By: Dona DeZube Published: February 21, 2014
Home prices are rising in many U.S. markets, but headwinds from winter storms, tight inventory, tough credit standards, and rising mortgage interest rates continue to hold back sales.
A lack of houses for sale continued to lift home prices in much of the country, but also pushed down the number of existing homes sold in January, data from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® shows.
The weather wasn’t helping either. “Disruptive and prolonged winter weather patterns across the country are impacting a wide range of economic activity, and housing is no exception,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Some housing activity will be delayed until spring.”
He also blamed slower home sales on headwinds created by tight credit, limited inventory, rising home prices, and higher mortgage interest rates. “These issues will hinder home sales activity until the positive factors of job growth and new supply from higher housing starts begin to make an impact,” Yun said.
The median existing-home price in January was $188,900, up 10.7% over the past year. The median home price is the point at which half of homes sold for more and half sold for less.
The number of existing single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops sold in January dropped 5.1% from a year ago. Last month’s level of activity was the slowest since July 2012.
Flood Insurance Woes
NAR President Steve Brown said that in addition to disruptive weather, higher flood insurance rates are affecting the market in areas designated as flood zones, which account for roughly 8%-9% of all markets.
“Thirty percent of transactions in flood zones were canceled or delayed in January as a result of sharply higher flood insurance rates,” he said. “Since going into effect on Oct. 1, 2013, about 40,000 home sales were either delayed or canceled because of increases and confusion over significantly higher flood insurance rates. The volume could accelerate as the market picks up this spring.”
Congress is considering legislation to halt new flood insurance rates so the FEMA can complete an affordability study and determine the full impact of the law.
Related: Should You Buy Flood Insurance?
Fewer Foreclosed Homes for Sale
One factor that’s helping boost prices is a decline in the number of distressed homes — foreclosures and short sales — on the market. Distressed homes typically sell at a discount.
Related: Foreclosure FAQs
How Long Does It Take to Sell?
Even though the number of homes for sale rose a slight 2.2% in January, there’s still only a 4.9-month supply of homes for sale nationally at the current sales pace. A supply of 6.0 to 6.5 months represents a rough balance between buyers and sellers.
Median time on market:
Thirty-one percent of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month.
Who’s Buying Homes?
NAR noted some important changes among the population of homebuyers:
1. First-time buyers accounted for 26% of purchases in January. That’s the lowest market share for first-time buyers since NAR began monthly measurement in October 2008. In the past, about 40% of home sales involved first-time buyers.
2. One-third of sales were to cash buyers.
3. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 20% of homes in January, compared with 21% in December and 19% in January 2013. Seven out of 10 investors paid cash in January.
Other data from the NAR’s existing home sales survey showed:
Up or Down
Jan. 2014 Median Price
|Median Price Compared
with Jan. 2013
|Single-family home sales||Down 5.8%||$188,900||Up 10.4%|
|Condo and co-op sales||Up 1.8%||$188,700||Up 13.0%|
|Northeast home sales||Down 3.1%||$241,100||Up 6.6%|
|Midwest home sales||Down 7.1%||$140,300||Up 7.6%|
|South home sales||Down 3.5%||$161,500||Up 9.4%|
|West home sales||Down 7.3%||$273,500||Up 14.6%|
Fax: 419 592-7021
By: G. M. Filisko
Published: March 11, 2010
Ask detailed questions about their experience and skills to help you find the right agent for your home sale.
1. How long have you been selling homes?
Mastering real estate requires on-the-job experience. The more experience agents have, the more likely they’ll be able to handle any curveballs thrown during your home sale.
2. What designations do you hold?
Designations like GRI (Graduate REALTOR® Institute) and CRS® (Certified Residential Specialist), which require that agents complete additional real estate training, show they’re constantly learning. Ask if agents have designations and, if not, why not?
3. How many homes did you sell last year?
Agents may tout their company’s success. An equally important question is how many homes they’ve personally sold in the past year; it’s an indicator of how active and aggressive they are.
4. How many days on average did it take you to sell homes?
Ask agents to show you this data along with stats from their local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) so you can see how many days, on average, their listings were on the market compared to the average for all properties in the MLS.
5. How close were the asking and sales prices of the homes you sold?
Sometimes sellers choose their agent because the agent’s suggested listing price is higher than those suggested by other agents. A better factor is the difference between listing prices and the amount homes actually sold for. That can help you judge agents’ skill at accurately pricing homes and marketing to the right buyers. It can also help you weed out agents trying to dazzle you with a lofty sales price just to get your listing.
6. How will you market my home?
The days of agents putting a For Sale sign in the yard and hoping for the best are long gone. Look for an agent who does aggressive and innovative marketing, especially on the Internet.
7. Will you represent me exclusively?
In most states, agents can represent the seller, the buyer, or both in a home sale. If your agent will also represent buyers, understand and consent to that dual representation.
8. How will you keep me informed?
If you want weekly updates by email, don’t choose an agent who plans to contact you only if there’s an offer.
9. Can you provide references?
Ask to talk to the last three customers the agent assisted. Call and ask if they’d work with the agent again and if the agent did anything that didn’t sit well with them.
10. Are you a REALTOR®?
Ask whether agents are REALTORS®, which means they’re members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR). NAR has been an advocate of agent professionalism and a champion of homeownership rights for more than a century.
Other web resources
More on choosing an agent
G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who’s worked with many real estate agents in the past 20 years. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.
Published: December 16, 2013
If you’re hallway-challenged, we’ll show you how to make those odd spaces work harder and look brighter.
In fact, Cofield designed my four-bedroom house with nary a hallway to be found.
He placed two bedrooms (including the master suite) on the main floor at the end of the dining and living rooms. He put two bedrooms on the second level at the head of the stairs, so the landing is the only mini-hallway in the house.
The flow is fantastic because it wastes not — just what we wanted.
Related: Do You Need an Architect for Your Remodeling Project?
Dream Up New Space
Even though you may be stuck with hallways, your hallways don’t have to be stuck in the narrow, dark past. A little rethinking can make those passages work a lot harder and look a lot better.
If you still have books: Install floor-to-ceiling bookcases with a rolling ladder in hallways that are at least 4 feet wide. You can build them between studs or mount them on the drywall. Oak shelves are strong but expensive (5-shelf bookcase: $135); particleboard is a better value (5-shelf: $59) though you’ll sacrifice some strength.
If you’re an art lover: Hall walls are perfect spots for family photos and third-grade artwork lit by recessed lights. To display and appreciate large art, you’ll need a hallway that’s at least 5 feet wide. If you have a blank wall at the end of the hallway, hang artwork there; it’ll draw the eye down the hall, making the trek down that runway less boring.
If you have hallway linen closets: Convert them into:
More is better, and combining different types of lights is better still:
Another way to bring in light is to widen doorways and replace wood doors with full or partial glass doors. This works best with doors to laundry rooms, dens, bathrooms, and other non-bedroom spaces.
Used etched glass or frosted glass, which adds a visual punch while protecting privacy and letting light shine through.
Do Away with Walls
In some instances, you may be able to eliminate hallway walls. For example, eliminate the wall between a hallway and a kitchen and you can annex the space to your kitchen.
You can replace load-bearing walls with support beams hidden within a chase or with posts hidden within columns. Make sure you consult a structural engineer or architect who will determine the best way to open space and keep your house from caving in.
Fax: 419 352-2654
VM: 419-354-4871 ext. 114
By: Dona DeZube Published: November 8, 2013
Knowing what appeals to today’s
homebuyers, and considering those trends when you remodel, can pay off
years from now when you sell your home.
Two new surveys about what homebuyers want have me feeling pretty smug about my own home choices. Maybe you’ll feel the same.
Privacy from neighbors remains at the top of the most-wanted list
(important to 86% of buyers), according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF
REALTORS’® “2013 Community Preference Survey.” Privacy is no doubt the
best feature of my mid-century ranch home, since I can only see one
neighbor’s house and it’s a couple hundred feet down my driveway.
It may not be practical to move your neighbors farther away (although
I’m sure many people wish they had that superpower), but you can
increase your home’s privacy (and therefore its resale value) by
planting a living privacy screen of trees and shrubs or by physically screening off your patio.
Related: Trees Contribute to Property Value, Energy Savings, and More
3 More Takeaways for the Next Time You Remodel
1. More and more generations are living together.
Another NAR survey, the “2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers,” found
14% of buyers purchased a home suited to a multigenerational household
due to children over the age of 18 moving back into the house, cost
savings, and the health and caretaking of aging parents.
I did that back when my parents were still alive, and it worked out
great for everyone. I didn’t have time to let my infant daughter nap on
my shoulder all afternoon, but my mom did. She couldn’t drive to church
meetings at night, but I could take her. And neither of us liked
cleaning the gutters, but my husband didn’t mind that chore.
Even if you’d rather live in a cardboard box than with your mother, you might want to consider the multigenerational living trend
when you’re remodeling. For instance, opting for a full bath when
finishing the basement could offer more convenience for you now and
boost your home’s resale value by making it more appealing to a
2. On average, homeowners live in their home for nine years.
That’s up from six years in 2007. Since you’ll be in your home for a
long time, it makes sense to remodel to suit your taste but also with
long-lasting marketability in mind. After all, you don’t want to have to
redo stuff. For instance, you can go for trend-defying kitchen features, like white overtones and Shaker-style cabinets, which work with a variety of styles.
I feel compelled to caution against going so far out of the norm for
your neighborhood that it’ll turn off potential buyers even nine years
from now. (It never hurts to get your REALTOR®’s opinion on your
Related: Home Upgrades with the Lowest ROI
3. Homebuyers love energy efficiency. Heating and
cooling costs were “somewhat” or “very important” to a whopping 85% of
buyers. If your home could use an energy-efficiency upgrade, go with
projects that have a solid return on investment, like sealing your air leaks and adding attic insulation.
You’ll save money on your utility bills now and when you’re ready to
sell, your home will appeal to buyers looking for efficiency.
By the way, to take back your energy bills, you need to do at least four things. One to two fixes won’t cut it, thanks to rising energy costs.
About two-thirds of survey respondents also thought energy-efficient
appliances and energy-efficient lighting were important. Tuck away your
manuals and energy-efficiency information when you buy new appliances
and lighting. When you’re ready to sell (in nine years) you can pull
those out and display them where buyers will see them.
Fax: 419 782-0989
VM: 419-782-0978 ext.123
By: G. M. Filisko
Published: March 11, 2010
By knowing how much mortgage you can handle, you can ensure that home ownership will fit in your budget.
As a rule of thumb, you can typically afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. If you earn $100,000, you can typically afford a home between $200,000 and $300,000.
To understand how that rule applies to your particular financial situation, prepare a family budget and list all the costs of homeownership, like property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable, as well as costs specific to your family, such as day care costs.
How much money do you have for a downpayment? The higher your downpayment, the lower your monthly payments will be. If you put down at least 20% of the home’s cost, you may not have to get private mortgage insurance, which costs hundreds each month. That leaves more money for your mortgage payment.
The lower your downpayment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for and the higher your monthly mortgage payment.
Lenders generally follow the 28/41 rule. Your monthly mortgage payments covering your home loan principal, interest, taxes, and insurance shouldn’t total more than 28% of your gross annual income. Your overall monthly payments for your mortgage plus all your other bills, like car loans, utilities, and credit cards, shouldn’t exceed 41% of your gross annual income.
Here’s how that works. If your gross annual income is $100,000, multiply by 28% and then divide by 12 months to arrive at a monthly mortgage payment of $2,333 or less. Next, check the total of all your monthly bills including your potential mortgage and make sure they don’t top 41%, or $3,416 in our example.
The tax benefits of homeownership generally allow you to afford a mortgage payment—including taxes and insurance—of about one-third more than your current rent payment without changing your lifestyle. So you can multiply your current rent by 1.33 to arrive at a rough estimate of a mortgage payment.
Here’s an example. If you currently pay $1,500 per month in rent, you should be able to comfortably afford a $2,000 monthly mortgage payment after factoring in the tax benefits of homeownership.
However, if you’re struggling to keep up with your rent, consider what amount would be comfortable and use that for the calcuation instead.
Also consider whether or not you’ll itemize your deductions. If you take the standard deduction, you can’t also deduct mortgage interest payments. Talking to a tax adviser, or using a tax software program to do a “what if” tax return, can help you see your tax situation more clearly.
G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who’s owned her own home for more than 20 years. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.
Fax: 419 891-1092
VM: 419-897-2700 x 278
Article From BuyAndSell.HouseLogic.com By: G. M. Filisko
Published: August 24, 2010
Trying to decide whether to buy a fixer-upper house? Follow these seven steps, and you’ll know how much you can afford, how much to offer, and whether a fixer-upper house is right for you.
TV remodeling shows make home improvement work look like a snap. In the real world, attempting a difficult remodeling job that you don’t know how to do will take longer than you think and can lead to less-than-professional results that won’t increase the value of your fixer-upper house.
•Do you really have the skills to do it? Some tasks, like stripping wallpaper and painting, are relatively easy. Others, like electrical work, can be dangerous when done by amateurs.
•Do you really have the time and desire to do it? Can you take time off work to renovate your fixer-upper house? If not, will you be stressed out by living in a work zone for months while you complete projects on the weekends?
•Get your contractor into the house to do a walk-through, so he can give you a written cost estimate on the tasks he’s going to do.
•If you’re doing the work yourself, price the supplies.
•Either way, tack on 10% to 20% to cover unforeseen problems that often arise with a fixer-upper house.
•Ask local officials if the work you’re going to do requires a permit and how much that permit costs. Doing work without a permit may save money, but it’ll cause problems when you resell your home.
•Decide if you want to get the permits yourself or have the contractor arrange for them. Getting permits can be time-consuming and frustrating. Inspectors may force you to do additional work, or change the way you want to do a project, before they give you the permit.
•Factor the time and aggravation of permits into your plans.
If your fixer-upper home needs major structural work, hire a structural engineer for $500 to $700 to inspect the home before you put in an offer so you can be confident you’ve uncovered and conservatively budgeted for the full extent of the problems.
Get written estimates for repairs before you commit to buying a home with structural issues.
Don’t purchase a home that needs major structural work unless:
•You’re getting it at a steep discount
•You’re sure you’ve uncovered the extent of the problem
•You know the problem can be fixed
•You have a binding written estimate for the repairs
Be sure you have enough money for a downpayment, closing costs, and repairs without draining your savings.
If you’re planning to fund the repairs with a home equity (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/consider-home-equity-line-of-credit/) or home improvement loan:
•Get yourself pre-approved for both loans before you make an offer.
•Make the deal contingent on getting both the purchase money loan and the renovation money loan, so you’re not forced to close the sale when you have no loan to fix the house.
•Consider the Federal Housing Administration‘s Section 203(k) program (http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/203k/203kmenu.cfm), which is designed to help home owners who are purchasing or refinancing a home that needs rehabilitation. The program wraps the purchase/refinance and rehabilitation costs into a single mortgage. To qualify for the loan, the total value of the property must fall within the FHA mortgage limit for your area, as with other FHA loans. A streamlined 203(k) program provides an additional amount for rehabilitation, up to $35,000, on top of an existing mortgage. It’s a simpler process than obtaining the standard 203(k).
Take the fair market value of the property (what it would be worth if it were in good condition and remodeled to current tastes) and subtract the upgrade and repair costs.
For example: Your target fixer-upper house has a 1960s kitchen, metallic wallpaper, shag carpet, and high levels of radon in the basement.
Your comparison house, in the same subdivision, sold last month for $200,000. That house had a newer kitchen, no wallpaper, was recently recarpeted, and has a radon mitigation system in its basement.
The cost to remodel the kitchen, remove the wallpaper, carpet the house, and put in a radon mitigation system is $40,000. Your bid for the house should be $160,000.
Ask your real estate agent if it’s a good idea to share your cost estimates with the sellers, to prove your offer is fair.
Don’t rely on your friends or your contractor to eyeball your fixer-upper house. Hire pros to do common inspections like:
•Home inspection. This is key in a fixer-upper assessment. The home inspector will uncover hidden issues in need of replacement or repair. You may know you want to replace those 1970s kitchen cabinets, but the home inspector has a meter that will detect the water leak behind them.
•Radon, mold, lead-based paint
•Septic and well
Most home inspection contingencies let you go back to the sellers and ask them to do the repairs, or give you cash at closing to pay for the repairs. The seller can also opt to simply back out of the deal, as can you, if the inspection turns up something you don’t want to deal with.
If that happens, this isn’t the right fixer-upper house for you. Go back to the top of this list and start again.
What you need to know about foundation repairs (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/what-you-need-know-about-foundation-repairs/)
Budgeting for a home remodel (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/budget-for-remodel/)
Tips on hiring a contractor (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/five-essential-questions-ask-before-hiring-contractor/)
This Old House remodeling cost estimates (http://www.oldhouseweb.com/how-to-advice/estimated-remodeling-and-repair-costs.shtml)
Fax: 419 535-7571
VM: 419-539-2700 ext. 123
G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer whose parents bought and renovated a fixer-upper when she was a teen. A regular contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.
By: John Riha Published: January 30, 2013
Today’s kitchen is a quick-change artist that adores families and loves simplicity.
If you’re looking to remodel your kitchen, we’ve got good news and bad news.
First, the good stuff. According to trend experts Lita Dirks and Dominick Tringali, you don’t have to shell out major cash to add space. Instead, look to expand what you already have. Vault your ceiling, add windows, squeeze in clever storage ideas. Make the space work harder, not bigger.
Plus, relax. Casual kitchens are trending, with doo-dads and gee-gaws (think elaborate trim and vent hoods that look like medieval castles) going away, and simpler, sleeker designs coming on strong.
Speaking on kitchen trends at the 2013 International Builder’s Show in Las Vegas, interior designer Dirks and architect Tringali teamed up to describe the new American kitchen as one piece of a larger, open floor plan.
It’s all part of a new kitchen gestalt that Dirks describes as the “prep-eat-play” triangle, with flexibility and casual living as key ingredients. The notion tosses the kitchen into a design blender along with living, dining, and family rooms, and frappes everything into communal happiness.
Example: You can eat at a comfy banquette, or in front of the TV (don’t tell your child-development counselor), or in the breakfast nook, or you can belly up to the island. No rules!
The bad news (OK, it’s not that bad) is that we’ve heard some of this before. Open floor plans have been around since the moon landing and yes, we like them. A lot. What we really have here is affirmation — and freedom to create kitchens that are less ornate and yet have more personality.
Just like you.
Of course, Dirks and Trengali definitely have the pulse of today’s home owner and offer some great takeaways. We’ve combined their goodies with our own kitchen trendspotting for 2013. If you’re planning a kitchen redo, here’s what you need to know:
Contemporary kitchens are In. Specifically, they’re getting simpler and more modern, with less elaborate detail and trim. In fact, the National Kitchen and Bath Association reports that in its annual survey of kitchen designers, “transitional” design — meaning a simple, more modern aesthetic — has surpassed “traditional” as the preferred design for the first time in the association’s history.
Kitchen cabinets are dark, or white. Darker, furniture-like finishes are popular, but so is pure white. The middle ground — think natural oak — is going away. Dark finishes help the kitchen integrate into the overall scheme; pure white is the ultimate accent color that readily complements the rest of the living area.
Islands rule. Kitchen islands are becoming more multi-dimensional, serving as food-prep areas, snack stations, wine storage, and display cabinets for objets d’art. Also, they’re essential for directing traffic flow within an open floor plan, channeling guests toward comfy seating areas, for example. Small kitchen? Go with a rolling cart that’s there when you need it.
Countertop revolution. Say hi to porcelain and ceramic slabs that look like stone, wood, and fabric, says Jamie Gold, a California designer. The product is made from clay, quartz, and feldspar that’s subjected to high heat — just like regular tile. Unlike other engineered countertops, this product doesn’t use cements or resin binders. It’s not readily available in the U.S. yet.
Appliances are disappearing. In the past, we loved our commercial-style kitchen appliances that made us look like we really knew how to cook. Now, appliances are hiding behind wood panels and faux veneers so they integrate better with the overall living space. New finishes, such as GE’s slate and Whirlpool’s Ice White, are bucking the stainless steel trend, but don’t bet on stainless going away anytime soon — it’s still hot.
Espresso yourself. An eye-catching extra gives a kitchen a blast of personality. Cool sinks and high-tech faucets are au courant. Other possibilities include:
Glass finishes. Glistening glass is popping up everywhere in the kitchen, especially glass tiles installed as backsplashes. Applying clear glass panels over walls painted soft colors gives a deep sheen that harmonizes with today’s contemporary looks. Bonus: It’s easy to clean.
Grab some fresh air. Outdoor kitchens and entertaining areas are hot. Your indoor kitchen should have an outdoor doppelganger close by, available through wide glass doors.
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