Ways to Stay Safe During the Holidays

Ways to Stay Safe During the HolidaysThe arrival of fall, with cooler temperatures followed by a season of holiday celebrations, means getting cozy at home, spending more time cooking and enjoying friends and family in front of a blazing fire, and lighting up your home for a series of holidays. Sadly, though, it is also a time that carries a higher risk of property losses due to fire and accidental injuries.

Here are some guidelines about how to reduce those risks and stay safe this winter:

Keep The Kitchen Safe

Serious burns and kitchen fires can dampen any holiday celebration. Statistics show that Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays can be especially prone to accidental kitchen fires and injury. If you have guests helping out, or children in the kitchen, be especially watchful. Don’t overload circuits and never let electrical cords dangle over counters. Supervise young helpers, and know what to do in case of a stovetop grease fire or a sparking appliance.

Check The Fireplace

There’s nothing as cozy as a roaring fire on a chilly winter evening. But follow the rules for fireplace safety: Have a proper screen, don’t throw paper into the fire, and check the damper and chimney spark arrestor. Whether you have a traditional fireplace or a gas-fueled metal firebox, perform a pre-season check to assure that everything is operating properly before lighting that first fire.

Candle Safety

Candles are a huge risk during the holiday season, from Halloween on through New Years. As pretty as they are, wax candles should never be left to burn unattended, indoors or out. If you want to line your sidewalk with jack-o-lanterns or create a glowing pathway for winter guests, consider battery-operated candles for safety. Indoors, keep candles away from draperies, drafts and flammable decorations, and don’t ever place candles on a Christmas tree or among pine boughs on a mantel or dining room table. It’s simply too dangerous.

Trees And Home Decorations

If lighting up the home for the holidays is a tradition for your family, check the UL label for both indoor and outdoor lighting and never overload a circuit. Use care when stringing lights, and turn them off when you’re not at home. Check ornament labels — look for flame retardant and non-flammable certification. Always turn lights off at night or when you’re not at home.

General Safety Precautions

Autumn is also the prime time to test your home’s smoke alarms. It’s smart to stage a family fire drill. Go over your escape plan in case of fire, and be sure to inform guests about what to do in case of emergency. In addition, if you don’t already have a carbon monoxide detector, why not consider installing one this fall?

Staying safe is a family responsibility, one that you should take seriously!

Whether you are looking for a new home or want to list your current property this winter, your trusted real estate agent has home safety and home improvement ideas that will help to make your next home transaction a wonderous success!

 

Winterizing Your Yard: 3 Landscape Tips

Winterizing Your Yard: 3 Landscape TipsIn some parts of the country, it has already started snowing! But, even if you live in an area with a moderate climate, your lawn and garden are about to take a “winter break.” 

Here are 3 tips to assure that your yard will not only survive the winter, but flourish during the dormant season. They’ll assure that your landscape will greet spring full of life and beauty.

Fertilize The Lawn As Recommended

Most types of grass and landscape plants have a kind of built in “alarm clock” that helps them prepare for the changing seasons and the onset of winter. Many lawns, though, benefit greatly from a a fall “feeding” in order to supply proper nutrients to help roots survive during the cold and be ready to start growing again above ground in the spring.

Applying the proper fertilizer this fall is a simple and cost-effective way to get a jump on next year’s beautiful lawn. When and whether you fertilize will depend on your specific type of grass and your location.

Baby Your Plants

Autumn is the time you’ll want to pamper your plants — from rose bushes to winter squash, kale or potatoes — and different plants require varied treatments to protect them from the cold and frost. If you’re not a master gardener yourself, your local nursery should be able to offer advice. The top three things to remember are that plants need to be well-hydrated in order to prevent stress, that they might need extra nutrition (fertilizer) during the cold season, and that most plants like an extra blanket (in the form of additional mulch) during the winter.

Again, specific solutions will depend on the types of plants in your garden, but a little extra effort this fall will help even your traditional flower garden bloom even more beautifully come spring!

Extend The Growing Season

If you have a backyard vegetable garden or a raised bed full of herbs and spices, and you live in an area with mild to moderate winters, you might be able to extend the growing season indefinitely by covering your beds or tenting the garden. Learn how to protect your plants from freezing by using a frost blanket or rotating row covers. It’s not really that difficult, and the difference of only a few degrees can make a big difference. 

Although frost blankets can top plants directly, you can make them even more effective if you build a simple framework — something like a miniature greenhouse — to give your plants a winter home that allows air to circulate.

For additional information, check with a local greenhouse or nursery, or just experiment with different ideas. No matter what you plan to do, the time to begin is now!

If you are interested in putting your house on the market, your trusted real estate agent has tips and tricks to make the outside and inside of your home shine for potential buyers.

 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 15th, 2018

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - October 15th, 2018Last week’s economic reports included releases on inflation, consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

Inflation and Consumer Sentiment Dip

The Commerce Department reported slower growth in inflation for September. The Consumer Price Index for September showed a growth rate of 0.10 percent. Analysts projected a reading of 0.20 percent growth, which was based on August’s reading of 0.20 percent.

This was the sixth consecutive month-to-month increase in the inflation rate. Year-over-year, inflation has grown 2.30 percent as compared to the prior year-over-year rate of 2.70 percent.

Analysts said that rising rents and homeownership costs drove consumer prices higher, but consumer prices in other sectors eased.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors, was unchanged at 0.10 percent growth month-to-month. Analysts expected CPI to increase to 0.20 percent.

According to the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for October, Consumer confidence slipped to an index reading of 99.00 as compared to September’s reading of 100.1 and expectations for an October reading of 100.6.

October’s reading exceeded the average reading of 98.50 for 2018.Analysts attributed October’s lower reading to consumer concerns over their finances as inflation rises and income remains relatively unchanged.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week. The average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages rose 19 basis points to 4.90 percent. 15-year fixed rate mortgage rates were 14 basis points higher and averaged 4.29 percent.

Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 4.07 percent and rose by six basis points. Last week’s average mortgage rates were the highest rates seen since April 14, 2011.

First-time jobless claims rose by 7,000 new claims filed to 214,000 new claims. Analysts expected a reading of 205,000 new claims filed based on the prior week’s reading of 207,000 first-time claims filed.

Last week’s reading was attributed to effects of Hurricane Florence, but economists said that the reading was close to low readings seen in the late 1960s.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on sales of pre-owned homes, the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued. The Fed’s FOMC meeting minutes will also be released, along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims.

Tech Jobs Driving House Flipping Projects

Tech Jobs Driving House Flipping ProjectsReality TV shows about house flipping make it look easy. But behind every lucrative renovation project, there are factors that impact profitability such as buying price, labor costs, unforeseen setbacks and perhaps most importantly, location.

There is no escaping the old real estate adage of “location, location, location.” Home-flipping entrepreneurs must take into account whether polishing up a blighted building is in a viable resale neighborhood. One of the location factors some house flippers are following is the trend in tech jobs.

Because the tech industry does not necessarily rely on interstate highways, commercial hubs or seaports, computer-oriented businesses are taking advantage of once vibrant manufacturing areas that have fallen on hard times. Property values in these areas seem to be trending behind some of the nation’s hotspots despite having many desirable community living aspects such as parks, walking trails, waterfronts, restaurants, and a vibrant arts scene.

Rust Belt Resurgence

Following the decline in industrial work in areas throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois and others, once highly sought after cities and towns saw mass population declines. The lack of good-paying jobs left large numbers of wonderful homes and commercial buildings under-occupied.

Tech companies have been putting some economic lifeblood back into these communities in recent years. House flippers have been hot on their heels to renovate properties as high-paying workers migrate into the communities. Some of the numbers coming out of cities such as Pittsburgh and Buffalo have been impressive.

In Pittsburgh alone, house-flipping profits exceeded 162 percent in the second quarter, and Buffalo topped 100 percent. Considering the national average for this sector stands at about 44 percent, chasing tech outfits appears to be rewarding. Pennsylvania is reportedly now the second best place for home-flipping profits at 132.7 percent statewide.

Tech Trends Nationwide

The former mill and mining areas of the Rust Belt are among the top trending regions for flipping homes as Internet-based companies set up shop. There are also smaller pockets of tech-driven opportunities for contractors and real estate professionals to turn profits.

In New England, small cities such as Providence, RI, are seeing an upsurge in old mills being converted into online and tech business spaces. In Massachusetts, technology jobs have been on the rise in the region north of Boston. Former manufacturing hubs are seeing properties move as high-paying jobs increase. The opportunities for home flippers are growing.

Nashville, Tennessee, is reportedly outpacing tech-heavy Seattle in terms of employment growth. The professional networking website LinkedIn reported that 85 in 10,000 members relocated to Nashville through September. Approximately 118 in 10,000 moved to Austin and 96 to Denver. It appears the country is in the midst of tech-industry migration.

This trend is likely to continue, and house-flipping entrepreneurs are likely to have robust opportunities in these emerging housing markets across the country.

Contact your trusted real estate professional to learn about the current market trends in your area.

Best Things To Do Now To Get Your Finances Mortgage Ready

Best Things To Do Now To Get Your Finances Mortgage ReadyYou probably already know that qualifying for a mortgage can be the biggest hurdle — aside from actually finding that dream property — along the path to home ownership.

Rather than agonizing about it, however, there are some positive actions you can take in advance to help you realize your dream.

Take A Close Look At Your Budget

If you don’t currently operate with a comprehensive household budget, get started now to analyze your income and monitor your spending habits. There’s no better way to prepare for home ownership than by being realistic about how you spend your money. If you don’t have a regular savings program, or if you’re constantly short on cash prior to the next payday, take steps to remedy the problem. Plan for the future by getting the present in check.

Gather Employment And Earnings Records

Mortgage lenders want to see stability and commitment. Finding and organize your employment records to show a consistent earnings pattern and, hopefully, a record of growth, both in terms of income and responsibility. Simplify the task of gathering required documents by collecting all records in a binder or notebook that can easily be copies when it’s time to submit them to a lender. It’s a confidence-building step as well.

Organize Your Banking Records

Lenders will not only want to see employment records, but they will require copies of all bank and investment accounts as well. Again, by being organized and getting a handle on your dollar inflow and outflow, you’ll gain insights into your individual spending habits and make the job easier for a mortgage specialist.

Make Copies Of Your Tax Returns

Tax returns confirm and validate all the other financial information that you will be required to supply. Typically, returns for the past two or three years will be required. If you own a small business or have income in addition to that from paid employment, make copies of those records as well.

Put A Halt To Spending

Perhaps the best way to demonstrate your serious intent to purchase — and pay for — a new home is by curtailing your spending on impulse purchases and expensive entertainment. This is not the time to buy a new car, book an exotic vacation, purchase major electronics or even home furnishings, or commit to time payments of any sort. Frugality should become your mantra in the months leading up to loan qualification.

Monitor Your Credit Cards

If your credit rating is within acceptable limits, do what you can to make all payments on time, pay down balances, minimize new purchases and demonstrate your continuing ability to “live within your means.” Do not apply for new credit cards, no matter how tempting the offers, because increased account activity can adversely affect your FICO score. In addition, if you have a blip on your credit report, do what you can to repair it prior to making a mortgage loan application, or be prepared to explain the circumstances, in detail and in writing.

Applying for a loan need not be scary. Understanding the financial reality is a great benefit.

Securing your financing is an important part of the home buying experience. Your trusted real estate agent is ready to help you every step of the way.

Fall Outdoor Lighting Tips

Fall Outdoor Lighting TipsMany people associate the fall months with cooler temperatures and changing colors. But another defining characteristic of fall is that the days become shorter. Yes, there’s limited daylight, as the sun rises later and sets earlier.

Noting this, it’s important to take any exterior lighting into consideration if you’re listing your home this fall. It’s important because you want your home to have a welcoming vibe to it, but with the potential for showings to occur in limited daylight, some modifications and new light installations may be necessary in order for it to stand out. What’s more is that exterior lighting can serve as a theft deterrent.

Here’s a closer look at some fall outdoor lighting tips to enhance the appeal of your home this fall:

Go Solar

Solar lighting is an effective, sustainable way to highlight the landscape of your yard, and illuminate paths and walkways. Just make sure that you’re placing solar lights in areas that receive lots of sunlight during the day so that they have plenty of energy after the sun goes down.

Border Patios, Decks

If your backyard features a patio, deck or gathering space away from the home, don’t miss an opportunity to border it with lights to better highlight said features. If your deck or patio has railing, consider stringing lights throughout it.

Here’s another neat idea: If you have a patio umbrella, consider purchasing lights that fit within it. You should be able to purchase an umbrella solar light set from your local hardware store, which does wonders in providing accent lighting for this area. Even if the umbrella isn’t staying with the house, it can still make for a nice touch.

Don’t Shine Lights On Windows

Any lights that shine on windows will only hinder your home’s appearance. That’s because they’re likely to create a glare. Make sure that any lighting that you incorporate is well balanced and only goes to help the home’s overall appearance. On a similar note, make sure that any lighting doesn’t clash with each other.

Consider Uplighting

Uplighting, or shining lights so that they are hitting your home at an upward angle, is a creative way to make your home appear larger. Additionally, uplighting can help accentuate unique architectural features. Be sure to uplight from each side of the house for the best overall look.

Light For Safety

Finally, you should also be arranging lights in a way that promotes safety on your property. For instance, if there are any steps or inclines, make sure that the areas are well lit to avoid the potential for injury.

Contact your trusted real estate professional for many other tips to make your home showing a success!

Common Misconceptions About House Flipping

Common Misconceptions About House FlippingReality TV shows have energized everyday people to dive into the real estate market and make money flipping houses. The dramatic presentation and profitable end results make the industry seem like a sure thing. But house-flipping, like any industry, has its share of challenges.

Television often props up ratings by showing industry pros overcoming adversity and getting a big win. But reality, unlike Reality TV, is filled by behind-the-scenes unknown obstacles. While house-flipping has emerged as a viable niche profession, these are some of the common misconceptions entrepreneurs may want to consider before wading into the business.

Perfect Properties Are Available

On television, the home-flipping team often settles on that perfect property that will yield amazing results. It’s important to understand that’s a Hollywood formula designed to improve viewership.

In reality, the perfect home is like finding a unicorn. Most flipping projects deal with less-than-perfect properties. What remains important for home-flippers is that the property enjoys structural integrity and the basic elements are in place.  

Projects Run On Time

Watching a home-flipping show makes the process seem quick and easy. After all, many of the shows run between 30 minutes and one hour. Your project time will be considerably longer.

Starting with a listing search through the initial buy, even industry insiders spend months securing a property. After that, the permitting process can be onerous and renovations are commonly met with unforeseen setbacks. Whether you discover mold behind walls or structural issues, remodeling generally experiences delays. Once you get everything copacetic, inspection waiting periods can be excessive. Projects rarely run on time.

Construction Budgets Are Just Math

Watching a TV personality whip out a calculator and add up remodeling costs makes it look simple. There are square footages, materials, labor and other tangibles. Home builders and remodeling professionals are quick to dispute such simplicity because too many “intangibles” exist.

Consider replacing the clapboard on the exterior of a home. One might expect to calculate the square footage and order an equal amount of material. But an experienced contractor might tell you to start by ordering an additional 10 percent to account for waste. That’s because a percentage of material that gets cut might not be reusable.

After accounting for that 10 percent, add another 10 for human error. Many types of clapboard require builders to set the commercially-cut end to the interior only. When inexperienced workers make erroneous cuts, increased waste can be produced. This theme runs across a variety of materials and other aspects of construction. It’s unlikely your crew will be filled with 25-year veterans. Mistakes are more common and costlier than you might expect.

ROI Can Be Measured Accurately

Beginner home-flippers tend to look at the cost of the property, add updating costs and the average market value of similar homes as the basis for determining return on investment (ROI). But selling prices can be more fickle than one might expect.

Today’s home buyers are looking for certain things from newly renovated properties. The math no longer amounts to adding total rooms, bathrooms, square footage and location. While the country is in the midst of a seller’s market due to a significant inventory shortage, home-flippers would be wise to calculate ROI based on a sliding scale.

If the property lacks the conveniences favored by Millennials or other groups buying up homes, it could sell for less than expected. That’s another reason why home-flippers are wise to enlist the guidance of a local real estate professional to gain a reasonable grasp on home trends and pricing.

Your trusted real estate professional is ready to help you find the right project property if you are ready to take on the challenge of house flipping!

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 8th 2018

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - October 8th 2018Last week’s economic reports included readings on construction spending and labor reports on public and private-sector job growth. The national unemployment rate was released along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

Construction Spending dips in September, but Residential Construction Spending Rises

Construction spending rose 0.10 percent in September, but residential construction spending fell 0.70 percent month-to-month. Construction spending was 4.10 percent higher year-over-year. January through August construction spending was 5.30 percent higher than for the same period in 2017.

Analysts estimated a shortage of approximately four million homes; which accentuates demand and drives prices up. In recent years, builders have concentrated on higher-end homes, but analysts said that a shift to building super-affordable homes may be in the works. High home prices and ever-increasing rents are squeezing moderate-income families; providing more affordable housing options could lessen demand and help home price growth to normalize.

Mortgage Rates Little Changed, New Jobless Claims Lower

Freddie Mac reported little change in mortgage rates; 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged one basis point lower at 4.71 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was also one basis point lower at 4.15 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 4.01 percent and were four basis points higher. Discount points averaged 0.40 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims fell last week to 207,000 new claims filed as compared to expectations of 213,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 214,000 claims filed. Analysts said that fewer claims were filed as the impact of Hurricane Florence diminished.

Labor Reports: Job Growth Mixed as Unemployment Rate Nears 49 Year Low

Commerce Department readings on public and private-sector job growth showed more private sector jobs, while the government reading for public and private sector jobs dropped/ ADP reported 230,000 more private-sector jobs in September; the government’s Non-Farm Payrolls report showed 134,000 new public and private sector jobs as compared to 270,000 new jobs in the prior month. Analysts expected 168,000 new public ad private sector jobs and said that the shortfall in job growth for September was a consequence of Hurricane Florence.

The National Unemployment Rate fell to 3.70 percent in September, which was the lowest reading in nearly 49 years.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include readings on inflation, core inflation and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

Pros And Cons: Older Homes Versus New Construction

Pros And Cons: Older Homes Versus New ConstructionOpinions differ about whether home buyers are best served by purchasing an older home or new construction.

New homes enjoy that “new home” smell and the idea that you are the very first occupant can be very appealing. On the other hand, older homes resonate with nostalgia and many architectural design elements are no longer commonly used.

While some people feel strongly one way or the other, it’s a lot like comparing apples and oranges. The right home for any home buyer is the one that fits your lifestyle. Consider these pros and cons of new and older homes when making your decision.

Construction Differences

Home builders often tout the state-of-the-art aspects of new construction. Perhaps the biggest pro to new construction is the integration of smart and energy efficient technologies.

Today’s homes often come tech-ready with the ability for homeowners to control the environment through mobile apps. Solar panels are more common than ever, and new kitchen, HVAC and other necessities benefit from the latest advancements. Aside from being tremendously convenient, many of the new technology and materials can save you a significant amount of money.

On the flip side, older homes often require updating to include smart technologies. Gaining those conveniences could mean laying out a substantial amount of cash.

But don’t think for a moment that new construction somehow outpaces older homes in terms of energy efficiency. Materials used to build houses decades ago tend to be more durable. Items like thick, hardwood flooring were once commonplace. Today, they are considered high-end materials.

The Bottom Line: New construction offers modern conveniences while older homes showcase vintage materials.

New And Older Construction By The Numbers

One argument for buying new construction leans on the cost of upkeep.

An American Housing Survey reportedly pointed to new construction homeowners spending less on maintenance than their older construction counterparts.

The report promulgated by the Census Bureau indicates that 73 percent of people who owned a home four years old or less spent under $25 monthly on monthly maintenance. Only 11 percent spent upwards of $100 while 26 percent of older homeowners topped this cost. When routine maintenance exceeds $1,000 annually, that’s significant.

On the other side of the coin, older homes often come at a discounted price.

New home listing prices reportedly exceed those of similar older homes by upwards of $100,000 or 30 percent on average. This initial cost should be a strong consideration when doing the long-term math on homeownership. At $1,000-$1,200 additional cost annually, an older homeowner may have to live in the home for a very long time before it became less cost-effective.

The Bottom Line: Homeowners either pay on the front or the back end.

Homeowners Insurance Coverage

One of the common misconceptions about coverage stems from the idea that higher-priced new homes cost more to insure. This is often not true.

When taking out a policy, homeowners often insure the home based on the purchase price. This may satisfy the lender, but it may not be adequate to rebuild in the event of a total loss. New construction estimates tend to be fairly accurate because materials and labor costs haven’t changed significantly.

On the other hand, older homes are often made from materials that are considered specialty of high-end on today’s market. That means rebuilding an older home to its former luster could far exceed the current value. If that nostalgic feel is important, homeowners may need to insure the structure at a higher replacement cost.

The Bottom Line: Both types of homes could require similar coverage.

Regardless of what experts say about new and older construction, it’s important to consider a wide range of pros and cons and determine the home that’s right for you. Speak with an experienced real estate professional for detailed information on the properties that you are considering.

True Facts About 4 Real Estate Reality TV Myths

True Facts About 4 Real Estate Reality TV MythsMany of us are guilty of plopping on the sofa and binge-watching reality TV home flipping shows. The allure of buying and selling homes for big profits with no boss looking over our shoulders has major lifestyle appeal.

Shows like “Love it or List it,” “House Hunters,” “Flip or Flop” and others make it look incredibly simple. Even when they face adversity such as rotted wood or bad pipes, the way the reality TV stars overcome adversity is more of an inspiration than a deterrent. And plenty of everyday people do manage to succeed in the house-flipping industry.

But many of the myths these ratings-driven shows perpetuate could use a little busting.

Consider these four common house-flipping myths and the true facts behind them.

1: Three Viewings And A Closing

Reality TV shows tend to show viewers the industry professional looking at no more than three homes before making a flipping decision. That may play into the limited time slot they have but it’s far removed from reality.

True Facts: It’s not uncommon for potential home buyers to fall head over heels for the first property they view. After all, buyers often already like the neighborhood, school system, and home style. But the National Association of Realtors reports that the average person looks at about 10 properties before making a decision. Home flippers are additionally tasked with developing a return on investment plan. Three and done is not reality, it’s just TV.

2: Homes Linger On The Market

TV shows follow home flippers who seem to have all the time in the world before making an offer.

True Facts: Most of the purchase and sale process is simply staged for television. The homes have been pre-purchased before filming. Today, we are experiencing a seller’s market, meaning there are more buyers than inventory. Homes move quickly.

3: Open Houses Are A Sure Thing

On real estate reality TV shows, the fully renovated home is amazingly staged and sells during the first open house. Multiple offers are often floated.

True Facts: Only in a perfect world or on TV does this happen. Matching properties with potential buyers requires hard work from real estate agents. They must align purchase limits, pre-approved house shoppers, family size, school systems, location, and other expectations. Most homes are sold by real estate professionals setting up appointments and making multiple showings.

4: Homeowners Make Fast-Sell Decisions

On real estate reality TV, homeowners seem to take just moments to decide whether to love it or list it. This certainly doesn’t mirror the process of ordinary homeowners.

True Facts: Homeowners sell their properties for a wide range of reasons. These may include downsizing, retirement, relocation or an expanding family among many considerations. The vast majority of people mulling over a sale also take a long look at their next home options. It’s completely unrealistic to think someone made such a major life decision in five minutes or less.

Reality real estate TV shows are wonderfully entertaining to watch. So is science fiction. Enjoy your binge-watching and speak to a real-life real estate professional before making any major decisions.