How to Repair Pet Damage to a Home

The household pet can certainly leave its mark behind in a home. But you want to make sure that beloved dog or cat doesn’t hamper the home’s value at resale. RISMedia recently spotlighted several things home owners can do to remove pet-related problems around the house.

Carpeting: This would be a good time to get the carpets professionally cleaned. But in the meantime, to wipe up any pet accidents right away, blot it with a paper towel and then apply a mixture of equal parts of water and vinegar to soak it up. If the stain is really bad, use pure vinegar, the article suggests. After the area has been soaked up, scrub hard to clean the carpet more deeply and leave a touch of baking soda until it dries. Then, vacuum the area.

Hardwood floors: For any pet odors absorbed on hardwood floors, be sure to handle gently as to not harm the wood. “Vinegar starts removing bad smells immediately,” notes writer Megan Wild, a blogger for Your Wild Home. “Alternatively, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide can also do the trick. All three could weaken the sealant or cause bleaching if not applied carefully or if left too long, so don’t leave the area unattended.”

Source: “How to Repair Cat and Dog Damage Before Moving,” RISMedia (March 29, 2016)

Glowing Jobs Report Bolsters Home Loan Demand

The recent release of an employment report showing strong growth may be the key behind the rise in mortgage applications last week, CNBC reports. The strengthening jobs report offers a greater likelihood that the Federal Reserve will decide to raise interest rates next week, prompting home owners and buyers to rush to secure rates now.

Total mortgage applications—for refinancings and home purchases together—rose 1.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week ending Dec. 4 compared to the previous week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reports. Broken out, refinance volume – which tends to be the most rate-sensitive – increased 4 percent week-to-week, while applications for home purchases inched up 0.04 percent. Purchase volume is 29 percent higher than the same week one year ago, a strong indication of more home sales.

“This year’s housing market is poised to be the best since 2007; however, consumers’ ability and willingness to purchase a home is likely to remain an issue in many regions going forward until we see consumer confidence in their income growth consistently gain traction,” wrote Fannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan in a recent report.


Source: “Weekly Mortgage Applications Up 1.2%,” CNBC (Dec. 9, 2015)

Closing Cost Aid to First-Time Home Buyers

Fannie Mae announced a new program that allows first-time home buyers of its properties to receive up to 3 percent of the purchase price in closing cost assistance. On a $150,000 priced home, for example, buyers could receive up to $4,500 in closing cost savings.

Fannie Mae’s HomePath Ready Buyer Program requires eligible buyers to complete an online home buyer education course as well as purchase a HomePath property – the branding that Fannie Mae uses for the foreclosed properties it owns.

The education course buyers are required to take covers the responsibilities of owning a home and the home buying process. The course includes nine, 30-minute sessions and is offered exclusively online.

Visit the Fannie Mae website for information about the HomePath Ready Buyer Program.

Source: “Fannie Mae Launches HomePath Ready Buyer Education Program for First-Time Home Buyers,” Fannie Mae (April 14, 2015)

Will No-Fly Zones Dictate the Future of Drone Use?

At, addresses nationwide can be registered and added to a map of properties where owners have expressed their desire to keep drones away. Similar to a Do Not Call list, NoFlyZone is sharing the addresses with a coalition of seven drone manufacturers, who will pass the information on to their users and code geofences around the registered properties to physically keep drones from flying near them.

NoFlyZone founder and CEO Ben Marcus notes that participation by drone companies is voluntary, and it is up to them to ensure their users are complying with the no-fly list.

“We cannot guarantee that no drones will fly over a registered property, but the number should be greatly reduced,” Marcus says.

The FAA is seeking public comment on the proposed rules through April 24.

Source: REALTOR® Magazine

The Best Seasons to Sell a Home

Spring is traditionally considered the best season to list a home, but it doesn’t inch out the other seasons by much, according to a new analysis by the real estate brokerage Redfin.

Redfin’s research team analyzed 7 million homes listed from 2010 through 2014 to gauge how important the season is in listing a home. It examined how many of the homes went under contract within 30 days and how often they sold for more than their list price.

Here’s how the seasons stacked up:

  • 39% of the homes listed in the spring (between March 21 and June 20) in the past five years went under contract within 30 days, and 15 percent sold for more than the list price.
  • 38% of homes listed in the winter (Dec. 21 – March 20) sold within 30 days and 14 percent sold for more than the list price.
  • 36% of homes listed in the summer (June 21 – Sept. 20) were under contract within 30 days and 12 percent sold above the list price.
  • 34% of homes listed in the fall (Sept. 21 – Dec. 20) went under contract within 30 days and 11 percent sold at a premium.

Source: “Should I Wait Until Spring to List My Home? Not Necessarily,” Redfin Research Center (Feb. 5, 2015)

FHA Fee Cuts Likely to Help More Home Buyers Qualify

Last week, the Federal Housing Administration announced it will cut its annual mortgage insurance premiums, likely resulting in about $900 in savings for borrowers and potentially opening the door to thousands of new buyers. But there are no further FHA fee reductions under consideration, Julian Castro, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, told a crowd at the National Press Club on Tuesday. The FHA decided to reduce its annual mortgage insurance premium fees from 1.35 percent to 0.85 percent because its Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund for single-family programs was “back in the black.” In his speech, Castro cited National Association of REALTORS® research that estimated that nearly 400,000 creditworthy borrowers were being priced out of the housing market in 2013 due to the high premiums. “We expect our premium reduction to help more than 2 million borrowers save an average of $900 annually over the next three years,” Castro told the crowd. “It will also encourage nearly a quarter-million new borrowers to purchase their first home.” Source: “Castro: No Further FHA Fee Reductions Under Consideration,” HousingWire (Jan. 13, 2015)

Landscaping Boosts Home Values Up to 12%

You might want to take a closer look at your listing’s curb appeal: Upgrading a home’s landscape from average to excellent can raise its overall value by 10 percent to 12 percent, according to research from Virginia Tech.

Researcher Alex X. Niemiera with the Department of Horticulture at Virginia Tech found that a $150,000 home with no landscaping could fetch an additional $8,300 to $19,000 by adding a landscape with color and large plants.

“The most preferred landscape included a sophisticated design with large deciduous, evergreen, and annual color plants and colored hardscape,” according to Niemiera. Adding different plant sizes to a front yard, for example, can boost curb appeal, as well as mixing fruit trees and flowers for added color.

“Survey results showed that relatively large landscape expenditures significantly increase perceived home value and will result in a higher selling price than homes with a minimal landscape,” Niemiera writes in the paper. “Design sophistication and plant size were the landscape factors that most affected value. The resulting increase in ‘curb appeal’ of the property may also help differentiate a home in a subdivision where house styles are similar and thereby attract potential buyers into a home. This advantage is especially important in a competitive housing market.”

Source: “Does Landscaping Increase Your Homes Value?” Realty Times (Oct. 13, 2014)

Home Design Amps Up Happiness

Eighty-seven percent of 6,000 respondents recently said their home design influences overall happiness, according to a new survey by the remodeling website Houzz.

Seventy-four percent of home owners credit a remodeling or redecorating job in the past two years for making them happier. Still, 51 percent of respondents who describe their home as “in need of work” say they’re happy at home.

The two key home elements that respondents say have the power to make them happier at home were big windows and comfortable furniture, according to the survey.

Home owners say they’re happiest in rooms that are clean and organized and comfortable (with men showing more preference for comfort and women favoring rooms that are more clean and tidy). Forty-two percent of respondents say they’re happiest in the living/family room, and 15 percent said they were happiest in the kitchen.

Home owners also link certain smells with happiness at home. Respondents said the scent of “good food cooking” or baking made them happier at home, followed by smells of a fresh outdoor breeze and candles.

Source: “What Really Makes Us Happy at Home? Find Out From a New Houzz Survey,” Houzz (March 19, 2014)

Shut Out of the Housing Market? ‘First-Timers Dwindle’

First-time home buyers are particularly being hit hard by rising prices and tougher credit standards — and their decreasing market share proves it.

The National Association of REALTORS® reports that first-time home buyers accounted for 26 percent of purchases in January, down from 30 percent a year earlier. It’s also the lowest market share for first-time buyers that NAR has recorded since it began measuring it in 2008.

The falling number of first-time home buyers has the potential to slow the pace of the recovery, Bloomberg reports. The decline of first-time home buyers is hampering home sales, which dropped 5.1 percent in January compared to a year earlier, NAR reports.

“It’s a huge problem,” says Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist for the California Association of REALTORS®. “We have a ladder of home ownership and need first-time home buyers beginning the process of owning, building equity, and trading up to have a healthy housing sector.”

Some housing advocates are blaming investors for pushing out home buyers, particularly where first-time home buyers are being outbid by investors offering all-cash offers. Nearly 80 organizations are calling on federal regulators to address investors pushing potential home buyers out of the market, reports the California Reinvestment Coalition. They argue that federal housing agencies conducting bulk sales of foreclosed homes and distressed mortgages have heightened the problem.

The housing advocates are asking for greater oversight from federal regulatory bodies, such as with more oversight of new investor landlords and ensure that banks aren’t favoring investors over home buyers with FHA loans in REO purchases. The group is also asking for greater research on the disparate impact of REO properties on various communities, particularly the impact to minority communities. Read more about the housing advocates’ stance at the California Reinvestment Coalition website.

Source: “Americans Shut Out of Home Market Threaten Recovery: Mortgages,” Bloomberg Businessweek (March 5, 2014) and “80 Organizations Ask Federal Government to Address Investor Cash Flooding Into Neighborhoods,” California Reinvestment Coalition (March 4, 2014)

Some Rents Determined by ‘Priceline Model’

As rental housing demand continues to surge, more landlords are testing out dynamic pricing to figure out what to charge tenants based on real-time supply and demand—adopting a software system similar to how determines hotel rates and airfare, CNNMoney reports.

Landlords use real-time supply and demand to determine what to charge tenants. Therefore, when demand for apartments is high, the software will advise the landlord to raise rents on vacant apartments. In turn, when demand drops, the software will suggest lowering rent rates. The software automatically lowers the rent based on day-to-day market conditions until a tenant takes the apartment.

Dynamic pricing is used to determine the rent of some 5 million apartments today, says Andrew Rains, president of the multifamily division at Rainmaker Group, a company that produces one of the software packages widely-used by landlords to determine prices.

“When pricing is done manually, emotion enters into it,” says Rains. Software also helps avoid overpricing units that can lead to vacancies and steep losses for landlords.

Source: “Priceline for Landlords May Determine Your Next Rent,” CNNMoney (Feb. 19, 2014)