Getting Ready For Winter: Necessary Home Checks

Getting Ready For Winter: Necessary Home ChecksWhen the leaves start falling, winter can’t be far behind. In order to make sure your home will offer you cozy shelter from the coming cold, there are a few simple checks that you should not delay.

It’s wise to perform simple pre-checks of major home operating systems; schedule required maintenance or call for service if you suspect a problem. Be diligent about routine upkeep; replace filters regularly. Check for faucet drips, and make note of unusual appliance or plumbing fixture noises.

Here are five areas you should not ignore:

The Roof 

A tight roof is vital all year long, but especially in the winter. Take a walk around your home’s exterior and look up. Curling or missing shingles, damaged vents and ridge cap, sagging gutters or loose flashing are all signs that you should call a professional for thorough diagnosis.

Visit your attic to check for drafts and daylight. Also check for small holes and signs of insect or rodent infestation. Critters seek winter shelter, but you don’t want to leave an open invitation.

If you have turbine vents on the roof, you may want to cover them before winter arrives, and fall is the perfect time to do that.

HVAC

As the seasons change and you move from air conditioning to heat, you’ll want to check both for proper operation. With a single integrated system, it’s easy and there’s no need to shut one down to start the other. But if you call a professional to winterize an outside compressor, you might also have thermostat settings checked and recalibrated if necessary. 

If you have a separate oil-burning or propane furnace, confirm your fuel is adequate before turning on the heat.

Fireplace

Whether a fireplace is wood-burning or gas-fired, it’s smart to have a professional check the flue and assure that the damper is operating properly. Make certain the gas line is free from obstructions, and that anyone who lights a fire is aware of safety precautions. House fires and deadly fumes are entirely preventable; a seasonal checkup can save lives.

Doors and Windows

Checking the weatherstripping and seals is an easy task, even though it takes some time. Look for cracked or brittle rubber weatherstripping and light leaks, as well as drafts around the perimeters. Also check for signs of moisture on sills and trim.

Door sweeps should graze the floor so that dust and small insects don’t cross the threshold. Adjust and caulk the threshold if necessary. This is also a good time to check locks on both doors and windows.

Outside Hose Bibbs

Outdoor hose bibbs can be problematic in freezing temperatures. Always disconnect hoses for the winter. If you notice any leaks around a hose bibb, call a professional. During severe weather, it can be helpful to wrap those outdoor hose bibbs with foam insulation and a plastic sleeve in an effort to discourage freezing.

A little preventive maintenance pays big dividends when spring finally arrives!

If you are planning to wait until spring to put your home on the market, contact your trusted real estate agent to find out what other steps you could take now to improve your home’s appeal to potential buyers.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 20th, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 20th, 2018Last week’s economic reports included readings from the National Association of Home Builders and Commerce Department releases on Housing Starts and Building Permits issued. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were released, along with a monthly report on consumer sentiment.

NAHB: Home Builder Housing Market Index Drops 1 Point

August’s reading for the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index dropped one point to 67. This was the lowest reading for home builder confidence in housing market conditions in 11 months. Analysts said that trade wars are causing concern among builders due to higher costs for building materials. Higher costs will be passed on to home buyers, many of whom are already challenged by rising home prices and strict mortgage approval requirements.

Housing starts reached 1.168 million on an annual basis in July; analysts expected 1.270 million starts based on June’s reading of 1.158 million starts. Building permits issued increased in Jul with 1.311 million permits issued on an annual basis. June’s reading was 1.292 permits issued. Lower numbers of available new homes were a potential problem for housing sector, but demand remains high.

Mortgage Rates and New Jobless Claims Lower

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates last week; the rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages fell six basis points to 4.53 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgages fell four basis points to 4.01 percent and rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged three basis points lower at 3.87 percent.

First-time jobless claims fell to 212,000 new claims as compared to expectations of 215,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 214,000 new clams filed. The latest reading approached the level of new jobless claims seen as a post-recession low First-time unemployment claims indicate levels of lay-offs and are viewed by analysts as an indicator of job market performance.

The University of Michigan reported that consumer sentiment reached its lowest reading since 2006. Analysts said that consumer concerns were concentrated among the bottom third of income ranges surveyed. Rising consumer costs caused August’s consumer confidence index to slip to 95.3 as compared to an expected index reading of 98.5. July’s consumer sentiment reading was 97.9.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include readings on new and pre-owned home sales and minutes from the most recent meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

Pros and Cons of Downsizing After Retirement

Pros and Cons of Downsizing After RetirementWith Baby Boomers already rolling into retirement and Gen X looking forward to shrugging off the stress of the 40-hour work week, downsizing could be a strategic move.

For many Americans, homeownership remains their single largest investment and the monthly mortgage payment their highest bill. Lowering or nixing that cost altogether can free up a considerable amount of cash that could be used for retirement security or leisure activities. Keep in mind, your “golden years” should be just that, so enjoy them.

That being said, there are pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to downsize to a less expensive home.

Size Matters

If you have raised a family and find yourself as an empty-nester, so to speak, you probably have more home than you needed during the days of romping youngsters. Downsizing to a smaller home reduces the amount of maintenance, upkeep and cleaning responsibilities. Relieving yourself of those chores can free up time to relax.

On the con side, a smaller home means less space to for family visits. Although children and grandchildren may not spend months at a time, having the space for holiday stayovers can be important. A smart downsizing plan should consider balancing reduced labor with family time.

Costs Considerations

The surface numbers of downsizing often point to freeing up personal income. A lower or no mortgage payment equals more cash on hand. But selling and buying come with industry and relocation costs.

In all likelihood, your home sale and purchase will come with real estate agent fees, closing and moving costs among others. It’s important to factor all of these expenses into your future projections.

Although home transaction costs are generally static in the real estate industry, relocation can be a bit of a wild card. In-state moves may require only a set fee from a local moving outfit. But if you are headed to warmer or cooler climates, a big move can run upwards of 10 percent of your selling price. Get solid moving prices before tallying up your gains.

Ranked among the top pros to downsizing is the reduction in expenses. Retirement-age folks who have built up significant home equity may find themselves in a position to finally have no more mortgage. In this low-inventory seller’s market, the ability to cash out on high equity gives Baby Boomers and Gen Xers a chance at a zero-mortgage lifestyle.   

Many of our valued elders and 50-somethings are in the downsizing driver’s seat. With the help of an experienced real estate professional, your golden years could get even better.

Plant Now For Spring Beauty

Plant Now For Spring BeautyWhile the weather is still pleasant this fall, it can be a good idea to plan ahead for early spring blooms. Trim shrubbery, plant bulbs, install new edging or add whimsical garden accessories to assure that when spring rolls around you’ll have something attractive to look at. Getting creative now will boost your spirits when winter seems to last longer than it should!

Whether you want to beautify for your own enjoyment or spruce up your yard with the intention of listing a home for sale come spring, get a headstart on your goals by taking time now to plan for spring.

Plant Early Spring Flowering Bulbs

If you want a profusion of color in your early spring garden, now is the time to plan for it. Most flowering bulbs require ample in-ground time in order to thrive, so it’s always wise to check with a local nursery before purchasing specific varieties of bulbs. Gardening success depends on adapting to local conditions.

Seek out a qualified expert if you have little experience, and then plan to experiment until your garden grows just the way you want it to. In most areas, the first flowers to bloom include crocus and daffodils, as well as some varieties of tulips.

Plan Your Planting Beds

Depending on your locale, fall can also be a good time to plant new trees and and perennial shrubs. Again, it pays to ask questions and to plan ahead. Even if it’s not the optimal planting season, direct your efforts towards defining planting beds, soil preparation, and various hardscape elements. 

Cooler weather brings with it the chance to do some of the “heavy lifting” of landscape design: install brick or stone walkways, dry riverbeds, low stone walls, or decks and patios. By completing these tasks now, when spring arrives you’ll be able to concentrate on the fun parts of landscaping.

Plant an Edible Garden

Growing edible plants is a new trend: Not only are they generally easy to maintain, but the “fruits of your labor” are just as good to eat as they are to look at. A simple 4×4 raised bed garden can supply a wonderful variety of produce throughout the growing season and you’d be surprised as how they help create unique landscape appeal.

Some of the best crops for fall planting include cabbage, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts and carrots. Even if you don’t eat them, they add a unique dimension to the landscape. Use showy cabbage along a garden path, and plant some carrots among heavier shrubs to create a lighter border.

Just remember that all growing things need a bit of tending to look their best. So be willing to spend a bit of time regularly in the garden — your plants will benefit from the attention, and you’re sure to enjoy it as well!

If you’re sprucing up to put your house on the market, be sure to talk to your trusted real estate professional about the most eye-catching updates for potential buyers.

Easy Decor Tricks That Make Any Home A Standout

Easy Decor Tricks That Make Any Home A StandoutIf your home’s style currently wouldn’t win any awards, there’s no reason to put off a redo indefinitely. With a little ingenuity and a few hours of time, it’s possible to transform a “Plain Jane” into a trendsetter.

Here’s how:

Paint and Pattern

Almost any designer will tell you that color is the best way to alter the character of a room. It doesn’t have to be dramatic; even a subtle change of tone, texture or pattern on a single wall can be a distinctive focal point. If your home lacks architectural detail, you might consider adding wood paneling to one wall or to the ceiling. It can be rustic or refined, and it will add instant appeal and point the way to further decor ideas.

If you don’t want to make major changes, hang simple fabric panels on a decorative rod to frame a window; or add color throughout a room with accessories — textured accent pillows, cozy throws, ceramic lamp bases or attractive woven baskets that do double duty as storage containers.

Framed Photographs

Create a gallery wall by collecting favorite vacation shots, art photographs or family portraits. Depending on your personal taste and your decor style, frame them similarly or create a lively display by interspersing other shapes and objects into the grouping.

It’s best to have a plan, however, before you start pounding nails in the wall. Create your wall montage by first laying it out on the floor or on a large table. Then take measurements and transfer the whole arrangement to your wall.

Family Memorabilia

If you have a variety of items that have special meaning, it’s best to display them or use them regularly rather than to hide them away. Furniture, china, antique clocks or kitchen tools, books — even old clothing or uniforms — can be attractive and impressive when grouped together and displayed.

You don’t want to create a museum in your home, but if you curate a collection with care, it can be meaningful and beautiful at the same time. Small objects are best displayed in some kind of case or on enclosed bookshelves. Furniture, however, can still be functional even if put to a use far different than was originally intended.

Sports Ribbons and Trophies

The rule is: If it has meaning to you, it’s worth showing off. So signed game balls, jerseys and team photographs, as well as the swim team trophy from college or the first place debate ribbon you won in high school should have a place in your home as well as in your heart. They can be as important in your life as your college diploma or your wedding portrait, and you wouldn’t dream of hiding them in a closet, would you?

Your home should reflect your personality, not the style sense of a magazine editor.

Unless, of course, you’re actively trying to sell the house. Then it’s best to pack away some of the personal items! Contact your trusted real estate professional for more staging tips to help make a positive impact on potential buyers.

 

Outdoor Projects That Will Help You Sell Your Home

Outdoor Projects That Will Help You Sell Your HomeFirst impressions matter when you’re selling your home. Curb appeal is what draws potential buyers to your home. It can make or break a home sale.

Attractive landscaping or an appealing entryway can determine whether or not buyers walk through your front door. If the outside of your house is poorly kept up, they probably won’t bother to see the inside.

You don’t have to have a large budget or tons of time to make your home look appealing from the outside. Here are some easy outdoor projects that will help you sell your home.

Get Rid Of Clutter

Getting rid of clutter and garbage in your yard is one of the easiest and cheapest things that you can do to make your home look great. Pretend that you are a buyer. Walk around your home and look for clutter. Pick up any plastic, paper, branches or other garbage that has made its way into your yard. Remove trash cans, skateboards, bikes and garden tools. If you have newspapers on your front porch, clear them away.

Clean Up The Landscaping

The last thing that you want is for buyers to pull up to your house and see an overgrown lawn that is littered with weeds. If you have listed your home on the market, it is important to keep the lawn looking neat and trimmed. Prune overgrown shrubs and trim hedges. Weed and water your flower gardens. Add a layer of mulch to all of your flower beds, as well. Sweep away any dead leaves or small branches. Make sure that you are mowing and weed-eating your lawn on a regular basis.

Repaint the Exterior

Repainting your exterior doesn’t cost a ton of money and it can enhance the value of your home quite a bit. It is especially important to repaint if your existing wood trim and front door have peeling paint. Adding a new coat of paint can be done over a weekend in most cases.

Update Lighting  

If you have old or broken exterior lighting, consider updating it. This is another job that does not take much time or money and can quickly give your home a facelift. Plus, exterior lighting is a great safety feature and something that most buyers appreciate.

Replace Broken Fixtures

Take a look at your door hardware, doorbell, house numbers, mailbox and other exterior fixtures. Do they look worn or old? Are they broken? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then it is time to replace these things. Brushed nickel or bronze are both very nice exterior finishes. They work equally well in both contemporary and traditional homes.

Remember, it can also be a great idea to have your trusted real estate professional take a look and give you tips on how you can maximize your sales price on your home. They have years of experience and will likely be able to uncover opportunities that an owner may overlook.

 

 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 13th, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 13th, 2018

Last week’s economic reports included readings on job openings and inflation along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Job Openings Hit Third Highest Reading on Record

Job openings held steady at 6.70 million in June, which was the third highest reading since reporting started in 2000.

Analysts said that the high number of job openings combined with low unemployment rates indicates healthy labor markets. Fewer jobs were available in transportation, utilities and warehousing, but jobs in education increased.

Job quits remained at 2.20 percent for the fourth consecutive month. Quits are considered an indicator of worker confidence in job markets.

Inflation Inches Up

Inflation rose by 0.20 percent in July according to the Consumer Price Index. While analyst expectations were met, rising housing costs offset a decline in energy prices. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy readings, held steady at 0.20 percent as compared to the same reading for analyst expectations and for June.

The Consumer Price Index rose 2.90 percent year-over-year, which matched June’s reading. The less volatile Core CPI, which excludes inflation readings for food and energy, rose by 2.40 percent year-over-year and was the highest   reading for core inflation since 2008.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Lower

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 4.59 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was three basis points lower at 4.05 percent. Rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged 3.80 percent, which was three basis points lower than for the previous week.

First-time jobless claims fell to 213,000 new claims filed and were lower than the expected reading of 217,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 219,000 new claims filed. The less volatile monthly reading fell by 500 new claims to 214,250 first-time jobless claims.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic readings include reports from the National Association of Homebuilders, Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Big Second Quarter GDP Numbers Impact Housing Market

Big Second Quarter GDP Numbers Impact Housing MarketPositive economic growth numbers are always cause for celebration and the second quarter GDP just went vertical. After nearly four years of sub-par growth, the real GDP hit 4.1 percent in the second quarter.

While that economic news has everyday Americans excited that we may be entering a new age of prosperity, drawing a concrete link to the real estate market may be difficult. But by looking long and hard at this uptick and its potential impact on housing, you may get a better idea about buying, selling or standing pat on residential and commercial property.

GDP Report Points To Demand

Among the positive measures from the recent economic report, consumption enjoyed a positive increase. The first quarter numbers were disappointingly sluggish in this area at a modest 0.5 percent. The second quarter took off like a rocket, by comparison, at 2.25 percent.  

Although that figure shows an upwardly mobile economy, some experts are calling it discouraging given the extraordinary consumer confidence that has risen to record highs of more than 101.0 since November 2017. This opinion begs the question: why are economy gurus disappointed?

The first part of that answer has to do with the implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that is putting more money in American paychecks and rolled back income tax liability. Many economists forecast that this personal wealth growth would turn into solid consumption. While working families have enjoyed a breather in terms of scratching from paycheck to paycheck, home purchases have not gone through the roof.

Home availability remains relatively low. With Millennials scooping up many of the starter-home listings and Baby Boomers downsizing, a significant housing shortfall exists. If you have ever heard the term “seller’s market,” this is it.

Inventory Shortage Means Buy Quickly

There are always naysayers that point to lower than expected consumption and claim the economy is weak. The facts in the GDP report clearly dispute any such ideas.

Business investment spiked to a powerful 11.5 percent and then 7.3 percent in the first two quarters. Fixed business investment is on fire based on deregulation, soaring profits and confidence.

That’s why real estate resources are saying that the only thing holding the market back is inventory. Home sale data is not keeping pace with other sectors of the economy because there simply is not enough inventory to keep up with demand. For first-time buyers, this means get prequalified and act swiftly if you find a dream home. It won’t stay on the market long.

Prospective homebuyers may be relieved to know that positive construction indicators are trending. New homes are expected to improve the inventory shortage heading into 2019. Still, demand is likely to stay ahead of inventory.

Whether you are buying or selling, your trusted real estate professional can be one of your very best assets in this fast-paced market.

Home Trends Includes Natural Mindfulness Designs

Home Trends Includes Natural Mindfulness DesignsUrban and suburban life offers wonderful conveniences and cultural benefits. But a downside that many families are experiencing is the pervasive use of electronics and disconnectedness from nature.

These lifestyle deficiencies have increased the popularity of yoga and meditation and the practice of mindfulness is topping the covers of national magazines. Everyday mothers and fathers are also working hard to engage their children in outdoor activities and nature. These things require an ongoing effort on top of already packed schedules. That’s why mindful home designs that bring nature into your living space have been trending.

Origins Of Mindful Home Design

There are plenty of home fads that come and go. Some may remember the intense oranges of the 1970s or tiles that covered over lush hardwood floors. Yikes.

One of the founders of the nature-infused home movement was America’s beloved architect Frank Lloyd Wright. His acclaimed Fallingwater marvel was built in 1935 directly on top of a waterfall. The design incorporated natural stone and timber in a way that brought the outdoors living experience into the home. The southwest Pennsylvania wonder forms the basis for the recent trend to incorporate natural elements into living spaces.

The idea that connectedness to nature improves mindfulness has been supported by a wealth of research. The Japanese use “forest bathing” as a way to feed the mind and spirit. The basic idea goes hand in hand with Wright’s architectural thinking that human senses benefit from a direct and discernable connection to nature.

Studies have shown that patients recovering from illness or surgery demonstrate marked health improvement through natural immersion. But the practical question is: how does this trend benefit everyday homeowners?

Natural Homes Improve Mindfulness

It’s not practical to bring an entire forest into your home. But creating semi open-air spaces go a long way to enhancing an outdoor feeling.

Many homes are including semi-enclosed spaces constructed from natural timbers, stone flooring and rich plant life that emulate the positive effects nature has on the human psyche. Although subtle, they help reduce the nature deficiency experienced by many tech-oriented adults and children.  

By working with materials that further the experiences of nature’s sights, sounds, touches, smells and even tastes in some cases, living environments are bringing a touch of the natural world home.

When considering a remodeling project or new construction, consider looking at the ideas of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater project and contemporary home designers about infusing nature into your everyday life.

If this housing type is appealing, be sure to let your trusted real estate professional know so that they can help you find just the right home for you.

4 Top Sustainable Home Trends

4 Top Sustainable Home TrendsThe emergence of sustainable energy and products have solidified the go-green movement. Solar energy and electric cars are just the tip of the iceberg.

The impact of products on the environment has become a significant measure about their value. Those same principles are also being applied to homes. Smart homes and energy efficiency have a direct correlation to home values and listing prices. That’s why homeowners and home builders alike have an eye toward sustainable trends. These are some of the top-ranked home trends.

1: Durability Matters

After the catastrophic weather that damaged and destroyed homes in Florida and the Gulf states, “resiliency” has emerged as a key sustainability term. Contractors and home designers are including materials that stand up to extreme weather. These materials also consider toxicity levels, with the most non-toxic being among the more favorable. The storms will come, but how properties resist them and impact the environment afterwards are important sustainability trends.

2: Natural Light Keeps Trending

The use of sustainable solar energy has prompted many to go directly to the source. Large skylights and windows allow natural light to warm homes and reduce the need for electric lighting. Natural light also helps stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder during shorter winter days. Simply put, incorporating natural light resources is a trend that builds off of solar energy thinking.

3: Water Filtration Systems

It’s no secret that municipal water supplies have been compromised on occasion. This trend that started ramping up in 2017 continues to have legs as homeowners are securing water purity. In terms of sustainability, homeowners with water filtration systems have been utilizing them as a method to reduce the amount of bottled waters they purchase. Above and beyond the cost-saving benefits, the reduction in unsustainable plastics is helping to protect the environment.

4: Electric-Only Homes

The high carbon emissions from fossil fuels has motivated environmentally conscious Americans to turn to wind and solar. These days, improved energy storage from high-capacity lithium batteries has opened the door for homes to go all-electric. This appears to be an emerging trend that could pick up additional steam as energy storage technology moves forward. Electric-only homes could be a major step in allowing average homeowners to get off the grid. This trend is not only sustainable for the environment, it lessens the monthly impact on wallets.

Living in the technology era means that change can occur rapidly, and green-friendly homeowners may want to stay up to date on the latest sustainable home trends. They could improve home values going forward.

If green living is one of your priorities, your trusted real estate professional is ready to help you find eco-friendly homes in your area.