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Source: Globally, the U.S. is a deal in luxury housing

To all the mothers around the world, thank you for all you do! Sending you much love and many hugs. Enjoy your special day!

The National Education Association (NEA) describes National Teacher Day as “a day for honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our lives”.

  • The dream begins, most of the time, with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you on to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth. – Dan Rather
  • There is an old saying that the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education.  In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race. – John F. Kennedy

The NEA gives a history of National Teacher Day: The origins of Teacher Day are murky. Around 1944, Arkansas teacher Mattye Whyte Woodridge began corresponding with political and education leaders about the need for a national day to honor teachers. Woodbridge wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt, who in 1953 persuaded the 81st Congress to proclaim a National Teacher Day. NEA along with its Kansas and Indiana state affiliates and the Dodge City, Kansas local NEA branch lobbied Congress to create a national day celebrating teachers. Congress declared 7 March 1980 as National Teacher Day for that year only. The NEA and its affiliates continued to observe Teacher Day on the first Tuesday in March until 1985, when the National PTA established Teacher Appreciation Week in the first full week of May. The NEA Representative Assembly then voted to make the Tuesday of that week National Teacher Day. Massachusetts sets the first Sunday of June as its own Teachers’ Day.

Teachers

Let us walk softly on the Earth with ALL living beings great & small. Cherokee proverb

 

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With inventory below historic numbers and demand still strong, you could be missing out on a great opportunity for your family.

1. Demand Is Strong

The latest Realtors’ Confidence Index from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that buyer demand remains very strong throughout the vast majority of the country. These buyers are ready, willing and able to purchase… and are in the market right now!
Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There Is Less Competition Now

According to NAR’s latest Existing Home Sales Report, the supply of homes for sale is still under the 6-month supply that is needed for a normal housing market at 4.7-months.
This means, in most areas, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers in that market. This is good news for home prices. However, additional inventory is about to come to market.
There is a pent-up desire for many homeowners to move, as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. Homeowners are now seeing a return to positive equity as real estate values have increased over the last two years. Many of these homes will be coming to the market this fall.
Also, as builders regain confidence in the market, new construction of single-family homes is projected to continue to increase over the next two years, reaching historic levels by 2017. Last month’s new home sales numbers show that many buyers who have not been able to find their dream home within the existing inventory have turned to new construction to fulfill their needs.
The choices buyers have will continue to increase. Don’t wait until all this other inventory of homes comes to market before you sell.

3. The Process Will Be Quicker

Fannie Mae announced that they anticipate an acceleration in home sales that will surpass 2007’s pace. As the market heats up, banks will be inundated with loan inquiries causing closing-time lines to lengthen. Selling now will make the process quicker & simpler.

4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move Up

If you are moving up to a larger, more expensive home, consider doing it now. Prices are projected to appreciate by 5.3% over the next year, according to CoreLogic. If you are moving to a higher-priced home, it will wind up costing you more (both in down payment and mortgage payment) if you wait.
According to Freddie Mac’s latest report, you can also lock-in your 30-year housing expense with an interest rate around 3.46% right now. Interest rates are projected to increase moderately over the next 12 months. Even a small increase in rate will have a big impact on your housing cost.

for more info:   http://www.realtor.org/reports/realtors-confidence-index

2-6913-14-st-n-st-petersburg

6913 14th St N, St Petersburg, Florida

Buyers on the hunt for the perfect home often overlook common issues that could cost them thousands of dollars and lead to buyer’s remorse.

Taken from “6 Things Home Buyers Forget to Do: Did You Forget Them Too?” realtor.com

Realtors can help clients focus on these four often-forgettable things during their house hunt:

Not counting all the expenses of homeownership
“People focus so much on mortgage payments and closing costs,” says Brendon DeSimone, author of “Next Generation Real Estate. “What they don’t realize, until after the fact, is that there are expenses like oil or propane and landscaping that are built into homeownership.” Homebuyers should ask sellers for a property expense list to get a better gauge of what they’ll be paying each month. Also, financing experts often suggest setting aside 1 percent of the home’s total value annually for repairs and maintenance.

Failing to consider a home’s resale value
Few buyers actually stay in their home for decades. When visiting listings, buyers should talk to their real estate agent about trends in the neighborhood and the likelihood that the home would sell for the same amount in two years, five years or 10 years down the road, says Avery Boyce, a real estate professional with Compass Real Estate in Washington, D.C.

“Buying a home should make financial sense now, but if circumstances make this home no longer the right one within a few years, you don’t want to be in a tricky financial situation while trying to sell,” Boyce says.

Not investigating the neighborhood
DeSimone suggests that homebuyers walk around the neighborhood at different times of the day. Talk with the neighbors too.

Failing to look into the homeowners association
“Never close on a home without doing serious due diligence on the homeowners association,” says DeSimone. Many HOAs can be supportive, but there have been reports of a few cases where homeowners have clashed. Also, find out if there are a lot of delinquent homeowners in the neighborhood because “if there is an upcoming assessment, or there are delinquent homeowners, the HOA and you will have to cough up the money to cover it,” DeSimone says.

Source: “6 Things Home Buyers Forget to Do: Did You Forget Them Too?” realtor.com® (July 2016)

 

 

 

Built-in shelves and a gas fireplace Image: Dream Book Design

Enjoy your home more today — and sell it for the best price tomorrow.

When it comes to home improvement, some dollars stretch more than others. And if you’re on a limited budget, it becomes even more important to spend those dollars wisely.

Here are eight affordable (under $5,000) home improvement projects that’ll help you enjoy your home more today and provide excellent financial return in the future.

1. Add the Finishing Touch of Molding

Decorative molding is a classic touch that’s been around since the ancient Greeks and Romans first installed it to add grandeur to their buildings.  Centuries later, molding is still one of the most dramatic ways to dress up a room. It’s a budget-friendly improvement that trims a room for a finished and expensive look.

Today’s wood moldings come in hundreds of options — from simple to ornate — that you can stain, paint, or leave natural. You can also find moldings in flexible materials, such as foam, that make installation a whole lot easier. Some moldings even include lighting that casts a soft, ambient glow.

Buyers consistently rank both crown molding and chair railing in their list of most desirable decorative features they seek in a home (#3 and #7 respectively), according to the annual National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey, “What Home Buyers Really Want.”

And at $1.50 per foot if you DIY it, or $8 per foot if you hire, it’s a no-brainer in terms of personalizing your home while adding value. (Although we don’t recommend DIY unless you’ve got above-par mitering skills.)

A few tips about molding:

Use crown molding to make a room seem bigger and taller. But be careful about proportions. If your ceiling height is 9 feet or less, go with simpler styles to avoid overwhelming the room.

Place a chair railing at one-third the distance of the ceiling height. Chair railing placed incorrectly can make a room seem out of proportion.

Don’t forget entryways, doors, and windows: Bump up the trim around these areas to give rooms a completed and expensive feel.

2. Install Quality Ceiling Fans

If crown molding and chair railing were #3 and #7 on buyers’ decorative wish lists, what was #1?

Ceiling fans.

Over the years, ceiling fans have become quite the crowd pleaser. Once they were just a cheap solution to rising energy costs — ugly, wobbly, noisy eyesores endured because they were cheaper than air conditioning.

Today, ceiling fans have evolved into an essential component of American homes as energy prices continue to rise. And since designs have caught up with the times, they come in a variety of styles and colors to complement any room.  If your ceiling fans are old and outdated, new ones (coupled with a fresh paint job and crown molding) could give your rooms a refreshing update while saving money.

Some tips about ceiling fans:

  • Ceiling fans should hang 7 to 8 feet above the floor. If you’ve got a low ceiling, buy a hugger ceiling fan that’s flush-mounted.
  • Size matters more than the number of fan blades. Go for the biggest Energy Star-rated fan that will fit the space.
  • Choose quality. You’ll get better cooling results, less noise, and good looks at a digestible price point of $200 to $600.

3. Plant Some Trees

Apple tree outside of a house next to a patio Image: M. Williams

Say what? Adding trees doesn’t instantly pop into your head when you think of adding value to your home. But trees are moneymakers that get better with age.

A mature tree could be worth between $1,000 to $10,000, says the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers. A 16-inch silver maple could be worth $2,562, according to a formula worked out by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service.

In urban areas, money really does grow on trees. A recent study of home sales by the Pacific Northwest Research Station of Portland showed that street trees growing in front of or near a house boosted its sale price by an average of $8,870 and shaved two days off its time on the market.

There’s more. Trees also:

  • Save $100 to $250 annually in energy costs
  • Lower stress
  • Prevent erosion from downpours and roof runoff
  • Protect your home from wind, rain, and sun

But don’t just run out and plant trees willy-nilly. Here are some tips:

Follow the sun. Plant shade trees on the south side of the house where the sun beats strongest and longest.

Follow the wind. Plant windbreak trees, which can lower winter energy costs by 30%, on the north and northwest sides of your property.

Don’t plant too close. If you do, branches can scrape roofs and siding, causing expensive damage.

Rule of thumb: Don’t plant trees any closer than the tree’s mature height plus one-fourth of that height. So, for example, if a tree reaches 40 feet, it should be planted at least 50 feet from any other trees.

Related: Good Landscaping Adds HOW MUCH Value to My Home?

4. Install a Patio

Back yard patio in the dusk Image: Suzanne Davis at bebehblog

Patios are a great cost-effective way to increase your home’s living space without actually adding on. Plus you’ll recover 30% to 60% of your investment. A $2,000 patio would return around $900 at resale.

But don’t go crazy and trick out your patio with high-end amenities, like an outdoor kitchen — especially if you’d be the only one on the block with one. When it’s time to sell, you won’t get back much — if any — of your investment on kitchens and other high-end amenities. Instead, keep it simple and functional. (And, really, how often would you use an outdoor kitchen?)

Some wise advice when planning a patio:

  • Check property for slope, sun, and shade patterns.
  • Remember ‘dig alerts’ that utilities provide free of charge.
  • Don’t skimp on patio lighting. It can make all the difference in functionality and beautification.

Related: How to Make Your Hobbit-Sized Patio Feel Like Versailles

5. Pump Up Your Home Security

The peace of mind that comes with installing a home security system is priceless.

In reality, price varies. You can buy and install it yourself for $50 to $300, or a security company can sell and install a system from $0 to $1,500. The “zero” is the hook companies use to lure you into signing a multi-year monitoring contract that ranges from $95 to $480 per year.

If a monitored system suits your needs, you’ll also get a break on your home insurance. Most companies will discount your annual rate 15% to 20% if you have a security service.

Home security systems also make your home more marketable: 50% of homebuyers (in the NAHB survey) say a home security system — particularly security cameras — tops their list of most-wanted technology features.

You can go over the top and install high-tech security gadgets, like smartphone-operated locks and a laser trip wire. Or you can keep it simple with a keypad that communicates with sensors and motion detectors throughout your house.

Tips:

  • If you do decide to go with a monitoring system, choose a company with a 10-year track record to ensure reliability.
  • Don’t rely on any system as your sole means of security. Locking doors and windows is still your best first-line of defense.

6. Do Almost Any Energy-Efficient Upgrade

The value of energy-efficient houses just keeps going up and up. A UCLA study examined the sales prices of 1.6 million California homes from 2007 to 2012 and found that homes with Energy Star, LEED, or GreenPoint certification had, on average, a 9% higher price.

That finding is echoed in NAHB’s report that surveyed homebuyers across the nation: Nine out of 10 potential buyers would select an efficient home with lower utility bills over a less efficient home priced 2% to 3% less.

One energy-saving home improvement project that not only saves energy but gives you tons of enjoyment, too, is converting a wood-burning fireplace into a gas one. If you like to crunch energy numbers, gas fireplaces have energy-efficient ratings as high as 77%, compared with wood-burning fireplaces that convert only 15% of wood’s energy into useful heat.

In fact, 39% of homebuyers say a gas fireplace is an essential or desirable feature of the next home they purchase. So when it comes time to sell your home, more than one-third of potential buyers will be looking for a gas fireplace.

In the meantime, it’ll be paying for itself in reduced heating costs.

Some tips for converting to gas:

  • direct-vent gas insert most closely replicates the wood-burning experience at a cost of about $3,000 to $4,000, installed.
  • If you don’t have an existing fireplace, you can install a direct-vent (vents directly outside so you don’t need a chimney) gas fireplace for about $5,000 (installed and finished).

Related: 5 Quick Energy Fixes to Save Up to $660 a Year

7. Add Some Creative Storage

We don’t have to sell you on the value of storage and built-in organization. Since when have you heard someone complain about too much storage? Never, we bet.

Adding storage is a no-brainer, but it does take a little brainpower to find your home’s hidden storage.

Here are a few ways to think outside of the toy box:

  • Open drywall to create storage cubbies between your wall’s studs.
  • Install platform storage that hangs from your garage ceiling.
  • Even stairs can give you more storage. One clever mom repurposed an old chest of drawers and created storage within a basement staircase.

Related: Storage Hacks from Space-Challenged New Yorkers

8. Light Up the Outdoors

Exterior lighting makes your home shine in the evening, accents features you like most about your house, and helps keep burglars away. A hard-wired lighting fixture can cost $150 to $250 to install. On the plus side, you could get a 50% return on your investment, says Judith Patriski, a Cleveland appraiser and REALTOR®. Installing motion-detecting lights can even lower some homeowners’ insurance premiums. (Check with your agent.)

And with technological advances in solar lighting, it’s easier and more cost-effective than ever to boost your home’s nighttime curb appeal.

Plus, 90% of buyers say outdoor lighting is on their list of desired home features.

Tips:

  • Place accent lights under your favorite trees to show off your landscaping’s top earners.
  • If your lights are hard-wired, put them on a timer so you don’t waste energy running them during the day.
  • Choose a warm white light. It’ll make your home look and feel welcoming.

flood-Insurance_WEB

 

Neighborhood Advocates Initiative Flood Insurance April 2016

I’m sure that you have heard that flood insurance rates increased starting April 1.

In 2012 Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Act, creating sharp rate increases for properties in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Those increases went into effect in the fall of 2013, and crisis ensued for many homeowners. Congress acted by passing the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which addressed many of the problems.

The sharp increases from Biggert-Waters were postponed, and a glide path was proposed instead of the immediate increases. On Friday, April 1, 2016 the glide path went into effect.

Here is what a property owner should know:

  • The type of property matters: Residential vs. Commercial, Pre-FIRM (Flood Insurance Rate Map), Severe Repetitive Loss, non-primary residential, etc. It is important for a property owner to understand that the property’s characteristics will dictate the maximum annual increase in premiums. A typical Pre-FIRM, primary residence will see a maximum annual increase of 18%, but on average will see a 9% increase.
  • High likelihood rates will continue to increase: Pinellas County, FL has the most NFIP policies of any county in the country, and Pasco and Hillsborough are close behind. This is based on several factors that will continue to drive risk and increased rates for years to come. Those risk factors are weather, building codes at the time of construction of Pre-FIRM homes, and proximity to bodies of water.
  • How do I know exactly what I will be paying? It is important to involve an insurance professional during this conversation. The many facets of flood insurance, or any other form of property insurance, make it a complex question to answer. An insurance professional can navigate the ins and outs, and properly advise you on how best to limit your cost. Keep in mind, you won’t see an immediate increase in costs until your next renewal period, you purchase a new property requiring flood insurance, or you have to re-initiate your flood insurance policy due to a lapse in coverage.

 

Because this issue has the potential to affect you and our local economy, I thought that you might want to know about it. If you have questions or comments, please email me at AnnalisaWeller1@gmail.com Thank you so much.

© 2016 Pinellas Realtor Organization

Your buyers can avoid their own homeowner association horror story by keeping an eye out for these items during the search.

What’s the difference between a good, mediocre, and downright bad homeowner association? It’s not entirely a matter of opinion. There are specific items to look at and questions to ask that can tell your buyers whether they’re buying into an HOA that will only give them headaches. This information is particularly important in condominiums, where the HOA usually is responsible for maintaining the exterior of the buildings. If they aren’t careful, your buyers could face paying a big special assessment for years of neglected capital improvements after they close. The bill they’re typically stuck with could be anywhere from $1,000 to $30,000. (In some cases, they’ve gone over $100,000!) Help your buyers perform due diligence before closing by assisting them in identifying issues to minimize the element of surprise. While this isn’t intended to be legal advice and there may be other items to look at other than those mentioned in this article, this should give you ideas for how to advocate for your buyers when dealing with HOAs.

Look at the Community as a Whole

Is it run-down? Don’t solely focus on the one property your buyer is purchasing. When the HOA is responsible for maintaining the buildings, check out neighboring units and common spaces along with the home your buyer is purchasing. Here are some telltale signs of an HOA that isn’t on top of its responsibilities:

  • Are the fences rusting?
  • Are the building signs in disrepair?
  • Does the asphalt look like gravel?
  • Are the pool and other amenities clean and in good working order?
  • What is the age and condition of the roofs?
  • Do the buildings need to be painted?
  • Are there staircases and balconies in poor shape that the HOA is responsible for maintaining?
  • When were the buildings last treated for termites? Have they been neglected, with a higher risk of unknown termite damage throughout the community?
  • Are there problems with siding?
  • Are there grading issues causing flooding?
  • What is the condition of the gutters, fascia, and other fixtures?

Look at the Reserve Study

First of all, make sure you and your buyers know what this is. A reserve study details an HOA’s long-term funding plan, showing, most important, how much it currently has to offset maintenance costs. It’s the most important tool to determine the financial health of the HOA.

  • What is the percent funded? Zero percent to 30 percent means it’s at high risk of a special assessment; 31 percent to 70 percent is a medium risk; 71 percent to 100 percent is low risk.
  • How much does the reserve study recommend the HOA saves each year, and how much is the HOA actually saving?
  • Has the HOA been following the reserve study and making capital improvements?
  • How much money can you foresee being needed compared to what the HOA has saved?

Proactively Ask Questions

Encourage your buyer to call and ask the HOA or HOA management company questions. You may need to make it a condition of the purchase contract that the seller will provide the answers if the HOA management company won’t answer you or your buyer. Keep these questions in mind:

  • Have there been any special assessments before? Get the details and ask if there is discussion about having another one.
  • Have there been any lawsuits or are any expected? Check court records.
  • How many insurance claims has the HOA had?
  • If roofs are an HOA responsibility, are there plans to transfer the burden to the owner? How many roof repairs have there been in the last couple years?
  • Are there plans to change the HOA’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions?
  • Have there been any repairs from extensive water or termite damage in the last couple years?

Your buyer must review the HOA’s covenants, rules, meeting minutes, violation policy, collection policy, and other aspects. Make your buyers a checklist to help them do their due diligence. Help them become an educated buyer on HOA living.

Ignorance isn’t bliss for your clients — or you — when it comes to HOAs. Agents and sellers could potentially avoid lawsuits by making buyers aware of all issues before they close on a property in an HOA. Remember, approximately 70 percent of HOAs are underfunded and in poor condition due to lack of maintenance. These are not HOAs “protecting our property values.”

This problem is not going away by keeping our eyes closed. The first step in improving HOAs is having real estate professionals who will educate buyers on how an HOA should operate. Buyers need to be involved and concerned with the HOA business that they are becoming a part of before closing — and they need to stay involved after closing.

Annalisa Weller, Realtor®, Certified International Property Specialist

(727) 804-6566
AnnalisaWeller1@gmail.com

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