It’s all over but the shouting. You found the house, cut the deal with the help of a qualified real estate professional, and now you’re counting down the days to the move. You might feel as if this is when everything goes on autopilot as you pack boxes and deal with the enormous to-do list before you. But you’d be wrong. Despite your diligence and preparation, scammers and con artists can throw curve balls your way, and you won’t even know what hit you.


The purchase of a home is easily one of the largest lifetime investments you’ll make, which means you need to be extra cautious with your money during, before, and after the sale, keeping an eye peeled for these unfortunate real estate scam scenarios:


While you are anticipating the closing date, you get an email from what appears to be your real estate agent with instructions on where to wire your down payment. This has the potential to be mortgage fraud, but what can you do to guard against it? For one, don’t trust the email address even if it looks legit. Call or email your agent and ask if he or she sent anything looking like this, and chances are good they will be in abject shock.


Cybercriminals are adept at hacking into the email account of someone involved in a real estate escrow, whether it’s the buyer, the seller, any attorneys involved, real estate agents or bankers. These hacked emails tell them all the details they need to know, including your closing date. And as soon as they see your funds in their phony account, your down payment goes the way of that sock in the dryer that is never found again. To guard amassing this, keep communications open with the people involved, both over the phone as well as email, and hand that bank check to someone in person whenever possible, even if you have to pay a courier to do it.


But wait. There’s more. A new homeowner arrives at their new front door and tries the key in the lock only to find that it doesn’t work. Suddenly someone opens the front door asking why you’re there and you peek inside, only to see the house is already occupied — by renters.


It’s useless to be angry at the occupants, however. These poor folk probably have no idea they were scammed as well. After all, they answered an ad from someone who advertised themselves as the landlord of a vacant property, signed a dummied-up a lease, handed over a deposit, and even got a new set of keys. Your appearance their front door is as shocking to them as theirs is to you. They no doubt already lost not only their deposit but also their first and last month’s rent to this scammer. Whatever transpired, they now have renter’s rights, and you may have to go through a costly eviction process to get your own home back.


Unfortunately, the law hasn’t caught up with this crime quite yet. But there is something you can do if the home you bought had been vacant for a while before closing. Ask your agent and anyone else you can think of to check on it regularly, even peering through the windows. The most you can do is try to catch this phenomenon happening before closing takes place.


So now you think you’re safe. Even with every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed, however, you can still get rooked during the move itself. The federal government receives thousands of complaints every year about moving companies who offer you a quote and then bills you for twice as much, holding your belongings hostage until you pay up. Some of your items may end up missing as well, only complicating this nightmare.


What to do to protect yourself from this? Check customer reviews not only the website of the moving company you hired; also check sites like Yelp! for what others say about this company, and look up their Better Business Bureau score as well. Get more than one estimate and see how it compares to others to determine if it’s on track for the number of rooms they’re loading up and the distance your belongings are being moved. And by all means, call your insurance agent to inquire about buying some short-term insurance to protect your belongings in the move.


Scams like these continue to happen, becoming even more sophisticated over time, and we’re not trying to freak you out. It’s a matter of staying diligent until the very day you hook up the big screen TV. For more information on how to deal with these and other fraud issues, go to your local Department of Real Estate Services website.


Source: TBWS

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Sep 7, 2018

If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the front door is the gateway to the soul of your home. Aside from providing security, is it a statement? Does it provide need light in an otherwise dark entry area? Is it weathered and tired, or does it welcome guests?


If you are considering selling your home, think of the entry door as the first thing potential buyers will see and touch when entering your house, leaving a lasting impression as well as portending what else your house contains. As homeowners, we often don’t take the time to analyze what someone else’s first impression might be.


Ask any home improvement specialist or Realtor about the importance of curb appeal and they will confirm that how your home looks from the road may mean the difference between a drive by and an appointment to view it. And if you are looking for a good return on investment, Remodeling Magazine reports that you’ll recoup almost 91 percent of the cost on a steel entry door and nearly 78 percent on the price of a fiberglass one. Go even further and choose one for not only its security but also its architectural appeal, and those percentages may go up.


BUILDER Magazine article addresses this when schooling homebuilders on how to make a good first impression on the potential buyers of a new construction home. “Something’s missing. It might be hard to place, and yet they encountered it as soon as they entered the room. Though it might be the last item on your checklist, doors are the absolute first impression of any home. At first, doors might seem like an additional embellishment, but in reality, they should never be an afterthought.”


Builders and architects tend to think about doors as a way of masterfully pulling the whole home together from the entrance throughout the entire home as an experience of function and form, according to the article. “The perfect front door should complement the rest of the building’s exterior while reflecting a vision of the homeowners to the outside world, requiring it to both feel right and look right.”


Even with secondary doors throughout your home’s interior, a mood is set simply by door style: streamlined (solid, tall, flat-panel doors) can make a house feel sleek, modern, and even a bit sexy. Doors with detail can take traditional and transitional into the homey and comfortable realm.


Hardware is also a significant element, whether it’s a matte black handle with uncluttered lines, vintage-style crystal knobs with facets, or brushed brass with substantial heft. Today’s modern farmhouse can reflect traditional with updated vibes by sporting traditional-style doors with classic panel designs and decorative glass. Mid-century modern looks, however, often feature a simpler design with stunning wood grains, as if part of the furniture and entry doors often boast tiny or elongated vertical windows in a contemporary pattern for an understated look.


The doors in your home (especially the entry door) can either upgrade a space or make that space fall flat. While they may not be the focal point of any room, however, doors never fail to make an impact upon entering any home or any room.



Source: TBWS

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When an airline executive throws around terms like “revenue per passenger mile” it sounds impressive to us lay people, who picture every air mile having the same dollar sign attached to it. But when a real estate consultant bandies the term “cost per square foot” to discuss a home’s value, it should give you reason to pause and ask a LOT of questions.


Like everything else, values lie along a wide spectrum, with no one price per square foot being applied to every property in a neighborhood. While taking the price of a home, dividing it by the square footage of the property, and coming up with the price per square foot sounds easy, it’s also a dangerous way to judge real value — sometimes vastly different from the value a bank appraiser would come up with. In newer neighborhoods, where two or three builders compete for business using the same types of homes, lot sizes and amenities (concrete tile roofs, stucco exteriors, granite countertops, and built-in security systems), price per square foot may be the most meaningful. But in seasoned neighborhoods, where homes have changed owners, features, and attractiveness many times over, and where infrastructure and commercial building has grown up around it for decades, using price per square foot to judge value can be a veritable crap shoot.


Just as an appraiser takes detailed note of a structure’s characteristics, condition, location, lot size, quality of upgrades, bed/bath count, size, etc, all have the potential to affect the price per sq. ft. and can can vary wildly. “A small remodeled home selling at $250 per sq. ft., a model match fixer selling at $175 per sq. ft., a short sale model selling at $185 per sq ft, and a home with an adverse location selling at $215 per sq ft. Thus even for one model there could be a price per sq. ft. range from $175 to $250.” says appraiser Bryan Lundquist in a Sacramento Bee article on the topic.


Because smaller homes cost more to build, they tend to have a higher price per sq. ft. than larger homes — that is, unless that larger home was completely updated using costly design elements or was built as a custom home with every bell and whistle installed.


When your real estate agent talks price per sq. ft. in a particular neighborhood, instead of taking it as an important determining factor, it’s wise to have him or her explain detail what went into that value. Of course, he or she can’t be privy to the kind of information an appraiser can pull out of a hat. “Appraisers, pay close attention to the price per sq. ft. range in a neighborhood. Some appraisers treat price per sq. ft. as a meaningless metric, but it’s actually valuable. If your value does not fall within the range (especially the competitive price per sq ft range), it’s important to be able to explain that,” says Lundquist.


Here are some of the most important factors in determining a home’s value:


There is a basic house, built for economy, to appeal to those who wish to spend as little as possible to get out of an apartment or their parents’ basement. In these homes, builders are careful to use materials that keep costs down — not necessarily of the greatest quality or desirability, but good enough for the basics so you can swap it all out as your income goes up. This applies to roofing materials, plumbing fixtures, HVAC systems, cabinetry, and flooring. Flat, hollow-core doors are often used throughout. Basic lighting fixtures are adequate but not fancy or even fashionable. Even front yards contain the requisite lawn, single tree, and a few shrubs, but you won’t find meandering walkways, aggregate driveways and coach-like garage doors.


Move up in price, and you’ll find homes built with more durable (and attractive) materials. Gone are the Formica countertops, the flat panel doors, the one-tile backsplash in bathrooms and the lower end plumbing fixtures. Cabinets, flooring, and even HVAC systems are more sophisticated, even though the builder may have built these homes with economy in mind as well. What lies behind the walls is important as well — those things you don’t see or notice — the thickness of the insulation, the way the outer walls are wrapped, the types of windows used — even the quality of what the house sits upon —a post tension slab or a raised foundation.


Now add custom-built spec, luxury or owner-builder homes to the equation and you’ll find things kicked up several notches, including a slew of elements not found in lower categories. Cabinets and built-ins are custom made. Flooring is the latest in wide-plank hardwood, perhaps laid on the diagonal for eye-appeal, countertops may be marble, quartzite (not quartz) or even elaborately-poured and buffed concrete. Crown molding may be everywhere, and architectural features, such as massive skylights and lofty beamed ceilings make it look like a resort hotel.


When you consider these differences, you can see how different types of homes, even in the same neighborhood, can vary widely using the cost-per-square-foot equation as a tool to determine value. The cost of a single room in the luxury home may match that of an entire economy home.


Lot size, floor plan, the number of renovations, and especially location, are, of course, huge determining factors as well. One home may have a square footage calculation that includes a finished basement, while the next may not, in which case comparing both homes by their price per square foot becomes useless (below grade square footage is worth much less than above grade space).


It’s unfair to pin errors in valuation only on rookie agents who don’t take all this into account, however. Online value estimators (where you fill in the address of a property, and it pops up with an approximate value) can be just as faulty. And appraisals done for refinancing purposes are done differently as well.


Experts agree that the only real way to understand the value of any given home is to calculate the value based on the individual home, preferably with the help of a competent real estate professional — those people who do comparable calculations in their sleep and advise sellers on how to price their home. After all, their livelihood depends on their expertise. A seasoned veteran who knows the area and has seen the neighborhood morph into what it is today can estimate the value of a home in a particular area and give you an idea of what it is worth.


While a given home may indeed end up being worth what a willing buyer would pay for it, accurate information is the foundation of good real estate deals. Veteran real estate professionals understand that trying to use price per square foot as a means to value a home is not the best bet, since taking into account the unique characteristics of each piece of property and using recent sales of similar homes — such as views, location, finishes, layout, amenities, and styling are all important in determining a home’s true market value.



Source: TBWS

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You know the drill when you sell a car. Research it on Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds to see what your car’s year, make, model condition and mileage might get price-wise. Get the shopping cart dents popped out and spiff up the exterior and interior, take some tasteful pictures of it, and offer a detailed description of its attributes and features.


The Forbes Real Estate Council recommends much of the same approach when selling your home, even when it remains a sellers’ market. The key is remembering the age-old basics of home selling — pricing, presentation, and negotiation.


Overpricing your home is a kiss of death in today’s market, according to Forbes’ Beatrice De Jong. “Research homes in the area that have sold recently, and make sure they are actually comparable (i.e., don’t compare a fixer-upper to a newly remodeled house). Check how long local listings are typically on the market for, and adjust your expectations accordingly. Keep your eye on what else is on the market at the same time as your listing — if there is another home that is seen as a better deal, your listing will look less desirable.”


Despite going for the highest price possible, strategically its best to list for a lower price and then let bidding buyers jockey for the final number. “Listing at a lower price is common practice in very competitive real estate markets like San Fransisco and Los Angeles. This approach often ends up getting more exposure on the listing since it will show up on more homebuyers’ online feeds,” says De Jong.


Presentation is everything, especially in these days of competitive, high-tech digital images and virtual tours. Your listing should not be the exception to that rule. De Jong advises, “Some buyers love a project, but most are hoping to have to do as little work as possible (and keep their budget as low as possible). Keeping the home clean and uncluttered and presenting clear photos will present the home at its best.”


When it comes to breaking the budget on staging, there are inexpensive ways to spruce up your house to make it look more appealing, even if it’s to place your clutter and bulkier items in storage. With a cleaner palate, it’s ever for agents to point out all the positive aspects of the home when showing it.


An open mind is a beautiful thing when selling your home. Even the most off-the-wall offers can be negotiated, and most will make an offer assuming that you plan to spar with them over price and terms. Rude rejections can result in buyers never returning to try again, even if your house languishes on the market. “Emotions run high on both the buyer and seller side of buying a home, and while it’s important for buyers to not write ridiculously low offers, it’s also key for the sellers to keep from being offended, and try to see if there is some reasoning,” says De Jong.


Those magical first two weeks a home has been listed will reveal a lot, especially in more competitive markets. Make sure you observe the basics, and the chances are good that your home will magically sell.


Source:, TBWS

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Trade-related news dominated investor sentiment during the week.  Last Monday, news of a bilateral trade agreement between the U.S. and Mexico propelled several stock indexes to new all-time highs including the Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 indices.  With stocks making new highs, bond prices failed to gain much traction with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rising slightly during the week.  Following news of the trade deal between Mexico and the U.S., Canada entered trade discussions with the U.S. but was unable to conclude a new trade deal by a Friday deadline.   Negotiations are scheduled to resume this coming week.


In other trade news Thursday, President Trump announced he would move ahead with tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods as early as this coming week and also said in a Bloomberg interview that the European Union’s (EU) offer to eliminate auto tariffs was “not good enough” and compared the EU’s trade policies to those of China.


This tough talk on trade by the president is a negotiating tactic and it will be interesting to see the ultimate outcomes when trade deals are finalized between the U.S. and the EU and China.


There were several housing-related news releases during the week.  Tuesday, the latest Case-Shiller Home Price Index from S&P Dow Jones Indices and CoreLogic showed home prices nationwide increased 6.2% for the year through June 2018.  However, this is lower than May’s reading of a 6.4% price gain for the year.  Average home prices for the top 10 metropolitan areas increased 6% and the 20-city composite saw a 6.3% year-over-year gain.


David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, remarked “Home prices continue to rise across the U.S.  However, even as home prices keep climbing, we are seeing signs that growth is easing in the housing market.  Sales of both new and existing homes are roughly flat over the last six months amidst news stories of an increase in the number of homes for sale in some markets.”


Seattle, Las Vegas and San Francisco continue to have the highest year-over-year gains among all cities in the 20-city index.  Las Vegas took the lead from Seattle with a year-over-year price increase of 13% to Seattle’s 12.8% price increase while San Francisco saw an increase of 10.7%.


Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Pending Home Sales fell on an annual basis for the seventh consecutive month in July.  The NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, dropped 0.7% in July to 106.2, down from 107 in June.  With June’s decline, the index is down 2.3%.   NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun stated “Contract signings inched backward once again last month, as declines in the South and West weighed down on overall activity.  It’s evident in recent months that many of the most overheated real estate markets – especially those out West – are starting to see a slight decline in home sales and slower price growth.  The reason sales are falling off last year’s pace is that multiple years of inadequate supply in markets with strong job growth have finally driven up home prices to a point where an increasing number of prospective buyers are unable to afford it.”



Elsewhere, the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) weekly mortgage applications survey showed a decline in mortgage applications.  The MBA reported their overall seasonally adjusted Market Composite Index (application volume) fell 1.7% during the week ended August 24, 2018.  The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 1.0% from the week prior while the Refinance Index fell 3.0% from a week earlier.


Overall, the refinance portion of mortgage activity remained unchanged at 38.7% of total applications from the prior week.  The adjustable-rate mortgage share of activity decreased to 6.3% from 6.5% of total applications.  According to the MBA, the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with a conforming loan balance decreased to 4.78% from 4.81% (the lowest rate since the week ended July 20, 2018) with points increasing to 0.46 from 0.42 for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans.


For the week, the FNMA 4.0% coupon bond lost 17.1 basis points to close at $101.813 while the 10-year Treasury yield increased 4.70 basis points to end at 2.860%.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 174.47 points to close at 25,964.82.  The NASDAQ Composite Index advanced 163.56 points to close at 8,109.54.  The S&P 500 Index added 26.83 points to close at 2,901.52.  Year to date on a total return basis, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 5.04%, the NASDAQ Composite Index has advanced 17.47%, and the S&P 500 Index has added 8.52%.


This past week, the national average 30-year mortgage rate rose to 4.65% from 4.63%; the 15-year mortgage rate increased to 4.15% from 4.14%; the 5/1 ARM mortgage rate increased to 3.98% from 3.95% while the FHA 30-year rate remained unchanged at 4.37%.  Jumbo 30-year rates eased to 4.33% from 4.34%.


Economic Calendar – for the Week of September 3, 2018


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

Mortgage Rate Forecast with Chart – FNMA 30-Year 4.0% Coupon Bond


The FNMA 30-year 4.0% coupon bond ($101.813, -17.1 bp) traded within a slightly wider 29.7 basis point range between a weekly intraday high of 101.953 on Monday and a weekly intraday low of $101.656 on Wednesday before closing the week at $101.813 on Friday.  Mortgage bond prices took a dip lower to test a solid, triple layer of support Monday through Wednesday from the prior week’s extremely “overbought” position.  Prices then bounced just above the triple support layer formed from the convergence of the 25-day (101.727), 100-day (101.745) and 50-day (101.784) moving averages on Thursday and Friday.  Mortgage bonds are no longer “overbought” and prices appear ready to continue higher from support.  However, a stubborn resistance level found at the 76.4% Fibonacci retracement level at $101.988 has put a manhole cover over any meaningful advances since last May.  This has resulted in bond prices getting squeezed between support and resistance forcing a mostly sideways direction in the market.  This action should continue this week with minimal effect on mortgage rates.

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