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What Landlords Should Know about the COVID-19 Rent Relief Act

There has been extensive press coverage about the need for an eviction moratorium during the COVID-19 pandemic, but little about the effect that moratorium has on residential landlords. Congress attempted to help landlords indirectly in…

What Landlords Should Know about the COVID-19 Rent Relief Act

There has been extensive press coverage about the need for an eviction moratorium during the COVID-19 pandemic, but little about the effect that moratorium has on residential landlords.

Congress attempted to help landlords indirectly in the original CARES Act, by making money available for rent relief. However, there wasn’t sufficient money, tenants were at a loss where to go to ask for such relief, and some tenants had no incentive to even ask for relief. The $900 billion December 2020 COVID-19 relief bill includes $25 billion for the Emergency Rental Arrears Program (ERAP). The new law allows landlords to apply for the tenant, if necessary. Both the tenant and landlord will benefit from this new rent relief law.

When then-President Trump signed the new COVID-19 relief bill into law, the Department of Treasury took quick action on the rent relief money.

Within days, a deadline of January 12, 2021, was set for eligible state and local governments to apply for money. An eligible local government is any such entity with a population of at least 200,000...

10 Facts for Millennials During Their 2021 Homeownership Journey

Today’s average Millennial with aspirations of owning a home would do well not to give up. We’re talking about 25 to 38 year-olds who are first-time home shoppers and feel priced-out of the current market.…

10 Facts for Millennials During Their 2021 Homeownership Journey

Today’s average Millennial with aspirations of owning a home would do well not to give up. We’re talking about 25 to 38 year-olds who are first-time home shoppers and feel priced-out of the current market.

Compiled by Benton Capital Mortgage Lending, here are 10 solid housing and mortgage facts about the 2021 market that are encouraging to read as many Millennials stick to their homeownership hopes and dreams and stay ahead of the pack.

Mortgage Tailwinds and Headwinds

The COVID-19 pandemic is a historically unique event for all sectors. There’s no playbook, and it’s clear that only some of our experience through the housing crisis will help us to navigate today’s challenges. We’ve…

Mortgage Tailwinds and Headwinds

The COVID-19 pandemic is a historically unique event for all sectors. There’s no playbook, and it’s clear that only some of our experience through the housing crisis will help us to navigate today’s challenges. We’ve had to get comfortable with the wait-and-see strategy, ready to pivot on the latest regulatory guidance, jobs report, or stay-at-home order. As we head into 2021, there’s one segment of the housing market that remains an important bellwether even in these uncertain times: the first-time homebuyer market.

First-time homebuyers are important because they take a housing unit from the market, but don’t give one back, creating pure growth in homeownership. Over the past five years, the first-time homebuyer segment has grown tremendously. However, they have not been immune to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. To best support the health of this important segment of the housing market in the New Year, it’s helpful to have an idea of what first-time homebuyers have going for—and against—them.

Existing home prices increase in every tracked metropolitan area in the U.S.

It’s hard to find silver linings related to the COVID-19 pandemic. but, if you are a homeowner who is looking to sell your home, you’re likely going to be able to sell your property and…

Existing home prices increase in every tracked metropolitan area in the U.S.

It’s hard to find silver linings related to the COVID-19 pandemic. but, if you are a homeowner who is looking to sell your home, you’re likely going to be able to sell your property and potentially make some money in the process.

That’s because home prices went up everywhere at the end of 2020. And when we say everywhere, we mean everywhere.

According to data from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), existing home prices rose in all 183 metropolitan areas that are tracked in the fourth quarter of 2020. And in 88 percent of those markets, there were double digit price gains.

BY comparison, 115 of the metropolitan areas saw price growth in the third quarter.

“The fourth quarter of 2020 presented circumstances ripe for home price increases,” Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist told CNN. “Mortgage rates reached record lows, thereby driving up the demand. At the same time, inventory levels also reached record lows, leading to grim inventory conditions of insufficient supply in the fourth quarter.”

The national average mortgage payment on an existing single-family home increased by $20 per month from $1,020 to $1,040 from the fourth quarter of 2019. This means the national average family income needed to afford a home also increased by nearly $1,000, from $48,960 in the fourth quarter of 2019 to $49,908 in the fourth quarter of 2020.

The Metro areas that saw the biggest increase were mostly in the Northeast corridor of the country, as well as in Florida. Neither location is surprising, but there were also big gains in Washington and Idaho, which may be a little less expected.

Bridgeport, Conn. saw the biggest increase, with prices jumping 40% in one year. Pittsfield, Mass. (32%), Naples, Fla. and Atlantic City, N.J. (both 30%) were the others that jumped by such a large margin.

Increases between 24% and 29% were identified in Crestview, Fla. (29%), Barnstable, Mass (29%), Boise City, Idaho (27%), Spokane, Wash. (24%), Kingston, N.Y. (24%), and Binghamton, N.Y. (24%)

What’s noticeable about this list is it appears the attraction for the purchase of existing homes seems to be hottest in areas that are within driving distance to a major metropolitan area but may be far enough out to provide a more affordable option, or are part of a vacation destination, which could mean buyers are thinking of these homes as potential investment properties.

The other possibility, Yun said, is that with more and more companies allowing employees to work from home, either part-time or full-time, these locations are more desirable to own a home, as you can be away from the hustle and bustle and still do your job.

It’s a true have “your cake and eat it too” situation for homebuyers.

Not surprisingly, the most expensive areas of the county to live were in California, specifically the Silicon Valley. Here, the median home sale price in San Jose is $1.4 million. San Francisco was the only other city with a median price north of a million bucks ($1.14 million), but Anaheim is getting closer ($935,000).

Rounding out the top 10 most expensive metropolitan areas are Honolulu ($902,500), San Diego ($740,000), Los Angeles ($688,700), Boulder, Colo. ($661,300), Seattle ($614,700), Nassau County, N.Y., or the suburban part of Long Island ($591,600) and Boston ($579,100).

Boulder was the only Metro in the top 10 that didn’t see a double-digit percentage price increase.

While this has been a boon for those looking to sell, the tipping point for buyers might not be far off, and prices will have nowhere to go but down.

“The average, working family is struggling to contend with home prices that are rising much faster than income,” Yun told CNN. “This sidelines a consumer from becoming an actual buyer, causing them to miss out on accumulating wealth from homeownership.”
The Alliance Helped Secure Key Tax Incentives for Property Owners in 2020

The American Property Owners Alliance helped secure extensions of several tax benefits for property owners in the COVID-19 Relief Package passed at the end of 2020. Here are some key tax provisions that you should…

The Alliance Helped Secure Key Tax Incentives for Property Owners in 2020

The American Property Owners Alliance helped secure extensions of several tax benefits for property owners in the COVID-19 Relief Package passed at the end of 2020. Here are some key tax provisions that you should be aware of when filing this year.

Tax Incentives for Property Owners



Preserving and expanding tax benefits for property owners is a top priority for the American Property Owners Alliance. Click here to see how you can advocate for tax policies that support homeowners and housing providers.
Biden’s housing agenda starts with fair housing initiative

With a Senate split, progress may come down to executive orders and those the administration puts in place to enforce them. One of the first actions President Biden took after being sworn in as the…

Biden’s housing agenda starts with fair housing initiative

With a Senate split, progress may come down to executive orders and those the administration puts in place to enforce them.

One of the first actions President Biden took after being sworn in as the 46th President of the United States was to sign an executive order that would undo controversial policies put in place by his predecessor and continue to strengthen the effort to have fair housing in America for all.

Biden’s order targeted two policies put in place by President Trump – a rule that governs how cities determine and act upon housing segregation, and a rule that relaxed standards that police discrimination when it comes to mortgage lending and rental housing.

Biden called for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to review these orders and to take the steps necessary to get HUD’s policies back in line with those outlined in the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Although that Act has been in place for nearly 53 years, the homeownership rate for Blacks in America is no better in 2021 than they were when that act was created.

With homeownership being one of the largest drivers to creating intergenerational wealth, many feel the federal government needs to take on a more active role - rather than leaving this to state and local governments to manage - in order for there to be a real difference.

Marcia Fudge, who was expected to be approved by the U.S. Senate as the new HUD Secretary in early March, is going to be busy in her new gig.

That’s because Biden’s fair housing agenda is not just about undoing a couple of Trump policies. Biden’s agenda includes eliminating red tape to make housing development easier as well as implementing new policies designed to close the racial gap in homeownership.

Biden feels he can accomplish this because of key leaders he has appointed to important roles in the administration that will tackle fair housing head-on.

Jenn Jones is the new chief-of-staff at HUD, after serving as the lead for the nonprofit National Community Reinvestment coalition. Prior to that, she served as a senior policy advisor to President Obama’s HUD Secretary Julian Castro where she was a guiding hand in the development of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule that was an Obama executive order.

The rest of HUD’s senior staff is a who’s who of researchers who have studied ways to improve equity and fair housing issues.

Atop the list is Alanna McCargo who is now the senior advisor on housing finance at HUD after serving as vice president of housing finance policy at the Urban Institute.

Ironically, Sasha Samberg-Champion is the deputy general counsel for HUD’s office of general counsel. Samberg-Champion previously sued HUD in 2018 on behalf of the National Fair Housing Alliance and housing groups in Texas for a failure to enforce the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule. He told Bloomberg CityLab in 2020 that “HUD is taking fair housing out of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing.”

Then there’s Peggy Bailey, who will serve as the senior advisor of rental assistance at HUD who previously was the vice president for housing policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Bloomberg City Lab noted in a January 26 article that the Biden Administration will likely appoint Michael Barr to head up the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), an agency in the Treasury Department that has an impact on fair lending standards.

Barr was a Treasury-Department official under President Obama and his first task will be to undo a Trump rule that all but gutted the Community Reinvestment Act requiring banks to fully serve the communities in which they are located.

The Community Reinvestment Act could use a facelift though, to accommodate online-only banks and other technological changes that have made lending easier.

The hiccup here with Barr as an appointment is that progressives within Biden’s own Democratic Party oppose this appointment because Barr is allegedly too chummy with former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who was deemed to be in Wall Street’s pocket.

This is a concern because the OCC has built a bad reputation over the years of being in cahoots with the banks, therefore any link to banks or Wall Street, even if it’s a secondary or tertiary link, is going to be viewed negatively.

Barr does have support from some progressives, most notably Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who he also considers a mentor. But, Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown and House Committee on Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters have pushed back against his appointment.

These appointments are critical if the Biden Administration really wants to push this housing agenda. With a split Senate, legislation will be tough to pass, meaning that Biden will have to rely on executive orders, such as this one, and having the right people in place to enforce his new rules.

This is likely his only path to changing the equity of how the federal government responds to housing issues like fair and affordable housing.
How Does the Affordable Housing Crisis Impact Our Communities? These 4 Documentaries Will Show You

You can spend hours Googling how-to articles on homeownership, but we’ve rounded up these four documentaries on affordable housing to provide you with a one-stop-shop for all relevant information about homeownership. Not only do these…

How Does the Affordable Housing Crisis Impact Our Communities? These 4 Documentaries Will Show You

You can spend hours Googling how-to articles on homeownership, but we’ve rounded up these four documentaries on affordable housing to provide you with a one-stop-shop for all relevant information about homeownership.

Not only do these documentaries highlight affordable housing across the United States, they also have a large focus on ending the housing crisis across the globe and the homelessness calamity, particularly amongst America’s youth in VICE’s documentary ‘Shelter’.

Read on below to understand the focus of each of these recommended documentaries:

Transformation of Affordable Housing in Rural Areas of the U.S.

This short documentary produced by Greystone focuses on how USDA’s Rural Development Division, and partners, have been working to conserve affordable housing for elderly and low-income residents in rural America. In the film, experts such as Robert Barolak of Greystone discuss the affordable housing preservation process. “There are still a great number of lower-income and elderly folks who live in rural America and who need affordable housing. But it’s aging. It’s deteriorating, and some of it deteriorating quite rapidly. It needs to be renovated and refreshed. It needs to be repositioned for the next 30 or 40 years,” Barolak shares. Greystone has taken that into account and made active changes both financially and in regard to redevelopment.

Greystone manages the repositioning and renovation of apartment complexes in small rural rental communities across the country, primarily in the southeastern states. As Tanya Eastwood, the president of Greystone Affordable Development, shares the company’s plans, “We came up with a creative innovative plan to preserve this much-needed housing. We basically pooled them together in a statewide portfolio type transaction and are able to have a major impact in their real estate schedules that they own.” Recently, Greystone was able to refurbish 1,362 apartments in 44 different communities across rural Georgia with $117 million in financing. In addition to USDA, Greystone actively worked with the Athens Housing Authority, Georgia Department of Community Affairs, and Fannie Mae to assemble the necessary financing.

Sold Out: Affordable Housing at Risk

This PBS documentary was produced with the MN Housing Partnership and shares numerous stories from tenants on how they pushed through the housing crisis to find affordable solutions. Ever-changing economic power and urban development have been closing in on low-income communities for ages, and in turn, negatively impacting the affordable housing market. With each passing day, low-income residents have fewer options when it comes to housing and once we see those families and residents move to more affordable areas, local businesses start to see the lack of patrons immediately and struggle to make ends meet. As shared in the documentary, “Folks at the bottom end of the income spectrum are losing out in this very competitive situation.”

One heart-wrenching example, tenants who had called their Richfield, MN apartment home for up to 15 years received 30-day notices that they had to leave, even after signing 12-month leases, once the complex was sold. The new owners of the huge apartment complex, Crossroads Apartments, immediately put in a set of policies designed to ultimately remake the tenant population, such as increasing rents 30% and stopping all involvement in any government programs.

This vicious cycle seems to be never ending, but ‘Sold Out: Affordable Housing at Risk’ shares solutions to the crisis and eviction scares. The short film also touches on communities of color, asking important questions such as “Is what’s wrong the concentration of communities of color, or is it the way in which we treat concentrations of communities of color?” As said in the documentary, “This issue of housing sits at the center of our wellbeing.”

SHELTER

VICE’s documentary ‘SHELTER’ focuses on America’s youth homelessness crisis specifically. The crew set off to New Orleans to chat with the staff and residents of America’s largest non-profit shelter – Covenant House. The perspective from the alarmingly young residents and passionate staff in the documentary shines a light on the severity of the issue and ultimately prompts directors Brent and Craig Renaud (as well as viewers) to urgently address the plight of homeless youth.

The Covenant House has been protecting at-risk youths for over 40 years and has no plans of stopping. The documentary informs viewers of the day to day struggles the staff handles to keep vulnerable members of society safe and off the streets. With a large majority of these teens being survivors of sex trafficking, physical abuse, mental health issues, addiction, and abandonment, the Covenant House isn’t just a place to lay their head, but a home. Homelessness affects over half a million people in the U.S. and the number of unhoused people increased nationally for the first time since 2010, based on data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In Louisiana specifically, where the short film is based, at least 3,000 unhoused people were reported in 2017.

High Quality and Affordable

This documentary from Gaaleriie centers on affordable housing in Vienna, which is nearly a utopian community when it comes to social housing. Vienna currently has two systems of subsidized housing. One is social housing, owned by the city, where no new private units are built within this sector. The nonprofit sector has been greatly strengthened over the years by working with nonprofit developers such as this one. Roughly half of the population is living in this sector of public housing. Within this subsidized sector, there is a lot of experimentation allowing them to introduce new sustainable housing standards such as energy consumption and integration programs to assist immigrants in Vienna.

Another aspect of Vienna’s affordable housing, which makes them the star pupil of the world, is that every large new housing estate has to go through an in-depth competition process. A team consisting of a nonprofit developer, an architect, a landscape architect, and other experts have to present a “complete product” to the city. These extensive steps ensure that the appropriate amount of time, effort, and consideration has been put into the new development to guarantee it is a safe and beneficial home for those who are seeking affordable housing.

Each of these four documentaries highlight obstacles that the housing crisis puts on lower income populations. A lack of affordable housing doesn't only leave people unhoused, but it also has a huge impact on small businesses, schools, and the overall community. The U.S. can certainly take notes from Vienna's progressive affordable housing system, and with the right financial guidance and support, America can match up with some of Europe's public housing success.
UPDATE: Assistance Needed For Renters Across The Country

APOA advocates helped secure key victories in COVID-19 relief legislation including $25 billion in funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance program that will assist households that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to…

UPDATE: Assistance Needed For Renters Across The Country

APOA advocates helped secure key victories in COVID-19 relief legislation including $25 billion in funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance program that will assist households that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

With many renters accruing debt too great to be repaid and more than 40% of rental units owned by ‘mom and pop’-operated small businesses, many of which have been struggling to pay their bills and maintain their properties—timely distribution of rental assistance funds is critical to stabilize housing and keep families in their homes.

The Departments of Treasury and HUD must allocate the funds as quickly as possible and provide clear guidance to state and local governments when distributing federal rental assistance funds—as well as flexibility for landlords to obtain resident consent—to ensure that funds will be paid directly to the property owner on behalf of the resident and that the financial obligations of the property are met.  

Rental assistance is necessary to pull the country back from the brink of a housing and financial crisis.


Learn More: See the Emergency Rental Assistance program eligibility requirements and access Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding program requirements


BACKGROUND

Most recently, on January 20, the Biden Administration extended the federal ban on evictions through March 2021 with an executive action.

Previously, on December 21, 2020, Congress passed an additional round of COVID-19 relief legislation that included funding for rental assistance.

Before, on September 4, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared a “temporary halt to residential evictions to prevent the further spread of Covid-19.” This eviction moratorium applies to all residential housing. Further, it applies to all renters who self-certify they meet four criteria. The criteria are:

  • Make less than $99,000 (single) or $198,000 (married); This is expected to cover more than 95% of all renters
  • Have used their best efforts to obtain rental assistance;
  • Are unable to pay full rent due to loss of household income, hours or wages, lay-offs, or extraordinary out of pocket medical expenses; note this does not have to be COVID-related AND
  • If evicted, would likely become homeless or need to move in to a residence that is shared by other people in close quarters

On May 15, 2020, The House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act which included substantial rental assistance, however the new eviction moratorium covers a much larger population of renters, around 95%, placing the vast majority of housing providers in jeopardy.

Buttigieg On Biden Administration’s Priorities For Transportation Department

Read the original article by Alisa Chang at NPR. CHANG: OK. Let’s talk a little bit about – more about what you’ll be dealing with when you’re confirmed, if you’re confirmed as transportation secretary. Public…

Buttigieg On Biden Administration’s Priorities For Transportation Department

Read the original article by Alisa Chang at NPR.

CHANG: OK. Let's talk a little bit about - more about what you'll be dealing with when you're confirmed, if you're confirmed as transportation secretary. Public transit systems throughout the country have been struggling for years and then even more so during this pandemic because ridership has further declined in many regions. Where do you even start to try to reinvigorate these systems in a post-pandemic world?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, it starts with the president's rescue package, which identifies $20 billion to support our transit agencies that have taken such a blow. But the reality is just trying to prop them up or get back to pre-COVID levels isn't really good enough when you consider the need for us to have stronger transit systems. It's important for safety. It's important for climate. It's important for economic growth. And it's important for equity because we know that in many parts of the country, there are transit deserts, disproportionately in Black, brown and tribal communities that have cut people off from economic opportunity. But again, if we get this right, this is a great example of the kind of investment that really does pay for itself because it unlocks opportunity. It gives people alternatives for how to get around. And it's going to make our economy and our communities stronger.


We believe, along with millions of Americans, that the dream of ownership is a dream that’s worth protecting. If you agree, we encourage you to add your name to our petition.

Are You and Your Partner Ready to Buy a House Together?

Read the original article by Christy Bieber at Nasdaq.com. With mortgage rates near record lows, many Americans are shopping for a home right now — even though prices have also been driven up in many…

Are You and Your Partner Ready to Buy a House Together?

Read the original article by Christy Bieber at Nasdaq.com.

With mortgage rates near record lows, many Americans are shopping for a home right now -- even though prices have also been driven up in many parts of the country.

If you're hoping to score a mortgage at one of the lowest rates in history and you're financially ready to become a homeowner, you may be wondering if it makes sense to find a real estate agent and begin your search.

But if you're half of a couple, there's another thing you have to consider: whether you and your partner are ready to buy a house together and commit to a major joint financial obligation.


We believe, along with millions of Americans, that the dream of ownership is a dream that’s worth protecting. If you agree, we encourage you to add your name to our petition.

2021 – The Year For The Home Buyer And Seller

Read the original article by David H. Stevens at George Mason Mortgage. In my almost forty years in the real estate and mortgage finance business, there have been a variety of cycles that have impacted…

2021 – The Year For The Home Buyer And Seller

Read the original article by David H. Stevens at George Mason Mortgage.

In my almost forty years in the real estate and mortgage finance business, there have been a variety of cycles that have impacted housing. From the oil patch crisis in the eighties, the dot com bubble of 2000, to the Great Recession of 2008, and the most incredible year we just completed, homeowners, housing, and mortgage finance have seen its ups and downs.

The truth behind these market changes is that facts and data matter to markets. Housing is different from other goods and services. Yes, housing is about shelter and that makes it a national treasure that Presidents from both parties have highlighted over the many decades past, but it is far more than that. Housing is the single greatest contributor to wealth in America and when you combine that with the proper market conditions, the ability to build long-term, sustainable, intergenerational wealth can be accelerated.

The fact is, and what many don’t realize, home is where the majority of Americans have the greatest wealth...


We believe, along with millions of Americans, that the dream of ownership is a dream that’s worth protecting. If you agree, we encourage you to add your name to our petition.

What Does A Biden Presidency Mean For Your Tax Bill?

It’s taken a few days longer than expected, but early this morning, every major news network called the 2020 election in favor of former Vice President Joe Biden, who will become the 46th President of…

What Does A Biden Presidency Mean For Your Tax Bill?

It’s taken a few days longer than expected, but early this morning, every major news network called the 2020 election in favor of former Vice President Joe Biden, who will become the 46th President of the United States. This news appears to have not been particularly well received by the 45th President, the incumbent Donald Trump, who has shown no signs that he’ll concede any time soon, choosing instead to launch allegations of voter fraud and promise legal action.

Eventually, this whole thing will get sorted out. And once the legal process is complete, if it does indeed reveal that Biden is next in line, many Americans will be asking the same question: are my taxes going to change?

It’s a valid question, because Biden has not hidden the fact that he intends to raise taxes by nearly $3.5 trillion over the next ten years on corporations and individuals earning more than $400,000 annually. As a result, high earners have a right to be nervous about a Biden presidency. At the same time, Biden has proposed a package of incentives aimed at cutting taxes for lower-income taxpayers, including refundable credits for everything from paying childcare costs to buying a home. Thus, for some, news of a Biden victory could mean more money in their pockets come tax time.

Stay-At-Home Orders Drive Broadband Expansion

Identified as a federal policy priority in 2009, broadband, or high-speed internet, remains one of the top infrastructure issues facing the country. However, as families continue to work and learn from home, it’s more essential…

Stay-At-Home Orders Drive Broadband Expansion

Identified as a federal policy priority in 2009, broadband, or high-speed internet, remains one of the top infrastructure issues facing the country. However, as families continue to work and learn from home, it’s more essential than ever to invest in smart broadband policy for all communities.  Luckily, government programs and relief packages are providing a new path for states to improve wireless in rural areas where broadband has not historically been available.

The $150 billion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, approved on March 27, 2020, is just one example. $2 billion of the CARES was earmarked to provide support for the transition to fully remote life, including distance learning, telehealth, and broadband expansion. Over 25 states took advantage - including:  Alabama, California, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Mayland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

State, local, and tribal governments were eligible to apply for tech/broadband-specific grants. However, there are some key restrictions for this funding - which can only be used:

  • Programs that are directly connected to COVID-19
  • Have no previous budget allocated/ approved prior March 27.
  • On Dec. 30, 2020, unused funds will revert to the federal government.

Other government programs have ramped up pre-established programs to provide needed relief during the pandemic. On Thursday, October 29th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched the first phase of its new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction, which will target over six million homes and businesses in unserved census blocks. The auction will provide internet companies with $20 billion in subsidies over the next 10 years and hopes to connect roughly 10 million Americans who don’t have any internet access or are on slow speeds.

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also launched a smaller rural broadband pilot. In September and October, the agency announced over $516 million in ReConnect rural broadband grants and loans, drawing from a $550 million pot that Congress authorized last December.

NAR Launches New “Fairness is Worth Fighting For” Campaign

A sad truth? Too many people are denied access to the future that properties can make possible. That’s the driver behind the National Association of REALTORS’ (NAR) newly launched “Fairness is Worth Fighting For” consumer…

NAR Launches New “Fairness is Worth Fighting For” Campaign

A sad truth? Too many people are denied access to the future that properties can make possible. That’s the driver behind the National Association of REALTORS’ (NAR) newly launched “Fairness is Worth Fighting For” consumer advertising campaign - aimed to make fair housing a reality for all. 

NAR’s Commitment to Change 

NAR has a deeply rooted commitment to establish codes that set a higher standard for fairness in housing than any other federal law. Since 1997 NAR has funded “That’s Who We R,” a 22 year-long campaign designed to raise awareness and drive government legislation modifications. 

The fair housing campaign is packed with persuasive video, digital, and social media materials that are designed for the public to spread awareness and bring the “fight for fair” into their own lives. 

“Together we’ll hold each other accountable until the fight for fair is won. Because this ad won’t end discrimination in real estate. People will.”

At the beginning of the year, NAR released a Fair Housing Action Plan designed to ensure that all 1.4 million REALTORS® are protecting housing rights in their own neighborhoods. The Action Plan commits NAR to:

  • Work closely with State Association Executives to ensure that state licensing laws include effective fair-housing training requirements and hold real estate agents accountable to their fair housing obligations;
  • Launch a Public-Service Announcement Campaign that reaffirm NAR’s commitment to fair housing, and how consumers can report problems;
  • Integrate fair housing into all REALTOR® conferences and engagements (to include a fair housing  theme throughout the May Midyear Meeting;
  • Explore the creation of a voluntary self-testing program, in partnership with a fair housing organization, as a resource for brokers and others who want confidential reports on agent practices so they can address problems;
  • Create more robust fair housing education, including unconscious-bias training, and education on how the actions of REALTORS® shape communities.
  • Conduct a national study to determine what factors motivate discrimination in sales market
  • Profile leaders who exemplify the best fair housing practices and workplace diversity
  • Develop materials to help REALTORS® provide consumers with information on schools that avoids fair housing pitfalls.

These Fair Housing efforts demonstrate the value and service that REALTORS® bring to their clients and communities in regards to homeownership. 

If you experience or witness discrimination in real estate, we urge you to report it.

Visit Everything you need to know to file a housing discrimination complaint with the HUD if you have any questions. 

How Much Does Flood Insurance Cost?

Read the original article by John Egan and Amy Danise on Forbes Flooding ranks as the costliest, most common natural disaster in the U.S. Yet standard homeowners and renters insurance don’t cover flood damage, and most…

How Much Does Flood Insurance Cost?

Read the original article by John Egan and Amy Danise on Forbes

Flooding ranks as the costliest, most common natural disaster in the U.S. Yet standard homeowners and renters insurance don’t cover flood damage, and most commercial property insurance policies also exclude floods.

So how do you protect your property and belongings from the financial pit of flooding? You can purchase a separate flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or from a private insurer.

How to Get NFIP Flood Insurance

The NFIP, managed by FEMA, offers federally backed flood insurance sold through more than 60 insurance companies and through an initiative called NFIP Direct.

NFIP policies are available in more than 22,000 communities that participate in the program. The program is the primary provider of residential flood insurance in the U.S. It covers more than 5 million homes and businesses, mainly in flood-prone coastal regions...

Homeowner Insurance Rates Are Rising

Homeowners’ insurance rates are steadily rising across the country. A surge of natural disasters in 2019 and 2020 have resulted in huge insurance payouts, and rate hikes soon followed. The NOAA National Centers for Environmental…

Homeowner Insurance Rates Are Rising

Homeowners’ insurance rates are steadily rising across the country. A surge of natural disasters in 2019 and 2020 have resulted in huge insurance payouts, and rate hikes soon followed. The NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) shows that “in 2020 alone, the U.S. experienced 22 billion-dollar disasters.” As a result, many homeowners can expect to pay more for insurance. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners notes “home insurance rates are up almost 47 percent in the last 10 years.”
Some States Are Seeing Faster Rate Increases Than Others
The article Homeowners Insurance Rates Are Rising - Particularly in These States notes that figures from Lending Tree’s data site Value Penguin, show these 10 states have the fastest rising home insurance rates.
1. California
  • Average premium: $1,826
  • Increase over 2019: 3%
2. Nebraska
  • Average premium: $1,749
  • Increase over 2019: 6%
3. Illinois
  • Average premium: $1,405
  • Increase over 2019: 4%
4. South Dakota
  • Average premium: $2,364
  • Increase over 2019: 3%
5. Utah
  • Average premium: $711
  • Increase over 2019: 2%
6. Rhode Island
  • Average premium: $1,414
  • Increase over 2019: 1%
7. Georgia
  • Average premium: $1,713
  • Increase over 2019: 0%
8. Virginia
  • Average premium: $1,341
  • Increase over 2019:8%
9. Idaho
  • Average premium: $940
  • Increase over 2019: 5%
10. New Mexico
  • Average premium: $1,284
  • Increase over 2019: 3.5%
5 Ways to Lower Your Homeowners Insurance Costs
Even if you don’t live in one of the 10 states listed as having the fastest rising home insurance rates, you may still see an increase in cost. However, there are steps you can take to lower your homeowners insurance costs.
  1. Shop Around: It can be time-consuming to investigate various insurers, but the money you can save might be worth it. Start by checking with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). Here you can find information to help you choose an insurer in your state. You can also check with your state insurance department for rate comparisons. While it’s advisable to get multiple quotes to compare prices, make sure the providers are highly rated for serving customers filing claims.
  2. Raise Your Deductible: A deductible is the sum of money you pay toward a loss before your insurance begins payment on a claim. If you have a higher deductible, you can save money on your premiums. The Insurance Information Institute notes, “Most insurance companies recommend a deductible of at least $500. If you can afford to raise your deductible to $1,000, you may save as much as 25 percent.” Remember, you may have a separate deductible for specific disaster-related damage like windstorms, earthquakes, and hail.
  3. Combine Your Home and Auto Policies: Often, if you bundle your insurance policies (home and auto) with one company you can save 25 percent in premiums. It is still smart to make sure your total price is lower with the bundled policies than if you were to buy two policies from two different companies.
  4. Make Disaster Resistant Home Improvements: You may be able to save on premiums if you make disaster resistant home improvements. You should check with your insurance agent to find out which upgrades, if any, can save you money. Each disaster comes with its own set of appropriate upgrades. Homeowners in wildfire-prone areas like California and Arizona will benefit from different upgrades than homeowners living in hurricane-prone areas like North Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida.
  5. Improve Your Credit Score: Having a good credit score can reduce your insurance costs. To make sure your credit history is solid you should pay your bills on time, keep your credit balances as low as possible, and limit your open credit accounts.
Insurance rates can be expected to rise annually. However, steeper than typical increases may have homeowners scrambling to find ways to cut costs. With a little time and attention to your property and your policy, you may be able to find ways to lower your homeowners insurance costs.
We believe, along with millions of Americans, that the dream of ownership is a dream that’s worth protecting. If you agree, we encourage you to add your name to our petition.
Teleworking in a parking lot. School on a flash drive. The coronavirus prompts new urgency for rural Internet access.

Read the original article by Meagan Flynn in The Washington Post. Jason Onorati moved to rural Powhatan, Va., 23 years ago, when he didn’t need the Internet to raise a family. He lives with his young…

Teleworking in a parking lot. School on a flash drive. The coronavirus prompts new urgency for rural Internet access.

Read the original article by Meagan Flynn in The Washington Post.

Jason Onorati moved to rural Powhatan, Va., 23 years ago, when he didn’t need the Internet to raise a family.

He lives with his young son and his 2-year-old granddaughter on a gravel dead-end road on the edge of town, one of many pockets of rural America that lack reliable WiFi. Here, there is no access to video calls, no Netflix or online billing, except via cellphone. Teleworking, online doctor’s appointments and remote school are nearly impossible.

“I’m three-tenths of a mile from the road, which is why I can’t get Comcast,” Onorati said. “They want to charge by the foot. We’re talking thousands of dollars.”

The coronavirus pandemic has drawn new attention to this long-standing problem, with local and federal lawmakers and candidates in Virginia demanding funding and legal changes to bring broadband to an estimated half-million state residents.AD

In a debate last month, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) compared the need for nationwide broadband deployment to rural electrification in the 1930s. His Republican opponent, Daniel Gade, compared it to the construction of the country’s interstate highway network in the 1950s...

It’s Time To Get Smart About Infrastructure

Read the original article by Chris Turlica by Forbes. It’s a running joke in Beltway circles that every week is Infrastructure Week, but while the Senate remains deadlocked over the next round of coronavirus stimulus spending, analysts…

It’s Time To Get Smart About Infrastructure

Read the original article by Chris Turlica by Forbes.

It’s a running joke in Beltway circles that every week is Infrastructure Week, but while the Senate remains deadlocked over the next round of coronavirus stimulus spending, analysts believe that major infrastructure investments might be the key to putting the global economy back on track. Both U.S. presidential candidates have pledged to spend heavily on infrastructure, and industry groups are also calling for big investments in bridges, highways and other major infrastructure projects to spur a U.S. economic revival.

Such spending is long overdue. A third of Americans say roads in their neighborhoods badly need repairs, and half of rural roads are rated poor to fair. Put all 54,000 of our nation’s structurally deficient bridges end to end, and they’ll stretch from Manhattan to Miami Beach. At least 2,170 of our 15,500 high-hazard dams are dangerously deficient. And with 240,000 water-main breaks a year, we annually pour 2 trillion gallons of drinking water straight down the drain. 

Frankly, the state of America’s infrastructure is shocking. But therein lies the rub: With so much of our infrastructure in decay, how can we track all the work that needs to be done? At current rates of repair, it would take decades to patch up those deficient bridges — so where should we start, and which bridges should we repair first? Which structures merely need a coat of paint, and which ones need to be completely rebuilt? With vast sums at stake, how will we decide how the money gets spent?

To find the answer, look at the five-mile Mackinac suspension bridge between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. Since 2016, researchers have installed scores of tiny wireless sensors on “Big Mac.” This year, they will fit thousands more. Powered by the vibrations of passing traffic, the sensors constantly gather information about traffic patterns, wind levels and the condition of the bridge itself, giving inspectors a torrent of invaluable data about the bridge’s safety and pinpointing exactly where and when repairs are needed...

The Pandemic Threatens The Already Vulnerable Affordable Housing Crisis

Read the original article by Jennifer Castenson on Forbes The perfect storm of affordable housing crisis is brewing right now: a threat made up of the already low supply that is hitting the increasing post-pandemic…

The Pandemic Threatens The Already Vulnerable Affordable Housing Crisis

Read the original article by Jennifer Castenson on Forbes

The perfect storm of affordable housing crisis is brewing right now: a threat made up of the already low supply that is hitting the increasing post-pandemic demand head on.  

Before the pandemic, supply was an issue. The National Low Income Housing Coalition published the GAP report in late 2019 that shows a shortage of seven million affordable homes for low-income households at or below the poverty guidelines, or 30% of the area median income.  

So, now, those already taxed supply issues are being further pressured by the pandemic.

Jay Parsons, vice president of multifamily optimization and deputy chief economist at RealPage RP -2.6%, a property management software company, forecasts that the total apartment supply will remain high through 2021 due to the pipeline of projects that were approved and under way prior to COVID. But, he cautions that the pipeline is thinning out and there will likely be a large drop off of completions by 2022...

Average 30-year mortgage rate for purchase loans falls to another all-time low

30-year fixed loan now 5 basis points below the original record set in September Read the original article by Alex Roha on HousingWire. The average U.S. mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed loan fell to…

Average 30-year mortgage rate for purchase loans falls to another all-time low

30-year fixed loan now 5 basis points below the original record set in September

Read the original article by Alex Roha on HousingWire.

The average U.S. mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed loan fell to 2.81% this week, the lowest in Freddie Mac’s survey history, the mortgage giant said in a report on Thursday. The rate fell six basis points from the week prior and is now five basis points lower than the original all-time low set in mid-September.

The average fixed rate for a 15-year mortgage was 2.35%, falling from last week’s 2.37% — matching the record set three weeks ago...

Housing Affordability Weakens in August 2020 as Home Prices Rose Faster than Median Family Incomes

Read the original article by Michael Hyman from NAR At the national level, housing affordability declined in August 2020 compared to a year ago and fell compared to July, according to NAR’s Housing Affordability Index.…

Housing Affordability Weakens in August 2020 as Home Prices Rose Faster than Median Family Incomes

Read the original article by Michael Hyman from NAR

At the national level, housing affordability declined in August 2020 compared to a year ago and fell compared to July, according to NAR’s Housing Affordability Index. Affordability dipped in August compared to August as the median family income rose by 2.2% while the median home prices rose by 11.7%. The effective 30-year fixed mortgage rate1 fell to 3.00% this August from 3.08% in July. Mortgage rates are at all-time lows compared to a year ago at 3.66%.

Line graph: Housing Affordability Index, August 2019 to August 2020

As of August 2020, the national and regional indices were all above 100, meaning that a family with the median income had more than the income required to afford a median-priced home. The income required to afford a mortgage, or the qualifying income, is the income needed so that mortgage payments make up no more than 25% of family income. The most affordable region was the Midwest, with an index value of 197.3 (median family income of $79,570 which is almost more than twice the qualifying income of $40,320). The least affordable region remained the West, where the index was 115.5(median family income of $86,744 and the qualifying income of $75,072). For comparison, the index was 167.1 in the South (median family income of $74,666 and the qualifying income of $44,688) and 161.7 in the Northeast (median family income of $92,605 with a qualifying income of $57,264).

Bar chart: Median Family Income and Qualifying Income by Region

While homes are typically affordable, housing affordability2 declined from a year ago in all regions, except in the Midwest where there was no change. The Northeast HAI had a modest decline of 0.1% followed by the South HAI with a dip of 0.8%. The West HAI had the biggest drop of 1.0%.

Affordability is down in all of the four regions from last month. The South HAI had a decline of 1.2% followed by the West HAI with a dip of 1.3%. The Midwest HAI had a decline of 1.7% followed by the Northeast HAI with the biggest drop of 5.8%.

Nationally, mortgage rates were down 66 basis points from one year ago (one percentage point equals 100 basis points). The median sales price for a single-family home sold in August in the US was $315,000 up 11.7% from a year ago, while median family incomes rose 2.2 % in 2020 from one year ago.

Bar chart: August Housing Affordability, 2020 and 2019

Even with lower mortgage rates compared to one year ago, the payment as a percentage of income rose modestly to 15.7% this August from 15.6% from a year ago. Regionally, the West has the highest mortgage payment to income share at 21.6% of income. The Northeast had the second highest share at 15.5% followed by the South with their share at 15.0%. The Midwest had the lowest mortgage payment as a percentage of income at 12.7%. Mortgage payments are not burdensome if they are no more than 25% of income.3

Bar chart: US and Regional Mortgage Payment as a Percent of Income, 2020 and 2019

This week the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that for the week ending October 2, mortgage applications increased 4.6 from the week prior. Inventory levels are extremely low so more housing supply is needed to help tame price growth. New home sales are on the rise. Consumers can still take advantage of borrowing while rates are historically low.

What does housing affordability look like in your market? View the full data release.

The Housing Affordability Index calculation assumes a 20% down payment and a 25% qualifying ratio (principal and interest payment to income). See further details on the methodology and assumptions behind the calculation.


1 Starting in May 2019, FHFA discontinued the release of several mortgage rates and only published an adjustable-rate mortgage called PMMS+ based on Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey. With these changes, NAR discontinued the release of the HAI Composite Index (based on 30-year fixed-rate and ARM) and starting in May 2019 only releases the HAI based on a 30-year mortgage. NAR calculates the 30-year effective fixed rate based on Freddie Mac's 30-year fixed mortgage contract rate, 30-year fixed mortgage points and fees, and a median loan value based on the NAR median price and a 20% down payment.

2 A Home Affordability Index (HAI) value of 100 means that a family with the median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. An index of 120 signifies that a family earning the median income has 20 percent more than the level of income needed pay the mortgage on a median-priced home, assuming a 20% down payment so that the monthly payment and interest will not exceed 25% of this level of income (qualifying income).

3 Total housing costs that include mortgage payment, property taxes, maintenance, insurance, utilities are not considered burdensome if they account for no more than 30% of income.

How Biden’s $15,000 tax credit plan for first-time homebuyers could be a game-changer

Read the original article by Zach Wichter on Bankrate With less than a month until Election Day — and voting already underway in many states — housing hasn’t been a front-burner issue so far. But one candidate’s…

How Biden’s $15,000 tax credit plan for first-time homebuyers could be a game-changer

Read the original article by Zach Wichter on Bankrate

With less than a month until Election Day — and voting already underway in many states — housing hasn’t been a front-burner issue so far. But one candidate’s plan to encourage homeownership with tax credits could make a big difference in some parts of the country.

As part of his campaign platform, former Vice President Joe Biden said he’d put forward legislation that would provide $15,000 in tax credits to first-time homebuyers. That could be a game-changer in some markets, especially in the South and Midwest where property values are generally lower than in coastal cities. It could mean that some people may be able to afford to buy a house years before they thought they would.

Bankrate spoke to Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors about Biden’s proposal. Yun said President Trump has not made a similar pitch, but emphasized that NAR does not favor any political party or candidate...

Fair Housing Act 101

What is Fair Housing Act and who does it cover? TweetShare [...]Read More...

Fair Housing Act 101

What is Fair Housing Act and who does it cover?

Everything you need to know to file a housing discrimination complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

If you believe you have experienced discrimination in renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, or other housing-related activities because of your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability, you may…

Everything you need to know to file a housing discrimination complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

If you believe you have experienced discrimination in renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, or other housing-related activities because of your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability, you may file a complaint with HUD. HUD will investigate your complaint for free.

Throughout the investigation, HUD will try to help both sides resolve the complaint. If no agreement is reached, and HUD’s investigation leads to a finding that discrimination has likely occurred, it may bring a legal action on your behalf. HUD will seek to address the harm caused by the discrimination, and to prevent future discrimination, by seeking compensation, changes to policies and procedures, and/or training.

Fair housing complaints can be filed against:

  • Property owners, property managers, developers, real estate agents, mortgage lenders, homeowners associations, insurance providers, and others who affect housing opportunities

What to know before filing a complaint?

  • Who can file?
    • Anyone who has been or will be harmed by a discriminatory housing practice may file a complaint.
  • How much does it cost to file a complaint?
    • Filing a complaint through HUD is completely free - both for individuals and community groups
  • Is there a time limit for filing?
    • You must file your complaint within one year of the last date of the alleged violation.
  • Can you get in trouble for filing a complaint?
    • Retaliation is illegal. You cannot be punished for filing a complaint.
  • Are there resources to help you file?
    • HUD provides a toll-free teletypewriter (TTY) line: 1-800-877-8339. You can also ask for other disability-related assistance when you contact HUD. HUD will accept complaints made in any language, and will provide interpreters upon request.

Be prepared to provide:

  • Your name & address
  • The name and address of the person(s) or organization your complaint is against;
  • The address or other identification of the housing or program involved;
  • A short description of the event(s) that cause you to believe your rights were violated; and
  • The date(s) of the alleged violation.

4 Ways to submit a complaint:

  1. Online Portal
    • You can fill out a form directly on HUD’s website (English or Spanish)
  2. Email
  3. Phone
  4. Mail
    • If utilizing email, phone, or mail, HUD recommends you direct the complaint to one of HUD’s regional offices utilizing this form.
How HUD’S Counseling Services Can Help Homeowners and Home Buyers

BY TANYA SVOBODAJ Buying and owning a home is a daunting prospect in the best of times – and the uncertain climate of the economy due to COVID-19 can make it feel downright unachievable. The…

How HUD’S Counseling Services Can Help Homeowners and Home Buyers

BY TANYA SVOBODAJ

Buying and owning a home is a daunting prospect in the best of times – and the uncertain climate of the economy due to COVID-19 can make it feel downright unachievable. The good news is that there are professionals trained to help you navigate your home related worries. Acting Federal Housing Commissioner Len Wolfson said in a statement, to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),  “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, HUD-approved counselors are there to assist millions of homeowners and renters nationwide and help them keep a roof over their heads.”

Homeowners and potential homebuyers looking for guidance amidst the uncertainty can benefit from the $40 million in housing counseling grants awarded by HUD on June 16th. HUD notes these grants, “Will directly support the housing counseling services provided by the 204 HUD-approved local housing counseling agencies, national and regional organizations and housing finance agencies (SHFAs).”WHY WORK WITH A HUD COUNSELOR?

A housing counselor is an individual certified through The HUD Housing Counseling Certification Examination who can help potential homebuyers understand the buying process, help current homeowners understand how to avoid foreclosure, and help seniors and individuals with disabilities make sound decisions about their monthly payments, among other things.

According to HUD, “In Fiscal Year 2019, HUD-approved housing counseling agencies served 1,015,911 households. Approximately 52 percent of those households were minorities, including 38 percent African American and 10 percent identified as multiple races. Additionally, 19 percent of households served were Hispanic.”

The latest grants were given preferentially to local counseling agencies serving individuals in designated Opportunity Zones, or “economically distressed communities.”WHAT COUNSELING SERVICES ARE AVAILABLE?

While there are a variety of services offered through HUD’s Housing Counseling Program, not all of them are free. Housing counseling agencies who participate in HUD’s Housing Counseling Program are not permitted to charge a fee for:

  • Foreclosure prevention: There are a variety of programs administered through HUD for homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure or struggling with their mortgage payments. A complete list of these programs can be found on HUD’s website.
  • Homeless counseling: HUD funds services to help individuals transition out of homelessness.

Housing counseling agencies are permitted to charge reasonable fees for other services such as:

  • Pre-purchase education: HUD’s counseling services can help potential homebuyers understand how much they can afford, know their rights, shop for a loan, find homebuying programs, and walk them through the entire homebuying process from making a wish list to signing the closing papers.
  • Reverse mortgage counseling: This service focuses on educating seniors about the viability of a reverse mortgage.
  • Non-delinquency post-purchase counseling services
  • Education to avoid mortgage scams

It’s important to make sure you’re using a HUD-approved agency to access these services. The National Association of REALTORS’® Protect Your Investment: A Guide For At Risk Homeowners urges people to: “Watch out for questionable companies who advertise that, for a minimal fee, they will assist homeowners by hiring a lawyer to defend the foreclosure in court or negotiate lender assistance on the borrowers’ behalf. You should contact a HUD-approved counseling organization before you pay or sign anything.”

If you demonstrate that you can’t afford the fees, the agency is required to waive the fee. HUD also requires all housing counseling agencies to provide an upfront explanation of their fee structure and the fee must be proportional to the service provided. If you feel a housing agency is not complying with these regulations you can contact HUD’s Office of Housing and Counseling.HOW CAN I ACCESS HUD’S COUNSELING SERVICES?

After gathering your basic financial and loan information – including mortgage statements, other monthly debt payments, and income details – you can find a HUD-approved agency in a variety of ways.

  • Online: Using HUD’s approved housing counseling agencies search tool you can find an agency by state. You can narrow your search by searching specifically for a foreclosure avoidance counselor or a reverse mortgage counselor.
  • By phone: You can access foreclosure advice from housing experts any time of day by calling (888) 955-HOPE (4673).
  • Through the app: The free app, available for iPhone or iPad, offers contact information for approved agencies sorted by location and language.

HUD’s counseling services are a great resource for homeowners and homebuyers who are looking to educate themselves and make responsible choices in their pursuit of homeownership.

ASCE Infrastructure Report Card

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) puts together a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s 16 major infrastructure categories in an Infrastructure Report Card. Using a simple A to F school report card…

ASCE Infrastructure Report Card

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) puts together a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s 16 major infrastructure categories in an Infrastructure Report Card. Using a simple A to F school report card format, the Report Card examines current infrastructure conditions and needs, assigning grades and making recommendations to raise them at both the National and State level.

The 16 categories include:

  • Aviation
  • Bridges
  • Dams
  • Drinking Water
  • Energy
  • Hazardous Waste
  • Inland Waterways
  • Levees
  • Ports
  • Public Parks
  • Rail
  • Roads
  • Schools
  • Solid Waste
  • Transit
  • Waste Water

The most recent report card was released in 2017. You can see how your state ranked here.

How High Are Property Taxes in Your State?

Read the original article by Janelle Cammenga on TaxFoundation.org Today’s map takes another look at property taxes, this time focusing on states’ effective tax rates on owner-occupied housing. This is the average amount of residential property…

How High Are Property Taxes in Your State?

Read the original article by Janelle Cammenga on TaxFoundation.org

Today’s map takes another look at property taxes, this time focusing on states’ effective tax rates on owner-occupied housing. This is the average amount of residential property taxes actually paid, expressed as a percentage of home value.

Because property taxes are tied to housing values, it makes sense that the actual dollar amounts of property taxes tend to be higher in places with higher housing prices. This map takes housing value into account in order to give a broader perspective for property tax comparison.

States tax real property in a variety of ways: some impose a rate or a millage—the amount of tax per thousand dollars of value—on the fair market value of the property, while others impose it on some percentage (the assessment ratio) of the market value. While values are often determined by comparable sales, jurisdictions also vary in how they calculate assessed values...

REDLINING IMPACT REARS ITS UGLY HEAD AGAIN THANKS TO COVID-19

Low-income communities hit hardest by both virus and economic struggles BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the American way of life as we knew it and has negatively impacted millions. But no one…

REDLINING IMPACT REARS ITS UGLY HEAD AGAIN THANKS TO COVID-19

Low-income communities hit hardest by both virus and economic struggles

BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the American way of life as we knew it and has negatively impacted millions.

But no one group has felt a greater negative impact from the coronavirus than Black Americans.

Since the pandemic first forced the country to shut down last March, Black Americans have faced job loss, wage reduction, small business closures and community infections at a greater rate than any other race or ethnicity.

This has had a trickle-down effect on housing, as Black property owners and Black renters have struggled to make the financial payments necessary to keep roofs over their heads.

The struggle is real for Black developers as well, who after years of building their companies from the ground up on the shoulders of the need for affordable housing, are likely going to find themselves either shutting down operations or, in a best-case-scenario, starting all over again.

According to an article published by Bisnow, although 92.2 percent of market-rate apartment renters paid rent in June, nearly 25 percent of rent-stabilized units in New York did not.

This is an indicator that the nearly eight percent of renters in this country that aren’t able to afford their rent now because of the pandemic, are likely concentrated in specific areas of the country. And likelier still, into specific neighborhoods, or sections of major markets.

This is the result of ages old discrimination that the government tried to curb more than 50 years ago but is still impacting Black Americans today.

Redlining, which was a post-World-War II government mapping practice that basically segregated communities and allowed banks to discriminate against residents of predominantly Black neighborhoods when it came time to approve loans, was outlawed with the birth of the Fair Housing Act, signed into law in 1968.

However, while redlining doesn’t exist today, the effects of its impact on society more than a half century ago can still be felt, much like the aftershock of an earthquake.

Developers of color told Bisnow they still have hurdles to traverse today when getting loans to fund their projects. This often gets lost in the shuffle because there is a racial disparity when it comes to developers.

More than 13 percent of the country identifies as Black, only 1.3 percent of senior executives in commercial real estate are Black men and less than one percent are black women, according to a 2016 study from Florida A&M University.

Many Black developers have been able to build their business by either purchasing or building affordable housing. The draw toward affordable housing for Black developers is the result of the gap in wealth and equity that exists in America between whites and Blacks.

According to a report from the Brookings Institution in February, the average net worth of a white family is 10 times that of a Black family.

This disparity is largely the result of the housing policies that existed during pre- and post-World War II America.

Redlining, the practice of rating neighborhoods from most desirable to least desirable, ended up segregating Americans predominantly by race.

It became nearly impossible for people to get loans for the less desirable neighborhoods, and Black Americans were especially discriminated against, and couldn’t even become property owners in their own, segregated neighborhoods.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 banned redlining, but the long-lasting impact of it is still felt more than 70 years later.

The homeownership gap in the United States between whites and Blacks is worse in 2020 than it was in 1968.

Add in the impact of COVID-19, and Black Americans are bearing the brunt of the damage economic damage being caused by the pandemic.

Not only were Black Americans more likely to be infected by the coronavirus and die from it, especially in major metropolitan areas where people live in much closer proximity to one another than in suburbs or even rural communities, but the neighborhoods that were hit hardest economically by the shutdown that occurred as the country tried to flatten the curve were in lower-income Black communities.

ACCORDING TO A REPORT FROM THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION IN FEBRUARY, THE AVERAGE NET WORTH OF A WHITE FAMILY IS 10 TIMES THAT OF A BLACK FAMILY.

According to the Urban Institute, layoffs and furloughs from companies during the shutdown, adversely affected Black (and Latinx) workers, leading to more housing instability because these workers were more likely to be living paycheck-to-paycheck before the pandemic gripped the country.

In a city like New York, where whites are actually a minority, making up only 42.7 percent of the population, all of the city’s major developers and property owners are companies run by whites.

“I definitely think that COVID has shone a light on the lack of Black property ownership in the Black community,” Harlem-based Lemor Realty Corp. President Kenneth Morrison told Bisnow. “I live in the community my buildings are in, so when I walk the streets, I am walking by my property.

“There’s a difference when you don’t have that. It shows.”

Some developers are pushing for public funding that would help Black developers climb out of any financial hardships that are the result of the pandemic, but there is also hope brewing that the racial awakening America is currently experiencing may shed light on the inequalities in real estate – especially when it comes to developing commercial properties, and will effectuate needed change.

“I think folks are now recognizing what Black Americans have been going through,” Morrison said. “It’s not just prejudices at work, it is a system, and it is all coming to light. We’re seeing the economic conversations happen that should be happening.”

Homeowners Getting Additional Help From FHA Because of COVID-19

BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) recently announced measures to help some homeowners overcome financial barriers that were brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. These home retention measures, which are immediately effective, will…

Homeowners Getting Additional Help From FHA Because of COVID-19

BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) recently announced measures to help some homeowners overcome financial barriers that were brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

These home retention measures, which are immediately effective, will assist homeowners with FHA-insured single-family mortgages and help them to get current on their mortgage at the end of the COVID-19 forbearance period – assuming they were current on their mortgage as of March 1, 2020 – or were less than 30 days past due.

“Our goal throughout this crisis has been to prevent American homeowners from losing their homes through no fault of their own,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson in a press release. “Providing more solutions now to save homes in the future is part of the Administration’s unprecedented response to the crisis and will contribute to the larger economic recovery already underway.”

Mortgage servicers are now able to use additional loss mitigation tools known as a “waterfall” to assess a homeowner’s eligibility for other retention options if they don’t qualify for FHA’s COVID-19 National Emergency Standalone Partial Claim.

That claim takes all past due amounts and puts them into a separate junior lien on the property, maxing out at 30 percent of the mortgage’s unpaid principal balance. This lien is only repayable at the end of the mortgage, which in most cases occurs during a refinancing of the mortgage, or when a home is sold.

The mortgage servicers are required to assess homeowners using this waterfall either before or at the end of their forbearance period.

For those not qualifying for the Standalone Partial Claim, homeowners may still qualify for the following:

  • COVID-19 Owner-Occupant Loan Modification – this modifies the rate and the term of the existing mortgage, giving homeowners more time and potentially a more affordable rate to pay their mortgage.
  • COVID-19 Combination Partial Claim and Loan Modification – This allows for a partial claim of up to 30 percent of the unpaid principal. Any additional money owed can be handled via the above listed mortgage modification.
  • COVID-19 FHA HAMP Combination Loan Modification and Partial Claim – this is for all homeowners who don’t qualify for any of the previous measures. It reduces the amount of documentation needed to obtain the claim.

“This comprehensive set of measures will help virtually every homeowner who has requested COVID-19 forbearance,” acting Federal Housing Commissioner Len Wolfson said in a statement. “It also provides servicers with the tailored and streamlined capabilities they need to provide assistance to homeowners as quickly and as efficiently as possible.”

The FHA is also helping homeowners who don’t occupy an FHA-insured single-family property.

For those folks, they created the COVID-19 Non-Occupant Loan Modification. This allows non-occupant borrowers who have received COVID-19 forbearance to obtain a modification to their mortgage rate and term.

None of these retention measures will require a homeowner to make a lump-sum payment at the end of the forbearance period, nor are servicers allowed to charge fees or penalties for missed mortgage payments during the borrower’s forbearance period.

New Model: Nearly Six Million More U.S. Homes in Flood Danger

Independent analysis shows greater risk than FEMA maps indicate BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO July 2020 Assessing the risk of a flood is a herculean undertaking. Trying to predict long-term weather patterns, the impact on the rise…

New Model: Nearly Six Million More U.S. Homes in Flood Danger

Independent analysis shows greater risk than FEMA maps indicate

BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO

July 2020

Assessing the risk of a flood is a herculean undertaking. Trying to predict long-term weather patterns, the impact on the rise of water in a certain area, as well as changes in the topography of land over time from natural or man-made changes, makes identifying the risk a constant struggle.

That unenviable task falls under the purview of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) which makes the best of limited resources to produce the highest quality maps to support community safety regulations for as much of the country as possible. Nevertheless, a recent analysis has found that by not including all sources of flooding (e.g., heavy rainfall) and being updated frequently,  the federal flood maps have underestimated the flood risk to almost six million homes or structures in the United States.

The analysis was conducted by the First Street Foundation, a non-profit that created a consortium of scientists, researchers and engineers from Rutgers University, the University of California at Berkley and George Mason University, as well as researchers from the Rhodium Group and flood analysts from Fathom. They took on the ambitious task of extending FEMA maps to every home in America except for Alaska and Hawaii.

“SIGNIFICANT GAPS EXIST IN CALIFORNIA, PENNSYLVANIA, TEXAS, NEW YORK, AND TENNESSEE, MOSTLY DRIVEN BY AREAS THAT YOU WOULDN’T THINK OF AS HIGH FLOOD-RISK LOCATIONS, LIKE CHATTANOOGA OR PHILADELPHIA.”

While FEMA maps are generally very expensive, labor intensive and time consuming, First Street was able to leverage advances in catastrophe modeling and remote sensing technologies – like LiDAR from airplanes – in order to overcome the mapping challenges and generate a nationwide model that measured flood assessment to high degree of accuracy and precision.

It was major step forward in educating the nation’s property owners about flood risk and protecting the U.S. taxpayer in the process.

The group’s modeling is “exactly what we need to be doing,” Kerry Emmanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT who serves on First Street’s advisory board, told USA Today. “Until recently we didn’t have people putting all these little pieces together. We had really good people working on that little piece of the problem and good people working on another little corner.”

The new model identified roughly 14.6 million American homes – or about 1 of every 10 homes in the country – have an annual risk of flooding of at least one percent, which is the threshold the federal government uses to assess which homeowners are required to purchase flood insurance. This is contrary to FEMA’s list, which is about 40% lower, at 8.7 million properties in the floodplain.

First Street’s model didn’t just identify blind spots in the FEMA maps, but also made 30-year projections. According to their data, an additional 1.6 million properties will reach that one percent risk plateau by 2050.

While one percent might not seem high – it’s about the same risk you take driving 70 MPH on the highway – if you extrapolate that over the length of a 30-year mortgage on a property, the odds of a home flooding before a mortgage is paid off is about 1-in-4, or 26 percent.

Many of the largest discrepancies between FEMA and First Street maps were in states and cities not typically considered at high-risk for flooding.

Significant gaps exist in California, Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, and Tennessee, mostly driven by areas that you wouldn’t think of as high flood-risk locations, like Chattanooga or Philadelphia.

According to First Street, another big city – Chicago – has an additional 76,000 properties that should be on the FEMA floodplain, but aren’t.

And it’s not just large urban settings like Chicago where FEMA appears to underestimating homes in the floodplain. First Street identified West Virginia as the state with the greatest discrepancy and having even more homes at-risk than Louisiana or Florida.REPEATEDLY FLOODED HOMES ALSO ON THE RISE

While First Street’s research is the most comprehensive to date, it is not the only chink the nation’s armor against flooding that was recently identified.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that programs designed to move homes out of floodplains or provide fortification of homes by elevating them – or flood proofing – are not keeping pace with the number of properties with repeated flooding.

GAO found that there was a 43 percent increase in the amount of repeatedly flooded properties in the U.S. climbing from 150,000 in 2009 to 214,000 by 2018.

In a changing climate when storms appear to be intensifying and coming more frequently, the GAO expects that number to continue to rise.

Most flood experts agree that FEMA must modernize to stay ahead of the curve, especially in inland areas where urban flooding due to heavy rainfall clears the one percent line of demarcation but is not currently included on the maps.

Even with those limitations, FEMA’s methods, which were developed decades ago, assesses only riverine and storm surge flood risks using historical data and without accounting for projected sea level rise along much of the coast

According to USA Today, FEMA and local officials don’t always see eye-to-eye.

Grover Fugate, former executive director of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council, noted that FEMA revamped its flood maps along the state’s coast a few years ago, and actually lowered storm-surge estimates by up to five feet.

Concerned that the agency was using a 50-year-old model to predict the way a storm surge would begin moving over the land, Fugate and his team created their own flood maps and found that FEMA underestimated wave heights in severe storms by as many as 16 feet.IMPACT ON FLOOD INSURANCE

Meanwhile, with this new data, the ever-struggling National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) now faces another financial crisis.

The NFIP has not been able to be a self-sustaining entity ever since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and GAO has listed the NFIP as “high-risk” and in need of a complete overhaul.

Some lawmakers have suggested that the NFIP could move back into the black by mitigating properties that have repeated flood claims either by buying them out, or through flood-proofing.

However, current mitigation efforts are not keeping up with the growth of the repetitive-loss properties and by itself, will not solve the problem.

“Mitigation alone will not be sufficient to resolve NFIP’s financial challenges,” GAO wrote in a June 2020 report. “A more comprehensive approach is necessary to address the program’s fiscal exposure.”

Combine the new data from First Street with GAO’s findings and suddenly, Congress may not have a choice but to consider allowing flood insurance premiums to rise.

The GAO report identified approximately 1 million NFIP policies with premiums that are artificially low and do not reflect the property’s actual flood risk.

GAO suggested that affordability can be addressed by bringing the hidden subsides out into the open and removing them, except for the lowest-income property owners.

“Assigning full-risk premium rates to all policies would remove subsidies from those who do not need them, helping improve solvency. It would also more accurately signal the true flood risk,” GAO wrote.THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

First Street has also released a tool and website called “Flood Factor.” It’s a downloadable application for a phone in which homeowners and buyers can evaluate any property’s flood risk. It also allows for a historical search on the flooding of a property.

“This sounds like a CARFAX for homes,” Larry Bartlett, the property appraiser for Volusia County, Fla. told USA Today. “If I was a lender, I’d want to know if the property I was lending money on stood a good chance of being underwater in 30 years.”

Along with USA Today, information from Climatewire was also used in this report.

Want to learn more about how to be prepared for a flood? Check out these links below:

Be Prepared for a Flood
Factsheet on how to stay safe before, during, and after a flood.

Flood Social Media Toolkit
Website with social media resources.

12 Ways to Prepare
A postcard with 12 steps you can take to be more prepared.

Document and Insure Your Property
Document outlining specific steps you can take to document and insure your valuables before a disaster.

HUD to abolish Obama-era AFFH fair housing rule

The AFFH rule requires cities and towns that receive federal funding to examine local housing patterns for racial bias. Read the original article by Mary Ann Azevedo on HousingWire The Trump administration will terminate the Obama-era…

HUD to abolish Obama-era AFFH fair housing rule

The AFFH rule requires cities and towns that receive federal funding to examine local housing patterns for racial bias.

Read the original article by Mary Ann Azevedo on HousingWire

The Trump administration will terminate the Obama-era rule regarding the implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, or AFFH, provision of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, according to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

In a press release issued on Thursday, Carson alleged the provision has proven “to be complicated, costly, and ineffective.”

“After reviewing thousands of comments on the proposed changes to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation, we found it to be unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with, too often resulting in funds being steered away from communities that need them most,” said Secretary Carson in the release. “…Washington has no business dictating what is best to meet your local community’s unique needs.”

The 2015 rule requires cities and towns that receive federal funding to examine local housing patterns for racial bias and design a plan to address any measurable bias.

On a related note, proposed amendments of the HUD interpretation of the Fair Housing Act’s disparate impact standard have been met with opposition from industry leaders including the National Association of Realtors and Quicken.

But a complete “tearing down” of the AFFH rule, as Carson put it, was not expected...

New Model: Nearly Six Milion More U.S. Homes in Flood Danger

Independent analysis shows greater risk than FEMA maps indicate BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO Assessing the risk of a flood is a herculean undertaking. Trying to predict long-term weather patterns, the impact on the rise of water…

New Model: Nearly Six Milion More U.S. Homes in Flood Danger

Independent analysis shows greater risk than FEMA maps indicate

BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO

Assessing the risk of a flood is a herculean undertaking. Trying to predict long-term weather patterns, the impact on the rise of water in a certain area, as well as changes in the topography of land over time from natural or man-made changes, makes identifying the risk a constant struggle.

That unenviable task falls under the purview of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) which makes the best of limited resources to produce the highest quality maps to support community safety regulations for as much of the country as possible. Nevertheless, a recent analysis has found that by not including all sources of flooding (e.g., heavy rainfall) and being updated frequently,  the federal flood maps have underestimated the flood risk to almost six million homes or structures in the United States.

The analysis was conducted by the First Street Foundation, a non-profit that created a consortium of scientists, researchers and engineers from Rutgers University, the University of California at Berkley and George Mason University, as well as researchers from the Rhodium Group and flood analysts from Fathom. They took on the ambitious task of extending FEMA maps to every home in America except for Alaska and Hawaii.

“SIGNIFICANT GAPS EXIST IN CALIFORNIA, PENNSYLVANIA, TEXAS, NEW YORK, AND TENNESSEE, MOSTLY DRIVEN BY AREAS THAT YOU WOULDN’T THINK OF AS HIGH FLOOD-RISK LOCATIONS, LIKE CHATTANOOGA OR PHILADELPHIA.”

While FEMA maps are generally very expensive, labor intensive and time consuming, First Street was able to leverage advances in catastrophe modeling and remote sensing technologies – like LiDAR from airplanes – in order to overcome the mapping challenges and generate a nationwide model that measured flood assessment to high degree of accuracy and precision.

It was major step forward in educating the nation’s property owners about flood risk and protecting the U.S. taxpayer in the process.

The group’s modeling is “exactly what we need to be doing,” Kerry Emmanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT who serves on First Street’s advisory board, told USA Today. “Until recently we didn’t have people putting all these little pieces together. We had really good people working on that little piece of the problem and good people working on another little corner.”

The new model identified roughly 14.6 million American homes – or about 1 of every 10 homes in the country – have an annual risk of flooding of at least one percent, which is the threshold the federal government uses to assess which homeowners are required to purchase flood insurance. This is contrary to FEMA’s list, which is about 40% lower, at 8.7 million properties in the floodplain.

First Street’s model didn’t just identify blind spots in the FEMA maps, but also made 30-year projections. According to their data, an additional 1.6 million properties will reach that one percent risk plateau by 2050.

While one percent might not seem high – it’s about the same risk you take driving 70 MPH on the highway – if you extrapolate that over the length of a 30-year mortgage on a property, the odds of a home flooding before a mortgage is paid off is about 1-in-4, or 26 percent.

Many of the largest discrepancies between FEMA and First Street maps were in states and cities not typically considered at high-risk for flooding.

Significant gaps exist in California, Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, and Tennessee, mostly driven by areas that you wouldn’t think of as high flood-risk locations, like Chattanooga or Philadelphia.

According to First Street, another big city – Chicago – has an additional 76,000 properties that should be on the FEMA floodplain, but aren’t.

And it’s not just large urban settings like Chicago where FEMA appears to underestimating homes in the floodplain. First Street identified West Virginia as the state with the greatest discrepancy and having even more homes at-risk than Louisiana or Florida.REPEATEDLY FLOODED HOMES ALSO ON THE RISE

While First Street’s research is the most comprehensive to date, it is not the only chink the nation’s armor against flooding that was recently identified.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that programs designed to move homes out of floodplains or provide fortification of homes by elevating them – or flood proofing – are not keeping pace with the number of properties with repeated flooding.

GAO found that there was a 43 percent increase in the amount of repeatedly flooded properties in the U.S. climbing from 150,000 in 2009 to 214,000 by 2018.

In a changing climate when storms appear to be intensifying and coming more frequently, the GAO expects that number to continue to rise.

Most flood experts agree that FEMA must modernize to stay ahead of the curve, especially in inland areas where urban flooding due to heavy rainfall clears the one percent line of demarcation but is not currently included on the maps.

Even with those limitations, FEMA’s methods, which were developed decades ago, assesses only riverine and storm surge flood risks using historical data and without accounting for projected sea level rise along much of the coast

According to USA Today, FEMA and local officials don’t always see eye-to-eye.

Grover Fugate, former executive director of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council, noted that FEMA revamped its flood maps along the state’s coast a few years ago, and actually lowered storm-surge estimates by up to five feet.

Concerned that the agency was using a 50-year-old model to predict the way a storm surge would begin moving over the land, Fugate and his team created their own flood maps and found that FEMA underestimated wave heights in severe storms by as many as 16 feet.IMPACT ON FLOOD INSURANCE

Meanwhile, with this new data, the ever-struggling National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) now faces another financial crisis.

The NFIP has not been able to be a self-sustaining entity ever since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and GAO has listed the NFIP as “high-risk” and in need of a complete overhaul.

Some lawmakers have suggested that the NFIP could move back into the black by mitigating properties that have repeated flood claims either by buying them out, or through flood-proofing.

However, current mitigation efforts are not keeping up with the growth of the repetitive-loss properties and by itself, will not solve the problem.

“Mitigation alone will not be sufficient to resolve NFIP’s financial challenges,” GAO wrote in a June 2020 report. “A more comprehensive approach is necessary to address the program’s fiscal exposure.”

Combine the new data from First Street with GAO’s findings and suddenly, Congress may not have a choice but to consider allowing flood insurance premiums to rise.

The GAO report identified approximately 1 million NFIP policies with premiums that are artificially low and do not reflect the property’s actual flood risk.

GAO suggested that affordability can be addressed by bringing the hidden subsides out into the open and removing them, except for the lowest-income property owners.

“Assigning full-risk premium rates to all policies would remove subsidies from those who do not need them, helping improve solvency. It would also more accurately signal the true flood risk,” GAO wrote.THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

First Street has also released a tool and website called “Flood Factor.” It’s a downloadable application for a phone in which homeowners and buyers can evaluate any property’s flood risk. It also allows for a historical search on the flooding of a property.

“This sounds like a CARFAX for homes,” Larry Bartlett, the property appraiser for Volusia County, Fla. told USA Today. “If I was a lender, I’d want to know if the property I was lending money on stood a good chance of being underwater in 30 years.”

Along with USA Today, information from Climatewire was also used in this report.

Want to learn more about how to be prepared for a flood? Check out these links below:

Be Prepared for a Flood
Factsheet on how to stay safe before, during, and after a flood.

Flood Social Media Toolkit
Website with social media resources.

12 Ways to Prepare
A postcard with 12 steps you can take to be more prepared.

Document and Insure Your Property
Document outlining specific steps you can take to document and insure your valuables before a disaster.

New Executive Order Takes On Housing Affordability Issues

BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO In June, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to create a new White House Council to tackle affordable housing issues across the country. The new council will be chaired by Department…

New Executive Order Takes On Housing Affordability Issues

BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO

In June, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to create a new White House Council to tackle affordable housing issues across the country.

The new council will be chaired by Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and will consist of members from eight different federal agencies.

The hope is that with all these agencies working together, interagency processes will be streamlined and as a result, development of affordable housing will occur faster.

" Areas of the country that deal with the biggest gap between supply and demand of affordable housing also have the most restrictive regulations put on them by the state and local governments."

“Four nearly four decades, U.S. household incomes have increased at a slower rate than home prices, a problem that was only made worse by the Great Recession,” said John Smaby, President of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). “Today, despite historic economic growth and recovery, misguided regulations and gaps in new home constructions have stopped far too many Americans from purchasing a home.

“NAR thanks President Trump for taking much-needed steps to address housing affordability in this country, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the White House to ensure the American dream remains attainable for all those who seek to become homeowners.”

The newly formed council will meet with leaders from state and local associations to identify the issues that impact affordable housing development and to determine how many of those issues are directly related to federal, state and local regulations on the cost of that development.

The council will focus on finding new ways of cutting regulatory costs.

"This is a matter of supply and demand, and we have to increase the supply of affordable homes by changing the cost side of the equation."

Areas of the country that deal with the biggest gap between supply and demand of affordable housing also have the most restrictive regulations put on them by the state and local governments. In fact, more than 25% of the cost of building a new home is directly related to costs associated with state and local regulations.

“With housing affordability near a 10-year low, the President’s executive order on this critical issue underscores that the White House is ready to take a leading role to help resolve the nation’s affordability crisis,”  Greg Ugalde, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), told Housing Wire. “Given that homeownership historically has been part of the American dream and a primary source of wealth for most American households, the need to tackle ongoing affordability concerns is especially urgent.

“NAHB will continue to work with the White House and Secretary Carson to find innovative solutions to increase the production of sorely needed quality, affordable housing.”

Only seven homes were built for every 10 households formed in the U.S. from 2010 to 2016, according to the Census Bureau.

“With the signing of [this] Executive Order, President Trump is prescribing a powerful treatment that correctly diagnoses the source of America’s affordable housing condition,” Carson said. “This is a matter of supply and demand, and we have to increase the supply of affordable homes by changing the cost side of the equation.”

Carson added that increasing the housing supply of housing by eliminating long-choking regulations, will reduce housing costs and grow the economy.

Six Innovative Ways To Tackle The Housing Crisis

Read the original article on Home Ownership Matters. As home prices rise and inventory tightens up across the country, states and cities are proposing innovative solutions to provide more homes to more people. Check out…

Six Innovative Ways To Tackle The Housing Crisis

Read the original article on Home Ownership Matters.

As home prices rise and inventory tightens up across the country, states and cities are proposing innovative solutions to provide more homes to more people. Check out ways your community could alleviate a housing shortage.

Opportunity Zone Investment Finally Buzzing Despite Pandemic

BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO Like every other business and industry, development in opportunity zones sat out the first couple months of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, in the past month, investors have shrugged the novel coronavirus aside…

Opportunity Zone Investment Finally Buzzing Despite Pandemic

BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO

Like every other business and industry, development in opportunity zones sat out the first couple months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But, in the past month, investors have shrugged the novel coronavirus aside and have been quite active in the opportunity zone real estate market.

Deals are being closed. New projects are under way. And evidence that this program, that was created to pump billions of dollars into underserved communities around the country, might be the first to show signs of economic recovery as the pandemic panic slowly dissipates.

But was it COVID-19 that seemed to light this spark? Or was it the quick drop in the economy?

“THERE HAS BEEN AN UPTICK IN ACTIVITY BOTH FROM [OPPORTUNITY ZONE] FUNDS RAISING CAPITAL AS WELL AS TRANSACTIONS OCCURRING SINCE MID-APRIL, WHERE IT SEEMS LIKE SOME OF THE MOMENTUM THAT HAD BEEN BUILT IN Q3 AND Q4 IS COMING TO FRUITION.”

Several experts believe that the pause in the stock market and the subsequent economic downturn made people look at their investments for the first time in awhile, after a long period of growth, and made them start to wonder what they should do with their capital gains.

“There has been an uptick in activity both from [opportunity zone] funds raising capital as well as transactions occurring since mid-April, where it seems like some of the momentum that had been built in Q3 and Q4 is coming to fruition,” Economic Innovation Group Director of Impact Strategy Rachel Reilly told Bisnow.

With the market being so volatile during the pandemic, investors pulled their money out of the market and were looking for places to put it – and a popular landing spot was opportunity zone funds.

A bevy of opportunity zone deals that were in the works prior to the virus quarantine either closed on their financing or put the first shovels in the ground since the April showers turned to May flowers.

That’s because development investors believe that affordable housing in emerging areas will succeed, regardless of the economic situation.

Plus, this money is a long-term investment, meaning it’s a good gamble that the economy will be better off down the road than it is now – meaning there will be rewards to be reaped for these investors as these communities start to flourish.

Investors must hold onto their asset for 10 years in order to realize the full benefits of opportunity zones. Although there is always a bit of a gamble with any investment, these projects are likely to appreciate well, making the investment worthwhile when the time comes to sell in a decade.

In Washington D.C. alone, at least four separate opportunity zone projects have begun construction since the lockdown began. Similar projects are beginning or are already under way in Chicago, Tampa, and Los Angeles.

Part of the reason opportunity zone investment and funding is starting to hit its stride now is because the rules have been clarified. The department of the Treasury finalized the guidance for the program last December after what amounted to a two-year question-and-answer session with potential stakeholders.

Bridge Opportunity Zone Strategy Chief Investment Officer, David Coelho, told Bisnow that last year, his company deployed $950M into 21 opportunity zone transactions and hopes to be just as active in 2020 especially because of the down market.

Land prices have dropped. So have construction costs. With most developments taking a year, or longer to build, this economic downturn has been a boon for investors.

“A lot more deals are coming back our way,” he said. “A lot of deals had capital lined up and that capital has fallen out. I think that trend will continue. It’s good for our strategy and for opportunity zones in general as non-opportunity zone capital decides to sit on the sidelines and consider whether there will be distressed opportunities, I think they’ll be less focused on development.”

All of this good news aside, most of the momentum is in development that is residential. The retail and hospitality industries are among the hardest hit by the pandemic and as such, investment in those assets has dried up.

But, the long view suggests that investing in opportunity zones now is a hedge against the unknown of what the future holds. With so many state and city budgets in shambles and with all the government spending that has and still is taking place, it’s likely a sure bet that taxes are going to go up in the near future.

By investing in opportunity zones, by holding onto the investment for 10 years, any profits are not taxed. That’s incredibly valuable, especially in the middle of this virus outbreak.

And if investors are smart enough to see that and sustain it for a decade, it can be a win-win situation not just for them financially, but also for the community they are dumping their money into after being underserved for so long.

Millions more US homes are at risk of flooding than previously known, new analysis shows

Read the original article by Drew Kann on CNN. (CNN) Millions more properties than previously known across the US are at substantial risk of flooding. And as climate change accelerates, many more will see their flood…

Millions more US homes are at risk of flooding than previously known, new analysis shows

Read the original article by Drew Kann on CNN.

(CNN) Millions more properties than previously known across the US are at substantial risk of flooding. And as climate change accelerates, many more will see their flood risk grow.Those are the findings of a comprehensive new analysis by the First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research and technology group that experts say has put together the fullest picture yet of the country's growing vulnerability to flooding.Today, around 8.7 million properties are located in Special Flood Hazard Areas as determined by FEMA's flood maps, the legal standard used in the US to manage floodplains, determine insurance requirements and price policy premiums.But as many as 14.6 million properties -- nearly 70% more than are in FEMA's Special Flood Hazard Areas -- may actually be at significant risk of flooding, according to First Street's modeling. The discrepancy between FEMA's maps and this new data means that some 6 million property owners could be unaware of their current flood risk, the group says.

New Data Reveals Hidden Flood Risk Across America

Read the original article by Christopher Flavelle, Denise Lu, Veronica Penney, Nadja Popovich and John Schwartz on nytimes.com Nearly twice as many properties may be susceptible to flood damage than previously thought, according to a new effort to map the danger.…

New Data Reveals Hidden Flood Risk Across America

Read the original article by Christopher FlavelleDenise Lu, Veronica Penney, Nadja Popovich and John Schwartz on nytimes.com

Nearly twice as many properties may be susceptible to flood damage than previously thought, according to a new effort to map the danger.

Across much of the United States, the flood risk is far greater than government estimates show, new calculations suggest, exposing millions of people to a hidden threat — and one that will only grow as climate change worsens.

That new calculation, which takes into account sea-level rise, rainfall and flooding along smaller creeks not mapped federally, estimates that 14.6 million properties are at risk from what experts call a 100-year flood, far more than the 8.7 million properties shown on federal government flood maps. A 100-year flood is one with a 1 percent chance of striking in any given year.

The federal government’s flood maps guide where and how to build, whether homeowners should buy flood insurance, and how much risk mortgage lenders take on. If the new estimates are broadly accurate, it would mean that homeowners, builders, banks, insurers and government officials nationwide have been making decisions with information that understates their true physical and financial risks.

YOU Can Be a Homeowner

The dream of homeownership is achievable for all! Learn about the resources available in your community that can help you on your journey to homeownership. TweetShare [...]Read More...

YOU Can Be a Homeowner

The dream of homeownership is achievable for all! Learn about the resources available in your community that can help you on your journey to homeownership.

We All Deserve the Right to Homeownership

Homeownership Month Last month during Homeownership Month, we celebrated the new era of homeownership and recognize the people, policies, and programs that are #CreatingHome now and into the future. https://youtu.be/Rr0havITkDY TweetShare [...]Read More...

We All Deserve the Right to Homeownership

Homeownership Month

Last month during Homeownership Month, we celebrated the new era of homeownership and recognize the people, policies, and programs that are #CreatingHome now and into the future.

https://youtu.be/Rr0havITkDY

How to Protect Your Credit During COVID-19

During these uncertain times, support is available for homeowners. Learn about resources that can help you navigate financial hardships. TweetShare [...]Read More...

How to Protect Your Credit During COVID-19

During these uncertain times, support is available for homeowners. Learn about resources that can help you navigate financial hardships.

Your Voice Counts

Support your community. Learn how you can be an informed homeowner and take action on policy decisions impacting your neighborhood. TweetShare [...]Read More...

Your Voice Counts

Support your community. Learn how you can be an informed homeowner and take action on policy decisions impacting your neighborhood.

HUD Awards Nearly $1 Million in CARES Act Funding to Nineteen State and Local Fair Housing Organizations to Support COVID-19 Related Activities

Read the original article on HUD.gov. WASHINGTON – The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it is awarding $962,160 in funding to HUD Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) agencies in New York,…

HUD Awards Nearly $1 Million in CARES Act Funding to Nineteen State and Local Fair Housing Organizations to Support COVID-19 Related Activities

Read the original article on HUD.gov.

WASHINGTON - The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today that it is awarding $962,160 in funding to HUD Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) agencies in New York, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, Texas, Indiana, Florida, Nebraska, Hawaii, South Carolina, Maryland, Michigan, Connecticut, and New Jersey to support activities related to COVID-19. The awards to the nineteen organizations are part of $1.5 million in Partnership and Special Enforcement Effort funds being provided to FHAP agencies through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) of 2020, which President Trump signed into law to provide federal agencies with the resources needed to combat COVID-19.

“The funds being awarded today will do much to help these organizations address potential fair housing issues related to COVID-19,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “FHAP agencies not only have considerable knowledge about how the virus is affecting communities they serve, they are adept at making the most of financial resources they receive.”

The New York State Division of Human Rights is receiving $144,485 to fund the hiring of additional staff to address its backlog of cases that was created by the alteration of work processes due to COVID-19, and purchase technology that will improve the agency’s ability to function in a 100 percent remote environment...

The Tax Benefits Of Purchasing A Home

Read the original article by TurboTax on The Street. Purchasing a home is a major life decision, but it’s one made easier by the many tax advantages available to homeowners. Items that can affect your taxes…

The Tax Benefits Of Purchasing A Home

Read the original article by TurboTax on The Street.

Purchasing a home is a major life decision, but it’s one made easier by the many tax advantages available to homeowners. Items that can affect your taxes include:

In addition to these, you can also benefit from a tax shelter on profits from the sale of your home. You also may be able to reduce their federal tax withholding in anticipation of lower tax bills related to future mortgage interest and property tax deductions. This can increase your take-home pay and make it easier to make your monthly payments...

A New Era of Homeownership

National Association of Retailer’s Dr. Jessica Lautz discusses homeownership trends and the impact of COVID-19 on the housing market. TweetShare [...]Read More...

A New Era of Homeownership

National Association of Retailer's Dr. Jessica Lautz discusses homeownership trends and the impact of COVID-19 on the housing market.

Covid-19 and your credit score: Worry about it later

Read the original article by Michelle Singletary on The Washington Post. You’ve lost your job, or your work hours have been cut. Or maybe you’ve been furloughed and you aren’t sure if you’ll be called back…

Covid-19 and your credit score: Worry about it later

Read the original article by Michelle Singletary on The Washington Post.

You’ve lost your job, or your work hours have been cut. Or maybe you’ve been furloughed and you aren’t sure if you’ll be called back to work.

Another 1.5 million workers filed for first-time unemployment insurance last week. If you are among the newly unemployed, the loss in income may have resulted in a missed mortgage or rent payment. You may not even be able to make your minimum credit card payment. You’re stressed. So, what are the financial issues you should be worried about?

One thing that you shouldn’t sweat is your credit score. Now is not the time.

One question I’ve been getting repeatedly when I do financial segments on television and radio programs is this: How will the novel coronavirus pandemic affect people’s credit scores?

Yes, we in the personal finance space are always talking about getting and keeping a good credit score. An excellent credit score is like a super-high SAT score. You get mad respect...

Refinancing During The Pandemic is Possible, It Just Looks A Little Different

BY TANYA SVOBODA Mortgage rates continue to fall to record lows, spurring many homeowners to begin refinancing their home loans. On May 18th The Mortgage Reports stated, “Mortgage rates in the 2s are here. And we’re not…

Refinancing During The Pandemic is Possible, It Just Looks A Little Different

BY TANYA SVOBODA

Mortgage rates continue to fall to record lows, spurring many homeowners to begin refinancing their home loans. On May 18th The Mortgage Reports stated, “Mortgage rates in the 2s are here. And we’re not talking about a one-time instance of 2.99%, either. We’re talking about real, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages starting at 2.5% from multiple lenders.”

Homeowners interested in moving forward with a refinance need to understand that the process looks a little different than it did prior to the pandemic.

YOUR REFINANCE MIGHT TAKE LONGER

If you want to refinance, you’ll have to wait in line because the rush to refinance has created a considerable backlog. USA Today reports that “During the first week of March, refinancing applications reached their highest level in nearly 11 years, and jumped 79% week over week, the largest leap since November 2008.” The rush to refinance has created a backlog that’s overwhelming lenders.

With the Federal Reserve cutting borrowing costs to near-zero, you can expect the refinancing backlog to continue. Homeowners that want to take advantage of low rates shouldn’t wait to start the process since many banks are trying to process loan applications in the order that they came in.

THE REFINANCING PROCESS HAS ADAPTED TO COMPLY WITH PANDEMIC GUIDELINES

The four main areas of the refinancing process that face pandemic related changes are title searches, the application process, the appraisal process, and the closing process. Note that the differences you’ll experience with the refinancing process will vary geographically.

TITLE SEARCHES

Title searches are done by lenders as a way to ensure their investment. A title search allows your lender to verify no liens or judgments have been placed against you since the time you received your original loan.

WHAT ARE THE COVID RELATED CHANGES?

  • The search process gets complicated: Some government offices are closed making the title search process challenging. Many of the closed jurisdictions are allowing titles up until the date of their closure to be searched online but other jurisdictions without access to electronic searches cannot offer title searches at all, meaning the borrower cannot refinance.
  • Notarization moves online: A notary public is needed to authenticate signatures as a part of a standard title search. Several states are allowing Remote Online Notarization (RON) either by way of legislation or emergency orders. The process is completed entirely online and requires no direct contact. After verifying the signer’s identity, electronic signatures are obtained, the document is notarized remotely, and returned to the signer.

In cases where using RON is not possible, title companies are obtaining signatures with limited contact. Joe Gentile, president of Federal Title & Escrow Company, told WTOP News, “We’ll leave [the document] on their doorstep and step back to our car, and have them come outside and sign it so we can see them sign it. Then we have them leave it outside and we grab the document, having witnessed the signature so we can notarize it.”

THE APPLICATION PROCESS

Typically, when you apply for a loan, the potential lender will check your credit score and your employment status to protect themselves against the possibility of loan default. In normal times, these procedures are pretty straight forward, but in the uncertain financial times of COVID-19, the procedures have become stricter.

WHAT ARE THE COVID RELATED CHANGES?

  • Credit score minimums have risen: FICO scores help lenders determine how likely it is for a borrower to return a loan. Typically speaking, the higher the FICO score, the lower the risk to the lender and the more likely the borrower is to receive a loan. FICO scores range from 300-850; with 800 and above considered exceptional and 579 or less considered poor.

Normally, to qualify for a conventional mortgage, lenders require a FICO score of about 620. The article Mortgage Standards Get Tougher as Banks Face Greater Risks notes, “What has changed is that investors, in the face of epic uncertainty, have put pressure on banks to restrict their loans to only the most creditworthy borrowers.”

The Bank of America and JP Morgan both now require credit scores in the 700’s. And homeowners refinancing to pull cash from their equity will find, in addition to needing a higher credit score, that some banks’ loan-to-value ratio has been reduced by 5% compared to pre-COVID-19 ratios. This is due, in part, because of the strain mortgage companies are experiencing as a result of government relief programs granting homeowners forbearance as a result of COVID related financial hardship.

  • Employment verification: The surge in unemployment since March has resulted in lenders taking extra steps to verify current work status for potential borrowers including homeowners looking to refinance. While lenders are accepting verbal verification of employment, this can often be difficult to obtain because many offices and businesses are closed.

If verbal verification can’t be obtained, some lenders are accepting emails from the employer’s work address along with pay stubs for the year to date of the pay period directly preceding the employers note.

Once verification has been obtained the application process can move forward. However, borrowers should expect a reverification just before their closing date.

  • Length of the process: Although the length of the refinancing process varies by lender and in relation to each borrower’s unique situation, a typical refinancing takes between 20-45 days. You can expect the entire refinancing journey during COVID-19 to take a bit longer than usual given the additional challenges at nearly every step of the process.

THE APPRAISAL PROCESS

Appraisals are completed by an independent licensed or certified professional to determine your home’s value, to protect the bank from lending more than your home is worth. Typically, appraisals are determined by a combination of the value comparable homes in the area and an onsite inspection of your home. The onsite assessment of the home is providing unique challenges to the refinancing processes during

COVID-19.WHAT ARE THE COVID RELATED CHANGES?

  • Appraisal waivers are possible: For low loan-to-value refis, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac offer appraisal waivers, referred to respectively as Property Inspector Waivers and Automated Collateral Evaluation.
  • Desktop appraisals can be completed remotely: Your lender can tell you if you qualify for a desktop appraisal. If you do, your appraiser will use comparables, basic research, MLS listings and public records to determine the value of your home. These appraisals may also include video conference interviews with you to virtually tour your home.
  • Exterior appraisals may also be completed: Your lender can tell you if you qualify for an exterior appraisal, although relying on this alone is rare. More likely, your appraiser will use an exterior appraisal in conjunction with their desktop research. As you might expect, exterior appraisals, also referred to as “drive by appraisals” involve the appraiser viewing the exterior of your home from the street or sidewalk.

THE CLOSING PROCESS

The closing process for a refi usually involves a lender representative, yourself and occasionally a notary public. During the meeting you are presented with the final documents and terms for the loan and provide your signature to indicate your agreement to those terms. Understandably, closing proceedings have been forced to change due to

COVID-19.WHAT ARE THE COVID RELATED CHANGES?

  • Closings involve less people and less contact: Similar to the title search process, lenders are using Remote Online Notarization to complete the notarization portion of the closing process. Your lender will have information about whether in person or online closing procedures are possible for you in your area.

When closing does have to be done in person, it is typical for the proceeding to happen at your home. Lending companies should be following CDC guidelines for social distancing and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). You can expect to forego handshakes and plan to use your own pens to limit contact between you and the lender’s representative.

  • Clean closing rooms may be an option: Some lenders, recognizing that homeowners may be uncomfortable hosting strangers in their homes during these unique times, have created “clean rooms.” For the Williston Financial Group that means using a room in their offices, which are otherwise closed, for the sole purpose of closings. They’re referred to as single-use clean closing rooms and are disinfected between each use.
The housing market will bounce back. But not everyone will be able to benefit

Read the original article by Lawrence Yun on CNN Business The US housing market has been hit hard by the pandemic. The visible impact of the lockdown has been clear, with millions of Americans out…

The housing market will bounce back. But not everyone will be able to benefit

Read the original article by Lawrence Yun on CNN Business

The US housing market has been hit hard by the pandemic. The visible impact of the lockdown has been clear, with millions of Americans out of work and few doing any shopping, including major purchases like buying a home. There has just been too much uncertainty about the economy and the potential deadly consequences of the coronavirus.

In April, pending home sales reached their lowest mark in nearly two decades. As a result, we expect actual closing activity, which follows contract signings, will have reached a trough in May

.However, as more Americans get back to work, we are starting to see both buyers and sellers returning to the market, creating the beginnings of what we believe is a V-shaped recovery in the housing sector. Over the past several weeks, purchase activity has been 13% higher than it was during the same period a year ago. Listed homes are under contract within about 30 days, indicating a very swift market.

But not everyone who wants to buy a home will be able to participate in this recovery.

Realtors across the country are saying there are not enough homes for sale compared to the number of buyers in the marketplace. For first-time homebuyers, the market looks especially tough.

Pent-up housing demand has intensified for several years due to natural population growth. And the low interest rate environment further enlarged the pool of eligible home buyers.

On the supply side, for the past decade or so, homebuilders simply were not building a sufficient number of homes to match the rising housing demand. In my estimation, we were short by 5 to 6 million housing units. That's why home prices have been increasing for so many years.

In the early weeks of the lockdown, the total listings of homes for sale fell significantly, as some listings were pulled off the market because homeowners did not want strangers coming into their homes and some would-be listings that typically show up in spring did not. The housing shortage worsened. That is why, even with buyers taking a pause, home prices continued to rise in March, April and May.

The homeownership rate is naturally higher for those with above median income compared to those with incomes that are below the median (78.8% vs. 51.8%) given their financial resources. Ownership rates are also higher among older households compared to younger ones (over 70% for those aged 45 and over compared to 61.5% for those 35 to 44 and 37.3% for those under 35 years old). But a stark contrast also exists among whites vs. the non-Hispanic population and minority households (nearly 74% for whites, 44% for black households, 48.9% for Hispanics and 59.1% for Asians, Native, Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders). That means that the wealth disparity remains large and will persist at a time of a housing market boom. It is therefore critical to consider measures to boost opportunity or else the howeownership wealth gap will widen even further.

Being able to afford a down payment has consistently been a major hurdle for first-time homebuyers. Our data at NAR shows more family members are assisting with down payments for their children. For those less fortunate to have a wealthy family member, a down payment assistance program or a home buyer tax credit can go a long way to help start up the ladder of ownership and wealth building.

The demand for assistance in itself, however, will not significantly chip away at the gap in ownership and wealth. We also need a huge boost in housing supply, which will relieve the housing shortage and tame the current fast-rising home prices. All barriers to homebuilding, including regulatory burdens — like long and uncertain housing permit approval processes — and zoning laws, need to be seriously reexamined and modified. Based on current conditions, perhaps even offering real estate investors incentives to unload properties onto the market will improve inventory and give more chances at ownership for first-time buyers. A capital gains tax relief for selling investor properties will also certainly help move the dial.

America is an unmatched economic superpower. However, not everyone has participated in the progress. The explicit discrimination of the past and the hidden unconscious biases of today have prevented equal opportunities for minority households. Let's ensure homeownership and the accompanying wealth build-up are open to more Americans.

Financial Benefits of Homeownership

Last month during Homeownership Month, we celebrated the new era of homeownership and recognize the people, policies, and programs that are #CreatingHome now and into the future. TweetShare [...]Read More...

Financial Benefits of Homeownership

Last month during Homeownership Month, we celebrated the new era of homeownership and recognize the people, policies, and programs that are #CreatingHome now and into the future.

Make Your Dream a Reality

Even if you haven’t seen your family or friends pursue homeownership, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible for you! TweetShare [...]Read More...

Make Your Dream a Reality

Even if you haven’t seen your family or friends pursue homeownership, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible for you!

Small Business Landlords Drowning In The Wake Of COVID-19 Renter Protections

Often forgotten when thinking about the effect of COVID-19 on small business owners, private landlords are really feeling the economic crunch on their properties. Take Maribeth Shields for example. Bloomberg featured her in a recent article…

Small Business Landlords Drowning In The Wake Of COVID-19 Renter Protections

Often forgotten when thinking about the effect of COVID-19 on small business owners, private landlords are really feeling the economic crunch on their properties.

Take Maribeth Shields for example.

Bloomberg featured her in a recent article as someone who is struggling to pay her mortgages because rental properties are her small business.

Shields owns 27 apartments in and around the city of West Haven, Conn. A majority of these apartments are low-income and because of the coronavirus outbreak, more than half of her tenants aren’t paying their rent.

Yes, the tenants are being protected – Connecticut put a moratorium on evictions until July because of the pandemic – but no such protection was put in place for private landlords like Shields, who told Bloomberg she is behind on $1.2 million in mortgages.

No one is advocating for mass evictions. There are no winners here and everyone is hurting. But landlords have no (legal) remedies"

She isn’t alone. Individual landlords across the country are facing the same dilemma, and with no resolution insight, once these bans on evictions are lifted, chaos is bound to ensue.

Landlords will want their money to try and come out from under their crushing debt and avoid foreclosure. Renters will appeal their evictions, buying themselves at least another month to either come up with the cash or find a new place to live.

And neither situation is good for housing in America.

Yes, the federal CARES act that passed in March did allot for mortgage protection for homeowners with government-backed mortgages, allowing for them to defer payments for up to year. But that only encompasses about half of the mortgages nationwide on rental properties.

The other half have to pay up, or risk losing their properties altogether.

The federal government did not offer relief for renters though, leaving that up to the states in the form of these eviction bans. The notion was that although unemployment was climbing at an alarming rate, stimulus checks from the government and additional dollars being handed out in unemployment would make up for the lost wages and allow renters to pay their bills.

Except, that hasn’t happened.

Instead, renters are showing their landlords empty pockets, who in turn are begging their lenders for more time to pay their mortgages and the end result is a major crimp on property tax revenue.

And there’s no bail out on property taxes. Instead, there will be mounting penalties and late fees, and likely an increase in liens, that will wreak havoc with credit scores and make landlords – who operate on slim profit margins to begin with –end up in just as bad a situation, if not worse, then their renters who currently aren’t paying the rent.

It’s a vicious cycle. And it’s not getting any better.

Because of the pandemic, there’s a lot of activism on the tenant side as well. Rent strikes are being organized. Efforts like the “Right to Cure” ordinance in San Antonio – which would have granted an additional 30-day grace period for renters once the moratoriums are lifted before they had to pay rent – was defeated by a narrow margin in City Council (6-5) because the council recognized there are concerns for property owners that were not addressed in this bill.

Read More: What will happen to property taxes in your area and nationally when the country returns to business as usual following the coronavirus pandemic?

Most of the affordable housing in America is owned by small companies or individual landlords. If they can’t afford their mortgages and are forced to sell the properties they own or even abandon them in some instances, those properties will likely be gobbled up by Wall Street firms with a lot more capital, who would likely turn them from affordable to unaffordable for most renters.

“No one is advocating for mass evictions,” Matthew Paletz, CEO of Paletz Law, a Troy, Mich.-based firm that represents landlords and property owners, told the Detroit Free Press. “There are no winners here and everyone is hurting. But landlords have no (legal) remedies” during the moratorium.

According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, 88 percent of apartment tenants made a full or partial rent payment in May by May 13. That was down two percent from the same time a year ago, but it was also down four percent from April. While those numbers are better than expected, it’s still a number going in the wrong direction with uncertainty remaining for the rest of 2020.

Compounding that data is the fact that it doesn’t include information on apartments rented by smaller or individual landlords, and it doesn’t include units that are considered affordable housing. This is the area where financial strain is more likely.

“No property owner can withstand that revenue loss,” Tim Thorland, executive director of Southwest Housing Solutions told the Detroit Free Press. “There’s a misconception of real estate industry that it’s flush with cash and prepared to weather any storm. The fact of the matter is it’s a thin margin industry and you can be successful if things go as expected.”

Tax Credits And Incentives Are Making Solar Power More Affordable For Homeowners

While the federal government continues to issue legislation promoting and protecting the use of coal, natural gas, and nuclear power, many states are making non-carbon electricity like solar energy a priority. In fact, 15 states are pushing for 100%…

Tax Credits And Incentives Are Making Solar Power More Affordable For Homeowners

While the federal government continues to issue legislation promoting and protecting the use of coal, natural gas, and nuclear power, many states are making non-carbon electricity like solar energy a priority. In fact, 15 states are pushing for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. “States have a golden opportunity to continue moving the ball forward, and those that are aiming high are already seeing big results” said Emma Searson, Environment America’s 100% Renewable Campaign Director.

Homeowners that previously found the transition to solar power too expensive are now able to make the move thanks to the rebates, incentives, and tax credits that accompany these new energy policies. For example, EnergySage notes that by utilizing new energy savings programs, homeowners can install a solar panel system anywhere with a cost reduction of 26% to 50% depending on where they live.

VIRGINIA IS LEADING THE WAY

In mid-April, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) which made Virginia the first southern state to commit to providing 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050, an ambitious goal considering Virginia only produced 7% of its energy from renewable sources as of 2018. The act sets clear milestones to move the state toward clean energy. Virginia joins Colorado, New Mexico, Maine, New York, and other states who already have policies in place to advance them toward completely renewable energy sources by mid-century.

SOLAR TAX CREDITS AVAILABLE TO HOMEOWNERS

  • Investment Tax Credit (ITC): Residential customers can take advantage of the solar Investment Tax Credit, which allows you, as a homeowner, to deduct a portion of your solar costs from your taxes, until December 31st, 2023. This credit, equal to 26% of the cost of your solar panel system, applies to the three major types of solar technology photovoltaicsolar heating and cooling, and concentrating solar technology.
  • State Tax Credit: Some states offer additional tax credits for your solar panel system. State tax credits allow you to deduct a portion of your solar panel system from your state tax bill. The amount of the credit you’ll receive varies by state.
  • Property Tax Exemptions: While not available in all states, this exemption allows you to avoid higher property taxes as a result of solar panel installation. Meaning if your property value rises as a result of adding solar panels, your state or local government may allow you to remove the added value for tax purposes.
  • Sales Tax Exemptions: This exemption allows you to reduce the upfront costs of your home’s solar system by providing relief from state sales tax. Again, this exemption is not available in all states.

OTHER INCENTIVES AVAILABLE TO HOMEOWNERS

  • Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC): In states where legislation has been passed moving toward 100 percent carbon-free electricity, utility companies are required to generate a specific percentage of their power from renewable energy.

If you live in one of these states, your contribution to the grid will result in solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs). Prices for SRECs fluctuate based on supply and demand, like the stock market, but according to EnergySage selling your SRECs “can result in hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars per year in income depending on SREC market in your state.” To see these profits you need to own, not lease, your solar panel system.

  • Performance-Based Incentives (PBI): Some states offer performance-based incentives (PBIs), which will pay you, the system owner, a per kilowatt-hour credit for the electricity your system produces. The price for PBIs is determined when the system is installed and since it’s not sold through a market the price will not fluctuate.
  • Net Energy Metering (NEM): Net Energy Metering is a billing agreement between you and your utility company to measure your home’s energy use and production from and to the grid. Your input and output are measured by a meter that is installed by your utility company. If you create a surplus of energy you will receive a monetary or kWh credit which you can use when your system isn’t producing enough energy.
  • Cash Rebates: You also have the possibility of receiving a cash rebate for your solar energy system. Some states, local governments, utility companies, or other organizations looking to advance solar energy, offer limited time (and quantity) rebates that can reduce the cost of your system by 10 to 20 percent.

SOLAR INSTALLERS AND UTILITY COMPANIES CAN HELP YOU UNDERSTAND THE PROCESS IN YOUR AREA

Knowing the extent of the credits and incentives available to you in your state is just one of the steps on your journey to renewable electricity. Your friends, neighbors, or even local REALTORS® may have recommendations for reputable solar panel installers. The certification standard in the solar industry is the National American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Be sure your installer is licensed before signing any agreements. Your utility company or your installer can help you:

  • Assess your solar potential.
  • Assess your options for using solar.
  • Estimate your solar electricity needs.

Installing solar panels may seem like a daunting and expensive process. However, depending on the state you live in and your current and future electricity usage you may see savings between $10,000 – $12,000 over a 20 year period all while increasing your home’s value by $14,329 on average. With energy costs on the rise and a multitude of credits and incentives available, making renewable energy a part of your future may be the right idea.

NAR Supports Administration’s Action on Infrastructure

Read the original article by National Association of Realtors. Executive Order promotes needed investment during economic recovery WASHINGTON (June 5, 2020) – President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday to accelerate infrastructure investments in an…

NAR Supports Administration’s Action on Infrastructure

Read the original article by National Association of Realtors.

Executive Order promotes needed investment during economic recovery

WASHINGTON (June 5, 2020) – President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday to accelerate infrastructure investments in an effort to strengthen the economy and get people back to work.

The order encourages federal agencies to use existing authority to expedite authorized and appropriated infrastructure projects across the country. Just as important, it also states that agencies should provide appropriate protection for public health and safety, natural resources and the environment. 

“Clearing away unnecessary regulatory hurdles that can add years to infrastructure projects through tailored reform is a smart move,” said NAR President Vince Malta, broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco, CA.  “Finding innovative ways to safely enhance the permitting process can bring infrastructure projects, economic development and jobs to fruition more quickly...”

Directory of Mortage Service Contacts

Originally shared by National Housing Resource Center (NHRC) TweetShare [...]Read More...

Directory of Mortage Service Contacts

Originally shared by National Housing Resource Center (NHRC)

New Fair Housing Requirements In New York Part Of Industry Reform

The New York State Board of Real Estate adopted new state rules requiring all real estate agents and brokers to notify all buyers, sellers and renters about anti-discrimination laws. Additionally, they must prominently display information…

New Fair Housing Requirements In New York Part Of Industry Reform

The New York State Board of Real Estate adopted new state rules requiring all real estate agents and brokers to notify all buyers, sellers and renters about anti-discrimination laws.

Additionally, they must prominently display information about how customers can file complaints. It was also mandated that both audio and video recordings of classes, for those groups that provide fair housing training, is required.

The Board, which writes the rules and regulations for the real estate industry, announced these rules go into effect beginning June 20.

According to a report in Newsday, a spokesperson for the New York Department of State indicated that the regulations “will help combat discriminatory actions and ensure New Yorkers understand their rights.”

WHY NEW RULES?

Widespread racial bias by real estate agents and brokers on Long Island unearthed by a Newsday investigation led to the crafting of these new rules.

As a result, with these new regulations, the state can now issue fines or even suspend or revoke the licenses of agents and brokers who violate the rules.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed these new rules in December, they were adopted in April, and officially entered into the state register in May.

“I think it’s important from the beginning of the relationship,” Neil Garfinkel, broker counsel for the Real Estate Board of New York told Newsday.  “And then it’s a great way to – should a conversation, you know, slip over the line or whatever the case may be – to then say, ‘Hey, remember, we talked about this? This is why I can’t do that.’”

ABOUT THE NEW RULES

Not only do the agents and brokers have to share the fair housing disclosures with potential clients, but they have to retain proof that the disclosure was shared for three years.

The sharing of the disclosure can be done verbally, or on a printed form. However, the proof of the shared disclosure must include either a signed document from the customer, or an email, text or fax from the customer acknowledging receipt of the fair housing regulations.

If a customer refuses to sign off on receipt of these rules, the agent or broker must fill out a form immediately stating the provided the disclosure and the customer refused to sign it.

As for posting notices that instruct customers how to file complaints with the state, agents and brokers must post them at their offices, when hosting open houses, and on their websites.

The new rules both inform customers and protect them at the same time, and with this new empowerment serves as a reminder to both brokers and agents that they should avoid any actions that can simply be viewed as discriminatory.

"New rules in New York are requiring real estate agents and brokers to be more direct and transparent with anti-discrimination laws for their clients."

The audio and video recordings of fair housing classes must be kept by brokerages for a minimum of one year. State law requires agents to take 22.5 hours of continuing education every two years, three of which have to be dedicated to fair housing, in order for their real estate licenses to renew.

This was also a result of the Newsday investigation which found that some classes offered on Long Island by the Board of REALTORS® (LIBOR) were not meeting that standard.

LIBOR postponed their classes, and completely overhauled their continuing education program, which included hiring new trainers.

“If the brokers are trained properly [then] this is the best tool since sliced bread,” Andrew Lieb, an attorney and fair housing trainer told Newsday.  “Don’t you want a broker that knows how to protect you?”

How COVID-19 threatens black homeownership

Listen to the original interview by Alcynna Lloyd on HousingWire.com. In today’s Daily Download episode, HousingWire Digital Producer Alcynna Lloyd interviews The Urban Institute‘s Alanna McCargo to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to impact America’s black homeownership rate.…

How COVID-19 threatens black homeownership

Listen to the original interview by Alcynna Lloyd on HousingWire.com.

In today’s Daily Download episode, HousingWire Digital Producer Alcynna Lloyd interviews The Urban Institute‘s Alanna McCargo to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to impact America’s black homeownership rate.

For some background on the interview, here’s what has happened in the industry so far:

Last year, the homeownership rate for black Americans fell to 40.6% in the three months through June, the lowest level in the Census Bureau’s quarterly data going back to 1994, according to a government report. It was the smallest share recorded for black households since the 1950 decennial Census when it was 34.5%...

How Will COVID-19 Impact Your Property Taxes

America has changed drastically over the past month due to the spread of COVID-19. Unemployment rates are up, many businesses are closed, and most kids are doing e-learning at home. In response to these changes state and…

How Will COVID-19 Impact Your Property Taxes

America has changed drastically over the past month due to the spread of COVID-19. Unemployment rates are up, many businesses are closed, and most kids are doing e-learning at home. In response to these changes state and national agencies have issued stimulus checks and relief funds in an attempt to soften the economic blow on individuals and our nation as a whole.

However, there’s been little discussion about what will happen to property taxes when the country reopens. While some sources speculate that property taxes may, in fact, prove to be the silver lining in all of this and drop when the nation reopens, others worry homeowners won’t see the decrease reflected in their assessments for 3 – 4 years.

WHAT TYPICALLY MAKES YOUR PROPERTY TAX BILL SMALLER AND HOW COULD COVID19 IMPACT THAT?

Your property taxes are largely based on your home’s value, although local government and state officials also have a say in what determines your final property tax rate. So, let’s take a look at how COVID-19 might impact your property tax bill based on those factors.

YOUR HOME’S VALUE DURING COVID-19

The value of your home is determined by an assessor that’s hired by your local government. When the assessment goes up, so do your property taxes – and vice versa. That’s why the first thing many property owners do after a larger property tax bill is appeal their assessment if they feel it was unfairly inflated.

COVID-19 has disrupted the U.S. housing market, created higher unemployment rates and an uncertain outlook for many businesses – all of which are likely to create a temporary recession. Historically, home values drop during recessions which should result in lower property taxes.

However, whether or not your home’s value is reassessed is up to your local government. So it’s important homeowners keep up-to-date on their home’s value so they can appeal their home assessment if needed. Financial website fool.com gives a great example:

“What happens if your home values decline as a result of COVID-19 so that your home is only worth $275,000 a year from now? Suddenly, you’re looking at a tax bill of $5,500, provided your home is reassessed. And if your home is not reassessed automatically by your town but home prices in your area clearly decline, you can appeal your property tax bill and potentially lower that burden yourself.”

Property tax assessments in some areas might not take 2020 home value declines into consideration. Kendall County (IL) Assessor, Andy Nicoletti, told the Northwest Herald, “Property tax assessments as of the beginning of this year are based on a three-year sales average, meaning current assessments are being made using 2017, 2018 and 2019 data.”

If you feel that your new tax bill isn’t reflective of the drop your home value incurred due the financial impact COVID-19 had on the economy, Realtor.com explains how to begin the process of appealing. “Your property tax assessment should have an explanation of how to make an appeal on the form you received in the mail.” The article goes on to say, “You can also search for your county or state’s assessment appeals board or department of taxation and finance online. Start by searching for your county plus ‘assessment appeals’.”

YOUR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT’S DECISION TO PROVIDE PROPERTY TAX RELIEF DURING COVID-19

To recap, your property taxes are based on a combination of your home’s assessed value and the needs of your local government – with the state laying down the guidelines your local government must abide by. For example, the state of California passed Proposition 13 in 1978 capping property taxes at 1%. Prior to that, the average property tax in the state was 2.67%

Many states and localities have put property tax relief in place. Thomson Reuters has an in-depth guide called, “Tax Relief Offered by States and Localities in Response to COVID-19” that can help homeowners to find out if there is property tax relief available to them.

For example, the guide shares that “The State of Indiana ordered all property taxes to remain due on May 11, 2020, however, counties must waive penalties on payments after May 11, 2020 for a period of 60 days.”

IS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OFFERING PROPERTY TAX RELIEF DURING COVID-19?

The federal government is bringing relief to homeowners, but not in the form of property taxes. Instead the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020 by President Trump, offers a different kind of relief.

The CARES Act helps homeowners who are unable to pay their mortgage due to COVID-19 related financial troubles, foreclosure moratoriums or mortgage forbearances.

A Foreclosure Moratorium suspends or stops your lender from foreclosing (taking ownership back) on your property. A foreclosure typically occurs when you are unable to make the required payments on your mortgage. Foreclosure specifics vary by state.

A Mortgage Forbearance allows you to pause, and sometimes reduce, your mortgage payments for a limited time. A mortgage forbearance does not eliminate your need to repay the missed or reduced payments.

As homeowners, it is prudent to understand what might happen to property taxes in your area and nationally when the country returns to business as usual. And while lower property taxes benefit homeowners in the short term, we should also remember the money collected from property taxes serves as the base of many community initiatives, meaning lower property taxes might be better for the individual but not necessarily for the community.

COVID-19 Causing Greater Affordable Housing Crisis Now

But, could provide a development boon in the future. BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO Even during the time of COVID-19, there remains a glaring need for affordable housing. Sure, demand is down right now, and with that…

COVID-19 Causing Greater Affordable Housing Crisis Now

But, could provide a development boon in the future.

BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO

Even during the time of COVID-19, there remains a glaring need for affordable housing. Sure, demand is down right now, and with that prices may fall a little bit. But the reality is, an economic recession in the near term will only slow the development of more affordable housing moving forward.

Many local governments have tried to stimulate the development of affordable housing by providing increased funding. However, as a result of the impact of COVID-19, there is a real risk that those same governments might not be able to adequately support such measures – either to build more or to preserve existing affordable housing.

“For the commercial developers who would build the needed affordable housing units, finding the financing necessary - especially from cautious lenders during a time of uncertainty - may be a lot harder to come by.”

In California, where the affordable housing crisis was worse than every other state prior to the pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state will have to significantly slow spending as a result of the response to COVID-19. Specifically, in San Francisco, where low- and middle-income earners rarely find housing they can afford, a budget deficit of more than $1.5 billion is expected.

As for the commercial developers who would build the needed affordable housing units, finding the financing necessary – especially from cautious lenders during a time of uncertainty – may be a lot harder to come by.

Below-market rate debt that comes from government lenders, such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, is likely to become less available. Similarly, the market will make it harder to get the kind of equity desired from low income housing tax credits, which are used in a vast majority of affordable housing projects. This is because they afford tax credits to owners in exchange for financing a residential unit that charges a rent at 60 percent or lower of the median income for a specific area.

Like the lenders, investors are also leery because of the uncertainty of how owners of affordable housing developments are going to manage the shortfall that is sure to come from renters being unable to afford rents during the pandemic.

Federally backed mortgages are allowing for mortgage forbearance for up to six months for these owners/landlords, but that only accounts for about 40 percent of owned multi-family units in the country.

Not only that, owners/landlords are dealing with increased costs because a predominance of residents are staying-at-home through the pandemic. As such, increased trash and higher use of utilities are happening.

But there is a glimmer of hope once COVID-19 is under control.

Affordable housing development could stabilize quickly once there is a return to normal because unlike market-rate housing, the rents in affordable housing are generally below market, meaning the operation risk of managing these properties wouldn’t be as high during a recession.

“With interest rates low and expected to remain that way until the economy rebounds, developers may be able to take advantage and borrow the money they needed to break ground on new multifamily projects."

Additionally, because demand for affordable housing is likely to grow as more Americans lose income, more investors could line up to develop affordable housing once the pandemic passes. Couple that with banks being incentivized by government regulations to process loans for housing in areas deemed low or middle income, and the market for affordable housing could quickly rebound, even during an overall economic downturn.

With interest rates low and expected to remain that way until the economy rebounds, developers may be able to take advantage and borrow the money needed to break ground on new, multifamily projects. The recession may actually lower the cost of land and even make construction costs drop.

Overall, the immediate pipeline for funding of affordable housing is definitely a concern. But once the pandemic passes, the market very well may course correct and in the next 18 to 24 months, a much-needed uptick in this kind of housing could come to pass.

The CARES Act is Helping Homeowners Keep Their Homes During COVID-19, Here’s How

So much has changed in the last month due to the spread of COVID-19 that it may feel like your head is spinning. It seems like every day new relief efforts are being offered to…

The CARES Act is Helping Homeowners Keep Their Homes During COVID-19, Here’s How

So much has changed in the last month due to the spread of COVID-19 that it may feel like your head is spinning. It seems like every day new relief efforts are being offered to renters, students, small businesses, and homeowners. It’s hard to keep up, let alone figure out if you, as a homeowner, qualify for any of the help the government is offering.

Among those relief efforts is the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which was signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020 by President Trump. According to USA Today, the CARES Act, “gives homeowners with federally backed loans two types of relief.” Through this act homeowners who are unable to pay their mortgage due to COVID-19 related financial troubles may be entitled to foreclosure moratoriums or a mortgage forbearance.

If COVID-19 has caused you financial hardship you may qualify for assistance under this act.WHAT IS A FORECLOSURE MORATORIUM?

A foreclosure moratorium will suspend or stop your lender from foreclosing (taking ownership back) on your property. A foreclosure typically occurs when you are unable to make the required payments on your mortgage. Foreclosure specifics vary by state.

Under the CARES Act, as noted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “your lender or loan servicer may not foreclose on you for 60 days after March 18, 2020. Specifically, the CARES Act prohibits lenders and servicers from beginning a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure against you, or from finalizing a foreclosure judgment or sale, during this period of time.”WHAT IS A MORTGAGE FORBEARANCE?

A mortgage forbearance is when your lender allows you to pause, and sometimes reduce, your mortgage payments for a limited time. A mortgage forbearance does not eliminate your need to repay the missed or reduced payments.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, under the CARES Act this means, “You have a right to request a forbearance for up to 180 days. You also have the right to request one extension for another up to 180 days. You must contact your loan servicer to request this forbearance. There will be no additional fees, penalties or additional interest (beyond scheduled amounts) added to your account. You do not need to submit additional documentation to qualify other than your claim to have a pandemic-related financial hardship.”ARE YOU ELIGIBLE?

Protections under the CARES Act are available to homeowners with federally backed mortgages who have encountered pandemic-related financial hardship. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau states mortgages backed by the following federal agencies will also qualify:

Minnesota Mortgage Association President Roger Kadlec says, “The best thing to do is get in touch with your mortgage servicer to see what your situation is. Or you can also look at your mortgage statement.” Kadlec added that some private banks or credit units are offering similar benefits to their customers at this time.HOW TO REQUEST RELIEF?

The first step to accessing relief through the CARES Act is to contact your loan servicer. You should have the following information ready when you call:

  • Your account number.
  • A statement explaining why you are unable to make your payment.
  • An idea of how long you anticipate not being able to make your payments (temporarily or permanently).
  • Details about your income, expenses and other assets, like cash in the bank.

What to do once you receive relief?

Once you’ve qualified for relief, request a written copy of the terms of the agreement. Make sure this document includes, and that you understand, how your missed payments will be repaid when the agreement is over.

  • Know when and how repayment is due: Shamus Roller, executive director at National Housing Law Project, a nonprofit legal advocacy center says in a USA Today article “The problem with the CARES Act is that it doesn’t make clear how borrowers pay back the money during a forbearance period.” Some lenders are requiring homeowners to make a balloon payment at the end of the 90-day period, others are putting additional payments onto the backend of the loan. It is essential that your lender is clear with how they expect you to repay the missed payments and that you have those expectations in writing.
  • Monitor for errors: Keep an eye on your mortgage statements and credit score to make sure the terms of your agreement are being actioned appropriately.
  • Make repayments as soon as possible: If, at any time during your forbearance, your financial situation changes and you are able to begin paying your mortgage again, contact your lender. Even if you find, after paying your other monthly bills, you are left with a bit of extra money, consider putting it toward your repayment because, “With forbearance, you still owe the payments that you missed, but fewer missed payments mean you’ll owe less down the road.”

If you feel you are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 and you are unable to make your mortgage payments, now is the time to reach out to your lender to see if you qualify for relief under the CARES Act.

Coronavirus: Resources for Property Owners

The following resources provide property owners with assistance during the COVID-19 crisis. American Land Title Association (ALTA) has provided the following resources: County Record Office Closures(link is external): Real-time database of offices that are closing…

Coronavirus: Resources for Property Owners

The following resources provide property owners with assistance during the COVID-19 crisis.

American Land Title Association (ALTA) has provided the following resources:

Bank Regulators have also instructed banks and servicers to be proactive in extending help to homeowners:

Banks have posted their own policies and ways for consumers to contact them for assistance:

Servicers (those who collect the payments for investors/banks and interact with consumers) are providing information for how homebuyers can reach out for assistance:

Mortgage Insurers are also providing information on how servicers can help consumers:

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

Protect Your Credit: The CFPB is urging consumers to protect their credit(link is external) during this pandemic.
Protect Yourself Financially: The CFPB has a number of resources(link is external) focused on financial protection, both short and long term, such as paying bills, income loss, and scam targeting.  Resources include contacts for housing and credit counselors, debt collectors, and state unemployment services.

Department of Labor (DOL)

DOL has provided resources for employers and workers(link is external) in responding to COVID-19 and including the impact on wages and hours worked and protected leave (these resources are primarily for businesses and employers).

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Americans can continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual. EPA has provided important information about COVID-19(link is external) as it relates to drinking water and wastewater to provide clarity to the public. The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking-water supplies. Based on current evidence, the risk to water supplies is low.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA)

Immediate Foreclosure and Evictions Relief for Homeowners for the Next 60 Days

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has authorized the FHA to implement an immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium(link is external) for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages for the next 60 days. Read the full press release(link is external).

FHA Q&A Form

FHA continues to run single family business operations. FHA has created a Q&A form available on their website to keep interested parties updated on their procedures during the COVID-19 crisis. Please refer to https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing/sfh(link is external)  for the most current information.

Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)

FHFA has instructed Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and their servicers to be proactive in providing assistance to homeowners including forbearance. In addition, FHFA imposed a moratorium on eviction and foreclosures on mortgages backed by the GSEs:

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have issued similar guidance:

  • Homeowners who are adversely impacted by this national emergency may request mortgage assistance by contacting their mortgage servicer
  • Foreclosure sales and evictions of borrowers are suspended for 60 days
  • Homeowners impacted by this national emergency are eligible for a forbearance plan to reduce or suspend their mortgage payments for up to 12 months
  • Credit bureau reporting of past due payments of borrowers in a forbearance plan as a result of hardships attributable to this national emergency is suspended
  • Homeowners in a forbearance plan will not incur late fees
  • After forbearance, a servicer must work with the borrower on a permanent plan to help maintain or reduce monthly payment amounts as necessary, including a loan modification

Fannie and Freddie have also created pages with additional information:

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The IRS has also created a Coronavirus Tax Relief section(link is external) on their website with updated information for taxpayers and businesses (these resources are for businesses and not specifically for consumers).

Rural Development — U.S. Department of Agriculture (RD)

  • The USDA has informed(link is external) lenders of a foreclosure and eviction moratorium for all USDA Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loans Program (SFHGLP) loans for a period of 60 days, in connection with the Presidentially declared COVID-19 National Emergency.
  • RD will continue to provide loans and grants to rural communities across all of their programs.
  • ReConnect applications will continue to be accepted with a March 31st deadline, and RD will then begin the review and award process.
  • RD has granted authority to lenders that participate in their Single-Family Housing Guaranteed program so that these lenders can work with borrowers to ensure that homeowners will stay in their houses if they are having difficulty making payments.
  • RD will issue guidance to their Single-Family Housing Direct borrowers to ensure they can also seek payment assistance if needed.

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The SBA has provided guidance and resources for businesses and employers(link is external) to respond to COVID-19, including information regarding the economic injury disaster loans, local assistance, and SBA products & resources (these resources are for businesses and not for consumers specifically).

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)

The EIDL program supports small businesses facing temporary loss of revenue as well as working capital. They can be used to pay debts, including payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that cannot be paid due to a disaster. View the program summary and SBA Response to COVID-19(link is external) (PDF: 117 KB).

Student Debt

VA Home Loan Program

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is providing information to keep Veterans and stakeholders safe(link is external) while continuing the mission of the VA Home Loan Program:

Smart Homes are Saving Homeowners a Chunk of Change

Once you’ve settled into your new home, after signing a slew of checks to cover moving expenses and whatnot, you’re likely dreading seeing your name on the top of yet another bill. With the help of a variety…

Smart Homes are Saving Homeowners a Chunk of Change

Once you’ve settled into your new home, after signing a slew of checks to cover moving expenses and whatnot, you’re likely dreading seeing your name on the top of yet another bill. With the help of a variety of home automation services, you can cut your utility bills nearly in half while enjoying the conveniences of a smart home—a true win-win. Some common smart home features are smart thermostats, sensors, power strips, and water systems. Pairing all these features together essentially gears your house up with a crew of robots to care for your home, so it’s a surprise to hear that these amenities actually save you money.

Why Smart Appliances?

These “smart” appliances allow you to prep your home exactly the way you like it before you even pull into your driveway. With common features that support home energy efficiency such as detecting when a room is empty and powering off all devices, also known as “energy vampires,” and smart utility meters that read a house’s energy usage daily without having to be prompted, you can rest easy that you’re not using any unnecessary energy. By using less energy, you’re in turn helping the environment and saving money on your bills. A home automation system can help save you a great deal of money, help regulate energy use, and solve a variety of day to day annoyances.

Considering it’s quite an investment to turn your not-so-smart home into a genius, it’s natural to assume companies may be trying to trick you into dishing out lots of funds with false promises of savings in the end. When smart homes just began trending around 5 years ago, it could cost upwards of $3,500 for a complete home revamp with all the smart appliances, but today we can expect to pay much less, perhaps even under $500. It’s important to remember that smart homes are an investment, and while you’ll be paying 30% or so more for these smart appliances, you’ll start to see the benefits (in your wallet) overtime. Typically, investments just involve a grueling waiting period, but one huge advantage with this investment is that you can at least begin enjoying the perks and conveniences right away.

Without smart appliances, it’s hard to see how much energy you’re using in your home. Sure, you can look through your gas and electricity bill for details, but the tough part is knowing when energy is being used during an unnecessary time. Such as the aforementioned energy vampires, which use up electricity even when they are turned off. These appliances and electronics are responsible for 10% of the energy used in an average home, according to the Department of Energy, which also shares that “an appliance constantly taking in 1 watt of electrical current is equivalent to 9kWh per year, adding up to $1 in annual costs (basically $1/watt/annual). Considering how many appliances are used in an average household, costs can quickly add up to $100-200 a year.”

Smart Appliances are Making a Difference.

There are many components that impact the amount of energy a home uses, such as location, climate, number of household members, and the size of the home, but as of 2018, the average American home consumed about 914 kWh of electricity per month. Electricity is used in just about every home and accounted for 44% of household energy consumption in 2017, while natural gas—which is used in 58% of homes—accounted for 43% of household energy consumption in the same year. This average energy use per household is consistently declining, and it seems that it’s no coincidence with the rise of smart homes. Overall, 3 of 4 American homes use two or more energy sources and chances are if they’re not using smart devices, they’re using too much energy and paying too much.

Electric companies are a bit sneaky and offer “time-of-use pricing,” which charges more for electricity during peak times during the day. With the help of smart appliances, they can help do the work for you during off-hours while saving you a bit of money here and there—which adds up. As Dan DiClerico of HomeAdvisor says, “Smart appliances make it easy for homeowners to control when their appliances are using electricity. For example, the dishwasher and dryer can be programmed to run late at night. Or the refrigerator can be set to go into energy-intensive defrost mode only on weekend mornings, when electricity rates are very low.” These are the small factors that are often looked over by homeowners who simply skim their utility bills before making the payment.

There continues to be greater advantages than just saving money when it comes to smart gadgets. Smart lighting, for example, offers a sense of security with the ability to control your lights remotely. Let’s say you forgot to hit the lights before taking off on vacation, or maybe you’d like to have the lights on when you get home late one evening—with smart lighting this can all be done with the press of a button.

By 2021, the market penetration for smart home technologies is expected to reach 38.7%, which is quite the jump from 8.2% in 2016. Clearly, homeowners are catching on to the potential massive savings a smart home will create. According to Energy Star, the average homeowner spends more than $2,000 on utility bills per year. After switching to a smart home lifestyle, one can expect to save between 20%-30% on their energy bills.

Smart Appliances are Connected.

As far as conveniences go, smart home technology may rank number one. With voice assistants like Alexa or Google Home, you can simply announce that you’d like your favorite song played, the lights dimmed, and the heat set to the perfect temperature. You can even set yourself reminders, check the weather, and restart your router when the internet is acting up, all without lifting a finger. These amenities are adored by everyone, but especially children and those with disabilities that might find it harder to reach certain places.

Between the dozens of technology-driven appliances, you can save approximately $996 a year. There are enough stressors in our lives already, do we really want to add our energy bills to that list?

HUD Grants $40 million for Fair Housing Initiatives

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced it is apportioning $40 million to fair housing organizations throughout the U.S. to combat violations of the Fair Housing Act. These grants are being…

HUD Grants $40 million for Fair Housing Initiatives

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced it is apportioning $40 million to fair housing organizations throughout the U.S. to combat violations of the Fair Housing Act.

These grants are being distributed through HUD’s Fair Housing Initiative Program and the Fair Housing Assistance Program and are designated to help people who believe they’ve been victimized by housing discrimination.

“THE GRANTS WE ARE AWARDING … WILL ENABLE OUR FAIR HOUSING PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS TO COMBAT UNLAWFUL POLICIES AND BEHAVIOR AND FOSTER PRACTICES THAT ENSURE EVERYONE HAS ACCESS TO SAFE, AFFORDABLE HOUSING, FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION.”

Part of the funding will also go toward education programs for both the general public and housing providers about the nation’s fair housing laws.

A little more than $1 million of that money is being given to organizations located in qualified opportunity zones that were created in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, with the intent to incentivize investment in the long-term in low-income communities.

“HUD is committed to supporting efforts to rid discrimination from our society,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. “The grants we are awarding … will enable our fair housing partner organizations to combat unlawful policies and behavior and foster practices that ensure everyone has access to safe, affordable housing, free from discrimination.”

These grants will be used by the fair housing groups to file fair housing complaints with HUD, conduct investigations into potential claims, and to provide testing in the rental and sales market to ensure fair housing enforcement is taking place.

“Given the economic circumstances many Americans may face (because of the COVID_19 pandemic, we) commend HUD and Secretary Carson for taking steps to quickly put money in the hands of nonprofit organizations defending those who could face the brunt of this economic disruption,” said Vince Malta, President of the National Association of REALTORS®  and a broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco, CA. “Emerging from challenging times stronger and more resolved will require countless Americans to step up and do what they can to help those in need, and we thank HUD for taking swift, decisive action today to help put us on that path.”

The FHIP grants issued are provided under HUD’s:

  • Private Enforcement Initiative grants – to help investigations and other enforcement activities to prevent or eliminate discriminatory housing practices.
  • Education and Outreach Initiative grants – to educate the public and housing providers about the rights and responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act.
  • Fair Housing Organizations Initiative grants – to build the efficacy of non-profit fair housing organizations to continue to enforce the Fair Housing Act.

According to the HUD press release, these grants help Qualified Fair Housing Enforcement Organizations, Fair Housing Enforcement Organizations, public and private non-profit organizations or institutions, and other public or private entities whose enforcement, education, and outreach activities help to prevent or eliminate discriminatory housing practices.

HUD is also awarding $1.5 million in Partnership Funds to HUD Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) agencies. FHAP organizations are state and local government agencies that enforce local fair housing laws that are substantially equivalent to the Fair Housing Act.

Scientists Recommend These 10 Methods To Disinfect Your Home

This time of year has everyone stocking up on vitamin C, cold medicine, chicken noodle soup, and anything else to help ease any potential sickness, and now specifically the Coronavirus. While you may keep your…

Scientists Recommend These 10 Methods To Disinfect Your Home

This time of year has everyone stocking up on vitamin C, cold medicine, chicken noodle soup, and anything else to help ease any potential sickness, and now specifically the Coronavirus. While you may keep your home squeaky clean, it is all too easy to bring germs back into your home from the outside world, and there are dozens of nooks and crannies where said germs can hide out. Unexpected areas and objects such as your television remote, towels, your computer keyboard, and even your faucet are a favorite refuge for a variety of germs.

As Google searches indicate, the keyword Coronavirus has skyrocketed in the past several weeks as citizens prepare for the pandemic and research the best ways to stay protected. However, medical care professionals agree that simple precautions taken continuously can drastically help combat the Coronavirus, as well as any germs in general. Aside from getting a yearly flu shot and washing your hands, various medical reports and health care professionals have shared the easiest ways to fight off the common flu as well as COVID-19.

Here are the top 10 easiest ways to keep your family and yourself happy and healthy not just through the height of flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic, but also throughout the whole year.

Carefully Read Cleaning Product Claims

Shopping for cleaning products can be overwhelming. With shelves jam-packed with a variety of options, it’s tough to find the right product for you and your home. Many products proudly exclaim they are “anti-bacterial”, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they disinfect surfaces properly. The EPA — the Environmental Protection Agency — has compiled a list of 500 products that they guarantee will disinfect all areas against viruses such as the Coronavirus. When stocking up on cleaning supplies, look for labels that the EPA has tested and approved with words “disinfect” and “sanitize.” If you prefer to steer clear of chemicals, there are an abundance of all-natural products that kill microbes, such as tea tree oil, lemon juice, and vinegar. While these products will certainly help eliminate germs from your home, they work much slower than their chemical counterparts. Microbiologist Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona explains that these options kill fewer microorganisms than those that have been approved by the EPA.

Increase Humidity

Increasing the humidity in your home can not only help you breathe with more ease during the harsher winter months, but it can also make it more difficult for bacteria and COVID-19 to grow and develop. Creating an environment that doesn’t allow germs to thrive will create a safer home for yourself and protect you from the dreadful Coronavirus. Humidifiers can also aid symptoms if you’ve unfortunately already been hit with a cold or COVID-19. With that being said, it’s also very important to keep your humidifier clean. This is one household item that is often overlooked once cleaning day comes around. As humidifiers add moisture to the air, they can also quickly generate bacteria. The president of Building Wellness Consultancy, Barney Burroughs, advises residents to regularly clean individual humidifiers and the whole house system should be serviced once a year, preferably when they aren’t in use in the warmer seasons.

Replace Your Sponges

As NPR says, sponges are a “bacteria hotbed”. Regularly replacing your sponges is a small task that goes a long way. Kitchen sponges hold a tremendous amount of bacteria, although it’s easy to let that slip your mind as you’re constantly using a sponge with soap and hot water. Every couple of weeks, be sure to replace your sponge to ensure no bacteria is lingering around your sink and dishes.

If you’re short on cash, an alternative option is to toss your sponge in the dishwasher or microwave it for one minute. These two options will certainly reduce the bacteria living in your sponge and heat targets the most dangerous bacteria, although it cannot kill all of the billions of types of bacteria hiding in your sponge. As a food microbiologist at Drexel University, Jennifer Quinlan explains, “It doesn’t sterilize the sponge…but remember, the bacteria we want to kill are the ones that will make you sick.”

Don't Just Push Germs Around, Eliminate Them

Many cleaning tools give the impression that they are killing germs and cleaning your home when in reality they are simply spreading germs to other more hidden areas of your home. The only way to avoid this is by sanitizing these cleaning tools, such as mops, dusters, and dishrags between uses or they will continue to spread bacteria around your house. This issue often goes unnoticed, as some of the most sparkling clean homes can be saturated with bacteria while other untidier homes are tested low for germs because said germs sit still rather than spreading from wall to wall. Dishrags and other non-disposable towels are an excellent environmentally conscious tool as opposed to paper towels, but only if they are continuously washed at high temperatures to kill pesky germs. The co-author of The Germ Freak’s Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu, Charles Gerba, expresses, “It’s a free ride for the virus.”

Sanitize Surfaces That are Touched on the Regular

When relaxing at home, there are a handful of surfaces you touch constantly, such as doorknobs, light switches, remotes, fridge handles and more. Flu viruses can live for two to eight hours on these hard surfaces, so it’s crucial for your health to frequently disinfect these areas. Any cleaning wipes or products that say “sanitizing” on the label will work fine to catch those vexatious germs.

Stock Up on Tissues

For many people, tissues aren’t a go-to purchase at the market unless you’ve been hit with a cold that has left your nose craving some comfort. With the flu season upon us and the fear of the Coronavirus, stocking up on tissues is a great idea for not only contentment but to keep your home germ-free. One sneeze can spray an assortment of germs up to 6 feet, which is likely to linger in your home for hours if not days after. Research from the University of Bristol shows that the “average sneeze or cough can send around 100,000 contagious germs into the air at speeds up to 100 miles per hour.” Using a handy tissue to sneeze or blow your nose will confine your germs and keep them where they belong — in the trash.

Wash Your Linens

Sure, you likely wash your towels, sheets, and dish rags every now and then, but our guess is: not often enough. As soon as you step out of the shower and dry off with your towel, you’re spreading thousands of germs and bacteria onto yourself. While your towel hangs in your bathroom, persistent germs latch onto your linens and grow — even droplets from your toiletGulp. While these microbes aren’t guaranteed to get you sick, they rapidly multiply. NYU School of Medicine microbiologist, Philip Tierno claims explains that a damp towel has growing bacteria and “Wherever there is odor, there are microbes growing, so it should be washed.”

Not only are your bath towels a breeding ground for germs, but your bedsheets are as well, and may even be worse. From lint to skin cells, your sheets are covered in a variety of germs and allergens that can negatively impact your health. Tierno recommends washing your bed sheets at least once a week to avoid the growth of these microbes.

Stop Abiding by the "3 Second Rule"

We all remember the socially acceptable rule we learned in elementary school — the “3-second rule” — that made everyone feel better about eating food off the floor. Not too much of a surprise here, but the floor is swarming with viruses and bacteria and you should not eat anything that touches it. As microbiologist Tierno puts it, “If you drop some food stuff there [on the floor], don’t eat it…a lot of people do stupid stuff, and they have the three second rule, which is nonsense.” Unless you’re sanitizing your floor every few minutes, eating any food that has touched it is clearly a bad idea. When you pick a chip up off the floor, for example, you may believe you’re only taking in your own germs and will probably think something along the lines of, I just mopped the other day, my floors are clean. Although, anything that has hit the floor will become covered in germs that have been tracked in from the outside world. Another important factor to remember: just because you don’t see germs, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Deep Clean Your Floors and Carpets Regularly

It’s rather easy to center your deep cleaning around times when things become visibly dirty, but by putting that cleaning off you’re allowing germs to multiply. Rather than waiting until a big spill hits your hardwood floor, practice steaming your wooden floors and deep cleaning your rugs/carpets about every month. Hardwood floors harbor any bacteria from outside which idle until the area is properly disinfected. Floors in or near your kitchen are especially important to focus on, as germs from food (raw chicken is the #1 worst culprit) are dangerous.

As studies from Clemson University’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition have found, hazardous pathogens that have the potential to cause severe internal infections such as E. coli, campylobacter, and salmonella can survive on hard surfaces for days, so better safe than sorry. As for rugs and carpets, they should be cleaned regularly as they attract and hold a great deal of detritus. Carpets can contain up to 200,000 bacteria for every square inch, making it “4,000 times grosser than your toilet,” as writer Heather Barnett states.

Splurge on Germ-Fighting Appliances

If you’ve been in the market for a new dishwasher or washing machine, take some time to research appliances that have been cited by The Public Health and Safety Organization, NSF. This organization has certified a great number of appliances that focus on fighting germs and keeping your home healthy and safe. Their Home Product Certification Program aids consumers in identifying the safest products for their home. NSF’s extensive testing is specific to home use and balances the product’s performance, quality, and food contact material regulations.

Germs are all around us, and they’re certainly not going anywhere, so it’s important to protect ourselves as much as possible. Then again, being too clean isn’t going to be anyone’s saving grace. Not all germs are harmful, so there is no need to turn into a full-blown germaphobe.

By taking simple actions to keep yourself healthy and happy, you’ll likely never cross paths with the COVID-19, or even the common flu again. These methods to stay Coronavirus-free this season are very effective and will barely alter your day to day lifestyle. As Tierno says, “You’ve just got to be wise, be aware, and understand your surroundings. It’s not brain surgery.”


“Guidelines and protocol surrounding COVID-19 are changing quickly. For the most up-to-date information we recommend visiting the CDCWHO, and your local health departmentwebsites.”

How COVID-19 Could Impact the Real Estate Market

Update (April 8): Each state has determined whether real estate services are considered essential or non-essential and have a variety of guidances and restrictions related to it. Click here to find out what the protocol is…

How COVID-19 Could Impact the Real Estate Market

Update (April 8): Each state has determined whether real estate services are considered essential or non-essential and have a variety of guidances and restrictions related to it. Click here to find out what the protocol is in your state.

Update (March 26, 2020): Mortgage rates are ever-changing, especially during the uncertainty of the coronavirus crisis. Since this article was first published, they have fluctuated, and as of March 25, they are slightly higher. It is recommended that you go to Realtor.com to get mortgage rates that are updated daily.


Covid-19, or coronavirus, is all that everyone is talking about. And there are dozens of questions related to it. Is it preventable? How fast is it spreading? How dangerous is it? Will a treatment or even a cure be found in time?

All those questions are fair, and from a public health standpoint, should be asked and answered by those who are tasked to answer them – like the Centers for Disease Control.

However, this global pandemic, while terrifying millions around the world, is also having an impact on global financial markets and likely will impact the U.S. Real Estate market soon.

“U.S. MORTGAGE RATES HIT AN ALL-TIME LOW IN EARLY MARCH, WITH THE AVERAGE RATE OF THE 30-YEAR FIXED-RATE MORTGAGE DROPPING TO A STAGGERING 3.29%.”

Mortgage interest rates are plummeting, and according to a report on CNBC in early March, they could fall as low as zero percent, and even then, the Fed could go even farther.

“We certainly think the Fed would be prepared to do more,” said Michael Gapen, head of U.S. Economics at Barclay’s in an interview with CNBC. “There’s a lot of volatility in markets, and the Fed is very concerned about market functioning and keeping liquidity free flowing and credit available.”

In addition to the plummeting mortgage interest, an already slow real estate market will be impacted by a lack of Chinese buyers.

“China has been the most important source of foreign demand for real estate,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors®(NAR) told Realtor.com. “The upper-end market can expect to be softer as a result.”

That’s because wealthy Chinese buyers often purchase luxury properties in places like California and New York.

According to NAR’s most recent data about foreign buyers, Chinese buyers spent $13.4 billion on U.S. homes between April 2018 and May 2019 – which is a 56% drop from the previous 12-month span.

While some of that drop can be attributed to more strict rules by the Chinese government on international spending combined with tougher immigration rules in the U.S., even those Chinese buyers who would still come to America to buy real estate have been put on ice based on travel restrictions, flight cancellations and required quarantines and self-isolations.

This takes away the incentive to buy real estate because when a potential buyer can see the property remains unknown.

The Mortgage Interest-Free Fall

U.S. Mortgage rates hit an all-time low in early March, with the average rate of the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropping to a staggering 3.29% according to Freddie Mac, eclipsing the previous low set back in 2012. Just a year ago, though, mortgage rates were hovering in the mid-4% range after almost touching 5% at the end of 2018.

However, some experts, like Jay Farner, CEO of Quicken Loans, sees this as an opportunity for current homeowners to refinance their mortgages and pay down the loan even faster.

“So, 30-year mortgage rates have dropped quite a bit to the low-to-mid three percent range on a 30-year fixed-rate, and we’re now below three percent on a 15-year fixed,” Farner told MarketWatch “ So, I’d say for the vast majority of Americans, they’re now in a position where they can save money by refinancing. So, they should be doing something.

“THE ONE POTENTIAL CONUNDRUM FOR LOWER MORTGAGE INTEREST RATES IS THAT IT COULD CREATE A SLIPPERY SLOPE WHERE MORE BUYERS ENTER THE MARKET TRYING TO GET A GOOD DEAL, ALLOWING SELLERS TO JACK UP THEIR PRICES.”

“Interestingly, one of the things we’re talking a lot about is people moving from a 30-year to a lower term, a 20-year or 15-year, because rates are so low, they can get a payment today at a 15-year that is similar to a payment they would have made four or five years ago on 30-year when rates were in the fives, yet they could pay their home off in 15 years for far less interest.”

Farner added though that we shouldn’t expect to see the 30-year fixed rate mortgage to drop below three percent. Uncertainty creates volatility in the market, which impacts interest rates. However, once there is certainty, either positively or negatively regarding coronavirus, it would cause interest rates to be on the rise again.

“Even if they come out and say maybe the coronavirus will be a little bit worse than we thought that would bring certainty. If it makes sense, you can save money, you got to lock your interest rates. Take advantage of the savings. And if I were a betting man, I’d say there’s a higher probability rates will rise in the (near future).”

The one potential conundrum for lower mortgage interest rates is that it could create a slippery slope where more buyers enter the market trying to get a good deal, allowing sellers to jack up their prices at a time when home prices are increasing exponentially even without the impact of a global pandemic.

Getting back to China, where Covid-19 originated, considering China has the World’s second-largest economy and it also has a worldwide supply chain. Limits on that supply chain impact businesses around the world. This can slow development even further as developers will need to wait longer than usual to get the supplies necessary to build.

The last time a health risk had this kind of impact on the global economy was in 2003 during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. Mortgage interest rates also dipped during that outbreak, but the impact on real estate was minimal, if at all.

That’s because Chinese investors weren’t as interested in the U.S. market at the time. Considering how much Chinese interest there is now, it leaves a lot of uncertainty as the Covid-19 virus spreads.

Luxury Homes Could See a Boost Long-Term

Wealthy buyers from China seem to be more interested in U.S. properties after negative stories emerge from their own country.

For example, there was a spike in Chinese purchases of property in the U.S. after the 2019 anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

Covid-19 could bring the same rush from China to the U.S. market as these Chinese buyers see the U.S. as a safer option than at home because of the civil unrest.

“[Chinese] people who are wealthy may feel tired of the perception of China as being a third-world country,” Yun said. “They want to park their money in a first-class world economy, which is Australia, Canada, and the U.S. Hence, we may see greater demand from Chinese, wealthy households.”

Closing Delays

While real estate is not usually subject to volatile swings in the stock market, which has been impacted by the spread of Covid-19 and the uncertainty of its real impact on public health in America, the reality is, it’s hard, and potentially impossible to close a deal on a real estate transaction of travel restrictions are put in place.

Whether a sale is contingent upon the buyer seeing the property before signing the dotted line, or due diligence is required before closing an ongoing deal, the impact of Covid-19 could cause a delay in closing, or potentially even put a kibosh on the deal in total.

Travel restrictions that are being put in place, as well as recommendations of self-isolation and the general fear of the unknown could have people sheltering themselves in their current homes and not venturing out until necessary. These kinds of actions, even if done in the minority, could create a real estate transaction slowdown, albeit temporarily.

On the commercial real estate market, transactions had started slowing long before Covid-19 was a thing. According to Bisnow, in New York City, there was a 31 percent drop in the sale of investment-grade real estate from 2018 to 2019.

“The market was soft before the news of the virus hit,” Compass Vice Chair and commercial investment sales broker Adelaide Polsinelli wrote in an email to Bisnow. “If you aren’t afraid to do business in real estate in New York City, you aren’t afraid of coronavirus.”

She added that there is a positive outcome that is running parallel to the slowdown, because some investors are seeing the drop off in competition for real estate as a golden opportunity to lock down a deal.

“This is the perfect storm for buyers,” she said. “Competition has slowed down, sellers are nervous, interest rates are low and opportunities are increasing.”


Is Real Estate Considered an Essential Business in Your State?

Each state is operating under its own set of rules to determine which businesses are, and which aren’t, considered essential to remain operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Depending on the state, buying or selling a home can have a unique set of rules during this uncertain time. It is important not only for those who work in real estate to understand these rules, but also those consumers who wish to buy or sell a property.

Below is a list of each state with data gathered by the National Association of REALTORS® and is current as of April 7, 2020. For the most up to date information for your state, please check with your local government offices.

Essential States

Real Estate is considered an essential business in each of the following states. Yet in each one, social distancing is strongly encouraged, as well as other practices to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

  • Alabama – mandated the shutdown of certain non-essential businesses. Real Estate is not listed.
  • Alaska – relies on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28. Congregations of more than 10 people are prohibited.
  • Arizona – individuals may leave their place of residence to participate in an essential function. Real estate, appraisal and title services are included in essential functions.
  • California – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28.
  • Connecticut – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28.
  • District of Columbia – notary publics are essential businesses, but only when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities, essential business or essential government functions. This originally did not include real estate services, but the DHS guidance from March 28 included real estate services as essential.
  • Florida – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28.
  • Georgia – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28. Critical infrastructure with continued in-person operation must implement mitigation measures as described in the order.
  • Hawaii – real estate services, including appraisal and title services, are considered essential.
  • Iowa – mandated the closure of non-essential businesses. Real estate is not on the non-essential list.
  • Idaho – commercial construction, and the transfer and selling thereof, and construction of housing, and the transfer and selling thereof, are essential. Gatherings of any size are prohibited unless related to an essential business.
  • Illinois – professional services including legal, accounting, tax, payroll, real estate and property management services are essential. Essential businesses should promote telecommuting where possible and comply with social distancing requirements. Open houses are prohibited. Showing of vacant or owner-occupied units are permitted if necessary and scheduled in advance (virtual showings are preferred), but limited to no more than four people.
  • Indiana – real estate services, including appraisal and title services, are considered essential. However, real estate services should be conducted virtually or via telephone whenever reasonably possible and any face-to-face encounters should be postponed unless a failure to meet in person will have a significant and adverse impact on the client’s financial or legal position.
  • Kentucky – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28. However, real estate services must implement telecommuting and remote work to the fullest extent possible.
  • Kansas – real estate services are essential but must use telework capabilities to avoid meeting in person to the extent possible without significant disruption to essential functions.
  • Louisiana – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28.
  • Maryland – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28.
  • Maine – real estate agencies are essential as of March 25, however no live open houses are to be hosted.
  • Minnesota – work that facilitates or finances real estate transactions and real estate services (including appraisals and title services) are essential. However, all workers who can work from home must do so, even essential businesses. Open Houses are strongly discouraged, and showings should only occur once a buyer has viewed the property virtually.
  • Missouri – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28. However, gatherings of more than 10 people remain prohibited. The order does not close non-essential businesses but requires them to comply with gathering limitations and social distancing.
  • Mississippi – real estate services, including appraisal and title services, are listed as essential businesses and may remain operational provided they adhere to the ban on large gatherings.
  • Montana – banks, realtors or others providing real estate services and title companies are essential.
  • North Carolina – real estate, brokerage, appraisal, title, construction and moving and relocation services are essential.
  • North Dakota – mandated the closure of certain non-essential businesses. Real estate was not listed.
  • New Mexico – real estate services, including brokers, title companies and related services are essential.
  • Nevada – professional or technical services including legal, accounting, tax, payroll, real estate and property management services are essential.
  • Ohio – real estate services are considered essential. As of March 25, state legislature included language in a COVID-19 bill to ensure county recording offices stay open to effectuate property transfers and title searches. Local health departments may order closure of specific businesses for a limited period of time.
  • Oklahoma – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28.
  • South Carolina – only closed businesses of three categories – entertainment venues, athletic facilities and close contact service providers. Real estate is not affected.
  • Tennessee – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28.
  • Texas – relies on the DHS recommended “critical infrastructure” workers which includes residential and commercial real estate services as of March 28.
  • Wisconsin – real estate services, including appraisers, inspectors and title companies, are essential but should, to the greatest extent possible, use technology to avoid meeting in person. They must also meet social distancing requirements promulgated by DHS and the Centers for Disease Control.
  • West Virginia – real estate services, including title companies and appraisers, are essential.
  • Wyoming – forced closure of certain businesses, of which real estate services are not listed. However, gatherings of 10 or more people are prohibited.

Limited States

In these states, real estate business can still be conducted, but with limitations. The limitations for each state are listed.

  • Colorado – real estate appraisals and transactions are considered essential. However, per the state attorney general, real estate marketing services such as showings and open houses are not essential and not exempt from the stay-at-home order. Social distancing still required.
  • Massachusetts – open houses are not prohibited but are subject to the Commonwealth’s order limiting gatherings to 10 people. Closings can continue, with social distancing required for all in-person transactions. Meetings with clients cannot take place at the agent’s bricks-and-mortar place of business, but can take place remotely with social distancing, or by phone or video.
  • New Hampshire – amended on March 27 to say real estate is an essential business. However there can be no open houses, no meetings in broker offices and that social distancing is required for in-person showings, appraisals, inspections and closings.
  • New York – real estate is essential, however there are several caveats. Residential and commercial showings can only be done virtually. Agents can visit a property only to conduct a virtual showing. They can oversee transactions and signings at their offices as long as social distancing protocols are followed. Appraisal and home inspection services are essential, but businesses should implement telecommuting to the maximum extent possible.
  • Oregon – in-person meetings should only be done if telework options are not available. If in-person meetings are required, social distancing policies must be employed.
  • Virginia – in-person meetings should only be done if telework options are not available. If in-person meetings are required, social distancing policies must be employed. All public and private in-person gatherings of 10 or more individuals are prohibited. Open houses are strongly discouraged.
  • Washington – previews and showings are allowed by appointment only. The creation of virtual tours, inspections, appraisals, buyer walk-throughs and providing keys to the buyer at closing are allowed if proper sanitary and social distancing protocols are followed in each case. No other in-person real estate brokerage activities are permitted.

Non-Essential States

In these states, all real estate business must be conducted virtually or through other non-traditional means while stay-at-home orders and social distancing mandates are in effect.

  • Delaware – real estate is considered non-essential. However, showings are allowed, but no open houses. Necessary actions to complete any sales or rentals that were in progress prior to March 24 are allowed.
  • Michigan – no in person client contact, showings or open houses. However, appraisal and title services continue to operate to allow closings to occur. Realtors/Real estate agents can only participate in the closing remotely.
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont

No State Mandates Issued on Essential / Non - Essential Businesses

The following states have not issued mandates about essential and non-essential businesses within their borders. As such, business can go on as usual in these states for the time being, although social distancing is still strongly encouraged.

  • Arkansas
  • Nebraska
  • South Dakota
  • Utah – remote work is encouraged.

States With Uncertainties

  • New Jersey – real estate offices are open, but a guidance is being sought for interaction with clients.
  • Rhode Island – the state issued an order closing all “non-critical” businesses and allowed for “critical” businesses to continue to operate. However, real estate services weren’t listed on either list.

“Guidelines and protocol surrounding COVID-19 are changing quickly. For the most up-to-date information we recommend visiting the CDCWHO, and your local health departmentwebsites.”

The 3 Steps You Need to Take If You Can’t Pay Your Mortgage During COVID-19

COVID-19 has taken a lot from us; our freedom to move about as we please, our daily routines, and for many Americans it has taken our jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US…

The 3 Steps You Need to Take If You Can’t Pay Your Mortgage During COVID-19

COVID-19 has taken a lot from us; our freedom to move about as we please, our daily routines, and for many Americans it has taken our jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US unemployment rate rose to 4.4% in March from 3.5% in February. Many homeowners are encountering financial hardship due to lost jobs or decreased wages and are unable to make their mortgage payments.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020 by President Trump. It offers foreclosure moratoriums and mortgage forbearance, for homeowners who are experiencing financial hardship. If you find that you aren’t able to make your mortgage payment or if you fear you may not be able to make it in the future, here are the first three steps you should take.1. CALL YOUR LOAN PROVIDER

You don’t have to wait until you’ve missed a payment to ask for assistance. Generally, you’ll have more choices the earlier you ask. Your lender will have some questions for you when you call. Be prepared with the following information:

  • Your loan’s account number.
  • A statement explaining why you are unable to make your payment.
  • An idea of how long you anticipate not being able to make your payments (temporarily or permanently).
  • Details about your income, expenses and other assets, like cash in the bank.

2. DETERMINE IF YOUR LOAN IS GOVERNMENT BACKED

Protections under the CARES Act are available to homeowners with federally backed mortgages who have encountered pandemic-related financial hardship. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau states mortgages backed by the following federal agencies will qualify:

3. DETERMINE YOUR REPAYMENT OPTIONS

It is important to remember that you will have to repay the forbearance amount including interest. How you repay that amount varies between lenders. Government-backed loans have different options than loans that are privately owned.

Government-backed forbearance repayment options:

  • Lump-sum: Repay the entire amount you owe at one time.
  • Short term repayment: Repay the entire amount you owe divided evenly over six months.
  • Extended loan modification: Tack the forbearance amount onto the end of your loan which will increase the loan’s length and change its terms.

Privately owned forbearance repayment options:

The CARES Act does not cover privately-owned mortgages, but many private lenders are taking steps to help. Natalie Campisi, senior mortgage reporter at Bank Rate says“most lenders are motivated to offer consumers repayment options that they can afford. Some lenders, like Bank of America, are automatically tacking the amount owed to the back of the loan.”

These are uncertain times for homeowners all across America. The CARES Act, and frank conversations with your lender, can help you get a handle on what your options are and alleviate any concerns you may have about losing your home due to financial hardship caused by COVID-19.

Disparity Between White, Black Homeowners as Great Today as 1968

More than 50 years have passed since the enactment of the Fair Housing Act, and yet the homeownership rate gap between white and black Americans is comparable to the gap at the time when the…

Disparity Between White, Black Homeowners as Great Today as 1968

More than 50 years have passed since the enactment of the Fair Housing Act, and yet the homeownership rate gap between white and black Americans is comparable to the gap at the time when the Act first passed.

This is according to speakers at the National Association of REALTORS® second-annual Policy Forum held in February, where data collected at the end of 2019 showed that  the percentage of whites (73.7 percent) who owned homes was nearly 30 percentage points higher than the percentage of blacks who owned homes (44 percent) in the United States.

“In 2020, there is still a persistent gap in homeownership rates between whites, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans,” said Bryan Greene, NAR’s director of fair housing policy. “On one hand, you might expect there to be a lower homeownership rate among minority Americans, as a history of discrimination in this country has left many with lower incomes … and less generational wealth to pass on for down payments and the like.”

“I think many of us would have expected rates to have risen more. We did see that happen for a period from the early 90s to the early part of this century; but dramatically, at least for African Americans, we started to see that homeownership rate decline – so much so that last year the homeownership rate for African Americans dipped below the rate in 1968 when the Fair Housing Act was passed.”A GOAL OF BOLSTERING AFRICAN AMERICAN HOMEOWNERSHIP RATES

Last year, NAR, The National Association of Real Estate Brokers and the Urban Institute held a joint roundtable discussion focused on this goal of bolstering African American homeownership rates.

A five-point framework that can be applied across all minority communities emerged from last year’s conversations and continues to be expanded upon in 2020 as the groups continue to work together to tackle the issue.

“The fact that homeownership rates for African Americans have regressed in spite of the presence of fair housing laws makes clear that various institutional challenges still must be faced and defeated,” said NAR President Vince Malta. “By strengthening post-purchase counseling, funding programs to prevent foreclosure for low- and moderate-income and vulnerable families of color, and building tools that help create early-warning displacement triggers, we can ensure first-time homebuyers have the knowledge and resources to remain homeowners for the rest of their lives.”

It is likely that ongoing discrimination in the real estate market also contributes to the ongoing homeownership gap. An investigation by New York Newsday published in November 2019 alleged that real estate companies responsible for 50% of the home sales on Long Island, discriminated against African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans in 40% of transactions, on average.

To address this ongoing problem, in January, the NAR Leadership Team unanimously passed a Fair Housing Action Plan called ACT, which stands for Accountability, Culture change, and Training.

ACT specifically commits NAR to:

  • Promote minimum, core fair-housing training requirements for all states
  • Promote state licensing laws that ensures real estate agents who violate fair housing laws are held accountable
  • Launch a public-service announcement campaign that reaffirms NAR’s commitment to fair housing and tells consumers how to report problems
  • Integrate fair housing into all Realtor conferences and engagements
  • Explore the creation of a voluntary self-testing program in partnership with a fair housing organization that brokers and others can use as a resource. It would include confidential reports on agent practices so problems can be addressed
  • Create robust fair housing education that includes implicit-bias training and education on how the Realtors’ actions shape communities
  • Conduct a national study to determine what factors motivate discrimination in sales markets
  • Profile leaders who exemplify fair housing practices and workplace diversity
  • Develop materials that helps Realtors provide information on schools in a way that avoids fair housing pitfalls

“NAR has been active in our pursuit of innovative new policies and partnerships that will help us preserve the fundamental right of housing in America,” Malta said, upon the NAR leadership team’s approval of the ACT! initiative. “While we have long been a champion of the Fair Housing Act, recent incidents have underscored the progress our nation must still make. That’s why I am proud to announce that our association’s Leadership Team has voted today to approve an action that will directly ramp up and reinvigorate NAR’s fair housing commitment.”

NAR re-organized last summer to create a new Fair Housing Policy Committee to more effectively advocate on national fair housing policy and hired Bryan Greene as NAR director of fair housing policy. Greene previously served at HUD for 29 years as the top career official overseeing enforcement of the federal Fair Housing Act.EVIDENCE OF A TURNAROUND?

Despite the year-end numbers presented at the Policy Forum, there were some signs of optimism that showed that the worm may have turned and home ownership among minorities is trending in the right direction.

According to data from the housing website Zillow, the homeownership rate for black households jumped 3.4 percentage points over the second half of 2019, bringing it from a three-decade low to back near historic averages.

A closer look at the data also revealed that some metro areas across the U.S. had a black homeownership rate that was higher than other large metros with similarly sized African American populations.

Across the country, the black homeownership rate lags behind that of non-black households in each of the 45 largest metropolitan areas. However, it is now above the mid-decade average in more than half of those markets.

The biggest increases have been seen in Sacramento (7.8 percent), Phoenix (5.4), Orlando (5.3), San Francisco (4.4) and Portland (3.9).

And in some cases, the rate of growth in the black homeownership rate has exceeded that of all other households since mid-decade – which means the deficit is shrinking. That gap has been closed the most in Sacramento (6.5 percent), Orlando (4.1) and Cincinnati (3.2).

Metropolitan markets with a higher share of African American residents tend to have a higher homeownership rate.

Atlanta has the third highest share of African American residents of any market in the country and its black homeownership rate is 48.2 percent. Richmond, Va. ranks fifth in percentage of black residents and has a homeownership rate of 49.9 percent. Birmingham ranks seventh and has the highest home ownership rate of any major metro at 52.2 percent. Washington D.C. is second-best at 51.4 percent, and they rank eighth in the percentage share of black residents. [This needs to be explained Why aren’t the cities with the higher percentages of black homeowners ranked higher than those with lower percentage of black homeowners? Why is Atlanta higher than those that exceed 50%?]

Some of these metro markets are outperforming expectations when it comes to black homeownership. For example, of the top 45 markets, San Antonio ranks 37th in share of black residents, but its black homeownership rate of 42.9 percent ranks 14th. Orlando (6th highest homeownership rate, 24th in share of residents), Riverside, Calif. (15th and 35th, respectfully) and Sacramento (23rd and 39th, respectfully) also outperform.HOMEOWNERSHIP RATES

The black homeownership rate has been like a roller coaster ride for the past 50 years.  The rate of homeownership for black households rose from 41.6% in 1970 to a peak of 46.5% in 2007.

However, the recession followed, and homeowners of color suffered the most, with the homeownership rate falling below 1970 levels by 2016. The 44 percent homeownership rate in 2019 is an increase from that bottoming out at 41percent three years earlier, but it’s still below the 2007 rate.

But help is on the way in the way of an influx of $40 million in grant money provided recently by HUD to assist fair housing organizations efforts to ensure that fair housing protocols are being followed, to investigate potential claims and file more claims and continue the fight to finally end housing discrimination.

With these newly funded efforts and with continued education, there is hope that the black home ownership rate will exceed that 2007 peak in the not too distant future and continue to close that racial gap until it becomes inconsequential or is eliminated entirely.

Resources for Homeowners and Homebuyers in the Time of COVID-19

Just because you are stuck inside and can’t go anywhere because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, doesn’t mean that there aren’t resources out there for you if you need help. That’s right, although it might…

Resources for Homeowners and Homebuyers in the Time of COVID-19

Just because you are stuck inside and can’t go anywhere because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, doesn’t mean that there aren’t resources out there for you if you need help.

That’s right, although it might seem like the country is completely shut down, it’s not and if you are a property owner and you are uncertain of what assistance there might be for you during this uncertain time, then look no further.

Courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS®, all the links below can be resourceful tools for you to seek aid or assistance for yourself and your property while waiting for the coronavirus outbreak to subside.

Click on a link below to navigate to specific topic:

Title and Settlement Companies
Banks
Your Credit
Drinking Water
Foreclosures and Evictions
Taxes
Student Loans
Veterans


TITLE AND SETTLEMENT COMPANIES

Are you worried about closing on the sale of a property during the pandemic? According to the American Land Title Association (ALTA), title and settlement companies are unified in enacting the following protocols to ensure these property transactions can still take place at a time when social distancing remains paramount:

  • When arriving at closing: guests are encouraged to use hand sanitizer and/or wash their hands.
  • Symptomatic Clients: Any guest who exhibits symptoms that may be like coronavirus, even if it’s not coronavirus   –  fever, cough, shortness of breath, for example – should notify staff upon arrival and they will immediately be taken to a private closing room.
  • Post-Closing: After each closing, the entire room will be disinfected – including the chairs, table and door handle – and will be wiped down with disinfecting wipes or bleach solution.
  • At the closing table: Any extraneous materials will be removed. Pens used for signing documents will be disposable and one-time use only.
  • Lobby Items: Anything that is non-essential that could be re-usable by guests – such as reading materials or coffee mugs – will be removed.
  • Children’s Play Areas: Games and toys for children meant to provide a distraction while business is process have been removed.
  • Hand Sanitizer: While supplies last, hand sanitizer is being provided in closing spaces and common areas.
  • Social Distancing: Even in the closing room, the practice of staying approximately six feet from others will be in effect and done to the best of everyone’s ability.
  • Workforce Dispersion: Only necessary personnel will be on the premises to conduct business while others will be working remotely to ensure service continuity but also public health safety.

The National Notary Association has created health screening forms for both the signing agent and the borrower to fill out to protect all parties during a closing.

ALTA is tracking the operating status of every recording jurisdiction in America by county. They are maintaining it in a Google spreadsheet where you can check and see what your county’s operation status is, and if it has been modified, how so.
BANKS OFFERING HELP TO HOMEOWNERS

Bank regulators, like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Fed) have all put out their own guidance for banks and servicers to be more proactive in extending help to homeowners who need it during a struggling economy created by the pandemic.

The FDIC has information for both bankers and consumers on its homepage.

The Fed has daily updates on its homepage regarding COVID-19 and its impact on the interest rate, among other economic impacts to consumers.
Meanwhile, the banks have posted their own policies and ways for consumers to contact them for assistance:

Outside of the banks, servicers who act as an intermediary between banks or investors and the consumers – such as Mr. Cooper and Flagstar Bank are also providing important information for homebuyers who are in need of assistance as they try to purchase a home during this trying time.

In addition, the mortgage insurer Genworth is providing information on how servicers can help consumers.
Mortgage Insurers are also providing information on how servicers can help consumers:PROTECTING YOUR CREDIT

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is urging consumers to protect their credit during the pandemic.

They have outlined the following steps as ones all consumers should take, especially those who are feeling the crunch financially as a result of COVID-19’s impact on the economy.

Get a copy of your credit report

If you haven’t requested your free annual credit reports, you can get copies at AnnualCreditReport.com. Each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (also known as credit reporting companies) – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian – allow you to get your report for free once every twelve months. You can request additional reports for a small fee if you’ve already received your free report. Be sure to check your reports for errors and dispute any inaccurate information.

In addition to your free annual credit reports, all U.S. consumers are entitled to six free credit reports every 12 months from Equifax through December 2026. All you have to do is get a “myEquifax” account   or call Equifax at 866-349-5191.

If you can’t make payments, contact your lenders

Many lenders have announced proactive measures to help borrowers impacted by COVID-19. As with other natural disasters and emergencies, they may be willing to provide forbearance, loan extensions, a reduction in interest rates, and/or other flexibilities for repayment. Some lenders are also saying they will not report late payments to credit reporting agencies or are waiving late fees for borrowers in forbearance due to this pandemic.

If you feel you cannot make payments, contact your lenders to explain your situation and be sure to get confirmation of any agreements in writing.

The CFPB has resources to help you discuss the impact of COVID-19 on your financial situation with your lenders.

Routinely check your reports

If you’re working with lenders on payment assistance programs or forbearance, routinely check your credit reports to make sure they are accurate and reflect your agreements. For example, if your lender agreed to let you skip one month’s payment, make sure they didn’t report it as delinquent or a missed payment.

There are other reports you may want to check too, such as reports that monitor your bank and checking account history, among others. The CFPB has a list of consumer reporting companies where you can learn more about which reports might be important to you, depending on your specific situation.

Report and dispute inaccurate information

If you find inaccurate information on your credit reports, use the CFPB’s step-by-step guide to dispute that information with the credit reporting agency and the company that provided that information to them, also known as a furnisher.

If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a brief statement of the dispute be included in your file and included or summarized in future reports. You can also submit a complaint to the CFPB.
Protect Yourself Financially: The CFPB has a number of resources focused on financial protection, both short and long term, such as paying bills, income loss, and scam targeting.  Resources include contacts for housing and credit counselors, debt collectors, and state unemployment services.TAP WATER IS STILL SAFE

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans can continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual. The EPA has provided important information about COVID-19 as it relates to drinking water and wastewater to provide clarity to the public. The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking-water supplies. Based on current evidence, the risk to water supplies is low.FORECLOSURE AND EVICTIONS RELIEF FOR HOMEOWNERS

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has authorized the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to implement an immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages.
The FHA is also continuing to run single family business operations and has created a Q&A form available on their website to keep interested parties updated on their procedures during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has instructed Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and their servicers to be proactive in providing assistance to homeowners including forbearance. In addition, FHFA imposed a moratorium on eviction and foreclosures on mortgages backed by the GSEs.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have issued similar guidance:

  • Homeowners who are adversely impacted by this national emergency may request mortgage assistance by contacting their mortgage servicer
  • Foreclosure sales and evictions of borrowers are suspended for 60 days
  • Homeowners impacted by this national emergency are eligible for a forbearance plan to reduce or suspend their mortgage payments for up to 12 months
  • Credit bureau reporting of past due payments of borrowers in a forbearance plan as a result of hardships attributable to this national emergency is suspended
  • Homeowners in a forbearance plan will not incur late fees
  • After forbearance, a servicer must work with the borrower on a permanent plan to help maintain or reduce monthly payment amounts as necessary, including a loan modification

Fannie and Freddie have also created pages with additional information for consumers.YOU HAVE MORE TIME TO DO YOUR TAXES

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has extended the income tax filing and payment deadline in light of COVID-19 crisis. On March 21st, an announcement was made that extended the income tax payment deadline for individual returns (as well as all other entities) until July 15, 2020. Two days later, the IRS also extended the tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020. Additional forms do not need to be filed to qualify for these extensions.

Rural Property Owners getting much needed relief

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has informed lenders of a foreclosure and eviction moratorium for all USDA Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loans Program (SFHGLP) loans, in connection with the Presidentially declared COVID-19 National Emergency. Additionally:

  • Rural development (RD) will continue to provide loans and grants to rural communities across all of their programs.
  • ReConnect applications will continue to be accepted with a March 31st deadline, and RD will then begin the review and award process.
  • RD has granted authority to lenders that participate in their Single-Family Housing Guaranteed program so that these lenders can work with borrowers to ensure that homeowners will stay in their houses if they are having difficulty making payments.
  • RD will issue guidance to their Single-Family Housing Direct borrowers to ensure they can also seek payment assistance if needed.

STUDENT DEBT RELIEF AVAILABLE

The Department of Education announced that it will allow forbearance on federally-backed student loans beginning on March 13, 2020. Likewise, all interest on student loans has been waived for this same time period. You must contact your loan servicer to bring a forbearance.

Servicers are sharing information how borrowers can seek remedies.
PROTECTING VETERANS AND THEIR HOMES DURING THE PANDEMIC

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is providing information to keep Veterans and stakeholders safe while continuing the mission of the VA Home Loan Program.

THE 2020 CENSUS IS HERE. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO The 2020 Census is practically upon us. It is a vast undertaking that takes place once a decade and in a lot of ways requires an all-hands-on-deck approach to get it right.…

THE 2020 CENSUS IS HERE. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

BY ANTHONY SANFILIPPO

The 2020 Census is practically upon us.

It is a vast undertaking that takes place once a decade and in a lot of ways requires an all-hands-on-deck approach to get it right.

That means it’s not just the United States Census Bureau that tackles the Herculean task of breaking down the country’s population. No, the Bureau leans on the help of various national organizations to provide outreach to all citizens of the country to make sure the participation level is as high as it can be.

The Census is more than just a headcount. It’s vastly important to determine a lot of things over the course of the next 10 years in America.“APPROXIMATELY $1.5 TRILLION IN FEDERAL DOLLARS IS ALLOCATED TO STATES AND SPECIFIC COMMUNITIES EACH YEAR BASED PURELY ON CENSUS RESULTS.”

It helps to determine accurate Congressional representation in the House of Representatives as well as the number of delegates offered to a state for Presidential elections.

But perhaps more importantly, federal funding allocated to states often relies on the accuracy of the most recent Census. Whether it’s funding to improve infrastructure projects like roads and hospitals or funding for schools or even the allocation of money for federal student loans or government-funded housing – how to spread that money around appropriately results from the Census count.

Among the organizations, the Bureau is enlisting to support the outreach for the Census is the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR).

“NAR is able to provide tremendous value to our members because of the research we produce examining trends in communities across this country,” NAR President Vince Malta, a broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco, said in a statement. “But the usefulness of that information relies on current, accurate data from the federal government. Full participation in the Census is in many ways the only way to ensure that data is correct.”

According to NAR, approximately $1.5 trillion in federal dollars is allocated to states and specific communities each year based purely on Census results.

In 2020 alone, the Census will influence the allocation of $93.5 billion in Federal Direct Student Loans, $19.3 billion in Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers and $12 billion for the National School Lunch Program.

NAR will ask each of its 1.4 million members to share promotional materials about the Census with clients, potential clients, neighbors and events that gather communities together.

Notices about the 2020 Census will be mailed in mid-March, and the Bureau will offer a guide in roughly 60 different languages. This year will mark the first time the questionnaire can be completed online, while options to respond over the phone and through the mail will still be available.

Last month, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reviewed some of the challenges associated with accurately securing this information at its hearing, Reaching Hard-to-Count Communities in the 2020 Census. And states are taking different measures to try to reach hard-to-count communities or simply to provide reminders for people to participate in more populated areas.EFFORTS AT THE STATE LEVEL

In Nevada, stickers on produce at supermarkets and catchy jingles on video screens while pumping gas are being considered to get people to participate and to boost their participation rate from the 71 percent it was in 2010.

In Alaska, the Alaska Public Interest Research Group helped to translate the Census into four Native Alaska languages that are unique specifically to their state, to boost participation. American Indians and Alaska Natives have been historically underrepresented in the Census, with an estimated undercount of 4.9 percent in 2010. Also, Alaska gets an early start on the Census, as it has been underway since January since it is easier to reach some of the state’s more remote villages during the winter freeze than after it starts to thaw out in the Spring.

In New York, the City’s Census office has a target to educate 10,000 New Yorkers directly and recruit 7,500 volunteers for Neighborhood Organizing Census Committees, to conduct “Get Out the Count” efforts across the city including through phone-banking, text-banking and on-the-ground canvassing.

The city has also pressed into service the City University of New York, a range of city agencies that regularly interact with the public, and 110 branches of the city’s three library systems. They are also being aided by a host of labor unions, business groups, faith leaders and houses of worship.

New York’s participation percentage of 62 percent in 2010 lagged far behind the national average of 75 percent.

One of the reasons some people choose not to participate in the Census is because there is a mistrust in the government about what it will do with the data collected through the Census. However, the Census Bureau will never ask for bank account or social security numbers, donations or anything on behalf of a political party, and strict federal law protects the confidentiality of Census responses.

A lot can change in a decade. The last time the Census was done in 2010, selfies on your iPhone wasn’t even a thing. And while 10 years-worth of photos on America’s smart phones are not on the Bureau’s radar, it is important for the government to track changes that occurred in the past decade as to where people live, who got married, had children, and how that impacts federal money to be appropriated into each state and specifically into individual communities.

It’s important to be counted.

There are three ways to take part in the 2020 Census:

  • BY MAIL: Available in both English and Spanish, the paper form will arrive via mail in April and can be mailed back to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • ONLINE: For the first time ever, the census can be completed online. It will be available in 13 different languages (English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese). The website is census.gov
  • BY PHONE: Call 1-800-923-8282 and provide answers over the phone. All 13 languages listed above are also available on the phone as well as the Telecommunication Device for the Deaf.
So Long Traditional Retirement Homes

Retirees are Seeking Alternative Lifestyle and Housing Options As the baby boomer generation is reaching retirement, they have something different in mind when it comes to housing options. Rather than following in their elders’ footsteps…

So Long Traditional Retirement Homes

Retirees are Seeking Alternative Lifestyle and Housing Options

As the baby boomer generation is reaching retirement, they have something different in mind when it comes to housing options.

Rather than following in their elders’ footsteps of settling into a traditional retirement home, they’re looking into alternative lifestyles and both more urban and rural options. A demographics researcher for the University of Virginia, Hamilton Lombard, shares that the nation’s 65+ population is expected to grow up to 90% by 2040, and in some regions, the majority of the population growth will stem directly from this community. This rapidly growing population is having a huge effect on the housing market across the country, including rentals.

WHAT ABOUT NURSING HOMES?

The reason nursing homes often follow retirement is self-explanatory; as those living alone or with partners born around the same time begin to age, safety concerns arise. Nursing homes ensure that there is someone to help whenever you need it while placing yourself in a community with shared values. Seemingly, baby boomers aren’t physically aging at the same rate as the previous generation and are proving to live longer, healthier lives. With home renovations such as widening doorways, grab bars in bathrooms, and slip-resistant floors, these retirees can continue living on their own for much longer. With a healthier lifestyle, many baby boomers are still very active and are looking to continue aging in a community that shares those ideals while offering fun activities you may not expect grandpa to be indulging in, such as water sports or interactive classes.

TODAY’S RETIREES ARE MORE FINANCIALLY SOUND

One of the largest factors for this generation of retirees is that they can afford this variety of options. Those who are over 65 are shown to have the lowest poverty rate of any population group in the U.S, based on a U.S. Census Bureau report. Not only are they financially sound, but 81% of that age group also own their homes. If retirement is on your horizon and you’re set on aging in place, there are a handful of options to consider. If renovations in your current home seem like too much of a headache, you may be considering a new location, perhaps downsizing to a smaller home that is affordable and more convenient to inhabit, potentially eliminating stairs.

There are many reasons to downsize your home, especially as your immediate family shrinks and you simply don’t need the extra space anymore. Even if your mortgage is entirely paid off, larger homes cost more in a variety of ways; utilities such as heating, cooling, and electricity, upkeep, property taxes, etc. By downsizing to a smaller home, you’ll likely make a profit from your home sale and cut your monthly expenses down substantially. The average homeowner spends between 1 and 4 percent of their property’s value just on home upkeep, so cutting down your home’s square footage will cut your bills down as well.  Money aside, maintaining a smaller home is much easier and will allow you more time to spend with family, friends, and maybe even on discovering new hobbies.

If an active adult community interests you more than renovating your home or purchasing a new smaller abode, you may not know where to begin your search. Communities such as Epcon, with locations in 18 different states across the country, NoHo Senior Arts Colony for the creative types in North Hollywood, CA, and Evergreen Real Estate Group’s multiple senior rental apartment complexes in Illinois with technology-focused amenities are just a few associations that have jumped on the wagon to appeal to today’s retirees, not last generations.

“Developers are taking advantage of the urban living demand for seniors by focusing on new development projects in existing, established communities."

As for the senior rental market, according to a 2017 analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, between 2009 and 2015 the number of renters over 55 hiked up 28 percent, which is drastic in comparison to the 3 percent increase in renters under the age of 34. Developers and real estate agents are certainly taking notice of this growing population and trending idea of alternative retirement options. With nearly 80 million people reaching retirement age, there are boundless opportunities for those offering housing options, whether they are building new complexes or selling homes. A real estate firm, JLL, recently released an industry report sharing that more developers are taking advantage of the urban living demand for seniors by focusing on new development projects in existing, established communities.

It is a classic pattern that often falls under the umbrella of the American dream; leave the city for the suburbs to buy a home and start your family. But once the kids are out the door starting families of their own, the daydreams of convenient city life will likely begin to flood back into your head. As the director of development at Evergreen shares, “It’s part of a broader move in real-estate development that says the way we built cities, with commercial space below and then we lived ‘above the store,’ so to speak, well, there’s a certain amount of wisdom in that.”

RETIREES SEEK WALKABILITY, ENTERTAINMENT AND AFFORDABILITY

In the past, visions of retirement are often relaxing in a lawn chair somewhere warm, quiet, and maybe even a bit isolated. The upcoming retirement population sees things a bit differently. It turns out baby boomers have a similar checklist of their ideal neighborhood to Millennials; convenience, walkability, entertainment, and affordability. Denser suburbs and cities offer these things and help promote an active lifestyle. A survey conducted by architecture firm Perkins Eastman showed “26% of client firms that build and redevelop properties for seniors says they believe boomers will be most concerned with living in proximity to an urban location or town center, up from 19% in 2017.”

On the other side of things, those retirees who aren’t interested in more urban living are choosing rural areas to settle down in due to extreme affordability. When the word retirement comes to mind, Florida is probably to follow. While Florida has still managed to reach number one on Wallet Hub’s 2019 Best & Worst Places to Retire, there are plenty of states that are coming up as a close second. In fact, Moneywise’s similar list of The Best States for Retirement in 2019 has ranked South Dakota number one with Florida as the runner up. The Wall Street Journal shared the research of a University of Virginia demographer, Hamilton Lombard, “Census data show that from 2010 to 2017, net migration to retirement-destination counties in Appalachian regions of Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee increased 169%, the same percentage of growth for retirement destinations in Florida.”

RURAL RETIREMENT IS BECOMING POPULAR

Rural retirement is becoming more and more popular as retirees prioritize a lower cost of living, tax breaks, and respectable hospitals over other conveniences of more popular retirement locations and nursing homes. South Dakota, for example, is America’s best retirement state “hands down” in Moneywise’s opinion, due to excellent outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping. For those seeking a quiet lifestyle that is equally as active, rural states such as SD are the way to go. Not to mention, of course, the very low cost of living (a one-bedroom in the town center is on average $765 a month) and the fact that the state’s sales tax is 4.5 percent and there is no income tax or inheritance tax.

We’ve been shadowing Millennials to keep up with the real estate trends, but it looks like it may be time to switch our direction towards the baby boomer generation. Retiring is infinitely exciting if you’ve planned accordingly and explored all options to find the right fit for yourself. Whether that be a small home in Georgia or a lively city apartment above a library and community center, one thing is for sure—this generation nearing retirement is going to be living a lively and inspiring life.

Why Homeownership Should Continue to Be Incentivized by Our Federal Tax System

Read the original resource prepared by Rosen Consulting Group here. “Every American should have the opportunity for prosperity andfinancial security, and for many Americans, homeownership isthe best way to achieve these goals. Sustainable and affordablehomeownership…

Why Homeownership Should Continue to Be Incentivized by Our Federal Tax System

Read the original resource prepared by Rosen Consulting Group here.

"Every American should have the opportunity for prosperity and
financial security, and for many Americans, homeownership is
the best way to achieve these goals. Sustainable and affordable
homeownership improves long-term net worth and financial security through accumulated savings, appreciation in the value of the
home, and predictable monthly housing expenses. In the wake of the
Great Recession, however, the homeownership rate in the U.S. fell
precipitously, wiping out the gains achieved during the prior three
decades and undermining progress toward the American Dream for
millions of households nationwide, most notably middle-income,
minority and millennial households."

Take Inventory of Your Belongings Before a Disaster Strikes

As a homeowner, your abode is your pride and joy, and considering how hard you’ve worked to get to this point, how couldn’t it be? After spending countless months—let’s be honest, years—decorating and curating your home,…

Take Inventory of Your Belongings Before a Disaster Strikes

As a homeowner, your abode is your pride and joy, and considering how hard you’ve worked to get to this point, how couldn’t it be? After spending countless months—let’s be honest, years—decorating and curating your home, you want to be sure everything is accounted for in case a disaster occurs. Surprisingly, only around half of homeowners have a home inventory, based on a poll from the Insurance Information Institute. This rate has stayed rather stagnant over the past decade, and it’s time for that to change.

Disasters don’t give us a warning. Without a home inventory, you would have to file every single one of your possessions immediately after experiencing something truly awful. Not to mention any forgotten items will be gone forever. Public insurance adjuster David Moore offers some insight when sharing, “You can lose thousands of dollars because you didn’t include everything.”

Documenting all of your belongings certainly may seem like an intimidating undertaking, but with the right assistance and resources it can be totally manageable. As of March 2019, natural catastrophes caused an estimated $52.3 billion in losses in the U.S. With only half of Americans proactively taking inventory, that is a lot of sentimental possessions being unaccounted for. So, if you’re wondering if it’s worth it to make a home inventory list—the answer is yes.

Sure, you may have a good idea of what you own, but are you aware of the value of all your assets? It can be difficult to put a price on everything you have accumulated over your lifetime, which is exactly why documenting everything is so essential to be fairly reimbursed if you suffer losses from any natural or man-made disasters. A woman who lost her home after the devastating Tubbs Fire, Alice Plichcik, shares, “You don’t realize how much you have lost until you try to replace everything.”

Here are six steps to help make the process of inventorying your belongings as easy as possible.

1. HANDLE ONE ROOM AT A TIME

Baby steps are key here. On the bright side, this process may give you the push you need to declutter a bit. When beginning to take inventory, choose one room or a section of your house at a time. Starting this process is the biggest step, so take your time! Try focusing on one area of your home a day, or even a week, to make it seem less stressful and overwhelming in the long run.

2. START WITH BIGGER ITEMS AND WORK YOUR WAY TO SMALLER ITEMS

As cherished as your bookshelves and crammed closets are, starting with your more expensive and larger items will make this task more tolerable. Your big ticket items will need the most amount of attention and time, so it’s best to get those out of the way first so the remaining items seem more approachable to catalogue.

3. ORGANIZE YOUR LIST BY CATEGORY

Keeping this list organized is crucial. It is hard to comprehend how many items you own until you’re writing them down and all of a sudden your list has reached page 20. In order to keep this inventory document as organized as possible, try listing your valuables by categories such as electronics, furniture, etc.

4. GET A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR PHONE

You’re not alone here, and becomes very clear when you start to look into the variety of apps created to help homeowners take inventory of their belongings. If you’re looking to speed things up, give Encircle a try. With this app you’ll focus on one room at a time by quickly snapping some photos of your space and then going back to add details on individual items. Another noteworthy app is Nest Egg, which will cost you $4 for the full version, but is well worth it. While it will take you longer to enter in all of the details of your things, it offers benefits such as giving you a heads up that a warranty is nearing expiration, or that something on loan is due back soon. Both of these apps, and most that are offered, are password protected so there is no need to fear your private information getting out.

5. USE PHOTO +/ VIDEO

A video is actually an excellent option if you are worried about how tedious this process will be. Taking a detailed video of each room in your home will help jog your memory if there is anything you’ve missed. Additional details such as serial numbers and/or model numbers for expensive pieces is important to jot down but a video is a great start, or alternatively you could take a more in depth video and get a close-up shot of these details on your items. If you hung onto a receipt for an item, you can even get that on the video as well to be reimbursed for the exact price. Many insurance companies accept this type of recording during a claim—some even prefer it. If you’re choosing this route, just double check that your insurance company accepts a video, like State Farm does for example. Photos are also very helpful in keeping things cohesive when putting together a list. Many apps previously mentioned allow you to insert photos along with the details of the object to help keep things organized.

6. KEEP A COPY (SOMEWHERE SAFE!)

One advantage to using an app or a Google Doc rather than a list is that it is secure in the cloud or your drive. If making a list on another program on your computer, be sure to put a copy on an external hard drive and keep it in a safe spot.

Life happens, and unfortunately, disasters do as well. If you’re responsible and proactive when it comes to your beloved possessions, then there is no reason to live in fear of potential damage. Whether you’ve lived in your home for 50 years or are just beginning your homeownership journey, you can start your home inventory list today and prepare for your future. As the director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, Robert Hunter, says, “The whole idea of insurance is to make you whole, not under-pay you or over-pay you.” Your home inventory is something you will continue to work on as you obtain more belongings. Once you get started, the rest will come easily. Anytime you splurge on a new electronic, or upgrade a worn out appliance, just be sure to update your list so you’re always prepared for the worst. Don’t put off a task now that you’ll certainly regret later.

How the New Tax Law Affects Homeowners

It’s been a full year since the tax reform bill was passed by Congress and it is now starting to have impacts across the country, especially on homeowners. While many homeowners, homebuyers and real estate…

How the New Tax Law Affects Homeowners

It’s been a full year since the tax reform bill was passed by Congress and it is now starting to have impacts across the country, especially on homeowners.

While many homeowners, homebuyers and real estate investors will see benefits from this legislation, some markets may still see diminished tax benefits and adverse impacts to the real estate market.

While final data for 2018 is still not available, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) projected slower growth in home prices – between 1 and 3 percent – for the year. The continued growth is likely from the demand still being higher than the supply nationally, but in some local markets, specifically those in high cost, higher tax areas, price declines are expected because of restriction on mortgage interest and state and local taxes that were part of the new legislation.

“MOST PEOPLE AREN’T EVEN AWARE YET THAT THIS TAX CHANGE TOOK PLACE, EITHER BECAUSE THEY HAVEN’T ADJUSTED THEIR WITHHOLDING OR THEY HAVEN’T FILED A TAX RETURN YET.”

“Most people aren’t even aware yet that this tax change took place, either because they haven’t adjusted their withholding or they haven’t filed a tax return yet,” said Evan Liddiard, CPA, Director of Tax Policy for NAR. “If you wait until after April 15, 2019, it will change because it will give people time to look at what the effect will be.”

But they’re about to.

The new legislation reduces the limit on deductible mortgage debt to $750,000 for new loans taken out after Dec. 14, 2017. Current loans of up to $1 million are grandfathered and are not subject to the new $750,000 cap. Neither limit is indexed for inflation.

Homeowners may refinance mortgage debts existing on the aforementioned date up to $1 million and still deduct the interest, as long as the new loan does not exceed the amount of the mortgage being refinanced.

The legislation also repeals the deduction for interest paid on home equity debt through the end of 2025. Interest is still deductible on home equity loans or second mortgages if the proceeds are used to substantially improve the residence.

Interest remains deductible on second homes, but it is subject to the limits listed above.

Also, part of the reform legislation caps an itemized deduction at $10,000 for the total of state and local property taxes and income or sales taxes. This $10,000 limit, also known as a SALT cap, applies for both single and married filers and is not indexed for inflation.

A higher standard deduction of $12,000 for single individuals and $24,000 for joint returns was also part of the new tax law. Nearly doubling the previous standard deduction, the effect of the increase is that the value of the mortgage interest and property tax deductions as tax incentives for homeownership has been reduced.

Estimates indicate that between 12-13% of filers will now be eligible to claim these deductions by itemizing – down from 31% in 2017 – meaning there will be no tax differential between renting and owning for nearly 90% of taxpayers.

Impact on Homeowners, Home Buyers and Sellers

So, how would this affect you as a homeowner or a potential homebuyer?

“For most of the year we had high inventory and prices were going up and it’s true that some areas of the country have a lot more of this happening, but it’s also true that every state and every city will have some homes affected,” Liddiard said. “It may not be as high a factor everywhere, but go to New Jersey and almost every middle-income-and-up home is likely to have a problem. Whereas if you go to somewhere like Tennessee or Utah, it’s only going to be the most exclusive neighborhoods that may have property taxes and income taxes that exceed $10,000.

“When I was in Tennessee earlier this year, the folks I talked with didn’t think the $10,000 cap was going to be a problem at all. Their property taxes are low and there isn’t any income tax at all, so hardly anybody is going to be affected – likely only the wealthiest 10 percent. But in New Jersey or New York, all they want to talk about is this so-called SALT cap.”

Consider this example that NAR provided:

A single person we’ll call Barbara making $58,000 annually and who rents is looking to buy a home for the first time. Barbara pays state income tax of $2,900 and makes charitable contributions of $2,088, but the total of these is lower than the standard deduction, so the standard deduction is claimed.

But had Barbara purchased a home costing $205,000, using a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 4% interest, and putting down 3.5%, she would pay first-year mortgage interest totaling $7,856 and property taxes of $2,050, adding to her itemized deductions.

As a homeowner, Barbara could itemize deductions under both the old and new law, because they total more than the standard deduction. But the old tax rules rewarded her for owning a home vs. renting one by lowering her tax bill by $2,100. The new rules still give her a tax subsidy for owning, but the amount is reduced to just $637, or $53 per month.

Another way of looking at it is that as a renter, Barbara would receive a tax cut from the new changes of almost $1,500. But had she bought the home, her taxes would actually go up by $30.

In other words, before the reform, Barbara would have had a strong tax incentive to become a homeowner. While that incentive still exits, it is only a small portion of what it used to be and it is not very compelling.

Still, Liddiard thinks a single person looking to buy a home is better off than a married couple because the cost of purchasing a home for a single person is much higher per capita than for a couple.

“Single people are going to find it easier to get tax subsidies to buy a home than married folks,” he said. “A couple can live in a house the same size as a single person. Yet, a married couple has a $24,000 standard deduction and would have to have that much in itemized deductions to begin to get the tax benefit, whereas a single person would only have a $12,000 threshold and they can exceed this number a lot easier with the property tax and with their mortgage interest than someone who is married can exceed $24,000.”

An Unexpected Consequence

Millennials are trying to find loopholes to this, and one of them is to skip out on tying the knot.

“People just aren’t marrying as much anymore,” Liddiard said. “They may still live together but they aren’t getting married. Now you have two single people, earning the same money as a married couple, but they’re each buying half a house. They each get a $750,000 limit and they each get a $10,000 cap and they each have only a $12,000 standard deduction threshold.

“So, they can buy the house, they can each pay for half the house, be co-owners of the house and still get big tax benefits, whereas if they were actually married they wouldn’t get nearly as much or none at all. The new law created a huge marriage penalty and discourages people from marrying. I don’t think that was intended, but that’s the effect of it.”

In the end, the real impact of this tax reform won’t be felt by homeowners for several years, but without additional reforms, it’s going to put a real financial squeeze on most homeowners in the not-too-distant future.

“It depends on how far ahead you are looking, but the longer ahead you look the more negative the impact,” Liddiard said. “Keep in mind the SALT cap and the $750,000 limit are not indexed for inflation, so every year they are going to pinch a little bit more. It doesn’t look like much if you just look at the next few years, but look ahead 15-20-25 years, if Congress doesn’t change it again – and it took 31 years to change it this time – most of the country is going to be severely impacted in a negative way.

“No longer can a married couple with two kids making $65,000 a year buy a house worth $130,000 and get help from the tax code. Under the old law, they could get about a $100 per month subsidy from the tax code. No longer is that going to be the case. The 12-13% who are going to get a tax benefit from owning a home are largely going to be folks in the top 10 percent of earners who have a large mortgage, who pay a lot in state and local taxes and max out at $10,000 and also make charitable contributions. Those will be the ones who have enough itemized deductions to see the tax law incentivizing home ownership.”