The calendar has turned and with that we receive less sunlight, colder temperatures, and shorter days ahead, it’s an opportune time to cross those last-minute maintenance items off your homeowner to-do list.
Practicing preventive care – both inside and outside your home – can save thousands of dollars in repairs come later this winter. What follows is a brief checklist to get you started.
For Outside The Home:
- Inspect exterior lights and outlets. Be sure that none of the outlets are cracked or broken, or have exposed wires.
- Clean gutters and clear all blockages. If leaves are falling, redo after leaves are off all trees.
- Inspect and test outdoor railings and stairs.
- Have problem trees trimmed, including those that may damage your home in a storm.
For Inside The Home:
- Change batteries in all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms, whether they’re “dead” or not.
- Vacuum refrigerator condenser coils, plus the front bottom grill. Empty and clean the drip pan.
- Inspect wood stoves and fireplace inserts. Hire a certified chimney sweeper to clean the chimney, if needed.
- Inspect automatic garage door opener. Lubricate chains according to manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure bolts and screws are properly tightened and secured.
As a constant series of chores, home maintenance is a four-season job and one which should not be taken lightly. The tasks of each season are unique and this month is mostly preparatory in advance of colder weather.
If your routine maintenance uncovers larger issues including a faulty HVAC unit, or a leaking faucet, for example, seek professional help to make the repair.
“There’s always something to be thankful for. If you can’t pay your bills, you can be thankful you’re not one of your creditors” – Author Unknown
With Thanksgiving being upon us, I find myself thinking about everything I have to be thankful for. For instance, I’ve been a real estate agent for some time, which is a position that I enjoy and love.
What Am I Grateful For?
I’m also grateful to be able to share the knowledge that I’ve learned throughout the years with my clients and those of you who read my blog. It’s a wonderful and rare thing to do something that you love for a living.
Most of us are so busy reaching our goals, making plans for the future, pushing and struggling to rise to wherever we feel our position in life should be, that we very rarely take the time to look back at where we started.
While it’s always a good idea to have goals, to visualize and work towards them, if you never take the time to appreciate what you’ve done then it becomes a constant, maddening race to the finish line. Intangible things, such as happiness and satisfaction, fall by the wayside, considered unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
What Do I Savor?
With Thanksgiving of 2013 here, this real estate agent invites you to think about what you have to be thankful for. Whether big or small, you’ll find yourself savoring all the good things in your life.
So what are some of the things that you’re grateful for? It doesn’t have to be a big thing to be appreciated. Was the sky particularly beautiful today?
Maybe you caught the bus on time, or you’re throwing the family Thanksgiving dinner this year and everyone is coming. If it brightens your life, brings a smile to your face, lightens your mood or warms your heart, be thankful for the experience.
Enjoy each moment as if it were your last, sipping from the cup of gratitude and appreciation; you may find that your heart is constantly filled with happiness. I invite you to make every day Thanksgiving Day.
Last week’s scheduled economic news was varied, but mortgage rates fell and jobless claims were significantly lower than expected. The minutes for last month’s FOMC meeting were released, and confirmed the Federal Reserve’s intention to leave its quantitative easing program unchanged at least for the near term.
The National Association of Homebuilders Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for November indicated that builder confidence, while still positive, dipped by one point to a reading of 54 as compared to an anticipated reading of 55, and October’s revised reading of 54.
Retail Sales for October Rose By 0.4 Percent
NAHB noted that uncertainty over the federal budget and political gridlock may have kept builder and consumer confidence levels from achieving further gains in November.
The Consumer Price Index for October contracted by -0.10 percent against expectations of 0.00 percent growth and September’s reading of 0.20 percent growth. The Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors, rose by 0.10 percent against expectations of 0.20 percent and was unchanged from September’s reading.
The National Association of REALTORS reported that Existing Home Sales for October were lower than for September’s reading of 5.29 million, but slightly exceeded the expected reading of 5.10 million. October’s reading came in at 5.12 million sales of existing homes.
Analysts attributed the lower reading to tight supplies of available homes in many areas and higher home prices and mortgage rates that impacted affordability.
The FOMC minutes indicated that the committee has ongoing concerns over national unemployment rate of 7.20 percent against the committee’s target unemployment rate of 6.50 percent.
Weekly Jobless Claims were notably lower at 323,000 new jobless claims as compared to the prior week’s reading of 344,000 new jobless claims. Analysts and investors had expected a reading of 334,000 new jobs. Analysts noted the Veterans Day holiday as a likely contributor to the lower reading for new jobless claims.
Freddie Mac provided good news in its weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey; the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 4.35 percent to 4.22 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. The rate for a 15-year mortgage fell from 3.35 percent to 3.27 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent.
The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage remained unchanged at 2.61 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent. This was encouraging news for home buyers and homeowners who have recently faced rising mortgage rates and home prices.
What’s Coming Up
This week’s schedule for economic reports includes several of interest to mortgage and housing professionals. Pending Home Sales will be out on Monday; Tuesday’s calendar is full with Housing Starts and Building Permits, the Case-Shiller Housing Market Index, the FHFA Home Price Index and the Consumer Confidence Index.
Wednesday’s news includes Weekly Jobless Claims, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index and Leading Economic Indicators. No economic news is scheduled for Thursday or Friday in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and if you’re opening your home for the family get together, that usually means you’ll be decorating.
If you’ve racked your mind for ideas and none sound just right, here are a few decorating ideas that might help you along your way.
Decorations don’t have to be expensive, just look outside the door of your home. Brightly colored fall leaves, either randomly placed on the table or bunched in small arrangements, can really brighten up a table.
Folded turkey napkins is a simple way to spruce up your Thanksgiving table. Use linen napkins for a classy touch.
A cornucopia is a great idea for the centerpiece. Filled with leaves, small pumpkins and other fall foliage or fruits, cornucopias remind us to be thankful for nature’s bounty.
Candles can add a warm touch to any Thanksgiving dinner. The key for candle placement is to arrange them in places where a person’s breath won’t blow the flame out, generally between where people sit instead of in front of them.
Thanksgiving wreaths can be fun to make, and a well-made wreath may even bring some surprising compliments. Tasteful and elegant at any time, wreaths made in fall colors are a beautiful addition to your decorations.
Thanksgiving baskets can be simple, inexpensive decorations for your home. Acorns or other nuts, mixed with fall leaves and a few flowers from your garden, will brighten up any room. Hang small baskets from wall hooks, or place larger baskets in corners.
No matter what Thanksgiving decorations you use, whether elegant or fun, hand-made or store-bought, the key is not to overdo it. Don’t let yourself get so caught up in making the decorations perfect that you forget to enjoy your friends, family and food.
May you have many things to be thankful for in the years to come. Happy Thanksgiving!
The minutes of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting held October 29 and 30 were released Wednesday. The meeting began with a report from the Manager of the System Open Market Account and included updates on developments within domestic and foreign financial markets.
According to the report, no intervention by the Federal Reserve was required on foreign currencies during the period between the last and current FOMC meetings.
FOMC: Key Data Delayed by Shutdown
The FOMC noted moderate economic growth in the period since its last meeting, but also noted that several federal agencies delayed release of key statistics due to the government shutdown in early October. The FOMC minutes included updates on several economic sectors including:
Labor: Private non-farm payrolls for September increased at a slower rate than for August and the unemployment rate remains high at 7.20 percent. The FOMC has set a target unemployment rate of 6.50 percent as a benchmark for considering changes to the Fed’s quantitative easing program, which supports lower long-term interest rates and mortgage rates.
A high rate of part-time employment and a slight drop in full-time employment may indicate why would-be home buyers remain on the sidelines. FOMC members noted that while weekly unemployment claims rose during some weeks in October, this was likely fall-out related to the government shutdown.
Manufacturing: Production rose slightly, but was flat other than for motor vehicles. The committee expected to see gains in production in the near term.
Personal Consumption Expenditures: This sector rose in August and retail sales excluding autos were significantly higher in September. Factors impacting consumer spending were mixed. Homeowners enjoyed increasing home prices and home equity, but overall consumer sentiment declined even as disposable income increased in August.
Housing: The committee said that little current data was available for the housing sector due to the shutdown. Building permits and housing starts for single family homes rose in August. After a significant drop in July, sales of new homes rose in August while sales of existing homes fell. Pending home sales also fell during August and September.
Quantitative Easing: FOMC members decided not to alter its current QE program during its September meeting; this caused investors and analysts to revise their expectations for the Fed taking action to reduce its current pace of $85 billion in monthly bond purchases.
Expectations for the total amount of asset purchases under QE were revised upwardly, which suggested that no major changes in current Fed monetary policy is anticipated.
Overall, the minutes of October’s FOMC meeting echoed the committee’s recent perception of moderate economic growth as expressed during its 2013 meetings, and its intention to maintain asset purchases and the target federal funds rate at current levels in the coming months.
The National Association of Home Builders released its Housing Market Index for November on Monday. This month’s HMI reading was 54 against expectations of a reading of 55. October’s reading was also 54 after being downwardly revised.
Readings over 50 generally indicate that a majority of builders surveyed are confident in current housing market conditions, but the current pause came after two months of decline in home builder confidence. While the short term index readings are lower than in past months, the HMI is currently 20 percent higher than last year.
David Crowe, chief economist for NAHB said that “the fact that builder confidence remains above 50 is an encouraging sign.” Mr. Crowe also cited federal debt and budget issues as factors that keep builders and consumers from building and buying homes.
Fluctuating Mortgage Rates Of Concern To Builders, Home Buyers
Home builders are also subject to the impact of volatile mortgage rates, which can create affordability issues for first time and moderate income home buyers. There is some good news concerning mortgage rates as the Federal Reserve announced its plant to keep its quantitative easing program in effect in the coming months.
QE was implemented in 2012 and consists of the Fed purchasing $85 billion per month is treasury and mortgage-backed securities with the goal of keeping long-term interest rates and mortgage rates low.
Home builder confidence readings are not in synch with construction rates, as builder confidence was rapidly driven by excessive demand for homes against minimal inventories of available homes in many areas.
Components of November’s HMI provide more precise indications of builder confidence. November’s reading for confidence in sales of single family homes within the next six months fell from 61 in October to 60 in November.
Builder sentiment for current home sales was unchanged at 58 and the November reading for builder confidence in buyer foot traffic fell by one point from 43 in October to 42.
Regional Home Builder Confidence Readings Mixed
Regional builder confidence readings for November were as follows:
Northeast: This region gained 14 points with a reading of 44 for November.
South: Builder confidence rose by one point to a reading of 55.
Midwest: November’s reading declined by eight points to 54.
West: The reading for November was one point lower at 58.
Home sales are typically slower during the holiday season and winter months.
The Veterans Day holiday on Monday contributed to a quiet week for economic news. On Wednesday the reading for the federal budget deficit for October fell from September’s reading of -$120 billion to -$92 billion.
Freddie Mac Released Its Primary Mortgage Market Survey On Thursday
The average mortgage rates increased across the board, but remain below historical levels. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by 9 basis points from 4.16 percent to 4.35 percent with discount points decreasing from 0.80 percent to 0.70 percent.
The average 15-year mortgage rate rose from 3.27 percent to 3.35 percent with discount points the same at 0.70 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage increased from 2.96 percent to 3.01 percent with discount points moving from 0.50 percent to 0.40 percent.
Weekly Jobless Claims were released Thursday and were reported at 339,000 new claims. This was higher than the expected number of 335,000 new claims, but lower than the prior week’s reading of 341,000 new claims.
In other news, Janet Yellen, the President’s choice for chairing the Federal Reserve, defended the Fed’s quantitative easing policy during her first confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee. QE, which involves Fed purchases of $85 billion monthly in Treasury and mortgage backed securities, was designed to keep long-term interest rates and mortgage rates low.
Credit Reporting Agency: Mortgage Defaults Reach 5-Year Low In Q3 2013
TransUnion, one of three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S., reported that mortgage defaults fell to a five-year low to a reading of 4.09 percent for the third quarter of 2013.
This reading is lower year-over-year than the revised reading of 5.33 percent for the third quarter of 2012. The reading for third quarter 2013 mortgage defaults is also lower than the reading of 4.32 percent for the second quarter of 2013.
A mortgage default is defined as a home loan that is at least two months past due on payments.
Analysts cite moderate but stable job gains, comparatively low mortgage rates and a short supply of available homes as factors contributing to improvements in the housing sector. Analysts noted that mortgage defaults have declined during the past five quarters.
As defaulted mortgage loans made before the economy crashed are foreclosed, mortgage defaults were expected to continue falling. TransUnion reported that it expects mortgage defaults to fall below 4.00 percent by year-end.
What’s Coming Up: NAHB Index, FOMC Minutes
This week, the National Association of Home Builders is scheduled to release its Home Builder Confidence Index for November.
Along with the weekly releases of Jobless Claims and Freddie Mac’s PMMS report on mortgage rates, the FOMC is expected to release the minutes of its last meeting. Existing Home Sales for October are also set for release.
Watch Out for These Hidden Household Hazards
Are hidden hazards lurking in your home? Do a safety check to ensure your home is a safe one:
Surface Scum – Keep food preparation surfaces clean and disinfected. Beware of hidden germs on sponges and other porous surfaces. Disinfect sponges on a regular basis by running them through the dishwasher.
Toxic Mold – Check for signs of moisture and mold growth in bathrooms, on basement walls, and around windows and doors.
Unstable Furniture – Ensure all top-heavy furniture pieces and appliances are securely fastened using anchors or brackets, asthese items can easily tip over.
Pest Problems – Watch for evidence of disease-carrying pests, like rats or mice, who may have ventured inside looking for food or a cozy place to sleep. Prevent them from coming inside whenever possible.
Mirrors and Pictures – Avoid hanging mirrors and heavy pictures over couches, exits and beds.
Electrical Hazards – Check for faulty wiring or overloaded circuits. Never place extension cords or wires under rugs, behind soft furnishings or within reach of children or pets.
Funky Foods – Practice safe food handling techniques to avoid becoming sick from a food-borne illness.
Potential Poisons – Keep prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and natural remedies (even vitamins) out of the reach of children.
Flammable Furnishings – Never store rags near electrical equipment or flammable liquids, and keep portable heaters well away from furniture and drapery.
Tripping Trouble – Watch out for potential tripping hazards inside and outside the home.
Recalled Products – Review consumer product recall lists on a regular basis, especially if you have young children.
Gas Appliances – Always secure gas appliances and use flexible connectors to ensure toppling or shifting doesn’t lead to a dangerous gas leak.
An open house gives you a great opportunity to look more closely at real estate you might be interested in buying. It also affords you the chance to chat with the owner or real estate agent so you can bring up any issues or hesitations you have with the home. Knowing what to ask can be difficult, so below are examples of questions to ask at the next open house you attend.
Why Has The Seller Decided To Sell Now? If you ask why the seller is moving, you could learn valuable information to help determine your offer or possibly whether or not you want to buy the home. Knowing whether the owners are about to go into foreclosure, have experienced trouble in the neighborhood, or if they’ve retired and completely paid off the home can help you understand how urgently they need to sell their property.
Has The Seller Had Any Other Offers? Don’t forget that you are not only negotiating with the seller for a price, you are also competing with other potential buyers. It really helps to know what you are up against. It is important to understand that you might not get a 100% straight answer to this question as most sellers know that competition or perceived competition can cause a potential buyer to move forward more quickly and at a higher price. If you’re comfortable in this discussion, you might want to try and see if you can find out the details of any other offers.
Does The Property Have Special Ownership Costs? Ask the agent or owner about the other costs associated with owning the property, such as Home Owners Association fees within a condo complex or a gated community. It’s important to know about these extra expenses in advance so you can make an informed offer. You may also want to ask about any pending litigation concerning the property. Litigation is not always a deal killer, but it’s better to know the details before you sign closing documents.
What Furniture And Appliances Are Being Sold With The House? Most of the time, a seller will include their major appliances such as the refrigerator, stove and dishwasher with the home, but this isn’t always the case. If you don’t already have these items, it’s important to know whether they are included in the purchase price.
Is There Anything Else The Seller Might Want To Leave With The Home? This is an important question to ask. Especially if there are specific things in the home that you have a strong interest in. Perhaps there is custom art work or a pool table that fits perfectly in the game room. The seller may be eager to part with those items and include them in the sale of the home or sell them at a large discount. The open house is a great opportunity to learn more about a home before making the decision to buy it, so be sure you ask the right questions.
One last thing about going to open houses. If you have been working with an agent, whom you have developed a level of mutual trust with, and that agent has been working diligently for YOU – showing you other houses, on multiple occasions, plus continually sending you new listing emails, to keep you informed of opportunities, etc – then you should let the agent at the open house know that you are already working with an agent. The open house agent SHOULD respect that admission on your part, and not try to convert you into being their client. Not all agents, though, are that honorable. If they inquire who you’re working with, you have no obligation to inform them.
If you’re NOT already working with another agent, then, of course, open houses are a good way to “interview” potential candidates for the job of being your agent, and helping you in your quest for your next home.
In case you ARE “interviewing” agents, I would be honored if you would consider ME for any job, which involves buying, selling, or leasing real estate in South Orange County, California. Thanks for reading.