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New Home Sales Tumble in August but Still Top Projections

Sales of new single-family houses in August slipped 7.6 percent, but remain above monthly projections, according to new results from the Commerce Department. Single-family home sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 609,000, soaring 20.6 percent above the August 2015 estimate of 505,000.

So what are homes selling for? According to the study, the median sales price of new houses sold in August 2016 was $284,000. The average sales price was $353,600. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of August was 235,000. Currently there is a steady home supply of 4.6 months.

This new data shows that although sales took a small tumble, they are rising above projections. Prices are steady, supplies are solid, and the market appears to be on a good track for the rest of the year.

On Monday’s report, realtor.com® Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke stated, “Based on recent data, you might think that the housing market took a turn for the worse in August – but it didn’t. In fact, we are seeing good signs that the new home market is finally growing substantially, with sales of new homes up bigtime over this time last year and so far this year. It looks like these gains are happening because builders are shifting product towards more affordable price points and responding to strong demand by building with contracts in hand. This August only 30 percent of new homes sold were already completed.”

Smoke continued, “Even with a continued lack of homes on the market, total home sales are up 4 percent over last year.  That shows a clear shift in the composition of sales – new homes have more room to grow while existing homes are limited by their owners’ willingness to sell.”

Quicken Loans vice president Bill Banfield offered the following comments on the report:

“It’s encouraging to see strong demand for newly constructed homes persist as we reach the tail-end of summer. While we’d always like to see a bit more inventory come into play, housing continues to be a bright spot in the overall economic picture.”

For more information, visit www.census.gov.

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Realogy Appoints John Peyton as President and Chief Operating Officer

Realogy Holdings Corp. recently announced the appointment of John Peyton to the newly created role of president and chief operating officer (COO) for its subsidiary, Realogy Franchise Group (RFG). Peyton, formerly the senior vice president of brands and shared services for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., will begin at RFG on Oct. 13. Alex Perriello, CEO of the Realogy Franchise Group, will now focus primarily on strategic growth while Peyton will be responsible for the operational management of Realogy’s franchise brands.

Peyton is a recognized global branding leader in a multi-brand environment. He is adept at leading large, complex global structures to maximize the benefits of scale while enabling innovation and flexibility. During his 17-year tenure with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, he combined his expertise in global operations and brand building to drive innovation and ensure the market positioning of the company’s leading hotel brands, which include: St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Westin, Le Meridien, Sheraton, Tribute Portfolio, Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft, Element and Design Hotels.

“John Peyton brings extensive strategic leadership experience with world-class brands from his time at Starwood as both an operator and a franchisor in a multi-brand organization,” says Perriello. “We are excited about the fresh perspective and valuable insights he will bring from the luxury hotel and leisure industry to our franchisees and their affiliated agents.”

“Realogy has a tremendous portfolio of brands that is unrivaled in the real estate industry,” says Peyton. “The Realogy Franchise Group is well-positioned for continued growth and innovation, and I look forward to helping accelerate its growth trajectory.”

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ERA’s New President Susan Yannaccone Gets Candid about the Firm’s Future during RISMedia’s CEO Exchange

Day 2 of RISMedia’s 2016 CEO Exchange kicked off bright and early at the Harvard Club of New York City with a networking breakfast sponsored by ERA Real Estate, during which RISMedia President & CEO John Featherston had the opportunity to candidly discuss the future of ERA with newly appointed President & CEO Susan Yannaccone.

John Featherston: Congratulations on your new role as President & CEO of ERA. You’ve held a variety of roles with a number of franchise organizations, which lends you a unique perspective. How will your background inform your leadership of the brand?
Susan Yannaccone:
My experience leading through change during my time with a number of real estate brands provides a great perspective to capitalize on the tremendous momentum ERA has to shape the next generation of the industry. When it comes to change, rather than respond to it, you need to effect it. This will position you to lead the transformation and shape the future. I’d also like to add that I’m forward thinking—always anticipating what’s next so we can keep our customers competitive. I had a mentor who advised me to always ask “What’s next?” and that has stayed with me over the years through the various positions I’ve held.

JF: What’s your vision for the brand?
While ERA has a 45-year history in the industry, we’ve been on a tremendous run lately. Not only has the brand been entirely reimagined, we’ve also seen tremendous growth—opening in 12 major new markets. I plan on continuing to leverage this momentum in a number of ways, while focusing on customer service and truly understanding what the customer needs, in addition to what our brokers and agents need to thrive. As I look toward the future at the helm of ERA, one area of focus will be to increase the brand’s visibility across the country by adding companies, agents and yard signs. In addition, we will leverage our best-in-class learning development platform to fuel productivity and continue our relentless focus on innovation and transform the way we connect with consumers to fuel business. Our customer-first approach and strong focus on leadership development will be instrumental in taking the brand to the next level, positioning it for the next generation of this industry. All of these things will be instrumental in determining where the brand needs to go today and tomorrow.

JF: What are some of the most significant challenges you see the franchise industry facing?
Whether you’re a franchisor or an independent broker, the biggest challenges are going to be keeping up with the pace of change and remaining relevant for today’s consumer. Change isn’t stopping. In fact, the pace of change is accelerating, and you have to be on the forefront to remain relevant. In the end, it’s not about embracing the tool for today, but understanding today so that you’re relevant tomorrow.

JF: As a franchisor, what would you say are the best practices for remaining competitive in today’s market?
First and foremost, be true to your culture and own what makes you unique in the marketplace. From there, it’s important to focus on a customer-first/service approach—a big part of the ERA value proposition. It’s also critical to continually hone your value proposition by understanding customer needs, and be aware of how the value proposition cascades from brand to broker to agent to consumer. Yes, we are in the franchise business, but the value we provide to our brokers must allow our brokers to provide value to their affiliated agents. At ERA, we see our role as being additive to a broker’s existing model so that they truly feel as though they’re better off with us than without us.

JF: You have big shoes to fill as you follow in the footsteps of Charlie Young, who did a great job building ERA. Where do you see yourself taking the brand?
I don’t believe in changing just to change. If what you’re doing is working, continue executing on that. Charlie has done an excellent job. In that vein, I’ll reference a great quote from professional soccer player Mia Hamm: “Celebrate what you’ve accomplished, but raise the bar a little higher each time you succeed.” Setting yourself up for future success is all about finding the things you do well, and executing really well on those. Be true to your culture and uniqueness. As I mentioned earlier, the ERA brand has been reimagined, so we’ll continue to raise the bar and be strategic when it comes to our growth and where we’re going.

JF: What are the key characteristics of your brand of leadership?
When it comes to my style of leadership, accountability reigns supreme. I’m a big fan of the Four Disciplines of Execution, and I work with my team collaboratively to ensure everyone has ownership of how they can meet their goals to successfully move the organization forward. I also believe in authenticity and approaching the job fearlessly. And last but not least, I love a challenge and the feeling of accomplishment I get when I tackle a challenge that’s thrown my way.

JF: The idea that we’re heading toward a slowdown was mentioned during the opening day of our CEO Exchange. If this does occur, what words of wisdom would you offer real estate professionals?
Prepare for it. Be ready to capitalize on any opportunity because there will always be an opportunity in change—and that’s not always a negative. Those who aren’t prepared for a slowdown may be looking to get out of the business altogether. It’s also important to be agile enough to adjust your business for the market you’re in.

JF: What advice do you have when it comes to rallying the troops to recruit and bring in new blood?
Rallying the troops and bringing in new blood begins with providing a collaborative work environment. You also need to understand the way the younger generation thinks by getting their perspective through idea sharing sessions. Marrying the generations together is key, so it’s crucial to remain open and collaborative. And don’t throw away good—or bad—ideas because of a demographic. We’re dealing with a totally new digitally native generation, and we need to understand how to work with them.

JF: Please describe your Young Leaders Network, and its role in the future of ERA Real Estate.
Our Young Leaders Network plays an instrumental role in fostering the next generation of leaders. Open to everyone in the network, members of the group take part in yearly summits and meetings with other brokers to share best practices and learn the fundamentals of running a business before they take over. Individuals also learn what it takes to be involved in a network.

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Existing-Home Sales Ease in August

Existing-home sales eased up in August for the second consecutive month despite mortgage rates near record lows as higher home prices and not enough inventory for sale kept some would-be buyers at bay, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Only the Northeast region saw a monthly increase in closings in August, where inventory is currently more adequate.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, declined 0.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million in August from a downwardly revised 5.38 million in July. After last month’s decline, sales are at their second-lowest pace of 2016, but are still slightly higher (0.8 percent) than a year ago (5.29 million).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says recent job growth is not yielding higher home sales. “Healthy labor markets in most the country should be creating a sustained demand for home purchases,” he says. “However, there’s no question that after peaking in June, sales in a majority of the country have inched backwards because inventory isn’t picking up to tame price growth and replace what’s being quickly sold.”

“Tight inventory, rising prices and tepid economic conditions continue to hold back existing home sales, and housing progress overall,” says Quicken Loans Vice President Bill Banfield. “As interest rates are poised to rise in the near future, supply will need to increase to sustain significant growth in the market.”
Adds Yun, “Hopes of a meaningful sales breakthrough as a result of this summer’s historically low mortgage rates failed to materialize because supply and affordability restrictions continue to keep too many would-be buyers on the sidelines.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in August was $240,200, up 5.1 percent from August 2015 ($228,500). August’s price increase marks the 54th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of August fell 3.3 percent to 2.04 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 10.1 percent lower than a year ago (2.27 million) and has declined year-over-year for 15 straight months. Unsold inventory is at a 4.6-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.7 months in July.

The share of first-time buyers was 31 percent in August, which is down from 32 percent both in July and a year ago. First-time buyers represented 30 percent of sales in all of 2015.

“It’s very concerning to see that inventory conditions not only show no signs of improving but have actually worsened in recent months from their already suppressed levels a year ago,” adds Yun. “While recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that household incomes rose strongly last year, home prices are still outpacing incomes in many metro areas because of the persistent shortage of new and existing homes for sale. Without more supply, the U.S. homeownership rate will remain near 50-year lows.”

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 3.44 percent in August for the second consecutive month and remained at its lowest rate since January 2013 (3.41 percent). The average commitment rate for all of 2015 was 3.85 percent.

Properties typically stayed on the market for 36 days in August, unchanged from July and down considerably from a year ago (47 days). Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 144 days in August, while foreclosures sold in 42 days and non-distressed homes took 35 days. Forty-six percent of homes sold in August were on the market for less than a month.

NAR President Tom Salomon says in today’s fast-moving market, a Realtor® who knows about down payment options and their target area is essential to a successful buying experience. “Given the inventory shortages in most markets, new listings at affordable prices are receiving multiple offers and going under contract almost immediately upon becoming available,” he says. “Home shoppers serious about buying need to be ready with a pre-approval. This allows a Realtor® to hone in only on homes within the buyer’s price range and ensures any offer presented to the seller is taken seriously.”

Inventory data from Realtor.com® reveals that the metropolitan statistical areas where listings stayed on the market the shortest amount of time in August were San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., and Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., all at a median of 33 days; Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo., 36 days; and Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif., at a median of 37 days.

All-cash sales were 22 percent of transactions in August, up from 21 percent in July and unchanged from a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 13 percent of homes in August, up from 11 percent in July and 12 percent a year ago. Sixty-two percent of investors paid in cash in August.

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – were 5 percent of sales in August (lowest since NAR began tracking in October 2008), unchanged from last month and down from 7 percent a year ago. Four percent of August sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 12 percent below market value in August (18 percent in July), while short sales were discounted 14 percent (16 percent in July).

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales declined 2.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.70 million in August from 4.81 million in July, but are still 0.6 percent above the 4.67 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $242,200 in August, up 5.3 percent from August 2015.

Existing condominium and co-op sales leaped 10.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 630,000 units in August from 570,000 in July, and are now 1.6 percent above August 2015 (620,000 units). The median existing condo price was $225,100 in August, which is 3.7 percent above a year ago.

Regional Breakdown

August existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 6.1 percent to an annual rate of 700,000, which is unchanged from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $274,100, which is 0.8 percent above August 2015.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales decreased 0.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.27 million in August, but are still 0.8 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $190,700, up 5.5 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South in August fell 2.7 percent to an annual rate of 2.16 million, but are still 0.9 percent above August 2015. The median price in the South was $209,700, up 6.7 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West lessened 1.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.20 million in August, but are still 0.8 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the West was $347,400, which is 9.2 percent above August 2015.

For more information, visit www.realtor.org. 

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Real Estate Escrow Checking Accounts Now Offered by REALTORS® Federal Credit Union

Earnest money deposits play an important role in real estate transactions. While you’ve had several options for establishing escrow accounts for earnest monies, traditionally, credit unions haven’t been included in your options because of federal legislation prohibiting them from offering escrow accounts. That recently changed, however, thanks to efforts on behalf of real estate agents by the REALTORS® Federal Credit Union, a Division of Northwest Federal Credit Union.

“Whenever we talked to real estate professionals about our services,” explains Victoria Gillespie, senior vice president, REALTORS® Division and Enterprise Marketing, “the question kept coming up, ‘Can I open an escrow account?’” Recognizing that there was clearly demand and interest in this service, the Credit Union decided to challenge the status quo on behalf of its members and the real estate industry.

Rewriting federal laws, however, is never easy. As a first step, the Credit Union approached and gained the support of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU), a direct membership association that provides federally insured credit unions with advocacy, education and compliance support. Once NAFCU was on board, the next step involved lobbying efforts with the industry’s governing body, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

Finally, earlier this year, the Credit Union’s efforts paid off and legislative changes went into effect. “We listened to our members and made it happen,” says Gillespie. Now, eligible Credit Union members have the option to open a Real Estate Escrow Checking Account with no minimum balance, no monthly fee and no per-item charges to house clients’ earnest money deposits. Fees are often associated with these accounts at other financial institutions.

Comprehensive Banking Services Exclusively for REALTORS®
Created by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) in 2008, the REALTORS® Federal Credit Union, a Division of Northwest Federal Credit Union, was formed to address the unique savings, lending and credit needs of NAR members.

Federal credit unions are not-for-profit cooperative financial institutions that are owned and operated by their members. Unpaid volunteers comprise the Credit Union’s Board of Directors, including two NAR representatives. All profits are reinvested in the co-op, keeping costs as low as possible for members.

In addition to the new availability of Real Estate Escrow Checking Accounts, members have access to a full complement of business banking services, including traditional and money market savings, competitive certificate investments, business loans (including commercial real estate loans and lines of credit), and much more.

The Credit Union also offers a full suite of personal banking products, making it simple to separate your personal and business expenses for easier record keeping while enjoying across-the-board cost savings. Members can also apply for two different REALTOR® Credit Cards, further simplifying efforts to separate business and personal records.

Convenient Access
REALTORS® Federal Credit Union is available 24/7 online, via mobile banking and through its bank-by-phone services. Members can make remote check deposits (using mobile technology) up to $250,000 per day for business accounts or $25,000/day for personal checking. In addition to over 30,000 ATMs nationwide, members receive personal assistance at more than 5,000 shared branch locations, or by contacting a Member Care representative at 866-295-6038.

Support the REALTOR® Family
By supporting REALTORS® Federal Credit Union, you support the entire REALTOR® family and help members get better borrowing rates, earn higher rates of return, and keep their banking costs as low as possible. New Real Estate Escrow Checking Accounts, along with all the other services offered by REALTORS® Federal Credit Union, serve as another example of the many ways NAR members can save money and gain special privileges through the REALTOR Benefits® Program.

Benefits of Credit Union’s Real Estate Escrow Checking Accounts

  • No minimum balance
  • No monthly fee
  • No per-item charges

For more information, visit www.realtorsfcu.org.

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