Where’s Paradise? California Community to Rebuild or Relocate After Deadly Camp Fire By Liz Dominguez Just two months ago, nearly 27,000 residents of Paradise in Butte County, Calif., fled the all-consuming flames of the Camp Fire, which broke out on November 8, killing at least 86 people in the region and destroying nearly 14,000 homes—an estimated $11-$13 billion in residential and commercial losses, according to CoreLogic data. A substantial number of buildings and structures in the town of Paradise are gone; the spirit of the community, however, lives on with surviving residents and members of the surrounding towns. While concerns and uncertainty linger, nearby real estate markets have already experienced vast fluctuations. Where Did Paradise Residents Go? With the fires extinguished, residents of what was once the town of Paradise, now largely a mix of ash and rubble, are having to make significant long-term decisions: stay and rebuild in Paradise, or relocate. According to Becky Prater, a broker/owner in Chico, and Dennis Geare, a branch manager in Grass Valley, the markets surrounding Paradise are seeing substantial changes in buyer, seller and renter activity, home values and inventory. First and foremost, those left homeless by the fire had to find short-term housing before making more permanent decisions. While many are still living in shelters or staying with friends and family, the rental markets of the neighboring towns have seen big changes. “There are basically no rental units left in Butte County; most survivors are living between 45-100 miles away from Paradise,” says Prater, emphasizing that any available vacant rental was gone within 72 hours of the fire. “This is also causing increased traffic, traffic accidents and heighted stress levels of all of our residents.” A Ripple Effect An unexpected result of the sudden need for short-term rentals? Chico and surrounding towns are experiencing a spike in seller activity and, therefore, in renter evictions. “Chico renters are being evicted because their landlords are selling their homes to take advantage of the current market increases. These renters also have nowhere locally to live and are not qualified to get any FEMA disaster funds like those coming from the affected areas,” says Prater. Geare has also seen a growing interest in relocation, not only from local residents looking to sell and move to other areas that may be deemed “safer,” but from incoming Paradise residents who are looking to purchase elsewhere rather than rebuild. Prater believes virtually most individuals impacted by the Camp Fire are looking to relocate permanently, as the thought of rebuilding in the fire-prone areas is “scary and not something they can imagine.” “We are seeing quite a few clients coming up from Paradise who are looking for roofs over their heads, generally in the lower price range of about $280,000-$350,000,” says Geare. “This is putting timing pressure on buyers in that category. Good houses are snapped up quickly, sometimes in as little as 3-6 days.” The Markets Shift There’s been a noticeable change from the pre-fire housing market to today’s demanding real estate environment. Immediately following the fire, Prater saw a sharp decline in inventory. “We had a relatively tight market pre-fire, with 226 homes on the market in Chico on November 7. In the two weeks after the fire, our inventory shrunk to 41 homes on the market, and the few builders we have in Chico with subdivisions sold out of all available inventory and phases of lots not even finalized yet,” she says. Now that the urgency has waned, inventory is starting to grow once again, also being spurred on by homeowners who are afraid of being caught in similar circumstances by living in fire-prone areas, or by those who understand there is still a growing need for housing in the area, which could lead to quick and profitable sales. “As of [press time], we have 107 homes on the market, and even during the holidays homes were coming on the market. Those thinking of selling in the spring or anyone with a vacant home were getting their homes on the market,” says Prater. “This demand has caused an almost immediate increase in value of between 10-20 percent. Most homes in good locations and conditions are selling within days and at prices considerably over the seller’s asking price.” As homeowner insurance checks are disbursed, more and more Paradise residents are becoming cash buyers in nearby towns, or are using the funds as significant down payments, as well as to purchase essentials such as clothing and home furnishings, says Prater. While Geare is not located in the immediate vicinity of Paradise—instead about an hour away from the town—he has also felt market changes. “We have a remarkably stable market here in Western Nevada County. Months of inventory based on closed sales has increased from 2.5 months a year ago to 5.5 months as of November; price-per-square foot is up slightly from $218 to $234; and days on market is stable at about 53 days,” says Geare. Real Estate Community and Locals Come Together Geare and Prater have both witnessed an outpouring of assistance in the aftermath of the destructive fire. From REALTOR® and Association participation to community involvement, the surrounding towns have come together in support of those affected. “I’m so proud of our local, state and national Associations of REALTORS®. All have stepped up in donations, grants and personal help,” says Prater. “Our local Association, the Sierra North Valley Association, has donated thousands of dollars in cash, gift cards, clothing, furnishings, and more. Our state Association made $2,500 in grants available to local REALTORS® and others.” Geare’s office also accepted donations for new items of clothing, gift cards and various other essential items that were delivered to Chico to be distributed to those in need. “Other broker offices collected donations, as well,” says Geare. “Our five Rotary clubs made donations and ran crowdfunding campaigns—fundraising was everywhere. One local jewelry store ran a watch battery campaign, donating the proceeds to assistance efforts. The community outpouring is just too extensive to recapitulate.” An Unescapable Truth The fires may be out, but this devastating event will have long-lasting effects on not only those directly affected, but on residents of nearby towns who are helping to rebuild a fragmented community. “This horrific event has forever changed the way that our local communities will live,” says Prater. “Our immediate goal is finding housing for as many possible. The long-term goals are rebuilding a community with better housing protections for fire safety and a community that will be able to sustain itself. “The financial and emotional impact on all of us is still hard to quantify even today, almost two months after that date that will forever be etched in our minds for those who escaped with their lives and for those of who lived in black smoke for days and witnessed the fire,” adds Prater. Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Forecasting Housing in 2019: Not Better for Buyers, but Not Worse
By Suzanne De Vita
If the expectations about housing in 2019 can be summed up in one word, it’s this: balanced.
After months and months on a runaway track, home prices have started to temper, and will continue to moderate in the upcoming year, according to new predictions by several sources. Analysts are anticipating anywhere from 2.2 to 3.79 percent growth in home prices for the year—a considerable dip from past years, but an indicator of a leveling-out market.
The deceleration, however, is not likely to overcome other pressures, like climbing mortgage rates and short starter supply, changing conditions for homebuyers and sellers. According to a forecast by realtor.com®, there will be a fewer than 7 percent increase in inventory overall for the year.
“Inventory will continue to increase next year, but unless there is a major shift in the economic trajectory, we don’t expect a buyer’s market on the horizon within the next five years,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com. “Unfortunately for buyers, it’s only going to get more costly to buy, especially the most-demanded entry-level real estate.”
Meanwhile, interest rates will track toward 6 percent—landing between 5.3 and 5.5 percent, realtor.com’s report shows, or 5.8 percent, according to a forecast by Zillow. In the realtor.com scenario, monthly mortgage payments will rise 8 percent.
The increase is an obstacle for renters; in fact, it is now the “biggest challenge” toward purchasing for 19 percent of renters, according to a forecast by Trulia. Thirteen percent said the same this spring.
“I believe we’re going to see rates go toward what they were 10 years back coming out of the recession: closer to 5.25, 5.3 percent,” says Cheryl Young, senior economist at Trulia. “The real issue around affordability and rising interest rates—whether or not people know how much that’s going to impact their monthly mortgage payment—is the fact that prices have been outstripping wage growth. The bottom end of the market, especially first-time homebuyers, are already feeling the squeeze, so any rise in interest rates takes another bite out of affordability.”
For the buyers capable of paying prices today, however—and at the interest rates of tomorrow—there will be a measure of relief.
“Certain headwinds—including rising mortgage interest rates, higher rents and stiff competition for housing in the most desirable areas—will only grow stronger over the next year, but that won’t necessarily be a bad thing,” says Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “A slower-moving market is likely to give more buyers a chance to catch their breath and choose from a wider selection of homes that fit their preferences and budgets.”
First-timers will again be a force in 2019, accounting for 45 percent of mortgages, according to realtor.com’s report. Many will be millennials who are moving or trading up. According to Trulia, 21 percent of millennials are planning to purchase in the next year.
Given the buyer dynamics, 2019 will continue the favorable market for sellers, as well—but not everyone will garner multiple offers, as in recent years. According to the forecast by realtor.com, sales will soften for the year, down 2 percent.
“For the first time in a while, home seller sentiment has decreased,” Young says, citing the report by Trulia. “I think people, net, are still thinking it is a good time to sell, but it is not as favorable as it was last year.”
One critical development in 2019 is the effect of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. According to the research by Trulia, half of homeowners believe they will not benefit from the changes when they file their taxes—and many, realtor.com’s report shows, will have a bigger bill at tax time. How housing will be impacted overall is unknown.
Another development is disasters, which are growing in intensity and number. Following two devastating hurricanes and the wildfires this year, analysts are expecting more occurrences in 2019. According to the predictions by Zillow, a “record number” of homes will be lost as a result—but according to the findings by Trulia, 52 percent of homeowners are “no more or less concerned” about the potential threat.
With the burn-out in home prices, and rates rising, housing has been inching toward normal this year, and is anticipated to stabilize through 2019. Battered buyers may have improved prospects in the upcoming year, but will still contend with cost and inventory pressures.
“2019 looks to be a pivotal year as the market cools and transitions from one marked by robust recovery into one more in line with historic norms, and more balanced between buyers, sellers and renters,” Terrazas says.
Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at email@example.com.
Housing America’s Aging Population: The Challenges Ahead
By Liz Dominguez
Today’s head of household is largely over 50 years old, according to a recent report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS), “Housing America’s Older Adults 2018.” In fact, households headed by someone over 65 represent 55 percent of the nation’s households, while 65 million households are headed by someone aged 50 or over.
Are their needs being met? According to the report, the necessary tools that America’s aging population rely on are in short supply. Living arrangements, financial resources, health and functional abilities of these household leaders all pose a challenge.
“We need to address gaps in the affordability and accessibility of our housing stock, both of which are essential to older adults’ independence and well-being,” said Jennifer Molinsky, the lead author of the report. “As the number of households in their 80s grows, it will be essential that we strengthen the links between housing, healthcare and other services.”
Among the biggest roadblocks is the wealth gap. In 2016, median homeowners aged 50-64 had a net worth of $292,000—nearly 60 times that of the median renter in the same age group. While median incomes increased over the last five years for older adults—by 9.6 percent for those aged 65-79 and by 5.2 percent for those 80 and over—those aged 50-64 only saw an increase of 2.6 percent.
The racial divide widens this gap even more. While 81 percent of white households aged 50-plus own their homes, only 57 percent of black households can claim ownership—a 24-percentage point gap, the largest since recordkeeping began in 1976.
High costs of living are also hindering the aging population. Nearly 9.7 million households use at least 30 percent of their income to pay for housing, while over half of this segment pays more than 50 percent of their income.
While this segment of the population continues to age, there’s a shortage of properties that can address the physical challenges and disabilities that accompany them. For example, in 2016, 17 percent of households aged 50 and over included individuals who had trouble walking or climbing stairs (including 43 percent of those who are aged 80 and over). According to recent data, only 2.5 percent of homes in the U.S. have features that address these mobility concerns: single-floor living, no-step entries and extra-wide halls and doors.
The biggest risk? The largest portion of aging heads of household (57 percent for those over 80) is the most vulnerable because they are living alone. The same goes for renters—77 percent within the same age group live alone. This segment of the population largely relies on non-residents or paid caregivers for assistance, but also has lower incomes than larger households, posing more complex challenges.
Vulnerability can also be location-based. For those aging heads of household who reside in natural disaster-prone areas, the dangers are amplified. Disruptions to healthcare in response to power outages, road closures and healthcare facility closures can significantly impact aid efforts. Additionally, after-disaster dangers, such as mold in the home or flooding, are additional risks that could dramatically impact the livability and health of this population.
As baby boomers begin to turn 80 in less than a decade, demand for accessible apartment units and homes will only continue to grow, as will the wealth and racial gap and the need for funding to support financial assistance programs that help pay for basic housing and other necessities.
In which institutions do the solutions reside? According to the report, state and local governments, in addition to the private and nonprofit sectors, can play a role in developing more affordable and suitable housing for these aging heads of household.
“Housing America’s Older Adults” is a supplement to the JCHS annual State of the Nation’s Housing report.
Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Home Maintenance Checklist
Like a health physical, a home maintenance schedule is important for every home’s upkeep and well-being. Continuing to check up on your exterior, appliances, heating and cooling, plumbing, security, and electrical systems will help prevent breakdowns, save money, and keep your home looking its best. Use this home maintenance checklist to help schedule your seasonal updates, repairs, and cleaning, along with a handful of monthly tasks. If any of the jobs go beyond your skill level or lead to more involved repairs, hire a professional to help.
Monthly Home Improvements
Inspecting your home and completing monthly home improvement projects will keep your maintenance schedule on track and easier to manage. A comprehensive monthly home maintenance checklist is easy to implement, both in terms of time and money. Here is a list of basic monthly home improvements:
- Clean the furnace filter to remove dust build-ups, make it easier to regulate your home’s temperature, and ultimately decrease utility bills.
- Check the water softener and replenish salt if necessary.
- Clean faucet aerators and showerheads to remove mineral deposits.
- Inspect tub and sink drains for debris; unclog.
- Test smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, and all ground-fault circuit interrupters.
- Inspect electrical cords for wear.
- Vacuum heat registers and heat vents.
- Check that indoor and outdoor air vents are not blocked.
- Flush out hot water from the water heater to remove accumulated sediment.
- Clean the garbage disposal by grinding ice cubes, then flushing with hot water and baking soda.
Seasonal Home Improvement: Fall Maintenance Checklist
In many regions, fall is the perfect season to tackle general home maintenance projects because the weather is generally dry and temperatures are moderate. Before you start your seasonal home maintenance checklist, examine both the interior and exterior of your home. Most of these home maintenance items can be accomplished without the help of a professional, but it’s always better to be safe and call for assistance if a home improvement project is beyond your abilities. Here are our seasonal home improvement recommendations for fall and spring:
- Rake leaves and aerate the lawn.
- Have forced-air heating system inspected by a professional. Tip: schedule an inspection in late summer or early fall before the heating season begins.
- Check fireplace for damage or hazards, and clean fireplace flues.
- Seal cracks and gaps in windows and doors with caulk or weather stripping; replace if necessary.
- Swap old, drafty windows for more energy-efficient models.
- Touch up exterior siding and trim with paint.
- Inspect roofing for missing, loose, or damaged shingles and leaks.
- Power-wash windows and siding.
- Remove leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts.
- Mend cracks and gaps in the driveway and walkway.
- Drain and winterize exterior plumbing.
- Have fireplace professionally inspected.
- Tune up major home appliances before the holidays.
- Repair or replace siding.
- Replace the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Install a smoke detector on every floor of your home, including the basement.
- Clean the carpets.
- Clean window and door screens.
- Vacuum lint from dryer vent.
- Inspect exterior door hardware; fix squeaky handles and loose locks.
- Check for frayed cords and wires.
- Drain and store hoses, and drain in-ground sprinkler systems.
- Wrap insulation around outdoor faucets and pipes in unheated garages.
- Check water heater for leaks.
Seasonal Home Improvement: Winter Maintenance Checklist
Winter weather can be harsh on your home. The below-freezing temperatures can cause a number of problems, including frozen pipes and roof damage. To prevent winter harm and avoid calling a professional in the middle of a blizzard, be sure to check these winter items off your home maintenance checklist:
- Cover your air-conditioning unit.
- Check basement for leaks during thaws.
- Inspect the roof, gutters, and downspouts for damage after storms.
- Vacuum bathroom exhaust fan grill.
- Vacuum refrigerator and freezer coils and empty and clean drip trays.
- Clean drains in sinks, tubs, showers, and dishwashers.
Seasonal Home Improvement: Spring Maintenance Checklist
Once the ground has thawed and the trees begin to bud, it’s time to prepare your home for spring. On top of your regular spring cleaning, you’ll also want to consider these general home maintenance tips. Use our spring home maintenance checklist to make sure everything in your home from the basement to the roof is in tip-top shape.
- Inspect roofing for missing, loose, or damaged shingles and leaks.
- Change the air-conditioner filter.
- Clean window and door screens.
- Polish wood furniture, and dust light fixtures.
- Refinish the deck.
- Power-wash windows and siding.
- Remove leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts.
- Replace the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Have a professional inspect and pump the septic tank.
- Inspect sink, shower, and bath caulking for deterioration.
- Vacuum lint from dryer vent.
- Inspect chimney for damage.
- Repair or replace caulking and weather stripping around windows, doors, and mechanicals.
- Remove insulation from outdoor faucets and check sprinkler heads.
- Have air-conditioning system serviced.
- Drain or flush water heater.
- Fertilize your lawn.
Seasonal Home Improvement: Summer Maintenance Checklist
When the sun is out and warm weather is finally here to stay, the last thing you should worry about is home maintenance. Use our quick summer home maintenance guide to get the hard work out of the way at the beginning of the season. Even if the weather is already pushing 90 degrees, there’s no need to worry—most of these tasks are indoors!
- Oil garage-door opener and chain, garage door, and all door hinges.
- Remove lint from inside and outside washer hoses and dryer vents.
- Clean kitchen exhaust fan filter.
- Clean refrigerator and freezer coils and empty and clean drip trays.
- Check dishwasher for leaks.
- Check around kitchen and bathroom cabinets and around toilets for leaks.
- Replace interior and exterior faucet and showerhead washers if needed.
- Seal tile grout.
- Prune trees and shrubs.
With critical inventory levels persisting, there have been fewer home sales to show for the year—and, with that, elevated home prices, according to the latest National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) quarterly report.
Across major markets in the third quarter of the year, the existing-home median price rose to $266,900—on an annual basis, an increase of 4.8 percent. From Q2 2017 to Q2 2018, notedly, prices rose 4.9 percent.
By the close of the quarter, there were 1.88 million existing-home listings on the market—a 1.1 percent bump from Q3 2017, according to the report. There was an average 4.3-months’ supply.
“Though inventory is more than adequate on the upper-end market, the insufficient supply of low- to mid-priced homes in metro markets with strong job growth continues to drive up prices and push prospective buyers out of the market,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR.
“A strong economy and consistent job growth should be driving up home sales; however, would-be homebuyers are struggling to find a home they can afford,” Yun says. “As mortgage rates continue to rise—reaching the decade’s highest rates this quarter—an increase in the supply of affordable homes has become even more important to help temper price growth across the country.”
Additional highlights from Q3:
- Ninety-three percent of the major markets measured (166 of 178 metros) had prices rise year-over-year, with 10 percent in double-digit territory.
- The average homebuyer with a 5 percent down payment needed to earn $64,480 to afford a home at the median (nationally); the average homebuyer with a 10 percent down payment needed to earn $61,086; and the average homebuyer with a 20 percent down payment needed to earn $54,299.
- The costliest housing markets were: San Jose, Calif. ($1.3 million, existing-home median); San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. ($989,000); Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, Calif. ($830,000); Honolulu, Hawaii ($818,000); and San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif. ($650,000).
- The most inexpensive markets were: Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio ($97,600); Decatur, Ill. ($102,800); Cumberland, Md. ($110,300); Wichita Falls, Texas ($115,600); and Elmira, N.Y. ($121,600).
- In the Midwest, the existing-home median price was $206,800, up 2.1 percent year-over-year.
- In the Northeast, the existing-home median price was $301,500, up 6.1 percent year-over-year.
- In the South, the existing-home median price was $234,300, up 3.4 percent year-over-year.
- In the West, the existing-home median price was $395,500, up 4.8 percent year-over-year.
For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.