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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Florida TaxWatch: Climate Change More than Flooded Streets

 TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida TaxWatch (FTW) released A Rising Tide Sinks All Homes: The Effects of Climate Change on Florida’s Economy, a 56-page report developed to better understand climate change’s potential costs and consequences on each of the 11 industries that comprise Florida’s economy.

“Climate change, sea level rise and the need for resiliency make for regular headlines, but what’s often missing from the narrative is the impact on our economy,” says Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic M. Calabro. “The impacts of a changing climate translate into real economic repercussions. If bankers and insurers won’t secure the 40% of residential properties and 35% of commercial properties at risk of chronic flooding in Florida and they then come off property tax rolls, our communities will be impacted even when there is no rising water or storm surge in sight. If extreme heat deters outdoor recreation and tourism that drive our sales-tax-dependent economy, or if related disruptions stress supply chains or operations at airports, seaports and spaceports, billions of dollars in payroll and investments needed to support schools, roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, public safety and more will certainly be compromised.”

Calabro says, “Doing nothing is no longer an option. Making hard choices will establish Florida as a leader in this space and allow us to prepare for both the environmental and economic challenges ahead.”

According to FTW, more than 70% of Florida residents (16.1 million out of 22 million) in 2020 lived in a coastal county. By the year 2045, approximately 64,000 residential properties (valued at $26 billion) that exist in the state today will be at risk of chronic flooding from sea level rise and more frequent and severe storms, which will likely remove almost $350 million from local governments’ property tax base.

But inland communities and those connected to the sea by rivers are still vulnerable to other impacts of climate change. As temperatures rise, health risks also increase, and changes in precipitation patterns and extreme weather will impact health systems, workdays, tourism, natural structures and food supplies.

According to FTW’s report, the entire state could see climate-change-induced supply chain disruptions. It estimates those will last a month or longer are occur, on average, every 3.7 years.

Impact on Florida’s 11 key industries without mitigation efforts

  • Financial activities: By 2050, the value of private property below local high tide levels is expected to increase to $152 billion. Increased tidal flooding and more frequent and severe storms will threaten insurable property and lower asset values of mortgage-backed portfolios. The report suggest that lenders could be more reluctant to write long-term mortgages in high-risk coastal areas. The vulnerability and relative decline in home prices in high-risk census tracts could lead to 20% fewer home transactions in certain communities.
  • Leisure and hospitality: Large-scale climate events, such as major hurricanes, and gradual processes, like sea-level rise and excessive heat, could disrupt tourism. By 2050, Florida’s tourism industry could bring in $40 billion less in annual revenue without mitigating efforts in place.
  • Trade and transportation: A two-foot rise in sea level, expected by 2050, would endanger approximately 252 miles of Florida’s most high-traffic highways. When including the impact of sea level rise on smaller state and local roads, the number of flooded roads would grow by an additional 445 miles by 2040 and 1,600 miles by 2060.
  • Health services: In addition to any structural risks to infrastructure, the report suggests the mortality rate due to heat-related illness will climb anywhere from 3.8 to 5.8 people per 100,000 Floridians every year, which roughly translates to between 1,000 and 1,400 additional deaths annually by 2035.
  • Agriculture: Rising temperatures, flooding, and extreme storms threaten crops, decrease growth, and impact growing seasons and crop insurance. Higher temperatures will induce greater heat stress on livestock, negatively affecting milk and meat production, and possibly diminishing the quality of products for end consumers. The aggregate economic losses for Florida’s dairy and beef industries alone due to heat stress would be about $25.3 million annually in future years.
  • Government: As local and state government expenditures are increased to raise and repair roads, retrofit and harden water infrastructure, construct seawalls and implement other resilience measures, it can be expected that sales tax, doc stamp collections, and property-value based assessments will be compromised. By 2045, the potential loss of property tax revenues due to devalued property valuation tied to chronic tidal flooding will climb to $350 million.

Florida TaxWatch’s climate change recommendations

  • Establish a systematic and organized approach to reducing risk by raising buildings and critical infrastructure above the base flood elevations, constructing levees and seawalls, and establishing water storage reservoirs, among other structural measures.
  • Invest in the protection and restoration of natural buffers, like coral reefs, barrier islands and mangroves, to help absorb wave energy and storm surge.
  • Develop targeted strategies to reduce regional carbon dioxide emissions, including installing more solar panels and solar panel farms.
  • Promote land use and construction practices that improve resiliency, such as elevating homes and incorporating building methods and materials designed to reduce wind damage.
  • End or modify government programs and policies that encourage risky development.

© 2021 Florida Realtors® By Kerry Smith

Florida Dodges Bullet as Storm Season Set to End

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the second consecutive year, the hurricane season has exhausted a list of storm names.

But with days to go before the Nov. 30 end of the season, Florida has had brushes with only three named systems – Elsa, Fred, and Mindy – that were mostly rainmakers with tropical-storm-force winds.

All things considered, the state has been relatively unscathed in the highly active storm season, allowing emergency staff in Florida – who also needed to react to wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic – to continue addressing lingering impacts of past storms.

“We’re still working Hurricane Michael. We’re still working Hurricane Irma, Matthew, Hermine, Dorian, and so on,” said Kevin Guthrie, director of the state Division of Emergency Management. “So, yeah, it was good for us to be able to work on some of those past disasters and get them working towards closing out.”

For a third year, Florida can chalk up the outcome of the six-month season to luck or the fate of wobbles. The 2021 hurricane season officially ends on Dec. 1.

“The storm season that happened last year in Louisiana, if you would have taken that track and moved it a number of miles to the east, then we would have had in that exact same path, you would have had major landfalling hurricanes into Jacksonville, the Panhandle, and South Florida in the exact same year,” Guthrie said.

Quoting National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham, Guthrie added, “Wobbles matter. Little wobbles matter.”

This year was the sixth consecutive above-average storm season and came after Florida suffered historic strikes from Irma in 2017 and Michael in 2018. But this year is essentially the third consecutive season without a hurricane directly causing massive damage to Florida. And there were opportunities, with much warmer than average sea-surface temperatures in the subtropical Atlantic, along with an enhanced west Africa monsoon and weak upper-level winds that contribute to easier hurricane formations.

“It only takes one big storm to cause problems in the state of Florida,” Guthrie said. “This is not going to be the norm. We are Florida. We get hit by hurricanes. It is going to happen.”

The Atlantic saw 21 named storms, the third-most active season on record. That included seven hurricanes and four reaching Category 3 strength.

When Ana formed on May 22, forecasters recorded the seventh consecutive year in which a system emerged before the June 1 designated start of the season.

Elsa made landfall in Taylor County after dropping from hurricane to tropical-storm strength in early July. Tropical Storm Fred made landfall near Cape San Blas in the Panhandle with maximum sustained winds around 65 mph in mid-August. Tropical Storm Mindy found the Panhandle’s St. Vincent Island on Sept. 9.

With earlier and more active seasons seemingly becoming the norm, state lawmakers also might readjust efforts to help people prepare. Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, has proposed a measure (SB 808) that for the first time would split up what has been a sales tax “holiday” at the beginning of the storm season to help people stockpile disaster supplies.

Under Gruters’ proposal, which will be considered during the 2022 legislative session, tax breaks on supplies such as tarps, batteries, radios and portable generators would be offered from June 2 through June 6 and from Sept. 8 through Sept. 12.

Source: News Service of Florida

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Florida Market: Median Prices Up, Amid Low Oct. Inventory

 By Marla Martin

Florida Realtors’ data: Demand, low inventory impact prices. Single-family home median sale price up 17.7% to $358,950, condo median price up 17.6% to $260,000.

ORLANDO, FL – Florida’s housing market showed higher median prices, more cash sales and tight inventory levels in October compared to a year ago, according to Florida Realtors® latest housing data.

“In markets across the state, the for-sale inventory continues at low levels, and that puts pressure on prices and also impacts closed sales – some buyers may have paused their home search for now,” says 2021 Florida Realtors President Cheryl Lambert, broker-owner with Only Way Realty Citrus in Inverness. “Last month, the median time to a contract was 12 days for single-family homes and 15 days for condo-townhouse properties.” The median time to contract is the midpoint of the number of days it took for a property to receive a sales contract during that time.

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in October was $358,950, up 17.7% from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Last month’s statewide median price for condo-townhouse units was $260,000, up 17.6% over October 2020. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

However, closed sales of single-family homes statewide last month totaled 27,628, down 6.8% year-over-year, while existing condo-townhouse sales totaled 11,433, down 5.6% from October 2020. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

“In 2020, Florida’s housing market had perhaps the best second half of any year in recent memory,” says Erica Plemmons, Florida Realtors economist and director of housing statistics. “Part of this was due to the shifting spring buying season: The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed a lot of sales that would have occurred in spring, back into the late summer and fall. But other factors were at play as well, including record-low mortgage rates, changes in consumers’ housing preferences, and the demand pressure from continued movement of millennials into their prime home-buying years.”

Here in the second half of 2021, the Florida housing market still has many of these demand drivers in place. So, while sales were down year-over-year, she explained that “if we compare this October’s home sales to two years ago, before the pandemic, they were up over 18%. Similarly, condo and townhouse sales, while down 5.6% year-over-year, were still up 23% compared to October 2019.”

In a continuing trend over the past few months, the share of closed sales that were cash purchases rose last month compared to the previous year. In October, single-family existing home sales paid in cash increased by 25.4% year-over-year, while cash sales of condo-townhouse units rose by 6.5%.

On the supply side of the market, new listings and inventory (active listings) remained restricted last month.

“Low inventory levels continue to hold back the market,” says Plemmons. “At the end of October, single-family inventory (active listings) was 29.9% lower than it was a year ago, while condo and townhouse inventory was down 54% year-over-year.”

Single-family existing homes were at a low 1.3-months’ supply in October, while condo-townhouse properties were at a 1.6-months’ supply.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.07% last month, up from the 2.83% averaged during October 2020.

To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to Florida Realtors Tools and Resources. Realtors also have access to local market data (password protected) through Florida Realtors SunStats resource.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®

Monday, November 22, 2021

What Will Infrastructure Bill Do for Florida?

 By Kerry Smith

The new law is controversial, but one element – a big investment in broadband for rural areas – could open up areas of Florida to buyers who no longer commute to work.

WASHINGTON – On Monday, Nov. 15, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in law, a $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending package approved by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress.

Transportation historically leads development, and South Florida’s growth can be traced to Henry Flagler’s new railroad. While money slated for road repair will theoretically ease commutes and repair roadways, the law’s commitment to expanded broadband technology may subtly change Florida’s housing market by boosting demand for rural areas and small towns that don’t currently have strong internet access.

According to a release from Florida Rep. Charlie Crist, $100 million from an approved $65 billion will go to Florida. He estimates that will help 700,000 Floridians gain high-speed broadband access.

According to Crist, Florida money from the infrastructure bill will include:

Nearly $16 billion in state formula funds for highways, bridges, and transit, including:

  • $13.1 billion for highways
  • $245 million for bridge replacement and repairs
  • $2.6 billion for public transit
  • $1.2 billion for airports
  • $1.6 billion in state revolving formula funds to improve water infrastructure
  • $26 million to protect against wildfires
  • $29 million to protect against cyberattacks
  • Access to $3.5 billion in national funding for weatherization upgrades

Florida is also eligible for $12.5 billion in competitive, discretionary funds through the Bridge Investment Program for economically important bridges and $16 billion in competitive, discretionary funds for major projects too large or complex for traditional transportation funding programs.

Nationwide, the bill authorizes:

  • $39 billion in new spending to modernize public transit and improve accessibility
  • $25 billion to repair and upgrade airports
  • $17 billion for ports and waterways to ease shipping congestion
  • $55 billion for clean drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, including $15 billion for lead pipe replacement; $10 billion to address PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl) chemicals, and $23.4 billion for Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs
  • $7.5 billion to build out a national network of electric vehicle chargers
  • $198 million for EV (electric vehicle) charging
  • $50 billion to protect infrastructure from hurricanes, floods, extreme heat, wildfires, and cyberattacks

© 2021 Florida Realtors®

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

NAR Economist Yun: Housing Market May Normalize in 2022

 By Kerry Smith

Forecasts always include caveats that may upend predictions, but NAR’s Lawrence Yun says the market is hot right now – and he sees more of the same in 2022. While next year’s sales may not surpass 2021 numbers, he expects a banner year compared to those before the pandemic.

SAN DIEGO – The outlook for the residential real estate market, which performed exceptionally well during the height of the pandemic, continues to be promising, according to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, speaking during the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) convention.

“All markets are seeing strong conditions and home sales are the best they have been in 15 years, Yun said. “The housing sector’s success will continue – but I don’t expect next year’s performance to exceed this year’s.”

An unknown, he said, is how remote work opportunities will play out in the future, and he advised the industry to keep that in mind.

“We are only in the first innings of work-from-home options,” Yun said. “People have not fully digested the work-from-home-flexibility model yet in determining home size and locational choice.”

Even though there may be a decline in sales in 2022, Yun still forecasts that home sales will outdo pre-pandemic levels. His prediction, he noted, is based on an anticipation of more inventory in the coming months. That supply will be generated, in part, from new housing construction – already underway – as well as from the conclusion of the mortgage forbearance program, which in turn will cause a number of homeowners to sell.

“With more housing inventory to hit the market, the intense multiple offers will start to ease,” Yun said. “Home prices will continue to rise but at a slower pace.”

The job market struggled during the pandemic but turned a corner and continues to make incremental progress, Yun said. Since the nation emerged from lockdown, 18 million jobs have been created. At 4.6%, the unemployment rate implies the U.S. economy should be back to normal – however, the country still faces an employment shortage, he added. There are 4 million fewer jobs now than the number before COVID-19.

Forecasts for 2022 depends a bit on U.S. location. Some areas of the nation are thriving and fully recovered, Yun said – places like Idaho and Utah. Both states currently having more jobs now than at the beginning of the pandemic.

While real estate has thrived, Yun says signs suggest that a more normal and predictable market is on the horizon. Home sales surged over the past year in an uncharacteristic manner, with many receiving multiple bids after only being on the market for a short period. However, the 2022 housing sector will settle down, though at above pre-pandemic levels.

Yun projected that mortgage rates, currently at 3.0%, will increase to 3.7% in the coming months, a rise he attributes to persistent high inflation. Home prices rose by 12% on average in 2020 and 2021, while inflation rose 3%.

“Rising rents will continue to place upward pressures on inflation,” he said. “Nevertheless, real estate is a great hedge against inflation.”

© 2021 Florida Realtors®

First Time Ever: Inflation Soars as Mortgage Rates Plunge

 By Jeff Lazerson

The last time inflation rose as mortgage rates fell? Never. But the world is awash with cash, and that holds down mortgage rates, says Wells Fargo senior economist.

NEW YORK – Contradiction? Kerfuffle? Chaos?

Freddie Mac’s 30-year fixed plunged 11 basis points to 2.98% last week, even as the nation’s inflation rate jumped to 6.2%.

When was the last time this happened? Exactly never.

Traditionally, mortgage rates move up with inflation, says Richard Green, director of USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate.

“This has happened at no other time in history,” Green said. “We are living in a world of uncertainty.”

The yield for the 10-year Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS, was at an all-time low price of negative .57, Green observed. TIPS are indexed to inflation to protect investors from a decline in the purchasing power of their money, according to Investopedia.

This is the lowest Freddie’s rates have been since Sept. 23.

It’s important to note Freddie’s 30-year weekly rate survey was completed prior to the Labor Department’s Wednesday inflation announcement, and rates could bounce back up. For example, the 10-year Treasury rate – which the 30-year fixed closely follows – jumped 10 basis points to 1.56% after the Labor Department’s announcement.

So, how did mortgage rates manage to go down again with price inflation all around us?

The world is awash with cash, which is holding down mortgage rates, said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Bank. “The U.S. government has spent $5.4 trillion since the beginning of the pandemic. The Fed has added $4.3 trillion to its balance sheet. (U.S. households) have $2.3 trillion in excess savings. And the U.S. acts as an anchor, pulling in money from overseas as (investment returns) are so low overseas.”

Inflation pressures are demand-driven, experts say. As we return to normalcy, consumers want goods, but the shelves are empty. Experts differ, however, as to whether this is transitory inflation or whether this is going to be around for a long time.

When COVID-19 hit, the world sort of stopped. And it wasn’t just manufacturing.

“States haven’t issued truck driver’s licenses in the last few years,” said Ted Tozer, a senior fellow at the Milken Institute of Housing Policy and former Ginnie Mae president for seven years under President Barack Obama. “The supply chain problem is like a traffic jam trying to get flowing again.”

Vitner thinks we are currently at the peak of supply disruption, although supply issues “will dog the economy until the middle of the decade,” he said.

The number of workers in the supply chain may improve to about 3 million jobs over the next six months, said Tendayi Kapfidze, U.S. Bank’s head of economic analysis. He pointed to a recent report that the U.S. labor force grew by 500,000 jobs.

Will mortgage rates continue to stay under control or will they go up, up, and away with inflation trends?

“It would not be an absurd notion to think rates might fall a little bit,” said Jacob Channel, senior economist at Lending Tree. But rates eventually will go back up. Channel sees mortgage rates rising to the 3-4% range next year.

Tozer thinks there’s a delicate dance ahead as the Federal Reserve starts tapering its pandemic-era bond-buying program. The Fed has been purchasing $120 billion of treasury bonds per month, including $40 billion in mortgage securities.

“The key is how much tapering will trigger higher rates,” said Tozer. The next question is how will government borrowing affect inflation? “Deficit spending could trigger mortgage rates to go up.”

Will you lose your ginormous run-up in home appreciation? Will home prices pop?

Mortgage underwriting standards remain stringent since the Great Recession and the mortgage meltdown days.

“Credit underwriting has been so strict it’s hard to see a bubble,” said Vitner.

What’s the next shoe to drop?

“It’s really murky right now,” Kapfidze said.

© Copyright 2021 Press-Telegram. Jeff Lazerson is a mortgage broker.

Monday, November 8, 2021

The inventory for homes smaller than 1,400-square feet has hit a 50-year low

 Baby Boomer Challenge: Find a Home for Downsizing

The inventory for homes smaller than 1,400-square feet has hit a 50-year low – and it’s the same record-low inventory eyed by many first-time buyers.

NEW YORK – Too much yard, too much cleaning? Older homebuyers shopping for a smaller home that’s easier to maintain struggle to find enough possibilities in today’s housing market. It makes downsizing increasingly difficult.

Housing inventories for homes up to 1,400 square feet have fallen to a 50-year low, according to Freddie Mac, even as a growing number of young couples and aging seniors are competing for them. Price growth has been highest for smaller, less expensive homes, says Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac.

With so few homes available in that category, baby boomers may have to change their expectations when downsizing.

“We have a housing shortage,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors®, told The Wall Street Journal. “Clearly from the age patterns, young people want to upsize, and the older generation is looking to downsize, but not greatly – only 100 or 200 square feet smaller than where they’d been living.”

About 28% of real estate transactions in 2020 were for people looking to downsize, Yun says. Most of those transactions were for buyers aged 55 or older. However, some baby boomers choose to age in place and retrofit their current homes so they can stay there longer.

Higher costs could also mean more seniors carry mortgage debts. The number of older homeowners with debt increased from 33.2% in 2007 to 55.4% in 2019, and most of the increase is attributed to mortgage debt, according to the Urban Institute.

Source: “As Boomers Downsize, Competition Grows for Simpler – but Not Always Smaller – Homes,” The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 31, 2021) [Log-in required.]

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Friday, November 5, 2021

States where residents don't want to leave: Florida is #3


NEW YORK – Of Americans who moved during the pandemic, 85% opted to move within their state, according to a new analysis from LendingTree, which evaluated mortgage loan data from March 1, 2020, to Sept. 21, 2021, to learn pandemic moving patterns.

Texas had the highest percentage of residents looking to stay in the state, followed by Oklahoma and Florida. 

On the other hand, New York had the highest percentage of residents who left the state.

The LendingTree study also identified Florida as a top destination for out-of-state movers: More than a third (36%) of state-to-state movers preferred relocating to Florida.

“Florida is the favorite out-of-state destination for mortgage shoppers in 18 of the 50 states,” LendingTree researchers say in the study. “The Sunshine State has a long history of bringing in visitors and new residents, particularly retirees, thanks to a mix of affordable housing, no state income tax, and sunny weather.”

Percentage of a state’s movers who opted for a new state that also had Florida as their most preferred destination:

  1. Texas: 6.67% of movers relocated to a new state
  2. Georgia: 8.88%
  3. Michigan: 9.07%
  4. Ohio: 90.49%
  5. Alabama: 9.69%
  6. Maine: 9.77%
  7. Kentucky: 10.46%
  8. Indiana: 10.58%
  9. Wisconsin: 10.90%
  10. Missouri: 10.95%
  11. Tennessee: 12.21%
  12. Iowa: 12.87%
  13. Illinois: 15.65%
  14. South Dakota: 16.49%
  15. Connecticut: 16.99%
  16. Maryland: 18.59%
  17. New Jersey: 19.71%
  18. Vermont: 20.01%

Source: “The States Homeowners Have Moved To – and Stayed in – During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” LendingTree (Nov. 2, 2021)

© Copyright 2021 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Fed Set to Wind Down Economic Stimulus This Week

 By Christopher Rugaber

It has a tricky job though: curbing inflation without hurting the economy. For homebuyers, it might mean slowly rising mortgage rates as the Fed cuts back on bond buys.

WASHINGTON (AP) – With inflation at its highest point in three decades, the Federal Reserve is set this week to begin winding down the extraordinary stimulus it has given the economy since the pandemic recession struck early last year, a process that could prove to be a risky balancing act.

Chair Jerome Powell has signaled that the Fed will announce after its policy meeting Wednesday that it will start paring its $120 billion in monthly bond purchases as soon as this month. Those purchases are intended to keep long-term loan rates low to encourage borrowing and spending.

Once the Fed has ended its bond purchases by mid-2022, it will then turn to a more difficult decision: When to raise its benchmark short-term rate from zero, where it’s been since COVID-19 hammered the economy in March 2020. Raising that rate, which affects many consumer and business loans, would be intended to make sure inflation doesn’t get out of control. But it would carry the risk of discouraging spending and undercutting the job market and the economy before they’ve regained full health.

“We don’t have a roadmap for what we’re going through,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. Powell has to “walk a tightrope” by supporting the recovery while not “turning a deaf ear to inflation.”

Against that uncertain backdrop, President Joe Biden has yet to announce whether he will re-nominate Powell for another four-year term as Fed chair. Powell’s current term expires in early February, but previous presidents have usually announced such decisions in the late summer or early fall.

Biden is expected to offer Powell a second term despite complaints from progressive groups that the chairman has heightened risks to the financial system by loosening bank regulations and isn’t sufficiently committed to taking account of the economic threats from climate change in the Fed’s oversight of financial firms. Powell is admired on Wall Street and in most economic circles and has drawn praise for steering the economy through the recession, in part through an array of emergency Fed lending programs.

The Fed’s likely decision this week to taper its bond purchases comes as high inflation is bedeviling the U.S. economy for much longer than Powell and many other officials initially expected. Healthy spending demand from consumers has run up against clogged ports, shut-down factories and labor shortages that have forced up prices for autos, furniture, food, building materials and household products.

On Friday, the government said prices surged 4.4% in September from a year earlier – the fastest 12-month increase since 1991. There was, however, one sign that inflation might be ebbing: Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, prices ticked up just 0.2% from August to September. That was down a tenth from the previous month’s increase and far below the 0.6% jump in May.

Still, wages and salaries soared in the July-September period by the most in at least 20 years, according to a separate report Friday. That suggests that workers are increasingly able to compel higher pay from businesses that are desperate to fill a near-record number of open jobs. Large pay increases can drive up inflation if companies raise prices to cover their higher costs.

While inflation is running hot, the job market isn’t back to full strength. The unemployment rate was 4.8% in September, above its pre-pandemic level of 3.5%. And roughly 5 million fewer people have jobs now than did before the pandemic. Many Americans have yet to come off the sidelines to look for work, some of them because they still fear the virus or can’t find or afford childcare, others because they have decided to retire early.

Powell has said that he would like the job market to show further improvement before the Fed begins to raise its key short-term rate. Economists expect him to use the news conference that follows the Fed meeting Wednesday to stress, as he has before, that the start of tapering of the Fed’s bond purchases doesn’t mean a rate hike is near.

“I do think it’s time to taper, and I don’t think it’s time to raise rates,” he said about a week ago.

Minutes from the Fed’s last meeting indicate that the central bank will likely reduce its monthly purchases of Treasury and mortgage bonds by $15 billion a month. By tapering the bond purchases that quickly, the Fed would have the flexibility to raise rates by the second half of 2022.

That doesn’t meant it will. At its last meeting, about half the Fed’s policymakers forecast that the first rate hike would be in late 2022, with the other half projecting 2023 or later. The timing of any rate hike will depend, though, on whether inflation is still high, and whether the Fed thinks the job market is back at full health.

Earlier in the pandemic, Powell had spoken optimistically about helping restore the unemployment rate to its pre-COVID level, when it reached a 50-year low of 3.5%. More recently, though, he and other officials have expressed doubts about whether the job market can recover that fully.

It’s far from clear whether or when the several million Americans who have left the labor force will return. Among the newly jobless are those who live or work in places, such as the downtowns of major urban centers, where jobs may never fully return. If many people have indeed dropped out of the job market for good, the Fed might decide it can cut rates sooner than it otherwise would.

“They have to be thinking now that the labor force has changed in a structural way,” said Steve Friedman, an economist at asset manager MacKay Shields and a former senior staffer at the New York Fed.

Yet the risk is that the Fed might end up raising rates too soon. Supply bottlenecks may loosen in the coming months. If the Fed were to raise rates at the same time, it could depress spending and weaken the economy just as its supply problems are healing.

“We could easily find that demand is damping just as supply is increasing,” Randal Quarles, a member of the Fed’s Board of Governors, said in a recent speech. “In the worst case, we could depress the incentives for supply to return, leading to an extended period of sluggish activity.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Multifamily rents in Palm Beach County were up 28% year-to-year

 By Amber Randall

Multifamily rents in Palm Beach County were up 28% year-to-year, as out-of-state newcomers and low inventory created lots of demand for too-few available units.

With rents on the rise in South Florida, many are wondering when, if ever, prices will become affordable.

Rent in South Florida has increased astronomically over the past year. By the end of the third quarter in 2021, rents for multifamily buildings in Palm Beach County increased by 28% compared to the same quarter last year. Broward County rents rose by 17%, while Miami-Dade County increased by 14%, according to data from CoStar Group, a provider of commercial real estate information.

And rents won’t slow down any time soon, experts say.

Prices are projected to rise 8.9% in Palm Beach County, 8.6% in Broward County and 8% in Miami-Dade County by the end of 2022, a forecast from CoStar Group reveals.

“Let’s say you rented an apartment for $2,400 in the third quarter of 2021. We’re projecting that rent will increase 8% to about $2,600,” said Jay Lybik, national director of multifamily analytics at the CoStar Group.

Rents are increasing faster in South Florida than they are nationally, and by the end of the year, South Florida should be the worst place to rent relative to income, with renters devoting 40% of their incomes to rent, a forecast from Zillow predicted.

Meanwhile, rents rose about 11% nationally and are expected to grow 7% by the end of 2022.

Fueling the spike

A few factors are causing rents to spike: There’s been an influx of out-of-state newcomers lured by the South Florida lifestyle and no state income tax. Additionally, heavy demand for housing has caused low inventory, thereby forcing would-be buyers into a limited number of rentals, experts say.

Some newcomers to the state are able to bid up because rents in South Florida are cheaper than those where they came from, said Dan Dratch, director of multifamily investments at Franklin Street.

Average asking rents in San Francisco, for example, sit at around $2,900 compared to $1,900 in Miami, according to CoStar Group.

“All of this just speaks to the desirability of living in South Florida,” Dratch added.

The trend dovetails with dropping vacancy rates across South Florida. The vacancy rate in Palm Beach County fell from 7.9% at the beginning of 2020 to 3.7% this quarter, while in Broward the rate dropped from 5.5% to 3.5% and Miami-Dade saw a drop of 6.8% to 3.5%.

According to Charles Foschini, senior managing director of Bekardia, a mortgage broker, supply chain issues are causing new buildings to be more expensive than projected, and the cost is being passed on to renters.

Realtors are seeing rent price growth happen in real-time. Realtor Paige Coburn with Keller Williams Realty said she recently listed a condo in Pompano Beach for $2,900 a month. A year ago, the asking rent was only $2,000.

“Because we don’t have houses to put people in, they are stuck in the rental market. Landlords know that they can keep the rental rates high because the demand is there,” said Jay Granieri with ONE Sotheby’s International Realty.

With the spike in costs, some renters have been forced to live out of their cars, while others are dipping into emergency savings just to make it work.

Greg Allen of Delray Beach was renting a one-bedroom, one bathroom townhome for $1,450 before a sudden $500-a-month increase to $1,910. He didn’t see it coming, and is now dipping into a rainy-day emergency fund to cover the costs. Once that’s gone, his future remains uncertain.

“Is it worth it to live in South Florida?” he said. “I don’t know what I am going to do after that.”

It remains to be seen when or if prices will taper off.

“I don’t see rents coming down anytime soon,” said Eli Beracha, director of the Hollo School of Real Estate at Florida International University. But, he notes that since the spike has been dramatic, he expects increases in the future to be slow-moving.

© 2021 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

What International Buyers are Looking for in the Florida Market

 What International Buyers are Looking for in the Florida Market

A detailed look at where international clients originate and what they're buying in the Sunshine State. Plus: A profile of the Florida international buyer.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Nov. 2, 2021 – Florida Realtors® has released its latest report on the state's foreign buyer and seller transactions, the 2021 Profile of International Residential Real Estate Activity. The one year-report – from August 2020 through July 2021 – reveals the emergence from the global pandemic though massive disruptions in production and travel remained.

Tourist arrivals to the United States are rising gingerly but are still decimated due to the travel bans and advisories in many countries regarding inbound and outbound entry and quarantine regulations. During the period August 2020-July 2021, tourist arrivals to the United States totaled 13.8 million, a decline of 83% compared the level during the same period prior to the pandemic in 2019.

 

Here are highlights from the 2021 report:

$12.3 Billion

Dollar volume of Florida’s existing homes purchased by foreign buyers during August 2020–July 2021, which is 5% of the dollar volume of Florida’s existing home sales (22% decrease from the prior 12-month level of $15.6 billion)

22,500

Number of existing homes purchased in Florida by foreign buyers, which is 4% of existing-home sales (34% decrease from the prior 12-month period level of 33,900)

71%

Share of foreign buyers whose primary residence is abroad (Type A)

Florida’s top 5 foreign buyers

  1. Canada ($1.8 B)
  2. Argentina ($0.9 B)
  3. Colombia ($0.8 B)
  4. Brazil ($0.7 B)
  5. Venezuela ($0.4 B)

Top foreign buyer destinations

Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach (52% of foreign buyers)

Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (10%)

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (8%)

Cape Coral-Ft. Myers (5%)

North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton (4%)

Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island (4%)

$347,300

Foreign buyer median purchase price ($310,400 for all Florida existing homes sold)

66%

Foreign buyers who paid all-cash (39% among all U.S. foreign buyers)

72%

Foreign buyers who intended to use the property for vacation, residential rental, or both uses

52%

Foreign buyers who purchased single-family units

89%

Percent of foreign buyers who visited Florida at least once before making a purchase

73%

Percent of foreign buyers who were referrals of personal and business contacts and former clients, or who were former clients

18%

Respondents who reported clients (either non-U.S. citizen or U.S. citizen) seeking to purchase property abroad

42%

Percent of respondents who speak a language other than English

70%

Percent of respondents who “have not had problems” working with foreign buyers

FinCEN Targeting Extended for Six Months in South Florida

 By Kerry Smith

The rule that requires title companies to identify actual buyers – not shell companies – in 12 major U.S. metro areas now stays in effect until April 29, 2022.

WASHINGTON – The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced the renewal of its Geographic Targeting Orders (GTOs). The rules require U.S. title insurance companies to identify the natural persons behind shell companies used in all-cash purchases of residential real estate of $300,000 or more in each covered metropolitan area.

Of the 10 major U.S. metros under FinCEN’s targeting rules, one is in Florida: The South Florida counties of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach. Without an extension, the last order was due to expire on Nov. 1, 2021.

The overall targeting orders are an attempt to identify and stop money laundering, which is generally considered a way to make ill-gotten gains become – or appear to become – legitimate by investing in real estate, businesses or other enterprises.

According to FinCEN, the GTOs provide “valuable data on the purchase of residential real estate by persons possibly involved in various illicit enterprises.”

The 12 U.S. metros included in FinCEN’s GOT extension include the full metro areas surrounding:

  1. Boston
  2. Chicago
  3. Dallas-Fort Worth
  4. Honolulu
  5. Las Vegas
  6. Los Angeles
  7. Miami
  8. New York City
  9. San Antonio
  10. San Diego
  11. San Francisco
  12. Seattle

© 2021 Florida Realtors®

Home Prices Could See ‘Bumpy’ Road Ahead

 Bubbles won’t pop, but fast price increases have made some experts take note. While the growth rate slowed, buyers in a few areas face a tricky price vs. worth balance.

NEW YORK – After months of U.S. home prices rapidly accelerating, new figures show the growth is slowing – not that bargain hunters are ready to whip out their wallets.

U.S. home prices rose 19.8% year-over-year in August, after July’s 19.7% annual increase, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index. The leveling off comes after four straight months of record-setting, increasing growth.

“August data also suggest that the growth in housing prices, while still very strong, may be beginning to decelerate,” said Craig Lazzara, managing director and global head of index investment strategy at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Buyers should be wary, index co-creator Robert Shiller wrote in Project Syndicate Monday. Purchasing in booming locations may not be a safe long-term bet, he said.

“Even at currently elevated U.S. home-price levels, buying still makes sense for those who are set on ownership,” Shiller wrote. “But buyers need to be sure that they can accept what could be a rather bumpy and disappointing long-term path for home values.”

The bursting of the housing bubble that triggered the Great Recession saw national home prices fall 36% from December 2005 to February 2012. (They have since risen 71%.) But that isn’t the only example of declining home values.

Shiller cited data that showed that U.S. home prices, adjusted for inflation, were often lower in the 1990s than they were a century ago. The drop came as cities spread out to cheaper land and homebuilding technology improved.

For buyers and sellers focused on today, the August pause in price-growth acceleration was similar across two other Case-Shiller indices: the 10-city composite, which rose by 18.6%, and the 20-city composite, which rose by 19.7%. Both figures were less than their July gains.

Experts credit the market’s rise in part to buyers’ response to the coronavirus pandemic as they migrated from urban apartments to farther-out homes. More data is needed to determine if the demand surge is attributable to households advancing their homebuying plans – causing purchases to bunch up – or to changes in location preferences.

Phoenix and San Diego saw the highest year-over-year gains in home prices in August, increasing by 33% and 26.2%, respectively. Tampa replaced Seattle at No. 3, with prices increasing by 25.9%.

Price growth was strongest in the Southwest, though every region saw double-digit gains.

Case-Shiller’s national index is 45.5% higher than its previous peak in July 2006. Only eight of the cities in the 20-city index reported higher year-over-year price increases in August than in July.

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