5 trends fueling hot real estate market

The housing market is on fire.

What began as a pickup in demand early in the pandemic has evolved into an all-out buying spree. Sales of new and previously owned homes, while off their peaks, remain elevated. Construction has picked up somewhat, but contractors are struggling to shore up supply. With inventory sitting near record lows, price growth has accelerated to rival the 2000s housing bubble.

Reports published Tuesday confirmed the boom is alive and well. Prices soared through March at the fastest rate since 2005, according to S&P CoreLogic. Separately, Census Bureau data showed new single-family home sales slowing 5.9% through April. Still, the sales pace sits well above the pre-pandemic norm.

But it’s not just conventional gauges posting shocking superlatives — fundamental change is afoot in US housing. Alternative data, from lumber prices to the realtor-to-listing ratio, show a handful of structural shifts taking place throughout the market. Glenn Kelman, CEO of real-estate brokerage Redfin, unpacked several of them on a Twitter thread that racked up more than 14,000 likes in less than 48 hours. 

     Here are the five major changes reshaping the US housing sector.

1 – Buyers face a persistent shortage of available homes

At its core, the market boom is simply a result of too few homes. Economists are largely confident that, while trends are similar to the mid-2000s bubble, it’s a nationwide supply shortage driving prices higher, and not risky lending practices.

  • More realtors than listings

The number of available homes in the US totaled 1.16 million at the end of April, according to the National Association of Realtors. NAR ended last month with 1.48 million members.

The association’s membership has exceeded listings through much of the year as sales bite into home availability.

  • Historically low inventory

The national supply of available homes in the US plummeted to record lows at the start of the pandemic and have only just risen from those levels through 2021. The monthly inventory rose to 4.4 months in April, but the bounce has as much to do with a slowing pace of sales as it does with a pickup in construction.

  • Homes selling at a record pace

When homes are coming up for sale, they aren’t staying on the market all that long. The average home now sells in a record-low 17 days, Kelman wrote on Twitter.

2 – People are fleeing cities for cheaper locales

The story of the 2020-2021 housing market is also one of migration. Americans largely fled densely populated cities for suburbs and traded their apartments for homes while mortgage rates were low. And after years of intense crowding in metropolitan areas, people seeking more space during the work-from-home period rushed to less populated states.

  • Low-tax states seeing huge inflows

Attractive tax rates seemingly played a major role in the moving bonanza. Four people moved into low-tax states for every one that left, Kelman said. That ratio rose to 5:1 in Texas and 7:1 in Florida.

  • Moving families face a new status quo

Americans who moved during the pandemic took a few risks. In a Redfin survey of 2,000 homebuyers, 63% said they bid on a home they hadn’t seen in person yet.

Separately, those moving to low-tax states enjoyed far lower housing costs. In many instances, the money saved allowed one parent to stop working, and many buyers are retiring early, Kelman said in a Wednesday tweet.

  • Inventory and prices up in SF and NYC

Still, some of the country’s biggest cities aren’t down for the count. Inventory has swung higher in New York City and San Francisco by 28% and 77%, respectively, according to Kelman. Yet prices are increasing steadily in both markets, suggesting that, while many are moving out, enough are moving in to support already lofty prices.

3 – It’s getting more and more expensive to build homes

The simplest solution to slowing homes’ rapid price growth would be to increase supply. Yet the combination of a historic surge in demand with supply-chain bottlenecks as the economy reopened have hindered contractors.

  • Lumber prices exploded higher

Most recently, surging lumber costs cut into builders’ efforts. Prices soared to record highs earlier in May and closed 280% higher year-over-year on Tuesday.

  • Not enough building space

Even if lumber cost less, there’s scant room to build homes. The New Home Lot Supply Index — which tracks lots ready for building — fell 10% to a record low in the first quarter, according to housing analytics firm Zonda.

Even the firms that have empty lots are running behind in converting them to sellable homes. About 242,000 authorized homes hadn’t been started yet in April, the Census Bureau said last week. That’s the highest level since 1979. 

  • Builders waiting for the opportune moment

The various shortages and bottlenecks have led builders to hit the brakes and wait for profitability to rebound. Nearly one-in-five contractors surveyed by the National Association of Realtors in April said they’re delaying construction or sales.

About 47% said they added escalation clauses to contracts last month. The clauses allow contractors to lift homes’ selling prices to offset an increase in building costs.

4 – Pricey construction, unrelenting demand is driving stronger home inflation

With builders unable to meet demand with new supply, prices predictably shot through the roof. Experts see home-price inflation staying hot into 2023, and with selling prices already elevated, a long rally could further dent home affordability across the US.

  • Prices hit record highs

While the rate of sales has cooled slightly, price growth remains strong. The median selling price of new homes rose to a record-high $372, 400 in April, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.

The median price for previously owned homes rose to a record of its own last month. The average existing home cost $341,000 in April, the National Association of Realtors said on May 21.

  • Sell-over-ask at record highs

For those looking to sell, there’s never been a better time. Homes are selling on average for 1.7% above their asking price, Kelman wrote on Twitter. That’s the largest average overshoot on record.

5 – Americans increasingly prioritize value and space

Still, not all buyers are losing out as the market boom charges onward.

  • Two-thirds of buyers say they snagged great deals

A Redfin survey of 600 homebuyers found that about two-thirds of people who moved during the pandemic bought a unit that was the same size or larger than their previous home. The same share of buyers spent the same or less on housing, the firm added.

  • Most had more cash after they moved

Moving during the pandemic also tended not to break the bank. Of the Americans reporting they moved into larger homes, 78% said they have the same amount of disposable income or more after their move, Kelman said.

“Idaho home price could triple and still seem affordable to a Californian,” the Redfin CEO said in a tweet.

~Ben Winck, Insider 

All-time record for home sale prices

The median home sale price increased 16% year-over-year to $331,590 – an all-time high, per a report this week from Redfin. But that’s not stopping buyers from snatching up homes days after they’re listed.

During a four-week period ending March 21 and covering 400 metros, 58% of homes that went under contract had an accepted offer within the first two weeks on the market. And between March 14 and March 21, 61% of homes sold in that timeframe had been on the market two weeks or less, and 48% had sold in one week or less.

And offers are coming in well-above asking price, too. Nearly 40% of homes sold above their list price – another all-time high – and 15 percentage points higher year-over-year. The average sale-to-list price ratio, which measures how close homes are selling to their asking prices, increased to 100.2%.

This is concerning for experts, though, many of whom believe home prices will remain high even after mortgage rates, inventory, and building material costs recover to pre-pandemic levels. Rates are already above 3% – after falling into the 2% range during the majority of 2020 – but construction companies are still struggling to keep up with insane lumber prices, stifling new builds.

National Association of Home Builders Chairman Chuck Fowke recently noted that supply shortages and high demand have caused lumber prices to jump “about 200%” since April 2020, and the elevated price of lumber is adding approximately $24,000 to the price of a new home.

When the pandemic is over, purchasing a home is going to cost much more than ever before, putting homeownership much further out of reach for many Americans,” said Daryl Fairweather, Redfin chief economist. “That means a future in which most Americans will not have the opportunity to build wealth through home equity, which will worsen inequality in our society.”

Fairweather noted that President Joseph Biden’s hopeful $3 trillion infrastructure plan includes building 1.5 million sustainable homes, but there is no guarantee the bill will be “passed with every policy proposal intact.”

“America needs an audacious goal to increase the housing supply, given the U.S. is short 2.5 million homes,” she said. “It may be expensive to build millions of homes, but ignoring the problem would only cause housing to become more unaffordable and worsen housing insecurity.”

The best chance at home prices lowering is the continued rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, experts said, which will allow lumber mills to reopen and material prices to lower. Builders will then be spending less on new builds, which will help the backlogging of inventory.

~ Housing Wire

What Buyers Focus On Most When Touring A Home, According To Eye-Tracking Software

Turns out, it isn’t all about the stainless steel appliances.

One of the many mantras in the real estate world is the saying “kitchens sell houses,” but until now there has been very little information about exactly what it was in a kitchen that would make buyers pay attention. With the help of a few homebuyers wearing glasses that track eye movements, we are beginning to have some hard facts.

It isn’t the shiny metallic fridge or the latest high-tech dishwasher their eyes go to when they first walk in the kitchen. It’s the oven. Many of the buyers in the study would go so far as to look inside the oven, and some of them would even turn it on to see how well it worked. So if you’re selling your home, make sure the oven is so clean it sparkles inside and out. If it isn’t in working order or has a few bad burners, you don’t necessarily have to get it replaced, but you might consider offering the buyer a credit for a new one.

Bedrooms are one of the next priorities in a house that can make or break a sale and eye-tracking software reveals a buyer’s eyes go straight to the bed when they walk into the room. Most likely buyers are wondering if their bed will fit in the space and if there is enough room to fit the rest of their furniture as well. This means if you’re in triage mode when it comes to decluttering on short notice, make the bedrooms a priority over other rooms in the house.

Outdoor accessibility was another big takeaway from the study. When buyers walked into a room that accessed the backyard their eyes immediately went to the outdoor space and the doors that opened out to it. Make sure the windows and doors (if they have glass) are as clean as can be so they show off the view to the outdoors in the best way possible.

But how about those stainless steel appliances? Are they worth it in the end? This study wasn’t designed to measure whether people’s eyes looked at stainless steel more than other types of finishes, but I’ll pass on the main reason why they have become so much of a trend: They can make a small kitchen look much bigger. The reflective surface acts the same way a mirror does by bouncing light around the room and giving the impression of spaciousness. To continue with the mirror example, a designer once told me hanging a mirror is almost as good as adding a window to a room. Stainless steel can have the same impact within a kitchen so it is still worth keeping it in mind if you are going to buy a new appliances.

~ Amy Dobson, Forbes

Would-Be Sellers Appear Ready to Boost Inventory

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There’s a fresh sign that more inventory may be coming to the market, as homeowners deepen their faith in selling. The percentage of consumers who are “strongly” optimistic that now is a good time to sell hit 46% in the second quarter of this year, a significant increase from the 37% who said the same thing in the first quarter, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ Housing Opportunities and Market Experience Survey, which was released Wednesday.

Home prices have begun moderating in recent months, which may be prompting homeowners to consider selling sooner in order to cash in before prices go any lower. “With home price appreciation slowing, home sellers understand the days of large price gains from holding an extra year are over,” says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

Homeowners have been putting off a move in recent years, reluctant to give up low interest rates on their current loans and fearing the difficulty of finding another home to buy amid an inventory crunch. The inventory problem, though, could be eased if more would-be sellers decide to put their homes up for sale.

Other findings from the HOME Survey include:

Not just seller optimism. More Americans also believe now is a good time to buy. Thirty-eight percent of respondents to NAR’s survey say they “strongly agree” that now is the right time to purchase a home, and 27% “moderately agree.” Thirty-five percent say it’s not a good time to buy, according to the survey.
Confidence in the overall economy. A rosier economic outlook may be generating some of the optimism in the housing market. Fifty-five percent of consumers now say they think the economy is improving, up from 53% in the first quarter of 2019. Consumers who are the most upbeat about the economy tend to earn $100,000 or more and reside in rural areas, the survey shows.
Generation X offers important clues. The most notable change in consumer economic perceptions, Yun says, is among Gen Xers, who have tended to face the most financial pressures in recent years compared to other age groups. Fifty-three percent of Gen Xers say they believe the economy is improving, up from 50% in the first quarter. “Many in the Generation X population find themselves needing to purchase multigenerational homes,” Yun says. “Also, they may be feeling financial stress from caring for aging parents and children of all ages. Nonetheless, they have an optimistic outlook about the future.”
Mortgage rates boost sales. Overall, of the respondents surveyed who don’t currently own a home, 27% say they believe it would be difficult to qualify for a mortgage due to their financial situation; 30% said it would be somewhat difficult to qualify. Mortgage affordability showed some improvement in the second quarter, and the trend likely will continue, Yun says. “Lower mortgage rates, along with job and wage growth, will lead to an increase in sales and thereby contribute positively to economic growth in the upcoming quarters.”

~Realtor Magazine

Like spring, Seattle’s real estate season is just getting started

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A month out from “peak real estate season” in Seattle, and the local market is still not among the hottest in the country.

That is, likely, more than alright for a number of home-buyers, who might’ve been burnt out from last year’s market which seemed to go nowhere but up in median price. But it’s also a bit surprising — and not confined to Seattle, according to a new monthly report from CoreLogic.

According to CoreLogic’s numbers, Washington’s growth in February 2019 for single-family home prices year-over-year was just 4.6%, only marginally more than the national average, 4%. Both those numbers represent something of a cooldown, according to Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic.

“During the first two months of the year, home-price growth continued to decelerate,” Nothaft said in their most recent report. “This is the opposite of what we saw the last two years when price growth accelerated early.”

That doesn’t mean that housing is suddenly cheap, either locally or nationwide; CoreLogic’s report also looked at the top 50 markets based on housing stock. They found 40% were overvalued, 18% were undervalued, and 42% were at value in February 2019.

And according to Nothaft, the peak season is primed for prices to go up even further.

“With the Federal Reserve’s announcement to keep short-term interest rates where they are for the rest of the year, we expect mortgage rates to remain low and be a boost for the spring buying season,” he said in the report. “A strong buying season could lead to a pickup in home-price growth later this year.”

And while Seattle had some other things on its mind in February that might’ve contributed to a cool down, local analysts agree that it’s shaping up to be a good season too.

After all, even with the Snowmageddon, home prices in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties rose significantly, ending the month-over-month declines that started last May. And as CoreLogic notes in their report, Seattle’s market was considered “at value” in February.

“Similar to previous months, prices are moving upwards the most consistently in exurban areas along the Interstate 5 corridor,” James Young, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington, said in the latest Northwest Multiple Listing Service report.

“Look for prices outside the major urban areas to continue rising as the weather improves and the main selling season arrives.”

~Zosha Millman, Seattle P-I

Housing crash a distant memory for Seattle homeowners, Zillow says

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Now may be the best time to sell in Seattle, considering more than 97 percent of homes are worth more now than the peak level before the housing market crashed in 2008, according to a new Zillow study released on Thursday.
The median home value is 29.2 percent above the bubble peak level, with the average home worth $492,700 – an 11.4 percent increase compared to a year ago.
Unfortunately, the same can be said about rent, with a 1.9 percent increase over the past year and a median cost of $2,176.

The rest of the housing market around the country is doing pretty well, too, with half of all U.S. homes more valuable now than before the 2008 recession. The median home value stands at $217,300 — that’s 8.3 percent higher than last year. Home values have risen by 8.4 percent since the height of the housing bubble.

Similarly, six of the 35 largest housing markets – including five cities in Texas (Austin, San Jose, San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston), and Denver, Colorado – have more than 95 percent of homes worth more now than pre-recession peak. Portland, Oregon comes in close, with 94.8 percent of homes more valuable now.

But, there are many home buyers across major U.S. cities still struggling to recover from the recession. Las Vegas remains one of the worst cities, with only 0.8 percent of homes more valuable than before the crash. Orlando, Florida comes in second, Riverside, California third, and Baltimore, Maryland and Phoenix, Arizona topping the list for the least valuable homes since the recession.

“Despite widespread and consistent home value growth today, the scars of the recession still run deep for millions of longer-term U.S. homeowners, and it may take years of growth for their home to regain the value lost a decade ago,” Zillow Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas said. “And while stabilizing growth in rents is likely a relief for those renters saving to become homeowners, many of those would-be buyers in a number of the nation’s hottest markets will be contending with home prices that are as high as they’ve ever been.”

~Karina Mazhukhina / KOMONews.com

In Seattle real estate market, inventory is finally up

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According to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) Seattle ended June with more than a month of inventory for the first time since September 2016.

In the Seattle city limits in June 2018, NWMLS saw 1,246 active listings, a 75.5 percent increase from the year before. Seattle ended last month with 1.2 months of inventory—a figure based on number of homes for sale and typical sales time—which is nearly double what the market had the previous year.

While this didn’t translate to a decrease in housing prices, they did rise less than last month or last year. Median closing prices rose 8 percent compared to June of last year—but at that time, home values had risen 17 percent. So although the median closing price for last month in Seattle was a whopping $740,000, or $812,500 for a single-family home, it rose far less quickly than this time last year.

County-wide, the inventory picture also improved, although home prices continue to rise; King County ended the month with 1.3 months of inventory compared to .84 last year. And while home prices are rising less quickly than this time last year, too, it’s not by as much. County-wide, home prices rose 10.2 percent over last year—compared to 15.7 percent over the previous year.

Even if home values are rising less quickly, they’re still already high—and still, according to the Puget Sound Regional Council, going up by about $5 every hour of every day. With renters already cost-burdened at a higher rate than homeowners, there seem to be fewer options for entering into homeownership. For people already priced out, there’s not a lot of good news here.

But it’s decent news for current househunters worried about getting priced out before they can get an offer accepted, agents short on listings, or current homeowners sitting on their properties because they’re worried about their next steps.

Meanwhile, though, there’s not much relief in sight for would-be homebuyers in Tacoma. As the City of Destiny’s rent rises faster than Seattle, closing prices have jumped more than 13 percent in Pierce County. Inventory is down and median sale prices are up across the city proper, with the biggest jump in home price, 34.6 percent, in central Tacoma.

~Sarah Anne Lloyd, Curbed Seattle

How Much it Costs to Buy a House in the Hottest Housing Markets of 2018

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Most areas of the country are in a seller’s market, meaning there’s not enough inventory for all the interested homebuyers. About half of all the homes in the country are worth as much or more than they were in April 2007 — the height of America’s housing boom.

This is all good news if you’re planning to sell your home. It’s less good news if you’re trying to find one. But as with most things when it comes to buying a house, like what kind of hidden fees you can expect during the process, where you live matters. Certain areas of the country are exploding in popularity, which is driving up the cost of homes.

Ahead, check out how much it costs to buy a home in the hottest real estate markets of 2018 according to Zillow’s latest housing report.  Hottest Housing Markets

Why It’s Now An Empty Nesters’ Housing Market

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There’s a mismatch in the housing market. Demand is rising, yet homebuilders don’t have the capacity to create the supply.  They haven’t banked as much land, they haven’t filed the permits and they’ve become increasingly short of labor—one possible byproduct of the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigrants.

In fact, the nation is probably short about 700,000 homes on an annual basis. That explains why new home sales have been somewhat disappointing.

It also explains why sellers in many markets are now in prime position. According to Realtor.com, in December and January the supply of existing homes was 3.6 months, something that hadn’t happened since January 2005. In Seattle, for instance, the average time a house stays on the market is 36 days, compared with the national average of 90 days. In Dallas-Ft. Worth, it’s 42 days, according to Realtor.com.

Combine that with the prospect of higher-priced mortgages thanks to the Federal Reserve’s decision to begin lifting interest rates and it makes buyers a little more motivated. “We’ve seen home sales surge because buyers are beginning to realize there is this expectation that mortgage rates will rebound: you might as well get in now,” says Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at The Economic Outlook Group. He says prices are rising at twice the rate of inflation and more than two times the rate of average hourly pay. That’s bad news on the affordability front for first-time buyers who are trying to get onto the first rung of the housing ladder.
Click here for more articles from Time Inc.’s Looking Forward series.

But it’s great news for empty nesters and other homeowners looking to downsize. Even better, there’s less of a supply constraint because developers have targeted the boomer market by building high service, luxury condominiums in major markets. And why not, says Peter Wells, a partner at Real Capital Solutions, which is developing a luxury condo tower in suburban Dallas: “When [boomers] sell their big place, they’re cash rich and it becomes all lifestyle driven.” Spring is a traditional time for buying and selling homes, and this season stands to be a busy one.

~Bill Saporito, Time

How Millennials Are Changing the Housing Market

 

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Today, younger Millennials are purchasing their first homes and older ones are already moving on to buying their second. Millennials are known as the generation that will buy a $200 pair of jeans after extensive research and trying on 67 different pairs to find the exact right ones. The way they shop for homes is no different.

This research-driven culture is supported by the internet where everything they could ever possibly want to know is right at their fingertips.

The most surprising thing about the way Millennials buy their homes is that they actually want a realtor to help guide them through the process, but that’s not the only generational shift here.

Millennials Want Everything To Be Just Right
Millennials consider owning their own home as an important part of living the American Dream. Unfortunately, thanks to stagnating wages and a sharp increase in student loan debt, saving for that down payment isn’t going to be easy. As a result, there isn’t much cash left over after closing to make any updates Millennials want, so they instead seek out homes that are fully updated and move in ready to begin with.

At the top of Millennials’ wish lists are updated kitchens and bathrooms, green features like solar panels, an open floor plan, a home office, a good location, and good Internet and cell service. Almost half of Millennials would rather buy a brand new house in order to avoid any maintenance issues that might occur early on. Only 11% of Millennials consider a home to be permanent anyway.

Eventually, Millennials plan to sell their starter home as 68% view it as a stepping stone to the home they really want and making improvements is not part of that plan. The average homeowner keeps their home for ten years, while the average Millennial only keeps their home for six years.

Some Things Remain the Same Regardless of Generation
When it comes to where Millennials want to live, the suburbs still reign supreme. Half of Millennials live in the suburbs and a surprisingly low 25% live in urban areas. Research shows Millennials want to live in a place that is close to work and close to things to do, and urban areas typically provide both of those things.

Four out of five adults between the ages of 18 and 25 live outside of the urban core of a city, which indicates an even stronger shift toward the suburbs. Still, they want to be close to work to save on commute times and travel expenses, and 65% choose the location of their home based on how far it is to work.

Why Should Sellers Cater To Millennial Home Buyers?
Of all first-time home buyers, Millennials make up 66%, and they are 34% of home buyers overall. Over 66% plan to purchase a new home within the next 5 years. That’s a huge generational shift in real estate. Millennials are better informed about their options than probably any other generation before them.

In short, if you aren’t catering to this generation’s enormous buying potential you’re probably going to be missing out on a lot of opportunities. If you are considering selling your home:

Make All Necessary Repairs and Upgrades Before Listing
Consider updating kitchens and baths – these have always sold homes, but now they are more important than ever
Do an energy efficiency audit and make upgrades anywhere you can, including solar panels
Consider upgrading any old appliances
Install smart home features like programmable thermostats
Millennials do hours of online research just to buy a sweater, so they are naturally going to do even more research when it comes to buying a home. More than three-quarters of Millennial home buyers drove by a home because of photos and listings they found online, and over 60% did walkthroughs because of these listings.

Getting the information in front of them is key, and making sure you highlight relevant features is crucial.

Millennials Now Hold Massive Buying Power
Millennials hold a lot of buying power in today’s real estate market, but many are using their parents to close the deal. According to top performing Denver realtor, Denise Fisher, this makes for an interesting family dynamic with clients that she doesn’t see with other generations:

“One thing real estate agents must adapt to when working with Millennials is dealing with two sets of buyers for the same home. The millennial is usually the one that researches the home online but when it comes to the showing and buying, more and more parents are getting involved in the process. Millennials are frequently getting their down payment or the whole mortgage from their parents so when they are looking it’s a family affair. While the Millennial is my main client, I will often be talking to the parents through the transaction and while showing houses I’ll have 2 carloads of a family to walk through a house. They often have different tastes and ideas for the ideal home. This adds a new element to the sale for realtors.”

Millennials are quickly changing the face of real estate. Gone are the days of only seeing what your Realtor wants to show you. Gone are the days of the glorified fixer upper and the weekend warrior. Millennials are busy working their side hustle anyway. New homes and already fixed up homes are the ones that are going to be moving on the real estate market, an ode to the buying power of the Millennial generation.

Learn more about what Millennials want in a new home from this infographic from Nationwide Mortgages. Much like baby boomers changed the real estate market to shape the suburbs, Millennials are just now starting to make their mark.  Millenials in the Real Estate Market

 

~John White, Social Marketing Solutions