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Improving Consumer Attitudes Suggest Continued Strength in Housing Market

December 11, 2012 6:04 am

Despite continued uncertainty surrounding the fiscal cliff, Americans are showing increased confidence in the housing market and the direction of the economy. According to results from Fannie Mae’s November 2012 National Housing Survey, such improvement bodes especially well for continued strengthening in the housing sector, which in turn is likely to support overall economic growth.

“Consumer attitudes toward both the economy and the housing market continue to gather momentum, with many of our 11 key National Housing Survey indicators at or near their two-and-a-half-year highs,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae. “On the housing front, attitudes about the current selling environment continue to improve, with a significant increase in those saying it would be a good time to sell. This growing confidence in a housing recovery, in addition to other factors, may reinforce growing consumer optimism regarding the improving direction of the general economy.”

The November survey results show significant movement across many of the indicators. The share of respondents who say now is a good time to sell a home jumped 5 percentage points in November to 23 percent – the highest level since the survey began in June 2010 – narrowing the gap with those who say it is a good time to buy. The percentage of respondents who expect mortgage rates to go up increased by 4 percentage points to 41 percent. Those expecting home prices to go down within the next year also rose by 4 percentage points to 14 percent over last month, a rebound from the survey's record low in the prior month, while the share who believe home prices will go up in the next 12 months edged up to 37 percent, tying the survey high. Of note, 51 percent of respondents now say it would be easy to get a mortgage, marking the highest rate since the survey’s inception.

Survey Highlights

Homeownership and Renting

• Average home price change expectation held steady at 1.7 percent.
• Fourteen percent of those surveyed say that home prices will go down in the next 12 months, a 4 percentage point increase over last month.
• The percentage who think mortgage rates will go up continued to rise, increasing 4 percentage points in November to 41 percent.
• Twenty-three percent of respondents say it is a good time to sell, a 5 percentage point increase over last month, and the highest level since the survey’s inception.
• The average rental price expectation hit 4 percent in November, a 0.9 percent rise over the past two months.
• Forty-eight percent of those surveyed say home rental prices will go up in the next 12 months, a slight decrease from last month.
• The share of respondents who said they would buy if they were going to move held relatively steady at 67 percent.
• Fifty-one percent of respondents now say it would be easy to get a mortgage, marking the highest rate since the survey’s inception.

The Economy and Household Finances

• Hitting 50 percent for the first time since the survey’s inception, the percentage who think the economy is on the wrong track has declined by 25 percentage points over the past year, and by 6 percentage points from last month.
• The percentage who expect their personal financial situation to get worse over the next 12 months rose 5 percentage points to 18 percent, the highest level since December 2011.
• Meanwhile, 21 percent of respondents say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago.
• Household expenses remained stable over the past month, with 56 percent responding that their household expenses stayed the same compared to 12 months ago.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Lighting and Energy Reduction Tips for the Winter

December 10, 2012 6:04 am

For homeowners looking to decorate their homes for the holidays, it's a great time to review some tips to help save money and conserve energy throughout this time of the year.

On average, holiday lights cost just pennies a day. However, elaborate displays that use large incandescent bulbs can add as much as $80 to a monthly electric bill, depending on the number of bulbs and how long they're lit each night.

There are many less costly, more energy-efficient options available today that even the most elaborate lighting display can fit into anyone's budget. Six 100-bulb sets of large, incandescent bulbs (600 bulbs total), plugged in six hours each night, can add up to $80 to a monthly electric bill. By comparison, six 100-bulb sets of similarly styled light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs would increase a monthly electric bill by $7.

Customers can estimate their holiday lighting costs using an energy calculator like the one found here:

Safety Tips

• Before installing lights, check each set – new and old – for damaged sockets, loose connections and frayed or bare wires. Discard damaged sets or repair them before using.
• Never use more than three standard-sized sets of lights per extension cord.
• Plug exterior lights into ground-fault interruptible (GFI) outlets only. If the home lacks outside GFI outlets, call an electrician to install them.
• Before climbing a ladder, inspect it to ensure it's in good working condition and follow the weight limits specified on the ladder. Ladders that lean against a wall or other support should be angled so the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is about one-quarter the working length of the ladder. Never use a ladder for any purpose other than the one for which it's designed.
• Never use a ladder on or near power lines.

Energy Efficiency Tips
The thermostat is the real culprit of a higher December bill, so homeowners are encouraged to select the lowest comfortable setting when they're home, then bump it down a degree or two when they leave.
Other money-saving tips include:

• Hire a qualified technician to inspect home heating and cooling equipment each season to ensure proper operation.
• Change air filters monthly, year-round.
• Ensure drapes, furniture, rugs and holiday decorations do not block heat registers and vents. Clean registers and vents regularly with a vacuum or broom.
• Take advantage of natural solar heat. On sunny days, leave the drapes or blinds open to allow the sun's rays to warm the house.

For more simple ways to control home energy costs, visit

Published with permission from RISMedia.


NAR Survey of Homebuyers and Sellers Shows Dual Income Couples Fueling Market

December 10, 2012 6:04 am

Dual income households are comprising a greater portion of the housing market and helping sales recover, according to an annual study. The 2012 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers continues a long-running series of large national NAR surveys evaluating the demographics, preferences, motivations, plans and experiences of recent homebuyers and sellers.

According to the new survey, 65 percent of all buyers are married couples, 16 percent are single women, 9 percent single men, 8 percent unmarried couples and 2 percent other; percentages of single buyers were slightly higher in 2011. However, just two years ago, 58 percent of buyers were married, 20 percent were single women, 12 percent single men and 7 percent unmarried couples; the overall marketshare of single buyers declined a total of 7 percentage points over the past two years. Before 2010, the marketshares moved within a very narrow range, generally a percentage point or two.

Paul Bishop, NAR vice president of research, said the study is painting a clearer picture of the impact of mortgage limitations. “We’ve known for some time that stringent mortgage credit standards have been holding back home sales, but these findings show single buyers have been hurt the most over the past two years. Total home sales would be 10 to 15 percent higher without these unnecessary headwinds,” he said.

“The continued growth in married couples as single buyers shrink demonstrates that households with dual incomes are more successful in obtaining a mortgage. However, given the historically favorable housing affordability conditions, most single-income buyers could also purchase a home and stay well within their means, if lending requirements were more sensible,” Bishop said.

First-time homebuyers edged up to a 39 percent marketshare in the past year from 37 percent in the 2011 study. Long-term survey averages show that four out of 10 buyers are typically first-time buyers, who are critical to a housing recovery because they help existing homeowners to sell and make a trade.

The study shows the median age of first-time buyers was 31 and the median income was $61,800. The typical first-time buyer purchased a 1,600 square-foot home costing $154,100, while the typical repeat buyer was 51 years old and earned $93,100. Repeat buyers purchased a median 2,100-square foot home costing $220,000.

The median down payment for all homebuyers was 9 percent, ranging from 4 percent for first-time buyers to 13 percent for repeat buyers. “First-time buyers historically make small down payments, but repeat buyers like to put down 20 percent if they can to avoid paying mortgage insurance,” Bishop said.

“The general loss in home value since the peak of the housing boom means many repeat buyers in recent years had to make smaller down payments. Fortunately, prices have turned up this year and are showing sustained increases, so we’re on the road to a recovery in home equity.”

Source: NAR

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Brick Exteriors Test Strongest in Severe Weather

December 10, 2012 6:04 am

After the third most active storm season on record, tests continue to show that genuine clay brick outperforms other home exteriors in severe weather conditions. As homeowners head into peak home fire season in December and January, brick also offers a one-hour fire rating by itself—unlike other exteriors that need to incorporate fire-resistant materials in their wall systems.

In cumulative studies, genuine clay brick beats competitive exteriors in wind resistance, moisture resistance, earthquake resistance and protection from wind-blown debris.

"As a sustainable building product made from natural abundant resources, genuine clay brick exteriors can also help reduce property damage and increase survival odds," said Gregg Borchelt, president and CEO of the Brick Industry Association (BIA). "Combined with proper design, installation and maintenance, brick is an essential element of strong, safe homes."

A 2010 study by the NAHB Research Center comparing moisture resistance among typical residential exteriors evaluated genuine clay brick veneer as the highest in moisture resistance and dryness. Of the eight wall systems tested—accounting for approximately 90 percent of the cladding systems used today—brick veneer wall assemblies performed the best overall in controlling moisture.

In 2009, a brick seismic study funded by the National Science Foundation showed that buildings constructed with genuine clay brick veneer can resist earthquakes above the Maximum Considered Earthquake for Seismic Design Category D without collapse.

Videos of a 2004 wind-blown debris study at the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University demonstrate that a medium-sized and wind-blown object, such as a 7.5-foot long 2 x 4, would penetrate homes built with vinyl siding or fiber-cement siding at a speed of 25 mph, but would need to exceed 80 mph in order to penetrate the wall of a genuine clay brick veneer home. The tests showed that a single wythe of brick exceeded the impact resistance for high velocity hurricane zones in the Florida building code.

Free of volatile compounds, earth-friendly genuine clay brick is a key element of green building design with benefits including a 100-year lifespan, no- to low-maintenance, termite resistance, durability and other competitive benefits.

Source: Brick Industry Association (BIA)

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Technology Trends: Video Increasingly Important to Home-Selling Process

December 7, 2012 5:02 pm

As technology continues to infiltrate the real estate industry, it has forever changed the way people shop for houses. If you’re getting ready to list your home in today’s technology-savvy world, be sure to take into consideration just how important video has become to the entire process.

When potential buyers look at houses online, they want to see more than just a few photos of the best rooms. Today’s buyers want a 360-degree video tour that will provide a better understanding of the home’s entire layout, including all the rooms within. With video, you can show each room, taking prospective buyers down the hallways, looking at everything as you go by.

Before you even get your camera out, make sure the entire house is ready to be filmed. That means cleaning it thoroughly and preparing the rooms you’ll be shooting in order to show off their best features. For example, set the dining room table as if you were about to host a lavish dinner party. If you have a fireplace, get it roaring to create a homey look.

When creating your video, there’s no need to provide commentary. Instead, let the pictures tell the story. However, if you’re looking to enhance your video, you can always add some soothing background music once it’s done. As you shoot, imagine what the buyer is thinking as you move from room to room and try to focus on the things that will appeal to the masses.

Don’t worry about special effects or weird camera angles when shooting your film. Remember, the purpose of your video is to create a product that will help you better showcase your home, ultimately leading to a faster sale.

In addition to supplying video of the house, spend some time taking footage of the neighborhood as well. Prospective buyers will get a better feel for the area if you showcase parks, trails and even nearby stores. Just be sure that if any people appear in the video, you get their permission. If you’re really creative, get some of your neighbors to take part in the video and have them talk about what they like best about the neighborhood and surrounding area. It’s important to remember that anything you can do to make your video stand out can only help.

One last tip: Once you’ve finished filming, try to keep your house in the same condition as it is in the video. When buyers come around for showings or open houses, you don’t want them to feel as if they were cheated out of the beautifully clean and tidy house they were first drawn to in the video.

Because so many markets are being overrun with houses for sale, it’s always smart to do something different that will set your listing apart from the others. Video adds an intimacy to a listing that a page full of photos and text can’t convey.

For more information about incorporating video into your home selling strategy, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What You Need to Know Before You Say 'Yes' to a Homeowners Association

December 7, 2012 5:02 pm

If you’re in the market for a new home, you may have noticed that some of the houses you’re interested in looking at are part of a homeowners association—or HOA. Before you cross these types of homes off your list, it’s important to understand exactly what an HOA is.

In its simplest form, an HOA is a formal legal entity that has been created to maintain common areas and has the ability to enforce deed restrictions. An HOA can be very strict or have just a few basic rules and guidelines for people to follow.

If you’re interested in making an offer on a house within an HOA community, it’s important to know the rules and what you are required and expected to do as a member. The last thing you want is to move in and find out you’re not allowed to run your home business out of your new space or have a certain pet because of a rule you didn’t know about.

The most important aspect of an HOA that one needs to be aware of is the amount of money that it will cost you. You should review the assessment fees charged and understand if they are collected monthly, quarterly or yearly. The money owed can range from a small amount to thousands of dollars each year depending on what the policy says.

The money collected is often used to build and maintain pools, tennis courts, golf courses, trails, parks and numerous other amenities for all homeowners to enjoy. Be sure to ask about the HOA’s reserve fund as well. This will give you a good idea as to the possibility of fees being raised.

Be aware that some homeowner associations can dictate the color your house can be painted, what your landscaping looks like and even if you can put up decorations at holiday time. Again, read all the rules and regulations beforehand.

Some homeowner associations are built as gated communities, which offer peace of mind and an added sense of security. Keep in mind that gated communities will keep solicitors out, but will also require permission for any guests who happen to stop by.

The HOA will have a board in charge of spending funds, making rules and settling disputes. The process works well as long as those serving have the best interests of the homeowners at heart, but conflicts can arise. You should ask around to see about any ongoing disputes before becoming a part of an HOA. Major conflicts will typically show up in the minutes of an HOA meeting, which should be available to view.

Before you buy a home in an HOA, make sure you research how homes have sold in the area over the past few years. If there are a lot of homes for sale and few are actually being sold, it may indicate that the neighborhood has a bad reputation and the HOA is not living up to all the advantages it should offer.

For more information regarding HOA’s, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Meet the Neighbors: Why You Should Look Beyond Square Footage When Choosing a Home

December 7, 2012 5:02 pm

Searching for your dream home can be a daunting task, however, it’s important to take your time and do some homework before you even consider making an offer. Today, finding a new place to call home goes way beyond square footage, number of bedrooms and whether the home is located in a good school district. In fact, one thing many buyers often overlook is the need to scope out the neighborhood—and even the potential neighbors.

Many agents suggest walking around the block of a home you may be interested in buying to see if there’s a fit. If there are people outside, you may want to stop and say hello and ask them about their thoughts on the neighborhood.

Walking around a neighborhood and talking to neighbors will give you a good idea as to the area and what people love most about calling it home. It will also help you figure out whether people of similar age live in the area, which is great information to know before you make an offer on a home.

If you’re really interested in getting to know the neighborhood—and the neighbors—before you make an offer on a home, don’t be afraid to knock on a few doors and ask a few questions. Tell any current homeowners that you’re considering moving in and want to get a feel for what the neighborhood’s like. Be sure to ask about crime, emergency response, traffic, noise and anything else that would matter to you.

When scoping out the neighborhood, be on the lookout for swing sets or basketball hoops, especially if you have children of your own. These items are a sure sign that the neighborhood is full of other children for yours to play with.

In addition to learning about who lives in the neighborhood, you may also want to find out if there are any block parties, a neighborhood watch or any other social gatherings that everyone takes part in. It never hurts to have this information at your disposal to help you make a decision.

You’ll also want to learn about the best restaurants, churches, schools and shops in the area. Most people you talk to will be happy to share their favorite establishments.

Be sure to talk to as many people in the area as you can, and don’t be afraid to ask your REALTOR® questions about people living nearby.

You may be surprised how much you can find out from simply walking through a neighborhood. If you don’t like the information that you’re gathering, it could help you from making the mistake of buying a home in a neighborhood where you won’t be happy.

For more information about choosing the neighborhood that’s right for you, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don't Let the Excitement of Purchasing Your First Home Keep You From Getting the Best Deal

December 7, 2012 5:02 pm

While buying your first home can be an exciting adventure, the process also comes with a lot of questions. What can you afford? How do you get financing? How do you find the perfect home? Are you really ready?

A good real estate agent will be able to answer these questions and guide you through the process to make it as painless and stress-free as possible, which is why choosing the correct agent is a must for any first-time buyer. When choosing a real estate agent to work with, consider the area in which you want to buy. A local agent will be more familiar with the area and can recommend specific neighborhoods that will suit the specific lifestyle you’re looking for.

First-time buyers should also have a good handle on the money involved in purchasing a home. It’s always a good idea to meet with a financial advisor to truly understand what you can afford. If you want to figure it out yourself, be sure to make a comprehensive list of every possible expense. Don’t rely on your lender to figure out a total for you, as lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio, and not necessarily at your day-to-day spending habits.

Once you know what you can afford, make sure the bank agrees. This can be accomplished by getting pre-qualified for a loan. The pre-qualification process is not a guarantee that the lender will offer you funding, but it does take into consideration your credit score and income level in order to determine how much the lender might be willing to offer through a mortgage program. The next step is getting a pre-qualified letter so that when you find a home you love, you have proof that you can get the loan.

While it may seem like a good deal is easy to come by these days, it’s crucial that you do your homework before jumping at the first lender who offers you a deal. Talk with several lenders before you decide which one can best serve your needs. Be sure to disclose the fact that you’re a first-time buyer, as this could potentially make a difference in the types of programs a lender offers you.

First-time buyers should also look into programs that are specifically designed to lend a hand with benefits such as down-payment assistance and no closing costs. Some even offer first-time buyers competitive interest rates designed to make borrowing easier. Be sure to understand what’s out there to help you before making a final decision.

As a first-time buyer, it’s important to work with an agent who is familiar with programs and lenders who specialize in working with buyers who are getting ready to purchase their first home. This will give you the best chance of finding your dream home at the best possible price.

If you’re a first-time buyer looking to purchase a home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Take the Stress Out of Preparing for Moving Day by Starting Early

December 7, 2012 5:02 pm

Packing up your entire house can be an overwhelming process that involves a lot of pieces that need to be put into place to ensure a seamless moving day that goes off without a hitch. From gathering supplies to hiring a moving company—and everything in between—preparing for moving day shouldn’t be left until the last minute. While you may have already removed a lot of items from your home to stage it for showings, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before the big day arrives. And waiting for the last minute can be a big mistake.

When it comes to packing for moving day, start collecting boxes early. Be sure to visit your neighborhood stores (especially book stores) and ask them to set boxes aside for you. In addition to asking friends and relatives for leftover boxes, check out sites such as Craigslist and Freecycle, as these are great places to find people who have recently moved and are looking for a way to unload boxes.

It’s also important to stock up on tape, bubble wrap and other packing supplies to ensure a safe move for all your goods.

Once you have all the necessary supplies, begin packing a little each day. As you get started, you’ll be surprised at how slow the process really is. It’s also a good idea to label the outside of every box—as you pack it—so that you know exactly what’s inside. You may even want to keep a detailed list on your computer so that everything’s accounted for.

If you plan on hiring a moving company, be sure to arrange for one early on in the process. This will ensure that you have plenty of time to get quotes and estimates, as well as the best deal. The last thing you want is to pay extra because you didn’t give the movers enough time to prepare. If you’re concerned about transporting valuables such as important papers, jewelry and family keepsakes, buy a safe so that you can store these items. It’s also a good idea to pack anything valuable in your own car, rather than on the moving truck.

In addition to getting everything packed, you’ll also need to change your address. This involves contacting the post office, the IRS, friends and family, utility companies and even magazines/newspapers that you are currently subscribed to. Take care of this early so that you aren’t stressing about getting it done as the moving van pulls into your driveway.

Before you head out of town, take the time to pick up any medical and dental records, x-rays and prescription histories. These are important to have on hand so that you can provide them to your new doctor. It’s also important to look into whether your current bank has a branch in your new city/town. If not, you’ll need to set up an account at a new bank and close your current account before you leave.

Don’t forget to return library books and any items that you may have borrowed from your neighbors. Last but not least, be sure to leave time to say goodbye to everyone.

There’s a lot that goes into packing up and leaving a home, but with some careful planning and foresight, you can make your move as smooth as possible.

For more information about preparing for moving day, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: First-Time Homebuyers, Homeowners Associations

December 7, 2012 5:02 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 the importance of not waiting until the last minute to pack your belongings and prepare for moving day. Other topics covered this month include why it’s important to get to know the neighbors before making an offer on a home and how technology can help your home stand out among the competition. 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.