Simple Ideas To Create An Outdoor Living Space For Your Home

Create an Outdoor Living Space for Your Home

May 29, 2013  by Leave a Comment

As the weather gets warmer, the desire to get outside and enjoy the fresh air begins to take hold. Having a place to entertain or just unwind can add a new dimension and enjoyment to your home.

First, you have to decide what type of space you want to create. Whether you want to have an outdoor living room, a vacation-like spot or a place to meditate and enjoy nature, how you extend your living space is limited only by your imagination — and possibly your budget.

Start with your vision and make a list of the things you want to have there. Then go for it!

Choose a Theme

  • Vacation spot – Decorate with bright colors for a festive, tropical look.
  • Zen garden – Add a water feature, such as a fountain, for a calming effect.
  • Nature hideaway – Surround a patio or porch with plants and trees to bring nature closer to your home.

Find Elements to Enhance Your Space

  • Furniture – If your outdoor zone isn’t completely under cover, then make sure to choose all-weather furniture. Comfortable seating is key, so add pillows or cushions for extra luxury.
  • Lighting – String lighting throughout the trees, under umbrellas or around fencing to create atmosphere. It also helps to make sure you can see where you’re going once the sun goes down.
  • Outdoor kitchen – Bring the food with you! Keep it simple with a BBQ grill or add other elements like a refrigerator, sink and food prep area. And, don’t forget the beverages!
  • Fireplace – Extend your outdoor evenings into the fall by adding a fireplace for friends and family to gather around.
  • Borders – Define the borders of the area to increase privacy and separate the space from the rest of the yard or neighbors.

Your home is an extension of your personality. Creating an outdoor oasis can give you an opportunity to find your inner child, Zen master, or beach bum!

Make it as simple or elaborate as you desire, and open it up to friends, or keep it all to yourself. Follow these simple tips and create a wonderfully relaxing place right at your home for the summer.

Benefits Of Owning A Green Home You May Not Have Considered

Benefits of Owning a Green Home

May 17, 2013  by Leave a Comment

Going green is not just a new trend; it is a way of life that benefits not only the environment, but also your health — and your pocketbook.

Green living cuts down on carbon emissions and creates a healthier environment both inside and outside of a home. While green structures sometimes cost more initially, the money (and environment) saved in the long run is well worth the investment.

Health Benefits

Owning a green home has significant health benefits. Many conventional buildings are not properly ventilated and indoor air quality is often more polluted than the air outside.

Poor air quality is bad for your health and can aggravate asthma and allergies. Certified green properties tend to have excellent airflow and ventilation. They also use toxin-free materials in building and may have fewer problems with mold and mildew.

Environmental Benefits

Homes are responsible for a significant portion of the carbon emissions on earth. A green home has a smaller carbon footprint since it is built with better insulation and fitted with energy-efficient appliances.

Green structures are built from sustainable or recycled materials that are meant to lower the impact on the environment. Proper green buildings also take advantage of natural lighting and airflow to reduce the use of electricity to light and to help warm and cool their interiors.

Financial Benefits

Green buildings are constructed to use less energy, which means you should pay less in energy costs. Ventilation systems in green structures are better insulated to reduce air leakage.

Builders also install fixtures that conserve water and are energy efficient. The initial cost might be slightly higher, but the monthly bills can be cut almost in half in many cases.

There are even more financial, environmental and health benefits to owning a green property. Living in a green home can allow you to save yourself money and help the earth, all while living in a healthy environment.

If you’re looking to purchase a new house, consider a green property. If you have any questions on current green properties available in the local market, please call your trusted real estate professional right away.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 6, 2013

 

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 6 2013

May 6, 2013 by Leave a Comment

Mortgage rates fell last week and approached or reached record low levels.

According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage (FRM) fell from 3.40 percent to 3.35 percent. Average rates for a 15-year FRM moved from 2.61percent to 2.56 percent.

Average rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) fell to 2.56 from last week’s average of 2.58 percent Discount points for last week’s mortgage rates ranged from 0.7percent for 30 and 15 year FRM loans to 0.5 percent for a 5/1 ARM.

Rock-bottom mortgage rates can offset the impact of rising home prices.

Last Week Was A Strong Showing For The US Economy

Last week’s economic news provided further indications of economic recovery, with housing related reports contributing to overall confidence in a stronger economy.

Highlights of last week’s news include:

Monday: Pending home sales moved up to 1.50 percent in March from February’s -1.07 percent. This reading also surpassed Wall Street’s forecast of 0.90 percent for March.

Tuesday: The Case-Shiller Home Price Index for February reported that the national average home price had increased by 9.3 percent year-over-year between February 2012 and February 2013. By comparison, the average national home price between January 2012 and January 2013 increased by 8.1 percent year-over-year. Rising home prices are contributing to the economic recovery, but in some areas demand for homes exceeds supply, which also contributes to rising home prices.

Wednesday: The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) issued its scheduled statement after its meeting concluded. Committee members noted signs of an improving economy, and cited housing markets as a leading contributor to the recovery. The FOMC statement also indicated that economic conditions were not sufficiently improved for the FOMC to change or cease the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policy. The Fed’s goal for its current quantitative easing program is keeping long-term interest rates including mortgage rates low.

Thursday: The weekly Jobless Claims Report brought better-than-expected news with new jobless claims coming in at 324,000, less than the expected reading of 345,000 new jobless claims and also higher than the previous report’s reading of 342,000 new jobless claims.

Friday: The Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its monthly “Jobs Report,” which consists of the Non-farm Payrolls Report and the national Unemployment Rate. Again new jobs added exceeded expectations for April with 165,000 jobs added against expectations of 135,000 new jobs added. April’s reading also surpassed the March reading of 138,000 new jobs.

The unemployment rate dropped to 7.5 percent as compared to a consensus of 7.6 percent and last month’s reading of 7.6 percent. To put this reading in perspective, the FOMC has targeted an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent as a benchmark for adjusting its current policies including quantitative easing.

What To Look For This Week

This week’s economic events include latest Jobless Claims report on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if this week’s reading will be lower than last week’s reading of 324,000 new jobless claims.

On Friday, the Federal Budget will be released; this could influence financial markets depending on what programs and services are cut or reduced.

Home Builders Hold Great Confidence For New Homes Over Next 6 Months

 

Home Builder Confidence Positive 6 Month Outlook April 2013

April 16, 2013 by Leave a Comment

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) report for April shows that builder confidence slipped by two points to a rating of 42 from the March reading of 44.

The Housing Market Index (HMI) measures home builder confidence in market conditions for newly built single family homes.

A reading of more than 50 indicates better than average confidence, while readings below 50 indicate that home builders have concerns about current market conditions.

NAHB Housing Market Index Results For April

Home builders expressed concern over a gap between a growing demand for homes and builders’ ability to meet the demand for new homes as housing market conditions improve.

Top concerns cited by home builders surveyed include:

  • Availability of construction credit
  • Construction costs rising faster than home values
  • Restrictive mortgage lending rules impacting would-be home buyers

Supply chains for building materials and available developed lots are also impacting home builder confidence, as they have been lagging behind increasing demand for homes since the recession and will need more time to catch up.

Six Month Confidence Forecast Strongest Since February 2007

While builder confidence fell on a month-to-month basis, home builders have a more positive outlook for the next six months.

The builder confidence reading for the next six months came in at 53 for April, which is the highest reading since February 2007.

In terms of demand for newly built homes, the home builders surveyed said that a shortage of existing homes, low mortgage rates and increasing consumer confidence are expected to improve the market for existing homes.

Consumer confidence is important to all facets of the home building and mortgage lending industries.

Buying a home is typically the largest investment that consumers make, and their confidence in the economy plays a role in their decisions about when or if they buy a home.

Regional readings for housing markets are based on a three month rolling average.

Results for April were unchanged or lower in all four regions as compared to the rolling average reported in March:

  • Northeast: The reading of 38 is unchanged from March.
  • Midwest: The reading declined by two points to 45.
  • South: April’s reading declined by four points to 42
  • West: April’s reading declined by three points to 55, but remains in positive territory.

Regional readings reflect conditions impacting only a specific area of the U.S.

Recent examples include the impact of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast, and an ongoing lack of land available for home construction in the West.

Should You Fix And Flip Or Buy And Hold Your Investment Real Estate?

Strategies For Investing In Real Estate
 

When you make an investment in real estate, it’s important to consider your options for turning a profit even before you write an offer.

It might be best to rent out the property to cover your mortgage and build equity providing the home cash-flows with solid rents and demand.

Or, you could fix up the home and flip it so that you can sell it quickly for a larger amount than you invested.

Both strategies may be appealing options, so here are some important factors to consider before making your decision.

Flipping May Lead To Short Term Profits

Flipping a house can be tricky, so you will want to have enough experience to know what you are doing, or work with an experienced advisor who can guide you around the most common pitfalls.

If you are thinking about fixing and flipping a house, you will need to have enough capital to invest in the property so you can make the required improvements and repairs.

Many people find themselves short of working capital after closing on the new purchase.

It is important to factor in carrying costs, or monthly mortgage payments while fixing the home, into your overall budget.

Do your research so you’ll know what renovations will have the most impact on the value of your real estate.

You will also need to know if the market in the area will support your new price point.

Make sure your flip property is in a very buyer-friendly community for your best chances of a positive return.

Renting Is The Buy And Hold Strategy For Investment Real Estate

Flipping a house gives you quick cash, but renting it out instead may give you monthly cash flow and a potentially larger long-term profit if the property appreciates over time.

If you don’t mind being a landlord and you have the time to screen for reliable renters, then renting out the property might be a better option for you.

This option also means that you will have the home later on in case you want to live in it.

Of course, don’t forget to factor in additional upkeep costs, such as repairs, utilities and property taxes.

Seek Professional Counsel

Investment real estate has consistently been considered a solid way to get your money working for you.

Whether you rent out or flip your investment property will depend on whether you are interested in a long-term investment or a short-term project.

A great next step while you are planning your investment real estate purchase would be seeking the advice of a qualified, licensed real estate professional.

Rising Sales Prices Are Excellent News For Homeowners Across America

The National Association of REALTORS® released its monthly Existing Home Sales report on March 21 and gave investors and home sellers something to cheer about.

While February sales of existing homes didn’t meet investor forecasts of 5.00 million homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, the actual number of existing (previously owned) homes came close at 4.98 million homes sold.

This number surpassed January’s revised reading of 4.94 million homes sold by 0.8 percent.

Sales of existing homes comprise approximately 85 to 90 percent of homes sold in the U.S.

Investors watch existing home sales for evaluating housing markets and short-term economic trends related to home purchases such as goods and services associated with home ownership.

Existing Home Sales Up For 20 Consecutive Months

Existing home sales have increased by 10.2 percent as compared to 4.52 million existing home sales for February 2012, and have increased for 20 consecutive months.

A short supply of homes available for sale and better job prospects are creating more demand for homes.

In February, available homes increased to a 4.7 month supply of homes, which is up from January’s 4.3 month supply of available homes, the lowest number since May of 2005.

With that said, current listed inventory of homes is 19.2 percent below last year’s 6.4 month supply of available homes.

Increasing demand for existing homes also suggests growing competition between buyers for available homes.

Mortgage Rates Remain Near Historic Lows Increasing Affordability For Home Buyers

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage before making an offer on a home can help buyers, as sellers know that pre-approved buyers won’t have potential delays related to the mortgage approval process.

The National Association of REALTORS® reports that the national median selling price for existing homes of all types was $173,600, which is up 11.6 percent year-over-year.

This suggests that potential homebuyers may want to act now as mortgage rates typically increase along with home prices.

Regional Average Selling Prices Show Positive Results For February

  • Northeast: The median selling price was $238,800, 7.6 percent higher than for February 2012.
  • Midwest: The median selling price was $129,900, which is 7.7 percent above the median selling price in February 2012.
  • South: The median selling price was $150,500. This represents a 9.3 percent increase since February 2012.
  • West: The median selling price was $237,700, a substantial increase of 22.7 percent over February 2012.

Multiple buyer bidding and limited inventory choices are fueling higher prices for existing homes, particularly in the West.

This is the strongest year-to-year rate of growth since November 2005, when existing home prices had increased by 12.9 percent as compared to the previous 12 months.

Fed Meeting Statement Reveals Good News For Real Estate

 

Fed Meeting Minutes Released

March 21, 2013 by Leave a Comment

The Federal Reserve’s statement after yesterday’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting left no doubt as to the Fed’s dual commitment to keeping long term interest rates down and encouraging economic growth.

No changes to the Fed’s current bond-buying program were made during today’s FOMC meeting.

The Fed’s monthly purchase of $85 billion in bonds and MBS works by boosting bond prices, which typically helps with keeping mortgage rates lower.

The Fed reaffirmed its position that it will not withdraw or reduce monetary easing until the unemployment rate is substantially lower.

Unemployment Rate Improving Nationally

Fed predictions for the national unemployment rate improved; December’s outlook for 2013 estimated the unemployment rate at between 7.4 to 7.7 percent; the Fed now expects unemployment rates of 7.3 to 7.5 percent by the end of this year.

February’s jobs report likely influenced this revision as the unemployment rate fell from 7.8 to 7.7 percent.

The Fed notes that while employment rates are improving, they remain elevated which supports the Fed’s decision not to modify its bond purchase program in the near term.

Lower unemployment rates suggest that more people will be financially prepared for buying homes or refinancing their existing mortgage loans, and the unemployment rate is also expected to fall due to growing numbers of baby boomers leaving the workforce.

Lower Inflation Rates Boost Consumer Purchasing Power

The Fed slightly revised its December forecast for 2013 economic growth of between 2.3 to 3.0 percent.

Now the Fed predicts economic growth to range between 2.3 and 2.8 percent in 2013, but negative influences including a higher payroll tax and government spending cuts are expected to slow the rate of economic growth.

Concerning inflation, the Fed expects an inflation rate of between 1.3 and 1.7 percent this year and for inflation to remain below 2 percent through 2015.

Lower inflation rates allow consumers more discretionary spending power, which can further boost the economy and improve consumer confidence in making big ticket purchases including homes and related items and services around the country.

Fed Keeping Tabs On European Economic Issues

Fed officers are continuing to monitor economic developments in Europe, and expressed concerns that the situation remains fragile.

Commenting in a press conference held after the FOMC meeting, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke characterized economic issues in Cyprus as “difficult”, but said that the Fed doesn’t expect these developments to have major impact on U.S. financial markets.

Its plan to keep short term interest rates near zero until unemployment rates reach 6.5 percent or the inflation rate exceeds 2.5 percent further support the Fed’s plan to keep its monetary easing policy intact for the near term.

Unless unexpected or catastrophic events occur which would cause sudden or rapid economic changes, the Fed appears unlikely to announce major changes in its policy.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week: March 4th, 2013

 

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week

March 4, 2013 by Leave a Comment

U.S. Budget Stalemate, Italian Elections Stir Concerns

Mortgage rates were lower last week as investors sought safety in bonds in the wake of US legislators’ failure to agree on budget cutbacks, and after Italy’s elections failed to reveal a leader committed to continuing economic reform.

When bond prices including Mortgage Backed Securities rise, mortgage rates typically fall.

While the March 1st deadline for passing budget cutbacks for the U.S. government passed without a resolution, emergency legislation passed last year will keep the government running until March 27.

If a budget is not passed by then, the federal government could face shutdown.

As it stands, $85 billion in cuts are scheduled over the next seven months, but this represents only about 2 percent of the federal budget.

Investor concerns are likely to rise if the March 27 deadline approaches without a resolution.

Italian Elections Influence Investor Sentiment

On Monday, Italian elections were held, but the results did not reveal a leader dedicated to continuing economic reforms necessary for stabilizing Italy’s economy.

Another round of elections may be required to determine Italy’s new leader.

There is deep conflict in Italy as citizens do not agree with the need for economic austerity measures.

As the Eurozone’s third largest economy, Italy’s division on future economic reforms raises two concerns for investors.

First, without a clear reform leader established in last week’s elections, Investors fear that austerity measures may be relaxed and increase Italy’s debt risk.

A less likely risk is that Italy may leave the EU if it cannot resolve its need for economic reforms with its citizens’ wishes.

Upcoming Economic Releases

The coming week’s scheduled economic releases include:

  • Ongoing developments regarding the U.S. budget and aftermath of the Italian elections are expected to continue influencing U.S. financial markets.
  • On Tuesday ISM Services Index for February will be released. Wednesday’s news includes the Fed’s Beige Book Report for March and Factory Orders for January.
  • Thursday’s scheduled economic news releases include Productivity and Trade Balance reports. Friday finishes the week’s economic news with the Employment report, which includes job and unemployment data for February.

As spring approaches, demand for homes typically increases, which in turn may drive up home prices and mortgage rates.

Consider getting pre-approved for a mortgage and looking for your new home sooner than later.

5 Important Tips To Save Money On Your Tax Bill

Tax Saving Tips For 2012 Tax ReturnMarch 1, 2013 by

April 15th seems a long way off, but it will be here before you know it.

Now is the perfect time to start getting your paperwork in order.

Owning real estate can make a big difference on your tax return, so make sure that you’re taking advantage of all the deductions you’re entitled to.

We’ve outlined a few below:

Mortgage Interest

Unless you paid cash for your purchase, you probably took out a loan to buy your home.

Mortgage interest is one of the best tax deductions available, so be sure to hang on to that 1098 Mortgage Interest Statement from your lender.

You can almost always deduct the entire amount of interest paid per calendar year.

Real Estate Taxes

Depending on where your property is located, you are likely paying real estate tax, either to the state or to a local governing authority.

Taxes based on property value are generally deductible as well. You may have an escrow account to hold these funds during the year, so be sure that you only deduct the amount of taxes you actually paid.

Home Equity Line of Credit

You may deduct home equity line of credit (HELOC) debt interest as long as you are legally liable to pay the interest, the interest is paid in the tax year, and the debt is secured by your home.

The home equity debt has a limit of up to $100,000 ($50,000 if married filing separately).

Mortgage Insurance Premiums

Depending on how your loan is structured, you may have mortgage insurance. With the recently passed American Tax Relief Act of 2012, all mortgage insurance premiums are tax deductible for the 2012 and 2013 tax year. There are some qualifications, so check with your tax advisor.

Mortgage Interest on Land

If you purchased land with the intent to build, the interest you have paid may qualify as deductible mortgage interest as long as the structure becomes your qualified residence within a 24-month period.

This deductibility of bare land mortgage interest is a tricky one. You can see the IRS explanation here.

Your home could be one of your greatest resources for reducing your tax liability. Most times these deductions are itemized on a Schedule A (Form 1040) when you prepare your taxes.

A great next step is to call a qualified tax planning professional. Please feel free to contact us if you would like a referral.

Existing Home Sales Rise As Home Inventory Shrinks

Existing Home Sales Numbers ReleasedFebruary 28, 2013 by

Home sales rose for the 11th consecutive month according to the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales Report for January.

This is the first time this has occurred since the period between July of 2005 and May of 2006.

National Average Home Price Up Over 12% Annually

The national average home price in January was $173,600, which is 12.3 percent higher than for January 2012.

Calculated on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis, Existing Home Sales data is compiled using completed sales of single family homes, condominium units and co-ops.

January’s existing home sales rose by 0.4 percent to 4.92 million sales nationally as compared to December’s revised annual rate of 4.90 million sales nationally.

National sales of existing homes increased by 9.1 percent as compared to January 2012.

Regional Home Sales Support Housing Recovery

Regional home sales for January suggest more good news for housing markets. Seasonally- adjusted annual home sales rose in all regions of the U.S. except in the West, while median home prices rose for all regions.

Northeast: Home sales were up by 4.8 percent in January to 650,000 sales, which is 12.1 percent more homes sold than for January 2012. The median home price rose by 2.4 percent from January 2012 to $230,500.

Midwest: Annual home sales in January increased by 3.6 percent to 1.16 million; this is 17.2 percent higher than for January 2012. The median home price in the Midwest rose to $131,800, an increase of 8.6 percent as compared to January 2012.

South: Home sales were up by 1 percent to 1.96 million sales in January; this represents a 14.0 percent increase in annual sales as compared to one year ago. The average home price for the South was $152,100, an increase of 13.4 percent over January 2012.

West: Home sales fell by 5.7 percent to an annual rate of $1.15 million. This represents a 5.7 percent decrease in sales from one year ago. The median home price in January was $239,800 and was 26.6 percent above the region’s median sale price for January 2012.

A falling inventory of homes for sale may be holding back buyers; the inventory of homes for sale fell to a 4.2 month supply from December’s 4.5 month supply of homes. A 6-month supply of homes is considered average.

Home Prices May Rise Quickly

While the spring home buying season will likely see more homes come on the market , economists caution that home prices could rise faster than expected due to increasing demand. A seller’s market could be in the making.

Mortgage rates also appear to be rising; now may be your best time for gaining the advantage of relatively low home prices and mortgage rates.