Author Archive

3 Ways to Extend Your Outdoor Living Season

Monday, October 11th, 2021

3 Ways to Extend Your Outdoor Living Season

 

Courtesy: Houselogic

Make an outdoor living area comfy long after the sun sets or the leaves turn with outdoor lighting, a patio heater, and a glowing firepit or portable fireplace.

Light the Deck or Patio

The sun sets sooner on your outdoor living space in the fall, but that shouldn’t limit the hours you use your deck or patio. Adding low-voltage or solar outdoor lighting fixtures lets you party or relax well after dark.

With both lighting types, you can:

  • Light deck railings and stairs
  • Define the patio perimeter
  • Illuminate the edges of paths and walkways
  • Draw attention to a planter or tree

Other fixtures light up dining tables, grill surfaces, and even underwater in swimming pools.

Low-voltage fixtures clip onto a safe, 12-volt cable connected to a transformer, which plugs into a GFCI-protected 120-volt electrical outlet. A timer or light-sensitive control automatically turns lights on and off.

For a pool area, a kit with eight LED step lights and 12 hardscape lights, plus wiring, a transformer, and installation, would cost about $3,000.

Solar outdoor lighting fixtures don’t need cables and transformers. They simply turn themselves on automatically after dark. Each standalone fixture stakes into the ground or secures to a deck or exterior surface. You’ll save energy, as a sunlight-charged battery powers the bulb. Solar light fixtures cost $188 to $231 for six lights, with installation ranging from $167 to $271.

Solar technology has improved over time. The lights generally include LED bulbs, which emit a large amount of light for their size and the amount of energy used. With about an eight-hour charge from the sun, solar lights can illuminate all evening. That said, the amount of sunlight around your house will greatly affect how the lights perform. Outside solar lights can last three or four years, and the LEDs,10 to 15 years.

Get Glowing with a Firepit, Portable Fireplace, or Smokeless Firepit

Bring a cozy glow and a stylish focal point to your outdoor living area with a firepit or portable fireplace. Irresistible for gathering, warming up, and roasting marshmallows, firepits and portable fireplaces come in a variety of materials, sizes, and styles. You’ll also find options for fueling your fire with wood, propane, gas, or gel cans.

Check local fire codes first to find out if your community allows the use of a firepit or portable fireplace on the patio or lawn. (Never use a fire feature on a wood deck.)

A firepit is an open bowl, dish, or pan that varies in size from 24 inches across to about 40 inches. A firepit may come on a stand (some with wheels) or nestle into a tiled tabletop. Select a model with screening to contain flyaway sparks. A wood-burning firepit typically costs $500 to $1,300 including installation, and a gas firepit ranges from $900 to $3,800 including installation.

A portable outdoor fireplace ($104-$498) features a chimney to vent smoke up and away from people. Some portable fireplaces offer 360-degree views of the fire.

A smokeless firepit, or smokeless stove, is a popular choice. Despite the name, they aren’t entirely smokeless, but they generate less ash than a wood-burning firepit. The price ranges from $90 to $600.

Warm Up with a Patio Heater

Boost the warmth of your outdoor living area by as much as 15-25 degrees in the fall or spring with the addition of a portable patio heater. You’ll find three basic models:

1. Freestanding units resemble large floor lamps. Set them anywhere on your patio that will accommodate their 7-8 foot height. Some models include wheels for mobility. Expect to pay from $153 to $887, depending on heat output and fuel source.

2. A tabletop patio heater rests on a table, bench, or garden wall. These compact units typically produce less heat than tall, freestanding models. Prices range from $72 to $148.

3. Ceiling- or wall-mount patio heaters free up floor and table space, and typically emit heat via a halogen lamp. Prices vary from $112 to $866.

Make your selection based on how much outdoor living area you want to heat and whether you want a model powered by electricity or natural gas (each requiring a connection) or with a propane tank, which allows mobility.

What Buyers and Sellers Need To Know About the Appraisal Gap

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Courtesy: Keeping Current Matters

It’s economy 101 – when supply is low and demand is high, prices naturally rise. That’s what’s happening in today’s housing market. Home prices are appreciating at near-historic rates, and that’s creating some challenges when it comes to home appraisals.

In recent months, it’s become increasingly common for an appraisal to come in below the contract price on the house. Shawn Telford, Chief Appraiser for CoreLogic, explains it like this:

Recently, we observed buyers paying prices above listing price and higher than the market data available to appraisers can support. This difference is known as ‘the appraisal gap . . . .’”

Why does an appraisal gap happen?

Basically, with the heightened buyer demand, purchasers are often willing to pay over asking to secure the home of their dreams. If you’ve ever toured a house you’ve fallen in love with, you understand. Once you start to picture yourself and your furniture in the rooms, you want to do everything you can to land the property, including putting in a high offer to try to beat out other would-be buyers.

When the appraiser comes in, they look at things a bit more objectively. Their job is to assess the inherent value of the home, so they’re going to study the facts. Dustin Harris, Appraiser Coach, drives this point home:

It’s important for everyone to understand that the appraiser’s job in the end is to remain that unbiased third party, to truly tell the client what that home is worth in the current market, regardless of what decisions have been made on the price side of things.”

In simple terms, while homebuyers may be willing to pay more, appraisers are there to assess the market value of the home. Their goal is to make sure the lender isn’t loaning more money than the home is worth. It’s objective, rather than emotional.

In a highly competitive market like today’s, having a discrepancy between the two numbers isn’t unusual. Here’s a look at the increasing rate of appraisal gaps, according to data from  CoreLogic (see graph below):What Buyers and Sellers Need To Know About the Appraisal Gap | Keeping Current Matters

What does this mean for you?

Ultimately, knowledge is power. The best thing you can do is understand an appraisal gap may impact your transaction if you’re buying or selling. If you do encounter an appraisal below your contract price, know that in today’s sellers’ market, the most common approach is for the seller to ask the buyer to make up the difference in price. Buyers, be prepared to bring extra money to the table if you really want the home.

Above all else, lean on your real estate agent. Whether you’re a buyer or seller, your trusted advisor is your ally if you come up against an appraisal gap. We’ll help you understand your options and handle any additional negotiations that need to happen.

Bottom Line

In today’s real estate market, it’s important to stay informed on the latest trends. Work with a real estate professional to help you navigate an appraisal gap to get the best possible outcome.

What Do Experts See on the Horizon for the Second Half of the Year?

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

Courtesy: Keeping Current Matters

As we move into the latter half of the year, questions about what’s to come are top of mind for buyers and sellers. Near record-low mortgage rates coupled with rising home price appreciation kicked off a robust housing market in the first half of 2021, but what does the forecast tell us about what’s on the horizon?

Mortgage Rates Will Likely Increase, but Remain Low

Many experts are projecting a rise in interest rates. The latest Quarterly Forecast from Freddie Mac states:
“We forecast that mortgage rates will continue to rise through the end of next year. We estimate the 30-year fixed mortgage rate will average 3.4% in the fourth quarter of 2021, rising to 3.8% in the fourth quarter of 2022.”

However, even as mortgage rates rise, the anticipated increase is expected to be modest at most, and still well below historical averages. Rates remaining low is good news for homebuyers who are looking to maximize their purchasing power. The same report from Freddie Mac goes on to say:

“While higher mortgage rates will help slow the pace of home sales and moderate house price growth, we expect overall housing market activity will remain robust. Our forecast has total home sales, the sum of new and existing home sales, at 7.1 million in 2021….”

Home Price Appreciation Will Continue, but Price Growth Will Likely Slow. 

Joe Seydl, Senior Markets Economist at J.P. Morgan, projects home prices to continue rising as well, indicating buyers interested in purchasing a home should do so sooner rather than later. Waiting for rates or home prices to fall may not be wise:

“Homebuyers—interest rates are still historically low, though they are inching up. Housing prices have spiked during the last six-to-nine months, but we don’t expect them to fall soon, and we believe they are more likely to keep rising. If you are looking to purchase a new home, conditions now may be better than 12 months hence.”

Other experts remain optimistic about home prices, too. The graph below highlights 2021 home price forecasts from multiple industry leaders:

Inventory Remains a Challenge, but There’s Reason To Be Optimistic. 

Home prices are rising, but they should moderate as more housing inventory comes to market. George Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, notes there are signs that we may see the current inventory challenges lessen, slowing the fast-paced home price appreciation and creating more choices for buyers:

“We have seen more new listings this year compared with 2020 in 11 of the last 13 weeks. The influx of new sellers over the last couple of months has been especially helpful in slowing price gains.”

New home starts are also showing signs of improvement, which further bolsters hopes of more options coming to market. Robert Dietz, Chief Economist at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), writes:

“As an indicator of the economic impact of housing, there are now 652,000 single-family homes under construction. This is 28% higher than a year ago.”

Finally, while it may not fundamentally change the market conditions we’re currently experiencing, another reason to be optimistic more homes might come to market: our improving economy. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, notes:

“A growing economy in the summer months has multiple implications for the housing market. Growing consumer confidence, a stronger labor market, and higher wages bode well for housing demand. While a growing economy and improving public health conditions may also spur hesitant existing owners to list their homes for sale, it’s unlikely to significantly ease the super sellers’ market conditions.”

Bottom Line
As we look at the forecast for prices, interest rates, inventory, and home sales, experts remain optimistic about what’s on the horizon for the second half of 2021. Contact your trusted real estate advisor to discuss how to navigate the market together in the coming months.

Sharp Homeowners Know June Is the Best Time to Do These 5 Things

Friday, June 4th, 2021

Courtesy: Houselogic

Could it really be summer?!

Tackle these five summer maintenance tasks during June’s longer days and better weather — and save yourself time and money this winter.

#1 Update Outdoor Lighting

In June, winter nights are probably the last thing on your mind. But early summer is the perfect time to plan for those “OMG it’s only 4:30, and it’s already dark ” moments by adding or updating landscape lighting. The most energy-efficient, easy-to-install option is solar lighting, but it won’t perform as well on dark or snowy days. For light no matter the weather, install electric.

LED bulbs last up to five times longer and also use less energy than comparable bulbs.

#2 Clean Your House’s Siding

With a bit of preventative maintenance, your home’s siding will stay clean and trouble-free for up to 50 years. Fifty years! Clean it this month with a soft cloth or a long-handled, soft-bristled brush to guarantee that longevity.

Start at the bottom of the house and work up, rinsing completely before it dries. That’s how you avoid streaks.

#3 Focus on Your Foundation

There’s no better time for inspecting your foundation than warm, dry June. Eyeball it for crumbling mortar, cracks in the stucco, or persistently damp spots (especially under faucets). Then call a pro to fix any outstanding issues now, before it becomes an emergency later.

#4 Seal Your Driveway Asphalt

Your driveway takes a daily beating. Weather, sunlight, cars, bikes, and foot traffic – all of these deteriorate the asphalt. Help it last by sealing it. Tip: The temperature must be 50 degrees or higher for the sealer to stick, making June a good month for this easy, cost-effective job.

#5 Buy Tools

Thanks to Father’s Day, June is the month everyone can get a deal on tools, tool bags, and that multitool you’ve had your eye on. If it’s time to replace a bunch of tools, or you’re starting from scratch, look for package deals that offer several at once. These can pack a savings wallop, offering 30% off or more over buying the tools individually.

 

Your House Could Be the Oasis in an Inventory Desert

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

Courtesy: Keeping Current Matters

Homebuyers are flooding the housing market right now to take advantage of record-low mortgage rates. Many have a sense of urgency to find a home soon since experts forecast a steady rise in both rates and home prices this year and next. As a result, buyer demand greatly outweighs the current housing supply. Here’s how the shortage of houses for sale sets yours up to be the oasis in an inventory desert.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), today’s housing inventory sits at an incredibly low 2.1-month supply, far below the 6-month mark for a neutral market. Inventory of single-family homes a year ago was already very low, and as you can see in the graph below, this year’s levels are even lower:

Due to these market conditions, today’s buyers frequently enter fierce bidding wars while trying to purchase a home. This in turn drives up home prices and gives sellers incredible leverage in the negotiation process, two big wins if you’re going to sell your house this year.

Bottom Line

In such a hot market, it can feel as though the supply of homes has virtually dried up, leaving buyers to wander in an inventory desert. That’s why there’s never been a better time to sell. To a parched buyer needing to secure a home as soon as possible, your house could be a true oasis.

5 Reasons to Sell Your House This Spring

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

By: Keeping Current Matters

When selling a house, most homeowners hope for a quick and profitable transaction that puts them in a position to make a great move. If you’re waiting for the best time to win as a seller, the market is calling your name this spring. Here are five reasons why this is the perfect time to sell your house if you’re ready.

1. There’s high demand from homebuyers.

Buyer demand is strong right now, and buyers are active in the market. ShowingTime, which tracks the average number of buyer showings on residential properties, recently announced that buyer showings are up 51.5% compared to this time last year. Daniil Cherkasskiy, Chief Analytics Officer at ShowingTime, notes:

“As anticipated, demand for real estate remains elevated and continues to be affected by low levels of inventory…On average, each home is getting 50 percent or more requests this year compared to January of last year. As we head into the busy season, it’s likely we’ll push into even more extreme territory until the supply starts catching up with demand.”

When your house is positioned to get a ton of attention from competitive buyers, you’re in the best spot possible as the seller.

2. There aren’t enough houses for sale.

Purchaser demand is so high, the market is running out of available houses for sale. Recently, realtor.com reported:

“Nationally, the inventory of homes for sale in February decreased by 48.6% over the past year, a higher rate of decline compared to the 42.6% drop in January. This amounted to 496,000 fewer homes for sale compared to February of last year.”

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) also reveals that, while home sales are skyrocketing, the inventory of existing homes for sale is continuing to drop dramatically. Houses are essentially selling as fast as they’re hitting the market – in fact, NAR reports that the average house is on the market for only 21 days.

It’s this imbalance between high buyer demand and a low supply of houses for sale that gives sellers such an advantage. A seller will always negotiate the best deal when demand is high and supply is low. That’s exactly what’s happening in the real estate market today.

3. You have a lot of leverage in today’s market.

Clearly, many more people are interested in buying than selling this spring, creating the ultimate sellers’ market. When this happens, homeowners in a position to sell have the upper hand in negotiations.

According to NAR, agents are reporting an average of 3.7 offers per house and an increase in bidding wars. As a seller, this means the ball is in your court – so much so that you can use your leverage to negotiate the best possible contract. Demand is there, and now is the perfect time to sell for the most favorable terms.

4. It’s a great way to use your home equity.

According to the latest data from CoreLogic, as of the third quarter of 2020, the average homeowner gained $17,000 in equity over the past year, and that number continues to grow as home values appreciate. Equity is a type of forced savings that grows during your time as a homeowner and can be put toward bigger goals like buying your next dream home.

Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, notes:

“As homeowners gain equity in their homes, they are more likely to consider using that equity to purchase a larger or more attractive home – the wealth effect of rising equity. In today’s housing market, fast rising demand against the limited supply of homes for sale has resulted in continued house price appreciation.”

5. It’s a chance to find a home that meets your needs.

So much has changed over the past year, including what many of us need in a home. Spending extra time where we currently live is enabling many of us to re-evaluate homeownership and what we find most important in a home.

Whether it’s a house that has the features suited to working remotely, space for virtual or hybrid schooling, a home gym or theater, or something else, selling this spring gives you a chance to make a move and find the home of your dreams.

Bottom Line

Today’s housing market belongs to the sellers. If you’ve considered making a move but have been waiting for the right market conditions, your wait may be over. Contact a real estate professional so you’ll be positioned to win when you sell your house this spring.