Virtual Reality Has Yet to Make a Big Impression

As Google’s developer conference I/O 2017 is about to kick off, rumor has it that the company might show off a new virtual reality headset at the event. The rumored headset reportedly won’t require a PC or a smartphone and is described as featuring “cutting-edge” technology.

So far, virtual reality has not lived up to the hype that surrounded the technology in recent years. Despite several headsets finally hitting the market in 2016, the consumer response to VR devices has been tepid at best.

According to Nielsen’s latest Games 360 report, very few Americans are seriously considering buying a VR headset. The reasons for the lack of interest are summed up by a separate study by Thrive Analytics, which finds that many consumers simply aren’t interested in virtual reality.

This chart illustrates the limited interest in virtual reality in the United States.

Infographic: Virtual Reality Has Yet to Make a Big Impression | Statista You will find more statistics at Statista

Tax Reform Could Deliver a Tax Hike for Homeowners: New Research

Washington, D.C. – May 18, 2017 (PRNewswire) While tax reform proposals swirling around Washington, D.C., promise lower tax bills for American families, new estimates indicate that many middle-income homeowners may actually see a tax increase if those proposals go through.

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The study, “Impact of Tax Reform Options on Owner-Occupied Housing,” illustrates the effects of a tax plan that echoes certain elements of the “Better Way for Tax Reform” or “Blueprint” proposal released last year, as well as the White House tax reform outline released in April, to which the National Association of Realtors® responded.

While most individuals would see a tax decrease under such a proposal, the study estimates that many middle-class homeowners could in fact see a net average tax increase. Homeowners with adjusted gross incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would see their taxes rise by an average of $815. The study also estimates that combined tax savings from claiming the mortgage interest deduction and real estate property tax deductions would drop 82 percent between the 2018 and 2027 period.

“Tax reform and lower rates are worthy goals, but only if we can achieve them in a fiscally responsible way,” said NAR president William E. Brown, a second-generation Realtor® from Alamo, California and founder of Investment Properties. “Balancing tax reform on the backs of homeowners isn’t an option.”

The study, which was commissioned by NAR and prepared by PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), estimates that this tax increase would result from the interaction of several provisions in the reforms under consideration. For many homeowners that currently benefit from the mortgage interest deduction, the elimination of other itemized deductions and personal exemptions would cause their taxes to rise, even if they elected to take the increased standard deduction. For others, the elimination of the state and local tax deduction alone would result in higher federal income taxes.

In addition to increasing taxes on many middle-income homeowners, the report finds that such a proposal could cause home values to fall by an average of more than 10 percent in the near term. In areas with higher property taxes or state income taxes, the drop could be even greater. Although the study doesn’t directly analyze the “Better Way for Tax Reform” plan or the recent White House outline, it examines a proposal with many similar elements.

Those elements include lowering and consolidating marginal tax rates to only three rates, setting a top income tax rate of 33 percent, doubling the standard deduction, eliminating all itemized deductions (other than charitable contributions and mortgage interest) and personal exemptions, eliminating the alternative minimum tax, and capping the tax rate on pass-through business income at 25 percent.

PwC estimated that roughly 35 million households will claim the mortgage interest deduction in 2018, three quarters of which have incomes between $50,000 and $200,000. According to NAR, roughly 70 percent of those eligible for the MID claim it in a given tax year.

“A tax reform proposal that hikes taxes for homeowners is a raw deal, and consumers know it,” said Brown. “Leaders in Washington who are driving tax reform have shown every indication that they have the best of intentions, and we’re hopeful they’ll consider our study as this process plays out in the months ahead.”

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing over 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org. This and other news releases are posted in the “News, Blogs and Video” tab on the website.

NAR Midyear Forecast: Existing-Home Sales Poised to Climb 3.5 Percent in 2017

Washington, D.C. – May 18, 2017 (nar.realtor) The multi-year stretch of robust job gains along with improving household confidence are expected to guide existing-home sales to a decade high in 2017, but supply and affordability headwinds and modest economic growth are holding back sales and threatening to keep the nation’s low homeownership rate subdued. That’s according to speakers at a residential real estate forum here at the 2017 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.

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Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors®, presented his 2017 midyear forecast and was joined onstage by Jonathan Spader, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, and Mark Calabria, chief economist and assistant to Vice President Mike Pence. Spader’s presentation addressed past and projected movements in the homeownership rate, and Calabria dove into why reversing weak productivity and the low labor force participation rate are necessary to boost the economy.

The first quarter was the best quarterly existing sales pace in exactly a decade (5.62 million), and Yun expects activity to stay on track and finish around 5.64 million – the best since 2006 (6.47 million) and 3.5 percent above 2016. With several metro areas seeing hefty price growth, the national median existing-home price is expected to rise around 5 percent this year.

“The housing market has exceeded expectations ever since the election, despite depressed inventory and higher mortgage rates,” said Yun. “The combination of the stock market being at record highs, 16 million new jobs created since 2010, pent-up household formation and rising consumer confidence are giving more households the assurance and ability to purchase a home.”

Although sales are currently running at a decade high, Yun believes the healthy labor market should be generating even more activity. However, listings in the lower- and mid-market price range are scant and selling fast, and homebuyers are discovering they can afford less of what’s on the market based on their income.

“We have been under the 50-year average of single-family housing starts for 10 years now,” said Yun. “Limited lots, labor shortages, tight construction lending and higher lumber costs are impeding the building industry’s ability to produce more single-family homes. There’s little doubt first-time buyer participation would improve and the homeownership rate would rise if there was simply more inventory.”

Housing construction has been uneven so far this year, but Yun does anticipate starts to jump 8.4 percent to 1.27 million. However, this is still under the 1.5 million new homes needed to make up for the insufficient building in recent years. New single-family home sales are likely to total 620,000 this year, up 8.4 percent from 2016.

Addressing the nation’s low homeownership rate, Spader said substantial uncertainty exists about its future direction. He cited foreclosure-related housing exits from older adults and delayed buying from younger households as the primary causes in the downward trend since the downturn. He said the good news is that while there was growth in homeowner households in 2016, an aging population, changes in family type and increasing diversity by race and ethnicity all pose as headwinds going forward. Spader’s 2025 projection puts the homeownership rate in a range of 61.0 – to – 65.1 percent.

“Stagnant household incomes, rising rental costs, student loan debt and limited supply have all contributed to slower purchasing activity,” said Spader. “When the homeownership rate stabilizes, there will be an increase in homeowner households. Young and minority households’ ability to reach the market will play a big role in how much the actual rate can rise in coming years.”

Calabria’s presentation focused on his thoughts of what can be done to jump-start economic growth. He attributed prolonged weak productivity and the low labor participation rate as the primary reasons why the current economic expansion is the slowest since World War II.

“A strong labor market will drive a strong housing market, but you can’t have a strong housing market without a strong economic foundation,” said Calabria. “The recovery has been uneven with roughly 70 counties making up roughly half of all job growth. The White House’s proposed plans to cut corporate and individual tax cuts will help large and small businesses grow, hire and ultimately contribute to more households buying homes as more money goes into their pockets.”

Although Yun said economic growth in the first quarter was “a huge disappointment” at 0.7 percent (first estimate), he anticipates that an increase in consumer spending and more homebuilding should provide enough fuel for gross domestic product to finish slightly higher, at 2.2 percent, than a year ago (1.6 percent).

Yun believes the rising interest rate environment is here to stay as the Federal Reserve slowly begins unwinding its balance sheet. He foresees two more short-term rate hikes by the end of this year and for mortgage rates to average around 4.30 percent before gradually climbing towards 5.0 percent by the end of 2018.

“There was a lot of uncertainty at the start of the year, but a very strong first quarter sets the stage for a modest sales increase compared to last year,” said Yun. “However, prices are still rising too fast in many areas and are outpacing incomes. That is why housing starts need to rise to alleviate supply shortages. There will be more sales if there’s a meaningful bump in new and existing inventory.”

Members of the media are invited to attend the upcoming Sustainable Homeownership Conference on June 9 at University of California’s Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. In celebration of Homeownership Month, the conference brings together experts to examine housing trends and real estate’s positive impacts. 2017 NAR President Bill Brown, NAR Chief Economist Dr. Lawrence Yun and Berkeley Hass Real Estate Group Chair Ken Rosen are among the prominent experts scheduled to speak. To register, visit www.nar.realtor.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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NOTE: Existing-Home Sales for April will be released May 24, and the Pending Home Sales Index for April will be released May 31; release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.

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