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Archive for the tag “Home and Garden”

Conditions prime for home buying in 2012

Source: Courant HomeFinder Digest

With the housing market and mortgage industry gearing up for their peak season in home buying activity, a number of indications from both sectors could mean the most successful season in years.

Mortgage application activity on the rise

According to a recent report from the Mortgage Bankers Association, home loan activity rose 1.4 percent during the week ending May 4.  This overall increase was spurred by an upswing of purchase requests, as the refinancing share of the index declined.

Refinancing requests fell marginally to 72.1 percent from 72.6 percent a week earlier, the report found.  In addition, government initiatives such as the Home Affordable Refinance Program and Home Affordable requests from distressed borrowers as the Government Refinance Index fell 2.3 percent from the previous week.

These trends of rising purchase applications and decreasing refinance activity could be an indicator that the housing market is growing stronger.  The fact that the refinance share of mortgage application activity has trended lower during recent weeks could be a result of more current homeowners choosing to keep their home loans under the same structure as they gear up to sell their properties.

Home loan delinquencies declining

The mortgage delinquency rate of borrowers who were more than 60 days late on their home loan payments was down during the first quarter this year to a rate of just 5.78 percent.  This marks both an  annual and month-over-month decline, according to a report from TransUnion.  This is the lowest the rate has been since the beginning of 2009.  As a potential result, this could give lenders the confidence they need to extend more lines of credit to prospective borrowers in the coming months.

“To see that quarter-over-quarter, and year-over-year, more homeowners were able to make their mortgage payments is certainly welcome news, “said TransUnion U.S. housing financial services business unit Vice President Tim Martin.  “Before this, we saw two quarters of delinquency increases and while we are still about three times above the pre-recession norm, this should mark the start of consistent improvement each quarter.”

Prior to this decline, the delinquency rate had fallen for six straight quarters until climbing during the final six months of 2011.

Housing affordability reaches 40-year high

Due to recent changes in mortgage rates, median housing incomes and property values, a report from Fisery and Care-Shiller found that housing affordability is currently at the highest level seen in nearly four decades.  Home prices have fallen by as much as 35 percent since the housing market’s peak, according to the report.  Property values are now at the same level they were in 1998.

“The precipitous drop in home prices was an immediate cause of the last recession and the financial crises.  Falling home equity has cut into household consumption and has further constrained the economic recovery,” said Fisery Chief Economist David Stiff.

Nowadays, at the current median household income, the average American family that purchases a home will only need to allocate 12 percent of their annual income to the investment.  Typically, experts advise not pulling more than 30 percent of annual income toward housing, which makes 12 percent a real bargain.

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In The Swim – Decisions you need to make when considering a pool for your home

Source: William Hageman – Tribune Newspapers

A swimming pool can be the crown jewel of your property, capable of turning a bland yard into an outdoor oasis.  But before you take the plunge, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons of various pools.  Here are sone things to consider:

Categories:  Aboveground and in-ground are the two main types of pools.  Above ground pools are  less expensive, less permanent and come in a choice of sidings (resin, aluminum, steel).  There are also inflatable varieties.  These are typically do-it-yourself projects.

In-ground pools – more costly, larger and permanent – come in four basic types; vinyl liner (a linter is attached to a frame built in the excavation), aluminum (a cheaper material but not as sturdy), fiberglass (a large factory into an excavation by crane) and concrete (construction on-site to your specs and available in these, professional installation is the norm.

Is it worth your while?  A key consideration – before size, depth, shape or cost is whether you are planning to stay in your home for a while.  If confronted with a foreclosure, layoff or job transfer, there are few alternatives for relocating the pool.

“An aboveground pool is not meant to be moved, but they can be,” said Dan Harrison, president of online pool and spa retailer poolandspa.com. “They have to be taken apart carefully, boxed up and moved.  With an in-ground, you’re making a very big commitment.  If you’d asked me 10, 15 years ago, those word wouldn’t have come out of my mouth, but that’s a very big concern these days.”

Design.  Harrison said have a pool design in mind before visiting and installer.  He suggested checking out pool websites or doing an online search of pool images.

“Look at 500 images, then print out five of them that you like,” he said. “Then when you’re going to the pool store, you can tell them; this is kind of what I like.  What is so important to one person might not even be on the radar of someone else.”

The design or shape of the pool will also depend on intended use.  If you want to swim laps all day, rectangular is the way to go.  If you want to host neighborhood or family gatherings with games and splashing, consider other shapes and depths.  (Above ground pools don’t provide deep and shallow ends.)

Cost.  A soft-sided, above ground pool from a big box store can cost $200 to $800.  Harrison said.  “If you took those same types of dimensions and decided on steel or aluminum sides, you’re probably talking $2,000 to $6,000 or $7,000, depending on the quality, the pattern of the lining, things like that.”

Go in-ground and the sky’s the limit.  Custom concrete can be built to any design or shape.  “You can have bar stools in it, an island, a waterfall, all that stuff”, Harrison said.  “On in-grounds you can go $15,000 to $200,000.”

Beware of additional costs such as a deck and fence. “Somebody comes to us and said they want a $30,000 pool, they have to realize you’ll have to double that for the walkway and rock and all that, “Harrison said.  “When you’re considering and aboveground, it’s the price of the pool, put it up and there you go.  An in-ground, you’re paying tens of thousands for somebody to come in and dig up the yard.  Then you need brick work, landscaping, and the deck.  You have to think of it as a total yard make-over.  There are a lot more elements to in-ground pools.  Fencing kind of gives people a heart attack.  They figure they call the fence guy because they have an acre and a half, and he tells them it’s another $12,000.”

 

Construction.  An above ground pool can be set up in a few hours if youo have capable help and have done the necessary preparation.  Tome frames for in-ground pool can vary from one to three weeks (vinyl-lined), to two weeks (fiberglass) to up to we weeks (concrete).

Life  expectenancy.  Above ground pools can last 10 or 15 years or more; their liners will need replacement in 6 to 10 years, depending on use, care and climate.  In-ground pools have longer life spans.  A vinyl liner mat have to be replaces in 10 years; a concrete pool is durable and can last for decades.  If you live in an earthquake-prone area, fiberglass may be a better choice because it has some give.

Safety.  This is one area people overlook.  Above-ground pools, protected by gates and locks are safer when it comes to children.  In-ground pools can be made safer through technology – infrared sensors, gate alarms, locks, video cameras, etc.  But homeowners are often lax.

“If you’re in the house and there are kids and there’s a pool, you have to think every second that a kids can get in that pool,” Harrison said.  “Do most people think that way?  No, but that’s the truth.”

 

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