Blog :: 07-2016

Action Before Interest Rates Rise?

Cindy got an email from the other day from Mortgage Loan Originator, Mark Erickson, out of South Burlington. "Interest rates have recently dropped!" he exclaimed, "Now is a great time for a mortgage checkup." So we looked into it.

This article by PJ Wade discusses the importance of refinancing before rates increase. Are your kids heading off to college? Does the roof need some extra TLC? Now might be the right time to save a little extra money for the things that matter in your life. 

If you currently have a mortgage, what should you do before interest rates significantly increase?

The "when" related to interest rate increases has been the subject of debate for a while, but there is wide-spread agreement that rates will slide up. Whether that's slowly or quickly represents another debate.

Does the certainty of rate increases call for action from savvy property owners with one or two existing mortgages on their real estate?
While rates are near historic lows, refinancing to take advantage of lower interest rates may make good financial sense, but act soon. Combining existing primary and second mortgages into one loan may improve your financial situation and probably lower payments.

Mortgage contracts, which outline how much must be repaid to the lender according to specific terms, vary from lender to lender and from borrower to borrower, so do not assume anything about your mortgage. Read the mortgage documents yourself or contact the lender to clarify your obligations, rights, and alternatives.

This is a time of transition for the mortgage industry, so changes outside of your mortgage document may influence your borrowing options. You'll never know until you ask. No one will come knocking on your door to bring you up-to-date.

Homeowners with existing mortgages will be protected from immediate rate increases unless they have a variable-rate mortgage, also known as adjustable-rate or floating-rate mortgage. With these loans, the interest rate is not fixed, but fluctuates against a reference standard. Vulnerability to rising interest rates depends upon specific terms set out in mortgage documents. Talk to the lender for clarification of any unfavorable effects of rising interest rates and to understand your options.

Mortgages with fixed interest rates are not vulnerable to rate increases during the term or contractual length of the loan, which can be 6 months, 1 year, or decades long. However long the term is, eventually, the mortgage comes due and payable. That's when property owners and their mortgages are vulnerable to higher interest rates. If you must re-qualify for refinancing, significantly higher interest rates could pose qualification restrictions and limit the size of mortgage available to you.

Usually, re-qualification is low threat because, as the existing mortgage ages, the principal, or original amount borrowed, is paid down or reduced. Refinancing for a smaller mortgage at a higher rate should be affordable unless the property owner has had a change of employment or income.

Even if you expect to refinance with your current lender, shop around for the best rate and mortgage terms. Your current lender may decide to match the best offer you receive from a new lender to retain your business.

When comparing lenders with the help of a mortgage broker or contacting them yourself, ask questions about fees and terms like prepayment to be sure you are improving your situation by moving lenders. If you gain a half point or a point in interest, but face higher fees or less flexible terms, moving lenders may be an expensive decision. Real estate professionals are often excellent resources when dealing with mortgage issues.

Don't miss the chance to maintain your mortgage at a reasonable interest rate. Contact your lender if you are unsure about your vulnerability to rate increases. Once rates move up, "if only I'd…" recriminations will get you nowhere.

To read the original article click here.

Interested in talking to Mark about your mortgage? Click here.

America's Love Affair with Bedrooms and Bathrooms

We recently found this very insightful article from Lawnstater.com about the amount of homes with more bedrooms and bathrooms. While the kitchen might be considered the center of the home, bedrooms and bathrooms are just as important. You're not going to buy a home with less space than you and your family needs. While it's no secret that houses are getting bigger you might be surprised by some of the statistics shown below. The cost of living in Vermont, in particular, is very high and there is a trend towards multigenerational if not multifamily ownership. 

We love our bedrooms and bathrooms.

In 2015, the share of new single-family homes sold that had at least four bedrooms and at least three bathrooms hit a more than three-decade high. And one expert suggests this bedroom and bathroom trend is being driven by a fundamental change in American living arrangements.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows 53 percent of new single-family homes sold in 2015 had at least four bedrooms and 41 percent had at least three bathrooms. Back in 1978, just 27 percent of new single-family homes sold had at least four bedrooms and just 8 percent had at least three bathrooms.

Of course, in order to squeeze in more bedrooms and bathrooms, the average American home has grown bigger. In 1975, the average new single-family home took up 1,975 square feet, the Census Bureau says. Today, that number exceeds 2,600 square feet. That's a four-decade jump of more than 30 percent.

Multigenerational Ownership

Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of RealtyTrac, which specializes in housing data and analysis, says the trend toward larger homes — featuring more bedroom and more bathrooms — reflects the "increasing acceptance" of at least two generations of a family living under one roof.

"Part of this acceptance is brought about by cultural changes influenced by a higher percentage of foreign buyers who are open to multigenerational homeownership," Blomquist says, "as well as millennials who put more value on their social network than their personal space.
"Blomquist says multigenerational homeownership is being spurred by the overall lack of affordability and inventory in the housing market. According to RealtyTrac data, up to 14 percent of home sales last year in the U.S. involved multigenerational buyers.

In 2012, a record 57 million Americans (18 percent of the U.S. population) lived in multigenerational family households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. That compares with 28 million in 1980 (12 percent).

In this infographic, we examine the growing number of bedrooms and bathrooms in American homes — a development being fueled in large part by the rise of multigenerational households.

To see the original article click here

Simple Staging Tips to Sell a Home Fast

We recently found this article from the staff of Realty Times. There are a few things you might want to look into to have your home looking its best for potential buyers. Take advantage of the natural beauty of Vermont by planting new trees and shrubbery or clean up the yard a little by raking or weeding out your front garden. Check out more tips below.

When you are hosting an open house or showing your property to potential home buyers, you want them to see it as a home they could live in. That's where staging comes in. According to Coldwell Banker, homes that were staged spent half the time on the market than homes that were not, and they also sold for about 6 percent more. There are several ways you can stage the home you're selling without spending a fortune on a decorator or doing any major renovations. Here are a few to consider.


Don’t Underestimate Curb Appeal
The outside is the first thing buyers see when you show them a house, and if they don’t like it, it can turn them off to the entire property. Updating the curb appeal of your home will draw house hunters in immediately and may even attract buyers you wouldn’t expect from simply driving by. Fixing the outer aesthetic of the home doesn’t have to be pricey or time-consuming, either. Houzz suggests some simple upgrades you can do yourself around the property, including power washing the sidewalks and sides of the house, cutting the lawn, planting new flowers and shrubs, and repainting house numbers so people can easily find it. A fresh coat of paint on the front porch or door is another good way to refresh the outside of your home.


Create A Scene
The National Association of Realtors suggests creating lifestyle vignettes to show potential buyers what their life could be like in specific rooms. This can be especially helpful in houses with odd spaces, as many buyers do not have the imagination to see how an empty space can be used. Think about what demographic the home appeals to and create scenes that way. For example, a young couple might appreciate a game room with a bar area, whereas an older crowd might appreciate a library with a reading corner. Professional stagers often research the cultural and community interests in a neighborhood and stage according to their preferences. Buyers want to see what their life would look like in each room.
Be sure to use lifestyle elements throughout the house everyone is familiar with, such as subtly scented candles, freshly arranged bouquets or a tray of drinks and baked goods for guests.


Clear Out The Clutter
While staging may make you want to decorate the entire house the way you would want it, a common mistake is to use too many items throughout the house. It can make the home seem smaller and dirty, as well as distract from some of the better features of the property. Pack up about 90 percent of what is in the home before showing it. Kid’s toys, personal photos, and mementos and anything worn out or broken should be put away.


Go Neutral
While bright purple might be this season’s color, it won't be the most appealing design approach for everyone. The same goes for decor that is too masculine or too feminine. You want people or families to see themselves living in the home, so using neutral colors and decor can help them imagine their own stylish touches throughout each room — especially the master bedroom. Make sure the walls and bedding are a neutral color and use clean linens and modern artwork to create a fashionable space with potential.

To read the original article click here.

Stowe Brewers Festival

Come enjoy fine craft beers, spirits, and ciders at the Stowe Brewers Festival. The Festival starts on Friday, July 29th with a session from 5:30pm-9:30pm and continues on Saturday with sessions from 11:30am - 3:30pm and 5:30pm - 9:30pm. Grab your friends and celebrate the best brews Vermont has to offer. Live music and a food truck round-up keep the good times rolling throughout the event. You must have tickets to enter and be over 21. The event is also looking for volunteers who will receive a free admission ticket for a session other than the one they are working, a free t-shirt, a voucher for a meal from one of the vendors, 15 tasting tickets, and a commemorative tasting glass. Saturday's session one is already out of volunteer slots. 

To learn more about Stowe Brewers Festival visit their website by clicking here.

7 Smart Renovations Under $500

We recently found this article written by Jaymi Naciri that highlights some ways you can improve your home without breaking the bank. Some of these are a no-brainer, while some are a little harder for those of us living in Vermont. Curb appeal might be easier if the weather wasn't so unpredictable. Regardless, here are some ways that you can spruce up your home to enhance a buyer's interest.

If you're thinking about selling your home, you may be stressed out about all the things you need to do to get it market ready, and all the costs associated with those updates. Renovations don't have to cost you a fortune. By thinking smart about some of the updates that will have the greatest impact, you can minimize your spend and maximize your investment.

1. Give your kitchen some attention

If there's one spot that can make or break your home sale, it's this. You could spend thousands on new countertops and cabinets - and your agent may advise you to do some of these larger updates depending on the age and condition of your current kitchen and the competitiveness of your local market. But, for many of us, attention to a few key areas can help detract from the negatives and highlight the positives.

"Naturally, there are limits to what you can do on a budget. But many home remodeling experts stress that moderately handy homeowners with just a little cash to spend can make a big difference in their kitchen," said Bankrate. "And if the work looks good, you're adding equity to your home," Erin Davis, lead designer for Mosaik Design & Remodeling in Portland, Oregon, told them.

For under $500, you can paint your kitchen cabinets - use white for a classic yet updated look - and add hardware. You'll be surprised how much impact these two changes can have in an outdated space. Finish it off with a fancy new faucet that can be swapped out for under $100, like this brushed chrome single handle pullout.

2. Get a new appliance

It's not likely that you'll find a new appliance package for under $500, but you may be able to find a great deal on a new fridge or dishwasher if yours is a bit ratty by looking at scratch and dent items. Sometimes, the scratch is in a place that will be obscured by a wall, meaning you can save tons of money and not ever see the issue. If you can only afford one, think about the fact that you can take the refrigerator with you to your new place.

3. Bring in the light

One of the most important things you can do to prepare your home for sale is to fill it with natural light. That means opening drapes and pulling blinds for showings—and making sure your windows are clean behind them! If your home doesn't offer a lot of natural light, careful placement of mirrors can help bounce whatever light there is around. Painting lighter colors can also keep the space airy, and is recommended by stagers as well.

Bringing in new light fixtures to replace anything that is outdated or builder grade can help give the home a modern feel for little financial output. Hanging two of these pendants over an island or peninsula captures one of the hottest trends in lighting today and will only set you back $104.

4. Refresh the bedrooms

Making sure the bedrooms have just the right amount of furniture - not too much, not too little - is key. Remove unnecessary pieces to emphasize the space and add key pieces like nightstands in a master (if you don't currently have them) to highlight function. You can pick up a pair at IKEA for under $30. Style them with a lamp and a book or stylish accessory and no one will know they cost less than dinner. Don't forget to add a new comforter for another modern touch. This three-piece set is just $49 from Wayfair.

5. Create some architectural interest

Crown molding can make a room look elegant and is also one of the features that can woo a picky buyer. Having a pro come in to install it can get expensive, but if you can use a saw and are somewhat adept at math, you can do it yourself. Materials should cost you about $1.20 a foot at Home Depot. You can get some DIY tips here.

Creating interest in a space that needs it doesn't have to involve power tools. Peel-and-stick wallpaper is one of our favorite tools for dressing up a wall without the hassle of working with paste and now it comes in textured looks we love, like this reclaimed wood version.

6. Create some curb appeal

Some of the most important things to do in the front of your house won't cost you a thing outside of elbow grease: mow, rake, and clean up. Next, lay down a new layer of mulch, which will cost you a couple bucks per bag, and plant some fresh flowers or bring some flowerpots close to the door.

If your front door has seen better days, a fresh coat of paint will keep buyers from wondering what else needs work on the inside.

7. Throw some accessories at it

You may not have money to make large changes to your home, but you can make it look freshened up with a little smart staging. Make sure furniture arrangements in living spaces make sense—it costs you nothing to move stuff around or store an extra-large chair that's impeding the flow of traffic in the garage while the home is for sale.

Some fresh flowers, a few throw pillows, an inexpensive new rug to anchor the seating area, and maybe a few modern knickknacks scattered around can make the space feel inviting.

To read the original article click here.