Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cash Purchases on the Rise

The latest Confidence Index, published by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), found that more home buyers are paying cash – 33 percent in the first quarter of 2014. Usually when that number goes up, it’s because the number of distressed home sales has gone up. But in this case, the number of distressed home sales has actually gone down, a fact that has economists puzzled.

“Distressed home sales, most popular with investors who pay cash, have declined notably in the past two years, yet the share of all-cash purchases has risen,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “At the same time, investors have declined as a market share, indicating other changes have been under way.”

A number of factors could explain the increase in cash purchases:

  • Mortgage lending regulations.

  • The baby-boom generation, and its accumulated equity, is retiring and trading down.

  • Individual investors and purchasers of second or vacation homes usually pay in cash.

  • Foreign buyers typically pay cash.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Save Money through Window Treatments

Are you thinking about changing up your window treatments? Why not make them more energy-efficient and save a little money while you’re at it?

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) states that window shades can be one of the simplest and most effective window treatments for saving energy. Dual shades that are highly reflective (white) on one side and heat-absorbing (dark) on the other can be reversed with the seasons. Drapes can also be effective in any season, depending on fabric type and color.

In warm seasons, blinds and high-reflectivity film can reduce heat gain. The DOE estimates that, used correctly, blinds can reduce heat gain by as much as 45 percent. However, blinds aren’t that efficient at keeping out the cold, and film reflects sunlight regardless of the season, so these options are best for warmer climates.

For exterior changes, your best bets are awnings or overhangs. Overhangs can shade south-facing windows in the summer and, if oriented correctly, still allow sunlight in during the winter. Awnings can be quite effective in the summer, reducing solar heat gain by up to 77 percent. Plus, they add some personality and curb appeal to your home.

Tip: The key to any window treatment’s effectiveness in conserving energy is proper installation, so be sure to do your research.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Alternative Ways to Pay Your Mortgage

Are you looking for a different way to pay your mortgage? Maybe your payment is eating up all of one of your bimonthly paychecks and you’d like to spread it out. Or maybe you want to pay it off earlier. You have several options for making payments, either involving your lender or on your own.

Some lenders will set up bimonthly or biweekly payment plans for you. Paying bimonthly just splits your monthly payment in half, and you pay it twice a month. This can take the burden off your whole monthly payment coming out of one paycheck. Paying biweekly involves making half of your monthly payment every two weeks, which over the course of a year adds up to an additional monthly payment made (26 payments biweekly vs. 24 payments bimonthly). This speeds up the rate at which you pay off the loan, resulting in years being taken off the term. The drawback to paying biweekly is that most lenders charge extra fees.

If you like the idea of shortening your term but don’t want to pay extra, you can do it yourself by changing the amount you pay each month. Add an extra 1/12 of your monthly payment each month, and at the end of the year you will have made the equivalent of 13 monthly payments.

Note: Anytime you pay an amount that exceeds your monthly payment, be sure to indicate to your lender that you want the additional money to go toward the principal.