With the coronavirus sending the world into economic uncertainty, the Federal Reserve has done its part to maintain stability by reducing lending rates to near zero.
What that means for homebuyers is that mortgage rates have plummeted to some of their lowest levels in recent memory. As of publishing time, Mortgage News Daily was quoting 30-year fixed-rate conventional loans as low as 3.24 percent and 15-year fixed loans at 2.96 percent. What does that mean for buyers? With good credit and financial history, homes in nearly every market are as affordable as they’re going to get.
Every housing cycle has a trough (they wouldn’t be called cycles without them), and right now, with unemployment numbers creeping up, housing could hit one. However, because many people will be selling in this market, the combination of low rates and the need to sell will give many buyers more options than they’ve had the past 10 years. Many more.
If you find yourself around the house a little more than usual lately, make the most of the time by creating a list of spring-cleaning chores that everyone can help with. If you can get over the moans from the kids (and maybe your back), you’ll have a home that’s more fun to live in and looks much better to a prospective buyer.
Make like a tree … Nothing makes a yard look unkept like leaves left around shrubs, next to the house or anywhere else. Rake them, blow them out, do what you have to do. But get them out and to the curb!
Weed the walkways. While you’re outside, make sure there are no weeds or grass growing between pavers, sidewalk slabs or around steps. And rather than use chemicals, whack them out with a trimmer or just pull them out, if possible.
Dust and detail. Throw open the curtains and dust the daylights out of every room. Nothing will add a bright and inviting sparkle to all your rooms than light shining off freshly dusted furniture, shelves, railings, stairs and countertops.
It’s spring. Take advantage of some of your free time right now and make that house shine!
When it comes to making the most of your living space, organizing your closets can provide a two-for-one benefit for little or no additional cost. First, it can make simple existing in your own space so much more doable and enjoyable; and second, neatly organized closets can make your home that much more attractive when it comes time to sell (think: Easy staging).
Shelve it. Nothing helps make the most of what might be very tight closet space than an expertly arranged assortment of shelves and racks. Forget a boring ol’ rod for your hangers: Not only will shelves provide certain places for certain items, but they’ll also keep more items within view. And depending on the arrangement, you can still have ample space for those special items that can never be folded, only hung.
Room for shoes. While you’re freeing up some space for your clothes, give your shoes a better home, too. Creating racks or neat shelves for your shoes keeps them off the floor, from being lost and from making your bedroom or entryway looking sloppy. Scattered shoes have a way of saving, “I don’t care.” Neat shoes equal a neat impression.
Around the house. After you’ve organized your clothes and shoes, move to utility closets, game closets and those spaces where you’ve stashed all your cleaning products. They could all use the kind of organization that keeps everyday items within reach and keeps them neat for visitors, whether they’re friends or potential buyers. You never know who might be looking, so keep it neat!
Looking to buy or sell your home in the near future? Have no fear. Despite fears about the Coronavirus, in between the Fed and fantastic technology, it’s still a great time to list your home or shop for one.
Let’s start with technology. Real estate agents have never had a better toolbox with which to serve their clients. Agents and other real estate professionals are or are fast becoming experts on virtual property tours, setting listing appointments with video conference tools like Zoom and FaceTime and closing on sales remotely.
In addition, lenders have sharpened their remote business skills with out-of-town buyers and sellers and will continue to meet with customers remotely to the best of their ability.
And speaking of lending, the Federal Reserve recently slashed the federal funds rate (otherwise known as the overnight lending rate, or the rate at which banks lend each other money overnight) to 0.25 percent, compared to a historically-low 1.75 percent just one month ago. That has dropped the average 30-year mortgage rate to a rock-bottom 3.22 percent. That means buyers with good credit can secure a fabulous rate for the next 15-30 years on a home that may have been out of their monthly-cash-flow range just a year ago.
As with any health-related situation, the current Coronavirus troubles will pass. Homes will last. Don’t get caught up in the fears that many people are allowing to drag them down. If you need to or simply want to, check out your local property listings. Modern technology and some very favorable lending rates could put you into the home you’ve always wanted sooner than you think.
Ah, the sweet smell of chlorine water on a hot, sunny day. Makes you want to go for a swim, right? Well, if you can afford it and your backyard is ready, start now to plan for the dig.
Cost. In-ground pools can run about $50,000, so before you decide to make that kind of investment, you may want to consider an attractive above-ground pool (if your neighborhood allows it). It’s easier to install and maintain, and may be the better option for your budget.
Ground around. Also consider whether the slope of your backyard is conducive to a pool at all. Installing a pool on ground that is not level jacks up the cost considerably and may make it unfeasible. In addition, make sure that the placement of the pool puts it in direct sunlight and that surrounding trees won’t make cleanup a nightmare. Also, make sure that lines of sight from the house are attractive. If you can’t see the pool from the house, it will make it less attractive to buyers when and if you sell. One more thing—make sure whoever is going to dig does so with full knowledge of what’s underneath for mains and power lines!
Size and shape. In addition, think long and hard about the size, shape and placement in relation to the rest of the yard. Too small or too big will forever look weird relative to the other non-moving parts of your yard—driveway, house (of course), gardens and outbuildings.
Investing in real estate, done smartly, can set you up for residual income for years to come, if you go in prepared.
Total costs. When you’re buying apartments, office space or houses to rent—or even just investing in a cooperative investment group that does the same—make sure you account for the total cost of investment, short- and long-term. That means, taxes, insurance, maintenance, HOA fees (if applicable) and of course any loans on the property. Make sure you know the full sticker price before fooling yourself into committing to something you simply cannot afford.
Long-term prospects. Is the property in an up-and-coming, stable or declining area of town. Make sure you and your real estate agent do thorough homework on this. What looks good now may end up being a debacle five years from now if that part of town slides into general disrepair. Don’t get sucked into that if you can at all help it.
Property management. If you can, consider hiring a good property manager to run the day-to-day affairs of your investment. If you’re simply investing in one house, for example, it may not be worth it to you. But then you are responsible for all maintenance for your tenants. A good manager charging a modest fee can do wonders for your peace of mind!
To translate an old saying, when it comes to preparing your home for the market, an ounce of staging is worth a pound of regular old cleanup.
Forbes magazine says that homes that are staged sell for about 17 percent more, on average than non-staged homes—and much faster, to boot. That ought to tell you all you need to know about the value of investing in a little staging before potential buyers show up. Here are a couple of pointers:
Bare only the essentials. When it comes to presenting your home to buyers, art and science join to present a home that looks lived-in, cheerful and fantastically neat. That means more than cleaning up though. It means placing flowers, books and even throw pillows either centered or symmetrically on tabletops, shelves, countertops and furniture. And keep it simple—no clutter, everything in a certain place for a reason. It’s about visual simplicity and completeness. You want to create a mental picture of peace and harmony in every corner of your house—kitchen, living room, bedrooms and bathrooms.
Make a path. Be a good guide and create a clear pathway through your home, even if people think they’re wandering about. You want furniture and even visual cues to guide people through your home in a way that feels natural and uncluttered. That way, they get through seeing what they want to see without ever feeling like they’ve intruded or had anything but a smooth journey through your house.
Oh, the possibilities for revitalizing the heart of your home—the kitchen. Here are some of the latest trends:
Epoxy countertops. While stone and marble countertops will always win fans, they can cost you. Big. But with poured epoxy, you can get a solid, silky smooth countertop in virtually any color or pattern you desire for pennies on the dollar compared to granite. You can even do it yourself with some tutorials and a little courage.
Pendant lighting. Whether it’s teardrops from high up or a cluster of lantern-type lights, pendant lighting (especially above islands) has captured a lot of imaginations of late. They’re easy to install, have a timeless look about them and can put out an amazing amount of light.
Hidden storage. Slide-out organizers have been popular for a while, and for very good reason—they work. With limited space, these organizers keep pots, pans and trays in one spot, handy and out of sight. They also give you flexibility in storing other items like smaller appliances.
Spring Break is just around the corner. The kids are vowing to be bored. You don’t have a ton of cash to spend, either. Nowhere to go? Try these ideas:
National parks. While only 26 states have national parks, a huge percentage of people in the U.S. live within a day’s drive of one. They’re inexpensive, they’re beautiful and they’ll provide sights, sounds and photos you can’t really get anywhere else. The inescapable beauty of Glacier, Yellowstone, Great Smoke Mountains and Shenandoah national parks will take your breath away and give your family something to reminisce about forever.
Go someplace new. Speaking of traveling, maybe all you need for a good time is to spend two or three days someplace none of you have ever been. It might be a new city or a nearby beach. It might be someplace with fun things to see and eat and do that you’ve never thought of. Search the web and spontaneously pick something. What do you have to lose?
What do first-time home buyers really want in a house? It’s not like it used to be, when first-timers bought fixer-uppers with the expectation of months (or years) of building sweat equity. For better or for worse, expectations have changed, and that means young buyers are looking for:
Low-maintenance living. Because far fewer people are growing up on farms or in blue-collar families, fewer homebuyers are entering the market with a taste for home repair jobs like they were in times past. Buyers now are looking for homes with updated kitchens, bathrooms and amenities that won’t require the elbow grease of the past.
High-tech havens. In addition, younger buyers consider smart accessories like thermostats, electronic hubs and security systems more and more standard equipment rather than luxuries.
Proximity to attractions. First-time buyers also are looking for places closer to things to do. With couples getting married and having kids later than their parents and grandparents, proximity to good schools isn’t as important as perhaps it once was. The easier it is to get to the fun, the better for these buyers.