must apply to the Ministry of Defence for a permit to buy property. (A permit is not required to buy housing shares.) Information must be provided about the buyer and seller, along with the intended use of the property. The fee is 150 euros ($175), and processing takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

Real estate agents, not lawyers, commonly handle property transactions. “We are required to have legal knowledge and to pass an exam organized by the Central Chamber of Commerce in order to work as a real estate agent,” Mr. Marttonen said.

The agent’s commission in the Helsinki metropolitan area is between 2 and 5 percent, depending on the property, Mr. Marttonen said.

Mortgages are available to foreign buyers, but most banks in Finland have strict qualification requirements.

habita.com

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Selling Homes Privately, via ‘Pocket Listings,’ Is on the Upswing

“Since the pandemic, real estate professionals have found ways around the policy,” said Matt Lavinder, president of New Again Houses, a home-flipping company. Brokers are using WhatsApp, Discord and Telegram chats to privately share listings as well, he said. “This has become a secondary market.”

Pocket listings exist in a gray space between legal and illegal, said Andrew M. Lieb, an attorney and the founder of the Lieb School, a licensed New York State real estate school. The U.S. Department of Justice has argued that the practice could violate antitrust laws. They are also potentially discriminatory.

“It could be argued that they violate the Fair Housing Act,” Mr. Lieb said, because they could contribute to disparate impact discrimination, a phenomenon in which a seemingly neutral policy is disproportionately unfair to one specific group. While no such case has yet to be brought to court, there is precedent: The National Fair Housing Alliance sued Redfin in October 2020 for setting minimum price requirements on the homes it lists, a practice the alliance alleges discriminates against minority communities. According to Morgan Williams, the alliance’s general counsel, both parties have agreed to stay further litigation pending active settlement negotiations. In the meantime, Redfin has yet to change its minimum-price policy.

“By analogy, this is the same concept,” Mr. Lieb said.

However, Glenn Kelman, the chief executive of Redfin, has been a vocal detractor of pocket listings, referring to them as “a relic from the real estate industry’s old history of perpetuating segregation” in a May 2021 opinion piece in Inman, a trade publication. And the national association’s loophole that allows for brokerage-exclusive listings, he said, has unintentionally created monopolies among bigger brokerages.

Not all brokers agree that pocket listings represent unfair competition or are damaging to minority groups.

“I let all my agents know that as long as you’re not advertising the property to the public, you’re good to go,” said Sharelle Rosado, a broker in Tampa. At her brokerage Allure Realty, she said the use of pocket listings has increased 40 percent since the start of the pandemic. She leans on connections with both sellers and developers to build her pipeline of potential off-market sales. They are particularly helpful, she said, when working with high-income buyers looking for homes in the $10 million range, where inventory has always been tight.

“A lot of people are not for pocket listings, but it helps our clients, and it’s beneficial to both sides,” she said. “And I don’t have to split the commission.”

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Top 10 Office Markets as of 2021 Q3

Overall, the office market continues to see negative net absorption, rising vacancy rates, and lower asking rent in 2021 Q3 compared to one year ago. This is due to the ongoing weak demand for office space in the primary or gateway markets, with about half of computer/tech workers still working from home nationally. However, secondary markets are experiencing an increase in office occupancy, given the relatively affordable residential and commercial prices in these markets, according to NAR’s September 2021 Commercial Monthly Insights Report.

NAR identified ten markets with the strongest office market conditions as of 2021 Q3. In alphabetical order, the markets are:

NAR identified these markets by comparing 10 commercial and economic indicators in these markets to the national level figures: vacancy rates, 12-month net absorption, year-over-year change in asking rent growth, leasing volume in square feet, year-over-year percent change in business/professional jobs of the metro area, net delivered units over a 12-month period, sales transactions in dollars, transaction sales price per square feet, and cap rate.

A point was given for every metric where the market had stronger market conditions (e.g., the vacancy rate is lower than nationally). These markets had an aggregate score of at least 50 (equal to, or outperformed, the US market). In addition, only markets that had positive net absorption over a 12-month period as of September and with a population of at least 500,000 in 2020 were included.

Austin, Texas

Austin had the highest leasing activity, at 1.9 million square feet. It had the second-largest net absorption in the past 12 months of 924,626, second to Palm Beach. Austin had the highest average sales transaction price at $584/square feet, with an average return on investment (cap rate) of 5.4% compared to 7% nationally, which indicates the premium put on Austin commercial office space. The office vacancy rate of 13.5% is slightly higher than the national rate of 12.4%, but this won’t remain elevated for long due to the strong absorption of office space in Austin.

Boise, Idaho

Boise has one of the lowest vacancy rates, at 4.7% compared to 12.4% nationally. The average office asking rent was up 1.6% compared to a decline of 0.4% nationally. Boise absorbed 895,328 square feet of office space, the third-highest among the top 10. Office space in Boise is relatively cheaper, with an average sales transaction price of $140/square feet, and a cap rate of 6.3%.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Chattanooga has a low office vacancy rate of 4.3% so the average asking rent was up 2.3% year-over-year as of September 2019, the third-highest rent growth after Palm Beach and Daytona Beach. With a cap rate of 6.7%, properties are still relatively cheaper compared to Austin or Miami.

Daytona Beach, Florida

Daytona had a vacancy rate of just 5%, with year-over-year rent growth of 2.9%. The average sales transaction price in the third quarter was $128/square feet with a cap rate of 6.6%, about the same as Chattanooga and Provo. Daytona Beach prices are more affordable compared to Miami and Palm Beach, which are also in the top ten list. Daytona Beach is likely to attract more workers with the opportunity to work from home and retirees who enjoy time at the beach and Florida’s warm weather.

Miami, Florida

Miami is second to Austin in terms of leasing activity, at 1.2 million square feet. Its vacancy rate is relatively high compared to the other markets, at 10.7%, but this is still a tad lower than the national vacancy rate of 12.4%. Office properties are more expensive, with the average sales price at $383/square feet, but investors are willing to pay the price for Miami property and get a 5.7% return on their investment that is lower than the national rate of 7%.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach has the lowest office vacancy rate among markets in this list, at 2.2%. With a tight vacancy rate, it has the second-highest average asking rent growth of 2.9%. Myrtle Beach is also a favorite vacation spot, and its county, Horry County, is one of the top 30 largest vacation home counties. Myrtle Beach is likely to see more migration into the area from workers who have greater opportunities to work from home and from retirees who envision beach destinations.

Omaha, Nebraska

Among the markets in the top 10, Omaha had the lowest average price sales price in the third quarter, at $122/square feet, and the highest cap rate of 8.3%. Omaha has a somewhat high vacancy rate of 8.9%, but this is still lower than the national rate of 12.4%. Office rents are up just 0.4% compared to the faster pace of rent increases in the Florida metros.

Palm Beach, Florida

Palm Beach beats all markets in terms of the 12-month net absorption of office space of 1 million square feet and with net absorption of about 853,000 of office square feet. Palm Beach’s vacancy rate is also relatively high at 9.9%, but this is lower than Miami’s rate and nationally. The price of office space is a bit more affordable than in Miami, with the average sales transaction price of $318/square feet compared to $383/square feet in Miami.

Provo, Utah

Provo absorbed 793,154 square feet of office space in the past 12 months with 852,792 of office space leased. Commercial office space is one of the cheapest, at $177/square feet. The average cap rate was 6.7% compared to Boise’s 6.3%. The vacancy rate in Provo is also somewhat high compared to Austin, at 9.3%, more than double that of Boise, although its vacancy rate is below the national rate.

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio is benefiting from the strong growth in the Austin market given its proximity to Austin and its more affordable residential and commercial prices. It has a lower vacancy rate than Austin, at 10.1%. As such, the area is experiencing faster office rent growth of 1.7% compared to Austin’s 0.5%. The average transaction price of office sales in the third quarter was $145/square feet, about a fifth of Austin’s, yielding a cap rate of 6.3%, which is about a percentage point higher than Austin’s.

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The Owner of The Mysterious Bookshop Built His Dream House

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good 60,000 books must be in want of a very big house.

At some point in the mid-1980s, Otto Penzler, the indefatigable founder and proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop, the Manhattan store specializing in fictitious tales of crime and espionage and whodunits of a high order, could no longer ignore the evidence: His personal collection of first editions had outgrown his office, and cartons containing the overflow were stashed in a pal’s garage. They needed a room of their own.

“I was hoping to buy a place in the country large enough to hold all those books,” said Mr. Penzler, 79, who is also the founder of The Mysterious Press, a publishing company, and the editor of numerous anthologies. The latest, “The Big Book of Victorian Mysteries,” is due out Oct. 19.

Sharon, Conn., and on Sunday afternoon we picked up The New York Times, looked in the real estate section and there was an ad for property in Kent,” Mr. Penzler recalled. “I asked, ‘Where’s Kent?’”

It was just 20 minutes down the road.

The couple made a last-minute appointment with the broker, and fell in love with the area as they drove to their destination. Buying the eight-acre property was a foregone conclusion.

The design of the house was similarly preordained. When Mr. Penzler was a preadolescent living with his family in straitened circumstances in the South Bronx, he and his best friend, a boy named Ted Kvell, were leafing through a magazine and came upon an ad featuring an imposing stone manor flanked by a pair of turrets.

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Monthly State Retail Sales: January 2019 to June 2021

Utilizing a composite model, the U.S. Census Bureau has released a new experimental Monthly State Retail Sales (MSRS) data product that combines monthly retail trade survey data, administrative data, and third-party data that features modeled state-level retail sales.

The MSRS represents year-over-year percent changes for each state and the District of Columbia for total retail sales with the exclusion of Nonstore Retailers as well as 11 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) retail subsectors back to January 2019 and provides data by state and NAICS code. State-level data is not adjusted for seasonal variation, trading-day differences, moving holidays or price changes.

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What $4 Million Buys You in California

One of the main draws of Mill Valley is its proximity to the hiking and biking trails of Muir Woods National Monument: The park’s visitor center is about 15 minutes from this house by car. Highway 1 runs through the park toward the Pacific Ocean, and Muir Beach is just 20 minutes away.

Size: 3,198 square feet

Price per square foot: $1,249

Indoors: This house is spread out over four levels, with an elevator running from the street level to the primary bedroom suite at the top.

The main entrance is up one flight of outdoor stairs, with a glass door that opens to a foyer with gray hardwood floors. Two bedrooms are on this floor, off the main hallway; they share a bathroom with a combination tub and shower. Up half a flight of stairs is a third guest room with an en suite bathroom and its own balcony.

Up another flight of stairs (or a short trip on the elevator) is the main living area, laid out in an open-plan style. Nearest the stairs is a sitting area with a fireplace and glass doors that open to a balcony with forest views.

At the other end of this floor is the kitchen, rendered in gray and white tones like the rest of the house. A Viking range sits in front of a glossy, gray-tile backsplash, and stainless-steel pendant lights hang over the center island.

The primary suite occupies the entire floor above. The bedroom has an attached office, a large private balcony looking out over the treetops and a bathroom with a deep soaking tub set beneath a large window.

Outdoor space: In addition to the balconies, each large enough to hold several chairs, there are two flat outdoor spaces landscaped with drought-tolerant plants. One, to the side of the house, is large enough for a dining table and barbecue; the other is higher up on the property, with room for chairs and a firepit. The garage holds two cars.

Taxes: $49,932 (estimated)

Contact: Marcine Engel, Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty, 415-902-9438; sothebysrealty.com

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Can You Break the Lease if Your Apartment Might Flood?

Q: I live in a Park Slope garden apartment with ongoing drainage issues. During hurricanes Henri and Ida, I was bucketing water away from the door, which leads to my bedroom. I bought a raised drain guard and a sump pump that hooks up to a garden hose, but the pump couldn’t keep up. Because I was home, the damage was limited. But what if a big storm hits when I’m not home? The management company told me to deduct the cost of the pump from the rent. But shouldn’t the landlord address the larger drainage issues?

A: Your landlord is essentially treating you like an employee of the building by relying on you to constantly keep the water out. You cannot be expected to rush home from dinner, work or vacation for every nor’easter or heavy summer storm.

Maintaining the property — and that includes making sure water drains properly — is the landlord’s responsibility, not yours.

“The landlord has an absolute obligation to prevent water from coming in, even if the climate is changing,” said Samuel J. Himmelstein, a Manhattan lawyer who represents tenants. “You can’t ask a tenant to bear that responsibility.”

HP proceeding in housing court, and a judge could compel the landlord to do the work. You could withhold rent, and if the landlord pursues a nonpayment case against you, a judge could award you a rent abatement.

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Commercial Weekly: Thriving Office Market in Secondary Cities

The demand for office space continues to remain in negative territory on the aggregate, as high to substantial transmission1 of the coronavirus delta variant continues to sustain a work-from-home approach, increasing the likelihood that a hybrid workstyle will become the dominant option in the future.

Since 2020 Q2 through September 19, 144 million square feet of office space has been released back to the market (negative net absorption), according to CoStar® market data. The office vacancy rate has increased to 12.4% (9.8% in 2020 Q1) and the average asking rent has declined year-over-year, at -0.4%. However, the headline figures mask the resiliency and recovery in secondary markets which are more numerous but which account for a lesser share of the office square footage that primary/gateway markets account for.

Gateway cities still struggling to recover lost office space, but secondary markets are thriving

As of September 10, New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Denver, Seattle, and Northern New Jersey have suffered the largest declines in occupancy over a 12-month period. Twenty-six of 390 markets have lost over 1 million square feet in office occupancy on a net basis over the past 12 months ending September 19.

However, secondary markets are experiencing rising occupancy, with the largest increases in Palm Beach, Durham, Austin, Boise, Pensacola, Provo, Salt Lake City, New Haven, Miami, Fargo, San Antonio, and Oklahoma, each of which absorbed at least 500,000 square feet of office space.

Florida is emerging as the “it” state when it comes to the office market, with several markets having positive net absorption: Palm Beach, Pensacola, Miami, Fort Myers, Naples, Port St. Lucie, Sarasota, Daytona Beach, Orlando, Lakeland, Tampa, Melbourne, Punta Gorda, and Sebring.

Asking rents still down nationally, but rising in many smaller markets

With falling occupancy and rising office vacancy rates, asking rents remained below the level recorded one year ago, down by 0.4% as of September 19, 2021. The national average rent growth is being pulled down by the rent declines in the large markets of San Francisco (-4.4%), New York (-2.8%), Orange County (-2%), East Bay (-1.6%), Washington, D.C. (-1.2%) and Denver (-1.1%).

However, office rents are up on a year-over-year basis in 365 out of 380 metro areas tracked by CoStar®. Secondary/tertiary metro areas are experiencing high rent growth, led by Tucson, Arizona (6.2%), Providence, Rhode Island (6%), Naples, Florida (5.6%), and Fort Myers, Florida (5.3%), and Las Vegas (4.9%). 

Outlook: Office vacancy rates to remain above 10% in 2022

As of the second quarter of 2021, 144.3 million square feet of office space is under construction, equivalent to about 2% of the existing office space. If the space being constructed is mostly speculative, it will add to the already-elevated vacant inventory and will continue to depress rents in the primary markets until the office space is absorbed.

The largest construction projects are still happening in metro areas that are currently still suffering from declining occupancy: New York, Boston, Seattle, Washington D.C., San Jose, Dallas, Austin, and Los Angeles. In San Jose and Austin, the incoming supply amounts to about 6% of office space.

With the huge losses in office occupancy in these markets and the ongoing construction, office vacancy rates will likely remain above 10% in the next two years.


1 CDC reported as high to substantial transmission rates in 97% of counties as of the week of September 19, but that has gone down to 76% as of September 24. See https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view

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Less Intense Multi-bidding and Fewer First-time Buyers in August 2021

The intense multi-bidding seen during the summer is simmering down, due in part to a seasonal decline, but also because first-time buyers are stepping away due to the lack of affordable homes. The share of first-time buyers declined to 29% in August, and the number of offers on homes that sold (closed) in August decreased to an average of 4 offers per home, according to the August REALTORS® Confidence Index report, a monthly national survey of transactions of REALTORS®.

Roughly four offers on average per home sold in August

In August, there were, on average, 3.8 offers on homes that sold during the month, down from 5.1 offers in May. But even as the number of offers has been declining, competition is still more intense than during the pre-pandemic period when the average number of offers on homes ranged from an average of 2 to 3 offers.

The charts below show the average number of offers on homes sold for selected states.1 At the state-level, one can see a more significant spike in the number of offers during the summer. The largest surge in home offers on average were in Michigan (8.7), New Jersey (8.1), and Arizona (8.8), followed by California (6.8), New York (6.3), Florida (6.3), and then by Texas (5.9), North Carolina (5.8), Massachusetts (5.6), Ohio (5.4), Pennsylvania (4.9), and Illinois (4.6).

As of August 2021, large population states with the highest average number of offers included Georgia (5.5), California (4.7), Colorado (4.5), Texas (4.2), and Florida (4.8).

Demand for vacation homes rises to 6% of market

The uptick in offers during the summer could be associated with the demand for people seeking second or vacation homes that offer the opportunity to work from home. Since July 2020, the share of vacation home sales has been trending at around 6%, compared to the average of 5.6% in 2020 and 5.2% in 2019. NAR’s 2021 Vacation Home Counties Report shows stronger demand for housing in vacation home counties compared to non-vacation home counties.

First-time buyer share declines to 29%

The share of first-time buyers to the total existing-home sales market declined to 29% in August 2021 from 33% in the same month in 2020. During the first eight months of 2021, the first-time buyer share averaged just 31% compared to 33% in 2020 and 32% in 2019 (pre-pandemic).

A variety of factors are causing buyers to step away: lack of affordable homes, especially at price points below $250,000 (single-family homes priced at $250,000 and below made up 29% of single-family existing-home sales in 2021 compared to 38% in 2020), lack of financial resources to meet the down payment requirements ($52,000 for a 10% down payment and 5% closing cost on a $350,000 home), and competition with cash buyers (cash sales accounted for 22% of existing-home sales compared to 18% in the same period one year ago). Among buyers, 25% also waived the appraisal contract contingency, which indicates that these buyers are not obtaining mortgage financing. In a tight market, sellers tend to prefer cash because they also need cash to make a down payment and to sell quickly so they can close quickly.

Outlook: Multi-bidding to cool as mortgage rates rise in 2022

The intense multi-bidding seen in the summer will likely continue to cool in the remaining months of 2021 and in 2022, due to rising mortgage rates. This cooling off is good for the long-term health of the market because the multi-bidding frenzy can only further erode home affordability and push buyers out of the market.

NAR forecasts the 30-year fixed mortgage rate to rise from 3% in 2021 to 3.6% in 2022, with the Federal Reserve Board likely to start cutting back on its purchases of mortgage-backed securities in 2022 to control inflation (5.3% in August) while achieving full employment (5.2% unemployment rate in August). Rising mortgage rates will lead to a small decrease in home sales and a modest increase in home prices. Home sales are expected to decrease slightly to 5.99 million in 2022 from 6 million in 2021 while the median existing-home sales price is expected to increase to just 4.4%, a modest increase compared to the current double-digit price growth.


1 These states typically have at least 25 respondents.

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