The Johnston County Association of REALTORS(r) Top Producers Council presented a $500.00 donation to Keri Christensen, Executive Director of Harbor of Johnston County.
Pictured are: Back Row: Glenn Strickland and Hensley Scott, TPC members Front Row: Dana Wooten, Association Executive for JCAR; Michelle Morok, 2015 TPC Chair; Keri Christensen, Executive Director of Harbor; and John Sadler, TPC Co-Chair.
Selling your home during the winter months can be a daunting task. The holiday season is already a hectic time of year and selling a house can be stressful. However, there are distinct advantages to selling your home at this time of year.
“The housing inventory is always lower in the winter months, meaning fewer listings and less competition,” said April Stephens, President of the Johnston County Association of REALTORS®. “ By just taking a few simple steps to prepare and stage your home, you can sell your home sooner rather than later.”
Here is some advice from the Johnston County Association of REALTORS® to make sure your house is sold at the best price and with the least amount of stress this winter:
Keep your home warm. It may seem obvious, but make sure that the moment potential buyers walk into your home they can warm up from the chilly outdoors. “This will help would-be homebuyers imagine themselves coming in from the cold into their new house,” said Stephens. “You’ll also want to find any drafts in your house and seal them up. They’ll be very noticeable in your otherwise warm and toasty home.”
Holiday Plans. Make sure that you plan any trips out of town or holiday parties well ahead of time. Timing is extremely important when selling a home, so you want to make sure that offers aren’t coming in when you’re out of town or that potential buyers show up during your annual family holiday dinner.
Decorate for the season. Keep your seasonal decorations conservative, but a light and bright or beautifully decorated home with well-placed greenery can give prospective buyers a picture of how their own decorations could fit in the home. “Just make sure that you remove any holiday decorations as soon as the holidays are over,” said Stephens. “Do not be the house with lights still up in February.”
Manage Your Curb Appeal. Many houses look their best during the warmer months, but a home with simple seasonal decorations, bright lights or greenery is still warm and inviting and appealing to would-be buyers. You should make sure that your driveway and sidewalks are always swept or shoveled and clear off any decks or patios. Also, remove any potentially dangerous dangling icicles or built up snow from your roof.
Hire a Realtor®. Finally, JCAR reminds sellers that all real estate is local, so it’s important to work with a Realtor® who is familiar with your neighborhood and community. Realtors® know what buyers in your area are looking for and can create a marketing strategy that will help you achieve the best results.
After several years of slow recovery, the housing market began to show signs of improvement in 2013. Some homeowners saw their home equity grow as home prices rose and single-family home sales increased. However, the market still has its challenges and Realtors® remain committed to helping build a responsible, sustainable housing market in 2014.
According to the National Association of Realtors®’ Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, 2013 was a recovery year, as annual existing-home sales are expected to increase 10 percent over a year ago, totaling just above 5.1 million, and national median existing-home prices are projected to be 11 percent above last year. The 2013 market also experienced a shortage of housing inventory. NAR data showed inventory levels swung from a record high of 11.9 months in July 2010 to a recent low of 4.3 months in January 2013. Recently however, inventories have started to increase – current unsold inventory shows a 5.1-month supply of homes.
“Tight inventory typically means rising home prices,” said Donald Byrd, President of the Johnston County Association of REALTORS®. “This is what we’re experiencing now. Prices have gained 18 percent over the past two years. An increase in prices has helped lift many homeowners into positive equity again and foreclosures and short sales have declined. When homeowners benefit from price appreciation and housing equity increases, this helps the economy through greater consumer confidence and spending.”
Despite these positives, housing affordability for some buyers declined in 2013. Yun predicts affordability will continue to decline in 2014 if mortgage rates continue to rise and particularly if qualifying for a mortgage remains difficult. Johnson County Assocation of REALTORS® says Realtors® have reported that tight credit restrictions are preventing qualified buyers from becoming homeowners, and that is also making it more difficult for some homeowners to sell their homes. JCAR thinks mortgage availability will only be worsened by regulatory reforms stemming from the Dodd-Frank Act Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that go into effect in January 2014.
“While these new rules reduce risky loan products and establish critical lending protections for consumers, they could also preclude many potential home buyers from entering the housing market,” said Byrd. “Qualified buyers with good jobs and strong credit histories cannot continue to be turned down for loans. Lenders need to return to sensible lending standards this year.”
Yun predicts we’ll continue to see healthy gains in existing-home sales this year, and prices will continue to rise. However, he also projects mortgage rates to rise and inventory shortages to continue.
JCAR says Realtors® remain actively involved with lawmakers to ensure housing and homeownership issues are first on the nation’s public policy agenda this year. Several critical issues affecting housing will continue to take precedence this year. Byrd says delaying further flood insurance rate increases is one of them. Also, as debates surrounding federal tax reform likely heat up again this year, Realtors® will continue to urge the preservation of property and homeownership tax policies. Realtors® also support legislation and regulations to create healthier housing and mortgage markets, something Byrd says is vital to the recovery.
“Despite the challenges we face in the coming year, I believe Realtors® are feeling confident and optimistic about the future of our nation’s housing market,” said Byrd. “Homeownership is an investment in our future, and I believe 2014 will present tremendous opportunities for buyers, sellers and investors.”
A new survey by the National Association of Realtors® found that a majority of renters say homeownership is one of their highest priorities for the future and they are thinking more about purchasing a home now than in past years. Given that information, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the survey also found that Americans overwhelmingly believe owning a home is a good financial decision.
“Renters are increasingly recognizing the benefits of homeownership,” said Donald Byrd, President of the Johnston County Association of Realtors. “In addition to its many social benefits - such as providing a stable, safe environment - the financial benefits of owning a home are even more apparent to renters now. In some areas of the country it’s cheaper to own a home than it is to rent. Homeownership also is one of the best ways to build financial security over the long term. In most cases, the benefits of homeownership far outweigh the benefits of renting.”
The 2013 National Housing Pulse Survey, which measures consumers’ attitudes and concerns about housing opportunities, found that Americans’ outlook on the housing market is improving. Nearly four in 10 Americans (38 percent) identified an increase in activity within their local housing market in the past year, compared to just 22 percent who reported a slowdown in activity. Respondents were also less concerned than in the past about the drop in home values and foreclosures.
The survey also found that more than two-thirds of those surveyed said now is a good time to buy. The Johnston County Association of Realtors believes that despite a recent rise in mortgage rates and lower home inventory levels, affordability conditions remain favorable for buyers.
“It’s a seller’s market in many areas of the country,” said Byrd. “However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still opportunities for buyers. Home prices are still very affordable for the typical buyer. Buyer traffic is also up from this time last year, so it’s evident that people want to be homeowners.”
JCAR has a few tips for renters or move up buyers looking for a new place to call home. First, know your credit history and understand how the credit system works. Next, do your research. Home inventories are low in many areas and sellers are receiving multiple bids, so it’s imperative to be ready to make an offer when you see a home you like. Then, identify neighborhoods that you like and think about what you need and want in a home.
“Most importantly, contact a Realtor® in your area,” said Byrd. “Realtors® are the most trusted resource for real estate information and can give buyers the advantage they need in today’s market.”
The Johnston County Association of REALTORS® is sponsoring continuing education classes for brokers and agents on May 1, 2013. If anyone still needs CE hours for his or her license, the class is open not only to REALTORS®, but also non- REALTORS®. George Bell will be teaching both courses, and the elective will discuss Real Estate Commission hot topics. The classes will be held in Smithfield at the Medical Mall Auditorium located at 514 North Brightleaf Boulevard. The mandatory update class begins promptly at 9:00 am, and the elective course begins at 2:00 pm.
Members can register online at www.jcrealtors.org. Non-members can call 919-989-9797.
Being a homeowner requires responsibility. Owning a home comes with yard work, repairs, insurance and of course, figuring out your taxes. With tax season in full swing now is a good time to review what tax benefits are available to homeowners.
“If you’re not already aware, a Realtor® can tell you about the significant savings that comes with owning a home,” said Donald Byrd, President of the Johnston County Association of REALTORS®. “Especially now when many families are struggling financially and the economy is still recovering, the tax benefits that come along with being a homeowner are a welcome relief to many. Owning a home is one of the best ways to build financial security over the long term, providing both equity accumulation and tax benefits over time.”
One of the most notable tax benefits associated with homeownership is the mortgage interest deduction. The MID allows homeowners to deduct the interest paid on a mortgage debt of up to $1 million on a primary residence and one additional residence.
“The ability to deduct the interest paid on a mortgage can mean significant savings at tax time,” said Byrd. “For people who don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings to buy a home outright, tax benefits like the MID help them begin building their future through homeownership.”
Another tax benefit allows sellers to exclude certain capital gains from the sale of a principle residence. Couples who file a joint federal return can exclude from taxation up to $500,000 of any gain in their home’s value. Singles can exclude gains of up to $250,000.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which was signed into law in January 2013, also extended two important tax incentives for homeowners, which had expired. One is the deduction for mortgage insurance premiums. Homeowners with incomes of no more than $100,000 can deduct their mortgage insurance premiums if they were required to obtain insurance as a condition of receiving financing for the home.
The other provision is a credit of up to $500 for making certain improvements that increase a home’s energy efficiency. The tax credit included costs related to buying and installing certain products such as a new water heater, central air conditioner, insulation, windows or roof.
“Homeownership is an investment in your future,” said Byrd. “It provides social benefits, strengthens communities and offers homeowners financial stability. These tax breaks are just one of many benefits to being a homeowner.”
To learn more on homeownership and tax tips visit www.houselogic.com.
According to a recent survey, more and more renters aspire to become homeowners. Data shows that nearly sixty percent of current renters plan to purchase a home in the next two years.
The survey also revealed key motivations behind the respondents’ plans for home ownership. Forty-nine per cent simply want the chance to call themselves homeowners, and forty-four per cent view owning a home as a good
financial investment while thirty-six per cent need more space for their family and/or children
On February 23rd, the Johnston County Association of REALTORS® is hosting a Home Ownership Expo at Johnston
Community College in the Paul A Johnson Auditorium from 10am-4pm. This event is free to the public. The purpose of the expo is to educate the public on the benefits of home ownership and affordability in today's market. The expo
will be used to stimulate home sales through educating the public as to the local housing options in regards to availability and affordability including the benefits of home ownership.
At the Expo, you can talk to Realtors®, builders, mortgage lenders, home inspectors, carpet-flooring representatives, cabinet-counter top representatives, landscapers, and interior designers. There will be associates with many products related to home ownership as well as individuals throughout the day speaking on pertinent home ownership information. In addition to many resources, one can enjoy food, cash prizes, and giveaways at the Home Ownership Expo.
Over the past year the U.S. housing market has made significant strides. A look ahead, however, shows a number of regulatory issues left unresolved that could potentially harm the industry in 2013.
Several regulations on the horizon stemming from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act could affect housing, mortgage finance, and homeownership. In addition, the question of how to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac still remains unclear. As the leading advocate for homeownership, Realtors® want to make sure these changes will not harm the progress already experienced in the housing market or make mortgage lending more challenging.
One regulation that stems from Dodd-Frank is Qualified Mortgage. This regulation requires that no lender make a mortgage loan without making a reasonable and good faith determination that the borrower has the ability to repay the loan. The full rule for QM has not been determined yet, but depending on the definition, this regulation could reduce many consumers’ access to credit. The National Association of Realtors® supports a definition of QM that establishes strong consumer protections, promotes mortgage liquidity, and offers lenders a safe harbor to reduce litigation.
“Dodd-Frank was created to address abuses in the industry. While Realtors® recognize the need for additional regulation, regulators must avoid adopting unrealistic requirements that will affect homeowners and potential buyers, as well as do harm to the recovering housing market,” said Donald Byrd, President of the Johnston County Association of REALTORS®.
What potentially could be another burdensome regulation is the Qualified Residential Mortgage. This requires that financial institutions retain 5 percent of the risk on loans they securitize. Exempt from the requirement are mortgages that meet the QRM definition, as well as FHA and VA mortgages. Currently, the proposed rule narrowly defines QRMs as requiring an 80 percent loan-to-value, which would require a 20 percent down payment. The rule would also limit mortgage payments to 28 percent of gross income – a very tight standard, according to Realtors®.
“The definition of QRM is important because it will determine the types of mortgages that will be available to borrowers in the future,” said Byrd. “NAR firmly believes Congress intended to create a broad QRM exemption - strong evidence shows that responsible lending standards and ensuring a borrower’s ability to repay have the greatest impact on reducing lender risk, and not high down payments.”
GSE reform is also likely to come up this year. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed under conservatorship by the Federal Housing Finance Agency in September 2008 and the debate continues over how to reform them. A number of comprehensive plans have been introduced to the public, as well as comprehensive legislation aimed at reforming the secondary mortgage market. Currently, there is no proverbial favorite, and discussion surrounding the GSEs is expected to continue through 2013.
NAR supports a comprehensive GSE reform strategy. Realtors® believe the new system must involve some government presence to ensure a continual flow of capital at all times and in all markets. Also, the secondary mortgage market model must ensure that mortgages are affordable and always available to creditworthy buyers, require sound underwriting standards, and provide for rigorous oversight.
“Issues like affordable financing and available credit doesn’t just affect people who own a home – homeownership shapes communities and strengthens the nation’s economy,” said Byrd. “We need to ensure that any regulations and reforms do not jeopardize a housing recovery and ensure the dream of homeownership is available to all Americans.”