Fannie Mae Fair Housing Lawsuit Reaches Settlement

Fannie Mae was sued back in 2016 under allegations of fair housing violations, and the organization decided to settle in February of this year. The settlement amount was $53 million. Fannie Mae had acquired a large number of properties in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis, and thus became responsible for their maintenance until they were sold. But fair housing organizations started to notice a trend: only the ones in predominantly white neighborhoods were being adequately maintained.

The settlement agreement was the first to determine that foreclosed properties, like the ones Fannie Mae holds, are also subject to fair housing laws. This was not officially determined prior. Also, it’s possible that they were in worse conditions to begin with, but that doesn’t absolve Fannie Mae of their responsibilities. Their argument was that their intentions were not discriminatory. Perhaps they simply were not able to maintain the homes as well since they were in worse shape. But they were unable to reject the claim that regardless of their intentions, the impact was obvious. This is what led to Fannie Mae needing to settle.

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More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/fannie-mae-settles-fair-housing-lawsuit-for-50-million/83351/

Seller Financing Makes a Return

With mortgage rates on the rise, more and more buyers are struggling to obtain loans. Given this, an infrequently-used financing option is starting to make a comeback. Seller financing is an process in which the seller of a property offers to carry the mortgage, and the buyer will then owe the seller rather than a lender. This doesn’t have the same stringent requirements that mortgage loan approval has, so it’s much more accessible to buyers.

Seller financing tends to be attractive to buyers. Not only is it more accessible, but the interest rate is usually lower. It also doesn’t incur any fees such as loan origination fees. But why would a seller want to do this? Well, there are a couple reasons. Firstly, because seller financing is so attractive to buyers, it can improve the property’s marketability. There’s an additional benefit, though. It allows the seller to defer part of the taxes on sale profits. The seller only pays taxes on the principal as it is received. At the time of sale, they pay taxes on only the amount the buyer paid. This can include the down payment and any partial loans the buyer received.

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More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/rising-rates-bring-back-seller-financing/83362/

New Loan Program Aimed At Helping First-Time Homebuyers

The California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) has introduced a new loan program called the Forgivable Equity Builder Loan. It comes with some heavy restrictions — only first-time homebuyers are eligible, and it only covers up to 10% of the purchase price. This is because it’s a supplementary loan that can only be taken out in combination with a CalFHA first mortgage. The good news is that this loan has an interest rate of zero percent, and is also forgivable if you occupy the residence continually for five years. However, standard interest rates apply to the CalFHA first mortgage.

The program also requires borrowers to complete a course on homebuyer education and obtain a certificate of completion. This course does require a one-time fee of $99 if taken online, or a variable-rate fee if taken in person. You must also occupy the new home as your primary residence, as well as meet income requirements. The property must be a single-family residence or manufactured home. This can include condominiums if they meet the requirements for the CalFHA first mortgage, or ADUs in some cases.

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More: https://www.calhfa.ca.gov/homebuyer/programs/forgivable.htm

The Hardest Part of Buying a Home, According to Buyers

You can find advice for prospective home buyers all over the internet — including, of course, in our articles. But who knows better than the buyers themselves what they’re having trouble with? For over half of survey respondents, 56% to be exact, the biggest problem is finding the right property. This is probably partially the current market, with very low inventory, and partially buyers not knowing what or where they can afford to buy.

This isn’t one of the categories buyers mention, though. For nearly a third of respondents, the most difficult part is understanding the process and paperwork involved. 20% cite primarily monetary issues, either with saving for a down payment or getting a loan. Comparatively few, only 7%, believe that COVID-19 was a significant complication. Meanwhile, 18% of respondents don’t think the process of buying a home is difficult at all.

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More: https://www.marketwatch.com/picks/more-than-half-of-homebuyers-find-this-to-be-the-no-1-most-difficult-aspect-of-buying-a-home-01651507815

How Does a Pending Sale Fall Through?

Many homebuyers aren’t sure what to do when a home they want to make an offer on is in pending status. If you really want the home, the best thing to do is to make a backup offer. If you submit an offer normally, the seller is still contractually obligated to honor the original offer if it doesn’t fall through, even if your offer is better. But don’t get your hopes up — most pending sales carry through to completion, since it merely means that the seller has accepted an offer.

What does it mean if the sale does fall through, though? In certain situations, this could be a red flag, but in others, the problem lies elsewhere. Sometimes the home inspection reveals issues that the buyer (and possibly the seller) wasn’t aware of, which could change your mind as well. The bank could decide to cancel an unapproved short sale, which could entail more legal complications than you want to deal with. Other times, the problem was with the buyer, perhaps not being able to acquire a loan. If the issue is with contingencies that have yet to be met, the home may be listed as contingent rather than pending.

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Home Improvements That Pay For Themselves

Home improvements have gotten more popular recently, as many people have switched to work-from-home and are spending more time there. Usually, these improvements are primarily made for the owner, rather than for a prospective buyer. These features would also be high in demand if you are planning to sell your home, but there are a few things that can actually increase the value of your home by much more than you spend.

You may be able to improve your energy efficiency by upgrading your windows, which is certainly value over time for a homeowner, but it’s also increased value for a home seller. Energy efficiency is a significant draw for buyers, and will improve the value by more than its cost, even if you aren’t reaping the rewards of it yourself. Kitchen remodels almost always pay for themselves. Homeowners spend a lot of time in their kitchen, and they want it to suit their needs. Figure out what people are looking for in a kitchen right now, and make it happen. A rather expensive upgrade is a stone veneer. You won’t recoup the entire cost if you sell immediately, but you’ll get back most of it. This is one that you’ll want to have accrue value over time.

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The Upfront Costs of Refinancing

The primary purpose of refinancing is in order to spend less money in the long term. It may seem like this is a good idea whenever rates drop even the slightest amount. However, it’s important to remember that you are technically originating a loan when you refinance, and doing so incurs the same fees. The upfront costs are what deter repeated refinancing.

Most of the fees are a few hundred dollars — unless otherwise specified, you can estimate they will be about that much. Since you are applying for a mortgage loan when you refinance, this requires both a mortgage application fee and a loan origination fee. The numbers vary, but typically, the the loan origination fee is 1% of the loan’s value. You will also need your home to be re-appraised, as lenders want to know the value of your home before approving a loan, which will require an appraisal fee. It’s also possible that your lender will require a title search, and you may need new title insurance, both of which incur fees. Title insurance, if required, could be $1000 or more.

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ARMs Gaining Popularity As Interest Rates Rise

The majority of homebuyers choose fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) over adjustable-rate-mortgages (ARMs) in order to not have to deal with the uncertainty of changing interest rates. However, there’s very little uncertainty right now — interest rates are going up. This does include both FRMs and ARMs, but ARMs tend to have lower starting rates — a 5-year ARM was at 4.28% in mid-April. Buyers are predicting that even with an adjustable rate, their rate is not likely to surpass the 30-year fixed rate of 5.37% as of the end of April.

ARMs aren’t exactly popular, though. Even with their share doubling in the past three months, that’s still only 9% of mortgages. About as large a share of potential buyers are instead choosing to simply wait for a better time, with mortgage applications dropping by 8% and refinance applications dropping by 9%. Refinance applications are also drastically lower than the same time last year, having dropped a whopping 71%. New mortgage applications also dropped since last year, by a much more modest but still significant 17%.

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More: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/27/adjustable-rate-mortgage-demand-doubles-as-interest-rates-hit-the-highest-since-2009.html

Bay Area Prices Remain High Despite Rising Interest Rates

The usual effect of rising interest rates is a decrease in demand, as buyers would rather wait to lock in a lower rate. Decreased demand should then translate to lower prices, since sellers want to encourage buyers. Not so in the San Francisco Bay Area right now. Prices are still going up, and demand didn’t really go down all that much.

The culprit? A couple of factors. Most significantly, inventory is extremely low in the Bay Area. Buyers are encouraged to take opportunities where they can, since they don’t come up often. That often means paying less-than-ideal prices. Secondly, the Bay Area is generally a high-income area and already has high prices. Even with rising prices, most people able to purchase there aren’t going to be suddenly priced out. Those looking for a median-income or lower household aren’t looking in that area to begin with.

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More: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/mortgage-rates-home-prices-17120800.php

For Those Unable to Buy, Renovation is the Next Best Thing

We know that the wildly high post-lockdown demand was in large part driven by fear of missing out, or FOMO. People definitely took notice of the low interest rates and decided to take advantage of them. Interest rates are no longer low, and home purchasing demand has slowed. However, home renovations are still in high demand for just a bit longer. Renovating is not as expensive as buying, so homeowners with FOMO who could not afford to buy instead sought to remodel their current homes to better suit their needs.

In turn, though, home renovation costs have also increased rapidly in response to demand. By the last quarter of 2021, the year-over-year change in home remodeling costs had risen to 9.4%, about 2.5 times the expected 3.8% increase. Current projections have the Q3 2022 increase at an incredible 19.7%. But just like with rising home prices, increasing home remodeling costs will begin to price out even those affected by FOMO. Q3 is predicted to be the peak, with the prices starting to slow again by Q4 2022.

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More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/californias-home-remodeling-boom-set-to-peak-in-2022/83020/

Millennials May Be Looking to Upsize

The Millennials are currently the generation that makes up most first-time homebuyers, and they’ve certainly been looking for homes with home offices so they can work from home, or extra rooms for their young kids. But there are also many Millennials that already own a home, and they’re probably aiming for the same thing. They will also want to make sure the home has a layout suitable to their needs.

For those Millennials that aren’t first-time buyers, it’s likely they’ll want to upsize. Even though they’re likely rather cash-poor due to the economic circumstances both in their early adulthood and now, some of them may have good equity in their homes because home prices are so high right now. That could help them to purchase something larger by selling their current home.

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Six California Cities Fail to Meet RHNA Submission Requirements

Under California’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) laws, each local government is required to work with the state government to establish what is called a housing element. The housing element identifies sites that can be redeveloped to meet regional housing needs, within an eight year timeframe. If the city can’t find a usable site under their current zoning laws, the zoning laws need to be modified. In Southern California, the housing element deadline was October 15, 2021. The deadline for Northern California is later this year.

Five cities — Bradbury, La Habra Heights, Laguna Hills, South Pasadena, and Vernon — failed to submit a housing element altogether prior to the deadline, and a sixth, Manhattan Beach, submitted a plan that indicated a site that could not be redeveloped in a reasonable timeframe. The site indicated was the Manhattan Country Club, which was purchased in 2017 and the City of Manhattan Beach cannot guarantee its availability by 2029. Without the 149 units provided by this redevelopment, Manhattan Beach fails to meet its regional housing needs. In response, the nonprofit organization Californians for Homeownership has sued all six of these cities.

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More: https://www.car.org/aboutus/mediacenter/newsreleases/2022releases/ca4housingelements

Cities Attempting to Bypass Duplex Allowance with Local Ordinances

A California law allowing duplexes to be built on lots zoned for single-family residences, SB 9, passed in 2021. However, the law doesn’t have much in the way of enforcement. Cities are finding it relatively easy to avoid this with local ordinances that make it effectively impossible, since they can’t legally ban it. The same sort of thing happened with the struggles with building ADUs, which actually became legal nationwide in 1982, but weren’t feasible in most states prior to 2016.

One example is the town of Woodside claiming that the entire town is a mountain lion habitat, and is therefore excluded from the requirement because it’s a habitat for a protected species. Once this reached the news, Attorney General Rob Bonta got on their case and forced them to reverse the decision. All the AG’s office needs is proof that municipalities are attempting to skirt the requirement, and then they can take action. Without an enforcement agency, though, they’re reliant on the spread of information through media, including social media.

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More: https://calmatters.org/housing/2022/04/california-duplex-housing/

How Many Meals Should You Eat Per Day?

Conventional wisdom says you should eat three meals per day, one when you wake up, one at midday, and one in the evening. This convention, though, is actually rather new. And not at all backed by science — it’s based around standard work schedules more than anything. You eat before work, you have a meal during your lunch break, and you come home and eat with your family. However, your meal times should be limited to a smaller window.

Fasting is actually a very necessary process to help repair damage to the body. Of course, this can include the normal eight hours of sleep. But for a healthy body, eight hours should actually be the time that you’re eating, and you should fast the rest of the day, or at least twelve hours. It is possible to do this while still eating three meals, but the standard work schedule makes this difficult. You don’t need as much food as you’re probably eating, though, and you could even just eat one meal per day if you really wanted to. Breakfast in the morning used to be reserved for wealthy people who could afford to eat that often. Skipping breakfast and waiting until your lunch break to eat is actually not a bad idea, even if many people nowadays only do so because they lack the time. For a while, you’re going to be hungry in the mornings, but this is a psychological effect because your body is used to eating at that time, and is temporary. The same thing would happen if you shifted to a new work schedule and had different meal times. It doesn’t actually mean your body needs food.

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More: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20220412-should-we-be-eating-three-meals-a-day

Has Homeowner Tenure Reached Its Peak?

Over approximately the past decade, the average length of time homeowners have stayed in their home has steadily increased, from 10.1 years in 2012 to the peak of 13.5 years in 2020. Until last year. The figure actually dipped in 2021, decreasing to 13.2 years, even slightly below the 2019 average of 13.3 years.

Much of this can be attributed to the economic aftermath of the pandemic, as relocations increased dramatically in 2021 as a result of work-from-home opportunities and low mortgage rates. It’s unclear whether this is a temporary decline, or 2020 was the peak of homeowner tenure and it’s going to continue to decrease. Analyzing the reasons for the decrease and why it’s been increasing in the first place suggests it’s probably going to go back up. Work-from-home is still happening; however, mortgage rates are no longer low and are still going up. Meanwhile, the initial reasons for the increase over the past decade include increased propensity for aging in place and a desire to keep one’s property tax base low. Neither of these are changing much, even with the ability to transfer your property tax base in some cases.

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More: https://www.redfin.com/news/2021-homeowner-tenure/

How to Become a Property Manager

Property management is a practical field to enter if you are worried about economic stability. It’s incredibly recession proof, as housing is a necessity and therefore people will be renting properties regardless of the economic conditions. But you can’t just decide on a whim to be a property manager — it has legal requirements and best practices.

In the vast majority of cases, being a property manager requires a broker’s license. There are certain cases in which it doesn’t, but they would not apply for rental properties, which are the bulk of managed properties. If you don’t want to get a broker’s license, though, you can consider managing commercial properties, but there would still be many restrictions.

First Tuesday, a real estate journal, has assembled a Property Management 101 infographic, complete with links to articles and PDFs for additional explication. This contains more specific details about the legal requirements, other applicable laws, and market information. You can find the infographic here: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/property-management-101/82682/

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CA Bills Up For Vote This Week

Among the California State bills that the Assembly is voting on this week are four bills related to real estate. These are AB 2050, AB 2469, AB 2710, and AB 2053. Most of these bills are aimed at protecting tenant rights, while AB 2053 is designed to create revenue-neutral affordable housing. The voting will take place on April 19th and 20th.

AB 2050 modifies the Ellis Act, which allows landlords to evict tenants in order to stop renting the property altogether. AB 2050 would require a landlord to rent out their property for at least 5 years before invoking the Ellis Act. AB 2469 establishes a mandatory statewide rental registry, which prohibits landlords from raising rents or evicting tenants without submitting information to the registry each time the lease is initiated, altered, or terminated. AB 2710 establishes Right of First Offer legislation, requiring owners of currently tenant-occupied property to offer sale to certain qualified entities, including the tenants, before accepting an offer. The seller does not need to accept an offer from qualified entities, but must give them ten days to match any accepted offer. AB 2053 establishes the California Housing Authority, which is designed to build and acquire mixed-use affordable rental housing, which would be publicly owned.

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Younger Generations Look to Social Media to Find Agents

You’ve heard of first-time homebuyers. You don’t hear as much about first-time homesellers, even though of course they must exist. But now there’s reason for them to make the news. It turns out a significant number of homeowners in the younger generations — Gen Z and Millennials — are already looking to sell, despite also being the predominant first-time homebuyer generations. This includes 44% of Gen Z homeowners and 35% of Millennial homeowners.

With both first-time homebuyers and first-time homesellers being mainly between the ages of 18 and 41, agents really need to focus their marketing efforts if they want to do business with them. That requires knowing what people in this age category are looking at in terms of marketing. 59% of Gen Zers and 65% of Millennials consider social media marketing to be important for a real estate agent. Fortunately, this isn’t likely to ostracize other cohorts, since 58% of Gen Xers and 60% of Baby Boomers are in agreement. Agents that don’t have social media presence and are struggling to find deals may want to rethink their strategy.

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More: https://blog.coldwellbanker.com/genz-millennial-homebuyers/

Stagnant Wages Major Struggle for First-Time Homebuyers

Many older people think of Millennials as being young kids who have no life experience and no financial know-how. The reality is Millennials are in the normal age range for first-time homebuyers, and some are even older. Their financial problems are not due to lack of knowledge. It’s due to a series of economic struggles that were completely out of their control.

Most Millennials came to age during the Great Recession, and so employment simply wasn’t available during the years when they were expected to find a job. That has made it more difficult to find one even after the Great Recession ended, as employers are expecting someone their age to have more experience. The 2020 recession, during a time when society expects their age group to be looking for a house, hit Millennials yet again.

In addition, inflation has far outpaced wage growth. Even those Millennials who have a job are not earning nearly as much adjusted for inflation as older generations were at the same age. Only about half of Millennials are employed full-time, and less than two-thirds are employed at all. Even though wages are increasing, they are still stagnant because of how quickly prices are increasing. Between 2012, when the market was finally recovering from the Great Recession, and 2020, when the most recent recession started, wage growth was at 24%. Home prices, however, went up over 3.5 times as much, by 86%.

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More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/employment-and-wages-highest-hurdles-for-millennial-first-time-homebuyers/82778/

Mortgage Rates Approaching 5%

After a period of low mortgage rates, they’re going back up quickly. That is the expected effect of current Fed policy, but we may hit 5% faster than expected, possibly as early as next month. As of the beginning of April, the average 30-year fixed rate was 4.59%. If they do hit 5%, it would be highest rate in the past decade, though they did get close in November of 2018 at 4.94%.

The increasing rates are definitely going to slow down the real estate market. That may be a good thing for the market, given how hot it’s been, but it’s definitely not good for buyers. Demand isn’t going to disappear completely, though. And the effect is probably mostly psychological. Historically speaking, 5% isn’t a particularly high rate. It’s just that rates have been trending downward for quite some time, so it isn’t going to be familiar territory for the new generations of buyers.

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More: https://www.marketwatch.com/picks/inevitable-in-the-very-near-future-4-economists-and-real-estate-pros-on-exactly-when-mortgage-rates-will-hit-5-01648838969