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Homeownership

Experts, politicians say improving homeownership will be complex

(REAL ESTATE) As tax reform remains hotly debated, experts and politicians discuss the way forward to protect homeownership, and thus the economy.

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jeb hensarling on homeownership

The consensus is that if more Americans can sustainably buy homes, the economy and taxpayers will benefit.

As the nation’s homeownership rate hovers around a 50-year low, it’s time to acknowledge and start addressing the range of issues suppressing the market today, according to individuals at a Realtors and S&P event this month.

“When there is no hope for owning real property, we are taking a huge step backwards for the future of our country,” said Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in her opening remarks.

Politicians and industry experts at this event outlined a number of key issues that need to be addressed to improve homeownership rates and market stability in the U.S: Buying incentives, student loan debt, and affordability.

But most of all, it’s important that the complexity of the housing market never be ignored. There’s not just one issue to be addressed, or a single solution that will fix it all.

For example, leading up to the 2007 housing crash, home buyer enthusiasm peaked as mortgage rates were low and investment return rates high. It was an environment that many Americans felt was too good to pass up.

Many also feared getting priced out of the market if they didn’t buy right away and take advantage of the current market state, a phenomenon dubbed “buyer’s panic,” according to economist Dr. Robert Shiller. Shiller noted that public sentiment about the risks of home buying peaked in 2006, but homes were still bought left and right.

Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) of the House Financial Services Committee observed that sustainable homeownership plays a key role in protecting the overall economy, citing the “unsustainable housing finance rollercoaster” that caused the Great Recession, a “lost decade” of lost economic growth.

“The lesson is clear: Housing unsustainability doesn’t just create unaffordability,” stated Rep. Hensarling. “It can create economic catastrophe.”

Overall, interest rates and tax law aren’t the only market drivers, something industry leaders should keep in mind as tax reform legislation enters the House and the economy continues to slowly bounce back from the Great Recession.

Post-recession debt burdens aren’t helping the nation’s homeownership rate, either. Student loan debt is suppressing young adult homeownership in particular.

“Eventually, time will start to soften the impact of those high student loans,” Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global Ratings, explained during a panel. “Jobs are coming around, wages are picking up.” But this is not to say the issue isn’t having real ramifications right now.

For those struggling to repay student loan debt, homeownership is simply not an option right now, according to Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research and communication at NAR.

Meanwhile, many who are managing their student loan debt well aren’t in position to buy a home, either, a trend also identified by the National Association of Realtors 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

Another panel comprised of Dr. Lawrence Yun of NAR, Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute, and Boyd Campbell of Century 21 discussed affordability concerns involving the supply and demand issues facing the housing market today.

Debt burdens aside, homeownership is just becoming too expensive for many Americans. “Prices have risen roughly 40 percent in the past five years, while people’s income has risen at a much slower rate,” Yun said. “This rise in prices forces an affordability concern.”

This particular issue isn’t just a real estate matter. The labor market plays a role as college-educated workers are priced out of areas where the job market is strong but housing prices are high.

As the number of families buying their first single-family homes remains well below the 50-year average, conversations about the range of issues impacting the housing market must continue.

“Prospective homebuyers face headwinds from the market, in the halls of Congress and in their own family’s budgets,” said NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall, a sixth-generation Realtor and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty. “We can’t solve them all, but we know more can be done to smooth the way for creditworthy borrowers who want to own a home.”

Sienna is a Staff Writer at The Real Daily and has a bachelor's degree in journalism with an emphasis in writing and editing from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. She is currently a freelance writer with an affinity for topics that help others better themselves. Sienna loves French-pressed coffee and long walks at the dog park.

Homeownership

National Homeownership Month: Tales of triumph, yet challenges linger

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) Every June, America celebrates National Homeownership Month. It’s a time to celebrate ownership opportunities, and see where to improve.

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Glass jar of coins labeled House Fund.

June is National Homeownership Month, a time that as an industry, we take stock of where we stand as a nation and how we can improve the path towards the American Dream. It has become more difficult than in the past – to address the shifting sands of that dream, the following editorial is penned by Bob Goldberg, CEO of the National Association of Realtors®, America’s largest trade association:


 

The thirteenth house that Kelly Johansen visited that day turned out to be the lucky one.

Alongside her Realtor® Michelle, Kelly spent an entire Saturday in the fall of 2018 touring properties across Northern Virginia. Like many Americans who have purchased a home over the past half-decade, Kelly felt the pressure of an immensely competitive market, particularly in one of the more sought-after regions of the country.

Still, she didn’t want to be rushed into a decision she would later regret. And she was willing to pass up the options that didn’t feel quite right.

Fortunately, after a dozen misses, their last planned stop of the day was the one that would change Kelly’s life.

“After a quick look around, I stood in the living room and I just started crying,” Kelly recounts today from that same room. “I said,

‘Michelle, this is my house. This is my house. I know it is.’

“And Michelle just told me, ‘Don’t cry, we’re gonna get it for you.’ It was a beautiful moment, and I just absolutely knew that this house was destined for me.”

Michelle, of course, was able to help her client close on the house of her dreams. Kelly has now lived in the Arlington, Virginia, townhome for almost four years. Here, in a neighborhood that once served as military housing barracks, she’s built roots, community, and some significant housing equity.

Before making the decision to buy, Kelly rented for nearly 11 years. She longed for homeownership, but as a self-professed “terrible saver,” she didn’t think the goal was realistic. That was until Michelle helped her realize she could buy without bringing 20% to the closing table.

As a single female, Kelly makes up a rapidly growing share of homebuyers in America.

The National Association of Realtors®’ most recent Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, published in November 2021, found that 19% of all homes sold over the preceding year were bought by unmarried women. This is now the second-largest homebuying demographic in the U.S., behind only married couples.

There are some 83 million property owners in this country. And countless others aspire to achieve their own version of the American Dream. That’s been especially evident as home prices have remained steady while interest rates rise and inflation strains budgets for families everywhere.

This and every June, America recognizes National Homeownership Month.

For NAR, it’s a time to celebrate all of the life-changing, generational wealth-building opportunities that come with property ownership.

We often tout statistics like the one showing a homeowner’s net worth is, on average, about 40 times that of a renter. It isn’t hard to see why, either. The typical U.S. homeowner accumulated nearly a quarter of a million dollars in housing wealth over the past decade.

Still, thanks in part to a historic, nationwide shortage of available homes, too many aspiring buyers remain on the sidelines. This six-million-unit gap is the consequence of decades of underbuilding and underinvestment, according to research conducted last year by the Rosen Consulting Group.

As a result, many of those who are able to find and close on the perfect home can feel like they’ve won the lottery.

That’s a reality that isn’t lost on Dorothy Edwards or her wife, Rachel Pryately.

The newlyweds relocated from Seattle to the East Coast last winter to be closer to their parents and siblings, finding temporary accommodations as they got acquainted with the area. Hoping to start a family, they knew the added support would be appreciated someday soon.

Dorothy and Rachel sensed, however, that they needed to be settled in a community of their own—with a home of their own—before they’d feel comfortable beginning the next chapter of their lives.

Today, as they spend nights on the deck of their single-family home in Huntington, Va., hearing kids outside playing until after the sun sets, they know they’ve found the perfect environment for a young, growing family.

“We are so lucky and privileged to be able to put down roots for our family in this way,” Dorothy reflects today from their home just a few miles off the Potomac River.

“Buying our home and building community has kickstarted some of our life goals and has been so important with all of these upcoming milestones.”

“It’s just such a happy thing. The process of creating a home together with my wife has been so sacred.”

The fact is, however, that the act of becoming a homeowner shouldn’t feel like such an extraordinary, exclusive achievement. It is, of course, a milestone in the lives of so many, and it’s something that should be celebrated for everything it represents: freedom; financial security; safety; comfort.

But this is where we are reminded that the work of ensuring homeownership is available and accessible to everyone in America still has a way to go.

“We never imagined homeownership for ourselves,” Dorothy says. “We didn’t think it was possible for us, so it was never a goal. But once we realized it could be possible, and with the help and support of our families, we went all in and landed in the perfect spot. We are so grateful to have gotten to this point.”

Today, both Dorothy and Kelly say they continue to encourage friends and family who are still renting to make the leap into homeownership.

For Kelly, who works in the service industry, it can sometimes be difficult to convince colleagues – many of whom are reliant on tips and live paycheck-to-paycheck – that they too have the ability to manage and pay down a mortgage.

“I’m super proud to be a homeowner, especially given this market,” she says. “Anybody I know who rents now I’ll tell them, ‘You’re throwing your money away. For the same amount of money, you can have a mortgage.’

“And I know personally they don’t even need to put that much money down. I tell them, ‘Don’t worry, just have a conversation with Michelle and she’ll hook you up.’”

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Homeownership

Side hustle your home for use in film and TV (for BIG bucks!)

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) Are you interested in a side hustle and willing to offer up your humble abode to be part of the magic of filmmaking? We give you the details!

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As a reader of AG for Real Estate, we know you may be a real estate practitioner, but you’re also a likely homeowner (or have endless clientele that could benefit from the following information, so enjoy)!

In this housing market, no matter what you’re looking for – be it a studio-style tiny home or a 13-bed mansion with a guest house – you’re going to pay top dollar. That was the case for Mary Kay Seery (not to be confused with the MLM) and her husband, Billy Seery, when they moved from the prominent East Village in New York City to a Victorian-style home in Brooklyn.

Their friends heavily questioned the decision, but with Mary being a life-long real-estate broker, she knew the underestimated value – especially when it came to staging it for use in movies or television shows as a side hustle. Their home has starred in Girls on HBO, Mysteries of Laura on NBC, The Affair Season 3 on Showtime, and many more.

“I’m sure we’ve made over $500,000 so far.” The home was purchased for $490,000.

“While state film commissions have increasingly brokered relationships between property owners and filmmakers and location agencies will shop your property for a fee, many – if not most – production companies do it the old-fashioned way. You don’t find them. They find you.”

For example, an anonymous flyer was dropped into the mail slot of a Chicago home in June 2019. The owners, Rian Akey and Shaun Kane, responded immediately to the scout but did not hear back for filming until September that same year. Turns out, the crew wanted to transform the living room of their 1885 Queen Anne home into the Smutny Funeral Home for the FX crime drama Fargo Season 4.

Once agreed, the crew quickly transformed the heart of their home, adding tobacco-stained wallpaper, a swinging entrance door, folding chairs, and flower stands, and last but not least…the casket.

“We had a coffin in our living room for almost a year.”

Due to NDAs, which are standard between homeowners and the location manager, Kane and Akey could not disclose the payment they received for the whole 11-month ordeal. What we do know is that the upfront cost for using the location is relative to labor union fees, production size, the renovation before and after, and how long the shoot will last.

Other stories follow suit all over the US. Carroll Belser, who resides in Sunnyside Plantation in Edisto Island, SC has seen her inherited 1875 family home transform for The Notebook, L.L. Bean photoshoots, Short Term Rental TV Pilot, and more. In Prospect Park South, New York City, Ms. McFeely has allowed her home to be the filming location for A Price Above Rubies, Half Nelson, The Groomsman, and The Great Gilly Hopkins.

Homeowners do warn that there can be mishaps during the filming process. Floors tend to become heavily worn from foot traffic, the crew may want to shoot in a room not originally specified, or filming could get extended for a longer period of time than originally agreed.

However, Ms. Seery says that the follow-up repairs usually whip things right back into shape, but to “make sure you have a good relationship with the location manager,” and to ask for extra payment if necessary.

Still interested in the side hustle and willing to offer up your humble abode to be part of the magic of filmmaking? Contact your local government’s film and TV office to register your home as production-friendly. You can also use online databases to list your home similar to Airbnb, like LocationsHub, Reel to Reel locations, or Set Scouter. You may also just get lucky and have a location scout reach out to with interest in using your home.

All of that to say, using your home for movies or television can be “lucrative, but also disruptive.” Be prepared to renovate your floors, be put up in a hotel, and for film fans to take photos on your front porch for years to follow. Lastly, you should be able to watch the film or show back to see someone “die” in the corner of your living room or take a pregnancy test in your bathroom.

If you can handle all of that, let the cast, crew, and CASH roll in!

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Homeownership

VA loans give veterans the hope of homeownership, the American Dream

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) After a veteran of the US Navy was honorably discharged due to injuries, VA loans offered a chance to pursue homeownership.

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Three servicemembers standing in uniform representing their ability to pursue homeownership with VA loans.

On this Memorial Day in America, the following editorial is penned by Bob Goldberg, CEO of the National Association of Realtors®, America’s largest trade association, to offer insight and deep gratitude for the many sacrifices made by our veterans, observing the role we have in helping to make their American Dreams come true:

Leslie Smith and his wife, Beth, don’t have a story too dissimilar from most Americans.

In the early days of the pandemic, the young couple felt smothered by their 700-square-foot apartment in Washington, D.C.

They were fortunate to both have safe, stable jobs, but assumed they’d need a few more years to save up for a down payment on a home that fit them better. Still, feeling restless and unsettled, Leslie and Beth started looking at some larger rowhomes in the city.

Leslie, a veteran of the United States Navy, spent many of his enlisted years stationed aboard the USS Nimitz in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. But his time in the service left him with two bad knees and an injured back, and he was honorably discharged in 2006.

Not long after beginning their home search, Leslie and Beth met a Realtor® who connected them to a loan officer with experience helping military and veteran homebuyers. Through their conversations, they learned that Leslie’s time in the service, coupled with his qualified disability, opened up a world of possibilities they never knew existed through the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program.

The time they thought they’d need to save for a down payment? All but erased, given the terms of the VA loan for which they could qualify.

Concerns that a VA loan wouldn’t cover the full price of a home in the high-cost D.C. market? No problem, as the cap for VA home loans was eliminated in 2019.

And the extra room in their monthly budget they assumed they’d need to cover private mortgage insurance? A non-factor, with Leslie’s service-related disability ensuring their mortgage would contain no PMI no matter how much they put down.

“Right after seeing all of this,” Leslie recounts today, “I turned to Beth and told her, ‘Well, I guess we’re ready now.’”

To hear Leslie and Beth tell their story, one can’t help but feel proud that the VA home loan program is delivering on the benefits promised to those who served this nation in uniform. The couple lights up when discussing the value their home has gained since it was purchased, and they speak with such appreciation for all the people who helped them recognize the opportunities this program afforded.

But through these conversations also comes the realization that so much more can be done to ensure our veterans and their families understand the full scope of benefits available to them.

As they were finalizing the transaction, Leslie and Beth sat down to meet with their tax advisor, himself a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. When Beth disclosed the terms of their new mortgage—specifically the absence of any monthly PMI payment—the accountant assumed there must be a catch.

“You’ll have to pay that money somehow,” he told them. “They’ll get you on it somewhere else.”

“He was completely puzzled,” Beth notes today. “We educated him a little bit… And we’ve since gone on to educate some of our friends who are veterans to make sure that they know this benefit is out there and that they can get into a home with nothing down.”

Since its establishment at the height of World War II, the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program has helped some 25 million U.S. veterans purchase and maintain homes of all sizes in every corner of this country.

Homeownership is the American Dream. But it’s not just about four walls and a roof, a front porch, or a fenced-in backyard for kids and dogs to run.

The American Dream is about what this space represents. It’s about safety and comfort. Financial security. The opportunity to pursue our own happiness on our own property on our own terms. A home is where we are free, where we are loved, and where we are protected.

Homeownership is the American Dream because the places we call ‘home’ represent everything we hold dear as sovereign and fiercely independent Americans.

Every member of our armed services has sacrificed something in defense of these ideals—as have their spouses, children, and parents. We have a responsibility to help them achieve their American Dream.

The National Association of Realtors® has worked from our position as America’s largest trade association to help ensure the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program remains an accessible resource for veterans looking to purchase a home as a benefit for their service.

Earlier this year, we released a two-part video series hosted by our 2022 President Leslie Rouda Smith examining many of the common misconceptions and advantages of the program.

Realtors® can also pursue a Military Relocation Professional certification to better prepare them to work with U.S. servicemembers, veterans, and their families. The program educates NAR members to make sure they are helping military homebuyers find the housing solutions that best meet their needs while taking advantage of every possible benefit.

As part of our broader advocacy efforts in Washington, NAR was one of the loudest voices pushing to remove the cap on VA home loans at the close of the last decade. It’s a change that made a significant difference in the lives of Leslie and Beth, and for countless other veterans like them.

Today, Memorial Day, we remember all those who gave their lives in defense of this country. As we honor their immense sacrifices, we also look for ways to better recognize and repay the men and women who have survived the horrors of combat and returned home to live out the ideals they risked everything to protect.

Because when they do return, access to a safe, comfortable home should never be in question.

“We wouldn’t be here without the VA loan,” Beth says today of their beautiful, equity-rich property in Northwest D.C. “It’s a phenomenal house, we’re super grateful for it, and we want every veteran and military family to be aware that this benefit is out there for them, too.”

Bob Goldberg is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Realtors®

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