The Real Estate News Brief: Condo Comeback, Wildfire Risk Tool, Low-Tax States


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In this Real Estate News Brief for the week ending May 28th, 2022... you’ll hear about the “condo comeback,” a new wildfire risk assessment tool for your properties, and which states can save you the most money on taxes.

Hi, I'm Kathy Fettke and this is Real Estate News for Investors. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a review.

Economic News

We begin with economic news from this past week and a bit of good news about inflation. The Federal Reserve’s preferred method for tracking inflation shows that price growth could be slowing down. The Personal Consumption Index or PCE rose only .2% in April. That brings the annual rate down from 6.6% in March to 6.3% in April. As reported by MarketWatch, it was the first time we’ve seen a pullback in a year-and-a-half. (1)

The PCE is considered to be more accurate than the Consumer Price Index or CPI because it factors in additional criteria such as consumers substituting expensive products for cheaper ones. The latest CPI shows an annual inflation rate of 8.3%.

The Fed released the minutes of its last meeting which show that most central bank officials are in favor of two more half-percent rate hikes. Some officials believe that inflation has already peaked, but the minutes show that Fed officials feel that two more rate hikes are likely. The bank raised the Federal Funds rate by a half a percent (or 50 basis points) at the last meeting to a range of three-quarters to one percent. Some Wall Street analysts expect the Fed to go as high as 3% by the end of the year. (2)

Meanwhile, unemployment claims went down which is a sign that the labor market is still strong. There were about 8,000 fewer new claims last week, for a total of 210,000. Most companies have positions they are trying to fill, and MarketWatch reports that only a “smattering” of companies have reduced their hiring plans or announced layoffs. The number of continuing claims rose slightly. There are about 1.35 million people collecting unemployment benefits. (3)

New home sales took a bit of a nose dive in April. They were down 16.6% to an annual rate of 591,000. It’s the fourth month in a row that they’ve gone down, thanks to higher home prices and rising mortgage rates. The median price of a home is now the highest on record at $435,000. The average price is even higher, at $570,300 which means there are more homes selling for that higher price point. The slowdown in sales has boosted inventory. It’s now at a 14-year high of 444,000. (4)

Existing home sales are also down for a sixth month in a row. The National Association of Realtors says that pending sales dropped to 3.9% in April, which is the slowest they’ve been in ten years. Compared to a year ago, they were down 9.1%. NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, says higher interest rates have increased the cost of buying a home by more than 25%, and higher home prices have added another 15% on top of that. He’s predicting that home price growth will slow down to about 5% by the end of the year, but that home prices are “in no danger of a meaningful decline” because of the housing shortage. (5)

Mortgage Rates

Mortgage rate pain did ease up a little this last week. Freddie Mac says the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped 15 basis points to 5.1%. The 15-year was down 12 points to 4.31%. Lower rates are the result of the housing market slowdown. (6)

In other news making headlines...

Demand Rising for Condos

Builders are responding to a new demand for condominiums. The National Association of Home Builders reports 11,000 starts for condominium units in the first quarter of this year. That’s the highest level of condo construction since the third quarter of 2008. (7)

Redfin manager, Chance Glover, in Boston told “The condo market has bounced back. People are no longer afraid to live downtown, close to the crowds.” She says: “Rising prices are pushing single-family homes out of reach for a lot of buyers, so condos are affordable in comparison.” (8)

New Risk Factor Tool for Wildfires

The foundation that developed a tool to determine a property’s risk of flooding just introduced one for wildfires. The First Street Foundation said in a press release that more than 30 million properties across the U.S. have at least a 1% chance of wildfire over 30 years because of climate change. (9)

The Foundation’s new tool helps individual homeowners, buyers, and renters understand the wildfire risk for specific properties. Like you can with the flood risk tool, you can put your address into the tool and get details on the risk of a wildfire. That includes a risk factor on a scale of one to ten, the extent of potential damage, and the impact of recent nearby wildfires. (10)

States with the Lowest Taxes

Do you own property in a high tax or a low tax state? There’s a new state ranking from Credit Karma that compares income tax, sales tax, and property tax for all 50 states. When you combine the impact of all three, the five states with the lowest total tax rate are (drum roll):



New Hampshire


South Dakota

Florida is 6th on that list and Texas is 9th. You can check out the full list of states with a breakdown on the individual tax rates by following a link in the show notes at You’ll also find links to the wildfire risk assessment tool as well as the other topics in this episode.

That’s it for today. Please remember to hit the subscribe button, and leave a review!

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Thanks for listening. I'm Kathy Fettke.


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