Home Updates That Make Good Multi-Generational Sense

buying-a-new-construction-homeMulti-generational households and the growing preference on the part of many retirees toward “aging in place”have altered home design in recent years. Interiors are more open, more functional and more adaptable that they were even a decade ago. Spaces tend to be less formal; living space is better integrated with work space like the kitchen, and rooms tend to serve more than once purpose, both for quiet pursuits and for family gatherings.

Universal Design

Home design has gained a new dimension — planning for the future and for a changing lifestyle. Universal design features and amenities that were once off the radar are now very much the focus. Even younger buyers are tuned in to accessibility concerns. Wider doors and hallways, easy to navigate stairs or single-level living, doorless and curbless showers, motion-activated faucets and lighting — these are just a sampling of what may soon become mainstream in American homes.

Add the popularity of home automation and connectivity, and today’s home is uniquely suited for all ages. If you’re thinking of remodeling an existing home, some of these features are well worth the extra cost. Not only do they offer living options, but they also promise great ROI should you wish to sell.

The New Face Of Home

If you are currently looking for a home to buy, view the existing floor plan with an eye toward modifications that would make it more accessible and multi-generation-friendly. Consider the possibility that you might someday share the home with aging parents or with grown children and grandchildren.

Integrated “apartments”with separate entrances, “granny pods”or separate guest houses, dual master bedrooms, and “au pair”quarters are just some of the ways to offer future flexibility. They are common across the country, but also across price ranges, as sensible and cost-effective alternatives to home health care or retirement housing.

Renovate For The Future

Renovations that reflect the changing face of family life are always good choices for return on investment in remodeling. Because the traditional family is no longer the norm, any home that offers such options is desirable. If you have questions about what features are important to buyers in a specific market, speak to a real estate professional about trends that go beyond energy savings and sustainability.

No matter what choices you make about a home update, rely on professional advice and insist on reliable contractors. There is no substitute for quality materials and first-class work. Whether you’re adding space or rearranging it, planning for your future in the home or hoping to appeal to the right buyer, spending a lot or a little, you won’t go wrong with universal design features. Aging is, after all, a reality that we all face sooner or later.

Thinking About Buying A Fixer-Upper? Know These Top Resources To Make The Most Profit

builder confidence is upIf 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.

Getting Started

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 finance professional is available to assist you and offer additional advice on your new endeavor.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 4th, 2018

rates-this-weekLast week’s economic reports included readings on Case-Shiller home prices, pending home sales and construction spending. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were released, along with monthly labor-related reports on job creation and the national unemployment rate.

Case-Shiller: Home Prices Maintain Rapid Growth

S&P Case-Shiller home price indices for March showed home prices continued to grow at blazing rates. Seattle, Washington held on to first place with a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 13.00 percent; Las Vegas, Nevada reported 12.40 percent growth in home prices in March.

Analysts said Las Vegas markets benefitted from homebuyers relocating from high-priced coastal areas. Las Vegas home prices were 25 percent below their housing bubble peak. San Francisco reported year-over-year home price growth of 11.40 percent

Home prices were driven by short supplies of homes for sale and high demand among buyers, which led to bidding wars in high-demand areas. Rapidly rising home prices sideline first-time and moderate-income buyers who face hurdles of affordability and strict mortgage approval requirements.

While real estate pros and economic analysts expected home price growth to reach a tipping point where demand for homes would slow down, it hasn’t happened yet. Strong economic conditions and jobs data provided first-time buyers incentives to transition from renting to owning.

Pending Home Sales Slow in April

Pending home sales, which are sales under contract but not yet closed, dropped by -1.30 percent in April as compared to the March reading of 0.60 percent. Severe winter weather contributed to the lag, but analysts said severe shortages if available homes squeezed would-be buyers to the sidelines as they waited for more buying options. The National Association of Realtors® said that April’s reading was the third consecutive month of lower pending home sales.

Construction spending rose by 1.80 percent in April and surpassed expectations of a one percent increase and the negative March reading of -1.70 percent. This could be a hopeful sign if accelerated spending is due to growing construction projects, but ongoing concerns over increased materials and labor costs may have contributed to builders’ cash outlay.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

Mortgage rates eased last week, with average rates lower across the board. Freddie Mac reported the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by 10 basis points to 4.56 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was nine basis points lower at 4.06 percent; rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.80 percent and were seven basis points lower. Discount points averaged 0.40 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims fell last week to 221,000 claims filed. Analysts expected 225,000 new claims filed based on the prior week’s reading of 234,000 new claims filed. May payroll reports supported stronger labor markets as ADP reported 178,000 jobs added as compared to 163,000 private-sector jobs added in April. Non-farm payrolls, which measure private and public-sector job growth, rose by 223,000 jobs in May as compared to 159,000 jobs added in April. The highlight of May labor reports was an 18-year low of 3.80 percent national unemployment rate for May.

Smart Technology or Home Automation: What’s the Difference?

great home buying tools mobile appsIs it worth it to add smart appliances or automated features if you’re selling a home? Just how much connectivity do buyers want? And what exactly do the terms refer to in terms of home updates.

Although smart homes and home automation are sometimes used interchangeably, they actually refer to two basically different concepts about how appliances and home systems can operate. Then there is the need for “connectivity,” adding another dimension to any discussion of futuristic home features.

Home Automation

According to a Texas-based Direct Energy blog, home automation has a long history, beginning with the first labor-saving devices that operated with electrical current. “Automatic” washing machines and hot water heaters certainly made life easier at the time, a time long before wireless technology and integrated home entertainment systems.That may be simplistic, but the truth is that any device that operates without human intervention can be termed automatic.

Today, however, automation commonly refers to home features that are controlled by computer, or that can be set to operate in specific ways: motion-detected lighting, robotic floor cleaners, dishwashers and ovens with delay settings, and the wide range of room monitors, security cameras and voice or motion-controlled devices.

Smart Technology

Computers introduced American homes to smart technology and the Internet of Things. Today, almost every home has several “smart” devices, even if they are simple ones.

Case in point: A programmable thermostat, common sensor-operated smoke detectors, and a backyard irrigation system with a timer control can be termed smart devices, albeit maybe only “elementary” smart.

Today, most smart technology is also controllable by wireless remote device. But the true definition of smart is any product that incorporates sensors or data storage, microprocessors or controls that allow autonomous operation. An internal operating system is employed to assure that the product operates as programmed, either through user interface or initial setup. Modern smart technology allows for broad integration of devices, in effect creating a “genius” network.

Connectivity

The third piece of the technology puzzle is connectivity. Both home automation and smart technology can be “connected,” for greater flexibility and integration, but it’s not necessary. And, just because homeowners can change a setting via smart phone or battery-operated remote doesn’t necessarily make an automatic appliance or home product smart.

Connected products interact with one another over a network; the network collects and shares data, and is designed to monitor and allow some degree of control over the functioning of network-connected products or systems.

For instance, a smart home with sophisticated lighting controls might automatically sense lower light levels at dusk, triggering an adjustment to window shades and turning on both interior and exterior lighting.

Confused? Actually, there’s no real need to be. No matter what you call them, the home features that make living better are all desirable!

What You Need To Know About Your Home Appraisal And Your Mortgage

making a down paymentWhen buying a home, there are certain steps a buyer should go through before the home sale is official. First the buyer makes the offer, then the offer is accepted.

Next the buyer schedules the inspection and home appraisal. Finally, everyone is ready for closing.

It’s easy to overlook the impact of some of these steps, but when it comes to a mortgage, the home appraisal is actually quite important. Banks want to see that they are lending money for an investment that is worthwhile, so that appraisal is a crucial step to getting financing. Here is what buyers need to know about how the appraisal could affect their mortgages.

Understanding The Home Appraisal Process

The home appraisal gives a home valuation expert the chance to evaluate the home a buyer’s considering to determine its market value. Home appraisers are highly trained, state-licensed professionals that know how to evaluate homes and assign value to them.

The appraiser will use various approaches to determine the final appraised value. The appraisal typically happens after an offer on the home was approved but before the lender loans the money.

The Appraisal And Mortgage Approval

The appraisal is one factor that a mortgage lender considers when deciding whether or not to approve a final loan request. Even if a borrower had preapproval, a low appraisal could cause the mortgage to fall through.

Why is this? A lender only wants to lend enough to cover what the home’s actual value, and if the appraisal comes in lower than what the borrower is asking for, the lender can deny the loan.

If the lender does not deny the loan completely, they may refuse to lend more than the home’s value. In order to buy the home at the agreed price, the buyer may need to come up with the difference in cash at closing.

What Can Buyers Do If The Appraisal Is Low?

If an appraisal comes in low on the home someone wishes to buy, the buyer shouldn’t panic. It is possible to get a new appraisal at a higher value.

First, consider the condition of the home. Did the seller let some things fall into disrepair? If the seller fixes those items, a new appraisal may be higher.

Does the home look rundown or cluttered? This shouldn’t affect the appraisal, but it can sometimes cause the appraiser to trend lower. Sometimes, simply asking for a second opinion might get a slightly different appraised value. That said, if the appraisal is low, make sure to evaluate the purchase price. Is it in line with current market conditions and the overall condition of the home?

If the answer to that question is no, then the offer may be too much for the home. The appraisal, in this case, gives the buyer the opportunity to reevaluate the purchase decision.

When it comes to mortgage approval, the appraisal is one of the critical steps in the process. If a buyer has shopped wisely, the home should pass with flying colors, and soon the home sale process will be over. As always, your trusted mortgage professional is the best resource for appraisal information in your local market.

Green Technology To Reduce Your Home’s Carbon Footprint

Depositphotos 5892794 MWhen you are a homeowner looking to reduce your carbon footprint, there are a number of steps you can take to make your home earth-friendly. From passive solar heating to solar panels, you can make a difference in the impact your home has on the environment.

Even when you aren’t building a new home, changes can be made to an existing property to increase efficiency and reduce reliance on utility systems.

Invest In Solar Power

Solar panels are one of the most popular ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and with good reason. Solar panels often produce enough electricity so that you have energy to sell back to the energy grid every month. Over time, solar panels on your property can earn you money instead of costing money in utility bills.

Consider Passive Solar Designs

Passive solar is heating your home with the sun by using the right design. For example, certain materials such as slate holds heat. If you have a room that gets plenty of sunlight during the day, a slate floor can help keep the room warmer once the sun sets. If the floor is made from a material that dissipates heat, such as ceramic tile, your home won’t benefit from the sun once it sets.

Radiant Floor Heating Saves On Energy Costs

Heat rises, and those that invest in radiant floor heating find that it is easier to heat up a room. Radiant floor heating uses coils below the surface of your floor, creating heat. The heat rises into the room instead of getting blown in through a heating vent. This reduces the amount of energy you need to heat your home.

Invest In Energy Efficient Appliances

Every appliance that you use in your home has an impact. Consider investing in energy efficient appliances when you are trying to make your home more earth friendly. You will save money on utility costs and help the environment at the same time.

Consider a Clothesline

The energy used to heat your clothes and dry them can be eliminated if you simply hang everything outside to dry. While this adds to your workload, it is a free way to reduce your carbon footprint.

When you have a home, there are a number of ways you can help reduce your impact on the environment. Set up a recycling area in your home, have a vegetable garden if possible, and use electricity only when necessary.

Enjoy your space and don’t be afraid to try new ideas to reduce waste within your home.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 29th, 2018

freddie-mac-mortgage-rates1Last week’s economic reports included readings on sales of new and previously-owned homes along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Home Sales Lower in April

Sales of new and previously-owned homes were lower in April. The Commerce Department reported sales of new homes at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 662,000 sales. New home sales were 1.50 percent lower than for March, but were11.60 percent higher year-over-year.

Analysts expected new home sales to rise to 682,000 sales based on the March reading of 672,000 new homes sold. Sales of new homes are calculated based on a small sample of sales and are typically subject to adjustment. Year-to date sales were 8.40 percent higher year-over-year.

New home sales were downwardly revised for the past three months, which could indicate a slowing in the market. Higher interest rates and rising home prices may be taking a toll on buyer enthusiasm. Fewer buyers caused the inventory of homes for sale to increase to a 5.40month supply. Real estate pros typically consider a six-month supply of available homes a normal inventory of homes for sale.

Sales of previously owned homes were also lower in April; the National Association of Realtors® reported seasonally-adjusted annual sales of 5.46 million homes as compared to expected sales of 5.50 million and March sales pace of 5.60 million sales of previously-owned homes. While fewer sales can relieve demand and ease rising home prices, it appeared that potential buyers are waiting for more options.

Sales of pre-owned homes were 2.50 percent lower than for March and were 1.40 percent lower year-over-year; this was the second consecutive month for a lower year-over-year sales reading. The inventory crunch of pre-owned homes for sale has reduced the average sales period to decrease to 26 days.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Sideline Buyers and Sellers as New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported the highest average mortgage rates in seven years. 30-year mortgage rates averaged 4.66 percent; rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.15 percent and rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.87 percent.

Discount points averaged 0.40 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. Mortgage rates have not risen so fast at the beginning of the year for 40 years. Analysts at Freddie Mac said that home sellers, as well as buyers, may be sidelined as inventories of homes shrink and mortgage rates rise. This could mean that sellers as well as buyers will wait until market conditions and mortgage rates ease.

First-time home buyers accounted for 33 percent of existing home sales; this was lower than the average of 40 percent. First-time buyers are important to real estate markets as their purchases of pre-owned homes enable homeowners to buy their next homes.

New jobless claims rose to 234,000 claims filed as compared to expectations of 219,000 new claims filed. 223,000 new claims were filed the prior week.

What‘s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include readings from Case-Shiller on home prices, construction spending and pending home sales. ADP and Non-Farm payrolls and the national unemployment rate will also be released.

Important Reasons A Renter Should Not Pay Your Mortgage Payment

Lower-Payment-SaveWhen it comes to a property that’s been financed with a mortgage, homeowners can experience the need or desire to live elsewhere from time to time. Renting may be considered as a way to recover some of their costs when they are not using their home.

In some cases, homeowners – when acting as landlords – may also consider that it’s more efficient to have the tenant pay their monthly mortgage payment directly to a lender. After all, the money is just being received and turned over in another check to the lender anyway. It may seem like a logical idea to skip the two-step hassle but, in reality, it’s not a great idea.

Equity Matters

First off, one has to understand and remember what a mortgage payment actually does; it pays down financing debt which in turn creates equity in the home. Typically, that means that the owner’s payment shifts more of the clear title to his name and lessens the lender’s collateral lien.

However, if a third party gets involved, the legal title to the home can get complicated. From some legal arguments, it could be interpreted that the owner is letting a third party buy into the equity in the home. That may not necessarily be the case, but when money gets exchanged, it can be a very powerful element in the legal world.

Lenders Are Not Fond of Assumptions

To prevent potential title problems, most mortgage lenders refuse to let a borrower allow a third party to assume their mortgage loan. Instead, the original mortgage needs to be paid off to release the collateral lien on the given home to the homeowner responsible for the purchase.

However, not every home loan provider includes the right language in their loan contracts. Some even make it possible for a third party assumption to occur. If that happens, regardless of what the original homeowner wants, the third party could then make an argument that they now have equity title of the home and the basis for lien if taken to court. While this could be thought of as an extreme situation, weirder things have happened in a court room.

Keep It Separate

To avoid any kind of title confusion from occurring, it’s best to simply not let the tenants have anything to do with the mortgage on the home or the lender. Period. Collect their rent and then issue an entirely separate check payment to the mortgage lender. This keeps the equity title clean and the tenants remain just that, temporary occupants of the property and nothing more.

As you can see, precautions are often taken to protect the homeowner and the lender but that is not always the case. The best thing you can do is talk to your trusted real estate professional about this issue and others to ensure the long term protection of your valuable asset.

Selling Your Home FHA? Learn These Tips To Ensure A Smooth Closing

buying-a-new-home-checklistBefore an owner can market a property to buyers that want to use a FHA loan, he will want to familiarize himself with the FHA’s standards. FHA won’t insure loans on just any property.

While their standards aren’t as stringent as they used to be, a home needs to be in relatively good condition to qualify for FHA financing.

Location and Lot

To qualify for FHA financing, the property has to be located on a road or easement that lets the owner freely enter and exit. The access also has to be paved with a surface that will work all year — a long dirt driveway that washes out in spring won’t qualify.

The FHA also wants the lot to be safe and free of pollution, radiation and other hazards. For that matter, it also needs to provide adequate drainage to keep water away from the house.

Property Exterior

The FHA’s requirements for making a loan start with the home’s roof. To pass muster, the house must have a watertight roof with some future life left. In addition, if the roof has three or more layers of old shingles, they must all be torn off as part of the replacement process.

The property’s exterior has to be free of chipped or damaged paint if the home has any risk of having lead paint. Its foundation should also be free of signs of exterior (and interior) damage. It also needs full exterior walls.

Property Interior

The property’s interior also needs to be inspected. FHA standards require that the home’s major systems be in good working order. Bedrooms should have egress routes for fire safety and the attic and basement should be free of signs of water or mold damage.

The bottom line is that the FHA wants to make loans on homes that borrowers can occupy. This doesn’t mean that a home has to be in perfect condition to be sold to an FHA mortgage-using borrower.

Contact your trusted mortgage professional to discuss these issues as well as any other questions regarding the sale of your home.

Tips For Home Buying In The Digital Age

consumer1The 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 Professional

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 and mortgage professional 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. A mortgage lender can take a loan application and deliver status updates directly through a secure smartphone app.

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.