Category : Housing Market

When putting a house on the market it’s common for sellers to invest in home repairs, but what most sells don’t know is that not every repair adds significant market value. Indeed it’s far too common for uneducated sellers to spend thousands of dollars on “important” renovations only to discover that these new features will not increase their potential selling price at all. But since RE/MAX Plus is committed to ensuring that our customers receive the most return on their investments, we have put together a few suggestions for value-conscious repairs and renovations that home owners can do to increase their resale value, all without breaking the bank. Keep in mind this list is only a general guide, so if you are truly interested in learning what repairs will generate the most value for your home, contact a RE/MAX Plus agent today!

  1. Get Expert Advice
    Before you even pick up a paint brush, one of the most cost-effective methods of adding value to your renovations is to hire a professional contractor, designer or real estate agent to inspect your home. These people will always have the latest knowledge on the current trends and can help you develop a renovation plan that suits your budget while maximizing value. Many of these experts offer free estimates, but even for the ones that charge a small fee, it’s hard to put a price on a plan of action.
  2. Have a Painting Party
    Arguably the least-expensive method to add instant value to your home, painting walls and ceilings is a simple task you can do yourself or with family. For around $50 a room, sellers can create a clean, updated look that draws the eye and helps buyers better picture what it would be like to live there themselves. Keep in mind that neutral colors such as beige or white will appeal to the greatest number of people, making it that much more desirable for a larger percentage of the population.
    Last but certainly not least, never underestimate the selling power of a freshly-washed window or a sparkling floor. Dirt, grime, and dust sends a general message of disrepair and dampens the selling potential, even in a home with no other issues. Pay particular attention to the threshold of entry doors, windows, bathrooms, and kitchens as these are places prone to heavy soil levels. For a professional touch, consider renting a commercial steam or carpet cleaner to remove deep stains and scuffs.

For many of us, working the nine-to-five shift at a steady job is a comforting and predictable career path. But for those seeking a little more excitement, there’s nothing quite like the fast-paced world of real estate! Not only is freedom a guarantee, but the life of a real estate agent comes complete with fulfillment, intrigue, and a comfortable monetary compensation package. Of course all of us at RE/MAX Plus won’t lie; becoming a licensed real estate agent takes a bit of work. But if you’re willing to put forth a little effort, the rewards of real estate are spectacular!

First Perk: Freedom
One of the biggest perks to the real estate agent lifestyle lies in the power to have complete control over your own work hours. Agents are able to create a schedule that works around his or her personal needs, which can be especially important for parents that need to support their family financially but don’t want to miss out on the important moments in their lives. Clients schedules however won’t typically be as flexible as their agents, which means that real estate agents must accept that there may be times that he or she will have to drop everything and see to the client’s needs. That being said, it’s hard to complain when there’s no time clock to punch.

Second Perk: Simple Education
There are many career paths that lead to success, but most require many years of education and a hefty amount of debt to get there. RE/MAX Plus agents however have the advantage of having full access to training material and industry experts 24/7, and no higher education degrees are required! Whether you decide to learn at your own pace or take advantage of our expert trainers, you can access the education you want, when you want it. There is an exam to become an officially-licensed real estate agent, and given the multitude of RE/MAX Plus resources at your disposal, starting or expanding a real estate agent career is only a matter of time.

Third Perk: Rewards
With no hourly wage or set salary weighing you down, the rewards of real estate are only limited to the time and effort he or she puts into their careers. Monetarily-speaking a real estate agent can enjoy an average commission of $1500 to $2000 after brokerage fees, and that only is after selling a modestly-priced property. A seasoned real estate agent usually works with several clients at a time, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in a single quarter. But beyond the commission itself, the greatest reward a real estate agent receives is the personal satisfaction of finding his or her client a property that they love, or helping them sell their property at the best possible price. When a real estate agent forges those personal connections by helping resolve one of the most important decisions in a person’s life, the result is incredibly fulfilling.

When selling a house, it is important to show the house in its best condition. Getting rid of the clutter, sprucing up the landscaping, and repainting the walls are the usual suggestions, but what about home staging? Hiring a home staging professional to do all of these tasks can be one of the best decisions you make when selling your house.

A potential buyer is not just looking for a house, but for a home. Make them feel like your house can be their new home! The “staged” look of a house can evoke emotion in a customer as soon as they walk in the door. If that buyer can picture themselves lounging in the living room, hosting in the dining room, and filling the picture frames throughout the house with pictures of their loved ones, they are more likely to buy it.

The more you invest in getting your home ready to sell, the higher the return will be. Creating an ambiance and an atmosphere that make potential buyers feel at home and comfortable is a wise investment.

Curb Appeal is a Must!

downloadIf your home has curb appeal, you’ll be able to sell it quickly and for top dollar. That’s why REALTORS® rate exterior home remodeling projects as the most valuable homeowners can make.

Many homeowners are confused about which projects will provide the most return on investment as they prepare their homes for the market.

The 2014 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, co-sponsored by the National Association of Realtors and Remodeling magazine, outlines the costs and resale returns on the most popular home improvement projects.

Realtors know which home features are important to buyers in their area. Projects such as a new entry door, siding and window replacements can recoup homeowners more than 78 percent of costs upon resale.

So why remodel anything if it’s not going to give you back 100%? It’s because the first impression a homebuyer gets is priceless. You want the buyer to choose your home, and quit looking for something better.

If the buyer doesn’t like what he sees, you won’t get another chance to make any kind of impression.

So which home improvement projects will net the most return?

Eight of the top 10 most cost-effective projects are exterior projects.

Replacing your front door with a steel entry will cost $1,100 on average, but you’ll get nearly 97% of what you spent back in your pocket.

The second most popular improvement is a wood deck addition, which will return over 87 percent of costs, similar to the return on fiber-cement siding. Vinyl siding returns a little over 78 percent of costs.

A midrange garage door replacement returns nearly 84 percent while an upscale garage door replacement offers 82.9 percent of costs recouped. Wood window replacements recoup over 79% of costs and vinyl windows return nearly as much.

Rounding the top 10 projects are an attic bedroom and minor kitchen remodel. These are important too, but you’ve got to pique buyers’ interest first.

The good news is that the return for all projects is higher in the last two years. To find out what the best return on home improvements is in your area, talk with your REALTOR.

Written by Blanche Evans


Many of you are seeing it in the field: Low inventory, houses flying off the market and a groundswell of demand from buyers. As a result, home prices are steadily increasing.

Combine all those factors with signs of strength in the economy, and you have a recipe for another market change: higher mortgage rates.

The average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage jumped to 4.29 percent in early July—nearly a whole percentage point above where it was in early May, according to Freddie Mac.

While some industry watchers predict that rising rates could stall the positive momentum in housing’s recovery, I tend to agree with the school of thought that says the rebound will continue despite upward ticks over time.

Rates are still historically low compared to what they were before the recession hit, and prices are still affordable in many areas.

Will some home-buyers see a decrease in their buying power if rates climb too far, particularly young, first-timers or low-income families? Unfortunately, yes.

But it won’t affect all buyers.

Recent data reported by the MBA notes that although we’re seeing slight dips in overall mortgage applications as rates increase, conventional home loan applications are picking up by a few percentage points.

This indicates two things: 1) people with steady incomes and employment, a sizeable down payment, and strong credit are finally coming off the sidelines to buy before rates go up further; and 2) many of these borrowers are more than likely move-up or repeat buyers who saw the equity return to their homes and were able to finally sell so they could make their next move.

Recent data reported by the MBA notes that although we’re seeing slight dips in overall mortgage applications as rates increase, conventional home loan applications are picking up by a few percentage points.

Perhaps you know of potential buyers who have been waiting for the bottom of the market. If what we’re seeing is any indication, the bottom has come and gone. We’re in a steady recovery, and now’s the time to encourage those would-be buyers to explore their options. It’s worth noting, though, that home prices and mortgage rates could go up more as demand continues to outpace existing supply and new construction.

These recent market shifts are an opportunity for you to shine a spotlight on your professional expertise, as well as employ creative marketing strategies to communicate these trends to your entire database of contacts. Use local and national statistics to show them what’s happening in real estate.

If you know of potential buyers who’ve been waiting it out, tell them what’s going on in frank terms, then connect them with a trusted lender who will show them what their monthly payment might look like at the current mortgage rate for a property within their price, as well as a comparison of what it might be if rates reach 5 percent or more. Seeing the numbers in black and white could be the impetus indecisive buyers need to make their big move.

It’s natural for some people to panic a little when they see home prices and mortgage rates make big jumps, but it’s an inevitable part of the crests and troughs of a housing cycle. Remind home-buyers and sellers of your value by giving them the facts without the frills. With the right approach, you’ll help get those buyers and sellers off the sidelines and back into the game.

For more information regarding mortgage rates or your housing needs contact us at

images (2)

Rochester topped the list of markets with the strongest signs of recovery in the housing market, a national housing data index released Monday shows.

The Housing Market Recovery Index, released by RealtyTrac, said Rochester ranked so well due to below-average unemployment, underwater and distressed sales percentages, combined with above-average drops in foreclosure activity and increases in home prices.

In addition to Upstate New York, other areas showing strong recovery are in southwest Florida and the Bay Area of northern California, while markets in northern Maryland, southeast Pennsylvania and downstate Illinois are lagging the furthest behind in the recovery.

“The U.S. housing market has clearly shifted to recovery mode over the past 18 months, with home prices consistently rising and foreclosures falling closer to pre-housing bubble levels,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, in a statement. “Still symptoms of the distress that plagued the housing market over the past seven years continue to linger, particularly in the form of a high percentage of underwater borrowers and distressed sales.

“This lingering distress is creating an uneven pace of recovery across different local markets.”

The index was calculated based on seven different factors relating to the health of the real estate market: unemployment rate, underwater loans percentage, foreclosure activity percent change from peak, distressed sales percent of total sales, institutional investors share of total sales, cash purchases share of total sales, and median home price percent change from bottom.

Those seven factors were indexed for each market with national averages as a baseline, and all seven indexes were averaged to calculate a total recovery index.

RealtyTrac ranked 100 major U.S. metros based on this total recovery index, but data is available for more than 900 metro areas nationwide. California-based RealtyTrac is operated by Renwood RealtyTrac LLC.

(c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail

Housing Issues to Watch in 2013

By Nick Timiraos

Home prices finally hit a bottom in 2012, well ahead of many predictions that called for continued price drops this year.

Prices were up 6% from one year ago in October, according to CoreLogic CLGX +1.51%, putting them on track for their best year since 2005. Housing starts, which hit

a bottom three years ago, ramped up to their highest level in four years. Sales of new homes are running around 20% of last year’s levels, while existing home sales are up around 10%. Continued declines in homes listed for sale—particularly foreclosures—explain much of the improving price picture.

So will 2013 be the year of recovery or relapse? Evidence points more strongly to a continued rebound, albeit one that still has considerable headwinds and that varies from one market to another. This week, we’ll offer five areas of focus for 2013.

Don’t fear the shadow. For years, housing analysts have warned that a glut of delinquent mortgages—a so-called “shadow” inventory of eventual foreclosures—would overwhelm housing markets. That hasn’t happened.

On a national basis, the shadow inventory is still there, but it is slowly getting smaller. The number of homes that were 90 days or more past due or in foreclosure fell to around 3 million in October, down by more than 430,000 this year and nearly 1.3 million from the peak in 2010, according to Barclays Capital. Normally, there’s a “shadow” of around 800,000, which means the excess shadow supply stands at around 2.2 million.

Banks have slowed down their foreclosure processes and while those could ramp up in 2013, they’re unlikely to lead to a deluge of supply. Also, big declines in new construction over the past few years have pushed the current housing demand, however muted, towards absorbing the excess supply of foreclosed homes.

The shadow inventory is often discussed as a national phenomenon, but it isn’t really national anymore. States where banks have struggled to meet court-administered foreclosure processes have a significantly higher share of unresolved bad debt: around 5.9% of mortgages are in foreclosure in those judicial states, compared with fewer than 2% in nonjudicial states, according to Lender Processing Services.

Many housing markets “will swallow what foreclosures come to the market whole because we’re seeing inventory shortages develop, acutely,” says Jeffrey Otteau, president of appraisal firm Otteau Valuation Group in East Brunswick, N.J.

In New Jersey, which has the second highest foreclosure rate in the country, the bigger problem is that many foreclosures are concentrated in certain communities, particularly inner-city and rural areas. “Those markets are going to take it on the chin,” he says.

By Leah Schnurr

NEW YORK | Mon Nov 5, 2012 2:14pm EST

(Reuters) – The U.S. housing market is on the mend, but the so-called “missing piston” of the world’s biggest economy doesn’t have enough power to get the broader recovery firing on all cylinders any time soon.

Construction and related activity will help rather than hinder U.S. economic growth this year for the first time since 2005. That was before the housing bust helped push the United States into recession, triggering the global financial crisis.

Higher sales, prices and building, albeit modest so far, are a welcome boost as other drivers of the economy falter.

Nonetheless, housing still accounts for only a small part of gross domestic product compared with the boom years.

The housing sector “would have to be on steroids to significantly boost GDP growth,” Paul Dales, an economist with Capital Economics, wrote in a recent research note.

Neither presidential candidate has signaled any new plans to help housing, although the Federal Reserve, aware of the important role of the sector in underpinning the economy, is focusing its latest stimulus efforts in mortgage bonds.

Typically, housing leads the U.S. economy out of recession. But the vast equity losses have stymied the market this time.

Housing’s most direct impact on growth is via construction, remodeling and associated services, known as residential investment. Its contribution to GDP has shrunk from a historical average of about 5 percent, and over 6 percent in 2005, to 2.5 percent in the third quarter of this year.

Economists expect residential investment will add two- to three-tenths of a percentage point to GDP in 2013, helping the economy maintain this year’s pace of growth.

Americans are likely to spend more on home renovations – probably $134.2 billion in the 12 months to June 2013, up from $115.3 billion at the end of September this year, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

That would still be 8 percent off the peak in mid 2007 when borrowing against home values was still soaring.

Now, homeowners remain wary of taking on debt. Most prefer to save for renovations rather than borrow, said Adi Tatarko chief executive of Houzz, a home remodeling online platform.

Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics says housing-related jobs have grown by an average of 11,000 a month this year. That contrasts with an average monthly decline of 1,000 in 2011 and they should speed up to 30,000 a month by early 2013 as new home construction picks up, he estimates.

Superstorm Sandy, which hammered the U.S. Northeast last week, could put more people to work in construction.

Analysts estimate the U.S. economy needs to create roughly 150,000 jobs a month just to hold the unemployment rate steady.


The influence of housing reaches further than just construction jobs; it can be a big jolt for consumer spending, which makes up two-thirds of the economy.

Michael Gapen, senior U.S. economist at Barclays Capital, said real estate wealth should begin to boost consumer spending again next year. That would mark an important turning point for households’ finances, badly damaged by the housing market collapse and the drop in stock prices during the financial crisis.

“As the consumer goes, so will the broader economy,” Gapen said.

The swath of homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than the value of their home is a big factor that has held back the housing recovery. Many “underwater” Americans have been unable to sell their home and buy something more expensive. Such upward mobility in housing has traditionally fueled the market.

More than 20 percent of U.S. mortgages were underwater at the end of June, amounting to 10.8 million homes. Of those, 1.8 million borrowers would recover if prices rose 5 percent, according to data analysis firm CoreLogic (CLGX.N).

Price gains like that may not be such a tall order. Economists expect prices to have risen 1.7 percent this year and pick up a further 3.1 percent next year, according to a Reuters poll.

Rising home prices helped 1.3 million homeowners get out from under water in the first half of this year, CoreLogic says.

Those are more homeowners who could potentially refinance their mortgages, putting more spending money in their pockets.

A number of factors suggest the recovery will be slow and modest, like that of the broader economy. These factors include a backlog of pending foreclosures, the large amount of distressed homes up for sale, often at low prices, and the difficulty in getting a mortgage.

In the meantime, the Fed will buy $40 billion in mortgage-related debt each month as it tries to bolster the housing sector which Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has called the “missing piston” of the U.S. economic recovery.

“Every little bit helps,” Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, said of housing.

“People always ask, ‘What’s going to drive the recovery?’ It’s never usually one particular thing, but a lot of little things getting better at the same time.”

(This November 4 story is corrected to show Michael Gapen’s title is “senior U.S. economist”, not “chief U.S. economist”)

(Editing by William Schomberg and David Gregorio)

Rochester ranks second best, behind Buffalo, in percentage of underwater mortgages, The Atlantic reports, using data released Wednesday by

Rochester was 49th among the largest metro areas in terms of percentage of homes with underwater mortgages, or homes with mortgages with negative equity, at 13.2 percent. Buffalo ranked No. 50, at 12.3 percent.

That compares with No. 1 Las Vegas, where 68.5 percent of homes are underwater. No. 2 is Atlanta at 54.4 percent.

Most of the metro areas with the highest percentage fall in the Sunbelt—more than half of homeowners are underwater in Atlanta; Orlando; Phoenix; Riverside, Calif.; and Jacksonville, Fla.

According to the second quarter Zillow Negative Equity Report, 30.9 percent of U.S. homeowners with a mortgage are underwater—15.3 million people. Recent home value appreciation in many markets has pushed negative equity levels down from 31.4 percent last quarter.

(c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

Banks see a housing rebound?

America’s long-suffering housing market may be on the mend, two major banks said as they reported big jumps in profits.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co., the nation’s largest home lenders, each reported double-digit quarterly earnings growth Friday. The big jump in profit was thanks largely to a surge in their mortgage businesses, fueled by low interest rates and waves of refinancing.

It led JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, considered one of Wall Street’s most high-profile bankers, to declare: “We believe the housing market has turned the corner.”

Home lending is booming. The banks said profits on the sale of home loans were twice as high as traditional levels as the Federal Reserve kept interest rates at historical lows to help stimulate the economy.

JPMorgan and Wells Fargo, which emerged from the financial crisis as two of the strongest U.S. banks, control nearly half of the nation’s mortgage volume. They reported a surge in revenue from mortgage origination and servicing during the last three months.

Wells said it issued $139 billion in mortgages from July through September, compared with $89 billion in the same period last year. JPMorgan wrote $47 billion in mortgages, compared with $37 billion last year.

“Both companies clearly expressed a view of signs of recovery, if not stabilization” in the housing market, Sterne Agee banking analyst Todd Hagerman said. “These guys should continue to report very healthy [mortgage] numbers for at least the next several quarters, if not through 2013.”

There were some signs, though, that the boom isn’t as strong as it might seem. The large majority of mortgage lending was driven not by people buying new homes but by owners refinancing mortgages, which is less helpful to the housing market.

Still, the numbers were eye-catching.

At Wells Fargo, mortgage business revenue rose 55% to $2.8 billion during the third quarter from $1.8 billion in the year-earlier period. The San Francisco bank posted an overall profit of $3.94 billion, which easily surpassed Wall Street projections.

JPMorgan’s mortgage business posted a 71% increase to $2.4 billion from $1.4 billion last year. This led the bank to beat expectations with an overall profit of $5.7 billion.

Americans have been scrambling to take advantage of a low rate environment in which the 30-year fixed loan this month hovered at about 3.4%, down from 4.1% a year ago. In 2008, the rate was well above 6%.

And it’s all against a backdrop of signs nationwide that the fractured housing market could be healing. A Federal Reserve survey this week found that a stronger housing market helped economic growth in almost every part of the country. Home sales are up, prices are rising more consistently in most places and builders are more confident.

Economists have been predicting that any lift in the housing market could boost the broader economy. When homeowners have more equity in their homes or gain extra cash from a refinancing, it tends to free up more money — and that boosts consumer spending.

The top executives of JPMorgan and Wells Fargo said housing still has room to recover further.

Dimon noted that there are still plenty of homeowners who can’t afford their mortgages and that the bank is still seeing a high level of souring mortgage loans. He expects high default-related expenses “for a while longer.”

Meanwhile, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf acknowledged that the housing market is still “not back to where we need to be, and it is not as robust as we would all want it to be.”

The banks reported increasing loan defaults and worrisome consumer delinquencies. Both also reported high costs associated with servicing older mortgages, and JPMorgan set aside an additional $684 million in the third quarter for litigation expenses.

The disclosure of that pretax expense came a week after New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman hit JPMorgan with a lawsuit stemming from mortgage bonds sold by Bear Stearns, the investment bank that JPMorgan purchased when it ran into trouble during the financial crisis.

And in the latest in a long series of lawsuits against mortgage lenders, federal prosecutors in Manhattan this week accused Wells Fargo of defrauding the Federal Housing Administration of hundreds of millions of dollars by wrongly certifying that loans were good enough to be insured by the FHA.

Tim Sloan, Wells Fargo’s chief financial officer, said the bank planned to vigorously defend itself against the government’s claims.

“We’re proud to still be the largest FHA lender, and the performance of mortgages we’ve underwritten has been excellent for a very long time,” Sloan said. He refused to rule out forcing the government to take the FHA case to trial. “Anything is possible in litigation.”

With record profits and a robust mortgage business in the spotlight Friday, JPMorgan seemed to be able to rebound from Schneiderman’s legal maneuvering. The bank also seemed to emerge from the shadows of losses caused by the risky derivatives bets made by a trader nicknamed “the London whale.”

The bank had pegged the losses at $5.8 billion as of the second quarter, and on Friday said they had widened modestly by $449 million.

“Hopefully we’re not going to be talking about it anymore,” Dimon said in a call with reporters.

The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times