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Filed under: Design, Buying, Selling Getty Images/iStockphotoSan Francisco, Denver and Portland led 20 U.S. cities as home prices moved upward at the fastest pace of 2015. By Christopher S. Rugaber AP Economics Writer WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. home prices rose in September from a year earlier at the fastest pace in 13 months as a lack of houses for sale has forced buyers to bid up available properties. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, increased 5.5 percent in September compared with a year ago, the largest annual gain since August 2014. Steady job gains and low mortgage rates have propelled a solid rebound in home sales, which are on track to reach the highest level since 2007. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent in October as employers added the most jobs since December. Borrowing costs have ticked up but remain below 4 percent, a low level historically. San Francisco reported the largest annual home price increase, at 11.2 percent, followed by Denver at 10.9 percent. Portland had the third largest gain, at 10.1 percent. All 20 cities surveyed reported higher prices than a year earlier. On a monthly basis, prices rose 0.2 percent in September from August. Prices rose in seventeen of 20 cities from the previous month. They fell in Chicago, Cleveland and Washington, D.C. Sales of existing homes, while improving, have been volatile this year. They slipped in October after a healthy jump the previous month, according to the National Association of Realtors. Overall, home sales have increased 3.9 percent in the past 12 months. At the same time, the number of available homes has fallen 4.5 percent. That squeeze has pushed up prices. The typical home sold for $219,600 last month, up nearly 6 percent from a year ago, the Realtors group said Monday. That is the highest median price for the month of October since October 2005, at the height of the housing bubble. Home prices are rising at more than double the pace of inflation and much faster than wages, pricing many Americans out of the housing market. That has also pushed up rents as Americans increasingly stay in apartments. Still, home prices are rising at a much slower pace than the double-digit gains seen in most of 2013. David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P Dow Jones Index Committee, said that the higher prices aren't out of line with rising rents. That's a change from the housing bubble, when home prices soared much higher than rental costs. Several factors are likely holding back the supply of available homes. Many Americans still don't have much housing equity and as a result would profit little from a sale. That may be delaying them from listing their homes. In addition, the average rate for a 30-year mortgage has picked up in the past three years. It is currently almost 4 percent, which is still low. But millions of Americans have refinanced their mortgages at much lower rates and may be reluctant to trade up to a new home because doing so would require taking on a higher mortgage rate. Developers are also building homes at a historically modest pace. Construction of single-family homes dropped 2.4 percent in October compared to the previous month, the Commerce Department said last week. The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The September figures are the latest available. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Filed under: Buying, Financing, RefinancingZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.By Lauren BraunMortgage rates for 30-year fixed home loans fell this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow at 3.75 percent Tuesday, down four basis points from last week.The 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell throughout the week before settling at 3.75."Mortgage rates remained fairly flat last week," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "There is a risk of short-term volatility this holiday-shortened week due to lower than normal market participation and several important data releases."Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.93 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, or adjustable-rate mortgages, the rate was 2.92 percent.Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Filed under: Home Improvement, How ToZillowBy Zillow TeamThe big game's on, family and friends have gathered, and there's so much to do. Save yourself some time with this speedy trick for peeling potatoes lightning fast. 1. Gather your supplies: a pile of taters and your power drill (with a thoroughly washed bit). Zillow2. Get your potato in position and grab your peeler. Zillow3. Ready, set, peel! Zillow4. Get those bad boys into boiling water and cross "Peel potatoes" off your to-do list. Happy Thanksgiving! Permalink | Email this | Comments
Filed under: How ToGetty ImagesIf you decide to deep fry a turkey, move away from the house and use a long-handled tool, as this firefighter shows.By HomeInsurance.comThe countdown to turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie has begun. Thanksgiving's arrival means many of us are scouring the closet for pants with stretchy waistbands so we can prepare to feast.The holiday is all about giving thanks and spending a day with loved ones. But cooking the festive Thanksgiving meal can lead to fires. And fires can lead to injuries, deaths or property loss, so make sure to follow some safety suggestions for this holiday.Check the StatsThanksgiving Day is the peak day for cooking fires in homes, accounting for about three times as many fires as any other day of the year, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).Each year between 2011 and 2013, Thanksgiving Day produced an average of 2,100 residential building fires, resulting in $28 million in property damage, 50 injuries, and 10 deaths, according to a report by the U.S. Fire Administration.What causes most Thanksgiving fires? More than 71 percent of fires were attributed to cooking, and the highest percentage of fires (24.6 percent) occurred between noon and 3 p.m., the report said.Eyes on the PrizeEr, turkey. Leaving food unattended while it was cooking was the leading cause of Thanksgiving cooking fires, according to the NFPA. You'll want to visit with your guests during this holiday, but it's far more important to pay attention to what's in the oven or on the stovetop so that you don't become a statistic.Also, assign guests items to bring for the meal. Having a potluck-style Thanksgiving dinner will prevent you from doing all the cooking, so you won't be trying to cook multiple dishes at once. Giving your undivided attention to one dish at a time will help to keep food from burning and starting fires.And when you want to chat with your guests while you're cooking, call them into the kitchen with you. Leaving the room while food is in the oven or on the burners is a risky move that makes your insurance provider sweat.Don't Wear Loose Clothing While CookingLet's set the scene: You're wearing a baggy sweater as you cook vegetables in oil or butter, and you divert your attention to talk to a family member. A fire ignites, and, in a panic, you attempt to move the pan to the sink to run water over it. When you move the pan, your loose sleeve connects with the flames and, in a flash, your entire arm is on fire.There are several things wrong with this scenario. The first is that you should avoid wearing loose-fitting clothes while cooking, as it puts you at an increased risk to catch fire and be injured.Secondly, never move a pot that's on fire, or try to put out a grease or oil fire with water. It's best to put a lid on top of the pot to smother the fire, leave the pot where it is, and turn the heat off when the fire has been tamed.Getting distracted while cooking is also a no-no.Keep Fire Hazards Away From the StoveJust like ill-fitting clothing is a hazard that can easily ignite, so are things like potholders, wooden utensils, towels, and flowers. Keep these items away from burners and the oven to reduce the chances of having a kitchen fire.It's also important to keep pets out of the kitchen. Say you just turned off the burner, but your pup comes sniffing around, puts his paws up on the counter, and accidentally slides a towel on top of the still-hot burner without you noticing, causing it to be engulfed in flames. Avoid this type of scenario by keeping the dog in a gated room and keeping other hazards at bay.Know the Biggest RisksFrying is the greatest risk for home fires. So if you're deep-frying the turkey this year, take extra precautions. Keep the fryer away from the house and on even ground. The fryer should be set up more than 10 feet away from the home, and on level ground to keep the oil even. Completely thaw and dry the turkey first. Only fry a turkey after it has been fully thawed and dried off to reduce the possibility of splattering grease, which can ignite fires. Keep children and pets away, and have a fire extinguisher nearby. The last thing you want on Thanksgiving Day is for a child or pet to knock over the fryer and get injured.If You Have a Thanksgiving Day FireThe majority of non-fatal Thanksgiving Day fire injuries occurred when people tried to fight the fires themselves. If your home catches fire when you're preparing Thanksgiving dinner and you don't have a fire extinguisher on hand, just get everyone out of the house.Keep yourself, your family, and your guests safe. You can call 911 when everyone has evacuated.The good news is that property damage and liability coverage for incidents involving fires are typically eligible for coverage under standard home insurance policies. That's something to be thankful for.Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow or AOL Real Estate. Permalink | Email this | Comments
Filed under: Buying, Selling
By Devon Thorsby
Real estate agents see and hear a lot, and while shockingly few things surprise them, there's a fine line between need-to-know and TMI. But the more transparent a client is during the buying or selling process, the better the broker can meet his or her needs.
Luis D. Ortiz, associate broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate and star of Bravo's "Million Dollar Listing New York," equates the nitty-gritty details of a seller's personal life to a doctor visit. When the doctor asks how often you drink, "everybody says 'socially' when really they drink every night," Ortiz says. "The more transparent you are of a person, the more they can get to the core of the problem."
To get the most out of your relationship with your real estate agent, avoid these red flags that can end up landing you with the wrong agent or the right one running for the hills.
Telling an Agent You're Not Sure About Selling
Agents typically don't collect a fee until their client either sells his or her current home or purchases a new one. Any time and money spent before then on marketing and other services is out of the agent's pocket. Simply dipping your toes in the water to see if your house generates interest -- and then pulling back -- isn't going to be very enticing for a broker.
"I'm not sure I'm going to take that seller on as a client," says Greg Cooper, manager and broker at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Indianapolis. "The process costs everybody time and money, so why waste it unnecessarily?"
And as Ortiz points out, putting your house on the market experimentally can have adverse effects on other homes that are actually for sale. "It gives the buyers [a] perception that the apartment is not sellable [or] that the market may be turning into a buyer's market," Ortiz says.
Saying You Don't Have a Time Frame
Not having a deadline can leave brokers unsure of your commitment. Agents understand when their clients have a strict time frame, and can appreciate a few extra days or weeks to close a deal on the right home. But being told they have no target date to sell or purchase a home will leave them wondering if they're wasting their efforts.
Cooper says serious homebuyers will typically have a reason, such as a growing family or moving for a job, that brings about the change in living situation. A lack of deadline puts up a flag that you may also lack commitment to carrying out a deal. "My question for them would be, 'Why do you have all the time in the world? What are you trying to accomplish?' That goes back to, 'We're not really sure what we want to do,' and that's just not a situation, in all candor, that's beneficial 98 percent of the time to the client and the broker," Cooper says.
One of the first questions Ortiz asks on any listing appointment is why the homeowners is selling. "You have to know if this person is real or not," Ortiz says. "I want to know because that sets the conversation and what my expectations should be."
Lying About Your Motivation
Your real estate agent will have to know a lot about you -- your financial health, your needs and wants in a living space and any life-changing events that could cause you to buy or sell at a specific time -- to do his or her job properly. In order to work successfully with your agent, honesty is the best policy.
Cooper says one of the first questions he asks potential clients is why they are looking to sell, primarily to get a full understanding of the clients' needs and how he can best fill them. "If I've got a seller who is changing jobs or who is going through a divorce, those things clearly affect the motivation level they have to sell the home," he says.
An agent you've carefully selected and can trust will keep your personal life private. And by knowing your reason for moving, he or she can better meet your needs. Joe Manausa of Joe Manausa Real Estate in Tallahassee, Florida, says full disclosure can also help prepare agents for what they may face down the line. He gives the example of spouses left in the dark: "There are times we've been hired to sell a home, and after they sign the documents I get a call from one of them saying, 'Hey, he doesn't know it, but we're getting divorced, and that's why we're selling."
Overpricing Your Home
You've hired a professional to help you throughout the process, and it's important to give the agent enough breathing room to be the pro, particularly when it comes to pricing. Starting the process with nonnegotiable expectations is a good way to get off on the wrong foot.
Manausa explains that overpricing your home will often leave it on the market longer because the right buyers won't see it. "People go online and the first thing they do is they shop by price range. If you're overpriced, the people that do see your house [are] comparing it to nicer houses -- they don't want to see yours," Manausa says.
Asking Your Friends What They Think Your Home is Worth
The only thing worse than coming up with your own unrealistic number could be having friends come up with the number, especially when they're not in the real estate business.
Ortiz says a friend's pricing recommendation often show how kind the friend is but has nothing to do with the actual value of the home. "They're all your friends and they'll tell you for the sake of telling you your house is worth $20 million [when] it's only worth five dollars," Ortiz says.
Rather than have the agent compete with other opinions, keep your friends' kind valuations of your home to yourself.
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