Friday, December 30, 2016

Selling This Winter? 4 Negotiation Tips to Ensure a Speedy Home Sale

Selling This Winter? 4 Negotiation Tips to Ensure a Speedy Home SaleIt's a great feeling to get an offer on your home, but there can be a lot of details that go into seeing the negotiation through to completion. If your home is currently on the market and you're expecting buyers to snap it up soon, here's what you'll need to know to get your ideal price in no time at all.

Remember To Counter Offer

A potential buyer will generally offer you a price that is lower than what they are willing to pay to see if they can get it, so it's important to not get so excited by it that you give up on negotiating. While it's a necessity to be a little flexible on price, it's still important to get an offer you can feel good about.

Give Them Time, But Not Too Much

It's important to give buyers the time needed to mull over any counter offers or final negotiations, but you don't want to stave off other potential buyers in the interim. Instead of missing out on other viable buyers, give the interested party a frame of time to decide so they and you can walk away without hesitation when it's passed.

Continue To Communicate

If you don't express any measure of interest for a buyer's offer, there's a good chance they'll walk away, so ensure you're communicating clearly about your price expectations and the value of your home. By keeping the potential buyer aware of your reasoning and timelines, they'll probably be impressed by your professionalism, which can work in your favor.

Don't Forget About Home Repairs

It may be easy to forget about the importance of the home inspection, but any issues uncovered can change the offer price of your home or cause negotiation breakdown if there's a significant problem. Instead of getting derailed, ensure that you're willing to drop down your purchase price to cover necessary repairs or get the fixes made yourself so the deal can move forward.

There are a lot of details to work out when it comes to selling a home, but negotiations are key in maintaining a potential buyer's interest. By keeping the communication lines open and being clear about your timeline, you may be well on your way to a home sale. If you're getting ready to put your home on the market, contact your trusted real estate professional for more information.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Let's Talk Cabinets: How to Match up New Kitchen Cabinets With the Rest of Your Decor

Let's Talk Cabinets: How to Match up New Kitchen Cabinets With the Rest of Your DecorRenovating your old cabinets can be one of the best ways to instantly improve the look of your kitchen, but it can be confusing for the layman to go about making this renovation. With all of the options for cabinetry and the need to match your design aesthetic, it can seem quite easy to make a mistake. If you're currently wondering how to properly renovate your kitchen cabinets to enhance the overall look of your home, here are some helpful tips you'll want to consider.

What's Your Cabinetry Style?

There are a number of cabinet types and details that may instantly appeal, from glass-doored cupboards to more ornamental styles, but certain cabinets will complement the look of your home more effectively. While you may want to experiment with your cupboards and build from there, it's better to have something a little more streamlined that you can work with so they will adapt to a changing space.

Choose A Neutral Tone

Bright colors can be a great option for small appliances, but when it comes to cabinetry a flashy tone can completely overpower your room and clash with the rest of your home décor. Instead of choosing something bright, stick with shades that are neutral, like gray or white, so they will mesh well with any kitchen additions. Beyond their adaptability, shades like this also have the added benefit of retaining their modern look a little longer.

Consider The Handles

It's easy to be taken in by a stylish cupboard handle, but high costs can come along with something that's striking. In addition, they can also clash with the rest of your kitchen if they're of a completely different style. Instead of going for contrast, consider the kind of pull that will tie in with the rest of your kitchen decor, whether it matches the color of your oven or your countertop tile. This will make for a classic look that still manages to provide cohesion.

There are so many varieties of kitchen cabinetry to choose from that it can be hard to know where to begin with making a choice. When renovating this part of your kitchen, it's a good idea to be aware of what will work best for your space so that it can retain a customizable and classic look. If you're renovating in preparation to sell, contact your trusted real estate professional for more information.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Continues

Home increased in October according to Case-Shiller's 20 City Home Price Index. Home prices rose from September's annualized reading of 5.40 percent to 5.60 percent. Factors contributing to rising home prices include stronger economic conditions and outlook along with short inventories of available homes coupled with high demand. On average, October home prices rose 5.10 percent on seasonally adjusted annual basis, which was unchanged from September's reading.

West Continues to Lead Home Price Growth

Top home price growth rates were in Seattle, Washington at 10.70 percent, Portland, Oregon at 10.30 percent and Denver, Colorado with a seasonally-adjusted annual price increase of 8.30 percent. New York, New York had the lowest home price growth in October with a reading of 1.70 percent.

In a separate report, December consumer confidence exceeded expectations with an index reading of 113.70 as compared to an expected reading of 110.00 and November's reading of 109.40. This was the highest reading for consumer confidence since 2001. Analysts said that the strong reading for consumer confidence was a sign that consumers will increase their spending in 2017, but what will happen with mortgage rates is a big question.

Rising Mortgage Rates May Slow Home Prices, High Demand for Homes

With the Federal Reserve's decision to raise its target federal funds range in December comes a question of how rising mortgage rates will affect housing markets. Rising fed rates typically lead to increases in consumer lending rates including rates for home loans and refinancing. Combined effects of rising home prices and mortgage rates create challenges for first-time and moderate income home buyers. While higher mortgage rates have not impacted buyer demand so far, rising mortgage rates could sideline some buyers.

A recent compilation of the most expensive places to live in America illustrates the imbalance of home prices as compared to consumer incomes. Brooklyn, NY topped this list with a reading of 127.70 percent of average household income earned in Brooklyn to buy an average priced home in Brooklyn. Analysts reporting this data noted that many Brooklyn homeowners work in Manhattan and earn more than those who work in Brooklyn. Disparities in average home prices and home buyer incomes could "trickle down" to less expensive areas if mortgage rates and home prices continue to rise.

Meanwhile, builder confidence is strong and is expected to lead to higher levels of home construction in 2017.

Monday, December 26, 2016

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - December 26, 2016

Last week's economic news included readings on consumer spending, core inflation new home sales and regularly scheduled readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Consumer Spending Dips in November

Commerce Department reports on consumer spending in November indicated that consumer spending was lower in November with 0.20 percent growth as compared to October's reading of 0.40 percent growth. November's reading for core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors, was flat as compared to expectations of 0.10 percent growth and October's reading of 0.10 percent growth.

New Jobless Claims Rise to 6-Month High

New jobless claims jumped to 275,000 last week as compared to an expected reading of 258,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 254,000 new claims. New claims typically rise during the holiday season due to school and other workplace closures.

There was good news as new jobless claims remained below the benchmark of 300,000 new claims for 94 consecutive weeks. This streak of new claims below 300,000 new claims is the longest since 1970. Increasing numbers of "contingent" workers contributed to volatility in employment; The Rand Corporation reported that 10.10 percent of the workforce was contingent workers in 2005; the percentage of contingent workers increased to 15.80 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2015.

Mortgage Rates, New Home Sales Rise

Freddie Mac reported a jump in mortgage rates last week; the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 14 basis points higher at 4.30 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 15 basis points higher at 3.52 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose 13 basis points to 3.32 percent. Analysts said that the 10-year Treasury rate rose 10 basis points in response to the Fed raising its target funds rate. New home sales gained in November with a seasonally adjusted annualized reading of 582,000 sales as compared to 285,000 expected sales and October's annual rate of 563,000 sales of new homes. This was the second highest reading for new home sales since early 2008. Builders will be watching mortgage rates and new home sales in the New Year to determine how rising mortgage rates will impact new home sales.

What's Ahead

Next week's scheduled economic news includes Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports, pending home sales and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. U.S. Financial markets will be closed Monday in observance of the Christmas holiday.

Friday, December 23, 2016

3 Simple Tips for Boosting Your FICO Credit Score Before Applying for a Mortgage

3 Simple Tips for Boosting Your FICO Credit Score Before Applying for a MortgageThere are a variety of factors that are involved in getting your mortgage approved, but few things will have more of an impact than your FICO score and the credit history that goes along with it. Instead of leaving your score up to chance when submitting your application, here are a few ways that you can boost your financial wellbeing and leave your credit score better off than it was before.

Put More On Your Card

It's important to put purchases on your credit card that you can afford to pay off consistently, but many people are not aware that how much debt you owe can actually positively contribute to your credit score. While it's good to use up to 30% of your available debt load, a significantly higher percentage than this can be a signal to lenders that you are experiencing financial difficulties. By putting everyday items on credit, it will be easier to give your score an instant boost.

Clear Your Credit History

Many people who think they have bad credit are too afraid to even review it, but it's very important to take a look at your credit history when it comes to taking control of your finances and your FICO score. If there happens to be incorrect information on your credit report, this will enable you to contact the appropriate lenders and dispute the charges so they can be corrected prior to your mortgage application. It may not seem significant, but this can actually have a marked impact on the outcome of your application.

Make Your Payments On Time

It's often the case that those who are struggling with debt may push away the bills altogether and give up on the minimum payment, but it's very important that the minimum is made to keep your financial health in check. It may take a few months to see the results of putting down this amount before the due date, but it will improve your credit over time and forge good habits for the future.

Your credit score is an important aspect of determining your financial health for lenders, and this means that your credit history is of significant importance when it comes to your mortgage. Instead of leaving it up to chance, ensure that you're making the minimum payments and correct any discrepancies in your credit report. If you're currently in the market for a home and are considering your options, contact your local real estate professional for more information.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Goodbye, Curtains: Try These Fun and Fashionable Ways to Dress up Your Windows

Goodbye, Curtains: Try These Fun and Fashionable Ways to Dress up Your WindowsWindows can add a lot to the look of your home, and this means that dressing them up properly is an important key for aesthetic appeal. While draggy, neutral-colored curtains can be one of the less exciting aspects of decorating your home, here are a few ways you can adorn the most basic of home fixtures and turn your windows into something truly unique.

A Reconstituted Valance

A short curtain can be a nice, less fussy way to adorn your windows, but if you have a kitchen space in need of warming up, try a piece of wood or metal painted with a color or texture of your choice. Whether it's covered in words or you stick with a neutral paint color, it can easily add texture and character while letting a lot more light in.

Stylish and Singular Shades

If you want something that will cover the window without getting in the way, you may want to opt for window shades that you can pull down or pull up at your leisure. While this might sound like a pretty tame option, shades are available in a variety of shapes, colors and motifs that are sure to add spark to your room.

Frosted Glass Find

If you want to forego having blinds altogether but you have large windows that need to be covered, you may want to try installing frosted glass in order to maximize the available light. Not only can this be a means of maintaining your privacy at any hour of the day, it will also leave your room feeling airy, well-lit and open well into the evening.

Parade Of Plants

It may seem like a strange solution to the traditional curtain, but a row of plants placed on the window ledge can add a lot to your frames while limiting the need for curtains. While this trick will work especially well for kitchen windows and other areas where you can use smaller plants, you can always try mixing it up to create a different effect.

The idea of long, white curtains isn't necessarily something that will work for every room, but there are plenty of ways you can dress up your window frames without having to reach for a piece of fabric. If you're looking for new design tips because you're considering a move in your future, contact your trusted real estate professional for more information.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Self-Employed? Here's What You'll Need to Get a Mortgage Approval

Self-Employed? Here's What You'll Need to Get a Mortgage ApprovalThere's a lot of flexibility and personal freedom associated with self-employment that can be a great benefit to your lifestyle and your pocketbook. However, because of the somewhat unpredictable nature of self-employment, it can make acquiring a mortgage a little more difficult. If you've recently become self-employed or have been in the game for a while, here are some things you may want to consider before submitting your mortgage application.

Putting More Money Down

0% is often considered the magic number when it comes to the down payment because this will allow you to avoid homeowner's insurance. However, if you're self-employed, you may want to consider putting even more money down as this will be an even stronger signifier to lenders that you're prepared for homeownership and in control of your finances. While your down payment will provide you with equity instantly, a higher payment will also lower your monthly cost and make your finances even more secure from month to month.

Minimizing Your Debt

The amount of debt a potential homeowner has can adversely affect any mortgage application, but in the event you're self-employed, a high debt load means even more money is being paid out of a salary that is not necessarily predictable. By paying off the debts you can before applying for your mortgage, you'll be able to invest that much more of your hard-earned money into your monthly payment without breaking the bank and cutting monthly expenditures.

A History Of Self-Employment

Being self-employed means you'll have more to prove to your lender, but if you have a spotty self-employment history and long periods without bringing in any income, this will make it even harder. Instead of jumping into the mortgage market soon after becoming self-employed, try and have at least two years of successful self-employment behind you. By being able to prove this, the lender will see that you're a solid financial bet and an experienced professional who will be able to find work when it's required.

The nature of being self-employed and the fluctuations in income that can come along with it can make a mortgage lender nervous. However, by having a solid history of self-employment behind you and minimizing your debt load, you'll be able to prove to the lender that you're serious about home ownership.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

After the Sale: The Next Steps and What You'll Need to Do Before You Move Out

After the Sale: The Next Steps and What You'll Need to Do Before You Move OutGetting an offer on your home can certainly make it feel like the hard part is over, but even after the deal is sealed there's still a lot to do when it comes to moving out. Whether you're getting prepared for a future move or your buyer has just signed on the dotted line, here are the first steps to take once it's certain your property is off the market.

Start The Packing

For many people, packing is something they would rather put off until the last minute, but boxing up your stuff is actually a great opportunity for a little spring-cleaning at any time of the year. Instead of procrastinating, get started early and ensure that you're only packing up the items you will make use of. Whether you decide to pass the extras off to friends or donate them, this is a great way to make your next home clutter free.

Book The Moving Trucks

The day you have to be out of your home by will be set in stone, so it's important to get ahead of this process and contact the movers as soon as you can. Moving companies have busier times of year and by booking in advance, you won't have to comply with their loaded schedule. While you'll want to make a reservation if you're working under a time crunch, it still might be worth shopping around to see if you can find a better deal.

Complete The Last Minute Fix-Ups

In all likelihood, there's a list of minor tasks the homebuyer will want you to complete prior to move-in. It's important to prioritize these things so they're not left until the last minute, so ensure you make a list and pick a day or a certain window of time to complete them. Whether you've agreed to paint a room or get the windows re-sealed, not making these fixes can end up costing you money so it will be worth the time you spend.

It's a wonderful feeling to get your home off the market at the purchase price you were looking for, but there are still things that need to be done before the deal is sealed. By making a list of any outstanding maintenance and booking the moving trucks, you'll be well on your way to your new home. If you're currently looking for a new home, contact your trusted real estate professional for more information.

Monday, December 19, 2016

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - December 19, 2016

Housing news was boosted by the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, which posted its highest readings since July of 2002. In other news, the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee voted to raise the federal funds rate and Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a press conference. Mortgage rates rose and weekly jobless claims fell.

Home Builder Confidence Highest in 14 Years, Home Construction Lags

According to the National Association of Home Builders, builder confidence in housing market conditions reached its highest rate since 2002 in December. The NAHB Housing Market Index reading topped out at 70 as compared to November's reading of 63. Analysts said that December's high reading resulted from a post-election bump in builder confidence. While high builder confidence could bode well for supplies of new homes, construction rates continued to lag strong economic indicators such as low unemployment and high demand for homes. While builders gained confidence in current and projected housing market conditions, they continued to face shortages of labor and buildable lots

Fed Raises Rate

The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve announced it would raise the federal funds range by 0.25 percent to 0.50 to 0.75 percent. FOMC said strengthening job markets, lower unemployment and rising household spending supported the decision to raise the federal funds rate. Inflation, while below the Fed's target of 2.00 percent, is gradually moving toward the Fed's medium term goal. FOMC's statement indicated that the Fed's monetary policy would remain accommodative.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen held a press conference and cited "considerable progress" toward the Fed's dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability as factors supporting the decision to raise the target federal funds range. Labor markets continue to improve; Chair Yellen said that the economy has added 180,000 jobs per month over the last three months. 15 million jobs have been added in the past seven years. Inflation is growing gradually, and the Fed expects to achieve its target inflation rate of 2.00 percent over the next two years.

Month-to-month consumer spending readings held steady at 0.20 percent growth. Core consumer price index data, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors, rose from 0.10 percent to 0.20 percent in November.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims

Mortgage rates were higher last week, but Freddie Mac said that its survey data was collected before FOMC raised the federal funds rate. Analysts at Freddie Mac suggested a wait-and see position on rate forecasts due to the changing political climate. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was three basis points higher at 4.16 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose one basis point to 2.37 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.19 percent. Average discount points for fixed rate mortgages held steady at 0.50 percent and dipped to 0.40 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

New jobless claims were lower last week at 254,000 claims filed. Analysts had expected a reading of 250,000 new claims based on the prior week's reading of 258,000 new claims filed. Volatility in weekly readings for new jobless claims can be expected due to seasonal hiring and layoffs.

What's Ahead

Next week's economic releases include readings on new and previously-owned home sales, inflation and consumer sentiment. Readings for mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Making the Grade: How to Research Local Schools Before Buying Your Next Home

Making the Grade: How to Research Local Schools Before Buying Your Next HomeThere are so many things involved in moving into a new home in a different neighborhood that it can be easy to forget about the proximity of many nearby amenities. However, if you have children, the local schools available can make-or-break the decision on whether or not to invest in a house. If you're wondering how you can find out more about the local school, let the following tips be your guide.

Take a Web-Search To

One of the benefits of so many things being online these days is that local schools are no exception, and is a great resource that puts this information at your fingertips. While you'll have to pay a fee to get the details on many public and private institutions, this resource features ratings on schools throughout the country which can make it worth the price.

Contact The NAEYC

With a wealth of information on preschools, kindergartens and elementary schools located throughout the country, the National Association for the Education of Young Children is another helpful website to visit. While the organization offers informational pamphlets that can help you decide a school's benefits, you can also call in if you want to speak with someone directly about a particular institution.

Make A Visit To The Neighborhood

While it can take a lot of time to visit the schools in the neighborhood you're considering, this is a great way for you to get a sense of the area you're moving to and what it affords. By taking a walk through the hallways to view the building's upkeep and even visiting the office to talk with the Principal, you'll be able to decide whether it's a good fit.

Talk To An Agent

It might seem a bit strange to talk to a realtor about local schools, but real estate agents are responsible for providing a multitude of information to potential homebuyers so they have to be in the know. Whether they're able to help you with a house or not, it's certain they'll have some of the basic details about your neighborhood's educational offerings, whether it's good or bad.

There are a variety of amenities that can improve the appeal of a new neighborhood, but good schools are a necessity when it comes to the kids. If you're currently searching for schools and are interested in local neighborhoods, contact one of our real estate professionals for more information.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

5 Major Red Flags to Watch for When You're Touring an Open House

5 Major Red Flags to Watch for When You're Touring an Open HouseAn open house is one of the best opportunities a potential homeowner will have to take stock of a home and determine if it will work for them. However, it can also be a good opportunity to discover some glaring red flags that might make it a less worthwhile investment. If you're currently perusing the open houses in your neighborhood, here's some things you should make sure to watch out for.

A Selling Hot-Spot

It's well and good if you love the home you visit, but 'location, location, location' is a popular phrase for a reason. If you've noticed a lot of homes for sale in the area, this could be a sign of neighborhood issues that are less than pleasing.

An Odd Smell

Baked goods or room spray are quite common when it comes to an open house, but it's possible that they're masking a less-than pleasant odor. Since this can point to a hard home fix-up, it's worth checking out the closets or the basement where a strange smell can indicate mildew or mold.

A Bad Paint Job

Paint that's peeling may mean that a few fresh coats are long overdue, but it can also indicate moisture issues in the home that have gone untreated. As this kind of repair can cost a pretty penny, it's worth determining if there are sealing issues with windows or doors.

A Few Obvious Fix-Ups

A sticky door or a damaged wall may not seem so bad on their own, but if you notice a few things that need to be fixed around the home, it can be a sign that there's more afoot. If a homeowner has cared for the property during their ownership, it will likely show in small details like this.

Incomplete Construction

It may seem like a good sign to see a house that's undergoing a renovation, but it can actually be a risk to invest in a home that's not complete. Instead of leaving this to chance, you may want to check with the construction contractor to determine the scope of the work and when it will be finished.

An open house may be a good time to decide if you're interested in a home, but it can also be the perfect opportunity to search for deficiencies that may end up costing you. If you're currently in the market for a new home, contact your trusted real estate professionals for more information.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Five Ways to Make Your Home's 'Curb Appeal' Better Than Your Neighbors'

Five Ways to Make Your Home's 'Curb Appeal' Better Than Your Neighbors'Curb appeal, or how your home looks from the street, is an essential part of preparing to sell your house. It's also where comparison with your neighbors' homes is inescapable which poses a problem if you're both on the market. Read on for five ways to boost your own curb appeal.

Open Up: Garage Doors With Impact

In most homes, the external facade is taken up largely by the garage door which means it's a big influence on how people see your home. Embrace that. Style your garage door to suit your home, touch up the paint or trim, or even do a full overhaul with a brand-new door.

Balance Out: The Appeal Of Symmetry

Not only is a symmetrical design visually appealing, it's also quick and easy to do. If your home doesn't allow for large symmetrical designs because of its structure -- if it has a garage on one side, for example -- focus in on specific elements. Consider the front door, maybe, where fixtures are easier and cheaper to update.

Sit Back: Inviting Outdoor Seating

A great way to attract buyers is to think like them and what search-weary buyer doesn't enjoy a moment to relax? Arrange an aesthetically pleasing seating area outside your home. It will become a welcoming space that can offer buyers the chance to sit down and dream about owning your home. A clear and attractive walkway is also very inviting, so be sure to spruce yours up or install a whole new one to, literally, lead buyers to your door.

Admire The Art: Accent With Outdoor Pieces

Put a little of your home's personality out front to attract the interest of like-minded buyers. Weather-resistant art pieces are a great way to accent your lawn or entrance. Consider the welcoming sound of wind chimes, or a sculpture or two. Even birdbaths can provide simple but effective artistic highlights.

Look Critically: Get Outside Eyes

When you're close to your home, it can be hard to view it as a buyer would in other words, critically. This is an essential step, though, in creating effective curb appeal. So, consider getting another person involved. Someone who can look at your home objectively and provide a clear assessment of your home's strengths and weaknesses.

Speaking of outside eyes, don't forget about your local real estate agent. Turn to us with questions, or for advice, at any time after all, we know what works in your neighborhood!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

3 Easy Ways to Make Your Home More 'Pet Friendly'

3 Easy Ways to Make Your Home More 'Pet Friendly'Whether you're moving to a new home or you have a new family pet, it can be a struggle to make the place a little friendlier for them. From the garbage can to the cupboards and doors, there can be a lot of dangers that have the ability to hurt your furry friend you might not be aware of. If you're looking for some simple ways to make their life a little easier, here are a few things you can do.

Take Care Of The Trash

The image of dogs sifting through the trash is common for a reason, so it's important to guard your animal against the dangers of the dustbin. In addition to taking out any perishable goods on a consistent basis, it's a worthwhile investment to purchase a tougher trash bin that your animal can't get into. This will ensure they won't be able to get at foods like fruit pits, coffee grounds and chocolate, which can be very harmful to their system.

Pick The Right Flooring

If you have the choice, ceramic tile or hardwood can be a great way to alleviate the tidy-up of having a live-in pet since you can easily wipe or sweep away the damage. If this isn't possible and carpet is your only option, stick with something that closely matches the color of your pet. As well, if you're letting your pet on the furniture, it's worth investing in materials like leather and suede that are more durable and easy to clean.

Give Them Their 'Space'

You may not have to worry about cleaning up after your pet as much if you can provide them with a space that's all their own. While it doesn't have to be anything fancy or sprawling, providing a comfortable bed where they like to nap and a water bowl or selection of toys will do the trick in making them feel right at home. It may also have the added benefit of keeping them away from the family couch!

Many homeowners are so pre-occupied with making themselves comfortable in their family home that they forget about the animal in the family. While it won't necessarily take much to please your pet, watching the waste and giving them their own comfortable area can go a long way in making your home pet-friendly. If you're currently in the market for a new home, contact our trusted real estate professional for more information.

Monday, December 12, 2016

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - December 12, 2016

As 2017 winds down, analysts are forecasting economic developments for 2017. Forbes identified three indicators that the U.S. housing market has recovered. Mortgage rates rose again last week; jobless claims fell and consumer sentiment jumped rose five points. The details

Housing Market Recovery Complete: Forbes

Three conditions were cited by Forbes as evidence that the housing market has recovered:

Analysts said that homeowners are putting their homes on the market after years of waiting for home prices to peak. On the flip side, mortgage rates are expected to rise further and home buyers may be taking a "now or never" plunge into buying homes before market conditions and mortgage rates combine to make home prices unaffordable.

The Federal Reserve reported that U.S. mortgage debt increased by 1.90 percent in Q3 2016; this was the highest growth rate for mortgage debt since Q3 2008. While population growth and household formation are lower, the overall ratio of mortgage debt to disposable income is near historically low levels. Stricter mortgage qualification standards are keeping home buyers from borrowing mortgage loans that they can't repay.

After years of high demand for short supplies of available homes, home builders are ramping up construction. Housing starts rose by 25 percent in October and matched construction rates not seen since mid-2007.

Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless Claims Dip

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose five basis points to 4.13 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.36 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage also rose by two basis points to 3.17 percent.

New jobless claims fell last week to 258,000 new claims, which matched expectations and was lower than the prior week's reading of 268,000 new claims. Job openings held steady in October with a reading of 5.50 million.

What's Ahead

Next week's economic calendar includes readings on retail sales and inflation along with the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee Statement and a press conference by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index will be released in addition to Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Should You Pay Your Mortgage Bi-weekly or Monthly? Let's Take a Look

Should You Pay Your Mortgage Bi-weekly or Monthly? Let's Take a LookMost homeowners look at their monthly mortgage payment as their largest cost per month, and something they must do to maintain a good credit history. However, you may have heard of bi-weekly mortgage payments and their ability to lower your debt load and help you pay off your mortgage more quickly. If you're wondering if bi-weekly payments are too good to be true, here's some information worth consideration.

What Difference Does Bi-Weekly Make?

Making a bi-weekly mortgage payment may seem to mean that your interest will be automatically reduced, but because the lender is not necessarily receiving that payment until the end of the month, this is not necessarily the case. However, while a typical monthly payment will equate to 12 mortgage payments per year, a bi-weekly payment means 26 half payments will be made each year, which equates to 13 months of payments and an additional month. As a result, this can reduce the amount of interest paid on the principal.

Consider More On A Monthly Basis

Bi-weekly payments have the ability to shave a bit off the principal and thereby lower overall interest, but that doesn't mean you have to switch to paying every two weeks. Instead of bi-weekly, consider dividing your monthly mortgage amount by 12 and adding that amount to your monthly payment. This will bump up your mortgage cost per month, but it will also reduce the total amount you owe. For example, if your mortgage payment is $1200 per month, divide it by 12 to get $100, and add this to your payment, bumping it up to $1300 each month.

Be Aware Of The Options That Work For You

In the event that you decide to make bi-weekly payments, be aware that there may actually be additional fees associated with this offering that will nullify your money savings. As a homeowner, it's important to stay aware of changes on the market and new mortgage offerings that can benefit you. However, it's also important to ensure that whatever you choose, you're aware of the risks involved so they can make for a positive financial shift.

Making a bi-weekly payment on your mortgage may have the benefit of lowering your overall home cost, but you may be able to get this benefit from simply bumping up your monthly payment.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

4 Common Problems Home Sellers May Try to Hide

Buyer Beware: 4 Common Problems Home Sellers Try to HideIt's easy for buyers to fall in love with properties when they're looking at polished hardwood floors, new appliances or renovated kitchens. During open houses and showings, glamorous features get all the attention. However, these dream homes right away can be dangerous.

Asbestos and electrical wiring are hard to get excited about, but ignoring them can be a financial disaster. Buyers risk serious costs and a huge amount of hassle if they don't do their research.

It can be daunting for buyers to do their due diligence. There are many factors to take into consideration and they're not always obvious. Being fully prepared before putting down an offer can be difficult, even for the most experienced buyers.

This list of the four most common problems home sellers may try to hide will guide buyers every step of the way, from pictures to purchase.

1. Risk of Water Damage

Water damage can be one of the most expensive issues homes can have. It's also easy to ignore when they're especially beautiful or unique.

Homeowners may also be tempted to conceal past, present and future problems, particularly if they're looking to maximize the price of their homes or make a fast sale. Buyers will benefit when they watch for water damage when looking to make a purchase.

2. Rotting Wood

Rotting or otherwise damaged wood is also relatively simple to forget about, but can lead to thousands of dollars in repairs. Poor drainage, termites and other factors are all factors that should be considered.

Whether it's the deck or the floor, buyers need to be mindful of the status of wood components in homes.

3. Damaged or Outdated Roof

Roofs aren't the first things buyers notice, but they're crucial parts of every home. Damaged or outdated roofs can cause considerable personal and financial stress.

Buyers need to keep important features that are out of sight like roofs top of mind when they're looking to put down an offer.

4. Codes and Other Regulations

Going through confusing building codes and other types of regulations can be a confusing task. Though it can be very time consuming, buyers can save themselves significant hassle and costs by being familiar with them. Consult your real estate professional for more information about how you can make an informed purchase today.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Winter's Coming: Learn How to Prepare Your Plants, Trees and Other Landscaping

Winter's Coming: Learn How to Prepare Your Plants, Trees and Other LandscapingFrom the approaching holiday season to the New Year, there are a lot of things to prepare for when it comes to the winter. It's important, though, not to forget about the needs of your lawn for the upcoming cold season. If you're wondering how to ready your trees, your plants and your yard, here are some tips for saving your vegetation until the springtime.

Fertilize For Grass Growth

It might seem like a waste of time to fertilize your grass going into the winter months, but this is actually the perfect time to prep it for spring. As fertilizer will provide much-needed nutrients to the grass in the months when there is less growth, it will actually stimulate improved growth down the road. It's just important to ensure that you provide a consistent amount of fertilizer so a patchy-looking yard can be avoided. Since weeds scale back in winter, like most other varieties of plants, it can also be an ideal time to apply a herbicide.

Garden Plants And Perennials

While plant maintenance duties like pruning can be done in the spring or fall months, it can actually be a better idea to give your plants the summer months to grow before diving in. Cutting them back will enable the plant to focus its energy on maintenance through the cold winter months, so it's a good idea to get to work in before the first signs of cooler air set in. If you happen to have plants that won't last through the winter, you'll want to compost them so they can be used for soil in the next gardening season.

Clearing Away The Wood

Beyond the garden and the lawn, it's also worthwhile to provide a little care for your favorite trees before the winter hits. While you'll want to be cautious about what you do and may want to consult with a gardening professional, clearing away dead branches can help your tree retain its health throughout the year. You may notice the difference in your trees when the spring rolls around again, as they'll likely have a revitalized look and show signs of new growth.

Winter is a busy time for many people, but it's important to make the time to fertilize your grass and prune your perennials so your yard will be ready for spring. If you're currently prepping your yard for a spring home sale, contact your local real estate professionals for more information.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Buying a New Home? Use This Checklist to Ensure Your Finances Are in Order

Buying a New Home? Use This Checklist to Ensure Your Finances Are in OrderBuying a home is a significant expense. It doesn't matter whether you're a first-time buyer or have experience. Unless you have a large pile of cash, you'll need to ensure your finances are in order before closing. In this post we'll explore four financial items you'll want to check off before buying a new home.

Figure Out Your Current Monthly Budget

First, you're going to want to sort out your monthly budget. If you've never done a budget before, start with something basic. Open up a spreadsheet or take out a piece of paper. Make two columns: 'income' and 'expenses'. Fill in each column with the amounts that you make or spend each month. Bank, credit card and other statements can help with this process. It's a good idea to go back at least 3 months to ensure you're capturing your true spending.

Make A Debt Management Plan

Do you have any debts? If so, you'll want to make a plan for how you're going to manage these when you buy a new home. For example, you may have a car payment, student loans, a line of credit or credit card debt. Write down your debts, how much you owe and when payments are due. If any debts are due monthly, make sure you include those in your budget.

Keep in mind that your outstanding debts may impact your ability to borrow for a mortgage as well. If you plan on taking out a mortgage to pay for your new home, it's best to get your debts figured out beforehand.

Understand All Your Real Estate Costs

Next, you'll want to determine what all your real estate costs are going to be. If you're not yet close to the bidding or closing process, this might be a bit challenging. But ask your real estate agent for a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for a home in your price range.

Set Up An Emergency Savings Cushion

Finally, you'll want to set up a financial cushion in case of emergencies. It's not much fun to think about, but losing a job or having a health event is possible. Most financial experts recommend having at least six months of expenses saved up. Of course, this is always easier said than done. What's important is that you have at least some cash tucked away, just in case. If you can, save a bit extra each month or from each pay check and add to this emergency fund.

When you're ready to buy a new home, a licensed real estate agent is your best bet for success. Reach out to us today and learn more about how affordable a new home in your community will be!

Monday, December 5, 2016

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - December 5, 2016

Last week's economic news was plentiful with releases on Case-Shiller Home Price Indices and pending home sales. Readings on government and private sector jobs created, the national unemployment rate and weekly readings on new jobless claims and Freddie Mac's mortgage rates survey were also released.

Case-Shiller: Western Cities Dominate Home Price Growth

Case-Shiller's 20-City Home Price Index reported that Seattle Washington topped year-over-year home price growth with an increase of 11.00 percent. Portland, Oregon followed closely with a reading of 10.90 percent, and Denver Colorado held third place with year-over-year home price gains of 8.70 percent.

San Francisco, California, which had posted high home price gains in recent years, posted a month-to-month reading of -0.40 percent and a year-over-year gain of 5.70 percent. Analysts said that this reading was evidence that home prices in high cost areas were topping out. Affordability, strict mortgage requirements and low inventories of available homes continued to present obstacles to home buyers.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Pending Home Sales Dip

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, pending home sales dipped in October to 0.10 percent as compared to a growth rate of 1.50 percent in September. Winter weather and holidays can cause would-be home buyers to postpone their home searches until spring.

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week, although the 10-year treasury rate, which is tied to mortgage rates, was unchanged from the prior week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was five basis points higher at 4.08 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by nine basis points to 3.34 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.15 percent. Mortgage rates have risen by 51 basis points in three weeks. This trend, coupled with high home prices, doesn't bode well for first-time and modest income home buyers.

Consumer spending for October increased by 0.30 percent as compared to predictions for a reading of 0.50 percent and September's 0.70 percent reading. The core inflation reading for October was unchanged and in line with analyst expectations at 0.10 percent. The core reading excludes volatile food and fuel sectors.

Labor Reports: Job Creation Grows, Unemployment Rate Lower

According to the Labor Department's Non-Farm Payrolls report for November, 178,000 government and private sector jobs were created as compared to expectations of 200,000 jobs created and October's reading of 142,000 jobs created in October. According to the Commerce Department, the national unemployment rate for November was 4.60 percent as compared to the expected reading of 4.90 percent and October's reading of 4.90 percent. Analysts noted that while a lower reading could indicate good news, it was also the result of fewer workers in the work force. The unemployment rate is based on unemployment claims filed by those actively seeking work; it does not include those underemployed or those who have stopped seeking work.

First-time jobless claims rose to 268,000 as compared to expectations of 250,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 251,000 new claims filed.

In spite of higher mortgage rates and dubious labor reports, the Consumer Confidence Index rose to 107.1 in November from October's reading of 100.8; Analysts had expected an index reading of 102.5.

What's Ahead

Next week's economic reports include releases on job openings and consumer sentiment along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Home Equity Tips: 3 Upgrades That Will Make Your House Worth More When You Sell

Home Equity Tips: 3 Upgrades That Will Make Your House Worth More When You SellIt's likely that your house is your biggest asset, so when it comes time to sell it you'll want to do everything you can to maximize your profit. Good news the value of your home isn't solely determined by the market, there are several ways in which you can increase its value by making upgrades before listing.

Let's take a look at 3 top upgrades that will make your house worth more when you sell.

1. Make It Profitable

Not surprisingly, the number one way in which you can increase the value of your home is to add an income suite within the property. If your home has potential to earn buyers' money it will inevitably be more valuable than a property that doesn't have any potential cash flow for the owner. Whether it's a basement suite or a floor that's been made into a separate unit, income units are a huge bonus for buyers. Making money while paying off their home would be a dream come true for most people, and it's a dream that buyers are willing to pay a high price for.

2. Kitchen Is Key

Kitchens are often the first area to become dated or worn out within a home, and they're the most important part of the house when it comes to valuation. Make sure that your cabinets and countertops are updated before selling, and modernize the design with neutral fixtures that are current yet adaptable to many tastes. Having a fresh kitchen shows both function and fashion to buyers. After all, no one wants to see rusty old appliances and dingy lights when walking into the focal point of a home.

3. Beautify The Bathrooms Besides the kitchen, bathrooms are the second most important aspect of a home when it comes to valuation. Having multiple bathrooms within a home automatically increases its value significantly, especially if at least two have at least three pieces within them, containing at least a sink, toilet, and either a shower or bath. Ensuring that your bathrooms are leak-free, look meticulously clean, and have a modern design is a fantastic way to make sure that buyers will be impressed during an open house.

Bonus tip: if installing a new toilet, consider purchasing one that is eco-friendly with dual-flush options. As people become more and more environmentally conscious, fixtures such as these will cater to a broad spectrum of lifestyle values.

If you're ready to prepare your home for sale and are looking for more ways in which you can maximize its market value, contact me, your trusted real estate professional, today.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Mixed for September

September's 20-City Housing Market Index from Case-Shiller showed signs that rapidly rising home prices in some metro areas may be losing momentum. San Francisco, California, posted a month-to-month reading of -0.40 percent and a year-over-year reading of 5.70 percent. Home prices stayed flat in Seattle Washington from August to September, but posted the highest home price gain of 11.00 percent year-over-year. Slowing home price growth in high-demand areas suggest that affordability concerns are impacting rapid gains in home prices seen in recent years.

Case-Shiller's National Home Price Index achieved its highest gain with a reading of 5.50 percent as compared to August's reading of 5.10 percent.

Year-over-Year: Western U.S. Holds Highest Gains in Home Prices

In addition to Seattle's year-over-year home price growth rate of 11 percent, Portland, Oregon closely followed with a year-over-year reading of 10.90 percent. Denver, Colorado rounded out the top three cities in the 20-City Home Price Index with a year-over-year growth rate of 8.70 percent. September was the eighth consecutive month that the top three cities held their places in the 20-City Index. Case-Shiller's 20-City Home Price Index posted a year-over- year gain of 5.10 percent.

September Home Prices Cap Recovery, Usher in New Progress for Housing Market

According to David M. Blitzer, Chairman of S&P Dow Jones Index Committee, September's record national reading for home prices marks a transition from housing recovery to "the hoped for start of a new advance." Mr. Blitzer cited recent data on sales of new and pre-owned homes and said that housing starts reached a post-recession peak.

September's peak in national home prices was 0.10 percent above the pre-recession peak set in 2006. Adjusted for inflation, the September peak remains approximately 16 percent below the pre-recession peak. During the recession, national home prices reached a trough that was 27 percent lower than Case-Shiller's September reading. Analysts expressed some caution and noted headwinds to housing markets including slower-than-normal rates of homes construction, higher mortgage rates and strict mortgage approval requirements.