Real Estate Blog
Friday, October 26 2012
Lately you may have noticed that it has become more of a pleasure to open the newspaper when you are checking up on real estate news. In addition to the Internet news feeds, I do still subscribe to some of the old-fashioned kind, too: the ones printed on actual paper (so you can tear interesting articles out and carry them around rather than just Ctrl+C and Ctrl+Ving them).
Given the definite possibility that paper papers won’t be around much longer, I enjoy them while I still can. The Wall Street Journal is one. I opened it up on Saturdayto find a headline at the top of the second page that got my attention: “Home Sales Rise For 15th Month,” it fairly screamed.
If you are a frequent visitor here, you know that I follow and comment on home sales and associated topics regularly -- but even I hadn’t realized that the trend has been going for such a long time. I took a look at the charts, and it is so!
Others noted the mark, too. The NY Times seems in a permanently grouchy mood of late, so it had a less ebullient take on the statistics (which originated with the NAR). But even they were forced to note that higher prices have become the rule rather than the exception. “The nation’s stock of existing homes for sale fell 3.3% last month…tight inventories have helped support home prices…,” the Grey Lady mumbled.
The Journal was more cheerful in approaching the latest numbers. “The markets need inventory right now,” they quoted the president of a leading appraisal firm. “The pent-up demand is enormous.”
You certainly can appreciate observations like that – especially if you are a homeowner who is keeping an eye on home sales since you might list soon. If you fall into that category, I hope you will check in with me to get a more precise readout of the Evansville home sales market, and what you might expect from this fall’sselling season. The Journal says, “…there are signs that demand could be picking up.” Since they also noted that national median home prices rose 11.3% from a year ago, you would have to say that’s a pretty safe assumption. You can reach me on my cell phone at 912-499-9234.
Tuesday, October 23 2012
Inventories of for-sale homes aren’t the only thing that is dropping. The amount of time homes are staying on the market is growing shorter as well—down 11 percent in the last year—according to the latest Realtor.com data.
Homes were listed on average 95 days, according to September housing data. That is down from 107 days a year earlier.
Homes are selling the fastest in Oakland, Calif., in which the median age of the inventory averages 21 days, which is 57 percent below what it was a year ago. Denver, Colo. boasts a median age of inventory of only 38 days, followed by fast-selling markets of Stockton-Lodi, Calif., with 43 days, and San Francisco with 44 days.
As the median age of the inventory is falling, inventories of for-sale homes continue to hover at record lows too, dropping 18 percent last month compared to a year ago.
“There’s a recovery,” Curt Beardsley, vice president of Realtor.com, told BusinessWeek. “Our market times are low and there’s actually a compression of inventory.”
Home buyer demand is increasing, with housing affordability still high and ultra low mortgage rates that have pushed home buyers’ purchasing power higher. The rise in demand has caused asking prices to also rise. Last month, the median asking price was $191,500, which is up 0.8 percent compared to a year earlier, Realtor.com reports.
Source: "Listings of Homes for Sale Drop as U.S. Housing Recovers," BusinessWeek (Oct. 15, 2012) and REALTOR® Magazine Daily News
Monday, October 22 2012
Unclog a drain by dropping three Alka-Seltzer tablets down the drain, followed by a cup of white vinegar. Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic
This month marks the 27th anniversary of the most influential DIY show ever. Nope we’re not talking about This Old House (which debuted in 1978). We’re referring to MacGyver, the action-adventure series that taught us any sticky situation could be fixed with a few mundane items.
To note this occasion, we asked four DIY experts to share their favorite MacGyver-inspired household hacks and tips.
This penny-pinching site known for doling out smart budgeting advice came up with two quick fixes; one clears clogs while the second neatens up floors.
1. Unclog a drain
Solution: Next time one of your drains is being a pain, drop three Alka-Seltzer tablets down the sink followed by a cup of white vinegar.
We’re not 100% sure about the science behind this, but we heard when combined together, these ingredients will dissolve grease and other funky things. After about 15 minutes, you can clear the drain with boiling water.
Do not attempt this trick immediately after using a commercial drain opener like Drano or Liquid-Plumr.
FYI, you can also use this exact same solution to clean and freshen up toilet bowls.
Fun MacGyver fact: He mixed it with baking soda to create a smoke screen.
2. Fix scuffed floors
Give scuffmarks on tile and linoleum floors the boot using a tennis ball fitted on the end of a broom handle. When rubbed against the floor, the ball will remove scuffmarks.
What, you don’t have a tennis ball? Use a sneaker. The bottom of most clean sneakers can easily buff floors.
Fun MacGyver fact: He once made a missile out of a broom handle.
Expert: Domestic Imperfection
Ashley, the blogger behind this site, knows a thing or two about being crafty. Just like MacGyver, she likes hacking common office items.
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/blog/repair-tips/macgyver-inspired-household-hacks/#ixzz2A2lA7DmS
Friday, October 19 2012
Are you haunted by strange noises and weird odors? With the proper maintenance, you’ve got more than a ghost of a chance to rest easy.
Creaking and popping in the night
The many materials that make up your house — wood framing, plywood, glass, metal ducts, nails, plumbing pipes — all expand and contract at different rates.
When a house cools at night, these materials may move slightly, rubbing against each other and making noises. Occasionally, they’ll contract with an audible pop.
These sounds tend to be more noticeable in fall, when warm days give way to rapidly cooling nights. The bad news? Not much you can do about it. The good news? Those sounds are harmless and normal.
It’s either time to throw out the garbage, or you’d better call your gas utility to check on your gas lines and connections.
Natural gas is odorless, but natural gas suppliers add a foul-smelling odorant — butyl mercaptan — to alert occupants to any leaks. The smell is like rotten eggs.
Leaks can occur at your gas-fired water heater, fireplace, clothes dryer, and any gas line. Leaking natural gas is potentially dangerous — leave the house and call your natural gas provider to assess the situation. Most utility companies perform safety checks for free.
Footsteps in the attic
Amplified by an unfinished attic space, a raccoon or even a good-size squirrel on your roof might sound like an ax murderer is doing the polka overhead.
These rooftop transits are normal for critters — roofs offer a nice long unobstructed highway.
Make sure your soffit, rafter, and gable roof vents are covered with screens and in good shape, or your rooftop buddies might find their way into your attic for real. Trim back branches that provide critters easy access to your roof.
You can smell the odor of burnt wood, but the smoke detectors aren’t going off and there’s no smoke in the house. The culprit could be your fireplace — even if you haven’t had a fire for days.
The probable cause is a drafty chimney and negative air pressure in your home, meaning that outside air is infiltrating down your chimney, bringing stale burnt smells with it.
Stop drafts by making sure your damper has a good seal. Regulate air pressure by adding more cold air return ducts to your HVAC system. You’ll get rid of the odor and save on your energy bill, too.
Moaning and clattering
These classic spooky sounds often show up when the wind blows and there’s a storm brewing.
Vents for clothes dryers, bathrooms, and water heaters exit out the roof or the side of the house. To prevent backdrafts, these vents have dampers — flaps designed to let vented air out and prevent outside air from coming in. These flaps sometimes move and rattle in high winds.
Because dampers often are located in attics or in between floor joists, the sound can be difficult to pinpoint. You may need a new damper ($85).
Thursday, October 18 2012
Builder confidence inched slightly higher in October, bringing it to its strongest level since June of 2006, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. The October gain also marks the sixth consecutive month for increases in the index, which measures builder confidence about the direction of the new-home market.
"Many builders are reporting increases in the number of serious buyers visiting their sales offices, and the overall confidence measure is much higher than it was at this time last year," says Barry Rutenberg, NAHB Chairman.
The monthly index measures builder perceptions of current single-family home sales, sales expectations, and buyer traffic.
While builders’ confidence about the recovery continues to improve, housing experts say there are still several challenges ahead for the new-home sector.
"The slight gain in builder confidence this month is an indication that, while still moving forward, the speed at which the housing recovery is proceeding is being moderated by the various constraints such as tight credit, difficult appraisals and more recently, the limited inventory of buildable lots in certain markets," says David Crowe, NAHB chief economist.
Source: National Association of Home Builders
Wednesday, October 17 2012
The questions frequently being asked today are buying short sale properties are safe? What are the risks associated?
Currently a massive number of house owners are underwater – the worth of their units being less than the loan due amount. To avoid foreclosure the best option for them is to opt for a short sale. The lenders too are not eager to foreclose anymore; they are realizing that by agreeing to a short sale they lose less than if they opted for foreclosure.
It is known as short sale because the amount agreed upon is short of the loan due amount. The borrower and the lender have to work together to close such a deal. Previously the banks inordinately delayed giving its nod but lately they have reversed their stand.
Apparently it seems that the buyer gains from a short sale but the truth is that everybody gains from a short sale except the buyer and the seller.
Suppose the buyer pays $400,000 for a house that had been originally bought for $500,000. It does not mean that the buyer pockets an equity of $100,000 because in all probability the seller at the time of purchase when the housing segment was in boom had paid too much for it.
During the boom years the banks were over eager to lend and allowed the house to be over-mortgaged; it meant that the mortgage was more than the real value of the house. Although illegal the appraisers were pressurized by the banks to inflate the property’s worth.
There are strict rules about being eligible to put up the property for short sale but many realtors, lacking ethics, pushes the seller into it minus the eligibility factor. The seller has to prove to the lender that he or she is in hardship. Many realtors skip this step.
Lenders insist upon a CMA or comparative-market-analysis or a BPO or broker-opinion-price. This way the lender will know which route to follow – foreclosure or short sale. Meanwhile the potential buyer wastes a lot of time waiting for the lender to give the green signal.
Lenders do not want to pay for certain expenses in a short sale – repairs, pest inspections etc.
If the seller is in default then there is the danger of a pending foreclosure suit if the lender delays in giving an answer. Sometimes there are two mortgages on the property. Usually the second lender does not want to give the permission because the latter’s share from the purchase price is negligible after the first holder chips in.
There are some lenders who nose in and make changes at the eleventh hour. They do so if the market mood changes or new laws come into enforcement. The lenders have lawyers attending on them all the time but this is not the case with buyers.
There is also the question of commission for the agents. If the lenders do not pay what the agent wants for doing extra work, the seller has to make up for it. Closing costs are also often pushed on to the buyer. Regarding closing the upper hand is with the lender.
The seller too may back out at the last minute if he or she notes that a foreclosure is better than this long drawn hassle. Although the seller can buy another house within two years after a short sale and in a foreclosure after seven years, if the seller is not thinking of buying this advantage has very little meaning.
Thus it is not easy to answer the questions – buying short sale properties are safe? What are the risks associated?
Monday, October 15 2012
We are three quarters of the way through the year, sold units through September are 5% ahead of last year and, the median sale price is up 3.3%. Sales this year have exceeded those in the corresponding month last year in 7 of 9 months. Unfortunately, September was one of those two months. I am confident that there is a valid reason for this decline. I have felt for a long time that contested Presidential elections have a short-term, negative impact on real estate sales. Earlier this month I saw a national survey that confirmed my thoughts. According to this survey, 12% of potential homebuyers would definitely delay purchasing a home until after the election and 13% of potential homebuyers might delay their purchase until after the election. Fortunately closed sales locally were only 7.6% below last September. The good news is that the election is less than a month away and I expect a return to normal activity after that.
Another national trend I have been following is the steady decline in foreclosures and shadow inventory. Shadow inventory includes homes currently in the foreclosure process, homes owned by lenders not yet listed for sale and homes 90 or more days delinquent on their mortgage payments. Although these numbers are impossible to track with exact precision, virtually every group that tracks this information shows a steady decline in these numbers. As these homes continue to be removed from the market it cannot help but have a positive impact on both prices and new construction.
As is almost always the case, our Marketing Department is continually making improvements and enhancements to our website, FCTuckerEmge.com. We will soon have a substantially improved interactive map search and will also start providing information on sold properties. Our local Multiple Listing Service requires users to log in before we can provide this sold information. Simply sign up for a MyFCTuckerEmge.com account and you can search sold properties. Or you can always call or email me and I will be happy to get the information for you. Enjoy the beautiful fall weather and next month I will give you some economic information from our annual National Association of Realtors convention, which is always a great source of information. You can reach me on my cell phone at 812-499-9234.
Thursday, October 11 2012
Halloween cleanup can be the scariest thing about the holiday. Here’s a tip sheet on how to remove eggs, toilet paper, wax, and other messes that go bump in the night.
But when the fun is over, the cleanup begins. Here are some tips from the American Cleaning Institute and others on removing the Halloween mayhem that little tricksters leave behind.
Egg splatters on your house
Time is your enemy when your house has been egged, because sunbaked yolks can stain your siding. Also, micro-shards of shell can become embedded in paint or act as an abrasive when you clean off the gunk.
Instead of scrubbing, spray away the egg with your garden hose. But don’t aim the hose full blast at the yolk, which will splatter the mess. Instead, Popular Mechanics magazine suggests first wetting the siding below the egg, then gently spraying the siding above the egg; the water will fall in sheets and flush away the mess.
If you need more cleaning oomph, dip a brush into a bucket of warm water (never hot, which will bake on yolks) and dish soap, and then scrub away the mess.
Toilet paper in your trees
Wet toilet paper is a beast to remove from trees. So wait until the sun evaporates dew; or, if rain is predicted, start removal right away.
Use a rake to grab and pull the TP down, a leaf blower to blast it, or a telescoping reacher/grabber to pluck it.
Start at the top and work your way down. Immediately throw paper away: Leaving it on your lawn can smother grass.
Candle wax on the carpets
Never try to remove hot wax from carpeting. Not only can you burn yourself, but you’ll likely spread the wax, making a bigger mess.
When the wax has cooled, break it with a dull knife or Popsicle stick. Throw away the pieces.
Cover remaining bits with a paper towel or rag, and press a warm iron to the area. Replace the towel frequently to avoid spreading the wax.
Halloween makeup on upholstery and carpet
Many commercial carpet and upholstery cleaners remove makeup from unwanted places. The only tricky part is applying these cleaners.
Always test the cleaner on an inconspicuous spot. Apply a dab of cleaner on a white cloth, then hold it to the test area for about a minute. If no color is transferred to the white cloth, the cleaner is safe.
Never rub cleaner on a stain. Rather, blot the stain starting from its outer edge and work to the center.
Wednesday, October 10 2012
Freddie Mac’s fraud unit is teaming up with real estate professionals who list HomeSteps homes to sniff out bogus rental ads of REO properties — a growing problem, according to Freddie Mac.
“We’re hearing more reports about fraudsters trying to cash in on the housing crisis’s remaining foreclosed homes by advertising them as rentals on the Internet,” writes Freddie Mac in a recent blog post warning about the Craigslist REO rental scams.
The scam works like this: After a house is sold at foreclosure, a scammer then posts an ad online trying to rent out the home before the new owner moves in. Interest renters then contact the scammer about leasing the property, and they are asked to submit their personal credit information for the lease application as well as two months of rent.
It’s often not until the would-be renters try to move in that they realize they’ve been duped: The key to the house doesn’t work or they find the house is for sale or even that the previous owners are still living there. There have been some cases where scammers change the locks in the house and give the renters a working key. It’s the real estate listing agent who then often discovers the renters living there and the scam.
Freddie Mac and real estate professionals are working together to find the fake Internet rental ads. When they do, they are having the ads removed immediately. They’re also warning renters on how not to be duped from the ads, such as always verifying the home’s status through a listing agent or through county records.
Source: “Caveat Renter: Fraudsters Falsely Advertising REO as Rentals,” Freddie Mac Blog (Oct. 8, 2012)
Tuesday, October 02 2012
Whether you are in the process of buying anincome property thisfall or are already an owner, your decision about whether to work with a localproperty manager is pivotal. When you lack the time or capacity to effectively manage your investment, hiring a professional property manager is certainly the right business move. But suppose you have already decided that you will use a pro – does that solve all management issues for your investment? If you have chosen well, the answer may be almost ‘yes’ – but not quite. As you would with any service provider, keeping tabs on their performance is simply prudent.
The happy truth is that managing yourEvansville property manager will not command a large amount of your attention: a little will go a long way. And some areas to monitor are more obvious than others.
Rent collection is one process that almost monitors itself. When the checks are slow in coming, you’ll know it soon enough. If a regular pattern seems to be developing, discuss your manager’s strategy to improve the tenant’s compliance. Good property management pros have proven strategies for timely rent collection.
Maintenance is one main reason a property manager is invaluable. When a repair issue arises, take a look at the invoices: not only at the cost, but also the time it took to solve the problem. Your manager should have contracts in place with competent maintenance and repair companies, so complaints from the tenant should not be a regular occurrence. You can also ask for vendor references from anyone who performs services for the property. After all, they are really working for you.
If part of your property manager’s job is to act as a leasing agent (or to oversee one), be certain that he or she emphasizes the importance of ensuring that tenants thoroughly read and understand the lease terms. Ask how your manager would handle any tenant non-compliance if that occurs. Situations that could cause sleepless nights for you should be ho-hum affairs for your pro!
Buying an investment property in Evansville can be exciting and profitable, but it’s not usually fully exploited on autopilot. I strive to help my clients find and identify the right investment properties for long-term profitability. If you are considering buying property, contact me anytime to go over your options. You will find that good ones are out there! You can reach me at on my cell phone at 812-499-9234
Monday, October 01 2012
Getting a mortgage refinance has seldom looked more attractive than it does this October. Ads for seemingly ridiculously low teaser rates are popping up all over the place -- and even if the closing costs are hefty (many aren’t), the underlying rates make them all but irresistible.
But do you qualify? Some folks don’t realize that a refi can be just as tough as getting a mortgage in the first place. Or tougher. One client has a stunning property, top credit, and a guaranteed income stream that was more than adequate to fund the refi. She put together all the required paperwork, hosted an inspection (the inspector told her, ‘this is the finest property in the area’), and then waited a week before being told she had failed to qualify. Why? Because her place had a guesthouse -- and that particular loan program was for single dwelling properties only!
The lesson here is that it pays to ask all sorts of questions before actually applying for a specific refinance offer; in other words, kick the tires! Nevertheless, when all is said and done, locking in lower monthly payments can still be worth the trouble.
You will want to present a solid picture -- one that shows that you are financially stable with a good credit rating. Getting any kind of a mortgage is twice as hard if there are significant issues in your credit report or instability in your employment history.
Of course, the basic math has to work, too. The more income you have, the more the lender will be willing to lend. If you are married, you can opt to borrow as a couple so that your joint income is considered. Since the lender will factor in your debt load, subtract your monthly from your income number: if the remainder is healthy, the lender will see that, too.
Lastly (and of key importance), your home will need to appraise for the loan you desire. Although a resurgence in property values seems firmly underway, some neighborhoods have had time to show those rising values, and some not. I can help you get an idea of how the ‘comps’ in your part of town have been faring recently – good to know when you are getting a mortgage or refinancing an existing one.
The bottom line? Getting any type of mortgage in Evansville requires all the usual suspects. Reliability and predictability are really the key here. If you are tempted by today’s record rates to try to refinance, contact a reputable mortgage broker to go over your options. As always, please consider me your local real estate resource – call me if you need an introduction!
You can reach me on my cell phone at 812-499-9234.