It’s Pumpkin Spice Season: Plan A Neighborhood Potluck

It's Pumpkin Spice Season Plan A Neighborhood PotluckFall is the time to get back into a comfortable routine, but it’s also a great time to incorporate social events into weekend work parties, and gather friends to offer neighbors a helping hand — or just moral support — to spruce up their property.

While building a new sense of community may be a side effect, it can’t be denied that giving homes in need of minor repairs a little TLC is good for the dollar value of the neighborhood as well as for the soul. REALTORS agree that the overall appeal of a neighborhood adds value to individual homes.

Police departments and security companies also note that cohesive communities are less prone to crime than neighborhoods where residents don’t really know one another.

A Community Work Day

While it’s not uncommon for some subdivisions to sponsor periodic get-togethers, or hold multi-family garage sales and social events, the idea of a day to share work and expertise to tidy up individual homes is less common. But it represents an ideal solution for residents who could use a helping hand to accomplish minor upkeep and repair projects.

Especially if you live in a neighborhood with some older residents, planning a coordinated “home improvement day” can be a unique and wonderful way to bring different generations together. Community work days are a great way to complete seasonal maintenance projects before the weather turns bad. It’s also a way to make light work out of required tasks and to have some fun as well.

Here are some ideas on how to do it right — the results can be greater than expected.

  • Talk the idea up with your neighbors: Set a tentative date and divide up the planning tasks.
  • Start a checklist of neighborhood skills. Chances are you’ll find engineers, carpenters, painters, and neighbors with plumbing and electrical skills among the residents. And there are also apt to be artists and craftspeople, master gardeners and children who love to rake leaves or pull weeds!
  • Plan block party, potluck dinner or homemade ice cream social for the culmination of the workday or weekend, and get as many people as possible involved.

A weekend work project is reminiscent of old-fashioned barn raisings. It’s also a way to build a new sense of community, as well as to add neighborhood appeal and value. The food and the fellowship are bonuses!

There are, however, some cautions: Help should be freely offered, and readily accepted. But leave costly or complicated repairs to professionals. This kind of event should be strictly for easy DIY labor needs.

Done right, this kind of ongoing community effort can become a lasting and honored tradition. It’s worth a try, right? In the end, the entire neighborhood wins.

If you are interested in buying a new home or refinancing your current property, contact your trusted mortgage professional to find out about current financing options.

 

 

Fed Raises Key Interest Rate For 3rd Consecutive Time

Fed Raises Key Interest Rate for 3rd Consecutive TimeThe Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve announced that it raised the target federal funds rate to a range of 2.00 percent to 2.25 percent. This was the third consecutive increase in the Fed’s key interest rate and was the eighth time the Fed raised its key interest rate since 2015.

In its customary post-meeting statement, Committee members cited strong economic conditions and continued labor market growth coupled with historically low unemployment rates as a basis for raising the federal funds interest rate.

Fed Cites Steady Inflation, Healthy Household And Business Spending

Further economic conditions cited in the FOMC statement were steady inflation, which has held close to the Fed’s objective of two percent for a year. Projections on long-term inflation were “little changed” according to the statement.

FOMC’s statement explained how committee members make decisions about the target range for the federal funds rate. The Federal Reserve must make decisions based on its legislative mandate of achieving and maintaining maximum employment and an inflation rate at or near two percent.

The FOMC also considers measures of economic and labor conditions, pressures on inflation and projections on inflation. Committee members keep up-to-date on domestic and global economic developments.

After the FOMC statement was released, Fed Chair Jerome Powell gave a press conference.

Fed Chair: Economy Strengthening Without Need Of Fed Accommodation

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell expressed confidence in current economic conditions and said that future rate hikes would help maintain the Fed’s goals and promote healthy economic growth. Mr. Powell said that future meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee would be guided by asking and answering the question of whether current monetary policy is set to achieve FOMC goals. Analysts interpreted Chair Powell’s comments as indicating that current economic conditions are as good as could be expected and that the Fed’s monetary policy decisions are working as planned.

 

5 Things To Do This Fall To Get Ready For Winter

5 Things To Do This Fall To Get Ready For WinterSimple home and yard tips don’t have to take a lot of time, but can save a lot of headaches if that first winter storm catches you unaware.

Here’s a checklist to help you prepare:

Assess Your Windows And Doors

Take a walk around your interior, preferably on a windy day. Check for drafts and air leaks; replace weatherstripping, align door thresholds. and repair window frames and sills if they’re damaged. If you have storm windows, make sure they’re ready to install. Replace the screens in a storm door with glass panels. Also check your garage door to make sure that it operates properly.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, nearly half of a home’s total energy use is for heating and cooling, so it makes good financial sense to assure that your systems are as efficient as possible for every season.

Check Your Furnace And Fuel

Before cold weather arrives, schedule or perform any necessary routine maintenance on your furnace or HVAC systems. Clean ducts, replace filters, calibrate the thermostat, and fill the fuel tanks as required. This is also the time to clean the flue and check the chimney if you have a fireplace or woodburning stove. If your home doesn’t have a carbon monoxide detector, consider installing one to assure your safety during the winter.

Prune Trees And Shrubs

Working outside can be a pleasant weekend task during the cooler autumn season. It’s also the time to do some prep work on your landscaping so that your plants will be at their best for the next growing season. Depending on your location, and your commitment to your yard, now is also the time to prepare new garden beds and plant spring bulbs, or tackle projects like brick walls, planters and stone pathways.

Undo Outdoor Hoses

Burst outdoor hose bibbs can be the source of serious interior water damage, and the most common cause is a hose left attached when the first freeze occurs. Eliminate that possibility by undoing your outdoor hoses early in the fall. If you still must water the lawn or your garden, it’s easy enough to reattach the hose as needed. Also, remember to store coiled hoses in the garage or in a shed during the winter. They’ll last longer!

Check Roof Shingles And Gutters

Although it’s not a bad idea to check your roof and clean gutters and downspouts at least quarterly, it’s especially important before winter. Take note of cracked or curling shingles; check to make sure no daylight is visible from the attic, and make sure that all gutters and downspouts are clear of debris prior to snow and ice buildup.

Owning a home requires ongoing maintenance to assure that it will truly be a haven during foul weather, but it doesn’t have to be an unending task or cost a lot of money.

If you are thinking about buying a new property or large home improvement projects this winter, be sure to contact your trusted mortgage professional to find out about current financing options.

Common Misconceptions About House Flipping

Common Misconceptions About House FlippingReality TV shows have energized everyday people to dive into the real estate market and make money flipping houses. The dramatic presentation and profitable end results make the industry seem like a sure thing. But house-flipping, like any industry, has its share of challenges.

Television often props up ratings by showing industry pros overcoming adversity and getting a big win. But reality, unlike Reality TV, is filled by behind-the-scenes unknown obstacles. While house-flipping has emerged as a viable niche profession, these are some of the common misconceptions entrepreneurs may want to consider before wading into the business.

Perfect Properties Are Available

On television, the home-flipping team often settles on that perfect property that will yield amazing results. It’s important to understand that’s a Hollywood formula designed to improve viewership.

In reality, the perfect home is like finding a unicorn. Most flipping projects deal with less-than-perfect properties. What remains important for home-flippers is that the property enjoys structural integrity and the basic elements are in place.  

Projects Run On Time

Watching a home-flipping show makes the process seem quick and easy. After all, many of the shows run between 30 minutes and one hour. Your project time will be considerably longer.

Starting with a listing search through the initial buy, even industry insiders spend months securing a property. After that, the permitting process can be onerous and renovations are commonly met with unforeseen setbacks. Whether you discover mold behind walls or structural issues, remodeling generally experiences delays. Once you get everything copacetic, inspection waiting periods can be excessive. Projects rarely run on time.

Construction Budgets Are Just Math

Watching a TV personality whip out a calculator and add up remodeling costs makes it look simple. There are square footages, materials, labor and other tangibles. Home builders and remodeling professionals are quick to dispute such simplicity because too many “intangibles” exist.

Consider replacing the clapboard on the exterior of a home. One might expect to calculate the square footage and order an equal amount of material. But an experienced contractor might tell you to start by ordering an additional 10 percent to account for waste. That’s because a percentage of material that gets cut might not be reusable.

After accounting for that 10 percent, add another 10 for human error. Many types of clapboard require builders to set the commercially-cut end to the interior only. When inexperienced workers make erroneous cuts, increased waste can be produced. This theme runs across a variety of materials and other aspects of construction. It’s unlikely your crew will be filled with 25-year veterans. Mistakes are more common and costlier than you might expect.

ROI Can Be Measured Accurately

Beginner home-flippers tend to look at the cost of the property, add updating costs and the average market value of similar homes as the basis for determining return on investment (ROI). But selling prices can be more fickle than one might expect.

Today’s home buyers are looking for certain things from newly renovated properties. The math no longer amounts to adding total rooms, bathrooms, square footage and location. While the country is in the midst of a seller’s market due to a significant inventory shortage, home-flippers would be wise to calculate ROI based on a sliding scale.

If the property lacks the conveniences favored by Millennials or other groups buying up homes, it could sell for less than expected. That’s another reason why home-flippers are wise to enlist the guidance of a local real estate professional to gain a reasonable grasp on home trends and pricing.

Don’t forget to calculate in the costs of financing your project. Most often, people utilize a lender to help carry costs. It’s important to meet with your trusted mortgage professional to find the best terms for financing prior to starting your new endeavor.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – September 24th, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – September 25th, 2018Last week’s economic releases included readings on the NAHB Housing Market Index, sales of pre-owned homes, and housing starts. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence in Market Conditions Holds Steady

The National Association of Home Builders reported an index reading of 67 for September, which matched August’s reading. Growing concerns over impacts of tariffs on building material costs have slowed builders’ confidence in current and future market conditions.

Components of the NAHB Housing Market Index include readings on current conditions, which gained one point to 74; builder confidence in market conditions over the next six months gained two points to a reading of 74. The HMI reading for buyer traffic in new housing developments was unchanged with a reading of 49. Readings for buyer traffic are typically below the benchmark index reading of 50. Readings over 50 indicate that most home builders are confident about housing market conditions.

Builder confidence is considered an indication of future housing supplies as builders may adjust their construction plans on market conditions and building costs. The Commerce Department reported higher housing starts in August with a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1,282 million starts. Analysts predicated a rate of 1.249 million starts based on July’s reading of 1.168 million starts.

Sales of Previously-Owned Homes Unchanged

The National Association of Realtors® reported sales of previously-owned homes held steady in August, with homes sold at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.34 million sales. Analysts expected a reading of 5.37 million sales. Home sales have faced headwinds in recent years with high demand and low inventories of available homes driving up home prices faster than inflation and wage growth. Recently rising mortgage rates also impacted affordability and sidelined would-be buyers with moderate incomes.

Mortgage Rates Rise; New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher rates for fixed-rate mortgages with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose five basis points to 4.65 percent. The average rate for 15-year mortgages also rose by five basis points to 4.11 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages dipped by one basis point to 3.92 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims fell to 201,000 claims filed as compared to expectations of 208,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 204,000 new claims filed. This was a 49-year low; analysts cited Hurricane Florence and overall economic expansion.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on home prices from Case-Shiller, new and pending home sales and inflation. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

 

Pros And Cons: Older Homes Versus New Construction

Pros And Cons: Older Homes Versus New ConstructionOpinions differ about whether home buyers are best served by purchasing an older home or new construction.

New homes enjoy that “new home” smell and the idea that you are the very first occupant can be very appealing. On the other hand, older homes resonate with nostalgia and many architectural design elements are no longer commonly used.

While some people feel strongly one way or the other, it’s a lot like comparing apples and oranges. The right home for any home buyer is the one that fits your lifestyle. Consider these pros and cons of new and older homes when making your decision.

Construction Differences

Home builders often tout the state-of-the-art aspects of new construction. Perhaps the biggest pro to new construction is the integration of smart and energy efficient technologies.

Today’s homes often come tech-ready with the ability for homeowners to control the environment through mobile apps. Solar panels are more common than ever, and new kitchen, HVAC and other necessities benefit from the latest advancements. Aside from being tremendously convenient, many of the new technology and materials can save you a significant amount of money.

On the flip side, older homes often require updating to include smart technologies. Gaining those conveniences could mean laying out a substantial amount of cash.

But don’t think for a moment that new construction somehow outpaces older homes in terms of energy efficiency. Materials used to build houses decades ago tend to be more durable. Items like thick, hardwood flooring were once commonplace. Today, they are considered high-end materials.

The Bottom Line: New construction offers modern conveniences while older homes showcase vintage materials.

New And Older Construction By The Numbers

One argument for buying new construction leans on the cost of upkeep.

An American Housing Survey reportedly pointed to new construction homeowners spending less on maintenance than their older construction counterparts.

The report promulgated by the Census Bureau indicates that 73 percent of people who owned a home four years old or less spent under $25 monthly on monthly maintenance. Only 11 percent spent upwards of $100 while 26 percent of older homeowners topped this cost. When routine maintenance exceeds $1,000 annually, that’s significant.

On the other side of the coin, older homes often come at a discounted price.

New home listing prices reportedly exceed those of similar older homes by upwards of $100,000 or 30 percent on average. This initial cost should be a strong consideration when doing the long-term math on homeownership. At $1,000-$1,200 additional cost annually, an older homeowner may have to live in the home for a very long time before it became less cost-effective.

The Bottom Line: Homeowners either pay on the front or the back end.

Homeowners Insurance Coverage

One of the common misconceptions about coverage stems from the idea that higher-priced new homes cost more to insure. This is often not true.

When taking out a policy, homeowners often insure the home based on the purchase price. This may satisfy the lender, but it may not be adequate to rebuild in the event of a total loss. New construction estimates tend to be fairly accurate because materials and labor costs haven’t changed significantly.

On the other hand, older homes are often made from materials that are considered specialty of high-end on today’s market. That means rebuilding an older home to its former luster could far exceed the current value. If that nostalgic feel is important, homeowners may need to insure the structure at a higher replacement cost.

The Bottom Line: Both types of homes could require similar coverage.

Regardless of what experts say about new and older construction, it’s important to consider a wide range of pros and cons and determine the home that’s right for you. Speak with an experienced real estate professional for detailed information on the properties that you are considering. And don’t forget to partner up with your trusted mortgage professional for all of your financing needs.

NAHB Housing Market Index Unchanged in September

NAHB Housing Market Index Unchanged in SeptemberHome builder confidence in housing market conditions stayed flat in September. The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index reported an index reading of 67, which matched expectations and NAHB’s housing market reading for August. Analysts cited recent tariffs on building materials as a significant cause of easing builder confidence.

While NAHB called September’s reading “solid” at 67, the reading was one full point lower than the average reading for 2017 and equaled the lowest builder confidence reading in 2018 to date. Readings over 50 in the Housing Market Index indicate that more builders than fewer are confident in housing market conditions.  

Components of the Housing Market Index were mixed as builder confidence in current market conditions rose one point to 74. Builder confidence in market conditions for the next six months rose two points to a reading of 74. Builder confidence in buyer traffic in new housing developments was unchanged with a reading of 49.

Buyer traffic readings frequently fall below the benchmark reading of 50, so a reading of 49 indicates builders aren’t concerned about buyer interest in new homes.

Home Building Viewed As Cure For Housing Shortages, But Buyers Face Challenges

Housing industry leaders, real estate pros and mortgage lenders continued to look to builders for a solution to severe housing shortages in some areas. Rapidly rising home prices driven by high demand, few choices for buyers and aren’t likely to ease until inventories of available homes increase. Recently rising mortgage rates added to pressures on first-time and moderate-income home buyers.

NAHB Chief Economist Rob Dietz said that trade skirmishes and “burdensome regulations” also contributed to rising home prices. Real estate pros said that local market conditions affected market areas affected by natural disasters including severe red tide algae blooms in Florida and wildfires in Oregon and California. Home sales typically slow in August, but the combination of low inventories of homes coupled with rising prices and natural disasters resulted in lower than expected home sales in August.

Buyer fatigue was cited as a driving factor in slowing home sales as rapidly rising prices and few available homes took a toll on buyer interest. As the school year approached buyers were backing off instead of continuing to compete with cash buyers and bidding wars.

It is commonplace for markets to shift and for trends to change. Your trusted mortgage professional is ready to help you find your best financing options for today’s real estate market.