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The median price for a home in San Francisco is about $1.3 million, according to real estate site Zillow. Education Images | Universal Images Group | Getty Images There's one part of the mortgage world that's harder for some would-be home buyers to access: Jumbo loans. While there are signs that lenders may be easing their requirements for these larger mortgages, the squeeze that started when the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. economy in March has continued, experts say. For consumers, it means more roadblocks to buying a pricey home or refinancing a big mortgage. "It is truly a problem in the real estate market," said Al Bingham, a mortgage loan officer with Momentum Loans in Sandy, Utah. By definition, jumbo mortgages — also called "non-conforming" loans — do not conform to lending limits imposed by the government for mortgages backed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. In most places, that ceiling is $510,400 (for 2020). In some spots — Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands — the cap is $765,600. More from Personal Finance:Households need tax refunds to cover rent, survey showsMoney moves to help you thrive in a recessionHere's how much Medicare could cost you in retirement However, in high-cost areas, it's not hard to exceed that amount. For example, the median price for a home in San Francisco is about $1.3 million, according to real estate site Zillow. That compares to the national average home value of roughly $248,800. Pre-coronavirus, the jumbo mortgage market relied on investors (often banks) to purchase the loans they originated. In the face of economic uncertainty and continuing high numbers of new unemployment claims — which means it's trickier to predict who won't default on a loan — that secondary market has largely dried up. "There are fewer investors interested in buying those loans," said Mike Fratantoni, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association. This investor pullback means lenders now often must keep these mortgages in their own portfolio — and retain the risk. "There are a lot of competing demands for bank portfolios," Fratantoni said. "Households have maxed out their lines of credit, there's the [Paycheck Protection Program] … and banks have less space for jumbo loans." For consumers who would need one of these mortgages, whether for a refinance or a home purchase, it's likely they'll see higher credit score requirements than they would have at the start of 2020, as well as a larger minimum down payment and higher cash reserves. These loans also tend to require more due diligence on the part of the lender, which means borrowers have to produce things like bank statements, tax returns or other evidence proving their ability to repay. The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate jumbo mortgage was 3.52% as of July 3, down slightly from 3.59% a week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. Points paid — each point equals 1% of the loan — increased to 0.36 from 0.31. By comparison, conforming loans came with an average rate of 3.26%, down from 3.29%, with points decreasing to 0.35 from 0.36. Be aware that you might see bigger differences in jumbo loan terms from lender to lender than you would with Fannie and Freddie-backed mortgages. "On the conforming side of the market, competition is so fierce and there are so many lenders involved that you don't see a lot of dispersion of rates across lenders," Fratantoni said. In contrast, he said he's seen a quarter- to a half-percentage point difference "for essentially the same loan across lenders" in the jumbo market. "That's an enormous difference for jumbos," he said. While it may be harder to qualify for a jumbo loan than it was just months ago regardless of where you apply, at least one major lender has eased its jumbo refinance requirements for existing customers after tightening them several months ago: If you hold assets — regardless of the amount — with Wells Fargo, you can pursue a jumbo refinance there. It also applies to current mortgage customers and those who have home equity line of credit through the bank. This is a change from a temporary requirement imposed in early April that customers have at least $250,000 in assets at Wells Fargo to be eligible for its jumbo refinancing program.  The bank's shift, however, does not apply to non-customers. If you want to refinance a jumbo mortgage at Wells Fargo, you'd need to transfer $1 million or more in assets to the bank. That doesn't apply to purchases. Non-customers may be eligible for other mortgage loan products beyond jumbo refinances without having to move assets there, said a Wells Fargo spokesman. As for how to find jumbo loans, you can do your research or go through a mortgage broker, who typically has access to a variety of available programs. "I advocate both," Fratantoni said. "Do your own homework, but if there's a broker you work with ... they might be good at identifying [options] you might not see." Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube.
A construction worker wearing a protective mask moves bricks to the back of a house as they resume construction on a home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, May 7, 2020. Emily Elconin | Bloomberg via Getty Images It is the perfect storm for the nation's homebuilders. A sharp decline in the supply of existing homes for sale, increasing consumer preference for brand-new, high-tech homes with all the amenities for working and schooling, as well as an accelerating flight to the suburbs and exurbs made for remarkable housing demand in June. While the official government count isn't out until the end of the month, sales of newly built homes jumped 55% annually in June, according to a monthly survey by John Burns Real Estate Consulting, which has historically mirrored the U.S. Census report. It was the largest annual gain since homebuilding began again following the epic housing crash a decade ago. It is also the highest pace of sales growth since the height of the unprecedented housing boom in 2005. That expansion was driven by negligent lending in the subprime mortgage market. This boom appears to be driven by the coronavirus pandemic. "The anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. Sales in the distant commuter areas are the most robust," said John Burns, founder and CEO of JBRC. "I believe a lot of computer-oriented people have proven to their co-workers that they can be productive from home, and have sensed, or officially been given the green light, to work from home at least a significant portion of the time after a vaccine has been found." That sentiment was mirrored in a survey by Arizona-based builder Taylor Morrison, which reported a 94% annual jump in June home sales. High-tech homes, and additional rooms for working and home schooling, topped the list of consumer demands. "There is a bias to new. When I look at the research that our teams have been doing over the last 12 to 14 weeks, people are quoting, they want new, fresh, a place where wellness features will really make sense for them," said Sheryl Palmer, CEO of Taylor Morrison recently in an interview on CNBC's "Closing Bell." "Most recently, we're really seeing a pickup in folks saying they want more rural or suburban locations. Initially, there was a lot of talk about that, but it's really coming through our buyers today." Sales of new homes were strongest in the Northeast, with an 86% annual jump, and in Florida, where sales popped 84%, according to JBRC. California saw gains, but it was the laggard. Those sales are allowing builders to raise prices. About 57% of those surveyed said they had bumped prices higher, only in California did prices pull back some. About 14% of Southern California builders reduced net prices in June, the most of any region. Nationally, home prices for new construction in June were 4.5% higher annually. Builders can raise prices because they are seeing a new buyer today, more serious and more impatient than ever. Buyer traffic is converting into sales at a record rate. In addition, consumers are largely choosing homes already built, even in the luxury segment. That is why the inventory of unsold, newly built homes dropped 20% annually in June to just a 1.5-month supply. The issue for builders now is how to ramp up production quickly, when they never expected this kind of recovery. Most builders stopped buying land in March and laid off workers. Now they need more communities but are up against all kinds of hurdles, including high prices for finished lots and issues with local permitting offices which are not all open or running normally yet. Land developers will benefit, as community counts are now 5% lower than a year ago. There is, of course, the Covid-19 wild card: If the economy shuts down yet again, and unemployment rises, the prospects for housing strength continuing into the fall will weaken. Record low mortgage rates are certainly helping, but at some point, buyers will inevitably hit their price limit. Already, in the high-priced existing home market, there are signs that demand is pulling back.
A construction worker wearing a protective mask moves bricks to the back of a house as they resume construction on a home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, May 7, 2020. Emily Elconin | Bloomberg via Getty Images It is the perfect storm for the nation's homebuilders. A sharp decline in the supply of existing homes for sale, increasing consumer preference for brand-new, high-tech homes with all the amenities for working and schooling, as well as an accelerating flight to the suburbs and exurbs made for remarkable housing demand in June. While the official government count isn't out until the end of the month, sales of newly built homes jumped 55% annually in June, according to a monthly survey by John Burns Real Estate Consulting, which has historically mirrored the U.S. Census report. It was the largest annual gain since homebuilding began again following the epic housing crash a decade ago. It is also the highest pace of sales growth since the height of the unprecedented housing boom in 2005. That expansion was driven by negligent lending in the subprime mortgage market. This boom appears to be driven by the coronavirus pandemic. "The anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. Sales in the distant commuter areas are the most robust," said John Burns, founder and CEO of JBRC. "I believe a lot of computer-oriented people have proven to their co-workers that they can be productive from home, and have sensed, or officially been given the green light, to work from home at least a significant portion of the time after a vaccine has been found." That sentiment was mirrored in a survey by Arizona-based builder Taylor Morrison, which reported a 94% annual jump in June home sales. High-tech homes, and additional rooms for working and home schooling, topped the list of consumer demands. "There is a bias to new. When I look at the research that our teams have been doing over the last 12 to 14 weeks, people are quoting, they want new, fresh, a place where wellness features will really make sense for them," said Sheryl Palmer, CEO of Taylor Morrison recently in an interview on CNBC's "Closing Bell." "Most recently, we're really seeing a pickup in folks saying they want more rural or suburban locations. Initially, there was a lot of talk about that, but it's really coming through our buyers today." Sales of new homes were strongest in the Northeast, with an 86% annual jump, and in Florida, where sales popped 84%, according to JBRC. California saw gains, but it was the laggard. Those sales are allowing builders to raise prices. About 57% of those surveyed said they had bumped prices higher, only in California did prices pull back some. About 14% of Southern California builders reduced net prices in June, the most of any region. Nationally, home prices for new construction in June were 4.5% higher annually. Builders can raise prices because they are seeing a new buyer today, more serious and more impatient than ever. Buyer traffic is converting into sales at a record rate. In addition, consumers are largely choosing homes already built, even in the luxury segment. That is why the inventory of unsold, newly built homes dropped 20% annually in June to just a 1.5-month supply. The issue for builders now is how to ramp up production quickly, when they never expected this kind of recovery. Most builders stopped buying land in March and laid off workers. Now they need more communities but are up against all kinds of hurdles, including high prices for finished lots and issues with local permitting offices which are not all open or running normally yet. Land developers will benefit, as community counts are now 5% lower than a year ago. There is, of course, the Covid-19 wild card: If the economy shuts down yet again, and unemployment rises, the prospects for housing strength continuing into the fall will weaken. Record low mortgage rates are certainly helping, but at some point, buyers will inevitably hit their price limit. Already, in the high-priced existing home market, there are signs that demand is pulling back.
jeremyiswild People who need more cash in retirement these days might be considering a reverse mortgage. The offer is tempting. Homeowners who are age 62 or older can convert part of the equity in their home into cash instead of having to sell.  But there are disadvantages, such as complexity of the loans and their significant expense.  It's called a reverse mortgage because the payments for this loan actually work in reverse: You don't repay the lender until you permanently move out or die. As long as you continue paying taxes and maintaining the home, you cannot be evicted.  More from Invest in You:Not a saver? Learn these skills and end your year with a nice stashPrices go up every year. That doesn't mean you have to pay more If you need cash, try these less-obvious sources Payments vary widely in different reverse mortgages, from a one-time payment, or by leaving funds in a line-of-credit that can grow over time if unused, or as monthly payments, or some combination of options. Most popular is the variable-rate home equity conversion mortgage, according to Wade Pfau, professor of retirement income at the American College, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. This type of mortgage, aka an HECM, is insured by the Federal Housing Administration and offers several payment options.  Other arrangements are the proprietary reverse mortgage, a private loan backed by a company, and the single-purpose reverse mortgage offered by some state or local government agencies.  What to ask Goodboy Picture Company When you're considering a reverse mortgage, ask yourself if the house will work for you the rest of your life, says Carolyn McClanahan, a physician and certified financial planner who is founder and director of financial planning at Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Florida. Scout other possibilities, she advises, such as selling the house so you can use the money for a less-expensive property or to rent.   With a reverse mortgage, you have to be sure you can afford your home forever, McClanahan says. Two pros On the plus side of a reverse mortgage, there are two "pros": You can tap equity in your home without having to sell. You can keep the title to your home. Three cons On the minus side? Here are the "cons": High fees: The biggest cost is an initial mortgage insurance premium equal to 2% of the appraised value. "The origination fee might be higher than with a traditional mortgage," Pfau said. No one living with you under the age of 62 may be a borrower on the reverse mortgage. You leave less money to your heirs. We have a huge problem, in that people don't talk over their finances with their children until they are in trouble. Carolyn McClanahan director of financial planning at Life Planning Partners They might become more popular Applications for reverse mortgages rose 15% in March from the previous month as people turned to the loans to avoid tapping retirement investments in a down market. And there's another potential reason we'll see more interest in reverse mortgages. Retirement communities and assisted living facilities have become more common in recent decades. However, in the age of Covid-19, Americans may decide that large groups of older people living together in one place might not be a good idea after all, McClanahan says. This could mean that more people will try to age in place.  The ideal borrower Having more equity built up in the home than in savings is a common reason for turning to a reverse mortgage. In other words, some people are "home-rich and cash-poor," Pfau said. "They might not have a lot of savings." Several factors should be in place for a reverse mortgage to work. "[For] an older person who has a home that is aging-friendly in a community that's also aging-friendly, it's probably an OK idea," McClanahan said. A good strategy could be taking some of the initial money and putting it into modifications to make the home adaptable for someone as they age. Someone who's financially responsible could benefit. "Don't use [a reverse mortgage] because you want a bunch of money to buy a boat," Pfau said. "If someone can't deal with having the cash, they might be better having their home equity tied up and not available." Family talk A reverse mortgage needs to be a family discussion. "Make sure the children understand," McClanahan said. "We have a huge problem, in that people don't talk over their finances with their children until they are in trouble." Some families might be able to avoid actually using a reverse mortgage. A client of McClanahan's created his own version, in which he paid his father to help with his living expenses. The son inherited the house when the father died. Not commonly known Daniel Kaesler / EyeEm Since 2015, people who want a reverse mortgage must undergo a financial assessment to demonstrate they can maintain the home and keep up with property taxes and other costs associated with ownership. You generally have up to a year after moving out to either sell or come up with the repayment, Pfau says. The category of non-borrowing spouse, created in 2015, means the remaining spouse can remain in the house. The home must be your primary residence, and you can't be delinquent on any federal debt. You have to participate in counseling with a HUD-approved counselor who specializes in home equity conversion mortgages. Counseling is a good idea, McClanahan says. "When people are doing these reverse mortgages they need the money so much they discount the bad things that could happen," she said. SIGN UP: Money 101 is an 8-week learning course to financial freedom, delivered weekly to your inbox. 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Access to financing and lower bank loan rates will be particularly critical to younger buyers in Singapore's property market, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to drive ongoing pricing uncertainty, says Hari Krishnan, CEO and managing director at PropertyGuru Group. 03:36 a minute ago
An event held in Hong Kong for investors interested in U.K. property. Uptin Saiidi | CNBC A lot of the wealthy, wealthy Hong Kongers already have a footprint in the U.K. and they've already started some of that displacement of capital or diversification of capital outside of Hong Kong James Dempsey Asia sales director at BuyAssociation Emigration ads on social media In the past month, ads promoting emigration and international real estate investments have flooded Hong Kong users' social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. The ads, seen by CNBC, boast slogans like: "Now is the time to consider UK real estate," "Attend our free webinar on path to United States green car for Hong Kong residents" and "Create a new life in Australia or New Zealand." The biggest interest is in the U.K. — where some ads even reference recent announcements in which the U.K. said it would grant up to 3 million people in Hong Kong a path to citizenship, through a British National (Overseas) passport (BNO). The document was offered to select Hong Kong citizens before the territory was handed over to China in 1997 and currently offers passport holders access to British consular assistance and the right to stay in the U.K. for six months. China has called the U.K. announcement "a gross interference in China's internal affairs." Mohamad Nasir, a U.K.-based investment consultant at NPP Investments, said there's been a spike in the number of inquiries from Hong Kong about its properties in Manchester. "We've probably seen a 200% increase in the past week alone," he said. Three separate ads seen by CNBC promote overseas properties to Hong Kong investors While he usually works with Hong Kong clients who are primarily seeking investment properties, Nasir said he's now getting less inquiries about rental income and receiving more questions about lifestyle and immigration.  "They're saying, 'I'm looking to invest, but also I'm potentially looking to move over as well — within the next six months to 12 months,'" he added. His firm is just one of many seeing a surge in demand from a widening demographic of Hong Kongers. "A lot of the wealthy, wealthy Hong Kongers already have a footprint in the U.K. and they've already started some of that displacement of capital or diversification of capital outside of Hong Kong," said James Dempsey, Asia sales director at BuyAssociation, an investment consultancy specializing in the U.K. market. The firm sells properties in key cities in the U.K. and said it's experiencing one of the biggest spikes the business has seen.  "The BNO passport status has really influenced the general public," Dempsey said. "The biggest fuel at the moment is your everyday person in Hong Kong and that's why we're seeing such an increase in inquiries and transactions." The increasing interest from global developers is not just coming from the U.K. The DLF Camellias Gurgaon, a luxury real estate project in New Delhi, has shifted much of its attention from the U.S. and U.K. to focus on Hong Kong buyers. "There is a heightened interest now, triggered in a market like Hong Kong by the political slight instability, or anxiety in which kind of overlays the Covid anxiety," Karan Kumar, chief marketing officer at DLF Limited said. "It's only more appropriate for us to reach out to that market more directly." From the US to the UK Hong Kong investors purchasing investment properties overseas isn't new.  Kingston Lai, who founded Asia Bankers Club in the city in 2012, wanted his company to be a place that offers alternative investments services, mainly through investing in real estate abroad. At a recent event in Hong Kong, he spoke to crowds — first in English, then in Cantonese — to educate attendees on both lifestyle and investment options for a new Manchester development.  "When they see the U.K. property market still at a very good level, the sterling is cheap, they want to plan ahead," he told CNBC. "It's planning ahead for their kids' education, maybe for themselves at some point." Before the protests broke out in Hong Kong last year, CNBC attended an event hosted by the firm which sold units to a yet-to-be-opened Manhattan skyscraper. At the moment, the majority of Hong Kong nationals are most excited, or most enthusiastic, about the Canadian program and what's going on with the U.K. Brennan Sim senior vice president, EB5 United But that was last year. The situation appears to have changed since. "The interest in the U.S. was growing, but now with what's happening in the U.S., people do worry about the pandemic and election, creating a lot of uncertainty for the investors," Lai said. "Certainly, (the) U.S. dollar is still a very key currency ... but for them to think about potential growth in terms of the real estate market, they see a bigger potential in the U.K. market." Aside from the U.K., other developers targeting Hong Kong buyers heavily include Canada, Australia and New Zealand. "At the moment, the majority of Hong Kong nationals are most excited, or most enthusiastic, about the Canadian program and what's going on with the U.K.," said Brennan Sim, senior vice president of EB5 United, a firm that specializes in providing immigration services to the U.S. Meanwhile, Lai estimated a surge of between eight to 10 times in inquiries for British properties in recent months. "We know (the) Bank of England is printing money, quantitative easing is happening," he said. "During the crisis in 2008, this is on a bigger scale, they worry about that, worry about money becoming worthless, they're investing quickly into real estate. U.K. becomes a very good market for it." BuyAssociation's Dempsey said Hong Kong buyers also also attracted to the U.K. due to its education system and transparency with land registry, among other factors.  "Right now is going to be the biggest displacement of capital out of Hong Kong since '97," he predicted. "People are going to gravitate to the markets they feel are most secure."
A realtor wearing a protective mask uses a smartphone to provide a virtual video tour of a home for sale in Sacramento, California, U.S., on Monday, June 29, 2020. David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images Prospective buyers getting their first glimpse of potential homes through smartphone cameras connected by FaceTime and Zoom. 3-D modeling technology used to create digital walkthroughs that can be replayed at any time from nearly any angle, and can even fill an empty room with virtual furniture. Shelter has always been a basic personal need, but coronavirus and the ensuing lockdowns have made it more critical than ever. Home is not just a haven from the pandemic, it's now the office, gym, movie theater and cocktail lounge in one. For real estate, an industry dependent on how people feel about a potential home in-person, the pandemic and the ensuing need for social distancing, cleanliness, and minimal contact, has changed technology's role from nice-to-have into a must-have. New technology tools like virtual walkthroughs, 3-D mapping and drone surveys, were adopted years ago, but only on a case-by-case basis with select properties. "Some of the technology out there was neat stuff," says Quentin Dane, CEO of real estate brokerage Dash Carolina, which serves North Carolina's "research triangle" of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. "You did it for a certain type of extensive home, but you wouldn't do it for all of them." Coronavirus has transformed these specialty tools into de facto industry standards. "The video conference is now the norm," Dane said. "Technology caught up to where we live." How video calls are changing real estate deals One of the most mentioned technologies seeing widespread use is in fact one of the simplest: the video call. "I've been working with a client who's under contract, I showed them two dozen places virtually, on FaceTime, and they see the stats online," says Scott Straus, a Chicago-area broker at Better Homes And Gardens Real Estate, Star Homes. Real estate broker Coldwell Banker says its agents are embracing TikTok for virtual showings, and even hosting virtual open houses through Facebook Live. The technology used is typically consumer-grade because that's where the customer is, says M. Ryan Gorman, president and CEO of Coldwell Banker. "There's an awareness of the risk of people coming into my space," says Kate Kaufmann, a writer in Portland, Oregon, who is selling her condominium. Kaufmann says neighbors are also jittery about having complete strangers enter the shared complex to view her property. Los Angeles-based realtor John Maseredjian says he's using video calls not just to show properties, but to handle other, more mundane aspects of real estate. Maseredjian, who is the co-owner of JohnHart Real Estate, says he relies on teleconferencing software like Zoom Video Communications and Verizon's Bluejeans to get face-to-face with clients during the pandemic. "Where we used to meet people in the conference room of the office, we can share screens, go over data and analytics, things that we used to go over in person." The housing market was battered by Covid-19. Existing home sales experienced the largest decline since 1982 (when mortgage rates were 18%), but the worst may be over. Pending home sales bounced back for a record gain in May, while new home sales are starting to rebound as well, and more quickly than homebuilders expected. Properties are selling at a faster rate compared to the same time last year, and new contracts and new listings — while lower than a year ago — are easing in their rates of decline, according to the National Association of Realtors' weekly housing market monitor. The virtual walkthrough is accelerating the existing home search, with buyers winnowing down the list of potential properties faster than before. "Rather than going and seeing 30 different homes in person, you can see them virtually," Maseredjian said. Redfin says it's seeing a rise in sellers using 3-D scans to create virtual walkthroughs that are "almost like playing a video game," says Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman. Coldwell Banker has been using the augmented reality technology from Streem to prepare homes for showing without needing to send an agent to the physical property. These trends are reflected nationwide: a May survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors found that 35% of realtors are seeing sellers rely on virtual tours.  We will continue to see almost all buyers want to step into the home to feel it. Nick Bailey chief customer officer at RE/MAX Record low mortgage rates are adding fuel to the residential real estate market. The latest weekly data showed a continued rise and mortgage applications 33% higher than a year ago. Online-based mortgage provider Better.com says it has seen a 40% increase in purchase applications and it has conducted appraisals through the iPhone. But despite the coronavirus-accelerated move to digital and rethinking of physical home priorities, most buyers do want to see the property in person. "A majority of homeshoppers still do want an in-person tour before putting down their hard-earned down payment," says Amanda Pendleton, Zillow home trends expert. Online-focused real estate companies that have evolved their own buying and selling marketplaces, are adjusting to that demand. Redfin, Zillow and Opendoor all say they are installing smart locks on unoccupied properties they own and are selling, restricting in-person walkthroughs to one group at a time. While most of the process of homebuying, from negotiating a deal to writing an offer, can be done electronically, Nick Bailey, chief customer officer at RE/MAX, believes the in-person walkthrough is essential. "We will continue to see almost all buyers want to step into the home to feel it," said Bailey. Even homeowners who have bought properties "sight unseen" say the visual walkthrough is critical. "For a major life purchase like a home, you'd prefer to see and touch and feel it in person," says homebuyer Jarrod Schwartz. Schwartz is in the process of buying a home in Brentwood, Tennessee. "The tactile experience is important," Maseredjian said. "If you're gonna spend that much money on a property, you really want to see it in person." In fact, the biggest changes of all coming out of the pandemic may be less about technology and more about how buyers define the idea of a home. Stay-at-home orders forced households to re-evaluate what they need and what they don't, says Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at the National Association of Realtors, everything from the importance of a home office to yards for people to exercise or grow their own food. "Some people are saying I want more space. Others may need to accommodate more older adult relatives. Others are expecting new babies or pets," said Lautz.