Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Ready to Remodel? These Home Renovations Will Pay Off the Most (and the Least) in 2019

New year, new home renovations? Whether you're getting ready to transform your entire kitchen into a farmhouse-chic dream (hello, shiplap and apron sink!) or maybe just to add some new wood floor for the foyer, it pays to know what kind of return on investment your home renovation might deliver. According to Remodeling magazine's annual Cost vs. Value report, not all home remodeling projects deliver the same bang for the buck. Far from it, in fact.
So which projects give you the biggest return on investment these days? This year (like last), the No. 1 finisher was garage-door replacement. While not as fabulous as a full-kitchen remodel, this project essentially pays for itself, earning you a whopping 97.5% of your money back.
For this report, now in its 32nd year, researchers analyzed 22 popular home improvements in 136 markets nationwide. The magazine polled contractors on how much they charge for these jobs, as well as real estate agents on how much they think these features would boost a home's market price. They then used those figures to calculate what percentage of its cost each project might recoup—or not.
As it turns out, the price of a few key projects skyrocketed from the last year, while their value dropped, says Clayton DeKorne, chief editor of the JLC Group (which includes Remodeling magazine) and manager of the report. In other words, Americans might spend more on certain renovations and get back a lot less of the money they spent.
So what's going on?
According to DeKorne, President Donald Trump's new import tariffs on steel, lumber, and other building materials are destined to jack up renovation costs all round, leading to thinner margins on their return. Plus, as the housing market wobbles towards a peak in market prices, homeowners are less likely to renovate their homes, and real estate professionals predict that the renovation market will tighten.
"The economy is a little chaotic right now, and homeowners are holding their breath," says DeKorne. "People are very cautious to enter the market, which affects the willingness [of] people [to] pay for projects big and small."
Overall, the report found that in 2019, Americans should expect to make back 66.1% of the money they spend on renovations—a slight bump from last year's 65.8%.
And the report found that for some projects, the ROI is really worth it, especially those improvements that the whole neighborhood can see—in front of your house.
"The primary points of the evidence show us that curb appeal projects add to overall value of the house more than interior projects," DeKorne notes. "It's all about first impressions."
The chart below gives a full rundown of the top renovations, including how much they cost, their value at resale, and the percentage that can be recouped. After garage doors, the top finisher was manufactured stone veneer, with a 94.9% return on investment. Glamorous? No. Valuable? You bet.
A new project on the list this year speaks to another decidedly unsexy but invaluable trend: installing metal roofing. Compared with asphalt shingles, metal roofing costs significantly more, but offers much greater durability. And while metal roofs only yield a 60.9% ROI, DeKorne predicts their value will increase.
"This is the first year we've included metal roofing, and it's gotten a lot of interest," he says. "It's more expensive, but you'll get a better value over time than a common asphalt roof."
And if you're absolutely dying to renovate something indoors this year, DeKorne suggests keeping it in the kitchen. While most of the projects with the highest returns are exterior replacements, a minor kitchen repair cracks the top 10, with an 80.5% recoup.
"When buyers are looking at a house, they want to know the kitchen is something they can live with," says DeKorne.

A look at return on investment for popular home renovations. 
Remodeling magazine
A look at return on investment for popular home renovations.
Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com
By: Realtor.com, Allison Underhill 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Selling Your Home? Make Sure the Price is Right!

If you’ve ever watched “The Price is Right,” you know that the only way to win is to be the one to correctly guess the price of the item you want without going over! That means your guess must be just slightly under the retail price.
In today’s shifting real estate market, where more inventory is coming to market and home values are projected to appreciate at lower rates, homeowners will not be able to price their homes as aggressively as they were able to just last year.
They will have to employ the same strategy: be the closest without going over!
As we have explained before, pricing your home at or slightly below market value actually increases the number of buyers who will see your home in their search!
Over the last six months, more inventory has come to market while the months’ supply of inventory available has dropped. This means that the demand for homes to buy is still very strong throughout the country!
Homeowners who make the mistake of overpricing their homes will eventually have to drop the price. This leaves buyers wondering if the price drop was caused by something wrong with the homes when in reality nothing was wrong, the price was just too high!
Bottom Line
If you are thinking about listing your home for sale this year, let McLeod Group Network properly price your home from the start! 971.208.5093 or 
admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: KCM Crew

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

There Goes the Neighborhood: Watch Out for These 7 Red Flags When Buying a Home

Finally, you've done it: You've scoured the market for available homes—and then some—and found one you can't stop thinking about. It's time to make an offer!
But before you put your money on the line, take a peek around the neighborhood. We won't use a certain cliché, but there is a reason the pros emphasize location when buying real estate. You can change your house—but you can't change the neighborhood. And if your hood is on the decline, you just might have a helluva time offloading your home when you decide to sell.
A bad neighborhood isn't always obvious, though; sometimes you need to do a little digging to know if a community is worth buying in. Luckily, we've identified seven red flags that should give you pause before you sign on the dotted line.

Red flag No.1: Too many houses are on the market

There's nothing wrong with two or three listed houses on the same street. But if you see an army of "For Sale" signs, consider looking elsewhere.
"This points to illiquidity in the market and pricing pressure, which is a risk for buyers," says Alison Bernstein, the founder of Suburban Jungle, which helps families find their ideal suburb.
Of course, the hue of this particular red flag depends on the reason for those "For Sale" signs. Perhaps the neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying and longtime residents have decided to cash in. Or maybe there's a more sinister explanation, like increasing crime rates. Your agent can help you assess the situation before making any big moves.

Red flag No.2: The schools are enrolling fewer students

Schools in healthy communities should be steadily increasing their enrollment—or at least keeping the population steady, if there's no physical room to grow.
"Shrinking class sizes are a red flag," Bernstein says.
There are a number of reasons enrollment might decrease. Your local school might have a reputation for poor management, sending parents fleeing to charter or private options. Or perhaps residents are staying put as their kids grow up, leading to older neighbors and fewer close-by pals for your kids. That may or may not be a deal breaker, but it's certainly something to consider.

Red flag No.3: The area leans industrial

A nearby strip of cute boutique stores might be a nice selling point, but reconsider the purchase if the closest commercial influences lean toward the industrial.
"Be mindful of any kind of commercial influence on the block, such as close gas stations or anything that could be undesirable health-wise," says Ralph DiBugnara, the vice president at Residential Home Funding.
Any nearby industrial plants should automatically nix a neighborhood, and think long and hard before buying across from a car dealership or auto body shop, which attract a lot of car traffic.

Red flag No.4: There are lots of empty storefronts

Don't just stop at counting boutiques versus gas stations. Are the stores actually thriving, or are there lots of retail spaces for rent?
"Empty storefronts can tell you a lot," Bernstein says. "They point to less disposable income of residents than clearly there once was."
Why does that matter? Decreased disposable income indicates a neighborhood on the decline. If homeowners don't have money for dinner out, they probably don't have cash for upkeep. Shabby homes drag down property values. Meager cash flow can also lead to future foreclosures—and a foreclosed-upon home is a neighbor that no one wants.

Red flag No. 5: The Stepford style is in full force

You might love the homogenous, well-groomed suburban look (and there's nothing wrong with that!). But take a moment to examine it more closely. Are there any unique decorative doodads dotting each garden, like aluminum chickens or wind chimes? Or is the front porch furniture identical?
If all the neighborhood's homes (and landscaping) look suspiciously similar, "explore how restrictive the homeowners association is," says Susanna Haynie, a Realtor in Colorado Springs, Co. "It could be an issue."

Red flag No.6: There's no parking

Sure, the property may have a one-car garage—but where will your friends park, and where can you keep your spouse's car? If the streets have bumper-to-bumper traffic, think twice about buying in the neighborhood—especially if the home lacks a garage or carport.
"I'm always on the lookout for a lack of parking," DiBugnara say. "It's best to visit at night or on weekends to really, truly tell what will be available to you once you live there."
Unless you commute primarily by foot or bike—or you're OK spending your weekends circling the block—the neighborhood may not be a good fit for you.

Red flag No.7: Surrounding homes aren't well-maintained

A street in shambles might seem like an obvious red flag. But you also might have heard that buying the best house in the worst neighborhood is a prime opportunity for profit.
Tread lightly here: A street full of run-down homes with overgrown yards and broken fences should set off warning signals. And this has nothing to do with wealth; lower-income neighborhoods can be just as well-kept as more expensive ones. It's about pride. Neighbors with no pride in their home's appearance and upkeep decrease property values for everyone.
Plus, problems with the homes next door can indicate that the house you want might have bigger issues than meet the eye. Look at every house on the block for issues such as water pooling in the yards, or flickering porch lights.
"If there are problems such as water pipes or electrical issues, you will tend to see more than one home showing damage," DiBugnara says. Fixing these major problems "could be a major expense, hassle, or detriment to your value later on."
Ready to buy a home? Let The McLeod Group Network help - 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com
By: Realtor.com, Jamie Wiebe

Monday, December 31, 2018

Why You Should Not For Sale By Owner

In today’s market, as home prices rise and a lack of inventory continues, some homeowners may consider trying to sell their homes on their own, known in the industry as a For Sale by Owner (FSBO). There are several reasons why this might not be a good idea for most sellers.

Here are the top five reasons:

1. Exposure to Prospective Buyers
According to NAR’s 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 95% of buyers searched online for a home last year. That is in comparison to only 13% of buyers looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an Internet strategy to promote the sale of your home, do you?

2. Results Come from the Internet
Where did buyers find the homes they actually purchased?
  • 50% on the Internet
  • 28% from a real estate agent
  • 7% from a yard sign
  • 1% from newspapers
The days of selling your house by putting out a lawn sign or putting an ad in the paper are long gone. Having a strong Internet strategy is crucial.

3. There Are Too Many People to Negotiate With
Here is a list of some of the people with whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to For Sale by Owner:
  • The buyer who wants the best deal possible
  • The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interests of the buyer
  • The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)
  • The home inspection companies, which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house
  • The appraiser if there is a question of value
4. FSBOing Has Become More And More Difficult
The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 7% over the last 20+ years.

5. You Net More Money When Using an Agent
Many homeowners believe that they can save on the real estate commission by selling on their own, but they don’t realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe that they can save on the real estate agent’s commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.

study by Collateral Analytics revealed that FSBOs don’t actually save anything, and in some cases may be costing themselves more, by not listing with an agent. One of the main reasons for the price difference at the time of sale is that,

“Properties listed with a broker that is a member of the local MLS will be listed online with all other participating broker websites, marketing the home to a much larger buyer population. And those MLS properties generally offer compensation to agents who represent buyers, incentivizing them to show and sell the property and again potentially enlarging the buyer pool.”

If more buyers see a home, the greater the chances are that there could be a bidding war for the property. The study showed that the difference in price between comparable homes of size and location is currently at an average of 6% this year.

Why would you choose to list on your own and manage the entire transaction when you can hire an agent and not have to pay anything more?

Bottom Line
Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your house on your own, get together with The McLeod Group Network to discuss your needs.  971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: KCM Crew

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Your Winter 2019 Home Maintenance To-Do List: Have You Checked It Twice?

We won't sugarcoat it: The thought of doing home maintenance right now is pretty blah—especially with the holidays looming and weeks of gloomy winter days on the horizon. Who wants to do housework when you can curl up and binge-watch "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" instead?
So you're forgiven if this is one article you don't want to read. But before you take up permanent residence on the couch, you should at least skim it. That's because winter chills bring a number of home-related ills—and if you don't keep up with a little maintenance now, you could be in for catastrophic repair costs later.
So pull yourself out of hibernation mode and get started. The good news? We've done the heavy lifting for you, identifying the top tasks to tackle—and what professional help will cost you if you find yourself in over your head.

Give your gutters one last scrub

Hopefully, you've been clearing out your gutters on the regular. But once every tree is bare, it's time for one final cleaning session to "avoid moisture building up against your house—and ice dams," says Derek Christian, the owner of Handyman Connection in Blue Ash, OH.
Ah, ice dams: winter's favorite boogeyman. These troublemakers happen when warm air meets a cold, wet roof, creating supersized icicles. Eventually, that ice and moisture can find their way underneath your shingles, rotting your roof, and leaking into the living spaces below.
But ice dams are easily avoided—as long as you do a little prep.
DIY: Cleaning out your gutters is simple enough to do yourself. For extra protection, Jason Metzger, the head of risk management for PURE Insurance, recommends installing heat strips on your gutter or roof edges to keep frozen precipitation from building up.
Call in the pros: Have you been really lackadaisical with your gutter cleanings? An expert can scoop out all the gunk. Expect to pay $100 to $250.

Turn on your humidifier

Holiday humidifier. istock/Qwart
Is your furnace prepped for winter? While this might vary based on your specific model, Christian advises homeowners to check their furnace for a "winter" and a "summer" switch, which controls your humidifier.
"In the summer, the airflow to the humidifier needs to be cut off; but in the winter, you want air going through it," he says.
That keeps your skin from drying out, your eyes from itching, and your floorboards from creaking.
DIY: Switching your humidifier on is an easy task. If your furnace lacks this feature, a stand-alone humidifier, like this Honeywell model, will do the job.
Call in the pros: Adding a humidifier to your furnace is simple. Costs start at about $370.
———

Insulate (and inspect) the attic

House always feel drafty? Your attic could be to blame. Check to make sure this space is sufficiently insulated. And while you're up there, make sure no rodents can shimmy in and create their own winter retreat. (Eek!)
"Make sure any gaps and holes into your attic are sealed tight," Christian says. "As winter approaches, critters will be looking for somewhere to spend it."
DIY: Stuff gaps with insulation, and fill cracks with caulk to keep the critters—and the cold—out.
Call in the pros: If you're noticing a severe lack of insulation (or you require six blankets just to keep your body temperature normal), hiring a pro to add insulation will be worth the cost. The national average to install blown-in insulation is $1,400.
———

Create a cleaning schedule for the new year


Seasonal cleaning calendar. 
istock/ RapidEye
With 2019 rapidly approaching, now's the time to institute good home habits that will keep your space clean and organized year-round. And what better time to tackle the mountain of grime that's accumulated over the year than the frigid winter months when you can't go outside?
DIY: Creating a regular cleaning schedule makes a huge difference in keeping your home tidy and organized.
"Hang a calendar in your kitchen where your whole household can see it," and assign tasks to the household, says professional organizer Kacy Burns.
Take it one step further with weekly, monthly, and quarterly reminders.
Call in the pros: Just can't bear the thought of starting a new year with chores? If you've ever considered a cleaning crew, now’s the time. Figure on paying $200 to $300 for a one-time cleaning, but you may be able to negotiate that price down with a regular cleaning schedule.
———

Fireproof your home

With temps plummeting, you've probably already switched on your heat a few times, gathered around the fireplace, or lugged out a portable heater to warm your feet on chilly nights.
"With all these heat sources in use, homeowners must take precautions to protect themselves from house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning," says Sophie Kaemmerle, a home improvement expert with NeighborWho, a property information website.
DIY: If you haven't done so recently, replace those smoke detector batteries.
Call in the pros: If you smell gas or your carbon monoxide detector starts beeping, leave the house and call 911, followed by your utility company, which will send out a team to investigate the problem. Still feeling wary? Most fire departments will do a home safety check if you request one.
———

Maintain a smart temperature

Consider installing a smart thermostat to keep your home's temperature even. Today's models —like the über-popular Nest—will alert you if the temperature inside your home suddenly falls. That can be a lifesaver when you're on vacation, preventing frozen pipes and other winter disasters.
DIY: If you're not ready to upgrade your thermostat, you can do your part to maintain an even temperature.
"Leave interior doors, cabinets, and vanities open to keep the whole home heated," Metzger says.
Call in the pros: Is your thermostat struggling to keep temperatures even? Are cold spots in your living room bugging you on snow days? A whole-home energy audit, which costs about $400, can identify the cause.
———

Hunker down for winter storms


Ice storm
istock/DenisTangneyJr
In most parts of the nation, the first snow has already fallen—and more is surely on the way. Before the next bomb cyclone/polar vortex/sharknado blizzard (hey, it could happen), make sure you're prepared for the worst-case scenario.
"Heavy snows and ice can take down power lines and leave you in the cold and dark," says Krystal Rogers-Nelson of home safety and security company SafeWise.
DIY: Make sure you have a (working) generator, and stock up on batteries for flashlights and lanterns. Invest in a solar-powered or battery-operated radio to stay up to date with news in case you lose cellphone reception. Store wintry weather supplies—such as snow shovels and window scrapers—somewhere you can access them easily.
If you live in an area particularly prone to snow, mark the sides of your driveway and other key places with reflective poles to help snow plowers see where to go, suggests home maintenance expert Laura Gaskill.
And remember: A buildup of heavy snow on tree limbs can make them more prone to breaking, Gaskill notes, so brush snow off tree limbs after each big snowfall, using a broom to extend your reach.
Thinking about buying or selling a home in the new year? Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Jamie Wiebe, Holly Amaya 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

3 Things You'd Better Know Before Applying for a Mortgage—or Else

Unless you’re sitting on a ton of cold, hard cash, you’re going to need a mortgage to buy a home.
Unfortunately, you can’t just show up at a bank with a checkbook and a smile and get approved for a home loan—you need to qualify for a mortgage, which requires some careful planning.
So, how do you please the lending gods? It starts with arming yourself with the right knowledge about the home loan application process.
Here are three things you need to know before applying for a mortgage.

1. What is a good credit score

Ah, the all-mighty credit score. This powerful three-digit number is a key factor in whether you get approved for a mortgage. When you apply for a loan, lenders will check your score to assess whether you’re a low- or high-risk borrower. The higher your score, the better you look on paper—and the better your odds of landing a great loan. If you have a low credit score, though, you may have difficulty getting a mortgage.
So, what’s considered a good credit score in the mortgage realm? While a number of credit scores exist, the most widely used credit score is the FICO score. A perfect score is 850. However, generally a score of 760 or higher is considered excellent, meaning it will help you qualify for the best interest rate and loan terms, says Richard Redmond, mortgage broker at All California Mortgage in Larkspur and author of “Mortgages: The Insider’s Guide.”
A good credit score is 700 to 759; a fair score is 650 to 699. If you have multiple blemishes on your credit history (e.g., late credit card payments, unpaid medical bills), your score could fall below 650, in which case you’ll likely get turned down for a conventional home loan—and will need to mend your credit in order to get approved (unless you qualify for a Federal Housing Administration loan, which requires only a 580 minimum credit score).
Before meeting with a mortgage lender, Beverly Harzog, consumer credit expert and author of “The Debt Escape Plan,” recommends obtaining your credit report. You’re entitled to a free copy of your full report at AnnualCreditReport.com. Though the report does not include your score—for that, you’ll have to pay a small fee—just perusing your report will give you a ballpark idea of how you're doing by laying out any problems such as late or missing payments.

2. What down payment you need

What’s an acceptable down payment on a house? In a recent NerdWallet study, 44% of respondents said they believe you need to put 20% (or more) down to buy a home. So, if you do the math, you'd have to plunk down $50,000 on a $250,000 house. Of course, that’s a big chunk of change for many home buyers.
The good news? That 20% figure is common, but it's not set in stone. It’s the gold standard because when you put 20% down, you won't have to pay private mortgage insurance, which can add several hundred dollars a month to your house payments. Another advantage of putting down 20% upfront is that that's often the magic number you need to get a more favorable interest rate.
But, if you’re unable to make a 20% down payment, there are many lenders that will allow you to put down less cash. And there are a number of loan products that you might qualify for that require less money down. FHA loans require as little as 3.5% down. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loan program gives active or retired military personnel the opportunity to purchase a home with a $0 down payment and no mortgage insurance premium. Same with USDA loans (federally backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development).
Another option worth pursuing is qualifying for down payment assistance. There are 2,290 programs across the country that offer financial assistance, kicking in an average of $17,766, according to one study. (You can find programs in your area on the National Council of State Housing Agencies website.)
There are some cases, though, where you’ll have to put more than 20% down to qualify for a mortgage. A jumbo loan is a mortgage that's above the limits for government-sponsored loans. In most parts of the country, that means loans over $417,000; in areas where the cost of living is extremely high (e.g., Manhattan and San Francisco), the threshold jumps to $625,000. Since larger loans require the lender to take on more risk, jumbo loans typically require home buyers to make a bigger down payment—up to 30% for some lenders.

3. What is your DTI ratio

To get approved for a mortgage, you need a solid debt-to-income ratio. This DTI figure compares your outstanding debts (on student loans, credit cards, car loans, and more) with your income.
For example, if you make $6,000 a month but pay $500 to debts, you’d divide $500 by $6,000 to get a DTI ratio of 0.083, or 8.3%. However, that's your DTI ratio without a monthly mortgage payment. If you factor in a monthly mortgage payment of, say, $1,000 per month, your DTI ratio increases to 25%.
Lenders like this number to be low, because evidence from studies of mortgage loans shows that borrowers with a higher DTI ratio are more likely to run into trouble making monthly payments, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
For a conventional loan, most mortgage lenders require a borrower’s DTI to be no more than 36% (although some lenders will accept up to 43%), says Ray Rodriguez, regional mortgage sales manager at TD Bank.
The good news? If you’re above the 36% ceiling, there are ways that you can lower your DTI. The easiest would be to apply for a smaller mortgage—meaning you’ll have to lower your price range. Or, if you’re not willing to budge on price, you can lower your DTI by paying off a large chunk of your debts in a lump sum.
Let The McLeod Group Network help you with all your home-buying needs. 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com.
By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz