Posted in Around The Home

Tankless Water Heaters: The Pros and Cons of Going Tankless In Your Home

Tankless Water Heaters: The Pros and Cons of Going Tankless In Your HomeLarge water heaters are unsightly appliances that home-sellers would rather hide. Although it’s not always possible to banish these structures, it is possible to replace them with a version that is not as overbearing. Tankless water heaters have the potential to make one home stand out amongst the competition, but they do have some disadvantages along with the benefits.

Pro: Tankless Water Heaters Use Less Energy

Traditional water heaters continuously heat water that is just sitting in the tank, and this requires energy. Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, do not heat the water until someone needs it. Therefore, they are more energy-efficient and cost less to operate.

Pro: Tankless Water Heaters Last Longer

Traditional water heaters will need to be replaced after about a decade, but tankless water heaters can last much longer. If someone is planning on purchasing a home with a new tankless water heater, he or she would not have to think about replacing it for about 20 years.

Pro: Tankless Water Heaters Are More Space Efficient

The typical traditional water heater is 24 inches wide and 60 inches tall. Tankless heaters save a lot of space because they are generally only 20 inches wide and 28 inches tall. They open up a lot of space, and this impresses buyers greatly.

Con: There Is Less Available Hot Water with Tankless Heaters

Although a tankless heater can provide a home with hot water only when it is needed, the amount is limited to a few gallons at a time. This will mean that more than one occupant in the home cannot take a shower at the same time. They will definitely not be able to do this while they run the dishwasher or the washing machine.

Con: Tankless Water Heaters Are Typically More Expensive

Tankless water heaters cost around $1,000 while the traditional version only has a price tag equal to $300 or $400. While this higher up-front purchase cost is a con, if you consider that a tankless water heater should last longer than a traditional heater you may end up saving a bit over time.

If you are thinking about purchasing a home or are selling the one you currently own, contact your local real estate agent for more information. While they might not be the best source of information about water heaters, these professionals are the best way to ensure you get a great deal on a home.

Posted in Around The Home

Prevent Icy Drafts with Our Easy Three-Step Guide to Weatherizing Your Windows

Prevent Icy Drafts with Our Easy Three-step Guide to Weatherizing Your WindowsIn the cold winter months, you’ll probably want to be outside enjoying the snow when you get a chance – perhaps building a snowman or having a snowball fight with the kids. However, you’ll get cold, and you’ll want to come inside to your well-heated home.

While you may have dealt with insulating your attic, walls and other areas of your home, if you’ve neglected your windows you may find that they become a source of very cold drafts.

In today’s blog post we’ll share a quick three-step guide to weatherizing your windows which will keep you warmer and help to prevent wasted energy and high heating bills.

Between Window Frames and Walls

The first step to weatherizing your windows is to check for spaces in between the window frames and the windows. You can often see any gaps clearly as they will allow you to see straight outside. If you’re dealing with small gaps you can use caulking as a temporary solution.

If you’re dealing with larger gaps, you’ll want to have professionals come in to repair or rebuild the wall.

Between Window Frames and Windows

If you have windows that can be open and closed, you’re going to need to check these to ensure they seal tightly and that the weather-stripping hasn’t worn away. Weather-stripping is typically sold in rolls, and most types have at least one adhesive side so that you can quickly apply it to your windows and frames. Note that there are different types of weather-stripping on the market, so be sure to purchase a type that will work with your windows.

The Window Panes

The window panes themselves can be used to your advantage. On sunny winter days, you can open the windows and let the sunshine in to warm up your home. At night, close the curtains or blinds to help make a sort of insulation to keep out the cold. The thicker the curtains or drapes are, the more they will help insulate your home and prevent heat loss through your windows.

The benefits of weatherizing your windows will serve you well past this winter if done right. Don’t forget that doing the opposite with curtains or blinds in the summer will help keep your home cool, and the value of a house goes up when these kinds of details are covered. When you’re ready to sell your home, be sure to contact your local real estate agent and they’ll be happy to assist.

Posted in Home Mortgage Tips

Budgeting: How to Manage Large Mortgage Payments when Buying a Costly, High-Value Home

Budgeting: How to Manage Large Mortgage Payments when Buying a Costly, High-value HomeSome people try to apply for as small of a mortgage payment as they can reasonably afford to, and there is some prudence associated with this line of thinking. After all, recent economic events have shown that those who get over-extended may wind up in a dire financial situation.

However, there are also benefits associated with a higher mortgage and buying a slightly larger home if you can comfortably afford to do so.

For example, the rate of growth on equity will typically be more significant, and there are tax deductions and tax advantages that may be greater. If you are preparing to take on a larger mortgage payment that is reasonably manageable for you, you may do so with greater confidence when you follow a few tips.

Reduce Your Debts Beforehand

The best way to ensure that your larger mortgage payment is still affordable for your budget is to reduce your debts. When you think about the difference between carrying $800 per month in credit card payments or the equivalent in a higher mortgage payment, you will see that the benefit lies in the mortgage payment. The credit card payments typically will be mostly interest that has no benefit to you.

The mortgage payment is building equity through principal reduction on an asset, and the interest has tax benefits to you. However, you want that extra $800 per month in payments to be affordable. If possible, pay off or greatly reduce your credit card debt before you take on a new mortgage. In addition, close most existing credit card accounts so that you do not accumulate additional debt while you are responsible for the higher mortgage payment.

Increase Your Personal Savings

Then, increase your personal savings if necessary. The best budget with a higher mortgage payment is one that still allows you to save money regularly. If you are unable to save with your higher mortgage payment, there is a good chance that you may be taking on a little too much debt for what you can afford.

Ideally, you will have at least three to six months worth of your expenses on hand in cash and available to access in a worst-case financial situation. You will be able to sleep easier at night with your higher mortgage payment when you have the extra cash available to support yourself in the event of job loss, serious illness or other related events.

Your higher mortgage payment may help you to live in a nicer, larger home, to enjoy better tax deductions and to build equity at a faster rate. However, you want your mortgage payment to be affordable. By following these tips, you can confidently take on the larger payment.

Posted in Home Buyer Tips

Are You Ready to Make the Leap into Home Ownership? Here’s How You Can Tell

Are You Ready to Make the Leap into Home Ownership? Here's How You Can Tell Are you ready to make that leap from living at home or renting to owning a home of your own? While everyone moves at their own pace, here are some signs that you can use to determine if it is time to own your own home. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons you can use to justify your decision.

Are You Sticking Around?

If you plan on moving soon for a job or think that you won’t be in town much longer, it may be better to rent. However, if you are thinking about living in the same town or within the same county for years to come, it is time to put down roots.

The stability that comes with home ownership may make you more prepared for a marriage and/or a family if that is something that you want. This stability may make you more attractive if you are single and searching for a long-term relationship.

Do You Have a Steady Job?

Those who have a steady job and know that they have a stable salary may want to make the move to home ownership. As long as there aren’t any other major debts eating into your income, you can probably handle a mortgage and other costs associated with home ownership.

The equity that you build in your home can help you build wealth for the future if and when you want to retire. Your home may also make a great rental property in the future, which can help you diversify your portfolio and keep you solvent for years to come.

You Are Spending More Time Watching Television Shows Related to Home Ownership

You may have caught yourself recently watching shows revolving around people or couples who are looking for homes. You may also be watching programs dedicated to giving tips as to how you can upgrade your home. If you watch these shows frequently, it may be a sign that you are ready to move out on your own and take on the exciting challenge of being a homeowner.

Are you ready to be a homeowner in the near future? Only you can say for sure if it is time to make that leap. However, those who are looking for a long-term housing solution may be ready to make that move. For more information, it may be worthwhile to talk to a real estate agent today.

Posted in Market Outlook

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 12, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week January 12 2015Last week’s economic news was dominated by labor reports and FHA’s announcement that it will lower its mortgage insurance premiums in an effort to make homes more affordable for first-time and moderate income home buyers. Mortgage rates fell last week as employment reports showed strengthening job markets. The details:

FHA Lowers Mortgage Insurance Premiums

HUD, the agency that oversees FHA, announced Thursday that it will lower annual mortgage insurance premiums by0.50 percent. The change is expected to become effective toward the end of January; HUD stated in its press release that a Mortgagee Letter outlining the changes will be issued shortly.

FHA borrowers pay for FHA mortgage insurance in two steps; an upfront mortgage insurance premium is charged at loan closing, and also pay an annual mortgage insurance premium that is pro-rated monthly and added to mortgage payments.

FHA’s annual premiums increased five times since 2010 and rose from a rate of 0.55 percent to 1.35 percent. Analysts estimated that the reduction of annual premiums to a rate of 0.85 percent will attract an additional 250,000 borrowers of FHA backed mortgage loans and save borrowers about $900 a year.

The move was applauded by housing industry advocates such as the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors®, but critics fear that the move could cause a taxpayer bailout if claims on defaulted loans increase.

Under federal law, HUD is required to maintain a specific level of capital reserves for its mortgage insurance program. FHA reserves were depleted during the recession, which caused HUD to raise annual mortgage insurance premiums to replenish its reserves for paying claims on defaulted FHA loans.

Mortgage Rates, Unemployment Rate Drop

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell across the board. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.73 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.05 percent, a drop of 10 basis points. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 2.98 percent, which was three basis points lower than last week’s average.

Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages and dropped from 0.60 to 0.50 percent for 15-year mortgages. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Several labor related reports were released last week. ADP reported that December payrolls for private sector jobs rose by 241,000 jobs in December as compared to November’s reading of 227,000 jobs. The Labor Department’s Nonfarm Payrolls report was lower with a reading of 252,000 jobs added than November’s reading of 353,000 jobs added, but December’s reading exceeded analysts’ expectations of 230,000 jobs added. November’s reading was likely influenced by seasonal hiring.

Weekly jobless claims were lower at 294,000 new claims filed against expectations of 290.000 claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 298,000 new claims filed. The national unemployment rate fell to 5.60 percent against an expected reading of 5.70 percent and November’s reading of 5.80 percent.

While this reading is below the Fed’s target rate of 6.50 percent, the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in December indicate that Fed policy makers remain concerned about low inflation rates. Falling oil prices were noted as a primary cause of falling inflation. The FOMC also noted slow improvement in housing markets and again cited tight lending standards as a significant cause.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news releases include the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Core CPI, which excludes food and energy. A report on consumer sentiment will also be released in addition to weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Posted in Real Estate Tips

Trying to Sell a Home with Tenants Still Living Inside? These 3 Tips Will Make Your Life Easier

Trying to Sell a Home with Tenants Still Living Inside? These 3 Tips Will Make Your Life EasierAre you thinking about selling a home that you have rented out for some additional revenue? If so, you’re likely trying to discern how to best inform the current tenants and conduct the sales process in a way that works well for all of the parties involved. In today’s blog post we’ll explore how to sell your home while you’re renting it out to tenants and share three tips that can make the process a bit easier.

#1: Review Local Laws and Your Tenancy Agreement

First, you’ll want to break out your tenancy agreement and download any state, provincial or municipal laws that apply to landlord-tenant relations. Selling a home with renters living in it can result in a number of sticky situations. You’ll want to ensure that you conduct yourself in accordance with the rule of law as you may end up in court if the process goes sour.

#2: Communication is a Vital Part of the Process

Next, you’ll need to ensure that you’re communicating with your tenants every step of the way. Meet with them to let them know that you would like to place the home on the market, and explain how the sales process is going to work. Allow your tenants to ask questions and to state their case as they may be willing to buy the home from you if they can afford it, or if the price is right. Be polite but firm; you don’t want to encourage any hostility but this is your property and ultimately, your decision.

Don’t forget to fully inform your tenants as to how home showings will work, as they’ll likely be concerned as to who is being provided with keys to their home.

#3: Incentives Can Sway an Unruly Tenant

Finally, if you’re faced with some unruly tenants that are making the sales process challenging you may find that financial incentives make them back off a bit. You’ll need their cooperation in keeping the home relatively clean and tidy, so you may want to consider offering some gift certificates or paying a portion of the rent in exchange for their help. If you’re hosting an open house over a weekend, offer to put their family up in a nice hotel somewhere in town where they can enjoy a weekend together.

While selling a home with tenants living inside is rarely easy or fun, it’s certainly doable. When you’re ready to learn more about the home selling process, contact your local real estate agent as they can share their expertise and guidance to ensure you get the most from your sale.

Posted in Home Seller Tips

Did You Know? Here’s Why Professionally Shot Aerial Photos and Videos Can Help You Sell Your Home

Did You Know? Here's Why Professionally Shot Aerial Photos and Videos Can Help You Sell Your Home Today’s home buyers are savvier about their buying options than ever before. They are able to research prices, browse listings, and investigate other important factors before even making the first call to a real estate agent. So professional photography and video can make the difference between your home getting a second look or getting skipped. In today’s blog post we’ll explore how professionally-shot aerial photos and videos can help you get your home sold that much quicker.

Buyers Love Having a Birds-Eye View

It’s increasingly likely that buyers will look for aerial photography to help them make their buying decisions. Just like professional ground-level photos of the home and property, and like the video tour that really gives that first-hand feel, aerial shots are something buyers like when evaluating properties.

People enjoy looking at aerial content because it gives them a new perspective. That helps them feel good about their choice to pursue a property. Plus, they take you seriously when you take marketing your property seriously using quality material.

Quality Material Makes Your Property Look Good

Professionals create quality products. They have the skills, tools, and professional eye to make your property and its best features look amazing. Quality marketing materials can even shorten sale time and raise the final list price, too.

Aerial footage is especially effective when topography, land features, and amenities are best displayed from above. Professional aerial shots can really enhance the overall impression of your property.

Professionals Are Certified

The use of unmanned aerial systems – what we commonly call “drones” – is becoming more frequent in the production of commercial photos and videos. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues.

Current Federal Aviation Administration regulation requires that UAS equipment be certified and operated by a certificated pilot when used for commercial purposes. This means that you can’t just buy a drone and take pictures to sell your house. You can’t pay your real estate agent to take them either, unless they also meet the FAA regulations. Hiring a certified operator can save you fines or even legal trouble down the road.

When you’re ready to take marketing your home to the next level, contact a reputable real estate agency to get started. Professionally shot aerial photos and videos can really make the difference for a prospective buyer when they make the list of “must-see” listings.

Posted in Around The Home

Homeowner’s Insurance: What’s Covered, What Isn’t and Why You Might Need It

Homeowner's Insurance: What's Covered, What Isn't and Why You Might Need It Homeowner’s insurance is an incredibly valuable and beneficial policy for homeowners to have, but it is necessary to understand what traditional policies do and do not cover. Once you familiarize yourself with the intricacies of various plans you will be better educated to make the proper decision when selecting your desired level of coverage.

What’s Covered In Homeowner’s Insurance?

The majority of homeowner’s insurance plans will cover dwelling and other structure protection, personal property protection, natural disaster protection, and bodily injury liability protection. Dwelling and other structure protection plans cover damage to your home and other structures that are directly connected to the home, such as the garage. Personal property protection covers damage or loss of personal property within the dwelling. Natural disaster protection covers your home should a natural disaster cause damage, but note that natural disasters such as flooding and earthquakes typically are not covered. Finally, bodily injury liability protection typically covers injuries to individuals while on your property.

What Is Not Included In Homeowner’s Insurance?

As mentioned above, two of the major natural disasters that are not covered by homeowner’s insurance are flooding and earthquakes. There are specific insurance plans that cover flood damage and earthquake damage, but you’ll find that the vast majority of common homeowner’s insurance plans do not cover these types of disasters.

Homeowner’s insurance does not typically cover home business equipment either. If you are running a business from within your home, small business insurance is required to mitigate your risk.

Personal property over a certain value is also not typically covered unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Items such as expensive musical instruments, artwork, jewelry, and silverware should have their own insurance policy which is dedicated to valuable personal property.

Why You Might Need Homeowner’s Insurance

Homeowner’s insurance is intended to help protect you against the unexpected. You never know when a natural disaster such as a tornado or a lightning strike which causes a fire within your home might occur. Accidents do happen, and a visiting friend or relative can be injured on your property. Homeowner’s insurance is a great protection plan to have to make sure that both you and your property are covered should disaster strike.

When you’re ready to buy your next home, be sure to contact your local real estate agent to leverage their advice and expertise. Your agent will also be able to refer you to the best place to get homeowner’s insurance for your new home.

Posted in Market Outlook

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 5, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week January 5 2015Case-Shiller reported that home prices hit their lowest pace in two years. According to the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index for October, home prices fell in 10 cities, rose in eight cities and were unchanged in two cities.

In other news, pending home sales increased and weekly jobless claims rose. The details:

Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Lowest in Two Years

According to its 20-City Home Price Index, Case-Shiller said that home prices dropped by 0.10 percent to a reading of 4.50 percent year-over-year as compared to September’s reading of 4.80 percent year-over-year. Analysts expected home price growth to drop to 4.70 percent in October.

David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that 2014 could finish on a strong note with price growth accelerating in 2015. Home price growth hasn’t hit double digits since April, but there is encouraging news on the horizon.

More than half of states’ average home prices are set to surpass housing bubble peaks in 2015. Through October, home prices were approximately 15 percent below a 2006 peak. Higher inventories of available homes and lower mortgage rates are seen as stabilizing influences on housing markets, and could also encourage more buyers into the market. 

Pending Home Sales Up, Mortgage Rates Mixed

The National Association of Realtors® reported that November pending home sales rose to a reading of 0.80 percent from October’s reading of -1.10 percent. The seasonally-adjusted index reading for November was 104.8.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist noted that steady economic growth and hiring contributed to home buyer confidence. Regional readings for pending home sales were +1.40 percent in the Northeast, +1.30 percent in the South and +0.40 percent in the South. Pending home sales declined by -0.40 percent in the Midwest.

Fixed mortgage rates rose last week. Freddie Mac reported that average rates for 30-year and 15-year mortgages rose to 3.87 percent and 3.15 percent respectively; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 3.01 percent.

Discount points for all types of mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Jobless Claims Up

Weekly jobless claims rose to 298,000 new claims against expectations of 290,000 new claims and 281,000 new claims filed the previous week. This was the highest reading since Thanksgiving.

Analysts said that seasonal hiring fluctuations and the volatility of week-to-week claims cause weekly reports to be less reliable than the four-week rolling average of jobless claims, which fell by 250 claims to a reading of 290,750.

Continuing claims fell by 53,000 to a reading of 2.35 million in the week ending December 20. This reading was close to a 14 year low.

Overall, analysts viewed stronger labor markets and economic growth as positive signs for 2015.

What’s Ahead

Next week will resume a full schedule of economic events including construction spending, ADP employment, Non-Farm Payrolls and the national unemployment rate. The Federal Reserve will release the minutes from the most recent meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

Posted in Around The Home

Three Hot Renovations That Will Boost Your Home’s Value Without Breaking the Bank

Three Hot Renovations That Will Boost Your Home's Value Without Breaking the BankAre you feeling the “renovation itch” or perhaps looking for a fun project that you can take on which will provide you with a return on your investment? There are numerous home upgrades and renovations that can add value to a home without costing a large sum of money to complete.

Let’s take a look at three popular home renovations that can increase your home equity without draining your bank account.

Paint Your Home Inside and out

Painting the interior or exterior of your home costs very little when compared to how much it can freshen up your home’s appearance and increase its value. Painting is also an excellent time to get rid of any old wallpaper or other decor touches that are a little dated. Spend some time browsing through Pinterest or through home improvement websites in order to choose a color palette that is warm and inviting without being too bold. Remember, if the goal is to increase your home’s value you’ll need to paint using colors that buyers will find attractive.

Upgrading Your Windows

If your local environment is cold or wet during parts of the year you may find that upgrading your windows improves your home’s appearance and provides you with some additional savings in the form of reduced energy costs. Look for windows that are energy-efficient and that are guaranteed to eliminate drafts. Depending on the area of the country that you reside in, you may find that windows that are insulated with vinyl or aluminum are your best bet.

Finishing Your Basement into a Suite

If you have an unfinished basement which has a lot of space and running water you may want to consider finishing it in to a full basement suite. Some buyers will be enticed by the additional rental income that can come from a suite, while others will be excited at the opportunity to provide an older child or family member with their own suite inside of the same home.

You’ll find that investing a little time and money in your home now can pay huge dividends later when it’s time to sell and move on. If you’d like to learn more about the value of your home and what you could receive for it if you sold, contact your local real estate professional today.