The RE/MAX Associates Louisville Real Estate Blog

Six Helpful Mobile Apps for House Hunters

1. Genius Scan

What it does: This is a document scanner in your pocket. This allows you to take a picture of a document and email it to anyone in PDF or JPEG format.

Why it's useful: Most real estate agents now use digital document signature software, which allows you to sign your name with one click. The faxing part is now outdated and is used on a device that you hold in your pocket. However, some agents are old school as well and do not accept this method of signatures.

2. Dictionary of Real Estate Terms.

What it does: This app allows you to look up the annoying real estate jargon into regular English at any time you want. The dictionary includes over 3000 real estate terms, charts and graphs. Your searches can be saved and emailed to friends without the use if the internet, which is helpful when you are inspecting a home without great WiFi.

Why it's useful: You will feel much more comfortable knowing what all these confusing terms mean in the process of your house hunt.

3. House Hunter

What it does: This app helps house hunters organize and prioritize the homes you've seen. This app also helps you evaluate home homes you've seen by placing a scorecard inside the app. This scorecard weighs features against what you've identified as requirements and priorities you listed as most important.  It includes a mortgage calculator, photo storage, and allows you to share you concern with your agent.

Why it's useful: When you're looking at five houses they will probably blend together. With this app you can take pictures and weigh the priorities that are most important to you.

4. SpringPad

What it does: This app helps you remember every single detail about a house you planned on remembering. You can:

  • Scan barcodes of home furniture and appliances you plan on buying after you move in.
  • Save ideas, addresses, online clippings from design and new sites, and to do lists from your...

Freddie Mac Means What for Louisville?

Last August Freddie Mac issued its press release on the Economic & Housing Market Outlook.

The outlook highlights:

  • Employment has risen 117,000, which is the best it has been since April 2011. The unemployment rate decreased a tenth to 9.1%.
  • In the first half of 2011, economic growth was figured to be about 0.8%at an annual rate, which is still too weak to create jobs to stay up with the growth of the growing labor force.
  • Comparable to the first quarter of 2008, borrowers are paying around $130 billion less in mortgage interest today.
  • The interest rates on 15-year fox-rate loans are always a good idea for buyers considering refinancing. It reached 3.5% in early August assuring the refinance boom continues.
  • Freddie Mac House Price Index for the U.S. shows that prices are down 25% on average,  as of June 2011 compared with its peak in 2006.

They predict a reasonable time frame in the future where interest rates will stay their current range. While home values have dropped 25% in the past 5 years, Louisville has actually gained 1.5%.

It's encouraging to know that employment has risen, but it needs to continue to do so along with the consumer confidence for the market to really have a good rebound. What is good for the country is good for Louisville, but on a smaller scale. Let the good news roll.


Top Seven Home Designs for 2012

In the middle of the muck of the housing market are home design trends rising for 2012. Let's take a look at the top seven of them.

1. Home Size is Decreasing.

     Louisville is seeing less homes being built, and the ones that are being built are smaller in square feet on average. Families are choosing to build smaller, more effecient homes. This trend began in 2007, and the total square footage has been decreasing every year. It looks like it will continue to decrease through 2012.

2. Green Building Components.

     Most Americans are valuing green building materials more and more each month. This trend will not have an end in the future. A related concept is utilizing repurposed materials (recycling). So designers are finding these old recycables and reusing them in homes, which some actually do look pretty nice.

3. Reducing Home Maintenance.

     As we get older we won't want to keep up with more and more maintenance. Maintenance-free living is the preferred path for most home owners, but it is inevitable. However, maintenance-free living will be a major factor for homes design. Using composite building materials instead of wood reduces the need for a painter to paint the walls. Vinyl siding improves exterior of the home for the long run.

4. Flexible, Accessible Layouts.

     Rooms with multiple room options give home owners flexibility in choosing which room they want to serve what purpose. Larger kitchens that can hold a family dinner are replacing traditional dining rooms. Accessibility is also a new home design trend that is catching on fairly fast. People are living longer in this time period. So you will see wider door frames, lower sinks, more wheelchair ramps, and more grab bars the bathroom. Single story homes will fetch a higher price than multi-level...

Which Remodeling Projects Pay Off

Cost vs. Value:
Which Remodeling Project Has Most Return in 2012?

{ Data shown from Remodeling Magazine, see link below to connect to their site & view all projects ROI }

Based on different regions of the United States, some remodeling projects add more value than others. In our region, East South Central & in the city of Louisville, two items were shown to increase the amount of money re-couped when remodeled.

Take a guess.....Major Kitchen Remodel? Master Suite Addition? Basement Remodel? Bathroom Addition? 
None of those!

These two items would surprise a Realtor as the ONLY two remodeling
projects to increase the amount of return for 2011 & 2012:

1.Finishing off an attic bedroom in a midranged home
2.Replacing a garage door in a higher priced home

See More from  Remodeling Magazine: Cost vs. Value

Now, this is not to say that doing a major kitchen remodel, or master suite addition, basement remodel, bathroom addition or any other updating is NOT going to get back part of the money you put into the project. You are likely to get 50% - 75% back with most other big impact remodeling jobs. Just knowing that you can not expect to get a return of all of your money is certainly a better mindset prior to adding all the bells & whistles especially if you plan to sell soon. As RE/MAX Associates agent know, it's a price war and a beauty contest. Get your home staged and price it competively. 




Washington's Report- Anti-foreclosure Program

The Obama administration just revealed its scorecard on its anti-foreclosure program recently, and there's just one word for it: minimal.

Roughly of the one million financially burdened homes in the country who have been given mortgage payment reductions through three month trials, only 116,000 have been given permanent load modifications from participating lenders. The Home Affordable Modification Program was the institution that created this assistance program. Also, 60,000 borrowers have been kicked out of the program for several reasons.

Last year Obama and his administration said the program would help three to four million Americans in the next few years. They made this claim with very unrealistic expectations, and they know it now seeing the numbers that actually appeared.

      The complications that have disrupted the HAMP efforts so far:

          This program allowed borrowers to request three month trials without documentation of their income. Many of them were able to withstand the trial periods, but they weren't able to complete the program requirements such as documenting their income.

          The program was designed to withstand a 31% decrease of monthly household incomes, but it cannot withstand the common situations where job losses have sharply reduced household incomes. Most of these end up in foreclosure.

         The program is limited to only monthly payment reductions, not cutting its principal they owe. This program is designed to help out a few distressed homes, not the 15 million Americans who jumped into a losing battle.

It's often argued that these foreclosures cannot be averted until most borrowers and lenders agree to write off some of the debt they owe. A good point to keep in mind is that buyers are not the only ones to blame. Some...

5 Helpful Things to be on Your Way to Buying a Home

If you are planning for 2012 to be the year in which you buy yourself a home, here are five helpful things you can do to put yourself on the right path to getting there

1. Check your Credit.

     A bad kind of surprise is a bad credit score, but the worst kind of surprise is a bad credit score while trying to buy a new home. Recent studies have proven that most deal deals in buying a house are because of bad credit. The best way to avoid finding out you have a bad credit score is by checking it often, and taking steps to correcting it while time is still on your side.

2. Do your reasearch.

     It's best to know what you're getting yourself into before you actually begin the process of buying a house. the housing market is changing all the time, so stay up to date with what's changing in your area.

     Target states, cities, & neighborhood- be on the lookout for where you want to move. You should be considering tax rates, school districts, neighborhood character, and prices in that area. Once you have an idea of where you may want to live ask your agent to give you a brief summary of the local market conditions. Conditions such as if homes sell above or below the asking price, and how long they sit on the market.

     Real estate & mortgage pros- Ask your friends for referrals on an agent or broker they like. Follow it up by finding feedback on them and giving them a call. Have a conversation with them and test the waters to see if a good relationship is in the making.

     Short sales & REO's- there's a lot of work to be done on homes that have been a short sale and/or foreclosed. Talk to your agent because they can tell you what to expect when dealing with distressed homes.

     What you get for your money-...

Six ways to pay off your mortgage sooner

1. Pay more than required each month.

     The best way to pay your mortgage off sooner is to pay a little bit more than you are supposed to each month. You can pay anywhere from $10 more to $1,000 more. It doesn't matter, just as long as you pay a little extra it will add up in the end. You shouldn't have to sacrifice necessities, but putting more towards your mortgage is a good habit. You'll be freeing up money down the road, which you'll be glad you have done.

2. Make extra payments.

     Making an additional payment per month is a bit more difficult than paying a little extra per month, even though it has the same benefit. The less debt you have, the more cash flow you have, which equals the more things you can do. One way to make extra payments is to make payments every two weeks instead of once a month. Given the math here that is 26 half-payments instead of 12 full-payments. This has the possibility to eliminate six years off a 30 year mortgage, as long as you also pay a little extra too.

3. Pay a lump sum

     As long as you don't have other debt, it's best to pay that little extra with (if you're lucky enough to receive) a money gift, an inheritance, a tax refund, or a bonus. These will give you a little extra money to go towards getting your debt paid of as soon as possible.

4. Refinance to speed up payoff.

     The idea behind refinancing is that a lower payment will free up some money you can pay towards the principal amount. The difficult part is qualifying for a new loan. The toughest challenge is declining home values. With a lower valuation, your loan-to- value ratio will be skewed, which you may have to get insurance for your loan. You will also need a strong credit score and proof of income from the previous two years. Lastly, shorten the term of the loan.

5. Shrink your housing costs.


Exterior Home Improvements That Give the Greatest Returns

When considering selling your home in the near future, you should always consider exterior remodeling to recoup most of your costs. Exterior remodeling is less expensive than interior, and generates more returns from your expenses in the selling process.

The cost vs. value report shows the importance of putting your homes best facade. Exterior replacements and upgrades are normaly less expensive than interior, and can usually recoup close to 70% of the initial cost. Siding, window and door replacements add instant customer appeal all while adding value.

According to the cost vs. value report seven of the top ten improvements are exterior replacements. The best replacement you can do is a fiber-cement siding replacement that is expected to recoup 78% of the total costs when it comes time to sell. A foam-backed vinyl siding can recoup 69.6% of costs, while a upscale vinyl siding  expects returns of 69.5% of total costs. If you want to replace a door, the least expensive method to take is a $1,200 steel door, which is expected to recoup 73% of the costs.

Lastly, a good project to undertake is replacing your garage door. Chances are it's quite old and could look a bit better. What is enticing about this project is that the cost of this project has declined 15%. The expected return on this project is 71%.

So when you are thinking about selling your home, you may want to consider doing some exterior projects to boost the value of the home. When you boost the value of your home through exterior projects, you win twice. All these improvment costs can be recouped when you sell your home, and you'll be a happier person.


Which Home Improvements Generate the Greatest Returns

RE/MAX Associates Jan 2012 Newsletter