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5 Tips To Jazz Up Your Holiday Dining Table

 

The holidays are here again and if you're like us, you're looking forward to decorating and making your home feel cozy and inviting.

Here are some fun tips to spruce up your dining table this season and make your guests feel extra special without breaking the bank. 

Add a pop of color with a bold tablecloth

There's no need to splurge on pricey new place settings. Instead, pick up a festive tablecloth and coordinating runner and placemats. It's such an easy way to completely change the look of your table and inexpensive enough to allow you to buy a few different items to alternate through the season!

 

DIY greenery and floral touches

DIY greenery and florals are definitely in now more than ever! Instead of splurging on a premade bouquet, opt for individual stems or affordable greenery to tuck into your napkin rings or run down the center of the table.

Keeping your florals low and simple leaves more room for food and drinks and won't obstruct any views when catching up with your nearest and dearest over dinner. Stop by your local market or Trader Joe's and look for greens like eucalyptus, which looks—and smells—sumptuous. For extra oomph, throw in a couple of sprigs of rosemary to place in napkin holders.

 

Add festive copper mugs

Don’t want to spend a lot, but want a quick upgrade that will elevate the look of the entire table? Go buy a set of copper mugs! Your guests will love sipping something festive out of a special cup.

Copper mugs are everywhere now that the Moscow mule cocktail has grown in popularity, but even if you're not serving Moscow mules for the holidays, they make a nice touch. Try serving cold apple cider in your mugs, or any other cocktails you might have on your menu.

 

Modern farmhouse touches

The modern farmhouse look is still trending in home decor, and that doesn't stop at the holidays. The good news? You can get the vibe on a budget —just try some fun but affordable accents like birch logs, acorns, miniature pumpkins, buffalo check patterns, antlers, and greenery. Add some sparkling fairy lights to the mix, or wrapped around pine boughs, for an extra magical touch!

When in doubt, go monochromatic

This time of year our homes can be overwhelmed with festive decorations. Keep the focus on the meal by choosing a pretty tone and outfitting your entire table in it. Add a metallic of your choice for accents, and a few candles for a pop of interest. Not only is it simple to pull together, but the result is incredibly chic as well!

 

Brrrr! It's time to get your fireplace serviced!

With temperatures and snow falling fast, there's no better place to be than nestled in front of a cozy fireplace. Before settling in, there are a few safety measures to take to ensure you can relax and enjoy the comfort of a crackling fire all winter long. 

According to Susan McKelvey, a spokesperson for the National Fire Protection Association, half of all US home heating fires take place between December and February. Follow the tips below to put your mind at ease and start enjoying your fireplace right away!

1. Regularly clean the interior

Burning wood in fireplaces can release pollutants in the air and leave a buildup of dust, ash, and creosote, which can cause fires. Also watch for any accumulation of soot, which is softer than creosote, is flammable, and must be regularly cleaned from the chimney.

The NFPA recommends chimneys be cleaned at least once a year, at the beginning of winter, to remove soot and debris. For homes who use their fireplace regularly a more regular cleaning schedule may be better. Contact a local chimney cleaner to get a professional opinion.

2. Cap it

Use a wire mesh cap to cover the top of the chimney to keep birds, squirrels, rain, and other debris from entering. Some critters can mistake chimneys for trees and build nests inside them to escape the cold. This is not only a danger to the animals, but a potential fire hazard. Capping your chimney is an inexpensive fix, usually running around $75-$80.

3. Check the damper

The damper is a movable plate meant to seal the fireplace when not in use. Be sure your damper is working properly and free of debris that would keep it from opening and closing properly.

While you're checking the damper, also take a look at other components such as door latches, handles and grates. Over time these items can break or warp and should be repaired/replaced.

4. Monitor for smoke

Excess smoke can be caused by animal nests (see Tip 2), an unclean chimney that has creosote, soot buildup, a closed or partly open damper, or wood that is not burning completely.

Check that your chimney is properly vented to the outside to minimize the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Be sure your smoke and CO alarms are functioning properly. 

5. Choose the right wood to burn

Hardwoods such as maple, oak, ash, and birch burn longer and hotter, have less pitch and sap, and will contribute less creosote buildup.

You can burn any type of untreated wood but to make sure it is properly seasoned. You'll know your wood is well-seasoned when it fades in color, is hard, sounds hollow when you knock on it, and has loose bark.The most effective way to dry out wood is to cut it, split it, and stack it.

6. Use heat-proof glass doors

Glass doors help protect against heat loss and keep embers, cinders, or logs from rolling out of the fireplace and causing damage. You can have doors installed on the frame of your fireplace or pick up a tempered glass screen. Of course, be sure to keep anything flammable well out of the way of the doors or grate. 

 

10 Fall Home Maintenance Tasks To Tackle This Weekend

 

Grab a pumpkin spice coffee, your favorite flannel and a pair of work gloves - it's time for fall home maintenance!

Why is seasonal maintenance important?

Sure, cleaning the gutters may not be your idea of a fun fall weekend, but taking the time to tackle seasonal maintenance will save you time and money in the long run. It's easier to prevent a problem than deal with the aftermath down the road. Here are 10 essentials to take care of before the snow flies...

1. Rake 'em Up

Oh how we wish the beautiful foliage would stay on the trees and off our lawns! Make raking a family affair and bag up your leaves to prevent them from killing the grass next spring.

2. Clean the gutters

Speaking of leaves, when they clog your gutters, rainwater can’t flow through and will eventually spill over. So what, right? This overflow can damage your home’s siding, roof and foundation.

It’s better to remove the leaves from your gutters than to chance the buildup turning into a costly problem.

3. Check the roof

While we’re on the subject of the roof, fall is a great time to check that all shingles are in place and in good shape before winter snowstorms pop up on your radar.

4. Conduct a walking inspection

Take a walk around the exterior of your home, keeping an eye open for damage along the pathways leading to your doors. Cracks could mean loose cement or gravel, increasing the likelihood that someone could trip or slip and fall.

To ensure the safety of visitors, seal any cracks you see. Be sure to inspect the siding and foundation while you’re at it, and tackle any repairs as soon as possible.

5. Cracks and gaps can cause problems indoors too

When you shut doors and windows, make sure there aren’t any spaces allowing air to escape. If there are, seal them before the real cold weather hits.

You may not think much of these little gaps right now, but you will when you open your heating bill and see how much you’re paying to keep the whole neighborhood warm, or when you find out that a mouse has made your cabinet his home for the winter.

6. Store summer staples

Patio furniture is susceptible to damage from winter weather. Since you probably won’t spend as much time outside, move patio furniture etc. into storage.

7. Sweep it up

Schedule a time to have your chimney and heating system cleaned and maintained, including swapping old filters for new ones. It’s important that everything is in good working condition to decrease the likelihood of house fires.

8. Pipe down

Shut off the water supply to exterior faucets and insulate your pipes before the weather dips below 32 degrees. This will help prevent pipes from freezing, bursting and flooding your home.

9. Take time to vent

Dryers are a leading cause of fires - make sure to have your dryer vent cleaned annually. Aside from safety issues, if your vent is clogged with lint, your machine will not be as energy efficient.

10. Testing … 1, 2, 3

Test safety devices, such as smoke alarms, and check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher. In case a fire ignites, it’s important to know that you and your family will be alerted and able to get out of the house quickly and safely, or able to extinguish smaller fires before significant damage is done.

Spring 2019 Market Update

 

It's not just the weather that's warming up, our local real estate market is coming into spring hot!

The number of closed homes in Quarter 1 2019 is right on track with 2018, but set to rise. With inventory remaining relatively low, sellers are benefitting for having their home on the market for fewer days, and selling for higher prices. This is a challenge for buyers trying to break into the market. We would suggest consulting a loan officer, obtaining a pre-approval and then developing a relationship with a tenacious Realtor who is prepared to write your winning offer.

While the low inventory is a challenge for buyers, mortgage interest rates are remaining low at an average of 4.125% for a conventional 30 year fixed rate. While these rates are still low, it's a great time to buy or to re-finance your existing home! It is possible that interest rates may begin to creep up later in the year, and while only time will tell, it's still advised to act quickly.

Signature Properties of Vermont remains among the Top 10 most productive brokerages in Northwestern Vermont! Our small team is experienced, capable and ready to help you with your home sale or purchase this spring.

Call us any time: 802-872-8881

9 Housing Trends To Expect Nationwide In 2019

 

It's hard to believe another year has come and gone so soon. As we're preparing to welcome 2019 there are some national real estate trends you should be aware of. The challenge of low inventory is likely to continue, however we're starting to see an uptick in builders constructing more entry-level homes which will be a great asset to first time buyers. 

Here are nine housing and mortgage trends to watch for in 2019.

1. ISO: More homes for sale

Real estate has been a seller’s market for more than six years, meaning that there are more would-be buyers than homes for sale, sliding the balance of negotiating power in sellers’ direction. It's looking like that will remain the case through 2019 as well. 

Now, while a seller's market isn't ideal for buyers, there is hope on the forecast as we expect to see more homes hit the market than we have in the past several years. 

Freddie Mac, a government-sponsored enterprise that provides capital to the mortgage market, estimates that 370,000 fewer homes were built in 2017 than were needed to satisfy demand resulting from population growth. “Until construction ramps up, housing costs will likely continue rising above income, constricting household formation and preventing homeownership for millions of potential households,” Freddie Mac concludes.

2. Home prices are expected to rise

This is great news for current homeowners, but may prove to be a challenge to buyers entering the market for the first time. Don't panic, though, prices are not expected to rise as dramatically as we've seen over the past several years.

“Home price appreciation will slow down — the days of easy price gains are coming to an end — but prices will continue to rise,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. NAR predicts that existing home prices will rise 2.5% in 2019, to a median of $265,200, compared with a 4.7% rise in 2018, to $258,700.

CoreLogic and Realtor.com also predict a slowdown in sale prices of existing homes in 2019.

Home price appreciation has slowed in 2018, says Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Rising prices and interest rates have reduced home buyer activity and led to a gradual slowing in appreciation,” he wrote in a market commentary.

3. Mortgage rates will rise

We've been extremely fortunate the last few years that interest rates have remained quite low, allowing many new buyers to purchase their first home relatively easily. From the beginning of 2018 to mid-December, 30-year fixed mortgage rates went up a little less than three-quarters of a percentage point, to around 4.75%. Forecasters expect mortgage rates to rise again in 2019 — but at a slower pace.

Freddie Mac expects the 30-year fixed mortgage rate to rise half a percentage point in 2019, and the National Association of Realtors predicts a rise of 0.4 percentage point. Fannie Mae’s forecast is for an increase of just 0.1 percentage point.

Keep in mind that these are predictions about where mortgage rates will end this year and end next year. In between, mortgage rates can bounce up and down.

4. Affordability 

As always, finding affordable housing is a concern for As home prices and mortgage rates rise in tandem, home buyers find it harder to afford homes. Nationwide, areas with lower inventory will of course see higher prices and more competitive markets. 

5. Smaller Homes

From a home buyer’s perspective, most markets need more houses for sale, and they need to be on the affordable end of the price scale. After all, many first-timers buy starter homes instead of forever homes, with prices below the area’s median. There are signs that home builders are responding by building smaller, more affordable homes.

“Continuing a multiyear trend, new single-family home size decreased during the third quarter of 2018,” wrote Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, in a November blog post. “New home size has been falling over the last three years due to an incremental move to additional entry-level home construction.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median size of single-family homes started in the third quarter of 2018 was 2,320 square feet. That’s 4.9% smaller than the median size of new homes three years earlier, at 2,440 square feet.

Hopper says Navy Federal’s members typically shop for homes costing less than $300,000 — and they like to buy new homes. He says he’s encouraged that builders are focusing on these customers.

“I think for many years, the builders were focused on that $500,000-and-up market because the margins were healthier,” he says. “But they’re starting to find now that there’s so much pent-up demand in the lower-end-priced market that they can sustainably offer communities and new construction, and we’ve seen a lot of growth in that space.”

Year-over-year median prices for new homes began decelerating in spring 2018. At $309,700, the median price of a new home in October was 3.1% lower than the median new-home price 12 months earlier. But Fannie Mae and NAR predict that new-home prices will rise in 2019.

6. First-time buyers dominate

The mortgage and real estate industries are focused on serving first-time home buyers, and for good reason: “First-timers have dominated the mortgage market for the past 10 years, and their share today is still high," according to an Urban Institute report published this summer, which adds: “We don’t see this changing anytime soon."


Before the housing crisis, first-time home buyers took out about 40% of purchase mortgages, according to the institute. Lately the first-timer share has been about 60%.

Tian Liu, chief economist for Genworth Mortgage Insurance, says 80% of the growth in home sales in the past three years has come from first-time buyers, and the reason is simple: They represent years of pent-up demand.

“Between 2007 and 2015, our estimate is that roughly 3 million first-time home buyers delayed buying a home, and they’re reaching that age when they can no longer delay,” Liu says. “Their housing needs are really catching up with them. It doesn’t feel right to be raising a family in a rental apartment. They want to own their place. So I think those drivers will be very significant for the next few years.”

7. Lending standards ease a little

Mortgage lenders learned an enduring lesson in the housing crisis a decade ago: Make sure borrowers can repay their loans. So lenders tightened mortgage standards, partly on their own and partly in response to a regulatory crackdown on risky mortgages. These changes made it harder to get a home loan.

The Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center has argued that lenders overcorrected after lending too freely in the two or three years preceding the financial crisis of 2008.

There is evidence that lenders agree. Gradually, they have been relaxing lending standards.

“Not drastically, but looser than it was a year ago,” says Matt Hackett, operations manager for Equity Now, a mortgage lender in New York City. “It’s not a floodgate scenario where people just start changing guidelines drastically.”

He says he has observed that the relaxed standards come in the form of reduced documentation requirements, lower credit scores and bigger loan-to-value ratios (smaller down payments, basically).

Mortgage data provider Ellie Mae shows that the relaxation of credit standards indeed has been gradual. Average credit scores for home purchases slipped a bit in October (the latest data available) compared with 12 months earlier. Debt-to-income ratios, which measure borrowers’ debt loads, nudged upward over the same period. That means they have higher debt and less flexibility to withstand financial emergencies.

8. More borrowers choose ARMs

It’s almost as predictable as May flowers following April showers: Whenever rates on fixed-rate mortgages go up, you’ll see more borrowers opting for adjustable-rate mortgages. It happened in 2018 and it could continue into 2019.

Borrowers choose ARMs because the initial rates on adjustables are lower than the rates on fixed-rate mortgages. This gives borrowers lower monthly payments in the first few years. ARM borrowers take the risk that their rates and monthly payments could climb when the rate-adjustment period begins.

More borrowers have been accepting the risk. In October, 8.2% of mortgages were ARMs, according to Ellie Mae; 12 months earlier, ARMs had a 5.5% share of mortgages.

Rising rates on fixed-rate mortgages aren’t the only reason for adopting ARMs. Adjustables are most popular in the highest-priced housing markets, such as San Jose, according to CoreLogic.

Taking out an ARM as rates rise, like now, could be a bad idea because borrowers might face higher mortgage payments once the annual loan adjustments kick in.


But getting an ARM can be a good strategy for borrowers who don’t plan to overstay the initial interest rate. A 3/1 ARM, for example, has a lower introductory rate that lasts three years and then adjusts annually afterward. Someone getting, say, a 5/1 ARM is betting that they’ll refinance or sell the home within five years or so, before the rate potentially adjusts upward.

9. Overconfident sellers could struggle

As mentioned before, 2019 will remain a seller’s market, where would-be buyers outnumber the supply of homes they can afford. But that doesn’t mean home sellers can expect bidding wars from desperate buyers.


That’s especially the case with people who are selling homes that are priced above the median for their local market, Realtor.com economist Hale says. First-time buyers dominate most markets, and they tend to shop for homes priced below the median. As a seller, Hale says, “if you’re in that above-median price point, you’re going to have to price competitively and offer incentives for buyers.”

Hale adds: “Surprisingly, it’s going to be more difficult for buyers and sellers in 2019.” Especially for buyers looking for less expensive homes and sellers selling more expensive ones.

 

More information Here. 

HOW TO: Buy a home in a seller's market

 

Our area is currently experiencing a seller's market - there are less homes for sale, than interested buyers. This can make it difficult for buyers to break into the housing market; difficult, but not impossible. We have some tips to help you secure a home within your budget - even during a seller's market.

How seller's markets come to exist

The main metric used when evaluating housing markets is home price appreciation.There are several factors which can influence the price of homes in any given area, including:

  • Population growth. Generally, when there's an increase in the number of people moving to a town, demand for housing begins to exceed supply. The basic law of Supply and Demand will tell you that too few homes will lead to an increased sales price. 
  • Job growth. An influx of new companies and jobs can in turn fuel population growth that turns areas into seller's markets. This is a great indicator of economic progress! Unfortunately, it can also present challenges to buyers seeking to relocate to the area. 
  • Housing starts. The term "housing starts" refers to the number of new homes on which builders have started construction in any particular month. Because new construction directly affects supply, a decrease in housing starts can result in a sellers market. 

We are currently experiencing a seller's market. Here's how to tell:

  • Average days on market (DOM). This measurement will tell us the average number of days a home stays on the market before changing hands. In our area, this number has been steadily dropping since January 2017 and as of April 11, 2018, it sits right around 100 days from the day a home goes on the market, to the day the new owners receive the keys. Considering the time it takes to process a contract is about 60-80 days, this number is quite low!
  • Asking vs. final home price. In seller's markets, bidding wars can often erupt among buyers, which means sellers may enjoy a final sales price that's equal to their asking price, or more. So, if a home is listed at $450,000 and sells for $450,000, $460,000, or higher, that's a seller's market. In a strong seller's market, the final sales price is typically at least 10% higher than the asking price.

Buying a house in a seller's market

To compete against other buyers in a seller's market, you need to be prepared. First off, you should meet with a mortgage lender to discuss your finances, and find out what you can afford. You'll need a pre-approval letter before you start looking at homes; when competition is fierce, sellers want to know that the offers they're receiving are backed by actual buying power. 

Once you have a pre-approval, you'll want to hire a Realtor. It is crucial that you are represented during your purchase, especially in a seller's market. The Realtor who has the home listed is contractually bound to represent the seller's best interests not yours. You'll want to find a Realtor that you trust to advocate for you, and get you into the areas you're interested in. Often times Realtors will have knowledge of homes that haven't even hit the market yet - take advantage of that knowledge!

You'll want to discuss with your Realtor your wants, needs, and desired location. When housing supply is low, try to keep an open mind and consider exploring areas slightly outside of your target. Once you've found a home, you and your Realtor will work quickly to submit an offer. Consider adding an Escalation Clause to your contract, which basically states "if sellers receive an offer higher than this one, I am willing to increase my offer to X." You may also want to add a personal letter to the sellers with your contract, sometimes small details like that can really set your offer apart. 

 

Buyer Demand Far Outpaces Inventory...NOW Is The Time To Sell!

Inventory in our area is still very competitive for home sellers, and buyers are entering the market to take advantage of low interest rates. It is truly a great time to enter the real estate market no matter which end of the spectrum you're on!

The price of any item is determined by the supply of that item, as well as the market demand. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) surveys “over 50,000 real estate practitioners about their expectations for home sales, prices and market conditions” for their Realtors Confidence Index.

Their latest edition sheds some light on the relationship between Seller Traffic (supply) and Buyer Traffic (demand).

Buyer Demand

The map on the right was created after asking the question:

“How would you rate buyer traffic in your area?”

The darker the blue, the more buyers are looking for homes in that area. Only 3 states came in with a weak demand level.

 

 

Seller Supply

The Index also asked:

“How would you rate seller traffic in your area?”

As you can see from the map on the left, a good portion of the country has weak seller traffic, meaning there are far fewer homes on the market than what is needed to satisfy the buyers who are out looking for their dream homes.

Bottom Line

Looking at the maps above, it is not hard to see why prices are appreciating in many areas of the country. Until the supply of homes for sale starts to meet the buyer demand, prices will continue to increase. This is great news for homeowners thinking of selling their home. Buyers should not be discouraged; low interest rates allow for affordable options even when inventory is low. 

 

Are you financially ready to buy your first home? Let's find out!

 

 

 

If you're wondering whether you're ready to stop renting and purchase your first home, we are here to help!

With current interest rates still being low, and the cost of rent in our area increasing year over year, now might be the ideal time for you to take the plunge into homeownership. Some might wonder if it makes sense to purchase a house before they are married and have a family, others might think they are too young, and still, others might think their current income would never enable them to qualify for a mortgage. Not to worry, we are here to help you navigate those questions, and any others that may arise. 

We want to share what the typical first-time homebuyer actually looks like based on the National Association of REALTORS most recent Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers. Here are some interesting revelations on the first-time buyer:

Bottom Line

You very well may be ready to purchase your first home, and start building equity! Every situation is unique, and we are always available to answer questions for you.

Tips To Sell Your Home Faster (And For More Money!)

When our clients ask for our assistance selling their home, their two main concerns are timeline and price. 

 

We've been in the Real Estate industry a long time, and have amassed countless tips and strategies to address both of those concerns. We decided to put together an online magazine to make our best advice available to the whole community!

Below you'll find a link to check out our magazine and learn some of our best home selling strategies. When the time comes to list your home, we'll be here to walk you through the process and make it not only quick and painless, but fun and profitable as well! Give us a call any time, we're always happy to help.

 

 

Halloween For Home Sellers

 

 

The doorbell to your home is used more on October 31st than potentially any other day of the year. It’s Halloween and there’s arguably no holiday where home plays a bigger role.

Sure, other holidays have traditions, but none encourage families to get out and actually walk around their neighborhoods going door-to-door. This is a perfect opportunity to meet new neighbors and spread the word that your home is on the market! Leave a lasting impression with tasteful lights, decorations, and of course, candy for the kids. It’s a night where we literally open our doors to others and make preparations to give regardless of who steps to our front door - something we should probably do more often.

We hope this year you'll be dazzled by the decorations and charmed by the children’s (and the dog’s) costumes, and we hope it brings a little joy to your heart as you think of all that home means…even on the scariest night of the year.

Here’s to Halloween and all the things that make a house a home.

If you have pictures of your home from Halloweens past or present, share them with us on Instagram by tagging them with @SignatureVTHomes