May Sales Are In for Indian River County

May sales are in and look good.

Single Family Sales increased 5.3% to 356.  Median sales price increased 9.1% to $261,500, but the time to get to contract increased to 52 days.

 

To see full report go to Sebastian-Vero_Beach_MSA_Single_Family_Homes_2019-05_Detail

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Fed likely to leave rates alone but signal readiness to cut

WASHINGTON (AP) – June 18, 2019 – Jerome Powell has tantalized the financial world with the prospect that the Federal Reserve he leads may soon cut interest rates for the first time in over a decade.

Probably not quite yet, though.

When the Fed issues a policy statement Wednesday and Powell holds a news conference, the message will likely echo the theme the chairman struck in a speech early this month: That the Fed will act if it thinks the Trump administration’s trade conflicts are threatening the U.S. economy.

Powell’s remarks were seen as a signal that the Fed will likely cut rates later this year, and the stock market surged in response.

Yet economists say when – or even whether – the Fed eases credit this year will depend on a host of factors that are hard to predict. Will Trump’s trade wars be resolved before they inflict real damage on the economy? Will the job market remain resilient? Will inflation finally edge close to the Fed’s target level?

Investors collectively envision a Fed rate cut by July and possibly further cuts after that. Some are even betting on a rate cut this week. Many economists, though, think the Fed will wait until September at the earliest to announce its first drop in its benchmark short-term interest rate since 2008 and might not cut again in 2019. A few Fed watchers foresee no rate cut at all this year.

The Fed is meeting this week against the backdrop of President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, with its escalating tariffs and counter-tariffs on each other’s products. The trade war has magnified concern and uncertainty for businesses and investors about whether and how much the economy will suffer.

The U.S. manufacturing sector, in particular, is weakening. On Monday, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that an index it compiles of manufacturing in New York state plunged this month into negative territory – to its lowest point since 2016. The index reflects manufacturing conditions in the state.

Trump is expected to meet with President Xi Jinping of China at a Group of 20 nations summit in Japan at the end of this month. The Fed may want to see whether that meeting produces any breakthrough in the U.S.-China trade war before deciding whether the economy requires an interest rate cut.

“I think any Fed move this week would be premature,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Still, some Fed watchers think that in the policy statement the central bank will issue Wednesday, it will replace a reference to being “patient” about rate changes to some new phrasing that would hint at a forthcoming rate cut should it decide the economy needs it. When the Fed adjusts its key short-term rate, it influences rates on everything from mortgages to credit cards to home equity lines of credit and can help stimulate the economy.

Analysts expect the Fed’s description of the economy to note signs of a slowdown.

“I think the Fed will talk about the weakening labor market and softness in business investment to acknowledge that growth has downshifted,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The statement will reinforce the message that Powell has already articulated that the economy is slowing and the trade war will pose an additional threat if it escalates.”

Most analysts say they think economic growth has slowed sharply in the current April-June quarter to around a 1.5% annual rate, only half the pace of the past year.

Unemployment remains at a 50-year low of 3.6%, though job growth slowed to just 75,000 in May, a possible sign that some employers have become more cautious about hiring.

Trump, gearing up for his 2020 re-election campaign, has been escalating his public attacks on the Fed, a highly unusual move that has raised concern that he is undermining the Fed’s independence as a central bank. The president has asserted that under Powell’s leadership, the Fed hurt the economy by tightening credit too much last year and by failing to lower rates since then.

In television interviews last week, Trump insisted that the Fed’s policies have been “very destructive to us” and argued that the economy and the stock market would be performing far better under a looser interest-rate policy. When Powell has been asked about Trump’s attacks on the Fed, he has replied simply that the central bank will do whatever it thinks best for the economy regardless of political pressures.

Though most analysts think the Fed will cut rates at least once before the year ends, others foresee no changes at all this year, especially if the U.S.-China trade war is resolved and the economy and the job market appear solid.

“If there is a rate cut this year, I think it will be much later in the year, and I don’t see more than one cut,” said David Jones, an economist and veteran Fed watcher. “I just think the Fed would like to stick with what they’ve got. They are solidly in neutral at the moment.”

AP Logo Copyright 2019 The Associated Press, Martin Crutsinger. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Some tiny home owners think they’re a bit too tiny

CHICAGO – June 17, 2019 – Over the last few years, some homeowners have swapped out spacious digs for 300-square-foot homes, favoring simplicity and lower costs. The tiny-home trend has played out on reality TV shows and throughout the media.

But a new trend is emerging in the tiny-home movement – and it’s making a not-so-tiny splash.

Buyers of tiny homes increasingly favor larger styles of the small dwellings, and they’re opting for higher-end finishes that move overall costs higher, realtor.com reports. Some buyers want more space for their own enjoyment. Others are turning tiny homes into vacation homes or renting them out for added income.

The newest tiny homes are coming with stainless steel appliances, solar panels, built-in TVs, and upgraded cabinetry, according to Mark Stemen, a professor who teaches sustainability at California State University in Chico, Calif. These upgraded tiny homes are fetching more than $200,000 – not too far from the median price for an existing single-family home, which is $267,300 as of April, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The higher prices are prompting lenders to step in, and banks are offering mortgage loans to help buyers afford the properties as prices on tiny residences rise.

“The tiny-house movement is expanding to meet the desires and needs of the people who are in it and joining it every day,” says Coles Whalen, a marketing director at Simple Life. “It’s adapting to accommodate the needs of people who are tired of spending money on square footage they’re not using, but they may want slightly more [room].” Simple Life is creating tiny-home communities in the South and recently debuted a pricier two-bedroom model that is about 540 square feet.

Tiny homes traditionally are about 20 feet long and 8 feet wide. However, some companies are responding to buyers’ desire for more space. The firm Cumming is showing off 30-foot plans, and the owner, Dan Louche, says he’s even getting requests for 40-foot models. “Are you still interested in a tiny house?” he says is his response to the larger home requests.

A do-it-yourself 20-foot tiny home traditionally costs about $15,000 to $20,000, including materials but not labor, Louche says. Prices have been moving upwards to around $65,000 to $75,000 for a standard 28-foot finished tiny home, but the costs are going even higher for those who desire more upgrades.

For example, Tiny Heirloom in Portland, Ore., is selling customized models that can range from $89,000 to $220,000. One model includes a motorized deck that retracts in 30 seconds.

Source: “As Tiny Homes Spread Across the Nation, They’re Getting Bigger – and Pricier,” realtor.com® (May 23, 2019)

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Governor’s task force tackles toxic algae

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – June 13, 2019 – Reducing harmful nutrients in state waters, through moves such as more monitoring and staffing, is an expected short-term goal of a new task force set up by Gov. Ron DeSantis to look at toxic algae fouling Florida waterways.

But with a brief timeline for the five-member Blue Green Algae Task Force to reach its initial findings, don’t expect proposals for massive state rule changes related to farming practices or moving away from septic systems.

Task force member Michael Parsons, a professor of marine science at Florida Gulf Coast University and director of the Coastal Watershed Institute and Vester Field Station, said rather than replace regulations, as some environmental groups contend is needed, a more realistic approach would focus on “fine-tuning” existing rules.

“In any field, if you make the rules too strong, too stringent, too unfair, they won’t be followed,” Parsons said. “I think there is a compromise between allowing people the flexibility to work within certain frameworks as well as getting the needed results or the intended results within that framework. You can’t force people to do things, but on the other hand, we do have goals we need to meet, so there has to be a compromise between the two.”

The task force, which held its first meeting Wednesday in Tallahassee, was created in January through an executive order by DeSantis in response to outbreaks of toxic algae and red tide across the state last year. The problems particularly drew attention in Southeast and Southwest Florida, as algae plagued water bodies such as the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and red tide caused fish kills.

The panel Wednesday mostly received an overview about state roles in addressing algal issues, the regulatory structures for water quality and wastewater and agricultural best-management practices involving nutrients such as fertilizers.

Audubon Florida Executive Director Julie Wraithmell said environmentalists are expecting action from the task force, which will meet every three to four weeks through August.

“The causes of our blue-green algae problems are well understood,” Wraithmell said. “At this point, we need folks who are going to scour the science, look at our regulatory structure, and draft a bold prescription for how to get us out of the problems we are facing right now.”

St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman cautioned that an unintended result of prioritizing one part of the state is that others may lag in protection.

“We can’t buy our way out of Florida’s algae crisis,” Rinaman said. “We need to not only have projects but enhanced regulatory protections and education.”

The focus of the task force is Lake Okeechobee and waters on both sides of the lake, but the state is also looking at possible algae impacts as far north as the St. Johns River.

Florida Land Counsel Executive Director Ernie Barnett said it’s important to treat water before it reaches Lake Okeechobee.

Thomas Frazer, Florida’s chief science officer, said the state is already doing a lot, but more could be done.

“If we need to do more monitoring, for example to evaluate the effectiveness of various projects, we should probably be doing that,” Frazer said. “If we need to look at a regulation and change that regulation so there is more oversight, people are more accountable, that’s on the table as well.”

Frazer added he’s “optimistic that what we come up with here is not going to sit on a shelf. … We have an executive order with a charge that says we’re here to make a difference and we’re going to use this committee to identify areas where we can insert science to make better decisions with how we allocate our resources,” Frazer said.

Among the longer-term goals could be figuring out how to move residents from septic tanks to sewer systems, which has always been a matter of cost. The Florida Department of Health oversees septic-tank issues.

Task Force member James Sullivan, executive director of Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, said the Department of Environmental Protection should have oversight because of the impact of nutrients released by septic systems.

Florida has 12.6 million septic tanks, accounting for 12% of the systems in the nation.

The inaugural meeting came after conservation groups Tuesday sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior over the handling of releases from Lake Okeechobee that contain toxic algae. Discharges go into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and their estuaries.

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein said he hopes to see a list of proposals from the task force that could range from process improvements within current rules to changes in department rules or even statutory changes.

“Let’s get used to every few years asking ourselves again, ‘Don’t get comfortable with the status quo,'” Valenstein said.

Valenstein expects to see additional water monitoring and field staffing to review data, as part of $680 million for environmental work that is in the proposed 2019-2020 state budget (SB 2500). DeSantis is expected to act on the budget next week.

The proposed budget includes $4 million to expand “statewide water quality analytics for the nutrient over-enrichment analytics assessment and water quality public information portal.”

Source: News Service of Florida, Jim Turner. News Service Assignment Manager Tom Urban contributed to this report.

Millennials could be the smartest generation ever. I actually made myself laugh when typing this.

3 out of 4 millennials think they know how to sell a home

IRVINE, Calif. – Jun 12, 2019 – More than three-quarters of millennials feel very confident about how to sell a home, but very few have actually done so, according to a recent survey by sold.com.

Despite millennials’ high confidence in knowing how to sell a home, they don’t have the home selling experience to support it. Sellers ages 28 years and younger composed only 2% of the share of all home sellers last year according to the National Association of Realtors 2019 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report (April 2019).

With older millennials (29-38 years old), 76% were selling a home for the first time.

Misplaced confidence could be detrimental financially, given that 59% of consumers between 18-34 years old plan to sell a home within the next three years, compared to 35% of people between ages 35-54 and 15% of consumers over 55 years old.

“In today’s world, it’s easy to build misplaced confidence due to the vast amount of information available online,” says Matt Woods, president of sold.com. “While having many resources at our fingertips is certainly a good thing, it’s important to utilize them effectively and to realize which ones are trustworthy and unbiased. This is particularly true for millennials who are selling homes for the very first time.”

Millennial knowledge gap

The knowledge gap among millennials exists across many facets of home selling. For example:

  • 81% said a good credit score is important when selling a home – but a good credit score is only necessary when purchasing a home.
  • When asked whether buyers or sellers are typically responsible for repairs to homes discovered while under contract, 42% said buyers will pick up the tab – but most repairs prior to closing are paid for by the seller.
  • When asked what they’re most worried about related to a home sale, millennials selected finances (30%) and with getting a home ready to sell (32%).
  • Across all age groups, over half of respondents were unfamiliar with any options for selling a home aside from a traditional real estate agent or For Sale By Owner (FSBO).
  • 60% of millennials check their home valuation online at least once a month.
  • Millennials are more confident than any other age group that online valuation estimates are accurate, with 46% saying so compared with 32% of people ages 35-54 and only 6% of people over 55.
  • Millennials have more of an appetite and aptitude to research options and use disruptive methods for selling a home. However, half of millennials invest less than three hours researching the resources and methods available to sell a home.

Remodeling: Labor shortage creates frustration and adds time

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) – June 12, 2019 – Lynn Osborne has been remodeling two homes. They are different styles, in different states, with different contractors. But there has been one constant: delays due to a shortage of skilled labor.

The two-year remodel of her primary home in Fort Collins was to update and upgrade the ’90s house, and it included a small extension. It was completed last year, except for the landscaping, which is still under way.

That general contractor relied heavily on sub-contractors, she said, and sometimes they wouldn’t show, or would arrive days late, or did shoddy work and were fired.

Her remodel of an old family beach retreat in New England took a Sears kit home down to the studs. The completion date was June 2018, but it’s still not done because the contractor, who has been doing most of the work himself, is stretched and inattentive.

“He’d say, ‘I’ll be out there next week,’ and next week would turn into next month, and next month would be six months,” she said.

Current estimates indicate there are about 300,000 unfilled jobs in the construction industry, and the industry is expected to need an additional 747,000 workers by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

An August survey of nearly 375 members of the National Kitchen and Bath Association found that almost two-thirds of the respondents said they had difficulties hiring skilled workers in the previous year, and nearly 70% felt the problem had gotten worse since 2016.

“Labor shortages have impacted start dates and completion dates on construction and renovation projects, with NKBA members citing delays on 30% of jobs,” said Bill Darcy, chief executive officer of the trade association.

A look at 15 different trades found shortages in them all, Darcy said in a telephone interview from NKBA headquarters in Hackettstown, New Jersey. And as with previous years, he said, one of the greatest needs was for carpenters, who do rough-in work and framing, and finish carpenters, who hang cabinets, do millwork, flooring and install molding.

Finding a quality finishing carpenter was one of the biggest frustrations in Osborne’s Fort Collins remodel.

“One guy got started on the basement and just left, so to find somebody to pick up where he left off was hard,” she said.

The seeds of the current labor shortage were planted during the Great Recession, when a lack of construction jobs prompted many workers to leave the industry.

“Not enough of them have returned to help us close the gap,” Darcy said.

Compounding the problem is the graying of the remaining workforce, with the median age for a construction worker at 42.5 years, according to January figures from the Labor Bureau. It’s estimated that for every five workers retiring from the industry, only one is entering it, said Silvia Lattoz, Governance and Global Relations Senior Manager at NKBA.

Younger people aren’t interested in construction careers because they think the jobs don’t pay well, are too dirty or physically demanding, or mistakenly think the jobs don’t use much technology, Lattoz said.

“There’s definitely some kind of stigma tied to this,” she said.

Players in the industry are ramping up efforts to address the impending crisis, launching incentives to try to recruit new workers, especially young people, to the trades. The Home Depot Foundation announced last year it was committing $50 million to skilled trades training, with plans to attract 20,000 people by 2028.

“We want to bring shop class back, from coast to coast,” Shannon Gerber, executive director of the foundation, said in a release. The program focuses on supporting veterans, as well as underserved high schools.

Lowe’s last year started offering employees tuition and other incentives to train for jobs such as carpentry, plumbing, and appliance repair. More than 1,350 associates were enrolled in the Track to the Trades program this spring, Lowe’s spokeswoman Jennifer L. Weber said.

In April, Lowe’s and 60 of its suppliers and partners debuted a new program called Generation T , an online marketplace for jobs, apprenticeships and education programs in construction. It’s also on Twitter and Facebook.

“If we don’t fill the existing skilled trade gap, our businesses, homes and communities will suffer,” Weber said.

The National Association of Home Builders, meanwhile, sponsors student chapters in high schools and colleges. The clubs currently have more than 4,500 members.

The NAHB also supports immigration reform. Foreign-born workers were twice as likely to be employed in construction last year as workers born in the United States, according to the Department of Labor.

Legislation pending in Congress would try to ease the construction worker shortage by establishing a visa system to bring in more foreign laborers. Employers would have to prove they couldn’t find U.S. workers, and would have to pay fair wages based on local rates.

“Filling our workforce needs is a key component to boosting our workforce and our economy,” said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, Republican of Pennsylvania, a sponsor.

For a while at least, homeowners and home builders need to resign themselves to the fact that it will likely be harder to get work done, at least for a while. Home Depot, for instance, said this year it was eliminating the service it had been offering that hired third-party contractors to install roofing, siding, insulation and gutters.

Projects are also likely to get more expensive, as nearly 60% of respondents in the NKBA survey said the shortage was affecting labor costs.

Osborne’s husband previously worked in the construction industry, but even so, she said, they suffered sticker shock when it came to their renovations.

“It’s that market right now,” she said. “You want something done and they throw out a big number, and I guess it’s a matter of, ‘How badly do you want it done and how soon?”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press, Karen Schwartz. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Two arrested after accepting FEMA money for 2nd homes

MIAMI – June 10, 2019 – Two Miami-Dade County residents were arrested this week on grand theft charges in separate cases where federal and state investigators accuse them of falsely claiming their Hurricane Irma-damaged mobile homes in the Keys were their primary residences, allowing them to collect thousands of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Both people told investigators with the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General that they were separated from their respective spouses around the time of the Sept. 10, 2017, storm and moved out of their homes on the mainland, according to their arrest affidavits.

Rick Hermida, attorney for Leisdany Lastro-Del Toro, 43, said his client “made an honest mistake in the wake of Hurricane Irma. She used the monies to repair her trailer. She intends to make full and immediate restitution.”

The other person arrested, Alfredo Latour, 54, could not be reached for comment.

Del Toro received $19,024 from FEMA after applying for disaster relief from the agency for her mobile home on Long Key. She stated on the application that the trailer was her primary residence, according to the affidavit.

However, she and her husband receive a homestead exemption on their property taxes for their home in Palmetto Bay, State Attorney’s Office Investigator Abraham Vallejo stated in his report.

This April, two Homeland Security agents questioned her about the application. She told them, according to the affidavit, that she separated from her husband in 2017 and moved to Long Key full time. While living on Long Key, she said she commuted to her job as a case manager for an immigration services non-profit on Northwest Seventh Street in Miami – a 93-mile, one-way trip.

“Del Toro stated that sometimes she would stay at her mother’s address in Miami,” Vallejo stated.

However, she could not offer agents other specific details about her supposed time living in the Keys full time.

“Del Toro was unable to recall when she moved to Long Key, how long she lived there, or when she left and moved back to Miami,” Vallejo stated. “Del Toro offered to return the funds to FEMA. After approximately 12 p.m., she asked if she could call her attorney.”

Her attorney told her to end the interview, according to the report.

In a May interview with the Homeland Security agents and Vallejo, this time with her attorney present, Del Toro said the Long Key trailer was not her primary address and that she and her husband were not separated at the time.

Del Toro turned herself in to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday morning in Plantation Key, where she was arrested, and was released later in the day on a $25,000 bond.

Latour was arrested Wednesday on a $5,000 bond. It wasn’t immediately clear if he’s been released. He received $3,363 from FEMA for damage done to his mobile home at the Calusa Campground Resort and Marina off mile marker 101.5 in Key Largo.

He also told investigators that although his primary home is on Northwest 79th Avenue in Miami, he separated from his wife in July 2017 and moved into his trailer, according to Vallejo’s report.

Latour told investigators that the storm made the trailer uninhabitable, so he moved back with his wife. However, on his FEMA application, he also stated that his wife and daughter lived with him at Calusa, according to the report.

He later told investigators that he only separated from his wife days before Irma hit and he spent a few nights at the trailer, returning home before the storm arrived.

“Latour additionally admitted that he realized at the time he made the FEMA application that the mobile home was not his primary address,” Vallejo stated.

© 2019 the Florida Keys Keynoter (Marathon, Fla.), David Goodhue. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The essential guide to hurricane preparedness.

“Don’t Drink Tub Water.  That’s Gross” ~ Mike Lafferty

Every year this comes out like clockwork for all the people that have never been through a hurricane before.  Below is some very good information, but I have some additional tips that will really help before, during and after a hurricane.

  • Don’t get scared.  every year the media says we are all going to die.
  • When you see me putting up shutters you need to start right away.
  • Best hurricane food – Pop Tarts and beef jerky – don’t open until storm is over or you will eat your supply before the storm even hits.  Trust me on this one.
  • Duct tape – This is huge.  tape down anything outside that could break off your house like the plastic covers over the outlets. They will fly away.  Also put a piece of tape over the key hole in your doors.  Believe it or not water will come through and leave sand making it hard to use the key for months.
  • Gas grills will save your life.  you can cook every meal on a grill and make coffee. Have an extra tank.
  • Water – every year I see posts on social media saying stores are out of water we’re all going to die.  You don’t need bottled water.  Fill up everything that can hold water including tubs.  Tub water is good for the toilets(don’t drink tub water it’s gross).  Fill up every ziploc bag you have and put in freezer.  The frozen bags will keep freezer cold when electricity goes out and can be melted to drink.
  • After it’s all over your yard or street might be flooded.  Do not let your kids play in it unless they want a brain eating amoeba or to be bitten by a gator or cotton mouth.

see below for more traditional hurricane guide.

ORLANDO, Fla. – June 5, 2019 – Until Hurricane Michael hit Florida’s Panhandle last year, that area of the state was considered less vulnerable than the eastward parts that jut out into the Atlantic Ocean’s preferred path for big storms.

Hurricane season begins on June 1st and lasts six months, with storm threats typically peaking in August and September. But a major storm can target any part of Florida at any time.

Hurricane knowledge

First, know your hurricane facts and understand common terms used during hurricane forecasts. Storm conditions can vary on the intensity, size and even angle.

Tropical depressions are cyclones with winds of 38 mph. Tropical storms vary in wind speeds from 39-73 mph while hurricanes have winds 74 mph and greater.

Storm terms

  • Tropical storm watch: Tropical storm conditions are possible in the area.
  • Hurricane watch: Hurricane conditions are possible in the area. Watches are issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.
  • Tropical storm warning: Tropical storm conditions are expected in the area.
  • Hurricane warning: Hurricane conditions are expected in the area. Warnings are issued 36 hours in advance of tropical storm force winds.
  • Eye: Clear, sometimes well-defined center of the storm with calmer conditions.
  • Eye wall: Surrounding the eye, contains some of the most severe weather of the storm with the highest wind speed and largest precipitation.
  • Rain bands: Bands coming off the cyclone that produce severe weather conditions such as heavy rain, wind and tornadoes.
  • Storm surge: An often underestimated and deadly result of ocean water swelling as a result of a landfalling storm, and quickly flooding coastal and sometimes areas further inland.

Hurricane forecasts

Predicting a tropical cyclone’s path can be challenging – there are many global and local factors that come into play. Forecasters’ computers take huge amounts of data and try to predict where the storm will go and usually are 2-3 days out. This is where you hear the terms “computer models” and “spaghetti models” being used. Generally, the forecast track or path is given using the average consensus of these models.

The National Hurricane Center has the most up-to-date information on tropical cyclone developments, forecasts and weather alerts, discussions analyzing the data and more.

Hurricane kits

It’s important to create a kit of supplies you could take with you if forced to evacuate. This kit will also be useful if you are able to stay in your home but are affected by the storm, such as through a power loss. One common trend seen when hurricanes are approaching is a wide-spread panic. If you prepare a kit ahead of time, you can alleviate a lot of the potential stress of a very chaotic situation.

Recommended hurricane kit items

  • Non-perishable food (enough to last at least 3 days)
  • Water (enough to last at least 3 days)
  • First-aid kit (include prescription medication)
  • Personal hygiene items and sanitation items
  • Flashlights (have extra batteries)
  • Battery operated radio
  • Waterproof container with cash and important documents
  • Manual can opener
  • Lighter or matches
  • Books, magazines, games for recreation
  • Special needs items: pet supplies and baby supplies, if applicable
  • Cooler and ice packs
  • An evacuation plan

Securing a home

  • Cover all windows with hurricane shutters or wood. Note: While tape can prevent glass from shattering everywhere, it does not prevent the window from breaking
  • If possible, secure straps or clips to securely fasten your roof to the structure of your home.
  • Trim all trees and shrubs, and clear rain gutters.
  • Reinforce garage doors
  • Bring in outdoor furniture, garbage cans, decorations and anything else not tied down
  • If winds become strong, stay away from windows and doors, and close, secure and brace internal doors.

Power outages

In the event a storm leaves you without power, there are a few things to consider:

  • Gas: Make sure your car’s tank is full far in advance of an approaching storm. Most people wait until the last minute, rush to get extra gas for cars and generators, and gas stations can run out.
  • Money: ATMs can run out of money if everyone tries to use them quickly, and they can shut down completely if the power goes out.
  • Cell phones: Charge cell phones pre-storm and limit use if the power goes out.
  • A/C: Try to prevent as much light from entering and warming the house by covering up windows on the inside. If you have back-up or battery-operated fans, don’t run them unless you’re in the room.
  • Water: Fill bathtubs and large containers with water for washing and flushing only.
  • Food: Turn your fridge temperature down and/or freeze any food or drinking water that can be frozen if you expect a power outage.

© 2019 Florida Realtors

 

Related Topics: Hurricanes

The American dream makes a comeback

CELEBRATION, Fla. – June 3, 2019 – After Teresa and Mark Taunton short sold their $535,000 four-bedroom dream home in Celebration, Florida, at the end of the real estate meltdown in 2011, buying another house was the last thing on their minds.

“It makes you feel you could somehow end up in the same position,” says Teresa, 57, describing the anxiety the couple experienced after selling their house for less than what they owed the bank. “We were just so leery of everything.”

But in late February, five years after they were officially allowed to make another home purchase, they closed on a modest ranch house for less than half the price of their former Orlando-area unit and just minutes away.

“We were really tired of renting,” Teresa says. Of their new house, she adds, “It’s comfortable. It’s home.”

With rent, “You’re looking at (shelling out) $20,000 to $30,000 a year, and you have nothing in return,” Mark adds.

There are signs that a growing number of Americans who lost homes to foreclosure or a short sale during the housing crisis are emerging from their post-crisis bunkers and buying again or planning to do so in the near future.

The trend could allow millions of so-called boomerang buyers to build wealth again through homeownership. It also could provide support to a housing market that has sputtered lately. Existing home sales are down 6.6% so far this year compared with the year-ago period, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

“I think the next phase of the housing recovery will be partly driven by people in the prime age group” of 35 to 64 that have been hesitant to buy again after losing homes in the crisis, says Kwame Donaldson, an economist with Moody’s Analytics.

Young people largely have fueled the housing recovery so far. In March, first-time home buyers made up 33% of all existing home sales, up from 30% a year earlier, according to NAR. But from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018, the homeownership rate jumped from 58.9% to 61.1% for 35 to 44-year-olds, the largest increase on record for any age group, and from 69.5% to 70.1% for 45 to 54-year-olds, Census Bureau figures show.

Donaldson says he believes the leap for 35- to 44-year-olds was largely spurred by boomerang buyers who were 27 to 36 during the depths of the crisis.

Housing crisis hit less qualified

The housing bust was caused by lenders who doled out subprime mortgages to Americans who couldn’t qualify for conventional loans. Many of the mortgages required low interest-only payments initially that ballooned after a few years. The model worked as long as home prices kept soaring, allowing homeowners to refinance. It unraveled when prices plunged and the Great Recession caused millions of people to lose their jobs and fall behind on their mortgage payments.

From 2006 to 2014, there were 7.3 million housing foreclosures and 1.9 million short sales, according to CoreLogic, a housing research firm. After a foreclosure, a prospective buyer must typically wait seven years to qualify for a mortgage guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The wait can be three years in certain circumstances, or for a Federal Housing Administration loan, but people who wait seven years generally benefit from higher credit scores and lower interest rates.

A short seller generally must wait three years to buy again.

Of 2.8 million former homeowners whose foreclosures, short sales or bankruptcies dropped off their credit reports from January 2016 to November 2018, 11.5% have obtained a new mortgage, according to a study by credit rating agency Experian for USA Today.

Fifty-three percent of the remaining 2.5 million had prime or super-prime credit scores in November, notes Experian Vice President Michelle Raneri. “That’s 1.3 million people who have really good credit,” she says. “Maybe they don’t realize they would qualify now.”

Some economists say many of those affected who wanted to become homeowners again already have done so. “I’m less convinced this is going to move the market,” says Ralph McLaughlin, deputy chief economist of CoreLogic.

Michael Fratantoni, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association, says young people will be a far greater force in the housing market than prime-age boomerang buyers the next few years. There are about 31.7 million 24- to 38-year-old renters in the U.S., according to CoreLogic.

But Moodys’ Donaldson notes that the typical pay of middle-aged Americans is 14% higher than the U.S. average, making them particularly good candidates to buy homes. Those who lost houses were financially and psychologically scarred, he says, and many could take longer than three- or seven-year waiting periods before feeling comfortable enough to make a purchase.

In the Denver area, some boomerang buyers tour homes but then get cold feet and pull back before reentering the market months later and finally buying, says Jessica Reinhardt, a broker at RE/MAX Alliance.

A NerdWallet survey, conducted for USA TODAY in January, found that 6% of Americans who lost a home due to a financial event the past decade plan to buy one this year. But a whopping 39% intend to buy over the next three years and 58% say they’ll purchase within five years. Nearly one-third said they’re afraid to own a home again.

Losing the ‘American dream’

The Tauntons, of Celebration, could have bought another house in 2014 when the three-year waiting period after their short sale ended. But, “the memory was still sore,” Mark says. “You’re still in the middle of what you lost.”

They lost the house they bought in 2005 in which they raised the five children of their blended family and that symbolized their attainment of “the American dream,” as Mark puts it. They had their own pool and the Disney-owned community sported a movie theater and spa, among other amenities.

They kept current on their mortgage even after Mark lost his job as manager of an exclusive men’s designer clothing store in the depths of the recession in 2008. But when their monthly payment jumped from $2,300 to $3,500 in 2010, they were on the verge of falling behind. Their lender advised them to stop making payments so they could get a loan modification, but it never came.

“We did everything right,” Mark says, noting they had never missed a payment. “It was traumatic.”

While they rented four apartments and homes, they squirreled money away and started thinking about buying again last November. Besides wanting to amass a retirement nest egg, they grew weary of renting because “you didn’t get to know your neighbors,” Teresa says.

This time, they resolved to spend no more than $250,000, rejecting several of the more lavish houses they visited. “You never want to go through that again,” says Mark, who is now a high school teacher.

Teresa, an accountant, asked lots of questions and took meticulous notes, and the couple provided extensive documentation. Last time, “The mortgage company made it so easy,” she says.

The couple, who used most of their savings to buy their previous house, “qualified for much more than the home” they purchased this time, says their Redfin agent, Mike Moore.

They made a down payment of 5% on the $247,000 house, giving them a monthly payment of $1,640. While they worry about getting hurt by another crash, “I feel a whole lot better about a $240,000 house than a $535,000 house,” Mark says. “I feel like I can still control it.”

Economy, wage growth aid buyers

There are concerns for boomerang buyers. Nationally, home prices have climbed 53% since their 2012 bottom and are now 11% above their 2006 peak, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index. That raises worries about another potential bubble and could keep already-wary former homeowners from making a purchase. But credit standards are much tighter now, “so there are fewer risky loans out there,” says Skylar Olsen, director of economic research for real estate site Zillow. “The national market is not headed towards a bubble popping,” she says.

In fact, home price increases have moderated since last year and mortgage rates have fallen even as wage growth has accelerated, creating a positive backdrop for boomerang and other buyers, Fratantoni says.

The economy’s steady recovery the past nine years has been a godsend for Art Fernandez, of Davie, Florida. In 2007, he and his wife Leanette leveraged an interest-only mortgage to buy a 10,000-square-foot house around the corner from their more modest home, seeking both their dream house and a sure-fire investment in the go-go years. They bought even before selling their existing house.

But the housing market seemed to crash the week they closed, Fernandez says, leaving them owing more on both homes than they were worth. Soon, Leanette had to leave her job as a mortgage broker and Art, a retail theft prevention manager, was laid off. They lost the first house through foreclosure and the second in a short sale. “It was very, very difficult,” Fernandez, 42, says.

But while they rented for three years, he got another theft-prevention job, as well as a part-time gig as a real estate broker. Leanette became a travel and lifestyle blogger.

When they decided to buy a 2,200-square-foot house in 2017 for $355,000, “It was like we had three full-time jobs,” Fernandez says. “We were confident and ready to find our ‘forever home.'”

In some areas hit hardest by the housing crisis, boomerang purchases are picking up, brokers say. In Las Vegas, Thomas Blanchard, managing broker of Orange Realty Group, estimates that 15% to 20% of sales handled by his firm are to boomerang buyers, up from 1% to 2% a few years ago.

In the Miami area, boomerang buyers make up four in 10 purchases, estimates Sonia “Gaby” Martinez, broker and owner of Xtreme International Realty. Sharply rising rents in Las Vegas and Miami are prodding more ex-homeowners to buy again, the brokers say.

Some want to do so before climbing prices make it impossible.

Kimberly Velasquez, 43, of Parker, Colorado, lost her four-bedroom, $320,000 house to foreclosure in 2011. After renting and going through a divorce, she decided to buy a $380,000 townhouse last August as soon as the foreclosure came off her credit report. Denver-area home prices have more than doubled since 2011.

“I decided I needed to do it now,” she says, “or it would be to the point where I’d be priced out of ever being able to buy a home.”

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