Anthony Noland
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Anthony Noland

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Fixed Mortgage Rates Edge Lower

August 18, 2014 5:45 am

Freddie Mac recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®) showing average fixed mortgage rates following bond yields lower. Averaging 4.12 percent for the week, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage once again is at its 2014 low.

"Mortgage rates were down slightly amid a week of light economic reports,” notes Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. “Of the few releases, retail sales were virtually unchanged in July after a 0.2 percent increase in June, ending five months of increases. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales were up 0.1 percent last month."

Survey findings include:
  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.12 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week ending August 14, 2014, down from last week when it averaged 4.14 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.40 percent.
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.24 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.27 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.44 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.97 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.98 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.23 percent.
  • 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.36 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.35 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.67 percent.
Average commitment rates and average fees and points reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Employers Look for 3 'Cs' When Hiring

August 18, 2014 5:45 am

(BPT) - Whether you are an employer looking to hire someone or the person looking to get hired, it's all about competency. Only 11 percent of employers believe recent graduates have the skills needed to succeed within their work forces, according to a recent Lumina Foundation report. Two-thirds of employers say recent college graduates may have the skills and knowledge for entry-level positions, but less than half believe recent graduates have what it takes for advancement to higher level jobs, according to a 2013 survey conducted for the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

So what are these essential competencies that candidates are missing? At the top of the list are the three ‘Cs’: critical thinking, collaboration and communication. Hiring officers look for candidates with good problem-solving abilities, the ability to work in teams, and those who have good verbal and written communications skills. For the traditional college graduate in his or her early 20's, much of their focus in school was spent on mastering subject matter, not necessarily on cultivating the three ‘Cs’. They may have a degree, but not much else in the way of experience. On the other hand, working adults who are earning their degrees later in life have had ample opportunity to hone these skills and are lacking the credential - a diploma - to get hired or promoted.

A new approach to higher education taking hold on campuses and in board rooms is called competency-based education. Under this model, students can receive credit for knowledge and skills they already possess. A 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 87 percent of Americans believe students should be able to receive college credit for knowledge and skills obtained outside the classroom. Some schools are well-established leaders in this practice. Degree programs like these define what students must know, have well-defined learning outcomes and have a rigorous means of assessing whether students have achieved these outcomes.

How can job candidates, young or older, demonstrate both subject-matter mastery and competence? To start, first evaluate and identify your unique combination of skills, values and personal traits. Research the job that you are seeking and the company that is doing the hiring. Think broadly and don't confine yourself to the same industry in which you may have experiences, either as an employee or a student who had an internship. List the knowledge you have gained and skills you have developed.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Pets and Home Sales: How One Impacts the Other

August 15, 2014 8:42 pm

Selling a home can often be a time-consuming process, full of various moving parts that need to come together seamlessly. And adding a pet to the mix can be a challenging proposition, often hindering a sale.

People who don’t like pets might be afraid of the animal or bothered by it. And fellow animal lovers might spend so much time playing with, or talking about, your cat and dog, that they may not focus on your home. Plus, there’s always the prospect of liability if your dog was to bite someone while they were looking at your home.

When you have appointments scheduled for prospective buyers to come take a peek at your home, consider having the dog stay with a friend or family member. If there’s just one appointment scheduled for a certain time, take your dog for a walk while the prospective buyers are looking.

Another idea is to schedule a pet daycare or grooming appointment when potential buyers are coming. It’s especially important to keep pets out of the house during open houses. The more people in the home, the more likely the animal is to be distracting. And with so many people coming in and out of the house, you don’t want to worry about a dog getting out.

You also should assess any damage your pet may have inflicted within the home. Hair, spills around a water bowl, and minor damage are all part of living with a pet, so be sure to clean thoroughly and vacuum up any hair. It’s also a good idea to put food and water bowls away and thoroughly clean any areas where a mess has been made. For cat owners, keeping litter boxes clean is crucial so that unpleasant odors don’t make their way through the home.

Also, take steps to remove all stains and odors that may be lingering within your home due to having a pet. If the weather is appropriate, open your windows to let fresh air in. You may also want to use air fresheners and other products designed to remove pet odors from carpets and furniture. After doing all of this, invite friends and relatives over and ask them to honestly say if there are any odors in the home. Sometimes it can be difficult for a pet owner to even notice smells caused by the animal.

And while you’re at it, don’t neglect to look for any areas outside the home where the family pet may have wreaked havoc. Fill any holes your dog might have dug up, get rid of any plants or decorations your dog might have chewed and clean up any messes your pet may have left behind.

By following these few simple guidelines, you and your pets could be celebrating a successful house sale in no time at all.

For more tips about selling a home with a pet, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Kitchen Improvement Tips

August 15, 2014 8:42 pm

As any real estate agent will tell you, the kitchen is the heart of the home. While a messy, overcrowded and tired looking kitchen can be a big turnoff, the following steps will make your kitchen more appealing to prospective buyers.

Make Your Kitchen Functional. Clear the counters as much as possible—completely clear is the best option. Put cooking appliances you don’t often use in storage. Keep drawers clean and organized with only the utensils you need and get a head start on packing by putting everything you want to bring with you in boxes. And while you’re at it, throw away any useless items you come across. Make your move even easier by donating items you never use to a local charity.

Clean It. Go through the fridge and cabinets and throw out all those ingredients you haven’t touched in years. Clean the fridge thoroughly and organize it, and clean all the appliances as well. You may want to consider replacing low-cost items such as toasters, coffee makers and microwaves to give the kitchen a fresh, new look. For cabinets, dust or vacuum up any crumbs that have gathered. Throw away what you don’t need and make sure cabinets are neat and tidy. If you have cabinets that are stuffed with plates, mugs or cooking utensils, either get rid of some stuff or put it in storage for the time being.

You’ll also want to clean the floors thoroughly, in addition to cleaning behind the fridge and stove.

Be sure to check the curtains in your kitchen as well. When’s the last time you cleaned them? Buying new curtains is a very affordable way to spruce up a room. And make sure the windows are spotless.

Consider Renovating. If you have outdated cabinets and counters, buyers will almost certainly take some money off your asking price. The good thing about remodeling a kitchen as a seller is that you can design it for sale. Without spending a lot of money, you can buy new light fixtures, new faucets and handles and even replace these things yourself. If you don’t want to spend money on new cabinets, think about replacing the doors, or at least painting the cabinets. Just be sure that whatever you spend is worth it.

Staging the Kitchen. When prospective buyers come to look at the house, set the table tastefully as if for a meal with a centerpiece and settings. Bake cookies so that visitors are greeted with a pleasant, homey smell. Open curtains and turn on the lights so that people can see the best of what your kitchen has to offer.

For more tips to improve your kitchen, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Setting the Stage with a Positive First Impression

August 15, 2014 8:42 pm

In today’s competitive real estate market, you only have one chance to make a positive first impression, making it more important than ever that your home’s exterior is visually appealing. One simple way to up the ante? A beautifully landscaped yard.

When it comes to the lawn itself, the best way to keep it looking attractive is by mowing regularly. Typically the most prominent visual aspect of your landscaping setup, make sure you don’t cut the grass super short. Instead, set the mower so that it keeps the grass higher, as this will keep it healthier. In addition to mowing regularly, it’s also important to irrigate, fertilize and aerate the lawn.

Effective watering is another crucial piece of the process, as poor watering habits can lead to various problems, from harmful insects to disease. Although your instinct may be to give your lawn a drink during the middle of the day when sunshine is aimed on the grass, it’s actually best to water the lawn in the early morning or evening when temperatures are cooler.

When watering the lawn, be sure to position sprinklers so that the water covers the entire lawn. It’s also important to avoid having water hit your driveway or the street, as this wastes water. And if you have prospective buyers coming to look at the house, you don’t want them to have to run through a sprinkler to get to your door.

Perhaps the most important rule of thumb is to keep your landscaping simple. This means getting rid of lawn ornaments and making sure your garden beds are colorful and well-maintained. While adding fresh mulch is a nice touch, you don’t want prospective buyers to be intimidated by your landscaping, so your flower beds should be done in a way where they appear to be easy to maintain.

Trees and shrubs are another element that can add beauty to a home, but make sure they’re well maintained. Shrubs and bushes should be trimmed so that they’re not encroaching on walkways or the front porch. Trees should also be under control. Branches can grow and hang low, and the last thing you want is for a prospective buyer to walk into a low branch as they tour the property.

And last but not least, keep your home lit at night to highlight these exterior features. You never know when prospective buyers might be driving by, and this could be that special touch that helps finalize a sale.

For more information about making a positive first impression, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Expose Your Listing to the Masses with a Sound Social Media Strategy

August 15, 2014 8:42 pm

Thanks to social media’s leading role in today’s home-buying and -selling process, it’s now easier than ever to reach prospective buyers. And working with a real estate professional who knows how to leverage various social media platforms is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to achieving real estate success.

Here are a few simple ways you and your agent can incorporate social media into the mix to improve the chances of selling your house at the right price.

Post Links to Your Listing. If you have a good real estate professional on your side, chances are they’ve set up an online listing with descriptions of your house, along with lots of photos showcasing the home. Sharing the link to the listing on Facebook is an easy way to get the word out to your friends and relatives who can then pass the link on to anyone they may know who is in the market to buy. If your agent hasn’t created a website, you can create your own on WordPress, or post a nice package of photos on your Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram accounts.

Tweet Tweet Tweet. Not only can you use Twitter to share the link to the listing on a daily basis, it’s also a great platform to post updates about the ways in which you’re enjoying the home. Post pictures of the lawn after it’s been landscaped, a beautiful table setting, your favorite room, or even a breathtaking view from your property. If you’ve upgraded the kitchen, bathrooms or laundry room with new appliances, be sure to tweet about how they’re making your life easier.

Sharing is Caring. Sharing all this great information about your house with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers is only one piece of the puzzle. To reach an even greater audience, ask your friends and followers to retweet and share your posts. They may even want to add comments about the great times they’ve had at your home over the years.

Hire a Professional Photographer. Whether you’re posting photos on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram, you’re more likely to get a better response if you use top-notch photos. A professional photographer, especially one who specializes in real estate, knows how to make rooms appealing and can even suggest ways to arrange furniture and items to make each room look its best.

Working with a real estate professional who believes in a sound social media strategy is a surefire way to ensure your home is being exposed to the masses. Ask your agent how he or she uses social media within the home-selling process and make sure he or she is taking advantage of all available avenues.

Remember, you want to work with a real estate professional who will find new and exciting ways to post information about your home on a regular basis.

To learn more about incorporating social media into the real estate process, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Staging Ups the Ante in Today's Competitive Market

August 15, 2014 8:42 pm

When selling a home, it’s important to have that special something that will set your home apart from the competition. And one great way to make your house more appealing to prospective buyers is by hiring a professional home stager to prepare the home in a way that will increase the chances of it selling quickly at the price you’re looking for.

Even more appealing is the fact that the cost is almost always off-set by the final price of the sale compared to what you may have gotten had you not brought in a stager.

Staging isn’t always easy for sellers though, as they might not agree with the stager’s decisions or choices of furniture or accessories. But, if you’re going to hire a stager, remember that these are professionals who get paid for doing their job well, so it’s important to trust them and take their advice to heart.

Here are five key things a stager is likely to focus on.

Cleanliness. Even the slightest mess can be a turnoff to potential buyers. Cleaning a house for staging doesn’t just mean dusting, sweeping and vacuuming. You also need to clean places that are typically ignored, such as the area under countertops, as well as the bottom of closets and cabinets. Carpets should be steamed, windows cleaned and ceiling fans and molding dusted.

Painting for Success. Adding a fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest, least expensive ways to increase the salability of your home. Colors should be neutral so that buyers aren’t distracted, however, this doesn’t mean all the walls have to be white. Instead, try subtle colors with neutral hues like beige. If wallpaper is outdated or worn, take it down and paint the walls. Low-sheen paints are recommended.

Removing Clutter. Do you have boxes of stuff you don’t know what to do with? A stack of magazines you haven’t gotten around to reading? A pile of mail that you don’t think you need, but are afraid to throw away? It’s time to get rid of all that stuff. Clutter is a big turnoff, making a house look more like a storage facility than a home. Take a look at your house - room by room - and be honest with yourself. The goal here is to make all of your rooms presentable.

Personal Touches. You’re proud of your kids, grandkids and even your dog, and you love the pictures of family and friends hanging on the walls. The problem is, prospective buyers only look at a home for a few minutes, and the time they spend looking at pictures or other beloved possessions will ultimately take away from the time they spend looking at the house itself.

Shedding Some Light on the Subject. Now that your house is clean and clutter-free, make sure people can see it in all its splendor by opening curtains and shades to let in the natural light. You may even want to remove window dressings, assuming there aren’t holes, nails and hooks that’ll be exposed when they’re all taken down. Not only does this let light in, it also allows prospective buyers to picture how they would dress the windows.

For more information about staging your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Positive First Impressions

August 15, 2014 8:42 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines how home staging goes a long way toward increasing the chances of selling your home quickly at the price you’re looking for. Other topics covered this month include the importance of a sound social media strategy when it comes to achieving real estate success and how to ensure pets don’t hinder a real estate deal. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Three Ways to Avoid Getting Outbid on Your New Home

August 15, 2014 5:09 am

"Bidding for a new home can get pretty fierce in today's market," said Gibran Nicholas, Chairman of CMPS Institute, an organization that trains and certifies mortgage bankers and brokers.  "In some cases, you may be competing with more than a dozen other buyers who are bidding on the same property."  Here are three potential solutions to avoid getting outbid on your new home:

1 - Turn in your loan paperwork BEFORE you place an offer.  In many cases, you are bidding against cash buyers who don't need to wait for financing approvals. Look at it this way: if you were the seller, would you prefer to do business with a buyer who needs to wait for financing approvals, or a cash buyer who can close the deal quickly?  "That's why it's important to be proactive," Nicholas said.  "Provide your mortgage lender with things like your source of down payment funds, your asset documentation, your credit report and your income documentation.  This way, you'll be in a better position to close the deal quickly and compete with those cash buyers."

2 - Pay cash, but do it right. "Keep in mind that you only have 90 days after closing to place a mortgage on a property that you bought with cash if you want to secure your tax deduction," Nicholas said.  "In order to get that loan approval after closing, you'll need to document the source of funds that you used for your cash purchase. Talk to a CMPS professional for more details so that you can avoid problems down the road."

3 - Consider lender-paid mortgage insurance. Lender paid mortgage insurance allows you to accept a slightly higher interest rate in exchange for no mortgage insurance. "This is very useful because it's often less expensive than FHA insurance or Private Mortgage Insurance," Nicholas said.  "The lower monthly payment that results with this option can help you to afford a higher priced home, or at least get more comfortable paying at or above list price for the home you want."


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Ways to Balance Back-to-School Lunches

August 15, 2014 5:09 am

(Family Features) When you supply your kids with nutritious and sensible choices, you're ensuring a productive day in the classroom and beyond. It's simple to make lunch and snack time fun by tossing in some new, wholesome options that add variety and appeal for your little learner.

The most important nutrients parents seek when selecting the foods they feed their kids are protein, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin D and iron. While stocking up on foods rich in these nourishing elements is certainly helpful, there's no way to ensure your child will eat them. However, recent studies have found that kids are actually more likely than their parents to be the first of their friends to try new food or nutrition products.

Take the opportunity to start nutritious eating habits at a young age with flavorful food combinations that create balance at snack and meal time. A recent study shows that replacing non-nutrient rich snack foods (like chips) with a combination of healthy alternatives can help reduce calories by 72 percent and keep kids feeling fuller longer.
  • Protein Picks: To keep them feeling satisfied and fuller longer, include a few protein-packed choices in their lunch bag. Some options include roasted chicken, steamed edamame, hard boiled eggs, nuts or cheese.
  • Sweet Additions: Make their midday meal and snack time more complete with the addition of one or two servings of fruit. Some delicious options include apples, apricots, strawberries, blueberries, kiwis or pears.
  • Fresh Finds: Many vegetables offer fiber and other nutrients not found in other snacks. Throw in a bag of chopped vegetables, such as baby carrots, broccoli florets, celery, red bell peppers or sugar snap peas.
With a balanced approach to eating, you'll be able to send the whole family off to school or work prepared for whatever their busy day brings. You may also introduce them to some new favorite foods.

Source: Babybel

Published with permission from RISMedia.