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Desi Sowers


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The Perfect Kitchen

by Desi Sowers, REALTOR, ABR, GRI

What is the “ideal” kitchen?  According to a recent study, many consumers describe it as open, warm, comfortable, organized, family-oriented, bright, happy and homey.  The most-wanted appliance upgrade in a kitchen is a cooktop with a built-in grill, wok, griddle or rotisserie attachment.  Other desired amenities include commercial-grade appliances, a large dishwasher to accommodate larger dishes, and a double oven.  A kitchen island with a cooktop stove is another popular amenity for many homeowners.

Men and women have different opinions about the ideal kitchen.  Men tend to view appliance purchases as status symbols, while women often see them as strictly functional pieces.  Cutting-edge technologies, such as TV screens built into appliances, also appeal more to men than to women.  When asked which single item they would be willing to splurge on if they were remodeling their kitchen, consumers named cabinets as their top choice, followed by range/oven/cooktop, countertops, refrigerator, a kitchen island and flooring.

Source:  Kitchen Remodelers 360 Report, Research and Markets, October 2007

How to Handle Low Ball Offers

by Desi Sowers, REALTOR, ABR, GRI

If your house has been on the market for quite a while, you may have already dropped your price and now you're waiting for the buyers to rush in and make wonderful offers on this now-priced right property. And then it happens.

The lone buyer does appear, like a bandit in the night and offers you even less than what you just agreed to. Quite a bit less -- about 10 percent less. So on your $350,000 house, that you just dropped to $324,000, you now have an offer for $299,000. With a seller subsidy request of $5,000. At this point, your net is $294,000.

So how do you handle such a low-ball offer. Well, first of all -- don't panic, get angry or lose sleep. Especially, don't reject the offer right off the bat and tell them to come back when they're serious. Remember, it's now a negotiation game and the buyer IS serious or he or she would not have made an offer.

Several things have happened before this offer came in. The buyer, with his agent, has researched the market, walked through as many as 30 or 50 properties, conducted a study on the value of the property and written an offer for your house. Remember, you just won the lottery. They could have written on any other house, but they selected yours. So let's get busy.

First of all, do an analysis of your own goals and needs. How much do you really need to come out of this house to meet your goals of moving to your next home? What could you really live with and what amount are you going to counter. Remember this last point -- what are you going to counter? This is assuming that you're not rolling over and that you're going to stay in the game.

Next, conduct a comparative market analysis of the house once again. What's happened in the market to get this buyer to offer such an offer (notice I didn't say 'low'). It might be that your house is now worth that amount. And if it is -- that's okay, because it probably means the house you wanted to buy up into is also worth less. At the worse, you're going to take away less money. The best thing to look at, however, is that now you're going to buy up with a smaller down payment because the buy-up property is also less.

Now, let's start the negotiation. Keep in mind, this is for the long haul. Keep it alive as long as the buyer will keep it alive. Give up a little bit at a time. If you reduced the house to $324,000, expecting an offer of $319,999 with closing costs of $10,000 -- then start there. You're already willing to accept a net of $309,999, so you're not really that far off. Understand you're not going to get top dollar with no seller subsidy. So come down to $320,000 and give them their closing costs. So now, your net has come up to $315,000.

Hey -- you're actually ahead of the game if they accept. Oops -- they don't. Now they've countered to $309,000 and still want the $5,000 in closing. (Now our net's at $304,000). Great. Just think. When you started, you were $324,000 apart (remember, you had NO offer at all). Now, you're only $5,999 away from the net you were willing to accept in the first place.

We're almost there. Now, before I go much further, here's a negotiation tip -- keep this civil. Use a lot of complements about the offer, the buyers and the agent. "What a great offer. Thanks so much for writing. We are very excited about selling this house to you."

You want the buyer agent and his/her clients to know you're wanting to work with them. You've been waiting six months for this day (negotiation day) and you want to keep everyone engaged in the process to get your goals met -- sold and on your way to your new home in the country.

Now offer your final counter (or maybe next to final). You definitely want to use the complements at this point: "We are so close." "I can't wait till we wrap this up, then we can all celebrate."

At this point, you know the buyers want to buy and your sellers are ready to start packing, so emphasize that you're very close. Use a dialogue like this: "We are so close. We have some goals to meet, just like you do. And I hope we can bring this together to get us both where we want to be."

This is when you make the final offer and stick with it. If you offer $314,000, they definitely get what they need and you get closer to your final net -- which at this point would be $309,000 -- just $999 off of your initial goal. Then you know if it goes forward or you're back on the market. However, don't be so stubborn that you lose the lone buyer because of $2,000 or so.

If the buyer is stretching and this won't work, this is when the honesty comes out. The agent may tell you, If we can't do $309,000, it's just not going to work. It goes too far beyond their qualification." Then you can decide whether to keep it on the market (hoping you don't have to drop the price again), or you cut the loss and move forward with settlement.

Be patient with the process. Don't get upset, remember, they're trying to meet goals just like you are. By working together, both can get what they want.

Written by M. Anthony Carr

Should I Take My Home Off the Market During the Holidays?

by Desi Sowers, REALTOR, ABR, GRI

When you look at your calendar you may find the months already overloaded with seasonal obligations -- shopping, entertaining, children's pageants, charity work, decorating the house, and so much more. If you are also trying to sell your home, you are under extra pressure to keep your home in "showtime" condition. And that could be the last thing you need before the holiday spirit is broken.

It is understandable why you would be tempted to take your home off the market during the holidays. And the list of justifications is long. If you are too busy, buyers may be also, and you may find your efforts unrewarded with not enough showings. And what if you do get an offer? You may be faced with the possibility of packing and moving during the busiest time of the year. Besides, you can give your house a rest, and it will have better momentum after the holidays. Better to just pack it in and start fresh in January, right?

But wait! Most top Realtors agree that taking your home off the market during the Christmas season is a mistake. The house surely isn't going to sell off the market! What is the advantage of that? So you're busy. Let your Realtor do the work. You can leave in the morning, go to work, go shopping, and let your Realtor take care of things.

The holidays are a wonderful selling period. Why? Because most people take off work sometime during the season. The husband and wife are both off and want to see houses. Most agents like the holidays because the buyers have more time, and they can look at homes together.

Before you take your home off the market, consider the following points:

  • Although buyer activity may appear to slow down, the buyers who are actively looking during the holidays are that much more serious. Agents believe the home market is no more affected at Christmas than during other "busy" periods. If that were so, the market would shut down throughout the year as families concentrate on spring weddings, June graduations, summer vacations, and autumn back-to-school activities.


  • Many buyers deliberately choose to shop for a home after the busy spring and summer rush. They know that it will be easier to look, and that negotiations will be less stressful. They may not have children, or they may have grown children, so moving to accommodate the school year isn't a consideration. Finding the right home at the right price, however, is.


  • Relocating families often don't have a choice when they can leave for their new destination. Although 68% of transferring families have children, many families have to transfer during the middle of the school year. These families are that much more motivated to get their families settled in before either the January semester begins, or to arrange for the move during spring break in March. If you sign a contract by New Year's Eve, the timing couldn't be more perfect.


  • At Christmas time, our culture focuses on family and the home. Preparing for the indoor activities of winter is one of the most enjoyable periods of family life. Allowing buyers to view your home during this most hospitable of seasons lets them better picture their own family life in the attractive environment you have created.


  • When is your home ever more beautiful and inviting? You have cleaned and decorated, and your home looks like a picture postcard. If the results are good enough for family and friends, they will surely be good enough to impress your buyers. Get the family team on board to do a five-minute blitz pick-up every morning to keep holiday messes to a minimum.


  • With reduced inventories and motivated buyers, you will have all the members of the MLS on your team. You may find you have more showings than you would if you marketed your home during a busier time of the year.


  • If you do get a contract, you can arrange the terms to suit your needs. If moving during the holidays isn't an option, you can put in the closing date of your choice. Most people can close 30 to 60 days after a contract is written, so there is plenty of time. Possession and closings are very negotiable.

  • Short Sales Not Just About Cancelling Mortgage

    by Desi Sowers, REALTOR, ABR, GRI

    We're hearing a lot about short sales these days. The key words in the Multiple Listing Systems around the country are "third party approval required," or "bank approval required," which is a signal that the property you're looking at is actually being sold by the mortgage holder rather than the deed holder.

    Before you get involved in one of these transactions, understand what they are not: a short sale is not simply a sale of a property for less than the original purchase price. It is not necessarily a "pre-foreclosure." It is not always a good deal.

    What a short sale is: A short sale is a pre-foreclosure only in the fact that the lender has decided to receive payment on the note for less than the face amount. The sellers have determined there's no way they are going to get as much for the house as they owe and they can't stay in the property for one reason or another. The terms of such sales will differ lender to lender. Some require that the owners demonstrate they can't afford the house (that they're broke, in essence) and that there's no money to bring to the table to make up the difference.

    It's a sticky situation for the sellers/owners. They don't want to hurt their credit or go into foreclosure, but they have to move because they've been transferred, lost a job, took a new job or are overextended, but they don't have the cash to pay the marketing costs, closing costs and pay off the mortgage.

    Short sales are real diamonds. I've seen some that look great -- offering closing costs, aggresive pricing, and selling bonuses -- just to get the house off the books.

    Conversely, they can also be some of the toughest deals to get through to settlement if the lender has lost too much money already and just wants to wait out the buyers until one comes along who's willing to buy the house in disrepair with no closing costs.

    If you're writing a contract on a short sale here are a few tips to keep in mind:

    Be patient. Because of the current default situation on mortgages, the lenders are inundated with many of these type properties. You're offer is one of many and the processor will get to it in turn. Don't expect a response in a day -- maybe not even two to three days. Sometimes a week is not out of the ordinary. Putting in language such as "response required within 24 hours," may just be a waste of time, rather than a stimulus to get a faster response.

    A good comparative market analysis is imperative. Be sure to hit the price right on the head and offer close to it. Most lenders have already lost enough money, they don't want to lose more with a really low offer. If it's overpriced, then offer right at the CMA amount. But if it's right on, offer the full price.

    Pile on the contingencies. This works well if you're writing a full price offer. Those would include inspections (home, pest, radon, etc.); appraisal; financing; etc. Ask for a lot and expect nothing.

    Be on top of your walk through. Most short sales don't like home inspections, thus be aware of the condition of the property. If possible, test all the systems (electrical, plumbing, heating/air). This is as simple as flushing toilets, using a socket tester (available at hardware stores); and turning on the furnace/heater/air. You may even want to turn on the washing machine and dishwasher -- but ask the listing agent beforehand.

    If you're on the selling side of a short sale, keep in mind you're not the one in control anymore. The buyer/agent is going to be dealing with the listing agent and the lender more than anyone else. You may want to be involved in the sale, but you're mainly there to agree to the terms set forth by the lender. Sign the paper work. Move your stuff -- out. They want their money and your home is the only thing standing in the way.

    So you're out of trouble, right? Not so fast. The bank could come after the rest of the balance separately from the sale, just like they can with a foreclosure. On top of that, any cancellation of debt above $600 is supposed to be reported as income to you through Form 1099-C (Cancellation of Debt) to the IRS. For instance, let's say you sell your house for $30,000 less than you owe, that 30-grand could be additional income the IRS will want to tax.

    Written by M. Anthony Carr

    Head Count Shows Shifting Population

    by Desi Sowers, REALTOR, ABR, GRI

    The country's fifth largest city is in the desert, according to the latest Census Bureau estimates. And though it is only half the size of the next largest city, the nation's No. 1 city in terms of population has more than twice as many people as its closet rival.

    Yes, New York reigns supreme as the largest city in the United States, with a population of 8.2 million. The next largest city is Los Angeles, which has just 3.8 million residents.

    Chicago is third with 2.8 million inhabitants and Houston is fourth with 2.1 million.

    Phoenix, the aforementioned desert city, moved into fifth place, according to the latest count, moving ahead of Philadelphia. The head count in Phoenix in 2006 was 1.5 million. In Philadelphia, it was 1.45 million.

    The switch is further evidence of a shift in the U.S. population that began decades ago.

    In 1910 -- nearly a century ago -- all of the ten most populous cities were within approximately 500 miles of the Canadian border. Now, seven of the top ten and three of the top five are in states that border Mexico.

    In another big change, only three of the largest cities in 1910 -- New York, Chicago and Philadelphia -- remain on the current list. At the same time, three of the current top ten -- Phoenix, San Jose and San Diego -- were not even among the top 100 largest cities 97 years ago, while three others -- Dallas, Houston and San Antonio -- had populations of less than 100,000.

    The estimates also show what many of us already know, that many of the nation's fastest-growing cities are suburbs of those cities or small towns that border on them.

    For example, North Las Vegas, Nev., a suburb of Las Vegas, had the nation's fastest growth rate among large cities (those with populations of 100,000) between July 1, 2005, and July 1, 2006. North Las Vegas' population increased 11.9 percent during the period, to 197,567.

    Furthermore, three of the 10 fastest-growing cities are in the Dallas metro area: McKinney (second), Grand Prairie (sixth) and Denton (ninth). In the same general vicinity, Ft. Worth just missed the list, ranking 11th.

    Phoenix had the largest population increase of any city between 2005 and 2006, adding more than 43,000 residents. But Texas dominated the list of the 10 highest numerical gainers, with San Antonio, Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin and Dallas each making the top 10. Three other Texas cities made the list of 25 biggest numerical gainers.

    New Orleans had by far the largest population loss among all cities with populations of 100,000 people or more. The Big Easy lost slightly more than half of its pre-Hurricane Katrina population. It fell from 452,170 on July 1, 2005, to 223,388 one year later, a loss of 50.6 percent.

    To put that into perspective, Hialeah, Fla., which experienced the second-highest rate of loss over the period, saw its population decline by 1.6 percent.

    Meanwhile, the Census Bureau threw out another tidbit recently that the real estate community might find interesting: An average of 2,356 people went into business for themselves everyday in 2005, bringing the number of businesses without a payroll to 20.4 million. In total, 860,000 people became business industry "loan wolves" in 2005.

    The District of Columbia led the nation in the growth of these small businesses with a 9.6 percent increase between 2004 and 2005, followed by Nevada at 7.7 percent and Florida with a 7.6 percent growth rate. Rounding out the top five were Georgia and Utah, which had increases of 7.6 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively.

    Among the nation's most populous counties, Los Angeles County, Calif., had 799,108 non-employer businesses as of 2005. Cook County, Ill., was second at 380,457, followed by Miami-Dade, Fla., at 296,456.

    Counties with big increases in non-employer businesses included Orange County, Fla. (9.4 percent); Clark County, Nev. (9 percent); Miami-Dade (8.6 percent); Tarrant County, Texas (8.4 percent); Gwinnett, Ga. (8.4 percent); and Hillsborough, Fla., and Mecklenburg, N.C. (8.3 percent each).

    The ten largest cities:

  • New York -- 8,214,426
  • Los Angeles -- 3,849,378
  • Chicago -- 2,833,321
  • Houston -- 2,144,491
  • Phoenix -- 1,512,986
  • Philadelphia -- 1,448,394
  • San Antonio -- 1,296,682
  • San Diego -- 1,256,951
  • Dallas -- 1,232,940
  • San Jose -- 929,936

    Written by Lew Sichelman
  • It's A Buyers Market. So, When Are You Going to Buy?

    by Desi Sowers, REALTOR, ABR, GRI

    A buyer's market is technically defined as: "A market condition characterized by an abundance of goods available for sale."

    The in-depth definition from the same source is: "When a buyer's market exists in commodities, the buyer is able to be selective in purchasing contracts, as there are many individuals wishing to sell. Furthermore, these buyers will generally be able to purchase contracts at lower prices than those that were previously prevalent."

    The simple version is: when no one else wants a product of value -- buy it, because the price will be lower whereby you'll be able to maximize your investment for future gain. In essence -- buy low, sell high.

    When it comes to purchasing real estate, it's not as easy as investing in your 401K or savings account. Those are simple. You can select as little as $1 to invest each month or as high as the law will allow -- thousands per year.

    Most people really don't worry about how the stock market ebbs and flows as they are using the practice of dollar cost averaging to invest: "Dollar cost averaging is the practice of investing or saving money at specific times, regardless of market conditions or your personal financial outlook," according to a beginners guide to investing from The idea is that if you keep investing over the market levels (low and high) you will, through the law of averages, make money in the long haul.

    The challenge with that type practice in real estate is that you can't slip into real estate investing. We don't buy our housing investments month after month with prices up and down. Instead, we slap down the down payment when it's time to buy. And wherever the market is, is where we start.

    The best strategy for real estate and the best way to make money in real estate is to buy low, when the conditions are in the favor of the buyer to buy. Your start-up purchase is where you "begin" your investment growth -- and that's why I submit to my buyer friends the above headline question, again: "It's a buyers market. So when are you going to buy?"

    Today in many markets you can buy a house for 5 to 10 percent below asking price. For a $300,000 purchase, that's between $15,000 and $30,000 off your mortgage. On a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 6 percent, that reduction in mortgage amount would save about $180 per month (more than $2,000 per year).

    In addition, many sellers are willing to help with closing costs just to sell their house. For example, in Fairfax County, Virginia (just outside the Washington, D.C. area) half of the 3 bedroom 2 bath single-family homes sold in the last 30 days included a seller subsidy ranging from $500 to $15,000 (the average seller subsidy was $8,790).

    Then there are the prices. While they have been flat over the last couple years, they are starting to increase. This is where you're research on the housing market must turn local. The national numbers mean nothing to you when it comes to investing in real estate. Where are your average prices? Are they flat, deflating or appreciating?

    Nevertheless, there are hot pocket markets. In the DC area, there are several zip codes that, when looking at the numbers, are technically in sellers markets. In these areas, homes are selling in under 60 days, prices are up, unit sales have outpaced the level from a year earlier and total sales volume is expanding. The thing is, though, the pressure from surrounding zip code markets keep the prices from escalating as fast as their potential.

    Let's review -- you have plenty of housing inventory from which to choose. Sales are slow, so sellers are offering thousands of dollars in incentives to tempt you to buy. Prices are flat. Interest rates are still historically low. Sounds to me like the buyer who has been waiting on the sidelines needs to get off the fence and pull out his checkbook.

    Written by M. Anthony Carr

    10 Cities Where It's a Great Time to Buy

    by Desi Sowers, REALTOR, ABR, GRI
    The real estate business may be facing a softening in sales, but there are parts of the country where it makes sense to buy now. Forbes magazine examined current home sales patterns and sales projects in the country’s 40 largest real estate markets to identify these attractive markets.

    Based on models that estimated 2008 housing inventory, sales rates, and turnover, the magazine compiled a list of markets that are experiencing price declines, but where buying looks attractive because there is likely to be an increase in sales in the near future.

    Here are Forbes’ and Moody’s 10 most attractive markets, along with the median homes sales price and their price change from 2006.
    1. Fort Worth, Texas: $156,500, 1.7 percent
    2. Kansas City, Mo.: $157,700, -0.7 percent
    3. Houston: $154,900, 1.4 percent
    4. Cleveland: $128,700, -7.1 percent
    5. Denver: $255,200, none
    6. Long Island, N.Y.: $482,300, 1.7 percent
    7. Washington, D.C.: $445,300, 0.3 percent
    8. Orlando, Fla.: $265,100, -2.4 percent
    9. Phoenix: $264,800, -2.7 percent
    10. Las Vegas: $307,900, -3.6 percent

    Source: Forbes, Matt Woolsey (10/08/07)

    Virginia Tech Tests Emergency Alert System

    by Desi Sowers, REALTOR, ABR, GRI

    RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Hundreds of people reported they did not receive a message sent out during a trial run of Virginia Tech's expanded emergency alert system on Wednesday, though it was not clear whether all were signed up for the service, a university spokesman said.

    The "VT Alerts" system sent text messages, voice mails, e-mails and online instant messages to the more than 18,000 people — about 60 percent of the university community — who signed up.

    The Blacksburg school followed up with a campus-wide e-mail survey seeking feedback within hours of the test run and 711 people reported that they never received an alert, university spokesman Mark Owczarski said.

    "It can be that they never signed up for it, or they signed up and they dropped out, or U.S. Cellular was having hiccups," he said. "It could mean a whole bunch of things."

    The school already had been looking into expanding its alert system when student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and then himself on April 16. Plans began last fall, after an escaped prisoner accused of killing a hospital guard fled to the Tech area and caused the campus to shut down.

    During the April shootings, the university relied mainly on e-mails, campus warning sirens and a message on Tech's Web site to alert students to the danger.

    The expanded service gives subscribers the option of receiving their alerts by up to three delivery methods, and each subscriber designates a primary delivery method, such as a text message.

    An analysis by a California provider of mass notification systems, 3n (National Notification Network), showed it took 18 minutes to send the test messages to all subscribers via their primary point of contact, and 31 minutes to send out alerts via all the contact methods, company spokesman Marc Ladin said.

    There may have been external issues that delayed or prevented people from receiving the alerts, such as phone carrier delays delivering text messages, instant message systems that aren't configured to accept messages from the university and cell phone reception problems, Owczarski said.

    Virginia Tech and 3n will review data from the test and the survey, Owczarski said. If there are problems within the system, adjustments will be made, he said.

    "I would say that we're still learning," he said. "But it may just be that there is no such thing as a system that is perfect."


    Surprising Demographic Changes That Will Impact Housing In the Future

    by Desi Sowers, REALTOR, ABR, GRI

    The latest 1,200-table 2006 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates key changes in social, economic, and housing characteristics for the nation.

    As part of the Census Bureau’s re-engineered 2010 Census, the data collected by the ACS helps federal officials determine where to distribute more than $300 billion to state and local governments each year. The 2006 ACS estimates are based on an annual, nationwide sample of about 250,000 addresses per month. In addition, approximately 20,000 group quarters across the United States were sampled, comprising approximately 200,000 residents. Geographic areas for which data are available are based on total populations of 65,000 or more.

    Among the findings, which are designed to refresh the often out-of-date 10-year census data, are the following hot topics that will impact housing in the future:

    Older Workers

    Wages have not kept up with inflation, which is one of the reasons why nearly one in four people between the ages of 65 and 74 (23.2 percent) are still in the labor force (either working or looking for work) in 2006. That's an increase from 19.6 percent in 2000. States with some of the lowest rates of older workers in the labor force include West Virginia (15.7 percent), Michigan (18.8 percent) and Arizona (19.4 percent). Michigan and Arizona were not statistically different.

    Some of the highest rates were found in South Dakota, Nebraska and Washington, D.C., all with about one-third of people in this age group in the labor force. Among the 20 largest metro areas, Washington, D.C., had the highest percentage of people in the labor force in this age group (31.8 percent). Others with high percentages include Boston (28.1 percent), Dallas-Fort Worth (27.9 percent), Minneapolis-St. Paul (27.4 percent) and Houston (26.5 percent), none of which were statistically different from the other.


    Only recently has homeownership receded slightly, but it has increased overall since 2000, with more than two-thirds of all occupied homes (67.3 percent) currently owned by the occupant, compared to 66.2 percent in 2000. In 2006, the highest rates of homeownership were found in Minnesota (76.3), and some of the lowest were found in New York (55.6 percent) and Washington, D.C. (45.8 percent). Among the 20 largest metro areas, Minneapolis-St. Paul shared the top spot with Detroit (75.2 and 74.6 percent, respectively), with St. Louis ranking third (73.1 percent).

    California and Hawaii were the two states with the highest median value of owner-occupied homes (more than $500,000). California cities Newport Beach and Santa Barbara had median home values of about $1 million.

    More than half of California homeowners with a mortgage spent 30 percent or more of their household incomes on mortgage payments and other owner costs. Less than a quarter of North Dakota homeowners spent 30 percent or more of their household incomes on mortgage payments and other owner costs.

    Non-English Speakers

    In 2006, about 8 million more people spoke a foreign language at home than in 2000. Nationally, one in five (19.7 percent) over age 5 spoke a language other than English at home, compared to 17.9 percent in 2000. Among the states, California (42.5 percent) had the highest percentage in this category, followed by New Mexico (36.5 percent) and Texas (33.8 percent). About one in 10 California households were linguistically isolated, which means everyone 14 or older in those households had at least some difficulty speaking English.

    Among the 20 largest metro areas, more than half of all people over 5 in Los Angeles (53.4 percent) spoke a language other than English at home. Miami ranked second in this category (48.6 percent), followed by San Francisco-Oakland and Riverside, Calif., where about four in 10 spoke a language other than English at home (not statistically different at 39.5 percent and 39 percent, respectively).

    Married with Children

    The percentage of households that were married-couple families with children under 18 decreased from 23.5 percent in 2000 to 21.6 percent in 2006.

    All states, except Connecticut, saw a percentage point decrease in households in this category since 2000. In 2006, Utah had the greatest percentage of married-couple households with children under 18, at 32.3 percent. Other states with high rates included Idaho (25.5 percent), California (24.8 percent), Texas (24.7 percent), New Jersey (24.6 percent) and Alaska (24.3 percent), none of which were statistically different from each other. Florida (18.2 percent) and Washington, D.C. (7.3 percent) had some of the lowest.

    Among the 20 largest metro areas, Riverside, Calif., had the highest percentage in this category (29.6 percent), followed by Dallas-Fort Worth (26.6 percent) and Houston (26.1 percent), which were not statistically different from each other.

    The ACS estimates released are for the total population and, for the first time, include populations residing in group quarters.

    Written by Blanche Evans

    Homeownership Is Good For You!

    by Desi Sowers, REALTOR, ABR, GRI

    Buying a home has gotten tougher in recent years, and finding affordable housing is an even greater endeavor, but the struggle is worth the effort.

    The National Housing Conference's Center For Housing Policy and Enterprise Community Partners, two housing advocacy groups, say more than just a roof over your head, homeownership with solid neighborhoods in the mix can enhance the lives of families and their children and improve their futures.

    A group of reports, "Vital Links: Housing's Contributions to the Nation's Health and Education Objectives," makes the case for affordable housing by revealing its benefits.

    In short, the reports say, homeownership is good for you in a number of ways, including:


  • Affordable housing is good for your health because it frees up family resources for nutritious food and health care expenditures. Families paying a large share of their income for housing are left with insufficient funds to meet other essential needs, including nutritious food and health care.


  • Residential stability provided by affordable housing reduces stress and related adverse health conditions. Homeless children are more vulnerable to mental health problems, developmental delays and depression than children who are housed. Frequent moves, living in doubled-up housing, eviction and foreclosure are also related to elevated stress levels, depression and hopelessness.


  • Homeownership also contributes to health improvements by fostering self-esteem, better physical and mental health, lower blood pressure and lower levels of depression and alcohol abuse.


  • Green building and transit-oriented development strategies can lower exposure to pollutants by improving the energy efficiency of homes and reducing reliance on personal vehicles. Forty percent of the nation's energy use is consumed in households and private transportation.


  • Some affordable housing strategies help families move to communities with stronger school systems and more education-supported environments. While frequent moves appear to have a negative impact on educational achievement, moves to better school systems (or to communities that offer stronger support for education) may have an independent positive impact on educational achievement.


  • Children who experience homelessness face numerous educational barriers, including difficulties accessing preschool and Head Start programs, as well as after school care and obtaining personal records necessary for enrollment. Homeless children are more likely than their low-income peers to drop out of school, repeat a grade, perform poorly on tests and in the classroom and suffer from learning disabilities and behavior problems.


  • Children of homeowners do better in school, up to 9 percent better in math scores, 7 percent better in reading achievement and 1 to 3 percent lower in behavioral problems, than those who live in rented homes. Children of homeowners also stay in school longer and have higher high school graduation rates than similarly aged children living in rented homes, the studies reveal.

    Written by Broderick Perkins
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