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Buying or selling a home? We've got home search tips, staging advice, tips on where to put your renovation dollars and more information and advice.

Need to get another mortgage and still don't understand the process? Always wanted to understand escrow? Mortgage broker/real estate broker Chuck Tebbetts makes it all understandable.

Always wanted to be a real estate investor? Jean Tebbetts will show you how to keep your property rented for top dollar while controlling expenses.

Interest Rates – Important Update

It’s been a natural fact that the Federal Reserve Bank was gonna raise the discount rate another 0.25% this December. That would probably raise mortgage interest rates by a similar amount, but there’s a lot more on the horizon. The economy is getting stronger, to the point where the Fed will have to raise the discount more to keep inflation in check. This is tough, because, with the current administration working to remove regulations, replace or fix Obama Care, and lower income taxes, the economy has a dauntingly large upside, making inflation concerns, and hence, higher rates, very likely. Which brings me to the attached article from the Journal Gazette, reprinted in today’s Union Tribune on page C2. You can read it below. The Federal Reserve Bank is sitting on a huge bond portfolio of $4.5 trillion that it will be starting to sell off very soon. They’ve been talking about it for months. The previous administration bought these bonds over 4 years to keep interest rates artificially low to prop up a weak economy. Now they need to sell them off, and they’ll do so gradually, to impact interest rates as little as possible. But with an improving economy and it’s unavoidable inflation problem, interest rates are, without a doubt, going up. It’s extremely safe to say that they won’t be lower than they are right now. I haven’t tried to convince anybody to get off the dime and act for a very long time. That time is right now. Don’t miss out! Click Here for the Article Read More

When to Adjust Your Homeowners Insurance

Homes often grow and change alongside the people living in them. If you’ve added expensive furnishings or made substantial upgrades, it’s important to re-evaluate your homeowners insurance and make sure your policy reflects those changes. Here are four instances when it may be beneficial to review and adjust your coverage.

Remodeling or Renovation Work
Home improvement projects typically increase the value of your home, which usually calls for more coverage. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your insurance rates will automatically increase. In fact, some projects, like adding a new roof, may help you save on your monthly home insurance premiums. Just be sure to notify your provider before any work begins.

Adding a Pool or an Outdoor Trampoline
Because these fun home features come with increased risk of injury, they’re labeled an attractive nuisance. Upping your liability insurance can help keep you protected if there’s ever an accident on your property and a subsequent lawsuit.

Acquiring New Valuables
Whether you inherit them or purchase them, expensive goods such as jewelry, art, rugs and antiques should be added to your policy. Increasing your coverage is the only way to safeguard them in the event of damage or theft.

Starting a Home Business
Many home-based business owners don’t realize they have little, if any, coverage from a homeowners or renters insurance policy. Since a new home business likely means purchasing new technology and expensive equipment, you may need to get additional protection.

You worked hard for your home. Secure your belongings by updating your coverage to match your circumstances.

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3 Types of Secret Spaces for the Home

For decades, characters like Batman and James Bond have popularized hidden doors and clandestine passageways. Many homeowners have followed suit, adding secret areas to store valuables, provide a safe place in an emergency or create a fun playroom. Could a hidden feature make you feel safer, secure your possessions better or add to your home’s appeal?

Conceal a Room With Books
Sometimes the best part of a bookcase isn’t what’s on the shelves but what’s behind it. These large structures create the perfect veil for a secret door to an undisclosed room. An architect can help you work with the space you have and figure out the details, like which direction a door should swing.

Secure Valuables in an Inconspicuous Safe
A safe is an excellent option for storing and protecting assets like jewelry, passports and cash. But if leaving it in plain sight feels too vulnerable, try concealing it entirely. A wall cutout behind a picture frame, cabinet or mirror makes for an ideal hideaway.

Make a Stealthy Escape
Want an inconspicuous escape route? Consider installing an underground passage with a secret switch to activate it. For example, chess pieces moved into a specific position or a particular book pulled from a shelf can reveal the opening. You can also choose from biometric authentication such as a fingerprint or eye scanner.

You don’t have to be a superhero or a secret service agent to enjoy hidden spaces in your home. No matter what you have to hide, a secret room or passage can keep it concealed.

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Housing Market Trends and Perceptions

Whether you’re interested in buying or selling a home this year, there’s reason to be optimistic. See how a healthy real estate market and positive consumer sentiments are contributing to a buoyant housing sector.

Real Estate Trends
The U.S. housing market continues its recovery as home prices gradually increase, interest rates remain low and millennials represent the largest group of homebuyers for the fourth year in a row. There’s been a slight increase in historically low interest rates, but that’s an indication of an improving economy. Single women homebuyersexceed single men buyers in the U.S. by more than double, accounting for 17 percent of homebuyers (compared to single men at 7 percent). U.S. home values are expected to keep inching up while the inventory of available homes continues to decline.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), there is considerable divergence among regions. Tighter federal regulations have reduced affordability and access to financing for potential homebuyers, sales are down and prices are trending soft. National sales activity is forecast to decrease 1.5 percent in 2017 and 0.8 percent in 2018.

Consumer Sentiments
The 2017 Q1 Housing Opportunities and Market Experience report published by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows favorable sentiments among American consumers. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed thought it was a good time to buy, and 69 percent felt it was a good time to sell. More than half said they believed home prices in their community had increased over the previous 12 months. And renters and suburban homeowners, in particular, felt that prices would continue to rise in the second half of the year.

In another NAR report, the Aspiring Home Buyer Profile, nine in 10 nonhomeowners in the U.S. expressed a desire to own a home. Fortunately, if the market trends and consumer perceptions are any indications, 2017 could very well be the year many renters realize their dream of homeownership.

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Home Projects Best Left to the Pros

do-it-yourself project can be an empowering way to save money, provided you know what you’re doing. But making even one simple mistake could put a strain on your back or your bank account. Often, it’s best to put safety first and call a professional. Here are four types of home improvement projects that are best left to the experts.

1. Plumbing or electrical projects — There’s a reason these are skilled trades. Both systems are complex, no matter how straightforward a repair may initially appear. Even small leaks can cause serious water damage, and faulty electrical wiring can lead to a house fire. Don’t risk flooding or electric shock. Call a plumber or hire an electrician to make sure these jobs are done right the first time.

2. Renovations with possible code violations — Structural changes require a licensed contractor. Not only can shoddy craftsmanship severely affect your home’s value, but it can also put your family in danger. Accidentally removing a load-bearing wall, for example, could cause an entire room to collapse. Why take the risk?

3. Repairs involving heights — More than 130,000 ladder-related injuries are treated in emergency rooms each year. Whether you’re looking at a roof repair or trimming a tree, consider calling a professional before attempting to complete the job yourself.

4. Time-sensitive projects — Weigh your work and family commitments before embarking on a home improvement project. Even if you’re confident in your abilities, the added pressure of a tight deadline can lead to unnecessary and often dangerous mistakes.

Remember, just because a DIY project looks simple doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and call a professional.

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Staging Tips for a Quick Home Sale

In real estate, staging a home and selling a home often go hand in hand. Though the process can be involved, the results are indisputable. Need some help executing an effective home staging? Browse this list of resources to help you dazzle prospective buyers and increase your chances of a quick home sale.

Clear Clutter 
Not only will decluttering your property make moving day easier, but clearing space also gives viewers room to visualize themselves living in your space. Some items you can sell or donate outright. What about the housewares or sentimental objects you want to hold on to but need to remove to optimize showings? Give them a temporary home in a storage unit or portable moving container.

Set Up Your Space 
Focus on staging the rooms that see the most action: the living room, kitchen and master bedroom. If reinventing multiple rooms in your home is too expensive, you do have the option of renting furniture and accessories. It’s a quick way to supply art for the walls, lamps to improve lighting or even an entire suite of furniture. Just be sure to sign with a furniture rental company that offers delivery and pickup as part of their packages. When you’re getting ready to move, the last thing you want is to ferry furniture between multiple locations.

Hire Help
Some homeowners aren’t up to the task of a full home staging, and that’s OK. Some selling agents offer the service as part of their contract, or you can hire an independent home stager to complete the job. The latter provide a valuable service, though it’s important to carefully assess their qualifications before bringing them on. Review their certifications, testimonials and portfolio to ensure they can help you achieve the aesthetic your home needs for a faster sale.

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Making the Most of a Bathroom Remodel

Do you want to improve the aesthetics of your bathroom? Before you disrupt your household with the hassle of a remodel, make sure you’re prepared. Familiarize yourself with this cost and ROI overview to help guide the planning process.

What Does This Type of Remodel Cost? 
The first step to organizing a bathroom remodeling project is setting a budget. Understanding the potential costs involved can help you decide whether you’re working on a complete overhaul or focusing your resources on a few select changes.

Homeowners who make bathroom updates usually hope to recover at least a portion of their investment. An upscale bathroom remodel is among the projects that see the largest percentages of value increase year over year. But a high-end revamp can cost tens of thousands. If you’re working with a more modest budget, going with simple changes like updates to light fixtures, sinks, toilets and the like can refresh your space for significantly less.

What Should You Change?
When planning bathroom renovations, it’s always smart to fix what’s broken first, especially since replacement projects see larger returns (74 percent) than remodeling ones (63.7 percent).

Once you’ve tackled any necessary replacements, make investment-savvy design selections that add value for you and your family. Trade out the garden tub for an expansive shower, add granite countertops or upgrade the vanity, ventilation or lighting. Finding what most benefits your family can lead to greater satisfaction years after the project’s completion.

With budgeting sense and some design know-how, you’ll have the confidence you need to initiate a successful bathroom remodel.

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4 Home Projects That Add Instant Value

Do you have a list of changes you’d like to make to your home this year? Completing cosmetic updates is easiest when the weather’s in your favor. In honor of May’s National Home Improvement Month, here are four upgrades ranging from curb appeal projects to large-scale expansions that often yield high returns.

  1. Replacing doors and windows: Homeowners are often encouraged to consider projects that boost overall curb appeal. Swapping out a wooden front door for a steel model or replacing front-facing windows can pack more of an ROI punch than renovations made inside the home.
  2. Constructing a deck: Create a beautiful transition from your back door to the outdoors by building a deck. The update turns into a major selling point that can recoup your initial investment when it’s time to move on.
  3. Adding insulation: Of all the projects listed in Remodeling magazine’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report, adding loose-fill insulation to your attic is the only one with returns that exceed 100 percent of the cost. It can also help reduce year-round heating and cooling costs.
  4. Building a second-story addition: Even with a slight increase in construction costs, completing a significant two-story addition resulted in a substantial year-over-year increase in value from 2016 to 2017. Adding the extra space will likely catch the attention of buyers.

Home renovations and repairs are on the rise and expected to peak this year. Now’s the time to start planning your investment-savvy home improvements.

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6 Top Trends Hitting Home Design

Whether you’re a prospective seller or a longtime homeowner, revamping your space may be on your to-do list. Before you begin, preview these design trends and learn how to make them your own.

Quick Decorating Touches

  • Add the latest color. From deep emerald to the lime hue of Greenery (the Pantone Color of the Year), verdant shades are instant hits. To incorporate the trend, sprinkle in a few eye-catching accessories or splurge on a plush, room-filling rug.
  • Bring in bronze and brass. These of-the-moment metallics look luxurious, but they have economical price tags and complement a variety of colors and styles. Spruce up your kitchen cabinets with brass handles or use bronze light fixtures to warm up a room.
  • Toy with texture. Whether you’re drawn to fabric wallpaper, a decorative wall hanging or a collection of well-placed throw pillows, texture is an easy way to make a space more inviting. And don’t shy away from mixed materials like leather and wool.

Trendy Upgrades

  • Enrich your entryway. You have only one chance to make a first impression. For a small investment, you can transform your home’s entrance with an artisan-crafted credenza or an oversized mirror that amplifies the natural light.
  • Update your countertops. Laminate options fashioned from recycled granite or glass are easy on the wallet and the environment. Want to go all out? Lighter shades in quartz, marble and wood are popular upgrades in today’s kitchens.
  • Establish a shedquarters. Whether you work from home, want a relaxing retreat or host houseguests regularly, a separate on-site structure aptly dubbed a “shedquarters” may be a worthy addition.

From a quick, low-budget change to a well-planned build-out, homeowners have several options when it comes to implementing the latest home design trends.

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How the Right Words Can Help Sell a Home

House and neighborhood characteristics can positively influence the sale of your home, but what about the words used in the listing? The right turn of phrase could help your property sell quickly, but choose less descriptive terms and you may find it on the market indefinitely. Write an effective listing with the following tips:

Choose Your Words Wisely
One analytics firm reviewed the word choices of a million listings that closed in 2016. Phrases like “open concept” and “natural light” closed more quickly, while listings with “ceramic tile” and “two story” stayed on the market longer. Analysts also found that four word pairs associated with quick closings included “fence” references, indicating that privacy may be a top priority for buyers.

Tell Stories With Emotion 
Capture potential buyers’ senses with your words, and try to paint a picture of what it would be like to live in the home. A claw-foot tub becomes a place of solace from the daily grind, and a large yard transforms into a buyer’s new outdoor respite. Need help? Consider enlisting a professional who is familiar with what’s selling to help write your listing.

Highlight Brand Names
Don’t focus solely on basics such as square footage and the number of bathrooms. Instead, identify brands that will stand out from the competition. Everything’s fair game — from appliances to fixtures to interior designers or architects who helped with your last renovation. You can feel comfortable name-dropping here.

Create Longer Listings
The 2015 book “Zillow Talk” found that listings as long as 250 words tend to sell at higher prices. And to help grab a potential buyer’s eye, give particular attention to the first 10 words.

Before putting your home on the market, get in touch for help in crafting a well-worded listing. You can reply to this email for specific advice. A sale may hinge on it.

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