July 26, 2011 4:25 pm
Fannie Mae's new monthly national consumer attitudinal survey report provides eleven indicators offering a window into the opinions of Americans across the country. These behavioral insights convey what consumers think about the outlook for owning and renting a home and about their household finances, and may serve as key inputs for determining the future course of investment across housing types.
The most detailed attitudinal survey of its kind, the Fannie Mae National Housing Survey polls 1,000 Americans each month via live telephone interview to assess their attitudes toward owning and renting a home, mortgage rates, homeownership distress, household finances, and overall consumer confidence.
Homeowners and renters are asked more than 100 questions used to track attitudinal shifts (findings are compared to the same survey conducted monthly beginning June 2010). Fannie Mae conducts this survey and shares monthly and quarterly results so that we may help industry partners and market participants target our collective efforts to stabilize the housing market in the near-term, and provide support in the future.
"Our survey data on key aspects of the housing environment and Americans' household financial situations offer a comprehensive view of the marketplace that hasn't existed previously," says Doug Duncan, Vice President and Chief Economist of Fannie Mae. "There's been strong interest across the industry for a monthly consumer attitudinal data set of this size. The data have only a very short lag from collection to delivery and at present show how sensitive consumers are to contemporaneous events. We see a continued lack of confidence among consumers on home prices, the ability to sell their homes, and the state of their personal finances—all of which point to housing as a continued downside risk to economic growth going forward."
The June 2011 Fannie Mae National Housing Survey was conducted between June 1, 2011 and June 28, 2011. Interviews were conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, in coordination with Fannie Mae. Forthcoming Fannie Mae National Housing Survey Monthly Reports will be released on or around the seventh day of every month.
For more information, please visit www.fanniemae.com.
July 25, 2011 10:25 pm
Homeowners can take several steps to increase their home's appeal both inside and out without spending a fortune. In fact, homeowners can breathe new life into their homes and increase its appeal by spending $100 or less.
"You'd be surprised at what a difference you can make without spending a lot of money," says Tom Humpal, a broker/owner in Rockford, Ill. "It's always the little things that make a big difference when you're showing your home."
Homeowners who want their residences to sell quickly need to make sure that their single-family homes and condominiums are priced right and show well. Their homes need to be top-of-mind with buyers no matter how many residences were seen that day. Buyers look for homes that are clean, bright, roomy and warm. Here are five easy ways homeowners can give their residences these attributes without spending much money.
1. The wonders of paint. You might be surprised at the difference that a fresh coat of paint can make. For $100, homeowners won't be able to paint all the rooms in their homes, but they will be able to spot paint. And that can turn a formerly drab room into one with plenty of style.
Rachel Hausman, a sales associate in Buffalo Grove, Ill., recommends that homeowners purchase a five-gallon bucket of white paint. They can then use this paint to color the trim in their living rooms, kitchens, dens and hallways. The white trim makes a home's walls pop more vividly, Hausman says. She does warn homeowners against choosing colors such as grey or blue. These are colder colors, which sometimes work against a home’s appeal.
"Warmer colors tend to make homes show better," says Hausman. "A nice warm beige or ivory can make a home seem warm and comfortable. Buyers react well to such colors."
2. First impressions matter. One hundred dollars can help a home make a strong first impression on buyers. The sellers just have to spend that money on the home's front door. A front door with peeling or chipped paint can instantly create a negative impression. Buyers who see a fading front door might wonder what other features the home's owner is neglecting.
It costs far less than $100 for homeowners to apply a fresh coat of paint to their front doors. And, it costs nothing to make sure that front entrances are swept free of old leaves and debris.
3. Curb appeal. Many buyers today pre-screen the homes that might interest them. They'll look them up on the Web and then spend an afternoon driving past them, scratching homes off their list if they don't like what they see. What causes potential buyers to eliminate homes from their lists? More often than not, lawns that haven’t been mowed, overgrown bushes and a general lack of curb appeal.
Putting at least a little money into your front yard is always a good idea. Such an investment can result in a big payoff. By planting flowers and shrubs, adding flower pots and baskets to front porches and mowing the lawn, homeowners can create a front yard that entices buyers. In today's market, that's an important advantage.
4. Bring in the cleaning pros. Nothing turns off potential buyers more quickly, and thoroughly, then dirty carpets, dusty ceiling fan blades, murky windows and sticky counter tops. Buyers who see a home that isn't even clean for its showing tend to question the commitment that homeowners have made to maintaining their residences.
Depending on the job, a professional cleaning service might be the way to go, easily affordable for $100 or less, to give the homes a thorough scrubbing before it is placed on the market. Cleaning service professionals will tend to the areas of a home that owners often forget as they prepare their homes for showing.
5. Focus on the first room. Homeowners should pay particularly close attention to the first room that potential buyers will see when they tour a house. For many homes, this will be a living room. It is also encouraged that owners add new pillows to couches and wrap love seats and chairs in up-to-date fabrics.
Focus on the small details in the rooms buyers will be spending the most time, and as always, remove as much clutter as possible to make rooms look open, large and airy. Homeowners should make sure that all the light bulbs in their rooms are working and turned on to create bright and comfortable spaces. If living room, kitchen or bedroom walls have dents or holes in them, invest the small amount of money and time it takes to patch those dings.
"People may say they don't want to put money into their homes in order to sell them," Hausman says. "But, you can either drop your asking price to get buyers to walk in the front door or spend a little money to make sure your home shows as nicely as possible and draws buyers in."
July 25, 2011 10:25 pm
By Nick Caruso
In just three weeks since the launch of Google+, the tech-giant's new answer to social media, 20 million users have signed up via exclusive invite-only registrations. The speed of growth will only continue to excel when Google finally lifts the veil to its more than 1 billion monthly visitors. To hit the ground running, here is everything you need to know in case you receive that golden ticket before the inevitable Google+ public launch:
Have greater control with "circles." Although Google+ and Facebook do share some similarities, Google+ allows for greater control of what you share and who you share it with thanks to its circles feature. Group your friends together by different categories, for example, school friends, relatives, colleagues, etc. When sharing a particular status update or link, Google+ then asks you which circles you'd like to share with. Keeping acquaintances apart from best friends and work friends is crucial to retaining privacy, offering users greater flexibility in their social networking.
Fun with the +. Google+ boasts its streamlined approach to sharing. No matter what section of Google you are using (Gmail, Google Documents, Google Reader, etc), users can share directly without having to return to the Google+ homepage. In the upper right hand corner, users can click "Share" and immediately share a status update, link, photo or video with their circles. To the left of that, a number counter tells the user about various notifications, which can all be read without returning to Google+. It's social networking seamlessly weaved throughout your regular Google experience.
Click the cog. No matter what section of Google you are using, there is always a small cog in the top right-hand corner of your screen. Clicking on the cog will give users options in a dropdown such as change settings, send feedback or view recent web history. It's a one-stop shop for any housekeeping users may need to do. The cog helps users stay organized while keeping in sync with the different sections of Google.
Start a hangout. With the Google+ hangout feature, users can start simultaneous group video chats with others in their circles. No matter where you are, the hangout feature takes social networking to the next level, letting groups of friends meet up at any time and from any place.
Although some are deeming Google+ to be "the Facebook killer," such claims may be preemptive strikes. However, as Google+ continues testing through its beta phase and making corrections and upgrades, it's highly possible that Facebook could face a serious competitor in the near future.
July 25, 2011 4:25 pm
According to a recent survey, only three out of 10 workers expect to have enough funds to comfortably retire with. To avoid being one of those other seven, here are five tips to increase your retirement nest egg.
The biggest help you can offer yourself is to start as soon as possible. Employees who begin squirreling away at the age of 25 can accumulate twice as much as those who start just 10 years later. Begin early, and continue regularly contributing.
Max Out Your Company’s Match
If you work for a company that offers to match on 401(k) contributions, you can get free money for doing what you already should be doing. Take advantage of any match program your company offers in order to capitalize for your future.
Take control of your account. Don’t let fees add up and take away from your retirement savings. Even a percentage fee as little as one percent can cut your savings by 25% over 35 years. Take a hard look at your management, distribution and advisory fees and make sure that your plan is working to pay you and not the other way around.
Make Your Payments Automatic
A study by NACHA, The Electronic Payments Association, found that those who have money automatically deposited into savings save up to $90 more per month than those who don’t. Over many months and years, that money adds up. Don’t risk forgetting. Set up automatic deposits to make sure your contributions are regular.
Most Importantly: Don’t Touch It
To make the most of what you have, put your money away and don’t even think about touching it. Keep it in a 401(k), 403(b), IRA or other plan that works for you and let it compound and grow until you are ready to retire for good. Though college tuition, buying a house and many other factors can tempt you into dipping in, avoid doing so at all costs.
If you are disciplined and regular with your contributions, you can successfully plan for your future starting today.
July 21, 2011 10:25 pm
Searching for ideas to make your home greener, with a smaller eco-impact? Now may be the best time to look up, as the roof over your head can make a big difference to the environment. While most people never think about their roof until there is a problem, planning ahead is key for making eco-friendly home choices.
The experts at the Metal Roofing Alliance provide the following information regarding eco-friendly roofing materials.
Did you know that asphalt shingles are petroleum-based, with a huge environmental impact? Asphalt shingles increase dependency on fossil fuels, must be replaced every 15-20 years, and there's no good way to dispose of them.
Eco-friendly products, including metal roofs, are rapidly replacing petroleum-based shingles. A recent McGraw-Hill Construction and Analytics survey showed metal roofing now comprises 11% of the residential re-roofing market, more than doubling in just ten years.
Highly reflective "cool"-colored metal roofs look just like traditional roofs, provide year-round relief from high energy costs, and are sustainable products.
Installing a metal roof reduces a home's energy needs. Tests conducted by Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) prove that a cool metal roof can save a homeowner up to 25% in cooling costs compared to a dark-gray asphalt shingle.
ORNL's field tests have also shown the combination of venting and increased reflectance can reduce heat penetrating the roof deck by about 45% for stone-coated metal roofs compared to an asphalt shingle roof in certain climates.
Metal roofing provides a market for recycled materials. An old car, dishwasher or refrigerator can be recycled to re-roof a home. All steel roofs contain a minimum of 25% recycled content—many have a much higher percentage. At the end of its useful life, metal roofing is 100% recyclable.
Photovoltaic Systems and Solar Panels can be integrated into metal roof systems, making them an even better choice. Metal roofs can also allow consumers to harvest rainwater for reuse.
For more information, visit www.metalroofing.com.
July 21, 2011 10:25 pm
It's peak home improvement season and many homeowners are itching to roll up their sleeves and tackle a home improvement project. However, before embarking on a home improvement or renovation project this summer, homeowners need to understand just what they're getting themselves into. Cutting costs on big projects by doing-it-yourself — or "DIY" — can actually cause huge problems down the road. Homeowners should educate themselves on what is best to leave to the professionals who are knowledgeable about what to consider when embarking on a home improvement project, including materials, sizing, project pitfalls, code requirements and permitting.
"As a remodeling enthusiast, I personally understand a homeowner's desire to tackle projects on their own. The feeling of pride that results from improving your own home is a wonderful sense of accomplishment, but it's also important to know your limits," says Power Home Remodeling Group co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Kaliner. "Some home improvement projects can be complex and benefit from a professional's expertise, such as window and siding installation, electrical wiring and plumbing. If such projects go awry, it could end up causing the homeowner quite a headache or additional costs that could have been prevented by consulting a professional."
The following tips and resources will assist homeowners in making the decision when not to DIY.
• Do you have the time? This important question can easily aid your decision to complete a home improvement project. Take an honest evaluation of the time you can allot to the project. Diving into a project on a weekend without a realistic timeline can leave your house in shambles for weeks as you complete the project in your spare time.
• Do you have the right tools? Window, siding and door installation projects require very specialized, expensive tools to produce a quality result. Cutting corners with improvised tools will produce a less-than-stellar final product that can negatively affect the home's resale value. Less obvious tools such as permits, licenses and insurance are required to complete several projects. Without these, homeowners could face fines or zoning issues that can affect their taxes.
• Do you have the experience? For homeowners, their home is typically their biggest investment. Projects that change a home's structural integrity, energy efficiency and even visual appeal can drastically change its value. Before investing time and money in trial and error, homeowners should consider calling a professional to guarantee a high quality result.
Simpler projects such as landscaping, painting and shelving are great do-it-yourself opportunities for homeowners looking to save money. Green projects like 'upcycling' a piece of old furniture or caulking a leaky drain can also satisfy a desire to DIY on a smaller scale. These projects can be completed with less risk of doing any major damage to the home. Botched projects can even jeopardize the homeowner's ability to sell down the road. For homeowners who aren't sure whether a DIY project is right for them, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry offers a short quiz that can help make the decision easier.
Kaliner added, "Homeowners should also consider starting with a smaller DIY project that won't take a lot of time, they can see to completion, gain some confidence and get a better understanding of what's involved for future home improvement projects."
For more information, please visit PowerHRG.com.
July 21, 2011 10:25 pm
Some homeowners are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to their property tax bills. One in four homeowners say that at one time or another, they have attempted to reduce their property taxes by challenging the tax-assessed value of their homes. And the majority who did so say they were successful in lowering their tax bills, according to a new nationwide survey by FindLaw.com.
As home values have declined as a result of the housing crisis, some homeowners feel that the tax-assessed value of their homes – which is the basis for calculating their property taxes – may not accurately reflect actual market conditions. Homeowners may file an appeal or challenge with their local tax authority in hopes of reducing their assessments, and in turn, their property tax bills.
According to the FindLaw.com survey, 24 percent of homeowners say they have challenged their assessments at some point during their homeownership. When a challenge was filed, survey respondents said it was successful in lowering their property tax bills in approximately three-quarters of those instances.
Most often, the net reduction in their annual property tax bills was between 1 and 4 percent.
"It's not enough to simply march into the tax assessor's office and say, 'I think my property taxes are too high,'" says Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney and editor with FindLaw.com. "Challenging an assessment requires research and due diligence. A challenge needs to be presented with a well-researched and well-organized set of facts. In addition, the formulas for calculating property taxes and the procedures for appeals can vary widely depending on the county and state.
"For example," Rahlfs continues, "in some jurisdictions, the assessed value is the full market value, while others use an assessment ratio that assigns a percentage of the market value. An independent appraiser or an attorney specializing in property taxes may be helpful in determining whether an appeal of your assessment makes sense. They also can help you collect and present your materials in the most effective manner possible to the taxing authority."
Free Internet resources can provide helpful information on how property taxes are determined and the impact of changing property values on property taxes, and can offer tips on how to challenge property tax valuation.
The FindLaw survey was conducted using a survey of a demographically balanced sample of 750 American adult homeowners and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent.
For more information visit www.FindLaw.com.
July 21, 2011 4:25 pm
When shopping for a new car or home, it's important to know that consumers rarely ever pay what the listing price asks for. In a challenging economy, it's the best time to haggle and negotiate to try to get the best bargains possible for your large purchase. Here are a few tips and things to think about before you enter the buying process:
Don't fall in love. Be careful about what you say around salespeople. If you fail to keep a steady poker face, then your room for negotiating will surely be destroyed. Make the salesperson think that if he or she can't meet your price or expectations, then you will walk away. Nothing is more important when beginning to negotiate.
Conduct some research before entering into conversation. As a consumer, it's important for you to know what something costs, or rather, what it should cost. Do some comparative shopping and Google searching. What are other stores or dealers selling it for? By being knowledgeable and educated, you have more power in your negotiations. If price differences are significant, don't hesitate to bring physical evidence onto the table. Print-outs from the Web will definitely help sway the conversation in your direction.
If met with resistance, ask to speak with a manager. Sometimes salespeople may not be able to give you the deal you're looking for. By speaking with a manager, you could end up walking out the door a happy customer almost immediately. Either way, you'll have an answer (good or bad) almost on the spot, which could save you time or lead you in another direction.
Be prepared to make them a great offer in return. Sometimes going the extra distance can make all the difference. Go to the ATM beforehand and be prepared to pay in cash. Sometimes that alone will titillate a salesperson or manager to close a deal. Also, ask to purchase floor models or slightly flawed items at a discount. The store or dealer may just want to get those off of their hands.
If you walk away, leave your contact information behind. This works especially well at flea markets or shows that may have independent sellers. Leave the negotiation on good terms, leaving behind a business card or other information, such as an email address or phone number. If the seller changes his or her mind, they can always contact you.
Know that there is always room for negotiation--especially for large purchases. Never accept what the price tag says, but be courteous, pleasant and smart about your negotiating. You never know what deals you may end up with!
July 21, 2011 4:25 pm
As NAR’s Home Ownership Matters bus crosses Alabama, REALTORS® are providing assistance to victims of the April 27 tornadoes with funds raised from REALTOR® donations across the country.
“When we see the devastation of families losing their homes in natural disasters, we’re reminded of just how much homeownership matters,” said National Association of REALTORS® 2012 First Vice President Steve Brown, who met with REALTORS® and families affected by the tornadoes.
“REALTORS® not only build communities, but also help rebuild homes and neighborhoods devastated by natural disasters as we have seen here in Alabama.”
As part of the Home Ownership Matters bus tour, Brown joined Alabama Association of REALTORS® Secretary Pam Segars Morris and Pleasant Grove Mayor Jerry Brasseale at an event today in Pleasant Grove, Ala., to present several families with checks to help them rebuild.
“Homes provide shelter and comfort, and they form a foundation on which many people build their lives and families,” said Brown. “That is why on the national level, NAR strongly supports developing a federal natural disaster policy to ensure that families can obtain affordable property insurance. Closer to home, I’m proud to say that REALTORS® are helping families right here in Alabama rebuild and once again have a place to call home.”
NAR’s Home Ownership Matters Bus Tour is currently crossing the country, giving people the opportunity and resources to make their voices heard about the housing issues that matter most to them. Ongoing news and information for the tour is posted at www.houselogic.com/bus.
July 21, 2011 4:25 pm
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced nearly $210 million in Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) allocations to 146 tribes in 25 states. These funds are distributed each year based on a formula to eligible Indian tribes or their tribally designated housing entities for a range of affordable housing activities.
IHBG funds are intended to primarily benefit low-income families living on Indian reservations or in other American Indian communities. The amount of each grant is based on a formula that considers local needs and housing units under management by the tribe or designated entity.
“HUD recognizes the right of Indian self-determination and tribal self-governance by allowing the recipients the flexibility to design and implement appropriate, place-based housing programs, according to local needs and customs,” says HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “In addition, these grants will help support jobs in areas where they are needed the most.”
Eligible activities for the funds include housing development, assistance to housing developed under the Indian Housing Program, housing services to eligible families and individuals, crime prevention and safety, and model activities that provide creative approaches to solving affordable housing problems. The block grant approach to housing was enabled by the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA).
For more information, visit www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.