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gator picJack opened one eye, then the other. The early morning sun was blinding, his head pounding from dehydration caused by the night before. As he squinted in pain a large shadow blocked out the sun. The shadow seemed to be getting closer, but Jack’s eyes couldn’t focus. All of a sudden a giant wet tongue licked his face. Jack jerked back swinging his arms at his attacker, hitting his head on something hard. Before Jack could fully grasp what was happening he heard a man’s voice call…

“Hugo! Get over here! Leave him alone!” and the giant black Great Dane grabbed his tennis ball and sprinted away splashing slobber as he ran.

Jack rubbed the back of his head as he stood up. Confused, he looked around studying his surroundings.   Jack was in the middle of Colonial Park, Savannah’s oldest cemetery. The Old Cemetery opened for business in 1750 and today is used as a dog park by the locals with several water bowls scattered throughout the mossy oaks and headstones of Savannah’s earliest citizens and Revolutionary War hero’s.

As Jack watched the giant dog run back to his owners he noticed they had their phones out and were recording the whole thing.

Jack looked down and realized he was only wearing a kilt. No shirt, no shoes and to his disappointment, unlike the Irish drinking song “The Scotsman’s Kilt”, no blue ribbon.

“Not again.” Jack muttered to himself still rubbing his head and walking to out the gate.


Should housing fear a price correction?

Should housing fear a price correction?

NEW YORK – Aug. 3, 2017 – In June, existing-home prices jumped 6.5 percent year-to-year to a record high of $263,800, according to the National Association of Realtors®. It’s the 64th consecutive month for year-over-year price increases, and escalating prices are causing some to fear a price correction could be on the horizon.

However, new research from JPMorgan finds that the risk of a dramatic decline in U.S. home prices is very low. JPMorgan based the outlook on information it culled from historical data in 14 developed countries dating from the 1950s.

Sharp housing price corrections are rare, even following a large run-up in prices, according to the report, “Quantifying Housing Correction Risk in Canada and the U.S.”

“The data show that sustained increases in real house prices have been the norm rather than the exception in the post-World War II era, as rising populations and incomes have pushed up land prices,” says Jesse Edgerton, U.S. analyst from JPMorgan’s economic and policy research team. “Of course, there have been occasional large price declines over multiyear periods, as we saw starting in 2006 in the U.S. But such declines have not been common, even after periods of rising prices.”

The study put the odds of a 20 percent decline in real prices within the next five years at about 10 percent in the U.S. and at about 20 percent in Canada.

Source: “J.P. Morgan Points to Low Risk of a U.S. Housing Correction,” CNBC (July 26, 2017)



Prices increasing, rates falling, and it cheaper to own. What does all this mean? Maybe it’s time to BUY?

Study: In Fla., owning beats renting

LOS ANGELES – July 27, 2017 – Arizona, Nevada and Washington, D.C. are among the 11 states where it’s more affordable to rent than it is to buy a home. But owning a home still beats renting in Florida, according to a study by website GOBankingRates.

GoBankingRates surveyed all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and identified which states are best for buying a home and which are better suited for renting. The study, based on rental data on Zillow, was sourced to June 28, 2017. For the cost of owning, the study assumed a 20-percent downpayment on a 30-year fixed loan.

In Florida, homeowners have the advantage. They GOBankingRates study found that the average monthly rent of $1,543 is $167 higher than the cost of an average monthly mortgage of $1,376. The difference amounts to about $2,000 per year that the average Florida family would save by owning rather than renting, though actual savings would differ by metro area and other variables.

The 11 states where renting a home is less expensive than buying one include Arizona, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

© 2017 Florida Realtors


Mortgage rates fall again – second straight week

WASHINGTON (AP) – July 27, 2017 – Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week for the second week in a row, despite the Federal Reserve’s efforts to lift borrowing costs.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages slid to 3.92 percent from 3.96 percent the previous week. While historically low, that is still above last year’s average of 3.65 percent.

The rate on 15-year, fixed-rate home loans, popular with homeowners who are refinancing their mortgages, eased to 3.2 percent from 3.23 percent last week.

Mortgage rates haven’t increased much even though the Federal Reserve has boosted its benchmark rate four times in the past 18 months. That’s because mortgage rates follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which is influenced by many factors. Greater demand by overseas investors can lower the yield.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.

AP Logo Copyright 2017 The Associated Press, Jennifer C. Kerr. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

It’s That Easy? Thank You Captain Obvious.

The Property Brothers: Lots of money to be made in real estate

NEW YORK – July 19, 2017 – The Property Brothers, who have become celebrities through their HGTV home renovation TV shows, say there is still money to be made in real estate – but only if you have the know-how.

“There’s a lot of people who make a lot of money in real estate,” said Jonathan Scott, one of the identical-twin TV stars. “But there’s also a lot of people who lose a lot of money because they don’t know what they are doing.”

Jonathan and his brother, Drew Scott, came to Google headquarters in New York for a panel discussion. In 2015 and 2016, the pair filmed two seasons of their shows – “Buying & Selling” and “Property Brothers” – in the New York City suburbs.

Drew Scott, a real estate agent, advised first-time homebuyers to do their homework before showing up for an open house.

“You narrow your search down online, and even before you are searching for your property, you are narrowing down what you can afford, using (online) financial calculators,” he said during the forum.

“Whether to find a contractor for renovation, whether it’s buying and selling, you have to get organized because the more information you have right from the get-go, the easier the process, the less stressful it’s going to be.”

Jonathan Scott, a contractor, told aspiring homeowners not to be fixated on move-in-ready homes.

“Lose the ego. This is a business decision. Don’t go in and say, ‘Well, I can’t settle for a house that’s not perfect. I’m not going to settle for something that’s gross.'” he said. “Don’t be afraid to take on a fixer-upper. Put a little bit of elbow grease and fix it up, and then you just help secure a safer retirement for yourself.”

Even if you can put your ego aside, financing a renovation project can be tricky for first-time buyers because their resources tend to be limited. To assist those young buyers, financial products and programs are available, said Mike Wise, senior lending manager at JP Morgan Chase, who also was on the panel.

The event, sponsored by Chase Home Lending and Google, also was an occasion for the two companies to release a summary of their collaborative study, Search for Homes Snapshot.

The study indicated that Millennials are becoming more interested in owning homes: In 2016, 44 percent of Google searches related to the term “mortgage” was about first-time buyer mortgages, up by 11 percent from 2015. Previously, Millennials have been slow to enter the housing market because of student debt and career setbacks related to the recession.

The trend is reflected in Chase’s mortgage business as well: Customers younger than 35 accounted for 36 percent of the bank’s new mortgages in 2016, up by 16 percent from the year before.

“There are two ways to help Millennials: Help them to have less money down and less closing costs,” Wise said, giving examples such as a loan product that requires a minimum down payment of 3 percent and a first-time homebuyer education program that comes with a $500 grant to reduce closing costs.

The education piece is important, not only to find additional money but also to become a financially savvy homeowner, Wise said.

“There are two things going in tandem when we talk about homeownership,” Wise said. “It’s being able to buy a home and sustainability: how I stay in the house once I get it.”

The Scott brothers say prospective buyers need to learn the ropes.

“Education is the biggest thing,” Jonathan Scott said. “If you are going to do it right, you need to know what you are doing.”

Added Drew Scott: “If you are organized and you are educated as to what to expect and you are surrounding yourself with professionals, you will be successful in real estate.”

Copyright 2017,, USA TODAY, Akiko Matsuda

Gen X still hurting

Gen X still hurting as top victims of the housing crisis

NEW YORK – July 19, 2017 – Generation X house buyers are lagging behind those in other generations in gaining home equity, and younger millennials are gaining on them, according to a new report by the real estate website Zillow released Monday.

The biannual report, which tracks the home equity of more than 50 million people, found that Gen Xers – now 35 to 50 years old – are still suffering from the effects of the housing crisis. After many of them purchased homes in the 2000s, they watched as the housing market crashed, with home values reaching new lows in 2012.

Zillow researchers found that while the average Generation X homeowner owes 70 percent of the value of his or her home to the bank, the average millennial is not far behind, owing 76 percent of home value although having had much less time to gain equity.

Dowell Myers, a professor of urban planning and demography at the University of Southern California, said the crash hit Gen Xers the hardest.

“That left them scarred. Their credit was damaged, they lost all their equity and they were psychologically risk-averse after that. Then they had to go through five years of recession and recovery when things were really lagging in the job market,” Myers said.

For those who weren’t able to recover, their low home equity could have harsh consequences. Aaron Terrazas, the senior economist at Zillow, said the biggest source of retirement savings for most Americans is their home.

“If you look at Americans around retirement age, anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of your total assets, your total net worth, is in your home,” Terrazas said. “For low income, and particularly for Hispanic Americans, it tends to be much higher – as high as 80 percent. So building home equity is an important part of being able to retire comfortably.”

Millennials have it easier, according to Myer. But their challenge is a thin housing supply, especially in the cities. That concerns Erica Feher, a millennial from West Los Angeles, who wants to buy a house with her husband, but has struggled.

“We have to make over an hour commute to be able to get into an area that we can afford,” she said.

Some of her friends have given up on Los Angeles, Feher said.

“Quite frankly, I have a handful of friends who have moved back to my home state of Nebraska or other areas like Arizona and Texas where housing is just more affordable,” she said.

In comparison to Gen Xers and millennials, baby boomers age 50 to 65 typically owe about 56 percent of their home’s value, according to Zillow. The silent generation homeowners with a mortgage who are 65 and older typically owe 45 percent.

© KPCC – 89.3 FM, Renee Gross; © 2017 SCPR All rights reserved

What is Your Dream House?

What does today’s ‘dream home’ look like?

NEW YORK – July 18, 2017 – These days, most Americans want a “dream home” that expresses their individual style; and for many, that means modern, high-end finishes like solid-surface countertops, spa-like bathrooms and chic industrial features.

The most popular images on Houzz,, and, based on the number of online clicks, likes, and saves, can help gauge what today’s homeowners want in a dream home.

According to Sheila Schmitz, editor at Houzz, defining a dream home can be “an addictive experience, because people can find so many examples that speak to them personally.” She notes that, in many cases, “there’s a sense of nostalgia at work.”

The most popular photos on Houzz right now show transitional interiors that mix traditional and contemporary design elements, with daring use of prints, metals and other textures. Statement lighting in the kitchen, custom stonework in the master bathroom, and farmhouse-style exteriors with industrial-inspired fixtures have garnered the most attention.

Mariel Clark, vice president of home and travel digital for Scripps Networks Interactive, which includes HGTV, says consumers often click on photos of small, well-appointed areas when it comes to home-renovation projects.

“Our audience does gravitate toward homes and spaces that they can identify with,” says Clark.

Serene décor remains in high demand in master baths and bedrooms, adds Amy Panos, home editor at Better Homes & Gardens. “Calm is what people want in terms of their bedrooms,” she says.

However, Panos notes that homeowners are interested in dramatic entrances, with photos of oversize planters, fire pits, and colorful front doors getting the most clicks this year. “People are getting fearless about their front door,” says Panos.

Source: Wall Street Journal (07/14/17) P. M1; Dizik, Alina

© Copyright 2017 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Craigslist Scam

New twist to Craigslist scam: Changing the locks

MARIETTA, Ga. – July 17, 2017 – Dena Everman in Marietta, Ga., was about to close on the sale of her home of 11 years when she discovered that a family – not the buyers – had already moved in. Everman, who had moved out of the home weeks prior, encountered the occupants when she stopped by the property the day before closing to check on it one last time. The closing that was set to happen the next day on June 26 with the rightful buyers continues to be put off as Everman struggles to get the family evicted from the home.


“I’m extremely frustrated that someone that has no legal right to be in my home is staying in my home, and I’m the one that has to prove that they don’t belong there,” Everman told USA Today. “I went by the home on June 25 to say goodbye to my home. When I drove up, there was a different car in the driveway and it looked like somebody was in my home.”

Everman says she never gave permission for Tamera Pritchett, her fiancé and two children to move in.

However, Pritchett says the family found the property listed for rent on Craigslist. She says they signed e-documents and wired $3,000 to a person in Garland, Texas, who claimed to own the house with Everman. She says they received the keys to the home and moved in two weeks prior to Everman showing up.

“We’re not squatters,” Pritchett told USA Today. “We have documents. We have keys.”

Local police are investigating the situation, but they have yet to evict Pritchett and her family from the home.

“At this point, I’m the legal owner of the property, and I shouldn’t have to expend this energy to get someone out that I did not give permission to be in my home,” Everman says. “The police officers … decided it wasn’t breaking and entering at that point, even though there was a broken window and changed locks and I had the deeds to my home and proof that it was my home.”

Georgia’s law states that “squatters have the right to take possession of this property if they occupy it without permission for a specific period of time.”

But Pritchett maintains they’re not squatters. “We got scammed. We understand this is your home,” Pritchett told USA Today, directed at Everman. “But why can’t we be adults and try to figure this out and go after this person that scammed us and is obviously out here scamming your name and your home.”

Both sides are currently working with attorneys.

Meanwhile, for the past two weeks, the family who was purchasing the home from Everman has been unable to move in and has been forced to put their belongings in storage and move in temporarily with friends.

Source: “She Found Strangers Living in Her House. Now She Can’t Get Them Out,” USA Today (July 13, 2017)

© Copyright 2017 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688