- Melissa Kellerman
Buying or selling a home can be a stressful experience without the security of a trusted REALTOR in your corner.
Choose me to be your trusted REALTOR.
I will guide you through every step of this rewarding process with professionalism and dedication. My attention to detail, strong communication and 100% effort will deliver the results you deserve. It is my mission to build lasting relationships and earn repeat referrals. The key to this is providing my clients with personalized service before, during and after every transaction. I am here to help you with all of your real estate needs.
Feel free to call or email me anytime!
Friday, December 30, 2011
While the thought of a mountain cabin or a beachfront bungalow may seem like mere fantasy, according to Massachusetts-based mortgage executive, Chip Poli, with the proper research, your dream vacation home might actually be within reach. The first step, says Poli, is to start organizing your finances to make sure you can afford it without compromising the security of your other assets.
Poli offers the following five tips to help you assess whether or not you are ready to handle the financial investment of a second home:
1. Figure out what you can reasonably afford by looking closely at your income, savings, and spending habits. Future expenses need to be factored into your budget, such as the likelihood of replacing a car or adding to your family.
2. Check each of your three credit reports well before you start looking at houses or shopping for lenders. If your credit score needs improvement, contact a credit counseling agency or ask your mortgage company for advice.
3. Create a budget. A budget not only clarifies your current financial situation, but it also helps you identify places where you might cut back to save for a down payment.
4. Consider tax implications. Purchasing a second home has its benefits, but you should make sure you consider funds for property taxes on the second home as well as additional income tax if your home will be rented out. You should research the area's property taxes because some locations have significantly higher or lower property taxes.
5. Get some help. Seek the help of a professional real estate agent and mortgage professional. Today’s market is too unpredictable to go it alone.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Mortgage applications decreased 2.6 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending December 16, 2011.
The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 2.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 2.8 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 1.6 percent from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 4.9 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 7.5 percent compared with the previous week and was 6.9 percent lower than the same week one year ago.
The four week moving average for the seasonally adjusted Market Index is up 0.26 percent. The four week moving average is down 1.53 percent for the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index, while this average is up 1.32 percent for the Refinance Index.
"Continued anxiety surrounding the fragile economic situation in Europe led interest rates lower last week. However, refinance applications fell slightly, and purchase applications dropped further as we head into the end of the year," said Michael Fratantoni, MBA's Vice President of Research and Economics. "Remarkably low rates are not enough, as many homeowners continue to hold back due to lack of equity in their properties, poor credit and a weak job market."
The refinance share of mortgage activity reached a high this year of 80.7 percent of total applications from 79.7 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to a low this year of 5.1 percent from 5.6 percent of total applications from the previous week.
The average loan size of all loans for home purchase in the US was $217,774 in November 2011, up from $213,430 in October 2011. The average loan size for a refinance increased from $217,153 in October to $220,523 in November. The average government purchase loan size declined from October to November, from $186,263 to $170,742. The largest purchase loans were made in the Pacific region at $308,307. The largest refinance loans were also made in the Pacific region at $304,509.
The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,500 or less) decreased to 4.08 percent, the lowest rate this year, from 4.12 percent, with points increasing to 0.49 from 0.45 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio loans. The effective rate also decreased from last week.
The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,500) decreased to 4.44 percent, the lowest rate this year, from 4.47 percent, with points decreasing to 0.37 from 0.45 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio loans. The effective rate also decreased from last week.
The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA decreased to 3.93 percent, the lowest rate this year, from 3.94 percent, with points decreasing to 0.63 from 0.68 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio loans. The effective rate also decreased from last week.
The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 3.39 percent, the lowest rate this year, from 3.44 percent, with points decreasing to 0.40 from 0.52 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate also decreased from last week.
The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs decreased to 2.90 percent, the lowest rate this year, from 2.93 percent, with points decreasing to 0.46 from 0.53 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio loans. The effective rate also decreased from last week.
For more information, visit www.mortgagebankers.org.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
If you don't know what your score is or you are worried it might have errors, don't hesitate to contact one of the three big credit bureaus and request a report. Each bureau is required to give every requesting consumer one free report once a year. Check your report for errors and get them corrected as soon as possible. Send the credit agency a certified letter explaining what is wrong and include any documents that may support your claim. You don't want your score to suffer due to inaccurate records.
If you have missed any payments in the past, catch up as soon as you can. Within a few months, your score will improve if you get current and stay current. The negative weight on your score will lessen over time, erasing the negative marks from your record for good. Once you are current, do everything you can to ensure that payments are on time.
Going forward, keep your balances below your limit. Just because you have a certain credit limit doesn't mean you have to use it all. The less available credit you use, the better. Some credit card companies have been lowering credit amounts without telling consumers. If this happens to you, it could negatively affect your credit score because your utilization ratio will increase. The bureaus recommend using 33 percent below your available credit. Remember, a small amount of debt on multiple cards is better than having just one or two cards with a large bulk of debt. Spread out your spending, and keep those balances low.
Keep old accounts open...even if you don't use them often. Part of your score is based on how old your accounts are. Closing older accounts erases the credit history that was accumulated through those accounts. To prevent a credit card company from closing your account, use it every now and then to keep it active. Even miniscule charges will suffice and protect your account and history.
Don't be afraid to check your score as often as you want. You checking your own score is seen as a "soft inquiry" by the credit bureaus. By checking often and properly managing your debt, you can be well on your way to raising your credit score.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
However, becoming a smart investor is simpler than one might think, even in trying times. Dealing with a haphazard market is doable with a little flexibility and an adapted investment strategy. Unpredictable markets don’t mean one should refrain from investing, but they do make calm, level-headed thinking more important than ever.
Keeping a cool head and remembering a long-term perspective are the foundations for these five tips.
1. Review the entire financial plan: Before investing, meet with a financial advisor and take the big picture into consideration.
2. Diversify as much as possible: Volatile markets make it especially key to spread investments between stocks, bonds and cash investments.
3. Keep emotions out of it: Don’t allow frustration or anxiety to force unwise decisions or intemperate investments.
4. Exercise self-discipline: Things like dollar-cost averaging can prove to be invaluable tools for any investor.
5. Avoid market timing: This is going to be a big temptation during volatile markets, but it is ultimately a major risk that seldom pays off.
These tips are generally solid for any market condition, but this level-headed approach is particularly integral during a shaky market or a tumultuous economy.
Source: Mitch Feinberg, Warren & Moore
Thursday, December 15, 2011
The Alliance to Save Energy urges American consumers to give themselves the gift of energy efficiency this holiday season – and reap the benefits when they file their 2011 federal tax returns – by taking advantage of tax credits for energy efficiency home improvements. The tax credits of up to $500 are set to expire on December 31 and Congress may not renew them for 2012.
"The outlook for renewal of federal energy efficiency tax incentives is uncertain at best," stated Alliance President Kateri Callahan, "so we encourage homeowners to complete those upgrades before the ball drops in Times Square at midnight on New Year's Eve.
"Making efficiency improvements this year will lower home energy bills and improve home comfort for years to come, while also reducing 2011 federal income tax bills," Callahan added.
The specific home improvements that qualify for tax credits fall into a number of categories:
• Exterior windows, skylights and storm windows.
• Insulation, exterior doors, roofs, storm doors and products to seal air leaks such as caulking, weather stripping and foam sealants.
• Highly-efficient heating and cooling equipment, including central air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and biomass (e.g. corn) stoves.
Each product category also must meet specific energy efficiency requirements, which are spelled out on the Alliance's tax credits web page.
Percentage and/or dollar limits on particular energy-efficient upgrades include:
• 10% of the cost of insulation and sealing materials, exterior doors and roofs.
• 10% of the cost, up to $200, of exterior windows or skylights.
• Up to $300 for electric heat-pump water heaters, electric heat pumps, central air conditioners, biomass stoves and natural gas, propane or oil water heaters.
• Up to $50 for advanced main-air circulating fans.
• Up to $150 for natural gas, propane or oil furnace or hot-water boilers.
For more information, visit http://ase.org/.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Sales of newly built, single-family homes inched up 1.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 307,000 units in October, according to newly released data from the U.S. Commerce Department. The gain is from a downwardly revised rate in the previous month, and marks the best pace of new-home sales activity since this May.
"Builders have been seeing some marginal improvement in sales activity over the past few months, particularly in select markets where consumer confidence is higher due to improved economic conditions," said Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Reno, Nev. "While this trend is encouraging, overall sales activity is still well below normal due to the effects of overly tight credit conditions for builders and buyers, the continued flow of distressed properties on the market, and inaccurate appraisal values on new homes."
"Today's report is right in line with our forecast for modest and gradual improvement in sales activity through the remainder of the year," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "Particularly encouraging is the fact that builders continue to hold down their inventories to match the current sales rate, with the number of new homes for sale now down to a sustainable, 6.3-month supply."
Regionally, new-home sales held unchanged in the Northeast and gained 22.2 percent in the Midwest and 14.9 percent in the West in October.
Meanwhile, the nationwide inventory of new homes for sale held at an all-time record low of just 162,000 units in October, which is a 6.3-month supply at the current sales pace.
For more information, visit www.nahb.org.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
If you have old, outdated fixtures in your home—whether it’s lighting, faucets or doorknobs—it’s easy to find nice and affordable fixtures at your local home improvement store and do the upgrades yourself.
“There’s nothing that can brighten up a home and give it a more modern feel than new, updated fixtures,” said Margaret DeLorenzo, a lighting consultant with Lamps Plus. “It is a relatively easy and affordable task that can make a real difference in a buyer’s mind.”
A home stager can also recommend upgrades through a home consultation, explaining what fixtures will look best in your home as well as what today’s buyers are looking for.
“Homeowners should stay away from brass and lean more toward the stainless steel and chrome looks because brass fixtures seem very 1980s,” said New York-based home stager Cynthia Bryant. “A simple change like this can totally alter the look and feel of a room for a minimal investment.”
If you’re not sure where to start, a simple Web search will reveal thousands of impressive looking fixtures that are reasonably priced.
“If you have a living/dining room, make sure the upgraded fixtures mesh well,” Bryant said. “They don’t have to be the same fixture, but a silver fixture doesn’t go well with a dark bronze fixture.”
For the bedroom, new lighting can totally transform a walk-in closet. Since most builders typically install basic, flush mounted fixtures in closets, a simple upgrade can do wonders when it comes to adding more light. Contemporary track lighting systems are a great way to throw extra light into the furthest corners of your closet.
If you’re making changes in the bathroom, you should always try to make sure everything matches. In other words, if you are upgrading the faucets in the sink, you should complete the room with new faucets for the bathtub and shower.
When it comes to lighting, the rule of thumb is that more is almost always better. A dark home can look gloomy or uninviting and you want potential buyers to feel welcome.
If your home has a kitchen pantry, check to see if the lighting fixture is outdated, and update it if necessary so that you create a harmonious look throughout the home. Also, make sure all the bulbs in any under-cabinet lights are working. Now is also the perfect time to replace older florescent lights that “hum” when they are turned on.
DeLorenzo also suggests that light from an overhead fan doesn’t do a room justice and when rooms are dimly lit, it can leave a bad impression.
“I recommend using two or three lamps in a large room like a living room or master bedroom to provide optimal lighting,” she said. “Basic or outdated lighting can stick out like a sore thumb. Make sure to replace those old outdated lighting fixtures and make your whole home look more modern.”
The first step in making sure your kitchen is up to par is to upgrade to more durable products by adding stainless steel kitchen sinks, refrigerators and ovens. Not only does stainless steel resist scratches, it is also easy to maintain.
“Stainless steel, as it is a neutral color, is easy to match with just about any modern kitchen décor. These appliances usually come in a high-shine, mirror finish or a less bright, but still beautiful, brushed stainless steel finish,” said Lenore Anders, an associate for Kitchens of Colorado, a kitchen showroom. “Stainless steel can withstand very hot and very cold temperatures, making the material ideal for appliances. Unlike plastic or ceramic, stainless steel does not break easily, even if dropped. Stainless steel may dent, but it will not shatter or chip the way other materials will.”
Some home designers recommend wood cabinets as a way to contrast, complement and even add a warm, organic element to kitchens with stainless steel appliances. A nice backsplash can also do wonders.
For those looking for rich color along with durability, cast iron is a good alternative for sinks. If you have the room, you may want to think about adding additional sinks. Not only will multiple sinks simplify the cooking process, it also allows for better cleanup and organization.
Another great amenity for the kitchen is a pot filler, or an extendible faucet that can be installed next to your stovetop or prep sink for easy water access.
For the home chef who wants a professional place to cook, granite and quartz are the leading choices for countertops, especially for pastry chefs seeking an expansive workspace and a cool surface for rolling out dough.
If you’re looking to make food preparation even easier, moveable cutting boards, rinsing baskets and various trays and receptacles will help get the job done quickly and properly.
Whether you’re updating your kitchen for your enjoyment or to help your house stand out among the competition, these ideas can do wonders in opening up the eyes of a potential buyer.
Friday, December 9, 2011
The median (1/2 above, 1/2 below) down 6.6% at $185,000.
The 90th percentile was $380,000.
The inventory of unsold homes dropped 22.8% to 3,666 homes, which is under a 6 month supply at the November sales rate, and thought by many to be a sign of a ‘normal’ real estate market. This level has remained stable for several months now, indicating supply and demand are roughly in balance.
The Selling Price to List Price Ratio was 96.42%, a bit lower than the longer term trends.
Analysis by Rick Van Wieren
Friday, December 2, 2011
Remodeling costs are plummeting, but so is the return on every dollar spent. Remodeling Magazine says these 10 projects have the highest return on investment, and they all focus on maintenance, replacements and enhancing curb appeal.
Here are Remodeling's top 10 projects. You'll notice that these are not ambitious, vanity jobs. All are projects that replace worn or aged home components, bring parts of the home up-to-date or add living space without expanding the home's footprint:
- Replacing exterior siding with upscale fiber cement. Siding pays back a whopping 78%, on average, of the $13,461 average cost. The most cost-effective thing you can do to your home this year is to replace old siding with new, higher-end fiber cement.
- Replacing an entry door with a midlevel 20-gauge steel door is an inexpensive upgrade at $1,238 on average, but it pays back 73% and greatly improves curb appeal.
- A midrange attic bedroom remodel involves popping out a dormer for a 5-by-7-foot bathroom with shower, insulating and finishing the walls and ceiling, adding four windows, extending the heating and air conditioning and improving wiring and lighting. The payback is 72.5% on the $50,148 expenditure. More living space is being sought as adult children are driven back to their parents' homes by the shaky economy and as older parents join the households of their adult children. (The Census Bureau says 18% of American households aredoubled up now, up from 17% in 2008.) An attic remodel is the cheapest way to add space and a bathroom within the house. A basement remodel is the next most cost-efficient way to add living space, although code requirements for headroom and exterior doors make that project more complicated and more expensive, Alfano says.
- A midrange minor kitchen remodel paid back 72.1% of the $19,588 investment. Included are new laminate countertops and new sink, faucets and appliances. The floor is untouched and cabinets are kept in place but refaced with new hardware added. "You're taking what's there and giving it a face lift," Alfano says. "The kitchen really looks good and the average cost for this is under $20,000 – less than what a lot of people would pay for a car." In today's austere climate, kitchen and bath remodels are pale imitations of the lavish vanity projects from the housing boom. Most consumers are shunning the expensive spa baths and chef's kitchens that involve moving electrical services, plumbing and walls.
- A midrange garage door replacement may not be high on many wish lists; it's one of those jobs that you do because it's needed. But it adds curb appeal and function, and it pays back 71.9%, on average, of the $1,512 average cost.
- A high-end garage door replacement recoups almost as much: 71.1% of the $2,994 average cost.
- A new wood deck earns back 70.1%, on average, of its $10,350 cost at resale this year.
- New foam-backed vinyl siding replacement keeps the house warm and pays back 69.6% of its $14,274 average cost. The average project involves 1,250 square feet of siding, including trim.
- New midrange replacement vinyl siding upgrades the look of the home and pays back 69.5% of the $11,729 average price.
- Upscale vinyl replacement windows have a 69.1% payback on the $14,328 cost. The project involves replacing 10 double-hung 3-by-5 windows. The new windows are low-emissivity glass and are insulated with simulated wood-grain trim.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Winter is almost here, but there is still time to protect homes and wallets from its harsh blow. Homeowners can use the time that remains in late fall to complete a critical weatherizing project: filling gaps and cracks with silicone caulk. It's an easy, quick, and affordable DIY project that can seal in valuable energy, trim heating bills, and save money for the long term.
According to EnergyStar, properly sealing and insulating can save more than $200 a year in heating and cooling costs, or up to 10% on total energy bills – a significant annual savings that many American families can appreciate during challenging economic times. Following are a few tips on how to master the caulk gun, an often underrated ally in the yearly tug of war to keep the thermostat low and the energy and cost savings high.
1. Find the Leaks –A critical first step is to find the hidden leaks that allow cold air to sneak inside.
• Leaks usually occur around the outside of a home and in non-regulated temperature areas like attics and basements that are exposed to harsh elements throughout the year.
• Obvious areas include the frames around windows and doors. Be sure to pay close attention to where the floor frame rests on the foundation on the inside of a house and where siding meets the corner boards on the exterior.
2. Choose the Right Caulk – Go beyond the advice to simply "caulk gaps and cracks." Not all caulks are created equal, and not all caulks provide long-lasting energy savings.
• Acrylic caulk is vulnerable to the very elements it is supposed to seal against, meaning it can break down over time allowing energy to escape. A silicone caulk, on the other hand, protects for the long haul.
• Leaks frequently occur in and around homes in places prone to extreme temperature fluctuations and heavy rain, snow, ice or wind. Impervious to these damaging conditions, silicone has excellent flexibility and is 100% waterproof.
3. Get to Work – Master the caulk gun to reap measurable energy savings. Work with caulk in above freezing temperatures and clear off snow or ice.
• Remove old caulk, dirt, and loose particles with a caulk-removing tool or wire brush. Make sure the surface is dry. Apply painter's tape to either side of the joint to create a straight edge.
• Cut nozzle to desired bead size. Pierce the inner seal with a stiff wire or other similar object. Insert the cartridge into the caulking gun. Hold the caulking gun at a 45-degree angle and seal around unsightly cracks or spaces inside and outside the home. Keep a steady, constant grip and try to get as long of a bead as possible; then repeat.
• Use a finger or a wet caulk-smoothing tool within two to five minutes of application. Remove painter's tape immediately after smoothing caulk. Wipe hands with a dry cloth before washing with soap and water. Use mineral spirits to clean up.
By taking the time to properly seal and caulk any air leaks in your home, you will be able to reap the benefits on your utility bills all winter long.