Real Estate Blog
Tuesday, January 31 2012
January’s typical Evansville homebuyer assumes that buying a pre-owned residence saves money. Period. And in fact, most often that is true. Buyers rightly expect that pre-owned houses are more affordable than comparable new homes for sale. But what about the buyer who can qualify for a slightly higher mortgage? Would it be a better idea for them to also consider new homes for sale rather than to simply fixate on the immediate cash savings that go along with buying an older property?
The fact is, there are both benefits and drawbacks that deserve looking at no matter which choice you wind up making.
One practical advantage to buying new homes for saleis that you know that you and your family will be living in a house built to conform to the latest standards in materials and construction. Evansville building codes are continually adopting advances in energy efficiency and materials sustainability. They automatically reflect the community’s experience with construction techniques: what works and what doesn’t; what lasts longest; what’s safe. With contractors and inspectors both working the insure that new homes for sale are built to code; the result is an extra dose of peace of mind when it comes to the durability you can expect in a new home.
Another advantage to buying a newly built house is the pleasure and convenience of living in a home with brand new features. No time-consuming and costly remodeling will be needed to obtain the extra pride of ownership that go with a sparkling new kitchen and bathrooms boasting the latest fixtures. And it’s often the case that newly-built homes for sale better reflect today’s lifestyle patterns. Twenty-first century floor plans apportion space in ways that agree with most people’s living preferences, so new homes for sale in today’s market are more likely to accommodate modern entertainment systems (just as they frequently leave less space for gigantic dining room tables).
In contrast, one disadvantage to purchasing some of the new homes for sale can be a tradeoff in lot size. Though not always the case, older developments sometimes reflect an earlier era which accommodated smaller populations featuring less crowded landscapes.
Of course it’s your budget that will largely determine which combination of neighborhood and new or pre-owned home that will make the best fit for you and your family. The wisdom of planning carefully before investing hard-earned money in any property goes without saying. Since you are looking forward to many years of occupancy in either a pre-existing or new home for sale, I hope you will contact me for a consultation. I know the area and can help you sort out the choices that are available right now. You can call me at 812-499-9234 or you can email me at Rolando@RolandoTrentini.com
Monday, January 30 2012
The Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville is reporting what it describes as a record 2011. The organization says it helped 10 companies with their decisions to locate or expand in the Evansville area. GAGE also says it has helped secure commitments for nearly 1,000 jobs over the next five years.
he Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville (GAGE) released today, its 2011 Annual Report to the Community.
The Growth Alliance began 2011 with new areas of strategic focus, a reallocation of resources, and specific performance objectives. GAGE focused on their mission of bringing jobs and revenue growth to Evansville and Vanderburgh County and met or exceeded those objectives by focusing on attraction, retention, and expansion of businesses that can drive long-term sustainable economic growth; as well as on new business incubation and technology commercialization.
In addition to the economic and community development accomplishments outlined in the Annual Report, GAGE developed a Business Licensing and Permitting Guide and a variety of promotional materials used to attract and retain businesses and workers in Evansville and Vanderburgh County. New this year, the Growth Alliance implemented economic impact modeling to accurately evaluate projects. GAGE also conducted multiple entrepreneur workshops and obtained Shovel Ready Certification for another local property.
GAGE President Debbie Dewey says, “We look forward to more success in 2012. We will continue to drive a City Branding effort, operate as the One Stop Resource for Business in Greater Evansville, and participate in establishing a technology corridor vision for the region.”
The Growth Alliance would like to send a special thanks to their volunteer Board Members, investors and sponsors, and partnering organizations for making their efforts possible.
A downloadable version of the 2011 GAGE Annual Report is available on the GAGE website, www.evansvillegage.com.
The Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville is a non-for-profit 501c(3) that was created in early 2007 because government and business representatives were searching for a comprehensive focused approach for economic development. The Growth Alliance provides support for strategic programs that enhance the overall economic vitality of the area.
Mission: to drive and support economic development activities for the City of Evansville and Vanderburgh County, Indiana aimed at: attracting and creating new jobs and new revenue dollars, retaining existing jobs and revenue dollars, effectively allocating available resources and recognizing the priorities of basic industries in driving sustainable growth.
• GAGE assisted 10 companies with their decision to locate or expand in the City of Evansville or Vanderburgh County in 2011: Sugar Steel, Mead Johnson & Company, SS&C Technologies, Rotary Corporation, Windstream Technologies, Berry Plastics Corporation, Global Blade Technology, Vantage Oncology, Heartland Pump, Uniseal, Inc.
• Number of jobs GAGE will have added to Evansville/Vanderburgh County over the next five years: 973
• The 5 year Economic Impact of the new jobs added in Evansville/Vanderburgh County: $967.4 Million (source: Economic Impact Model)
• Innovation Pointe, the high-tech business incubator managed by the Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville is 83% occupied.
• The Growth Alliance engaged six (6) regional businesses in activities to explore federal lab resources that may be a benefit to their products or processes. As a result, to date, one new product idea and a joint technology development effort is being evaluated.
• GAGE assisted twenty-eight (28) businesses through the Downtown Design process.
• A walking map of Downtown Evansville is complete and available on the GAGE website, www.evansvillegage.com
• The Business Licensing and Brochure Guide created by GAGE is available on the GAGE website, http://www.evansvillegage.com/gage-reports/
• The Growth Alliance obtained Shovel Ready Certification for another local property.
Source: Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville http://://www.insideindianabusiness.com/newsitem.asp?ID=51881
Friday, January 27 2012
Existing-home sales continued on an uptrend in December, rising for three consecutive months and remaining above where they were a year ago, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.
The latest monthly data shows total existing-home sales rose 5.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.61 million in December from a downwardly revised 4.39 million in November, and are 3.6 percent higher than the 4.45 million-unit level in December 2010. The estimates are based on completed transactions from multiple listing services that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said these are early signs of what may be a sustained recovery. “The pattern of home sales in recent months demonstrates a market in recovery,” he said. “Record low mortgage interest rates, job growth and bargain home prices are giving more consumers the confidence they need to enter the market.”
For all of 2011, existing-home sales rose 1.7 percent to 4.26 million from 4.19 million in 2010.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to another record low of 3.96 percent in December from 3.99 percent in November; the rate was 4.71 percent in December 2010; recordkeeping began in 1971.
NAR President Moe Veissisaid more buyers are expected to take advantage of market conditions this year. “The American dream of homeownership is alive and well. We have a large pent-up demand, and household formation is likely to return to normal as the job market steadily improves,” he said. “More buyers coming into the market mean additional benefits for the overall economy. When people buy homes, they stimulate a lot of related goods and services.”
Total housing inventory at the end of December dropped 9.2 percent to 2.38 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.2-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 7.2-month supply in November.
Available inventory has trended down since setting a record of 4.04 million in July 2007, and is at the lowest level since March 2005 when there were 2.30 million homes on the market.
“The inventory supply suggests many markets will see prices stabilize or grow moderately in the near future,” Yun said.
Who’s Buying What
Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 22 percent in December, up from 20 percent a year ago, while short sales closed 13 percent below market value compared with a 16 percent discount in December 2010.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $164,500 in December, which is 2.5 percent below December 2010. Distressed homes — foreclosures and short sales — accounted for 32 percent of sales in December (19 percent were foreclosures and 13 percent were short sales), up from 29 percent in November; they were 36 percent in December 2010.
All-cash sales accounted for 31 percent of purchases in December, up from 28 percent in November and 29 percent in December 2010. Investors account for the bulk of cash transactions.
Investors purchased 21 percent of homes in December, up from 19 percent in November and 20 percent in December 2010. First-time buyers fell to 31 percent of transactions in December from 35 percent in November; they were 33 percent in December 2010.
Contract failures were reported by 33 percent of NAR members in December, unchanged from November; they were 9 percent in December 2010. Although closed sales are holding up better than this finding would suggest, contract cancellations are caused largely by declined mortgage applications and failures in loan underwriting from appraised values coming in below the negotiated price.
Single-family home sales increased 4.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.11 million in December from 3.93 million in November, and are 4.3 percent higher than the 3.94 million-unit pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $165,100 in December, which is 2.5 percent below December 2010.
Existing condominium and co-op sales rose 8.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 500,000 in December from 460,000 in November but are 2.0 percent below the 510,000-unit level in December 2010. The median existing condo price was $160,000 inDecember, down 3.0 percent from a year ago.
Around the Country
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 10.7 percent to an annual pace of 620,000 in December and are 3.3 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $231,300, which is 2.7 percent below December 2010.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 8.3 percent in December to a level of 1.04 million and are 9.5 percent above December 2010. The median price in the Midwest was $129,100, down 7.9 percent from a year ago.
In the South, existing-home sales increased 2.9 percent to an annual level of 1.76 million in Decemberand are 3.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the South was $146,900, down 1.1 percent from December 2010.
Existing-home sales in the West rose 2.6 percent to an annual pace of 1.19 million in December but are 0.8 percent below December 2010. The median price in the West was $205,200, up 0.3 percent from a year ago.
Source: NAR http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2012/01/20/december-existing-home-sales-show-uptrend
Wednesday, January 25 2012
To calculate how much remodel you can afford, follow these four steps: Ballpark the cost, establish a spending limit, make a wish list, and set your priorities.
What’s on your remodeling wish list? Maybe you’re longing for a spa-like master bathroom, a new eat-in kitchen, or a garage with space enough to fit your cars and your outdoor gear. Well, when it comes to home improvements, knowing what you want is the easy part. The tougher question is figuring out how much you can afford. Follow this four-step plan to arrive at the answer.
Ballpark the costs
The first step is to get a handle on how much your remodeling dreams will cost. Remodeling Magazine’s 2010-11 Cost vs. Value Report gives national averages for 35 common projects. Or you can use a per-square-foot estimate: In general, major upgrades, such as a bathroom remodel or a family-room addition, run $100 to $200 per square foot. Your local National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) affiliate can help with estimates. At this point, you’re not trying to nail down exact prices, but to get a rough sense of what your project might cost.
Figure out how much you have to spend
Once you have a ballpark cost estimate, the next question is whether you have the money. If you’re paying cash, that’s pretty easy to answer. But if you’re borrowing, you need to assess how much a bank will lend you and what that loan will add to your monthly expenses.
For the vast majority of homeowners, the best way to borrow for a home improvement is a home equity line of credit. A HELOC (pronounced HEE-lock) is a loan that’s secured by your home equity, which means that it qualifies for a lower rate than other loan types, and you can deduct the interest on your taxes. Because a HELOC is a line of credit rather than a lump-sum loan, it comes with a checkbook that you use to withdraw money as needed, up to the maximum amount of the loan. For help shopping for a HELOC, download our free worksheet.
The catch is that the minimum payment on a HELOC is just that month’s interest; you’re not required to pay back any principal. Like only paying the minimum due on a credit card, that’s a recipe for getting stuck in debt. Instead, establish your own repayment schedule. You can do this simply by paying 1/60th of the principal (for a five-year paydown) or 1/120th (for 10 years) in addition to the monthly interest. If you can’t afford that much, then you should reconsider your project.
Get quotes from contractors
Once you have ballpark estimates of what your job might cost and how much you can spend, you know whether it’s feasible to move forward. Assuming the numbers are within shooting range of each other, it’s time to get a nuts-and-bolts assessment of project costs.
Don’t ask contractors for bids yet, though. First, you need to determine exactly what you want, right down to the kitchen countertop material and the type of faucet. By specifying these details up front, you ensure that contractors are all pricing the same things, rather than the countertop and faucet they assume you want. If you’re using an architect or designer, bring them in now to help with these choices. If not, consult magazines, go to showrooms, and visit friends’ houses for ideas.
Next, get recommendations for at least three contractors from friends, neighbors, and other tradesmen that you trust. Give each one your project description and specific product lists and request an itemized bid. To make a final decision, assess some of their previous work, their attitudes, and their references, and then choose the contractor who impresses you most.
Prioritize and phase
Take the winning contractor’s bid and add a 15% to 20% contingency for the unforeseen problems and changes that occur on every project. Is the total still within your ability to pay? If so, you’re ready to get started. If not, it’s time to scale back your plans.
Because you have an itemized bid, you can get a good sense of what you’ll save by eliminating various aspects of the project. Enlist the contractor’s help: Explain that you’ve decided to hire him (and you’re not trying to nickel-and-dime him) but that the bid is over your budget, and ask him to recommend ways to cut costs. He may suggest phasing parts of the job—keeping your old appliances in your new kitchen, for example, because they’re easy to upgrade later—or stealing some underutilized square footage for part of your family room to reduce the size of the addition. He may even suggest waiting until the slow winter season, or letting you do some of the work yourself. Once the bottom line on the bid matches the bottom line on your budget, you’re ready to transform your home.
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/planning-your-remodel/how-to-budget-for-home-remodel/#ixzz1kU1Kha1p
Tuesday, January 24 2012
If you're a fan or bourbon or jazz, then you're really going enjoy a new festival coming to Owensboro.
Karren Miller with Owensboro Daviess County Visitors Bureau announced the new Bourbon n' Jazz Festival that's coming to town in June.
The festival will be downtown and organized by the Owensboro Bourbon Society and the Miller House, which has a bourbon bar with more than 100 different bourbons. The Owensboro Symphony Orchestra will provide the jazz music.
Miller says with opportunities like this festival and the work being done at the miller house with their bourbon bar, they're hoping Owensboro can become an official member of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
The festival will be held on June 15th and 16th.
Monday, January 23 2012
The University of Evansville says current enrollment of nearly 2,700 students is the highest level in a decade. The school says enrollment is also up at Harlaxton College, its overseas campus near Grantham, England.
With the Spring Semester 2012 underway, the University of Evansville is proud to announce record-setting enrollment figures, including strong freshman retention on UE’s main campus and historic enrollment overseas at Harlaxton College.
Total enrollment currently stands at 2,696, the highest in a decade. Traditional undergraduate enrollment is at its highest since 2007.
These figures are bolstered by high retention rates, with 95.3 percent of fall freshmen returning this spring.
“We’re thrilled to see growth on campus, as well as a successful freshman class that has largely returned for the spring semester,” said Tom Bear, UE vice president for enrollment services. “These kinds of numbers, particularly in an economic climate that remains challenging, demonstrate the quality and value of a UE education.”
The historic enrollment trends continue across the ocean at Harlaxton College, UE’s British campus near Grantham, England. UE student enrollment at Harlaxton has increased 11 percent from last spring, with 122 UE students currently studying at Harlaxton. The total number of students at Harlaxton, including those from partner institutions, is 185 — the highest since 1989.
Source: University of Evansville http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/newsitem.asp?ID=51797
Friday, January 20 2012
Several recent indicators for the real estate industry are pointing to a market that is on the mend and entering recovery mode.
Housing experts’ predictions for the new year tend to center around a market stabilizing before entering a gradual, albeit very slow, recovery. However, the tone is more upbeat than it has been in years for the housing market.
Here are a few of the signs that are showing the market moving in a more positive direction:
Home sales: Existing home sales are expected to increase 12 percent this year, following a 2 percent jump last year, Moody’s Analytics predicts. The signs are already showing: In November, pending home sales — a gauge for future home buying — reached its highest level in 19 months, the National Association of REALTORS® reported. (Read more.)
New-home market: Coming off of what could be considered the worst year for new-home building ever recorded, the sector is expected to bounce back this year. New-home sales and starts were already showing a rebound in the last few months of 2011. Moody’s is predicting that single-family housing starts will increase 37 percent this year, and new-home sales will soar 74 percent.
Housing stocks: Investors are starting to get optimistic about the possibility of a rebound too, and are turning to home builder stocks. These equities have recently outperformed the broader stock market and the S&P 1500 homebuilding index has increased 38 percent since mid-October, USA Today reports.
Consumer confidence: With mortgage rates at record lows and housing affordability high, about 71 percent of Americans say now is a good time to purchase a home. Also, more Americans are optimistic that home prices will rise over the next year — about 26 percent say prices will rise in 2012, an increase of 4 percent over the last survey, according to Fannie Mae’s December National Housing Survey
Source: “Housing Outlook Is More Upbeat,” USA Today (Jan. 15, 2012) and “Consumers More Confident, Survey Says,” Deseret News (Utah) (Jan. 16, 2012)
Thursday, January 19 2012
Financial experts insist that they don’t have a crystal ball, but they still have to predict the future anyway. That’s why they watch a number of different economic indicators to determine the direction they expect different segments of the economy to head. For the owners of Southwest Indiana rental homes and their tenants, one of the most important segments is the one dealing with rents – will they continue to rise in 2012? If, as many experts predict, rents do continue on an upward path, it will mark the third straight year that they have done so. Evansville area landlords needn’t ignore the trend.
While the year is still too young to have established many economic indicators, here are some to watch for to help you make your own prediction regarding rent price trends that may affect your own decision-making:
- A quiet market in home purchasing. Americans remain anxious about the overall economy and have thus far refused to signal a clear end to the doldrums in home sales. Many Americans tend to remain in rental homes as they await clearer signals of a more robust economic recovery.
- Continuing high foreclosure rates have the effect of forcing homeowners out of their homes and into the rental home market. This decreases vacancy rates, raises demand -- and therefore, rents.
- Job growth fuels housing demand. As the population increases, at least some job growth is required to meet the resulting demand for goods and services – especially if growth in the supply of rental homes lags or remains flat.
To slightly balance those indicators, other signs could hint at a possible future stall in rental rates:
- Rental unit construction starts were up 33.3% in the third quarter of 2011. Although such projects take time to reach completion, when they hit the market they will add to the supply of available rental homes -- and that absorbs some of the demand.
- Low mortgage rates make it more financially feasible to own rather than to rent. When rents have been rising for as long as they have, there is a growing likelihood that home sales will eventual rebound. When? That’s where the crystal ball would come in handy!
The big question is, if rental home rates do continue to rise in 2012, how much can owners and renters expect? While the majority of analysts agree that residential rents should continue to rise, they vary when asked how much – from 2.5% to 5.5%, depending on which one you ask.
Please let us know if you are interested to receive emails with listings that are suitable for the rental market. We are working with many investors who take advantage of this and in case you do not want to be personally involved with the leasing process we can assist you with that as well. You can reach me by phone at 812-499-9234 or by email at RolandoTrentini@FCTE.com
Wednesday, January 18 2012
Scammers have targeted delinquent borrowers during the past few years, hoping to take advantage of their desperation and financial inexperience. Their approach typically involves posing as a representative of a nonprofit or government agency who can help with a loan modification or some other form of assistance.
Sheri Stuart, education manager at Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Counseling, says she frequently encounters consumers at courses offered by her organization who have been victimized by these scams. Stuart says she recently met a couple from Southern California at one of these events who’d paid $3,000 to a fraudulent company in an attempt to keep their home out of foreclosure.
“It’s disconcerting,” she says. “It has a ripple effect. It not only affects the home owners, it affects the communities as well.”
To keep more consumers from being taken in by these scams, Stuart offers the following four red flags to help determine whether borrowers’ knight in shining armor is actually a swindler on the make:
1. They ask for money up front. “That’s usually an indication that someone has an ulterior motive,” Stuart says.
2. “Phantom help” appears out of nowhere. If a consumer hasn’t proactively contacted anyone about missed mortgage payments, but suddenly gets calls and mail about getting help for missed mortgage payments, it’s probably a scammer.
3. They present phony credentials. Many companies that claim to offer assistance will have official-looking seals from credentialing institutions on paperwork, promotional materials, and Web sites. Research those organizations to make sure they actually exist.
4. They make promises they can’t deliver. If they make ambitious guarantees about being able to modify loans or halt foreclosures, that should set off alarm bells. “Nobody can promise you a loan mod,” Stuart says.
If your clients suspect they have been or are being targeted, point them to Loanscamalert.org to get more information and report the scammers.
By Brian Summerfield, REALTOR® Magazine http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2012/01/13/4-ways-id-borrower-assistance-scammers
Tuesday, January 17 2012
Disaster Resistant Community(DRC) is hosting the Evansville Earthquake Hazards Maps presentation.
I am inviting you to attendthe upcoming first public look at the new earthquake hazards maps of the Evansville-Henderson metro area. Please pass this invitation on to those you know who will be interested.
On Tuesday, February 7,from 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm, new earth quake hazards maps of the Evansville area will be unveiled to the public. The event will take place at the SouthernIndiana Career & Technology Center, located at 1901 Lynch Road in Evansville, Ind. The programis Free and open to the public.
There will be a special appearance by “Eliza Bryan”, who lived in New Madrid from 1780 until 1866. She survived the 1811–1812 New Madridearthquakes and left detailed accounts of her experiences. Eliza Bryan will share her recollections ofthe Mississippi River running backwards and upheavals of the earth’ssurface during those earthquakes. Phyllis Steckel, an earthquake geologist from Washington, Mo., will portray Eliza Bryan.
The Evansville AreaEarthquake Hazards Mapping Project is funded by the U.S. Geological Survey’sNational Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. The Southwest Indiana Disaster Resistant Community Corporation; Purdue University; the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis; the U.S. Geological Survey; and the state geologic surveys of Indiana and Kentucky are project leaders. The Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium and CUSEC State Geologists are also involved.
To register go to: email@example.com - please note this is for the "evening presentation" and list the names ofthose who will be attending.
Monday, January 16 2012
We have started a new year and it’s a great time to compare 2011 to 2010. In our market we sold 9 fewer homes in 2011 compared to 2010 (3999 vs. 3990). The average price of the homes sold was 2% higher than the previous year. 2011 average sales price was $125,697. Total sales volume was up 1.8%. None of these statistics sound very exciting but I am pleased with the direction of the market. Our market has improved and there are other items that bode well for the future.
I have mentioned shadow inventory in previous Market Watch’s. Shadow inventory is the total of homes 90 days or more delinquent, homes currently in foreclosure and homes banks already own but that have not yet been listed for sale. Two years ago this inventory was estimated at 2.4 million homes, nationwide. The current estimate is that there are about half as many or about 1.2 million homes. Although 1.2 million is more than anyone wishes the reduction from the previous year is very positive. A reduction in these foreclosed homes helps price appreciation, and as these homes are liquidated, demand for new home construction increases. New home construction provides a significant boost to employment which also helps the economy. Assuming no big hiccups this year, shadow inventory will be back to near normal levels a year from now.
Listed inventory levels also improved this past year. Our average month’s supply of homes averaged 8.71 months for 2011. 2009 and 2010 averaged 9.4 months. Reduced inventory, both nationally and locally, stabilized or slightly increasing prices and exceedingly low interest rates bode well for the future. I anticipate continued slow improvement to our market in 2012 and more improvement in 2013.
We have recently enhanced our TuckerOpenHouses.com website. You can now search for virtually all open houses in one spot and from your smart phone. You can also sign up for open house alerts and even map you open house schedule all in one convenient spot. Please use this link for your easy access: http://tinyurl.com/RolandoTrentini
Best wishes for a prosperous new year and please let me know if I can help you sign up to automatically receive information about open houses or new listings from our website.
Friday, January 13 2012
If you’re one of the millions who has an eye on 2012 as the year in which you’ll buy a home (first or not), here are five things you can do now to put yourself on the right path:
1. Check your credit. Take my word for it: there is no bad surprise worse than a bad credit surprise. Okay, maybe there is one thing worse – a credit surprise you receive while you’re in the midst of trying to buy a home!
Recent studies have revealed that a record high number of real estate transactions are falling out of escrow, and that credit “issues” are a leading cause of these dead deals. Your best chance at catching and correcting score-lowering errors and other derogatory items before they destroy your personal American Dream is to start checking and correcting while you still have time on your side.
2. Do your research. The more rapidly the real estate market changes, the more it behooves smart buyers to study up before they jump in. And now’s the time – you can start doing online and in-person research into topics ranging from:
· Target states, cities and neighborhoods. Whether you’re relocating or simply trying to narrow down the local districts to focus on during your 2012 house hunt, December is a great time to start your online research into decision-driving factors like tax rates, school districts, neighborhood character and even prices in various areas. Resident ratings and reviews sites like Trulia and NabeWise can help you make the neighborhood-lifestyle match.
Once you narrow things down and start speaking to local agents, ask them to brief you on the local market dynamics, including how long homes typically stay on the market and whether they generally go for more or less than the asking price, so you can be smart about how you search. (And yes, there are areas where homes sell for more than asking, even as we speak!)
· Real estate and mortgage pros. If you don’t already have your pros picked out, now is the time to get on the horn or drop an email or Facebook message to your circle of contacts, asking them for a referral to a broker or agent they love. Follow up by: checking whether these pros are active in answering questions on Trulia Voices, searching for their name and seeing what sort of feedback on them you can cull from the web, then giving them a ring and launching a conversation about whether you and they might be a good partnership.
· Short sales and REOs. Distressed property sales are not for the unwary. If you want to target upside down or foreclosed homes, or are planning to house hunt in an area where many of the listings are described as short sales or foreclosures, get educated about what you can expect from a distressed property purchase transaction before you get your heart set on a short sale.
· What you get for the money. Online house hunting is a powerful tool – especially when it’s cold and wet! But there comes a point in your house hunt where you’ve got to just get out into the actual physical homes you’re seeing online in order to get a strong, accurate sense of what home features, aesthetics and location characteristics correlate with what price points.
· Mortgage musts. You can read a bunch of articles about mortgages and get yourself pretty far down the path toward qualifying for a home loan, but you can only get a personalized action plan for a smooth road ‘home’ by talking with a local mortgage broker and having them assess your basic financials. They might say you need to move funds around, pay a bill down or off or produce some sort of documentation from your employer. And the time to start all that is now.
3. Fluff up your cash cushion. So, you’ve saved up your 3.5 percent down payment. Perhaps you saved a little extra for closing costs. Or maybe you’re even one of those uber-aggressive 20-percent-down-ers. No matter how much you’ve saved, you’ll find that you could use more once you activate your home buying action plan. Mark my words – after closing, you’ll crave extra cash to do some repairs, upgrade a couple of things, buy appliances or even just to hold onto in order to minimize your anxiety about depleting your savings!
4. Shed some stuff. Sell it. Donate it. Give it to relatives who’ve always coveted it. Just get rid of it. You might even be able to kill three birds with one stone: (a) getting some cold hard cash to go toward your savings, (b) getting some tax receipts to help you out on your 2012 tax returns, (c) clearing the mental clutter that physical clutter creates and (d) getting a long head start on preparing for your move, affirming your commitment to your home ownership goal.
5. Sit very, very still. Sometimes, the best way to further our goals is to stop tripping ourselves up. In that vein, commit right now to refrain from making any major financial moves until you buy your home. Don’t quit your job to start that personal chef business (yet), don’t pull a bunch of cash out of your savings account (without getting clearance form your mortgage pro first), and don’t start buying cars (or anything else, for that matter) on credit.
Thursday, January 12 2012
Borrowers who have a history of paying rent on time may see a boost to their credit score.
Experian, a leading credit report company, added a section to its credit reports last year that reflected on-time rent payments, which helped give a boost in the credit scores to some on-time rent payers. Now the two other major credit reporting companies are following suit.
CoreLogic and FICO recently announced they are also adding a score that reflects payment histories from landlords, The New York Times reports.
“Evidence of positive rental payments could be a plus for consumers,” Joanne Gaskin, FICO’s director of product management global scoring, told The New York Times.
Nearly half of high-risk consumers saw an increase of 100 points or more after their rental history was added to their credit report, says Brannan Johnston, the managing director of Experian’s rent bureau. Consumers with average or higher credit scores, on the other hand, did not see any major difference to their scores.
For former home owners who lost their homes to foreclosure, they may be able to rebuild their credit histories more quickly now by showing they are “very responsible renters,” Tim Grace, senior vice president of CoreLogic, told The New York Times.
Source: “A Good Rental History Can Help Borrowers,” The New York Times (Jan. 5, 2012)
Wednesday, January 11 2012
As home buyers continue to rank affordability high, more home styles are getting simpler and homes are becoming lower maintenance, according to the latest Home Design Trends Survey, conducted by the American Institute of Architects.
Simpler exterior details and the use of durable building products are growing in popularity, according to the third-quarter survey of architects, which mostly focused on community and neighborhood design.
“Consumers are favoring homes with low-maintenance exterior materials such as fiber-cement, stone, tile, and natural earth plasters,” according to the report. “This significantly outpaces any other home exterior feature in terms of its increase in popularity. Over the past year, there has been a dramatic decrease in the popularity of sustainable roofing materials, as well as in ‘cool’ roofs with high solar reflective characteristics. Tubular skylights have also decreased in popularity over the past year.”
Also, could large residential subdivisions start becoming a thing of the past? According to the survey of architects, there has been a shift away from large residential subdivisions toward smaller-scale infill development projects, which tend to focus more on affordability, access to public transportation, nearby commercial opportunities, and job centers. The survey also revealed increased interest among consumers for neighborhoods that can accommodate a growing number of multigenerational households and that encourage more interaction with the community.
Friday, January 06 2012
Natural disasters from tornados, hail, winds, and floods caused widespread damage throughout the country in 2011, and more home owners may soon see their homeowner's insurance premiums rise because of it.
The insurance industry has faced heavy losses in recent years from natural disaster, and insurers may be forced to raise costs of premiums, particularly in the Southeast and Midwest, Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, warns.
"We've had record losses for four straight years," Hartwig told USA Today. "My sense is that premiums will probably rise 4 percent to 5 percent."
The average annual cost of homeowner's insurance in 2008 was $791 and increased to $807 in 2010, according to data by the Insurance Information Institute. Hartwig told USA Today that he predicts the average premium for 2011 will be about $840.
Source: “Home Insurance Rates Likely to Go Higher,” USA Today (Jan. 4, 2012)
Thursday, January 05 2012
A new report from Evansville-based Atlas Van Lines shows the number of household moves across state lines continues to rise in Indiana and around the country. The 2011 Atlas Van Lines Migration Patterns study shows for the first time in six years, Michigan is no longer considered an outbound state. Washington D.C. continues to see the highest percentage of inbound moves, while Ohio has the highest percentage of outbound moves.
EVANSVILLE, Ind.--According to one of North America’s leading moving companies, Atlas Van Lines, the number of household moves across state lines continues to rise. The 2011 Atlas Van Lines Migration Patterns study found Southwestern and Mid-Atlantic coastal states to be popular destinations. Atlas first conducted the study in 1993 to track the nation's interstate moving patterns.
“Our annual migration patterns study is an interesting gauge of the economy, where economic development is taking place and trends to follow throughout the upcoming year”
For the first time in six years, Michigan went from a perennially outbound state to a balanced state. Michigan now joins South Dakota and Iowa as the only Midwest states to remain balanced in 2011, as the rest of the Midwest continued to lose residents.
Five states that were balanced in 2010 are now outbound states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, West Virginia, Louisiana and Utah. Wyoming and Mississippi, which were outbound in 2010, are now balanced. Previously inbound states Kentucky and New Hampshire became balanced in 2011.
The highest number of interstate, or between states, moves occurred in states with larger cities, including, California, Texas, New York, Florida, Georgia and Illinois. California comes in at the top with nearly 15,000 moves in 2011. For the sixth consecutive year, Washington D.C. had the highest percentage of inbound moves. Once again, Ohio saw the highest percentage of outbound moves.
"Our annual migration patterns study is an interesting gauge of the economy, where economic development is taking place and trends to follow throughout the upcoming year,” said Jack Griffin, president and COO of Atlas World Group. "These new findings are especially promising, as we saw the number of moves increase yet again.”
Visit http://www.atlasvanlines.com/migration-patterns/ for a full report, detailed map and state-by-state statistics.
About Atlas Van Lines
Atlas Van Lines, a national moving company, is the largest subsidiary of Atlas World Group, an Evansville, Ind.-based company. Atlas World Group companies employ nearly 700 people throughout North America. Nearly 500 Atlas interstate moving agents in the United States and Canada specialize in corporate relocation, household moving services and in the specialized transportation of high-value items such as electronics, fine art, store fixtures and furniture. For more information, visit http://www.atlasvanlines.com.
Source: Atlas Van Lines
Wednesday, January 04 2012
Washing clothes by hand and hanging them to dry is the most energy-saving approach to laundry in terms of electricity. But let’s get real. Most of us don’t have the personal energy to hand-wash and air-dry all of our clothes!
You most likely spend hundreds of dollars per year on electricity to wash and dry your clothes, but it’s easy to save electricity in your laundry room with some simple tricks. In addition, you’ll also make your clothes last longer.
Use cold water. Did you know that about 90% of the electricity consumed by your washing machine is used simply to heat water? Given that, you can save a lot of electricity by washing your clothes in cold water. This also keeps colors bright, reduces wrinkling and won’t set stains.
Although you may find that regular detergent is sufficient, try out cold-water detergents that are specifically formulated to work in cooler temperatures.
Run a full load. The machine will use the same amount of mechanical energy, regardless of how full it is. If you don't run a full load, be sure to set the water level for the amount of laundry you are running.
Use energy-saving settings. Avoid the excessively hot “sanitary cycle,” but do choose the “high spin” option to cut down on drying time. And don’t wash for longer than you need to – some loads only need 10 minutes of washing.
Set your water heater to 120 degrees F (instead of the usual 140 F) so you can save energy even when washing clothes in hot or warm water.
Get Smart about Drying
Sort similar fabrics together, starting with a load of fast-drying fabrics, and do back-to-back loads to take advantage of residual heat.
Clean the lint filter after each dryer load to improve air circulation and cut down on drying time.
Use energy-saving settings. Select low temperature for delicates and medium for most clothes. Choose auto-dry instead of timed-dry to prevent over-drying, which causes shrinkage and static electricity and generally wears clothes out.
Get a drying rack for “almost-dry” clothes, delicates and silks. Fabrics like wool should be laid flat to dry.
Throw in a clean, dry towel or tennis ball to dry clothes quicker. The towel absorbs moisture, while the tennis ball helps circulate air between clothes.
Tuesday, January 03 2012
Pending home sales rose 7.3 percent in November to the highest level since April 2010, according to the National Association of Realtors. That is some good news for the local and national housing markets.
The Realtors also revised higher its pending home sales data for October, showing a gain of 10.4 percent the previous month.
“Housing affordability conditions are at a record high and there is pent-up demand from buyers who’ve been on the sidelines, but contract failures have been running unusually high," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Some of the increase in pending home sales appears to be from buyers recommitting after an initial contract ran into problems, often with the mortgage.”
Pending home sales in the south, which includes the Washington area, rose 4.3 percent last month, and were up 8.7 percent from year-ago levels.
Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year fixed-rate mortgages remained below 4 percent for the ninth consecutive week this week, contributing to an increase in buyer activity
Monday, January 02 2012
Just in time for the holidays: Mortgage rates reached new all-time lows this week, pushing home buyer affordability even higher, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey.
"Rates on 30-year fixed mortgages have been at or below 4 percent for the last eight weeks and now are almost 0.9 percentage points below where they were at the beginning of the year, which means that today's home buyers are paying over $1,200 less per year on a $200,000 loan,” Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie Mac, said in a statement. “This greater affordability helped push existing home sales higher for the second consecutive month in November to an annualized pace of 4.42 million, the most since January.”
Here’s a closer look at mortgage rates for the week ending Dec. 22:
- 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.91 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, beating last week’s 3.94 percent record. A year ago at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.81 percent.
- 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.21 percent, with an average 0.8 point, matching last week’s all-time low. Last year at this time, the 15-year mortgage averaged 4.15 percent.
- 5-year adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.85 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, a new record after dropping from last week’s 2.86 percent average. Last year at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.75 percent.
- 1-year ARMs: averaged 2.77 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, also a new record after falling from last week’s 2.81 percent average. A year ago at this time, the 1-year ARMs averaged 3.40 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac