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International Buyers Looking At US Housing More Than One Year After Pandemic Began 

During the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the US saw a major increase in domestic real estate transactions. International buyers took the opposite approach and avoided investing in any US properties while the pandemic continued due to the uncertainty of the world’s economy.

Sales of US homes to foreign buyers fell by about 31% from April 2020 to March 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors. 

International buyers purchased around 107,000 properties during that time, which marks the lowest unit volume and lowest dollar volume since 2011, according to NAR. 

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“The big decline in foreign purchases of homes in the U.S. in the past year is no surprise, given the pandemic-induced lockdowns and international travel restrictions.”

“Yet, even with the absence of foreign buyers, the U.S. housing market strengthened solidly,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

China, Canada, India, Mexico, and the United Kingdom are typically the top five countries continuously investing in US property. The amount of money brought in this past year, however, was down by at least 50% for buyers from China, Canada, and Mexico. The UK was the only nation that actually saw an increase in investment this year. 

Normally, China takes the lead in terms of the most amount of US property purchased throughout a given year, however, those transactions decreased significantly during the Trump administration. Now, China buyers have been inquiring more and more. 

“There has been quite a positive impact on the demand from the Biden boost, as the U.S. is being perceived as much more predictable now, and visas are also much easier to be obtained.”

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Georg Chmiel, executive chairman of Juwai IQI, a home listing site in China claimed that “on the other side, and now that we are over a year dealing with the Covid pandemic, it has lessened the impact on the buying decisions because flights to the U.S. are possible.”

Home prices are now 15% higher than they were pre-pandemic in the US; which makes sense considering the economic impact the nation has been enduring. Chimel stated that these rising prices, however, create a new demand for international buyers who may be afraid that they’re missing out on prime investment opportunities.”

Additionally, homes in the US are much less expensive than homes in places like London or Hong Kong, where a lot of buyers inquire about US property. The number of virtual tours on almost all major real estate sites in the US have increased exponentially. 

“So if that’s an indication of the comfort, then certainly this has increased, because people are now used to do far more things online shopping, education, also working from home online, and that also had an impact on the property market,” said Chmiel.

“As travel restrictions loosen and foreign students return to U.S. colleges in the upcoming year, there is likely to be some growth in foreign buying of U.S. real estate. High home prices and the ongoing lack of inventory could, however, pose a challenge for buyers,” Yun said.

House Keys 2

How Much Has The US Housing Market Been Impacted By The Pandemic? 

Housing experts throughout the US are currently experiencing a “white hot” market thanks to a multitude of economic reasons. However, problems that existed in the industry before the pandemic are being just as exasperated due to the impact of the past year overall. 

“One of the most prominent housing issues in pre-pandemic America was supply shortages. That has carried over and exacerbated, but we already had evidence of supply shortages heading into the pandemic,” said Matthew Murphy, executive director of the Furman Center For Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University. 

Murphy also explained that “today’s housing situation has its roots in the last boom-bust cycle. The context here to this current housing moment is that we were still recovering from the 2009 foreclosure crisis, when property values plummeted.” 

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According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), over the past two decades an underbuilding gap of between 5.5 million and 6.8 million housing units has existed since 2001. 

The National Association of Home Builders found that of “all the new single-family homes built last year across the U.S., none were priced below $100,000. A mere 1 percent fell in the range of $100,000 to $150,000. Home buyers in the bottom one-fourth of the market have been squeezed entirely out of the market for new construction,” the group said in an online post.

“In a pandemic, with people working from home and kids schooling from home, you need more space. We saw a real pickup in demand. People wanted a home with some green space and a community with lower population density.”

“The increase in demand has really been sparked by the record low level of mortgage rates. That’s a real opportunity for anyone who’s shopping for a mortgage or shopping to buy a home, and that’s really sparked the demand, especially among millennials or Gen Xers,” explained Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic. 

Prospective buyers are also noticing a major decrease in available homes due to the fact that those who weren’t as economically stunted by the pandemic have been able to get out and acquire more real estate within the past few months of recovery. 

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“You’ve got this 20-plus percent year-over-year price growth, which you think would entice homeowners to sell. The bigger factor is just availability of supply to move into. … There’s nothing to go buy or downsize into,” said Todd Teta, chief product officer at Attom Data Solutions.

Zillow found a nearly 4% increase in housing availability on the market in May, which has been the first time that percentage has increased since July 2020. The NAR found that the average price of existing homes throughout the US have hit a record number of $350,000; up nearly 25% when compared to last year. 

“This is supply and demand on steroids.”

The other major issue is that builders, architects, and construction workers can’t keep up with the demand that the pandemic has created. Costs for certain raw materials like copper or lumber are projected to continuously increase within the next couple of months. That in addition to labor costs and the cost of land overall is causing a lot of buyers to be hesitant with their purchases. 

“There’s an affordability that comes with density, and in a lot of America, you can’t build that kind of housing. This just makes it harder for the market to supply this housing en masse,” Murphy explained. 

“If we see a substantial increase in the proportion of the workforce working remotely, then I think we’re going to continue to see some of this shift to single-family and this shift not just to suburban but to the outer edges of metro areas. When you sever that link between where you live and where you work, then that gives you a lot of flexibility on where you locate,”  Nothaft said.

Covid-19 Brazil

Brazil Covid-19 Cases Surge This Week, Breaking Its Single Day Record 

Brazil has broken its record for new Covid-19 cases reported in a single day this Wednesday with 115,228 new cases. This increase is due to the nation’s continuous delays in vaccine distribution.

Brazil’s health ministry and data from Reuters revealed that the country now leads the world for the highest seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases and fatalities; they surpassed India last week, which is also struggling greatly due to a lack of vaccine distribution and access. 

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When it comes to the total number of infections, Brazil is currently in third behind the US and India with about 18 million cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

Brazil, however, has now surpassed India in terms of total death, with more than 570,000 fatalities as a result of Covid-19; India has experienced around 392,000 deaths. 

The US and other wealthier countries are seeing cases decline as more and more individuals receive their vaccinations. Other countries haven’t been so lucky in terms of receiving vaccines due to a lack of infrastructure and access. 

According to the Brazilian Health Ministry, 12% of the nation’s population is fully vaccinated. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has faced constant protests and criticism from citizens and other political leaders over his lack of action throughout the pandemic and slow distribution of vaccines. 

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According to news reports, “a Brazilian Senate committee is investigating allegations of misconduct in the government’s response, particularly arguments that Bolsonaro did not respond to offers from Pfizer for its vaccine last year, instead making a deal to receive the more expensive inoculation from India’s Bharat Biotech.”

Bolsonaro and former US president Donald Trump received very similar criticism throughout the pandemic in 2020 due to their downplaying of the virus’ severity, and pushing for drug treatments that showed no evidence of preventing Covid-19. 

Bolsonaro has been fined by several local government bodies for not enforcing local mask mandates which led to an exponential increase in cases within the past year. 

He said earlier this month while speaking in Sao Paulo that “those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 should not have to wear a mask. Whoever is against this proposal is because they don’t believe in science, because if they are vaccinated, there is no way the virus can be transmitted.”

What Homebuyers Are Looking For In A House Post-Pandemic

Now that more Americans are getting vaccinated and starting to resume their normal lives, many are looking to move around the country for a truly fresh start. However, we aren’t fully out of the woods when it comes to Covid-19, so many prospective buyers are changing their requirements for what’s needed in a future home to accommodate their post-pandemic lifestyles. 

One survey from realtor.com showed that extra space for extended family, pets, and home offices has been top priority for most buyers, it’s also one of the reasons the housing market is on the rise in the US right now. 

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Realtor.com’s survey also showed that terms like fenced yard, acres, backyard, front porch, garage, and three-car garage, have been some of the most searched for requirements from buyers in the past year. 

“The COVID pandemic ushered in a new way of thinking about what home means, and that is influencing much of what today’s home shoppers are looking for.”

George Raitu, realtor.com®’s senior economist claimed that: “Garages, large backyards, and space for pets always rank high on buyers’ wish lists, but those features have grown in importance. The survey results highlight that the pandemic has elevated our relationship with family as well as the need for our home to serve multiple purposes, especially the ability to work remotely. As a result, we are placing a premium on the need to accommodate extended family, and features like a home office and broadband internet.”

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The following 10 features have become the most prioritized requirements from buyers according to the survey (in order from most to least): quiet location, updated kitchen, garage, large backyard, outdoor living area, space for pets, updated bathrooms, home office, broadband internet, and an open floor plan.

65% of buyers claimed that they were considering their extended family when it came to shopping for a new home, and nearly 25% stated that they planned to move closer to family. 20% have claimed that they will be having extended family living with them full-time while 30% said their new home would need to accommodate for guest visits. 

“Remodeled homes dropped 88% year-to-date through May. It appears that motivated buyers are making concessions in their home search as home prices rise. Fewer searches are occurring for otherwise popular features such as granite countertops (down 58%), theater/media rooms (down 65%), and bars (down 52%),”  the report notes.

The housing market in America is currently on the rise, with most states reporting that homes aren’t staying on the market for more than a couple of weeks due to the increased demand for relocation among American citizens.

Experts Claim Americans ‘Don’t Realize How Lucky We Are’ In Terms Of Covid-19 Vaccines

About 53% of all Americans are currently inoculated with at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine while about 44% of the population is now fully vaccinated, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We have a long way to go as a globe. The United States — we don’t even realize how lucky we are here because we’ve had access to the vaccine early on. We basically have people turning the vaccine away. We think the whole world behaves that way, but that’s not the case,” Dr. Suzanne Judd, an epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, said.

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All adults in America are currently eligible to receive one of the three vaccine options approved in the country; Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson. However, many other countries around the world only have one vaccine option available for their large populations of unvaccinated individuals. 

“There are whole countries where only 1% of the population has had access to the vaccine. That means the coronavirus will continue to spread in those countries and will be problematic in those countries.”

“It means travel restrictions could happen. It means that it may impact Americans in terms of how they interact through work with people from those countries. It definitely will continue to impact us, so we have to be aware that it’s a good 18 months away before there’s enough vaccine to really stop the spread of the virus worldwide,” Judd explained.

The CDC revealed that at least 13 states have hit their goals of getting 70% of their residents partially vaccinated, which has led to many governors lifting restrictions and mask mandates. However, there is still a large group of Americans who are refusing to get the vaccine. 

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According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “7% of those who are unvaccinated said they will only get the shot if they are required, while 13% are still definitely not getting a vaccine.”

“The problem, though, is that mutant variants of the virus are able to form as the virus circulates for longer. So even with at least 70% vaccinated, there is still a risk.”

“That 30% that winds up in another state, say that the state makes it to 70% and there are 30% unvaccinated. It poses a risk to that 30%. We really want to get to the 70% target in all states. That’s what will make this virus go away and not stay with us. If we don’t, we’re going to wind up battling outbreaks basically,” Judd said. 

Vaccines are showing that they’re effective against fighting the new strains, but not as strongly as it fights the regular virus. 

“The initial variants, we were looking at 90% effective and maybe it’s more like 70% with the Delta variant, but that’s great. Honestly, that’s a public health win. 70% is not something to throw away and say ‘that’s not good enough.’ That’s so much better than 10, 15, 20%. Again, if we can get people vaccinated, we don’t have to worry about the Delta variant,” Judd claimed.

“It’s not just the United States that’s in this fight. It’s really a global fight, a global struggle, a global effort.”

Ohio Set To Open One Of The Largest Solar Factory Complexes In The World 

The company known as First Solar revealed plans this week to double its manufacturing in the United States by building a new factory in Ohio. This construction would give Ohio the largest solar factory complex in the world outside of China. 

The investment is currently valued at $680 million and marks First Solar’s third factory in the Toledo area. First Solar is the only major manufacturer of solar panels headquartered in the United States. 

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First Solar said it believes “this will be the largest fully integrated solar manufacturing complex in the world — outside of China. It will be capable of making one solar module every 2.8 seconds, and it will primarily supply America’s booming market for clean energy.”

“This investment really helps us position the United States on solid footing to achieve its objectives of energy independence and security – and having US manufacturing enable it,” First Solar CEO Mark Widmar told the media.

This expansion will also work to fulfill the Biden Administration’s goal of cutting US greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. Ramping up renewable energy sources, like solar power, are key for accomplishing this goal. 

China currently makes most of the materials required for producing photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, and its supply chain has been completely tainted within the past year due to trading issues and allegations of forced labor. 

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“China largely dominates the PV supply chain. But unlike many other major solar manufacturers, we’re not dependent on China. That’s because our thin-film PV panels do not rely on the popular crystalline-silicon technology that is made mostly in China. Renewables created this great promise of liberation and energy independence. But the dominance of the Chinese has taken over this industry. It really undermines the opportunity we created when renewables became reliable,” Widmar explained. 

The new facility in Ohio is projected to be 1.8 million square feet, and would allow First Solar to produce around half of all their solar panels in America. The new facility couldn’t have come at a better time for the nation either, as the solar power capacity in America in 2020 was the highest it’s ever been, and that capacity is set to quadruple by 2030, meaning more of the nation will have the infrastructure required to make solar energy more accessible. 

The biggest concern, according to Widmar, will be finding workers who are experienced in the field and able to come work in Ohio full time. 

“There clearly is a shortage of qualified workers. It is a concern of ours. Due to the constrained labor market, First Solar plans to lean more on automation than it normally does. In addition to robots, First Solar plans to use automated and guided vehicles to move materials. For example, the fork lifts at the new facility will all be automated,” Widmar said.

Delays In Adolescents Receiving Their Covid-19 Vaccinations Could Hinder US Recovery

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, an expert epidemiologist, recently spoke to the press about how some US populations are seeing an amazing increase in vaccination rates, while other groups in the nation are experiencing lags in their distribution, especially among adolescents, which could lead to a major delay in the country’s recovery as a whole. 

Children currently account for 25% of all Covid-19 cases in America due to the fact that they’re not yet vaccinated. 

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“As we’ve gotten more and more of our seniors vaccinated, more and more people with pre-existing conditions, more and more people who may be healthy and younger, the question becomes how do we protect our children?”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently performed a study in which they examined more than 200 adolescents aged from 12 to 17-years-old who were hospitalized within the first three months of 2021, likely with Covid-19. The report showed that while there were no deaths, a third of the adolescents were admitted to intensive care units because of their illness, and 5% required mechanical ventilation. 

“Every single one of those hospitalizations, every single one of those kids in the ICU, can now be prevented now that vaccinations are available to those 12 to 17. As certain states lag behind the national average vaccination rate, however, it could spell trouble for the youngest and most vulnerable populations. What we also see is that the same places where adults are lagging, teens are lagging,” emergency physician Dr. Anand Swaminathan said to CNN. 

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About 13 states have hit President Joe Biden’s goal of getting 70% of all US adults vaccinated with at least one Covid-19 vaccine by July 4th. However, experts like Leana Wen claim that the parts of the nation with lower vaccination rates are expected to experience another wave of coronavirus infections among its unvaccinated residents. 

“Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Wyoming, Tennessee and West Virginia have the lowest vaccination rates – with less than 50% of adults having received at least one dose. Vermont, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine and New Jersey boast the highest, with 75% or more of their adult population partially vaccinated. One issue for where vaccinations are lagging is lack of access and messaging in certain communities,” Dr. Swaminathan explained.

“There are people who don’t understand the fact that this is free. That messaging hasn’t been done as much as it should be.There are barriers for people who can’t get paid time off of work or have issues finding childcare that prevent them from getting the vaccine.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN that he’s optimistic children younger than 12 could receive their vaccinations by Thanksgiving this year. 

“We are now doing studies that are ongoing, studies that are looking at what we call age de-escalation, children from 12 to 9 and ten 9 to 6 and then 6 to 2 and then 6 months to 2 years. We hope that as we approach the end of the calendar year we’ll have enough information to vaccinate children of any age.” 

European Union Flags

What Vaccinated Americans Need To Know If They Want To Travel To Europe This Summer 

As more Americans receive their Covid-19 vaccinations, many are planning their first vacations for when the world begins to reopen more. On May 19th, the European Union voted to ease Covid-19 restrictions for travelers from Covid “safe” countries, as well as vaccinated foreigners from nations that are deemed “unsafe,” like the US. 

The new list of criteria for nonessential travel to Europe is likely to be enforced within the next two weeks. These restrictions will also only apply to Americans who are fully vaccinated with Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson; other vaccines will not be accepted. Fully vaccinated also means it’s been at least two weeks since your final dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks from the single J&J shot. 

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The European Union is made up of 27 countries, all of which will open their borders to vaccinated Americans once the new restrictions are officially adopted. Greece, Ireland, and Italy have already begun accepting American travelers who arrive on a Covid-tested flight or provide proof of vaccination. 

Americans are also able to travel to the United Kingdom, which formally split from the European Union last year, although nonessential travel is still discouraged between the US and UK. The Bureau of Consular Affairs also has a list of all the countries accepting vaccinated US tourists.

People who are not vaccinated may travel to some countries if they show proof of a negative Covid-19 test and adhere to each country’s quarantine rules. The overall goal is to get everyone vaccinated, so quarantine policies will likely stay enforced for a while until the world reaches a greater herd immunity. 

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As of right now the only way to prove your immunity is to display the card you received after getting your Covid-19 vaccine, which carries the CDC logo and all appropriate information. Covid-19 “passports” and smartphone applications are a growing concept, and will likely be more heavily enforced not only for travel, but massive gatherings as well like sporting events and concerts. 

If you’re vaccinated, for the most part it’s safe to travel, but continue to adhere to all proper social distancing and safety procedures, including wearing a mask on public transportation. Like with the rest of the pandemic, it’s important to think about your personal health and the individuals in your house. 

According to the CDC, “all air passengers returning to the US from another country must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before returning, and then test once more three to five days after returning home. Before traveling, you should consider the current prevalence of COVID-19 in your chosen country.”

Vaccine Covid

Experts Claim US Covid-19 Vaccination Efforts May Begin To Slow Now

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim that more than 42% of Americans have at least one Covid-19 dose now, and roughly 29% are fully vaccinated.

Judge Gavel

Biden Administration Watching Derek Chauvin Trial Closely As Verdict Is Reached 

The Biden administration is keeping a close eye on the closing arguments and deliberations that occur in the Minneapolis trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. The President himself voiced his concerns over potential fallout from the trial during a private meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus. Vice President Kamala Harris has also been greatly discussing preparation tactics with certain aides. 

The US is currently dealing with a major wave of mass shootings as well as the country begins to reopen with the rollout of multiple Covid-19 vaccines. Additionally, the killing of 20-year-old Duante Wright and 13-year-old Adam Toledo at the hands of the police also have racial tensions at an all time high, as both incidents occurred within two weeks of each other. 

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According to CNN, “the whipsaw of events, along with near-daily episodes of major shootings across the country, have only heightened pressure on both the President and Congress to hold police accountable for misconduct, a challenge now playing out against the backdrop of new calls for gun legislation.”

“The bully pulpit is more than just a bully pulpit. I think the President can help set a tone in the country, there is no question in my mind,” said Representative James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat who is the highest-ranking African American member of Congress.

In terms of the Chauvin trial, representative Karen Bass of California expressed how she’s “very worried” for the potential unrest the nation will endure within the next week.  “I don’t think anyone in Minneapolis, frankly, anyone in the United States or over a good part of the world would understand any other verdict other than guilty.”

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Harris recently spoke in an interview as well on the trial: “Certainly, we want to make sure that the American people call for justice — we all want to know that those calls are met. And we need to all be aware that when those calls for justice are not met, people rightly express their First Amendment right to speak out, to assemble and to express their concern, their pain, their disappointment — as long as it’s peaceful protests.”

According to advisers, “Biden wants neither to replicate the heavily militarized response to protests under former President Donald Trump nor to appear absent in the face of violence or unrest directed at law enforcement, one official said. He also believes he must directly acknowledge the systemic racism that pervades criminal justice in America.”

Biden has put his support behind the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which is a bill that would establish a national registry of all police misconduct, ban racial/religious profiling by law enforcement, and overhaul the system that grants police officers qualified immunity from certain crimes. 

America is patiently awaiting the results of the Derek Chauvin trial in what’s being viewed as one of the biggest trials in history when it comes to racial inequality in this country.