The Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center has released its November 2017 Housing Finance at a Glance Chartbook. The Introduction looks out how this summer’s big storms have pushed up delinquency rates:
TheStreet.com quoted me in Investing In Your Home Remains a Sound Financial Decision for 2018. It reads, in part,
Homeowners are still pouring money into their homes as renovations and upkeep are generating a large portion of sales for Home Depot as demand for purchasing homes rose in September and the three massive hurricanes in the U.S. boosted revenue.
Home Depot’s third-quarter sales surged in the aftermath of a robust hurricane season that spanned from Texas to Puerto Rico, increasing demand from homeowners who faced immense rebuilding as homes were destroyed by relentless floodwaters.
The Atlanta-based home improvement retailer reported an impressive 7.9% increase in comparable-store sales in the third quarter, which exceeded the Wall Street estimate of 5.8%. Home Depot also beat on earnings, reporting $1.84 a share, 2 cents ahead of forecasts. The company’s total revenue was $25.03 billion, up 8% from the same period last year.
“Though this quarter was marked by an unprecedented number of natural disasters,” said CEO Craig Menear in a statement, “the underlying health of our core business remains solid.
The company was able to raise its fiscal 2017 guidance due to its stellar earnings and now estimates comp sales growth of 6.5% and earnings per share of $7.36, which reflects its $8 billion buyback program this year.
Home Depot shares rose 2.7% to $168.06 on Nov. 14.
* * *
“When an individual buys a share of stock they can monitor the value of the investment on a minute-to-minute basis,” Johnson said. “People can see the fluctuation in value. With real estate, however, no one is quoting you a price instantaneously on your real estate purchase. Absent a market price, people tend not to worry about the value of their real estate purchase and assume that it is very stable in the short run.”
Millennials tend to be conservative with their investment choices and are “drawn to this seeming stability in the value of residential real estate,” he said.
Nevertheless, purchasing a home can often be a very poor financial decision and potential home buyers need to be aware of the additional costs and potential pitfalls.
Noble laureate economist and Yale University professor Robert Shiller had made a compelling case that real estate, especially residential homes, are a much inferior investment when compared to stocks. He found that on an inflation-adjusted basis, the average home price has increased only 0.6% annually over the past 100 years.
The stock market’s average return on a large stock index such as the S&P 500 has been about 10% while inflation has averaged around 3% from 1926 through 2016 while the inflation adjusted return of the stock market over the past 90 years has been approximately 7%.
The rate of homeownership still remains much lower than the 1998 rate of 9.5% and the rate has remained stable since the commencement of the financial crisis — hovering around 5% since 2008.
So should you own or rent?
Renting can be a better deal for many consumers, depending on the city and region, said David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School in N.Y.
“This is a better question to ask yourself than whether owning is a sound investment choice because you are going to need to live somewhere no matter what,” he said. “It is not too helpful to look at national numbers to answer this question – you should look at the figures in the communities you are considering living in.”
Avvo quoted me in What Do Renters Need To Know in A Natural Disaster? It opens,
From hurricanes in the East to wildfires in the West, the past few months have seen an on-going slew of natural disasters in the United States. Fires and floods don’t care whether a property is inhabited by owners or renters. However, most states have laws that address how landlords and tenants deal with a rental property in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
Renters’ recourse in a natural disaster? Leases and local laws.
Check the lease first
The first source of authority on the obligations of landlords and tenants is found in the lease agreement, which should spell out the terms of what happens in case of a natural disaster. But not all leases clearly address this situation. According to Michael Simkin, managing partner of Simkin & Associates in Los Angeles, in cases where the lease is “burdensome or unfair,” local or state laws will govern what happens.
Landlord and tenant responsibilities vary by state
Every state has different laws regarding landlord and tenant obligations after a natural disaster strikes. Here are examples of answers to common tenant questions from some of the states recovering from recent natural disasters.
Can a lease be terminated if a natural disaster makes a rental property unusable?
California: If a rental property is destroyed in a natural disaster, the lease is automatically cancelled. The landlord must refund the rent for that rental period on a prorated basis.
“Many times, the city can come in and condemn the property and effectively force out tenants in unsafe situations. It is also the landlord’s responsibility to terminate a lease when they have knowledge that their rental property is unusable or unsafe,” notes Monrae English, a partner at Wild, Carter & Tipton in Fresno.
Florida: If the premises are “damaged or destroyed,” the tenant may terminate the rental agreement with written notice and move out immediately.
Louisiana: According to the Louisiana attorney general, if a natural disaster damages a property to the point that it is completely unusable, the lease is terminated automatically.
New York: If a rental becomes unfit for occupancy due to a natural disaster, the tenant may quit the premises and is no longer liable to pay rent. Any rent paid in advance should be returned on a prorated basis, according to David Reiss, law professor at Brooklyn Law School.
Texas: Either the tenant or the landlord can terminate the lease with written notice. Once the lease is canceled, tenants’ obligation to pay rent ceases and they’re entitled to a prorated refund of any rent paid during the time the home was not usable.
If the lease is terminated due to a natural disaster, does the renter get the security deposit back?
California: The landlord must return the security deposit within three weeks of the tenant vacating, with any deductions accounted for in writing. The landlord is not allowed to deduct disaster damage.
Louisiana: The landlord is required to return security deposits within one month, as long as the tenant fulfilled the lease obligations and left a forwarding address, according to Brent Cueria, an attorney with Cueria Law Firm, LLC in New Orleans. The landlord cannot deduct for natural disaster damage.
New York: The security deposit must be returned to the tenant, according to Reiss.
Texas: The security deposit must be refunded.
Housing economists Edward L. Glaeser and Joseph Gyourko have posted The Economic Implications of Housing Supply to SSRN (behind a paywall but you can find a slightly older version of the paper here). The abstract reads,
In this essay, we review the basic economics of housing supply and the functioning of US housing markets to better understand the distribution of home prices, household wealth and the spatial distribution of people across markets. We employ a cost-based approach to gauge whether a housing market is delivering appropriately priced units. Specifically, we investigate whether market prices (roughly) equal the costs of producing the housing unit. If so, the market is well-functioning in the sense that it efficiently delivers housing units at their production cost. Of course, poorer households still may have very high housing cost burdens that society may wish to address via transfers. But if housing prices are above this cost in a given area, then the housing market is not functioning well – and housing is too expensive for all households in the market, not just for poorer ones. The gap between price and production cost can be understood as a regulatory tax, which might be efficiently incorporating the negative externalities of new production, but typical estimates find that the implicit tax is far higher than most reasonable estimates of those externalities.
The paper’s conclusions, while a bit technical for a lay audience, are worth highlighting:
When housing supply is highly regulated in a certain area, housing prices are higher and population growth is smaller relative to the level of demand. While most of America has experienced little growth in housing wealth over the past 30 years, the older, richer buyers in America’s most regulated areas have experienced significant increases in housing equity. The regulation of America’s most productive places seems to have led labor to locate in places where wages and prices are lower, reducing America’s overall economic output in the process.
Advocates of land use restrictions emphasize the negative externalities of building. Certainly, new construction can lead to more crowded schools and roads, and it is costly to create new infrastructure to lower congestion. Hence, the optimal tax on new building is positive, not zero. However, there is as yet no consensus about the overall welfare implications of heightened land use controls. Any model-based assessment inevitably relies on various assumptions about the different aspects of regulation and how they are valued in agents’ utility functions.
Empirical investigations of the local costs and benefits of restricting building generally conclude that the negative externalities are not nearly large enough to justify the costs of regulation. Adding the costs from substitute building in other markets generally strengthens this conclusion, as Glaeser and Kahn (2010) show that America restricts building more in places that have lower carbon emissions per household. If California’s restrictions induce more building in Texas and Arizona, then their net environmental could be negative in aggregate. If restrictions on building limit an efficient geographical reallocation of labor, then estimates based on local externalities would miss this effect, too.
If the welfare and output gains from reducing regulation of housing construction are large, then why don’t we see more policy interventions to permit more building in markets such as San Francisco? The great challenge facing attempts to loosen local housing restrictions is that existing homeowners do not want more affordable homes: they want the value of their asset to cost more, not less. They also may not like the idea that new housing will bring in more people, including those from different socio-economic groups.
There have been some attempts at the state level to soften severe local land use restrictions, but they have not been successful. Massachusetts is particularly instructive because it has used both top-down regulatory reform and incentives to encourage local building. Massachusetts Chapter 40B provides builders with a tool to bypass local rules. If developers are building enough formally-defined affordable units in unaffordable areas, they can bypass local zoning rules. Yet localities still are able to find tools to limit local construction, and the cost of providing price-controlled affordable units lowers the incentive for developers to build. It is difficult to assess the overall impact of 40B, especially since both builder and community often face incentives to avoid building “affordable” units. Standard game theoretic arguments suggest that 40B should never itself be used, but rather work primarily by changing the fallback option of the developer. Massachusetts has also tried to create stronger incentives for local building with Chapters 40R and 40S. These parts of their law allow for transfers to the localities themselves, so builders are not capturing all the benefits. Even so, the Boston market and other high cost areas in the state have not seen meaningful surges in new housing development.
This suggests that more fiscal resources will be needed to convince local residents to bear the costs arising from new development. On purely efficiency grounds, one could argue that the federal government provide sufficient resources, but the political economy of the median taxpayer in the nation effectively transferring resources to much wealthier residents of metropolitan areas like San Francisco seems challenging to say the least. However daunting the task, the potential benefits look to be large enough that economists and policymakers should keep trying to devise a workable policy intervention. (19-20)
Realtor.com quoted me in How to Build a Fence Without Ending Up in a Feud With Your Neighbors. It opens,
Good fences make good neighbors, but how do you make a good fence, exactly? After all, it’s not just a question of marking the division between two pieces of property. Do you and your neighbor both have a say on the height, style, and color—and should you split the costs evenly?
If you’re facing any of these questions as you contemplate some fence work, read on.
Does your neighbor have a say on your fence?
Whether your neighbor can weigh in depends largely on where you live, according to Marc Markel of Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey in Texas. Laws and regulations vary by state: In California, for instance, the “good neighbor fence” law requires neighbors to split the cost evenly.
To find your own local regulations, search online for “fence permit” along with your county and/or state. You can also visit statelocalgov.net: Click on your state and county to get to your local government’s website, where you can find info on fence permits or a phone number under “planning and zoning” to get your questions answered.
Fences may also be regulated by a homeowners association and/or your home’s restrictive covenant, which is typically found in your property deed and states how your land can be used.
For example, the height limit for fences is typically 6 feet for back and side fences and 4 feet for front-yard fences. Some covenants will spell out how repairs and new fences should be handled between neighbors—even if you build the fence entirely on your own property—while others will not. If there are no stated restrictions, then it’s basically up to you and your neighbor to work it out together, hopefully in a friendly manner.
David Reiss, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, says it’s always best to get your neighbor’s input rather than just forging ahead. In the best-case scenario, “they may volunteer to share the cost 50-50,” he points out. Plus, there may be aesthetic issues to discuss: “Do you save money by installing a cheaper fence with a front and a back, or do you spend more money and get a fence that looks good on both sides?”
Your neighbors may have strong feelings about these issues. It’s better to hear them out sooner rather than later.
Realtor.com quoted me in Why Doctors Buy Bigger Homes Than Lawyers (and What It Means to You). It reads, in part,
Take that, Alan Dershowitz: Although both doctors and lawyers can typically afford better-than-decent-sized homes, a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that in states with a certain legal provision, physicians’ houses are bigger. Often much bigger.
So what’s the deal? It seems to come down to two factors: First, the skyrocketing costs of financially devastating medical malpractice suits; second, a once-obscure provision called “homestead exception” which can protect the assets of doctors in some states from being wiped out by those suits when they invest their cash in their homes.
“We have been interested in understanding how does that pervasive aspect of a physician’s career influence the decisions they make … whether it means they invest more in houses to protect themselves against liability,” Anupam Jena, an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and a co-author of the paper, tells the Washington Post.
Here’s how homestead exception works: If creditors are hounding you for unsecured debts—as opposed to secure ones, like your mortgage—they can’t take your home as collateral, as long as you declare bankruptcy. In fact, they can’t even place a lien on the property to collect when you sell. These exemptions vary by state: Some, such as New Jersey, have no such safeguard; in California, individuals’ homes are protected up to $75,000 (which generally won’t get you past the front porch).
Yet a handful of states—Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, as well as the District of Columbia—have unlimited homestead exemption. Doctors in those states bought homes that were 13% more expensive than the homes of doctors elsewhere. The homes of medical doctors (and dentists, who are essentially in the same medical malpractice boat) were markedly more expensive than the homes of professionals making similar salaries—even lawyers, who know a thing or two about malpractice suits. The authors drew from U.S. Census Bureau data on 3 million households about profession, household income, and home value.
So why should you care? Because homestead exemptions apply to you, too—even if the closest you come to the medical profession is annual checkups and late night reruns of “ER.”
* * *
But don’t get the wrong idea: The homestead exemption isn’t a bulletproof way to ward off foreclosure. Remember, it applies only to unsecured debt such as credit cards—not secured debt like your mortgage.
“If you borrow money for a home, the homestead exemption typically does not apply,” says David Reiss, research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School. In other words, if you don’t pay your mortgage and default on your loan, your lender can foreclose and seize your home.
And we’re not saying you should run from your creditors, because eventually they’ll catch up to you. But if you are in financial straits and scared sick of losing your house, check your local homestead exemption laws first—you might be safer than you think.
- Bank of America, Wells Fargo & Citigroup cannot escape the City of Miami’s discriminatory lending suit, which caused a loss in city tax revenue.
- Texas federal judge sanctions the US Environmental Protection Agency for failure to turn over documents that would have killed a Clean Water Act suit brought against Thomas Lipar, a property developer, and four other Lipar companies.
- Mortgage borrowers of Citibank and JPMorgan Chase seek class certification in suit over property inspection fees.
- If appeal fails from Second Circuit judgment, Nomura Holdings & Royal Bank of Scotland Group will pay $33 million more than the $806 million damages for selling risky mortgage securities.
- A New York federal judge found that federal law did not cover many claims in class action against Citibank for “mishandling mortgage-backed securities in more than $17 billion worth of pooled loans.”
- Property owners have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to determine their standing in suit against several banks, including Bank of New York Mellon, HSBC, US Bank, Deutsche Bank & Wells Fargo, after the Second Circuit denied their claims that those banks did not own their mortgages.
- A class action over highly leveraged mortgage-backed securities against Goldman Sachs is dismissed for lack of evidence.
- The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) claims the Fifth Circuit incorrectly interpreted an FDIC statute, by extending the statute of limitations period, when it reinstated $2.1 billion mortgage-backed securities suit, which conflicts with Supreme Court precedent in CTS Corp. v. Waldburger.