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Vatican indicts 9 people in London real estate deal – 95.7 News

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The Vatican’s criminal tribunal on Saturday indicted nine people and four companies on charges including extortion, abuse of office and fraud in connection with the Secretariat of State’s 350 million-euro investment in a London real estate venture.

The tribunal president, Judge Giuseppe Pignatone, set July 27 as the trial date, according to a Vatican statement Saturday.

Four former Vatican officials, including two officials from the Secretariat of State, were indicted, as well as Italian businessmen who handled the London investment. Also indicted on alleged embezzlement charges was an Italian intelligence expert.

Vatican prosecutors accuse the suspects of bilking millions of euros from the Holy See in fees and other losses related to other financial dealings. The suspects have denied wrongdoing.

The Associated Press

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Calgary real estate predicted to moderate this year, with hot spring demand – Calgary Herald

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Homes listed above $600,000 are starting to see sales and prices pick up

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The forecast is calling for hotter conditions — only not as heated as this past spring.

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That’s not a prediction about the weather. Rather it’s a forecast for Calgary resale real estate prices.

Royal LePage recently released its Housing Price Survey and Market Forecast predicting home prices and sales across Canada will remain strong throughout the rest of the year — just not as heated as the sizzling hot markets seen in spring.

“It’s not sustainable,” says Corinne Lyall, broker/owner of Royal LePage Benchmark in Calgary, about sales and price growth that occurred in the second quarter.

As the report notes, from April to the end of June, the aggregate price of home in the city increased by 9.7 per cent year over year to $568,500, a record high.

The price acceleration was driven by record sales, including an all-time resale record for any month, set in April of more than 3,200 homes, Calgary Real Estate Board figures show.

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Driving the market in the second quarter were single-family detached home sales. The median price for this housing type grew by more than 10 per cent year over year to $638,000, the study found.

Yet even the sagging condominium market saw growth, jumping by 4.1 per cent over the same span in 2020 to $226,000.

“One thing were are seeing is a bigger impact in the $600,000-plus whereas, years previous, all the sales were under $500,000,” Lyall says. “This is the first year I can remember since 2014 that we actually saw sales grow and an increase in price (in this range) because people were competing for these properties.”

Price growth has been even stronger nationally, the report notes, with the aggregate price of a home rising by about 25 per cent in the second quarter over the same period in 2020 to $727,000.

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In fact, 89 per cent of regions surveyed saw double-digit percentage gains. Royal LePage forecasts sales will remain strong for the year, driving prices higher — just not at the pace seen in the spring.

The aggregate price nationally is expected to grow to more than $771,000, up 16 per cent from the end of last year. Montreal is forecast to be the hottest market with a year over year price gain of 17.5 per cent.

Calgary is also projected to see price growth, though more moderate at 7.5 per cent, year over year.

Veteran realtor Wendy Morrow with Real Estate Professional Inc. in Calgary says the price growth amid the pandemic is hardly surprising, given rising demand and limited supply.

“Inflation has risen above what we expected this spring and summer due to pent up demand,” she says.

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But this problem is not unique to real estate, she adds. Inflation is rising throughout the economy due to bottleneck supply issues.

Yet supply in the resale market should grow in the months ahead, Morrow says. “This will soften the real estate market prices somewhat.”

Still, uncertainty remains with COVID variants and vaccine rollout, among other concerns like job growth.

“None of us have a crystal ball as to what will happen,” Lyall adds.

What is certain is the city remains an attractive place to call home, she says.

“Calgary is a great place to raise kids, be close to the mountains… and so there’s a really great lifestyle here that a lot of people are attracted to.”

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Out-of-town interest drives local real estate market – Mountain Xpress

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Dave Farrell was new to town. He and his wife, Shelley, had just settled into a West Asheville rental after moving from Connecticut in early April. The couple planned to use their temporary digs as a home base for house shopping. They expected a competitive market.

What they experienced, Dave Farrell says, was extraordinary.

“It was crazy. Things would come on the market, and had maybe been available for an hour, and we would learn they had already been sold. That happened to us five or six times. We would never even get a chance to look at the place, and it was already gone,” Farrell explains.

The Farrells are just two of the many out-of-town buyers who have sought to relocate to the Western North Carolina mountains over the past year. That demand has supercharged an already hot real estate market: According to Redfin, a nationwide real estate brokerage, Asheville home prices were up 22% year over year in June, selling for a median price of $411,000. Area homes now sell after a median of 42 days on the market, compared with 63 days at the same time last year.

While the market may be challenging for outside buyers, it’s even harder for locals searching for homes. The latest available data from searches by Redfin users shows that the average real estate budget for an outsider moving to Asheville was $615,500 as of April, 31% higher than the average local budget of $469,000. That disparity between outside and local buyers was greater than in either Charlotte (21.1%) or Raleigh (25.2%); those cities also had lower average out-of-town buyer budgets at about $554,000 and $543,000, respectively.

Alexandra Schrank
GAME CHANGED: Alexandra Schrank, an Asheville-based real estate agent with the Mountain Star Team of RE/MAX Executive, says she commonly sees offers of $30,000 or more over asking price on Asheville homes. Photo courtesy of Schrank

Alexandra Schrank, an Asheville-based real estate agent with the Mountain Star Team of RE/MAX Executive, says the Redfin numbers square with her on-the-ground experience. And for locals with lower budgets, she continues, options in the Asheville market are severely limited.

“If your budget is $300,000 or lower, it is almost impossible to find anything,” Schrank says. “We are seeing double-wide trailers selling for $250,000.”

Driving factors

Schrank calls the COVID-19 pandemic “the biggest game changer for real estate.” Low inventory due to slower building activity and low interest rates set to stimulate the economy, she says, have generated high demand both in Asheville and across the country. The national median home sale price in May 2021 was over $377,000, up 26.3% year over year, according to the most recently available Redfin data, and the median home sold in 16 days, down from 38 in May 2020.

Increased adoption of technology driven by the pandemic, she adds, has also increased the ability for real estate agents to market properties to potential out-of-state buyers. In-person real estate showings were not considered essential business during the first month of COVID-19 emergency orders, leading both agents and clients to become more comfortable with virtual home visits. “We continued to work through the pandemic, and people were buying houses sight unseen,” Schrank says.

Those recent changes to the market have intersected with longer-term trends. Justin Purnell of eXp Realty says roughly 80% of his buyers are coming from out of town, up from about 50% 15 years ago — and many of them are driven by climate change. As previously reported by Xpress (see “Head for the Hills,” Aug. 26, 2020; avl.mx/9xp), sea level rise alone could drive a 5% increase in the Asheville metropolitan area’s population by 2100.

These buyers, says Purnell, “want to get out of the California fires, coastal hurricanes and high temperatures. Climate is a big reason they are coming, and for the mountains, and all there is to offer here. They all want that lifestyle.”

Justin Purnell
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Justin Purnell of eXp Realty says his client base has shifted to roughly 80% buyers from outside the area, up from about 50% when he started as a real estate agent 15 years ago. Photo courtesy of Purnell

And the greater acceptance of remote employment, Schrank says, is allowing people from all parts of the country to relocate. “[Out-of-town buyers] make better money than someone from here. Having more income means they can get prequalified to offer more money, or many will have cash,” she says. “Out-of-towners are beating out the locals.”

Seller’s market

Schrank primarily works with local sellers, many of whom are benefiting from the high demand and low supply of homes in the area. Some of those locals, she continues, “feel like Asheville is getting unaffordable. Many are moving to South Carolina and Tennessee just to get out. They are cashing out.”

Sellers receiving upward of seven offers in 72 hours, often for $30,000 to $40,000 over their asking price, is not uncommon, according to Schrank. “I’ve never seen it like this. I put stuff on the market and think I am overpricing, then end up getting over asking price,” Schrank says.

For many out-of-town buyers, those prices may not seem unreasonable. Despite the recent surge, Asheville’s median home price is only 9% higher than the national figure. Many large urban markets, including Los Angeles ($935,000), Seattle ($800,000) and Boston ($750,000), had much higher median prices as of June, according to Redfin.

Asheville residents since 1977, Marsha Browning and her husband, Joseph, are reaping the benefits of the current market as sellers while simultaneously struggling as buyers. The two say they wanted to downsize while capitalizing on the high prices for local real estate.

“We sold our house in two days,” Browning says. “We listed on a Friday night at 6 p.m. and had a contract Monday morning. They offered way above,” she adds of the Florida-based buyers, who paid $481,000 for a house the Brownings bought in 2019 for $340,000 and listed at just under $460,000.

As buyers, the Brownings are unwilling to leave Asheville and the doctors they have built relationships with over the years. But for now, they’ve decided to wait out the market by moving into a Weaverville rental apartment.

“We don’t want to purchase right now,” Browning says. “It is really hard. Out-of-staters come here and have the money. We have a $350,000-$400,000 budget, but most of the houses are way over $400,000. The $300,000s or less usually need a lot of work.”

Ripples and bubbles

Despite the crowded market, examples do exist of buyers able to find something within their budget. The Farrells, with a budget between $300,000 and $500,000, were the sole bidders on the third home they targeted in their search, located in Woodfin and priced inside their range. “It’s only a year old,” Dave Farrell says, “and everything is still brand-new. It’s great.”

But local nonprofits seeking to promote and develop affordable housing options argue that individual successes don’t address the structural issues in Asheville’s market. For Scott Dedman, executive director of Asheville-based Mountain Housing Opportunities, lack of supply is a primary obstacle, and the result is higher rents and homeowner prices.

“In Buncombe County, more than 8,500 renter households are paying more than half of their income for rent. That’s about 21% of [Buncombe’s] renter households,” Dedman says, referencing 2019 census data. “At the same time, more than 5,000 Buncombe households are paying more than half of their income for homeowner costs, about 8% of Buncombe homeowners.”

Increasing supply, Dedman feels, would help. He shares some frustration with residents who protest against new residential development, especially in downtown or other areas with easy access to jobs and services, and encourages them to think about the affordability implications of restricting construction.

“We live in a popular place,” Dedman continues, “and many of us are here for the same reasons that newcomers are here. So there is high demand for land and homes. The question should be, are we working hard enough to meet the increasing demand with new housing supply?”

Like Schrank, Purnell suggests that the Asheville market may soon reach its own limits. He’s seeing an increase in buyers simply choosing to bypass the city and look at other parts of WNC, such as Jackson and Macon counties, or even outside the state altogether.

“Some buyers have sticker shock,” Purnell says of the current Asheville market. “They can’t believe how much it costs to live here. If they want mountains, they can go to South Carolina or Tennessee and find much better prices.”

And while Schrank says she has witnessed steady increases in home prices during her six years as a real estate agent, she is bracing for an eventual correction to the market. As COVID-19 emergency measures come to an end, she predicts an increase in foreclosures this fall and potential increases in inventory by spring 2022, which may cause prices to drop. “Everything that goes up has to come back down,” she says.

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Why hasn't climate change put a dent in luxury real estate? – BNN

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About a week after NASA released satellite imagery of California’s precipitously low water reserves, Douglas Elliman published its market report for Los Angeles’s second quarter.

Price trend indicators, Elliman found, were among the highest they’d been in at least 17 years. “All of California, especially southern California, is booming,” says Jonathan Miller, president and chief executive officer of appraiser Miller Samuel Inc., which compiled the report. “Beginning with the end of the lockdown, even with rising COVID infections, it’s continuing.” 

Housing trends are rising across the U.S., in fact, with median single-family home prices in the second quarter up by at least 10 per cent from the previous year in 61 per cent of the U.S. counties surveyed by the industry database Attom.

Luxury sales in many of these areas matched or surpassed other categories, with strong results from downtown Boston (condo sales are up 118 per cent from the preceding year, according to an Elliman report) to the San Francisco Bay Area, where the number of US$3 million-plus house sales in June were higher than they’ve been since at least 2018, according to a Compass report.

But some of the top performing luxury markets in the U.S.—specifically Southern California, Colorado, and South Florida—have something less rosy in common: They’re all in the throes of extreme climate-related events.

“There’s awareness and discussion about it, but it doesn’t seem to be modifying behavior yet in the markets I cover,” says Miller.

If anything, he continues, events such as flooding and hurricanes seem, at least anecdotally, to encourage high-end construction rather than deter it. “After Hurricane Sandy, there was a tremendous discussion about flooding,” he says. “And what we ended up seeing was middle-class housing being leveled by the storm and higher-end properties taking their place.”

Climate change, Miller concludes, “doesn’t discourage development, and I think it shifts the mix from affordable to more expensive.”
 

UNPRECEDENTED DEMAND

No place is immune to climate change; just ask New Yorkers who saw the sky darkened for days by forest fires 2,700 miles away. But there are some locations, such as Los Angeles, where the luxury real estate market appears particularly impervious to external events.

“You were seeing packed open houses where you could see smoke [from forest fires] in the background,” Miller says, of recent years when the city was threatened by nearby wildfires.

Growth in LA’s luxury market, accounting for the top 10 per cent of sales, has been particularly pronounced. A whopping 112 houses, primarily in the city’s west side and downtown, sold in the last quarter, according to the Elliman report, for a 138 per cent rise over the same quarter last year; the average sales price was just under US$17 million.

“We’ve seen unprecedented demand,” says David Parnes, a principal at Agency real estate brokerage. “Everything is being bought up, and what that suggests to me is that this is not the end. The market is going to get even stronger.” Some properties, he says, receive 20 or 30 offers. “That means those 20 or 30 people have missed out,” he says, “which means that 20 or 30 people are still looking.” 
 

CLEAR-EYED, WITH PRIVATE PLANES

It’s not that wealthy buyers are delusional, brokers say; it’s just that they’ve weighed the pros and cons and are willing to shoulder the risk. 

“Clients will ask about rising water, and will talk about flood plains and ask me about the elevation” of a home, says Lourdes Alatriste, a Douglas Elliman broker in Miami. “I do believe it’s a concern. But at that level of money, should anything happen, they just close up and go.”

Luxury buyers, she continues, “have planes. They can get out.”

Other wealthy homeowners are planning for disaster. Palm Beach, Fla., residents are building bigger and higher and stronger houses, while some residents in Malibu, Calif., have attempted to add fire-protective coating to their homes.

Indeed, Alatriste, who says that demand for luxury properties is so high that many of her sales occur off-market, has had a few clients investigate flooding risks and decide not to buy. But largely, “they want to live right now, in the moment,” she says, and Florida “serves that purpose.” Also, she adds, “they get insurance.”
 

NOT DISCUSSED

Colorado, which is currently being ravaged by a series of devastating wildfires, is home to numerous markets whose luxury tier has soared throughout the pandemic. There, says Gary Feldman, a broker with 36 years of experience in Aspen’s luxury real estate, “none of my clients really discuss it,” he says of the risk.

In Aspen, which saw sales dry up in the month of June due to a lack of inventory on the market, signed contracts for single family homes occurred only at or above US$5 million, according to an Elliman report.

If they’re concerned, Feldman continues, “they’d buy some place else, and where else do you buy? Everywhere has issues, and not all are climate-related. Some are social. And people are smart enough to weigh the pros and cons of the issues of the day and then decide where to go. But no one really brings it up, in my experience.”

Miller says that might change sometime soon. Climate-related events “just have to be more frequent, and more intense than they are now,” he says. “And I’m not sure when that day comes, but it will come at some point.”

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