Central Alabama Market Update–August 2018

adult-attractive-beautiful-935743The Central Alabama real estate market is among the most affordable and generally stable markets in the US.  The average home sold in August 2018 in our Central Alabama area was $165,727.¹ Most recent published data from HUD indicates national average price of existing homes is upwards of $243,833 with average new home prices considerably higher at $328,000.² While many other parts of the country are experiencing major price increases and lack of inventory, the Central Alabama market overall is more in balance with a hint of a sellers market–just under a 5 month supply of homes.  July data does show that demand is up and supply is down in our area, but prices have gone up only a modest 2% comparing year over year data. ³ Average days on the market in the Central Alabama region has been hoovering around 90 days for quite some time with nearly half (48%) of the homes selling in under 60 days, but over 11% selling after over a year.¹

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Data and chart above obtained from The University of Alabama, Culverhouse College of Commerce, Alabama Center for Real Estate, July 2018 update.³

Central Alabama Real Estate-August 2018 Market Update (1)

Data obtained from Montgomery Area Association of Realtors (MAAR) for August 2018 Residential Sales¹

 

Keep in mind that markets vary by neighboorhood.   If you are interested in a more detailed breakdown of market trends by your particular zip code or neighborhood, let me know and I’ll send you a free report:  Free Market Report for Your Neighborhood! 

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¹Montgomery Area Association of Realtors, Multiple Listing Service, August 2018 residential sales data.

²Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, QTR 1 FY 2018 data.

³The University of Alabama, Culverhouse College of Commerce, Alabama Center for Real Estate, Montgomery area market report, July 2018 update.

 

 

 

5 MAJOR FACTORS IN PRICING A HOME

adult-advice-american-1050297When you put your home up for sale, one of the best ways to determine the asking price is to look at comparable sales. There’s rarely a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, so a pricing decision often relies on comparisons to several recent sales in the area. Here are five criteria to look for in a sales comparison.

 

  1. Location: Homes in the same neighborhood typically follow the same market trends. Comparing your home to another in the same neighborhood is a good start, but comparing it to homes on the same street or block is even better.  When dealing wih unique properties and rural properties, setting a value can get complicated.  Home valuation models typically vary greatly on these homes,
  2. Date of sale: It varies by location, but housing markets can see a ton of fluctuation in a short time period. It‘s best to use the most recent sales data available.
  3. Home build: Look for homes with similar architectural styles, numbers of bathrooms and bedrooms, square footage, and other basics.
  4. Features and upgrades: Remodeled bathrooms and kitchens can raise a home’s price, and so can less flashy upgrades like a new roof or HVAC system. Be sure to look for similar bells and whistles and home condition.
  5. Sale types: Homes that are sold as short sales or foreclosures are often in distress or sold at a lower price than they’d receive from a more typical sale. These homes are not as useful for comparisons.  The same may apply to sales between family members.

Let us help you price your home right the first time around ! You might be surprised at what your home is worth!  For a general idea of your home’s value, hop on over to my automated home valuation and see what it says:  Instant home value estimate

Real Estate Market Trends:  Part 2

What to Expect for 2018—Home Values

real estate trendsLast month, our blog included a review of  the state and the Montgomery area residential real estate markets.  (If you missed it, you can take a look at the previous blog, “Real Estate Market Trends:  Part 1”).   We learned that by the end of 2017 the supply of residential homes for sale was down compared to the previous December and that the number of home sales and home prices were on the upswing.  Although the Montgomery market is overall not as robust as the state, trends are showing significant positive improvements.

As we head into spring and the beginning of our most active real estate season in Central Alabama, a common question we hear is, “What’s the outlook for area real estate for 2018?”

What most people are interested in are the price and value of homes and most importantly what that means for their home and for them personally. 

In fact, this local market information is extremely important for those considering buying or selling as well as homeowners interested in their equity position for possible refinance or eventual sale. 

Nationally and statewide, we expect continued real estate growth in 2018, including continued price increases.  But what about our local area?

WILL HOME VALUES CONTINUE TO RISE?

Nationally, prices are expected to increase in 2018 with predictions of 3 percent growth rate.  1   We anticipate a similar trend for 2018 in our local area based on the rising trend in home prices in the Montgomery region over the past several years, including 2017.  Data from the University of Alabama show the historical median selling price in Montgomery has steadily risen since 2014, from $130,000 to $147,750 in 2016.  Montgomery area Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data from 2017 show the overall average sales price in 2017 was $167,792, up approximately 5% from 2016 levels. 2

ARE THERE MARKET DIFFERENCES BY COUNTY?

The short answer to this is a resounding YES!   Let’s look at some data and check out the details!

In general, in 2017 the average price of homes  sold (including resale and new construction) were highest in Autauga County and Lowest in Montgomery and Elmore.  The average home sold price in the Montgomery Area MLS in 2017 of $158,368 was just slightly lower than the average sold price of $165,019 for Montgomery County.  Elmore County residential sold property averaged $172,645.  Autauga County topped the ranking of the three counties for price, coming in at an average sale price of $193,087.  (The overall Montgomery Area MLS data includes other areas not included in the three counties mentioned here, which accounts for the differences in average price.)  You can take a look at the chart to see the ovrall pattern between counties and new construction homes by county.

AVERAGE MONTGOMERY AREA HOME SALE PRICES (Overall, New Construction and Selected Counties) :

2017 Central Alabama Home Sale Prices

Average price of  all area homes (ALL) and new construction (NC) and breakdown by selected county for Montgomery (MGM), Autauga (AUT) and Elmore (ELM). Data from the Montgomery Area Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for the period January 2017 through December 2017).

WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF NEW CONSTRUCTION ?

You can see in the chart above that the overall average home price is influenced by the much higher home prices commanded by new construction across the area and in the three counties shown.   New construction in the Central Alabama region is clearly contributing to home sales in our market and to the average price of homes.  New construction residential homes across the Montgomery MLS sold at an average price of $263,294 in 2017.  Montgomery County led the average sold price in new construction homes at $293,283.  Autauga County followed with an average new construction home sold price of $246,035.  Elmore county new construction sold at an average price of $214,568.  

New construction is especially important in keeping up with the dwindling inventory of available homes to meet the needs of buyers.   Growth in home sales nationally will be driven largely by new home sales, which is expected to continue to increase with single-family construction according to economists at Freddie Mac.3     Volume of new construction sold in the Montgomery region is also up markedly over the past few years, with an increase of 25 percent in 2017 over 2014 levels.  (691 new construction units sold in 2017 compared with 553 new construction units sold in 2014). 

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

Home prices in Central Alabama are on the rise and demand is increasing.  

If you’re looking to get into the market either to buy or sell, now could be the time you’ve been waiting for.  If you’ve been thinking of selling and possibly purchasing another home, prices and market competition are on your side to transition you to a new home.  If you’re thinking about buying, there are many great options for financing available so that you can start your road to home ownership and build equity.  But if you’re concerned about rising prices and home affordability in our area, keep in mind the the nationwide median price based on residential sales is $335,000! 4

WHERE CAN YOU GET HELP?

While national, state and regional real estate numbers and predictions can provide a “big-picture” outlook, real estate is neighborhood and home specific.  As a local market expert, I can guide you through the specifics of our market and  help you understand the factors that are likely to drive home values in your particular neighborhood.   As a Certified Pricing Strategy Advisor by the National Association of Realtors, I can help ensure you have comprehensive information concerning the value of your home—whether you are buying or selling.  If you have specific questions, or would like more information about area real estate, please give me a call!  Id love to discuss the market and help you sort through your plans to buy or a sell a home this year or in the future. 

Sources:

1. National Association of Realtors 2018 Housing Forecast: https://www.realtor.com/research/2018-national-housing-forecast/

2.     The University of Alabama, Culverhouse College of Commerce, Montgomery Residential Report:  http://d1ambw9zjiu0uw.cloudfront.net/market_monthly/38.pdf?1517347328

3. Freddie Mac:  http://www.freddiemac.com/research/outlook/20170921_looking_ahead_to_2018.html

3. Housing and Urban Development/HUD:  https://www.hud.gov/press/press_releases_media_advisories/HUD_No_18_007

The Consumer’s Guide to Hiring an Amazing Real Estate Agent

Amazing RE CG Superhero

When you’re buying or selling a home, it’s crucial to work with a qualified real estate agent. Not just a professional, but an amazing agent and a market expert. So how do you ensure you’re hiring an amazing real estate agent?

There are currently more than two million real estate professionals in North America.1,2 With so many options to choose from, how does a prospective home buyer or seller choose the right agent or broker? According to the National Association of Realtors®, trust and reputation are the top deciding factors consumers use when hiring an agent.3

But how do you measure trust and reputation … and what criteria can be used to help you make your decision?

In this guide, we’ve outlined the top attributes that amazing agents possess, as well as the questions you can ask to make sure you’re working with the right market expert to achieve your real estate goals.

5 ATTRIBUTES OF AN AMAZING AGENT

Not all real estate professionals are the same. Following are five key attributes of amazing agents to help you understand what makes top agents and market experts stand apart from the competition:

1. A Pricing Specialist: For buyers, amazing agents have a strong understanding of market trends to help you identify and secure a deal to ensure you get the home you want, within your desired budget, and at a reasonable price. For sellers, market experts have experience pricing homes optimally for the market, helping you sell for your desired price, and avoid costs like additional mortgage and utility payments.  

Takeaway: Whether buying or selling a home, pricing can be tricky. Market experts can help navigate best-possible pricing strategies, and also secure the home you want within your budget.

2. An Effective Time Manager: The average agent may not be utilizing the latest tools and technology to make the transaction easier and more cost effective for you. Market experts have tools and strategies at their disposal to minimize the amount of time you spend on the process. For sellers, they can also ensure you only deal with qualified buyers, not “window shoppers” who waste your time. For buyers, a market expert knows how to prioritize your needs and wants to find you the ideal home within your budget, without wasting your time on houses that aren’t a fit or are likely turn up major issues in an inspection.

Takeaway: Even a well-intentioned agent may not have the skills, tools or technology to make the experience easy for you. There are lots of hidden activities that may take up unexpected time, and a market expert will save you time and energy.

3. A Market Insider: While most agents can pull market stats about a neighborhood, community or city, they may not understand important trends or developments that would affect your transaction. Market experts live and breathe local real estate and know the trigger points for buying and selling in your market. We also stay current on effective marketing and negotiation practices, resulting in our track record of success.

Takeaway: An experienced real estate agent is often the best source of information about a city, neighborhood, or even street … we’re literally conducting market research every day.

4. A Strong Negotiator: Amazing agents truly set themselves apart in their ability to negotiate. Real estate negotiations take skill, experience and a knowledge of how to fight for your client’s best interests. While any agent can enter negotiations to buy or sell a home, experienced Realtors understand what to do before entering negotiations (establishing the upper hand), as well as during the process (when to offer or accept concessions) in order to set up the best outcome to represent your interests.

Takeaway: Working with a market expert will help ensure you get the best deal on your terms, not just the fastest deal.

5. An Effective Closer: Closing a deal fast is often a good thing. However, top real estate professionals know how to not only achieve your real estate goals quickly, but in the right way to avoid pitfalls. Just like negotiations, the paperwork and process of closing a real estate transaction are complicated. Market experts have a strong understanding of the contracts, timelines, clauses and contingencies within the closing process.

Takeaway: Real estate transactions often involve a significant investment, so even a small mistake can mean serious trouble. With that in mind, it’s best to work with a true market expert.

5 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR REAL ESTATE AGENT

The first step would be to “shop around.” Many people work with the first agent they come across without a firm understanding of their level of experience or education. It’s always a good idea to interview a number of agents before selecting one. If you’ve gotten referrals from people you trust, then you may only need to interview 2-3 agents.

However, it can be tough to know what to ask in the interview process. Here are some questions that can help you qualify the best agent to help you achieve your real estate goals:

1.     Can you send me some information about yourself? Look for professionalism and consistency. What are their accomplishments? See how they approach their work. If they’re a newer agent, that’s ok, ask about their specialized training, previous relevant work accomplishments, and their team’s dynamic and accomplishments.

2.     How long have you been in real estate? While longevity can be important, don’t be fooled by just sticking with the status quo.  It is more important to be up-to-date.  Also, consider the quality of transactions they have closed or been involved in.  So feel free to also ask: “What’s your track record?”

3.     What will you do to keep me informed? Will the agent be able to meet your expectations? Determine how much communication you want, and then find an agent who will give you the attention and time you deserve.

4.     Can you provide me with further resources I may need? From market reports and pricing trends to lenders, inspectors, and reference materials on school performance and crime statistics, top agents should have resources at their disposal … or know where to find them.

5.     Seller only: Can you share with me your plan to market my property? Many agents will simply put your home in the MLS and wait for it to sell. An amazing agent should have a detailed plan of how to get your home exposure on social media, to their local networks, and more.

GET STARTED

Now that you’re armed with the 5 Attributes of Amazing Agents and the Top Questions to ensure you work with the best possible real estate agent, you’re ready to start interviewing agents.

We’d love an opportunity to win your business. Schedule a free consultation with us to find out how true market experts can help you achieve your real estate goals!

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Sources:

  1. National Association of REALTORS – https://www.nar.realtor/field-guides/field-guide-to-quick-real-estate-statistics
  2. Financial Post – http://business.financialpost.com/personal-finance/mortgages-real-estate/canada-housing-bubble-agents/wcm/b49d4e3a-bd8d-4d1c-9566-bd3d80c8e23a
  3. National Association of REALTORS –https://www.nar.realtor/reports/highlights-from-the-profile-of-home-buyers-and-sellers

Home not selling? Now what?

Home not selling-

When things don’t go as planned in the sale of a home, it can be easy for a seller to give up on the excitement to move that they once had. You may even be sitting there reading this thinking that it’s best to throw the towel in and give up on the dream of selling, or to wait for an extended period “when the market is better,” or to question whether or not to even work with a real estate agent.

Gone are the days when an agent could just input a listing in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), put a sign in the yard, and sit back and wait for another agent to sell the house for them. If all it took to sell a house was simply a sign and putting it in the MLS, wouldn’t everyone be selling their homes themselves? By now, don’t you owe yourself more than the status quo?

 

It’s time for a new approach: It’s time for a new agent, new marketing, new buyers, and most of all… new possibilities.

  •  Staging – Did you know that staging a home to sell is different than making your home look beautiful for your everyday living? Feedback buyers often give of homes that don’t sell is that they couldn’t envision themselves living in it given the current owner’s choice of furnishings, let alone if there is clutter or imperfections. The National Association of REALTORS® states that the average staging investment is between 1 and 3% of the home’s asking price and generates a return of 8 to 10%. In our particular market, when price and general location are equal, the home that shows the best generates the most interest and will benefit from the exposure to potential buyers. I am professionally trained in home staging, and I will provide you with suggestions, guidance, and honest feedback to help you properly stage your home to get it sold.

  •  High Quality Photography – Over 90% of buyers begin their home searches online, so first impressions matter. This is why I take my time to take high quality professional photographs using high quality digital equipment, off camera lighting, and post processing software to ensure we show your property in the best light from the very beginning.

  •  Online Placement and Social Media Promotion – You may have heard of real estate syndicate websites like realtor.com, zillow.com, trulia.com and others. You are probably also familiar with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. I am certified in real estate digital marketing (e-Pro®). In addition to more traditional marketing strategies, I will be using the appropriate online tools and platforms to ensure optimum exposure of your property to potential buyers.

  •  Responsiveness – The statistics are clear– the modern internet consumer moves fast and expects us to do the same. According to a study done by MIT, even a 30 minute delay in responding to customer inquiries significantly reduces the likelihood of ever making contact. Is there any wonder why the average real estate agent misses so many opportunities to identify buyers for their sellers? Also, when other agents are planning showings for their buyers, they may overlook a listing if the selling agent has not responded to them. I am dedicated to prompt responses to all my calls, texts and e-mails, whether from you or from your potential buyer!

    INTERESTED IN MORE DETAILS?
    Please call/text or e-mail me. It’s my pleasure to help you. You may reach me by phone or text at 334-201-5034, or through e-mail at: Sheila@4WallzRE.com.

    For more about me please browse my website find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SheilaMeuseRealtor/

Ultimately, my goals are your goals–to sell your property for the most money possible, to close on time with no hassles, and in the process re-connect you with the excitement and optimism you originally felt upon first listing.

Please contact me to find out more about the many services included in my comprehensive Property Marketing Plan that will be customized for you to get your home SOLD and not just listed.

Are you still interested in selling your home if you could get the right offer?

If so, we should talk.

Increase Your Home’s Value Up to 28% with These 5 Tips

PA - April 2017 - Digital Marketing Campaign - Social Media Image

Great curb appeal not only makes your home the star of the neighborhood, it can also improve its value and help you sell it for more. Whether you’re thinking of listing your home or just want to make your home the envy of your neighbors, here are several ways to increase your home’s curb appeal.

  1. Make your home’s exterior look like new.

For many potential buyers, the condition of the exterior of a home can offer clues to the condition of the interior. The first place to start when boosting curb appeal is the exterior of your house.

Paint. Paint is the best way to make your home appear newer. While you can paint your home yourself, if it’s large or more than one story, consider hiring a professional. Painting is a fairly inexpensive improvement with between 60 to 100 percent return on investment.1

Maintain your siding. Over time, weather and the elements can make your home’s siding appear dull and dirty. Use a pressure washer to clean stains, spider webs and accumulated dirt and grime, or use a soft cloth and a household cleaner to get into those small nooks and spaces. Although the average life expectancy of siding ranges from 60 to 100 years, depending on the material, extreme weather may reduce this number. If you need to replace the siding, you’ll enjoy a 77 percent return on investment.1

Paint or replace garage doors. If your garage doors are in good condition, give them a new coat of paint. If they’re beginning to show their age, consider replacing them. Not only are new garage doors more energy efficient and better insulated than older models, they also have a 91.5 percent return on investment.1

Maintain your fence. Replace rotted or worn posts and panels and freshen it up with a coat of paint. If you have a hedge that serves as your property’s border, keep it trimmed and in good shape.

  1. Pay attention to the small details.

The small details tie your home’s exterior together and help it stand out from others in the neighborhood.

Paint front door, trim and shutters. This inexpensive improvement adds brightness to a home, whether you choose a bold color, a neutral tone or classic white.

Install new door fixtures and be sure they match in style and finish and complement the style of your home.

Update your house numbers. Make sure potential buyers and guests can find your home. If the numbers have faded or need an update, replace them. If choosing a metallic finish, make sure it matches the finish of your exterior light fixtures.

  1. Tend to your driveway and lawn.

Well-landscaped homes may sell for between 5.5% and 12.7% more than other similar homes and studies show it may also add up to 28 percent to your home’s overall value.5

Place a border along your driveway or walkway made of brick, stone, pavers or another hardscape element to add visual interest to a plain driveway.

Maintain your green space. If you have grass, a well-maintained, green lawn makes your home look inviting and picturesque. However, in many parts of the country, water conservation is becoming more important. Xeriscaped landscapes incorporate drought-tolerant vegetation that thrives in warm, dry climates, such as lavender, sage, wisteria and agave, with water-saving drip irrigation and mulch. Xeriscaping has a cost savings of 36 cents per square foot annually through reduced irrigation and maintenance costs.3 Additionally, these landscapes are virtually maintenance free, which makes it an attractive option for busy buyers.

Include trees and shrubs to create texture and add interest to your landscape. Planting a few types of trees and shrubs of varying heights, widths and flowering times boosts your home’s curb appeal year-round.

  1. Make it feel inviting.

It’s no secret that emotions play a role in a person’s decision to purchase a home. Stage the outside of your home to evoke warm feelings.

Stage your porch. If you have a front porch, make it feel more inviting by including seating, such as a chair or loveseat, an outdoor rug and a small table. If space is an issue, incorporate small decorative touches, such as a festive wreath or potted plant.

Hang flower boxes on your front porch railings and/or below your windows. If you don’t want to affix flower boxes to your home, purchase nice planters and containers and place them around your porch or on your front steps.

Choose flowers and plants that bloom at different times of the year for year-round appeal. For example, bulbs not only bloom all spring, they also multiply and come up every year. Perennials often flower for most of the year and will prevent you from having to replant them every year.

If you don’t have a green thumb, choose low maintenance plants and flowers. Flowers such as lavender, rosemary, and zinnias are a few low-maintenance and drought-tolerant options.

  1. Boost Your Online “Curb Appeal.”

For those interested in selling, it’s important to know the effect online curb appeal has on a home. The better impression your home gives online, the more likely buyers will want to see it in person. Here’s how to get your home ready for its listing debut.

Stage your home. Staging shows your home in its best light and helps potential buyers picture themselves living there.

Hire a professional to take photos. A photographer has the skills and equipment to shoot your home in the best light and make it look its best.

Include a short video tour of the home. Videos are becoming a popular way to give buyers a glimpse of the home before they step foot in it.

Before you start a home project, keep these four things in mind:

  1. Why are you renovating? In other words, is your intention to update your home and get it show-ready or do you want to sell it for more money? Don’t fall into the trap of undertaking major renovations that may not pay off when you sell. If your home is in good shape, a few inexpensive updates may be enough to make your home attractive to buyers.
  2. The style of the neighborhood. Whenever you renovate your home, make sure the project fits with the style of the neighborhood and rules of the homeowner association. For example, an HOA may limit the choice and number of trees you can plant on your property. Similarly, a tall hedge border may not fit in in a neighborhood of low, picket fences.
  3. Permits. If you’re planning an extensive exterior renovation, you may need a permit from your municipality or other authority.
  4. Budget. A budget keeps your project’s costs and scope in check. Make a list of the improvements you’d like to make, set a realistic budget and stick to it. If you’d like advice on improvements you can make to boost your home’s curb appeal, give us a call.

Are you thinking of boosting your home’s curb appeal or renovating your home before you list? Do you want help making your home more appealing to potential buyers online and in-person? Give me a call/text and I’ll help you present your home in its best light.

Sources: 1. Remodeling, 2016 Cost vs Value Report

  1. Realtor Mag, September 22, 2016
  2. REALTOR.com
  3. Houzz, Houzz & Home-U.S., June 2016
  4. Houselogic.com

Prattville Real Estate Market Watch–Update

A strengthening market in Prattville

by Sheila Meuse

20161024-prattville-al-home

Our local Central Alabama area real estate markets vary widely.  In some areas there is a solid buyer’s market and the ample supply of homes gives buyers an advantage in negotiating the best deal.   Prattville seems to be leading the way toward a better balance in home supply with a continued trend toward a seller’s market.    Compared with the available homes for sale, the trend from August has continued into September with fewer listings and steady home sales.  This emerging trend is showing a continued strengthening of the Prattville real estate market, especially when compared with the same time period last year.

Stable demand, fewer competing listings, higher median prices

Overall in the Prattville real estate market, conditions are continuing to reflect improvements in the market.  Out of 104 Prattville single family residential active listings in September 2016, there were 26 homes sold.  During the same period a year ago , there were 25 sales, however there were 146 listings for buyers to choose from.  There are only 87 currently active single family residential listings in Prattville as of today.  

Median prices are up too!  Based on statistics from the Montgomery Area Association of Realtors, Multiple Listing Service (MLS), in September 2016, Prattville of the 26 single family residential homes sold, the average (median) unit cost was $ 176,150.  Although home sales for September 2015 were at a similar pace (25 sales) they were at a significant lower average (median) price per sold unit of $160,000 a year ago.  

Selling faster!

Homes that sold are selling faster!  Average days on the market for Prattville homes that have sold is going down significantly.  That’s good news especially for sellers!  In September 2016, homes that sold were on the market an median average of only 34 days.  This compares with more than double that time, 78 days, for homes that sold back in September 2015 in Prattville.  Overall in the River Region, homes that sold averaged 63 median days on the market. Prattville seems to be leading the way.  Our area and Alabama in general, however, are lagging behind the nation in days to sell.  Many states had median days to sell at fewer than 31 days.  Only Alabama and Wyoming had a median of over 90 days from listing to home sale according to an article published recently by the National Association of Realtors: http://economistsoutlook.

Inventory trending downward

Our local MLS data continue to show a decrease in the number of single family residential listings available in  Prattville.  Based on the rate of sales, the inventory of available single family residential homes is only about a 3-4 month supply.  A six month housing supply is considered a balanced market, with a supply less than six months favoring sellers.   If you’re thinking of selling, now could be a good time to get your home on the market!  If you’re thinking of buying, don’t hesitate–between overall low home prices compared with the rest of the nation and historically low interest rates–this could be a great opportunity for you!

I provide expert real estate services to residential buyers and sellers in the Central Alabama area, including Prattville and the surrounding communities. Contact me today for more information on area real estate and for professional assistance navigating this complex home market.  Contact me for a complimentary buyer or seller consultation.

The Home Equity Playbook

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What is Home Equity?

Home equity seems to be a very simple calculation — the total amount of mortgages owed subtracted from the current market value of a home. Here is a simple example:

Current Home Market Value               $325,000
Existing Mortgage                                    $225,000
Homeowner Equity                                  $100,000

One side of the equation is well defined, and it is found on the monthly mortgage statement, the loan balance. The other side is less obvious — the current market value of the property.

As a homeowner, your down payment purchases your initial equity, and your monthly (or additional) principal payments increase your equity. In strong real estate markets and in-demand locations, equity can increase quite rapidly as the property value increases, but the inverse can also happen — too much available inventory and market down-cycles can lead to falling home values and a reduction in homeowner equity.

It can be difficult to put an accurate value on something that you have emotional and monetary vesting in. It is safe to say that most people think their home is worth more than then it is.

Homeowners can make savvy assessments about their home’s current market value by following the sales of similar properties in the neighborhood, but should be very cautions of websites such as Zillow and Trulia, which provide inaccurate and outdated estimates. The most accurate measurement requires a comparative market analysis from a real estate professional or having the home professionally appraised. But, the bottom line — your home is worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it.

Creating Value is in Your Hands

Maintaining the condition of a home is vitally important to retaining and increasing value. Homes are judged against their peers: how they compare to similar homes in the neighborhood. Another way to retain value is to not over upgrade, since it is rare to ever recoup the money spent if you exceed neighborhood value. Keep up the landscaping and do the little things to add curb appeal.

Putting Home Equity to Work

Home equity represents the largest single asset of millions of people, and because it represents so much of an individual’s net worth, it must be treated with respect. Home equity is not a liquid asset until a property is sold or it is borrowed against.
There are two types of loans that tap into homeowner equity as collateral:

Home Equity Loans
Many home equity plans set a fixed period during which the person can borrow money, such as 10 years. At the end of this “draw period,” the person may be allowed to renew the credit line. If the plan does not allow renewals, the homeowner will not be able to borrow additional money once the period has ended. Some plans may call for payment in full of any outstanding balance at the end of the period. Others may allow repayment over a fixed period, for example, of 10 years. A home equity loan, sometimes called a second mortgage, usually has a fixed rate and a set time to pay it back, generally with equal monthly payments.

Home Equity Line of Credit
A home equity line of credit is similar to a credit card. The lender sets a maximum amount you can borrow, and you can draw money as you need it, though many home equity lines of credit require an initial draw. The interest rate varies daily, and is usually prime plus a set number, but the required payment is usually interest only. Once the loan has been paid down, the payment is reduced, and it can be paid off and initiated as many times as a homeowner requires.

How Much Equity can be Accessed?

Since the financial institution is lending money and using a home as collateral, they will not typically lend 100% of the home’s equity. The bank does not want to take the risk that if the house price drops, they would be carrying a loan for more than its market value. Therefore, most banks will allow a qualified homeowner to borrow approximately 80% of their equity.

It’s Important to Use Your Home Equity Wisely

Because it is likely the biggest asset most people have, losing your home equity is hard to overcome. It must be used in prudent ways, and the payments against the loan must be affordable. Using equity money to make the loan payment is only acceptable for a short-term solution.

There are number of good reasons to use money from a home equity loan… and some really bad ones.

First, let’s cover smart uses:

1. Invest in Your Home

The best way to use the money is create more equity in the home. Among the very best returns on your investment (ROI) include kitchen and bathroom remodels, adding square footage or an extra bath, enhancing curb appeal and repairing/keeping the existing structure sound. Making prudent investments in your home is a wonderful win-win: you enjoy the upgrades and the repairs can add value to the home.

2. Invest in your Children’s Education

Using your home equity to finance a child’s higher education may be the greatest payoff of all. Not only is the rate much lower than a student loan, it is an investment in the child’s future.

3. Supplement Retirement Needs

Older homeowners spent their working lives paying down their mortgage. At retirement, when monthly income is reduced, a home equity loan could pay for a dream vacation or an unexpected major expense.

4. Augment the Impending Sale of a Home

If you’re planning to sell soon, a home equity line of credit may be the best way to finance improvements, and you can pay it off entirely when you sell. Investing wisely on upgrades and repairs may even reap a profit on your investment.

Here are some examples of some not very wise choices:

Adding luxury amenities like a swimming pool, a hot spa, lavish landscaping, expensive appliances and exotic countertops and flooring rarely pay off.

Purchasing a car or boat or most any personal luxury items is a poor use of the funds, since these items quickly depreciate in value.

Also stay away from using money on risk-heavy investments. Financing stock purchases, start-up businesses and paying routine bills is not financially smart. If you cannot afford to purchase those items with available funds, using equity from your home means they should not be in your budget.

You should treat a home equity loan as an investment and not as extra cash when making financial decisions. If your intended use of the money doesn’t pay you back in some way, it’s not likely to be the best use of your valuable equity.

I am Happy to Assist You

If you would like an assessment of the market value of your home and the current equity you may be able to access, contact me for a comparative market analysis.