Archive for April, 2019

The Economics Of Going Green For Home Sales

April 30, 2019

The Economics Of Going Green For Home SalesEarth Day is celebrated each year in April to remind us all of the benefits of ecologically-sound living that is more in harmony with Mother Earth. There is quite a bit of positive news when it comes to going “green.” There are significant benefits for home sales.

Green homes may sell faster and for higher prices. Many people are willing to pay more for a green home in order to receive the long-term benefits of the savings on utility costs.

The Numbers Are Very Appealing

AHS reports many encouraging statistics. The estimates are about one-third of the real estate market for single family homes in 2016 was for green homes. The National Association of Builders says that 90% of home buyers consider looking for energy-efficient green homes to be a high priority when shopping for a home.

About 61% are willing to pay up to $5,000 more for a home that as low utility bills because of its green design. The Earth Advantage Study concluded that a green home, which is certified sells for up to 35% more than non-certified home.

The Green Value Proposition

Lawdepot reports that for every dollar that the utility bill is reduced for a home, the average resale value increases from 15 up to 20 dollars.

Here are some cost-effective investments that improve a home’s resale value:

  • Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors: Old, leaky windows and doors are horrible energy-wasters. Upgrade windows and doors to drastically lower energy costs. This also dramatically improves a home’s curb appeal. In terms of resale value, the return on investment is up to 100% over the cost of the installation.
  • LEED Certification: A home that has a LEED certification for energy-efficiency can sell for up to 35% more than a non-certified home.
  • Insulation: Upgrading attic insulation with high-performance blown fiberglass returns about 17% over the cost of the installation.
  • Solar Energy System: Solar energy installations return about 97% of the cost upon resale according to a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Depending on the tax incentives and how much was saved on utility bills before the home is sold, there is typically a net positive financial benefit to a homeowner for installing a solar energy system. Moreover, these homes continue to operate normally in a grid-down emergency, which is a big selling point.

Conclusion

Going green, in these suggested ways, helps maximize a home’s resale value. This is helpful for the environment and makes excellent financial sense. Green homes are very attractive to potential buyers, especially in areas that typically have high monthly utility bills.

If going green is a priority to you, be sure to discuss energy efficient incentives and home improvement loans with your trusted mortgage professional.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 29th, 2019

April 29, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 29th, 2019

Last week’s economic reporting included readings on sales of new and pre-owned homes; weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released along with a report on consumer sentiment.

Sales of New Homes Hit 16-Month High

The Commerce Department reported that deep discounts offered by home builders boosted sales of new single-family homes to 692,000 sales on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis.

March sales exceeded February’s reading by 4.50 percent and exceeded the expected sales pace of 656,000 sales. The average price of new single family homes fell to $302,700 in March; this was 9.70 percent lower year-over-year.

Real estate pros reported higher inventory of new homes for sale with a six-month supply of homes for sale in March. A six-month supply of available homes indicates that housing markets were evenly balanced between homes for sale and prospective buyers.

Previously-owned homes sold at a seasonally-adjusted annual pace of 5.21 million sales in March. The National Association of Realtors® said that sales of pre-owned homes were 5.90 percent lower than the sales pace of 5.48 million pre owned homes posted for February and that March sales missed expectations of 5.35 million sales.

Sales were likely impacted by higher average sales price for pre-owned homes; the average selling price for pre-owned homes was $259,400, which was 3.80 percent higher year-over-year. Higher home prices challenge first-time and moderate income home buyers; this could explain the slower sales pace for pre-owned homes in March.

Mortgage Rates and New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported higher average mortgage rates last week. Rates for 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.20 percent and were three basis points higher than for the prior week. Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged two basis points higher at 3.64 percent; Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages fell one basis point and averaged 3.77 percent. Discount points for fixed rate mortgages averaged 0.50 percent and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims jumped to 230,000 new claims filed as compared to the prior week’s reading of 193,000 new claims filed. Analysts said that more first-time claims were likely related to the Easter holiday and spring breaks.

According to the Consumer Sentiment Index for April, consumer sentiment rose to an index reading of 97.20 percent as compared to an expected reading of 97.0 and March’s reading of 96.9.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings from Case-Shiller, and Commerce Department readings on construction spending and pending home sales. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve will issue its post-meeting statement and Fed Chair Jerome Powell will give a press conference. ADP and Non-Farm Payrolls reports will be released along with the national unemployment rate.

12 Ways to Lower Your Monthly Utility Bills

April 26, 2019

12 Ways to Lower Your Monthly Utility BillsAccording to the US Department of Energy, the average American household paid $111.67 each month for utilities in 2017. With some research and a few DIY projects, property owners can reduce those energy costs without sacrificing comfort or convenience.

Establish Energy Friendly Habits

Reduce energy waste to see an immediate change in your utility payments.

  • Before bed, walk around your home. Make sure you turn off all lights, televisions, computers, and other plugged-in devices.
  • In the colder months, close the doors to unused spaces to save big on heating bills.
  • Dial down the heat before bed. Invest in extra blankets and cozy pajamas to keep warm without blasting the furnace.

Small habits can add up to big savings.

Incorporate DIY Solutions

These easy projects improve insulation so your interior stays comfortable without HVAC overuse.

  • Use weather stripping to seal off drafty windows.
  • Install door sweeps on all exterior doors to prevent outdoor air from compromising your indoor temperature.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. Many models allow you to automatically adjust temperatures throughout the day.

It doesn’t take a large investment of time or money to positively impact your utility bills.

Install Energy Efficient Appliances

Upgrading your appliances is a simple way to reduce energy waste.

  • Install a solar-powered water heater to eliminate the cost of hot water.
  • Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED versions.
  • Invest in an Energy Star rated washer and dryer to save money on your electric and water bills.

As a bonus, your new appliances improve the look and feel of your space.

Attend To Administrative Tasks

Pay attention to what you’re paying for. Small details can cost you big dollars.

  • Review your billing statements at least once every 3 months. Notice any changes in usage, rate, and fees.
  • Talk to your utility company about average payments. This option allows you to pay a flat rate rather than fluctuating per-use charges.
  • Install a Smart Meter to ensure accurate usage reporting.

Practice due diligence to protect your wallet from unnecessary charges.

You don’t have to make drastic changes to your lifestyle to control utility costs. Incorporate these easy fixes to bring down your monthly obligations without emptying your wallet.

If you feel like the time is right to upgrade your home’s energy efficiency, it may also be time to access some of your home equity to help you with expenses. Meeting with your trusted home mortgage professional is the first step to finding out about your best financing options.

Going Tankless: Energy-Efficient Tankless Water Heaters

April 25, 2019

Going Tankless Energy-Efficient Tankless Water HeatersThere are so many ways in which you can green up your home and make it more sustainable these days. Many people are considering tankless water heaters. While this can certainly be the right option depending on the space you have and the type of water you use, here are some things to consider before you decide to invest in the switch.

Maximizing Your Space

One of the biggest issues with a traditional water heater is the amount of space it takes up, whether it’s a side closet or a closed-off area in the basement. Fortunately, one of the benefits of tankless water heaters is that they can be wall-mounted almost anywhere in your house so they won’t need their own separate space. The traditional water heater may be bulky and require an area of its own, but your tankless water heater will not have to work around the needs of the rest of the house!

Heating What’s Needed

While a traditional water heater stores water and will be able to supply hot water at a quicker rate, a tankless water heater works more slowly. Because it is heating the water as it’s being used, it’s only using the energy it needs to in order to provide the water required. While this will have a positive impact on your energy costs over time, it can also mean waiting on hot water a little longer than expected. In order to go tankless, you’ll require a minimum water flow amount.

Do You Have Hard Water?

A tankless water heater can be more efficient when it comes to space and energy, but if you have an issue with hard water, the tankless option may not be the way to go. Because a tankless heater essentially warms water within the tank, it is vulnerable to scale build-up, which can cut into its overall efficiency. While a traditional water heater does not experience this issue, a tankless water heater working with hard water may end up being less useful due to this build up.

There are a number of benefits associated with a tankless water heater, but it’s important to determine if this option will be truly energy efficient for you before you decide to invest.

Home improvements can dramatically increase the value and function of your home. Some of them are costly and may make you consider tapping into some of your home equity. If you would like to explore your current financial options, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional.

8 Curb Appeal Tips for Selling Your Home Fast

April 24, 2019

8 Curb Appeal Tips for Selling Your Home FastFrom small touches such as new lighting to larger efforts such as tiling the porch or stoop, creating curb appeal is one of the best investments you can make to resell your home fast.

Here are eight ideas to maximize curb your appeal.

Landscaping Is Critical For The First Impression

  • Cut Back Trees and Shrubs. Landscaping should enhance your house, not overwhelm it. Trimming can bring impressive results. If you don’t have a steady hand, leave it to a professional or handy relative.
  • Manicure Your Lawn. A freshly mowed lawn is a must the week before a showing. Be sure to trim and edge it for a finished look that increases your curb appeal. 
  • Plant Some Color. If the weather permits, flowering plants are a cheap way to brighten the walkway leading up to your front door. It also gives the home a fresh vibe. Adding fresh mulch to your flower beds is a great quick fix, even in colder weather.

Don’t Forget Your Home’s Exterior

  • Paint the House. If you can’t afford to paint the whole house and the exterior paint is in good condition, consider retouching the trim. The gives your home a sense of newness. If the exterior colors are outdated, painting the home should be a budget priority.
  • Clean the Roof and Gutters. If anything is likely to attract a buyer’s attention, it’s clogged gutters, tree branches brushing the roof and algae growth. If you’re in a drier climate, make sure you don’t have obvious roof damage or missing tiles. If you need to replace the roof, it’s better to get it over with. Chances are, you’ll make up the money with a faster sale at a higher price. 
  • Clean the Walks and Driveway. Pressure wash patios, drives and walkways. Put fresh sealant on black-top driveways for a like-new boost to one of the areas buyers notice first.

Spruce Up The Outdoor Areas

  • Make Outdoor Living Space Inviting: Take steps to make porches, patios and decks clean and inviting. This might include repairing wood decks and restaining them. If you can replace old furniture, it’s a great investment that you can take with you when you go. 
  • Stage the Yard: Just as you stage the inside of the home, it’s important to declutter and depersonalize your outside living area. You can leave furniture in neutral colors so that the buyer can imagine themselves in the space. However, bikes, kids’ toys and the rusted grill need to be stored out of site. 

These basic ideas go a long way toward improving the curb appeal of your home. In return, you may be very happy with the positive effects on the sale of your home.

Be sure to take steps ahead of time to secure your financing for your next home purchase. A great place to start is setting up an appointment with your trusted home mortgage professional.

 

Finding ‘Hard Money’ Lenders Is Easier Than You Think

April 23, 2019

Finding 'Hard Money' Lenders Is Easier Than You ThinkAre you the type of real estate investor that has an interest in a treasure hunt? A real estate investment strategy based on hard money is, at its core, a treasure hunt. There must be an underlying value, the “treasure,” for a hard money opportunity to exist.

Collateral For A Hard Money Loan Is Only The Property

Hard money loans rely only on the value of the real estate property for collateral. The credit history of the borrower is not important. Usually, the limit for a hard money loan is a 60% loan-to-value. The hard money loan must be in the first position, as a first mortgage lien on the property, in the case of a default on the loan.

If the loan amount needed is only 60% of the property value, finding a hard money lender is easy. Just conduct a search on the Internet for a hard money lender in the area of the property.

Please note that the sale amount for a property is the value so it is not possible to use a higher appraisal for a higher hard money loan and then purchase a property for a lower value than the appraisal.

Hard Money Lenders Want To Make Loans

Hard money lenders want to lend money to deals that are qualified. They typically charge higher interest rates plus points (a percentage of the loan amount paid at the close of escrow). They almost always have more money available to lend than qualified deals. The qualified deals are harder to find than the money!

Advance Fees Are Usually A Bad Sign

One word of warning. NEVER, ever, under any circumstances, pay an advance fee for a hard money loan “commitment.” Any fees for the lender come out of the escrow closing when the loan funds the deal and not one second before.

No matter how convincing a lender is, about requiring an advance fee, do not pay it. If you cannot find a real hard money lender, who does not ask for an advance fee, your deal does not qualify for this type of loan.

Joint Venture With The Land Owner

If the land is owned free and clear, a joint venture can be arranged to borrow 60% of the land value for a development project and then a hard money loan can be used on a short-term basis while the land is improved and permitted for development. Then, a property can be reappraised at a higher valuation after improvement and permits are in place.

New financing can pay off the hard money lender. For example, a construction loan that converts into permanent financing can retire the initial hard money loan when the project hits certain milestones.

Advertise For Investors

Under the JOBS Act of 2012 and subsequent revisions, the regulations allow general advertisements for investors. Many real estate developers are now using crowdfunding platforms to fund their deals, as another way to raise capital. Using this method, investor funds can be pooled from smaller investors to provide working capital that can be used along with hard money loans to do real estate deals.

You could surmise that finding and/or creating the deals that are hard-money worthy is the more difficult task than finding the hard money loan funds for a qualified project. Before making a rush decision, consider discussing your options with a mortgage lender. This trusted professional can offer information about a variety of financing options.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 22nd, 2019

April 22, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 22nd, 2019Last week’s economic news included readings on home builder confidence in housing market conditions and Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued. Weekly readings on mortgage ratees and first-time jobless claims were also released.

NAHB Housing Market Index: Builder Confidence Rises One Point in April

Home Builder Confidence readings posted by the National Association of Home Builders held steady for April and rose one point overall. Component readings for the NAHB Housing Market Index were mixed; builder confidence in current housing market conditions rose one point to an index reading of 69, but builder confidence in housing market conditions in the next six months fell one point to 62.

Home builder confidence in potential buyer traffic rose three points to 47. NAHB Housing Market index readings above 50 indicate that most builders view market conditions as positive, but the reading for buyer traffic seldom rises above 50.

Housing Starts and Building Permits Issued Fall Short of Expectations in March

Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued in March were lower than in February and fell short of analyst expectations. Housing starts were reported at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.139 million starts. Analysts expected housing starts at an annual rate of 1,225 billion starts based on February’s reading of 1.142 million starts.

Builders continued to experience headwinds including higher materials costs, shortages of buildable lots and a lack of skilled labor. Analysts cited disparities between new housing developments, which tend to favor luxury homes and the need for affordable housing.

Exclusionary zoning and neighborhood politics can block construction of affordable housing in desirable areas; legal and zoning constraints prevent builders from producing enough affordable homes to meet demand. Housing starts year-to-date were 9.70 percent lower than for the same period in 2018.

Fewer building permits were issued in March than in February. 1.269 million permits were issued on a seasonally adjusted annual basis as compared to expectations of 1.300 million permits issued and February’s reading of 1.291 million permits issued.

Mortgage Rates Rise as New Jobless Claims Fall

Mortgage rates were higher last week as average rates for fixed rate mortgages rose. 30-year mortgage rates averaged five basis points higher at 4.17 percent. Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged two basis points higher at 3.62 percent.  

Mortgage rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged two basis points lower at 3.78 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims fell by 5000 new claims to 192,000 initial claims; this was significantly lower than 204,000 new claims expected.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on sales of new and pre-owned homes and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and initial jobless claims will also be released.

4 Ways A Little Paint Can Revitalize Your Home

April 19, 2019

4 Ways A Little Paint Can Revitalize Your HomeFixing up your home doesn’t have to be a budget-breaker. You can revitalize the look of your property with a little bit of paint in the right places.

Here are some areas that will really stand out to visitors or prospective home buyers.

1. Front Door

The front door always makes the first impression on visitors to your home. Remember that while they are waiting to enter your home, potential buyers have nothing to do except get a good look at your front door. For maximum impact, paint the front door a contrasting color to your house color. If budget allows, add a new door knocker and door knob.

2. Shutters

Vinyl shutters are very affordable when you buy them online. Before you hang them, use a spray paint gun to paint them in a matching color with your front door, or a contrasting color to your house color. 

3. Interior Trim

If your home still has bare wood trim throughout, consider painting it. This will instantly modernize your home since exposed wood trim tends to date a house. The best trim color is actually a creamy shade – not white. White trim can come off as a little harsh, and your goal in most cases is to make your home look as warm as possible.

Based on the results after painting the trim, you may find that you don’t even need to worry about repainting the walls. Instead, just spot clean walls in areas where they most need it.

4. Statement Wall

Another way that a little paint can revitalize your home for sale is to paint just one wall in a room with a contrasting color. This is commonly called a “statement wall” because it helps define the room and make a big impact on guests.

Note that oil-based paint leaves a residual odor for quite some time. If your home is being listed soon, you’re probably better off using acrylic paint. Consult with your paint store representative for details. 

These projects can all be accomplished by anyone who’s a little bit handy around the home. With a little paint and some elbow grease, your home will be picture perfect.

If you are interested in refinancing your home or accessing some of your equity for home improvement projects, contact your trusted home mortgage professional to discuss current financing options.

 

 

 

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Rises in April

April 18, 2019

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Rises in AprilHome builder confidence increased in April to an index reading of 63, which was one point higher than for March and the highest reading in six months. Analysts said that April’s reading revealed more about housing market conditions in the past six months than it was an indicator of future market conditions.

November’s builder confidence reading was the lowest since housing markets tanked in 2008, Builder confidence recovered over the past few months despite headwinds including higher materials costs and shortages of labor and buildable lots.

Home Builder Confidence Holds Steady Despite Headwinds

NAHB Housing Market Index readings over 50 indicate that most home builders are confident about housing market conditions. While April’s reading was comfortably above the benchmark, the average reading so far in 2019 is 61 as compared to 2018’s annual average reading of 67.

Component readings of the Housing Market Index were mixed in April. Builder confidence in current housing market conditions rose one point to 69; confidence in housing market conditions over the next six months dropped one point to 71 and the reading for builder confidence in buyer traffic rose three points to an index reading of 47. Readings for builder confidence in buyer traffic seldom exceeds 50.

Market Conditions Expected to Improve, but Obstacles Persist

Improving weather conditions and the peak home-buying season should boost builder confidence and housing market conditions, but rapidly rising home prices and affordability concerns could dampen housing markets and builder enthusiasm. Analysts report that no major changes are expected to mortgage rates in 2019. If this holds true, potential homebuyers are likely to take advantage of lower rates to buy homes. Analysts also said that initial impact of new tax laws has faded; more home buyers are expected to enter the market.

Market conditions depend on buyers and sellers; their motivations, resources and ability to “stay put” impact individual home sales. Buyers who depend on financing their home purchases are competing with increasing numbers of cash buyers; the National Association of Realtors ® traditionally reported about 10 percent of home sales were cash transactions, in recent years cash sales have increased to approximately 20 percent of home sales.

Homeowners are more likely to accept cash offers rather than accepting offers from buyers who must qualify for mortgages under a lengthy and precise approval process. Trends indicate that more homeowners are choosing to stay in their homes; this and exclusionary zoning laws in some areas are reducing the number of homes available.

 

Can You Really Buy Off-Planet Real Estate?

April 17, 2019

Can You Really Buy Off-Planet Real EstateReal estate agents are constantly looking for new listings, which will attract potential buyers. We no longer need to limit our search for good listings to planet Earth because Mars is now for sale.

Although this may sound a bit far-fetched at first, it is not such a strange concept if you consider the serious efforts being made to colonize Mars with the commercial efforts by companies like Space X. There is a company, called Lunar Land, which is already selling acres of land on Mars as a novelty.

Historical Precedent

Off-planet land sales have already had considerable success for those crazy enough to sell titles to land on the Moon. Lunar Embassy, which started in 1980, claims to have sold 2.5 million acres of the Moon for about $20 per acre. That’s $50 million in revenues.

This happened in spite of the Outer Space Treaty, which was signed by the US, the UK, and the Soviet Union. The treaty went into force according to Earth’s laws on October 10, 1967. Currently (February 2019), there are 108 countries who signed the treaty and 23 more who signed it but have not yet legally ratified it in their home country.

There is a loophole. There are 195 countries in the world. That means 64 are not a party to the Outer Space Treaty. Any of these countries can legally lay claim to any off-planet real estate according to their own country’s laws.

It’s A Fad Now That Becomes A Reality In The Future

Buying acres of land on Mars is really a fun fad. It has symbolic value but really has no practical value to earthbound persons. In a few decades, this may change.

The estimates by SpaceNews are that it will cost $230 billion to establish a human outpost on Mars with the target date of 2035. Each resupply mission, once every three years thereafter, will cost about $142 billion. The total cost to start the colonization of Mars is about $1.5 trillion.

Mars has about 35 billion acres. That means a commercial colonization program can “own” Mars for only $42.85 per acre.

The Mars Experience On Earth

One way to make this fantasy of colonizing Mars more real is to set up a practice project on Earth. We searched and found the worst, cheapest land in the United States. It is available for purchase at a mere $50 per acre. It is the worst kind of remote desert land with horrific conditions and no natural resources. However, even with the worst Earth conditions, it is a paradise compared to the challenge of living on Mars.

Some clever entrepreneur should create the Mars Habitat on Earth and invite participation to buy land and habitation in a project that develops a workable living space that is self-contained in these harsh desert areas on Earth.

If you are interested in buying a property here on Earth, contact your trusted home mortgage professional to discuss financing options.