Top News Of The Week

Some good news for builders struggling with soaring lumber prices. Interim Forest Service chief Victoria Christiansen told congress that the Forest Service expects its 2018 timber harvest will be the biggest in 20 years. The National Association of Homebuilders is hailing the news. NAHP has been urging congress and the Trump administration to consider ways to increase the domestic supply of timber from public lands. According to the NAHP, since January of last year, rising lumber prices have increased the cost of an average single family home by nearly $9,000.

There are some metro areas in America where home prices are so high, teachers can’t afford to live where they teach! And now, reports REALTOR®.com, some of those cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and silicon valley’s Santa Clara, California, are doing something about it. They’re experimenting with subsidized housing specifically for teachers. School officials in San Francisco and Miami are also considering doing something similar, according to REALTOR®.com.

Going green doesn’t necessarily cost more green when buying a home. An analysis of current listings in the top 200 U.S. metro areas by REALTOR®.com finds that homes with eco-friendly features such as solar panels, smart thermostats, or bamboo floors, don’t always command a premium price. Javier Vivas, director of economic research for REALTOR®.com, says many buyers have come to expect standard features, and homes integrating specialty green features are becoming more mainstream.

Home prices generally continue to rise across the nation, but not everywhere. In fact, there are a few markets where prices are actually coming down. REALTOR®.com reports that in Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, California, for example, the median price has fallen nearly 18% in the last 2 years. The median price in Austin, Texas has fallen 4.3%, and at Beckley, West Virginia, 4.2%. Still, only 27 of the nations 350 largest metro areas saw home price drops.

Marijuana is becoming legal in more places, but a word of caution. Homeowners and renters still may not be able to light up in their own homes. The Boston Globe reports that a growing number of condo and co-op associations, and landlords, are cracking down on residents who smoke or grow pot. The Globe reports that along with the growing acceptance of marijuana use, there is an uptick in neighbors complaining about the odors. Homeowner associations or condo boards are within their legal right to ban pot smoking, lawyers say.

There is fresh evidence that affordability concerns are discouraging many renters from trying to buy a home. That pessimism may not be limited to millennials. According to Freddie Mac’s latest multi-family profile of todays renter report, more baby boomers and gen X-ers are now showing less interest in buying a home. Freddie Mac says its research finds that 2 out of 3 renters now say renting is more affordable than owning. Almost 3 out of 4 baby boomers say renting is more affordable. Two years ago, 59% of renters said they plan to keep on renting. That is now up to 67%. Still, a growing number of renters believes that their economic situation has improved compared to last summer.

Remodeling isn’t limited to indoor projects. A new report from THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® identifies why homeowners complete outdoor remodeling projects, as well as the value of taking on lawn and landscaping upgrades. REALTORS® surveyed by NAR ranked a standard lawn care service as the number one project that appeals to buyers. They estimate that lawn care can recover 267% of the cost estimated by landscape professionals. The projects that gave homeowners the greatest desire to be at home include a new pool, statement landscape, landscape upgrades, and a new patio.

A majority of working baby boomers say they expect to delay retirement, and the rising cost of housing may be one reason why. A recent survey by the non-profit real estate corporation NHP Foundation found that 85% of boomers would prefer to stay in their current home, but the foundation says many may be forced to consider renting a room or even seeking out more affordable housing options. 31% of survey respondents say they have not prepared a retirement budget.

The number of American homeowners who are considered seriously under water, continues to shrink. But the number is shrinking slower than it has in at least 5 years, so says Attom Data Solutions in its first quarter US Home Equity and Underwater report. “Seriously underwater”, as the company defines it, is a property whose value is at least 25% less than the total balance of loans on the property. According to Attom Data Solution’s report, 5.2 million properties are still seriously underwater.

Construction spending surged ahead in April, reaching a record high according to the latest government figures. Homebuilding rose by four and a half percent, the largest increase in 24 years. Overall, construction spending was up 1.8%. Non-residential construction rose by a modest eight tenths of 1%. The April gain follows a 1.7% drop in spending in March.

Homebuyers who get a mortgage through affordable lending programs administered by state housing finance agencies are less likely to default on their mortgage. That according to the new analysis of Fannie Mae data. The study also found that HFA borrowers who were lacking in documentation or had none at all were more likely to default.

More than half of the nations metro areas now have median home prices that are higher than they were at the peak before the recession. The latest quarterly report from Attom Data Solutions shows that 54% of metro areas now have median prices above the pre- recession peak. According to Attom’s figures, the national median home price in the first quarter reached $240,000, just 1% below its pre-recession peak of $241,500.

Home prices in America are likely to keep rising faster than wages and inflation according to a new poll of property market analysts. The Reuters poll found the majority of those analysts think the shortage of homes for sale will persist over the coming year. Over the last few years home prices have risen an average of more than 5% a year while annual average earnings growth has remained below 3%. Inflation in 2018 is projected at 2.5%

China is a major investor in US real estate, but there can sometimes be a language barrier. Now a Chinese real estate website has partnered with a technology firm to produce robots that speak mandarin. Production on the “Butler 1” robots is underway and a company spokesman says the first of them should be available in the US next year.

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