Real Estate, Home Ownership and Living in Coastal Virginia
Last week’s economic releases included the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for May, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.
Home Builder Confidence Rises in May
According to the National Association of Home Builders, home builders surveyed indicated higher confidence in housing market conditions for May. April’s reading was downwardly revised to an index reading of 68; analysts expected a reading of 69. May’s home builder confidence reading was 70. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders consider housing market conditions to positive.
Three-month rolling readings for regions showed mixed results in May. Northeast and Western regions were unchanged with index readings of 55 and 76 respectively. Midwestern and Southern regions posted a one-point drop with respective index readings of 65 and 92. The NAHB cited high lumber prices as a concern and said that rising materials costs were impacting builders’ ability to produce affordable housing for first-time buyers.
Both housing starts and building permits issued were lower in April than for March; The Commerce Department reported1.287 million housing starts in April as compared to 1.336 million starts in March. Housing starts are calculated on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Although housing starts were 3.70 percent lower in April, analysts said there was little concern as the rate of housing starts remained near the highest levels in 11 years.
April’s decline in housing starts was attributed to volatile multi-unit projects; construction rates for single-family homes were little changed. The South reported an increase in housing starts as all other regions reported fewer housing starts. Builders said that labor shortages continue to impact construction rates. Analysts expected construction rates to expand throughout 2018 as demand for homes rises. Building permits issued fell in April to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.352 million from the March reading of 1.377 million permits issued.
Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims
Mortgage rates rose to their highest level in seven years. Rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage were six basis points higher and averaged 4.61 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was seven basis points higher at 4.08 percent. Mortgage rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged five basis points higher at 3.82 percent. Discount points averaged 0.40 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
First-time jobless claims rose to 222,000 new claims last week as compared to 211,000 new claims filed the prior week. Analysts expected 215,000 new claims filed.
This week’s economic releases include readings on sales of new and previously-owned homes and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.Read More
Going solar can make life sunnier for some homeowners. In addition to reducing energy dependence by “borrowing” energy directly from the sun, purchasers may also enjoy a 30 percent federal Solar Investment Tax Credit and other incentives, according to SEIA.
Solar roofing can boost a home’s equity in some cases, while making it more attractive to future buyers in sun-drenched parts of the country. Best of all, financing that solar roof may be a more attainable goal than homeowners think.
Leasing vs. Owning
Perhaps the first question a green-minded homeowner should consider is whether to own solar roofing or lease it. Leasing solar panels from a third-party provider bypasses the need to take out a traditional loan or purchase a solar roof with cash.
Energy.gov notes that PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements) allow homeowners to pay fixed monthly payments based on the amount of energy the roof will likely generate over the period of the lease. But it’s worth noting that leasing also bypasses the tax credits and other financial benefits and incentives of ownership.
The Traditional Loan Route
Traditional loans can finance solar roofs just as they can other major home renovations or improvements. For homeowners who already own their homes outright, this approach offers a simple, cost-effective way to enhance the property. Other homeowners may want to look into the Department of Energy’s Residential PACE (Property Assessed Clean energy) loans aimed at promoting energy-efficient modifications.
Those who seek to take out a mortgage on a solar-roofed home, however, should watch out for the proverbial fine print. For instance, PACE loans trump mortgage loans, so having a PACE loan in place can make getting that mortgage loan impossible.
Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle Energy Mortgage
The HomeStyle Energy Mortgage from Fannie Mae offers an attractive alternative to traditional loans, according to the Washington Post. This product includes the solar roof (or other energy-efficient modification) within the overall mortgage loan.
A HomeStyle Energy Mortgage factors in the anticipated energy savings offered by the modification in figuring the loan terms. It also lets borrowers take out larger amounts that they might receive through traditional mortgages — up to 15 percent of the home’s “as-completed” appraisal value.
Some smart financing strategies can turn the objective of owning a solar roof from an out-of-reach dream into a practical reality. A skilled real estate expert can help homeowners weigh all the available options and come up with a sensible plan that suits their needs.Read More
Buying a home is an exciting and exhilarating time. Between the time your offer is accepted, and when you finally have keys in hand and you are ready to step into your new home, it can be stressful. The escrow period, also known as the closing, can take the most easygoing home buyer to the brink of insanity.
After you have negotiated your best price and come to an agreement, there are ways to make the escrow process less anxiety-provoking. Here are some tips from top real estate agents to help you get through the escrow process without losing your cool.
Utilize Your Professionals
Trust your real estate agent and home financing professional to walk you through the entire process is key to a smoothly closing escrow. Rely on them to do their job, but don’t be afraid to express any anxieties, and lean on them during negotiations and inspections. They are the experts, so ask questions and ask for advice, but try not to second guess their guidance or recommendations.
Your additional trusted partner is your mortgage professional. They know how important the financing piece is to this equation and they will be sure to know your timeline and be available to answer questions and assist you throughout this process.
Chaos rarely inspires confidence. Stay on top of all paperwork and make sure you sign and return everything to your lender promptly to eliminate delays. The lender and escrow company want the sale to close in a timely fashion, too, so don’t slow them down by being disorganized or failing to return important documentation such as income tax information or bank statements.
Maintain A Healthy Perspective
No home is perfect, so be prepared for inspections that bring some daunting news. Ask to be present when the inspections are performed. The more information you have about your prospective home, the better you will be prepared to negotiate for repairs before they surprise you in the future.
Ask for credits and repairs as needed, but try to remain objective. Some seemingly minor fixer projects can lead to a much longer time table. You may decide that, when considering the bigger picture and a timely transaction, a couple thousand dollars might not actually be a worth negotiating.
Retain as much flexibility as possible during the closing process and focus on the big picture, rather than all of the details. When opening escrow, ask your agent to give you an overview of the expected timeline from beginning to end. Knowing what to expect, and when as well as being aware of projected milestones goes a long way in reducing anxiety. You can, and should, ask to be notified when important milestones are reached.
While you might have it penciled in on your calendar, it’s common for closing dates to change. Instead of thinking of your closing date as set in stone, think of it as a flexible target. Do not book movers until the last minute, so you won’t be stressed if your belongings are all packed in a truck and the escrow date is set forward a day or two.
Don’t forget to breathe!
This is an important time to take care of yourself. Take a run, meditate, or do yoga. Read a book or enjoy a hobby. Moving can be a physically taxing event, so take the time now to relax before the big move.
Before you know it, you will be moving into your new home. Being informed, staying organized and taking care of yourself are key elements. Most important, though, is to rely on your trained professionals to guide you through this process and help to ensure a stress-less closing.Read More
Last week’s economic reports included readings on consumer prices, consumer sentiment and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.
Consumer Price Index Increases in April
Consumer prices rose by 0.20 percent in April according to the Commerce Department. Analysts expected prices to rise by 0.30 percent based on a negative reading of -0.10 percent in March. Core consumer prices, which exclude volatile food and energy sectors, eased to 0.10 percent growth in April after growing by 0.20 percent in March. Analysts said that Fed policymakers’ concerns over inflation growth could wane with the easing of core consumer prices.
Mortgage Rates, Mixed New Jobless Claims Unchanged
Freddie Mac reported mixed readings for average mortgage rates; rates for fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.55 percent and were unchanged from the prior week. Average rates for a fifteen-year fixed rate mortgage dipped by two basis points. Rates for a5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.77 percent and were higher by eight basis points.
New jobless claims were unchanged 211,000 new claims filed. Analysts expected 215,000 new claims. In other news, the University of Michigan reported that consumer sentiment was also unchanged with an index reading of 98.80 in May.
This week’s scheduled economic releases include readings From the National Association of Home Builders, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.Read More
Rules and covenants of a homeowners association can be a bit overwhelming, especially for a first time homeowner. Understanding that the regulations are designed to protect the value of your home helps make some restrictions easier to live with.
Homeowners Association CC&Rs, which stands for “covenants, conditions and restrictions,” can be intimidating. But, with the growing number of communities and subdivisions that have existing HOAs, it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you buy a home.
Associations Come In All Forms
An association’s goal is to maintain the ambience of the community and assure that home values are upheld. Associations are typically responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of common areas, including streets and green spaces, playgrounds and community pools, if they exist.
Some associations, often in retirement communities, include front yard upkeep; Condominium associations commonly include exterior building maintenance as well.
Homeowners Association CC&Rs may be quite restrictive, requiring vehicles to be garaged or disallowing privacy fences, for instance. Alternatively, they may be loosely organized and act primarily as social organizations designed to foster the sense of community and promote safety for resident families.
Only occasionally is HOA membership offered on a voluntary basis; in those cases, the HOA is apt to be a group with little power.
CCRs Are A Legal Obligation
Subdivisions with functioning homeowners associations must supply prospective buyers with a copy of current CC&Rs prior to closing. If you plan to buy a home that has an existing association, it is important to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations prior to agreeing to abide by them. Read them thoroughly and understand them completely, because they constitute a legal obligation for compliance as well as for payment of dues and special assessments.
Legal Requirements Of An HOA
Whether the dues are a lot or a little, and whether the association’s affairs are professionally managed or not, the majority of associations are governed and controlled by a volunteer board and elected officers who volunteer their time for the benefit of the community. If you choose to become involved in governance, you might have a great influence over the way rights and responsibilities are defined in your neighborhood.
However, don’t count on being able to make changes to your own property easily if there are clauses in the HOA CC&Rs that initially rub you the wrong way. In some cases, owners require association approval prior to making any changes to the property, whether that be planting a new tree, adding a skylight or changing the color of the front door.
As you consider making an offer on a home, it’s important to decide whether or not you object to any of the existing regulations. If you feel that the regulations will negatively impact your livability in your new home, it might be better option to look for another house. It can be difficult to be at odds with your HOA and can cause significant ongoing stress. Withholding dues or flaunting existing regulations can have unpleasant legal consequences, even resulting in a lien against your property.
Talk to your trusted real estate professional about any concerns you have about HOAs and what you are looking for in a neighborhood. Your agent can help you navigate the area and offer information about individual neighborhoods to make sure that you find just the right home for you.
Nearly 70 million American households include at least one pet, but most prospective buyers won’t want to see evidence of pets in a home on the market.
Here are some tips about how to sell a pet-friendly home.
Prior To Listing
Point out special pet features to your real estate agent — a cat door, feeding station or a pet shower, even a fenced back yard or a dog run can be a bonus to many buyers. It’s important to remember that buyers want to imagine their pets in the home, not yours! Minimize your pet’s presence by decluttering pet supplies as well as your personal items.
While it is best to downplay non-human residents in a home for sale, some pets are more difficult to camoflage or move out of the way. If you have a bird, an aquarium, or large exotic pets, use your best judgment while keeping the “less is more” philosophy in mind.
If there is any pet damage, it should be repaired before you show the home. If necessary, repaint walls, refinish floors, or replace carpeting. Ask a friend or relative (one without a pet) to give your house a sniff test. If there are any odors, do whatever is necessary to eliminate them. It is not likely enough to try to mask the odors with air freshners in order to make the best impression on potential buyers.
Dealing With Showings
Always arrange for animals to be out of the house when a showing is scheduled. If you can’t be there to pick up a pet, trust a neighbor to take the dog for a walk or herd the cat into a carrier and keep it for a few hours. A barking dog in the back yard is annoying, and even the cutest puppy can intimidate a buyer. Cats, too, are notoriously independent, and not all humans are cat-lovers.
Buyers expect even a house with pets to be kept scrupulously clean. Sweep and vacuum up pet hair as often as necessary. Pick up feeding bowls and toys, and remove cat litter boxes prior to a showing. Polish nose prints off glass and put away the scratching pole. Think of pets and pet items the same as you would personal photographs and other memorbillia that clutters your home. Removing those items helps the buyer see themselves in your home and can increase the likelihood of a sale.
It’s also wise to double check with your insurance company to determine your liability in the event that your pet bites or otherwise injures anyone at your property.
Before And During Moving
Remember that moving is stressful, not only for you, but for your best friend as well. Speak to your veterinarian in advance about possible symptoms of anxiety such as increased accidents, changes in appetite, aggressive behavior or other personality changes that may occur. If you notice any significant signs of anxiety, seek treatment.
If at all possible, take your pet to see your new home prior to your move. If not, continue to look for signs that your pet is feeling disoriented or anxious. Finding a reliable and trustworthy veternarian near your new home beforehand is a good idea in case your pet is struggling. Take extra care that your pet doesn’t try to “escape” back to the familiar and get lost.
Selling your home and moving into a new home can be exciting, complicated and stressful events. The same can be true for your pets. With a little bit of extra planning, things can go a lot smoother for your entire family. Contact your real estate professional for even more tips for a successful home selling, home buying and relocating experience.
If your financial situation is limited, yet you’re handy with a hammer and nails, then purchasing a fixer-upper home can be an attractive option. Fixer-uppers typically require a bevy of updates and repairs to bring the home up to current market conditions. Because of this, the listing price is often considerably less than a move-in ready home. Your trusted real estate professional can help you find the best projects to buy and sell.
Fixer-uppers aren’t for everyone, but there are plenty of resources available if you plan to do most of the repair and upgrades yourself. Let’s take a look at a few top resources to tap into if you’re in the market for a fixer-upper or if you’ve already purchased one and you are ready to get started.
- At Home: A Blog by Joanna Gaines: Chip and Joanna Gaines are well known HGTV personalities who’ve made it their mission to fix up homes. A visit to Joanna Gaines’ blog is a gateway to renovation and decorating tips, products and real-time photos of projects in action. It’s a great place to go for inspiration.
- Hands-On Workshops: If there’s a Home Depot near your home, chances are you frequent it for many of your hardware needs. There’s another reason you should stop in: Hands-On Workshops. If you want guidance on things like installing bath vanities, tile backsplashes, hanging ceiling fans, or measuring and installing flooring, there’s likely an upcoming workshop at the store that can give you the know-how and confidence necessary to do it yourself.
- Jeff Patterson’s Home Repair Tutor: This YouTube channel boasts almost 120,000 subscribers and its how-to videos have racked up more than 30.5 million views. Videos include everything from how to tile a shower floor to installing a motion sensor light switch. If you need detailed step-by-step instructions on how to perform a particular job, chances are good this channel has it.
- The Craftsman Blog: Written by DIY fixer-upper and author Scott Sidler, this blog is packed with how-to advice for home improvement and restoration projects as well as general tips and information about repairs like painting, plastering and restoring windows. This is a blog for a DIY fixer-upper written by a DIY fixer-upper.
- Your local hardware store: The big box hardware stores are great for finding just about any sort of tool you’ll need and for hosting how-to workshops. Generally, however, it’s your local, smaller hardware store that can really give you some great one-on-one advice as it pertains to your projects. These stores are typically family owned, and part of the reason they’re able to stay in business is because of their high level of customer service. This often includes guiding you on certain projects.
A fixer-upper can seem like a daunting project when you are getting started. Knowing where to look for the right resources can make a big difference. Your trusted real estate professional is available to assist you and offer additional advice on your new endeavor.Read More
When the chatter was at its peak on the 2018 tax law changes being proposed, one of the big areas of concern for homeowners was the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction. Right behind that issue was a similar treatment with regards to property tax deductions.
As the rumors swirled and Congress moved, many feared both deductions had finally met their day and were going to be entirely eliminated, resulting in a major financial hit that many homeowners and particularly those in high real estate cost states would have felt painfully. As it turned out, there’s no reason to panic or suddenly dump titled real estate just because it has been bought with a mortgage.
Yes, both issues were impacted by the 2018 tax law changes, but neither the mortgage interest deduction nor the property tax deduction were eliminated entirely. Instead, they were modified.
The changes include:
- Mortgage interest deduction – the new laws cap the eligible debt to $750,000. While old loans originated prior to the law change date are still eligible up to $1 million, new mortgages created after the enactment date are caught in the lower universe. However, being realistic, most homebuyers are not in the bracket that afford a $750,000 plus priced home except maybe in a few communities such as New York City or the San Francisco/Bay Area in California. So the change basically means business as usual for 9 out of 10 homeowners in the U.S.
- Real estate property taxes – total state and local taxes eligible for deduction are now capped at $10,000. This is where some homeowners could feel a pinch as a typical home in higher cost states easily generates property tax levels of $5,000 to $7,000 for a $300,000 home. So those units assessed a higher value by tax auditors will likely feel this new limitation take effect.
- The standard deduction increase – remember, the above items are only useful to the extent that a tax filer itemizes his deductions. With a standard deduction now at $12,000 for an individual and $24,000 for a married couple, filing jointly, the option to itemize could go away entirely if the standard deduction provides a higher level of tax savings overall. And then that makes the above two deductions entirely moot and useless. Of course, it’s not entirely a plus since the personal exemption is also eliminated, thus reducing the benefit of the higher standard deduction by as much as $4,150 per person. In essence, the change is a wash, but could be enough to bar use of itemization, which would hurt greatly.
So the changes did not wipe out any benefit entirely (except the personal exemption). Instead, the real impact depends on which change applies to a specific taxfiler’s situation.
This is why two homeowners in the same town with the same house and market value could end up having very different tax results with the 2018 changes. Because there is so much variance.
As always, work with a trusted tax professional in order to understand how these changes will affect your personal tax situation.Read More
The digital age has changed the way buyers browse for and purchase goods and services, including real estate. While home buyers still can check out property listings via a print newspaper or by driving through desired neighborhoods in hopes of finding a “for sale” sign, digital sources offer more options and can make the home buying process easier.
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) states in their 2017 Report: Real Estate in a Digital Age, that 44-percent of home buyers look online when beginning their search.
Social Media As Sources For Home Buyers
According to the Pew Research Center, 68-percent or two-thirds of U.S. adults use Facebook. In addition to that popular social media site, American adults regularly use Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube on a daily basis for entertainment, social engagement, shopping, and news. These sites also can be excellent sources for home buyers.
Home buyers now have instant, easy access to a wide variety of property listings beyond those featured on an individual real estate agency’s website. Many real estate agents post listings on social media with interior/exterior photos and some with virtual tours. Sites like YouTube offer valuable resources particular for first-time home buyers, from tips to how-to’s.
Real Estate Apps
More than 90-percent of all real estate firms have a website. Visiting these sites are a great starting point and ideal way to connect with an agent that knows the local market. However, home buyers may also consider real estate apps to enhance the process. Even if not tech savvy, these apps are easy to use.
The most used real estate apps are available for both Android and iOS. Digital Trends offers a breakdown of several of the most popular. Ask a real estate agent if they have one that’s specific to their firm.
These apps can help:
- Customize a search by location, property type, features, and price
- Reveal the worth or rental value of a property
- Show floor plans and exterior/interior photos
- Provide details about neighborhoods
- Offer lending institution information
- Directly connect buyers with a real estate agent
Stay Connected With A Real Estate Agent
Cell phones appear to be everywhere today and research shows that 77-percent of Americans own a smartphone. With that smartphone it’s easier than ever to stay connected with a real estate agent when buying a home. An agent can text or email potential listings to the phone, schedule open house meetings, and send updates regarding the offer just made on the perfect home.
Home buyers that can embrace the digital age have the opportunity to take advantage of the multiple platforms and tools available for making a real estate purchase.