smallhouseMay 2017 — The homeownership rate clung to 63.6 percent in the first quarter of 2017, virtually unchanged from 63.7 percent the quarter prior and 63.5 percent the year prior, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's recent Quarterly Housing Vacancies and Homeownership report. Will it ever budge?

The answer, potentially, lies in a different statistic. An analysis of the Census report by Trulia determined that owner households formed at double the rate of renter households in the first quarter—a clue that points to the possibility of a kickstart this year.

"Strong renter formation is one of the reasons why the homeownership rate has continued to drop since the onset of the housing crisis, so any sign this trend is reversing is something to take note of," wrote Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Trulia.

UpApril 2017 — Home prices are on a hot streak, reaching a 31-month high in January in the recently released S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices.

Prices fired up 5.9 percent year-over-year in the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, an increase from 5.7 percent the month prior. The Index's 10-City Composite rose 5.1 percent, while its 20-City Composite rose 5.7 percent. The 10-City Composite eked out a 0.3 percent increase month-over-month; the 20-City Composite, 0.2 percent month-over-month.

The trend could be disrupted if the Federal Reserve decides to raise the key interest rate three or four more times this year, which would result in a significant impact to mortgage rates, says S&P Dow Jones Indices Chairman and Managing Director David M. Blitzer. The Fed raised the rate in December 2015, December 2016, and, most recently, in March.

gifts presentApril 2017 — So your friend, coworker or daughter just purchased their first home and you want to honor the occasion with a housewarming gift—but the options seem limited. If you don't want to be that person who gives yet another blender or bottle of wine, you should give them something a bit more original and, preferably, a lot more functional.

Smart home gadgets fit the bill perfectly. The 12 home automation products below are organized into four demographics, but most of these gifts would surely delight any new homeowner.

The Working Professional or Parent

Belkin WeMo Switch Smart Plug
You won't spend a lot of money on the Belkin WeMo Switch Smart Plug, but it will deliver a powerful punch. When homeowners plug it into an outlet and connect a coffee pot or other appliance, they can turn the appliance on or off from anywhere at any time. They can also connect the lights to the plug to easily set schedules and synchronizations.

marketingiconApril 2017 — Every industry has increased their mobile efforts, with 71 percent of marketers declaring mobile marketing to be essential to their business. Real estate companies can make great use of mobile marketing to bring in new leads and to maintain customer loyalty.

Tools such as text messaging, mobile apps, social media, video, and online reviews are all accessed on buyers' mobile phones and can be used for real estate marketing strategies. Here's how to optimize your mobile presence:

Mobile Apps
Businesses that have mobile apps praise them for the level of customer engagement they provide. Customers who download a business' app tend to be more loyal to that business. They also spend more time on apps than they do on webpages—18 times more time.

For real estate customers, browsing through an app is easier than clicking through several different webpages. They can message, make appointments and get information all in one spot. Some great perks you can provide your clients on your app would be a collection of all the necessary documents they'll need to complete the purchase of their home and the ability to sign documents electronically through the app. Throw in a mortgage calculator and you're golden.

environmental engineerMarch 2017 — There are several factors that weigh on home value, including condition, location, and—in areas where they are most pronounced—environmental hazards such as poor air quality.

According to the ATTOM Data Solutions recent Environmental Hazards Housing Risk Index, 17.3 million single-family homes and condominiums have a high risk of an environmental hazard, with Denver, Colo., San Bernardino, Calif., and Curtis Bay, Md., facing the highest risk. Environmental hazards include brownfields, or property contaminated (or potentially contaminated) by a hazardous substance, polluters, poor air quality and superfunds.

"Home values are higher and long-term home price appreciation is stronger in zip codes without a high risk for any of the four environmental hazards analyzed," says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions. "Corresponding to that is a higher share of homes still seriously underwater in the zip codes with a high risk of at least one environmental hazard, indicating those areas have not regained as much of the home value lost during the downturn.

facebookMarch 2017 — The real estate industry has been relatively slow to embrace technology, and a few years ago, agents could more easily get away without a strong social media presence. Social media is no longer optional for real estate professionals.

Consumers expect any and all the businesses they work with to engage on social media. The Pew Research Center estimates 72 percent of all online U.S. adults visit Facebook at least once a month. Millennials, who are the most active Facebook users, also happen to be the largest group of homebuyers. The good news is that social media marketing isn't rocket science. Here are five easy steps any professional, even those who don't consider themselves tech-savvy, can take to ramp up their social media game.

WaveFebruary 2017 — The New Jersey Realtors® Governmental Research Foundation recently released a report showing the impact of the National Flood Insurance Program on the state. While focused on New Jersey, the findings are applicable nationwide. The study, broken into two reports, Examining Flood Map Changes in New Jersey and Understanding the National Flood Insurance Program in New Jersey, was prepared for NJ Realtors® by Resources for the Future.

“With the National Flood Insurance Program expiring at the end of 2017, examining the program’s impacts on states and residents is extremely crucial for legislators to have at their disposal for careful consideration during renewal talks,” said Jarrod C. Grasso, CEO of NJ Realtors®. “It is critical for the NFIP to remain in place as both an affordable and sustainable insurance source for millions of Americans.”

The study provides an in-depth examination of the National Flood Insurance Program, and the impact of rate changes based on Flood Insurance Rate Map updates. Additionally, it examines the future flood risk conditions in communities around the state.

hourglassFebruary 2017 — If you're like many real estate agents, you struggle with feeling truly productive. After all, you're busy each day, working non-stop to serve your clients. When you go home for the day, are you nagged by the tasks on your to-do list that you didn't get around to doing? As a real estate professional, there's no shortage of fires that demand your attention each day. Unfortunately, it's these little things that take our focus away from the activities that drive our business. Here are a few tips to help you boost your productivity and reach your goals in 2017.

percentageFebruary 2017 — First-time homebuyers are shying away from their plans to purchase this spring, according to a recently released report by®, due to the surge in mortgage rates in the last two months of 2016. Though rates have deflated since the end of the year, they remain hovering above 4 percent—high enough to scare off first-timers this spring, now down to 44 percent from 55 percent in October.

"The rise in rates is associated with an anticipation of stronger economic and wage growth, both of which favor buyers," says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for "At the same time, higher rates make qualifying for a mortgage and finding affordable inventory more challenging. The decline in the share of first-time buyers since October suggests that the move-up in rates is discouraging new homebuyers already."

First-time homebuyers affording a 20 percent down payment on a median-priced home at the current average 30-year rate would be responsible for an additional $720 in interest each year, according to's report.

peopleJanuary 2017 — There's no stopping it: the population is aging. In less than 20 years, in fact, one in three households will be headed by someone aged 65 or older, according to a recent report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies—a finding that emphasizes the already-dire need for accessible, affordable housing.

Even more stirring, according to the report, Projections and Implications for Housing a Growing Population: Older Adults 2015-2035: though the 65-and-older population will expand from 48 million to 79 million by 2035, with 50 million acting as heads of households, just 3.5 percent of existing houses feature supportive amenities such as widened entrances and pathways. Moreover, much of the 65-and-older population will have the means to finance an aging-in-place lifestyle, aggravating demand.

Addressing the incoming—and overwhelming—call for outfitted housing is essential, says Chris Herbert, managing director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.

controller smartJanuary 2017 — Novel, not novelty. Comfort and safety are the primary reasons more homeowners are adopting smart home technology, according to a recent study by Scripps Networks Interactive in conjunction with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). "Keeping up" with the latest technology, the study shows, is less of a factor, with three-quarters of those surveyed saying they implement smart home technology "to keep their family safe and comfortable." Energy-efficiency, as well, is another motivator, with the intention to boost resale value and reduce energy costs.

Millennials are the most likely to adopt smart home technology, according to the study, "to make their home convenient for daily tasks;" those in Generation X, conversely, prefer smart home technology as a means "to make their home a healthy environment." Baby boomers, in addition, favor smart home technology "to add value to their home." Eighty-five percent of millennials are likely to add smart home technology to their home, compared to 73 percent of those in Generation X and 67 percent of baby boomers.