sunAugust 2016 — Zero-energy houses are a new type of green home built to return zero-dollar energy bills. The houses are becoming universally viable, due to advancements in energy-efficient technology and the declining cost of construction.

Owners of zero-energy homes pay nothing for energy consumption (other than a monthly grid fee), and cut their carbon footprint to near-zero. The typical zero-energy house is made of thick exterior walls, and is outfitted with an efficient HVAC system and solar panels. The home is connected to the grid, so that excess energy generated by the home throughout the day can be distributed back into the grid and power the home at night.

According to the Net-Zero Energy Coalition (NZEC), over 6,000 houses in the U.S. and Canada are “zero-energy ready”—able to self-supply at least 90 percent of their annual energy demand. Just 9 percent of the houses in the NZEC inventory are “zero-energy,” or able to supply 100 percent of their annual energy demand. “Net producers,” which are homes that supply 110 percent or more of their annual energy demand, comprise only 4 percent of the houses in the NZEC inventory.

peopleAugust 2016 — What makes a homeowner happy? A safe community? A short commute? What about walkability?

The answer is all of the above, according to’s recently released Homeowner Happiness Index, an industry indicator ranking the happiest cities in the nation.

“A homeowner’s quality of life is more likely to be dependent on their community and access to important attractions and services than it is on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in their home,” said Dr. Karen Ruskin, HomeAdvisor’s happiness expert, in a statement.

Square footage is indeed less of a factor in determining a homeowner’s happiness, the Index shows. Natural light, on the other hand, is an important consideration—naturally-lit homes tend to appear more spacious.

gatedJuly 2016 — Homes in gated communities command significantly higher prices – almost $30,000 on average – but these neighborhoods’ additional amenities can also reduce sale prices because they bring maintenance costs that outweigh the benefits of the amenities, according to recent research published by the American Real Estate Society (ARES).

“This study provides clear evidence that homes in gated communities sell at a premium relative to comparable homes in non-gated communities,” said ARES Publication Director Ken Johnson, Ph.D., real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business and co-developer of the Beracha, Hardin and Johnson Buy vs. Rent Index.

Johnson refers to a study published by ARES in the Journal of Real Estate Research, conducted by professor Evgeny L. Radetskiy, Ph.D., of La Salle University and professors Ronald W. Spahr, Ph.D., and Mark A. Sunderman, Ph.D., of the University of Memphis.

big houseJuly 2016 — The latest national index produced by Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University faculty indicates the United States housing market as a whole is moving deeper into buy territory suggesting that, on average, residential housing markets around the country are sound.

Based on numbers from the end of the first quarter, the latest Beracha, Hardin & Johnson (BH&J) Buy vs. Rent Index comes on the heels of the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which found home prices nationally climbed 5.4 percent since March 2015.

“This appears to be driven by a steady but strengthening job market, rising rents relative to rising ownership costs and recent slower growth in traditional financial portfolios consisting of stocks and bonds,” said Ken Johnson, Ph.D., a real estate economist who is one of the index’s authors and an associate dean of graduate programs and professor in FAU’s College of Business.

uscapitolbuildingJuly 2016 — Take action now to urge your Senators to co-sponsor S. 3083, the “Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act,” a companion bill to H.R. 3700. The act makes needed reforms to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) condominium loan program by removing burdensome FHA condo approval processes and restrictions on the number of condos available to homebuyers. The House of Representatives passed HR 3700 unanimously with a bipartisan vote of 427-0 and now we need the Senate to act!


July 2016 — Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index™ (HPSI) increased 1.6 points to 85.3 in May, reaching a new all-time survey high and rebounding from an 18-month low in March. Three of the six HPSI components increased in May, led by a 7 percentage point increase on net in the share of consumers reporting that their income was significantly higher than it was 12 months ago. In addition, the net share of consumers who expect that home prices will go up over the next 12 months rose 5 percentage points, followed by a 3 percentage point increase in the net share of consumers who expect mortgage interest rates to go down over the next 12 months. Changes in the HPSI Good Time to Buy, Good Time to Sell, and job security components were minimal in May.

fhaJune 2016 — While the Federal Housing Administration’s overhaul of its Single-Family Housing Policy Handbook last year offered loan originators more clarity on lending policies and loan underwriting standards, some changes made to the property valuation policies are causing confusion and delays, according to speakers at a real property valuation forum at the 2016 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.

All properties bought or refinanced with an FHA loan have to be appraised by a HUD-approved home appraiser. When purchasing a property with a conventional loan product, the appraiser focuses on determining the market value of the home; however, with an FHA-insured loan, the appraiser not only determines market value but also inspects the home to ensure it meets certain minimum property standards. Requiring appraisers to take on home inspection-type duties to ensure standards are met appears to blur the line between appraisals and home inspections and has raised questions among consumers, agents and appraisers.

Warning iconJune 2016 — Consumers and Realtors® beware — there’s a new hacking/phishing scam that’s hitting the real estate market, according to information issued recently by the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Realtors®.

This isn’t your average run-of-the-mill email scam. This is a sophisticated scheme where hackers break into the email accounts of brokers, agents, attorneys, and title companies to gain information about their clients, including contact information and closing dates. Once obtained, they pose as the professional and send emails to the unsuspecting homebuyer. They’ll tell the client that the payment method has changed last-minute and to wire the transaction’s money, where it promptly disappears into the criminal’s hands.

SmartphoneMessageJune 2016 — "Realtor Party Mobile Alerts" is one of the best ways for Realtors to stay informed via text message when a Call For Action is launced.

By signing up for mobile alerts, NAR will send you short text messages when they need you to take action on important real estate issues.

Help yourself, your colleagues, your business and your industry by signing up today!

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Help consumers easily find you -- a trusted source in real estate -- with a .REALTOR web address. Exclusively available to members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and the Canadian Real Estate Association, stay top-of-mind with prospects and clients by reminding them who you are and what you do! In a complicated online world, it doesn't get any easier than this.

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big houseJune 2016 — The Spring 2016 homebuying season marks the sixth year into the housing recovery. With steadily rising property values and homeowners' equity, the housing market continues to regain its footing while mortgage delinquency and home foreclosures are falling to all-time lows since the 2007 housing downturn.

Early estimate shows the average home price in April reached $231,000, up 7.4 percent from the same period a year ago. At the current pace of the recovery, this spring and summer will soon mark the first time that home prices will rise above the 2006-2007 peak levels.

However, the rate of price appreciation has notably tapered off from its double-digit days of 2012 and 2013. After dropping to its lows at the end of 2014, the year-over-year growth has since held up at an arguably more sustainable rate of 5 to 6 percent.