HIKING IN STYLE

COMMUNE WITH NATURE WITHOUT SACRIFICING CONVENIENCE

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Credits: Alila Jabal Akhdar

In a digitized world, more global travelers want to take a break from technology while enjoying close contact with nature. Few activities guarantee Zen moments like hiking; fortunately, there’s an ever-growing variety of inviting destinations where expert-led hikes are among the most popular activities.

Better yet, an assortment of upscale resorts and tour providers are offering opportunities to hike in style, with gourmet treats, relaxing spa services, and comfy accommodations taking the sting out of a lung-busting, yet rewarding, hike.

When you’re looking to commune with nature, yet don’t want to sacrifice any conveniences, seek out these opportunities to enjoy some of the best hikes in the world.

NEW YORK STATE

Considered a hiker’s paradise, the Adirondacks cover more than six million acres and have 2,000-plus miles of marked hiking trails, making this America’s largest trail system. Whiteface Lodge, an all-suite luxury resort tucked into the woodlands above Lake Placid, evokes the Gilded Age style of the Adirondacks’ historic Great Camps. The property, which features striking design elements of stone and timber, provides easy access to signature hiking destinations, such as the High Falls Gorge and Whiteface Landing. Families are well-served, thanks to complimentary resort amenities such as a 56-seat movie theater, a game room with a two-lane bowling alley, a fishing pond, and a kids camp.

Mohonk Mountain House, a historic resort in the famed Hudson Valley (some 90 miles north of New York City), is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2019, making it one of the oldest family-run hotels in the U.S. Situated in the center of the Shawangunk Mountains, the property sits next to the glacier-formed Lake Mohonk, providing guests of all ages with ample opportunities to engage with nature. Options range from a relaxing mindfulness hike, to an intense survivalist hike during which participants learn valuable tools and techniques, to a “foods of the forest” hike that teaches guests how to sustain themselves with nature’s bounty.

SAINT LUCIA

Health-minded Caribbean travelers flock to BodyHoliday, an all-inclusive wellness resort that offers a pair of exhilarating hiking experiences as part of its luxury services. The Mount Gimie hike encompasses a 3,117-foot climb to the summit of the tallest mountain in the West Indies, with breathtaking views of lush tropical rainforests. Those looking for a less-demanding experience opt for the En Baus Saut hike, in which guests venture into the interior of the island and through the Edmund Rainforest, where they hike into a waterfall to enjoy a refreshing swim.

JAPAN

Japan’s first glamping retreat, Hoshinoya Fuji, offers individual cabins carved into the mountainside, with ample opportunities to detach from the modern world, as epitomized by its “digital detox” program. When not spending time on the Cloud Terrace—a series of connected platforms positioned along the red-pine slope that extends from the cabins—guests can enjoy mountain-trekking tours in which expert guides lead the way towards panoramic views of imposing Mount Fuji and scenic Lake Kawaguchi.

The Alila Experience’s Cave Adventure Via Ferrata in Oman is for the adventurous Credits: Alila Jabal Akhdar

The Alila Experience’s Cave Adventure Via Ferrata in Oman is for the adventurous
Credits: Alila Jabal Akhdar

OMAN

Adventure travelers and nature lovers looking to visit Oman in style flock to Alila Jabal Akhdar, a luxury resort nestled 6,000 feet above sea level in the Al Hajar mountains. Guests are encouraged to explore nearby hiking trails, which extend past farmlands filled with walnut trees and pomegranate bushes. Thrill seekers opt for challenging via ferrata treks that lead to jaw-dropping scenery, such as Al Khutaymi, the site of a hidden village within a cave.

INDIA

For such a densely populated country, India offers a surprising number of world-class hiking destinations, perhaps none more notable than the Himalayan city of Shimla. Well-heeled travelers gravitate to Wildflower Hall, an Oberoi Resort, the stately former residence of a British lord, where guests lose themselves in nature via guided walks through the surrounding landscaped hill slopes.

Nearby, The Oberoi Cecil presents guided nature walks in the village of Annadale. After descending through rhododendron and cedar forests, hikers pause for a relaxing picnic lunch beside a bubbling stream.

Exodus Travels takes travelers to the snowy peaks of the Himalayas Credits: Exodus Travels

Exodus Travels takes travelers to the snowy peaks of the Himalayas
Credits: Exodus Travels

MEXICO

Spread across more than 4,000 acres in Tecate, Rancho La Puerta—one of Mexico’s most acclaimed wellness resorts—offers hiking-focused activities for all fitness levels, and employs a concierge with whom guests can take hiking lessons. In addition to challenging hikes, serious trail runners and marathoners can take to the foothills of Mount Kuchumaa to train across numerous trails at different altitudes.

UTAH

Located in Park City, the Montage Deer Valley resort presents a variety of easily accessible hikes. And visitors looking to take their brushes with nature to another level can opt for a Montage Expedition. These intimate, personalized adventures see resort guests take a private plane to Yellowstone or Canyonlands National Park, where expert tour guides lead hikes past myriad highlights.

Nature lovers flock to the city of St. George for the outdoors-focused Red Mountain Resort. Positioned in the heart of southwestern Utah’s Red Rock Country, the resort sits in close proximity to neighboring Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. It offers a range of customizable hiking experiences, as well as spa treatments and wellness workshops designed to help recovery after a long day on the trails.

Hiking through Uganda with Intrepid Travel Credits: Damien Raggatt - Intrepid Group

Hiking through Uganda with Intrepid Travel
Credits: Damien Raggatt – Intrepid Group

CALIFORNIA

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the adults-only Ventana Big Sur resort sits on 160 acres of rolling meadows and towering redwoods along California’s scenic Central Coast. Guests revel in daily guided walks, plus dedicated adventure hikes and Big Sur excursions.

Devotees of The Ranch Malibu—one of America’s most lauded and influential wellness retreats—swear by its daily regimen that pairs nutrition-focused, plant-based meals with rigorous fitness classes and guided mountain hikes. The knowledgeable staff and revitalizing atmosphere attract visitors from around the world, and for those who have already had the signature Malibu experience, The Ranch offers similar retreats in the Dolomites of Northern Italy, where guests hike along alpine trails with professional guides.

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Accessible only by boat, seaplane, or helicopter, the Sonora Resort attracts nature lovers to its home in B.C.’s Discovery Islands. Guests hike alongside the property’s ecological guide and pass through old-growth cedars—some more than 800 years old—while learning about ancient remedies and local history. Once back at the resort, vacationers keep an eye out for orcas, dolphins, sea lions, and more.

Adrenaline junkies looking to take their hikes to another level are attracted to the famous granite spires of the Bugaboos, found in the Purcell Mountains of southeastern B.C. CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures delivers hikers by helicopter; for takeoffs and landings, participants huddle as a group and hold on tight, due to hurricane-force winds created by the rotor. Hardcore types tackle the Skyladder Via Ferrata, a half-day vertical journey up Mount Trundle (no climbing experience necessary), while others can simply admire shale ridges and alpine meadows.

CHILE

Tierra Hotels—a trio of boutique, all-inclusive lodges, each inspired by nature—provides guided hiking excursions through some of Chile’s most scenic locales. Located on the edge of the famed Torres del Paine National Park, Tierra Patagonia offers guided hikes both inside and outside the park. From its base in the northern Atacama desert, Tierra Atacama lets guests hike through the striking Valle de la Luna. Situated off the coast of northern Patagonia, Tierra Chiloe—the newest of the three—delivers a quiet environment for peaceful hikes, not to mention penguin and dolphin spotting.

SCOTLAND AND IRELAND

Wilderness Scotland and its sister company, Wilderness Ireland, offer guided walking trips with highlights such as Scotland’s North Highlands Coast, West Highlands Way, and Speyside Way, and Ireland’s Dingle Way and the mountains of Connemara and Mayo. Participants choose between hill walks, coastal walks, and valley hikes, and a grading system ensures the right difficulty level. Wilderness Scotland also offers self-guided walks in which guests go at their own pace with the freedom to explore along the way, while being assisted via baggage transfers and 24-hour support.

A Wilderness Scotland tour through beautiful scenery and ruins on the North Highlands Coast Credits: Wilderness Scotland-Rupert Shanks

A Wilderness Scotland tour through beautiful scenery and ruins on the North Highlands Coast
Credits: Wilderness Scotland-Rupert Shanks

Get ready for another thrilling track season!

The city of Saratoga Springs, nestled in Upstate New York and full of Victorian charm, is a destination filled with gourmet dining, luxury real estate, boutiques, relaxing day spas, lavish golf courses, thriving nightlife, beautiful state parks, and, best of all, the home of the Saratoga Race Course. The 2019 Saratoga Racing season begins on July 11 with an Opening Day Celebration starting at 11AM, and concludes on September 2.

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Interested in the schedule of special events at Saratoga Race Course? Saratoga.com has provided it for us and you can check it out here. So buy your tickets, be sure to dress the part and place your bets! There’s no better place than Saratoga Race Course! 

New York Times Sponsorship: The High End

The Sotheby’s International Realty® brand is the official launch sponsor of The High End, the new destination for luxury real estate from the New York Times.

Enjoy reading the first post here:  From Saints to Hot Springs – The Luxury of Mountainside Living.

The best apps for selling and buying homes

In the fast-paced San Diego real estate game, successful agents are harnessing mobile data to stay two steps ahead while house hopping.

Luckily, in the age of smartphones, specialized apps put market information at your fingertips. Plus, they give you the ability to win over clients and streamline the paperwork with a few taps.

While some companies such as Zillow and Trulia have built online empires by providing always-up-to-date listings, there are lots of useful smartphone tools that can help agents work faster and more efficiently in the field.

Whether you’re searching for a home in Mission Hills or selling a four-bedroom in East Village, here are nine apps that will help you close the deal fast.

Find the house

The best-laid plans often go awry, and even if you came prepared with a list of prime properties in the bay area, your buyers could decide their budget or taste in neighborhoods have changed. With the right apps, you can adapt on the fly.

There are two big dogs on the mobile house-hunting scene: Zillow and Trulia. And while they mostly focus on buyers, both of their pocket guides guarantee you will have the most current listings and pricing info.

Zillow Real Estate (free on Android and iOS) puts 100 million searchable properties on your smartphone, plus helpful features such as notifications for favorite properties, search within an area that you draw on the map, and price estimates based on surrounding homes and market trends.

Real Estate by Trulia (free on Android and iOS) also uses built-in GPS to find nearby houses on the fly, and adds essential components such as crime maps, school locations, and filtering by criteria like number of bedrooms and total square footage.

Show it off

Once you’re in the ballpark of price and location, it’s time to exhibit the interior features. Even if the buyer isn’t with you on the initial visit, your smartphone’s camera can help you communicate some of a spot’s key characteristics.

For that in-the-room-with-you vibe, try 360 Panorama (99 cents on iOS). This app lets you stitch multiple photos together into a sharable, interactive picture that shows all 360 degrees of a space.

If you need to point out specific details, Skitch (free on Android and iOS) lets users quickly mark up photos and PDFs with highlights, boxes, arrows and overlaid text. It’s perfect for focusing in on oak cabinets or a cobblestone-framed fireplace.

If the prospective buyers want to update the space with their own DIY touches, Zillow Digs(free, iPad only) will help you estimate and factor in those costs. The app provides a database of searchable home-improvement ideas along with tools for projecting project pricing based on location.

Seal the deal

Once your clients are ready to pull the trigger on the home of their dreams, don’t let the paperwork hold up the process.

First, make sure payments are within reason by using Zillow Mortgage Marketplace (free on Android and iOS). This app will help your buyers budget monthly payments and shop around for loan quotes with its dead-simple interface.

Once you agree on terms and have the contract written up, Docusign Ink (free for Android and iOS, $15/month basic plan) will help you get the necessary signatures to make the sale official. All you need is a smartphone and your finger, so it’s perfect for endorsing documents while you’re out and about.

And if you’re completely committed to going paperless, there are a bunch of cloud-based services that keep your documents organized and accessible. The two best options for real estate purposes are Cartavi (free on Android and iOS, $10/month basic plan), Docusign’s sister service that was built specifically for realtors and emphasizes collaborative document sharing, and Dropbox (free on Anderoid and iOS), which links up directly with Docusign and makes it simple to distribute contracts via any online medium.

Trulia’s Housing Predictions: How 2014 Will be Different

The housing market continued its uneven recovery in 2013 and will enter 2014 closer to normal than it was a year earlier. Consumer optimism is climbing back: in Trulia’s latest survey, 74% of Americans said that homeownership was part of achieving their personal American Dream – the highest level since January 2010. Even among young adults (18-34 year olds), many of whom struggled through the recession and are still living with their parents, 73% said homeownership was part of achieving their personal American Dream, up from 65% in August 2011. Rising prices over the past two years have been great news for homeowners, especially for those who had been underwater, and the real estate industry has benefited from both higher prices and more sales volume.

At the same time, the effects of the recession and housing bust still sting: the barriers to homeownership remain high, and a few markets – mostly in Florida – still have a foreclosure overhang. Plus, the housing recovery itself brings its own challenges, including declining affordability and localized bubble worries, especially in southern California.

Barring any economic crises, the housing market should continue to normalize. Here are 5 ways that the 2014 housing market will be different from 2013:

  1. Housing Affordability Worsens. Buying a home will be more expensive in 2014 than in 2013. Although home-price increases should slow from this year’s unsustainably fast pace (see #4, below), prices will still rise faster than both incomes and rents. Also, mortgage rates will be higher in 2014 than in 2013, thanks both to the strengthening economy (rates tend to rise in recoveries) and to Fed tapering, whenever it comes. The rising cost of homeownership will add insult to injury in America’s least affordable markets: in October 2013, for instance, 25% or less of the homes listed for sale in San Francisco, Orange County, Los Angeles, and New York were affordable to middle class households. Nonetheless, buying will remain cheaper than renting. As of September 2013, buying was 35% cheaper than renting nationally, and buying beat renting in all of the 100 largest metros. However, prices and mortgage rates might rise enough to tip the math in favor of renting in a couple of housing markets – starting with San Jose.
  2. The Home-Buying Process Gets Less Frenzied. Home buyers in 2014 might kick themselves for not buying in 2013 or 2012, when mortgage rates and prices were lower, but they’ll take some comfort in the fact that the process won’t be as frenzied. There will be more inventory on the market next year, partly due to new construction, but primarily because higher prices will encourage more homeowners to sell – including those who are no longer underwater.  Also, buyers looking for a home for themselves will face less competition from investors who are scaling back their home purchases (see #3, below). Finally, mortgages should be easier to get because higher rates have slashed refinancing activity and pushed some banks to ramp up their purchase lending. Moreover, the new mortgage rules coming into effect in 2014 will give banks better clarity about the legal and financial risks they face with different types of mortgages, hopefully making them more willing to lend. All in all, more inventory, less competition from investors, and more mortgage credit should all make the buying process less frenzied than in 2013 – for those who can afford to buy.
  3. Repeat Buyers Take Center Stage. 2013 was the year of the investor, but 2014 will be the year of the repeat home buyer. Investors buy less as prices rise: higher prices mean that the return on investment falls, and there’s less room for future price appreciation. Who will fill the gap? Not first-time buyers: saving for a down payment and having a stable job remain significant burdens, and declining affordability is also a big hurdle for first-timers. Who’s left? Repeat buyers: they’re less discouraged by rising prices than either investors or first-time buyers because the home they already own has also risen in value. Also, the down payment is less of a challenge for repeat buyers if they have equity in their current home

    Biggest Obstacle to Homeownership

    All adults

    18-34 year-olds only

    Saving enough for a down payment

    55%

    58%

    Not having a stable job

    36%

    43%

    Having a poor credit history

    35%

    33%

    Qualifying for a mortgage

    32%

    29%

    Unable to pay off existing debt

    26%

    30%

    Rising home prices

    22%

    23%

    Rising mortgage rates

    15%

    18%

    Limited inventory

    5%

    5%

    Among renters who wish to buy a home right now. Respondents could choose multiple options. Survey conducted November 2013.
  4. How Much Prices Slow Matters Less Than Why And Where. Prices won’t rise as much in 2014 as in 2013. The latest Trulia Price Monitor showed us that asking home prices rose year-over-year 12.1% nationally and more than 20% in 10 of the 100 largest metros. But it also revealed that these price gains are already slowing sharply in the hottest metros. How much prices slow matters less than why. If prices are slowing for the right reasons, great: growing inventory, fading investor activity, and rising mortgage rates are all natural price-slowing changes to expect at this stage of the recovery. But prices could slow for unhealthy reasons, too: if we have another government shutdown or more debt-ceiling brinksmanship, a drop in consumer confidence could hurt housing demand and home prices. Where prices change matters, too. Slowing prices are welcome news in overvalued or unaffordable markets, but markets where prices are significantly undervalued and borrowers are still underwater would be better off with a year or two of unsustainably fast price gains.
  5. Rental Action Swings Back Toward Urban Apartments. Throughout the recession and recovery, investors bought homes and rented them out, sometimes to people who lost another (or the same!) home to foreclosure. In fact, the number of rented single-family homes leapt by 32% during this period. Going into 2014, though, investors are buying fewer single-family homes; loosening credit standards might allow more single-family renters to become owners again; and fewer owners are losing homes toforeclosures to begin with – all of which mean that the single-family rental market should cool. At the same time, multifamily accounts for an unusually high share of new construction, which means more urban apartment rentals should come onto the market in 2014. Urban apartments will be the first stop for many of the young adults who find jobs and move out of their parents’ homes. In short, 2014 should mean more supply and demand for urban apartment rentals, but slowing supply and demand for single-family rentals. Ironically, economic recovery means that the overall homeownership rate will probably decline, as some young adults form their own households as renters. Still, the shift in rental activity from suburban single-family to urban apartments would be yet another sign of housing recovery.

What other reasons will cause 2014 be different? New local markets will take the spotlight. Ourtop 10 markets to watch are entering 2014 with strong fundamentals, including recent job growth and longer-term economic success, as well as recent construction activity typical of vibrant markets. They are, in alphabetical order:

Why are so many of the high-profile markets of 2013 missing from our list? We ruled out markets that were more than a little overvalued according to our latest Bubble Watch, which eliminated most metros in Texas and coastal California. We also struck markets with a large foreclosure inventory (thanks for the data, RealtyTrac), like most of Florida. Our 10 markets to watch, therefore, should have strong activity in 2014 with few headwinds.

Finally, our most certain prediction: Trulia will be giving you the inside scoop on the housing market in 2014. Our Housing Barometer will track the recovery; our Price and Rent Monitors are the earliest leading indicators of how asking prices and rents are trending nationally and locally; our Rent vs Buy reports will lay out all the math; and we’ll keep analyzing home-search patterns, demographics trends, affordability, and more. We can’t wait for the year to begin.

Home Luxuries: What’s In, What’s Out

Which amenities can luxury homebuyers expect to find in today’s market? For our latest Real Estate Lab report, we combed through two years’ worth of luxury listings to see which words and phrases are trending up and down. We defined luxury listings as homes for sale that are priced at least four times above the median asking price for a given metro area: that means a million-dollar home in Rochester, NY, is a luxury listing, while a million-dollar home in San Francisco is not. We compared luxury homes listed between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013, with those listed in the previous year, between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012.

What’s In: Marble, Windows, and Booze
Looking at all of the words and phrases that appear in luxury listings, we identified twenty phrases that trended upward most strongly in the past year compared with the previous year. Luxury listings are now 78% more likely to mention a marble bath than one year ago, and 30% more likely to mention marble floors. Outdoor space is also on the rise: roof deck and terrace were 63% and 42% more common, respectively, than they were a year ago.

Luxury listings were also more likely to mention windows in the past year compared with the previous year. Oversized, floor-to-ceiling, ceiling, and large windows – as well breathtaking and ocean views – all trended upward, which suggests that buyers of luxury homes are increasingly paying for what they see when they look outward.

Trulia_Home-Luxuries_MarbleBath

Home Luxuries: What’s Trending Up

# Phrase Change
1 marble bath

78%

2 roof deck

63%

3 oversized windows

56%

4 storage space

42%

5 terrace

42%

6 floor-to-ceiling windows

39%

7 ceiling windows

37%

8 marble floors

30%

9 wine room

30%

10 gym

28%

11 tennis court

24%

12 private elevator

24%

13 large windows

23%

14 wood burning fireplace

22%

15 outdoor kitchen

22%

16 summer kitchen

20%

17 pond

19%

18 panoramic views

18%

19 ocean views

18%

20 walk-in closets

17%

Finally, more luxury listings mentioned fitness amenities like gyms (up 28%) and tennis courts (up 24%). But residents should remember to use those before they hit another upward-trending luxury amenity: wine rooms (up 30%).

What’s Out: Kitchens and Formality


Many kitchen and cooking amenities trended downward over the past year. Luxury listings were 16% less likely to mention a BBQ, compared with the previous year. Additionally, phrases that were kitchen-related (custom cabinets, center island, granite counters, breakfast area) and appliance-related (double sinks, stainless appliances) were less likely to appear in luxury listings over the past year than in the previous year.

Also decreasing were mentions of formal rooms: formal dining and formal living room were both down 4%.

Trulia_Home-Luxuries_Island

 

 

Home Luxuries: What’s Trending Down

# Phrase Change
1 BBQ -16%
2 hardwoods -13%
3 plantation shutters -13%
4 covered patio -11%
5 lush landscaping -9%
6 custom cabinets -9%
7 fireplaces -9%
8 double sinks -8%
9 stainless appliances -7%
10 pool -7%
11 gated community -6%
12 center island -6%
13 bonus room -6%
14 granite counters -5%
15 formal dining -4%
16 formal living room -4%
17 surround sound -4%
18 large master suite -3%
19 gourmet kitchen -3%
20 breakfast area -3%

What’s behind these trends in luxury listings? One factor is a shift in where luxury homes are for sale. Luxury listings increased in the New York and Washington D.C. metro areas, and where many high-priced homes there are fancy condos or co-ops, which are more likely feature urban luxuries like roof decks than suburban luxuries like BBQs, covered patios, or pools. Still, many of the upwardly trending luxury features like tennis courts, ponds, and outdoor kitchens aren’t found in urban condos, so these trends aren’t ONLY about geographic shifts in luxury listings.

Overall, there seems to be a move toward luxury listings calling out expansive windows, great views, and fitness amenities – and a move away from indoor cooking and eating. The real winner of these recent trends in luxury homes could be fancy restaurants: luxury homes aren’t emphasizing kitchens as much as they used to, but buyers of those homes still need to eat. For some of those luxury-home buyers, the most desirable view out of those floor-to-ceiling windows might be onto a lively neighborhood full of good restaurants

Places and Spaces Real estate, development, landscape and retail in New York’s Capital Region By Leigh Hornbeck | Contact | Twitter House of the Week: Farmhouse in Easton

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This week’s house is a renovated farmhouse, a home built 1860 that fell into disrepair until the current owner renovated it. The property comes with a barn, a second outbuilding suitable for a studio or workshop, and 13 acres. It has a great story. Read more after the jump.

Jonathan Cullinan bought the property in 2003 for the land and the barn. He was going to tear down the house. But as he started cleaning it out, neighbors and townspeople started coming around to tell him stories. It had once been a successful farm, they told him, many of the locals spent their teen years working there. Cullinan found three generations of photographs in the house, left behind by the family that lived there before. A local historian showed him a letter a man fighting in the Civil War sent home to his father, Holden Crandall, who rented rooms in the house to travelers.  He discovered the house had only been home to three families since the Civil War. Cullian decided he couldn’t tear the house down. He gutted it and saved what he could – the slate roof, the front door, staircases, wide plank flooring in the second floor, baseboards and trim. He rewired and replumbed, installed a central vacuum, put in a new oil furnace, built a new kitchen, new bathrooms and properly insulated the house. He ripped off the aluminum siding and the clapboards beneath and wrapped the house in vinyl and Hardi-board siding. He installed new vinyl windows.

The barn and chicken coop underwent a similar overhaul, and electricity was added to both. Outside, thoughtful landscaping was installed. Cullinan and his wife have started a family. They plan a move to Saratoga County, and they’re looking for a new owner for the old farmhouse. The spot is a half-hour drive to Saratoga Springs, less to Albany via Route 40 and 787. The house has three bedrooms, three full baths. Taxes: $7,372. List price: $399,000. Allison Bradley of Select Sotheby’s International Realty is handling the sale.

http://blog.timesunion.com/realestate/house-of-the-week-farmhouse-in-easton/13054/#comments

Home Prices Rise, Putting Country in Buying Mood

Americans are in a buying mood, thanks largely to the housing recovery.

The latest sign emerged Tuesday as the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home price index posted the biggest gains in seven years. Housing prices rose in every one of the 20 cities tracked, continuing a trend that began three months ago. Similar strength has appeared in new and existing home sales and in building permits, as rising home prices are encouraging construction firms to accelerate building and hiring.

The broad-based housing improvements appear to be buoying consumer confidence and spending, countering fears earlier this year that many consumers would pull back in response to government austerity measures.

In January, the two-year-old payroll tax holiday ended, stripping about $700 from the average household’s annual income, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Federal government spending cuts that started in March are also serving as a drag on economic growth, economists say. And some recent data on other parts of the economy, like manufacturing and exports, have also disappointed.

Yet consumer confidence reached a five-year high in May, according to a Conference Board report also released on Tuesday, with big improvements in Americans’ views about both the current economy and future economic conditions. Consumer spending has also been strikingly resilient so far this year, given the tax hikes.

“Five years after the start of the financial crisis in earnest, and four years and a week’s time from the beginning of the economic recovery, we’re finally starting to get more of a pickup,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics. “It’s been a very drawn-out process, but you have to remember what we’ve been digging our way out of.”

The recent decline in gas prices is probably helping, as are increases in the stock market even though only about half of Americans own any equities. Perhaps most important, economists say, the growth in the value of the existing housing stock means that homeowners around the country are finally feeling richer, and that so-called wealth effect is probably making consumers loosen their purse strings a bit.

The positive impact of rising home values and the appreciating stock market is expected to offset at least a third of the fiscal tightening, according to Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomic Advisors.

The Case-Shiller 20-city composite index rose 10.9 percent over the last year, the biggest increase since April 2006. Several cities — Charlotte, N.C.; Los Angeles; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; and Tampa, Fla. — had their largest month-over-month gains in more than seven years.

Stock markets rose on the news, with the S.& P. 500-stock index up 10.46, or 0.63 percent, at 1,660.06 and the Dow up 106.29, or 0.69 percent, at 15,409.39 at the close on Tuesday. The Nasdaq was up 29.74, or 0.86 percent, at 3,488.89. The 10-year Treasury yield surged to 2.17 percent, its highest level in over a year.

The double-digit housing price increase is being driven by a confluence of factors.

For one, employers have added jobs for 31 straight months, so families are willing to start buying again. At the same time, the inventory of homes available on the market remains unusually low, thanks to little new building in the last few years and the large number of homeowners who are still underwater on their mortgages, making them reluctant to sell at a cash loss.

Now there are signs that higher prices are beginning to encourage some would-be sellers to come off the sidelines and place their homes on the market. That could be healthy for the market, countering concerns that housing might become overvalued again.

“You’ve had this dynamic that has been favorable for price increases now, but it’s also favorable for supply to come back on market, so that will mean some moderation in the pace of price increases,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan Chase, who said that he expected home prices to continue growing but not necessarily at the double-digit rate seen in May.

Construction has been picking up, too, in response to the rise in home prices, but builders cannot bring homes to the market as quickly as buyers want them.

Empire State Home Sales, Prices Climb as Inventory Continues to fall

The New York State housing market continued to build on its early 2013 momentum with April gains in closed sales, median price and pending sales, according to the housing market report released today by the New York State Association of REALTORS. April 2013 closed sales for existing single-family homes, townhomes and condos were up 8.5 percent compared to April 2012, while the median price and pending sales rose 10 percent and 19 percent, respectively.  Year-to-date closed sales are 5.4 percent ahead of the first four months of 2012.

“The numbers support what New York’s REALTORS have been reporting with regard to strong buyer activity,” said Duncan R. MacKenzie, NYSAR CEO. “The gains may have been higher had inventory not been constrained. The number of homes for sale across the state is 17.7-percent below April 2012 level,” he noted.
“The fact that pending sales are at their highest level since April 2010 when the federal tax credit was in play certainly bodes well for our 2013 market going forward into our typically most active late-spring and summer period,” said MacKenzie. “We believe that as prices continue to increase, sellers, who have been waiting for the market to swing to their favor, will come off the sidelines to help meet buyer demand.”
The April market posted 7,121 closed sales, up 8.5 percent from the April 2012 total of 6,564. The year-to-date (Jan. 1 – April 30) sales total of 25,980 represents a 5.4-percent increase from the same period last year.
The statewide median sales price reached $218,875, an increase of 10 percent compared to the April 2012 median of $199,000, marking 11 straight months of rising or stable year-over-year median price comparisons. The year-to-date (Jan. 1 – April 30) median sales price of $217,000 represents a 5.9-percent increase from the same period last year.
Pending sales jumped 19.9 percent to 11,382 in April 2013 compared to 9,496 in April 2012.
The months supply of inventory dropped 25.4 percent in April to 9.7 months supply. It was at 13 months in April 2012. A 6 month to 6.5 month supply is considered to be a balanced market. Inventory stood at 84,104 units in April 2013, a decrease of 17.7 percent compared to April 2012.

Additional data is available at http://www.nysar.com/industry-resources/market-data

Editor’s Note: All data is compiled from multiple listing services in the state of New York and the data now include townhomes and condominiums in addition to existing single-family homes.
The New York State Association of REALTORS is a not-for-profit trade organization representing more than 47,000 of New York State’s real estate professionals. The term REALTOR is a registered trademark, which identifies real estate professionals who subscribe to a strict code of ethics as members of the National Association of REALTORS. These REALTORS are also members of the New York State Association of REALTORS as well as their local board or association of REALTORS.

Housing Market Accelerates

Home prices are rising at the fastest rate in seven years, with some communities seeing double-digit gains, as buyers are returning to a market where the number of properties for sale is in short supply.

 

Housing prices are up by double digits in Miami and several other markets over the past year. Here, a prospective sale in Miami earlier this year.

The U.S. housing recovery continues as home prices grew at their highest annual growth rate since 2006, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller survey. Nick Timiraos has details. Photo: AP.

5 Takeaways

From the outlook for price increases to performance during the seasonal slowdown, here arefive takeaways from the report.

Which Cities Did Best?

Even with the slower winter season, 11 cities posted monthly increases. On an adjusted basis, no city reported a monthly decline. This sortable table ranks the metro areas.

Homeownership Falls to 1995 Levels

Homeownership in the United States continued to tick downward, hitting its lowest rate in nearly 18 years, according to Census Bureau data released Tuesday. Here is an explanation.

Prices increased 9.3% in February from a year earlier while mortgage-interest rates hovered near record lows, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index that tracks home prices in 20 major metropolitan areas. All 20 cities posted year-over-year gains for the second consecutive month, which hasn’t happened since 2005, before the crash.

In some of the hardest-hit markets, the gains have been particularly heady. Home prices rose 23% from one year ago in Phoenix and 18.9% in San Francisco. Nationally, the median home price in March stood at $184,300, well below the peak of $230,400 in 2006 but up from $154,600 in January 2012.

“Nobody that I’m aware of anticipated the kind of price growth that we’ve had,” said Budge Huskey, chief executive of Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. “It’s simple supply and demand.”

The Federal Reserve, whose policies have kept rates low, has a lot riding on the housing-market rebound. The encouraging data come as other aspects of the recovery disappoint: Hiring remains patchy and the unemployment rate, at 7.6% in March, is more than 2½ percentage points above where it was when the recession started in late 2007. Consumer-spending data this week, while solid, pointed to some second-half headwind.
The real-estate market’s brisk rebound also raises concerns among some observers that traditional buyers, facing still-stringent mortgage-lending standards, are being squeezed out because investors are able to make winning bids by offering to pay in cash. Others are concerned that the pace of recent price gains isn’t sustainable.

For now, recent data suggest home-price gains are likely to continue. Sales of previously owned homes rose by 10.3% from one year ago in March, even as supplies of homes for sale fell by 16.8%. The Wall Street Journal’s quarterly survey of market conditions in 28 metropolitan areas showed very low supplies of homes available in a rising number of markets, including a less-than-three-month supply in a dozen markets, including the two hottest—Phoenix and San Francisco.

Supplies have dwindled as banks have pushed fewer homes through foreclosure and because many homeowners are either unable or unwilling to sell due to a variety of factors related to the housing-crash hangover. Meanwhile, demand has picked up as the economy has added jobs, which has boosted household formation. Rising rents and falling mortgage rates have made ownership more attractive.

The housing rebound is also closely tied to the Fed’s campaign to lower interest rates, which has sped along the recovery in two key ways. First, by reducing yields on a range of assets, the Fed has made housing a more attractive investment. Investors of all sizes have been buying homes, often with cash, and converting them into rentals.

Indeed, prices are rising even as the homeownership rate fell during the first quarter to 65%, reaching its lowest level since 1995, according to a separate report Tuesday by the Census Bureau. The report showed that relative to 2004, there were 7.2 million more renters but just 400,000 new homeowners, according to Capital Economics.

Lower mortgage rates spurred by the Fed have also created urgency for traditional buyers, and they have made buyers who take out mortgages more immune to recent price increases. Even with the gains in home prices, housing is more affordable than at any time in the past 30 years because mortgage rates are so low.

At current mortgage rates near 3.5%, home values would need to rise by 32% nationally—and by as much as 48% in markets across the Midwest and north Florida—for affordability to return to its long-run average, according to an analysis by John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif.

Still, the speed of recent price gains has raised concerns that prices could be going up too fast relative to incomes. “There is enough improvement in the underlying fundamentals to suggest that the housing recovery is well on its way. The only question that somebody could legitimately ask is, ‘Is the pace sustainable?’ ” Mr. Huskey said. “You cannot suggest that we could sustain double-digit gains year after year.”

Normally, he said, prices should rise by 3% to 4%, outpacing inflation modestly. No one should be “buying a home because they think the 23% increase in Phoenix is going to be repeated two or three years in a row,” Mr. Huskey said.

Economists say that, for now, home prices in most parts of the country remain in line or below their long-run relationship with incomes and rents. “In many instances, owning still beats renting,” said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank DBK.XE +6.11% . “I don’t think this is bubble-like at all.”

Also, many parts of the country that are seeing the strongest price increases witnessed some of the largest declines. In those markets, “there is room for prices to rise relative to incomes because they are at such a low base,” said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie MacFMCC -1.22% .

The concern is that home prices could more easily rise above their traditional relationship to incomes because lower mortgage rates will enable buyers to swallow price increases. “We are encouraging people to buy an asset that, when [mortgage] rates go back to 6% to 8%, will look a bit overpriced,” said Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow, the real-estate website.

For now, buyers are scrambling. Matthew Sinn and his wife decided to buy a home earlier this year in St. Petersburg, Fla., after talking to a friend who works in real estate.

The friend “said if you don’t get in now, things are going to skyrocket over the next year,” said Mr. Sinn, a 35-year-old television producer who paid $191,000 for a three-bedroom townhome. He said they were worried that “the homes you want—that you can afford—you might be priced out of buying a year from now.”

Mr. Sinn and his wife raised their initial offer by $6,000 in order to beat a competing bid from an investor paying cash.