September 2013 Market Update
The annual rate of home sales rose to the highest level since 2009 in July, the jump likely boosted by formerly reluctant buyers being pushed off the sidelines by the anticipation of rising mortgage rates. As speculation continues on the date and extent of the Federal Reserve’s reduction in its purchases of unconventional assets, mortgage rates have already begun to rise and are unlikely to return to the historic lows witnessed early in the year. With rates on the move, prospective buyers would do well to take advantage of low rates while home affordability remains at historically high levels. Prices moderated slightly in July from their peak in June, likely due to seasonal variation, but maintained high year-over-year growth rates. Sellers are still well-positioned in the national market with inventory still relatively tight in many areas.
Interest rates have moved up this month: 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are currently 4.58% with 15-year rates at 3.60% and 5-year adjustable rates at 3.21%. These are the highest rates we have seen in the last two years.
Total existing home sales in July were up 6.5% from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million homes. Year-over-year home sales were up 17.2% from the July 2012 rate of 4.6 million homes. The housing market recovery is still well under way with 25 consecutive months of year-over-year growth in home sales heading into this fall.
The median existing home price in the United States in July was $213,500, down slightly from the previous month but up 13.7% from the same month last year. The median price level released by the National Association of Realtors is not seasonally adjusted and the small dip we experienced from June to July is consistent with those we have seen in the past. This is the seventeenth consecutive month of year-over-year price increases, which last occurred from January 2005 to May 2006.
A slight rise in inventory levels was evenly offset by the increase in the pace of home sales, causing the months of supply for existing homes to hold steady at 5.1 months. Total housing inventory rose by 5.6% in July to a level of 2.28 million homes. Inventory is 5% below levels reported for July of last year, which represented 6.3 months of supply at the time.
A deck is one of the most cost-effective of all home improvement projects. In fact, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2013 Cost vs. Value Report, a wood deck project returns an average of about 77% of the investment cost — one of the highest values in the survey.
You can ensure you’re getting the most from this smart investment with low-cost add-ons and special features that increase your deck’s appeal, and that will make your deck one of your home’s most enjoyable living spaces.
Hidden fasteners for decking
For years now, deck screws have been the fastener of choice. (Nails, prone to popping out over time, are old news.) Deck screws come in a useful range of colors, won’t corrode, and hold exceptionally well. However, even when installed carefully, they cover the deck with rows of little pockmarks—tiny depressions that may have splintered edges and trap dirt.
Enter the hidden fastener. This clever innovation holds deck planks down while leaving the surface looking sleek and minimalist. There are scores of hidden fasteners on the market, each of a slightly different design. One category fastens with a screw to the framing and grips the side of each plank with barbs. Another fits into a groove in the side of the plank (some composite planks come with this groove) before being fastened to the joist. Yet another type fastens from underneath the deck, firmly snugging the decking onto the joists.
Hidden fasteners are labor intensive to install, which adds a premium of about $4 per square foot compared with the cost of an installation using deck screws. However, many deck owners find the investment worthwhile, especially if they have selected composite, vinyl, or premium wood decking and want to show off these materials to best advantage.
Adding style with planters
Planters give a deck character. The various shapes and sizes of planters add texture and color. Built-in versions, often made of the same material as the decking, can be positioned to separate seating areas from cooking areas. When planted with tall plants, such as ornamental grasses, they can act as living privacy screens.
Wood planters typically are lined with galvanized sheet metal, plastic containers, or are built to conceal standard pots that are easily removed for cleaning or planting. Planters made of pressure-treated wood sometimes forego the liner altogether.
With all built-ins, some means of drainage is necessary, which may mean you’ll have to bore holes in the bottom of the container. Because excess water will drain from the bottom of your planter, you’ll need to be mindful of where you position the planter. If you hire a pro to custom build your deck planters, assume a cost of $150 to $250 labor and materials for each lineal foot of a 2-foot deep and 2-foot high built-in planter.
Built-ins aren’t your only option. Home centers offer a wide variety of planters available at prices from $10 to $200. Ceramic or cement pots can be a decorative feature, running $50 and up for a 2-foot tall container. Hanging planters (about $25 each) are a great addition to a pergola or trellis. Planters that attach to the railing ($70 for a 40-inch-long terracotta planter with metal holder) all but disappear when filled with plants.
Railings are typically required on any deck when the decking surface is more than 2 feet above ground. Railings are the most visible part of the deck from ground level and offer a great opportunity to echo the colors and architectural details of your house. However, if you are lucky enough to a have a scenic vista (or just an awfully nice yard) you won’t want the railing in the way.
One solution is a cable railing—thin stainless steel cables strung tautly between wood or metal posts. This alternative looks great, preserves the view and, at a cost of about $70 per lineal foot for a pro installation, is about $1,200 more expensive than a standard wood railing for a 16×20-foot deck. To further spare the budget, consider using cable only where the view is important and use wood elsewhere. Or, if you are handy, do it yourself for a materials cost of about $25 a lineal foot.
Overhead structures like wood pergolas and trellises help shield a deck from the sun, adding a pleasantly dappled shade pattern. However, they can be costly to install and challenging to maintain over the years.
Shade sails are a cool, eye-catching alternative. Made of UV-resistant polyethylene knit fabric, sails are triangular, square, and rectangular, and come in a variety of colors. They produce a muted, diffuse light, cutting the glare of full sunlight while still permitting light into windows adjacent to the deck. Shade is not all the sails offer. Many homeowners consider shade sails a form of aerial sculpture and delight in watching them rise and fall gently in the evening breeze.
Shade sails for a 16 x 20-foot deck would cost about $5,500 when professionally installed. (Expect to pay at least 30% more for a custom-built pergola of comparable size.) If you have a smaller installation in mind, you can buy a 12-foot triangular shade at your home center for as little as $200. However, bear in mind that a sail can exert a mighty force on a windy day and must be attached to the framing of the house or to steel or wooden poles set in concrete. A professional installation is recommended.
By: Dave Toht
If current legislation that creates a path to legalization for 11 million undocumented immigrants is passed, the nation’s Hispanic real estate leaders estimate that it would create a new pool of 3 million homeowners and pump more than $500 billion in sales, income and spending into the U.S. housing economy. According to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the chain reaction triggered by home purchases would drive demand for more than $500 billion in real estate transactions and an additional $233 billion in origination fees, real estate commissions and consumer spending associated with home-ownership.
Based on previous estimates from analysts, NAHREP officials calculate that as many as 6 million undocumented immigrants are likely to pursue legalization and possibly citizenship under the bill and up to 3 million would pursue homeownership based on the patterns of naturalized Latinos.
“Foreign-born householders have a high value and strong desire for homeownership,” says Juan Martinez, NAHREP president. “They have been here in our midst for years, working and participating in our economy. Legitimizing them through immigration reforms would finally give them the access and the confidence to buy homes.”
• Assuming past purchase trends among foreign-born householders remain consistent, half or up to 3 million of the 6 million undocumented immigrants that are expected to pursue legalization, will also buy a home once they have legal status;
• Many of the undocumented foreign-born householders have age and income characteristics associated with potential homeownership with household incomes of about $40,000;
• Up to 3 million undocumented foreign-born householders could potentially afford a home worth $173,600, the national median sales price of a home. This would generate more than $500 billion in new mortgages, and about $25 billion in mortgage origination and refinance income;
• Assuming an average of 5.5 percent in sales commissions for these home sales, these purchases would create $28 billion in income within the real estate community;
• Home purchases by 3 million legitimized immigrants would create $180 billion in additional consumer spending within local communities based on the average $60,000 in associated purchases estimated by the National Association of REALTORS® in 2012.
Other housing and corporate leaders that work closely with the underserved market agree that legalization will spark swift interest in homeownership among these Latinos because they are already established in communities here in the U.S.
“Homeownership is an integral part of the American Dream in the undocumented immigrant community.
“Immigration reform would unleash pent-up demand for homeownership by millions of undocumented immigrants. It would help re-establish homeownership as a driving force in building wealth and accelerate the recovery of the nation’s economy,” says Alejandro Becerra, a former senior housing fellow, researcher, author and recipient of the 2011 HOPE Award.Our estimates in 2004 were very conservative and we received many calls from consumers who wanted to know what lenders were offering these loans,” says Gary Acosta, NAHREP co-founder and a veteran housing leader who was chairman of NAHREP when the study was conducted. “With the possibility of a legitimate path to residency and citizenship, we expect this group to be eager to buy homes.”
In its annual policy statement issued last March, NAHREP leaders advocated for immigration reform at the federal level that would create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and their children and bring them out of the shadows.
Posted By Susanne On May 20, 2013
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