Andy Weiser Fort Lauderdale Realtor Blog

U.S. Home Prices Reach Record Highs

Prices of homes in the United States have increased this September now reaching a new record that has surpassed the highs from before the financial crisis. On a national basis, the S&P Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index which covers all nine U.S. census divisions has shown that home prices have increased by 5.5%. This was up from a 5.1% increase from the month before.

“The new peak…will be seen as marking a shift from the housing recovery to the hoped-for start of a new advance,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, in prepared remarks on Tuesday.

In the West home prices have experienced some of the biggest surges since last year. Statistics show Seattle with an 11% increase, Portland at 10.9% and Denver at 8.7%. In other major U.S. cities like as Miami, Tampa, Phoenix and Las Vegas, prices have increased but are below their record highs.

The surge in home prices has been credited to the labor market improving along with the historic low interest rates that are making it very attractive to buy a home as opposed to renting. The biggest obstacle that buyers are against is the lack of inventory. The slim housing stock has forced many to rent longer as locating the right home has been challenging.

“It isn’t smart to confuse this full recovery in housing prices with a full recovery in the housing market overall,” said Svengja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “Big imbalances still exist between renters and homeowners, and home buyers and home sellers.”

Mortgage rates have been lingering in the mid 3% region for an average 30 year fixed for a while now. However, since the recent election results they have seen a slight increase and are predicted to gradually rise as the Fed plans more rate hikes.

Overall, the real estate market continues to show signs of health. Foreign investing continues in the United States and despite inventory challenges or slight rate increases, it proves to still be a great time to make a real estate purchase.

How to Prepare for Refinancing Your Home

If you are either looking to reduce your interest rate or planning out a significant renovation, then it may make sense to refinance your home. Before you contact a local and trustworthy lender, consider taking these steps into account.

Do the Math

Refinancing may appear like a great idea, but it is important to review your finances. A simple online mortgage calculator can help, but there are other things to factor in. For example, consider the loan term in the number of years and your age for when you plan on retiring. You may not wish to sign up for a 30 year loan if you are closer than that to retirement. Other options exist like a 15 year mortgage which may be more appropriate. However don’t forget, this will be a higher monthly payment.

Check Your Credit

Under federal law you are permitted to check your credit report once per year at no cost. The three major credit bureaus are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Checking your own credit annually will provide you with a sense of your strengths and weaknesses. The reports won’t state your actual score, but for a small charge you can get it. Typically addressing any errors on the report can have a significant impact on improving your score.

Prepare Financially

Lenders will want to know that you have credit available so working on paying down your debt is a wise idea. It is also beneficial to have ample savings in the bank for several months in the event of a job loss or the like. If you don’t have a lot in reserve, a refinance still can be a good option. Share your situation with a lender and they will help assess what is best.

Your Home’s Value

Most lenders will want to verify that you owe less than 80% of your home’s value. As part of the verification process, they will order an appraisal to confirm a fair market value. First, you may want to estimate yourself what your home is valued at by reviewing recent sales of similar homes in your area.

Research Lenders

Unless you have a reason not to use your current lender, they would be a good place to start. As they will want to retain your business, they will be most likely to match the lowest available rates available. Be sure to shop around and do your own homework on rates so that you know you are getting the best deal.

5 Things to Consider When Selecting a Neighborhood

Relocating can be a major life change and doing your research is essential. Regardless of where your destination is, here are five tips on how to assess a neighborhood to ensure that you will be happy in your new home.

Transport – One basic and important consideration is how you will get around in your new neighborhood. Find out if you will need to rely completely on a car or if there is a public transportation option. Also, if you have a job lined up then you should calculate your commute time during rush hours.

Services – When you select an area of interest, think about which businesses you will be frequenting often. Things like a pharmacy, grocery store, gym or bank may be places you will want to be sure are nearby. Furthermore, you may also want to consider if these establishments are the right fit for you. For example is the local bank one where you already have your accounts or is the grocery store only a high end one that has higher prices.

Schools – If you have kids, then a good school system is definitely going to be of interest. Research ratings for local school systems to consider whether you will have your children attend public schools or if private schools is a better option. If considering private schools, weigh the tax rates to see if this option makes sense. Even if you don’t have children, selecting an area with a good school district will only help your home retain its value for resale.

Amenities – If culture and entertainment options are important to you then consider area establishments. Are there art museums or theaters? What about restaurants, pubs or bars? If you are an active person you may want to research local area trails, parks or athletic arenas.

Economy – Take some time touring through the neighborhood of choice. A declining area will oftentimes have some signs. Look for littered streets, unkempt parks or homes and an abundance of for sale signs. Check for signs of interaction of neighbors, are they talking to each other? Are they taking care of their homes? If the opportunity presents itself, try asking someone who lives there about the area to get a true sense from a resident.

How Landscaping can Increase a Home’s Value

If you are considering an investment into landscaping your yard, how do you know that you will be able to recapture the financial investment on a sale? Landscaping is often times not considered as being a significant home improvement project unlike redoing a kitchen. However, a landscaping project can have a return on investment much higher than you may have imagined.

A recent report from Virginia Tech states that landscaping is valued at approximately 15% of the home’s total value. An in-depth breakdown of landscaping including how much certain elements are valued is as follows:

Design: 42%
Plant size: 36%
Plant selection: 22%

The report indicates that a home valued at $150,000 could potentially go from $8,300 in worth to nearly $19,000 with the addition of landscaping. Here are further details about these elements and how you can increase the value of your home.

Landscape Design
The way you lay out your yard plays a very important role. For example, if you plant shrubs, trees and flowers without a strategy for design then you may have potential maintenance issues down the road. Hiring a professional landscaper is a wise idea as they have the knowledge of plants that mix well together, which will be best for different locations and which will be less troublesome.

Plant Size
Selecting different plant sizes will add an appealing look to your yard visually. A variety of shapes, sizes and colors can certainly enhance the look. Different plants will also help reduce the clutter in your yard. For example, too many busy plants will cause for more maintenance in the way of trimming and potential root and branch problems.

Diverse Plants
A variety of plants will add color and offer a more interesting appearance. Fruit trees, shrubs with flowers as well as annual and perennial flowers will have your yard looking great. Annuals will often need to be replaced every year, however this provides you with the opportunity to swap out the color and look. Perennials can last several years and can typically endure a cooler winter.

If you hire a professional or do the work yourself, consider adding in these elements. They will provide you with a solid return with a better resale value while providing great curb appeal to prospective buyers.

Ten Real Estate Trends for 2017

Despite a sense of security the real estate market has been performing well this year. From recent Brexit aftermath to the United States presidential election, predictions have been difficult to forecast. Despite all of this, the nation has proved to be opportune for investing based on activity that we have seen. The Urban Land Institute’s annual Emerging Trends in Real Estate Report which was recently released shows a more favorable outlook compared to other global locations.

Below is a list of the subjects that analysts from PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute claim will help shape the real estate market in the upcoming years.

A gentler real estate market
Having recovered from a time of economic downturn with foreclosures we have entered into somewhat of a calm from the storm. This cycle has reached a mature phase and shows to remain level. GDP is at a low but steady 2% per year so the Federal Reserve will not want to consider raising interest rates on a drastic level. Financing is still difficult for construction which has led to signs of potential slowdown for developments. This stage can be a time of uncertainty in the economic cycle for developers where anticipation for a bigger slowdown increases.

Developers are looking to gear their projects to be more of multi-use and flexible. As one investor puts it is “Jobs are no longer careers, and millennials are not yet looking for the commitment of owning a home. They are footloose in the job market, and footloose as to roots in the community.”

Transformation of location
Namely in urban locations, the “live/work/play” theme has been a common trend that gives back to the community. Developments that are situated in downtown areas are helping fuel the economy by providing growth opportunities in underdeveloped neighborhoods.

The entrepreneur developer
ULI researchers suggest that now is a great time for experimentation and potential growth for these entrepreneur developers. Without the higher profit expectations of large firms, smaller companies might afford an opportunity to penetrate underdeveloped areas as they can sometimes be more flexible in their approach.

Labor limitations
Retirement, clampdown on immigration and a lack of project managers have all played a role in the shortage of skilled laborers. With strong demand and shortage of supply costs have risen which has forced many developers to build high end product to recapture their expenses.

Housing markets across the United States for middle-income households are becoming “housing stressed.” Home prices are escalating at a faster pace than incomes while homebuilders are not adding any mid-priced options. Population growth, land and building expenses as well as wages not increasing as quickly suggests this problem will not be solved very soon. Some cities are contemplating zoning policies as well as rent control options to help address these issues.

Barriers of entry
Urban development and walkability has created some income inequality in cities. The report suggests “exclusionary forces are equally alive in suburbs and cities.” This cycle that stems from cities has carried out to the suburbs. Demands are on the rise particularly among millennials for things like walkability, transit as well as density. Inclusivity rather than exclusivity is outweighing as a desirable selling point.

Tech savvy cities
Technology is playing an important role in the popularity of cities. Items like increasing energy efficiency, building operations and offering things like networked transportation and online parking availability all are hot subjects. The result can influence cities to be more attractive to investors while offering more jobs at the same time.

Enhanced reality
Virtual reality is becoming a popular part of the marketing process when selling real estate. It provides an element of reality prior before a product is delivered. This technology could potentially become a part of the construction industry as well. Analysts feel that there could be $2.6 billion in real estate applications by the year 2025.

Transaction management
Blockchain, which is an encrypted digital data technology behind Bitcoin, the virtual currency, may be a potential solution for banks. This technology offers a high level of security and encryption. Depending on how it develops and how mainstream it may become, it could potentially become a part of real estate transactions.

Housing Market Hasn’t Run out of Steam Despite Low Inventory

There has been just a slight bit of movement in the mortgage rate arena as of last month. The 30 year fixed-rate mortgage rate has had a slight increase to a 3.47% average. Regardless of this increase, rates are still at historic all time lows.

“This week, the 10-year Treasury yield continued its climb as an increasing number of financial market participants foresee a December rate hike after a series of positive economic data releases,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage moved up 5 basis points to 3.47 percent in this week’s survey, the first increase in one month. Even though we’ve seen economic activity pick up, consumer price inflation and implied inflation expectations remain below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target.”

As of the middle of October, Freddie Mac reported the following national averages:

  • 30-year fixed rate mortgage: averaged 3.47% up from 3.42%. Last year at this time the average was 3.82%
  • 15-year fixed rate mortgage: averaged 2.76% up from 2.72%. Last year at this time the average was 3.03%.
  • 5- year hybrid adjustable rate mortgage: averaged 2.8% up from 2.80%. Last year at this time the average was 2.88%.

While rates have been remaining at all time lows in 2016, mortgage applications have seen some ups and downs in their activity. The light inventory of housing has called for stalls as some consumers haven’t felt that it was necessary to apply until the inventory conditions change.

A recent report from Goldman Sachs has provided some positive information about the situation. This report includes positive states of the economy including:

  • Soft residential investment in Q2 likely reflected payback from an unusually warm winter across the country that pulled activity forward.
  • Growth in private residential investment still stands at 5.7% year-over-year in Q2, substantially above potential GDP growth.

What was most interesting was that the report shared that the National Association of Home Builders’ index had climbed to 65 in September where it had reached its highest level during this economic recovery. It had also shared that new single-family home sales have expanded 21% over last year and are almost back to the 4th quarter of 2007 levels.

Considering household balance sheets remaining healthy and the labor market continuing to grow and make progress, Goldman Sachs says it believes the “fundamentals of the housing recovery remain solid.”