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2016 Home Sales Increasing Twice as Fast in Counties with Low Hazard Risk

The recently released ATTOM Data Solutions 2016 U.S. Natural Hazard Housing Risk Index found that home sales in the first six months of 2016 increased 4.2 percent from the same time period a year ago in the bottom fifth of U.S. counties with the lowest level of natural hazard risk — more than twice the 1.9 percent increase in the top fifth of U.S. counties with the highest level of natural hazard risk.

More than 3,000 U.S. counties were indexed based on risk of six natural hazards: earthquakes, floods, hail, hurricane storm surge, tornadoes and wildfires using data collected by ATTOM’s neighborhood research portal www.homefacts.com. ATTOM also analyzed home sales and price trends in more than 800 counties with at least 100 single family home sales in the first six months of 2016. Those 800 counties — which combined have more than 70 million single family homes and condos — were divided into five equal groups (quintiles) based on the natural hazard risk index and assigned to one of five risk categories: Very High, High, Moderate, Low, and Very Low.

“While price and affordability along with access to jobs are the primary drivers in local markets with strong increases in home sales activity in 2016, it’s evident from this data that natural hazard risk does make a difference to homebuyers and investors who are active in this housing market,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions. “Even among the subset of counties where the median price is below the national median as well as among the subset of counties where home prices are still affordable for average wage earners, there is a consistent trend of stronger increases in home sales volume compared to a year ago in the lowest-risk markets for natural hazards compared to the highest-risk markets.”

Counties with highest natural hazard risk
Among the 804 counties analyzed for home sales and price trends, those with a Natural Hazard Housing Risk Index in the Top 5 highest were Oklahoma County, Okla.; Monroe County, Fla. (Key West); Cleveland County, Okla. (Oklahoma City); Nevada County, Calif. (Truckee); and Lake County, Calif. (Clearlake).

Among 78 larger counties with at least 5,000 home sales in the first six months of 2016, those with the highest risk index were Oklahoma County, Okla.; Riverside County, Calif. (Inland Empire of Southern California); Collier County, Fla. (Naples); Miami-Dade County, Fla.; and Santa Clara County, Calif. (San Jose).

Counties with lowest natural hazard risk
Among the 804 counties analyzed for home sales and price trends, those with a Natural Hazard Housing Risk Index in the Top 5 lowest were Milwaukee County, Wisc.; Kewaunee County, Wisc. (Green Bay); Racine County, Wisc. (Racine); Knox County, Maine; and Kenosha County, Wisc. (Chicago metro area).

Among larger counties with at least 5,000 home sales in the first six months of 2016, those with the lowest risk index were Cuyahoga County, Ohio (Cleveland); Lake County, Ill. (Chicago area); Kent County, Mich. (Grand Rapids); Maricopa County, Ariz. (Phoenix); and Montgomery County, Penn. (Philadelphia metro area).

Home values and home prices lower in lowest-risk counties
In the 161 counties in the top quintile for natural hazard risk (Very High Risk), there were a total of 21 million single family homes and condos representing 30 percent of all homes and condos in the 804 counties analyzed. In the 161 counties in the bottom quintile for natural hazard risk (Very Low Risk) there were a total of 10 million single family homes and condos representing 15 percent of all homes in the 804 counties analyzed.

The average estimated market value for homes in the lowest-risk counties was $187,291 — 33 percent below the average estimated market value for homes in the highest-risk counties: $279,570.

The median sales price of single family homes and condos sold between January and June 2016 in the lowest-risk counties was $156,245 on average, 39 percent below the median sales price in the highest-risk counties during the same time period: $255,160.

Price appreciation stronger in highest-risk counties over past five years
Median home prices in the first six months of 2016 have increased an average of 6.5 percent compared to a year ago in the highest-risk counties compared to a 3.2 percent average increase in the lowest-risk markets during the same time period.

Median home prices in the first six months of 2016 are up 42.4 percent compared to the first six months of 2011 (near the bottom of home prices) in the highest-risk counties, while prices are up 23.8 percent during the same time period in the lowest-risk counties

10-year price appreciation, homeowner profits stronger in lowest-risk counties
Median home prices in the first six months of 2016 are up 9.5 percent from the same time period 10 years ago in the lowest-risk counties compared to a 1.9 percent increase compared to 10 years ago in the highest-risk counties.

Furthermore, homeowners in the lowest-risk counties have gained an average of 27.8 percent in home value since purchase while homeowners in the highest-risk counties have gained an average of 20.7 percent since purchase.

Home sales and price trends by type of natural hazard risk
Over the past five years, increases in home sales volume has fallen below the overall national average in counties with the highest risk of earthquakes, hurricane storm surge, wildfires and floods while counties with the lowest risk for those natural hazards have seen home sales volume increase at a faster pace than the national average over the past five years.

Conversely, home sales activity over the past five years has been stronger than the national average in markets with the highest risk of tornadoes and hail while markets with the lowest risk for those natural hazards have seen below-average increases in home sales activity.

View the full report here.

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The Best Military Towns Named for Investing in Rental Homes

New data was released by HomeUnion on the best military towns for investing in single-family rental (SFR) properties based on average cap rates, which are the relationship between an investment property’s net operating income (rents minus expenses) in the first year of ownership and the purchase price of the property. To be included in the list, military bases must have a population of active duty personnel and their families of 15,000 or higher.

SFRs near Warner Robbins, Ga., a U.S. Air Force Base which supports 19,500 active service members and family, have average cap rates of 7 percent. Meanwhile, rental housing in Watertown, N.Y., where the Fort Drum Army base is located, is also an excellent investment with cap rates of 6.9 percent on average. SFRs in Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C., have average cap rates of 6.3 percent.

“The military bases included in this study are located throughout the United States,” explains Steve Hovland, director of research for HomeUnion. “SFRs near military bases that offer the highest returns, however, are primarily located in the South and Midwest,” he adds. One California base made the list – Twentynine Palms, a Marine Corps branch with 17,700 people in the Inland Empire.

“Acquiring SFRs near military bases may be one of the best real estate investment strategies, for a variety of reasons,” explains Don Ganguly, CEO of HomeUnion.

“For example, military service members are employed by the Federal government, which provides greater employment certainty than the private sector. Demand from service men and women is stable, particularly as the military limits overseas deployments following two protracted wars. In addition, the military compensates service members based on market-rate rents, rank and dependents, giving landlords incentive to lease to military personnel and their families,” he adds.

“The transient nature of serving in the military also means that there is a substantial population of government workers that prefer to rent rather than buy, driving demand over the short and long term,” adds Hovland.


For more information, visit www.homeunion.com.

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August Brings Hottest Housing Market in a Decade, Says REALTOR.com

A record-breaking summer for the residential real estate market continued in August, according to new monthly data on for-sale housing inventory and demand on realtor.com®.  Homes for sale on the site in August are moving two percent more quickly than last year as prices continue to reach new record highs.

“Summer 2017 was one of most competitive buying seasons that we have ever witnessed, fueled by historically low mortgage rates and inventory shortages that resulted in record-high prices, said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com. “With the school year starting now in most of the country, we’re seeing some drop-off in demand, which may provide some relief for buyers weary from battling it out against other buyers all summer.”

The median age of for-sale listings on realtor.com in August is expected to be 72 days, which indicates properties are selling two days faster than this time last year but four days slower than last month. In August most markets begin to slow down in response to the start of the school year, with inventory levels and market velocity moving away from peaks and sales beginning to decline.

The median home was listed for $250,000, eight percent higher than one year ago and virtually the same as last month. That extends this summer’s trend of record high prices and is a new peak for August.

For-sale housing inventory reached its apex last month and August now reflects the usual seasonal shift with the first monthly decline since January. Even with an estimated 475,000 new listings coming onto the market in August, the total inventory remains considerably lower than one year ago.

The median age of inventory in August is expected to be 72 days, down three percent from last year and up six percent from last month. The median listing price for August should reach a record high of $250,000, an eight percent increase year-over-year and flat compared to July.

The listing inventory in August should show a one percent decrease from July. Additionally, inventory should still show a decrease of eight percent year-over-year.

Realtor.com’s Hottest Markets received from 1.4 to 4.5 times the number of views per listing compared to the national average. In terms of supply, these markets saw inventory move from 21 to 39 days more quickly than the rest of the U.S. The hottest markets saw inventory movement slow down slightly as the median age increased by two days on average from July.


Key Takeaways from realtor.com’s® August Hotness Index:

  • California again dominated the list with 11 markets, but seven other states were represented (Texas, Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Washington and Tennessee).
  • Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif., continues its streak of 4 straight months atop the hottest markets.
  • The new entrants to the top 20 in August were Kennewick-Richland, Wash. and Waco, Texas.
  • The biggest gainer beyond the new entrants was Detroit, which moved up four spots and into the top ten.

For more information, visit www.realtor.com.

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In LA, a Walkable Neighborhood Comes at a Price

(TNS)—Nobody walks in LA, as the saying goes.

But many people want to and will pay more to live in more walkable neighborhoods where they can stroll to work, shops and restaurants from home. It’s a rare luxury in most metropolitan areas and one worth thousands of dollars on average, according to new research.

Home workers are willing to pay $3,260 — or nearly a percent more — for a little extra walkability than they would for the same home in a less pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, real estate website Redfin said in a study published this month.

When evaluating homes, the real estate brokerage issues so-called Walk Scores on a scale of 1 to 100 based on proximity — by foot — to local amenities. In most major housing markets, Redfin found that an incremental increase in walkability results in a substantial price premium for the property compared with another home in the same metro area.

Easy-to-walk neighborhoods are fairly rare — fewer than 2 percent of active listings have a Walk Score of 90 or higher, according to Redfin. In LA, those neighborhoods include parts of Koreatown, Silver Lake and downtown.

More than half of millennials and 46 percent of baby boomers say they want pedestrian pathways where they live, according to Redfin.

Los Angeles, where homes sell for a median price of $475,000, has an overall Walk Score of 66.3. Each additional walkability point adds an average of $3,948, or a 0.83 percent bump, to the sale price.

“Just having that proximity is a really important thing,” says life coach Niyc Pidgeon, 29, who lives in pedestrian-friendly West Hollywood, on a street where the Walk Score is 88. “You have stronger social connections to things in your locality.”

Pidgeon doesn’t own a car and works from home. She says she currently operates in a “little 2-mile radius,” walking to her yoga and spinning classes and out to Starbucks or dinner.

“It’s nice to get out, rather than just going from house to car to house,” she says.

Score-wise, Los Angeles is “smack-dab in the middle” of the extremes of car-centric Orange County and pedestrian haven San Francisco, says Nela Richardson, Redfin’s chief economist. She noted that the city is embracing more multiuse commercial and residential complexes and park-like features.

“Los Angeles is in transition — an evolving city in terms of what is considered livable, and walkability is an important component of that,” she says.

Pedestrian access adds the most proportional value to homes in cities such as Atlanta, where the overall score is 48.4 and revitalization efforts are starting to open up more community gathering hubs. A single-point upgrade to an Atlanta home’s Walk Score boosts the sale price 1.69 percent on average.

But in places such as ritzy Orange County, walkability is far from a priority. Each point raises prices a mere 0.02 percent in the region, which has a 43.5 Walk Score.

Partly, this is because homes in the area tend to cost more than they would in Atlanta. But, especially in wealthy enclaves, foot traffic means more crowds and less seclusion.

In neighborhoods in the top 5 percent of Orange County’s price spectrum, slightly more walkability actually leads to a $451 price cut, compared with a $8,225 premium for the same demographic in Los Angeles.

“It’s not that luxury-home owners are couch potatoes,” Richardson says. “They just want exclusivity, the gated community with the view.”

The conclusion: Walkability tends to be more valuable in places that are already somewhat walkable. An increase from a score of 19 to 20 raises home prices by $181 on average, while a bump from 79 to 80 causes a $7,000 upswing.

And it helps to have a strong pedestrian culture — or at least the desire for one, according to Redfin.

“With the typical home, you need a certain amount of walkability already for the premium to really pay off,” Richardson says. “In cities with not a lot of infrastructure, it’s not going to have a lot of effect.”

Redfin based its research on sale prices and Walk Scores of more than 1 million homes sold across 14 major metropolitan areas between January 2014 and April 2016. Researchers controlled for differences in property size, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, building age, property type, neighborhood median income and other characteristics.

©2016 Los Angeles Times
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Existing-Home Sales Stumble in July

Slowed by frustratingly low inventory levels in many parts of the country, existing-home sales lost momentum in July and decreased year-over-year for the first time since November 2015, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Only the West region saw a monthly increase in closings in July.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, fell 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million in July from 5.57 million in June. For only the second time in the last 21 months, sales are now below (1.6 percent) a year ago (5.48 million).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says existing sales fell off track in July after steadily climbing the last four months. “Severely restrained inventory and the tightening grip it’s putting on affordability is the primary culprit for the considerable sales slump throughout much of the country last month,” he says. “Realtors® are reporting diminished buyer traffic because of the scarce number of affordable homes on the market, and the lack of supply is stifling the efforts of many prospective buyers attempting to purchase while mortgage rates hover at historical lows.”

Adds Yun, “Furthermore, with new condo construction barely budging and currently making up only a small sliver of multi-family construction, sales suffered last month as condo buyers faced even stiffer supply constraints than those looking to purchase a single-family home.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in July was $244,100, up 5.3 percent from July 2015 ($231,800). July’s price increase marks the 53rd consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of July inched 0.9 percent higher to 2.13 million existing homes available for sale, but is still 5.8 percent lower than a year ago (2.26 million) and has now declined year-over-year for 14 straight months. Unsold inventory is at a 4.7-month supply at the current sales pace, which is up from 4.5 months in June.

“Although home sales are still expected to finish the year at their strongest pace since the downturn, thanks to a very strong spring, the housing market is undershooting its full potential because of inadequate existing inventory combined with new home construction failing to catch up with underlying demand,” adds Yun. “As a result, sales in all regions are now flat or below a year ago and price growth isn’t slowing to a healthier and sustainable pace.”

The share of first-time buyers was 32 percent in July, which is below last month (33 percent) but up from 28 percent a year ago. First-time buyers represented 30 percent of sales in all of 2015.

All-cash sales were 21 percent of transactions in July, down from 22 percent in June, 23 percent a year ago and the lowest share since November 2009 (19 percent). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 11 percent of homes in July, unchanged from June and down from 13 percent a year ago. Seventy percent of investors paid in cash in July.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage dropped from 3.57 percent in June to 3.44 percent in July. Mortgage rates have now fallen five straight months and in July were the lowest since January 2013 (3.41 percent). The average commitment rate for all of 2015 was 3.85 percent.

NAR President Tom Salomone says in addition to affordability concerns, an issue seen earlier in the housing recovery may be reemerging. Realtors® are indicating that appraisal complications are appearing more frequently as the reason why a contract signing experienced a delayed settlement.

“Appraisal-related contract issues have notably risen over the past year and were the root cause of over a quarter of contract delays in the past three months,” he says. “This is likely a combination of sharply growing home prices in some areas, the uptick in home sales this year and the strong refinance market overworking the already reduced number of practicing appraisers. Realtors® are carefully monitoring this trend, and some have already indicated they’re extending closing dates on contracts to allow extra time to accommodate the possibility of appraisal-related delays.”

Coming in at the lowest share since NAR began tracking in October 2008, distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – were 5 percent of sales in July, down from 6 percent in June and 7 percent a year ago. Four percent of July sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 18 percent below market value in July (11 percent in June), while short sales were discounted 16 percent (18 percent in June).

Properties typically stayed on the market for 36 days in July, up from 34 days in June but down from 42 days a year ago. Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 95 days in July, while foreclosures sold in 54 days and non-distressed homes took 34 days. Forty-seven percent of homes sold in July were on the market for less than a month.

Inventory data from Realtor.com® reveals that the metropolitan statistical areas where listings stayed on the market the shortest amount of time in July were Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo., San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., and Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., all at a median of 32 days; and Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif., at a median of 36 days.

“July’s existing home sales report is yet another telling sign that inventory is holding back overall progress in the housing market,” says Quicken Loans Vice President Bill Banfield. “New home sales data pointed to the root problem being addressed, as production ramped up and median sale price dropped, a strong indicator that builders are placing an increased focus on affordable homes.”

“The primary culprit behind the decline in July is the lack of homes on the market,” says realtor.com chief economist Jonathan Smoke. “We simply can’t see growth in sales without having enough homes to sell. This has been the case for 47 straight months, a situation that has bolstered home prices but made it tough for people to find a home for sale that meets their needs.”

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales decreased 2.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million in July from 4.92 million in June, and are now 0.8 percent under the 4.86 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $246,000 in July, up 5.4 percent from July 2015.

Existing condominium and co-op sales dropped 12.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 570,000 units in July from 650,000 in June, and are now 8.1 percent below July 2015 (620,000 units). The median existing condo price was $228,400 in July, which is 4.1 percent above a year ago.

Regional Breakdown

July existing-home sales in the Northeast descended 13.2 percent to an annual rate of 660,000, and are now 5.7 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $284,000, which is 3.3 percent above July 2015.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales fell 5.2 percent to an annual rate of 1.28 million in July (unchanged from a year ago). The median price in the Midwest was $194,000, up 5.0 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South in July declined 1.8 percent to an annual rate of 2.22 million, and are now 1.8 percent below July 2015. The median price in the South was $214,500, up 6.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West rose 2.5 percent to an annual rate of 1.23 million in July, but are still 0.8 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $346,100, which is 6.4 percent above July 2015.

“Adding up the limited supply of houses for sale, a potential for higher mortgage rates on the horizon, and dampened consumer confidence, we’re less optimistic about fall sales,” says Smoke. “But things look positive over the medium to longer-term, especially since the housing market is ultimately driven mainly by demographics and employment, both of which are decidedly in favor of strong sales.”

For more information, visit www.realtor.org.

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