Why Do So Many Lots Lay Vacant Amid a Housing Shortage?

Cities across America battle housing shorages and affordabillity challenges while simultaneously dealing with thousands of vacant lots going to waste. As of August 2017, the inventory of existing US homes for sale is about 2 to 3 months short of what is required to meet demand. Meanwhile, The Journal of Urban design found that 16.7 percent of large US cities' land area is considered vacant.      
Unrealized Housing Supply in Chicago Take Chicago, for example. A 2016 study by the John D, and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation found that 48 percent of Chicago residents reported that they were spending more than a third of their income on rent or a mortgage. Recent data shows that Chicagoans housing costs are only rising. In August 2017, the median price of a home in Chicago was $285,000, and increase of 5.2 percent over the previous year. Supply is depressed too. There were only 50,213 homes for sale at the end of 2016, the lowest level since 2008. At the same time, however, the city of Chicago currently owns and manages 7,616 vacant properties that are zoned for Single family homes of two-flat/ townhouses. An addititional 1,096 vacant lots are listed for sale on Zillow. All told, that is 8,712 potential homes that could increase supply, relieve pressure on affordability and increase porperty tax revenues.    
New Construction Lags Growth So why are properties laying vacant when there is such a desperate need for aditional supply? Studies show that builders are not able to keep up with the demand for new homes as the economy recovers from the great recession and employment and wages increase. For example, between 2011 and 2016, Detroit only built one new home for every 6.5 new jobs created. To fill the supply gap over the next few years, builders would need to build 1.7 milion homes per year yet housing start projections are only 1.3 million and 1.4 million in 2017 and 2018 respectively.    
Homebuilder Challenges Builders are struggling to keep up for several reasons. First, some metropolitan areas have zoning policies or other regulations in place that make it difficult to develop vacant land. Many builders report backlogs and delays when applying for permits. Second, the construction industry is seeing a shortage of labor and subcontractors that is driving up costs and delaying projects. Third, while there is plenty of demand for housing, it can be difficult to convince buyers to purchase a new construction home. The process of arranging financing, finding a lot, planning a project and waiting for completion can deter potential buyers.      

NAIHBR is a not-for-profit trade association that brings together homebuilders, contractors, real estate professionals, lenders and suppliers to promote development of vacant lots and address the challenges that hinder new construction. Our members have a strong interest in building value in their local communities. For more information or to join NAIHBR contact us at 855-733-8100.

Vacant Land for sale

Renovation Loan Programs for Projects of Every Size

Figuring out which home renovation loan is the best fit for your project and your budget can be overwhelming. Whether you need to need to make a few repairs here and there or totally gut your new home, there are loan available to meet the needs of every homeowner and every project. Here are a few common renovation challenges and their most suitable loan options:

“I need less than $35,000 to make minor repairs.”

The FHA Limited 203(k) program is a great option for homeowners who need less than $35,000 to finance minor home repairs or replacements like plumbing, insulation, roofing or flooring. This program allows for homebuyers to include an additional $35,000 into their mortgage to cover the cost of making limited repairs to their home. Other eligible activities include: interior and exterior paint; repairing drainage, HVAC, and electrical systems; installing new appliances and adding a deck or patio.

“I need affordable credit to remove health and safety hazards.”

The USDA Section 504 Home Repair Program provides both financing and grants for very-low-income homeowners. Families with income below 50 percent of the area median income that are unable to obtain affordable credit can get a loan of up to $20,000 to repair, improve or modernize their homes. 20 year loans are offered at a fixed 1% interest rate. Grants are also available to homeowners age 62 or older that are unable to repay a repair loan. Grant recipients receive $7,500 to remove health and safety hazards. Loans and grants can be combined for a total of $27,500 in renovation funding.

"I want to finance luxury upgrades."

With a Fannie Mae Homestyle Renovation Program Loan, you can finance luxury upgrades like new swimming pools, gazebos or detached garages that are not allowed under FHA guidelines. The Homestyle program application process is also much simpler than the other options. There is one application for both the home purchase and the renovation loan, one closing and one set of fees.  As with the FHA Standard 203(k) program, you can finance 6 months of mortgage payments if the house is uninhabitable during construction.
NAIHBR’s lender members offer renovation loan options for every type of project and homeowner. For more information or to join NAIHBR contact us at 855-733-8100.
Jeffrey Cook, Executive Director

Jeffrey Cook

NAIHBR Executive Director

Meet the Author ...

Jeffrey Cook

20 year veteran of IT and real estate marketing systems development. Jeff co-founded and was the development architect for the Home123 marketing platform.

Helping Real Estate Agents close more deals series – HomeStyle® Renovation and Energy Loans


NAIHBR has received a large number of requests to present outlines for partner programs that help our real estate and lending members with renovation and new construction opportunities.

One of the programs we recently got a chance to learn more about is HomeStyle® from Fannie Mae.  HomeStyle® is a Fannie trademark for renovation products and energy efficiency loans.  These energy efficiency loans were particularly interesting because most of our membership had no idea these types of programs existed.

We checked with several NAIHBR members on the lending side, and many of them do offer the HomeStyle products.  Members interested in more information should contact NAIHBR and we will put you in touch with a member provider.

Below is a slide deck outlining the program from Fannie Mae.  If you have questions feel free to reach out to NAIBHR and we can feedback from our lending members or from Fannie directly.


Can I get a deposit for certain items under a construction loan?

Shared by Ed Currie of Associated Bank

The construction program is generally paid out based on work completed. However, deposits can be obtained for custom items where its’ typical for the provider to require a deposit. Items such as cabinets, windows, and counter tops can generally get a deposit with the final balance provided when they are on site and installed.

For larger custom homes, there can be instances where a custom item may need a 50% deposit. This can generally be accommodated as long as an invoice from the provider is received indicating a 50% deposit is needed. Once the item is installed, the remaining balance will be paid out.

New Home Model Concept
Ed Currie Associated Bank

Ed Currie

Associated Bank

Meet the Author ...

Ed Currie

Ed Currie began assisting clients with mortgage financing in 1994 during one of the slowest mortgage markets in the last 25 years. The slow market allowed Ed to develop his client-centric philosophy and drive to make the process as stress-free as possible. Since that time, Ed has assisted over 5000 clients with total loan production exceeding $1 Billion.

Virtual Inventory, using technology to help customers see a property’s true potential

Leveraging technology opens a world of possibilities for real estate marketing.  Most agents understand the power of the MLS and syndication to data sites such as Realtor.com, Zillow and the like.  Few however, take real advantage of what technology can do in local marketing, and it can create a huge competitive advantage the real estate agent.

For this post, we’ll focus on one of the more powerful techniques an agent can leverage which I call “virtual inventory”.  Most buyers today, especially millennial buyers, are looking for “move in ready” inventory, and we all know that can mean different things to different people.   As the selling agent, your chances that the listing has exactly what that buyer wants at that moment time is low to say the least.  Even if you get your seller to agree to upgrades (which most simply won’t do), you are just guessing at what the market wants.  This is where “virtual inventory” really helps.

Proposed Kitchen Remodel

Virtual inventory simply refers to “proposed” changes to a property.  It can be as simple as some new flooring or cabinets to an entirely new structure.  The key is images.  People want to “see” the improvement.  Most of the time, these images can be provided directly by service providers or trade groups such as NAIHBR along with pricing estimates making things simple for the selling agent.

In most cases, virtual inventory cannot be used on an MLS listing (there are a few exceptions where it can be), so how does an agent leverage this technique?  Simple, local and point of interest marketing and their own website.  Here are a few examples…

  • Having "as is" and "proposed" listings on an agent’s website is a powerful way to build additional value for the client and differentiate the agent from competitors.
  • Take one flyers can have before and after data based on whether purchased as is or with improvements.
  • Agents who do open houses can create room based improvement pages showing clients what the house “could be”, while using text and scanning techniques to gather customer contacts. **NOTE - This technique is particularly effective for getting additional listings when neighbors see how you are marketing the home and it takes very little effort.

The list of effective techniques goes on and on.

So how do you get started with building virtual inventory?  The easiest way to work with organizations that provide aggregated information such as NAIHBR.  NAIHBR is a not for profit trade association that provides simple forms where agents can request images and data for both renovation and new construction options.  Otherwise you can try to work with your local service providers to supply the images and estimates.

Jeffrey Cook, Executive Director

Jeffrey Cook

NAIHBR Executive Director

Meet the Author ...

Jeffrey Cook

20 year veteran of IT and real estate marketing systems development. Jeff co-founded and was the development architect for the Home123 marketing platform.

What Can I Do To Prepare For Applying For a Construction Loan?

Shared by Ed Currie of Associated Bank

Being prepared to apply for a mortgage can be very helpful in making the process smoother.  Mortgage companies are required to “fully document” a file.  Below are a few items that can ensure your loan application is not derailed, and will also limit the amount of documentation needed.


Don’t Change Jobs: Changing jobs just before or during a loan application could possibly render your new employment income unusable or delay closing until your new income can be documented. 

When you change jobs, your income will change.  While very few people change jobs to make less money, the way compensation is structured from how mortgage companies view “stable income”  may reduce the income that can be used to qualify.  For example, if you go from a salaried position to a commissioned position, your income may be viewed as less.  Even if the new employer communicates that your new variable income is “guaranteed”, they will very rarely put that in writing in order to make it usable.

family contract

Bottom line – if at all possible hold off on a job change until after closing.


Check your credit: Check your credit at www.annualcreditreport.com.  This is a free report available to all consumers once per year.  Make sure it is accurate and there are no negative items listed.  If there is collection activity on your report that you were unaware of and they are less than a year old, pay them off.  If they are older than two years you may be better off leaving them for now.

Don’t pay for your credit score: There are hundreds of different credit scoring models out there.  The only model that matters is the mortgage model that the mortgage company will pull when you apply for your loan.  Just because superdupercreditscore.com has your credit score at 900 doesn’t mean your mortgage score is 900.  There is NO correlation.  Save your money and work on the things that hurt your score.

Applying for new credit:  Limit new credit inquiries.  Credit checks hurt your score.  In most cases it’s not a big deal, but if you are on the bubble it can be the difference between approval and denial.

Keep your credit card balances low: One item that has a significant impact on credit scores  is the balance on credit cards relative to the limit of the card.  The “utilization rate” can absolutely obliterate a credit score. 

As the utilization rate get above 10% (i.e. balance of $1,000 on a $10,000 limit) your credit score drops. It is common to see someone’s credit hurt by 50-75 points for having high balances on credit cards.  Keep them as low as possible; definitely below 30% and ideally below 10%.  If you use credit cards on a regular basis, make a payment on a weekly basis to keep the balance down (you can do that).

Also, the credit score impact is per card.  If you use multiple cards and as a whole are below 30%, but one or two are at 75%, you are still going to be penalized.  The credit score model looks at each card.  If you want to optimize your scores when they are pulled, keep the balances low on all cards before, during and until you close on your mortgage.


Documenting the borrower’s source of funds is an area that is highly scrutinized.  Documenting the source, the acceptability of that source, and any “large” deposits can add a lot of additional documentation and in extreme cases, get your loan denied.

Season assets: You will be required to document two months of bank statements when you apply for your loan.  Any funds that go into your account previous to the preceding months statement are seasoned.  If there are any funds that you would like to avoid with the additional documentation, get those in your account well ahead of applying for your loan.

Large deposits: A large deposit is generally viewed as a non-payroll deposit of 50% or more of your monthly income.  A large check deposited into your account will need to be sourced.  Where did it come from?  Is it an acceptable source for down payment? For example, an unsecured loan from any source is generally not allowed.  If the funds won’t be in your account previous to the two months of statements you will provide, be prepared to prove where the funds came from.

Moving money around: Moving money from different accounts can create a lot of extra documentation.  Do you have multiple accounts with the same bank and move funds between them routinely?  If you do you will most likely have to provide all of the accounts to show that you are the account holder of the account.  It’s a lot of documentation.  Avoid or limit money movement if you can.

Where is the down payment coming from?: There are a lot of different, acceptable sources for a down payment.  There are also unacceptable sources as well such as unsecured loans and credit card advances.  If you won’t be pulling your down payment from your own liquid account (ie checking and savings accounts), be sure to talk to your mortgage person before you move any funds around or make a deposit.

One account?: If you have the time and ability to plan 3-4 months ahead, you could move all funds into one account that you plan on using for the down payment.  If you did that and had no activity in or out, it would drastically limit the bank statement documentation you will need to provide for the loan application.



There is a bunch of documentation that is needed for a loan application.  While you may be able to alleviate some of it by the suggestions in this article, you will still need to provide a number of items.  You might as well start gathering some of those items or at least know where they are:

  • Make sure you have pay stubs and can access them

  • Locate your complete tax return and W2s

  • Do you have K-1s listed on Schedule E?  We will need those too.

  • If you own 25% or more of a business or partnership, we will need the corporate returns as well.

  • If you own 25% or more of a business, we may need a year to date, unaudited, profit and loss

  • Bank statements – we need actual statements.  If you no longer get them mailed to you, be sure you know how to access them online.

Construction Items

You generally won’t have your construction items for a while, but there are a few items to consider early on:

Timing issues if you will be purchasing a property:  If you plan on purchasing a property and closing on your construction loan at the same time, be sure you understand the amount of time you need.  You will need time to decide on a contractor develop the project scope, and time to get a firm budget.  Only then can you order the appraisal which you will want to do no later than 30 days prior to closing.  As you might imagine, it can be very difficult to get all of that done in a 45-60 average closing time frame.  Depending on your potential project, you may want to consider closing in two steps; property acquisition and then the construction loan.

Understand what will be needed for the project cost:  For a construction loan you need to document the complete cost of the project.  It most cases the project cost will be the budget from the builder or general contractor (GC) you select.  But in some cases, clients may opt to have some costs separate from the GC.  If this is the case, you need to obtain bids for the material and labor for all items outside the GC budget before the appraisal can be ordered

Ed Currie Associated Bank

Ed Currie

Associated Bank

Meet the Author ...

Ed Currie

Ed Currie began assisting clients with mortgage financing in 1994 during one of the slowest mortgage markets in the last 25 years. The slow market allowed Ed to develop his client-centric philosophy and drive to make the process as stress-free as possible. Since that time, Ed has assisted over 5000 clients with total loan production exceeding $1 Billion.

What does NAIHBR do for Remodeling?


The NAIHBR Remodeler program is designed to sell homes that need upgrading without home owners expending on costly renovations.

How do we do this? With a network of skilled tradespeople, realtors, vendors and financial institutions all centered on one common goal of improving our community.

Why is this important? Market Conditions and Buyer Tendencies are hampering the sale of outdated homes. The NAIHBR Remodeler program helps buffer the disconnect between available inventory and demand, resulting in an economic boost to all parties within a real estate transaction and to a community in general.

Proposed Kitchen Remodel

Proposed Kitchen Remodel

MARKET CONDITIONS: Inventory is at a historic low point Nationwide. While a mild shortage of available homes is typically good news for a seller, that is not always the case. When inventory becomes too low, buyers tend to sit out the market rather than overbid on homes.  This phenomenon is even more prevalent when economic factors such as rising interest rates combine with low inventory. In this environment, the homes that typically sell fastest and for the most value are ones that are updated and in high demand. Homes that are outdated can easily get bypassed in this type of environment.

BUYER TENDENCIES: The largest share of home buyers over the past 4 years has been Millennials and/Gen Yers, encompassing 34% of the market (NAR 2017).  Of these buyers, roughly 50% have sought out homes that are renovated and newly constructed. These buyers are shopping on line and making decisions in ways that previous generations never contemplated. The goal is to attract these buyers by showing what can be done to the property.

NAIHBR Solution: NAIHBR brings together skilled tradespeople, real estate agents, and the financing community to solve this dilemma.  We have created an array of predefined upgrades that can be marketed with the property, along with estimated costs for renovation.  The renovation packages provide buyers with a clear visual of what the property can look like at a cost that is digestible. The unique financing available through the NAIHBR program helps make this all possible. Financing for the packages can be handled at the close of the property with the help of our financing partners.

Getting more homes sold, more buyers in homes they love, and stabilizing our communities.  The NAIHBR Way.

NAIHBR 2107 Chicago Area Leadership Events a Resounding Success

National Association of Independent Home Builders and Remodelers

Thank you for helping make NAIHBR's Chicago Leadership Summit a Resounding Success! On Tuesday August 29th in Oak Brook and Wednesday August 30th in Chicago, real estate brokers from throughout the Chicagoland area gathered for the 2017 NAIHBR Leadership Summit. Top professionals were there from major market brands, including Keller Williams, Baird & Warner, Coldwell Banker, Classic Realty and more.


Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were both in attendance and provided a deeper understanding of the newest programs available to today’s borrowers, especially those considering a single closing to both acquire a property and renovate it. Presentation slides from the Fannie Mae session can be found at: https://www.naibrs.org/2017/09/06/fannie-mae-presentation-naihbr-leadership-event-chicago-2017/


The industries best new construction lenders were in attendance as well, showing agents how they can earn their new construction sales commissions up front – before the construction process even begins! Hard to believe, but it is true. Learn more at: https://www.naibrs.org/2017/09/06/getting-paid-upfront-realtor-construction-projects-ed-currie-associated-bank/


National Mortgage Insurance, a key sponsor of the event, was also in attendance and revealed some surprising, little known facts about their mortgage insurance products. Did you know more borrowers would benefit by financing with mortgage insurance instead of financing their home through the use of an FHA loan? Great information was provided that changed the way many agents and borrowers viewed mortgage insurance. Find out if FHA is really the best option for your buyers, but checking out their presentation at: https://www.naibrs.org/2017/09/06/national-mi-naihbr-leadership-event-2017-presentation-thinking-past-fha/


The keynote presentation titled Empowering the Realtor - The Agent’s Vital Role in the New Construction and Renovation Marketplace was a real eye opener. Leveraging NAIHBR’s ecosystem of service providers and offerings make selling a vacant lot easier and more profitable, while enabling real estate brokers to generate more leads and create compelling listing presentations. Renovation options were provided as well, and offer a real differentiator for real estate brokers looking to show their sellers that they are ahead of the curve regarding marketing strategies. Meanwhile, consumers are offered a complete, plug-in solution that meets their needs and makes purchasing a new or renovated home easy and understandable. See how NAIHBR is changing the way new and renovated homes are bought and sold at: https://www.naibrs.org/2017/09/06/naihbr-presentation-slides-august-29th-30th-2017/

Our thanks to all who made the Leadership Summit a resounding success, and we look forward to all of our members participating in the successes soon to follow!

NAIHBR Presentation Slides August 29th and 30th 2017


NAIHBR’s slides from 3 presentations a the Chicago Leadership Events on August 29th and 30th.  NAIHBR spoke about current market conditions in the housing industry and trends followed by program descriptions for new construction and renovation.


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