The Humble Vegetable Garden: A Fun, Health-conscious Home Project for the Entire Family

The Humble Vegetable Garden: A Fun, Health-conscious Home Project for the Entire FamilyWhether you are hunting for a project that will pry the kids away from their phones or you just want a head start on the spring, few home projects are as rewarding as a vegetable garden.

Invest a few hours in planting today, some maintenance throughout the year and soon you’ll be enjoying some delicious, home-grown veggies. Ready? Let’s get started!

Selecting The Right Spot For Your Garden

The first decision you will need to make is where your garden will live. If you are new to gardening, you can start with a small patch of land in the corner of your backyard. The area needs to have full exposure to sunlight at least six to eight hours each day. Your plants will also need watering, so ensure that your hose can reach the plot or that you have another water source nearby.

Having good soil is necessary but not critical as you can buy a load of topsoil from a local nursery. You may want to invest in a composter as well so that you can make efficient use of food waste.

Choosing Which Vegetables To Grow

Next, you will need to choose what you want to grow in your garden. As mentioned above, if you are new to gardening you can start small with a few simple vegetables. Tomatoes are an excellent choice as they continue to produce throughout the year and can be used in so many different types of food. Root vegetables like carrots and potatoes are also a great choice. If you like fresh herbs, consider setting aside a part of your garden for basil, thyme and other herbs.

Materials You’ll Need To Get Started

As you might imagine, you do not need very much to start a garden. Some soil, gloves, a few hand tools and seeds or starter plants are enough to get going. Take the family out for a trip to a local nursery and ask about the best plants to start in the spring. From there, a trip to one of the large home supply stores will provide you with the rest.

Make What You Can, Buy What You Can’t

Finally, don’t forget that this is supposed to be a fun project! If you decide you need planter boxes, try to build them instead of buying them. Figure out what you can recycle or upcycle from around your home to use in the garden. Try to avoid buying over building unless you’re stuck.

Follow the steps above and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor. If you decide you need a more substantial yard, contact our offices today!

6 Money Making Tips For The First Time Home Seller

6 Money Making Tips For The First Time Home SellerToday’s homebuyers can have specific ideas and personal preferences that influence their decision on what attracts them to a particular property. While some prefer a fixer-upper, many desire a home that’s as close to turn-key as possible.

First time home sellers may help expedite the process with these six home selling tips.

Determine Right Listing Price

A home priced competitively in its market typically sells faster. Professional REALTORS® know the area and look at comparative listings to help determine the right listing price.

First time home sellers often think their home should list higher, and this can turn away buyers. Trust a real estate agent to know the right price that will attract potential buyers for a sale that makes all parties happy.

Curb Appeal Makes a Difference

Great curb appeal has the power to attract buyers and create a positive first impression. Simple enhancements add to curb appeal:

  • Mow the lawn or make sure the walk/driveway is clear of snow/ice
  • Prune overhanging branches and trim bushes
  • Remove any sickly or dead vegetation
  • Replenish missing mulch or rocks in landscape beds
  • Replace worn house numbers and/or mailbox
  • Add fresh potted plants to porch for pop of color
  • De-clutter yard by removing lawn ornaments/art and all kids’ toys
  • Have all exterior lighting in working condition

A fresh coat of paint on the front door, clean windows, and a sidewalk swept free from leaves and debris also add to the overall welcoming look.

De-clutter and Depersonalize

Once potential buyers enter the home, it’s time to make another important impression. Homebuyers should be able to visualize themselves living in the space.

De-cluttering and depersonalizing the home helps. The fewer items in a room, the larger the space feels. Key areas to de-clutter include the kitchen and bathroom, in particular the countertops. Remove all personal items, storing out-of-sight in a closet or cabinet.

In addition, remove personal photographs and large collections if possible. Children’s rooms don’t need to be completely depersonalized, but it’s essential to de-clutter the space to show it to its best advantage.

Repairs and Replacements

Every home has a few small items that need repair but have fallen to low priority. Before listing the home, take the time to make these repairs and replacements.

Tighten that loose cabinet in the kitchen, replace the torn bathroom window screen, and refresh the caulk in the showers. Sometimes it’s the little things that turn off homebuyers and these small repairs may be the tipping point for a sale.

Offer the Extras

In a competitive market, offer extras to entice buyers. Generally, these extras are appliances that stay with the home as part of the sale. Other extras a seller may include within the price of the home are items like window treatments and outdoor accessories like patio furniture.

Consider a Pre-inspection

A pre-inspection can help reduce concerns potential buyers have regarding the home’s current condition. It’s a way to reassure buyers that the house doesn’t have any hidden issues.

However, getting a pre-inspection doesn’t mean homebuyers won’t want their own home inspection, too. Consult with a real estate professional to help determine if a pre-inspection may be helpful.

First time home sellers don’t have to be overwhelmed with the process. With the right preparation and the help of a professional real estate agent, home selling can move swiftly.

 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 2nd, 2018

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week April 2nd, 2018 Last week’s economic releases included readings from Case-Shiller, pending home sales, and consumer sentiment. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.

Case-Schiller: Home Prices Continue to Rise

According to Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports for January, U.S. home prices continued to rise at a rapid pace with the national home price index rising at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 6.20 percent. Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index rose by 6.40 percent year-over-year. Seattle, Washington held the top spot with year-over-year home price growth of 12.90 percent.

Las Vegas, Nevada reported year-over-year home price growth of 11.20 percent. After a lull in home price growth, San Francisco, California home prices grew by 10.20 percent year-over-year. The only city to lose ground in the 20-City Index was Washington, D.C., which posted a drop of 0.40 percent in January, but posted a year-over-year gain of 2.40 percent.

David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Dow Jones S&P Indices Committee, said that rapidly rising home prices were all about supply and demand. Growing demand and slim supplies of homes for sale were again cited as the primary reason for rapidly rising home prices. Faced with limited choices and rising mortgage rates, more buyers could be sidelined until demand subsides or inventories of available homes increase.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported slight drops in average mortgage rates last week. 30-year mortgage rates dropped by one basis point to 4.44 percent; 15-year mortgage rates averaged one basis point lower at 3.90 percent, and rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages also dropped by one basis point to 3.66 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims fell last week with 215,000 new claims filed. Analysts expected 230,000 new claims to be filed based on the prior week’s reading of 227,000 new claims filed.

Consumer Sentiment dipped lower in March with an index reading of 101.4, which fell below expectations of 102.0 and February’s index reading of 102.0.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include readings on construction spending, and labor-related readings on ADP payrolls, Non-Farm payrolls and the national unemployment rate. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

7 Tips To Plan A Spring Yard ‘Tune-Up’ Before Listing A Home For Sale

7 Tips to Plan a Spring Backyard Tune UpThe oft-repeated maxim that there is never a second chance to make a great first impression is especially true when it comes to real estate. Street appeal may focus on a dramatic approach to the front door, but prospective buyers will be especially “wowed” by an appealing back yard.

Early spring is the perfect time to add some new plants, set out pots of blooming flowers and focus on one memorable feature. A little work now will pay big dividends later, in terms of buyer interest, increased showings, quick offers, and even a higher price.

Here are 7 ideas that are cost-effective weekend projects:

  1. Create a focal point: Find an antique garden trellis and plant some vines to create an arbor. Add a piece of sculpture or statuary either in the center of the yard or in a secluded garden spot. Install a “gate to nowhere” and add bright flowers on one side. Paint giant sunflowers on a privacy fence or on the side of a storage shed.
  2. Build a partial wall or shade trellis: There is little that’s more appealing that an an “outdoor living room.” Accent and define your patio space in an interesting way — use a sisal rug or paint a graphic design on the concrete — and fill the room with appropriate furniture. Add a small fountain or a charcoal fire pit to create a real gathering spot.
  3. Install a simple drip irrigation system: Minimize landscape upkeep by planning DIY drip irrigation that will keep planting areas looking their best. All that’s really needed is some tubing and a few fittings; the system itself can be attached to an outside hose bibb and operated by a simple timer. It’s not necessary to extend the system to the entire lawn; that would be a more costly and time-consuming project perhaps best left to a professional.
  4. Create a dry creek bed: If parts of the yard or garden are plagued by standing water following heavy rain, give drainage an assist by making a dry creek bed. It’s not too difficult and will add function and beauty to the back yard. Add some large boulders or a “Zen bench” to boost the appeal.
  5. Plant or hang solar lights: Define a pathway, highlight planting areas or just add night-time interest to the yard with solar lighting. Buy inexpensive versions at a home store, or order artistic lights from a catalog. They’re fun, functional and portable.
  6. Plant a specialty garden: Attract butterflies and hummingbirds with a patch of wildflowers. Build a small raised garden plot to grow kitchen herbs, or plant seasonal vegetables and edible flowers. Carrots. kale and rainbow chard are especially pretty and don’t take much space. Melons, squash and pumpkins have beautiful flowers and yield great fruit, but they do spread!
  7. Clean up, trim, weed and mow: Finally, don’t neglect the routine maintenance that is required in every yard, both front and back. Nothing else is as important to prospective buyers as an attractive, well-kept home exterior.

 

A Mortgage Pre-Approval Can Help You In Your Home Purchase Negotiations

A Mortgage Pre-Approval Can Help You In Your Home Purchase NegotiationsA mortgage pre-qualification is an initial estimate of what type and size of mortgage a borrower could get. It is limited, though, because it’s only based on what the borrower tells the lender, which might not be the same as what the lender finds out when it goes through a full process of analyzing the borrower and his credit.

The Initial Loan Pre-Qualification

To get pre-qualified, a borrower starts by finding a lender. Typically, he will give the lender basic information on his ability to borrow. This includes his income, how much money he has in the bank, his current payments and an estimate of his credit worthiness.

The lender takes the pre-qualification information that he gets and compares it to the loan programs of which he is aware. For instance, if he knows that a borrower doesn’t have a lot to put down, but the borrower mentions that he’s active-duty military, the mortgage lender might offer a VA loan as an option.

Based on the programs he sees and the information the mortgage professional gets from the borrower, he will tell the borrower what kind of mortgage to expect.Typically, this gives the borrower a sense of the likely interest rate and of the loan amount he can borrow. Generally, this is enough to let a borrower start looking at real estate listings with a realistic sense of what will be affordable.

The Power of A Mortgage Pre-Approval

When it comes time to start writing offers, though, a mortgage pre-qualification might not be enough. A pre-qualification is missing one important factor — underwriting the borrower’s income and credit.

When a borrower goes beyond a pre-qualification to get a mortgage pre-approval, he submits his credit for the lender to check. That way, his qualifications get confirmed and the lender can issue a more binding letter that not only lets him know what he can afford but also lets him show a seller that he is truly qualified to get a loan.

With that letter, his offer may be viewed as stronger and he can be more likely to get the ability to buy the house he wants.  Contact us today to discuss your options before looking at homes.  It may very likely give you a bit more purchasing leverage.

5 Tips For Prospective Buyers To Submit A Winning Offer

5 Tips For Prospective Buyers To Submit A Winning OfferIn a hot real estate market, agents often tell buyers they must expect to make multiple offers before one is accepted. Disappointment may be the new normal rather than an exception. The stress of repeated rejections isn’t easy, so be prepared.

Significant numbers of first-time buyers find the process difficult, and recent research indicates that about 60 percent of Millennials choose to rent rather than own, delaying other important life decisions, including marriage and family.

There are, however, at least 5 ways to strengthen your buyer profile and give yourself an advantage:

Check Your Credit

Take advantage of the free credit checks offered by the three credit reporting agencies, and clean up any questionable entries. At the very least, be prepared to offer clear and cogent reasons for any late payments that appear within the last couple of years. Pay down credit card balances and student loan debt as much as possible, and assure that your employment record is stable.

Sock Away Some Cash

Try to delay your home search until you have enough money for a reasonable down payment and required closing costs, plus a comfortable nest egg or contingency fund. Demonstrate a consistent savings habit. If you plan to borrow the down payment from parents or other family members, be certain it will be adequate and available when you need it.

Talk With Your Loan Officer

Get a definitive idea of how much you can comfortably afford. If you’re a veteran or qualify for other special loan programs, find out in advance. Gain a comfort level with a lender, and listen to the advice that is offered. Interest rates are currently still low, but any rate change will affect the amount you can borrow. Limit your home search homes priced lower than your loan limit.

The only thing better than a pre-qualification letter is approval confirmation for a specific loan amount. In a fast-paced real estate market, seek that pre-approval, so that you’ll be able to move quickly when you find the right property. A pre-approved loan, an offer with no contingencies, and a quick closing date are the marks of an “A-list” buyer.

Define Your Needs

Know your preferred neighborhoods, and prepare a list of “must have” items as well as a wish list to guide your search. But be realistic. Know that home-buying is a matter of priorities and a game of give and take.

Look at a home’s structure and condition; consider the location, and realize that there is no such thing as the perfect house. Know that tired style can be updated, and decor changes are relatively easy on the pocketbook.

Make the First Offer Your Best Offer

In a seller’s market, it’s wise to make the initial offer your best offer. A lowball bid will not impress the seller, and you may never get a chance to submit a higher bid. When there is serious competition for homes, it pays to be serious about every offer.

Finally, know that if you’re persistent and prepared, you will find a home to suit you. Practice patience!

7 Excellent Ideas For Building An Eco-Friendly Home

7 excellent ideas for building and eco friendly homeIn recent years, building an environmentally friendly home or updating an existing home to be more energy efficient has become much more mainstream. While building an entirely green residence isn’t always fiscally possible, simple eco-friendly building techniques and upgrades will ultimately lower your water and electricity bills.

These green home improvements will save you money in the long run, while also saving the planet. The following are some of the easiest ways to lower your carbon footprint when building or updating a home.

Build or Purchase a Smaller Home

Smaller homes naturally have a lower impact on the environment. There is less square footage to cool and heat, which keeps energy consumption down. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to give up your dream home. Instead, create an ideal floor plan with usable space, and downsize rooms you know you will not use on a daily — or even weekly — basis.

Use Energy-Efficient Windows

When building a home or updating an existing home, use Energy Star-labeled windows. This important label means that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed them as energy efficient. The money saved on future heating and cooling bills often more than make up for the initial cost differential.

Use Energy-Efficient Products

Like windows, certain appliances are also Energy Star-labeled. Energy Star appliances conserve energy, without sacrificing performance. Everything from a single light bulb to a geothermal heat pump can come with this important, government-approved label.

Use Proper Insulation

Heating and cooling typically accounts for approximately half of a home’s energy consumption, and this energy usage is often wasted due to poor insulation. Start by making sure there are no drafts by windows and doors. This is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and the price of your monthly bills.

Install Solar Panels

Solar energy is both clean and renewable, and solar panels are the perfect way to harness this remarkable form of energy. While the initial cost of installation can seem high, the money saved in the long term is extraordinary. Plus, there are often tax breaks and other monetary incentives. When building a new home, consult with a knowledgeable architect about positioning the property and the solar panels for maximum sun exposure.

Use Sustainable Building Materials

Sustainable building materials can be utilized throughout the entire building process. When picking out wood for the frame of the home, use a supplier who practices an environmentally friendly planting and harvesting process. Once in the design phase, consider bamboo and/or cork flooring. They are both eco-friendly and trendy.

Save Water

There are numerous ways to cut back on water usage. To start, install low-flow aerators on toilets and shower heads, invest in a tankless water heater and only use an Energy Star-rated washing machine. Next, capture rainwater on your property in a cistern or barrel. This water can be used for landscaping and irrigation.

Creating a green home doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple updates and a bit of forethought can drastically reduce monthly bills, while simultaneously reducing fossil-fuel emissions.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 26th, 2018

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 26th 2018Last week’s economic releases included minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting, a report on January sales of pre-owned homes and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

FOMC Minutes: Economic Strength Hints at More Rate Hikes

Minutes of the January 30-31 meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee indicated that most Committee members believe that inflation will reach the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent. Members found that the economy was stronger since 2017 and expected “a gradual upward trajectory of the federal funds rate would be appropriate.”

While analysts expect three rate hikes in 2018, the FOMC voted to hold the federal funds rate at 1.25 to 1.50 percent. Most FOMC members expected that the goal of 2 percent inflation was within reach in 2018.

Analysts were not as confident about reaching to Fed’s inflation goal. Instead, the said that in response to tax cuts, the labor market could exceed full employment and lead to higher wages and surging inflation.

A minority of FOMC members said that inflation could fall short of the Fed’s goal as retailers would compete by lowering prices.

Existing Home Sales Drop in January

According to the National Association of Realtors®, sales of previously-owned homes dipped from a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.56 million sales to 5.38 million sales in January. This reading was the lowest in more than three years; it could indicate that the shortage of homes for sale has reached critical mass.

Months of short supplies of homes for sale have caused rapidly rising home prices, buyer competition and fewer choices of homes for would-be buyers. Real estate pros have repeatedly said the only solution to shortages of available homes is that builders must build more homes but increasing materials costs and labor shortages have caused construction pace to lag demand for homes. Affordability continued to weigh on moderate-income and first-time buyers.

Mortgage Rates Rise for 7th Consecutive Week

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates on average last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 4.40 percent; rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged one basis point higher at 3.85 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.65 percent.

New jobless claims dropped by 7000 first-time claims and regained a 45-year low. 222,000 new claims were filed last week as compared to expectations of 229,000 new claims and 230,000 new claims filed the prior week. Real estate pros and analysts cite strong labor markets as driving housing markets and high demand for homes. Workers with job security and options for advancement in their careers are more likely to consider investing in a home than paying rising rents.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, readings on new and pending home sales and construction spending. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released along with a report on consumer sentiment.

3 Reasons You Might Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage in Early 2018

3 Reasons You Might Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage in Early 2018If you are a homeowner who has had their mortgage for a few years, you may be starting to wonder about refinancing. In essence, this is the process of retiring your current mortgage and taking out a new one because the terms are more favorable to you. Below we will share three reasons why you might want to look at refinancing your mortgage this year. Let’s get started.

Can You Use Some Extra Cash?

Ask yourself: if you had some extra money on hand, how would you use it? Many homeowners refinance to pull out some of the equity value that they have built up in their home over time. You might use this cash for a major renovation, or to upgrade your furnishings, or even just for a nice vacation.

Of course, you should keep in mind that you are borrowing a brand-new mortgage loan that will replace your old one. You will still need to pay attention to your credit score, monthly debt load and other personal finances.

Can You Get A Better Interest Rate?

Moving to a mortgage product with a better interest rate is another reason that homeowners refinance. Mortgage interest rates tend to fluctuate over time and it is possible that you may be able to get a lower rate, which in turn lowers your monthly payments. If your credit score has improved significantly since you first borrowed your mortgage, you may find that you have access to favorable interest rates as well.

Would You Prefer A Lower Monthly Payment?

Finally, an efficient use of refinancing is to reduce the amount you have to pay for your mortgage each month. For example, if you owe $60,000 and you have five years remaining, that ends up being about $1,000 per month. However, depending on your circumstances it may be possible to extend this out to 8 or 10 years, which means that you will pay a lower monthly payment for a longer time period.

The above are just a few of the many good reasons that you might consider refinancing your mortgage sometime in 2018. To learn more about the benefits of refinancing, or to get the process started, give us a call today. Our friendly team of professional mortgage advisors is ready to share our experience and help you get the most out of your refinancing.

Speed Your Mortgage Approval by Following This Checklist

In a Hurry to Buy a Home? Speed Your Mortgage Approval up by Following This ChecklistHave you finally found your dream home after months of searching, only to discover that the seller has received other offers? Few circumstances can raise your stress level as much as finding yourself in a bidding war against another buyer. However, being unprepared by not having your finances in order can make the situation even worse. Let’s take a quick look at a few ways that you can speed up your mortgage approval if you are in a hurry to buy your next home.

Pull Your Credit Report ASAP

The first step you will want to do is check your credit report so you have an idea what your mortgage lender will be seeing. You can get a free copy from the major credit reporting agencies up to once per year, so take advantage. There are scams out there, so be sure to only request a report from a government-approved credit agency.

Get All Of Your Paperwork Ready Before You Go In

You will want to gather up as much financial documentation as you can before heading in to meet with your mortgage advisor. Pay stubs, tax forms, and bank statements are all going to be required to prove that you are accurately reporting your current financial situation. You will also want to be able to provide reasons for any substantial loans or other transactions that have taken place in the past couple of years.

Share It All And Keep No Secrets

If you want your mortgage approval to come back quickly, it’s best to be truthful and hold nothing back during the application process. If you lie or try to gloss over areas that you feel are a bit negative, it can end up delaying your approval. Be straight with your advisor and don’t keep any secrets from them.

Work With A Professional Team

Last but not least, if you want the fastest possible mortgage approval you will want to work with a professional team. An experienced mortgage advisor knows the ins-and-outs of the mortgage marketplace. They know which lenders will be able to process quickly and which tend to be on the slower side. If you try to borrow a mortgage from a bank or large lender, you are tied into their process which may not be as quick as you would like.

When you’re ready to buy a home, give us a call. Our mortgage team is happy to help you secure your financing, no matter how much of a hurry you might be in. We look forward to assisting you!