Posted in Around The Home

Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs This Winter in Just Three Easy Steps

Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs This Winter in Just Three Easy Steps It doesn’t matter if you heat your home with electricity, natural gas or some other energy source; prices continue to rise and that means increased heating costs for most of us.

In today’s blog post we’ll share three easy ways that you can save money on your home energy costs this winter.

Install and Use Programmable Thermostats

Now that Nest and other companies have brought Wi-Fi enabled, programmable thermostats on the market there’s very few excuses to avoid using them. At bare minimum you’ll want a digital thermostat that can be programmed to turn on and off at certain hours of the day.

For example, you can shut your heat off after leaving for work and have it turn back on again a half-hour or so before you get home. You can do the same at night when you’re fast asleep under warm blankets. If possible, try to get a thermostat for each room so that rooms can be heated individually as needed.

Switch Up Your Ceiling Fans

If you have ceiling fans you may not know that by reversing their direction you can keep your rooms feeling much warmer. In the winter you’ll want your fans spinning in a clockwise direction, which will push warm air downward into the room where you’ll be able to feel it. In the summer you’ll want to switch the fans back to counter-clockwise as this will help move warm air towards the ceiling.

Check Your Insulation, Furnace and Ducts Now

Finally, you’ll want to check that your home heating system is operating at peak efficiency. If you can access your attic, check to ensure that your insulation is tightly packed and that it’s still in good condition. Clean or replace the air filter on your furnace, and check your ducts for any leaks that need to be repaired. If it has been a few years, consider having a professional furnace and duct cleaning to get all of the dust and debris out of the ductwork.

As you can see, a little time spent on home maintenance can end up saving quite a bit in energy costs when the temperatures drop. When you’re ready to look at buying a newer, more energy-efficient home, contact your local real estate agent and book a consultation where you can share your needs and price range.

Posted in Home Seller Tips

Yard Staging: How to Stage Your Front and Back Yard to Appeal to Home Buyers

Yard Staging: How to Stage Your Front and Back Yard to Appeal to Home BuyersWhether you’re just listing your home for sale or you’ve already started entertaining potential buyers, focusing on your “curb appeal” can drastically increase your chances of a quick and successful sale.

In today’s blog post we’ll discuss how to stage your front and back yards in order to make them seem more inviting and welcoming to home buyers.

It All Starts with a Great Lawn

Whether you’re standing on the street looking at the front of your home or you’re on your patio looking out over your back yard, your lawn sets the tone and is one area that potential buyers are sure to focus on.

You’ll want to ensure that your lawn is very well-kept, with no weeds, dandelions or patches of clover breaking up the continuity of the grass. You’ll also want your lawn to be a healthy green, unless you’re in an area which has some seasonal turnover or your community has watering restrictions.

Use Gardens to Add a Splash of Color

Once the lawn looks incredible, it’s time to move on to your gardens and other landscape features. Gardens are the best way to add a vibrant splash of color to your yard and they can be used to accessorize the front or back of your home to break up the monotony.

Choose flowers or plants that are in season for your area to ensure that they are healthy while potential buyers are driving past and viewing the home. Also, keep in mind that most of the time, less is more; don’t overdo your gardening or you’ll have a small jungle on your hands.

Make Your Backyard Feel as Inviting as Possible

Your backyard will be a major selling feature for many different types of homebuyer – especially those with children. You’ll want to ensure that your backyard feels as inviting as possible. If you have a deck or patio, ensure that you have furniture and your BBQ tastefully arranged so the buyer can picture themselves hosting friends and family.

Staging your front and backyards is just one of the many tasks that you’ll need to take care of in order to prepare your home for a successful sale. For more information about how to prepare your home, contact your local real estate agent today and they’ll be able to share expertise that is specific to your local community.

Posted in Market Outlook

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 10, 2014

Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing CostsLast week’s economic reports contained mixed reports indicating that the economy continues to recover with occasional “blips” in its progress. Construction spending was lower than expected.

A Federal Reserve survey of senior loan officers indicated that credit standards remain strict for mortgages and other types of lending. According to the survey, a “modest net fraction” of large banks had eased credit standards for prime mortgage lending.

First-Time Homebuyers Struggle as Market Share Hits 27-Year Low

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reported that first-time buyers’ share of home purchases has slipped to 33 percent, which was its lowest level in 27 years. According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, high home prices and mortgage insurance costs along with strict mortgage credit requirements continue to sideline first-time buyers.

In other news, the Department of Commerce reported that construction spending dropped by 0.40 percent in September as compared August’s reading of -0.50 percent and an expected reading of +0.70 percent. September’s reading represented a seasonally-adjusted annual construction spending rate of $950.90 billion.

Mortgage Rates: Average 30-Year Mortgage Rate Tops Four Percent

Average mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 4.02 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by eight basis points to 3.21 percent, while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rose by three basis points from 2.94 percent to 2.97 percent. Average discount points remained at 0.50 percent for all three types of mortgages.

This is not altogether bad news, as higher mortgage rates are typically prompted by improving economic conditions. 2014 started with an average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages of 4.05 percent.

Labor Reports Suggest Stronger Jobs Markets

Last week’s economic news included several reports that indicated improvements in U.S. labor markets. The Department of Labor released its Non-Farm Payrolls report for October with a reading of 214,000 jobs added against expectations of 243,000 jobs added and September’s reading of 256,000 jobs added. While this appears contrary to stronger labor markets, analysts said that a new low in the national unemployment rate of 5.80 percent indicated that fewer new jobs were needed. October was the ninth consecutive month reporting 200,000 or more jobs added.

The ADP employment report, which tracks payrolls in the private sector, reported an increase of 5,000 jobs from September’s reading of 225,000 jobs to October’s reading of 230,000 jobs.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 278,000 against expectations of 285,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 288,000 new claims filed. This reading supports a stronger jobs market and may compel would-be home buyers to enter the market as concerns about unemployment and jobs wanes.

The national unemployment rate reached a new low with October’s reading of 5.80 percent. In related news, Fed Chair Janet Yellen indicated in a speech on Friday that the target Federal funds rate will likely rise in 2015, but she gave neither a prospective date nor details about how much the benchmark federal funds rate may rise.

Posted in Home Mortgage Tips

Have You Had Trouble Getting a Mortgage? Three Tips for Sprucing Up Your Credit Before Reapplying

Have You Had Trouble Getting a Mortgage? Three Tips for Sprucing Up Your Credit Before ReapplyingIf you’ve had some trouble getting approved for a mortgage recently, you’re not alone. Many individuals face mortgage challenges due to past blemishes on their credit reports or a personal financial crisis that resulted in bills not being paid on time.

In this post we’ll share three quick tips for sprucing up your personal credit before reapplying for a mortgage. With a bit of luck and hard work you can be on your way to purchasing that new dream home.

Pay Off Your Credit Cards And Lines Of Credit

The easiest way to improve your credit score and prove that you can afford your mortgage payments is to eliminate other forms of debt from your monthly budget. If you have outstanding credit card, student loan or other debts, get them paid off as quickly as possible.

You’ll also want to avoid taking on any new loans while you’re trying to get your mortgage approved as these are likely to show up on your credit report and can hurt your chances at approval.

Pull Your Credit Report And Look For Errors

If you haven’t seen your credit report recently, it might be worth investing in a copy so you can see exactly what your lender sees when they are evaluating you for a mortgage. You may discover that there are errors or inaccuracies that can be cleared off with a quick phone call, such as a past loan that was fully paid or a missed car payment that was reported in error. Every credit report error that you can fix will bring you one step closer to your mortgage approval, so spend a few minutes combing through your report.

Pay All Of Your Bills On Time

Did you know that every overdue bill can leave a negative mark on your credit report? With so many bills to juggle – credit cards, cell phones, utilities and more – it can be tough to keep them all organized and paid before the due date. However, if you’re working to secure a mortgage you must keep your bills paid to avoid being reported as a late or overdue payment.

If you’ve had some trouble getting approved for a mortgage in the past, take a few minutes to contact your local mortgage professional today to ask for their advice. You may find that they have additional tips and strategies that you can leverage to better your chances of being approved.

Posted in Home Buyer Tips

Moving in to a New City or Community? Here’s Why You’ll Want to Meet the Neighbors

Moving in to a New City or Community? Here's Why You'll Want to Meet the NeighborsAre you moving to a new community or a new city? When you find a new house that meets your needs and seems like a perfect fit, you’ll want to take some time to meet your potential new neighbors before you sign on the dotted line.

In today’s blog post we’ll share a few reasons why meeting the neighbors can help you feel right at home in your new community.

Your Neighbors Are Experts on Your Local Community

Whether you have questions about the area’s safety at night or you simply want to know where the best coffee shops are, you’ll find that your neighbors are an excellent source of information about the local area.

Spend some time thinking about questions that you would want answered before committing to buy in a certain area, and ask the locals after you’ve viewed the home. Yes, you could ask the seller, but remember that it’s their goal to get you to buy the home and you’re most likely interested in impartial answers.

They Can Help the Kids Get Settled in

If you’re moving to a new city with children you’ll likely want to get them introduced to other neighborhood kids so they can start making new friends. Meeting your potential neighbors during the home buying process will allow you to determine which have children that are of a similar age as yours. Of course, if you find that there are no other children in the local community that might be a sign that the area isn’t very family-friendly, so you’ll want to factor this in as well.

You’ll Need to Assess Your Future Relations

If you decide to buy this particular new home you’re likely going to be living in the local neighborhood for years – perhaps even decades. Meeting the local neighbors before purchasing your home allows you to make an assessment of how well you’re going to integrate into the local community and whether or not you’ll be able to have warm relations with those that live around you. It takes just a few minutes of asking around friends and family to hear horror stories about bad neighbors; meeting the locals will help ensure that you don’t make a mistake that you’ll regret later.

When you’re ready to start your hunt for the perfect new home – and the perfect new neighbors – contact your local real estate professional. Working with an experienced real estate agent is the best way to get the home you’re after in a price range you can afford.

Posted in Home Buyer Tips

Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing Costs

Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing CostsYou’ve found the perfect new house or condo, and you are now preparing an offer that you believe the seller will find tempting enough to accept. However, you know that there are going to be thousands of dollars in closing costs that need to be paid before the sale is completed and you become the home’s new owner.

The question is, should you ask the seller to pay some or all of the closing costs? In today’s blog post we’ll address this question and list a few scenarios in which you may want to consider having the seller pick up the tab.

Ask if You’re Offering the Full Listing Price

If you’re prepared to offer the full asking price for the home you can certainly include the caveat that the seller assist with some or all of the closing costs. Many sellers will price their home slightly higher than they expect to receive as they believe that buyers will submit low initial offers which need to be negotiated.

For example, if a home is listed at $275,000 a seller might actually be expecting $260,000 or $265,000 for it. You can offer $275,000 but ask that they take care of the closing costs.

Ask if You’re Confident the Seller Has Few Other Options

If the home has been on the market for a number of months or if you’re fairly confident that the seller isn’t going to find much luck elsewhere you can ask them to pick up the closing costs as one of your purchase conditions. You’ll obviously want to negotiate in good faith, but if you’re coming from a position of strength you can leverage this in to some additional savings.

Ask if You’re Ready to Close Immediately

Are you ready to sign on the dotted line today? If you’re sure that this is the right home for you, let the seller know that as long as they’re willing to assist with the closing costs and accept your bid that you’ll start the closing process today. Nearly all sellers will be willing to make a small sacrifice to get the deal done.

As you can see, there are a number of situations in which it makes sense to ask the seller to shoulder some of the closing costs. If you have found a home that you wish to purchase and you’d like advice on how to proceed, contact a real estate agent today. An experience real estate professional can help you craft an offer that the seller won’t be able to refuse.

Posted in Home Seller Tips

Home Selling Tips: How to Compete with New Construction for Home Buyers’ Attention

Home Selling Tips: How to Compete with New Construction for Home Buyers' AttentionAre you thinking about selling your house or condo? If you’re in a market that has a lot of newly constructed homes, you’re going to be competing with those listings for buyers’ attention.

In today’s post we’ll share a few tips that can help you attract buyers and convince them that your pre-owned home is just as good as a brand new one.

Upgrade And Modernize Your Home Prior To The Sale

Numerous studies have shown that buyers who prefer brand new homes are mostly interested in the new appliances and fixtures throughout the home.

If your home is more than a decade or so old, you’ll want to invest some time and money in upgrading your appliances and fixtures before trying to list your home on the market.

If you have newly constructed homes very close to yours it might be worth installing these items after you’ve moved out so that the buyer is the first person to use them.

Focus Your Marketing On A Specific Buyer

Depending on which neighborhood your home is located in and the local amenities, you may want to consider focusing your marketing on one particular buyer. For example, a downtown condo would be marketed to a completely different prospective buyer than a large four-bedroom home out in the suburbs. Take some time to consider the “persona” of your target buyers, and craft your messaging around what these individuals or families will be looking for in their dream home.

Shine The Spotlight On Your Home’s Strong Points

As with any major sale, you’ll want to ensure that you spend as much time as possible highlighting the strong points in your listing. Be sure to mention any local community amenities as well, such as schools, parks or community centers. If you’re selling to a family, your proximity to these amenities will be a significant point of comparison with brand new homes in the area.

If you have the budget, you may also want to consider having your home professionally staged, as staging is an excellent way to show a potential buyer just how good your home can look with tasteful furnishings, art and other finishing touches.

Selling your home is a challenging proposition that shouldn’t be faced alone. When you’re ready to sell your home be sure to contact your local real estate agent, who has experience selling in your local market and can help to ensure your sale moves along smoothly.

Posted in Market Outlook

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 3, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - November 3, 2014Last week’s economic news brought mixed developments as pending home sales moved to their second highest level of 2014.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced the expected end of asset purchases under its quantitative easing program. In its post-meeting statement, the committee noted improvements in overall economic conditions labor markets as indications of better than expected economic trends.

The Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports for August showed continued slowing in housing price gains. Mortgage rates were higher, but consumer confidence exceeded expectations.

Pending Home Sales Rise, Case-Shiller Reports Slower Price Gains

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that pending home sales gained 0.30 percent in September for an index reading of 105 as compared to August’s reading of 104.7. Analysts said that lower home prices and more homes available likely brought more buyers into the market.

The S&P Case Shiller 10 and 20-city home price index reports for August showed further slowing in home price growth with a year-over-year reading of 5.60 percent as compared to July’s year-over-year reading of 6.70 percent.

This was the slowest price increase since November 2012. Home price growth is slowing as demand decreases. Tight mortgage qualification requirements are likely contributing to lower demand for homes.

FOMC ends QE, Mortgage Rates Rise

The Fed ended its asset purchases under its QE program according to a statement after the FOMC meeting on Wednesday. This move was expected, and the statement repeated its plan to leave the target federal funds rate unchanged for a considerable period after the QE program’s conclusion. Analysts interpreted that to mean that no rate change would likely occur until approximately June 2015.

Mortgage rates responded to the demise of QE with an across the board increase. Average rates reported by Freddie Mac on Thursday were 3.98 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, 3.13 percent for a 15-year mortgage and 2.94 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent for all three loan types.

New Jobless Claims Up, But No Big Deal

Housing market trends are connected with what’s happening in labor markets. Last week’s report for new jobless claims took an unexpected jump with 287,000 new jobless claims filed against predictions of 281,000 new claims and 284,000 new jobless claims filed the prior week. The four-week average for new jobless claims dropped to 281,000 and new claims remained below the 300,000 benchmark for the seventh consecutive week.

October’s Consumer Confidence Index rose to a reading of 94.50 as compared to the expected reading of 87.3 and September’s reading of 89.0. The Consumer Sentiment Index for October was also showed an increase of 0.50 percent with a reading of 86.9 against a predicted reading of 86.4 and September’s reading of 86.4.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes construction spending for September, Non-farm payrolls, national unemployment, and the ADP employment report. Regularly scheduled reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released on Thursday.