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Mortgage Rates Up on Signs of Improving Economy

March 19, 2013 4:04 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey(R) (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates rising this week on stronger signs of jobs growth and consumer spending. The 30-year fixed averaged 3.63 percent, its highest reading since the week of August 23, 2012. The 30-year fixed hit its average all-time record low of 3.31 percent the week of November 21, 2012.

News Facts
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.63 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending March 14, 2013, up from last week when it averaged 3.52 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.92 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.79 percent with an average 0.8 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.76 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.16 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.61 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.63 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.83 percent.

• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.64 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.63 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.79 percent.

"Fixed mortgage rates rose this week on stronger signs of jobs growth and consumer spending," says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist for Freddie Mac. "The economy added 236,000 new workers in February which helped push down the unemployment rate to 7.7 percent. This helped offset the effects of the payroll tax holiday expiration and led to a 1.1 percent increase in retail sales, which was well above the market consensus forecast."

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Too Much Stuff: Helping Kids Cut the Clutter

March 18, 2013 4:04 am

A certain amount of clutter is part of childhood. It’s an artifact of the speed of children’s development and the range of their thoughts and ideas. Trying to keep children too neat squelches creativity and limits intellectual growth. So an obsession with neatness, if that’s your issue, is your issue. Concentrate on keeping things in hand, not with apple-pie-order.

At the same time, great disorder overwhelms a child’s sensibilities. Some children are more susceptible to this than others, and need more clarity in their stuff. Even for more typically mess-tolerant kids, understanding order is the first step towards self-discipline. Montessori knew this. She knew that an orderly environment is essential for intellectual and creative growth.

So what can you do to reduce kids’ clutter without becoming a neat-freak?

Reduce what’s immediately available. With your child, if possible, sort through things and box up stuff that’s not needed right now. Store these boxes in a closet or basement but do NOT fall into the trap of moving toys to rented storage space. No toys are worth their own apartment! The idea here is to make neatness easier by reducing the number of things needing space.

Remove what’s no longer wanted. Be ruthless. Don’t keep toys or clothes your children have outgrown for your future grandchildren or just because you spent a lot of money on it. Move it out – maybe first to boxed storage but then to Goodwill or to friends. Stuff that is broken and unwanted needs to go to the trash. Don’t save it “for parts.”

Replace the old with the new. If something new comes in, something old goes out, to boxed storage or out of the house completely. Some parents keep a 100 Toys list on the computer – the 100 toys that are in the playroom and a child’s bedroom. When something new is added to the list, something else is deleted. This rule requires a lot of self-discipline but it helps when your child is begging for some item to ask him to consider what he’ll get rid of to make room for the new toy.

Restrain new purchases. Not every nifty thing that catches your child’s eye deserves a place in your home. Resist the impulse to buy souvenirs when you travel or “bribe-toys” to shut your child up on a shopping trip. Avoid the necessity to “collect them all.” Recognize this for what it is – a marketing ploy.

Stuff is just stuff and the lifespan of most toys is pretty short. When you do buy toys and things, buy quality items with real play value.

The secret to an uncluttered life is a shift in perspective. No matter how cute and beloved something once was, your family doesn’t owe it anything, least of all a permanent place in your lives. Permanent places are reserved for the people in your family, and maybe for your pets. Inanimate objects must earn their shelf space or give it up.

Help your children to a proper perspective on “things” and guide them in knowing when to let things go.

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Signs You Should Part Ways with Your Financial Advisor

March 18, 2013 4:04 am

Everyone hopes that his or her financial business investments go smoothly and that the broker chosen can be trusted to look out for their best interests, yet sometimes, it’s best to know when to call it quits. Here are a few warning signs that should alert you that something is wrong with your relationship with your investment professional:

• Your broker does not return your phone calls.
• The transactions on your statements don't make sense to you.
• Your account statements include transactions you did not authorize.
• You find unidentifiable debits or credits on monthly account statements.
• You see a dramatic drop in value of stock in a short period of time.
• The market is "up," but you're losing money.
• The majority of investments recommended by the broker are declining in value.
• Your broker tells you to view market news as entertainment.
• Your broker fails to disclose important information regarding an investment purchase.
• Your broker begins trading in high risk and speculative investments.
• You are paying capital gains taxes, despite the fact that your account value is decreasing.
• Financial results are markedly different from publicly announced expectations.

If the warning signs start to add up, perhaps its best for your own interests to part ways with your financial advisor and seek other options.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Buyers Value Storage Space, In-Law Suites, NAR Survey Finds

March 18, 2013 4:04 am

Purchasing a home is an important life decision, and many factors can influence the home choices buyers make.

The National Association of Realtors® 2013 Profile of Buyers’ Home Feature Preferences examines the features buyers prefer when it comes to purchasing a home, as well as the differences in preferences when it comes to factors such as region, demographics and household composition. The survey captures buyers who purchased a home between 2010 and 2012.

Geography and demography strongly influence what buyers value in a home. The typical recently purchased home was 1,860 square feet and was built in 1996. Repeat buyers, buyers of new homes, married couples and families with children typically purchased larger homes. First-time buyers and single women tended to buy older homes. The typical buyer purchased a home with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Slightly over half of the homes purchased were on a single level.

Southerners tend to buy newer homes; they were more likely to want a home less than five years old and in a wooded lot with trees when compared to other regions. Not surprisingly, buyers in the South also placed a higher importance on central air conditioning.

While more than three-fourths – 78 percent – of all buyers purchased a home with a garage, garages were more popular among new-home buyers, Midwesterners, and suburbanites. Forty-one percent of homes purchased had a basement, but this feature was more popular among buyers in the Midwest and Northeast. Northeastern buyers also value hardwood floors more than people in other regions. Southerners typically bought the largest home at 2,000 square feet. Those in the Northeast followed closely behind with a typical home purchase of 1,850 square feet.

Among buyers 55 and older, 42 percent considered finding a single-level home very important, compared to just 11 percent of buyers under age 35. Single women also placed higher importance on single-level homes, while single men wanted finished basements. Both single men and married couples placed higher importance on new kitchen appliances.

Among all 33 home features in the survey, central air conditioning was the most important to the most buyers; 65 percent of buyers considered this feature very important. The next most important feature was a walk-in closet in the master bedroom; 39 percent of buyers considered this feature very important. Closely behind was having a home that was cable-, satellite TV-, and/or Internet ready, as well as an en-suite master bathroom.

When it came to actually buying a home, among buyers who considered central AC and cable-, satellite TV-, and/or Internet ready very or somewhat important, 94 percent bought a home with these features. The next most common feature was an eat-in kitchen; 89 percent of buyers who thought this was important purchased a home with an eat-in kitchen.

Buyers value some features so much that they are willing to spend more money to have them. Sixty-nine percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with central AC would be willing to pay $2,520 more for a home with this feature. Sixty-nine percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with new kitchen appliances would be willing to pay $1,840 more for a home with this feature. A walk-in closet in the master bedroom was the third most common feature on which buyers would spend more. Sixty percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with a walk-in closet would be willing to pay $1,350 more for a home with this feature.

The features on which buyers placed the highest dollar value were waterfront properties and homes that were less than five years old. Thirty-two percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $5,420 more for a home on the waterfront, and 40 percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $5,020 more for a home that was less than five years old.

The rooms that buyers were willing to pay the most for were a basement and an in-law suite. Thirty-three percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $3,200 more for a home with a basement, and 20 percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $2,920 more for a home with an in-law suite.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Kitchen Clutter a Turnoff for Prospective Buyers

March 15, 2013 5:20 pm

As any real estate professional will tell you, if you’re serious about getting your home sold, you must take the time to clear out all the clutter before you even think about putting your house on the market. When it comes to decluttering, it’s crucial that you pay attention to every room, even the kitchen.

Oftentimes, the kitchen is overlooked when decluttering because most people think that every item in their kitchen is necessary for day-to-day life. However, you could probably remove 50 percent of the items in your kitchen and still be fine when it comes to eating your daily meals and going about your normal routine.

If you’re ready to clean up your kitchen, start by removing everything from the counters. This includes the coffee maker, toaster, blender and any breadbaskets you may have. Put all of these items away in cabinets and only take them out when needed. Keep in mind that a countertop that is free of clutter will be very attractive to a potential buyer.

It’s also a good idea to clean out your cabinets before you begin storing more items in them. Get rid of any place settings you don’t need, those coffee cups that have been sitting around for years and those “extra” appliances like the pasta maker or snow cone machine that you take out once a year. If you’re not ready to part with these items, pack them up and label them for future use.

Take the same approach when it comes to drawers. Do you really need 20 spoons? Will you be using those cookie cutters anytime soon? If you find items that have never been opened, now’s a great time to box everything up and make space for the things you use on a regular basis.

While junk drawers are very popular in kitchens, take some time to get rid of the true junk that has piled up over the years. Keep the batteries, tape, scissors and a few other essentials, but send the rest packing.

When prospective buyers come into a home to look around, most make a beeline for the kitchen and they want to see space. People will most likely open cabinets and drawers, look in the fridge, check out the countertops and hopefully envision what cooking a meal within the space would be like for them.

It’s also important that you create space in your refrigerator and freezer, so don’t keep these areas stocked with extra food. The last thing you want is for a prospective buyer to open the freezer and see food crammed into every corner, with no extra room available. When it comes to the refrigerator, leave a shelf free and make sure the drawers aren’t packed.

The area beneath the sink is also important. Try to keep this area as empty as possible by removing any extra cleaning supplies and shopping bags. When potential buyers come to your home, you want them to be able to check out the plumbing without having to navigate through more clutter.

The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in any house, and kitchen clutter can be something that puts off a prospective buyer. Take the time to do a good job and make your house a place a potential buyer will want to call home.

For more tips on how to declutter your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Pricing It Right - Competitive Listing Prices Play Pivotal Role in Getting Homes Sold

March 15, 2013 5:20 pm

Pricing your home right is one of the biggest factors that can’t be overlooked when it comes to getting your home sold. While getting as much money as possible for your home is at the top of any seller’s list, setting a price that’s too high will not work in your favor.

In most cases, a real estate agent will be able to talk you down to a price that’s competitive in the marketplace, but if they can’t, and you choose to go with an over-inflated figure, you need to be prepared to play the waiting game.

Chances are, an overpriced home will also keep agents away from previewing the property. Agents understand the market as well as home values in the neighborhood better than anyone else, and they’re not going to waste their time looking at homes that are unrealistically priced. Also, even if a property does sell above true market value, it may not appraise, and the buyers may not be able to secure a loan.

When it comes to pricing, it’s your right to stay firm with your beliefs, however, if you don’t price a home right from the beginning, you may lose out on prospective buyers who may have been interested in your home. By setting the right price from square one, you’ll avoid having to lower the price after realizing that your home isn’t selling. And a simple price drop to a price-point where the home should have been originally may not necessarily help.

According to real estate industry veterans, the first 30 days a house sits on the market are the most important because that’s when the listing attracts the most attention and gets the most showings. Once a house is “old news,” it’s hard to recapture the flurry of initial activity you would have had with a realistic price.

House hunters will see that the house has been on the market for a long time and may think there might be something wrong with it—other than the price. Therefore, you might be forced to make a significant cut to stimulate some interest and warrant a second look from those who may have passed over the house the first time.

Plus, potential buyers might think you are getting desperate and make an even lower offer.

By overpricing your home in the beginning, you could actually end up settling for a lower price than you would have normally received if you’d priced your home correctly from the get-go.

For more information about pricing your home competitively in today’s market, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Sale Contingencies Practical in Today's Housing Market

March 15, 2013 5:20 pm

Finding your dream home can be a time-consuming process, however, it’s entirely possible to find a house that’s perfect for you before you have a chance to sell your current home. If you find yourself in this situation, a home sale contingency may be your best bet.

In its simplest terms, a home sale contingency means that the purchaser of a property must sell and settle their own home in order to purchase the new property…and the buyer is giving them time to do so.

An agreement like this, while complicated, can be practical in today’s housing environment. For one, it provides a sense of comfort to the seller because they know they have a sale in place. When it comes to the buyer, it takes the stress out of having to find a new home once they sell their own. Buyers can then make decisions regarding their sales price and terms, knowing what lies ahead for them in their next house.

The buyer in a contingency will still be going through the motions of the sale and spending money on home inspections, bank fees and appraisal fees that won’t be refunded if the deal falls through because they are unable to sell their own home. It’s a risk that many are willing to take, however.

If your home has been on the market for a while, a contingency makes sense. However, if you’re selling a home in a seller’s market, then it wouldn’t make as much sense to enter into a home sale contingency, especially if you’re in a hurry to sell.

There are also sale and settlement contingencies that allow the seller to continue marketing the house to other potential homebuyers. That means if someone else wants to buy the house, they will give their contingency partner a deadline to come up with the purchase price. If they can’t make it happen, the deposit is returned and the home can be sold to the new buyer.

The downside to an agreement like this is that the home is listed as being under contract with the first right of refusal, which may keep other buyers from coming by to take a look, knowing that even if they fall in love with it and make an offer on the spot, they may not get it.

There’s also something known as a settlement contingency, where the purchaser of your home has already completed the sale of their property and have a set settlement date. If you’re accepting this arrangement, be sure that the buyer’s sale is on track with no inspection issues holding it up.

For more information about home sale contingencies, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Kick Your Home Decor Up a Notch: Adding Art a Simple, Inexpensive Fix

March 15, 2013 5:20 pm

Sprucing up your home to catch the eye of a potential homebuyer can come in many shapes and sizes. Whether it’s fixing up the entryway, giving your kitchen an upgrade or going through and decluttering, sellers put a lot of time and energy into the process of getting their home in tip top shape before it hits the market. If you’re looking to give your home added appeal—without breaking the bank—look no further than those empty walls, where adding simple artwork or decorative pieces can do wonders.

Art is always in style and adding a few key pieces to your home is one of the best ways to beautify your space and make your rooms truly stand out. If you want your interior to inspire or intrigue, it’s important to choose artwork that creates tension, such as modern art with classically designed furniture. If you prefer a soothing atmosphere, be sure to incorporate artwork that doesn’t scream out to be noticed.

While some believe that hanging paintings around the living room is all that can be done when it comes to adding art to their home, they couldn’t be more wrong. Art is appropriate in every room. Whether it’s used in an entranceway to make a statement, a formal living room with a traditional landscape or an entertaining area with a festive piece, incorporating art into your home is a personal decision.

Depending on what type of art you choose, it can add many things to any area of your home. Traditional or modern pieces—or anything that falls in between—can mix well with almost any home furnishing style. A good piece of art can also set the mood of an entire room, or be used as a subtle backdrop. When looking to entice buyers, finding that perfect balance between room colors, flooring and fabric colors is critical.

Additionally, artwork is one of the most powerful forces when it comes to decorating because it gives a space heart and soul. While art is subjective and everyone’s idea of good art is different, all art should inspire, evoke emotion and transport the viewer.

When choosing artwork to bring into your home, it’s important that you don’t fill bare spaces for the sake of simply filling a space. Wait until you have something perfect or a piece that you really love. While it might take some experimenting and arranging, going with a more minimalist approach will look more attractive than haphazard or inadequate arrangements.

Also, if hanging items on a blank wall, aim for roughly eye level. Don’t place numerous disconnected pieces throughout a room, and aim for consistent wall height between furniture and wall décor.

Remember, you can fill your home with fabulous furnishings and beautiful accents, but if you don’t take advantage of your wall space with some dramatic artwork, your home will never feel finished and may actually turn off potential homebuyers.

For more information about incorporating artwork into your home décor, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Contingencies

March 15, 2013 5:20 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 incorporating art into your home décor provides an easy, inexpensive way to spruce up your home and attract potential buyers. Other topics covered this month include the importance of pricing your home right and why you shouldn’t overlook the kitchen when it comes to decluttering. 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.


Checking Your Sump Pump This Spring Can Help Avoid Costly Basement Flooding

March 14, 2013 4:02 am

As winter gives way to spring, the threat of water flooding your basement substantially increases. As soil thaws it is overly saturated with water, and when a spring rain adds a few fresh inches, the water finds the easiest path to flow—usually along your home’s foundation, down to the basement and into your sump pump basin. If your sump pump fails, you’ll have a major water damage problem on your hands.

A sump pump is a last defense against flooding, pumping out water from the lowest section of the basement before the water level reaches the basement floor level. As groundwater levels rise, it is diverted into the sump hole. When the water reaches what is called ‘the critical level,’ the sump pump begins to pump the excess out through a pipe that leads outside and away from your foundation.

Just a few inches of water in a basement can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage— including sump pump overflow, frozen and burst pipes—has accounted for about 22 percent of all residential insurance claims. The average claim was $5,531.

The average lifespan of a sump pump is about 10 years, and they do eventually wear out. Fortunately, most sump pump problems can be avoided by a few regular maintenance checks and can easily be fixed by the homeowner.

Here’s a list of common sump pump problems and solutions for each. Before performing any sump pump maintenance, be sure to unplug any electrical power leading to the unit.

• Debris in The Sump Basin. Always check to make sure that the sump pit is free from debris. Children’s small toys and debris from items stored around the basin can get into the unit and hinder the float mechanism, causing it to fail. Test the float itself, since they can burn out over time. Fill the pit up with water, making sure it both starts and stops the sump pump as designed.

• Inspect the “Check” Valve. Sometimes, the check valve can be improperly installed. The check valves are set up so that when the sump pump shuts off, no water will go back into the sump pump. The check valve’s arrow should not be pointing toward the sump pump.

• Clean The Weep Hole. Some pumps will have a weep hole, usually between the sump pump and the check valve. You can clean this weep hole out with a toothpick or other tiny object. Be careful not to break anything into the weep hole.

• Clean the Impeller. This is a small filter that can easily become clogged. If your sump pump has stopped running suddenly, or has been making a whining noise, this could be the problem. The impeller should be connected to the sump pump with bolts and may need a good cleaning to work properly.

• Sump Pump Odor. Typical odors are caused from the sump pump trap. The trap always retains some water, but when water doesn’t flow into the basin during the dry seasons of the year, an odor starts to form. You can eliminate the odor by using a bleach-water mixture to cleanse the basin. One part bleach to five parts water will work. You can also fill the basin with water until the sump pump engages, cycling the water and helping to eliminate the odor.

• Install a Back-up Power Source. Purchasing a sump pump back-up power supply or a generator is a great idea to avoid overflow when you have a power outage. Most power outages are caused by heavy thunderstorms that bring huge amounts of rain very quickly. This is when you need your sump pump most. If you lose power the back-up system will take over to get rid of the water as the basin fills up. There are also water powered back-up systems that tap into your home’s water supply to provide the energy needed to run the pump. It is good to invest in the purchase of a back-up system now, rather than face the costs of a flooded basement.


Published with permission from RISMedia.