Demand for apartments hit a high not seen in five years as a shortage of affordable homes has locked an increasing number of Americans out of the market.
According to recent data from RealPage, the national occupancy rate rose to 95.8% from 95.4% last year.
The increase in demand has sent rental prices upward, causing them to rise 3% from the same time last year.
Rental price increases varied across cities, with Las Vegas and Phoenix posting the greatest gains at 8.8% and 8.1%, respectively.
Of the cities that saw the most leasing activity, the Dallas-Fort Worth area takes the cake, with renters moving into 10,443 units in the second quarter of 2019, RealPage revealed.
“Apartment leasing activity accelerates during the warmer weather months, and demand is proving especially strong in this year’s primary leasing season,” according to RealPage chief economist Greg Willett.
“Solid economic growth is encouraging new household formation, and rentals are capturing a sizable share of the resulting housing demand,” Wlillet continued. “At the same time, loss of existing renters to home purchase remains limited relative to historical levels.”
It’s easy to see that the little red house at 175 Grand Street in Mamaroneck, NY, is no ordinary home just by looking: At a mere 10 feet wide, the Skinny House stands out for its size alone. As 6sqft previously reported, this unique dwelling, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has quite a tale to tell. The little house on a 12.5-foot lot was built in 1932 by Nathan T. Seely, one of New York’s first African American builders. Its story is one of ingenuity and skill, and it provided for its creator during hard times. In need of a new chapter and some real TLC, the house is on the market–for only the second time since its construction–for $275,000.
Seely and his brother had built a successful home-building business constructing houses throughout Mamaroneck, mainly catering to black Southerners who fled northward as part of the Great Migration. But the Great Depression crushed the business; Seely went bankrupt and lost his home.
Seely’s next-door neighbor, Panfino Santangelo, generously gave him a 12.5-foot by 100-foot strip of land in 1931; Seely put his considerable skills to work constructing the Skinny House using salvaged materials. A chicken coop was used as part of the living room; a center beam in the basement is a rusted railroad track; walls were constructed from paperboard hammered into wood scraps. When it was finished the home had everything you’d find in a much bigger dwelling including a cellar, a living room, a kitchen and pantry, two bedrooms and a bathroom on three floors. Seely even accounted for high winds by running cables from the side of the house into the ground.
Seely died in 1962; his house was passed down to members of his family who continued to occupy it. In 1984, Panfino Santangelo’s daughter bought the house from Seely’s daughter for $30,000, returning the property to her family. The house was a rental up until it was discovered that a termite infestation had damaged much of the property. The home was inducted into the National Register in 2015, but the necessary repairs have not yet been done. The home is being sold as-is, but its history and potential remain.
Facebook’s advertising practices are, once again, under scrutiny.
This week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the Department of Financial Services (DFS) to investigate Facebook’s ad practices that, according to reports, allow New York state-regulated advertisers to exclude consumers—even those looking for housing—through zip code information, based on classifications including race, sex, disability, national origin, religion, and familial status, the Daily News first reported.
“Facebook touts its advertising platform as a powerful means for housing and housing-related advertisers to reach desired consumers,” a statement from Cuomo’s office reads.
“The allegations against Facebook advertisers are extremely troubling and fly in the face of everything that New York stands for,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I am calling on the Department of Financial Services to investigate these claims and help ensure that New Yorkers seeking housing for themselves and their families are not discriminated against in any way.”
In March, following several legal actions, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced a civil rights settlement with the tech giant as it vowed to take steps to ensure that advertisers could not discriminate when sending credit, job, and housing ads to users.
“As the internet—and platforms like Facebook—play an increasing role in connecting us all to information related to economic opportunities, it’s crucial that micro-targeting not be used to exclude groups that already face discrimination,” Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the ACLU, said in a statement.
A for sale sign stands before property for sale in Monterey Park, California.Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images
A Federal Reserve economist says the current housing backdrop is similar to recent economic slumps, with several metrics “consistent with the possibility of a late 2019 or early 2020 recession.”
“Data on single-family home sales through May 2019 confirm that housing markets in all regions of the country are weakening,” the St. Louis Fed’s William R. Emmons said in a report posted on the central bank district’s site. “The severity of the housing downturn appears comparable across regions—in all cases, it’s much less severe than the experience leading to the Great Recession but similar to the periods before the 1990-91 and 2001 recessions.”
Specifically, Emmons looked at sales numbers for the 12 months ending May 2019 compared to the average over the past three years. He uses December 2019 as the “plausible month for peak growth” in the current case, and then looks at how far back from the peak was the first month in which sales fell below their three-year average in the previous three recessions.
WATCH NOWVIDEO02:50Here’s what Fannie Mae is forecasting for the housing market
The process may seem at least somewhat opaque, but Emmons said it has been a reliable indicator from the housing market for when the next recession is due — usually about a year away, according to historical trends.
In the Northeast, for instance, August 2018 was the first month that sales fell below the region’s three-year average. That would be 16 months from the December 2019 assumed peak. In the previous recessions, the first negative month respectively came 23, 10 and 21 months before the peak. That would put the current pattern within the historical range, Emmons wrote.
These charts look at how each region stacks up. The four lines each represent a recession; the deviation of the 12-month sales average toward the three-year average decreases until it goes negative; the charts then show how long it took before a recession hit:
In addition to the sales numbers, Emmons said current mortgage rates, inflation-adjusted house prices and residential investment’s contribution to economic growth are similar to patterns that preceded the most recent three recessions.
Single-family home sales work best as indicator, he said, because the other metrics are national in nature and thus don’t reflect whether the deterioration has spread through all regions.
“Considering signals from other housing indicators and from indicators outside housing with good forecasting track records (such as the Treasury yield curve), the regional housing data noted here merit close attention,” Emmons wrote.Calling for rate cut
The St. Louis Fed, where Emmons works, is led by its president, James Bullard, who has been one of the loudest voices on the Federal Open Market Committee advocating for an interest rate cut. Bullard was the lone member of the monetary policymaking body in June to vote against keeping the benchmark funds rate steady. He is advocating an “insurance” cut to head off anticipated economic weakness.
There are mounting signs that global weakness and business concerns over tariffs could hamper U.S. growth or cause an outright recession.
The New York Fed uses the spread between the 10-year and three-month Treasury yields to determine the probability of a recession over the next 12 months. That part of the yield curve has inverted, which has been a reliable recession indicator. Chances for negative growth by May 2020 are at 29.6%, up from 27.5% in April and the highest level since May 31, 2008, just as the financial crisis was set to explode in September.
Still, there are hopes that the U.S. can withstand a significant downturn.
Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, in a speech Tuesday, pointed out that the economy has been resilient through growth scares during a recovery that began 10 years ago. Mester said she expects housing to be neutral for growth this year.
Also, Joseph LaVorgna, chief Americas economist at Latixis, said a diffusion index of leading economic indicators is showing positive trends for six out of 10 components, indicating that “the risk of a downturn remains relatively low.”
Home price gains in the U.S. fell in April — marking the 13th consecutive month of slowing growth.
Standard & Poor’s said Tuesday that its S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index posted a 3.5% year-over-year increase in April, down from 3.7% in March. The 20-City Composite posted a 2.5% gain, down from 2.6% the previous month — the slowest pace since August 2012. Both results met analysts’ expectations.
“Home price gains continued in a trend of broad-based moderation,” said Philip Murphy, managing director and global head of index governance at S&P Dow Jones Indices, in a press statement. “Comparing the YOY National Index nominal change of 3.5% to April’s inflation rate of 2.0% yields a real house price change of 1.5% – edging closer to the real long run average of 1.2%.”
“We expect home price growth to continue in the low single digits for the remainder of the year as inventory rises,” said Ruben Gonzalez, chief economist at Keller Williams, in a statement.
Inventory, the number of homes for sale, which has been a factor in driving home prices up the past few years has been increasing in major markets, indicating that there may be some relief in home prices in the coming months.
Price growth in major markets continues upward but “at diminishing rates of change,” according to Murphy. In fact, in Seattle there was zero price growth in April, compared to a 13.1% annual gain the same month last year. Since June 2018, price growth in Amazon’s home city has been decelerating from its double-digit rates. Las Vegas led the 20-City Composite for 10 straight month posting a 7.1% annual increase.
In June, New York State rolled out a slate of proposals to protect renters. Among other changes, the new legislation closes several loopholes that have permitted owners to legally spike rents following renovations—a tactic that has been successfully used to deregulate more than 150,000 units over the past two decades. In essence, under the new legislation, owners will no longer be able to deregulate rent-regulated apartments at all. While the new legislation is certainly good news for many renters, for the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who now already live in unregulated apartments, the current legislation doesn’t fix their current woes. But could a five-year rent freeze help? It may sound impossible, but this is precisely what Berlin—once an oasis of inexpensive rents—has just approved as a way to put the brakes on rising rental prices.
Berlin’s changing rental landscape and five-year price freeze
Just a decade ago, Berlin was still known around the world as a phenomenally cool city where one could rent a large apartment at a very reasonable rate. As Berlin’s economy has improved and its tourism industry has expanded, finding an affordable apartment in some of Berlin’s most desirable neighborhoods has become increasingly difficult.
By one estimate, since 2008, Berlin rents have doubled from 5.60 euros to 11.40 euros. Downtown neighborhoods such as Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg have been especially hard hit. And prices aren’t just soaring on the rental side of the market. Buying a unit in Berlin is also increasingly out of reach. According to a recent report by the UK-based Frank-Knight, in 2017, Berlin bucked global trends, becoming the only major city in the world to report real estate price growth above 20 percent. However, in a city with more renters than any other European city, Berliners’ real concern remains the rising cost of rentals.
To be clear, Berliners are still not as hard up as people in New York, London, Paris, or Tokyo, but there are fears the city may be heading in this direction. On average, one-bedroom units in Berlin’s center are about 1,000 euros per month. Of course, this figure reflects area averages, and therefore, takes into account the high number of units still being rented out at pre-gentrification prices. As a result, if you’re new to Berlin’s housing market and looking for an apartment, you’ll likely pay much more than 1,000 euros monthly for a decent one-bedroom unit in a desirable neighborhood—as much as 1,500 to 2,000 euros or roughly $1,700 to $2,250 USD.
With rents rising, competition is also getting tough. A recent BBC report noted that over 100 prospective tenants often show up for apartment viewings. To stand out, some Berliners have reportedly even started to bribe prospective landlords who are willing to take them on as tenants. One couple, both professional photographers, reportedly offered prospective landlords a free photoshoot. Another house hunter posted a sign offering regular baking to any landlord willing to rent her a flat. While a free photoshoot or weekly fresh-based bread may not be enough to close a deal in New York City, such bribes are apparently growing increasingly common in Berlin’s rental market.
To put the kibosh on the rising rents, tough competition, and bribes, on June 18, the Berlin Senate voted in favor of a five-year rental freeze. Although planned to take effect on January 2020, the freeze will be applied retroactively from June 18. While many Berliners are in support, not everyone in Germany is happy about the proposal. Some critics worry that the freeze will prevent landlords from making necessary repairs to their buildings. Business analysts also fear the freeze may negatively impact Berlin’s economy. Even Chancellor Angela Merkel is skeptical. She’s suggested that building more affordable housing in the city may be a better solution.
Could a five-year rental freeze work in New York City?
Theoretically, a five-year freeze on both rent-regulated and market-rate units could be imposed—albeit not without major backlash from the real estate industry—but would it help control the city’s already inflated rental market?
NYU Furman Center’s historical data reveals that a lot can happen in five years, depending on a wide range of factors. The graph above features real median gross rental prices for MN 03 (the Lower East Side-Chinatown) compared to Manhattan and citywide rents from 2006 to 2017. As illustrated, had a five-year freeze on rents come into play in 2012, average rental prices would have been about $200 less on average by 2017. However, in the inflated Lower East Side-Chinatown market, a rental freeze in 2012 would have had virtually no impact on real median gross rental prices at all since the freeze would have happened during the area’s 2012 peak in prices.
Another risk of imposing a five-year rental freeze in New York City is what would happen next. In Berlin, no new lease can be 10 percent higher than the previous lease, but in New York, owners of unregulated units are free to raise rents as high as they like when an apartment turns over and even when an existing tenant renews a lease. The risk, then, is that if the city did impose a five-year freeze, owners would rebel and spike rents after the freeze, creating an even more untenable rental landscape.
New York’s housing crisis has taken center stage in the last few months: A bold package of bills was passed in Albany to protect tenants, while the city’s Rent Guidelines Board voted to raise the rent despite clamors from residents of rent stabilized apartments. Something that housing advocates have continuously cited is the number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless in the city.
A new study by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness (ICPH), found that on July 1, 2018, there were over 12,000 families with children sleeping in a city-run shelter. The study also explored the biggest factors—family, neighborhood, and shelter dynamics—that lead to homelessness.
Overall, the study says that in fiscal year 2016, the main reasons families entered shelters included domestic violence (30 percent), eviction (25 percent), and overcrowding (17 percent).
In terms of shelter dynamics, the ICPH analysis found that neighborhoods with the highest family shelter capacity include Concourse/Highbridge, East Tremont in the Bronx, and Brownsville in Brooklyn. The report also notes that in 2015, the district with the most families entering shelters was East New York in Brooklyn.
Neighborhood dynamics contributing to homelessness, the study found, include educational attainment, unemployment, rent burden (as well as disappearing affordable units), and poverty.
An interactive map (below) shows the percentage of severely rent-burdened households in each borough—meaning households spending 50 percent or more of their income on rent. The map shows that the Bronx had the most severely rent-burdened households with 33.1 percent, followed by Staten Island at 29.5 percent (those figures are based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey.)
The study lists specific neighborhoods facing the most instability for different reasons. In Borough Park, for instance, 44 percent of households are severely rent burdened, and in Mott Haven, 40 percent of residents have less than a high-school diploma.
“Severely rent burdened households are often just one lost paycheck or medical emergency away from eviction,” the study reads. “As rents continue to rise, the preservation of affordable housing is essential to keeping families on the brink of homelessness stably housed in their communities.”
Also included in the map are the number of disappearing affordable units in each neighborhood. Those with large numbers of lost affordable units include Battery Park/Tribeca, Midtown Business District, Williamsburg/Greenpoint, Fort Greene/Brooklyn Heights, Fresh Meadows/Briarwood, Coney Island, and East Harlem.
Though the ICPH report says the number of families with children in shelters has increased by almost 55 percent between 2011 and 2018, the city’s Department of Homeless Services told Curbed that the overall numbers have gone down.
“Our transformation plan puts people first, offering them the opportunity to get back on their feet in their home boroughs, closer to support networks, including schools,” Isaac McGinn, a city Department of Homeless Services spokesperson told Curbed in a statement.
“As we turn the tide on this citywide challenge, we’ve driven down the number of families experiencing homelessness overall, while also helping hundreds of families in shelter move closer to their children’s schools—and we’ll be taking this progress even further as we continue to implement our five-year plan,” he added.
After declining for two consecutive quarters, tappable equity rose in the first quarter of the year, but it appears homeowners are still reluctant to touch it.
According to the latest report from Black Knight, homeowners tapped just 1% of available equity in the first quarter – the lowest share since it began tracking the metric in 2008.
Nearly 44 million homeowners with a mortgage have more than 20% equity in their home, which comes to about $136,000 of available equity per person and an aggregate amount of $5.98 trillion.
Last summer, the aggregate amount of tappable equity reached an all-time high of $6.06 trillion, a milestone Black Knight says we’ll likely surpass as home prices continue to rise this summer.
That said, while tappable equity is growing, the rate of that growth is slowing significantly along with home prices, falling from 16% a year ago to just 3% in the first quarter.
Major cities, including San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Portland, and Baton Rouge have all seen tappable equity volumes decline in the last year, the report shows.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles continues to hold the title of the city where homeowners have the most tappable equity. In fact, California itself holds 37% of the nation’s equity, nearly seven times more than the runner-up, Texas.
But despite considerable equity gains, homeowners continue to show a reluctance to touch this source of wealth.
Black Knight’s report shows that just $54 billion in equity was withdrawn in the first quarter, the lowest volume in four years.
Both cash-out refinance withdrawals and HELOCs were down, with HELOC withdrawals hitting a five-year low and falling below cash-out refi volume for the first time in eight years.
Black Knight says rates are likely to blame.
“HELOC withdrawals as a share of available equity have been cut in half over the past three years as homeowners have increasingly steered away from the product,” the report states. “Cash-out withdrawals as a share of available equity are down a much more modest 16% over that same span. Rising interest rates have likely been the driving force behind declining HELOC equity withdrawals.”
These seven products will make your home a DIY haven. Find out what the Family Handyman editors are falling in love with right now.
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Telescoping ladders allow you to reach the same height as standard extension ladders, but they eliminate all ’re lighter and easier to transport and take up far less space in your garage. There are a few different brands, and each has models that extend to various heights. We got our hands on the Xtend + Climb 770P, and we’re big fans. It retracts to just 32 in. tall and extends in 1-ft. increments, up to 12 ft. And it weighs only 27 lbs. You can get one online for about $190.2 / 7
My go-to tape
I use a tape measure nearly every day and rely on them for accuracy in detailed woodworking and metalworking projects, and for large-scale carpentry. But I don’t always need to lay out 35-ft.walls, so I prefer this 16-ft. Milwaukee compact tape measure for day-to-day work. It’s easy to carry in my tool belt or clip to my pocket. The strong, nylon-coated blade is printed on both sides, so I can read measurements from any position. The rugged outer case has survived many drops from the top of my ladder to my concrete shop floor. You can find one for about $11 at home centers and online. — April Wilkerson, Contributing Editor3 / 7
The bits in this StubbyBit set by Milescraft may look funny, but they’re super practical. They solve the problem of making pilot or dowel holes in confined spaces—for example, to add shelf pin holes in a narrow cabinet.
If you combine one with a right-angle bit, you can drill a pilot hole nearly anywhere. The hex shank makes going from drill bit to driver bit very fast, and the short length means they’re less likely to snap off. Pick up a set for about $14 online. When you need them, you’ll be glad you did.
By the time we’d get to the dinner dishes after putting the kids to bed, my wife and I would often find melted cheese and lasagna residue stuck to our plates. But when I remodeled our kitchen, I installed a Kohler faucet with a sweeping sprayer pattern that acts like a scraper to rinse off dishes. It doesn’t replace elbow grease in extreme cases of dried-on dinner, but it definitely works better than the faucet we had before. This is the Simplice kitchen faucet, which is available at Home Depot for $180, but Kohler makes several models with this convenient feature. — Mike Berner, Associate Editor
If you’ve struggled to get a grip on short wires or to pull cable through an electrical box, compound-motion pliers may provide the extra gripping power you’re looking for. A few brands make them, but I’ve had the DeWalt long nose pliers in my belt for the recent electrical work I’ve been doing. You can find compound-motion pliers at home centers and online. This DeWalt long nose costs $15. It’s also available in a set (less than $40) that includes side cutters and lineman’s pliers.
Headlamps provide hands-free light that follows your line of vision. That makes them a great tool for DIYers, whether you’re putting away your string trimmer after sunset, navigating a dark attic or crawl space, or working under the hood. The downside is that most headlamps are spotlights that focus their light on what’s in front of you. This OV LED Broadbeam Headlamp gives you 210 degrees of illumination, lighting up your surroundings so you can find your tools in the yard or change that tire in the dark. It’s powered by three “AAA” batteries and has two brightness settings. OV LED headlamps are available online for $15.
If you’re thinking about a way to upgrade your bathroom, here’s an easy one. Put a frame around the plain mirror above your vanity. MirrorMate simplifies that by cutting a frame to fit for you. After you supply the mirror dimensions on its website, including how much space is around your mirror, it will ship a frame to your home along with special connectors and glue to put it together. Just glue the ends together, pound the connectors in, and stick it on. You can choose from 65 frame styles in different pricing tiers at mirrormate.com.
Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Even if you don’t have big windows with southern exposures, you can successfully keep greenery (and keep it alive) indoors. A wide variety of plants can grow and even thrive in spots with limited sunlight. And with the abundance of benefits that come with bringing plants into your day-to-day life—including stress reduction, toxin removal, and increased moisture in the air—there’s no reason not to do so. No light? No problem. These 10 easy-care houseplants are sure to brighten any corner in your home, even one a little lacking in sunshine.
For decades, philodendron has been a houseplant mainstay. Native to the American tropics, it thrives in an indoor environment and is easily adaptable to lower-light situations. It comes in both vining and shrub-like varieties, so you can choose whichever strikes your fancy. Available on Amazon; $2.41 for a 4-inch pot.
Named for its distinctive arrow-shaped leaf, this shadow-dweller often springs up in variegated shades of bronze, pink, and green. Arrowhead vines also grow well in low to medium light and will lengthen as they mature—making them a popular pick for hanging baskets. Available on Amazon; $4.20.
A suitable choice for any beginner, the Chinese evergreen requires very little attention to turn into a highly ornamental addition to any room. Even if you follow a when-I-remember-to watering schedule, this plant will still reward your home with showy, lustrous leaves of green streaked with silver, yellow, or white. Available on Amazon; $14.99 for 6-inch pot.
The snake plant, a succulent, is one of the most tolerant houseplants in practically every way, enduring both low light and drought. Its strikingly long, erect leaves are typically edged in yellow-gold, yielding an architectural shape that especially complements modern decor. Available at The Home Depot; $18.88.
Ferns are familiar forest floor inhabitants, but several varieties, like the rabbit foot fern, have made the move to the home. Like their natural-setting counterparts, they thrive in low-light conditions. With their soft, lush fronds, ferns add dramatic visual interest to a room. Available on Amazon; $9.99.
Peperomia is highly decorative, small, and super low maintenance. Don’t worry if you forget to water it one week—it can tolerate dry conditions. A member of the pepper family, peperomia’s leaves come in a variety of vibrant colors, shapes, sizes, and textures, with many presenting a deeply waffled appearance. Available on Amazon; $4.99 for a 4-inch pot.
The spider plant’s slender, arching blades create a sunburst display in hanging baskets and on top of columns. And it’s as beneficial as it is beautiful: This houseplant improves indoor air quality by filtering out benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and xylene. Available on Amazon; $4.69 for a 3.5-inch pot.
Cast Iron Plant
Aptly named, the cast iron plant is ruggedly hardy. It can survive with little light, tolerate irregular watering, and weather fluctuating temperatures to last all year. It’s nearly indestructible. Don’t worry about trimming it back or repotting, either; this slow grower will not overrun your home like an aggressive vining houseplant might. Available on Amazon; $14.99.
The thick, glossy leaves of the rubber plant put on an outstanding show. While smaller, a potted plant can function as a naturally elegant centerpiece for the table, but over time it can grow to more than three feet tall. When it does, move it near an entrance or fireplace for a pop of greenery. Available at The Home Depot; $23.46.
A shade-loving plant that thrives indoors, the peace lily produces elegant white blooms in spring. It’s an ideal housemate: It is not only ranked as one of the top 10 best household plants for cleaning the air, it can also succeed with fluorescent fixtures as its main light source. Available on Amazon; $12.98.