The best states–and the worst ones–for higher education, according to US News

March 10, 2017

Florida takes the top spot

U.S. News & World Report recently partnered with McKinsey & Company to rank the 50 states by how well they serve their citizens in seven categories, including higher education.

U.S. News assigned each state a higher education score based on metrics that included:

  • Share of citizens in the state who hold degrees;
  • Percent of students who graduate on time;
  • Average cost of tuition and fees; and
  • Average student loan debt per graduate.

The top 10 states for higher education, according to U.S. News, are:

  1. Florida;
  2. Utah;
  3. California;
  4. Wyoming;
  5. Washington;
  6. North Dakota;
  7. South Dakota;
  8. Colorado;
  9. Nebraska; and
  10. Virginia.

The 10 states at the bottom of U.S. News‘ list are:

  1. Kentucky;
  2. Arkansas;
  3. Ohio;
  4. South Carolina;
  5. Michigan;
  6. Rhode Island;
  7. Indiana;
  8. West Virginia;
  9. Alabama; and
  10. Pennsylvania.

In a related survey, respondents chose education as the No. 2 factor that mattered most to them about their state.

The higher education rankings are part of U.S. News‘ broader ranking of all 50 states according to a wide variety of metrics grouped into seven categories. Each state’s score on higher education factored into its score in a broader education category and ultimately into an overall ranking.

Assistant Managing Editor Mark Silva explains that the publication undertook the ranking to better understand and compare state performance at a time when “many balances of power [are shifting] from Washington, D.C., to the states.”

It may not be surprising to see California ranked near the top, as the New York Times praised the University of California in 2015 for contributing to economic mobility in the state (Silva, U.S. News & World Report, 2/28; Cook, U.S. News & World Report, 2/28; U.S. News & World Report rankings, accessed 3/2).


86% of buyers don’t know what a CLUE report is. Do you??

November 21, 2016

WASHINGTON – Nov. 16, 2016 ­– Homebuyers often shop around for the best rate on a homeowners insurance policy, but 86 percent of Americans don’t realize that the policy amount is based, in part, on the home’s claim history.

Sellers who make too many property insurance claims could harm future buyers, yet most buyers are unaware that actions take by a home’s previous owners may be considered when an insurance company sets a premium under their new policy.

Many insurers use CLUE – an acronym for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange – to report and check the claims history of homes. Yet, only 12 percent of buyers say they ask for a CLUE report before buying their current home, according to a new survey of more than 1,000 adults by InsuranceQuotes.

“Consumers of all ages, from millennials to seniors, are almost entirely unaware of how the CLUE database affects their insurance rates,” says Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst at InsuranceQuotes. “In most states, an inquiry about property damage can be added to your CLUE report and used against you, even if you never file a claim.”

Only the owner of a property can request a CLUE report. Homebuyers, therefore, need to ask sellers to obtain a copy on their own behalf.

“The CLUE report, which maintains data up to seven years, is a valuable tool for homebuyers because it reveals prior claims and potential risks,” Adams says. “It also helps home sellers provide full disclosure about their property’s condition.”

Homeowners can get a CLUE report free once every 12 months.

Source: InsuranceQuotes

© Copyright 2016 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD


Pending home sales at a 10-year high

May 27, 2016

WASHINGTON – May 26, 2016 – Pending home sales rose for the third consecutive month in April and reached their highest level in over a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

All major regions saw gains in contract activity last month except for the Midwest, which saw a meager decline.

The Pending Home Sales Index – a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings for homes that have not yet sold – hiked 5.1 percent higher to 116.3 in April from an upwardly revised 110.7 in March. Year-to-year, it’s 4.6 percent above April 2015 (111.2).

After last month’s gain, the index has now increased year-over-year for 20 consecutive months. Vast gains in the South and West propelled April’s pending sales in April to its highest level since February 2006 (117.4), says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

“The ability to sign a contract on a home is slightly exceeding expectations this spring, even with the affordability stresses and inventory squeezes affecting buyers in a number of markets,” Yun says. “The building momentum from the over 14 million jobs created since 2010 and the prospect of facing higher rents and mortgage rates down the road appear to be bringing more interested buyers into the market.”

Mortgage rates have remained below 4 percent in 16 of the past 17 months, but Yun says it remains to be seen how long they will stay this low. Along with rent growth, rising gas prices – and the fading effects of last year’s cheap oil on consumer prices – could edge up inflation and push rates higher. For now, Yun foresees mortgage rates continuing to hover around 4 percent in coming months, but inflation could potentially surprise the market and cause rates to increase suddenly.

“Even if rates rise soon, sales have legs for further expansion this summer if housing supply increases enough to give buyers an adequate number of affordable choices during their search,” adds. Yun.

Following the housing market’s best first quarter of existing-sales since 2007 (5.66 million) and a decent increase (1.7 percent) in April, Yun expects sales this year to climb above earlier estimates and be around 5.41 million – a 3.0 percent boost from 2015. After accelerating to 6.8 percent a year ago, national median existing-home price growth is forecast to slightly moderate to between 4 and 5 percent.

Pending sales in the Northeast climbed 1.2 percent to 98.2 in April, and are now 10.1 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest, the index declined slightly (0.6 percent) to 112.9 in April, but it’s still 2.0 percent above April 2015.

Pending home sales in the South jumped 6.8 percent to an index of 133.9 in April – 5.1 percent higher than last April. The index in the West soared 11.4 percent in April to 106.2, and it’s now 2.8 percent above a year ago.

© 2016 Florida Realtors®


Why Isn’t the Condo Market Rebounding?

July 24, 2015

NEW YORK – July 23, 2015 – While construction of single-family homes and multifamily rentals is on the rebound, condo construction sunk to new lows. Any rebound in the condo construction market has been delayed by stringent rules on condo mortgages that took effect post-housing crisis, and stronger demand among young people for rentals.

Condo construction in the first quarter comprised only 5.5 percent of all construction of multifamily housing – the lowest ratio since the Commerce Department began tracking the data in 1974. Historically, condo construction falls at a 24 percent average.

Condos traditionally offer higher returns for investors than apartments.

“Many developers would rather be building condominiums,” says Peter Bazeli, senior vice president at New York-based real estate consulting firm Weitzman Group. “With condos, you’re paying down debt with every closing and then putting money in your pocket right away.”

But many factors hamper the condo market’s recovery. For one, economists say young adults have been flocking to rentals instead, and condos typically cater to entry-level buyers. Also, construction loans limit the supply of condos built. Developers say they can get a construction loan for about 75 percent of the cost of building an apartment complex, but only about 50 percent for a condo complex because lenders deem it a higher risk.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) tightened its lending standards from 2008 to 2012, which has made condo funding even tougher, too. In order for the FHA to insure mortgages in a condo complex, at least half the units must be owner-occupied, and no more than half can be FHA-insured. For condo projects under development, at least 30 percent of units must be under contract for sale before the FHA will start backing mortgages.

Economists say those factors have kept the condo market sluggish and still far from recovery. The median condo resale price in May was $216,400, about $15,400 less than its pre-crisis peak in June 2005. On the other hand, the median resale price for single-family homes in May was $230,300 – only $600 less than its pre-crisis peak in July 2006.

But some developers see glimmers of a condo rebound forming.

“Rising apartment rents provide renters more reason to buy instead of renting,” the Journal reports. “Job growth is improving for young would-be buyers. And real estate lobbyists say they are making inroads in Washington to build support for easing the FHA restrictions on condo mortgages.”

Source: “Condos Left Behind in Housing Rebound,” The Wall Street Journal (July 21, 2015)

© Copyright 2015 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


2014 Annual Water Quality Reports

June 27, 2015

The federally mandated reports contain important information about the source and quality of your drinking water.

The reports include test results from water quality analyses conducted throughout 2014.

See the reports on the internet by clicking this link: https://www.tohowaterqualityreports.com

To request a paper copy, call 407-944-5000.


Home Prices Keep Rising

May 27, 2015

Two new measures released Tuesday show home prices continued their upward climb earlier this year, even as sales remain lukewarm. U.S. house prices rose 1.3 percent from January through March, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index.


Seven homeownership tax-time tips

April 7, 2015

Buying a home – particularly your first home – can be intimidating. Plunking down thousands of dollars for a downpayment is not to be taken lightly.

To many Americans, navigating the labyrinth of potential tax deductions and credits can feel like yet another burden of homeownership. But the good news is that with a little knowledge and the right documents to back you up, tax time can quickly move from being a chore to being a satisfying payday thanks to benefits and deductions on your annual return.

So how can you get the most out of your home this tax time? Here are seven important items for homeowners to note so they can unlock the biggest possible return.

  1. PMI deduction survives – Thankfully for homeowners, legislators passed a package in December to extend a number of tax breaks – including one for Personal Mortgage Insurance (PMI).
  2. Mortgage interest – This tax break alone opens the door for many taxpayers to itemize other, smaller breaks instead of settling for the standard deduction. Simply use Form 1098 if you have paid more than $600 in mortgage interest in the tax year.
  3. Local real estate taxes – Many taxpayers overlook the fact that homeowners can deduct local, state and even foreign real estate taxes on their federal returns. There also may be special property tax benefits for lower-income homeowners based on your state or municipality of residence, so look into further breaks specific to your community.
  4. Losses by weather, fire or theft – While obviously nobody wants a tree to fall on his house or for burglars to make off with his flat-screen TV, the IRS grants a break to any property or casualty loss that is more than 10 percent of your gross income and is not reimbursed by your insurance. Just remember that documentation is key, both to prove values and the circumstances of what was lost.
  5. Renovations cut taxes at sale time – Though the majority of renovations you make on your home are not tax-deductible, that doesn’t mean you should simply throw out your documents – particularly if you’re in a hot real estate market or have an expensive property.
  6. Selling costs count too – For those who sold a home in 2014, the commission paid to a real estate agent to sell your home is tax-deductible, as are any legal fees and closing costs.
  7. Don’t forget moving expenses – If you moved more than 50 miles for a new job, you might be able to deduct moving expenses. And for the record, you must not only meet a distance test but also a time test.

For detailed information on the above mentioned hints, click this link: http://www.floridarealtors.org/NewsAndEvents/article.cfm?p=3&id=321665