The Howell Realty Group Real Estate News and Information

 

March 17, 2021

Add More Kitchen Storage With Cabinet Pull-Outs!

 

It’s wonderful to walk into a home that has lots of counter space, just stretching out like barren land ready for you to populate it with your favorite kitchen gadgets. But even a kitchen with limited counter space can be made so much more useful by better utilizing the thing that’s just below those counters: your lower cabinets. Lower cabinets are some of the most poorly utilized spaces in kitchens absolutely everywhere. No one wants to bend over to sort through dark and poorly organized cabinets, so eventually those spots just get kind of forgotten and ignored. This is where pull-out cabinet units can massively transform your space.

 

What are Pull-Out Cabinet Storage Units?

If you’re not familiar with pull-out cabinet storage units, well, welcome to a world of storage options you may have never even imagined. Pull-out cabinet storage basically turns the inside of your cabinet into pull-out bins, often resembling drawers or racks. So instead of getting down on your knees to dig around until you finally find that one pot lid you desperately need, you need only slide the drawer open, select it from the proper spot, and go on your merry way. These are a great way to increase the usability of your kitchen cabinets, improve your kitchen organization, and generally make you feel like you’ve got some cool stuff going on behind those very average closed doors. There are several different types out there, here are the main ones:

  • Trash bins. Some of the original pull-out units were designed with stashing a trash can in mind. They’re still a popular choice for cabinets with no internal drawers or plumbing in the way, since many people don’t like to leave their trash exposed. Some units will hold just one can, but others have space for an additional trash can, which can be used for things like recycling.
  • Internal drawers. Internal drawers are exactly what they sound like they should be. When you open the cabinet, you’re immediately confronted with drawers hidden just inside the door. This can be handy for small items, or if you’re not entirely sure what you want to stash inside your cabinet. The enclosed construction is pretty flexible and allows you to add things like dividers, should you want to toss your entire spatula collection in one, for example.
  • Pull-out racks. Metal racks are often less expensive than full-on drawers, but they are really better suited for larger items like pan lids, baking pans, pots, and the like. Closely resembling dishwasher racks, pull-out racks come in a range of designs, some with more flexibility in organization than others. They’re a great option for all those awkward things that generally get tossed in the lower cabinets, but watch the height on the bins. Some are very short, which would be bad news for top-heavy items or things you intend to stack.

    Sizing Cabinet Pull-Outs

    Choosing the right size of pull-out can feel a little counter-intuitive. There are several inches lost to clearance and hardware when you install a unit, so there’s a lot of temptation to choose one that’s too large and try to make it fit in order to maximize your space. This is the worst possible thing you can do. It may seem like you’re losing space, but remember that you’re adding tiers and levels of organization you could have only dreamed about in the past, so really, unless your cabinet is highly unusual, it’s a net gain.

    Start by measuring the clear cabinet opening, which is the space between where the opening to your cabinet starts and where the door to the cabinet swings. If your door will move completely out of the way when opened, measure to the hinges. If it won’t, angle it so it intrudes as little as possible and measure from the open side to the door. Your final cabinet insert should be about an inch more narrow than the clear cabinet opening to allow for hardware. You’ll also want to measure the depth of the cabinet from the inside of the cabinet face to the back side of the unit. The goal is for the final depth to allow for the door to shut over your pull-out unit, concealing it completely.

March 16, 2021

What Is the #1 Financial Benefit of Homeownership?

There are many financial and non-financial benefits of homeownership, and the greatest financial one is wealth creation. Homeownership has always been the first rung on the ladder that leads to forming household wealth. As Freddie Mac explains:

“Homeownership has cemented its role as part of the American Dream, providing families with a place that is their own and an avenue for building wealth over time. This ‘wealth’ is built, in large part, through the creation of equity…Building equity through your monthly principal payments and appreciation is a critical part of homeownership that can help you create financial stability.”

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, also notes:

“The wealth-building power of homeownership shows that home is not only where your heart is, but also where your wealth is…For the majority of households that transition into homeownership, the most recent data reinforces that housing is one of the biggest positive drivers of wealth creation.”

Last week, CoreLogic released their latest Homeowner Equity Insights Report, which reveals the surge in wealth created over the last twelve months through increased home equity. The report makes five key points:

  1. Roughly 38% of all homes are mortgage-free
  2. The average equity gain of mortgaged homes in the last year was $26,300
  3. The current average equity of mortgaged homes is greater than $200,000
  4. There was a 16.9% increase in total homeowner equity
  5. Total homeowner equity reached over $1.5 trillion

Here’s a map that shows the equity gains by state:What Is the #1 Financial Benefit of Homeownership? | MyKCMIncreasing equity is giving homeowners the power to better manage the challenges of the pandemic, especially for those spending more time at home. In the report, Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic, explains:

“This equity growth has enabled many families to finance home remodeling, such as adding an office or study, further contributing to last year’s record level in home improvement spending.”

The financial advantage homeowners have has not gone unnoticed. In the same report, Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, states:

“This growing bank of personal wealth that homeownership affords was noticed by many but in particular for first-time buyers who want a piece of the cake.”

Increasing wealth benefits more than just homeowners.

Last year, the Rosen Consulting Group released a report outlining the benefits of homeownership. In that report, they explained what an increase in net worth – which they call the “wealth effect” – means to the economy:

“In economic literature, the wealth effect is a term used to describe the fact that individuals have a tendency to increase their spending habits when their actual or perceived wealth increases. For homeowners, the latent savings achieved by building equity in their home and the growth in home values over time both contribute to increased net worth. Through the wealth effect, this in turn translates to households having a greater ability and willingness to spend money across a wide range of other types of goods and services that spur business activity and provide a positive multiplier effect that creates jobs and income throughout the economy.”

Bottom Line

Homeownership builds wealth through equity, and this creates a positive impact for homeowners and their communities. Let’s connect today if you’re ready to invest in a home of your own.

 

March 15, 2021

Better Garbage Disposal Care Tips

 

A garbage disposal can be a great addition to your kitchen. If it isn’t taken care of correctly, though, the blades can dull or rust over time, and the overall effectiveness of the disposal will drop significantly. With proper care and maintenance, you can add years to the effective life of your garbage disposal. Perhaps more importantly, the care that you put into your disposal now will pay off in the long term by helping to prevent costly repairs and the premature replacement of your disposal unit.

 

Proper Garbage Disposal Use

One of the best things that you can do for your garbage disposal is to learn how to use it properly. This may seem like a no-brainer as most garbage disposals simply require you to put your scraps in and flip a switch; in reality, though, there’s a bit more to it than that. If you’re sending the wrong items down your disposal you can dull the blades, clog it, or even damage your unit, which can lead to costly repairs.

Ideally, you should use your garbage disposal to dispose of softer food items and things like ice that will melt anyway. Avoid disposing of bones, shells, fibrous vegetables such as celery or asparagus, hard seeds or pits, and nuts. You should also watch out for overly starchy food items like potato skins, as well as items that can continue to soak up water or become kind of a gloppy mess like cooked pasta or coffee grounds. Fats and oils should also be avoided, though that’s in part because of what they can do to your plumbing.

One other tip to keep in mind when using your garbage disposal: Run cold water before and after using the disposal to make sure that food is properly moistened and washed away. This not only helps the garbage disposal to work properly, but it will also help prevent food buildup that can lead to bad smells in your kitchen.

Caring for Your Garbage Disposal

In addition to keeping an eye on what goes down your garbage disposal, putting some time into periodic maintenance will go a long way toward avoiding significant problems with your unit. Before doing any work with your garbage disposal that requires you to be anywhere near the blades, make sure that the disposal is unplugged so that it can’t accidentally come on while you’re working on it. This is one of the most important things you can know about working on your disposal!

Some garbage disposal maintenance is pretty simple to do. If you don’t use your disposal very often, make a point of running some water and turning the disposal on every 2-3 days. This ensures that the blades and other components won’t start to rust as a result of sitting there unused in a moist environment for too long, and keeps certain components from drying out. You should also give a whiff to check for unpleasant smells around the sink every few days. If you do start to smell something, either cut up some lemon or orange peels and feed them to the disposal, or mix some ice cubes with rock salt and baking soda and use that. Either solution should take care of your odor problems.

If the disposal isn’t working or seems to be struggling, cut off the power and shine a light down the sink so you can see if anything is tangled around the blades or otherwise obstructing them. Using pliers, a wrench, or specialized tools that might have come with your disposal (and NEVER your hands), untangle or otherwise remove any debris before plugging the unit back in, then see if that took care of the problem.

March 11, 2021

The Howell Team MARCH 2021 Homeward bound Newsletter

March 9, 2021

How Upset Should You Be about 3% Mortgage Rates?

 

How Upset Should You Be about 3% Mortgage Rates? | MyKCM

Last Thursday, Freddie Mac announced that their 30-year fixed mortgage rate was over 3% (3.02%) for the first time since last July. That news dominated real estate headlines that day and the next. Articles talked about the “negative impact” it may have on the housing market. However, we should realize two things:

1. The bump-up in rate should not have surprised anyone. Many had already projected that rates would rise slightly as we proceeded through the year.

2. Freddie Mac’s comments about the rate increase were not alarming:

“The rise in mortgage rates over the next couple of months is likely to be more muted in comparison to the last few weeks, and we expect a strong spring sales season.”

A “muted” rise in rates will not sink the real estate market, and most experts agree that it will be a strong spring sales season.”

What does this mean for you?

Obviously, any buyer would rather mortgage rates not rise at all, as any upward movement increases their monthly mortgage payment. However, let’s put a 3.02% rate into perspective. Here are the Freddie Mac annual mortgage rates for the last five years:

  • 2016: 3.65%
  • 2017: 3.99%
  • 2018: 4.54%
  • 2019: 3.94%
  • 2020: 3.11%

Though 3.02% is not as great as the sub-3% rates we saw over the previous seven weeks, it’s still very close to the all-time low (2.66% in December 2020).

And, if we expand our look at mortgage rates to consider the last 50 years, we can see that today’s rate is truly outstanding. Here are the rates over the last five decades:

  • 1970s: 8.86%
  • 1980s: 12.7%
  • 1990s: 8.12%
  • 2000s: 6.29%
  • 2010s: 4.09%

Being upset that you missed the “best mortgage rate ever” is understandable. However, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Buying now still makes more sense than waiting, especially if rates continue to bump up this year.

Bottom Line

It’s true that you may not get the same rate you would have five weeks ago. However, you will get a better rate than what was possible at almost any other point in history. Let’s connect today so you can lock in a great rate while they stay this low.

March 8, 2021

What Are Smart Locks?

 

Home security is important. As smart technologies continue to grow in popularity, an increasing number of homeowners are turning to higher-tech solutions to meet their home security needs. While options like smart cameras and connected doorbells are becoming much more common, not as many homeowners realize that it’s possible to upgrade their doors with smart locks as well. These locks come in a variety of designs, offering some pretty interesting options to those who want to take their home security to the next level.

 

What Are Smart Locks?

As the name implies, smart locks are door locks that have “smart” connected functions. This means that you can lock and unlock the locks remotely without the need to physically unlock it with a key. They often offer status monitoring as well, allowing you to see whether your doors are locked or unlocked (and in some cases, even whether the door is open or closed.) While there are fully electronic smart locks available that can only be opened remotely, the majority of consumer smart locks feature a physical keyhole and/or a numeric keypad for access as well.

For most smart locks, you can lock, unlock, and monitor them using a smartphone app or a connected hub device such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa. Remote key fobs (similar to those you see with most cars) may also be used to control the lock remotely. Some locks also incorporate biometric features, allowing you to lock or unlock the device by touching a fingerprint reader.

Smart Lock Advantages

There are a number of benefits to installing smart locks on your doors. By allowing you to unlock the door remotely instead of having to use a key, you can get into or out of the house faster when your hands are full or in emergency situations. This remote feature also comes in handy if you realize that you forgot to lock the door when leaving the house or if you need to have someone stop by and pick something up for you while you’re away.

Smart locks also give you a greater degree of control over who can and can’t access your home and when that access is granted. Many models connect with other devices such as smart doorbells or connected camera systems, letting you see who’s at the door before making the decision whether to lock or unlock. In many cases you can even include the smart locks in smart home routines that you’ve programmed on other devices, having them lock or unlock at certain times or when certain routines are run. This can improve the overall security of your home, allowing the doors to lock automatically when potential threats are detected or at times when no one should be visiting.

March 4, 2021

Sliding Barn Doors for Beginners

The cottage look has become a huge trend for homeowners, especially those with older homes that have lost a lot of their original charm to generic remodels over generations. One of the big elements of this new wave in design is the sliding barn door, a simple door mounted on a track that slides to cover a doorway. It’s not a fancy invention, nor is it a new one, so why are they getting so much attention all of a sudden?

 

 

The Sliding Barn Door Aesthetic

Sliding barn doors add a ton of cottage chic to a home, especially one that’s already boasting pre-modern features like custom hand-built kitchen cabinetry, built-in storage, and unusual spaces. The sliding barn door is a simple but elegant touch. It’s literally just a door built from wooden slats, just like you’d see on an old-fashioned barn on a farm. That rugged, simple look complements a lot of different styles, especially considering the many different kinds of materials that can be used to achieve the final result.

Considerations Before Installing Sliding Barn Doors

There are many things to consider before you choose sliding barn doors for your home. The first, and most important, is whether or not a barn door actually makes sense with the rest of your design. If you’re literally choosing a barn door because they’re trending right now, that’s about the worst possible reason to make the call. Instead, ask yourself if you really like the cottage chic look, and if you do, if it makes sense with the other design choices you’re making in your home. Although some purists may argue that there’s absolutely no place for a cottage look in a modern home, most designers would agree that the most important thing is consistency. After all, a lot of homes built in the last 40 or so years don’t really have a strong aesthetic of their own, which leaves a lot of room for creative minds to wander.

If you do decide you want to go with a barn door, and it’s consistent with the styling of your home, keep these additional things in mind while choosing the door and where it will be installed:

  • Barn doors don’t insulate well. Because barn doors hang on a sliding track, rather than sealing shut, there’s more air, light, and sound infiltration around them. This is fine for a lot of uses, but may make them a poor choice for spaces like bedrooms or bathrooms where you’d like more privacy. If you have pets, for safety’s sake, choose a door and hardware that are heavy enough to keep the bottom of the door from being shoved forward to allow a smart dog or cat to open these doors from the bottom.
  • They do save a ton of space. Even though they’re not the greatest doors for insulation, barn doors can save a ton of space that a regular door will require to swing. Instead of losing a whole wall to opening a door, you can instead move the furniture a few inches off the wall to allow the barn door to slide behind. Unlike pocket doors, you don’t need to tear out a wall to install a barn door; you simply run along the outer wall. This can also help minimize the impact of doors that cover water closets and pantries.
  • Planning is important. Before you decide that you absolutely must have a barn door, look very carefully at the space where you think it should go. Remember, the door will need room to move along a track, so there must be room on both sides of the door opening (at least enough to allow for the hardware), and no elements that stick out of the wall. If you’ve got a flat light switch or outlet that will end up under the door, consider how that will affect your ability to use the electricity in the room.
March 1, 2021

What Are the Benefits of a 20% Down Payment?

If you’re thinking of buying a home this year, you may be wondering how much money you need to come up with for your down payment. Many people may think it’s 20% of the loan to secure a mortgage. While there are plenty of lower down payment options available for qualified buyers who don’t want to put 20% down, it’s important to understand how a larger down payment can have great benefits too.

The truth is, there are many programs available that allow you to put down as little as 3.5%, which can be a huge benefit to those who want to purchase a home sooner rather than later. Those who have served our country may also qualify for a Veterans Affairs Home Loan (VA) and may not need a down payment. These programs have really cut down the savings time for many potential buyers, enabling them to start building family wealth sooner.

Here are four reasons why putting 20% down is a good plan if you can afford it.

1. Your interest rate may be lower.

A 20% down payment vs. a 3-5% down payment shows your lender you’re more financially stable and not a large credit risk. The more confident your lender is in your credit score and your ability to pay your loan, the lower the mortgage interest rate they’ll likely be willing to give you.

2. You’ll end up paying less for your home.

The larger your down payment, the smaller your loan amount will be for your mortgage. If you’re able to pay 20% of the cost of your new home at the start of the transaction, you’ll only pay interest on the remaining 80%. If you put down 5%, the additional 15% will be added to your loan and will accrue interest over time. This will end up costing you more over the lifetime of your home loan.

3. Your offer will stand out in a competitive market.

In a market where many buyers are competing for the same home, sellers like to see offers come in with 20% or larger down payments. The seller gains the same confidence as the lender in this scenario. You are seen as a stronger buyer with financing that’s more likely to be approved. Therefore, the deal will be more likely to go through.

4. You won’t have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

What is PMI? According to Freddie Mac:

PMI is an insurance policy that protects the lender if you are unable to pay your mortgage. It’s a monthly fee, rolled into your mortgage payment, that is required for all conforming, conventional loans that have down payments less than 20%. Once you’ve built equity of 20% in your home, you can cancel your PMI and remove that expense from your mortgage payment.

As mentioned earlier, when you put down less than 20% when buying a home, your lender will see your loan as having more risk. PMI helps them recover their investment in you if you’re unable to pay your loan. This insurance isn’t required if you’re able to put down 20% or more.

Many times, home sellers looking to move up to a larger or more expensive home are able to take the equity they earn from the sale of their house to put down 20% on their next home. With the equity homeowners have today, it creates a great opportunity to put those savings toward a 20% or greater down payment on a new home.

If you’re looking to buy your first home, you’ll want to consider the benefits of 20% down versus a smaller down payment option.

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking of buying a home and are already saving for your down payment, let’s connect to discuss what fits best with your long-term plans.

Feb. 24, 2021

How Much Leverage Do Today’s House Sellers Have?

The housing market has been scorching hot over the last twelve months. Buyers and their high demand have far outnumbered sellers and a short supply of houses. According to the latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sales are up 23.7% from the same time last year while the inventory of homes available for sale is down 25.7%. There are 360,000 fewer single-family homes for sale today than there were at this time last year. This increase in demand coupled with such limited supply is leading to more bidding wars throughout the country.

Rose Quint, Assistant Vice President for Survey Research with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), recently reported:

“The number one reason long-time searchers haven’t made a home purchase is not because of their inability to find an affordably-priced home, but because they continue to get outbid by other offers.”

A survey in the NAHB report showed that 40% of buyers have been outbid for a home they wanted to purchase. This is more than twice the percentage in 2019, which was 19%.

What does this mean for sellers today?

It means sellers have tremendous leverage when negotiating with buyers.

In negotiations, leverage is the power that one side may have to influence the other side while moving closer to their negotiating position. A party’s leverage is based on its ability to award benefits or eliminate costs on the other side.

In today’s market, a buyer wants three things:

  1. To buy a home
  2. To buy now before prices continue to appreciate
  3. To buy now and take advantage of historically low mortgage rates while they last

These three buyer needs give the homeowner tremendous leverage when selling their house. Most realize this leverage enables the seller to sell at a good price. However, there may be another need the seller has that can be satisfied by using this leverage.

Here’s an example:

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, recently identified a situation in which many sellers are finding themselves today:

“As mortgage rates are expected to remain near 3%, millennials continue to form households and more existing homeowners tap their equity for the purchase of a better home…Many homeowners may want to upgrade, but do not for fear that they will be unable to find a home to buy.”

She then offers a possible solution:

“While the fear of not being able to find something to buy will not disappear in a limited supply environment, new housing supply can incentivize existing homeowners to move.”

There’s no doubt many sellers would love to build a new home to perfectly fit their changing wants and needs. However, most builders require that they sell their house first. If the seller sells their home, where would they live while their new home is being constructed?

Going back to the concept of leverage:

As mentioned, buyers have compelling reasons to purchase a home now, and many homeowners have challenges to address if they want to sell. Perhaps they can make a deal to satisfy each party’s needs. But how?

The seller may decide to sell their home to the buyer at today’s price, which will enable the purchaser to take advantage of current mortgage rates. In return, the buyer might lease the house back to the seller for a pre-determined length of time while the seller’s new home is being built. A true win-win negotiation.

Not every buyer will agree to such a deal – but you only need one.

That’s just one example of how a seller might be able to overcome a challenge because of the leverage they have in today’s market. Maybe you feel a need to make certain repairs before selling. Perhaps you need time to get permits or approvals for certain upgrades you made to the house. Whatever the challenge, you may be able to work it out.

Bottom Line

If you’re considering selling your house now but worry a huge obstacle stands in your way, let’s connect. Maybe with the leverage you currently have, you can negotiate a deal that will allow you to make the move of your dreams.

Feb. 23, 2021

Make Spring Cleaning Easy with Built-In Storage

 

It might be a bit on the chilly side now, but it’s not going to be long before spring cleaning season is upon us again. It’s a great way to refresh spaces and toss out that stuff that’s just been collecting with no real purpose. But what do you do with the stuff you DO want to keep? Maybe you need some more storage spaces!

 

 

These days, there are tons of prefabricated kits that can help you turn your home into an organizational powerhouse, as well as plenty of small projects that you can do over a weekend to prepare for the inevitable. If you start building your future storage now, you’ll be totally ready for sorting and putting away when the grass starts to green again.

 

Built-In Storage Kits

You don’t have to be Bob Villa to install any of the many basic storage systems that are available through big box storages and home improvement centers across the country. Some are designed with specific kinds of storage in mind, like closet systems that help you make more room out of nothing at all. Other systems are designed to be extra sturdy for more challenging spaces, like garages or utility rooms. These out of the box systems are a great way to add built-in storage, even if you’re not particularly handy. They often feature pre-cut pieces with just a few fasteners you’ll need to insert into the wall, along with step-by-step instructions to help you succeed.

But if you’re feeling up to it, don’t hesitate to pick up add-on parts for those systems, or go off the map entirely and use them in unexpected places, like under stairs, in mudrooms, and in other odd spaces in your house. Every nook can become mega storage if you have the right kind of system to install there.

Building From Scratch

If you’re a little braver, or have some experience with home repairs, you may want to take a serious look at spaces like garage ceilings, wall voids, rafters, and attic knee walls for room you can reclaim. Ensure there’s no electrical wire or plumbing running in the space you have your eye on for extra storage, though. Skipping this step can lead to some serious repercussions, including, but not limited to, electrocution and pipe ruptures.

However, with a careful hand, you can take those formerly useless stretches of wall or ceiling and add things like built-in bookcases, cabinets, and drawers. Remember that your built-in can only be as deep as the void, minus the thickness of the back materials, so choose your spaces accordingly. Attic knee walls are especially fun options, since there are usually deep voids behind them that you can transform into your storage fantasies.

Some Special Options for Kitchens

Kitchens are notorious for lacking storage or working space, but they also offer a lot of small spaces that most people tend to overlook. For example, if you have a lot of mugs or tea cups, the simple act of installing mug hooks under your upper cabinets can permanently free up shelf space. The inside of your cabinets can host shallow storage racks, which are great for holding cleaning supplies, spices, and other small items.

Another option might be adding a rail to your backsplash, enabling you to hang up items that tend to end up scattered in the kitchen. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually know where the potholders are at any given time? You can do the same thing with pegboards or heavy duty metal sheets you can attach pots, pans, utensils, and the like to with magnetic hooks.