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Recent Report: Home Values Continue to Climb

Good news for homeowners: November’s real estate market data was recently released by the S&P Case-Shiller Index and home prices climbed 5.6%.  That’s a slight increase from October’s gain of 5.5%.

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It’s important to note, however, that the biggest gains were made in the West (namely in Seattle, Portland, and Denver), while home prices in the Mid-Atlantic region grew moderately.  Still, home prices are rising faster than inflation and rising mortgage rates could squeeze out the vulnerable first-time homebuyer market in 2017.

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Economists point to a number of factors driving up the average home value.  Low rates of unemployment, an improving economy, and fierce competition among buyers are three of the biggest factors.  While mortgage rates remain relatively low from a historical perspective, they’ve jumped approximately 50 basis points (0.5%) since November, and industry experts predict that home price growth may stabilize in 2017 as a result.


 

How Much Do Tiny Homes Really Cost?

Tiny homes are having a big moment!  With their budget-friendly price tags, smaller carbon footprint, and cozy appeal, it’s no surprise that more and more home buyers are looking for tiny homes.  But how much can you expect to really spend?

Tiny Homes

First, it’s important to mention that “tiny homes” can be super diverse!  One of the most popular types are 150-500 square feet houses that are built on wheels, like a trailer.  Other small styles include “micro apartments” (typically found in major cities), and petite single-family homes, often around 700-900 square feet.  There’s no official square footage size for a home to be considered “tiny”, but they’re often under 1000 square feet.

Tiny Homes

Tiny homes that are built on wheels can vary in price, but many models start around $20,000-$30,000.  The more custom and quaint styles (like the ones you see on the popular tv shows) often range from $60,000-$100,000.  If you’re interested in doing much of the work yourself, you may be able to build a simple tiny home for under $15,000 – although experts warn that this option may only be feasible for the experienced DIY-er!

Tiny Homes

While tiny apartments and single homes are typically eligible for a mortgage, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to secure a conventional home loan on a home built on wheels.  Some buyers have had luck with personal loans or even a car loan (this option also works for traditional mobile homes), but most tiny homeowners recommend saving up and paying cash if possible. For more information, visit thetinylife.com


 

This is Why Your Home’s Photos Are So Important

If you’re currently in the market to buy a new home, you probably know how important it for a listing to have clear, realistic, and well-lit photos.  After all, 98% of all buyers begin shopping for a home online and first impressions matter.  As one real estate agent said, picture appeal is the new curb appeal!”

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Photos that are too dark, cluttered, or pixellated don’t give you a good sense of what the home is really like and they’re simply not attractive.  And while having nice photos might seem like common sense, we bet you’re bound to come across a few poor quality photos as you browse through homes today – even for high-priced homes!

If you’re listing your home this spring, here’s how you can ensure that your home is showcased beautifully online:

1. Choose a real estate agent with strong visual marketing or uses a professional photographer.  While not all agents will hire a pro to take photos, this tends to be the norm in the $800,000+ market.  If they’re not planning on hiring somebody, ask to see samples of their past listings to get a sense of the photo quality.  If you’re bound to working with a real estate agent who is a family member or close friend and you worry about their photos, be sure to speak up!  Consider asking them to work with a photographer, or team up with another agent who takes better photos.

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2. Help your agent by decluttering ahead of time.  How many times have you seen house photos with “stuff” strewn around the room? Whether it’s dishes in the sink, shopping bags in the corner, or kid’s toys scattered on the floor, it can be distracting to homebuyers and even suggest that the owners aren’t maintaining the home well.

3. Speak up!  If you don’t like the photos and don’t feel like they represent your home well, be sure to let your real estate agent know.  He or she wants you to be satisfied with the way your home is marketed, and they should have no problem editing them or retaking them to suit your preferences.

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The Nation’s Mortgage Rates Are Back on the Rise

The average mortgage rate jumped ten basis points during the week of the presidential inauguration, and prompted some lenders to speculate that rates will hit 5% by the summertime.  The current 30-year fixed rate home loan stands at 4.19% with an average of 0.4 points (points are fees paid to a lender that are equal to 1 percent of the loan amount).  A year ago, the same loan was just 3.79%.  The 15-year fixed rate mortgage also increased to 3.40%, up 6 basis points from the previous week.

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Bankrate.com’s popular Rate Trend Index predicts that rates will continue to rise in the following week.  Polling a panel of experts in the mortgage field, Bankrate found that half of all lenders believe that mortgages will become more expensive in the upcoming days, whereas only 8% believe they will fall (42% predict they will remain unchanged).

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How to Determine Your Property Lines

There are a variety of reasons that homeowners need to know their exact property lines, including building a fence, adding a swimming pool, or simply being concerned that a neighbor is encroaching on their yard.  Regardless of the reason, there are a few steps that homeowners can take to determine the boundaries of their yard.

Property Lines

If you have your home’s deed handy, you’ll find a written legal description of your property’s location. Some are written in an easy-to-understand way that will assist you in determining your property lines, whereas others might require more in-depth knowledge and will need to be interpreted by a surveyor.

If you don’t have your deed or if it isn’t helpful, you can also check with your county’s recorder’s office for any public maps that include your neighborhood and street.  Many will show clear dimensions of your property lines, as well as helpful landmarks to determine the boundaries.

Property Lines

And of course, the most comprehensive way to determine your property lines is to consult a licensed land surveyor. A surveyor will be able to provide you with the exact boundaries of your yard and retrace your property line. Land surveys aren’t required in the state of Pennsylvania when buying or selling real estate, but they can be helpful, and some buyers opt to purchase them for additional protection.

The price for a survey can vary greatly depending on the size and characteristics of your property, but many homes in Greater Philadelphia will cost between $400 and $900.

Property Lines

If you’re interested in obtaining a land survey for your home, you can find a licensed surveyor on the Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyor’s website, www.psls.org.


 

This is What $200,000 Will Buy You in the Phila Suburbs

This picturesque town of Kennett Square in southern Chester County offers plenty of modest, move-in ready two or three bedroom townhomes.  The majority of single homes start around $300,000, but occasionally a fixer-upper will hit the market for a more affordable price – and they tend to be a great value!  Pictured: 183 Cambridge Circle, Kennett Square

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183 Cambridge Cir, Kennett Sq PA
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183 Cambridge Cir, Kennett Sq PA

 

The bustling town of Drexel Hill in Delaware County was recently ranked the top suburb for young buyers in Greater Philadelphia.  Affordable, diverse, and easily accessible to Center City, you can expect to find plenty of quaint Tudor-style homes and Colonials (but note that the property taxes are high!).  Pictured: 828 Turner Ave, Drexel Hill

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828 Turner Ave, Drexel Hill PA
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828 Turner Ave, Drexel Hill PA

 

Glenside is located in the heart of Montgomery County, and offers plenty of nearby shops, restaurants, and parks.  For $200,000, you’ll find modest single homes on a quarter acre (and likely in need of updating), or a move-in ready 3 bedroom townhome.  Pictured: 240 Logan Ave, Glenside PA

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240 Logan Ave, Glenside PA
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240 Logan Ave, Glenside PA

 

Spotlight On: Central Bucks School District

One of the most popular school districts in the region, Central Bucks is a large, award-winning district serving nearly 20,000 students!  Central Bucks routinely scores in the top ten districts in the state for achievement-based test scores, and it’s powerhouse athletic program has even produced a number of professional athletes.

Central Bucks South High School
Central Bucks South High School

The district serves the Doylestown area and operates fifteen elementary schools, five middle schools, and three high schools (West, East, and South).

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Most of the homes in Central Bucks School District are priced at or above the Bucks County average.  The majority of single homes are priced between $500,000 and $800,000, although it’s not uncommon to find luxury estates valued over $2 million!  If you’re interested in living in a more affordable home in the district, you’ll be sure to find plenty of townhomes under $250,000, especially in the towns of Warrington, Warwick, and Chalfont.

central bucks


 

How Long Will it Take to Sell Your Home?

If you’re planning on selling your home in 2017, you might be wondering how long the process is expected to take. Currently, the average home across the nation is on the market for approximately 65 days before going under contract with a buyer, although this length of time can vary greatly!  In general, homes sell quickly in the spring and slower in the colder months.

In Greater Philadelphia, the average number of days on the market tends to be pretty similar to the national average, but with significant variation between neighborhoods.  If your home is located in a closer suburb and an award-winning school district (think Abington, Ardmore, or Media), it’s likely to sell quite a bit faster — especially if it’s moderately priced.  Homes located in more rural areas (including Barto, Plumsteadville, or Coatesville) tend to take a little bit longer.

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Additionally, homes that are particularly unique or expensive — especially over $800,000 — tend to take longer to sell.  In fact, homes valued over $2 million tend to take three or four months longer to find a buyer than the average property.

Of course, it takes more than finding a buyer and agreeing on a price.  Once your home is under contract, it takes approximately 45 days until it closes.  Buyers who are paying cash for the home tend to settle more quickly (often in just a couple weeks) whereas some buyers prefer not to settle for three months.  Either way, the buyer and seller must come to a mutual agreement when signing the Agreement of Sale.   And the good news? You’ll typically receive your proceeds on settlement day!


 

Mortgage Rates Tick Slightly Higher

Lenders across the nation reported a slight increase in mortgage rates on Monday, January 17th.  The average 30-year fixed rate loan jumped 4 basis points this week to 4.04%, while the average 15-year fixed rate loan climbed to 3.19%.  Following November’s election, mortgage rates surged nearly half of a percent higher, but appear to have stabilized in the last three weeks.

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Each week, Bankrate.com surveys loan officers across the country to determine whether they believe rates will rise, fall, or remain unchanged in the following week.  The majority of experts (54%) weighing in believed that rates will remain relatively stable in the upcoming week, whereas 18% believe they will increase and 27% expect for them to decrease.  The Rate Trend Index is a popular resource for borrowers to determine when to “lock in” their mortgage rate.

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Interested in learning more about loan options?  We’d love to introduce you to local, helpful, and knowledgeable lenders.  Just give us a call at (215) 699-5555 or email us at theoffice@everyhome.com.


 

Is Your Home or Neighborhood a “Seasonal Sale”?

Some homes have a good chance of selling any time of the year, whereas other homes sell more easily during the spring and summer months.  As EveryHome agent and home-flipping guru Jen Kuznits explains, “If you buy a 4-bedroom home in a good school district, with higher taxes, you will typically have a much harder time selling it if school has just started.”  These types of homes are sometimes referred to as a “seasonal sale” because they tend to be most appealing to families who would prefer to move their children in the summer rather than the middle of the school year.seasonal saleJen shares her story of how she learned about the value of seasonal sale: “One time, we finished a large home at the end of September. We couldn’t sell it. We finally got a much lower than anticipated offer at the end of December.  We were willing to take it, but the buyers didn’t want to settle until spring. We decided that if we waited for a spring settlement, we may as well wait until spring to sell. We took it off the market for a couple of months and re-listed it at the beginning of March.  It sold for $30,000 more than what we would have settled for had we taken that winter offer!”

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The Pros and Cons of New Construction Homes

Do you prefer the customizable, shiny “newness” of a brand new house?  Or would you rather move into a character-filled and quaint pre-existing home?  According to a survey by Trulia, approximately 41% of homebuyers prefer new construction if the costs were the same, whereas only 21% prefer an existing home, and 38% reported no preference.

New Construction

Of course, buying a brand new home typically comes with a higher price tag – and far fewer homebuyers are willing to pay for it.  While it’s difficult to assess the exact premium placed on new construction (since they tend to be larger, and with nicer features than existing homes), the price tends to be about 20% higher when adjusted for the features and location.  When these additional costs are taken into account, less than half of people who prefer a new home would actually pay this additional 20% fee.

New Construction

And according to the survey, new construction appeals most to younger buyers, but is most feasible for older folks with higher disposable incomes. If you’re interested in learning about new communities in the Greater Philadelphia area (including affordable new homes!) , be sure to reach out to EveryHome to meet an experienced and helpful agent.


 

Mortgage Insurance Premiums Just Got Cheaper

Good news for buyers using an Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan and making a down payment of less than twenty percent!  Annual mortgage insurance premiums just dropped significantly in price, from 0.85% to 0.6% of the loan balance.  The recent change, announced January 9th, is expected to save the average homeowner approximately $500 per year.

Mortgage Insurance Premiums

The surprising move was welcomed by most real estate professionals, as rising interest rates threatened to squeeze first-time buyers out of the competitive real estate market.  As the President of the National Association of Realtors, William Brown, explains, “It follows that dropping mortgage insurance premiums today will mean a whole lot more responsible borrowers are suddenly eligible to purchase a home through FHA. That puts more money in the fund to protect taxpayers, and it puts more families in homes so they can live out the American dream.”

Mortgage Insurance Premiums


 

Mortgage Rates Finally Fall, Ending 9-Week Streak

Breaking a 9-week streak of increasing mortgage rates, the average 30-year fixed loan tumbled this week to 4.20%.  Last week, the average rate stood at 4.32%.  Government mortgage agency Freddie Mac reported that mortgage rates have fallen for the first time since the presidential election, and that the 15-year fixed rate loan and 5/1 Adjustable-Rate Mortgage (ARM) have decreased as well.

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Lenders remain undecided on where mortgage rates are headed.  Bankrate.com’s weekly mortgage trend index found that experts are mixed on whether rates will continue to fall, remain steady, or rise once again.  As the chief financial analyst of Bankrate, Greg McBride, explains, “The run-up in bond yields and mortgage rates the last two months of 2016 was too much, too soon, and not based on anything concrete.”

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The weeks surrounding the holidays tend to be a fairly slow time for mortgage applications to begin with, but local lenders are reporting they’re slower than usual – especially in regards to homeowners refinancing.  While mortgage rates appear to be stabilizing, they are still 23 basis points higher than this time last year and, as a result, even fewer homeowners are choosing to refinance their properties.


 

Winter Home Inspections

Whenever you purchase a home, we always recommend having a home inspection performed on the home prior to settlement.  In the harsh winter weather, however, there are some unique challenges and even some benefits, when it comes to winter home inspections.

Winter Home Inspections

Certified home inspectors are trained to complete thorough inspections, even in the wintertime.  Sometimes, though, certain parts of the inspection just have to wait until the ice and snow melts, including the roof, porch or even the home’s foundation if snow is piled up against it.  As a homeowner, you can help this process go more smoothly by shoveling the porch or deck, and allowing room for the inspector to check beneath the porch. It’s also helpful to pile any snow away from the side of the home.

Winter Home Inspections

Another thing that inspectors carefully consider is frozen pipes.  If the pipes are frozen, it can conceal any potential leaks.  As a homeowner, it’s especially important to keep your heat on, even if the home is vacant, to prevent any frozen pipes or windows. It’s also a good idea to consider wrapping your hot water pipes in insulation this time of year – it’s a cheap and easy project and you can pick up supplies at your local home improvement store.

Winter Home Inspections

And while your home inspector will get a good look at the home’s heating system in the wintertime, unfortunately they won’t be able to get a good read of the home’s air conditioning system – in fact, they could damage the unit if it’s turned on when the weather is below 60.  In the summertime, buyers have the opposite problem – they can check out the AC, but not inspect the heating system as easily. Similarly, another benefit of winter home inspections are checking the drafts and insulation.  Your inspector will be able to spot where any cold air is entering the home.

Winter Home Inspections

If the home has a swimming pool or hot tub, a trained pool inspector can visually assess for any damages or needed repairs – even if the pool is winterized.  Unfortunately though, it’s not as helpful as an inspection during the warmer weather when the pool is open.  If you own a pool and plan on selling your home during the cooler months, it’s helpful to get your pool pre-inspected by a reputable company prior to closing it for the summer.

If you have any specific questions about home inspections or maintenance during the wintertime, we’d love to help you out.  Just give us a call at (215) 699-5555 and we’ll introduce you to an expert in your area.


 

Underwater and Need to Sell? Here’s What You Need to Know

If you’re “underwater” or “upside-down” on your home, you owe more than it’s worth.  For example, if you still owe $220,000 on your mortgage, and your home’s approximate value (as estimated by a licensed real estate agent or appraiser) is $210,000, then you’re about $10,000 underwater.  For homeowners in this situation, it’s not a big deal if you’re not planning on selling for a while.  The market will likely continue to improve over the next couple of years and you’re likely to regain equity in your home.

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However, some people need to sell for a variety of reasons, including a pending divorce, a job (and location) change, or maybe the monthly mortgage payment is simply too high.  Whatever the reason may be, there are a few options:

The first, and most idyllic, option is to simply pay the balance at the settlement table. Using the above example, you would likely owe approximately $10,000 (plus any commission fees and transfer tax) on the day of the closing.  If you absolutely must sell your home and this option works for you financially, it may make the most sense in the long run; it won’t hurt your credit score, and you’ll be able to purchase another home right away.

Of course, stroking such a large check understandably isn’t an option for many sellers. Some homeowners choose to rent out their current home while buying (or renting!) a new one.  While this is a great choice for some clients, others may struggle to qualify for a new home with the mortgage on their existing property.

If you’re struggling to pay your monthly mortgage payment and can no longer afford your home, you may be eligible for a short sale.  A short sale occurs when all lien holders (the mortgage company) agrees to sell your home for less than you currently owe.  It’s important to note, though, that this option can significantly affect your credit score and you’ll be ineligible to obtain a new loan for three or four years.

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If you’re considering a short sale on your current home, we would love the opportunity to meet with you.  In addition to having experienced short sale agents, we are pleased to work with a team of experienced real estate attorneys who may be able to assist you.

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EveryHome Realty is licensed by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission (license RB066839) and the New Jersey Real Estate Commission (license 0901599)