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May 29, 2015

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Concrete Countertops: Learn Why Concrete May Be the Best Thing to Hit Your Kitchen

Concrete Countertops: Learn Why Concrete May Be the Best Thing to Hit Your KitchenUpdating your kitchen may be a project that you have been looking forward to for a long time. Now that the time has come to get started working on your project, you may be exploring the different materials that are available to use in your kitchen. The counter tops are often a prime focal point for a kitchen remodeling project. While there are several materials available to consider, concrete may be the best option for a number of reasons.

Endless Design Options

Concrete is a popular material that is used on patios, decorative floors and more because it can be stained, scored and shaped with almost endless possibilities. Just as the design options are limitless for other areas of the home, the same holds true when using concrete for your counter tops. You can customize the size, shape, finish, edge style and color without limits to achieve the desired look for your space.

Affordable Material

Concrete is not quite as affordable as laminate counter tops, but it is far more affordable than most other options. It also has a higher end look than laminate, and it can be poured, scored, and stained to mimic other higher end materials. This is a great way to get a luxurious look for your counter tops without paying a high price for them.

Highly Durable

Like many other materials that you may be thinking about for your counter tops, concrete will need to be sealed for long-lasting beauty and style. Once sealed, this is a material that is resistant to damage from heat exposure, staining, water exposure and more. Essentially, it is one of the most durable materials that you can use in your kitchen.

The kitchen is by all accounts a functional room, and counters will be exposed to heat, water, sharp edges and more over the course of time. Concrete is a material that holds up well in this type of environment.

It is rarely easy to select the perfect materials to use in your home remodeling project. After all, you may be concerned about style, durability and cost, and each material may have pros and cons. After discovering the benefits of concrete counter tops, however, you may have found the material you are searching for. You can request a quote for your concrete counters and review the incredible design possibilities.

May 28, 2015

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Received an Offer for Your Home? How to Respond with a Counter-offer Asking for a Higher Price

Received an Offer for Your Home? How to Respond with a Counter-offer Asking for a Higher PriceGetting an offer on your house is the first step in getting it sold, but buyers often feel that they have to come in lower than your asking price. After all, everyone wants the deal to work out in their favor. If the offer you received isn’t quite what you hoped, you can always make a counter-offer. Getting the details right can help make your deal go more smoothly.

Deciding On A Price

When your real estate agent helped you set the price of your home, you already had an idea of what it should fetch in the marketplace. If the offer wasn’t far off from your asking price, it’s acceptable to counter with your original asking price. Many buyers could be willing to pay full price. If you feel that technique is a bit brazen for your style, you could instead drop the original price by a few thousand dollars.

Another technique is to try to “meet in the middle”. For example, if there’s a $10,000 difference between the asking price and the offer price, you might offer to drop the price $5,000. Of course, the bigger the difference, the less enthusiastic you’ll be about dropping your price.

Factors To Consider

Keep in mind that the actual selling price of the house isn’t the only thing that will be negotiated. If you’re giving in a little bit, then you should expect to get a bit in return, but the same is true for the buyer. For example, a first-time homebuyer might not have a lot of money for a down payment. If you counter with an offer that’s too high, they might respond with another offer accepting the price, but asking for seller’s concessions at closing time.

Additionally, as you start to come down in price, you might consider taking out items that you might have included in the original offer, such as high-end appliances.

Don’t Forget The Fine Details

Discuss the details of what you want with your real estate agent. They’ll be able to let you know if you’re making the right move, considering the current market in your area. They may also have information about the buyers, such as an educated guess about how high they’re willing to go. Your agent will also have all the paperwork you need readily available. In most cases, all you have to do is fill in the blanks in a few spaces.

You want the highest price for your home, but getting the best deal is often a delicate dance. Know your limits and work together with the buyers to reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial.

May 27, 2015

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Case-Shiller Home Prices: San Francisco, Denver see Double-Digit Increases

Case Shiller Home Prices San Francisco Denver see Double Digit IncreasesSan Francisco, California where home prices rose 10.30 percent year over year in March, and Denver, Colorado with an even 10 percent gain in year-over-year home prices led the Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index for March. Rounding out the top-five cities for year-over-year home price growth were Dallas Texas at 9.30 percent, Miami, Florida at 8.70 percent and Tampa, Florida with a year-over-year average gain in home prices at 8.10 percent. San Francisco’s reading for March was the first double-digit increase in home prices since last July.

The five lowest year-over-year price gains occurred in Washington, D.C. and Cleveland, Ohio tied at gains of 1.0 percent, New York City with a year-over-year gain of 2.70 percent, Minneapolis, Minnesota with a gain of 3.00 percent and Phoenix, Arizona with a year-over-year increase of 3.10 percent.

Overall, the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index rose by 5.0 percent year-over-year and by 0.90 percent in March. Analysts said that while home prices remain 16 percent below their pre-recession peaks, home prices are 31 higher than the lows recorded in March 2012.

When asked if house prices are in a bubble, David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P Index Committee said that “The only way to tell if housing prices were in a bubble is looking back after it’s over.” Mr. Blitzer said that adjusted for inflation, home prices have increased on average by one percent per month since 1975, and that the current 4.10 percent monthly growth of home prices could suggest a bubble. Mr. Blitzer cautioned that home price increases are outpacing increases in personal income and national wage growth, a circumstance which reduces the pool of potential home buyers due to affordability issues.

FHFA House Price Index Posts 5.2 Percent Gain Year-Over-Year

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that as of March, prices for homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages rose by 5.20 percent year-over-year. The agency also said that average home prices increased by 1.30 percent in the first quarter of 2015.

Home prices were 5.0 percent higher in the first quarter of 2015 than for the first quarter of 2014. This data is consistent with the unrelated Case-Shiller home price data for March. FHFA reported that home prices rose in 48 states between the first quarters of 2014 and 2015. The states with the top rates of year-over-year home price growth were:

Colorado 11.20 percent

Nevada 10.10 percent

Florida 8.70 percent

Washington 7.60 percent

California 7.50 percent

The Mountain Division led the nine Census Bureau Divisions in home price growth with a growth rate of 2.60 percent in the first quarter and a year-over-year growth rate of 6.80 percent.

May 26, 2015

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 26, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 26 2015Last week’s economic reports included several readings related to housing The Wells Fargo/National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, the Commerce Department’s releases on Housing Starts and Building Permits, and the National Association of Realtors® report on Existing Home Sales supplied mixed news on recent developments in housing. Freddie Mac and the Labor Department released their usual reports on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims. The details:

NAHB: Builder Confidence Slips, But Remains Positive

The Wells Fargo/ National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released its Housing Market Index report for April. Although April’s reading was two points lower at 54, any reading over 50 indicates that more builders consider housing market conditions positive than not. April’s reading on builder confidence was the 11th consecutive index reading over 50.

According to NAHB, builder confidence in present housing market conditions dropped by two points to a reading of 59, while builder confidence in market conditions over the next six months rose one point to 64. Builder expectations for buyer foot traffic dropped by one point to 39. The lower readings for buyer traffic could be related to more home shoppers starting their home search online.

Building Permits, Housing Starts Show Improvement

The Commerce Department reported that building permits for April were higher at 1.14 million as compared to the March reading of 944,000 permits issued in March. Analysts expected a reading of 1.03 million permits issued, This was the highest reading for building permits since mid-2008.

Housing starts rose by a noteworthy 20 percent to a reading of 1.14 million in April, but analysts cautioned that this reading was inconsistent with the more moderate pace of improvement in overall housing markets. The Commerce Department reported that starts of single family homes rose by 17.60 percent to a reading of 666,000 starts. This was the highest rate of single-family starts since early 2008, but analysts noted that April’s high reading for housing starts could reflect delayed starts that were impacted by winter weather.

Existing Home Sales Fall Due to Rising Home Prices

The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of previously owned homes dropped as home prices increased. A tight supply of available homes and higher home prices slowed the sales pace of existing home sales. April sales of existing homes fell from the March level of 5.21 million sales to 5.04 million sales; analysts had forecasted a higher sales volume of 5.24 million existing homes sold.

Rising home prices pose challenges to first-time and moderate income home buyers, and strict mortgage standards can make it tough for those with less than stellar credit scores to qualify for mortgages. Rising home prices are good news for homeowners as bidding wars have been reported in high-demand areas.

Mortgage Rates Lower, Jobless Claims Up

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates were slightly lower. Mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.84 percent. Discount points rose from 0.60 to 0.70 percent. Mortgage rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.05 percent with average discount points of 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 2.88 percent; discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 274,000 new claims filed. This reading exceeded expectations of 269,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 264,000 new claims. Analysts said that although this was a four-week high for new unemployment claims, layoff s remain low. Year-over-year, new jobless claims were 16 percent lower. New jobless claims remain close to a 15-year low and layoffs hit their lowest level on record. This news could build prospective home buyer confidence as job security plays a major rrole in most decisions to buy a home.

What’s Ahead

This week’s housing related reports include the S&P Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indexes and the FHFA Home Price Index. New and Pending Home Sales reports and the usual mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims reports are also scheduled.

May 22, 2015

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Four Handy Tips for Managing Your Lawn After the Spring Rains Have Arrived

Four Handy Tips for Managing Your Lawn After the Spring Rains Have Arrived In many areas, the spring months mean warmer temperatures, more sunshine and plenty of beneficial rainfall that your yard may thrive with. These are prime growing conditions for your lawn, but they can also make lawn maintenance a challenge. By following these helpful tips, you can take better care of your yard during the rainy spring season.

Re-Seed or Re-Sod Carefully

The spring months are one of the best times of the year to re-seed or re-sod your lawn. If you have bare spots in your yard, these spots can turn into giant mud puddles during a heavy rainstorm that can be a true eyesore. New grass seed and fresh sod both require ample water to grow, so you can take advantage of the rain to grow new grass in your bare areas.

Mow When Possible

The sunshine, warm temperatures and ample rain can all make your grass grow quickly, and it can also make your weeds grow even faster. Mowing your lawn frequently will help you to keep the weeds from spreading seeds throughout the yard and creating an even greater problem. It can be difficult to find a time when the grass is dry enough to mow at certain times, so you may need to make mowing a priority during dry spells. This will also help you to keep your yard looking neat and tidy during the peak growing season.

Fertilize As Needed

Fertilizing the yard can also be beneficial during the warm weather season. Fertilization now can give you lush, green grass for many months to come. It can also be beneficial for you by helping to get rid of weeds that may be cropping up. Fertilizer needs water, so fertilizing before a light rain storm is a smart idea.

Avoid Walking On It

Grass can easily become damaged when you walk across it after a rain storm. It can tear the blades from the roots and create a trampled upon look that is not desirable. You can minimize damage to your yard by not walking on it until the ground has dried out again.

Taking care of your lawn may be a top priority year-round, but your focus may be drawn to it after the chilly winter months transition into warmer, wetter spring months. By following these tips, you can take better care of your yard throughout the spring and beyond.

May 21, 2015

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Real Estate Investing: Why Buying Raw Land Can Be an Excellent Long-term Strategy

Real Estate Investing: Why Buying Raw Land Can Be an Excellent Long-term Strategy When many people think about investing in property, they think about purchasing income-producing real estate such as a residential property or an office building with tenants. There are indeed many benefits associated with investing in income-producing property. For example, these properties may produce rent that can offset your ownership expenses. However, buying raw land can also be an excellent long-term investment strategy.

By learning more about the benefits of investing in raw land, you may be ready to start searching for real estate to invest in soon.

Minimal Ownership Expenses

Raw land will not have as many ownership expenses as land. This property may not produce rental income for you, but you also will not have to maintain or repair a building or pay for property insurance. Property taxes and a mortgage payment may be lower as well. Typically, your main expense will be the mortgage payment, and this may be far less than what a mortgage payment on developed land may be.

You essentially will be able to pay for the property outright to have no expenses or to leverage your investment and make affordable mortgage payments to pay for your investment.

Significant Potential Gain

There is a significant potential for long-term financial gain with your purchase of raw land. Consider that you can adjust the zoning or subdivide the property as desired. You can also wait for urban sprawl to reach the area to drive up demand and value for the property. It can be difficult to predict when the property value will increase. However, when you select a property in an area that seems to be growing, you may expect there to be some demand for that property in the coming years. Many who have invested in raw land may realize a significant gain when they make plans to hold onto the property for several years or longer before selling it.

Before you make any financial investment, it is important that you consider the amount of time that you wish to hold the investment before seeing a return on it. With raw land, you generally need to anticipate hanging onto the asset for several years or even decades before seeing a financial gain.

Keep in mind that land is a limited resource, and there is increasing demand for it as populations rise in many areas. With this in mind, you can generally expect most property values to eventually rise over time.

May 20, 2015

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Buying a Classic Older Home? Three Upgrades You’ll Need to Make Immediately

Buying a Classic Older Home? Three Upgrades You'll Need to Make ImmediatelyWhile some home buyers only want to live in a brand new home and will custom build a home to their specifications, others are drawn to the historic character and charm of a classic home. Older homes may have incredible architectural detail and special features that you simply do not want to change. However, there are some essential features that should be upgraded as soon as possible after you take ownership of your classic home.

The Electrical Panel

Many older homes were built at a time when electricity use was at a minimum, but the reliance on electricity has increased over the years. Older homes may commonly have an electrical panel with 50 amps or less, but your current needs may require you to have a panel with at least 200 amps. It may be good to have an electrician inspect the electrical panel as well as the wiring in the home to determine if an upgrade is needed in your new home.

Re-Plumbing the Pipes

A quick plumbing inspection will tell you if the home has copper, steel or other materials used with piping. The best material is copper because it is resistant to leaking, corrosion and rusting. Steel pipes generally should be replaced with copper as soon as possible. Other materials, such as cast iron, may be acceptable to keep in place. However, sections may need to be replaced if the pipes are more than 50 years old.

Firestops in the Structure

The good news about the structure of older homes is that older homes generally are better built than newer homes. However, most lack the critical feature of a firestop. A firestop essentially can minimize how fire travels through a home. Adding firestops to an older home can improve safety for the home’s occupants in the event of a fire and can minimize fire damage.

It is understandable that you may want to retain the historic character and charm of your older home. These may have been the features that you fell in love with when you bought it. However, you also want to ensure that the home has modern features that will make it comfortable and safe for you and your family to live in. These are all important improvements that you will want to make now that ultimately could improve your experience throughout the entire time you live in your home.

May 19, 2015

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Put Your Game Face On: How to Negotiate with a Home Seller and Their Real Estate Agent

Put Your Game Face On: How to Negotiate with a Home Seller and Their Real Estate AgentAll real estate transactions come with at least some negotiations, and some transactions are heavily negotiated from start to finish. As a home buyer, you understandably want to negotiate the best overall deal possible while successfully reaching your goal of closing on the home you have fallen in love with. To be truly successful with this process, it is important that you understand how to negotiate with the seller and the seller’s real estate agent.

Understand The Seller’s Position

In order to be successful with negotiations, you will need to understand the motivations and desires of the other party. A seller may have an emotional attachment to his or her home, but he or she also may have a desire or need to move. Some may have a firm bottom line for a price that they can accept or concessions that they are able to pay for out of pocket. While some may be unreasonable, most are willing to compromise and negotiate provided that your offer is feasible for their financial situation.

Define Your True Requirements

Just as a seller will have a hard and fast bottom line, you also may have specific requirements that you need to meet. This may be a firm closing date, the need to have some of your closing costs paid or a firm sales price that you do not want to exceed. While negotiations inevitably may have you asking for slightly more than what you truly need, it is important to define for yourself what your true requirements are and to remain focused on these when negotiating.

Be Willing To Compromise

When offers and counter-offers are flying back and forth between a buyer and seller, it is easy to feel stressed and even challenged by the other party. While there are times when a seller’s counter-offer may be unreasonable, most are reasonable and fair within limits. You may decide to submit a counter-offer as well, but some compromise will show the other party that you are willing to work with them.

From negotiating a sales price to asking the seller to make some repairs to the home after the inspection has been completed, there may be different times during the process when you need to negotiate. Consider these tips to help you more successfully negotiate with the seller and seller’s agent. A skilled real estate agent can also be instrumental with representing you during negotiations, and you can seek assistance from an agent today.

May 18, 2015

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 18, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 18 2015Last week’s economic reports included data from the Federal Reserve on student loan debt, job openings and retail sales. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s survey of average mortgage rates were released as usual on Thursday. A report on consumer sentiment wrapped up the week’s scheduled economic new.

Federal Reserve: Student Loan Borrowers Struggle with Payments 

In two reports issued by the New York and St. Louis branches of the Federal Reserve, researchers found that high numbers of student loan borrowers are behind in making payments. According to the New York Fed, 11.10 percent of student loan borrowers were 90 or more days past due on their payments during the first quarter of 2015.

This is a slight improvement over the fourth quarter of 2014, when 11.30 percent of student loan borrowers were 90 or more days behind with their payments. The Fed notes that these percentages do not include borrowers who are behind on payments but who are not required to make payments due to forbearance or other approved payment deferrals. 

The burden of student loan debt is a serious consideration for the housing sector, as student loan debt can keep would-be buyers from qualifying for mortgages needed to buy homes. Worse, delinquency on student loans can damage borrowers’ credit and create further obstacles to getting a mortgage.

Job Openings, Retail Sales Lower

The Labor Department reported that job openings fell to 4.99 million in March as compared to February’s reading of 5.14 million job openings. March job openings increased by 19 percent year-over-year. There were about 1.72 job seekers for each job opening in March, which is lower than the reading of 1.77 job seekers per job when the recession started in December 2007.

Retail sales were unchanged in April against an expected increase of 0.10 percent and the March reading of 1.10 percent. Retail sales without the automotive sector expanded by 0.10 percent against expectations of 0.40 percent growth and March growth of 0.70 percent. Increasing fuel prices and skepticism over economic conditions likely contributed to slack retail sales.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, Jobless Claims Lower

Weekly jobless claims provided some good news as they came in at 264,000 new claims against expectations of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 265,000 new jobless claims. This was the third consecutive week that new jobless claims were less than 270,000; this has not occurred since 1975.

Freddie Mac reported that average rates for fixed rate mortgages rose, while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage ticked downward by one basis point. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.85 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also increased by five basis points to 3.07 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Consumer sentiment as reported by the University of Michigan dropped to a seven month low of 88.6 as compared to April’s reading of 95.9 and an expected reading of 94.9. Consumers are concerned about the economy and their personal finances. The reading for consumer sentiment prior to the recession averaged 86.9 over the year prior to the recession. Economists cited weak wage growth and rising fuel prices as contributing causes of consumer uncertainty.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes a number of housing-related reports. The NAHB Home Builders Housing Market Index, The National Association of Realtors® Existing Home Sales report, Housing Starts and Building Permits and the minutes of the Fed’s last FOMC meeting are set for release. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and Weekly Jobless Claims will be released as usual on Thursday.

 

 

May 15, 2015

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Thinking About a Major Renovation? Three Reasons to Consider Adding a Second Story

Thinking About a Major Renovation? Three Reasons to Consider Adding a Second StoryWhen your home is no longer fully functional for your needs, you may be thinking about moving into a larger home with a more functional floor plan. While this is one option to consider, another option is to renovate your existing home. You could build a wing onto your home, or you could add a second story to the property. There are several reasons why adding a second story to your floor plan may be the best solution for you.

Use the Existing Footprint

When you build a wing outward from your home, you will need to pour more foundation and take up a section of the yard with the new addition. By building upward, you can keep your yard intact and use the existing footprint. You may even be able to build into an attic space without making any structural changes to the home itself.

Improve Property Value

When you add a second story onto your home, you essentially will be adding more usable square footage with finished out space. This can have a direct and significant impact on your property value. You will not need to pay moving expenses or worry about if your existing furniture will fit into a new home. You will be able to enjoy the benefits of a larger and more functional home coupled with the ability to recoup most or all of the cost of the renovation through an increase in property value.

Keep Costs to a Minimum

By using the existing footprint of your home and by avoiding pouring more concrete for the foundation, you will be able to keep costs to a minimum. In some cases, such as if you build into the existing attic, you will not need to adjust the frame or roof to find the additional space you need. You may still need to add drywall, HVAC ducts and other features inside the frame of the home to take advantage of this space, but it generally is more cost-effective to build upward rather than outward when renovating a home.

A major renovation is one that can improve the style of your home, but it often will improve the function and increase value as well. If you are thinking about renovating your home, you may research how beneficial it can be to add more space upward on your home rather than to build outward.

Chris Brown
Chris Brown is the premier expert on HARP loans and Government FHA and VA loans. Please visit The Mortgage Chili Blog