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Desi Sowers

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HAPPY 2011!

by Desi Sowers

Happy New Year!!!

Never let yesterday's disappointments overshadow tomorrow's dreams.

8 Tips to Lower Your Heating Bills

by Desi Sowers

Thermostat issues among common energy-wasters.

Q: We received our heating bill (gas) today in the amount of $266.74. We keep our thermostat set on 70 degrees during the winter and turn it down to 60 degrees at night. When we leave for any period of time during the day, my husband turns it down to 60 degrees.

My friend has a two-story house and keeps her thermostat set at 66 degrees during the winter. Her gas bill is much lower than ours. What might we be doing incorrectly? We have a fairly new energy-efficient heating system, the filters are changed, and the system is cleaned. --Ruth A.

A: There are lots of factors that can affect the difference in heating costs between two homes, including insulation levels, the efficiency of the windows, the amount of weatherstripping, how much air leaks into and out of the house, even how often you open and close exterior doors.

I would offer the following suggestions:

Have a heating technician come out and check the accuracy of your thermostat. If it's calibrated incorrectly, you might be heating the house to a higher level than you realize, which can waste energy. While the technicians are at the house, be sure to have them check the condition of the ducts. A broken or loose duct can lose a lot of heat into the attic or crawl space, which really wastes energy. Finally, be sure that they check the furnace itself. A cracked heat exchanger or other problem with the furnace can also lead to high energy bills.

Try a heat setting of 68 during the day instead of 70 and see if you're comfortable with that. Also, try setting the thermostat to 62 instead of 60 when you go out. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but a 10-degree temperature swing is a lot for the furnace to make up, and it make be making it work harder than it needs to.

If you tend to stay in one part of the house during some parts of the day -- for example, if you tend to stay in the living room during the evenings -- then consider lowering the thermostat below 68 and adding an energy-efficient portable electric or other type of heater in the living room. Known as "zonal heating," this helps confine the heat to the rooms you use instead of heating the rooms you're not occupying. Do not, however, shut off ducts in unused rooms, as this can unbalance the air flow in the heating system and potentially damage the furnace.

Consider the installation of a ceiling-mounted paddle fan, especially if you have high ceilings or a two-story house. This will move heated air off the ceiling and back down into the room, helping to make the rooms feel warmer. Finally, have an insulation or weatherization contractor examine the house and make recommendations about insulation levels -- including floor and duct insulation -- as well as weatherstripping and other measures to prevent heat loss.

Q: I have recently done extensive renovations on my 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment in New York City. I am on the 14th floor and have great views [and] have worked hard to make it look as beautiful as I can. The problem? My neighbor below smokes in his bathroom and it unfortunately is rising up into my bathroom. I cannot figure out how it is getting into my bathroom, but every time I open my bathroom door after being closed for a while it hits me in the face! The smoke odor is nauseating to me, as I do not smoke and it's extremely frustrating because I don't know what to do about it! Any suggestions? --Kathy D.

A: Every building has a number of penetrations in the walls and ceilings where pipes, wiring and building components are run. This is especially true with multistory buildings, where large chases are created for water lines, drain lines, air ducts, etc. I suspect that what's happening is that your neighbor's smoke is getting into the walls and/or the ceiling through penetrations in his bathroom, coming up through one of these chases, and getting into your bathroom through similar openings.

The first thing I would suggest is that you seal up everything you can find in your bathroom. This would include caulking the joint between the floor and the baseboards; getting behind the trim rings where pipes come out of the wall and sealing between the pipe and the wall; sealing around any heating ducts; sealing around medicine cabinets and light fixtures; even installing foam gaskets at the electrical outlets and switches.

In other words, close off any access from the walls, floor or ceiling that could be opening into your bathroom. Depending on the location and the size of the gaps, you can use clear silicone sealant, colored acrylic latex caulk, or even expandable foam.

I assume you have an exhaust fan in your bathroom. I would suggest putting it on a timer, and having the timer operate the fan daily at a time when it's convenient for you -- perhaps while you're away at work during the day, or late at night when you're asleep. This will flush out the stale air, along with any excess moisture, and keep the odors from building up.

Finally, if you're on good terms with your neighbor (or if you have a good building superintendent or condo association), perhaps you could explain the situation to your neighbor, and ask if he would consider the same steps in his apartment: sealing penetrations and installing a fan timer.

Written by Paul Bianchina

Wishing You a Very Merry Christmas!

by Desi Sowers

At this time of year more than any other we are reminded of the things in life that truly matter, such as family and friends.

From my family to yours, we wish you and yours a happy, healthy and joyous Christmas season.

Rising Rates Could Get Buyers Moving

by Desi Sowers

Rising Rates Could Get Buyers Moving

Ironically, it could be rising interest rates that finally push home buyers off the fence

and into the market.  While Congress is debating the tax-cut compromise, the financial markets have interpreted the proposal as a development that will likely push mortgage interest rates higher than they have been for months.

Analysts are predicting that buyers will move quickly when it looks like rates are going up and are unlikely to come down. "Once people see this might actually be the bottom, they’ll go for it," says Paul Dales of Capital Economics.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed loan increased to 4.61 percent in the week ended Thursday, Dec. 9, from 4.46 percent the previous week. The average 15-year rate rose to 3.96 percent from 3.81 percent.

Source: Fortune, Nin-Hai Tseng (12/10/2010)

Pending Home Sales Make Surprise Jump

by Desi Sowers

Pending Home Sales Make Surprise Jump

Pending sales of existing U.S. homes unexpectedly surged in October, data from a real estate trade group showed on Thursday, despite concerns that problems in the foreclosure process might curtail activity.

 

The National Association of Realtors Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in October, jumped 10.4% to 89.3 from 80.9 in September.

 

Economists polled by Reuters ahead of the report had expected a decline of 0.5%.

 

The index remains 20.5% below a cyclical peak of 112.4 notched in October 2009, when a government tax credit lured first-time home buyers.

"It is welcoming to see a solid double-digit percentage gain, but activity needs to improve further to reach healthy, sustainable levels," Lawrence Yun, the NAR's chief economist, said in a statement.

 

Several major U.S. mortgage lenders temporarily halted foreclosures in October 2010 as attorneys general in all 50 states investigated whether banks had submitted faulty paperwork to back evictions.

 

Published December2, 2010 / Reuters



Read more: http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2010/12/02/pending-home-sales-make-surprise-jump/#ixzz16y9RttDC

7 Trends That Will Drive the Future of Housing

by Desi Sowers

7 Trends That Will Drive the Future of Housing

1. Big builders are wringing the extras out of construction costs and dropping the national average cost-to-build 36 percent to $52 per square foot.

2. Starting in 2011, Energy Star will ramp up its efficient design and quality installation standards. To get Energy Star certification, builders will have to install the right insulation, HVAC systems, and other features related to energy efficiency correctly every time.

3. Sheds are the next evolution. As homes get smaller, a separate shed will become a popular home addition.

4. There are 81 million "Echo Boomers" who were born from 1981 to 1999, compared to just 78 million Baby Boomers born from 1946 to 1964. These children and grandchildren of Boomers will drive home-building for years.

5. By 2015, demographers say, more than two out of every five households occupied by Generation Y people born between 1981 and 1999 will be WINKs (women with incomes and no kids).

6. Make room for the "Sandwich Generation" – Baby Boomers living with both their kids and their parents. These families like having two master suites, a second cooking area, and lots of storage.

7. Baby Boomers want to keep working and continue to live where they have always lived. They want a first-floor master bedroom near the washer and dryer and lots of convenient storage.

Source: ProSalesOnline.com (October 2010)

5 MORE Foreclosure Myths - BUSTED!

by Desi Sowers

5 MORE Foreclosure Myths - BUSTED!

Four years into the housing crisis, myths about foreclosure still litter the minds of even the smartest of real estate consumers. When it comes to matters as high stakes as your home, confusion can cost you thousands - or even your home. Whether you’re a buyer looking at foreclosures, a homeowner struggling to keep your home or a seller concerned making sure your home can compete with the foreclosed homes on your block, these foreclosure myths are prime for the busting, with no further ado. 

Myth #1:  Foreclosure happens fast. With unemployment and underemployment still affecting nearly 1 in every 4 Americans, no one is immune from fears that a pink slip might quickly turn into a foreclosure notice.  According to NeighborWorks America, nearly 60 percent of families seeking foreclosure counseling cited a lost job or cut wages as the reason they were facing foreclosure.  

While the Obama Administration's Home Affordable Programs haven't been nearly as effective as predicted in actually preventing foreclosures, they have had the effect of extending the foreclosure process for many families.   Even though the legal process of foreclosure can happen in as few as 6 months in most states, it is currently taking much longer for the average foreclosure to get to completion.  Recently, JP Morgan Chase revealed that their average borrower who loses a home to foreclosure has not made any payments in 14 months nationwide; 22 months in FLorida and 26 months in New York.

To be sure, some see this as a good, others view it as unnecessarily dragging out the overall market's recovery. Many insiders will point out that these delays in foreclosure may be calculated to save the banks the costs of owning and maintaining foreclosed homes, not to help homeowners.  In any event, the fact that foreclosure does not happen nearly as fast, in many cases, as expected does give families who are temporarily down on their luck some extra time to try to get back on their feet and save their homes.

Myth #2:  Buyers can’t get clear title or title insurance on foreclosed homes.  When the foreclosure robo-signing scandal first hit, there was widespread concern that buyers would not be able to get clear title on foreclosed homes, because the former foreclosed owners might be able to come get their homes back when the improprieties in the bank's foreclosure documentation processes came fully to light.  At the same time, several of the country's largest title insurance companies publicly balked at issuing policies on bank-owned homes until the issue was resolved.  At this point, the banks claim they have revamped their processes, and all banks have stated that they have found not a single borrower whose home was repossessed without them having missed the requisite number of mortgage payments.  Nevertheless, a number of governmental investigations are still in progress.

The fact is, buyers of bank-owned properties in nearly every jurisdiction are protected from later title attacks by foreclosed homeowners by the bona fide purchaser rule, under which courts would prefer to simply award cash damages to be paid by the culpable bank to a wrongfully foreclosed-on homeowner, rather than reversing the sale or ownership to the new, innocent buyer.  Additionally, the title insurers have now changed their tune and restarted issuing insurance policies on bank-owned homes which protect buyers' interests, after working with the banks for them to take responsibility in the event a former homeowner prevails in a wrongful foreclosure suit.  

While there are still many intricacies of title to be resolved for foreclosure buyers who purchase homes at trustee sales and auctions, or for cash buyers who often went without title insurance in the past, on the average, Trulia-listed, bank-owned property purchased with an average mortgage and title insurance, the chances a buyer's title will later be successfully challenged by the foreclosed homeowner on the basis of robo-signing?  Exceedingly slim.

Myth #3:  Buyers should wait for the shadow inventory to be released.  Many a buyer, discouraged with the homes they see on the the form in their price range, has decided to sit still and wait for the banks to release for sale what is called their "shadow inventory" - rumored to be anywhere from 4 to nearly 6 million homes that have already been foreclosed, but not listed for sale, or will be foreclosed in the near future. The fact is, to the extent that the banks have acknowledged the existence of a pool of homes they own but are not selling, they have expressed that their reasoning for holding the homes off the market is to avoid flooding the market and driving home values down any further.  For that reason, buyers should not expect to see a massive influx of these shadow homes onto the market anytime soon - if ever. 

The banks' current modus operandi is that as they sell a home, the replace it with another home in that market - if they sell 50 homes in a town that month, they'll put another 50 on the next.  So, don't hold your breath waiting for a fabulous new flood of homes.  Instead, set up a Trulia alert to notify you when homes that fit your search criteria come on the market, and be ready to call your agent and go visit any and every one that looks like it might be a good fit.

Myth #4:  If you’re looking for a deal, you’re looking for a foreclosure.  Despite what they may say, no buyer’s heart's fondest desire is to buy a foreclosure.  But almost every buyer dreams of buying a great home - and getting a great deal on it.  Many people think that to get a great value on their home on today's market, it means they must buy a foreclosure.  As a result, the value and other advantages of buying an individually-owned home on today's market are frequently overlooked.  Individual sellers with homes on the market right now are generally quite motivated, and understand that their homes are competing with discounted short sales and foreclosed homes.  Many of these sellers are slashing prices in an effort to get them sold - the most recent Trulia Price Reduction Report revealed that 27 percent of homes on the market across the country have had at least one price reduction.  Now that's what I call a sale!

Further, individual owners are often much more negotiable on a wide range of contract terms than a bank which owns a foreclosed home.  You can work with non-bank owners on things like repairs, closing dates, choice of escrow provider, closing costs and even included personal property much more flexibly than you can when the bank is on the other side of the bargaining table.  On top of that, many individually-owned homes are in pristine, move-in condition; that is much rarer with foreclosures.  So, don't underestimate the value of the deal you might be able to get on a non-foreclosed home.  Just get clear on what you can afford and look at all the homes that are available in that price range, without discriminating against non-foreclosures.

Myth #5: Having a foreclosure on your credit history means it'll take years and years before you can buy again. One of the most Frequently Asked Questions in the Trulia Voices Community by homeowners who are facing or have just lost a home through foreclosure is how long it will take before they'll be able to buy again.  Until recently, the standard wisdom was that 5 years, minimum, would have to have elapsed between the foreclosure and the new home purchase.  Now, though, borrowers can obtain an FHA loan with the low, 3.5 minimum down payment requirement as soon as 3 years following a foreclosure.  To do so, though, all your other ducks must be in a row.  

Post-foreclosure buyers need a credit score of 620-640 to qualify for an FHA loan; higher for a non-FHA loan - given that the foreclosure itself usually dings anywhere from 100-150 points off the credit score (not necessarily counting a full year or more of pre-foreclosure missed payments), former homeowners who want to buy again need to ensure they have no other late payments or credit dings after they lose thier home.  You must have clean credit with no derogatory marks like late credit card payments following the foreclosure,  and you may also be required to document 12 to 24 months straight of on-time rent payments after the foreclosure.  

Further, the bank may impose a lower debt-to-income ratio on post-foreclosure borrowers than on borrowers who have not had a foreclosure, in an effort to keep your mortgage payments low, keep you from overextending yourself and boost the chances you'll be a successful homeowner over the long-term this time around.  The bank will also need to see 2 years of continuous employment history in the same field, and documentation that you meet other loan qualification requirements.

Written by Tara-Nicholle Nelson 

Honoring Veterans

by Desi Sowers

With much gratitude, I wish to thank our men and women who have served or are currently serving in our military for their sacrifices.

This interesting and inspiring video explains the Meaning Of a Flag Drapped Coffin. I admit I never knew the significance... did you??

Please share this with the children you love and all others who hold dear the symbol of "Liberty and Freedom" and thank a veteran or active duty soldier when you see them.

Slow, Steady Housing Recovery Expected

by Desi Sowers

Slow, Steady Housing Recovery Expected Ahead

 NEW ORLEANS (November 5, 2010)—A slow, steady recovery is predicted for the housing market despite ongoing challenges, according to a residential market update today at the 2010 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.


Lawrence Yun, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® chief economist, expects continuing improvement of underlying fundamentals of the current market in coming years.


“A slow recovery is taking place as we head toward our goal of a stable, solid housing market. However, the pace of job growth will determine the strength of the housing market recovery,” said Yun.


Yun was joined onstage by Dr. Thomas Hoenig, president of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, who said that broad economic policies in the 1990s encouraged wide credit expansion and ultimately led to home owners overleveraging themselves to achieve home ownership. Koenig said that re-establishing sensible, solid underwriting standards and down payment requirements would help stabilize the market.


“I am confident that the nation’s housing market will get stronger—what we need is a more stable market in the future with healthy cycles, and not booms and busts,” said Koenig.


Yun said that while consumer confidence remains low, home buyers are responding to historically low mortgage interest rates and favorable affordability conditions. NAR’s existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, rose the past two months, most recently up 10 percent in September, following a sharp correction after the home buyer tax credit expired.


While mortgage rates are currently hovering below 4.5 percent, Yun projects rates will continue to rise throughout the next two years—up to 5 percent in 2011 to nearly 6 percent in 2012.


“Mortgage rates have probably hit bottom. Higher rates in the next couple of years could impact and potentially reduce the number of potential buyers entering the housing market, so well-qualified buyers that are currently in the market for a home shouldn’t wait for rates to go any lower.”


According to Yun, the national median home price has stabilized over the past 18 months. A recent NAR survey showed that REALTORS® are nearly equally divided about whether home prices in their area will rise or fall during the next year, Yun said, and he predicted that overall prices will remain stable, without any meaningful increase for at least another two years.

It's Time to Fall Back

by Desi Sowers

Displaying blog entries 741-750 of 911

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