Tuesday, April 22, 2014

U.S. Housing Starts Climb in March:

The Commerce Department reported that groundbreaking increased 2.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000.

Plus, February's data was actually better than first released. As February's starts were revised to show a 1.9 percent rise rather than the previously reported 0.2 percent fall.

Gaines in home building has been difficult as a brutally cold winter weighed on home building in December and January. Activity has also been hampered by shortages of building lots and skilled labor as well as rising prices for materials.

Groundbreaking for single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, surged 6.0 percent to a 635,000-unit pace last month. Starts for the volatile multi-family homes segment fell 3.1 percent to a 311,000-unit rate.

Friday, April 18, 2014

How to Prevent Water Damage

Preventing water damage is a whole lot cheaper than paying for repairs. Here are three easy prevention tips.

Water damage is the No. 1 culprit that weakens your home’s foundation and the very core that holds your house together.
You’ve heard about core strength for your body. Well, water damage hits at the core strength of your house, eventually causing serious structural damage. Damp wood invites termites and carpenter ants; plus, it causes mold and mildew.

Here are three easy things to do to that will give you piece of mind the next time heavy storms hit.

#1. Ensure Good Drainage

Why it matters: Poor drainage weakens your foundation, causing cracks, uneven settling, and pathways for water to enter your home.

How to do it:
Clean your gutters routinely. A clogged gutter will send cascades of water down the side of your house, damaging your siding and foundation.
Ensure your downspouts direct water 5 to 10 feet away from your house.
Make sure your yard is sloped at least 6 inches over a 10-foot span away from your foundation. That slope keeps water from getting down right next to your foundation, where it could cause walls to lean, crack the masonry, and create leaks. (For crawl spaces, keeping water away makes sure excess water doesn’t pool underneath your floor, making for damp conditions that encourage mold, rot, and insects.)
But don’t let the soil get too dry, either. Long dry spells let the soil around your house dry out and shrink. A big rain may make the soil expand, putting pressure on your foundation walls. In a drought, run a soaker hose at least 6 inches from the foundation and 3 inches under the soil to keep the soil from contracting and expanding.
Maintenance cost: Very little. Cleaning gutters can be a no-cost DIY job, or you can hire a pro for $50-$250, depending on the size and height of your home. To get the soil slope you need, you might have to buy some additional topsoil.
Worst case if you put it off: Your foundation could settle, cracking your basement walls. The cost to stabilize, repair, and seal deteriorated foundation walls is a whopping $15,000-$40,000.

#2. Test Your Sump Pump Regularly

Why it matters: Sump pumps come to life during storms. That’s not when you want to realize yours isn’t working properly. You should check it at least once a year, and ideally perform several checks during heavy storm seasons.
How to test your sump pump:
1. Slowly fill the sump pump pit with water. Watch for the "float" (similar to the float in your toilet) to rise, which should turn on the pump. Then watch to make sure the water level falls.
2. Test your backup pump the same way, but unplug the main pump first.
3. If you don’t have a backup pump — or a generator — and are on municipal water, get one that runs on water pressure. If you’re on well water, your only option is the battery kind.
Maintenance cost: Testing is free; a water-powered backup sump pump, including installation, costs $150-$350; a new battery for a battery-operated sump starts around $200.
Worst case if you put it off: Your basement could flood, ruining everything in it, including drywall and carpeting. (Did you know your regular insurance doesn’t cover flooding?) Plus you run the risk of mold and mildew — which can also be a very expensive problem.

#3. Check for Water Leaks and Fix Them

Why it matters: Persistent leaks lead to mold and mildew, rot, and even termites and carpenter ants (they like chewing soggy wood, since it’s soft). Yet if you fix a leak soon after it starts, there may be no long-term damage at all.

How to check for leaks:
Check for dark spots under pipes inside sink cabinets, stains on ceilings, toilets that rock, and of course drips.
At least once a year, inspect your roof. Repair missing, loose, and damaged shingles. Repair any cracked caulking and check for leaks around flashing.
How to Inspect Your Roof
Tips for Preventing Leaks
Maintenance cost: Negligible for a simple fix, such as a new washer. A visit from a plumber might set you back $250; a roof repair, a few hundred dollars to $1,000.
Worst case if you put it off: Drips ruin the cabinet under the kitchen sink, and run down into the floor sheathing and joists underneath, so you need a structural repair, plus new cabinets and new kitchen flooring. Or the roof rots, so you need a new roof and repairs to rooms directly beneath.

If you do these three things and still have persistent water problems, such as water getting into your basement or an area of your yard keeps washing out, the solution is a bit more complicated in the form of a French drain.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fun in Nature: April Vacation Week: Grades K-5

Date: 4/22/2014 - 4/25/2014
Address: 280 Eliot St.
Location: Natick, MA
Hours: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Cost/Cover: Child $75.00 Members, $90.00 Non-members
Web Page: http://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/program-catalog#resu ...
Contact Info: 508-655-2296
Details: Discover the wonders of spring at Broadmoor! Learn about flowers, frogs, salamanders, and lots of baby animals! We'll also enjoy the return of the birds to our fields, forests and wetlands as they hunt for food, sing songs, and build nests.

Sign up for single sessions or all four! Extended hours for parents! Pre-registration required. Online registration available.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Rebound in home sales expected now that winter is over!

Although we still have a ways to go to make a full recovery, more signs are coming in that the housing and mortgage markets continue to make steady progress.

Nearly every major U.S. county — 96% of them to be exact — is better off than it was four years ago, when foreclosures peaked, according to a new report from RealtyTrac. And 80% of county housing markets are better off than in 2012, when median home prices hit bottom.

While that's certainly great news, the report also found that only 30% of counties are better off than they were in 2008, at the beginning of the Great Recession, and only 8% are better off than they were in 2006, before the housing bubble burst.

"The housing recovery has taken root in hundreds of counties across the country and almost all local housing markets are better off than they were four years ago, when foreclosure activity peaked in 2010," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

The company looked at four different categories of housing market health to make its evaluation: home price appreciation, affordability, percentage of bank-owned (REO) sales and the unemployment rate. The 410 counties analyzed in the report account for 63% of the U.S. population.

"Home prices in three-fourths of the counties analyzed are still below 2006 levels, but low inventory has helped home prices accelerate past pre-recession levels in some markets like Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and Oklahoma City," Blomquist noted. "Those rapid home price gains are causing a concerning drop in affordability rates in some cities, but homebuilders and homeowners with regained equity should help provide more supply to balance out many of those markets in 2014."

Meanwhile, many of the places hardest hit by the housing collapse have made huge price recoveries in the past year.

Realtor.com recently published a list of the top 10 local real estate markets with the largest year-over-year median home price increases. Stockton, CA, topped the list with a 38.9% jump. Six other metro areas in California made the list. Several of the hardest-hit areas, including Las Vegas (up 26.9%), Reno (+26.8%) and Detroit (+26.3%) also made the list. The biggest metro area to make the rankings was Los Angeles (+20%).

Finally, the total balance of first mortgages outstanding reached nearly $8 trillion in February, the highest figure in two years, according to Equifax. That was up nearly 3% from a year earlier, the biggest year-over-year increase since September 2008.

The main reasons: a sharp drop in delinquent and foreclosed mortgages and an increase in home purchase lending.

"The decline in mortgage balances from accelerated amortization and foreclosure write-offs has finally been overcome by increases in mortgage debt due to home purchase lending," said Amy Crews Cutts, chief economist at Equifax.

Mortgage debt balances are likely to continue to grow during the spring and summer homebuying seasons, when the volume of new loans usually increases, she added. Furthermore, rising home values and improving employment conditions should lower the number of mortgage defaults.

Looking ahead, the National Association of Realtors is expecting a rebound in home sales now that winter is over.

The NAR's pending home sales index fell for the eighth straight month in February to 93.9, its lowest level since October 2011 and down 10.5% compared to a year earlier. But Lawrence Yun, the NAR's chief economist, said "the market appears to be stabilizing," noting that some weather-delayed transactions should close in the spring.

Likewise, sales of existing homes fell 0.4% in February to an annual rate of 4.6 million units, the slowest pace since July 2012 and off 7.1% from a year earlier, the steepest decline in three years. However, Yun noted that some transactions are simply being delayed by the weather, predicting that "there should be some improvement in the months ahead."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fixed Mortgage Rates Reverse Course

In recent housing news, Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates moving down following weaker than expected economic and housing news.

“Mortgage rates were down this week as real GDP was revised downwards to 2.4 percent growth in the fourth quarter of 2013,” says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. “Fixed residential investment negatively contributed to GDP decreasing 8.7 percent in the fourth quarter. The private sector added an estimated 139,000 jobs in February, which was below the market consensus and followed a downward revision of 48,000 jobs in January, according to the ADP Research Institute.

”The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.28 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending March 6, 2014, down from last week when it averaged 4.37 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.52 percent.

Additionally, the 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.32 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from the previous week when it averaged 3.39 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.76 percent.

The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.03 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, down from the previous week when it averaged 3.05 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.63 percent.

Results show that the 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.52 percent this week with an average 0.3 point, unchanged from last week. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.63 percent.

Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following links for the Regional and National Mortgage Rate Details and Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.

For more information, visit www.FreddieMac.com

Monday, March 31, 2014

New Natick Real Estate


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Buying costs less than renting........

Rising mortgage rates and home prices have narrowed the gap between renting and buying, though rates have recently dropped and price gains are slowing.

Low mortgage rates have kept homeownership from becoming more expensive than renting. In some markets, like San Francisco and Seattle, rents have risen sharply; rising rents hurt affordability relative to incomes, but rising rents make buying look cheaper in comparison.

Trulia says that at a 30-year fixed rate of 4.5%, buying is 38% cheaper than renting nationally, versus being 44% cheaper at the start of 2013.

(While renting is more expensive, only half of potential homebuyers have credit that would get such a rate, and many first-time homebuyers are struggling to form households or get out from under student debt.)

The range of difference, as one expects, varies from market to market – buying is only 5% cheaper than renting in Honolulu, while it is 66% cheaper than renting in Detroit.

Trulia’s interactive Rent vs. Buy Map shows how the math changes under alternative assumptions for the mortgage rate, the income tax bracket for tax deductions, and the number of years that one stays in the home.

To compare the costs of owning and renting, Trulia’s model assumes buyers get a 4.5% mortgage rate on a 30-year FRM with 20% down payment. Further, it assumes buyers itemize their federal tax deductions and are in the 25% tax bracket; and will stay in their home for seven years.

Under these assumptions, buying is 38% cheaper than renting nationwide, taking into account all of the costs and proceeds from buying or renting over the entire seven-year period.