The Howell Realty Group Real Estate News and Information

 

May 14, 2021

When It Comes To Selling a House, Your Time Is Money [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights

  • Selling a house is no small task. If you decide to try to do it on your own, keep in mind you’ll be responsible for all the expert-level work of a real estate professional.
  • The vital tasks an agent manages for you include listing and marketing your house, handling legal documentation, negotiating with all parties, and navigating local laws and regulations.
  • If you’re ready to sell while the market is in your favor, let’s connect to make sure you have the professional expertise you need every step of the way.
Posted in Infographics
May 12, 2021

It's Not Too Late To Apply For Forbearance

Over the past year, the pandemic made it challenging for some homeowners to make their mortgage payments. Thankfully, the government initiated a forbearance program to provide much-needed support. Unless they’re extended once again, some of these plans and the corresponding mortgage payment deferral options will expire soon. That said, there’s still time to request assistance. If your loan is backed by HUD/FHA, USDA, or VA, you can apply for initial forbearance by June 30, 2021.

Recently, the Consumer Finance Institute of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia surveyed a national sample of 1,172 homeowners with mortgages. They discussed their familiarity with and understanding of lender accommodations that might be available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The results indicate that some borrowers didn’t take advantage of the support available through forbearance:

Most borrowers who had not used forbearance during the pandemic reported that it was because they simply did not need it. However, among the remainder, a lack of understanding about available accommodations may also be playing a role. Around 2 out of 3 in this group reported not seeking forbearance because they were unsure or pessimistic about whether they would qualify — even though a high fraction of borrowers are eligible for forbearance under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”

Here are some of the reasons why those borrowers didn’t opt for forbearance:

  • They were concerned forbearance may be costly
  • They didn’t understand how to request forbearance
  • They didn’t understand how the plans worked and/or whether they would qualify

If you have similar questions or concerns, the following answers may ease your fears.

If you’re concerned forbearance may be costly:

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) explains:

For most loans, there will be no additional fees, penalties, or additional interest (beyond scheduled amounts) added to your account, and you do not need to submit additional documentation to qualify. You can simply tell your servicer that you have a pandemic-related financial hardship.”

It’s important to contact your mortgage provider (the company you send your mortgage payment to every month) to explain your current situation and determine the best plan available for your needs.

If you’re not sure how to request forbearance:

Here are 5 steps to follow when requesting mortgage forbearance:

  1. Find the contact information for your servicer
  2. Call your servicer
  3. Ask if you’re eligible for protection under the CARES Act
  4. Ask what happens when your forbearance period ends
  5. Ask your servicer to provide the agreement in writing

If you don’t understand how the plans work and/or whether you will qualify:

This is how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) explains the program:

Forbearance is when your mortgage servicer or lender allows you to pause or reduce your mortgage payments for a limited time while you build back your finances

Forbearance doesn’t mean your payments are forgiven or erased. You are still obligated to repay any missed payments, which, in most cases, may be repaid over time or when you refinance or sell your home. Before the end of the forbearance, your servicer will contact you about how to repay the missed payments.”

The CFPB also addresses who qualifies for forbearance relief:

You may have a right to a COVID hardship forbearance if:

  • You experience financial hardship directly or indirectly due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • You have a federally backed mortgage, which includes HUD/FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac loans.

For mortgages that are not federally backed, servicers may offer similar forbearance options. If you are struggling to make your mortgage payments, servicers are generally required to discuss payment relief options with you, whether or not your loan is federally backed.”

Bottom Line

Like many Americans, your home may be your biggest asset. By acting quickly, you might be able to take advantage of critical relief options to help keep you in your home. Even if you tried to apply at the beginning of the pandemic and for some reason it didn’t work out, try again. Contact your mortgage provider today to determine if you qualify. If you have additional concerns, let’s connect to answer your questions and determine if there are other mortgage relief options in our area as well.

May 11, 2021

The Howell Team MAY 2021 Homeward bound Newsletter

May 7, 2021

Why Waiting to Buy a Home Could Cost You a Small Fortune

Many people are sitting on the fence trying to decide if now’s the time to buy a home. Some are renters who have a strong desire to become homeowners but are unsure if buying right now makes sense. Others may be homeowners who are realizing that their current home no longer fits their changing needs.

To determine if they should buy now or wait another year, they both need to ask two simple questions:

  1. Do I think home values will be higher a year from now?
  2. Do I think mortgage rates will be higher a year from now?

Let’s shed some light on the answers to these questions.

Where will home prices be a year from now?

If you average the most recent projections from the major industry forecasters, the expectation is home prices will increase by 7.7%. Let’s take a house that’s valued today at $325,000 as an example.

If the buyer makes a 10% down payment ($32,500), they’ll end up borrowing $292,500 for their mortgage. Applying the projected rate of home price appreciation, that same house will cost $350,025 next year. With a 10% down payment ($35,003), they’d then have to borrow $315,022.

Therefore, as a result of rising home prices alone, a prospective buyer will have to put down an additional $2,503 and borrow an additional $22,523 just for waiting a year to make their move.

Where will mortgage rates be a year from now?

Today, mortgage rates are hovering around 3%. However, most experts believe they’ll rise as the economy continues to recover. Any increase in the mortgage rate will also increase a purchaser’s cost. Here are the forecasts for the first quarter of 2022 from four major entities:

The projections average out to 3.6% among these four forecasts, a jump up from where they are today.

What does it mean to you if home values and mortgage rates increase?

A buyer will pay a lot more in mortgage payments each month if both of these variables increase. Assuming a buyer purchases a $325,000 home this year with a 30-year fixed-rate loan at 3% after making a 10% down payment, their monthly principal and interest payment would be $1,233.

That same home one year from now could be $350,025, and the mortgage rate could be 3.6% (based on the industry forecasts mentioned above). That monthly principal and interest payment, after putting down 10%, totals $1,432.

The difference in the monthly mortgage payment would be $199. That’s $2,388 more per year and $71,640 over the life of the loan.

Add to that the approximately $25,000 a house with a similar value would build in home equity this year as a result of home price appreciation, and the total net worth increase a purchaser could gain by buying this year is nearly $100,000. That’s a small fortune.

Bottom Line

When asking if they should buy a home, many potential buyers think of the nonfinancial benefits of owning a home. When asking when to buy, the financial benefits make it clear that doing so now is much more advantageous than waiting until next year.

May 6, 2021

Refresh Your Garage This Spring

 

In most households, the garage serves many important purposes. It keeps your car safe from weather, theft, and other damage. It provides a storage space for your outdoor equipment and other things. In some homes it even provides a crawl space or attic access. Despite this, however, the garage is often one of the last places many homeowners think of when trying to come up with spring home improvement projects. If you think that your garage might need a little extra love this spring, here are a few things that you could do to give it a refresh.

 

Enhance Your Storage

One way that you can reinvigorate your garage and make it a much more useful space is to add additional storage options within it. Depending on how your garage is currently set up, this could be as simple as installing a few shelves or adding a couple of cabinets to give you somewhere to put items that might otherwise just be sitting around or cluttered together. You could even add a cabinet with a lock to give you a secure space to store chemicals or other items that you don’t want children or pets to have easy access to.

There are a few ways that you could take this a bit further if you really want some nice storage solutions, though. A pegboard can be a great addition to your garage, especially if you need a place to store tools for easy access; you can even trace around the various tools with a permanent marker or paint pen to make it obvious what goes in which space. Other storage options include a rack to hold a bicycle to keep it out of the way, corner shelves with a lazy Susan for storing small components out of the way, or under-shelf bins to hold small items like screws, nails, and other fasteners.

Fix Up That Floor

Your garage floor takes a lot of abuse, and over time it can really start to show. Stains, discolorations, and cracks are all common in garage floors, and over time the floor can really start to degrade. While it will probably take a while before the damage gets so bad that you have to start making major repairs, having a messed up garage floor can make you less likely to use the garage, and beyond a certain point can even affect the resale value of your home. Luckily, this is usually pretty easy to fix.

Concrete crack fillers can smooth out the surface of your garage floor, preventing further damage and giving you a uniform surface again. In many cases, these fillers can even roughly match the color of your existing garage floor so that the filled cracks aren’t overly obvious. A variety of concrete cleaners are also available to help remove stains and discoloration from the floor as well. If you want to really enhance the look of your floor while protecting it from further damage, epoxy-based sealants and floor paints provide you with a hard coat on top of the cleaned and filled concrete that will resist leaks, stains, and everyday traffic to keep your garage floor looking good for years to come.

Revive Those Garage Doors

Have your garage doors seen better days, or do you not have doors on your garage at all? Either way, installing new garage doors, or even just replacing the door opening mechanism, can give new life to your garage. Modern garage doors help to protect everything in your garage and provide a decorative enhancement to the look of your home. In many cases the openers can even be connected to smartphone apps or other smart home components to give you more control even when you’re away from the house.

May 5, 2021

Should I Buy Now or Wait? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Should I Buy Now or Wait? [INFOGRAPHIC] | MyKCM

Some Highlights

  • If you’re thinking that waiting a year or two to purchase a home might mean you’ll save some money, think again.
  • Mortgage interest rates are currently very low, but experts across the board are forecasting increases in both home prices and interest rates.
  • Buying a home now means you’ll spend less in the long run. Let’s connect to put your homebuying plans in motion before home prices and mortgage rates climb even higher.
Posted in Infographics
May 4, 2021

Americans Find the Nonfinancial Benefits of Homeownership Most Valuable

Homeownership is a foundational part of the American Dream. As we look back on more than a year of sheltering in our homes, having a place of our own is more important than ever. While financial benefits are always a key aspect of homeownership, today, homeowners rank the nonfinancial and personal benefits with even higher value.

Recently, two national surveys revealed the reasons homeownership is such an important part of life. The top three personal benefits of homeownership noted by respondents in Unison’s 2021 report on The State of the American Homeowner are:

  • 91% – feel secure, stable, or successful owning a home
  • 70% – feel emotionally attached to the homes that have kept them safe over the past year
  • 51% – call homeownership a “key part of their life”

These sentiments were supported by the most recent National Housing Survey from Fannie Mae, which also shows that the top three reasons Americans value homeownership have nothing to do with money. Those surveyed were given a list of feelings and accomplishments that are associated with or impacted by where we live. They were then asked, “To achieve this, are you better off owning or better off renting?” Here are the top three points from the list that respondents said homeownership could help them achieve:

  • 91% – control over what you do with your living space
  • 90% – a sense of privacy and security
  • 89% – a good place for your family to raise your children

Other nonfinancial advantages of homeownership revealed by the survey include feeling engaged in a community, having flexibility in future decisions, and experiencing less stress.

Bottom Line

Financial and nonfinancial benefits are a key component to the value of homeownership, but the nonfinancial side is most valued after a year full of pandemic-driven challenges. Let’s connect today if you’re ready to take the first steps toward becoming a homeowner.

May 3, 2021

Are You Cleaning These Spots Often Enough?

 

Cleaning up around the house is obviously an important task, and some areas require cleaning more often than others. There are some spots that might need a bit more attention than they’re getting, though. This is especially true for those areas that are out of sight or otherwise not as easily noticed as higher-profile and more visible areas that get cleaned on the regular. While the specifics of your cleaning and maintenance schedule will depend on your home and what you have in it, here are a few common areas for you to consider in case they’re not getting enough attention in your home.

 

Interior Cleaning

Most of the time when you think of cleaning in the house, you’re likely thinking of tasks like dusting, vacuuming, and other common indoor cleaning tasks. Here are a few other places to clean that might not be getting nearly as much attention as they need:

  • Washer and dryer: You should clean your washing machine every week or two, or at least once a month if it isn’t used very often. The dryer should also be cleaned at least once a month, and make sure you take a vacuum and suck out some of the lint that might build up around your lint trap.
  • Blinds: While dust on the blinds is the most obvious sign that they need to be cleaned, they also build up with grease and other dirt over time which can stick and even stain. Even if they don’t look like they need it, clean your blinds at least once a month.
  • Refrigerator: The coils on the back of your fridge need periodic cleaning, but you should also clean the grill, shelves, and other internal locations as well. This not only keeps buildup from stopping airflow, but also helps to prevent food contamination.
  • Furniture: If your furniture is upholstered, try to vacuum its surface at least once a month. This will get rid of crumbs and dirt while also cutting back on dust, dander, and other allergens that can plague you throughout the year.

These obviously aren’t the only locations that you need to hit when cleaning up around the house, but they’re some of the more easily overlooked. Other appliances and features of rooms that are frequently used might need to go on the list as well when thinking of what to clean.

Exterior Cleaning

There are a lot of areas outside that could probably use more attention than they’re getting. This can vary significantly depending on where you live and the features of your home and yard, but here are a few of the most common:

  • External HVAC components: If you have central heat and air, you’ve likely got a large exterior unit that at best only gets cleaned once or maybe twice a year. If you rely on window-mounted air conditioners, those may get even less love. Check these components at least 3 or 4 times a year if not more often and remove built-up leaves, dirt, dust, and other potential hazards that could hurt their efficiency.
  • Patios and walkways: Leaves, cut grass, and a variety of types of dirt can have a negative effect on walkways, stonework, and even wooden features like patios if left alone. They can cause unsightly stains, chips, and other decay. Clean these outdoor features at least once a month, and more often during the summer and fall when there’s a lot of mowing and falling leaves around.
  • Garage doors: There’s a good chance that you clean your garage at least a few times per year, but what about the garage doors? Not only do the tracks need to be cleaned periodically to prevent dirt or debris from clogging them up, but you also might want to add some appropriate lubricant to the rollers at least once or twice per year.
  • Gutters: If your home has gutters, you likely clean them at least once a year when the leaves are falling. What about other times, though? Falling seed pods, pollen, and even dirt and dust that washes down from your shingles can all have a negative effect on your gutters. Try to clean them at least once per season if not more often.

There are other areas that may be overlooked as well, such as bricks or siding and the outside of windows (which should be cleaned at least as often as the inside window glass is cleaned.) Stay mindful of this as you make a list of things to clean and maintain around the outside of your home.

 

April 30, 2021

Getting Started With Epoxy Cabinet Refinishing Kits

 

What do you do when your kitchen needs a facelift? Those cabinets are solid, they’re functional, but man, are they dated! One option many homeowners are turning to is cabinet refinishing kits. Many of these pre-built kits use a water-based epoxy coating to ensure that the cabinets get the most rock-solid finish possible without investing in a lot of professional grade equipment. But there’s a lot more to refinishing cabinets with these materials than opening the can and getting to work.

 

Prepping for an Epoxy Finish

If you’ve never heard it before, take this away with you: The biggest predictor of success for your DIY project is how well you prep your surfaces and work area. It’s really that simple, even though prep work can be pretty involved. Creating a clean, smooth, ready to coat cabinet door takes a lot of effort, but yields magnificent results. This is the number one secret of the pros, besides having all that fancy painting equipment.

So how do you prep for an epoxy cabinet refinish? There are steps.

  1. Remove all the cabinet doors, drawer fronts, and hardware. Label each and store them where they won’t get lost or damaged. Using sticky notes to track cabinet doors can be a really good trick, since doors may look alike but not actually fit the same.
  2. Fill any cracked surfaces with a compatible filler and sand it smooth. You can’t simply paint away problems in your cabinetry.
  3. Clean your cabinet fronts, cabinet doors, and exposed finish on cabinet bases thoroughly to remove oils, spills, and other messes that will interfere with paint adherence.
  4. Cover any surface that you don’t want paint on. This includes your backsplash and your countertops, and even your work area. This is not a material that you can necessarily just peel off should you have a drip.
  5. Set up areas for your doors and drawer fronts to cure. Curing can take several days per painted side, so ensure the area is super clean and free of any drafts that could deposit dust and other debris.

Only once you’ve fully prepped your area should you begin the task at hand. Taping your cabinet bases can help keep the paint lines sharp, but remember to remove the tape while the paint is wet for the best results. It’s not always necessary to paint the insides of your cabinets, but should you choose to, remember that the pre-built kits are only designed to cover outer surfaces, so you’ll need extra coating material.

The Right Equipment Matters

Another important thing to know about using an epoxy cabinet refinishing kit is that the right equipment really does matter. Buy the right tools, and don’t just settle for a single brush or a single roller; they come in a variety of options for different jobs. Because rollers and brushes both create different textures depending on their design, it’s going to be really important to make the right choices here. Ask experts if you’re not sure. Rollers are not all the same, and there are lots of differences in naps and roller density. And brushes made of natural material are very different from synthetics.

The size and shape of your rollers or brushes also matter big time. Brushes in particular come in tons of different shapes, each meant to do specific jobs. For example, an angle brush will help you get into corners better, though they can also be used on the flat, open areas too, if you’re careful. Rollers vary dramatically in width, and bigger isn’t always better.

Whatever you do, though, don’t mix brushes with foam applicators of any sort. The resulting texture won’t be consistent and will likely drive you to refinish your cabinets yet again long before the epoxy coating is in need of refreshing.

For a Faster, Harder Coating…

If you’re not sure you want to live with the excitement that is refinishing your cabinets, you’ve got another option: you can call in a painter. Professional painters often use harder coatings like lacquers and oil-based epoxies, as well as paint sprayers to ensure a smooth and even finish. Because they can take your cabinet doors away to their shop, it’ll also minimize the mess you have to live with.

April 29, 2021

Is Home Price Appreciation Accelerating Again?

 

Is Home Price Appreciation Accelerating Again? | MyKCM

At the beginning of the year, industry forecasts called for home price appreciation to slow to about half of the double-digit increase we saw last year. The thinking was that inventory would increase from record-low levels and put an end to the bidding wars that have driven home prices up over the past twelve months. However, that increase in inventory has yet to materialize. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that there are currently 410,000 fewer single-family homes available for sale than there were at this time last year.

This has forced those who made appreciation forecasts this past January to amend those projections. The Mortgage Bankers AssociationFannie MaeFreddie Mac, the National Association of Realtors, and Zelman & Associates have all adjusted their numbers upward after reviewing first quarter housing data. Here are their original forecasts and their newly updated projections:Is Home Price Appreciation Accelerating Again? | MyKCMEven with the increases, the updated projections still don’t reach the above 10% appreciation levels of 2020. However, a jump in the average projection from 5.3% to 7.7% after just one quarter is substantial. Demand will remain strong, so future appreciation will be determined by how quickly listing inventory makes its way to the market.

Bottom Line

Entering 2021, there was some speculation that we might see price appreciation slow dramatically this year. Today, experts believe that won’t be the case. Home values will remain strong throughout the year.