Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2015 Mortgage Rate Forecast: Fasten Your Seat Belts!

Whether you plan on buying or selling a home in the coming year, insight from an expert on where mortgage rates are heading can help you prepare for success in 2015. Gina Pogol, Senior Marketing Manager for LendingTree forecasts what the New Year has in store for the mortgage industry.

Predicting mortgage rates is a challenge in both the short term and the long term. In fact, mortgage rates change continually, just like the prices of stocks and bonds, all day long. Like stocks, they can be affected in a heartbeat by events far away, like a developing conflict in Ukraine or an earthquake in China.

As daunting as the exercise is, however, investors and companies do try to predict mortgage rates, and here are some forecasts from the most prominent experts.

Fannie Mae Lowers Rate Forecast
Mortgage clearinghouse Fannie Mae, one of the biggest players in the mortgage market, recently reduced its 2015 mortgage rate forecast. The financing giant's latest housing-market analysis put the 2015 rate for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at about 4.3% -- a drop of .2 percent from Fannie’s previous prediction for the rate in 2015.

“The housing market continues to grind its way upward, but we don’t expect a breakout performance in 2015 as the fundamentals remain somewhat muted,” explained chief economist Doug Duncan. “We believe that mortgage activity in 2015 will be very similar to 2014.”

If Fannie Mae is right, there would appear to be less urgency for those considering a home purchase or refinance.

Mortgage Bankers Association Expects an Increase
On the other hand, the Mortgage Bankers Association recently released its own forecast, which shows mortgage rates hitting five percent in 2015. If they are right, nailing down a lower interest rate today would look like a very smart move tomorrow.

Why would the MBA differ so sharply from Fannie Mae? They have essentially the same information, but they could be interpreting it differently.

Freddie Mac Weighs In
Freddie Mac, the "other" mortgage major mortgage buyer in the US, disagrees with big sister Fannie Mae, asserting that it expects rates to hit five percent in 2015. Freddie Mac has been tracking mortgage rates since 1971 with its Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

No Crystal Ball for 2015
One major factor that's been keeping mortgage rates low for American citizens is the fact that US Treasuries are widely considered "safe havens" by investors around the world. When economic or political instability threatens, investors are less concerned with the return on their investments than they are with keeping their money safe. When that happens, they buy US Treasuries, which pushes bond prices up and interest rates down.

In addition, in some parts of the world, deflation is a real concern -- the European Central Bank, for example, began paying negative interest this year -- effectively charging investors to leave their money in its care. For those investors, even a tiny return is better than nothing, and once again, US bonds become popular.

For these reasons, predicting mortgage rates in 2015 is similar to predicting what ISIS will do, or what Putin will do, or what economic leaders in Greece, Germany or Italy will do.

However, the one thing that almost no one is predicting is that mortgage rates will go down.

Looking to buy a home? Get the most up to date mortgage rates in your area and compare offers to find the right rates for you.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

5 Key Questions Home Buyers Forget to Ask

There’s more to a home than the specs and listing details. Whether you work with an agent or talk directly to the owner, knowing the answers to these questions before you make an offer will help you evaluate properties and get to closing faster.

1. "What are the neighbors like?"
Are your neighbors friendly? Are they mostly retired? Are they young with a love of partying late into the night? Knowing if you're joining a tight-knit community of people in the same stage of life as you or if your neighbors are solitary members of a different generation is just one important step in evaluating your neighborhood.

2. "Why are you moving?"
Asking the home seller why they are moving may give you a better idea of the area. They may tell you that they're looking to relocate closer to work or that they've been offered a new job in a new location. While it's unlikely that the seller will disclose that their move is due to poor schools or an unsafe community, asking this question can help you read between the lines and determine if you should continue your search for homes.

3. "On average, how much are the utility bills?"
You'll want to have an idea of how much more (or less) you can expect to budget for your electric, gas and water. If you plan on updating the house after you buy, you might be able to cut your monthly budget with energy efficient home improvements that are eligible for a tax credit.

4. "How old are the appliances?"
Knowing the age of appliances will help you determine if you're at a greater risk for flood damage due to the failure of an old water heater, dishwasher or washing machine. You may want to purchase a home warranty to cover repair or replacement of the appliances if they break down after you buy the home.

5. "What is your timeline?"
It can be easy to get swept up in a buying frenzy, especially if there are multiple competitive offers for the home. If you aren't prepared to move quickly on a sale you may be unable to secure a mortgage or may end up with two mortgages while you wait for your home to sell. Knowing a seller's timeline can give you time to figure out how to clean up your credit, sell your home, or budget for a quick sale.

These basic questions are an important part of purchasing a home. Do you have the tools, tips and checklists to successfully buy a home directly from the owner?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

5 Most Popular Homes for Sale By Owner in November

Our most popular homes this month come from the backbone of the United States. From Montana to Louisiana, these FSBO sellers made sure to keep their listings fresh with updates to their photos and property description.

1. 236 Sycamore St, Raceland, LA 70934
Price: $228,000
Highlights: Our most popular home in November is a beautiful 3-bedroom, 2-bathrooom home located 45 miles Southwest of New Orleans in the Sugarland subdivision of Raceland, Louisiana. The 1,840 square foot house features a playroom, study, a kitchen with gorgeous granite counters and plenty of attic space.

2. 220 S Rhode Island, Morton, IL 61550
Price: $459,000
Highlights: Custom built in 2009, this 5-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom home in Morton, Illinois was chosen as a #HomeOfTheWeek in November due to it's many amenities including open floor plan with bamboo flooring, granite countertops in the kitchen, modern gas fireplace and luxurious master suite. With 4,330 total square feet of living space - 1,400 of which is a finished basement - house hunters flocked to this listing.

3. 15879 Highway 136 East, Henderson, KY 42420
Price: $239,000
Highlights: Home buyers were drawn to this Kentucky home on 1.5 acres of private, wooded land just across the Ohio River from Evansville. All 3 bedrooms in the home feature large walk-in closets while all cabinets in the 2.5 bathrooms and kitchen are Amish custom built. Plenty of porch space in both the front and back of the home as well as a concrete playing area and basketball make this a relaxing Southern retreat.

4. 1825 Missile Base Rd, Judsonia, AR 72081
Price: $565,000
Highlights: 40 acres surround this 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom custom built Spanish-style home. Among the luxurious amenities offered by the home are a large gas fireplace, a gourmet kitchen with Thermador gas range and Subzero refrigerator and master bedroom with two balconies. A multi-purpose 4,000 square foot building, which can be used for personal or business uses, is included in the asking price.

5. 136 Roundup Mesa Rd, Roundup, MT 59072
Price: $173,000
Highlights: House hunters looking for a rural getaway found much to love in this Montana property designed for raising and sheltering horses. These 20 acres of fenced-in pasture are less than an hour away from Billings, while the home itself was built in 2007 to include 2-bedrooms, cedar siding, and a cozy loft with an amazing view.

We want to know: What are your favorite tips for making a successful listing ad?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Southern Florida’s Red-Hot Real Estate Market

This Florida estate is ready to sell
What's causing the red-hot real estate market in Southern Florida? Octavio Nuiry, an expert real estate investor, reveals why homes for sale in Florida are the next best investment.

Demand for residential properties in Southern Florida continues to surge, fueled by strong demand from both domestic and foreign homebuyers. Nowhere is the flood of foreign cash more evident than Miami-Dade County, where rising prices and a new wave of international money has developers scrambling to meet the increased foreign demand.

The state itself is the top target for international buyers: 23% of all 2013 home sales in Florida were made to buyers from outside of the United States, putting it substantially ahead of second-place California, in which 17% of sales were cash, according to the National Association of Realtors. South Florida, the nation’s most popular area for international real estate buyers, continues to attract foreign capital, with Brazilians and Argentinians topping the list of consumers searching for South Florida properties.

Nearly 90% of foreign buyers in Florida didn’t take out a mortgage, but paid cash for their properties. (Nationally, an average of 38% of residential sales are cash, RealtyTrac data shows.)

In fact, Florida overall attracts a high proportion of cash buyers in general. Among U.S. metros with a population of at least 500,000, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach metropolitan statistical area (MSA) had the highest percentage of cash sales: 64.1% of all sales in Q2 went to cash buyers, according to RealtyTrac.

The next five top MSAs for cash sales were in Florida as well: Cape Coral-Fort Myers (62.1%), Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice (61.5%), Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (54.6%), Lakeland (53%), and Orlando-Kissimmee (52.2%).

“Demand for Miami housing continues to strengthen, as evidenced by rising prices and rapid sales activity,” said Liza Mendez, president of the Miami Association of Realtors. “Growing demand in the condominium market has fueled re-sale activity and led to a new wave of pre-construction projects being marketed.”

Heightened demand is also fueling price growth. The median sale price for single-family homes in Miami increased 19% in July to $177,900, up from $150,000 in July 2013, RealtyTrac data shows. Median prices for residential property in South Florida—including both single-family homes and condos—have increased on a year-over-year basis for 30 consecutive months, including July.

Those interested in finding their next residence or investment property can search homes for sale in Florida.

Octavio Nuiry is a licensed California real estate agent and a real estate investor. He is a staff writer at RealtyTrac and the managing editor of the Housing News Report, an award-winning monthly real estate newsletter. This information was originally published on Auction.com, LLC, the nation's leading online real estate marketplace.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

4 Ways to Sell Your Home During the Holidays

Make your home a winter wonderland like this
home for sale in Roundup, Montana
There was a time when having a home on the market during the holidays was unthinkable. With buyers preoccupied by cooking, shopping and traveling, conventional wisdom said that house hunters would never have the time to search listings and visit open houses. Today’s buyers, however, can search for homes while making Thanksgiving dinner, on a plane back home or as they shop for gifts. In fact, new studies are showing that homes listed during the holidays are more likely to sell, sell closer to the asking price and sell more quickly. By following a few tips to listing during the holidays sellers can make the most of lower competition and motivated buyers.

1. Take Care of Curb Appeal
Managing a home’s appearance during the fall and winter months is less about improvements and more about maintenance. Clearing the lawn of falling leaves and keeping walkways free from ice and snow is essential. Adding exterior lighting (whether string lights or spotlights) can help shine through the extended nights. Keeping decorations generic and inviting is just one tip to advertise your home during the holidays.

2. Warm Up the Interior
Make the home an inviting oasis where house hunters can come in from the cold and escape the wintry weather outside. Stage for the season with these DIY decorating tips, then get ready to crank up the heat and offer a few treats at showings.

3. Make the Most of Multi-Media
After preparing a home for the holidays inside and out, great listing photos will attract buyers to a sale. During a time when it can be difficult for buyers to view a house in person, creating a video showcase can be a great way to show off a home online. Listings with videos receive more emails from interested buyers.

4. Price it Right
Determining the right price from the start helps sellers make the most of the first thirty days of their listing when they typically get the most views. Evaluating a mix of five active listings, five recently sold listings and five listings that have expired is just one of five tips for strategic pricing.

What are your favorite tips for holiday curb appeal?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

5 Steps to Stunning Curb Appeal

This home for sale in Washington has plenty of curb appeal
Ethan Roberts is a real estate writer, editor and investor. He’s a frequent contributor to InvestorPlace.com, and his work has been featured on Money.msn.com and Reuters.com. He’s been investing in real estate since 1995 and has been a Realtor since 1998. He also teaches classes on investing in residential real estate.

Whether your goal is to to sell your own primary residence or to flip a great foreclosure, the shortcut to a fast sale at top dollar begins with creating great “curb appeal” for the home.

What exactly is “curb appeal”? It’s that vital first (and long-lasting) impression that prospective buyers get when they step out of their car and see your home for the first time. Since today that first view is often on the Internet rather than at the actual curbside, you’ll not only want to enhance the home’s look but also make sure you take great photos of it.

When I teach people how to create great curb appeal, I don’t just stop with the exterior of the home. Improving the interior, which I’ll cover in part 2 of this article, is just as important.

Here are five important changes to make that will create great exterior curb appeal and improve the chances of selling your home fast and for a top price:

1. Paint the exterior.
Nothing gives a home a better look and returns a great value on an appraisal than a fresh coat of paint. Select a color that’s warm, but somewhat neutral for the exterior walls. A dark color will make the home look smaller, so keep it light. I usually paint my homes beige, and then offset that with white for the trim and garage door. The front door and shutters can add some color to really make the home “pop” upon first impression.

2. Pressure wash.
Before you paint, buy or rent a pressure washer (or hire someone to do it), and remove all of the dirt and green mold (which is harmless, by the way) off the exterior of the home. You should also pressure wash the driveway, walkway to the front door, and sidewalks and curbs. Your home will look sparkling fresh and clean for just a few hours of effort. Safety tip: Watch out for spider webs, wasps, or bees around the soffits of your home as you’re pressure washing. Hire a professional pest control company first if your home has an abundance of hives or nests.

3. Improve that landscaping.
Make sure the lawn is mowed and edged once a week while your home is on the market. Brown patches or empty spots should be filled with fresh sod, or put grass seed down a month before you list the home for sale. Bushes should be neatly trimmed, leaves raked and bagged, dead branches removed from trees, and weeds pulled from beds and walkways. Adding red Cyprus mulch around flowerbeds brings some nice color to the home. If too many bushes are hiding your home from view, consider removing some of them. A nice pot of small, colorful flowers by the front door or planted in a window box is a great touch as well.

4. Spruce up the front door.
Make sure you pressure wash and paint the front door along with the rest of the home. Paint the door a colorful accent color like red, burgundy, black, brown, or green. It should match the shutters if you have them. You can also add a kick plate or doorknocker in silver, black, or white to enhance the look of the door. An old, worn out doorbell is very easy and inexpensive to change. If your door still looks old and worn after painting it, consider buying a new one. Realtors know that buyers do take notice of a front door’s appearance in evaluating the condition of your home.

5. Surprise those buyers.
You can add miscellaneous items around the front that will elicit comments of pleasant surprise from those who view your home. For example, add a small filtered pond with goldfish, a row of solar lights, or a wrought iron bench under a tree to enhance the curb appeal. But don’t add too many items or your home may look cluttered and produce the opposite effect of what you intended.

Many of these home improvements are easy and inexpensive for an investor or homeowner to do, and should add equal or more value to the appraisal than what you spend. Be sure to let the buyer’s appraiser know all of the improvements you made so they will be considered toward evaluating your sales price.

Are you giving buyers the right first impression of your home online? Make sure you show off your curb appeal by including the photos every house hunter wants to see in your listing.

This information was originally published on Auction.comLLC, the nation's leading online real estate marketplace.