dog and cat at home

For many people, pets are family members. That’s why 81 percent of consumers say they’ll take animal-related considerations into account when deciding on their next living situation, according to the National Association of REALTORS 2017 report Animal House: Remodeling Impact. To meet the growing demand for pet-friendly apartments, Kristen Gucwa, vice president of national lease-up operations at Richman Signature Properties, says her company is reinventing rental living and what that looks like.

The Richman Group, a rental property development company and seventh largest owner and operator of residential apartments in the country, has 15 Richman Signature Properties in Florida and Texas, with more to come in Denver and Los Angeles. These projects range from 240 to 417 residences, depending on their location and market. Some are in urban areas and others in suburban settings, with studios to three-bedrooms ranging from $1,200 to $2,800 per month. What they all have in common is accommodations for pets. Gucwa says it’s one of their best strategies for staying competitive. The statistics out there dictate how you need to adapt to the market; everyone is going to have to grow and adapt to what renters want today, she says. Most aren’t willing to give up their pet to move into a rental property.

Indeed, NAR’s study found that 89 percent of respondents would not give up their animal because of housing restrictions or limitations. That’s why higher-end multifamily developers like The Richman Group are focusing on providing more resort-style amenities for four-legged tenants. Gucwa describes the properties she oversees as having dog parks, open spaces, and even agility courses on the grounds. Some have pet salons, which include tubs where residents can wash their dogs.

The Richman Signature Properties websites clearly spells out its policy: We are a pet-friendly community; cats and dogs are allowed. The message appears next to professional photos of the communities and residential units and is highlighted among other amenities, such as pools and charging stations for electric cars. It’s included in their marketing and mentioned during onsite tours.

The pet-friendly emphasis is part of an overall lifestyle marketing initiative, highlighting a live-work-play atmosphere. The company has adapted their fitness centers to include on-demand video trainers. Property management teams will coordinate social groups, get-togethers, and outings. The activity calendar, which includes wine clubs, running clubs, book clubs, fishing clubs, and even beer clubs, also appears on each community’s website. Each property is developing its own personality, Gucwa says.

Looking ahead to the opening of properties in Denver and Los Angeles, Gucwa sees two trends continuing to grow in the multifamily home sector: pet accommodations and local business partnerships. Richman Signature Properties is starting to team up with local shops and boutiques in the area to offer amenities and services to residents. They’ve also recently partnered with Barkbox, a pet toy and treat service, to provide residents who own pets with a three-month subscription as a move-in gift.

We want to make sure it’s more than just a temporary living space, Gucwa says. Pet-friendly developments encourage a sense of community amongst residents.

Broker-to-Broker is an information network that provides insights and tools with business value through timely articles, videos, Q&As, and sales meeting tips for brokerage owners and managers. Get more Broker-to-Broker content here.


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Buyers with children put more weight on the neighborhood, local schools, and size of homes when shopping for the right property, according to the 2017 Moving With Kids report, produced by the National Association of REALTORS®.

The neighborhood, in particular, has a big influence on home buyers with children under the age of 18. Forty-nine percent of buyers who have children consider the neighborhood based on the quality of the school district, and 43 percent choose a neighborhood by the convenience to schools, according to the report.

Buyers with children also tended to purchase a larger home, at 2,100 square feet with four bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Buyers with no children tend to prefer a home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms at an average of 1,800 square feet.

Many buyers with children also say child care expenses can delay their home purchase. Twenty-two percent of buyers surveyed said they had to delay their home purchase due to the costs of child care. Also, they reported having to compromise on the price, style, and size of the home they purchased, according to the NAR report.

Sellers with kids also have unique needs. One notable need is that they usually have to sell their homes faster. Twenty-six percent of owners with children under the age of 18 sold their home urgently compared to 14 percent of owners with no children at home. The main reasons for selling a home for sellers with children were that the home was too small or they faced a job relocation or a change in their family situation.

Source: 2017 Moving With Kids, National Association of REALTORS® (Aug. 21, 2017)




More than half of American homeowners say they expect there will be a housing bubble and a price correction within the next two years, according to the latest survey of more than 1,000 Americans from ValueInsured’s Modern Homebuyer Survey.

Many consumers surveyed say they believe that real estate is reaching the top of the market. Because of that, 83 percent of Americans surveyed say now is a good time to sell their home, up 9 percentage points since last quarter.

But their confidence in buying may be getting a little shaky. Many buyers surveyed say they were concerned whether a property they bought now would hold its value. Fifty-seven percent of American owners believe that homes in their area are overvalued and that current prices are unsustainable.

Millennials are particularly concerned. Seventy-two percent of millennial home buyers say they are concerned with timing. They want to ensure they are not buying high. Just 43 percent are confident that a home they purchased today will increase in value by the end of 2018.

NAR’s latest Housing Pulse survey echoes some of Value Insured’s findings, with six of 10 respondents saying they are concerned about the cost to buy a home or high rent prices in their area. Eighty-four percent of the Housing Pulse respondents say they believe buying a home is a good financial decision, and affordability was ranked as the fourth top issue, after affordable health care, low wages and debt, and heroin and opioid drug abuse.

We see more home buyers concerned with timing the market,  says Joe Melendez, CEO of Value Insured. This is especially true for millennials, who are more likely to switch jobs, relocate or need to upsize in the next few years. No one wants to buy at the peak and find themselves underwater as so many did a decade ago.

The top five states where residents believe the market is approaching a housing bubble,according to the survey are Washington (71 percent), New York (68 percent), Florida (63 percent), California (59 percent), and Texas (58 percent).

I see in our survey an increasingly informed nation of home buyers, who understand the risk of the market, Melendez says. To those concerned about a price correction, or waiting to time the market, I recommend a proactive approach. Have an exit plan; then anytime you find a home you love is a good time to buy.

Despite their concerns, nearly 79 percent of ValueInsured’s respondents say that homeownership is an important part of their American dream.

Source: ValueInsured



Sale prices of luxury homes in the second quarter of the year surged 7.5 percent compared to a year ago. It’s the first time the luxury market’s gains outpaced the rest of the market since 2014, according to data by the real estate brokerage Redfin. Redfin defines the luxury markets as the top 5 percent of the priciest homes sold in each city.

But one of the main reasons behind the luxury market’s strong performance may be because sellers have gotten more realistic about their list prices, CNBC reports. Luxury sellers are asking a little less for their homes, which has spiked more interest among buyers, and in turn, is helping to boost prices once again too.

“There have been several years of a large disconnect between luxury sellers and market conditions, and what we’ve noted in all our research is that sellers are now much more willing to travel farther to meet the buyers,” Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of Miller Samuel, a real estate appraisal and consulting firm, told CNBC.

Miller cites a recent example: A home in Brooklyn, N.Y., recently sold for $15 million, which was a 40 percent discount of its original price.

Sales of homes priced above $1 million surged 19 percent in June compared to a year ago, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. That marks a bigger sales gain than the lower price points.

The spike in sales has caused a lower supply of luxury homes for sale. Listings at or above $1 million dropped 9.4 percent compared to a year ago, according to Redfin’s data.

“The housing shortage is now affecting the top of the housing market,” says Nela Richardson, Redfin’s chief economist. “Yet despite the strong uptick in prices, the luxury market is not nearly as competitive as the rest of the market. Only 1 in 50 luxury homes sold above list price in the second quarter, compared to more than 1 in 4 homes in the bottom 95 percent.”

Source: Luxury Home Prices Soar as Sellers Come Back Down to Earth, CNBC (Aug. 3, 2017)

Condos located near cart paths in golf course communities sell for lower prices than similar properties in the same communities, according to a new study published in The Appraisal Journal. Such condos are discounted an average 5.1 percent, according to the study. Certain cart paths can have a greater impact on the price of the property: condos near paths by a green are discounted 11.6 percent while those near tee boxes are discounted 8.6 percent, the study notes.

However, the study’s authors, Steve P. Fraser and Marcus T. Allen, found that regardless of proximity to cart paths, condos on higher floors sell for a premium compared to units on lower floors. “The premium associated with the condominium being on a higher floor may offset the discount for cart path proximity in some situations,” the study says.

Cart paths near teeing areas and greens tend to be more congested, as golfers often converge in those areas. Therefore, the congestion would affect condos nearby. “Ignoring the price effects of cart path proximity, tee, green, fairway locations, and floor level within buildings can lead to significant biases in value opinions,” the researchers note. “Adjustments may be necessary when subject properties and comparables differ on these elements of comparison.”

Source: “Golf Course Design and Real Estate Values: The Impact of Cart Paths on Condominium Prices,” The Appraisal Journal (Spring 2017)

for sale

Nighttime atmosphere. Advise your clients to view a home at different times of the day and night. “A community can change drastically when everyone is home from work and school,” says Aaron Norris of the Norris Group in Riverside, Calif. For example, Norris says he learned after purchasing his own home that college students pack into nearby houses and party on the weekends.

The commute. Buyers should test the morning and evening drive between their potential home and work. Does traffic make it difficult for them to get to work on time? Your clients should know whether the location of their home will require them to leave earlier in the morning.

Homeowners association rules. If the home your client wants to buy falls under a homeowners association, encourage them to review a copy of the bylaws. The association’s conditions, covenants, and restrictions describe regulations around what homeowners can do with their property. You’ll also learn what neighbors are allowed to do—in case, for example, your client is uncomfortable living next to a home that is being rented out.

The need for specialty inspections. The home may contain items that need to be assessed by specialists who go beyond a general inspection. For example, if the property contains a septic system, well, or solar panels, your buyer may want a special evaluation.

Source: “9 Things Buyers Regret Overlooking in a Home: Will You Miss Them, Too?”® (July 6, 2017)


sell sell 3Existing-home prices have jumped 6.5 percent from a year ago to a record high of $263,800 in June, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. It marks the 64th consecutive month for year-over-year price increases. The 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 culled historical data from 14 developed countries dating from the 1950s.

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)

Foreclosure filings, which include default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions, are down 20 percent from the same period a year ago, according to the Midyear 2017 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report from ATTOM Data Solutions.

“With a few local market exceptions, foreclosures have become the unicorns of the housing market: hard to find but highly sought after,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions.

Foreclosures are fading overall, but there has been a notable uptick in some areas. “These divergent foreclosure trends are likely the result of the big banks and government agencies selling off distressed loans over the past few years to non-bank entities that are now foreclosing on an increasing volume of that deferred distress,” Blomquist says.

The states with the highest foreclosure rates in the first half of 2017 were:

  1. New Jersey
  2. Delaware
  3. Maryland
  4. Illinois
  5. Connecticut
  6. Nevada
  7. Florida
  8. South Carolina
  9. Ohio
  10. New Mexico

On a metro level, the cities (with populations of at least 200,000) with the highest foreclosure rates in the first half of 2017 were:

  1. Atlantic City, N.J.: 1.71% of housing units with foreclosure filings
  2. Trenton, N.J.: 1.02%
  3. Philadelphia, Pa.: 0.79%
  4. Rockford, Ill.: 0.74%
  5. Baltimore, Md.: 0.69%

Source: RealtyTrac/ATTOM Data Solutions

The more your home buyers know about mortgages, the better prepared they’ll be. The Motley Fool recently featured a range of mortgage tips to help educate first-time buyers, including:

Know their credit score. The credit score can be a big key to knowing how much buyers can afford and how much interest they’ll be paying. Home shoppers should be encouraged to check their credit report and FICO score before even starting the homebuying process.

Estimate how much can be borrowed. Lenders generally don’t like to see a monthly housing payment—one that includes taxes and insurances—that’s more than 28 percent of a pretax income. The percentage threshold often cited for total debt—which includes the mortgage payment—is then no more than 36 percent. Some lenders will offer differing percentages but these are the most commonly used.

Gather the docs. Buyers will need documents showing their income, employment situation, identity, and more when applying for a mortgage. Encourage them to start collecting their latest tax returns, bank and brokerage statements, pay stubs, W-2s, Social Security card, marriage license (if applicable), and contact numbers for their employer’s HR department.

Get pre-approved. A preapproval is similar to a full mortgage approval and can be submitted with an offer on a home. It shows the seller the seriousness of the buyer, who has already secured financing to purchase the house.

Add up closing costs. Closing costs generally range from 2 to 3 percent of a mortgage principal amount. Make sure your buyers factor in closing costs to their overall homebuying budget.

Shop around. Buyers should be encouraged to gather several quotes from mortgage lenders; it could be worth thousands of dollars in savings over the course of a 30-year mortgage. Mortgage applications that take place over a short period of time won’t have an adverse effect on a credit score either, The Motley Fool notes.

Source: “15 Mortgage Tips for First-Time Homebuyers,” The Motley Fool (July 6, 2017)


When it’s time to make an offer on a home they love, buyers might freeze up, says marketing expert and business strategist Marc Gordon. Maybe they don’t feel ready or the property isn’t quite right for them. Don’t add more pressure as an agent. These five “soft” sales techniques from Gordon are here to help you guide clients toward putting in an offer on a property.

“Are we good to go?” Despite being ready to buy, some home shoppers just can’t bring themselves to say yes, Gordon says. “They are subconsciously waiting for a cue from you to let them know it’s okay to commit to the deal,” he says. “Use this close when the client no longer has anything to say or ask while [they are] still clearly showing interest.”

With your OK, we can start drawing up papers right away.  Some people want reassurance that they’re in charge, Gordon says. This close can put buyers in the driver’s seat by presenting them with an immediate benefit to saying yes.

Are there any other questions I can answer for you? You always want to make sure your client understands all the relevant information related to a home. Pop this question in once you feel like they’ve exhausted their queries. It’s a great segue into decision-making time.

Being silent. “You would be surprised how often people talk themselves into something,” Gordon says. “A customer that talks is a customer that’s interested.” Sometimes the agent should sit back, smile, and listen. “Then when they’re done, ask them if they’re ‘good to go.’”

How would you like me to follow up? If it comes to a point where it’s obvious your buyers can’t make the decision to put an offer in yet, this technique keeps the door open on their terms while maintaining dialogue about a property or their search process, Gordon says.