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Homeownership

The Federal Housing Finance Agency is dropping serious cash to help buyers

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) What would you do with half a billion dollars? The Federal Housing Finance Agency is putting it towards affordable housing.

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Last year, ATTOM Data Solutions, released a study showing that wages in about 80% of the United States can’t keep up with the rising cost of buying a home. In fact, for about 59% of the areas studied, it was cheaper to rent three bedroom housing, rather than buy.

As such, it should come as no surprise that the number of low-income individuals surpasses the amount of affordable housing available. “Is it a housing problem, or is it an income problem?” says Chris Herbert, managing director of Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, “I would say it is both.”

The thing is, a lack of affordable housing hurts everyone. Would-be homeowners are left renting and forced out of certain areas (and opportunities), while rising prices can also make it more difficult for people to sell their homes. Yikes.

Luckily, it’s not all bad news, thanks to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which is allocating “$502.2 million to the National Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund.”

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to fix the systemic problems that have created this disparity between income and housing prices, but it’s definitely a nice start. For instance, the National Housing Trust Fund commits at least 90% of its funding to creating and maintaining affordable housing, with the other 10% going to help first-time homeowners take on some of the unexpected costs of homeownership.

Meanwhile, the Capital Magnet Grant Fund focuses on providing grants to help revitalize low-income communities. They’ve created over 13,000 affordable homes so far, though only about 12% of these homes are for homeownership – most are rentals. Still, not bad when it comes to helping low-income citizens afford the rising prices of living.

Both groups have great track records, so it will be exciting to see how they utilize this donation of over half a billion dollars. The president of the National Association of Realtors®, Vince Malta, also commended the move.

“Initiatives that address the root of the nation’s housing affordability crisis must take center stage in discussions surrounding the future of housing finance,” Malta explained, “NAR looks forward to leading this discussion and working with the FHFA (Federal Housing Finance Agency) to ensure all responsible, credit-worthy individuals can achieve the American Dream of homeownership.”

Brittany is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a Master's in Media Studies under her belt. When she's not writing or analyzing the educational potential of video games, she's probably baking.

Homeownership

These 10 US cities boast the most immigrant homeowners

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) It’s no coincidence that the most exciting areas of our country are also the most diverse.

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What do Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, and Washington D.C. all have in common? They’re all part of the top 10 cities with the highest number of immigrant homeowners. Other things they share include being hubs for culture, cuisine, and tourism, which is perhaps why they’ve become homes to the United States’ most diverse and thriving economies.

What does this show us? Immigrants are pursuing higher-level jobs in urban areas and laying roots. Consequently, these areas are flourishing in part due to increased competition in every industry.

But it’s not just those cities, here is the full top 10 list of cities with the highest number of foreign-born homeowners:

  1. San Jose, CA
  2. Miami, FL
  3. Los Angeles, CA
  4. San Francisco, CA
  5. New York, NY
  6. Riverside, CA
  7. Houston, TX
  8. Las Vegas, NV
  9. San Diego, CA
  10. Washington, DC

Highest immigrant homeowners in the US 2022

Why is this important?

Given that so many of us immigrated or are children of those who did (shout out to my great-grandparents and their courage), the result is clear. While some consider immigration to be invasive and detrimental to the American way of life, here is the truth: people of other cultures are here; through contributing to a wide variety of industries, they are finding success (enough to buy a home), and we’re better off because of it.

Cities with the lowest foreign-born homeownership (Pittsburgh, PA; Birmingham, AL; Cincinnati, OH; Louisville, KY; St. Louis, MO; Memphis, TN; Buffalo, NY; Indianapolis, IN; Kansas City, MO; Columbus, OH) reflect a different result. Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis aren’t as strong economically as the booming economies in Texas and California.

Lowest immigrant homeowners in the US 2022

Why is this immigrant homeownership cause for celebration? In an over-simplified example, consider food. Think of the least diverse city you’ve visited. Now think of the dining options regularly available there. How many of them are mediocre, boring, or flat-out unimpressive? In a diverse and dynamic area, the dining options are LIMITLESS. The competition is fierce and as a result, restaurants, and vendors produce incredible work. No one in L.A. has ever said “There are no good places to eat.” Scale that up to every industry and the proof is in the pudding – immigrants are lifting up economies, and we are better for it.

To all the immigrants about whom this article is written — a tip of the cap. Keep living your dream.

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Homeownership

The phrase ‘starter home’ is overrated and overused

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) You see the term in the MLS for fixer uppers, you hear it when Realtors are working with first time buyers. But the term “starter home” shouldn’t be in anyone’s vocabulary. Here’s why.

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Just words

Collins English Dictionary defines a starter home as a “small, new house which is cheap enough for people who are buying their first home to afford.” You won’t find the phrase too often outside of the real estate industry.

There isn’t much about the etymology of the phrase, but most likely, it’s a marketing ploy to get people to buy into the idea of purchasing another home in a few years.

Grind your gears

Mark Greutman, husband to Lauren Greutman, believes that the term “starter home” should bother people. The phrase implies that you will upgrade later.

Your starter home isn’t good enough for the rest of your life. And not to get into how well Americans have it, what about people who will never be able to afford anything more? Is it an insult to them?

Do you really need two living rooms?

Older generations bought one home and lived in it until they could no longer be independent. In today’s world, we buy a starter home, then upgrade to have more space, to live farther away from our neighbors, to have rooms that are only used once or twice a year, and to make sure you have a 2 or 3 car garage to hold your vehicles and more stuff, some of which isn’t taken out very often.

But consider this: You could pay off your starter home in 15 to 20 years, if you budget right.

You could be out from under a mortgage and have money to travel, send the kids to college, or even retire early. When you think about what led to the financial crisis in 2008, isn’t it better to have a smaller house where you can make the payments than worry about losing your house?

Be content where you are

Realtors are motivated to make sure that they have customers. If people buy one home with the intent to stay, will the market dry up? Probably not, because people move and a new generation will be ready to purchase homes for their own family.

Let’s think about that phrase, “starter home.” It fuels consumerism and discontentment. Don’t call cheaper houses starter homes, but just a home.

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Homeownership

The remodeling projects with best ROI that actually increase home value

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) Knowing which remodeling projects to tackle when a home is being put on the market can save a lot of wasted effort and money.

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If you’re looking to help your clients to identify which projects to tackle before putting their home on the market, look no further: the National Association of Realtors surveyed thousands of real estate agents, industry professionals, and consumers on interior and exterior house remodeling projects, and these are the best projects for upping a home’s value before listing it on the market, ranked on the most value and cost recovery a homeowner can get.

  • Refinishing hardwood floors. Start from the bottom to earn top dollar. Refinishing floors transform a home from worn-out and aging to vibrant and inviting, and only costs about $2500 according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). The project also increases a home’s value by that same amount, meaning a homeowner can recover 100 percent of the costs. Pretty sweet deal.
  • Upgrading insulation. Because it’s what’s inside that counts. This project costs about $2100 based on NARI Remodeler’s estimate and increases a home’s value by $2000 according to Realtors surveyed. That’s a 95% cost recovery.
  • Adding new wood floors. If you don’t have wood floors to refinish, add them in! This costs about $5,500 according to NARI Remodelers, and the increased sales value is $5000. A homeowner can recover 91% of costs from a new wood floor addition.
  • Replacing HVAC system. A new HVAC system adds energy efficiency and refreshes the entire home, and NARI Remodelers estimate doing so costs $7000. The increased value for sellers is $5000 according to NAR REALTORS, meaning an easy breezy 71% cost recovery for homeowners.
  • Converting a basement into a living area. Not only is this cost and space-efficient, it’s also undeniably trendy. A basement makeover costs about $36,000 according to NARI Remodelers estimate and increases value for sellers by $25,000 according to Realtors surveyed. That comes out to a cost recovery of 69%.

Which projects are the most costly?

In case you’re curious, these are some of the most expensive remodeling projects:

  • New master suite. More like master $uite – this costs about $112,500 with a cost recovery of 53%. 
  • Converting an attic into a living area. Cute idea, but also a $65,000 one with a 61% cost recovery. One might say the price is through the roof.
  • Complete kitchen renovation. This project costs an estimated $60,000 with a 67% cost recovery. Even more if you want to throw in a brick oven, and you probably do.
  • New bathroom. With an estimated cost of $50,000 and a 52% cost recovery, make sure you aren’t flushing money down the drain with your bathroom addition!

These trends change over the years, so make sure your knowledge is up to date locally since we all know local trends trump national. Hopefully today you’ve garnered some ammo to help clients better understand how to improve their home’s value!

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