Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS
 
Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS

Jeff's Blog

Mortgage Rates Move Higher for Second Consecutive Week

May 17, 2013 4:42 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing fixed-rate mortgages following U.S. Treasury bond yields higher this week on signs of stronger consumer spending.

Findings:
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.51 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending May 16, 2013, up from last week when it averaged 3.42 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.79 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.69 percent with an average 0.7 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.61 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.04 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.62 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.58 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.83 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.55 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.53 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.78 percent.

"Mortgage rates followed U.S. Treasury bond yields higher this week on signs of stronger consumer spending,” says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. “Advanced retail sales rose 0.1 percent in April, above the market forecast consensus of a 0.3 percent decline. Excluding such items as automobiles and gasoline, sales were up 0.5 percent for the second time in three months.

"Households are also shoring up their balance sheets. Total household debt fell by about $110 billion in the first quarter. In addition, approximately three million homeowners were seriously delinquent (90 days or more delinquent or in foreclosure) on their first mortgages, down from a peak of about 5.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2009."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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National Poll Shows Ethics, Social Recommendations Fuel the Growing Sharing Economy

May 17, 2013 4:42 am

According to a new national poll, the emergence of the Sharing Economy is primarily driven by philosophical ideals, in addition to the financial benefits. The poll of over 2,000 adults was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of Airbnb.

Leading the way in sharing are people under 35 years old (30 percent), who are more likely to be digitally savvy. Rachel Botsman, author of "What's Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live," estimates that the Sharing Economy is a $26 billion industry that will continue to grow rapidly as Americans look for new revenue opportunities in a down economy.

While many people who have shared property or belongings online started sharing to make extra cash (31 percent), evidence points to a shift in motivation for those who continue to participate in the new economic model. A plurality of sharers (36 percent) identified that the philosophical beliefs behind sharing—values often instilled in kindergarten—were their top motivation. This finding may partially explain the success seen by community marketplaces for sharing where financial and philosophical benefits are integrated.

"The down economy has created an appetite for sharing that is expanding economic opportunities for people to generate income with big ticket items like their homes, cars or skills," said Farnoosh Torabi, a personal finance expert, author and TV personality. "Often people begin sharing as a way to make money, but we're seeing that philosophical benefits and social connections are the reasons people come back time and time again. The bridge between online and offline communities are creating the virility and stickiness that is propelling the 'Sharing Economy' forward."

Among sharers, the vast majority (77 percent) agree that being able to borrow or rent property or belongings online is a great way to save money, and two thirds (68 percent) agree that it is a great way to earn additional income. Six in ten sharers (61 percent) agree that earning extra money is a major motivation for sharing, and almost half (46 percent) put the earned money toward paying bills.

Responses indicated a general belief in the growth of the Sharing Economy. A majority (60 percent) sees the sharing economy as a new trend. A majority of those who have shared (55 percent) say that they would recommend sharing with others, indicating a potentially strong growth trajectory. This conclusion is consistent with analysts' projections around the growth of the Sharing Economy.

Source: Airbnb

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Finish Your To Do List During National Home Improvement Month

May 16, 2013 4:40 am

May is National Home Improvement Month and the perfect time to tackle those home repairs or improvements that you have been putting off. Consider the following home improvement ideas or home repair projects during National Home Improvement Month:

Fix leaky faucets
• Not only can leaky faucets be extremely annoying, they can waste up to 750 gallons of water during the summer!
Address potential moisture problems

• Water-stained walls can be the early signs of a greater moisture problem in your home that can lead to damaged drywall and toxic mold. Get on top of this problem before it costs you thousands of dollars to make replacements.

• Investigate the attic for leaks and you could save yourself up to $5,000 on drywall and roof repairs.

Reinstall weather stripping
• If you want to save some money on your energy bills, reinstalling weather stripping could help by reducing the amount of air leaks in your home. This can help you save an average of $80 on air conditioning alone!

As far as your home's exterior is concerned, here are a few projects that you should look into:

Painting
• A fresh coat of paint is one of the best ways to refresh the look of your home and protect it at the same time. But if these two reasons aren't enough for you, repainting your home can do wonders for increasing your home's market value. May temperatures are often ideal for exterior painting.

Repair damaged window or door frames
• As with the weather stripping, replacing broken door and window frames can help seal your home and provide better insulation. This is also important for keeping out seasonal moisture, which can lead to toxic mold growth.

Repair deck
• Making repairs to your deck is crucial before the onset of summer. The last thing you want is to have a party in your backyard only to have someone crash through a rotted deck plank or fall down the stairs due to a weakened railing!

Clean out gutters
• Get rid of all the debris that winter deposited into your gutters to avoid water damage and repairs that could cost you up to $10,000.
May is the perfect month for general home repairs and home improvements because it is generally the time of year when the weather is most conducive to exterior home repairs. It is right after the severe winter and the rainy spring, and before the high temperatures of summer.

The items listed above are general home repair ideas that should be made to your home every year, or few years in the case of painting.

Source: Handyman Connection

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Freddie Mac Announces Immediate Availability of Streamlined Modification for Delinquent Borrowers

May 16, 2013 4:40 am

Freddie Mac announced it is making its new Streamlined Modification program immediately available to all eligible borrowers nationwide in order to expedite financial relief for potentially thousands of distressed families. Freddie Mac's Streamlined Modification program had originally been scheduled to start on July 1, 2013.

"Freddie Mac is giving a green light to its mortgage servicers to speed up financial relief for potentially thousands of families with delinquent mortgages across the nation. Now mortgage servicers can send eligible borrowers their Streamlined Modification trial period terms as soon as they are ready and borrowers can modify their loans by making the three trial period payments on time. No borrower documentation is needed. Freddie Mac is focused on adding momentum to the housing recovery by giving distressed borrowers more options to avoid foreclosure."

• The announcement extends to the entire country Freddie Mac's decision to make the Streamlined Modification immediately available to eligible Hurricane Sandy victims.
• Under the Streamlined Modification program, servicers are required to send modification offers to borrowers who are at least 90 days, but no more than 720 days, delinquent on mortgages that are at least 12 months old and meet other eligibility criteria.
• Eligible borrowers are not required to submit documentation for a Streamlined Modification.
• The modification becomes permanent after the borrower demonstrates their ability to pay making on-time payments during the three month trial period.
• The Streamlined Modification offers the same mortgage terms as Freddie Mac's Standard Modification, which enables servicers to reduce monthly mortgage payments by adjusting interest rates, extending payment terms to 40 years, and, in certain cases, provide principal forbearance.
• Since 2009, Freddie Mac has helped more than 830,000 distressed borrowers avoid foreclosure and more than 6.7 million families refinance into more affordable mortgages through Freddie Mac's refinance options, including the Relief Refinance Mortgage(SM) and the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP).
• More information about the Streamlined Modification can be found at FreddieMac.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Landscaping Can Impact Home Values

May 16, 2013 4:40 am

The Appraisal Institute, the nation’s largest professional association of real estate appraisers, advises homeowners to properly maintain their landscaping, which can significantly affect property values.

“If a landscaping change is positive, it can often enhance price and reduce a home’s time on the market,” said Appraisal Institute President Richard L. Borges II, MAI, SRA. “But if the change is negative, it can lower the price and lengthen the time a home remains for sale.”

Curb appeal is essential when selling a home, Borges said, noting it’s the homeowner’s opportunity to make a great first impression. A home with lackluster landscaping or an exterior in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint will likely be unappealing to prospective buyers and ultimately could affect the home’s potential resale value, he said.

Landscaping is typically associated with lawns, trees, bushes and flowers. But other items also can be considered part of landscaping, such as fire pits, decks, patios, waterfalls, swimming pools and outdoor lighting, all of which could add to the value of the home.

Borges added that homeowners should trim growth regularly, replant approximately every 5 to 10 years depending on growth and not “overwhelm” the house. He also advised that homeowners check out what their neighbors have done and keep landscaping maintenance and improvements on par with neighborhood norms.

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, trees that are too close to buildings may be fire hazards. Additionally, larger tree root systems that extend underneath a house can cause foundation uplift and can leech water from the soil beneath foundations, causing the structures to settle and sink unevenly.

According to a recent study conducted by Lawn & Landscape magazine, about two-thirds of homeowners say they’ll get less than 60 percent of their landscaping investment back when they sell the home.

“Landscaping improvements could make an impact on resale value, and homeowners need to consider how long they’ll be in the home and whether to make short-term updates or plan for the long haul,” Borges said.

Borges said homeowners should ask themselves the following questions when it comes to the quality of their home’s green space:

• Is the landscaping attractive enough to make the prospective buyer walk through the front door? Keep the design contemporary and in line with comparable properties in the area.
• Could the landscaping provide cost savings? Landscaping that requires little or no water to maintain could be desirable depending on the geographic area.
• Is the landscaping energy-efficient for the home overall? For example, it’s a good idea to plant trees in a place where they block the sun in locations with year-round hot climates.
• Are the trees planted at a safe distance from the home and are they healthy and well maintained? Weak, old or damaged trees planted too close to a home or building could pose dangers to the home’s structure and will need to be removed. Consumers should also be sure that mulching or beds don’t get too close to wood around foundations to avoid wood-destroying organisms.

Source: Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Protecting Home Improvement Investments: Why House Paint Fails

May 15, 2013 4:40 am

I am always surprised when I stumble across great information for homeowners in unlikely places. In the latest instance, it is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory with its comprehensive report on why house paint fails.

The prospect of painting even a small building is one of the more involving and expensive improvement projects a homeowner can take on themselves. And many opt to leave it to professional painters.

Either way, take into account the following things that could cause all that hard and expensive exterior painting work to fail:

  • Wood was wet when it was painted. If only the surface of the wood is wet, then only 1 sunny day is usually needed for drying prior to painting. If the wood is saturated, several sunny or windy days are necessary for drying prior to painting.
  • Unfinished siding was exposed to several weeks of sunlight before painting. Sunlight degrades the unfinished wood surface, thus it will never hold paint as well as fresh wood. If the unfinished wood was exposed more than 3 to 4 weeks, lightly sand or power wash the surface to remove the thin layer of degraded wood before applying paint.
  • Wood was installed directly over foam or foil-faced insulation board. Water can travel in behind the siding of the house through various routes but has to travel out through the wood, pushing the paint off.
  • House has no interior vapor barrier. The absence of an interior vapor barrier is related to the problems of high levels of humidity inside the house during the heating season and wood that was installed directly over foam or foil-faced insulation board.
  • Wood siding is dirty. If the siding is dirty, the surface of the siding should be power washed or cleaned with detergent and a stiff bristle or brass brush and rinsed well. Never use steel or iron, which causes iron stain and may glaze the surface.
  • Brown stains appear on the surface of the paint. Paint does not have to fall off to fail. Moisture traveling through wood pulls water-based extractives through the paint, leaving brown stains on the surface of the paint. If the wood is kept dry, the water-based extractives in the wood will not bleed through paint.

Read the entire report at www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/finlines/knaeb95a.pdf.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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3 Important Finance Lessons for Your Teen

May 15, 2013 4:40 am

More high school students than ever will be collecting diplomas in the coming weeks, an increase attributed in part to new career-oriented schools that help students appreciate the link between learning and earning.

“After 40 years, we’re finally seeing significant improvements in high school graduation rates. The national average shot up from 72 percent in 2001 to 78 percent in 2010,” says retired business executive Cary Siegel, author of “Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School? 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By.”

“While it’s wonderful to offer initiatives like career-prep schools, I worry these new high school and college graduates won’t have a clue about how to manage their paychecks.

“I wish I’d learned these things in school – I would’ve made fewer mistakes,” he says. “My main goal was to retire early enough to spend time with my kids while they were still young, and I was able to do that. It’s not because I’m rich; I’m not! It’s because I learned how to effectively manage my money.”

All high school and college grads should leave school armed with that knowledge, says the father of five teenagers ages 13 to 17.

Siegel offers three of his favorite tips:

Just say no to credit cards. (And don’t get one in college!) Credit card companies inundate college students with special offers. They want to hook you early on! But getting hooked on credit cards is as bad as getting hooked on drugs. The more you use them, the easier they are to use, and since you’re not required to pay off the balance each month, you can quickly spiral into debt. You pay for that debt, too. The average interest rate on student credit cards in April was 17.4 percent – which means for every dollar of debt you have, you’re charged almost 18 cents every month.

Know what your bills are and take action when they go up. It’s amazing how many people don’t know what they’re paying their service providers each month. (If you don’t know within $5 what each monthly bill is, you’re probably overpaying on many of them.) When your cable, Internet or cellphone company tells you it’s increasing its rates, call the company and ask to speak to a manager or someone in the retention department. Be polite and don’t raise your voice. Ask for detailed rationale for the increase; often, this will immediately stop the increase. If it doesn’t, stress how long you’ve been with the company and your excellent payment history.

Spend an hour a week learning about personal finance. Once you start, you’ll find you’re learning so much, you’ll spend more than an hour exploring. Some free resources include the Internet and the library. Look for a financially savvy individual, write up a list of questions, and ask if you can interview them. You may not have to look any further for this than your own family. Just one hour a week adds up to a lot of time over a few years: 52 hours your first year, and more than 200 hours during four years of college. “I’m fairly certain that is more time than 95 percent of other college students spend on learning personal money management,” Siegel says.

Source: www.carysiegel.com

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Top Five Summer Home Maintenance Tips

May 15, 2013 4:40 am

The warmer weather has us all heading outside to soak up the sun, but it’s also a good reminder to take care of some basic things around your house. With more than 400 locations in the U.S. and Canada, Pillar To Post offers their top five home maintenance tips for the warmer months:

Inspect air-conditioners: If you have central air, you’ll want to clean the exterior condenser unit and all of its components, removing debris and trimming back any plants that are growing near it. You should also rinse down the interior of the unit, straighten out bent fins and lubricate the motor. You’ll also want to clean or change the air filters, inspect the drain line for debris and make sure all hoses fit securely. You can do this all yourself with guidance from the unit’s owners’ manual or call in a professional. If you have window units, the job is a little bit easier. You simply have to install the units and clean the filters. This is also a good time to deep clean all the fans and ceiling fans in your home.

Mulch: Adding a layer of mulch to gardens and other non-grassy areas helps prevent weeds. It also helps the soil to hold moisture and nutrients during the warmer months, giving your plants a better chance of growing.

Inspect for leaks: Checking exterior hoses and faucets for leaks can lead to big savings. Even a small leak can cost big bucks. Many small leaks can be fixed with a piece of electrical tape. You’ll want to call in an expert for larger leaks.

Clean siding: Avoid streaks by applying the cleaner starting at the bottom and working your way up and rinsing from the top down. Cleaning your home’s siding yearly can help prevent mold, mildew and staining. Taking the time to keep your home’s siding clean will also keep it looking brand new, adding value to your home.

Inspect your crawlspace: Check for signs of termites and moisture. Even floors that appear dry can be damp. Dampness can cause damage to the entire house. If you have a dirt floor, installing a vapor barrier is recommended. If you have concrete, sealing it is ideal. This annual check is also a great time to check sewer lines, particularly beneath toilets and sinks, for evidence of leaks.

Source: Pillar To Post

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Timely Tips for Home Buying

May 14, 2013 4:40 am

Regardless of market conditions, a home is not only a place to live, but also a financial asset and a plan for the future. But is it the right time for you to buy? Here are a few general rules to consider:

- Steady employment. It's essential to have a reliable source of income.

- A solid credit score. A bad credit score will increase mortgage interest rates. Potential homeowners should clean up their credit report and ensure that long-term debts are paid before considering homeownership. And when selecting a house, a potential buyer should determine the qualities that best suit his or her situation.

- An affordable price. The total cost of a home should generally be less than 2.5 years' pay. Ensure that the down payment and monthly mortgage payments are manageable.

- Location, location, location. Where a home is located can change its value dramatically. Being in a district with good schools, for example, is important -- both for raising the family and for resale value. Also consider what's going on in the community. Are peace and quiet high priorities, for example? Then perhaps a rural or suburban environment would work best. By contrast, if a desire for high culture and a fast lifestyle is a factor, then an urban setting might be preferred.

- Size matters. Is the home big enough, and will it allow for future growth?

Finally, when buying the house …

- Get some help from the pros. Using a real estate agent and a home inspector is important in selecting a good home and making an appropriate bid.

- Make the right mortgage move. When selecting a mortgage, determine whether it's better to pay additional points: One portion of the interest paid at closing may lead to greater savings down the road. If the plan is to stay around for a while (i.e., more than five years), experts say it's usually better to take the points.

Follow these tips and make your home-owning dream a reality. Buying a home is truly a life milestone, and it can be a big step towards financial security. Finding a good house in a nice neighborhood could be the key to making a home investment pay off.

Source: ForeclosedHomes.com

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Itch Relief Basics

May 14, 2013 4:40 am

(Family Features) From bug bites and dry skin to poison ivy and chronic skin conditions, itching makes life very uncomfortable. And it’s an annoyance that gets under just about everyone’s skin.

Sixty-five percent of U.S. adults have suffered from some kind of itch in the past 12 months; and for 26 percent of those polled, the itch was bad enough to see a healthcare professional, according to a recent poll conducted online by Harris Interactive for TriCalm, a new anti-itch gel.

You know it when you feel it, but what exactly is an itch, and is there anything you can do about it?

Anatomy of an Itch
The skin is your largest organ, and the average body is covered by about 20 square feet of it. Because it’s so large and exposed, it comes in contact with a lot of potential irritants. Itching, known as pruritus, is a built-in defense mechanism against those irritants.

Sometimes the body’s immune system overreacts to an illness, producing an itchy rash. But for most non-illness related itching, here’s how it works:

—Stimuli — such as dust, pollen, bug venom or plant oils — land on your skin.
—When the irritant gets past the surface layer, skin receptors get irritated.
—The receptors send a signal to your brain.
—You start to itch.

The natural response to an itch is to remove the irritant — so the scratching begins. The scratching sensation interrupts the itching sensation because it tells your brain that the irritant is gone. While this may give some initial, immediate relief, scratching ends up irritating the nerve endings in that spot even more — and can open up the skin, exposing it to more irritants. And more itching.

Itch Treatments
It’s important to make sure you know the cause of the itching so you can take appropriate measures to stop it. There are some things you can do to help reduce itching and soothe irritated skin:

—Avoid scratching — Cover the area with bandages or dressings if you can’t stop scratching. If needed, trim your fingernails and wear gloves to bed.
—Apply cool, wet compresses.
—Apply a topical anti-itch cream or lotion to the affected area.
—Moisturize your skin with a high-quality cream at least twice a day.

Kids Get Itchy, Too
Itches make kids — and their parents — feel pretty bad.

—81 percent of parents are miserable when their kids are miserable from itch symptoms.
—62 percent said itching keeps their children up at night.
—68 percent indicated they’ve used creams to treat itch symptoms.
—75 percent said they worry about using steroid treatments on their children to treat itch.

When is an itch more than just an itch?
It’s obvious when an itch is caused by a bug bite or poison ivy. But what if you’re not sure what’s causing the itch?

—Dry Skin — Itching that doesn’t come with obvious skin changes, like a rash, is most often due to dry skin, also known as xerosis. Dry skin usually results from environmental factors like hot or cold weather with low humidity, and washing or bathing too much.
—Skin Conditions — Eczema, psoriasis, scabies, hives, and chickenpox can cause itchy skin. The itching is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as bumps, blisters, and red, irritated skin.
—Internal Diseases — These include liver disease, kidney failure, thyroid problems, celiac disease and some cancers. Typically the itching affects the whole body, not just one area.
—Allergic Reactions and Irritations — An irritation can come from wearing wool, or coming in contact with soaps, chemicals or other substances. Sometimes the substance can cause an allergic reaction, such as poison ivy or some food allergens.
—Nerve Disorders — Multiple sclerosis, diabetes mellitus, pinched nerves and shingles are conditions that affect the nervous system, and thus can cause itching.
—Drugs — Some antibiotics, antifungal drugs or narcotic pain medications can cause rashes and itching.

It’s important to understand and treat the cause of itchy skin, so always seek medical advice before choosing a treatment.

Source: TriCalm

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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