REMAX 440/Central Blog

Existing-Home Sales Resume Uptrend with Stable Prices

December 23, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 23, 2010--Existing-home sales got back on an upward path in November, resuming a growth trend since bottoming in July, according to the National Association of REALTORS.

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 5.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million in November from 4.43 million in October, but are 27.9% below the cyclical peak of 6.49 million in November 2009, which was the initial deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, is hopeful for 2011. "Continuing gains in home sales are encouraging, and the positive impact of steady job creation will more than trump some negative impact from a modest rise in mortgage interest rates, which remain historically favorable," he said.

Yun added that home buyers are responding to improved affordability conditions. "The relationship recently between mortgage interest rates, home prices and family income has been the most favorable on record for buying a home since we started measuring in 1970," he said. "Therefore, the market is recovering and we should trend up to a healthy, sustainable level in 2011."

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $170,600 in November, up 0.4% from November 2009. Distressed homes have been a fairly stable market share, accounting for 33% of sales in November; they were 34% in October and 33% in November 2009.

Foreclosures, which accounted for two-thirds of the distressed sales share, sold at a median discount of 15% in November, while short sales were discounted 10% in comparison with traditional home sales.

Total housing inventory at the end of November fell 4.0 percent to 3.71 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 10.5-month supply in October.

NAR President Ron Phipps said good buying opportunities will continue. "Traditionally there are far fewer buyers competing for properties at this time of the year, so serious buyers have a lot of opportunities during the winter months," he said. "Buyers will enjoy favorable affordability conditions into the new year, although mortgage rates are expected to gradually rise as 2011 progresses."

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.30% in November from a record low 4.23% in October; the rate was 4.88 percent in November 2009.

"In the short term, mortgage interest rates should hover just above recent record lows, while home prices have generally stabilized following declines from 2007 through 2009," Yun said. "Although mortgage interest rates have ticked up in recent weeks, overall conditions remain extremely favorable for buyers who can obtain credit."

A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 32% of homes in November, the same as in October, but are below a 51% share in November 2009 from the surge to beat the initial deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit.

Investors accounted for 19% of transactions in November, also unchanged from October, but are up from 12% in November 2009; the balance of sales was to repeat buyers. All-cash sales were at 31% in November, up from 29% in October and 19% a year ago. "The elevated level of all-cash transactions continues to reflect tight credit market conditions," Yun said.

Single-family home sales rose 6.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.15 million in November from 3.89 million in October, but are 27.3% below a surge to a 5.71 million cyclical peak in November 2009. The median existing single-family home price was $171,300 in November, which is 1.2% above a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales declined 1.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 530,000 in November from 540,000 in October, and are 32.2% below the 782,000-unit tax credit rush one year ago. The median existing condo price was $165,300 in November, down 5.5% from November 2009. "At the current stage of the housing cycle, condos are offering better deals for bargain hunters," Yun said.

For more information, visit the News Media section of www.realtor.org.


Winterizing Tips for your Home and Wallet

December 22, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 22, 2010--It's never too late to start or continue winterizing your life. Now that winter is officially upon us, MSN Real Estate and Bankrate recommend that you check up on a few things to make your life worlds easier in preparation for the new year, sub-zero temperatures and snow-packed roofs.

For the home:

Be sure to drain outside spigots. Find the inside shutoff valve and turn them off. Look for the drain plug and leave that open. Then, go outside and open the faucets and leave them open. This will allow any excess water to drain out and prevent it from freezing.

Check the windows. Be thorough when checking the windows. Make sure the storm windows are completely protected and ready for lower temperatures. Check the weep holes, which allow condensation to drain, to make sure they are clean and open. While you're at it, check storm doors to make sure they close properly. If necessary, add weather-stripping around the doors and thresholds to block more of the draft.

Insulate your water lines. Putting foam rubber insulation around your hot and cold water pipes will increase your efficiency and save you energy and money.

It's tune-up time. Make sure your heating appliances are ready for action. Get them cleaned and serviced before it's too late.

For the wallet:

Check your home insurance policy. Winter can bring plenty of damage to a home including damage from snow or ice. Take a look at your homeowner's policy and be sure that you have the proper coverage. If you ever need to act fast to make a claim, you will at least be aware of what steps to take to make things right.

Meet your financial contribution deadlines. If your state offers deductions for things like a 529 contribution, the usual deadline is the end of the year. Making these contributions by deadline will help your wallet come tax time. If there are any other financial deadlines in your family (such as financial aid applications for college students) make sure you are aware of the timelines and can submit all paperwork in time.

Plan your vacations. Think ahead of time and start pricing a family vacation you intend to take. By giving yourself plenty of time, you can scour the travel landscape for the best deals and ensure that you don't break your bank trying to do it. Plan a summer weekend or two or maybe even a trip for the following fall or winter. It's never too early to book or plan.

Don't wait for spring cleaning season--winterize your life today. Not only will your utility bills thank you, you'll also appreciate the opportunity to get your life and finances in order before the warm weather and tax season hits.


40 Percent of Homeowners Took First Loan Offer, Survey Says

December 22, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 22, 2010--According to a recent survey, 40% of homeowners surveyed obtained just one mortgage loan quote before purchasing their home.

Harris Interactive and LendingTree surveyed 1,317 homeowners and 96% reported price shopping for everything they purchase...except mortgages. This may provide insight as to why a minimal 28% surveyed feel they got the best deal possible on their loan.

"Choosing a mortgage is probably the most important financial decision most of us will ever make, yet many consumers simply take the first offer that comes their way," says LendingTree CEO Doug Lebda. "It's a gamble that leaves many borrowers uncertain they've received the best deal on their mortgage."

Twenty-one percent reported shopping online for a mortgage for the first time, while 70% said that shopping around proved to be too complex due to the terms and nature of the process.

Seventy-two percent of those surveyed spent approximately eight hours or more shopping for a loan. Ten percent admitted that they looked for the best deal for the amount of time that it takes to brush their teeth.

"Our research clearly shows that home buyers and homeowners need help navigating the often complex world of home loan financing," says Lebda.


Economic Outlook Brightens for 2011, According to Fannie Mae

December 22, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 22, 2010--Improvements in consumer spending and consumer confidence, increased demand for goods and services, and falling unemployment claims are all positive factors for a brighter outlook as we move into 2011, according to the December 2010 Economic Outlook recently released by Fannie Mae's Economics & Mortgage Market Analysis Group. Downside risks still exist, however, including a weaker than expected employment report, the ongoing economic turmoil in Europe, and potential inflation problems in China.

For 2011, forecasted growth was upgraded from 2.9% to 3.4% based on the positives in the recent reports. The forecast anticipates improving labor market conditions, despite the huge disappointment from the November employment report. The housing recovery should gain momentum going into 2011 if the expected stronger labor market materializes.

"Despite rising mortgage rates, our forecast for home sales is stronger than the previous forecast, given our brighter economic growth and labor market outlook," says Fannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan. "We expect modest increases in home sales, despite recent interest rate rises, due in part to modest additional declines in home prices, andwe expect people to take advantage of affordability as their employment and income outlook brightens."

For an audio synopsis of the December 2010 Economic Outlook, listen to the podcast on the Economics & Mortgage Market Analysis site at www.fanniemae.com. Visit the site to read the full December 2010 Economic Outlook, including the Economic Developments Commentary, Economic Forecast, and Housing Forecast.


Regular Water Heater Maintenance Can Extend Appliance Life up to 30 Years

December 21, 2010 6:29 pm

RISMEDIA, December 21, 2010--Most homeowners discover a problem with their hot water heater at the worst possible time when theres no hot water. Denver Master Plumber Keith Sears, of Ben Franklin Plumbing Denver, says regular hot water heater maintenance can not only avoid the expense and shock of a cold shower, but can triple the life of the appliance so essential to the comfort of the American family.

Considering that most water heaters last an average of seven to 12 years, the ability to extend that run to 30 years or more is a big money saver, says Sears. He adds that regular hot-water heater maintenance also keeps the appliance running at peak performance and efficiency, saving even more money in energy costs, and such maintenance can also prevent common home safety issues as well.

Home water heaters fail for a number of reasons the major one being age, says Sears. He recommends draining and flushing out the water heater annually, plus changing the anode rod, a relatively inexpensive maintenance procedure that can keep a water heater running optimally many years beyond the manufacturers stated lifetime.

The most important maintenance issue is the anode rod inside the tank. It is designed to protect against corrosion inside the water heater tank by attracting the corrosion to itself rather than allowing the corrosion to adhere to the glass-lined steel tank. Sometimes called a sacrificial anode, because it dissolves slowly, the anode rod sacrifices itself to protect the metal tank, but its effectiveness depletes over time. As the anode rod becomes less effective, the water heater starts to produce rust-color water one symptom that a water heater is in trouble and the corrosion starts to build up and diminish both the delivery of hot water and the energy efficiency of the appliance.

Other symptoms that sediment is building up inside a water heater include:

  • Heating element burns out
  • Energy use can increase
  • Unit overheats
  • Aggravating noise begins
  • Annoying vibration begins
  • Bacteria begins to grow
  • Unit emits an unpleasant odor

Its like a car. Regular oil changes and scheduled tune-ups keep cars running for years longer than average, and annual maintenance of a home water heater will do the same, says Sears.

In addition to the potential loss of hot water and the need to cover the expense of a new appliance and installation, annual maintenance of a home hot-water heater is also a home safety issue, says Sears. He notes that the home water heater is one of the most dangerous appliances in your home, with such potential damages as:

  • Leaking water that can cause thousands of dollars in property damage to floors, walls, ceilings and foundations, and create nagging mold problems
  • Leaking gas, which could be catastrophic
  • Leaking carbon monoxide, which doesnt smell and cant be seen by far, the most dangerous aspect of an improperly installed or poorly operating water heater

A hot water heater is a sophisticated device involving a homes water system and heating source, and it should be installed, repaired and maintained by a professional to insure it operates effectively, efficiently and, most importantly, safely, says Sears.

A hot-water heater is an essential mainstay of any busy household, being the foundation of showers and baths, the laundry and dishwashing, and with proper, regular maintenance, the appliance can deliver years of worry-free operation.

For more information, visit www.benfranklinplumbingdenver.com.


Tips for Staging Your Bathroom Before Selling

December 21, 2010 6:29 pm

By Joe Cooke, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, December 21, 2010--When a buyer is looking at your home, they are often influenced by emotional issues rather than logical ones. That is why staging a home is such an important issue in marketing. But even if you dont have the expertise, time, money or energy to stage your home, you are going to have to keep it company-clean, especially the common rooms, like the bathrooms.

Here are some simple tips to keep your bathroom in close to showcase condition:

-If your bathroom has been neglected for a while, scrub the insides of all the cabinets as well as the doors and frames. Use Tri-Sodium Phosphate if you have to, but be aware that it might degloss the finish (which could be a good thing if you plan to repaint the cabinets anyway).

-Look at everything with a keen eye for detail. You may have put up with that cracked toilet seat for years, but now is the time to replace it. Your local home store will carry a special paint to repair chips in enamel bathtubs.

-Clean around the toilet base and seat bolts, says Dane Caldwell of 2-Hounds Design, a staging company in Ontario, Canada. Dont forget to clean any grout between tiles with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Before you use any dangerous or abrasive cleaners, try scrubbing the sink and countertops with baking soda.

-Once you get it clean, do whatever it takes to keep it that way. A little bit of cleaning every day is the key. Rinse out the tub or shower stall immediately after you use it. Spray water from the shower head on all interior surfaces, then lather soap onto a damp sponge, swish it around the tub or stall, and rinse. Keep a scrub brush in a discreet container next to the toilet and give the bowl a quick scrub after each use.

-A clean bathroom may not increase the sales price of your home, but it will help buyers feel good about their visit. We buy on emotion, so anything you can do to increase good feelings will help to sell your home.


Mom Caves: A Growing Trend in Relaxation

December 21, 2010 6:29 pm

RISMEDIA, December 21, 2010--Over the past few years, patriarchs of the family have been taking space in the home for their very own relaxation needs. "Man caves" became trendy, as men everywhere created their own rooms for recliners, mini-fridges, pool tables, television and more. Now, it's the women's turn.

Child- and husband-free zones are growing in popularity as moms feel the same urges to stake their claim. "Mom Caves" can be a place for a matriarch to get some work done, or a place for the direct opposite of that. Many women are finding comfort in their own house haven where they can de-stress, relax and get some peace and quiet. If this sounds like your cup of tea, take these tips from shine.yahoo.com to turn any corner of your house into your very own "Mom Cave":

Pick your spot. You can transform any part of your home into your new Mom Cave, from an unused room or corner, to a nook in an attic or basement. Try locating yourself near a window. If this isn't possible, use a few mirrors to brighten it up and bounce light around your new hangout. This will also provide the illusion of more space and decrease any sense of claustrophobia your space may incur.

Hide from the world. Try to find a space that will be easy to enclose. Mid- to-larger-sized closets make good spots for makeshift caves, but other options exist as well. You can create your own corner by using a curtain or box yourself in with bookcases--whatever you need to do to temporarily hide yourself away.

Color choice is important. Transforming the walls is also a great way to make the space your own. You can paint the walls your favorite color, or if you don't want to get involved in a project, you can simply color coordinate with your favorite furnishings. Use calming colors to match your relaxed mood, or try blues and greens to spark creativity.

Think "comfortable." Choose your throne wisely. A comfortable chair is key in creating your relaxation haven. Use any chair in your home, or spruce up an old one with cashmere or another soft lining. Throw pillows can also go the extra mile you need for comfort. Your Mom Cave may just be your favorite nap location, too.

Infuse your personality. Whether your Mom Cave is for reading, painting, crafting or any other hobby, make sure it speaks to you. Make it yours by adding your own personality to it. Surround yourself with things you love. Add plants, photo albums, framed photos, etc. Don't overdo it though--you don't want your source of leisure to see overcrowded or stressful. Do whatever it takes to make it appealing to you.


Regular Water Heater Maintenance Can Extend Appliance Life up to 30 Years

December 21, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 21, 2010--Most homeowners discover a problem with their hot water heater at the worst possible time when theres no hot water. Denver Master Plumber Keith Sears, of Ben Franklin Plumbing Denver, says regular hot water heater maintenance can not only avoid the expense and shock of a cold shower, but can triple the life of the appliance so essential to the comfort of the American family.

Considering that most water heaters last an average of seven to 12 years, the ability to extend that run to 30 years or more is a big money saver, says Sears. He adds that regular hot-water heater maintenance also keeps the appliance running at peak performance and efficiency, saving even more money in energy costs, and such maintenance can also prevent common home safety issues as well.

Home water heaters fail for a number of reasons the major one being age, says Sears. He recommends draining and flushing out the water heater annually, plus changing the anode rod, a relatively inexpensive maintenance procedure that can keep a water heater running optimally many years beyond the manufacturers stated lifetime.

The most important maintenance issue is the anode rod inside the tank. It is designed to protect against corrosion inside the water heater tank by attracting the corrosion to itself rather than allowing the corrosion to adhere to the glass-lined steel tank. Sometimes called a sacrificial anode, because it dissolves slowly, the anode rod sacrifices itself to protect the metal tank, but its effectiveness depletes over time. As the anode rod becomes less effective, the water heater starts to produce rust-color water one symptom that a water heater is in trouble and the corrosion starts to build up and diminish both the delivery of hot water and the energy efficiency of the appliance.

Other symptoms that sediment is building up inside a water heater include:

  • Heating element burns out
  • Energy use can increase
  • Unit overheats
  • Aggravating noise begins
  • Annoying vibration begins
  • Bacteria begins to grow
  • Unit emits an unpleasant odor

Its like a car. Regular oil changes and scheduled tune-ups keep cars running for years longer than average, and annual maintenance of a home water heater will do the same, says Sears.

In addition to the potential loss of hot water and the need to cover the expense of a new appliance and installation, annual maintenance of a home hot-water heater is also a home safety issue, says Sears. He notes that the home water heater is one of the most dangerous appliances in your home, with such potential damages as:

  • Leaking water that can cause thousands of dollars in property damage to floors, walls, ceilings and foundations, and create nagging mold problems
  • Leaking gas, which could be catastrophic
  • Leaking carbon monoxide, which doesnt smell and cant be seen by far, the most dangerous aspect of an improperly installed or poorly operating water heater

A hot water heater is a sophisticated device involving a homes water system and heating source, and it should be installed, repaired and maintained by a professional to insure it operates effectively, efficiently and, most importantly, safely, says Sears.

A hot-water heater is an essential mainstay of any busy household, being the foundation of showers and baths, the laundry and dishwashing, and with proper, regular maintenance, the appliance can deliver years of worry-free operation.

For more information, visit www.benfranklinplumbingdenver.com.


Tips for Staging Your Bathroom Before Selling

December 21, 2010 10:29 am

By Joe Cooke, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, December 21, 2010--When a buyer is looking at your home, they are often influenced by emotional issues rather than logical ones. That is why staging a home is such an important issue in marketing. But even if you dont have the expertise, time, money or energy to stage your home, you are going to have to keep it company-clean, especially the common rooms, like the bathrooms.

Here are some simple tips to keep your bathroom in close to showcase condition:

-If your bathroom has been neglected for a while, scrub the insides of all the cabinets as well as the doors and frames. Use Tri-Sodium Phosphate if you have to, but be aware that it might degloss the finish (which could be a good thing if you plan to repaint the cabinets anyway).

-Look at everything with a keen eye for detail. You may have put up with that cracked toilet seat for years, but now is the time to replace it. Your local home store will carry a special paint to repair chips in enamel bathtubs.

-Clean around the toilet base and seat bolts, says Dane Caldwell of 2-Hounds Design, a staging company in Ontario, Canada. Dont forget to clean any grout between tiles with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Before you use any dangerous or abrasive cleaners, try scrubbing the sink and countertops with baking soda.

-Once you get it clean, do whatever it takes to keep it that way. A little bit of cleaning every day is the key. Rinse out the tub or shower stall immediately after you use it. Spray water from the shower head on all interior surfaces, then lather soap onto a damp sponge, swish it around the tub or stall, and rinse. Keep a scrub brush in a discreet container next to the toilet and give the bowl a quick scrub after each use.

-A clean bathroom may not increase the sales price of your home, but it will help buyers feel good about their visit. We buy on emotion, so anything you can do to increase good feelings will help to sell your home.

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Mom Caves: A Growing Trend in Relaxation

December 21, 2010 10:29 am

RISMEDIA, December 21, 2010--Over the past few years, patriarchs of the family have been taking space in the home for their very own relaxation needs. "Man caves" became trendy, as men everywhere created their own rooms for recliners, mini-fridges, pool tables, television and more. Now, it's the women's turn.

Child- and husband-free zones are growing in popularity as moms feel the same urges to stake their claim. "Mom Caves" can be a place for a matriarch to get some work done, or a place for the direct opposite of that. Many women are finding comfort in their own house haven where they can de-stress, relax and get some peace and quiet. If this sounds like your cup of tea, take these tips from shine.yahoo.com to turn any corner of your house into your very own "Mom Cave":

Pick your spot. You can transform any part of your home into your new Mom Cave, from an unused room or corner, to a nook in an attic or basement. Try locating yourself near a window. If this isn't possible, use a few mirrors to brighten it up and bounce light around your new hangout. This will also provide the illusion of more space and decrease any sense of claustrophobia your space may incur.

Hide from the world. Try to find a space that will be easy to enclose. Mid- to-larger-sized closets make good spots for makeshift caves, but other options exist as well. You can create your own corner by using a curtain or box yourself in with bookcases--whatever you need to do to temporarily hide yourself away.

Color choice is important. Transforming the walls is also a great way to make the space your own. You can paint the walls your favorite color, or if you don't want to get involved in a project, you can simply color coordinate with your favorite furnishings. Use calming colors to match your relaxed mood, or try blues and greens to spark creativity.

Think "comfortable." Choose your throne wisely. A comfortable chair is key in creating your relaxation haven. Use any chair in your home, or spruce up an old one with cashmere or another soft lining. Throw pillows can also go the extra mile you need for comfort. Your Mom Cave may just be your favorite nap location, too.

Infuse your personality. Whether your Mom Cave is for reading, painting, crafting or any other hobby, make sure it speaks to you. Make it yours by adding your own personality to it. Surround yourself with things you love. Add plants, photo albums, framed photos, etc. Don't overdo it though--you don't want your source of leisure to see overcrowded or stressful. Do whatever it takes to make it appealing to you.


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