Friday, November 26, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Home energy efficiency is valued by the vast majority of American homeowners, with 89 percent of national survey respondents indicating that making their home more energy efficient is important to them personally.
Key findings from the September 2010 national survey include:
* Less than one in three homeowners believe their homes are "very" energy efficient
* While the majority reported knowing "a lot" about how to make their homes energy efficient, they mistakenly identified "older windows" as the top energy-loss culprit
* 90% said it is important to have a professional energy auditor who is "certified by an independent national organization"
"These findings are a call to action to the industry to help consumers tap into the true value of an independent energy audit," said Steve Baden, executive director, RESNET. "While the benefits of window replacement are obvious, it is often a less visible and less expensive repair – for example, sealing cracks around air conditioning and heating ducts – that can significantly improve a home's energy efficiency and cut homeowners' utility bills."
D.C.-based Clarus Research Group, a Qorvis company, conducted a market survey of 800 U.S. homeowners(1) on behalf of RESNET, an industry leader in the energy efficiency marketplace. The sample was defined as adults over 21 years of age who currently own a home or plan to purchase one within the next year. The survey was conducted by Ron Faucheux, Ph.D., president of Clarus and a nationally recognized research and polling expert.
Key among other survey findings:
* 86% of homeowners would trust an energy audit performed by someone who was "certified by an independent national organization" over someone who was not
* 80% of those surveyed said that if they were in the market to buy a home, an energy audit conducted by an "unbiased professional" would be important to them
Poll from RISMEDIA
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
FHA Gives Home Buyers One-Month WindowSeptember 1, 2010--The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is giving homeowners and buyers until October 4 to lock in a low monthly insurance premium, according to Gibran Nicholas, chairman of the CMPS Institute, an organization that trains and certifies mortgage bankers and brokers. “After October 4, the monthly insurance premiums on FHA loans will increase by over 63%.”
What does this mean for home buyers?
A home buyer purchasing a $200,000 home using a $193,000 FHA mortgage before October 4 would pay an insurance premium of $88.46 per month. If the same home buyer waits until after October 4, the insurance premium would jump to $148.01.
“In this example, the home buyer would lose $59.55 per month, or $7,146 over a 10-year timeframe,” Nicholas said. “Although the upfront mortgage insurance premium is going down after October 4, the real impact to the home buyer is actually a net increase in their out of pocket costs because the monthly premium is going up by 63%. Remember, sellers can pay the upfront premium or it can be financed into the loan amount, so homebuyers rarely pay the upfront premium out of pocket. On the other hand, the increase in the monthly premiums will be paid right out of the home buyer’s pocket with their mortgage payment each month.”
Ironically, home buyers who plan to be in the mortgage for less than three years and decide to pay the upfront fee themselves (instead of having the seller pay it for them), may actually save money by waiting until after October 4 to apply for an FHA loan.
“Home buyers with a short term time horizon may actually benefit from this change because the upfront premium will be reduced to 1% from 2.25%,” Nicholas said. This change will impact over 30% of the home buyers in today’s market who use FHA-insured financing. Home buyers considering an FHA loan should find and contact a CMPS professional in their area to discuss their options and what this means for their situation.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
The abundance of services that help home buyers and sellers complete their own real-estate transactions is relatively recent, and may have you wondering whether using a real-estate agent is becoming a relic of a bygone era. While doing the work yourself can save you the significant commissions that many real-estate agents command, for many, flying solo may not be the way to go — and could end up being more costly than a commission in the long run. Buying or selling a home is a major financial and emotional undertaking. Find out why you shouldn't discard the notion of hiring an agent just yet.
1. Better access/more convenience
A real-estate agent's full-time job is to act as a liaison between buyers and sellers. This means that he or she will have easy access to all other properties listed by other agents and will know what needs to be done to get a deal together. For example, if you are looking to buy a home, a real-estate agent will track down homes that meet your criteria, get in touch with sellers' agents and make appointments for you to view the homes. If you are buying on your own, you will have to play this telephone tag yourself. This may be especially difficult if you're shopping for homes that are for sale by owner
2. Negotiating is tricky business
Many people don't like the idea of doing a real-estate deal through an agent and think that direct negotiation between buyers and sellers is more transparent and allows the parties to look after their own interests better. This is probably true — assuming that both the buyer and seller are reasonable people who are able to get along. Unfortunately, this isn't always an easy relationship.
What if you, as a buyer, like a home but despise its wood-paneled walls, shag carpet and lurid orange kitchen? If you are working with an agent, you can express your contempt for the current owner's decorating skills and rant about how much it'll cost you to upgrade the home without insulting the owner. For all you know, the owner's late mother may have lovingly chosen the décor. Your real-estate agent can convey your concerns to the seller’s agent. Acting as a messenger, the agent may be in a better position to negotiate a discount without ruffling the homeowner's feathers.
A real-estate agent can also play the “bad guy” in a transaction, preventing the bad blood between a buyer and seller that can kill a deal. Keep in mind that sellers can reject a potential buyer's offer for any reason — including just because they hate his or her guts. An agent can help by speaking for you in tough transactions and smoothing things over to keep them from getting too personal. This can put you in a better position to get the house you want. The same is true for the seller, who can benefit from a hard-nosed real-estate agent who will represent his or her interests without turning off potential buyers who want to niggle about the price.
3. Contracts can be hard to handle
If you decide to buy or sell a home, the offer-to-purchase contract is there to protect you and ensure that you are able to back out of the deal if certain conditions aren't met. For example, if you plan to buy a home with a mortgage but you fail to make financing one of the conditions of the sale — and you aren't approved for the mortgage — you can lose your deposit on the home and could even be sued by the seller for failing to fulfill your end of the contract. (Keep in mind that the details of any contract may vary based on state law.)
An experienced real-estate agent deals with the same contracts and conditions on a regular basis and is familiar with which conditions should be used, when they can be removed safely and how to use the contract to protect you, whether you're buying or selling your home.
4. Real-estate agents can't lie
Well, OK, actually they can. But because they are licensed professionals, there are more repercussions if they do than for a private buyer or seller. If you are working with a licensed real-estate agent under an agency agreement, such as a conventional, full-service commission agreement in which the agent agrees to represent you, your agent will be bound by law to a fiduciary relationship. In other words, the agent is bound by law to act in his clients' best interest, not his own.
In addition, most real-estate agents rely on referrals and repeat business to build the kind of client base they'll need to survive in the business. This means that doing what's best for their clients should be as important to them as any individual sale.
Finally, if you do find that your agent has gotten away with lying to you, you will have more avenues for recourse, such as through your agent's broker or professional association or possibly even in court if you can prove that your agent has failed to uphold his fiduciary duties.
When a buyer and seller work together directly, they can — and should — seek legal counsel, but because each is expected to act in his or her best interest, there isn't much you can do if you find out later that you've been duped about multiple offers or the home's condition. And having a lawyer on retainer any time you want to talk about potentially buying or selling a house could cost far more than an agent's commissions by the time the transaction is complete.
5. Not everyone can save money
Many people eschew using a real-estate agent in order to save money, but keep in mind that it is unlikely that both the buyer and seller will reap the benefits of not having to pay commissions. For example, if you are selling your home on your own, you will price it based on the sale prices of other comparable properties in your area. Many of these properties will be sold with the help of an agent. This means that the seller gets to keep the percentage of the home's sale price that might otherwise be paid to the real-estate agent.
However, buyers who are looking to purchase a home sold by owners may also believe they can save some money on the home by not having an agent involved. They might even expect it and make an offer accordingly. However, unless buyer and seller agree to split the savings, they can't both save the commission.
The bottom line
While there are certainly people who are qualified to sell their own homes, taking a quick look at the long list of frequently asked questions on most “for sale by owner” websites suggests the process isn't as simple as many people assume. And when you get into a difficult situation, it can really pay to have a professional on your side.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Good credit scores have never been more important. As banks tighten their lending standards, it's important to have your score as high as possible.
A FICO score is a number, in general from 300 to 850, that is formulated from your payment history, including such things as amounts of money owed, length of your credit history, new credit accounts open, and how you have used your credit. Age, salary, race, education, and religion do not affect your score. You can't buy a good score; you can only build one over time by demonstrating that you are a responsible borrower.
To improve your credit score, start with these steps.
1. Pay your bills on time. This seems like a simple enough feat, but in hard economic times, more and more borrowers are finding themselves hard-pressed with the decision of what bill to pay. If you find yourself having a hard time paying bills, be sure to talk with the lender or company you owe. They may have programs or suggestions that will help you avoid having your bill sent to collections.
2. Don't let items go to collections. Once an item is sent to collections, your credit report will suffer. This ding will stay on your report for seven years.
3. Don't open other new credit lines when applying for a home loan. You may want the new car or living room set, but the home buying process is not the time to open multiple new accounts. This is a sure-fire way to temporarily reduce your credit score. If you do this before finalizing your mortgage, you many find yourself stuck with a higher interest rate.
4. Monitor your report on a regular basis for errors and cases of identity theft. Errors do happen. To get them corrected quickly, be sure to contact both the organization that provided the erroneous information, as well as the credit bureau. Identity theft happens. And it is your responsibility to identify it and address it!
5. Pay down credit cards. Carrying high balances on credit cards can severely affect your credit score. Think of it this way. If you have a grand total of $10,000 worth of credit limits available, but you owe $5,000 on all of your cards put together, you are using half of your available credit!
The best loans and mortgages are available to borrowers with FICO scores 700 and above. Experian, one of the major credit reporting agencies, reports that the average credit score is 693.
For a look at your credit report, visit the government sponsored site, annualcreditreport.com. You may access your report three times a year free of charge.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
If you are struggling with your mortgage payments or facing foreclosure, you may feel overwhelmed and frustrated.
Many homeowners simply don’t know what to do or where to go for assistance, and they feel too helpless to take action. Fannie Mae has launched a borrower-friendly outreach site designed to educate distressed homeowners on potential retention strategies and foreclosure alternatives.
They understand at Fannie Mae. They have created KnowYourOptions.com to help homeowners just like you. They have made it easy to find the information you need, so you can get help before it’s too late.
The online education resource — available in both English and Spanish — offers calculators to demonstrate to borrowers the mechanics of refinance, repayment, forbearance and modification options. It also offers information on Fannie's Deed-For-Lease program, which allows borrowers to become renters in the same property after pursing deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.
The site, also provides next steps and forms including a financial checklist and a contact log to aid borrowers in contacting their servicers.
You can watch a video here
Thankfully, there are options in this sluggish economy.
Feel free to contact us if you have any further questions and we will help direct you.
Tip #1: Refresh the exterior
First impressions count when it comes to selling a home. Most buyers won’t even leave their car if they don’t find the exterior appealing. The best ways to improve your home’s exterior include:
-Repairing and/or replacing trims, shutters, gutters, shingles, mailboxes, window screens, walkways and the driveway.
-Painting siding, trim and shutters and lamp and mailbox posts.
-Pressure washing vinyl siding, roofs, walkways and the driveway.
Tip #2: Spruce up the lawn and landscape
Home buyers associate the condition of your lawn and landscaping with the condition of your home’s interior. By improving the outside, you affect buyers’ impression of the entire property. The best ways to enhance the yard include:
-Mowing and edging the lawn.
-Seeding, fertilizing and weeding the lawn.
-Keeping up with regular lawn maintenance by frequent watering.
-Trimming and/or removing overgrown trees, shrubs and hedges.
-Weeding and mulching plant beds.
-Planting colorful seasonal flowers in existing plant beds.
-Removing trash, especially along fences and underneath hedges.
-Sweeping and weeding the street curb along your property.
Tip #3: Create an inviting entrance
The front door to your home should invite buyers to enter. The best ways to improve your entry include:
-Painting the front door in a glossy, cheerful color that complements the exterior.
-Cleaning, polishing and/or replacing the door knocker, locks and handles.
-Repairing and/or replacing the screen door, the doorbell, porch lights and house numbers.
-Placing a new welcome mat and a group of seasonal potted plants and flowers by the entry.
Tip #4: Reduce clutter and furniture
A buyer cannot envision living in your home without seeing it. A home filled with clutter or even too much furniture distracts buyers from seeing how they can utilize the space your home offers. If you have limited storage space, you may want to consider renting a temporary storage unit to place items you wish to keep. The best ways to declutter your home include:
-Holding a garage sale to prepare for your move, getting rid of unnecessary items.
-Removing clutter such as books, magazines, toys, tools, supplies and unused items from counter tops, open shelves, storage closets, the garage and basements.
-Storing out-of-season clothing and shoes out of sight to make bedroom closets seem roomier.
-Removing any visibly damaged furniture.
-Organizing bookshelves, closets, cabinets and pantries. Buyers will inspect everything.
-Putting away your personal photographs, unless they showcase the home. Let buyers see themselves in your home.
-De-personalize rooms as much as you can.
Tip #5: Clean, clean, clean
The cleanliness of your home also influences a buyer's perception of its condition. The appearance of the kitchen and bathrooms will play a considerable role in a buyer's decision process, so pay particular attention to these areas. The best ways to improve these areas include:
-Cleaning windows, fixtures, hardware, ceiling fans, vent covers and appliances.
-Cleaning carpets, area rugs and draperies.
-Cleaning inside the refrigerator, the stove and all cabinets.
-Removing stains from carpets, floors, counters, sinks, baths, tile, walls and grout.
-Eliminating house odors, especially if you have pets.
-Considering air fresheners or potpourri.
Tip #6: Make minor repairs
The small stuff does count, especially with first-time home buyers. Without dismissing the importance of repairing major items such as a leaky roof or plumbing, you do not need to spend money on replacing these items. Instead, focus on the minor repairs that will make your home visually appealing. The best ways to improve your home include:
-Repairing ceilings and wall cracks.
-Repairing faucets, banisters, handrails, cabinets, drawers, doors, floors and tile.
-Caulking and grouting tubs, showers, sinks and tile.
-Adding fresh paint to ceilings, walls, trim, doors and cabinets.
-Tightening door handles, drawer pulls, light switches and electrical plates.
-Lubricating door hinges and locks.
Tip #7: Showcase the kitchen
The heart of any home is the kitchen. If you are going to spend any money on renovations, this is the one area where you will see the greatest return. Even with a modest budget, focusing on a few key areas can make a great difference in getting the asking price for your property. The best ways to showcase the kitchen include:
-Replacing cabinet doors and hardware.
-Installing under-cabinet lighting.
-Replacing light fixtures.
-Replacing outdated shelving with pantry and cabinet organizers to maximize space.
-Baking cookies or cupcakes for a showing, to create a homey smell.
Tip #8: Stage furniture
Furniture placement can enhance the space of your home while giving buyers an idea of how to best utilize the space with their own belongings. Take some time to rethink how different areas in your house could be used. Some ideas to think about include:
-Moving couches and chairs away from walls in your sitting and family rooms to create cozy conversational groups.
-Creating a reading corner in the master bedroom.
-Clearing an empty room to set up a reading space.
-Turning an awkward space into a home office.
-Setting the dining room table with your best china.
-Set wine glasses in front of the fireplace or next to a Jacuzzi tub.
Tip #9: Light up the house
Create a sense of openness and cheerfulness in your home through its lighting. To improve the lighting try:
-Opening shades and drapes to let the sunshine warm and brighten rooms.
-Installing brighter light bulbs in rooms that tend to be dark.
-Adding additional lamps for ambient lighting.
-Turning on all the lights for a showing.
Tip #10: Add fresh touches
You can easily add color and style to your home by adding fresh touches throughout. Some ideas to consider include:
-Placing fresh floral arrangements in the entry and master bedroom.
-Placing bowls of bright-colored fruit in the family room and the kitchen.
-Filling an empty corner with a potted leafy plant.
-Setting new hand soap in the bathrooms.
-Displaying fresh towels near sinks.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
July 31st - Aug 2nd
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Freddie Mac has released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), with the 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages reaching record lows for this survey. (The 30-year fixed-rate survey began in 1971, and the 15-year began in 1991.)
30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.56 percent. At this time last year the 30-year FRM averaged 5.20 percent.
15-year FRM this week averaged a record low of 4.03 percent. At this time last year the 15-year FRM averaged 4.68 percent.
5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.79 percent. At this time last year the 5-year ARM averaged 4.74 percent.
1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 3.70 percent this week. At this time last year the 1-year ARM averaged 4.77 percent.
"The decline in mortgages rates over the past few weeks echoes the recent signs of weakening confidence in the strength of the economy, particularly the housing and consumer sectors. For example, homebuilder confidence declined in July to lows not seen since April 2009, as measured by the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, following the large drop in housing starts reported for June. Similarly, July's consumer confidence dropped to the lowest level since August 2009, based on the Reuters/University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment index. We see these as part of the normal pattern of ebbs and flows in recovery and believe that there is sufficient momentum to carry the U.S. economy forward, albeit moderately."
-Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac
Monday, July 12, 2010
New home construction starts in DFW are up more than 50 percent this year from the first 6 months of 2009.
The number of new homes sold in the area is rising for the first time in four years, according to a second-quarter report from Metrostudy Inc. However, analysts caution that the rebound is likely to slow now that federal buying incentives are running out.
June pre-owned home sales figures, which were also released Wednesday, were down 3 percent, ending a three-month run of double-digit year-over-year sales gains.
The recent gains in new-home sales and starts have been welcome in a market that suffered through more than two years of declining construction and sales.
"This is the second quarter in a row that new-home starts in Dallas-Fort Worth jumped significantly compared to the prior year," said Metrostudy director David Brown. "Homebuilders increased starts during the first half of the year in reaction to the increased demand from the homebuyer tax credit and reduced inventory."
New Home Builders started more than 4,600 houses, the most since 2008's third quarter.
Even so, the number of new homes for sale in North Texas is at its lowest level in 13 years and is 64 percent less than its peak in 2006.
"The fact is that the inventory is gone," Brown said. "When builders sell a house, they have to start one."
At the end of June, about 4,477 finished new homes were on the market in the D-FW area – a steep decline from more than 12,000 four years ago.
North Texas builders sold 4,733 new homes during the second quarter, almost 8 percent more than in the same period last year.
The biggest jump in new-home sales this year – 24 percent – is in properties priced at less than $200,000, which go mostly to first-time buyers, Metrostudy found.
Northern suburbs have accounted for the greatest spikes in building, with a 145 percent year-over-year increase in starts in Frisco. McKinney, North Fort Worth and Little Elm also had large second-quarter gains.
But most analysts expect housing purchases to slow. "We've seen a fairly significant fall-off in sales reported by the builders in virtually every market," Brown said. "Clearly, the second half of the year is not going to be as robust."
Pre-owned home sales in North Texas are already declining. The 3 percent decline for June compared with year-earlier figures was widely anticipated. "Yes, I would have guessed a bigger drop-off," said Dr. James Gaines, an economist for the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University.
The median price for area pre-owned homes last month was unchanged from a year ago at $155,000.
Housing economists had expected the market to retrench when the federal homebuying incentives were withdrawn. To qualify for up to $8,000 in tax credits, buyers had to have a home under contract by the end of April. "The tax credit pushed ahead a lot of buying decisions," Brown said. "But with the job growth numbers we are hearing about and stronger apartment leasing, we will start to see household formation grow. Next year we should see sales start to build back up."
Pre-owned home sales for the first six months of the year increased the most in higher-priced neighborhoods, including the Park Cities, which were up 66 percent, and North Dallas, up 44 percent.
Through the first half of 2010, the number of pre-owned single-family homes sold by real estate agents through the Multiple Listing Service rose 9 percent from a year earlier, according to statistics released Wednesday by the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University and North Texas Real Estate Information Systems.
Median prices have inched up 2 percent so far this year.
At the end of June, 41,339 homes were listed for sale in the area. That's up 11 percent from June 2009 and the first annual increase in inventory in more than a year.
There is a 6.9-month supply of homes on the market.
With pending sales down 23 percent, year-over-year purchases are likely to drop again in July.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
With recent economic trends of higher consumer spending and healthier stock markets, many Americans are pointing to evidence that we are out of the recession. Looking back, the recession did change some people’s financial habits, but the resurgence in the economy unfortunately means most people are returning to their old ways of saving and spending, which aren’t always wise.
With the stock market higher, more people are returning to investing. That’s good news to the market but not to personal returns. Many people rejected investments during the recession, which created the best investment opportunity in many of our lifetimes. Investing now that the market is higher only means the returns will be smaller as there is less room to grow.
The same thing with spending is resulting. We may be spending more, however prices are not as low as they once were in many cases. Stores have stopped discounting heavily because shoppers are returning.
Still, the recession has changed some of our habits. Many of us are now valuing frugality as a permanent part of life versus just resorting to at times. Like in the 1930s, Americans became scared after all the suffering and were permanently changed to keep as much as they can for fear they will lose it again.
The ones who remain frugal are the minority, according to market research firm Decitica. It found 20% of Americans remain frugal after a recession. Meanwhile, 30% return to their previous spending levels. The other half don’t change at all, either because they can’t (they don’t have enough money) or they don’t need to (they have enough much money).
This research indicates that most Americans don’t change much after a recession and are likely to end up where they once were. In other words, many of us don’t plan for recessions; we just ride along with them.
Putting together a recession plan is a neglected strategy in financial planning. Budgeting and coming up with a plan of action when money is tight is a valuable practice to get in the habit of doing. This would include building and maintaining an emergency fund to cover expenses during a financial disaster such as a job loss. Another wise move would be to have saved money for purchases when the stock market and prices go down. A good financial planner will present these different scenarios to help draw up a disaster plan.
With what many Americans have just gone through, knowing what to plan for is a lot easier.
From RIS MEDIA Written by Dan Serra
Monday, April 12, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
We've just revamped, updated and expanded our calculators, many of which are exclusive to BuyAllenHomes.com. Compound interest, the impact of rate changes on your savings and mortgage payments, how big a mortgage you can afford:
Monday, February 22, 2010
|Comparisons of January pre-owned home sales and prices in North Texas with year-earlier statistics:|
|Single-family home resales||3,330||-6 percent|
|Median price||$130,000||1 percent|
|Average days on market||84||-2 percent|
|Pending sales||4,369||No change|
|Listed for sale||33,569||-10 percent|
|Condo-townhome resales||172||2 percent|
|Median price||$127,520||6 percent|
|Average days on market||96||-16 percent|
|Pending sales||235||3 percent|
|Listed for sale||3,556||-6 percent|
|SOURCES: Texas A&M University Real Estate Center, North Texas Real Estate Information System Inc.|