2015 Outlook from NAR

Existing-home sales will likely rise about 7 percent this year, as a strengthening economy and job growth leads to a healthier market, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2015 housing forecast.

“Home prices have risen for the past three years cumulatively about 25 percent, which boosts confidence in the market and traditionally gives current home owners the ability to use their equity buildup as a down payment towards their next home purchase,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Furthermore, first-time buyers are expected to slowly return as the economy improves and new mortgage products are made available in the marketplace with low down payments and private mortgage insurance.”

Still, Yun points to several “speed bumps” that could jeopardize the pace of the housing market’s recovery, particularly the anticipated rise in mortgage rates expected to arrive this year. Yun points out that many home owners who have locked in some of the lowest mortgage rates in history in recent years may be more hesitant to give up their low financing rate to move. Lenders are also being slow to ease underwriting standards to more normalized levels.

Still, in a preliminary analysis, existing-home sales appeared to finish out 2014 around 4.94 million, a drop of 3 percent from 2013. But Yun anticipates that sales will rise to 5.3 million in 2015.

Yun is also forecasting growth in home prices, but at a more moderate pace than seen in recent years. The national median existing-home price for 2014 will likely near $208,000, up 5.6 percent from 2013, but it’s expected to moderate between 4 percent and 5 percent growth in 2015.

 

** Article from REALTOR Mag – Jan 8, 2015

Less Is More….

It’s the time of year when owners are considering selling their home.  Time and efforts put into getting your home ready for the market can bring it top dollar in the spring market.  Cleaning and staging make a big difference but sometimes remodeling efforts are also needed.

The 2015 Remodeling Cost vs Value Report identifies that large-scale projects usually don’t return their full cost.  Many smaller projects and renovations are offering a better return on their cost.

Some of the best return on cost projects found from the report:

new front door (steel)  (101.8% cost recoup)
garage door replacement (88.5% cost recoup)
midrange wood window replacement
minor kitchen remodel

Replacement projects are offering a bigger return than remodels and those that are offering the biggest bang for the buck are those that are noticeable right away to a buyer.

Keep in mind return on costs vary’s throughout the country.  You know what they say about real estate…location, location, location.

 

** Thinking of selling this spring?  Call us NOW so we can get together and help you determine the best things to do to get your home ready for market!

 

Salt and Ice…or Water

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There’s no denying it: Ice on steps and walkways is extremely dangerous, leading to countless injuries each year. It’s bad enough if you or a family member take a tumble, but it may be even worse if someone else does. Under certain circumstances, you could be liable if someone slips and injures themselves while on your property.
Thankfully, salt and ice can’t co-exist. Commercial deicers use various chemical variations of salt to melt away dangerous ice on patios, walkways, and driveways.

Unfortunately, those same chemicals can harm fish, wildlife, and household pets. In addition, they can corrode your hard masonry outdoor surfaces.

How salt works on ice

Salt and deicers are effective ice-melting agents because they lower the freezing point of water, turning ice back into water. Salts and deicers are cheap, effective, simple to use, and easier than attacking ice with brute physical force.

What’s the problem?

That same chemical magic that turns ice into water creates a very salty brine that can make household pets sick, and eats away at outdoor hardscaping made of concrete, brick, and stone.

Deicing products also can damage your plants by altering the chemical composition of the soil in planting beds and yards. Inside the home, tracked-in salt can mar carpets and wood floors.

The problem is bigger than your back yard, too.

“Salt is very soluble, and it runs off into nearby creeks, rivers, and lakes, where it can have a tremendous effect on native plants,” explains Jim Bissell, Director of Conservation at Cleveland’s Museum of Natural History.

Deicing products are blamed for fish and amphibian kills, aquatic dead zones, and corrosion of vehicles, bridges and roadways, plus a host of other environmental ills.

Choosing the right salt and deicing product
As a shopper for deicing products, you’ll have to balance your needs with any environmental concerns.

Ignore packaging promises like “natural,” “pet-friendly,” or “environmentally safe” — those labels can be misleading and inaccurate. Buyers should also take with a grain of salt claims that a product works to sub-arctic temps, as those results rarely are duplicated in real-world applications.

In general, the lower the price of the product, the more salt it contains and the more potentially harmful it is to the environment. Check product labels to figure out the chief ingredients in these popular deicing products:
Sodium chloride: Also known as rock salt, this basic compound is one of the cheapest ice melters on the market. It has the lowest price per pound, but it’s the hardest on the environment and not that effective at temps less than 15 degrees F. Cost: $6 for a 50-lb. bag.
Calcium chloride: One of the best choices for super-cold climates, it’s effective down to minus 25 degrees F. It’s a better environmental choice than sodium chloride. Cost: $20 for a 50-lb. bag.
Calcium magnesium acetate: Relatively new on the market, it’s a salt-free product that’s touted as environmentally friendly, but that claim has yet to be tested in the long run. It costs more than other deicers. Cost: $30 for a 50 lb. bag.

Other options
Unfortunately, there are few proven eco-friendly alternatives to chemical deicers. Some products have lower salt content but include glycols, fertilizers, and urea, which are blamed for aquatic dead zones, algae blooms, and other water-quality issues.

Sand does not melt ice, but it can aid in traction. While not directly harmful to the landscape, sand can clog storm sewers and it must be cleaned up at some point by the home owner.

Tips for using deicing products
Buy the right blend. By having a product that best suits your climatic conditions and average low temps, you’ll need to use less of it.
Keep walkways shoveled in the first place as snow quickly becomes ice when walked upon.
Pre-treat walkways before the storm hits. You’ll need less deicer in the long run.
Mix sand with salt — you’ll use less to melt ice, and gain the traction provided by sand.
Store ice-melt products in airtight containers to maintain maximum effectiveness.

Source:  HouseLogic
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/seasonal-maintenance/salt-ice-winter-maintenance/#ixzz3J3y8FvjZ
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5 Quick Things To Do In December….

1. Get ready for winter storms. We may not get much snow here in Charlotte – but the fact of the matter is we sometimes get some!  Keep snow shovels, gloves, ice melt and window scrapers near the door.  It’s smart to keep the pantry stocked with food, bottled water, candles and flashlights in case of power outages.

 2. Disconnect hoses. If you haven’t done so yet, shut off the water supply to your outdoor faucets. After shutting off the water, turn on the faucets outside to allow any water left to drain out. Then disconnect garden hoses, drain the water and roll up the hoses to store them inside.

3.  Make space for mucky boots, coats and scarves. If you have a coat closet by the door, clean it out to make way for bulky winter coats and boots. If you don’t have a hall closet, set up your own systems to handle mucky items. A boot tray on the floor, a bench for sitting on, wall hooks for coats and a basket for hats and mittens should do the trick.

4. Boost home security. If you will be traveling over the holidays, use light timers for interior lights and ask a friend or neighbor to take in mail. If it’s going to snow while you are away, hire a service to plow or shovel your walkways. It will give the impression that your house is being lived in and make coming home much more pleasant. Even if you are staying at home, consider adding motion-sensor exterior lights to make it less inviting to potential burglars.

 5. Check for drafts. Feel a chilly draft when you’re hanging out in the living room? Don’t just reach for a blanket; get out the weather stripping! Taking care of gaps that let in cold air can make a big difference in how well your home holds heat.

10 Common Mistakes Leading to Inferior Interiors

 

  1. Colossal couch….many people purchase a couch that is too big for their space.   Use a critical eye when making this decision!
  2. Small area rugs….think of the purpose of the rug is to ground the furniture – so at a minimum the front legs of your furniture should all be on top of the rug. For a dining room table all 4 legs of your chairs should sit on the rug!
  3. Poor lighting…think in 3’s. Ambient, task and accent lighting for your room. Mood, function and harmony. Too many people use the light overhead and nothing else. Use lamps!
  4. Kink in the neck….so many people hang art too high! Hang your art so the mid point is at eye level. And if the people in your home are different sizes – go for the eye level of an average height.   If the art is hung over a piece of furniture keep it about 8 inches above the back of the piece of furniture.
  5. Twins or worse, triplets! Do not buy all matching piece of a set. Perhaps two can work if they are solid in color – but bring in a pop of something else. Another color – a print on that chair! Mix and match!
  6. Coloring books…think about how all the colors of your room will look together. Use a foam board and pin color samples of each piece of furniture as well as the paint color – look at the board for a few days and get a feel for it with your eyes. Too many people haphazardly select furniture or paint. Take your time – connection can bring the whole room together.
  7. Lining the room….I thought most people stopped doing this but I saw this not long ago at a listing. The owners had a large great room and the furniture was placed back against each wall – with a huge space in the middle. This is fine for a while if you have small children and you need play space for them. But once they grow up, bring that furniture in and create conversation and warmth!
  8. Trendy pieces….be careful to select timeless pieces or piece that reflect your personal style. If you go trendy…well…trends come and go and you will get tired of that piece!
  9. Colors and contrast…back to colors. Remember how much fun coloring books were?? Play with contrasts and varying shades of the same colors.
  10. Lastly, collections! Small groups of collections are fine but if they take over a room – it’s simply too much.

Warning: Struggling To Sell or Buy a Home?

Are You Struggling to Sell or Buy a Home?  Here are a few quick tips that may make it just a little bit easier.  Although a good real estate agent should know the following to be true, we still seem to struggle getting our clients to understand how the below small changes can be the difference between buying or selling a home.

TURNING OFF POTENTIAL BUYERS:

One of the top complaints from buyers that have them leaving a showing before the smell of chocolate chip cookies has hit the front door is having the seller in the home during the showing.  Honestly, it freaks buyers out!  Buyers feel “stalked” and “stifled” in their ability to explore the home or verbally process their first impressions when the seller is lurking.  As well, buyers have shared that they:

  • Cannot envision themselves in a home with the homeowner there.  They feel like they are intruding and it feels awkward.
  • Feel uncomfortable opening up drawers, closet doors, etc.  The buyer leaves feeling like they didn’t get a good look at the home.
  • Cannot express thoughts about how the home may or may not be exactly what they were looking for.  They cannot express their dislike of a certain wall or ask their realtor what the cost of pulling up the “ugly” carpet would be.

Another complaint from buyers is showing a messy or cluttered house.  The hardest part of trying to sell your home is keeping it clean while it’s on the market.  All sellers have the same complaint but it is a necessary evil. A clean and de-cluttered home will sell over a messy and cluttered home any day of the week.  You’d be surprised how many sellers just don’t listen and pay the price when their home doesn’t sell.  Here some things that will make this easier on you and your family:

  • The easiest way to keep it clean is downsize.  If you pack up your personal items, put all non-essentials in storage, it will be easier to keep clean.   As well, you’ll have less to pack later on!
  • Note to those “closet stuffers” or “under-the-bed hiders” out there…buyers will look everywhere.  Don’t bother stuffing it under the bed or in the closet.
  • Get the carpets cleaned, mow the lawn, dust and mop the floors.  These are quick and easy ideas that make a great first impression.

An overpriced home will go a long way to angering buyers.  With access to lots of home pricing data, an abundance of home pictures and home sales data buyers will know if you are overpricing your home.  And don’t forget, we are in a buyer’s market there are more properties than there are people to buy them.  This simply means that if real estate agents and buyers feel your home is overpriced, they will likely not even give it a first look.

TURNING OFF SELLERS:
Unjustified or extreme lowball offers: It is safe to say that most sellers these days CANNOT afford to give away their home at a price far below what it’s worth on today’s market. Lowballing a seller at a price far below comparables will likely turn them off.  And that will likely cause the seller to view your offer as disrespectful and wasteful of their time.  If you truly feel you have wiggle room, work with your real estate agent on an offer that is comfortable for you and not maddening to the seller.

Buyer-side mortgage fails: The worst case scenario for the seller is that they accept an offer only to find out a few weeks, or months, later that the buyer can’t get the loan needed to close the deal.  Most sellers will avoid this scenario by simply not accepting your offer.  The best way for your offer to be taken seriously is to get your mortgage pre-approved. It takes time upfront but will need to be done anyway…this action will never be a waste of your time!!!