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Americans' Optimism about Buying and Selling a Home Hits Record Levels

June 11, 2013 1:10 am

Americans’ confidence in their ability to buy and sell a home climbed sharply in May, likely due to reports of strong home price gains, according to results from Fannie Mae’s May 2013 National Housing Survey. The share of respondents who say now is a good time to sell a home reached a record high of 40 percent, compared to 30 percent in April and 16 percent one year ago. At the same time, the share of those who say it is a good time to buy a home moved up 5 percentage points from April to a survey high of 76 percent. Americans’ average 12-month home price change expectation also reached a survey high in May, climbing to 3.9 percent from 2.7 percent in April.

“Sentiment toward selling a home appears to be catching up with the strengthening housing market,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “The share of consumers who think it’s a good time to sell a home spiked this month, the largest increase in the survey’s three-year history. This jump may foreshadow a gradual return to more normal levels of housing supply from their lows of recent months. In turn, increased housing supply could serve to temper increasing consumer home price expectations. We will closely watch the potential impact of rising mortgage rates on consumer housing sentiment in the coming months.”

Currently, 46 percent of Americans think it would be easy for them to get a mortgage today, retreating slightly from April’s survey high, while 50 percent believe it would be difficult to get a mortgage. Consumers have been asked since the survey’s inception in June 2010 for their perceived ease or difficulty in getting a mortgage, and the question was added in May 2013 as an indicator to the monthly data findings report to help determine whether rising mortgage rates affect their views.


Homeownership and Renting

• The average 12-month home price change expectation jumped to 3.9 percent, the highest level since the survey’s inception.
• The share of people who say home prices will go up in the next 12 months hit a survey high of 55 percent, while those who say home prices will go down dropped to 7 percent, the lowest level since the survey’s inception.
• The share of respondents who say mortgage rates will go up increased 3 percentage points to 46 percent, while those who say rates will go down hit a survey low of 5 percent.
• At 76 percent and 40 percent, respectively, the shares who say it is a good time to buy a house and who say it is a good time to sell a house both reached survey highs.
• The average 12-month rental price change expectation dropped to 3.4 percent, the lowest level since September 2012.
• Holding steady from last month, 48 percent of those surveyed say home rental prices will go up in the next 12 months.
• Retreating slightly from last month’s survey high, 46 percent of respondents think it would be easy for them to get a home mortgage today.
• The share of respondents who said they would buy if they were going to move increased slightly to 66 percent.

The Economy and Household Finances

• At 40 percent, the share of respondents who say the economy is on the right track increased slightly from April.
• The percentage of people who expect their personal financial situation to get better over the next 12 months held steady at 41 percent.
• The share of respondents who say their household income is significantly lower than it was 12 months ago fell 3 percentage points to a survey low 13 percent.
• The percentage of respondents who say their household expenses are significantly higher than they were 12 months ago rose slightly to 32 percent.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Stay Safe This Summer: BBQ Safety Tips

June 10, 2013 1:08 am

According to the National Fire Prevention Association there are 5,000 outside BBQ grill fires annually that require fire departments to respond. And there are another 3,600 BBQ grill fires that cause damage to the structure of homes.

Here are some quick tips to help you enjoy a safe BBQ grilling season:

1. Before you use your BBQ grill:

• Repair any damaged energy supply connections such as gas tanks, hoses and electrical connections.
• Replace any corroded BBQ grill parts.

2. Locate your BBQ grill a safe distance from your home, wooden deck and anything flammable. Always keep your BBQ grill in a place where children are not playing. Your Operator's Manual should give you an explanation on proper BBQ grill placement.

3. Always follow the lighting instructions in the operator's manual that came with your BBQ grill.

4. Never leave a BBQ grill unattended and have a fire extinguisher close by.

5. Clean your BBQ grill regularly
to remove grease. Grease can cause flare-ups that can be deadly.

And before you fire-up your BBQ grill for the 2013 season, be sure to check and remove any rodent nests, spider webs and other debris that might affect the safe operation of your BBQ grill.

Source: The BBQ Cleaner

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don't Get Stung Rushing into A Pest Control Contract

June 10, 2013 1:08 am

Not to be a pest, but I recently discovered a very big ant problem involving very small ants. And while the change of season apparently diverted their attention from the cupboard to the more diverse and easy to access bounty of the great outdoors, the prospect of calling in a pest control service was pretty daunting.

The regional Better Business Bureau apparently hears from a lot of nervous pending pest control clients, because the agency just issued a punch list of warnings to ensure you don't get stung by unscrupulous pest management services. In 2012, more than 786,000 people turned to Better Business Bureau for information on pest control services.

BBB and NPMA recommend the following tips for finding a qualified pest management professional:

Check them out - Evaluate pest control professionals and companies that are members of national, state or local associations. Ask friends and neighbors to recommend pest control companies they have used successfully and ask how satisfied they were with the service.

Always deal with a qualified and licensed pest management company - Ask to see the license or other credentials of the pest control professional that comes to solve your pest problem.

Don’t rush - If a sizable amount of money is involved, get bids from several pest management companies.

Understand before you sign - Before signing a contract, be sure to fully understand the nature of the household pest to be exterminated, the extent of the infestation, and the work necessary to solve the problem. Find out if the pest control company has liability insurance to cover any damages to your house or furnishings during treatment.

If a guarantee is given, know what it covers, how long it lasts, what you must do to keep it in force, and what kind of continuing control, prevention and management are necessary.

Don’t fall for high-pressure sales tactics - Buy value, not price. Beware of companies that offer bargains that sound too good to be true. Be wary of companies that come to your home uninvited and offer to give your house a free inspection for pests or press you for immediate and/or costly treatments.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Finance Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

June 10, 2013 1:08 am

According to a recent PulteGroup Home Index Survey, more than half of renters aged 18-34 say their intention to buy a home has increased in the last year. While their intentions are in many ways driven by personal, aspirational reasons – more space, family stability and the pride of homeownership – the low mortgage rate environment, increasing rental costs and scarcity of desirable rental options makes homeownership an even more attractive proposition for many.

"The propensity for young adults to test the waters of homeownership continues to increase and has become more evident as renters are seeing the overall value of owning a home," said Deborah Wahl, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at PulteGroup, Inc., noting that more than 50 percent of millennials reported that the desire to own/build equity was the primary reason for purchasing a new home. "However, beyond finances, it is important for potential buyers to take several other factors into consideration."

Here are a few tips for first-time homebuyers looking for the right housing match:

• Know Your Financial Situation – Start saving for a down payment and talk with mortgage lenders about available loans well in advance of your purchase. Understand there are special federal, state and locally administered financial programs for new homebuyers, such as FHA and HUD loan programs. Additionally, it's important to take into account other factors beyond your mortgage, including homeowners insurance and property taxes. By doing your homework, you will know what you can afford and comfortably make a decision about this important investment.

• Compare Owning vs. Renting – Buying can be smarter than renting from a financial standpoint, but it has other advantages, as well. Owning a home provides you with a great deal of freedom and decision-making autonomy. No more will you have to worry about the noisy neighbor upstairs or accidental scratches on the wall from decorations. You'll have the power to select paint colors and plant flowers throughout the yard. Also, houses tend to offer more storage space.

• Weigh New vs. Used – If you want to choose the floor plan and customize a home to fit your needs and lifestyle, building a new home may be the right choice for you. Popular options new homes offer today include more open, larger spaces, master bedroom suites, island-centric kitchens and bigger outdoor living space. Customizing a new home also provides the opportunity to design your home and include amenities that meet the needs of your growing family – if that's in your future. Additionally, new homes can be up to 30 percent more energy efficient and often come with a builder warranty. If you're handy and don't mind a fixer upper, resale can be an attractive route as well.

• Examine the Location – Consider your surroundings when deciding where you want to live next. If you plan to start a family, research the local school district and other family offerings such as nearby parks and community centers. For fun, test out the local retail scene and entertainment options to see if it caters to your lifestyle. If you're a commuter, determine if the area is supported by adequate public transportation or provides easy access to major highways. Many in the housing market also care about ensuring they still live within close proximity to family and friends, as only 21 percent of homeowners are willing to move away from their families.

• Select the Right Builder – If you decide on a new home, select a builder who has experience in the type of home and in the location you want. Make sure they have a history of building quality homes and are financially stable. Moreover, how easy are they to work with? Some builders today have gone digital to enhance customer service and help buyers stay on top of the latest with their new home. Look for online design centers that can help you make important design decisions, for example, or portals in which you can stay up-to-date on how your new home is progressing. Lastly, take time to check their references and talk to past customers.

• Confide in Trusted Sources – More than 90 percent of home shoppers today are plugged into the internet and use it as their main source of information. While this is particularly true with millennials, don't forget to seek advice from two trusted groups: real estate agents and your personal network, including your parents. Approximately 60 percent of millennials say they would rely on both sources, as each has extensive experience in purchasing homes and can provide personal guidance toward the successful purchase of their home.

"With third-party data showing that 90 percent of millennials plan to purchase a home at some point in their lives, it's important first-time homebuyers have access to the right tools and information to ensure their first home purchase is one they are proud of for years to come," added Wahl. "With many options to choose from, starting from a point of knowledge will go a long way towards achieving their dream of homeownership."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Dressing Up the Dining Room: Successful Staging Tips to Create a Memorable Look

June 7, 2013 5:42 pm

Staging your home is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to putting your home’s best foot forward when preparing for a sale. While the process of staging may seem overwhelming, it’s crucial that you pay attention to each and every room—even the dining room.

When it comes to preparing the dining room, don’t overlook the table. While some people believe that setting out a full place setting for four is the way to go, others think a more subtle approach—incorporating flowers or a glass pitcher of water—is the best way to draw attention to the room.

While a full place setting might be nice, it can actually take the attention away from the size of the room and may even set the wrong mood that the house is “too fancy.” If you do decide to use dishes, make sure anything you set out follows the color scheme of the room. Be sure to complete the set with cloth napkins and nice glassware.

If you choose not to go with a place setting, set out a bowl of fake fruit to add color to the room. In addition, use neutral placemats and always use flowers in a decorative vase if you can.

Additionally, many home stagers will recommend that you remove the leaf in your table (if it seats eight or more) and instead display six seats. This is a simple way to make sure prospective buyers have enough space to walk around and really get a feel for the room.

Regardless of what you decide to do with the table, there are plenty of other things to consider when staging a dining room. A dining space should look comfortable, have good lighting and make the prospective buyer imagine entertaining their friends over an elegant meal or dining with the family during the holidays.

If you’re dealing with a smaller room, it’s important to accentuate the table, perhaps illuminating it with an antique chandelier. Hang a mirror on the wall opposite the window to add light and make the space seem larger.

When it comes to incorporating light into the space, candles are always a nice touch. You may even want to think about placing an antique-style floor lamp in the corner to create a memorable look.

It’s also a good idea to ensure that the walls of the room aren’t left empty. Display large artwork or plateware and make a big statement with the room. And be sure to repaint your personal color choices with warm neutral tones.

The last thing you need to pay attention to when staging your dining room is making sure there isn’t too much furniture crammed into the area. While a china closet can be lovely to look at, you don’t want the space to look cluttered, so pick a few key pieces that make the room stand out. A wine rack is a great addition to the dining space, but you may want to remove the wine refrigerator if you have one. The same goes for excess chairs. Use them elsewhere in the house or store them out of the way.

While a dining room may not be the most important area when it comes to attracting prospective buyers, it’s a room that can get people thinking about special events and family gatherings. Creating an area that dazzles potential buyers can set the stage for a successful sale to come.

Contact our office today for more tips on staging your home.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Understanding Real Estate Comps - What You Need to Know When Pricing Your Home

June 7, 2013 5:42 pm

Determining a listing price is one of the most important items you’ll have to tackle when it comes to getting your home sold without it languishing on the market. While coming up with a price that isn’t too high—or too low—may seem daunting, looking at comps can help when it comes to making an educated decision.

What a lot of people who put their house on the market don’t realize, is that when you look at comps, you need to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. That means that even though you may be neighbors, the four-bedroom, three-bathroom home with a pool and finished basement isn’t comparable to your three-bedroom, one-bathroom house with an unfinished basement. In fact, a house six blocks away may be a better comp if it is a similar age and size with a similar number of rooms.

Your agent has the tools to present you with the best comps in your area, and once they do, you can decide on the best price together. They get their information from the MLS database, looking at all the properties in a given area that have been listed “for sale,” are pending or have already sold.

A number of factors go into a comp to justify a listing price, including being located in the same neighborhood and school district. Additional factors include the street, similar housing features and size. If two houses are similar in these areas, then a comp can be used to provide a current estimated value of your home.

When it comes to working with comps, the best one would be from a home that’s the same age, on the same street, with the same number of rooms and one that closed in the last 90 days. However, it’s important to keep in mind that things don’t always work out this way, and comps are sometimes taken from “close” properties or sales from further back. Both can be detrimental when it comes to establishing a true value.

When presented with the comps, take some time to look at what features are common among all of them so that you can begin to get an idea as to what people in your area are looking for in a home. Are houses with Energy Star appliances selling? Maybe updated bathrooms are big. Perhaps those with gardens are going strong. Reviewing the comps can provide a lot of insight about sales in your neighborhood.

Your agent will most likely have seen many of these houses up close if they work regularly in the neighborhood and their expertise will provide them with an understanding in regard to what works best and sells fastest. Listen to their advice.

In the end, it’s important to keep in mind that if a house on your block sold for $400,000 last week and another close by sold for close to the same amount a month earlier, that doesn’t mean that your house will automatically be valued the same.

For more information about comps, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Languishing on the Market? 5 Tips to Up the Ante and Gain a Competitive Edge

June 7, 2013 5:42 pm

For home sellers across the board, there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing your house sit on the market day after day, week after week or even month after month. If your home has been languishing on the market, it may be time to up the ante. Instead of simply lowering your asking price, the following tips may just give your home the edge it needs to stand above the competition.

1. Try holding an open house on a weeknight. While house hunters typically set aside time on the weekend to house hunt, there will always be people who can’t make those Saturday and Sunday appointments. Holding an open house on a weeknight is a great way to attract this crowd. With less competition for weeknight open houses, prospective buyers will be able to spend more time imagining themselves living in your home.

2. Paint and depersonalize. If your house is full of rooms that feature bold colors and lots of “interesting” furniture, it may be time to go more neutral and basic. Hire a professional stager to furnish the home so that it appeals to a wider range of buyers. By changing up the house a little and posting new pictures online, you’ll bring in more potential buyers.

3. View your home through the eyes of a buyer. Take your iPhone—or any other video app you may have—and record yourself walking through each room of your house, taking on the role of a potential buyer. Make sure to go in every room, check out every closet and pay attention to appliances and fixtures. After, watch the tape and take an objective approach to what looks good and what doesn’t. Often times we are blinded by our love for our own home and can’t see the forest for the trees. This simple exercise is an easy way to put yourself in a potential buyer’s shoes.

4. Upgrade the kitchen or bathroom. You might not want to put any more money into a house that you hope to be out of in a month’s time, but sometimes, spending money in one of these areas will pay off in the long run. Make these rooms memorable and people will want to buy. Even if you don’t get your full investment back, if it helps you sell your home, it’s a win.

5. Review comparables. Sit down with your agent review the details regarding homes that have sold within the last three months and see if anything has changed. What may have been a fair price when you put your house up for sale, may seem overvalued now. If your price is out of line with the neighborhood comps, be ready to adjust.

For more tips on gaining a competitive edge in today’s market, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Playing with Light - Brighten Up Your Space and Create an Inviting Atmosphere for Prospective Buyers

June 7, 2013 5:42 pm

With all the tasks that go into preparing a home for a showing, many sellers often overlook the effect that light has on creating an inviting atmosphere for prospective buyers. In fact, even if you have natural light streaming in through the windows, it’s also a good idea to take advantage of the various light sources within the home.

As any real estate agent will tell you, a home looks more inviting when the lights are on. Not only do lights prevent harsh shadows from the sun and brighten dim areas, they also add dimension to rooms and bring out all the best features that you’ve worked so hard to clean and get ready for the showing.

In addition to brightening up a space, lighting experts reveal that lights can play tricks with the mind, helping to enhance the physical size of a room or hide any shortcomings. For example, if a room is on the smaller side, you can “push” one wall open by washing it with light. If a room is on the narrower side, illuminate the wide sides of the room to give it size.

When it comes to lighting, there are three areas that must be considered. General lighting, which provides the majority of light to a room; accent lighting, which highlights and draws attention to certain aspects of the home; and task lighting, which helps light a specific area to help complete a particular task.

For example, high-hats or recessed down-lights are a great choice for ceilings. For bedrooms, additional lighting can be added to the space by incorporating floor lamps or table lamps. Bathrooms should have vanity lights next to the mirror and the kitchen should have strong task lighting, with down-lights shining on countertops and the sink.

You should also include decorative lights in the living room, dining room and any other rooms with something to highlight. Chandeliers make a great light source, especially if they have bright light emanating from them.

If you’re in the process of getting your house ready for sale, be sure to purchase new light bulbs for all lamps and lighting fixtures. Go with higher wattages and crisp white light, and stay away from any tints. You may also want to think about removing (and saving) florescent LED lights and installing brighter bulbs.

The same is true with exterior lights. Flip them on before prospective buyers show up so that they can see everything your house and yard has to offer.

When it comes to lighting, it’s important to remember that strong lighting can make a home memorable and desirable.

To learn more about incorporating light into your space, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Seller Concessions Ease Financial Burden Associated with Home Purchase

June 7, 2013 5:42 pm

As anyone who has purchased a home can tell you, buying a house is an expensive proposition. From saving for a down payment to setting aside money for closing costs and everything else associated with a home purchase, your bank account is undoubtedly feeling strained. If you find yourself in this situation and you’ve already been approved for a loan, seller concessions may help when it comes to alleviating the final cost.

These concessions can either be a set dollar amount or percentage of the purchase price that a seller agrees to contribute to the buyer to help the closing go smoothly and keep the sale from lingering while the buyer tries to find the extra money.

It’s always a good idea to talk with your real estate agent about your desire for a seller concession before making an offer on a home. Your agent can then put these concessions in the sales contract so that you don’t catch the seller by surprise when asking for concessions later on.

In some cases, your mortgage lender can include your need for a seller concession in their pre-approval letter, although this could scare people off from accepting your offer.

A conventional loan contract generally allows sellers to offer assistance with the buyer’s closing costs up to three percent of the total price of the property. The FHA allows up to six percent of the price and VA allows up to four percent.

The good news for sellers is that they’ll be able to deduct some of their concession money from their taxes. For example, discount points and real estate taxes most often will be tax deductible.

For buyers, it’s important to remember that you must use all the money offered by the seller, as anything not applied toward closing costs will be credited back to the seller. To keep this from happening, the money can be applied to home owner’s insurance, taxes or even dues for an HOA. The remaining concession can also be used to buy down the interest rate, lowering one’s payment and saving thousands of dollars over the life of a loan.

Seller concessions are beneficial to both parties in the transaction as they help when it comes to closing a sale quicker while giving the buyer some funds to buy things for their new home. When used properly, seller concessions can be the difference between closing a home sale and losing one.

To learn more about seller concessions, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Real Estate Comps

June 7, 2013 5:42 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 seller concessions are beneficial to both parties within a real estate transaction as they help when it comes to closing a sale quicker. Other topics covered this month include tips to give your home a competitive edge in today’s market and how to successfully stage your dining room to create a memorable look. 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.