The Real Estate News Brief: Fed Talks Rate Hikes, Tax Change Impact on SDIRAs, Ultra-White Paint as Your AC
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In this Real Estate News Brief for the week ending September 25th, 2021... what the Fed is saying about rate hikes, tax changes that could deflate your self-directed IRA, and ultra-white paint that could replace your AC.
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.
We begin with economic news from this past week, and a Fed meeting on monetary policy. The Fed’s senior policymakers are now saying they could raise interest rates sooner than they expected. They had previously anticipated higher rates in 2023, but are now saying they could raise the short-term rate by a quarter point, sometime next year. Higher interest rates will help control inflation which is currently running around 4%, or “double” what the Fed would like to see. (1)
New claims for unemployment benefits jumped to a one-month high of 351,000. The surge is due to a backlog of claims in California. They apparently piled up as California worked on new technology to improve efficiency and prevent fraud. Weekly claims had hit a pandemic low in early September of 312,000. (2)
Housing starts and new permits were both up in August as builders ramped up their residential construction activity. The Census Bureau reports that housing starts were up 3.9% compared to July, and 17.4% compared to August of last year. Permits were up 6% month-over-month, and 13.5% for the year. But this surge in activity was mostly for the construction of multi-families. (3) Realtor.com reports that multi-family demand is being driven by renters and remote workers who are moving back to the cities. (4)
Confidence among builders is also moving higher. NAR says its September confidence index increased one point to 76. That’s after a three-month decline. NAR’s chief economist Robert Dietz says: “The single-family building market has moved off the unsustainably hot pace of construction of last fall and has reached a still hot but more stable level of activity.” (5)
All that construction activity has resulted in an increase in new home sales. The government says new home sales rose 1.5% to an annual rate of 740,000. There’s currently a 6.1 months supply of new homes on the market, with a median price of $391,000. (6)
Existing home sales were down in August as buyers scoff at high prices and a lack of affordable inventory. According to the National Association of Realtors, sales were down 2% to a seasonally-adjusted 5.88 million. Compared to August of last year, they were down 1.5%. NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, says: “Although there was a decline in home purchases, potential buyers are out and about searching, but much more measured about their financial limits and simply waiting for more inventory.” (7) The good news: inventory is rising. MarketWatch reports that it’s up about 16% since a low point last winter.
Mortgage rates are still idling below the 3% level. Freddie Mac says the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose just 2 basis points last week, to 2.88%. The 15-year was up 3 points to 2.15%. (8)
In other news making headlines…
Tax Law Changes Threaten SDIRA Investments
Congress is considering some tax law changes that could ban real estate deals from self-directed IRAs. The proposals are aimed at the super wealthy who realize enormous gains with this kind of investment, but the changes could potentially impact everyone who uses a self-directed IRA for their real estate deals. (9)
Supporters of this legislation say that current rules allow for private-placement deals. SEC rules state that only “accredited investors” can participate in those deals which means those investors must have a net worth of a million dollars or more, or earn more than $200,000 a year. Legislation supporters say that retirement accounts should be used for investments that are available to everyone, like publicly-traded stocks, not just accredited investors.
Bill critics say there are many mom and pop investors who are also trying to increase their wealth with these kinds of deals and the legislation would devastate many retirement portfolios for people who are not super wealthy. Michael Hadley of the firm Davis & Harman told MarketWatch: “These accounts belong to retirement savers. They understand the investments they are most comfortable with. We don’t believe the government should be picking and choosing.”
If this legislation is approved, self-directed IRA holders would have two years to remove those kinds of investments from their portfolios. If you don’t like the sound of this proposal, you should contact your representatives in Congress and let them know.
Could Ultra-White Paint Replace Your AC?
Scientists at Perdue University are working on a way to cool your home with white paint. They say this ultra-white paint can reflect more than 98% of sunlight, and that surfaces coated with this paint are “cooled below the surrounding temperature without consuming power.” (10)
Their research shows that the white paint on a 1,000 square foot roof can provide cooling that’s equal to the use of 10 kilowatts of power, and that’s “more powerful than the air conditioners used by most houses.”
The paint has already been listed by Guinness as the whitest paint ever, but it’s not yet available to the public.
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Thanks for listening. I'm Kathy Fettke.