Kitchen Makeover Ideas for Under $1,000

Kitchen remodels can cost your clients upwards to $20,000 or more. But there are a few simple and inexpensive tweaks that can give a dated kitchen a more modern edge. Here are some ideas:

  • Hardware: Replacing current hardware can really modernize the kitchen, but make sure it compliments the kitchen’s existing décor. Hardware can make a big difference in the look of a kitchen.
  • Faucet: Make a new faucet the focal point in the kitchen that can offer an eye-catching makeover.
  • Backsplash: A backsplash can be an instant way to dress up a kitchen. A stainless steel laminate backsplash can work with most kitchen styles and is known as being a more affordable option.
  • Paint: Repaint or refinish old cabinets for a dramatic update. White kitchen cabinets are among the most popular trends right now, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s trend reports.
  • Lighting: Swap out the lighting for more updated models, such as pendant lights over a kitchen island or add under-cabinet lighting to highlight the countertops.

Source: “Redoing Your Kitchen on a Budget of $1,000 or Less,” RISMedia (May 18, 2016)

Are Low Mortgage Rates Losing Their Pull?

Mortgage rates are hovering at the lowest averages in years, but home buyers aren’t rushing to take advantage. Mortgage applications dropped 1.6 percent last week compared to the previous week on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Mortgage Bankers Association reports.

“Purchase applications jumped up during the first full week of April and had effectively remained at that level, on an unadjusted basis, before falling this week,” says Joel Kan, the MBA’s associate vice president of industry surveys and forecasting. “The seasonally adjusted purchase index decreased to the lowest level since February, led by declines in applications for larger home purchase amounts” (such as declines in the jumbo loan market, loan values higher than $417,000).

The MBA reports the average on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage held steady at 3.82 percent last week.

Source: “Lowest Rates in a Year No Enticement: Mortgage Applications Down 1.6%,” CNBC (May 18, 2016)

Home Loan Interest Rates at 3-Year Lows

“Disappointing April employment data once again kept a lid on Treasury yields, which have struggled to stay above 1.8 percent since late March,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “As a result, the 30-year mortgage rate fell 4 basis points to 3.57 percent, a new low for 2016 and the lowest mark in 3 years. Prospective home buyers will continue to take advantage of a falling rate environment that has seen mortgage rates drop in 14 of the previous 19 weeks.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending May 12:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.57 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 3.61 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.85 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 2.81 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 2.86 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.07 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

6 Outdoor Trends Home Buyers Love

Home owners crave outdoor spaces for gathering and entertaining, which is why it’s important to highlight outdoor spaces like these suggestions:

1. Natural wood and stone: Natural wood and stone features are popular today, even those made of faux materials like vinyl. “This design trend can make an outdated home look modern on the exterior, causing more buyers to stop and schedule a showing,” the RISMedia article notes.

2. Privacy: Home owners love outdoor space but they also like their privacy. Make the outdoor space more private. Place walls around the pergola, enclose a gazebo, or use tall shrubbery to create more backyard privacy.

3. Lighting: Good outdoor lighting helps make a property appear more inviting and improves the security. Make sure there are plenty of lights on the backyard or deck. Solar lighting can be an inexpensive way to add more lights, if the wiring isn’t in place. “A well-lit deck lends itself to summer barbecues and parties,” the article notes.

4. Low-maintenance landscaping: Buyers tend to be drawn to low maintenance. Try using perennials, which can add a splash of color, but don’t need to be replanted every year. Mulch and rock can help keep weeds away while enhancing the space’s look. Stone walkways and decorative items can further spruce up a lawn, without extra maintenance.

5. Fire pits and fireplaces: A fire pit can provide an outdoor spot for easy entertaining. Stage it with chairs all around and ready for making s’mores.

6. Outdoor structures: To enhance a backyard, a gazebo or pergola can go a long way to help making the space more inviting. “These outdoor structures boost the function, and therefore increase your home’s value,” the article notes.

Source: “8 Outdoor Trends That Attract Buyers,” RISMedia (May 10, 2016)

Sellers Happy, But Home Buyers Are Frustrated

The number of home buyers who say now is a good time to buy dipped to an all-time survey low in Fannie Mae’s latest Home Purchase Sentiment Index. Meanwhile, home owners who say now is a good time to sell soared to an all-time survey high.

Some highlights from Fannie Mae’s latest Home Purchase Sentiment Index:

  • 30% of Americans say now is a good time to purchase a home, a drop of 3 percentage points from the previous month and now at an all-time survey low.
  • 15% of Americans say now is a good time to sell a home, now at an all-time survey high.
  • More consumers think home prices will rise over the next 12 months compared to March, and slightly fewer consumers also expect mortgage rates to go up over the next year.
  • The percentage of respondents who say they are not concerned with losing their job increased 6 percentage points to 74%, nearly a 7 percentage point decrease in March.
  • The percentage of respondents who say their household income is higher than it was 12 months ago held at 11%.

Source: Fannie Mae

Builders Hampered by Soaring Regulatory Costs

The average cost to comply with regulations for new-home construction has climbed nearly 30 percent in just five years, according to the National Association of Home Builders. These costs include everything from new construction codes and storm-water discharge permits to local impact fees. The jump in regulatory costs has grown at about the same rate as the average price for a new home.

“It really makes it hard to satisfy the lower end of the market, which is a lot of first-time buyers,” Paul Emrath, the NAHB’s vice president for survey and housing policy research, told The Wall Street Journal.

Also, local infrastructure impact fees have risen by 45 percent, on average, since 2005 in 37 major home-building markets nationwide, according to a separate study by Zelman & Associates, a housing research firm.

Source: “Home Builders Say They Are Squeezed by Rising Compliance Costs,” The Wall Street Journal (May 7, 2016)

Mortgage Rates Drop, Near 2016 Lows

“The Fed’s decision to stand pat followed by a week of assorted unsettling news drove Treasury yields lower,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “As a consequence, the 30-year mortgage rate drifted down to 3.61 percent, just 3 basis points above the low for the year. Since the start of February, mortgage rates have varied within a narrow range, providing an extended period for house hunters to take advantage of historically low rates.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending May 5:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.61 percent, with an average 0.6 point, dropping from last week’s 3.66 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.80 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 2.86 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 2.89 percent average. Last year at this time, 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.02 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Home Loan Demand Recedes Again

Total mortgage application volume – which encompasses applications for refinancings and home purchases – nudged down 3.4 percent week-to-week on an adjusted basis, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday. The decrease came as interest rates edged slightly higher last week.

Mortgage application volume still remains 14 percent higher than a year ago when mortgage rates were at about the same average. MBA reported that refinance demand has seen the biggest downfall in recent weeks, dropping 6 percent last week. That demand is 15 percent higher than a year ago.

“Refinance activity decreased for the second-straight week because fewer borrowers have an incentive to refi at the current level of rates,” says Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist. “But there are still some who respond to the small changes we have seen in recent weeks.”

Mortgage applications for home purchases remained mostly flat last week. However, applications are about 13 percent higher than a year ago. The average on the 30-year rate mortgage rose to 3.87 percent from 3.85 percent, MBA reported.

Source: “Mortgage Applications Down 3.4% on Another Slight Rate Gain,” CNBC (May 4, 2016)

4 Ways to Remove Smelly Home Odors

Whether it’s a pet odor or yesterday’s pungent dinner, you can take steps to remove bad odors from a home prior to a showing.

“If you enter a home and immediately encounter a smell, that is generally all people focus on, and all they will remember,” says Debra Johnson, a home cleaning specialist with Merry Maids.® recently offered the following tips for banishing common odors from a home.

1. Pet urine: Use a spray with enzymes that breaks down odor molecules. Soak the area with the spray and let it seep into the carpet.

2. Dinner: Open the windows and turn the range hood fan on to high when cooking high odor items, like fish. If smells still linger, fill a shallow bowl with white vinegar or coffee grounds put it on the counter. It’ll absorb the smells overnight.

3. Paint: Slice an onion in half. Place each half on a dish on opposite sides of the room. It will neutralize paint smells. (The smell of the onion should only linger for an hour.)

4. Kitchen sink: Check your drain and garbage disposal to make sure something isn’t stuck. Then, place two or three slices of lemon or orange into the disposal. Turn on the water. Flip the switch.

Read more tricks at®.

Source: “Tricks to Banish Bad Smells From Your Home—Forever,”® (April 28, 2016)

Starter Homes May Be Coming Back, After All!

Good news for first-time buyers: more starter homes are on the way. A recent analysis by BUILDER online shows the number of homebuilders offering entry-level housing rose 25 percent last year.

Since the recession, the number of new entry-level homes plummeted. BUILDER online even declared the starter home “nearly extinct” last year. However, BUILDER’s analysis of the 2016 Builder 100/Next Builder list points out an increasing number of builders are devoting at least 50 percent of their business to building entry-level homes.

Still, “the re-entry of the entry-level buyer has begun, but this group’s next moves will be gradual,” says Metrostudy’s Brad Hunter about young buyers’ emergence into the housing market. “Income challenges remain, and there are still relatively few new house developments who target this group.”

Source: “Builder 100: Entry Level Makes a Comeback,” BUILDER (April 27, 2016)