Since 2004, Southeast Discovery has been helping readers, many who have become real estate clients, with their retirement relocation and second home search in the Southeast. The last two weeks have been unprecedented.  We'd like to offer some guidance ...
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Coronavirus – It’s Impact On Real Estate and more...

Coronavirus – It’s Impact On Real Estate

Bluffton, South Carolina

Since 2004, Southeast Discovery has been helping readers, many who have become real estate clients, with their retirement relocation and second home search in the Southeast.

The last two weeks have been unprecedented.  We'd like to offer some guidance to those who are navigating through these uncertain times.  We are here to help you strategize - and provide perspective if you've been considering relocating in 2020 or 2021 to the Southeast region.  And now, are wondering whether or not to buy real estate, and how to time it, given the Coronavirus outbreak.

First, let's take a step back ... and review the last 15 years of economic activity and its impact on real estate.  We can learn from the past.  Markets go down, they eventually stabilize, and once a solid foundation is established, and economic factors improve, so do real estate values.

From the early 2000's, until 2007, the real estate markets in many areas of the Southeast region were strong.  And, while there was defined migration from the northern to the southern states, there was also a percentage of real estate buyers who were investment driven, buying real estate for future use.  Many were buying a place holder, a home site to eventually build on, or a home they would initially rent out, to help cover the carrying costs, until they were ready to relocate and live in the home full-time.  Many were buying in amenitized communities that were created throughout the Southeast region, designed to cater to the 'mature real estate buyer' - retirees, second home and vacation home buyers.

Real estate buyers prior to the downturn, were willing to pay dues and taxes on home sites they bought in advance of building on them in these communities to secure a desirable location - believing it would be a good investment, and that they were buying ahead of the curve coming down the pike.  That demographic being the 78 million Baby Boomers, many who'd be looking to relocate to desirable areas at retirement.

In 2007, the economic downturn hit, lasting until fall of 2012.  During these five years, real estate everywhere, some places more than others, experienced pricing pressure, depreciation, and a challenging environment to sell.   Homes were a challenge to sell, home sites were even more of a challenge to find a buyer for.

Some real estate markets in the Southeast were harder hit than others.  Second home area markets fared the worst.  Areas where the job markets were strong, real estate fared the best. Real estate buyers coming from other areas of the country, wanting to relocate during this downturn, their challenge was being able to successfully sell their current home, in order to relocate southward.

Not only did the real estate markets begin to improve in the fall of 2012, the quality of the real estate transactions improved as well.  The buyer in the real estate market from 2012 on, has been an ‘end-user’- not an investor, such as in years past.  The ‘end-user’ buys homes to immediately live in, and home sites with plans to build on and move into.  As a result, the real estate buying of the last 8 years has literally turned master planned developments into socially active communities with plenty of full and part time residents living in the homes they buy and build.

It has been a steady consistent upward trajectory ever since.  This trajectory accelerated further in 2016 - after the presidential election.  However, it changed two weeks ago, when the Coronavirus became very real here in the United States.

News announcements started coming out of the White House about the Coronavirus.  Stock market declines began to occur.  Daily, and significant.  Panic set in - for our nation's healthcare system, and, the economic impact that would follow suit.  For most, this news came quick, and hit the financial markets hard and changed the state of the economy fast.

The last two weeks have been difficult.  The significant and quick downturn in the stock market, along with the news of this virus' ability to spread, sicken and take lives around the globe, has been sobering.

Some points to think about, to give our readers guidance as it relates to the real estate markets, and how to plan and strategize going forward…

The Challenges...

1. Real estate activity will be impacted over the coming 4-8 weeks.

2. Buyers have no urgency to buy real estate until they see how long the economy is interrupted and what the depth of the economic impact is from this pandemic.

3.  Sellers, while they may be motivated to sell their home... some are apprehensive about strangers walking through their home, with agents, especially if this is a primary home the sellers currently live in.  If the property is a second home or vacation property, then sellers are far less sensitive to that home being toured.  Some sellers are temporarily removing their homes from being listed on the MLS for this reason.

4.  Real estate such as home sites, are easy for agents and prospective buyers to tour - as all parties can be outside, and meters away from each other.  Real estate agents are practicing 'social distancing' by driving in their own cars, where clients follow behind them in their own car, communicating blue tooth to blue tooth.  Like all other industries, the real estate business can also be improvised.

5. NY, NJ, CT, IL, OH and CA are states currently ordered to ‘shelter in place’.  These states happen to be some of the highest 'feeder states' that migrate to the Southeast region.  We are now in the spring market when northern and west coast residents typically travel to the Southeast to look at real estate to purchase.  This tour activity has all but stopped.  The states listed are some of the highest property tax states in the country, and have a high overall cost of living.  Many residents of the 6 states have steadily and consistently migrated to the Southeast for years.

6. This drastic interruption in the economy, will have an definite impact on real estate activity.  Very likely, there will be softness in the housing market.  Sellers will be more concerned about the number of buyers who are actively looking.  Buyers will have the mindset they should be able to get a deal on what they want to purchase.

Perhaps, the silver linings...

1.  There will be many people who live in densely populated areas, near major metropolitan cities, who have had a difficult time with ‘sheltering in place’.  They are living in close quarters both inside and out, in colder climates, and in densely populated areas.  All attributes which make it less enjoyable to shelter in place, while trying to distance themselves from people.  It has occurred to many, especially those who are retired and don't have to continue to live where they are living for a job, to conclude perhaps it's time to make a change - and move to a warmer climate that's less populated, with a slower, more relaxed pace of life.

2.  Remote work positions will be on the rise.  This will be precipitated by both workers and employers.  It's been a workplace trend more employees desire, and after this pandemic, where workers have had to stay home and work, this type of work set up, between employees and companies, will further grow and become more commonplace.

3. As more people work remote, more will also have the ability to choose where they want to live.  This will result in more migration among the older work force.  A percentage will trade in big city life, now that they've raised their family living in the north, living in high tax states to now choose a more relaxed area to live, one that is less populated, with a milder year round climate, offering a lower cost of living.

4. So, while there will be some slow down from this pandemic, there will also be a regional bump of real estate activity in the Southeast, eventually, as folks who have been sitting on the fence, trying to decide whether or not to relocate, this pandemic, the Coronavirus event, will spur them to make a final decision to move.

If we had to put a timetable on what's to come, between now and the end of May, it's going to be a wait and see approach for most real estate buyers.  Those who decisively decide to buy, will likely get a better value on what they purchase now, vs what they would have paid just 3 months ago.

Come summer, we can only hope the Coronavirus spread will lessen due to the hotter weather nationally, and the successful slowing of the spread.  Plus, the shock and awe of this pandemic dominating the news, will begin to subside.  Fewer new cases, but cases nonetheless, will become the new normal.

Buyers will begin to come into the market, and real estate pricing, along with other asset classes, will level off and stabilize.

By the third quarter of 2020, unless the virus comes back when the nation experiences cooler temperatures, the U.S. economy should continue to find its ground, and all asset classes should further stabilize, which includes real estate.

People need a place to live.  Retirees and Baby Boomers have led the migration to much of the Southeast region.  Most buyers in this age group, prefer to own rather than rent.  Home ownership among this demographic is not likely to change, especially if they can afford to own.

As the youngest 25% of the Baby Boomer generation decides to wind down on their career, retire, or phase into their 'second act' - a job that is less taxing than their first, many will migrate to different states, different areas of the country, rather than stay where they are currently living.  The Southeast region will continue to draw a fair amount of these buyers.

As our country moves through this historic health and economic event, real estate buyers will focus more on their future, less on the past, and financially adjust with what they can and want to spend on a home to live in for their retirement.  They will make real estate buying and selling decisions accordingly.

Over the past 16 years, we've helped real estate buyers navigate through this life step successfully, to choose the area, community and property that's right for them.  Send us an email at or call 877.886.8388.  We are here to help you, and especially during these times of uncertainty.


Palmetto Bluff’s 2nd Annual Field + Fire – A Sold Out Success

Palmetto Bluff Field + Fire

As if you need another reason to consider a visit to Palmetto Bluff - or better yet, discover a special place to relocate for retirement or a great spot to have a second home....

Its 20,000 heavily treed acres and 32 miles of scenic waterways, its conservation efforts, its 173-acre horse farm, its 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, its five-star-rated Montage hotel... are all reasons why Palmetto Bluff, in Bluffton, SC, continues to attract home buyers from everywhere.

A good excuse to visit is "Field + Fire," which is just as the name implies - it's a weekend filled with learning and experiencing fishing and shooting sports under the tutelage of the region's most knowledgeable experts, and enjoying the day's catch near an open fire.

In only its second year, Field + Fire (Feb. 1-3) was a sell-out soon after it was announced.  And with good reason, when you consider it means spending a weekend feasting on meals prepared by Michelin-starred chefs, learning about birds of prey, browsing an endless array of works by Southern artisans, listening to some live "down home" music, and participating in discussions and field trips focused on nature conservancy...

Add to that, being able to experience first-hand how hunting, fishing and exploring has been a way of life in the Southeastern region for centuries.

And it's being held in a growing residential community that takes pride in its world-class shooting facility, marina, equestrian complex, extensive nature preserves, river access and miles of riding trails.

Palmetto Bluff River Road Lodge Amenity Many people say Palmetto Bluff feels more like a South Carolina town from years' past rather than a growing community with a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course and one of the finer spa experiences in South Carolina to both Inn guests and residents.  It's also home to the prestigious Montage Palmetto Bluff, managed by Montage Hotels & Resorts, which is co-hosting Field + Fire.  Other on-site accommodations include spacious cottages, guest rooms, suites and village homes that all pay homage to the region's rich heritage.

Palmetto Bluff says that "Field sports are a dynamic part of its lifestyle", and have been for generations.  Since the turn of the century, sportsmen and women have gathered on the land Palmetto Bluff sits on to shoot elegant shotguns over the finest pointers, cast lines into its salt and fresh waters, and rise its oak-lined trails on graceful steady mounts."

Field + Fire, Palmetto Bluff says, "is a celebration of our sporting life heritage" and "features an exciting mix of shooting, fishing, sporting art and sporting dog exhibitions, and of course, fine Southern cuisine."

In fact, Field + Fire is a return to its roots.  Palmetto Bluff was established as a spectacular hunting retreat for an exclusive few over a century ago.

Throughout the three-day event will be the Field + Fire Market, described as "a curated collection of Southern artisans and makers offering sporting apparel, sporting art and jewelry, expert callers, specialty outdoor gear and high-end shotguns and saddles."  In addition, there will be "well-known sporting personalities and some of the Bluff's favorite food traditions and live music."


The first event - the Buffalo Blast Sporting Clays Tournament, which is Feb. 1, 1-3:30 p.m. - will field teams of four members each for a 100-target, 13-station sporting clays competition "for all levels of shooters," and it "benefits the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy."  It will be followed by demonstrations of trick shooting, then the Buffalo Blast Beer 'n Brats dinner, during which awards will be given to the winning teams.  There will also be an open-fire dinner prepared by James Beard and award-winning chef John Currence of Oxford, MI.


Days 2 and 3, Feb. 2-3 - "go to the dogs" - literally.  Handlers Adam Hein & Steve Hein will lead guests into the forests of the Bluff, along with trained dogs and a falcon, to hunt pheasant. Adam Hein is a co-owner of "On The Fly Outfitters" in Brunswick, GA, and Steve Hein is a master falconer and wildlife artist from Statesboro, GA.

Two other exhibitions highlight Day 2 - a retriever exhibition, when Brett Lawson of TBL Retrievers on the Village Green demonstrates how retrievers master their skills; and a birds of prey exhibition led by Steve Hein, who will educate attendees about local raptor habitats and more.

Day 2 also includes a "five-stand tournament," which is a condensed, quicker version of a traditional sporting clay course.  Each participant shoots 25 targets from five different locations in individual competition.

Later that afternoon, and on Day 3 - Orvis-certified guides from Bay Street Outfitters will teach beginners how to cast a fly-rod, and veteran anglers how to tighten up their casts.  For those who might prefer some "indoor fishing" on Day 2, there will be a "Suds & Bugs Fly Tying Lesson" in Montage's wine cellar.  And those will be followed by what's being called "Talkin' to the Animals."  Palmetto Bluff's Conservancy Director, Jay Walea will lead his team of naturalists in demonstrating how they make the right sounds to court hunting game of the Lowcountry.

Gourmands will follow the scents to Day 2's Bourbon + Birds dinner, featuring Michelin-Starred chef Mark Lundgaard-Nielsen of Restaurant Kong Hans Kælder in Denmark for what's being billed as "a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience."  A five-course game dinner will be paired with Virgil Kaine Bourbon and the wines of Robert Foley Vineyards, all done al fresco in the field, along with tunes from singer/songwriter Drake White.

Day 3 promises to be as educational and enlightening as the first two days of Field + Fire.  In the morning, Palmetto Bluff Conservancy Archaeologist Dr. Mary Socci will lead participants around the Village Green and surroundings to detail the history of Palmetto Bluff, the Wilson Family and all the interesting and unique sites around the Village Green, including a pet cemetery.

Mid-day on Day 3, those attending will be able to watch as professional fox hunters re-live "the pomp and pageantry of a traditional hunt," as Palmetto Bluff describes it, from the Bluff's cross-country course on the Longfield Stables complex.  As described by Palmetto Bluff, "Fox hunting is the only form of hunting that incorporates the complex relationship of three beings - that of human, horse and hound."  It adds that "a representative from Lowcountry Hunt will speak about the history of fox hunting and give a few examples of some of the different horn blows that are used to communicate with the hounds and staff during the hunt."  Afterwards, those attending will enjoy brunch while chatting with the hunters.

In the afternoon, another event unique to Day 3 will be the Schutzhound Exhibition, which promoters describe as a "temperament and performance evaluation that consists of three phases of canine training - tracking, obedience, and protection.  It teaches advanced off-leash obedience like heeling, motion exercises and retrieving wooden dumbbells."

The final event on the last day will be the First Date Ladies' Shooting School.  We're told the Palmetto Bluff Shooting Club has tailored a school just for women who are new to the world of shooting clays, or who are interested in trying it out for the first time.  The school's certified instructor - Lynne Green from Syren - will provide everything for a comfortable and exciting "first date" with marksmanship.

Field + Fire is just one example of how the property owners at Palmetto Bluff balance exploration with conservancy.

Palmetto Bluff Field + Fire Merchant ExhibitFor example, it has established the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, which strives to increase understanding of the natural and cultural environment of the Lowcountry.  And it does so through biological and archaeological studies by PhD-level scientists and its "citizen science" bluebird survey.  It's also involved in a number of research initiatives, including surveys of alligator, turtle, white-tailed deer and bird populations, and analysis of artifacts from antebellum Pettigrew Plantation.

Palmetto Bluff's Recreation Team, based in the Carriage House by the River House, offers bicycle and golf cart rentals.  And its Longfield Stables, on a 173-acre farm, includes a covered arena, an FEI regulation outdoor dressage arena, a 5-acre turf event field available for schooling horses and special events, and main barn and receiving barn, both featuring oversized stalls.

The 7,171-acre May River Golf Course - an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Course - includes century-old live oaks and native landscapes, woven throughout the May River Forest.  All tee boxes and fairways feature Paspalum, the newest eco-friendly turf.

One of Palmetto Bluff's newest developments is Moreland Village, which is distinctly different from the community's first village, Wilson Village.  In a natural setting designed to blend into the Lowcountry landscape, Moreland Village features home sites with marsh views or adjacent to the community's pristine nature preserve, with architecture designed to create seamless transitions between the indoors and outdoors.

Moreland Village also includes both modern rustic architecture and a more casual, relaxed feel.  There are two outdoor pools, a fitness center with a spin classroom, a pottery and art studio, a casual/comfortable restaurant, a grab-and-go restaurant, and a unique, a state-of-the-art bowling alley, among other newly introduced amenities.

If you'd like to receive information on next year's Field + Fire Event, along with literature on Palmetto Bluff real estate, email us at or call 877.886.8388.


Tax Law Changes Have Some Wondering: Should I Pay Off My Mortgage?

Tax Law Changes

Now that the full impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is being scrutinized, a number of clients are asking whether it makes sense to pay cash for a home - or borrow, while borrowing costs remain relatively low by historical standards.

They are asking because of the new tax law's impact on itemized deductions.  You could call it a "carrot-and-stick" impact.

The "carrot" was a dramatic increase in the standard deduction.  The "stick" was an equally dramatic, but opposite, change in what qualifies for itemized deductions.

First, the "carrot"
Last year, when you (or your CPA) prepared your federal tax return for 2017, you were eligible for a $12,700 standard deduction (if married, filing jointly).  This year, your 2018 return almost doubles that - the standard deduction will be $24,000.  But gone is the $4,050 per-family member personal exemption.

Then, the "stick"
For the 2017 tax year, a number of itemized deductions and credits were either changed, added or eliminated, such as:

Mortgage Interest: Pre-tax act, there was a $1 million cap of debt on a primary or secondary home.  The limit now is down to $750,000 for mortgages that closed after Dec. 14, 2017. According to the Wall Street Journal, 32 million tax filers got a mortgage-interest deduction for the 2017 tax year; for the 2018 tax year, that number will drop to 14 million.  Put another way: the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that total savings will drop from $60 billion for 2017 to $25 billion for 2018.

State and local income or sales and property taxes (known as SALT): There's now a cap on deducting more than $10,000 - per tax return, not per person.

Home equity loan interest: In the past, such borrowers could claim a deduction of the interest on $100,000 of debt.  Now, unless the loan was used to buy, build or what the IRS labels "substantially improve the taxpayer's main home and second home" - and not for such expenses as tuition or credit card debt - it's gone.

Moving expenses: In the past, costs associated with moving more than 50 miles for a new job were deductible; for the 2018 tax year, that's been eliminated.

Other expenses: The IRS says that, prior to the new tax law, when taxpayers "itemized, they could deduct the amount of their miscellaneous itemized deductions that exceeded 2 percent of their adjusted gross income.  These expenses are no longer deductible."  The IRS defines "miscellaneous" as unreimbursed employee expenses such as uniforms, union dues and the deduction for business-related meals, entertainment and travel... deductions for tax preparation fees and investment expenses, such as investment management fees, safe deposit box fees and investment expenses from pass-through entities."

What didn't change are deductions for 401(k)s, traditional IRAs and health savings accounts (HSAs); investment interest; capital gains rules for the sale of a primary residence, credit for the purchase of an electric car; deductions for student loan interest, treatment of tuition waivers; adoption assistance and teachers’ out-of-pocket expenses.

So, before rushing to the mortgage holder with a fistful of dollars, look first at your complete financial status.

It's important to pay off whatever debt has the highest interest rate first, which is usually credit card debt, says Kevin O'Leary, a Canadian businessman and a veteran of the popular TV show, "Shark Tank," which features aspiring entrepreneurs making business presentations to a panel of five investors ("sharks"), who then choose whether to invest as business partners.

"Life is unpredictable.  What happens if you're laid off or incur unexpected expenses elsewhere?  Your once-manageable mortgage is suddenly going to seem not-so-manageable," O'Leary said during a 2018 episode of "CNBC Make It."

O'Leary, a known advocate for being as debt-free as possible (he even once declared that debt is evil), summarized his philosophy in a January news item on CNBC's website: "The top of my hit parade list advice on debt is this:  Don't get any... In other words, don't spend more than you have."

Suggesting another payoff target, O'Leary says mortgages and student debt "are the two big ones.  You want to pay off that student loan, and you don't want to get stuck in too big of a mortgage because you have to pay that one off too.  Pay those off as fast as you can, and your savings will start,"

The Wall Street Journal recently spun it another way:  "Is the after-tax return on an ultra-low-risk investment lower than your after-tax mortgage rate?  If it is, consider paying down the mortgage if you can."

Allan Roth, a financial planner with Wealth Logic, told the The Journal that, "The changes to the mortgage deduction strengthen the arguments for paying down - or off a mortgage."

Now, back to itemizing deductions... The higher standard deduction and the $10,000 cap on deducting more than $10,000 of state and local income or sales and property taxes (per return, not per person) will be a double-whammy for many married couples, because "they'll need more than $14,000 in other write-offs of mortgage interest, charity donations, and the like to benefit from using Schedule A," the Journal reports.

And all of the experts agree on one thing:  Keep liquidity intact. "Even if paying down a mortgage makes financial sense, it means restricting access to funds.  So, consider whether the funds will be needed in an emergency, and what the rate on a (non-deductible) personal loan would be.  You need to be able to sleep at night," the Wall Street Journal report said.

If looking for more detail about the changes in itemizing deductions, visit the IRS website; one page in particular seems to sum it all up pretty well:

If you are considering a move to the Southeast region, feel free to reach out to us at Southeast Discovery.  Email or call 877.886.8388.


Bluffton, SC’s Belfair Plantation 2018 Update Proves Outstanding Community Management


Belfair Plantation in Bluffton, South Carolina has a stellar history of community financial management which has placed Belfair at above the national average for community dues allocated to capital reserves.  The national average is 12% while Belfair boasts 13% in capital reserves allocation.

Since 1994, Belfair's prudent fiscal management philosophy of steering clear of institutional debt and the intelligent management of the community's assets have allowed the golf community of Belfair Plantation to remain on solid ground as a community.  Its fiscal management practices have also resulted in keeping its annual membership dues below that of the similar riverfront neighboring communities of Colleton River and Berkley Hall in Bluffton.  At the same time, Belfair has been able to provide maintenance as needed, as well as expansion and improvements for the membership to keep the community vital and competitive.

As a brief financial overview, at 2018 year-end, Belfair had capital reserves of $4.6 million.  The Belfair Plantation 10-year long-term capital plan calls for an expected $22 million in expenditures.  The 10-year average estimated capital income is $2.3 million accumulated annually, or $23 million in 10 years, which will allow the long-term capital expenditures to be fully funded in cash through capital dues and initiation fees.

Recently the East Course, one of two golf courses in Belfair Plantation, underwent a re-grassing of fairways and greens, as well as a bunker renovation project to the tune of $1.3 million.  The East Course re-opened at the end of September 2018.   The $1 million clubhouse outdoor dining expansion also opened at the end of September 2018 generating a lot of positive comments and, no doubt, additional revenue for the facility.  Belfair now also has a dedicated Facility Maintenance Department with a budget - and no deferred maintenance!

The $8.75 million Belfair Plantation Facilities Master Plan Investment for the clubhouse, sports and lifestyle expansion is funded by Belfair members as follows:

  • $8,100 up front for a one-time payment of which 40% of its 279 members opt to pre-pay generating $2.25 million in upfront capital.
  • The monthly option consists of $79 per month for over 10 years.
  • Those who paid up front and leave will have their balance refunded and paid by new owner.
  • If monthly option is chosen, monthly payments are picked up by new owners for remaining payments, and billing is stopped to the departing member.

Bluffton SC Golf Community's Belfair HomeIn 2019, Belfair's annual community dues of $15,893 have been earmarked as follows: Club - $11,624; Community - $2,203; Capital - $2,066.  There are 674 active dues paying members in Belfair Plantation.   The YTD home and lot sales for 2018 were 42 and 7 respectively with 10 homes currently under construction and four homes being reviewed by the ARB.

If you are interested in a well-located golf community in the South Carolina Lowcountry with solid and transparent fiscal management, Belfair Plantation in Bluffton is at 75% build out with 547 homes built, but there are still some premium water and marsh front lots available.

For more information on Belfair Plantation or other Bluffton, South Carolina master-planned communities, send your inquiries to or call 877.886.8388.   We will be happy to help you.


The State Of Illinois – And Why Resident Out-Migration Continues

Illinois Residents Leaving State

It might be a case of "deja-vu all over again" for Chicago-area property owners -- and their deja-vu is justified.

In 2017, Chicago dropped to the bottom of a list compiled by of the nation's 100 strongest and weakest housing markets.  It crept back up, ranking 84th in 2018, but slid back to 100th for 2019.  Both the median price and the number of homes sold locally will fall this year, the report said.

Illinois politicians are putting part of the blame on increasing mortgage rates, which have crept up to as high as 5.5 percent.  However, a more relevant factor in the malaise Illinois real estate is experiencing, is the decrease in the federal deduction for property taxes - which are some of the highest in the nation in Chicago and its outlying suburbs.  Each of these factors; increasing mortgage rates and the tax law changes on the treatment of property taxes can have an impact on home sales nationwide.  However, the slowdown is anticipated to be nearly four times worse in Chicago than the rest of the nation, according to several published reports.

What's causing such a grim projection for Chicago, its suburbs and Illinois in general?

Property Taxes

The website Illinois Policy - which bills itself as "an independent organization generating public policy solutions," said in a January 2019 posting that the state's homeowners "are subject to the highest overall tax burden in the country, including the second highest property taxes in the nation."  And the second factor, it adds, is homeowners "are also weathering the largest permanent income tax hike in state history".

When higher taxes simply maintain current services and do not pay for more or improved services, it lessens the desirability of buying property, according to the Illinois Policy group.

State Income Taxes

In 2017, state residents were hit with a 32 percent income tax hike, from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent.  The "salt in the wound" is the fact that, in recent years, several states have reduced their income tax rate (the most recent was North Carolina).

And that hike quickly cut job growth - Illinois' private-sector job creation ranks among the worst in the nation since the income tax hike, Illinois Policy claims.


One reason the housing market is so stagnant, and becoming more so, is because of what's called "out-migration" - more people are moving out than are moving in to Illinois in general - and Chicago in particular.  And it's not because those moving out are now "snowbirds" - the term used to describe retirees seeking warmer-weather states to retire to.  It's because a growing number of prime-age workers (ages 25-54) - are hoping to escape the increase in taxes (property, sales and income taxes), they are seeking a lower cost of living and looking for new jobs in economically robust places such as Raleigh and Charlotte NC, Greenville, SC, Nashville and Knoxville, TN and Jacksonville, FL.

And there's a potential ripple effect to out-migration.  Working-age adults are moving away with their children, who will eventually enter the workforce themselves.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports the Illinois population has been declining for four consecutive years (second only to West Virginia), and the Chicago-metro area was the only one of the 10 largest metro areas to experience population decline in 2018.

Out-migration, By The Numbers

In a Jan. 9, 2019 email to constituents, outgoing state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) wrote that, "Last year we lost a record 45,116 residents... even as every one of our neighboring states gained population."  She added that, "In the last five years the net out-migration is 157,000 people... We are one of only three states to lose population every year for the last five years... even as every one of our neighboring states gained population".

A Broader Perspective

Danielle Hale, chief economist for and author of the report, told Crain's Chicago Business, "The real estate market will be a reflection of what we're seeing in the Chicago economy in general.  You have slower population growth and slower employment growth relative to other parts of the country, and that is not propelling sales forward in Chicago".

Hale added that, although the nation's low inventory of homes for sale has eased, paving the way for increased sales, it's not happening in the Chicago area.  In fact, she projected home sales in the Chicago area will fall 7.4 percent this year, and the median sale price will be down 1.9 percent.

Underscoring her comments, Crain's Chicago Business reported in November 2018 that Chicago's price growth in 2017 was dead last among 20 major U.S. cities, according to 2017 year-end data from the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices.

Looking Ahead's Hale told the Chicago Tribune that, "We don't expect a buyer's market on the horizon within the next five years" - an assessment in line with a separate housing survey released by Fannie Mae that concluded only one in five Americans think it is a good time to buy a home.

Hale also told Illinois Policy that, while real estate prices may drop, it "may not be the best news for homeowners and sellers, but for people who want to buy into the market, it helps".

The far larger decline she predicts in sales "would be more concerning if it were doubled with inventories that were piling up on the market," Hale said.  The Chicago-area inventory of homes for sale, she said, "continues to be pretty limited.  If more homes could come up for sale, more would sell".

And former state Rep. Ives, in closing her final email, wrote, "Illinois is insolvent. We should be the economic powerhouse of the Midwest, but we are losing to our slimmer, sexier sister Indiana - to Iowa-- to every neighboring state."  And, casting a wary eye toward Springfield, the state's capitol, she concluded, "In order to turn that around, you must demand accountability from your government.  It is your money, your homes, your businesses and your futures at stake".

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