Why Your Mortgage Is Getting More Expensive

(TNS)—World events are conspiring to make it more expensive for you to borrow money to buy a house.

Mortgage rates have increased for five consecutive weeks, according to Bankrate data, bringing interest on a 30-year fixed rate loan to 4.44 percent—the highest level in 11 months—while home prices continue to rise due to a lack of available homes.

After years of tepid economic growth, animal spirits are aflame. Inflation and wage growth recently found a groove, while the Federal Reserve’s plan to raise short-term interest rates multiple times for a consecutive year has reduced the value of government debt. The yield on 10-year Treasuries is close to a four-year high. (Bond prices and yields are inversely related.)

Oh, and China may reduce its appetite for U.S. bonds.

Homebuyers Should Get off the Fence
Mortgage rates are moved by the yield on 10-year Treasuries, rather than short-term rate hikes by the Fed. That’s why mortgage rates fell throughout 2017, for instance, even as the central bank raised the federal funds rate three times.

Rates remain cheap, however, compared to historical prices. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage came with an interest rate above 6 percent just before the Great Recession in 2007.

Potential homeowners should get off the fence and make a bid, assuming you have an affordable home target and adequate savings, because rates are likely only heading north.

Why Mortgage Rates Are Increasing
You’ve seen this movie before.

Immediately after the 2016 election, investors sold government debt en masse, causing the 10-year yield to rise from 1.88 percent on November 8 to 2.60 percent five weeks later. That dramatic rise was predicated on investors thinking a newly Republican-controlled Washington would bring about faster economic growth through infrastructure spending and tax cuts.

Optimism waned throughout 2017, though, as the GOP failed to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, casting doubt on their cohesion as a governing party. The long-promised massive infrastructure bill never materialized, while the prospects of a tax overhaul dampened. By the first week of September, the 10-year yield was 2.05 percent.

But then Republicans made progress on a $1.5 trillion tax bill, while the employment picture continued to brighten, and the U.S. economy grew at a solid clip over the last six months of the year.

With Congress agreeing to a $300 billion spending bill—which will only throw more coal on the burning economy—investors see fewer reasons to own bonds. Economic growth and higher pay could result in long-awaited inflation gains. Prices have been rising below the Fed’s 2 percent target, according to the central bank’s preferred prices gauge, for years now.

Higher inflation is a boon for fixed-rate borrowers but hurts debtors. The January jobs report, which showed a 2.9 percent-year-over year earnings increase, was a signal to market observers that inflation may be coming.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported in January that China, the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, may reduce or cease U.S. debt purchases, causing market jitters.

Should You Be Worried?
Given the recent run-up in yields, you may be worried—but don’t panic just yet.

“This is not alarming,” notes Chris Vincent, fixed income portfolio manager at William Blair. “There is no significant drama in the credit markets.”

Markets, after nearly a decade of low rates and low growth, are adjusting to the new normal and corresponding volatility—and while China may own over a trillion dollars of U.S. debt, that’s less than 20 percent of all debt owned by foreign nations, and a fifth of what America owes itself.

You are entering a world where it’s going to become more expensive to borrow money. It’s time to get used to it.

©2018 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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9 Listing Photo Do’s and Don’ts

You have one chance at a great first impression — knock their socks off with listing photos that shine.

Your bags are packed, you’re ready to move and the last thing you want to do is follow your agent’s advice about putting time and money into your listing photos. But if you don’t, your photos could prevent the home from selling quickly.

Consider these nine do’s and don’ts to help your listing attract the attention it deserves.

1. Do: Take a shot from the curb.

Keep your home’s curb appeal top of mind. Buyers often decide in a matter of minutes (or seconds) whether they want to keep looking or move on to another listing.

Make sure you get the whole house in the shot, and don’t let cars or other objects block your line of sight.

Don’t: Create a landslide.

When taking a shot from the curb, be mindful of your camera’s angle. The roofline should be parallel with the photo’s frame to make it look level — not like there’s a landslide on the property.

2. Do: Welcome visitors.

An attractive front door and entryway go a long way in setting the tone for the rest of your home. Leaving the door open in one of your photos can also send a welcoming message.

Don’t: Threaten visitors.

Remove any threatening signs or barriers on the property before taking photos. The goal is to create a feeling of warmth with your listing photos — not scare onlookers away.

3. Do: Consider a bird’s-eye view.

Taking a photo from above is a great way to show off a large property or a waterfront location. Crop the photo close enough so the home is visible without having to draw an arrow or a box around it.

Don’t: Consider a fisheye lens.

Some folks use a fisheye lens to make smaller spaces appear larger. However, it often has the opposite effect, making the space feel smaller and distorted.

As a general rule of thumb, stick with a traditional lens for listing photos, and make small spaces appear bigger with design tricks.

4. Do: Capture your home’s selling points.

You may think it’s best to skip the bathroom when taking listing photos, but if yours was recently updated, show it off! Bathrooms are among the first spaces to be upgraded in newly owned homes, and research shows that blue bathrooms sell for more than expected.

Don’t: Capture yourself in the mirror.

While a vanity can be a selling point, you want buyers to picture themselves in the mirror — not you. Stay out of your listing photos by avoiding angles where you or your camera’s flash may be reflected.

5. Do: Stage each room.

The goal is to put your home’s best foot forward. That means staging each room to sell shoppers on the lifestyle your home offers. Create cozy vignettes in each photo so it’s easier for shoppers to envision themselves living there.

Don’t: Stage a mess.

If there’s one absolute “don’t” for listing photos, it’s capturing a mess. Tidy up each room before taking any photos so your home looks its best.

6. Do: Play up the season.

Even if your home has been on the market for a while, it will feel up-to-date if the photos reflect the season. If it’s summer, take a sunny photo of the backyard. If it’s winter, create a cozy feel with a fire and a warm blanket.

Don’t: Play up your holiday decor.

Over-the-top holiday decor can be a turnoff, especially if buyers don’t celebrate that holiday. Instead, consider ways to decorate for the season as a whole and take photos of rooms without themed decor.

7. Do: Show off the view.

If the view is one of your home’s selling points, you’ll definitely want to show it off. It’s best if you can capture it with a part of the house in the shot, like the deck or porch. That way, buyers can picture themselves there.

Don’t: Show off your pets.

Focus on the parts of your home that will be there when a buyer moves in. Unfortunately, your pets don’t fall into that category, as cute as they are!

8. Do: Show off architectural details.

Archways, beams and other architectural quirks may be hard to photograph, but they give your home character. Try to capture a few of the architectural details if you can.

Don’t: Show off architectural blunders.

Every home has its blemishes, but that doesn’t mean you have to capture them all in the photos. The listing is the time to put your best foot forward — the open house and inspection are when the buyer can take note of the imperfections.

You may also want to consider making a few small improvements, like updating the bathroom, before listing your home.

9. Do: Take a night shot with the lights on.

While it’s easy to assume daytime shots are ideal, a nighttime exterior shot can create the right amount of contrast to make your photos stand out. The key is to leave your home’s interior and exterior lights on while you take the photo.

Don’t: Capture a dark room.

When it comes to interior photos, you want all the light you can get. Use lamps and daytime window light to make your photos as bright as possible while still looking natural.


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Survey Finds Hidden Costs of Homeownership

(TNS)—Your day burns brightly on both ends.

You prod your kids out of bed at daybreak, get them dressed, fed and off to school. You drive to work, endure meetings, colleagues, power lunches, memos and strategy sessions, only to return home through gridlocked traffic just as the sun sets, beg your kids to eat dinner, wash them, coax them to sleep, do the dishes and then mercifully collapse in front of the television set.

You fret over your emergency savings account, retirement savings account, credit card debt, mortgage rate, health insurance, college savings, and on and on.

It makes sense, then, you’d opt to pay a cleaning or lawn service every week to lighten your load. Hiring someone to keep your property in working order, either on your own or through homeowners association fees, doesn’t come cheap, though.

More than three in five homeowners—63 percent—use at least one recurring home maintenance provider, while 35 percent use two, according to a recent Bankrate survey. The average homeowner pays $2,000 annually on maintenance services, the survey finds.

Costs of Owning a Home
The price of biweekly landscaping probably never factored into your calculus when deciding how much house you can afford.

The average home mortgage neared $250,000 last year, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, which came with a monthly principal and interest payment of $973, or about one-sixth of median family income.

Homeowners saw an average property tax bill of $3,300 in 2016, according to ATTOM’s most recent data, adding another $275 to your monthly budget. You’ll also owe hundreds more in insurance premiums depending on where you live and what type of house you own.

That doesn’t even include the money you need saved in case something unexpected happens. If your air conditioning unit or washer and dryer gives out, you could immediately owe hundreds, if not thousands.

Kevin Mahoney, CEO of fee-only financial advice firm Illumint, recommends to designate a savings account as a “home maintenance fund.” Mahoney, who recently bought a renovated row house in Washington, D.C., contributes $100 to $200 a month as a hedge against unexpected repairs and wear-and-tear. Maintaining a house fund will inoculate you against high-interest debt, leaving your budget open for routine maintenance services.

Cost You Probably Didn’t Think About
After the years required to amass a sufficient down payment—the average among new homebuyers is 11 percent—and all the big costs staring homeowners in the face, it’s little wonder if you don’t account for smaller fare.

But the price tag for convenience can rise quickly.

People who opt for housekeeping shell out an average of $285 a month, while HOA dues ($210) and landscaping ($144) followed behind. A home security system costs $130, slightly more than pool care ($123). Snow removal ($84), septic service ($67) and trash and recycling collection ($55) proved more affordable.

Unsurprisingly, renters are less likely than homeowners to pay for recurring maintenance services, and when they do, they pay less for most services.

On average, renters pay less for housekeeping ($128), HOA dues ($71), pool care ($70), landscaping ($61) and snow removal ($24); however, they fork over a little more for security systems ($142), septic service ($113), and trash and recycling collection ($63).

Nate Masterson, a director of Finance for Maple Holistics, pays $1,000 annually for gardening services, and another $70 to clear his Riverside, N.Y., home of snow.

“It would require a lot of strenuous work to perform either task, and it’s simply more worthwhile for me to pay a professional,” says Masterson, 34.

Make Sure You Account for All Costs
Americans broadly struggle mightily to save.

The average person wouldn’t pay for an unexpected $1,000 expense from their savings, per a recent Bankrate survey, while the median amount in a savings and checking account for a middle-income household has essentially remained flat over the past 27 years, according to Federal Reserve data.

Credit card debt recently hit an all-time high, while the personal savings rate has dropped precipitously over the past two years.

If you don’t have a fully-funded emergency fund comprising three to six months’ worth of expenses in a high-yield savings account, strongly consider suspending as many as these services as possible until you do. Dropping almost $300 a month on housekeeping while lacking $1,000 in the bank is simply too risky. What if the roof caves in? At the very least, start contributing to a home maintenance fund.

You may not have a say in other costs—trash collection and HOA fees were two of the three most common—but make sure to account for those expenses into your budget prior to moving in, and in your emergency fund.

Life’s hard, and there’s nothing wrong with paying someone else to mow your lawn. Unless you can’t afford it.

©2018 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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How to Tell if You’ll Love a New Neighborhood

When searching for a new place to live, don’t feel confined to your current location. Yes, buying a home is a big commitment, but it’s also an opportunity to make a change and venture out into a new neighborhood or a new town altogether. But how will you know if a new area is really for you or if you’ll end up with buyers’ remorse soon after closing the deal? With a little bit of forethought and exploration, it’s easy to feel confident about your potential new neighborhood. Here’s where to start.

Ask yourself these five questions when choosing a home base.

What do you need to have nearby?

Yoga studio owner Annalisa Berns moved from Los Angeles to Big Bear, California, four years ago because she had an epiphany during her housing search—not only did she want to live in the mountains, but she also wanted a community that came equipped with a health food store and other yogis. “Those two things were critical to me,” she says.

Think about your day-to-day life, brainstorm the things that are important to you, then make a list of the amenities that you can’t do without. If living near a yoga studio or specific type of food store is a must-have, drive around the areas closest to those businesses to find pockets of neighborhoods that meet your needs.

Is walking important to you?

For a lot of people, not having stores or eateries within convenient walking distance is a definite no-go, so you should consider if it’s one for you, too. When scoping out at a potential new address, be sure to check Trulia’s amenity maps which pinpoint grocery stores, cafes, salons, and more to get the lay of the land.

“Walkability index is a biggie for me and my husband,” says avid sailor Dana Greyson. She and her husband factor in commutes when they search for housing back on dry land. “We want to have a place where, when we get home, we don’t have to get back into our car to live our life.”

Are you going for a quiet or lively environment?

You may love to hang out and party with friends in a certain bustling neighborhood every weekend, but would you want to buy a home there? Maybe not. Portland, Oregon, resident and realtor Jenelle Isaacson sees a lot of folks in the young, hipster city drawn to the most happening areas, only to find out they don’t exactly match their priorities—or noise-level preference.

“I’ve worked with many clients who are lured to a neighborhood by popular restaurants and coffee shops,” she says. “They want to hang their hats where they hang out on weekends, but when it comes to living in these areas, they suddenly find they don’t like the nuisance of so many other people coming to their neighborhood parking, making noise at night. Being in the middle of the party isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

The takeaway here? Reconcile the fact that if you love an area for its lively atmosphere, lots of others probably do too. Weigh the importance of having hot spots nearby with the importance of a good night’s sleep.

Do you want to have friends nearby?

Whether your besties are already in the neighborhood or you want to chum it up with your new neighbors, you should take into account the kind of social life you hope to have in your brand new home base. Atlanta, Georgia, veteran Carol Gee knew her new community was the one when a neighbor waved to her from across the street as Gee and her husband moved boxes—and they became longtime friends.

Think about how your new home is situated. If you’re on a cul-de-sac or across the courtyard from another neighbor, there’s going to be some required water cooler talk chat. “Some people really like to be in an area where their friends are nearby or at least close enough so they’ll come visit,” says real estate specialist Kathleen Perkins. Others not so much.

After you’ve done your research, does it seem like a place where you’d want to live?

Once you’ve done your due diligence, visiting your potential neighborhood during different hours of the day to get a real sense of it and checking to ensure all the boxes are checked on your must-have list, trust your gut.

Some say intuition is a gift, so go with it. If a neighborhood just feels right, it probably is. On the flip side, if anything gives you pause—hit the pause button. It may be time to try and reach out to residents (or realtors) who actually live there to get a first-hand perspective of what everyday life is like, or it may be time to move on.


Even moving just a few blocks or miles can make for a totally new neighborhood feel. Do your research, then go with your gut.


Articles that might be useful:

Originally published April 7, 2015; updated February 16, 2018.

Article source: https://www.trulia.com/blog/tell-youll-love-new-neighborhood/

Can You Guess the Price of These Mini Rentals?

Tiny homes are still going strong as a popular choice for rentals—and there’s no sign of the trend stopping. Many renters are used to the idea of living in itty-bitty studios in order to enjoy the excitement of living in an urban area. However, suburban and rural minimalist homes for rent can often be just as a fabulous. But are they a steal, or will you pay big for the tiny home lifestyle? Across the country, the answer is a mixed bag. Check out these tiny homes for rent, and take your best guess at how much they cost per month.


minimalist home

Billings, Montana

Petite bungalow near the University of Montana

(Click for price.)

In Montana’s largest city, you won’t be surrounded by the open range that comes to mind when you think of the state. But you will still get gorgeous mountain views, and you’ll be close to outdoor recreation. For example, in the North Park neighborhood where this blue, 480-square-foot bungalow is located, you’re minutes away from hiking in Shields Park (which has 60 acres of unspoiled nature ready to explore year-round). If you’d rather hike to entertainment options, North Park has you covered. Since it’s also the home of the University of Montana – Billings, there are a few low-key options that appeal to both students and full-time residents—like City Brew Coffee and 406 Kitchen Taproom—a mere four blocks from your home. Since this charming one-bedroom is priced well below North Park’s median rent, you could buy your new neighbors the next round.


minimalist home

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Sunny two-bedroom on a tree-lined street

(Click for price.)

If you gravitate toward vintage homes, you’ll love the Alger Heights neighborhood of Grand Rapids. Here, petite cottages, ranches, and other charming home styles line the streets, along with old-growth trees. These sights, plus the fact that it’s mostly all residential, make this section of the city feel like a throwback to the 1950s in the best way. You can safely walk your dog or ride your bike down to the MacKay-Jaycees Park, a popular spot for local baseball games and picnics. Or, closer by, catch up with neighbors at the pocket-size Paris Park (a green space two blocks south of this sweet little home). There are also some signs the neighborhood is coming into the 21st century—the industrial-styled gastropub The Old Goat just south of Alger Street SE has become a favorite hangout for locals. As with many neighborhoods with more single-family homes than apartments, rents can trend a little higher. Yet this 637-square-foot two-bedroom is still below Alger Heights’ median rent.


minimalist home

Austin, Texas

Quirky home near fantastic shopping

(Click for price.)

Old meets new in the city’s Old West Austin neighborhood. Though it’s historical—this section dates back to the mid-1800s—the look is constantly evolving. You’ll still find the old homes that make this neighborhood sought-after, but many have been expanded or updated. For instance, this simple, 675-square-foot bungalow was added to a bigger property as a guest house. Still, it has plenty of character, from the micro front porch to the gnarled old tree in its tiny front yard. The biggest draw is the fact that it’s located right around the corner from N. Lamar Blvd, one of Austin‘s best shopping and entertainment districts. From the boho boutique Kick Pleat to the Mexican food window Fresa’s, you can walk to indie places (and even mainstream retailers like Whole Foods) with ease. Location is everything, so remember that when you guess the rent.


minimalist homes

Broomfield, Colorado

Elegant carriage house in a quiet development

(Click for price.)

Located north of Denver and southeast of Boulder, Broomfield is a popular commuter hub that’s grown into a city. The city designation can feel misleading at times since Broomfield’s overall character feels like a series of well-planned suburban developments. There aren’t official neighborhoods, and instead of one main downtown area, there are two shopping districts populated by chain restaurants and shops. That doesn’t mean it’s all big box stores—you’ll also find the upscale Omni Interlocken hotel and spa. But most of Broomfield’s residential streets are purely residential, making for a quiet and peaceful atmosphere. This magazine-ready, 550-square-foot carriage house sits on a winding street with other well-designed homes, all connected via roomy sidewalks to the large Broadlands West Park.


minimalist homes

Portland, Oregon

1930s cottage at the end of a quiet street

(Click for price.)

Interestingly named for the German word for “butcher,” Portland‘s Metzger neighborhood feels slightly more conventional than the city’s famous downtown. Here, you won’t find obscure record shops, but you will find darling little homes and suburban standbys like Costco and Target. This, combined with good schools, makes Metzger particularly popular with families. However, empty-nesters have been moving in at a steady rate, too. For them, the appeal might be in smaller-sized vintage homes that are still available here—like this 683-square-foot, 1930s home. If you’re looking for a little excitement, its proximity to I-5 gets you to all the quirkier offerings downtown in less than 15 minutes. Though it’s a short ride, you’d be surprised at just how this home’s rent compares to the median price of Portland.


minimalist homes

San Francisco, California

Open and airy studio in a classic San Francisco neighborhood

(Click for price.)

If you know anything about San Francisco, odds are good you’ve heard of the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood. This is where you can board a cruise to Alcatraz, climb the historic Coit Tower to see 360-degree views of the city, climb the steep Greenwich Steps or Filbert Street Stairs, and brush up on your denim knowledge at Levi’s Plaza. Living here is like living in a postcard of San Francisco. This bright, 477-square-foot studio is within walking distance of all of the above attractions, but it doesn’t mean you’d be limited to playing tourist 365 days a year. (Though we would definitely endorse Tulipmania and its 39,000 blooms in February.) You can do light grocery shopping around the corner at RJ’s Market, workout across the street at Bay Club San Francisco, or board a streetcar two blocks away at The Embarcadero Sansome Street stop for the rest of your errands. Your commute never looked so good, but like everything else in San Francisco, expect to pay a premium.


minimalist homes

Seattle, Washington

Quaint home in an up-and-coming neighborhood

(Click for price.)

As the tech boom continues to shake up Seattle, those looking to find a close-knit (and reasonably-priced) community continue to explore lesser-known neighborhoods. Mount Baker, located southeast of downtown Seattle, is one of those on-the-rise areas. Here, the streets are lined with some of the most adorable little cottages you’ll see in the city—this 470-square-foot, one-bedroom home is in good company—instead of high-rise condos. This, along with the lush trees and often beautifully-landscaped yards, makes Mount Baker feel a world away from the hectic pace you’ll find in more built-up neighborhoods. Take a walk to Rainier Avenue S. for takeout from any one of the diverse restaurants (from soul food to pho), enjoy it at home in front of the freestanding fireplace, then try to tell us that this isn’t the good life. And you may be surprised to learn that it’s more affordable than one might assume for Seattle.


minimalist homes

Long Beach, California

Cozy one-bedroom with ocean views

(Click for price.)

Long Beach‘s name isn’t a misnomer—there really is a nice, long beach here. But like everywhere else in California, the shores attract lots of visitors. This is especially true here because of tourist attractions like the RMS Queen Mary, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and museums like the Long Beach Museum of Art. So if you crave the water without the crowds, Belmont Shore is the place to be. It’s almost entirely residential, with narrow streets and close-together homes that tend to discourage gawkers. Locals enjoy the quiet Seaside Walk (a serene boardwalk) for ocean views, but you just have to look out your window to enjoy a spectacular scene. This 530-square-foot furnished rental is the upstairs suite of a sweet cottage, giving you a boost that gives you an even better look at those beach views. If you have a boat—or know of someone who does—definitely take a fast trip across the bay to Ballast Point Brewing Long Beach.


minimalist homes

Seattle, Washington

Unusual stone home in a bike-friendly area

(Click for price.)

Situated right near the popular open-air shopping at University Village, the Ravenna neighborhood is a surprisingly peaceful little oasis that feels a little less manicured—but no less stylish—than others in Seattle. For one, it’s not unusual to find dirt sidewalks (particularly on NE Blakeley Street), and the local landscape makes it easy to envision Ravenna’s past as Seattle’s wilderness. (You can also see evidence of this in the woodsy wonderland of Ravenna Park.) This unique, 600-square-foot stone cottage is right off NE Blakeley Street, which is right next to the Burke-Gilman Trail. This bikeable and walkable path stretches 27 miles through Seattle, making it possible to commute without a car (and without traffic worries). With what you’ll save on parking, gas, and auto maintenance, this home could be a better deal than you might think at first glance.

Originally published October 2, 2017; updated February 16, 2018. 

Ready to find your own tiny home? Search for rentals of any size right here on Trulia.

Article source: https://www.trulia.com/blog/can-you-guess-the-price-of-these-tiny-rentals/