TO FIX OR NOT TO FIX

That is the question when you’re getting ready to sell your home.  A rule of thumb is a house in good condition sells quicker than one that isn’t.

FIXING Low-cost, minor improvements that increase your homes appeal is always a good idea.  You want to make sure the house looks like it was well taken care of.  Patch nail holes and repaint, fix or replace damaged flooring, repair plumbing leaks, replace outdated light fixtures, clean out and reseal gutters and keep up with your yard and garden.

Beyond basic improvements you may want to ask yourself these questions to decide what to fix:

What’s the market like?  In a hot market you may not need to do much.  In a buyer’s market, you might have a long list of repairs and updates to make your house appealing and keep up with the competition.

How fast do you need to sell?  If you need to sell fast, you may have to do the improvements quickly to make your house move in ready.  If you have time to test the market, you can hold off on pricey repairs and see how your house does shown as is.  You always have the option of making repairs later if you are not getting the offers you’d like.

What is the condition of comparable home on the market?  If other homeowners have prepped their houses to move in condition.  You may have to do the same.

WHAT IS A ZOMBIE FORECLOSURE

Have you ever noticed how many television shows there are about zombies? Zombies in real estate? No, this isn’t the latest television show, with undead agents showing real estate.   What we are addressing are “zombie foreclosures.”

A “zombie foreclosure” is a term used to describe properties that have been vacated by their owners once the foreclosure process has commenced.   However, sometimes the foreclosure process is never completed. Essentially those who don’t realize they still own their homes are left responsible for mortgage debt, taxes and upkeep.

These vacated properties can become eyesores and drive down the property values. They also take a big chunk out of local government revenue in the form of unpaid taxes. It’s estimated that more than $400 million in property tax revenue is likely delinquent due to zombie foreclosures.

Zombie foreclosures are generally low-value properties that weren’t worth the banks’ time to foreclose on. Rather, some banks charge the houses off. Some banks walk away from foreclosures much the way some homeowners walked away from their mortgage when the housing market crashed.

There have been 10 million homes placed in foreclosure since 2006. This number, in more stable times would have taken 20 years to reach. Of those, 2 million never come out of foreclosure. Others have been caught up in what is known as the robo-signing scandal when banks spun out fraudulent documents to foreclose quickly. The rest are zombie foreclosures.

Florida has the highest number of zombie foreclosures followed by New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Ohio. Most of these states have seen an increase in new foreclosure activity over the past year, creating a more fertile breeding ground of zombie foreclosures.

Some states such as Florida and Illinois are trying to combat zombie foreclosures by weighing legislation that could help fast track foreclosures and move the abandoned properties through the system quickly. New York is another state considering legislation that would make lenders responsible for the upkeep of zombie foreclosures, allowing government officials to rehab properties or demolish them.

Technically banks and servicers aren’t required to communicate with borrowers about lien releases or charge-offs, however, an obscure provision of the Truth-in-Lending Act requires that servicers send statements each month to the borrowers who have liability for delinquent mortgage debt. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, that provision is pushing banks and servicers to release the borrower from liability of the debt.

The CFPB is looking very closely at abandoned properties and zombie foreclosures. They state there is direct borrower harm if a borrower believes their property has been foreclosed on and they are no longer responsible. After months, sometimes years later, they find out there was never a foreclosure and they have to pay thousands of dollars of mortgage debt, code violations, and municipal services.

The CFPB said it has ideas to help resolve the problem such as creating a national definition of “abandonment”, hastening the foreclosure process so vacant homes can more quickly be transferred to potential owners.

 

Like undead zombies, zombie foreclosures will be difficult to get rid of. The majority of these abandoned homes are encumbered by liens and in various stages of deterioration. Legislation will be needed to release the liens so titles can be transferred.

Patricia Cotter Englert joins the HKS team!

We are happy to have Patricia join the HKS team!  Just read a little bit about her and you will agree.

Patricia began her career in fashion sales and marketing in New York City.  There she was responsible for sales, marketing, advertising and product management for Gitano, MasterCard Worldwide and a custom tile manufacturer.  In these positions, she was responsible for selling, creating advertising concepts and developing product enhancements.  This experience laid the groundwork for her capacity to listen to the needs of clients and customers.   These activities helped develop her professional demeanor of patience and understanding.  I am only as good as my ability to uncover my client’s needs.

She arrived in New Hampshire from New York City in 1989.  She received her salesperson license in 1994 and her broker’s license in 1997.

Patricia is the past Chairperson for the Harrisville District Commission which is a land use board for those homeowners that reside within the district to ensure its’ integrity.  This position has allowed her to become familiar with homeowners concerns and desires and has gained understanding of home alterations and property maintenance.

She has served as President of the Contoocook Valley Board of Realtors 2006/2007 when she was named Realtor of the Year.  These positions have enabled her to be aware of local as well as national trends and legislature.

With 20 years of experience, she has developed close relationships with both buyers and sellers and enjoys a loyal following among them.

Patricia is tenacious and creative in her approach to the real estate transaction and she often supplies a fresh approach to negotiations.

Welcome her to our HKS team and give her a call for all your real estate needs.  603 352 6030

How Does Your Smart Phone Create Smart Homes?

Shutting off lights and electronics, locking doors and setting alarms is the norm for people getting ready for bed. Now smartphones and broadband internet, this process is now the press of a button creating Smart Homes.

Using a home automation system with a smartphone or tablet, you can control various features of your home, including lights, TVs, locks, security systems, and thermostats. With a Smart Homes you can:

*Receive an alert when a door is opened.

*Open the garage door for a package delivery.

*Turn on lights before coming home at night.

*Adjust the thermostat to make it comfortable when you get home.

*Insure the kids have locked up before leaving for school.

Not too long ago this would’ve seemed futuristic but it’s becoming more common. “Customers have come to expect access to information and data – be it banking, social, pictures, or work – on their phone” said Andrew Brooks of Washington DC based SmartThings. “The smartphone has essentially become the remote control to our everyday lives.”

The market for home and building “smart homes” is growing!  Which houses are “smart homes” in your neighborhood.

Why Enter the Housing Market ?

If you’ve been on the fence about buying or selling a home, now is the time.  The housing market has been steadily improving over the last few years, and although interest rates are creeping up, they’re still below historical levels.  While home values are increasing they’re still considered affordable.  So, why wait?

THREE REASONS TO BUY:

1)     LOW INTREST RATES:  Although some predicted that mortgage rates would skyrocket in 2013,

30 year fixed rate mortgages have stayed around 4.3% and 4.6% for the better part of the new year.  Experts predict the rates could increase to 6% but that rate is still considered affordable by historical standards.

 

2)     HOMES ARE AFFORDABLE:  Although 2013 saw home prices post the largest gains since 2006, they’re still considered affordable in most states.

 

3)      BENEFITS OF HOME OWNERSHIP:  Owning your own home comes with quite a few benefits, including mortgage interest tax deductions, the possibility of building wealth over time and the ability to have control over your own space.

 

THREE REASONS TO SELL:

1)      Your home may be more valuable:  National home values are expected to increase 5% year over year from June 2013 to June 2014, increasing to levels last seen in August 2004.

 

2)      Increased competition among buyers may mean that your home will sell for closer to its asking price:  Inventory is considered low in many areas and represents a 5.1 month supply at the current sales pace.

 

3)      Your family or life situation has changed:  Growing families may need more space than couples or families with grown children.  If your home no longer suits your needs, it may be time to sell it and buy one that does.

 

Quitclaim Deeds

What is a quitclaim deed?  It is the simplest way that one person (the grantor) can transfer property, such as a house, to another person (the grantee).  It is used mainly among family members to remove or change someone’s name from the property title.  While the concept is simple and straightforward – relinquishing all ownership claims to a particular property –  it’s also important to note what a quitclaim CAN’T do.

In renouncing the claim, the grantor makes no guarantee or promise that the property is free of debt.  Another important distinction is that the grantor makes no promise that no one else claims to own the property.

The quitclaim deed says, in effect, that the grantor is signing over whatever ownership he or she has on the property, but it doesn’t guarantee that the grantor has any ownership interest at all.

Providing all parties are in agreement, a quitclaim is a convenient way to establish title without time and expense of litigation.  A simple form is filled out, taken to a notary, signed and stamped, making it legally binding.  The document is then photocopied, distributed to all parties, and then filed at the registry of deeds.

Some title companies are reluctant to insure the title when a quitclaim deed was used to transfer the title.  They might recommend use of a warranty deed.  A warranty deed conveys full title to the property and warrants that title against defects (sometimes called a “cloud”) such as tax liens, unpaid debts, and legal judgments.  For this reason, warranty deeds are often used between buyers and sellers of property.

It’s Spring Let’s Decorate with Wicker

Its Spring let’s decorate with wicker!

For many years wicker furniture was mostly used for outside design. Today many homeowners are taking advantage of the natural beauty of wicker and incorporating it into their home décor inside.

When shopping for wicker furniture, make sure it is of good quality and solid construction, the tighter the weave, the stronger and more durable the piece is likely to be. Run your hand over it to make sure it is smooth as sharp ends will snag your clothing or scratch your skin.

When selecting a piece, if it doesn’t come with seat cushions, shop for some at the same time to ensure proper fit.

Wicker is easy to clean. Simply vacuum it with a brush attachment to remove dust. Do not use liquids on it as it can lead to mildew.

Most wicker furniture is less expensive than wooden pieces and can add a nice touch to any room. It is light, natural, and the intricate weaving patterns can offer a design statement of its own.

Economic Jargon in Real Estate

People always ask how the market is doing,  whether it’s a good time to sell or buy, or whether prices are going up or down.  These questions often have hard to understand answers filled with economic jargon.  The following definitions used by industry analysts may help. 

  • Price discountThis percentage is the difference between the seller’s initial asking price and the actual price paid for the home.  For example, if the price of the home was $200,000, but it sold for $190,000, the price discount was 5%.  Sometimes price discounts are reported as an average for a set of home sale transactions.  A higher price discount reflects a buyer’s market while a lower price discount indicates a seller’s market.
  • Median price.  This is the midpoint of home prices sold in a given area during a certain time period.  The midpoint is the point at which half the homes sold for lower prices, and half sold at higher prices.  Don’t confuse this for the average price.  The average is figured by totaling all the prices and dividing by the number of prices.  The median price can be influenced by price trends as well as characteristics and sizes of the homes sold.
  • Unsold inventory index.  This relates to the pace of the market.    It is calculated by the length of time needed for homes currently on the market to be sold at the current rate of sales.  A higher number is a good sign for buyers while sellers will want to see a lower index. Simply stated supply and demand. It also, known as the “Absorption  Rate”.

Mortgage Lock in

When seeking a mortgage or refinancing, it’s always wise to shop around for the best rate.  But do you understand how great an impact it can have on how much you ultimately pay for your home?

With research and preparation, you can save big if you get the right mortgage rate.  For example, on a 30 year mortgage for a $300,000 home, a homeowner would pay approximately $1520 a month with a 4.5 percent rate which includes principal and interest.  If the homeowner settled at a higher rate of 5.1 percent, it would increase the monthly mortgage payment to $1633, which is a difference of $40,680 over 30 years.  These figures were calculated on a 20 percent down payment and that’s a lot of money!

Once you’ve found the lowest rate and best terms, you want to settle on that rate as quickly as possible.  But sometimes, weeks can pass before your settlement and the rate may increase. 

To ensure you get the rate you initially agreed upon, talk to your lender about a lock in (also known as a rate lock).  A lock in is a promise from the lender to hold a specific interest rate and a certain number of points for a certain time period during the processing your loan application.

Before choosing a loan, find out whether your lender offers a lock in and at what point one is available.   For example, lock ins may be granted when you initially apply for the loan or not until your loan has been approved.

Get it in writing!  Be sure all the details, applicable fees, etc. are in writing in case there is a dispute.  Prepare questions for your lender about loan processing times and any expiration date of the lock in.  Also find out whether all or a portion of your fees will be returned to you if you decide to cancel the loan application.

Foreclosure Numbers Fall

                                          

 RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties, states that new foreclosure filings have reached its lowest level in eight years.   This is due to improving home prices and a decline in borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth.

According to Daren Blomquist, VP of RealtyTrac, “This is a strong indicator that the crisis is over.  The foreclosure flood waters have receded in most parts of the country, although lenders and communities continue to clean up damage left behind.”  The five hardest hit states are Nevada, Florida, Ohio, Delaware and Maryland.

As the real estate market continues to improve and consumer confidence grows, you may want to consider purchasing a new home.  Just because it is still cold outside this should not discourage you from purchasing. Most home owners who have their homes on the market at this time are serious about selling their homes.  You should also, have less competition when you do decide to make an offer.  Have you ever heard the phrase “the early bird catches the worm”?  Since, the foreclosure numbers are down start your search now.  Once the Foreclosure market is behind us the prices will rise. The spring market starts to heat up the beginning of March.  Be ahead of the others and take advantage of the wonderful low prices!  Remember, our knowledgeable staff of real estate professionals are here to answer your questions and help you with all your real estate needs.