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A Real Estate Agent’s Christmas Wish List

Dear Santa,

We’ve been really good this year (and sold more houses than ever before!).  Here’s what we’d love for Christmas this year:

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1. We know the interest rates are increasing because the economy is recovering, but can you please keep them below 4.5% for the busy buying season of 2017?  It’ll help our buyers more easily afford their homes, and who wouldn’t want that?!

2. It’s been a tough couple of years for our buyers already, since the inventory of homes for sale has been so low.  Can you please help us by encouraging more sellers to list their home in 2017 (and after all, with rising home prices, it only makes sense!).  And maybe let them know about EveryHome and our low commission rate of just 4.5%? We’d appreciate that!

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3. EveryHome agents have had the most amazing clients this past year, and we’d love to keep that trend continuing in the coming year!  We have had the pleasure of representing such kind, hard-working, and fun buyers and sellers, and it’s our clients who keep our work so fun!

XOXO,

EveryHome


 

What the Federal Reserve’s Rate Hike Means for Buyers

The Federal Reserve voted to raise the benchmark interest rate one-quarter of a percent on Wednesday, signaling a future uptick in mortgage rates.  The unanimous decision, which was widely predicted by industry experts, was only the second time in a decade that the Federal Reserve raised interest rates.

Federal Reserve
Image via The New York Times

Explains Janet Yellen, the Fed’s chairwoman, “My colleagues and I are recognizing the considerable progress the economy has made.  We expect the economy will continue to perform well.”

Federal Reserve

While mortgage rates aren’t directly tied to the Federal Funds Rate, they tend to closely follow any decision made by The Fed.  As a result, the average 30-year fixed rate crawled up to 4.19%, and is continued to rise.  Rates have increased for seven weeks in a row, and are expected to slowly climb toward 5% in 2017.


 

EveryHome’s Favorite Last-Minute Hostess Gifts

We’ve all been there.  Whether it’s an impromptu get-together, a holiday party that your spouse forgot to tell you about, or a last-minute housewarming soiree, we’ve forgotten a small token of appreciation for the host or hostess….and, inevitably, found ourselves picking up a mediocre bottle of wine at the liquor store on the way to their home.

This holiday season, we resolve to put a little more thought into a gift for the host or hostess.  Here’s what we’re planning:

Hostess
Image via Teavana

If your loved one is a tea drinker, consider some fresh loose-leaf tea from your local boutique (we especially love Teavana and David’s).  The knowledgeable staff can help with selecting a premium tea – you’ll have your pick from dozens – and you can even nab a small teacup set or charming travel mug while you’re there.

Treat the hostess with the mostest to an at-home spa experience courtesy of Lush.  With locations in King of Prussia and Philadelphia, Lush offers handmade, vegan bath and body products.  We especially love their bath bombs, cut-to-size soaps, and creamy lotions!

Hostess
Image via West Elm

Another one of our favorite wintertime gifts is a cozy throw blanket from a store like West Elm (best patterns and colors), Target (best value), and Pottery Barn (most luxurious).  Consider tying one up with a pretty ribbon and a Netflix gift card this holiday season for a stay-at-home gift that they’ll love.


 

How Will Student Loans Impact Your Ability to Afford a Mortgage?

Mark Mawby was kind enough to sit down with EveryHome and discuss how to afford a mortgage with student loan debt.  Mark serves as the Vice President of Lending for Freedom Mortgage in Plymouth Meeting, PA and his team has helped countless EveryHome buyers effortlessly secure a mortgage.

freedom-mortgage afford a mortgage

There have been a lot of changes recently in how to calculate student loan payment, including how it may affect your ability to obtain a mortgage.  One of the most important things to consider is your debt ratio.

To calculate debt ratio, your lender will add all of the expenses on your credit report as a monthly payment, including your student loans.  This also includes any credit card debt, or car payments, but does not include things like your cell phone bill, gas, or electric.  Your lender will then add your potential new monthly mortgage payment  to this total, and these things combined, in general, cannot exceed 45% of your gross monthly income.  In round numbers, for example, if you’re making $1000 per month, your monthly payments cannot exceed $450.

afford a mortgage

FHA tends to be the most flexible loan program for borrowers with student loan debt because they will allow a higher “debt ratio” than other loan programs.  In some cases, there is an option to go to a 50 or 55% debt ratio on an FHA loan (as opposed to a conventional loan, where the limit is closer to 43 or 45%).

As a result of allowing this higher debt ratio, they may want to see compensating factors as a result.  These compensating factors may include higher credit scores, using your own money as a down payment, rent history, and recently graduating (and being in an upwardly mobile position).

eh-logo afford a mortgage

If you have multiple student loans,  consolidating them into one fixed-rate loan may lower your monthly payment.  Not only will this save you money, it may also help you to more easily afford a mortgage.

To learn more about qualifying for a mortgage or to discuss your specific situation, send Mark an email at Mark.Mawby@FreedomMortgage.com or give him a call at (215) 990-8580.


 

EveryHome’s Real Estate Forecast for 2017

The housing markets of 2015 and 2016 enjoyed record real estate sales, skyrocketing home values, and historically-low interest rates.  Now that most economic indicators suggest that the real estate market has shifted back toward normal, experts are predicting that 2017 will be a year of modest, steady growth and rising interest rates.

2017

While first-time homebuyers were originally expected to be one of the biggest categories of buyers in 2017, the surge in interest rates following the election has some experts concerned that some Millennials will struggle with affordability.  Mortgage rates are on track to hit 5% in 2017.

2017

New construction will continue to be a hot area in the upcoming year, and Greater Philadelphia was recently ranked 8th in the nation for home building markets.  However, it’s not expected that all buyers will prosper from the new development: the vast majority of new homes are going to be available exclusively to the upper-end of the market — that is, above $450,000. While the average square footage of brand new homes is actually getting a bit smaller (and thereby reversing a decades-long trend of “bigger is better”), developers are seeking out higher-priced areas including the Main Line, Center City, and Conshohocken —  and the homes will be more luxurious than ever.

2017

We also expect to see a “fast moving market” locally, meaning that homes will likely sell quickly and bidding wars won’t be uncommon.  The local market experienced a shortage of inventory in 2016, as buyers outnumbered sellers and demand for homes was hot.  That trend is expected to continue in 2017.


 

Pantone Announces the 2017 Color of the Year

The global authority on color, Pantone, recently released their pick for 2017’s Color of the Year.  The annual event is closely-watched by designers, and “Greenery”, was hailed by many industry leaders as a fresh and exciting choice. The zesty chartreuse shade is reminiscent of early springtime, and we can expect to see in the world of fashion, architecture and home decor in the coming year.  In fact, Airbnb will even be adopting the shade for its new logo.

greenery

Pantone defines its Color of the Year choice as “a symbolic color selection; a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our global culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.”

pantone

Pantone’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman, explains that “amid a complex social and political landscape”, Greenery is “satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate, revitalize and unite, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose.”


 

Mortgage Rates Jump to Two-Year High

Mortgage rates haven’t been this high since October 2014.  Government mortgage giant Freddie Mac recently reported that the average 30-year fixed rate loan has climbed from 4.08% to 4.13% this week.  These figures include an average of 0.5 points (a point is an upfront fee paid to the lender by the borrower to “buy down” the interest rate) – in other words, if you don’t purchase points, your rate may be a bit higher.

freddie

The average 5-year adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) also rose to 3.17%, and the 15-year fixed rate loan crawled up to 3.36%.  A popular choice for refinancing homeowners, the increase for the 15-year fixed rate loan has caused mortgage applications around the country to plummet.  As CNBC reports, the number of homeowners attempting to refinance is at the lowest level of the year.

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If you’re in the process of shopping for a home and would like to be introduced to a friendly, knowledgeable and local lender, be sure to give us a call at (215) 699-5555.


 

Three Things to Know About Buying a New Construction Home

There are plenty of new construction communities in Greater Philadelphia, ranging in price from $150,000 up to multimillion dollar homes. Buying a brand new home is a little bit different, though, so there are a few things to keep in mind before you begin the process.

new construction

One of the most important things to consider is the timeline.  As you probably expected, it usually takes longer to settle on new construction than it does on a pre-existing home, although it can vary quite a bit. Some of these homes are entirely custom built, and can take 9 months or so, whereas others are already in the process of being constructed.

Since many people who buy new construction homes also have a home to sell, it’s important to carefully consider this timing.  Additionally, most builders do not accept a home sale contingency with the contract, meaning that you may be required to show by your lender that you can afford both mortgages at the same time (just in case your original home doesn’t sell prior to your new one).

new construction

Another thing to remember is that you’re entitled to a buyer’s agent who looks out for your best interests – and for no fee!  When you reach out directly to the builder, you’ll be represented by their agent, who unfortunately has only their best interests in mind. Instead, it’s best to establish a relationship with an independent buyer’s agent ahead of time. They’ll be by your side during the entire process, regardless of which new construction community you choose. As you may have already seen on our website, EveryHome is excited to have buyer’s agents with plenty of experience in new construction.


 

Are You Ready to Downsize Your Home?

Think “bigger is better”?  Not always the case!  Whether you’re looking to save money and time, have a smaller carbon footprint, or simplify your lifestyle, you’re not alone — thousands of homeowners in Greater Philadelphia choose to downsize their home each year!

Downsize

Of course, there are varying degrees of downsizing, and it certainly isn’t for everybody.  While some folks take the plunge into a true “tiny house” (often defined as 500 square feet or less), most are more comfortable trading in their 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath Colonial for a convenient condo or cozy bungalow.

Empty nesters tend to be the largest group of clients wishing to downsize, although we work frequently with clients who are going through a divorce or simply wish to be more environmentally friendly and financially savvy.  Whatever the reason may be, there are a few important questions to ask yourself before making the decision:

Downsize

1.  Does the size of my current home make sense for my lifestyle?  Are there any unexpected life events that could require a larger home (such as “Boomerang” adult children)?

2.  Is there anything I’ll miss about my bigger home? For example, hosting large family gatherings or out-of-town guests

3.  Am I comfortable parting with many of my material items? If not, can I afford to rent a storage unit?

4.  What will the true cost be of downsizing, and can I afford it? For example, purchasing petite furniture, and moving costs.

Downsize

If you would like any assistance on your home buying journey, or if you’d like to talk to an EveryHome downsizing expert (yep, we have those!), give us a call at at 215-699-5555.


 

Home Values Reach an All-Time High

September’s data was recently released, and the nation’s average home value has now surpassed the peak of the housing bubble in 2006.  The closely-watched S&P Case-Shiller 20-city Index reported an increase of 5.1% from September 2015 to September 2016, an upward tick resulting in home values that the nation hasn’t seen since before the Great Recession.

Home Values

 

Suggesting that home values have finally recovered from the housing crisis, industry leaders are quick to point out that the increase in home values remains unstable across the country.  The biggest gains have been reported in the West and parts of the South, whereas the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions have reported relatively stable, steady growth by comparison.  The Midwest has remained largely stagnant and even reported some decreases in home value.

Home Values


 

Holiday Gift Ideas for First-Time Homeowners

If your friend or family member recently purchased their first home, you may be wondering what kind of gift they’d appreciate this winter season.  Whether it’s for a housewarming party or holiday swap, the following ideas are always a hit with new homeowners!

first-time

 

Homeownership (and moving!) is stressful, so we love the idea of giving a first-time buyer the chance to enjoy a night out in their new town. Consider putting together a gift basket with a couple of gift cards to local restaurants, theaters, or spas.  If your loved one would prefer to stay in and enjoy their new home, the gift basket may include a bottle of wine and popcorn, Netflix gift card and a cookbook.

first-time

Plus, first-time buyers are likely to be inundated with junk mail and plenty of bills, so why not give them something to look forward to when they check their mail?  Consider purchasing an affordable one-year magazine subscription (often $15 or less) tailored to your loved one’s interests, or even a subscription box service that they can enjoy each and every month.

first-time

Practical gifts may be key for first-time buyers, especially if they nearly cleared out their savings account to afford their down payment.  Many new homeowners don’t own a set of tools, a shovel, rake, so consider picking up a few of these household necessities.  And of course, gift cards to Lowe’s, Home Depot, Home Goods and Target can always come in handy!


 

What’s the Difference Between a Realtor® and Real Estate Agent?

Often times, people use the term “Realtor®” and “real estate agent” interchangeably — even in the industry! There is a distinct difference, though, and it’s pretty straightforward.

Realtor®

A real estate agent simply refers to someone who is licensed as a real estate salesperson through their state.  All states require licensed agents to take courses and pass an examination.  Once you become a real estate agent, you are eligible to join the National Association of Realtors® and become a Realtor®.

Realtor®

Realtor® is a trademarked (and capitalized!) word reserved exclusively for members of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).  NAR is the largest trade association in the United States, and it requires an additional “Code of Ethics” for members to follow.  It also requires that members be actively working in the industry and have no official sanctions for unprofessional conduct. The vast majority of real estate agents are Realtors®, including all EveryHome agents.


 

The Best Free Holiday Attractions in Greater Philadelphia

Image via Visit Philadelphia
Image via Visit Philadelphia

Bring the whole family to the Philadelphia Comcast Building for their popular Holiday Spectacular!  The beautiful event is running until New Year’s Day, and features dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet, a beautiful light show, and spirited music.  Each show runs at the top of the hour (from 10am-8pm) and lasts approximately fifteen minutes.

 

penn
Image via Penn

Head to the Penn Museum on December 3rd to learn about holiday celebrations around the world! Guests will receive complimentary passes to “visit” countries on display (including China, Kenya, and Japan) and take part in fun-filled holiday traditions for the whole family.  Event runs from 11:00am until 4:00pm.

 

holiday

We love the nation’s oldest continually operating farmer’s market for it’s amazing prepared dishes and fresh produce, but did you know the Reading Terminal Market features an impressive indoor holiday railroad set on display?  From now until New Year’s Eve, the market will operate 17 beautiful working train lines that the whole family will enjoy – and of course, entry is free!


 

How Will Higher Mortgage Rates Affect the Housing Market?

The average 30-year fixed rate mortgage jumped another 6 basis points this past week to 4.02%, Bankrate.com reports. Fueled by industry expectations that a Trump presidency will increase corporate profits and cut taxes, the increase in rates have been an unwelcome surprise to buyers across the country.  Just a month ago, the average home loan stood at just 3.34%.

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Despite a small drop in affordability as a result of higher rates, real estate agents point out that it’s unlikely to greatly affect the current market; the high-demand and low inventory of homes for sale will balance any decrease in buyers.  In fact, bidding wars continue to be common across the country.

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For home shoppers in our region, it’s unclear where rates are headed. Bankrate.com’s panel of experts remain divided, with some lenders predicting that rates will continue to increase, where others believe they’ll remain stagnant or even decrease.


 

What’s the Best Amount for a Down Payment?

A lot of buyers, and especially first-time buyers, are unsure how much money they should put down on their new home. Down payment amounts can vary greatly among borrowers, and the majority of EveryHome clients put down between 3.5% and 20%. And sometimes there are even opportunities to buy a home with 0% down – and this is an option for Veterans, as well as people who are purchasing in more rural areas with a USDA loan. Your EveryHome agent can help you learn if these are options for you.

down payment
Down payments of 3.5% are one of the most popular choices with people using an FHA loan, which is backed by the government. A conventional loan, alternatively, requires a minimum of 5% down. Generally speaking, conventional loans have slightly better terms and tend to be preferred, but FHA loans have low rates and are a great choice – especially for younger borrowers.

down payment
The magic number with down payments, though, is 20%, because you can avoid paying Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).  If your down payment is less than 20%, you will be required to pay PMI, although it’s important to note that it’s not overwhelmingly expensive–especially when you consider the low-interest rates!  On average, PMI costs between 0.5 and 1% of the loan on an annual basis, and it’s rolled into your monthly mortgage payment.


 

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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)