If you are a homeowner, you should always be thinking about ways that you can boost the resale value of your home. Whether you are planning on putting the home on the market, or simply want to be prepared for the future, there are upgrades that can make your property more desirable. Give your home the attention it deserves and you’ll be prepared for whatever may come down the line.
Go Solar With A Home Solar Installation
There’s no doubt that solar power is big in today’s housing market. It’s an excellent resource that will save you money on your utility bills. You could even find yourself in a situation where the power company is actually buying energy from you. It’s also a move that is environmentally-friendly. If you feel a responsibility to the world around you, you will have the peace of mind that comes with reducing your carbon footprint. As energy becomes scarce, solar power is something you can count on. Future buyers will benefit as well.
Install An HVAC System That Does It All
When it comes to your heating and cooling, install a system that will meet all of your needs. Keep your home at a comfortable temperature throughout the year at the touch of a button. Choose an energy saver model that uses the most feasible type of energy source in order to trim costs. When you have a modern system with automation capability, you should see a difference in your utility bills. You’ll also have a huge selling feature to show off when prospective buyers come knocking at your door.
Make the Most of Your Existing Space
Take the space that you have and make sure that you utilize it to its full potential. Whether you create an attic bedroom or a finished basement, making better use of your space will increase your home’s appeal. When it’s time to sell, buyers want to see possibilities and appreciate it more when the work has already been done for them. Give them options and let them make the space their own.
Turn to the Experts for Advice
Call your real estate professional today to further assist you with questions and solutions when considering the resale value of your home. You’ll be able to tap into a vast store of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t before investing in any upgrades.
Your home may be one of your largest assets, and you certainly want to take steps to get the highest price possible for it when you list it on the market to sell. In addition, you may have plans to purchase a new home or to take other similar steps when list your home, so you may need to your house to sell quickly. Staging your home is a great way to present it in the best possible light for potential buyers to see. While there are dozens of staging tips and ideas that you may use, there are a few that are rather simple and affordable for most to complete.
Give Each Room a Single Purpose
If your home is like most, there may be several rooms that have multiple uses. For example, you may have a work desk placed in the master bedroom, or a section of the living room may be designated as a kids’ play area. While this may be functional for how your family lives, it can confuse buyers. Buyers need to be able to walk into a room and imagine their own family living in the area. They may not have a need or use for a desk in the master bedroom, and this can confuse the use of the space. In addition, it also can make a room look smaller and more cramped than it is.
De-Clutter Your Rooms
In addition to defining a single use for each room in your home, you should also de-clutter your rooms. Depending how long you have lived in your home and how significant your periodic spring cleaning sessions have been, this can be a major undertaking. As a good rule of thumb, items that have not been used in more than six months may need to be donated or tossed away. The exception to this rule is seasonal items, like winter coats, pool toys or holiday décor. Keep in mind that buyers will open cabinets, drawers and closets, so your cleaning session should be thorough and not superficial.
Pack Away Personal Belongings
A final step to take is to pack away personal belongings. Everything from religious symbols like crosses to a family photo over the mantel should be packed in boxes. Your goal is to make your home look like any family could live there rather than to make it look like your home. Only decorative items that have a broad or universal appeal should remain.
When a home is properly staged, it may feel as though your home is not your own and even as though you are camping out in your own home. Keep in mind that staging can help you to sell your home as quickly as possible and to get the highest bid possible. Therefore, your effort is well worthwhile.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that home prices rose by a seasonally-adjusted rate of 0.30 percent in January, and were 5.10 percent higher as compared to home prices in January 2014.
FHFA oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and its home price report is based on sales of homes financed by mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Month- to- Month FHFA Home Prices Mixed
Month to month home price data was mixed for January. Home prices ranged from -0.40 percent in the Middle and South Atlantic census divisions to +2.30 percent in the East South Central census division.
Month-to month readings are considered more volatile than year-over-year home price readings. Year-over-year readings for all nine U.S. census divisions were positive and ranged from a 1.70 percent increase in the Middle Atlantic division to an increase of 8.20 percent in the Pacific division. This suggests that overall, home prices are gaining, but slowly.
Commerce Department: New Home Sales Hit 7-Year Peak
In an unrelated report, the Commerce Department reported that February sales of new homes reached a seven-year peak with 539,000 sales of new homes expected on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. This was significantly higher than the expected reading of 455,000 new home sales and was also higher than the revised reading of 500,000 new home sales in January.
Analysts said that this positive reading may indicate a robust sales for the peak spring and summer home buying season. The reading for new home sales in February was nearly 25 percent higher than for February 2014.
In spite of this good news, analysts cautioned that the new home sales numbers are often volatile, and future revisions could result in lower sales figures for new homes.
With jobs increasing and mortgage rates remaining relatively low, more homebuyers may enter the market and boost home sales. Tight mortgage lending standards remain an obstacle for would-be buyers with less than stellar credit scores.
A fire can rage through your home at a moment’s notice, and it can cause a significant amount of damage in a very short period of time. Damage from the flames, intense heat, smoke and soot can cause tens of thousands of dollars or more in some cases, and a severe fire event can result in a total loss for the homeowner. More than that, a fire can create a serious health and safety risk for you and your loved ones inside the home. If you are concerned about how safe your home is from a fire, consider a few important points.
Do You Have Fire Extinguishers On All Floors?
When a small fire breaks out, you may only have a few seconds to respond. You simply do not have time to rush around the house in search of a fire extinguisher. Instead, you should know immediately where it is at and how to use it. More than that, you should have one available on all floors of your home. While you may want to reach for a fire extinguisher to put out a small flame, you should still yell for others in the home to vacate while you use the fire extinguisher.
Do You Have Smoke Alarms in Ideal Locations?
Fires can break out during all hours of the day and night. When you are awake, you may easily be able to smell smoke from a nearby room. However, when you are asleep or when the smoke is in a removed area of the home, it can be more difficult to observe the signs of a fire until it is too late. Placing a loud smoke alarm in all bedrooms in your home is a wise idea. You will also need one in living areas of the home. If your home is larger in size, you may consider investing in additional smoke alarms.
When Was the Last Time You Replaced the Batteries in Your Smoke Detectors?
It is not enough to simply have the smoke detectors mounted to your walls or ceiling. Instead, you need to make sure that they are loud and that they work well. If you have a hearing impaired person in the home, you should invest in detectors with a visible strobe light to alert them to a danger. Batteries generally should be replaced every few months, and you may consider replacing the batteries each time you replace the filters for your HVAC system. Keep in mind that it is better to replace the batteries before they lose power than to be without the function of an alarm in your home when you need it.
Even a small fire can be a dangerous and costly event. By focusing on these factors in your home, you can most easily prepare for a fire, and you will be able to take immediate action in the event a fire develops in your home.
Last week’s events included the National Association of Home Builder’s Housing Market Index, which fell to its lowest reading since last summer. Other news included reports on housing starts and building permits, the FOMC meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference.
Home Builder Confidence Falls, Building Permits Rise
The NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index fell by two points for a reading of 53 in March. The expected reading was 57. Analysts said that this proves that lower mortgage rates and steady job growth aren’t fueling housing markets as expected. NAHB chief economist David Crowe also cited supply chain issues such as a shortage of available lots, labor shortages and tight mortgage underwriting standards. Home builders remain optimistic that as labor markets continue to improve and more home buyers enter the market during the traditional spring and summer buying season, that builder confidence will also grow.
The Department of Commerce reported that building permits for February rose from January’s reading of 1.06 million to 1.09 million. This represents a 3.00 percent increase and was the highest reading since October. Permits fell for single family homes fell by 6.20 percent in February, but were 2.80 percent higher year-over-year. Single family permits account for 75 percent of building permits issued.
Housing starts fell dramatically due to bad weather. The Northeast saw housing starts fall by 56 percent due to extreme snowfall; Housing starts in the Midwest fell by 37 percent and the West saw housing starts decline by 18.20 percent in February. The South reported a 2.50 percent decrease in housing starts, but since nearly 50 percent of housing starts are in the South, this decline is more significant than it appears.
Fed Rates Hold Steady, Mortgage Rates Fall
The Federal Reserve noted in its post FOMC meeting statement that the Fed is in no hurry to raise rates. Citing ongoing concerns about low inflation and a sluggish housing market recovery, the Fed’s policymakers indicated that they don’t plan to rush on raising the target federal funds rate. In her press conference held after the FOMC statement, Fed Chair Janet Yellen reiterated the Fed’s intention to raise rates only when domestic and global economic developments warrant.
Mortgage rates fell according to Freddie Mac with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage eight basis points lower at 3.78 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was four basis points lower at 3.06 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was also four basis points lower at an average rate of 2.97 percent. Discount points were unchanged at an average of 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
This week’s housing-related news includes new and existing home sales, the FHFA home price index and FHFA’s home price index. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims will also be released as usual on Thursday.
If you have children, no home is complete without a treehouse. Besides the fact that treehouses provide kids with hours of entertainment, they can also confer ancillary benefits that are hard to quantify. For starters, treehouses can improve property values by boosting curb appeal. When building any type of treehouse, keep the following tips in mind.
Location, Location, Location
Before you head off to Home Depot and get all the necessary supplies, you need to spend some serious time storyboarding the build process. Pick a tree with low, sprawling branches such as an oak or a maple. Furthermore, consider issues like wind, shade and privacy before you start to nail up supports.
Choose Your Materials Wisely
A treehouse built with subpar materials will fall short in the longevity department and disappoint the kids. Pick out stout oak 4×4 posts for the structural elements and top them off with pressure-treated pine for the floors and railings. Use quality plywood for the interior walls and seal it to avoid rot.
Make Multi-Use Your Mantra
Treehouses that are simply shacks suspended above ground will quickly bore youngsters no matter how well-built they may be. Incorporate elements such as swings, rope ladders and even zip-lines to get more from your treehouse. As long as you’re putting in the effort, you might as well add all of the bells and whistles.
Bake Safety Into the Recipe
You don’t want the kids to get hurt when they’re frolicking among the branches. Make sure to bolt handles and permanent rails into the truck so that adolescents are less likely to slip and fall. If you want to go all out, add a few safety nets around the edges.
Heed Aesthetics When Designing
An unadorned treehouse quickly turns into an eyesore over time as it’s battered by the elements. Shingle the roof and paint the exterior walls so that they match your home. Kids will naturally gravitate towards a treehouse that looks appealing and your neighbors won’t complain about a shoddy structure in your weeping willow.
It’s More Than a Treehouse
While many young kids will no doubt love a full-featured treehouse, it’s usually the improvement in home value that will appeal to adults. If you’re interested in learning more about homes in your area that would support your desire to build a treehouse, call a professional real estate agent today.
The post-meeting statement of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee indicated that while the Fed is considering raising its target rate as early as June, the agency is in no hurry to cast anything in cement. The statement cited stronger labor markets and low unemployment rates as encouraging, but noted that FOMC members remain concerned about economic growth due to low inflation failing to meet the FOMC goal of two percent.
15 of 17 FOMC members said that they expected interest rates to increase before year-end, but downwardly revised forecasts of how high rates might be raised. Committee members further expressed concerns about economic growth and inflation, which is likely to impact Fed decisions about raising interest rates or not.
Economic Growth, Inflation Slower than Expected
The FOMC statement noted that economic growth has “moderated somewhat”, which was less enthusiastic than in January, when the Fed noted solid economic growth. The Fed revised its projections for the national unemployment rate from December’s expected range of 5.20 to 5.50 percent to 5.00 percent to 5.20 percent.
The target federal funds rate remains at a range of 0.00 to 0.250 percent and is expected to increase to 0.625 percent by year-end, and forecasted to reach 0.875 percent by the end of 2016. The target rate is expected to rise to 1.25 percent at the end of 2017.
Raising the target federal funds rate would impact mortgage rates, rates on vehicle loans and corporate loans. As the cost of loans rises, and wages stay relatively flat, consumers will have less cash for discretionary spending and may put off buying homes and purchasing big-ticket items that require financing.
Fed Chair Says Fed Isn’t “Impatient” about Raising Rates
After the FOMC statement was issued, Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a press conference. Asked about the FOMC removing the word “patient” from its description of the committee’s attitude about raising the target federal funds rate, Chair Yellen said that removing the word patient does not mean that FOMC members are impatient about deciding when to move on interest rates.
Chair Yellen reiterated what’s she has said many times in recent FOMC statements and press conferences, that although the committee may project when it will raise rates, the decision will be based on incoming economic data.
In her opening remarks, Chair Yellen said that when the Fed does raise its target interest rate, the FOMC will retain a “highly accommodative” stance in line with the FOMC’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and a target inflation rate of 2.00 percent.
All in all, this FOMC statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference revealed no great changes in the Fed’s stated policy over the last several months. While low unemployment rates are prompting the Fed to consider raising the federal funds rate, no date for doing so has been set; the agency will provide plenty of advance notice before it raises rates and in the meantime will closely monitor domestic and global financial and economic developments for guidance in deciding when to raise rates.
Spring is not far off, and your garage, basement and attic need your attention. From sweeping cobwebs to throwing out old, useless junk and organizing family photos, spring cleaning is essential to keeping a tidy house. Follow our handy guide to organizing your garage, basement and attic.
Make Room For Your Car
You’ll likely need to set aside a full weekend to organize your garage. As you won’t be able to complete this task by yourself, get your family or friends to help you out. It might be a good idea to bribe them with free pizza for lunch.
Go through every square inch of the garage from top to bottom, including tools, unpacked boxes from when you moved and anything else that gets in your way. Separate the items that you want to sell or donate into one area of your driveway, items that you want keep into another area and stuff that you want to throw away into a separate pile.
Organize the items you want to keep into small, well-marked boxes and place back in the garage. Use as much wall space as possible to store tools and boxes by installing shelves inside your garage. Organize the items you want to sell into separate piles on a tarp in your garage for temporary storage.
De-Clutter Your Basement
Similar to your garage, you’ll want to get rid of the clutter in your basement. Make sure you have enough room for multiple piles of items and be aware that you’ll need to add to your garage piles later on.
Organize your items into three piles: one pile for items you wish to keep, another one for items you wish to sell and the final pile for items you want to throw out. If you have a significant amount of clothing in your basement, you might want to consider purchasing mobile hanger units and place them against the wall.
Turn Your Attic Into An Inviting Room
Your attic doesn’t have to be a storage space if you can clean it up and organize it correctly. Place everything you want into marked boxes and dust the attic before you place them in their respective areas.
Selling and throwing away personal belongings can be a huge hassle, especially if you have an emotional attachment to them. Generally speaking, items that are broken, expired or out of date can be thrown away while items that you no longer use but don’t hold much sentimental value can be sold or donated.
Few people consider the tax implications of buying a home, but there are many. Here are a few ways buying a home can impact the amount of tax you pay.
Most people put down the minimum amount of money needed to buy a home and finance the rest, usually over 30 years. This means that, especially in the early years of the loan, most of what they are paying are the finance charges. The good news is that all that interest is tax-deductible for people who itemize their deductions, which adds up to several thousands of dollars in deductions annually. You also can deduct interest on home equity loans, up to a certain amount.
Another way that buying a home affects your taxes is property taxes. In most jurisdictions, property taxes are based to some extent on the price you pay for your home, meaning the more you pay, the higher your taxes will be. The positive is that, just as with mortgage interest, those property taxes you pay are deductible if you itemize deductions on your income tax return.
Points are up-front fees you pay to lower the interest rate on your home mortgage. If you paid them when buying your home, you can deduct the entire amount on your tax return. If you paid points on a refinance or home equity loan, you have to deduct them a bit at a time over the entire term of the loan.
One of the reasons many people treat homes as an investment is the favorable tax treatment on profit from a sale. For example, in the United States as long as the home is your principal residence for at least two years out of the five years before you sell, you can exclude up to a $250,000 gain from capital gains taxes, or $500,000 if you are married.
Buying a home for the first time is one of the few situations in which the government allows you take money from retirement accounts early without paying a tax penalty. For example, you can take up to $10,000 out of an individual retirement account without having to pay the early withdrawal penalty, although you still might face income taxes if your contributions were tax-deferred.
If you are considering buying a home, contact a real estate professional to discuss the potential tax and other benefits.
Last week’s economic reports included job openings, retail sales, retail sales except automotive, consumer sentiment for March and the usual reports on weekly jobless claims and mortgage rates.
Job Openings Highest in 14 Years
The Labor Department reported that job openings reached their highest level in 14 years in January, and rose by 2.50 percent over December 2014 job openings. On a seasonally adjusted basis, there were five million job openings in January. Job openings rose by 28 percent year-over-year.
Hiring rose by 3.50 percent to 5.24 million, but analysts said that employers continue to have difficulty in finding workers with skills needed to fill their job openings. Winter weather was also mentioned as contributing to lower hiring rates.
Stable full-time employment is a key requirement for qualifying for a home loan. Inconsistent, part-time and self-employment typically make it more difficult to qualify for mortgages in today’s conservative lending environment.
Retail Sales Lower
Retail sales fell by –0.60 percent in February against an expected reading of +0.30 percent and January’s reading of -0.80 percent. This was the third consecutive drop in retail sales volume and suggests that consumers are not confident about spending. Retail sales except automotive were also lower with a February reading of -0.10 percent against an expected reading of +0.40 percent and January’s reading of -1.10 percent.
Mortgage Rates Rise, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall
According to Freddie Mac average mortgage rates rose across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.86 percent, an increase of 11 basis points. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose by seven basis points to 3.10 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose five basis points to 3.01 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.
Weekly jobless claims fell to 389,000 against expectations of 310,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 325,000 new claims filed. This was good news after a spike in new jobless claims that was likely caused by bad weather. Although week to week data tends to be more volatile than month-to-month trends, there was good news in that new jobless claims fell below a benchmark of 300,000 new claims filed. Readings of 300,000 or fewer new jobless claims filed represent strong labor market conditions.
This week’s economic reports include the NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, federal reports on housing starts and building permits and the Federal Reserve’s FOMC meeting statement. Fed Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to present a press conference, which analysts will watch closely for any indication of when the Fed will raise interest rates.