Wednesday, May 28 2014
When Evansville residents hear about floods, images of homes tumbling into the sea or half-submerged along the banks of a raging river probably leap to mind. But the risk of flooding isn’t confined to those headline-grabbing catastrophes—which is why the recent passage by Congress and signing by the President of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HFIAA) will be of interest to many people thinking of buying a home.
Sellers are required by law to disclose if a property is in an officially-designated flood zone; and banks typically check this information as well. While it can certainly be off-putting to be informed of this when buying a home, the availability of flood insurance can keep it from being a deal-breaker. But “available” doesn’t necessarily mean “affordable”—which is where HFIAA comes in.
Many prospective homebuyers are only vaguely aware that flood and water damage are not covered under traditional homeowner policies, something that’s newly relevant when buying a home. Part of the reason is because only 5% of the U.S. population lives in an officially designated “Coastal Flood Plain”—so it’s not a much-discussed issue in most parts of the country.
But the coastal areas that do get attention whenever disaster strikes are not the only kinds of flood plains that are relevant. FEMA assesses and maps areas that are subject to flooding, and assigns them letters denoting the likelihood of flood damage. Some of the provisions of the new HFIAA deal with overhauling those procedures, but the most immediately significant parts deal with (you guessed it) cost.
Here a little history will be helpful. In 1968, the National Flood Insurance program was created to help some property owners secure insurance in areas where it had been prohibitively expensive. But, as one might expect, the cost of the program soon became a problem. That in turn triggered passage of another Act—the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012—intended to allow premiums in covered areas to rise to offset their real costs.
The new HFIAA now partially reverses that yet again, because policy-makers fear the effect on the housing market. The new act delays some of the price rises for four years and allows homeowners who sell their homes to pass the lower premiums on to the new homeowners. It’s also relevant that there are two different types of coverage available: dwelling only and dwelling/property. Although dwelling only coverage is cheaper, as you might expect, there’s a good reason: it doesn’t cover the personal belongings that a flood could destroy.
Some zones, like Zone X, are as inexpensive as a few hundred dollars per year. The zones that flood more regularly can run into thousands…and all flood insurance premiums are in addition to the regular home insurance costs. For those buying a home in an area where properties might be classified as within a flood zone, it’s a good idea to check with one of the local insurance companies that offers flood coverage. When all is said and done, only you can decide if it’s worth the risk or not.
If you are thinking of buying a home in this summer, flood insurance is only one of the details you’ll want to consider. Call me today and we can begin by putting together a list of your search criteria. You can reach me on my cell phone 812-499-9234 or email Rolando@RolandoTrentini.com
Monday, May 12 2014
When you’re selling your home, keeping it ready to show at a moment’s notice can sometimes make a major difference. In a perfect world, prospective buyers will always have time to schedule showings in advance—but exceptions do occur. That’s why experienced sellers know how to juggle living a normal life at the same time they are keeping their place ‘show-ready’ by calling on a few organizational tricks. They really aren’t all that difficult (but do take a commitment to stay organized). When you follow them, it makes showing your home a snap!
Supplies at the Ready:
The easiest way to stay on top of messes is to nail them when they start. Stock up on wipes and ready-to-use supplies (think pre-soaked wipes and erasers instead of rags, sprays and mops)—and stash them in key locations around the house. Between showings, you can even keep them in plain sight: it reminds you to wipe down surfaces after each use without making it a major project. Regular quick wipe-downs will keep your home shiny and inviting—even when showing your home comes as a last-minute surprise.
Place a few attractive bins and storage ottomans strategically in rooms that are prone to clutter (playrooms, bedrooms and dens). Encourage everyone to make a habit of throwing the odds and ends into them before the end of the day, and removing things only as they are needed. Showing your home on a dime becomes a no-brainer when the clutter lives out of sight.
If you haven’t already started packing, get going early. Pack up everything you don’t use regularly—like those shelves of books you haven’t touched in years. And deal with the off-season wardrobe: when you’re actively showing your home in Evansville this spring or summer, those fall and winter items should be headed into storage.
Make Small Adjustments
This idea is optional—but it really works! Encourage everyone to remove their shoes at the front door. Place a decorative mat at the entrance (and include a coat rack if the weather calls for it). This temporary house rule works to get everyone in on the act, and subtly helps keep them conscious that showing your home is partly everyone’s responsibility. It’s also a reminder to keep packages and bags from building up near those doorways.
When showing your home is part of a well-planned and systematic project, just a few of these relatively minor adjustments can keep you and your family cool and collected—and make even last-minute showings a breeze. My clients make the rules for what the minimum heads-up time for scheduling a showing will be, and I stick to it. But when they are able to create an environment when the odd last-minute showing is a no-stress possibility, it does seem to have a way of increasing the odds that the latest showing…becomes the last!
Friday, May 09 2014
Market Watch April 2014
As you may be able to tell from your allergies, spring has certainly sprung in Southwestern Indiana. The real estate market is heating up right along with the warmer temperatures. We are witnessing a significant increase in sales activity and anticipate that will continue through the spring. Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said a gain was inevitable, following a dismal winter. (We certainly agree here!) On a national level, showing activity is increasing and sales activity is expected to follow suit as more inventory reaches the market. And in our office, the homes that are priced right and in good condition are getting lots of attention and in some cases, multiple offers.
The key challenge will continue to be inventory. We continue to see a shortage of homes for sale, with inventory rates near record lows. While this shortage will drive an increase in median existing-home price, continued positive momentum is dependent on the availability of homes for sale. Opportunity’s knock is getting louder on the doors of potential sellers, who at this point will dictate the performance of the local housing markets for the next couple of months.
While need for listings is high, sellers must present a home that is in good condition and priced right. Working with a real estate agent from the beginning ensures you have a knowledgeable professional that knows the market and can help get your home sold in the shortest amount of time.
If you’ve considered selling your home, now is the time. With many active buyers, you don’t want to miss this market surge! And if you’re ready to buy, I’d encourage you to visit www.TheTrentiniTeam.com , where you can use our interactive map search to perfectly define your search area. Until next month!
Thursday, May 08 2014
For decades, the three-bedroom house has been a cornerstone of the American dream. Now, as with the rest of the nation, our area’s real estate profile for new single family homes seems to be changing. And last year we may well have reached a turning point in the national new home market: now four bedrooms seems to have become the new norm!
Last year, a full 48% of new homes—nearly half—were built with at least four bedrooms. That’s quite a jump when you compare it with just four years earlier: in 2009, the figure was 34%. We asked ourselves why the nation’s preferences would have undergone such a sizable shift. A little research revealed some likely answers—and some interesting history behind them.
The Rise of Bigger Homes
The footprint of the average new home built in the U.S. went Yeti in a very short time. In the late 1940s, Postwar America began producing single family homes on a massive scale—with an average size of about 750 square feet. As the economy expanded, so did house sizes until by 1973 the three-bedroom home dominated the new home market (Evansville included). By 2013, average new home sizes had reached 2,701 square feet according to the Census Bureau.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but at the same time the number of bedrooms was increasing, the size of the American household was heading in the opposite direction. The 3.6-person average of the 1940s had, by 2013, contracted to 2.58. That means the living space for each individual had grown by 80%!
House Sizes Shrink, Then Expand Again
In 2009, as a side-effect of the last decade’s real estate market downturn, single family home sizes had retreated by about 6%. But now the economy’s slow recovery has reversed the reversal. According to the most recent report from the National Association of Home Builders, the average size of a new home built in 2013 was 2607 square feet— a 300-square foot increase over just two years earlier.
Fewer New Buyers = Bigger Homes
One of the reasons for the new home market shift toward larger four-bedroom designs can be ascribed to a decrease in the number of first-time homebuyers. Largely due to previous tightening in lending criteria and rising mortgage rates (both trends have at least momentarily stalled in the new home market), the smaller homes favored by first-timers claimed a proportionately smaller chunk of the market.
It’s hard to avoid the general conclusion that what were once considered luxurious additions are effectively today’s norm. The en-suite bathrooms, two-car garages and even three-bedroom homes that would have been out of reach for most of the new home buyers of the past are practically standard fare in 2014. But another fact is that every area differs from every other. If this has you wondering how your home compares with what today’s buyers are looking for in your own neighborhood—why not give me a call? You can reach me on my cell phone 812-499-9234 or email Rolando@RolandoTrentini.com
Wednesday, May 07 2014
Last week’s Rasmussen Reports survey reported that the majority (52%) of Americans consider their home to be a family’s best investment at the same time that the number of people who are choosing to remodel their home is on the rise. According to the Houzz & Home survey, the number of people who planned improvement projects rose a dynamic 12 % last year. Of those, 40% wanted to remodel their home or build an addition.
While remodeling may be becoming more popular, there are still plenty of advantages to the alternative route: purchasing a new home in. Here are some of the pros and cons of each route:
The danger lies in overcapitalizing a property in a location where the resale won’t support the expense. Even a great home will still fetch a price that’s relative to other properties in the neighborhood, obliterating the wished-for ‘investment’ value of extensive remodeling.
While it’s important to be informed about the factual tradeoffs of your decision, it’s likely the end choice will also be influenced by what just feels right—as it should be. Whether you’re considering a remodel or a purchase, if you’d like to run some numbers, call me today for a confidential price evaluation! You can reach me on my cell phone 812-499-9234 or email Rolando@RolandoTrentini.com
Tuesday, May 06 2014
Mortgage rates may rise or fall this spring (lately they seem to be falling!)—but that needn’t prevent you from saving even more money when it’s time to structure your own mortgage. The underpublicized fact is that mortgage rates are only one of the factors that affect how much you wind up paying. No matter what happens to mortgage rates in 2014, here are some keys to making mortgage decisions that result in significant savings:
Tailor the term
Evaluate your budget and see whether it is possible to increase the amount of your monthly payment. By increasing monthly repayments, you reduce the term of your mortgage. Over the course of the loan, this can save tens of thousands of dollars.
Refinance for five years instead of two
The interest you pay on a refi loan isn’t the only cost. The origination and other fees can easily end up costing four figures. It’s a numbers game: simply calculate the anticipated savings from refinancing, then subtract the amount of the fees. The difference tells you your net savings…and demonstrates why one of the easiest ways to grow those savings is to refinance less frequently.
Change to biweekly
Changing to biweekly payments instead of monthly payment can save you more than small change. The reason is on the calendar: there are 52 weeks in a year, but only 12 months. If you make 26 1/2 payments every year, that equates to 13 monthly payments. It’s a stealthy way to make an additional month’s payment every year without really noticing it. When choosing a loan, opt for one where the bank allows you to choose biweekly payments (as long as they don’t want to charge an additional fee). Also request that the extra payments be deducted from the principle.
Improve your credit score
On this count, every mortgage guru sounds like a broken record. Although the average quoted mortgage rate may rise or fall, that’s not necessarily the rate that you pay. Your FICO score is the primary determinant of your mortgage rate. The difference between a good FICO score and a bad one can be significant, so get a copy of your credit card record and challenge any damaging inaccuracies. Lenders want to see a long history of paying on time with a mixed use of credit.
Mortgage rates will almost certainly increase in the future because they’re still well under historical averages. But there are plenty of steps you can take to cut thousands of dollars from your ultimate mortgage costs. And if you are ready to buy a house in this spring, contact me today—I’m ready to show you what’s coming up at your price point! You can reach me on my cell phone 812-499-9234 or email Rolando@RolandoTrentini.com