to see the height of concern for those with financial and medical woes on the brain, they will try calling households claiming to be health insurance agents selling affordable insurance to cover coronavirus “treatment.” Anyone offering a health policy that has a coverage provision is likely a scam, so hang up on any similar call from an automated message and avoid sharing any personal information over the phone or by email.

2. Canceling Health Insurance

In addition to robocalls regarding coronavirus “coverage,” you may receive a phony telephone call claiming that your current health plan was canceled, in efforts to stir up concern. This will likely be followed up with a toll-free number to call in order to “fix” the error, or if this communication is via the internet, a spam link will be provided that installs malware, so avoid this at all costs.

3. Fake Travel Insurance

 Many people must travel during these uneasy times, whether it is to relocate somewhere safer to shelter in place or to care for families and friends in need. Be vigilant when it comes to pitches for travel insurance that claim to cover COVID-19 affiliated trip cancellations. As Cory Sobczyk, the vice president for business development at Arch RoamRight, says, “Most travel insurance plans don’t offer coverage for pandemics like the coronavirus,” so look into what your policy does and does not cover, as companies may try to be vague to mislead you.

4. Coronavirus Tests and Medicine

It’s widely known that there is no vaccine nor cure for COVID-19 just yet, so any message received regarding vaccines, drugs, or medicines that are “insured and paid for” by your health policy are false and should be disregarded. It is only natural to be tempted by promises of cures or preventative measures during this time, although considering this is the first time this virus has been seen in humans, there are no existing vaccines or drugs to treat COVID-19 that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While the FDA is working with manufacturers around the clock to develop new vaccines, it will likely take at least 18 months for a vaccine to be ready, according to Annelies Wilder-Smith, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and that is with no hiccups. Not only will these fraudulent products rob you of your money, but they could lead to life-threatening harm.

5. Hacking into Video Chats

As so many employees are now working from home, video conferences are becoming the norm for meetings and check-ins for companies, as well as a platform for socializing during after-work hours. Cybercriminals have managed to edge their way into popular video conference software such as Zoom and Skype. By hacking into private video chats, hackers can leverage the screen-share feature to retrieve private information and/or display inappropriate content that boots attendees off the chat. While there is only so much one can do to steer clear of video hackers, being diligent to keep call dial-ins and video chat links private will help avoid the potential risk. If the content of your meeting is sensitive, Zoom now has a Waiting Room feature which prevents anyone from entering the chat until the host is ready.

6. Fake Charities

With the abundance of people diagnosed with COVID-19, struggling to make ends meet while balancing finances and uncertainty, there are many incredible citizens and organizations coming together to create fundraisers through platforms such as GoFundMe. Unfortunately, with each genuine fundraiser comes fake pages that are created by scammers in hopes to con you out of your money. A foolproof way to avoid these imposter pages is to verify any links sent to you before sending any donations and be sure not to donate in cash, gift card, or by wiring money. If you come across a campaign or page on the popular website GoFundMe that appears blatantly fake, you can report it to their team. It’s also a good idea to keep your guard up with any requests seeking coronavirus related donations. If you are looking to help those in need, do some research and try to find a reputable organization that you can address your check to.

The best way to avoid these various scams is to simply never hand out personal information and avoid clicking any links from unknown people or spoof email addresses. Of course, there are situations where personal information is imperative to be provided a necessary service, so prior to doing so just be sure you’re chatting with an esteemed company and do the appropriate research. There are cybersecurity basics to keep in mind such as keeping your security software up to date, setting strong (and different) passwords for each of your devices and programs, and keeping your electronics nearby and never unattended in a public place.

In the end, you have control over the information you share with others.”

Some more actions to take to keep yourself and your finances safe are to secure your home network by turning on encryption, safely storing sensitive files and information, and securely disposing of sensitive files and information. Another quick beneficial authentication subset is enabling 2-step verification, which will double your security measures and further protect you from any phishing attempts by allowing you to authenticate logins from another device.

As for securing your network, encrypting your internet traffic allows you to hide your browsing data on the web which includes personal information and auto-saved passwords. By encrypting your network traffic, any online activity will be concealed from ad tracking systems, your Internet Service Provider (ISP), and the government, making it much more difficult for hackers to gain access to your information. Many people aren’t aware that as of 2017, Internet Service Providers in the U.S. are permitted to sell their customer’s browsing patterns to advertisers so they can help tailor their targeted advertising to specific browsers. The knowledge that your searching habits are being sold certainly brings up a sense of discomfort, and with the awareness of various cyber scammers taking advantage of the pandemic, encrypting your internet connection is the safest option to keep your information private.

When it comes to your sensitive files, destroying them isn’t always an option. Even if it is, there are very specific ways to go about it to ensure they don’t end up in the hands of anyone else. If you have tangible confidential material that needs to be transferred to your office, for example, be sure to keep it in a locked drawer or safe beforehand. As for electronic data, you can send your documents using an encrypted file-sharing service such as pCloud, Enigmail, or LastPass. When the time comes to destroy important data, whatever you do, do not just toss it in the trash. Confidential information should always be shredded with a micro-cut shredder and it is advised to triple-check that data has been wiped using Department of Defense (DoD)-compliant software on your computer and/or hard drive rather than just sitting in a virtual trash can waiting to be recovered.

If you’re an employee working from home and are worried about private information that belongs to your company being leaked, simply follow the protocols that your employer has implemented. By pursuing your employer’s security practices as well as these tips, you can feel comfortable protecting your company’s confidential data as well as your own.

In the end, you have control over the information you share with others. You can protect yourself against online scammers exploiting the coronavirus pandemic for their own benefit by taking the time to look over any shared links prior to clicking on them, and avoid posting any important information in any public forums of any kind.

New Resources for Homeowners Facing Financial Hardship

The impacts of COVID-19 were swift and unexpected, leaving many people in a financial emergency. If you are struggling to pay your mortgage or expect that you will have trouble in the coming months with your credit rating, seek help, now.

Having Trouble Paying Your Mortgage?

A new guide from NAR called Protect Your Investment is designed to assist homeowners impacted by COVID-19. Protect Your Investment offers guidance on working with trusted professionals like REALTORS® and housing counselors at HUD-approved agencies. The guide also provides information about payment options offered by lenders and tips for avoiding scams.

If you are concerned about meeting your mortgage obligations, don’t wait until you fall behind. Acting quickly may help you keep your home and the money you have already invested into it.

Concerned About Your Credit?

Are you concerned about how a financial hardship due to COVID-19 may affect your credit? A another new guide from NAR, Protect Your Credit, can help. It outlines the provisions to protect consumers’ credit scores under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

 The guide also explains how consumers can obtain a free credit report and what steps to take if you find inaccuracies on the report. Protect Your Credit is the perfect companion piece to Protect Your Investment, which offers guidance to homeowners struggling to meet their mortgage obligations due to COVID-10.

If you are facing a financial hardship, take steps now to learn about your rights and how you can work with your creditors.


See also: “Covid-19 and your credit score: Worry about it later,” from The Washington Post.