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Consumers Redefining the ‘American Dream’

by Desi Sowers

While many Americans still believe they can achieve the American Dream, uncertainty in the U.S. economy has prompted a shift in consumer priorities, according to the 2009 MetLife Study of the American Dream. While the American Dream is still defined first and foremost by financial security (66 percent), the current version also emphasizes strong personal relationships. Nearly half of respondents (44 percent) said the current economy has caused them to reevaluate their priorities.

About one-third of Americans feel they have already achieved the American Dream, down slightly from 37 percent a year ago; 72 percent believe they can still achieve it in their lifetime. However, nearly half (49 percent) worry that they won’t be able to sustain that dream.

The study also finds that 50 percent of Americans are only one month – or two paychecks – or less away from being unable to meet their financial obligations if they were to lose their job, and more than half of these people said they could not survive financially for more than two weeks. Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of Americans admit to having an inadequate financial safety net, and 62 percent of these respondents said they wish they had more cash on hand to tide them over for three to six months in the event of job loss.

Nationally, 44 percent of Americans expect the overall economy to be worse in 2009 than it was in 2008, and 49 percent believe that the creation of new jobs will do the most to boost the economy.

Very Important Housing Indicator

by Desi Sowers

Here is an  important indicator of where housing is headed.  Last week,  new mortgage applications for home purchases and refinances suddenly surged as they hadn't in months.

Applications for FHA loans to buy houses were up by 10.4 percent. And overall home purchase applications jumped by 7.1 percent.

Meanwhile mortgage interest rates dropped to their second lowest level in nearly two decades, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Thirty year fixed rates averaged 4.96 percent and fifteen year rated dropped to just 4.5 percent.

Why's this important? New financing applications to buy homes obviously point to rising purchase contracts and closed sales in the months ahead. They also suggest that prices have hit a level in many markets that is attracting once-hesitant buyers off the sidelines.

If you are waiting to "time the market" the only way to know if home prices have bottom is to see prices go back up and then you missed bottom - not a good strategy!

ZIP Codes Where Housing Sales Are Increasing

by posted by Desi Sowers

Housing sales are improving significantly in key ZIP codes around the country where prices have moderated, according to information compiled for by First American CoreLogic.

ZIP codes in California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada dominated the list, but there were also ZIP codes on the
top 25 most-improved sales list from the suburbs around Detroit and Minneapolis and in the metro areas of Atlanta and Chicago.

Inventories are shrinking and prices are stabilizing in several markets, according to the survey. Here are the top 10 ZIP codes with improved home sales:

  1. 94533, Fairfield, Calif. (Fresno)
  2. 92376, Rialto, Calif. (Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario)
  3. 91342, Slymar, Calif. (Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana)
  4. 92126, San Diego, Calif.
  5. 33914, Cape Coral, Fla. (Fort Meyers)
  6. 93065, Simi Valley, Calif. (Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura)
  7. 95123, San Jose, Calif.
  8. 85379, Surprise, Ariz. (Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale)
  9. 93722, Fresno, Calif. (Madera)
  10. 95624, Elks Grove, Calif. (Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville)

Source:, Prashant Gopal (03/05/2009)

Low-Cost Fix-Ups

by posted by Desi Sowers

Home Improvements that Make Sense 

It's a strange time to be a homeowner. You've managed to hold on to your house during these tough economic times, but figuring out what to do next may be the trickiest part of all. If selling isn't part of the plan, could this be the right time to make some improvements to your home? I think it is, but with one condition. The improvements will have to make sense.

The Nuts and Bolts of It All
Making improvements to your home is never a quick and easy decision. Given today's economic climate, the decision becomes even more difficult. With so many aspects to consider, we decided to simplify things and concentrate on two – cost and the potential for adding value to your home.

Affordability is always relative to the individual. What one person can comfortably pay for may break the budget of another. For this reason we have decided to concentrate on improvements we consider to be fairly low in cost.

In addition, I thought it was necessary for the improvement to have a positive effect on your home's overall cachet. By concentrating on certain types of upgrades you'll not only create a more comfortable living space for yourself, but you'll make it more sellable if and when the time arises.

The Front Door
Repainting or replacing the front door will dramatically improve the exterior appearance of your home. It will enhance an area that everyone sees, no matter if they're driving by or walking up. Upgrading the hardware on the door is also a nice touch.

Plant the Seed
Foliage on the outside of the home carries many benefits. Among them are the addition of color and vitality to the landscaping. If the weather in your area isn't conducive for gardening at the present time, concentrate instead on acquiring potted plants for your porch or walkway. As the weather warms up, think about potential projects for the front and back yards.

Paint the Walls
The weather may not be right for painting the exterior of your home, but it's a fine time for painting the inside. Just remember that you don't have to paint every single room. Prioritize and proceed according to your budget and schedule. Think about sticking to lighter, more standardized colors. These types of colors will not only brighten the space, they'll make it look bigger.

Lighting is Everything
The ambience inside the home, especially at night, is highly dependant on lighting. Great looking lighting fixtures are a plus, but they can be expensive and don't always translate into putting out optimal light. The installation of dimmer switches is far less expensive and it allows for tremendous flexibility when it comes to lighting for mood.

Fix the Fixtures
While upgrading bathrooms is a sound investment in terms of increasing your home's value, a remodel may not be part of this year's budget. That said, don't ignore your bathrooms altogether. Fixtures such as faucets, towel racks, lights and showerheads have the ability to spruce up both the look and functionality. Throw in newly painted walls and some decorative accents and your bathroom will feel brand new.

Fawn Over Your Flooring
New flooring is major "bang for your buck" when it comes to increasing a home's value. But, once again, is there money in the budget to do it? If the answer is no, opt instead for having your carpets and hardwood floors professionally cleaned by a quality and reputable company, preferably one that's been referred by either a mortgage or real estate professional.

No Cottage Cheese
Since acoustic ceilings are no longer en vogue, removing them is a great way to improve the look of your home. You can do this project yourself, but beware. It is not only a messy endeavor, but some acoustic ceilings contain asbestos. We suggest hiring a qualified and recommended painter to do the job for you. If budget is an issue, you can always do one or two rooms at a time, as opposed to the whole house.

Windows to the World
Windows are your portals to the outside world, so it makes a lot of sense to give them a facelift. New windows not only improve your view from inside, they may just save you some money on your energy bill. While you're at it, you may also want to consider adding interior trim to your new windows, or replacing any outdated window treatments. You may be a bit surprised at how affordable these types of improvements have become. Once again, however, you can do this project one room at a time.

Rearrange for Change
One of the least expensive upgrades is a simple rearranging of your furniture and decor. It costs nothing and it might actually result in either selling or donating items you no longer like or want. Proceeds can be put toward the purchase of new items. If you need help in rearranging your home's interior, we suggest the book, Decorating for Good: A Step-by-Step Guide to Rearranging What You Already Own, by Carole Talbott.

Don't Forget the Garage
The garage is a part of the home that is often neglected. If this sounds familiar, you may want to think about organizing the interior. Any items that are no longer in use can be sold in a true "garage sale". These proceeds can go toward either repainting or replacing the garage door. Don't laugh. It's an inexpensive yet effective way to spruce up your garage's exterior.

Ihope you found these suggestions useful. Even more useful is the idea that improving and updating your home does not have to be an expensive proposition. I wish you luck and encourage you to create the brightest and most comfortable space possible.

Want to know the approximate market value of your home?  Please visit for a free Market Analysis emailed to your inbox!


Virtual Tours

by Desi Sowers

Sizing Up Remodeling Returns

by posted by Desi Sowers

Siding and window replacements and wood decks had among the highest return of project costs upon resale, according to a report prepared by research company Hanley Wood LLC in cooperation with the National Association of Realtors' Realtor Magazine.

The 2008 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report found that the average upscale fiber-cement siding replacement project cost about $13,177 and recouped about $11,424 of that cost -- or 86.7 percent -- upon resale.

Wood deck additions, which cost an average of $10,601 per project, recovered an average $8,676, or 81.8 percent of the cost upon resale, the report found.

Midrange vinyl siding replacement projects returned about 80.7 percent of project cost, followed by upscale foam-backed vinyl siding replacement at 80.4 percent, minor kitchen remodels at 79.5 percent and upscale vinyl-sided window replacements at 79.2 percent of project costs. Wood and vinyl window replacements and major kitchen remodels followed on the list of projects

NAR noted that it was the second year in a row that exterior projects recouped the highest percentage of project costs.

The report compares construction costs with resale values for 30 midrange and upscale remodeling projects -- including additions, remodels and replacements -- in 79 markets across the country, NAR reported.

The least profitable remodeling projects in terms of recouped costs include home-office remodels, sunroom additions and backup power generators, according to the report, which return from 54.4 percent to 57.1 percent of project costs, on average, according to the report.

In some cities, homeowners can recover all of their costs on projects, the report found -- some projects in Charlotte, N.C., as an example, can net more than they cost at resale, and Seattle, Jackson (Miss.) and Billings (Mont.) also topped the list of cities with a high rate of return.

The Pacific region (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington); the West South Central region (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas); the East South Central region (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee); and the South Atlantic region (Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia) generally had higher recouped costs for projects than other regions in the U.S.


Price Just Reduced!

by Desi Sowers

Displaying blog entries 1-7 of 7




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