Monday, April 14, 2014

Biggest Turn-offs for Home Buyers

Are you thinking about selling your home? The current housing market could find it challenging to meet your asking price unless your home is in MOVE-IN condition. If your home has one of the following "turn-offs" listed below, then your home may be harder to sell.

1. DIRT

The no. 1 biggest mistake that a seller could make when selling their home - is NOT getting the home in the best possible condition. This can be a big turn off for the buyers. A house for sale should be spotlessly clean.

Make sure floors are clean, cabinets are tidy and no dirty dishes in the sink. Keep a set of clean, dry towels on hand for the kitchen and bathroom for showing purposes.

2. SMELL

A lot of people say that buyers buy with their noses.  The sense of smell is something that's most memorable to some people.  Bad odors can chase away buyers. Smells can come from different sources - pets, smoke, water damage, lack of cleanliness and much more.

Sellers are encouraged to eliminate traces of pets - not just pet odors when the house is on the market. Some buyers may be allergic or have bad experiences with certain pets.  It is best to remove the pet(s) from the home if possible, or worst case to use a kennel and place in the garage or spare room.  Pet owners also want to keep the stress levels lower on the pets as well, making these adjustments will most likely make it easier on the pet(s) during showings. 

Try not to cook fried food, fish or greasy food while the house is on the market.  At a minimum, please make sure fans are in working order and clean up after cooking. 

Cigarette/cigar smoke inside the home can be an immediate turn-off for buyers.  Smoke and nicotine stick to walls, window screens, linens and carpets trapping the smell inside the house. Smoke smells linger, even if you make a temporary quick fix. Unless the potential home buyer is a smoker, it would be a hard sell. 

3. CLUTTER

An uncluttered home gives a spacious appearance.  Too many personal items in the house takes out the attention of the buyer from the house being shown.   Buyers would like to imagine how their home would look like if they purchase it and it's difficult to visualize their home when there are so many things around the place.

Make a list of the things you want to organize. Locate the things you want to 1. Throw Away 2. Donate 3. Keep. Once you've reduced your stuff, you'll have fewer things to MOVE on your new home.

4. DEFERRED MAINTENANCE

Buyers prefer home that's MOVE-IN READY.  Home buyers want a home that's well maintained. They don't want to think about the costs for doing the repair themselves. Most times buyers want a worry-free house.

Making small repairs prevent bigger problems in the future. This will save you money in the long run.

5. SNOOPY SELLERS

Please leave the house during showings if possible, the same goes with tenants renting a home for sale.

Home buyers feel awkward about opening the closet doors and lingering when the sellers are present during the visit. Give the buyers some space to make their own opinion.

If you're planning to sell, it's important to put your best foot forward if you want to sell quickly and get the best price.  All of the home selling issues mentioned above you can correct without spending a lot of money.  Make sure to address them before you put your house on the market because if your house develops a reputation amount agents, it will be too late to address it.  Your house will be last on their list to show potential buyers.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.  Hiring a Realtor can help you properly evaluate the condition of your property and give you expert  advise on how to sell your home for top dollar.  Realtors can assist you in finding qualified professionals to improve your property thus improving selling price. 



 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

New Community in Eagle River

Eagle River is part of Municipality of Anchorage.  It is situated between Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Chugach State Park.   If Eagle River was not part of the Municipality of Anchorage, then it would be classified as one of top 5 largest cities in Alaska.

Chugiak-Eagle River is known as the Most Livable and Unique Community in Alaska! It is surrounded by beautiful Alaskan wilderness and at the same time has a variety of shops providing comfortable living for its residents.  Most goods and services are available locally but if you can't find what you're looking for, you can always drive to downtown Anchorage which is located just 12 miles to the South.

Many Anchorage employees live in this area - just a 15 minute drive away.  If you love peace and quiet but your place of work is in the city, then Eagle River is the perfect place for you.

Things To Do

There's a lot of sports interest in Eagle River. Some of popular ones include hockey, indoor and outdoor soccer, baseball, softball, basketball, football, swimming/diving, hiking, and cross-country running and skiing.



As Eagle River is covered with Alaska wilderness, camping is a popular family activity.

Education

Eagle River has numerous public, parochial and charter school programs available for K-12 grades.  However, there's only one high school in the city which is called Eagle River High School. Eagle River school system is part of Anchorage School District (ASD). 

Homeschooling is also a popular form education in Eagle River.  Alaska has some of the friendliest home school laws in the United States.  There are currently 3 home schools in Eagle River.


In 1976, the University of Alaska  created a branch school called The Chugiak-Eagle River Campus of UAA. It offers a variety of freshman through senior college level courses and work force development programs.  There is also a local Bible college around the area.

Events

Scottish Highland Games are held every 4th Saturday at Eagle River Lions Park.  Experience Scottish games and traditions.

4th of July Celebration.  It is held at Lions Park hosed by the Eagle River Lions. The event begins at 6pm on 3rd of July featuring different activities and ends with a fabulous fireworks display at midnight

Winter Wonderland is a yearly event held on the first Friday of December.  The event features tree lighting and a visit from Santa with a real reindeer, caroling by local school choirs and treats from Santa's candy elves and free horse drawn sleigh rides. This is held at the Eagle River Town Square.

Merry Merchant Munch is also an annual event held on the first Friday and Saturday of December in downtown Eagle River.  There's a holiday decorating and ginger bread house competition.

New Community in Eagle River

Spinell Homes, Alaska's largest home builder has just started a new subdivision development in Eagle River catered to home buyers that want to enjoy peace and quiet living but not too far out the city.  Dove Tree community is consists of 3 Bedrooms/2.5 Bathrooms with 4 star plus energy rating townhomes in a very convenient location!

Location is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a new home. Dove Tree is located near the bases, schools, shopping and restaurants.  It is also accessible via commute.  With everything within minutes away, the time typically spent in traffic can be translated to more valuable quality time with your loved ones.

Dove Tree townhomes are spacious and energy efficient. Outdoors, you can enjoy the views of Alaska Range and Mt. McKinley from your own home!

Construction is on full swing and available to move-in during 2014. For lucky home buyers, there's still time to upgrade! For interested buyers, please contact me at 907-865-6463 or check out www.jamesteamrealestate.com for more information.

Eagle River is proving to be a popular residential location choice! New residential communities in Kulchay Circle, Icefall Drive, Yellowstone, Muldrow Street, Stephan Valley Road (just to name
a few) are all currently under construction - to satisfy the demand for homes accessible to the city. 

Other Community Developments in Eagle River


Spinell Homes have already made its mark in Eagle River. 2 communities - Powder Ridge and Eagle Crossing subdivisions are 100% occupied.

Spinell Homes, winner of Award for Excellence, Excellence in Customer Service Award and Best Home Builder in Alaska. With its strong commitment to customer satisfaction. Beginning with the sale, following with series of customer service calls to the one year warranty service appointment. All properties are well-planned, well-constructed and well-maintained.  Because of convenient location, good quality of construction and commitment to customer satisfaction, home buyers are assured that they are getting value for their money.

Spinell Homes is dedicated to providing Alaskans a new home - on time, on budget and meeting your expectations.









Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Improved Mortgage Availability

In 2008, credit standards have been extraordinarily tight.  As years go by, the credit standards became stricter and stricter.  But according to the latest survey from Fannie Mae, loan availability is improving.  Majority of potential home owners believe that it is easier to get a mortgage as compared before.

Mike Fratoni, Chief Economist for MBA said, "The market continues to adapt to the new QM (Qualified Mortgage) regulation by eliminating products that do not fit inside of the QM box. This tightening is being offset, both in the market for higher balance loans, where lenders continue to loosen terms for jumbo loans, and in the refinance market, where more lenders are offering streamline refinance programs."

However, there could be other factors that make credit more available.  One factor is the mortgage delinquency rate.  According to Transunion, a credit reporting agency, the mortgage delinquency rate for Q4 2013 was 3.85%, down from 5.08%.

Another factor can be the home sales and rising prices.  Before the crisis, there was approximately five months of inventory available in the market.  During the crisis, the months of inventory doubled as the home sale price declined sharply.  Meaning, home sellers had to wait for a longer period and lower their selling price to sell their home because there was a shortage of buyers.   At present, the market is back to its pre-crisis levels.  According to Mortgage Bankers' Association (MBA), home prices grew by more than 10% in 2013.
 
Lenders are braver now when it comes to lending due to the government backing and settlements. 

With employment rate improving, mortgage delinquencies is expected to continue declining.  The latest January employment rate rose to 58.8%. 

As credit standards loosen up, lower interest rates and improved employment rate, buyers should feel more confident in purchasing home in 2014.

If you need help in obtaining a mortgage loan, I can refer you to mortgage professionals that will guide you through every step of the mortgage process.



Monday, February 10, 2014

Additional Tax Benefits for Anchorage and Mat-su Home Buyers

There are 2 kinds of kinds of property tax exemptions for Alaska homeowners.  1.)  Exemptions that are required by law; 2.) Optional exemptions granted by state law.  Exemptions may vary depending on each municipality. Each municipality must grant the tax exemptions that are mandated by state law. 

Anchorage Exemptions 
All applications for exemption must be filed by March 15th of the applicable year for the homeowner to be qualified for the exemptions.However, if the homeowner have applied for exemptions the previous year and there have been no changes then he/she is not required to resubmit an application for exemption. 

Several types of property exemptions are available for Anchorage homeowners and these are: (Source: www.muni.org)

1. Senior Citizen Exemption
a.) Up to $150,000 of the assessed value may be exempt for;
b.) Property owned and occupied as the primary residence and permanent place of abode by a (Senior) resident 65 years of age or older;
c.) A resident at least 60 years old who is the widow or widower of a person who qualified as a Senior.

2. Disabled Veteran Exemption
a.) Up to $150,000 of the assessed value may be exempt for;
b.) Property owned and occupied as the primary residence and permanent place of abode by a Disabled Veteran; 
c.) A resident at least 60 years old who is the widow or widower of a person who qualified as a Disabled Veteran.

3. Residential Exemption 
a.) 10% of the assessed value up to a maximum of $20,000 may be exempt for;
b.) Property must be occupied by the owner. 

4. Disaster Exemption 
Tax relief is available for owner occupied residential property at least 50% destroyed by fire.  Application must be submitted within 60 days of the fire.

5. Fire Protection Exemption 
Up to 2% of the assessed value may be exempted if the property contains an approved fire protection system.

6. Nonprofit Exemption 
Properties that are used for nonprofit religous, charitable, cemetery,hospital, educational or community purposed are exempted from taxes.

7. Business Property Exemption 
Provides a tax exemption of $20,000 of assessed value for business personal property. 

Mat-su Borough 

All applications for exemption must be filed on or before April 30 of the applicable tax year. 

Tax exemptions available for Mat-su homeowners are: (Source:www.matsugov.us)

1. Senior Citizen Exemption
a.) Property must be owned and occupied as the primary residence and permanent place of abode on January 1 of the exemption year;
b. Senior resident must be 65 years of age or older by January 1 of the exemption year;

2. Disabled Veteran Exemption
a.) Property must be owned and occupied as the primary residence and permanent place of abode on January 1 of the exemption year;
b.) Disabled Veterans must have a 50% or more service connected disability effective January 1 of the exemption year.

3. Fire Relief Exemption 
Homeowner can claim for reduction of assessment and abatement of taxes on property affected by fire.  Application must be submitted within 60 days of the fire.

There are several types of additional tax exemptions available to homeowners and it varies for each municipality.  This article can serve as a guide for filing your income taxes.  Make sure to contact the local assessor's office for an updated list of those exemptions in your area. If you have further questions, please contact our office and we can refer you to Tax Professionals to assist in your inquiries.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Additional Tax Benefit Information for Home Buyer

April 15 is a date dreaded by some. As what Anthony Hopkins said in the movie Meet Joe Black, the only things you can't avoid in life are "death and taxes". BUT, you can avoid paying for high income taxes.

Filing and paying for taxes should not be dreaded - especially for homeowners because they are entitled to many valuable tax deductions.  All the deductions in the world won't do you any good unless you know how to take advantage of them. You do not want to pay taxes you don't need to pay.  
Here are some information you need to know to maximize your deductions and avoid common tax deduction mistakes. You do not want to pay taxes you don't need to pay.

1. Mortgage Interest Deduction 
Mortgage interest are paid during the first few years of the mortgage term.  Through the home mortgage interest deduction, homeowners are allowed to reduce their taxable income by deducting the amount of interest paid on the loan which is secured by their principal residence.  On a mortgage of up to $1 million, they can deduct the interest they've paid at settlement if they itemize their deductions on Form 1040.  

2. Property Taxes 
Property tax paid to the local municipality are deductible. The new home owner do not need to pay income tax on money that was spent on property taxes.  However, money held in escrow for the purpose of paying property taxes are not deductible - until the money is actually taken out of escrow and paid the property tax.

3. Selling Costs
Selling costs on the sale of your home can be claimed as tax deductions.  Closing fees, repairs, capital improvements costs, broker's fees and advertising/marketing expenses required to sell their home will be deducted on the gain on sale of their home.  Provided that the repairs were made within 90 days of the sale.  Maintenance items such as painting the home and changing the carpet are usually not considered as capital improvement.

4. Mortgage Insurance Premiums Deduction
Homeowners that paid less than 20% down payment on their homes are required to pay Mortgage Insurance Premiums or MIP to protect the lender in case the borrowers default on the loan.  MIP payers can deduct those insurance payments as tax deduction when they file their returns. 

5. Energy Efficient Upgrade/Repair Deduction
The cost of the building materials used for energy efficient upgrades can be deducted on the total tax payable, not just a reduction in the taxable income.

6. Home Office Deduction 
Homeowners can deduct a percentage of their mortgage, utilities and repair bills dedicated their office space. However, the home office must be the primary office location of the business or it is used as storage area for your business (i.e. samples, inventory, etc)

7. Construction Loan Interest Deduction
If a home owner has borrowed money to build a home, he/she may qualify to deduct the interest.  The interest deduction will only be applicable for the first 24 months of the loan even if the actual construction takes longer.

8. Home Improvement Loan Interest Deduction
There's also tax deduction on the interest on the loans used for home improvements. Home improvements like adding square footage, upgrading or repairing damage from a natural disaster are tax deductible. Painting a home or changing the carpet are not included in the capital improvement projects. 

9. Profit on Sale of Real Estate Deduction 
A homeowner can claim up to $250,000 of profit (for single individual) and $500,000 (for married couples) from the sale of the real estate property. Provided that the it is the primary residence of the homeowner/s and they have lived in it for two of the past 5 years. 

This article can serve as a guide for filing your income taxes.  If you have further questions, please contact our office and we can refer you to Tax Professionals to assist in your inquiries. 



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why Mortgage Rates Are Not Increasing

Most experts predicted that mortgage rates will rise in 2014.  However for the past month, rates have not really moved.  If anything, they've moved slightly lower. What happened? Was the prediction inaccurate?  

Guy Cecala, Inside Mortgage Finance editor-in-chief said, "The simple answer is that the rate hike due to the Fed's tapering really took effect last May/June - despite the fact that the tapering didn't begin until December."  The mortgage rate jump up at the start of last summer. 

Based from Mortgage Bankers Association weekly report, total number of mortgage applications are down 52% from a year ago, while refinance applications and purchase applications are down nearly 63% and over 12% respectively. 

Federal Reserves has cut its mortgage-bond purchases by $5 billion in January but it has had no effect on rates for one simple reason - according to the publisher of TheMortgageReports.com, the reason why Fed's tapering had no effect on rates is because investors are filling the void. When stock market falls, investors put their money elsewhere such as bonds. When the Feds are cutting its purchase of bonds, other investors have stepped in to fill the void. 

So, is the prediction going to come true this 2014? Experts say, probably yes, but not because of Fed's moves or more mortgage regulation. As a general rule, mortgage rates tend to increase with an improving economy and a strong stock market - and that it is beginning to look like where we are headed!!  If you, or anyone you know, is interested in buying, selling, or learning more about real estate please contact us.  We specialize in Alaska Real Estate and also have amazing Realtors we refer in other housing markets Nationwide!! Call us today and we would happy to help!!  

Friday, January 31, 2014

TOP 5 HOME IMPROVEMENTS WITH HIGHEST ROI

Are you planning on doing any home improvement before you sell your home?  Do you know which home upgrades will attract the buyers? The Cost vs Value Report 2014, will show you how much you can recover from the cost that you are going to invest in your home improvement project once you sell your home. The report is a result of an online survey, between August and October 2013, from appraisers, agents and brokers that provided their expert opinions and estimates.  Cost vs Value Report 2014 can be downloaded for free at www.costvsvalue.com.

Adding a garage and a deck pays off, according to this year's Cost vs Value Report.  Real estate professionals ranked garage addition as the most important factor for buyers providing sellers with the highest  return on investment in the midrange category. It has a return on investment percentage of 104.3%  with an estimated job cost of $55,120 and having a resale value of $57,500.  While in the upscale category, deck addition is the most important home improvement for the buyers.  ROI percentage is at 83.3%. The estimated cost is $38,993 at $32,500 resale value.  Here are the top 5 home improvements based from the survey of Cost vs Value Report 2014:

MIDRANGE CATEGORY
JOB COST
RESALE VALUE
COST RECOUPED
RANK
Garage Addition
$55,120
$57,500
104.3%
1st
Attic Bedroom Remodel
57,822
60,000
103.8%
2nd
Family Room Addition
95,377
90,000
94.4%
3rd
Basement Remodel
75,406
70,000
92.8%
4th
Window Replacement (vinyl)
10,993
10,000
91%
5th

UPSCALE CATEGORY
JOB COST
RESALE VALUE
COST RECOUPED
RANK
Deck Addition (composite)
$38,993
$32,500
83.3%
1st
Bathroom Remodel
55,870
40,000
71.6%
2nd
Window Replacement (vinyl)
14,028
10,000
71.3%
3rd
Window Replacement (wood)
17,747
10,000
56.3%
4th
Bathroom Addition
80,924
42,500
52.5%
5th


If you've already decided to upgrade your home, here's  the TOP 5 Project Descriptions guideline from Cost vs Value Report that you can refer to:

MIDRANGE CATEGORY

GARAGE ADDITION

Construct a 26-by-26-foot freestanding two-car garage, including footings and slabon-grade foundation, 2x4 wood frame with OSB structural sheathing, and gable truss roof at 6/12 pitch. Install 25-year asphalt shingle roofing with galvanized metal flashing; vinyl siding and trim. Install five double-hung 30-by-48-inch vinyl windows; one 3-0/6-8 exterior door with half-glass
and lockset; and two composite 9-by-8-foot overhead doors with motorized openers. Include 100-amp breaker at main house panel and 50 linear feet of trench buried conduit to feed new electrical subpanel.  Provide electrical wiring for openers; three-way switching for fluorescent ceiling fixtures over each bay; three-way switching for two exterior spotlights; outlets to code. Interior wall, floors, and ceilings remain unfinished.

ATTIC BEDROOM ADDITION

Convert unfinished attic space to a 15-by-15-foot bedroom and a 5-by-7-foot bathroom with shower. Include a 15-foot shed dormer, four new windows, and closet space under the eaves. Insulate and finish ceiling and walls. Carpet floor. Extend existing HVAC to new space; provide electrical wiring and lighting to code. Retain existing stairs, but add rail and baluster around stairwell.

FAMILY ROOM ADDITION

In a style appropriate to the existing house, add a 16-by-25-foot room on a crawlspace foundation with vinyl siding and fiberglass shingle roof. Include drywall interior with fiberglass insulation, pre-finished hardwood floor, and 180 square feet of glazing including windows, atrium-style exterior doors, and two operable skylights. Tie into existing HVAC. Add electrical system to code, including 12 recessed ceiling lights. 

WINDOW REPLACEMENT (VINYL)

Replace 10 existing 3-by-5-foot double-hung windows with insulated vinyl replacement windows. Wrap existing exterior trim as required to match. Do not disturb existing interior trim.

WINDOW REPLACEMENT (WOOD)

Replace 10 existing 3-by-5-foot double-hung windows with insulated wood replacement windows, exterior clad in vinyl or aluminum. Wrap existing exterior trim as required to match. Do not disturb existing interior trim.

UPSCALE CATEGORY 

DECK ADDITION (COMPOSITE)

Add a 16-by-20-foot deck using pressure treated joists supported by 4x4 posts anchored to concrete piers. At one corner, add a second, 10-foot-diameter six-sided platform one step down from the main deck.  Include stairs on the smaller deck, assuming three steps to grade. Install composite deck material in a simple linear pattern. Trim the perimeter joists and wrap the 4x4 posts with composite materials to match the decking. Using the same decking material, include a built-in bench and planter along one 16-foot side. On the remaining perimeter, provide a railing system using composite material of contrasting or complementary colors that includes decorative balusters, post caps, and lighting. Railing and trim should provide for overall curb appeal to the outdoor living space by integrating the deck with the home’s color and architecture, creating a custom look.

BATHROOM REMODEL

Expand an existing 35-square-foot bathroom to 100 square feet within existing house footprint. Relocate all fixtures. Include 42-by-42-inch neo-angle shower with ceramic tile  walls with accent strip, recessed shower caddy, body-spray fixtures, and frameless glass enclosure. Include a customized whirlpool tub; stone countertop with two sinks; two mirrored medicine cabinets with lighting; a compartmentalized commode area with one-piece toilet; and a humidistat-controlled exhaust fan. Use all color fixtures. Use larger matching ceramic tiles on the floor, laid on the diagonal with ceramic tile base molding. Add general and spot lighting including waterproof shower fixture.  Cabinetry shall include a custom drawer base and wall cabinets for a built-in look. Extend HVAC system, and include electric in-floor heating and heated towel bars.

WINDOW REPLACEMENT (VINYL)

Replace 10 existing 3-by-5-foot double-hung windows with insulated, low-E, simulated divided-lite vinyl windows. Simulated wood grain interior finish; custom-color exterior finish. Trim exterior to match existing; do not disturb existing interior trim.

WINDOW REPLACEMENT (WOOD)

Replace 10 existing 3-by-5-foot double-hung windows with insulated, low-E, simulated divided-lite wood windows. Interior finish of stained hardwood; exterior finish of custom color aluminum cladding. Trim exterior to match existing; do not disturb existing interior trim.

BATHROOM ADDITION

Add a new 100-square-foot master bathroom to existing master bedroom over a crawlspace. Include 42-by-42-inch neo-angle shower with ceramic tile walls with accent strip, recessed shower caddy, body-spray fixtures, and frameless glass enclosure. Include a customized whirlpool tub; stone countertop with two sinks; two mirrored medicine cabinets with lighting; a compartmentalized commode area with one-piece toilet; and a humidistat-controlled exhaust fan. Use all color fixtures. Use larger matching ceramic tiles on the floor, laid on the diagonal with ceramic tile base molding. Add general and spot lighting including waterproof shower fixture. Cabinetry shall include a custom drawer base and wall cabinets for a built-in look. Extend HVAC system, and include electric in-floor heating and heated towel bars.

More on Project Descriptions on Cost vs Value Report 2014.

There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding on which home improvement to work on, for example, cost and time.  It is important to know what features are important to the buyers in your area.  The Cost vs Value Report 2014 can be a big help when making your decisions. It gives you a realistic budget and gives you outlines what the true cost of completing a remodeling project is.  It also gives you an idea of the resale value of your decided home improvement. 

If you are planning to make any home improvement, I'll be happy to introduce you to some local experts.