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September 2021
REAL ESTATE NEWS
Brought to you by Laura Labor Aparicio
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Winter is Coming... Again
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As Ben Franklin once said: “In this world, nothing is certain but death and cleaning your gutters before winter to prevent ice dams”. With that, here are five fall home maintenance activities to start thinking about in the coming weeks. 
The chimney man can
Check your chimney 
Make sure everything is in order before the first fire of the season. "Creosote buildup causes chimney fires," says Family Handyman. "You should have your chimney professionally inspected or cleaned after every 70 fires. Don't remember the last time you had it cleaned by a pro? A quick way to tell if your chimney needs cleaning is to run the point of your fireplace poker along the inside of your chimney liner. If you find a 1/8” layer (or more) of buildup, call a chimney sweep." 

Check your roof
Storms, wind, and other weather conditions over the past year could have done damage that you're not aware of. Don’t wait until the first heavy snow to find out you have a leak. If you're not comfortable on a ladder or just want a professional eye, a pro roofer will typically charge you less than $100 to check it out. 

Seal it up
There are three important reasons to make sure your home is air tight: 1) Keeping moisture out; 2) Keeping critters out; 3) Keeping warm air in. Fall is when pests begin to look for places to ride out the winter, so make sure your exterior is free of gaps and holes that will allow for unwanted houseguests. 

Sealing up holes and cracks can also make your home more efficient—saving you money and keeping you warm and cozy. In most cases all you need is weather stripping and caulk. 

Disconnect garden hoses from faucets 
As soon as the weather dips, it's time to disconnect and drain hoses. This simple task can potentially save you a lot of heartache later. “Leaving hoses attached can cause water to back up in the faucets and in the pipes just inside your exterior walls,” says HouseLogic. “If freezing temps hit, that water can freeze, expand, and crack the faucet or pipes.” 

Also, make sure to drain your hoses before storing them to prevent cracking during the cold winter months. 

And, of course, clean your gutters 
Depending on your climate and the surrounding foliage, you may need to clean your gutters more than once throughout the fall. Your gutters are your best ally when it comes to moving moisture away from your home, so it’s critical to keep them free of obstruction. 
30 or 15-Year Mortgage? Those aren’t your only choices.
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If you're brand new to the wonderful world of home loans, you might be a bit overwhelmed by how many different types of financing options are really out there. Both primary loan types (fixed-rate and adjustable-rate) have many variations, so how do you know which one is best for you? 

Let’s start with Fixed-Rate Mortages. The most popular loan in today's marketplace is the 30-year fixed. This is a loan paid over the course of 30 years, with a fixed interest rate, meaning you’ll pay the same interest rate in year one as you will in year 30 of your mortgage. Your payment may change due to insurance or taxes, but generally a 30-year loan is seen as a practical option due its stability, simplicity, and month-to-month affordability. 

A 15-year fixed means more money for avocado toast in retirement

So, what's the attraction of the 15-year-fixed? A 15-year loan will have slightly lower interest rates compared to a similarly priced 30-year loan, but since the term is so much shorter, you’ll pay much less in interest over the life of the loan. The tradeoff is that the monthly payments will be much higher because the term isn’t stretched out over 30 years. If a buyer’s goal is to save as much as possible over the long term, and they can afford the steeper monthly payment, a 15-year is a good choice. 

If you’re interested in a 15-year term but the high monthly payments make you wary, consider a 20-year or a 25-year term. These two choices provide a "middle of the road" option when it comes to balancing monthly payment and long-term savings. 

The other primary loan type is the Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM). With an ARM, your interest rate will change annually (or sometimes semi-annually) based on the market rates and your loan agreement. 

Today, most ARM loans for property buyers are really Hybrid ARMs. These types of ARM loans feature a fixed initial period where the interest rate is locked, with rates adjusting on a regular basis after that. For example, a 5/1 ARM has an initial fixed rate period of 5 years, with the rate adjusting annually (the “1” in 5/1) after that. 3/1, 7/1, and 10/1 are other common hybrid ARMs. 

With an ARM, the interest rate during the initial period will be much lower than that of fixed rate loans. The downside is that after the initial period, the rate will adjust based on the index the loan is tied to and most often this means an increased payment over time. ARMs can be a really good choice for a handful of prospective borrowers: 

Borrowers who are confident in future earnings: If you’ve recently graduated from medical school (congrats!) or you’re the beneficiary of a trust that’s not paying out yet (also, congrats), a hybrid loan will allow you to qualify for a larger loan despite your current financial status, as you’ll be able to afford the rising rates later on. 

“Here for a good-time not for a long-time” homeowners: If you’re confident you’ll be in the home for a very short period of time (say, less than 5 or 10 years), you can enjoy a super-affordable interest rate and sell the home before the end of the initial fixed rate period. 

You plan to pay off the loan fast: Let’s say you’re downsizing to a smaller home but haven’t received funds from the sale of your previous home. An ARM will allow you to enjoy a low payment until your cash is disbursed, at which time you can pay off your ARM before the end of the initial fixed-rate period. 
 




 
August 2021
REAL ESTATE NEWS
Brought to you by Laura Labor Aparicio
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What's the deal with those "We Buy Houses for Cash" companies?
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In today's real estate market, homes stay on the market for about 25 days on average before going under contract. That's better than back in 2010, when homes were averaging 140 days to sell, but it's still not fast, and there's no guarantee that your home will sell in 25 days. Location, season, and many other factors affect how quickly you can sell a home.

If you need to sell your home quickly, those "We Buy Houses for Cash" billboards may have caught your eye. Can you really sell your home as-is in just a few days?

A bag of cash?! Thanks!Who are they?
"We buy houses for cash" buyers are not your typical buyer looking for a home to live in or rent out. They are real estate investors looking to make a quick profit.

As such, they are looking to purchase a home for the lowest price possible, fix it up as needed, and sell it on the open market a short time later. These types of investors can make a huge profit on a home in just a few months.

Who do they target?
These cash buyers are looking for motivated or desperate sellers. For example, let's say you listed your home, but the listing eventually expired without resulting in a sale. At this point, you would probably be contacted by a cash buyer. They're hoping you'll be discouraged by your failure on the open market and will be willing to sell your house for cash at a reduced price.

In the same vein, cash buyers go after people in situations that require a fast sale such as divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure, and probate sales.

Are there benefits?
For many people in situations such as these, selling a home quickly might be the number one priority, despite the potential to maximize return. And selling to a cash buyer certainly is fast.

The typical financed purchase takes about 30 days to close. Appraisals, contracts, and other procedures take time, and they must be done before funds are released.

Cash buyers don't have to deal with that. They'll typically come to your home within a day or two of you contacting them and make an offer on the spot or soon after. They often process the sale in-house and have a title company at the ready to clear the title.

Cash buyers also eliminate the inspection and objection process by simply buying a home "as-is". In only a few days, your house will be sold and you'll be turning over the keys.

Sounds easy enough. What's the catch?
Say goodbye to any profits and probably the equity that you've built up in your home. The offer that cash buyers make is often suspiciously just enough to pay off your mortgage. You will likely only receive 50-80% of market value.

80% of market value might seem like it's worth it to avoid the hassle of going the conventional route, but the average is more like 65% of market value.

Another reason to be extremely careful with these types of companies: scams. Phony investors have all sorts of tactics and tricks to extort money from desperate sellers. You don't want to lose money, or worse, your home, just in an effort to save time.

In short, if you are considering selling your house to a cash buyer, do your research first. Selling a home to get out from under it isn't the only alternative you have. There are other, more profitable options.
To save or to splurge? That is the question.
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When decorating your home, saving money is great. Who doesn't love finding a deal on an item and then not-so-subtly bragging about it when guests come over? Bargain-hunting does, however, have its limits, and the impulse to save now might cost you in the long run. Here are a couple places to splurge, and a couple ways to save when decorating your home.

Furniture
Furniture is a mixed bag. You can get away with an inexpensive coffee table found at a vintage store, and you may be able to score a killer deal on a dining table that looks far more expensive than it is. But when it comes to upholstery, proceed with caution, especially with large pieces. Cheap textiles can pill, rip, wear out easily, and stain permanently. Plus, the material often gets scratchy and uncomfortable.

What do rugs and art have in common?

If you consider the amount of space a sofa occupies, and how often you're using it, it's best not to cut corners. Spring for something with quality construction and materials, and it could last 15 years or more. That being said, furniture manufacturers are facing the same supply chain and labor issues that are impacting the prices of many consumer goods right now. If you are considering splurging on a sofa this year, it might be best to sit tight and wait for things to cool off.

Art
While some designers will tell you that price is no object when it comes to art, the reality is that most of us aren't playing with Picasso money. Luckily, online marketplaces like Society6, Minted, and Etsy allow you to find unique pieces without breaking the bank, and, as a bonus, you'll be supporting emerging artists instead of buying stuff that's mass-produced.

Flooring
Skimp out on your flooring and you may find yourself needing to replace it prematurely—or live with the consequences of a poor choice. Everything from thin wood, to poor adhesive, to carpet that won't stand up to kids and pets, can cause problems sooner than you expect. Save yourself the time, money, and headache, and pay to get it done right the first time.

Rugs
Area rugs are one of the best items for bargain hunters because there are myriad options that are both durable and affordable. A natural sisal rug can hide the appearance of dirt and take a beating, but at a price point that won't make you cry when Fido has an accident. Flatweave wool rugs are another popular-yet-affordable option.

When in doubt, just consider the room your rug is going in. Is there a lot of foot traffic? Pet and kid access? Potential for food or drink spills? If the answer is yes to any of the above, save your money and go with something inexpensive and replaceable.








 
July 2021
REAL ESTATE NEWS
Brought to you by Laura Labor Aparicio
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For Builders and Buyers, Lumber is a Bummer
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Over the past several years we’ve seen real estate prices climb higher and higher due to a limited supply and an increased demand, but a new factor is pushing prices up even further: the skyrocketing price of building materials. So, what’s behind these increased prices, and, more importantly, when can we expect some relief?

We’re all painfully aware that the pandemic triggered widespread supply chain issues, and building materials have been no exception. Supplies of steel, aggregates, and cement have dried up, but the trend might be most noticeable when it comes to lumber.

There's gold on that there truck!

Nearly every aspect of home construction necessitates lumber – framing, trim, doors, flooring, windows, railings, and cabinets. The pandemic shut down lumber mills across the country, and supply chains were slowed by a shortage of truck drivers. Low interest rates and a lack of existing inventory increased demand for new construction, and all that new construction increased demand for lumber. It’s a perfect storm of demand outpacing supply.

According to Markets Insider, lumber prices rose by over 400% between May of 2020 and May of 2021, with the price per thousand board feet going from $327 to $1,645 during that time span. That figure has corrected since May, but, as of this writing, prices are still substantially higher than this time last year.

The rise in lumber prices has added almost $36,000 to the price of an average new single-family home, and nearly $13,000 to that of a new multi-family home.

Building material supply shortages, coupled with increased prices for land, means buyers will continue to see high prices for new builds for at least the foreseeable future.

Last year, home price inflation reached 11.4%, but experts predict a slowdown to 8.1% through 2021. By 2023, price growth is expected to slow to 4%. To put it another way, the surge in home prices is expected to slow, but it’s going to take a few years as supply chains and workforces return to pre-pandemic levels of productivity.
Vacation with Peace of Mind
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Ready to finally take that extended vacation this summer? Since it’s probably been a minute (or 751,680 minutes) since you’ve last traveled, here are a few helpful reminders for ensuring your home stays mishap free while you’re away.

Set thermostat to savings!Set Your Thermostat
If you have an AC, heatpump, or evaporative cooling unit, make sure to leave it on to prevent mold, mildew, and other conditions caused by heat and humidity. Adjust your thermostat to 4 degrees higher than you would if you were home, which will reduce energy use while ensuring that the unit runs periodically. If you can, invest in a smart thermostat, which will allow you to monitor and control conditions at home via a handy smartphone app wherever you are.

Turn Water Off
When you are going to be away for an extended period, it's a good idea to turn off your main water line. This can prevent plumbing leaks from occurring in your absence, which otherwise could result in significant water damage and costly repairs. After shutting off the main water valve, let your kitchen and bathroom faucets run dry, ensuring that no water is left in the pipes.

If shutting the water off isn’t an option due to sprinklers or other considerations, consider investing in some water leak detection sensors. Modern water detectors connect to your smartphone and will notify you if a leak is detected, and since kits start at around $40, they can be a smart investment whether you’re traveling or not.

Double Down on Smart Security
As with water sensors and smart thermostats, other smart security devices are now more affordable than ever. To give the appearance that someone is home, use smart plugs to toggle lights, fans, or a radio while you’re away. Also consider a smart security system – modern systems feature contract-free, affordable monitoring, quick DIY installation, and remote monitoring notifications.

Wrap Toilet Bowls with Plastic Wrap
By wrapping your toilet bowls, you are preventing sewer fumes from entering your home. Leaving your toilets unwrapped can result in a less-than-pleasant "welcome home" smell when you walk in the door. Just be sure to mark the cling wrap with a big, bold "X" or other warning symbol as a reminder for when you return.

Empty the Fridge, Take Out the Trash
No one wants to come home to a moldy, stinky science experiment in their fridge, so make sure to dump anything perishable from the refrigerator and take the garbage out. Your future-self will thank you.
 
 

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