It’s not about the updated kitchen. Or the state-of-the-art walk-in shower. Not to say that updating the interior of a home isn’t important. It’s just that because we mostly live inside our homes, updating and beautifying the outside seems to be placed on the back burner.

 

There are usually two reasons homeowners think about improving the curb appeal of their home (1) pride of ownership —they just want it to look more attractive, or (2) they are selling and want to get the highest price possible. Either is an excellent reason to value and update your home’s facade.

 

Many homeowners don’t realize that spiffing up their home’s exterior offers some of the best return on investment of anything they can do to their dwellings. Whether it’s just for the heck of it or to attract a buyer, curb appeal is what “gets them at hello” when people drive by a property.

 

The National Association of REALTORS® Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features has some fascinating data illustrating how curb appeal and landscaping affects the value of a home, beating out nearly every indoor project for payback. Included are yard overhauls, such as adding a winding flagstone walkway, planters, flowering shrubs, a good-sized tree and new mulch. According to the study, the median cost for doing all of the above is $4,750. Return value? $5,000. Sweet.

 

Add more “softscape” items like trees, shrubs, perennials, mow strips and boulder accents and your home’s curb appeal is transformed. Now figure in lower utility bills, since placing trees in the right locations can produce savings on heating and cooling costs, and there are bonuses up the yin-yang. A new patio or deck? Even better.

 

So next time you think about where you want your remodeling dollars to go, it might be prudent to step across the street and take a look at your home from a different perspective. Shutters need painting? Does your front door make a statement? Would your house look better with more color around it? A little bit of attention to what meets the eye can make a world of difference.

 

 

 

Source: TBWS

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The major stock market indexes were overdue for a pause, and pause they did, by registering their largest weekly declines since 2016.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 4.1%, the NASDAQ dropped 3.5% and the S&P 500 lost 3.9%.  Bonds did not fare much better with a sharp drop in prices sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note to its highest level in almost four years.

 

Good economic news, including a rise in Pending Home Sales and a strong Employment Situation (Jobs) report for January, led to an increase in investor expectations for rising inflation.  Although the Federal Reserve‘s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) unanimously voted on Wednesday to leave the fed funds target range unchanged at 1.25%-1.50%, they changed their statement on inflation.

 

The FOMC admitted inflation expectations recently increased, and said it expected the rate of price changes “to move up this year” and stabilize around its 2% objective “over the medium term.”  Additionally, the 10-year inflation breakeven rate has risen to its highest level in over three years.  According to the FOMC policy statement, the economy continues to strengthen and inflation is expected to move higher while the FOMC continues to anticipate further gradual increases in short-term rates.

The Fed Funds futures market continues to predict (with an implied probability of 77.5%) the most likely time for the next 25 basis point rate-hike announcement will take place at the next FOMC meeting on March 21, and suggests there will be an additional two hikes before the end of the year.

 

In housing news, Pending Home Sales increased 0.5% during December according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).  This was the highest reading since last March.  Pending Home Sales were also 0.5% higher on a year-over-year basis.  The NAR stated the December data suggests the housing market will start 2018 with “a small trace of momentum” but expect the recent tax-law changes to weigh on home sales in 2018.

 

The number of mortgage applications showed a decrease according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) weekly mortgage applications survey.  The MBA reported their overall seasonally adjusted Market Composite Index (application volume) decreased by 2.6% during the week ended January 26, 2018.  The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 3.0% from a week prior while the Refinance Index fell 3.0%.

 

Overall, the refinance portion of mortgage activity decreased to 47.8% of total applications from 49.4% in the prior week.  The adjustable-rate mortgage share of activity increased to 5.7% of total applications from 5.2%.  According to the MBA, the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with a conforming loan balance increased to 4.41% from 4.36%, with points increasing to 0.56 from 0.54.

 

For the week, the FNMA 3.5% coupon bond lost 104.7 basis points to close at $100.234 while the 10-year Treasury yield increased 18.12 basis points to end at 2.8411%.  The major stock indexes plunged during the week to record their largest weekly declines since 2016.

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1,095.75 points to close at 25,520.96.  The NASDAQ Composite Index dropped 264.82 points to close at 7,240.95 and the S&P 500 Index lost 110.74 points to close at 2,762.13.  Year to date on a total return basis, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 3.24%, the NASDAQ Composite Index has advanced 4.89%, and the S&P 500 Index has added 3.31%.

 

This past week, the national average 30-year mortgage rate rose to 4.45% from 4.28%; the 15-year mortgage rate increased to 3.79% from 3.65%; the 5/1 ARM mortgage rate increased to 3.42% from 3.34% and the FHA 30-year rate climbed to 4.25% from 4.05%.  Jumbo 30-year rates increased to 4.50% from 4.41%.

Economic Calendar – for the Week of February 5, 2018

Economic reports having the greatest potential impact on the financial markets are highlighted in bold.

Mortgage Rate Forecast with Chart – FNMA 30-Year 3.5% Coupon Bond

 

The FNMA 30-year 3.5% coupon bond ($100.234, -104.7 bp) traded within a 114.10 basis point range between a weekly intraday high of $101.141 on Monday and a weekly intraday low of $100.00 on Friday before closing the week at $100.234 on Friday.

 

The bond opened lower on Monday before bouncing slightly upward from a support level.  However, this potentially positive action did not hold as the bond cascaded lower during the week on strong economic news that raised the fear of higher inflation moving forward.  A sell signal from January 26 remains intact with the bond at an extremely “oversold” position.  In fact, it can’t get any more oversold than it is with the %K and %D lines in the slow stochastic oscillator registering zeros, a very rare occurrence.  The economic calendar is very light this coming week and if bonds can bounce back from this extremely oversold position we should see rates attempt to stabilize this week.

 

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For all those experts who push buying the most run-down place in the best part of town as a surefire winning investment because the only way its value can go is up, it may be time to take a second look, according to by Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries’ book Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate.

The authors took a hard look at the cheapest 10% of homes in a given ZIP code, trying to understand what buyers were getting when they purchased a home priced well below a neighborhood’s median value. If the adage about “rising tides” were true, the bottom 10% of houses would need to perform better than the more expensive homes in their neighborhood. Instead, they found that only rarely does the bottom 10% outperform the top 90% of houses in a ZIP code. On average, these bottom-tier homes do neither better nor worse than the others.

Their findings indicated that there may be less demand for lower-priced homes in nicer neighborhoods simply because in fancier areas, upscale homes get the most attention. Buying a neighborhood’s worst home, then, is a neutral investment strategy.

 

Source: TBWS

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The three major stock market indexes finished higher for the fourth consecutive week and ended Friday with a set of new all-time highs while bond prices finished the week very close to where they ended the prior week.

 

However, the stock and bond markets were briefly rattled mid-week when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke at a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday saying the U.S. is open for business and welcomed a weaker dollar, saying that it would benefit the country.  Mnuchin stated “Obviously a weaker dollar is good for us as it relates to trade and opportunities,” and added the currency’s short term value is “not a concern of ours at all.”  Mnuchin also said the government was committed to economic growth of 3% or higher and “Longer term, the strength of the dollar is a reflection of the strength of the U.S. economy and the fact that it is and will continue to be the primary currency in terms of the reserve currency.”

 

Mnuchin’s statements may have been misinterpreted by the media and investors as the dollar temporarily fell to a three-year low while stocks and bonds both moved lower following his remarks.  A weaker dollar makes investment in U.S. stocks and bonds less appealing to foreign investors.  On Thursday, Mnuchin clarified his remarks along with President Trump who stated “Our country is becoming so economically strong again and strong in other ways, too, by the way, that the dollar is going to get stronger and stronger, and ultimately, I want to see a strong dollar.”  Following these comments, the markets began to rebound and move higher.

 

In housing news, Existing Home Sales fell more than forecast in December after rising to its highest level in November since February 2007.  The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Existing Home Sales declined 3.6% month-over-month in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million versus a consensus forecast of 5.70 million.  This was also lower than November’s downwardly revised 5.78 million annual sales pace.  The median existing home price for all housing types increased 5.8% to $246,800 – the 70th straight month of year-over-year gains.  The median existing single-family home price advanced 5.8% from a year ago to $248,100.  The inventory of 1.48 million homes for sale at the end of December dropped 11.4% and is 10.3% lower than the same period a year ago.  The inventory of existing homes for sale has fallen year-over-year for 31 consecutive months currently resulting in an unsold inventory at a 3.2-month supply, the lowest on record.

Also, the latest data from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development showed a disappointing 9.3% decline in New Home Sales in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 625,000.  The consensus forecast had called for an annual rate of was 679,000.  This was in addition to a large downward revision to November from an originally reported 733,000 to 689,000 in annual New Home Sales.  The median sales price increased 2.6% year-over-year to $335,400 while the average sales price increased 4.3% to $398,900.  Based on the current sales pace, the inventory of new homes for sale increased to a 5.7-months’ supply versus 4.9 months in November and 5.6 months in the year-ago period.

 

The number of mortgage applications showed an increase according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) weekly mortgage applications survey.  The MBA reported their overall seasonally adjusted Market Composite Index (application volume) increased by 4.5% during the week ended January 19, 2018.  The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 6.0% from a week prior while the Refinance Index advanced 1.0%.

 

Overall, the refinance portion of mortgage activity decreased to 49.4% of total applications from 52.2% in the prior week.  The adjustable-rate mortgage share of activity was unchanged at 5.2% of total applications.  According to the MBA, the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with a conforming loan balance increased to 4.36% from 4.33%, with points remaining unchanged at 0.54.

 

For the week, the FNMA 3.5% coupon bond gained 1.5 basis points to close at $101.281 while the 10-year Treasury yield decreased 0.12 basis points to end at 2.6599%.  The major stock indexes continued to move higher during the week.

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 544.99 points to close at 26,616.71.  The NASDAQ Composite Index climbed 169.39 points to close at 7,505.77 and the S&P 500 Index gained 62.57 points to close at 2,872.87.  Year to date on a total return basis, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 7.68%, the NASDAQ Composite Index has advanced 8.73%, and the S&P 500 Index has added 7.45%.

 

This past week, the national average 30-year mortgage rate rose to 4.28% from 4.23%; the 15-year mortgage rate increased to 3.65% from 3.59%; the 5/1 ARM mortgage rate increased to 3.34% from 3.29% and the FHA 30-year rate climbed to 4.05% from 4.00%.  Jumbo 30-year rates increased to 4.41% from 4.36%.

 

Economic Calendar – for the Week of January 29, 2018

 

Economic reports having the greatest potential impact on the financial markets are highlighted in bold.

Mortgage Rate Forecast with Chart – FNMA 30-Year 3.5% Coupon Bond

 

The FNMA 30-year 3.5% coupon bond ($101.281, +1.5 bp) traded within a 45.3 basis point range between a weekly intraday high of $101.578 on Thursday and a weekly intraday low of $101.250 on Thursday before closing the week at $101.281 on Friday.

 

The bond traded sideways during the past week between technical resistance at $101.66 and support at $101.25 and ended the week close to where it finished the prior week.  A new sell signal was generated on Friday but the bond remains significantly “oversold.”  This coming week’s market direction could be determined by economic news.  The economic calendar is extensive this coming week and includes the always important January Employment Report.  If the economic news is favorable for bonds we could see a rebound in bond prices with a slight improvement in rates.  However, if the economic news is strong and continues to fuel the stock market, we could see bond prices slide lower with rates moving slightly higher.

 

 

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Anyone visiting a weekend open house knows that most for-sale properties today have been “staged” to show them at their best and most appealing. Some would-be home sellers have wondered whether it might be better to go one step beyond staging and do a remodel of their home to increase its value. After all, who’s not impressed by a brand new, state-of-the-art kitchen and bathroom?

The remodeling industry chalked up sales of more than $340 billion in 2017—a 7.5% increase from the previous year. Are these homeowners onto some financial secret? Can remodeling increase the value of a home?

The simple answer is yes—but it is unlikely that spending money on a major remodel will translate into a high enough sales price to justify the expense. According to a recent survey completed by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, the average recovery of remodeling costs is 56%. This means that spending $20,000 to update an older kitchen to a shiny new on will increase the value of the home by only about $11,200.

There are some improvements that may offer better numbers. Replacing and modernizing structural items, such as garage doors and windows, can give a return of 75% of their cost. Interior projects tend to have less favorable returns: adding a master suite, for example, may increase the value by 56.6% of its cost—and this represents a 14.7% drop from the previous year. Major kitchen upgrades return about 56%, down 10.9% from last year.

Reining in the cost and extent of remodels can provide better returns. A minor kitchen update can return up to 81% of its cost. Bathroom tune-ups are much the same. Buyers respond favorably to appliances and fixtures that are functional and new.

Many homeowners, aware of rising interest rates and prices, are turning to remodeling to avoid a move, choosing to spend money to make their homes more livable and attractive over a longer period, not so much for resale value.

If you are contemplating a remodel, you should decide whether you are hoping to increase the value of your home for resale in the immediate future, or whether you simply want to make your property more livable over a longer period. If you are planning to sell, you should think twice about spending the money, since you’ll only get a portion of it back in the form of a higher sales price.

 

Source: TBWS

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There are always people who seem to find scamming consumers to be a worthwhile career choice. This time, the miscreant is Michael Davenport, former bass player for pop-punk band, The Ataris. Davenport and his alleged co-conspirator, Cynthia Rawlinson, operated a telemarketing boiler room in Santa Barbara. According to the indictment, they collected more than $27 million dollars from unwary consumers over a seven-year period.

The scam was a common one: they placed ads on Craigslist offering houses for sale or rent at “favorable prices.” Hopeful consumers would pay $199 to be able to view the listings. Once the victim paid the fee, they would discover that many of the addresses did not exist.

Davenport and Rawlinson allegedly collected money from more than 100,000 people in all 50 states until their office was raided by FBI agents in October 2016. The indictment seeks forfeiture of $853,000 that was in a merchant processing account at the time of the raid, along with $104,000 in cash seized later fr0m Davenport at a Little Rock, Arkansas airport, where Davenport was arrested in December. If the two are convicted, they could face up to 30 years in prison.

This rental scam is not significantly different from the others. They all prey on the most vulnerable people who are facing ever-rising rents and prices. The best defense against scams like this one is simple: never pay a fee or subscription to see properties that seem too good to be true, and always verify that an owner’s representative is who they say they are. Scams like this one are always conducted by people hiding behind email addresses and mail drops, so the victims never meet the criminals trying to relieve them of their hard-earned money. Legitimate rental agents will always meet prospective tenants at the property and provide access.

Don’t be taken in by offers that appear to be too good to be true; there is always a catch.

 

Source: TBWS

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Economic reports having the greatest potential impact on the financial markets are highlighted in bold:

 

 

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In June 2017, cybercriminals stole more than $14 million from unsuspecting people. Real estate transactions are especially vulnerable to these wily larcenists.

Real estate purchases routinely involve sending large sums of money by wire. This method is convenient, fast, and generally secure. Still, sophisticated criminals have been able to exploit people’s lack of familiarity with the real estate and escrow process.

One of the most common scams has been to convince an unwary buyer that the instructions for wiring funds have changed at the last minute “for security reasons.” The email, which appears to come from the title company or other settlement service provider, asks the buyer to wire their funds to a different link than previously agreed. The unsuspecting buyer who falls for this deception will discover, too late, that their money has been diverted to the scammer’s offshore account and is gone forever, along with the scammer.

The obvious advice is to avoid getting taken in by this kind of chicanery. Never wire funds without personally verifying with the title company or real estate closing lawyer that any change is genuine. For those unfortunates who may fall prey to the scam, there are some immediate actions that may offer a slim chance to recover the misdirected funds.

  • Contact the bank or other financial institution the funds were sent from. They may be able to stop the transfer.
  • Contact all parties involved in the real estate transaction, including the title and escrow people, the seller and the agents.
  • Inform the FBI immediately. You can file a complaint at www.ic3.gov. This should be done as quickly as possible. Even waiting just 72 hours could be too late for any recovery.

There are few experiences in life that are more stressful, emotional and confusing as buying a home. Criminals are well aware of this and will do their utmost to leverage those aspects to separate unsuspecting people from their money.

Knowledge is key.

Source: TBWS

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Home equity hits record high, and here’s how homeowners are spending it – CNBC

Home equity hits record high from CNBC.

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