July 31, 2014

Dublin Irish Festival Largest 3-Day Irish Festival In World

Red Hot Chili Pipers
Be sure not to miss the 27th annual Dublin Irish Festival, running on Friday, August 1st (4pm-midnight), Saturday, August 2nd (11am-midnight), and Sunday, August 3rd (11am-9pm) at Coffman Park in Dublin.  With 7 stages, 65 acts, and 535+ performers, this is the largest 3-day Irish festival in the world! The party kicks off on Thursday night with the IGS Energy/DIF 5k & Kids Dash followed by the Dub Crawl, in which merchants offer extended hours, special promotions, and live music.

Festival performers include Red Hot Chili Pipers, We Banjo 3, and the Willis Clan--a family act consisting of 12 siblings, recently seen on America's Got Talent. View the full entertainment lineup here. The festival also showcases dancing competitions and a number of booths such as the genealogy booth, where guests can stop by to inquire about their U.S. and Irish ancestors.  Adults can taste a variety of Irish drinks and food items, while children can enjoy the Wee Folk Area. Adult tickets are $10 in advanced and $12 at the door, and children 12 and under are free.  Other exhibits highlight Celtic canines, Celtic sports, and Irish merchandise.

July 22, 2014

TV Shows For Real Estate Fanatics

Real estate is not just a business--for some, it's a general interest. Today, many magazines and TV shows cater toward people who are interested in homes and real estate, even with no plans to buy or sell in the near future.

Magazines such as House & Home focus on decorating, while Better Homes & Gardens and Good Housekeeping take a more holistic approach on entertaining, cooking, and staying healthy. Others focus on architecture (Architectural Digest) or a specific lifestyle (Southern Living, Romanic Home, Real Simple, and Country Living). Click here to briefly read about each of these magazines, along with a few others.

HGTV also has a magazine that features decorating ideas, articles, and every day home solutions. You can subscribe to the magazine here. However, HGTV is better known for its television shows that deal with varying aspects of home ownership, renovation, and decor. You can read a summary of some of the channel's most popular shows, below:

House Hunters-This show follows home buyers and renters as they tour three different properties. Viewers get a full tour of each home, as well as information on price, size, age, and amenities.  Next, viewers watch the homebuyers as they debate which of the three homes to buy or rent, based on their wish list and budget. Tune in on weekdays at 10p/9c. Variations of the show include House Hunter International, House Hunters Renovation, House Hunters on Vacation, House Hunters: Million Dollar Homes, House Hunters' Guide to House Hunting, and House Hunters: Where are They Now?

Property Brothers-Join brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott as they help couples find, buy, and transform fixer-uppers into their dream homes all within a specified budget and certain amount of time. Tune in on weekdays at 9p/8c.

Love it or List it: These hour long episodes show homeowners' struggles when they must decide to either renovate their home ('love it") or sell their home ("list it"). The show pits Realtor David Visentin and designer Hilary Farr against one another as David tries to convince homeowners to sell their current home and buy one of the three properties he shows them and Hilary tries to convince them to keep their home after she renovates and redecorates it given the family's budget. Tune in on Mondays at 9p/8c

HGTV Design Star-this reality TV show documents the competition for one designer to win his or her own show, similar to The Next Food Network Star. Contestants partake in weekly interior design challenges, sometimes alone and sometimes in teams, with one competitor being eliminated each week until only the winner remains.  Contestants are given both time and budget restraints. Season eight premiered last summer and, unfortunately, new episodes are not yet showing.

For a complete HGTV program guide, click here.

July 17, 2014

Bad Credit? Don't Panic

Your credit score is important—it’s what lenders use to determine your qualifications for a home loan. You can request a free credit report here.  Then meet with a lender, who can help you come up with a game plan to strengthen it. Keep in mind it can takes months, or even a year, for your credit score to rise after you improve your finances. The illustration below breaks down how your credit score is determined:

If you have excellent or good credit (a score of 700+ according to credit.com), you’re in good shape. But what if you’ve got poor or bad credit, at 649 and below? Conventional loans may not be able to help. Instead, talk to a lender about the Federal Housing Administration’s loan program, which requires a credit score minimum of only 580 (most lenders, however, require 620 or 640) for a loan with a down payment of 3.5%. Lenders will also want to see documentation of your income and assets to calculate your debt-to-income ratio, which, as a rule of thumb, should not exceed 41% of your monthly gross income. The FHA insures lenders against default and offers mortgage rates comparable to those of conventional loans. However, FHA loans do have higher mortgage insurance requirements than conventional loans, as mortgage insurance payments must be made for the entire life of the loan unless you make a bigger down payment. Remember, a lender can always help you determine which type of loan is best for you.

July 14, 2014

Post-Grad Housing Market Expected to Improve

90% of Americans 35 and younger prefer to own a home over renting one, according to a recent Fannie Mae survey. However, only 36% do own a home, down from the 2005 peak (43%) and the lowest percentage yet since home ownership by age was first recorded in 1982. Many factors come into play when examining barriers to home ownership, including the following:
  • Student debt. It's no secret that the cost of higher education is rising. Moreover, more students are pursuing advance degrades (such as a masters degree or MBA), luring students even further into debt.
  • Stagnant wage growth. Recently, wage growth has been offset by higher prices, hindering prosepctive homeowners. 
  • Tight lending standards/inadequate credit. Not having enough credit makes it difficult for prospective homeowners to qualify for loans. Tight lending standards make it even more difficult, as lenders are more selective when approving people for home loans. Unfortunately, it takes time to build a good credit score. 
  • Competition. Ironically, many of America's "youngest" cities are also the most expensive--New York City, Chicago, Las Angeles, and San Francisco among others. Competition in these cities drives up housing prices, pricing young residents out of the market. Furthermore, people in their 20s and early 30s cannot compete with the all-cash offers that are more common in competitive markets. 
  • Low inventory. Low inventory has characterized the housing market for over a year now, meaning the market typically favors sellers over buyers. When in-damand houses enter the market, they tend not to stay there long; some sell within the week. This discourages first-time homebuyers, who want more time before committing to any given house. 
  • Inability to generate a down payment. Many of the above points (including stagnant wage growth and student debt) result in the inability to generate a down payment. People in their 20s and 30s have yet to reach their prime earning years, and have also had less time to build up their savings. 
Fortunately, things are looking up for young homeowners. Mortgage lending is loosening up, as lenders approve people with lower credit scores and smaller down payments. As the job market continues to recover from the 2007-2008 crisis, incomes are expected to rise. However, this will likely not result in a housing "boom." Currently, many recent graduates are living with a parent (11 million in 2012, according to Pew Research Center). Instead, college graduates will slowly and steadily trickle out of their parents' homes and into the adult world.

July 10, 2014

Mark Your Calendar: 2014 BIA Parade of Homes

Do you have an interest in architecture or home d├ęcor? Attend the 2014 BIA Parade of Homes! Each year, different builders come together to construct a total of 12 state-of-the-art homes within a new development. This year, the Parade takes place in Trail’s End, located in Liberty Township in southern Delaware County.

The Parade of Homes will run from July 19th to August 3rd from 12-9PM Monday-Saturday and 12-6PM on Sundays. Admission is $15, and children 12 and under are free! You can buy tickets online or at the gate. AAA members are eligible for a $3 discount for each party member upon showing their AAA card at the box office. Note: parking is an additional $2 in cash.

The BIA Foundation Home is built by 3 Pillar Homes; other builders include Romanelli & Hughes Building Company, Bob Webb Homes, and Truberry Custom Homes, among others. Houses range in value from $679,000 to $1,195,000. Click here for details on the full list of homes and builders featured this year (shown below).

July 7, 2014

Home Improvements with the Best ROI

If you'd like to renovate your home but don't know where to start, consider the five projects below--each with a phenomenal return on investment (ROI) according to the 2014 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report. Remember, you don't have to update your home all at once. In fact, tackling a few projects every so often will save you a lot of time and effort when you eventually go to sell your home. It will also keep you from spending a lot of money all at once on renovations expenses.

In order of approximate project cost:

1) Replace your garage door and/or front door. Both of these projects will increase your home's curb appeal, improve insulation, and strengthen security. 
  • Cost: $1,162 for a steel entry door and $1,530 for a garage door. 
  • ROI: 96.6% (entry door) and 83.7% (garage door). 
2) Add a deck. Deck additions now have the best ROI since 2007. Already have one? Add an outdoor fireplace or grill area to dress it up!
  • Cost: $9,540 for a 16x20 foot deck
  • ROI: 87.4%

3) Replace your windows. Buy energy-efficient models that will help you save money on heating and cooling bills while earning energy tax credit.
  • Cost: For 10 standard windows: $9,980 (vinyl) to $10,900 (insulated wood)
  • ROI: 78.7% (vinyl) and 79.3% (wood)
4) Update your kitchen. You don't have to tear down your kitchen in order to improve it. Leave cabinets in tact, but replace doors and drawers. Buy new, energy efficient appliances as well as a new sink. Touch up paint and cracked flooring. Finally, replace your countertop. 
  • Cost: $18,856 
  • ROI: 82.7%
5) Add a bedroom and bathroom to your attic. This is an expensive addition, and may not make sense in every home (for example, if you already have more bedrooms than most homes in your area). However, if you have an unfinished or  unused attic space and are serious about increasing the value of your home, this is a good option to consider. 
  • Cost: $ $49,400 (15x15 bedroom with a 5x7 bathroom with a shower)
  • ROI: 84%

July 3, 2014

How Buyers can Compete Against Investors

Real estate investors are currently attracted to less expensive cities with little competition.  Specifically, investors are looking for cities where the medium home price is at or below $195,000. You can find out which cities meet this criteria at Realtor.com’s Trends page. A foreclosure to for-sale listings ratio of 1:1 or higher is also a good metric to evaluate potential areas to invest in property: areas with this ratio or higher are likely to attract investors. This information can be found on RealtyTrac.com’s Stats & Trends page.

If you’re interested in buying a foreclosure as a residence and not an investment property, check out homepath.com using search terms “Fannie Mae foreclosures.” Buyers have priority over these listings for 20 days, at which point they become anyone's game. Buyers can also avoid competition with investors by purchasing new construction. Investors aren't looking for polished, updated homes; they are looking for deals--cheaper homes they can renovate and put back on the market for a much higher price. Of course, seeking a Realtor’s help can be of great use, given their experience. Some realtors even have “pocket listings” (those not entered into the MLS) that they share with clients. If you do find yourself competing with an investor for a property, be prepared to top the investor’s offer by at least 5%. This makes up for the fact that an investor’s all-cash offer will be more appealing. Going through underwriting before you house hunt shows sellers you are motivated. A final tactic is one that appeals to a seller’s emotions. Write to the seller(s) about why you want their home. Some people want their homes to be used for raising a family, for example, and would prefer selling to a family to a company. 

Sellers should consider this point as well. They will likely get a better price for their home if it is sold as a residence, as buyers often have more incentive to negotiate (they are willing to fight for their dream home).  However, this process will take longer and cash payment is unusual.