Real Estate News

America is Tested Again and Again

A View from the Beach
 September 12, 2017 – 


All through our economic commentaries we always are fearful of making predictions. No matter how much information we have, there are always unknown factors which can change the future to a significant degree. There is no better example of this than what Texas and Louisiana just faced with Hurricane Harvey. An entire region of our country devastated with an amazing amount of support pouring in throughout the country.

There is no doubt about the fact that this natural disaster will have a major effect upon our economy — as well as Irma and whichever storms follow. From the devastation of local economies to gas prices, there will be a multitude of factors we will be facing. In the long-term there will be an economic revival as we rebuild lives, houses and infrastructure. We have rebuilt successfully before and we will rebuild again. America has always demonstrated our resiliency.

However, there are major questions which will remain far beyond this event. For example, we all know that houses are expensive to build and “excessive” regulations are part of that equation. On the other hand, as the insurance companies continue to point out, the lack of adequate building and zoning standards in some areas of the country have increased the cost of rebuilding significantly. In other words, we have some very hard questions to address, questions which are very difficult to answer. And coming out with the right answers will help us pass this test in the future long after we rebuild this time around.

  In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) released a primer on the difference between water damage covered under a homeowners policy and damage covered by flood insurance. The Institute reported 40% of homeowners think that standard homeowners insurance covers flood damage caused by heavy rain, which it does not. “Hurricane Harvey has, once again, shown that tropical storm systems are often major rain events, rather than wind-related. This brings strong motivation for everyone to consider flood insurance, even if their mortgage lender does not require it,” said Loretta Worters, vice president of Media Relations with the I.I.I. According to the I.I.I.’s May 2016 Consumer Insurance Survey, only 12% of homeowners have flood insurance nationally, the lowest number since 2010 and down from 14% in 2015. Standard homeowners and renters insurance will cover wind damage from Hurricanes. Flood coverage, however, is excluded and is available in the form of a separate policy from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and a few private insurers. The NFIP provides coverage for up to $250,000 for the structure of the home and $100,000 for personal possessions. Replacement cost coverage is available for the structure of a home but only actual cash value coverage is available for possessions. Excess flood insurance provides protection above the NFIP limits. It is available from private insurers for higher valued properties and for those living in a community that does not participate in the NFIP. Source: Builder More Americans are staying put. The overall mobility of the U.S. population is at its lowest level and has fallen by nearly half since its most recent peak in 1985. Americans who live in rural areas are not moving. The rate of people who moved across a county line in rural America was just 4.1 percent, down from 7.7 percent in the late 1970s, according to the analysis. The mobility rate in rural areas has fallen faster than metro areas. “We’re locking people out from the most productive cities,” said Peter Ganong, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Chicago. “This is a force that widens the urban-rural divide.” It can stymie economic growth, adds David Schleicher, a professor at Yale Law School. The immobility of rural residents is preventing them from getting higher paying jobs and could even be choking off the labor supply for employers in areas where jobs are plentiful. Economists have indicated that the decline in rural mobility is mostly due to the escalating cost of housing. Small-town home prices have modestly recovered from the housing market crisis, while restrictive land-use regulations in metro areas have driven up prices. Source: The Wall Street Journal

More generations are sharing a roof as a growing number of adult children move back in with their parents and aging parents move in with their grown children. Nearly one in five Americans are now living in a multigenerational household (defined as a home with two or more adult generations or grandparents living with grandchildren). The number of multigenerational households in the U.S. has bloomed to the highest level since 1950. About 60.6 million adults, or 19 percent of the population, were residing with their extended family in 2014, according to data from the Pew Research Center on multifamily households. The number has increased from 57 million in 2012. Economists say the main reasons for the uptick are rising home prices, higher child care expenses, increasing college debt, longer life expectancies, and the growth in diverse communities. Multigenerational living is more prevalent among certain ethnicities and cultures. For example, 28 percent of Asians live in a multigenerational household; that number is 25 percent for both Hispanic and African American families. Whites have the fewest multigenerational households at 15 percent. Builders have been responding to the trend, constructing homes with more square footage and that contain a separate wing for extended family members. Source:®

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