5 Reasons to Sell Before the Selling Season Picks Up

 

A common thought in real estate is never list your home in the winter offseason. Perpetuated by industry experts, agents and repeat sellers alike, this saying encourages many would-be sellers to wait until the spring peak to list their homes. However, studies show that homes listed in the winter offseason not only sell faster than those in the spring, but sellers also net more above asking price at this time.1 Don’t wait until spring to sell. If you’ve been thinking of selling your home, here are five reasons to list now.

  1. Take advantage of low inventory. Since most sellers are waiting until spring to list, local inventory falls during the offseason. However, there are still motivated buyers who are ready to buy now and don’t want to wait that long to purchase a home. According to the National Association of Realtors, 55 percent of all buyers purchased their home at the time they did because “it was just the right time.”2 While you’ll likely have fewer showings in the offseason, buyers who do visit will be more serious about writing an offer. As a result, your home will likely sell faster than it would have during the peak season.
  1. Set a higher listing price. Homes sold during the offseason sell at a higher price, on average, than those sold during the spring and summer peak. There are many reasons for this. First, motivated buyers are willing to pay closer to the asking price for a home. Second, homes are more likely to be priced right and reflect the economics of not only the local market, but the neighborhood as well.
  1. You’ll receive more attention. While our team always strives to give you the personal attention you deserve, when you list during the offseason, we’re able to work more closely with you to ensure your home is prepared for its debut on the market. We can also take more time to answer your questions, address your concerns and prepare you and your home for the sale.

 

Additionally, if you’d like to hire a tradesperson to handle routine maintenance or undertake a minor home renovation before you list, you may be able to take advantage of flexible scheduling and cheaper rates. Many of these professionals experience a winter offseason as well, and will be able to focus their time and attention on you and your project.

  1. Easier to maintain curb appeal. Curb appeal sets the stage for what interested buyers can expect when they step foot in the home during a showing or open house. If you list your home during the peak of the selling season, you may exhaust your time your energy maintaining a lush landscape that will attract potential buyers and set your home apart from other similar homes in the area.

The offseason eliminates the pressure to maintain a picture-perfect front landscape. Since most grass, shrubs and plants go dormant at this time of year, you’ll have less to maintain. If you live in an area that experiences a traditional winter, your landscape will be covered with snow. Even if you live in a milder climate, you may not have to mow as often, if at all. It’s still important to ensure your exterior appears well-tended, so make sure your walkway and front porch remains free of snow, ice and debris.

  1. Tap into the life changes of buyers. Many buyers receive employee raises and bonuses at the end of the year. If they’ve been saving to buy a home, this extra money may allow them to reach their goal for a down payment and put them on the path to becoming a homeowner. Additionally, companies often hire new employees and relocate current ones during the first quarter of the year, creating a strong demand for housing. If you live in an area that’s home to a large company or has a strong corporate presence, this may be the perfect time to list.

If you’re thinking of selling, give us a call! We’d love to help you position your home to sell in our market.

Sources: 1. Time, October 30, 2015

  1. National Association of REALTORS, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers
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Real Estate 2017: What to Expect

The American housing market is stronger than ever! Home values, prices and sales had their strongest numbers in 2016, a sure sign the market is healthy and strong. According to the Home Price Index from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), property values have increased in 58 of the last 62 months and have increased more than 35 percent nationally. Homeowners continue to build equity in their largest investment—their homes. The good news is the American real estate market is strong and healthy: home values are up, prices and sales are strong, and millennial first-time buyers are eager to become homeowners.

 

First-time buyers are back.

Housing forecasts from the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), the Mortgage Bankers’ Association, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae all predict existing-home sales will surpass 6 million in 2017, higher than anticipated sales for 2016. Who’s driving the surge? According to NAR, millennials who have put off buying a home are ready to buy. While they may have avoided buying a home due to student debt and limited employment, many are entering their 30s, a time when their attention turns to marriage, family and setting roots with homeownership. They’re predicted to be the driving force behind home and condominium sales from now until into 2020. (Source: MarketWatch)

 

What does this mean to you? If you’re a millennial who’s been on the fence about buying, now is the time to act. Give us a call to answer your questions about the market and the buying process.

 

Renters are embracing homeownership

Additionally, many renters who’ve resisted buying are starting home searches due to the economic weight of rising rents. This year’s home buyers seek to take advantage of comparatively low interest rates and, in most cases, static payments each month—an advantage of home ownership. Rental costs will only continue to rise; if you’re thinking of buying, now is an ideal time to do so.

 

What does this mean to you? Every month you pay rent, you lose the opportunity to build equity in a home of your own. Break free from the limits of renting and invest in your financial future. Come in the office and we’ll discuss your options.

 

Home prices are on the rise.

According to NAR, the median existing-home price not only increased 6.0 percent year-over-year in October, it’s also the 56th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. Prices are approaching the pre-recession peak.

 

What does this mean to you? Home prices, and subsequently home values, are increasing. If you’ve been waiting to list your home until you know you can sell it for what you think it’s worth, now is a great time to do so. We’ll be happy to give you a comparative market assessment of your home and help you get your home in list-ready shape.

 

If you’re in the market to buy, be prepared to act.

Homes were on the market for the shortest amount of time recorded since 2009: 52 days. The increase of qualified buyers in the market along with the increasing efficiency Home Equity_Social Media_Layout 1

8 Scams to Watch Out For This Holiday Season

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8 Scams to Watch Out For This Holiday Season

 

The holidays are a happy time for celebrating with family, friends, and co-workers. Unfortunately, this time of year can also be turned sour by a wide variety of clever frauds, unauthorized debit and credit card transactions, and bogus person-to-person scams. By the end of 2015, individuals, retailers, charitable donors, and companies were victimized to the tune of $1.5 billion… and that number is expected to have gone up in 2016.

 

Just as you protect your home with an alarm system, you should set up defenses for your credit and identity. During the holiday season, fraudulent activity spikes, but here’s how to protect yourself from the eight most common scams.

 

Big Data Breeds Data Breaches

 

Big data during the holidays is great for marketers; it’s a bonanza of consumer information to use to lure shoppers to Black Friday deals and the like. However, while companies wrangle in the chaos of holiday orders, scammers search for weaknesses in a company’s cyber-security. According to a top executive at one of the leading credit bureaus, “Data breaches are inevitable and most consumers are vulnerable to identity theft… especially during the holidays.” In fact, 25% more consumers were affected by identity theft during the holidays in 2015 than in 2014!

 

The best way to reduce your risk of data breaches is use cash for all your purchases. According to a survey by TransUnion, however, only 20 percent of shoppers plan to pay with cash. If you’re part of the 80 percent using plastic, use a credit card instead of a debit card. You have more purchase protection using a credit card than a debit card if a data breach occurs or fraud happens.

 

Other protections from data breaches include:

 

  • Using a low-limit credit card for online purchases so you can detect fraudulent activity.
  • Utilizing services like PayPal to lower the risk of your card information being lost at the retailer.

 

Package Theft

 

E-commerce is great for holiday shoppers… but it’s also great for thieves. Last year, Insurancequotes reported that 23 million people had packages stolen at their front door!

 

To prevent this from happening to you, have your packages delivered to your office or delivered to a pick-up area such as a UPS store or Amazon Locker.  You can also set up tracking notifications so that you know when to expect delivery.

 

And while you’re waiting for your packages, be on the lookout for this scam: a note on the front door saying you have a package waiting for pickup. The note asks for a call, often to a pricey number that leaves you on hold for a long period while they collect premium phone rates, or it leads to a person asking for details on your personal information to “verify your identity.” If the note isn’t from a shipper you recognize, or if the Googled number isn’t found, don’t get involved.

 

Online Shopping Scams

 

The big brother of package thievery is the online shopping scam. Phony online stores lure shoppers in through searches and online ads, enticing you with low-priced, high-quality items. These “bargains” cost you not only money, but also hours of time trying to fight the fraudulent transaction. To put salt in the wound, once these websites nab your personal information, they often also infect your computer with malware that compromises your login to your online bank.

 

To avoid the pitfalls of the fake online merchant, only purchase from retail names you know and trust. You could also Google the site and look for reviews. Yelp is a legitimate site for reviews as is the Better Business Bureau. Before you make a purchase online, double-check that “https” appears in the URL, which signifies that the site has passed stringent security compliance standards.

 

Poisonous Holiday E-Cards

 

E-cards are popular during the holidays because they’re a free, fun, and easy way to catch up with friends and family members. But beware because it’s just as easy for scammers to use fake e-cards to steal your personal information. A lot of fake e-cards you may get are from your hacked address book or the hacked address book of someone you know. At first glance, the card may look legitimate, but once you open it, you’ve been phished.

 

The only way to avoid this from happening is paying attention to detail. The number one tell of a fake E-card is any kind of misspelling. The URL will have a subtle misspelled word or your friend’s name is misspelled. Usually the misspelled word will contain a number: T1msmith@comcast.net for instance.

 

Fake Apps

 

ConsumerAffairs is reporting a huge spike in fake apps. Scammers are using fake retail and product apps found in Apple’s App Store to steal unsuspecting consumers’ financial information. Many of these thieves rip off company or brand logos to make the fake app look real. So before you get that convenient retail or product app, make sure it’s legit.

 

Just as with fake e-cards, fake apps will seem normal until you start looking at the details. Before you download that convenient retail or product app, make sure you check for the following:

 

  • A nonsensical description
  • No reviews
  • No history of previous versions

 

 

Gift Card Scammers

 

Scam artists skim or copy the codes on the back of gift cards before they’re bought. After the card has been activated, the scammers drain the card’s funds.

 

To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of compromised gift cards, buy gift cards displayed behind store counters, make sure preloaded cards are still loaded, and make sure the protective scratch-off strip is flawless.

 

Malicious Charities

 

During the holiday season we all feel an extra sense of giving. Grifters and thieves play on this sensibility by creating false charities and hitting you up on Twitter, Instagram, and in your e-mail inbox.

 

There are online resources to help you verify the legitimacy of charities. The website Charity Navigator is a non-profit organization that rates over 8,000 U.S-based charities operating throughout the world. Another way to get free reviews and evaluations on national charities is through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

 

Corrupted Wi-Fi

 

You’ll probably hit the mall this holiday for some in-person price checking, and you’ll probably have your smartphone, laptop, and/or your iPad with you. Please be careful because skimmers and scammers love to manipulate Wi-Fi signals in places like malls and coffee shops to gather your financial information. These people create Wi-Fi signals that mimic the signal you use, then hack your info when you connect to it.

 

To protect yourself from Wi-Fi manipulators, just don’t make online purchases with your credit or debit card when you’re in a public space.

 

Who Should You Turn To?

 

If you catch the trouble soon enough, credit or identity fraud can be an inconvenience. If you don’t, however, one instance can have long-term impacts. If, for example, someone bought an appliance using your name while you were trying to refinance your mortgage, then you might not get approved for the loan!

 

If you’re curious to know if you’ve been affected, or if you know your credit is in disrepair and need help fixing it, please let us know so we can refer you to our recommended professionals.

What is Home Equity

What is Home Equity?

Home equity seems to be a very simple calculation — the total amount of mortgages owed subtracted from the current market value of a home. Here is a simple example:

 

Current Home Market Value                  $325,000

Existing Mortgage                                       $225,000

Homeowner Equity                                     $100,000

 

One side of the equation is well defined, and it is found on the monthly mortgage statement, the loan balance. The other side is less obvious — the current market value of the property.

 

As a homeowner, your down payment purchases your initial equity, and your monthly (or additional) principal payments increase your equity. In strong real estate markets and in-demand locations, equity can increase quite rapidly as the property value increases, but the inverse can also happen — too much available inventory and market down-cycles can lead to falling home values and a reduction in homeowner equity.

 

It can be difficult to put an accurate value on something that you have emotional and monetary vesting in. It is safe to say that most people think their home is worth more than then it is.

 

Homeowners can make savvy assessments about their home’s current market value by following the sales of similar properties in the neighborhood, but should stay away from websites such as Zillow and Trulia, which provide inaccurate and outdated estimates. The most accurate measurement requires a comparative market analysis from a real estate professional or having the home professionally appraised. But, the bottom line — your home is worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it.

 

Creating Value is in Your Hands

Maintaining the condition of a home is vitally important to retaining and increasing value. Homes are judged against their peers: how they compare to similar homes in the neighborhood. Another way to retain value is to not over upgrade, since it is rare to ever recoup the money spent if you exceed neighborhood value. Keep up the landscaping and do the little things to add curb appeal.

 

Putting Home Equity to Work

Home equity represents the largest single asset of millions of people, and because it represents so much of an individual’s net worth, it must be treated with respect. Home equity is not a liquid asset until a property is sold, or it is borrowed against.

 

There are two types of loans that tap into homeowner equity as collateral.

 

Home Equity Loans

 

Many home equity plans set a fixed period during which the person can borrow money, such as 10 years. At the end of this “draw period,” the person may be allowed to renew the credit line. If the plan does not allow renewals, the homeowner will not be able to borrow additional money once the period has ended. Some plans may call for payment in full of any outstanding balance at the end of the period. Others may allow repayment over a fixed period, for example, of 10 years.

 

A home equity loan, sometimes called a second mortgage, usually has a fixed rate and a set time to pay it back, generally with equal monthly payments.

 

Home Equity Line of Credit

 

A home equity line of credit is similar to a credit card. The lender sets a maximum amount you can borrow, and you can draw money as you need it, though many home equity lines of credit require an initial draw. The interest rate varies daily, and is usually prime plus a set number, but the required payment is usually interest only. Once the loan has been paid down, the payment is reduced, and it can be paid off and initiated as many times as a homeowner requires.

 

How Much Equity can be Accessed?

Since the financial institution is lending money and using a home as collateral, they will not lend 100% of the home’s equity. The bank does not want to take the risk that if the house price drops, they would be carrying a loan for more than its market value. Therefore, most banks will allow a qualified homeowner to borrow approximately 80% of their equity.

 

It’s Important to Use Your Home Equity Wisely

Because it is likely the biggest asset most people have, losing your home equity is hard to overcome. It must be used in prudent ways, and the payments against the loan must be affordable. Using equity money to make the loan payment is only acceptable for a short-term solution.

 

There are number of good reasons to use money from a home equity loan… and some really bad ones. First, let’s cover smart uses.

 

  1. Invest in Your Home

The best way to use the money is create more equity in the home. Among the very best returns on your investment (ROI) include kitchen and bathroom remodels, adding square footage or an extra bath, enhancing curb appeal and repairing/keeping the existing structure sound. Making prudent investments in your home is a wonderful win-win: you enjoy the upgrades and the repairs can add value to the home.

 

  1. Invest in your Children’s Education

Using your home equity to finance a child’s higher education may be the greatest payoff of all. Not only is the rate much lower than a student loan, it is an investment in the child’s future.

 

  1. Supplement Retirement Needs

Older homeowners spent their working lives paying down their mortgage. At retirement, when monthly income is reduced, a home equity loan could pay for a dream vacation or an unexpected major expense.

 

  1. Augment the Impending Sale of a Home

If you’re planning to sell soon, a home equity line of credit may be the best way to finance improvements, and you can pay it off entirely when you sell. Investing wisely on upgrades and repairs may even reap a profit on your investment.

 

Here are some examples of some not very wise choices.

 

Adding luxury amenities like a swimming pool, a hot spa, lavish landscaping, expensive appliances and exotic countertops and flooring rarely pay off.

 

Purchasing a car or boat or most any personal luxury items is a poor use of the funds, since these items quickly depreciate in value.

 

Also stay away from using money on risk-heavy investments. Financing stock purchases, start-up businesses and paying routine bills is not financially smart. If you cannot afford to purchase those items with available funds, using equity from your home means they should not be in your budget.

 

You should treat a home equity loan as an investment and not as extra cash when making financial decisions. If your intended use of the money doesn’t pay you back in some way, it’s not the best use of your valuable equity.

 

We Are Happy to Assist You

If you would like an assessment of the market value of your home and the current equity you can access, give us a call for a comparative market analysispaoctober2016digitalmarketingcampaignlinkedinimage-1476136834673

8 Smart Home Technology Trends that Can Save You Money

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The ‘smart home’ is the new ‘internet of things’, or objects that can serve you better by communicating with each other or directly with you through apps on your smart phone. In the ideal version of the wired future, all of our appliances and gadgets talk to each other seamlessly.

 

What could living in a smart home look like? Picture something like this:

 

The lights in your bedroom slowly illuminate to quietly awaken you in the morning, replacing the typical blaring alarm. The aroma of fresh brewing coffee drifts in and stirs your senses. Once the lights are all the way up, the heating system kicks on, just in time to warm up your room so you’re not shocked once you crawl out from underneath the duvet.
When you step into the shower, it turns on automatically and remembers your preferred temperature and water pressure. And it will shut off right when you’re finished as it knows how long you take to bathe.

 

Once you’ve driven out of your garage, your home alarm system arms itself. And it will only unlock automatically when it “sees” and recognizes someone else from your family approaching through programmed in biometrics.

 

Do smart homes really work this way right now? Not exactly…while you may find some of these smart features in certain homes, we haven’t reached the point where every feature intuitively knows what you want and when you wanted. However, each year we’re getting closer and closer toward that shiny, idealized ‘Jetson’ future.

 

Here are some trends that we see for smart homes, many of which may also help you save money:

 

Smart Thermostats

 

Programmable thermostats that are synchronized with the clock have been around for decades. However, they’re often difficult to set and aren’t necessarily efficient; they simply turn on or off as programmed, whether or not you are there.

 

With the newer models, smart thermostats can be programmed to adjust the temperature when they sense you are present. And once you leave, they can kick back to standby mode so that you’re saving energy and money. Nest does all of this, and it also allows you to check your usage from your cell phone so that you can adjust the temperature remotely and save even more.

 

Smart Smoke Detectors

 

Having a working, effective smoke detector saves lives. But unfortunately, many of us still have those battery-run smoke detectors that make that annoying, piercing beep when their batteries are running low on power. And instead of replacing batteries right away, it’s often easier to pull them out and disable the detector (while risking our lives).

 

Many of the new smart smoke detectors, like the Birdi, monitor smoke, carbon dioxide, as well as air quality. With this new sensor technology, they know the difference between a real fire and burnt toast.

 

Smart Sprinkler Control

 

Weather in our area is predictably unpredictable. Often, especially during the summer months, we fall into a severe drought. But then we might have one season that brings extreme amounts of rain, like we did this past spring.

 

A smart sprinkler controller like Rachio Iro can not only help save you lots of money on your water bill but also help protect our precious resources.

 

Programmable by computer or smart phone, it can automatically adjust how often you water your lawn based on the season and the weather forecasts. You can also remotely adjust the settings through a mobile app.

 

Smart Solar Panels

 

You can put the sun to work for you by using solar technology to power your home. It’s green and renewable, and can save you money over the long term. A recent study conducted by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center determined that Austin customers who invested in a solar system saved an average of $66 per month during the first year that they owned the system.

With smart solar panels, you can program the technology to monitor their performance and even turn them off in case of a weather emergency or fire.

 

Smart Home Security Systems

 

Home monitoring has become much more sophisticated in recent years. With the old-style security systems, you had to call in contractors to wire your home with monitoring sensors.

 

With new smart technology, you can simply place a few smart devices in your home to monitor movement and sense whether doors and windows are closed or opened. Some systems include audio and video monitoring, as well as sirens to scare off intruders. You get real-time feedback on security breaches through an app. And, because you’re alerted as soon as the system senses an intruder, it’s more likely that they will be caught.

 

Canary is one popular all-in-one audio-video security system, complete with sirens and night vision.

 

Smart Locks

 

Go beyond the standard key locks, which can often be compromised by burglars. The new smart lock systems give you more control over those who can gain access to your home.

 

Some systems, like the Kwikset Kevo, include encrypted virtual keys that you can program for access for a limited amount of time—for example, allowing guests over for a weekend, or cleaning service in during a specific window of time.

 

Other door locking systems include biometric technology. The Ola smart lock allows you to program your lock to recognize your family member’s fingerprints. Other systems use facial recognition to greet you and unlock your door.

 

The new August smart lock integrates with Apple’s technology so you can ask Siri to open your door for you.

 

Smart lighting systems and light bulbs

A well-lit home feels warm and welcoming, and good lighting can instantly increase the value of your home.

 

However, annual lighting costs can account for up to 12% of your overall electric bill, or over $200 per year according to Energy Star. You can easily reduce this expense simply by using smart lighting technology to add efficiency.

 

The Philips Hue wifi-enabled lights make it easy to add to your home without installing specialized equipment. Smart lighting dimmers and sensors can give you more control over how much energy you use and allow you to turn them on and off through your smart phone.

 

New smart light bulbs can give you control over the warmth or coolness levels of your lighting. With the Lifx LED light bulbs, for example, you can program your light bulbs to turn on or off when you want, to slowly wake you up with increasing illumination, or to change from daytime work lighting to entertainment-friendly shades for parties.

 

Smart Appliances

 

Programmable slow cookers and coffee makers are the quaint, old-fashioned versions of these home conveniences. Newer, smart appliances give you more control over how your food is kept and prepared, and make it easier for you to complete pesky household chores.

 

  • Newer coffee makers, like the Smarter coffee machine, let you ‘order’ your coffee exactly to your liking, adjusting everything from bean grind to temperature to strength to time that it’s ready to drink.
  • Smart refrigeration technology can help you store your food at just the right temperature, adjusting the thermostat during peak usage times. For example, the LG THINQ fridgecan alert you via smart phone app if a door is accidentally left open.
  • Smart ovens can ensure that your food is cooked to the right level of done-ness, and alert you when your meal is ready to eat. June, a new counter oven invented by former Google, Apple, Go-Pro and Path employees will give you even more control—it will contain cameras, thermometers, and other technology to ‘learn’ what you like to eat and make menu suggestions.
  • Smart washers and dryers have customizable controls so that you can safely wash any type of fabric. Some units include controls to increase drying time to save energy. And soon, connected appliances from GE, Oster, Samsung, and other makers, will be able to re-order soap and fabric softener directly from Amazon, so you won’t even have to think about running to the store at the last minute.

 

Have you tested any of these technologies in your home? Did we miss any of your favorite home technologies? Let us know in the comments!

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Real Estate Investing

 

 

Despite the grim economic outlook for some industries, one sector is gaining viability — real estate. According to the 2016 Emerging Trends in Real Estate, which was released by the Urban Land Institute earlier this year, trends such as “18-hour cities” and millennial parents increasing moving from urban areas out into the suburbs signal that real estate as an industry is gaining strength every passing day in 2016. One lending officer at a large financial institution even went to far as to say that “the next 24 months look doggone good for real estate.”

 

These trends means that real estate is a smart place to make an investment and grow your wealth. A housing shortage means that flipped homes tend to sell quickly and for high prices, and an increased demand across all age groups for rental properties means that finding tenants for your buy-and-hold properties should be a breeze.

 

Of course, these trends also mean that the real estate market is highly competitive right now. If you want to make a foray into real estate investing, you’ll need to educate yourself and be strategic in who you work with and where you look for investment opportunities. Read on for our beginner’s guide to real estate investing.

 

Assemble your real estate team before you buy

 

Building relationships with your team will empower you to make serious offers that will more likely get accepted by sellers. Among your team members, you will want to include:

 

  • A mortgage broker or banker, who can help you get the financing for your deal
  • A real estate attorney to protect you by reviewing and revising contracts
  • An appraiser who can help you get a correct appraisal for your potential property
  • An accountant who is well versed in real estate investments
  • A good contractor, for repairs whether you’re rehabbing or buying rental property

 

How to find rehab or wholesale deals

 

You can buy properties to fix up and resell (flip) or you can buy and hold properties that you rent out for monthly cash flow.

 

The advantage of flipping properties is that you can end up with a good return on investment (ROI) in the short term. For example, you buy a property for $100,000, and invest $50,000 into repairs. Once it’s rehabbed, your property is valued at $200,000, and you sell it for a $50,000 profit.

 

This is an extremely simplified version of ROI. There are many other factors that you need to determine to see if the numbers work in your favor — that is, you’re not overpaying initially when you buy the properties or for the renovations or holding costs.

 

Flipping properties means that you will need to spend more time looking for fixer uppers that may be under market value. These may be more difficult to find in a hot market with rising property prices. Beyond the actual purchase price, you will also need to factor in fixed purchase costs for inspections, closing, and lender fees.

 

You’ll also need to factor in holding costs. Your budget should include funds for making repairs, whether you are doing them yourself or hiring contractors. While you’re upgrading the property, you’ll need to carry mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, and insurance.

 

Because of rising property values, fix-and-flip deals in good neighborhoods can be hard to find. But once you know where to find rehab opportunities, you can easily repeat the process by reinvesting proceeds from a previous flip into the next property, which can be bigger, in a more desirable neighborhood, or finished out more luxuriously, and therefore sold for more cash!

 

Working with the right real estate professionals will help you learn which neighborhoods to consider and determine where you should focus your search. We can help you find the right fixer-uppers that may be under market value. Also, a Realtor will have access to many properties that may not be publicly available.

 

Finding buy-and-hold rental properties

 

A buy-and-hold rental property is one that your purchase with the intent of renting it out to tenants. If you find the right long-term buy-and-hold rental property, you can earn consistent cash flow each month, which can be a great source of supplemental income.

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How to Amp Up The Resale Value of Your Home

PA - April 2016 - Digital Marketing Campaign - LinkedIn ImageWhether you’re putting your home on the market this year or in the next five years, it is a smart decision to start building your home’s resale value now. Here are some ways to create a comfortable home while making it easier to put more money into your bank account on closing day.

Small Maintenance and Repairs

If you think that home maintenance on the weekends waste your time and energy, think again. The small chores you do around your home prevents it from losing value. Neglecting small maintenance and repairs causes 10% of your home’s value to walk out your door and slip through your windows. Most appraisers claim that homes showing little to no preventative maintenance can depreciate from $15,000 to $20,000.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University shows that regular maintenance boosts your home value by about 1% per year. However, ongoing maintenance costs offset that value, which means that regular maintenance actually slows down your rate of depreciation. Furthermore, because homebuyers generally notice any repairs needed upon buying a new home, proactive maintenance lets the homebuyer know that he or she will not have to spend extra money to maintain the basics. This makes your home more attractive, and thus more likely to get higher priced offers.

Maintaining the basics can cost you little money and certainly some effort, but there’s a way to accomplish this very important activity smartly. This article by HouseLogic, for example, shows you how to keep home maintenance below $300 a year. Planning ahead will also help make maintaining your home easier. Most professional appraisers and real estate agents recommend a proactive maintenance schedule that includes:

• Keeping enough cash on hand to replace systems and materials
• Creating and following a maintenance schedule
• Planning a room redo every year
• Keeping a notebook of all your maintenance and repairs

Landscaping

The Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech published a study that shows landscaping can increase a home’s value by 15%. The study claims that a home valued at $150,000 could increase its value between $8,300 and $19,000 with the addition of landscaping. Particular landscape elements add different value. For instance, landscape design can increase your home’s value by 42%, plant size can increase your home’s value by 32%, and diversity in plants can increase your home’s value by 22%.

Replace Entrance Doors

If your entry doors are wood, consider switching them out for either fiberglass or steel doors. Steel doors add style and architectural interest to your home while improving security; you can add a deadbolt and electronic keypads to keep out intruders. Unlike wood doors, steel doors do not rot or splinter.

Alternatively, fiberglass doors can be designed to look like wood doors and give your home a modern look. Fiberglass doors conserve more energy than steel doors.

Pricewise, a steel door will cost you $1,335 with a 91% return on investment whereas a fiberglass door will cost you $3,126 with an 82.3% return on investment.

Garage Door Replacement

At first, you might not think that your garage door increases the value of your home. However, your garage door distinguishes your home from the other homes on your block. As the largest entryway of a house, garage doors get noticed first because they’re the focal point of your home. If you want to quickly increase the resale value of your home, you need to make the most of this space.

Some interesting things being done with garage doors include:

• Increased Size: Bigger garage doors help homes stand out more, and homeowners can do more creatively with them.
• Bold Colors: Bright and bold colors now can complement the color of your home, or you can build a concept around the color of your home.
• Faux Wood: You can install fiberglass or steel garage doors that look like wood garage doors. This gives your home a new level of sophistication.
• Windows: Large Windows on your garage door improve the aesthetic of your home, and provide light into your garage so that it’s no longer a dark space.

More importantly, a garage door replacement will cost you $1,652 and add $1,512 to the value of your home; that’s a return on your investment of 91.5%.

Fiberglass Attic Insulation

While energy efficiency is still not the sexiest selling point of your home, installing fiberglass attic insulation saves energy and garners a big payback on your investment. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value top trends report, fiberglass attic insulation gained the top return on investment among the 30 projects in this year’s report. Using Remodel/Max as the cost source, a fiberglass attic insulation project cost $1,268 nationwide. Real estate professionals surveyed estimated that the work would boost the price of a home at resale, within a year of its completion, by $1,482. That’s a 116.9% return on investment.

Replacing Windows

Replacing your windows is another way to save energy and increase your home’s resale value. Replacing your old windows with energy saving models will beautify your home, keep it comfortable, and ease the workload of your HVAC system. According to HGTV, you’ll see a reduction in your utility bill by 7% to 15%. However, if you’re selling your home, you could expect a 60% to 70% recoupment of your investment. The two types of replacement windows that fetch the best return are vinyl and wood.

Remodeling Your Kitchen

Kitchen remodeling can get expensive, but small renovations can make your home more buyer friendly. Changing your kitchen’s texture and color using a matte finish and neutral colors such as putty or grey enhances your home’s resale value. Because matte finishes have transitional qualities, your potential homebuyer can easily match his or her stainless steel or black and white appliances. Also, refinishing cabinetry, or switching to Energy Star™ appliances provide comfort you like and pizazz buyers adore.

Flow is important to any interior design of a home. If you feel that your kitchen hinders a good flow, change it. A small investment to knock out a non-structural wall or remove a kitchen island creates space and provides flow that buyers love.

A minor kitchen remodel can cost you $20,122 while putting $16,716 of resale value into your home; that’s an 83% payback on the project. If you want to do a major kitchen model, this can cost you about $60,000 and put about $39,000 of resale value into your home, which is only about a 65% payback on the project. Therefore, consider a minor kitchen remodel first.

Bathroom Addition or Remodel

Likewise, carefully consider adding a bathroom or remodeling your bathroom. Switching out your frosted glass shower doors for glass doors, cleaning the grout, replacing the shower and floor tiles, switching out your sink or toilet, or replacing your sink and shower fixtures can cost you little money.

Adding a bathroom can get expensive, but it can reduce congestion during hectic times and provide your guests with a bathroom. Consult with your real estate agent or a local appraiser before deciding whether a full remodel or addition is right for your situation. While a bathroom remodel will cost you about $18,000 with a return on investment of about 66%, a bathroom addition will cost you about $42,000 with a return on investment of about 56%. Therefore, it’s best do your due diligence before working on your bathroom.

Your Needs and Buyers’ Wants

On that note, if you need to renovate your home, be sure to consider how those changes will affect its appeal to future buyers. Knowing design trends will give you the opportunity to make changes to your home based on where your needs and your potential buyer’s desires intersect, thus increasing your property’s resale value drastically.

Designers and design websites provide great ideas when you’re brainstorming home renovations. Keep in mind as you research, however, that you don’t want to sacrifice your needs for a comfortable home just for the sake of what you think a future buyer will want!

Therefore, before you begin making any changes to your home, consult your real estate agent. Real estate agents, because we are constantly working with new buyer clients, have insider insight into what home buyers are looking for now and in the future. We’ll be able to help you make smart choices when remodeling or renovating your home.

If you think you might want to remodel or renovate your home in the near future, or if you are just curious about other ways you can increase its resale value, please reach out

Top Homeowner Tax Deductions That Decrease Your Tax Burden

You can’t avoid paying taxes, and we all need to pay our fair share. However, paying your fair share shouldn’t place an unjust burden on you. As a homeowner, your tax burden is doubled because you pay both income and property taxes. To decrease that burden and boost your tax savings, take advantage of these homeowner tax deductions. As a result, you can use your tax savings to go on a vacation, increase your child’s college fund, build upon your retirement fund, or complete another home improvement project.

Home Improvement Tax Deduction

You spend so much of your time at home, and you try to make it as comfortable a place to live as possible. If your home needs some upgrades, consider improvements that will help foot the bill for themselves.

You can get an energy-efficient tax credit of up to $500 for installing storm doors and energy-efficient insulation and air-conditioning and heating systems. Switching out your old windows for energy-efficient ones could earn you $200. This credit expires this year on December 31st. So, this year will be your last chance to take advantage of getting tax credit for making your home more energy efficient.

Also, installing equipment that uses renewable sources of energy makes you eligible for the Renewable Energy Efficiency Property Credit. The credit covers 30 percent of the cost of equipment and installation. This credit also expires this year on December 31st.

Mortgage Interest and Refinancing

If your mortgage payment makes you cringe each month, you’ll be glad to know you can deduct taxes on the following:

* Interest towards mortgage
* Mortgage payments for additional property
* Rental properties
* Refinancing and home equity lines of credit (HELOC) up to $100,000 of debt.

If you own multiple properties, the mortgage interest on additional property is deductible as well. The cool thing is that it doesn’t have to be a house. It can be a boat or RV; as long as it has cooking, sleeping, and bathroom facilities, it counts as additional property.

Regarding using your second home as a rental, you need to vacation at least 14 days at the property or spend more than 10 percent of the number of days you rent it out.

Furthermore, you can claim points on your mortgage the year you paid them if the following happened:

* The loan was to purchase or build your main home
* Payment of points is an established business practice in your area and the points were within the usual range

Property Taxes

Now, this is the big one. Property taxes you pay each year are tax deductible. The amount of property taxes you paid for the year shows up on your lender’s annual statement. You must deduct them as an itemized expense on your Schedule A tax form.

First-time homebuyers, look at your settlement sheet to see additional tax payment data. You may deduct the portion of property taxes you paid during the first year of your homeownership.

Protesting Your Assessment to Lower Your Property Taxes

Although you must pay property taxes, you can make sure that you pay a reasonable amount based on the true value of your home and land. Many homes get overvalued because assessors err in valuing a home and homeowners don’t pay attention to these mistakes. Consequently, homeowners unwittingly pay more than they should in property taxes.

However, if you’ve owned your home for more than a year, you can potentially lower your property tax burden by showing that your home has been overvalued, meaning that your tax assessment claims your property is worth more than it is.

Even if the number on the tax assessment seems close, you should still consider protesting your property tax. Typical savings from a successful tax protest is over 15%!

According to SmartAsset, the national median property tax paid is roughly $2,839.00. That’s about 1.192 percent of a home valued at $238,200.00.

If you’re able to reduce your assessed value by 15 percent to $202,470.00 and consequently save 15 percent on your tax bill, your new tax bill will be about 2,413.00. That’s a savings of $426.00!

To get started protesting your property tax, read your assessment letter. Your assessment letter will list data about your property and the assessed value of your house and land. Make sure your assessment letter has the correct information about your property.

Understanding that assessors can make mistakes assessing your home value will help you with your appeal. There are three key mistakes assessor make when assessing property. These mistakes include:

1. Outdated Historic Sales Data: Sometimes assessors will use sales data from previous years. Because the real estate market is fluid, this data changes quickly, as a result; this data can over value your home.

2. Mass Appraisal Methods: Also, when assessors use mass appraisal methods, they do not take into account all the market adjustments that occurred over time. Consequently, there sales data can’t always produce useful comparable properties to set future sales.

3. Living Area: Assessors notoriously make mistakes about the living area of your house. This is especially true if you live in a 1.5 or 2 story home. Check any previous appraisals to ensure correct measurements and description of our home. Does the assessment letter show the right number of bathrooms and bedrooms? Does it report the correct size of your lot? .5 acres differs greatly than 5.0 acres.

After reading your assessment letter, consult a Realtor. We can find three to five approximate values of comparable properties similar to yours, and these comps can then be used to support your claim that your home is overvalued. This is especially useful if the assessor used poor historical sales data.

You’ll have 30 days to file an appeal of your assessment, so you’ll want to get the comps as soon as your assessment arrives. You can speak with an assessor on the phone or request a formal review.

You’ll then need to fill out a form and follow specific instructions regarding your supporting evidence. Typically, it’s not necessary for you to appear at the review. The review can take one to three months to complete, and you’ll receive a decision in writing.

The majority of assessment appeals are successful. However, if at first you don’t succeed, appeal. You’ll need to pay a small filing fee for an independent appeals board to hear your second appeal. This process could take up to a year to complete, so you’ll need to decide whether it’s truly worth it.

As a homeowner, you have plenty of options available to decrease your tax burden. The benefit is that you can use your tax savings for major life events such as weddings, vacations, and home improvements.

To find out more about your tax saving options as a homeowner, check out tax information for homeowners. You can also contact me directly and I’ll gladly lead you in the right direction towards saving you money on your taxes.febpicfebpic.png

: National Real Estate Market Primed for Expansion in 2016

Strengthening Economy

Despite existing-home sales dropping last November, the National Real Estate Market is primed for expansion in 2016. Here’s why. Better weather in many parts of the country resulted in an increase in single-family and multifamily home construction. Also, the population of millennial homebuyers is expected to grow in 2016. This means increased demand to help the housing market see positive gains. With unemployment steadily decreasing, orders for new durable goods increasing 3 percent, inflation staying level, and income beginning to grow, the Fed decided to raise interest rates. The rate increase signals that our economy is getting stronger. So, don’t let the drop in existing-home sales in November fool you, with a stronger economy home sellers can expect eager home buyers in 2016.

Millennial Home Buyers

The low demand in November meant that first-time home buyers had only a 30 percent share in demand, which is slightly down from 31 percent in October and last year. However, in 2016 home sellers saw an increase of first-time home buyers enter the housing market because of the growing segment of millennials between 25 and 34 years of age. The Census Bureau projects that the population of millennials aged 25 to 34 will increase by an average of nearly 500,000 per year in the second part of the decade. Also, NAR’s inaugural quarterly Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey reported that a large majority of millennials between 25 and 34 years of age who rent want to own a home in the future.

Interest Rates

The Federal Reserve raised short-term interests this month. Freddie Mac reported that the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed rate mortgage stayed below 4 percent, but rose from 3.80 percent to 3.94 percent in November. Mortgage rates are expected to rise to 4.50 percent by the end of 2016, but this rate is still historically low; a full percentage point below the rate during the recession of 2008. The low fixed mortgage rate should help spurn demand and encourage first-time home buyers to enter the market. But while the rate is at its current level, potential home buyers should keep an eye out for rate increases so that they’re not caught by surprise when the spring buying season comes around. Early 2016 would be a good time for home buyers to start looking to purchase a home.

Mortgage Lenders & Home Buyers

Fannie Mae’s fourth quarter 2015 Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey™ shows that lenders expect to ease mortgage credit standards for GSE-eligible loans and government loans over the next three months. This should reduce the affordability problem for first-time home buyers. As a result, this will help young adult homeownership. Although home prices will be high, all of this is good news for home sellers because they should expect an increase in demand for their home.

In 2016, the first-time home buyer will have mortgage credit options available that were not available during the housing down-turn. First-time home buyers will have low-and no-down-payment mortgage loans available to them. Some loan options available include FHA loans and the conventional 97 percent program offered by Fannie Mae. Qualifying first-time home buyers need only to put 3 percent down on a home.

Homeowners

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association weekly survey, the Refinance Index increased 11 percent compared to the previous week. So it appears homeowners have anticipated the Federal Reserve’s increase in interest rates. If you’re a homeowner with an adjustable-rate mortgage or a variable home equity line of credit, you should expect your rates to rise in 2016. The first part of 2016 will be a good time to refinance. Home equity lines of credit (HELOC) are both fixed and variable. Variable HELOCs are tied to the Federal Reserve prime rate. Whereas fixed HELOCs are not. By refinancing early in 2016, you’ll afford any major life events that may occur such as daughter’s wedding, high college tuition, or home renovation.

Wrap-up

The National Real Estate Market is on its way to expanding. The Federal Reserve raising interest rates indicates optimism in the housing market and the economy as a whole. The 2016 housing market will remain a sellers market that should see an increase in first-time home buyers entering the market because of the strong desire of homeownership by millennials 25 to 34 years of age, and easing credit standards and increases in wages. Homeowners with variable mortgage rates should expect their rates to rise in 2016, but early 2016 will be a good time to refinance so that you’re that you won’t fill the brunt of further interest rate increases. fbpic.png