How Will You Spend Your Tax Refund?

4 Tips for Putting Your Tax Refund Back Into Your Home
Courtesy of Zillow

Are you getting a tax refund this year? The average refund is about $3,000, but whether you’re getting a few hundred or a few thousand dollars back, put it to work to enhance your home and your lifestyle!

PAY DOWN DEBTS

debt-reduction

With home prices continuing to creep upward and interest rates still remarkably low, you may have taken out a home equity loan to fund a remodeling project or two. Invest your tax refund toward this loan or pay down those high interest credit cards.

FRESHEN UP. REDECORATE.  UPDATE!

blog collageUse that refund to update your home with a redecorating project you’ve been thinking about. You’ll improve your living experience and add value to your home, all at the same time.

INVEST IN BOOSTING ENERGY EFFICIENCE OF YOUR HOME

wall-insulation-1bThere are all sorts of things you can do, at varying price points, to make your home more energy efficient — from buying energy-efficient appliances to adding extra layers of insulation. Other affordable options are installing a new storm door, a low-flow showerhead, or installing a programmable thermostat.  Storm doors are just a few hundred dollars, and can be a great investment if you have an older front door. Purchasing a low-flow showerhead or installing a programmable thermostat are other affordable options.

BUY FLOOD INSURANCE

floodphotoThe federal government offers coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program at an average cost of about $700 per year. That’s a small price to pay for a problem that can be big. Your homeowners insurance usually doesn’t cover rising water and flood damage.  Stop taking chances, and buy yourself peace of mind. Premiums vary depending on your property’s flood risk. To get an estimate in your area, visit FloodSmart.gov.

For expert advice on financing major improvements, please contact our preferred lender, Don Kelly.

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If you’re wondering what your home is worth in today’s market, give us a call!

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Do You Love Your Neighbors?

Do Americans Love Their Neighbors?
A National Neighborhood Study, adapted from Homes.com

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We know how important it is to have good neighbors. They’re the people we see every day on our way to work, over the weekend across our garden fence, and for many of us, the people we socialize with in the evenings. For anyone buying a new home, finding somewhere with good neighbors is high up the list of priorities. This year we launched our First Annual US Neighborhood Survey and asked 2,000 Americans from around the country, as well as 1,000 New Yorkers, what exactly a typical American neighborhood is for them.

US Neighborhoods: The Results

The ‘neighborhood’ is a traditional concept. While in the past, most American neighborhoods consisted of a community of people who all lived and worked together, nowadays, it doesn’t always mean the same thing. Many people telecommute, drive from the suburbs, or live in urban homes, and a more technology driven world means that they don’t always know their neighbors as well as they might have in the past.

Despite this, 18% of the Americans we surveyed said they had spoken to their neighbor that day, and around half (48%) within that week. However, a tenth said they had never even had a conversation with the person who lived next door to them. The trend does appear to be generational, as young Americans are the least likely to have a close relationship with their neighbors.

How do we communicate?

While 18-24 year olds are less likely to talk to their neighbors face to face, they do communicate in other ways, alluding to the fact that technology has significantly changed the way we interact with each other. In fact, 53% of 18-24 year olds (and 34% of Americans we surveyed overall) communicate with their neighbors via text message, while 51% communicate by phone.

More Americans than ever now have social media (65% were users, as of 2015), and it appears this world of digital communication is now commonplace in neighborhoods. Around 21% of those we surveyed said they keep in touch with friends over social media, but it was 25-34 year olds that were the most likely to use it for talking to neighbors.

Do we still trust each other?

A lack of personal interaction in some neighborhoods may be having a behavioral effect on us. Being able to trust your neighbor is one of the many benefits of living in a close-knit community. If your kids need a babysitter, a package needs to be signed for, or you simply need someone to keep hold of a spare pair of keys, then for many of us, we’re only a short walk away from help.

Unfortunately, many Americans don’t appear to have that feeling of trust. A staggering 23% of those we surveyed said they wouldn’t trust their neighbor alone with their child or their pet.

Perhaps, most surprisingly, is the fact that 40% of Americans wouldn’t trust their neighbor with a house key, which could mean a lot of unhappy residents left outside on the doorstep if they happen to lose their keys.

What do they argue about?

We know that even in the calmest of neighborhoods, disputes can happen, but we wanted to find out what exactly it was that Americans were arguing about. Noise was the biggest problem, with around one fifth of Americans having argued about it in the past with their neighbors. Unruly children were also a common complaint, as just over 9% said it had caused friction in the past. Quite encouragingly though, 61% of those we surveyed said they hadn’t really ever had an argument in their neighborhood.

After surveying people across the nation we have found that while “neighborhoods” still exist, they are definitely different than the Leave it to Beaver communities of the ’50s. People are just as likely to text their neighbors with questions or complaints as they are to communicate with them face to face. Also, the days of leaving a spare key under the mat may be fading away. That being said, more than half of the people surveyed have never had a real argument with their neighbor, and most neighbors have spoken in the past month, signs perhaps that the neighborhood spirit is still alive and well in the States.

We hope you aren’t, but if you’re truly miserable in your neighborhood, perhaps it’s time to find a new home in a new neighborhood.  Contact Brandee Kelley at 817-635-1141 to discuss your housing needs.
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Mortgage rates are low, so it’s a great time to sell and buy!  Contact our preferred lender, Don Kelly at Affiliated Bank to find out your loan options.
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So What’s Your REALTOR® Doing Behind Your Back?

Have you ever wondered what on Earth your real estate agent is doing behind your back?

In the sometimes confusing, occasionally hectic, and always stressful world of buying and selling, what are your agents really doing behind the scenes?

For every hour a knowledgeable and experienced REALTOR® spends in your presence, she will spend an average of nine hours behind the scenes working on your behalf. If you’ve wondered what that 6% commission is actually going toward, here is a list of things the Brandee Kelley Group team members do that is relatively hidden from client’s eyes.

YOUR AGENT SHOPS PROPERTIES ONLINEcomputer search

REALTORS® market research goes beyond oohing and ahhing over online listings in their free time. A diligent agent typically spends about two hours each day researching potential properties.

Listings come and go fast in the real estate world, so agents need to check their multiple listing service database constantly, or else they’ll miss out. The process of matching up properties with specific client needs can take a long time. They are also looking up zoning codes, proposed new development in neighborhoods, schools changes or previewing homes for out-of-state clients.

THEY PROSPECTnetworking phone call

An established REALTOR® has a vast contact list of insiders in the industry and they network with each other about new listings. They’re ears are always open to new opportunities coming into the market, which gives their clients a huge, inside advantage of properties before they hit the market.

The Keller Williams Arlington office is comprised of many active agents and they exchange listing information for their own upcoming listings, and other listings that match their client’s needs. These pro-active agents truly are a step ahead of the market—yet another strong reason to partner with an experienced agent with a get-it-done attitude!

THEY SPEND THEIR OWN MONEY ON MARKETING

In addition to not getting paid until a deal is done, selling agents also spend their own money on marketing: ads, fliers, hiring a photographer, glossy prints, premium placements on listing sites, direct mailing materials and promotional email campaigns to their extensive database of qualified buyers.

The Brandee Kelley Group employs a professional Internet Marketing Specialist, who is tasked with promoting the Group’s listings in social media and online marketing venues, as well as generating educational information about all matters real estate. In the rapidly-expanding realm of real estate internet marketing, a responsible agent must constantly be open to new online endeavors in order to enhance her services and skills for her clients.

REALTORS® WRITE OFFERS AND COUNTEROFFERS

Woman at office desk signing a contract

Woman at office desk signing a contract

Offers and counteroffers are an extremely important part of the transaction, as they can save or net you thousands of dollars on a sale. Yet getting to the right price requires written offers and counteroffers and skillful negotiation every step of the way.

It’s a time-consuming endeavor to write a carefully crafted offer, and then presenting it to the client and offer suggestions on how to counteroffer, with all the potential ramifications if accepted. It’s a delicate balancing act just to keep track of it all.

REALTORS® AND THEIR STAFF TRACK AND MANAGE INSPECTIONS

Lucretia_Fotor_Collage_FotorThe benefits of working with a highly-trained real estate group, with experienced administrative staff, is almost a necessity in an industry loaded with forms, deadlines, and rules and regulations. In today’s world, to bring a transaction to a successful closing, every “I” must be dotted, and every “T” crossed!  The Brandee Kelley Groups experienced administrative staff is on top of every detail—from a variety of required inspections, to the closing countdown.  Our staff interacts with title companies, lenders, attorneys, inspectors, subcontractors, other agents, etc. to make certain our closings are as stress-free as possible and on time.

REALTORS® SMOOTH BUMPS IN THE ROAD

Not every sale goes smoothly but effective agents try to shield their clients from the high drama unless there’s a reason to fill them in. Little snags create the need for agents to put out fires—fixing issues that many times buyers and sellers need never be aware of.

Buying and selling real estate is usually an emotional situation for clients, and when an issue arises that requires an agent/client solution, a seasoned and skillful agent is a problem-solver. She will keep a positive approach and come up with a positive solution.  It doesn’t always take a lot of time to fix problems, but it does take emotional energy.

For expert representation by a real estate team backed with years of experience, you can trust the team members of the Brandee Kelley Group to go to work for you! Read a few of our testimonials here: Recommendations.  Our clients say it best!  Call us today about your real estate needs at 817-635-1141.
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5 Trends That Will Shape Real Estate in 2016

5 Trends That Will Shape Real Estate in 2016
Adapted from an article by Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist of REALTOR.comreal-estate-2016

Realtor.com predicts that 2016 will be a great year for housing.  Nationally, economic growth is slowly improving and employment will increase, which means that more people will have more income and enable them to upgrade to a new home.

Here’s a closer look at the trends that will have the greatest impact on the housing market in 2016.

  1.  We’ll return to a more normal housing market

The year ahead will see healthy growth in home sales and prices, but at a slower pace than in 2015. This slowdown is not an indication of a problem—it’s just a return to normalcy.

Indications of a more normal market means we’ll see less distress sales, new construction will return to more traditional levels, and home prices will increase at more normal rates.

2.  Generational shuffle will make 2016 the best year to sell in the near futuremillenials buying house

Millennials emerged as a dominant force in 2015, representing almost 2 million sales.  This pattern will continue in 2016 as their large numbers, combined with improving personal financial conditions, will enable enough buyers between ages 25 and 34 to move the market yet again. The majority of those buyers will be first-time home buyers.

older_couple_front_houseTwo other generations will also affect the market in 2016: financially recovering Gen Xers and older boomers thinking about or entering retirement. Since most of these people are already homeowners, they’ll play a double role, boosting the market as both sellers and buyers. Gen Xers are in their prime earning years and thus able to relocate to better neighborhoods.  Older boomers are approaching (or already in) retirement and seeking to downsize and lock in a lower cost of living.

Assuming that most of these households will both sell and buy, it is important to recognize that 2016 is shaping up to be the best year in recent memory to sell. Supply remains very tight, so inventory is moving faster. Given the forecast that price appreciation will slow in 2016 to a more normal rate of growth, delaying will not produce substantially higher values along with higher mortgage rates.

3.  Builders will focus on more affordable price pointsnewconstruction2

One aspect of housing that has not recovered yet has been single-family construction. Facing higher land costs, limited labor, and worries about depth of demand in the entry-level market, builders have shifted to producing more higher-priced housing units for a reliable pool of customers. That focus caused new home prices to rise much faster than existing home prices.

We are already seeing a decline in new-home prices.  Credit access is improving enough to make the first-time buyer segment more attractive to builders. We’re looking for the strong growth in new-home sales and single-family construction as builders offer more affordable product in the year ahead. Consumers of all types should consider new homes, but availability will be highly dependent on location.

4.  Higher mortgage rates will affect high-cost markets the most

house vs percentThe recent move by the Federal Reserve to guide interest rates higher should result in a more reliable upward trend in mortgage rates.

Higher rates will drive monthly payments higher; therefore, debt-to-income ratios will also go higher. Markets with the highest prices will see that higher rates will result in fewer sales.  However, the effect will be minimal as the move to higher rates will spur more existing homeowners to sell and buy before rates go even higher.

5.  Already unaffordable rents will go up more than home pricesThis one luxury apt downtown dallas_Fotor

The housing crisis that politicians are ignoring is that the cost of rental housing has become crushing in most of the country.  Rents are accelerating at a more rapid pace than home prices.

Because of this, it is more affordable to buy a home in many areas in the U.S.  However, many renters are facing the reality that buying is not an option due to poor household credit scores, limited savings, and lack of documentable stable income required to qualify for a mortgage today.

This trend does not bode well for the health of the housing market in the future. It will only improve if we see more construction of affordable rental housing as well as more financing programs available for renters to become homeowners.Don & Bank card with border

For questions or concerns about mortgage finance in 2016, you can get expert answers from Don Kelly at Affiliated Bank.

The Brandee Kelley Group’s first priority is serving our client’s needs for real estate within the DFW metroplex.  We also stay current on national real estate and mortgage trends to provide our clients with the professionalism and knowledge they deserve.Brandee & KW Logo 2

 

 

 

 

3 Home Amenities Likely To Grown In Demand

Three Home Amenities Likely to Grow in Demand
Courtesy of NAR/Better Homes and Gardens

Certain features that home buyers now consider “nice-to-have” may soon move into the “must-have” category in the near future.

According to a recent blog post by BH&G Real Estate, the following three amenities will most likely grow in demand among home shoppers.

1. ENERGY EFFICIENT APPLIANCES
Energy-Efficent-Appliances

Home owners are spending more of their income on utility bills and that will motivate them to want to find homes with more energy efficient, cost-effective appliances. Energy Star-qualified appliances are on the rise, as are smarter appliances like dishwashers and washers.  Homebuilders say that energy efficient homes and appliances are a top priority of new home buyers.

2. STAINLESS STEEL APPLIANCE ALTERNATIVES
slate this oneStainless steel appliances have dominated the market, but home owners seem to have a love-hate relationship with them, primarily because they are difficult to keep clean. White ice and slate are increasingly growing in popularity.  Slate is being touted as an easy choice to blend in with other black, white, or stainless steel finishes. It also resists fingerprints and washes easily.  Classic white appliances offer a bright and fresh appearance, pairing well with white cabinetry and contrasting beautifully with darker woods. 
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3. SMART HOMES
SmartHomeGraphic
More homes are expected to be controlled via mobile devices in the coming years. Appliances and home systems can be turned on, off, or programmed via phones and tablets.  Smart refrigerators are emerging that have built-in apps that can create grocery shopping lists and smart ovens can be remotely controlled to start dinner or check on the status of what’s cooking. Surveys reveal that more home owners want the ability to control and monitor their appliances from anywhere.

The Brandee Kelley Group LOVES houses and each team member strives to keep up-to-date on all matters pertaining to real estate, including housing trends.  Please feel free to contact us to discuss your housing needs.


Real Estate by the Numbers

Real Estate By The Numbers
Adapted from an article by Realtor.com

MAIN pic by the numbersWhether you currently own or are planning to buy a home, you may wonder how you stack up to everybody else when it comes to looking for and buying a house. Realtor.com compiled data that tell the story of today’s average home buyers—-from how much people pay to how long they stay. Check them out, and see where you stand.

64 new_Fotor

32 new_Fotor

10 new_Fotor

292700 new_Fotor

51 new_Fotor

32141 new_Fotor

3_Fotor

2679 new_Fotor

13 new_Fotor

88 new_Fotor

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Contact the Brandee Kelley Group’s preferred lender, Don Kelly at Affiliated Bank for up-to-the-minute accurate mortgage rates and information.

To turn the above numbers to your advantage, contact Brandee at 817-635-1141.

Can You Buy & Sell A Home At The Same Time–Without Losing Your Mind???


If selling and buying simultaneously is the only way to go, here’s what you need to know to make sure both processes go as smoothly as possible.

ENGAGE WITH A REALTOR® AND A MORTGAGE LENDER

Before you start searching for a new home and/or put your current home on the market, you need the services of a REALTOR® who knows your market. An experienced agent will give you realistic advice on what you can expect in selling your home and finding the home of your dreams at a fair price.

You also need to engage with a knowledgeable mortgage expert, as financing options play an important role in a dual transaction.  Understanding options that are available to you can help you in the decision-making process.

PLAN YOUR FINANCES CAREFULLY
Should you buy first, then sell—or vice versa? Both have their risks and rewards. SELLING first makes getting a mortgage easier, but it also means you’ll need to find a temporary place to live. BUYING first means moving will be easier, but it also skews your debt-to-income ratio, making it harder to qualify for a new mortgage.

Whichever option you choose, make sure you’re prepared to accept the consequences: having to store your household belongings and rent temporarily, or undergoing the financial burden of two monthly mortgage payments.

Even if you’ve planned to sell your home first and are prepared to rent while searching for a new home, know that even the best-laid plans go can go awry—and you still might end up juggling two mortgages.

STUFF HAPPENS
When it comes to buying and selling real estate, all sorts of unplanned and unforeseen events can happen to derail even the best of plans. Your buyer may not get approved for his financing. The house you’ve made an offer on may not pass inspection, or an inspector may find repairs that need to be made, resulting in delayed closings. Perhaps the seller of the home you’re buying isn’t ready to move out when you need possession of your new home.

KNOW THE FINANCIAL SOLUTIONS AVAILABLE TO YOU
If you choose to sell first, the process is relatively straightforward; you’ll simply incur the temporary cost of a rental home. However, there is the option of a rent-back agreement, where you negotiate with the lenders and buyers to remain in your current home for a defined period of time after closing, usually in exchange for a lower selling price or rent paid to the buyers. This can relieve some of the pressure of buying and closing on your new home, but many buyers cannot or will not agree to this arrangement.

If you’re buying first, your REALTOR® can suggest ways to decrease your financial risk. The two most popular options for buyers are:

1. Contract contingency: Buyers can request that their new home purchase be dependent on the successful sale of their old home. This is sometimes successful in a Buyer’s market, but in a highly competitive market, this is likely not an option.  The entire Dallas/Fort Worth real estate market is indeed very competitive right now, so you are better off obtaining a Bridge loan.

2. Bridge loans allow you to own two homes simultaneously if you don’t have funds for a second down payment. This option is especially attractive if you planned to sell your home first and use the proceeds to buy your new home. It functions as a short-term loan, and usually is repaid at the closing of your original home.

DON’T LET FEAR RUSH YOU
If your home has sold but you haven’t found a new home that you really want, don’t let anxiety push you toward a bad decision. You are better off to plan on a short-term rental so you’re not forced into making a quick decision on a home purchase.  And don’t let anxiety force you to accept an offer that you feel is too low just because your finances are strained by two mortgages. If you have a temporary apartment set up, you’re less likely to compromise.
The team members of the Brandee Kelley Group know that buying and selling a home simultaneously can be stressful. We help clients in these situations every day, and we can help you. Call our office at 817-635-1141 to schedule an appointment to discuss your housing needs. You may also visit our website at http://brandeekelleygroup.kwrealty.com/ to find out what your current home is worth and search the MLS for homes for sale with all the criteria important to you.

Don Kelly at Affiliated Bank is truly a local expert in mortgage financing. Feel free to contact Don with any questions you have about mortgage qualifications and interim financing relative to your financial circumstances.
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By relying on our expertise, planning for the hurdles you may encounter, and learning the options available, you CAN sell your current home and buy the home you want.