Archive for April, 2013

7 Fun and Easy Housewarming Gifts for A New Homeowner

April 30, 2013

7 Great Housewarming Gift IdeasWhether you have new neighbors next door or old friends moving across town, a housewarming gift is a great way to show you care.

New owners always appreciate anything that relieves the pressures of moving and settling in to an unfamiliar neighborhood.

Here are seven fun and easy housewarming-gift ideas for your friends moving into their home.

A Door Wreath

You can choose a wreath that fits the season or that is simply attractive on the front door.

Include a wreath door-hanger and storage box so they can easily hang it or put it away.

A Pair of Candlestick Holders

Candlesticks are a simple, yet practical gift for a new home.

They’re perfect for a mantel, dresser or table. Choose attractive candlestick holders that match the house’s decor and include a set of candles to burn.

A Homemade Meal

Moving and getting settled in a new house takes a tremendous amount of time and effort.

This leaves little time to cook nutritious meals.

Bring either a takeout or home-cooked meal along with disposable plates and utensils for a much appreciated housewarming gift.

Fresh Flowers

Nothing makes a room look more inviting than fresh-cut flowers or a lush green plant.

Flowers add a punch of color while plants last longer while still requiring little work.

Choose flowers that fit the season or a plant with full, green leaves that is easy to maintain.

Scented Candles

Not only are they practical, but they also help bring comfort and serenity to the chaos of moving.

Choose a theme for the candles, such as a color or a scent that matches the style.

Include candles of different shapes and sizes and a lighter.

Picture Frames

Keep in mind the house’s décor as you choose a picture frame.

Wood, pewter, bamboo or decorative glass looks great in a casually decorated house.

If the house has a more formal décor, choose crystal or silver.

It’s be fun for your friends to have a place to display their new memories.

There are few experiences that offer the excitement of moving into a new home, and you can add to that excitement and wonder by giving one of these housewarming gift ideas.

And if you want to be the one receiving housewarming gifts by moving to a new home, then call your trusted mortgage professional today for your home loan approval!

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 29, 2013

April 29, 2013

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 29 2013Mortgage rates fell again last week and are again near record lows.

According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage did achieve a record low of 2.61 percent as compared to 3.1 percent one year ago.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.40 percent and near the record low of 3.31 percent.

Low mortgage rates are helping homeowners with refinancing and are boosting housing markets as more buyers can qualify for mortgage loans.

Home Values Continue To Rise

Last week’s economic news was mixed; The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, released its Home Price Index for February.

According to this index, home prices increased by 0.7 percent between January and February, and increased by 7.1 percent year-over-year on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, existing home sales for March fell short of the expected 5.03 million and came in at 4.92 million existing homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

This reading was also 0.7 percent shy of February’s reading of 4.95 million existing homes sold.

Some homeowners may be taking a wait-and-see stance as they wait for home values to continue rising.

Employment Numbers Gaining Steam

Weekly jobless claims fell to 339,000 and were short of the consensus of 351,000 and the prior week’s 355,000 jobless claims filed.

As more workers gain employment, those able to buy homes increases.

The economy in general also benefits as households gain income they can use for purchasing goods and services.

Consumer Sentiment rose by 2.1 points to 76.4 over the March reading of 72.3 percent.

April’s reading also surpassed expectations of 74.0 percent.

As consumers gain confidence in the economy, they are generally more likely to buy homes and make other major purchases that contribute to the U.S. economy.

Coming Up this Week

This week’s economic news calendar includes several reports that impact the housing sector as well as the general economy:

  • Monday: Personal Income, Consumer Spending and Pending Home Sales reports are due for release.
  • Tuesday: The Case Shiller/Wells Fargo Home Price Index for February and Consumer Confidence for April will provide data concerning national and regional home prices and indicate how consumers view the economy.
  • Wednesday: The customary statement by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is set for release at the conclusion of its meeting. The ADP Employment Index for April and Construction Spending for March provide data on jobs and trends in construction spending.
  • Thursday: Weekly Jobless Claims report
  • Friday: The Non-farm Payrolls Report and Unemployment Rate for April, collectively known as the Jobs Report, will be released.

While we can’t predict what will happen with mortgage rates, some industry analysts indicated that they expect rates to remain low in the near-term.

These lower rates should continue to support growth in the real estate market for homebuyers and sellers as well as those looking to refinance their home.

7 Tips To Get Your Home In Tip Top Selling Condition

April 26, 2013

Study Shows 568% ROI On Home Cleaning InvestmentA clean, uncluttered home is very likely the single most important thing to get your home sold quickly and for top dollar.

In fact, a recent survey by HomeGain showed a whopping 568% return on investment for money put toward cleaning and organizing a home for sale!

And other experts say that a well-put-together home can shorten the time on market drastically as well.

Before your real estate agent lists your home, it’s essential for it to look its best.

7 Tips To Get Your Home In Tip Top Selling Condition

Examine your living space and see it as a buyer would — then double check this list of staging tips to make sure you haven’t overlooked these important details.

  • Clear out the clutter. Tidy up counter tops, bookcases, garages and closets.
  • Pack up your sentimental items. Personal photos and knick-knacks should be boxed up for moving day.
  • Get a storage unit. Open up space by moving furniture and boxes into storage — it will make the rooms appear bigger.
  • Remove appliances and fixtures that you want to keep. If you are taking the dining room chandelier or the built-in microwave, remove them before the house goes on the market.
  • Make minor repairs. Check that faucets don’t leak, doors close properly and holes in the walls are patched.
  • Make it pretty! Windows, floors and bathrooms should be sparkling. Dust every surface, hang up fresh towels in the bathroom and make sure there are no lingering odors.
  • Don’t forget the yard. Curb appeal starts at the curb — go figure — so mow the yard, wash down walkways and add some bright flowers near the front door to trigger the emotion to buy.

There are so many different ways to give your home an advantage over the competition in the spring buying market.

Plus, nice looking properties are more appealing for real estate agents to show their clients, so your well-taken-care-of home may get a lot more exposure.

In the end, the better your property looks, the faster it’s going to sell…and get you the most for it.

How To Have the Best Garage Sale Ever At Your Home

April 25, 2013

How To Have The Best Garage Sale EverIt’s getting close to that time of year again — time to have a garage sale at your home!

Here are a few tips to help you have your most successful garage sale ever.

Advertise Your Sale In Local Newspapers And Online

Many of the habitual Saturday morning garage sale patrons use the paper to plan their treasure hunts.

They do this to make sure they hit all of the sales in certain neighborhoods.

In the ad, mention your home address, date and time of your garage sale and any big or popular items you’ll be selling.

Open Your Sale Early

It’s best to open early, such as around seven in the morning a sales tend to taper off in the afternoon.

Don’t disappoint early shoppers who are typically your best buyers.

They have a busy schedule and a lot of stops to hit.

Open on time or even a few minutes before the time you advertised.

Make Plenty Of Signs To Guide Customers In

If your yard is difficult to see or is not on a main road, be sure to post signs pointing the way.

If allowed, attach a few balloons to it which will catch the attention of passing motorists.

Have Everything Labeled With Reasonable Prices

You’ll get some customers who try to haggle, but for most customers, not knowing the prices is a quick way to have them moving on to another sale.

Keep in mind that these shoppers are looking for a bargain and price accordingly.

You can individually label each item, or use an easily readable color-coded chart.

For instance, a blue sticker means 25 cents, red stickers mean 50 cents and yellow stickers mean $1.

Offer Specials At Different Points During The Garage Sale 

You can offer a 2-for-1 sale or a twenty percent off special.

At the end of the day, you may want to have an unadvertised special such as fill a bag for $1 to get rid of as much as possible. 

It’s always a good idea to have a “free box” for items that are already low-priced and don’t move during the first half of the sale.

Donate Leftovers

Make your life easier and do something for others by donating any items that don’t sell.

If you plan carefully, you can schedule a pick up by your local charitable organization at the end of your garage sale.

Garage sales are a great way to get the clutter and unused collection of items out of your house while recycling them at the same time.

Using these tips, you’re well on your way to having your best garage sale ever.

Existing Home Sales Numbers Show Value Gains Across America

April 24, 2013

Existing Home Sales Show Price Gains March 2013The National Association of REALTORS® released its Existing Home Sales report for March on Monday.

Sales dipped from February’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.95 million to 4.92 million existing homes sold in March, a decrease of 0.6 percent month-to-month. 

This reading was lower than Wall Street’s consensus of 5.03 million existing homes sold, but there is also good news.

Sales of existing homes are up by 10.3 percent as compared to March 2012.

Economists note that existing home sales have performed within a narrow range of 4.90 to 4.96 million since November 2012.

This illustrates the impact of lower numbers of existing homes available for purchase in Utah and around the country.

The National Association of Homebuilders Housing Market Index reports builder concerns including rising materials costs, tight construction credit and lack of available developed lots for building.

Demand for Homes, Fewer Distressed Properties Driving Median Home Price Gains

The national median price for existing homes was $184,300; this is an 11.8 percent increase over March 2012. 

This was the largest year-over-year price increase since November 2005.

Low inventories of available homes for sale and fewer distressed properties on the market are supporting rising home prices.

Distressed home represented 21 percent of existing home sales in March, which was their lowest market share since data collection started in 2008.

Distressed home sales decreased from a 29 percent market share in March 2012. 

With fewer “bargain-basement” homes on the market, homeowners waiting to sell may be more willing to list their homes which could add to the numbers of existing homes available.

Regional Median Home Prices Rise

Existing home sales declined in two of four U.S. regional markets, were unchanged in one market and rose in one market.

Sales of existing homes are calculated on an annual basis.

Northeast: Sales volume for March was unchanged at 630,000 homes sold annually. The median price is $237,000. This represents a year-over-increase of 6.8 percent since March 2012.

Midwest: Sales increased by 1.8 percent to 1.16 million homes. The median price rose to $141,800, an increase of 7.8 percent year-over-year.

South: Sales volume dropped by1.5 percent to 1.95 million homes. The median home price is $161,700. This is a 10.4 percent increase as compared to March 2012.

West: Sales volume declined by 1.7 percent to 1.18 million homes. This represents an increase of 4.4 percent in existing home sales over March 2012. The median home price in the West has risen by 26.1 percent year-over-year to $258,100. This dramatic increase is attributed by high demand for homes caused by very low home inventories.

While regional median home prices rose across the board in March, regional sales volumes were varied; this suggests that if there were more homes available, there would be more buyers.

5 Important Questions To Ask Before You Invest In Solar Power For Your Home

April 23, 2013

Investing In Solar Energy For Your HomeIf you’ve been considering taking your home in a green direction, April is the perfect month to make an environmentally friendly update.

Installing a solar energy system may be a very smart way to help the environment.

Plus, solar panels turn sunlight into energy that can save you money!

The federal government and many states are now providing tax incentives and rebates for installing solar panels in 2013 which make this an excellent opportunity to go green this spring.

However, there are many installers that might not have the necessary experience, so be sure to ask the questions below when searching for your solar energy system.

How many solar panel systems have they installed?

You want to make sure to find a reputable company that has significant solar experience and has successfully completed at least 50 installations.

Ask for references before you sign anything.

What is the output in kWh per year?

Many times, solar panel brands will claim to be more efficient than others.

You’ll want to weigh the annual output against the price to determine what system is going to be the most cost effective for your home.

It is important to note that you should do an energy audit to see how you are using the power in your home before sizing the solar power replacement system.

You may be able to install a significantly smaller, and less costly, system if you learn how you can cut your power consumption prior to installing your new solar panels.

How long is the warranty on the panels?

Most high quality solar panel systems have a warranty of at least 25 years.

Top-of-the-line panels usually guarantee an output of no less than 90 percent after ten years and no less than 80 percent after 25 years.

Be wary of any company whose panels don’t come with a warranty.

Do they include a warranty on labor?

Many states require a warranty on labor in order to receive your rebate.

Reputable installers should have no problem including at least a 10-year warranty.

What is the final price?

Don’t get separate pricing for the parts, labor and rebates.  Get a comprehensive price, so you can directly compare the total cost and kWh per year among providers.

Also, pay attention to the difference between purchasing your solar power system versus the leasing options available. 

Leasing has become popular due to the low — or possibly no– up-front cost, but most experts agree that purchasing the system leads to a quicker payoff and return on your investment.

Taking into consideration warranties and servicing fees, the outcome should be that you choose whoever can give you the most output at the best price.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 22, 2013

April 22, 2013

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week April 21 2013Mortgage rates fell for the third consecutive week.

According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 3.41 percent as compared to last week’s 3.43 percent and 3.90 percent year-over-year.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 2.64 percent as compared to last week’s 2.65 percent and 3.13 percent year-over-year.

Falling mortgage rates were attributed to reduced consumer spending.

Last week’s economic news includes the NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), with a reading of 42 for March.

This is four points below investor expectations and two points below February’s results.

A reading of 50 or above indicates that more of the builders surveyed have a positive outlook.

March results were impacted by builder concerns over tight builder credit, a lack of available lots and increasing construction costs.

Housing Starts Increased In March

More good news for housing arrived Tuesday when the U.S. Department of Commerce issued its monthly Housing Starts report.

Housing starts for March came in higher than anticipated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.04 million, against a consensus of 933,000 and also beat February’s reported 968,000 housing starts.

Housing starts rose by 7 percent over February, and rose 47 percent over March 2012, the highest year-to-year increase since 1992.

The Federal Reserve issued its Beige Book Report which is compiled from reports by the 12 districts of the Federal Reserve.

5 districts reported moderate economic growth, 5 districts reported modest growth, and 2 reported slight economic growth.

Based on the data contained in the Beige Book Report, economists are not expecting the Fed to make changes to its current quantitative easing (QE) program of purchasing $85 billion monthly in bonds and MBS; this may help mortgage rates remain steady; when MBS prices fall, mortgage rates typically rise.

Whats Coming Up Next

The National Association of REALTORS® releases its Existing Home Sales report for March today.

The consensus is for 5.03 million homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, and against February’s 4.98 million existing homes sold. 

Tuesday brings more housing news with the FHFA Home Price Index for February; FHFA is the federal agency overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The U.S. Department of Commerce releases its New Home Sales for March on Tuesday.

The consensus is 421,000 new homes sold against February’s reading of 411,000 new homes sold.

Thursday’s Weekly Jobless claims are expected to come in at 351,000 as compared to last week’s 352,000.

Employment is a key factor in terms of consumers buying homes and qualifying for mortgage loans

Four Ways To Ensure Your House Sells Quickly And For Top Dollar

April 19, 2013

4 Ways To Ensure Your House Sells For Top DollarSelling a house in the current market can be tricky, but there are certain mistakes an owner can make that will cause a home to sit still without a decent offer and cause the listing to go stale.

In order to prevent that from happening, make sure you are not making one of the following mistakes when putting your property on the market.

Overpricing

While your home may hold sentimental value, many times that value does not translate into dollars.

Be realistic about your asking price and know the details about your current market.

Look at the list price of similar houses on the market to get a rough idea of what you should ask for your property.

Make special note of the actual closing sales price as well as the time on market and listing to sales price ratio.

A licensed real estate agent can provide these details as well as give you their expert opinion based on experience and comparable properties.

Neglecting Repairs

Glaring problems with a property will cause the buyer to think the home was not properly maintained.

While it may cost some money, repairing things like holes in the walls, broken light fixtures or missing tiles can change a buyer’s entire attitude about a property.

Ask for help if you aren’t comfortable doing these things yourself.

A real estate professional will have a whole list of qualified referrals who they trust to help you get things fixed up.

Ignoring Curb Appeal

Overgrown and unweeded yards can cause potential buyers to drive right by.

Also, having junk in the front of your house or peeling paint can deter someone from considering the property.

Step across the street and take an honest look at your house – and then make necessary adjustments.

Fixing these items may be as easy as one weekend day of clean up and a little elbow grease.

And even though it’s not expensive to fix these issues, it can make thousands of dollars difference in the sale of your home.

Creating Or Allowing Foul Odors

Odorous foods, pet dander and the smell of smoke can be extremely distasteful to buyers.

Even if you are used to the smell, others entering your house will not be.

Make sure you air out the house, smoke only outdoors, and put away the litter boxes before an open house or showing.

Also, ask someone who isn’t at your home often to come in and give it a smell test.  

Brutal honesty here might hurt a little bit, but it’s a lot better than allowing this problem to prevent a quicker sale of your home.

Without even realizing they’re sabotaging a potential sale, homeowners can make several mistakes when first trying to sell their home.

To find out what you can do to make your property really stand out to potential buyers, please call a licensed real estate professional.

5 Great Questions To Ask At An Open House For Real Estate

April 18, 2013

5 Great Questions To Ask At An Open House For Real EstateAn open house gives you a great opportunity to look more closely at real estate you might be interested in buying.

It also affords you the chance to chat with the owner or real estate agent so you can bring up any issues or hesitations you have with the home.

Knowing what to ask can be difficult, so below are examples of questions to ask at the next open house you attend.

Why has the seller decided to sell now?

If you ask why the seller is moving, you could learn valuable information to help determine your offer — or possibly whether or not you want to buy the home.

Knowing whether the owners are about to go into foreclosure, have experienced trouble in the neighborhood, or if they’ve retired and completely paid off the home can help you understand how urgently they need to sell their property.

Has the seller had any other offers?

Don’t forget that you are not only negotiating with the seller for a price, you are also competing with other potential buyers.

It really helps to know what you are up against.

It is important to understand that you might not get a 100% straight answer to this question as most sellers know that competition – or perceived competition – can cause a potential buyer to move forward more quickly and at a higher price.

If you’re comfortable in this discussion, you might want to try and see if you can find out the details of any other offers.

Does the property have special ownership costs?

Ask the agent or owner about the other costs associated with owning the property, such as Home Owners Association fees within a condo complex or a gated community.

It’s important to know about these extra expenses in advance so you can make an informed offer.

You may also want to ask about any pending litigation concerning the property.  Litigation is not always a deal killer, but it’s better to know the details before you sign closing documents.

What furniture and appliances are being sold with the house?

Most of the time, a seller will include their major appliances such as the refrigerator, stove and dishwasher with the home, but this isn’t always the case.

If you don’t already have these items, it’s important to know whether they are included in the purchase price.

Is there anything else that you want to leave with the home?

This is an important question to ask.  Especially if there are specific things in the home that you have a strong interest in.  

Perhaps there is custom art work or a pool table that fits perfectly in the game room.  

The seller may be eager to part with those items and include them in the sale of the home or sell them at a large discount.

The open house is a great opportunity to learn more about a home before making the decision to buy it, so be sure you ask the right questions.

3 Ways Clean Floors Can Help Sell Your Home Faster

April 17, 2013

Flooring Tips To Help You Sell Your HomeHave you ever walked into a home for sale and looked down to see stained carpet or scratched and worn flooring?

If so, you would probably agree that it doesn’t leave a positive first impression.

Imagine if you were a buyer looking at the same floor.

The right type of flooring and whether it is well taken care of can make a big difference to buyers.

If your floor is questionably clean, here are a few fixes to help remedy the issue to help your home sell quickly.

Does your home have hardwood floors?

You’re in luck. Buyers love hardwood floors and some will pay extra to get them.

If your hardwood floors are covered by carpet, painted over or showing anything but the natural wood grain, it’s time for an overhaul.

With the ability to rent large sanders and other tools, you can either refinish the hardwood floor yourself or hire a professional.

Remember, however, that hardwood floors in have a tendency to show off scratches, dents and uneven surfaces.

If you don’t think you can do an adequate job, hire a professional.

Does your home have carpeting?

If you don’t have hardwood floors, take a look at your carpeting.

If it’s stained, outdated or ragged, it might be time to pull it up and replace it.

There are many new techniques with carpet cleaning and spot repair, so check with a local carpet cleaning professional to assess your carpet before making expensive decisions.

When laying the new carpet, use high-quality carpet padding to make it comfortable to stand on.

Many buyers will kneel down and touch the floor, so make sure the carpet feels soft to the touch.

Does your home have tile floors?

Although tiles are beautiful, they typically show every ounce of old grime, dirt, chips and cracks.

Go through your home and replace any that are chipped, cracked or show significant signs of wear and tear.

Make sure the grout is clean and new looking, and use specialized tile cleaners or a steam cleaner to get rid of any stains.

Beautiful floors can go a long way toward selling homes.

Take an honest look at yours. It might just help get your home sold more quickly and at a higher price.

As always, seeking the advice of a licensed real estate professional would be an excellent next step to plan your home selling preparations.