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Updated: 2 hours 34 min ago

NAR’s REACH Labs Announces Chicago Expansion

Tue, 08/02/2022 - 02:01

The National Association of REALTORS®’ REACH Labs program, which identifies and connects innovative early-stage startups to the REALTOR® community, recently announced its expansion to Chicago to launch its first multi-association and multiple listing service (MLS) REACH Lab. Collectively representing over 46,000 REALTORS®, the new REACH Lab will be jointly run by the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS®, the Chicago Association of REALTORS®, the North-Shore Barrington Association of REALTORS® and Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED).

Chicago represents a deep pool of startup innovation, with local tech firms raising $7 billion in 2021, according to venture data firm Pitchbook. Through the REACH Labs program, Chicagoland startups developing solutions for real estate and adjacent industries like mortgage, home services and insurance have a significant opportunity to connect with thousands of real estate professionals.

“Chicagoland has an incredible technology ecosystem, and the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® is committed to bringing opportunities to our members that keep them on the cutting edge,” said Kate Sax, vice president of professionalism and career development for the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS®. “REACH Labs will allow us to connect Mainstreet members with new technologies and provide them with a path of entry to local startups that will help build their businesses with an eye on the future.”

The REACH Labs program helps REALTOR® associations engage with the startup community and source innovation for its members efficiently and effectively. REACH Labs are staffed and operated by local associations or MLSs with support from the REACH scale-up program, created in 2013 by NAR’s venture arm, Second Century Ventures. Each REACH Lab presents selected startups to their members through quarterly “innovation showcases.” REACH Labs Chicagoland will host its first innovation showcase in the fourth quarter of 2022.

“Chicagoland is rich in new technology, and the Chicago Association of REALTORS® is excited to help bring emerging technology to REALTORS® throughout the area,” said Zack Wahlquist, the Chicago Association of REALTORS®’ chief operating officer.

In other regions where REACH Labs is already established, REALTORS® have connected with tech companies that modernize the home tour experience, allow agents to manage deals more seamlessly from start to finish and provide homebuyers with connections to local contractors.

“MRED is always looking to serve the industry and provide products that improve our subscribers’ workflow,” said Katrina Bressler, director of customer experience at MRED. “While we already work with many wonderful providers across the country, I’m excited to be a part of a movement that enables local startups to connect with us and support our subscribers and community.”

“The North-Shore Barrington Association of REALTORS® (NSBAR) has a long history of supporting its members through our personalized service and tech support,” said Michael Gazdzik, NSBAR IT and member support director. “We could not be more excited to work with our neighboring associations to bring the latest in technology to all our members.”

“We are thrilled to establish the first multi-association REACH Labs program in Chicago, where the startup scene is thriving,” said Dave Garland, managing partner, Second Century Ventures. “This partnership will set the stage for tech entrepreneurs to scale their businesses by meeting the needs of a dynamic REALTOR® community.”

Second Century Ventures, NAR’s strategic technology investment arm, launched the REACH Labs program in the third quarter of 2021 with the Austin Board of REALTORS®, the Denver Metro Association of REALTORS®, the Miami Association of REALTORS® and the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®. It has expanded the program to include the Greater Tampa REALTORS®, the Metro Texas Association of REALTORS®, the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association and the multi-association Chicagoland program, extending the program to reach nearly 200,000 REALTORS®.

For more information, please visit

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Rocket Mortgage Launches New Home Equity Loan

Tue, 08/02/2022 - 02:00

Rocket Mortgage, part of Rocket Companies, recently introduced a home equity loan that will provide Americans with one more way to pay off debt that has risen along with inflation.

Americans are grappling with high credit card bills—driven by a combination of rising prices, and record-high credit card rates resulting from the Federal Reserve’s aggressive rate increases. This combination has consumers looking for options to make their monthly payments more manageable.

“Our goal is to consistently create financial products that help our clients achieve their goals,” said Bob Walters, CEO of Rocket Mortgage. “In the current market, short-term interest rates have risen sharply—making it much harder to pay off credit card debt. With our new home equity loan, clients can improve their lives by having a payment they can more comfortably afford.”

In total, Americans have nearly $28 trillion in home equity, according to the Federal Reserve. At the same time, the country’s total household debt stood at $15.84 trillion as of Q1 2022—$1.7 trillion higher than at the end of 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic—according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The report also showed that credit card balances in Q1 were $71 billion higher than in 2021.

Homeowners can access $45,000 to $350,000 of their home’s equity in 10- or 20-year term, fixed-rate loans—while maintaining at least 10% equity in their home. Consumers looking for smaller loan amounts can secure $2,000 to $45,000 from sister company Rocket Loans.

“Rocket’s talented technology, product strategy and capital markets team members came together quickly to develop this important mortgage product, demonstrating the power of the tech platform at Rocket Companies,” Walters said.

For more information visit

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The August Issue of Real Estate Magazine Is Now Live

Mon, 08/01/2022 - 12:04

The August issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine is now available, and not to be missed are several exclusive features, including Allan Dalton’s insights on what makes Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices “The Forever Brand,” and an interview with Rocket Mortgage EVP Adam Speck on growth strategies in a changing market. Check out this month’s highlights below.

On the Cover

Real Estate’s MVPs Now, and Forever
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is a company committed to doing business the right way. The only real estate company entrusted as the steward of the Berkshire Hathaway name, the brand has stood strong on its morals and values for decades, and has been unwavering in its commitment to success, not just for today, but forever. “We are the forever brand,” CEO Christy Budnick told the audience at the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, earlier this year. In this month’s cover story, take a closer look at what makes Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices “The Forever Brand.”


Great Spaces: $60 Million Connecticut Property Brings the Gothic Stateside
This month, we explore a Gothic-style castle clocking in at 18,777 square feet.

Level Up Your Business and Catapult Your Success
Here, Rocket Mortgage® Executive Vice President of Purchase Adam Speck discusses growth strategies.

Teaming Up: How Sports and Real Estate Collaborate
In this exclusive feature, learn how the real estate world and sports world can successfully join forces.

Visit our Table of Contents here to see all this month’s top features!

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Scarcity at Root of Housing Crisis, Researchers Say

Mon, 08/01/2022 - 12:03

An imbalance as dramatic as the pandemic-era housing market is almost always going to have complex causes and a long history. Despite this, many people continue to view the pandemic as the primary driver of the current affordability, equity and supply issues that are making headlines and driving policy conversations at both the national and local level.

But as the crisis deepens, it is becoming more obvious that there were fundamental problems in housing before Covid’s disruptions. Parsing out the specific issues that preceded—and will continue past—the pandemic is increasingly urgent as policymakers seek to guide the market away from a recession or crash.

It is this work that researchers and advocates at housing think tank Up for Growth have attempted with a recent landmark study, tracing most of the biggest housing issues to a single trend—underproduction. According to their analysis, 47 states (and Washington D.C.) did not produce enough housing over the last decade, including 230 metro areas, for a total nationwide deficit of 3.79 million units.

“Ensuring we build enough housing that is affordable to all Americans won’t be easy. But there is growing data that the housing shortage is too great to ignore, and the problem is only growing,” the researchers wrote.

This is hardly revelatory by itself. Other recent studies by Freddie Mac and the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) have offered similar top-line estimates of the crisis, ranging from around 1.8 million to as much as 6.8 million. But the Up for Growth analysis—which was supported by big industry players including NAR, Zillow and Holland Partner Group—sought to go further, pinpointing exactly how much individual markets are suffering in addition to the specific, localized causes for their lack of housing, as well as presenting what researchers described as a new approach to solving the crisis.

“A more-of-the-same approach to housing policy will not only fail to narrow the gap between the housing we have and the housing we need, it will also worsen the social, economic and climate problems that threaten our nation today,” they wrote.

At the highest level, Up for Growth’s plan—dubbed “A Better Foundation”—would seek to significantly change the areas where housing is built, make it significantly more sustainable and accessible, and focus on efficiencies with land in “high opportunity” areas. This includes a huge emphasis on gradually transforming existing communities to have more diverse, affordable housing.

But what does this look like for those in real estate in these individual markets? Do people at the ground level in these regions see the same issues? Or do the solutions they suggest make sense to someone who deals with housing in these areas every day?

Nikki Beauchamp is an associate broker at Engel & Vӧlkers, working in New York City, which, before the pandemic, underproduced by 342,144 units, or 4.4% of its total housing stock, according to Up for Growth (those numbers are likely bigger today). She says some issues are only just being acknowledged and discussed, as the problems with zoning, suburban sprawl and racial inequities are laid bare.

“There’s got to be a way to piece together that puzzle,” she says. “Not that everyone is going to be unhappy in one way, shape or form, but it’s almost like, you can’t please everyone…I think there is a bigger divide in this pandemic world that we’re in.”

The report highlighted New York City’s walkability—the most walkable city in the country by some measures. But only 2.5% of the larger metro area qualifies as walkable, and apartments in these areas are 236% more expensive than a comparable “drivable suburban rental.”

This is a result of what Up for Growth calls a false dichotomy between “expensive versus expansive” growth, where new housing in desirable urban cores or suburbs is out of reach to all but the very rich, and anything affordable is built hours away from jobs and amenities. As a solution, they suggest identifying areas with lower density and building a high proportion of denser, more affordable “missing middle” housing that serves moderate income families.

But most of those neighborhoods are the kind that have long been exclusionary, insular and segregated. Beauchamp says she is not optimistic that in New York City at least, radically changing the housing stock in these types of areas will happen anytime soon.

“I think it’s really, really hard to accomplish that,” she says. “You have people who will lobby against it—they don’t want to see that change occur. You can argue that there are political motivations. And you also have inherent, either direct or implicit, fair housing implications.”

Another very different community about 2,000 miles south and west of New York was also identified in the study for its severe and long-running issues with underproduction of housing. Laredo, Texas, sitting right on the U.S./Mexico border and boasting a population of nearly 260,000, had a deficit of 8,373 housing units in 2019—equivalent to 9.9% of its housing stock.

Laredo’s small MLS only includes about 700 agents, according to Leo Saenz, broker/owner of a Better Homes & Gardens franchise and longtime Laredo resident.

“We have about 209 pendings,” he explains. “So only like 400 agents are going to get checks in the next two months.”

Saenz says that for many years, a handful of developers have controlled much of the buildable land in the area, and as the city has grown (increasing its population by more than 20,000 over the last decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau), housing has not gone up to match it.

“We’re not getting as many houses on the market to take care of everybody,” Saenz says.

Texas, as a state, is one of the top three worst for housing underproduction, according to the Up for Growth analysis, along with consistent population growth—particularly with Latinos, who make up about 95% of Laredo’s population.

Saez used to build houses himself in the area before getting into real estate, he says. The big landowners in Laredo are “really, really particular” about who they allow to build houses, according to Saenz, and they essentially decide when and where homes are built—more recently focused on more expensive houses on smaller lots.

Developers are nearly always looking to maximize their profits with land, which often translates to more expensive housing, according to the Up for Growth study. Explicitly incentivizing entry-level housing is one way to begin rebalancing the current housing environment.

Saenz says that from a purely real estate perspective, scarcity is creating a pattern of negativity and turnover in the area, with agents finding it hard to stay motivated.

“They start losing focus on their primary job, and there’s no growth,” he says. “I recruited this year, maybe 22 agents, and inactive licenses within a year was maybe five.

“I try to motivate everybody,” he adds, “but at the end of the day, they see that they’re losing a lot of time and putting in a lot of effort trying to make this business work.”

History and Change

Not everyone is seeing these issues the same way. An employee at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices (BHHS) Georgia Properties in Gainesville, Georgia (who declined to provide her name), says that from her experience, housing production has been humming right along.

“Back when we were having a strong boom , there was a chance that you had to wait several months in order for you to get your house finished,” she says. “Things have slowed down just a little, but new construction is still booming.”

Gainesville was identified by Up for Growth as having the worst housing underproduction per capita, with a deficit equal to 11.5% of its total housing stock. Why this seemingly extreme underproduction hasn’t shown up qualitatively is not clear, as Gainesville has also seen significant population growth over the past decade.

The BHHS employee admitted that housing at certain price points and locations is becoming more difficult to find, with buyers widening the areas they search to find something affordable. The past three years have seen a significant increase in building, she said, which could potentially have narrowed that gap.

Whether there is truly a national solution to underproduction—at least in the short term—is still a difficult question. Up for Growth, while still trying to offer a framework that could work for housing across the country, acknowledged that every market is defined by local, unique factors and history.

“In Detroit, underproduction is driven by uninhabitable units,” the researchers wrote, “while in Sacramento, a lack of housing is driving the shortage. In Washington, D.C., underproduction is fueled by a lack of household formation.”

Beauchamp, who is Black, describes experiencing something that is unarguably a factor in every housing market in the country, when she noticed how different family members saw different outcomes based on where they lived in Long Island.

“I remember my uncle…this particular uncle was able to buy in this particular town,” Beauchamp describes. “The difference between the value in their house and the value of the houses of some of my cousins’ other friends, who were just on the other side of the town—sort of the White versus the Black side of the town, basically—just the difference between what my aunt and my uncle were able to do, and help their kids with, versus the same family, two kids just in the other side of town…literally the same structure on the other side of a line, one property can be worth twice as much.”

Redlining, racial covenants, appraisal bias and racial steering by real estate agents (something that was graphically exposed by a landmark 2019 investigation on Long Island) have all contributed to racial inequalities in housing, with huge gaps in homeownership, home values and lending between White families and families of color.

Up for Growth does not offer direct, specific solutions to address this, only arguing that future policies need to explicitly account for each region’s individual racist history (and current racist environment) when looking to create more housing.

Some communities are starting to take explicit steps in this direction. In Los Angeles, California, a stretch of waterfront property valued at $20 million was returned to the descendants of a Black family, the Bruces, who were robbed of the land by city officials in the 1920s.

Beauchamp says she hasn’t heard of anything to that level in her region, but that she is encouraged that conversations are starting up around those topics.

“I’m fascinated by people like Don Peebles, things people are actually trying to do to create equity and create more opportunity for maybe developers who are descendants, or of that background,” she says. “It feels qualitatively that there is more opportunity and more possibility, and I don’t know if that is just because the conversations are actually happening more in the open.”

Whether it is through these and other racial equity changes, densification or redefining growth direction, the Up for Growth researchers make a holistic argument for changing housing policies: It improves society for everyone. They claim that filling that 3.8 million housing deficit using their methodology will increase GDP by $209 billion more than if the country built the way it has in the past. And less commuting, easier and more equal access to jobs and amenities, more efficient transportation and sustainable, cheaper energy usage could become part of the necessary, ongoing project of bringing the country’s housing stock up to meet people’s needs.

“This report is an effort to deliver practical and tangible solutions to advocates and policymakers. By providing regionally relevant, annually replicable data that considers unique drivers of housing underproduction, advocates and policymakers can spot trends more easily and respond to them in ways that will improve lives, economies and the planet,” the researchers wrote.

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Proposed Bill Targets Housing Upgrades, Tax Loopholes

Mon, 08/01/2022 - 12:02

Last week, two Democratic senators (Chuck Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin of West Virginia) announced an agreement on draft legislation that salvages some of last year’s Build Back Better framework. Much smaller in scope, the bill targets healthcare and climate action, also making some significant tax changes even as President Joe Biden claims individuals making less than $400,000 a year will not see their taxes go up.

Passage of the bill remains far from certain, with Senate Republicans expected to universally oppose it and Democrats still trying to rally their caucus.

Unlike Build Back Better, this bill—dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act—contains minimal direct investments in housing, though it does heavily incentivize efficient or sustainable home features. Two of the tax provisions could theoretically have significant effects on real estate—though in a memo released yesterday, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) highlighted many changes that have been discussed over the years but were not included in the bill.

“We are pleased and relieved that the tax offsets proposed in the Schumer-Manchin deal did not include any of about a dozen other tax increases that would have hit real estate investment much harder,” wrote NAR senior policy representative Evan Liddiard.

These include so-called “like-kind” exchanges, which currently allow investors to essentially swap properties without paying capital gains taxes. Proposed changes to this rule, which primarily benefit wealthy people, did not make the final draft of Build Back Better, either.

The Schumer-Manchin bill also does not change capital gains tax rates and avoids expansion of the net investment income tax rate, Liddiard noted. But an NAR spokesperson told RISMedia that they are keeping a watchful eye on what might change as negotiations go forward.

“Although proposals to the Schumer-Manchin deal are not yet final, we are monitoring conversations on Capitol Hill to ensure no policies advance which would limit or repeal section 1031 like-kind exchanges, increase the capital gains tax rate, or change the current rules on the step-up in basis of capital assets at death,” the spokesperson said.

What is included in the bill are changes to carried interest—a tax provision that allows income to be taxed at much lower capital gains rates in some circumstances. The bill changes the holding requirement for this provision from three to five years, which means investors could not as easily take advantage of the lower tax rate. It explicitly exempts individuals making less than $400,000 from the changes.

NAR has long lobbied against closing this loophole—which again, mostly benefits the very wealthy. Liddiard wrote that this time around, the specific language used is different.

“It appears that the authors of the deal intended to exempt most real estate deals from the carried interest change. We are working with other real estate trade groups to quietly point out to Democratic leaders how the draft language can be improved to do this better,” he said.

Another major tax change in the bill—though seemingly not likely to directly affect real estate—is raising the minimum corporate tax rate to 15%. That proposal has received international attention as governments have tried to rein in multinational corporations that use complex schemes to pay relatively little in taxes.

On the more tangible side, the bill’s tax incentives for wind, solar and various upgrades to energy infrastructure could have an extremely long-lasting and powerful effect on housing. The bill offers significant tax breaks for energy-efficient water heaters, HVAC systems, windows and more for homeowners in their primary residences and significant help for builders upgrading or creating new energy-efficient housing stock.

Depending on the exact energy savings achieved, projects for homeowners can be subsidized up to $200,000 for a multifamily building, or $8,000 for a single-family residence. The programs are set to last for about a decade.

Much of the language in the bill is broad, and does not require upgrades or appliances to use a specific kind of energy, as long as they are more efficient. One program does specifically incentivize electric appliances and wiring upgrades, up to $14,000 for a single home.
Relevant to home builders and developers, the bill seeks to incentivize states to upgrade their codes in order to focus more on energy efficiency. It also subsidizes the labeling and identification of low-carbon construction materials to encourage their use, and appropriates around $1 billion for loans and grants to upgrade affordable housing.

Credits for the construction of energy-efficient homes are also extended to the end of 2032 by the bill, which also changes some of the language related to these credits.

Nothing in the bill is set in stone, with expectations that even some Democrats in the House might oppose or try to modify it. Liddiard said NAR is “watching the situation very closely” while specifically encouraging Arizona residents to lobby centrist Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, who has often been a swing vote, on the carried interest change—something she has previously opposed.

“NAR has been closely following the tax provisions included within any reconciliation package to ensure changes won’t negatively impact housing investment and inventory,” the NAR spokesperson concluded.

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Why Millennials Can’t Afford Homes in 2022

Mon, 08/01/2022 - 12:01

Nearly three-fourths of U.S. millennials (72%) have some form of non-mortgage debt, with the average millennial owing $117,000. This is according to a new report from Clever Real Estate that takes a look at why this demographic struggles to afford a home.

To learn more about their economic situation, Clever surveyed 1,000 millennials about their finances, savings and credit history to provide a clear snapshot of how debt afflicts this generation.

Here are the key findings from the survey:

  • Among millennials who are debt-free, just 1 in 3 (34%) have never had debt, while 1 in 4 (25%) have paid off their debts within the past year.
  • Nearly three-fourths of millennials (72%) have some form of non-mortgage debt, with the average millennial owing $117,000.
  • About 63% of millennials believe it will take them one to five years to pay off their debt, while nearly 1 in 10 think it will take more than 10 years.
  • Approximately 1 in 16 millennials (6%) don’t think they’ll ever pay off their debt.
  • The most common type of debt among millennials is credit card debt, with 67% of those with debt carrying a balance.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 millennials (29%) don’t pay off their credit card bill in full every month.
  • Of those who have credit card debt, the average amount they owe is $5,349.
  • Nearly half of millennials with debt (48%) say they have student loans, with the average respondent owing $126,993.
  • The average millennial spends 47% of gross monthly income on housing each month—1.5x more than the recommended 30%.
  • More than half of millennials (53%) own a home, but 1 in 6 millennial homeowners (16%) regret their purchase.
  • Of those who don’t own a home, nearly 1 in 3 (30%) don’t think they’ll ever be able to afford one.
  • Not saving enough is the No. 1 financial regret among millennials (37%).
  • One-fourth of millennials (25%) aren’t confident they could afford a $500 emergency expense out of pocket, and one-third (33%) don’t think they could afford a $1,000 emergency.
  • About 77% of millennials already have children or want them in the future, but 1 in 4 (25%) say they can’t afford them.

Author’s take:

“Millennials trace their financial struggles to the 2008 economic crisis, when the oldest members of the generation graduated into a market with few jobs available. The stagnant economy depressed wages, leading to lower lifetime wealth and delayed milestones, such as marriage and homeownership,” writes Jaime Dunaway-Seale, content writer for Clever and author of the report. “Millennials—now in their prime working years—were steamrolled again in 2020 when the pandemic-induced recession wiped out stock market gains, retirement savings, and emergency funds built in the previous decade.”

Greater analysis of the Clever survey can be found here in the full report: Millennials Are More Than $100,000 in Debt: 2022 Data.

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More Than 14 Million Households Across U.S. Don’t Have Internet

Mon, 08/01/2022 - 12:00

Today, nearly 86% of U.S. households have some type of internet subscription, but that still leaves more than 14 million households in the nation that are without internet access in their homes. This is according to a new study from LendingTree, which analyzed the data to compare the share of internet-connected households to the share of non-connected households in each of the nation’s 50 states, an important consideration to those looking to move to more rural areas.

Here’s what they found:

  • An average of 12.22% of households across the nation’s 50 states don’t have internet access.
  • Utah, Washington and Colorado have the smallest share of homes without internet access. Across these states, 7.17% of households aren’t connected to the internet.
  • Mississippi, New Mexico and Arkansas have the largest share of homes without internet access. In these states, an average of 19.17% of households don’t have internet.
  • An average of 72.44% of the nation’s more than 100 million internet-connected households have more than one type of subscription.

The takeaway:

“Homebuyers thinking about moving—especially if they’re thinking about moving to a more rural part of the country—should be sure that the home they’re thinking about buying has internet connectivity,” said Jacob Channel, LendingTree’s senior economist and author of the report. “This is especially true if they plan on working remotely from their new home. Remember that while internet access may seem universal in the U.S., it most certainly isn’t.”

You can view the full report here:

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Real Estate’s MVPs Now, and Forever

Mon, 08/01/2022 - 02:04

Above: Christy Budnick, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices

One of Christy Budnick’s favorite Warren Buffett quotes is, “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.”

Earlier this year at the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, the CEO shared the quote with the audience of more than 5,000 real estate professionals who had traveled from around the world to collaborate, learn and celebrate the network’s staggering $179.9 billion in sales volume in 2021.

She went on to share with the audience that she was looking forward to seeing the market turn just a little bit, to reveal those who would be swimming naked.

As we have recently seen, the market has indeed shifted “just a little bit,” and we now know who is swimming naked. As Budnick predicted, it’s not us.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is a company committed to doing business the right way. We are the only real estate company entrusted as the steward of the Berkshire Hathaway name. For decades, the brand has stood strong on its morals and values, and has been unwavering in its commitment to success, not just for today, but forever. One of the greatest sayings—there is always a tomorrow in business—rings ever so true for our company’s ethos. And it’s upon this ideal and our four core pillars—trust, integrity, stability and longevity—that Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices real estate professionals, its leadership team and every single staff member conduct their business each day.

“We are the forever brand,” Budnick told the audience at the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention.

Forever is a concept that we constantly have in our minds at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices—forever learning, forever creating, forever connecting, forever investing, forever forward and for everyone. Every member of our network has adopted the forever notion, and agents are proudly distinguished as Forever Agents.

Gino Blefari, Chairman, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
Photo Credit: RealScout and Doheny Photos

The Forever Agent Movement began when Berkshire Hathaway Home-Services Chairman Gino Blefari first appeared on RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine cover. He shared with the magazine that Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices would position itself as “The Forever Brand”—echoing Buffett’s statement that Berkshire Hathaway is a forever brand. Consequently, Blefari, an industry icon, concluded that this commitment to longevity should also be a core value of our real estate brand. Since then, the network’s MVPs have become known as Forever Agents.

Each year, sports leagues or teams award just one MVP to a single individual considered to be the most valuable player in that sports league or particular team. Conversely, our MVPs will be awarded to a global, network-wide cross-section of Motivation, Vision and Purpose. How we classify our MVPs is judged not merely upon how they are better than their competitors, but how they represent the vivid embodiment of being the very best professionals they can be for their clients.

Christy Budnick and Gino Blefari

The adoption and significance of what it means to be a Forever Agent has exponentially grown under Budnick’s leadership. She is the perfect CEO for these times and beyond, and has strategically employed her significant leadership skills, deep brokerage experience and demand for collaboration in creating and coordinating, along with her task-proficient teams and consultants, the proportional convergence of technology, innovation, coaching, education, social media, marketing and client-centric services. Her continuing and unrelenting efforts have gained profound respect and admiration within the entire global network.

Budnick’s criteria surrounding the importance of being valuable resides deep within her real estate DNA. Her Louisville theme, “InvalYOUable,” is revealing. As CEO, she is cognizant that network agents will remain viable in the age of increasing artificial intelligence, proptech, fee unbundling and discount offerings galore, by highlighting what truly matters the most to people as they embark on making the biggest financial and personal decisions of their lives: relationships.

In order for Forever Agents and MVPs to become one and the same, the term “Forever Agent” must mean exponentially more than a mere slogan or statement. Drawing a dramatic distinction between all other real estate agents and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Forever Agents requires that the Forever Agent professional pedigree be supported by distinct services, systems, solutions, education and coaching, all customized in order to meet the needs of communities, consumers, clients and, of course, network Forever Agents.

To convert Forever Agent aspiration into inspiration, implementation and impact, Budnick brought together divisional leaders from IT, marketing, global network training, and research and development, with her directive to develop the following: a fully comprehensive and interactive digital Forever Agent coaching and training program; one which would include a deep immersive experience, with a focus on countless intangibles, where the education is geared toward developing a Forever Agent mindset.

The Forever Agent then moves on to the pledging ceremony. When inducted, Forever Agents pledge to the brand’s four foundational pillars. Moving forward, the commitment to excellence continues via the Forever Agent Coaching System. This program is a year-long educational initiative that is devoted to further refining the skills for Forever Agents to best serve their clients.

Network CEOs whose companies have embraced the Forever Agent movement readily embrace the concept.

According to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Toronto Realty CEO Mark Wadden, for example, the Forever Agent mindset, marketing and movement is “the best concept I have ever seen in real estate.”

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty CEO Rei Mesa says, “In all my years and with several brands, I have never seen a program, either from within or without of a brand, that is even close to providing such value to network agents as the Forever Agent marketing system, implementation workbook, pledge ceremony and action plan. We had approximately 400 agents register for Allan Dalton’s two-hour Zoom orientation, and not one left early. That is unprecedented here in beautiful Florida.”

To be an MVP, or as Budnick would say, “to be truly invaluable,” also requires “Forever education.” Not just education, which is forever connected to all aspects of a real estate transaction, but also a focus on developing a real estate practice, not just a business. Doctors, attorneys and medical professionals can often sell their businesses because they view what they own as a practice with clients versus a business of customers and past clients. Forever Agents become MVPs to their communities as well by learning the significant difference between serving and representing the real estate needs of the community.

Another differentiator that distinguishes Berkshire Hathaway Home-Services Forever Agents is their willingness and openness to share not only best practices, but “next practices.” This sharing of information is encouraged by Budnick, who has established global mastermind groups. An additional platform for idea-sharing is the REthink Council, a corporate initiative formed to connect and inspire top-producing leaders in the network, established and led by Senior Vice President Rosalie Warner and co-hosted by Vince Leisey and Jimmy Burgess, two revered and forward-planning CEOs within the global network.

Blefari and Budnick reinforce the message that as one of the world’s most trusted and aspirational brands, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices will serve the real estate needs of all markets, all consumers and all clients. Exemplary examples of how Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is one of the world’s premier “For Everyone” brands are reflected in its rapid global growth led by Executive Vice President of Global Business Development Michael Jalbert, and its unwavering commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion led by Chief Diversity Officer Teresa Palacios Smith.

For now, the general consensus of Budnick’s leadership team, her mastermind groups and the brand’s network of leading brokerages is that the best way to continue to recognize MVPs within the entire industry is to continue to elevate the value and relevance of Forever Agents by helping these professionals leverage working with a brand that is the real estate leader in trust and innovation.

Allan Dalton is the senior vice president of research and development for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. For more information, visit

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Reducing MIP Necessary to Help Buyers Battle Headwinds

Mon, 08/01/2022 - 02:03

As the market continues to fluctuate, it is prudent for the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to take appropriate action to support homebuyers and reduce the Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP). Traditionally, FHA-backed mortgages serve borrowers with low to moderate incomes by providing mortgage insurance with less stringent credit and loan-to-value (LTV) requirements at the time of purchase. To fund the program, the FHA collects upfront and annual premiums that usually last the entirety of the loan, which is a deterrent that can turn buyers away from participating in the program.

Critics of reducing the MIP point to the signs of a slowing economy, claiming that reducing premiums for riskier, government-backed loans should not come at a time when there is uncertainty in the marketplace. Despite those claims, FHA’s capital ratio is currently at 8%—6% above what is required by Congress, and data show that “serious delinquencies” as of May 2022 sit at 4.53%, the lowest they’ve been since May 2020. If delinquencies rise and the private market pulls back, the FHA is the only agency uniquely tasked with supporting the market during a crisis, and it is in a financial position to support the purchasing power of entry-level homebuyers.

Critics also warn that reducing the MIP will overstimulate demand and drive up home prices in a market strapped for supply. However, the sharp drop in affordability has increased relative supply. If we are truly striving toward creating homeownership opportunities for all, low- to moderate-income and first-time homebuyers should not be forced to shoulder the consequences of market conditions they did not create. Rather, they should be encouraged to participate with the financial support of the FHA or supported by reducing the cost of homeownership through a program like Homeowners Armed With Knowledge.

For the FHA to successfully carry out HUD’s mission of providing quality affordable housing, we strongly urge them to reduce the MIP so that everyone, specifically credit-worthy buyers from low- to moderate-income backgrounds and first-time buyers, can achieve the American Dream and begin building generational wealth. This, on top of other immediate actions like streamlining the 203(k) loan program, reducing requirements for condominium spot loans and allowing borrowers to purchase more affordable flood insurance coverage from the private market, is an immediate action the FHA can take to keep serving out its mission.

For more information, visit

Jeremy Green is the Federal Housing Policy Representative with the National Association of REALTORS®, where he works on issues and programs related to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, including the federally assisted housing programs, the VA, Federal Housing Administration and USDA Loan Programs.

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Private Investors Seek Retail Real Estate

Mon, 08/01/2022 - 02:02

In recent years, the real estate industry has noticed some significant trends in the commercial and residential housing markets. For instance, in 2021, small and private investment firms were responsible for nearly 3/4 of retail asset acquisitions, representing a 30% increase from the prior 10-year historical average.

Moreover, earlier this year, a bidding war broke out over a 140,000-square-foot shopping center housed at Office Depot in Port Charlotte, Florida. We also saw investors purchasing retail properties such as Watters Creek in Texas, Galleria Edina in Minnesota, and Promenade at Carolina Reserve in South Carolina.

As a real estate agent, you want to understand what this increase in commercial real estate purchases means and how it might impact your business practices. In this article, we will explore the significance of this trend and the opportunities it can present for you as a real estate agent.

Why private investors want commercial real estate

To learn the importance of this trend, let’s first look at why we have seen such an increase in commercial real estate investments. Private investors are moving towards investments in the retail sector because of shifts in how consumers behave. The increase in suburban shopping and open-air shopping centers has sparked the interest of many investors

The pandemic has changed how businesses engage with consumers. The retail companies that navigated the early days of the pandemic and shifted to an online model find themselves in a position to thrive. Many customers still want to shop in person, even with online options. Many retailers have begun to look for opportunities to expand, but many end up competing for limited square footage.

This has created an environment where several private investors have shifted towards acquiring shopping centers because they see greater yields and more profits than other real estate types.

How this impact you as a real estate agent

Working with private investors is a great way to diversify your portfolio and build your business further. Here are some ways working with investors can benefit you:

  1. Investors are always looking to buy and sell. Unlike typical clients who are maybe looking to buy a home every 5 to 10 years (or more), private investors are always on the market to buy or sell properties. Being a private investor’s go-to real estate agent could provide you with steady business in the long run.
  2. Experienced investors could be easier to work with than residential clients in some ways. Since it’s not their first rodeo, most investors should know and understand the logistics of buying or selling properties. Therefore, you can bypass explaining the basics of an offer and just send them the contracts to sign. Seasoned investors would go as far as letting you know their preferred process that you can follow along. Lastly, when it comes to numbers, they’re prepared to negotiate or accept your commission rates, making it a smooth transaction for both parties.
  3. Investors could turn into leads or referrals. The best part about working with private investors might be gaining more referrals or potential leads down the road. Even if the investor stops looking to buy or sell, they can refer you to their network or direct potential clients your way. Find ways to stay connected and be sure to nurture those relationships because you never know which one might be the best investment for your career.

McKissock Learning is the nation’s premier online real estate school, providing continuing education courses and professional development to hundreds of thousands of real estate agents across the country. As part of the Colibri Real Estate family of premier education brands, McKissock Learning, along with its sister schools Real Estate Express, Superior School of Real Estate, Allied Schools, The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, Gold Coast Schools, The Rockwell Institute and Hondros Education Group, helps real estate professionals achieve sustainable success throughout each stage of their real estate career. Learn more at

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New Report Shows Homebuyers With Lower Credit Scores Pay an Extra $104,000 in Mortgage Costs

Mon, 08/01/2022 - 02:01

Elevated home prices and rising interest rates are feeding into housing affordability woes for potential buyers, especially those with lower credit scores, according to a new Zillow report that shows that, nationally, buyers with “fair” credit could be paying up to $288 more on their monthly mortgage payment than those with “excellent” credit.

The Zillow report says today’s home shoppers can expect to pay around 62% more per month to buy a typically priced U.S. home than they would have a year ago. Zillow examined credit scores against current mortgage rates and found that such monthly cost increases are exacerbated for millions of Americans with low credit scores or less than perfect credit histories.

For example, the report states that a borrower with an “excellent” credit score—between 760 and 850—can qualify for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 5.099% interest rate. For the same loan, the report shows, a similar borrower with a “fair” credit score—between 620 and 639—qualifies for a 6.688% rate. This equates to a $288 difference in monthly mortgage payments and nearly $103,626 in interest over the life of a 30-year fixed loan, based on the current price of a typical U.S. home ($354,165), Zillow says.

“When you are thinking about buying a home, the best first step you can take is to fully understand your financial picture, what you can afford and your outstanding debts or obligations,” said Libby Cooper, Zillow Home Loans vice president. “If you find you have low credit, take realistic steps to improve your credit score by doing things like disputing possible report errors and paying down as much debt as possible. This could increase the amount of home loan you qualify for.”

The report included the chart below to illustrate how a buyer’s credit profile plays an important role in how much a home ultimately costs. Buyers who make raising their credit score part of their initial steps in the home-buying process typically have more buying power and lower monthly payments.

The cost of buying a typically priced U.S. home based on credit scores

FICO® Score Estimated Annual
Percentage Rate1
Monthly Payment Total Loan Cost

  760–850 5.099 % $1,538 $553,743 700–759 5.321 %  


  $567,739 680–699 5.498 % $1,608 $579,014 660–679 5.712 % $1,647 $592,782 640–659 6.142 % $1,725 $620,882 620–639 6.688 % $1,826 $657,369

The report notes that there is a direct correlation between credit security—having a strong credit history and structural access to credit offerings— nd higher homeownership rates. The homeownership rate is lower in counties that are more “credit insecure,” meaning they are home to high numbers of residents with poor or no credit history. That cuts off millions—particularly Black and Latinx residents—from the wealth-building advantages of homeownership, Zillow noted.

Additionally, Black applicants are denied a mortgage at a rate 84% higher than white applicants, and credit history is the most common reason cited for those denials. Limited traditional financial services in Black and other communities of color are a significant factor in the lack of credit history and the inability to build a high credit score, Zillow writes.

The report also noted that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac recently adopted policies that include timely rent payments in their automated underwriting systems. Lenders and brokers can submit bank account data (with borrower permission) to identify 12 months of prompt rent payments to help potential borrowers qualify for a mortgage.

“While inclusion of timely rent payments doesn’t change a borrower’s credit score, it can have a positive impact on how lenders view a borrower’s credit worthiness. This move shows how effective policy changes can help consumers build a strong financial foundation that unlocks homeownership,” said Cooper.

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Hudson Gateway REALTOR® Foundation Presents $2,500 Donation to Community Center

Mon, 08/01/2022 - 02:00

The Hudson Gateway REALTOR® Foundation, the charitable arm of the Hudson Gateway Association of REALTORS® (HGAR), recently presented a check for $2,500 to the Community Center of Northern Westchester, based in Katonah, the company announced. The Center provides food, clothing, education and job training for needy families and individuals throughout northern Westchester County. Founded in 1992, The Community Center now serves nearly 3,000 families in 38 northern Westchester communities, HGAR said.

“We truly appreciate the generous support of the Hudson Gateway REALTOR® Foundation in helping us to meet the needs of our community,” said Clare Murray, executive director of the Center. “Providing the gifts of both funding and volunteer time, the Foundation’s partnership in our work makes a very meaningful difference for local families who are struggling to get by and makes our community a better place for everyone.”

The company notes that the Community Center provides a food pantry, clothing bank, and classes and workshops to help people improve their job skills and attain self-sufficiency. In addition, the Center offers health outreach programs, breast cancer awareness workshops, free eye exams and eyeglasses through Lenscrafters OneSight Foundation, school and summer camp scholarships, citizenship exam preparation and support in navigating community resources.

Since 2014, the Hudson Gateway Realtor Foundation has donated thousands of dollars to charities and non-profits throughout the Hudson Valley, the company noted.

For more information, visit

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Staying Connected With Your Agents as a Broker

Sun, 07/31/2022 - 02:01

If you’re a broker, you’re probably thinking: do I really want to add more to my list of responsibilities? But keeping in touch with your agents is an area where you should always make the effort, because it’ll pay off handsomely.

You need your agents, and they need you. If you’re consistently connected with them, you’ll both have a more positive business experience and they’ll be more likely to remain at your brokerage for years to come.

Here are five ways brokers can stay connected with their agents.

Offer support 
The best way to make a good impression with your agents is to offer them support, both personally and with resources. Giving them the best tech and training possible won’t just make them feel valued, it will help them perform better in the field—and your brokerage will reap the rewards.

For rookie agents, you can go even further by being a mentor. Think of the type of guide you would have wanted when you were starting out in real estate, and be that person for them.

Pick up that phone 
Some of the most common advice you’ll get for finding clients is to work the phones like your life depends on it. This advice isn’t just useful for your clients, but also your agents. Of course, ask them about business, but don’t turn the call into a performance review or they might dread hearing from you. Take an interest in them, not just their business.

Celebrate milestones
Did your agent close a big sale? Did they get that super-competitive listing? Then congratulations are in order! If you want to go above and beyond, don’t just congratulate them personally, make an event out of it, like an office happy hour.

Celebrations won’t only be a good moment to get face-to-face time with your agents, they’ll also incentivize success. If an agent knows their accomplishments are noticed, they’ll want to rack up more.

Lead from the front
How did Julius Caesar win the loyalty of his troops? He fought alongside them at the front of battle. The lessons from that approach can be applied to many situations, including selling real estate. As the leader of your brokerage, take a hands-on approach, not a passive one. Keep your ear to the ground in ongoing transactions and make sure you’re not totally relying on your agents to secure clients and listings. Follow this approach and your agents will realize that you’re in the game as much as them, working shoulder to shoulder.

Encourage them to stay connected with each other
Above all else, a real estate brokerage is a team. That means that you don’t just have a responsibility to stay in touch with your agents, they have a responsibility to stay in touch with each other. Still, there’s ways you can ensure this happens. Organize training sessions for the whole team or host fun group events. Doing so will build a positive company culture and can even help grow your business. If your agents know each other well, it’ll be easier for them to collaborate on business matters.

Devin Meenan is an assistant editor with RISMedia. Email him your story ideas to

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Thoughts on Leadership: Sleeping Habits for Leaders

Sun, 07/31/2022 - 02:00

Last week, we talked about M.E.D.S. (Meditation, Exercise, Diet, Sleep), keystone habits that create small wins. This week, I want to break down that last part of M.E.D.S.—Sleep—and dive deeper into how you can achieve the most restful sleep possible.

Your nightly routine is important because it’ll prepare you for everything that happens in the morning. If, for instance, you know sometimes in the middle of the night you wake up from the glow of your phone on the nightstand, put your phone in another room before you go to sleep, so the distraction isn’t possible. Recall habits guru James Clear’s tips for eliminating bad habits: Make it invisible, make it unattractive, make it difficult and make it unsatisfying.

One of the biggest components to a solid nightly routine is sleep. Break down your routine to find out where you can improve. Are you leaving the TV on while you wind down? Sleep experts say a TV can interrupt your body’s melatonin production, overstimulate your brain and generally cause poor-quality sleep. Are your pillows uncomfortable? Consider replacing them. Is your mind racing? Sometimes, even if you’re mentally ready to sleep, you’re physically not tired.

Traditional wisdom said not to exercise at night because it’ll keep you awake but a 2018 study published in Sports Medicine and referenced by Harvard Medical School in their suggestions for good sleep, found you can exercise at night, as long as it’s at least one hour before you plan to go to bed and not too rigorous. According to Harvard Medical School, the researchers found for the healthy adults who completed a low-key nightly workout, “it seemed to help them fall asleep faster and spend more time in deep sleep.”

When you exercise, you create micro-tears in our muscle tissue, which the body then must repair using its anabolic hormones like testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH). As your body does its repair, you’ll experience a deep, restorative sleep as a result of your exercise.

Another way to ensure quality sleep is to create a sleep sanctuary with house plants in your bedroom. Not only do the earthy sight and smell of plants calm the mind (and make you feel happier) but plants will also act as natural air filters, and clean air is essential for good sleep.

Here’s the backstory on plants as air filters: air contains ions (essentially atoms with electric charge). Ions with a negative charge are highly energizing, but over time, ions lose that negative charge and that’s when the air becomes stale and moldy. Introducing plants in your sleep sanctuary will recharge ions as they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.

If you’re looking for plants to get the job done, English Ivy is a hardy evergreen perennial that the NASA Clean Air Study found to be the very best air-filtering plant because it pumps out oxygen and absorbs neurotoxins, including formaldehyde, which is common in industrial countries. Mother in law’s tongue (or a snake plant) is also resilient and easy to maintain. It doesn’t need much light, so it’s the perfect plant for a dark bedroom. Mother in law’s tongue readily converts carbon dioxide into oxygen at night, which is unique because most plants complete this process during the day.

Once you’ve got your nightly light exercise routine in place and have situated all your sleep sanctuary house plants, try to practice meditation before you go to sleep. Experts say there are about 50,000 thoughts that go through our mind every day. Meditation is one solution for calming your mind of this rampant flood of thoughts, allowing it to settle and allowing you to sleep. If you close your eyes and focus on your breathing for even 10 minutes, you can lower stress levels, blood pressure and help release endorphins that will promote high-quality sleep.

And the last step to solid sleep is darkness, which I experienced here in Vegas with blackout curtains in my hotel room. I noticed the last time I left the blinds open with all the lights of Vegas shining through my window, I woke up several times throughout the night, but when I used the blackout curtains, I had the best night’s sleep.

This concept is pretty much encoded in our DNA. As human beings, we are what’s called a diurnal species, which means we wake up and go to sleep with the rising and setting of the sun. It’s a characteristic that dates back to the early years of human history, when we were hunters and gatherers. In those years, being awake to spot predators and alert to hunt during the light hours made sense, just as it made sense to sleep under the cover of darkness. This routine continued for thousands of years—pretty much until Thomas Edison patented the first light bulb in 1879. In the grand scheme of human history, we haven’t had light bulbs for long. Even though our lifestyles have become more nocturnal with the introduction of artificial light, scientists say humans haven’t actually evolved to the point where staying up past the sunset is beneficial for our bodies.

In terms of how this impacts your sleep schedule, if you can be in a deep sleep between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., you’ll take advantage of your body’s peak production of hormones like melatonin and human growth hormone that promote restful sleep.

So, what’s the message? A well-rested leader is a ready leader, whose mind is rejuvenated to tackle anything that comes their way. Using the simple methods above, you can improve the quality of your sleep and be at your best to lead your team.

This article is adapted from Blefari’s weekly, company-wide “Thoughts on Leadership” column from HomeServices of America.

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How to Reinvent Your Value Proposition

Sat, 07/30/2022 - 02:00

WHAT: It’s the battle of the future for brokerages and their ability to control the agent-to-consumer relationship, which will have a dramatic effect on future brokerage profitability and ability to retain customers for life.

In this webinar, panelists will discuss the latest technology that is empowering brokerages and agents to beat portals to the consumer and create the coveted lifetime customer relationship—the key to repeat and referral business.

WHEN:  Wed., Aug 3, 2022 at 2:00 P.M. ET

Register Now!

Sponsored by


Moderator: Darryl Davis, CSP, is a best-selling author of three books all published by McGraw-Hill Publishers. For more than 30 years, Darryl has helped agents master listing and sales skills, feel more confident and authentic, double their production in every kind of market, and design careers worth smiling about. Darryl also holds the coveted Certified Speaking Professionals (CSP) designation which is only given to less than 2% of speakers worldwide.

Jack Cotton, REALTOR® with Sotheby’s International Realty Cape Cod Brokerages, specializes in waterfront estates and village properties. In the business for 48 years, he is known for his integrity and discretion, coupled with a low-key and consultative style. With a donation creating the Cotton Center for Real Estate Studies at Cape Cod Community College, Cotton is also a certified instructor with the Residential Real Estate Council (CRS organization), certified coach and Amazon bestselling author.

Annette Mina, real estate broker with Douglas Elliman and a veteran of the industry, sells real estate with her whole heart. She brings love, guidance and trust to every transaction, along with a deep desire to satisfy the needs of her loyal clients. With decades of experience behind her, she’s enjoyed an impressive career and top-tier awards, among them No. 1 Agent for Most Homes Sold in Suffolk & Nassau County 2020, 2019, 2018 & 2017, and many others.

Amanda Pflieger, director of demand generation at Curbio, is a data-driven marketer who is laser-focused on developing creative marketing campaigns and strategies for companies of all sizes. Before transitioning to tech, Pflieger spent her career in the Commercial and Corporate Real Estate sector providing project, construction, and relocation management representation services to a portfolio of high-profile clients.

Each month, RISMedia’s webinars draw more than 1,000 agents and brokers from across the country, eager for exclusive insight from the industry’s most profitable professionals. For a recap of our recent webinar, “How To Creatively Advertise Your Listings In-Person And Digital,” please visit RISMedia’s Housecall. To access all RISMedia webinars, subscribe on YouTube.

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Affordability Crisis Boosts Borrower Appetite for ‘Riskier’ Loan Products

Fri, 07/29/2022 - 12:02

As the housing affordability crisis persists, aspiring homeowners have developed a larger appetite for riskier mortgage products that can lighten the load of the growing expense associated with purchasing a home.

That has been evident in the adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) market, as experts say they’ve seen a significant uptick in their popularity among borrowers this year compared to 2021.

“The main reason they are becoming much more popular now is that usually, they offer lower introductory rates than fixed-rate mortgages do,” says Jacob Channel, a senior economist at LendingTree who authored a recent report showing that the amount of ARMs offered to its users more than tripled in the first half of 2022 compared to the same period last year—up 230%

Experts tell RISMedia that ARMs have made a significant comeback in the past decade.

According to Joel Kan, associate vice president of Economic and Industry Forecasting for the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), LendingTree’s report is indicative of a more significant trend taking hold in the lending industry as well.

Based on MBA data, the share of ARM applications has settled between 9% and 11% of all mortgage applications in recent months compared to the 3% share it had during 2020 and 2021 when the refinance market boomed under record-low mortgage rates.

As mortgage rates climbed from 3% to nearly 6% in the first half of the year, Kan says the shift toward ARMs indicates that borrowers are looking to remain competitive while keeping monthly payments relatively low.

That’s been the case for mortgage broker Shant Banosian of Guaranteed Rate, who says that he and his team have been having more conversations about adjustable-rate loans than they have in a long time.

“It’s become sensible and strategic,” Banosian says. “We’re having a lot of those conversations, and we’re finding that a lot of our clients are using products like seven-year and 10-year ARMs in replacement of using a 30-year fixed-rate loan.”

That’s mainly due to the runup of borrowing costs and home prices in the past couple of years. The share of ARMs during 2020 and 2021 was negligible compared to the boom that refinancing and traditional 30-year fixed-rate loans saw while mortgage rates were still at record lows.

That’s changed significantly this year, as potential buyers are looking to borrow cheaper to remain in the market and compete, according to Banosian.

“Many people, especially first-time homebuyers, are not going to stay in these houses for 20 or 30 years anyways,” he says. “The thought is to use the seven- or 10-year ARM if it makes sense and if it’s something you can be comfortable with. And if the opportunity presents itself, or if rates come down in the future, consider refinancing.”

While ARMs have become more common this year than last year, Channel says they still pale compared to fixed-rate mortgages, which still account for the lion’s share of purchase originations. LendingTree’s report indicated that nearly 11 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages are offered for every 30-year ARM.

“This means that borrowers are still much more likely to get offered a fixed-rate mortgage than an ARM,” Channel stated in the report. “That said, about 41 fixed-rate mortgages were offered for every one adjustable-rate mortgage in the first half of 2021, so the popularity gap is shrinking.”

Remembering the crash

For those who remember the 2008 financial crisis—and some of the factors that caused it—the rise of adjustable-rate mortgages may evoke mixed feelings.

At that time, ARMs accounted for 42% of all new mortgage originations before nosediving after the financial downturn. That’s not far from MBA data, which places the share peak at 36% in March 2005.

The share hovered around 10% or below from 2009 through 2021.

According to Rick Sharga, executive vice president of market intelligence for ATTOM Data Solutions, ARMs make sense for the “right kind of borrower and the right situation.”

“It’s important for borrowers to understand the potential risks of taking an adjustable-rate mortgage,” Sharga says.

They were a popular product before the housing market collapse; however, many borrowers that got adjustable-rate loans back then because of their low introduction rates ended up defaulting when the rates rose, leading to a ripple effect that dragged the global economy down.

Experts agree that the current market has come a long way since the days of the 2008 crash, specifically when it comes to the lending standards and regulations surrounding ARMs.

“The lending standards and the environment where these ARMs are being given is just a little bit better than what it was prior to the Great Recession,” Channel says.

Sharga also noted that qualified mortgage rules from the financial crisis helped mitigate unnecessary risks that came back to bite consumers during the Great Recession.

In particular, most adjustable-rate products are capped at how high rates can be raised at the first adjustment and throughout the loan’s lifetime based on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) standards.

According to the CFPB, the first rate change typically can’t go above 2% of the original rate, while the cap over the loan’s lifetime typically sits at about a 5% increase.

“It was a very different scenario than we are in today when people are making reasonable down payments on properties in many cases,” Sharga says.

Homeowners’ equity also provides a safeguard for borrowers as home prices have surged in the past year and a half. According to Sharga, there is $27 trillion of homeowner equity in today’s market, which is vastly different from the last economic cycle.

“The conditions we had 10 years ago are nothing like the conditions that we are seeing today,” he says. “There is some risk involved anytime you take out a loan to buy a house. The only risk you’re looking at right now is if rates go up during that period before your first adjustment.”

Still risky

Despite the safeguards designed to protect borrowers from being overwhelmed by the rate change, the nature of an adjustable-rate mortgage is still inherently riskier than a fixed-rate product.

At the moment, an ARM-fueled collapse is unlikely, but Channel says that over the next several years, that could change if it balloons into another problem as it did in the early 2000s.

“A lot of the people who are getting ARMs right now are probably not going to see their rates change for the next five years, so there are multiple years of leeway, and certainly nobody knows where rates will be six months from now, let alone five years from now,” Channel says.

“It’s worth pointing out that what led to the housing collapse last time was good intentions turned into something unsustainable,” Channel says. “There was this real push to make homeownership more accessible and to make it so lenders could give more loans to more people, and that did help some people.”

According to Channel, if home prices remain steep and rates remain elevated or climb higher over the next decade, there could be a similar push by the government agencies and lenders to become more permissive with borrowers.

“You can very quickly find yourself on a slippery slope back to what got us into trouble last time, and I think there is potential for ARM to be a part of that issue again,” he adds.

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Anywhere Real Estate Reports Slight Drop in Revenue in Q2 Against Backdrop of Housing Cooldown

Fri, 07/29/2022 - 12:01

Anywhere Real Estate Inc, formerly known as Realogy Holdings Corp., posted a second-quarter net income of $88 million and basic earnings per share of $0.76 on Thursday, a decrease of $61 million or $0.52 per share versus the previous year.

The New Jersey-based, billion-dollar company, whose brands include Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate, CENTURY 21®, Coldwell Banker®, Corcoran®, ERA®, and Sotheby’s International Realty®, raked in revenue of $2.1 billion, a reduction of 6% or $134 million year-over-year.

The company largely attributed the dip in earnings to the absence of revenue from their former title underwriter business, which was sold to an investment management firm in the first quarter of 2022, in addition to a recent unfavorable shift in economic conditions that has plagued businesses nationwide.

“Record increases in mortgage rates, to nearly double what they were a few months ago, combined with rising inflation and broader macroeconomic concerns, has substantially changed buyer affordability, buyer demand and seller expectations. And we saw that mostly later in the quarter, especially in June,” said Ryan Schneider, Anywhere’s chief executive officer and president, who has helmed the company since 2017, on an earnings call yesterday.

Despite the downstream effects of the decelerating housing market, Schneider maintained that Anywhere delivered much-desired “solid profitability and free cash flow” to its investors. However, the company generated significantly less free cash flow, over three times less, than in the second quarter of 2021. Additionally, Anywhere reported operating earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of $202 million, a decrease of $108 million year-over-year.

In response to these reductions in earnings and cash flow, Charlotte Simonelli, Anywhere’s executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer, emphasized on the earnings call that the second quarter of 2021 was “unseasonably strong,” and reminded investors that the company is not “immune to the challenges in the market.”

Simonelli added that the company has taken several critical steps in order to bolster itself against current and future economic headwinds. Namely, Anywhere is cutting costs across the board, reducing their retail office footprint, which is already down substantially since 2020, and streamlining their administrative support structure by implementing greater automation.

While navigating a sea of subpar metrics on the earnings call, Simonelli steered to safe harbor by making mention of several positive developments, including Anywhere’s recent Moody’s upgrade. The credit rating agency revised Anywhere’s outlook from stable to positive in late June, despite the anticipation of declining revenue in 2022.

“Looking ahead, the housing market volatility, the pace of change and additional Fed actions together make it pretty tough to forecast the rest of the year,” concluded Scheider.

The Federal Reserve announced a 75-basis-point rate increase on Wednesday, which, coupled with hikes earlier in the year, represent the most aggressive monetary contraction in decades. Additional increases are also expected.

Shares of Anywhere Real Estate company were down 7.25% before the end of trading Thursday (press time) and down by 42.54% year-to-date.

Brendan Rascius is RISMedia’s associate editor. Email him your story ideas at

The post Anywhere Real Estate Reports Slight Drop in Revenue in Q2 Against Backdrop of Housing Cooldown appeared first on RISMedia.

Shuttered Businesses Present Chance to Bolster Inventory

Fri, 07/29/2022 - 12:00

A business closing often isn’t the end for the property it was built upon—shuttered businesses can be prime opportunities for redevelopment. These unfortunate situations can create openings in the market and opportunities for redevelopment.

A silver lining from the demise of the silver screen

Connecticut-based firms Spinnaker and Eastpointe, for example, are approaching the completion of a project that saw the shuttered Showcase Cinemas in Bridgeport, Connecticut, demolished and replaced with an apartment complex.

“We have two buildings, there’s a 69-unit building with two guest suites, and a 231-unit building,” said Bill Finger, co-managing partner of Eastpointe. Finger estimated the project will be completed by Q1 2023.

A similar renovation is occurring in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Dominion Realty Partners is turning former AMC Classic Raleigh 15 (movie theater) into the 260-unit Atlantic Springs Place Apartments complex. In the next city over of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Parkway Holdings Phase Two LLC, VIP Chapel Hill LLC and Harry A. Kazazian partnered to convert the Regal Timberlyne movie theater property into a 20,000-square-foot medical office facility.

As was the case for many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic expedited the closing of many movie theaters across the United States. These aforementioned North Carolina theaters were just two of the 630 theaters that closed their doors between the outbreak in March 2020 and December 2021, Bloomberg reported. After an initial surge of urban small businesses closing in the early days, other business owners were able to readjust with a greater emphasis on e-commerce. Theaters, which require in-person attendance, could not adapt in the same manner, and they’re far from alone.

Shopping for a new life

Shopping malls are in a similar state of decline. In a New York Times report on this phenomenon, the real estate analytics firm Green Street estimates that for the 1,000 malls they track, 750 are home to empty “anchor boxes,” or large sections designed to house large retailers. The report also found that the COVID-driven bankruptcies of retailers like Brooks Brothers and JC Penny fueled the decline of malls. This underlines the precariousness of malls’ market positions; they’re the businesses most contingent on the success of other businesses.

The Alderwood Mall, located in the Seattle, Washington suburb of Lynwood, which has operated since 1979, has undergone a large-scale renovation. As reported by Bloomberg, developers such as Brookfield Properties are turning large, vacant swaths of the property into a 300-unit apartment complex: Avalon Alderwood Place.

This trend of malls being turned into mixed-use property goes back before the pandemic. In 2013, the Arcade Providence, located in Providence Rhode Island and the oldest mall in America (having been constructed in 1828) was reopened as a mixed apartment and business complex. These projects represent a middle ground between development and preservation.

Pumping up inventory

The Arcade’s fate isn’t the only proof that an esteemed legacy isn’t enough to hold off innovation or market forces. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2145 N. Front Street, the site of the gym featured in the “Rocky” film series, was recently confirmed to be under renovation. The site will be converted into four apartments with a 1,276 square foot ground floor commercial space

The business most naturally suited to be turned into apartments are hotels, and in Farmington, Connecticut, one of these projects is underway. The local Marriot is being turned into a living complex that will host 224-apartments (renting from $1,100 to $1,800 a month depending on size) and amenities such as a pool, fitness center and restaurant/bar. Similar projects are in place across the country.

Extended stays

In Mesa, Arizona, Vivo Living is in the process of creating an apartment complex out of a former Ramada Inn. In Pinellas County, Florida, Miami firm Eagle Property Capital Investments LLC and Mexico City private-equity firm Promecap have partnered for a renovation. Two local hotels, the 95-room TownePlace Suites and the 88-room Residence Inn (both operated by Marriott St. Petersburg Clearwater) will be converted into a single-living community named “Pelican Lake Apartments.”

Hotels are another business that demands in-person attendance, but unlike aforementioned businesses, they are also contingent upon travel. Covid prompted a decrease in travel, and thus less use for hotels.

The loss of these businesses is another’s gain. That ongoing redevelopment projects focus on creating housing speaks to a real estate market issue frequently cited by agents: inventory, or lack thereof. Of the benefits the Spinnaker/Eastpointe project will have to the Bridgeport, Connecticut community, Finger cited a greater supply of market-rate housing in the area.

What good is more housing if people don’t want to live in it, though? This shapes the areas that are targeted for these projects. Asked about the types of properties Spinnaker favors for construction and investment, Spinnaker VP of Development Frank Caico says, “Urban/suburban and near a train station, great access to a highway, and also part of a neighborhood.”

Caico adds, “The other thing I would say is it’s a very different environment in the Northeast and Connecticut where a lot of our communities are already very built out so availability of properties or land to redevelop is not as plentiful as in other markets. Then the entitlement process tends to take much longer, whereas in some of these other markets it’s easier maybe to find opportunity but you’re competing with a lot more folks. Even though it’s easier to build in some of these other markets you almost have to be a little more careful because there’s so much more competition because the barriers to entry are lower.”

That doesn’t mean renovations come without challenges, though. Indeed, COVID has actually erected greater hurdles to redevelopment owing to supply chain disruptions.

Bryan Robik, Finger’s fellow co-managing partner at Eastpointe, elaborated on the challenges his firm has recently faced: “Uncertainty of construction costs, particularly lumber was one we encountered but that’s a little stabilized now or appears to be stabilized. Generally, anticipating increases in the marketplace.”

Construction isn’t the only place where the question of cost presents itself. The former AMC Classic Raleigh 15 property was purchased by Jonathan Greenwood’s Asprings, LLC, for $3.9 million—a huge drop from the previous owners’ $13.3 million price that was paid in 2010. County records show the property has an assessed value of $3.75 million.

Likewise, Rodrigo Conesa, managing principal at Eagle Property Capital Investments, says of his firm’s purchase: “Negotiations for the two hotels began during the peak of the Covid-19 crisis, allowing us to negotiate an attractive price for two high-quality properties that are ideally suited for conversion to apartments.”

The renovation of these businesses may be the developers’ area of expertise, but to perform that renovation, they need to complete the sale. Navigating those sales is where brokers and agents come in.

Devin Meenan is RISMedia’s assistant editor. Email him your story ideas at

The post Shuttered Businesses Present Chance to Bolster Inventory appeared first on RISMedia.

Headliners Week of 7/24 – 7/30

Fri, 07/29/2022 - 08:13
News Catch Up on This Week's Biggest Stories

RISMedia Senior Editor Jordan Grice delivers this week's Headliners, a video recap of the week's top stories in real estate. Share on FacebookShare on Twitter Read This Week's Top Stories Fed Makes Another ‘Unusually Large Increase’ in Interest Rates By Jordan Grice  July 29, 2022

There was a time last year when the term “transitory” was commonly used when federal officials discussed elevated inflation.

Read more Real Estate Leaders Face Another Setback in Burnett/Sitzer Lawsuit By Jordan Grice  July 29, 2022

As the fight to preserve the agent compensation structure wages on, real estate leaders and advocates were dealt another courtroom...

Read more var jnews_module_274566_2_62e43ed4f3825 = 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RISMedia Content Editor Paige Brown delivers this week's Headliners, a video recap of the week's top stories in real estate.

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RISMedia Content Editor Paige Brown delivers this week's Headliners, a video recap of the week's top stories in real estate.

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Paving the Way to Lasting Success

Fri, 07/29/2022 - 02:04

Barbara Heddon
Broker Manager
CENTURY 21 Myers Realty
Auburndale, Florida

Region served: Haines City/Winter Haven, Florida
Years in real estate: 40
Number of offices: 3
Number of agents: 50-plus
No. 1 tip for getting the right listing price: Educate sellers on the marketplace, then factor in specifics about the condition of the property in the market where they’re selling.
Most effective way to motivate agents: Engage a promising agent by turning the conversation around and asking what their goals are and how you can help coach them to success.
Best time management tip: Prioritize your daily tasks from the top down.

Key to getting buyers and sellers working together: Get the seller and prospective buyer face to face and determine what’s needed to work the deal out.

How has your lifelong athletic training and experience benefitted your real estate profession? 

Being an athlete from a young age, you learn time management and perseverance, how to handle rejection and defeat, and how to accept being a winner with grace and respect. This was a huge help when starting in real estate because it allowed me to approach the work I needed to do with confidence.

How did you leverage the relationships you made as a professional athlete to build a better referral network as a real estate professional? 
When I started out, we didn’t have the technology we have now, so I would write letters and send postcards to fellow athletes and friends to let them know that I was a real estate professional and would love to help them with their real estate needs. This was very successful, as it also prompted them to refer me to their friends.

In what ways were you able to influence and support colleagues as a local REALTOR® association leader? 
Both REALTOR® associations where I served as president believed that education was key and offered classes in all aspects of real estate. We had wonderful instructors, so I encouraged all of our members to participate. I would also recommend they get involved with civic organizations and take part in activities that our boards were sponsoring. Doing so allowed members to enjoy more exposure in the community, which helped them develop a better, broader client base.

Given your experience selling investment homes, what’s your best advice for prospective buyers? 
The most important thing is to do your homework and ask a lot of questions about the location, condition and status of the property. Check to see if the property can be leased, and beware of an unbelievable deal. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

After operating your own companies for years, what advantages have you experienced as a CENTURY 21® agent? 
I opened Southern Investments Realty in 2004 with great confidence that I could make it work. Fortunately, I brought on some great agents—both new and seasoned—and we worked hard to build our inventory and client base to become a very successful company. While we had a wonderful time growing our business, in 2017, I sold the business and became an agent (and now broker manager) with CENTURY 21 Myers Realty. I loved being a broker/owner, but it was time to slow down and enjoy being an agent. I am so excited about the new technology the CENTURY 21 brand offers and the support the company provides. And since our brand is worldwide, I have tremendous exposure when marketing all of our properties.

For more information, visit

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