Looking for a Value-adding Upgrade? Why Residential Solar Panels Are Becoming a Popular Renovation

Looking for a Value-adding Upgrade? Why Residential Solar Panels Are Becoming a Popular RenovationIf you’re looking for a home upgrade that can add resale value to your home while paying itself off over time, look no further than a solar panel setup. In the past few years, the cost of installing residential solar has declined while the efficiency of the panels has increased. This combination has made home solar one of the best investments that a homeowner can make – provided they live in an area that receives a good deal of sunshine.

Solar Adds Immense Value To Your Home

While solar panel installations are not inexpensive, in almost every case they add at least their total cost to the value of the home as soon as they are installed. If you decide to sell your home, it will be very attractive to those who are interested in leaving a lighter footprint or for anyone who was thinking of going solar after they bought their new home.

A Quality Install Will Pay For Itself Over Time

As they generate electricity which can be used in your home or sold back in to the public grid, residential solar panels are one of the only home upgrades that will pay for themselves over time. If you live in a very sunny area and watch your home energy consumption, you may even find that after a few years your solar setup actually begins generating a profit each month. Home solar setups typically come with a 25-year warranty so you can rest assured that your panels will be producing energy for at least the next couple of decades.

Tax Credits And Incentives Reduce The Up-front Financial Cost

Renewable energy sources like solar quality for significant tax credits and rebates which will vary depending on the city and state or province that you live in. A quick web search will show you which types of incentives that you will qualify for, or you can call a local residential solar installer as they’ll be fully aware of all of the various incentives that are available.

For more information on home renovations or upgrades that have been adding value to homes in your community, contact your local real estate agent. They’ll be able to advise you on which upgrades you will need to make in order to keep up with other homes in your area so that if you do decide to sell, you’re able to stand up to your competition.

Case-Shiller: July Home Prices Cool Across U.S.

Case-Shiller: July Home Prices Cool Across U.S.The stifling heat of July did not penetrate U.S. housing markets according to the S&P Case-Shiller 10-and 20 City Home Price Index reports.

San Francisco’s sizzling home prices dropped in July and posted its lowest price gains since 2012. According to the Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Index reports, month-to-month home price appreciation fell to identical readings of an 0.60 percent increase as compared to a 1.00 percent increase reported in June.

Case-Shiller also reported that home prices grew by 0.50 percent throughout the nation. This was the seventh consecutive monthly increase for national home prices.

Year-over-year, seasonally adjusted home price growth was lower in July. Both the 10 and 20 city index reports showed a gain of 6.70 percent over July 2013 as compared to June’s year-over-year reading of an 8.10 percent gain in June. 19 of 10 cities tracked in the Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index reports posted lower average home prices in July.

New York posted a 1.10 percent gain in July, while home prices dropped by 0.40 percent in San Francisco. San Francisco showed a marked loss of momentum with July’s year-over-year reading of home price growth decreasing to 10.30 percent from June’s reading of 12.20 percent

On average, July’s home prices were approximately 16 percent below a 2006 peak.

Slowing Demand Puts Brakes on Home Prices

Analysts report that reduced demand for homes is contributing to lower price growth. Rising home prices have put homes out of reach of first-time and moderate income buyers and stringent mortgage credit standards that became effective in January have taken the edge off of high demand and low inventories of homes seen earlier in 2014.

Home prices continue to grow at two to three times the inflation rate according to David M. Blitzer, chair of the S&P Dow Jones Indices Committee. Stagnant wage growth has also quieted housing markets.

New Home Sales Buck Slowing Home Price Trends

The Department of Commerce reported that August sales of new homes grew by 18 percent in August to the highest reading since 2008. August sales of new homes topped out at 504,000 new homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Analysts predicted new 426,000 new home sales and July’s reading was 427,000 new home sales.

Demand for new homes grew in direct opposition to Case-Shiller’s July data for existing home sales in 20 major metropolitan areas. While good news for home builders and those employed by them, new home sales account for only about a tenth of the housing market.

Analysts also note that new home sales readings are somewhat volatile and often subject to revision. Increases in new home sales are seen as a positive sign for the general economy as builders are expected to increase hiring and will buy more materials as home construction increases.

Autumn Home Staging: How to Set Your Home Up to Match the Warm, Rich Colors of Autumn

Autumn Home Staging: How to Set Your Home Up to Match the Warm, Rich Colors of AutumnCan you believe that autumn is already here? Autumn is not only a great time to enjoy some cooler weather, but it is also a perfect time to sell a home. If you want to sell your house this autumn, these home staging tips will have buyers pounding down your door.

Improve Your Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is easily the most important factor when it comes to selling a home, and it is even more important in the autumn. Maintaining great curb appeal can be difficult in autumn because of all the falling leaves.

Raking the leaves and planting some autumn flowers will make your home inviting to buyers. You can even add some pumpkins around the porch, if you desire.

Brighten Up The House

The shorter days of autumn make lighting more important when staging a home, because nobody wants to walk into a dark and depressing house. The best way to brighten up any house is by opening the blinds and turning on every light.

While it may not be great for the electric bill, the extra lighting will help the home sell quicker. You can even place some spotlights on the floor behind furniture to brighten up the darker rooms.

Make It Feel Comfortable

There is something about the cooling weather of autumn that makes people want to stay inside. Showing off how comfortable your home is will definitely pique buyers’ interest. A great way to make your home more cozy during a showing is by playing seasonal music and handing out some fresh baked cookies – it adds a personal touch and a subtle sense of coziness.

Accent The Home With Autumn Colors

While it is impossible to change the color scheme of your home to fit the season, you can add some accent colors throughout the house. If you have a neutral colored couch, then you can easily throw some red or orange pillows on it to make it really stand out. Adding some autumn decorations to each room is also a great way to accent your home with autumn colors.

Autumn is an extremely popular time to buy or sell a house, and for good reason. Taking advantage of autumn’s vibrant colors when you stage your home will give your house an irresistible appeal. For more information about how to sell your home in the autumn, or if you’d like to list your home for sale, contact an experienced real estate professional today.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – Sept 29, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Sept 29 2014Last week’s economic news included several housing-related reports that provided mixed results with lower than expected sales of previously owned homes and higher than expected sales of new homes. The FHFA also released its House Price report for July, which noted that year-over-year home prices were lower than year-over-year prices reported in June. Here’s a look at the details:

Existing Home Sales Lower, New Home Sales Higher

The National Association of REALTORS® reported August sales of existing home sales fell to 5.05 million previously owned homes sold. This was lower than the expected reading of 5.20 million existing homes sold and July’s revised reading of 5.14 million previously owned homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. The consensus figure was based on the original reading of 5.15 million homes sold in July. While the sales pace of existing homes has slowed in recent months, August’s reading marked the first time in five months that sales fell below the previous month’s reading.

Analysts cited consumer concerns over sluggish labor markets as a deterrent to home sales, and also said that tighter mortgage credit standards are making it tough for first-time home buyers to purchase homes. 

New home sales were higher in August according to the Department of Commerce. 504,000 new homes were sold and surpassed expected sales of 426,000 new homes and July’s reading of 427,000 new homes sold. This surge propelled new home sales to their highest level since May 2008, and surpassed expectations of 426,000 new homes sold. The original reading for July was 412,000 new homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, but the Department of Commerce later adjusted July’s reading to 427,000 new homes sold during July. Month-to-month readings for new home sales are notoriously volatile, and many analysts prefer to consider a rolling average of several months’ new home sales data.

FHFA: Home Prices Rise in August, Regional Home Prices Higher Year-Over-Year

FHFA (Federal Housing Finance Agency), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that prices of homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages grew by 0.10 percent in July; this was lower than the 0.30 percent growth in home prices reported in June. FHFA also said that prices of homes were up by 4.04 percent year over year; this again represented a slower pace in home price growth. This was the eighth consecutive monthly gain for FHFA home prices, but U.S. home prices remain approximately 6.40 percent below their peak in 2007.

Year-over-year home prices rose in all nine census divisions according to FHFA. While regional home prices ranged from -0.50 to +0.40 percent from June to July, FHFA reported that year-over-year home prices grew in all nine regions and varied between +1.60 percent in the Mid-Atlantic region to 7.20 percent in the Pacific region.

Mortgage Rates Mixed

Freddie Mac reported mixed readings for average mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped three basis points to 4.20 percent. 15 year mortgage rates averaged 3.36 percent, one basis point lower than the prior week’s reading. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.08. Discount points remained steady at 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages, but dropped to 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Jobless Claims Rise, Consumer Sentiment Holds Steady

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that new jobless claims rose to 293,000 from the prior week’s reading of 281,000 new jobless claims filed. The latest jobless claims reading was lower than expectations of 300,000 new jobless claims filed. Last week’s economic reports were rounded out by the Consumer Sentiment Index, which held steady in September with a reading of 84.6. This reading was identical to July’s reading and higher than the expected reading of 84.3.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s economic news wil include the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for July and Construction Spending for August.

Understanding Title Insurance and How It Impacts Your Mortgage Loan

Understanding Title Insurance and How It Impacts Your Mortgage LoanWhen you buy a home, you will be given a title to your new property. A title is a legal document that proves you own the property, and in most cases the title excludes other parties from making an ownership claim.

However, not all titles give you free and clear ownership of the property. Title insurance protects you and your lender from title disputes and other ownership issues that may arise. Here are just a few ways that title insurance can impact your mortgage.

How Title Insurance Protects A Lender

There are certain situations in which someone might put a lien on your property. New owners might see liens if the previous owner failed to pay the mortgage, if a contractor did work without the new owner’s consent or if the previous owner owes unpaid property taxes.

If these liens were not disclosed prior to the sale, a buyer could face a situation where a third party is making a claim to the property. Should the title by voided in court, the insurance policy would repay the lender the outstanding balance on the mortgage. The policy is valid until the mortgage loan is paid off.

When a homeowner refinances, it may be necessary to purchase a new title loan policy, as the new loan will technically pay off the old loan.

How Title Insurance Protects A Buyer

Title loan policies do not just protect the lender. In many cases, the lender will require the buyer’s title insurance to include an owner policy. This policy confirms that the buyer owns the title and that the title is free from defects.

The policy is in effect for as long as the buyer or his or her descendants own the house. Should a homeowner have his or her title challenged, the policy will cover all losses up to the amount of the original purchase price of the home.

How Much Does Title Insurance Cost?

The cost of title insurance can vary between locations. Sometimes, the purchase contract will stipulate that the seller is responsible for buying title insurance.

If this is the case, the buyer may pay nothing. However, it is common to pay on a sliding scale. Title insurance is usually a few hundred dollars for houses selling for under $500,000.

Title insurance is a great way to protect your investment in your home. It insures you against ownership disputes and liens, which means your house is truly yours. 

Selling to Millennials: Three High-Tech Upgrades That Will Increase Your Home’s Appeal to Young Buyers

Selling to Millennials: Three High-Tech Upgrades That Will Increase Your Home's Appeal to Young BuyersMillennials are finally starting to enter the real estate market after delaying home purchases for several years. With a completely new client base looking for homes, it is time to start making your home more appealing to these young buyers.

Millennials are used to using high-tech gadgets every day, so they are going to desire these things in their new home. While there are several high-tech upgrades you can make on your home, these three will appeal the most to young homebuyers.

Keyless Entry: Security for the New Millennium

Keyless entry doors are becoming a popular way of keeping a home secure while adding that great “wow” factor. These keyless entry systems mean there’ll be no more fumbling for keys when all you want to do is get in the door. It may seem like something out of a sci-fi film, but several companies have mastered the art of keyless entry doors that you can use in your home today.

The door automatically locks when it is shut, and you will need the correct fingerprint to unlock the door. If you could show off a keyless entry system at your open house, you would immediately pique the interest of every young buyer interested in technology.

A Home Security System is a Great Practical Addition

A high-tech home security system will certainly make your home more appealing to young buyers, who may even be thinking about having children in the near future. No matter how safe your neighborhood is, everyone is always looking to feel more secure at home. Placing a few security cameras around the exterior of your home will allow you to know what is happening outside at all times, and buyers will love having that peace of mind.

Home Energy Monitor: For the Eco-Conscious Generation

Young people are extremely conscious of the environment, so they would love seeing a home energy monitor when shopping for a new home. A home energy monitor is able to track the energy use of every aspect of your home.

If you think your air conditioner is not running efficiently, a home energy monitor can tell you whether or not you’re right. Since young people know about the dangers of improper energy use, they will want to make the home as efficient as possible.

Millennials are slowly entering the real estate market, and although they are starting to look at homes, you’ll face a lot of competition from other homeowners looking to pass properties onto this new generation. These three upgrades will increase your home’s value and make it more appealing to Millennial buyers. For more information about selling your home, contact a trusted real estate professional today.

National Association of Realtors, Existing Home Sales Slip in August

National Association of Realtors Existing Home Sales Slip in AugustSales of previously owned homes fell in August according to the National Association of REALTORS®. This was the first decline in sales in five months. Although not welcome news to homeowners and real estate pros, there is good news. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®, as first-time buyers and moderate income families may now have an opportunity to find and buy affordable homes.

Bidding wars and slim inventories of available homes made buying a home difficult for many prospective buyers in recent months, but Mr. Yun said that these obstacles have subsided in many markets. Other obstacles contributing to a slowdown in housing markets are labor markets, which have shown some improvement, and stringent mortgage credit requirements that became effective in January.

Analysts had expected an annual sales rate of 5.20 million existing homes in August against July’s original reading of 5.15 million sales, which was later adjusted to 5.14 million sales of existing homes. August’s reading was 5.05 million previously owned homes sold.

FHFA Home Sales Show Fractional Gain in July

FHFA, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, reported that July sales of homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owned mortgages rose by a tenth of a percent in July on a seasonally-adjusted basis. On a year-over-year basis, home prices were 4.40 percent higher than in July 2013. It’s important to bear in mind that FHFA reports a month behind the readings reported for existing home sales in August. Another thing to consider is that FHFA readings are based on properties connected with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

First-Time Buyers Missing in Action

Falling home prices and sales volume may be due in part to a vortex of challenges facing first-time home buyers. The census bureau reports that homeownership rates have dropped for the 25-29 age groups; about 40.6 percent owned homes in 2007 as compared to 34.1 percent in 2013. The national unemployment rate for millennials is higher at approximately 9.00 percent as compared to the national unemployment rate for all workers at about 6.00 percent. Stricter mortgage rules and long-term under-employment are also impacting first-time buyers’ ability to purchase homes. The inability of would-be first-time buyers to buy homes can impact buyers and sellers at all levels of local housing markets as most sellers rely on selling their existing home to fund down payments and closing costs for their next homes.

House Hunting: Watch for These Five Small Signs That Can Indicate Much Bigger Problems with a Home

House Hunting: Watch for These Five Small Signs That Can Indicate Much Bigger Problems with a HomeIt’s not uncommon for homebuyers to recount horror stories about properties that appeared to be fine at first glance, but were actually hiding very expensive problems. If you fail to do your due diligence, you might find your dream house turning into a nightmare. The next time you walk through a house, pay attention for these five signs that the property might be hiding a unfortounate secret or two.

Mold, Water Spots and Water Damage

Older and newer homes alike may develop a leaky pipe or another similar plumbing issue from time to time, but any type of water issue can result in mold growth inside the walls. Water spots and warped wood indicate that the property has had a water issue in the past, and this means that the property should be more thoroughly inspected for mold growth before you make a purchase.

Doors and Windows That Stick

One of the most common signs of a foundation issue is doors and windows that stick or that are difficult to open and close. As you walk through the home, open and close the doors at leisure to identify if they are not in the frame properly. The issue should be reviewed by a structural home inspector or foundation contractor.

Small Cracks in the Walls

Some cracks in both interior and exterior walls can indicate that the home’s foundation has shifted and is no longer flat and level. Significant issues may be indicated by molding or door frames that appear to have shifted after installation.

Fresh Paint on a Small Area of the Wall

Many property sellers will apply fresh paint to walls before listing a home for sale, and this is not necessarily a sign of damage to the home. However, when fresh paint is applied on one area of the wall alone, this may be a sign that the homeowner is attempting to conceal water damage or other related issues with the property. Further inspection of the property is in order.

Floors That Slant

Any time a floor slants to a level that you feel as though you are walking up or down across the home, this is a significant indicator that the foundation has shifted. Foundation issues result in the movement of the foundation that the entire home rests on, and this can result in an uneven feeling when you walk across the floor. If you notice that the floors in a property slant, you should schedule an inspection of the foundation.

These small signs are symptoms of large problems, and they should concern you. If you notice any of these problems on a walkthrough, walk away from the home and contact a real estate professional for assistance.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – Sept 22, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Sept 22 2014Last week’s economic news largely concerned the Federal Reserve’s FOMC meeting statement and a post-meeting conference given by Fed Chair Janet Yellen. The FOMC statement indicated that the Fed continued its wind-down of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities and that its purchases are expected to cease after the next FOMC meeting.

The FOMC statement said that committee members find the economy to be improving at a moderate pace and currently strong enough to further reduce the QE3 monthly asset purchases. The Fed seeks to achieve and sustain its dual mandate of maximum employment and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent. While the unemployment rate is lower than the Fed’s benchmark of 6.50 percent, FOMC members cited concerns that the labor force is underutilized and that labor markets, while recovering, could use further improvement. The Fed repeated its customary statement that the Fed’s monetary policies are not on a pre-determined course, and that FOMC members continually review and interpret developing financial and economic news as part of their decision-making process.

Chair Yellen explained during her press conference that it is not possible to provide a specific date when the Fed will change its target federal funds rate. Economists and media analysts expressed concerns that raising the target federal funds rate, which is currently at 0.00 to 0.250 percent, could cause overall interest rates to rise. Chair Yellen said that she expects the current target federal funds rate to remain for a “considerable time” after the QE asset purchases cease. She also said that it is impossible to provide a specific date when the Fed will change its target federal funds rate and cited multiple influences considered by FOMC when changing monetary policy.

Home Builder Confidence Grows, Housing Starts Fall

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index rose by three points in September for a reading of 59. Analysts had predicted an index reading of 56 against August’s reading of 55. September’s reading was the third consecutive reading above 50. Stronger labor markets were cited as supporting the higher reading, but builders were also concerned by tight mortgage credit standards. Any reading above 50 indicates that more builders perceive market conditions for new homes as positive as those that do not.

August’s housing starts were inconsistent with the Home Builders Index; according to the Department of Commerce, construction of new homes fell by 14.4 percent from July’s reading to 956,000. Analysts expected 1.03 million starts against July’s reading of 1.12 million homes started.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week. Average mortgage rates rose across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage 11 basis points higher at 4.23 percent. The rate for a 15-year mortgage also rose by 11 basis points to 3.37 percent and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 2.99 to 3.06 percent. Average discount points were unchanged for all mortgage types at 0.50 percent.

New weekly jobless claims dropped to 280,000 against an expected reading of 305,000 and the prior week’s adjusted reading of 316,000 new jobless claims. The original reading for the prior week was 315,000 new jobless claims. The less volatile four-week average of new jobless claim fell by 4,750 new claims to a reading of 299,500 new claims.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news brings multiple housing-related reports. The National Association of REALTORS® will release its Existing Home Sales report for August. Case-Shiller’s monthly Housing Market Index report and the FHFA’s Home Value report will bring new light to national market trends. The Department of Commerce will release its New Home Sales report, and as usual, Freddie Mac’s weekly report on mortgage rates will come out on Thursday.

Federal Open Market Committee, Fed Chair: No Rush to Raise Rates

Federal Open Market Committee Fed Chair No Rush to Raise Rates Wednesday’s customary post-meeting statement issued by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve provided some relief to investors and analysts concerned that the Fed may soon raise its target federal funds rate. The target federal funds rate has held steady at between 0.00 and 0.25 percent since the inception of the Fed’s current quantitative easing program. The FOMC statement indicated that the committee does not expect to raise the target federal funds rate until the Fed’s dual mandate of maximum employment and reaching its target inflation rate is achieved.

FOMC members don’t expect the wind-down of scheduled securities purchases under the quantitative easing program to cause long-term interest rates to rise quickly. The FOMC statement indicates that the Fed expects its current holdings and acquisitions of securities to hold down long-term interest rates and help with achieving the Fed’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and 2.00 percent inflation. As in past meetings, the FOMC statement asserted the committee’s dedication to reading and researching economic and financial reports and repeated that Fed policy is not contingent on a predetermined course, but that FOMC members make decisions based on current economic trends and developing domestic and global events.

FOMC members also re-asserted their position that after employment and inflation achieve levels consistent with the Fed’s dual mandate, the Fed will likely maintain the target federal funds rate at lower levels than the committee considers normal for “some time.”

Fed Chair Janet Yellen provided further insight into Fed policy during a press conference given after the FOMC statement. She also said that the FOMC’s view of current economic conditions has not changed over the past few months. Chair Yellen also said that the committee expects to maintain the current target federal funds rate for a “considerable time” after asset purchases under the QE 3 program cease.

Fed Chair Yellen: Gaps Between Current Data and Fed’s Mandate Shrink Modestly

In a press conference given after the FOMC policy statement was released, Fed Chair Janet Yellen emphasized that the committee’s discussions did not imply any near-term changes to the target federal funds rate. Chair Yellen cited gaps between current unemployment rates and the Fed’s mandate of achieving maximum employment and the current inflation rate and the Fed’s target inflation rate of 2.00 percent as major considerations in forming current Fed policy. She said that the respective gaps had narrowed “modestly,” and again emphasized the Fed’s commitment to constant review of economic and financial data as a significant factor in its decisions to change monetary policy.

Ms. Yellen cautioned media representatives and analysts to avoid making economic projections too far into the future and pointed out that longer term predictions are subject to more variables. Chair Yellen also cautioned press conference attendees not to consider anything in the FOMC statement or her press conference to a definite time frame.

Media reps continued to press for definite dates and time projections, but Chair Yellen held fast to the Fed’s often-repeated position that policy changes cannot be set by a calendar and also depend on economic trends and news that influence the Fed’s monetary policies.