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Peoria Group Offers Free Furnace Checks for Veterans

There are never enough ways to say “thank you” to veterans of the armed services, but the Illinois Valley Fuller Center for Housing is hoping it has found another way.

As the seasons are changing, many veterans are in homes that need critical repairs, especially to the heating system that will keep them warm throughout the winter.

That’s where the Fuller Center for Housing comes in.

As they do every year at this time since its inception in 2013, Fuller is offering free or discounted fall furnace safety checks for veterans and widows of veterans who register for them.

The safety checks could be as simple as checking for tight connections or making sure there is no faulty wiring.

“When they don’t have to spend a few hundred dollars to fix something that is a huge load off of their shoulders,” Joseph Milton, Vice President of Fritch Heating and Cooling who is doing the checks in partnership with Fuller told CBS-31 in Peoria. “It’s just not the ‘Oh my God, I hope this works every single year. I hope it comes on this year.’ That’s a huge load off of their shoulders.

“It feels amazing and you can’t thank that person enough. Every time you see a veteran, you should shake their hand. You should give them a high five. You should thank them, I don’t think we do that enough and hopefully what we’re doing through the Fuller Center is kind of like a virtual handshake.”

And that is the mission of the Fuller Center, which serves veterans in the Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford Tri-County area.

They partner with other companies and non-profits to help improve the existing housing stock, not just for the current homeowners, but even to help families who might have vacant properties.

“We are the only [organization] that focus solely on veterans,” Debbie Gaught, a member of the Board of Directors for the Fuller Center told CBS-31. “Now if someone is above our income guidelines, we’re not saying we won’t help that veteran, but they may pay for part of the materials. We do have a three-phase program, where there’s actually no fee, may pay half or they may pay all of it.”

And the Fuller Center doesn’t just stop at the furnace safety checks. They also offer a service for veterans and widows of veterans that assists with yard clean up during the fall, mostly raking and bagging leaves.

“It’s really not so much the gift of heat that we give people… it’s the gift of safety,” Milton said.

HOMES SALES IN BROWARD COUNTY CONTINUE TO RISE

No matter how you slice it, people still want to live in Broward County.

Home sales continue to rise, and they did again in the second quarter of 2019 according to data from the MIAMI Association of REALTORS® and the Multiple Listing Service systems.

Home sales in Broward increased by 2.7 percent from the second quarter of 2018.

Additionally, mid-market sales were on the rise in Broward County for all property types as single family homes that are priced between $250,000 and $600,000 increased by 7.2 percent while condominium sales, which overall were down from 2018, did see a 6.7 percent spike in sales in the price range between $150,000 and $400,000.

“We continue to see strong demand for Broward homes and insufficient supply, particularly in some cities,” said Broward-MIAMI Association of REALTORS® President Jonathan Keith in a press release. “In addition to local and foreign buyers, Broward is attracting an increased number of tax burdened [buyers], particularly since the new income tax law took effect.”

However, his high demand is creating a greater strain on the housing supply in Broward County and home prices are trending upward, meaning affordability will soon become an issue.

“We continue to see strong demand for Broward homes and insufficient supply, particularly in some cities.”

The median price for a single-family home in Broward County climbed to $365,000, which is 1.6 percent higher than it was a year ago and is about $100,000 more than the median price in the entire state of Florida. And despite sales on condominiums dipping overall, the median price for those also by more than three percent to $175,000.

This has created a seller’s market in Broward. Researchers use the amount of months of inventory available as a factor in determining whether the market favors buys, sellers or remains balanced.

A balanced market will usually have between six and nine months worth of inventory. At the second quarter sales pace, Broward County has 4.3 months of inventory for single family homes.

And there are markets where the demand is even hotter.

According to the data released by the Miami Association, the hottest neighborhoods for single-family home sales in Broward County are Pembroke Pines (2.8 months), Margate (2.6), Coral Springs (3.2), North Lauderdale (2.1) and West Park (2.9).

Coral Springs (3.3) is also on the hot list for condominiums along with Davie (3.6), Miramar (3.5), Oakland Park (2.9) and Tamarac (3.5).

Readers Agree – Document Your Home as a Disaster Precaution

Earlier this month, we suggested it was a good idea to document your belongings as a precaution to any kind of disaster.

We outlined six key steps you should follow to do this to help expedite your insurance claims.

The response to our story was overwhelmingly positive on Facebook with consumers just like you weighing in on the concept, whether it was to confirm this as a good idea, thank us for the reminder, or to share their success or horror stories related to protecting themselves in case of disaster.

“We have flood insurance, but you have to inventory and document prices for everything. I so wish we had done this. We have spent endless hours trying to remember what all we had and determining what the cost will be to replace.”

Patricia Fountain of Spokane, Wash. was the first to admit she had wished she had done these six steps prior to her unfortunate situation where she lost everything in a home fire.

“I have been through this,” she said. “It is not fun. It is long, tedious and frustrating, but you are required to do this for insurance purposes. Just remember to keep your list somewhere safe like a [safety] deposit box because you don’t want it in your house.”

While Fountain is 100 percent correct – keeping an itemized list is paramount and keeping it off site (or multiple places off site) is equally important, documenting should be more than just a list as was mentioned in the story and as Linda Tripp Fulenwider reminded everyone, video documentation is your best bet.

“Video every room and keep a copy in a safe outside your home in addition to itemizing your items,” she said. “Having receipts for the larger items is good as well… Jewelry boxes [also] need to be photographed along with the items in them.”

Susan Ann Thorpe-Miller shared a very sad story about an ordeal she went through following a house fire, explaining what it was like to go through the process without an inventory saved elsewhere. But she also advised getting replacement insurance on top of the regular insurance.

“Replacement is new, regular means the depreciated value depending how old it is,” she said.

In other words, most items through regular insurance will only bring you the return of the depreciated value of the item lost in the disaster. Whereas replacement insurance will bring back the actual value of the item to be replaced with a new version.

Marietta Dutil-Morin of Maryland said she updates all her documentation about once a decade, but also take photos of newer valuable items as she gets them.

In Marysville, Wash., Kathy Anderson called this process “absolutely essential” because it’s impossible to remember everything that might be lost.

“My parents home burned to the ground,” she said. “We remembered things we hadn’t listed – a year later.”

Marina Ruetten of Washington, D.C. suggested exchanging the info with other family members who live elsewhere as well – this is a good idea in case they need to come in and help rectify the disaster.

Meanwhile, Gail Abernathy Dickrell said she takes photos of everything that comes into her house and uploads them to the cloud for storage.

To be fair, there were also a lot of folks who weighed in calling this task too arduous saying things like it sounded like a logistical nightmare to document everything and that there’s no way everything can truly be documented.

And while there are a lot of us who feel that way – that maybe taking all the time and effort to document your belongings is a waste of time – there could come a day when you wish you weren’t so cavalier about it.

Cheryl Scism of Oklahoma said she wishes she had taken the time to do this before a devastating flood wiped out her entire neighborhood for more than a week.

“We have flood insurance, but you have to inventory and document prices for everything,” she said. “I so wish we had done this. We have spent endless hours trying to remember what all we had and determining what the cost will be to replace.

“Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.”

Prime Time: How Amazon is Impacting Home Prices in Northern Virginia

Amazon Headquarters in Northern Virginia may still be a couple of years away from being completed, but that doesn’t mean that its economic impact on the community hasn’t already started to take effect – especially in the housing market.

According to data from the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®, (NVAR) home sales are dropping precipitously and prices are rising exponentially as current homeowners are looking to cash in on the wave of new Amazon employees who will be looking for somewhere to live once the Crystal City headquarters will be opening their doors.

Competition Increases

The NVAR data show that in the cities of Arlington and Alexandria – now some of the most competitive housing markets in America – the number of home sales dropped 14.2 percent and 10.9 percent respectively from August 2018 to August 2019.

Yet, in that same 12-month time span, the median sale price of a home in Alexandria has increased 6.5 percent and in Arlington it has shot up 12.3 percent, and they don’t seem to be slowing down.

“We estimate that permits of an additional 1,800 to 3,000 single-family and 1,600 to 2,700 multifamily units will be needed each year for the next 10 years.”

The median home price in Arlington was $565,000 in August 2018, it spiked to $635,000 in August 2019, a $70,000 increase.

“While housing inventory is declining, there is not enough supply to meet the demand pushing up home prices,” said Nadia Evangelou, Senior Economist and Director of Forecasting for the National Association of REALTORS®.  “It seems that some sellers are opting to hold on to their homes and wait to benefit from the Amazon effect.”

While Amazon estimates to add 2,500 new jobs in the Washington, DC area annually during the next 10 years, demand is expected to increase further in both Arlington and Alexandria.

“We should bear in mind that whenever a new job is created, additional jobs may also be created via increased demand for local goods and services,” Evangelou said. “Assuming the size of the multiplier effect is between two and four additional jobs for each job that Amazon creates, then 7,500 to 12,500 new jobs are expected to be added in the Washington, DC area.

“As a result, we estimate that permits of an additional 1,800 to 3,000 single-family and 1,600 to 2,700 multifamily units will be needed each year for the next 10 years in the Washington, DC area in order to accommodate the higher demand.”

Rents Increase, Too

And it’s not just home prices that are seeing an increase.

According to a report by CBS News, rents are already starting to spike to a level that is chasing people further away from these communities located just across the river from downtown Washington D.C.

“We’re seeing increases in monthly rents of $100 to $150 a month. That’s forcing a lot of people to leave their communities,” Danny Cendejas, an organizer with the local social-justice group La ColectiVA told CBS News. “In the past three months alone, there have been six or seven families who have moved out to parts like Maryland or suburbs in Prince William county.”

Affordable housing is already an issue in Northern Virginia, and with Amazon coming in, it’s only going to become a bigger problem.

Cities like Alexandria and Arlington have pledged to put $150 million into affordable housing over the course of the next 10 years, more than five times the amount pitched to Amazon as an incentive to come to Northern Virginia following a local government vote.

In Alexandria, a vote to change zoning laws passed that allows for smaller homes, usually described as in-law quarters, to be built on existing properties to try and create more availability.

“Alexandria and Arlington have pledged to put $150 million into affordable housing over the course of the next 10 years.”

Yet, despite the financial commitment and the zoning changes, this might not be enough.

Amazon’s main headquarters are in Seattle and that city’s issues with housing affordability and availability should be seen as a harbinger of things to come for Northern Virginia.

Sales prices in Seattle have doubled in the past decade. The city also faces housing density and affordability concerns. Not to mention, quality of life has taken a hit in Seattle as traffic has become a headache and public transit is in need of expansion.

The Washington D.C. area is even more compact and congested and will have to address these issues in advance of Amazon opening its doors or run the risk of becoming a place that most people can’t afford to live.

Oregon Takes Steps to Improve Housing Availability

Minneapolis started a trend to try and improve housing availability, and now the state of Oregon is trying to make that trend viral.

In August, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a variety of bills into law that are designed to fix the state’s housing crunch.

In doing so, Oregon became the first state in the nation to require cities with a population of at least 10,000 residents to eliminate single-family zoning.

In short, this means developers in these cities can either build new construction or redevelop existing homes into duplexes – or larger.

“This session, we committed to significant investments that will help every Oregon family have a warm, safe, and dry place to call home,” Brown said in a statement, according to REALTOR® Magazine. “No one single solution will address our housing crisis, and this legislation tackles the whole spectrum of issues, from homelessness to stable rental housing to increasing homeownership.”

The city of Minneapolis started this movement, passing city-wide legislation in 2018 that eliminated single-family zoning.

The Oregon housing crisis was a marquee issue during the 2018 elections, and Brown and the legislature were tasked with finding solutions and doing so quickly.

“Supporters of zoning reform champion the notion that smaller homes — or breaking up a single-family home to create multiple units — helps to make housing more affordable in more pricey communities.”

Aside from eliminating single-family zoning, the state also passed legislation that limits rent increases and puts an end to no-cause evictions.

There have been many debates in other corners of the country as to whether these concepts are ultimately beneficial, but in Oregon, the plan seems to be to try everything and see what works and what doesn’t.

“Our crisis is so severe in this state, you have to do everything,” Tina Kotek, speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s that problematic out there for folks. We just came in and said, ’We’re going to do it all.’

“In Portland, we’re just trying not to become San Francisco.”

San Francisco, among many California cities, is facing an even greater housing crisis with the some of the highest median home prices in the country as well as a dearth of housing options, making both affordability and availability as hard to find as the Holy Grail.

Population-wise, you can fit 10 Oregons inside of California. Right now, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, the median home value in Oregon is far more affordable ($343,500) than in California ($546,800).

But that doesn’t mean Oregon doesn’t feel the same housing pinch. Oregon is a burgeoning state when it comes to job growth and although the pace of new home construction in Portland is better than each of California’s biggest cities, it’s still struggling to keep up with the demand.

While this seems like a good first step, the notion of ending single-family zoning does have its detractors.

“Making some sprawling communities more-dense could negatively impact quality-of-life, especially when it comes to traffic and noise.”

The chief complaint is how building duplexes, triplexes and even fourplexes in certain neighborhoods will simply change the fabric of those communities without any mandate on affordability.

Additionally, making some sprawling communities more-dense could negatively impact quality-of-life, especially when it comes to traffic and noise, and add additional burdens onto already stretched-thin city services.

But supporters of zoning reform champion the notion that smaller homes or breaking up a single-family home to create multiple units helps to make housing more affordable in more pricey communities.

It also could finally tackle the racial and economic issues that were borne into single-family home communities nearly a century ago.

“By simply allowing for — not requiring — townhomes and triplexes to be built on existing lands in the City of Portland, the policy can accommodate 1 out of every 7 new Portland area households in the coming decade,” Oregon State economist John Lehner wrote in a blog post last December. “That is a big finding.”

Rise of the Disaster Investor

Hurricanes. Tornados. Floods. Wildfires. They drastically alter the lives of thousands of property owners. The destruction they cause is onerous. Those affected are often overwhelmed as they have to pick up the pieces.

And then there are those who look to profit off this misfortune.

Some might call these opportunists exploitive. Some might call them vultures. And while they would rather be called “disaster investors,” despite the negative reputation they may have, these people feel like they are helping communities that were damaged by these natural disasters.

“Uninsured property owners who are victims of these disasters almost always are forced to sell because the cost to rebuild is too exorbitant.”

First off, they are assuming all financial risk by buying up damaged or destroyed property. There’s no guarantee they could salvage a property or even flip a lot if everything that was pre-existing had to be razed.

To be fair to them, once they do invest in these properties, the money they are putting into the properties do help rebuild communities, especially when many other lenders or developers shy away from the risk.

And if it seems these investors are coming out of the woodwork, they are.

Natural Disasters have spiked in recent years. According to the Wall Street Journal, data culled from the National Centers for Environmental Information, the top four years since 1980 that had more than $1 billion in damage caused by natural disasters were 2017, 2011, 2016 and 2018.

A majority of these disasters happen in the same geographic locations in the U.S. – Across the Southeast and in California. Not coincidentally, these areas tend to have dense populations and the home prices are rising quickly.

“In 2017, a wildfire ravaged Santa Rosa, Calif. to the tune of $1.2 billion in economic damage. Yet, in the five months after the fire, home sales in Santa Rosa spiked by 17 percent.”

Uninsured property owners who are victims of these disasters almost always are forced to sell because the cost to rebuild is too exorbitant.

Even those who have insurance often choose to sell rather than rebuild.

And that’s when the disaster investors swoop in – and it looks like they may be helping.

According to the Wall Street Journal property sales in some areas affected by natural disasters went up in the months following the devastation.

In 2017, a wildfire ravaged Santa Rosa, Calif. to the tune of $1.2 billion in economic damage. Yet, in the five months after the fire, home sales in Santa Rosa spiked by 17 percent. The Wall Street Journal also indicated that places impacted by Hurricane Michael in 2018 – like Panama City, Fla., have also seen increases in home sales.

Additionally, the report indicated that that sales are up in commercial property sales.

Many of these disaster investors are also the same folks who benefited on home foreclosures a decade ago during the subprime mortgage crisis – which is another reason people are reluctant to trust them.

There are people who believe these disaster investors take advantage of the vulnerable, make lowball offers and then once they’ve dug their claws into the community, change the character of it by attracting outsiders through building bigger on those properties.

But these investors aren’t going away. In fact, there are more now than ever before. With the concerning increase in frequency of these natural disasters this decade – and an expectation that there may be even more in the future — anti-disaster investor folks are likely going to have to accept this kind of property transaction as the norm, not just a trend.

Sedona Adjusts to Influx of Short-Term Rental Boom

In 2016, the Arizona legislature passed a bill that was described as an opportunity for property owners to rent out space in their home to make a little extra money.

That bit of legislation, known as the “AirBnB Bill,” was signed into law by Gov. Dave Ducey.

In the three years since, touristy areas like Sedona, have now reached a crossroads.

Property owners should have a right to use their property as they see fit, even if that includes renting part or all of it out. However, without some sort of local regulation, there’s a chance it could impact the community negatively – by reducing the affordability of homes as well as the availability of homes to be purchased.

After the law passed, Sedona saw an influx of new property owners who saw the law as an opportunity to make good money.

“The debate over if this is a good or bad thing rages on – and likely will for some time, especially in cities like Sedona – where vacationers are attracted from far and wide.”

Instead of full-time residents renting out rooms or their homes for short periods of time, Sedona saw and increase in investors buying properties and renting them out year-round.

In some instances, investors are buying up land and building homes specifically to rent them out short-term for tourists.

The debate over if this is a good or bad thing rages on – and likely will for some time, especially in cities like Sedona – where vacationers are attracted from far and wide.

Some will argue that the government shouldn’t impede on an individual’s property rights and that a property owner can use their property however they see fit.

Others will say that an influx of short-term rentals negatively impacts neighborhoods, making them more transient and in turn, less safe when you never know who is coming or going, and that it also has other impacts on safety and quality of life.

There is also an argument that rising home prices may be related on some scale to the influx of short-term rentals.

It’s an argument that is sweeping the nation and has been as more social media sites like AirBnB, VRBO and HomeAway continue to flourish.

There are passionate individuals on both sides of the argument, and both have very valid arguments, which makes the issue so thorny.

Some have suggested that giving cities some local control back in the form of stricter regulations on parking, trash, noise and even limiting party houses is the happy medium, and while those types of ordinances do exist in a lot of places in Arizona, there is still a debate as to their effectiveness.

Recently, Arizona stare Rep. Bob Thorpe, of Flagstaff, held a town hall meeting and was met by more than 150 people who wanted to discuss this issue, either supporting the right to rent your home on a repeated, short-term basis, or those vehemently opposing the notion.

“The Arizona Republic reported last January that approximately 20 percent of Sedona’s total housing stock were vacation rentals.”

Thorpe heard it all, from property owners who said having the luxury of having short-term rentals is allowing them to pay their mortgages, to long-term renters who fear that they won’t be offered new leases on their homes because the short-term rental market is more lucrative for landlords, to teachers who can’t afford to stay at their schools because they don’t make enough money to live close to the schools in which they teach. A whopping 20 percent of teachers who were hired for the 2019-2020 school year resigned from their positions after being unable to find affordable housing in the area, according to data from the Sedona-Oak Creek Unified School District School Board.

At the end of the meeting, Thorpe insisted he was going to propose legislation in January, when the House next convenes, to address issues that have cropped up over the course of the past three years.

“We never anticipated that somebody would go into a neighborhood, purchase a home and turn it into a mini-hotel,” Thorpe said at the meeting, according to USA Today.

The Arizona Republic reported last January that approximately 20 percent of Sedona’s total housing stock were vacation rentals.

Meanwhile, the median cost of a home in Sedona is now $562,000, about $44,000 higher than it was at the same time last year. With the median income for a family of four in Sedona is $56,000, affordability is already a problem, and some argue that an influx of short-term rentals doesn’t help to reduce that gap.

However, there is a group that has managed to limit or outright stop short-term rentals and they are Home Owner Associations (HOA) in Arizona.

The 2016 law only specified cities and municipalities when it came to regulatory controls, as such, HOA’s have relied on their own set of rules (Covenants, Conditions and Restricts) to limit or prevent homeowners from renting short-term.

Central Ohio a Hot Market for Houses and Condos

It wasn’t just the temperature that was heating up near Columbus this summer. That’s because Central Ohio continues to be a hotbed market for homes and condos.

In July, the median price of a home in the Columbus-area was $220,000, an all-time high in Central Ohio, according to Columbus REALTORS®. Additionally, it was an increase 7.3 percent from July of 2018 and a whopping $50,000 more than the median price of $170,000 in July, 2015.

And there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

That’s because even though the prices continue to climb at breakneck speed, the demand for homes in the area still exceeds the need.

Home Sales

 There were 3,334 home sales in Central Ohio in July, a 3.9 percent uptick from 2018.

Of those sales, 500 were condominiums.

“The new condo guidelines released by HUD (in August) could help would-be buyers become eligible for an FHA-backed mortgage,” John Myers, 2019 President of Columbus REALTORS®, said in a press release. “Condos are often the most affordable, attractive option for first time home buyers.

“These new rules have the potential to transform our housing market and regional economy, easing affordability constraints, maximizing first-time homebuyer assistance programs and putting homeownership in reach for countless families that would have continued to be denied this critical wealth building opportunity.”

The average sales price in July was $251,936, up 5.6 percent from a year ago.

So far in 2019, the median sale price of $210,900 is up 8.2 percent and the average sales price of $242,899 is up 6.2 percent and the from the same period one year ago.

“Even though homes are selling for higher prices due to the lack of inventory and strong demand, sellers need to be realistic when pricing their home,” added Myers. “Homes priced too high over their competition will usually sit on the market longer which can be a deterrent to would-be buyers.”

The consistent demand for homes in Central Ohio has made Columbus one of the hottest housing markets in July.

“Falling mortgage rates are improving housing affordability and nudging buyers into the market,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of REALTORS® told the Columbus Dispatch.

Minnesota Tackles Housing Affordability

Housing Affordability and availability are a growing problem all across America, including in Minnesota.

As such, the Minnesota Senate established a select committee on this very matter and the Legislature created the Legislative Commission on Housing Affordability during the 2019 session.

As part of the creation of this important committee, the Senate asked the Minnesota REALTORS® to present a general market overview at the first hearing, which took place in August.

At the meeting, the REALTORS® presented data that showed that across the state home prices are on the rise and with wages stagnating, these homes were becoming less and less affordable.

“Several factors affect the housing supply, including multiple generations competing for homes at the same price point. Additionally, developers are having a more difficult time building new housing at the same price point.”

In addition, they showed that the availability of these homes – especially the homes that are less than $300,000 – has been on a steady decline across the state for the past seven years.

“This is a distressing moment for our housing market and many experts agree on a common solution – we need to build more homes for first-time, workforce, and move-down buyers,” said Chris Galler, CEO of Minnesota REALTORS®, “In the metro, this means homes under $325,000.”

The big takeaways the REALTORS® were hoping to leave the committee with is that the median income is not rising at the same rate as housing prices, which means fewer people are able to afford to buy homes in Minnesota.

Several factors affect the housing supply, including multiple generations competing for homes at the same price point. Additionally, developers are having a more difficult time building new housing at the same price point.

People are actually living in their homes longer than they used to, which reduces the housing stock available for sale.

Couple these issues with other strains on finances, such as student loan debt, childcare costs and slow-to-grow wages, data trends indicate this gap in affordable housing will continue to grow.

Home sales in June were down 1.2 percent from June, 2018 in metro areas and down 1.6 percent across the entire state. And while that may seem like a small dip, they are down 7 percent from 2017 in Metro areas and 6.7 percent statewide.

The median home price in Metro areas has increased to $280,000 – a 5.7 percent spike since June of 2018 and a 14 percent increase since June of 2017. State wide the median price is a bit lower at $252,500, but that’s still 5.5 percent higher than 2018 and a 14.3 percent higher than 2017.

That data highlights why the REALTORS® involvement with the select committee is an important one. Legislators need to be reminded that this is more than just a problem in bigger cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul, and that it is impacting the entire state of Minnesota.

The REALTORS® stance is definitely pro-homeowner, or potential homeowner, as they believe homeownership builds vibrant neighborhoods, helps secure wealth, and creates an environment that is conducive to all residents – professionals down to students – the opportunity to succeed.