General Interest

Summer Real Estate in the Hamptons

For years the Hamptons has been a hot summer destination for New York City dwellers to escape to, along with other vacationers from across the country.  The recession took its toll on the summer destination spot along with the real estate market, but this summer the Hamptons look to be coming back strong.

theHamptonsThe summer of 2007 was the last big boom the Hamptons saw and this summer is shaping up to be even bigger.  So far the high-end real estate has seen a remarkable amount of activity as vacationers seek to rent houses during their stay and investors look for investment properties.  The colder and longer than normal winter left potential buyers and renters putting off planning for their summer vacations and now they are scrambling to pin down their plans.

Prices have been on the rise and the Corcoran Report cites increased closed sales were up 38% in the first quarter of the year along with sales volume jumping 27%.  The lack of available land in some of the hot spots has contributed to higher prices and some recent big home sales in the area have encouraged other homeowners to put their properties on the market while it’s hot.

What is the Hamptons buyer looking for today in a property?  Lots of natural light, open floor plans, plenty of square footage and a combination of indoor and outdoor living space.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Home Prices are Hot

Home prices continue to rise in what is undoubtedly a seller’s market.  According to Zillow, prices have increased so quickly that about 1,000 local housing markets have reached records in new home prices.

Real estate brokerage firm, Redfin, noted that 40% of the sellers it surveyed plan to price their homes above market value when they list during the second quarter this year.  This is a 33% increase from the start of the year.  Fannie Mae reported in April that 42%, an all-time high, of their 1,000 surveyed homeowners and renters believe that it is a good time to sell.

Home sellers are more likely to receive the asking price from the buyer that pays in all cash.  In markets with fewer cash buyers, home sellers have indicated they are willing to hold out if it doesn’t sell quickly.  For some homeowners they need to get their full asking list price in order to pay off a current mortgage.

home prices are hot

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Homeownership Hits a 19 Year Low

Couple looking at a houseThe American dream used to entail owning a home but has this traditional dream shifted?  The U.S. Census Bureau reported that homeownership rates have dropped to 64.8% in the first quarter of 2014, which is the lowest rate since 1995.  Home prices have soared and home sales have not been keeping pace as first-time homebuyers, in many cases, have been priced out of the market and are still finding it hard to gain access to credit.  Investors are still playing a large role in the single-family real estate market.

Robert Shiller of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices commented on this topic, “This institutional investor dynamic is a whole new era I think.  As institutional investors start to play in the single-family market, that just changes it fundamentally.”  Those who aren’t buying are renting instead which isn’t necessarily a worse scenario.  Some prefer not having a large mortgage to worry about and not being saddled with repair costs when something in the home breaks down.

Trulia’s chief economist, Jed Kolko, pointed out, “Ironically, adding renter households could cause the homeownership rate to fall, even though these new rental households are a sign of recovery and will spur more construction starts.”

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

U.S. Home Builder Focuses on Entry-Level Homes

The current housing market’s supply of homes continues to be tight with the majority of homes available for sale being higher-end properties.  This leaves those who would be first-time homebuyers with fewer choices.  But the nation’s largest home builder (by market value), DR Horton, is shifting its attention from high-end homes to building entry-level residences.

The company’s new line of homes, Express Homes, will start at $120,000-$150,000 and will be be rolled out in Texas, Georgia and Florida.  Executives of the company see a strong demand for this market segment that is lacking in supply.  D.R. Horton CEO Donald Tomnitz said, “We wouldn’t be getting into Express Homes if we didn’t think it was the next segment of the market to recover… As we move into this recovery we’ll see some encouragement from the government in terms of trying to get more people into entry-level homes.” Pictured above is an Express Home in Dallas, TX and below is another located in Houston, TX.

101611500-ExpressHouston_530x298Outside analysts also see this shift in the market place.  Stephen East from research firm ISI Group commented, “We view it as the right move. Horton’s cost structure and operational experience at the entry level makes them one of the few builders that can do this profitably. Also, we are firmly convinced the first-time-buyer segment is getting access to more credit, which will lead to more demand for this low-entry level product.”

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Castle Peak Homes Gives New Life to Older Properties

Last year the housing market was mostly dominated by cash investors, many planning to flip properties or lease them out.  So far during 2014 investors still play a large role in the market although to a lesser degree since interest rates and prices have continued to rise.  Today we are taking a break from the housing market’s latest news and economic data reports to focus on a part of our business that brings new life to properties in need of a facelift.

Castle Peak Homes takes pride in improving the neighborhoods where we purchase properties by completing renovations that bring back the original glory of structures while including modern updates.  Each neighborhood has its own charm and style and keeping this intact is important in preserving these areas.  Castle Peak Homes embraces the original architectural style of each property and enhances them with modern day elements such as hardwood floors, granite counter tops and updated bathrooms.

One property Castle Peak Homes recently purchased and renovated was in Ft. Worth, Texas.  From the outside this duplex looked worn down and tired.  A fresh exterior coat of paint and bright new shutters helped transition this house to a home.  The existing hardwood floors were refinished, new interior paint throughout added, and a privacy fence in the backyard was installed along with some beautiful landscaping.  One of the kitchens was tiled to give it an undated feel as well.  The ‘before’ pictures first and and the ‘after’ pictures are next.

2713 exterior before 2713 exterior after

2713 rear after 2713 new after rear

Another purchased property, also situated in Ft. Worth, received a facelift.  This house had worn carpet and out-dated dark wood paneled walls.   A complete interior paint job, removal of the carpet and refinishing of the hardwood floors helped bring this house back to life.  A highlighted area of transformation was in one of the homes bedrooms which featured a fireplace.

Fire Place Before  Fire Place After

Castle Peak Homes is proud to add value to neighborhoods through the renovation of purchased properties and, at the same time, maintaining the character of each home as well as the charm and style of the neighborhood.

Please visit Castle Peak Homes for more information on our properties.  For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Housing Market Thawing Slowly as Supply Increases

The Federal Reserve’s recent two-day policy meeting painted a picture of sluggish growth in the economy for the first quarter of the year, mostly attributed to colder than normal weather which hindered economic activity.  Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen, commented on labor conditions being tougher in some ways now than in any other recession and stressed the Fed’s “extraordinary commitment” to aid recovery in the form of massive bond-buying and super-low interest rates for some time to come.  The economic data has not been improving as quickly as many would have hoped for but there have been some positive reports that still point to a rebound.  This should have a positive impact on the housing market.  It’s time to put the first quarter behind us now and look for signs of growth during the second quarter in jobs, home supply, and home prices.

The U.S job’s report released Friday helped paint a brighter picture for the coming months.  The economy added 192,000 new jobs during March and the unemployment rate held at 6.7 percent according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  These numbers came in around consensus but still do not point to a robust rebound.  Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis at The Conference Board, said, “Undoubtedly, there was some catch up in hiring following the inclement weather this winter.  Still, the underlying hiring trend is encouraging, with more good news expected this spring and summer.”  As the employment picture brightens up, this will help strengthen the housing market as more people will look to purchase homes.

Housing supply has been on the rise since January, an important factor in getting the housing market to thaw out and eventually start booming.  The noted monthly supply in February was up slightly from January’s five month supply, citing 5.2 months of supply.  Six months of supply is considered a healthy housing market.  As more homes are built to increase inventory numbers, analysts believe this will help spur growth in the housing market.  Homeowners looking to sell their property will have an easier time looking for a new residence, which should encourage sales and purchases.

Case-Shiller Price IndexAs discussed in previous blog posts, the continued increase in home prices have made this a seller’s market, but have priced some potential buyers out of the market.  While prices have continued to grow, they are increasing at a decreasing rate (January noted a slight drop of 0.08% in the Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index). This points to a possible retreat in gains, reflecting a more normal range in prices over the next few months.  This will open the door to more market participants and will help get some momentum behind the housing market.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Housing Geared Up to Grow this Spring

The mercury is rising and springtime is just around the corner.  Regions hit hard by winter storms are starting to thaw and analysts are predicting the housing market will do the very same in coming months.  A tight housing supply continues to keep home prices high making this undoubtedly a seller’s market.  The overall housing market for the year is positioned for continued growth.

Housing industry and home construction real estate concept as two gears or cog wheels shaped as family residential structures as an icon of neighborhood cooperation and community network connections.Demand for housing is still strong and expected to stay this way through the spring according to some analysts.  The Conference Board, a nonprofit association of businesses, found the percentage of consumers who intend to buy a home within the next six months is the highest it has been since 2000.  One reason for this rising demand is young people who are still facing a tough job market.  A housing analyst with Moody’s Analytics predicts the economy will expand enough this year to enable these young people to move out of their parent’s home.  While they may mostly rent, a decrease in vacancy rates should put upward pressure on rental prices prompting interested home buyers who currently rent to make a real estate purchase.

The rise in home prices is great news for millions of homeowners who have been underwater on their mortgage.  Rising values should encourage owners to put their property on the market, helping to ease the tight housing supply.  CoreLogic reported almost 3.5 million homeowners were lifted out of negative equity between the end of 2012 and mid 2013.  Zillow estimated even more borrowers are back above water, citing 3.9 million homeowners.  Chief Economist Stan Humphries, of Zillow stated in a recent release, “We’ve reached an important milestone as negative equity has fallen below 20 percent nationwide, which has helped free up marginally more inventory and contribute to further stabilization of the market.”

During the past year, existing home and condo sales have increased 11 percent almost topping the highest level in four years.  The National Association of Realtors (NAR) predicts sales will remain about the same during this year.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

New Home Sales Reach 2008 Highs

render of rising arrowGood news surrounding the housing market was released this week.  It looks like the effects from abnormally cold weather hasn’t kept the housing market down as formerly suspected.  January sales of new single-family homes was reported at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 468,000 units.  This number showed a huge jump in sales, surging to a 5 ½-year high since July 2008.

Previously reported, December home sales were down 7 percent from the month prior.  This number was revised upwards from 414,000 to 427,000 sighting just above a 3 percent increase.  This revision equates to only a 4 percent drop in new home sales in December showing that the housing market might not have been hit as hard by the cold temperatures as mentioned last week.

The 9.6 percent jump in new home sales in January exceeded what economists had forecast; 400,000 units.  The Northeast, which has been bearing the brunt of the cold weather, actually recorded a 73.7 percent increase, hitting a seven month high.  The South reported a five-year high sighting a 10.4 percent rise in sales.  Sales in the Midwest dropped 17.2 percent and the West recorded an 11 percent increase.

New home sales numbers reported from the Commerce Department are based on signed contracts with the house being in any stage of construction.  Existing home sales data is provided by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and they report once the sales contract has closed.  Given this difference, new home sales usually lead existing home sales by a month or two as it can take 30-60 days for a closing on a house to occur.  Pending home sales, which are also reported on from time-to-time in this blog, overcome the lagging effect of existing home sales and center around existing home sales where the contract has been signed but not currently closed.

Housing prices still continue to ramp up.  The Case-Shiller composite index reported a 0.8 percent increase in prices in December from the prior month, which was higher than economists predicted.  Year-over-year, the index reported a 13.4 percent rise.  Higher costs of labor and construction materials have been attributed to the increase in home prices.

As we move closer to the spring season it will be interesting what the trend in new home sales along with existing and pending home sales will be.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

First Preston HT Celebrates 26th Anniversary

HeartTree26th.v4 copyOn February 14th, the First Preston HT family of companies celebrates 26 years of business innovation and exemplary customer service. First Preston HT extends appreciation to our employees, our national network of associates, and our clients who have helped to cultivate a legacy of business success and community service.

The First Preston HT family of brands includes:  First Preston, HomeTelos, HomeTracker, BidSelect, Lender Center, HT Solutions and Outdoor Quota Solutions.  To learn more about First Preston HT, visit  Remember to Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

The Granny Flat Revolution | Back to the Future

Granny Flat 0x600Remember the in-law suite?  The concept has been re-imagined and re-engineered and is now so cool — it’s hot. Dressed in new energy- efficient upscale designs and finishes, some look more like honeymoon suites than in-law suites.

How hot is the in-law suite movement?  A  Google search for the term returned over 86 million results in .29 seconds.  In-law suites often referred to as Granny flats, facilitate a growing trend toward multi-family households, common decades ago.

NAR’s 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers indicates “fourteen percent of recent buyers purchased a home for a multi-generational household…” This is due in part to our economic climate.  A Wall Street Journal article by Neil Shah supports a different theory. Shah maintains that the increase in foreign-born seniors relocating to the US is a big factor. Shah stated “Foreign born seniors are four times more likely to live with their children”.  Regardless of reason, the trend is global. Many extended families are capturing additional living space via additions such as granny flats; while others choose new construction with self-contained secondary living suites.

Australian designers appear to be leading the industry with modular dwellings.  Some are built as stand-alone properties while others are integrated as secondary (back yard) structures designed to complement the architecture of the primary residence. They are so advanced; think of them as in-law suites’ on steroids.

Added quarters accommodate returning graduates, retired in-laws, art, photography or yoga studios, rentals, care-givers for children or elderly parents, etc. In some communities, granny flats are evolving into stand-alone affordable housing.  Austin’s Alley Flat initiative is one such venture.

Australian entrepreneurs have found great success with the back yard villa or granny flat. The Japanese version is the tiny house. The British know them as garden cottages.  In Fort Worth watch for accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

In his book, In-laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats: Your guide to Turning One House into Two Homes, author Michael Litchfield, explains the six types of in-law flats. The link above showcases “10 Chic Granny Flats” from Litchfield’s book, posted on spotlights 40,605 granny flat home design photos.  Most resemble upscale resort suites or pool houses with functioning kitchens and sleeping quarters.   Take a minute to scroll through. They are energy-efficient, and stylish.

Major metros around the country are amending housing ordinances, while establishing zoning and construction specs for this evolving category of dwellings. Multi-family homeowners are evaluating whether to expand current homes   or opt for custom new construction.

For 2014 and beyond expect to see more builders offering multigenerational floor plans. Consider developing a niche by focusing on multigenerational housing options. Bernice Ross with Inman News acknowledges this as a “prime opportunity in 2014”.  

Watch for self-contained granny flat modules, fabricated domestically or imported from abroad.  Check out local policy and valuation history for in-law suites. Keep a list of the best multi-family residential builders in your area. Use social media to ensure that your sphere of influence is aware of your special expertise.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Photo Courtesy of : In-laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats: Your guide to Turning One House into Two Homes