Top News Of The Week

- Another Lost Deduction in GOP Tax Plan Stirs Anger
- A Big Builder Merger, As Companies Position For Higher Mortgage Rates
- Home Prices Up Sharply in August — Are They Unstoppable?
- Homeownership Rate Up Slightly in Q3
- Nevada Luxury Market is Expanding
- HUD Waives 19 Regulations to Speed Disaster Recovery
- Colorado Builder Launches ‘Boot Camp’ to Train New Workers
- Cash Not Necessarily King, in New Home Sales
- How NAFTA’s Future Will Impact The Housing Industry
- Uptick in Vacant Properties May Signal Easing of Tight Inventory
- Mortgage Lending Becomes Riskier in Hurricane-Damaged Areas
- Report: Adding Solar Adds Value to Real Estate
- Western New York Sizzles — With An Important Side Benefit
- MBA President/CEO Prods Congress to Act on GSEs
- What Housing Needs From Next Fed Chair
- Study Reveals Southward Tilt in Moving Plans


Another Lost Deduction in GOP Tax Plan Stirs Anger
Most of the attention around the Republican tax reform bill has centered on the deductions for mortgage interest and state and local taxes.

But at a House committee hearing this week, there were sharp comments about another provision, ending the itemized deduction for casualty losses.

California Democratic Congressman Mike Thompson was incensed.

The bill would “grandfather” in casualty-loss relief for victims of Hurricanes Harvey. Irma, and Maria.

A Big Builder Merger, As Companies Position For Higher Mortgage Rates
It’s a big merger in the homebuilding industry, as Lennar and CalAtlantic agree on a $9.3 billion marriage. The new company will be America’s largest homebuilder.

Keith Bliss, senior vice president with the institutional brokerage firm Cuttone & Company, told The Street that home builders, including Lennar, are keeping a wary eye on mortgage interest rates….

Bliss says there is still a supply-and-demand constraint in the homebuilding industry.

Home Prices Up Sharply in August — Are They Unstoppable?
Home prices nationwide were up significantly in August, compared to a year ago.

The latest Standard & Poor’s CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index showed prices rose 6-point-1 percent year over year. The July gain was 5.9%.

What does it all mean?

“Home price increases appear to be unstoppable,” says David Blitzer, Managing Director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

He points out that most prices across the rest of the economy are barely moving, compared to housing.

And he warns, quote, “Measures of affordability are beginning to slide, indicating that the pool of buyers is
shrinking.”

Homeownership Rate Up Slightly in Q3
The nation’s homeownership rate is up to its highest level since 2014.

New figures from the Census Bureau show the third quarter homeownership rate was 63.9%. It was 63.7% in the second quarter, and 63.5% in the third quarter of last year.

The modest increases are a slow journey back from the second quarter of 2016, when the homeownership rate fell to its lowest point since 1965.

Nevada Luxury Market is Expanding
The luxury housing market in the Reno, Nevada area is growing. A lot.

REALTOR® Nancy Fennell, president of Dickson Realty, told KOLO-8 News Now that the luxury market in Northern Nevada has doubled this year from last year.

Fennell says while the luxury market is strong, 90-percent of home sales in Reno-Sparks are under $600,000.

HUD Waives 19 Regulations to Speed Disaster Recovery
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced a slate of 19 regulatory and administrative waivers, all designed to help communities recover from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

HUD says it’s among the largest collections of waivers ever issued by the Department at one time.

HUD has granted a number of individual waivers after earlier disasters, but Assistant HUD Secretary Neal Rackleff says this year’s storms are unprecedented, and called for an unusual response.

Colorado Builder Launches ‘Boot Camp’ to Train New Workers
The labor shortage in the housing industry isn’t showing any signs of easing. So one Denver-area homebuilder has launched an effort to train new workers.

CNBC reports that Oakwood Homes established a non-profit organization called the “Colorado Home Building Academy.” It’s a free, eight-week “boot camp” aimed at training the next generation of skilled construction workers.

Patrick Hamill, CEO of Oakwood, admits that, quote, “As an industry, ultimately we’ve just done a lousy job marketing our opportunities to young people.”

CNBC reports that in its first year, the program will run 11 boot camps, training some 200 workers.

Cash Not Necessarily King, in New Home Sales
Less than five-percent of new-home sales in America in the last quarter were cash sales.

That, according to Census Bureau figures analyzed by the National Association of Home Builders.

Fourteen percent of new home sales in the third quarter were backed by the FHA. And more than 72-percent of new home sales were financed with conventional mortgages. That’s the highest share since the third quarter of last year.

How NAFTA’s Future Will Impact The Housing Industry
What would happen to the housing market, if President Trump withdraws the U.S. from NAFTA. the North American Free Trade Agreement?

Uncertainty has already led to a spike in the cost of Canadian lumber, which in turn is putting upward pressure on new-home prices.

Georgetown University professor of real estate finance Brian Friedman told “Boom Bust” on RT that there could be some pain ahead….

According to Business Insider, the price of Canadian softwood lumber has jumped to its highest level in 4 and a half years.

Uptick in Vacant Properties May Signal Easing of Tight Inventory
Over half of America’s housing markets have seen an increase in the annual rate of vacant properties. And experts with ATTOM Data Solutions say it’s a sign that tight inventory may be loosening.

At the end of the third quarter, ATTOM says, nearly 1-point-4 million homes were vacant. While that number is down slightly from a year ago, vacant-property rates rose from a year ago in 81 of 149 metro areas.

ATTOM Senior Vice President Daren Blomquist says it’s evidence that the, quote, “ultra-tight inventory environment in some red-hot markets is beginning to ease just a bit.”

Among the markets where the vacancy rate has inched upward are San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and Denver.

Mortgage Lending Becomes Riskier in Hurricane-Damaged Areas
Natural disasters and mortgage loan application defect risk go hand-in-hand, says Mark Fleming, chief economist with First American Financial.

And that’s why he’s not surprised to see the risk trend in Texas and Florida surge upward in September, on the heels of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Fleming says First American’s defect, misrepresentation and fraud risk index reflect the higher risk to lenders, most notably in Houston, where he says risk increased the most among all the major markets the company tracks.

Nationwide, the risk index actually improved in September, for the first time this year, Fleming says.

Report: Adding Solar Adds Value to Real Estate
A new study says that adding a solar energy system can increase the value of your home — but by how much?

The study was published by Energy Sense Finance and Sandia National Laboratories, with funding by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Researchers studied home values in three states where solar is commonly installed — California, Arizona, and Massachusetts — and compared before-and-after values.

The report concludes that the mean value of a solar energy system last year was: $3.93 per watt in California, $2.17 per watt in Massachusetts and $2.34 per watt in Arizona. A typical residential system is 5-thousand watts.

Western New York Sizzles — With An Important Side Benefit
A booming real estate market means tough buying conditions for western New Yorkers. But there’s also a very positive side effect, says one REALTOR®.

Renee Moran owns Red Door Real Estate in Buffalo. She tells Buffalo’s 7 Eyewitness News that areas that used to be very depressed, and limited to investment owners, are suddenly coming alive again.

Single family home sales in western New York have reached nearly a 10 year high.

MBA President/CEO Prods Congress to Act on GSEs
The president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association is pushing Congress to enact housing finance reform.

David Stevens testified before a House subcommittee, saying, quote, “The time to act on comprehensive legislative reform is now.”

He went on, “Only Congress can provide the legitimacy and public confidence needed for long-term stability in both the primary and secondary mortgage markets.”

Stevens pointed out that it’s now been nine years that the GSEs were placed in conservatorship. And he says, “Extended conservatorship is economically and politically unsustainable.”

What Housing Needs From Next Fed Chair
President Trump has nominated Jerome Powell to succeed Janet Yellen as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve.

REALTOR®.com chief economist Danielle Hale says the next Fed leader should be a lot like Yellen, to be good for the housing industry.

Hale says that home buyers and sellers alike would benefit from a Fed chair who maintains a focus, like Yellen’s, on both incoming information and external communication.

Study Reveals Southward Tilt in Moving Plans
New research reveals a trend toward southward migration in the U.S.

The study of purchase mortgage requests comes from online loan marketplace LendingTree, which tracked where people are going when they move away from their current state.

For 18 of the 50 states, Florida was the number-1 new destination. Among New Yorkers, for example, 21% of those looking to move out of state want to go to Florida.

The LendingTree research finds that Texas had the highest percentage of residents who want to move, but want to stay in Texas.

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