Real Estate Data for the Rest of Us

articles about “Disasters

Searching for Homes During the Polar Vortex

When winter strikes, home searches rise. For every ten-degree drop in temperature, searches increase by 2.6% nationally, 4.4% for homes in warm regions, and 5.5% for homes in warm vacation areas.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
January 27, 2014

Brrr. It’s cold outside – still. Winter has been rough for much of the United States, with temperatures plummeting far below normal. Here in San Francisco, where Trulia is headquartered, we’re setting record highs, not lows, but we sympathize with the rest of you. In fact, our economics team hails entirely from the lake-effect snow belt of upstate New York, so we know what it’s like to suffer through the cold and snow.

And while our Trulia team members have up and moved to California, leaving the brutal winters of our childhoods behind, it’s apparent that many of you are also dreaming of warmer locales. We analyzed search traffic on Trulia between December 1, 2013, and January 21, 2014, to see how daily temperature fluctuations affected home-search patterns (see note below). It’s clear as a bone-chilling winter morning: when the cold wind blows, home searches increase – especially for homes in warmer parts of the country.

Searching for Warmth When the Mercury Drops
Nationally, home searches increased by 2.6% overall for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit the temperature dropped. Why? In part because cold weather keeps people inside where they do more indoor activities, including searching for real estate online. But cold weather doesn’t simply cause people to do more of everything to an equal degree. When temperatures plummet, searches for homes within the searcher’s own metro rise 2.2%, while searches for homes outside the searcher’s own metro rise 2.9%.

And the colder it gets, the better warm looks. For every 10-degree temperature drop that occurs where a house hunter resides, we see a 4.4% increase in searches for homes in warm regions, which is bigger than the increase in searches overall. While some of this searching might reflect the desire to move to a warmer place and leave winter behind permanently, the increase in searches for homes in sunny vacation spots is even higher: a 5.5% jump for every 10-degree temperature decline. In other words, searches for homes in warm vacation destinations increase more than twice as much as home searches overall. 

National Search Patterns When the Temperature Drops

Searches for homes in:

Increase in searches for each 10-degree drop where the searcher is

U.S. overall

2.6%

Within searcher’s own metro

2.2%

Outside searcher’s own metro

2.9%

Outside searcher’s own metro, warm regions only

4.4%

Outside searcher’s own metro, warm vacation areas only

5.5%

Based on searches by people in the colder regions of the country.

Honey, I’m Freezing. Let’s Move to Miami.
Breaking these search patterns down further, we can see which metro’s homes get the biggest search boost when winter weather strikes. Miami benefits most, with a 7.3% climb in searches for every 10-degree temperature drop in wintry regions, followed by Phoenix and Jacksonville. And among the 10 metros that get the biggest rise in searches when temperatures plunge, only one – Dayton, OH – is outside the South and West.  … continue reading

0 comments

Best Places to Live to Avoid Natural Disasters

In Ohio and upstate New York, you’ll find metros at lower risk for hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires, and earthquakes. And – as a bonus – it’ll cost you much less to live there.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
August 15, 2013

Today, Trulia added three new hazard maps – for wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes – to the two hazard maps we introduced earlier this summer, featuring earthquakes and floods. As part of your home search, you can now check Trulia to find whether the neighborhood of your dreams puts you in the eye, at the epicenter, or in the path of a natural disaster. You’ll see that California is high risk for wildfiresFlorida for hurricanesOklahoma for tornadoes, and more.

FL_Hurricane

LA_Wildfire

OK_Tornado

But where should you live to avoid nature’s wrath? No place is risk-free, of course. But using our new maps, we found 10 large metros that are relatively lower risk for all five types of major natural disaster

Where to Hide from Mother Nature’s Fury
To find the metros that best dodge natural disasters, we used the data that powers our hazard maps and calculated the average risk within each metro area for each of the five types of natural disasters. Most metros were high risk for at least one of the five natural disasters, even though no metro area is high risk for everything. Earthquakes and wildfires tend to go hand-in-hand, with California and other parts of the West highly susceptible for both. Hurricanes and flooding also tend to strike the same places, particularly in Florida and along the Gulf Coast, while tornadoes affect much of the south-central U.S. What parts of the country are left? Not the cities in the coastal Northeast, which – as we all know after Hurricane Sandy – face hurricane and flood risk. Instead, the metros at medium-to-low risk for all five disasters span Ohio (Cleveland, Akron, and Dayton), upstate New York (Syracuse and Buffalo), and other parts of the Northeast and Midwest, away from the coasts.

… continue reading

0 comments

5 Events that Rocked Housing in 2011

Before we welcome in the New Year, Trulia’s Chief Economist looks back at 5 events that really mattered for housing in 2011 – and beyond.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
December 30, 2011

Government, the mortgage industry and forces of nature all shook the housing market in 2011. They had both an immediate impact and slow-burning effects, setting the stage for a bumpy 2012 with more foreclosures, political battles and local market risks.

1) Robo-Signing Reverberations

The “robo-signing” scandal – where banks were accused of approving foreclosures with incomplete or incorrect documentation – exploded in October 2010, but where are we now? Banks want a settlement in order to avoid costly, drawn-out lawsuits. One is shaping up that could reduce loan balances or interest rates for current homeowners, give payments to people who lost their homes and establish new mortgage servicing standards for the future.

Even if you think there’s money coming to you because you lost your home, don’t start spending against your settlement windfall just yet. One estimate from the Wall Street Journal is for a settlement of $25 billion if all states participate. Another report from TIME says that will translate into $1,500-$2,000 for households who were mistreated in the foreclosure process. A couple thousand dollars will give people some breathing room, but it won’t change anyone’s financial lives. And, be patient: it could be months before a deal is reached, an administrator is in place and the details are finalized.

Until that’s all figured out, here’s the immediate drama: who’s in and who’s out? Some states might hold out for a better deal or decide to sue these mortgage servicers directly, as Massachusetts has. California was the first and most vocal state to back out, and New York, Delaware, and Nevada have spoken out, too.

What Really Mattered: The threat of robo-signing lawsuits made banks gun-shy about pursuing foreclosures in 2011, which left many homes stuck in the foreclosure process. But once a settlement is reached, we’ll see a rush of foreclosures in 2012.

 

2) The Debt Ceiling and the Budget Deficit

The federal government is running a deficit — it is spending more than it collects in taxes and other revenue – so it borrows to cover the gap by issuing debt. When there’s a deficit, we add to the pile of debt. To shrink this pile, the government needs to collect more than it spends (or, if you prefer, spend less than it collects) and use the surplus to reduce the debt.

In August, the government played a game of chicken over whether to raise the debt ceiling – which is really just a formality acknowledging that the deficit requires issuing debt to keep the government going. However, the right way to deal with the debt is to reduce the deficit – not by fighting over the debt ceiling.

Long before the debt ceiling debate and Standard & Poor’s federal credit-rating downgrade, we all knew that the federal budget was in bad shape. The debt ceiling debate rattled the markets and consumer confidence temporarily but interest rates stayed low. The important effect was that Congress created a bipartisan supercommittee to tackle the deficit – but it couldn’t reach agreement by its November deadline.

What Really Mattered: The deficit-reduction supercommittee teased us with some policy proposals that will surely rear their heads again. One idea that both Republicans and Democrats didn’t totally disagree about was reducing the mortgage interest and other tax deductions. If and when that happens, high-income homeowners with mortgages would pay a lot more in taxes.

 

3) The Expansion of HARP

In October, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) said seriously underwater homeowners will be able to refinance through the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). Originally, refinancing under HARP required a loan-to-value of less than 125% — that is, you couldn’t be more than 25% underwater – but that rule goes away for fixed-rate mortgages. But there’s a catch! Loans must be guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and – more importantly – borrowers must be current on their payments and must not have missed a payment in the last 6 months.

What Really Mattered: Some seriously underwater borrowers who fell behind on their payments in hopes of negotiating a loan modification are now kicking themselves because those missed payments make them ineligible to refinance. But those who can and do refinance will have lower monthly payments and extra money to spend — which will help stimulate the economy.

 

4) Natural Disasters Cause Insurance Disaster?

In 2011, several tornados, floodings and a hurricane temporarily halted what little construction there was to begin with, but this was just a short-term slowdown. The bigger long-term effect was the near-collapse of the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Still struggling financially under debt amassed after Hurricane Katrina, the NFIP’s insurance premiums don’t fully cover insurance claims when disaster strikes. August’s Hurricane Irene and its flood damage returned this problem to center-stage.

What Really Mattered: In flood-prone areas, you can’t get a mortgage if you don’t have flood insurance. Without NFIP, housing markets in these areas would skid to a stop. Could the program actually expire? It could, but as part of last week’s payroll tax agreement, the program got a last-minute extension until May 2012. No doubt, the political fight over this program’s long-term future will continue in into next year.

 

5) Lowering the Conforming Loan Limit

Starting in October, the government lowered the upper limit for loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) from $729,750 to $625,500. Why? Government agencies now back or insure most loans, but it’s time to make the housing market less dependent on the feds. Lowering loan limits is one step in that direction; however, the real estate industry has urged the government to push the loan limits back up. And you know what? They scored a half-win in November, raising the loan limit back up for FHA loans but not for Fannie and Freddie.

What Really Mattered: Mortgage lenders are willing to charge lower rates for loans that are backed by Fannie or Freddie; with a lower conforming loan limit, a small number of loans that used to qualify for federal backing no longer do. As a result, homes that are now on the wrong side of the conforming loan limit will see fewer potential buyers and lower sales prices. This will matter more in California, New York, and other high-cost areas.

 

0 comments

House Hunting On Hold in East Coast, Thanks Irene!

For New Englanders, the summer home selling season ends when hurricane season begins.

the Trulia Trends team
August 31, 2011

Now that Hurricane Irene has blown over and most of the general hysteria has subsided (but as the Boy Scouts always say – you should always “be prepared,” but let’s be honest, are you feeling just a tiny tinge of buyer’s remorse now that you’re well stocked with canned food and flashlights?), we thought it would be interesting to see what the impact was on house hunting. To do this, we looked at the number of people visiting Trulia.com from the 15 states along Hurricane Irene’s path. When we compared the volume of window shopping that happened last, last weekend with this past weekend, we found some pretty dramatic drops in the hardest hit states.

 

(Hurricane Irene’s path –Visualization Video by NOAA)

… continue reading

0 comments
Gulf Housing One Year After the Oil Spill Visualization Preview

Check out the full infographic

Gulf Housing One Year After the Oil Spill

Was coastal real estate tar-nished or not?

the Trulia Trends team
July 15, 2011

A Tar-nished Housing Market? Gulf Coast Real Estate One Year After The BP Oil Spill
This time last year, the BP oil spill was finally capped after what felt like way too long.  After 86 days the oil stopped flowing, but the damage had been done. The once blue and pristine waters of the Gulf had turned into a murky mess.  It begged the question – what will the long-term damage look like? Would tourism return? Would the fishing industry survive? Would the housing market crumble?

The alarmists were ringing their bells, claiming this catastrophe could set back the Gulf housing market another 7 years.  The media interviewed distraught homeowners who feared the impact of the oil-tainted Gulf Coast waters.

… continue reading

0 comments