Seattle Area Real Estate Blog

 

June 5, 2020

Home Sales Strong in May - Inventory Scarce

May statistics are coming in and so far the Seattle are real estate market is showing a severe scarcity of supply of housing. We were at low levels before Covid hit and now buyer demand is at levels similar to this time last year however supply of new listings is significantly lower. What that means is it's going to be even more of a competitive market for buyers, a great one for sellers and prices will continue to rise over the coming months.

The NWMLS posted May statistics and they show a solid rebound in sales figures from April to May. Pending sales jumped from 5066 to 7297, which is down from May 2019 (8597) but given the circumstances around Covid and employment a nice and better than expected improvement. As things continue to open up and improve June should provide an even more significant litmus test to where we are at with the market.

Keep an eye on supply as we have 5766 fewer listings on the market this month than we did a year ago. If you couple that with pent up buyer demand and historically low interest rates that means the next couple months could be highly competitive for buyers and fantastic for sellers. The great news is that will also help keep values stabilized and rising as we continue to see demand much greater than supply throughout the Seattle area.

The Seattle Area Real Estate Team is ready to provide you with the expertise and guidance you need to be successful in this market with the challenges and opportunities it presents.

May 3, 2020

Mortgage Rates Back Near All Time Lows Again!

 

Over the past couple weeks since our last rate post mortgage rates hovered around a similar range as they were in through the past several months before the Coronavirus hit. However over the past week we've seen them improve and are again flirting with all time lows. However that is only for particular loan products and scenarios and not across the board and with some new elements.

 

As we have gone further into the impact of the coronavirus on the mortgage and lending industry the changes and effects continue to evolve and occur. One of the first impacts was the elimination of the majority of all Jumbo lending and non-conventional lending. Those products still exist but are few and far between and the lending sources offering them are no longer doing them at rates close to conventional loans.

 

Second mortgages and Home Equity Lines of Credit are being dropped by many banks and those that are still doing them are dropping the maximums they will lend towards the appraisal value of the property. Instead of a HELOC to 90%, which was widely available before, now they are rare to find.

 

Conventional loans have seen a big impact to the guidelines in terms of income and employment verification but the products remained the same up until this week. This week a large number of lenders either stopped doing cash out refinances altogether or they have instituted huge fees and price adjustments for them. We have a couple that have made any changes to them though we're not sure how long that will last as we navigate these unsteady waters. The good news is that for those people looking to buy a home or refinance the rate/terms of their current home there are some fantastic rates around to do so with.

 

For borrowers with good credit and 5-15% down payment/equity position we are seeing rates around 3-3.25% for 30 Year Fixed Conventional loans.

 

Those borrowers with excellent credit scores and or 20% equity or above should be able to get 3% or even 2.875% depending on how your loan and costs are structured.

 

High Balance Conventional ($510k-$740k) loans are a bit more of a challenge as many lenders won't offer good rates on these right now. However we have a couple which would allow a borrower with excellent credit to get a 30 Year Fixed around 3.25-3.5% depending on loan structure and costs.

 

If you are looking to purchase a home or considering refinancing there are great opportunities out there to take advantage of right now but you have to jump on them and be pro-active. That means having a loan file setup in at least one lenders system ready to be locked as soon as you are satisfied with the rates and costs. If you are curious about what might be available for your needs please reach out to us for input and an analysis if we can save you some money.

April 25, 2020

What is a mortgage forbearance and should I get one?

As the corona virus continues to impact employment and income around our region and country there are millions of homeowners who have reached out to their mortgage servicing company to inquire about a forbearance. The challenge is that a forbearance isn’t foolproof and while it provides initial and current relief from mortgage payments it may have negative consequences the borrower isn’t aware of.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve had a couple previous clients reach out to me with questions about forbearance, how it works and what they should be aware of so I thought it a good time to do a post regarding them.

 

The CARES Act package requires mortgage servicers to provide borrowers with a federally backed mortgage a forbearance option - a temporary postponement of mortgage payments. Federally backed mortgages are those that are either insured by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA or VA. Those people with other mortgages may also be able to receive forbearance at the discretion of their servicing company.

So what does a forbearance mean and can I get out of making my mortgage payments? The quick answer to that is “NO”. A forbearance is not loan forgiveness and all borrowers who opt for one will have to pay off their loan and the payment arrears if they do receive one. Essentially you are pausing your monthly payments for a temporary amount of time and agreeing to pay them later in some way.

 

Under a forbearance agreement, a borrower can pause payments entirely or make reduced payments on their mortgage. Homeowners with federally-backed mortgages are eligible for up to 180 days of forbearance initially under the CARES Act. At that point, if they’re still facing financial difficulty, they can request an extension of up to another 180 days of forbearance.

 

The details in the CARES act provide that during the forbearance period, mortgage servicers cannot make negative reports about the borrower in question to credit bureaus. However it has not yet been determined how that will be done and the three credit bureaus have already noted that they have no system in place if a creditor was to report a borrower in forbearance as anything different than a late payment. It’s highly likely that there are going to be borrowers whose credit ends up with lates or reduced scores by creditors reporting inaccurate information to the bureaus.

 

In order to be granted a forbearance the mortgage servicer will go through a number of questions over the phone with you and may ask for documentation of your financial hardship. Do not expect the process to be quick and easy and it will vary from servicer to servicer.

 

The key thing with any person considering forbearance is to get the details in writing of it before agreeing to it. Having the details in writing will prevent any confusion in the future plus protect you if there are errors on your mortgage statement on credit report.

 

The big thing to watch out for with any forbearance plan is Balloon Payments. In the past most forbearance plans by servicers were designed with a balloon payment of the arrears (past due amount) being due in one lump sum at the end of the forbearance. Imagine a homeowner with reduced income coming out of forbearance and having to pay 6 months of payments all at one time! Most wouldn’t be able to do it and they’d be on the road to foreclosure. Servicers may offer a balloon payment option but its’s the last thing that any borrower would want to accept. A better option would be for the arrears to be added into the monthly payments over time thereby increasing the mortgage payment a reasonable amount that the borrower could make. The best option, which not all servicers offer, is for the arrears to be added on to the end of the loan in additional payments thereby extending the life/term of the loan.

 

Unlike forbearance, a loan modification involves a permanent change to the details of the mortgage. This can include changing the interest rate, extending the length of the loan or deferring the amount owed until the end of the loan as a separate loan amount. Any borrower choosing to do a forbearance needs to plan ahead for the end of the forbearance period and inquire with the servicer if a modification will be an option or not.

 

It’s a challenging time for some homeowners and finding both the right information and guidance on how to approach these elements. One thing I have in the past and will continue to tell clients and friends that mortgage lates and the possibility of a foreclosure is the last thing you want on a credit report as it’s the most damaging and a foreclosure could mean many years before owning a house again.

 

You can have all numerous late payments on other credit accounts, utility bills or other non-credit reporting payments and still be able to get a mortgage unlike negative mortgage credit history. So when someone is facing the possibility of not having enough money to make their monthly payments it is vital to look at the impact non-payment of each would have both in the short and the long term. While a forbearance may be the only option for some, it may not be a better choice than using stopping payment on other accounts.

 

Each individual situation is different and unique so if you or anyone you know has questions related to forbearance, credit impact of non-payment or other elements related to their home and mortgage please don’t hesitate to ask for my input.

April 19, 2020

Multiple offers, bidding wars, escalation clauses continue in Seattle area

The Seattle area that was the initial hot spot for the coronavirus outbreak in the United States saw the real estate market pause when the stay at home order was issued. After a revision to the order allowing real estate to function under modified rules with safe distancing we’ve seen things take off again over the past couple weeks. Despite the stay at home order still in place there have been a surprising level of home purchases happening combined with multiple offers, bidding wars and all cash offers shortly after listings go live. Although in person showings are constrained to two people at a time in a house and open houses are ceased buyers have turned out and continued the trends we saw to start out 2020.

 

We put a fixer listing on the market in Tacoma last weekend and had 5 offers in less than 24 hours with all except one at the list price and above. Our clients ended up accepting an offer that was 13% above the list price with all contingencies waived. A fellow broker we know working with clients in Bellevue submitted four offers over the past week in the $1m range and all were outbid by other buyers.

 

It seems that the Seattle area tech industry is helping to keep our housing market surprisingly resilient from a market downturn so far. With Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other tech companies workers transitioning to working from home and even ramping up hiring to meet consumer demand for a changed market and world by the impact of the coronavirus. Amazon is in the middle of a huge hiring ramp up and with the headquarters in Seattle there are a huge number of positions being filled and needing to be filled. There continues to be tech employed buyers looking to move throughout the Seattle suburbs to find affordable housing and we also have new residents moving into the area from out of state for these new positions.

 

What is also affecting the market at this point is that impact supply is having on the way the market is functioning. We have construction currently shut down so builders are stuck with their products in various states of completion thereby removing those properties from being part of the typical inventory “supply” until construction gets started again. In addition to that some home sellers removed their homes from the market or are not putting their house on during the typical busy spring season. All of this is decreasing the inventory in the Seattle area with the number of new listings down nearly 67% from a year ago. Despite the lower inventory the number of houses and condos sold in the first weeks of April was higher than the same period in each of the past two years! And that’s after a 9% increase in pending sales in March in the Seattle area compared to a year ago according to data from the Northwest MLS.

 

So far it seems like we are dealing with a market that has smaller inventory vs demand than we were in to start the year. Which means for buyers it could be even more challenging than we were thinking things might in 2020 if the inventory doesn’t increase to meet with demand that as of now seems to have not dropped much or at all. The buyers whose employment is not affected by the corona virus may be dealing with multiple offers and waiving of contingencies on the limited number of properties they have to choose from. That type of market requires working with a broker experienced in it; how to craft offers to standout and be successful among competition as we have been over our many years doing real estate in the Seattle area.

 

For people considering selling in this market there will likely be opportunities that wouldn’t typically be around in a market with higher more balanced inventory. An extreme sellers market, as it looks like we may be in, presents a seller with the chance to not only get top dollar for their home but also the potential for above list price offers and waiving of typical contingencies such as inspection. Effective pricing and marketing of a property including new media such as virtual tours will help insure that a seller can take full advantage of the opportunity that may be present in the upcoming months. A sellers market with little inventory should continue to push up sale prices and home values so it will be very interesting to see if that continues to offset the potential negative effects the coronavirus could have on real estate in the Seattle area as it has so far.

 

If you or someone you know is considering buying or selling in this unique market we'd love to help and provide you with the input and guidance needed to take advantage of the opportunities available and be successful.

April 5, 2020

What’s Happening With Mortgage Rates Post Covid-19?

We’ve been receiving many questions from clients lately asking about the real estate market and mortgage rates since our mortgage rates post back on March 16th.

 

Since that date we’ve seen mortgage rates continue to be highly volatile and they bounced up into the low 4's for a couple days. Although in the past week they’ve settled down a bit into a new normal with 30 Year Fixed conventional rates in the 3.25%-3.5% ballpark depending upon credit scores.

 

That’s not much worse than where we were before the corona virus hit, so that’s great to see. What we have seen though is pricing that makes it very difficult to get much in lender credit for rates to help reduce closing costs. On the plus side you can go lower in rates without as much in buy down costs as we used to have. The biggest impact that the virus has had on mortgages over the past two weeks are:

 

• High Balance Conventional rates which went up quite a bit and are hovering around 3.75% now

• Jumbo loans which have become extremely difficult to find and when we can the rates and costs are going to be higher than they have been over the past year

• Non-conventional loan products with more flexible guidelines have been largely eliminated (I’ve got two lending sources that are still doing them)

• Government backed loans (VA, FHA, USDA) do not have good rates or availability and many lenders aren’t even offering those loans at the moment. (We’ve got a couple that still do)

 

Lending institutions have basically said by their rates/pricing they want the straight forward conventional loans that will be backed and securitized by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and they will offer great rates for those. Thankfully the big jump up we had in rates has alleviated and those people purchasing or refinancing still have good options available.

 

If you are considering refinancing there are still some great opportunities out there to grab a great rate particularly on certain days and times. That requires having a loan file setup in at least one lenders system ready to be locked at a moment’s notice when pricing is good. If you are curious about what might be available for your needs please reach out to us for input and an analysis if we can save you some money.

April 4, 2020

What’s Happening With The Real Estate Market Currently?

We have been receiving many questions from clients regarding the real estate market; asking what’s going on and what we expect to happen.

When Governor Inslee first introduced the Stay At Home Rules on March 25th all real estate and related activities (appraisals, inspections) were ceased. That held in place until the 30th but the rules were amended to allow business to continue to be conducted in a manner which wouldn’t stop the market from functioning but would instill safety controls in the way that it was. Here are the details as to what is currently being allowed:

• In-person activities must be by appointment only;
• No more than two people, including the broker, may be at the property at any one time; and
• Those two persons must strictly follow social distancing guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) by remaining at least six feet apart at all times.

NWMLS’s Rules provide that a broker may not leave a third party unattended in a property. Accordingly, brokers must only bring one person at a time into the property.
What in-person real estate brokerage services are now permissible? Provided the above protocols are followed for any permitted in-person activity, real estate brokers may:

• Conduct listing presentations, take photos, and create virtual tours for new listings;
• Facilitate signing of contract documents;
• Preview and show listings by appointment only; and
• Facilitate inspections, appraisals, buyer “walk-throughs,” and key delivery.
Real estate brokers may not:
• Conduct any business outside of their home (with the exception of the above noted activities); or
• Hold an open house.

We have modified rules to work within but are in no way completely shut down from conducting business and the elements necessary to facilitate property listing, showing and sales. GREAT NEWS! The market has already picked up in the past week since these new rules were instituted and there were nearly as many Pending transactions this past week as there were new listings. Those buyers already in the market were back out making moves and I heard from a couple colleagues about multiple offer situations. These are good indicators as to the smoldering heat in the market that was tamped down a bit for a couple weeks but has picked right up with the real estate rules the governor implemented.

Our continuing thought about the market and where it will go is that while I expect a slight slowdown from some buyers exiting the market due to employment concerns, those that do not have the same concerns will continue to be out looking to buy this spring. We may not get the typical spring hot season we have come to expect but the early indicators are not bad at all. In fact a lower number of buyers in the starting/first time buyer price points may actually be somewhat helpful in lessening the extreme competition we’ve had for those lately.

By lowering demand some that would also enable move up buyers who haven’t wanted to enter the market due to not feeling that they can make a contingent offer able to do so again. If we end up with a demand/inventory in the 2-4 month range again that would actually make for a very healthy market where there are opportunities for everyone. That would potentially slow up the huge price gains we’ve seen recently although I think we’d all be quite happy with a healthy, balanced market between buyers and sellers with 5% gains year over year.

One big thing that we keep hearing about is people assuming that the corona virus impact will crash the housing market ala 2008-2010. That is likely not the case for a couple reasons: The crash at that time was a collapse of the financial and banking industry due to mortgages and housing. Housing and values at the time were pushed up by rampant speculation and mortgage products not built on solid elements (down payments, good credit, verifiable income). That is quite different than our current market whose values have gone up based upon supply/demand while borrowers have been fully qualified with conservative lending. Yes, employment will definitely factor in and is likely to cause mortgage lates and potential foreclosures however that is likely to be more spread out and also alleviated by rescue programs specific to the disaster nature of the corona virus impact. We think we’re going to quickly get a gauge on things over the next couple months but until we see otherwise we view what’s likely to happen as different than 2008’s events because of the nature of them and the causes.

 

Stay tuned for more input and updates about market conditions throughout the month as we get further into this new normal. If you have any questions about your home’s market value, current interest rates or the opportunities that may be available for you in the market please reach out to us and we're happy to provide you with our thoughts and expertise.

March 16, 2020

Crazy Times In The World And In Mortgage Rates

I posted one week ago on March 8th that during the previous week we’d seen some of the lowest mortgage rates in my entire 15 years in the industry. Since that post the concerns around the Coronavirus have skyrocketed, the stock market had some huge drops and the yield on treasuries is hovering well below where it was for the past several months. While the metrics should be good for lower mortgage rates, they started going up on the 9th and haven’t stopped since.

It’s a very unusual situation with rates acting the reverse of what they would typically do. So what’s the reason for that??
From everything I’ve been able to research about the subject it appears that lending institutions have intentionally pushed rates higher to slow up the huge influx of refinance requests they had during the week between 2/27 and 3/8. They are also mitigating the losses that they will have on those mortgages that are already at good rates in the upper 3’s made in the past couple years that are being refinanced into lower rates. That really appears to be the primary driver behind interest rates going up while all the data points and metrics say they should be staying as low as they hit recently.

I’ve been asked by friends and clients if I expect rates to go back down and honestly it’s been a really difficult question to answer as the things I would look at as indicators are not affecting things in a typical fashion. I mentioned in previous posts that the Coronavirus fears could drive rates lower and while that was certainly the case during the first week of March it appears that even though those continue to grow they aren’t pushing rates down.

We have entered a time of extreme volatility in the stock market and that has had the effect of making mortgages seem like a place of safety for investors to be holding. What attracts investors besides security? Good rates of return. I think these lending institutions realize that they are going to have buyers for mortgage backed securities and can bump the rates up to gain more profits in this volatile market.

If the stock market and Coronavirus fear isn’t going to help with rates what else could? FED ACTION! As I was writing up this post it came across the wire that the Federal Reserve is taking some huge action now in advance of the meeting they already had scheduled this week.
1. The Fed is cutting the Fed Funds Rate to ZERO
2. The Fed will start buying $500 billion in treasuries
3. The Fed will start buying $250 billion in mortgage backed securities

While the first one in that list will get most of the headlines it’s not the one that impacts mortgage rates the most. The Fed Funds Rate is the rate at which banks lend to other banks typically on an overnight basis and isn’t tied to mortgage rates. Now the 2nd and 3rd items do both impact mortgages and the rates available on those. This program of the Fed buying those two products is called Quantitative Easing and was used in the post 2008 era to help propel the market forward with people having access to low rate mortgages. The Fed is being pro-active around the Coronavirus impact and the likelihood of falling into a recession by instituting this again and hopefully keeping both the stock market, mortgage lending industry and real estate market from faltering.

Will the Fed’s action help push mortgage rates back down to the levels we saw the first week in March? Or will lending institutions continue to offer rates that don’t seem to correspond with what we should see? That’s hard to know on this Sunday evening but I expect we’ll have an idea on Monday morning when lender rates become available. What happens during the upcoming week is going to have a large impact on all areas of the financial markets, mortgage rates and life in general in our country.

If have several clients of mine, sitting at the ready, waiting for the low rates to pop again, and there's a technique for this pursuit. I’m encouraging everyone to have a loan application setup with me, submitted at at least one lending source and waiting for the right moment to lock in. With how volatile of a market we’ve had lately that’s the best approach at this time. I’m happy to set that up for anyone who’s interested in the opportunities that may present themselves for a refinance into a rate near some of these all time low figures.

March 8, 2020

Mortgage Rates Hit Marks Never Seen Before

 

I made a post about mortgage rates back on February 21st noting at the time that mortgage rates were hovering around all time low marks. At that time I noted that I thought there was potential for them to go lower if the corona virus escalated, particularly in the U.S.  Since I made that post that’s exactly what’s happened and interest rates have dropped to figures I’ve never seen in my 15 years in the industry. 

The corona virus has brought chaos to financial markets like few other things have. The fallout around it is unprecedented and unlike we’ve seen before. This is particularly true for interest rates and the mortgage market.  In many ways, things are more chaotic now than they were in 2008 but in a different way. Mortgage rates, which are tied to the yield on the 10 Year Treasury Bond, typically track with the stock market as it rises and falls.  However over the past week the yield on the 10 Year Treasury has plummeted nearly in half from where it was at the start of February as investors across the world seek safety for their money even if it means little to no return.

The day after I made that post on the 21st the stock market began to experience some serious drops and on Friday February 28th it bottomed out to a recent low after some of the largest daily point losses in history.  Interest rates started dropping along with the market and the yield on the 10 Year Treasury.  February 28th is the first time I’d ever seen a 30 Year Fixed Conventional loan show up on a mortgage rate sheet offered at 2.875% with only a small loan discount cost!  Rates on 5 Year ARM’s and 15 Year Fixed are low as well but there’s not as much of a drop between them and a 30 Year Fixed as we typically see.  That’s because the 30 Year Fixed is so ridiculously low right now!

The market went back up on Monday March 2nd and throughout this past week it’s bounced around between gains and losses, and interest rates have followed in concert. Some days we will have multiple re-prices as rates go up with the market and other days it goes the other direction. Although the rates/pricing haven’t been as good as they were on Friday the 28th, they are still in uncharted territory hovering around the 3% mark for well qualified borrowers on purchases and rate/term refinances for standard conventional loans. High balance conventional loans ($510k-$740k) are also fantastic and just slightly above the rates for conventional loans.

That’s enabling borrowers who were already sitting in great loans in the upper 3’s to consider a refinance.  The question they all borrowers should ask on a rate/term refinance is what are the costs of refinancing, how much will I save on my monthly payment, how long will it take for me to make up the loan costs with the savings and will I still have the property and loan past that point.  I’ve ran those numbers for multiple people during the past week and many are seeing that they’d make up the costs in a year or less of having the loan. If you’re holding the property past that you’re going to get to enjoy that low rate for the remaining time that you do.  You could also consider continuing to pay or occasionally paying the amount you have been thereby quicker reducing your principal balance, interest generated and time to pay-off the mortgage. 

Some borrowers are taking this opportunity to move into shorter term loans such as 15, 20 or 25 Year amortization which in combination with the low rates may result in little or no change in payment. Each borrowers situation is different and considering refinancing requires having a mortgage professional reviewing it with you and giving you input on what would best for your specific scenario.

Buyers who are in the midst of this highly active market in the Seattle area are excited about the opportunity that these mortgage rates are providing. The lower rates mean either lower payments for the property you want or the opportunity to qualify or purchase a higher priced property.  The challenge can be finding that property right now but once you do you’ll be assured to have the potential to lock in some of the lowest interest rates ever seen to complete your purchase.  Depending on the lending/funding source being used there may also be the potential to float down to a lower rate than you lock in at if the rates and pricing improve. Each of my funding sources handle that a bit differently but all have options for it.

One element that everyone getting a home loan right now needs to be aware of is that the industry is getting flooded with applications. Being able to complete the process including an appraisal in 30 days or less is going to be next to impossible.  I’m locking all borrowers on purchases for 45 days and refinances and 60 days with the expectation that underwriting turn times will be slower than normal and appraisers will be so busy that it may take a week or two to get an appraisal done. We’ve experienced this in the past when rates have been really low so I’m preparing all my clients to expect it if they are going to be getting a mortgage in the near future.

As we start this week I’m not sure what exactly to expect as we saw the market bounce up and down over the past week.  I do think that we may not have seen the end of the large stock market drops as it seems that the fears around the corona virus are not going away and seem likely to get worse rather than better.  If that continues to push the market down and yields on 10 Year Treasuries go lower we may see the interest rates get even lower.  It’s also possible that mortgage lenders hold them in this same range to slow up what’s likely to be an onslaught of refinancing. What I can know for certain is that we are in a really unusual time for home loans where some opportunities are around for people to access interest rates that we’d never even considered to be possible in the past.  If you’re curious about what options you may have to take advantage of these low rates please reach out to me via phone, text or email and I’m happy to discuss them with you.

 

  

March 2, 2020

Start of Spring Home Maintenance Tips

 

1. Inspect Wood Trim & Caulk Around Windows and Doors
Walk around your entire home exterior and use a screwdriver to probe the wood trim around windows, doors, railings and decks. If you note any soft spots where the screwdriver easily presses in you should aim to make repairs now before spring rains do more damage to the wood. Inspect the caulking around all the windows and door. Remove and repair any that was damaged during the winter to prevent water intrusion. If you buy high quality silicon acrylic latex caulk specific for exterior use you will have to do this less often. You may need and want to do touch up paint for extra protection over the newly caulked areas.

 

2. Inspect The Roof
Either from the ground or from the roof itself, if it is safe to access, take a close look at your roofing to look for loose or missing shingles; worn, damaged or rusted flashing and cracked boots around vent pipes. You may be able to do this to a certain extent from the ground with binoculars. If you notice concerns you may want to call in a professional roofer to evaluate and determine the cost for them to repair if it is beyond your capability. Unfortunately it can be difficult to get roofers to do small jobs that aren’t full replacements so if you need some names for that please reach out to me.

 

3. Clean Your Gutters
If you live in an area with any trees nearby those leaves should be all down by now. You should remove all the leaves, needles and other debris that have accumulated over the winter so your gutter system is not backing up and causing water to overflow. Run a hose on the roof and check for proper drainage. If leaks exist, dry the area and use caulking or epoxy to seal the leak. Overflowing gutters and blocked downspouts can damage, fascia boards, siding and foundations. Make sure your downspouts drain away from the foundation with splash blocks or channels.

 

4. Clean and Repair Decks
Cleaning your deck of leaves and debris—especially between deck boards—prevents staining and reduces the chance of rot. Check for loose boards, and reset protruding nails to keep your deck safe. Use a flat-bladed screwdriver to pry gunk out from between boards. Use a deck cleaning product to revive faded and stained boards. Check all decks, patios, porches, stairs, and railings for loose members and deterioration. Open decks and wood fences need to be treated every 4-6 years, depending on how much exposure they get to sun and rain. If the stain doesn’t look like it should or water has turned some of the wood a dark grey, hire a deck professional to treat your deck and fence.

 

5. Inspect And Clean Walkways and Driveways
Winter can be tough on concrete and asphalt! Freeze and thaw cycles can break apart stone and concrete. Inspect all of your concrete areas for wear and damage. You should seal seal cracks with sealant made for the specific material of your driveway or walkway to prevent further damage. Stuff foam backer rods in large cracks to reduce the amount of sealant you’ll need. If the damage is extensive you should call in a professional to evaluate it. You may have algae or moss growth on your concrete and now would be a good time to do a first run of power washing to stay out in front of it before we hit the months when much more time is spent outside.

 

6. Clean The Siding
Get rid of dirt and grime that can cause mildew and shorten the life of your siding. As a bonus, the exterior of your home will look fresh and clean for spring. Check all wood surfaces for weathering and paint failure. If wood is showing through, sand the immediate area and apply a primer coat before painting. If paint is peeling, scrape loose paint and sand smooth before painting. There's no need for fancy cleaning solutions or power washers; a bucket of warm, soapy water and a long-handled brush are all you need. Rinse with water from a garden hose. If you do decide to use a power washer be careful with the setting on it as you could end up removing paint if the pressure is too strong.

 

7. Clean The AC or Heat Pump Condenser
Remove dust and debris that have accumulated on the AC condenser (the big metal box outside your house) so that the system works efficiently. Hook up a garden hose and spray the outside of the condenser. The water will melt away the gunk. Don’t use a brush or a pressure washer as you could damage or bend the metal. Having a HVAC professional service your system costs $100 to $250 and includes cleaning the condenser and lubricating the fan motor. I recommend having that done ever year to make sure your entire HVAC system is functioning properly and at peak efficiency

 

8. Prep The Yard
Start bringing your yard back to life now, before temperatures warm up for real. Cut back and trim all vegetation and overgrown bushes from structures. Vegetation contact can cut into your home’s paint and exterior and cause damage. A little trimming can save a lot of money and time. If you have moss growth either in your grass or other areas apply an iron based moss killer now so it can get to work before spring really hits. Remove all excess leaves and debris so your plants and shrubs can receive the spring rains they will need to promote good growth for the next six months. Mow the lawn but not summer time short as its potentially dormant you don’t want to damage it. Apply a spring time fertilizer to promote growth. I highly recommend Lawn Restore by Safer Brands for an organic option that will never burn your lawn and promotes quality growth from the roots up.

Feb. 21, 2020

Mortgage Rates Hovering Near All Time Lows

As a licensed loan originator I watch and monitor the mortgage market on a daily basis and what I’ve seen lately continues to surprise me. Mortgage rates have for the past several weeks hovered right around 3 year low marks and the best I’ve seen since 2013. I have put out quotes to borrowers on both purchases and refinances that are at some of the lowest interest rates I’ve ever been able to offer borrowers. You may ask what’s been driving rates to these low figures?

 

That’s an interesting question as the stock market continues to do quite well and typically a stock market that’s performing well results in higher interest rates for mortgages as those are needed to attract investors to their bonds.

 

What is keeping interest rates low right now is that the global economy has been underperforming lately and the safety of U.S. Treasury Bonds is attractive to international investors. On top of that, fears regarding the corona virus and its impact on Asia and the global economy are adding even more push down to interest rates right now.

 

The low yields on mortgage bonds have allowed us to quote interest rates near all time low figures. Yet despite the negative economic elements that have allowed that, the rates haven’t gone below the seminal 3% mark on 30 year fixed conventional loans which is a huge break point. Now the question you may be asking is how long will rates stay this way and do they have potential to go even lower?

 

The more positive U.S. economic data comes out including rising wages, a good job market and high consumer confidence the more likely it is that rates will go up. If global markets start to see improvement from the central bank stimulus then we may have hit the bottom on interest rates. However if the corona virus escalates, particularly in the U.S., or we have some other major unexpected economic event then we could see them move lower.

 

Here’s my opinion – the U.S. economy is doing well and rates are near historic lows at the moment. If you are in a purchase transaction now I’d be encouraging you to lock right away. If you are thinking about refinancing, now would be a great time to take advantage of what is likely to be some of the lowest rates historically available. This may be as good as things get for awhile so that makes it a great time to be getting a new mortgage with the rates you'd have access to.