Archive Page 2

30-year rates are low. Really low. Are you going to take advantage of it?

If you just can’t decide whether or not now is a good time to buy, these rates should convince you. They are historically low and there is just no way to predict what rate they will be in the future. I had a client apply for his mortgage when it was at 6%, it jumped to 7% while it was getting approved and he locked in at 6.5% a few weeks later. This was only last month. The point I’m trying to make is that if you are thinking about buying, locking in at these rates now will give you a much better return on your investment. If you wait, there is a good chance these rates won’t be around. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

Freddie Mac reports a decline in the 30-year fixed mortgage rate to 5.47 percent during the week ended Dec. 11 from 5.53 percent last week and 6.11 percent a year ago.

Some lenders are locking in even lower rates as they build on momentum started when the Federal Reserve announced plans last month to purchase a substantial number of mortgage-backed securities. HSH Associates and Inside Mortgage Finance are reporting interest on 30-year fixed loans at 5.33 percent and 5.09 percent, respectively.

Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft says mortgage rates also were driven downward by the recession and rising unemployment.

Source: The Washington Post, Dina ElBoghdady (12/12/08)

Advertisements

Thinking about buying real estate? Now is the time!

If you’re ready to buy a home and can afford it, now is a great time to buy. Mortgage interest rates remain very low. In many areas, buyers have a lot of inventory from which to choose and long-term homeownership continues to be one of the best ways for the typical American to build wealth.

Don’t let all of the negative media attention about the “mortgage meltdown” keep you from pursuing your homeownership dream. Mortgage industry woes are primarily limited to subprime loans and other types of creative and comparatively risky financing products. While the mortgage industry stalled briefly to reconsider its more exotic loans, there is plenty of conventional financing available for qualified homebuyers. Interest rates remain at historically low levels – still less than 7% for the typical, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

Indeed, the market has changed. It’s gone from a frenzied seller’s market to calmer buyer’s market. In fact, buyers haven’t seen a market this strong in years. When the national median home price dropped for the first time on record, the decline made huge albeit misleading headlines. For starters, there is no such thing as a national real estate market. All real estate markets are local and driven by local factors that include the local economy, housing supply and demand factors and other attributes like geography.

The slight decline followed years of unprecedented steep home price appreciation and the reality is that only a handful of markets experienced price declines. Corrections in markets that experienced exorbitant home price appreciation were expected and signal good news for buyers. According to 2007 third-quarter National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) statistics, the vast majority of the nation’s metropolitan areas showed rising or stable home prices with most areas experiencing modest gains.

Right now there are many homes from which to choose and in most areas buyers don’t have to deal with the harried and hurried competition of multiple bids. The changing market has also changed the inventory landscape to include fewer speculative sellers and a larger share of serious and motivated sellers.

Prospective homebuyers have some time to shop inventory and thoroughly compare home types and prices, amenities, neighborhoods, commutes and other important real estate-related features. And buyers have stronger price negotiation power as sellers compete for their attention by offering concessions or other incentives.

While all real estate markets have ups and downs, Americans continue to consistently build wealth through homeownership. According to the NAR:

One average, the value of a home doubles every 10 years. During the past three decades, home values have increased an average of 6.6% per year.

The average homeowner today has 36 times the wealth of the average renter. Homeowners are essentially paying themselves when they pay their mortgages and this means they’re building equity. Homeowners also benefit from some real estate-related tax write-offs like mortgage interest.

Sixty percent of the average homeowner’s wealth is their home’s equity. For homeowners who’re in their homes for the long-term, home equity typically is their single largest source of wealth.

Because every market is different, it’s a good idea for potential homebuyers to contact a local real estate specialist to learn more about what’s happening in his or her community and real estate market. The bottom line in real estate doesn’t change – if you’re ready to buy and can afford to make a long-term homeownership commitment, it’s always a good time to buy!

Bucks County Real Estate Market for Third Quarter 2008

As you can see below, while the rest of the country is experiencing a decline in real estate pricing, Bucks County prices continue to increase.  This is due to the steady increase in employment and population that is mixed with very low mortgage rates.  For these reasons, TREND is forecasting continued growth in the fourth quarter for Bucks County housing prices.

click to zoom

click to zoom

Source:  http://www.TrendMLS.com

Tips for First Time Home Buyers

Home-price adjustments in markets around the country have opened doors of opportunity for many renters. If you are transitioning from renter to homeowner, the prospect of making such a large investment may be exciting, while at the same time overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are six common mistakes to avoid.

1. Not understanding the home buying process. Educate yourself. Find a homebuyer seminar that you can attend or research online. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Web site (www.hud.gov) has an entire section devoted to homebuyers with common questions of first-time homebuyers, mortgage and home-buying programs information, downloadable tools such as a wish list and home-shopping checklist, tips on selecting a real estate professional, etc. Likewise, Prudential Real Estate’s popular Web site, prudential.com/real estate, offers consumers brand-new tools for the home buying process, such as free home environmental reports, Value Range Estimates and Property Profiles, among other resources.

2. Not asking questions. There are many facets and intricacies to the home buying process, so although you may gain a basic knowledge, you will still have questions. Don’t hesitate to let your real estate professional know that you are new to the process. Make sure you choose a sales professional who is willing to spend time with you and walk you through the entire process. He or she will expect you to have questions at each step—from house hunting, to making an offer to the closing. Remember, this is one of the largest financial transactions of your life, so you want to have a clear understanding of what’s going on.

3. Buying on impulse. Don’t feel pressured into making an offer on the first home you see. Buyers, especially first-timers, may be impressed by the first two or three homes they view. Look at a good selection. List the positives and negatives about each home. Narrow the prospects to three or four and then return for a closer look. When you decide to make a bid on a property, work with your real estate professional to get all of your questions answered before making an offer. But don’t wait too long to make an offer. The longer you wait, the greater the chance other prospective buyers may place offers, making it harder for you to negotiate a good deal.

4. Looking outside your price range. Before beginning your home search, consider getting pre-qualified to so get an idea of how much you may be able to borrow. Use this information as a starting point in determining your price range. Then take into consideration other factors that will affect your monthly budget once you are a homeowner, such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities, private mortgage insurance (PMI) and maintenance.

5. Not planning ahead. Think about personal changes you are planning in the next five to seven years. For instance, are you starting a family, and if so, is the home large enough and will it continue to be? If this will be a starter home or if you think you’ll be relocating in a few years, you’ll probably want to pay closer attention to appreciation and resale value. If a double-income is necessary to qualify for financing and to make your payments, do your plans foresee an income sufficient to continue making payments?

6. Failure to focus on location. Don’t just focus on the house. Examine the community. Does it suit your lifestyle? Is the area safe, well-maintained, close to work, stores and schools? Find out about zoning and what new construction is planned on vacant land in the immediate area. Also consider the property marketability when it’s time to sell.

Above all, remember knowledge is key. No question is a silly question. Your real estate professional can be an invaluable asset throughout the process. Making smart home buying decisions will make the home-buying process less scary and your first home purchase a rewarding experience.

Five Tips for a Green Home

Eco-friendly.  Being “green”. Energy-efficiency. These catch phrases have become part of our every day language as we’ve become more aware of not only our impact on the environment, but also the rising costs of energy. As a homeowner, there are some simple, inexpensive steps you can take to make your home energy-efficient. Get started on the road to being “green” with these five tips:

Change Your Light Bulbs

By replacing just five incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, you can save $100 per year on electric bills while using up to 75 percent less energy and removing greenhouse gases from the environment.

Buy ENERGY STAR® Appliances

ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances, such as refrigerators, washers and air conditioners, meet a higher level of energy efficiency set by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy than standard models. According to ENERGY STAR, if just one in 10 homes used ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances, the impact could be compared to planting 1.7 million new acres of trees. And, switching to these appliances is not only good for the environment, but easy on your pocketbook. Although these appliances may costs more, you can reduce your energy bill by $80 per year.

Seal Up

Cracks and air leaks represent cash seeping from your doors and windows. Get rid of air leaks in doors, windows and other areas by caulking gaps and cracks. This will help decrease your heating and air conditioning bill. But make sure you use silicone sealants. Acrylic caulk tends to shrink, while silicone sealants are waterproof and won’t shrink or crack, creating less waste.

Use Less Water

Did you know that roughly 60 percent of a home’s water consumption takes place in the bathroom, according to the California Urban Water Conservation Council? The largest culprit is the toilet, which accounts for 27 percent of your household supply every year. By installing low-flow toilets, showerheads and faucets, you can save thousands of gallons of water each year. In addition, replace leaky fixtures. That slow-dripping faucet can waste as much as 2,400 gallons of water per year.

Adjust the Thermostat

When adjusting your home’s thermostat, the rule of thumb should be: turn up the dial in the summer and down in the winter. Lowering the temperature by just one degree will reduce your electrical costs. And if you use a programmable thermostat, you can program your air-conditioning and heating systems to reduce output while no one is at home or at night while you sleep. Ceiling fans are also helpful in circulating the air to keep the room cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Going green doesn’t have to be overwhelming or costly. By making just a few small changes within your home, you can help decrease energy consumption and help make the world a “greener” place while saving yourself a few bucks in the process.

Philadelphia-area home market still outperforms nation

Finally, some good news on the real estate market in Bucks County!  On November 13th, 2008 the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote an article outlining how the Philadelphia area market was outperforming the rest of the nation.  Here are some notable quotes from the article:

“Just 4.4% of area homes sold in the last five years had negative equity.  Nationally it was 14.3%”

“The area has a healthy five year annualized appreciation of 6 percent, compared with 3.4 percent nationally”

“It seems Philadelphia may escape the worst of the housing market woes affecting much of the rest of the country”

14.3 percent of national homes with negative equity and Philadelphia area only had 4.4%.  That is great news!  Well of course we would rather see NO negative equity but with all things being considered, I think we should feel pretty good about our current market.  Posted below is the news article.

Phila-area home market still outperforms nation

Flipping houses- The Down & Dirty

So you wanna try flipping houses?  I’ll give you some pure basics to get you started.

1.  Locate an undervalued home for sale that is structurally sound but requires some pretty extensive cosmetic work.  When I say cosmetics I mean rehabbing the siding, windows, kitchen, bathrooms, carpets, appliances and painting the walls.  To find an undervalued home, I would recommend using a Realtor.

2.  Once you’ve found your target home,  you are going to need financing.  One source of funding that rehabbers use are “hard money lenders”.  These types of loans are secured by the value of the house you are going to flip and are usually issued by private investors.  Talk to your Realtor about finding hard money lenders or check with your local real estate investing group.  For those of you from Bucks County, the local investing group would be DIG (www.digonline.org).

3.  Ok, you’ve found the home and got the financing.  Now is time for the number crunching.  First determine your After Rehab Value or ARV.  This is the value of the property once you’ve finished all the cosmetic work.  This can be determined by your Realtor.  Here is the basic format for determining your bottom line and what your offer should be for you to make a minimum of $10,000 cash on the flip (The Golden Rule).

ARV minus:

  • Repair Costs
  • Holding Costs (monthly loan charges)
  • Sales commission (5%-6% of ARV)
  • Closing Costs ( transfer taxes on the buy and the sell, 1% for each in Bucks County)
  • Hard Money Costs (points-probably around 3%-5% of the loan)
  • PROFIT ($10,000 MINIMUM!)

Now, what’s left is what your offer is going to be.  Simple right?  Again, for more details please consult a real estate professional.

BUCKS COUNTY EXAMPLE

Your average home in Falls Twp is selling for around $230,000; so we’ll make that our ARV.

ARV $230,000 minus:

  • Repair costs $20,000
  • Holding costs $6,000 (takes three months to flip and sell)
  • Commission $11,500 (5% commission on the sale)
  • Closing Costs $4,000 (transfer taxes of 1% on the buy and then on the sell, estimated)
  • Hard Money Costs $5,000 ( 5 points estimated)
  • PROFIT $10,000 MINIMUM

EQUALS YOUR OFFER $173,500

Now, can you find houses selling for $173,000 in Falls Twp?  You bet.  I’d love to show them to you!