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Orlando median home continues upward trend with 10 percent increase

Orlando’s median home price rose 10 percent in February when compared to February of last year while sales held steady with a 1 percent increase, reports the Orlando Regional REALTOR®

The overall median price of Orlando homes (all types combined) sold in February is $228,000, which is 10.4 percent above the February 2017 median price of $206,500 and 1.3 percent above the January 2018 median price of $225,000.

Year-over-year increases in median price have been recorded for the past 80 consecutive months; as of February 2018, the overall median price is 97.4 percent higher than it was back in July 2011.

The median price for single-family homes that changed hands in February increased 11.3 percent over February 2017 and is now $249,250. The median price for condos increased 22.2 percent to $120,950.

The Orlando housing affordability index for February is 133.18 percent, down from 140.10 last month. (An affordability index of 99 percent means that buyers earning the state-reported median income are 1 percent short of the income necessary to purchase a median-priced home. Conversely, an affordability index that is over 100 means that median-income earners make more than is necessary to qualify for a median-priced home.)

The first-time homebuyers affordability index decreased to 94.71 percent, from 99.62 percent last month.

Sales and Inventory

Members of ORRA participated in 2,497 sales of all home types combined in February, which is 0.6 percent more than the 2,482 sales in February 2017 and 11 percent higher than the 2,250 sales in January 2018.

Sales of single-family homes (1,886) in February 2018 decreased by 1.0 percent compared to February 2017, while condo sales (316) decreased 7.3 percent.

Sales of distressed homes (foreclosures and short sales) reached only 139 in February and is 41.4 percent less than the 237 distressed sales in February 2017. Distressed sales made up 5.6 percent of all Orlando-area transactions last month.

The overall inventory of homes that were available for purchase in February (7,706) represents a decrease of 8.9 percent when compared to February 2017, and a 1.3 percent increase compared to last month. There were 4.3 percent fewer single-family homes and 25.1 percent fewer condos.

“As we head into peak homebuying season, those buyers who are best prepared to deal with the challenges of low inventory are in the better position to secure a home” explains ORRA President Lou Nimkoff, Brio Real Estate Services. “Buyers should be ready to move quickly on a home they want by, for example, having a mortgage pre-approval letter in hand and having pre-determined with their REALTOR® which concessions and contingencies they are willing and able to eliminate from their purchase offers.”

Current inventory combined with the current pace of sales created a 3.09-month supply of homes in Orlando for February. There was a 3.41-month supply in February 2017 and a 3.38-month supply last month.

The average interest rate paid by Orlando homebuyers in February was 4.39, up from 4.07 percent the month prior.

Pending sales in February are down 5.6 percent compared to February of last year and are up 15.0 percent compared to last month.

MSA Numbers

Sales of existing homes within the entire Orlando MSA (Lake, Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties) in February were up by 0.1 percent when compared to February of 2017.

Each individual county’s sales comparisons are as follows:

*Lake: 12.3 percent above February 2017;
*Orange: 4.7 percent below February 2017;
*Osceola: 0.5 percent below February 2017; and
*Seminole: 3.7 percent above February 2017.

How to Have an Energy-Efficient Home

According to a report from real estate research firm Reis, the national apartment vacancy rate reached 7.8 percent in the third quarter — the highest level in 23 years — which gives renters the upper hand to request money-saving amenities to cut costly bills. While the economy is starting to show signs of improvement, unemployment rates still remain high, which has led to higher rental rates. There are 38 million renters in the market looking for ways to be fiscally responsible.

While fancy amenities like granite countertops and walk-in closets were popular before, the new budget-savvy renter is looking for a well-built and energy-efficient home. In fact, according to, added features that save renters money, like paid utilities and washers and dryers in units, topped the list of popular amenities from February to August 2009.

Renters who suspect their laundry pair and kitchen appliances haven’t been replaced in years should find the model and serial numbers on each unit and contact the manufacturer’s customer service line to determine the year they were made. ENERGY STAR estimates that upgrading appliances can result in a savings of $75 annually on utility bills.

If it has been some time since the appliances have been replaced, renters should consider asking for a new laundry pair, since newer models offer considerable water savings — and landlords typically pay the water bill. An ENERGY STAR qualified washer could save 17 more gallons of water each load, which is equivalent to a daily shower. In addition to conserving water, high-efficiency washers, such as the Maytag Performance Series, use up to 77 percent less energy compared to pre-2004 conventional top-loaders. It also features the exclusive Fresh Hold option with Dynamic Venting Technology that combines intermittent tumbling action with air circulation from a fan in the rear of the washer to reduce moisture in the load, allowing consumers to delay drying for up to ten hours. This new technology actually begins drying clothes while they are in the washer, thus increasing the life of the dryer and saving energy by decreasing drying time.

Additionally, in order to ensure their unit is as efficient as possible, renters should request an annual inspection of their windows, heating and cooling equipment and insulation, since heating and cooling costs account for more than half of utility costs. This annual review should include a thorough inspection around the attic and windows to see if a draft is coming through, as well as a visit to each room in the unit to see if there is a constant temperature. Fluctuating temperatures or incoming air could indicate duct problems, inadequate sealing and/or installation around the windows. Older windows that haven’t been upgraded more than likely were not installed with today’s standard of installation. And poorly performing ducts can leak air and reduce a home’s efficiency by as much as 20 percent by causing the system to work harder.

In addition to the annual checks, the HVAC air filter should be replaced monthly as dirt and neglect could cause the HVAC system to break down. By asking for these efficiency inspections, upgrades and fixes, renters can capitalize on their advantage in the market now, lower their costs and avoid moving during these uncertain times.



Could Foreclosure Be An Opportunity?

In so many ways, foreclosure is an end. It’s a bank’s last resort, and the sad final chapter for a family sold on the American dream of home ownership.

But in another sense, foreclosure is also a beginning — a never desirable, but often useful, tool that can help stave off neighborhood blight and create a path toward rejuvenation.

As much as everyone wants to avoid foreclosure, it does provide cities — especially older ones with declining populations — the legal means necessary for acquiring property that would otherwise become vacant or abandoned.

The trouble is that there’s a stigma associated with foreclosure, and legislators can be swayed to impose restrictions on the process that make it more difficult for municipalities that want to reclaim and reuse property that has been left to decay.

So, from a policy perspective, what can be done to create better legal tools for clearing titles that don’t depend solely on the self-interest of debt collectors? Here are some ideas proposed by Mary Helen Petrus, a researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland:

* Quiet title actions, in which governments go to court to “quiet” any and all claims to a property’s title.

* Laws to facilitate nuisance abatement through receivership (giving courts the power to assign repairs or improvements to an overseer of a vacant property).

* New rules making it easier for willing homeowners to forfeit their properties so that governments can take stewardship.

* Processes for tax foreclosures that don’t have to go through the courts.

This is not to say that foreclosure is always the best option. In viable neighborhoods, the most beneficial course of action is generally to focus on improving the quality and affordability of housing for the people who still live there. But when there’s a breakdown, and there’s no hope of rescuing properties from becoming vacant or falling into disrepair, foreclosure is often the most viable option.

This is especially true in American cities where joblessness is high, or the population is dwindling. In these situations, where there simply aren’t enough homebuyers to purchase the number of homes available in a market, foreclosure can actually help begin the process of revitalizing neighborhoods.

Helpful Tips for Renting Out Your Home

Home ownership has always been a part of the American dream, but that may be changing. Uncertainty in the housing market has led many would-be buyers to believe that renting’s the better option.

According to a May 2010 online survey commissioned by the National Apartment Association, 76 percent of consumers think that renting is preferable to owning a home in today’s market.

Likewise, some homeowners believe it’s better to rent out their home than to sell it for less than its worth, if they can sell it all. Those considering renting out their property shouldn’t make a hasty decision. Neglecting to weigh the costs and potential risks could put first-time landlords in a poor situation. Moco, Inc., a company that provides screening services to property owners, managers and employers throughout the United States, offers the following tips:

* Look at the numbers. Renting might not be the best option. If you’re going to lose money each month, it might make more sense to sell, even if you won’t get your asking price. Consider all potential costs, including property taxes, income taxes on your tenants’ rent, maintenance, and the normal wear and tear your property will experience. Remember that you won’t be able to pocket all of the rent money; you will have to put a portion of it back into the property.

* Find quality tenants. Nightmare tenants can be, well, a nightmare. Prepare for a careful screening process. Many private landlords can’t access the quality screening products available to larger businesses without going through a lengthy certification process. However, you can avoid time and expense by asking your applicants to visit The report includes a consumer credit report, SSN verification, comprehensive criminal search, eviction search, national sex offender registry search and an OFAC (federal terrorism database) search — everything you need to determine whether a potential tenant meets your standards.

* Use an all-encompassing lease. Whether you use a template or hire an attorney to write your lease, make sure that the lease clearly states your expectations. The lease should state who is responsible for what, when you expect rent to be paid and what penalties you will impose if it is late.


How To Maximize Profits From Your Rental Property

Managing a rental property can be an excellent source of income in today’s economy.

A third of the nation’s households rent their residences, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Report, and that number rises as high as two-thirds in large metropolitan areas, such as New York and Los Angeles.

Given the steady demand for rental housing, it’s no wonder that individuals are investing in real estate, but there are several things property managers should know if they hope to make a profit.

First, it is important that landlords screen all potential tenants to ensure they have reliable income and will pay bills on time. Once you have secured tenants, keeping them happy, while still running a successful business, is your primary goal. Maintaining a clear, written record of any exchanges you have with tenants will make it easy to track any problems.

It’s also essential that all properties satisfy basic living conditions, such as adequate weatherproofing, and that they adhere to state regulations for safe electrical wiring and ventilation. Landlords are required to arrange for necessary repairs. It’s good to develop relationships with local contractors, so tenants remain satisfied, and the property stays in top shape.

Property management is expensive, even with the supplemental income that rent provides, and many property managers lose a substantial amount of money each year by not taking advantages of available tax deductions. Insurance costs, repairs and independent contractor wages are all fully deductible but often go overlooked. A detailed record-keeping system is the best way for landlords to track their income and expenses, but many simply do not have the time.

One way to address this issue is to hire a bookkeeping firm to take over bookkeeping duties. On Call Accountants ( is one such company that specializes in outsourced accounting, financial reporting and consulting for small and mid-sized businesses. By handing this job over to the professionals, property managers can maximize profits with minimal headaches.


A Unique Opportunity for Hispanic Families When Buying Homes

A recent national survey by Fannie Mae revealed that Hispanics place more value on the idea of homeownership than all Americans, and 73 percent of Latinos believe that owning a home is a good way to build wealth to pass along to their families. However, trends suggest Hispanics are more likely to lack basic financial literacy skills, which can hamper the community’s home buying and long-term financial success.

The first-time home buying process can seem like a daunting experience. But with the right resources, such as TD Bank’s five-step guide for first-time home buyers, Latinos can turn the process of buying a family home into a teachable financial experience for both themselves and their children. Here is some of TD’s advice:

1. The importance of saving.

* According to a recent national survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, nearly half of Hispanics polled revealed they do not have savings.

* The best way to teach children about saving is by encouraging them to do it. If they get a weekly allowance, ask them to put away 25 percent to save enough to purchase the latest video game or toy they want.

* Then, explain to your children what a down payment is, and how saving for one can help reduce a home’s cost. The bigger the down payment, the smaller your home loan, therefore the lower the interest rate.

2. Budgeting and determining what you can afford.

* Living within your means is key to long-term financial success. Unfortunately, Hispanics are more likely to report struggling to pay their bills on time, which presumably means many Hispanics spend more than they make. It’s important to discuss budgeting at an early age with children.

* By reviewing your income and current monthly debts, you can determine your ideal monthly mortgage payment. From there, you will be able to narrow the focus of your house hunt to homes you can afford.

3. Understanding credit and loans.

* Having bad or little credit makes the goal of owning a home a struggle.

* To drive home the lesson about credit and loans, offer your children a loan to purchase the new shoes or outfit they want. Require them pay you back monthly with a portion of their weekly allowance.



Which Fixes Are Worth It to Lure Home Buyers?

If you’re one of those homeowners who’s been moaning about how hard it’s been trying to sell your house, your bargaining power — you remember that concept, right? — hasn’t been completely devastated just because a flood of new foreclosures is expected to hit the market as a result of the recent $25 billion “robo-signing” mortgage settlement.

In fact, while studies have shown your own property value could take up to another 4 percent hit if you’re within a quarter mile of a foreclosure ultimately snapped up at auction or taken back by the lender, the thing to remember is this: Most buyers today are only interested in homes that are “move-in-ready,” so if yours isn’t … well, there’s your problem.

“Buyers generally look at ‘as-is’ properties that need work, and say ‘I’ll pass,'” says Patsy O’Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby’s in Montclair, N.J. “That’s why I tell clients it’s worth making certain strategic fixes if they’re looking for quicker and more profitable sales.”

So, which “fixes” are worth it, and which aren’t? Read on:

Worth It: Addressing major maintenance and safety issues. Would you buy a house with faulty electrical wiring? Enough said.

Not Worth It: Major bath renovations. “Whatever you do might not suit the buyer,” says O’Neill, “and meanwhile, you’d have spent as much as tens of thousands of dollars.” Meaning, stick to things like repairing cracked shower doors, and save your visions of a modern-day spa for your own new abode.

Worth It: Ripping up old carpeting. Whether you replace it with new carpets or refinish the underlying wood floor is less important than getting rid of an eyesore.

Not Worth It: Major kitchen renovations. Same “taste” issue as above.

Worth It: Anything that enhances “curb appeal.” If the first thing prospective buyers notice even before exiting their cars is that your roof looks like it’s been whipped by a tornado, say, chances are you’ve already lost the sale. “It’s a huge turn-off,” says O’Neill, “and makes buyers predisposed to find even more things they don’t like.” So, if your roof needs replacing, check out the Value Collection Lifetime Designer Shingles from GAF (the largest roofing manufacturer in North America), which have the look of luxury shingles but at very affordable prices (

Not Worth It: Anything that screams clutter. The less of “you” there is, the more likely prospective buyers are to imagine themselves happily living there.



Upgrades to Help You Sell Your House

That’s the question on homeowners’ minds as house prices just posted their largest annual gain since 2005 — congrats to those no longer “underwater” on their mortgages — even as interest rates remain tantalizingly low. But here’s the catch: Those same higher prices can make buyers as choosy as a Michelin restaurant reviewer.

“A house with a $1,600 mortgage payment last year now has a $2,000 mortgage payment,” one broker told the Wall Street Journal. “Buyers are saying, ‘I better like it.'”

To increase your home’s “like” quotient, read on to see which upgrades are worth making and which aren’t.

Worth It: A new front door. Strictly in terms of return on investment, a steel one topped the list of Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report for 2014 — recouping 96.6 percent of the average price. But a fresh coat of paint can work wonders, too.

Not Worth It: A home-office remodel. We know what you’re thinking: With so many more people working from home, wouldn’t it be brilliant to rewire the space for electronic equipment, say, and install commercial-grade carpeting? Not really. The magazine gave it the lowest return on investment (48.9 percent), and the guy who oversaw the study says, “Home offices don’t sell houses.”

Worth It: A back-up power generator. It’s the biggest gainer in the study, jumping 28 percent over last year, and plays especially well in areas brutalized by storms.

Not Worth It: Major bathroom work. “You could install the most spectacular jetted tub, and it still might not suit a buyer,” says Patsy O’Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby’s in Montclair, NJ. “Meanwhile, you’d have spent tens of thousands of dollars.” That explains why it made’s list of “6 Worst Home Fixes for the Money” and why you should stick to things like re-grouting the shower.

Worth It: Roofing replacement. There’s a reason this ultimate “curb appeal” enhancer consistently makes Remodeling’s list and is up 11.2 percent over even last year: A roof is the first thing prospective buyers notice even before exiting their cars, and you can kiss that sale good-bye if yours looks like it’s been through hell.

“It’s a huge turn-off,” says O’Neill, “and makes buyers predisposed to find even more things they don’t like.” For the look of luxury at very affordable prices, check out the Value Collection Lifetime Designer Shingles from GAF, North America’s largest roofing manufacturer.

Not Worth It: Major kitchen renovations. Again, the key word is “major,” and again it’s a “taste” issue.



How to get the best price for your house

Have you forgotten something in figuring where you’re going to retire to?

Let’s see, you’ve researched which states tax Social Security income (only 14, including Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, North Dakota and Vermont).

And you’ve even consulted the numbers-crunchers at to learn which states scored highest overall in everything from cost of living to access to health care (South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, North Dakota and Wyoming).

But here’s a question for all you homeowners: Given the results of a new report from Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate — 57 percent of boomers say they plan to move to a new home in retirement — what are you doing right now to make sure your current house fetches a good price to help finance your retirement dreams?

“As people grapple with whether to pull up stakes, there’s small margin for error,” the New York Times’ coverage of the report noted.

Here’s some tips for preparing what’s likely your biggest asset for prospective buyers:

* Get rid of the clutter. No doubt you have years worth of memories on display. But they’re your memories. And painful as it may be, it’s time to accept that not everyone appreciates having turned your den, for example, into a shrine to the ’69 Mets.

“Buyers shouldn’t be distracted from imagining themselves living in your space,” says Patsy O’Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby’s in Montclair, New Jersey.

* Think twice before doing any trendy remodeling. Especially if your home is older, you may be tempted to go as far in trying to spruce things up as, say, tearing down a wall between the kitchen and an adjoining room just because Angie’s List says creating the feel of more space is “one of the hottest trends in home remodeling.”

Well who’s to say it’ll still be hot in six months or a year?

* Think “curb appeal.” There’s a reason roof replacement consistently makes Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report, and is up 11.2 percent this year over even last year: A roof is the first thing potential buyers notice — even from down the street — and you’ve already lost the sale if yours looks like hell.

“It’s a huge turn-off,” says O’Neill, “and makes people predisposed to find even more things they don’t like.” For the look of luxury at very affordable prices, check out the Value Collection Lifetime Designer Shingles from GAF (, North America’s largest roofing manufacturer.

* Fix major maintenance and safety issues. Would you buy a house with a sputtering boiler? Enough said.


Put Your Vacation Home to Work for You

If your vacation home has started to become more of a financial headache than a refuge, it might be time to consider renting out your property.

According to industry experts, an average vacation home can garner an owner an extra $30,000 of income per year.

“Renting out your vacation home can open up a significant stream of revenue,” says Mary Lynn Clark, president of Wyndham Vacation Rentals North America. “Understanding the business side, and all it entails, however, is a critical part of increasing your home’s value without adding hassle.”

Before listing your home for rent, it’s important to decide whether you will handle the details yourself (think booking, reservations, marketing, maintenance and management) or hire a vacation rental firm.

While doing it all yourself may sound like a good idea (and the Internet has certainly made that a viable option with hundreds of rental listing sites), a recent study shows that owners spend an average of more than eight hours per week marketing and managing their vacation properties. This translates to a heavy time commitment that few people have.

Clark likens it to performing maintenance on your car.

“The average car owner doesn’t change their own oil or replace their own brake pads,” he said. “They leave it up to the professionals to do that. Why should it be any different for managing your vacation property?”

To take advantage of the added income, without having to invest a significant amount of time, professionally managed vacation rental companies provide the perfect balance. Typically, these firms assume responsibility for marketing and managing your property and taking care of any requests by the renters.

Professional management companies, such as Wyndham Vacation Rentals, can help keep your property occupied by using its vast network of resources and commitment to take care of guests’ experiences.

Unlike other vacation rental companies, Wyndham offers a host of unique benefit programs along with dynamic pricing to get owners the most value possible. Most importantly, it offers a Vacation Rental Bill of Rights that assures guests that Wyndham will take care of their needs every step of the way.



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