Tailgating Traditions

Tailgate Party PhotosSummer is winding down as kids across the nation head back to school and summer vacations come to an end.  This also means football season is here – time to fill out those draft picks and start planning tailgate parties!

Tailgating is an American tradition that offers a great mix of fanatical sports fans, savory foods and ice cold beer.  Every college has their own tailgating traditions and here are a few that stand out.

Old Miss’ hosts their tailgates on The Grove while keeping things classy and sophisticated as students and alums wear their Sunday best.  Tennessee fans tailgate on boats off the “Vol Navy” docs on the Tennessee River to sing Rocky Top.  LSU Tiger fans are known for putting extra effort into pregame tailgating grub, offering up dishes like jambalaya, fogs legs, alligator and crawfish.  Harvard hosts a wine and cheese soiree the night before their big game against college rival, Yale.

What are your favorite tailgating traditions?

Look here for a chance to win the ultimate Tailgate Kit!

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Selling Your House (Part II)

Ecology house in handsLast week’s blog focused on maintenance and remodeling to help boost the value of your home before you put it on the market to sell.  This week we will take a look at choices a seller has when deciding to list their home and other things to consider before it hits the market.

  1. Decide whether to hire an agent or to sell yourself – A real estate agent (for a commission) can handle the marketing of your property and also help you set a price for you house.  Selling yourself can save you the commission but might miss out on the experience that a real estate agent brings to the table.
  2. Prelisting inspection – If you decided to do this, it may save you time by identifying potential problems with the house that a buyer might find later.  This gives you an opportunity to repair any issues before listing the house.
  3. Set a price – It’s important the seller decide if they want to sell quickly or wait for the best offer.  A real estate agent can provide a market analysis to help in this step.  If you don’t have an agent, look at comparable real estate listing in your area to help determine a fair market value.  You may also choose to hire an appraiser for a complete analysis of the house.
  4. Get your home ready to show – This includes cleaning/tidying your home and staging it so that it will look appealing to potential buyers.

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Selling Your House – Ways to Boost Home Value (Part I)

UpdateHome.2bIt’s been a seller’s market for quite some time now and home prices have continued to hold steady.  This has left many homeowners wondering if now is the right time to put their house on the market and take advantage of the upswing in property values.  But how can you squeeze the most value out of your home?

  1. Create more space by knocking out a non-structural wall.  Buyers desire wide open floor plans and this option will cost you a few hundred dollars.
  2. Prune, overgrown limbs and update landscape around your home to make it look more appealing.  Landscaping is one of the top three investments that can bring the biggest return when selling.  Spending around $400-500 on this can reap returns of four times your investment.
  3. Don’t put off maintenance or repairs that your home is in need of as this can greatly affect the value of your house.  Make sure all leaks are repaired, fix leaky windows, and replace rusty rain gutters.  Deferred maintenance can cost more in the long run if issues are not addressed as they arise.
  4. Update the floors.  Hardwoods are trending and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to update.  Spending an extra $600-$900 on updated floors and can increases your homes value by $2,000.
  5. Update the bathrooms.  This also can be done inexpensively by updating the sink and shower hardware.  Deep clean the shower, apply fresh caulk where needed and get rid of the frosted glass shower door with clear glass, a more updated look.
  6. Repaint and touch up walls.  Fix and paint any chips or scratches and if you have any walls painted a bold color, consider repainting these to a neutral tone.

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Pay Your Mortgage Off Quicker

PayQuickerAs people inch closer towards retirement, owning their home outright can help give a since of financial security.  Especially for those that have lived through a financial crisis and/or the recent foreclosure crisis.  About two-thirds of the nation’s homeowners are paying on a mortgage while more than 20 million own their homes free and clear.  What are some ways you can get closer to making that last mortgage payment?

  1. Pay more than you owe – You can do this monthly or once a quarter.  Paying a few extra dollars a month or making an extra payment each quarter can help you get closer to your goal.  When you pay more than you owe, the extra amount goes towards the principal which effectively decreases the amount of interest you will owe over the course of the loan.
  2. Refinance your mortgage or pretend you did – Obtaining a 15-year fixed rate mortgage will have higher payments than a 30 year fixed rate but you won’t have to pay twice as much.  If you are unable to refinance you can act like you did by making payments as if your loan were a 15-year mortgage.  This can lead to a lot of interest savings.
  3. Split up your payments – By taking your regular monthly payment and breaking it up into 2 monthly payments or weekly payments during the month you avoid paying extra interest since interest accumulates daily.  If you made biweekly payments on a 30-year mortgage you could end up paying off the loan six years earlier depending on your loan’s terms.

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Foreclosures Drop Significantly

The overall health of the housing sector appears to be improving.  The foreclosure rate has been declining over the past few years and hit an 8-year low in June according to a RealtyTrac report citing 107,194 U.S. properties filed for foreclosure.  This was a 19% drop from the previous 6 months.

Daren Blomquist of RealtyTrac said, “Nationwide foreclosure activity in June reached an important milestone, dropping to levels not seen since before the housing price bubble burst in August 2006. Over the next six to nine months, nationwide, foreclosure numbers should start to flat line at consistently historically normal levels.”

While this is positive news it’s important to note that there is still an abundant amount of distressed inventory in the market.

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Will Rental Prices Affect Mortgage Rates?

AptLivingIt’s no secret by now that the rental market across the U.S. is hot as rental prices are growing at their fastest pace in 5 years.  The national vacancy rate was 4.1% during the second quarter of this year and the asking rent increased to an average of $1,099 a month (0.8% increase from the first quarter).  So with the cost of renting creeping upward, will this affect those that are looking to buy instead of rent?

Some economists believe mortgage rates could increase as rent continues to rise.  Lawrence Yun, The National Association of Relator’s chief economist made a statement, “Given that housing is the biggest weight to overall consumer price inflation, if this rent trend continues, and it could easily because vacancy rates are falling and falling, then the overall CPI inflation will be higher than anticipated, which will then force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates sooner than later.”  There are other economists; however that disagree and feel that interest rate policy will not hinge solely on apartment rents.

Mortgage rates have not seen much action over the past year (30-year fixed rate mortgage rate is 4.17%) but if they were to increase this wouldn’t be beneficial to homebuyers.  For housing to grow legs it is important to see job growth and income growth become stronger than it has been.  An increase in supply could also help push prices down.

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Home Prices Rise in March

HJust when you thought home prices couldn’t go any higher they are still pushing limits.  The S&P/Case-Shiller composite index recorded a 0.9% rise in March on a seasonally adjusted basis.  Economists had expected the index to report a 0.7% increase.

Although the index reported a year-over-year home price increase of 12.4% (well above Wall Street’s appraisal) this was down slightly from February’s year-over-year data of 12.9%.  As mortgage rates drop again, the housing market could see more growth and higher prices still.

March’s slight drop in year-over-year data reveals that home prices could be moderating.  Markets like Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have reported significant slowdowns.  Chairman of the index committee at S&P, David Blitzer, said, “Annual price increases for the two composites have slowed in the last four months and 13 cities saw annual price changes moderate in March.  The National Index also showed decelerating gains in the last quarter.”  It will be interesting to see over the next few months how much higher prices can go and even if they will or not.

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Housing Starts Driven by Multi-Family Homes

Apartment Building

The housing market has finally received some good economic data after a few months of less than stellar news; Housing starts for the month of April increased 13% from the previous month.  What’s interesting to note about this number is what is driving it.

It appears it is all about multi-family properties (e.g. townhomes, condos and apartment buildings) at the moment.  The recent jump in housing starts was spurred by a 43% rise in multi-family properties which is defined as buildings with five or more units.  On the other hand, single-family starts rose less than 1% from the month of March.  Multi-family building permits increased from 400,000 to the highest it’s been since 2008, to 478,000.

The composition of housing starts isn’t surprising considering home ownership rates are still low and credit for first-time home buyers remains hard to obtain.  Peter Boockvar, an analyst with the Lindsey Group, commented, “Bottom line, with the home ownership rate down to 64.8 percent versus the 2004 peak of 69.2 percent, and the 50-year average of 65.4 percent, the trend to renting is obvious for a variety of reasons we all know.”

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Home Prices are Hot

Home prices continue to rise in what is undoubtedly a seller’s market.  According to Zillow, prices have increased so quickly that about 1,000 local housing markets have reached records in new home prices.

Real estate brokerage firm, Redfin, noted that 40% of the sellers it surveyed plan to price their homes above market value when they list during the second quarter this year.  This is a 33% increase from the start of the year.  Fannie Mae reported in April that 42%, an all-time high, of their 1,000 surveyed homeowners and renters believe that it is a good time to sell.

Home sellers are more likely to receive the asking price from the buyer that pays in all cash.  In markets with fewer cash buyers, home sellers have indicated they are willing to hold out if it doesn’t sell quickly.  For some homeowners they need to get their full asking list price in order to pay off a current mortgage.

home prices are hot

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Homeownership Hits a 19 Year Low

Couple looking at a houseThe American dream used to entail owning a home but has this traditional dream shifted?  The U.S. Census Bureau reported that homeownership rates have dropped to 64.8% in the first quarter of 2014, which is the lowest rate since 1995.  Home prices have soared and home sales have not been keeping pace as first-time homebuyers, in many cases, have been priced out of the market and are still finding it hard to gain access to credit.  Investors are still playing a large role in the single-family real estate market.

Robert Shiller of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices commented on this topic, “This institutional investor dynamic is a whole new era I think.  As institutional investors start to play in the single-family market, that just changes it fundamentally.”  Those who aren’t buying are renting instead which isn’t necessarily a worse scenario.  Some prefer not having a large mortgage to worry about and not being saddled with repair costs when something in the home breaks down.

Trulia’s chief economist, Jed Kolko, pointed out, “Ironically, adding renter households could cause the homeownership rate to fall, even though these new rental households are a sign of recovery and will spur more construction starts.”

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