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Archive for May, 2013

5 Super Spring Decorating Ideas To Spruce Up Your Home

5 Spring Decorating Ideas To Spruce Up Your HomeWith spring just around the corner, now is a good time to begin decorating your home for the upcoming season.

Whether you enjoy chic decorations that are budget-friendly or easy changes to create a fresh look, below are five quick ideas to brighten up your home for the season.

Add a Pop of Color

Spring is a good time to add color to your décor. Switch your tablecloth in the dining room for one with lighter colors.

Cover decorative pillows with pastel pillowcases to lighten a room.

Adding decorative centerpieces to tables that contain a pop of spring colors is also a simple way to get your home ready for spring.

Find A Spring Wreath

Wreaths are usually hung during the Christmas holiday, but other seasonal wreaths are becoming a popular trend.

You can purchase a floral wreath to hang on your front door or get creative and make a spring wreath using flowers, plastic eggs, fabric or a variety of other materials.

Place Flowers Around The House

Flowers are perfect to use when decorating for spring. Place lilies or tulips in a colored vase to sit on the table or hang floral prints on a bare wall to add color.

Whether using fresh flowers or floral inspired pieces, nothing says spring like brightly colored blooms.

Hang Up Mirrors

Putting up mirrors around your house will help brighten your home by reflecting light into every corner. Don’t be afraid to add more than one to a room, and choose looking glasses with fun frames to light up your space — and your mood.

Remember, Less Is More

Spring is also a time when people clean out their houses and de-clutter. Spring is thought of as the season of fresh starts or new beginnings.

When decorating for spring, get rid of items you no longer need. Too many nick-knacks end up being dusty objects that constantly need cleaning.

Decorating your home for spring should not be expensive or time consuming. Making a few simple changes and adding bright colors will give your place a fresh feel and make it ready for spring.

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Case-Shiller Reports Energetic Annual Home Price Gains Nationally

Case-Shiller Reports Energetic Annual Home Price Gains NationallyThe most recent S&P/Case-Shiller Index showed all three composites posting double-digit increases over the last four quarters.  The national composite, which is the broadest based index, showed an increase of 10.2% annually. The 20-City composite posted even stronger annual growth at 10.9%.

Click Here To Download The Full Report

The Case-Shiller Index measures changes in home prices by tracking same-home sales using 10-City, 20-City and national housing markets; and the change in sales price from sale-to-sale. Detached, single-family residences are used in the Case-Shiller Index methodology and data is for closed purchase transactions only.

12 Of 20 Metro Markets Notch Double-Digit Annual Growth

Between March 2012 and March 2013, home values rose in all 20 Case-Shiller Index markets. Phoenix, Arizona (+22.5%) once again was leading the national price recovery, quite possibly due to its precipitous fall during the onset of the housing crisis.

Another notable gainer was San Francisco (+22.2%), followed by Las Vegas, Nevada (+20.6%)  On the weaker end were Boston (+6.7%), Cleveland (+4.8%) and New York (+2.6%), but it is important to note that even these smaller numbers still represent significant gains across the board.

There were a total of 12 year-over-year double digit gainers in home value which included those mentioned above as well as Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Portland, San Diego, Seattle and Tampa.

All 20 Metro Markets Show Positive Growth For 3 Consecutive Months

In another very strong supporting point for the housing recovery, all 20 metro markets measured showed positive home price growth for at least 3 consecutive months.  This consistency in growth contributes to an overall indication of strength in the housing sector rebound.

The only potential back-pedaling in the report came from noting that higher than normal multi-family housing numbers, large numbers of homes still in the foreclosure process, and significant investor activity may demonstrate that the housing recovery is not yet complete.

This latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices report seems to indicate that the housing market continues to show positive growth.  

Now may very likely be the best time to move forward with your next real estate transaction.  A positive next step is to call your local, trusted mortgage professional for advice today. 

Simple Ideas To Create An Outdoor Living Space For Your Home

Create an Outdoor Living Space for Your HomeAs the weather gets warmer, the desire to get outside and enjoy the fresh air begins to take hold. Having a place to entertain or just unwind can add a new dimension and enjoyment to your home.

First, you have to decide what type of space you want to create. Whether you want to have an outdoor living room, a vacation-like spot or a place to meditate and enjoy nature, how you extend your living space is limited only by your imagination — and possibly your budget.

Start with your vision and make a list of the things you want to have there. Then go for it!

Choose a Theme

  • Vacation spot – Decorate with bright colors for a festive, tropical look.
  • Zen garden – Add a water feature, such as a fountain, for a calming effect.
  • Nature hideaway – Surround a patio or porch with plants and trees to bring nature closer to your home.

Find Elements to Enhance Your Space

  • Furniture – If your outdoor zone isn’t completely under cover, then make sure to choose all-weather furniture. Comfortable seating is key, so add pillows or cushions for extra luxury.
  • Lighting – String lighting throughout the trees, under umbrellas or around fencing to create atmosphere. It also helps to make sure you can see where you’re going once the sun goes down.
  • Outdoor kitchen – Bring the food with you! Keep it simple with a BBQ grill or add other elements like a refrigerator, sink and food prep area. And, don’t forget the beverages!
  • Fireplace – Extend your outdoor evenings into the fall by adding a fireplace for friends and family to gather around.
  • Borders – Define the borders of the area to increase privacy and separate the space from the rest of the yard or neighbors.

Your home is an extension of your personality. Creating an outdoor oasis can give you an opportunity to find your inner child, Zen master, or beach bum!

Make it as simple or elaborate as you desire, and open it up to friends, or keep it all to yourself. Follow these simple tips and create a wonderfully relaxing place right at your home for the summer.

Existing Home Sales Numbers Highest Since 2009

Existing Home Sales Numbers Highest Since 2009The National Association of REALTORS reported that sales of existing homes in April reached 4.97 million on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis.

Although this reading fell short of Wall Street’s expectations of 5.00 million existing homes sold, it surpassed the March 2013 upwardly revised reading of 4.94 million existing home sales. This represents a 0.60 percent increase from March to April, and a 9.70 increase year-over-year.

Low Mortgage Rates Contribute To High Sales Levels 

Low mortgage rates and pent-up demand for homes are driving sales of existing homes, which reached their highest level since November 2009. 

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS, indicated that housing market momentum is overcoming obstacles: “The robust housing market recovery is occurring in spite of tight access to credit and limited inventory. Without these frictions, existing home sales would be well above the five million unit pace.”

Inventories of homes for sale are gradually increasing; at the end of April, the total inventory of existing homes had increased by 11.9 percent to 2.16 million existing homes for sale. This represents a 5.20 month supply of available homes in April as compared to a 4.7 month supply of homes in March 2013. Listed inventory is 13.60 percent below April 2012, when there was a 6.60 month supply of homes available.

Average Home Sales Prices Up 14 Months In A Row

The national average price for all housing types was $192,800, and increase of 11.0 percent over April 2012. This represents the fourteenth consecutive month of rising average home prices; the last time this occurred was between April 2005 and May 2006.

Homes sold through foreclosure or short sales fell by three percent to 18 percent of existing homes sold in April.  Of these sales, 11.0 percent were foreclosure sales and 7.0 percent were short sales. Foreclosure sales averaged 16.0 percent below market value and short sales averaged 14.0 percent below market value.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, provided more positive news for U.S. housing markets as of March 2013. Average home prices for homes mortgaged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac increased by 7.20 percent year-over-year, and were up by 1.20 percent from February 2013. FHFA also reported that home prices had risen by 6.70 percent in the first quarter of 2013 as compared to the same period in 2012.

New Home Sales Show Rising Trend As Well

In related news, the Department of Commerce reports that New Home Sales are up by 2.30 percent from March to 454,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis.  This handily exceeds Wall Street’s consensus of 430,000 new homes sold in April, and is also higher than March’s reading of 444,000 new homes sold.

Buyers are turning to new homes due to pent-up demand in housing markets caused by low inventories of existing homes and low mortgage rates. It’s also likely that with home prices rising, would-be buyers are acting on indications that record low rates and home prices are expected to increase.

Rising home prices suggest that as demand increases, mortgage rates may not be far behind. Buyers in the  market today can still gain the advantage of historically low mortgage rates.

How To Throw A Memorial Day Weekend Party To Remember

Preparing For Memorial Day 2013Memorial Day weekend is widely regarded as the beginning of summer and many people kick off their summer plans on the weekend coming up.

We take this time to remember the brave men and women who have given their lives to protect and defend our liberty and freedom. But even while giving thanks for their sacrifice, we also celebrate the beginning of our summer with fun and (hopefully) sun!

As many people are more budget-conscious these days, holiday travel out of town may not be the best option for everyone. There are so many ways to enjoy the first long weekend of the summer, and since it is one of the busiest travel times of the year, maybe you should just plan to stay at your home this Memorial Day.

Not only do you get to skip packing suitcases and spending hours in the car, you’ll also save some money!

Below are six ideas to keep your kids smiling and get the whole family involved.

  • Plan the Menu – Memorial Day means picnics, and there are all kinds of fun and colorful dishes you can make to celebrate.
  • Make Decorations – Red, white and blue are the colors of the day. Get creative with centerpieces, balloons and table settings to make your home a festive holiday venue.
  • Invite Friends and Relatives – The more the merrier, right? And you can always ask your guests to bring a snack or covered dish to share.
  • Have a Plan B – How many times have you known it to rain on Memorial Day? Have a back-up plan in case Mother Nature makes you retreat inside.
  • Have Indoor and Outdoor Games – If the weather cooperates, water games, such as balloons or a slip-n-slide are perfect, but have some board games or crafts ready to go in case you find yourself running for cover. Don’t forget to have some games for the adults too!
  • Remember the Meaning of Memorial Day – The history behind the holiday is sometimes lost along the way. Make sure the kids realize why this holiday exists — to honor the people who fought to give us the freedom to celebrate.

So get out your address book or cell phone contact list and start calling your friends and relatives who have decided to forego the holiday traffic. With a little organization, you’ll be ready to throw a Memorial Day bash that no one will soon forget.

Fed Meeting Minutes Expose Rising Interest Rate Risk

Fed Meeting Minutes Expose Rising Interest Rate RiskMinutes of the April/May Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) recently released may have a significant impact on mortgage rates going forward.  One significant development from the meeting suggests that the present quantitative easing (QE)  program may be modified in the near future. 

The current QE program involves the Fed purchasing $85 billion per month in mortgage backed securities (MBS) and Treasury bonds. The Fed’s goal with QE is keeping long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates, low.

Considerations mentioned in favor of slowing the current QE program include concerns over “buoyant” financial markets as evidence of a developing economic “bubble”. FOMC members in favor of continuing the current easing program cited fears of economic deflation resulting from cutbacks in QE.

Fed Chief Calls Current Bond Buying Program “Overheated”

In related news, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, in testimony before Congress, characterized the current QE program as “overheating the economy,” but he also stated that slowing economic growth is a worse alternative than continuing the current QE program. Chairman Bernanke noted that QE is supporting financial markets and the economy and indicated that it is not time to reduce the Fed’s support.

Diverse opinions within the FOMC added to the impasse over QE, as one member advocated for immediate tapering of the QE program, while another proposed expanding QE purchases.

The FOMC noted a number of challenges including the national unemployment rate of 7.60 percent at the end of March, that private sector hiring plans were “subdued,” and that jobless claims had trended up during the inter-meeting period.  Among numerous economic positive statistics cited, the Fed noted that consumer spending improved and was driven by higher automotive sales and a drop in fuel prices.

The FOMC minutes reflect that some members had concerns about the ability of consumer spending to hold without notable improvement in hiring and business investment. Businesses contacts of FOMC members were reluctant to plan additional hiring and investing in their businesses based on reports of decreased manufacturing and lower international demand for products.

Good News Revealed About Low Future Inflation Expectations

The Fed predicted modest inflation over the medium term, and expected inflation to remain subdued until 2015. The Fed will maintain its benchmarks for adjusting the Federal Funds Rate and QE based on the national unemployment rate reaching 6.50 percent and the inflation rate reaching 2.00 percent.

The FOMC characterized the improving housing market as responsible for economic improvements for related businesses, but also acknowledged that increasing demand for housing was being caused by low inventories of available homes rather than buyer enthusiasm alone.

Improving home prices and easier consumer credit terms were viewed as contributing to improvement in overall economic conditions. These factors increase household cash flow and provide consumers with more discretionary income for spending.

While the FOMC members did not agree on how or if to revise their current QE policy, it seems likely that the next meeting will bring increased scrutiny of QE and its impact on current economic conditions.

Simple Tips To Help Your Flowerbeds Flourish This Spring

Simple Tips To Help Your Flowers Flourish This SpringFlowerbeds can be a very attractive addition to any home — if you have the time to set up and maintain them. Flowerbeds don’t necessarily require a profusion of costly flowers that need to be fertilized, mulched, covered during severe weather, and possibly re-planted on a yearly basis.

So put on your green thumb and brave the outdoors this spring. With the tips below, you’ll keep your flowerbeds filled and your house looking cheery without a huge money or time commitment.

Weed Eradication

Before you even start picking out roses and tulips, take care of the weeds. Gardens get weeds because there are already pesky roots hiding below the surface.

Dig up the soil and weeds before you plant. It will save you hours of maintenance in the long run and keep your flowers healthy.

Perennial Wildflowers

Wildflower mixes native to your area are often a good choice if you want an array of flowers, but don’t have the time or the motivation to take care of them.

These flowers can grow back easily every year and are well adapted to the climate and soil conditions in your area. Native wildflowers may need little more than watering and the occasional weeding.

Decorative Rock

Filling the beds with attractive decorative rock provides maintenance-free curb appeal to your home. Several colors of decorative rock are available and can be chosen to off-set the color of your house.

Planters may also be placed amongst the rocks to add live plants to your flower beds, and those plants can easily be moved inside before the weather gets too cold for them.

Low-Growing Shrubs

For low-maintenance ground cover in your flowerbeds, plant low-growing shrubs, such as various strains of boxwood or juniper.

The main issue with this option is that the shrubs take a while to grow and fill in. But once established, the only maintenance required is the occasional trimming of overgrown branches.

Vacant flowerbeds detract from the overall look of your house and contribute to an air of neglect. Attractive fillers do not have to be either expensive or difficult to put into place.

If you’d like additional tips on how to spruce up the outside your home, please call your trusted real estate professional for the best advice!

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