Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
March 24, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 24, 2011-Generation X-young families and adults ages 31 to 45-are likely to lead the home-buying recovery as it gets underway, according to real estate experts who spoke at an educational webinar produced by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in partnership with Builder magazine.
These potential home buyers are most likely to think it's a good time to get off the fence-and have strong opinions about the design features their new homes will include.
At 32% of the population of home-buying age-generally defined as those who are at least 30 years old, the Gen X population cohort isn't the largest, but it's the most mobile, said presenter Mollie Carmichael, principal of John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif. "They are in full force with their careers and they need to accommodate growing families," she said.
In sharp contrast, even though they constitute 41% of prospective home buyers, Baby Boomers continue to wait for the market to improve, and their decisions to delay retirement also delay their decisions to downsize into a smaller home, Carmichael said.
Most of the 10,000 buyers and potential buyers in 27 metro areas that the consulting company surveyed were optimistic about a new home purchase, with between 85% and 89% saying that it was a good time to buy a home. Only 13% said they thought home prices would continue to fall, further evidence that it's "not all about price," she said. "They want something compelling, from a design or personalization standpoint," said Carmichael.
In addition, though the average home size is shrinking, a majority of prospective buyers said they would like a bigger home than the one they have. "These are first-time buyers or younger families looking for more room to grow," she said.
Seventy percent said that they were willing to pay $5,000 more for a green home, but those responding to the survey said that they expected new homes to already have many green technology features. They also said they would pay a premium for dark wood cabinets, a separate tub and shower and a fireplace in the living room, and more preferred a great room over formal spaces.
And while community amenities are important to Gen X buyers, 46% said they prefer a home in a large-lot, suburban development, versus the 21% looking for a traditional or "walkable" neighborhood.
Webinar panelist Heather McCune, director of marketing at Bassenian/Lagoni Architects in Newport Beach, Calif., also emphasized that design will be important in generating sales in the emerging marketplace. "The notion of 'build it and they will come' no longer works. Design matters," she said.
McCune said buyers are looking for homes with a connection between indoor and outdoor spaces, even in colder climates, to create the perception of greater home size, even if the space is only usable for part of the year. They also want more storage, an open floor plan and flexibility in the garage.
"While Gen X numbers are smaller than the birth cohorts before and after them, their numbers have been enlarged by steady immigration," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "Gen X may wait longer than their predecessors to establish their own household or buy a home because of the recent recession impacts, but the trends are still likely to occur as they have for past generations."
For more information, visit www.nahb.org.
March 23, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 23, 2011-Passively waiting for the right time to buy can cost you thousands of dollars and the home of your dreams. Attempting to time the market is one sure-fire way to miss the boat on your perfect house and/or the right investment opportunity that comes along the way.
What are savvy real estate buyers doing now to uncover real estate opportunities?
Simply put, they are active. While they may not necessarily be buying, they are actively researching listings, viewing homes, staying up-to-date on market indicators and undertaking other proactive efforts to increase their chances of making the best purchase decision-whether that be today, tomorrow or later this year.
Robert Jensen, a real estate professional from Las Vegas, NV, suggests the following steps to ensure a successful real estate transaction in any sort of market:
1. Ensure Your Goals Are Realistic. Be sure you are clear on what you want to buy, and why.
Is it an investment property, a dream home or somewhere in between?
As your criteria for that perfect home increases, you may have to pay a little more to have your standards met.
Be prepared to weigh possible cost savings versus quality of life benefits.
If an investment property, ensure you have cash flow in mind with an acceptable return on investment planned before you buy.
Know the Properties. No matter the market conditions, continue to search for the right property and view listings in person.
Even if you are not ready to buy today, this will help you learn the market and the property available in your price range. When the right opportunity comes along and the timing works, you'll be best prepared to make an educated rather than emotional decision.
Know Your Financing Options. Many buyers want to find the "perfect" home before having their credit pulled, which can backfire when an offer is on the table and time is of the essence.
It's wise to get pre-approved for a loan even before you view your first home, and to get a pre-approval letter in hand. Once approved, check in with your lender every few weeks to see how your rate and program are doing.
Know the Market at All Times. Have a detailed talk with your agent about the current state of the market at the onset of the relationship, and at regular intervals thereafter. Also discuss what can be foreseen up ahead. Your REALTOR
will have his or her finger on the pulse of the changing landscape and, thus, is an invaluable resource. On your own, locate information sources outside of mass media.
Real estate markets follow basic fundamentals in the same way stocks do, offering infinite analysis possibilities.
Have a Purchase Game Plan. While it's certainly prudent to wait until you're comfortable executing a property purchase, it's imperative to know, in specific terms, exactly what economic indicators are impacting your decision and why. This will help it become crystal clear when it's time to make your move, and you can then do so with confidence.
Understand the Timeline. While great deals are certainly abundant in today's market, nobody said it would be easy to land one for yourself. Particularly on short sales and foreclosures, be prepared for bidding wars, bank delays and other challenges. Learn in advance the average timeline involved with each type of transaction based on prior 30 to 60-day statistics, so that you may strategically plan your efforts.
March 23, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 23, 2011-- Rising mortgage costs and declining foreclosures in many areas signals that now could be the best chance home buyers have to save money on discount foreclosure homes.
New statistics released on foreclosures in the first months of 2011 have revealed that foreclosures are on the decline in many major markets. Nationwide, foreclosure home volumes were down 17% from the previous year, indicating that the days of a flooded market and record low prices at foreclosure auctions could be coming to a close. Many foreclosure leaders have seen their foreclosure rates slow, and in some areas, major decreases have been noted.
"We're seeing a general decline in foreclosures from last year, and coupled with some of the other trends we're seeing, it could mean that the time to get the best possible prices is now," says James Foxx, a business analyst with ForeclosureDeals.com.
One of the trends that Foxx points to is the possible liquidation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government sponsored agencies that account for a huge portion of the national mortgage market. Government officials have expressed skepticism about continuing to fund the organizations, and experts believe this could have serious consequences for homebuyers.
If the two mortgage agencies are shut down, many homebuyers won't have access to the low cost loans that have increased home ownership in America over the past 50 years. Instead, if these low-cost, government sponsored home loans become a thing of the past, homebuyers will be looking at higher interest rates, more associated fees, and ultimately, less of a chance of being approved for a home loan.
Foxx points out that foreclosure homes still offer great value. With discounts of up to 50% off market value available on hundreds of thousands of foreclosed properties across the country, there's still time to take advantage of foreclosure sales while interest rates are low. Foxx points to the growing debate over whether foreclosure prevention measures have worked as proof that deals on foreclosures are still out there.
"We're seeing that the foreclosure prevention programs have really only been partially effective. In many cases, they're delaying foreclosure for long periods of time, but they're not really stopping foreclosures from happening."
Congress is currently debating the effectiveness of foreclosure prevention and mortgage adjustment programs designed to keep homeowners in their homes, with some representatives claiming the programs should be ended. However, whether these kinds of government foreclosure services continue or not, the potential for more foreclosures still exists, even if they seem to be tapering off in many areas.
"The key is to get out there and see what's available now," says Foxx. "If mortgages become more expensive, we believe even more people will turn to the discounts available on foreclosures to help offset those higher costs. While we're glad to see interest in foreclosure investment on the rise, in terms of getting the best deal, more competition for foreclosure properties isn't really the best thing for foreclosure investors looking for the lowest price."
With increased attendance at foreclosure sales and more buyers inquiring about REO and bank-owned properties reported nationwide, the increased interest in foreclosures is apparent in many areas. But with an uncertain future for both mortgage prices and the health of the foreclosed property market, now could be the best time to buy.
"Anything could happen, but with the future uncertain, anyone looking at buying a foreclosure should act now to ensure they get a truly great low price," Foxx advised.
For more information, visit ForeclosureDeals.com.
March 23, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 23, 2011--A perfect lawn starts with a simple soil test, according to Tammy Lawrence, founder and president of organic fertilizer producer Turf Revolution.
"Homeowners and gardeners spend small fortunes for a perfect lawn every year. Many people end up disappointed, simply because they don't start with a soil test. It's the first step toward a great lawn and it's the one that most people either don't know or forget about," Lawrence said.
In an effort to convince homeowners and gardeners to test their soil, Lawrence has released a top 10 list of reasons to get your soil tested:
1. Soil testing saves you time and money. Guesswork can be costly and time consuming. The lab tells you what your lawn needs. Instead of overspending on fertilizers or trying something new every season, you will now know exactly what products to use and how much of them to use.
2. Soil testing is an effective way to control weeds, insects and disease without pesticides. Many of these pests are the result of nutrient imbalances or other problems in the soil. Soil testing is the only way to identify and correct these problems. You can prevent the pests before they get started.
Not all lawns are created equal. The soil beneath your lawn may be substantially different from the soil beneath your neighbor's. It has affected the type of trees in your yard as well as the geological properties of the area. Many retailers carry products manufactured in other parts of the country for other types of soil. The only way you be sure they're right for your lawn is by conducting a soil test.
4. You want to get rid of spots in your lawn. We've all had those spots in our lawns that just don't want to grow. A soil test will identify the problem and better yet, provide you with the solution.
5. You can track your progress. Performing a soil test every two years will allow you to see how you're improving the soil beneath your lawn. Watch as pH levels and nutrients are slowly optimized for your lawn's growth.
6. Soil tests are good for the environment. With a soil test, you'll know exactly how much fertilizer to use, reducing or eliminating run off that finds its way into our waterways.
7. Soil tests are easy. Soil tests are available from a number of independent labs. Turf Revolution , for example, offers Soil Test Kits that are easy to use and even easier to understand. It's like having your own personal laboratory helping you take care of your lawn.
8. Soil tests are inexpensive. Postage-paid soil test kits are less expensive than getting a soil test done in a lab.
9. The results from soil tests are often from an independent, accredited laboratory. To maintain their accreditation, their recommendations are based only on science.
10. You'll have the best lawn on the street this year. By focusing on what your lawn really needs, it will be thicker, darker and more beautiful than ever before.
"I urge everyone to do it. It's the simplest and least expensive investment you can make in your lawn and you'll love the results," Lawrence said.
March 22, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 22, 2011--Many homeowners are planning spring improvement projects and often at the top of the list is exterior painting. Debbie Zimmer with the Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute offers these four simple and economical steps:
1. Prepare the Surface. Before you begin painting, make sure the surface is clean and sound. Even the best quality paints will fail if they are applied to a poorly prepared surface. First, remove any mildew with a solution of one part bleach to three parts water then rinse with clean water. Wear eye and skin protection, and protect nearby plantings.
Next, make sure the surface is free of any loose, flaking or peeling paint. This may require scraping and sanding. Also, sand any glossy areas to dull them. Power wash the entire surface to remove dirt and chalk, rinse with clean water. Finally, prime any bare areas with a top quality exterior primer.
2. Use the Right Tools and Brushes. Good quality rollers and brushes last longer and help a job move along more quickly. They also apply the paint more heavily and smoothly, which helps with long-term durability. Choose brushes that are well balanced, and have tightly packed bristles that are tapered up to the center of the brush
3. Paint in the Right Weather Conditions. Ideally, you should paint when the temperature is between 60-85 degrees F, and when there is little or no wind. Avoid painting in direct sunshine, as this can cause the paint to dry too quickly and even to blister. In addition, if the temperature is predicted to drop below the paint manufacturer's recommendation for minimum application temperature in the next day or two, you might want to consider postponing your project.
4. Use the Right Paint for the Job. Choose a paint that is designed for the job you're doing. In most cases, a 100% acrylic latex paint will be the best choice. These paints adhere better, are more flexible, and last longer than ordinary paints. Using a lower quality paint just to save a few dollars will end up costing you more in the long run, as you will have to repaint much sooner than if you used a top quality product.
One very important thing to remember is never to use an interior paint for an exterior job. Manufacturers formulate paints for use either inside or out. Paints contain specific ingredients that all play a role in the durability and final appearance. These ingredients include pigments, binders, additives and the carrier or liquid portion.
The pigments provide the whiteness, darkness and color to the paint or other coating. In addition, they impart the opacity and hiding power required. Pigments are dry powders (not dyes); liquid colorants used in the stores contain pigment powders dispersed in a liquid.
The binder is the component that "binds," or ties together the particles of pigment, hopefully in a tough, durable film. The binder also provides the adhesion of the film, and influences almost all paint properties. Generally, the binder alone dries to a clear, glossy usually colorless film.
Additives are low-level ingredients included in the paint formulation, and put in the product in the factory, not point of sale additives that are purchased in the paint store, home center or other outlets. These affect certain properties such as thickness of the paint, mildew resistance and bubble breaking.
The liquid proportion is water and affects how heavily the paint will tend to apply, and how thick the paint film will be when it dries. This is an important aspect of the overall quality of the product.
How thick the dry film is will affect many of the paints durability and appearance properties including:
ease of touch-up
Finally, it is important to apply the paint at its recommended spread rate; and not to thin the paint with additional liquid because this reduces the solids content and can compromise quality and performance.
When tackling your next exterior paint project, follow these steps to achieve that long-lasting and attractive paint job you have always wanted.
March 22, 2011 1:31 pm
By John Voket, RISMedia Columnist
RISMEDIA, March 22, 2011-Since spring cleaning time is just around the corner, it's important to get a handle on any hazardous household cleaning, automotive and gardening chemicals you may have stored on your property. According to the St. Louis County Health District, you can tell if a product is hazardous by reading the label. Look for "signal words" such as:
Poison: highly toxic.
Danger: extremely flammable, corrosive or highly toxic.
Warning: moderately toxic or product has lesser hazards.
Caution: slightly toxic or product has lesser hazards.
Also, look on labels for information on health effects and safety precautions. Always try to minimize exposure to harmful chemicals. Reading labels will help identify the least toxic product for the job at hand. Once identified, you need to decide on the safest way to handle those products. Unusable or unwanted portions of hazardous products become household hazardous waste.
Generally, it's best to avoid creating hazardous waste in the first place. Buy safer alternatives, buy only what you need so you won't have leftovers, use up or share leftovers with others or recycle them.
Here are some general tips if you do have to store household hazardous chemicals, or waste that will be disposed of during designated community hazardous waste collection programs:
Store products in original containers with labels marked with product contents.
Lids should be kept tightly closed.
Write the date or purchase on products to keep track of their age.
Always store your hazardous products far away from children and pets.
Never dump any kind of household hazardous waste down storm drains, ditches or waterways.
Store products in containers intended for that purpose (for example, do not store gasoline in a container previously used for kerosene).
Store all products in cool, dry areas with adequate ventilation.
Do not eat, drink or smoke while handling household chemicals.
Wear the right kind of gloves for effective protection against household chemicals. Solvents, acids and bases may be absorbed through or deteriorate regular latex gloves.
Don't forget, the improper handling and storage of hazardous chemicals can be a disaster waiting to happen.
So use these helpful tips to identify and manage these substances with care.
March 22, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 22, 2011-- Freddie Mac announced a new offering of Structured Pass-Through Certificates ("K Certificates"), multifamily mortgage-backed securities. The company expects to offer approximately $1 billion in K Certificates ("K-011 Certificates"), which are expected to price the week of March 21, 2011, and settle on or about March 31, 2011.
The K-011 Certificates will be offered to the market by a syndicate of dealers led by Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. and Bank of America Merrill Lynch as Co-Lead Managers and Joint Bookrunners for the transaction. Barclays Capital Inc., Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated and Wells Fargo Securities LLC have been named as Co-Managers for the transaction. The K-011 Certificates are backed by 76 recently originated multifamily mortgages and are guaranteed by Freddie Mac.
"As the third Freddie Mac K-Deal of the year, K-011 demonstrates our commitment to maintaining periodic issuance throughout the year," says David Brickman, Freddie Mac vice president of Multifamily CMBS Capital Markets.
K Certificates provide Freddie Mac with an efficient vehicle to securitize multifamily loans. The certificates provide investors with stable cash flows, structured credit enhancement and the Freddie Mac guarantee.
The preliminary offering circular supplement relating to the K-011 Certificates can be found at http://www.freddiemac.com/mbs/data/k011oc.pdf.
March 21, 2011 1:31 pm
By Joe Cooke, RISMedia Columnist
RISMEDIA, March 21, 2011-"The biggest mistake people make in moving? They pack boxes too heavy," says Kay Lynn Clay, Business Development Manager for nation-wide moving company U-Pack. "Don't load more than 50 pounds into any one box, and make sure that the weight is evenly distributed."
Clay recommends using strong containers that are in good condition and can be secured tightly with twine or strapping tape. A good tape dispenser is a worthy investment, and if you can, buy special moving boxes.
If you can't afford to buy boxes, your real estate agent may know of someone who just moved into a new home and who can give you boxes. Even so, you may want to purchase special boxes for dishes, wardrobe, and other unique or valuable items.
Also, it's easy to get in a hurry and ignore or forget to label some boxes. Keep a felt-tipped pen in your pocket at all times, and have a couple of extras around just in case you lose one. Label each box with its contents, which room it should go in, whether it is fragile, and whether it should be loaded last so as to be unloaded first.
Cushion contents with newspaper or other packing material to prevent breakage. Use newsprint paper or tissue paper for items that might be soiled by newspaper. Towels and cloth napkins are great for wrapping fragile items. Items like dishes should be packed on edge, rather than stacked one on top of each other.
Books and magazines can be a problem because of their small size. Don't pack too many books in one box
they can be extremely heavy.
Pack books tightly in small boxes. Alternate bindings and wrap valuable books separately.
Also, think ahead when you make a major electronics purchase. "Make sure you save the boxes for your high-end electronics, like your flat screen TV, computers and home theater system," says Clay.
Knock the boxes down if you have to and store them somewhere, but keep the packing materials as well. The best way to move your valuable electronic items is in the original boxes.
March 21, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 21, 2011--New buyers accumulate approximately 29% of home sales in today's market, down from 40% of sales in past years. Although many first-timers have taken advantage of this unique market, some buyers are now finding that the rules have changed, altering buying habits and attitudes toward the home buying experience. Now is still a great time to buy, however, buyers should keep the following in mind when entering the house-hunting process.
Putting more money down is more important than ever. It's still possible to make a down payment of less than 5%, but it's smarter not to if you have the financial means. Insurance fees on government-insured mortgages are continually rising, having doubled in the last seven months. The difference in cash for a $300,000 mortgage could be as high as $30,000 without a healthy down payment.
Saving a substantial down payment may be challenging for first-time buyers, especially in larger city markets. If you're having trouble coming up with a feasible amount, look into various state offerings and other options (gifts from family or a co-owning agreement) that may be able to help you along the way.
Commit to staying for 10 years or more. The days of flipping homes are long behind us. Buying a house is now a long-term investment and living in your home for a decade or longer is definitely the way to go. In today's market, it may take buyers longer to recoup costs. By staying for a longer period of time, you're also allowing the market some time to further recover, while waiting for house values to increase as well. Serious buyers should be prepared to be in it for the long haul.
Be prepared to act fast and have plenty of competition. According to the National Association of REALTORS
, about 32% of purchases were made in cash in the month of January. Competition from international buyers, investors and more, may give first-time buyers a run for their money...literally. What first-timer buyers can do: demand less. Though it is never recommended that you give up your right for a home inspection or appraisal, the less you demand (repairs, closing cost coverage, etc), the more enticing your offer will be to sellers, compared to offers that come with a large to-do list.
Buyers can still benefit from great interest rates and low prices, but it's important to be aware of what is happening in the market and adjust your buying strategies accordingly.
Sources: NAR, SmartMoney
March 21, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 21, 2011-After four consecutive months hovering at the same low level, builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes improved by a single point in March 2011, rising to 17 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). This is the highest level the HMI has reached since May 2010, when the survey period corresponded with the final days of the federal home buyer tax credit program.
"Builders are cautiously looking forward to the spring home-buying season in hopes that improving economic conditions will help bring more buyers to the table," said NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev.
"While many home buyers are still holding off on making a purchase, builders did indicate slightly increased optimism about the future with a two-point gain in the HMI component gauging sales expectations for the next six months," added NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "In fact, prevailing indicators portend some improvement in the overall economy, which should generate modest housing market gains later this year."
Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for more than 20 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average" or "low to very low." Scores from each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.
Two out of three of the HMI's component indexes held unchanged in March, including the component gauging current sales conditions (holding at 17) and the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers (holding at 12). Meanwhile, the component gauging sales expectations in the next six months rose two points in March to 27, its highest level since May 2010.
For more information, visit www.nahb.org.