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Cook County Property Tax Assessments Shock Commercial Property Owners

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Cook County commercial, industrial and apartment properties owners may have noticed some significant changes in their property assessments that were recently released by Assessor Fritz Kaegi.  A shocking increase of more than 74% in valuations have caught the attention of area business owners.

According to an article published by the Chicago Tribune,  “…the result may be a significant shift in how the property tax burden is divided up — with homeowners paying less and business owners paying more. A Tribune analysis shows that if Kaegi’s initial property values stand, businesses would pick up 44% of the combined taxes in those suburbs next year, up from 34% this year. That would shift 10 percent of the property tax burden from homeowners to businesses.”

However, business owners are concerned that the result will cause a slowdown in the sales of these types of properties in Cook County.  In fact, some business owners have threatened, if the assessments stand, to relocate out of Cook County.  “Even as business owners experience assessment sticker shock, Kaegi explained that it’s his job to accurately determine the current market value of properties so each owner is facing his or her fair share of taxes, under rules set by the state and county” according to reporter Hal Dardick,

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Experts Make Predictions for the 2020 Real Estate Market

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As 2019 comes to a close, the trends of the real estate market for the past year are being reviewed an analyzed.  However, just as it is with all new beginnings, there is also much anticipation and speculation about what 2020 will bring for real estate professionals, home owners and potential homeowners.  Unfortunately, some real estate experts are not seeing much change in the low housing inventory trend in the coming year.

In an article published by Forbes, written by Aly J Yale, Yale states, “…According to the 2020 National Housing Forecast from Realtor.com, the national housing shortage will continue in the New Year, possibly reaching “a historic low level.”  Inventory growth is absent in nine out of ten markets, down from a much more optimistic two of three markets seeing growth at the beginning of 2019.

Contributing to the problem, homeowners are remaining in their homes longer, averaging 13 years.  Additionally, although home construction has seen growth, most of the new homes are “upper-tier” homes.  This leaves entry home buyers little supply in contrast to the large demand.  With homes for sale in the lowest price tier down 10 percent through 2019.

Some positive news to look forward to are the anticipation of mortgage rates remaining low and home prices remaining steady, maybe declining in some markets. 

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Photo Credit: Mark Moz

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Home Prices are Increasing- Are Homes Less Affordable?

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Real Estate professionals and publications have recently began to educate home owners and potential home buyers with current market trends.  The common message is that there is an increase in home buyers but the supply of homes for sale is declining.  The natural consequence of this low supply and high demand situation is for home prices to increase.   The projected home values are continuing to increase, in fact experts have even adjusted their projections based on current market reports.  According to an article published in The Patch, “CoreLogic increased their 12-month projection for home values from 4.5% to 5.6% over the last few months.”

Naturally, buyers become concerned that home prices are causing them to be priced out of a home or a neighborhood.  However, the increase in home prices can’t be analyzed in a bubble.  Other factors must be taken into account to determine whether or not increasing home prices are really making homes unaffordable. 

In the article, written by Keith Kreis, other factors that should also be taken into consideration are discussed.  For example, mortgage interest rates have dropped since the beginning of 2019 which has increased home affordability by almost 10 percent.  Additionally, American workers are seeing wage growth by as much as 1.5% since last fall.  By taking these additional economic factors into consideration, one might argue that, at this point in time, buying a home is more affordable than its been.

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Real Estate Experts Weigh In on Cause of Low Housing Inventory

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Real Estate professionals and analysts have continued to look into why there continues to be a decrease in housing inventory along with rising home prices.  Redfin has determined that more Americans are deciding to stay exactly where they are instead of moving on to another home.  In fact, they have found that, “the typical American homeowner is now staying in their home for five years longer than they did just nine years ago.”

In an article published by Housing Wire, reporter Julia Falcon states that the average homeowner in the U.S. is staying in their home for about 13 years instead of only 8 years as they did in 2010.  There are U.S. cities that blow those statistics out of the water with homeowners deciding to stay in their homes for 20 years or more.  Cities such as Salt Lake City, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas are in Texas see home owners that have stayed in their homes since the 1950s. 

According to the article, “Redfin agent Christopher Dillard states ‘Because prices have been going up, and folks are gaining more and more equity, it’s hard to justify selling when there aren’t many if any affordable options.’”

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How Do Homeowners Really Feel About Trying To Sell?

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The idea of moving to a new house can be exciting.  Perhaps its to a new town full of possibilities, maybe it’s a bigger house in the suburbs allowing kids to play in a big back yard and have their own bedrooms, it may even be a smaller, easier to maintain house allowing more free time to do the things people love instead of home repairs and yard work.  However, for many Americans, they must first sell their current home before moving on to their next dream home. This phase of the real estate process is the source of angst for many homeowners.

The 2019 Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trend Report revealed many aspects of the home selling process cause stress for the homeowner trying to sell their home.  In an article published by MBA Newslink, it was summarized that, “not knowing if a home will sell within the desired time frame is the largest source of stress for sellers, with 56% calling it a stressful experience. Meanwhile, 53% of sellers worry about not being able to sell their home for the price they want; and 52% were stressed about an offer falling through.”

Sellers worry that they won’t sell their current home in time to comfortably purchase their next home, while others worry that they won’t be able to keep the house in the desired condition to sell the home, and still other homeowners find the idea of leaving their home for showings and open houses a stressful situation.  Home buyers can be so overwhelmed, their stress matches or exceeds the prospect of planning a wedding or getting fired from a job. 

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Will Technology Change the Role of Real Estate Agent?

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Technology has impacted the way people find homes, research neighborhoods, and compare prices; in essence, buyers are able to get much of the initial legwork done by sitting at their computer or scrolling on their smart phone.  Nevertheless, when it comes to actually buying a home, about 90% of buyers still use a hired real estate agent to help them with the actual offer and contract negotiations according to a report released by the National Association of Realtors.

In an article published by Forbes, its noted that “… buyers and sellers can get to the “one yard line” without much help. But deals rarely get done unless an agent is acting as middleman.”  Real estate agents, without a doubt, add value with their professional expertise and negotiating experience.  However, the sticking point for many is the large piece of the sale that the agents get for their commission.  In many cases, the seller pays a total of 6%, with the buying and selling agent getting 3% each. 

The concept of direct sales, hasn’t yet taken over the real estate market and certainly hasn’t made real estate agents obsolete; in fact, realtors may skip showing homes whose sellers aren’t willing to pay the 3% commission.  Yet, technologically based real estate companies are still searching for ways to compete with the current real estate agent.

Case in point, companies such as Opendoor, you simply “type your address into Opendoor’s website, submit a few photos, and it will make you an offer within a couple of days. No open houses, negotiation, or waiting months for the buyer to come up with the money. In fact, the average closing time from the first offer is less than 20 days,”  according to the article written by Stephen McBride. Some experts believe this type of business could change the way people buy and sell houses and the agent’s role in the transaction.

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Why Would a Real Estate Broker Publish Agent Commissions?

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At the start of September 2019, real estate firm Redfin made a change to the way they communicate with their customers and potential customers.   They have made the decision to provide more information on the homes they have listed for sale, specifically detailing how much the buyer’s agent will make upon the sale of the listed home.

According to an article published by Forbes, “…nearly 40% of recent home buyers don’t understand how their real estate agent was paid,”  while 13% indicated they had “no idea” how much or how the agent was paid upon closing.  With the recent announcement of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, allowing brokers to share details of the commission deals, Redfin decided to get out in front of the trend sure to spread to other regional areas.

Perhaps buyers have become more interested in the ways commissions are negotiated after a few law suits alleging “….collusion, inflated commissions, and price-fixing, among other things.” To head off any concerns and to satisfy buyer’s desire for transparency, some agents feel that this up-front approach helps ease the minds of their customers.  As one Redfin broker, Paul Reid of Boise, ID,  stated, “Showing consumers the commission a seller is offering a buyer’s agent is a great win for making real estate more transparent. When a buyer has a better understanding of how his agent is being paid and the costs the seller is incurring, he can make a more informed decision on what to offer.”

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Why is the Number of First Time Home Buyers Declining?

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With reports of continued low mortgage rates, many might assume the housing market would be booming with home sales.  However, it would seem that some other economic factors are affecting potential home buyers’ decisions.

The number of adults planning to purchase a home has dropped 2% since last year, and the number of first time home buyers among the groups looking to purchase a home is down 5%, from 63% in 2018 to 58% this year.  According to an article published by CNBC.com, written by Anne Cusak, a lack of affordable home coupled with worries about the economy and personal economic stability are to blame.

According to Rose Quint, the National Association of Home Builders assistant vice president for survey research, “…potential buyers are held back by the lowest levels of affordability in a decade.”  Many first time home buyers are limited in their budget; as home prices increase, they aren’t necessarily able to keep up.  Since the lower end of the real estate market has seen the fastest price increase, these home buyers are being priced out. 

Even if the home prices are within reach and the mortgage rates continue to stay low, prospective buyers are less than eager to jump in when they feel their personal finances are on shaky ground.  Cusak notes, “Buying a home is an incredibly emotional experience, and potential buyers will often pull back when they have the slightest fear of losing their jobs or losing any income.”

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Possible Cost Savings for First Time Home Buyers

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Buying a home is expensive, buying a home for the first time is overwhelming and the costs can be surprising and cause some to think twice before signing the papers.  There is good news for first time home buyers; they may be able to save some money when purchasing a home.  Specifically, some may be able to qualify 25 basis-point discount on the FHA mortgage insurance.

The Housing Financial Literacy Act of 2019 passed in the House of Representatives earlier in July.  This bill’s purpose is to encourage first time homeowners to complete a program to educate them on the home buying and home ownership experience in order to promote sustainable homeownership.  Buyers that complete this training could qualify for the discount, but the bill needs to pass the Senate’s vote and move on for presidential approval.

According to an article published by HousingWire.com, although some experts are concerned the discount could have a negative impact the FHA’s insurance fund, many agree that promoting education about home buying and ownership is vital in helping more American’s have a positive homeownership experience. 

“Whether you are managing your credit, creating a budget, saving for retirement, or purchasing a home, understanding the basic principles of planning, saving, and investing for the future is vitally important,” Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-OH, who presented the bill, said. “Studies show that pre-purchase housing counseling equips first-time homebuyers with the much-needed financial skills and tools to make informed financial decisions that ultimately benefit not only their families, but also the surrounding neighborhood and our entire economy.”

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Is Housing Market Ready to Rebound?

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Homeowners trying to or thinking about putting their home on the market may have been a little hesitant based on the trends in the real estate market over the past year.  As real estate professionals know, and homeowners may have noticed, the real estate market took a turn last summer.  An increased number of homes hit the market, but higher prices and decreased sales, the outlook for homeowners was less than ideal.

However, homeowners may be able to breathe a sigh of relief as this slump could be coming to an end.  With mortgage rates dipping below 4 percent and a slowed housing inventory, it appears prices and home sales should begin to climb again.

According to an article published on Realtor.com, written by Clare Trapasso, “…much of the fate of the housing market relies on mortgage interest rates. If they stay low, buyers have more money to spend on homes. So prices have more room to rise.”  However, homeowners should be aware, despite a high demand for homes as younger buyers begin their families and look to settle down, current buyers, Chief Economist Danielle Hale of realtor.com®  warns “seem a little more patient. They’re more willing to wait for a good property.”

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