Archives for June 2013

Make Your Home A Movie Star! How To Rent Out Your Property As A Film Location

Make Your Home a Movie Star! Whenever a scene in a film or television show takes place in a private home, have you ever thought about who owns that property? Well, it could be you!

The fact is that film and television production companies are always on the lookout for new locations where they can shoot their footage. If you advertise your property in the right way, your home could have its 15 minutes of fame as the set for a film or a television show episode.

Many production companies have been gradually switching over the last few years into filming at ‘authentic’ private properties rather than in film sets and studios.

You don’t have to own a stunning mansion or a historic property to rent out your home as a film location. Film and TV location scouts are looking for a wide range of different homes, from small condos to townhouses to log cabins and any other style of dwelling.

Turning Your Home Into Hollywood

Of course, the obvious advantage of renting out your property as a film location is that you can get paid hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars per day just for letting a film crew take over your kitchen or dining room. Also, you will have the prestige and excitement of being able to meet celebrities and see your home featured on the big screen.

However, the process may disrupt your routine for a day or two or possibly longer. The film crew might want to move furniture around and you might even find yourself having to move out for a while. If you need to stay in a hotel during filming, make sure that the amount you are getting paid is enough to compensate for the costs of accommodation.

If you think that renting out your home as a film set sounds like a good idea for you, there are a number of different websites where you can list the property and post photos.  Sometimes your real estate professional can help refer you to a specialist in the local area who consistently works with location scouts and producers.

When you are making the arrangements, make sure that you draft up a contract that states your fee, how long the filming will take, the type of production and an agreement to return your house to the original state that it was found in.

If you are interested in purchasing a home that could be film-worthy, please give us a call!

Why It’s Critically Important To Have A Home Inspection

Why It's Critically Important To Have A Home InspectionMany home buyers have found the perfect house, signed on the dotted line and may think they’ve watched enough home improvement shows to know if the home they’re getting is in good shape. Unfortunately, some buyers make the mistake of skipping a home inspection in order to save a little cash.

Even if a home has already stolen your heart and you’re ready to pay for it as-is, you need to bite the bullet and hire a home inspector to let you know what repairs and financial repercussions await you.

Why You Should Hire A Home Inspector

You might know a thing or two about home remodeling and repairs. However, most people are not experts on the inner workings of a home. That is why it’s important to hire a professional to search for potential furnace issues, electrical wiring mishaps, plumbing weaknesses or roofing deterioration to name a few.

While a home might look like it’s in perfect condition on the surface, there could be major issues hiding beneath its façade. That’s why it really is imperative for your safety that you hire an inspector to scrutinize the bones of your home. Understanding any imperfections may also help you budget for immediate and future repairs.

When to Schedule the Home Inspection

Once you’ve signed a purchase contract, you’ll want to schedule a home inspection before the inspection period has ended. Even though you’ve signed the offer, an inspector could just find something that you just cannot live with or afford to fix.

While you would normally schedule an inspection after you’ve signed a contract, it’s important to have an inspector or two picked out beforehand. Ask your real estate professional or friends and family for referrals and then contact the inspectors for pricing and a list of what they will and will not cover at the inspection.

Once again, remember that the cheapest price may not be the best deal on home inspections.  Have a good understanding of what, and who, you are investing in.

Even if you do know a lot about the structure, plumbing and wiring of houses, don’t let your ego get the better of you. It’s important to shell out the additional money to hire an inspector and cover your assets. You’d hate to end up with a home that needs major renovations and not have known about it.

For more information on hiring a professional for your home inspection or for a referral, please call today!

Homeowners — Are You Making These Mistakes Planning Next Year’s Taxes?

Planning For Your Next Year Tax Deductions

Filing your taxes can be a complicated and confusing process. If you are a home owner you may have many different home tax deductions and credits to consider.

Since we recently passed the filing date for 2012 taxes, it may be a good time to plan for next year and get your tax tracking systems in place. Check carefully to make sure that you are not making any of these common homeowner tax mistakes – which could cost you money or get you in trouble with the IRS.

Miscalculating Your Home Office Tax Deduction

If you work from home, you will be able to deduct a percentage of your housing costs for your home office. However, most people don’t know how to calculate this and don’t realize that it also has to be recaptured when you eventually sell your home. You will only want to claim it if it is worth it, so make sure you know exactly what you can write off.

Failing To Keep Track Of Home Expenses

Don’t forget to keep a record of home maintenance, repair expenses and any other relevant documents as you go along.   The money you spend on improving your property can help offset future capital gains tax. Keeping good records will save you a lot of headaches when tax time comes around.

Forgetting To Pay Tax On Capital Gains

If you have sell your primary residence this year, you will need to pay capital gains tax on any profit that you have received. Capital gains are the amount that you gained on the property’s value – so if you bought it for $150,000 and sold it for $300,000, your capital gains are $150,000. You may be able to exclude $250,000 of any profits for taxes, or $500,000 if you are a married couple if this exclusion stays the same as in 2012.

Deducting The Wrong Year For Property Taxes

Remember that you must take the tax deduction for your property taxes in the year that you have actually paid them. No matter what the date is on your property taxes bill, you should enter the amount that you paid in the calendar year. If you confuse this part, you might end up claiming the incorrect amount for the year.

These are just a few of the common mistakes that home owners can make when filing their taxes. Avoiding these mistakes will ensure that you pay the right amount and avoid any hassle from the IRS.  Also, please double-check all of these suggestions with a qualified, licensed tax preparer in the  area.

Increasing May Jobs Report Shows Strengthening Economy

Increasing May Jobs Report Shows Strengthening EconomyThe U.S. Department of Labor released its Non-Farm Payrolls and National Unemployment Rate reports Friday showing 175,000 jobs were added in May, which surpassed expectations of 164,000 new jobs and April’s reading of 149,000 jobs added. The jobs added in May were largely from the private sector.

However, the national unemployment rate for May was 7.60 percent, one-tenth of a percent higher than expectations and the April reading of 7.50 percent. The rise was attributed to more people entering the workforce as opposed to people losing jobs.

420,000 workers joined the workforce in May, which pushed the civilian participation rate in the labor market to 63.4 percent; the highest participation rate since October 2012. A rising participation rate suggests that more workers believe they can find jobs and have joined or returned to the labor market.

Economists Pleased With Increasing Jobs In Difficult Environment

Economists were pleased to see jobs increasing against an environment of higher taxes, a soft global economy and budget cutbacks in the U.S. government.

A lingering issue for U.S. labor markets is the number of people looking for full time work, but who are unable to find full-time employment. When these workers are added to the ranks of the unemployed who are actively seeking work, the actual unemployment rate almost doubles to 13.8 percent for May.

The national unemployment rate is based on workers who are actively seeking work. Many U.S. workers stopped looking for work after years of unemployment.

Fed May Review Quantitative Easing Program Soon

These reports don’t provide a clear indication of what the Federal Reserve may do regarding its current monetary policy; the Fed is currently purchasing $85 billion a month in U.S. Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). This effort is intended to keep long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates, lower.

The Fed has indicated that it will review its quantitative easing (QE) policy relative to improvements in the economy. In recent months, the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve (FOMC) has discussed lowering or eliminating its QE efforts, but so far is maintaining its current level of QE and maintaining the federal funds rate at 0.250 percent.

While housing markets are improving, the jobs sector is moving at a slower pace. This suggests that home prices could rise even faster if more consumers had sufficient income for buying a home.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week — June 10, 2013

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week -- June 10, 2013Last week’s economic reports provided a mixed bag of results. On Monday, the Department of Commerce reported that construction spending increased by 0.40 percent in April and fell shy of the expected reading of 1.0 percent, but exceeded the March reading of -0.80 percent.

Home Prices Increase Fastest Since 2006

On Tuesday, CoreLogic released its Home Prices reported that the national average home price had increased by 12.10 percent year-over-year in April. The comparable year-over-year reading for April 2012 was 11.00 percent. This represents the fastest pace of home price increases since 2006.

The national average home price expanded by 3.20 percent as compared to March,  but average prices grew faster in the West, which is experiencing a pronounced lack of available homes and developed land for building.

New Jobs Created Showing Improvement Over April Revisions 

ADP released its private-sector Payrolls Report for May on Wednesday; 135,000 new private sector jobs were added as compared to investor expectations of 170,000 jobs added in May. The May reading surpassed April’s downwardly-revised reading of private-sector jobs added.

Friday’s Jobs Report, issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consists of the Non-Farm Payrolls Report and the National Unemployment Rate. Non-Farm Payrolls added 175,000 public and private sector jobs and surpassed both the consensus reading of 164,000 new jobs and the prior week’s reading of 149,000 jobs added. The National Unemployment Rate ticked up from 7.50 to 7.60 percent. The Department of Labor attributes this increase to more people joining or returning to the labor market.

Investors Watching Fed Mortgage Backed Security Buying Activity Closely

The Federal Reserve Beige Book Report was also released Wednesday. It contained no surprises and noted modest to moderate economic growth in 11 of 12 Federal Reserve Districts. The Dallas Federal Reserve District reported strong growth, but investors will be watching next week’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting closely for proposed changes to the Fed’s current policy of buying bonds and mortgage backed securities (MBS) with the goal of keeping long term interest rates lower.

Thursday’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey brought disquieting news of rising mortgage rates. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage had risen from the prior week’s rate of 3.81 percent to 3.91 percent. Discount points fell slightly from 0.80 percent to 0.70 percent with buyers paying all of their closing costs. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose from last week’s average rate of 2.98 percent to 3.03 percent with discount rates remaining the same at 0.70 percent for buyers paying all of their closing costs.

Whats Ahead for Next Week

There is no news scheduled for release on Monday. The rest of the week’s calendar includes the NFIB Small Business Index on Tuesday and the Federal Budget for May on Wednesday. Thursday’s scheduled releases include Weekly Jobless Claims, Average weekly mortgage rates as reported by Freddie Mac, and Retail Sales for May. Friday’s schedule includes the Producer’s Price Index for May and June’s Consumer Sentiment Report.

What Does The Future Hold For The Security System In Your Home?

What Does The Future Hold For Home Security SystemsImagine walking into your home and turning off the alarm, locking your doors, opening the windows and starting your coffee maker, all with a few taps of your finger on your smart phone?

What if you had a home security camera that you could monitor from anywhere and a motion sensor that would send you an email when your kids come home from school? What if you could open your blinds or unlock your home for a visitor, even from halfway around the world?

The technology that powers our home security systems is getting more and more sophisticated and in the future, our homes will be more responsive than we could ever imagine.

Rather than a simple line of defense that keeps out burglars, it will be a completely integrated and custom designed automated system that responds intelligently to your needs.  

Here are a few of the upcoming technology innovations:

Smart Home Technology

At the moment, prototypes are being developed for integrated home security systems that have individual Internet protocols that can address everything from a fridge to a window to a door.  Even your home appliances, like your refrigerator, air conditioning systems and lighting systems may be able to be managed remotely through a smart phone.

This connectivity essentially gives everything in your house an Internet address, so that you can control them and monitor them digitally. Once the system is linked up it can be controlled remotely by Blackberry, Apple or Android.

The 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year showcased a number of smart phone apps and devices designed to control everything within your home so that you can master the household with the click of a button.

The Future Is Still On Its Way

Although the technology is being developed, there is still a long way to go until we all live in automated houses like on The Jetsons. One underlying and yet unsolved issue is the security systems inability to function in a power outage or with bandwidth and connectivity challenges.

There are also many different conflicting operating systems, setups, standards and approaches that will need to be worked out before the dream of a fully automated home can become a reality. 

Even so, the technological advances being made in home security and management systems are impressive and exciting to learn more about.

Four Important Home Maintenance Tips Everyone Should Know

Four Important Home Maintenance TipsOne of the important aspects of owning a home is having the knowledge of how to keep it maintained to avoid costly repairs and serious damage. Over the years weather and use will wear down both the interior and exterior of your property.

If you are able to practice preventative care on your home, then you will prolong the life of all of its systems and components. At least every six months or so, you should be performing an inspection of your property so that you can ensure that it is still functioning properly and safely.

What should you be looking for when it comes to preventative home maintenance?

Here are a few important pointers to keep in mind:

Pests and Insects

Check your home thoroughly for any insects and unwanted pests such as carpenter ants and termites. Make sure that there is no point where the wood of your home is in contact with the soil and trim away and bushes and trees away from the foundation of the property.

If you can catch the infestation right away, it could save you thousands of dollars on repairing future structural damage.

Windows and Doors

Take a close look at the windows and doors of your home to see if you need to repair any leaks to save energy. A draughty door or window can really add to your energy bill over time, so it will be worth it to ensure that everything is sealed properly.

Gutters and Downspouts

Another important home maintenance task is to go around the exterior of your home and clean out all of the debris from your downspouts and gutters. This will ensure that they are draining properly and moving water away from the house. Otherwise, the water can collect on the eaves of the roof or around the foundation and cause leaks and damage.

Check the Roof

Make sure that you also inspect the roof at least every six months. Look for any loose shingles or damaged roof tiles. If you spot any damage early, it will be a lot less expensive to fix than the water damage that would be caused in your attic by leaving a leaky roof for a long time.

These are just a few of the most important preventative home maintenance tasks that every property owner should know. For any additional questions regarding your home maintenance, feel free to contact your trusted local real estate professional. 

3 Critical Tips To Improve Your Credit Score And Mortgage Terms

3 Critical Tips To Improve Your Credit Score And Mortgage TermsWhen you are looking for a mortgage for your home, your credit score is very important. Any potential lender will check your score and will use the number to assess your creditworthiness and the interest rate that they offer you.

The better your credit score the lower the mortgage interest rates will be available to you, as the lender will be able to see that you can handle credit well.

However, if you have a very bad credit score, it could be causing you to be offered high interest rates on your mortgage that could cost you thousands over the years.

Improving your credit score before searching for a mortgage will ensure that you get the best rate possible. But what can you do to improve your credit score?

Here are three tips that can help you improve your credit score and your mortgage loan:

Be Patient

Remember that improving your bad credit will be a little bit like losing weight. You might not see results right away but it is the long term benefit of your good habits that will make all the difference.

When it comes to all of the ways to improve your credit score, there are no quick-fixes and the best way to rebuild your credit is to be responsible over time.

Check Your Credit Report For Errors

If you don’t know precisely what your credit score currently is, the first step will be for you to obtain a credit report. You can request a free copy of your credit report and check it over carefully for errors. There might be an error on the report that is making your score appear worse than it should be.

Set Up Payment Reminders

If you have trouble remembering to make your credit payments by the due date, this can be one of the biggest negative factors bringing down your score. You can ask your bank to set up convenient reminders through the online banking portals so that you will receive an email or a text whenever your payments are due.

Your credit score is very important when looking for a home mortgage, as it will mean that you receive much better program options and interest rates. Keep these tips in mind so that you can enjoy the best rates possible on your mortgage.

For more tips on how to improve your prospects for the best mortgage, feel free to contact your local, trusted mortgage professional.

6 Ceiling Solutions To Update Your Home

Ceiling Update OptionsIf you’re absolutely sick of looking at the popcorn ceiling of your 1980’s home – it’s time for a change.

However, behind the facade of a ceiling is a mess of plumbing, wiring, joists and structural beams, so you have to be careful and creative when updating your home.

Whether you’re dealing with an older home, a tricky duct system or an unfinished basement, below are several ceiling solutions to brighten up the space above your head.

Bring Back Wood Paneling

The 70’s are making a comeback. If you have a flat or slanted ceiling, wood paneling is easy to affix and can create a cozy cabin-like feel. This works well in living rooms, bedrooms and basements where you want generate a warm, comfortable atmosphere. 

Create An Industrial Vibe

If you like the look of a modern home, then this might be the most cost-effective solution for you. If there’s an existing ceiling, remove it and then buy a paint sprayer and coat everything except the duct work in one dark color. Many converted lofts and urban spaces use this technique.

Drop It Like It’s Hot

These aren’t your parent’s drop ceilings. Today’s drop ceilings come in pressed metal, compressed wood panels and other attractive designs. They’re affordable, simple to install and allow easy access to the plumbing and electrical systems.

Go Back To The Basics With Drywall

Whether you’re looking to get rid of a popcorn surface, fixing water damage or finishing your basement, it might be prudent to minimize the cost and work involved by using drywall. You can purchase drywall for as little as 50 cents per square foot and it’s easy to paint once installed.

Utilize Soffits

Duct work and plumbing that cut through the middle of a room can be an eyesore and hard to work around. Utilize soffits to create ceilings of different heights, called tray ceilings, or use them to blend uneven surfaces into corners along a wall. They’ll help hide obstructions and make it easier to cover with drywall and paint.

Don’t let an unattractive ceiling get you down. Use one of the solutions above for an eye-catching ceiling that will keep you looking up and improve the value of your home at the same time.

For additional advice on updating your home for top-dollar, just give your trusted real estate professional a call!

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week — June 3, 2013

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 3, 2013Last week’s financial news was relatively limited due to the Memorial Day holiday and no economic reports being released on Wednesday.

The biggest news in terms of housing and mortgages was the S&P/Case-Shiller Housing Market Indices (HMI) released on Tuesday.

The March HMI data for national housing markets reflected a sharp increase in year-over-year home prices from 9.30 percent in February to 10.90 percent in March.

Twelve cities included in the Case-Shiller 20-city index reported double-digit year-over-year percentage gains for March home prices. While this data strongly supports recovering home prices, analysts cite the need for more jobs, which would enable more consumers to buy homes.

Thursday’s weekly Jobless Claims Report from the Labor Department highlighted ongoing problems with lagging employment as new jobless claims jumped to 354,000. The four-week moving average for new jobless claims increased by 6.75 percent to 347,250 new jobless claims.

Bullish Stock Market Affects Mortgage Interest Rates

Mortgage rates jumped in connection rising stock prices; Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased to 3.81 percent plus 0.80 percent in discount points.  The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage increased to 2.98 percent plus 0.70 percent in discount points.

Rising mortgage rates suggest that home buyers may benefit from considering hybrid adjustable rate mortgages; the average rate for a 5/1 hybrid ARM was 2.66 percent with 0.50 percent in discount points.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index (Chicago PMI) measures how manufacturing and related businesses perform on a monthly basis.  May’s reading increased to 58.70 and surpassed expectations of a 49.90 reading as well as April’s reading of 49.00. Readings above 50 are considered positive.

Consumer Sentiment rose in May to a reading of 84.50, which exceeded both the expected reading of 83.80 and April’s reading of 83.70. As consumers gain confidence in the economy, they are more likely to buy homes.

Next Week’s News

Construction spending for April is due Monday with a consensus of +1.00 percent as compared to -1.70 percent in March. Rising construction spending could indicate an increase in residential construction, which has been facing obstacles including increasing labor and material costs and a shortage of available land for residential building.

Thursday’s news includes the weekly Jobless Claims report and Freddie Mac’s weekly report of average mortgage rates.

Friday brings the monthly Jobs Report, which consists of the Department of Labor’s Non-farm Payrolls report and the monthly unemployment rate. These reports are significant for gauging national and regional labor markets and for anticipating the Fed’s decision regarding its current quantitative easing policy.

If the Fed ceases or reduces its purchase of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS), mortgage rates are likely to rise.