March To-Dos for Your Home

The weather has finally been warming up (can we get a “hallelujah”?)! With sunshine and blue skies, it’s beginning to be nice enough to put on those work boots and do some much needed inspecting around the home. Below is a list from houseopedia.com with some things to consider doing around your home now that the weather is thawing out.

  • Inspect the roof. Check for damage from ice and wind. Look for loose shingles and flashing. Check behind chimneys where shingles meet flashing. Inspect the gutters, especially where they attach to fascia boards. Reattach any gutters that may have pulled loose under the weight of ice.
  • Inspect the attic. Look at the underside of the roof decking, checking for signs of water seepage. Ice can get into cracked shingles, expand and cause a leak upon melting. Replace shingles and backing, if necessary.
  • Foundation drainage. Before spring rains, check the slope of soil from the house foundation. Build up any areas where soil has eroded. Use small river rock mixed with the soil to better hold it in place.
  • Clean fireplace. Shovel out ashes and log remnants, then use a hand broom and vacuum to remove the fine dust. Close the damper. If you have a gas log set, consider shutting off the pilot for the spring and summer to save on gas usage.
  • Prep garden tools. Sharpen shovels, hoes and pick axes. Gas up the lawn mower and weed eater and give them a trial run. Take the insulating covers off the faucets and move hoses into place.
  • Gardening goals. In March or April, depending on your climate, it’s time to start thinking about a spring and summer garden. Clear raised planting beds of debris, and turn soil. Start seedlings inside. Do not plant until after last frost date in your area.
  • Relocate firewood. If you have left over wood, move it several yards away from the house. During the spring, a wood pile attracts creatures such as termites, carpenter ants, skunks and possums.
  • Power wash siding and decks. Over the winter prolonged moisture may create mold and moss on decks and house siding. Rent a power wash machine and give them a good cleaning.
  • Clean windows. Winter weather leaves dingy windows. Let the sun in with a good cleaning.
  • Provide nutrients for your landscape. Depending on your climate zone, March or April is the time to apply fertilizer and weed control. Consult local gardening experts.

2020 Housing Market: Economic Perspectives

As we get ready for another month in 2020, let’s look some more about how our housing market is predicted to do this year. Below is an article from realtor.com (which you can read further by clicking here) going over the housing forecast of 2020 from an economic standpoint.

Economic Perspectives

Gross Domestic Product

Economic activity in the United States started 2019 on an upbeat note, fueled by consumer optimism and business confidence. Riding the corporate tax restructuring of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, companies boosted investments and, coupled with solid consumer spending, led to a 4.1 percent annualized gain in gross domestic product (GDP) during the first quarter of the year, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In addition, exports outpaced imports during the period, leading to expectations of increased trade windfalls.

However, as the year wore on, the trade rifts between the US and its trading partners deepened, leading to an escalation in tariffs and overall uncertainty. While consumer optimism remained unabated—leading to a 4.6 percent annualized gain in consumer spending—business confidence waned and resulted in a 1.0 percent drop in investment in the second quarter. Even as government spending picked up the pace, the cumulative effect was a mild 2.0 percent GDP gain in the second quarter.

The loss of momentum was reflected in the third quarter’s GDP figure, which advanced at an initial estimate of 1.9 percent annual rate. The Bureau of Economic Analysis subsequently revised third quarter GDP to 2.1 percent, showing stronger business investment. The Federal Reserve, concerned about a deteriorating global economic outlook, decided to boost liquidity in the financial system, in an effort to prevent an economic slide.

Monetary Policy

The Federal Reserve moved into 2019 signaling through its forward guidance that, as the economy continued on an expansionary track, it would maintain a policy focused on monetary tightening. Markets expected at least two additional short-term interest rate increases at the outset of the year.

Towards the midpoint of the year, however, the central bank’s policy shifted, in response to global changes. While the US economy continued showing signs of growth, major economies around the world slowed. In response to the slowdown, central banks around the world engaged in accommodative monetary responses, resorting to cutting rates and purchasing assets, in an effort to boost output. Along with the Bank of Japan, several central banks in Europe took interest rates into negative territory, attempting to spur investment and liquidity. In response, world currencies dropped against the US dollar, adding pressure on US exporters and sectors sensitive to currency risks.

The Federal Reserve decided to change tack in light of these shifts, and responded by cutting rates 3 times, at the Federal Open Market Committee’s meetings in July, September, and October. The central bank also expressed that it would move from a longer term outlook to a shorter term horizon, assessing incoming economic data through the year to guide its policy actions. While the bank’s two main objectives—stable employment and low inflation—remained on track in 2019, the rate cuts seemed aimed at walking a tightrope between maintaining US economic momentum amid a global economic moderation and placating investors’ expectations for growth.

Employment

Mirroring the shift in business confidence, the pace of employment growth moderated in the first three quarters of 2019. While companies continued adding positions to their payrolls, the number of net new jobs totaled 1.45 million during the January to September timeframe, 27 percent lower than the same period in 2018, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The professional and business services sector—the main driver of employment growth during the past decade—took a back seat to the healthcare and social assistance sector, accounting for 311,000 net new jobs, a 29 percent decline from 2018. With over 410,000 new jobs added to payrolls, the healthcare sector led the pack, posting a 19 percent gain compared with the same period in 2018. Stemming from solid growth in business travel, the lodging and food services sector provided the third largest number of net new jobs in the first nine months of 2019, with 136,000 employees added to payrolls.

As the corporate outlook dimmed partway through the year, employment in manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities slowed. In addition, despite strong demand for housing, construction companies hired 58 percent fewer employees in 2019 compared with the prior year. The slowdown in hiring was also evident in other sectors, such as mining and logging, financial activities, as well as arts, entertainment and recreation.

Government entities also reflected shifting priorities in 2019. After an extended period of flat hiring, the federal government added 45,000 new positions during the first nine months of the year. Local governments—enjoying rising property tax revenues—also went on a hiring spree, adding 91,000 new employees to payrolls, a 44 percent increase year-over-year. State governments pared back their hiring, adding a more moderate 20,000 new jobs.

The pace of employment, while slower than a year ago, pushed the unemployment rate to 3.6 percent in the third quarter of 2019, the same rate last experienced in the second half of 1969. The labor force participation rate reached 62.8 percent in the third quarter of the year, slightly below the average rate recorded over the past decade. While wages gained ground during 2019, at 3.0 percent during the first half of the year, when adjusted for inflation, they managed a more modest 1.2 percent year-over-year average gain.

Consumer Confidence

Consumer confidence spent the better part of 2019 moving sideways, despite monthly fluctuations. In September, the Present Situation component of the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index was unchanged compared with the same month in 2018. However, the Expectations component dropped 15 percent over the figure from the prior year, leading to an 8 percent decline in the overall index, and implying that consumers were expecting deteriorating conditions over the next few months.

2020 Economic Outlook

As economic momentum moderated through 2019 and global headwinds gather, GDP growth is projected to post a modest 1.7 percent advance in 2020. As the housing share of expenses continues rising, consumers—the largest contributor to output—will likely trim back on non-housing spending. A slowdown in consumer spending, coupled with rising global uncertainty and market volatility, can be expected to lead companies to contain costs and trim employment goals. An employment slowdown will move the unemployment rate from 3.6 percent at the start of 2020 to 3.9 percent by the end of the year—a jobless rate still below what would be expected in a healthy economy, but a shift in the wrong direction. In turn, consumer confidence will soften during the year, with the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index estimated to decline 21 percent.

Following the Federal Reserve’s monetary accommodation, inflation expectations remain modest and well-anchored, translating into a 2.0 percent year-over-year increase in 2020. While short term rates remain low, economic moderation is likely to impact bond markets, leading to mortgage rates moving mostly sideways in 2020. Rates for 30-year fixed mortgages are projected to average 3.85 percent during the next year.

 

Is it Time to Reduce Your List Price?

Has your home been on the market for a few months now, or even longer? Maybe you’ve had a little bit of interest, maybe not. However, with the market we’re in today, if your home is in reasonably good condition and still isn’t selling, it’s time to start asking yourself some tough questions and consider lowering the price on your home.

Here are a few things to think about if you find yourself in this situation:

Locate the problem. With a Comparative Market Analysis (known as a CMA) of recent sales prices, hopefully you listed the house at an attractive price. However, maybe the booming market and wanting to make the most profit possible had you listing your home a little above market value, hoping it would appraise. This could be one reason you aren’t selling. People want to buy a home, but they don’t want to pay more than it’s worth. Other problems could be: did you make obvious repairs, and declutter and clean the house until it shines? Have you had an open house? Have you staged the home? Try to figure out why buyers aren’t seeing the value of the house in relation to your price.

Examine feedback. Review the feedback provided by prospective buyers who have toured your home. Your real estate agent can set this up for you. If buyers consistently list the same negatives, you’ve found your problem. Is your home a two-bedroom, one-bath model? Is there a busy road nearby? Does the home smell like cigarette smoke? Fix what you can immediately. What cannot be fixed must be addressed in price.

Seasonal Sales. Spring and summer are the busiest season for home sales. If you’re selling in the winter, buyers expect better deals and may have considered your home overpriced. This is also something to keep in mind when setting your home price. If you’re trying to sell your home in the dead of winter (maybe you have no other choice), but are trying to get top dollar, you’re probably going to end up having to drop the price to a more reasonable number for that time of year.

Search parameters. Is your home price just above a common online search parameter? For example, prospective buyers may search for homes ranging in price from $200,000 to $250,000. If you price your home at $260,000, your home will be excluded from many online searches. If you want to sell for $250,000, a savvy agent will steer you toward listing at $249,900 so that you don’t fall just outside of buyers’ search parameters, thereby missing out on good prospects.

Agent expertise.  A good agent should be investing significant time and effort in marketing your home. Good marketing can be everything! Relying solely on the Multiple Listing Service and a sign in the yard is not a good strategy. Your agent should assist you in staging your home correctly, getting professional photographs taken, sending direct mail advertising, and posting your listing to social media platforms. When your home does sell, you’re paying a lot of money for the agent’s services, so make sure you’re getting the best possible! If the agent you’re using took pictures on their phone and doesn’t advertise your home anywhere else besides MLS, these are not good signs of a good agent. First impressions are everything and good marketing helps your home make a great first impression.

How much to reduce? If, in the final analysis, you need to reduce your price, carefully consider all the factors discussed above and make a decision with the help of your agent.

How to Build Good Credit from Bad Credit

While there are a lot of people out there who have bad credit simply because they have no credit, there are also a lot of people out there who have bad credit for the reason most think others have bad credit for – for making some un-wise financial decisions.

The range of credit scores goes from 300 all the way up to 850. Contrary to what some may believe, there aren’t very many people out there with a rock bottom credit score of 300. According to nerdwallet.com, principal Scientist at FICO, Tommy Lee says, “FICO scores of 300 are extremely rare; in fact, only 1% of the population has a score less than 470, and 4% have a score less than 500.” And, even those who have a score less than 500 are those individuals with some severe late payments, those who have negative remarks from public records or collections, and those whom are using well over their credit limit (meaning their credit cards are far past what would be considered maxed out). These individuals might have such insurmountable debt that bankruptcy is the quickest way to recovering their credit respectability.

However, let’s assume you aren’t quite there yet and your credit is still salvageable. How can you begin to rebuild that credit? Some of the biggest things that affect your credit score and that you can start improving on today are:

1) Making Payments on Time: You need to start making all your payments on time! Nothing matters more than paying on time, every time, and it should be your first priority. When getting any kind of credit, paying late should never be an option, and if it needs to be, then maybe you should think twice about taking out that credit. It’s not worth the potential credit score and financial havoc it could wreck on you.

2) The Amount of Credit You Use: Always be keeping track of just how much credit you are taking out. This is especially important if you have multiple lines of credit going at one time. Make sure you know the TOTAL amount of credit being built, not just one at a time, and like mentioned above, be paying those payments on time.

3) Stop Your Credit Bleeding: We mentioned not spending too much on credit, but what is “too much”? Well, a good rule of thumb is to not be spending more each month than you can actually afford. This seems like an obvious fix, but many people will splurge on things like a new computer, or a new wardrobe, promising, “I’ll pay it back over time.” However, then their car breaks down, or they have an emergency doctor visit, and so on and so forth. The point is, you never know what life will throw at you, and it’s far wiser to pay off any residual debt you already have and slowly save for those “splurge” things that, when you think about it, really can wait. If you can’t afford to pay for them that month, then you can’t afford them.

4) Make a Budget: Not only will a budget put your monthly finances into perspective for you, but it will also help you stay accountable to yourself and what payments need to be top priority. Then, any extra money you have that isn’t going towards paying off your credit, can go towards a night out with your friends, or perhaps even a savings account (*gasp!).

 

These are just a few tips on how to start turning that credit score around. If you have a horrid credit score, the good news is that you can only go up from there! We hope this article was helpful! If you have any more questions about how to build your credit back up, we’d encourage you to go speak with someone at your bank. We’re sure they’d love to help you on your road back to financially stability.

Deep Cleaning and De-Cluttering Your Home

Somehow we are already in the middle of February as time in 2020 moves just as fast as every other year.

Soon it will be Spring and that means it’s almost time to do some much needed Spring cleaning. Whether it’s deep cleaning your home, yard work, accumulated clutter around the house, old appliances, or whatever else you can think of, it’s time to take a hard look at your home and see what needs to go. Depending on the extent of cleaning needed, it might be a DIY job, or you might need to call in some professionals.

Here are some things to consider when it comes time to do your Spring cleaning this year:

The different types of trash in your home and getting rid of it

When it comes to your household waste, it falls into three categories, each with its own process of disposal.

  • Household trash is your everyday waste: food, food packaging, cans, cardboard boxes, diapers, etc. Your weekly trash pick-up handles this.
  • Junk includes old furniture not worth selling or donating, old warn out cloths, worn out appliances and household accessories. This includes things such as old mattresses and box springs, televisions, barbecue grills, refrigerators, washers and dryers, old microwaves, and more. When buying a new appliance, always ask if the merchant will haul away the old one. Remodeling construction debris also is common, but your contractor should dispose of it.
  • Hazardous waste includes paint and stains, cleaners, oils and pesticides. Do NOT put it in the trash or pour it down the drain. Refrigerators are both junk and hazardous material, since they contain refrigerant gas and a small amount of oil. Old fluorescent lights have gasses that make them hazardous.

For these things, check your city or county website to see if it offers extra services, such as pick up of large appliances or old furniture, for a small fee. Sometimes municipalities will schedule special days a couple of times a year to pick up large household items. The same applies to household chemicals. Many cities or counties have facilities where residents can drop off old paint, pesticides and other household hazards. Otherwise, you might consider hiring a junk removal service to come and hall things away for you.

Deep cleaning and De-Cluttering

In case you aren’t quite sure what types of deep cleaning things to do for your spring cleaning, here are some ideas:

  1. Cleaning the baseboards
  2. Wiping off the ceiling fan blades
  3. Emptying and cleaning your fridge and cabinets
  4. Cleaning the lint out of your dryer vent
  5. Shampooing your carpets
  6. Trimming trees and bushes
  7. Spraying your home for insects
  8. Shaking out rugs and curtains
  9. Replacing water filters, light bulbs, smoke detector batteries, etc.
  10. Dusting EVERYTHING
  11. Go through every closet, dresser, garage, and storage area to get rid of old cloths and things you don’t use anymore.

*A good rule of thumb is if you haven’t worn it or used it in over a year, it can probably go.

These are just a few suggestions to go along with your normal cleaning this Spring. Once everything has been cleaned and all the junk taken away, it’s amazing how much more open and fresh your home will feel!

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.

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.

 

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.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving!

A holiday full of good food, good people, and good laughs, we are excited to get into full swing of this holiday about giving thanks.

Perhaps you spend the holiday with friends, family, watching football, or on vacation, but no matter how you celebrate the holiday, let’s remember to give thanks for all we’ve been blessed with. Food on our plates, a roof over our heads, and all those we love around us – these are just a few of the things we here at the Kathleen Yamauchi Group are thankful for.

Whether your life is going great, or you’re having some struggles right now, we pray you still have many things to be thankful for as well.

From all of us at the Kathleen Yamauchi Group Real Estate, we want to say HAPPY THANKSGIVING! We pray you have an amazing and blessed time with your loved ones, eat all the good food, and have the best Thanksgiving Holiday yet.