EHomes, Smart Houses, Solar Housing Communities: What’s Going On?

Image of solar panels facing a bright blue sky with some fluffy white clouds floating by.

What will make land developments competitive in the years ahead? Several new concepts are taking shape: a shift to electric vehicles, solar roofs, technology for home-based productivity, and personal amenities that support an integrated sense of well-being.

Builders are now choosing internet-connected heating and cooling. Buyers are touring homes with sensors and voice control technologies to turn the lights and entertainment systems on and off. And, especially since the pandemic, we’re seeing in-home fitness equipment that keeps track of our exercise and health data, allows us to take virtual hikes any place in the world, and even connects us virtually with live coaches.

Some of the most intriguing innovations involve housing — and entire developments — becoming energy producers. Let’s take a closer look at some trendsetters at work.

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DACA Beneficiaries (“Dreamers”) Can Now Buy Homes With FHA Loans

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In 2021, FHA home loans are once again attainable for hundreds of thousands of young beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Brought to the country as young children, DACA recipients are called Dreamers because they received temporary conditional residency, Social Security numbers, and work permission under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

Dreamers have grown up in the United States. They consider it home. To be DACA-eligible, they’ve studied for a diploma or G.E.D., or performed military service. Under DACA, they may continue to study and hold jobs without deportation fears.  

Most Dreamers are now in their 20s and 30s — a time in life when many young adults consider buying houses. And now, many more can. 

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Breaking Legal News in Hawaii: Home Sellers Must Now Disclose Sea Level Risks

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It’s a sign of the coming times. Hawaii’s Senate Bill 474 has amended the state’s flood hazard disclosure rules for residential real estate. Disclosures now must include sea level rise exposure, in alignment with hydraulic and hydrological data from the Hawaii Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission.

Gov. David Ige signed the bill on July 2, 2021. One of the other bills signed on the same day was House Bill 243, which directs state agencies to take sea level rise into account in infrastructure plans.

These bills are among the latest steps Hawaii has taken to meet the goals of its 2050 Sustainability Plan and the capacity of future generations to thrive.

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Issue Spotting: Buying a Home With an Unmarried Partner

Thinking of buying a house with your partner? Many unmarried couples decide to live together, often co-owning their homes. Here are some questions to consider if you’re thinking of making a similar commitment.

Will One Partner Take Out the Mortgage? Or Will You Be Co-Borrowers?

Two people sitting in a house with moving boxes behind them,

When unmarried couples apply for a mortgage, the partner with stronger credit may opt to be the sole buyer. This can lead to the best possible loan terms and rates.

Alternatively, the couple can apply for a mortgage in both names and pay it off from a joint bank account. Buying a home together, as co-borrowers, may seem to strengthen the couple’s borrowing power. Yet it can do the opposite. A lender will look at the lower of the two credit scores to make approval decisions.

Moreover, co-borrowers need to refinance the loan if they later stop co-owning and put the title into only one of their names. Handling a home loan jointly can complicate the couple’s future if the relationship changes.

Before applying for your mortgage, get the facts on credit scores — and how to boost yours.

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Sellers Rejected Your Offers? Get Back on Track to Closing

Making a Strong Offer in 3 Strategic Stages

Person looking very hopeful.  Captioned: Making a strong real estate offer in 3 strategic steps.

You’re financially ready. You’re excited to be shopping for your new home. But you’re getting slammed by the competition! Now, how do you make offers with confidence and get your home purchase goal back on track?

There are three key parts of this home-buying adventure. You can break them down into:

1. Preparing your finances.

2. Choosing homes you’d like to buy, assessing their value and appropriate pricing.

3. Negotiating with sellers.

When the going gets tough, a few competitive tips might help strengthen your hand in each of these three stages. Then we offer a few lesser-known ideas. What follows is a range of possible strategies to work with, so you can choose what resonates with you.

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The 1031 Exchange and Other Real Estate Tax Staples: Will the Biden Administration Make Changes?

Image of public housing. Captioned: The 1031 Exchange and Other Real Estate Tax Staples.

In the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, Joe Biden is looking at tightening up the tax code to move more funding into families and education. What tax provisions could be changed?

  • The 1031 exchange (like-kind exchange) tax-deferrals for business or rental properties.
  • The stepped-up cost basis for heirs after the homeowner dies.
  • The current estate tax exemption.
  • Gift tax provisions.

Congress would have to approve any changes, so none of these will be enacted immediately. If and when they are enacted, their bite may be less than their bark. Let’s take a look.

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Immigration for U.S. Real Estate Buyers

Image of a map of the United States with green pushpins marking locations of foreign real estate investing.

…And the Return of the EB-5 Investor Visa

In the United States, real estate investment opportunities abound. International real estate buyers can earn profits and bolster the U.S. economy at the same time. Some people invest from outside the borders. Some investors hope to live in the United States.

If you wish to invest in U.S. real estate from a distance, or to learn about mortgages for international buyers, check out our guide for Foreign Nationals Buying U.S. Real Estate.

If you are thinking of purchasing U.S. real estate and gaining residence as well, read on. We’ll start with a broad-brush Q&A. Then we’ll get into the investment visa and the eligibility rules as of 2021.

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With Home Prices Soaring, Condos Are a Relative Bargain. Here’s How Their Deeds Work.

Image of a pool area surrounded by living area of a condo or house.

Home values shot up over the past year. Now, in the second half of 2021, demand remains high. But did you know that condo prices, on average, have only risen about half as much as single-family homes?

The difference is especially pronounced in some of the major East and West Coast cities, Bankrate.com notes. For a striking example, take San Jose. The price of an average San Jose home has risen 11% year-over-year — while the rise in condo prices is a laid-back 2%.

What explains the extra high demand (and pricing) for houses over condos? When the pandemic took hold, a wave of buyers headed for suburbia, seeking extra personal and working space. The work-from-home trend freed many to leave condos and apartments near their jobs. The newly remote workers could now buy homes and cabins with space and scenery.

The upshot? Condominiums are available. In many markets, they are still surprisingly affordable. To boost buyers’ savings further, condo insurance is cheaper than home insurance. Plus, condos tend to be compact and insulated by adjacent units, so owners don’t spend so much on heating and air conditioning. Add in today’s low interest rates. First-time buyers have an opportunity here.

Selling your home this year? Many buyers continue to work remotely. New work arrangements are influencing buyer preferences.

Before jumping into condo living, potential buyers might ask: “What kind of title will I actually get?” Or even: “What will I have to do as a condo owner?” Let’s take a look.  

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The Biden Administration Confronts Racial Bias in Appraisals

Happy family gathered in a kitchen preparing food. Captioned: Administration Confronts Racial Bias in Appraisals

Black-owned homes are regularly low-balled in appraisals. It’s been happening for generations. Now, the Biden administration is confronting the issue.

On June 1, 2021, the president said a new task force will deal with race-associated disparities in home appraisals. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge will lead the team as it embarks on a thorough review of current appraisal methods and outcomes, and as potential remedies are considered.

The task force will consist of a large group of agencies and financial groups, encompassing the Federal Reserve, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and a host of financial groups. It will seek information and guidance, too, from civil rights nonprofits as well as the appraisal industry and its state-based regulators.

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