Wednesday, May 16, 2012

5 Strategies for Adding Value to Your Property

Whether you are looking to sell your home as soon as possible or want to ensure you get the most bang for your buck once you do decide to sell, increasing the value of your home doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many things you can do without breaking the bank.
Here are some strategies that can help you add value to your Myrtle Beach property without breaking the bank:

1. Maximize Curb Appeal

A property that delivers a great first impression can positively change the way a potential buyer will approach the rest of the home. Great curb appeal also has the potential to add as much as 5 to 10% to the value. Aged siding, stained driveways and walkways, and unattractive or unkept front yards all detract from the overall experience and ultimate value of a home. Be sure to focus on the following areas:Curb appeal
  • Landscape. Trim and manicure the lawn and spruce up your landscape with plants and other greenery.
  • Siding and wall exterior. Old siding and cracked bricks can cause a home to appear tired and distressed, which will lower the property value.
  • Repair and repaint. Consider repainting your front door and repair any small cracks, rusted railings or other areas that may have been neglected over time. A new paint job can turn an older home into a fresh newer-looking one and greatly increase the curb appeal.
  • Don’t forget the Mailbox. If your mailbox is rusty and dusty, use some extra house trim paint to give it a lift.

2. Paint and Touch Up

Painting is one of the least expensive ways to add value to your home. Marks and scratches can easily be covered up and removed from the walls completely with just a little touching up. In most cases, a fresh coat of paint will reenergize your home and go a long way towards impressing potential buyers.
If you are painting an entire room or multiple rooms, consider researching the do’s and dont’s of choosing a paint color. The right color will complement an entire room, but just remember to stay away from colors that are too bright if you selling any time soon.

3. Update Your Kitchen

To most families, the kitchen is the heart of the home. An outdated kitchen with old appliances, aged countertops, and a general tired feel will hurt your home’s value. There are some things you can do to give an updated look and feel to this important space, without having to spend large amounts of money. Here are some things you can do to spruce up the kitchen:
  • Add color with a fresh coat of paint.
  • Install molding for some architectural interest.
  • Update old or out-of-style lighting. A bright and modern fixture gives an instant facelift.
  • Replace the faucet and sink.
  • Replace the cupboard and drawer pulls.
Ideally you might consider new countertops, but they can get pricey, depending on the materials used. Granite is always popular with buyers, but you may consider granite tile instead, for an updated and modern look but at a more affordable price.
Update bathrooms

4. Update the Bathroom

Bathrooms are equally important to prospective buyers if you are planning to sell. New fixtures and lighting also add a great deal of value in this space. Adding a fresh coat of paint and a new shower curtain are other ideas to making this room look fresh and clean.

5. Install New Windows

While they can be a bit more expensive than repainting your walls or updating your kitchen, installing new windows not only contributes to reducing energy costs but also demonstrates to new buyers that the current homeowner has kept up with the necessary updates and repairs of the home. Updating your windows can have significant, positive effects on your energy bills, but they also provide your home with a stylish update that is attractive to potential buyers. If possible, you may also want to consider adding shades or blinds, which can add value as well as increase the overall appeal to buyers.
Whether you are selling or staying for awhile, even inexpensive updates can make a big impact to the value of your home.

Inside This Week’s Market News for the Week of May 15th

Out of a reported 146 metro cities surveyed, the National Association of Realtors announced that home prices have risen in nearly 75 of them in Q1 of 2012. This is an improvement from the 29 cities that saw home price increases in Q4 of last year. Additionally, the National Association of Realtors has also reported that inventories for existing homes are down 41% since the peak in mid-2007.
The National Federation recently reported that the Small Business Optimism Index was up 2 points for the month of April – this is the highest level since February of 2011. The index is currently at 94.5 and while companies have added employees at a slower rate in April than in March, the economy is still showing improvements. Our economy is improving but remains fragile, pointing towards the improvement in Bonds.
Bonds and home loan rates continue to improve as Europe is experiencing continued uncertainty in politics and the financial sector.


Next week will see many economic reports that will touch on many aspects of the economy including consumer spending and inflation.
The Retail Sales will be released this Tuesday and will focus on the current state of consumer spending. The Consumer Price Index, also being released this Tuesday, will report the inflation at the consumer level.
Housing Starts as well as Building Permits data will be coming this Wednesday. The Weekly Initial Jobless Claims will be released this Thursday – last week’s numbers were the lowest in a month.
The important point to take away from the recent market news reports is that now continues to be an excellent time to purchase or refinance a home as home loan rates continue to remain near historic lows. If we can help answer any questions for you please contact us as we would be glad to help you.
Housing Starts as well as Building Permits data will be coming this Wednesday. The Weekly Initial Jobless Claims will be released this Thursday – last week’s numbers were the lowest in a month.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Deciding on a Down Payment Amount

Unless you are paying cash for your home outright, the amount of your down payment can figure heavily into the success of your home-buying process and your financial future. There are several strategies and approaches to making a down payment, each of which can be discussed with your realtor before you begin the home-buying process.

Less vs More

Making a Small Down Payment
The down payment you make on a home can range from as little as 3.5% (FHA loan) to as high as 20% of the sales price or greater. Naturally, putting down as little as possible will give you some breathing room for cash emergencies as well as additional funds to repair and improve your home. However, if you can afford putting 20% down on a house you escape the cost of private mortgage insurance (PMI) and avoid higher monthly mortgage payments.
The Benefits to a 20% or Greater Down Payment
Putting down 20% of the sales price is huge accomplishment for most home-buyers and is quite difficult, especially for those seeking to purchase their first home. A higher down payment will allow you to pay less interest over the life of the loan and avoid having to pay for private mortgage insurance, which can run anywhere from $45 to as high as $60 per $100,000 in purchase price.
Here are some of the advantages to making a down payment of at least 20% of the sales price of a home:
  • Less likely to default on the mortgage.
  • Reduces the size of your monthly mortgage payments.
  • May qualify for lower interest rate.
  • No need to acquire and pay for Private Mortgage Insurance. A lender will require PMI if your loan-to-value ratio is greater than 80% of the home value or purchase price, whichever is less. Your monthly PMIamount is affected by several factors, depending on the type of residence you are purchasing, your credit score, and several other determinants you can discuss with your realtor.
Your agent will be able to walk you through each step of the home-buying process and discuss the down payment amount you are comfortable making.

Five Musts Before You List Your Home

Deciding to list your home for sale is a momentous time. It means you will be moving on to a new stage of life, no matter if you’re moving up or sizing down. Take a moment to look over these tips for what every seller should do before they put their home on the market.

  • Organize Your Paperwork:Every homeowner should have a detailed list of all past repairs, updates, and upgrades they’ve made. This will help your agent know what should be mentioned on the MLS. Did you put on a new roof in 2010 or a install a new water heater in 2009? These are great selling features because they means less work in the future for the prospective buyer.Also included in this list should be any home warranty information. These warranties will most likely transfer with title of the home.

  • Get Ready to Declutter: Even before you’ve officially listed your home for sale you should start getting rid of things you don’t need. Starting now will mean a more thorough and less rushed job of clearing things out.Start with one closet and work your way through the entire home. Sort items to toss, keep, sell, and donate.

    Having a yard sale is a wonderful way of making a little extra pocket change while reducing the amount of things you’ll have in your home during showings and that you’ll need to pack up and move. It’s a win-win!

  • Chances are buyers will ask for this anyways come closing time. You’ll beat them to the punch and have a shiny, sparkling home to show for it.

  • Clean, Clean, and Clean Some More: Dirty homes are a real buyer turnoff. Now is a great time wash down walls, spruce up paint, and give your entire home a thorough cleaning. Do your carpets need refreshing? Consider renting a carpet shampoo machine or hiring a professional carpet cleaning company to come in and revamp your carpets.

  • Get an Inspection: Did you think inspections were only for buyers? Having a pre-sale inspection can mean identifying problem areas. Perhaps you’re unaware that your foundation needs repaired. This will severely affect your listing price. It’s best to be prepared and realistic in today’s market.

  • Make Repairs or Get Estimates: Your inspection will likely leave you with a list of repairs, large and small, that need made. Keep in mind that prospective buyers will also get an inspection of your home and will find these same issues. Head them off at the pass and do some fixing up. You may wish to go ahead with large repairs. If not, be sure to at least get estimates so you are fully prepared for negotiations (you’ll know what the real cost should be) or should you can provide the estimates for buyers.

  • Start Staging: Staging is like prepping your home for its first date. You want to have it clean and well-dressed. This means amping up curb appeal with neat landscaping, fresh paint, and flowers. It means rearranging furniture and removing clutter.Congratulations on deciding to list your home for sale. Be proactive about making a good first step by following these tried and true tips.
  • Understanding Appraisals

    It's a term homeowners and sellers hear all the time. What does "appraisal" really mean and how will it affect your ability to make a deal?

    As the market dips and continues to struggle across the nation, many sellers are finding themselves in an unhappy predicament. They have a buyer lined up and an offer on the table, but wait...... the buyer's financing has now fallen through. The asking price of the home has come in over the appraised value.

    This has led to a unnaturally high number of contract cancellations. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), "Twenty-one percent of NAR members in January reported delays in contracts, and 33 percent said contracts fell through.. The number of contract cancellations remains mostly unchanged from December. An increase in the past year of contract cancellations or delays has been blamed on more lenders declining mortgage applications from stricter underwriting standards and low appraisals coming in under the agreed upon contract price."

    Here are some things you need to know about appraisals:
    First, it's true that lenders usually won't write a mortgage for more than a home is "worth". This sets them up for a large financial burden should the prospective borrower default on their loan. They will, instead, write a mortgage for whichever price is less, be it the sale price or the appraised value. From a business standpoint it is logical. For a stalled and unpredictable housing market, it is downright frustrating.

    An appraisal is figured by your local tax office (appraiser's office). They calculate what the market value of your home is based on, the square footage and specifics of your home. Do you have a fireplace, hardwood floors, and four bedrooms? You'll pay more in taxes and have a higher appraised home than the same home with no fireplace and laminate floors.

    You generally receive a statement from the tax office each year showing you the appraised value of your home. If you feel this is in error be sure to contest it!

    It is much more likely in this market that homes are appraised for less than sellers are wanting to sell their home for. This is due partly to an ailing labor market that continues to drag home prices down.
    Appraisals are a tricky business. They are objective and are easily influenced by local market factors.

    Your local area's market conditions directly affect the appraised value of your home. If there are 10 houses on your street and 4 of them are in foreclosure, you're in for a shock when it comes to the current value of your home. These foreclosed homes could sell at a 15 to 20 percent discount over your home.
    According to the NAR, "Distressed sales, which tend to sell at steep discounts, continue to hamper home prices nationwide. Foreclosures and short sales accounted for 35 percent of all January home sales, which is up slightly from 32 percent in December."

    Buying a Home Won't Get Much Cheaper

    Buying a home may never get any cheaper than this. Several housing experts are predicting that this year will be the last chance for bargain hunters to cash in on the best deals of the weak housing market.

    With home prices down 34% nationally since 2006 and mortgage rates at historic lows, homes have never been more affordable -- but it won't stay this way for much longer.

    Stuart Hoffman, chief economist for PNC Financial Services, said he expects home prices to flatten out by the third quarter and start climbing by next year.

    A number of factors will help bolster the housing market, he said, including a decline in the number of foreclosures and continued job growth. In addition, homebuyers will have better access to mortgages as they get their finances in order and improve their credit scores.

    "This is a strong indicator that we will start seeing home price indexes, like the S&P/Case-Shiller, start to report home price increases this summer," he said.

    Prospective homebuyers who've been sitting on the fence shouldn't worry if they aren't quite ready to make the leap. Analysts are predicting that the initial price gains will be modest, at least, in most markets.

    Fannie Mae: Confidence in Economy and Home Values Increasing

    Both the expectation for home prices and the percentage of those who think the U.S. economy is on the right path reached record highs in Fannie Mae’s April 2012 National Housing Survey.
    Americans continue to expect home prices to go up, with the projection averaging 1.3 percent over the next 12 months, the highest value recorded.
    At 71 percent, a high percentage of Americans still say it is a good time to buy while the percentage who said it is a good time to sell was 15 percent, a 1 point increase from March.
    “Overall, consumer views of housing market conditions have become more supportive of home purchases, and sustained healthy hiring is required to help realize these improved expectations,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae chief economist.
    Duncan also mentioned the recent figures on employment in April, which showed a decline in job growth.
    “Friday’s report of a second consecutive setback in job creation supports the view that the housing recovery will remain uneven this year,” said Duncan.
    The expectation for average rental prices decreased slightly to 3.6 percent; in March, respondents expected rent to go up by 4.1 percent over the next 12 months.
    If respondents were to move, 32 percent said say they would rent while 64 percent said they would buy. The percentage of those who said they would rent increased 2 points and reached the highest level since November 2011.
    The percentage of Americans who believe the economy is on the right track rose to 37 percent, a 2 point increase from the previous month and the highest level in the survey’s two-year history. Still, an even greater 56 percent believe the economy is moving in the wrong direction.
    Also, 23 percent of Americans reported their household income is significantly higher than it was a year ago, while 36 percent said their household expenses are significantly higher since the same time period. Both categories rose 2 percentage points compared to March.
    The percentage of those who think their financial situation will decline was unchanged from the previous two months at 12 percent, the lowest value recorded in over a year.
    The Fannie Mae survey polled a nationally representative sample of 1,000 respondents aged 18 and older between April 4, 2011 and April 27, 2012.

    Friday, May 4, 2012

    3 Tips to Finding Your Myrtle Beach Dream Home

    Myrtle Beach offers beautiful beaches, endless things to do for entertainment, and a vibrant and diverse selection of homes that can fit your every need and want. Identifying and choosing a dream home can be difficult though, with so many different choices competing for your attention. It is important to identify what you want and need in a home before beginning your home buying process.

    Following are 3 tips to finding your Myrtle Beach Dream Home:

    1. Don’t jump on the first house or condo that becomes available.

    It’s easy to become overwhelmed when viewing a potential home, but it’s important to be as objective as possible and not let emotion rule your choice completely. That first rush of adrenaline the moment you step inside your potential new home can cause you to forget about the things you are looking for and want in a new home.
    When you fall in love with a property too early you are limiting yourself on finding a home that has the things that are important to you. Seeing additional properties will help you better judge what you like and dislike about each property, and help you narrow your focus to what is most important.

    2. Ask questions and satisfy your curiosity.

    Inspect everything – don’t be afraid to look in closets, under rugs, behind cabinets, and anywhere else you might normally pass by. Ask about the neighborhood and map out the route to work and school.
    If you leave a showing with questions left unanswered you are doing yourself a disservice. Don’t leave any nook or cranny left unexplored.

    3. Keep notes and take pictures and video.

    Taking video can be a great way to remember the visual aspects of a home in ways notes or a picture cannot accomplish. Digital photos and video also allow friends and family the chance to see the home and give you their advice and thoughts.
    Keep a written log of each property you view and write down as many details as possible. Any notes, video, or pictures you take can aid you in making objective observations about a property after the initial adrenaline rush and excitement has worn off.
    While home buying can be a stressful process, imagine the great reward when you finally find your dream home.

    Investment and Vacation Home Sales Surging

    According to The National Association of Realtors®, sales of investment and vacation homes jumped in 2011, with the combined market share rising to the highest level since 2005.
    Existing and new home sale transactions in 2011 show investment-home sales surged an extraordinary 64.5 percent to 1.23 million last year, from 749,000 in 2010. Vacation homes also rose 7 percent to 502,000 in 2011 from 469,000 in 2010. In Myrtle Beach, this trend does not appear to be short-lived as somewhat brisk sales continue during the first quarter of 2012.
    Vacation home sales accounted for 11 percent of all transactions last year, which was up from 10 percent in 2010, while the portion of investment sales jumped to 27 percent in 2011 from 17 percent in 2010.
    The National Association of Realtors Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun said real estate investors with cash are taking advantage of incredible market conditions the last few years. These conditions going into 2012 are still present with even the most recent economic news pointing towards mortgage interest rates remaining at or near record lows and ample inventory being available at bargain home prices. Yun even said, “Rising rental income easily beat cash sitting in banks as an added inducement. In addition 41 percent of investment buyers purchased more than one property.”
    Nearly half of investment buyers said they were likely to purchase another property within two years.
    Yun indicated the shift in investment buyer patterns in 2011 indicate the market, for the large part, is able to absorb foreclosures hitting the market. “Small-time investors are helping the market heal since REO (bank owned real estate) inventory is not lingering for an extended period. Any government program to sell REO inventory in bulk to large institutional companies should be limited to small geographic areas. Even where alternatives are needed, it’s best to rely on the expertise of local businesses, nonprofit organizations and government,” he said.
    All cash purchases have become more common in the investment and vacation home market the last several years: 49 percent of investment buyers paid cash in 2011, as did 42 percent of vacation home buyers. Half of all investment home purchases in 2011 were distressed homes, as were 39 percent of vacation homes.
    “Clearly we’re looking at investors with financial resources who see real estate as a good investment and who are not hesitant to use cash,” Yun said. For buyers who financed their purchase with a mortgage, typical down payments in the Myrtle Beach area were anywhere from a low of 10 percent and up to 35 percent for condotel type properties. The median down payment for both investment and vacation home buyers nationwide in 2011 was 27 percent.
    The median investment home price in the nation was $100,000 in 2011, up 6.4 percent from $94,000 in 2010, while the median vacation home price was $121,300, down 19.1 perent from $150,000 in 2010.
    Investment home buyers in 2011 had a median age of 50, earned $86,100 and purchased a property that was relatively close to their primary residence.
    82% of vacation-home buyers said the primary reason for buying was to use the property themselves for vacations, or as a family retreat.
    The typical vacation home buyer was 50 years old, had a median household income of $88,600 and purchased property that was a median distance of 305 miles from the primary residence. 35 percent of vacation homes were within 100 miles and 37 percent were more than 500 miles. Buyers said they planned to own their recreational property for at least 10 years on average.
    Lifestyle factors have been the primary motivation for vacation home purchasers, while the desire for rental income drives investment purchases. Vacation homes purchased last year were more likely to be in suburban locations.
    Eight-two percent of vacation-home buyers said the primary reason for buying was to use the property themselves for vacations, or as a family retreat. Thirty percent plan to use the property as a primary residence in the future, and only 22 percent plan to rent to others.
    Half of investment buyers said they purchased primarily to generate rental income, and 34 percent wanted to diversify their investment portfolio or realized a good investment opportunity.
    Sixteen percent of vacation buyers and 14 percent of investment buyers purchased the property for a family member, friend or relative to use. In many instances the home is intended for a son or daughter to use while attending school.
    Fort-two percent of vacation homes purchased last year were in the South, 30 percent in the West, 15 percent in the Northeast and 12 percent in the Midwest; one percent were located outside of the United States.
    Eight out of 10 second home buyers said it was a good time to buy. Nearly half of investment buyers said they were likely to purchase another property within two years, as did one-third of vacation home buyers.
    If you would like to take advantage of great mortgage rates, great prices, and ample inventory in the Myrtle Beach area, click the button below and we will connect with you to help you realize your opportunities for investment and vacation properties in Myrtle Beach.

    4 Tips to Making Your Home-Buying Process Easier

    Buying a home may be intimidating but finding yourdream home is well worth the effort. Here are 4 tips that can make your home-buying process a little easier:

    1. Know Your Expectations

    It’s important to have reasonable expectations about what you want in a home before you begin the home-buying process. Consider making a list and ranking essential and non-essential aspects of what you are looking for in a house or condo. Spending the time to decide what you must have and what you can live without in a new property will save you a lot of time down the line when you are looking at new properties.

    2. Become Familiar With The Area

    Your potential new neighborhood and the immediate area surrounding your home will contribute significantly towards how happy you can be living there. Take time to discover the neighborhood and area your prospective house is located in before you make an offer. Consider doing the following:
    • Chat with prospective neighbors and ask them how the like the area
    • Visit local businesses, parks, and other areas nearby
    • Search online and/or ask about the local schools
    Despite the abundant information available online, discovering the area for yourself can aid you in deciding if the area is right for you and your family.

    3. Get Pre-Approved

    Getting pre-approved before you begin searching for a new home allows you to know the true costs involved and search safely in your price bracket. Knowing your financial limits will allow you to focus your search and discover the ideal home for your family and one that is within your financial reach.

    4. Don’t Go It Alone

    Due to the complexity of a real estate transaction, it is vital to have a professional to assist you. Buying a house with the right agent can help you discover your dream home as well as avoid looking at properties that you weren’t going to consider anyway. The home-buying process can be overwhelming – an agent can help you navigate all the paperwork and help you narrow your search to homes that fit your wish list and budget, and save time and stress by focusing only on the homes that work for your family. Having some guidance through the home-buying process can help you avoid mistakes and find the right home for you.

    Home Mortgage Rates Remain Low

    After last week’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke noted the improving conditions in our economy, but acknowledged that the housing market continues to remain depressed as new home sales remain low for the month of March. New home sales fell 7.1% in March to 328k units on an annual rate, down from February’s 353k units on an annual rate.
    We also saw Bernanke report last week that inflation is higher in the short run due to higher energy costs, but prices are expected to remain moderate in the long run. While rising inflation could prevent home rates from remaining near record best levels, the upcoming Core Personal Consumption Expenditure (Core PCE) report (the Fed’s favorite measure of inflation) will shed light on current inflation levels.
    On this coming Monday we will see the Personal Income and Spending Data be released in addition to the much anticipated Core PCE report which will reveal the current inflation levels after Ben Bernanke’s comments last week suggested inflation levels will remain in check in the long-term.
    The Initial Weekly Jobless Claim report will be coming this Thursday and will be closely watched by investors due to the last few weeks of elevated Jobless Claims. An ongoing trend of weak economic news will cause money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping bonds and mortgage home loan rates to improve, while strong economic news normally has the reverse result.
    The important point to take away from the recent market news reports is that now continues to be an excellent time to purchase or refinance a home as home loan rates continue to remain near historic lows. If we can help answer any questions for you please contact us as we would be glad to help you.

    How do I make an offer?

    Making an offer on a home is one of the important steps to owning your dream home. While placing an offer isn’t complicated, rushing through the process could be the difference between acquiring your dream home or having to continue the search for a new one. It’s important to discuss your potential offer with your real estate agent and ensure that you understand each step.
    An offer consists of three basic parts:
    1. The property address and legal description.
    2. Consideration, which is the price you are willing to pay.
    3. The closing date.
    It’s easy to become overwhelmed when viewing and considering the purchase of a potential home, but it’s critical to be as objective as possible throughout the entire home-buying process to ensure you buy the home that is right for you.

    Getting the Most Out of Your Offer

    Generally, the offer will be proposed in a “Contract to Purchase” form or “Offer for Purchase” form. Whatever the case, there are a few issues you must address before completing the offer.
    1. Earnest Money
     Also known as a good faith deposit, earnest money represents a buyer’s seriousness and intent to purchase a property. Typically buyers offer as little as $1,000 in a slow market to as much as 10% of the sales price in a hot market.
    2. Contingencies
    While problems can sometimes arise during a buying process, contingencies allow you to back out of a contract for a specific reason. Here are a few examples of possible contingencies that you may want to consider including in your offer:
    • Sale of your current residence
    • Inspections satisfactory
    • Financing secured
    • Appraisal
    • Insurance
    3. Miscellaneous Requests
    You should consider listing any fixtures or additional items that you want to be sure are included with the purchase. These items can include window coverings, hot tubs or even appliances and furniture if you are interested in including it in the purchase price. It is best to be clear what will be staying with the property and what will be leaving with the seller, in order to avoid misunderstandings or surprises on either side.
    It’s important not to rush through the process of making an offer. If you have questions about the contract or property – don’t sign until your questions are answered. You want to be sure that you are presenting the best offer possible before going forward, and have the best chance of having your offer accepted. Your agent will be a valuable resource to answer your questions and to help make the home-buying process as smooth as possible.