April 15, 2015

The Story Behind Disney's Movie "Up"

Disney's movie Up is rumored to be based on the real-life story of Edith Masefield, who lived in a modest Seattle home. For sentimental reasons, Edith refused to sell her home to developers, even when offered nearly $1,000,000 despite the home and land's value of $128,000. The construction cheif of the neighboring high-rise, Barry Martin, befriended Masefield upon hearing her story, and cared for her when she was diagnosed with cancer. Upon her death in 2008, Edith left her home to Barry, who published a book ("Under One Roof") on what he had learned from her.  The house has since been sold to a local company known for motivational seminars, which plans to elevate the home to the top floor of its office building. Below is Edith's home. Read more of Edith's story. 

In Herriman, Utah, the home from Up was recreated by Bangerter Homes with Disney's permission in time for the Salt Lake Parade of Homes this past August. View photos here!

The House in Up
Bangerter Homes' Recreation

April 8, 2015

Housing's Supply Problem Exposed

You may already know that the current residential real estate market is suffering from a lack of supply. But just how serious is this issue, and what's causing it?

According to a recent CNBC article, The National Association of Realtors reported that the housing market was still underperforming in February. There are currently just less than 1.9 million homes for sale, which is less than last year and "well below current demand." Whereas the number of listings typically increases by 6 percent from January to February, the number of listings this year increased by less than 2 percent. Even foreclosures are down, reaching their lowest level last month in 8.5 years. Lack of supply results in increased prices: prices have risen 7.5 percent year over year, as the median home sale price as of Feburary was $202,600. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the Realtors, considers these price gains "unhealthy." So, what's behind this persistently low supply?
  • Larger builders are gaining share over smaller builders, who don't have access to credit. Larger builders tend to cater more to higher-end buyers, not first-time homeowners, pricing this key demographic out of the market.
  • Relatedly, many people are choosing to rent instead of buy. For this reason, rental prices have increased sustainability and show no signs of stopping. In turn, renters are struggling to save enough money for a down payment.
  • Buyers are low on cash and are highly concerned with value following the recession. They want to feel as if they are getting a good deal, which is hard to do in light of increasing prices and fewer housing options. 
Peter Boockvar, managing director and Chief Market Analysis of The Lindsey Group, states that household growth and even higher rental rates will cause a nice rebound in the housing market, reaffirming that a slowdown in the pace of home price gains is much needed.

Now is a good time to sell, as sellers can take advantage of the recent price increases caused by the limited supply of listings. Visit my website and contact me to see how I can help. I am a full time Realtor with a lifetime of experience serving sellers (and buyers!) in Ohio.

March 25, 2015

Lists to Keep When Selling Your Home

Preparing your home to sell is no easy task, and prospective buyers often have many questions when viewing a home. One of your first tasks is to find a Realtor. Contact me if you are interested in buying or selling a home in Central Ohio! After you've secured a Realtor, help keep track of important information by using the following lists:

Basic information. This list should include facts such as square footage, year built, number of bedrooms & bathrooms, property taxes and school district. Most of this information will accompany your online listing; however, it's good to keep this information on hand. 

Best features. One good way to develop this list is to name what you will miss most about your old home and neighborhood, such as the nearby walking and bike paths, sun room, private backyard or eat-in kitchen. Best features go beyond basic information and really "sell" your home.

Updates and improvements. Not only are updates and improvements important to buyers, but also they affect your home's appraisal value. Make sure to keep track of home improvements and replacements, including when they occurred and how much they cost, for at least the previous three years. If you haven't made upgrades for a little while, considering revamping your kitchen and/or bathrooms. Other projects with a high ROI include replacing your front door and garage doors to enhance curb appeal and adding a back deck.

Things to do before you sell. This list is more for you than for prospective buyers. Have you been meaning to repaint a wall? Call a cleaning or landscape service? Research moving companies and change your address? Perhaps your biggest task will be de-cluttering and depersonalizing your home--both of which make your home more attractive to buyers. Whatever it is, right it down here before you forget! For a more comprehensive checklist to prepare your home to sell, see the image below:

March 18, 2015

Tax Breaks for Homebuyers

Buying a home this year has many benefits, such as persistently low interest rates. Additionally, Realtor.com recently published an article outlining some of the best tax benefits for new homeowners. To get the best value, consider taking advantage of the following tax breaks:

  • Buy Deductible Points. Deductible points are common tax breaks, and now is the perfect time to buy them. With historically low interest rates under 4 percent, extra points can further reduce the rate you receive. A point costs approximately 1 percent of your loan amount and usually lowers your interest rate by about .25 percent. For example, if you buy two points off a 30-year fixed rate mortgage of $350,000 with an interest rate of 3.8 percent for $7,000, your interest rate would fall to 3.3 percent. Even if points don’t significantly reduce your monthly payments, you can still receive a tax benefit because points are considered a form of interest and are tax-deductible in the same year for most first-home purchases

  • Use Energy Credits. Energy saving systems permit you to write off 30% of the cost as part of the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit until the end of 2016. The many eligible items include geothermal heat pumps, solar panels and water heaters, fuel cell property, and wind turbines. There are no maximum credit limits for qualifying items (except for fuel cell property, at $500 per kilowatt). If the amount of your tax credit is greater than your tax liability (that is, if you can deduct more than you owe in taxes in 2015), you can roll the credit over to your 2016 taxes.

  • Stop Renting! Renting is becoming increasingly common among young adults, but it’s not getting any less expensive: the Wall Street Journal reports that rent has increased by 15.2 percent since 2009. While it makes sense to fulfill short-term housing needs, you are not building any equity when you rent and your monthly payments can therefore be seen as sunk costs. Renters do not benefit from tax breaks the way homeowners do. Not sure whether renting or buying is more cost effective? Use Realtor.com's Rent or Buy calculator to find out. Your most trusted resource when searching for a home is an experienced REALTOR who is a good communicator and knows the market well. If you or someone you know is thinking about buying a home in Central Ohio, visit my website and contact me to see how I can help. 

March 11, 2015

Warren Buffett Still Lives in the Omaha, Nebraska Home he Bought in 1958 for a Modest $31,500

Warren Buffett is the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and is worth an estimated $68 billion according The Motley Fool. Time Magazine named him one of the most influential people worldwide. Despite being one of the wealthiest people in the world, he still lives in the Omaha, Nebraska home that he purchased in 1958. The house was in the same area where Buffett grew up. He paid $31,500 for the house, which is just over $250,000 today. Buffett refers to it as his third best investment after only wedding rings, as his family has enjoyed over 50 years of memories in the home with more to come. Buffett did not buy the home as a financially motivated investment.

In its current state, the stucco home has five bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, with a total of approximately 6,000 square feet. The home is only five minutes away from the headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett genuinely loves life in Omaha, telling the Associated Press "If I had to live some other place I'd be fine doing it, but I can't think of a better place to live than Omaha" and "In some places it's easy to lose perspective...It's very easy to think clearly here. You're undisturbed by irrelevant factors and the noise generally of business investments." Still modest for a billionaire, it was last appraised for $700,000 in 2003.

Buffett’s Omaha home was not his only residence. Forbes Magazine reports that the billionaire also owned a vacation home in Laguna Beach, California, which he bought in 1996 for $1.1 million and sold in 2005 for $5.45 million.

March 4, 2015

Where to Find Affordable Furniture

Furnishing a home can be incredibly expensive. Shop at the below stores to keep your costs as low as possible:

Target and Walmart. Both Target and Walmart are great places to go when searching for affordable furniture. The benefit of these stores lies not only in their prices, but also in their prevalence throughout the U.S. This allows customers to see furniture first hand before buying it. It also makes for more convenient returns should one be necessary. Note that you will likely have to assemble furniture you buy from these stores.

IKEA. IKEA offers services that you won't find at Target or Walmart, such as delivery (starting at $59) and assembly (starting at $79), without charging substantially-high base prices. Also, its furniture selection is greater than Target's and Walmart's. 

Amazon.com. Amazon makes it easy to compare furniture based on price and customer reviews. Combine this with the free and quick shipping offered by Amazon Prime, and Amazon is definitely one of your most convenient options. 

Overstock.com and Wayfair.com Overstock.com and Wayfair.com have extensive online inventories, making these your go-to sites if you want to exhaust your options. They also have home decor, bed and bath products, and kitchenware. Frequently offering coupons and free shipping on top of already affordable prices, both sites are attractive options. 

Best Buy. Best Buy offers competitive prices on home essentials such as televisions, and often runs sales that make its prices better than those found online. Best Buy show rooms let you try out different electronics for yourself. The company also offers Geek Squad Protection Plans for some products (for an added expense) that covers your devise if something were to happen to it. College students are eligible for exclusive deals simply by entering their email addresses.

Home Goods. Home Goods sells furniture and home decor, and is able to offer low prices because it mostly sells items with minor defects (often unnoticeable). The store can be compared to Pottery Barn but for a fraction of the price! One perk of buying furniture from Home Goods is that is comes pre-assembled.

Finally, you can find great deals on used furniture on Craiglsist. Craigslist is especially useful for big ticket items such as sofas and dining room tables, which will be fairly expensive new even at the lowest-priced stores.

February 18, 2015

What it Costs to Move

When buying a home, it's easy to get caught up on a home's listing price and overlook some of the smaller expenses, such as closing costs and moving fees. Unfortunately, these charges can add up.

Moving Expenses. Moving is time consuming, exhausting work, which is reflected in the cost of packing, moving and storage services. The average move of household goods in 2012 cost $12,459, according to Worldwide ERC. Naturally, costs vary based on a number of factors. The primary factor that movers consider is distance. Other variables affecting price include the size of the home and the weight of the contents of the home. Make sure that the movers inspect your home prior to moving day and provide you with a weight estimate of your belongings. Calculate an estimate of your moving fees, here.

How to minimize moving expenses: The best way to keep moving costs low is to do as much of the packing and moving yourself. If you don't have access to a truck, consider renting a moving truck. U-Haul has trucks of all difference sizes that you can rent from one location and return at another. For a small extra fee, you can also rent protective mats to put furniture on. It's best to schedule ahead of time to ensure that the truck you need is available. If you are moving for work, you can request that your company cover relocation expenses, ideally before you accept the position or plans are finalized.