Thursday, October 20, 2016
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 TheTinyLife.com, 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?
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
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
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 Realtor.org, “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, realtor.com’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
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?!
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
Friday, April 8, 2016
It’s no secret that spring is the busiest time for home buying and selling. Homeowners planning to put their homes on the market should start preparing NOW! Following these few easy tips can make for a much smoother selling experience.
If you are a prospective home seller, here are a few guidelines to help you get ready for the Spring Market:
Don’t you love walking into a newly furnished model home? The open, clear, fresh new home is one you can picture yourself living in instantly. What you don’t see in this model home is a stack of magazines on the table, perhaps a stack of mail or even children’s artwork casually hanging on the refrigerator. While everyone has clutter, buyers want to see the model home version of your home for sale. A home they can envision living in. Putting away single framed family photos, clearing off shelves and counters can also help reduce clutter instantly.
As you begin to clear away the clutter, pack it. It may sound crazy to begin packing months before a move date, but since you eventually will need to, you may as well begin organizing yourself now. Besides, you home may sell very quickly! Garages, closets, attics, storage areas are all good examples of areas you can begin packing sooner rather than later.
To ensure the home is maintaining that model home look and feel, you may need to make some minor repairs or spruce up areas. Perhaps the grout in the bathroom could use some cleaning or some fresh caulk. Cleaning or replacing light fixtures, doorknobs or other fixtures can also give an occupied home a fresh clean look. Fresh paint should always be considered, however painting the front door may give an overall neat and tidy appearance.
Do Your Homework
If you plan to buy another home, you will need to decide if you are going to sell your home first or if you are going to make an offer on a new home before putting yours on the market. Once that is determined you may also want to consider consulting a lender to determine your financial capabilities. They can also assist you with the transition from one home to another.
Interview Real Estate Professionals
Your listing agent will make a huge difference in how quickly your home sells. Talk to several agents to see which may have the experience needed to guide you through the process. Check with professionals in your market and in your price range. An agent with a great marketing plan and solid local knowledge is important. Talk to friends to get recommendations and choose someone who seems knowledgeable and can present you with the best detailed market analysis. Work with someone who answers the phone and returns calls!
If you spend the winter months preparing for listing or purchasing, you’ll find yourself ready to move now as the spring housing market is bustling!
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Real Estate Season - Home Buying and Selling
Hot Springtime Demand About To Start!
The first month of each year when home buying starts to heat up is always April. Experts at the Florida Association of Realtors are expecting the next 4 months (April to July) to have the highest number of buyer and seller transactions all year. Considering real estate transactions have already started this year off at an extremely fast pace, it is exciting to think about the upcoming spring season of 2016.
Sellers will remain in the driver’s seat at all pricing levels. Inventory of homes around $100 to $125K are sparse and extremely competitive, down 8.6% since January of last year. At this price point, there are typically investor type properties needing work and / or updating. You can also find homes and townhomes that attract first time homebuyers looking to step into the real estate market. Overall inventory has been sub 4 month levels all year long here in Florida, almost all of 2015 as well.
Even though we expect a lot of new listings to come on the market in the next 30-60 days (normal in the spring), we also predict buyers to be out in droves. In fact, the number of new buyers looking under $400K should drastically outnumber the new inventory that pops up. This will further reduce inventory and further increase home prices throughout the entire state. Daren Blomquist, chief economist researcher for RealtyTrac, explains that “homes tend to sell faster in the spring because of demand”. This is nearly always true as springtime is when schools wind down, everyone has a firm grasp on their finances/budgets, tax returns, and the first quarter of the year is coming to a close.
So how much more activity level in the Florida housing market could we see exactly? Since homes have been selling quickly all year long, we are not sure how much faster homes could be sold. Forbes real estate offers this advice to buyers who are about to start looking in the spring buying season: “buyers should be prepared to move quickly, exceed the asking price and be flexible. Pay a compliment to the space you are considering and connect with the owner, who may be willing to sell to someone who will occupy the house rather than to an investor”. Wow we have come a long way since the recession… Forbes is now recommending wooing the seller in order to persuade them to accept your offer over someone else’s! To put demand into a statistical perspective, in just 12 months’ time, demand has driven the median price for single family home resales in Florida up 8.2% to $213,800. Bob Walters, chief economist for Quicken Loans says the inventory woes and subsequent rising prices are due to “a decade of pent-up demand”.
On the finance side of things, Interest rates have increased three times in March. Although they have been raised several times, they are still holding below 4%. Since the Fed keeps offering these extremely attractive rates, there is a growing sense of urgency to purchase very soon! The entire real estate / housing industry knows interest rates simply cannot stay this historically low for much longer. Low rates compounded with the normal increase in demand for the spring housing market will be a perfect storm to motivate buyers into an action plan who were otherwise on the fence. Increasing competition and reducing inventory even further could very well happen! To coincide with all of this new buyer demand, if you are a seller or may be thinking of selling your home you absolutely should not wait. Start preparing your home ASAP for listing, and taking care of minor things that a home inspector may find. You should also spruce up the exterior of your home with some landscaping maintenance, paint or pressure washing depending on your home’s needs. A little curb appeal will go along way with potential buyers. You will sell your home even faster and for an even better price! Will suggest more in another listing blog coming soon.
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Real Estate Pulse 2016: Short Supply Continues to Push Home Prices Up
It’s no secret that for the past 6-8 months the supply of single family homes has been well below average. Here in the Florida market, the lack of homes to purchase is causing a buyer frenzy. Specifically in the Tampa Bay and Miami housing markets, the shortage is readily apparent. Prices have shot up already in the beginning of 2016 as both first time home buyers and move up buyers struggle to find what they want without paying a supply shortage premium. Shoppers are also having to compete with other buyers when they do locate a property that fits their needs.
Closed sales in the first part of 2016 have drastically outnumbered the amount of properties put on the market in Tampa Bay as well as statewide in Florida. This has further reduced the supply of available homes, forcing prices to jump up in a hurry. All of the large counties in our area: Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Pinellas have less than a 3 month supply of available homes. Real Estate inventory target is a 6 month supply in order to maintain a healthy supply/demand balance. There are an abundance of buyers looking in our Tampa Bay market at the moment, and they are having to compete if they want to secure a contract. Example: SI Real Estate is are currently working with a repeat client of ours who is looking for a new property to add to his portfolio. We are finding that homes priced correctly are selling in days; multiple offer scenarios can and do exceed listing prices. One single family house popped up a few days ago we were interested in for this client. The listing agent advised to submit our best and highest offer by that evening. He also said it would need to be above asking price since they already have offers at full listing price. As you can imagine, sellers in this housing market are securely in the driver’s seat… dating back to about 2013. Many of our clients are getting in now to list and sell their homes at the highest possible prices in nearly a decade! A strong spring real estate market is predicted for spring 2016. Let's see if it happens!
The market is definitely jumping. Sellers are rejoicing with all of the action and buyers are having to act quickly on resales as well as for new builder inventory! Savvy buyers looking for a new home also realize they should have representation in builder transactions for finding all available discounts and negotiating the best deal on their behalf.
Some of the January 2016 data that has been released is extremely impressive: median prices of single family homes in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando saw an average 22% increase in sales prices from January of 2015 to January of 2016. Hillsborough 21.3% for a median price of $194,000, Pinellas jumped 23.6% to $193,500 and Hernando spiked 23.8% to $130,000. This is the 50th month in a row that the statewide median price went up. Just let that sink in!