Secrets of a Happy House [Infographic]

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Simple changes around the house can work wonders for reducing stress, bringing the family together, and generally making the home a happier place.

Secrets-of-a-Happy-House

1. Paint

Never underestimate the power a fresh coat of paint can have on creating a happy house! Mellow colors help lower blood pressure. Bright colors encourage creativity and productivity. Read more about the psychology of painting rooms here.

2. Invest

Don’t just invest in material things. Invest in items that will enhance experiences and memories. Some examples of this could be a new entertainment unit, board games, a dining table, etc.

3. Open the Blinds

Let in some natural light. It is easier on the eyes, boosts mood, and may even give you some Vitamin D to improve health.

4. Get Personal

Display sentimental items around the house. This added touch will make you feel pride and warmth in your home.

5. Decorate

Be mindful of your home decor. Angular items help productivity. Soft edges are more inviting and good for rooms where people sleep.

6. Open the Window

Let in a natural breeze. This is soothing and makes the house less stuffy. More importantly, it improves overall health.

7. Organize

Cleaning and reducing clutter around the house also lowers anxiety.

8. Make the Bed

This simple step has HUGE implications for the rest of your day. This minute-long chore in the morning improves mood and boosts productivity for the whole day.

9. Power Down

Don’t keep electronics near areas of the home where people sleep. The frequencies of electronic devices can actually disrupt REM cycles and exhaust you the next day.

Works Cited: Special thanks to Huffington Post and Apartment Therapy for inspiration for this post.

 

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2015 1st Quarter Market Report: A Seller’s Market to Start the Year

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The housing market report was off to a good start in 2015 in almost every category, and there’s no denying that it’s a seller’s market right now! Last quarter we reported that there were a lot of buyers on the market, but none were actually making any purchases. This quarter, they finally decided to make their move!

2015 1st quarter housing market conditions report seller's market correct

 

Buyer v. Seller Activity

According to the most recent Current Market Conditions national grass roots survey conducted by HouseHunt.com, 2015 started with a spike in buyers. Buyer presence was up 13% from the previous quarter, and buyer activity was up 27%. Both increases, however, are actually par for the course in the winter months. After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, more buyers are finally ready to act. One year ago there was a very similar 11% increase in buyer presence and a 16% uptick in activity.

Only 15% of agents surveyed reported an increased seller clientele over the previous quarter. About half of those agents saw an increase in seller activity. So while there weren’t as many sellers on the market, the existing ones were actually closing deals.

First-time buyer activity dropped. Only 18% of agents were currently working with first-time buyers, as opposed to 24% last quarter. This number is significantly below the historic average. This continues the distressing idea that Millennials simply aren’t investing in real estate. Luckily, there was a 6% increase in repeat buyers and investors. This makes for a 3% increase year over year.

The swing in buyer activity is normal for this time of year. Buyers wait for recaps from the prior year’s market and positive outlooks on the upcoming year to be encouraged to finally make a purchase.  Just ask HouseHunt Hall of Fame Agent Bruce LaMaster, who said, “Buyers are an interesting breed. Many seem to wait till the trends are posted before they are ready to pull the trigger. Having pre-approved buyers from quality leads will help you to be ready the moment a buyer is ready to act.”

All of the buyer and seller activity statistics looked very similar in the first quarter of 2014, which proved to be a good omen for a great market the rest of the calendar year. The start of 2015 sets the precedent for another boost in the market.

Home Price

Home prices did exactly what you would expect them to do in a market where sellers are scarce and buyers are bustling! 87% of markets in the U.S. saw price appreciation over the last year. 27% of markets saw home prices go up 10% or more. Only 7% of markets saw home prices go down over the last year.

71% of markets received more than 95% of their asking price. This is in the same ballpark at the numbers over the last year. Where this quarter shook things up was with the number of offers. 84% of closed listing received multiple offers, up 8% over last quarter and 1% over last year.

It makes sense that in such a limited listings market that there would be multiple bids on the same home, but it is surprising – and a bit baffling – that such activity hasn’t necessarily resulted in higher offers. As noted above, however, that has not stopped the average cost of a home from going up.

“We have seen a remarkable increase 56% in luxury home sales priced over $5M in San Diego County year over year through April 15,” said HouseHunt agent Joy Bender. “ Our average days on market is down to 49 days from 51 days the year prior.”

With a limited market for buyers, 74% of agents say that their community has a tight supply of listings available. To put this in perspective, that’s up nearly 20% from the end of the previous calendar year. Again, however, this tight supply is expected for first quarter reports. Last year at this time a comparable 76% of agents reported a tight supply.

January-March 2015

January-March 2015

In Conclusion

The numbers for this quarter look very similar to the numbers of the first quarter last year and the year before that. The beginning of the calendar year is expected to come with a surplus of active buyers, a tight supply of listings, and increased home values. Although some of the statistics look like a paradox, they bode well for what’s ahead.

“The first 2 or 3 weeks of 2015 may have started a bit slow in our area but you can’t see that in the 90 day trends,” said LaMaster of his exclusive territory. “In our tri-county area, we saw a drop in DOM (inventory) of nearly 31% down to a mere 1.8 months of inventory. Concurrently, the number of sold properties has climbed by 32%.”

At the very beginning of the year, many experts and analysts were predicting a great market for 2015. It is generally expected that real estate will play a major role in boosting the economy over the next several months, and that now is the time for investors and move-up buyers to strike. With the information collected on the first quarter market report of business from HouseHunt agents, those yearly predictions appear to be startlingly accurate!

 

2012 2013 2014
Quarter 4th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 1st
Buyer-Seller Ratio
More Buyers 64% 76% 67% 57% 51% 61% 54% 39% 50% 61%
More Sellers 15% 10% 17% 26% 21% 19% 24% 37% 26% 15%
About Even 21% 14% 16% 17% 28% 20% 22% 24% 24% 24%
Average Days On Market
0-60 Days 40% 46% 65% 65% 57% 60% 63% 63% 56% 55%
Sold in 60 Days Plus 60% 54% 35% 35% 43% 40% 37% 37% 44% 45%
Unsold Inventory
Good Supply 34% 29% 24% 26% 32% 24% 28% 39% 44% 26%
Tight Supply 66% 71% 76% 74% 68% 76% 72% 61% 56% 74%
Annual Price Appreciation
Up 0-5% 35% 33% 21% 18% 29% 24% 27% 26% 26% 25%
Up 5-10% 16% 21% 24% 17% 31% 26% 29% 38% 27% 35%
Up 10% Plus 18% 29% 43% 54% 31% 42% 37% 25% 36% 27%
Unchanged 9% 7% 6% 5% 3% 3% 3% 4% 3% 6%
Negative Appreciation 22% 10% 6% 6% 6% 5% 4% 7% 8% 7%
Buyer Activity
Repeat / Move UP / Investors 73% 74% 81% 85% 78% 79% 77% 84% 76% 82%
First-time Buyers 27% 26% 19% 15% 22% 21% 23% 16% 24% 18%
Ask vs. Sale Price
Less Than 95% 37% 31% 30% 23% 30% 23% 9% 22% 28% 29%
More Than 95% 63% 69% 70% 77% 70% 77% 91% 78% 72% 71%
Multiple Offers?
Yes 77% 87% 88% 91% 87% 83% 86% 83% 76% 84%
No 23% 13% 12% 9% 13% 17% 14% 17% 24% 16%

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What is a Real Estate Underwriter

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If you’re in the planning process of buying a home, you may not know all of the professionals who should be involved. With talking to your family, the bank, and real estate agent about the process, you may have heard someone mention a real estate underwriter. Who is that? Well, since the housing market crash in 2008, real estate underwriting has become more prominent than ever. So let’s go through the process of what underwriters do so you get a glimpse of how they are involved in buying a home.

What is a Real Estate Underwriter

What is a Real Estate Underwriter?

A real estate underwriter is a professional who works for the bank/lender that will lend money to the homebuyer to purchase a home. Real estate underwriters are put in place to ensure that the person being lent the money is actually qualified to pay it back. We were able to talk to a real estate underwriter who told us that, “Real estate underwriters work for the bank and are hired to review your credit history, income, assets, and collateral (the property appraisal) to determine if you meet all of the lender’s guidelines and standards. The process starts when the loan processor gathers documentation from the real estate agent, homebuyer, and important financial information from the bank, and then sends that information to the underwriter to look over.”

The real estate underwriter then looks over the information, which usually doesn’t take more than a few hours for the underwriter to complete. Even though the entirety of the loan process usually takes around 30-45 days, the real estate underwriter will only work with a homebuyer’s information for usually just one of those days.

So if you plan on buying a home and taking out a loan, there is going to be a real estate underwriter who will review your information. Hopefully you are qualified enough with the lender. If so, the lender will be able to loan you money for the home. Sounds simple enough—right? Just be sure to have all of your assets, finances, and information regarding your money in order to make the process easy for yourself.

Do Real Estate Underwriters Work with Agents?

The real estate underwriter answered the question: “No, the real estate underwriter does not work with the real estate agent. Real estate agents do not know who the underwriter is. Real estate underwriters work with the loan processor who gathers information from the buyer, real estate agent, and escrow paperwork.”

Real Estate Underwriters are Anonymous

Due to security and confidentiality agreements, real estate underwriters are anonymous to both real estate agents and homebuyers. Even though the homebuyer will be giving their lender very personal information about their finances, both the homebuyer and real estate agent will not even know the real estate underwriter’s name or even speak to them. With that being said, a real estate underwriter is hired by the bank to work with the lender on the homebuyer’s application for a loan. Real estate underwriters only work with internal staff. If the loan was originated by the broker, the underwriter is allowed to speak with that broker only.

What is a Real Estate Underwriter

Since real estate underwriters must be anonymous, there is no website that has reviews or recommendations on specific underwriters. So when a homebuyer is going to borrow money to buy a home, the real estate agent will only work with the loan agent and loan processor who then works with the underwriter to get the loan approved.

It seems somewhat strange how secretive real estate underwriters have to be, but this is put in place to protect everyone. Whenever you do plan on buying a new home, be sure to ask your real estate more about the buying process. However, do not be surprised when they tell you that you will not hear from some of the people working on your loan approval.

So even though you will never hear from the underwriter, they are an incredibly crucial part of the home-buying process. Hopefully they favor your financial records and you get approved for a loan and mortgage on that home you want. If that ends up being the case, be sure to tell your bank thank you since you won’t be able to tell the underwriter yourself.

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Home Insurance Do’s and Don’ts [Infographic]

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Here’s your introduction to Home Insurance Do’s and Don’ts. These tips will ensure you fully understand your coverage and get the best rates!

Home-Insurance-Dos-and-Donts

Competitive Rates

DO Take Time Researching – Insurance comapnies need you just as much as you need them. Don’t ever let yourself feel pressured into a choice.

DON’T Bundle for Convenience – Bundling with other insurance CAN save you money, but don’t do it just because it is easier. Home insurance is very different from automobile insurance.

DO Shop Around – Get multiple quotes to ensure you’ve found the best fit.

DO Check For Special Rates – Age, good credit, certain house features, etc. can qualify you for discounts.

Comprehensive Coverage

 DO Take Note of Time Limits – You are only granted a certain amount of time to file a claim. Make it a priority. When in doubt, it’s best to go ahead and file a report.

DO Assess Values Before Claim – Keep a record of how much different valuables are worth before an incident happens.

DON’T Pay For Land – Insure the structures you own. Don’t be tricked into insuring the land they sit on. The land is not going anywhere.

DO Keep Insurer Updated on Home – Any major projects or maintenance you do should be reported to your insurance provider.

DON’T Forget to Insure Additional Items – Usually things like jewelry and electronics require additional insurance. Be sure to clarify before making payments.

Claims Statistics

Wind and hail are the most common insurance claims, making up 47.2% of claims.

Jewelry is the most common contents claim, making up 16% of content claims.

The national average spent on home insurance is $952 per year. The average claim value is $8,793.

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Should You Buy a Home with a Friend?

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Buying a home with a friend is not something to be taken lightly. If you and your friend are already roommates at an apartment, you may be considering moving into a bigger place with them as the next step. You may see your friend as someone whom you can rely on and live with for quite some time. If your friend has their finances in order, is trustworthy, and reliable, then maybe it’s time that you considered buying a home with your friend.

Should You Buy a Home with a Friend

Look at Your Individual Finances

You may have a great career but does your friend? If you and your friend have some money saved, great credit, and a willingness to look for a home together, then start looking. If you have money in investments, or this isn’t the best time for you to save money from your paychecks, then you should put off buying a home until both of you have your finances in order.

When You Should and Should Not Buy a Home with a Friend

If you are fortunate enough to have a friend/roommate who is reliable, has good income, and stable credit, then you are in a good situation to buy a home together. If both of you are tired of giving your money away to monthly rent at an apartment, you should start saving up with your friend for a home. Be sure to save up enough for a strong down payment on a home you like.

However, if your friend is unreliable, has bad credit, and financial issues, do not buy a home with them. If your friend is the one who brings up the possibility of buying a home together, then it’s probably best that you split ways from this person if they want to move soon. The last thing you want to do is affect your credit and finances by buying a home with a friend who is unreliable and not financially secure enough to pay the monthly payments.

How to Buy a Home with a Friend

When you do have a friend who is as reliable and financially ready as you are, then you should go forward in your search to buy a home together. First, both of you should agree on a real estate agent who you want to contact. Then, have them help you both look online for listings available that you would like to live in. If you find a great home for the right price, you, your friend, and your agent should contact the listing agent to see if you can have a tour of the home. If the home fits you and your friend’s needs, then it’s the right home for you. You’re now ready to move forward with the financial process of buying the home!

Should You Buy a Home with a Friend

Legal Advice

Make sure that you both seek legal advice. You can find real estate attorneys online who are willing to help you with whatever legal information you need. Ask the real estate attorney to help you and your friend determine how to go about the amounts that you will have to pay into buying the home. They will draft up a legal document for you to keep things in balance while you and your friend live in the home together. The attorney will also help you determine how you both hold the title. This will allow you both to determine what happens when one of you decides to move or in the tragic event of one of you passing away. A great way to go about buying a home with a friend is tenancy in common. Tenancy in common allows multiple people to have equal or unequal portions of a property as well as the individuals being able to sell or give away their share of said property at their leisure.

Have an Exit Plan

An exit plan will help you both in the event that either of you becomes delinquent or unwilling to pay half of the home payments every month for whatever reason. Your legal document should have a plan in place that allows either of you to move or sell the home at a later time. A time notice should be put into place so that the roommate who wants to move or sell allows the other roommate time to also find a place to move to once the home is sold.

Should You Buy a Home with a Friend

Buying a home with a friend is a great investment to build equity and advance to the next stages of your life. However, there should be plans and safeguards in place to ensure that both of you are ready for this kind of commitment. If you and your friend do decide to buy a home together, good luck in your search for the perfect place for you both!

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