Jul 19

Florida Homes Selling At Fastest Pace in 6 Years

Florida homes selling fastest in 6 yearsSales of new U.S. homes rose in May to the highest level in six years, providing the strongest signal yet that housing is recovering from a recent slowdown.

New home sales jumped 18.6 percent last month following a 3.7 percent increase in April, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. The gains followed declines in February and March that were blamed in part on harsh winter weather.

The big May increase pushed the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate to 504,000, the highest level since May 2008.

“This is the strongest level since the end of the recession and is an encouraging sign that housing activity improved in the second quarter,” Cooper Howes, an economist at Barclays Research, said in an analyst note.

Home sales peaked last year at an annual rate of 459,000 in June, but then lost altitude. The decline reflected an increase in mortgage rates that occurred after the Federal Reserve began discussing pulling back on its monthly bond purchases that were keeping long-term interest rates low.

The inventory of unsold new homes was unchanged at 189,000 homes at the end of May, the same as April. That inventory level would be depleted in 4.5 months at the May sales pace, an extremely low level that underscored the fact that the supply of new homes remains well below historic averages.

Sales were up in all regions of the country in May, led by a 54.5 percent surge in sales in the Northeast. New home sales rose 34 percent in the West and 14.2 percent in the South. The Midwest had the smallest month-over-month sales gain of just 1.4 percent.

Even with the big overall gain, sales of new homes are still running at just about half the pace of a healthy real estate market.

But there have been some encouraging signs of a spring rebound in housing.

The National Association of Realtors reported Monday that sales of previously owned homes jumped 4.9 percent in May, the biggest one-month gain in nearly three years. That increase pushed the sales rate to 4.89 million homes, the strongest showing since last October.

While economists were encouraged by the second straight monthly gain in existing home sales, they noted that the sales rate is still below the recent peak of 5.38 million sales hit last July.

Higher mortgage rates and the bad weather weighed on sales of both existing and new homes in late 2013 and early 2014. But sales seem to be staging a rebound, helped by solid job growth and growing inventories of homes for sale, a development that has helped to hold down price increases.

Economists say there is significant pent-up demand for homes as many potential buyers put off purchases over the past few years because of concerns about the economy.

Jul 17

Tips for buying Short Sales

Tips for buying short sales in floridaBy preparing for a real estate short sale, you can emerge with a great home at a favorable price.

When sellers need to sell their home for less than they owe on their mortgage, they’re shooting for a short sale. Short sale homes can sometimes be bargains, but only if you do your homework, stay patient, and remain unemotional during the sometimes lengthy and difficult short sale process.

When my wife and I bought our first home, we worked with an amazing real estate agent who really was a master of his profession. He spent time explaining the differences between short sales, REO’s, and conventional sales. He also spent ample time explaining the dangers and frustrations of going after short sales.

Much to his surprise and ours, we closed 30 days after we made our offer.

I am living proof that short sale magic exists, but in the 20+ years my agent spent in the business, my situation was one of 3 times he experienced such a smooth short sale transaction.

These six tips for protecting yourself emotionally and financially when bidding on a short sale will help you maintain your sanity in the Florida real estate market.

1. Get help from a short sale expert

A real estate agent experienced in short sales can identify which homes are being offered as short sales, help you determine a purchase price, and advise you on what to include in your offer to make the lender view it favorably. Ask agents how many buyers they’ve represented in short sales and, of those, how many successfully closed the transaction.

2. Build a team

Ask agents to recommend real estate attorneys knowledgeable in short sales and title experts. A title officer can do a title search to identify all the liens attached to a property you’re interested in. Because each lienholder must consent to a short sale, a property with multiple liens, like first and second mortgages, mechanic’s and condominium liens, or homeowners association liens, will be harder to purchase.

A title search may cost $250 to $300 up front, but it can help weed out less desirable properties requiring multiple approvals.

3. Know the home’s fair market value

By agreeing to a short sale, lenders are consenting to lose money on the loan they made to the sellers to purchase the home. Their goal is to keep those losses as low as possible. If your offer is dramatically less than the home’s fair market value, it may be rejected. Your agent can help you identify the price that’s good for you. The lender will determine whether approval is in its best interest.

4. Expect delays

There are two stages to a short sale. First, the sellers must consent to your purchase offer. Then they must submit it to their lender, along with documentation to convince the lender to agree to the sale.

The lender approval process can take weeks or months, even longer if the lender counteroffers. Expect bigger delays if several lienholders are involved; each can make a counteroffer or reject your offer.

5. Firm up your financing

Lenders will weigh your ability to close the transaction. If you’re preapproved for a mortgage, have a large downpayment, and can close at any time, they’ll consider your offer stronger than that of a buyer whose financing is less secure.

6. Avoid contingencies

If you must sell your current home before you can close on the short-sale property, or you need to close by a firm deadline, your offer may present too many moving parts for a lender to approve it.

Also, consider ordering an inspection so you’re fully informed about the home. Keep in mind that lenders are unlikely to approve an offer seeking repairs or credits for such work. You’ll probably have to purchase the home “as is,” which means in its present condition.
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Jul 15

How much will that Fixer Upper Really Cost?

true cost of fixer uppers in floridaWhen you buy a fixer-upper house, you can save a ton of money, or get yourself in a financial fix.

Trying to decide whether to buy a fixer-upper house? Follow these seven steps, and you’ll know how much you can afford, how much to offer, and whether a fixer-upper house is right for you.

1. Decide what you can do yourself

TV remodeling shows make home improvement work look like a snap. In the real world, attempting a difficult remodeling job that you don’t know how to do will take longer than you think and can lead to less-than-professional results that won’t increase the value of your fixer-upper house.

  • Do you really have the skills to do it? Some tasks, like stripping wallpaper and painting, are relatively easy. Others, like electrical work, can be dangerous when done by amateurs.
  • Do you really have the time and desire to do it? Can you take time off work to renovate your fixer-upper house? If not, will you be stressed out by living in a work zone for months while you complete projects on the weekends?

2. Price the cost of repairs and remodeling before you make an offer

  • Get your contractor into the house to do a walk-through, so he can give you a written cost estimate on the tasks he’s going to do.
  • If you’re doing the work yourself, price the supplies.
  • Either way, tack on 10% to 20% to cover unforeseen problems that often arise with a fixer-upper house.

3. Check permit costs

  • Ask local officials if the work you’re going to do requires a permit and how much that permit costs. Doing work without a permit may save money, but it’ll cause problems when you resell your home.
  • Decide if you want to get the permits yourself or have the contractor arrange for them. Getting permits can be time-consuming and frustrating. Inspectors may force you to do additional work, or change the way you want to do a project, before they give you the permit.
  • Factor the time and aggravation of permits into your plans.

4. Doublecheck pricing on structural work

If your fixer-upper home needs major structural work, hire a structural engineer for $500 to $700 to inspect the home before you put in an offer so you can be confident you’ve uncovered and conservatively budgeted for the full extent of the problems.

Get written estimates for repairs before you commit to buying a home with structural issues.

Don’t purchase a home that needs major structural work unless:

  • You’re getting it at a steep discount
  • You’re sure you’ve uncovered the extent of the problem
  • You know the problem can be fixed
  • You have a binding written estimate for the repairs

5. Check the cost of financing

Be sure you have enough money for a downpayment, closing costs, and repairs without draining your savings.

If you’re planning to fund the repairs with a home equity or home improvement loan:

  • Get yourself pre-approved for both loans before you make an offer.
  • Make the deal contingent on getting both the purchase money loan and the renovation money loan, so you’re not forced to close the sale when you have no loan to fix the house.
  • Consider the Federal Housing Administration’s Section 203(k) program, which is designed to help home owners who are purchasing or refinancing a home that needs rehabilitation. The program wraps the purchase/refinance and rehabilitation costs into a single mortgage. To qualify for the loan, the total value of the property must fall within the FHA mortgage limit for your area, as with other FHA loans. A streamlined 203(k) program provides an additional amount for rehabilitation, up to $35,000, on top of an existing mortgage. It’s a simpler process than obtaining the standard 203(k).

6. Calculate your fair purchase offer

Take the fair market value of the property (what it would be worth if it were in good condition and remodeled to current tastes) and subtract the upgrade and repair costs.

For example: Your target fixer-upper house has a 1960s kitchen, metallic wallpaper, shag carpet, and high levels of radon in the basement.

Your comparison house, in the same subdivision, sold last month for $200,000. That house had a newer kitchen, no wallpaper, was recently recarpeted, and has a radon mitigation system in its basement.

The cost to remodel the kitchen, remove the wallpaper, carpet the house, and put in a radon mitigation system is $40,000. Your bid for the house should be $160,000.

Ask your real estate agent if it’s a good idea to share your cost estimates with the sellers, to prove your offer is fair.

7. Include inspection contingencies in your offer

Don’t rely on your friends or your contractor to eyeball your fixer-upper house. Hire pros to do common inspections like:

  • Home inspection. This is key in a fixer-upper assessment. The home inspector will uncover hidden issues in need of replacement or repair. You may know you want to replace those 1970s kitchen cabinets, but the home inspector has a meter that will detect the water leak behind them.
  • Radon, mold, lead-based paint
  • Septic and well
  • Pest

Most home inspection contingencies let you go back to the sellers and ask them to do the repairs, or give you cash at closing to pay for the repairs. The seller can also opt to simply back out of the deal, as can you, if the inspection turns up something you don’t want to deal with.

If that happens, this isn’t the right fixer-upper house for you. Go back to the top of this list and start again.

Jul 12

How Much House Can You Afford?

how much home can I afford in floridaBy knowing how much mortgage you can handle, you can ensure that home ownership will fit in your budget.

Homeownership should make you feel safe and secure, and that includes financially. Be sure you can afford your home by calculating how much of a mortgage you can safely fit into your budget.

Instead of just taking out the biggest mortgage a lender qualifies you to borrow, consider how much you want to pay each month for housing based on your financial and personal goals.

Think ahead to major life events and consider how those might influence your budget. Do you want to return to school for an advanced degree? Will a new child add day care to your monthly expenses? Does a relative plan to eventually live with you and contribute to the mortgage?

Still not sure how much you can afford? You can use the same formulas that most lenders use, or try another of these traditional methods for estimating the amount of mortgage you can afford.

1. The general rule of mortgage affordability

As a rule of thumb, you can typically afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. If you earn $100,000, you can typically afford a home between $200,000 and $300,000.

To understand how that rule applies to your particular financial situation, prepare a family budget and list all the costs of homeownership, like property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable, as well as costs specific to your family, such as day care costs.

2. Factor in your downpayment

How much money do you have for a downpayment? The higher your downpayment, the lower your monthly payments will be. If you put down at least 20% of the home’s cost, you may not have to get private mortgage insurance, which costs hundreds each month. That leaves more money for your mortgage payment.

The lower your downpayment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for and the higher your monthly mortgage payment.

3. Consider your overall debt

Lenders generally follow the 28/41 rule. Your monthly mortgage payments covering your home loan principal, interest, taxes, and insurance shouldn’t total more than 28% of your gross annual income. Your overall monthly payments for your mortgage plus all your other bills, like car loans, utilities, and credit cards, shouldn’t exceed 41% of your gross annual income.

Here’s how that works. If your gross annual income is $100,000, multiply by 28% and then divide by 12 months to arrive at a monthly mortgage payment of $2,333 or less. Next, check the total of all your monthly bills including your potential mortgage and make sure they don’t top 41%, or $3,416 in our example.

4. Use your rent as a mortgage guide

The tax benefits of homeownership generally allow you to afford a mortgage payment—including taxes and insurance—of about one-third more than your current rent payment without changing your lifestyle. So you can multiply your current rent by 1.33 to arrive at a rough estimate of a mortgage payment.

Here’s an example. If you currently pay $1,500 per month in rent, you should be able to comfortably afford a $2,000 monthly mortgage payment after factoring in the tax benefits of homeownership.

However, if you’re struggling to keep up with your rent, consider what amount would be comfortable and use that for the calcuation instead.

Also consider whether or not you’ll itemize your deductions. If you take the standard deduction, you can’t also deduct mortgage interest payments. Talking to a tax adviser, or using a tax software program to do a “what if” tax return, can help you see your tax situation more clearly.

Jul 10

7 Tips for Clean Credit

Get Good Credit To Buy Homes In Palm Beach CountyClean Credit Reports are Crucial Components for Buying a Home.

Here’s how to clean up your credit so you get the least-expensive home loan possible.

Getting the loan that suits your situation at the best possible price and terms makes homebuying easier and more affordable. Here are seven ways to boost your credit score so you can do just that.

1. Know your credit score

Credit scores range from 300 to 850, and the higher, the better. They’re based on whether you’ve paid personal loans, car loans, credit cards, and other debt in full and on time in the past. You’ll need a score of at least 620 to qualify for a home loan and 740 to get the best interest rates and terms.

You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the major credit-reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Access all three versions of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. Review them to ensure the information is accurate.

2. Correct errors on your credit report

If you find mistakes on your credit report, write a letter to the credit-reporting agency explaining why you believe there’s an error. Send documents that support your case, and ask that the error be corrected or removed. Also write to the company, or debt collector, that reported the incorrect information to dispute the information, and ask to be copied on any materials sent to credit-reporting agencies.

3. Pay every bill on time

You may be surprised at the damage even a few late payments will have on your credit score. The easiest way to make a big difference in your credit score without altering your spending habits is to diligently pay all your bills on time. You’ll also save money because you’ll keep the money you’ve been spending on late fees. Credit card or mortgage companies probably won’t report minor late payments, those less than 30 days overdue, but you’ll still have to pay late fees.

4. Use credit carefully

Another good way to boost your credit score is to pay your credit card bills in full every month. If you can’t do that, pay as much over your required minimum payment as possible to begin whittling away the debt. Stop using your credit cards to keep your balances from increasing, and transfer balances from high-interest credit cards to lower-interest cards.

5. Take care with the length of your credit

Credit rating agencies also consider the length of your credit history. If you’ve had a credit card for a long time and managed it responsibly, that works in your favor. However, opening several new credit cards at once can lower the average age of your accounts, which pushes down your score. Likewise, closing credit card accounts lowers your available credit, so keep credit cards open even if you’re not using them.

6. Don’t use all the credit you’re offered

Credit scores are also based on how much credit you use compared with how much you’re offered. Using $1,000 of available credit will give you a lower score than having $1,000 of available credit and using $100 of it. Occasionally opening new lines of credit can boost your available credit, which also affects your score positively.

7. Be patient

It can take time for your credit score to climb once you’ve begun working to improve it. Keep at it because the more distance you put between your spotty payment history and your current good payment record, the less damage you’ll do to your credit score.

Jul 09

U.S. Dollar Slips After Fed Minutes

Fed Minutes Show Fed in No Rush to Raise Rates

The dollar weakened against the yen and the euro Wednesday after minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s latest meeting revealed little new information on when the central bank would raise interest rates.

The dollar fell to ¥101.60 against the yen, after rising briefly to ¥101.87 after the minutes were released. By the afternoon, the Japanese currency traded nearly flat on the day. The euro rose versus the dollar, to $1.3643, from $1.3622 beforehand, and was up 0.2% on the day.Interests rates on the rise means it will be more expensive to buy homes in palm beach county!

“Without giving more of an indication of when rates will rise, [the minutes] make the Fed continue to appear dovish, which hurts the dollar,” said Lennon Sweeting, a dealer at USForex.

The minutes from the June 17-18 meeting, released Wednesday, showed officialsagreed to end the Fed’s bond-buying program by October. The officials also discussed strategies for eventually raising rates, with 13 of the 16 indicating they expect to start seeing a higher federal funds rate next year.

Currencies such as the Australian and New Zealand dollars both rose 0.3% after the FOMC minutes were released. The confirmation of steady, low U.S. rates helps such higher-yielding currencies used in so-called carry-trade strategies, which tend to be funded in U.S. dollars, said Richard Cochinos, head of Americas G-10 FX strategy at Citi.

A carry trade works by borrowing in a currency with a low interest rate, such as the U.S. dollar, and buying a currency with a higher interest rate, such as the Australian dollar, to profit from the yield difference.

The New Zealand dollar rose to $0.8831, the highest level against the greenback since Aug. 1, 2011. In late afternoon trade, the kiwi, as the currency is also known, was up 0.4% at $0.8823. The Australian dollar was up 0.2% at $0.9415 for the day.

Low interest rates make the U.S. dollar less attractive to investors, as they reduce returns on dollar-denominated assets. The dollar has struggled against most rival currencies throughout the first half of the year, as low interest rates and disappointing U.S. economic data have frustrated investors.

The FOMC minutes showed that the central bank acknowledged some improvement in economic activity over the past three months after a long and harsh winter dragged down most economic data points during the first quarter. But they also showed that the Fed remained divided over where inflation is headed.

The central bank has said it wants to see U.S. consumer prices increase and the labor market tighten before shifting monetary policy or raising short-term interest rates. The Fed has monitored inflation and unemployment as primary indicators for gauging the pace at which the U.S. economy is recovering.

Jul 07

7 Simple Tips for Buying a House in South Florida

Tips for Buying a home in south Florida

7 Easy Tips For Buying A Home

By following these tips, you can make buying a home a smooth process!

1. Decide how much home you can afford

Generally, you can afford a home priced 2 to 3 times your gross income. Remember to consider costs every homeowner must cover: property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable, as well as costs specific to your family, such as day care if you plan to have children.

2. Develop your home wish list

Be honest about which features you must have and which you’d like to have. Handicap accessibility for an aging parent or special needs child is a must. Granite countertops and stainless steel appliances are in the bonus category. Come up with your top-five must-haves and top-five wants to help you focus your search and make a logical, rather than emotional, choice when home shopping.

3. Select where you want to live

Make a list of your top-five community priorities, such as commute time, schools, and recreational facilities. Ask your REALTOR® to help you identify three to four target neighborhoods based on your priorities.

4. Start saving

Have you saved enough money to qualify for a mortgage and cover your downpayment? Ideally, you should have 20% of the purchase price set aside for a downpayment, but some lenders allow as little as 5% down. A small downpayment preserves your savings for emergencies.

However, the lower your downpayment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for, and if you still qualify, the higher your monthly payment. Your downpayment size can also influence your interest rate and the type of loan you can get.

Finally, if your downpayment is less than 20%, you’ll be required to purchase private mortgage insurance. Depending on the size of your loan, PMI can add hundreds to your monthly payment. Check with your state and local government for mortgage and downpayment assistance programs for first-time buyers.

5. Ask about all the costs before you sign

A downpayment is just one homebuying cost. Your REALTOR® can tell you what other costs buyers commonly pay in your area—including home inspections, attorneys’ fees, and transfer fees of 2% to 7% of the home price. Tally up the extras you’ll also want to buy after you move-in, such as window coverings and patio furniture for your new yard.

6. Get your credit in order

A credit report details your borrowing history, including any late payments and bad debts, and typically includes a credit score. Lenders lean heavily on your credit report and credit score in determining whether, how much, and at what interest rate to lend for a home. Most require a minimum credit score of 620 for a home mortgage.

You’re entitled to free copies of your credit reports annually from the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Order and then pore over them to ensure the information is accurate, and try to correct any errors before you buy. If your credit score isn’t up to snuff, the easiest ways to improve it are to pay every bill on time and pay down high credit card debt.

7. Get prequalified

Meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter that says how much house you’re qualified to buy. Start gathering the paperwork your lender says it needs. Most want to see W-2 forms verifying your employment and income, copies of pay stubs, and two to four months of banking statements.

If you’re self-employed, you’ll need your current profit and loss statement, a current balance sheet, and personal and business income tax returns for the previous two years.

Consider your financing options. The longer the loan, the smaller your monthly payment. Fixed-rate mortgages offer payment certainty; an adjustable-rate mortgage offers a lower monthly payment. However, an adjustable-rate mortgage may adjust dramatically. Be sure to calculate your affordability at both the lowest and highest possible ARM rate.

Jul 04

Happy Independence Day

Happy 4th of July!Happy 4th of July from Joe Malmuth, Realtor South Florida

Thank you to all of our active military and all of our veterans for preserving our freedom and for the sacrifices you make for all of us!

 

 

Jul 02

An Easy Trick to Reduce Thos Summer Energy Bills

Planting a Tree Can Reduce Your Energy CostsPlant Trees to reduce home energy costs

The summer hear in south Florida can be brutal on your budget. With temperatures and  humidity in the upper 90′s, south Florida residents experience major spikes in their cooling expenses.

Click here to check out Energy.Gov’s infographic that exlpains how climate affects our energy bills.

One of the top recommendations from Energy.gov is to landscape for shade.

The right landscaping can reduce energy costs by as much as 50% and neighborhoods with lots of trees can see an average of a 6 degree difference that homes and neighborhoods with fewer trees.

Don’t think that you can only impact your home with high flying foliage; shrubs and ground cover can make an impact too!

Planting hedges and ground cover plants help to cool air before it reaches your home and can also be designed to conserve water, allowing you to save money on your water bill as well.

Try grouping plants with similar water requirements, raising the height of your lawnmower blades, and watering in the early morning or evening can keep water fro evaporating before it can be absorbed by your plants.

 

Jun 30

Are Your Kids Yard Toys Turning Off Home Buyers?

Cluttered yards harm real estate selling potentialPotential Home Buyers Might Be Discouraged By A Cluttered Yard

If a swing set or jungle gym is causing your yard to look cluttered, prospective home buyers may have a hard time looking past the living area in order to see the life that your yard provides to the home.

However, house hunters that have young children or young couples looking to build their first nest may see well designed play areas as a real selling point.

In general, expert agents agree that as long as the play area is designed to be an accessory to the yard and not the focal point, the impact on potential home owners is positive.

Back Yard Renovations Increase Florida Home Values

In the south Florida real estate marketplace, outdoor living space is a big deal. If you are considering selling your home, it is a good idea to consider yard renovations that appeal to a larger group of people like a new patio or a stylish outdoor grilling area over swings and slides.

Ultimately, you want to consider upgrades that make your property more appealing to a wide range of home buyers which will attract more attention and more potential buyers for you home.

 

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