5G is one of the buzzwords at this year’s CES, formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas Jan. 9-12. The promises are big behind the fifth-generation wireless technology that is expected to make smartphones and other devices ultrafast.

5G is to be 100 times faster and five times more responsive than 4G and 4G LTE systems, the technology currently being used. For example, you’ll be able to stream high-res VR content without any lag time. The super speeds will help make smart-home technology and interconnected digital devices more efficient.

AT&T has announced that it will roll out 5G networks in a dozen U.S. cities by the end of the year and to 82 more markets by mid-2019. Verizon says it will have 5G networks in a handful of cities by year’s end as well first with Sacramento this year.

5G’s promise of greater speed and overall network performance brings huge opportunities not only for video but in the internet of things, 4K video, augmented and virtual reality, smart homes and cities, autonomous vehicles, and much more, says John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president of technology and operations at AT&T.

But there may be some caveats when it comes to 5G, such as you may have to pay more to use it and you may even need a new phone to accommodate it, analysts note.

Nevertheless, tech companies are investing as much as $275 billion over the next seven years to build out 5G networks, according to a report from Accenture, a consulting firm.

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey for REALTOR Magazine

 

Many commercial projects may face delays in 2018 due to rising demand, particularly for warehouse and office space. A shortage of skilled construction workers and rising construction costs two items that are also plaguing the residential market are expected to push back timetables on many commercial projects in the pipeline, according to the CoStar Group.

The labor shortage may mean developers will have to pay more to get their buildings constructed because contractors are able to charge more due to the high demand. The construction field had 381,000 job openings in October, the largest number of openings in a 17-year tracking period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are 11 percent fewer construction workers today than prior to the last recession.

The average length of construction delays in the multifamily sector could increase to four months by the end of 2018, according to CoStar’s forecasts.

Source: Rising Costs, Labor Shortage May Add to Commercial Construction Delays in Coming Year, CoStar Group (Jan. 4, 2018)

 

Across the country, neighbors are fighting against development of affordable housing, even if the proposals are far from their homes. Homeowners increasingly want to have a say on what development occurs in their communities beyond their own lot boundaries.

As such, developers are struggling to build affordable housing for seniors, high-rises, and tiny homes.

Homeowners are concerned about the quality of their schools and safety of neighborhood parks and they believe that greater affordable housing may jeopardize that not in my backyard idea.

Communities always need to be changing, Vicki Been, the faculty director of New York University’s Furman Center and a former commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development in New York, told The New York Times. And we can’t have a process that gives every individual sort of a veto over change.

Homeowners fear the impact that greater affordable housing could have on their property values.

As people are increasingly living in urban areas really close to each other, it starts to be the case that so much of the value of your property is bound up in things that are happening outside of your parcel,says Lee Fennell, a law professor at the University of Chicago.

Homes are the source of wealth for many people. We ask home equity to do so much more for us in terms of providing retirement, providing a bridge during drought years, allowing us to have collateral for other kinds of loans,Nathan Connolly, a historian at Johns Hopkins University, told The New York Times. Then you add schools and crime into the mix. To the extent that people can control anything,he says in referring to property values, they try to control for that.

Source: How Not in My Backyard Became Not in My Neighborhood,The New York Times (Jan. 3, 2018)

 

With inventories so tight, some home buyers may be giving a fixer-upper home a second thought. The price point and location may attract more buyers to bite, even though the home itself may need some TLC. But how do you tell a hidden gem from a hidden mess when shopping for a fixer-upper?

Paul Skema, president of the architecture and construction firm Roth Design + Build, and Jean Brownhill, founder of Sweeten, an online contracting service, recently shared important considerations for home shoppers looking at a fixer-upper. Here are a few of their tips, via Curbed.com:

Determine the scope of the project.

Are the renovations mostly cosmetic or are they structural? Before you even look for an apartment or home, you want to understand what type of project you’re comfortable with, says Skema. Projects where owners start making additions or knocking down walls can add a lot of money, time, and risk. One small bathroom renovation is hundreds of decisions you’re going to need to make, says Brownhill. You have to understand who you are as a person and how easily you make decisions.

Set a budget.

After the down payment, how much money will your buyers set aside for the fixer-upper? Factor in unexpected costs, such as planning an alternative living situation while the work is being done on the home. The architect and contractor should be able to provide you with estimates. By setting the price, you’re setting the approximate level of craft, finishes, and customer service that you’re looking for, Brownhill says.

Establish a team.

Larger projects require an architect, who will then hire a general contractor and then subcontractors. Homeowners will need to establish a communication path to prevent delays or budget pitfalls. And don’t just hire the lowest-bidding architect or contractor, Skema warns. Higher-quality firms limit the risk of the project, Skema says. Cheaper firms, many with less knowledge and less experience, will require more involvement from the homeowner and ultimately bring more risk. Select a team with the right experience, solid references, and a communication style that is complementary with yours.

Meet the neighbors and the building association.

Significant renovations may require approval from the homeowner’s association. Meet your neighbors beforehand and warn them about the home renovations so as not to aggravate them. Learn about the permit process through your city’s building department ahead of time. Upgrading plumbing and electrical systems, moving walls, or changing structural elements will likely require permits.

Protect yourself.

Make sure the contractor has both liability insurance and workman’s compensation. Also, ensure your homeowner’s policy will protect you from any contractor-caused issues.

See more tips on buying a fixer-upper at Curbed.com.

Source: Considering a Fixer-Upper? Here’s What You Need to Know, Curbed.com (Dec. 6, 2017)

 

As housing prices rise, more households are tapping into home equity lines of credit. Residential property owners secured 393,602 HELOCs in the third quarter of this year, up 19 percent from the previous quarter and 12 percent from a year ago, according to ATTOM Data Solutions Q3 2017 U.S. Residential Property Loan Origination Report.

Among the 120 metro areas ATTOM Data Solutions analyzed for the report, the following had the largest year-over-year increases in HELOCs:

  • Reno, Nev.: up 80 percent
  • Fort Wayne, Ind.: up 74 percent
  • Peoria, Ill.: up 46 percent
  • Bremerton, Wash.: up 45 percent
  • Dallas: up 43 percent

ATTOM Data Solutions also notes that 43 of the 120 metros saw a year-over-year decrease in HELOC loan originations, including:

  • Houston: down 17 percent
  • Atlanta: down 6 percent
  • St. Louis: down 4 percent
  • Miami: down 3 percent
  • San Francisco: down 1 percent

Among overall loan originations, the metros with the largest increase in purchase loans were:

  • Raleigh, N.C.: up 55 percent
  • New York: up 39 percent
  • Roanoke, Va.: up 39 percent
  • Honolulu: up 38 percent
  • Little Rock, Ark.: up 34 percent

Source: ATTOM Data Solutions

 

Renovating a home with the right features can not only recoup the cost it can help you sell your place much faster, advises Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research at the National Association of REALTORS. That means a quick transition into your dream home, but which amenities are in highest demand?

Hardwood flooring remains the biggest draw among buyers of all generations, according to a new realtor.com analysis of popular home features. Listings with hardwood floors have appreciated 14.8 percent since 2015, the analysis shows. The first thing buyers look at are the floors … and when they take in beautiful hardwood, their eyes light up, says Zelda Sheldon, a sales associate with Village Real Estate Services in Nashville, Tenn.

Realtor.com looked at 40 of the most common home features and analyzed applicable listings to find which homes sold in the fewest number of days. For this study, researchers used days on market as an indication of demand for a home feature. The following were the top features uncovered in the survey:

  1. Smart-home features (smart thermostats, refrigerators, and locking systems)
  2. Finished basements
  3. Patios
  4. Walk-in closets
  5. Granite countertops
  6. Eat-in kitchens
  7. Hardwood floors
  8. Laundry rooms
  9. Open kitchens
  10. Front porches
  11. Dining rooms
  12. Energy Star appliances
  13. Two-car garages
  14. Fireplaces
  15. Security systems

Source: Righteous Renovations! These Home Features Are Proven to Pay Off, Realtor.com (Dec. 18, 2017)

 

More cities are requiring home energy scores to be shared with home buyers. This information allows consumers to learn how much energy a home will use, what that energy will cost them, and how efficient the home really is.

Portland, Ore., is the latest city to require a Home Energy Score for most home sales, joining other cities like Berkeley, Calif., and Austin, Texas. These scores, developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, are being included on more public listings across the country. They give sellers credit for investments in energy efficiency and allow buyers to get an idea of their potential energy bills and plan for future upgrades. Starting in 2018, listings for most single-family homes and townhomes in Portland will be required to disclose a Home Energy Score.

As the Home Energy Score becomes more common, Peter Kernan Home Energy Score adviser with Enhabit, a nonprofit focused on home efficiency offers these key facts to real estate professionals:

  • The score is based on the physical characteristics of a home, not the homeowner’s energy use. Also, by adjusting for climate and utilities, homes are compared only to other homes in the region.
  • The score ranks homes on a 1-10 scale, where 5 represents the average home and 10 represents the most energy-efficient homes.
  • The score attempts to takes the guesswork out of repairs that might make the home a more attractive listing, by recommending cost-effective ways to improve home performance for homes scoring 5 or less.
  • Offering this information may boost sales regardless of the actual score. A study by Earth Advantage found that when sellers listed their home energy costs, the listings sold for 3 to 5 percent more and spent 18 fewer days on the market than homes that did not offer this information, even if the disclosed costs were high.
  • A lower score doesn’t mean the home is poorly built many beautiful, well-constructed homes receive a 4 or less, Kernan says. The score is an indicator of opportunities for future owners to make improvements to reduce energy use. The home energy report includes a prioritized list of energy upgrade recommendations that offer the quickest return on investment.
  • Kernan also suggests encouraging clients to work with an authorized, licensed home energy assessor to ensure the assessment and score are calculated accurately.

Source: Enhabit

 

Cybersecurity risk will certainly grow in 2018, warns Christopher Skinner, CEO of technology security firm SpiderOak. We trust our devices and systems to drive our cars, deliver vital medical treatments, and protect our homes and supply chains, but these have never been more insecure, he says.

Here are some of the most pressing cybersecurity threats to businesses in the new year, according to SpiderOak:

Software updates: The new Trojan horse. How do you know the latest software update isn’t a virus? Criminals are using normal update processes to infect computers. This is the kind of breach that destroys trust between users and software providers, says Skinner.

Spies may be on your phone. Gaining access to your phone essentially puts its functionality in the hands of a remote user, who can geolocate you, take pictures of where you are, eavesdrop on your conversations, and gain access to personal information that can be used to intimidate you, says Skinner.

Criminals will wait to attack. One of the most frightening things about the breaches at Equifax, Target, and elsewhere is what we haven’t seen yet, warns Skinner. Once criminals have stolen the data they need, such as Social Security numbers, birth dates, and other personal details, and they may hold onto the data for years until people let their guard down. Your data can just be sitting out there on the dark web, waiting to be sold or used, well after you think you’re safe, Skinner says.

Passwords are failing. The most common password last year was 123456 that’s a problem, Skinner says. Human nature wants to simplify, so we use weak passwords and the same password for multiple sites.” He recommends using the “one-two punch” of authentication and encryption to secure data.

Compliance gets your security up-to-date some 10 years too late. The problem with regulations is that they address what’s gone before not thinking about what’s to come, says Skinner. Hackers are forward-thinking and creative, staying far ahead of current security protocols. … Checking the boxes on compliance doesn’t begin to secure systems and data the way they need to be.

Too many people have access. Imagine if a landlord gave a master key to all apartments to every single resident in the building that’s how most companies systems are structured, says Skinner. When one computer or set of credentials is breached, you have now opened the door to the whole system. In the vast majority of companies, employees have far too much access to information that they don’t even need. And given the interconnected systems companies have with their vendors, and then their vendors, they don’t even know how far out their connected system stretches. This opens companies up to so many risks that they don’t even know about.

Breach fatigue. Skinner worries the public is becoming desensitized to these security issues with every new hacking story. It’s easy for employees to get complacent, and the consequences of this can be extremely harmful to a business,” he says.  “CEOs and boards need to make sure that no corners are cut that can put the company at greater risk. Ultimately, cybersecurity is going to be only as strong as the top of the house makes it.

Source: SpiderOak

 

Nearly 24 percent of new single-family homes in 2016 included decks, according to a new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from the National Association of Home Builders. The percentage is up slightly from 23.3 percent in 2015.

New England and the East South Central region of the U.S. which includes Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Alabama are showing some of the biggest upticks in single-family homes with decks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the East South Central area is also seeing the most new homes featuring porches.

The average size of a deck on a new single-family home is about 230 square feet. The most common materials used for decks are treated wood and composite (a mixture of wood fibers and plastic), according to the 2017 Annual Builder Practices Survey, which is based on 2016 data. The Pacific region shows a higher preference for cedar and redwood than any other region.

While the number of new homes with a deck is rising, it’s still below historic norms. From 2005 to 2008, the share of new homes with decks was consistently above 25 percent, according to the NAHB. In 2009, the share of new homes with decks started to decline below 25 percent, a trend that continued until 2012, when the share gradually started to increase.

But it’s not just new homes where the popularity of this feature is evident. Many homeowners opt to add in a deck as a remodeling project later on. Twenty-five percent of NAHB remodelers reported that adding a deck to an existing home was a common project in 2016.

Source: Share of New Homes With Decks Edges Up, National Association of Home Builders Eye on Housing blog (Dec. 4, 2017)

 

Housing experts worry that millions of foreclosures will surface in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico after recent hurricanes forced owners from their homes. Though many lenders have extended grace periods for affected customers, consumer advocates fear that many will simply walk away from their mortgages.

I’m anticipating a wave of problems coming in February, Amir Befroui, a foreclosure specialist with Lone Star Legal Aid in Houston, told CNN Money. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. We’re in the calm before the storm.

About 4.8 million properties with a mortgage were in the paths of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. That represents $746 billion in unpaid principal balances, according to Black Knight, a financial data firm. The number of loans more than 30 days past due in September jumped 67 percent in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey and 48 percent in areas impacted by Hurricane Irma, according to Black Knight. The firm did not yet have numbers on Hurricane Maria.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac implemented a three-month suspension of foreclosure sales, late fees, and credit score reporting in hurricane-ravaged areas. The mortgage giants also allowed lenders to work out forbearance plans that could delay some homeowners from having to make a mortgage payment for up to a year. But historically, those measures have not been enough in the past to prevent foreclosures. When Hurricane Sandy struck New York and New Jersey in 2012, homeowners continued to struggle to pay their mortgages even after their forbearance period ended, according to a 2013 report by Legal Services NYC.

Mortgage servicers tend to not release insurance payments until homeowners have a contractor lined up to make repairs to their home. However, construction companies are facing months-long waiting lists, forcing homeowners to delay cleanup which could cause further damage.

Consumer advocacy groups last week issued a letter to Fannie, Freddie, and other mortgage-related agencies, requesting that homeowners affected by recent disasters, including the wildfires in California, be able to suspend their mortgage payments for up to two years. The advocacy group also urged servicers to give homeowners access to $10,000 of their insurance money so that they can fund their most pressing repairs immediately.

In response, the Federal Housing Finance Administration, which oversees Fannie and Freddie, said it would allow affected homeowners to extend their loan terms. The FHFA also said it would issue guidance for servicers to release more insurance money up front.

Some groups fear even those policy changes will not be enough because private investors and banks own about 40 percent of the affected mortgages; Puerto Rico has an even higher percentage. Banco Popular, one of the largest banks in Puerto Rico, is offering only a three-month forbearance. There needs to be a moratorium, and then they need to set up special courts to hear these properties, says Nate Hendricks, an attorney in Florida who started the Puerto Rico Legal Project to defend homeowners facing foreclosure. There’s going to be a slew of foreclosures.

Source: Hurricanes Could Bring Another Disaster: Foreclosures, CNN Money (Nov. 10, 2017)