Are New Laws Impacting Real Estate in Your State?

New state laws relating to real estate have taken effect over the summer, many of which could impact homeowners, homebuyers and sellers in certain states.

One such law, enacted in California, equalizes the rules governing escrow services performed by real estate brokers, independent escrow companies and underwritten title companies (UTCs). The law, sponsored by the California Land Title Association, allows a UTC to handle transactions involving properties located in a county where it is not licensed, among other provisions.

Another California law, effective at the beginning of July, requires condominium projects’ annual budget reports include a statement about status as a Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-approved project and as a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)-approved project.

A third law, new to California, requires mobile home park management to provide to buyers and sellers, in writing, the standards that determine the approval of a prospective homeowner; it also allows management to withhold approval based on concealment of material facts, deceit or fraud.

In Florida, a newly-enacted law allows property owners to challenge the property assessment indicated on their Truth in Millage (TRIM) notice. The owner, who may be represented by a real estate attorney, agent, broker or appraiser, can challenge the assessment before his or her county’s Value Adjustment Board (VAB).

Another new law in Florida addresses homeowners insurance coverage for sinkholes, which had previously been limited due to misuse of funds. The law mandates insurance companies offer coverage for moderate damage caused by sinkholes, such as cracked walls and sunken floors, and requires policyholders to document repairs.

In Virginia, a new law shortens the period in which a locality providing water or sewer service can discontinue the service for nonpayment—down to 30 days from 60. A similar new law in Virginia allows a locality providing water or sewer service to place a lien on a property in the amount of the number of months of nonpayment, versus up to three months under a previous statute.

Another new law in Virginia makes a litany of changes to existing legislation (the Property Owners’ Association Act and the Condominium Act), with provisions that:

  • Eliminate the requirement that an association retain a copy of the lease for a rented unit (it may, however, require the names of the tenant(s), authorized occupants and authorized agents, and vehicle information);
  • Prohibit a unit owners’ association from conditioning or prohibiting the rental of a unit, making an assessment, or imposing a rental fee or any other fee except as expressly provided for in law;
  • Prohibit associations from evicting tenants or requiring power of attorney to evict tenants, and prohibit associations from requiring power of attorney from landlords who are represented by an agent and present a property management agreement or equivalent document;
  • Prohibit associations from requiring use of their lease or addendum, unless association bylaws require that their addendum be attached; and
  • Provide that the unit owner may designate a licensed broker to act as the owner’s authorized representative with respect to any lease.

For more information on real estate-related legislation that went into effect this summer, contact your local or regional association of REALTORS® or your county or state representative’s office.

Dealing With An Underwater Mortgage

Back during the real estate bust, we fell behind on our mortgage and worked with our lender to get a loan modification. The lender added the delinquent amount to the end of the mortgage. Now, almost 10 years later, we have retired and are looking to relocate to a smaller house. Although our home’s value has increased, we still are “underwater” on the mortgage due to the modification. We contacted our bank, but we were told that there was no help for our fairly unique situation. There’s nothing we can do?

Your bank’s representative gave you bad information. Your situation is far from unique. You can wait it out or try to complete a short sale. In a short sale, your lender will agree to accept less than it is owed and will release you from the mortgage.

Your house has regained most of the value it lost when the bubble burst. In a few more years, as long as values continue to rise, you no longer will be underwater. You could stay in your home and possibly refinance or move to a new home and rent this one. However, being a landlord is not for everyone. Consider whether you are willing to deal with a tenant and all that goes with that.

I think a better option would be to try for the short sale. You’ll need to list your property with a real estate agent and sign a contract with a buyer at market price. Then you apply to your lender for a short sale by filling out paperwork that is similar to the loan modification process. You’ll have to follow up consistently with the lender until the deal is approved.

Many people completed short sales during the housing collapse, and many complained that the process took too long and was fraught with bureaucracy. This still would take substantial time and effort, though it shouldn’t be as hard now that fewer people are seeking short sales. And it almost certainly would be faster than waiting out an underwater mortgage.

REPOST: Red vs. Blue States: What 8 Housing Differences Can Tell Us about the Election

By now, we’ve all come to grips with the fact that this is shaping up as the most monumental presidential election in (at least) a generation. The results in November will ultimately determine which way the Supreme Court will lean, who will be allowed into the country, how the nation will deal with Russia and China, even how we’ll pay for the roofs over our collective heads—or whether we’ll be able to. Conspiracy theories, email servers, taco bowls… Is there any aspect of American life that won’t be affected?

We’ve got it: It’s important. Even so, we’re getting just a little bit played out, seeing that ever-changing electoral map every time we turn on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC—maybe even Syfy, Oxygen, and GOD TV.

It seems that every political wonk is obsessively fixated on that darn map, and whether Republican-voting states will remain red, Democrat-voting states will stay blue and where swing states will, well, swing in the upcoming election.

The data team here at realtor.com® has already examined the residential real estate and tax policies of both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. So this time, we decided to indulge our other obsessions—digging deep into the differences in how folks in blue, red, and swing states (which we’ve not so creatively dubbed purple states) actually live.

Who has the biggest homes? How about the most expensive residences? And while we’re on the topic, where do millennials stand the best chance of becoming homeowners?

We looked at data from Nielsen Demographics, Nielsen Scarborough, and Nielsen Financial, as well as our own, of course, to come up with our findings. We used Politico‘s list of those critical 11 swing states where the election will likely be won or lost—Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin—as well as its lists of established red and blue states.

Our analysis confirmed some long-held beliefs about the differences between the Grand Old Party and the Democratic Party of Franklin D. Roosevelt. But it also upended some of our preconceived notions, and may provide some insight into why each candidate can inspire fervent devotion in some, and sheer, unadulterated terror in others.

“It speaks to the diversity that is America,” says realtor.com® Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke. “It’s really tough to see that there’s any one candidate who could appeal to all Americans. We reflect the cultures and the way of living from where we come from.”

1. Which states have the most expensive homes?

It’s long been known that Democratic strongholds, largely based in the Northeast and California, tend to be wealthier. Lucky them! The median household income in those states is $62,564—about 23 percent higher than red states, where it’s $50,820, and 13 percent more than in swing states, at $55,524.

And on top of that, 1.4 percent of households in left-minded blue states bring home $500,000 or more, which makes sense when factoring in all those six- and seven-figure bonuses on New York’s Wall Street and tech fortunes in California’s Silicon Valley. The percentage of folks making half-a-mil-plus bank may not sound all that high, but it’s 133 percent more than the percentage in right-leaning states and 75 percent more than in purple states.

Since liberal state denizens are earning more, it’s not exactly a tremendous leap of logic that their residences are also worth more. The median home value is $301,000—a whopping 91 percent more than more conservative swaths of the country and 59 percent more than those middle-of-the-road regions of America. Hawaii has the most expensive homes, followed by Washington, D.C., and California.

The ultra-critical swing state of Ohio has the least expensive homes, followed by the red states of Indiana and Kansas.

“What we’ve seen is a migration of people to the coasts of the country. It’s for jobs, it’s for amenities,” says Rachel Meltzer, an urban policy professor at the New School, in New York. “[But] there’s only so much land to build on—so prices are going to go up if people keep wanting to live there.”

2. Which states have the most homeowners?

Despite those higher incomes in liberal parts of the U.S., homeownership is highest in red states, where it simply costs less. About 67.9 percent of households in Republican-supporting states are homeowners—compared to 63.5 percent in Democratic strongholds and 67.8 percent in swing states.

“Owning a home is more attainable in red states, because the cost difference [in home prices] is substantially more significant than the income difference,” realtor.com’s Smoke says. “[And] you also get more in terms of space.”

The state with the highest rate of homeownership was none other than Vermont, the blue-as-you-can-get home of onetime presidential contender Bernie Sanders.

And the city with the highest homeownership rate is in another liberal stronghold, San Jose, Calif. The Silicon Valley city is one of the most expensive markets in the nation, as the next big tech stars compete over the very limited number of homes on the market, pushing up prices. The median list price of homes is $767,000 in the city, according to realtor.com.

Washington, D.C., the blue district that isn’t quite a state, has the lowest homeownership rate, followed by New York. Miami, in the swing state of Florida, was the city with the lowest rate of homeownership.

Many buyers in red states may not be raking in a ton of dough, but achieving the American Dream of homeownership only requires them to fork over about 26 percent of their median household income. Meanwhile, it takes 32 percent of a household’s income to buy a place to live in a blue state.

In a purple state? It’ll run you about 25 percent of your income to purchase your own place.

3. Who’s paying the most rent?

Renting ain’t a cakewalk in the liberal swath of the nation either, at an average $1,381 a month.

That’s quite a chunk of change—52.1 percent more than those in red states, where tenants shell out an average $904 a month. And it’s 34.9 percent more than renters are paying in purple states, at $1,204 a month.

“The cost of housing is directly tied to how much land is available,” realtor.com’s Smoke says. “The parts of the country that have an abundance of land have the lowest housing costs.”

4. Where are the biggest homes?

Homes are biggest where land is cheapest—and property is the least expensive down South and in rural America. You probably knew that. And those areas tend to vote Republican. You probably knew that, too.

For example, the median red state listing is about 2,000 square feet—about 210 square feet larger than in more left-leaning states and 100 square feet larger than homes in purple states.

The largest homes in the United States? You’ll find ’em in the red state of Utah. But the two cities with the most spacious digs were in a swing state: Colorado’s Denver and Colorado Springs.

Meanwhile, the smallest median square footage can be found in bluer-than-blue District of Columbia. That’s followed by the Hawaiian Islands, where space understandably goes for a premium.

The city with the tiniest median digs is Miami. (Notoriously cramped cities like New York likely didn’t make the list, as the only data available was at the metro level, which factors in surrounding suburbs.)

5. Where do folks own the most second homes?

Blue state buyers may not own as many homes, but residents in those areas are 14 percent likelier to own a second home. Got that? They’re also 9 percent more likely to own real estate as an investment.

It makes sense, since as we noted above, these folks are raking in more dough than their peers in more conservative swaths of the country.

6. Which states have the oldest houses?

Since many of the blue state cities are older than their red peers, the housing stock also has quite a bit more history. About 19 percent of all houses were built in or before 1939 in left-leaning hubs. That’s 95 percent more than red states, and 36 percent higher than in purple states.

Think about it: New York and Boston were founded more than 200 years before metros like Atlanta and Dallas were established in the mid-1800s.

7. Which states have the most mobile homes?

Those living in conservative states are 33 percent more likely to live in mobile homes, often found in trailer parks. They’re also most likely to wind up in manufactured abodes made in factories.

The highest concentration of mobile and manufactured homes are based in the red—and poor—state of Mississippi. The metro with the highest percentage of these lower-priced residences isJacksonville, FL.

The fewest mobile homes? Washington, D.C., and the blue state of New Jersey. The city with the lowest percentage of these homes is super-expensive San Francisco.

8. Who has the most solar panels?

Liberal states tend to have more eco-friendly residents, who are 12 percent more likely to have solar panels installed on the roofs of their homes than those living in other states.

The most panels by sheer number were installed in the blue state of California, whereas Hawaii has the highest percentage of residences with the eco-friendly power source. Silicon Valley’s San Jose, Calif., is the city with the highest percentage of homes with solar panels.

The fewest number of panels are in the red state of Wyoming. Memphis, Tenn., was the city where the smallest percentage of residents invested in them.

The bottom line?

“[The analysis] was a perfect statement of why there are such differences politically between red and blue states,” realtor.com’s Smoke says. “The way of life is clearly different between the two.”

This article was originally posted on www.Realtor.com.