How Much House Can I Afford?

Debt to Income Ratio: Follow the 36% rule

Most financial advisers agree that people should spend no more than 36 percent of their gross income when determining how much house you can afford. The 36% rule is the tried-and-true home mortgage affordability tip that you should take into account when establishing a baseline for what you can afford to pay every month.

Depending on where you live, your annual income could be more than enough to cover a mortgage or it could fall short. Knowing what you can afford can help you take financially sound next steps. The last thing you want to do is jump into a 30-year home loan that’s too expensive for your budget, even if you can find a lender willing to write the mortgage.

Set a budget

The most basic research on homebuying will inevitably lead you to this general fact: houses are one of, if not the most, expensive purchases you’ll make in your lifetime. There aren’t many other opportunities to drop hundreds of thousands of dollars in one sitting… or over 30 years.

This is why setting a house budget is crucial in the homebuying process. Even more modest purchases, like a new car, require examining the bank account, debt and income situation. With a home purchase, this kind of serious financial evaluation is everything if you are to have any hope of success.

Calculate the Cost

NOTE: Go to managecasa.com to use the Calculator.

If your monthly income is $5,000 per month then your mortgage payment shouldn’t exceed $1,400 per month. The calculator… allows you to plug in all the essential data to produce a budget estimate for how much house you can afford based on your income, down payment, and other expenses.

How much of my income should I spend on my house?

Financial experts generally advise that no more than 28 percent of your gross income should go to a mortgage payment. This means if, after expenses and debt, your monthly income is $5,000 per month then your mortgage payment should not be more than $1,400 per month. That said, everyone has different financial goals and lifestyle needs. Some folks choose to underspend on their house and use the extra money for investments or travel, while others might need more space due to family size. Be sure to factor in your long-term goals so you don’t get stuck with more house (and mortgage) than you need.

How much income do I need to qualify for a mortgage?

Many factors go into a lender’s decision to give you a mortgage. Among them are your credit scoredebt-to-income ratio, employment history and income. Qualifying income is not just employment salary but other sources such as alimony, royalties, Social Security and trust income. Lenders will tally total income, subtract your debt and use the remainder to determine how much you can afford. Lenders generally use the 28/36 rule for underwriting. This rule states that a household should spend 28 percent or less of their gross income on total housing expenses, including things like HOA fees, home insurance and property taxes. Likewise, total household debt — which includes everything from your mortgage to credit card bills and student loans, shouldn’t exceed 36 percent.

Source: bankrate.com ~ By:  ~ Image: 21online Asset Library

Report: Homeowners 8% Richer Over the Past Year

Home equity continued to increase in the fourth quarter of 2018, with more homeowners profiting over rising home prices. U.S. homeowners with a mortgage saw their equity rise by 8.1 percent year over year in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to CoreLogic’s Home Equity Report, released Thursday.

The average homeowner has gained $9,700 in home equity between the fourth quarter of 2017 and the fourth quarter of 2018, the report showed. Western states saw some of the most significant annual gains. Nevada homeowners, for example, saw an increase of $29,400 in home equity over the past year, and Hawaii homeowners saw gains of about $26,900.

“As home prices rise, significantly more people are choosing to remodel, repair or upgrade their existing homes,” said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “The increase in home equity over the past several years provides homeowners with the means to finance home remodels and repairs. With rates still ultra-low by historical standards, home-equity loans provide a low-cost method to finance home-improvement spending. These expenditures are expected to rise 5 percent in 2019.”

The number of homes with a mortgage in negative equity—where the homeowner’s loan balance is higher than the home’s current worth—was at 2.2 million, or 4.2 percent of all mortgaged properties in the fourth quarter.

However, with predictions of a 4.5 percent increase in home prices over the next year, about 350,000 homeowners could be lifted from being underwater and restored to positive equity, says Frank Nothaft, CoreLogic’s chief economist.

Source: realtor.com ~ Image: CoreLogic

30 Day Spring Cleaning Checklist

Don’t know where to begin with spring cleaning? You’re not alone. Most people never begin to spring clean their home because they truly don’t know where to start. But spring cleaning is actually pretty simple. The process of decluttering and then cleaning each space in your home is easy. Each task is quick. The tough part? Knowing where to begin.

That’s where this 30-day checklist comes in. This spring cleaning plan outlines a set of tasks to help you declutter and clean every nook and cranny in your home.

This checklist will keep you moving around your home from room-to-room. This goes against traditional advice to work on one room until it’s done and move on. But with a big project like spring cleaning your entire home, the impulse to give up when you get overwhelmed, bored, or complacent is too strong. Tackling a few quick projects each day ensures you will stay motivated. And you can check each task off once you’ve completed it.

And by the way, most of these projects work in any other season too. So you can follow this plan each season or as many times a year as you need.

What You Need

Before you get started, it’s important to be prepared with some boxes. Here’s what you need:

Box 1: Donate/Consign. Anything you want to donate or consign goes into these boxes. If the items will not fit in a box (say, a couch) then keep a running list.

Box 2: Repair. While you’re decluttering and cleaning, you will come across items that need to be mended, fixed and repaired. Place those items in this box until you’re ready to work on getting them fixed. Don’t let repairs sidetrack you until you’re done cleaning.

Box 3: Put Away Box. Say you’re cleaning out a drawer in your kitchen and you find a pair of earrings in it. “What….how did those get in there?” you say. Do not stop decluttering that drawer to go put your earrings away. Resist the urge! Continue working on the drawer and put the earrings in your Put Away Box. Once you’re done with the drawer, take that box and return everything in it to it’s rightful storage place.

Also recommended: either a hardcopy notebook or a file on your computer to keep a running list of big projects that you want to get to eventually. They could be things like finally organizing your basement or attic or storing all of your old photos. As you work around your house these projects will pop up. Don’t let them distract you from the task at hand. Keep a list and once spring cleaning is over, make a plan to tackle them.

Day 1: Dust

Take a broom to the corners of the ceiling to catch any cobwebs in your kitchen, living room, bedrooms and bathrooms. Then dust, then sweep or vacuum the floors.

Launder the drapes in your living room, dining room and bedrooms. They may have been collecting dust for years. If you can’t wash them on site, bring them to the dry cleaners.

Dust your books, and the knick-knacks on your bookshelves.

Day 2: Put Away Seasonal Items

If the weather has changed, switch out your clothing for the season.

Clean every mirror in your home including bathrooms, bedrooms and entryways.

Sort out your under-bed storage boxes. Is there anything in them to donate? If so, add them to your donation box.

Day 3: Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet

Declutter your linen closet. Pull out the old towels and sheet sets you no longer use and put them into your donation box.

Throw away expired cosmetics and medicines. Toss any liquid makeup over three months old and any powdered makeup over a year old. Note: Toss medicine into the trash. Do not flush it or dump it into your sink.

Day 4: Clean Out Your Shoes

Sort through all your shoes, and if any need repairing, get them ready to take to the cobbler.

Organize your emergency supplies–make sure you’re stocked with first aid necessities in the bathroom, and safety pins, stain remover and the like in your laundry room.

Switch scented candles, hand soaps, etc. from winter scents to fresh spring ones.

Day 5: Clean Appliances

Clean your appliances, including their plugs, tops, bottoms, sides and any accessories that came with them.

Remove odd socks from your sock drawer, and either toss them or use them as cleaning rags.

Go through a bureau or dresser (yours, your child’s) and pull out items of clothing you haven’t worn in a year and have no plans to wear again. Put them in your donation box.

Day 6: Clean Your Car

Clean your car. The easiest way to do this is to bring it to a car wash. Use their ShopVac or other high powered vacuum to vacuum inside of the car. Declutter while you go. Then wipe down the interior with Formula 409 and a rag. Finally, let them hand wash or machine wash the outside of your car. Depending on your time and budget, you could also just pay the service to detail the interior and exterior of your car for you.

if you don’t have a car, clean your coffee table, kitchen sink and bathroom sink.

Day 7: Deep Clean Your Fridge and Cabinets

Deep clean your fridge and freezer by removing all shelves, racks and storage items and washing them in your bathtub. Toss any old or unused food items. Soak your icecube trays. Wipe down the sides of the fridge and freezer. Then put everything back in. If you’re afraid of food spoiling, use a cooler ot keep your frozen items frozen while you work.

Check the backs of kitchen cabinets for any old food that can be thrown out.  

Day 8: Toss Clutter in the Bathroom

Toss small throw rugs and bathroom mats in the wash.

Clean and declutter your bathroom shelves and drawers. You need to take everything out to do this. Then declutter, clean and put everything back.

Toss grubby pet toys. (Your pet won’t miss them.)

Day 9: Clean Winter Clothing

Wash your couch covers, pillowcases and other linens used around the house.

Wash your winter gloves, hats, and scarves, and pack them up for next year.

Shred unimportant but sensitive documents, and/or scan important papers and shred the originals if they don’t need to be saved.

Take your winter coats to the dry cleaner.

Day 10: Clean Your Electronics

Clean your remote controls.

Clean your phones, both mobile and landlines, Kindles, tablets and computers.

Clean the undersides of every chair and table in your home, then vacuum and mop the floors around them.

Polish silver jewelry, silverware and any other items that have become tarnished.

Day 11: Clean Out Junk

Wash your garbage cans and recycling bins. Either do this outside or in your bathroom. Then scrub your bathtub.

Wash reusable water bottles and water filtering pitchers. Then change the filters.

Organize your junk drawer—no, it shouldn’t really be full of junk.

Tend to your plants—remove dead leaves, toss old flowers in vases, etc.

Day 12: Clean Your Oven

Clean your oven including cook top, underside of hood and front of hood. At the same time, clean your microwave and your toaster oven.

Wash your ironing board cover and throw in your tea towels and kitchen towels.

Wash your gardening gloves, and rinse and wipe off the shoes you wear to do yard work.

Day 13: Clean Your Windows

Wash your windows (or hire a professional to do them). Remove the screens and vacuum them using the handheld attachment on your vacuum cleaner, then soak them in soapy water before rinsing.  

Use dish soap diluted in water and a microfiber cloth to wipe down your windows. Then spray vinegar diluted in water and wipe the windows with a clean towel to dry them.

Dust your windowsills and the frame and touch up any chipped paint around the sill.

Day 14: Toss Old Papers, Magazines, & Newspapers

Recycle old magazines, newspapers and packing material. If you haven’t read a magazine after a month, you are not going to read it. If you haven’t read a newspaper after a week, recycle it!

Clean out the cabinets under your sinks (kitchen and bathroom). Take everything out, clean the backs, sides and bottom of the cabinet. Dispose of any unused cleaning products, and place everything back under the sink.  

Organize old paper or plastic shopping bags that are lying around in one location so you can reuse them.

Day 15: Declutter Your Basement

Wash your makeup brushes and hair brushes.

Clean the floors of your closets. Declutter shoes and boots, toss any unused storage solutions.

Declutter your basement shelves or storage areas. Resist the urge to decide to “organize the whole basement.” You don’t have enough time to do that andspring clean the rest of your home. Just stick to cleaning out the shelves and storage areas by tossing items you don’t use or need.

Day 16: Clean Out Your Plumbing

Clean every drain in your home (bathroom and kitchen) using this method: Pour boiling hot water down your drain, add in baking soda, followed by vinegar. Then cover the drain with a plug. Follow with another pour of boiling water.

Throw out expired or questionable food in your pantry, cabinets and drawers. Do NOT try to donate expired food.

Day 17: Switch Out Seasonal Decor

Remove any winter decorations still hanging around, including throw pillows, candle holders, throw blankets and vases.  

Sort through your old CDs and VHS tapes. Do you really need to hang on to them?

Day 18: Vacuum Under Furniture

Move the couch and any heavy chairs, and clean and vacuum underneath them. Then use the handheld attachment to vacuum the couch and chairs themselves.

Wash your heavy sweaters, and store them until next winter.

Wash bathrobes and slippers.

Day 19: Clean Your Fireplace and Garage

If you have (and use) a fireplace, clean it out.

Declutter your garage and throw out any items you haven’t touched since last spring.

Open the windows and air out the house in the rooms you don’t use often.

Day 20: Clean Out Coin Jars

Go through your drawers and toss broken items like dead pens – and other useless items you can throw out right now. Throw out aging nail files, matches and other small items that no longer function well.

Take that stash of coins to a coin machine or the bank.

Day 21: Sort Your Mugs and Glasses

Declutter your cups, mugs, and glasses. Donate the ones you’ve decide to get rid of, and wash and put away the rest.

Clean out your front or hall closet.

Replace old kitchen sponges and rubber gloves.

Replace your old toothbrushes.

Day 22: Organize Bags

Organize your bags, including backpacks, briefcases and suitcases. Declutter the insides, then clean them and store them.

Dust the screens of televisions and computers – and while you’re at it, clean your keyboard.

Day 23: Repair Broken or Damaged Clothing

Take any clothing items that need to be repaired to the tailor. If you don’t know where to go for a good tailor, ask your dry cleaner. They will either know a good tailor or have one on staff.

Take any shoes or boots that need repair work done to your local cobbler.

Replace your old shower curtain liner with a new one

Day 24: Organize Hobby and Craft Supplies

Organize your hobby supplies. This can include crafting supplies, board games, books or sporting equipment.

Sweep your porch, patio or front steps.

Day 25: Get the Kids Involved in the Cleaning

If you have young children, teach them how to clean something in their room, and make that their chore from now on.

Go through your books (including kids’ books). Are there any you want to donate to the library?

Day 26: Dust and Vacuum Some More

Dust your blinds, then vacuum or collect dust with your dust mop.

Dust around your stairs and bannister, then vacuum.

Wipe down your baseboards and other molding where dust tends to collect. Then vacuum.

Day 27: Wash the Walls

Wash any interior walls that look stained, then touch up chipped or discolored paint. Make a list of anything you can’t do yourself and will need to call in a professional for.

Tackle that one spot (e.g. bedroom chair, hall closet, bottom drawer) where you throw all the stuff you don’t want to deal with. You have three choices with items left here: store them, recycle them, repair them or toss them.

Day 28: Wash Your Linens

Wash your bed linens, including any mattress covers, duvet covers, pillow liners, throw blankets and throw pillows.

If you have a guest room and the bed hasn’t been used in a while, strip the bed down to the mattress and wash everything including mattress pad and duvet cover.

Day 29: Sell or Donate Unwanted Items

Did you keep a list of things to sell and consign? Now is the day to either take your items to the consignment store or photograph your items to sell them on eBay, Craigslist or any of the places you can sell clothing online.

Day 30: Throw It Away!

  • Take a trip to the dump. Gather up any larger broken items you’ve been holding onto, and either throw them away or take them to be repaired. Decide, don’t slide. If they’ve been broken for awhile, you’re not going to fix them. Dump them.

Source: thespruce.com ~ By: ~ Image: pixabay.com

How much do solar panels save in 2019?

Variance in energy usage and energy cost around our great country, and even from home to home, mean that:

  • statistics on how much solar energy will save the average house are almost meaningless to a homeowner (although for those looking for solar savings stats see table below); and
  • calculating how much solar panels will save for your home requires knowledge of your power usage, your local electricity rates, local solar production and any federal, state and local solar incentives (such as the 30% federal solar tax credit) that affects the upfront cost of a solar system where you live.
Below we have included a link to a solar savings calculator that calculates how many solar panels you need to power your house, how much they will cost, your solar payback period and both monthly and lifetime solar savings. It was originally developed with funding from the Department of Energy.
We have included it below because it is the only available online solar savings calculator that uses the specific electric rates of your utility to properly calculate savings. Most others just assume a national electricity cost and so produce very inaccurate results.

How much do solar panels save the average home?

However, for folks that like statistics:

The average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer is 10,766 kilowatt hours (kWh) per annum, an average of 897 kWh per month. Multiply that by the national average electricity rate as of November 2017 ($0.1301 per kWh) and you’ll find that the typical American family is spending over $1,401 a year on electricity. This means that if each home was to install enough solar panels to cover their electricity bill then on average the savings from installing a residential solar system in America in 2018 would run to $1,401 per year.

However what we all really want to know is how much are the solar savings per month after the solar repayments, and how much do these savings add up to over 25 years. The solar savings for a typical home in each state are listed in the table below.

Are solar power savings real and what is avoided cost?

When we talk solar savings we are talking avoided cost. That is, the amount you would have spent on utility electricity had you not installed a solar power system on your home to provide the same power. And yes….these savings are very real. In fact, the extremely high likelihood that you will continue to need to consume electricity at your house means that solar savings are considered a very bankable investment return.

However, the first step to working out solar savings is to first understand how much electricity you use now, how much that costs you and how much electricity you are likely to use in the future.

Here is a list of the average saving that are likely to be achieved by an average US homeowner in each of the top 50 solar cities in America if they installed a 6kW solar power system on their home (a typical size of residential solar energy system in 2018.

Average monthly and lifetime solar savings by state and city in 2018

City State Average cost of Utility power $/kWh Annual Production of a 6 kW system Savings Month 1 25 year profit (savings less cost) Top rated solar companies in your city
New York New York 0.13 6882 $73.41 $23,670.01 View companies
Los Angeles California 0.17 9066 $128.44 $41,413.16 View companies
Chicago Illinois 0.12 6474 $64.74 $20,875.06 View companies
Houston Texas 0.10 7770 $64.75 $20,878.28 View companies
Phoenix Arizona 0.13 9366 $101.47 $32,716.83 View companies
Philadelphia Pennsylvania 0.13 7140 $77.35 $24,941.08 View companies
San Antonio Texas 0.10 8094 $67.45 $21,748.88 View companies
San Diego California 0.17 9024 $127.84 $41,221.30 View companies
Dallas Texas 0.10 8220 $68.50 $22,087.45 View companies
San Jose California 0.17 8694 $123.17 $39,713.88 View companies
Austin Texas 0.10 8154 $67.95 $21,910.10 View companies
Jacksonville Florida 0.11 7416 $67.98 $21,919.78 View companies
San Francisco California 0.17 8922 $126.40 $40,755.37 View companies
Columbus Ohio 0.11 6750 $61.88 $19,951.25 View companies
Indianapolis Indiana 0.12 7068 $70.68 $22,790.38 View companies
Fort Worth Texas 0.10 8544 $71.20 $22,958.05 View companies
Charlotte North Carolina 0.11 7962 $72.99 $23,533.61 View companies
Seattle Washington 0.10 5664 $47.20 $15,219.38 View companies
Denver Colorado 0.10 8682 $74.30 $23,958.74 View companies
El Paso Texas 0.10 9660 $80.50 $25,956.78 View companies
Washington District of Columbia 0.12 7620 $76.20 $24,570.27 View companies
Boston Massachusetts 0.17 6768 $95.88 $30,915.98 View companies
Detroit Michigan 0.15 7020 $87.75 $28,294.50 View companies
Nashville Tennessee 0.11 7686 $70.46 $22,717.83 View companies
Memphis Tennessee 0.11 7716 $70.73 $22,806.50 View companies
Portland Oregon 0.11 6078 $55.72 $17,964.99 View companies
Oklahoma City Oklahoma 0.10 8430 $70.25 $22,651.73 View companies
Las Vegas Nevada 0.13 9672 $104.78 $33,785.73 View companies
Louisville Kentucky 0.09 7386 $55.40 $17,861.81 View companies
Baltimore Maryland 0.14 7632 $89.04 $28,710.46 View companies
Milwaukee Wisconsin 0.15 6576 $82.20 $26,504.94 View companies
Albuquerque New Mexico 0.13 9528 $103.22 $33,282.72 View companies
Tucson Arizona 0.13 9498 $102.90 $33,177.93 View companies
Fresno California 0.17 8694 $123.17 $39,713.88 View companies
Sacramento California 0.17 8538 $120.96 $39,001.27 View companies
Mesa Arizona 0.13 9540 $103.35 $33,324.64 View companies
Kansas City Missouri 0.08 8004 $53.36 $17,205.64 View companies
Atlanta Georgia 0.12 7770 $77.70 $25,053.94 View companies
Long Beach California 0.17 9012 $127.67 $41,166.49 View companies
Colorado Springs Colorado 0.10 9270 $79.34 $25,581.38 View companies
Raleigh North Carolina 0.11 8130 $74.53 $24,030.18 View companies
Miami Florida 0.11 8040 $73.70 $23,764.16 View companies
Virginia Beach Virginia 0.10 8052 $67.10 $21,636.03 View companies
Omaha Nebraska 0.11 8172 $74.91 $24,154.32 View companies
Oakland California 0.17 8646 $122.49 $39,494.61 View companies
Minneapolis Minnesota 0.13 7788 $84.37 $27,204.64 View companies
Tulsa Oklahoma 0.10 8172 $68.10 $21,958.47 View companies
Arlington Texas 0.10 8136 $67.80 $21,861.74 View companies
New Orleans Louisiana 0.09 7278 $54.59 $17,600.63 View companies
Wichita Kansas 0.12 8388 $83.88 $27,046.64 View companies

Assumptions:

  • Cost of utility power is an average of existing rate plans taken from the most commonly chosen utility provider in that state.
  • Forecast solar production of a 6kWp system assumes installation at an optimal tilt and azimuth, with typical insolation conditions based on the TMY2 data set and no external shading.
  • 25-year savings forecast includes an expected inflation in cost of utility power of 3% per annum.
  • The solar system is purchased for cash and owned, so the full value of avoided utility payments is held by the homeowner.

How reliable are solar savings estimates?

Solar is a long term investment and so calculating the long-term savings that you can expect from installing solar panels for your home is crucial when determining whether or not to go solar.

Forecasting residential solar savings can be more difficult that it first appears and forecasts are inherently uncertain. We here at SolarReviews are passionate about solar and renewable energies and hope that you all decide to make the investment for your home and for our planet.

However, we are also committed to consumer education and giving people valid information on which to make choices. We believe it is important that you are aware of the limitations of estimates of future solar savings when deciding to purchase solar.

What makes forecasting solar savings more difficult than other estimates?

Solar is a very long lasting product with minimum system life of at least 25 years. It is difficult to predict anything with certainty going out 25 years.

What makes this more difficult is that when calculating dollar savings we need to be accurate both as to the solar production in kilowatt hours (kwh) and also what the economic value of that production will be going out 10, 20 and 25 years (at least).

The solar energy production side of solar savings forecasts are relatively predictable and solar panels production in each climatic area is relatively well known and understood. A lot of great work has been done by the National Renewable Energy Laboratories and their PVWatts solar production calculator is considered highly accurate.

What is more difficult is forecasting the economic value of solar out as far as 25 years. The need to get this figure right to provide potential consumers with accurate figures about their savings, investment return and payback period for solar is paramount as slight variances in this inflation rate have large effects on these numbers. The assumed rate of utility inflation is a crucial ingredient in generating accurate solar savings forecasts.

What is a reasonable assumption for utility electricity price escalation and its effect on solar profitability over the next 25 years?

 

The average price of residential electricity in America

 

Image source: Institute For Energy Research

The Institute of Energy Research published research showing that the average price of residential electricity in America from 2005 until 2015 actually rose by 34%. So in annualized terms, this equates to a simple rise of 3.4% per year or a compound rise of 2.7% per year.

But is this a realistic assumption we can use to justify the assertion that utility prices will continue to rise at these rates. I think it is.. and here is why. During the same period as covered by the image above the Institute of Energy Research also reported that gas prices, the fuel used to create a lot of our electricity, actually fell 60%. If gas prices had stayed flat over this period then utility power price inflation would have run at more like 5%. For this reason, I am quite comfortable about solar companies using an assumed electricity price inflation rate of 3.5 % for the coming 25 years, although I acknowledge it is an educated guess at best.

There is certainly also a case to be made for the proposition that utility rate inflation may actually be higher than this as governments increasingly become aware of the urgency of tackling climate change and put in place more and more policies to subsidize renewable energy. The latest climate reporting from the four most respected meteorological agencies in the world, including NASA and the Japanese Environment Ministry show that the globe has already warmed by around 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1980, or about .7%. It is thought a global warming of 4% will lead to an extinction of human life on earth. There seems to be a bit of a media disinterest in climate change at the moment but the urgency of the issue will come back more and more into the public consciousness as we start to see more and more physical manifestations of climate change.

Source: solarreviews.com ~ By: Andrew Sendy ~ Image: pixabay.com

2019 Real Estate Forecast: What Home Buyers, Sellers And Investors Can Expect

There’s no doubt about it: the 2018 housing market has seen its ups and downs.

The year started with sky-high home prices, historically low mortgage rates and a definitive upper hand for sellers. In recent months though, home price growth has faltered, rates have risen to their highest point in nearly eight years, and favor has started to shift from seller to buyer.

Will these trends continue? Will housing experience the same wild ride in the new year? Here’s what experts predict will happen in 2019 real estate market:

Mortgage rates will continue rising.

“Despite steady climbing for the past two years, mortgage rates remain lower than they were during most of the recession and below average for the type of strong economic growth we’ve been experiencing. That will change in 2019, as the 30-year, fixed rate mortgage reaches 5.8% — territory not seen since the dark days of 2008 when rates were racing downward in response to the housing crisis.” — Aaron Terrazas, director of economic research for Zillow

Millennials will keep buying homes — despite those rising rates.

“The housing market in 2019 will be characterized by continued rising mortgage rates and surging millennial demand. Rising rates, by making housing less affordable, will likely deter certain potential homebuyers from the market. On the other hand, the largest cohort of millennials will be turning 29 next year, entering peak household formation and home-buying age, and contributing to the increase in first-time buyer demand.” — Odeta Kushi, senior economist for First American

“Millennials will continue to make up the largest segment of buyers next year, accounting for 45% of mortgages, compared to 17% of Boomers, and 37% of Gen Xers. While first-time buyers will struggle next year, older Millennial move-up buyers will have more options in the mid-to upper-tier price point and will make up the majority of Millennials who close in 2019. Looking forward, 2020 is expected to be the peak Millennial home buying year with the largest cohort of millennials turning 30 years old. Millennials are also likely to make up the largest share of home buyers for the next decade as their housing needs adjust over time.” — Danielle Hale, chief 

Source: forbes.com ~ By: Aly J. Yale ~ Image: pixabay.com

Fun Activities for Families to Enjoy in February

Kids are often restless in the heart of winter. Besides the onset of cabin fever due to inclement weather, many months are left in the school year. Count down the minutes until the spring thaw arrives and try these fun things for families to do together in February.

Enjoy Winter Activities Together

Depending on where you live, you may have lots of opportunities to enjoy outdoor winter activities such as sledding, snowshoeing, ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, or simply building snow forts and snow sculptures. If snow and ice are rare in your you’ll want to capitalize on every chance or plan a short getaway to where you can play in the cold.

Play Indoors

Staying in the house doesn’t mean the kids have to park it in front of the TV or video game screen. There are plenty of indoor activities for kids that involve active games, pretend play, and creativity exercises. You can also take the kids on a family fun outing to indoor sports such as bowling, indoor roller rinks, and indoor skating rinks.

Plan a Trip

Nothing will warm your family up quicker than planning for a special getaway together. Spring break is just a few weeks away, so now’s the perfect time to spend some time brainstorming with your family about where they would like to go when the weather gets warmer. Make vacation planning a family activity, look at all of the fun attractions you can visit online, and take advantage of early bird deals by booking now.

Valentine’s Day Fun

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with your children all month long. Create Valentine’s crafts, such as the I Love You photo collage or the I Ruff You foam dog. Plan a Valentine’s Day party, make party supplies with your printer, and play Valentine’s Day-themed party games.

Presidents’ Day

Slip in a history lesson on this holiday. Teach kids about Presidents’ Day, the first federal holiday established in honor of an American citizen, with fun activities that teach your children all about this important day.

American History Month

Speaking of history, February is also American History Month. Find out what happened on this date in history to teach your kids something new today.

Black History Month

Learn about Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and other key people who made a difference. Even younger children can embark on this learning journey through age-appropriate printables and activities.

American Heart Month

Keep your family fit during American Heart Month. Teach kids how the heart works, learn about the heart’s anatomy, and gauge your family’s target heart rates. Plan family workout activities to get the recommended amount of physical activity for heart health.

National Children’s Dental Health Month

Take care of those teeth. Children’s Dental Health Month is the perfect time to re-examine your child’s dental habits. Whether you’re preparing for your child’s first visit to the dentist or you’re teaching older kids to brush and floss properly, there are plenty of children’s dental printables and activities to make your job easier.

National Snack Food Month

Use February’s National Snack Food Month to teach your kids about healthy eating habits. Start by preparing healthy snacks kids will love or shake things up with some healthy smoothie recipes kids will love.

International Friendship Month

Celebrate International Friendship Month by helping kids show their appreciation for their friends. Kids can write thank you cards to their pals or you can help them make new friends.

National Cherry Month

Step into the kitchen and cook with your kids. Prepare some cherry recipes together for a bushel of fun. You won’t have any seasonally ripe cherries in the house (those will come in the summer). The month was established due to the legend about George Washington and the cherry tree, and serves to show that cherry products are available year-round. You can get creative with a cherry blossom craft as well.

National Embroidery Month

Take up a new hobby with your kids. Learn embroidery together for some quality one-on-one time.

National Grapefruit Month

The fruit that is packed with vitamin C gets its own time in the spotlight during the month of February. Cut open a grapefruit and share it with your children as a snack or as part of your family’s breakfast.

National Wild Bird Feeding Month

Here’s a fun hobby to enjoy with your children. Get started birding during National Wild Bird Feeding Month. Follow a few simple bird watching tips for beginners to get the most out of your family’s new hobby.

Responsible Pet Owners’ Month

Teach kids how to be responsible pet owners, whether you’re a pet parent to a dog, cat or a gerbil. Choosing the right family pet is the first step. Whether you’re showing your kids how to take care of dogs properly, teaching them how to bond with cats or helping them learn about exotic pets, being a responsible pet owner is a lifelong commitment.

Source: thespruce.com ~ By: Apryl Duncan ~Image: pixabay

6 Killer Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make When Buying in the Winter

Winter is supposed to be a buyer’s market, right? Fewer buyers = way less competition. After all, you have no problem trekking through the snow to find the perfect home. Let the others wait until spring. Right?

But winter home-buying assumptions can cost you. Just because the market moves slower doesn’t mean there aren’t pitfalls lying beneath the powder. Keep in mind these six common mistakes—otherwise you might just lose out on your dream space. And that would lead to a very long winter indeed.

1. Landing yourself in holiday debt

Your kiddos are clamoring for a few Hatchimals, your wonderful husband deserves the Google Pixel, and Mom and Dad desperately need a new set of artisanal kitchen knives. But don’t rack up new debt buying everyone gifts.

“Even if your credit is in good standing, suddenly racking up a ton of holiday shopping debt will change your debt-to-income ratio and potentially negate your pre-approval,” says Alicia Brison, a real estate agent in Sacramento, CA.

Budget for your generous splurges ahead of time. Or you know what? Tell your family they’re getting the best gift of all: a new home.

2. Failing to use your imagination

Yes, the property looks a bit … drab. But don’t all homes seem sad in winter, especially if they’re not charmingly covered in snow? Don’t dismiss a property because of bare tree limbs and dead grass. Imagine what the home could be in all its springtime glory.

Pretend the trees are blooming and the rose bushes are covered in color. That’s the mental picture you should use to make your decision.

3. Ignoring possible closing date delays

Don’t assume everything will go as planned. This will go wrong, trust us. Does the plumbing need updating? Is the wiring a little funky? These delay-causing problems are always annoying, but in winter they can create a full-on migraine. This goes double for custom or new-build homes.

“While many trades will work through the winter, there are certain processes that cannot be completed during heavy snowfall or dramatically low temperatures,” says Luke Sahlani, the lead project manager and director of Sensus Design & Build. “This can be frustrating and particularly problematic if the home buyers’ closing date on their current home is coming up quickly.”

Build in some buffer time for your new home’s closing—or just a little snow might crash your move-in day hopes.

4. Lacking flexibility

House hunting always requires a certain level of spontaneity—you have to be ready to pounce as soon as you hear a place fitting all your criteria is on the market. But when the weather’s against you, make sure to loosen your schedule even more.

Flexibility “is even more critical during the winter season,” Brison says. “Weather can cause unexpected delays, and buyers need to be willing to plan viewings during the busy holidays.”

Yes, you’re excited for cousin Humbert’s one-of-a-kind pumpkin pie, but if 2 p.m. the day after Christmas is the only time you can check out your dream abode, you might have to skip a second serving.

5. Assuming you’ll automatically score a sweet deal

In the winter (generally speaking), home prices are lower. Sellers are motivated. The competition’s bundled up inside, warming their hands by the fire. Bidding wars are a vestige of the summer months. Now’s a great time to buy, right?

Unfortunately, the math doesn’t necessarily work in your favor.

“A lot of buyers assume they can get a better deal in winter because [fewer] people are competing,” Brison says. “That’s not usually the case. Inventory is lower, so the number of people who are competing is similar.”

No, prices may not rocket to the sky-high levels seen when the weather is warm. But if you expect to score a bargain-basement home deal, you might be disappointed.

6. Lowballing your offer

If you don’t get a discount on a home during the winter months, maybe you think you can create your own discount with a lowball offer. Sellers listing their homes in the winter must be desperate to sell, the theory goes.

Think again.

“Not only can a lowball offer be off-putting to the seller, but sometimes they can be so offended, they will be closed to a counteroffer,” says Denise Supplee, the director of operations at SparkRental.com.

Work with your Realtor® to craft a competitive offer that isn’t offensive. Nothing is worse than losing the home you love to another buyer because you prioritized the deal over finding a place that perfectly fits your family.

Source: realtor.com ~ By: Jamie Wiebe ~ Image: pixabay

6 home renovations that return the most at resale

Whether you plan to stay in your house a long time or just a few years, it’s smart to know which home renovations add the most value to your place.

“Remodeling,” a magazine for the construction industry, in its 2018 Cost vs. Value report, compares the average cost of 21 remodeling projects in 149 markets with the value those projects retain at resale in 100 U.S. markets.

Here are the six interior remodeling projects that deliver the highest return.

1. Garage door replacement

  • Average cost: $3,470
  • Average resale value: $3,411
  • Cost recouped: 98.3%

A good-looking garage door tops the list when it comes to returning cash to your pocket, the Cost vs. Value report shows. This project involves removing an existing 16-by-7-foot garage door and replacing it with a new four-section garage door with heavy-duty galvanized steel tracks. This curb-appeal enhancer will get you back almost every dollar you spent on it when you sell your house.

2. Manufactured stone veneer

  • Average cost: $8,221
  • Average resale value: $7,986
  • Cost recouped: 97.1%

Replacing vinyl siding on your house for stone veneer is a big aesthetic improvement. The vinyl siding is replaced with adhered manufactured stone veneer. This is another major curb-enhancing upgrade that will get you back over 97 percent of your costs.

3. Entry door replacement (steel)

  • Average cost: $1,471
  • Average resale value: $1,344
  • Cost recouped: 91.3%

You will recoup over 91 percent of your cost by replacing your 36-by-80-inch entry door with a 20-gauge steel door, complete with clear dual-pane half-glass panel, jambs and an aluminum threshold with composite stop. These doors come factory-finished with the same color on the front and back sides.

4. Deck addition (wood)

  • Average cost: $10,950
  • Average resale value: $9,065
  • Cost recouped: 82.8%

One advantage of owning a house is having yard space. Nothing enhances a yard like a wood deck. This project involves adding a 16-by-20-foot deck, including a railing system with pressure-treated wood posts, railings and balusters. This feature will hold more than 82 percent of its value come resell time.

5. Minor kitchen remodel

  • Average cost: $21,198
  • Average resale value: $17,193
  • Cost recouped: 81.1%

Before you embark on a major kitchen overhaul, consider a minor one, which will recoup about 81 percent of its cost. This upgrade is based on a 200-square-foot kitchen with 30 linear feet of cabinetry. Cabinet boxes are left in place but updated with modernized Shaker-style wood panels and drawer fronts. Replace laminate countertops with new laminate. Next, swap out older appliances with energy-efficient models. Update with a mid-priced sink and faucet; repaint the trim; add wall covering; and replace vinyl flooring with new vinyl.

6. Siding replacement

  • Average cost: $15,072
  • Average resale value: $11,554
  • Cost recouped: 76.7%

If you need a good reason to update old siding, consider that replacing 1,250 square feet of it will cost you about $15,072 and you’ll get back $11,554 upon resale. This upgrade includes the factory trim at the openings and corners.

Source: bankrate.com ~ By: Natalie Campisi ~ Image: pixabay.com

Top Kitchen and Cabinet Styles in Kitchen Remodels

Transitional is the No. 1 kitchen style and Shaker leads for cabinets, the 2019 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study finds

If you’re considering a kitchen renovation, perhaps the idea of white cabinets has crossed your mind — specifically, white Shaker-style cabinets. If so, you wouldn’t be alone.

The 2019 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study gathered information from more than 1,300 Houzz users who had completed a kitchen remodel or addition project in the past 12 months, who are working on one or who are planning to start one in the next three months. Here are five design trends for kitchens based on what they are saying.

4 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home in the Winter

Of all the days you’d expect a potential homebuyer to want to tour your listed home, Thanksgiving and Christmas are probably the two you would least expect. But it’s possible, and it’ll happen occasionally.

Before you laugh at your agent’s request to clear out for a couple hours for that would-be buyer to walk through your house while your turkey is still in the oven, consider the likelihood that this tour leads to an actual offer. If a buyer is looking on a holiday when most sellers are at home, “they’re dead serious – they’re ready to buy a house. The agents probably won’t take them out unless they know they’re serious,” says Michael Straley, a Realtor with eXp Realty who’s based in Stafford, Virginia, and has dealt with more than one holiday home tour in the past.

Ultimately, you want to sell your house and for the right price, so passing on such an opportunity for a serious buyer to tour your home could be a mistake that leaves your house on the market for longer than you’d like.

Selling your home in winter, considered the off-season for most of the U.S., leaves you with little room to make mistakes. You may opt to sell your home in winter because you’re on a deadline to move into your next house, or you may simply like the idea of avoiding the competition of all the other properties that put a for sale sign up at the first hint of spring. Either way, you want to be prepared to make your winter listing a success.

Here are four mistakes to avoid when trying to sell your home in winter.

Waiting to list your house. The biggest mistake you can make is trying to time when you put your house on the market. After all, you only need one buyer to make the sale a success, and the right buyer could be looking at any time.

Don’t overlook November and December, says Lou Nimkoff, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association in Florida. While the time between major winter holidays may seem like a period when people wouldn’t want to buy a house, Nimkoff says homebuyers get just as excited to put in an offer on a house as they do to buy gifts during the holiday season.

As much as people are ready to buy rather than shop around for holiday gifts, he says, “The same holds true for (home)buyers with all the craziness that we go through in November and December with the Black Friday sales.”

Expecting zero interest on certain days. Whether it’s a holiday where you normally have a family gathering or a snow day when the kids are home from school, don’t be put off if you get a request to show the house on a day you may consider inconvenient.

“There are people out there that will sometimes want to see your property on Thanksgiving or on Christmas Eve,” Straley says, stressing that the majority of these serious buyers are moving to the area from another state or country and likely have little time to make a decision. That means your home is on their short list, and you don’t want to miss your window of opportunity.

If you’re trying to sell your home in the winter, consider having another family member host the festivities, or at least have a backup plan to make yourself scarce, like going out to a holiday movie or traversing the neighborhood to check out holiday lights. The same goes for days when you’re home due to bad weather conditions. Serious buyers may take the opportunity to look at houses once roads have been plowed, so be ready to head out of the house for a couple hours if need be.

Pricing your home too high. Even if there are active buyers every month of the year in your market, you won’t be seeing the same bidding wars that you may have grown accustomed to in the warmer months or over the past few years. Rising mortgage interest rates and the general cycle of real estate means buyers are seeing their bottom-line mortgage payment increase, which means they’re less likely to overpay for a house.

The share of homes on the market throughout the U.S. that have to undergo a price reduction is climbing, according to real estate information company Trulia. In a reportreleased in October, 17.2 percent of all properties on the market in August underwent a price reduction.

To avoid becoming part of the nearly one-fifth of home sellers forced to lower their asking price, make sure you understand the current market and realistically approach pricing your home. Work with your real estate agent and look at the sale price of similar homes that have recently sold – not the asking price of those listed – to see how you can compete with what’s on the

Not preparing your home for guests. If your house is on the market, you should always have it ready for a tour – and in the winter, that may require extra preparation. You may have less control over how the grass or trees look in the winter, but you can ensure a safe passage to your front door.

“The last thing you want is for someone to walk up your driveway and slip and fall,” Nimkoff says.

Prepare before you get a forecast calling for any snow or icy conditions, and keep rock salt or ice-melt pellets of some sort on hand to ensure you can keep the sidewalk, driveway and porch or patio slip-resistant. Inside, keep your entryway or mudroom clear of wet boots, coats, hats and gloves.

In addition to the usual organizing and deep-cleaning that comes with staging your property, keeping your home warm and cozy when the weather is cold can help a potential buyer fall in love with your house.

Source: realestate.usnews.com ~ By: Devon Thorsby~ Image: pixabay.com