The Spring Rains Are Coming – Here’s How to Prepare Your Home if You Live in a Flood Zone

The Spring Rains Are Coming - Here's How to Prepare Your Home if You Live in a Flood ZoneIf your home is located in a flood zone, it’s critical that you know how to get ready for those drenching spring rains. Here are some basic steps any homeowner can take to prepare for potentially devastating floods.

Community Emergency Plans

Your community has an emergency plan in case of flooding. There are warning signals to alert residents, evacuation routes mapped out and the locations of emergency shelters are given. Get in touch with your community government center if you haven’t already received copies of these preparedness plans.

Have a Family Plan

Floods can be devastating. In an emergency, it’s key that every family member knows what to do and where to go. Plan an evacuation route with your family and practice it. Be sure everyone has the name, address and phone number of a family contact who lives out of state in case anyone is separated during a flood event.

Be Proactive

Get ready to prevent disaster. Turn off all electrical power to the home as soon as there is any standing water or before you vacate it. Also turn off gas and water supplies if you evacuate. Hire an electrician to raise your electrical outlets, circuit breakers and other electrical component so they are at least a foot above the home’s flood elevation mark.

Emergency Supplies to Have on Hand

Being prepared in a flood zone means having emergency supplies available all the time, just in case. Stock your home with supplies that will last at least five full days. Have about five gallons of clean water per person on hand. Stock up on canned foods or other non-perishable food items. Be sure to have a non-electric can opener. Place aside some prescription medications or any other specific medical needs, in addition to a first aid kit. Have a battery-powered radio on hand and extra batteries. Also have a few flashlights at the ready. Sleeping bags or extra blankets are needed, as are personal hygiene supplies like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and towels.

Prepare Your Home Well in Advance

Finally, you’ll want to check on a regular basis that your sump pump is in working order and have a battery-powered back up available. Get a water alarm so you’ll know if water is pooling in your basement. Have your gutters and downspouts cleaned out at least twice a year.

Living in a flood zone means that you’ll need to be prepared, and there’s no better time than now to start getting ready.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 13, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week April 13 2015Last week’s economic news included the minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting, which indicated that the Fed’s monetary policymakers are eyeing a potential increase in the target federal funds rate, but don’t expect to do so immediately.

Members of the Federal Open Market Committee expressed concerns about lagging housing markets and noted that inflation has not yet achieved the Fed’s two percent goal. When the Fed decides to raise its target federal funds rate, which now stands at 0.00 to 0.25 percent, Interest rates and mortgage rates can be expected to rise as well.

Mortgage Rates Lower, Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported that mortgage fell last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.66 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage dropped by six basis points to 2.93 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was nine basis points lower at 2.83 percent. Discount points were unchanged across the board at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims rose to 281,000 against projections of 285,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 267,000 new claims. Analysts said that the Easter holiday week affected weekly jobless claims, and that the varied dates of the Easter holiday and spring break weeks for schools can impact weekly readings for new unemployment claims.

The four-week rolling average of jobless claims fell to its lowest reading since June 2000. The four-week rolling average is considered a more dependable source for identifying labor force trends, as it lacks the volatility associated with holidays and one-time events that can cause great variation in weekly readings for new jobless claims.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic reports include retail sales, retail sales not including the automotive sector, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report, which includes anecdotal reports of economic conditions reported to the Fed, and Housing Starts. The usual reports for weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey will be released Thursday.

On Friday, the University of Michigan will release its Consumer Sentiment report, which provides indications of how American consumers view current economic conditions. While general in scope, consumer sentiment can suggest how consumers view buying homes.

A lack of positive sentiment about the economy in general and jobs in particular suggests that fewer Americans may be ready to buy homes. Increasing positive sentiment indicates less concern about economic conditions and could point to more Americans entering the housing market as the peak home- buying season gets underway.

Improve Your Home’s Resale Value with Our Guide to Adding a Beautiful Wooden Fence to Your Yard

Improve Your Home's Resale Value with Our Guide to Adding a Beautiful Wooden Fence to Your Yard With many types of home improvements, at least a portion of the cost that you put into the improvement can be recouped from additional value when you sell the home.

While each project is different, some projects can have multiple benefits that impact property value and overall desirability with a new home buyer. Adding a beautiful wooden fence to your yard is a great way to boost resale value, and with a closer review, you may determine that you want to install a new privacy fence to your property soon.

Instilling Privacy Around Your Home

While there are different types of wood fences that you can install, a wood privacy fence is among the most common types. Many people enjoy relaxing in their backyards without nosy neighbors and passersby peering at them.

A privacy fence can reduce or eliminate visibility into your yard as well as into the back windows of your home, and this is a true benefit that will make your home more comfortable to live in and more appealing to a potential buyer.

Giving Kids And Pets A Safe Place To Play

While some people want to have a large, open backyard without a visibly defined border, many love the security and peace of mind that comes with having a wood fence around the backyard. In fact, this is almost a priority for home buyers who have kids and pets who may want to roam around in the backyard because it helps to keep them safe and secure when outdoors.

Improving Curb Appeal

A wood fence may commonly be placed around the perimeter of a backyard, it can typically be seen directly from the front of the home. It can be used to conceal certain features of the backyard that may detract from curb appeal, and it can also give your front yard a neater and more refined appearance. A well-maintained and stained wood fence can be a beautiful addition to your front and backyard alike.

Before you make your final decision about whether to install a wood fence on your property, you may be wondering how much of the cost will be recouped through an increase in property value. A great idea is to reach out to an experienced real estate agent with knowledge of your local market. Your real estate agent can provide you with more information about this improvement before you make your final decision.

FOMC Minutes: Housing Market Stable But Slow

FOMC Minutes: Housing Market Stable But SlowThe minutes of the March meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) were released Tuesday and included a staff review of current economic conditions. The minutes noted that while labor markets continued to grow, inflation to the Fed’s target rate of 2.00 percent was impeded by dropping fuel prices. The Committee noted that expectations for longer-term inflation remained stable.

Non-farm payrolls, which include both private and public sector jobs, grew in January and February and the national unemployment rate reached a new low of 5.50 percent in February. Readings for workers employed part time due to economic reasons edged down and workforce participation was up.

These developments are noteworthy as in recent months analysts have repeatedly cited concerns over the numbers of workers who have stopped looking for work and those who work part time because they cannot find full-time employment. Meeting participants said that underutilization of labor resources “continued to diminish,” but also said that levels for those involuntarily working part-time and still elevated numbers of workers no longer seeking employment.

Personal consumption expenditures slowed in the first quarter due to falling fuel prices and winter weather conditions. Households had more disposable income and household wealth increased due to increasing home values. The Committee said that consumer sentiment was near pre-recession levels according to the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey.

Fed Says Housing Activity “Slow,” No Decision on Raising Fed Funds Rate

The FOMC minutes reflect the committee’s view that housing markets are performing at a slower rate than other economic sectors. The minutes said that building permits and housing starts for single family homes were lower in January and February. Sales of new and existing homes were down in January, but pending home sales rose. This suggests that while markets slowed (as they typically do) during winter, pending sales suggest that completed sales will recover in the late winter and early spring.

The FOMC minutes noted that mortgage credit remained challenging for those in the lower portion of the credit score distribution, but said that the cost of mortgages was historically low for those who qualified for home loans.

The Committee also addressed the likelihood of raising the Federal Funds rate in its usual non-definitive manner. While raising the rate at the next meeting seemed unlikely, committee members wanted the flexibility to raise the target federal funds rate when conditions warrant. The target rate is currently set at 0.00 to 0.25 percent; when the FOMC moves to raise the target federal funds rate, the cost of credit including mortgage loans can be expected to increase.

Understanding Commissions and How Your Real Estate Agent is Compensated When Your Home Sells

Understanding Commissions and How Your Real Estate Agent is Compensated when Your Home SellsWhen you make the decision to sell your home, you may eagerly seek assistance from a skilled real estate agent. A real estate agent offers important services that can help you to more successfully and easily sell your home in the fastest amount of time and for the best price. This is a professional who is committed to helping you achieve your goal and who will not be compensated for his or her efforts unless successful. With a closer look at how real estate commissions are earned, you will see that your agent will work hard for his or her compensation.

The Efforts A Real Estate Agent Makes To Sell Your Home

A real estate agent will go to great lengths to help you sell your home. From helping you to establish a fair and competitive listing price to assisting with marketing, contract negotiations and more, your agent will take considerable steps to help you with all stages in the selling process. He or she will often pay for some related expenses out of his or her own pocket, such as printing fees for flyers and snacks and décor for open houses.

No Compensation Unless Your Home Sells

Real estate agents generally will begin working for you as soon as you sign a listing agreement, and they will not collect any fees up-front. All out-of-pocket expenses will not be reimbursed to the agent unless your home sells, and your agent will not be compensated for the many hours he or she spends marketing your home and working with sellers’ agents on your behalf until your home is actually sold. If your home does not sell, your agent will receive nothing for his or her attempts. Keep in mind that the total compensation that you pay for real estate agents’ fees will typically be split between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent.

Real estate agents essentially get compensated for their performance and their ability to follow through on what they say they will do for you. Their services are being used by you to sell your home, and you will not pay an agent unless this goal is accomplished. If you are thinking about using the services of a real estate agent when listing your home for sale, you can learn more about the professional services and related agent fees by contacting a real estate agent today.

Pre-Sale Painting: Color Combinations to Use – and Avoid – When Painting Your Home

Pre-sale Painting: Color Combinations to Use - and Avoid - when Painting Your HomeOne of the more common steps that homeowners will take when preparing to list their home for sale involves repainting the walls. Walls can easily give the home a worn, drab look when they have visible signs of dirty, smudgy fingerprints and other unsightly blemishes.

While repainting the walls can have a whitewashing effect that instantly makes the home look cleaner, brighter and more appealing, the color combinations that you choose for your home should be considered with care. You have a rainbow of possibilities for your space when preparing your home for sale, but you want to choose colors that will have broad or universal appeal to buyers and that will showcase your home in the best possible light.

Neutral or Muted Hues are Ideal

Many homeowners love to paint their walls stylish or trendy colors, and they may dislike the banal look of beige walls throughout their home. While this may or may not be what you prefer for your home, keep in mind that you are trying to transform your home so that it has broad appeal to the buyers. The colors you choose should not reflect personal taste or preference. Instead, they should be selected based on colors that may be more likely to appeal to most and that may go well with the color of furnishings most already own. Neutral or muted hues are ideal. These lighter colors can also make smaller rooms seem larger, and they can make your entire home seem cleaner.

Avoid Bold, Dramatic Color Combinations

You may have some colors on your walls that you absolutely love, and you may be sad to see them go. However, when you have a bold, dramatic color combination in a room, a buyer may instantly be taken aback by such an intense color scheme. The buyer’s attention may then be focused on your interior design efforts rather than on the home itself, and this is not beneficial to your goal of selling your home. In addition, some may love your bold choices, but many may not. They may think about how those colors would not go well with their furnishings, and they may instantly start thinking about how they would need to work hard to repaint the walls after moving in. The last thing you want is for a buyer to think about your home as needing work.

If you are preparing your home to list for sale, repainting one room or several may be at the top of your to-do list. When you are selecting your paint colors, lean toward neutral hues that may have better appeal toward a larger group of home buyers.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 6, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week April 6 2015Mortgage rates ticked upward for fixed rate loans and were unchanged for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages according to Freddie Mac. Weekly jobless claims were lower in spite of slower job growth reports.

Last week’s economic events included several reports on jobs and unemployment including the ADP report on private-sector payrolls, the Department of Labor’s reports on non-farm payrolls and the national unemployment rate. The details:

Mortgage Rates, Pending Home Sales Weekly Jobless Claims

Fixed mortgage rates rose by one basis point for both 30 and -15-year mortgages. The average rate for a 30 year mortgage rate was 3.80 percent and the average rate for a 15-year mortgage was 2.98 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.92 percent. Average discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent and rose from an average of 0.40 percent to 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that pending home sales for February increased by 3.10 percent against an expected reading of -0.20 percent and January’s reading of 1.20 percent. This was a welcome surprise in light of severe winter weather conditions throughout much of the U.S.

Weekly jobless claims were lower at 268,000 new jobless claims as compared to the prior week’s reading of 288,000 new claims and expectations of 285,000 new jobless claims. Analysts note that week-to-week reports of jobless claims are volatile, and the four-week-rolling average is a better source for identifying jobless trends.

Non-Farm Payrolls, ADP Payrolls Lower

Labor markets received unwelcome readings as the Labor Department’s Non-Farm Payrolls report fell far shy of expectations and the ADP report, which measures private sector jobs, fell below February’s reading. Non-Farm Payrolls for March reflected only 126,000 jobs added against estimates of 243,000 jobs added and February’s reading of 264,000 jobs added.

This was the lowest reading for Non-Farm Payrolls in 15 months. The March reading raised questions concerning the potential for another economic slowdown and whether or not lower readings for labor reports signaled a temporary slowdown or indicated broader challenges to the economy.

ADP reported 189,000 private-sector jobs added in March as compared to February’s reading of 214,000 jobs added. This was the lowest reading since January, 2014. The ADP report is seen by analysts as a precursor of the Non-Farm Payrolls report.

The National Unemployment Rate was unchanged at 5.50 percent in February; this report lags a month behind Non-Farm Payrolls and ADP reports, so does not reflect the drop in job growth for March.

Labor markets are a priority for prospective and active home buyers as mortgage approval and the ability to afford a home hinges on steady employment. Housing markets could be in for more challenges unless dropping job growth proves to be a temporary situation.

What’s Ahead 

This week’s scheduled economic releases include reports on job openings and minutes of the last FOMC meeting along with Thursday’s reports on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

Looking for a Fun DIY Project This Spring? How to Plant Your Own Vegetable Garden

Looking for a Fun DIY Project This Spring? How to Plant Your Own Vegetable GardenWhen spring arrives, many people want to spend more time outdoors enjoying the fresh air and warmer temperatures. While you could lounge in a chair with a good book, you may find it more enjoyable to plant your own vegetable garden. This is an on-going project that will require you to spend time outdoors regularly, and it can be quite enjoyable to watch the fruits of your labor spring to life. More than that, you may love to sample and even share the tasty treats that you have grown on your own. If you are ready to get started planning and planting your vegetable garden, follow these preliminary steps.

Choose the Plants That You Want to Grow

As a first step, think about the types of plants that you want to grow in your garden. These should ideally produce vegetables that you and your family will enjoy eating. They also ideally will be suitable for growing in your climate and with the type of soil that is present on your property. Additionally, enough space should be available to accommodate the full grown size of the plants. This up-front effort is critical for the next few steps in the planning and preparation process.

Select a Suitable Space in Your Yard

Each plant species will have special growing requirements. Some plants may prefer to be in full sunlight, and others may prefer partial sunlight or mostly shaded areas. Some may prefer soil that is mostly dry or that is regularly moist and wet. Different areas of your yard may be more accommodating for some plant species than others. For example, plants that prefer more moist soil may thrive in a lower area of your yard that receives more runoff when it rains and that takes longer to dry out after a shower.

Choose the Best Time to Plant

A final point to consider is the best time to plant your crops. Some will thrive when cooler temps in early spring are still common, but others may not tolerate a freeze at all. These may need to be planted after the risk for a late spring freeze is gone. Think about how long it takes plants to grow and what the temperatures in your area may be when the plants are fully grown and ready to produce vegetables for you.

You may be able to complete much of this preliminary planning and research during the last few weeks of winter from the comfort of your own home. Keep in mind that you can get outdoors and begin to prepare your garden area before you are ready to plant your crops. These steps will pave the way for a truly enjoyable do-it-yourself project this spring.

Buying a New Home This Spring? How to Avoid Overpaying as the Market Starts to Heat Up

Buying a New Home This Spring? How to Avoid Overpaying as the Market Starts to Heat UpWhile the real estate market in most areas may slow down considerably during the winter months, activity quickly picks up in the spring time. More listings are available for buyers to choose from, but there are typically many more buyers competing for those properties. With the fast-paced and often pressure-filled market activity during the spring, it is easy for buyers to react accordingly and to overpay for the home they fall in love with. By following a few important tips, you can take steps to ensure you get a great deal on your real estate purchase.

Avoid Making Impulsive Or Emotional Decisions

There are many reasons why buyers may overpay during the spring months, and these range from the feeling that they must act quickly to make an offer on a property they love to the belief that they need to offer the asking price even if they feel the price is too high. Some may even be involved in a bidding war with another buyer, and they may structure an offer based on emotion rather than on sound real estate fundamentals. While you may need to move quickly during the spring months, you also should avoid making impulsive, emotional decisions. Spending a little time researching the property and structuring an intelligent offer will generally not kill a deal.

Create A Firm Budget

All home buyers regardless of the season should create a firm budget. This should include a personal monthly budget so that they can determine what home ownership costs are affordable for them, and it should also include a buying budget that accounts for a down payment and closing costs. Keep a trained eye on this budget, and do not deviate from it.

Be Willing To Walk Away

When you fall in love with a property and envision your family living in the space for years, it is easy to develop an emotional attachment to it. While you may be excited about a property, you also should be willing to walk away if the transaction becomes too costly for you through negotiations and counter offers. Remember that there are many other properties on the market to choose from that may be more affordable for you.

Seeking representation from a skilled real estate agent is an important step to take when buying a home. A real estate agent can help you to define your goals and to remain true to them, reminding you of your needs and specifications as well as your budget for your purchase. If you are ready to start looking for a property to purchase, seek assistance from an experienced real estate professional today.

S&P Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Slows in 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 30 2015According to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index report for January, home prices grew by 4.50 percent year-over-year as compared to  January 2014’s  year-over-year  price growth rate of 10.50 percent. This was the lowest rate of home price growth since 2012.

Analysts said that although slower growth in home prices could be good news for home buyers, national wage growth is not keeping pace with home price growth. The Labor Department reports that wages are growing at an annual rate of approximately two percent. Other obstacles to home buyers include strict mortgage standards and likely increases in mortgage rates during 2015.

Highest and Lowest Home Price Growth Rates in January

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports that January’s five highest rates of year-over-year home price growth were:

Denver, Colorado – 8.40%
Miami, Florida – 8.30%
Dallas, Texas – 8.10%
San Francisco, California – 7.90%
Portland, Oregon – 7.20%

The five cities with the lowest year-over-year rates of home price growth were:

Chicago, Illinois – 2.50%
Minneapolis, Minnesota – 2.20%
New York, New York – 2.10%
Cleveland, Ohio – 1.60%
Washington, D.C. – 1.30%

No cities included in the 20 city index recorded no or negative growth rates on a year-over-year basis.  David Blitzer, S&P Index Committee Chair, cited growing labor markets, current low mortgage rates, lower fuel prices and low inflation as positive influences on U.S. housing markets.

The Case Shiller 20-City Housing Index report for January was also impacted by severe weather conditions that reduced demand for homes.  The 20-City Index has climbed by 29 percent since reaching March 2012 lows.

Pending Home Sales Rise

In other housing related news, pending home sales indicate that home sales are increasing as the peak spring and summer buying season gets underway. The National Association of Realtors® reported that its pending home sale index reading increased by 3.10 percent to 106.9 in February.

This was the highest reading since June 2013 and was up 12.00 percent over February 2014.  Pending home sales are sales for which a contract has been signed, but the sale has not closed. Pending home sales are considered an indicator of future home sales.