Author Archives: Robert Paul

About Robert Paul

Robert is a realtor in Bedford NY. He has been successfully working with buyers and sellers for years. His local area of expertise includes Bedford, Pound Ridge, Armonk, Lewisboro, Chappaqua and Katonah. When you have a local real estate question please call 914-325-5758.

Home builder confidence at 10-year high | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Homebuilder confidence grew in December thanks to the nation’s low-interest rates and strong job market, according to this month’s Housing Market Index.

The National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo, which publish the monthly report,  revealed sentiment increased by 5 points to 75, markingthe highest reading since June of 1999.

 “Builders are continuing to see the housing rebound that began in the spring, supported by a low supply of existing homes, low mortgage rates, and a strong labor market,” said NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde.

In December, the index measuring current sales conditions rose to 84 points, while buyer traffic grew to 58 points and sales expectations over the next six months inched forward to 79 points.

The three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores show the South grew to 76 points, the West increased to 84 points and the Midwest climbed to 63 points. However, the report indicates the Northeast declined to 61 points.

Although sentiment improved in a majority of the nation’s regions, NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz warns homebuilders across the country continue to grapple with affordability concerns.

“While we are seeing near-term positive market conditions with a 50-year low for the unemployment rate and increased wage growth, we are still underbuilding due to supply-side constraints like labor and land availability,” Dietz said.  “Higher development costs are hurting affordability and dampening more robust construction growth.”

NOTE: The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder opinions of single-family home sales and expectations, asking for a rating of good, fair or poor. Builders are also asked to rate prospective buyer traffic from very low to very high. The scores are used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index with a rating of 50 or over indicating positive sentiment.

read more…

Mortgage rates average 3.73% | Chappaqua Real Estate

Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.73 percent, ticking up from last week.

“With Federal Reserve policy on cruise control and the economy continuing to grow at a steady pace, mortgage rates have stabilized as the market searches for direction,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist. “The risk of an economic downturn has receded and, combined with the very strong job market, it should lead to a slightly higher rate environment.”

Khater continued, “Since early September, when mortgage rates posted the year low of 3.49 percent, rates have moved up to 3.73 percent this week. Often, while higher mortgage rates are deleterious, improved economic sentiment is the reason that these higher rates have not impacted mortgage demand so far.”

News Facts

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.73 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending December 12, 2019, up from last week when it averaged 3.68 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.63 percent. 
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.19 percent with an average 0.7 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.14 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.07 percent. 
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.36 percent with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.39 percent. A year ago at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 4.04 percent.

Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.

Freddie Mac makes home possible for millions of families and individuals by providing mortgage capital to lenders. Since our creation by Congress in 1970, we’ve made housing more accessible and affordable for homebuyers and renters in communities nationwide. We are building a better housing finance system for homebuyers, renters, lenders, investors and taxpayers.

FHFA Announces Maximum Conforming Loan Limits for 2020 | Armonk Real Estate

Washington, D.C. – The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) today announced the maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages to be acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2020.  In most of the U.S., the 2020 maximum conforming loan limit for one-unit properties will be $510,400, an increase from $484,350 in 2019. 

Baseline limit

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) requires that the baseline conforming loan limit be adjusted each year for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reflect the change in the average U.S. home price.  Earlier today, FHFA published its third quarter 2019 FHFA House Price Index (HPI) report, which includes estimates for the increase in the average U.S. home value over the last four quarters.  According to FHFA’s seasonally adjusted, expanded-data HPI, house prices increased 5.38 percent, on average, between the third quarters of 2018 and 2019.  Therefore, the baseline maximum conforming loan limit in 2020 will increase by the same percentage. 

High-cost area limits

For areas in which 115 percent of the local median home value exceeds the baseline conforming loan limit, the maximum loan limit will be higher than the baseline loan limit.  HERA establishes the maximum loan limit in those areas as a multiple of the area median home value, while setting a “ceiling” on that limit of 150 percent of the baseline loan limit.  Median home values generally increased in high-cost areas in 2019, driving up the maximum loan limits in many areas.  The new ceiling loan limit for one-unit properties in most high-cost areas will be $765,600 — or 150 percent of $510,400. 

Special statutory provisions establish different loan limit calculations for Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  In these areas, the baseline loan limit will be $765,600 for one-unit properties.

As a result of generally rising home values, the increase in the baseline loan limit, and the increase in the ceiling loan limit, the maximum conforming loan limit will be higher in 2020 in all but 43 counties or county equivalents in the U.S.   

Questions about the 2020 conforming loan limits can be addressed to LoanLimitQuestions@fhfa.gov and more information is available at https://www.fhfa.gov/CLLs.

  • For a list of the 2020 maximum loan limits for all counties and county-equivalent areas in the U.S. click here
  • For a map showing the 2020 maximum loan limits across the U.S. click here.  
  • For a detailed description of the methodology used to determine the maximum loan limits in accordance with HERA, click here.

read more…

https://www.fhfa.gov/Media/PublicAffairs/Pages/FHFA-Announces-Maximum-Conforming-Loan-Limits-for-2020.aspx

10 Cities Where It’s Becoming More Affordable to Buy a Home | North Salem Real Estate

more-affordable-less-affordable
Allentown, PA: Ultima_Gaina/iStock; Tulsa, OK: Sean Pavone/iStock

After nearly a decade of ever-escalating home prices and frenzied bidding wars, many buyers are wondering if finding an affordable piece of real estate has become about as likely as discovering a mint condition Honus Wagner baseball card in your stuff drawer, a double eagle coin on your dresser, or a unicorn in your driveway.

But wait! The list of markets where folks can score a home without shattering  the bank is, in fact, growing. About 81% of housing markets have become more affordable since the beginning of the year, according to a realtor.com® report.

Reality check: This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s suddenly a cinch to become a homeowner in these areas, only that it’s getting a little better for tapped-out buyers. And in a hot market, every little bit helps.

So we decided to take a deep dive into where home affordability is increasing—and decreasing—the most. To figure this out, we looked at home prices as well as local household income in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the third quarter of the year.* (Metros include the main city and the surrounding towns, suburbs, and smaller cities.)

So what’s driving the more affordable side of the equation?

“Mortgage rates are much lower than they were, and incomes have actually grown this year for most Americans,” says George Ratiu, realtor.com®’s senior economist. “Those two things combined have led to an improvement in affordability for home buyers.”

Nationally, affordability rose the most in predominantly midsized cities, many in the Midwest and South. These places tend to have strong economies and job markets and a larger supply of available homes for sale.

With the potential to make good money, more buyers in these areas are positioned to become homeowners or to trade up to nicer residences.

In most of these markets, millennials looking for homes where they can raise growing families are still competing with Generation Xers searching for move-up residences, and baby boomers wanting to find their forever abodes.

But in most cases, inventory’s not plunging by the double digits, which leads to insane price increases. (The one exception on our list was Jackson, MS, No. 8, where the number of homes for sale was down a steep 14.5% in October compared to a year ago.)

The inventory situation is trending in a whole different direction, however, in markets where homes are becoming less affordable.

Affordability primarily dropped in smaller cities with good job markets—places that are growing in popularity with cost-conscious buyers from other parts of the country. These cities tend to be far from the bigger, more expensive metros.

The influx of new residents is putting the squeeze on inventory, meaning that the number of homes for sale plummets and that prices spike.

“Before the recession, a lot of young professionals flocked to coastal cities looking for better-paying jobs and an urban lifestyle,” says Ratiu. “What we’re seeing now is a lot of the same professionals, approaching 40, with families and kids, are returning to their hometowns in the Midwest and South, looking for a better quality of life and a more affordable housing market.”

OK, so let’s take a deeper look—first at the places where buying a house is getting a bit easier.

Where has it become more affordable to buy a home?

More affordable metros
More affordable metrosTony Frenzel
Metropolitan areaMedian home list price**Percentage of homes available at the median incomeAnnual change in affordability score*
1. Allentown, PA$224,95059%0.14
2.Des Moines, IA$262,35056%0.13
3. Atlanta $321,10041%0.12
4. Minneapolis $339,95046%0.11
5. San Francisco$940,00018%0.11
6. Omaha, NE $279,30041%0.10
7. Charlotte, NC $335,30032%0.10
8. Jackson, MS $251,55042%0.09
9. Spokane, WA$349,75023%0.09
10. Las Vegas $320,00025%0.09

Where should buyers on a more limited budget go? They might want to head to the heart of the Rust Belt, to Allentown, PA, a one-time industrial powerhouse that fell on hard times, inspired a catchy-but-depressing Billy Joel song, and is now staging a strong comeback. Affordability in the rebounding area improved the most compared to the rest of the nation.

Already-low real estate prices in the former steel town slipped almost 1% in October compared to the previous year, according to realtor.com data.

The median price was $224,950—38.7% less than the national median of $312,000. The low prices meant that middle-income buyers in Allentown could afford 59% of the properties in the metro.

“Lately more than ever, I’ve been working with people relocating to our area,” says Allentown real estate agent Faith Brenneisen of Keller Williams Real Estate.

About a third of her clients are professionals, either starting out their careers or beginning to contemplate retirement and coming from pricier New Jersey or the Washington, DC, area suburbs.

“They come here, and they can get similar jobs with less of a commute, a better quality of life, and a more distinguished home—for a much more affordable price tag.”

She noted Allentown’s convenient location, about 90 miles west of New York City and 60 miles north of Philadelphia. The area also boasts plenty of outdoor activities, such as fishing, hiking, and skiing. New businesses are moving into Allentown’s downtown area, helping to revitalize the city.

“You can live in a three-bedroom Cape Cod home in a cute West End neighborhood in Allentown for $200,000,” says Brenneisen. “And you can walk to restaurants and shopping and theater.”

In Des Moines, which placed just behind Allentown in affordability gains, median-income buyers could afford 56% of homes on the market. That’s because a current surge of available homes, thanks to heavy sales activity, resulted in an 8.1% annual drop in prices.

Add in the metro’s booming job market, and the result is that more folks can finally get into the housing market. (The financial firm Principal Financial Group is headquartered in Des Moines, and the companies Nationwide Insurance, UPS, and John Deere have operations there.)

With 5.7% more homes for sale year over year, they don’t have to bid up the prices to score the keys to a new abode.

“More people are at a point where they’re comfortable selling,” says Paul Walter, a Des Moines-based real estate agent at Re/Max Real Estate Group.

Walter works with a lot of millennial buyers moving out of their apartments and into single-family homes as they begin to start families.

“A lot of people have enough [home] equity, and they’re comfortable enough with the economy to move up [into nicer houses]—or, if they’re retirees, to downsize.”

There were a few surprises on our list. For example, it’s getting more affordable to buy a home in—wait for it—the nation’s most notoriously expensive market, San Francisco!

But take that with a shaker full of salt. The median price in that metro is still an astronomical $940,000—well out of reach of the vast majority of those who are not millionaires. If they’re earning the median household income for the Bay Area, buyers can only afford 18% of the listings available.

In San Francisco, lower mortgage rates have played a role in boosting the area’s affordability, says Patrick Carlisle, chief market analyst in the Bay Area for the real estate brokerage Compass.

Plus, after years of sky-high annual price rises, the market has flattened, he says. Even in the United States’ tech and startup capital, home prices can’t go up forever.

“People bumped their heads up against the ceiling of what they could (or were willing to) pay,” Carlisle says,

Sorry to put a damper on things—now it’s time to zero in on places where it’s becoming harder to make that big down payment.

Where has it become less affordable to buy a home?

Less affordable metros
Less affordable metrosTony Frenzel
Metropolitan areaMedian home list price**Percentage of homes available at the median incomeAnnual change in affordability score*
1. Tulsa, OK$246,70043%-0.07
2. El Paso, TX$191,26024%-0.06
3. Winston-Salem, NC$281,00034%-0.04
4. Rochester, NY$202,55048%-0.03
5. Philadelphia$299,05044%-0.03
6. Oxnard, CA$782,0506%-0.02
7. Birmingham, AL $255,55046% -0.01
8. Bakersfield, CA$259,95034% -0.01
9. Colorado Springs, CO$427,42516%-0.01
10. Knoxville, TN$285,00031%0

Just because it’s getting a little easier to buy a home in many parts of the country, it doesn’t mean the real estate market is finally hunky-dory for aspiring homeowners who aren’t raking in high six-figure salaries.

Only 18% of markets are truly affordable for the folks who live there, according to the report. Even in metros showing signs of improvement, home prices are still well out of reach for many regular folks.

Metros where it’s becoming even harder for locals to purchase a home are more often than not seeing big inventory decreases. That lack of supply leads to surging prices—which effectively puts the kibosh on any dreams of homeownership.

“Demand has been so strong, it’s pushing demand up,” says realtor.com’s Ratiu. “More people want to buy homes than there are homes for sale.”

Tulsa‘s affordability dropped the most in the nation, as its home inventory plummeted. It nose-dived roughly 26% in October compared to the previous year, according to realtor.com data. That’s thanks to a rush of opportunistic buyers entering the market when mortgage interest rates fell.

First-time buyers and investors gobbled up whatever they could find, leading prices to shoot up by nearly 15% in October compared to the previous year. Tulsa’s median list price was $246,700 in October, according to realtor.com data.

The scarcity of available homes leads to bidding wars. Tulsa real estate agent Suzanne Rentz is now getting up to nine or 10 offers within 72 hours on properties in the most desirable areas.

“That wasn’t happening until the last 18 months,” she says. The sweet spot for local and out-of-state buyers are four-bedroom, three-bathroom, single-family homes in the suburbs (often with a pristine backyard) for $250,000.

In the rest of the metros on this list, the number of homes for sale also fell by the double digits. While that’s great for sellers who may not have to make all those needed repairs, or knock down the price, it’s bad news for buyers as they compete against one another.

The number of homes for sale also fell in all of the metros where affordability worsened the most. Inventory was down nearly 20% in El Paso, TX; 13.7% in Winston-Salem, NC; 20.1% in Rochester, NY; and 19.4% in Philadelphia in October compared to the previous year.

It also decreased 18.4% in Oxnard, CA; 13.6% in Birmingham, AL; nearly 14% in Bakersfield, CA; 17.6% in Colorado Springs, CO; and 17.1% in Knoxville, TN.

read more…

https://www.realtor.com/news/trends/its-becoming-more-and-less-affordable-to-buy-a-home-in-these-cities/

Public School Enrollment Trends and Home Prices | Mt Kisco Real Estate

Counties with public school enrollment gains experienced higher price appreciation in the last 7 years, a NAR analysis shows.

Across the country, hallways and classrooms are full of activity. More than three-fourths of the school-aged population, 48.2 million students, were enrolled in a public elementary and secondary school in 2018. Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau releases school enrollment figures that give a snapshot of where these kids choose to enroll.

Based on the data, between fall of 2011 and fall 2018, enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools declined 1.4% across the United States. While the number of students at each grade level is primarily influenced by population trends, enrollment in kindergarten had the highest decline of 5% followed by grade 1 – grade 4 (3%).

However, changes in enrollment vary by area. Among 810 counties, public school enrollment increased in 42% (339 counties) of these counties in the United States. An analysis of county data on school populations reveals that the following counties experienced the highest gains in public school enrollment within the last 7 years:

Parsing out by level of school, most of the counties above experienced a higher increase of public school enrollment in kindergarten, followed by middle school during 2011 and 2018. For instance, in Dallas County, IA, the number of students enrolled in a public school kindergarten in 2018 was 1.8 times higher than the number of students in 2011. This also shows that the population of young kids (5 years old) in Dallas County, IA significantly increased in this area in the last 7 years. However, in Arlington County, VA, the greatest increase occurred at middle school. Students in grades 5 to grade 8 increased by 98% (3,997 more students) in 2018 compared to 2011. Thus, based on the school enrollment data, the population of kids between the ages of 10 and 13 rose in Arlington County during 2011 and 2018.

How does this increase in public school enrollment affect the local area?

First of all, school enrollment growth may reflect stronger local county employment as more new residents move into the region because of jobs and they bring along their school-aged children. At the most basic level, more labor means more goods and services being produced, so that local economic activity rises.

Literature review has shown that homeownership has positive effects on the academic achievement of children1. Homeownership brings residential stability, and stability raises the educational attainment of children. According to a NAR Survey2, over half of recent buyers with children under the age of 18 living in their home cited the school district as an influencing factor in their neighborhood choice. Therefore, since more people are moving to these school districts, housing demand is expected to increase.

Data shows that counties with enrollment gains experienced higher home price increases. In the last 7 years, home prices increased 33 percent on average in the counties with enrollment gains. Especially, in the top 20 counties with the highest enrollment gains, home prices increased 37 percent on average. For instance, in Dallas County, IA, public school enrollment rose 64 percent while home prices increased 51 percent in the last 7 years. Respectively, in Midland County, Texas, public school enrollment increased 31 percent while home prices rose 52 percent. However, home prices rose 18 percent on average in the counties where enrollment declined during 2011 and 2018. Thus, ceteris paribus (with other conditions remaining the same), public school enrollment is estimated to have a positive effect on housing prices.

All in all, REALTORS® should expect busier activity in the counties where public school enrollment is rising.

The graph below shows the positive relationship between public school enrollment and housing prices.

1 Yun, L., & Evangelou, N. (2016). Social Benefits of Homeownership and Stable Housing. National Association of Realtors®.

2 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. National Association of REALTORS®
read more…
https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/economists-outlook/public-school-enrollment-trends-and-home-prices?AdobeAnalytics=ed_rid%3D2200528%26om_mid%3D1732%7CMembersEdgeNews_2019_12_5_Agents%26om_ntype%3DMEMBER%27S%20EDGE%20(news)

Lower rates will fuel housing in 2020 | South Salem Real Estate

Housing could fuel economic growth for the first part of 2020, a new economic outlook from Fannie Mae shows.

Fannie Mae upgraded its economic outlook to a gross domestic product growth of 1.9% in 2020, according to its latest commentary from the Economic and Strategic Research Group. This is due to expected easing trade tensions, stimulative fiscal policies and continued consumer spending

This year, the third quarter added to GDP growth for the first time in more than 1.5 years, Fannie Mae’s data shows. And this growth is expected to continue into the second quarter of 2020.

Fannie Mae explained housing should also continue to function as a positive contributor to growth in the near term, as indicated by both new and existing single-family home sales advancing in the third quarter, as well as pending home sales, permits, and starts. However, persistent supply and affordability constraints continue to hold back household formation, inhibiting housing market activity.

“As we forecasted, housing supported the larger economy in the third quarter, and we expect it to continue to play a productive role through the first half of 2020,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae senior vice president and chief economist. “Positive contributions from single-family housing construction, home improvements, and brokers fees pushed residential fixed investment growth to a robust 5.1% annualized pace this past quarter, and we forecast continued but moderating strength as construction activity and home sales growth continue at a slower pace.”

“With mortgage rates normalizing, we expect a decline in refinance activity in 2020, with the refinance share of originations dropping from a projected 37% in 2019 to 31%,” Duncan said. “Of course, the housing market as a whole remains constrained by the persistent supply and affordability issues, which is particularly unfortunate given the current strength of consumer demand for reasonably priced homes.”

Housing is contributing to growth, but consumer spending is expected to remain the primary driver of economic growth for the forecast horizon, and business fixed investment will benefit as additional corporate expenditures work to meet consumer demand.

“Even as global uncertainties mount, we continue to expect the domestic economy to produce solid, if not spectacular, growth,” Duncan said. “A stronger-than-expected third quarter contributed to the downward revision to our fourth-quarter forecast, as some of the previously expected weakness in trade and inventories appears likely to have been pushed back into this quarter. Still, consumer spending is likely to continue driving the expansion forward, and with the passage of the budget act and a reprieve in trade tensions we’ve revised upward our forecast for full-year 2020 growth.”

But risks still remain on the horizon. For example, trade talks between the U.S. and China continue to pose negative risks to economic growth. And because of this uncertainty, Fannie Mae predicts we could see one last rate cut from the Federal Reserve in early 2029 before pausing for the rest of the year.

“We also continue to expect the Fed to cut interest rates only one more time in the foreseeable future, in early 2020, as a hedge against the sizeable downside risks and to counteract muted inflation,” Duncan said.

read more…

Building lot prices hit new high | Cross River Real Estate

According to NAHB’s analysis of the Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction (SOC) data, median single-family lot prices outpaced inflation once again (4.4% vs 2.4%) and reached new record high in 2018, with half of the lots selling at or above $49,500. The most dramatic rise in lot values is observed in the West South Central division where median lot values more than doubled since the housing boom years.

While this constitutes a new nominal national record, lot values adjusted for inflation have not reached the housing boom peak levels. In the midst of the building boom – when twice as many single-family homes were started – half of the lots were going for over $43,000, which is over $53,000 when converted in $2018.

The West South Central division – that includes Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana – stands out as a division where new historical records were hit not only in nominal terms but also when adjusted for inflation. Compared to the peak years of the housing boom, lot values more than doubled in this division.

Historically, lot values in the West South Central division have been the lowest in the nation. They started rising in 2013 and by 2015 caught up with the national median. As of 2018, half of the lots in the West South Central division sells for more than $62,000, 25% above the national median lot value for single-family spec homes of $49,500. This represents a significant jump in the division lot values since the building boom when more than half of lots were priced under $30,000.

Single-family spec homes started in New England are built on some of the most expensive lots in the nation. Half of all sold single-family homes started in New England in 2018 report lot values in excess of $140,000, a new nominal record for the division. New England is known for strict local zoning regulations that often require very low densities. Therefore, it is not surprising that typical single-family spec homes started in New England are built on some of the largest and most expensive lots in the nation.

The Pacific division has the smallest lots. However, the median lot value reached $87,000 in 2018, the second most expensive value in the nation and a new nominal record for the division. As a result, the Pacific division lots stand out for being most expensive in the nation in terms of per acre costs.

The East North Central is another division that hit a new record high, with half of the lots priced above $52,000, exceeding the national median lot value for single-family spec homes.

The East South Central Division that has the second largest lots in the nation simultaneously reports the lowest median value of $38,000 per lot, thus defining the most economical lots in the nation as well as lowest per acre costs.

Given that nation’s lots are getting smaller and home production is still significantly below the historically normal levels, it might seem surprising that lot values keep going up. However, the rising lot values are consistent with persistent record lot shortages that NAHB reported recently. They are also consistent with significant and rising regulatory costs that ultimately increase development costs and boost lot values. It is also possible that home building shifted towards more urban and dense areas where land values are typically higher, and land development faces more stringent regulation requirements.

For this analysis, the median lot values were chosen over averages since averages tend to be heavily influenced by extreme outliers. In addition, the Census Bureau often masks extreme lot values on the public use SOC dataset making it difficult to calculate averages precisely but medians remain unaffected by these procedures.

This analysis is limited to single-family speculatively-built homes by year started and with reported sales prices. For custom homes built on owner’s land with either the owner or a builder acting as the general contractor, the corresponding land values are not reported in the SOC. Consequently, custom homes are excluded from the analysis.

read more…

Leftist Utopia: San Francisco banning gas stoves | Waccbuc Real Estate

No more fire in the kitchen: Cities are banning natural gas in homes to save the planet

SAN FRANCISCO – Fix global warming or cook dinner on a gas stove?

That’s the choice for people in 13 cities and one county in California that have enacted new zoning codes encouraging or requiring all-electric new construction.  

The codes, most of them passed since June, are meant to keep builders from running natural gas lines to new homes and apartments, with an eye toward creating fewer legacy gas hookups as the nation shifts to carbon-neutral energy sources.

For proponents, it’s a change that must be made to fight climate change. For natural gas companies, it’s a threat to their existence. And for some cooks who love to prepare food with flame, it’s an unthinkable loss.

Natural gas is a fossil fuel, mostly methane, and produces 33% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas causing climate change.

“There’s no pathway to stabilizing the climate without phasing gas out of our homes and buildings. This is a must-do for the climate and a livable planet,” said Rachel Golden of the Sierra Club’s building electrification campaign.

These new building codes come as local governments work to speed the transition from natural gas and other fossil fuels and toward the use of electricity from renewables, said Robert Jackson, a professor of energy and the environment at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

“Every house, every high-rise that’s built with gas, may be in place for decades. We’re establishing infrastructure that may be in place for 50 years,” he said.

These “reach” or “stretch” building codes, as they are known, have so far all been passed in California. The first was in Berkeley in July, then more in Northern California and recently Santa Monica in Southern California. Other cities in Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington state are contemplating them, according to the Sierra Club.

Some of the cities ban natural gas hookups to new construction. Others offer builders incentives if they go all-electric, much the same as they might get to take up more space on a lot if a house is extra energy-efficient. In April, Sunnyvale, a town in Silicon Valley, changed its building code to offer a density bonus to all-electric developments.

No more gas stoves?

The building codes apply only to new construction beginning in 2020, so they aren’t an issue for anyone in an already-built home.

Probably the biggest stumbling block for most pondering an all-electric home is the prospect of not having a gas stove.

“It’s the only thing that people ever ask about,” said Bruce Nilles, who directs the building electrification program of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado-based think tank that focuses on energy and resource efficiency.

Roughly 35% of U.S. households have a gas stove, while 55%have electric, according to a 2017 kitchen audit by the NPD Group, a global information company based in Port Washington, New York. 

For at least a quarter of Americans, it doesn’t matter either way. They already live in houses that are all-electric, and their numbers are rising, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s especially true in the Southeast, where close to 45% of homes are all-electric.

For the rest of the nation, natural gas is used to heat buildings and water, dry clothes and cook food, according to the EIA. That represents 17% of national natural gas usage. 

But the number of natural gas customers is also rising. The American Gas Association, which represents more than 200 local energy companies, says an average of one new customer is added every minute. 

“That’s exactly the wrong direction,” Nilles said.

States weigh climate change solutions

The nudge toward all-electric buildings is the type of shift Americans will begin to experience more and more in coming years. Last year, California’s governor signed an executive order directing state agencies to work toward making the entire state economy carbon-neutral by 2045. 

California is not alone. New York, Hawaii, Colorado and Maine have economywide carbon-neutrality goals, and several more are debating them. More than 140 U.S. cities have committed to transitioning to carbon-neutral energy. 

The natural gas industry rejects the notion that it should not be part of the nation’s energy future.

“The idea that denying access to natural gas in new homes is necessary to meet emissions reduction goals is false. In fact, denying access to natural gas could make meeting emissions goals harder and more expensive,” said American Gas Association President and CEO Karen Harbert. 

The association calls the new zoning codes for new construction burdensome to consumers and to the economy. They also say it’s more expensive to run an all-electric home. A study by AGA released last year suggested that all-electric homes would pay $750 to $910 a year more for energy-related costs, as well as amortized appliance and upgrade costs.

But critics question AGA’s conclusions. 

Amanda Myers, a policy analyst at Energy Innovation, a research nonprofit group focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, said AGA presumed high electricity rates because of unrealistically large increases in expected electricity use and made unusual assumptions for how any anticipated electric load growth might be met. 

An analysis last year by the Rocky Mountain Institute found that in locations as diverse as Chicago, Houston and Providence, Rhode Island, all-electric new homes over a 15-year time frame could save residents as much as $260 a year compared with new homes with air conditioners powered by electricity and natural gas. 

You’ll pry my cold, dead hands off my gas range

The selling point for getting away from natural gas may come from a type of electric range that, according to chefs, is just as good if not better than gas. As fundamentally attached as people might be to cooking with fire, induction stoves are making headway.

Long popular in Europe and increasingly trendy in the United States, induction cooktops are different from the kind of traditional electric range where coils become red-hot. Induction ranges use electromagnetic energy to directly heat pots and pans.

They are fast, energy-efficient and safe because there’s no open flame, and they are cool to the touch unless you’re a piece of metal. 

As Reviewed.com puts it, they’re “gentle enough to melt butter and chocolate, but powerful enough to bring 48 ounces of water to a boil in under three minutes.”

The downsides are that induction cooktops are more expensive than traditional electric stoves, generally a third to half more. They also work only with pans with steel or iron bottoms.

Professional chefs say modern induction ranges are comparable to gas. The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, America’s preeminent cooking school, trains its chefs on both induction and gas stoves because they will encounter both types and must know how to use them.

“Some of the finest restaurants in Europe are often out in mountainous areas or places where there isn’t gas. They cook on induction and that works just fine,” said Mark Erickson, a certified master chef at the institute. 

Regular electric stoves aren’t a deal-breaker either, said Erickson, who lives in a townhouse with one and cooks on it every night.

“If I were given the chance and if it were a choice of gas or electric, I would choose gas because it’s what I’m used to,” he said. “But in all honesty, it’s not the end of the world.” 

Read more…

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2019/11/10/climate-change-solutions-more-cities-banning-natural-gas-homes/4008346002/

Modern Germany | Katonah Real Estate

Villa Neo

Querkopf Architekten

View all images (20)

PROJECT DETAILS

PROJECT NAME Villa Neo

LOCATION Rosengarten Germany

ARCHITECT Querkopf Architekten

PROJECT TYPES Single Family

PROJECT SCOPE New Construction

SIZE403 sq. meters

YEAR COMPLETED 2019

SHARED BY Madeleine D’Angelo

PROJECT STATUS Built

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

FROM THE ARCHITECTS: 

This villa breaks with all traditions and forms an unrestrained contrast to the otherwise natural surroundings. Like an artistic installation on a podium made of natural stone, which at the same time forms the underground car park, lies the two-storey villa and clearly focuses on the forest as the main point of reference. The shape of the building is based on the idea of an L, which borders the hillside of the plot while providing a sheltered outdoor-space for the terrace.

A small gap forms the entrance. From the street, three exposed shapes of concrete blend strikingly and puristically, leaving no room for a glimpse inside. The ground floor is completely closed to the street, dissolves to the forest by large glass elements, which flood the space with light, and produces an intense connection to the environment and nature. The upper floor forms a creative contrast to the ground floor. Above the transparent construction of glass and steel hovers an imposing, twisted concrete body, which ensures a high degree of privacy and protection. a few, floor-to-ceiling window elements in the sleeping areas present targeted views into the forest. Large slats of steel are wrapped around the airspace in the middle of the house and create a connection of the levels. This is our vision of a sculptural, purist and modern villa that abstracts classical rules: for an incomparable sense of living in the midst of nature.

Nature as a starting point
Focused on the essentials and at the same time rich in characteristic features, the innovative villa made of concrete sits on a base made of natural stone and convinces with a unique sense of living as well as an artistic installation. Nature and architecture not only meet each other, aligned with the forest they flow into each other. The generous glass elements provide plenty of light and reveal the view of nature from the exclusive living area.

The nature is omnipresent: The forest has significantly influenced our thoughts on a perfect facade for this place. He has set us the task to develop a surface that can not be impressed by moss, leaves and weather, but just by dignified aging. – Crosshead architects

Break up closed forms In pleasant seclusion and undisturbed, “Villa Neo” is the most attractive retreat someone from Hamburg can imagine. Concrete, glass and steel – these are the three main materials that determine the characteristic appearance of this villa.Surrounded by the nature as well as the restful forest, the inhabitants of this property can concentrate on the desirable contents of life. On the one hand closed by surfaces of concrete to the street, the construction of the object leads to a pleasant level of privacy and security. Opened to the other side to the pool, whirlpool and forest, the natural urge for free space is satisfied. “Villa Neo” scores with originality. The object is not a modular house, but emerged from a unique vision. With a mixture of Bauhaus and brutalism, it emits strength and security to the outside without losing its elegance, generosity and tranquility in the inside. It gives its inhabitants a sublime feeling of freedom. – Querkopfarchitekten Ground floor The paths in the house are efficiently aligned: One junction connects all rooms on the ground floor. The generosity of the ground floor come especially due to the open access to all living spaces to retribution. Coming through the main entrance, the view to the left falls past the luxurious Eggersmann fitted kitchen with high-quality Gaggenau appliances directly onto the living / dining area framed by a large glass front. The Minotti sofa set in the comfortable living area. The TV room of the right wing underlines the use of only the most exclusive furnishing materials. 
UpstairsThe artfully staged and wood-clad stairs lead through the impressive airspace to the upper floor. Custom-made, floor-to-ceiling fitted wardrobes line up impressively in the sophisticated overall concept together with high-quality bathroom fittings. The special living atmosphere is topped by stylish details, such as pebble stone walls or full-surface mirror installations in the bathroom. Targeted views of the garden and the forest are provided by the large windows in the bedroom and the study and invite you to dream.

Basement The rooms in the basement offer in addition to the impressive living space above, a spacious guest room and a hobby room and a bathroom with exclusive rain shower. On the same level are the four garage spaces, which are easily accessible from the living area. Enjoy the silence The impressively choreographed outdoor space of the plot offer the resident plenty of space for relaxation and a sweeping view of more than 960 square meters of lawn. The turquoise blue water of the unique infinity pool impresses even without going into it. The 170 square meters large south-facing terrace area invites you to a cozy get-together. The entire complex seduces to spend one or the other summer day in the fresh air. If it gets colder, a luxurious whirlpool provides the necessary warmth.

Day becomes night The room-high window fronts flood the living area with plenty of daylight, opening up the view into the green landscape. A highlight are the large steel blades which are wrapped around the space in the middle and connect the lower and upper levels in this way. As soon as the day is over, the numerous elegant designer lamps immerse the rooms in an atmospheric light and, together with exquisite designer furniture and a state-of-the-art fireplace, create irresistible coziness and warmth. Whether day or night, light or dark, inside or outside – Villa Neo is an architectural highlight at any time and from any perspective. We are grateful that we had the opportunity to develop this property without compromise. 

Project Credits: 
Project: Villa Neo 
Architects: Querkopf Architekten. Fionn Mögel (lead archtiect), Simon Mögel, Frank Zander, Wasfy Taha (project team)
Engineering: Weber & Poll 
Landscape: Querkopf Architekten
TGA : Querkopf Architekten
Photographs: Frank Löschke I Arnt Haug

Homeownership rate increases with lower rates | Bedford Hills Real Estate

According to the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey (HVS), the U.S. homeownership rate increased to 64.8% in the third quarter of 2019, which is 0.7 percentage points higher than the previous quarter reading of 64.1%. This puts the national homeownership rate back to a level near where it started dropping as interest rates increased. The rate reached a cycle low of 62.9% in the second quarter 2016. Compared to the peak of 69.2% by the end of 2004, the homeownership rate is still 4.4 percentage points lower and remains below the 25-year average rate of 66.3%.

The HVS also provides a timely measure of household formations – the key driver of housing demand. The housing stock-based HVS revealed that the count of total households increased to 122.7 million in the third quarter of 2019 from 121.4 million a year ago. The gains are largely attributed to strong owner household formation. Indeed, the number of homeowner households has been climbing since the third quarter of 2015, while the number of renter households has been on a downward trend. This implies a transition from renting to owning is the powerful driver of household change. Specifically, the number of homeowners increased by 1.4 million, but the number of renter households declined by 33,000 in the third quarter.

The homeownership rates among all age groups, except for households ages 55-64, increased in the third quarter 2019. Households lead by 35-44 year-olds registered the largest gains among all households, 0.8 percentage points from a year ago. The homeownership rate of households under 35, mostly first-time homebuyers, stood at 37.5 % in the third quarter, 0.7 percentage points higher than a year ago. The homeownership rates of households ages 45-54 edged up a 0.4 percentage point. Households ages 65 and older saw their homeownership rates rise to 78.9% in the third quarter 2019 from 78.6% a year ago. However, the homeownership rate of households lead by 45- 54 year-olds did see a drop in the third quarter compared to a year ago.

The homeowner and rental vacancy rates remained in the record low territories, signaling a supply-constrained housing market. The non seasonally adjusted homeowner vacancy rate remained low at 1.4% in the third quarter 2019. At the same time, the national rental vacancy rate stood at 6.8%, unchanged from the second quarter.

read more…