Get Your Home Ready For Listing : How To Eliminate Home Odors Completely

November 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Difficult home odors plague homeowners. Ground into rugs, absorbed into walls, and clinging to furniture, some smells are slow to fade, leaving lasting impressions on both guests and potential buyers. Often, that impression is unfavorable.

Do something about it.

In this 4-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn how to eliminate bad smells and prevent them from returning. It’s all basic direction, too:

  • How to use the porous nature of wood to your advantage
  • How to remove get “smoke smell” out of a wall
  • How to improve a home’s air quality by cleaning carpets

For more serious offenses, the video covers in-home air purifiers, too.

“Smelly homes” are undesirable and can make your home less attractive to buyers. Watch the video, follow the instruction, and declare your home an Odor-Free Zone.

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One Reason Why Mortgage Rates Are Back To All-Time Lows

November 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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FOMC Minutes November 3-4 2009FOMC Minutes November 3-4 2009Home affordability improved this week after the Federal Reserve released its November 3-4, 2009 meeting minutes.

The FOMC Minutes is a companion to the Federal Reserve’s post-meeting press release. It’s released 3 weeks after the Fed adjourns and details the internal debates that shape our nation’s monetary policy.

As compared to the press release, the minutes can be rather lengthy. November’s press release featured 428 words, the minutes offered 6531.

However, this extra level of detail shapes markets and mortgage rates. With Wall Street unsure about the economy’s path, investors look to our nation’s central bankers for guidance.

The Fed has made several points clear:

  1. The economy shows tell-tale signs of improvement
  2. Unemployment threatens the recovery
  3. Inflation pressures are low, for now

Overall, the FOMC Minutes paint the economy as in a state of measured repair, and under tight federal surveillance. Investors like this message and, as a result, stock and bonds markets are improving.

If you haven’t checked mortgage rates lately, make a point to do that. In the wake of the FOMC Minutes, conforming mortgage rates are now hovering near their all-time lows set exactly 1 year ago.

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The Home Price Index Shows Home Values Increasing. Case-Shiller Agrees.

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Home Price Index October 2009It’s official — home prices are no longer in free fall.

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Home Price Index posted its first quarterly increase since 2007 last quarter.

The news was reported Tuesday.

The Home Price Index is an interesting metric. It’s huge in its scope, accounting for every home sold in the country that backs a mortgage bound for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac with two notable exceptions:

  1. It doesn’t track new construction
  2. It doesn’t track multi-unit homes

Because the Home Price Index makes these specific exclusions, and because it doesn’t account for FHA and jumbo mortgages, some analysts discount the HPI’s relevance. They prefer the private-sector Case-Shiller Index instead.

Now, to be fair, the Case-Shiller has its own set of flaws, too.

For example, it excludes condos and co-ops, and only tracks sales in 20 cities nationwide. But, of all the private home valuation models, Case-Shiller is the most well-known and most widely-used.

The Case-Schiller Index was also released Tuesday and the report showed the same results as its government-issued counterpart — home values increased between the second and third quarter.

When the Home Price Index and Case-Shiller Index reach similar conclusions, markets tend to buy-in. Home buyers should, too.

Home values have likely bottomed and are starting to turn higher, as shown in two separate reports. High sales volume and dwindling supply are contributing factors. So are low mortgage rates and a tax credit.

If you’re on the fence about buying a home, at least consider your options. In 2010, homes are unlikely to be as cheap to buy, or as cheap to finance.

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Existing Home Sales Blow Past Expectations

November 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Existing Home Sales October 2009Another month, another piece of evidence that the housing market is in recovery.

Existing Home Sales surged in October as the nation’s homebuyers took advantage of low mortgage rates, low list prices, and, for some, a generous tax credit.

Home resales are 23 percent higher versus a year ago and home supply is down to 7 months nationwide.

Inventory hasn’t been this low since February 2007.

The news shouldn’t be surprising, however. The same real estate trade group that produces the Existing Home Sales report also publishes a monthly report meant to predict future home sales called the Pending Home Sales Index.

Pending Home Sales have been through the roof since mid-May.

So, with pending home sales showing no signs of slowing and 80% of pendings turning into actual, closed sales, we can expect existing home sales volume to rise in the coming months, too. Especially because Congress extended the home buyer tax credit to include (1) “Move-up” buyers and, (2) Buyers with higher household incomes.

It’s terrific news for home sellers. The housing market turnaround means higher sale prices and fewer concessions to buyers long-term.

To buyers, on the other hand, the news isn’t so good. The window to find a “deal” appears to be closing quickly.

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Help! Thanksgiving Is Thursday And I Don’t Know What To Cook!

November 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Planning a Thanksgiving Dinner?Thanksgiving is Thursday. If you’re cooking for group (or a crowd) and you haven’t yet put your menu in order, click on through Bon Appetit’s Thanksgiving Menu Planner.

Answer to 3 basic questions and Bon Appetit serves up a list of dishes and their respective recipes.

  1. For how many people are you cooking?
  2. How much time do you have to cook?
  3. What’s your style?

The dishes range from the simple (Pumpkin Pie with Spiced Whipped Cream) to the sophisticated (Herb Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy). There’s even a menu for vegetarians.

It’s not too late to host a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. Bon Appetit can get you moving in the right direction.

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Should I Consider A 15-Year Fixed Mortgage?

November 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Comparing 15-year mortgage rates to 30-year mortgage rates

For today’s home buyers and homeowners that can manage the higher monthly payments, 15-year fixed rate mortgage rates look attractive as compared to comparable 30-year products.

The 15-year/30-year interest rate spread is near its 5-year high.

Despite lower rates, however, homeowners opting for a 15-year fixed mortgage should be prepared for its higher monthly payments. This is because the principal balance of a 15-year fixed is repaid in half the years as with a standard, 30-year amortizing product.

As compared to 30-year terms, 15-year products repay 3 times as much principal each month.

Versus a 30-year, 15-year fixed mortgages have a few downsides worth noting. The first is that, because 15-year mortgages are heavy on principal and light on interest, homeowners who itemize tax returns may have to claim a smaller mortgage interest tax deduction at tax time.

Another negative is that the sheer size of the payment. If you run into fiscal trouble down the road, the only way to reduce the monthly obligation is to refinance into a 30-year product and that costs money to do.

In other words, be sure you can manage the payments over the long-term before you opt for a 15-year term. If you can manage it, though, the rewards are tangible.

At today’s rates, a 15-year fixed and 30-year fixed costs $230 extra per $100,000 borrowed.

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Housing Starts Are Down And Why It’s Terrific News For Sellers

November 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Housing Starts October 2009A “Housing Start” is a home on which construction has started and, for the 4th straight month, national single-family housing starts held steady last month.

When the demand for homes grows faster than the number of homes for sale, prices increase.

As recent home sales data confirms, buyers currently outpace sellers and one consequence of this is an increase in multiple-offer situations this year.

It’s no wonder home prices are up across so many neighborhoods.

October’s Housing Starts report is yet another piece of housing data foreshadowing rising home prices into 2010.

Building Permits were also down in October, a potential demand-to-supply imbalance magnifier. Without permits, there’s no future construction. This drains supply. Meanwhile, tax breaks and low rates tend to stimulate demand and, right now, we’ve got both.

Therefore, so long as demand remains semi-constant into the New Year, expect home prices to rise.

In many markets, they already are.

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2010 Conforming Loan Limits

November 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Conforming loan limits since 1980A conforming mortgage is one that, quite literally, conforms to the mortgage guidelines set forth by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Each year, the government sets the maximum allowable loan size for a conforming mortgage, based on “typical” housing costs nationwide.

Loans in excess of this amount are typically called “jumbo”.

While home prices increased from 1980 to 2006, so did conforming loan limits. Since then, however, as home prices have dipped, the conforming loan limit has held.

Now, in 2010, for the 5th consecutive year, the government set $417,000 as the nation’s conforming mortgage loan limit.

The 2010 conforming loan limits, as released by the government, are:

  • 1-unit properties : $417,000
  • 2-unit properties : $533,850
  • 3-unit properties : $645,300
  • 4-unit properties : $801,950

But conforming loan limits don’t apply to all U.S. geographies equally. As a result of various economic stimuli since 2008, the government now considers certain regions around the country “high-cost” areas. In these areas, conforming loan limits can range to $729,750.

There are less than 200 such areas nationwide. The complete list is published on the Fannie Mae website.

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How To Remove Stains From Granite Countertops

November 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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Granite countertops can be handsome additions to a kitchen, but are a challenge to clean sometimes — especially when they’re stained.

In this 2-minute video from eHow.com, in addition to granite-cleaning basics, we learn how to remove wine and marker stains from our granite countertops. Unfortunately, not every household will have the video’s recommended cleaning compounds on hand, so prepare yourself for a trip to the hardware store.

Printable, written instructions for cleaning your granite are available on the eHow.com website.

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Simple Real Estate Definitions : APR

November 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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APR on Reg ZAPR is an acronym for Annual Percentage Rate. It’s a government-mandated calculation meant to simplify the comparison of mortgage options.

A loan’s APR can always be found in the top-left corner of the Federal Truth-In-Lending Disclosure.

Because APR is expressed as a percentage, many people confuse it for the loan’s interest rate. It’s not. APR represents the total cost of borrowing over the life of a loan. “Interest rate” is the basis for monthly mortgage repayments.

The main advantage of APR is that it allows an “apples-to-apples” comparison between loan products.

As an example, a 5.000 percent mortgage with origination points and fees will almost certainly have a higher APR than a 5.500 percent mortgage with zero fees. In this sense, APR can help a borrower determine which loan is least costly long-term.

However, APR is not without its shortcomings.

First, different banks includes different fees into their APR calculations. By definition, this spoils APR as a choose-between-lenders, apples-to-apples comparison method.

And, second, when calculating APR, “life of the loan” is assumed to be full-term. When a 30-year mortgage pays off in 7 years or fewer — as most of them do — APR comparisons are rendered moot.

In other words, APR is just one metric to compare mortgages — it’s not the only metric. The best way to compare your mortgage options is to review all the loan terms together and determine which is most suitable.

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