Posted in Around The Home

2016 Kitchen Decor Trends to Inspire Your Renovations

2016 Kitchen Decor Trends to Inspire Your RenovationsA kitchen upgrade may seem like the sort of renovation that will cost a pretty penny, but there are a lot of funky things you can do that will add an easy accent and make for a current look. If you’re planning some home improvements in 2016, here are some upcoming trends you may want to try out.

Cue The Contrasting Cabinets

It can be a major undertaking to change the style of your kitchen cabinets, and that’s probably why many people are considering a little switch instead of a major upheaval. By keeping your top cabinets the same and adding a funky new color or material to the bottom half, you can create a striking appearance. Keep in mind that if you don’t want to change out your cabinets entirely, you can go for a bold paint color instead.

Bring Color Into Stainless Steel

From teakettles to mixers, brightly colored kitchen appliances have certainly seen a retro rebirth in recent years, but the stainless steel trend is also experiencing a bit of an upgrade. While the material remains popular, many people are becoming interested in different stainless steel color options like black and sunset bronze which offer a unique look for an old mainstay.

A Multi-Use Island

Space in the kitchen can become an issue when it comes to dinner parties, and that’s why the diverse utility of a kitchen island is maintaining its popularity. Instead of the prominent counter for holding fruit bowls and extra papers, think of a funky, fashionable drink cart or side table that can be used for prepping extra food and will have many other purposes once the party is over.

The Non-Committal Kitchen Shelf

While kitchens have become more of a gathering space for family and friends in recent years, this has led to the popularity of a less-formal kind of kitchen. Instead of a lot of counter space and pots and pans in their place, create a bookshelf or cabinet that mixes the living room and kitchen together, full of dishware, books, utensils and other popular household items. It’s a piece that will easily transform your space.

There are a lot of unique fixes on the horizon for 2016 that will instantly modernize your kitchen and easily improve its look. If you’re currently renovating and are looking to put your home on the market, contact your trusted real estate agent for more information.

Posted in Home Buyer Tips

5 Documents First-time Home-buyers Need for a Smoother Purchasing Process

5 Documents First-time Home-buyers Need for a Smoother Purchasing ProcessWith all the work that goes into finding the kind of home you’ll want to put an offer on, it can be easy to forget about all the little things that happen after the deal has been made. While the paperwork involved in purchasing may seem like a long way off, here’s a quick review of some of the documents you’ll need when the time comes to seal the deal.

Your Credit Report

It’s important to review your credit before putting an offer in, so ensure that you request your credit report in advance and review it for any errors that may be present. If there are any discrepancies negatively impacting your credit score, you’ll be able to have them corrected before they can cause an issue with your real estate purchase.

Pay Stub Proof

In order to ascertain your ability to pay your monthly mortgage, you will need to provide pay stubs from your current place of employment. You won’t want to give away your originals, but a photocopy of your paychecks usually serves as adequate verification.

Recent Bank Statements

The number of bank statements required to prove your credit history may change depending on the lender you’re dealing with, but you’ll probably need photocopies from the last two to three months. This will be a means of proving your financial health as well as your ability to pay your monthly mortgage.

Tax Return Copies

Your federal tax returns will provide further proof of your employment and financial standing, so the last two years of these – complete with your signature – will need to be submitted. Keep in mind that any schedules you’ve filled out to complete your yearly returns should also be included.

Additional Asset Statements

In addition to recent bank statements, if you have any stocks and bonds, mutual funds, RRSPs or other investments, you should also provide statements of proof for these. While these accounts will only require your most recent statements, they will be beneficial in providing a more comprehensive picture of your finances.

There are many aspects of purchasing a home that can be time consuming, but having the documents you need beforehand can save a lot of stress when crunch time comes. If you’re planning on purchasing a home soon, contact your trusted local real estate professional for more information.

Posted in Home Seller Tips

How Your Home’s “Days on Market” Affects the Buyer’s Opinion

How Your Home's Whether you’ve done a lot of research on the real estate market or you’ve sold a home before, you may be aware that there can be a lot of trepidation around how long your house remains up for sale. If you’re concerned about your home’s market potential, here’s what you need to know about “Days on Market” and how it can impact your home sale.

“Days on Market” Explained

A fairly no-nonsense phrase, Days on Market (DOM) refers to how long a home has been listed on the real estate market. The DOM stat can be found on many Multiple List Systems (MLS), and this can be seen as a signifier to agents and buyers of a home’s overall popularity. The way days on the market is determined varies from listing to listing, but the common belief is that after a certain period of time, a home’s valuation can be diminished.

What It Means To Potential Homebuyers

When it comes to real estate, the general hope is that a home will sell within the first 60 days of being put up for sale, and this is why the DOM can say a lot to potential buyers about your home’s value. While people may assume that a home that’s been sitting on the market for longer than this timeframe is either overpriced or in poor condition, there are ways the seller can get past this hiccup and still have selling success.

If “Days on Market” Are Adding Up

In the event that the first 30 days are drawing to a close and you haven’t received any offers, you may want to sit down with your real estate agent and decide on a new strategy together. While a home without offers can be a sign that your price is too high, you may also need to switch to an agent that will take a more assertive approach to selling. It can even be a good idea to remove your home from the market so the DOM can go back down to 0 and you can start from scratch.

A DOM in the double digits can often signal to buyers that there are issues with your home or asking price, so it’s important to keep this in mind when your home is on the market. If you have questions, contact your trusted real estate professional for more information.

Posted in Home Seller Tips

5 Easy Ways to Brighten up Your Curb Appeal

5 Easy Ways to Brighten up Your Curb AppealIt can be easy to forget, but the first thing people will see when they come to your home is the outside, so it’s important to have a well-maintained and picturesque property that represents the inside of your home positively. If you’re looking for a few ways to boost your outdoor space, here are a few tips to help with curb appeal.

Plant A Flower Bed

Whether you decide on a tiny plot or a much larger space, a splash of flowers is great for adding a warm, homey atmosphere to your front yard. This can easily be done by going to your local nursery, picking out some easy-to-maintain perennials and watching the blooms begin to appear.

Trim The Hedges

It’s entirely possible that you have a few trees or shrubs in your yard that have gotten a little bit unruly, but a little time with the snippers for some shaping and the look of your yard will be automatically improved! If you have any shrubs or small trees that have seen better days, you may want to remove and replace.

A Fresh Coat Of Paint

It’s quite common to hear how much a layer of paint can improve things but this is especially true when it comes to your front door. While a tired and dull looking door can reflect poorly on the house within, a new coat of paint will add instant shimmer to your exterior.

Keep It Tidy

Whether you have kids who love to play in the yard or you’ve been doing a little lawn maintenance, leaving out toys or shovels and wheelbarrows can really take a lot away from your property’s look. While you may only be planning on keeping these items out for the short term, a quick pick up at the end of each day makes a marked difference.

Make A Stone Pathway

It may not be something you need, but a whimsical walkway with flattened stones can add a nice touch to your property and make it stand out. If you’re feeling ambitious, you may even want to add a bench or a birdbath to make for a unique escape for your family.

There are a lot of simple fixes you can utilize that will instantly boost the look of your home’s exterior. If you’re fixing up the outside of your home in the hopes of putting your property on the market, you may want to contact one of our knowledgeable real estate professionals for more information.

Posted in Financial Reports

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 11, 2016

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 11, 2016Last week’s economic news included minutes of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

FOMC Minutes Indicate Fed Not Pressing Rate Increases

Minutes of the FOMC meeting held March 15 and 16 suggest that FOMC members are easing their enthusiasm for raising the target federal funds rate. In recent months, the committee has indicated that it was leaning toward raising rates on a slow but steady pace. Ongoing concerns over changing global economic and financial conditions contributed to FOMC’s decision not to raise the key federal funds rate. Low energy prices continue to cause U.S. inflation to stay below the Fed’s goal of two percent, which suggests that the economy is not recovering as fast as originally expected.

Labor markets continued to improve as the national unemployment rate held steady at 4.90 percent in February. FOMC noted that the labor force participation rate and employment to population ratio increased. The four-week moving average of new jobless claims fell in March after increasing in February. These readings support continued expansion of labor markets.

Housing markets and household spending improved. Committee members characterized developments in labor and housing markets as “broadly consistent” with earlier expectations. Some housing markets connected with energy production weakened. FOMC members elected to maintain the target federal funds rate at a range of 0.25 to 0.50 percent. Global financial and economic developments were cited as contributing to the Committee’s decision not to raise its target rate.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Lower

Mortgage rates fell across the board last week. According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates, the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped to 3.59 percent from the previous week’s reading of 3.71 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped 10 basis points to 2.88 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped to 2.82 percent from 2.90 percent. Average discount points held steady at 0.50, 0.40 and 0.50 percent respectively. Last week’s mortgage rates were the lowest in 14 months.

Analysts said this news was positive in the sense that lower rates make mortgages more affordable, but more home buyers entering the market would further increase demand for homes. Low inventories of homes and high demand have fueled higher home prices in many areas.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 267,000 new claims against expectations of 268,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 276,000 new jobless claims. New jobless claims remained below the benchmark of 300,000 new claims for the 57th consecutive week.

What’s Ahead This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news releases include retail sales, the Fed’s Beige Book report, the consumer price index and core consumer price index. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report will be released as usual on Thursday.

Posted in Real Estate Tips

Four Excellent Reasons You Should Check Your Real Estate Agent’s References and Testimonials

Four Excellent Reasons You Should Check Your Real Estate Agent's References and Testimonials There are different methods that home buyers may use to find a real estate agent to work with. While some may use the services of a real estate agent who they know personally, others may reach out to a professional who they have located online. Regardless of whether you previously knew the individual in a non-professional setting or not, it is important that you check your agent’s reference and testimonials before you get started with the home buying process. There are several good reasons for this.

The Importance Of Accessibility

Whether you are trying to find the perfect property and submit an offer before anyone else or you are actively negotiating with a seller, you need your real estate agent to be accessible to you. Simply because you are friends with the agent or they were friendly to you with the first phone call does not mean that they will continue to be accessible to you until you close on the home. References and testimonials can give you more information about this.

Professional Demeanor Throughout The Process

The right real estate agent is one who remains cool and composed throughout the transaction with all parties. Negotiations can become heated at times, and you want your real estate agent to have a professional demeanor under pressure. References and testimonials can give you first-hand insight about the agent’s demeanor.

Skilled With Negotiations

It is not enough to have a real estate agent represent you in negotiations. You also want the real estate agent to have some skills and a track record for success. You may not get everything you want with negotiations because of the need to compromise, but your real estate agent should be able to structure a deal that works well for you.

An Overall Great Experience

There will inevitably be times of stress and anxiety when you are buying a new property, and it is not reasonable to expect otherwise. However, a real estate agent should be by your side to facilitate the process, to explain concepts and to help you make better decisions from start to finish. When you read reviews and testimonials, pay attention to how satisfied the clients were with the overall process.

There are many factors to consider when selecting the right real estate agent to work with. While you want to have a great interactive dynamic with your real estate agent, you also need to focus on these factors to make the best decision possible. You can begin by contacting an agent today and requesting references from the professional.

Posted in Around The Home

A Quick and Easy Guide to Hiring the Best Contractor for Your Pre-sale Home Renovations

A Quick and Easy Guide to Hiring the Best Contractor for Your Pre-sale Home RenosIf you’re planning to complete some renovations on your home before putting it on the market, you may be unsure of the best way to go about finding the right contractor for the job. While there are probably many contractors available who can do your renovations right, here’s how you can get to the bottom of who will work the best for you.

Make A Few Phone Calls

Once you’ve done some research and determined a short list of prospective contractors, you’ll want to call each contractor to determine that they can complete your project in good time and are the right candidate for the work required. If they’re not available or are cagey about your question, this can be an easy way to whittle down the list.

Arrange A Meeting In Person

While a phone interview should provide you with some good insights right off the bat, you’ll also want to meet your potential contractors face to face before making any final decisions. If you get along well with the contractor and they are able to answer the questions you ask with confidence, it’s a good sign that they may be the right pick for your project.

Check In On The References

Once you’ve decided between a few candidates, make sure you contact their former clients to determine how happy they were with the work and the contractor. Since you may have a date in mind for when you want to put your home on the market, it will be important to know if the job was completed in good time, as well as if any final issues were left hanging in the air unfinished.

Consider The Estimated Costs

Last but not least, you’ll want to have each contractor break down the project and provide a projected cost for labor and materials. You should be able to get a good sense of exactly what it’s going to cost and which bid is the most realistic. While it may be tempting to go for the lowest bid since you’ll probably be moving soon, you’ll want to strongly consider which contractor and which price will turn out the best in the end.

It can seem complicated to hire a contractor for your home renovations, but by conducting simple interviews and checking references you should be able to determine who the best person for the job is. If you’re curious about renovations and how they can impact the sales price of your home, you may want to contact your local real estate professional for more insights.

Posted in Home Buyer Tips

How the Truth in Lending Act Protects You When You Take Out a Mortgage

How the Truth in Lending Act Protects You When You Take Out a MortgageIf you’re planning to get a mortgage, it’s critical that you know your rights under the law. The Truth in Lending Act (TILA) is a piece of federal legislation that governs how mortgage lenders can and cannot operate their businesses.

So how does the Truth in Lending Act protect you, and what are your rights under this legislation? Here’s what you need to know.

Your Lender Must Give You A Timely Loan Estimate

A Loan Estimate (previously known as a Good Faith Estimate) is a document your lender provides you that details information about what kind of a mortgage you’ve applied for. Your Loan Estimate includes terms such as your estimated monthly payment, your estimated interest rate, and whether or not your mortgage balance is able to rise even if you make payments.

Under the Truth in Lending Act, your lender is obligated to give you a good-faith Loan Estimate within three days of when you apply for your mortgage. If your lender fails to provide your Loan Estimate within three days or fails to fix reported errors within 60 days, you can sue for damages and report the lender to the federal government.

Your Lender Must Notify You Of Rate Changes

The Truth in Lending Act states that your mortgage lender is required to give you an annual percentage rate estimate within 1/8 of one percent of government guidelines. Your lender must use the government-approved mathematical formula to provide your rate estimate.

If your estimated rate may be subject to change, your lender is obligated to disclose the first possible change you’ll see to your interest rate, and the maximum degree to which it may change. Your lender is also required to disclose the maximum possible changes for subsequent rate adjustments.

There Are Strict Rules About How And When Lenders Can Charge Late Fees

If your lender typically administers fees for late payments, TILA will specify that your lender must notify you – in advance – the date on which a late fee will be imposed and how much the late fee will be. TILA states that no late fee can exceed 4 percent of the amount past due, and a payment is only considered late if it is 15 or more days past due (or 30 or more days past due if you prepaid your interest). Your lender also cannot charge you a late fee on top of a late fee.

TILA is a powerful consumer protection law that gives would-be homeowners a great deal of power. By knowing your rights under TILA, you’ll be able to confidently negotiate with lenders and avoid any unnecessary problems. Contact your real estate professional to learn more.

Posted in Home Seller Tips

Selling Your Home Soon? 4 Ways to Quickly Boost Your Curb Appeal

Selling Your Home This Month? 4 Ways to Quickly Boost Your Curb AppealMost people that have embarked on selling their home know a lot about how to showcase the inside of it, but one of the most important parts of showing a home can be forgotten as a result. Since the outside of your home is the first thing a potential homebuyer will see, here are a few simple ways you can quickly boost its appeal.

Re-Consider The Front Door

If your door is both welcoming and majestic, you may be able to skip this step, but if you have chipped paint or disintegrating steps, it’s definitely going to be worth a minor renovation so you can make a positive impression. It’s just a fact that if the front door isn’t up to snuff, any potential homebuyer is going to have a bad feeling about your house right from the start.

Languish Over Your Lawn

The look of your lawn is going to be noticed right away, so make sure that your grass is weed free and well-manicured. If you happen to have flowerbeds, you ‘ll want to make sure that any dead plants are pulled before seeing any potential buyers. In addition, if any pruning needs to be done, it’s a good idea to complete this before anyone arrives on your front stoop.

Perk Up With Paint

Few things will perk up the look of a surface than a primed paint job, so while it can be a large task to complete, you may see the results in the sale price of your home. While you may want to stick with the color you already have, if you do decide to change it up ensure it’s a color that isn’t so bold it will turn off potential homebuyers.

Clear Away Anything Extra

If you’re going to be showing your home, it’s very important that everything unnecessary on the front law, like children’s toys or an empty wheelbarrow, is stored away. A tidy lawn will leave buyers with the instant impression that your home maintenance is as impeccable as that of your front yard.

There are many great tips for showing a home, but it’s also important to consider how your home will look from the street. Since this will be the first things potential buyers view, it will have an impact on their first impression. If you’re selling your home and are interested in what’s on the market, you may want to contact one of our real estate professionals for more information.

Posted in Financial Reports

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 4, 2016

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 4, 2016Last week’s economic calendar was full of new releases including pending home sales, Case-Shiller Home Price Indices and construction spending. Labor related reports including ADP payrolls, federal Non-farm payrolls, and the national unemployment rate were also released along with reports on consumer confidence and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new unemployment claims.

Case-Shiller: January Home Prices Up 5.7% Year-Over-Year

According to the S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index for January, home prices increased by 5.70 percent year-over-year. The West led price increases with double-digit price gains posted for San Francisco, California, Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. Denver, Colorado also posted a double-digit gain, but dropped its recent lead for metro areas tracked by the 20-City Index.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported better than expected growth in February pending home sales. Low mortgage rates pushed pending home sales to their highest rate in seven months. Pending home sales rose 3.50 percent in February, which exceeded the expected reading of 1.80 percent and January’s reading of 03.00 percent. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said that February’s reading indicated that housing markets may be recovering after choppy winter sales. Mr. Yun also noted a “slight uptick in inventory,” which is good news for housing markets currently experiencing low inventories of homes for several months or more.

S&P Index Committee Chair David M Blitzer echoed Mr. Yun’s remarks about the impact of low inventories of homes for sale. While higher home prices driven by low inventories benefit home sellers, there comes a point where potential buyers cannot find and / or afford available homes. Constructing new homes is the only immediate solution to increasingly limited supplies of homes for sale.

Construction spending slipped in February from January’s upwardly revised $1.150 trillion on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. February’s reading was $1.144 trillion. Construction spending fell 0.50 percent as compared to analysts’ expectations of 0.20 percent. Year-over-year, construction spending was 10.30 percent higher in February.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rates survey reported mixed results last week. The average rate for a 30-yar fixed rate mortgage held steady at 3.71 percent; the average rate for 15-year fixed rate mortgages rose by two basis points to 2.98 percent and the rate for 5/1 adjustable rate rose by one basis point to 2.90 percent. Average discount points were unchanged across the board at 0.50, 0.40 percent and 0.50 percent respectively.

New unemployment claims rose to 276,000 against an expected reading of 270,000 new claims and 265,000 new claims the prior week.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported fewer jobs created in March than for February. 215,000 jobs were added in March as compared to the expected reading of 203,000 new jobs and February’s reading 245,000 new jobs. ADP reported a lower reading of 200,000 private sector jobs added as compared to expectations of 205,000 jobs added and February’s reading of 205,000 private sector jobs added. The national unemployment rate ticked up to 5.0 percent over February’s reading of 4.90 percent.

Consumer confidence rose over two percent in March with a reading of 96.20 percent. Analysts expected a reading of 94.20 based on February’s reading of 94.00.

What’s Ahead This Week

Economic reports scheduled this week include job openings and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.