Fixed-rate Mortgages Still the Loan of Choice

According to Fitch Ratings, 90 percent of Reverse Mortgage Backed Securities (RMBS) contain fixed interest rates for their full term this year, meaning U.S. mortgage borrowers still choose fixed-rate mortgages as their loan of choice. Fitch notes that even with the upcoming termination of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) in 2021, the most commonly used index for U.S. adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs).

The percentage of RMBS containing fixed rate mortgages increased from 80 percent to 90 percent year over year in 2018, with Fitch noting that market interest rates for ARMS have “not been highly compelling.” According to Fitch, “hybrid” form ARMS, or those with fixed rates for the first five or 10 years, after which they adjust based on movements in LIBOR, have been impacted by slow moving long term rates. Current seven-year hybrid ARM rates are typically only 0.25 percent to 0.375 percent lower than available fixed-rate loans, which Fitch notes is not enough to entice borrowers.

Though most borrowers tend to lean toward fixed rate loans, for non-prime mortgage borrowers, hybrid ARMs are an attractive lending alternative as even small differences in mortgage rates can increase affordability during the initial level payment period. Currently, over 50 percent of non-prime loans currently being originated are five- to 10-year hybrid ARMs with LIBOR cited as the reference index for the adjustable term.

With LIBOR no longer available to mortgage servicers once these new hybrid loans roll to adjustable-rate, the mortgage and securitization documents allow for replacement. Just five percent of RMBS include an unpaid principal balance floating off of LIBOR. The end of LIBOR gives RMBS programs the opportunity to explore alternative options.

“Typically the note holder or servicer will choose a new index based upon comparable information and will give notice of this choice,” said Fitch. “Servicers are expected to make applicable interest rate adjustments in compliance with servicing standards and document references to an alternative index for the affected mortgage loans.”

Posted on November 15, 2018 at 2:30 PM
Guy Arnone | Category: Real Estate

Study Finds: FSBOs Net ‘Significantly’ Lower Profits

For-sale-by-owners tend to sell their homes for lower prices than homes sold through traditional agents via the MLS, and in many cases below the average differential represented by the prevailing commission rate, according to a new study by Collateral Analytics.

The study examined the price differences between homes sold through traditional agents versus those sold by FSBOs from 2016 to the first half of 2017.

Some homeowners may be tempted to try to avoid commission costs to a broker and try to sell the home on their own. But that can backfire and turn into a much lower sales price, the study found.

Even successful FSBO sellers achieve prices “significantly below” those from similar properties sold more traditionally via REALTORS®, the study found.

The authors found that the differential in selling prices for FSBOs when compared to MLS sales is “remarkably close to average commission rates.” A FSBO sale, on average, nets nearly a 6 percent lower price than an MLS sale for a similar property.

“Assuming that both buyers and sellers pay the commission, one might have expected something less than this average,” the researchers note. “It appears that many sellers are avoiding commissions while netting home prices less than they would with an agent-represented MLS sale. They are avoiding commissions at any price, even one that exceeds a commission rate.”

Source: “Saving Real Estate Commissions at Any Price,” Collateral Analytics Research (Aug. 16, 2017)

Posted on October 30, 2018 at 4:17 PM
Guy Arnone | Category: Real Estate

To Own or to Rent: The Question Troubling Homebuyers

The cost of buying a home has risen by 14 percent over the past one year. That is more than three times the rate of monthly rental costs, according to research published by Realtor.com on Thursday. The research indicated that as home prices rose across the U.S. renting was becoming increasingly popular.

The analysis also found that the number of places where it was cheaper to buy had significantly declined in the past one year.

“Even setting aside big upfront expenses like a down payment, rising month-by-month costs are likely keeping many people from purchasing,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com.

The analysis found that only 41 percent of the nation’s population lived in a county where a median-income family could afford to buy a home. While the cost to buy a home rose by 14 percent year over year, cost to rent increased only 4 percent. It was cheaper to buy a home compared to renting in 35 percent of the counties in July, this compared to 44 percent during the same time last year.

“Today only 41 percent of people live in a county where the median income family can afford to buy a home at the median list price, and affordability declined significantly over the past year. Since home ownership has historically been an important source of household wealth creation, it could be problematic if this trend continues for too long. Still, even in places where renting is currently more affordable, rising home prices provide a wealth-building opportunity for home buyers,” Hale said.

The analysis found that the top five counties where purchasing a home was more affordable than renting were Clayton County, Georgia; Baltimore City, Maryland; Wayne County, Michigan; Cumberland County, North Carolina; and Madison County, Illinois. The share of income to buy was 4 percent to 14 percent lower than the share of income to rent in these counties.

In contrast renting remained less expensive than buying in Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York and in Monterey County, San Mateo County, and Santa Barbara County in California.

Read the full analysis here.

Posted on October 15, 2018 at 2:30 PM
Guy Arnone | Category: Real Estate

The Drivers Impacting Home Buying Decisions

Homebuyer enthusiasm is on the wane driven by rising home prices, according to the latest quarterly Modern Homebuyer Survey released by ValueInsured on Wednesday.

The survey revealed that housing confidence amongst American homebuyers, led by millennials, had seen a steady decline in the previous 12 months. In the third quarter of 2018, the survey said that the percentage of millennials who believed that buying a home today was a good investment dropped to 48 percent from 54 percent in the previous quarter. This was also a steep drop from the high of 77 percent recorded by the survey in 2016.

Millennials are also not very enthusiastic about buying a home over renting. The survey revealed that 61 percent of millennials believed it was beneficial to buy a home instead of renting one, down from 83 percent during the same period in 2016. “While 76 percent of all homeowners believe that now is a good time to sell a home, only 39 percent of millennials who want to become homeowners believe now is a good time to buy a home,” the survey said.

The ValueInsured Housing Confidence Index for millennials also registered a low score of 56.9 on a hundred-point scale in Q3 2018, declining 1.7 points from Q2 and 10.1 points from the same period last year.

“Conventional wisdom assumed millennials were buying homes later because they chose to get married and have children later,” says Joe Melendez, CEO, and Founder of ValueInsured.  “New research now suggests homeownership may be the cause, not the effect, of a delayed family formation. It is an alarming trend, and we see more acute evidence in the expensive housing regions.”

Even among millennials who are interested and motivated to buy a home today, their decision comes with a lot of anxiety, the survey revealed. The top concern? They would not save enough to buy the home they wanted. The survey found that 67 percent of millennials were concerned that they would not be able to save enough for a home that they actually liked. Fifty-two percent said that a home they bought now was likely to drop in value within a year, while 49 percent of those willing to buy a home now were concerned that rising mortgage rates could make homes that were currently within their budget become unaffordable later.

To learn more about what millennial homebuyers want and how lenders can reach out to them,  join MReport’s webinar Hottest Buyers on the Block: Reaching Millennials, presented by Ellie Mae. At this webinar, experts will discuss the latest millennial homebuyer trends, lender strategies to reach out to this market segment, and how digital channels can help. Click below to register for this webinar.

Posted on September 30, 2018 at 2:30 PM
Guy Arnone | Category: Real Estate

Sweeping Credit Score Overhaul Points to Positive Outcome for Real Estate Industry

Have you checked your credit score recently? Millions of potential homebuyers could now have easier access to mortgages, following a change to the way the three largest U.S. credit reporting firms handle negative credit events.

That change is the National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP). Launched by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the plan sets forth the goal of making credit reports more accurate for consumers and makes it easier for them to correct any errors they may find on their credit reports.

Between June 2017, when the plan went into effect, and June 2018, collections were removed from eight million consumers’ credit reports, which resulted in an average increase of 14 points to their scores, according to a recently released Federal Reserve Bank of New York report.

NCAP removes “from credit reports any previously reported medical collections that have been paid or are being paid by insurance,” according to the plan’s site.

It also requires debt collectors to not only “include original creditor information with each account being reported for collection,” but to “regularly update the status of unpaid debts and remove debts no longer being pursued for collection,” as well.

At the same time, the total U.S. household debt has risen for a 16th straight month, to $13.3 trillion, according to the New York Fed’s Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit. Generally, confidence is connected to consumers’ financial picture, including borrowing, and when debt grows, demand for housing often rises in tandem.

Posted on September 5, 2018 at 3:00 AM
Guy Arnone | Category: Real Estate

What’s Causing an Uptick in Foreclosure Starts?

As mortgages that went delinquent because of last year’s catastrophic hurricanes continued to cure, the U.S. delinquency rate plummeted to its lowest point since March 2006, according to Black Knight’s First Look for July, which parses monthly mortgage performance data for foreclosures and delinquencies.

Simultaneous to that, foreclosure starts ticked up 11 percent over June’s dramatic 17-year low to hit 48,300—the highest amount reached in three months, Black Knight noted in its report. Although starts increased across the nation, foreclosure referrals in the hurricane-affected zones in Texas galloped by a higher-than-average 19 percent.

The upswing in starts coupled with fewer foreclosure completions led to the number of loans in active foreclosure climbing in July—albeit, the second monthly rise in three years, the report indicated. That said, the delinquency decrease was robust enough to outweigh the rise in active foreclosures, bringing total noncurrent inventory (30-plus days past due or in foreclosure) down to a more-than-12-year low, it noted.

The top five states ranked by non-current percentages in July were Mississippi at 9.61 percent; Louisiana (7.78 percent); Alabama (6.62 percent); West Virginia (6.36 percent); and Indiana (5.85 percent).

As for the bottom five states in order of non-current percentages, Washington led the list with 2.31 percent of its total active loans in foreclosure or delinquency followed by North Dakota (2.29 percent);  Idaho (2.25 percent); Oregon (2.13 percent); and Colorado (1.91 percent).

The top five States by 90-plus days delinquent percentages were led by Mississippi where 2.89 percent of loans were found delinquent followed by Louisiana (2.09 percent); Alabama (1.91 percent); Florida (1.79 percent); and Arkansas (1.64 percent).

According to the report, the top five states classified by six-month improvement in non-current percentage were Florida (37.2 percent); Texas (23.77 percent); Louisiana (16.68 percent); Rhode Island (15.3 percent); and Nevada (14.26 percent).

The top five states in terms of six-month deterioration in a non-current position were led by North Dakota (3.22 percent); Colorado (7.15 percent); Washington (7.45 percent); Delaware (8.14 percent); and Alaska (8.51 percent).

Posted on August 30, 2018 at 5:19 AM
Guy Arnone | Category: Real Estate

Forget a Garage—Buyers Won’t Budge on High-Rated Schools

uyers have their eyes on schools, and with the irrefutable link between the quality of schools and values, a district with high ratings trumps all—even coveted features of a home, according to a new realtor.com® survey.

To get into their desired district, 78 percent of the homebuyers surveyed had to let go of something on their wish list. When asked what they would compromise on, approximately one-fifth (19 percent) of respondents would forgo a garage, while 17 percent would go without a kitchen that has been remodeled. Another 17 percent would settle for less bedrooms.

Realtor_com_Schools

Being within an in-demand district is “important” to 73 percent of respondents to the survey, and even more so to those with children, and those who are younger. What are the characteristics of a “good” school? Accelerated programs, arts and music and diversity are all factors, but the most important is test scores, according to the survey.

“Most buyers understand that they may not be able to find a home that covers every single item on their wish list, but our survey shows that school districts are an area where many buyers aren’t willing to compromise,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com. “For many buyers, ‘location, location, location,’ means ‘schools, schools, schools.’”

Generally, homes in proximity to sought-after schools move quicker than others, and are pricier.

Posted on August 22, 2018 at 5:56 AM
Guy Arnone | Category: Real Estate

The State of Housing in the Second Quarter

The national median existing single-family home price rose to a new high in the second quarter of this year, reaching $269,000, according to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) quarterly report, on the housing market released on Wednesday. And this new peak for home prices is about the only new thing NAR had to report for the quarter.

Other than that, things look quite the same as the previous quarter—rising prices, scant inventory, waning affordability.

After prices rose 5.3 percent over the year in the second quarter,  NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said, “The ongoing supply crunch affecting most of the country worsened for most of the second quarter, as the growing number of interested buyers in many markets overwhelmed what was already a meager level of available listings.”

And he stated, “Solid economic growth, a healthy labor market, and the large millennial population should be driving home sale much higher.”

So just how bad is this persistent supply/inventory crunch? In the second quarter of the year, there was 4.1 months’ supply of homes on the market, down from 4.2 months’ supply a year earlier. A balanced market holds six months’ supply.

NAR reported 1.95 million existing homes for sale in the second quarter, 0.5 percent above the amount recorded a year earlier.

With supply tight, prices rose in 90 percent of major metros, increasing in 161 out of the 178 markets NAR tracks. Of those, 24 recorded double-digit gains.

These climbing prices amid increasing mortgage rates are dampening affordability, particularly for middle-class Americans, according to NAR.

What can be done? Yun said: “Homebuilders, facing higher costs and labor shortages, are simply not producing enough affordable homes to satisfy demand. Local governments need to acknowledge this glaring issue and ease some of the zoning laws, permitting processes and regulations that are slowing construction.”

After the second-quarter price gains, two metros now chart median home prices in the $1 million range—San Jose, California, at $1.4 million and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California at $1.1 million. The other most expensive metros in the nation were Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, California, $830,000; urban Honolulu, $795,200; and San Diego-Carlsbad, $645,000.

At the other end of the spectrum, Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio, charted the lowest median single-family home price at just $94,400, followed by Cumberland, Maryland, $94,900; Decatur, Illinois, $96,900; Elmira, New York, $106,300; and Erie, Pennsylvania, $121,700.

Yun did offer a little hope for home sales moving through the second half of the year; however, it is hinged on an increase in supply. “As long as economic conditions maintain current levels, there’s still a chance for sales to break out this year. However, with mortgage rates trending higher, it will only happen if supply levels improve enough to cool the speedy price growth in a majority of the country,” he said.

Posted on August 15, 2018 at 6:00 AM
Guy Arnone | Category: Real Estate

Fountains of Youth: The 10 Places Where Americans Live the Longest!

Most mornings, Margarita Dreyer wakes up around 7 a.m. and gets right to her exercises—stretches, strengthening reps, and pushups. She golfs at least twice a week, skis in Vail, CO, each winter, and regularly parties with her friends. Did we mention the retired furniture import business owner is 85?

“I never even think of age. … I take care of myself,” says Dreyer, who credits her good health to a lifetime of positive thinking, a mostly plant-based diet, plenty of exercise, great friendships—and perhaps most of all, the town of Tiburon, in California’s Marin County, where she’s lived the past 30 years.

“In Marin, usually you find people who are very interested in theater, and opera, and exercise and entertaining. It’s all part of what is important in life.”

In America, the median life span is nearly 79 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that’s not universal. There are pockets of the Deep South and the Dakotas where a storm of socioeconomic factors lowers life expectancy to 68 years or less. But then there’s the other side of the equation: the special places where people regularly blow right past 80, healthy and active, and just keep on going.

The data team at realtor.com® set out to find these American fountains of youth. We located the 10 counties where people are living the longest, and then took a deep dive to find out what differentiates them from the rest of the country.

“If you want to live a long time, the best thing you can do is move to a place where people are verifiably living the longest,” says Dan Buettner, founder of Blue Zones, an initiative that works with communities to help set up wellness policies to increase the life span of residents.

Buettner has spent his career researching the places around the world where people live the longest. The five so-called blue zones are Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, CA.

Sardinia, Italy, is one of the five "blue zones" where people live the longest.
Sardinia, Italy, is one of the five “blue zones” where people live the longest.Levranii/iStock

He found certain commonalties, ranging from a tradition of veggie-rich diets and exercise, to highly social or faith-based communities. So Buettner and his team set out to make America more blue—helping towns work toward Blue Zone certification, for which residents, schools, grocery stores, restaurants, and workplaces institute healthier practices. The project was piloted in Albert Lea, MN, in 2009 and has since spread to other states.

Buettner contends that our habits—destructive or healthy—are shared by fellow community members. So if your neighbors are hiking on weekends or cycling to work, you’re more likely to do the same. By the same token, “if you drive into a neighborhood and you see McDonald’s and KFC billboards … you shouldn’t live in that neighborhood,” Buettner says.

To come up with the longevity list, we used data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, in Seattle, which looked at death certificates in every U.S. county in 2014 to calculate the life expectancy from birth. We also added population data from the Census Bureau and home price data from realtor.com.

Then we interviewed health experts, residents, business owners, and real estate experts to figure out why life expectancies stretch so long in these places. (The ranking was limited to just one county per state to for geographic diversity.)

Our places run the gamut in income, real estate value, population size, and scenery. But most of them are friendlier places where people tend to know your name. Get used to it.

Counties with longest life expectancy
Counties with longest life expectancyClaire Widman

1. Summit County, CO

Population: 30,585
Notable city: Breckenridge, CO
Median life span: 86.8 years
Median home list price: $930,500

Main Street in Breckenridge, CO
Main Street in Breckenridge, CObauhaus1000/iStock

The first time Jeff Carlson visited the ski town of Breckenridge, CO, in 2001, he was smitten with the backcountry skiing, hiking, and the glorious Rocky Mountains. Within days he decided to decamp from New York, and he hasn’t looked back since. These days when Carlson, now 37, isn’t at work as general manager of Mountain Outfitters, a ski equipment store, you can find him fly fishing with his dog, Takoda.

“People move to Summit County because they value recreation and outdoors,” Carlson says, adding that people here “value [outdoor] minutes over money.”

An active, outdoorsy lifestyle coupled with healthier diets may be the county’s secret to longevity. There isn’t a single fast-food joint in the county’s main city of Breckenridge, 2½ hours northwest of Aspen.

Living in the area isn’t cheap, though. The median home list price is $799,000 just in Breckenridge, according to realtor.com data. But real estate varies from multimillion-dollar vacation homes with perks such as bar areas and home theaters with sound systems to more modest two-bedroom condos that start around $350,000 and go up from there.

2. Billings County, ND

Population: 940
Notable city: Medora, ND
Median life span: 84 years
Median home list price: $331,200

Billings County courthouse in Medora, ND
Billings County courthouse in Medora, NDpublic domain

Billings County is a small ranching community in the most rural reaches of western North Dakota, where the Great Plains joins the Badlands. It’s an outdoorsy kind of place where most folks hunt and fish in their spare time.

The county’s main attraction is the Old West town of Medora, population 132, a tourist destination that’s very much a blast from the past.

“Long life is not unusual here,” says Douglas Ellison, 55, who owns a bookstore and an inn with his wife in Medora. He notes there are active residents in their 90s and one rancher who’s now over 100.

“The ranchers still do the physical labor,” he says. “The townspeople walk a lot. Everyone stays physically active.”

The clean air and lack of common stressors found in big cities may also be factors.

“We’re not fighting traffic every day,” Ellison adds. In fact, there’s not even a single grocery store in town. Locals travel about a half-hour west to Dickinson to do their shopping.

Much of the county is made up of federal- or state-owned land—it’s home to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where the former president famously hunted bison.

3. Marin County, CA

Population: 260,651
Notable city: San Rafael, CA
Median life span: 83.8 years
Median home list price: $1,425,400

Sausalito, CA, in Marin County
Sausalito, CA, in Marin Countysestevens/iStock

Affluent Marin, just north of San Francisco, was named the healthiest county in the state by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. That’s no easy feat in health-obsessed California.

But the county’s more progressive laws—such as its 2015 ban on wood-burning heaters, which pose health risks, and prohibiting public smoking a year later—are a testament to the area’s commitment to healthy living. There’s also an abundance of doctors here, with one primary care physician for every 630 residents and one mental health care provider for every 140 residents.

“Marin has policies that make the healthy choice the easy choice,” Buettner says.

The area’s close proximity to San Francisco, top-notch schools, and low crime rate—as well as its breathtaking vistas and world-class biking and hiking— are big draws for new residents, says Jonathan Marks, a real estate agent at Alain Pinel Realtors. But buyers need to pony up for those perks: The median home list price is well over $1 million.

4. Fairfax County, VA

Population: 1,148,433
Notable city: Herndon, VA
Median life span: 83.7 years
Median home list price: $608,700

Lake Audubon in Reston, VA, in Fairfax County
Lake Audubon in Reston, VA, in Fairfax Countykrblokhin/iStock

The Washington, DC, suburb of Fairfax County has gone bike-crazy. With miles of new cycling lanes added over the past few years, more and more residents are increasingly choosing to pedal to work.

“There ‘s been a big boom in riding,” says Bernard Etherly, a manager at Performance Bicycle, a shop in Springfield, part of Fairfax County. He says bike commuters quickly realize the health benefits: “They start to lose weight; their blood pressure and cholesterol goes down.” What’s not to love?

But biking isn’t the only reason folks are healthier here. The county is home to many affluent, well-educated residents. Nearly two-thirds have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 34% nationally, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. More educated folks often make healthier choices—and may be able to afford to eat better.

Housing in the county ranges from very reasonably priced mobile homes under $70,000 and two-bedroom condos going for less than $150,000 to sprawling, eight-figure mansions with in-ground pools, heated floors, and wine cellars.

(Note: The city of Fairfax, VA, is separate from Fairfax County, although the county surrounds the city.)

5. Aleutians East Borough, AK

Population: 3,370
Notable city: King Cove, AK
Median life span: 83.7 years
Median home list price: $226,500

King Cove, AK
King Cove, AKfacebook.com/ AleutiansEastBorough

Modern life has passed Aleutians East Borough by in many ways. The only way on or off these sparsely inhabited islands, stretching far from mainland Alaska to the Pacific, is by boat or plane. And a plane trip from Anchorage can cost more than $3,000. Maybe it’s not surprising that some of the Alaska Natives, whose ancestors settled here thousands of years ago, have never left the islands.

“They do not have a newspaper, or any of the standard city features,” says real estate agent Linda Friday of Jack White Real Estate, based in Anchorage. She’s had a listing for a three-bedroom home on an acre lot in the main town of King Cove sit on the market for two years due to a lack of buyers. “You have a very hardy people who live and work there.”

Peter Pan Seafoods has a processing facility on King Cove where many of the locals work. There are a few small food stores, but most of the locals also hunt and fish for their dinner.

“They’re living off the land,” says Jimmy Sparks, a real estate agent at Real Estate Brokers of Alaska, based in Anchorage. “It’s a whole other lifestyle.”

6. Presidio County, TX

Population: 7,156
Notable city: Marfa, TX
Median life span: 83.7 years
Median home list price: $297,000

Cibolo Creek in Marfa, TX
Cibolo Creek in Marfa, TXStevens Fremont/Getty Images

Texas’ Presidio County, which sits along the U.S.-Mexico border in the Chihuahuan Desert, is one of the more puzzling counties on our list. It’s rural with a median household income of just $33,453—not a combo most would associate with longevity.

“Lots of beans and tortillas, I guess,” jokes Brad Newton, executive director of the Presidio Municipal Development District, an economic development group in the city of Presidio.

Like many of the locals, Newton lives in an adobe home that keeps temperatures cooler in the summer. “We’re so far from a hospital, we can’t afford to get sick,” he says.

The predominantly Hispanic families and communities in Presidio County are extremely close-knit—an important factor in personal well-being.

And, like most of the places on this list, there’s a strong outdoor appeal to Presidio. The largest park in Texas, the 300,000-acre Big Bend Ranch State Park, offering about 240 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails, is within its borders.

The county is also home to the small, artsy town of Marfa. It attracts tourists from all over the world who visit the Chinati Foundation, a contemporary fine art museum.

“It’s being out in a really wild place and keeping people close to you,” says Mary Farley, a real estate agent at Marfa Vista Real Estate. “That helps with longevity.”

7. San Juan County, WA

Population: 16,715
Notable city: Friday Harbor, WA
Median life span: 83.7 years
Median home list price: $774,400

Sea kayakers near Orcas Island in Washington's San Juan County
Sea kayakers near Orcas Island in Washington’s San Juan CountyJoel W. Rogers/Getty Images

Those looking for proof that there’s something really special about the islands of San Juan County should note that Oprah Winfrey reportedly bought an $8 million retreat on the county’s Orcas Island last month. North of Seattle, scenic San Juan is known as a vacation retreat for rich buyers seeking a bit of peace and tranquility, some of Washington’s natural beauty, and just maybe the secret to living long.

“There’s a lot of wealth up here, but it’s unassuming. You can be standing next to a millionaire and not know it,” says Merri Ann Simonson, a real estate broker at Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands. The housing ranges from cabins nestled in the woods starting around $200,000 to mansions that have ocean views and private orchards.

Buyers may come for the beauty, but they stay for the county’s civic-mindedness, another factor that may contribute to longer lives. Many residents are involved with local nonprofit groups such as the San Juan Preservation Trust. And being in a seaside community may help residents and visitors to unplug and relax.

“When you’re out kayaking or out on the boat shrimping or fishing, you aren’t stressed out,” Simonson says.

8. Los Alamos County, NM

Population: 18,738
Notable city: Los Alamos, NM
Median life span: 83.5 years
Median home list price: $384,400

Homes in Los Alamos, NM
Homes in Los Alamos, NMbenedek/iStock

The nuclear weapons used during World War II were designed by physicists in Los Alamos. Today, this New Mexico county still has a large research presence, including the Los Alamos National Laboratory. And as a result of this highly skilled economy, locals tend to be well-off, never a bad thing when it comes to life spans.

This year, Los Alamos County was ranked the fourth healthiest community in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The numbers tell the tale: Only 11.2% of residents smoke, just 5.8% have no health insurance, and nearly 88% are active in their leisure time. That’s compared with national rates of 17.3%, 12.9%, and 75.5% respectively.

It’s not hard to stay active, with skiing just a hop away at Pajarito Mountain, and two national parks right outside the county: Bandelier National Monument and the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

“Many of the scientists and researchers who are attracted to work at the laboratory are equally attracted to this kind of healthy lifestyle,” says Julie Habiger, spokesperson for Los Alamos County.

9. Teton County, WY

Population: 23,265
Notable city: Jackson, WY
Median life span: 83.5 years
Median home list price: $1,305,200

The antler arches in Jackson Hole town square
The antler arches in Jackson Hole town squaretroutfisherman/iStock

Every year millions of tourists flock to Teton County to visit Jackson Hole, one of the world’s most popular ski resorts, and Yellowstone National Park, which is partly located in the county. The combo of wealth, mountain air, and outdoor activities may be the reason that residents are in such good shape.

After graduating from Presbyterian College 17 years ago, Andrew Ellett came to Jackson Hole. He figured he’d spend the summer backpacking before heading off to grad school. But he enjoyed the lifestyle so much that, after meeting his future wife, he decided to stay put.

“People are here for the beauty, the serenity, a simpler life outside of the city,” says Ellett, who is now a real estate broker at Engel & Völkers Jackson Hole. Once a year, he and a friend do a three-night canoe and camping trip in the county. They don’t get cellphone service and go days without seeing a single person. And that’s just fine. “More than anything [we’re here for] the lifestyle,” he says.

10. Collier County, FL

Population: 372,880
Notable city: Naples, FL
Median life span: 83.4 years
Median home list price: $479,400

Sunset crowd and swimmers in Naples, FL
Sunset crowd and swimmers in Naples, FLbenedek/iStock

Retired advertising executive Steve Calabrese, 70, and his wife hope to soon call Collier County home. The couple are betting that the warm weather and the programs provided by the Parkinson’s Association of Southwest Florida in Naples will help her battle the disease. Naples is the largest city in the county on the western coast of Florida across from Miami.

The Calabreses are just waiting to sell their single-family home in Nantucket, MA, before downsizing into a three-bedroom condo near the beach in Naples.

Choosing Collier County as a place to get healthier isn’t a far-fetched idea. Of all of the counties with the highest life expectancies, only Collier County is up for consideration to become a Blue Zone. That’s partly due to NCH Healthcare System in Naples.

“The hospital [system] is one of the best in the country. Especially for older residents, access to health care becomes really important,” says Buettner, adding that NCH even does the little things right, like offering better-quality food in its cafeterias. “Not the usual hamburgers, hot dogs, or mashed potatoes.”

“I always thought of Florida as a place where old people went to wait around and die,” says Calabrese, who looks forward to the beach and the fitness centers in Naples. “But now I see it as a place to be as active as you want.”

Clare Trapasso contributed to this report.

Posted on August 9, 2018 at 12:52 PM
Guy Arnone | Category: Real Estate

An Easy Way to Make More Money Selling Your Home, by Dave Ramsey

If you’ve ever sold a home, you know it takes money to make it happen. You’ve got to fix and freshen it up to attract buyers. Then there are closing costs. And moving brings its own set of expenses.

But perhaps the biggest chunk that comes out of your pocket is the real estate agent commission, which traditionally runs around 6%. For the typical “For Sale by Owner” (FSBO) home—which sold for $185,000 last year, according to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR)—that’s $11,100. Ouch!

With that kind of cash, it’s no wonder that many sellers fly solo in an effort to save a few bucks. But is it worth it?

Would You Rather Save $5,550 or Make $60,000?

Your home is a big investment, and you want to make the most of it. Keeping the agent commission all to yourself seems like an easy way to do that. The problem is you’re leaving even more money on the table by opting out of a pro.

How much more?

According to the NAR, the typical home sold by an agent last year fetched $245,000. That’s a $60,000 difference!

But wait . . . there’s more! Selling your home on your own doesn’t necessarily mean an agent-free transaction. You still owe it to the buyer’s agent to pay their commission. After all, they worked hard to get their buyer into your home. If they get 3% of the sale, you can cut your $11,100 in savings in half, leaving you $5,550.

The numbers alone paint a pretty compelling picture. But let’s explore two reasons smart sellers go pro.

There’s Power in Numbers

If you’re selling your home, you’ve got to go where the buyers are. A recent NAR report found that 89% of buyers used a real estate agent to purchase their home in 2016.

Want to know the top method FSBO sellers used to market their home? A yard sign.

Last we checked, yards signs don’t exactly have their finger on the pulse of the market. Think about how many people drive by your home on a given day. Then stack that up against an agent’s pool of buyers. There’s no comparison!

With a real estate agent, you get instant access to thousands of potential buyers through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). A true pro has a proactive plan for exposing your home to as many buyers as possible and works with you to ensure your home gives a great first impression.

There’s No Substitute for Experience

Let’s set the sugarcoating aside and cut to the chase. Going it alone guarantees one thing: You’ll make mistakes. Some will be small—but some will come with zeroes on the end. You’ve worked too hard to let that happen!

Research from the NAR shows that FSBO sellers struggle most with paperwork, pricing and preparing their home for the sale. A real estate agent can help you with all of those things (and more!) and will advise you based on experience, not emotion.

Here are just a few ways a pro makes selling your home a cinch:

  • Advising you on home repairs or updates
  • Pricing your home based on the latest market data
  • Actively marketing your home to buyers
  • Scheduling showings with potential buyers
  • Negotiating to get the best price on your home
  • Handling all the required paperwork

Look at it this way: A top agent sold more homes last week than you’ll probably sell in your lifetime. They eat, drink and sleep real estate. Doesn’t it stand to reason that they can help you achieve the most gain with the least pain?

Don’t Give Up Big Bucks Just to Save a Few

Can you save money by going FSBO? Sure. But you could lose out on so much more! Do yourself a favor and partner with a high-performance pro who knows what it takes to get top dollar for your home in the least amount of time.

The average real estate agent sold 11 homes last year, according to a recent NAR survey. But why settle for average?

Check out Dave’s real estate Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs). You can trust an ELP to give you the same helpful advice you’d hear from Dave. Why? Because ELPs are Dave fans too!

If you’re planning to sell your home, why not work with the best of the best!

Posted on July 29, 2018 at 12:15 PM
Guy Arnone | Category: Real Estate

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