Studies have shown that may times putting money into the outside of your home produces a greater return than investing inside.
The following popular outside improvement projects will increase the curb appeal or value of a home:
Adirondack chairs—Uniquely-American classic outdoor furniture is made entirely of wood and has a straight back and seat, which are set at a slant to sit comfortably on a hillside or mountain incline, but still be comfortable at any angle.
Gazebo—A gazebo can be freestanding or attached to a garden wall, roofed and open on all sizes to provide shade or shelter.
Planters and window boxes—Planters have become popular because they are both functional and ornamental. Additionally, some can be moved frequently to account for seasonal weather or just to create a change in scenery.
Picnic table—Picnic tables go well on a patio or a deck, but equally as well on the grass or under a tree in the yard. A traditional picnic table is all in one piece so that it wears well without a lot of maintenance.
Trellis—A trellis can function as a unique sun screen or it can be the framework for an outdoor hanging garden. Building it with pressure treated lumber can add life by minimizing rotting and other threats.
Trash can corral or compost bin—While many outdoor projects tend to be cosmetic in nature, here are two ideas that are both practical and pretty. With a trash can corral, you can hide unsightly trash cans and with a compost bin, you can reduce your own carbon footprint in a way that doesn’t take away from the visual appeal of the place.
The Lake Tahoe basin remains a potential host for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
While local organizations have spearheaded efforts to bring the games to Lake Tahoe in recent years, there is reason for renewed optimism, according to Lt. Governor Brian Krolicki, chairman of Reno Tahoe Winter Games Coalition (RTWGC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to having Reno/Tahoe selected as the next North American region to host an Olympic Winter Games.
“The latest comments from the USOC are an absolute shot in the arm for the Lake Tahoe region’s latest bid to host the games,” he said. “This will allow us the necessary momentum to create a network and a partnership between Nevada and California that can focus on putting a package in place that makes it compelling for the USOC.”
A shakeup in the United States Olympic Committee leadership has led to a reprioritization of how the committee will approach the bidding process.
USOC Chairman Larry Probst and newly appointed Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun indicated they may want to pursue a 2022 Winter Games bid.
“Nothing’s off the table at this point,” chairman Larry Probst said during an interview at Associated Press headquarters Tuesday, when asked about a possible 2022 bid.
In the past, the USOC has focused on bringing the Summer Games to a bid city, as the games are typically viewed as a stronger economic engine for the host city.
However, in wake of Chicago’s last place finish in the bidding process for the 2016 Summer Games, the USOC indicated that bringing the Winter Games to the United States could be a positive step in repairing their relationship with the International Olympic Committee.
“The idea is to face in the right direction and start walking,” Blackmun said, “and we’ll know when we get there.”
According to reports from the Associated Press, the two strongest candidates to host the 2022 Winter Games are Denver and Reno-Tahoe.
“We’re really supportive of the USOC and the Olympic movement,” KieAnn Brownell, president of the Denver Sports Commission, told the Associated Press. “We have aspirations from the standpoint of wanting to host international events of all types. We’re going to follow the USOC’s lead and see where that goes.”
Bringing the 2022 Winter Games to Lake Tahoe would give the region an opportunity to dramatically improve its infrastructure, said Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Spokesman Dennis Oliver.
“Lake Tahoe could be the first Olympic site to deliver a Green Olympics with an underlying theme of sustainability,” he said.
Oliver said preparations for hosting the games should include installing a public transportation system capable of serving residents long after the event has concluded.
Oliver also envisions the creation of new more energy efficient hotel accommodations, athletic facilities with minimal impact on the local environment, and a system of feeding the athletes with locally grown agricultural products.
“It would be an event with an underlying theme of carbon neutral and I know a lot of local leaders would be interested in pulling it off,” Oliver said.
“The 2022 Winter Games would be a spectacle and a delight for several weeks,” he said. “But the improvements made to the infrastructure of the Lake Tahoe Basin in lead-up to the games would benefit residents for decades.”
Residents of El Dorado County can receive a free radon test kit until supplies run out.
The Tahoe Division of the El Dorado County Environmental Management Department has several hundred test kits available, said Virginia Huber, Tahoe Division Manager.
The kits can be picked up from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. weekdays at 3368 Lake Tahoe Blvd. Suite 303.
“We recommend everyone in the South Lake Tahoe area test their home for radon,” Huber said.
Radon is an odorless, colorless, radioactive case that arises from the decay of naturally occurring uranium and thorium in soil. The gas is linked to 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year, second only to cigarette smoking, according to the EPA.
A report from the California Geological Survey in June 2009 estimated that 23,400 people in the Lake Tahoe area live in buildings where radon is likely to equal or exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended action level of 4 picocuries per liter.
The report was based on geological data, as well as results from a survey of 443 homes in South Lake Tahoe between 2006 and 2007.
According to the survey, about 40 percent of homes in the Lake Tahoe area are at or above the EPA’s recommended action level, while approximately 55 percent of homes in the El Dorado County portion of the basin who participated in the survey are at or above the recommended action level.
Winter is a good time to test a home for radon, Huber said.
“It’s the best time to test because your house is closed up,” she said.
RISMEDIA, January 19, 2010—(MCT)-The last thing many troubled homeowners want to hear is that they could be denied a car loan after they get a chance to modify their home loan. But credit scores can get dinged after a home loan modification, making it more costly or tougher to get a loan or credit card.
Hundreds of thousands of homeowners find themselves in a financial squeeze, thanks to the recession and the meltdown in the housing market. Lenders have offered trial loan modifications to more than 700,000 eligible borrowers. As of late November 2009, about 31,000 trial loans have been made permanent, which requires at least three on-time payments under the trial program and proof of income.
What these troubled homeowners don’t realize is that these attempts to avoid foreclosure may result in their credit scores taking a hit. A potentially damaged credit score is one of those hidden costs of home loan modification—and it varies significantly depending on your lender, as well as when you received your loan modification, your credit history and how your loan was altered.
“They need to tell people up front that this could happen,” said James Sperr, of Belleville, Mich. Sperr and his wife, Carol, received a trial modification that cut their house payment, including taxes and insurance to $957 a month from $1,140 a month. But it came with a hit to their credit score. “Our credit rating has gone from the 800s to 750,” Carol Sperr said. “It’s punitive to a consumer who is already scared, frustrated, mad,” said John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for Credit.com. The Sperrs said they had never been late or missed a mortgage payment, but their bank had reported them as being behind on payments. Their credit score took a hit, falling from the 800s to 750. “They tell us that once the paperwork ‘catches up’ and the new loan is finalized, they will correct the credit reporting agencies,” Carol Sperr said.
No one saw this coming. “I didn’t find out about our credit until they did a check on this van we bought,” James Sperr said. He said his wife was able to provide more documentation that their mortgage was in compliance so they did not have to pay a higher rate or get shut out of a loan. Others aren’t so lucky.
Loan modifications remain a good thing, but they often come with that consequence. Homeowners who face hardships but cannot traditionally refinance their mortgages can try to get a loan modification. A modification temporarily reduces the monthly payment, which can be helpful if someone’s dealing with a pay cut. Typically, the principal amount owed on the loan is not reduced or changed and the amount of debt owed is not forgiven. The federal government has programs, and banks and credit unions have proprietary programs as well.
Yet many homeowners feel blindsided when they discover that their credit score has dropped by 50 to 100 points or even more after they entered a trial modification. “What’s the point of the additional credit damage? What have they just accomplished by doing that to the borrower?” asked John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for Credit.com.
In the first few months after receiving a trial modification, Ulzheimer said, it is possible that the initial payments would show up as a “partial payment plan” on a credit report, which turns into a negative hit to a credit score. This can be a problem even for homeowners who never have missed a mortgage payment. “It really depends on how the mortgage company decides to report this to a credit agency,” said Julie Bos, group manager and certified credit counselor for GreenPath Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich. A homeowner who is behind on payments will see credit score damage, and that won’t change from a modification. “If you’re already delinquent, your credit is already impacted,” said John Snyder, manager of foreclosure programs for NeighborWorks America. But consumers who are making their mortgage payments are getting modifications, too, perhaps because wages were cut or jobs were lost. They may be struggling to stay current, but their credit may not be bad when they start a modification.
Some might argue that it’s not a wise move to take on more debt, such as a car loan, if a person saw a cut in pay and needed a home loan modification. But many consumers often cannot control when their car breaks down. On top of that, lenders benefit from home loan modifications because potential foreclosures can be avoided.
Unknowingly though, many consumers discover themselves boxed in later when they try to get approved for credit. “They’re concerned about the damage to their credit. They’re not happy about it,” said Bos. “If you go out and try to purchase a car in two months, you could be denied,” she said. Or you might have to get a co-signer or put down a bigger down payment or accept a higher interest rate to get a loan.
What’s even stranger is that not all home loan modifications will hit consumers in the same way on their credit reports. Consumers who modify their mortgages under federal programs, such as the Making Home Affordable and the Home Affordable Modification Program, now can do so without hurting their credit scores since those modifications are listed as a “loan modified under a federal plan” as of Nov. 1. Here’s the sticking point: If you are able to modify your loan through an individual bank or credit union’s program and not a government plan, it’s likely your credit score will be hurt. To complicate matters further, eventually a “loan modified under a federal plan” on your credit report could hurt your score, too.
Ulzheimer noted that the only reason the new reporting guidelines do not damage your credit scores is because FICO, the company that created the FICO credit score, hasn’t had a chance to study the long-term predictive value of loan modifications to credit risk.
Still, homeowners who are in trouble must realize that a foreclosure or a short sale would be listed as a charge-off or settlement on a credit report and last seven years, Ulzheimer said, while a modification would typically last a few years.
If you do receive a loan modification, ask questions and be more careful about how you handle your credit elsewhere to try to combat any potential damage.
Before making any moves, talk to a nonprofit housing counselor.
Beginning in 2011 all new one and two-family homes and townhouses built in California must have automatic fire sprinkler systems.
The California State Building Standards Commission voted Tuesday unanimously b to adopt the 2010 California Residential Code, which includes the 2009 International Residential Code as established by the International Code Council in September 2008. The residential sprinkler requirement was voted into the 2009 IRC Code by building code officials from all over the United States, gaining more than two-thirds of the vote.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, 3320 people perished in fires in 2008 throughout the United States. According to the NFPA, there has never been a documented fire death in a fully operational sprinklered residence with working smoke detectors.
“It is a tragedy for our nation to have those kinds of preventable fire death losses,” said
Lake Valley Fire Protection District Fire Chief Jeff Michael.
For more information about the new building standards codes coming in 2011, contact the Lake Valley Fire Protection District, Fire Prevention Bureau at 530-577-3737.
The following article is from RISMEDIA. It is a good overview of the home buyers tax credit.
RISMEDIA, January 7, 2010—As we begin 2010, both real estate professionals and home buyers have something to look forward to and more importantly, take advantage of—the extended and expanded home buyer tax credit.
Originally created in 2008, the home-buyer tax credit has evolved from a $7,500 credit, which had to be repaid by the home buyer over the course of 15 years, to an $8,000 tax credit with no repayment required in 2009. Now, for a limited time in 2010, the $8,000 home buyer tax credit will still be available to first-time home buyers and certain current homeowners will also be eligible for a $6,500 credit.
To help everyone better understand the extended and expanded home buyer tax credit, here are some highlights of the changes.
Who can claim the credit?
“First-time home buyers” who purchase homes between November 7, 2009 and April 30, 2010 are eligible for the credit. To qualify as a “first-time home buyer” the purchaser or his/her spouse may not have owned a residence during the three years prior to the purchase.
For current homeowners purchasing a home during the same time frame, they are also eligible for a tax credit, so long as the home being sold or vacated was their principal residence for five consecutive years within the last eight. To elaborate, it must be the same home; it is not enough that they have been homeowners for five consecutive years, they must have been in the same home for five consecutive years.
Another key point is that the existing home does not need to be sold. One must, however, occupy the new home as a principal residence and do so for three years or risk recapture of the credit. Also, the new home does not need to cost more than the old home despite the concept that it is directed at “move up” buyers.
How much is the credit and what are the income limits?
The maximum allowable credit for first-time home buyers is $8,000 or 10% of the sales price, whichever is less. For current homeowners, it is $6,500 or 10% of the sale price, whichever is less. Under the extended home buyer tax credit, single buyers with incomes up to $125,000 and married couples with incomes up to $225,000 may receive the maximum credit.
The credit decreases for single buyers who earn between $125,000 and $145,000 and between $225,000 and $245,000 for home buyers filing jointly. The amount of the tax credit deceases as his/her income approaches the maximum limit. Home buyers earning more than the maximum qualifying income – over $145,000 for singles and over $245,000 for couples – are not eligible for the credit.
What are the deadlines for qualifying for the credit?
Under the extended home buyer tax credit, as long as a written binding contract to purchase a home is in effect on April 30, 2010, and the deal is closed by July 1, 2010, one can claim the credit.
Will the tax credit need to be repaid?
No, the buyer does not need to repay the tax credit if he/she occupies the home for three years or more. However, if the property is sold during this three-year period, the full amount of the credit will be recouped on the sale. Another provision of the law waives the recapture provisions for service members who receive orders that require them to move.
Are there any other critical provisions?
-There are three provisions people should be aware of:
-There is an $800,000 limitation on the cost of the home
-The purchaser must be at least 18 years old on the date of purchase
-For a married couple, only one spouse must meet this age requirement and dependents are not eligible to claim the credit
Finally, as an anti-fraud measure, purchasers must attach documentation of purchase to his/her tax return claiming the credit. Normally this would be a copy of the HUD-1, but could include other documents memorializing the settlement.
As with all tax matters, responsibility for complying with the tax code belongs to the taxpayer. Real estate professionals should recommend that their buyers consult their tax professionals to ensure eligibility for the credit and the proper way to claim the credit. For more information including the required IRS forms please contact the Internal Revenue Service at 800-829-1040.
Ken Trepeta is the Director, Real Estate Services for the National Association of REALTORS® Real Estate Services program.
RISMEDIA, —As part of the government’s high price-tag efforts to rejuvenate the flailing American economy, on November 6, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law an expansion and extension of the home buyer tax credit.
With housing at the center of the country’s economic engine, extending the lifeline a little further for a little longer is being hailed as a significant measure by both economists and real estate leaders.
The estimated cost of the home buyer tax credit, part of the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009, is $18.5 billion, yet another mind-boggling sum in a series of stimulus strategies. With that $18.5 billion comes great responsibility for real estate professionals—a responsibility to maximize the opportunity and help get the wheels of the housing market turning again.
“The extension and expansion of the home buyer tax credit was absolutely necessary for the housing market and, most importantly, the U.S. economy,” says Alex Perriello, president and CEO, Realogy Franchise Group. “Clearly, Congress and the Administration recognized that inaction on their part—and thus an expiration of the previous first-time home buyer credit—would have been extremely detrimental. We’re proud of the active role that Realogy management and brokers played in educating key policy makers in Washington about the economic benefits of extending and expanding the home buyer tax credit.”
“The extension of the tax credit—and its expansion to include qualified move-up buyers—offers additional hope for a struggling economy and unlimited opportunity for dedicated brokers and agents,” agrees Steve Brown, special liaison for Large Firm Relations, NAR, and broker/owner of Irongate Realty in Dayton, Ohio.
“Activity inspires people—this tax credit has stimulated the entire economy,” says Tami Bonnell, president of the U.S. Organization for EXIT Realty. “There was a glut of people who stood still, not sure what to do. Finally, especially with the addition of the existing homeowner portion of the credit, people are jumping onboard.”
According to Greg Rand, managing partner of Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty in Westchester County, New York, the home buyer tax credit helped the real estate industry—nationwide—to a 2009 fourth quarter that marked the biggest increase in home sales in 20 years. “The media is finally beginning to pick up on what’s going on and is finally driving some positive consumer confidence. This is prompting people to start thinking about purchasing a home.”
Absorbing the Details…Quickly
As Margaret Kelly, CEO of RE/MAX International, Inc., explains, “Congress extended the tax credit and amended it to include repeat buyers in hopes of securing a more sustained real estate upswing. However, the narrow window suggests none of us should count on another extension.” With a deadline of April 30, 2010 (closing must occur by June 30), consumers need to act fast in order to capitalize on the expanded and extended credit. In order for consumers to act fast, brokers and agents must serve as a trusted guide.
“First and foremost, we cannot and should not assume that real estate consumers know what we know,” advises Perriello. “As real estate professionals, we are closest to the situation and it is imperative for the industry to aggressively impart our knowledge and promote the key facts about the home buyer tax credit in order to educate potential home buyers about the various details that may specifically apply to their specific situations.”
Here are the main points of the tax credit legislation:
-The Timeline: The credit is available for homes purchased on or after November 7, 2009 and before May 1, 2010. The federal income credit can be claimed on one’s individual or joint tax return for the purchase of any single-family home (newly constructed or resale, single-family detached, townhomes or condominiums) between the dates of November 7, 2009 and April 30, 2010. Home purchases subject to a binding sales contract signed before May 1, 2010 will also qualify for the tax credit as long as closing occurs by June 30, 2010.
-Who’s Eligible: The tax credit is now available for first-time home buyers and eligible current homeowners. A first-time home buyer is defined as an individual who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase. This law applies for both parties in a married couple; if you haven’t owned a home for three years, but your husband has, then neither one of you can qualify for the tax credit. A qualified current homeowner who wishes to move to a different home (a “move-up” buyer), must have owned and resided in their residence for five consecutive years out of the last eight.
-Salary Requirements: Under the legislation, the income limits to qualify are the same for both first-time home buyers and current homeowners: Single taxpayers with incomes up to $125,000 and married couples with a joint income up to $225,000 qualify for the full tax credit. According to Goldman Sachs, these income limits make almost all first-time home buyers eligible and approximately 70% of current homeowners eligible. Single taxpayers who earn between $125,000 and $145,000, and married couples who earn between $225,000 and $245,000 are eligible to receive a partial credit.
-Credit Amounts: The maximum credit amount for first-time home buyers is $8,000; the maximum credit amount for current homeowners is $6,500. The federal tax credit amounts to 10% of the cost of the home, up to a maximum credit of $8,000 for first-time home buyers and $6,500 for current homeowners. Under the new legislation, a tax credit may only be issued for homes purchased for $800,000 or less.
-Tax Facts: Provided the home-owner stays in the home for three or more years, the tax credit is a true credit and does not need to be repaid. The tax credit is fully refundable, meaning the credit will be paid out to eligible taxpayers, even if you owe no tax or the credit is more than the tax owed. The credit is claimed using Form 5405, which you file with your original or amended tax return. Buyers can claim the credit on their 2009 taxes, even if the home is purchased in 2010, by filing an amended tax return.
-Fraud Prevention: The current tax credit legislation has built-in fraud measures, therefore, anyone claiming the credit must provide documentation to prove that the sale has closed, such as a copy of their HUD-1 Settlement Statement. The law also prevents anyone younger than 18 from claiming the credit.
Motivating Move-up Buyers
While the extended deadlines and increased salary caps of the tax credit are indeed a boon to first-time home buyers, the expansion of the tax credit to include current homeowners stands to have a significant impact on home sales.
According to Scott McDonald, president of RE/MAX Gateway in Chantilly, Virginia, and a member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, “Over the last year, we have seen few move-up buyers as a result of lost equity, uncertainty of perceived value in the market as a result of foreclosures and short sales, and low consumer confidence. It is a matter of education on the Realtor’s part as well as the media to get the word out to our move-up market.”
“The expanded tax credit means that the gridlock caused by a stagnant ‘move-up’ market could be broken and the field could soon be wide open,” says Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.
Ken Trepeta, director of Real Estate Services for the National Association of Realtors, explains that move-up buyers are eligible for the tax credit as long as the home being sold or vacated was their principal residence for five consecutive years within the last eight. “To elaborate, it must be the same home,” says Trepeta. “It is not enough that they have been homeowners for five consecutive years, they must have been in the same home for five consecutive years.” McDonald and Trepeta underscore the important fact that current homeowners need not sell their existing home in order to take advantage of the credit. They may keep it and rent it for additional profit.
Getting the Word Out
For the tax credit to succeed in buoying the real estate market, it is essential for brokers and agents to aggressively market the benefits—and the deadlines—of the legislation to consumers.
At Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty, Managing Partner Joe Rand, an attorney, has developed a home buyer tax credit website—www.homebuyertaxcredit.com—and a “Home Buyer Tax Credit Eligibility Test” that will let buyers know if they qualify. If they do, the program will provide an instant option to download the proper tax documents.
To get the word out about the website, the Rands are budgeting $100,000 of the firm’s marketing budget to broadcast media—specifically radio. “We’ve seen a lot of general interest in buying a home,” says Greg Rand. “Right now, if people aren’t aware or clear on the tax credit, they’ll seek out a source that explains it quickly—that, in turn, might just make our company a bit stickier.” Educating consumers on the tax credit is compulsory and many real estate experts are leading that charge.
“The bottom line for all consumers is ‘how does this impact me?’” says Bonnell. “We’re trying to help them answer that and we’re getting excellent results. I put on webinars to the general public—buyers, sellers, investors, etc.—twice on the second Tuesday of every month. On it, we go over the changes since the new adjustment. They can submit questions during the webinars and we typically answer them right there.”
Misunderstanding or confusion over the details of the tax credit can prevent many consumers from pursuing a home purchase. As Perriello says, “As professionals, it is our obligation to make sure we properly communicate the new tax credit details because an educated consumer is an empowered consumer.”
Industry leaders have high hopes for the extended and expanded tax credit, believing it may be just what the housing market needs to make its way out of the trough in 2010. But time is of the essence—and that’s all part of the plan.
“It is important that there is a clear time limit for the tax credit because the purpose of this economic stimulus is to jump-start momentum in the housing market and the economy,” says Perriello. “The expanded home buyer tax credit is intended to provide an incentive for a broader pool of home buyers to make a home purchasing decision in the early part of the year. Otherwise, lacking the urgency of such a deadline, more potential buyers might stay on the sidelines.”
“We expect the tax credit to continue to encourage home buyers to enter the housing market through the extension dates, then the typical spring market should take hold and the housing industry will help carry us further out of the recession if conditions remain stable,” says McDonald.
“The extended and expanded home buyer tax credit should help increase demand, stimulate home sales and, ultimately, reduce inventory levels,” adds Perriello. “In turn, this should help stabilize home sales prices. Those are all necessary steps that need to occur before we can have a sustainable long-term recovery in the market.”
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — After a rash of warmer weather, including fog and rain, some snow is expected to return this week to the area, according to the National Weather Service in Reno.
A special weather statement forecasts two winter storms this week, on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. They should bring gusty winds, along with mountain snow and valley rain.
“Significant snowfall is likely on the Sierra Tuesday and Wednesday, with total accumulations of 6 inches or more in the Tahoe basin …” the statement reads.
As the storm approaches, it is expected to scour the fog that has hovered over the lake all weekend, NWS reports.
Below is an extended forecast, complements of www.noaa.gov. Also included in this story is an update of snow conditions, lift information and operations at various Lake Tahoe ski resorts as of Monday, Jan. 11. Please check with individual ski resorts for latest conditions and operations.
Today: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 47. South wind around 10 mph.
Tonight: A slight chance of rain before 4am, then rain and snow likely. Snow level 7200 feet. Cloudy, with a low around 34. South wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Tuesday: Rain and snow likely before 10am, then snow. High near 41. Windy, with a south wind between 25 and 30 mph, with gusts as high as 45 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.
Tuesday Night: Snow. Low around 34. Breezy, with a southwest wind between 15 and 20 mph, with gusts as high as 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.
Wednesday: Snow showers, mainly before 10am. High near 38. West wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%.
Wednesday Night: A 30 percent chance of snow showers, mainly before 10pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 25.
Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 42.
Thursday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 31.
Friday: Partly sunny, with a high near 48.
Friday Night: A slight chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 34.
Saturday: A slight chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 43.
Saturday Night: A slight chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 25.
Sunday: A chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 37.
New home sales lost momentum in October while the resale market continued to surge due to lower mortgage rates and the extended homebuyer tax credit. Seasonally-adjusted new home sales fell 11.3% from the previous month to an annual rate of 355,000 units. The seasonally-adjusted annual rate of new home sales in November is back down to its lowest levels since April. New home sales for the previous three months were also revised lower by 49,000 units. It is worrisome that lower rates and the extended housing tax credit were not enough to fuel demand for new homes in November.
While the new home affordability ratio remains at very high levels, it is still almost 10 percentage points higher than the existing home ratio. Median new home prices in November rose to $217,400 from a downwardly amount of $209,400 in October. Prices increased 3.8% from the previous month but are still 1.9% lower than they were this time last year. Median new home prices have now recorded 11 straight months of year-over-year declines. Further price cuts and use of incentives may be necessary to attract demand in the new homes market. However, the continued reduction in inventory levels is a positive sign for stabilization in the new homes market. In November, new home inventories declined to 234,00 units from an October figure of 241,000 on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. Seasonally-adjusted inventory of unsold homes have declined for 31 straight months to 235,000 units.
Sales in the existing home market remained strong in November. The seasonally-adjusted annual rate of all existing homes jumped 7.4% from October levels to 6,540,000 units. This is the highest the seasonally-adjusted annual rate of existing home sales since February 2007. Existing single-family home sales increased 8.5% from last month while condo and co-op sales remained flat from October levels at 770,000 units. Lower mortgage rates and the extended housing tax credit have kept buyers interested due to all-time high affordability.
In November, the median sales price for an existing home increased slightly to $172,600 from $172,200 in October. This was the first gain in median existing home prices since June although prices are still 4.3% lower than they were this time last year. Existing home inventory posted declines for the fourth consecutive month in November, easing 1.3% to 3,518,000 units from a revised 3,565,000 units in October. This is the lowest level of existing home inventory on the market since December 2006.
After rising for nine consecutive months, the National Association of Realtor’s pending home sales index in November fell for the first time since January. The Pending Home sales Index, which is a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in November, dropped 16.0% to a reading of 96.0 from an upwardly revised reading of 114.3 in October.
National average mortgage rates declined from the previous week to 5.09% in the latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey released weekly by Freddie Mac on January 7th. This was the first weekly decline for average fixed rates since the beginning of December. Rates had been steadily moving higher and increased for four straight weeks before this past week’s decline. In the week ending January 1st, the MBA’s seasonally-adjusted purchase index increased 3.6% from the previous week but was still down 36.33% compared to the same time last year. This was the first weekly gain for the purchase index in the past month while the year-over-year drop in the purchase index is the largest since February 2009.
I would encourage you to talk to friends, family, and/or coworkers in your area who have recently bought or sold a property to get 3 or 4 references. Interview those agents- asking questions like:
1. How would you market my house? (Online must be PART of their answer).
2. How would you come to a listing price for the house? (A comprehensive market analysis of your comps. Be sure to share any unique features your house has).
3. What is their online experience? (My company in CA pushes listings to over 30 search engines and real estate sites).
4. How many houses do they currently have listed? (The less listed the more likely they are to show yours).
5. Commissions? Is there a reduced commission if the agent handles both sides of the sale? Is there a reduced commission if someone in their office handles the buyer side of the sale?
6. Is there anything you can do to make your house more inviting to buyers? (Like de-cluttering, painting, getting a home inspection and termite report, etc).
7. The last thing you should ask is if they have any questions for you.
I think that a great agent would ask to see and take pictures of your house before your formal interview. They should then bring a sample flier that they would post outside your house, a virtual tour, and hopefully the market analysis. All else being equal- go with who you feel the most comfortable talking with. Remember this is a business relationship.