Over the time that Citrus County Habitat for Humanity has been in existence here in our county it has assisted more than 200 families. It has done so by providing decent and affordable housing to people who have a need, ability to pay and a willingness to partner with Habitat.
Recently, the newest project in Citrus Springs witnessed the “Blessing of Walls” of two new Habitat homes currently under construction. What a day of celebration it was for the new homeowners, as well as all the partners who work with Habitat to make these dreams of home ownership become a reality.
These are the first two homes of a 100-home development that is taking shape in Citrus Springs. This development has been in the making for over three years. Many people and organizations have given of their time, money and effort to make it a reality.
By the generosity of the community and the sale of surplus land owned by Habitat, it purchased the Citrus Springs property. During this year’s Legislative Session, the Florida State Legislature allocated and the governor approved $2.5 million, which has been used to underwrite the costs of infrastructure: roads, sewer, water, and storm drainage. This entire project carries no debt. Kudos to Habitat for this accomplishment.
This is a special time for the proud owners of the new homes. They have been working diligently to follow the guidelines and requirements, which make them eligible for the program. Even before being approved to be a Habitat Partner, people must go through initial informational sessions that explain all of the effort and involvement that will be required.
Some do not even make it through the introductory session when it is explained all of the hard work will be required to own a home through this program. The work includes working at the construction site of their home, the Habitat ReStore and other duties. One can only imagine the excitement when the new owners move into the home that they have worked long hours to construct. How much joy they realize when all of their sweat equity results in a place – their own place – that they own.
With the dramatic increase in the price of housing and the ever-rising mortgage interest rates in the country and in our county, it is truly a blessing to know that Habitat is providing our work force citizens with an opportunity to be homeowners.
We are proud of the Habitat leadership for its hard work and planning in providing this opportunity to people who might not necessarily be able to be homeowners without this program. Much appreciation should be extended to the community members who have supported this program through the years, both financially and in so many other ways. And, of course, the Florida Legislature is to be commended and thanked for the money they have provided which has underwritten the project’s infrastructure.
What a victory and a blessing for the new home owners. Celebrations are in order. And what a victory for our community to see affordable housing available for people who are diligent and willing to work hard to provide a home for themselves and their families.
Local homebuyers are browsing properties online, gravitating toward south Lafayette Parish and surrounding parishes, and purchasing homes with modern amenities.
Those trends have emerged in the first part of 2022 according to Latter & Blum Acadiana. And, despite the recent interest rate increase, buyers will still have financing options if the perfect home comes on the market.
We spoke to Lori McCarthy, managing broker with Latter & Blum Acadiana, about the local residential real estate market this year and what people can expect for the rest of 2022.
What have been some of the larger real estate trends in Acadiana so far in 2022?
One of the biggest trends is the increased use of digital media to shop for homes. Whereby 10 years ago, buyers would view 20-plus houses before making a decision, buyers are making offers on houses now without ever stepping foot in them. As Realtors, it’s important to effectively use our photos and videos to properly depict a home’s features, since most buyers are beginning their search on computers and smartphones.
We’re also seeing buyers moving to more rural areas of our market, possibly because prices are more affordable outside of Lafayette Parish. The average price for homes sold in the first half of 2022 in Lafayette Parish was $297,000, while they averaged $270,000 in the entire Acadiana area.
As far as design trends, we still see neutral painting and cabinets, but we are starting to see some color in accent walls and the return of wallpaper to break up the monotony of a single paint color. Wood-looking vinyl plank flooring is very popular and can be seen in new homes in all price ranges.
The “sweet spot” for sales has been $150,000 to $299,999. What kind of home can someone expect to buy at that price point in Acadiana?
According to Latter & Blum’s most recent Market Report, since January 1, 2022, 55% of all Acadiana home sales have been in this range. The homes vary greatly based on location, age and condition of the home. For instance, in Iberia Parish, a few newly constructed homes were priced between $197,500 and $262,000. These had 1,400 to 1,625 feet of living area, granite or quartz countertops, stainless appliances, vinyl plank flooring and open floor plans.
Lafayette Parish offers a wider range of homes in this price range, usually with three or four bedrooms. The lowest priced new home sold for $169,999 in The Cove subdivision and had granite counters, vinyl plank flooring, a post-tension slab and fully sodded yard. On the upper end of the range were homes in Fairhaven and Acadian Meadows that sold for closer to $299,000 and featured upgrades such as custom-tiled showers with frameless doors, under-mount sinks, LED lighting, tankless water heaters and smart connect thermostats. Most of these homes had four bedrooms, two baths and 1,800 to 2,400 feet of living area.
What areas in Lafayette Parish have been most popular among homebuyers? What about the surrounding parishes?
Within Lafayette Parish, the area with the most sales in the first half of 2022 is between Verot School Road/Highway 90 and Highway 92, with 356 sales. The average sale price here was $319,859. This area, combined with much of south Lafayette from Johnston Street/Ambassador Caffery, plus Broussard and Youngsville, had almost 800 of the 1,800 sales since January.
Outside of Lafayette Parish, we are seeing growth in the more rural parts of Iberia, St. Landry and St. Martin parishes.
What impact do you think the recent interest rate hike will have on the local real estate market? What should buyers and sellers do in light of this change?
If people are ready to buy, they shouldn’t let interest rates stop them, since we believe they will only increase as the year goes on.
Buyers have many options. They can look into Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs), especially if they only plan to stay in their home for five to seven years. They can also buy down the interest rate or negotiate for the seller to help with this in lieu of negotiations on price.
Potential buyers should also make sure their credit score is in the highest range possible to benefit from the best available rates and work with local mortgage companies who know and understand the Acadiana real estate market.
Sellers should remember that while we haven’t seen rates like these in several years, people are still buying homes. They understand that once rates stabilize or come down in the future, they can refinance their home, using their equity in it for the best rates.
Latter & Blum has local offices at 2000 Kaliste Saloom Road in Lafayette, 209 West Main Street in New Iberia and 220 Prescott Boulevard in Youngsville. For more information or to speak with an agent, visit www.latter-blum.com.
Keokuk City Hall has been at 501 Main St. for almost a year now, but the city still owns the property at 415 Blondeau, where the old city hall was located before it was heavily damaged by fire and then demolished.
At the regular city council meeting last week, City Administrator Cole O’Donnell told the council there was some interest from a resident in buying the property. That person, however, did not want to pay the recently appraised value of the property, which came in at $25,000.
The property consists of almost two lots, with a paved parking lot on some of the property.
O’Donnell said in order to dispose of the property for less than the appraised value, the city will need to open the lot up for bids. Written and sealed bids will need to be submitted before 2 p.m. on Friday, July 1 at Keokuk City Hall. The bids will be opened starting at 2:01 p.m. that same day.
The council will then hold a public hearing on the proposed property sale at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 7, the next regular council meeting. If the high bid is accepted, the council will enter a final resolution authorizing the sale.
Special use permit change
The city took another step forward in changing the special use permit ordinance to add homeless shelters into the ordinance. The council also will hold a public hearing on that, with possible passage of the first reading at the next council meeting on Thursday, July 7.
The Keokuk Homeless Support Alliance with help from Tribulation and Trust Ministries made the request for the change as those entities are seeking to open a homeless shelter in town. It was found the city code did not have that as a special use, so the process was started to add that to the ordinance.
Syncing Main Street traffic signals
Was it 17 mph or 22 mph that a person had to drive to hit all the green lights on Main Street. Different people gave different answers, but in the last few years, that decades-old advice has gone out the window as the lights have been out of sync with some intersections being upgraded.
The old controllers manufactured decades ago were no longer going to have parts available to keep fixing them.
But when several intersections were upgraded, the city could not get the lights all on the same pattern. There was a discussion about taking out several more traffic signals downtown, instead of spending the estimated $70,000 to upgrade the controllers at Eighth, Ninth and 10th streets.
In the end, however, the city council decided it wanted those traffic signals to remain. Public Works Director Robert Helenthal told the council, once they are all upgraded, they should be able to get synced up like they used to be.
Last Thursday, he requested permission to go ahead and order the controller upgrades. The bill won’t come through until after the start of the fiscal year, due to the lead time for the order. He said costs continue to go up, so he wanted to get them ordered to lock in the price.
The estimated cost is now $70,539, which is $539 more than was budgeted for the project.
The council approved the purchase.
WESTERLY — The Town Council voted 4-2 on Tuesday to authorize the sale of the Bradford School property to Trendsetter Properties LLC, a Watch Hill-based development firm, for $750,000.
The company plans to develop the 7-acre property with apartments or condominiums, according to Jeffrey Pucci, a company principal. The council’s vote to sell the property is contingent on town officials first resolving a potential obstacle to specific uses of the property.
According to town officials, the town accepted $50,000 from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund several years ago to develop outdoor recreation facilities on a portion of the school property. The question to be resolved is whether a condition of the grant of using the property for recreation runs in perpetuity regardless of whether the property is sold or whether a new owner can develop the property for other uses.
Town Council President Sharon Ahern, during an interview on Wednesday, said she was confident the town would be able to follow through on the sale to Trendsetter Properties LLC. The town’s land records do not include documents outlining a requirement for the recreation use.
“If it is not recorded in the land records it is very difficult to prove the use runs with the land,” Ahern said.
Pucci, during an interview with The Sun, said it was premature to discuss details of what is company will do with the property.
“Most likely it will be residential housing in the form of apartments or condominiums,” Pucci said.
Trendsetter Properties LLC is also working on plans to develop the former St. Pius X School into housing and a related company is developing the Brown Building on High Street with 13 apartments on the second floor and a new street-level restaurant and retail space. Pucci and a business partner also developed apartments above Mel’s Downtown Creamery, at 37 West Broad St., Pawcatuck.
Pucci said he is aware that some residents of Bradford have pushed for the town to retain ownership of the Bradford School property, but he said the school building is in a state of disrepair due to a failing roof.
“It would only be the Westerly taxpayers who would have to pay to make those repairs or pay for it to just sit there. I hope the idea of a developer coming in will make people happy,” Pucci said.
Ahern said developing the Bradford property for residential use will inject new energy into the community.
“To my mind some form of housing, preferably for seniors or affordable housing, is an excellent use of the property. I think it is definitely needed and would bring life to that area,” Ahern said.
Town Councilor Brian McCuin said selling the property is the correct choice.
“Now it’s a revenue-generating asset. Before it was costing the town money, so it was time to get rid of it,” McCuin said.
Trendsetter Properties LLC, McCuin said, is a trustworthy buyer.
“I think they’re legit. They’ve done this kind of project before — redeveloping an area and bringing it back into a usable condition,” McCuin said.
Ahern, McCuin, and Councilors Caswell Cooke Jr. and Karen Cioffi voted in favor of the sale. Councilors Philip Overton and Suzanne Giorno voted against the sale. Councilor Christopher Duhamel recused from the vote. The council initially voted in a private executive session and then announced its vote after briefly resuming the public portion of its meeting.
Councilor Philip Overton, who voted against the sale, said he was not dead-set against selling the property to Trendsetter Properties LLC but was hoping the council could find a potential buyer with different plans.
“I wanted to hold out for a medical center of some sort,” Overton said.
More specifically, Overton said, he would have preferred selling the property to a developer for doctors’ offices or other medical services.
William Aiello, a Bradford resident and former member of the Town Council, said he was caught off-guard by the council’s actions. For years Aiello has advocated tirelessly for for the property to be returned to use as a school or as a potential community center.
“I was totally blindsided by the town council’s actions at their meeting Tuesday night, especially after speaking during citizens comments and explaining the progress of our Bradford Community Group,” Aiello said.
The community group has been brainstorming ways to improve the village and looking for ideas on how to use the Bradford School property.
“Councilors Giorno and Overton are undoubtedly the only two sensible councilors regarding this matter. They actually demonstrated care and concern about the neighborhood and want the community to play a major role in deciding what and how the property is used,” Aiello said in comments to The Sun.
The Bradford School was taken offline as a school following the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year. It eventually was used as office and program space for the Recreation Department and other organizations, including youth sports and cheerleading. In March, the council voted to ask Town Manager Shawn Lacey to begin marketing the property for sale. Members of the Planning Board recommended the council not sell the building and said it was needed by the town.
The property has an assessed value of $3.6 million. Lacey recently said that the $750,000 asking price reflected market value and that the $3.6 million figure was the potential cost the town would face if the school building had to be replaced for use as a school.
Times are tough for first-home buyers. Photo / Brett Phibbs
A combination of record house prices and the limited further potential for growth makes this year the worst for first-home buyers since 1957, new research by economics consultancy Infometrics has found.
A new report Housing update: A new lens on affordability, Infometrics compares the total payments made by homeowners over the lifetime of their mortgage against the value of the property when the loan has been repaid.
“The resulting net financial gain reveals which years were best and worst to be a first-home buyer since the late 1940s,” said Infometrics Chief Forecaster, and report author, Gareth Kiernan.
“This approach takes better account of total housing affordability than simple comparisons of incomes to house prices or incomes to servicing costs in the first year of borrowing.”
There were two key factors that contribute to 2022 being a bad time to buy a house, he said.
The first related to the average proportion of a household’s income needed to service the loan throughout the mortgage.
“People taking on mortgages now are committing to having an average of 33 per cent of their income tied up in mortgage repayments for the next 25 years or longer,” Kiernan said.
This figure is considerably higher than the 21 per cent that prevailed through the 2000s and 2010s.
At 49 per cent of income, initial debt servicing costs are similar to in 1987, but without the likelihood of the very strong income growth that quickly reduced the debt burden during the 1980s.”
The second factor related to the expected increase in the value of the property over the life of the loan.
“The scope for house prices to rise rapidly from here, and provide today’s purchasers with
significant capital gains, appears heavily limited, ” Kiernan said.
“First-home buyers purchasing after a sustained period of strong house price growth risk buying at the peak of the market and enjoying less capital appreciation than buyers after a period of flat or falling house prices.”
Judging when the market is at its peak did require considerable foresight, he acknowledged.
“But the reversal in house prices in the first half of 2022 suggests the boom that has persisted since the Global Financial Crisis has finally run out of momentum.”
The research solved the long-running debate between baby boomers and millennials about who had it tougher when trying to purchase their first home, Kiernan said.
“Our analysis shows that even with mortgage rates below 5 per cent, the average home’s million-dollar price means that today’s first-home buyers face much less favourable financial outcomes than a buyer in 1987 did with interest rates of 20 per cent.”
Young people are effectively signing themselves up for a lifetime of debt if they want to get into the housing market, with much less money left over for discretionary spending than previous generations enjoyed.”
The results highlight several “good” and “bad” years throughout the last seven decades as the housing market’s strength has varied.
“Some of the best years to have been a first-home buyer were 1949 and 1996 – when interest rates stayed relatively low throughout the life of the mortgage and there were substantial house price rises as well,” Kiernan said.
In contrast, the worst years were 1955 and 1975, with the following 25 years including periods of substantial house price weakness.
Realistic house price projections for the next 25 years meant that buying in 2022 is almost as bad, financially, as 1955, he said.
For many young people, the only realistic path to home ownership was now with assistance from the “bank of mum and dad”.
This was likely to reinforce the divide between families that are homeowners and families that are not, and it strikes at the heart of New Zealand’s egalitarian foundations.
“People enjoy a range of benefits from owning their own home compared to renting,” Kiernan said.
“Our analysis highlights the generational issues being caused by New Zealand’s housing affordability crisis. There is a social responsibility for greater political action to ensure that homeownership does not continue to slip out of reach for more and more Kiwis.”
Owen Vaughan, editor of NZME-owned property listing site OneRoof, said: “What should be a dream time for first-home buyers – more stock on the market, prices declining and vendors now willing to accept conditional offers – has been hampered by a triple whammy of events outside of their control: rising interest rates, a squeeze on credit as a result of LVRs and the CCCFA, and a post-Covid property boom that added another 40 per cent to the price of real estate in New Zealand.”
“Those that have credit and the salary to service what can be a large mortgage will be in a good position, but that pool of buyers will likely shrink over the coming months,” he said.
“For first home buyers, unfortunately, now’s the perfect time for cashed-up buyers – investors.”
WEATHERFORD — A crowd of both the two-legged and four-legged varieties gathered Friday afternoon to celebrate the grand opening of the new Rees-Jones Medical and Surgery Center.
The ceremony, including a ribbon-cutting by both the Weatherford and East Parker County chambers of commerce, marked the culmination of years of donations and partnerships between the community, the Weatherford Parker County Animal Center and Weatherford College.
“We’re really proud of this facility and what we’re really proud of, too, is the partnership between us and Weatherford College, because that is what makes this so unique,” Municipal/Community Services Director Dustin Deel said, a reference to the college’s new Veterinary Technician Program. “It’s in full swing now. Students are coming in and earning a new associate’s degree program while working on our animals.
“They’re helping both the animals and our staff. We’re raising the bar for what animal care is and we’re being looked at nationally — from little ol’ Weatherford, Texas.”
WC’s vet tech program began in 2020, earning accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities, led by Program Director Dr. Kathryn Garofalo. The city celebrated the very first graduating class last month.
“We had a dream of having a true veterinary technology program that could graduate students who could become licensed veterinary technicians,” Garofalo said. “The biggest difficulty was allowing for the hands-on experience that is dictated by the AVMA. We really had no way to do that. We could give them all the lecture material in the world, but that is just not the same as working with live animals.”
The city’s process of building a new medical and surgical center actually began in 2014, with a Giving Second Chances capital campaign launched in 2016 to fund the project.
The new center, at 3,300-square feet, offers two surgery rooms with a capacity of four surgical tables; a medical prep area; expanded animal holding spaces with seperate rooms for cats and dogs; a radiology area; laundry rooms; a pharmacy; and office and storage space.
Weatherford College provided the X-ray equipment, a dental and cleaning station and sonography.
“Our students train on that machinery, but it also allows the staff to immediately treat those animals,” Garofalo said. “It’s a win-win.”
Those gathered Friday, along with shelter staff and volunteers trotting out adoptable dogs, were provided a tour of the new facility following a ribbon-cutting.
Along each wall is a black and white photograph of former shelter dogs who have moved on to new homes, including Norman, a shelter favorite and ambassador who was adopted by his Kennel Tech Nate Golden, in April.
“I’m calling it the ‘Peanut Butter Tastes So Good Collection’ and you’ll see why,” Deel said.
The city director also recognized some of those who have contributed to the journey, including Drew Springer and the Roger Williams family.
Deel also announced Dr. Stacy McLeod, DVM, as the facility’s first full-time staff veterinarian. McLeod has been in the animal practice for almost 20 years, most recently as leader of the small animal clinic at the North Texas Animal Hospital in Weatherford.
Data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Builder Application Survey for May indicates a 5% year-over-year decrease in mortgage applications for new-home purchases. Month over month, applications fell by 4%, which does not include any adjustment for normal seasonal patterns.
“Applications to purchase new homes in May fell by 4% from April, as mortgage rates hit 5.5% and further dampened demand. Activity was already constrained due to tight for-sale inventory, high sales prices, and extended building completion timelines,” says Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting.
“After increasing for 15 consecutive months, the average loan size fell slightly from April’s survey high to $430,855, which is a potential indication that cooling demand may be starting to moderate price growth. MBA’s estimate of new-home sales increased for the first time in five months, showing a 4% gain to a 727,000-unit sales pace.”
Based on data from the survey, MBA estimates new single-family home sales were running at an adjusted seasonal annual rate of 727,000 units for May. That estimate is made by using mortgage application information from the survey and assumptions of market coverage along with other factors.
For May, the seasonally adjusted estimate shows an increase of 3.7% from April’s 701,000 units. From an unadjusted basis, MBA estimates 61,000 new-home sales in May, a drop from 65,000 new-home sales in April, or 6.2%.
For new homes, the average loan size decreased from $436,576 in April to $430,855 in May. Conventional loans comprised 75.8% of loan applications, with FHA loans at 13.6%; RHS/USDA loans at 0.2%; and VA loans at 10.4%.
The survey tracks application volume through mortgage subsidiaries of home builders across the country. By using this data among other sources, MBA is able to provide an early estimate of new-home sale volumes for national, state, and metro levels. Official new-home sales estimates are conducted monthly by the Census Bureau.
SUNBURY — City Council members approved the first reading of the much-debated commercial property ordinance in Sunbury after giving the public a chance to raise concerns Monday night.
Mayor Josh Brosious led the public meeting for commercial property owners to discuss any concerns before City Council members met to vote on the first reading, which will now require commercial property owners to be inspected by an outside agency every three years.
“The inspections required under this ordinance will be carried out utilizing the IMPC 2015, (International Property Maintenance Code), by the city’s designated licensed inspector, by North East Inspection Consultants,” Solicitor Joel Wiest said.
Wiest said the ordinance does not require current code compliance and standards. It is intended to provide a standard for the maintenance of equipment, systems, devices and safeguards required by this code or a previous regulation or code under which the structure or premises was constructed, altered or repaired shall be maintained in good working order.
“This ordinance will require that the safety systems already in place in a commercial building be in working order, and that minimum structural safety standards are met,” said Wiest.
The cost for each inspection will be $200, and inspections will be required on a three-year basis, according to the ordinance.
The inspections will not become mandatory until Jan. 1, 2023, so that business owners have time to prepare for the fee, according to council members.
Brosious said the ordinance is for the good of the city and the safety of people who are entering the structures.
Council also thanked the Degenstein Foundation for matching a grant the city applied for. The city applied for a grant for the S.W.E.E.P project, and received $125,000. The Degenstein Foundation matched the grant.
“We are very thankful to them and continue to help and support the city of Sunbury,” Brosious said.
Brosious said the project will be beneficial to the city and surrounding areas.