Wednesday, November 30, 2011

REMODELING: Remodeling Activity Reaches Record High

Many of today’s homeowners find themselves unable or unwilling to enter the housing market. Some may have unsteady jobs or are upside down in their home loans.

These conditions, however, don’t mean that these homeowners don’t have needs that need met. Some have outgrown their current home, have repairs that need made, or simply would love to have an updated kitchen or bath.

This explains the recent report from BuildFax that shows remodeling activity reached a record level high for the month of September.

Partly to thank for this rise in projects are the historically low interest rates, now under 4.0 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages. Many homeowners have sought out refinancing, meaning they now have lower monthly payments. This extra money can then be funneled into remodeling projects.

So, while it may not make sense for a homeowner to move, they can still make modifications to their current home which will make it more livable and comfortable. These projects even raise the home’s value. "Mortgage rates continue to be near record lows, and as homeowners from coast to coast refinance, they are continuing to update their current home and invest in their properties," said Joe Emison, Vice President of Research and Development at BuildFax. "The data from BuildFax show that homeowners are not only doing important 'maintenance' projects, such as fixing their roof, but also taking on projects that add to the ‘livability’ of their homes by adding decks, remodeling their bathrooms and updating their kitchens. These are immediate fixes they will enjoy and that potential buyers look for."

The most popular projects come as no surprise. They are as follows.

Roof (21.4%)
Deck (7.9%)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

VIDEO: This Month in Real Estate

HOME MAINTENANCE: When Snow Removal from Your Roof is Necessary, Plus Safety Tips

Snow removal from roofs is rarely necessary, but when it is, it’s a dangerous job. Tips and advice about what to do when your roof is loaded with snow.

If you’ve had a big snowfall in your area and you’re wondering if your roof can stand the extra weight, don’t reach for a ladder and a shovel — reach for the telephone. Calling in a professional to remove ice and snow from your roof is the smartest — and safest — option.
When (if ever) is it necessary?

The critical factor in determining excessive snow loads on your roof isn’t the depth of the snow, it’s the weight, says home improvement expert Jon Eakes.

That’s because wet snow is considerably heavier than dry, fluffy snow. In fact, 6 inches of wet snow is equal to the weight of about 38 inches of dry snow.

The good news is that residential roofs are required by building codes to withstand the heaviest snows for that particular part of the country.

“Theoretically, if your roof is built to code, it’s built to support more than the normal load of snow and ice,” says Eakes.

You can determine the type of snow you’re getting simply by hefting a few shovelfuls — you should be able to quickly tell if the current snowfall is wet or dry. Local winter storm weather forecasts should alert you to the possibility that snow loads are becoming excessive and a threat to your roof.

How do I know there’s a problem?

An indication that the accumulated snow load is becoming excessive is when doors on interior walls begin to stick. That signals there’s enough weight on the center structure of the house to distort the door frame.

Ignore doors on exterior walls but check interior doors leading to second-floor bedrooms, closets, and attics in the center of your home. Also, examine the drywall or plaster around the frames of these doors for visible cracks.

Homes that are most susceptible to roof cave-ins are those that underwent un-permitted renovations. The improper removal of interior load-bearing walls is often responsible for catastrophic roof collapses.

The snow load seems excessive, now what?

Most home roofs aren’t readily accessible, making the job dangerous for do-it-yourselfers.

“People die every year just climbing ladders,” Eakes points out. “Add ice and snow and you’re really asking for trouble.”

Instead, call a professional snow removal contractor to safely do the job. Check

Monday, November 28, 2011

HOME HEALTH: Radon Gas Mitigation: Let’s Breathe Easy

Take steps immediately to reduce radon gas buildup if your home tests high. Knowing the available radon mitigation methods and costs will help you make the best choice.

If you’ve tested and determined elevated levels of radon gas in your home, don’t worry. Radon mitigation methods can reduce levels by 99%, allowing you to breathe easy.

Reducing radon: Simple strategies
If radon test results indicate that levels in your home are only slightly elevated—less than 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air):

Caulk cracks or gaps in the slab, foundation, or framing—wherever your home contacts soil—to inhibit radon gas infiltration. This step also improves the success of other radon reduction strategies.

Open exterior crawl space vents to increase air flow and dilute radon buildup.

Install a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). An HVR introduces fresh, air-conditioned air into homes that are otherwise tightly sealed.

Reducing radon from unsafe levels
If radon levels inside your home test at 4 pCi/L or higher, enlist the services of a professional contractor who is trained in radon mitigation strategies. Contact your state radon office for a list of contractors in your area who are trained and certified in radon reduction techniques. Obtain several bids.

Professional radon mitigation options
Some of the systems used for reducing radon are:
Soil suction. A special vent fan draws radon from soil beneath your home through pipes that dispel gas into the open. Negative pressure created by the suction further inhibits the buildup of gas. Fans run 24/7, and are usually guaranteed for up to 10 years of continual operation.

Sub-membrane suction. Considered the most effective strategy for homes with crawl

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Living in a small home has the benefits of lower insurance rates, less hassle, and less overall cost to own. 

A small home packs plenty of perks, and generally means a lower asking price. But entry price is only one factor—they’re easier on the pocketbook in a host of ways.

1. Lower property taxes. Your small home will be charged at a lower tax rate than its larger neighbors because the assessed value generally is lower.

2. Lower property insurance. The smaller the house, generally the lower the insurance cost, although it also matters where you live and how your small house is constructed. A brick house in wildfire-prone southern California is likely to cost less to insure than a similar-size house with wood siding.

3. You’ll save on heating and cooling. That’s regardless of how energy efficient the house is. In fact, one study indicates that a poorly insulated, 1,500 sq. ft. house is at least $200 cheaper per year to heat and cool than a well-insulated house twice that size. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says homes of 2,000 sq. ft. to 2,500 sq. ft. use an average 102.3 million BTUs of fuel yearly—13% less than homes that are 1,000 square

Saturday, November 26, 2011

BOSTON NEIGHBORHOODS: $220m residential tower breaks ground downtown

Millennium Partners-Boston yesterday broke ground on a 15-story residential tower across from the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Boston, the latest developer to start work on a large housing development in the city.

The $220 million Hayward Place will include 256 residences and 9,700 square feet of retail space in a glass and stone tower that will replace a scrubby parking lot near Downtown Crossing.

The residences are slated to be a mix of condominiums and apartments and will include one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. Hayward Place is the second large residential development to break ground in the neighborhood recently; the Kensington, which started construction earlier in the fall, is slated to add 381 units.

“New economic growth is really taking hold,’’ Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston said during an event to celebrate the formal start of construction yesterday. “In the last quarter, we had 1,000 new housing units break ground. The last time we saw that was in 2006’’ at the height of the real estate market, he said.

Hayward Place, designed by Handel Architects of New York, will complete Millennium Partners’ revitalization of a section of Washington Street long known as the Combat Zone for the collection of seedy strip clubs and bars that once dominated the area. In 2001 and 2002, Millennium completed the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Towers project that helped spur other redevelopment in the area, including the renovation of the Boston Opera House and the Paramount and Modern theaters.

“This is a neighborhood now,

Friday, November 25, 2011

NEW HOMES: US homebuilders sentiment edges up

WASHINGTON - US homebuilders are feeling a little less pessimistic about the struggling housing market. But their mood hasn’t changed enough to signal a recovery anytime soon.
The National Association of Home Builders said yesterday that its builder sentiment index rose to 20 in November. That’s the highest level since May 2010 and only the second month the index has been at 20 or above in two years. The trade group cited low mortgage rates as a chief factor.
Still, any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market. It hasn’t reached 50 since April 2006, the peak of the boom.
Last year, the number of people who bought new homes fell to its lowest level on records going back nearly a half-century. Sales this year could fare just

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

HOME SECURITY: 5 Over-the-Top Home Security Devices

.‘Tis the season when families bring home the hottest electronics and gifts—and then go on vacation. Not a shabby set-up for would-be burglars. So, for kicks, we tracked down some of the most unique high-tech security devices, ranging from a mind-controlled robot dog to a personal helicopter drone. And in case you’re not a millionaire electrical engineer, we’ve thrown in some do-it-yourself tips to help you protect your new gadgets and gear.

Mind-controlled robot spy dog
Conventional dogs can scare aware away potential robbers while you’re not home, but this little tricked-out toy is more than man’s best friend—it’s an extension of man itself. Unlike a real live Fido, this remote-controlled gadget can show the owner what’s in front of it via camera, can project the owner’s voice in real time, and can be told where to go, not by treats or joysticks, but by brainwaves. It’s a gadget befitting a superhero villain.

Tip: To stop intruders right off the bat, upgrade your locks and strike plates by installing 4-screw strike plates and Grade 1 or 2 deadbolts.

Cell phone-operated locks
Everybody forgets to lock a door now and again. But not everybody has a remote system to control their locks with a cell phone and a text-messaged pin code that’s as encrypted as a password for a bank website. With this doozy, you can lock your doors or let in friends from anywhere that has cellular service. It can also notify you whenever the system’s been used.

Tip: You don’t need a cell phone to lock and unlock your doors. You just need to be careful. Before going anywhere—on a vacation or just a trip to the grocery store—make sure all of the locks on your doors and windows are functional and, you guessed it, locked.

Tweeting laser tripwire
No, it’s not science fiction. It’s actually possible to set up a laser trip wire that tweets when touched, and even takes a photo of the guilty party—though it takes more tech skills than money to build this Mission Impossible device, as is clear from the how-to on

Tip: They may not be as sci-fi fantastic as laser beams, but motion-activated lights are an effective way to deter break-ins. At less than $50 a light, they’re a cheap, real-world way to thwart would-be burglars.

Personal drone
Housed in a mailbox-like enclosure, this observant gadget can launch into the sky, record video, and return to home base all on its own—and it can be up and running within one minute of a security breach. (The biggest sci-fi fans could also use it for lightsaber training.)

Tip: Take basic security measures outside your house like locking your tool shed with a deadbolt. If your tools are easy to access, a burglar doesn’t need to bring his own to break into your home.

Fog shield
An added deterrent for the high-security home, this motion-activated fog shield acts much like the dance-floor variety, except it’s programmed to go off when an intruder is in close proximity. It won’t do much to stop the intrepid burglar, but in a tight enough space, the dense smoke might confuse them enough to second guess the heist—or break into an impromptu Macarena.

Tip: Whether or not you have an advanced security system, always remember to disable your automatic garage door opener and lock it before you go on a long trip.

Read more:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

MARKET TRENDS: Homebuilders Target In-Laws, Dogs as Extended Families Grow

Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Kevin Barnes figures buying a newly built home saved him money. That’s because he chose a model with a second master bedroom for his mother-in-law.

“She’s a free babysitter,” said the 42-year-old chemical salesman, who in June purchased a four-bedroom house in Orlando, Florida, built by KB Home. “Day care costs about $200 a week.”

The Barnes residence is part of a growing line of new homes marketed to multigenerational families, a category that increased by 30 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. KB Home, Lennar Corp. and PulteGroup Inc. are among the builders that offer models with second master bedrooms, kitchenettes and separate entrances.

Those features may help lure buyers at a time when new homes are selling at a record slow pace and more Americans are living with extended families, said Megan McGrath, a homebuilding-industry analyst with MKM Partners LP.

“When builders are still fighting for every sale, hitting on something that resonates with your local demographic can make a difference,” McGrath, based in Stamford, Connecticut, said in an e-mail.

The number of households comprising three generations rose to almost 5.1 million in 2010 from 3.9 million a decade earlier, according to the Census Bureau. An estimated 51 million Americans, or 16.7 percent of the population, lived in homes with at least two generations of adults in 2009, up from 42 million in 2000, the Pew Research Center said in an October report.

Niche Area

“This is a niche area that appears to be solid and growing,” Stephen Melman, director of economic services at the Washington-based National Association of Home Builders, said in a telephone interview. “It’s a demographic thing.”

The increase in multigenerational families won’t stimulate demand for new houses because it represents a slowing of household formation, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said at a Nov. 11 conference in Anaheim, California. It’s also not clear the trend will continue once the economy recovers, he said.

“The past few years is really about economic hardship,” Yun said. “More people in multigenerational households just means there are more people under one roof.”

Falling Household Formations

Household formations fell to about 515,000 in 2009 from as high as 1.48 million in 2004, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The number of formations in 2010 was about 981,000. The percentage of men aged 25 to 34 who live with their parents grew by almost a third during the past five years, as so-called boomerang children returned home from college or the military or lost their jobs, census figures show.

At the same time, aging baby boomers are moving in with their children to save money and share the task of child care.

“Clearly it’s not all because of the bad economy,” D’Vera Cohn, a senior writer with Pew, said in a telephone interview from Washington. “But it accelerated during the bad years.”

Those “bad years” hammered new home sales, which are expected to fall to 305,000 this year, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Last year, 323,000 new single- family homes sold, down from a peak of 1.28 million in 2005 and the fewest since the Commerce Department began tracking data in 1963, as unemployment lingered around 9 percent and discounted prices for foreclosed homes made it tough for builders to compete.

Homebuilder Confidence

A gauge of confidence among U.S. homebuilders climbed this month to the highest level since May 2010, a sign the outlook for construction may be stabilizing. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index rose to 20 from 17 in October, the Washington-based group said today. Readings below 50 mean more respondents said conditions were poor.

While building homes for extended families won’t increase aggregate demand, it may spur interest in new designs that appeal to buyers in an era of economic stress, said Robert

Monday, November 21, 2011


At this time five years ago, the white-hot U.S. housing market was starting to cool. Before long, it would slip into a deep freeze.

The thaw still hasn't come. The latest statistics show residential real estate prices are continuing to drop — a trend that could have a long-lasting impact on the net wealth of younger homeowners who bought property during the housing bubble.

The problem is that today's prices — already down by about a third from the peak -– are still dropping. They fell in nearly three quarters of metropolitan areas during July, August and September, according to the latest report from the National Association of Realtors.

The national median price of a previously occupied house declined 4.7 percent just for the three-month period, the trade group reported.

"Home sales need to recover first, only then can prices stabilize," Lawrence Yun, the Realtors' chief economist, said in a statement.

But few economists expect home sales to recover any time soon, given the continuing foreclosure crisis. A new report from RealtyTrac Inc., a foreclosure listing firm, shows foreclosures are shooting up again.

There had been a brief lull a year ago, but only because lenders needed time to straighten out the flood of foreclosure paperwork. Now that backlog has been reduced, so 77,733 properties received an initial default notice last month, up 10 percent from September, RealtyTrac said.

The dismal foreclosure and pricing outlook is depressing both construction and sales of existing

Sunday, November 20, 2011

GREEN LIVING: Where to recycle holiday lights

When the glow goes from your holiday lights, don’t chuck them in the trash can; look for a program that recycles them — or better yet, a program that pays you to recycle them. Then, you can use your cash to buy new LED holiday lights, which can use 90% less energy than incandescent holiday lights.
Here a few of the light-recycling programs we found:

Minnesota’s Recycle Your Holidays program takes old holiday lights at 400 sites (and it’s happy to help you set up a collection point in your neighborhood). Vocational center workers with developmental disabilities disassemble the lights and the parts get recycled.

When you recycle a string of old holiday lights at one of Crown-ACE Hardware’s 17 stores in California, you get a $5 gift certificate redeemable toward a minimum $20 purchase of new holiday lights. wants to collect 50,000 pounds of holiday lights to recycle and plans to donate a portion of the proceeds to Operation Food Search to feed the hungry. Drop off at Wal-Marts in St. Louis and Illinois.

Elgin Recycling partners with over three dozen Illinois cities including Wheaton, Evanston, and Lombard to collect holiday lights and extension cords. Elgin strips the materials and recycles the copper and plastic parts.

Lowe’s home stores offer a convenient receptacle to drop off your old holiday lights for recycling, though it’s not offering any rebates or coupons.

If you don’t have a local holiday light recycling program, you can ship your lights to, which will send you a coupon good for a 25% discount on the LED holiday light sets it sells.

Read more:

Monday, November 14, 2011

MOVING: Moving during the holidays

It's the holiday season! For many readers out there this season is taking on a whole new meaning.

Buying happens for a myriad of reasons and during every month of the year. Yet, buying during the holidays can be challenging, especially if you're a family with lots of traditions or with children.Cold weather, rain, and snow doesn't keep a good buyer down. There are great deals to be had all year round. Buying doesn't always happen on schedule. It can take weeks or months to find the perfect house, you may need to move suddenly to follow a new job opportunity, or move to be closer to ailing parents.

If you have children, then here are some tips to make a move during the holidays a big deal in a good way!

First, children follow the lead of their parents. If you are depressed about missing out on Aunt Sue's famous turkey or daily noting the bad luck of buying during the holidays, your children will likely pick up on this. So start by adjustingyour attitude first. Focus on the positive aspects of the move. Try to keep a cheery, upbeat attitude.

Will a child be getting their own room? Will their new room be "awesome"? These can be reasons to celebrate! Talk up all the great new area parks, restaurants, and kid-friendly attractions.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

MORTGAGE & FINANCE: 6 must-haves for mortgage approval

Even trade-up buyers, owners of multiple properties hit roadblocks

Interest rates fell to new lows in September. Low interest rates increase affordability and should make it easier for buyers to qualify. Yet stories of buyers waiting months to gain loan approval and home purchase transactions not closing on time due to lender's strict underwriting are all too common.
Some buyers are turned down for illogical reasons. For instance, if you have investments -- even if they're performing well -- an underwriter might deny the mortgage because your portfolio doesn't fall into the underwriter's risk assessment model.
One couple was turned down because the husband had worked at his current job for less than a year -- even though he was making more money at the new job than he was before.
These buyers were well-qualified. The wife had worked several years for one employer and was able to qualify for the loan on her own. So, the transaction closed, although two months late.
Generally, it's more difficult to qualify now than it was a year ago. Most conventional lenders require a 20-25 percent down payment. For the lowest interest rates, your credit scores need to be in the 700 range. You need to have verifiable income and cash reserves in addition to your down payment and closing costs.
You could run into underwriting problems if you're self-employed, as W-2 income is much easier to verify. Other hurdles are lapses in employment and owning a lot of property. Some lenders won't lend to buyers who have more than three or four residential properties.
If you're buying a new home before selling your current home, you'll need to have 30 percent equity in your current home. This needs to be verified by the lender's appraiser. Also, the lender will want to see a copy of the cashed check from the tenant for the first month's rent to verify rental income if needed to qualify.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

MARKET TRENDS: More parents finance their kids' mortgages

In 1991, Dan Driscoll of Towson, Md., and his wife, Theresa, wanted to buy a house, but the lowest mortgage rate they could find was 9%. Meanwhile, Driscoll's parents, who were retired, were earning 3% on their savings. At Driscoll's suggestion, his parents financed his $75,000 mortgage at a 6% rate.
  • Dan Driscoll helped his son, Dan, buy this home near his own in Towson, Md.
    By H. Darr Beiser,, USA TODAY
    Dan Driscoll helped his son, Dan, buy this home near his own in Towson, Md.

By H. Darr Beiser,, USA TODAY
Dan Driscoll helped his son, Dan, buy this home near his own in Towson, Md.

Now, Driscoll has taken on a different role. Earlier this year, Driscoll's son Dan, 31, expressed interest in buying a larger home in his father's neighborhood. Instead of paying 4.5% for a traditional mortgage, Dan borrowed the money from his father at a 4.25% rate. The arrangement also enabled Dan to avoid paying closing costs, appraisal fees and other expenses charged by a traditional lender, Driscoll says.
Family mortgages work, Driscoll says, "if your children are honest, trustworthy and responsible."
If financing a family mortgage was a savvy strategy in 1991, the logic is even more compelling now. Returns from the types of low-risk investments favored by retirees are tiny: The average rate on a one-year certificate of deposit is 0.4%. Mortgage rates also are at record lows, but tight lending standards have made it impossible for many young home buyers to take advantage of them.
For Baby Boomers who are unwilling to risk their money in the stock market, financing a child's mortgage "is an opportunity to create a win-win," says Timothy Burke, chief executive of National Family Mortgage, a company that sets up and services intrafamily loans.
To date, National Family Mortgage has helped families finance more than $12 million in loans, ranging from an $18,500 down payment to a $1.17 million refinancing.
Jie Jiang, 33, and his wife, Natalie Leong, learned how tough the lending market has become when they applied for a loan to buy a condo in Los Angeles.
Leong recently graduated from medical school and has started her medical residency atUCLA, while Jiang is pursuing a post-doctoral fellowship in biomedical engineering. The couple had enough money for a 20% down payment but were rejected for a loan, Jiang says.

"Before the financial crisis, (banks) were giving everybody a loan," Jiang says. "Now, unless you have a 9-to-5 job, they won't bother with you."
One bank officer suggested that they get one of their parents to co-sign the loan, but that would have resulted in a mortgage rate of 5% to 5.25%, Jiang says. So instead of co-signing, Leong's father offered to finance the loan. With help from National Family Mortgage, they set up a 30-year mortgage with a 3.85% interest rate. The couple moved into their condo in August. Based on their expected future income, they plan to pay off the loan in 10 years.
Burke says intrafamily loans have enabled some of his customers to make all-cash offers, an important advantage in the increasingly competitive market for foreclosed properties. "They were getting beaten to the punch by other cash buyers," he says.
Banks need to get approval from several parties before selling a home in foreclosure, and a cash offer makes the process much easier, he says. In addition, they don't have to worry about whether the buyer will qualify for a mortgage, says Erin Lantz, director of Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, an online mortgage-shopping site.
When 'gifts' are loans
Most parents don't have the wherewithal to finance an entire home purchase for their children. But even parents of modest means may be able to help their kids come up with a down payment, and many do.
Erin Attardi, a Realtor in Sacramento, recently closed a sale for a young couple who received $20,000 from their parents toward the down payment and closing costs. The couple relocated from San Diego and recently had their first child, Attardi says.
The gift allowed the couple to take advantage of soft housing market prices and record-low interest rates, Attardi says. "In a few years, we don't know what interest rates will look like, and prices in Sacramento don't have anywhere to go but up from this point."
Increasingly, borrowers need to come up with a 20% down payment to qualify for the lowest interest rates on mortgages. In some cases, they may need a down payment of 20% or more to qualify for a mortgage at all. The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that it would

Thursday, November 10, 2011

MARKET TRENDS: 'I'm home!' Adult children move back in

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- With job openings scarce, getting adult children to leave the nest is becoming a lot more difficult.

The number of adult children who live with their parents, especially young males, has soared since the economy started heading south. Among males age 25 to 34, 19% live with their parents today, a 5 percentage point increase from 2005, according to Census data released Thursday. Meanwhile, 10% of women in that age group live at home, up from 8% six years ago.

Among the college-aged set, the 18- to 24-year-olds, 59% of males and 50% of females lived with their parents, up from 53% and 46%, respectively.

The fact that so many young people are unable or unwilling to flee the nest "cuts into the formation of new households quite a lot," said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics.

Zandi calculated that there are about 150,000 fewer households being formed per year than the 1.2 million that would be in a normal, well-functioning economy.

A decline in household formation means depressed demand for homes and as a result, lower home prices, explained Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.
But even if all of those young adults rented it still would have an impact on home sales.
Home prices heading for triple-dip

"If more young adults were in the market for rentals, rents would rise and higher rents can tip some households [of all ages] into buying homes," said Yun.

As a result, the economy as a whole suffers when young adults fail to venture out on their own.
Taking such a large number of people out of the market -- rental or purchase -- can lower property values sharply, according to Ken. H. Johnson, a real estate professor at Florida International University and co-author of a study on whether it's better to buy or rent.

"The real cost to home prices is the presence of vacant houses," he said. Empty homes make communities less bustling and attractive. Yards get overgrown, paint peels and roofs sag, giving whole blocks a forlorn look. The vacant homes also can invite crime. All that depresses prices.
It may be awhile before young adults start flying the coop. The unemployment rate among 25 to

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

MORTGAGE & FINANCE: Mortgage rates stay in the basement

Mortgage rates sagged this week as ongoing concerns about the European debt crisis had investors fleeing to the relative safety of mortgage-backed securities that fund most U.S. home loans.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending Nov. 3, down from 4.1 percent last week, Freddie Mac said in releasing the results of its latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey.
At this time a year ago, rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.24 percent before climbing to a 2011 high of 5.05 percent in February. Rates on the "plain vanilla" fixed-rate loan hit an all-time low in records dating to 1971 of 3.94 percent during the week ending Oct. 6.
Rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.31 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from 3.38 percent last week. The 15-year fixed-rate loan averaged 3.63 percent at this time last year before climbing to a 2011 high of 4.29 percent in February.
The the 15-year loan, a popular refinancing option, hit an all-time low, in records dating to 1991, of 3.26 percent during the week ending Oct. 6.
Rates on five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans averaged 2.96 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 3.08 percent last week.

The five-year ARM averaged 3.39 percent a year ago before hitting a 2011 high of 3.92 percent in February. Rates on five-year ARMs tied an all-time low, in records dating to 2005, of 2.96 percent -- last seen during the week ending Oct. 6.
For one-year Treasury-indexed ARM loans, rates averaged 2.88 percent with an average 0.6 point,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

BOSTON REAL ESTATE: Seven Best Lofts in Boston under a Million Dollar$

Lofts are in high demand in Boston and with hundreds of properties claiming to have loft qualities, it’s hard to know which are authentic and which are just trying to fit in. I’ve assessed hundreds of lofts and I believe I’ve found the top seven lofts in Boston for under $1M dollars. So hold on to your pocket books and get ready for a value packed list of amazing open spaces you can soon call home. To keep with the lofty, open feel, I narrowed my search down to lofts that span 1,000 square feet or more. I’m going to list the lofts from the least expensive, up to the most expensive. So no matter where your budget is, you can find the right space without straining your finances. Here we go!
1. 1391-F Hyde Park Ave, Hyde Park : $249,000- 2,050 square feet of raw loft space. This unit was developed by a prolific metal sculptor. The unit features industrial grade mezzanines, metal landed staircases, velux skylights and radiant heating. The unit comes with one garage space. These spaces are an incredible value, with very close attention to the industrial detailing.
2. 336 Saratoga St, East Boston: $300,000- 1,579 square feet of tri-plex loft space. With 18-ft ceilings, exposed brick, skylights and an expansive open kitchen/living space, this loft recreates the open loft concept into a much softer feel with traditional railings lining the staircase, light hardwood flooring and two separate sleeping quarters. The Master suite has a walk-in closet and private bath. Perfect for the person that likes to keep the feel much softer, but enjoys the open loft concept.
3.83-85 Brookside Ave, Jamaica Plain: $499,000- This expansive 1,924 square foot loft pulls in a contemporary twist with sharp modern edges, white washed walls against the striking hardwood floors, 18-ft ceilings with floor to ceiling windows bringing in an abundance of light.

Monday, November 7, 2011

BUYING A HOME: What to Expect When Purchasing an Older Home

Purchasing an older home can be a good decision. Not only can it help you save money, but it might also be your only option if you are interested in living in a certain neighborhood. Of course, older homes can also offer a certain kind of charm that cannot be achieved in newer homes and many offer mature trees and other well-established landscaping features. Before making a purchase, however, it is important to have a better idea of what to expect when buying an older home.
Performing Maintenance
When purchasing an older home, it is important to keep in mind that you will likely have more maintenance costs than you would if you purchased a new home. While there are no guarantees that a new home will not have problems, you are more likely to experience issues with an older home. Even routine maintenance issues, such as replacing your furnace or roof, are more likely to be an issue with an older home. Therefore, while you will usually save money when purchasing an older home, be aware that the money you save upfront may still need to be put into your home in terms of maintenance costs.
Addressing Safety Issues
Many older homes have certain safety issues that need to be addressed. When purchasing a new home, for example, you can be sure the wiring and plumbing will be in compliance with the most current safety codes. Older homes, on the other hand, may be grandfathered into the new codes. Therefore, if you want to ensure your home is as safe as possible, you may need to do

Sunday, November 6, 2011

CHOOSING A REALTOR: Do You Need A Tech Savvy Agent To Sell Your Home?

That is the question, right? So I guess it would be rude to answer a question with another question, but I just have to. Why would you NOT want a tech savvy agent to help sell your home? With the National Association of REALTORS® reporting that the number of people who begin their home search on-line is now upwards of 80% and climbing every year, it is not a matter of if a buyer is going to find your home on-line, it is a question of when and how.
When considering agents, there is definitely something to be said for those that have been around to see the neighborhood grow and change. The knowledge that they possess is priceless. But, have they kept up with the times? Even if they have not personally, do they hire somebody to take care of the ‘techy’ stuff for them? If you are getting pressured into interviewing your friend’s great aunt who has been in ‘the business’ for 30 years, make sure you ask specifically what the plan for your listing will be technology-wise. If she brings a booklet for her listing presentation or asks you to fax back your listing papers, she may not be the one.
Taking this a step further, my definition of tech savvy includes a wide variety of things. Having your home listed in the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is really just scratching the surface. There are literally hundreds of real estate websites it could be syndicated to, but the highest priority ones are; Trulia, Zillow, and But I am getting slightly ahead of myself. Let’s back up and talk about the photography. It is so critically important. It stands to reason, if the web is where most people’s first impression of your home comes from, it needs to look good. So, either the photos need to be done by a professional, or at the very least a high quality camera. It is still appalling, in this day and age, to see dark, blurry, or shadowy photos of a house on-line.
Being tech savvy is also more than having tools or gadgets. It is the ability to connect with today’s consumers via several different means; text, e-mail, and social media. Some experts

Saturday, November 5, 2011

INVESTING: Buying Your First Investment Property

Given today’s low housing prices and interest rates, it is easy to understand why so many people are considering purchasing an investment property for the first time in their lives. While you will have to take a few extra steps when purchasing an investment property versus an owner occupied property, buying investment property can certainly be quite rewarding. Before you take this step, however, it is important to learn a bit more about what purchasing an investment property entails.
Financing Your Purchase
Financing the purchase of an investment property can be a bit trickier than purchasing a home to occupy. When purchasing an investment property, you should be prepared to make a down payment that is equivalent to 20 percent of the cost of the home. Furthermore, the funds you use for your down payment cannot be a gift. In some cases, the seller can contribute up to 2 percent toward the closing costs an you may be able to have a second mortgage of up to 85 percent of the cost, but taking advantage of these offers will make it more difficult to obtain a loan. The same is true when it comes to your credit score, as those with low scores will be hit with higher interest rates.
Having Funds in Reserve
In addition to having enough money to put down as a down payment, most guidelines also require you to have six months reserves in your savings account by the time the transaction is complete. The six months reserve includes the amount needed to cover your mortgage payment for six months as well as any home owners association dues. Retirement funds and stocks can count as your retirement reserve, but lenders will discount the value of these to 60 or 70 percent when determining their reserve value.
Using Special Programs
For those who need a little help with purchasing an investment property, there are two options available: Fannie Mae Homepath and FHA. With a Fannie Mae Homepath Mortgage, you can put as little as 10 percent down on a property that has been designated for the program. No