The Most (and Least) Valuable States in America

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Everyone knows location is the most important part of real estate. You can’t change where your house is (all things being equal). You have to consider school districts, crime rates, commute times—the list goes on and on. It can be much simpler when you’re considering buying a home to compare apples to apples so you can see how the real estate market differs according to location, so HowMuch.net created a new visualization showing land and housing prices at a glance.

most_valuable_states_infog

The blue dots represent the value of an acre of land, and the red circles indicate the median value of a home. The bigger the blue dot and the larger the red circle, the more expensive it is to become a property owner. Small circles and dots likewise indicate a very low cost of purchasing property. The home values are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Consumer Survey, and the numbers behind the land values come from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Several things stand out in the illustration. An acre of land is much more valuable in the Northeast compared to any other part of the country. This is partly because the Eastern seaboard is a very densely populated area with several large cities, most notably New York. New York and Massachusetts have some of the oldest modern structures anywhere in the U.S. In other words, Eastern cities are a lot older than Midwestern cities, so there isn’t a lot of farmland for suburban expansion anymore. In terms of geographic size, these are some of the smallest states in the country. As a matter of fact, the three states where the cost of an acre of land is greater than the median price of a house are all located on the East Coast, and they happen to be some of the smallest states in the Union (Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey).

Median home values (the red circles) are a different and more complicated story. California has the most expensive houses by far ($449,100). Oregon and Washington boast similarly high housing valuations, as well ($264,100 and $284,000, respectively). It is also expensive to buy a home on the East Coast, with six out of the top 10 states with the most expensive median home values.

There’s a noticeable dip in both housing and land prices in Southern and Midwestern states. Prices slowly rise the further you move from east to west. This highlights unique economic developments over the last several years, including the boom in oil exploration in North Dakota and the growth of Western cities, like Denver, thanks to young people. Snowbirds also tend to move to Florida and Arizona when they retire, which also pushes up housing prices in those places.

Top 5 Most Expensive States to Buy a Home

  1. California
    Value per Acre: $39,092
    Median Home Value: $449,100
  1. Massachusetts
    Value per Acre: $102,214
    Median Home Value: $352,100
  1. New Jersey
    Value per Acre: $196,410
    Median Home Value: $322,600
  1. Maryland
    Value per Acre: $75,429
    Median Home Value: $299,800
  1. New York
    Value per Acre: $41,314
    Median Home Value: $293,500

Top 5 Cheapest States to Buy a Home

  1. West Virginia
    Value per Acre: $10,537
    Median Home Value: $112,100
  1. Mississippi
    Value per Acre: $5,565
    Median Home Value: $112,700
  1. Arkansas
    Value per Acre: $6,739
    Median Home Value: $120,700
  1. Oklahoma
    Value per Acre: $7,364
    Median Home Value: $126,800
  1. Kentucky
    Value per Acre: $7,209
    Median Home Value: $130,000

All this shows that the laws of supply and demand are alive and well in the real estate market. You can easily find cheap acres of land where they are plentiful and un-useful (sorry, Nevada), but owning property is a lot more expensive in smaller places crowded with lots of people. As always: location, location, location.

A version of this article originally appeared on HowMuch.net.

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‘Hottest Zip Codes’: A Tale of Three States

Realtor.com®’s annual Hottest Zip Codes in America ranking reads like a tale of three states: California, Colorado and Michigan.

  1. Watauga, Texas (76148)
  2. Livonia, Mich. (48154)
  3. Kentwood, Mich. (49548)
  4. Medford, Mass. (02155)
  5. Littleton, Colo. (80123)
  6. Castro Valley, Calif. (94546)
  7. Colorado Springs, Colo. (80922)
  8. Overland Park, Kan. (66210)
  9. Mira Mesa (San Diego), Calif. (92126)
  10. Hilliard, Ohio (43026)

California, Colorado and Michigan nabbed six spots in the top 10 (another zip in California, 95758, stopped just shy at No. 11), thanks to three traits: affordability, good-paying jobs and millennials. Of California’s zip codes in the top 10, the median home price ranges from $536,394 (Mira Mesa/San Diego) to $728,267 (Castro Valley); of Colorado’s zip codes in the top 10, the median home price ranges from $273,222 (Colorado Springs) to $533,873 (Littleton); and of Michigan’s zip codes in the top 10, the median home price ranges from $118,833 (Kentwood) to $223,780 (Livonia).

Generally, homes in the top 10 are more affordable than counterparts in their county or metropolitan area, and the markets themselves have higher incomes, low unemployment and more millennials.

“While low inventory is a challenge, millennials are the largest generation in U.S. history and they are flexing their muscle when it comes to the housing market,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com. “Increasingly, the hottest housing markets are the ones that appeal to millennial preferences, and right now the standouts are relatively affordable suburbs with local ‘it’ factors such as hiking trails, great restaurants and nightlife.

“With the largest cohort of millennials turning 30 in 2020, we can expect these types of areas to stay in demand in the years to come,” Hale says.

Homes in the top 10 sell in an average 21 days, the ranking reveals, and listings located in the top 10 are viewed four times more on realtor.com than those in the rest of the U.S.

For more information, please visit www.realtor.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

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Pending Sale: Sting and Trudie Styler’s $56M NYC Penthouse

The final offer is rumored to be $6 million less than asking.

Rockstar Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, have been living large in their New York City pad at 15 Central Park West. Measuring 396 square feet, the terrace off their living room is bigger than some New Yorkers’ entire apartments. The penthouse interior spans an additional 5,417 square feet.

The famous couple seems ready to move on after nearly a decade of ownership. Given the home’s iconic address and spacious quarters, it’s not surprising to see a pending sale after just 8 months on the market — even with an original ask of $56 million.

The 4-bed, 5.5-bath residence is spread over two floors and connected by a spiral staircase. Views of the city and Central Park can be found from almost every room.

Photos by Andrew Kiracofe

Even for a luxury home, the penthouse offers some spectacular touches. Instead of a standard set of appliances in the kitchen, the buyer will receive two full-size refrigerators, an oversized Wolf range, four ovens and three Miele dishwashers. In the master suite, two dressing rooms and a lavish, spa-like bathroom are accompanied by a separate steam room with a rain shower.

If the posh residence and its high-end touches aren’t enough, residents of the white-glove condo building are privy a host of amenities. Between the 14,000-square-foot gym, sky-lit lap pool, wine cellars and game room, there’s something for everyone.

Deborah Kern of Corcoran holds the listing.

Photos by Andrew Kiracofe.

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10 Ways to Make a Small Bathroom Look Bigger

Can't knock down walls? No problem! Work a little design magic to make even the tiniest bathroom feel spacious.

Small bathroom spaces aren’t found just in apartments and condos — they’re in our guest bathrooms and powder rooms, too. Since no one likes feeling crowded, here are a few tips for making any small bathroom seem bigger — no wall demolition required.

1. Brighten the room

Bring in as much light as possible. Light, bright rooms always feel more spacious than dark and drab ones.

  • Wall color. Paint the walls and ceiling the same light color to make the bathroom feel double its size. Anytime an area of the room is a different color, it chops the room into different compartments, making it seem smaller.
  • Windows. If you have a window, use sheer window coverings to maximize the natural light.
  • Lighting. Install additional flush-mount wall or ceiling light fixtures to increase the light in the room.

2. Add mirrors

Install larger — and more — mirrors than you typically would in a bathroom. The reflected light will open your small space into one that feels more spacious.

Photo from Zillow listing.

3. Install a sliding door

Swinging doors can take up almost half the room, depending on how small the space is. A sliding barn door or a wall-pocket door won’t encroach on your bathroom’s already limited real estate.

Photo from Zillow listing.

4. Think pedestal sink

The added bulk of a full vanity takes up valuable space, so try a pedestal sink instead. You may not have a place for soaps or towels on the vanity, but there are plenty of wall-mounted solutions perfect for bathroom accessories.

Photo from Zillow listing.

5. Streamline storage

Keep all storage as flush with the walls as possible, because anything that sticks out will chop up the space and close it in. Install recessed shelving and medicine cabinets instead.

6. Choose light-colored flooring

Even if your walls and ceiling are light and bright, a dark floor will negate their effect and close the space in. Keep the flooring light to create a space with a bright and open flow.

Photo from Zillow listing.

7. Eliminate clutter

Nothing crowds a space faster than clutter. A good rule of thumb: If you don’t need it there, store it elsewhere. Pare what you keep in the bathroom down to the bare necessities.

8. Hide the bathmat

Having a bathmat on the floor all the time can make your bathroom feel smaller. Put your bathmats away when you’re not using them to expose the flooring and make the space appear larger.

9. Raise the shower curtain bar

Raising your shower curtain bar all the way to the ceiling draws your eyes up and makes the ceiling seem taller, creating the illusion of a larger space.

Photo from Zillow listing.

The same goes for any window treatments. Raising sheer curtain panels to the ceiling also creates the illusion of a larger window, making the small bathroom seem larger.

10. Go frameless, clear, and cohesive in the shower

Clear glass shower doors make the room appear larger, while frosted glass breaks up the space and makes it seem smaller than it already is. The same goes for a frame around the glass. A frame can make the area seem choppy rather than smooth and open.

Additionally, install the same shower tile from floor to ceiling. The seamless look from top to bottom adds cohesion and openness.

Just a few changes to your small bathroom can make dramatic differences in how open it feels. Once you’ve tried these tips and tricks in the bathroom, apply them throughout your home! It’s all about creating the illusion of space.

Top photo from Zillow listing.

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How Historic Racial Injustices Still Impact Housing Today

For the majority of Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity, owning a home is a major goal. According to the first Zillow Housing Aspirations Report, 63 percent of whites, 63 percent of blacks and 73 percent of Hispanics believe owning a home is necessary to live the American Dream. But although they share the same dreams as whites, for blacks and Hispanics getting into a home remains as challenging as ever—in part due to financial challenges and decades of discrimination.

Historically Denied

Historically, the homeownership rate among people of color has lagged behind the homeownership rate among white Americans, in part because of institutional barriers to entry. Until the late 1960s, federal government-backed subsidies—many of them funded through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)—were off limits to people of color. The FHA, which was established to help people remain in their homes during the Great Depression, began to promote homeownership during the years after World War II.

And the lagging homeownership rate wasn’t just the result of one program. There were others created to boost homeownership that resulted in similar outcomes for people of color. Black military veterans, for example, weren’t able to borrow money through the GI Bill to purchase homes.

Middle- and lower-income whites benefited most from federal government programs, including low-cost mortgages and subsidies for home builders to construct affordable homes in racially-segregated communities.

Even today, minorities still face more hurdles, similar to the ones they experienced in the past. When blacks and Hispanics try to secure FHA loans, they’re denied about twice as often than their white peers—denials which can sometimes be linked to injustices endured outside of housing. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that fewer blacks and Hispanics apply for these programs.

But for those who do, “far fewer actually get accepted, and the groups that are highly at a loss are black potential homeowners and Hispanic potential homeowners,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

The Consequences

“Housing segregation has not been something that has been quickly changed due to personal prejudice,” said Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, director of the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at Prosperity Now.

Yesterday’s outright discriminatory policies helped keep minority homeownership low and largely limited to less-advantaged areas. And today, those disparities persist. The Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trend Report 2017 revealed that although they each account for 13 percent of all U.S. households, blacks and Hispanics only account for 8 percent and 9 percent of U.S. homeowners.

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, director of the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at Prosperity Now, said low homeownership rates is connected to other disparities.

“African-Americans, in particular, still faced the income wealth disparity, legal segregation, legal job discrimination,” he said. “That continued on through the creation of the American middle class, which limited African-American participation as it pertains to homeownership.”

“Housing segregation has not been something that has been quickly changed due to personal prejudice,” he said. That’s especially true when it comes to those same FHA loans—it’s not just a problem of the past.

Discrimination Still Exists

While Asante-Muhammad says outright legal discrimination has since been outlawed, we’re still seeing the repercussions of the country’s historic discriminatory practices.

“In the 21st century, I think we’re looking more at the issue of the results of housing discrimination and discrimination as a whole,” he said. That discrimination, he added, leads to strong racial economic inequality, which, in turn, makes it harder for people of color to move into more expensive neighborhoods.

Part of the problem, he said, is there’s still market discrimination against homes in black communities.

“A home in a predominantly black neighborhood and the exact same home in a predominantly white neighborhood will have less value because it has less market appeal because people don’t want to live in neighborhoods with black populations somewhere above 20 percent,” he said.

Asante-Muhammad argues some of the discrepancies can be attributed to racial and personal animosity keeping people of color out of higher-valued neighborhoods. But the gap could also be due in part to high negative equity rates—the share of homeowners who owe more on their home than it’s worth—in largely minority communities. When a homeowner is in negative equity, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to sell their home at all, let alone for a profit they can then use to help buy a different home in another neighborhood.

In black and Hispanic communities, home values fell farther than in white communities, and haven’t been able to fully bounce back from the recession.

Less Money, More Problems

“In terms of closing the gap of white and black homeownership, we’re not moving,” Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell said.

While minority buyers are trying to enter the housing market, it’s made increasingly difficult due to their lack of wealth.

Gudell said wealth-building in predominantly black communities is hard because of yesterday’s inequalities. It’s actually impossible to point to one single event that led to gaps in wealth for minorities since there have been decades of inequality. Gudell says it’s a compounding effect and something that we “haven’t been able to figure out how to fix it yet.”

“In terms of closing the gap of white and black homeownership, we’re not moving,” Gudell said. “If you look at white homeownership, it’s increasing, while black homeownership is falling.”

Asante-Muhammad echoed those concerns.

“Wealth inequality … reinforces what had been maintained by law and by personal prejudice in the past,” he said. And that lack of wealth is only exacerbated when it comes to home buying.

“So, let’s say you’re getting a $200,000 house and want to put a 10 percent down payment, that’s $20,000. That’s much higher than the median wealth of blacks and Latinos,” he said. A 10 percent down payment is already outside the traditional norm. Typically, a down payment is 20 percent of the home’s value, so $40,000 for that same $200,000 home.

But even if these would-be buyers took advantage of some of the systems in place to help address some of these issues—including utilizing an FHA-backed loan which allows borrowers to make a down payment as low as 3.5 percent—it’s often still not enough.

Asante-Muhammad said even if these buyers got an FHA loan on a $200,000 home—the median-valued home nationwide—the down payment would still be beyond the wealth of most blacks and Latinos. For that $200,000 home, a 3.5 percent down payment would equate to $7,000—or roughly 68.5 times the wealth of African-Americans and 58.5 times Hispanic wealth.

And their wealth today is much less than it was even 10 years ago, when black and Hispanic wealth was $10,400 and $10,200, respectively.

“If things keep going the way they’ve been going, in 2053, the African-American median wealth will be zero,” Asante-Muhammad said.

And that lack of wealth has big repercussions for the future.

“I hope things will get better, but I don’t think the gap will close anytime soon,” Gudell said. “These are such big problems that you can’t just have a quick fix for them but my hope is that we would have equality and balance in the future.”

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