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Home Prices Highest Since 2007!
By Michael
February 26, 2017

Existing Home Sales Reach Highest Mark Since 2007 [INFOGRAPHIC]

Existing Home Sales Reach Highest Mark Since 2007 [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

 

Highlights:

  • Sales of existing homes reached the highest pace in a decade at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.69 million.
  • January marked the 59th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains as the median home price rose 7.1% to $228,900.
  • NAR’s Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun had this to say, “Much of the country saw robust sales activity last month as strong hiring and improved consumer confidence at the end of last year appear to have sparked considerable interest in buying a home." 
Have You Considered New Construction? Maybe You Should
By Michael
February 23, 2017

Many homebuyers overlook the possibility of new construction when they begin a home search.   But there CAN be distinct advantages.    As your representative, I can help you work with the lender to get a perfect brand new home, if you involve me from your first contact.   And guess what?  The BUILDER pays me to help you.  

I spoke with Becca Rogers of Antares Homes at their Saginaw Springs REALTORS® open house on February 22, 2017.   Check out this short video and consider whether new construction makes sense for you while you can lock in current prices and lower interest rates.

Some Costs That Can Take Homeowners By Surprise
By Michael
February 23, 2017

10 Hidden Housing Costs New Homeowners Don't Expect

 
By Mikey Rox on 18 April 2016

You're a new homeowner — congrats! The hardest part is over, for sure. Saying so long to most of your savings isn't easy, after all. But the money hemorrhage isn't finished just yet. There are several under-the-radar and often overlooked fees and expenses that accompany homeownership that a newbie like you might miss. Keep tabs on these expenses with this list of hidden housing costs to help soften the blow.

1. Moving Expenses

Your belongings have to get from A to B somehow, but have you considered the method? If you plan to enlist the help of your friends, you'll save a huge chunk of change, but if you have more than a few truckloads, it's probably best to hire movers — and movers aren't cheap. Depending on how much stuff you have, how many flights of stairs the movers are going up and down (my fourth-floor movers haaaated me), and the distance they need to travel to deliver it, the cost could reach upwards of $10,000. With so many other expenses coming down the pipeline, this isn't one you want to forget about. (See also: Don't Forget to Budget for These Unexpected Moving Expenses)

2. Furnishing All the Rooms

Your eyes opened wide to the four-bed, three-bath colonial when you first saw it — all that space! But those rooms aren't going to furnish themselves. This is important to keep in mind if you're coming from a much smaller dwelling. You likely don't have enough furniture to outfit the entire new home, which means that you'll have to buy new items to make it livable. Beds, dining tables, couches, sofas — any or all of these may be required, and none of it is cheap. Otherwise you can take the easy way out and assign two of your empty, furniture-less rooms to "storage," like I've seen some of my friends do. You'll just have to accept that somebody (like me) is totally judging you, lazy.

3. Window Treatments

When I moved into my first apartment in Manhattan, I assumed that the place would come with blinds. No such luck. What was worse was that my landlord wouldn't supply the blinds… and the ones I had to order if I didn't want nosy neighbors watching me do everything had to be custom made. The cost was an extra $500 or so that I didn't plan for, which is annoying when it's for something as silly as window treatments. Although, according to interior designer Tiffani Stutzman, I got off pretty easy.

"New homeowners are always shocked at the price of window treatments," she says. "The average cost of a very basic blind or shade for a medium-sized window is normally around $500. Most homeowners should budget around $1,000 per window as a good rule of thumb. However, the cost can increase significantly for very large or tall windows or windows with non-standard shapes like arches. If you are interested in using custom fabrics or other features such as motorized shades, expect much higher costs per window."

Yeah, I definitely got off easy, and I made half my money back by selling the window treatments to the renter who was coming in after me. Business is business. For your own reference, I used Blinds To Go, which was extremely affordable compared to Stutzman's estimates, and the process was a cinch.

4. Utilities and Other Day-to-Day Usage Expenses

If you previously lived in an apartment where your utilities were included in the rent, you're in for big sticker shock your first few months of energy usage. Gas and electricity isn't cheap, and if you've been taking advantage of the built-in amenities that your rent covered, you better brace yourself. To make the transition smoother, ask the seller if you can see a copy of a recent utility bill so that you can somewhat prepare. Knowing is half the battle. Tread lightly initially, too. Stay conscious of lights, heat, and A/C running only when necessary to help slow down the speed at which you're accruing new bills.

5. HVAC Inspections and Upkeep

Heaters and air conditioners are crucial to climate-controlled living (I'm so uppity I won't even spend the night someplace without an air conditioner; I get hot, bro), and they don't fix themselves. Unless you have these very specialized skills to handle their maintenance, you'll have to hire the work out. Of course, it's wise to ward off major catastrophes with annual inspections — which will still cost you — but not nearly as much as early replacement of a furnace or A/C unit that's been neglected.

6. Termite and Pest Treatments

Before you move into your new home, you should get the all clear that it's termite-free. Your inspection will reveal the pests, and it should fall on the owner to address the problem. If not, you have the right to walk away. That's not always the case, however. The owner is not required to rid the house of pests, but only to disclose the existence of the pests. If you choose to move forward with the sale knowing that there's an active pest problem, the problem is on you if it's not negotiated that it will be exterminated by the time you move in.

And if you don't mind me saying so, it's an incredibly dumb move on your part to accept the pests, as they can be very costly to eliminate. You also want to check for roaches, ants, mice and rats, and bedbugs. None of these critters are signs of good fortune.

 

7. Landscaping and Other Outdoor Maintenance

I do a lot of things myself to cut costs on having to pay for someone else to do it, but I draw the line at mowing the lawn and other yard maintenance. I hate it. Thus, I bring in the big guns to do the dirty work, and it costs about $800 a year. Other hidden costs to new homeowners can include, but aren't limited to: snow removal, roof maintenance (which can be a huge expenses if there's a serious problem), gutter cleaning, and outdoor pest removal, like the hornet's nest that set up camp in my own backyard.

"Lawn mowing services can run roughly $25 a week or more, but that's just for cutting the grass; that doesn't include tree trimming, fertilization, and other landscaping services," says Ryan Farley, co-founder LawnStarter, a lawn-care concierge service. "If you go the DIY route, lawn care involves an expenditure of both time and money; it's hard to put a price on your time. If you prefer to let someone else take care of your lawn, be sure to include that cost in your monthly housing budget. Whatever you decide to do, keep in mind that a well-landscaped lawn can easily boost the value of your home by 10%, and a lousy looking lawn can cause you to lose money when you're ready to sell.

8. An Eventual Increase in Property Taxes

There are only two certainties in life — death and taxes, and the latter will keep increasing until you wish the former would come faster. While you should be aware of your expected property taxes before you purchase the home, you may not expect the rate at which they will increase over the years.

“When you buy a home, most sales are reported to the taxing authority, which means your property taxes will be raised to the value — or the price you paid — for the house. For many buyers this can be a 20% to 30% increase in their property taxes," says Sissy Lapin, co-founder of ListingDoor.com, a DIY home-selling resource.

9. Homeowner's Association Dues

If you're moving to a fancy neighborhood, you can bet there's a homeowner's association, which, in my opinion, is just a congenial title for "a sanctioned group of nosy neighbors who like to tell other people what to do" — but I digress. Either way, you'll have to pay up to be part of the club, whether you like it or not. But, hey, at least you get an awkward holiday party out of it at the end of the year.

"While these fees are likely disclosed during the purchase, and may bring many benefits, they are an additional cost to owning a home in many parts of the country," Lapin says. "Furthermore, there can also be periodic 'one-time' additional assessments to cover special projects or budget deficits by the association."

10. Special Assessments to Cover Special Projects

Special assessment fees generally don't apply to single-family homeownership, but they can be a surprise aspect of condo living if you're not prepared. Recently, we had to replace the roof on our building in Manhattan to the tune of more than $1 million. Uh huh. I needed a minute when I heard that, too. With only 12 units in the building, the cost was divvied up between the owners based on the shares we held in the building. Needless to say, it wasn't cheap for anyone, and special assessments like these can force you out of your home if you're not financially capable of paying your share.

Furthermore, if you're forced to move because you can no longer afford the mortgage plus fees, it can be difficult finding a buyer given the financially-strapped circumstance of the unit and the building. There's no real way to prepare for things like this — it's more of a roll-with-the-punches situation — but it's certainly something to consider before buying a condo.

Are you a new homeowner? What are some of the pop-up fees you weren't prepared for? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

Getting Fit To Sell
By Michael
February 21, 2017

Success in Selling Your Home for Top Dollar Requires Getting It "Fit To Sell"

As a RE/MAX Heritage agent, I work with my sellers to get the house in the best condition possible for the best return.  You don't have to spend a fortune or completely remodel your home to get it fit to sell, but spending some time and a little money can reap big benefits.     Start by watching this short RE/MAX video FIT TO SELL.

Now, print out the checklist and use it as a guide to help you get your home ready.

Fit_to_Sell_Checklist.pdf

I welcome the opportunity to help you market your home.   Just call me for expert advice when you're thinking of selling!

Housing Market in Buy Range
By Michael
February 20, 2017

I've never seen so many multiple offers on homes within ther first week they are on the market this early in the year.   Multiple offers have become the norm in spring and summer the past few years in Keller, Roanoke, Watauga, Fort Worth, Saginaw and Haslett; but the activity has stayed at very high levels through this past winter season as well.   And rents are rising even faster than home prices.   

US Housing Market Is Moving into 'Buy Territory'! | Simplifying The Market

US Housing Market Is Moving into 'Buy Territory'!

According to the Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent (BH&J) Index, the U.S. housing market has continued to move deeper into buy territory, supporting the belief that housing markets across the country remain a sound investment.

The BH&J Index is a quarterly report that attempts to answer the question:

In today’s housing market, is it better to rent or buy a home?

The index examines the entire US housing market and then isolates 23 major cities for comparison. The researchers “measure the relationship between purchasing property and building wealth through a buildup in equity versus renting a comparable property and investing in a portfolio of stocks and bonds.” 

While most of the metropolitan markets examined moved further into buy territory (16 of the 23), markets like Dallas, Denver, and Houston are currently deep into rent territory. In these three markets, it is estimated that renting will top homeownership 7 out of 10 times.

Due to a lack of inventory, the home prices in the Dallas, Denver, and Houston areas have increased by 11.6%8.3%, and 6.6% respectively. Home prices in these areas will begin to return to more normal levels once residents realize that renting is not the best option, therefore bringing home affordability back as well.

Bottom Line

The majority of the country is strongly in buy territory. Buying a home makes sense socially and financially, as rents are predicted to increase substantially in the next year. Protect yourself from rising rents by locking in your housing cost with a mortgage payment now.

To Find Out More About the Study: The BH&J Index and other FAU real estate activities are sponsored by Investments Limited of Boca Raton. The BH&J Index is published quarterly and is available online at http://business.fau.edu/buyvsrent.