The truth about air duct cleaning

A friend recently had the air ducts in her home cleaned. When the technician finished the job he called her over, proudly showing her what was removed.

It amounted to about a tablespoon of fluff, and the friend claims that was a generous estimate.

While not a complete scam, air duct cleaning may be more hype than necessity. “Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems,” according to the experts at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

They go on to claim that “Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts.” The reason for this, the experts claim, is because most of the ‘stuff’ in the air ducts sticks to the surfaces of the ducts and doesn’t readily enter the room in which it’s located.

So, should you have the air ducts in your home professionally cleaned?

Perhaps, but only under the following circumstances:

  • If you see visible signs of mold in any components of the HVAC system in the home, including ducts.
  • If critters, such as rats, mice or bugs, have taken up residence in the ducts.
  • If you see large amounts of dust coming from the system’s supply registers.

The EPA experts caution that if any of these conditions exist, there is an “.. underlying cause ..” that needs to be remedied before the ducts are cleaned.

They also mention that there is no harm in having the ducts cleaned, if they are cleaned by a professional, but the benefits are overblown.

Arguments against routine cleaning of the air ducts

Visit the websites of companies that perform duct cleaning and you’ll be told that:

  • “Duct Cleaning Helps Improve HVAC Efficiency”
  • “How Duct Cleaning Improves HVAC Efficiency”
  • “How Duct Cleaning will Extend the Life of Your HVAC System”

Each of these statements were found on air-conditioning and heating contractors’ websites.

The EPA claims, however, that “… little evidence exists that cleaning only the ducts will improve the efficiency of the system.”

Some of the advertising materials for duct cleaning companies also state that one of the benefits of the process is that it helps a home’s occupants remain healthy.

“Some ads even use language like, ‘Studies have shown . . .’ but no data back up these claims,” suggest Mike Knezovich and Kevin Brasler at WashingtonPost.com.

“In fact, the little independent research performed on duct cleaning indicates that the process stirs up so much dust that it creates a bigger problem than it solves,” they conclude.

The EPA agrees. “Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts.”

Still considering getting the air ducts cleaned?

The average cost to clean air ducts in the U.S. is $377, with an average price range of between $268 to $490, according to HomeAdvisor.com. They also claim, however, that the process “… definitely affects system performance and efficiency.” Therefore we take their advice with a grain of salt.

The EPA, on the other hand, finds that cleaning the whole duct system in a home will cost the homeowner from $450 to $1,000.

The second consideration involves hiring a technician. Use the same precautions as you do when hiring any other service:

  • Check the company’s reviews online, such as at Yelp.com.
  • Check the Better Business Bureau’s website for complaints against the company.
  • Find out if the company is licensed, insured and bonded.
  • Interview representatives from several companies.
  • Ask for references of other customers and call these references.
  • Steer clear of companies that want to apply chemical biocides or sealants. “No chemical biocides are currently registered by EPA for use in internally-insulated air duct systems,” according to the EPA’s website.

Need more information before deciding? View the consumer checklist at EPA.gov.

Money is tight. Struggling to make your mortgage payment?

With an economy that is variously described as “teetering,” “worrisome” and “fragile,” many Americans are on the edge of panic. We are “Bracing for a recession, though actual behavior change varies by age and income,” according to senior analyst Anjali Lai at Forrester, a research and advisory firm. (Forbes.com)

Some of us—especially those with low- and middle-class incomes—have already begun to feel the pinch. In August of this year, 63% of consumers were living paycheck to paycheck, claims research released by LendingClub Corporation.

With skyrocketing heating, gasoline and food prices, without a subsequent rise in pay, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to stick to a budget.

What happens if you can no longer make your mortgage payments? Scary thought, we know. Whether you are in that position right now or trying to avoid it, let’s take a look at some tips.

Savings will be your lifeline

If you are currently able to make your mortgage payments but afraid it won’t be this way as rates and prices continue to rise, start socking away money.

Easier said than done, we know. But, no matter how little you can afford to set aside, it is better than nothing and it will most likely come in handy when you need it.

First, see if there are ways to trim your budget. Determine how much comes in and where that money is spent. Vow to stop spending on items that you can either get cheaper or do without.

Starbucks is a good place to start the cost-cutting, but you might consider brown-bagging it for lunch, shopping at discount stores, cooking dinner instead of eating out.

Here are a few other ideas to help you put some money aside:

  • Cut the cable cord and opt for a Roku or Fire Stick. U.S. households spend, on average, $116 per month on cable and internet, according to Maryalene LaPonsie, citing data from Doxo, a bill paying service, at USNews.com.
  • “JD Power told CNBC that the average cell phone bill is now $144,” claims Brett Holzhauer at CNBC.com. Switch to a low-cost service provider, such as Consumer Cellular, Mint Mobile or Republic Wireless, he suggests.
  • Figure out which streaming networks you can live without and cancel them for the time being.
  • Get the family involved in turning off lights when not needed.
  • Switch from baths to showers and spend less time in the latter.
  • Ensure that your windows and doors are draft-proof.
  • Turn down the thermostat and wear more clothing. 

 Can’t pay your mortgage? Act fast

Foreclosure is the last thing you need in times of economic uncertainty, so treat the situation with all the seriousness it deserves.

The pros at the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (cfpb) recommend that you “… call your mortgage servicer right away. You’ll be asked to explain why you can’t make your mortgage payment and whether this is a temporary or permanent problem.

They will also want information on your income, any assets you own and your expenses.

Hopefully, your servicer has loss mitigation programs, such as a mortgage assistance program.

If you’re still not satisfied with the offered solutions, call the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Homeowner’s HOPE Hotline at 888-995-HOPE (4673). They will set an appointment for you to speak with a housing counselor to discuss your options in detail.

If you used a VA-backed loan to purchase your home, it’s important to let the lender know if you’ve received a PCS. There may be additional programs for these veterans.

Then, check into the VA’s IRRRL, short for Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loan. It has lower funding fees and other attractive options.

Veterans who used a conventional loan to purchase the house might want to check into refinancing the home into a VA loan. This program allows you to refinance up to 100 percent of the home’s value. Contact your lender to get started.

Finally, should you decide to sell the home, please feel free to reach out to us.

It’s winter – Here comes the mold

As a living organism, mold requires food and water to maintain life. Add warmth to the mix, and it thrives, growing outdoors as well as indoors.

With winter comes the need for heat and, often, the intrusion of moisture into our homes – the ideal conditions for mold growth.

Let’s take a look at ways to avoid a moldy home and what to do if you find an infestation.

Mold isn’t just ugly

Although various types of mold are present in outdoor air and soil, it’s the mold in our homes that makes us sick.

Common health symptoms caused by a mold infestation are similar to those one exhibits with the flue and allergies:

  • Headache
  • Asthma and other respiratory symptoms
  • Fatigue

Scientists have learned that mold in a home may cause asthma in adults and children who previously didn’t suffer from it.

The effects of black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum, also called “toxic mold”) may be even more harmful if you are asthmatic or otherwise sensitive to mold

Prevent mold in the home

Keeping excess moisture under control is the name of the game in mold prevention in the home. Before winter arrives, conduct a home inspection:

  • Gutters and downspouts – Ensure they drain away from the home’s foundation.
  • Siding – Look for cracks that may allow moisture intrusion.
  • Washing machine, dishwasher—Check that there are no leaks.
  • Under the sinks – Again, check for signs of leaks and fix any you find.
  • Check the ceilings and walls for water stains.
  • Check the basement for signs of water intrusion.
  • Does condensation form more heavily on certain windows? 

After you’ve remedied the obvious sources of moisture in the home, take some additional preventive measures.

  • Use the fan in the bathroom during every shower and ensure the rest of the family develops the habit as well.
  • Consider installing additional insulation in the home. “Well-insulated walls can prevent condensation and mold, as well as cut down on your heating and cooling bills,” according to the mold experts at Servpro.
  • They also suggest that you consider purchasing a dehumidifier for the basement and that you keep the humidity level in the home below 40 percent.
  • Finally, “cover the soil in the crawl space with waterproof polyethylene plastic, also called a vapor barrier,” they suggest, adding that if the space is vented, keep the vents closed in the summer and open in the winter.

How to detect mold

One of the most common symptoms of a mold infestation is a musty odor, akin to that of old books, according to the pros at ProClean. You might also find spotting on fabrics, “… allergy or asthma flare-ups and a persistent cough or cold symptoms.

Follow your nose to find the mold. Check anywhere in the home that has been exposed to water leaks, such as near the water heater.

How to remove mold in the home

When you locate the source of the mold, it’s time to decide if you can safely kill it yourself or if you need to hire a professional.

The Centers for Disease Control recommend bringing in a pro if the infestation covers more than 10 square feet.

If you decide to take the DIY route, you’ll need the following:

  • Rubber boots, an N-95 face mask, goggles and gloves
  • Household bleach solution (1 cup in 1 gallon of water)
  • Bucket
  • Sponge, mop and, possibly, a stiff-bristled scrub brush

Keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • Never mix bleach and ammonia or products that may contain ammonia – the combination produces a toxic gas.
  • Ensure that windows and doors are open to ventilate the bleach fumes.
  • Use the scrub brush for mold growing on cement or outside walls.
  • When finished, remove your clothing and immediately launder in hot water.

Don’t attempt to clean upholstered items or any others that won’t dry quickly. Throw them away if they have any signs of mold. The same goes for carpet (including the padding), cautions the editors at WebMD.com.

5 ways to save money on a home loan

You’ve heard the news – 30-year mortgage rates surged from 3.22% in January of 2022 to 6.94% in the week of October 20, 2022, according to FreddieMac.com.

Will they come down as rapidly as they rose? Will they come down at all in the near future? Those are common questions right now and the answers are merely guesses.

Obviously, money is getting expensive to borrow, yet home prices are coming down. If you play your cards right and shop wisely for a mortgage, you may just find that the lower prices will help counteract the sticker shock of higher interest rates.

There are tried and true tactics to save money on a mortgage and today we bring you five of the most commonly used.

1. Consider scheduling your mortgage applications around the fall/winter holidays

In winter, 2021, Colin Robertson at The Truth About Mortgage undertook an interesting research project. “I set out to see if there were any mortgage rate trends we could glean from available data, using Freddie Mac’s historical mortgage rates that go back to 1971,” he explains.

For the project, he took the monthly average of 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rates.

Interestingly, he found that, yes, there are certain months of the year when mortgage interest rates are lower than other months. By far, the lowest average rate, 6.04%, was offered in December, while October and November were right behind with an average rate of 6.08%.

The highest rates were offered in April and May (6.31%).

Read more about Robertson’s research at TheTruthAboutMortgage.com.

2. Work on your credit issues before applying for a mortgage

Use the time while you’re waiting for winter to spruce up your credit reports and, thus, scores.

Yup, you’ve probably heard this one before, but that doesn’t make it any less valid. Borrowers with higher credit scores present less of a risk to lenders who then reward them with lower rates on mortgages.

The folks at FICO® have compiled a chart showing the average rate according to FICO score. It shows that borrowers in the lowest score range (620-639) would be offered a mortgage rate of 7.673 % while those in the higher range (760 to 850) might receive a mortgage rate of 6.084 %.

Naturally, the researchers used several assumptions (loan amount, LTV ratio, points purchased, etc.) when compiling the chart and you can find those online at MyFico.com.

3. Shop around and compare rates and fees

You’ve no doubt heard this admonition as well. Again, if you want to save as much as possible on your mortgage, comparison shopping is a must.

But, that’s not all. You can save on your closing costs with comparison shopping as well. Many homebuyers, especially first-timers, are unaware that there “… are a number of closing costs you may be able to negotiate down with your lender, including application fees, fees associated with rate locks or the purchase of points,” suggests Donna Fuscaldo at Investopedia.com.

She goes on to caution borrowers that “… appraisal fees, property taxes and flood certification fees” are non-negotiable.

Start the process by choosing more than two lenders to compare. “Our research indicates that borrowers could save an average of $1,500 over the life of the loan by getting one additional rate quote and an average of about $3,000 for five quotes,” suggests the results of a study by Freddie Mac’s Economic & Housing Research Group.

When comparing offers from lenders, compare the APRs, not the interest rate. The APR (Annual Percentage Rate) includes the various fees the lender charges, such as some closing costs, loan origination fees and others.

When it comes to haggling over negotiable closing costs, start with the origination fee. Fuscaldo suggests that you “… ask your lender if there are any aspects of it that can be waived, such as the application or processing fees.”

Then, plan on shopping for your own title insurance. Yes, the lender may suggest an insurer, but it truly pays to shop around to compare prices.

“In 2021, the Urban Institute examined variability in title costs in several major markets and found great variability in title charges,” Fuscaldo claims.

They found that Sacramento, California homebuyers who shopped around “could save as much as $326 … and as much as $528 in Broward County, Fla.,” she concludes.

Learn more about negotiating with the lender at BankRate.com.

4. Pay now, save later

Points, for those not familiar with the term, “… are essentially a form of prepaid interest you can choose to pay up front in exchange for a lower interest rate and monthly payments (a practice known as “buying down” your interest rate),” according to the pros at USBank.com.

Robertson offers up an example: The borrower is offered a 30-year fixed loan at 5.125% interest. If she pays 1% of the loan amount now, her rate will drop to 4.875% for the life of the loan. This represents significant savings and a lower house payment.

He goes on to caution, however, that if you don’t plan on keeping the home for a significant amount of time, this strategy “… could end up costing you.”

Speak with your accountant or other financial professional for advice.

Consider an adjustable-rate mortgage

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) offer a fixed rate for a specified amount of time. After this, the rate can change. A 5/1 ARM, for instance, gives the borrower a fixed interest rate for 5 years. After that, the rate may be adjusted every year.

Adjustable-rate mortgages earned a horrible reputation during the Great Recession and that reputation lingers until today. “ These loans … were often misused to enable borrowers to obtain mortgages they really couldn’t afford over the long haul,” recalls Aaron Crow at MortgageLoan.com.

Since then, when the fixed period of the ARM expires, “… there are caps that limit how much your rate can increase over time to help ensure you can still afford the loan even if rates in general are rising,” explains Peter Warden, editor at TheMortgageReports.com.

The fixed rate for these loans is typically lower than you’ll find with a 30-year fixed rate. For instance, as of “… Sunday, November 27, 2022, the current average rate for the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage is 7.32%,” according to the experts at BankRate.com.

The rate for a 5/1 Adjustable-Rate Mortgage? 5.51%.

That’s a whole lot of savings for the borrower.

If you don’t plan on staying in the home long-term, or you are willing to refinance after the fixed period, this might be the ideal loan for you.

To learn more about ARMs, head over to Mortgage Resource Center.

We are not mortgage brokers or financial experts. Before making any decision based on the above information, seek advice from a financial adviser, accountant, attorney, or other applicable professional.

Tour homes for sale like a pro

Looking at homes for sale — sounds like a no brainer, right? Not if you look at it through the eyes of a real estate professional.

From falling in love with yummy paint colors to going ga-ga over granite counter tops, the sad truth is that homebuyers go about it all wrong. This, in turn, may set them up for disappointment and regret.

Let’s take a look at some common mistakes homebuyers make when touring homes so that you can avoid making them.

Ditch the emotions

Australia’s Commonwealth Bank and psychologist Dr. Tim Sharp conducted a survey of homebuyers and came up with some interesting findings.

The majority of respondents said that they are “rational rather than emotional buyers.” Yet, when asked why they bought the house they did, here’s their responses:

  • 37 percent of them liked the “feel/vibe” of the home
  • 22 percent were instantly attracted to the home
  • Slightly less, 21 percent, said the home suited their personalities

Now, I don’t know about you, but those do not sound like rational reasons to go hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt, for the next 30 years.

But wait – there’s more.

Nineteen percent of first-time buyers were influenced by the home’s décor (proof that staging works).

Most surprising, however, is that nearly 45 percent of these homebuyers said they paid more for the home because they “really liked it.” Love at first site isn’t a good reason to make a major financial decision.

A separate study, performed earlier this year, seems to indicate that members of Gen Z make this mistake more than any other demographic. They want the home they purchase to be “Instagram-ready.”

Watch for these danger zones when touring homes for sale

Dr. Sharp warns that emotions may come into play at several points during the purchase process.

Curb appeal – It’s what lures you into the house. Sure, if the homeowners care enough to maintain the home’s exterior, chances are good the interior has been kept up as well. But, it’s a danger zone because too many fall head-over-heels for the charm or sophistication of a home’s curb appeal and become blinded to the interior’s flaws.

Checking out the interior — Everything from wall colors to floor covering to furnishings can hook your emotions. And, they are all temporary. That gorgeous couch that makes the living room won’t be there when you move in. Remember, a smart home seller will stage their home to deliberately make an emotional connection with potential buyers.

It’s all about the bones

Take off the rose-colored glasses and allow logic to take control. Layout in a home is important – are there areas that seem to serve no useful purpose? Are the bedrooms the appropriate size for your (and your family’s) needs? Regardless of how charming the bathroom appears, if it’s the only one in the house, will you be satisfied?

Kitchens deserve extra scrutiny since they’re the room most commonly staged. Storage is important so don’t be afraid to open the pantry, cupboards and drawers. Open appliance doors to ensure they aren’t impeded by the cabinets.

“Is there good flow between frequently used rooms? Are rooms arranged logically?  Look at how traffic travels through the house as a whole,” suggests Paul Morse, of Morse Construction Incorporated in Boston.

This is valuable information, especially if the home is poorly decorated or messy. Just as a staged home can lure buyers, a dirty home repels them. It would be a pity to walk away from a home that has most of what you want just because you hate the carpet or the house is cluttered.

Then, there’s this

Too many emotional homebuyers neglect to consider other aspects of the home when they fall in love.

How close to your maximum pre-approval amount will the purchase be? And, if it’s at the max, how tight will the payments squeeze your budget?

Is the list price appropriate for the market or is it priced more than market value? What about the area in which it’s located? Will it have an impact on the home’s future market value?

Sure, it’s fine to imagine your sofa in front of that yummy fireplace or how much fun the kids will have in that amazing backyard. Most of us struggle between logic and emotion when considering a large purchase.

The trick is to walk that fine line between both of them.

What you need to know about buying a home during a recession

In 2008, the media was almost singularly focused on the Great Recession. From the housing market downturn and bank bailouts to job losses and a massive increase in the poverty rate, it’s a time most of us hoped to forget.

The “R” word is back in the news, however, and Americans appear to tightening their belts.

Will we have a recession, or won’t we? Expert opinions vary as to not only whether or not we will, but when it will happen and how long it may last.

There really is no clear course, no crystal ball to let us know, at least not right now. Everybody is sort of playing it by ear, or by gut.

What happens to mortgage interest rates during a recession?

“The inflation rate doesn’t directly affect mortgage rates, but the two tend to move in tandem,” according to Michael Flannelly at sofi.com.

Unfortunately, many homebuyers are finding out the hard way how inflation can impact mortgage rates. As consumer prices began heating up, the Federal Reserve stepped in to try to cool them off. The did so by raising the cost of borrowing money, which in turn trickled down to the mortgage market.

If inflation can’t be tamed, we may enter the recession everyone is dreading.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) is predicting that recession will hit in 2023 and that by the end of the year, mortgage rates will sit around 5.4%.

What about home prices?

The truth is, not all recessions are alike and not everyone is impacted the same. For instance, aside from the Great Recession when home prices hit rock bottom and interest rates were the lowest they’d been in a very long time, home prices often increase during a recession.

During the 1981 recession, for example, home prices increased 4.5%.

This time around, however, the market has already begun to transition before anyone mentioned the “R” word..

At this writing, home prices are falling. In October, “… almost one-quarter (23.9%) of homes for sale experienced a price drop, double the rate of a year earlier,” according to Business Wire.

How to know when it’s the right time to buy a home

A good place to start when making the decision is to consider how stable your job is and, of course, your budget. Do you have an emergency fund?

Regardless of market conditions, buyers should consider their budget, income stability and emergency funds before they buy a home in the current housing market.

Next, consider how long you plan on living in the home. Short-term ownership (five years or less) could set you up to possibly lose money if the market continues a downturn well into the time you plan on selling.

Then, there is the temptation to attempt to time the market. When considering buying a home, “… many potential homebuyers attempt to predict if home values are rising or falling while also paying attention to mortgage rates,” said Dan Moskowitz at Investopedia.com.

Trying to predict the future housing market is never wise, as “… you could end up pricing yourself out of the market,” according to Natalie Campisi at forbes.com.

The bottom line, however, is that the best time to buy a house is when you can afford to do so.

3 things you must know about buying a newly-built home

That new car smell can’t hold a candle to that of a brand-new house. No lingering, nasty cooking odors, no doggy or baby smells and no third-hand smoke odors.

A new house is pristine and that’s what attracts many to new home developments – the ability to impose one’s own style on a clean canvas.

Before you get into the car to visit your local model homes, take a minute to bone up on the differences between buying new and existing homes and heed the following advice.

1. The Greeter

That nice person you meet when you walk into the builder’s on-site office isn’t an official greeter; he or she is the builder’s real estate agent. Her job is to get you excited about the project, help you tour the model homes and sign you up to purchase one.

During the time you spend with the agent you may be pressured to use his or her services in the purchase of the home.

A word of caution: don’t do it.

Sure, it seems more convenient. After all, this person is right in front of you and can help you purchase the home you just fell in love with and can do so now – as in, no waiting.

Although it may be legal in your state for this agent to represent both the builder and you, it isn’t wise to do so, and here’s why: Fiduciary duty.

A real estate agent has a legal obligation to perform certain tasks for his or her client. One of the agent’s fiduciary duties is loyalty – the obligation to act solely in the best interests of his or her client. The agent must do everything he or she can do to gain her client an advantage.

How does this work when the agent represents both sides, a situation that is known as “dual agency?” Although agents in states where dual agency is legal claim that it works, the situation flies in the face of an agent’s fiduciary duty.

In layperson’s terms, imagine your divorce lawyer claiming that it’s perfectly fine for her to represent both you and your soon-to-be-former spouse. Dual agency is dual agency, whether it’s an attorney doing it (which is illegal) or a real estate agent.

So, above all else, remember that this agent’s primary obligation is to the builder, not you.

Take the time to secure the services of your own real estate agent before viewing homes in the new development. When you arrive at the builder’s on-site office and sign in, there should be a space to list your agent’s name, so don’t neglect to do so.

Once the on-site agent sees that you’re working with another agent, the pressure will be off to sign with him.

2. The In-House Lender

Many new home developments are one-stop shops. It’s like being in a casino in Las Vegas. The whole place is set up so that you don’t have to leave for any reason – everything you need is right there.

The builder will most likely have an in-house or “preferred” lender and you may be pressured to use this lender. You may even be subtly given the impression that you must use this particular lender if you want to buy the home.

Don’t give into the pressure and don’t be deceived. You have every right to secure your own lending, independent of the builder.

In fact, you owe it to yourself to shop a number of lenders, in addition to the builder’s. Ask the builder’s lender for Loan Estimate. This form will list all the fees and costs of the loan being offered.

Since Loan Estimate was standardized a few years ago it’s much easier to use it to compare offers. If you have any questions when comparing the lenders’ Loan Estimates, ask your real estate agent or attorney for help.

You can find a copy of the Loan Estimate and an explanation on how to use it when shopping for a lender, on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.

3. The Builder

Homeowners that defer maintenance of their homes are more common than we like to think.

Putting off repairs only allows problems to fester, and many of them do so in areas we can’t see, such as behind walls or beneath foundations. It can be frightening to the novice homebuyer to think of all the things that may go wrong after the sale is final.

A new home, they surmise, won’t have these problems. And, they are correct in this assumption – there are no deferred maintenance nightmares awaiting them.

There may be other problems, though, that a homebuyer should consider and guard against. Builders and subcontractors frequently take shortcuts, causing the very nightmare conditions the new homebuyer is hoping to avoid.

While your loan application is being processed, take some time to check the builder’s reputation. It’s a simple process but one that may save you from throwing your money away on a home with major problems.

  • Start your research by checking the builder’s status with your local Better Business Bureau.
  • Check public records at your county courthouse. Look for lawsuits against the builder.
  • The experts at the National Association of Realtors suggest that you walk around the development if there are homeowners living there. Knock on some doors and ask the occupants if they’ve experienced any problems with the new home.

Finally, do have a professional inspect the home. It’s well known in the industry that even newly constructed houses can have problems.

 

Is this a good time to sell your home?

If you’re confused by what you read or hear in the news regarding the housing market, you are not alone. While one headline blasts that mortgage rates will continue to rise, another claims that they’ll even out in 2023, somewhere around 5%.

Opinions also vary on whether home prices will continue to rise and by how much. Then, there are the truly off-the-rails folks who describe the current market as a ‘housing bubble.’

Although there is no widespread consensus (as of this writing) on which direction everything will go, we can tell you with certainty that we are not in a housing bubble akin to the 2008 collapse. That was fueled by inexpensive credit and relaxed lending standards, neither of which exist today.

Yes, the market appears to be shifting, but it’s sporadic, and not yet consistent nationwide.

Let’s take a look at why now may be a good time to sell and why, if you need to sell, you shouldn’t wait.

Prices are still on the rise

Despite the doom-and-gloom housing market promoted in the media, “… from June through July of this year… prices still rose in 98% of US markets,” according to CNN.com’s Anna Bahney, citing a National Association of Realtors study.

In fact, according to that study, the median price, nationwide, for a single-family home increased “… 8.6% in the third quarter, reaching $398,500.”

And, although the number of home sales is dwindling, prices are still on the rise.

“The median price of an existing home sold in October was $379,100, an increase of 6.6% from the year before,” according to Diana Olick (citing research from National Association of Realtors) at cnbc.com.

Surprised?

So, yes, home prices are still appreciating, just not as quickly as we’ve become accustomed to. Eventually, they will fall. Aimee Picchi with cbsnews.com cites the Dallas Fed’s claims that the drop could be “… as much as 20%.”

If you need to sell you might want to consider doing so as soon as possible. You’ll still be able to get your home sold for more than you would have realized before the hot sellers’ market.

  • Check with your real estate agent on the status of the local market.
  • Are homes still selling for over the asking price?
  • If the market is still favoring sellers, don’t be afraid to jump in!
  • Are there cash investors in the market for homes like yours?
  • Are there still low levels of housing inventory? This situation limits a home seller’s competition.

The supply of homes available is still quite low

The number of homes available represents the ‘supply’ side of supply-and-demand in the housing market. Also known as ‘inventory,” it remains stubbornly low, “… which is why some homes for sale are still receiving multiple offers,” claims Lawrence Yun, the chief economist at the NAR.

He goes on to say that, in October, nearly one-fourth of homes for sale sold for more than the asking price.

Buyer demand is waning

In an effort to cool inflation, the Fed has begun raising interest rates. When this trickles down to the mortgage market, a certain number of homebuyers will no longer be able to afford a home and drop out of the market.

If you own a ‘starter home,’ this is something to consider when deciding whether or not to sell it. A starter home, by the way is one with less square footage than average for the area and priced at the lower end of the spectrum.

If, on the other hand, you’ll be selling a larger or even a luxury home, you’ll still find many buyers in the market. At least for now, so time is of the essence. If rates continue to rise, more buyers may decide to put their home purchases on hold.

Your real estate agent is your best source of information at this time. Thankfully, that information is free. Reach out to us today.

3 things you must know before selling your home

Making the decision to sell your home may be easy. Then again, for some, it’s wrenching. After all, whether it’s a condo in the heart of the city, or a suburban tract home, our homes are full of memories and provide sanctuary at the end of a grueling day.

Once you’ve made up your mind to sell, however, you’ll be faced with a lengthy list of additional decisions. So, take the time, right now, to understand three very important aspects to the successful sale of a home.

1. Understand market value

The list price of a home represents what the seller thinks, or hopes, the home will bring.

But, it’s the sales price of recently sold homes that largely sets market value. To determine market value requires looking into the recent past for homes that have sold that are similar to yours. It’s how appraisers will value the home and it plays a big part in how we come up with a list price suggestion.

Setting the right price right out of the gate is key to getting your home sold quickly.

2. Hit the ground running

Your home’s presentation has a huge influence on whether you’ll actually receive the price you’re hoping for. Remember when you were house hunting? We’re willing to bet that some were in such horrid condition you didn’t even want to leave the car.

Then there were the pristine homes – those that appeared ready to move right in.

Naturally the owners of the pristine homes got more money from the sale than their slovenly neighbors.

Ensure you’re a member of the high money-making group by amping up your home’s presentation. Make cosmetic repairs and clean the home until it’s impeccable.

Get inspiration online at HGTV.com and snag some handy decluttering tips from Molly Maid.

3. Don’t lose money by trying to sell it yourself

Seems rather self-serving for a real estate agent to warn you not to sell the home without the services of an agent. So, I won’t. What I will share are some statistics:

  • Nine percent of home sellers attempt to sell without an agent. Nearly half of these homeowners were selling to someone they knew. So, in reality, only 4.5 percent go the For-Sale-by-Owner route in a standard sale.
  • Homebuyers think that FSBO homes are easy to pick up for a bargain price.
  • Homebuyers expect the seller to kick back some of the money saved by not using an agent.
  • Homes sold with agent representation sell for more than those sold by owner.

In fact, “… the median selling price for all FSBO homes [in 2018] was $190,000 … When the buyer knew the seller in FSBO sales, the number plunges to the median selling price of $160,300,” according to Amanda Riggs, research survey analyst for the National Association of REALTORS®.

“For homes sold with the assistance of an agent, the median selling price was $250,000 ̶ that’s $60,000-90,000 more for the typical home sale,” Riggs concludes.

It’s important to know the basics before listing your home for sale. We’re happy to walk you through the rest of the process with no hard-sell and no obligation to use our services. Feel free to contact us.

 

Hey homeowner: Are you ready to downsize?

Jack and Betty Ayers fixed it up, raised their kids in it, and still cherished the many memories it held. But the couple knew they no longer needed their two-story, 3,000-square-foot Colonial.

Those three empty bedrooms still needed routine dusting and window-washing, the extra one and one-half bathrooms sat unused and the 3-car garage had transformed into a giant junk drawer.

The couple dreamed of traveling more and keeping up on the house and yard less. Plus, Jack’s arthritis was making climbing the stairs increasingly difficult.

They sold their home of 27 years and found a more manageable two-bedroom, 1,400-square-foot ranch. They still have space for entertaining and a spare bedroom for when their kids visit, but they love living on one floor and maintaining less space.

The Ayers aren’t alone. Only 7 percent of retirees surveyed said they had moved into age-restricted retirement communities, according to a Merrill Lynch/Age Wave study. That study also found that 51 percent of retirees had moved into smaller homes.

Sixty-four percent said they had downsized to lower their housing costs. With the proceeds from the sale of their home, the mortgage on which had almost been paid off, the Ayers were able to pay cash for the new home. They took what was left and invested it in their retirement portfolio.

Downsizing: It’s not just for retirees

Downsizing isn’t just for big corporations like GM, nor is it something unique to empty nesters. The urge to minimalize can happen at any age and at any stage in life.

Sure, leaving behind a home in which you may have built decades of memories is gut-wrenching; but moving to a smaller home does offer some exciting advantages. Smaller homes cost less to maintain and to heat and cool. Going petite also may mean a lower property tax bill, cheaper insurance and lower house payments.

Things went smoothly for the Ayers, but like any major life transition, there are some important things to consider when making this move. Here are four things to think about when downsizing.

  1. Increase your leverage – Consider selling your home and temporarily renting, putting your things in storage, until you buy your new home. Without pressure to buy quickly, you’ll be in a better position to negotiate a lower price.
  2. House or condo – Do you want your next home to be a house or condo? Condos usually cost less and you don’t have to worry about mowing grass or cleaning out the roof’s gutters–the ideal solution for those who dream of traveling. But condo associations can charge sizeable monthly fees, sometimes higher than buyers expect. If you find a condo development you like, we’ll be happy to find out the current HOA dues.
  3. Find something special. Leaving a home that holds so many memories, having to shed some belongings such as heirloom furniture, and saying good-bye to neighbors you love can be emotionally difficult.

In choosing your new home, try to find one that has a quality that is special enough to help ease that pain. It might be that newly remodeled kitchen you’ve always wanted, or an attractive fireplace.

  1. Get rid of furniture. Too many people try to take all of their furniture to their new, smaller home. Technically, yes, they can make it all fit, but too often, doing so gives the new home a cramped feeling, making it seem even smaller than it is.

Make it easy on yourself

Downsizing doesn’t have to be a marathon event. Start slow by tackling one room, or even one part of a room, at a time. Different variations of this theme include starting with your DVD collection, paperwork or beginning in a room that doesn’t hold items of sentimental value, such as the kitchen – the junk drawer specifically.

One of the initial steps to getting a home ready to sell involves de-cluttering, which may require making some tough decisions.

Think of the first steps in downsizing as de-cluttering on steroids and yourself as a multi-tasking ace as you start this process.

First, make decisions about what you will take with you to the new home and what you’ll part with. Items in the latter category require additional decisions: will you give them away, sell them or trash them?

To effectively use the following tips requires having a good idea of how much space you’ll have in the new home. Try to compare the size of the rooms in your current home with those in a substantially smaller home to make it easier to determine how much of your current furniture can make the move with you.

Use large boxes, bins or even designated floor space to separate your belongings in each room according to the decisions you’ve made about them. The giveaway items will need to be further categorized as to whom they will go, for instance “kids,” “charity,” and “friends.”

When handling an item, ask yourself first, how important it is to you. If it’s a “must keep,” then you’re finished with that item and you can pack it. If not, ask yourself how it fits with your new lifestyle. “If you don’t entertain anymore, don’t bring a ton of serving platters to your new home,” Ann Bass, a senior-move manager in Asheville, N.C. tells the Wall Street Journal.

There’s a lot to like about a more minimalist lifestyle. For some, the pursuit is liberating, for others it’s terrifying. If the thought of ditching your belongings and moving into a smaller space makes your heart beat quicken and your palms moist, don’t think of it as “downsizing,” suggests the National Association of Senior Move Managers. Instead, consider it “rightsizing.”

We hope you have found these tips for downsizing helpful, and we eagerly look forward to helping you enter the next exciting phase of your life.