Sunday, December 26, 2010

Home Inventory Dwindles Into The New Year

Existing Home Supply (Nov 2009 - Nov 2010)Existing Home Sales jumped another 6 percent in November, the report's third month of improvement since bottoming in July.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, a quarter-million more existing homes were sold during the annual period ending in November as compared to October.  An "existing home" is a home that cannot be considered new construction.
Additionally, the national housing supply dropped by a full month. At the current pace of existing home sales, the complete stock of homes for sale will be exhausted in 9.5 months.
November's strong housing data is yet another signal to buyers in Palmyra that the housing market's foundation has been rebuilt, and that a rebound is imminent.  It's helped that there are great "deals" on which for buyers to pounce.
In November, short sales and foreclosures accounted for one-third of all existing homes sold, and carried an average price discount of 10 percent and 15 percent, respectively, as compared to non-distressed sales.
Repeat buyers continue to power the market, too, representing more than half of all home buyers.

  • First-time buyers : 32% of all buyers
  • Investors : 19% of all buyers
  • Repeat buyers : 51% of all buyers
This breakdown suggests that housing has regained its footing. First-time buyers can't support a market long-term like repeat buyers can and, as compared to 12 months ago, the percentage of repeat buyers is now up 14 points.
Home buyers take note. Raw sales volume is rising and available inventory is dropping. Basic supply-and-demand tells us that this will lead home prices higher. Furthermore, mortgage rates are rising quickly, increasing the cost of homeownership.
If buying a home is a part of your plan for 2011, consider accelerating your purchase time frame. Existing homes account for more than 80% of homes sold nationwide. If the market keeps improving like this, your home affordability will worsen.
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Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays with a Song!

Its Holiday Time for everyone - and for the holiday here is a little piece of animation from years gone by to make you smile. May this holiday season bring happiness to you and your family!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Toys Come to Life

OK, this is my last toy video for the week , but I needed to post this. I'm not sure if it was a creative commercial, a great example of creative advertising for its time or a scary prehistoric version of "Toy Story"- You decide...

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Monday, December 20, 2010

More Silly Toys

I really enjoy sharing silly videos - and with the holidays upon us, toys are right at the top of my mind - so here's another toy that belies the idea that children had complex toys 50 years ago... My favorite part - the look on the boy's face!

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Silly Toys or Silly Kids?

Last night I was shopping for toys for toys for the little kids in my family. I saw the traditional board games and toys, and action figures but l;ots of involved toys with electronics and lights and intellectual engagement with small special purpose computers. Then today, browsing on my computer, I came across this old TV commercial from (I guess) the early 60's - and it just makes me wonder what would happen if you showed up on Christmas morning with one of these as a gift.

Consumer Alert: The jingle is really catchy, and I'm not responsible if it gets in your head and stays there :-)

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from My Family to Yours!

There is always a lot of conversation bout the Turducken at this time of year.  This amazing entree deserves an amazing dessert and to that end I present to you "Charles Phoenix's Cherpumple: The "Monster" Pie-Cake"
Hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

NAR debuts new e-PRO® certification course

Next week is the REALTORS Conference and Expo in New Orleans. The event is incredible on so many levels. National committees conclude their 2011 business and new chair and vice chairs gear up for 2012 . There are tons of great learning sessions, and wonderful social opportunities. But this year is really special for me and the gang at SMMI because we have been privileged to re-write the technology course for the NAR, the largest trade association in the country. On November 4th , the course will be kicked off, with a train the trainer session featuring Amy Chorew, Ginger, my son Hal and I, at the same time the nationally renowned Terry Watson teaches the inaugural course.A panel will also be part of that course, consisting of Stefan Swanepol, Ginger, Todd Carpenter, and myself).
Its so exciting I need to write this blog post to convince me that its really happenning :). Hope I see you there!

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Phillies Phind a Way to Survive!

2009 WORLD SERIES Game 4 Seats Michael Gray is...Image by reeltor99 via FlickrIts not easy being a Phillies Phan. (No that's not a missspelling  - that's just how we roll in the city of brotherly love!)

After sweeping their series with the Cincinnati Reds , it phelt like the Phillies triumph in the championship series and another World Series appearance was a phoregone conclusion.   But when the Phillies split the home games and lost the phirst two games in San Phrancisco it seemed like we were once again doomed to be a city living with phailure.

Last night the Phillies managed to pull victory phrom the jaws of depheat and phound a way  to phoil the Giants and phorce game six. I'll be at Citizens Park to watch, and I hope that they can prevail and have a threepeat of the world series. And maybe, just maybe be the phinal victor. There's always hope - as Phillies Phans, that's just what we do!

Go Phillies!

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dan and Dan are still here and so am I

Like Dand & Dan - I'm still here - Its been awhile since I stopped by to post, but really I've been busy - real estate, speaking, writing the new ePRO course, and travel has kept me from posting here as frequently as I should. But sharing this clever video should count for something - Don't you think?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Few Fathers I wanted to Thank

Its not a big holiday - there are no religous or historical overtones, and it was always a little embarassing for me after my son became a man but today , for some reason, without plan or deep thought, I wanted to take a minute to highlight a couple of fathers for their impact on my life.

 Meet Isadore Lublin, my dad's father who left Russia at the start of the last century to escape the pogroms that victimized his people and his family. He never spoke about his experiences there, but found a new start in this country, where his three sons ( my dad, my Uncle Paul, and my Uncle Harry) grew strong and capable starting businesses and families of their own. He passed away when I was only 7 , but the memories of him persist to this day as a kind and warm man whose family was all important to him.
This is David Krasno, my mother's father. David came to the U.S. as a master watch mechanic in the early 19th century, and after living in New york where he met his wife, moved to a small town in Pennsylvania where he started a jewelry business, and raised 3 girls, all of whom attended college and became successful in their chosen fields, my Aunt Ruth, my Mom, my Aunt Bette. And all of this at a time when women were not as liberated as they are today. From him I learned that life can be a long and curvy road, but the line to your family should always be a direct one.

 This is my father, George Lublin. Born in Philadelphia, he suffered from Polio as a child, though he persevered through and became a physically strong young man after being a sickly child. The oldest of three sons, he left high school during the depression so that he could work and help the family through the tough time. During World War II, physically limited by his encounter with polio, he worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he built ships and endured antisemitism while his younger brothers went to war . 

After the war he began a career as an insurance agent, building a business and a family with my mom, enduring the loss of a child between the births of my sister and myself. And in the midst of life, he endured another blow when in 1961, he was left a widower with an 11 year old son and a 17 year old daughter. He changed careers in the late 1960's to real estate at the urging of his brother Paul, and worked at the same company for the remaining 8 years of his life, until he struggled against lung cancer to the inevitable end.

It is impossible to tell you what I learned from my dad. I don't know if I can attribute my bizarre sense of humor to him, but I'm pretty sure I can attribute my love of books and art to him since I was surrounded by both growing up. I know that I learned a lot about dealing with people and facing adversity from him and he is still the standard for me. I know that he is a presence in my life and that I still miss him even today. I know that while he was a fallible individual as we all are but to me he was a great dad - and I know that he did the best he could with what life gave him to work with.

This picture is a pretty special one to me. Its the only picture I own that shows my dad with my son. My son Hal was born on January 9, 1997. My dad George died on August 11, 1977. They had very little time together, and Hal obviously can't remember his grandfather, but my dad knew my son and loved him very much. I still remember taking Hal to the Fox Chase Cancer Center, where my father could join Hal for an impromptu "picnic" on the grass outside his room - a point of happiness in a difficult time.
And of course, here's  the reason I get to participate in father's day - my son Hal. No reason for adding this picture here except I really like it. And no son could ever be more super than mine to me :-)

Just a quick jump to a new limb of the family tree - Here is my son's Father-In-Law, Ernest Kelley. (along with Sheila  and the lovely Janet Kelley - Hal's Mother-In-Law) . Ernest is a Father who deserves to be mentioned with the guys I'm assembling here. He and Janet are exceptional people who were an absolute bonus to a great daughter-in-law. But in our conversations on many long walks, Ernest has shown me that even though we come from different backgrounds, we meet on the values that make a parent - and a man. (Though I would be remiss if I didn't point out that he ,llike Hal and me married wayyyy over his head!)

And this picture is just one of my favorites. Though I miss my lovely wife, I still have my kids - Hal and Jennifer - and through them the circle of life (thanks Disney) continues - and like every Father everywhere today - they are the greatest gift anyone could ever have.  I hope your gifts are just as great!

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Change Your Air Filters Monthly (But Don't Go Cheap)

3M Filtrete for HVAC units
As the mercury rises into the summer months, don't forget to change your home's air filters regularly.  It not only extends the life of your HVAC unit, but can help keep your energy costs down, too.
Not all air filters are created alike, however. Don't go cheap.
Your local hardware store carries a variety of air filters ranging in price from less than a dollar to $20 or more per filter. They're all purported to do the same job, but after watching this 1-minute video, you'll see why cheaper isn't necessarily better.
Airborne particles are smaller than most mesh filters. Pleated filters are recommended instead.

Most high-quality air filters start around $11 and can be purchased in bulk from Amazon at discounts of up to 20 percent.  3M's Filtrete line of products is a popular, well-selling brand and can last up to 3 months.
If your home has shedding pets or is dust-prone, consider changing them monthly.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Relocate America's Top 100 Places To Live (2010 Edition)

Relocate America Top 100 Places To LiveRelocate America recently released its 2010 list of Top 100 Places To Live In America. The rankings are topped by some cities you may expect, and some you may not.
According to Relocate America, the rankings highlight communities "moving in the right direction", defined as having a combination of strong leadership, job opportunities, improving real estate markets, recreational options and a good quality of life.
It's not a bad formula and topping the list of Top 100 Places To Live In America is Huntsville, Alabama.  Huntsville was chosen for its low levels of unemployment, stable housing stock, and low cost of living.  Last year, Huntsville placed fifth on the Relocate America list.
The Top 10 cities in which to live, as selected by Relocate America are:

  1. Huntsville, AL
  2. Washington, DC
  3. Austin, TX
  4. San Diego, CA
  5. San Antonio, TX
  6. Tulsa, OK
  7. Charlotte, NC
  8. Raleigh, NC
  9. Boulder, CO
  10. Minneapolis, MN
View the complete Top 100 Places To Live In America 2010 list at the Relocate America website.
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Your Microwave Wastes $70 Per Year And Other Vampire Energy Facts

Even when they're not "on", a multitude of everyday home appliances continue to draw power from the grid, raising home energy bills and increasing atmospheric emissions. These so-called "Energy Vampires" cost U.S. homeowners $4 billion, collectively, in 2005.
In 2010, that figure is likely higher.
In the video above, some of the more common Energy Vampires are highlighted. As an example of how costly standby power can be, researchers show that idle microwave ovens consume enough energy each day to pop an entire bag of microwave popcorn. Annually, the kind of energy consumption wastes close to $70 per household.
Other household Energy Vampires include:

  • Idle battery chargers
  • Computers in "standby" mode
  • Remote control sensors
Simply being aware of home energy-suckers is one easy way to reduce your electricity bill and do something good for the environment. The video shows you how you can both.
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How To Clean Your Grill For Better Tasting Food

A well-maintained grill is the key to great tasting food, season after season -- chicken, meats, fish or other.  And keeping your grill clean is simple.
In this 4-minute from Lowe's, you'll learn basic, pre-grilling cleaning tricks, plus how to breakdown your gas grill completely and clean its parts.
Some of the pointers from the video:

  • Clean your grill before every use using the grill's own heat and a wire brush
  • Don't try to clean rusted and/or broken grill grates -- replace them
  • After long periods of non-use, check your burners for insects and pests
The video is geared at beginners and includes a step-by-step tutorial. Even the most seasoned griller could probably pick up a tip or two.
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Monday, June 7, 2010

Should You Refinance Your Mortgage?

Because of strife in Greece, Spain and North Korea, conforming mortgage rates are back to all-time lows. They're at levels not seen in 50 years.  For homeowners that missed the Refi Boom of November 2009, it's a second chance.
In this well-presented, 3-minute video from NBC's The Today Show, you'll get tips getting low rates and choosing the best time to lock in.
Some of the topics covered include:

  • Why were the experts wrong about rates moving higher this summer?
  • How much money can you save with a 1 point drop in your interest rate?
  • Should you buy a bigger home now that rates have fallen?
The advice in the piece is matter-of-fact and centered.  There is no cheerleading and the message is honest. Mortgage rates are low and they likely won't stay that way.  If you've been thinking about a refinance, talk to your loan officer as soon as possible.
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Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Dual-Edged Roller Knife To Make Your Chopped Salads Easier

OXO Good Grips Salad Chopper and Bowl
With the Oxo Salad Chopper, making chopped salad for the family and/or friends is both faster and safer.
Using a dual-blade roller knife similar to a pizza cutter, the ergonomic Salad Chopper cuts lettuce, vegetables, fruits, meats and nuts with just a few rolls.  There's no need for a separate cutting board (and no worries of slicing a finger).
Made from stainless steel, the angle-handled roller is built to trace the curves of the accompanying Oxo bowl. The blades remain in constant contact with the plastic and the rim has a built-on grip to help you get a handle on your work.
The 5.5-quart bowl is big enough for 6 servings and is dishwasher-safe.  Oxo says you can serve in it, too, but that's up to you.
Trade in store-bought salad bags and opt for something fresher.  Oxo's Salad Chopper sells on for $25.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Markets Ignore The April Jobs Report And It's Good News For Mortgage Rates

Unemployment Rate 2007-2010On the first Friday of every month, the U.S. government releases its Non-Farm Payrolls report.
More commonly called "the jobs report", Non-Farm Payrolls is a major market mover. The number of working Americans is directly tied to the health of the economy which, in turn, drives the stock and bond markets.
In general, when jobs numbers improve, it's good for stocks and bad for mortgage bonds. It follows, therefore, that conforming mortgage rates in New Jersey rise because rates always move opposite of mortgage bond prices.
Conversely, when jobs numbers worsen, it tends to be bad for stocks and good for mortgage bonds.  Mortgage rates fall.
Today, markets are behaving a bit differently.
Despite 290,000 jobs created in April 2010 -- nearly twice the expected amount -- and a 40 percent upward revision of March's numbers, mortgage rates are essentially unchanged.
In a normal environment, rates would be higher.  Today is not normal.
Today is a departure because, for all of the jobs report's import to Wall Street, it's less important to markets than what's happening in Greece right now.
Greece is struggling to meet its debt obligations and its citizens are rioting.
Until a debt solution for Greece is made that sticks, unrest in the region will drive safe haven buying both domestically and abroad. U.S. mortgage bonds will gain on that movement because mortgage bonds are "safe", and mortgage rates will fall.
Indeed, this is exactly what's been happening since the start of April. Mortgage markets have been rallying for 5 weeks.
So, Friday's jobs news is terrific for the economy and mortgage rates should be rising because of it.  But, they're not. Consider taking advantage -- lock in a rate.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

NAR makes history in a vote to amend the Code of Ethics to include sexual orientation - vid...

This video makes me really proud to be a REALTOR, but even prouder to have been part of the process that led to what is a historic moment for the National Association of REALTORS and our 97 year old Code of Ethics.

Last year, during my term as Chairman of the Interpretations and Procedures sub-committee of the Professional Standards Committee, this amendment to the Code prohibitinh discriination based on sexual orientation was suggested by state associations. The sub-committee discussed the matter, and began the process needed to move this forward.

The change to our Code is significant because it is the first time in the history of the code that REALTORS have set a standard against discrimination that is higher than the law in many places. And did it quickly, unanimously and with little discussion at the meeting. (Though I did love the woman who suggested that we should just say "REALTORS shouldn't discriminate")

The people in this video from left to right are Linda Paige, Steve Roscoe, Domenic Cardone, and Rodney Ganshoe. They are the Chairman of the Professional Standards Committee, the Chairman of the Interpretations and Procedures sub-committee, the Vice-Chairman of the Professional Standards Committee, and one of the best association staff people on the planet. Oh, and yes, I am the Bill Steve mentions in the video (and I was paying attention before he said "sex" )

Thanks to all of the members and staff who made this possible so that we can as an organization move forward in such a positive manner.

(NOTE: Though this was approved by the Committee and the Board of Directors, it also needs to be approved by the Delegate Body at the Annual Meetings In New Orleans in November 2010.)

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Interview w/Bill Lublin - REtechSouth

I Google myself regularly as part of my own reputation monitoring. I just came upon this video taken by Ricardo Bueno when I was in Atlanta speaking at the ReTechSouth Event 2010. SInce I hadn;t seen it for a while I though I might share it here. It does however raise a question in my mind - is the picture fuzzy because I was tired or Ricardo wasn't focused?  Anyway, hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fannie Mae Tightens Guidelines On ARMs And Interest Only Products

Fannie Mae tightens its mortgage guidelinesFor the first time this year, Fannie Mae announced significant updates to its mortgage underwriting guidelines.
The changes include newer, harsher ARM qualification standards, the elimination of a once-popular loan product, and tighter rules for interest only mortgages.
Fannie Mae made its official announcement April 30, 2010.  The changes will roll out to home buyers and homeowners in Philadelphia and everywhere else over the next 12 weeks.
The first guideline change is tied to ARMs of 5 years or less.
Mortgage applicants must now qualify based on a mortgage rate 2% higher than their note rate.  For example, if your mortgage rate is 5 percent, for qualification purposes, your rate would be 7 percent.
The elevated qualification payment will disqualify borrowers whose debt-to-income levels are borderline.
The second change is Fannie Mae's elimination of the standard 7-year balloon mortgage.  Balloon mortgages were popular early last decade.  Lately, few borrowers have chosen them, though.  Mostly because rates have been relative high as compared to a comparable 7-year ARM.
And, lastly, Fannie Mae is changing its interest only mortgages guidelines.
Effective June 19, 2010, Fannie Mae interest only mortgages must meet the following criteria:

  1. The home must be a 1-unit property
  2. The home must be a primary residence, or vacation home
  3. The borrower's FICO must be 720 or higher
  4. The mortgage must be a purchase, or rate-and-term refinance. No "cash out" allowed.
Furthermore, borrowers using interest only mortgages must show two full years of mortgage payments "in the bank" at the time of closing.
Earlier this year, Fannie Mae-sister Freddie Mac announced that as of September 2010, it will stop offering interest only loans altogether.
Between Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the FHA, and other government-supported entities, the U.S. government now backs 96.5% of the U.S. mortgage market.  So long as mortgage default rates are high, expect approvals for all borrower types to continue to toughen.
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Housing Starts Data Hints That Housing Will Expand Even After The Tax Credit Expires

Housing Starts Apr 2008-Mar 2010As a real estate broker whose company's largest concentration is on the existing housing market in Philadelphia and South New Jersey, I only pay a little attentionb to the new housing market. Especially since that market has really been in more of a clean up than expansion mode for the past several years. After all, the existing inventory needs to shrink before we worry about about creating new inventory doesn;t it? It seems that there are indicators that the inventory has been shrinking and that the market has been changing. After a strong March showing and a surprise upward-revision for February, Housing Starts are, once again, trending better.

It's a significant signal that the housing markets in Philadelphia, Mount Holly and nationwide are stabilized.
A Housing Start is a new home on which construction has started and, over the last 6 months, home builders are averaging one half-million starts per month.
This marks the highest 6-month average since 2008 and a reading one-fifth percent better from 12 months ago.  Revisions to prior data have all been higher, too.
Even more interesting, though, is that the number of newly-issued building permits is exploding. Permits were up more than 5 percent last month and have climbed back to the levels of late-2008.
Housing permits are an important data point in housing because permits are precursors to actual housing starts.  According to the Census Bureau, 82% of homes start construction within 60 days of permit-issuance.
Therefore, because March's housing permits increased, we should expect Housing Starts to continue to rise into the early months of summer.
This, too, reflects well on housing because the federal home buyer tax credit won't be in existence this summer. The simple fact the homes are being built now shows that housing is likely to expand even now that the tax credit expires. And, as you may have noticed in my other posts, I sort of think that's happening as well.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

March Pending Home Sales Point To Stronger Spring Market

Pending Home Sales September 2008 March 2010The Pending Home Sales Index moved higher in March as home sales were spurred by low mortgage rates and an expiring tax credit.
A "pending home" is a property that is under contract to sell, but not yet closed.
March marks the second straight month in which the Pending Home Sales Index improved after a series of weak showings this past winter.
March showed a 5 percent increase over the month, but the Pending Home Sales Index is still off its October 2009's peak.  October 2009 is a comparable period to March 2010 in that it marked the 1-month deadline before the home buyer tax credit's initial expiration date. The credit was later extended to April 2010, of course.
That said, March's surge in sales is being felt on the street.
Home buyers in Philadelphia no doubt noticed the change in activity. Both locally in our company and around the country, anecdotally, multiple offer situations were more common last month and "right-priced" homes tended to go under contract quickly.
The increase in March's Pending Home Sales is diminishing the nation's home supply which, in turn, should cause prices to rise in most markets -- including Philadelphia and surrounding counties including New Jersey.
Today's buyers should consider making an offer sooner rather than later.  We will probably see the trend continue as activity in the month on April as measured by our firm was even higher than in March, but for an  offical number, we'll  have to wait until next month. But looking at the data, it appears the best time to have found a "deal" on a home may have been in February, when snow kept many homebuyers off the streets, giving the hardy souls who braved the weather a competitive edge.
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Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

What Happens After the Tax Credit is gone?

NAR Real Estate Summit #narmidyear.jpgImage by reeltor99 via Flickr

With less than a week to go before the tax credit is over, I've been thinking about what the real estate market in Philadelphia will look like for the rest of the year. I was thinking specifically about the real estate market here, because real estate is too local for me to have a sense of what the national scene will look like in May and after.

The tax credit has certainly sped up the market so far this year. All of our offices have outpaced their production for the same period last year (when we were ranked as the number Century 21 company in our area, and number 3 for the state), so its obvious that the tax credit has had some impact. The question is whether is has driven the market or enhanced the market, and my opinion leans towards enhancement. Investors seem to have re-entered our market, and that (to me) is a sing that they percieve value in our real estate. Though activity is speeding up as we near the deadline, my sense is that the market will slow but not stall after the tax credit, because all of the basic reasons to buy a home are in place.

1. Prices are stable and gaining ground. According to Trend MLS, in the first qiarter of this year, closed transactions were up almost 10% (9.6% actually) and the average sale price actually increased over the same period in 2009.
2. Interest rates remain historically low - I don't think I really have to explain this one. Articles speak about rates going up from 5 to 6% as if that were a lot. People wouldn't be happy unless the bank paid them, but frankly, anything under 9% has always been really indicative of inexpensive money.
3. The financial benefits of home ownership are undeniable in the current market. In a recent article, the New York Times once again published its rent vs. buying calculator, and in our market, with no appreciation and no rental increases, a home buyer still makes out better after only 5 years of home ownership - and any prudent landlord would certainly increase the rent at least a few percent over 5 years!

With all of that going for us, it would seem that we have reason to believe that there will be reasonable activity for the rest of the spring market. Certainly if more jobs are created, and we avoid any major economic body blows, it would seem that we might be headed towards the recovery we have heard so much about.
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Home Resales Boom Into The End Of The Tax Credit; Home Values Seen Rising.

Existing Home Sales Mar 2008-Mar 2010Existing Home Sales rose in March, as expected. U.S. home buyers closed on 7 percent more homes as compared to February.

Furthermore, versus March 2009 -- a month many people equate to the low point of the U.S. economy -- sales volume was up 16 percent.

"Existing home sale" is the technical term for a home resale; a home previously inhabited by a person. It's the opposite of a "new home sale" which is a sale of a newly-constructed home.

Existing Homes Data is tracked by the National Association of Realtors® and a closer look at the March data reveals some other interesting notes:

  1. Year-over-year sales are higher for the 9th straight month
  2. Real estate investors represented 19 percent of all homes purchased
  3. First-time home buyers account for 44 percent of all buyers

Also worth noting is that the supply of available homes is down on a broader basis. At the current rate of sales, the existing home inventory will be exhausted in 8 months.

Despite banks releasing foreclosures and REO into the Palmyra market, that's still one half-month less from February.

When supplies drops, home prices tend to rise. It suggests an underlying strength in housing that should support home prices through the next few months -- especially as the home buyer tax credit finishes working its way through the system.

That said, real estate markets are local. You shouldn't assume that what's happening on the national level is also happening here at home. Be sure to check with your real estate agent about local market conditions before making a decision to buy or sell.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Do Your Spring Cleaning Like Martha Stewart

Spring CleaningSpring is here and Philadelphia homeowners are starting their respective Spring Cleaning rituals.

In some households, Spring Cleaning is best tackled in a single weekend filled with rubber gloves, ratty clothes, and sweat. In other homes, it's a less serious undertaking. Either way, to clean a home from top-to-bottom, you need to have a plan.

If you've never used the Martha Stewart, 9-step Spring Cleaning Organizer, check it out. It covers the basics:

  • Cleaning shades and windows
  • Sorting through wardrobes for "old" clothes
  • Cleaning and rotating mattresses and cushions

For most of the cleaning, everyday household cleansers and a vacuum or rags will do the trick.

There are a few items on the list, however, that require heavy-duty appliances; ones you may not keep at-home. For example, cleaning carpets is best-handled with a steam cleaner. You can choose to rent cleaning equipment from a local hardware store, or considering hiring an Angie's List contractor to do the job. It'll be more expensive, but the job will be done properly.

Also on the list is a reminder to check batteries in smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and flashlights.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

15-Minute Fixes For Around The Home

Home maintenance is an ongoing project. There's always something to do around the house, or something to fix. The problem is, you may not have the time, or the skills, to get it done yourself.

In this 4-minute piece from The Today Show on NBC, you'll see some projects are quite simple.

Dubbed "15-Minute Fixes", see how simple it can be to handle 3 common household chores:

  1. De-alcification of a shower head
  2. Clearing hair from the inside of a bathroom drain
  3. Sealing a granite counter-top

Each clean-up job is cheap, quick, and can be handled sans handyman. As Spring Fever sets in, put these fixes on your To-Do List.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Get Your FHA Mortgage Application Started -- Fees Increase 1/2 Percent Starting Monday, April 5, 2010

FHA closing costs increase by 1/2 percent April 5 2010Starting Monday, April 5, 2010, getting an FHA mortgage in Philadelphia and throughout the nation will be more expensive for borrowers. Combine that with the short period of time left for the tax credit program and its shaping up to be a busy week for buyers.

In new guidelines set forth earlier this year, the FHA announced plans to raise additional revenue and reduce the overall risk of its mortgage portfolio.

The changes include the following:

  1. Increase Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premiums from 1.75% to 2.25% for everyone
  2. A plan to reduce seller concessions from 6 percent to 3 percent
  3. An increase in minimum downpayment for FICOs 580 or lower

For your own loan, to avoid being subject to higher loan costs, make sure to have your FHA Case Number assigned prior to Monday, April 5, 2010. That means you'll want to give a full mortgage application before the weekend so your lender can register your loan in time for the deadline.

But don't leave your application to the last minute.

Friday is Good Friday so most banks will be closed. Your true FHA deadline, therefore, is Thursday April 1.

Also worth noting is that the FHA isn't done with its changes.

In its policy statement, the group also announced its plans to petition Congress to raise monthly mortgage insurance premiums. The FHA's formal request, in summary:

  1. Raise monthly premiums by roughly 0.30%, or $25 per $100,000 borrowed per month
  2. Lower upfront mortgage insurance premiums by 1.25%, or $1,250 per $100,000 borrowed at closing

For now, the request is neither approved nor acknowledged by Congress. It's merely a request. And in the event that Congress does approves it, the FHA reserves the right to change its projections. Either way, it means higher costs for consumers.

The best plan, therefore, is to get your FHA mortgage into underwriting ahead of the switches because borrowing money will be harder, and more costly.

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Monday, March 29, 2010 Predicts The Best And Worst Real Estate Markets For 2010

Real estate is recently published its 2010 forecast and projections for home prices in the country's largest metro markets.

Listed as "Top 25" and also comprehensively by state,'s home price forecasts puts Santa Rosa, California at the top of 2010's home appreciation list and Hanford, California at its bottom.

The 10 cities projected for highest home appreciation in 2010 are:

  1. Santa Rosa, CA : +6.0%
  2. Cheyenne, WY : +4.7%
  3. Kennewick, WA : +4.6%
  4. Merced, CA : +4.4%
  5. Bremerton, WA : +4.2%
  6. Fairbanks, AK : +4.2%
  7. Corvallis, OR : +4.1%
  8. Tacoma, WA : +3.9%
  9. Anchorage, AK : +3.8%
  10. Bend, OR : +3.3%

The Pacific Northwest is the region most heavily-represented among price gainers. The Southeast and Middle Atlantic are most represented on the under-perform list.

However, just because a city's homes are expected to appreciate (or depreciate) in 2010, that doesn't mean that every home within its limits will follow suit. Real estate cannot be grouped on a city level like tries to. There will always be areas in demand within city limits in which prices rise, just as there will be out-of-demand areas in which prices fall.

Real estate data can't be grouped by city or even by ZIP code, really.

Real estate in Mount Holly is more local than that.

When we say "real estate is local", it means that every street in every town has a distinct set of traits that drives its home values. Homes that are one block closer to the train; or, homes that are facing north; or, homes that are made of brick. Each of these characteristics can affect a home's desirability which, in turn, can affects its sales price.

National surveys can't capture "essence" like this. They only report on the aggregate.

For local real estate data, look to established, publicly available websites and to active, local real estate agents. Both will have data and insight that can help you. National surveys often make for good headlines, but do little to help homebuyers find good value.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Cool Tools : Color This! Shows How Paints And Colors Will Make A Room Look Good

Color swatches for paintVisualizing a home in different colors can take a good eye and strong imagination -- especially when you're house-hunting and the home's effects are of someone else.

Yet, we wonder:

  • What would the bedroom look like in blue?
  • How would the kitchen look in yellow?
  • What if the foyer wall was accented in red?

At the Better Homes and Gardens website, you can answer those questions and see the results for yourself. Using the Color This! tool, website visitors can mix-and-match swatch colors, then apply them to a room's walls, floors, trim, cabinets and accessories.

Don't just get a mental picture of a room -- get an actual picture.

The Better Homes and Gardens site requires a basic, non-intrusive site registration to use the Color This! product suite. It's also available for home exteriors and window treatments, too.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

How To Properly Screen A Prospective Tenant

According to the the National Association of Realtors®, "distressed homes" represented nearly 2 of every fifth home sold in January 2010. Clearly, real estate investors in Mount Holly and around the country are taking advantage of good deals on cheap property. But there's risk involved.

This NBC Today Show interview first ran in March 2009, featuring real estate expert Barbara Corcoran. Despite its age, the message remains relevant. Today may be a terrific time to buy a bank-owned home -- just make sure you do your research first. There's plenty of ways for investors to get burned.

Some of the tips in the video include:

  • Buy in your own backyard
  • Start small, then build to a bigger portfolio
  • Watch receipts -- rent rolls don't matter if tenants aren't paying rent

Corcoran also gives pointers on how to evaluate a prospective tenant.

Foreclosures should represent a large number of 2010's total home sales and will offer interesting opportunities to bona fide real estate investors. Before you jump in, make sure to watch the video. The rents you save may be your own.

Remember, the stats and the data are from 12 months ago, but the advice stays meaningful. Real Estate investing, when you apply sound principles is still a great way to build income and acquire wealth. You just have to take time and investigate it completely.

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