Real Estate, Community News & More from My Desk to Yours

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

U.S. High School Graduation Rate Hits Historic High

The U.S. high school graduation rate has reached 80 percent for the first time ever and is on track to reach a long-sought goal of 90 percent by 2020, according to newly released federal data and a report from a coalition of groups focused on boosting graduation rates.

Education leaders hailed the ten-percent increase over the last decade as marked progress and highlighted particularly strong gains among minority students, but they also noted the disparities that exist between states and persistently lower graduation rates in the nation’s major cities.

“Fundamentally, public schools were invented as tools of equity and opportunity, regardless of place of birth,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at an event hosted by Building a GradNation, a group of organizations dedicated to raising graduation rates. “However, today opportunity is in no way equally distributed across the country.”

Read more at Governing.com . . .

Rising Contracts to Buy US Homes


More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in March, the first increase since June and a sign that the housing market might pick up after a sluggish start to the year.
The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 3.4 percent to 97.4 last month. Still, the index remains 7.9 percent below its level a year ago.
Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases: A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a signed contract and a completed sale.
The gain partly reflects a recovery from the harsh winter. Snowstorms and freezing temperatures kept many potential buyers away from open houses in January and February.

Read more at U.S. News & World Report . . .

Florida Housing Market Prices up in March

The Sunshine State's housing market continued to do well in March, with higher median prices, more new listings and a stable level of inventory, according to the latest data available from Florida Realtors.
The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $173,000 in March, up 7.1 percent from the previous year, and up nearly 5 percent from February. The statewide median price for townhouse-condo properties in March was $140,000, up 16.7 percent from the year-ago period, and up 5.6 percent from February.
Read more . . .

Why Are There More Homes For Sale?

LOS ANGELES – April 28, 2014 – Low inventories plague housing markets across the country. It's giving buyers limited options and sparking more bidding wars, though with sale prices rising, inventory seems to be growing a bit.

However, many current homeowners can't or won't sell, with some estimates suggesting that more than half of all existing homes are unlikely to be put on the market anytime soon. An analysis by Redfin looked at transactions across 29 metro areas for single-family homes, condos, and townhomes, as well as mortgages and refinances, since 1999.

Researchers identified a number of event keeping homes from going on the market:



1. Low equity: An estimated 19 percent of homeowners owe more than 80 percent of the value on the home. Many of these low-equity homes were purchased or refinanced during the housing bubble between 2004 and 2009, though the analysts estimate that nearly all will be in the black over the next five years.

2. Low mortgage rate: An estimated 16 percent of homeowners won't sell quickly because they purchased or refinanced with an extraordinarily low mortgage interest rate – and they won't get that kind of deal again if they move. (In Redfin's analysis, a low mortgage interest rate was considered below 4.25 percent.)

3. Purchased or refinanced in the past seven years: Homes owned less than seven years tend not to sell, according to the analysts, because short-term ownership raises a red flag in the eyes of many buyers, as they wonder why the owner wants to move on so quickly.

4. Company or investor owned: A company or investors owns about 3 percent of homes, defined as an entity that bought five or more homes in a metro area during the past 10 years. "These investors are likely holding on to their investment for the capital appreciation and rental income," the Redfin study says.

5. Ex-owner ownership: Fewer buyers actually sell their old home – many hold onto it as a rental investment property. A Redfin survey of 1,900 prospective homebuyers found that 39 percent said they would rent out the old residence. The percentage was even higher in such markets that have recently seen strong price appreciation.

Source: "Why Aren't There More Homes for Sale?" Redfin (April 22, 2014), Los Angeles Times (04/05/14) Logan, Tim  © Copyright 2014 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Monday, April 28, 2014

Home Sales Tank / Inventories and Prices Surge

New homes sales in March were down 14.5 % from sales in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000.   The New Residential Sales report issued today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development February revised February sales numbers to 449,000 from the original report of 411,000.   March 2014 sales were 13.3 % lower than the estimated 443,000 new home sales in March 2013.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis an estimated 36,000 new homes were sold in March compared to 37,000 in February and 41,000 in March 2013.

Sales in all four regions were also lower than a year earlier and only the Northeast saw an improvement on a monthly basis, with sales rising 12.5% from February.  Annual sales fell 22.9% in that region.  Sales in the Midwest were down 21.5% from February and 17.7% compared to a year earlier.  In the South sales fell 14.4% for the month and 3.8% on an annual basis, and in the West new home sales decreased 16.7%  and 27.9% for the two periods respectively.

An estimated 193,000 new homes were available for sale at the end of March, a 6-month supply.  In February the 187,000 homes in the inventory constituted a 5-month supply at the then current rate of sales.  Inventories have hovered in the 189,000 range since the beginning of the year but have improved from a year earlier when 154,000 homes were available for sale, a 4.2 month supply.

The median price of a home sold in March reached a record $290,000.  The and the average price was $334,200.  In March 2013 the median was $257,500 and the average was $300,200.



Source: Mortgage News Daily

Increasingly Optimistic Attitudes on Housing Market

A new Gallup survey seems to indicate that Americans are falling in love with real estate again.  The poll, conducted among over a thousand respondents this month, shows that 56 percent of Americans think the average price of a home in their local area will increase compared to only one-third who thought so two years ago and 21 percent, a survey low, in January 2011.  Another 34 percent expect prices to remain at about the same level, leaving only 10 percent who believe prices will fall again. The current euphoria is not up to pre-crash standards, but is closing in on the peak 60 percent who expected appreciation in late 2006. 

Read more at Mortgage News Daily

Fine Dining Bounces Back From Downturn

Fine dining is continuing its recovery from the economic downturn.

Visits to higher-end U.S. restaurants increased 5 percent last year to 851.2 million, according to data released this month by NPD Group.

The research firm says fine-dining restaurants have adapted to a changing marketplace with more casual dress codes and environments, added value and culinary enhancements.

Traffic gains last year in the category were ahead of the general restaurant industry, which ended 2013 with visits flat.

"Fine dining restaurant operators are listening and responding to marketplace needs," said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst, in a statement. "There was a time when many of these restaurants were in such high demand that they decided who could visit and what they would pay. The recession hit and there was more supply than demand. Fine dining operators responded by making the changes necessary to appeal to their customer base and their customers have responded."


Source:  Orlando Sentinel

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Florida's Housing Market Shows Rising Prices in March

Florida's housing market reported higher median prices, more new listings, and a stable level of inventory in March, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 20,081 last month, up 2.8% over the March 2013 figure.
"March marked the 28th month in a row that statewide median sales prices rose year-over-year for both single-family homes and townhome-condo properties," said 2014 Florida Realtors President Sherri Meadows, CEO and team leader, Keller Williams, with market centers in Gainesville, Ocala, and The Villages. "Realtors across Florida are reporting fewer short sales of distressed properties and more interest from potential home sellers as they observe the return of more traditional market conditions. Statewide, new listings for single-family homes in March rose 16.5% year-over-year, while new townhouse-condo listings rose 10.3%."

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $173,000, up 7.1% from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. The statewide median price for townhouse-condo properties in March was $140,000, up 16.7% over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

Read more . . .

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Richer You Are the Longer You'll Live

Money may not buy love, but it appears to buy years.
Economist Barry Bosworth at the Brookings Institution crunched the numbers and found that the richer you are, the longer you’ll live. And it’s a gap that is widening, particularly among women.
Read more from The Wall St. Journal . . .
 
 
 

Budget Surplus of 1.2 Billion

LETTER from SENATOR GWEN MARGOLIS:
 
Friends,
 
The Florida Constitution requires that we have a balanced budget when we pass our appropriations bill. This is the first year that we have a sizable increase of money over last year projected by the economists doing the revenue estimating for 2015. 
 
The conference committees will start meeting next week to finalize the budget; I serve on that conference committee.
 
Many legislators have trumpeted their push for tax cuts this year, a projected budget surplus of 1.2 billion also has left the Florida Legislature with money for some hometown projects. The reduction in vehicle fees has been signed by Governor Rick Scott. Sales tax holiday for school items and hurricane supplies and the reduction in communications tax has passed the Senate and are in conference in the House.
 
The extra money comes after years when the state's economic slowdown forced legislators to slash spending and raise new revenue. The House and Senate have passed rival budgets of roughly $75 billion and have until May 2nd to craft a final budget to send to Governor Scott. Scott then can use his line-item veto to eliminate spending items. 
 
The Governor's office lets members know that Scott is willing to veto dozens of items, even those pushed by leaders of his party. He did so last year.
 
The veto threat, however, hasn't stopped legislators from requesting items from appropriation committee members of which I am one. Emails, letters and sometimes just a message scrawled on paper show how legislators of both parties push for such requests behind-the-scenes. Sometimes lawmakers forwarded to budget committee chairmen proposals that came straight from the groups - or lobbyists - pushing the budget item.
 
This session will end on May 2nd. At that time I will tell you about the winners and losers in the budget and review the major bills that passed in the 2014 legislative session.
 
I look forward to updating you on Session from Tallahassee in my next e-mail.
 
 
                                                            
                                                               Gwen Margolis
                                                               State Senator, District 35

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Invest in Florida’s future by investing in its entertainment industry

"A good investment is measured by its return; and, a 5.6:1 return on investment is undeniably a winning proposition for Florida’s workforce, businesses and families. This return on investment is exactly what Florida’s entertainment industry is offering – for every $1 the state invests in the entertainment industry, $5.60 is returned and infused back into our state’s economy. And $5.60 is a modest estimate, as some believe that the return could be as high as $20.50."

Read more at The Gainesville Sun . . .

Friday, April 4, 2014

The end of the FHA's controversial full-month interest policy

Can you be charged interest on your mortgage even after you've fully paid it off? Can the meter keep running when you owe the bank nothing — your principal balance is zero?

Surprise! Much to the chagrin of large numbers of home sellers and refinancers, the answer for years has been yes. If your loan was insured by the Federal Housing Administration and you paid it off before maturity, at closing you'd be expected to cough up a full month's interest, no matter what day of the month you actually settled.


Even if you closed on March 2, for instance, you'd be charged interest by your loan servicer through March 31, potentially adding hundreds of dollars to your costs in the transaction. The FHA's practice has been unique among major players in the housing finance marketplace. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Department of Veterans Affairs all require interest to be collected only to the day of principal payoff. After that, the meter stops.


But change is on the horizon. Thanks to a regulatory mandate from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the FHA has agreed to end its controversial full-month interest policy, but only for future borrowers.

Read more . . .


3rd Annual Capture Coral Gables Photography Contest


(Deadline is May 2)
Enter your photograph in the Coral Gables Museum's 3rd Annual "Capture Coral Gables" Photography Contest and take a shot at winning a Leica camera. The Museum is accepting entries for the contest, and entrants will have a chance to exhibit their photo at the Museum and win exciting prizes including a grand prize Leica D-Lux 6! This is a skill-based photography contest open to teens and adults from amateur to professionals, and it's free to enter. The objective is to invite the public to explore and examine the City of Coral Gables through a photographic lens, as well as to recognize local talent. Photographic categories include; Architecture, Events, Landscape/Nature, and Faces of Coral Gables of 2014. Go online to submit your photo entry. Deadline is May 2.
www.CoralGablesMuseum.org
305-603-8067 Information

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Much Does $1 Million Buy You in Miami?"

Answer:  5,291 ($189 sq. ft.)

via   Read the full article.

A Totally New Renewable Energy Source

From Roy Wasson's Renewable Energy Fund Weekly Update #409
"A Dutch start-up called Plant-e has developed a way to use living plants as a continuous source of clean energy – all that’s needed is a light source, carbon dioxide, water, and, of course, a field or patch of plants. The system works best in wetlands or watery fields like rice paddies, but it doesn’t matter if the water is brackish or polluted, so areas unsuitable for growing crops could be repurposed as a power source. There’s no complicated infrastructure to install, which makes it super easy to bring electricity to isolated regions that are currently without power.

The theory behind the Plant-e system is surprisingly simple. When plants create food using photosynthesis, a large portion of the organic matter generated is actually excreted by the roots into the soil. That organic matter gets munched on by microorganisms living in the soil, which release electrons as a byproduct of this consumption. By placing an electrode near the roots, it’s easy to harvest this waste energy and turn it into electricity.

The process is similar to elementary school science projects that create a battery out of an apple or potato, but with the added benefit of leaving the plants completely unharmed by the process. Tests have shown that the plants will continue to grow normally in the presence of electrodes, providing a constant source of power day and night.

A prototype green roof using this technology is already being tested in the Netherlands. Currently, the Plant-e team is able to generate enough energy to power a cell phone, but the hope is that soon this method will be able to harvest a significant amount of electricity — maybe even enough to power a house. When combined with other forms of renewable energy like wind or solar power, maybe someday it could help break our addiction to fossil fuels."