When to Refinance Your Home

Refinancing your home.

In Arizona, with a booming market and homes appraising for great values, this is probably a topic that has come up among many homeowners whom perhaps want to make the most out of the investment that is their house, but aren’t quite ready to move yet.

In fact, refinancing is probably something that most homeowners consider at least once throughout the lifespan of their home loan.

Refinancing your mortgage can have many benefits, one being that it may allow you to pay off your previous loan by applying for a new one that has better financial advantages.

While there are many good reasons to refinance, here are five common ones:

  1. Scoring a lower interest rate. The number one reason homeowners decide to refinance is to secure a lower interest rate on their mortgage. Not only does this save you money in the long run and decrease your monthly payment, but you can start building equity in your home sooner.
  2. Using an improved credit score. Even if interest rates have not dropped in the market, if you’ve improved your credit score over the last few years, you may be able to reduce your mortgage rate.
  3. Shortening the loan’s term. If interest rates are decreasing, there is a chance you may be able to get a shorter loan term with little to no change in your monthly payment, allowing you to pay off your loan sooner.
  4. Switching from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate. If you chose an adjustable-rate mortgage with great introductory rates when you initially financed your home, that rate may increase significantly over the years. By switching to a fixed rate while interest rates are low, you can protect yourself from future increases.
  5. Cashing out home equity. If there is a big purchase or payment on the horizon, such as funding a wedding or going back to school, your best option may be to use the equity you’ve built in your home to borrow money at a lower cost.

If you think refinancing your home might be something you’re interested in, give us a call at 928-771-1111. We’d love to connect you with one of our trusted lenders and see how they can help you achieve this goal!

 

Giving Your Deck a Facelift

As we come to the end of January, the shorter winter days are behind us. Gradually getting more sun with each passing day, Spring will be here before we know it – hallelujah! With Spring comes birds chirping, blooming flowers and green trees, and warmer weather that invites you to come and enjoy the outdoors with those you love.

After a snowy, grim winter though, thinking about having others over to your home and possibly starting up that grill that’s been sitting since summer makes you take a harder look at that outdoor hosting space. How is it looking? Specifically, how is your deck doing? Hanging out with your family or hosting friends on your old, dingy deck is not very appealing.

Lucky for you, refreshing it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Try your hand at the makeover ideas below:

Depending on the shape it’s in, sometimes all your deck needs is a little love. If it’s still fairly new, your deck might just need a deep cleaning and a new coat of sealant. There is a multitude of deck finishing and cleaning solutions on the market to choose from to achieve this. However, if it’s more worn down, the rejuvenation process may be a bit longer, including searching for larger repairs, tightening any hardware, giving it a good cleaning, applying a stain, sealant, and paint, and more.

Add lighting. Ambient lighting can completely transform your outside space into a relaxing, cozy oasis. Consider adding solar lights that don’t require a plugin or battery replacement. The lights turn on automatically when the sun sets, making your deck come alive. You can also consider paper lanterns, rope lights, mason jar lamps, or small twinkle lights, depending on the style and mood you’d like to set.

Build a privacy screen. Privacy screens come in all styles, shapes, and sizes. Consider purchasing and installing bamboo fencing or lattice panels for a quick and easy solution. Or, if you are feeling a little more adventurous, you can build a wooden frame and grow climbing plants or vines or stretch outdoor fabric in between. Whichever route you end up choosing, make sure you get the most out of your efforts by evaluating all lines sight before building.

Don’t exactly have the money to do some much needed repairs to your deck and home? Here are some options to consider:

Home Equity. Getting a home equity line of credit allows you to borrow money against the value of your home. You receive usually up to 80 percent of your home’s value, minus the amount of your loan.

Retirement Funds. Homeowners can consider pulling money from a 401K or IRA account, even though they aren’t specifically meant to cover a home renovation. This option might incur additional penalties or tax payments, but may be worth it when making improvements that will benefit them financially in the long run.

The 2020 Housing Market by ARMLS

As we kick off the 2020 Real Estate season, we love to look at what some trusted sources around our state have to say about it. What are their predictions? Will the market keep booming, or take a dip?

That being said, here is what Scottsdale’s multiple listing service (aka ARMLS) has to say about what the housing market might look like in the year 2020:

Maintaining your Heating and Cooling Systems

Living in Prescott with a climate where we often use both our air conditioning and heat in the winter and summer months, we need to make sure we’re taking good care of these systems in order to make them last long and work to the best of their abilities (no one wants a broken heating system in the middle of the night in the dead of winter, or an air conditioning system breaking down when it’s 100 degrees outside).

Because of this, it’s a good idea to hire an HVAC company to inspect and do maintenance on your systems about twice a year. They’ll do things like inspect and clean the wiring and mechanisms of the air conditioner and furnace, as well as other maintenance tasks that are a bit more challenging for the average homeowner.

However, aside from bringing in a professional, there are even more things you can do as a homeowner throughout the year to prolong the life and increase the efficiency of your systems. While some of these things you should do immediately, other tasks only need to be done seasonally or even just once a year.

Here are 10 things to do to maintain your systems well:

  1. Buy a better filter if you haven’t already.The new high-efficiency pleated filters have an electrostatic charge that work like a magnet to grab the tiniest particles — even those that carry bacteria.
  2. Replace the filter at least every 90 days.But check it monthly. If it looks dark and clogged, go ahead and change it. If you have pets, you’ll probably need to change every month.
  3. Make sure there’s at least two feet of clearancearound outdoor air conditioning units and heat pumps.
  4. Remove debris,such as leaves, pollen, and twigs weekly during spring, summer, and fall from top and sides of outdoor air-conditioning units and heat pumps. Don’t allow the lawn mower to discharge grass clippings onto the unit.
  5. Monthly, inspect insulation on refrigerant linesleading into house. Replace if missing or damaged.
  6. Make sure unit is level.Annually, ensure that outdoor air-conditioning units and heat pumps are on firm and level ground or pads.
  7. Stave off clogs.Annually, pour a cup of bleach mixed with water down the air-conditioner condensate drain to prevent buildup of mold and algae, which can cause a clog.
  8. Shut off the water supply to the furnace humidifierin summer. In fall (or when you anticipate turning on the heat), replace the humidifier wick filter, set the humidistat to between 35% and 40% relative humidity, and turn on the water supply.
  9. Never close more than 20% of a home’s registersto avoid placing unnecessary strain on the HVAC system.
  10. Replace the battery in your home’s carbon monoxide detector annually.

 

Household To-Do’s This January

Well, we’re here, it’s 2020! Just like that, another year is over and a new one is beginning. With January comes the putting away of holiday decorations until Christmas, organizing the home, and possibly doing some much needed maintenance around the house that you’ve been putting off.

From getting rid of clutter to getting ready for tax season, here is a short list of some things you can accomplish these first few months of the new year in order to make your life a little more organized.

Holiday storage: It’s time for that Elf to go sit on his eleven month shelf, along with all the other lights and decorations too. As you pack up, one thing you can do is take the time to throw away or donate anything you no longer want. Doing this – along with buying storage bins and properly packing things away – can really help with not only making storage easier, but also freeing up some probably much needed storage space (especially when your decorations collection seems to expand year after year).

Change Everything Out: January is a great time to change out things around the house. Water filters, flushing your water heater, smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector batteries, burnt out light bulbs you haven’t got around to changing, and things such as this. This will help with the longevity of your household appliances and systems, keep you safe, and help take care of the little home maintenance details we tend to forget.

Prevent ice dams. In states that get some significant snow, beware of ice dams that occur when snow and ice melt and refreeze on roofs and in gutters. Heavy snow can cause roof and gutter damage as well as other problems to your home. To prevent dams from forming, make sure you have adequate insulation in the attic. Inspect the underside of roof decking and seal seams and other openings. The attic temperature should be close to the outside temperatures.

Snow removal. Whether you use a snow blower or a shovel, keep your sidewalks and drives clear. To improve traction and melt ice, use calcium chloride pellets instead of rock salt. Doing both of these things not only keeps you and your family safer when walking to and from the house, but it also helps with the upkeep of your concrete walkways.

Organize and declutter. Go closet by closet, and room by room, and get rid of stuff! Sell or donate to charity any belongings you no longer use or love (if you didn’t use it at all last year, chances are it can go). Digitize family photos and home videos, and go paperless with documents. Do not spend money on organizational tools and containers until you have completely purged and no exactly what you need.

Tax season prep. It’s that dreaded time. TAX SEASON (Dun, dun, dun)! That being said, it’s time to begin gathering the receipts and records needed to prepare your taxes. Make an appointment with your tax accountant and see what else you need to get in order for you to get the ball moving on completing your 2019 taxes on time.

2020 Housing Market: Gen X, Boomers, and Millennials

As we head into 2020, many in the Real Estate industry, or those who are looking to buy or sell this year, may be wondering what the market will look like in the months to come and overall this year.

According to Realtor.com, one factor playing a major roll in the housing market this year is age groups. Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and Millennials will all have an effect on the year 2020, just as they started to in 2019.

With Gen Xers and Baby Boomers:

Though many are beginning to retire and seek places that are sunnier, warmer, have lower taxes, and have lower costs of living, many are also opting to hang onto their homes a little longer than they did in the past. This is causing a diminish in home supply – even more of a diminish than there was before – and a diminish that new home builds cannot keep up with in order to keep inventory steady.

When it comes to mortgages, around 32% of home purchases this year are projected to be from Gen Xers, while around 17% of home purchases are projected to be from the Baby Boomer generation, a smaller percentage than in previous years.

About Millennials:

As for millennials, they are projected to make up a whopping 50% of all home purchases this year! That means they’ll take out more mortgages than the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers combined.

While some may think that Millennials are just looking for hip apartments in the city within walking distance to everything (or are drowning in too much student debt to hold their own in the Real Estate market), that isn’t the case. Not only are Millennials looking for other types of homes – such as an 1,800 square foot house in the suburbs – but they also have peak savings for down payments. The median age for millennials is 30 years old, which is also the age of the average home buyer now. These 30-somethings are starting families and seeking homes in good neighborhoods closer to good schools.

The only problem millennials will face, as will every other home buyer this year, is the inventory shortage, making it harder for them to find the right home.

 

This is just one factor looking to affect the 2020 market this year, but there are many more, which we’ll continue to write about in blogs to come. If you’re looking to possibly buy or sell a home this year, we’d love to help you in any way we can! You can call us at 928-771-1111.

Which to Buy: Townhome or Condo?

Whether it’s your first time buying or you just want to purchase something smaller, townhouses and condos are both great options. Check out the differences between the two to help aid you in your search!

Condominiums

Condominiums are similar to apartments in that you purchase an individual unit inside of a larger building, but not the property it sits on. This generally includes access to the building’s amenities, such as the clubhouse, pool, and gym. However, condo owners are not responsible for the upkeep and repair of these common areas. Because of the number of shared spaces, living in a condo often allows for meeting new people and building a strong sense of community. There is a fairly similar vetting process for loan approval as for a full-sized home; however, the lender will also look at the health of the condo association.

Townhouses

Those who purchase a townhome are generally purchasing the complete unit, both inside and out, including the land it sits on. This might also include the driveway, yard, or roof. Traditionally, these units are two- or three-stories tall and may also include common areas like pools and parks. Townhome owners pay a fee to a homeowners association every month and the loan process is the same as buying a full-sized home.

Which is the best choice?

Both townhomes and condos offer less maintenance than a traditional home and generally offer great shared areas. Your decision ultimately comes down to you and your family’s needs and wants seeing as townhomes generally tend to be larger. Things you’ll want to take into consideration include location, lifestyle, family growth, and price. Another thing to consider is investment. Later on down the road once your family grows out of the condo or townhome, these properties can make great rentals. Checking on the HOA’s rules with renting is a good idea if this is something you’re interested in when buying.

The Trend of Stress-Free Homes

Life can be crazy. With spouses and kids to look after, busy work weeks and errands on top, it’s easy to feel like you are constantly running around or having something to do. Amidst all the chaos of our hectic lives, it’s nice to walk through the front door of your home and breathe a sigh of relief, instantly feeling more calm and ready to relax.

That being said, check out this article from The National Association of Realtors Magazine about how more and more, stress-free homes are becoming a trend for today’s builders and home buyers:

Stress-Free Homes Are a Trending Niche

From family and jobs to finances and health, life can get complicated. “Zen is in demand,” as one real estate pro says. Learn how you can provide that.

Whether it’s a luxurious $45 million estate in California or a modest $250,000 two-bedroom house in Ohio, marketing a home’s stress-relieving qualities is a growing trend. Today, developers, builders, and interior designers are trying to make homes that offer that soft landing at the end of a day. And homeowners need it—about eight in 10 Americans say they frequently (44 percent) or sometimes (35 percent) encounter stress in their daily lives, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Helping clients find a soothing place to come home to can become a niche in the real estate world. And, understanding what stress-relieving designs are available can help you and your agents guide clients to a happy purchase.

Reaching Female Homebuyers

Since 2003, Design Basics Inc., in Omaha, has been gearing many of its residential blueprints toward easing stress because that is one of the four important elements women look for in a home’s design. Why women, you ask? Well, 91 percent of home purchases are influenced by women, according to the Harvard Business Review. Additionally, the National Association of REALTORS® 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found that the number of single female buyers continues to rise, and are currently the second largest buyer group at 18 percent behind married couples at 63 percent.

Paul Foresman, director of business development for Design Basics, says the company took data and research on female buyers of all ages and backgrounds and created the Woman-Centric Matters home design program. They discovered the four primary elements women are looking for in home design: entertainment, stress relief, storage, and flexible living. Foresman travels across the country talking to builders about the program.

“Everyone lives differently. But women tell us that they want to come into their home and feel like it is a place of respite. They look for homes that make their life easier, more convenient, more fun, and more inviting to others,” he adds.

The High End of Less Stress

Home designs by Greg Malin, CEO and founder of Troon Pacific in San Francisco, are adding amenities such as lap pools with underwater speakers that play music and art galleries with chaise lounges so you can take it all in.

“What’s the best luxury in life? My late wife would say it’s your health,” Malin says. So, he builds homes with his passion for sustainability and wellness in mind. Less stress in a person’s world can help with their health. For instance, cables in all bedrooms of his homes are shielded to mitigate electromagnetic field waves, which can cause the body to emit stress signals that can lead to high levels of adrenaline.

His company also uses biophilic design, which bridges a homeowner’s lifestyle with natural environment around them. “We’re trying to connect people to nature. One of our homes offers a yoga deck. Plus, each [development] project offers a wellness center with a sauna, steam room, a place to have a massage, meditation area, and outdoor shower,” he adds.

Joel Goodrich, agent at Colwell Banker Preview International in San Francisco, has shown Malin’s stress-free homes several times to clients. He also is a friend of Malin. “Perhaps, we are living in more stressful times than ever before. People are looking for their homes to be an oasis or retreat from life, the world, and business,” he says. “These homes are designed to feel like a retreat. Zen is in demand.”

Tips for Alleviating Stress at All Price Points

Most home buyers are looking for respite in a haven from everyday stress. The good news is not all stress-free homes have to be multimillion-dollar properties. Here are some of the stress-reducing designs and products being showcased in homes across the country.

Natural light, plus dimmers. “People always gravitate to the bright, sunny spaces in a home. So, anything we can to do enhance natural light is popular,” Foresman says. Malin adds that lights with dimmers can also help reduce harshness, especially in bedrooms, for a more relaxing ambiance.

Automated shades. Shades programed to open at sunrise can be a calming way to wake up without an alarm. They can also be used to reduce sunlight for those not ready to rise, Goodrich says. In addition to setting times, homeowners can pair smart shades with a digital thermostat, so they automatically open and close based on temperature.

A water feature. “Water can be very calming,” Goodrich says. In one extreme example, an international architect put a waterfall in the middle of a living room design and branded it. But a simple fountain in a sun porch or patio can do wonders, too, he adds.

Pet centers. Many buyers nowadays are seeking pet-friendly abodes, so features such as cabinets with pullout drawers for dog food goes a long way. Some want a dog washing station or a room for the pet itself. Electronic doggie doors have also become popular, where the dog has a collar that automatically opens the door to go inside or out.

Nature’s beauty. The ability to see flowers or greenery outside your windows—even in a big city—helps create peacefulness. In Malin’s homes, he plants green rows of bamboo or cypress outside the main windows, even in the heart of the Bay Area.

Covered outdoor living space. Foresman says you don’t have to cancel your plans if it rains when you have a covered outdoor area, which eliminates worry. Plus, coffee on the patio can still happen on rainy mornings. A pergola cover or easy-to-assemble patio gazebo are cost-effective ways to accomplish this.

Work-in pantry. Taking the walk-in pantry to the next level, some buyers want a prep area, sink, dishwasher, and sometimes an oven in what’s dubbed the “work-in” pantry, Foresman says. This eliminates guests seeing any mess while keeping the heart of the gathering in the kitchen.

Relaxing sounds and white noise. Malin installs speakers in master bedrooms and bathrooms, allowing for the sounds of waterfalls, forests, or whatever keeps the homeowners tranquil. For existing homes without built-in speakers, try a Google Home or Amazon Echo—relaxing sounds at open houses may even entice buyers.

Shipping vestibule. This involves a door or cupboard that opens for delivery people. They can leave the package behind the door without entering the house, Foresman says. You don’t have to be home when the delivery is dropped off, and locks can used from your smartphone to avoid theft.

Dual owner suites. This newer building plan has quickly become Foresman’s top seller. It includes two suites on the main floor that can be used for older couples who don’t sleep in the same bed, multigenerational households, boomerang kids, friends who have purchased together, or live-in caregivers. “In many ways for all involved it’s a great stress reliever, with a private bathroom and enough storage,” he adds.

 

Your Guide to Home Appraisals

Well, you did it, you found your dream house! Now that that part is done with, it’s time to cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s before you can call it home. One of the things to be done before you can close on your potential new home is the home appraisal. But, some might be wondering, what exactly is that?

The home appraisal is essentially a value assessment of the home and property. It is conducted by a certified third party and is used to determine whether the home is priced appropriately. What this does is protect you from over-paying for a home, but also it protects the company who is lending to you, which we’ll talk about in more detail below.

During a home appraisal, the appraiser conducts a complete visual inspection of the interior and exterior of the home. He or she factors in a variety of things, including the home’s floor plan, functionality, condition, location, school district, fixtures, lot size, and more. Upward adjustments can be made for things such as a home having  a deck, a view, or a large yard. The appraiser will also compare the home to several similar homes that were sold within the last six months in the area. By doing this, they make sure that the home you are buying is selling for what similar homes like it have sold for, thus validating its listed price.

The final report must include a street map showing the property and the ones’ compared, photographs of the interior and exterior, an explanation on how the square footage was calculated, market sales data, public land records, and more. All of these things, in the end, help show how the appraiser came to the conclusion they did when they say whether or not the home appraised.

After the appraisal is complete, the lender uses the information found to ensure that the property is worth the amount they are investing. This is a safe-guard for the lender as the home acts as collateral for the mortgage. If the buyer defaults on the mortgage and goes into foreclosure, the lender generally sells the home to recover the money borrowed.

If a home does not appraise for the price it is being purchased for, a lender will not lend that money in order for the buyer to get the home because it puts their investment at risk. When this happens, the sellers and buyers have a few options. The sellers can come down to the appraised price, or they can try to contest the appraisal and show that the home is worth what it is being sold for. The buyers can try to come up with more cash down to the cover the difference in sales price and appraisal price (generally not recommended because then you are buying a home for more than it is worth), or if the seller will not come down on price, the buyer can walk away.

This is just a very short description of home appraisals and how they generally work. If you still have questions, we’d love to talk to you more about them and you can always call our office at 928-771-1111.

Happy New Year: Prescott’s Boot Drop!

Well, it’s ALMOST that time of year… THE LAST DAY OF THE YEAR! This is a time we will all say goodbye to 2019 and hello to 2020 (Wow, does saying 2020 make anyone else feel old?)!

This is a time we will reflect on all that has happened in the last year, which can bring both sadness when thinking about what has passed, but also joy in thinking about what is to come.

If you know us, you know the Kathleen Yamauchi Group is a tight nit group of agents. We are co-workers, friends, and family. We are a team who look out for one another, help one another, and collectively do the same for each and every client that walks through our door.

In 2020, we will strive to serve the Prescott community, and those moving to Prescott, with the same fervor and professionalism we always have. We will continue to remember and implement what Kathleen said: “It has never been our intention to be the biggest. Only the best!” We will continually strive to grow, adapt, and learn so that we can be the best agents this town has ever seen – the agents our clients deserve.

We thank you so much for your business and partnership with us in the past, and we hope that we get to work with you again in 2020 and in the years to come! From all of us at the Kathleen Yamauchi Group, we wish you and yours a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

That being said, if you’re looking for something to do tonight to ring in the new year, check out Prescott’s very last town event in the Downtown Square: The Boot Drop.

The Boot sits atop whiskey row and is lit up in neon fluorescent lights. People from all over come to watch as the boot drops, once at 10PM for those of us looking to go to bed a little earlier or whom have children, and again at the traditional time of 12PM.

Come and have some good food and drinks at one of the many restaurants around downtown as you ring in the new year, kissing your loved one at midnight and giving cheers with all your friends.

Make sure to bundle up as you know the temperatures tend to drop low at night.

As always, be careful driving around with all the people out and about to celebrate the new year. Use taxi services and apps such as Uber or Lift if needed.

We hope you have fun, have safe travels, and again, have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

For more information on the Boot Drop downtown, check out the City of Prescott’s events page by clicking here.