Selling your Home? Curb appeal is its first impression!

February 24th, 2016


Boost Curb Appeal

Think of curb appeal the same way you would a date or a job interview: It’s the first impression that potential buyers will have of your home. Whether they’re doing a drive-by to determine whether they’d like to see the inside or they’ve already scheduled a showing, you’ll want your home to look its best.

While your home is on the market, keep the lawn well maintained. Add flowers, whether in a bed or planter. Provide a clearly marked pathway to your front door, and make sure there’s plenty of lighting to accommodate evening showings. Consider warming up your entrance by adding a fresh coat of paint to your front door or getting a new welcome mat.

Just Listed – Fantastic Home in Deer Creek Schools

February 22nd, 2016

Just Listed – 5600 NW 130th ST, Oklahoma City, OK 73142 – Unique 2 story architecture incorporating Craftsman and modern elements. Located in this tranquil small gated community and backs to a gorgeous creek with open views. The creek runs from Martin Nature Center and is home to many birds, deer and other wildlife that you can enjoy from your patio. This home has peaceful written all over it and offers elegant scored and stained concrete for beauty and resilience, granite throughout, hammered copper sink, stone fireplace with rustic cedar mantle. Working from home?? This office/study is awesome and offers its own open patio. Large upstairs living room could be game room/media room with bedroom and full bath. Sprinkler system front/back, flagstone patio, tankless water heater and a Jumbo storm shelter for your safety. Preston addition is a gated small community near MacArthur and Kilpatrick Turnpike and part of the award – winning Deer Creek school system.

What you are really getting when you hire a Realtor!

February 17th, 2016

Opened 24 hours 7 days a week

The thing about Realtors: They wear a lot of different hats. Sure, they’re salespeople, but they actually do a whole heck of a lot to earn their commission. They’re constantly driving around, checking out listings for you. They spend their own money on marketing your home (if you’re selling). They’re researching comps to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

And, of course, they’re working for you at nearly all hours of the day and night—whether you need more info on a home or just someone to talk to in order to feel at ease with the offer you just put in. This is the biggest financial (and possibly emotional) decision of your life, and guiding you through it isn’t a responsibility Realtors take lightly.

The newest technologies for conserving water in your home!

February 9th, 2016


Drought conditions have eased up in some parts of the country, but the market for water-efficient products remains red hot. One of the most innovative show offerings was the AquaBoy Pro II from Aquarius Brands, an atmospheric water generator that produces up to five gallons of purified water, hot or cold, from the air. One caveat: the machine needs the relative humidity to be at least 30 percent, so it might not be an option in some arid regions during the daytime. The AquaBoy Pro II sells for $1,850, with leasing options.

Smart water heaters are another possible source of savings, since they let consumers track their consumption in real time. The Trutankless TR Series smart water, starting at $1,600, incorporates connected capability in a tankless water heater—an inherently efficient piece of equipment, since it only delivers hot water when you need it (unlike traditional water heaters, which maintain a storage tank full of hot water whether you need it or not). The catch with the Trutankless is that it runs on electricity, which is more expensive than gas in most regions. In addition to tracking water usage, the Wi-Fi heater allows users to remotely set the temperature through their smartphone. Rheem and Rinnai, two other water heater manufacturers, also introduced Wi-Fi-enabled models, including both tank and tankless water heaters that run on gas.

In the laundry category, Electrolux’s new Perfect Steam Washer with LuxCare Wash and SmartBoost, which took home the 2016 KBIS Best in Show award, uses an exclusive technology that premixes the water and detergent in a special chamber before the cycle begins, promising a deep clean in all cycles. The new washer also features a 15-minute Fast Wash Cycle, which saves consumers time. Overall, Electrolux says the new washer will save 40 gallons per week, on average, compared with a leading high-efficiency top load washer. We’ll confirm those claims when we get the machine into our labs for testing.

As you’re considering these new products and technologies for your remodel, be sure to check out the tried and true from our latest tests of appliances, building materials, power equipment, and more.

Consumer Reports: A kitchen remodel is still your best bet!

February 1st, 2016


The Kitchen Is Still King

Buyers of all kinds have long focused on the kitchen, but it holds particular sway over the newest wave of first-time homeowners. A “modern/updated kitchen” topped the list of ideal home features in our survey of millennials, registering as most important to more than a third of respondents. If you plan to sell, don’t rip your kitchen down to the studs; a smaller investment can have serious impact. For as little as $5,000, you should be able to add a new suite of appliances, as well as a new countertop and flooring, resulting in a fresh, coordinated look. Applying a fresh coat of paint to the walls or cabinets, and updating the hardware, can also breath new life into the space.

Value-Added Buzzwords
Stainless steel. 
Though it has been around for decades, this appliance finish conveys clean, contemporary design, so it will signal “updated” in the mind of the buyer. For the latest spin on stainless, look for new versions of black stainless steel from KitchenAid, LG, and Samsung, each with a softer, less reflective finish but the same cachet as the original.

Quartz countertops. Engineered from stone chips, resins, and pigments, quartz has started to challenge granite and marble as the go-to material in higher-end kitchens. It shrugged off heat, scratches, cuts, and stains in our tests, and it requires none of the upkeep of comparably priced natural stones. Expect to spend $40 to $100 per square foot, installed.

Potential bump in sale price: 3 to 7 percent

Five reasons why a VA Loan is a no brainer!

January 21st, 2016


1. No down payment

It’s exceedingly difficult to buy a home these days with no money down. In the face of the recent housing crisis, most conventional lenders will require at least 5 percent (and up to 20 percent) down. FHA loans provide a lower down payment option, at 3.5 percent, but even that figure can be out of reach for some buyers.

Here’s where VA loans soar above the competition.

Even in an era of strict lending, VA loans continue to offer 100 percent financing to qualifying home buyers. These no-money-down loans have connected thousands of military home buyers with dream properties over the years. While always an important benefit of military service, the VA loan program is an incredibly powerful tool in today’s tight lending climate.

2. No PMI

The VA loan program also frees military borrowers from buying private mortgage insurance (PMI). A portion of each VA loan is backed by the federal government, rendering PMI unnecessary.

Avoiding PMI can generate some serious savings. PMI fees generally range from 0.5 to 1 percent of the total loan amount on an annual basis. The average mortgage amount in March 2015 was $294,900, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, meaning a typical home buyer could be expected to pay from $1,475 to $2,945 in first-year PMI costs.

3. Relaxed credit standards

Once happy with any score above 620, most conventional lenders have raised the bar for credit score minimums. The average FICO credit score of successful conventional mortgage applicants in August 2015 was 756, according to mortgage technology firm Ellie Mae.

But borrowers don’t need perfect credit to win VA financing. Most VA lenders still require only a 620 minimum credit score. In an economy fraught with unemployment and souring investments, the relaxed credit standards can be a real boon for military home buyers.

4. Competitive interest rates

VA loan rates will fluctuate based on the market and the individual borrower. But it’s certainly helpful to know that VA loan rates are competitive with other loan programs, and frequently fall below conventional rates. For more information on current VA loan rates, contact a Veterans United Home Loans rate specialist at 888-212-1958.

5. No prepayment penalty

Most buyers aren’t affected by prepayment penalties, but they can be irritating for homeowners who strive to be debt-free. Borrowers who pay off a conventional loan within the first five years could be stunned with a big prepayment penalty, which generally amounts to six months of interest.

Lenders are prohibited from charging prepayment penalties on VA loans. Military buyers are free to pay off a loan before its term ends, without fear of incurring a prepayment penalty.

Don’t believe the hype! Home ownership obstacles debunked!

January 13th, 2016


Down Payment


Many renters have mentioned that the lack of an adequate down payment is preventing them from moving forward with the purchase of a home. According to the Fannie Maereport:

  • 40% of all renters don’t know what down payment is required
  • 15% think you need at least 20% down
  • An additional 4% think you need at least 10% down

The Reality

There are programs offered by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA that require as little as 3-3.5% down. VA and USDA loans offer 0% down programs. According to theNational Association of Realtors, the typical down payment for a first time buyer is 6%.

Credit Score


Many renters have mentioned that the lack of an adequate credit score is preventing them from moving forward with the purchase of a home. According to the Fannie Maereport:

  • 54% of all renters don’t know what credit score is required
  • 5% think you need at least a 740 credit score

The Reality

Many mortgages are granted to purchasers with a credit score of less than 700. According to Ellie Mae, the average credit score on a closed FHA purchase is 687 and the average credit score on all loans is 722.

Back End Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)


Many renters have mentioned that they carry too much debt which is preventing them from moving forward with the purchase of a home. According to the Fannie Mae report:

  • 59% of all renters don’t know what DTI is acceptable
  • 25% think you need at under 25%
  • 7% think you need under 39%

The Reality

Lenders like to see a back-end ratio that does not exceed 36%. Fannie Mae’s maximum total DTI ratio is 36% of the borrower’s stable monthly income. The maximum can be exceeded up to 45% based on credit score and other requirements.

Watch Bloomberg’s take on the affordable starter home’s return!

January 4th, 2016

Eight odd home value determinants!

December 17th, 2015


1. Gas prices

Sure, it feels fantastic to fill up your car with gas for just $35 when it used to cost almost $50. But if you’re looking to buy a home, the financial benefit of cheap gas might be overrated—as gas prices fall, home prices inevitably go up. And homes sell faster, too, which takes a toll on available inventory.

For every $1 decrease in gas prices, home prices increase by roughly $4,000 and the average time to sell a property decreases by 25 days, according to a study by Longwood University and Florida Atlantic University.

Lower gas prices lead to increased consumer confidence and more disposable income for potential buyers, Longwood professor Bennie Waller explains. In addition, the listing broker—who has to travel between properties—is more likely to market more aggressively and have more showings when gas is cheap.

2. Trader Joe’s vs. Whole Foods

When it comes to healthy eats, cost-conscious gourmet market Trader Joe’s and pricey, environmentally conscious Whole Foods each have their own massive cult following. But it turns out, if you’re seeking a neighborhood where homes are worth more—and gaining in value—you’d better know which store to look for.

Homes near the two foodie superstores significantly trump the national average home value, but homes near a Trader Joe’s are worth 5% more than homes near a Whole Foods, according to Realty Trac. So close, Whole Foods!

Homes near a Trader Joe’s also appreciate faster, with an average appreciation rate of 40% from the time of purchase. Meanwhile, homes near a Whole Foods appreciated 34%, the same as the national average. So even if you do tend to shop at “Whole Paycheck,” you’d probably do better to buy a home near TJ’s—and load up on some Two-Buck Chuck while you’re at it.

3. Sports facilities

Walking distance to the big game? Score! Living near a stadium clearly is not a hard sell for sports fans, but even those without an obsessive rooting interest in the local teams should pay close attention if there’s a major sports facility nearby.

Moving a residential housing unit one mile closer to a professional sports facility increases its value by $793. But the effect disappears after four miles, according to researchers at the College of William and Mary and University of Alberta, who extracted property data within 5 miles of every NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL facility in the U.S. So sidle up to that stadium—just be sure you have a dedicated parking space.

4. Marijuana

The legalization of marijuana was predicted to have a major impact on state tax revenues, and with people relocating to take advantage of its medical benefits or just because they enjoy a regular toke, some have suggested that legal pot might also push up real estate values.

Marijuana’s impact on housing is a tale of two states: Colorado and Washington, the only ones that have legalized the sale of recreational marijuana.

The buzz is felt more in the real estate market of Colorado. Since the doors opened for recreational sales in January 2014, housing prices have appreciated 20.4%, much higher than the 15.2% across the country over the same period.

Marijuana sales in Washington are more modest, and so is the real estate growth. The state’s housing prices have risen by 7.3% since it launched its legal marijuana market in July 2014—the height of the yearly housing market—while at the national level, they increased 6.5% over the same period. (Keep in mind that housing prices are generally lower in the winter and higher in the summer, the purpose is not to compare the numbers of Colorado to Washington).

Of course, it’s hard to say whether the legalization of marijuana is really driving those numbers. After all, both Denver and Seattle are hubs for tech businesses that are fueling employment, which in turn fuels the housing market. But if you already own a home in Colorado or Washington, you’ve got plenty of reasons to be mellow and to listen to “Dark Side of the Moon” on a continuous loop.

5. Temperature change

Global warming affects not only nature, but also our daily lives and housing decisions. The National Association of Realtors looked at home prices and temperature change over the past four years and found what seemed to be a negative correlation between temperature increase and housing prices.

6. Casinos

Part of Las Vegas’ legendary success story is that casinos brought wild prosperity to a barren desert area. But in fact, Sin City is an American anomaly in just about every way imaginable, not the least of which are real estate valuations. The truth is, casinos across the country, from riverboats to Native American reservations, usually have a negative impact on surrounding home values—by 2% to 10%, according to various studies.

One case study showed that in Henderson, NV, properties within a mile of a proposed large-scale casino would see their values fall by $9,200. Snake eyes!

7. Highways

Is it a good idea to live close to the highway? Yes … and no. It depends on just how close we’re talking.

A case study of the Superstition Freeway (U.S. Route 60) corridor in Mesa and Gilbert, AZ, showed that single-family homes within 0.5 miles of the freeway were adversely impacted. But the negative impacts were more than offset by housing price appreciation in the surrounding areas. Average sales price appreciation for homes within 5 miles of the freeway (including negatively affected properties) was higher than the whole metropolitan area. So while you probably don’t want to buy right by an exit ramp, easy access to a transportation corridor is definitely a strong selling point.

8. Trees on the street

Everyone knows that stately old-growth trees add major charm to a neighborhood—and are probably an indicator of more expensive homes. But did you know just howexpensive? A recent study found that houses on streets where there were trees fetched an average of $7,130 more than houses on treeless streets. Maybe it’s time to consider branching out.

5 materials to avoid in your remodeled/new bathroom!

December 9th, 2015


1.  Wallpaper

In a high-steam area such as a bathroom, wallpaper may start to peel in a few years, according to some designers. In fact, steam is used to strip old wallpaper off walls. Despite the many photos of stylish, wallpapered bathrooms in magazines, unless it’s a half-bath or guest bath that’s seldom used, skip it. Really want the unique look wallpaper provides? Try a solid vinyl wall covering instead. It won’t allow moisture to seep through.

2.  Laminate Flooring

Love the look and affordability of laminate flooring? Use it in another room. Water and laminate floors don’t mix. Even tiny amounts of water will seep between the planks, causing them to expand, peel, swell, and lift from the floor. Even laminate manufacturers advise against installing in high moisture areas. The good news? There are plenty of other products out there that work extremely well in bathrooms. Take another look at linoleum. It’s eco-friendly, budget-friendly, and comes in a wide variety of looks.

3.  Slippery or Glossy Tile or Stone
Many ceramic, porcelain, and stone floors will become slippery in wet conditions. The more polished a tile, the more likely it will become slippery when wet. Solution: Select your bathroom floor surface carefully, vetting each against slippery conditions. Look for tiles certified to meet slip-resistance standards specified by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

4.  Wall-to-Wall Carpet
Carpet, while soft and comfy, isn’t ideal flooring in a powder room. Not only is the ick factor apparent, especially around the toilet, but mold and mildew can build up, which can cause health issues. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically advises against carpeting bathrooms to avoid mold exposure. If you really want the cozy touch of carpet in the bathroom, fluffy bath mats add color and comfort — and can be regularly laundered.

5.  Yellow Paint
When selecting paint colors, remember that color will appear more intense on your bathroom walls than it would in most other rooms, especially if the bathroom relies heavily on artificial lighting.

“In that smaller space, where the mirror multiplies the impact of the lighting, the walls tend to reflect and magnify color from other walls,” says Amy Bell, an interior decorator and owner of Red Chair Home Interiors in Cary, N.C. Be especially wary of yellow or other colors that contain yellow — even neutrals — as yellow can feel brash in a bathroom, and you won’t like what you see in the mirror. Instead, opt for grays with a hint of green or blue, which can feel spa-like.