Archive Page 2

How’s The Housing Inventory?


Economy Watch: Housing Inventory, Median Prices Up; Federal Budget Deficit, Initial Claims Down, which is part of the National Association of Realtors, reported on Thursday that the U.S. housing inventory recovery is broad and growing. Not only that, the net number of listings is still increasing, despite the fact that the summer season — when listings are at their highest — is nearly over. Month over month in August, the nationwide total was up 0.93 percent (though down 2.5 percent since last August).

While the national median list price didn’t change in August compared to July, price increases are becoming more widespread, according to NAR. More than 80 percent of the markets covered registered a year-over-year increase in median list price.

California markets continue to dominate the list of areas experiencing the largest year-over-year median list price increases, despite the surge in new property listings that has occurred in most of these markets. Also, Detroit, Phoenix, Reno, and Las Vegas are still among the strongest markets in terms of rising prices since last year. By contrast, a number of smaller industrialized markets in the Midwest and the Northeast aren’t doing as well, and several major Florida markets are showing signs of re-emerging weakness.

Federal Budget Deficit Drops 

The U.S. budget deficit continued to contract in August, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury on Thursday. Government revenue is up because of the recovering economy, and spending is down because of the sequester, with outlays exceeding receipts by $147.9 billion in August, compared with a gap of $190.5 billion the same month in 2012.

For the 11 months through Sept. 30, the deficit was $755.3 billion, the lowest it has been in five years for a similar period. When the final numbers for the full fiscal year are crunched, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit will be even lower than that, because September will probably be a surplus month.

So far Congress is still being its dysfunctional self, and there’s no agreement yet about funding of the government past Sept. 30, though another three-month resolution to fund federal spending is before that body. The government is also almost near its statutory limit for borrowing — the $16.7 “debt ceiling,” — which will come in mid-October, and Congress hasn’t done anything about that, either.

Initial Claims Drop 

For the week ending Sept. 7, initial unemployment claims were 292,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday, down 31,000 from the previous month, and an unusually low figure. Reportedly, two states made changes to their computer systems that delayed reporting of their claims, thus bumping the total figure downward more than usual.

Wall Street was down a little on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 25.96 points, or 0.17 percent. The S&P 500 lost 0.34 percent and the Nasdaq was off 0.24 percent.


Salee Zawerbek, Your Personal Real Estate Consultant For LIFE!


30-Year Mortgage Rate STEADY at 4.57%

Mortgage Rates 

Getting down to business… Rates!!!


Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages held steady this week, hovering near two-year highs. But rates could change quickly next week when the Federal Reserve addresses its bond purchase program.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said that the average rate on the 30-year loan was unchanged from last week at 4.57%, just below the two-year high of 4.58% reached Aug. 22.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage held at 3.59%. The two-year high of 3.60% was hit on Aug. 22.

Long-term mortgage rates have risen more than a full percentage point since May, when Chairman Ben Bernanke first signaled that the Fed could reduce its bond purchases this year. The purchases have been intended to keep long-term loan rates extremely low.

Most analysts expect the Fed to decide at its meeting next week to scale back its bond purchases.

Even with the recent gain, mortgage rates remain low by historical standards. But higher rates have spurred some homebuyers to close deals quickly and could slow the market's momentum if they continue to rise.

Mortgage rates have been rising because they tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. The yield has climbed 1.3 percentage points in the past four months as bond traders have anticipated that the Fed will slow its bond buying.

The 10-year note's rate was 2.92% on Wednesday, down from 2.97% Tuesday but up from 2.89% a week earlier.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1% of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage rose to 0.8 point from 0.7 point. The fee for a 15-year loan was steady at 0.7 point.

The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 2.67% from 2.71%. The fee declined to 0.4 point from 0.5 point.

The average rate on a five-year adjustable mortgage dipped to 3.22% from 3.28%. The fee was unchanged at 0.5 point.


Salee Zawerbek, Your Personal Real Estate Consultant For LIFE!

For Buyers To Keep In Mind When House Shopping!


4 Things All Buyers Should Keep in Mind


No matter how you slice it, buying real estate is a complicated process that takes time and hard work to get right. 

Whether you’re looking for your dream home or an investment property to help build your retirement nest egg, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Mortgage interest rates are still low

Mortgage rates have bumped up a little lately, but they are still low by historical standards. Many people have stopped chasing their dream home or investment property because of the recent rate increases, but they’re making a huge mistake. Rates will likely head even higher over the next few years, and you’re going to kick yourself for failing to secure a 30-year fixed interest rate loan before those even higher rates kick in.

It sounds cliche, but real estate is buyer beware

Your real estate agent can guide you to make a smart purchase, but it’s your job to make every decision and do all the analysis that goes along with purchasing property. You’ve got to make sure it is a smart financial move to buy the property. You’ve got to review the title documents, mortgage loan documents and disclosures, homeowners association docs, home inspection reports, seller disclosures, etc. Each document contains important information that you need to understand to avoid problem properties. It’s a real challenge, but you must do the hard work needed to reduce your risk.

You should never buy a property that you don’t love

If you don’t love it, don’t buy it. Real estate is likely the most expensive and complicated purchase you will ever make. So don’t buy a property if it isn’t a great fit for what you want. Don’t buy if your attitude is “we just want to get something even though this isn’t a perfect property for us.” Note: No property is perfect — especially not at the price you’d like to pay — so be realistic when determining which property you “love.”

Shop properties for at least 4 to 12 months

Take your time. Look at dozens of properties. Drive the areas you like during the day, night and on weekend. Talk to neighbors. You’re probably risking your entire net worth when purchasing property, so make sure you are adequately educated on what you are buying — and that takes time!


Salee Zawerbek, Your Personal Real Estate Consultant For LIFE!

Before you buy… Some tips about your neighborhood!



How to Investigate a Potential Neighborhood


You’ve gone to the open house. You’ve had a private showing. You’ve read the disclosures. You’ve decided this is the house for you, and you’re ready to make an offer.

Before you take that step, though, you should fully check out the neighborhood. After all, this is where you’re going to live for years. Is there something you don’t know about that could negatively affect the resale value later? Is there a neighbor who comes roaring home late at night on a muffler-free motorcycle? Is the next-door neighbor operating a day care for pre-schoolers?

Given the high stakes of homeownership, it pays to do your homework before making an offer. For example, a potential buyer was ready to sign on the dotted line for a home in San Francisco, a city famous for its microclimates. The buyer had only been to the home during the day, when it was sunny and warm. On his real estate agent’s advice, the buyer returned at night — to find the house blanketed by cold, windy fog. He continued his home search elsewhere, relieved he hadn’t unknowingly bought into the city’s “fog and wind belt.”

Here are five ways to investigate a neighborhood before you buy.

1. Talk to the neighbors

Without being intrusive, look for an opportunity to chat with your potential neighbors. What’s their opinion of the block and the neighborhood? Do they know of any problem neighbors? Are they aware of any recent car or home break-ins? Is anyone planning a big remodel that could impact other homes or their values? Do they know of someone on the block who might be getting ready to sell? An even more desirable home could be coming on the market.

2. Visit day and night, weekday and weekend

As the San Francisco example shows, don’t just visit the house during the day. Check it out at night to get a sense of what’s going on in the neighborhood after hours. Is it noisy or calm? Visit on the weekend and early morning, too. The more times of day you go, the more chances you’ll have to get the feel for the neighborhood.

3. Check out the local newspaper and the neighborhood blog

Some neighborhoods still have their own newspapers. If there’s one published for the neighborhood you’re considering, check it out for local stories. Pay particular attention to the “police blotter,” which typically lists crimes reported in the area. Also, some neighborhoods have blogs where locals ask for tips and advice, or post issues or concerns affecting the neighborhood. A Google search should help you find out whether there’s a blog for the neighborhood you’re considering.

4. Get an app

Some smartphone apps, such as CrimeReports for iPhone, provide information about crime based on your location or address. Among the problems you may see displayed on a map are noise nuisances, sex offenders and vehicle break-ins. The CrimeReports app gives you some specifics, such as when and where each incident occurred.

Zillow’s real estate apps allow you to see estimates of properties on the block. They also allow you to search recent sales or see rentals, a good indication of whether your neighbors are renters or homeowners.

5. Google the street address

If you Google the home’s street address, you might be amazed at what you find. You might, for instance, discover a nearby home-based business with employees (which could reduce street parking spaces). Using Google’s Street View, where photos can be months if not years old, you might discover that the ground-floor bedroom window once had bars on it.

Be a sleuth before the sale

The Internet is an amazing resource of information. Too often, though, potential home buyers don’t fully use it to find out everything they can before entering into a contract on a home. As soon as you’ve identified a home you want to buy, get online and do your homework. You might be pleasantly — or unpleasantly — surprised by what you learn.


Salee Zawerbek, Your Personal Real Estate Consultant For LIFE!


HOA Horrors and How Not to Fall Victim to Them

When purchasing real estate, you might be one of the 25 percent of people who purchase a property in a common interest development, which is more commonly known as a homeowners association, or HOA. And while all properties have issues, HOAs have a unique set of additional operational, legal and financial issues that buyers must consider, analyze and review in conjunction with their purchase.

Because many horror stories are associated with HOAs, some people won't even consider buying into one, which is understandable. It's ultimately a personal choice for a buyer to consider.

These are few of those HOA horror stories. Keep in mind that most of these stories would never have occurred if the buyer had just done proper due diligence by reviewing the HOA documents, financial statements, reserve studies, demand statements and CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions). Each of these items would offer insight into "issues." It is your responsibility as a buyer to perform the proper due diligence to avoid purchasing into a disaster of a common interest development community.

Ka-ching: Special assessment of $7,500 three days after closing escrow.

Did you hear the one about the couple who didn't read the condominium board meeting minutes and notes about the $850,000 construction defect issue that needed to be repaired and would cost each unit about $7,500 in special assessments? Yup, it was noted extensively for months before this couple purchased, but they didn't read the stack of documents related to their purchase that came from escrow. So they didn't know about the assessment until the first board meeting – three days after they closed.

Tip: Read the board of directors meeting minutes to help uncover potential assessments or other issues.

Surprise! Buying a rental property that you cannot rent.

Many communities are limited to the number of rental units that can be in the property. Once that threshold is crossed, no other owners can rent out their units until other units convert back to personal residences. In this example, a woman put down $20,000 cash on a condo but didn't read the CC&Rs. She closed escrow on a $100,000 unit that she planned to lease out. Unfortunately, the board blocked her from doing this because of the rules in the CC&Rs. Unfortunately for her, she lost the unit to foreclosure about 12 months later.

Tip: Read CC&Rs to understand restrictions such as this one. A simple request to the board or management company would have uncovered the problem, and this woman could have terminated her purchase contract and saved $20,000!

Limited parking space: Compact cars only!

This horror story deals with a man who bought a high-rise unit in an older building. His designated parking space was next to the laundry room door. Due to the proximity to the door, his unit's parking space was restricted, and he was not allowed to have a car wider than 6 feet. Luckily, he drove a smaller car, so it wasn't an issue. But if he had an Excursion, it would have been a major problem.

Tip: Read your HOA documents thoroughly. Walk around and observe everything about the property you are buying.

Speechless: HOA fees greater than mortgage payment.

This story involves a buyer whose HOA fees began to exceed his mortgage payment. He lived in a restricted-income unit, so the price was low and affordable. But, a couple of years in, the older building had capital items that needed to be replaced, such as a roof and elevator. HOA fees skyrocketed, and as a result, his fees went above his mortgage payment.

Tip: Read and understand the Reserve Study, which could have tipped him off to upcoming repairs and replacements.

Pool, clubhouse, common facilities foreclosed upon.

Lastly, this story is about an HOA where the developer built the residential units on one lot and the clubhouse, pool and common areas on another lot. The pool/clubhouse lot had a separate loan that went into default, and an investor group bought that lot/pool/clubhouse at foreclosure. As a result, they started selling pool memberships to community members in the adjacent neighborhoods.

Tip: Read the community governing documents, which would've revealed the recorded map, plat,or plan for the community.

Yes, HOAs can be a huge benefit to real estate ownership, but they are complicated animals. You must understand the risks of common interest development ownership, and most important, mitigate those risks by reading and analyzing all the documents before you close escrow!


Decor Apps For Your Home~ Great Tools!



5 Awesome Apps to Help Revamp Your Home Decor

For me, fall is always about nesting. With cooler weather on it’s way, you’ll likely be spending more time indoors, or perhaps entertaining friends for dinner parties and the like. Whatever the occasion, you’ll want to make sure your home decor is top notch to impress your guests and to create a homey, comfortable environment perfect for hanging out. You’ll be surprised at the difference a few small tweaks can make. I’ve rounded up my favorite apps that decorating a little bit easier, way more fun and much less expensive than hiring a decorator or designer! My favorite is the app that lets you create color palettes based on your photos — how cool is that? Happy Decorating!

1. iHandy Level Free – iHandy Inc., free


This one is probably already in your app arsenal. It’s a level that works on your smart phone and will assist in hanging art and photographs on an even plane — a huge detail that’s easily noticed when done wrong. If you don’t already have this app, download it first thing.

2. Palettes – Rick Maddy, free


This is a fun app for the color-obsessed. Take a photo of something that inspires you: a door, a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a dress, whatever it may be. Then, upload the photo and the app will create a combination of swatches based on the colors in the photo.

3. SnapShop Showroom – SnapShop Inc., free


This app takes the guesswork out of choosing furniture. After uploading a photo of your room, you can browse the websites of retailers and then virtually insert the piece into your room to “preview” what it will look like before you take the plunge.

4. Handy Man DIY – Wowzer Software, $1.99


This how-to app offers instructions and videos for projects such as installing floor tiles. What makes it ultra helpful, though are the pre-built materials lists that allow you to enter product prices and come up with a cost estimate for the project.

5. Home Design DIY Interior Room Layout Space Planning; Decorating Tool – Mark On Call for iPhone – M.O.C. Interior Designer, LLC, $2.99

This app lets you plan out the furniture plan of your room, but also has other fun planning features such as adding “Eyeliner” to your room (that’s code for adding a little flair).


Salee Zawerbek, Your Personal Real Estate Consultant For LIFE!

Thinking of remodeling your home? So you can remodel with confidence, read these stories from homeowners who went through it to help learn from their mistakes!!!



Admiting a mistake you made is not an easy thing to do… So thanks to these homeowners that want to teach from their bad experiences… 

Homeowners confess their dumbest remodeling mistakes

Even if you don't expect every last detail of your kitchen renovation to turn out perfectly, you probably plan on coming close, without any major mistakes. Yet remodeling goofs—like boxing in the fridge or mounting the cabinets out of reach—happen more often than you might think. The good news: Nailing down the essentials that will make your kitchen comfortable, functional, and stylish for years to come is easy if you know what they are. We talked withhomeowners to find out which design oversights and outright blunders caused them the most grief. Here are their most regretted missteps, and advice on how to sidestep them.

Overlooking built-in flaws
With budgets tight and wish lists long, too many people try to save by ignoring underlying issues—and end up paying for it when the job is done. Kelly Anne Sohigian found that out the hard way when she didn't enlarge the tiny windows in her Fairfield, Conn., kitchen. "We didn't want the additional expense," she says. "But I regret it every day because the room would be so much brighter and better connected to the outside world."
Tip: Get any architectural issues taken care of early. If your budget is tight, hold off expenditures that won't require you to redo any work, like replacing older appliances that still work or changing light fixtures.

Not measuring carefully
"Measure twice, cut once." That's the carpenter's creed, and it's a wise one for homeowners, too. When Kathleen O'Donnell had her Southampton, N.Y., kitchen renovated, she planned a breakfast bar across from the refrigerator. But her contractor measured the space incorrectly and didn't leave enough space between the two elements. "So now that the granite top is on the breakfast bar, there's no room to pull the refrigerator out if we ever need to have it repaired," she says. "If and when that happens, I'll probably have to remove the entire countertop, too." 
Tip: Clearance is key: Make sure your layout allows adequate space for the dishwasher, refrigerator, and all cabinet doors and drawers to open, and enough room to remove and replace appliances down the road.

Forgetting the basics
It's fun to focus on features like decorative tiles and gooseneck faucets that give your new kitchen a splash of style—and to forget about some of the essentials. That's what happened to Becky Engel of Portland, Ore. "My contractor spent weeks perfecting the location of drawer dividers and rollout trays, and even which side of the sink the soap dispenser belonged on," she says. "The last thing to find a home was the garbage can, and it wound up clear on the other side of the kitchen from my sink." Now, whenever she's cooking or cleaning, she has to carry over the bin. But at least she has one.
Tip: Some kitchen designs completely omit details like a recycling bin, utility closet, coat-and-boot storage (crucial if you enter through the kitchen), or cell-phone charging station.

Letting small errors slide
Cutting corners to save time in the face of inevitable scheduling challenges may seem unavoidable and even forgivable. But beware: Sometimes an error you think you can live with can have a major impact on how you enjoy the space. Alexandra Kay of Washingtonville, N.Y., provides a cautionary tale. "The contractor messed up and placed the cabinets flush against the ceiling," she says. "By the time we realized what he'd done, the granite installers were on their way. We didn't want to reschedule them, so we left the cabinets where they were." Too high, as it turns out. Kay has to stand on a stool to reach the upper shelves. "It's a constant annoyance," she says.
Tip: Even if it means extending the project agonizing another week, get the job done right the first time.

Taking the middle bid
When choosing between competing bids from contractors or craftsmen, conventional wisdom is to accept the price in the middle. But sometimes it's a lot smarter to pay more to get better results, especially when precision really counts. Case in point: Finish work, where attention to detail is everything. Rachel and Art Hastings of Laguna Niguel, Calif., learned the difference between top- and middle-tier painters when they redid their kitchen two years ago. "We went with the grade B painter, and he didn't do a great job," Rachel says. "The finish looks chalky in some places. He also hung the cabinet doors wrong, and some of the paint chipped."
Tip: Of course, high prices don't guarantee high quality, so be sure to get multiple references for each pro you're considering. If possible, visit completed projects to see the work for yourself.

Not asking questions
New cabinets are the biggest single investment in most kitchen remodels. Even stock units will cost you a pretty penny. So it's worth taking your time during the ordering process. Sarah Place of Raleigh, N.C., wishes she had considered her cabinet choice more carefully. "We chose a medium-grade cabinet line to keep costs in step with the value of the house and the neighborhood," she says. "But we didn't realize that there were all these extras we needed to order that would drive the base price way up—and the cabinet retailer didn't explain it until the very end." 

Sarah also got dinged by durability issues. "It turned out the end panels of the cabinets were just wood veneer, and haven't held up well over time," she says. "If we want to sell the house, we'll have to replace those panels."
Tip: Find out what each part of a cabinet is made of. And ask about the real prices of options like glass doors, interior organizers, and hardware choices so you aren't surprised when it's time to pay.

Cutting out your must-haves
Sure, you want to keep the remodeling budget as lean as possible. But don't trim the meat away with the fat. Some features may be worth the extra expense, as Michelle Hays of Paige, Texas, now knows. "We skipped installing undercabinet lighting, and the kitchen's really too dark," she says. "But our biggest mistake was not including an island. It would have given us a central work area that we're missing now."
Tip: Before you start the job, think about how you'll use the new space. If you need to cut costs, downgrade materials—say, laminate counters instead of stone—before sacrificing function.

Choosing fussy materials
Concrete countertops, limestone backsplash tiles, and enamel sinks are gorgeous options. But they're also risky ones because they're vulnerable to staining and chipping, and require more care. Even stainless steel—a sturdy material that's all but inescapable in many remodeled kitchens today—needs more tending than you might expect. Linda Mackey of Margate, Fla., discovered that when she chose it for the appliances and sinks in her new kitchen. "I should have listened when my friends warned me about all the fingerprints on stainless steel," she says. "I'm cleaning all the time, not just the refrigerator door but the sink, too. If I had it to do over, I'd have gone with a white finish."
Tip: Consider your tolerance for stains and cleaning. Some people are comfortable with demanding surfaces.