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Article of the Day:

 

Why We Fall In Love--With Houses

By: Sanette Tanaka with The Wall Street Journal

(http://blogs.wsj.com/developments/2014/02/10/why-we-fall-in-love-with-houses/)

Falling in love can be wonderful—and finding the perfect house can make a house-hunter weak in the knees.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, a survey by Realtor.com shows that falling head-over-heels for a house is fairly common—69% of respondents reported that they have had a home crush. House-hunters with a “home crush,” as defined in the survey, are drawn to the same house again and again. Realtor.com surveyed 1,082 individuals from Jan. 9 to Jan. 20 who reported having had a home crush.

Many people approach house hunting the same way they approach dating, by checking compatibility and fit, but the intangible factors are what tips a house from crush to true love, says Leslie Piper, Realtor.com’s consumer-housing specialist and an agent with Pacific Union in Lafayette, Calif.

“You have to make sure you know what’s really out there. You evaluate what is a turn-on and turn-off, and perhaps you’ll fall in love,” Ms. Piper says.

Also like dating, men and women approach a home crush very differently.

Some key findings from the survey:

Women are more likely to crush on home that is out of their price range: 41% of women said their home crush is out of their price range, compared with 30% of men.

Men tend to move from one home crush to another: 36% of men said they find a new home crush weekly, compared with 29% of women.

Outdoor living spaces are the most attractive home attributes to both men and women: 54% of women and 46% of men said outdoor living spaces like backyards, decks and patios make them fall in real-estate love. In addition, 42% of women preferred open-floor plans, and 40% of men indicated garages.

Nearly 80% of homebuyers first find their home crush on their computer. After that, about one-third then decide to go see the house in person.

About 16 years ago, Brenda Van Fossen of Lynchburg, Va., stumbled on a 2,600-square-foot, contemporary-style house with 10-foot ceilings and an open-floor plan. She called up the agent and was disappointed to hear that the house was already under contract.

But Ms. Van Fossen couldn’t get the house off of her mind. A year later, she found out that the house was back on the market and purchased it for roughly $170,000.

Ms. Van Fossen, who became a real-estate agent in 2006, says she has never felt this way about a house before: “That first night there, it sounds silly, but it was like I was in love.”

But love can have a downside—heartbreak.

“You have to be realistic. When you’re looking at homes outside of your price range, the last thing you want to be is disappointed. It would be like falling in love with someone on the other side of the country,” Ms. Piper says. To move on, she suggests keeping an open mind and perhaps considering several houses at the same time in case the first choice doesn’t work out.

Fortunately, unlike with relationships, picky homebuyers do not need to limit themselves to what’s on the market, she says. Rebuilding, redecorating or building from scratch are an option, too.

 

 

10 Things That Make A Home A Good Home

By: Brendon Desimone, Zillow Blog

(http://www.zillow.com/blog/2012-06-21/10-things-that-make-a-home-a-good-home/)

Buyers spend a lot of time looking at properties online, touring homes on the Sunday open house circuit, and talking to their real estate agent. They’re laser-focused on finding the best home that meets their needs. The problem is, buyers sometimes don’t take the long view of a property. They’re only looking at a home as a potential buyer — and not as someone who, years down the road, may also have to sell the property. Given that homes are such a big investment, there should be a little inside your head, picking away at your options and decisions.

As the home buying market starts to heat up again, here are ten things you should consider when choosing your next home.

1. Location, location, location

Perhaps nothing is more important than the three L’s, and there’s a reason why it’s said three times.

Location is extremely important when it comes time to sell. You can have the worst house in the world with the ugliest kitchen and bath. But put it on a great block or in a good school district, and your home will be coveted.

Location location location matters on so many different levels. At the highest level is the town where the house is located, then the school district, then the neighborhood and the block — right down to the location of the lot on the block. Keep all of this in mind when shopping. Also remember that while real estate markets rise and fall, no one can take a great location away from you.

2. The school district

The school district is right up there on the list of what’s most important to many buyers. It’s not uncommon for buyers to start their search based solely on the school district they want to be in. Parents want their kids to go to the best school, which can drive up prices of homes in those districts. Even though you might not have children, buying a home in a good school district is always smart. If the schools are desirable, homes tend to hold their value. As a homeowner, you should always be aware of how the schools are doing, not unlike being aware of your roof’s condition, the neighborhood development or city government.

3. The home’s position on the lot

Where the home sits on the lot in relation to the street or the overgrown oak are key elements in picking out a home. In the case of a condo, an end unit vs. an interior unit is a key consideration. You may have chosen the most beautifully renovated home in the best school district and figure all is good. But if the main living areas are shaded by a neighbor’s extension or the master bedroom looks into the neighbors’ family room, you may have a location problem. Light or privacy may not be a hot button for you, but chances are, they might be concerns for a future buyer.

4. Crime

It’s a good idea to check the latest crime figures for a neighborhood. It can give you a good snapshot about the number and severity of crimes over a time period. So much information is online nowadays that when you find your perfect home, a quick Internet search on the area should provide you with the much-needed information.

Most municipalities post their police blotters or crime statistics online these days.  Don’t freak out if you notice more crime than what you’d have expected. Crime, especially petty crime, is everywhere. If you’re new to the area, consult with your real estate agent if you have concerns.

5. Walkability

More than ever, ‘walkability’ is becoming a key factor in the search process.  There are entire websites, apps and algorithms that help people figure out how walkable their future home is. As a matter of fact, Zillow even has a Walk Score for most homes.  As people get out of their cars and slip into their Keds, they want a home in a walkable neighborhood. People put high value on the ability to walk to a store, school, work or public transportation.  The more we move away from cars and the more we see invested in public transportation over the coming decades, the more of a huge value-add walkability will become.

6. The neighborhood’s character

You may have found the absolute most perfect home, on the best block, in the best school district and on a great lot. But there could be circumstances outside your control that may give you pause — specifically, the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

Check out the area late at night, early morning and in the middle of the day. See if there are any odd weather or traffic patterns and try to observe some of the neighbors. You may even go so far as talking to some neighbors. It’s important to walk around, open your eyes and ears and make sure there isn’t anything you’re overlooking. That next-door neighbor practicing drums in the garage at 9 p.m. could be a source of immediate neighbor conflict. Go into it with eyes wide open.

7. Don’t buy the best house on the block

Simply put, avoid buying the best house on the block because there may not be any room for your investment to grow (unless you physically have the house moved to a better neighborhood). It’s better to buy the worst house on the best block, because you can improve the house to add value to an already great location.

8. Is it a fixer-upper?

If you’re buying a fixer-upper, make sure you understand what you’re getting into.  Did you set out to buy a home that needed work? Or does the home just happen to be in the most desirable neighborhood, the block of your dreams?

Do your homework upfront. If you want to build an extension or add another story to the property, make sure it is within local zoning or building codes. Have the property inspected so that you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Sometimes, what appears to be a simple kitchen needing cosmetic work turns out to be a huge project. Ask yourself repeatedly if your life can support a home renovation. Not only does a renovation take money, it takes time, energy and emotional stress.

9. Will the home hold its value?

A good real estate agent who’s been working the neighborhood for some time can vouch for the long-term value or investment potential of the property. But be sure to find ways to add value, or at least be certain the home will hold its value.

The market may be strong when you purchase, but ask yourself, “Am I in a seller’s market?” “What would happen to this property if the market changed tomorrow”? Check out the median home value in the neighborhood as it compares to neighborhoods around it. The Zillow Home Value Index gives you one, five, and 10-year snapshots of how home values have gone up or down in neighborhoods and cities.

10. Taxes, dues and fees

Many people overlook the monthly fees associated with homeownership. Nearly every property will have taxes, and any sort of planned community or homeowners association (HOA) will have regular assessments.

Be sure that the amount of property tax and assessments are clear from the get-go. If in doubt, go to city hall or do research online. If you’d be buying into a condo complex, be sure to get your hands on the meeting minutes, financials of the HOA and the condo documents. Any mention of changes coming down the pike? Does the HOA seem well funded? It could take one quick $10K assessment to immediately affect property values if you need to turn around and sell your new home. And any uncertainty about the building, its integrity or the financials could scare off buyers when it’s time to sell.

 


FHA eases rules for some credit-impaired applicants

(Borrowers with 'extenuating circumstances' may qualify sooner after foreclosure, short sale)

Ken Harney, Inman News, August 19,2013

In a move designed to more fairly treat borrowers whose credit reports contain collections actions and disputed debt accounts, the Federal Housing Administration has eased previous rules that would have led to large numbers of application rejections.

The agency also released guidance to lenders instructing them on how to handle “extenuating circumstances” claimed by borrowers who experienced serious economic setbacks triggered by the recession, but who are now employed, paying their bills and seeking FHA financing.

On Friday, FHA issued two mortgagee letters spelling out its new approach to widespread credit issues affecting applicants for its low down payment loans. The guidance on collections and disputed accounts (ML 2013-24) replaces controversial rules the agency first issued in early 2012.

That guidance, which required payoffs of collections or disputed accounts totaling an aggregate $1,000 or more before applicants could go to closing on an FHA loan, triggered intense criticism from lenders and community groups.

FHA subsequently withdrew the rule in June 2012, promising a future policy that would constitute a “balanced yet flexible approach to promote access to affordable credit while protecting the insurance fund.”

Critics of the rescinded rules pointed out that many consumers have disputed accounts on their credit reports that were not caused by the consumers themselves, or where they had legitimate reasons for not paying the account in full.

For example, medical bills frequently lead to disputes when bills charged for services performed exceed what was estimated upfront. Also, said critics, many disputed accounts — especially medical bills that are charged off and sold to collection agencies — end up as festering negative items on credit reports, even when the consumer had legitimate reasons for disputing the charges.

In its latest guidance, FHA appears to deliver on its promise of a more ‘balanced yet flexible’ set of standards. The new disputed account rules, which take effect Oct. 15, exclude consideration of all medical collection and charge-off accounts, and “do not require resolution” for applications to move forward.

The new rule requires that lenders document the reasons for approving a loan when the borrower has collection accounts in any amount. But if the total exceeds $2,000, the lender must undertake a “capacity analysis” designed to determine whether the borrower can handle any periodic payments that may be required to retire the debt.

Among the possible outcomes of a capacity analysis: The applicant might pay off the collection account, or make payment arrangements with the creditor. Generally, whatever scheduled payments are due under the arrangement must be reflected in the applicant’s debt-to-income ratio calculations.

Unlike the earlier, now-rescinded guidance, the new rule treats derogatory disputed accounts separately. If the aggregate amount of disputed items on the credit report is equal to or exceeds $1,000, the lender must now manually underwrite the application. If the total balances are less than $1,000, manual underwriting — which takes more time — is not required. Disputed medical accounts are excluded from the $1,000 limit and no documentation will be required. The same exclusion applies to disputed accounts where the problem was created by identity theft, credit card theft or unauthorized use.

Court-ordered judgments against borrowers that show up in their credit files are treated differently: They’ve got to be paid off in full or there must be a written agreement detailing “regular and timely” payments to retire the debt, and documentation that at least three payments already have been made.

A second set of lender guidance (ML 2013-26) published last Friday essentially spells out FHA’s approach to “extenuating circumstances” that may have triggered steep drops in applicants’ credit scores. Far more so than conventional market investors or insurers, FHA historically has been more wiling to consider the contributing factors that make credit-impaired applicants look more risky than they really are.

The new guidelines emphasize that “FHA recognizes the hardships faced by … borrowers (hit by recession events) and realizes that their credit histories may not fully reflect their true ability or propensity to repay a mortgage.”

Extenuating circumstances are important to FHA in evaluating whether a borrower who experienced a foreclosure, short sale, deed-in-lieu, bankruptcy or other event in the past but is now employed and paying credit accounts on time should be considered eligible for a new FHA-insured loan. The new guidance offers the potential of waiving FHA’s standard waiting periods from one of these events to qualifying for a new mortgage.

Say an individual lost his job during the recession, couldn’t pay the mortgage and eventually was foreclosed upon. Under standard FHA waiting times, that person might not be eligible for a new loan for up to three years. However, if the applicant qualifies as having experienced “an economic event” — defined in the new guidance as “any occurrence beyond the borrower’s control that results in loss of employment, loss of income or both” that causes a 20 percent decline in household income for at least six months — the applicant might be qualified to obtain a new FHA-insured mortgage in as little as one year instead of three.

Ken Harney writes an award-winning, nationally syndicated column, “The Nation’s Housing,” and is the author of two books on real estate and mortgage finance

- See more at: http://www.inman.com/2013/08/19/fha-eases-rules-for-some-credit-impaired-applicants/#sthash.HC2xyMUw.dpuf

 

 

 

 

GreenvilleOnline.com

Posted July 30, 2013

The 27 percent jump in Upstate residential building permits the first six months this year is something that Doug Oles can both see and feel.

Oles, a Greenville-based homebuilder, said his list of new projects is up about 50 percent from this time last year.

“I can’t keep up right now it’s so busy. We’re in the process of hiring new project managers, just trying to keep the current projects going,” said Oles, who is seeing “a ton” of renovation work and new home construction in the Augusta Road, downtown, Eastside and other areas.

Rick Quinn, president of the Home Builders Association of Greenville, said the housing market now is dynamic and fun because “we’re back to working hard, breaking a sweat, doing all the things that I liked about the business in 1983 when I got in it.

“The last four years, I managed to stay busy and make a living. We were fortunate but it was definitely depressing,” Quinn said. “It’s good to be back a little bit, or a lot, depending on how you want to look at it.”

The return to strong construction activity here is part of the strong housing recovery that saw home sales in Greater Greenville rise 31 percent year-over-year in June and 13.5 percent statewide last month.

Building permits in the Upstate — defined by The Market Edge as Abbeville, Anderson, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, and Spartanburg counties — also have been increasing.

It’s being driven by strong demand, economic development and job creation, said Michael Dey, executive vice president of the local home builders’ group.

In 2011, the Upstate issued 2,643 permits and 3,491 in 2012. From January to June of this year, 2,235 permits have been issued, compared with 1,760 the same period of 2012, according to The Market Edge.

“This is the housing market. The building permits total show you what’s really happening,” said Dale Akins, president of The Market Edge. “From what I see, employment and the job growth, the numbers are certainly warranted. They’re there. They’re sustainable.”

Oles also sees banks lending more and a return of market confidence to the area “where the economy has kind of stabilized slightly.”

“So people are more willing to spend a little bit of their money,” he said. “They know that the values here didn’t see that big of a hit as the rest of the country when the economy went down.”

Clemson University economist Bruce Yandle said housing investment — which includes construction, renovation and repair — accounts for about 5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). Housing consumption — rent, purchase, equipping — amounts to another 12 to 13 percent, according to the National Home Builders Association.

“Put them together and you have as much as 18 percent of GDP. Most likely, the level of activity is normally higher in the Greenville MSA and in South Carolina generally,” Yandle said. “We live in a growing region with a slightly higher pulse beat than the nation’s when it comes to construction activity.”

But, Yandle said, in this particular post-recession period, there is unusually high unemployment among workers with lower educational attainment, as measured by years completed in traditional schools. Many of them are construction workers, who have high levels of specialized skills but low participation outside construction.

“The housing recovery means improving employment, reductions in welfare spending, and brighter days for lots of people who have been struggling,” he said.

“Finally, a stronger housing pulse beat is an indicator that people are voting with their feet to come to our region. When more come than leave, we have an endorsement of regional attractiveness.”

David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, said he anticipates incremental gains in new home sales through the end of this year.

Akins is expecting similar results with building permits.

“I’m not totally an optimist. You’ve got to be a realist as well,” he said. “There’s always things to slow it down.”

Examples he cited are rising interest rates, stagnation in job growth, stagnation in wages, lack of employment, and underemployment.

Overall, residential building permit trend numbers are “very positive and we expect to see them at least this positive through year-end,” he said.

 

IndependentMail.com, Anderson, SC

Posted July 29, 2013

—Amazon.com Inc. says it is adding 7,000 jobs in 13 states, beefing up staff at the warehouses where it fills orders, and in its customer service division.

The company says it will add 5,000 full-time jobs at its U.S. distribution centers, which currently employ about 20,000 workers who pack and ship customer orders.

The world's largest online retailer has been spending heavily on order fulfillment, a strategy meant to help the business grow, but one that has also weighed on profit margins. The company said last week that it lost money in the second quarter, even as revenue increased.

Distribution center jobs are available in Phoenix; Middletown, Del.; Patterson, San Bernardino and Tracy, Calif.; Indianapolis and Jeffersonville, Ind.; Hebron, Ky.; Breinigsville, Pa.; Charleston and Spartanburg, S.C.; Chattanooga and Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Coppell, Haslet and San Antonio, Texas and Chester, Va.

Amazon said President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the Chattanooga facility on Tuesday. No public schedule was yet posted on the White House website for Tuesday, but the president made what was billed as a major speech on the economy last week, and brought the topic up again in his weekly Internet and radio address on Saturday.

The company is also adding 2,000 jobs in customer service, including full-time, part-time and seasonal. Jobs are available in Winchester, Ky.; Grand Forks, N.D.; Kennewick, Wash. and Huntington, W.Va. Work from home positions are available in Oregon, Washington and Arizona.

More information is at www.workatamazonfulfillment.com and www.amazon.com/csjobs.

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