chart up blogMay 2016 — In March, U.S. home sellers sold their properties for an average of $30,500 more than their purchase price, a 17 percent average gain—the highest average price gain for home sellers in any month since December 2007 at the onset of the Great Recession.

These data are from RealtyTrac®'s March and Q1 2016 U.S. Home Sales report, based on publicly recorded sales deeds collected and licensed by RealtyTrac in more than 900 counties nationwide accounting for more than 80 percent of the U.S. population.

Among 125 metropolitan statistical areas with at least 300 sales in March, home sellers realized the biggest average gains compared to purchase price in San Francisco (72 percent average gain); San Jose, Calif. (60 percent); Boulder, Colo. (53 percent); Prescott, Ariz. (51 percent); and Los Angeles (48 percent).

storm blogMay 2016 — In March, the SBA approved long-term, low-interest disaster loans for Super Storm Sandy relief. These loans are available to homeowners, renters, and businesses that are still struggling, either economically or with repairs, to complete their recovery. In addition, these loans can be used those people in your community that own rental properties along the shore that may still need assistance for the repair or possible elevation costs.

Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000 for the repair or replacement of disaster damaged or destroyed real estate which may include elevation costs. Homeowners and renters are also eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed personal property.

The filing deadline is Dec. 1, 2016.

MoneyMay 2016 — All-cash buyers of single family homes and condos nationwide paid 23 percent less per square foot than all homebuyers, but that cash buyers in 9 percent of local housing markets paid a premium price per square foot. These data come from the recently released RealtyTrac® Q1 2016 U.S. Cash & Institutional Investor Housing Market Report.

Nationwide all-cash buyers purchased single family homes and condos for a median $91 a square foot in the first quarter of 2016, a discount of 23 percent below the median $118 per square foot for all home purchases.

“While large institutional investors and other cash buyers continue to shrink as a share of U.S. home sales, these buyers still typically beat out traditional buyers using financing — in some cases even when they submit a lower offer for a home,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac. “Additionally cash buyers are often willing to take on properties in poor condition that may not readily qualify for standard financing, another reason why cash purchases normally sell at a lower price per square foot.

WaveMay 2016 — On April 1, the National Flood Insurance Program began implementing additional flood insurance program changes resulting from reform legislation. These changes may significantly affect what homeowners pay for their flood insurance. While some property owners may see minimal policy cost increases, others will experience larger premium increases. Overall, average premiums will increase by 9 percent and buildings newly mapped into a high-risk Special Flood Hazard Area will receive premium rate increases using a FEMA multiplier that will change every January 1.

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train blogMay 2016 — While recent data darkened the growth outlook for the first quarter, April data has experts predicting housing will maintain its momentum in 2016 and be an economic engine of growth. This insight comes from data recently released by Freddie Mac. The report shows that recent declines in mortgage rates have also boosted refinance potential.

"We've revised down our forecast for economic growth to reflect the recent data for the first quarter, but our outlook for the balance of the year remains modestly optimistic for the economy,” says Sean Becketti, Chief Economist, Freddie Mac. “However, we maintain our positive view on housing. In fact, the declines in long-term interest rates that accompanied much of the recent news should increase mortgage market activity, particularly refinance."

Based on new data, first quarter 2016 real GDP growth has been revised down from 1.8 to 1.1 percent.

paintbrush1April 2016 — There’s no season like springtime to refresh, renew (and redo!) a home — and one of the simplest ways to breathe new life into it is with a fresh color palette.

“Spring embodies the saying ‘Out with the old, in with the new,’ and provides the opportunity for consumers to apply this mantra in a favorite room in their home,” says Katie Reynolds, an Atlanta-based design expert for Ace Hardware. “This is the perfect time of year to use unexpected pops of color and experiment with fresh, new design ideas."

Reynolds, along with fellow Ace design experts Nathan Fischer and Julia Richard, list these spring shades to try:

• Pink is having a moment! Pair blush tones with crisp whites—the combination will make a big impact in any room. Mix in as an accent by painting a dresser or chest in a soft pink shade.

• Turquoise never seems to go out of style. Use it sparingly to highlight other subtler colors in any room.

• Bright shades of coral will bring your home to life. Paint coral on an eye-catching accent wall or introduce it through tabletop accessories. Pair with neutral clay-brown tones to even out its intensity.

hipsterbeardApril 2016 — While the definition of hipster continues to evolve—with hipsters always one step ahead of those who try to define them—there remains at least one incontrovertible truth as it relates to the real estate needs of this particular tribe: they need a place to live.

RealtyTrac identified the top 30 hipster zip codes nationwide for profitable home flipping based on average flipping returns along with demographic data from the U.S. Census. All 30 of these zip codes met five criteria that brand them not only as hipster hot spots but also as highly profitable for home flipping. RealtyTrac ranked the zip codes based on the share of the population aged 20 to 34 in 2014.

“Hipsters typically aren’t looking for just any place to live; they are looking for a place that matches their particular vision of what a city, a neighborhood and a home should look, sound, feel, smell and taste like,” says Daren Blomquist, SVP at RealtyTrac. “When they find that vision, they are willing to pay a premium to experience it, which represents a boon for home flippers operating in those areas appealing to the hipster aesthetic — especially given that many of the hipster hot spots are urban core neighborhoods with plenty of older homes in need of major renovation.”

Five Criteria for a Hipster Home Flipping Hot Spot:

hourglassApril 2016 — Time to close all loans decreased to 46 days, the shortest time to close since May 2015, according to the latest Origination Insight Report released by Ellie Mae®. The average time to close a purchase decreased from 51 days in January to 48 days in February, while time to close a refinance also decreased from 48 days in January to 44 days in February. Similarly, the average time to close FHA loans decreased from 51 days in January to 47 days in February. Time to close VA loans decreased from 53 days to 50 days.

Conventional purchase closing rates continued to climb, reaching 74.5 percent in February, up from 73.8 percent in January. Average closing rates for all loans are the highest since Ellie Mae began tracking data in August 2011. Closing rates for all loans increased 1.5 percentage points to 69.9 percent. Refinance closing rates increased to nearly 66 percent, while purchase closing rates increased to just over 74 percent.

In terms of loan purpose, purchases represented 52 percent of all closed loans while refinances as a percentage of lenders’ overall loan volume fell one percentage point to 46 percent.

MoneyApril 2016 — U.S. Representatives Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) have introduced a measure that would allow homeowners in community associations who earn $115,000 or less in annual income to deduct up to $5,000 of their community association fees and assessments from their federal tax liability.

Expressing support for the bill, Community Associations Institute (CAI) says the legislation will benefit many of the more than 66 million Americans who live in homeowners associations, condominium communities, cooperatives and other planned communities.

The bill — Helping our Middle-Income Earners (HOME) Act — "recognizes that millions of middle class homeowners are struggling to keep up with rising household expenses like child care, college tuition, health care, mortgage and community assessments," Eshoo says. "The Home Act can go a long way by providing relief from this tax burden on millions of middle class families."

sunApril 2016 — Though Frank Lloyd Wright popularized the aesthetic relatively recently, natural light in the home has been coveted for centuries. Lighting design today combines both natural and artificial sources to mimic the appearance of ample natural light.

To achieve the look, adequate lighting is key. Most homes will require a mix of natural lighting with accent lighting, which shines light on architectural or decorative elements; ambient lighting, which provides overall lighting; and task lighting, which focuses light into specific areas.

With the variety of lighting products available on the market, the latter three can be adapted with ease to suit your home’s needs. The level of natural lighting, however, very much depends on your home’s location—a factor that can be limiting.

smallhouseApril 2016 — Data on investment homes and owner-occupied homes was recently released by online real estate investment management firm HomeUnion. According to the research, year-over-year median investment home prices increased at a greater rate – 5.1 percent – than owner-occupied home prices, which rose only 1.1 percent. However, prices for investment homes were $185,500, compared to $236,900 for owner-occupied properties.

"Traditional home prices have peaked in light of stagnant wage growth and a lack of lower-priced properties available on the market. Nearly all of the increase in investment home prices was in the cash sector, where there's still significant demand," explains Steve Hovland, manager, research services at HomeUnion. "February's home price figures highlight the attractiveness of single-family rentals (SFRs) in an uncertain environment. Since last August, when weakness in the global stock markets began to erase equity, investors have been repositioning their portfolios to hedge against uncertainty. We're seeing the results in higher investment home prices, particularly in the all-cash segment."