Thursday, March 2, 2017

Strike While the Real Estate Iron is Hot: Mortgage Rates for 2017

By and large, we saw a healthy housing market last year – but what should we expect as we embark on a new real estate journey in 2017? 

For home buyers, this is your que to strike while the iron is hot! If you’ve been waiting for the right time to buy your new home – your wait is over! Increase your buying power by taking advantage of these lower mortgage rates before we see an increase between 2017 and 2018. As Bill Dallas, CEO at Cloudvirga explains, “We expect GDP [gross domestic product] to increase 2.1% in 2017 and 2.0% in 2018, which in turn would cast an upward pressure on mortgage rates”.

Alternatively, sellers are also at an advantage. For those with changing household sizes, moving up or downsizing may be a motivating factor for selling your home. Our current seller’s market, combined with buyers seeking low interest rates, makes for a swift and profitable seller transactions! As Theresa Williams-Barrett, Vice President of consumer lending and loan administration at Affinity Credit Union articulates, “We should anticipate those who were once on the sidelines, begin to act on the market in hopes of capitalizing before rates get higher”.


In fact, a recent survey released by the University of Florida reveals that 50.1% of Floridians believe it is a good time to buy a home. Among those surveyed, low interest rates was the most popular reason given for home buying motivation. Participants also agreed that homeownership is part of The American Dream, adding another motivating factor to home purchases in addition to lifecycle factors and economic conditions.

In 2016 we saw the second increase in a decade from the Fed when short term interest rates rose between 0.50% and 0.75%. Many factors may influence mortgage rates this year including: housing market conditions, the election and new policies imposed by the Federal Reserve. Policy makers are expecting not one, but three bumps in interest rates as we continue through 2017. 

If you’ve been on the fence about buying or selling, take advantage of these historically low rates! Buy or sell your home in 2017!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Glimpse Into The Real Estate Crystal Ball: Real Estate Forecasts for 2017

As the buzz of New Year celebrations have settled down, many people are taking a closer look at the pulse of the real estate market for the year ahead. Whether you are considering buying a new home or selling your existing home, 2017 is looking like a promising year for your potential real estate transactions!

Kicking off 2017, has released their yearly forecast, predicting a sales volume increase of 4.17% across the southern Florida market. Despite South Florida’s strong population growth and stable job creation, 2016 saw a decrease in home and condo sales – making this year’s sales prediction music to the ears of Realtors and investors! “There is more inventory on the market [in South Florida] than a year ago and prices haven’t fully recovered so it is more of a value play for buyers than other parts of the country” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at

Additionally, our neighbors in Jacksonville and Orlando, FL are among the top 10 markets expecting real estate sales growth of 6.3% for 2017. Good news is also in store for our hometown of Tampa, FL! Market research conducted by Local Market Monitor determined that Tampa maintains a strong 3.1% three-year population growth rate, up .8% higher than the national average of 2.3%.

Thanks to steady job growth and anticipated home appreciation, we’re eagerly welcoming baby boomers, employment relocations, retirees and second-home buyers in 2017. As Ingo Winzer, president and founder of Local Market Monitor states, “The national economy has stabilized and is growing again, the factors that prompt people to go to Florida have recovered”.

SI Real Estate Tampa is excited about what the real estate and builder future holds for our clients this year. We look forward to helping all of our friends, clients, and family across Tampa Bay and beyond in reaching their real estate goals for 2017!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Why Use A Realtor for Your New Construction Purchase?

Searching for a home to purchase? You’ve probably noticed the increasing inventory of new construction homes available. Builders are developing new communities all over Florida, especially in the greater Tampa Bay area. If you’re ready to start exploring the option of purchasing a model or builder home, don’t go it alone! There are countless advantages of having an agent with connections to builders and the community, along with new construction experience, by your side for a new home purchase… Always use a Realtor ®

As you admire the freshly built model home, you may be surprised to learn that the “new home sales consultant” greeting you might not actually be a Realtor. Builders employ sales agents and staff to sell their homes, but these individuals are not necessarily required to have a real estate license.

While not hiring a Realtor may seem like a thrifty choice, it is always in your best interest to have representation in negotiating your purchase, seller / builder concessions, upgrades, and more! The best part? Your agent is free; no cost to you… Only Benefits! 

When builders determine the price of the home, an earned commission for your Realtor is already included in the builder’s budget and purchase price. For buyers that opt out of agent representation, the price of their home remains the same.

Buyers that choose a trusted Realtor who specializes in new home construction are on the fast track to a successful new home purchase! We rely on experts in our daily lives to provide expertise and guidance. From hiring a CPA to ensure you’re filing properly with the most deductions, to employing an attorney to represent you – your Realtor’s commitment and expertise is invaluable.

Your real estate agent has a fundamental fiduciary responsibility to you, meaning your best interest is their highest priority and is part of their adherence to the code of ethics. Starting with explaining upgrade costs or outlining clauses in your contract, to your mortgage and HUD closing costs, your agent is in your corner.

Examining a contract may be foreign to the average eye, but your Realtor brings their proficiency to the closing table when it’s time to review the final numbers. Get ready to save big on closing costs, appliance packages, and much more all wrapped up in the best financing options!

Shop confidently with a Realtor who specializes in new construction and new homes in your corner from contract to closing.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Tiny Home Trend

Flipping through the television channels and social media, you may have noticed that many people are shifting towards downsizing their living space. Shows like Tiny House, Big Living and Tiny House Nation document the trending transition to tiny homes.

So why are so many Americans jumping on the tiny home bandwagon?

According to, the average home is 2600 square feet – compared to the minimal square footage for tiny homes, averaging between 100 – 400 square feet! Those joining the Tiny House Movement are doing so to protect the environment, live frugally and have the freedom to travel.

With their petite structure, many tiny house homeowners have found financial freedom that would have been difficult to achieve had they opted for a mortgage on a traditional home. The savings from high property taxes, lower maintenance costs and less major repairs are illustrations of many sources of household savings through Tiny Homeownership. The mobility of these homes, in conjunction with financial savings also allows for individuals to pay off debts and save more of their income for travel expenses they otherwise would not have been able to afford.

Unsurprisingly, tiny homes use less materials, thus decreasing the amount of lumber for building and fuel used to transport supplies.  Stemming from the small size of the home, it is also more feasible to use environmentally friendly materials that would be far more expensive if used on a larger home.  In contrast to traditional real estate, tiny homes can be easily powered by solar panels due to their small stature, hence drastically decreasing energy use. This means lower utility bills and more money to save or use for other life style priorities.  All in all it is very easy to “go green” in a tiny home! 

Aside from all of these benefits, many are finding it difficult to find a place to “park” their tiny home.  In an article from The Washington Post, most homeowners use the land of family members, friends, or rent space in an RV Park.  However, many governments around the U.S have not caught up to the legality of tiny homes regarding building codes and parking provisions.  So still some work to do to make this a stronger part of mainstream. 

Now that you’ve got the scoop, do you think you could trade in your home for a tiny house?

Smart Homes: The Future of Homeownership

Traveling back to the 1960s, homeowners were just beginning to enjoy the luxury of having a television in the home.  The families of the 1990s experienced the convenience of owning their very own computer. Fast forward to 2016, and not only has technology advanced in the way of entertainment, but it has become a part of our everyday lifestyle.  For years, technology has filled our homes – now our homes have become an integral part of new age technology.

While the definition of a smart home is debatable, most consider a smart home a house that has remotely controlled systems including temperature, lighting and electronic devices. Once considered a luxury for the wealthy, smart homes have become a mainstream component of homeownership. Combining security with convenience, smart homes offer families enhanced peace of mind.

Beyond the ability to remotely access security footage from your smart phone or tablet, some smart homes have the unique capability to assist you and your family to safety beyond an alarm alone. As explained in an article from ‘How Stuff Works’, “not only would a resident be woken with notification of a fire alarm, the smart home would also unlock doors, dial the fire department and light the path to safety”.

Technology with this level of sophistication also proves to be beneficial for elderly individuals living alone. Reminders can be set to take medication, turn off unused appliances such as the stove or an overflowing tub, and notify emergency personnel of bodily injury. Many families have found smart home technology to be more efficient than placing their loved one in a nursing home.  Additionally, many have discovered that this form of personalized care is also more cost effective - all while allowing their loved one to maintain independence.

Furthermore, smart home technology has become the epitome of convenience. Never mind digging in your pocket or purse for your keys, your smart home will open the door for you as you approach! Forget to feed your pets? Your smart home will dispense a preset amount of food for them at meal time!

Whether you are just hearing about smart home technology, or have been enjoying the benefits for years, SI Real Estate Tampa wants to know – What’s your favorite smart home feature? 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

First Time Home Buyer

It’s time to take the next step and buy your first home. Where to begin, you ask? By and large we find ourselves scouring the internet for real estate listings and then driving by potential homes only to find that it’s been sold, or doesn’t live up to those beautiful online photos.

Here’s the good news! Before getting too wrapped up in the home searching process, there are a few steps you should take to save yourself time, money and lots of disappointment.
First and foremost: Prepare Your Credit for Mortgage Approval.  Now that you’ve decided to turn those rent payments into mortgage payments, the natural tendency may be to start looking for your dream home. But taking a step back to analyze your finances will be of absolute benefit to you when it comes to the mortgage approval part of the process! 

The preliminary home search stage is the perfect time to check your credit score and the contents of your report.   If needed, you may dispute any errors that you find. A mortgage professional can counsel you in this leg of the journey!  Additionally, starting the credit review process gives you time to pay off any outstanding debt (especially those with high balances and high interest rates), but only as recommended by your loan officer.  Getting a handle on your capital early in the game reduces your debt-to-income ratio, giving you more buying power and far more confidence.

Next, it’s time to: Determine How Much Home You Can Afford. After taking a close look at your finances you’ll have a better picture of your budget, which is probably higher than expected!   There are many online sites with interactive calculators that provide a general estimate of your home affordability – but the best way to get sound advice on the home buying process leads us to the final step…

Find a Trusted Realtor: Not only does finding a trusted realtor provide you with a skilled professional in your corner, but many real estate agents have a “trusted” network of companies and colleagues that are ready to deliver the best services possible on your new home purchase.

While working with the listing agent may seem convenient for your home purchase, don’t forget that there are buyer’s agents that work directly with the buyer throughout the purchase process. This agent has the best interest of the buyer in mind, rather that juggling the loyalties of the buyer and the seller.

Count on your buyer’s agent to represent you while negotiating the home price, facilitating a home inspection - to check for any issues with the home that may not be obvious during the showing, and carefully examining the closing paperwork.

After all of your hard work and dedication to preparing for your first home purchase, you deserve the best potential services, mortgage rates and much more from your agent including: expert negotiating skills, compelling ethics and access to minute-by-minute updates on available properties and the purchase process!

If you have found this information to be helpful, please share it with your friends and family who have embarked on the home buying journey! SI Real Estate Tampa is ready to exceed your expectations!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Millennials in the Housing Market

For those selling your home, you may have seen an influx in Generation Y, or “Millennial” buyers flocking to your open house in recent years. Yet, with the most recent U.S. Census confirming that Millennials have surpassed the Baby Boomers, it’s no surprise the number of Millennial home buyers is on the rise.

So what does this mean for the housing market? According to, “For the third straight year, the largest group of recent buyers were Millennials, who composed 35% of all buyers, more than the combined amount of younger and older Baby Boomers at 31%”.

Millennials are a new brand of home buyer. Contrary to previous generations, Millennials are delaying marriage and family to a later time in life. Whereas, home buying is at the forefront of their priorities. Seen as a smart investment, these young purchasers are seeking the stability and security of home ownership.

In most markets, Millennials are finding that renting is more expensive than buying - even after considering the fees and taxes associated with buying a home. By paying on a mortgage rather than monthly rent, they are not only saving money, but allowing for more flexibility in their lifestyle. As Casey Bond with GO Banking Rates states, “When you own your home, you can stay as long as you like. You can have pets. You can paint your living room hot pink.” There’s no worry of losing your security deposit or relying on someone else to maintain the property.

With special programs for first time home buyers, there is less stress associated with a down payment. By taking advantage of FHA backed loans, Energy Efficient Mortgage programs among many others, Millennials were able to finance their purchase with a median down payment of just 7 percent. For those considering buying your first home, revisiting your finances, evaluating your housing needs and contacting a trusted Realtor will start you off in the direction!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Real Estate Pulse:
Existing Home Sales Continue to Rise

The lack of homes on the market, price jumps and bidding wars does not stop buyers from closing on the homes of their dreams.

In April 2016, the number of homes sold shot up 4.9%, year over year to 471,000 purchases across the United States of America, according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales were up 11.9% in April from March, likely because of the season change.  Spring and summer are the most active time of year for home sales. The reports only looked at existing homes, not new construction and there were no seasonal adjustments taken into consideration for seasonal fluctuations. Just clean cut data.

Looking at Florida's townhouse-condo market, statewide closed sales totaled 10,738 last month, down 5.3 percent compared to April 2015.  However, the closed sales data reflected fewer short sales and cash-only sales in April: Short sales for townhouse-condo properties declined 43.2% while short sales for single-family homes dropped 35.9%. Closed sales may occur from 30 to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.  Net sum of these numbers reflect far more owner occupied buyer/seller transactions.  

“The strong momentum from the start of the year has definitely continued,” says Jonathan Smoke,’s chief economist.
He was encouraged by the rise in the share of first-time home buyers, to 32% of the market. That’s a small bump from 30% for both the previous month and a year ago, according to the report. Although, still somewhat below what is considered a healthy share of 40%, Smoke says.

“Where we have the most shortage of homes for sale is with the affordably priced homes,” he says.

Despite the challenges, home flew off the market shelves. They were typically on the market for only 39 days in April, compared to 47 in March. That is about the same time on the market as this time 2015.
The median price of an existing home was $232,500 in April, a 6.3% increase from 2015, according to the report. Single-family homes went for a bit more at a median of $233,700, while condos sold for a bit less at $233,300.

The positive growth we're seeing in sales for homes priced above the $150,000 mark is being offset by a continuing decline of homes for sale in the most affordable price ranges," said Florida Realtors® Chief Economist Brad O'Connor. "This trend is due in part to the ongoing decline in listings and sales of distressed properties.  In April, distressed sales accounted for less than 12% of all closed Multiple Listing Service (MLS) sales in Florida – the lowest such percentage we've recorded since the initial stages of the downturn last decade."

Inventory was at a 4.5-months' supply in April for single-family homes and at a 6.3-months' supply for townhouse-condo properties, according to Florida Realtors. According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.61 percent in April 2016, down from the 3.67 percent average recorded during the same month a year earlier.

An increase in new listings, rising median prices and fewer days to a contract make for a growing and sustainable Real Estate Market that should only continue to rise. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Why Use a Realtor in a Competitive Real Estate Market

With the housing demand exceeding the supply in markets across the U.S., homebuyers may be facing quite the challenge to find the perfect home this spring.  The total housing inventory at the end of February 2016 was 1.88 million, 1.1 percent lower than last year leaving us with an unbalanced market between home buyers and sellers.  In Tampa, there are less homes than buyers and clearly we are in a seller's market.
In competitive markets such as these, it is incredibly important that homebuyers and sellers work with a Real Estate Professional. Realtors who have the National Association of Realtors Accredited Buyer’s Representative designation specialize in working directly with buyer-clients. Helping them through the challenges of finding their ideal home and securing that home by way of negotiating purchase prices and contracts is the top priority. The National Association of Realtors, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. "When there is more demand than inventory homes sell quickly, prices rise and bidding wars can start," said NAR President Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida.
A Realtor is a home buyer’s upper hand; they understand local markets and can negotiate on behalf of their buyer-clients.  Sellers are able to expect a price premium for their homes now, of course as long as we are not over market value, and over anticipated appraisal value. It is a fine line.Salomone adds, "Buying a home is often one of the biggest decisions of a person’s life, and having a Realtor in their corner is the ultimate advantage. They are there to guide consumers through the complexities of this life changing transaction." 
 Here are 5 reasons why you should work with a Realtor:
 Ethical Representation – Every Realtor must adhere to a strict code of ethics. As a Realtors' client you can expect honest and ethical representation and treatment throughout the transaction process. Their first obligation is always to you, the client.
 Expert Guidance– A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best contract and avoid costly delays or mistakes on either side of the process.Buying and selling a home usually requires multiple contracts, forms, reports, disclosures, technical documents and jargon. You want to work with a professional who knows all these items and can decipher it all for you, and be sure that you are being fairly dealt with.  
 Objective Opinion – By understanding both your needs and search criteria, desired area, a Realtor can provide information on local developments, utilities, zoning, schools and more.  Realtors can use data to help you determine if the property has what you need and also point out additional neighborhoods you don’t know much about that may also suit your housing needs better than you thought!  For a seller, it is introducing the same information to a buyer audience. 
Search Power – Sometimes properties are available but not actively advertised. A Realtor can help you find properties not listed on home search sites and can help you avoid dated advertisements. Perhaps the property is still being advertised, but is no longer available. Let a Realtor help save you time and effort! If you are selling, a realtor can maximize the exposure you desire to sell your home quickly, especially if you have a marketing department as part of the agent's sphere of influence.
 Negotiation Skills for Buyers, Sellers – There are many factors in discussing a deal on a property. A Realtor will look at every angle from your perspective. A good example would be drafting a purchase agreement that allows enough time for you to complete inspections on the property before you are bound to completing the purchase.
A home is much more than its structure. And for most people is the largest investment they will ever make. Having a concerned but objective Realtor helps you stay focused on the issues most important to you while they seamlessly guide you through the home buying and selling process as seamlessly as possible. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Real Estate Buyers: Why a VA loan? Why not?!

Real Estate Buyers:

Why a VA loan? Why not?!

When you are looking for the best, lowest mortgage rate, the VA home loan is where it’s at. The VA loan program is the most powerful home loan program on the market for many veterans, service members and military families (Active Duty, Retired, and Disabled). These flexible, government backed loans are offered with significant benefits that open the doors of home ownership to veterans who might otherwise grapple (or not) to obtain a mortgage on a new home purchase.

VA loans feature competitive rates and terms to qualified borrowers with little to no money out of pocket.  According to Ellie Mae, VA mortgage rates continuously beat conventional rates by 25 basis points (0.25%) or more on any given day, with gaps as wide as 150 basis points for some borrowers with less-than-perfect credit scores.  March marked the 23rd month in a row in which VA mortgage rates being lower than conventional rates. Astonishing!

Not only do you save on rates and payments, but you also save on mortgage insurance too! In contrast to conventional loans, VA mortgages never require mortgage insurance (PMI), regardless of the down payment, making overall borrowing costs significantly lower with VA loans.

Worried about getting approved?  Don’t be. If you are shopping for a VA loan you will see that not only are mortgage rates low, but lenders are approving mortgage applications more than usual. Since earlier in the decade, lenders have been loosening their guidelines and approving home loans more aggressively.

Still trying to decide if a VA loan is best for you? Here is a recap of the benefits as well as some additional tidbits to help educate you on just why you should absolutely take advantage of this benefit offered if eligible.

1.    VA loans can be used for either a purchase or refinance of a home. Because the Department of Veteran Affairs guarantees the VA loan against loss, mortgage lenders can make lower interest rates available to VA loan applicants.

2.    VA loans allow for 100% financing. There is no down payment or mortgage insurance requirement.

3.    A VA loan is also assumable, which means that a VA home can be sold with its VA financing attached. In the future, having an assumable loan at today’s rates makes selling you home very attractive to a buyer in the market.

4.    You will have access to the Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL).  This program allows you to refinance (without reverification of credit) into a lower interest rate as well as convert an adjustable rate mortgage into a fixed rate mortgage. Not even a home appraisal is required to get approved!  These are incredible features otherwise not available in the mortgage industry.

5.    Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is a significant benefit to qualified active military members. Lenders can count your BAH as effective income, which means you can use BAH to pay some or all of you monthly mortgage costs! BAH varies on pay grade, your geographic location and number of dependents.

6.    No Prepayment Penalty! A VA loan allows borrowers to pay off their home loan at any given point without having to worry about penalties for doing so. With the absence of a prepayment penalty, borrowers are free to consider future home purchases or refinancing options!

In 2015, a total of 631,142 home loans were guaranteed by the VA, the largest year in the history of the program! The success has been felt nationwide as VA purchases and VA refinanced loans increased in all 50 states.

The VA loan continues to be a lifeline for Veterans and military families looking to achieve the dream of home ownership!   

      -  SI Real Estate Tampa Bay