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House Hunting in El Salvador: A Compound on the Coast for $249,000

This low-slung villa compound is tucked into a lushly landscaped tropical garden, steps from a private beach and beach club on the Pacific Coast of El Salvador.

The property, on a third of an acre in the Bahia Dorada beach community, has two residences — one with two bedrooms and one bathroom, and the other with the main bedroom suite.

The home, being sold furnished, is arranged in a traditional Salvadoran ranch layout, with the living areas split between indoor and outdoor spaces, said the seller, Anna Rooney. Whimsical touches include brightly colored walls and handcrafted textiles. The dining room, living room and kitchen are outdoors, while the bedrooms and several sitting areas are indoors. The property also has quarters for a housekeeper.

Mauricio Ramirez, an agent with San Salvador-based RE/MAX Central, noting that the market “started to see the nice jumps” in demand during the spring. He said his agency is now seeing more foreign buyers than before the pandemic. Some are Salvadoran immigrants returning home, while others have no ties to El Salvador and are looking to retire there.

Encuentra 24, the median price in San Salvador reached $113 a square foot in June — a 28 percent increase from March 2020, when the median hit a low of $88 a square foot. Encuentra 24 currently shows about 9,000 listings available in San Salvador, the country’s largest market.

Mr. Ramirez said prices in El Salvador are lower than in neighboring Guatemala and higher than in Honduras. For the same price, a home in Honduras might be “bigger, better,” while a comparable home in Guatemala might cost around 25 percent more, he estimated.

Beyond the familiar pandemic-driven reasons for an increase in demand — namely buyers looking to relocate and find more space — Mr. Varquero said several government initiatives have helped El Salvador’s beachfront real estate market. One has been a push to solidify the country’s reputation as a global surfing hub by landing the International Surfing Association’s 2021 World Surfing Games, among other surfing competitions. Another has been investment in infrastructure, security, water and access to electricity.

deep skepticism about the populist motivations of the country’s new president, Nayib Bukele, who has accused media outlets of conspiring against him and used the military to pressure legislators, prompting U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris to express her “deep concerns about El Salvador’s democracy.”

tracks El Salvador’s economy and housing market. That, paired with the economy’s anticipated growth and infrastructure improvements, makes it a good place to invest, he said.

“My point of view is there is a great opportunity right now to buy houses in El Salvador, especially because the prices are down because of the pandemic and also because right now in the political sense they are stable. I think it’s a good opportunity for investors, especially because El Salvador is a small country, but it is a country with great opportunities.”

Mr. Ramirez said that in the past six months, 60 percent of his agency’s buyers were domestic, down from about 75 percent before the pandemic.

Mr. Varquero said buyers of beach properties in El Salvador over the past two years have been evenly split between local and international. About a third of the foreigners came from the United States, with the rest coming from Germany, France and Holland, among other countries.


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Herbicides: What to Know Before You Use Them

It sounds like the setup for a joke, but it isn’t.

More than 2,200 miles apart, two women walk into their local garden-supply stores. They find themselves similarly unsettled to find gallon bottles of “30 percent vinegar” displayed on the shelf among the herbicides.

Acetic acid, the active component in vinegar, can, in fact, help to subdue some weeds. Products from certain manufacturers — much stronger than the typical household vinegar concentration of about 5 percent acetic acid — are labeled for herbicide use.

The punchline, though: The ones these women saw, displayed prominently among the weed killers, weren’t labeled herbicides. Nor did the packaging include any instructions for using them safely and effectively in that capacity.

It was that omission, in particular, that made both women nervous. But only one of them knew the reason behind it.

Dr. Mangold’s work focuses primarily on larger landscapes and helping ranchers and public landholders like the U.S. Forest Service devise strategies for tackling invasive species.

“For those dealing with a very abundant invasive plant scattered over a large area, hand-pulling is impractical,” she said. “You have to weigh the risks of using an herbicide versus doing nothing — impacts such as lower biodiversity and other ecosystem effects.”

Herbicides, she said, may be the most effective method in those situations. But some unwanted plants, like an occasional dandelion in a lawn, are just unsightly, and don’t warrant spraying.

We need to differentiate between what Dr. Mangold calls “noxious weeds” and mere nuisance weeds — the ones it would be safest, and most economical, to pull, dig up or hoe. Or, when seeking a fresh slate in a whole garden bed, maybe solarize them under plastic sheeting, letting the sun do the work.

With Noelle Orloff, the weed and invasive-plant identification diagnostician at the university’s Schutter Diagnostic Lab, Dr. Mangold also trains Montanans on proper herbicide use. The two field a lot of backyard-weed questions from homeowners. Their takeaway: Many people use pesticides without much how-to knowledge.

“‘I’m trying to get rid of — fill in the blank,’ they tell us,” Ms. Orloff said. “And then they list all the things they have done so far to the weed, like spraying bleach on it.” (Bleach, should you be wondering, is not a substance that either expert would have recommended, had she been asked.)

integrated pest management, or IPM — “using a variety of tools and methods to control an undesirable organism,” Dr. Mangold said. “Which, in our case, means plants that are weeds.”

The IPM decision-making process that precedes any action aims to determine the least toxic solution possible to achieve tolerable levels of pest pressure, whether from weeds, insects or animals.

And if an herbicide proves to be part of a weed solution, “it’s all about maximizing the benefit while minimizing the risk,” Ms. Orloff said. “Because using any herbicide, organic or synthetic, has some level of risk.”

She and Dr. Mangold suggested that anyone tackling weeds get into the IPM mind-set by asking themselves several questions.

Do you know what the undesirable plant is? Without proper identification, it’s impossible to know the plant’s life cycle, including whether it is annual or perennial, which will inform any control strategy.

Do you have a weed that is susceptible to the treatment under consideration, and is it at the right life stage for effective treatment? Horticultural vinegar, for example, is recommended for use on young annuals that have four or fewer true leaves, not on established ones or on perennials that may suffer foliage damage but are likely to resprout from their roots.

With poison ivy or a deep-rooted perennial invasive like field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), Ms. Orloff said, “you might have to spray horticultural vinegar every two weeks for five years — not a feasible plan.”

National Pesticide Information Center website, a collaboration with the E.P.A.

Signal words, required by the E.P.A. on registered pesticides, describe the product’s acute toxicity, its short-term hazard if absorbed through the skin, ingested, inhaled or contacting the eyes.

Next, read the precautionary label statements, and also what to wear when using the product. To prevent injury with the 20 and 30 percent horticultural vinegars, which have a danger rating, the best practice in personal protective equipment calls for fully covering skin with long sleeves and pants, as well as socks and shoes. Wear goggles or a face shield to protect eyes; a face mask, like an N95; and waterproof gloves. After spraying, rinse the outside of gloves before removing them, then carefully remove other gear and launder it.

This, especially, is the part that makes the Montana weed scientists and me uneasy, imagining gardeners in shorts and T-shirts, with maybe sunglasses on at best, having at the pigweed seedlings between the pavers.

“There are lots of different ways to manage weeds. Whatever you do, do it fully informed,” Dr. Mangold said. “If you don’t know, first ask for help.”

The nationwide cooperative extension system is there to answer questions, she reminds us, if only we ask — rather than go all “ready, shoot, aim” before we do.

A Way to Garden, and a book of the same name.

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Foreign Buyer Purchases Fall to Lowest Level With Lingering Impacts into 2022

Not surprisingly, amid the coronavirus pandemic that led to a decline in global economic output and a collapse in international travel, foreign buyer purchases of U.S. existing homes fell to the lowest level in a decade.1 During April 2020–March 2021, the dollar volume of U.S. existing homes purchased by foreign buyers fell 27% to $54.4 billion and the number of existing homes purchased fell 31% to 107,000 units compared to the levels in the prior 12-month period.

The dollar volume of foreign buyer purchases whittled down to 2.8% of the $5.8 trillion of existing-home sales during this period, from a peak of 10% in 2017. In terms of number of homes sold, foreign buyer purchases accounted for just 1.8% of existing-home sales, from a peak of 5.2% in 2017.

To date, foreign buyer purchases in the United States have been declining since 2017 as foreign buyers faced headwinds such as the tighter monitoring of dollar outflows by China since 2017; a decline in global trade, investment, and world output due to the US-China trade war during 2018–2019; a decline in the number of immigrant and non-immigrant visa issuances (tourist, business, student, and work visas) since 2016; and the economic slowdown in the United Kingdom in the wake of the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union (“Brexit”).

Meanwhile, in the United States, homebuyers—both domestic and foreign—faced the severest housing shortage in years, with the inventory of existing homes for sale plummeting to a low of 1.9 months during December 2020―January 2021 (2.6 as of June 2021) and home prices rising by 23.4% as of June.

Bar chart: Dollar Volume of Existing-Home Purchases by Foreign Buyers in Billion Dollars, 2011 to 2021
Line graph: Foreign Buyer Purchases as a Percent of Existing-Home Sales, 2011 to 2021

Origin of International Buyers: China Falls to #3 in Number of Homes Purchased

Measured by the number of homes purchased, China—which had been the top country of origin of foreign buyers since 2015—fell to third place with a 6% share. Canada emerged as the top country of origin among foreign buyers during April 2020–March 2021, accounting for 8% of foreign buyer purchases. Mexico came in second, with a 7% share. India and the United Kingdom tied at fourth place, each with a 4% share.

However, in terms of the dollar volume of purchases, China remained as the top foreign buyer, with purchases totaling $4.5 billion. However, this is just about a sixth of the $31.7 billion dollars in purchases in 2017. The dollar volume of Chinese foreign buyer purchases fell by about half during April 2018–March 2019, when the United States and China’s relations soured in a tit-for-tat trade war that the led to a global economic slowdown.

Line graph: Dollar Volume of Existing-Home Purchases of the Top Five Foreign Buyer Countries

Major Destination of Foreign Buyers: Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, New Jersey, and New York

Florida remained the major destination for foreigners, with 21% of foreign buyers purchasing property in the state. Florida’s main buyers were from Latin America (34%), Europe (23%), and Canada (17%). It was the top state destination among Canadian and United Kingdom buyers, who are typically vacation home buyers and who purchase property in Florida for its warm weather.

California was the second-largest state where foreign buyers purchased property. Forty-seven percent of California’s foreign buyers came from Asia/Oceania. It was the top destination among Chinese and Asian Indian buyers. Geographical proximity, the presence of family and friends, and the tech sector jobs in California are the factors that are likely driving Chinese buyers to purchase property in California.

Texas attracted 9% of foreign buyers. Forty-two percent of Texas’ buyers came from Latin America/Caribbean. Texas was the top destination among Mexican buyers and the second top destination among Asian Indian buyers. Texas has a cultural and geographic affinity with Mexico, while Asian Indian buyers are likely working in tech-sector jobs in Texas (e.g., Austin).

Arizona was the fourth largest state where foreign buyers purchased property. Half of foreign buyers were from North America (Canada). Nearly one in four Canadian buyers purchased a property in Arizona, which Canadians prefer for the warm weather. It’s also one of the top destinations among Mexican buyers, due to Mexico’s proximity to Arizona.

New Jersey accounted for 4% of all buyers. Fifty percent of New Jersey’s buyers came from Asia/Oceania. It’s one of the top destinations among Chinese, Asian Indian, Mexican, and United Kingdom buyers. New York accounted for 4% of foreign buyers, with 51% coming from Asia/Oceania. It was the third top destination among Chinese buyers. Both these gateway cities attract buyers from across the globe.

Table: Where Top Foreign Buyers Purchased U.S. Residential Property, April 2020 to March 2021

Decline in Foreign Buyer Had Little Impact on the U.S. Housing Market

The decline in foreign buyer demand has had little impact on home sales and home prices even in vacation home markets and in gateway cities.

Most foreign buyers who live abroad pay cash, at 61%. Yet even with foreign buyers retreating, the share of cash sales has been rising, to 23% as of June 2021 from 16% one year ago.

NAR’s 2021 Vacation Home Counties showed that home sales in vacation home counties of 16.4% outpaced home sales growth of 5.6% in non-vacation home counties in 2020.

In fact, one can argue that the decline in foreign buyer demand has helped alleviate the demand-supply imbalance. Given the strong domestic demand from buyers who face record-low mortgage rates and the lowest supply of homes on the market in decades, competition remains tough, leading to a 23% year-over-year gain in the median existing-home sales price. REALTORS® reported an average of five offers on sold properties. The inventory of homes for sale (end of the month) was still 19% below last year’s level, despite some uptick in housing starts to 1.6 million in June (seasonally adjusted annual rate) from 1.3 million at the beginning of the year.

Foreign Buyer Outlook: Lingering Pandemic Impact in 2021-2022 with Strong Growth Potential in Affordable Tech-Driven Markets

Foreign buyer purchases are likely to just tick up a little in 2021 and 2022 with the entry of immigrants and non-immigrants from China, Iran, the European Schengen area, the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India still severely restricted as of July 2021. The rising number of Delta variant cases is also casting a shadow on the 2022 market outlook.

However, a stronger recovery is forthcoming when international travel restrictions are lifted and as global trade and investment also pick up. The United States is still the biggest economy in the world and attracts immigrants, tourists, investors, and workers across the globe. Foreign buyers who primarily live abroad (40% of foreign buyers) and just visit the United States for business travel or pleasure will tend to buy vacation properties, while recent immigrants and foreign buyers who live/work/study in the United States (60% of foreign buyers) will tend to purchase homes for use as a primary residence.

However, foreign buyer purchases are not likely to rebound to the $31.7 billion peak level in 2017 for quite some time. Firstly, the Employment-Based 5th Preference (for investors), or EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program, expired at midnight on June 30, 2021. EB-5 Visa allows eligible investors and their family members to obtain conditional permanent residency in the United States for two years through an investment of $1 million or more that creates or preserves at least 10 jobs. About 10,000 EB-5 visas are issued every year.2 Secondly, the tight monitoring of dollar outflows from China are still in place, with a $50,000 cap annually per individual.

The purchases of foreign buyers, particularly among foreign buyers living in the United States on work or investor visas, will follow where U.S. companies are creating jobs and where homes are affordable. States that had a large net international migration in 2020 were Tennessee (+54,650), Utah (20,721), North Carolina (+13,387), Georgia (+13,275), and Ohio (+13,303). Immigrants could be renting or buying homes but, either way, transactions with international buyers are likely to increase in more affordable states that are creating a lot of tech-sector jobs.

1 Since NAR estimated the dollar sales volume of foreign buyer purchases in 2011

2U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration Statistics: 9,877 (2017), 9,623 (20180, 9,085 (2019)

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For Two Designers, a Onetime Collaboration Wasn’t Enough

When Kimille Taylor agreed to design the interior of a home in Telluride, Colo., in 2013, she expected the job to be business as usual. That was before Ms. Taylor, a New York-based designer, met Steve Morton, the local architect working on the project.

“We got along right away,” Ms. Taylor, 50, said. “It was a really good collaboration, professionally.”

But as the project — the renovation of a church converted into a residence — neared completion in 2016, their conversations about space planning and millwork took a personal turn, and they discovered that they shared more than just a passion for design: They were also crazy about each other.

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Invitation Homes & PulteGroup Form Strategic Relationship For Purchase Of Approximately 7,500 New Homes

DALLAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Invitation Homes Inc. (NYSE: INVH)(“Invitation Homes” or the “Company”) , the nation’s premier single-family home leasing company, and PulteGroup, Inc. (NYSE: PHM), the nation’s third largest homebuilder, announced today the formation of an innovative strategic relationship. As part of this relationship, Invitation Homes expects to purchase approximately 7,500 new homes over the next five years that PulteGroup will design and build expressly for this purpose.

The companies have already reached agreement on the construction and sale of over 1,000 homes across seven communities over the next several years, with the first sales expected to close in 2022. Initial projects are scheduled for delivery in Florida, Georgia, Southern California, North Carolina and Texas.

At Invitation Homes, we’re committed to serving the growing share of Americans who are opting not to buy a house by providing high-quality homes with valued features such as close proximity to jobs and access to good schools,” said Dallas Tanner, President and CEO of Invitation Homes. “We’re thrilled that this strategic relationship with PulteGroup further strengthens that commitment while also enhancing our multichannel acquisition approach to growth.”

We have been evaluating potential structures for participating in the single-family rental market that would seek to capitalize on our strengths in community development and new-home construction while delivering high returns,” said Ryan Marshall, PulteGroup President and CEO. “We are excited to be working with an industry leader in Invitation Homes, and believe this relationship will allow us to increase our scale in our existing markets, make investing in larger land parcels more practical, and generate attractive risk adjusted returns.”

About Invitation Homes

Invitation Homes is the nation’s premier single-family home leasing company, meeting changing lifestyle demands by providing access to high-quality, updated homes with valued features such as close proximity to jobs and access to good schools. The company’s mission, “Together with you, we make a house a home,” reflects its commitment to providing homes where individuals and families can thrive and high-touch service that continuously enhances residents’ living experiences.

About PulteGroup

PulteGroup, Inc. (NYSE: PHM), based in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of America’s largest homebuilding companies with operations in more than 40 markets throughout the country. Through its brand portfolio that includes Centex, Pulte Homes, Del Webb, DiVosta Homes, American West and John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods, the company is one of the industry’s most versatile homebuilders able to meet the needs of multiple buyer groups and respond to changing consumer demand. PulteGroup’s purpose is building incredible places where people can live their dreams.

For more information about PulteGroup, Inc. and PulteGroup brands, go to pultegroup.com; www.pulte.com; www.centex.com; www.delwebb.com; www.divosta.com; www.jwhomes.com; and www.americanwesthomes.com. Follow PulteGroup, Inc. on Twitter: @PulteGroupNews.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), which include, but are not limited to, statements related to the Company’s expectations regarding the performance of the Company’s business, its financial results, its liquidity and capital resources, and other non-historical statements. In some cases, you can identify these forward-looking statements by the use of words such as “outlook,” “guidance,” “believes,” “expects,” “potential,” “continues,” “may,” “will,” “should,” “could,” “seeks,” “projects,” “predicts,” “intends,” “plans,” “estimates,” “anticipates,” or the negative version of these words or other comparable words. Such forward-looking statements are subject to various risks and uncertainties, including, among others, risks inherent to the single-family rental industry and the Company’s business model, macroeconomic factors beyond the Company’s control, competition in identifying and acquiring properties, competition in the leasing market for quality residents, increasing property taxes, homeowners’ association (“HOA”) fees, and insurance costs, the Company’s dependence on third parties for key services, risks related to the evaluation of properties, poor resident selection and defaults and non-renewals by the Company’s residents, performance of the Company’s information technology systems, risks related to the Company’s indebtedness, and risks related to the potential negative impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the Company’s financial condition, results of operations, cash flows, business, associates, and residents. Accordingly, there are or will be important factors that could cause actual outcomes or results to differ materially from those indicated in these statements. Moreover, many of these factors have been heightened as a result of the ongoing and numerous adverse impacts of COVID-19. The Company believes these factors include, but are not limited to, those described under Part I. Item 1A. “Risk Factors” of the Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, and in the Company’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarterly period ended March 31, 2021, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), as such factors may be updated from time to time in the Company’s periodic filings with the SEC, which are accessible on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov. These factors should not be construed as exhaustive and should be read in conjunction with the other cautionary statements that are included in this release and in the Company’s other periodic filings. The forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this press release, and the Company expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to publicly update or review any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise, except to the extent otherwise required by law.

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What $2 Million Buys You in California

This San Fernando Valley house is in Colfax Meadows, a quiet section of the Studio City neighborhood, which was named for the nearby movie lots established in the 1920s by Mack Sennett, the slapstick movie pioneer. Less than half a mile away is a popular stretch of Tujunga Avenue, where cafes are usually bustling with activity. Several schools are also close by, including Carpenter Community Charter School, a public elementary school, and Oakwood School, a private elementary, middle and high school.

With entrances to the 101 and 170 freeways within a five-minute drive, Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles are no more than 20 minutes away.

Size: 2,363 square feet

Price per square foot: $793

Indoors: A wooden gate set into a row of tall hedges opens to the front yard, where paving stones lead across the lawn to a brick porch sheltered by rose bushes.

The front door opens into a living room with hardwood floors, a fireplace framed in white brick and windows facing the front yard. Just off this space is a bright guest room with an en suite bathroom.




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Homes That Sold for Around $500,000 or Less

Each week, our survey of recent residential sales in New York City and the surrounding region focuses on homes that sold around a certain price point, allowing you to compare single-family homes, condos and co-ops in different locales.

The “list price” is the asking price when the property came on the market with the most recent broker. The time on the market is measured from the most recent listing to the closing date of the sale.

Westchester | 3 bedrooms, 1 bath

Houlihan Lawrence

Manhattan | Studio

Bond New York

Sari Kingsley Real Estate

Connecticut | 2 bedrooms, 2 baths

Douglas Elliman

New Jersey | 2 bedrooms, 2½ baths

Weichert, Realtors

Douglas Elliman

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