Five fixes that can raise a home’s value

September 9, 2016

STAMFORD, Conn. – Sept. 8, 2016 – For homeowners looking to spruce up their home before listing it, there’s plenty they can do to attract more buyers and potentially boost the value of their home too.

Veteran real estate professionals recently weighed in at This Old House on some of the best home improvement projects they believe can help a home show better. Here are a few of their ideas:

1. Open up the space.

Create more space, whether that’s even removing a kitchen island or knocking out a non-structural wall. “Right now buyers want a wide open floor plan, the living room right off the kitchen.

2. Light it up.

Keep the home bright: Have windows open to let the natural light flow in, consider lights that use motion detectors to turn themselves off, or install sun tubes, a reflective material that funnels natural light from a hole cut in a rooftop down through a ceiling fixture in a room.

3. Enhance the front door.

“Don’t underestimate the power of a front door,” Willens says. “People make up their minds in the first seven seconds of entering a house.”

Remember to follow the guidelines of your HOA!

4. Pay attention to the floors.

Spend some money on the floors, suggests the real estate professionals surveyed by This Old House. Get a carpenter or handyman to eliminate distracting squeaks from floors, repair any broken tiles, patch damaged floorboards, and remove wall-to-wall carpeting, they suggest.

5. Tackle easy bathroom upgrades.

Bathroom upgrades can quickly get pricey but a few upgrades can still make a big difference. For example, swap frosted glass for clear glass, remove any rust stains, apply fresh caulk, update doorknobs and cabinet pulls, replace faucets, buy a new toilet seat, or install a low-flush toilet.

Source: “Brokers Tell All: 10 Ways to Boost Home Value,” This Old House (September 2016)

© Copyright 2016 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD


Baby boomers chart new direction in housing

August 23, 2016

NEW YORK – Aug. 22, 2016 – Economists are having a tough time figuring out what housing market moves baby boomers will make next. Americans over the age of 55 are veering from previous generations, opting not to retire but instead launching second or even third careers. They are shunning the traditional patterns of retirement, and that could have a big impact on their housing choices, according to a Freddie Mac Insight report.

Baby boomers are a critical piece to the housing market puzzle. Americans over the age of 55 make up a quarter of the population and control about two-thirds of the single-family home equity in the nation. Sixty-five-year olds who, on average purchased a home 35 years ago now tend to have a home value that is likely 3.7 times the purchase price.

Nearly a quarter of baby boomers recently surveyed by Freddie Mac say they need major renovations in their current home in order to stay there as they age – and many say they face financial constraints to take on those remodels. And some of the baby boomers may be underestimating the financial costs of outfitting their home with age-in-place features, says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

As a result, about 18 million homeowners over the age of 55 may be shopping for another house in the next few years, according to the Insights Report.

Unlike earlier generations, however, baby boomers’ main reasons to move aren’t due to downsizing. Instead, the survey showed the key influences making these generations move are: Affordability of the community, the need for retirement amenities and a home with less maintenance.

Bottom line, the authors note: The 55-plus population is likely to be an active part of the housing economy for years to come still.

Source: “Boomers Ignoring Conventional Housing Wisdom,” Mortgage News Daily (July 19, 2016)

© Copyright 2016 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD


2016 International Profile

August 23, 2016

International Homebuyers


Americans Are Feeling Wealthier, More Upbeat

June 17, 2016

Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index zoomed to an all-time high in May as consumers get more upbeat about their paychecks and home selling. In May, the index reached a reading of 85.3, which follows an 18-month low reached in March.

Three of six components the index measures registered increases last month, led by a 7 percentage point increase in the number of consumers reporting significantly higher income than a year ago. Also, the number of consumers who expect home prices to increase over the next 12 months rose 5 percentage points. Consumers were also upbeat that mortgage rates would decrease over the next year as well.

That said, the index indicator on whether it’s a “good time to buy” dropped 1 percentage point to an all-time survey low in May.

“Continued home price appreciation has been squeezing housing affordability, driving a two-year downward trend in the share of consumers who think it’s a good time to buy a home,” says Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “The current low mortgage rate environment has helped ease this pressure, and fewer than half of consumers expect rates to go up in the next year. While the May increase in income growth perceptions could provide further support to prospective home buyers as the spring/summer homebuying season gains momentum, the effect may be muted by May’s discouraging jobs report.”

Here’s a closer look at additional findings from Fannie Mae’s latest index reading:

  • 29 percent of Americans say now is a good time to buy a home, a drop of 1 percentage point from March and an all-time survey low for the second consecutive month.
  • 52 percent of consumers believe now is a good time to sell a home – an all-time survey high.
  • 42 percent of Americans believe that home prices will go up.
  • 72 percent of Americans say they are not concerned with losing their job, a drop of 2 percentage points from March.
  • 18 percent of Americans say their household income is significantly higher than it was a year ago, up 7 percentage points from March and at an all-time survey high.

Source: Fannie Mae


Banks rush to offer 3% downpayment loans

June 1, 2016

NEW YORK – May 31, 2016 – As some banks veer from Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, they’re offering their own low downpayment mortgages to appeal to home shoppers struggling to save enough to buy a home. Wells Fargo made headlines this week when it debuted its 3 percent downpayment loan.

JPMorgan Chase also announced its offering called the “Standard Agency 97percent” program, a 3 percent down payment loan geared for first-time home buyers and requires a FICO score of 680. Chase also has a loan program called “DreaMaker Mortgage,” which offers a 5 percent down payment – 3 percent of which can come from the borrower as well as flexible funding options for closing costs and reduced mortgage insurance requirements.

Other banks have recently announced their low downpayment offerings.

Earlier this year, Bank of America began offering a 3 percent downpayment loan that did not involve the Federal Housing Administration and does not require mortgage insurance. The bank requires a minimum FICO score of 660.

Wells Fargo’s newly launching lending program, “yourFirstMortgage,” requires a 620 FICO minimum score and minimum downpayment of 3 percent for a fixed-rate conventional mortgage of up to $417,000. Downpayment assistance also can come from gifts and community assistance programs. Customers who complete a homebuyer education course can earn a 1/8 percent interest rate reduction, although the course is not required.

Brad Blackwell, executive vice president and portfolio business manager at Wells Fargo, says the monthly payment for the loan will be less than a government-insured FHA loan.

“We’ve taken all the complexity of the home mortgage lending process, removed it from the front-line consumer, so that it’s easy for them to understand and Wells Fargo is taking care of all the capital markets and other types of complexities behind the scenes,” says Blackwell.

Bank giants have been leery of FHA loans lately, with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s calling FHA lending “too costly and too risky” to pursue extensively.

“We have dramatically reduced FHA originations,” Dimon wrote in his yearly letter to shareholders. “Currently, it simply is too costly and too risky to originate these kinds of mortgages. Part of the risk comes from the penalties that the government charges if you make a mistake – and part of the risk is because these types of mortgages default frequently.”

Dimon acknowledges Chase’s new low downpayment lending program also carries some of those risks, but he believes it responds to customers’ needs.

“Mortgages are important to our customers,” Dimon wrote in the letter. “For most of our customers, their home is the single largest purchase they will make in their lifetime. More than that, it is an emotional purchase – it is where they are getting their start, raising a family or maybe spending their retirement years. As a bank that wants to build lifelong relationships with its customers, we want to be there for them at life’s most critical junctures.”

Source: “Wells Fargo Launches 3% Down Payment Mortgage,” CNBC (May 26, 2016) and “Chase Quietly Launches Its Own 3% Down Mortgage Lending Program,” HousingWire (May 26, 2016)

© Copyright 2016 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


Pending home sales at a 10-year high

May 27, 2016

WASHINGTON – May 26, 2016 – Pending home sales rose for the third consecutive month in April and reached their highest level in over a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

All major regions saw gains in contract activity last month except for the Midwest, which saw a meager decline.

The Pending Home Sales Index – a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings for homes that have not yet sold – hiked 5.1 percent higher to 116.3 in April from an upwardly revised 110.7 in March. Year-to-year, it’s 4.6 percent above April 2015 (111.2).

After last month’s gain, the index has now increased year-over-year for 20 consecutive months. Vast gains in the South and West propelled April’s pending sales in April to its highest level since February 2006 (117.4), says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

“The ability to sign a contract on a home is slightly exceeding expectations this spring, even with the affordability stresses and inventory squeezes affecting buyers in a number of markets,” Yun says. “The building momentum from the over 14 million jobs created since 2010 and the prospect of facing higher rents and mortgage rates down the road appear to be bringing more interested buyers into the market.”

Mortgage rates have remained below 4 percent in 16 of the past 17 months, but Yun says it remains to be seen how long they will stay this low. Along with rent growth, rising gas prices – and the fading effects of last year’s cheap oil on consumer prices – could edge up inflation and push rates higher. For now, Yun foresees mortgage rates continuing to hover around 4 percent in coming months, but inflation could potentially surprise the market and cause rates to increase suddenly.

“Even if rates rise soon, sales have legs for further expansion this summer if housing supply increases enough to give buyers an adequate number of affordable choices during their search,” adds. Yun.

Following the housing market’s best first quarter of existing-sales since 2007 (5.66 million) and a decent increase (1.7 percent) in April, Yun expects sales this year to climb above earlier estimates and be around 5.41 million – a 3.0 percent boost from 2015. After accelerating to 6.8 percent a year ago, national median existing-home price growth is forecast to slightly moderate to between 4 and 5 percent.

Pending sales in the Northeast climbed 1.2 percent to 98.2 in April, and are now 10.1 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest, the index declined slightly (0.6 percent) to 112.9 in April, but it’s still 2.0 percent above April 2015.

Pending home sales in the South jumped 6.8 percent to an index of 133.9 in April – 5.1 percent higher than last April. The index in the West soared 11.4 percent in April to 106.2, and it’s now 2.8 percent above a year ago.

© 2016 Florida Realtors®


Feb. pending home sales up 3.5%

March 29, 2016

WASHINGTON – March 28, 2016 – Pending home sales rose solidly in February to its highest level in seven months, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Led by a sizeable increase in the Midwest, all major regions except for the Northeast saw an increase in February contract activity.

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 3.5 percent to 109.1 in February from a downwardly revised 105.4 in January and it’s 0.7 percent higher year-to-year. The index has now increased year-over-year for 18 consecutive months, though last month’s annual gain was the smallest.

“After some volatility this winter, the latest data is encouraging in that a decent number of buyers signed contracts last month, lured by mortgage rates dipping to their lowest levels in nearly a year and a modest, seasonal uptick in inventory,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

“Looking ahead, the key for sustained momentum and more sales than last spring is a continuous stream of new listings quickly replacing what’s being scooped up by a growing pool of buyers,” Yun adds. “Without adequate supply, sales will likely plateau.”

According to Yun, last month’s noticeable slump in existing-home sales had one silver lining: Price appreciation lessened to 4.4 percent, which is still above wage growth but more favorable than the 8.1 percent annual increase in January.

“Any further moderation in prices would be a welcome development this spring, particularly in the West, where it appears a segment of would-be buyers are becoming wary of high asking prices and stiff competition,” adds Yun.

Existing-homes sales this year are forecast to be around 5.38 million, an increase of 2.4 percent from 2015. The national median existing-home price for all 2016 is expected to increase between 4 and 5 percent. In 2015, existing-home sales increased 6.3 percent and prices rose 6.8 percent.

The PHSI in the Northeast declined 0.2 percent to 94.0 in February, but it’s still 12.6 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest, the index shot up 11.4 percent to 112.6 in February, and it’s now 2.5 percent above February 2015.

Pending home sales in the South increased 2.1 percent to an index of 122.4 in February but it’s 0.4 percent lower than last February. The index in the West climbed 0.7 percent in February to 96.4, but it’s now 6.2 percent below a year ago.

© 2016 Florida Realtors®