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Signs of rebound for Polk housing market – News – News Chief



Single-family home sales slumped in April and May because of COVID-19, but there are already signs of a rebound in June.

LAKELAND — COVID-19 struck Century 21 Myers Realty like lightning.

“We as a company lost 12 sales overnight after COVID-19 hit,” said Jack Myers, the owner and a real estate broker.

The lost clients in early March ranged from investors in short-term rentals to families that experienced job losses, he said.

But Myers and Dawna Stone, the owner and broker of the Property Shoppe of Central Florida Inc., a Lakeland company specializing in home sales, said the Polk real estate market may already be on the rebound.

“I think at the end of this year, we’re going to see a gangbusters market on housing,” Stone said. “I would say (conditions) are definitely favorable. The affordability index with mortgages so low is better than it has been in a great number of years.”

Property Shoppe closed a recent single-family home sale at a 2.75% interest rate, she said. Nationwide mortgage rates are at historic lows, according to recent news reports.

“I feel here the phones are ringing more,” said Myers, who has offices in Auburndale, Winter Haven and Haines City. “Our agents are still on the phone dialing for dollars and keeping in contact with customers.”

Statistics from the Stellar MLS (multiple listing service), a Central Florida real estate market data firm based in Orlando, show the impact of COVID-19 since the first case in the state was reported on March 1.

The Lakeland area saw monthly single-family home sales increase from 8% to 26% in the first three months of this year compared to the same months in 2019, according to a Stellar report. That changed rapidly in April, which saw a 26% decline, followed by a 25% decline in May.

The East Polk area was hit even harder.

Monthly single-family home sales increased from 3% to 32% in this year’s first quarter, followed by a 26% decline in April and a 39% crash in April, Stellar reported.

Those numbers reflect sales reported by Stellar member companies located in the Lakeland and East Polk areas and could include properties outside their areas, said Stone, a Stellar member.

But a large majority of sales traditionally come from the company’s home area, she said.

About 98% of the Property Shoppe’s sales involve Polk County properties, Stone said.

The April-May slump did not represent the overall health of the local real estate market, Stone argued.

Despite the slump, year-to-date growth in single-family home sales was still positive, up 1.5% for the four months ending in April and it fell just 4.4% for the five months through May compared to the same periods in 2019.

In East Polk, the year-to-date growth was essentially flat, down just 0.45% for the first four months and off 10.6% for the five months through May.

Property Shoppe is already feeling a recovery, Stone said.

For the year up to Friday, the company sold 49 single-family homes, the same number it sold through the identical period last year, she said. But the value of those home rose from $8.7 million in 2019 compared to $11.6 million this year, a 33% increase.

Actually the recovery in Lakeland may have already begun, according to Myers, citing up-to-date Stellar data.

The Lakeland area sold 810 single-family homes in June through Friday, a 5% increase from 771 sales in the same period last year, Myers said. And the value of sales rose from $136.7 million to 146.2 million, a 7% increase.

In East Polk, June sales were still 9% lower than a year ago, he said, but the average home value rose from $189,000 to $193,000.

A shortage of homes on the market is keeping values high, acting as a drag on the market, he said.

A lot of sellers dropped out of the market when COVID-19 hit and have not yet returned, Myers said.

“Sales will increase if we have more listings,” or homes available, he said. “If we have more listings, we can sell them.”

Demand remains strong, particularly in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, for homes in Florida, Myers said.

While low mortgage interest rates normally spur growth, lenders have also increased restrictions for getting the loans, another drag on future growth, Stone and Myers agreed.

Since the pandemic, lenders have increased the minimum credit score to qualify for a loan and are looking more closely at the kind of jobs borrowers have and how likely they would face a layoff, they said.

Some lenders are asking for letters of assurance the borrower doesn’t face a layoff, Stone said.

“It’s eliminated some borrowers, but if you get them with a good lender, they can do some credit repair,” Myers said.

Kevin Bouffard can be reached at or at 863-802-7591.

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Gov. Reynolds announces assistance to low-income Iowans in preventing eviction or regaining housing



DES MOINES, Ia. (KMTV) — Statement from the office of Governor Kim Reynolds

Governor Reynolds today announced that a total of nearly $9 million in assistance is available to eligible low-income Iowans who are at imminent risk of eviction and individuals who have lost housing to quickly regain housing stability. The funding will also provide support for homeless shelter operations. The funds are made available through a supplemental appropriation to the Emergency Solutions Grant program through the federal CARES Act.

“Throughout the pandemic, our focus has always been on protecting the lives and livelihoods of Iowans,” said Gov. Reynolds. “The funds announced today will assist those at risk of eviction while also providing support to homeless shelters supporting Iowa’s homeless population at this critical time. I appreciate the continued collaboration with our federal partners in support of the state’s pandemic response.”

“Providing housing assistance for Iowans in need remains a top priority,” said Iowa Finance Authority Executive Director, Debi Durham. “The ability for Iowans to thrive and prosper begins with a safe, stable place to call home and the program announced today will be essential in helping Iowans get back on their feet.”

The Emergency Solutions Grant program will help to prevent households from becoming homeless due to eviction, assist Iowans who have lost their home to eviction to regain rental housing as well as provide homeless shelters with financial support to assist with operations and outreach as they work to serve Iowans in need and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

To be eligible for eviction prevention assistance to avoid homelessness, Iowans must have an income of 50% of the area median income or less and be at imminent risk of eviction in addition to meeting other eligibility criteria. To be eligible for assistance in rapidly regaining housing, Iowans must be currently experiencing homelessness.

Examples of assistance available to eligible individuals include rent and utility payments, including in arrears, legal assistance, application fees, security and utility deposits, moving costs, case management and credit repair. All financial assistance is paid directly to landlords and service providers.

Individuals in need of assistance must apply through the Coordinated Entry helpline in their area, which is available along with additional eligibility and program information at

Thirty-five agencies were awarded a total of $8.8 million in Emergency Solutions Grant Program funds. The full list of awards is available here. The assistance will remain available until all funds are exhausted or September 30, 2022.

The Emergency Solutions Grant program is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Iowa Finance Authority in partnership with participating Iowa service agencies.

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Dovly, the Credit Repair Engine, Welcomes Todd Davis, Co-Founder and Former CEO of LifeLock, to Advisory Board



PHOENIX, Dec. 3, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Dovly, the credit repair engine that tracks, manages, and fixes your credit, today announced the appointment of Todd Davis, co-founder and former chief executive officer (CEO) of identity protection leader LifeLock, to its board of advisors.

“Todd is one of the most innovative marketers and business leaders in the personal finance industry,” said Nirit Rubenstein, CEO and co-founder of Dovly. “His unique understanding of consumer mindsets and financial technology enabled him to create and scale a transformational business. His insights will help us take Dovly to the next level.”

“Millions of Americans have at least one serious mistake on their credit reports,” Todd Davis, co-founder and former CEO of LifeLock, explained, “yet far too many of those people aren’t even aware of it, nor do they understand the impact these mistakes have on credit scores. Dovly is a game changer.”

After launching his career with Dell in the early 1990s, Davis co-founded LifeLock in 2005. Five years later, the company ranked eighth on Inc. Magazine’s list of the 500 fastest growing companies in America, and in 2012, the company went public. By 2014, LifeLock had over three million subscribers and 700 employees. Symantec acquired the company in February 2017 for $2.3 billion. Davis now serves as chairman of the board of Kadenwood and Aesthetics Biomedical.

Dovly also welcomed Jacky Chiu, the former vice president of product of LifeLock, to its advisory board. Chiu is the co-founder and chief technology officer of Brightside, a financial technology company that recently secured a $35 million series A funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz.

About Dovly

Dovly is an advanced credit repair engine that tracks, manages, and fixes your credit. Dovly’s fully automated technology enables customers to get ahead financially by leveraging credit intelligence to repair credit scores. The company is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, and has increased its customer base by 160% this year alone. In June of 2020, Dovly raised a $2.25 million round of seed funding led by NFX, with participation from 1984 Ventures.

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Black Lives Matter job fair aims to provide economic opportunity in Polk County



LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Black Lives Matter organizers in Polk County are putting together a database to help lead people on the path to economic opportunity.

“I do a lot of things. General contracting, general clean up,” Tony Jones, of Lakeland, told a local recruiter.

Tony Jones, who lives in Lakeland

Jones is a veteran looking for a job. He served four years in the U.S. Army.

He wants to work, just needs an opportunity.

“You can’t pay no bills and eat if you’re sitting at home waiting for somebody to hand you something. You gotta get out and get it,” he said.

Jones came to the Dream Center in Lakeland to try to take those steps at a job fair organized by Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc.

Black Lives Matter advocates protested to end police brutality this summer in Lakeland and all across the world with the ultimate goal of social justice.

“What’s going to happen next with Black Lives Matter after the marching and the rally? For us, it’s providing economic opportunity,” said Jarvis Washington, President & Founder of Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc.

Wednesday’s job fair event launched Washington’s economic initiatives.

“We’re going to be working on the personal growth of the individual. We’re going to be helping them on everything from the mentoring program, credit repair programs, teaching them money management,” he said.

BLM partnered with Civitas Recruiting for the event.

Susan Freebern created the organization a few months ago to help community leaders steer under-served communities to good-paying jobs.

“They don’t know where to go to get these kinds of jobs. They don’t feel like they’re offered these kinds of jobs through regular staffing companies. I’m just going to go find those jobs and bring them to them,” she said.

On Wednesday, Civitas Recruiting and Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk gathered information to recruit workers for future projects through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program.

“Nothing’s gonna be fixed overnight or taken care of. I think we just need to all strive together, make positive steps. That’s all you can do,” Jones said.

To sign up for the program click here.

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