To-Dos: Your March Home Checklist

With the first day of spring coming up on March 20, the time has come in many areas to start shedding winter layers and encourage new growth. Whether the view out your window this month is of a snowy wonderland or something springy and green, these 10 to-dos should help you get in the spring spirit.

 

By:   at Houzz.com

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Highlights of the 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers From N.A.R.

homebuyer characteristicsFor most home buyers, the purchase of real estate is one of the largest financial transactions they will make. Buyers purchase a home not only for the desire to own a home of their own, but also because of changes in jobs, family situations, and the need for a smaller or larger living area. This annual survey conducted by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® of recent home buyers and sellers provides insight into detailed information about their experiences with this important transaction. Here are highlights from the latest report.

  • Sixty-six percent of recent home buyers were married couples—the highest share since 2001.
  • For 42 percent of home buyers, the first step in the home-buying process was looking online for properties and 14 percent of home buyers first looked online for information about the home buying process.
  • The use of the Internet in the home search rose slightly to 92 percent.
  • The typical home buyer searched for 12 weeks and viewed 10 homes.
  • Eighty-eight percent of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker—a share that has steadily increased from 69 percent in 2001.
  • Eighty-eight percent of sellers were assisted by a real estate agent when selling their home.
  • Two-thirds of home sellers only contacted one agent before selecting the one to assist with their home sale.
  • The share of home sellers who sold their home without the assistance of a real estate agent was nine percent. Forty percent knew the buyer prior to home purchase.

Buy the Full Report

The full 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers is available in the REALTOR.org Store.

Webinar

In this 22-minute webinar, Manager of Member and Consumer Survey Research, Jessica Lautz, talks about the highlights of the 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Watch the playback of the webinar.

Presentations

More About the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

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Courtesy of Realtor.org and National Association of Realtors

Why Sellers Shouldn’t Wait Until After the Holidays to List Homes

By Brendon DeSimone 

trail_of_lightsWith the holidays approaching, sellers often wonder if they should keep their properties on the market or take them off? Or if they haven’t listed their homes yet, should they wait until after the first of the year? Maybe hold off until spring?

Conventional wisdom used to be that you shouldn’t even try to sell your home during the busy holiday season. Potential homebuyers were too preoccupied with attending parties, cooking meals, buying presents or planning vacations. With all that going on, there just wasn’t time to ride around with a real estate agent, looking at properties.

But with the Internet, smartphones, tablets and our always-on lifestyle, that conventional wisdom isn’t relevant anymore. The reality is, the homebuying season is now year-round. Here’s why you should consider listing your home during the holidays, or even in January.

Today’s buyers never stop looking online: Serious buyers are always looking — and the holidays are no exception. They may check out the latest listings in a Zillow Mobile app before bed or while waiting for the kids’ school holiday show to start. Our hectic lifestyles also play a role.

Many serious buyers today work hard. They don’t shift into holiday mode until the last minute. Even during the holiday break, they’re still squeezing in work. There’s no such thing for them as “going off the grid.” So why not continue to monitor real estate listings, too?

The inventory — and the competition — is usually lighter: Despite our always-on lifestyles, many sellers still believe buyers can’t be bothered to look for a home between, say, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. At the same time, sellers who’ve had their homes on the market often take them off during the holidays. The net effect is that the inventory for good homes often tightens this time of year. So there’s less competition for sellers, at a time when motivated buyers are out there looking — and no doubt wishing there were more properties to see.

If you’ve been considering selling, are motivated, are flexible on timing and have a home that truly sparkles, after Thanksgiving there’s still a window of several weeks to get buyers into your home before the end of the year. And those buyers flipping through listings at their kids’ basketball game will be excited to see something new and awesome hit the market — especially if there’s a lack of good inventory in their area. These buyers will be motivated to see your home, regardless of what the calendar says.

1800 Palmwood Cove-small-002-Exterior Front 002-666x463-72dpiHome not selling? Now’s the time to lower the price or change your strategy: If your property has been on the market for months, most buyers and their agents will see it as stale or overpriced and disregard it no matter how great it is or how light the competition is. In that case, it’s time to take action, and the year-end holidays can be a great opportunity to shift course. Dramatically reducing the price or overcoming some major obstacle that’s been preventing the sale might be what’s needed to sell your home.

If you received lower offers early on but weren’t ready to accept them, or you keep hearing there are issues with how your property shows, this is a good time to show the market you’re listening and are serious about selling. The motivated buyers, desperate for good inventory, will notice you and take a look. You might even get a sale closed before the end of the year.

Before you make any big changes, talk it over with your real estate agent, as always.

Don’t want to be bothered during the holidays? List in January: Admittedly, the thought of keeping the house clean, holding open houses and vacating to accommodate last-minute showings during the holidays is a deal killer for some would-be sellers. If so, consider listing your property after New Year’s Day.

Traditionally, not much inventory comes onto the market in January. It’s cold in most places, the leaves are off the trees and landscaping is dead. Many sellers wait until the spring instead, a more conventional time to sell.

January inventory is still very tight. And yet, each January, buyers call up agents, wanting to get into the market. Often, new buyers — with their fresh New Year’s resolutions to stop wasting money on rent and buy a home — are ready to jump into the market as soon as possible. Some buyers are motivated to search for a home in January because of year-end tax planning.

Whatever the buyers’ motivation, for sellers it means one thing: Demand for homes can increase at a time when inventory is traditionally low. And that means if you’re ready to sell, you’ll have an even more “captive” audience during the holidays, all the way through January.

Courtesy of: AOL Real Estate

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow,

FIVE QUESTIONS TO ANSWER BEFORE YOU REFINANCE YOUR HOME

With interest rates still near historical lows, it may be tempting to refinance to a lower rate. Here are five questions you should ask yourself before you take out a new loan.

1800 Palmwood Cove-small-002-Exterior Front 002-666x463-72dpi1. How long do you plan to stay in the home?

It makes a big difference in recouping the cost of refinancing a home loan. If you don’t plan to own the home for roughly three years or more after refinancing, it might not make sense to refinance.

2. What are the closing or settlement costs for refinancing?

Expect to pay about the same amount as when you purchased. Expenses will include a new title policy (if applicable), new appraisal, and lender’s fees.

Typically, the lender will charge an origination fee or a “discount fee”. If it’s a “no-cost” refinance, the fee will actually be rolled into a higher interest rate.

3. What percentage rate are you currently paying?

Mortgage lenders once advised refinancing only if you could save two percentage points on the loan, but today they look at how long it takes to pay back the cost of refinancing your home.

Ask your lender to compare the savings in your monthly payment at the new rate. Take the monthly savings amount and divide it into your total closing costs. That will give you the number of months it will take to pay back your closing costs.

If it takes longer to pay back the closing costs than you intend to stay in your home, don’t refinance.

4. What type of loan do you currently have?

One good reason to refinance is to get into a fixed-rate loan from an adjustable rate or other type of loan. Adjustable rate mortgages roll over from a fixed rate to an adjustable after one year, three years, or five years.

With interest rates expected to rise in 2014, it’s a good time to get into a new loan.

5. Have your plans or circumstances changed from when you first purchased your home?

Perhaps you’re doing well and want to accelerate your pay-off by refinancing to a 15-year term. If you already have a fixed rate, run the numbers to see how quickly you can pay off your loan by making extra payments.

You may find that the savings from paying down your principal far outweigh the advantages of refinancing.

To compare multiple mortgage rates in just minutes, Click Here.

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Courtesy of: my Realty Times

Home Prices Are Rising: Yea! But That Also Means Higher Costs

If you’re like most homeowners, rising home prices mean you can finally let out the breath you’ve been holding since the start of the economic downturn — especially if you’re hoping to sell.

mortgagesWould you mind terribly if I added a little cloud to your silver lining?

Rising home prices might mean higher bills for you in the coming year because:

  • Your property taxes will rise unless your tax rate falls.
  • You’ll need higher limits on your homeowners insurance coverage to compensate for your higher home value.

Fortunately, you can do a few things now to reduce your tax bite, keep your insurance costs as low as possible, and continue your exhale of relief.

Property Tax Appeals

You pay your property taxes based on a formula that generally uses your home’s assessed value multiplied by the tax rate. When you home value rises, if the tax rate doesn’t fall, your taxes rise.

Take, for example, a property tax rate of $1 per $1,000 of home value:

  • You owe $100 when your home is worth $100,000.
  • You owe $110 when your home value rises to $110,000.
  • To keep your tax bill at $100 when you home value rises to $110,000, the tax rate has to fall to about 90 cents per $1,000.

Given the sorry state of most local and state government budgets, I wouldn’t count on the tax rate going down. Instead, work to get your home value assessed as low as possible by filing a property tax appeal arguing the taxing authority has over-stated your home’s value.

Here’s how you do it: When your home’s tax assessment arrives in the mail, contact your REALTOR®, tell her you want to appeal your assessment, and ask her to pull the last three comparable home sales for you. If those sales were lower than your home’s assessed value, you use those comparable sales as evidence that your home is worth less than the tax man says it is.

Also ask your REALTOR® if she knows of any tax discounts (some jurisdictions offer discounts to owner occupants or senior citizens).

Homeowners Insurance Discounts

When your homeowners insurance renewal comes in the mail, call your insurance agent and ask if you can earn a discount for:

  • Increasing your deductible.
  • Membership in an affinity group like AARP or because of where you work.

Focus on the Silver Lining

If those cost-cutting measures don’t work, focus on the silver lining. An extra couple hundred a year in property taxes and insurance isn’t much compared with gaining thousands in home equity that you can use to finance your child’s education, start a business, fund your retirement, or just put in your pocket when you sell.

By: Dona Dezube

Courtesy of: House Logic

Hispanic Owned Businesses Are Thriving in Texas

By: Robert Grattan

Austin Business Journal

Hispanic-owned businesses are continuing to drive U.S. economic growth, with more than 3.16 million companies nationwide – up nearly 40 percent since 2007 despite a tough economy, according to a study by Geoscape International Inc. and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

hispanic_owned_bizThe West South Central region, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, saw a 43 percent expansion in the number of Hispanic-owned businesses between 2007 and 2013. The region was surpassed only by the East South Central at 59 percent growth – including the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi – and the South Atlantic – the Southeastern seaboard – at 52 percent.

The study also states that total sales receipts for Hispanic-owned businesses have increased from $254 billion in 2002 to a projected $468 billion in 2013. That’s largely due to an influx of new businesses.

“The Hispanic population has been starting and growing new businesses at nearly twice the rate of the general population,” the study by Miami-based Geoscape said. “This trend has continued for more than 10 years.”

Some 56 percent of Hispanic business owners earn greater than $50,000 in annual income, while Hispanic business owners are 66 percent more likely than Hispanics overall to earn between $100,000 and $149,999 and three times as likely to earn more than $150,000, the study showed.

Austin Added 23,800 Jobs in the 12 months Ending in August, making it the 12th Best Performing Job Market in the U.S.

capitol grounds

  • Austin’s government sector saw modest growth over the last 12 months by gaining 800 jobs or 0.5%. Overall, private sector job growth in the Austin MSA was robust at 3.5%, adding 23,000 jobs with all but two private industry divisions contributing to the growth.
  • Texas saw net private sector job growth of 2.7% with all private industry divisions but one adding jobs over the last 12 months. As with Austin, total job growth statewide was lower, 2.4%, due to the relatively slight growth (0.6%) in the government sector, which accounts for 16.5% of total state employment.
  • In the U.S., private sector growth was 2.0% for the 12 months ending in August with all private industries adding jobs. However, overall job growth was a more modest 1.7% because the government sector lost jobs (-0.4%).
  • Total U.S. jobs remain 3.2 million or 2.3% off the peak of November 2007. Jobs in both Texas and Austin peaked a year later. Austin is now 63,400 jobs (8.1%) ahead of its pre-recession peak jobs total. Texas now has 476,100 jobs or 4.5% more than the level seen in November 2008.
  • In Austin:
  • The industry adding the most jobs and seeing the fastest growth was professional and business services, which grew by 7,400 jobs or 5.9% over the last 12 months.
  • Financial activities lost 1,700 jobs or 3.7%. On a year-over-year basis, this industry has seen negative growth five of the last eight months.
  • Manufacturing employment was also down, by 300 jobs from August 2012.
  • In Texas:
  • Construction grew fastest, at 4.9%, and added 42,600 jobs.
  • The next two fastest growing industries both grew by 4.1% Professional and business services grew by 58,600 jobs and leisure and hospitality grew 45,600 jobs over the last 12 months.
  • Information also grew relatively fast, by 3.2% and added 6,300 jobs.
  • Manufacturing’s growth was weakest, only 0.1%.
  • In the U.S.:
  • Professional and business services grew fastest, by 3.4%, and added the most jobs (621,000).
  • Leisure and hospitality, construction and natural resources, and retail trade also grew relatively fast, gaining 3.0%, 2.8%, and 2.7% respectively in the 12 months ending in August.
  • Unemployment:
  • In July, Austin had the fourth lowest rate of unemployment among the 50 largest metros at 5.2%. Austin’s rate one year ago was 5.9%.
  • The rate in July for Fort Worth was 5.9% and 6.1% in Houston.
  • The statewide rate is now 6.3%, compared to 6.9% in August of last year.
  • The August national rate at 7.3% is improved over the rate a year ago of 8.2%.