First-Time Home Buyers in Lewiston Have a Familiar Question

Lewiston NY first-time home buyers in 2014 are faced with a question that hasn’t changed for generations: is it more practical to buy right now, or to continue to rent?

Over the past few years, buying has been the easy choice. Nationally, in 2013 it cost 35% less to own a home than to rent according to that year’s study by real estate website Trulia. That despite rising house prices and mortgage rates. But that was last year, and the experts have been pretty unanimous in predicting that interest rates will continue to rise—ending up somewhere near 5.5% by 2014’s end (per the National Association of REALTORS®).

In the face of higher interest rates and house price tags, will 2014 be the year when renting becomes more affordable than buying?

While first-time home buyers in Lewiston are faced with increasing house prices and mortgage rates, renters also find another national trend: higher rents. Rents have been on the rise for the past few years, with continued increases expected throughout 2014. According to Axiometrics, the folks with the latest data, apartment rents are on course to rise by 3.04% in 2014. Research firm Reis puts the expected rise at 3.15%— and both say the causes are the potent combination of tight supply and rising demand. Whenever the economy improves, each incremental gain puts even more pressure on rents—which acts as an offset to any financial benefits of renting versus owning.

Where does that leave our typical Lewiston, NY first-time home buyers? Most recently, national averages show it is still about 21% cheaper to own rather than rent. According to the Trulia study, by fall of last year, the earliest tipping point at which it would have become more expensive to own rather than rent would have been expected to occur if interest rates hit 5.2%—but only in San Jose, California—and only if rents had remained fixed (which didn’t happen, even in San Jose). Nationally, out here in the real world, Tulia admitted “mortgage rates will not tip the housing market in favor of renting over buying until rates hit 10.5%…”

Lewiston first-time home buyers can be a bit more confident as they take in one more piece of information from the real world of April 2014 (no matter what the experts predicted): over the past few weeks, national mortgage interest rates have been edging down instead of rising! That may well change direction again (probably will), but for now at least, we have to say that it’s a pretty clear call in the spring of 2014: time to get pre-qualified!

That’s the first-time home buyers’ Step One…it also happens to be an ideal time to give us a call!

Some Lewiston Jumbo Mortgages Go Mini

We call them oxymorons: terms with built-in contradictions. George Carlin made fun of ‘jumbo shrimp’; Jerry Seinfeld pointed out the unlikelihood of anything being ‘found missing’ or ‘clearly misunderstood.’

But for some Lewiston homebuyers, there is more reason to smile than laugh over the new popularity of a formerly miniscule part of the home loan market: what I call ‘mini jumbo’ mortgages.

That’s not the name Wall Street Journal writer Lisa Selin Davis used in a fascinating article in their Mansion section earlier this month. She called them ‘starter jumbo’ loans in a nod to their popularity among younger, upwardly-mobile borrowers. But whether you call them that, mini jumbo mortgages, or just jumbo mortgages, Lewiston, NY homebuyers may well find increasing availability for home loans above the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae limits—but still under $1 million.

“Loans at the lower end of the jumbo market are on the rise,” writes Davis, “…driven…primarily [by] the rebounding real-estate market.” Although the issuing of higher-ticket jumbo loans has been on a slight decline since the start of the year, those between $417,000 and $625,000 have jumped from 19% of jumbo loans in 2009 to a full 29% last year.

Corelogic echoes the theme, pointing to the fact that sales of homes between $800,000 and $1 million rose more than 32% from 2012 to 2013. “It’s the safest and most popular part of the market,” according to the publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance; pointing to their appeal both to buyers and lenders.

Lenders see mini jumbo mortgages as a good way to attract new borrowers. Bank of America, who reports that 75% of its jumbo loans were under the million dollar mark, recently lowered its minimum down payment requirement from 20% to 15% to attract such loans.

And for borrowers, the interest payments that accompany big ticket (but not too big ticket) jumbo mortgages can maximize the tax advantages of home ownership. For some Lewiston NY jumbo mortgage candidates—especially those who don’t intend to stay in the same home for 30 years—jumbo mortgages can make irrefutable financial sense. Whether your own plans include regular, mini jumbo, or traditionally-defined jumbo mortgages, the first step is finding the right property…which is your cue to give us a call!

What You Should do if Your Wheatfield Home Won’t Sell

Even in today’s Wheatfield real estate market there are still a surprising number of homes that have been on the market for a few months with no obvious signs of activity. If your Wheatfield, NY home has been on the market for a while without any serious offers, it’s probably time to take another look at your strategy and your home to make it more attractive to buyers:

1. Review your asking price
The number one reason we see Wheatfield, NY homes sit on the market is because of listing price. If your home is priced above the market the likelihood of selling it are greatly reduced. Your Realtor® should have provided you with a list of comparable recent home sales in your area along with a professional analysis to figure out the proper selling price (if your Realtor didn’t provide this, contact us and we’ll send you one).

Drive by the homes on the comparable sales list your Realtor provides to get a feel for what’s been selling.
• Are those homes really comparable to your home?
• Are they in the same condition as your home?
• Are the schools of the same quality as the schools in your neighborhood?
Pay particular attention to any differences (or in any variances in HOA or Mello Roos) as they can significantly impact your home’s value versus the Wheatfield marketplace. A good comparative market analysis will help you figure out the RIGHT listing price for your home.

2. Take a video of your home
Shoot a video of your Wheatfield home both outside and inside. Then watch the video (preferably on a computer or larger screen) objectively as if you were a potential home buyer. What do you see? Look for negative elements such as weeds growing in the yard, dirty carpets, or a cluttered interior. It’s important to notice negative elements you can quickly fix to make your home more appealing to buyers. It may surprise you to see what your home looks like when viewed on camera.

3. Leave during your home’s open house or showings
It is vitally important that you leave the house when buyers are touring your home. Potential buyers will not feel comfortable looking in closets or in drawers with you standing over their shoulder. They will also be less likely to express their true opinion about your home. Therefore, do everything you can to be scarce during showings. Additionally, if you have pets, take them with you along with items like food bowls and litter boxes. The last thing you want is for potential buyers to contend with your pet pitbull or the odors coming from a litterbox.
4. Hold an open house on a weeknight
While most buyers in the market for a Wheatfield home are accustomed to attending open houses on weekends, there are those for whom weekends just don’t work. By holding an open house on a weeknight you face less competition than on a weekend and may draw in buyers who normally would not have seen your home.
5. Consider staging your home
To stage a home simply you can just remove all personal items, add neutral window coverings, paint in neutral colors, and take down most decorations (most homes are over-cluttered). Ask your Realtor for advice. For example, you may love zebra print and red accents; however, that’s not going to appeal to most buyers. Loud designs and bold colors can easily detract from the positive aspects of a home. If you feel you can handle the staging project yourself, have at it. However, if the process of staging your home seems overwhelming there are companies that can professionally stage your Wheatfield NY home for you. Contact us for a reputable referral.
________________________________________
If you find yourself in a position where your house just won’t sell, DO NOT just sit and wait for things to change. Take action before market conditions change! Feel free to give us a ring if you’d like some advice.

Considerations When Buying a Wheatfield,NY Condo or Townhouse

The lifestyle of condo or townhome living is a great fit for people in all walks of life.  Lower prices for Wheatfield, NY condos and townhomes when compared to single family residences enable first time home buyers to affordable them. Price and ease of social interaction appeal to those who are separated or divorced. Boomers wishing to downsize, but don’t wish to move to a “senior-only” community find them most desirable.

If you think that condo or townhome living is possibly for you it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a lot more to consider than just the condition of the particular unit itself. Take a look around the development and make a mental note of these important items:

  1. Are the common grounds well maintained?
  2. Are the exteriors of the buildings in states of disrepair or are they updated?
  3. Do the residents of certain sections seem to have more pride of ownership than others?
  4. If properties for sale back up to the main road, what kind of a buffer has the association provided to block out the noise from traffic?

 

Talk to residents about the positives and negatives of living there (especially the negatives). Remember, you’re not only buying a home, but you’re also buying into the community as a whole.

Here are things you’ll need to know about the community before you buy:

Are there any pending lawsuits or liens against the association?
Accidents can happen at any time.  This is why associations have insurance.  But if an association has a lawsuit pending the bank may not lend you the money to buy in that development until the lawsuit is settled. Additionally a lawsuit could put the association into fiscal bind, and that will significantly impact resale value.

What percentage of the units are investor-owned?
Banks have a strict limit on the number of investor-owned units that they like to see in a condo or  townhouse development.  Usually this number is around 30%.  If the number of investor-owned units is close to this number (or higher) you might be better off considering another development. The reason for this is that banks negatively view a large population of renters in a community (the theory being that renters don’t take care of a property as well as owners and if the number of renters hits a tipping point, it will bring down property values across the community).

Is the Association fiscally sound?
An association that is financially struggling to keep up with the maintenance and needed improvements will begin to show.  It may have a pool, but can’t afford to open it.  It could have tennis courts but they are in such disrepair they cannot be used.  If you are looking in a development after the pool and/or clubhouse are closed, you need to find out if these things were in fact open and operating well during the summer season.  All of these factors contribute not only to your enjoyment of living in a community, but will affect your return on investment when you wish to sell.  A development that has not been carefully maintained lowers everyone’s property value.

Read the Association Rules and Regulations
One item that many buyers forget to review before purchasing a Wheatfield, NY townhome or condo is the Association’s Rules and Regulations. Here are some examples that could impact your life:

  • Pets – May or may not be permitted.  If dogs are allowed there may be a restriction on size.
  • Parking – Trucks or vans may not be permitted to park in the development.  If you have one, you may have to have alternate arrangements to park somewhere else.  Also in general is the parking situation a free for all or are there assigned parking spaces.
  • BBQ Grills – Many do not permit gas or charcoal grilling.
  • Gardening – You may or may not be permitted to plant flowers, shrubs or other vegetation.
  • Decks or Patios – You may or may not be permitted to add one or the other.
  • Window Treatment Restrictions – Some associations require that all window treatments used have white liners to give the exteriors a uniform appearance.

 

The list could go on and on.  While you may or may not agree, with them, they are the rules and you need to decide if you can live by them. Successful associations in Wheatfield, NY have strict guidelines in place to help retain and improve the values of the homes within the development – but sometimes these rules can impact your ability to enjoy living in the development, which is why it’s imperative to learn all you can in advance.

Overall buying a condo or townhome can be an involved process and you’ll want to ensure you have the best possible real estate agent on your side to ensure there are no surprises. Give us a call, and we can find the ideal Wheatfield townhome or condo for you!

Credit Score Review Pays Off for Frugal Wheatfield, NY Homeowners

Your credit score will have a major impact when it comes to the cost you wind up paying for a Wheatfield, NY mortgage. A buyer with a high credit score of 750 or above will qualify for the most competitive interest rates available; but today’s tightened lending standards mean that some borrowers with scores under 600 may not qualify for a mortgage at all. And no matter what, a low credit score can mean paying an extra 3%-4% interest charge on every payment.

There is nothing permanent about a credit score. Wheatfield, NY homebuyers who realize its importance—and who take early steps to improve their own—can save literally thousands of dollars.

  1. You can’t improve your credit score until you know what you are working with. Your first step is to obtain your credit reports. They are available for free once a year from each of the three major reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
  2. The fastest way to improve your credit score is to correct any inaccuracies. Because this takes time – anywhere from 30 days to as long as six months, the earlier you begin the process, the better. To remove items that are incomplete or inaccurate, verify the correct information using the dispute procedure on the agency’s website. The creditor has 30 days in which to validate the debt; if the credit agency does not receive a response to your claim, they are required by law to remove the entry from your report. Remember that there are three major agencies, so an incorrect item may appear on all three— and all three need to be contacted.
  3. If you have an older credit card that you haven’t been using for a while, it’s a good idea not to cancel it; even to use it now and again, paying the balance in full. This will mean that the issuer keeps reporting information to the credit bureau, which can be valuable. A longer credit history improves your credit score.
  4. A low credit utilization ratio measures how much of your available credit you are using. In order to improve your credit score, keep your credit utilization ratio below 20%. One way to quickly improve a utilization score is to move credit card debt onto cards with higher limits. While this will not make a difference to the amount that you owe, it will alter individual cards’ credit utilization ratios.
  5. Consider a Personal Loan. If you have a family member or friend that you can borrow from, consider taking out a loan in order to pay down a portion of existing debt. By removing some of that debt, you can give your credit score a boost.
  6. Moving away from being measured as a poor credit risk has the biggest impact on whether a future mortgage is approved—and how much interest you wind up having to pay. Your credit score in Wheatfield really matters! If you would like an introduction to a mortgage broker to begin the conversation about the home loan your current credit score qualifies you for, contact us today.

 

Homeowners in Wheatfield, NY Hope to Match National Price Rises

2014 has already given an encouraging start for Wheatfield, NY homeowners who consider national price movements as the best pointers for what we can expect for local real estate. Already in February, median house prices were up 7.6% nationally year over year (that according to the US National Housing Trend Report). It followed a similar 8.3% increase in January. The question many Wheatfield, NY homeowners have is whether this upward movement can be sustained throughout 2014.

Two Years of Historically High Growth
If we look at the historical record, values normally rise somewhere in the area of 3% to 5% annually. But over the last couple of years, gains have been considerably higher. As measured by the Case-Schiller Index, property prices in the 20 largest U.S. cities have increased 21% since they bottomed out. Even considering the depth from which they started, that is still remarkable.

Factors Likely To Influence Home Prices
Among factors which could influence performance in the year ahead, one of the most prominent is the continuing historically low interest rates. According to the leading financial website Bankrate, as of this writing, the average no-point, 30-year fixed mortgage was edging downward again to 4.32%. That may be up from a year ago, but, by way of contrast, the long-term average for a 30-year mortgage is estimated to be 8.56%!
Even considering Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s stated intention to continue the Fed’s expansive monetary policy, most observers consider it all but inevitable that as the economy improves, quantitative easing will be cut back…pressuring interest rates to rise (and last month the Federal Reserve made a $10 billion cut in its economic stimulus program).
Two other factors likely to weigh heavily on future price moves are foreclosures and negative equity. As real estate prices increase, the number of Wheatfield, NY homeowners whose homes register negative equity will steadily decrease. An improving economy will also mean that foreclosure rates continue to decline.

Predictions for the Year Ahead

According to Zillow’s national Home Value Forecast, homeowners can expect residential real estate prices to rise 4.8% across the nation through December 2014. Economists also expects that inventory—the number of homes offered for sale—will increase as more sellers are encouraged by higher prices and new home construction ramps up.
All in all, it’s easy to see why overall expectations are for this to be a solid year for residential home price increases—even taking into account expectations for rises in interest rates and housing inventory. Exactly when is, of course, something that’s impossible to predict. While this year isn’t expected to duplicate the spectacular gains of the past two years, all indications are that it will wind up being another good year for homeowners in Wheatfield, NY.
In case the forecasts have you wondering what your home is now worth, why not contact us today to discuss your own home’s prospects in this spring’s active market?

When Your Lewiston, NY Home Inspection Becomes Priority #1

Congrats! Your offer has been accepted and you are officially in escrow. Now what? Usually the first order of business is to arrange your Lewiston, NY home inspection. When you were house hunting, you were weighing so many factors it was next to impossible to thoroughly examination of every nook and corner of every one of the serious contenders…in fact, it wasn’t necessary. But now that you’re moving forward to a purchase, you want to do more than kick the tires. It’s time to get under the hood!

Here is a taste of just some of the areas you and your inspector will be examining during your Lewiston, NY home inspection:

Plumbing

You will be taking a close look at the tiles around the handles on the bath tub or shower. If they are a different color, it could indicate a plumbing problem. A look under the kitchen sink for stains beneath the pipes can also indicate leaks—something you’ll want to know more about from the seller.

Mold

HGTV’s home inspector Rick Yerger lists water as enemy #1. “Of the many homes I have inspected,” he says, “water damage to the structure has been the most damaging and costly, causing foundation problems, rot and the dreaded mold.” He recommends close examination of exterior grade for sloping (or draining) back toward the home; stucco issues where they’re applicable, and roofing materials.

Inspect the Yard

If there is a yard on the property, take the time to do a thorough walkover. Look at the condition of the shrubs, grass and flowers. Check the irrigation, the lighting. You should also look closely at the fencing and gating: they can be expensive to repair.

Electricity

Exposed wires can result in a house fire or other devastating damage. Open splice wire (where wire is conjoined using only electrical tape and/or wire connectors) is a common do-it-yourself mistake often seen in attics, garages, and crawlspaces. Any issues found with the wiring should be corrected ASAP.

These are only a few of the many areas your Lewiston, NY home inspection will cover, so when you are scheduling the day, don’t make other appointments that might rush the process. Of course you hope that everything will be found to be flawless, and if only minor problems are uncovered, the seller may simply volunteer to correct them. But if the home inspection reveals that a significant amount of work will have to be done to bring it up to an acceptable standard, you and your agent will probably be submitting additional terms reflecting the requirements. As always, if you’re looking for that agent—the one you will want by your side throughout the entire home-buying process—We hope you’ll give us the call!

Lewiston Rental Property Gains Make Selling Tempting

It’s one of the skills a successful Lewiston rental property investor needs to cultivate: if or when to sell. With property prices on the rise, some Lewiston landlords may in fact be asking themselves whether now is the time to cash in. Especially for most everyone whose rental property investment was made during the last few years, it’s already been a profitable gambit. According to the Case Schiller Index, by last year’s close, property prices across the nation had risen at the fastest rate in the previous nine years.

But if—and then when—to sell a Lewiston rental property can be a tough call. As a relatively illiquid investment, it takes a great deal more commitment than the decision to sell a stock or cash in a bond. But sometimes there are circumstances that can make the decision a little easier. For instance:

-Cash flow

One clear reason why you might choose to sell is if the rental property is losing money. The rental may have been vacant for too long, or the rent level may not have been sufficient to cover expenses. In many cases, other real estate investors will be willing to lose money in the short term on a property they believe will appreciate in the future. It’s also possible that a full-time rental property professional may be able to tap economies of scale that are not possible for every individual investor.

-Greener pastures

Your Lewiston rental property may be doing fine—making money and showing substantial value growth—but now an unusually promising alternative investment has appeared. With the strong spring market, it may make sense to sell now to reinvest the profits elsewhere.

-Taxes

Everyone’s tax situation is different, and the tax environment is subject to change. Even if that weren’t the case, there are some years when personal finances mean that a sale would be a much better idea than others. As with any substantial financial decision, your accountant or other financial adviser will have the relevant input.

-“Landlorditis”

Being a landlord is not for everyone. Sometimes a professional property manager can alleviate nearly all the stress for an investor who doesn’t relish the vocation, but even then, there can be other chores: bookkeeping, manager management, a leak-through of tenant personality issues…that prompt a landlord to decide he or she would rather direct energy elsewhere. Opting for more passive forms of investment is always a possibility.

Lewiston has already benefited from some of the fruits of the national real estate recovery – but that alone doesn’t answer whether this spring is an opportune time for you to consider selling your Lewiston rental property. Call us today for a comprehensive property evaluation—the key piece of information that will help you decide!

 

Keeping Youngstown Real Estate Sales on Track

The slick, entertaining formats of HGTV’s many buying and selling programs makes for great entertainment – but, as anyone who has ever actually bought or sold a house knows, they tend to leave some key information on the cutting room floor. Sure, real estate sales in Youngstown can in fact involve elements of creativity, presentation, personality, all of which make for interesting television viewing. But in real reality, successful real estate sales are largely based on contracts, disclosures, inspections, contingencies, and time. They may be less telegenic, but can be dramatic, especially when you’ve done everything in your power to make sure that a deal works out smoothly, only to be faced with last minute surprises that threaten to prevent you from closing (or cost you a bundle!).

 

Here are some of the major issues that can impede Youngstown real estate sales—and how to prevent them from happening:

 

  • Not Weighing the Comps

When you are in the process of making a major decision, it’s natural to seek the opinions of the people who are closest to you. When it comes to real estate sales, however, personal opinions from well-intentioned non-professionals can create distractions that wind up doing more harm than good. In the realm of contracts and negotiations, it’s important to give weight to the opinions of experienced real estate pros. They know how to provide unbiased guidance based on comps and statistics rather than emotion.

  • Verbal Agreements

Whether you are selling or buying, it’s essential to get any agreements about repairs or updates in writing. Parties will often discuss repairs or credits and assume that a verbal agreement will suffice. Not true. Not only can a repair come back to haunt you later, but certain repairs left uncompleted can delay the close of escrow.

  • Last Minute Changes

Whether it’s taking out a loan on a new car or holding one final goodbye party at the house, last minute actions by buyers and sellers have an uncanny ability to hold up a deal. When you are in contract for a property, keep your eye on the prize: if you’re the seller, don’t do anything that increases the risk of damage to the house. If you’re the buyer, don’t make sudden changes in your financial life until you are the legal owner of that property.

 

Buying and selling property is more intricate than a 30-minute TV show, but the end of the episode should feature the same broad smiles and satisfied handshakes—particularly if you don’t let an innocent move derail the purchase. Real estate sales in Youngstown, NY are our business; call us anytime or visit Great Lakes Real Estate!

 

Private Mortgage Insurance in Niagara Falls Bridges Risk Gap

Many of Niagara Falls’ would-be first time home buyers are stopped short when they come up against the need to raise the initial deposit. But just because you don’t have a hefty down payment, it needn’t mean you can’t own your own home. You can still purchase a house with less than a 20% down payment if you are otherwise qualified—that is, if you take advantage of something called private mortgage insurance (“PMI”).

The reason there is a market for private mortgage insurance in Niagara Falls is because lenders face an increased risk when they issue a loan with a low down payment. The simple fact is that the less money a home buyer invests in a property, the greater the possibility that he or she will choose to simply walk away. Someone with 5% equity in a home has a lot less invested than had they plunked down 20%—so if anything goes wrong, it’s proportionately easier for them to just hand the keys to the bank. Mortgage insurance covers the lender in such a default.

The cost of private mortgage insurance in Niagara Falls comes in the form of monthly premiums in an amount set by the PMI issuer. The amount charged depends upon the loan-to-value ratio of the property, factored in with the borrower’s credit score. The insurer guarantees the difference between a 20% down payment and the amount put down by the borrower. For instance, if the borrower puts a 15% deposit on a $200,000 home, but then defaults, the PMI provider would cover the lender for $10,000—the difference between a standard 20% down payment (here that would have been $40,000) and the amount actually made as a down payment ($30,000).

The obligation to continue making PMI policy payments ends once the principal balance on the mortgage falls below 78%, since the borrower’s stake in the property will have risen to 22%—a touch above the 20% threshold. Borrowers can reach this benchmark early by choosing pay extra on their home’s principal balance or by making improvements that result in raising the value of the property: another way to improve the LTV. That route requires a request for PMI cancellation and borrower’s payment for an updated property appraisal (the appraiser will be named by the insurer).

For prospective buyers who are otherwise fully qualified — but for one reason or another can’t supply a 20% down payment — private mortgage insurance makes homeownership possible. No matter what your financial profile, starting the pre-qualification process is your first step. Contact us to get the ball rolling this spring!

Lewiston Home for Sale or Not, Spring is Time for Simple Renovation

With spring in the air, you don’t have to have your Lewiston home for sale to catch the spring cleaning bug. Whether or not you’ve been cooped up inside for a longer-than-usual siege of the wintertime blues, as soon as the weather turns the corner, there seems to be a natural urge to open the windows and start freshening your place up.

Spring also brings the traditional hot selling season, and if you’re among those getting ready to list your own home for sale to take advantage of it, you’ll want to add extra attention to the traditional cleanup. Home for sale or not, you can channel some of your annual sprucing-up energy with one of these light renovation ideas. Each can add new zest to your living areas without breaking the bank:

  • If you want to liven up your kitchen or bathroom but don’t want to shell out for the full cost of replacing the cabinets or doors, consider what simply changing the hardware would do. Take a trip to the hardware department, pick out a sample knob or pull, then test what the change would look like. Sometimes this simple transformation adds a surprising degree of sparkle!
  • If your lighting fixtures are looking a bit dated and dingy, one simple fix is to buy new lampshades. Replacing a whole lamp is expensive and often unnecessary—and new shades can make a much more resounding impact, anyway. If you are planning to put your home for sale on the Lewiston market anytime soon, best opt for white or cream. Keeping the look bright yet neutral gives you a proven selling advantage.
  • In any room where years of wear and tear have created smudges that no amount of elbow grease can remove, think about painting with a change of color. It may be a bit more ambitious and costly, but whether you hire pros or do it yourself, the result can make you feel like you’re in a whole new home. As with the lampshade selection, resist the temptation to get overly exuberant and creative: choose neutral color combinations.
  • If new furniture is not yet called for (or beyond this year’s budget), consider calling in the pros for some upholstery cleaning; then adding new accent pillows. If your existing pillows are in good shape, sometimes just a few new pillow covers can freshen up a room’s whole look. Designers sometimes recommend picking just one bright color and keeping with it throughout the house.

You don’t have to be planning to list your home for sale in Lewiston to make 2014’s spring cleaning efforts a self-satisfying success. And if you’re planning to list, we have a host of other preparation tips…and a marketing plan designed to bring top results!

 

Foreclosures in Buffalo Still Available for Careful Buyers

Despite the winter’s chilling effect on all sorts of sales, February saw single family homes, condominiums and townhomes selling nationwide at a full 7% increase over a year earlier. The opposite is true of foreclosures—no surprise, since the health of the market means fewer serious borrower delinquencies, hence fewer foreclosures.

Even so, Buffalo foreclosures are still available, possibly because some of the fiercest competition may be tailing off. Real estate watcher RealtyTrac finds that the institutional investor buying spree appears to be losing steam—which could be very good news for individuals interested in purchasing foreclosures.

Typically, Buffalo foreclosures are listed on an as-is basis — and that means exactly what it says. Whatever is wrong with the property will remain unfixed. Unlike a traditional home sale where you can negotiate with the seller to fix problems or provide credits to counterbalance the expense to have them fixed, when you buy a foreclosed home as-is, that option isn’t available.

When you are up against time pressure to submit an offer, you do have other strategies. One is to hire a qualified home inspector to go over the property, then make your offer contingent on the results of the report. That allows you to know what you are getting into before you commit. If it turns out that the repairs needed are minor, you can choose to go forward with your purchase. If there are too many costly problems, or if there are an overabundance of unknowns, it might be in your best interest to pass. A contingency like this gives you the freedom to weigh your options carefully before you make your decision.

One other issue to keep in mind is the insurability factor. If you believe your offer represents good value even though the property has significant maintenance issues, remember that in most cases you will need to have a home insurance policy in place before you can close. Ask your insurance agent to check the property to determine whether it can be insured. If the first answer is no, you can still check with other companies—but keep in mind that in the world of foreclosures, this can become an insurmountable obstacle.

Buying foreclosures in Buffalo needn’t be overly risky when your approach includes careful evaluation of the target property. Buffalo foreclosures are still out there, and with care and patience, you should be able to find one that is right for you. Interested in discussing further? Contact us today!

 

Google’s Move into ‘Unloved’ Buffalo Homeowner Devices

Right at the start of the year, Google announced a surprising move. It said it was purchasing a home appliance maker most of us had never even heard of…for $3.2 billion in cash! It was a gambit that every Buffalo homeowner should note, because it signals where some very smart money is headed: right where we live!

Remember, Google isn’t just famous for its search engine; it’s also frequently in the news for its forays into any number of futuristic enterprises (those mysterious barges, for instance). The appliance maker that now has Google’s billions in its pocket is called Nest Labs, Inc. Nest makes smart devices that reinvent the traditional ones every Buffalo homeowner has to deal with, like thermostats and smoke detectors. “Unloved but important devices” was how the press announcement put it.

The unique feature of Nest’s products is that they collect “user behavior” data (i.e., homeowner actions) in order to provide a more tailored response. Google CEO Larry Page explained, “They’re already delivering amazing products you can buy right now–thermostats that save energy and smoke/CO alarms that can help keep your family safe.”

The move of Google into the realm of smarter homes is part of a broader trend. In the most recent American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey, there was a dramatic increase in the use of technology solutions in the home. The survey noted an increase in requests for entertainment, security and energy management systems. Energy management systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated as households are given the ability to manage their lighting and temperature over a wireless network. As electronic cars become more prevalent, electronic docking systems in the garage may also become commonplace.

How does this affect the average Buffalo homeowner? As the minimum price of these systems decline, automated homes will eventually become the norm. If today it costs around $2500 to automate your home, it’s all but inevitable that similar features will fall in price (and grow in sophistication). Then, when it comes to buying a Buffalo home or listing your own for sale, the amount of smart automation is bound to become a key selling point—trust Google!

The ability to operate and manage your house from a wireless devices such as your smartphone or laptop is already here…and Nest’s learning technology signals a future where our home and appliances are able to learn from our behavior and predict our needs. Keeping an eye on the future is a good idea for any Buffalo homeowner, especially when you’re thinking of replacing one of those “unloved but important” devices— and most especially when you’re contemplating listing your home anytime soon. If that’s in your future, why not give us a call? As Google is in the habit of demonstrating, it’s never too soon to prepare for the future!

 

Responses Quicken with Quality Listing Photos in Niagara and Erie County

In advertising, they call the photo that glamorizes a product its ‘hero shot.’ In the case of a real estate listing in Niagara or Erie County, the pictures that accompany the written description can all be hero shots, if enough care is taken.

In one Auburn University study (The Relationship between Property Price, Time-on-Market, and Photo Depictions in a Multiple Listing Service), it was found that adding a single photograph to a listing could lift the final sale price by as much as 3.9%. That’s not surprising, but what is noteworthy is that each additional listing photograph added several hundred dollars to the final selling price. In other words, it’s not just the curbside photo at the top of a Niagara or Erie County listing that should be given great care—it’s all of ‘em!

Aside from the usual advice to de-clutter, use light appealingly, etc., there are some less well known tips that can help maximize the eye-appeal of a listing in places like Lewiston, Amherst, Buffalo, Williamsville, etc.:

The Exterior

The exterior photograph is considered by most professional real estate photographers to be by far the most important shot. I’m not sure I agree. Of course, it sets the stage for everything else, and has to be attractive enough to rate a second look, but those second looks of the interior and garden can differentiate the listing from the crowd. A superior exterior can often be achieved by elevating point of view (IOW, shoot from a stepladder)…or sometimes by scheduling the shot in early morning or late afternoon light (to catch the most dramatic light).

Back Against the Wall!

For the majority of your listing interiors, you’ll want wide angle shots which emphasize spaciousness. Most work better when the photograph is taken from a doorway or corner with the widest lens (that’s the one with the lowest focal length number)—as long as it doesn’t overly distort the image.

Funhouse Effect

Always ensure that your camera is completely horizontal. Correct the ‘barrel effect’ on vertical lines to ensure that all of the walls appear straight. When you’re looking through a viewfinder or small digital screen, it’s all too easy to overlook the sides by concentrating on the center of the picture. That’s an amateur mistake (and slanted walls make a room look like a carnival funhouse!)

Flash Extra

Take at least one extra shot using the on-camera flash or strobe. True, often that will result in an unevenly lit alternative that you will discard…but now and then, the on-camera light will boost clarity and color that’s more pleasing than what natural light provides.

Great-looking listing shots in Niagara and Erie County make a significant difference in the degree of response a property draws. We always help our clients with the listing photographs—it’s one of many tools to ensure their listing gets the exposure and results it deserves!

Lewiston, Wheatfield, and Suburban Apartment Building Appeal Grows with Demo Shift

Lewiston real estate investors come from every kind of background, but all share a common trait: they like to think ahead. For that reason, investors eyeing Lewiston apartment building prospects may want to take a close look at what’s going on with the Millennial generation.

For those of us who are a bit uncertain about which group is considered “Generation Y” and which are “Millennials,” there’s a reason for that. Both terms refer to the same group—everyone born between 1977 and 2000. And whatever you call them, they are a very important demographic. According to some statistics, they are 80,000,000 strong! That makes them a larger demo than Baby Boomers, and 20% larger than those who come next: the Gen X’ers.

PWC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLC), the widely-respected financial and business advisers, have come up with some interesting generalizations about Gen Y that could affect the prospects for apartment owners and investors. According to their 2014 Trends Report, members of Generation Y are more likely to live in either a medium-sized or big city than previous generations. Generation Y’ers also plan to stay there for the foreseeable future—40% of Gen Y’ers say they want to be living there in five years. This compared with only 23% of generation X’ers and 14% of Baby Boomers.

Some other profile characteristics fall in line. Generation Y’ers are the least car-friendly of any demographic. Two years ago, CNN reported that there had been a 30% drop in the share of new car purchases by 18 – 34-year-olds. When asked about the community features they thought most important, 82% thought living within walking distance of work and school was highly important; and Gen Y’ers are also more likely than other generations to walk or use public transit.

Generation Y’ers are also significantly more likely to be on the move over the next five years. Approximately 63% fell into that category, compared with to 42% of the overall adult population. A full 38% plan to move into an apartment, duplex, row house or townhouse.

For suburban Niagara County apartment building investors seeking rental income, there is more reason to be interested. According to a study produced by the non-profit Urban Land Institute, the majority of Gen Y’ers do not intend to purchase over the coming decade. That sounds like a reassuring note on the demand side.

Real estate website Trulia had a final piece of the puzzle, this one due to the slowly-building economic recovery. Their 2014 housing predictions report forecasts that apartments will be the first stop for young adults who are finally able to move out of their parents’ home.

All in all, investment housing in Niagara County is already hot this spring and only going to get hotter! This includes purchasing and renting out a home, we are experiencing very low supply and very high demand. Interested in learning more? Call us today!

 

Piggyback Loans in the Niagara Region Stage a Comeback

It’s another after-effect of the rise in housing prices: piggyback loans in Lewiston, NY and the rest of the Niagara region are making a comeback. According to a recent American Bankers Associations Report, the number of piggyback loans originated across the nation more than doubled within the past year.

 

A piggyback loan involves taking out two mortgages simultaneously, with a home equity loan (aka “second mortgage”) ‘piggybacking’ on a first mortgage. In Niagara and Erie County home purchases, piggyback loans typically come into play when the buyer is unable to provide a full 20% deposit. Normally this would necessitate the buyer having to take out private mortgage insurance (PMI), which can be pricey. By going with the piggyback loan alternative, the Loan to Value (LTV) ratio can be reduced to less than 80%, the threshold below which PMI requirements vanish.

 

A standard piggy back loan is structured as a “80-10-10”—meaning that 80% of the purchase price comes from the first mortgage, the next 10% from the second loan, and the final 10%, the deposit.

 

One major downside to piggybacking is cost. The interest rates charged on piggyback loans are significantly higher than those for first mortgages, so it may prove less expensive to pay for PMI for a short period of time. This is more likely in a rising market, since the Loan to Value can shrink below 80% before long. Another problem can crop up when it comes time to refinance. In order to refinance, the second mortgage lender has to agree to remain in a subordinate position. This agreement (known as re-subordination) may, in some cases, be hard to reach. Lastly, homeowners with a piggyback loan are unlikely to be able to take out a third loan should they want to access their home equity. Nowadays, thirds are rarely granted.

 

Between 2000 and 2006, it made a lot of sense to take out a piggyback loan. The interest on piggyback loans was tax-deductible, while mortgage insurance premiums were not. When property prices were rising as sharply as they were between 2000 and 2006, lenders also considered piggyback loans a good bet because the growth provided ample equity ‘cushion.’ But when real estate prices dropped in 2007, piggyback loans fell out of favor. By 2010, the percentage of piggyback loans fell to just 1.7%.

 

Today, with house prices on the rise, lenders are again growing more comfortable granting  piggyback loans in this area—but with a bit more caution. Lenders usually ask for a FICO score of at least 700 and a debt-to-income ratio that’s below 43%. Increasingly, they want to see that a borrower has cash reserves in case of unforeseen circumstances.

 

If you are considering a piggyback loan in Niagara County or Erie County this spring, you will want to run the numbers to see if it’s the solution that makes the most sense. In some circumstances, it can be the best way to get into a home you can afford even though you can’t furnish a full 20% deposit. Call us today to discuss how today’s market meshes with your needs!

Staging Approaches to Boost any Lewiston Home Sale

 With spring already upon us, we stand at the threshold of Lewiston’s first major selling season of 2014. If you are preparing to add your own property to the Lewiston home listings, the International Association of Home Staging Professionals would like to draw your attention to some statistics that bolster their members’ proposition. None is more compelling than this one: non-staged homes remain 79 days longer on market than their professionally-staged neighbors. Continue reading

What’s Hot in Lewiston, NY Luxury Homes Luxury Homes for Sale Tips for Buyers

Luxury Homes for Sale in Lewiston
When it comes to Lewiston Luxury Homes, Charlie Chaplin always managed to mix a good measure of insight in with the silent movie knee-slappers. It was “The Little Clown” who once said, “The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury.” One way or another, we Americans have come up with a singularly surefire way to overcome that problem: we just constantly redefine what comprises “luxury”!

luxury home in lewiston

Luxurious hillside home overlooking Niagara River

 
Luxurious hillside home overlooking Niagara River

Continue reading

Buying a Lewiston NY House: Is Buying New the Best Choice?

When it comes to buying a house in Lewiston, almost the first thing most of us do is to check the online listings to see what’s out there that catches our eye. That quick first look will usually reflect some preferences most of us don’t even bother to think about (that is, until we’re buying a house). Continue reading

Latest Lewiston Home Design Ideas Focus on Kitchen Updates

Keeping your Lewiston kitchen looking up-to-date doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Contemporary home design in Lewiston is all about knowing what the latest trends are and which to choose when regular maintenance calls for a change in appliances or décor. Continue reading

For the Self-Employed, Getting a Loan Takes Planning

You don’t have to tell anyone who is self-employed that there are extra costs that go with the benefits. In addition to the long hours and weight of responsibility that come with the job description, getting a home loan has always added special challenges. Now that we are into the new Dodd-Frank era of federal oversight, some of the changes warrant an early heads-up. Continue reading

Get Started

Get an education about the buying and selling process right here.  We have several articles to help buyers and sellers as they traverse the complicated process of buying or selling a home.  Everything from getting prequalified by a bank to purchase a home right up to getting the keys!

Loads of information for home owners thinking of selling their home.  How to figure out what your home is worth to knowing what you should do to prepare your home for sale.  The Western New York real estate market is ever changing.  From Buffalo to Lewiston and Youngstown we have some of the best real estate values in the country.

First Time Home Buyer

If you are a first-time home buyer in Lewiston, NY, or Western New York it is easy to get overwhelmed by the process. However, if you have an idea of what to expect it can make the process much more enjoyable. Let’s face it, this is one of the most exciting things a person will do in his or her life. So, don’t be overwhelmed by the number of items listed or their complexity. Continue reading

What is Pre-Qualification?

One questions many buyers ask is “how much can I afford”?  In the real estate industry this is referred to as “pre-qualifying” a buyer. You might think this is a complex process but in reality    it is actually quite simple and only involves a little math. Continue reading

Does Your Home Have “Curb Appeal”?

First impressions do make a difference when selling  your home. Often times, before making the call to schedule an appointment, a homebuyer will drive by your home to determine               if they may be further interested. If the house presents a good impression, then you receive the phone call for an appointment.  Many homes are eliminated from a potential homebuyer’s list    because they do not give a good first impression. Continue reading

Setting the Sale Price

The single most important task involved in selling your house on your own (or with an agent for that matter) is to set the sale price correctly!  There is nothing more exciting for a seller than to have multiple offers on their property. And, by having multiple offers you can actually end up selling your house for more than your original asking price when bidders fight for your home. Continue reading

What is a HUD Home

Question 1:What is a “HUD Home”?

Answer: When someone with a HUD insured mortgage can’t meet the payments, the lender forecloses on the home; HUD pays the lender what is owed; and HUD takes ownership of the home. Then the home is appraised and a real estate broker is hired to sell it at market value as quickly as possible. Continue reading