You Ask, We Answer: Should I Consider a Warranty when Buying a New Home?

You Ask, We Answer: Should I Consider a Warranty when Buying a New Home?Are you buying a new home? If so, you’ve likely pondered whether or not you should invest in a warranty to protect your investment. In today’s blog post we’ll briefly explore home warranties including some of the pros and cons of buying one and how they differ from homeowner’s insurance.

The Benefits of Buying a Home Warranty

Home warranties are an excellent solution if you’re buying a brand new home which has a lot of new appliances and fixtures inside of it, or if you’re not really the “do it yourself” type and would prefer to make a service call if something inside of your home breaks down.

For example, imagine that you have a home warranty that covers your central air conditioning system and one day it stops working. You simply call the warranty provider to book a service call and as long as the problem falls within the scope of your warranty the repairs are completed without any additional cost to you.

How a Home Warranty Differs from Homeowner’s Insurance

Home warranties and homeowner’s insurance are vastly different but work together to protect your investment. Insurance policies cover your home against unexpected damage – fires, crime, wind storms, water damage and more, depending on your policy. A home warranty tends to cover items inside of the home – the furnace, the plumbing, electrical wiring and appliances – and will provide you with discounts on repairs or replacement should the covered items break down or otherwise stop working.

Cost and Other Home Warranty Downsides

Of course, there are a few downsides to buying a home warranty. You’ll need to pay the up-front purchase cost of the warranty unless you’re buying a brand new home in which the warranty is included. You’ll also find that warranties generally won’t cover a lack of maintenance due to the previous homeowner, which can be a bit of an issue if something breaks down and you find out it’s not going to be covered. Finally you may find that any necessary repairs are actually less costly than the warranty itself.

As you can see, home warranties aren’t the perfect solution for every scenario but if you’re buying a new home they are an option worth considering. For more information about home warranties and how they will affect your purchase, ask your real estate professional as they’ll be able to share their guidance and expertise.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 24, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week November 24 2014Last week’s scheduled economic news included the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and Existing Home Sales. FOMC meeting minutes were released along with weekly Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

In addition, the National Association of Realtors® suggested that FHA should lower its mutual mortgage insurance premiums (MMI) as its fund for paying claims has normalized since recession.

Homebuilder Confidence Nears Nine-Year High

The National Association of Home Builders/ Wells Fargo Housing Market Index achieved a reading of 58 for November. This was two points higher than the expected reading of 56 and four points above September’s reading. This was the fifth consecutive month of readings above 50.

Readings above 50 indicate that more builders are confident about housing market conditions than not. Components of the index improved with builder confidence in present sales of new homes up 5 points to a reading of 62, confidence in sales over the next six months rose by two points to 66, and the reading for prospective buyer traffic rose four points to 45.

Housing Starts Slow, Existing Home Sales Suggest Stronger Housing Market

Housing starts were lower by 2.80 percent in October at a seasonally-adjusted rate of 1.01 million against an expected reading of 1.03 million and September’s reading of 1.04 million homes started. October’s reading was affected by a 15.50 percent drop in multi-family construction, but single-family home construction increased by 4.20 percent. Analysts noted that the multi-family sector is notoriously volatile.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that the seasonally-adjusted annual rate of existing home sales for October exceeded the expected reading of 5.15 million with 5.26 million existing homes sold. October’s reading also surpassed September’s reading of 5.17 million previously-owned homes sold. October’s reading represented a 1.50 percent increase over September sales of existing homes, and was the highest reading since September 2013.

The median price of previously-owned homes rose to $208,500 in October, which represented a 5.50 percent increase year-over-year. The inventory of homes for sale is higher with a 5.1 month supply of homes available, which was a year-over-year increase of 5.20 percent. Higher inventories of homes available and low mortgage rates were seen as factors contributing to more home sales.

Builders, Realtors® Call for Lower FHA Premiums

Kevin Kelly, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors® called for the FHA to lower its mortgage insurance premiums. The cost of FHA loans, which require borrowers to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium and annual premiums that are pro-rated and added to monthly mortgage payments, were seen as an obstacle to first-time and moderate income homebuyers. This request was based on a report that indicated the FHA fund for paying mortgage insurance claims is in the black for the first time since 2011.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell across the board on Thursday with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage lower by two basis points at 3.99 percent, and the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage lower by three basis points at 3.17 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.01 percent. Average discount points remained the same for all loan types at 0.50 percent.

The Commerce Department reported that new jobless claims fell to 291,000 from the prior week’s reading of 293,000. Analysts expected a reading of 280.000 new jobless claims, but this was the tenth consecutive week of readings for fewer than 300,000 new jobless claims. The four-week rolling average of new claims rose by 1750 to a reading of 287,500. The four week average reduces the volatility of weekly jobless claims and provides a more accurate reading of unemployment trends.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled events include the Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices, FHFA’s House Price Index and New and Pending Home Sales reports. There are no reports set for Thursday or Friday due to the Thanksgiving Holiday.

The 3 Minute Guide to Real Estate “Flipping” and How to Get Moving Today

The 3 Minute Guide to Real Estate If you’ve been thinking about investing in a real estate project you may have considered buying a distressed house or two at a steep discount in order to fix them up and sell them at a higher price. This is known as “flipping”, and in today’s post we’ll share a quick guide to flipping homes and how to get started with this type of real estate investing.

Assessing Your Budget and Tolerance for Risk

We’ll start by stating the obvious: when you buy real estate with the intent of flipping it, losing money is a very real possibility. You’ll need to assess your own tolerance for risk and decide how much you want to invest in your real estate venture.

If you’re new to buying homes it’s a great idea to start small – an inexpensive “fixer upper” house or a condo – and work your way up from there. Spend some time crafting a budget to assess how much you’ll be spending to acquire the home and in repairs or renovations, and what you expect to receive when you sell.

Shopping for Suitable Houses and Condos

Once you’ve got your budget prepared and your finances are in order you’ll need to start looking for a suitable home. The ideal listing is one that is priced at a discount to all of the other homes in the neighborhood as the home is in some state of disrepair or has certain issues that need to be fixed up. Spend some time browsing through local property listings which are sorted by price and note which options are the least expensive. This is where you’ll want to start.

Scale Things Up by Finding a Partner

After you’ve bought, repaired and sold a home or two you’re likely going to want to scale things up. Consider bringing on a partner who can help shoulder some of the workload or one that may want to invest capital so that you can buy homes in a higher quantity. Remember, this is business; if you work with someone else you’ll want to formalize your arrangement with a written contract.

As with any business venture, there’s a bit of a learning curve that you’ll need to overcome when you begin flipping houses. As long as you’re patient and ready to move when you find the perfect home, you’ll soon find success with your real estate investments. To learn more about flipping houses and to get started with finding properties in your area, contact your local real estate agent today.

FOMC Minutes: Economy Growing, Housing Lags

FOMC Minutes Economy Growing Housing LagsMinutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting held October 28 and 29 were released Wednesday. The report suggests that the U.S. economy continues to improve, although the annual inflation rate remains near 1.50 percent and short of the committee’s goal of 2.00 percent. Falling crude oil prices were cited as a cause of faltering inflation rates. The minutes indicated that FOMC members expect inflation to remain below the 2.00 percent benchmark for the next year or so.

The minutes did not reveal an exact date for raising the target federal funds rate, which is currently 0.00 to 0.250 percent, but analysts expect a rate change in mid-to-late 2015. One committee member said that the Fed should commit to keeping the target federal funds rate at its present level until inflation reaches the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent.

Job Markets Improve, Mortgage Rates Fall

FOMC members said that labor markets had improved “somewhat further.” The minutes noted that the national unemployment rate had declined to 5.90 percent in September, which was lower than the FOMC goal of 6.50 percent for national unemployment. While this was good news, FOMC discussed the fact that a significant number of part-time workers suggested under-utilization of the labor force. A combination of stronger labor markets and a 0.25 percent reduction of mortgage rates during the intermeeting period between September 17 and October 28 were seen as positive for housing markets, but the committee noted that mortgage lending standards for single-family homes had not changed much. Lending requirements were more accommodative for commercial real estate.

QE Ends, FOMC Seeks to Maintain “Accommodative” Financial Conditions

FOMC members voted to end asset purchases made under the Fed’s quantitative easing program, but said that ongoing reinvestment of principal payments on bonds and MBS with the goal of maintaining “sizeable” holdings of long-term securities. The minutes indicated that this would help maintain “accommodative” financial conditions.

The committee agreed to re-assert its position that although national unemployment and inflation may achieve or surpass FOMC goals, the committee could maintain the target federal funds rate at current levels for “some time” after the benchmarks are achieved. Ultimately, the FOMC’s decision to change the target federal funds rate will include thorough and ongoing review of global and domestic economic developments.

Committee members concluded this meeting with a decision to set the next FOMC meeting for December 16 and 17.

Failed Negotiations: What to Do when the Seller is an Immovable Object

Failed Negotiations: What to Do when the Seller is an Immovable ObjectOnce you’ve found the perfect new home and delivered your first offer to the seller, you may find that they return with a counteroffer or a flat out refusal. Negotiation is part of the home buying process, but at times you may feel like the seller is the one holding up the deal due to their approach or attitude.

In this blog post we’ll share a few ways to manage an unreasonable or stubborn home seller so you can get the deal closed.

Ask Yourself: Are Your Demands Reasonable?

Before trying to figure out how to work the seller from a different angle in order to win the home, you’ll need to assess whether or not there’s a problem with your offer or your purchasing terms which is causing friction with the seller.

Ask the seller or their agent to identify the exact issue so that you can decide whether or not you are willing to sacrifice that particular term in order to secure the home.

What is Motivating the Seller?

If you’re finding that seller is simply being stubborn or is unwilling to budge on their price or the terms of the sale, you’ll need to approach them differently. During the home buying process it should be your goal to try to figure out why the seller has placed their home on the market and what their motivation for selling might be.

Are they moving to a new city for work? If so, there is likely some sort of time limit on their sale and you may be able to wait them out. Or, perhaps you’ve discovered that they are simply downgrading to a smaller home and that they’ll only sell their current home for the right price.

Sweeten the Deal and Be Ready to Walk

If the price is what is holding the deal up, you can submit a final offer with your maximum price but be sure to let the seller know that you’re walking away from the deal if they aren’t ready to sign. At this point you can consider the home a lost cause if they refuse, so table the best offer that you’re willing to make and encourage the seller to accept it.

Dealing with a stubborn home seller might seem like a bit of an impossible situation, but try to keep in mind that they are selling their property for a reason. If you have your heart set on the home just keep faith that eventually they’ll crack and the home will be yours. If you’re just getting started with the home buying process or if you need more information about buying a local property, contact a real estate agent today.

Selling Your Home? Give Your Bathrooms a Facelift with These Three Quick Tips

Selling Your Home? Give Your Bathrooms a Facelift with These Three Quick TipsAre you getting ready to sell your home? As soon as your listing goes live you’ll begin entertaining potential buyers who will be inspecting your home from top to bottom to ensure it meets their needs perfectly. Your bathrooms will be a key area of focus and you might be surprised to learn that the look and feel of these small rooms can make or break a sale.

In today’s blog post we’ll share three quick tips for renovating or upgrading your bathrooms to freshen up their look before potential buyers start viewing your home.

Clean Your Bathroom Out and Start Fresh

Before you begin, take a close look at your bathroom. Is there wallpaper on the walls? Are the sinks and faucets a bit dated and stained? Does the bathtub have a crack in it or is there some discoloration in the tiles or grout?

If your bathroom hasn’t been renovated in the past few years, there’s a good chance that the entire room needs a top-to-bottom overhaul. Clean all of the fixtures, materials, cabinets and even that dated flooring out and start from scratch.

Choose Your Color Palette Wisely

Before you begin you’ll want to have some sort of color palette in mind. Does the bathroom receive some sort of direct sunlight? Is there a skylight or a window in the room? Is there a color theme in other rooms in the house that you’ll need to match up with? Having some color ideas in mind will greatly assist with painting and adding shower curtains, mats, towels and more.

Don’t Skimp on Fixtures and Accessories

Remember that you’re selling the home and that you’re likely to recoup some or all of the costs of your bathroom renovations in the form of a bump in your selling price. Don’t buy cheap faucets or fixtures as buyers will be looking closely and they’ll want to ensure they’re buying a home that has quality building materials used throughout. If you’re going to upgrade your bathrooms, use materials that are high-quality but avoid anything too luxurious unless it fits with the rest of the decor.

Breathing some new life in to your bathrooms won’t break the bank, but it might just help secure your home sale. For more tips and strategies on how to ensure a quick and successful sale, contact your local real estate agent today.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 17, 2014

Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing Costs Last week’s housing related news was lean, with no scheduled reports released other than Freddie Mac’s primary mortgage market survey.

We’ll start with some good news. The University of Michigan / Thompson-Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index reported its highest reading in more than seven years. November’s reading of 89.4 surpassed the expected reading of 88.0 and was higher than October’s reading of 86.9

Mortgage Rates Near 4.00 Percent, Weekly Jobless Claims Up

Freddie Mac reported a one-basis point drop in the average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgage from 4.02 percent to 4.01 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also fell by one basis point to 3.20 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by 5 basis points to 3.02 percent. Discount points for all three loan types held steady at an average of 0.50 percent.

Weekly jobless claims rose by 12,000 to 290,000 against expectations of 280,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 278,000.

Last week’s report was the ninth straight week that new jobless claims came in under 300,000. The reading for the four-week rolling average was 285,000 new jobless claims, which represented an increase of 6,000 new claims.

What’s Ahead

This week’s number of scheduled economic reports will be more robust. The NAHB Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales reports will be released.

The minutes of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting of the Federal Reserve will also be released along with weekly mortgage rates and jobless claims data.

How to Use a Mortgage Calculator to Determine Your Monthly Payments, Interest and More

How to Use a Mortgage Calculator to Determine Your Monthly Payments, Interest and MoreAre you thinking about using a mortgage to buy a new home? Buying your own piece of local real estate is a major financial investment and one that can require some pretty complex math to fully understand.

In this blog post we’ll discuss mortgage calculators and how to use one of these tools to determine your monthly mortgage payments, interest charges, amortization periods and more.

Determining Your Principal and Down Payment Amounts

To get started with a mortgage calculator you’ll need to know how the price of the home and how much you intend to contribute as a down payment. Generally speaking you’ll want to place a down payment of at least 20 percent in order to avoid having to pay for private mortgage insurance and to give you access to better interest rates.

Choosing Your Interest Rate and Amortization Period

Now that you have an idea of the amount of mortgage financing you’ll need, the next step is to choose your interest rate and amortization period. Different lenders will offer different interest rates for every one of their mortgage products, so again you’ll want to play around with these numbers and run the calculation to see which combination of mortgage financing, interest rate and amortization period gives you a monthly payment that suits your budget.

Using a Mortgage Calculator for Refinancing

If you’re thinking about refinancing your current mortgage you can also use a mortgage calculator to help make the math a bit easier. Simply use your outstanding mortgage balance as the principal amount and then choose an amortization schedule that fits your financial goals. Be sure to keep an eye on your interest payments, as you may find that by refinancing to a longer amortization period your monthly payments go down but your total interest paid is quite a bit higher.

Don’t Forget the Closing Costs

Finally, don’t forget that there are numerous “closing costs” – fees, taxes and more – which you’ll need to factor in to your overall calculation. Closing costs will include everything from home appraisal fees to government filing fees and property taxes, and will vary depending on the home and the city or community you’re buying in.

While online mortgage calculators can handle the tricky math to determine monthly payments and interest costs you may still find that you have questions about your mortgage or some aspect of the process. For more information, contact your local mortgage professional and they’ll be happy to share their advice and expertise.

Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs This Winter in Just Three Easy Steps

Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs This Winter in Just Three Easy Steps It doesn’t matter if you heat your home with electricity, natural gas or some other energy source; prices continue to rise and that means increased heating costs for most of us.

In today’s blog post we’ll share three easy ways that you can save money on your home energy costs this winter.

Install and Use Programmable Thermostats

Now that Nest and other companies have brought Wi-Fi enabled, programmable thermostats on the market there’s very few excuses to avoid using them. At bare minimum you’ll want a digital thermostat that can be programmed to turn on and off at certain hours of the day.

For example, you can shut your heat off after leaving for work and have it turn back on again a half-hour or so before you get home. You can do the same at night when you’re fast asleep under warm blankets. If possible, try to get a thermostat for each room so that rooms can be heated individually as needed.

Switch Up Your Ceiling Fans

If you have ceiling fans you may not know that by reversing their direction you can keep your rooms feeling much warmer. In the winter you’ll want your fans spinning in a clockwise direction, which will push warm air downward into the room where you’ll be able to feel it. In the summer you’ll want to switch the fans back to counter-clockwise as this will help move warm air towards the ceiling.

Check Your Insulation, Furnace and Ducts Now

Finally, you’ll want to check that your home heating system is operating at peak efficiency. If you can access your attic, check to ensure that your insulation is tightly packed and that it’s still in good condition. Clean or replace the air filter on your furnace, and check your ducts for any leaks that need to be repaired. If it has been a few years, consider having a professional furnace and duct cleaning to get all of the dust and debris out of the ductwork.

As you can see, a little time spent on home maintenance can end up saving quite a bit in energy costs when the temperatures drop. When you’re ready to look at buying a newer, more energy-efficient home, contact your local real estate agent and book a consultation where you can share your needs and price range.

Yard Staging: How to Stage Your Front and Back Yard to Appeal to Home Buyers

Yard Staging: How to Stage Your Front and Back Yard to Appeal to Home BuyersWhether you’re just listing your home for sale or you’ve already started entertaining potential buyers, focusing on your “curb appeal” can drastically increase your chances of a quick and successful sale.

In today’s blog post we’ll discuss how to stage your front and back yards in order to make them seem more inviting and welcoming to home buyers.

It All Starts with a Great Lawn

Whether you’re standing on the street looking at the front of your home or you’re on your patio looking out over your back yard, your lawn sets the tone and is one area that potential buyers are sure to focus on.

You’ll want to ensure that your lawn is very well-kept, with no weeds, dandelions or patches of clover breaking up the continuity of the grass. You’ll also want your lawn to be a healthy green, unless you’re in an area which has some seasonal turnover or your community has watering restrictions.

Use Gardens to Add a Splash of Color

Once the lawn looks incredible, it’s time to move on to your gardens and other landscape features. Gardens are the best way to add a vibrant splash of color to your yard and they can be used to accessorize the front or back of your home to break up the monotony.

Choose flowers or plants that are in season for your area to ensure that they are healthy while potential buyers are driving past and viewing the home. Also, keep in mind that most of the time, less is more; don’t overdo your gardening or you’ll have a small jungle on your hands.

Make Your Backyard Feel as Inviting as Possible

Your backyard will be a major selling feature for many different types of homebuyer – especially those with children. You’ll want to ensure that your backyard feels as inviting as possible. If you have a deck or patio, ensure that you have furniture and your BBQ tastefully arranged so the buyer can picture themselves hosting friends and family.

Staging your front and backyards is just one of the many tasks that you’ll need to take care of in order to prepare your home for a successful sale. For more information about how to prepare your home, contact your local real estate agent today and they’ll be able to share expertise that is specific to your local community.