7 Fun and Easy Housewarming Gifts for A New Homeowner

7 Great Housewarming Gift IdeasWhether you have new neighbors next door or old friends moving across town, a housewarming gift is a great way to show you care.

New owners always appreciate anything that relieves the pressures of moving and settling in to an unfamiliar neighborhood.

Here are seven fun and easy housewarming-gift ideas for your friends moving into their home.

A Door Wreath

You can choose a wreath that fits the season or that is simply attractive on the front door.

Include a wreath door-hanger and storage box so they can easily hang it or put it away.

A Pair of Candlestick Holders

Candlesticks are a simple, yet practical gift for a new Marietta home.

They're perfect for a mantel, dresser or table. Choose attractive candlestick holders that match the house's decor and include a set of candles to burn.

A Homemade Meal

Moving and getting settled in a new house takes a tremendous amount of time and effort.

This leaves little time to cook nutritious meals.

Bring either a takeout or home-cooked meal along with disposable plates and utensils for a much appreciated housewarming gift.

Fresh Flowers

Nothing makes a room look more inviting than fresh-cut flowers or a lush green plant.

Flowers add a punch of color while plants last longer while still requiring little work.

Choose flowers that fit the season or a plant with full, green leaves that is easy to maintain.

Scented Candles

Not only are they practical, but they also help bring comfort and serenity to the chaos of moving.

Choose a theme for the candles, such as a color or a scent that matches the style.

Include candles of different shapes and sizes and a lighter.

Picture Frames

Keep in mind the house's décor as you choose a picture frame.

Wood, pewter, bamboo or decorative glass looks great in a casually decorated house.

If the house has a more formal décor, choose crystal or silver.

It's be fun for your friends to have a place to display their new memories.

There are few experiences that offer the excitement of moving into a new home, and you can add to that excitement and wonder by giving one of these housewarming gift ideas.

And if you want to be the one receiving housewarming gifts by moving to a new home, then call your trusted mortgage professional today for your home loan approval!


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 29, 2013

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 29 2013Mortgage rates fell again last week and are again near record lows.

According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage did achieve a record low of 2.61 percent as compared to 3.1 percent one year ago.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.40 percent and near the record low of 3.31 percent.

Low mortgage rates are helping homeowners with refinancing and are boosting housing markets as more buyers can qualify for mortgage loans.

Home Values Continue To Rise

Last week's economic news was mixed; The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, released its Home Price Index for February.

According to this index, home prices increased by 0.7 percent between January and February, and increased by 7.1 percent year-over-year on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, existing home sales for March fell short of the expected 5.03 million and came in at 4.92 million existing homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

This reading was also 0.7 percent shy of February's reading of 4.95 million existing homes sold.

Some homeowners may be taking a wait-and-see stance as they wait for home values to continue rising.

Employment Numbers Gaining Steam

Weekly jobless claims fell to 339,000 and were short of the consensus of 351,000 and the prior week's 355,000 jobless claims filed.

As more workers gain employment, those able to buy homes increases.

The economy in general also benefits as households gain income they can use for purchasing goods and services.

Consumer Sentiment rose by 2.1 points to 76.4 over the March reading of 72.3 percent.

April's reading also surpassed expectations of 74.0 percent.

As consumers gain confidence in the economy, they are generally more likely to buy homes and make other major purchases that contribute to the U.S. economy.

Coming Up this Week

This week's economic news calendar includes several reports that impact the housing sector as well as the general economy:

  • Monday: Personal Income, Consumer Spending and Pending Home Sales reports are due for release.
  • Tuesday: The Case Shiller/Wells Fargo Home Price Index for February and Consumer Confidence for April will provide data concerning national and regional home prices and indicate how consumers view the economy.
  • Wednesday: The customary statement by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is set for release at the conclusion of its meeting. The ADP Employment Index for April and Construction Spending for March provide data on jobs and trends in construction spending.
  • Thursday: Weekly Jobless Claims report
  • Friday: The Non-farm Payrolls Report and Unemployment Rate for April, collectively known as the Jobs Report, will be released.

While we can't predict what will happen with mortgage rates, some industry analysts indicated that they expect rates to remain low in the near-term.

These lower rates should continue to support growth in the Alpharetta real estate market for homebuyers and sellers as well as those looking to refinance their home.


7 Tips To Get Your Home In Tip Top Selling Condition

Study Shows 568% ROI On Home Cleaning InvestmentA clean, uncluttered home is very likely the single most important thing to get your home sold quickly and for top dollar.

In fact, a recent survey by HomeGain showed a whopping 568% return on investment for money put toward cleaning and organizing a home for sale!

And other experts say that a well-put-together home can shorten the time on market drastically as well.

Before your real estate agent lists your Alpharetta home, it's essential for it to look its best.

7 Tips To Get Your Home In Tip Top Selling Condition

Examine your living space and see it as a buyer would — then double check this list of staging tips to make sure you haven't overlooked these important details.

  • Clear out the clutter. Tidy up counter tops, bookcases, garages and closets.
  • Pack up your sentimental items. Personal photos and knick-knacks should be boxed up for moving day.
  • Get a storage unit. Open up space by moving furniture and boxes into storage -- it will make the rooms appear bigger.
  • Remove appliances and fixtures that you want to keep. If you are taking the dining room chandelier or the built-in microwave, remove them before the house goes on the market.
  • Make minor repairs. Check that faucets don't leak, doors close properly and holes in the walls are patched.
  • Make it pretty! Windows, floors and bathrooms should be sparkling. Dust every surface, hang up fresh towels in the bathroom and make sure there are no lingering odors.
  • Don't forget the yard. Curb appeal starts at the curb — go figure — so mow the yard, wash down walkways and add some bright flowers near the front door to trigger the emotion to buy.

There are so many different ways to give your home an advantage over the competition in the spring buying market.

Plus, nice looking properties are more appealing for real estate agents to show their clients, so your well-taken-care-of home may get a lot more exposure.

In the end, the better your property looks, the faster it's going to sell...and get you the most for it.


How To Have the Best Garage Sale Ever At Your Home

How To Have The Best Garage Sale EverIt's getting close to that time of year again — time to have a garage sale at your home!

Here are a few tips to help you have your most successful garage sale ever.

Advertise Your Sale In Local Newspapers And Online

Many of the habitual Saturday morning garage sale patrons around Marietta use the paper to plan their treasure hunts.

They do this to make sure they hit all of the sales in certain neighborhoods.

In the ad, mention your home address, date and time of your garage sale and any big or popular items you'll be selling.

Open Your Sale Early

It's best to open early, such as around seven in the morning a sales tend to taper off in the afternoon.

Don't disappoint early shoppers who are typically your best buyers.

They have a busy schedule and a lot of stops to hit.

Open on time or even a few minutes before the time you advertised.

Make Plenty Of Signs To Guide Customers In

If your yard is difficult to see or is not on a main road, be sure to post signs pointing the way.

If allowed, attach a few balloons to it which will catch the attention of passing motorists.

Have Everything Labeled With Reasonable Prices

You'll get some customers who try to haggle, but for most customers, not knowing the prices is a quick way to have them moving on to another sale.

Keep in mind that these shoppers are looking for a bargain and price accordingly.

You can individually label each item, or use an easily readable color-coded chart.

For instance, a blue sticker means 25 cents, red stickers mean 50 cents and yellow stickers mean $1.

Offer Specials At Different Points During The Garage Sale 

You can offer a 2-for-1 sale or a twenty percent off special.

At the end of the day, you may want to have an unadvertised special such as fill a bag for $1 to get rid of as much as possible. 

It's always a good idea to have a "free box" for items that are already low-priced and don't move during the first half of the sale.

Donate Leftovers

Make your life easier and do something for others by donating any items that don't sell.

If you plan carefully, you can schedule a pick up by your local charitable organization at the end of your garage sale.

Garage sales are a great way to get the clutter and unused collection of items out of your house while recycling them at the same time.

Using these tips, you're well on your way to having your best garage sale ever.


Existing Home Sales Numbers Show Value Gains Across America

Existing Home Sales Show Price Gains March 2013The National Association of REALTORS® released its Existing Home Sales report for March on Monday.

Sales dipped from February's seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.95 million to 4.92 million existing homes sold in March, a decrease of 0.6 percent month-to-month. 

This reading was lower than Wall Street's consensus of 5.03 million existing homes sold, but there is also good news.

Sales of existing homes are up by 10.3 percent as compared to March 2012.

Economists note that existing home sales have performed within a narrow range of 4.90 to 4.96 million since November 2012.

This illustrates the impact of lower numbers of existing homes available for purchase in Georgia and around the country.

The National Association of Homebuilders Housing Market Index reports builder concerns including rising materials costs, tight construction credit and lack of available developed lots for building.

Demand for Homes, Fewer Distressed Properties Driving Median Home Price Gains

The national median price for existing homes was $184,300; this is an 11.8 percent increase over March 2012. 

This was the largest year-over-year price increase since November 2005.

Low inventories of available homes for sale and fewer distressed properties on the market are supporting rising home prices.

Distressed home represented 21 percent of existing home sales in March, which was their lowest market share since data collection started in 2008.

Distressed home sales decreased from a 29 percent market share in March 2012. 

With fewer “bargain-basement” homes on the market, homeowners waiting to sell may be more willing to list their homes which could add to the numbers of existing homes available.

Regional Median Home Prices Rise

Existing home sales declined in two of four U.S. regional markets, were unchanged in one market and rose in one market.

Sales of existing homes are calculated on an annual basis.

Northeast: Sales volume for March was unchanged at 630,000 homes sold annually. The median price is $237,000. This represents a year-over-increase of 6.8 percent since March 2012.

Midwest: Sales increased by 1.8 percent to 1.16 million homes. The median price rose to $141,800, an increase of 7.8 percent year-over-year.

South: Sales volume dropped by1.5 percent to 1.95 million homes. The median home price is $161,700. This is a 10.4 percent increase as compared to March 2012.

West: Sales volume declined by 1.7 percent to 1.18 million homes. This represents an increase of 4.4 percent in existing home sales over March 2012. The median home price in the West has risen by 26.1 percent year-over-year to $258,100. This dramatic increase is attributed by high demand for homes caused by very low home inventories.

While regional median home prices rose across the board in March, regional sales volumes were varied; this suggests that if there were more homes available, there would be more buyers.


5 Important Questions To Ask Before You Invest In Solar Power For Your Home

Investing In Solar Energy For Your HomeIf you've been considering taking your home in a green direction, April is the perfect month to make an environmentally friendly update.

Installing a solar energy system may be a very smart way to help the environment.

Plus, solar panels turn sunlight into energy that can save you money!

The federal government and many states are now providing tax incentives and rebates for installing solar panels in 2013 which make this an excellent opportunity to go green this spring.

However, there are many installers that might not have the necessary experience, so be sure to ask the questions below when searching for your solar energy system.

How many solar panel systems have they installed?

You want to make sure to find a reputable company that has significant solar experience and has successfully completed at least 50 installations.

Ask for references before you sign anything.

What is the output in kWh per year?

Many times, solar panel brands will claim to be more efficient than others.

You'll want to weigh the annual output against the price to determine what system is going to be the most cost effective for your Alpharetta home.

It is important to note that you should do an energy audit to see how you are using the power in your home before sizing the solar power replacement system.

You may be able to install a significantly smaller, and less costly, system if you learn how you can cut your power consumption prior to installing your new solar panels.

How long is the warranty on the panels?

Most high quality solar panel systems have a warranty of at least 25 years.

Top-of-the-line panels usually guarantee an output of no less than 90 percent after ten years and no less than 80 percent after 25 years.

Be wary of any company whose panels don't come with a warranty.

Do they include a warranty on labor?

Many states require a warranty on labor in order to receive your rebate.

Reputable installers should have no problem including at least a 10-year warranty.

What is the final price?

Don't get separate pricing for the parts, labor and rebates.  Get a comprehensive price, so you can directly compare the total cost and kWh per year among providers.

Also, pay attention to the difference between purchasing your solar power system versus the leasing options available. 

Leasing has become popular due to the low -- or possibly no-- up-front cost, but most experts agree that purchasing the system leads to a quicker payoff and return on your investment.

Taking into consideration warranties and servicing fees, the outcome should be that you choose whoever can give you the most output at the best price.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 22, 2013

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week April 21 2013Mortgage rates fell for the third consecutive week.

According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 3.41 percent as compared to last week's 3.43 percent and 3.90 percent year-over-year.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 2.64 percent as compared to last week's 2.65 percent and 3.13 percent year-over-year.

Falling mortgage rates were attributed to reduced consumer spending.

Last week's economic news includes the NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), with a reading of 42 for March.

This is four points below investor expectations and two points below February's results.

A reading of 50 or above indicates that more of the builders surveyed have a positive outlook.

March results were impacted by builder concerns over tight builder credit, a lack of available lots and increasing construction costs.

Housing Starts Increased In March

More good news for housing arrived Tuesday when the U.S. Department of Commerce issued its monthly Housing Starts report.

Housing starts for March came in higher than anticipated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.04 million, against a consensus of 933,000 and also beat February's reported 968,000 housing starts.

Housing starts rose by 7 percent over February, and rose 47 percent over March 2012, the highest year-to-year increase since 1992.

The Federal Reserve issued its Beige Book Report which is compiled from reports by the 12 districts of the Federal Reserve.

5 districts reported moderate economic growth, 5 districts reported modest growth, and 2 reported slight economic growth.

Based on the data contained in the Beige Book Report, economists are not expecting the Fed to make changes to its current quantitative easing (QE) program of purchasing $85 billion monthly in bonds and MBS; this may help mortgage rates remain steady; when MBS prices fall, mortgage rates typically rise.

What's Coming Up Next

The National Association of REALTORS® releases its Existing Home Sales report for March today.

The consensus is for 5.03 million homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, and against February's 4.98 million existing homes sold. 

Tuesday brings more housing news with the FHFA Home Price Index for February; FHFA is the federal agency overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The U.S. Department of Commerce releases its New Home Sales for March on Tuesday.

The consensus is 421,000 new homes sold against February's reading of 411,000 new homes sold.

Thursday's Weekly Jobless claims are expected to come in at 351,000 as compared to last week's 352,000.

Employment is a key factor in terms of consumers buying homes and qualifying for mortgage loans


Four Ways To Ensure Your House Sells Quickly And For Top Dollar

4 Ways To Ensure Your House Sells For Top DollarSelling a house in the current market can be tricky, but there are certain mistakes an owner can make that will cause a Marietta home to sit still without a decent offer and cause the listing to go stale.

In order to prevent that from happening, make sure you are not making one of the following mistakes when putting your property on the market.


While your home may hold sentimental value, many times that value does not translate into dollars.

Be realistic about your asking price and know the details about your current market.

Look at the list price of similar houses on the market to get a rough idea of what you should ask for your property.

Make special note of the actual closing sales price as well as the time on market and listing to sales price ratio.

A licensed real estate agent can provide these details as well as give you their expert opinion based on experience and comparable properties.

Neglecting Repairs

Glaring problems with a property will cause the buyer to think the home was not properly maintained.

While it may cost some money, repairing things like holes in the walls, broken light fixtures or missing tiles can change a buyer's entire attitude about a property.

Ask for help if you aren't comfortable doing these things yourself.

A real estate professional will have a whole list of qualified referrals who they trust to help you get things fixed up.

Ignoring Curb Appeal

Overgrown and unweeded yards can cause potential buyers to drive right by.

Also, having junk in the front of your house or peeling paint can deter someone from considering the property.

Step across the street and take an honest look at your house - and then make necessary adjustments.

Fixing these items may be as easy as one weekend day of clean up and a little elbow grease.

And even though it's not expensive to fix these issues, it can make thousands of dollars difference in the sale of your home.

Creating Or Allowing Foul Odors

Odorous foods, pet dander and the smell of smoke can be extremely distasteful to buyers.

Even if you are used to the smell, others entering your house will not be.

Make sure you air out the house, smoke only outdoors, and put away the litter boxes before an open house or showing.

Also, ask someone who isn't at your home often to come in and give it a smell test.  

Brutal honesty here might hurt a little bit, but it's a lot better than allowing this problem to prevent a quicker sale of your home.

Without even realizing they're sabotaging a potential sale, homeowners can make several mistakes when first trying to sell their home.

To find out what you can do to make your property really stand out to potential buyers, please call a licensed real estate professional.


5 Great Questions To Ask At An Open House For Real Estate

5 Great Questions To Ask At An Open House For Real EstateAn open house gives you a great opportunity to look more closely at Atlanta real estate you might be interested in buying.

It also affords you the chance to chat with the owner or real estate agent so you can bring up any issues or hesitations you have with the home.

Knowing what to ask can be difficult, so below are examples of questions to ask at the next open house you attend.

Why has the seller decided to sell now?

If you ask why the seller is moving, you could learn valuable information to help determine your offer -- or possibly whether or not you want to buy the home.

Knowing whether the owners are about to go into foreclosure, have experienced trouble in the neighborhood, or if they've retired and completely paid off the home can help you understand how urgently they need to sell their property.

Has the seller had any other offers?

Don't forget that you are not only negotiating with the seller for a price, you are also competing with other potential buyers.

It really helps to know what you are up against.

It is important to understand that you might not get a 100% straight answer to this question as most sellers know that competition - or perceived competition - can cause a potential buyer to move forward more quickly and at a higher price.

If you're comfortable in this discussion, you might want to try and see if you can find out the details of any other offers.

Does the property have special ownership costs?

Ask the agent or owner about the other costs associated with owning the property, such as Home Owners Association fees within a condo complex or a gated community.

It's important to know about these extra expenses in advance so you can make an informed offer.

You may also want to ask about any pending litigation concerning the property.  Litigation is not always a deal killer, but it's better to know the details before you sign closing documents.

What furniture and appliances are being sold with the house?

Most of the time, a seller will include their major appliances such as the refrigerator, stove and dishwasher with the home, but this isn't always the case.

If you don't already have these items, it's important to know whether they are included in the purchase price.

Is there anything else that you want to leave with the home?

This is an important question to ask.  Especially if there are specific things in the home that you have a strong interest in.  

Perhaps there is custom art work or a pool table that fits perfectly in the game room.  

The seller may be eager to part with those items and include them in the sale of the home or sell them at a large discount.

The open house is a great opportunity to learn more about a home before making the decision to buy it, so be sure you ask the right questions.


3 Ways Clean Floors Can Help Sell Your Home Faster

Flooring Tips To Help You Sell Your HomeHave you ever walked into a home for sale and looked down to see stained carpet or scratched and worn flooring?

If so, you would probably agree that it doesn't leave a positive first impression.

Imagine if you were a buyer looking at the same floor.

The right type of flooring and whether it is well taken care of can make a big difference to buyers.

If your floor is questionably clean, here are a few fixes to help remedy the issue to help your home sell quickly.

Does your home have hardwood floors?

You're in luck. Buyers love hardwood floors and some will pay extra to get them.

If your hardwood floors are covered by carpet, painted over or showing anything but the natural wood grain, it's time for an overhaul.

With the ability to rent large sanders and other tools, you can either refinish the hardwood floor yourself or hire a professional.

Remember, however, that hardwood floors in have a tendency to show off scratches, dents and uneven surfaces.

If you don't think you can do an adequate job, hire a professional.

Does your home have carpeting?

If you don't have hardwood floors, take a look at your carpeting.

If it's stained, outdated or ragged, it might be time to pull it up and replace it.

There are many new techniques with carpet cleaning and spot repair, so check with a local carpet cleaning professional to assess your carpet before making expensive decisions.

When laying the new carpet, use high-quality carpet padding to make it comfortable to stand on.

Many buyers will kneel down and touch the floor, so make sure the carpet feels soft to the touch.

Does your home have tile floors?

Although tiles are beautiful, they typically show every ounce of old grime, dirt, chips and cracks.

Go through your home and replace any that are chipped, cracked or show significant signs of wear and tear.

Make sure the grout is clean and new looking, and use specialized tile cleaners or a steam cleaner to get rid of any stains.

Beautiful floors can go a long way toward selling Atlanta homes.

Take an honest look at yours. It might just help get your home sold more quickly and at a higher price.

As always, seeking the advice of a licensed real estate professional would be an excellent next step to plan your home selling preparations.


Home Builders Hold Great Confidence For New Homes Over Next 6 Months

Home Builder Confidence Positive 6 Month Outlook April 2013The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) report for April shows that builder confidence slipped by two points to a rating of 42 from the March reading of 44.

The Housing Market Index (HMI) measures home builder confidence in market conditions for newly built single family homes.

A reading of more than 50 indicates better than average confidence, while readings below 50 indicate that home builders have concerns about current market conditions.

NAHB Housing Market Index Results For April

Home builders expressed concern over a gap between a growing demand for homes and builders' ability to meet the demand for new homes as housing market conditions improve.

Top concerns cited by home builders surveyed include:

  • Availability of construction credit
  • Construction costs rising faster than home values
  • Restrictive mortgage lending rules impacting would-be home buyers

Supply chains for building materials and available developed lots are also impacting home builder confidence, as they have been lagging behind increasing demand for homes since the recession and will need more time to catch up.

Six Month Confidence Forecast Strongest Since February 2007

While builder confidence fell on a month-to-month basis, home builders have a more positive outlook for the next six months.

The builder confidence reading for the next six months came in at 53 for April, which is the highest reading since February 2007.

In terms of demand for newly built homes, the home builders surveyed said that a shortage of existing homes, low mortgage rates and increasing consumer confidence are expected to improve the market for existing homes.

Consumer confidence is important to all facets of the home building and mortgage lending industries.

Buying a home is typically the largest investment that consumers make, and their confidence in the economy plays a role in their decisions about when or if they buy a home.

Regional readings for housing markets are based on a three month rolling average.

Results for April were unchanged or lower in all four regions as compared to the rolling average reported in March:

  • Northeast: The reading of 38 is unchanged from March.
  • Midwest: The reading declined by two points to 45.
  • South: April's reading declined by four points to 42
  • West: April's reading declined by three points to 55, but remains in positive territory.

Regional readings reflect conditions impacting only a specific area of the U.S.

Recent examples include the impact of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast, and an ongoing lack of land available for home construction in the West.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 15, 2013

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates - April 15 2013Mortgage rates saw little change last week amidst mixed economic news.

Treasury auctions held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday saw weak demand; this could have been caused by the FOMC minutes that were released on Wednesday.

The minutes indicated that some FOMC members supported ending the current quantitative easing (QE) program within a few months.

The Fed is currently purchasing $85 billion monthly in bonds and Mortgage Backed Securities.

If the QE program is ended, demands for bonds and MBS will decline, which usually raises mortgage rates.

Employment Numbers Show Promise For Housing Market

Thursday's jobless claims offered some positive news for the Atlanta real estate market.

Jobless claims fell to 346,000, which is well below Wall Street's estimate of 365,000 jobless claims and the prior week's report of 385,000 jobless claims.

As more people find work, more families become able to buy homes.

Demand for homes will boost the housing market, which is already expanding in many areas.

While higher home prices are good for the economy, higher mortgage rates may be likely to follow.

This potentially presents a "double-edged sword" to home buyers with little financial flexibility.

Slower Retail Sales Largely Due To Autos

Retail Sales, which represent approximately 70 percent of the U.S. economy, moved from February's level of 1.1 percent to -0.4 percent in March.

Expectations were for 0.0 percent change.

The Retail Sales report exclusive of the volatile automotive sector was nearly identical except for the February's reading of 1.0 percent.

These reports suggest that while the economy is improving in some areas, it has a way to go before it has truly recovered.

What's Coming Up Next?

This week, investors will be paying attention to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the closely-related Core CPI, which is nearly identical except for its excludes the more volatile food and energy sectors.

These reports will be released on Tuesday for March, with little change expected for the CPI and no change expected for the Core CPI as compared to February.

The CPI is considered an important indicator of inflation.

Unexpected changes in inflationary growth can cause rapid and volatile responses in the financial markets.

Wednesday brings the Fed's Beige Book, which presents key economic data for each of the Fed's 12 regions.

Investors watch the Beige Book for signs of the Fed's position on economic policy during the upcoming FOMC meeting.

Jobless claims will be released Thursday with the expectation of 350,000 claims filed as compared to last week's 346,000 jobless claims.  


6 Essential Spring Cleaning Chores to Make Your Home Shine

Spring Cleaning Tips For April 2013If the thought of cleaning your Alpharetta home this spring doesn't bring a smile to your face, you're not alone.

To help you get going now, here is a short list of the 6 essential spring-cleaning chores.

1. Store winter clothes.

It's time to pack away your winter clothes.

Coats, sweaters, and bulkier clothing need to be inspected, cleaned and packed away.

Store your clothes somewhere clean, cool, dark and dry.

2. Wash window treatments.

You'll be surprised at the huge amount of dirt and grime that a thorough window cleaning removes.

Wash blinds, launder curtains that are machine washable and send drapes to the dry cleaners.

While you're at it, dust the window casing, wash your windowsills and clean any window hardware.

3. Clean carpets and upholstery.

You need to deep clean your fabrics that have absorbed a winter's worth of dust and germs.

Shampoo your carpets and clean cloth furniture.

Open windows to speed the drying process, which can take a day or more.

4. Wash woodwork, walls, baseboards and cabinets.

Even if the walls of your home don't look like they need cleaning, they do.

Just enough dust clings to vertical surfaces to warrant a seasonal bath.

Using a sponge and dish-washing soap, wash the surface in sections to make sure you don't miss a spot.

5. Clean light and ceiling fixtures.

To clean your light fixtures, remove the light bulb and fixture if possible.

Wash the glass fixtures in soap and water. Wipe the light bulbs with a rag.

If the fixture cannot be removed from the ceiling, use a damp cloth to wipe it off and then dry the fixtures.

The easiest way to clean your ceiling fans is to use a vacuum with a soft nozzle attachment.

6. Check your coils.

Caked-on dust can cause your refrigerator to overheat, so take the time to clean the condenser coil.

It's usually found behind the toe grille.

Clean it with a long-handled bottle brush and a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment.

Put on your favorite music and start your spring cleaning today. It'll be done before you know it.

Then you can relax and enjoy your sparkling clean home.

If you're getting ready to sell your home and need more cleaning tips to help smooth the sales process, call your favorite licensed real estate professional today!


Fed Meeting Minutes Reveal Rising Wealth Among Homeowners

Federal Open Market Committee Minutes Released 4-10-2013The minutes for the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting held March 19 and 20 were released on Wednesday April 10, 2013.

These periodic meetings by the FOMC cover a wide ranging group of topics that impact the overall economy in the United States.

The decisions made and acted upon from the FOMC meetings often sway the real estate and residential financing markets.

Some highlights of the recent FOMC minutes for the March meeting include:

Jobs and Unemployment Gaining Steam

The unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent in February.

While lower than the average unemployment rate for Q4 2012, the rates of long-term unemployment and part-time employment for economic reasons saw little change, and both measures remained high.

This suggests that the economy is improving in some areas, while others including employment are not so quick to recover.

Housing Markets Looking Robust

U.S. housing markets continued to improve during the inter meeting period, but construction of new housing faced obstacles including tighter credit and in some areas a lack of available building space.

While housing prices are improving, employment rates and wages will also need to expand for consumers to keep pace with rising home prices.

Some of the Fed Meeting participants continued to be very positive about the prospects of the real estate sector noting rising home prices and demand.

At the same time, an overall tone of restraint and caution was expressed regarding the continuing purchase of Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS).

Any slowing in the Fed's commitment to their previous levels of MBS purchases may create upward pressure on Marietta home mortgage interest rates.

Personal Finances and Consumer Confidence

Household expenditures rose modestly during January and retail sales, excluding auto sector, increased at a strong pace in February. Sales of light autos also rose.

Household wealth also increased for homeowners due to increases in home values, which is good news for current homeowners and may be an incentive for new home buyers to move forward and purchase real estate.

Recovering Economy Leads Toward Government Spending Pull Back

The FOMC minutes suggest that the Fed is not likely to end its quantitative easing (QE) program immediately, but the first quarter of 2014 was cited as a potential date for the program to end.

Gradual decreases in the Fed's purchases of bonds and mortgage backed securities are expected before QE ends, and this could cause mortgage rates to rise as MBS prices fall.


Federal Jobs Report Shows Biggest Increase Since 2008

Federal Jobs Report Shows Robust Job Growth April 2013The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued its Job Openings and Labor Turnover report for February on Tuesday, June 9th, 2013.

The data was mixed with preliminary figures for all non-farm jobs increasing from 3.62 million jobs in January to 3.93 million jobs in February.

This was the highest month-to- month increase in jobs since May 2008. 

Non-farm jobs increased by 399,000 jobs from 3.53 million in February 2012 to 3.93 million jobs in February 2013, an increase of 10.2 percent year-over-year.

More Jobs Means More Opportunities For Home Ownership

More jobs generally means higher incomes and stability which enable more families to buy homes and qualify for mortgage loans.

Hires between January and February 2013 rose from 4.30 million to 4.43 million hires, an increase of 2.70 percent.

Hires between February 2012 and February 2013 fell from 44.9 million to 44.2 million, a decrease of 1.6 percent.

Total non-farm job separations changed little month to month, and remained exactly the same year-over-year at 4.20 million separations.

Numbers of hires and separations surpass job numbers due to workers being hired on and/or separated from more than one job during the reporting period.

Regional Non-Farm Employment Shows Job Growth

  • Northeast: Non-farm jobs fell from 688,000 jobs in January 2013 to 647,000 jobs in February 2013, but increased year-over-year from 589,000 jobs to 647,000 jobs.
  • South:  Non-farm Jobs fell from 1.56 million jobs in January 2013 to 1.50 million jobs in February 2013. Jobs increased year-over-year from 1.34 million jobs in February 2012 to 1.47 million jobs in February 2013.
  • Midwest: Non-farm jobs grew from 712,000 in January 2013 to 780,000 jobs in February 2013 and increased from 740,000 jobs to 780,000 from February 2012 to February 2013.
  • West: Non-farm jobs increased from 806,000 to 830,000 between January and February 2013; on a year-over-year basis, jobs showed noteworthy growth from 650,000 jobs to 830,000 jobs between February 2012 and February 2013.

It's A Great Time To Buy Or Refinance A Home

Improving labor data indicates that the economy is on the mend, but this could cause mortgage rates and home prices to rise as the economy expands.

A gradual economic recovery suggests that home buyers and others seeking lower mortgage rates and refinancing can still find favorable mortgage terms.

But it would likely be best to take advantage of the still historic home purchase and financing opportunities that are available today.

Contact your trusted, licensed real estate or mortgage professional today to learn how the growing economy can benefit your family as well.


Should You Fix And Flip Or Buy And Hold Your Investment Real Estate?

Strategies For Investing In Real EstateWhen you make an investment in Marietta  real estate, it's important to consider your options for turning a profit even before you write an offer.

It might be best to rent out the property to cover your mortgage and build equity providing the home cash-flows with solid rents and demand.

Or, you could fix up the home and flip it so that you can sell it quickly for a larger amount than you invested.

Both strategies may be appealing options, so here are some important factors to consider before making your decision.

Flipping May Lead To Short Term Profits

Flipping a house can be tricky, so you will want to have enough experience to know what you are doing, or work with an experienced advisor who can guide you around the most common pitfalls.

If you are thinking about fixing and flipping a house, you will need to have enough capital to invest in the property so you can make the required improvements and repairs.

Many people find themselves short of working capital after closing on the new purchase.

It is important to factor in carrying costs, or monthly mortgage payments while fixing the home, into your overall budget.

Do your research so you'll know what renovations will have the most impact on the value of your real estate.

You will also need to know if the market in the area will support your new price point.

Make sure your flip property is in a very buyer-friendly community for your best chances of a positive return.

Renting Is The Buy And Hold Strategy For Investment Real Estate

Flipping a house gives you quick cash, but renting it out instead may give you monthly cash flow and a potentially larger long-term profit if the property appreciates over time.

If you don't mind being a landlord and you have the time to screen for reliable renters, then renting out the property might be a better option for you.  

This option also means that you will have the home later on in case you want to live in it.

Of course, don't forget to factor in additional upkeep costs, such as repairs, utilities and property taxes.

Seek Professional Counsel

Investment real estate has consistently been considered a solid way to get your money working for you.

Whether you rent out or flip your investment property will depend on whether you are interested in a long-term investment or a short-term project.

A great next step while you are planning your investment real estate purchase would be seeking the advice of a qualified, licensed real estate professional.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 8, 2013

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week April 4 2013Last week's economic news includes several factors that drove U.S. mortgage rates lower.

The Bank of Japan announced that it would increase its purchase of bonds by $1.4 trillion over the next two years. 

This news caused yields on Japanese bonds to fall, which made U.S. bonds more appealing to international investors, that in turn increased MBS prices and caused mortgage rates to fall.

Bumpy Employment Numbers Support Lower Interest Rates

Other significant economic news involves an unexpected drop in the number of new jobs created last month.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Nonfarm Payrolls Report issued Friday indicated that 88,000 jobs were added in March, which fell considerably short of the expected 190,000 jobs added as well as the 236,000 jobs added in February.

Average hourly earnings remained flat against February, which indicates another stall in U.S. economic growth. 

Expanding employment sectors for March included professional and business services and healthcare, while retail jobs decreased.

Jobless claims increased last week in concurrence with lower than expected jobs added for March.

New jobless claims came in at 385,000 and were higher than expectations of 345,000 new jobless claims and the prior week's jobless claims of 357,000.

The monthly unemployment rate fell from 7.7 percent to 7.6 percent, but this isn't encouraging news.

According to the BLS, the unemployment rate fell due to workers leaving the work force instead of workers finding jobs.

Next week, Treasury Auctions will be held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve will release FOMC minutes.

Fed Continues Monthly Bond Purchases

Investors and analysts review the minutes for predicting future economic developments and also for gauging the Fed's sentiment about how or if changes should be made to the current quantitative easing program (QE).

The current QE program involves the Fed's monthly purchase of $85 billion in bonds and MBS is intended to keep long-term interest rates including mortgage rates low.

Retail Sales will be released Friday, and as indicated by falling job numbers in the retail sectors, analysts are expecting no growth for March in either report. 

Global news concerning North Korea and the European Union economic situation could also move U.S. markets up or down depending on the nature of the news.

While not encouraging in terms of an economic recovery, these events show that the recovery is proceeding with ups and downs; this doesn't provide investors a clear picture and may cause them to seek safe haven in bonds.

The good news for Marietta homeowners is uncertainty and low expectations of the financial markets typically help keep mortgage rates lower.


Don't Get Fooled By Tricky Terms When Purchasing Real Estate

Understanding Real Estate TermsWhen looking to buy or sell Atlanta real estate, confusing terminology can leave you feeling somewhat uneasy.

From a multitude of numbers to marketing jargon, property listings can provide you with an overwhelming amount of information — and it's hard to know what's important.

So, brush up on the terms below and don't get fooled this April.

Sale-to-List Ratio

This is an important number to pay attention to when choosing a real estate professional to sell your home.

The percentage is calculated by what a home was initially listed for, divided by the actual sale price.

The closer an agent's percentage is to 100, the better.

If it's low, that could be an indication that they routinely list homes too high, or you may be in a slow market which would favor the home buyer.

On the other hand, if it's high, it could show that your agent markets their listings well and your market might favor home sellers.

Median Days on Market

The median days on market is the midpoint of how many days it took for homes in that area to sell.

If it's 30 days, then half of the homes sold quicker and half took longer than 30 days.

If you compare the real estate you're considering to its area's median days on market and you find that it's been on longer, the sellers might be willing to take a lower offer.

Distressed Property

Properties are listed as distressed when the owners have defaulted on their mortgage loans or are about to.

As a buyer, you might be able to get a good deal on a short sale or a foreclosure, as banks many times list them below market value to try and recoup some of their loss and clear the property from their books.

An Active Versus Pending Status

If you find your dream home and then notice that it has a pending status, brace yourself for disappointment.

An active status on a home means the owners are accepting offers, while a pending status indicates that they've already accepted an offer.

If you know it's the one for you, you can still place a bid in case the first offer falls through.

While there are many new concepts and terms you will learn when purchasing your new home, the benefits of home ownership far outweigh any fear that you may have.

If you're looking to purchase a new home soon, please contact a licensed real estate professional who can cut through the jargon and find the home of your dreams.


Simplified Home Loan Modification Program Recently Announced

Simplified Modification Initiative AnnouncedThe Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) recently announced a new, streamlined home loan modification program to help Marietta home owners who are behind in their payments or own a home with a mortgage that is under water.

The purpose of the recently announced program continues to focus on helping troubled borrowers avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes.

Simplified Modification Criteria Creates More Opportunity For Home Owners

Beginning this summer, on July 1st to be exact, the new Streamlined Modification Initiative will be available to home owners that meet certain criteria.

Interestingly, this new program will require home loan servicers to provide eligible home owners whose loans are owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae with a 90 day trial modification without requring financial or hardship documentation.

The terms of this new program have been disclosed as a way for borrowers who are at least 90 days past due on their mortgages to convert their home loan to a fixed rate mortgage with the term of the loan extended to 40 years for the lowest amortized monthly payment.

Eligible borrowers will receive this short term modification program in order to show "good faith" by making 3 on-time monthly payments.  

Upon successful completion of this trial modification period, the Streamlined Modification Initiative will direct the loan servicer to extend the home loan modifcation permanently.

Home Affordable Modification Program Still Available

The new home loan modification program was developed to become an alternative to the already established Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).

One important note is that homeowners who continue to investigate all loan modification options with their loan servicer may save even more than the savings offered through the new Simplified Modification Initiative.

Potential For Principal Reductions

Language in the Streamlined Modification Initiative mentions that some home owners who are under water with regard to their mortgage may be entitled to principal reduction as a component of their home loan modification.

The specific details and criteria for these principal reductions have not been specified, although contacting your trusted, licensed mortgage loan professional would be an excellent way to uncover the details.



5 Top Tips For Purchasing Your New Home

5 Tips For Purchasing Your New HomeIt's a great time to buy a new home because there are quite a few Alpharetta homes for sale and interest rates have continued to stay comparatively low.

Whether it's your first time purchasing real estate or you're a seasoned professional, here are a few tips to make shopping for a new house more pleasurable.

1. Get Help

Searching through all of the available properties on the market can be mind-boggling.

Find a professional real estate agent to help guide you through the homes for sale and select one that meets your family and financial needs.

2. Start Looking Now

Finding the perfect house can take longer than you might think, especially if you're looking in a competitive market.

If you're looking at getting a good deal on a foreclosure or short sale, then these transactions can take even longer because you're likely waiting on the bank to make the final call on your purchase transaction.

Try to be patient. The more thorough you are in your search, the happier you'll be in the long term.

3. Don't Settle For The First Place You See

Searching for a house can be extremely emotional.

If you think you've found the one, then take a step back, consult your real estate agent and go over your housing checklist one last time before writing an offer.

4. Weigh The Pros And Cons

Almost any property will need a few improvements; even newly constructed houses usually need improvements like landscaping.

Sellers are more savvy now about how to make cosmetic changes to catch a buyer's eye, so look carefully.

There will still be things you want to change, so weigh the difference between the cost of those repairs and the sales price of the home.

If you really want a house even though it's going to take a lot of work, make your offer accordingly.

5. Make Sure Your Financing Is In Order

Having financing done in advance makes the process of buying homes for sale much easier because you'll know how much you can afford.

Your loan officer can also help you determine what your monthly payments will be based on how much money you borrow. 

A great first step is to consult with a licensed mortgage financing specialist to go over the available programs and terms available in the area.



Home Prices Accelerate In 2013 WIth Double Digit Growth

Case Shiller Index February 2013 Shows Home Prices AcceleratingLast week, the S&P/Case-Shiller Index showed home prices gaining 8.1 percent during the 12-month period ending January 2013, marking the largest year-over-year increases since the summer of 2006.

The Case-Shiller Index measures changes in home prices by tracking same-home sales throughout 20 housing markets nationwide; and the change in sales price from sale-to-sale.

Detached, single-family residences are used in the Case-Shiller Index methodology and data is for closed purchase transactions only.

All 20 Case Shiller Index Markets Show Growth

Between December 2012 and January 2013, home values rose in all 20 Case-Shiller Index markets, with previously-hard hit areas such as Phoenix, Arizona leading the national price recovery.

Another notable gainer was New York, which posted the first year-over-year increase following 28 straight months of negative annual returns.

The top three yearly “gainers” for as of January 2013 were:

  • Phoenix, Arizona : +23.2 percent
  • San Francisco, California :  +17.5 percent
  • Las Vegas, Nevada : +15.3 Percent

Other year-over-year double digit gainers in home value were Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, and Minneapolis.

Broader Numbers Support Widespread Housing Recovery

These strong annual home value increases continue to support the overall housing recovery.

There have been year-over-year double digit increases in home building permits and new housing starts as of February 2013 as well.

And foreclosure filings have fallen to only three-fourths of their previous annual levels.

It should be noted, however, that the Case-Shiller Index is an imperfect gauge of home values.

First, as mentioned, the index tracks changes in the detached, single-family housing market only. It specifically ignores sales of condominiums, co-ops and multi-unit homes. 

Second, the Case-Shiller Index data set is limited to just 20 U.S. cities. There are more than 3,000 cities nationwide, which illustrates that the Case-Shiller sample set is limited.

And, lastly, the home sale price data used for the Case-Shiller Index is nearly two months behind its release date, rendering its conclusions somewhat out-of-date.

That said, the Case-Shiller Index joins the bevy of home value trackers pointing to home price growth over the last year. 

A good next step for getting up-to-date home values in the Marietta area is to contact a qualified, licensed real estate professional.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week: April 1st, 2013

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates April 1st 2013European Market Jitters Continue To Affect The US Economy

Mortgage rates fell last week as investor concerns over the European economy grew.

Fears of growing differences between wealthier European nations and European nations needing economic aid brought higher bond prices and lower mortgage rates.

Positive news for Cyprus came when an agreement for an EU bailout was reached, but strict terms indicate that Germany and other nations are growing less enthusiastic about bailing out the banks of EU nations with shaky economies.

Meanwhile, the Italian government has not been able to agree on a coalition government, which reduces the chances for economic reform in the EU's third largest country.

European trade with the U.S. could fall as the result of the EU's ongoing economic challenges; this in turn would likely reduce U.S. inflation, which is good for lower mortgage rates.

Low inflation could also prolong the Fed's commitment to its quantitative easing program that is designed to keep long term interest rates, including mortgage rates, lower.

Last Week's Economic News Quiet, No Major Surprises

On Tuesday, New Home Sales for February were released, and came in short of investor expectations of 420,000 home sales on an annual basis.

February's figure came in at 411,000 new homes sold as compared to January's revised reading of 431,000 new homes sold.

Winter weather conditions are one reason for the decline in new home sales, which was the largest decline since February of 2011.

The National Association of REALTORS® released its Pending Home Sales Index for February on Wednesday; pending home sales reflected the results for New Home Sales with a reading of -0.4 percent as compared to expectations of a 2.0 percent reading.

January's reading for Pending Home Sales was also higher at 4.5 percent.

Home prices and mortgage rates move according to supply and demand; if demand for homes falls, home prices are likely to do likewise as are mortgage rates.

But as demand for homes increases and prices rise, mortgage rates typically rise as well. Would-be buyers who have been waiting for their best deal may want to get into the housing market now, as strong signs of economic improvement are in play, but home prices and mortgage rates haven't yet gone through the roof.

In other economic news, Thursday's Jobless Claims Report fell short of Wall Street projections and came in at 357,000 new jobless claims against expectations of 340,000 new jobless claims.

The previous week's jobless claims came in at 336,000 new jobless claims.

Analysts typically view a four-week rolling average of jobless claims as a more accurate indicator for the economy as jobless claims can vary widely week-to-week.

Consumer Sentiment for March was released Friday and came in at 78.6 and exceeded expectations of 72.5 for March.

The current reading also surpassed the prior reading of 71.8 percent. As consumers gain confidence in the economy, they are more likely to buy homes.

This week, the European Central Bank (ECB) meeting scheduled for Thursday and monthly Employment Data set for release Friday are among anticipated economic news events.