Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Are mortgage interest rates really ‘historic’ now?

We hear it all the time. Headlines trumpet “mortgage rates at historic lows!” Could this really be true, or is it hype? Curious to find out, we researched mortgage rates way back to 1981 to find out the real story. Which is to say, yes, our current interest rates are historic.

Back then, some 30 years ago, the interest rate was a whopping 16.70 percent (can you image that?) for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage in June 1981, according to mortgagenewsdaily.com. In between then and now, rates did moderate to averages of about 11.50% in 1983; 8.43% in 2000; 6.88% in 2008.

So yes, the 4.73% average now really is historic. For buyers and sellers, this may be the most influential component in deciding to enter the housing market now. Buyers are enticed by the low rates and the increased housing stock. Sellers have the advantage too. Low interest rates bring in potential sales, and if your home is competitively priced and improved to match comparable homes in your neighborhood, your success rate will be high.

Spring and early summer are the peak times for buying and selling. Buyers want to settle into their new neighborhood when the weather is nice and they can be outside to meet neighbors. Children also benefit with an early summer move so they can adjust to new friends and schools.

For sellers, advantages include the opportunity to increase curb appeal and add special touches to landscaping to really show off their property. Homes show much better in the summer months with loads of outdoor natural lighting streaming in through the windows. And sellers want to be somewhere else, established in their new neighborhood.

If the interest rate is the prime motivation for buying or selling, this is the right time. We see the rates hovering around 5% or less for the foreseeable future. Wait or not, there is success out there for both buyers and sellers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yes you can sell your home this summer! Take a look at what buyers want and get your home ready to go.

We’ve all heard that this is a buyers’ market, there are plenty of real estate choices and buyers expect the lowest price possible. This can put sellers on the defensive. However, you can position your home in this market to satisfy buyers and get fair market value for your property.

Price. Your real estate agent will help you determine a fair price for your home. She will provide you with comparable homes in your area so you can be competitive as soon as your home is listed. Pricing your home too high will only turn away serious buyers and get yourself into a stressful negotiations battle.
Basically solid. Position your home as well maintained, solid and ready to move in. Today’s buyer wants a home that has value for years to come. A pre-sale home inspection is a good idea. The inspector will help you decide what you need to fix or upgrade structurally to make your home more appealing.
Energy efficiency. One of the most enticing selling points now is energy efficiency, which points to lower utility costs down the line. Emphasize your home’s energy efficient aspects, such as appliances, heating and cooling systems, windows, lighting and insulation.
Incentives. Some sellers offer incentives to lure buyers, such as financial assistance at closing, purchasing the first year for a home warranty, sharing closing costs, paying a year’s worth of home association dues or prepaying property taxes. Offering incentives up front do make your property stand out and can shorten the negotiation process.
Outdoor living. A seemless transition between indoor and outdoor living is a popular plus these days. Highlight your lovely deck, patio or screened-in porch. Here’s a wonderful opportunity to stage that area with lighting, colorful flowers and landscaping and furniture. Not only is this a selling point, but you’ll enjoy your outdoor living space right now.

Present you home with positives in place, clean and de-clutter, repair, update and price reasonably. Your property will stand out and attract the right buyer for the best deal.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Just don’t do that. Some over-the-top renovations won’t help sell your home or impress buyers.

Selling a home usually means some updating, possibly remodeling a few areas. Kitchens and bathroom renovations reap payback at closing time, but a word to the wise: don’t over improve. You’ll set yourself up for a yield of diminishing returns.

The smartest way to increase your home’s value is to bring it up to neighborhood standards. Leaping ahead of the Joneses will only stall your sale, especially in a market where buyers are cautious and want to see solid value. Always consider your neighborhood and research comparable properties before you jump into renovation projects.

Here are some don’ts and do’s.

Don’t assume more space means more profit. Depending on your neighborhood, over-the-top improvements can be a real turnoff for buyers, especially if it means that additional maintenance isn’t worth the effort. For instance, kitchens catch a buyer’s eye, but if you’re dead set on a chef’s kitchen, take a step back and think about it. Sprucing up a kitchen is a good move, and a nice makeover can be done with minimum investment.

Don’t turn a bedroom into an office space when you’re ready to sell. Buyers want bedrooms and want to see rooms as bedrooms. If you already have a home office, which most of us do these days, upgrade that space with attractive storage units to reduce clutter, and maybe a new desk that you can take with you to your next home.

Do think long and hard about installing a swimming pool, unless you plan to stay where you are for a long time. Buyers can see a pool as a major headache and safety issue if they have small children. Heating, skimming, repairing, balancing the acidity level and winterizing are a lot of work for buyers moving into a new home. Instead, take some of that money to create a beautiful landscape with perennials–a lot less work.

Don’t install that media room with theater seating. As buyers downsize, that’s one recent improvement that is no longer enticing. A family room is a better value, but so is a clean, waterproof basement for storage and an efficient laundry space.

The way you look at your living space is very personal. If, indeed, you want an Italian wine cellar with imported stonemasons, by all means do that should you plan to stay for a while. But, that wine cellar isn’t going to add bottom line value to your home if you want to sell now.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Grilling outdoors is a time-honored American tradition. Keep it a safe experience for your family and friends.

Americans have a love affair with barbeque, and Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff for grills, smoke and sauce. Getting family and friends together for a meal is one of the pleasures we enjoy the most, but keeping the experience safe is a must.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that each year outdoor grills cause an average of 7,700 house fires and $80 million in property damage. Here are some grilling tips to avoid being a statistic this summer.

Regardless of the type of grill you favor, it should be located outdoors and in a clear area. Place your grill away from siding, deck railings, eaves and overhanging branches. DO NOT grill in a garage or enclosed space. That’s just setting yourself up for a fire.

Kids are a big part of barbeques and when they get together, there is usually a lot of running around. The NFPA recommends setting up a three-foot kid-free zone around the grill to ensure safety.

The cook should use long-handled grilling tools for clearance from heat, flame and hot grease. Don’t wear loose-fitting clothes that may catch on fire.

Gas grill enthusiasts should check out the gas tank hose for leaks before using it at the beginning of the season and periodically during the summer. Obstructions in the fuel path are the number one reason for gas fires. At the first sign of a leak, turn the grill off and have it serviced by a professional.

Charcoal grilling also has its hazards. The first problem begins with lighting the charcoal with lighter fluid. Use the fluid only to start a fire, never when the coals are burning. Lighter fluid turns to a heavy gas at a low temperature, which will explode easily. Rather than deal with lighter fluid at all, use a charcoal chimney stuffed with newspaper on the bottom to start your coals. Much less risk, and you also avoid the carcinogenic effect of chemicals.

Should you have a grill fire, move everyone away from the area and call 911. Really, don’t let your ego get the better of you and your guests.

Beer and barbequed brats go together, but not for the grill master. Don’t drink and barbeque at the same time. You’ll need a clear head to produce a fine meal and stay safe. Have that congratulatory drink when you guests are raving about what a great cook you are.