NAHB: Builder Confidence Outstrips Pre-Bubble Highs

Home builders surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders expressed their highest level of confidence in housing markets since 1999. The index reading for housing market conditions in December hit 74, which exceeded November’s reading of 70. Analysts expected a flat reading of 70 for December. Readings over 50 indicate improvement in housing market conditions.

The three component readings used to comprise the Housing Market Index also rose in December. Builder confidence in current market conditions rose four points for a reading of 81; builder confidence in housing market conditions over the next six months rose three points to 79. Most surprising was the jump in builder confidence in buyer traffic levels in new housing developments. Traditionally, this reading rarely exceeded 50, but in November, it achieved the benchmark reading. December’s reading for buyer traffic gained eight points to 58. December’s reading for builder confidence in buyer traffic reached its highest level since 1999.

Home Builder Confidence Reflects Strong Economic Conditions

Strength in jobs markets and overall economic conditions drove builder confidence; home builders also cited potential tax breaks associated with pending tax legislation. Tariffs on Canadian lumber were cited as an obstacle to builder profits and increased prices.

High demand for homes caused by slim supplies of homes for sale continues to boost home prices. Real estate pros have said that increasing construction of single-family homes is the only way to correct the current imbalance between rapidly increasing home prices and challenges for first-time and moderate-income home buyers who cannot compete with cash buyers or afford rapidly rising home prices.

Builder Confidence Expands in All Regions

Builder confidence also rose according to the three-month rolling average for builder confidence in the four regions tracked by NAHB. The Northeastern region reported a one-point increase for a regional reading of 54.  Home builder confidence gained six points in the Midwestern region for a reading of 69. Home builders in the South reported a confidence reading of 72, which was three points higher than in November. Builders in the Western region reported a two-point gain in confidence with a reading of 79 in December.

Going Solar: 3 Reasons Why Solar Panels Should Be Your 2018 Home Improvement Project

Going Solar: 3 Reasons Why Solar Panels Should Be Your 2018 Home Improvement ProjectHave you been scratching your head, wondering what your next great home renovation project should be? If you are like most homeowners, you have many areas that could use a little attention. Let’s explore three reasons why installing solar panels should be high on your list of home improvement projects for 2018.

The ROI On Solar Is Getting Better

It might seem counterintuitive to think about spending money to save money, but with solar panels, that’s precisely what you are doing. Solar is an up-front investment that returns money to your bank account over time. As you are generating your own electricity, you will spend less on utilities each month. Depending on your setup, you may even be able to sell surplus electricity back to the grid, lowering your monthly bills even further.

Don’t think about solar panels and installation as sunk costs that will never be recovered. Instead, work with your solar installer to determine what your return-on-investment should be.

Solar Drives Property Values Higher

As you might expect, installing solar panels can also increase the value of your home. Many potential home buyers are searching for modern, efficient, climate-friendly homes that allow for a bit of energy independence. If your home already has these features, it is likely to be more compelling than other houses on the street without them. If you are thinking of selling your home in the future, installing solar is a great way to increase its value.

Protecting Your Local Environment And Community

Finally, let’s not forget that investing in renewable energy means protecting the health of your local community. Every solar panel installation that goes up means one less home relying on power produced by other means. It might not seem like much, but over time a single home’s worth of solar panels can prevent a significant amount of emissions from reaching the sky. You can even take things one step further and invest in an electric car which can be connected to and charged by your solar panels.

These are a few of the many good reasons to consider an investment in solar panels in 2018. If you are interested in going solar, but can’t with your current home, contact us today. Our friendly team of real estate professionals is happy to share some beautiful local home listings that are ready for solar.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 18, 2017

Last week’s economic reporting included readings on inflation, core inflation and the Post-meeting statement of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee. Fed Chair Janet Yellen also gave a press conference; weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

Inflation Rises in November

U.S. inflation rose by 0.30 percent to 0.40 percent in November; October’s reading was 0.10 percent and November’s reading met analysts’ expectations. Core Consumer Price Index readings for November posted a gain of 0.10 percent, which fell short of the expected reading and October’s reading of 0.20 percent. Core CPI readings are less volatile as they do not include volatile food and energy sectors.

FOMC Statement: Fed Raises Target Rate

The post-meeting statement of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee cited strong economic signs in its decision to raise the target federal funds range by 0.25 percent to 1.25 percent to 1.50 percent. The Committee indicated that it expects inflation to hold steady in the near term and to stabilize closer to the Fed’s goal of two percent annually in the medium term.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a press conference after the FOMC statement was released. She cited strong labor markets and low unemployment as signs of healthy economic conditions. The Fed’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and stable pricing has not been met due to lagging inflation. The Federal Reserve’s goal of 2 percent annual inflation fell short at 1.60 percent year-to-date. Job growth was strong with job growth expanding at a monthly average of 170,000 jobs over the past three months.

The Fed expects the inflation to achieve its 2 percent goal in 2019; unemployment is expected to remain at or near its current rate of 4.10 percent. This was good news as the expected exit of aging workers will increase in coming years as baby-boomers retire. Ms. Yellen affirmed her intention to aid in a smooth transition for the Federal Reserve as incoming Chair Jay Powell prepares to take over in February.

Mortgage Rates, Mixed, Weekly Jobless Claims

Fixed mortgage rates averaged one basis point lower last week with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.93 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.36 percent’ the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages rose one basis point to 3.36 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. Analysts said that lenders expected the Fed to raise rates and so factored in an increase of long term loan rates over time.

New Jobless claims dropped by 11,000 last week to 225,000. Analysts had expected 235,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 236,000 new claims.

Take Your Bathroom From ‘Drab’ to ‘Fab’ With These Do-it-Yourself Bathroom Renovations

Take Your Bathroom From 'Drab' to 'Fab' With These Do-it-Yourself Bathroom RenovationsDoes your bathroom look amazing? As one of the most used rooms in every home, the bathroom can almost always use a bit of a facelift. In today’s blog post we will share a few DIY renovations that will take your bathroom from drab to fab.

Embrace A New Color Palette

One of the best ways to start your bathroom makeover is to figure out a new color palette for the room. Do you like soft, muted colors like a powder blue, light gold or cream? Or maybe something a bit louder and more exciting like a merlot red or deep purple? Whatever your taste, a splash of color might be just what your bathroom needs.

Start with a fresh coat of paint on the bathroom walls and work outwards from there. If you have windows, consider how you want the trim to contrast with the walls. Baseboards or molding can also offer contrasting effects, helping them to stand out more.

And of course, don’t forget to take care of the smaller bathroom accessories. Your shower curtain, hand towels and even your toothbrush cup can all be matched.

Take Your Fixtures To The Next Level

Once you have decided on colors, it is time to turn your attention to the fixtures around your bathroom. The towel racks, hooks, faucets, shower head and toilet paper holder should all match in some way. If you do not have a lot of cabinet space, investing in a mirror that includes storage might be the perfect solution. If you have items like a scale or plunger in plain sight, think on some creative ways to hide them.

Brighten Things Up With Better Lighting

While you do not need ‘selfie quality’ professional lighting in your bathroom, it might be time for a brighter, more efficient light fixture. Aim for a design that complements the rest of the accents in your bathroom while being large enough to cast a bright light. You can also spend a bit of time choosing the correct color temperature for your bathroom light bulbs. LED lighting can offer some bold whites, but be careful that you don’t go overboard.

Renovating your bathroom is a fun way to spend a weekend or two improving your home. If you are thinking about buying a new home, or are ready to sell your current one, contact us. Our professional real estate team is happy to help.

Should I Sell My Home ‘As Is’ or Fix It Up? Let’s Take a Look

Should I Sell My Home 'As Is' or Fix It Up? Let's Take a LookWhether your home is a few years or many decades old, its physical condition is going to be a significant factor in the sales process. Below are a few questions that can help you to determine whether you should sell your home ‘as is’ or fix it up before placing it up for sale.

Have You Had A Home Inspection?

A great first step before selling your home is to book an inspection by a licensed home inspector. This will provide you with a full list of minor and major issues with your home. If your only issues are small, minor ones then it is worth your time to patch them up before you sell. However, if you are facing costly repairs such as a roof replacement or foundation repair, you will have some thinking to do.

Can You Afford Renovation And Repair Costs?

Speaking of costly repairs, can you afford to invest the funds necessary to fix up your house? Depending on the inspection results, you may be on the hook for thousands of dollars in renovation costs. If you do not have the money, then you may be forced to sell as is.

Keep in mind that there are loans and other financial products designed to help homeowners like you with home renovations. Be sure to check in with your bank or mortgage lender to see if you qualify.

How Fast Do You Need To Sell?

Another question you will need to answer is: how fast do you need to get the home sold? If you are in a rush because you have to move or switch jobs, then you may need to sell the house as is. However, if time is on your side, then it might be worth waiting until your renovations or repairs are complete.

What Does Your Agent Recommend?

Finally, what course of action does your real estate agent recommend taking? If the repairs needed are minor, or the market is hot enough that buyers might overlook any issues, then your agent might suggest selling as is. Conversely, if the market is moving slowly, then it might be worth investing the time needed to fix things up.

When you are ready to sell your home, contact us and we will be happy to share our expertise and insight. We look forward to meeting you.

Make 2018 the Year You Escape the ‘Rental Trap’ by Buying Your Own Home

Make 2018 the Year You Escape the 'Rental Trap' by Buying Your Own HomeAre you growing tired of paying rent each month and not building your net worth? Being stuck in the ‘rental trap’ isn’t much fun, but if you are determined, you can break out. Let’s explore some of the steps that you can take to make 2018 the year that you become a homeowner.

Rent Money Is Lost Money

First – why homeownership? As you may already understand, money spent on rent is ‘lost’ money. Each month you pay your rent, but you do not build any equity, own any property or get any other benefits in return. When you own a house, the money you spend each month is being invested in the home. You are building value in the home over time which you can then realize if and when you decide to sell.

Choose Your Home And Location Wisely

Do you know where in the local area you want to live? And what kind of home you want to live in? If you are a single young professional, a condo or apartment might be the perfect starter home. However, if you are married and have a family, there will be other factors such as schools and amenities to take into consideration. Invest some time in going through local real estate listings and making a short list of communities that seem like a good fit.

Polish Up That Credit Score

Ask yourself: how is your credit score looking? Is it perfectly spotless? Or do you have some past issues that need cleaning up? It is worth checking in with one of the major credit reporting agencies to find out your credit score and if there are any blemishes that need to be taken care of. You can request a free credit report once per year, so take advantage today.

Get Your Down Payment Saved Up

Finally, if buying a home in 2018 is going to be realistic, you will need to ensure that you have your down payment saved up. Although it is possible to buy a house or condo with no down payment, there are pros and cons to this approach. If you can save 10 or 20 percent of the cost of the home, it will go a long way in helping to get your mortgage approved and the sale closed.

If you are ready to break out of the rental trap and start down the path to homeownership in 2018, contact us today.

The Quick and Easy Guide to Finding the Right Builder to Construct Your Dream Home

The Quick and Easy Guide to Finding the Right Builder to Construct Your Dream HomeAre you in the market for a new house? If so, you may be considering having a custom-home designed and built to your specifications. There is no better way to get exactly what you want in a house than to have it built from scratch.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at our quick and easy guide to finding the right builder to construct your dream home.

Have Ideas In Mind Before You Start

Try to have some ideas in mind before you contact a builder. For example, how many bedrooms do you want? Are you interested in a two-car garage? Do you want a suite in the basement or elsewhere on the property for rental purposes? What about an office, workshop, media room, home gym or other amenities? Invest a bit of time in crafting a list, and your builder can help design a home that fits.

Find A Builder Before You Buy Land

At first, meeting with and securing a home builder before having a plot of land might seem premature. After all, you still don’t even know where you want them to build your house! But, in fact, this is the best way to go. A good home builder can help you understand permit rules, city or county regulations, which utilities are available in the area and more. Once they understand precisely what you are looking for in your dream home, they will be able to make an honest assessment of any particular lot. This alone can save you a significant amount of both time and money.

Verify Licensing, References And Past Work

Once you have settled on a potential builder, it is time to start the due diligence process. Ask the builder and any sub-contractors for their license details to ensure they are certified to do the work. Try to chat with at least 1-2 past references as well so you can get an idea of what it’s like to work with them.

Get All The Details In Writing

Finally, there are few financial transactions in life that should be done on a handshake and this is no exception. Your builder is going to have a contract that they will ask you to sign. Have your attorney look this document over and have them add in any specifics that are important to you.

A new construction home can be the ultimate in comfort, convenience, and luxury. When you’re ready to learn more, contact us today.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 11, 2017

Last week’s economic reports included readings on projected top housing markets for 2018, weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. Labor sector readings on private-sector job growth, private and public-sector job growth and the national unemployment rate were released. Projected top housing markets in 2018 were also released.

Realtors Release Projections for Top Housing Markets in 2018

Prospective homebuyers and retirees facing home affordability issues in metro areas such as New York City and the West Coast are seeking affordable housing markets according to data released by the National Association of Realtors®.

The top three housing markets for 2018 are expected to be Las Vegas, Nevada with a median home price of $285.405 and expected annual price growth of 6.90 percent. Dallas Texas held second place with a median home price of $339,000 and expected annual home price growth of 5.60 percent. Deltona, Florida held the third position for top housing markets in 2018. Deltona is located between Daytona Beach and Orlando, Florida. Within the city of Deltona, home prices average $159,000 in Deltona and $275.000in the metro area. Home prices are expected to grow at an annual rate of 6.0 percent.

Home prices continue to be driven by low supplies of homes for sale. High demand is causing prices in many metro areas to rise to unaffordable levels/ Retirees who are no longer tied to pricey metro areas are moving to less costly neighborhoods.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates across the board. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose 0.04 basis points to 3.94 percent. 15-year fixed mortgage rates averaged 0.06 basis points higher at 3.36 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 0.03 basis points higher for an average rate of 3.35 percent. Discount points average 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims were lower last week, with 236,000 new claims filed against expectations of 240,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 238,000 new jobless claims filed. According to November’s federal Non-Farm Payrolls report, government and private sector payrolls grew by 228,000 jobs as compared to expectations of 200,000 new public and private sector jobs added and the prior month’s reading of 244,000 jobs added.

ADP reported 190,000 private-sector jobs added in November as compared to 235,000 new jobs added in October. The national unemployment rate held at 4.10 percent, which was the lowest level in almost 17 years.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic readings include releases on inflation, the Fed’s FOMC post-meeting statement, Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. 

Graduating With Student Loan Debt and Worried About Your Mortgage Prospects? You’re Not Alone

Graduating With Student Loan Debt and Worried About Your Mortgage Prospects? You're Not AloneDid you recently graduate from college or university? If so, you may still be dealing with a financial hangover in the form of student loan debt. The vast majority of today’s students have to borrow to invest in their education, which can affect financial plans once school is finished. In today’s post, we will explore buying a home with a mortgage when still dealing with outstanding student loan debt.

Your Situation Is Common, But Unique To You

First, try to keep in mind that you are not alone. Many former students are moving on with life, working hard to build a career and a life while juggling past student loans. However, your situation is unique, and thus, you need to plan it that way. For example, are you single or married? Are you in a stable career or are you potentially shifting jobs? Do you have children or are you planning to in the near future? Your financial needs are unique and need to be prepared and budgeted accordingly.

Understand Your DTI Ratio

Have you heard of the debt-to-income or ‘DTI’ ratio? When you take out a mortgage to buy a home, this ratio is one factor in determining how much you can borrow. In essence, it is a ratio of your monthly debt payments versus your monthly income. As you are paying off student loan debt, that will increase your DTI ratio. Adding a mortgage, car or other monthly payments on here will as well. You will want to ensure that you maintain a healthy debt-to-income ratio or it can be challenging to stay solvent.

Balancing Your Mortgage With Your Other Loans

You may have heard this saying: “life happens.” It is rare that anyone can spend years with everything going according to plan. If you run into a temporary health or job-related issue, you may need to do some juggling to keep your mortgage and other payments fully managed. For this reason, it is worth trying to save at least a few months of your monthly expenses in a ‘rainy day’ fund. Just in case of an emergency.

Challenging, But Not Impossible

Balancing a monthly mortgage payment with student loan repayment can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. If you would like to learn more about purchasing a home as a recent graduate, contact us today.

To Stay or to Go: Should You Hang Around During Your Open House?

To Stay or to Go: Should You Hang Around During Your Open House?Are you thinking of listing your home for sale? Whether this is your first sale or you have been through the process a few times, you are probably aware that you will need to host at least one open house. Welcoming strangers in to tour your home can range from delightful to irritating, but it is a critical part of the selling process. So, should you stick around or disappear when potential buyers are viewing your home? Let’s explore your options.

The Best-Case Scenario

For almost every buyer, the ideal situation is that they are viewing a clean, vacant home which is empty of all furnishings. It can be challenging to visualize your family in your future house when you are trying to see past the current tenant’s clutter and furniture. Depending on your circumstances, this might not be possible. 

Are You A ‘People’ Person?

Would you consider your family welcoming and extroverted? Or are you more of the private, inclusive type? If you aren’t really ‘people’ people, then it is probably best if you disappear during your open house. Your real estate agent will be working hard to ensure that your potential buyers start to feel ‘at home’ while touring through your home.

If your personality is more of the shy, quiet type, then you may find interacting with buyers awkward or even intimidating. If that is the case, you should find someplace else to be during your open house.

When In Doubt, Let Your Agent Answer

Finally, keep in mind that interested potential buyers are going to have a lot of questions. They will want to know the fine details about the condition of the home, if there are any surprises waiting to be found and if they can grind down the price. If you do decide to stick around, it might be best to let your agent give the answers.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to being home during an open house. If you are ready to move forward with selling your home, contact us today. Our professional real estate agent team is happy to meet with you, discuss your options and share how to get your home listed so it quickly sells for the best possible price.