New programs help investors buy single-family homes

downloadWASHINGTON – Jan. 15, 2018 – Mortgage financing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have announced programs to provide long-term financing at competitive interest rates that could encourage more investors to acquire single-family rental (SFR) properties, the National Real Estate Investor reports.

“Folks who dipped their toes in the market in 2015 or early 2016 and bought one or two single-family rentals are now buying more,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of property data firm ATTOM Data Solutions.

Fannie and Freddie have launched lending programs to help small-portfolio owners find financing with competitive, fixed interest rates and loan terms as long as 10 years. Prior to this, SFR investors often had to rely on bank loans with shorter loan terms and higher interest rates.

“It should help lower mortgage rates for single-family rental operators, helping them to increase their rate of return on current rentals without having to raise the rent, and also opening up more potential rental acquisition opportunities that may not have penciled out previously with higher mortgage rates,” says Blomquist. “Fannie and now Freddie’s backing of the single-family rental market is a game changer.”

Source: “Smaller SFR Investors Will Benefit from Agency Financing for New Acquisitions,” National Real Estate Investor (Jan. 8, 2018)

© Copyright 2017 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

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Realtors celebrate 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act

WASHINGTON – Jan. 11, 2018 – In 1967, many homebuyers signed a document at closing swearing they would never sell their new home to African Americans. But in 1968, the Fair Housing Act brought fairness to the real estate market and changed everything for a number of minority groups.

Realtors commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act this year, noting that a number of specialized Realtor groups now exist that represent protected classes in the Act (as amended in 1988) to ban “discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, family status, and national origin.”

Realtor groups include:

  • The National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB)
  • The Women’s Council of Realtors (WCR)
  • The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP)
  • The Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA)
  • The National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP)

“Together we will raise awareness and create action as we examine community and fair housing issues,” says Elizabeth Mendenhall, 2018 president of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). “We will also advocate for changes to the Fair Housing Act to expand fair housing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As stewards of the right to own, use and transfer private property, fair housing protects our livelihood and business as Realtors.”

In addition to protecting U.S. citizens, the Fair Housing Act protects Realtors by guaranteeing a free and open market.

State economy will hit $1 trillion in 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (January 9, 2017) – The Florida Chamber Foundation, Florida’s non-partisan, business-led, nonprofit research organization, announced today that it expects Florida to become a $1 trillion economy by the end of 2018 and will create 180,000 jobs across Florida in 2018 – once again outpacing the U.S. economy in job growth.

“If Florida was a stock, it would be considered a strong buy. But, while Florida’s economic outlook for 2018 is positive, it’s not without risks, some of which can be mitigated and some of which are larger than Florida,” says Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

An outline of key findings announced at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2018 Economic Outlook Summit:

1. Florida will continue to lead the nation in job creation. Since the recession, Florida has created an average of 1 in every 10 jobs in the U.S. Florida Chamber Foundation predictions estimate Florida will create 180,000 jobs in 2018. For the eighth year in a row, Florida’s job creation is expected to outpace the U.S.

2. Very low probability of a recession. Currently, the Florida Leading Indicators Index projects strong growth is expected and there is a 91percent likelihood Florida will NOT enter into recession over the next nine months.

3. Florida is projected to become a $1 trillion economy in 2018. It’s already larger than Saudi Arabia and preparing to overtake Mexico’s spot in the global economy in the coming years.

4. Business confidence is high. Initial findings released at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2018 Economic Outlook Summit from a statewide survey of Florida “C Suite” executives conducted for the Florida 2030 report show “very high” business confidence and a likelihood of continued investments over the coming months. (Full survey results will be released in March 2018.)

5. Population growth will continue to drive Florida’s economy. Florida currently ranks as the 3rd most populous state in the nation and has been growing at a rate of more than 800 residents per day over the past year. This level of growth, at a minimum, is expected to continue through 2018. The influx of Puerto Rican evacuees that will choose to stay in Florida and the recently passed federal tax bill that favors low-tax states like Florida could mean an increase in skilled professionals and families moving from high tax states like New York and California.

6. Florida could do more. Florida’s growth, while expected to remain positive, continues to have two potential constraining variables: a potential shortage of skilled labor, especially in construction, and an attainable housing shortfall.

7. Long term risks exist. While Florida’s economy remains strong, long-term risks include global risk and uncertainty, losing consistent leadership at the state level and a rise in the cost of living and doing business, due to overregulation and Florida’s bottom-ranked legal climate.

© 2018 Florida Realtors®

Florida consumer confidence broke records in 2017

consumer-confidence-840x440

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jan. 2, 2018 – Consumer sentiment in December fell both nationally and among Floridians, dropping 1.4 points month-to-month in Florida to 95.9, according to the latest University of Florida (UF) consumer survey. However, the average monthly index in 2017 surpassed 2016 by an average 4.6 points.

Among the five components that make up the December index, one increased and four decreased.

Opinions as to whether it’s a good time to buy a big-ticket household item rose 3.5 points, from 101.1 to 104.6. Perceptions of one’s personal financial situation now compared with a year ago dropped 1.3 points from 90 to 88.7.

“This drop was not found among men, those aged 60 and older, or those with an income under $50,000. It’s worth noting that the biggest drop regarding current personal finances was among respondents with an income of $50,000 or greater,” says Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

The three components representing expectations of future economic conditions all declined in December. Expectations of personal finances a year from now dropped 2.9 points, from 105.4 to 102.5; anticipated U.S. economic conditions over the upcoming year decreased 2.5 points, from 96.9 to 94.4; and expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years showed the biggest drop, down 3.6 points from 93 to 89.4.

“Most of the pessimism … comes from unfavorable expectations about the state of the U.S. economy over the next five years. Remarkably, these negative perceptions are shared across all demographics in Florida and are strongest among those with an income level over $50,000. Additionally, the pessimism may reflect concerns over daily financial debates by the U.S. government this month,” Sandoval says.

Year-to-year improvements

Florida began 2017 with a three-month, record-breaking increase in consumer sentiment. March 2017 reported the highest consumer sentiment level since March 2002, contributing to an average of 96.1 in the first half of the year. Consumer sentiment readings generally fell every month after August though the average consumer sentiment for the second half of 2017 was 96.3 points, two-tenths of a point higher than the first half.

“Notably, the average consumer sentiment in 2017 is 4.6 points higher than last year’s average, and it’s the highest average since 2000. Overall, Floridians are far more optimistic in 2017,” Sandoval said.

Economic indicators in Florida have remained favorable throughout 2017. The labor market experienced solid job gains and a decreasing unemployment rate. The latest figure available shows the monthly unemployment rate in Florida dropped two-tenths of a percentage point to 3.6 percent in October.

The Federal Reserve’s December decision to raise interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point reflects their confidence that nationwide economic activity will continue expanding at a moderate rate and that the labor market will remain strong.

“As the year ends with an overall high level of consumer sentiment and a positive economic outlook among Floridians, there are good financial prospects for 2018. We expect consumer sentiment in January to remain around the average 2017 levels,” Sandoval said.

Conducted Dec. 1-18, the UF study reflects the responses of 427 individuals who were reached on cellphones, representing a demographic cross section of Florida. The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966. The lowest index possible is a 2, the highest is 150.

© 2018 Florida Realtors

U.S. existing-home sales hit strongest pace in almost 11 years

WASHINGTON – Dec. 20, 2017 – Existing-home sales surged for the third straight month in November and reached their strongest pace in almost 11 years, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). All major regions except for the West saw a significant hike in sales activity last month.

Total existing-home sales – completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – jumped 5.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.81 million in November from an upwardly revised 5.50 million in October. After last month’s increase, sales are 3.8 percent higher than a year ago and are at their strongest pace since December 2006 (6.42 million).

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said home sales in most of the country expanded at a tremendous clip in November.

“Faster economic growth in recent quarters, the booming stock market and continuous job gains are fueling substantial demand for buying a home as 2017 comes to an end,” he said. “As evidenced by a subdued level of first-time buyers and increased share of cash buyers, move-up buyers with considerable downpayments and those with cash made up a bulk of the sales activity last month. The odds of closing on a home are much better at the upper end of the market, where inventory conditions continue to be markedly better.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in November was $248,000, up 5.8 percent from November 2016 ($234,400). November’s price increase marks the 69th straight month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of November dropped 7.2 percent to 1.67 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 9.7 percent lower than a year ago (1.85 million) and has fallen year-over-year for 30 consecutive months. Unsold inventory is at a 3.4-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.0 months a year ago.

“The anticipated rise in mortgage rates next year could further cut into affordability if these staggeringly low supply levels persist,” said Yun. “Price appreciation is too fast in a lot of markets right now. The increase in homebuilder optimism must translate to significantly more new construction in 2018 to help ease these acute inventory shortages.”

First-time buyers were 29 percent of sales in November, which is down from 32 percent both in October and a year ago. NAR’s 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 34 percent.

Matching the highest share since May, all-cash sales were 22 percent of transactions in November, which is up from 20 percent in October and 21 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14 percent of homes in November, up from 13 percent last month and unchanged from a year ago.

“The elevated presence of investors paying in cash continues to add a layer of frustration to the supply and affordability headwinds aspiring first-time buyers are experiencing,” said Yun. “The healthy labor market and higher wage gains are expected to further strengthen buyer demand from young adults next year. Their prospects for becoming homeowners will only improve if more lower-priced and smaller-sized homes come onto the market.”

Properties typically stayed on the market for 40 days in November, which is up from 34 days in October but down from 43 days a year ago. Forty-four percent of homes sold in November were on the market for less than a month.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage increased for the second straight month to 3.92 percent in November from 3.90 percent in October. The average commitment rate for all of 2016 was 3.65 percent.

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – were 4 percent of sales for the fourth straight month in November, and are down from 6 percent a year ago. Three percent of November sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales.

Single-family and condo/co-op sales

Single-family home sales grew 4.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.09 million in November from 4.87 million in October, and are now 3.2 percent above the 4.93 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $248,800 in November, up 5.4 percent from November 2016.

Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 14.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 720,000 units in November, and are now 7.5 percent above a year ago. The median existing condo price was $242,500 in November, which is 8.8 percent above a year ago.

Regional breakdown

November existing-home sales in the Northeast leaped 6.7 percent to an annual rate of 800,000, (unchanged from a year ago). The median price in the Northeast was $273,600, which is 4.0 percent above November 2016.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales jumped 8.4 percent to an annual rate of 1.42 million in November, and are now 6.8 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $196,100, up 8.8 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South expanded 8.3 percent to an annual rate of 2.34 million in November, and are now 4.0 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the South was $216,200, up 4.8 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West declined 2.3 percent to an annual rate of 1.25 million in November, but are still 2.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $375,100, up 8.2 percent from November 2016.

© 2017 Florida Realtors®

Housing starts move 3.3% higher in Nov.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Dec. 19, 2017 – Construction of new homes increased 3.3 percent in November with the gain largely coming from single-family houses being built at the strongest pace in more than a decade.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that builders broke ground on homes last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.3 million units. The increase marks a key moment in the recovery from the Great Recession: Builders started work on single-family houses at the fastest pace since September 2007, which was just a few months before the start of that economic downturn.

Driving the rebound in home construction has been a shortage of existing properties being listed for sale.

Fewer people are putting their property on the market, despite healthy demand from buyers because the unemployment rate is at a 17 year-low and mortgage rates remain at attractive levels. New construction has filled some of this gap with starts on single-family houses rising 8.7 percent so far this year.

Still, not enough new homes are being built to totally end the supply squeeze. Over the past year, the number of sales listings for the much larger market for existing homes has fallen 6.4 percent.

The construction growth last month came from the South and West, while the Northeast and Midwest reported declines.

Builders are also backing away from the apartment rentals that until recently were a driving force behind the rebound in residential construction. Ground breakings for multi-family buildings such as apartment complexes have declined 8.5 percent year-to-date.

Building permits, an indicator of future construction, slipped 1.4 percent in October to 1.3 million. But the number of permits authorized so far this year has increased 5.8 percent.

Relatively low mortgage rates have helped would-be homebuyers, even as property prices have climbed faster than wages. The average rate on 30-year fixed-rate U.S. mortgages was 3.93 percent last week, slightly better than the 4.16 percent rate a year ago, according to mortgage Freddie Mac.

AP Logo Copyright © 2017 The Associated Press, Josh Boak. All rights reserved.

Homebuilder optimism hits 18-year high

WASHINGTON (AP) – Dec. 18, 2017 – U.S. homebuilders are feeling more optimistic than they have in nearly two decades.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday rose five points to 74 this month. That’s the highest reading since July of 1999, more than 18 years ago.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders see sales conditions as good rather than poor. The index has remained above 60 since September of 2016.

The index exceeded the expectations of analysts surveyed by FactSet, who expected a reading of 70.

All three components of the index rose in December, including: readings gauging builders’ view of single-family home sales; the outlook for sales over the next six months; and a measure of traffic by prospective buyers.

AP Logo Copyright © 2017 The Associated Press.

Irma claims top $6B, Citizens braces for 50,000-plus new customers

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Dec. 14, 2017 – After Hurricane Irma stung property insurers for $6.3 billion in claims and counting, Florida’s state-run and second-largest carrier expects to add more than 50,000 customers in 2018.

“We’re expecting to go from 442,000 back to 500,000,” Barry Gilway, president of Citizens Property Insurance Corp., told the company’s board meeting Wednesday.

Citizens has not always been right in its own forecasts, initially failing to predict it would shrink as much as it has from a high of about 1.5 million customers several years ago.

But as private insurers’ appetite for new business grew during Florida’s 11-year hurricane hiatus ending in 2016, now it is expected to weaken in Irma’s wake. Many private companies limit their risk exposure, particularly in Southeast Florida, for reasons ranging from hurricane risk to assertions that claim costs in the region are abusively inflated by contractors, public adjusters and lawyers.

Even at a reduced size, Citizens remains the state’s second-largest insurer. Growing to 500,000 customers next year would represent about a 14 percent increase.

Citizens has about 42,000 customers in Palm Beach County.

The company’s risk exposure, or the value of the properties it covers, is expected to grow from about $112 billion to $120 billion, Gilway said.

Citizens expects to pay about $1.2 billion for Irma claims and preserve a $6.4 billion surplus, meaning a reserve to pay future claims. Industrywide, more than 850,000 claims have been filed representing nearly $6.3 billion, including more than 36,000 claims in Palm Beach County.

Copyright © 2017 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.), Charles Elmore. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Fixer-upper or money pit? How to decide

NEW YORK – Dec. 13, 2017 – With inventories so tight, some home buyers are giving fixer-upper homes a second look. The price point and location may attract more buyers to bite, even if the home needs some TLC.

But how do you tell a hidden gem from a hidden mess when shopping for a fixer-upper?

Paul Skema, president of the architecture and construction firm Roth Design + Build, and Jean Brownhill, founder of Sweeten, an online contracting service, shared considerations for home shoppers looking at a fixer-upper. Here are a few of their tips, via Curbed.com:

Determine the scope of the project
Are the renovations mostly cosmetic or structural? “Before you even look for an apartment or home, you want to understand what type of project you’re comfortable with,” says Skema. Projects where owners start making additions or knocking down walls can add a lot of money, time and risk. “One small bathroom renovation is hundreds of decisions you’re going to need to make,” says Brownhill. “You have to understand who you are as a person and how easily you make decisions.”

Set a budget
After the downpayment, how much money will your buyers set aside for the fixer-upper? Factor in unexpected costs, such as planning an alternative living situation while the work is being done on the home. The architect and contractor should be able to provide you with estimates. “By setting the price, you’re setting the approximate level of craft, finishes, and customer service that you’re looking for,” Brownhill says.

Establish a team
Larger projects require an architect, who will then hire a general contractor and then subcontractors. Homeowners will need to establish a communication path to prevent delays or budget pitfalls. And don’t just hire the lowest-bidding architect or contractor, Skema warns. “Higher-quality firms limit the risk of the project,” Skema says. “Cheaper firms, many with less knowledge and less experience, will require more involvement from the homeowner and ultimately bring more risk.” Select a team with the right experience, solid references and a communication style that complements your own.

Meet the neighbors and the building association
Significant renovations may require approval from the homeowner’s association. Meet your potential neighbors beforehand and warn them so as not to aggravate them. Learn about the permit process through your city’s building department ahead of time. Upgrading plumbing and electrical systems, moving walls or changing structural elements will probably require a permit.

Protect yourself
Make sure the contractor has both liability insurance and workman’s compensation, and make sure he or she has a Florida license. Also, ensure that your homeowner’s policy will protect you from any contractor-caused issues.

Source: “Considering a Fixer-Upper? Here’s What You Need to Know,” Curbed.com (Dec. 6, 2017)

Remodeling for profit? Unlikely

SARASOTA, Fla. – Dec. 12, 2017 – Home renovations as an investment for a future sale with hopes of recovering the improvement costs are a dicey prospect at best. Real estate agents and remodeling construction specialists caution against that assumption.

“Hardly anything will offer a net profit,” says Barry Grooms, Realtor, broker and co-owner of SaraBay Real Estate with his wife, Sherry. But some improvements “will help sell the property faster and will fetch a higher sales price.”

On the flip side, renovations for personal and lifestyle inclinations or remodeling an older residence after a purchase are commonplace and prudent. The popularity of HGTV’s portfolio of “reno” shows reflects public interest, but solid evidence comes from BuildFax. The data analytics firm has a new report showing residential remodeling outpacing new construction spending.

“Residential remodeling activity has increased by 30 percent since 2010,” BuildFax reported, though that began trending down in the Southeast during the last half of 2016.

Denny Yoder, president of Yoder Homes & Remodeling, is well acquainted with remodeling motivations. “The majority of our clients are improving their homes for personal lifestyle reasons,” he said. “About a third of our clients have just purchased the property or are converting it from a rental to a retirement home.

“While the concern for appropriate investment and not over improving is always important, we advise clients the more years they plan on keeping the property the less important this consideration is.”

While cosmetic and lifestyle enhancements are attractive and advantageous to homeowners, prospective buyers will take a different view should those renovations be unappealing.

The return on investment for an updated kitchen averages about 60 percent, a bathroom remodel around 68 percent and a master suite addition about 53 percent, Grooms said.

Michael Moulton, a broker-associate with Michael Saunders & Company, cites expensive new marble and/or wood floors as iffy. Those are “too much of a gamble that a new owner may want something other than what you install.” Plus, he said, “not all buyers would appreciate” expensive windows such as Pella and Anderson.

Basic infrastructure upgrades could prove valuable, though.

“The best improvements a home seller can make are replacing the roof, HVAC, electrical and plumbing,” Grooms said. “The reason for this is that most home buyers will have a professional inspection and most homes require homeowners insurance, and if the aforementioned items are not in good condition, it may increase carrying costs for the new buyer or an immediate out-of-pocket burden that is too much and break up a deal.”

Moulton emphasizes re-plumbing a house in neighborhoods where that is typically needed and replacing an aging roof.

That falls in line with the “Remodeling 2017 Cost vs. Value Report.” The website –costvsvalue.com – compares the average cost for 29 popular remodeling projects with the value those upgrades retain at resale in 99 U.S. markets, including the Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice region. Nationally, home maintenance projects, such as siding replacement, paid off best.

Curiously, every one of those projects undertaken in Southwest Florida, for example, paid back a higher return on investment than the national average. The highest differential came in at 27 percentage points – a garage door replacement – 104.1 percent here versus 69.3 percent nationwide.

“In general,” the report stated, “the hotter the market, the bigger the payback.”

This is the 30th anniversary of Remodeling Magazine’s first such survey, undertaken with the goal of providing an unbiased, third-party report on how much it costs for a professional to do a typical remodeling project as well as how much a real estate pro believes that project will increase a home’s value if it’s sold within a year of when the work was completed.

The methodology includes such factors as the cost of materials and labor in each market, subcontractor payments, taxes and additional considerations. The study compares the costs for the same hypothetical project in all 99 markets surveyed. Nationally, the 29 projects in this year’s survey paid an average of 64.3 cents on the dollar in resale value. The study broken down into 19 mid-range and 10 upscale projects.

Overall, the report found that newer and older trends continued. Improvements to the outside of a home produce higher returns on investment than interior projects. Curb appeal upgrades sell, be they to doors, windows or siding. Replacing those features proved better than a remodel, real estate pros said.

On the lifestyle front, Yoder cited bathroom remodels as “very common,” with hand-held and multiple shower heads being very popular. “Other popular requests in bathrooms are replacing bathtubs with walk-in showers and stand-alone tubs,” he said.

“Next in popularity are kitchen remodels followed by closet organization,” he added.

In several areas that Remodeling did not address, Grooms did. “Landscaping on average can return up to 150 percent of a return of investment,” he said. “Fencing may return up to 95 percent.”

The fence issue brings up an important matter. “The other area that I have observed that often helps a home seller faster and for more money is homes that are ‘pet friendly’,” Grooms said – which translates into wood, tile or laminate flooring, fenced yard or large yards. “More than 65 percent of homebuyers have pets, so making a home friendlier or decreasing the maintenance may help a buyer choose your home over one that is not!”

In the Sarasota market, Remodeling Magazine, published by Hanley Wood, reported only four projects with positive resale values. The installation of fiberglass attic insulation scored the best, with 124.4 percent rate of return. That is followed by replacing the entry door with a steel one (106.9 percent), installing a new garage door (104.1 percent), replacing the garage door with an upscale model (104 percent) and replacing the siding (100.9 percent).

Of the 2017 national averages, only attic insulation recouped more than the job cost, at 107.7 percent.

In upscale projects in SW Florida, a bathroom remodel (61.8 percent), a bathroom addition (64.1 percent), a master suite expansion (65.9 percent) and a major kitchen remodel (69.1 percent) scored the worst ROI (return on investment).

“Consumers often are surprised to see that some of the most common remodeling projects recoup the least costs,” the report said. The rate on investment for a mid-range bathroom addition scored the worst payback at only a 53.8 percent average across the country. “Not a single kitchen or bath project ranked higher than 17th out of the 29 projects,” Remodeling found.

The magazine’s research put quantitative figures on the value of curb appeal. Exterior projects had an average payback of 74.9 percent nationally, while interior projects returned 63.5 percent, the study said. Almost an identical percentage differential separated replacement and repair costs from remodeling improvement projects.

Plus, kitchen and bath upgrades require more costly skill and labor. “As a general rule,” the study said, “the simpler the job, the cheaper it is and the more likely it will have a high ROI.”

Here in hurricane country, a backup power generator holds a lot of appeal. The addition of that piece of equipment came in dead last among mid-range projects in Sarasota at 66.4 percent.

But the survey’s information was gathered before Irma knocked out electricity to thousands of households in September, and residents scrambled to purchase those units.

“Timing also figures here,” the study stated. Generator popularity surged after Superstorm Sandy struck, soaring some 20 percentage points. ROI has been slipping since then, but Hurricane Irma served as a reminder of the value of that equipment.

Remodeling hugely popular

The remodeling and replacement industry continues to reach new heights. One only needs to check the large audiences for HGTV’s numerous programs that highlight home overhauls. “Fixer Upper” – HGTV’s highest-rated show ever – has made media darlings and design icons out of Chip and Joanna Gaines. Their Waco retail business has skyrocketed and their 40-acre farm made the Texas city a destination.

This year, with an average of more than 30,000 visitors a week, their Magnolia Market business, complete with grain silos, should draw about 1.6 million people, according to the Waco Convention and Visitors bureau.

Their “blockbuster” series ranked as one of the top two most-watched cable telecasts in Nielsen data that covered their season four finale this past summer. Two of HGTV’s other home renovation series, “Property Brothers” and “Flip or Flop,” have also fueled the network’s rise even as ratings for other cable television companies fell.

One common denominator of these shows is ripping out walls to unite kitchen, dining and living rooms. Moulton supports the open floor plan as a positive on home values.

One remodeling desire is pretty much a non-starter. “A common request or want in older homes is to raise the ceilings,” Yoder said. “However, most considerations, whether in a condo or residential home, do not materialize because of the reality of the complexity and cost.”

Metrostudy, a housing data and analytics company, released its third-quarter 2017 Residential Remodeling Index (RRI) this month and found the RRI rose 4.8 percent from one year earlier and 1.2 percent from the previous quarter.

That marks 22 consecutive quarters of year-over-year gains in the index since remodeling activity hit rock bottom in 2011. The company expects the RRI to continue increasing throughout 2018 with an average 4.7 percent quarterly gain year-over-year.

With mortgage rates expected to rise over the next few years and home prices increasing, more homeowners will likely remain in their homes and remodel to suit their lifestyle, Metrostudy chief economist Mark Boud said.

Plus, the Florida and Texas repair and remodel industry will remain busy in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

Miami ranks first among U.S. cities for residential remodeling, with Jacksonville ranked 2nd nationally. According to BuildFax, residential remodeling increased 30 percent since 2010.

BuildFax, Inc. develops a national data source for property condition in the United States. The company creates a database of historical building permit data that include unrivaled property-level details on relevant property events, such as remodels, additions, solar installations, and new roofs. In addition, it offers construction data sets that enable analysts with insights to predict trends in the economy; property history reports that allow home inspectors to access the database of building permits; and various indices in the areas of residential and commercial remodeling and new construction.

© 2017 Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla., Chris Wille. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.