Real Estate Summer Market Predictions Are Sizzling

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More buyers are saying that summer is the best time to purchase a home.  For families, the kids are out of school for the summer so transition is easier into new schools.  For other buyers, summer is a great time to take time off from their jobs as management expects summer vacations.

More consumers say that the spring momentum will carry into summer, with the survey showing an eight-point jump over a year ago in those who view the summer as the best time to buy a home.

Overall, 77 percent of 2,500 consumers surveyed report having a favorable view of housing, a 12-point jump from one year prior. The Millennials segment show the most optimism, at 85 percent.

Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed say they are committed to buying or selling a home now, a six-point increase compared to a survey at the end of 2013.

Consumers understand that home valuations remain attractive and mortgage rates are still near historic lows. The optimism and enthusiasm we’re seeing through the survey shows consumer motivations and pent-up demand. As more homes come to market and lenders ease their stringent underwriting guidelines, there are busy times ahead in real estate.

Also among the survey’s findings:

  • 78 percent of potential buyers say it will be easier to buy a home this spring, since “home owners want to sell.”
  • 63 percent of sellers say the improving economy and their perception of motivated buyers are increasing their optimism.
  • 76 percent of consumers say pent-up demand will create more competition for existing homes this season.
  • 83 percent of buyers say they plan to buy a home sooner rather than later because they fear interest rates will rise.

 

Source – Realtor.com

Beat the Summer Heat and Reduce Your Utility Bill

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As the temperature rises, so does the cost of cooling your home, especially if you use an air conditioner. Obviously, the best way to keep your home cool during the summer is to use an air conditioner to keep the temperature down, but there are other options that don’t raise your energy bill quite significantly. Here are some ideas that you can try in lieu of air conditioning your home.

Fans and Ceiling Fans

Fans can make a room feel 6 or 7 degrees cooler, and costs less than $10 a month to use if you keep it on for 12 hours a day. Good fans make it possible for you to raise your thermostat setting and save on air-conditioning costs. Fans don’t use much energy, but when air is circulating, it feels much cooler. Ceiling fans are best, but a good portable fan can be very effective as well.

Shades, drapes, or blinds

Install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to reflect heat away from the house. Close blinds, shades and draperies facing the sun (east-facing windows in the morning and west-facing windows in the afternoon) to keep the sun’s heat out and help fans or air conditioners cool more efficiently.

Internal Heat

The most common sources of internal heat gain are; appliances, electronic devices, and lighting. Be aware from where the heat is coming from. Don’t put lamps, televisions or other heat-generating appliances next to your air-conditioning thermostat, because the heat from these appliances will cause the air conditioner to run longer

Try to avoid heat-generating activities, such as cooking indoors.  Get outside and grill. If you are cooking indoors, use your range fan to vent the hot air out of your house.

Plants

Plant trees or shrubs to shade air conditioning units, but be careful not block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses less electricity. Trees planted on the south and west sides will keep your house cool in the summer and allow the sunlight to warm the house during the winter.

Roof

Paint your roof white – If you’ve got a flat roof, paint it with a specially formulated reflective paint or just paint it white. The reflective effect will help to keep the rooms under the flat roof much cooler.

Other things to remember

Humidity makes room air feel warmer, so reduce indoor humidity. Minimize mid-day washing and drying clothes, showering, and cooking. And when you must do these things, turn on ventilating fans to help extract warm, moist air.

If the attic isn’t already insulated or is under-insulated, insulate it NOW. Upgrading from 3 inches to 12 inches can cut cooling costs by 10 percent.

 

Source – Freshome

National Association of REALTORS® Report of Housing Market.

growth chart with hand

Existing-home sales posted the first rise of the year in April as inventory levels of for-sale homes also showed improvement, the National Association of REALTORS® reports.

Existing-home sales rose 1.3 percent in April compared to March, reaching a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.65 million last month. Still, home sales are 6.8 percent below the 4.99 million-unit pace set in April 2013, NAR reports.

“Some growth was inevitable after subpar housing activity in the first quarter, but improved inventory is expanding choices and sales should generally trend upward from this point,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Annual home sales, however, due to a sluggish first quarter will likely be lower than last year.”

An Overview of Key Indicators

Inventory levels: Housing inventories soared 16.8 percent in April, reaching a 5.9-month supply at the current sales pace. That is up from a 5.1-month supply in March. Unsold inventory is 6.5 percent higher than a year ago. “We’ll continue to see a balancing act between housing inventory and price growth, which remains stronger than normal simply because there have not been enough sellers in many areas,” Yun says. “More inventory and increased new-home construction will help to foster healthy market conditions.”

Home prices: The median existing-home price was $201,700 in April – 5.2 percent higher than year ago levels. “Current price data suggests a trend of slower growth, which bodes well for preserving favorable affordability conditions in much of the country,” Yun says.

Distressed sales: The decrease continues in distressed homes, which includes foreclosures and short sales. Distressed homes accounted for 15 percent of April sales, down from 18 percent a year ago, NAR reports. Broken out, in April, 10 percent of sales were foreclosures and 5 percent were short sales.

Time on market: For the fourth consecutive month, homes sold faster. Four out of 10 homes nationwide sold in less than a month in April. The median time on the market for all homes was 48 days in April, down from 55 days in March.

In the South here’s how existing-home sales and prices fared in April,  rose 1 percent to an annual level of 1.94 million in April, but remain 3.5 percent below year ago levels. Median price: $173,200, up 3.2 percent from April 2013 levels.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

Move Up Buyers – It’s Time to Move Up!

move up buyers

Here’s the dilemma, at the time you bought your current home, it was the right place for your family’s needs. It was the perfect home that fit your finances, located in a great school district, and cozy enough to be relatively low-maintenance. That was three kids and several promotions ago. With the passing of time, you’re wondering where all the space went?

Longing for More Room or An Upgraded Home?

Like many growing families, that cozy feeling of your current home has gradually drifted into wishing there were more room. You realize it’s time for more space and an upgrade. You figured it’s worth tackling the challenges involved in moving even if it’s just across town. This much we know – it makes no difference if you’re moving across town or across the country, moving is never easy. Plus you have to work through the logistics of selling the home you live in and purchasing a new one, preferably  at the same time. That’s when it gets real complicated and you know you need an expert real estate professional who has experience managing two transactions at the same time.

Here are some tips we recommend to clients moving into a more expensive home.

Preparing for Moving Up

Before you think about buying a more expensive home (that doesn’t necessarily mean bigger), begin by prioritizing your home buying needs. Things have changed since you last bought your current home, so your needs have changed dramatically.

First and foremost, select an experienced real estate professional to help protect your interest and guide you through the real estate transaction.  Interview several before making your choice.  This is one of the most important decisions you will make during the process.

Get loan pre-approval or at least pre-qualified for a mortgage.

Make a budget for the total costs of your new home including the funds for the down payment and funds for your transition.

Ask your Realtor about the available housing inventory and the type of market your area is experiencing.

Get your current home ready for the market.

Price it right!

What if you find a new home for yourself before selling your current home?  Again ask your experienced Realtor the way to broach this in the offer.

How to Make a Kitchen Sizzle

 

kitchen

Whether you are getting your house ready for the market or creating a dream kitchen in a home you just bought considering a major kitchen redo is a major project and expense. Here are tips and trends to help you.

The cost of redoing a kitchen is on the rise, averaging $109,000 for an upscale renovation and $55,000 for a mid-range transformation, according to the 2014 Cost vs. Value Report.

Experts say the following trends are generating the hottest buzz in kitchens this year:

1. Quartz is the new granite. Because of its presence in many homes and due in part to so lower prices, granite has lost star power. What’s taking its place is quartz, which is similar to quartzite; it’s easier to maintain and affordable.  It offers a less-fussy patterned appearance to suit contemporary styles

2. LED lighting. Because it’s been mandated by certain states and the federal government has required that incandescent lamps be phased out unless sufficiently energy efficient, more professionals and home owners are making the switch to energy-wise LEDs underneath cabinets and in cans, pendants, chandeliers, and sconces.

3. Backsplashes have become a major focal point. Subway tiles are still popular, though now with beveled edges; matte rather than glossy finishes; a variety of colors rather than just classic white; and in larger 4-by-10-inch formats rather than traditional 3-by-6-inch sizes. Today’s trend is also to lay the tiles in vertical rather than horizontal rows. Bigger glass tiles in shimmery hues are grabbing attention, too—and they represent a green choice, made out of recycled materials.

4. Drawers beneath countertops rather than doors. Rather than have to go through a two-step process of opening below counter cabinets and reaching into and rummaging through shelves, drawers that pull out and present all their contents are taking hold. The one downside: These shelves aren’t adjustable as are those in many cabinets.

5. Appliance trends. Options, options and more options are available in today’s high tech kitchens.  Here are a few to consider.

* Microwave drawers that are easier for all generations to reach than those placed above a range or cooktop.

* More powerful gas range burners that offer higher output.

*French-door style refrigerators that make it easier to view contents when doors are opened, they’re now available from some manufacturers with four doors.

* Hot-water dispensers on refrigerator doors.

* Beverage centers and wine coolers that are placed strategically at points of use.

* Dishwashers that have three and four racks for silverware and utensils; also, models that use less water, are quieter and bigger, and place jets along side walls.

* Integrated appliances, better camouflaged behind panels to dress up open-style kitchens.

*Long, deep, one-bowl sinks, sometimes with cutting boards to conserve space.

6. Cleaner, contemporary lines. Styles fade in and out, typically following suit with fashion trends and the economy. This year, home owners are gravitating away from traditional and even eclectic designs, instead opting for streamlined, modern looks. This preference is showing up in less-ornamented cabinet fronts, sometimes with a flat door or minimal molding and simpler hardware. Trends also include less exotic countertop patterns, simpler floor choices such as wood planks or bigger tiles with less grout, and pared-back color palettes.

 

Source – Realtor Magazine

Window Boxes Add Curb Appeal

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Add beautiful window boxes for added interest and a pop of color. No matter if you lack the time, money, or energy to maintain large, sumptuous borders, you can still enjoy colorful flowers and foliage in planters that are small enough to change in five minutes and striking enough to give your house a new look.

Make It Interesting

One simple rule to make window boxes like these more interesting: Plant a thriller (something tall, such as a blooming geranium), a filler (something to add fullness, such as colorful caladium), and a spiller (something to trail over the sides, such as purple petunias).  These are just suggestions just make sure you have a thriller, filler and spiller.

Summer Window Boxes

A window box dresses up the front of the home while providing extra gardening space. Use light colors of foliage and flowers to create a cooler feel in summer. If you have a smaller garden in the same area use the same colors to accentuate.

Go for the Bold

The big challenge in choosing plants for the window box was picking colors keep in mind the color of your house so they will really pop.  If you lack this natural talent visit your local nursery and they will be happy to help you.  Some nurseries will even fill your window boxes with stunning plants for an additional charge.

Winter Window Boxes

Winter is equally stellar when you know what to plant. Begin with a focal point, the one element that draws attention. The thriller could be tall snap dragons or round colorful kale both are an excellent choices.   To each side plant pansies or violas to add color and be the filler. Accent with green and add your spiller with ivy.

Lighten Up the Living Room

white living room

Create a Blank Canvas

A white room can serve as a gallery-like showplace for collections and your favorite items. Gather your collections together to showcase how special they are to you.  A blank white canvas sets off the beloved items you’ve acquired over time, without feeling over decorated.

Accent with Varying Hues

Whites don’t always need to be as pure as the driven snow. Try neutral window treatments that pick up a room’s wood tones. For example beige gray paint color on wooden beams highlights the newly painted white ceiling beams for extra dimension. This makes the ceiling looks taller and the space seems larger.

Shift Shades Between Rooms

Using white in adjoining areas creates a cohesive effect that doesn’t disrupt the quiet visual of a white space. But having the same shade of white in every room could look sterile, so switch up your specific shades according to the lighting of the room and the ambience you wish to create.

Source – Southern Living

Spring is the Time to Open Your Swimming Pool

swimming pool

1. Take the Cover Off
The very first thing you need to do is remove the cover from your pool. If you have a safety cover, you will need an installation rod and hex key to remove the springs from the anchors and screw them down flush to the concrete.

If you have a standard tarp cover with water bags, just remove the water bags and empty them to store for the winter.

Make sure you drain the water off the cover and remove any large debris before taking off the cover. It will make your job a lot easier and it will prevent that stuff from getting into your pool water.

Next, take the cover from one end of the pool and continually fold in half until it’s easy to remove the cover from the pool.

Remove the Winter Plugs

Walk around your pool and find all the return lines. Remove the winter plugs from the return lines and step jets.

Remove the ice compensator from the skimmer buckets. Depending on how you closed it, there should be a plastic bottle, sponge, or “gizmo” in your skimmer that prevents the ice from cracking it. Replace the baskets.

At this time, make sure your pool is filled mid-way up the skimmer opening before starting your filter system.

2. Get Your Filter System Ready

Before you start your filter system, make sure all of the drain plugs are properly installed. Your filter system should have one main drain plug and your pump may have two.

Replace the pressure gauge on your filter as well as any other parts that belong.

Check the o-ring on your pump lid to make sure it’s in good condition. Bend it between your fingers to check for cracks. If everything looks ok, just apply a Teflon-based o-ring lubricant before screwing the pump lid back on.

Once everything is in place, start your filter system.

Note: Your pump may have to be primed if no water is coming through. Turn off the pump and remove the lid. Fill the pump housing with water. You can use a hose or a giant bucket of pool water to do this. Replace the lid and your pump should prime itself.

3. Test and Shock
Once your pool is up and running, take a water sample to your nearest pool dealer to get a professional water analysis done. Make sure you pH and alkalinity are properly balanced.

At this point, it’s a good idea to add the proper sanitizer to your water (i.e. chorine). Also, shocking your pool right away is a good idea too.

4. Cleaning Up
Make sure you clean your winter cover before storing it away for the season. Check your local pool supply dealer for winter cover cleaner.

Also, vacuum your pool using a manual vacuum at first to get all the heavy debris out (if there is any). After that, you can continue to use your automatic pool cleaner.

Opening up your pool is easy and takes no time at all. Ask a friend or neighbor to help and drink plenty of water, or beverage of choice, while working in the heat.

Happy Swimming!

How To Get Rid of the Clutter

before after clutter

When your home is on the market keeping your home neat and tidy all of the time isn’t always easy.   A cluttered house is a big turn off for buyers.  Buyers have a hard time seeing through the clutter to the home’s attributes.  Follow these few tips and learn how to take control of the clutter in your home.   By de- cluttering your home rooms look cleaner and larger.

Take One Step at a Time

Working one room at a time, divide everything you own into three piles: keep, donate or sell, and trash. This can be a time-consuming process, but it’s a great way to uncover problem spots in your home or in your daily habits. After this step you can see what is left and can start to determine your storage needs.  Next, with you “keep” pile determine spots for storage solutions so items are easily accessible and likely to be returned. Example, install hooks to hang coats, hampers in kids rooms, a nice bowl at the entry for keys, etc.

Maximize Space

As you look for organizational opportunities, assess each room’s unique possibilities for transforming unused space. Can you add a rack, shelves, or another solution to the walls to take your storage vertical? Are there specially sized bins that could capture the area under a bed or between the refrigerator and wall? Is it possible to replace or add furniture that pulls double duty as storage, such as a lidded ottoman or a bench with drawers and baskets underneath?

Be a Smart Shopper

It’s finally time to put everything in its place. Decide exactly how many storage products you need, including the kind, style and the size. Putting together a complete list before shopping prevents buying lots of pretty bins that end up unused while clutter continues to mount. If you prefer items that match your decor, try to find solutions you can label.

Stylish Storage

You don’t have to stick to the organizing store or aisle when looking for storage. You can find solutions anywhere when you get creative. In the kitchen, install a vertical magazine rack inside a cabinet to store pot lids. For the bathroom, a magnetic strip in the medicine cabinet can hold tweezers and small tools, and a plastic tub with a handle is a great way to tote accessories from the closet to the tub or vanity. In your bedroom, place a ladder against the wall to hold extra blankets.

Source – Better Homes & Gardens

Preparing For Your Spring Garden

Daybreak 2007

It is time to start thinking of those Spring & Summer gardens.  Although it is not time to plant them yet there are several things that a good gardener does during this time of the year.  With this Winter being so unpredictable, and wonderful Spring like days, I repeat do not plant yet.  Just prepare for those gardens and your landscaping will look fabulous in the days to come.

Prune Trees
Most fruit trees (or those that flower) benefit from being thinned every year, this also includes Butterfly bushes. This encourages a more open habit that keeps the trees healthy and makes it easier to harvest fruit when they produce. The best time to prune is before new growth develops and after the threat of a hard freeze is gone.

Prune Roses
Prune your roses just as or before new growth emerges from the canes. Cutting your roses back encourages strong, healthy shoots that will produce lots of blooms. A trim also gives the plants a more open habit, which helps them resist diseases such as black spot.  It is also a good time to fertilize them.

Pull Back Winter Mulch
If you spread a layer of winter mulch to protect your plants from the winter, you’ll want to remove it when plants begin to grow and danger of a hard freeze is past.

Test Garden Tip: Keep mulch or some type of covering handy to protect your plants in the case of an unseasonably late arctic blast.  Or a bed sheet will work equally as well.

Plant Trees and Shrubs
Spring’s cool, moist conditions make it the perfect time to add trees and shrubs to your yard. There are many reasons to grow trees and shrubs: They add value and beauty to your property. They can shade your home, reducing your summer energy bill.

The most common mistake when planting trees and shrubs is planting them too deeply. The root flare, where the roots meet the trunk, should be at or just above the soil level.

Cut Back Ornamental Grasses
Cut back ornamental grasses to about 4 inches tall before or just as they put out new growth. This is also the time to divide ornamental grasses, if you wish to do so.

Divide Overgrown Perennials
Give older perennials new life by dividing them. Dig up varieties (such as iris, black eye Susan, bee balm, aster, spider grass, and many hostas) that form dense clumps and split them apart. They’ll bloom better when they’re not crowding each other out.  Find a friend or neighbor and swap varieties to enhance both of your gardens.

Grow Early Vegetables
While tomatoes, peppers, and squash love hot summer weather, you can plant carrots, radishes, spinach, and other cool-season varieties while there’s still a bit of frost in the air. They’ll withstand light freezes easily, but need to be covered if the temperature drops into the low 20s.

Stop Weeds When They’re Small
Weeding is usually voted gardening’s most dreaded task, and as such, it’s often put off. But it is a necessary evil so get down there and pull them by hand, use a hoe, or otherwise remove weeds while they’re little, and you’ll make the job considerably easier later in the season when it is sweltering hot. Small root systems are less work to pull, and if you get them before they go to seed, you’ll have fewer weeds in the future.

Spread Mulch
When the soil has warmed up and dried out in spring, spread a 2-inch-deep layer of mulch (such as shredded wood, pine needles, or compost) over the soil surface to discourage weeds in your planting beds and hold moisture once hot summer days arrive.  I would wait until all of the flowing trees discard their flowers and wing dings for a clean look.

Source – Clemson University, Farmer Almanac, BHG