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Americans Continue to Expect Growth in Home Prices

January 8, 2013 6:40 am

Consumer confidence in the housing sector grew last month, marked by continued positive attitudes toward home price, rental price, and mortgage rate expectations, according to Fannie Mae’s December National Housing Survey results. The growing belief held by Americans that these housing indicators will climb in 2013 may inspire a boost in home purchase activity during the coming months. However, while consumers seem confident that housing activity is on the rise, their outlook toward the economy and personal finances appears to have resumed a more unsettled trend following a show of optimism in November.

"The highest share of consumers in the survey’s two-and-a-half-year history expects home prices to increase in the next 12 months. This view is consistent with Fannie Mae's expectation that home prices will rise going forward on a national basis. Combined with consumers’ growing mortgage rate and rental price increase expectations, the positive home price outlook could incentivize those waiting on the sidelines of the housing market to buy a home sooner rather than later and thus support continued housing acceleration,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae.

Survey Highlights:

Homeownership and Renting

• The average 12-month home price change expectation jumped to 2.6 percent, the highest level since the survey’s inception in 2010.
• At 43 percent, the share that believes home prices will go up in the next 12 months reached the highest level recorded, up 6 percentage points over November.
• The percentage that thinks mortgage rates will go up continued to rise, increasing by 2 percentage points to 43 percent, the highest level since August 2011.
• Twenty-one percent of respondents say it is a good time to sell, a 2 percentage point decrease from last month’s record high, but a 10 percentage point increase year over year.
• At 4.4 percent, the average 12-month rental price expectation hit the highest level since the survey’s inception, up 0.4 percent over last month.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Windows for Sustainable Homes

January 7, 2013 6:38 am

Windows are one of the most important features of a home. They contribute to exterior curb appeal, let in light, provide a view and enhance interior ambiance. However, older windows are notorious for losing heat, causing drafts, allowing in noise and having condensation problems throughout the winter. Fortunately, whether you are replacing existing windows or considering window options for a new home, you have the choice of many features that can save on your heating and air-conditioning bills while keeping your home more comfortable.

Frame material and window type are often among the first considerations when choosing new windows. Window frames are typically wood, vinyl or fiberglass and each has a range of benefits. Some hollow core frames contain foam insulation to boost energy performance. The way a window opens also affects its energy performance. Fixed windows - ones that do not open - can have the best energy performance as they have no moving parts that leak air. Casement windows that open and close like doors can be closed and firmly latched providing a relatively airtight seal.

Consider triple pane windows instead of the more conventional double panes. They tend to be more common in colder areas. Buy windows that use insulating spacers between the panes. Spacers provide an insulating air space between the glass panes in multi-pane windows. If your window has a conductive spacer, such as aluminum, the glass near the spacer will not only lose more heat during the winter, it will more likely have condensation problems that can lead to moisture damage on and around the window and mold growth. Fortunately, insulating spacers are readily available that can cut heat losses around the edge of the windows dramatically.

Beyond keeping the heat in during the winter and out during the summer, high performance energy efficient windows can also perform as solar collectors. By allowing solar energy from the sun into the house during the winter, windows can offset a large part of your home heating bill. The location and size of windows also affects the amount of solar gains your home can capture. More windows on the south side and fewer on the north is the general rule but too many south facing windows can overheat rooms - even in winter. If you are building a new home, consult with a designer knowledgeable in passive solar design strategies.

Even the most energy efficient windows can have their performance undermined by poor installation. In the past, it was common to find fiberglass stuffed into the gap between the window and the wall. However, compressed fiberglass is not a good insulator and air can still leak through it. Also, if it gets wet, it has a hard time drying out. Spray-in insulating foams can do a much better job of both insulating and air sealing around windows.

As windows are a long-term investment, it can make sense to buy windows with the highest thermal and solar heat gain performance you can afford. This will help protect you against rising home heating and cooling costs over time. Investing in good frames and hardware can also make sense because when, decades down the line, the window seals fail and fog up, you may be able to simply replace the glass units rather than the whole window assembly.

Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Smart Substitutions

January 7, 2013 6:38 am

(Family Features) When you’re hungry and pressed for time, it’s tempting to swing through the drive-thru or order takeout. But while these seemingly convenient choices save you time, they might cost you in calories, fat, sugar and sodium. Here are some easy ways to make smart substitutions throughout the day that are also time-saving.

Breakfast: Eating breakfast starts your day off right and helps you control hunger.
-Save up to 300 calories by substituting a doughnut or danish with a small English muffin and a tablespoon of your favorite nut butter. You’ll also get the added benefit of protein, which gives you energy to start the day.

-Be mindful of what you add to your morning coffee. Your on-the-go 16-ounce latte could contain as much as 330 calories, 13 grams of fat and 40 grams of sugar, and could be costing you. Substitute with a 12-ounce cup of coffee with skim or soy milk, a pinch of cinnamon and a natural sweetener like honey.

Lunch: You can enjoy a satisfying, convenient and smart meal whether you’re at home, work or out to eat.
-If you can, avoid full-calorie pizzeria pizza and look for lower-fat, thin-crust pizza options. The blend of reduced fat cheeses with a zesty tomato sauce on a crispy-thin crust will give you 8 grams of whole grains and has 300 calories – compared to the 440 calories from the standard takeout slice.

-When you have to have that classic all-beef patty, less is more. Keep it simple and balanced with a whole grain bun, ketchup, lettuce and tomato. If you’re more adventurous, try turkey and veggie burgers for fewer calories and less saturated fat.

Snacks: Snacks can be part of a smart diet – you just have to enjoy the right kinds of snacks in moderation.
-If you’re hungry for something sweet, opt for a low-fat Greek yogurt sweetened with honey, which is much lower in calories than a milkshake, and offers probiotics.

-If you’re craving something salty, try a handful of lightly salted almonds, which are packed with protein and will help you feel satisfied so you won’t be tempted by chips or other salty snacks.

Dinner: Being smart about portion sizes as well as your entrée choices lets you stay on track and enjoy your evening meal.

-Divide up your entrée – either share it with your dining partner, or ask for a to-go box and put half of your food in the container as soon as it arrives. Not only do you get a more appropriate portion, but you also stretch your dining dollar into two meals instead of just one.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


New Year's Resolutions That Will Keep Your Home Warm and Happy

January 7, 2013 6:38 am

With the New Year upon us, many people are reminded of their resolutions from the past year. Many resolved to keep up with their home maintenance. How did you do? Was your New Year's resolution to fix those air leaks in the window? If you haven't done it yet, the time is now. The winds of winter are here and that means that it's time to assess your home's insulation situation and save yourself some money while also providing your home with trendy new fashions. If you have never done it before, the first thing you should do to winterize your home is conduct an energy audit.

Hiring a professional energy auditor may seem unnecessary, but turning your home into an energy efficient machine will help you save more money in the long run. The auditor will point out spots of energy waste, poorly insulated areas and air leaks, and other places that are the main causes of higher-than-usual utility bills during the winter months. Once the auditor has pointed out the areas that need home improvement, it's time to go about winterizing those areas to save as much money as possible.

The term "winterize" is used in professional inspection services to refer to houses that are going to be vacant during the winter. However, there are ways to prepare (winterize) your home while living in it, which effectively protects it from the damaging effects of the harsh weather. Consider these tips for helping you make it through the winter in a comfortable and cozy fashion.

Improve insulation.
Poor insulation can cost you money on your utility bill year round, but especially during the winter when your cozy warm air is seeping through different leaks. If your home is not well-insulated, you will end up spending more money on gas and electricity trying to keep the heat in during the winter and out during the summer. This makes insulation improvements a top priority on your New Year's to-do-list for home repair and maintenance.
-Insulate all piping exteriorly exposed.
-Insulate your hot water tank with an insulation blanket.

-Install weatherstripping.
-Use a door sweep for extra insulation.
-Like storm windows, storm doors can help you save money by eliminating air leaks in this area.

-Find air leaks and seal them with caulking.
-Consider installing storm windows.
-Insulate your windows and save money in the New Year with eco-friendly shades that can also help keep you warm during the winter. The use of custom window coverings can help your home keep the heat in when the winds are blowing.

-Replace missing or damaged shingles.
-Clean gutters and downspouts.
-Check flashing around chimneys and other roof protrusions. Air often leaks around these areas.

Outdoor landscape
-Cover furniture and external air conditioners.
-If your deck needs it, seal it before the wet winter ruins it completely.
-Drain gas from lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other outdoor equipment.
-Drain water from fountains.
-Purge sprinkler systems by shutting off water and blowing compressed air through the system.

Preparing your home for winter doesn't have to mean locking yourself up in an igloo for four months! You can prepare your home for winter by redecorating your interior to match the seasonal trends and to add a new level of comfort and coziness to your humble abode.

Source: Budget Blinds

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Dealing with Pests and Termites Crucial Before Listing Your Home

January 3, 2013 5:08 pm

Dealing with pests and termites can be a nuisance for homeowners. However, if you’re in the process of getting ready to put your home on the market, they can be an even bigger headache. Whether its mice, termites or bed bugs, it’s crucial to tackle the problem quickly, especially before prospective buyers come to a showing or open house.

If you’re dealing with mice, you can set traps yourself, but keep in mind that traps won’t eliminate the problem. While it is possible to get rid of mice, you may need to invest some money and bring in a professional who can figure out where they’re coming from and cut off their access point. Once their access point to the house is cut off, they will go away.

When it comes to larger animals, if you suspect that something has taken up residence in your home, do a perimeter search and listen for noises in the chimney and attic. Varmint such as raccoons and squirrels can be removed humanely by wildlife organizations, as can birds sitting in nests around your property. Depending on the state you live in, a nearby noisy owl may be off-limits.

For those with more prolific pests and bugs such as termites, the best solution is to call an exterminator as soon as possible. Termites can cause major damage to the wood in your home, so it is imperative to have them exterminated as soon as they are discovered.

By law, a seller is required to disclose “all know facts that materially affect the value of the property,” which means you can’t just let pests such as termites slide and hope the inspector doesn’t pick up on them.

When it comes to termites, if you have controlled the infestation, repaired all damage and kept up with your ongoing termite protection agreement, then previous termite damage should not affect your ability to sell your home. However, it may be difficult to sell a house with termite damage that has not been repaired, or an infestation that has not been controlled.

In today’s market, it’s hard enough to find a willing buyer only to have the deal sour when a negative termite inspection comes back.

Carpenter ants are another nuisance and a good exterminator will know how to treat and eliminate the infestation. One thing about carpenter ants is they only live on wet rotting wood, so it’s a sign that the home has a water problem that is causing rot. Solve the water problem and the ants will not survive.

Unfortunately, bugs and rodents are a part of life and there’s no end-all solution that will ensure that a home is pest free. The best you can do before putting your home on the market is to eliminate all you can and deal with any in-your-face issues. Nature will have to take care of the rest.

For more information about dealing with pests, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Renovating Tips: Key Areas That Shouldn't be Overlooked

January 3, 2013 5:08 pm

When it comes to sprucing up your home to attract prospective buyers, most real estate experts will tell you to spend your money in the kitchen and bathroom, as these are the areas where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. While upgrading these rooms may be a key part in getting your home sold quickly and for a better price, it’s crucial that you don’t overlook the rest of your house.

If a home renovation is at the top of your list, keep the following tips in mind so that your home stands out above the competition.

Bathroom: With a little money and effort, your bathroom can become the talking point of the house. Studies show that even small changes like adding luxurious looking clean towels, replacing the shower curtain and adding candles around a bathtub will add value to the room. If you’re looking to make a bigger impact, you may want to think about adding a new tub in order to create a spa-like atmosphere. This way you’ll have buyers imagining themselves washing their cares away at the end of a long day. If adding a new tub isn’t in the budget, consider replacing the showerhead with one that incorporates a massage element or even one that replicates the rain, as these are things that will appeal to buyers.

Kitchen: Today’s families spend more time in the kitchen than any other place in the house, so the kitchen is considered the heart of the home—and people often use their hearts to make a buying decision. Real estate experts say that new kitchen appliances often bring high returns from sellers, so replacing dated dishwashers and stoves can do wonders for a sale. One simple fix is to add color with backsplash. An attractive backsplash will give your kitchen a more elegant, refined look and accentuate whatever look you’re aiming for. Adding pullout drawers, a Lazy Susan in corner units and adjustable shelves will all help to improve the functionality of the kitchen while keeping things better organized. Don’t forget to upgrade the sink with an opulent and eye-catching faucet.

Living Room: When it comes to the living room, replacing outdated furniture is key. You may also want to add some color, which can be easily achieved with throw pillows or area rugs. In addition, be sure to keep the room well lit by incorporating some decorative lamps. Painting the room a neutral color is also strongly suggested, as is adding some substance with memorable wall art.

Exteriors: If you’re looking to make a positive first impression and up your curb appeal, spend a little money on plants and flowers for the front yard. In addition, power wash the driveway, fence, deck and even the sides of the house. Be sure to keep the lawn free of leaves and debris and make any exterior repairs as necessary.

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

Published with permission from RISMedia.


On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! Prepare Your Home for Showing Season

January 3, 2013 5:08 pm

Getting your home ready for sale in 30 days can be a challenge, however, for some sellers, it’s often a reality. Whether it’s a new job, a better opportunity, a marriage proposal or anything in between, there are a host of reasons that can necessitate the need to get out of your house quickly. If you find yourself pressed for time, the following tips will help you take advantage of the limited time you have to get your home ready for a showing.

The first thing you’re going to want to do is discard the clutter and pack up as much as possible. Since you’ll most likely be out of the home in a short period of time, you might as well begin the packing process. Be sure to keep out a month or two worth of clothes and supplies and put everything else into storage. This will most likely be a time consuming process, so spend a few hours each day packing your belongings and don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for help.

Make a list of all the little things that need to get done and start crossing them off as soon as possible. Change all broken light bulbs, patch up any nail holes, make spackle repairs in the bathroom, fix any drips and take care of any little things that a potential buyer might use as an excuse not to buy.

There’s nothing quite like a fresh coat of paint to give a home an updated look and feel, so once you’ve moved as much as you can to storage, get out those paint cans and throw a painting party with your friends and family. Use neutral colors and be sure to start with the most visible rooms.

Hire a cleaning service to come in and do a detailed cleaning, which will include everything from the drapes to the rugs to the inside of appliances. You want your house to give off the impression that it’s clean and comforting.

Remember to take care of the outside as well. Mow the lawn, have the leaves picked up, remove any trash or toys lying about and create a focal point outside that will enable prospective buyers to envision themselves living their life in their new space.

Don’t wait too long before talking with a real estate agent as they’ll be able to offer you tips on how to get your home sold quickly.

Contact our office today for more tips to prepare your home for showings.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Short Sales Offer a Unique Competitive Advantage in Today's Real Estate Environment

January 3, 2013 5:08 pm

There was a time not too long ago when a homebuyer faced with the prospect of purchasing a short sale would go off and running without even considering the house. But in today’s housing climate, pursuing a short sale can offer a unique competitive advantage.

A short sale simply refers to a home that is sold for less than what is owed and the bank forgives the excess debt. In fact, lenders in most states are warming up to the idea of short sales, because if they don’t allow them, homeowners would most likely join the tens of thousands who have let their house fall into foreclosure.

Homes listed as a short sale are more likely to be kept up because the seller still wants to get as much money as they can. It’s important to take into consideration the fact that a seller listing their home as a short sale isn’t likely to make any big improvements before the home is sold, therefore, there will more than likely be a lot for the buyer to take care of before moving in.

If you’re considering buying a short sale, understand that it will often take longer than a traditional sale because of the documentation required and the sign-off needed by the lender.

The entire short sale process hinges on the hope that the bank will approve the sale, take the loss and eliminate the costly process of foreclosing, clearing and reselling a home.

If you’re interested in pursuing a short sale, the best advice is to work with an agent who has experience in this type of transaction as they can help expedite the transaction and protect your interests.

By checking recent home sales in the area to get a better idea of which properties are selling, your agent can work with you to come up with an appropriate price that will more likely be approved by the bank.

One important thing to keep in mind is that with a short sale, there is no leniency with the closing escrow date and a buyer must close on time. Because of this, it is important to take care of all loan paperwork immediately after opening escrow.

For more information about purchasing a short sale, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


New Year's Resolutions Every Home Seller Should Add to Their List

January 3, 2013 5:08 pm

Now that the new year has arrived, sellers are back in full force, pulling out all the stops in order to get their home sold. Whether you’re listing your home for the first time or finally ready to get that “For Sale” sign out of your front yard, add the following New Year’s resolutions to your list.

1. Set Reasonable Expectations: Although the housing market is showing signs of being better in 2013, we’re still nowhere near the levels of the last housing boom. Therefore, you need to be practical when setting a price and listening to offers. Too many sellers still expect to put their house on the market and have people fight over it within weeks, when the reality is bidding wars just aren’t that commonplace these days.

2. Don’t be Discouraged - React: If your house has been sitting on the market for a long period of time, or no one is coming to see it, don’t give up. Be proactive. Do something to change up the listing—add some new photos, incorporate video, or hire a professional writer to add panache to the descriptions that are being used to market your home. In addition, talk with your agent about why he or she thinks your home isn’t selling and fix anything that’s reasonable.

3. Communicate with Your Agent: There’s a reason you hired an agent to sell your home, so be sure to take full advantage of their expertise. Ask them for their advice as well as tips regarding the best way to sell your home. If there’s a problem with any part of the process, don’t just bite your tongue; talk to your agent and iron out any issues.

4. Don’t be Stubborn: Oftentimes, sellers will set a price that they expect to get for their home and absolutely refuse to budge, no matter what. While you have every right to set the price you want, if you list a $400,000 home and someone comes in with an offer of $370,000, don’t just write them off. Take some time to research whether their offer is more in line with what houses are selling for and listen to their reasons (if the agent provided them) for the lower price. When it comes down to price, there’s nothing wrong with negotiating a figure that will work for both parties.

5. Leave the House: When sellers have their house on the market for a long period of time, eventually they may give up on the notion that they have to leave the house during a showing. However, it’s important to get out of the house no matter how long it’s been on the market. Being present for a showing not only makes it harder for the real estate agent to do his/her job, it can also lead to an uncomfortable situation for those viewing the home.

For more information about selling your home in the new year, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Short Sales

January 3, 2013 5:08 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 five key resolutions that every home seller should add to their list in order to hit the ground running in 2013. Other topics covered this month include home renovation projects that will provide the most bang for your buck and how to deal with pests and termites so that your home sale stays on track. 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.