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The Heat is ON! Furnace Maintenance and Efficiency
The Heat is ON! Furnace Maintenance and Efficiency

You can almost hear the hum of furnaces in homes throughout North America cranking up for the colder months ahead. It is especially important to have furnaces inspected and properly maintained to ensure that they run efficiently and safely. Here are some pointers to get the most out of a furnace:

SIMPLE WAYS TO IMPROVE EFFICIENCY
Home heating, especially with a gas furnace and your location, can represent half or more of a typical home’s winter utility bill. Efficient operation can mean lower energy bills and a more comfortable home. Programmable thermostats can be used to automatically turn heat up or down at specified times, so that the temperature is lowered overnight or while no one is at home. The newest types of thermostats can be operated via smartphone or tablet and can even "learn" the preferred temperature for different times of day. Now that’s a "Hot Trend".

Thermostats should be calibrated occasionally to avoid "off-cycle" heat loss. A properly calibrated thermostat will result in more even heating between the on/off cycles, which is more efficient and more comfortable.

SAFETY AND MAINTENANCE
Safety is also an important factor in furnace operation. Gas furnaces can be a source of dangerous carbon monoxide if there are leaks or cracks that go unnoticed or unrepaired. The furnace flame should be steady and burn blue; if not, this should be addressed immediately. A qualified contractor or inspector can detect these types of problems and recommend needed action.

Simple furnace maintenance includes checking and replacing disposable air filters and cleaning permanent-type filters, as well as keeping dust, hair, and lint away from the burner compartment and air intake. No matter what type it is, a well-maintained furnace will not only last longer, but can save energy, money, and help a home’s overall air quality and comfort.

CONSIDERING A NEW FURNACE?
If a new furnace is necessary, it’s worth it to evaluate the various types of furnaces available and how well they might meet a home’s specific situation. Furnaces are defined as conventional efficiency, mid efficiency, and high efficiency. There are advantages and drawbacks to each type, and some are better suited to older homes, for example. Cost may be a factor in considering various types of systems. However, the ability of most new furnaces to reduce off-cycle heat loss, eliminate the need for an always-on pilot light, etc., make replacing a furnace worth considering if the current system is in bad repair or functioning poorly.

 

 

5 Reasons to Sell this Fall!
5 Reasons to Sell this Fall!

Below are five compelling reasons listing your home for sale this fall makes sense.

1. Demand Is Strong
The latest Buyer Traffic Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that buyer demand remains strong throughout the vast majority of the country. These buyers are ready, willing, and able to purchase…and are in the market right now. More often than not, in many areas of the country, multiple buyers are competing with each other to buy the same home.
Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There Is Less Competition Now
Housing inventory is still under the 6-month supply that is needed for a normal market. This means that in the majority of the country, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers.

Historically, a homeowner would stay an average of six years in his or her home. Since 2011, that number has hovered between nine and ten years. There is a pent-up desire for many homeowners to move as they were unable to sell over the last few years due to a negative equity situation. As home values continue to appreciate, more and more homeowners will be given the freedom to move.

Many homeowners were reluctant to list their homes over the last couple years, for fear that they would not find a home to move to. That is all changing now as more homes come to market at the higher end. The choices buyers have will continue to increase. Don’t wait until additional inventory comes to market before you decide to sell.

3. The Process Will Be Quicker
Today’s competitive environment has forced buyers to do all they can to stand out from the crowd, including getting pre-approved for their mortgage financing. This makes the entire selling process much faster and simpler, as buyers know exactly what they can afford before shopping for a home. According to Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insights Report, the time needed to close a loan is 43 days.

4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move Up
If your next move will be into a premium or luxury home, now is the time to move up. There is currently ample inventory for sale at higher price ranges. This means if you’re planning on selling a starter or trade-up home and moving into your dream home, you’ll be able to do that in the luxury or premium market.

According to CoreLogic, prices are projected to appreciate by 5.2% over the next year. If you’re moving to a higher-priced home, it will wind up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage) if you wait.

5. It’s Time to Move on with Your Life
Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you think you should?

Only you know the answers to these questions. You have the power to take control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.  That is what is truly important.  Let me know how I can help!

Is your home ready for the changing seasons?
Is your home ready for the changing seasons?

Click on the title to access your maintenance tips!!

Selling? Low-Cost Home Improvement Fixes that Make Your Home Shine
Selling? Low-Cost Home Improvement Fixes that Make Your Home Shine

When selling a home, even tiny fixes can have a big impact. Here are 10 of the best low- (or no-) cost home improvement fixes to make your house stand above the competition:

1. Address the Heart of the Home
In real estate, the kitchen is a main selling feature and can be a make or break deal for potential home buyers. If a new kitchen just isn’t in the cards, consider replacing smaller ticket items and de-cluttering. Low- and no-cost fixes for the kitchen include:
• New cabinet hardware
• New faucets
• Installing a new backsplash
• Storing countertop appliances to create more work space
• Replacing dark valances with lighter fabric or removing them altogether

2. Update Switch Plate Covers
Switch plate and outlet covers are brittle, and can crack and yellow over time, resulting in a home that, no matter how well updated, still looks dated. New outlets and covers can be replaced in a snap for generally under five dollars, making it one of the lowest cost updates available. Consider flat switches that create a modern, streamlined silhouette and stick to white for a timeless look.

3. Beautify the Bathroom
An updated bathroom comes only second to kitchens in a buyer’s list of must-haves, so showing them a clean and uncluttered bathroom will score points with any potential buyer.
New flooring can give an otherwise tired bathroom a much needed facelift and create a newer looking bathroom overall. Coordinating linens, a new shower curtain, and thoroughly cleaned grout can top off this easy home improvement investment.

4. Address Storage
Storage is always a concern for buyers. Installing low-cost closet organizers to your existing space will increase storage and organization in your home. Add storage baskets to hide clutter and you will have beautiful storage spaces that will make any buyer envious.

5. Deep Clean for a Good Return
If your home contains wall to wall carpeting, clean carpets can make a world of difference to a buyer. Cleaning carpets can easily be completed in a weekend with a rental cleaning machine, and it creates a noticeably clean, odor free environment for buyers to tour.

6. Boost Curb Appeal
Nothing boosts curb appeal like a tidy yard. Trim and edge walkways, weed gardens, and trim shrubs for maximum impact. If you have a porch, consider potted, seasonal plants to bring the look together.

7. Improve the First Impression
As buyers approach your home, first impressions matter. Ensuring your entryway is clean and inviting with something as simple as a new mailbox or updated house numbers will make buyers feel welcome. Clean windows and doors for extra impact.

8. Add a Coat of Paint
Freshening up your living space with neutral colors will invite buyers to imagine their belongings in your home and will cover up any nicks, scratches, or dents your wall incurred over years of daily living.

9. Update Lighting
While not the lowest cost solution on our list, you will find that a new light fixture or two really breathes new life into key living spaces. If your budget is tight, look to kitchen, dining, and living rooms for the most bang for your buck.

10. Add Some Decor Pizzazz
Finally, a fresh look can be completed with nothing more than some colorful fabric. Inexpensive pillows and throws in a coordinating palette through your home will create a unified look that will have buyers hooked.
                 

FHA to make financing easier for condo owners!
FHA to make financing easier for condo owners!

The Federal Housing Administration has finally issued a long-awaited update to its condominium rules, announcing Wednesday that it will now allow individual unit approval and is taking other steps to loosen requirements that make these properties eligible for FHA financing.

Under the revised guidelines – which take effect Oct. 15, 2019 – an individual condo unit in a building of 10 units or more may be eligible for spot approval if no more than 10% of the units are FHA-insured. For units in buildings with fewer than 10 units, no more than two units can have FHA insurance. The FHA is also extending the recertification deadline for approved condo projects from two to three years, and it will insure more mixed-use projects, or those with more commercial space, to be eligible, stating that approved projects can now have up to 35% of their square footage dedicated to non-residential use.
The agency also loosened restrictions on owner-occupancy rules, stating that eligible condo projects can now be just 50% owner-occupied.

It also said it will insure up to 50% of units in any given project. The FHA said it expects the updated guidelines to qualify an estimated 20,000 to 60,000 more condo units per year for financing. 
Currently, of the more than 150,000 condo projects across the country, only 6.5% are approved for FHA financing. This is something the FHA is aiming to change with the updated guidelines, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said on a call with reporters Wednesday. “FHA is publishing a new rule in the Federal Register that we believe will offer significantly more options for individuals and families to buy a home, specifically the kind of home more and more people are looking for in order to achieve homeownership, and of course that is a condominium,” Carson said, adding that the new rules “will open many doors to buyers who have been waiting on the sidelines, waiting to become homeowners, waiting to share in the American Dream.”

FHA Commissioner Brian Montgomery said the agency has been working alongside stakeholders for three years to update its condo policies. “It had become clear for many years that we needed to update our condo project approval regulations so that, while not exposing the agency to more risk, they are more flexible and less prescriptive and more reflective of the current market than the previous condominium project approval provisions,” Montgomery said on the press call.

The National Association of Realtors was among the of the first trade associations to applaud the agency for finally making the long-awaited move. NAR said the changes, which it has championed for more than a decade, should help alleviate affordability issues for many prospective homebuyers. “We are thrilled that Secretary Carson has taken this much-needed step to put the American Dream within reach for thousands of additional families,” said NAR President John Smaby. “It goes without saying that condominiums are often the most affordable option for first-time homebuyers, small families and those in urban areas,” Smaby continued. “This ruling, which culminates years of collaboration between HUD and NAR, will help reverse recent declines in condo sales and ensure the FHA is fulfilling its primary mission to the American people.”


 

No, The Fed Didn't Cut Mortgage Rates! Some interesting info on the recent Fed Rate Cut

Mortgage rates were mostly unchanged today, which will come as a surprise to scores of consumers who mistakenly believe the Fed's 0.25% rate cut equates to a 0.25% drop in rates.  The Fed does not set mortgage rates!

Actually, to be fair, the Fed Funds Rate (that thing everyone is talking about today) is in fact the basis for Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) in many cases, but that's it as far as the mortgage world is concerned.  The most common mortgages are determined by other parts of the financial market.
In fact, mortgages actually "turn into" securities that are traded in financial markets as a part of the process that makes them safer and easier for investors to buy. Those securities trade just like other securities, for the most part (e.g. stocks, bonds, etc.), and it's the price movement of those securities that most directly dictates mortgage rates.  Shockingly enough, these are known as Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS).

Unlike the Fed Funds Rate, which only changes once every 6 weeks, if at all, MBS can change every minute of every business day.  They've been doing just that for months as market anticipation for the Fed rate cut has increased.  Simply put, the Fed rate cut has long since had its impact on the financial market and today merely saw a very small epilogue to that bigger story.
If you want to think about this in terms of the stock market, just consider that stocks LOST ground today.  Why would they do that if a Fed rate cut is universally considered to be positive for stocks?  Here again, stocks have already had plenty of time to PRICE-IN the rate cut.  That left today for them to react to other information from the Fed.  Specifically, they were a bit disappointed that Powell didn't do more to offer assurances about additional cuts.

The bottom line is that when financial instruments (like stocks, bonds, and MBS) can move all day every day, it would be foolish of them NOT to move in anticipation of something that will almost certainly happen.  That was the case with today's Fed rate cut.  In fact, they have already accounted for at least one more cut. 
That means, all other things being equal, if the Fed were to say "we're done cutting for now and will keep rates at these levels for the next 6 months," you'd see an immediate and rather large move higher in rates.  In other words, we're already counting on another 1-2 Fed rate cuts simply to sustain the low rates that are already here.  If those cuts don't come, rates will move back up.

Twin Cities Market Snapshot
Twin Cities Market Snapshot

The order of the day is market balance between buyer and seller interests. While true that there may not be as many homes for sale to choose from and that prices are on the high end for the average first-time home buyer, there are considerations for sellers as well. Such as, more markets are swinging toward the back side of balance with fewer sales leading to some amount of downward price pressure from a beleaguered buyer core that is becoming less willing to overreach.
In the Twin Cities region:
• New Listings decreased 16.0% to 1,006
• Pending Sales increased 11.5% to 1,187
• Inventory increased to 12,074

 

-Mpls Area Association of Realtors
 

Lending Rates Are LOW!!
Lending Rates Are LOW!!

For the seventh time in the last nine weeks, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped, reaching the lowest
average since November 2016, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey.
 

Twin Cities Housing Market Sets Record for Median Sales Price!
Twin Cities Housing Market Sets Record for Median Sales Price!

According to MAR, MN Association of Realtors, the Twin Cities set a new single-month record for the median sales price of a single-family home in March, even as above-average precipitation and soggy basements contributed to slower sales.

The median sales price hit $275,000 in March, the highest on record for the Twin Cities in any month and an increase of 6.5 percent over March 2018, according to data released Thursday by the industry association Minneapolis Area Realtors. MAR suggests wet weather and melting snow may have played a role in both closings and listings declining in March from the same time a year earlier; sellers listed 8.8 percent fewer homes for sale compared to March 2018, while buyers closed on 9.3 percent fewer homes than a year ago.

The inventory homes for sale is still low at just 1.8 months, well below the four to six months of supply most consider the sign of a healthy, balanced market. But there are signs that the market’s pendulum is starting to swing in favor of buyers.

-By Dylan Thomas, Staff reporter, Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal
 Apr 18, 2019, 12:24pm EDT

Everything You Need to Know About Minneapolis' Upper Harbor Terminal Project — And What Happens Next
Everything You Need to Know About Minneapolis' Upper Harbor Terminal Project — And What Happens Next
Everything You Need to Know About Minneapolis' Upper Harbor Terminal Project — And What Happens Next

The massive plan to turn 48 acres of riverfront land into housing, businesses and an outdoor performance venue was approved Friday.

The Minneapolis City Council voted to approve a massive plan to turn 48 acres of riverfront land into housing, businesses and an outdoor performance venue. The project — the Upper Harbor Terminal — is city officials’ No. 1 construction priority right now.

The plan lays out preliminary designs for the land between the Mississippi River and Interstate 94 in north Minneapolis that once served as a barge shipping terminal. Federal authorities closed the terminal to avoid the spread of invasive carp in 2014, and the city of Minneapolis has been studying what to do with the T-shaped piece of property since.

Renting vs Buying
Renting vs Buying


• Historically, the choice between renting or buying a home has been a tough decision.
• Looking at the percentage of income needed to rent a median-priced home today (28.4%) vs.
 the percentage needed to buy a median-priced home (17.5%), the choice becomes obvious.
• Every market is different. Before you renew your lease again, find out if you can put your housing costs to work by buying this year!

Making Dreams Come True in 2017!
Making Dreams Come True in 2017!

Just some of the properties I've sold in 2017! Looking forward to 2018! Contact me if you're thinking of listing your home or purchasing your next one! I can help!