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The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point today, June 13, 2018 and signaled it might raise rates two more times this year. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the US economy is in “great shape” and that “most people who want to find jobs are finding them.”

In a press release, the Federal Reserve stated that "in view of realized and expected labor market conditions and inflation, the Committee decided to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to 1-3/4 to 2 percent. The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting strong labor market conditions and a sustained return to 2 percent inflation."

Confidence in housing is at a new record, with the Fannie Mae Home Purchase Sentiment Index® (HPSI) outdoing its past peak. The boost was ignited by optimism from sellers, who are benefitting from increasing prices. At 92.3, the Index rose 0.6 percentage points month-over-month and 6.1 points year-over-year. 

"The HPSI edged up to another survey high in May, bolstered in part by a fresh record high in the net share of consumers who say it's a good time to sell a home," says Doug Duncan, chief economist and senior vice president at Fannie Mae. "However, the perception of high home prices that underlies this optimism cuts both ways, boosting not only the good-time-to-sell sentiment but also the view that it's a bad time to buy, and presenting a potential dilemma for repeat buyers."

Change is coming to the mortgage industry in the form of lessened restrictions for many community banks, along with greater consumer protections. The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act—a bill rolls back many Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act regulations imposed in 2008 following the financial crisis—has been signed into law. Just two months after it passed the Senate in a 67-31 vote on March 14, it was voted in by the House on May 22 (248-159), and signed by President Trump on May 24, 2018.

"I applaud my former colleagues in Congress for coming together to pass the most significant financial reform legislation in recent history," said Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in a statement on Thursday. The CFPB has been the Dodd-Frank enforcer since the agency was established in 2011.

Three years after it was announced to the industry, Upstream has launched, first as a direct input in the Regional Multiple Listing Service (RMLS) in Portland, Ore., and as a broker direct feed for the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS) in Phoenix, and Dallas' North Texas Real Estate Information Systems (NTREIS). The Ann Arbor Area Board of REALTORS® in Michigan, the Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABOR) in Texas, the California Regional Multiple Listing Service (CRMLS), NorthstarMLS in Minnesota, Realcomp in Michigan, and West Penn Multi-List in Pennsylvania are all expected to follow.

With the ball now rolling, Upstream anticipates it will add to five to six markets per month—prioritized by broker/MLS participation and market size—and reach 250,000 agents by the end of 2018.

In high-end luxury markets like New York City and Los Angeles, turns out less is often more. Instead of maximizing luxe features like state-of-the-art kitchens and top-dollar fixtures and moldings, sellers are stripping their pads down to bare bones and commanding a higher sales price in the process.

According to a recent article on CNBC.com, the trend is called "white boxing," and it's all the rage among the ultra-affluent who often buy a luxury property only to gut it and redo it in the style that suits their unique design taste and lifestyle. For luxury buyers — who place high value on personalizing a home and making it their own — it's much more appealing to buy a space that's already stripped, as it saves them the time and expense of doing so on their own.

Email is an essential part of conducting business, and especially within the real estate community. From communications with clients to conversations with vendors, email is the fastest way to share information — but it is not always as secure as it should be.

Google is tackling this vulnerability with a web redesign, which looks to solve other workflow challenges, as well. The redesign was rolled out to the first batch of Gmail users on April 26 — they can choose to opt in or out of the new interface for the time being. Google plans to eventually release the new version to all 1.4 billion users.

So, what do these changes mean for the industry?

The latest Urban Land Institute (ULI) Real Estate Economic Forecast predicts modest fluctuations across the board for 27 economic/real estate indicators. The three-year forecast is completed semi-annually, surveying over 48 economists and analysts at 36 real estate organizations. 

A leading concern? Rising interest rates. ULI forecasts interest rates to be 0.4 percent higher in 2018 and 2019 than previously estimated. The 10-year U.S. Treasury rate is also expected to rise, to 3.1 percent in 2018 and 3.4 percent in 2019, and then stay flat in 2020.

However, according to a recent ULI webinar—featuring Mark Wilsmann, managing director and head of Equity Investments at MetLife Real Estate; Martin Stern, senior managing director at CBRE; Richard Barkham, global chief economist at CBRE; Diana Reid, executive VP at PNC Financial Services; and Stuart Hoffman, senior economic advisor at PNC Financial Services—economists are not as optimistic for the long term.

BULLETIN NO. 18-04

APRIL 10, 2018

TO: ALL NEW JERSEY STATE CHARTERED BANKS, SAVINGS BANKS, SAVINGS AND LOAN ASSOCIATIONS, CREDIT UNIONS, NEW JERSEY LICENSED RESIDENTIAL MORTGAGE LENDERS AND BROKERS, MORTGAGE LOAN ORIGINATORS, TITLE INSURERS, TITLE PRODUCERS, AND LICENSED REAL ESTATE BROKERS AND SALESPERSONS

FROM: MARLENE CARIDE, ACTING COMMISSIONER, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEPARTMENT OF BANKING AND INSURANCE

RE: WIRE TRANSFER FRAUD


The industries addressed in this Bulletin handle millions of dollars in wire transfers every day in connection with mortgage loan transactions in this State. The purpose of this Bulletin is to remind you of the prevalence of fraudulent schemes to divert funds transferred by wire.

From the Office of the Attorney General:

New Focus on Filling the Void Left By Federal Pullback of Consumer Protection Regulation

Trenton – New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that Governor Murphy will nominate Paul R. Rodriguez to serve as the Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, the lead state agency charged with protecting consumers’ rights, regulating the securities industry, and overseeing 47 professional boards. Rodriguez’s selection highlights the Administration’s efforts to fill the void left by the Trump Administration’s pullback of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), fulfilling one of Governor Murphy’s promises to create a “state-level CFPB” in New Jersey.

The New Jersey Senate passed bill S1893 on February 26, 2018 by a 28-9 margin. The bill would authorize any municipality, county or school district to establish charitable funds for specific purposes and permitting property tax credits for certain "donations." Residents would then take a charity write-off for property taxes on their federal income taxes. The bill must be approved by the full Assembly and Governor Phil Murphy has said he supports the measure.

Nonetheless, even if fully passed, the proposal faces an uphill battle as the IRS does not appear willing to recognize tax payments as "donations" and United States Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has called the plan "ridiculous."