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Mortgage Rates and Housing Prices Expected to Rise in 2014

by Melissa Dierks

3 February, 2014

Mortgage Rates RiseEven though 30-year fixed rates dropped in the first half of January, many analysts expect fixed mortgage rates to go up somewhat in 2014, but to top out at around 5%. What this means for buyers is that while higher than 2013′s historic lows, the rates will remain favorable and predictable for homebuyers.

What is less predictable is the potential rise in home prices. In fact, a Fannie Mae survey shows that more than 90% of the nation’s consumers believe that home prices are likely to rise and that potential buyers should start looking sooner rather than later. Nationwide, home values rose as much as 10 to 20% last year and many consumers expect at least another 3 percent rise in the coming months. One factor driving home prices up is the lack of available inventory. Many homeowners have placed their homes on the market, but according to the Fannie Mae survey, at least 33 % are under the impression that this climate is great for placing their homes on the market. If inventory rises, prices may remain stable for awhile, giving buyers the opportunity to solidify their financial situation, set a budget, gather their down payment, double check their credit report and get preapproval for a loan.

Another potential driver of home prices is the cost of materials for new homes and remodels. The aftermath of disasters such as Superstorm Sandy and various wild fires has pushed the price of lumber up more than 5 percent overall last year. Labor cost increases due to changes in many state minimum wage laws and immigration rules, as well as rising insurance costs affect materials costs too. For sellers, this means placing your home on the market now has to potential to get it sold faster, and at a moderate price increase. As interest rates go up, however, prices will correspondingly come down to adjust to buyers’ debt-to-income ratio. To set the appropriate price on your home, work closely with your professional real estate agent.

Your neighborhood comparables and the “mood” of the housing market in your area, along with the input from your agent will help you determine the best price for your situation. Remember, the mood of the market includes more than the national reports tell you. Your market is made up of a combination of the local jobs report, home inventory, interest rates, local school popularity, which neighborhoods or home styles are trending, and the community’s perceived desirability of your address. Your professional agent stays abreast of this information and works with your to set the right price for your home.

Curb Appeal for Condo Sellers

by Melissa Dierks

23 January, 2014

shutterstock_88948273You know that curb appeal is important to buyers of single-family homes, but you are selling a condominium in a large building full of similar units. How do you make yours stand out? Here are a few tips for prompting that positive first impression that makes your home memorable:

  • Make sure the entry way is clean, clear and clutter free. Relocate bulky furniture that makes the entry seem smaller. Avoid coat racks and umbrella stands that jut out from the wall as well.
  • Consider placing a fresh potted plant inside the doorway to bring the outside in. Make sure the plant is healthy and in an attractive pot, does not block the walkway and does not shed or drop leaves.
  • If you have a mail slot and your home is likely to be shown after delivery, make sure to place a basket under the mail slot.
  • Make sure the insides of your windows are clean. If your HOA is responsible for the outside windows, request that they be cleaned before showing your home or having an open house.
  • If you live in a bug prone area, be sure to have your condominium treated for pests—and make sure you sweep up any dead bugs.
  • Make sure the hallway or walkway to your unit is clean. If you need, to, sweep it yourself. Make sure to pick up any junk mail or papers cluttering the outside.
  • When your home is likely to be shown, turn on the lights and have soft music playing. This may raise your utility bill slightly, but will give a warm greeting to visiting homebuyers.
  • As with any home, make sure the countertops and floors and clean and personal effects are out of sight. Consider placing a bowl of fruit or bouquet of flowers on the table to add some color and interest.
  • If you have pets, consider boarding them while your home is being shown, or ask a neighbor to collect them before the potential buyer shows up.

Most of all, call your real estate agent to learn what features to play up (or down) in your unit to place it in the best light.

Will a Bath Remodel Increase My Home’s Value?

by Melissa Dierks

21 January, 2014

Bathroom RemodelSpring is just around the corner and the lure of a new home has you thinking about putting yours on the market. Your neighbor added a new bathroom last year and you’re wondering if you should upgrade yours before you sell. Logically, a new bathroom should increase the value of your home, right?

From 2006 through 2012, the return on a bathroom remodel investment averaged around 62%, according to the cost vs. value report prepared by Remodeling magazine while a bathroom addition garnered only 51%. Beginning in 2013, however, those numbers began trending up, so a bathroom remodel in 2014 is hovering near 72% and an addition is at 60% ROI. Even so, you will be spending more money than you can expect in return. That being said, there are great reasons to go ahead with a remodel, and your professional real estate agent can help you decide if it is a good investment for you.

One reason is that if several similar homes are on the market in your neighborhood, an upgraded bath may help yours sell more quickly. After all, when comparing side by side, who doesn’t want a clean, fresh bath? Busy buyers looking to move in quickly won’t want to do the upgrade themselves. Another reason to consider updating your bath is to attract a different type of buyer. Flippers, investors and DIY-homeowners will want the bones of the house to be in great shape, but will probably offer a lower price because they plan to make upgrades and changes themselves. Qualified buyers that want move-in ready conditions will appreciate not having to worry about upgrading, remodeling or renovating.

If you and your professional real estate agent determine that a bath upgrade will improve your sale, be sure to do it right. Do not attempt a DIY project you’ve never done before just to save a few bucks. Poorly installed flooring may cost you a sale. Remember, some changes do have more appeal than others. For instance, if you only have one bath, consider putting in a double sink. Couples, families and even roommates appreciate multiple sinks when trying to get out the door in the morning. Even a small bath can accommodate a double sink with the right choice. A new eco-friendly toilet is a nice touch too. Simple changes and give your bath a fresh look without a lot of expense. Consider fresh paint, a new rain-style showerhead, new classy but neutral shower curtain, updated faucets, or a new toilet. Don’t skimp on lighting. According to Alicia Garceau at HGTV, a bathroom remodel should include task lighting for applying makeup or shaving, ambient lighting—that bounces off walls—to soften shadows, accent lighting to give depth and dimension, and decorative lighting to add luxury or play up an architectural feature.

Contact us and we’ll help you determine your home’s value and how to prepare it to sell.

Favorite Features from 3 Dream Homes

by Melissa Dierks

17 January, 2014

shutterstock_151508750Thanks to those visually stunning video tours, the HGTV Dream Homes have become top-of-mind for buyers looking for the latest and greatest in home design. Each year’s home showcases innovation in concept, layout, building materials and design.

Here are three of our favorite features found in the 2014 Dream Home as well as the two Dream Homes that preceded it.

2014 HGTV Dream Home in Truckee, California

The main living area of the 2014 Dream Home calls to mind the rustic cabins that first sprang up around Lake Tahoe decades ago. But this mountain home has three of the home’s most popular rooms connected in one A-frame structure set just off the main foyer.

  • The dining area is at the front and is surrounded by tall glass windows and topped off with exposed beams.
  • A galley-style kitchen flows out from the dining area and features an enormous kitchen island large enough to seat five people along with plenty of work space for a home chef.
  • Nestled behind the kitchen is a living room that blends industrial design sensibilities with warm, rustic touches perfect for the home’s natural settings. Featuring large, steel frames, the floor-to-ceiling windows flood the room with natural light.

2013 HGTV Dream Home on Kiawah Island, south of Charleston, South Carolina

With its island setting and views of the marshland, the Dream Home on Kiawah Island would not have been complete without these three features:

  • A large deck with an illuminated “plunge pool” gives people the perfect spot to cool off on hot summer days and a beautiful water feature to admire in the evenings, with the water casting ripples of light throughout the living area.
  • The playroom features plenty of space for table tennis and room to lounge and watch TV, but the twin beds suspended by chains are the stand-out feature of this room. They’re designed to sway gently, as if you’re being rocked to sleep by island breezes.
  • The multi-functional garage is actually under the house and features a slated wall system that’s perfect for hanging bikes, kayaks and beach equipment. The garage also has a humidity-controlled closet for golf bags and fishing equipment. While garages are typically dingy, this one shines with a cement floor sealed with a protective marine coating which gives it a clean, high-gloss finish.

2012 HGTV Dream Home in Park City, Utah

Located in a spot popular with winter sports enthusiasts, the following three features of this Dream Home made it perfect for its setting and function.

  • As the first room home owners use as they enter, the mudroom has plenty of lighting, hooks, storage space and an easy clean-up tile floor. Its location near the laundry room and the hallway that connects to the family room makes it a perfect entry spot for people coming home from a day on the slopes.
  • The master bathroom sparkles with accent walls covered floor to ceiling in iridescent glass mosaic tile in warm brown and neutral colors, a rich contrast to the crisp white soaking tub. The glass-enclosed shower is designed to have an outdoor shower feel and has a hand shower hose that retracts into the wall when it’s not being used.
  • The master bedroom has its own sitting room and cozy balcony, with large pocket doors separating the bedroom area from the sitting room and front balcony.

If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration for your next home or remodeling project, click here to see photos, videos and tours of the current and past HGTV Dream Homes.

Design Trends in New Homes

by Melissa Dierks

14 January, 2014

Pubsub New ConstructionWhen the housing market rebounded, so did home builders eager to show off their design skills. Buyers expect that newly constructed homes will be safer and more energy efficient, but they’re also looking for homes that meet the needs of the more modern buyer. Here’s a round-up of some of the most popular design trends seen in today’s newest homes.

Kitchen islands look more like continents.
Maybe it’s the Food Network’s influence or maybe builders have finally realized that people ALWAYS end up hanging out in the kitchen. Either way, kitchens are now being designed to accommodate the crowds they always seem to attract. Kitchen islands with plenty of seating allow people to sit and watch the home chef in action, and they let the host and hostess interact while feeding family and friends. With lots of incorporated storage and attention to design details, the extra-large kitchen island is becoming the focal point and showpiece of the modern kitchen.

Foyers that earn their keep.
Home buyers don’t want to walk in the front door and straight into a living room setting. So foyers that give a sense of entry are making a strong comeback in modern construction. But today’s foyers aren’t just a short hallway. Builders are adding built-in benches, alcoves, book nooks or high-end places to hang your things up as you enter.

Extended uses for extended families.
As the Baby Boomers age, the number of multi-generational households continues to rise. Buyers are requesting more homes with two master suites – often with one upstairs and one downstairs, which better suites elderly parents living in the home. Also, small “shadow” homes are being built alongside the main house to give aging parents a more independent living situation that’s still only steps away the family.

Productivity in pocket offices.
While the popularity of a large, formal home office may have faded over time, people still want hard-working spaces where they can do the work required to run a household. These small “pocket offices” are being located off of high-traffic areas like the kitchen and great room, where parents can still be in the middle of the action but have a separate, dedicated space for paying bills, signing papers and checking email.

Connection is key.
When people started saying “There’s an app for that,” it was only a matter of time before that app frenzy worked its way into new homes. With everything from smart thermostats to smart garage door openers, home buyers want more control over their environments by using the one thing we hardly ever leave home without – the smartphone. Soon there won’t be any more worries over whether or not you left the door unlocked or the garage door open because a touch of a button on your smartphone screen will assure you that all is well. Look for complete home automation systems to take a big step forward in newly constructed homes.

Sneaky storage spaces.
Square footage has to work harder in today’s home and every inch counts. Builders are sneaking those highly-coveted storage spaces into places that were once overlooked. Cabinets under staircases, drawers inside stair risers and storage space under window seats are all creative uses of space that would otherwise be wasted.

Look for design trends like these to meet the demands of today’s bigger, busier, more well-connected family.

Pinterest for Home Buyers and Sellers

by Melissa Dierks

10 January, 2014

Pinterest LogoPinterest for Home Buyers

Some people are great at articulating exactly what they want in their next home. But some of us know what we want yet find it tough to explain that vision to someone else. It usually comes out something like this: “I’ll know it when I see it.” But seeing tons of listings can be frustrating and can waste your time unnecessarily. Enter Pinterest – the social network that lets you collect all those dream house mental pictures that are often hard to put into words.

Pinterest has become a favorite online hang-out for home buyers and those who plan to build or remodel a home. After all, knowing what you want is half the battle in finding or creating it. With a few simple searches, Pinterest users are exposed to thousands of photos they can use as inspiration in their house hunt. High-end and creative home features are one of the most heavily populated areas of Pinterest so there’s no shortage of ideas to sift through. Some users have created virtual “pin boards” for each room of their dream house and yard, making it easier to organize ideas and find them later. Do a simple search for “bathroom” in the search bar and you’ll find everything from rustic cabin outhouses to over-the-top luxury master suites.

If you’re having a tough time explaining your vision to your agent, consider sharing your Pinterest photos with him or her. Seeing what you like best can guide your agent’s selections for which listings are most likely to interest you. Of course, no one can make every Pinterest dream come true in one house, but it’s a good way to get on the same page and narrow down the choices of which houses to see and which ones to skip. Pinterest photos can also guide your decisions when looking for a house with “good bones” that can be remodeled into your dream house.

Pinterest for Home Sellers

For sellers, Pinterest can be a great way to get insight on what potential buyers are hoping to find during their house hunt. If the same type of living room photo keeps cropping up on Pinterest, you can bet it’s representative of a style that’s trending right now. Consider using that photo as a guide for how you might update, rearrange or stage your own living room to reflect the current trend. Pay special attention to wall colors, room layout, window treatments and floor coverings. Appeal to visual thinkers by making your home’s online photos as “pin-worthy” as possible.

Cleaning and organization are also huge areas of interest for Pinterest users, and the tips found in these “pins” can help as you prepare to put your house on the market. Clutter and half-hearted cleaning attempts can thwart a deal with potential buyers. Use the tips collected on hundreds of Pinterest boards to find new ideas for eliminating cluttered areas. You’ll also find innovative ways for simple household fixes like repairing nail holes, cleaning baseboards and dusting window blinds – all things that discerning home buyers will notice.

Whether you’re buying, selling, building, remodeling or just plain “nesting,” Pinterest might become your favorite online tool for finding inspiration, advice and friends who share your vision.

Tips for Home Buyers

by Melissa Dierks

9 January, 2014

Tips for Home BuyersFinding a new home can be one of the most exciting times of your life. It’s a little like dating – the pursuit, the “getting to know you” period, the proposal (aka “offer”), and the marriage (aka “closing”). If you don’t want your relationship with a new house to crash and burn, you need to know a few things before you fall in love.

 1. Know thy numbers.

You’d be surprised at how many home buyers start their new home pursuit without really knowing what they can and can’t afford. Avoid being disappointed later by getting preapproved for a mortgage before you even get started. And be sure you know the difference between being “prequalified” and “preapproved.” You can be preapproved only after a lender has reviewed all your financial information and has told you how much the bank is willing to lend to you. Being pre-approved will let sellers know you’re a serious buyer, and it will also prevent you from falling in love with a home that is financially “out of your league.”

2. Love the neighborhood, not just the house.

It’s easy to get caught up in how perfect a house is and forget that the house is only part of a bigger picture. It won’t matter how awesome the master bathroom is if you discover that the neighborhood just isn’t a good fit for you. Spend as much time researching the neighborhood as you do checking into all the nooks and crannies of the house. Regardless of whether or not you have kids, ask questions about the neighborhood’s school district since that will impact the home’s resale value. And be sure to drive through the neighborhood at various times of day to make sure you’re not missing any “deal breaker” factors.

3. Beware the lure of the lowball offer.

Even though buying a home is a financial decision that involves legal contracts, that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of emotion. If you’re tempted to make a lowball offer on a home just to see what happens, be aware that some sellers will be so offended that they won’t entertain future offers from you. It may be a business deal, but this is still their home – and that’s personal. Make an offer based on the selling price of other homes in the same neighborhood and then determine what the average price per square foot is for that area. Also, make your offer number an odd number instead of a round one. For example, an offer of $352,500 sounds like you put some thought into it based on real calculations, whereas an offer of $350,000 sounds more like a shot in the dark.

4. Get a home inspector’s “blessing.”

Some churches require engaged couples to go through a few premarital counseling sessions before they can be married in the church. Similarly, you’d be wise to seek the counsel of a qualified home inspector before you make things official with a new home. If the house has hidden baggage, a good home inspector will find it, which gives you the opportunity to decide if it’s something you’re willing to deal with or not.

By following a few simple guidelines and leading with your head instead of your heart, your destiny with a new home is much more likely to end with “happily ever after.”

Tips for Home Sellers

by Melissa Dierks

20 December, 2013

shutterstock_50097079Sometimes selling a home can feel like a big job – one with a thousand small tasks required to get it done. But many sellers make the job harder by ignoring or avoiding some of the biggest factors that contribute to a faster sale. Use this list to see if your house is truly ready for that “sold” sign.

1) Price is paramount.

With the housing market climbing out of its slump, many sellers are banking on higher sale prices. Just make sure you don’t reach too far when pricing your home, and rely on a good agent to help you find the “sweet spot” for your listing. Go too high and you’ll risk slowing down buyer traffic. And once your home has sat on the market for a long time, buyers automatically become suspicious. Even though your home might look great, buyers will notice the listing’s “time on the market” and naturally wonder “What’s wrong with it?”

2) Tour your home like a buyer.

Thousands of sellers make the mistake of looking around their home with the eyes of someone who knows it well and loves it dearly. But buyers won’t see it that way. So walk through your home as if you’re seeing it for the first time, taking note of everything that might give you pause as a skittish buyer. Never assume that a potential buyer will be able to overlook what you perceive as small flaws in the house.

Stage your home with the help of a professional stager (or a friend who’s great at interior design and organization) to create positive word-of-mouth with Realtors. While you’re staging the house, put away all or most of your family photos and other trinkets that make it “yours.” Your goal is to make it look like a model home so buyers can envision themselves living there. Don’t wait until an Open House is scheduled for your property to do repairs, staging and de-personalizing. Do it before your house ever gets listed online. As Realtor.com President Error Samuelson said, “Web appeal is the new curb appeal.” According to a study done by Trulia.com, homes with six photos posted online are twice as likely to be viewed by buyers as homes with fewer than six.

3) Let them in!

Nothing is more frustrating for an agent than a seller who doesn’t want to let potential buyers in to see it. Yes, last-minute requests for showings are a hassle. Yes, it’s a real pain to keep the house clean all the time. Yes, it’s tough to do showings when you have babies or toddlers at home. But the homes that sell fastest are the ones people are able to see quickly and easily. If you have lots of requirements for showings or long wait times, agents are likely to skip your house and go on to the next.

4) Be social.

We live in an increasingly social world, so take advantage of connections by inviting your neighbors to tour your house. It’ll encourage them to spread the word to friends who may be looking for a house in the area. And ask your Facebook friends to help out by sharing a great photo of the house you’ve posted on their timelines. Some sellers even create video “love letters” to their homes and post them on YouTube to endear the home to potential buyers.

With the right price, the right look, accessibility and social connections, you’re well on your way to the “sold” sign you’re working toward.

How Smart is the Kitchen in Your Home?

by Melissa Dierks

17 December, 2013

shutterstock_137492999Home buyers walk into a house with lots of questions. How much square footage does it have? How many bathrooms are there? Does the backyard have a fence? But soon they may be adding a new question to that list: How smart is the kitchen?

With the spike in smartphone popularity, people have higher expectations for all the machines in their lives, including kitchen appliances. While our kitchens might not look like something from the Jetsons cartoons anytime soon, appliances are getting smarter each year. For example, a Siemens refrigerator (currently in the concept stage) may one day eliminate the need to call home and ask, “Do we need milk?” The new model comes equipped with Wi-Fi and multiple cameras mounted inside it which will allow people to use a smartphone app to visually scan their refrigerator shelves, even while they’re standing in the dairy aisle at a grocery store across town.

New appliances are also smart enough to save a few bucks. Whirlpool has developed a new line of appliances called 6th Sense Live, and they’re designed to run when energy prices are lowest. Using a Wi-Fi connection, a dishwasher could start its own cycle at whatever point in the day it determines that energy prices are lowest. (It does this by using a constantly updated database of real-time energy prices.) Appliances that break down have been a source of frustration and unexpected expense for homeowners, but today’s new smart appliances may have a solution even when things go wrong. LG has developed appliances with remote diagnostic services. It’s called “Smart Diagnosis,” and it works by allowing the broken appliance to “talk” to a smartphone app by playing a certain sound. The app can “decode” the tone it hears and give the owner instructions on what to do next. If the repair is simple, the app might send a text message to let the owner know it’s time for a new water filter for the fridge. For more complex issues, the app will automatically request a service call.

Kitchens aren’t the only room of the house where “smart” reigns supreme. Laundry rooms are also being revolutionized by the technological wave. GE has a dryer that automatically gets messages from the washer about the load it will soon receive. By customizing the cycle, clothes aren’t as likely to overdry. For now, the bells and whistles of smart appliances are still a novelty. Customers aren’t rushing into big box stores demanding appliances that can talk to the outside world via Wi-Fi. But most manufacturers are preparing for the trend. Samsung and LG, both based in South Korea, are on the leading edge of smart appliances. Samsung is best known for its high-tech refrigerators that feature a touch-screen. Wolf and Sub-Zero both have a few appliance models capable of communicating with smartphones. But some manufacturers, like Bosch, are holding Sense Live, and they’re designed to run when energy off until the appliance industry institutes a standard way for all smart appliances to communicate.

Last year, sales of smart appliances were only about $613 million, a low number according to a Pike Research report. But executives like Bob Baird, vice president of merchandising for Home Depot, was quoted in a report on Reviewed.com saying that, in time, more and more customers will request these types of machines, adding “It’s going to happen.”

Unwrap Relaxation at Your Home This Season

by Melissa Dierks

11 December, 2013

host a party at your homePlanning an adult only holiday party in your home can be a wonderful way to de-stress this holiday season. We all know that this time of year is full of joy, but also filled with crowded malls, whiny children, and overspending. Taking a few hours to socialize with adult friends can be a great way to find balance this time of year. Be sure to plan for an afternoon or early evening gathering complete with invitations specifying that this is an adult only party. An event such as this can be super simple, no need for games or activities.

Plan An Adult Only Party in Your Home

Adult conversation with a little food, wine and a brightly lit fireplace could be the best medicine during the holidays. Think about having some light finger foods and have guests bring their own beverage to your home. To add a little festive cheer, have each guest bring a gift valued at $10.00 or under. When a person arrives, they can place the gift under the tree and take a different gift and open it just before they leave. Also consider providing a goodie bag for your guests. Perhaps a holiday survival kit complete with a sample bottle of whiskey, aspirin, or chocolate will help get your friends through the stress. Inviting your adult friends into your home to unwind could be one of the best gifts you give yourself this holiday season, too.

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Melissa Dierks
Keller Williams Professional Partners
7025 W Bell Road, Suite 10
Glendale AZ 85308
Direct: (623)229-0154
Office: (623)643-1092
Fax: (623)201-7562

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