A custom white fence surrounds this custom home built by Ron Lee Homes.

The recent Quarterly Sales by Price and Financing, published by the U.S. Census Bureau, was analyzed by the National Association of Home Builders and found that conventional loans financed the largest share of new home sales since 2018.

Conventional loans in Q1 2021 were reported at 71.6%, FHA came in at 19.3%, VA loans at 5.3% and cash new home sales were 4.1%. As far as the percentage points increase from Q1 2020, conventional loans rose 2.1 percentage points and FHA-backed sales were up 1.6 percentage points. Unfortunately, VA loans decreased 2.1 percentage points and cash sales dipped 0.9 percentage points.

The four-quarter moving average (MA) of the share of new home sales backed by FHA has increased over the past two and a half years from 12.2% to 18.9%. Conventional loans however have seen a 4.4 percentage points decrease during the same period.

Even with a small increase, interest rates are still at historically low levels. The stock market returns topping 20% from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021 have played important roles in the large increase in the number conventional loan and cash purchases relative to sales financed through the FHA and VA.

Now is a great time to purchase a home with low-interest rates and in turn a great time to also sell. The national median sales price for a new home reported was $347,500 and those homes sold back by financing were $386,600.

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Spring brings new flowers, animals, and warm sun. Many say that spring is the time for changes. The housing market also sees a rise in home sales during this time. Here are five reasons why springtime is the best time to sell.

1. There’s high demand from homebuyers.

Showingtime, an app that tracks showings on homes, reported that buyer showings are up 51.5% from this time last year. The housing market is hot and buyer demand is strong.

“As anticipated, demand for real estate remains elevated and continues to be affected by low levels of inventory…On average, each home is getting 50 percent or more requests this year compared to January of last year. As we head into the busy season, it’s likely we’ll push into even more extreme territory until the supply starts catching up with demand,” says Daniil Cherkasskiy, Chief Analytics Officer at ShowingTime.

2. There aren’t enough houses for sale.

Inventory is on a record low, and buyers are high on demand. “Nationally, the inventory of homes for sale in February decreased by 48.6% over the past year, a higher rate of decline compared to the 42.6% drop in January. This amounted to 496,000 fewer homes for sale compared to February of last year,” reported Realtor.com.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) “sales are skyrocketing” and the existing inventory is “continuing to drop dramatically”. The average house is only staying on the market for only 21 days.

3. You have a lot of leverage in today’s market.

Low inventory and tons of buyers make this a seller’s market. The seller currently has the upper hand in the market and can negotiate the best deals. NAR reports that bidding wars have increased on average by 3.7 offers per house.

4. It’s a great way to use your home equity.

CoreLogic reported that the average homeowner gained $17,000 in equity over the past year, and that number continues to grow as home values appreciate, in the third quarter of 2020. During this market, homeowners will find that they have a lot of equity in their homes. Equity is a type of forced savings that grow during your time as a homeowner and can be put toward bigger goals like buying your next dream home.

“As homeowners gain equity in their homes, they are more likely to consider using that equity to purchase a larger or more attractive home – the wealth effect of rising equity. In today’s housing market, fast-rising demand against the limited supply of homes for sale has resulted in continued house price appreciation,” says Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American.

5. It’s a chance to find a home that meets your needs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way homeowners see and live in their homes. The stay-at-home orders meant spending a lot of time at home. This extra time at home caused homeowners to re-evaluate the top desires they want in a home.

The home office, outdoor spaces and flex rooms became a must in the 2021 home search. With so many people working from home, or virtual schooling flex rooms and home offices are in high demand.

If you are in the market to sell your home, contact your local Realtor. A Realtor will not only help you navigate the market, getting you the best price and deal for your home, but will also take most of the pressure off of you from this fast pace market.

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A home’s resale value is always important to a homeowner. Home renovations if done right and smart can make a huge impact on a home’s worth. Some homeowners are ready for a big project such as a kitchen or bathroom overhaul, but others do not have the time, resources, or energy to tackle these. If you are in the market to sell your home, some small projects can boost the value and time it takes to sell your home.

“People buying may not have the greatest imagination, and they want to walk into something that’s turnkey,” says Sandy Scheinman, a real estate salesperson at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York City. “In a competitive market, offering a home that looks renovated and new is really what you need to do to compete.”

According to Scheinman, renovations can increase a home’s price by 10% to 12%. In order for these changes to not only add monetary value but also gain a buyer’s interest, you must make smart choices in your projects. Here are some great tips to follow to make your projects a success.

Design with buyers in mind

“If you are doing the renovations for resale, choose the types of fixtures and styles that will appeal to your target audience,” says Michele Morrison, a real estate agent with the Sereno Group in Los Altos, CA. “Don’t build your dream home if it’s not for you.”

What you may love, another person may hate. The key to renovations is to opt for designs that are universally flattering.

Paint a room

Painting a room can cost around $200 – $400 and only take about a day but the impact is huge. Updating the walls in a warm gray or white will give the room a fresh look in a neutral color.

It is always important to use a color that is neutral and not polarizing. Some buyers will walk into a home hate the eggplant walls and leave.

Add crown molding

Crown molding gives a room a finished and improved look. This wood can be added to the top edge of walls, door frames, or cabinets. This project typically costs between $300 to $500 per room and only takes a few days to paint, prep and install. Crown molding is not only a lovely touch but can also cover problem areas on walls or around windows and doors.

“This renovation increases value by setting the home apart from other comparable homes in the area,” says Richard McMurray, owner of DFW Crown Moulding in Fort Worth, TX.

Bathroom makeover

In the past, a bathroom in a home served only basic needs and was more simple in design. Today, the bathroom is a major part of a home’s grand showcase. Today’s buyers want a nice large bathroom with a soaking tub and natural light.

“We’re seeing a trend where people are expanding the size of the bathrooms and having his-and-her showers. It’s more of a room than what it was in the past,” Nematnejad says.

A bathroom renovation can be costly, $35,000 to $65,000-plus, but there are simple updates you can do to please a buyer’s eye. Some buyer-pleasing ideas include replacing a linoleum floor with tiles, painting the vanity, installing a new sink and faucet, and putting in new lights.

Kitchen renovation

Another project that can cost anywhere from $65,000 to over $100,000 but can recoup the cost of about 65% of the project when you sell your home is renovating the kitchen. Kitchens are not just a place to cook anymore, today’s homeowners use the kitchen as a living space.

“The more you put into [a kitchen renovation], the higher the resale cost recouped percentage is going to be,” says Robert LaFleur, owner of Building Professionals, Inc. in Westford, MA.

Follow these tips and you are sure to be please with the outcome of the sale of your home. If you are in the market to sell, contact a local Realtor who can help you through the process.

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Mortgage Rates are low and now is a great time to purchase a home. A big stumbling block for many is a downpayment. There are ways to borrow money through government-backed loans that give a borrower a chance to purchase a home with a smaller downpayment or no money down at all.

Lenders are protected when they lend borrowers the money for a home from the three government agencies which are the Federal Housing Administration, the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. These agencies ensure loans allowing lenders to reduce the risk of lending a loan to those who offer a low or no down payment.

“The goal across all these programs is helping people get into a home, knowing that homeownership is a key driver for removing the wealth divide,” said Ed Barry, chief executive of Capital Bank, a bank headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, which operates Capital Bank Home Loans. “These programs are out there, but many people don’t even know that they qualify.”

An FHA loan allows a buyer to obtain a mortgage with a lower credit score, higher debt-to-income ratio and smaller down payments. In fact, it is easier for a home buyer to qualify for an FHA loan vs a conventional mortgage.

There is however a limit to the amount you can borrow on an FHA loan. This year the caps range between $356,362 and $822,375 and also depend on the location of the property. In order to find out the cap for your area, you can visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development website.

If you are a veteran or a surviving spouse of a veteran, then you will be eligible for a VA loan. VA loans offer 100% financing and better terms than a conventional loan.

“The advantage of the VA loan is the option to make no down payment,” said Jordan Nietzel, a certified financial planner and founder of Trek Wealth Planning in Kansas City. “The thing that people need to watch out for is the debt-to-income ratio, which can go higher on a VA loan than a conventional loan. It can qualify you for a higher loan than you may be prepared to handle.”

One catch is the VA funding fee. For a home purchased at $200,000 with a 5% down payment of $10,000, the VA funding fee will cost $3,135 or 1.65% of the $190,000 loan amount. The lower interest rate on a VA loan will be worth the VA funding fee.

In a rural area, there is a loan program called the USDA loan which allows for 100% financing with no down payment. These are great for low and moderate-income households. The buyer’s household income cannot exceed 115% of the median income of the area around the home.

There are also property requirements for a USDA loan. The loan eligibility is based on the population density of the community. A potential buyer can search for USDA-eligible areas on the USDA website.

“People tend to think a USDA loan is for farmers,” said Barry. “That isn’t the case. It is designed for rural purchases. But that is defined by population density, not agricultural use. So you have eligible areas even 30 miles out of Washington DC.”

“The challenge is finding someone who is knowledgeable in this space,” said Barry. Not only about the type of loan, but about the areas where you are looking. “Usually this is more than just a transaction. It can be a super complicated process. A little hand holding is helpful.”

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The Zillow Consumer Housing Trends Report for 2020 had big changes from the data reported in 2019. New construction (NC) buyers that were surveyed for the 2020 report revealed that they spent less time looking for a home because they focused only on a new construction home. The report showed that 23% more NC buyers found their home in less than four weeks. In fact, the average new construction buyer spends only two months searching for a newly built home.

More and more home buyers are desiring a new construction home now more than ever. Builders are marketing off this change by adding incentives such as free builder upgrades. In 2019 9% of NC buyers said free builder upgrades was one of the top three of their reasons for buying new construction while in 2020 14% cited this as one of their motivators.

The top reasons for purchasing a certain home are still location and home features but following close behind now is the desire to purchase a new home that has never been lived in or used. Buyers want to be able to customize their home features and choose their own floor plan. Thirty-percent of NC buyers cited one of their top reasons for purchasing a newly built house was because it was the best value for their money.

New construction buyers are now focusing on less square footage. More NC buyers (9%) in 2020 purchased small homes which were 6 percentage points higher than in 2019. Small homes are homes that are less than 1,000 square feet. The data also informed that 19% of NC buyers paid less than $100,000 for their home in 2020 while only 9% were reported in 2019. Zillow feels that the shift might be because more new construction is being built in urban areas or that home builders are offering more options in smaller homes.

There was also a shift in home feature preferences in NC buyers in 2020. These include rental income, smart technology and space for cars. It became important to 32% of new construction buyers that they could generate rental income by renting out the whole home compared to 23% who said this was important in 2019. Smart home technologies are also becoming the norm. More and more people are becoming comfortable with devices that control things such as security or temperature control. Forty-three percent of NC buyers say that smart home capabilities are very important. Cars are also important to Americans, in fact so important, that 74% of NC buyers have to have off-street parking or a garage and 67% have to have an assigned parking space. Zillow says this probably stems from the higher rate of new construction in urban areas.

The new construction housing market is starved for inventory so if you are in the market, choosing a Realtor is a must. A Realtor can help you find the best home for you and your needs.

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Zillow Consumer Housing Trends Report 2020 data shows some changes from what buyers want in a new construction home. More buyers are purchasing new construction homes now more than last year. The survey revealed that 40% of new construction buyers that were surveyed only were interested in new construction homes. Here is what has changed in a new construction buyer’s mindset in 2020.

Smaller, less expensive options gaining appeal

Those new construction buyers surveyed showed that they are choosing smaller homes. A small home is considered a home with less than 1,000 square feet. In 2020, 9% of new construction buyers purchased a small home which is 6 percentage points higher than in 2019.

This change might have stemmed from more houses being built in urban areas or home builders swapping size for more upgraded options. One definite catalyst is the price buyers want to pay for a home. In 2019 9% of new construction buyers paid less than $100,000 for a new construction home and in 2020 this jumped to 19%. The growth in households buying less expensive new construction homes coincides with a 10-point drop in the share of buyers who pay between $200,000 and $299,000 — 21% of NC home purchases fell in that range in the 2020 survey, compared to 31% in 2019.

A shift in home feature preferences

In 2020 many homebuyers are still looking for many of the same top features as in 2019 such as air conditioning, the preferred number of bedrooms and bathrooms and preferred floor plans. There were some changes to new construction buyers’ preferences in 2020. Buyers were looking for rental income, smart technology and space for cars.

Close to 32% of new construction buyers are looking for a home that will generate rental income. Those that only wanted to rent a portion of their home (home-sharing) grew to 27% in 2020.

Nowadays smart technology is a big part of society in many aspects. New construction home buyers have placed importance on smart technology in their homes. In fact, 45% of new construction home buyers felt that having smart home capabilities was extremely important. Homebuyers want devices that provide everything from security to temperature control.

Having a place for a car has become a must in 2020. Seventy-four percent of new construction buyers say that off-street parking or a garage is one of the top must-haves and 67% said a parking space is also on the list. These items came in 6 points higher in 2020 than reflected in 2019’s data. As mentioned before, urban new construction is on the rise and there is always a scarcity of parking in the city.

Top reason for buying new construction

In 2020 new construction home buyers place the top reason for purchasing a new construction home is for the free builder upgrades. In the survey, 14% of new construction buyers said free builder upgrades swayed their decision to purchase new construction. Still in the top reasons were desirable location at 39%, appealing home features at 38% and everything new and never used at 37%. Buyers want to have the ability to customize features on their new home.

If you are in the market for a home, consider a new construction home. Always use a Realtor who can help you with the building process as well as the purchasing of your new home.

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The ICC 700-2020 National Green Building Standard® (NGBS), had important updates to a couple of key sections regarding land use and housing development. According to the National Association of Home Builders, it is important for builders to take notice of these changes. Although there is continuity from the 2015 NGBS in many areas, understanding the changes and new offerings will enable developers and builders to determine the compliance path that works best for their project.

In Section 4 of the 2020 National Green Building Standard site design and development are defined. This section will give points for sustainable land development that is ultimately planned for residential construction. This section was created to help reduce detrimental environmental impacts by enhancing the natural features and improving the quality of the site.

A builder can earn between one to four stars for the number of points earned by the certification defined in Section 4. In the spring 2020 edition, changes were made to Subsection 403.6 Landscape Plan, Subsection 403.7 Wildlife Habitat and Subsection 405.11 Insect Mitigation.

Subsection 403.6 Landscape Plan allows up to an additional 28 points. The new categories in the 2020 update include points for spray irrigation and third-party qualified water-efficient grasses. An example is Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance (TWCA) which limits water and energy use anywhere turf is planted.

Subsection 403.7 Wildlife Habitat allows up to an additional 6 points. Points are awarded on the design of sites abutting wildlife corridors, fish and game parks, or preserved areas. An example of this would be the outdoor lighting that would be close to the wildlife habitat.

Subsection 405.11 Insect Mitigation is a new category that has been added to the 2020 NGBS. A builder can receive up to 19 points for landscaping that helps reduce insect-borne disease.

Section 5 includes lot design, preparation and development. The points earned in this section have increased in the 2020 NGBS in subsection 503.1 Natural Resources, 503.4 Stormwater Management and 503.5 Landscape Plan to 19 points. Also, the following subsections have been added in 2020, 505.7 Multi-Unit Residential Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Vehicle Fueling which allows 4 points, 505.8 Street Network gives an additional 5 points and 505.10 Exercise and Recreational Space gives up to 9 points.

Other notable changes made between 2020 and 2015 NGBS are that 2020 verifies practices via the Environmental Protection Agency, the International Wildland Urban Interface Code and the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance (TWCA). The 2020 National Green Building Standard® is a great tool for builders to work with and helps improvements on the development of land and lots. The standards give builders and land developers the flexibility needed to develop land and lots that are sustainable, cost effective and appropriate for their geographic location.

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The recent pandemic has changed home owner’s points of view on many aspects of homeownership. HomeAdvisor’s latest survey “State of Home Spending”, showed the average spent on home-improvements in 2020 rose to $13,138 from 2019’s $9,081.

Although the survey says higher cost in labor and materials contributes to the higher number, it still shows an increase in American home owner’s spending average on actual home improvements. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported that 85% of Americans are spending more time at home because of COVID-19. Their spending habits are shifting from travel and entertainment to home improvement projects.

The housing market is hot and the increase in home buying has also fueled home improvement spending. Millennials, (those closest to the median age of first-time homebuyers) have been reported to have increased in home buying.

“Homeownership rates for millennials have jumped significantly, especially as COVID-19 has reemphasized the importance of the home and many companies move to flexible work location options,” said Mischa Fisher, chief economist at HomeAdvisor, in a press release. “Millennials are not only rapidly becoming home owners, but they are also spending more on home improvement than any other generation when they do.”

Those projects that have been important in 2020 have changed from those in 2019. The top 2020 projects were interior painting, bathroom remodels and new flooring installations. The top project which has made the list the last several years did not even make it onto the 2020 list. Prior years those that were surveyed by HomeAdvisor said that room remodels were the most important project.

The home maintenance project that saw the biggest increase year-over-year was cleaning and landscaping. The more everyone was at home with the stay-at-home orders, the messier the home could get. Cleaning and landscaping saw an increase from $1,105 in 2019 to $3,192 in 2020.

According to the survey, “painting was one of the most popular projects across nearly all age groups, because it is relatively affordable and offers a lot of visual value in terms of the look and feel of a room.”

American’s perspective on their home has changed dramatically in the wake of COVID-19. In fact, seven in ten respondents said that the pandemic had increased their need for home cooking, 50% were working from home and 40% were incorporating more home entertaining. The “State of Home Spending” survey summed up that home owners are using their home more and more and it has definitely become an even greater factor in their quality of life.

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Little chores can add up to big results in your home, just taking one small task at a time can keep your house in check. Here is a great plan to follow that will help accomplish this.

Weekly Home Maintenance

 

Here are some great tasks to tackle each week. Floors are a big area of your home. Vacuuming your carpet or dusting your hardwood floors each week can make a big effect. Taking about 30 minutes a week on small tasks in your yard can do wonders for your curb appeal. Pruning your shrubs or trees, blowing or raking leaves up, cleaning up debris from your sidewalk, and painting your mailbox are examples of a few of these tasks.

Bathrooms are a big traffic area in your home and can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Along with cleaning your bathroom, take time to also make sure your drains are cleaned and not clogged. A good tool to use for this is a Zip-It tool. Along with cleaning your shower, renewing or repairing dingy or damaged tile grout can also help with your bathroom’s esthetic looks. Something that is not thought of is the build-up in your shower head. This can hinder your flow of water. Cleaning the mineral sediment out of the showerhead will help with water flow.

They say the heart of the home is the kitchen. This is another area that can use some weekly maintenance. Freshen up your garbage disposal each week to eliminate odors. A good way to do this is to take a tray of ice cubes, baking soda or lemon rinds and run them through the disposal. Cleaning the outside of your appliances can freshen up the kitchen. Take it a step further and clean the insides each week as well. Take one appliance a week in the kitchen. For instance, clean out your refrigerator one week and then your dishwasher the next and the following week could be the oven.

Monthly Home Maintenance

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Some projects can be done monthly and still keep a house clean and organized. The range hood in your kitchen can get really dirty. Every month check the filter and clean the hood. Grease and dirt can build up and cause a thick layer which is hard to clean but cleaning it monthly can help resolve this. A good way to help with utility bills and keep the air quality up is by changing your furnace’s filter each month. Dust collects overtime around the house. Dust is not healthy for you or pleasing to the eye. A quick fix is to polis wood furniture, dust light fixtures and wipe down your home’s baseboards each month.

Safety concerns can also be addressed each month. Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure the batteries are good and they function. Another thing that can be overlooked is your fire extinguisher. Check to make sure it is fully charged each month. Take some time each month to also inspect the outside of your home. Make sure there are no problems or issues that need to be resolved. Things to look for are loose shingles, damaged siding, insect nests or overgrown trees or shrubbery.

Yearly Home Maintenance

Bigger tasks that can be done once a year can be done in one or two days each year or during each change of season. Typical projects include cleaning and organizing your garage, basement or attic. Get rid of unwanted items and find some treasures that you had forgotten about at the same time.
Springtime is a great time to wash your windows and screens. This will let more light into your home. Clean your gutters and make sure it is clean under the eaves. Remove ways for pests to enter your home. Remove shrubs or trees that encroach your home. Also, make sure there are no holes to let litter critters in and if there are install wire grates over the holes.

Each season you can choose a room to freshen up. A great way to do this is to give it a “mini-makeover.” Do this by repainting a room, moving furniture around or adding new plants and knickknacks. In just a few years, your whole house will be done!

Remember that keeping it simple and smart is the way to go.

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The Fed has determined that rates will stay close to zero for several years to come due to the long recovery ahead from the pandemic. The key short-term rate was close to zero after the latest Federal Reserve policy meeting last Wednesday.

American consumers and businesses are struggling because of COVID-19 and will continue to struggle if Congress, the White House and the Fed do not do more to help stimulate the country’s economy.

The Federal Reserve has already slashed the interest rates and started many lending programs as well as other stimulus efforts to support the national economy. It will continue to buy Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

“Economic activity and employment have continued to recover but remain well below their levels at the beginning of the year,” the Fed said in its statement.

The Fed believes that the course of the virus can determine the path the economy will take. There is hope from the American people with the COVID-19 vaccines becoming available. People will begin to go back to normal spending habits and activities.

The country’s gross domestic product is anticipated to a 4.2% rebound next year. The Federal Reserve also predicts the unemployment rate will go back down to 5% in the year 2021.

“With vaccines on the horizon, the Fed’s economic projections for the next few years all got an upgrade, but don’t gloss over the immediate challenges still confronting the economy,” said Bankrate chief financial analyst Greg McBride in a report after the Fed announcement.

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