Survey: Renters Rely Heavily on Web Reviews of Landlords

Consumers largely depend on online reviews and ratings websites when deciding where to rent a property, according to the 2019 Renter Insight & Digital Engagement survey, based on a survey of more than 1,000 adults who are searching for a rental.

“It is imperative that U.S. property owners and managers carefully monitor and evaluate their online reputation if they wish to remain competitive in today’s dense real estate market,” says Aaron Clifford, senior vice president of marketing at Binary Fountain, an online reputation management platform, that commissioned the study.

Sixty-four percent of renters said they used online reviews to search for a rental property at the beginning of their search, the study found. Most read between one and 10 reviews before making a decision on a rental property. Further, 85% of respondents said they looked at online ratings and reviews even after a friend or family member recommended a property.

Source: Binary Fountain and “More Renters Going Online to Rate Their Landlord,” Real Estate Weekly (June 28, 2019)

Rates Stay Near 3-Year Lows

“The recent stabilization mortgage rates reflects modestly improving U.S. economic data and a more accommodative tone from the Federal Reserve to respond to the rising downside economic risk from trade tensions and soft global economic data. On the housing front, the latest weekly purchase applicationdata suggests home buyer demand continues to rise, which is consistent with the slowly improving real estate data from the last two months,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending July 11:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.75%, with an average 0.5 point, unchanged from last week. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.53%.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.22%, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.18% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.02%.
Source: Freddie Mac

How Burglars Often Enter a Home

Cove, a home security firm, surveyed nearly 1,000 people who have experienced a break-in at least once to learn more about how burglars entered the home and what they wished they had done in hindsight to better protect their property.

Home invasions aren’t always random. Studies show that many break-ins are committed by a person who lives within two miles.

A broken window tended to be the most common point of entry for a burglar. The following chart breaks down how burglars most often gained access to a home.

“Research conducted with convicted home invaders shows burglars typically avoid breaking into homes they consider more complicated,” researchers note. “While an active alarm system is likely to deter a break-in, so are big dogs that might be considered aggressive or likely to defend the home.”

Interesting graphs at source: “Break-In Hindsight,” Covesmart.com (July 2019)

Interest Rates ‘Lowest Since 2016’

For the seventh time in the last nine weeks, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped, reaching the lowest average since November 2016, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey.

“Through late June, home purchase applications improved by five percentage points compared to the previous month. In the near term, we expect the housing market to continue to improve from both a sales and price perspective says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending June 27:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.73%, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.84% average. Last year at this time, it’s rates averaged 4.55%
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.16%, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.25% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.04%.
Source: Freddie Mac

Gov. Probe Into Creating More ‘Affordable Housing’

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to ease or, in some cases, eliminate rules that have been blamed for blocking greater construction of affordable housing. Home building is near its lowest level in 60 years, contributing to a nationwide housing shortage that has pushed home prices up and hurting affordability.

Trump announced that a newly created initiative called the White House Council on Eliminating Barriers to Affordable Housing Development will use federal programs to find ways to encourage local governments to allow for more building. The council, which will be chaired by Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, will also conduct a study to quantify the effect of regulations on the housing market and economy.

Source: “Trump Administration to Take on Local Housing Barriers,” The Wall Street Journal (June 25, 2019) [Log-in required.]

New-Home Sales Plunge

While housing affordability has been getting a hand from lower mortgage rates, it didn’t lift new-home sales last month.

Sales of newly built single-family homes under performed in what is traditionally the busiest time of year in the housing sector. New-home sales dropped 7.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 626,000 units in May, the U.S. Commerce Department reported Tuesday. The number represents signed contracts, not closings.

Overall, the “May numbers are a big surprising given lower mortgage interest rates and solid builder confidence data,” says Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist. “Based on these conditions, we expect June new home sales figures will show a rebound.”

Supreme Court Rules Landowner Can Sue Over Government Access

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Friday that property owners can challenge government access to their land, which some view as a major victory for property rights.

The court’s ruling stemmed from a case involving a Pennsylvania woman, Rose Mary Knick, whose land the town of Scott Township used in 2013 to access an old burial ground. Knick didn’t grant the town permission to come on her property, and she sought damages in court for what she viewed as an invasion of her privacy. Local rules, however, require property owners to allow access to private cemeteries discovered on their land.

Supreme Court justices ruled, in a 5-4 opinion, that the woman can now seek compensation in federal court. “A property owner has a claim for a violation of the Takings Clause as soon as government takes his property for public use without paying for it,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the ruling. “The property owner may sue the government at that time in federal court.”

Rates Hover Near 2-Year Lows

Lower mortgage rates are proving to be a boon for home shoppers.

“While the continued drop in mortgage rates has paused, home buyer demand has not,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “This is evident in increased purchase activity and loan amounts, indicating that home buyers still have the willingness and capacity to purchase homes. Today’s low rates, strong job market, solid wage growth, and consumer confidence are typically important drivers of home sales.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending June 20:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.84%, with an average 0.5 point, up from last week’s 3.82% average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.57%.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.25%, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 3.26% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.04%.
Source: Freddie Mac

Flood Insurance Extension

The Financial Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a five-year extension to the National Flood Insurance Program, the nation’s largest flood insurer. The bill also includes a mandate to improve the country’s flood maps.

Federal law requires the purchase of flood insurance for a federally backed mortgage in special flood hazard areas designated by FEMA. Private flood insurance is also available in many high-risk areas, but the NFIP may be the only option for some.

The bill will now go before the full House for approval. The Senate must be then approve it to bring it to President Donald Trump.

‘New Frontier’ for ‘Healthy’ Homes

Indoor air quality is one of the top five environmental risks to public health, researchers say. After all, most people spend 90% of their time indoors, whether in homes, office buildings, or other structures. Ventilation is the “new frontier for making houses healthy,” Carl Seville of SK Collaborative, a green building consulting and certification firm, told Forbes.com in a recent article.

There’s reason for the added attention. Recent studies have shown indoor air is polluted with lead, dust mites, radon, pests, carbon monoxide, pet dander, mold, and secondhand smoke, according to the National Environmental Education Foundation. Ventilation in the form of bathroom fans and kitchen range hoods can help remove some of the bad air from homes. Older homes, however, may be prone to leaks of these pollutants.

Source: “Why You Should Take Home Ventilation Seriously,” Forbes.com (May 28, 2019)