Long Island City, New York and Crystal City, Virginia

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Amazon has chosen two East Coast cities—Crystal City, Va., and Long Island City, N.Y.—as the locations to house its new headquarters.

After a yearlong search, Amazon has chosen two East Coast cities—Crystal City, Va., and Long Island City, N.Y.—to house its new headquarters. The online retail giant is expected to announce its decision on Tuesday that it’s coming to Long Island City, a neighborhood of Queens, and Crystal City, an area within Arlington, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C.

The two real estate markets have already seen their housing markets rising in anticipation of the announcement. In the first seven days of November, views of listings in Long Island City surged 648 percent compared to a year ago, and views of listings in Crystal City rose 371 percent over last year, reports the real estate brokerage Redfin.

Amazon will be hiring thousands of high-tech workers and plans to bring about 50,000 employees to the two new locations. Amazon also plans to invest more than $5 billion over the next two decades in its new headquarter spots.

Amazon made the decision to split what was originally dubbed “HQ2” into two sites instead of choosing just one. “Picking multiple sites allows it to tap into two pools of talented labor and perhaps avoid being blamed for all of the housing and traffic woes of dominating a single area,” The New York Times reports.

Both cities are directly across from major city centers and are served by major transit systems, which Amazon had long said was an important judging criteria for its new site. Koki Adasi, a real estate professional in the Washington, D.C., area and 2018 president-elect for the Greater Capital Area Association of REALTORS®, told Forbes.com that Crystal City will see an influx into the market for those looking to rent and purchase. “This is also a very good thing for area REALTORS®,” Adasi says. “It’s a tight market and if demand goes up, inventory will decline, and most likely prices will rise.” The median home price in Crystal City is just over $600,000, according to realtor.com®.

As for New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said Amazon coming to the city would be “the single biggest economic development deal in the history of New York City,” de Blasio said. The median home price in New York is currently $1.1 million; it’s $600,000 in Queens County, according to realtor.com®.

Amazon could have some competition: Google is also planning an expansion into New York. Alphabet Inc., Google’s holding company, plans to add office space for more than 12,000 new workers, doubling its current staff over the next decade, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Amazon made its final decision for its two new headquarter sites after reviewing 238 applications from cities all vying to be the chosen spot. Amazon will continue to operate its headquarters from Seattle. Seattle has been one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, and some housing analysts point to Amazon as the cause. Amazon has about 45,000 employees in its Seattle headquarters.

The Wall Street Journal reports that other city contenders may also receive some major sites from Amazon. The online giant will make its announcement Tuesday.


Underwater View

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The number of equity-rich homeowners has been climbing, but not all are enjoying higher property values. Nearly 9 percent of all U.S. properties with a mortgage—or more than 4.9 million—are considered “seriously underwater,” according to a new report from ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate data firm. Properties are underwater when the combined estimated balance of loans secured by the property is at least 25 percent higher than the property’s estimated market value. The percentage is up slightly year over year from 8.7 percent in the third quarter of 2017.

The highest share of seriously underwater properties are in Louisiana (21.3 percent); Mississippi (16.2 percent); Iowa (15.5 percent); Arkansas (15.3 percent); and Illinois (15.1 percent).

ATTOM Data Solutions reports that in 26 ZIP codes, more than half of all properties are still seriously underwater, including areas in Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Atlantic City, N.J., and Cleveland. The top five ZIP codes with the highest share of seriously underwater properties are: 08611 in Trenton, N.J. (71 percent seriously underwater properties); 63137 in St. Louis (66.5 percent); 60426 in Harvey, Ill. (64.2 percent); 38106 in Memphis, Tenn. (60.7 percent); and 44105 in Cleveland (59.2 percent).

November 13, 2018

Quicken Loans ranks highest in customer satisfaction for the ninth consecutive year, according to the newly released 2018 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Survey. Customers overall are happier with their mortgage lender this year compared to last year, and a lot of that is attributed to lenders’ use of mixing in more digital interactions in the process, according to the survey, which is based on responses from more than 5,000 customers with new mortgages or who have refinanced within the last 12 months.

“The mortgage marketplace is changing rapidly as traditional players and new digital-native entrants ramp up their digital and mobile offerings,” says John Cabell, financial services practice lead at J.D. Power. “While improved digital offerings are helping mortgage originators build customer satisfaction, it is important to find the right balance between digital self-service offerings and personal interaction with a representative. Technology alone is not a magic bullet in this market; the key is knowing where to leverage it and where to layer in more traditional forms of one-on-one support.”

Quicken Loans, Fairway Independent Mortgage, Guild Mortgage, and Mr. Cooper scored the highest in customer satisfaction in this year’s survey. Mr. Cooper had the greatest year-over-year improvement.

JDPower mortgages chart. Visit source link at the end of the article for more information.

© J.D. Power

Here are some additional findings from this year’s survey:

  • Satisfaction improves with digital integration. More customers are using digital and mobile channels to connect with lenders. Customers use an average of 3.1 different channels during the mortgage process, with the phone leading at 72 percent, followed by websites (69 percent) and email (58 percent).
  • Representatives are still key players. Only 3 percent of mortgage customers say they rely only on digital self-service channels in the origination process. Customer satisfaction is highest among customers who spoke with their lender in person or over the phone when applying for a mortgage, followed by those who used a combination of personal and self-service tools. Consumers say that representatives provide the greatest value by following up after initial inquiry and also confirming loan terms and payment.
  • Fast replies are critical. Satisfaction is also highest among customers who received contact within one day of their inquiry. Satisfaction drops the longer customers have to wait for a response.
November 12, 2018

Rookie buyers looking for an affordable home may purchase one in need of repair in hopes of turning it into the house of their dreams. But an extensive rehab can quickly become the stuff of nightmares.

Construction workers analyzing blueprints

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Realtor.com® contributor Erica Sweeney shares her personal story of tearing down and rebuilding her first home 11 years ago in Little Rock, Ark. The home was built in the 1940s, and the floor plan didn’t fit her and her family’s lifestyle. The entire process took eight months. “It was all worth it, but if I had to do it again, I’d definitely do a few things differently,” Sweeney writes in her realtor.com® article. She shares several of her biggest regrets, hoping to help others who are embarking on a similar remodeling journey.

  1. Figure out exactly what you want before you start. Do you only want to remodel the kitchen and master bathroom instead of the entire house? Sweeney says she and her husband kept adding projects onto their remodeling list before finally deciding to tear down the entire house and build new—which then required an architect and new house plans. “I wish someone had encouraged us to step back and think carefully about what we really wanted upfront, taking into account current and future needs and budget,” Sweeney writes. “That way, we could have done just one building plan rather than two.”
  2. Shop for what you need before beginning the project. Sweeney suggests making as many decisions about the look of the house and materials you want early in the process. This will help you get a better sense of your budget before you start. Prioritize what rooms or items are most important to you as you shop.
  3. Beware of the neighbors. If you’re doing a big renovation, you may want to inform your neighbors and apologize in advance for any inconvenience, Sweeney says. She once found a neighbor’s child playing on the construction site of her new home. It’s important to keep the construction site as secure as possible, such as fencing it off with a “no trespassing” sign. It’s a good idea to let the entire block know and remind neighbors about the dangers of a construction site, she notes.
  4. Check everything. “This is something I can’t emphasize enough: Check each invoice, list of materials, quotes, and anything else,” Sweeney writes. “Chances are something will be wrong, and problems found early are much easier to fix.” Sweeney says the quote for the doorknobs included the wrong count, and the window quote listed windows with the wrong grid pattern.

November 13, 2018

The last few years, the home improvement business has been booming as more homeowners look to spruce up their homes. But are owners getting too confident that they can do it all themselves? “Costs, pop culture, and perhaps overconfidence could be driving DIY culture,” according to a new study from NerdWallet, a personal finance website.

Where middle class owners can buy a home

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NerdWallet’s 2018 Home Improvement Report found that younger generations are particularly gung-ho about tackling home improvement projects themselves than other age groups. Homeowners under the age of 35 take on more than half of all their home repair or home improvement projects themselves, according to the study which surveyed about 2,000 adults in the U.S.

Eighty percent of all homeowners surveyed say that professionals charge too much for labor and materials. Further, 73 percent say there is a wide variety of resources available with enough information that homeowners feel they could do every single one of their home repair or improvement projects themselves if they chose to.

Some homeowners go DIY merely for the cost savings—but they tend to take on smaller projects when they do. Homeowners who did a kitchen renovation themselves typically spent $22,000 less than those who used a professional, according to the report. Landscaping and bedroom renovations were the most common projects that homeowners took on themselves rather than hiring a professional.

While homeowners may be more confident to take on a project, they don’t always complete it correctly. Forty-three percent of homeowners admit to butchering a DIY home project at least once. Thirty-five percent say a home improvement show influenced them to take on a DIY project that ended badly.

“Have some humility when you think about tackling repairs and renovations yourself,” says Holden Lewis, NerdWallet’s home expert. “If it’s a job you’ve never done before, and it’s hard to undo, think really hard whether you should do it yourself, even with the guidance of YouTube.”

For the most serious repairs, like those that involve plumbing and electricity, homeowners do say they are more likely to hire a pro.

2018 Home Improvement Report,” NerdWallet (Nov. 8, 2018)
October 15, 2018

Some home buyers may be drawn to the cachet of owning a property with a rich historical past, but there are more benefits than status. “Historic districts tend to hold their value better during economic downturns, and they appreciate more during upswings,” Tom Mayes, vice president for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C., told realtor.com®. These areas come with “built-in character. They have a uniqueness and distinctiveness.”

Small town main street

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But buyers need to do some research before they purchase a historic property. Older homes can require more burdensome maintenance and updating, and there may be some restrictions on remodeling. Realtor.com®’s research team analyzed 500 of the largest urban areas in the U.S. to identify the areas with the most historic homes. They looked at the per capita number of properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the number of historic landmarks, as well as the property description of homes in those markets. The following are America’s most historic cities, according to realtor.com®:

1. Cambridge, Mass.

  • Median list price: $949,000
  • Properties listed on the national register: 209

2. Charleston, S.C.

  • Median list price: $305,000
  • Properties listed on the national register: 100

3. Davenport, Iowa

  • Median list price: $139,900
  • Properties listed on the national register: 251

4. St. Louis

  • Median list price: $174,900
  • Properties listed on the national register: 435

5. Santa Fe, N.M.

  • Median list price: $496,500
  • Properties listed on the national register: 61
October 26, 2018
Mortgage rates for 30, 15, ARM. Full information at http://www.freddiemac.com/pmms/

© REALTOR® Magazine

Borrowers were faced with rising mortgage rates again this week, after a slight pause from increases the week before.

“Despite volatility in the stock market, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage inched forward just 1 basis point to 4.86 percent this week,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “We expect rates to continue to rise, which will put downward pressure on homebuying activity. While higher borrowing costs will keep some people out of the market, buyers with more flexibility could take advantage of the decreased competition.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending Oct. 25, 2018:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.86 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising slightly from last week’s 4.85 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.94 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.29 percent, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 4.26 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.25 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 4.14 percent, with an average 0.3 point, climbing from last week’s 4.10 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.21 percent.
October 9, 2018

Many buyers may be potentially leaving money on the table by failing to contact more than one lender when shopping for a mortgage. Two-thirds—or 65 percent—of 1,000 buyers recently surveyed said they didn’t shop around for a mortgage, despite it being the biggest purchase they’ll ever make.

Mortgage shopping

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The study, conducted by PenFed Credit Union, also found a lot of confusion surrounding mortgages. For example, 44 percent of home shoppers believe the best mortgage for them is always the one with the lowest rate.

“The lowest-rate mortgage isn’t always best and consumers should consider additional factors, including the total closing costs and the broader annual percentage rate,” according to the study. “It’s also important to choose a company you trust and consider one that you already have accounts with since it can simplify payments.”

Many consumers also believe being prequalified is the same as being preapproved, or they’re unsure of the terms, the study found. Being prequalified by a lender gives a buyer an idea of what they can afford, but being preapproved for a loan is the extra step that makes you a qualified buyer who can obtain financing for a home purchase.

The survey also found that a majority—58 percent—of surveyed Americans believe adjustable-rate mortgages are only for risk takers. However, lenders say that ARMs may be a viable option for homeowners who plan to stay in their home for less than five years. A 5/5 ARM has a fixed rate for the first five years, for example, and likely has a lower payment than a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

But by failing to shop around, consumers’ confusion over what mortgage is best for them may persist—and it could prove costly. A separate study earlier this year found that borrowers could potentially save an average of $1,500 over the life of a 30-year fixed-rate loan by getting just one additional rate quote when shopping for a mortgage, according to Freddie Mac. More quotes can offer even more savings—for example, 80 percent of borrowers who received one additional rate quote while shopping for a mortgage saved between $966 to $2,086 over the life of their loan. Borrowers who gathered five rate quotes saw an average savings of $2,914. Eighty percent of the borrowers who obtained five quotes saved between $2,089 and $3,904, according to Freddie Mac’s report.

October 16, 2018

Many homeowners may assume that if they retrofit their home with energy-efficient upgrades that they’ll be able to charge a premium at resale. But that’s not always the case nowadays, and the sales price boost may depend on how well the client chose their selling agent, according to recent studies analyzed in a new article by Kenneth Harney, a syndicated real estate columnist.

Green homes depend on agent

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In the past, studies have confirmed there is a price boost for “green” homes at resale. Some studies of home sales in California and Texas, for example, have shown green-certified homes tend to sell for anywhere from 2.1 percent to 8 percent more than similar homes with minimal or no green features.

But two recent studies by appraisers are calling into question the assumption of a green perk in home sales. The studies suggest that green improvements may help net a slightly higher price, but the premium will greatly depend on several factors, particularly how well versed the real estate selling agent is at selling green home features.

Sandra Adomatis, a real estate appraiser in Florida, found in both studies that having a real estate professional who is trained and knowledgeable at selling green properties is key to getting a price premium for green home features. Adomatis, who headed both research studies, looked at transactions of home sales in the San Francisco Bay area, Virginia, and Maryland, and found that green-certified homes did tend to sell for a premium—even up to 5 percent in some cases—but it depended on the real estate professionals’ marketing. The studies examined price differences in transactions by comparing similar homes, those with significant green features and those without. In some cases, where the properties were not heavily marketed or certified as green—despite having green features—the premiums dropped to 1 percent or lower.

An agent with formal training in the area—such as someone with a GREEN designation, which is also offered by the National Association of REALTORS®—may have a better skill set in knowing how to sell and present such added features. Harney also notes that a real estate professional trained in such ways would know to call out such green details in their local Multiple Listing Service, and for those MLSes that have it include “green fields” in their listings or a “green addendum” to detail the special features that make the home energy efficient.

October 9, 2018

After an inspector has finished a home report, buyers may feel overwhelmed by any flaws that might have been found. That’s why it’s important they take the opportunity to learn more so that they can move forward confidently in the transaction.

Home inspection questions

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A recent article at realtor.com® recommends home buyers ask their inspector clarifying questions like: “I don’t understand this; what does it mean?” or “Is this a major or minor problem?” and “Do I need to call in another expert for a follow-up?”

Home inspectors are bound to uncover something in a home; no home is perfect. But the majority of the problems they uncover will likely be minor. Have the home inspector clarify which problems fall within the “minor” or “major” categories.

Keep in mind: “The inspector can’t tell you, ‘Make sure the seller pays for this,’ so be sure you understand what needs to be done,” Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors, told realtor.com®.

If the inspector identifies a potentially major problem, consumers will want to follow up whether they should call an additional expert in to investigate further. For example, consumers may need to bring in an electrician to take a closer look at potential electrical issues that were flagged or a roofer if a roofing problem is suspected. Those specialists can then give an idea of the cost to fix it, which the real estate agent can take to the seller to request a concession, if the seller doesn’t want to fix it prior to the sale.

Also, Lesh says that the list of items a home inspector identifies are issues the new buyer may need to address as soon as they move in. He says it’s like a “to-do list” for those items that did not get repaired by the seller prior to the sale.