ANOTHER GREAT YEAR IN THE BOOKS
What Will the Next Year Hold?
2016 saw one of the best years in the past decade for real estate in my market area. The number of sold listings outpaced 2015, the median closing price was up, days on market were down and the sales amount compared to the list amount was higher. All this with a very low inventory throughout the year.
2016 started the year with rates at 4% for a 30-year fix conventional according to FRED®, it ended just above 4%. The forecast for 2017 is that rates will be higher during the next year but should not be exceedingly high. The National Association of REALTORS® chief economist suggests current home buyers may be reluctant to buy, especially if they’ve refinanced recently.
Even with predicted higher interest rates in 2017 the demand will remain high. In my market area unemployment is down. This allows first-time home buyers the ability to move out of the rental market into their own homes. Millennials are also reaching their point in life to become home buyers. That group is now the largest segment of home buyers. The current market that surrounds median priced homes is a sellers’ market in both Elkhart and Kosciusko counties. Home owners that bought their home 10-years ago should have realized enough equity that selling now allows them to up-size, down-size or right-size with a down-payment that allows them to enjoy a favorable mortgage rate.
Houses in the median price range will continue to be a sellers’ market for quite some time. It will take a considerable net influx of available houses to convert it into a neutral market. That net gain of houses will come from seller’s willing to enter the market – whether they find an existing property to purchase or buy new construction.
For Sale by Owner
For Sale by Owner (FSBO) properties will continue to have greater than average success. It’s not for the faint-of-heart but it can be done. Based on my tracking, which is just for generalization, 1-in-5 FSBOs sold their house on their own with only 106 days between posting the listing and closing the transaction. Properties that sold with a REALTOR® assisting with twice the success of a FSBO alone. Ultimately 1-4 FSBOs ended up listing their property with a REALTOR®, usually after 90 days. REALTOR® listed properties sold in only 63 days from the REALTOR® listing until the transaction was closed.
Kosciusko County Market
65 ⇩ 4% Y:Y
Median Closing Price:
$135,000 ⇩ 4% Y:Y
Median Days on Market:
54 ⇩ 7% Y:Y
65 ⇩ 21% Y:Y
450 ⇩ 22% Y:Y
Sales / List Price:
97% ⇧ 3 Y:Y
Elkhart County Market
125 ⇩ 19% Y:Y
Median Closing Price:
$140,000 ⇧ 3% Y:Y
Median Days on Market:
30 ⇩ 23% Y:Y
126 ⇧ 8% Y:Y
667 ⇩ 18% Y:Y
Sales / List Price:
96% — Y:Y
How to Use a Programmable Thermostat to See Real Savings
A programmable thermostat can help you rake in the energy savings, but there’s a hitch: You’ve got to pick on you’ll actually use.
From House Logic / Deirdre Sullivan
It’s official: The programmable thermostat is the VCR of our day. Why? We think they’re too complicated.
According to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, nearly 90% of Americans say they’ve rarely (or never) programmed their thermostat because they’re not sure how to do it.
But it’s really not that hard, and it’s definitely worth doing because it can save you up to 15% a year on energy costs.
The first step is to pick the thermostat that best suits your scheduling needs so you can “set it and forget it,” an approach the U.S. Energy Department advocates to get the most savings.
Picking the Right Thermostat
There are four types of programmable thermostats, each with a distinctive scheduling style:
7-day programming. Best for individuals or families with erratic schedules, since this is the most flexible option. It lets you program a different heating/cooling schedule for each day of the week. Average price range: $55-$125.
5-1-1 programming. One heating/cooling schedule for the week, plus you can schedule a different heating/cooling plan for Saturday and Sunday. Average price range: $35-$78.
5-2 programming. Same as 5-1-1 programming, except Saturday and Sunday will have the same heating/cooling plan. Average price range: $28-$30.
1-week programming. You can only set one heating/cooling plan that will be repeated daily for the entire week. Average price range: $20-$23.
You’ll need a program for both the cooler months and the warmer months.
TIP: Before buying a programmable thermostat, identify the type of equipment used to heat and cool your home so you can check for compatibility. For example, do you have central heating and cooling, or just a furnace or baseboard heating? Otherwise, you may not reap the rewards of energy savings and may risk harming your heating and cooling equipment.
Programming the Thermostat
Most programmable thermostats have a pre-programmed setting that’s supposed to be for the typical American family. But what family is typical these days? You need to adjust the thermostat’s settings so it’s in sync with the life you and your family lead instead of some mythical family.
Programming options are based on:
- Wake Time
- Sleep Time
- Leave Time
- Return Time
The U.S Department of Energy suggests the following settings in order to shave up to 15% off your energy bill:
- For the hours you’re home and awake, program the temp to 68°F.
- Lower by 10° to 15° for the hours you’re asleep or out of the house.
- For the hours you’re home, program air conditioning to 78°F.
- For the days you don’t need cooling, manually shut off the AC. Keep in mind, it will kick back on if the house gets too warm.
- Program the AC to shut off during the hours you’re out of the house.
Here are a few programming timing tips that can help you create the best set-it-and-forget-it heating and cooling schedule for your home:
- Shut down heat or air conditioning 20 to 30 minutes before you leave home each day.
- Turn on heat or air conditioning 20 to 30 minutes before you come home each day.
- Reduce the heating or cooling 60 minutes before you go to sleep each night.
- Increase heating or cooling about 30 minutes before you wake up each morning.
- Spend time tweaking your program for a few days to make sure it feels right.
TIP: With a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat, you can control your home’s temperature while on the go. That way, you’re not wasting energy if you’re running late or forgot to create a new program before going on vacation.
FYI: A furnace does NOT have to work harder to warm a house after the temperature has been set low during the day.
Thermostats That Make Programming Easier
Want something that’s simpler? Newer more high-tech models have simplified the process:
The Nest Learning Thermostat: It creates a custom heating and cooling schedule for your home based on motion detection technology. Plus since it is Wi-Fi, it can be controlled remotely. Price: $250.
Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat: This device makes it easy to create a custom heating and cooling plan. Unlike conventional programmable thermostats, it has a large color interface that displays a simple menu that walks you through all the programming steps. It also “learns” your home and will send you personal notifications if the temperature is not right, or if there’s a power outage. Price: $199.
FYI: Thermostats made prior to 2001 may contain mercury. To see if your programmable thermostat contains mercury, check with the manufacturer. If you decide to dispose of a thermostat that contains mercury, check out how to do so safely in your area at Thermostat Recycling Corp. (Not sure why mercury is so bad? Here’s the skinny: It’s toxic and it never breaks down. When it enters the waste stream, it permanently damages the ecosystem.)
Did You Know?
During the New Year’s celebration 2,000 pounds of confetti are dropped on the crowd in Times Square at midnight.
Is It OK to Use the Bathroom When You’re Touring a House? (and 4 Other Questions You’re Afraid to Ask)
From HouseLogic / Stacey Freed
It’s a marathon house-hunting day. As you check out listing No. 5’s brand new windows, it suddenly hits you: “Oh man, I have to go to the bathroom.”
Should you, or shouldn’t you?
Navigating do’s and don’ts can be totally awkward, so we asked the pros everything most buyers secretly want to know.
Well, Can I Use the Bathroom?
If you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go — but don’t just wander off and take care of business. It might not work in every house. Literally.
“Ask permission,” says Pat Vredevoogd Combs, past president of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® who works and lives in Grand Rapids, Mich. Vacant houses, especially in winter, may have the water shut off, so there’s no way to flush. That’s something you really want to know before you go.
And if you’re at a busy open house, being in the loo for more than a minute means other potential buyers can’t check out the facilities — and may not want to after you’ve, um, done your business.
To be safe, schedule in a few pit stops at restaurants or gas stations along the way, suggests Vredevoogd Combs.
Is It OK to Bring in My Coffee?
We’re pretty sure ordering house hunters to forgo coffee qualifies as “cruel and unusual punishment” in some states. But if you’re carrying a drink, be careful — unless you’re prepared to go mano a mano with the floor.
“So many first-time home buyers are millennials, and I almost never see them without a cup of Starbucks in their hand,” Vredevoogd Combs says. “I had one guy spill his coffee on white carpeting and we had to get down on our hands and knees to clean it up.”
Food, on the other hand, is no bueno, unless the seller has left out cookies. By all means, take one, but eat it in the kitchen. Preferably over a napkin.
Can I Peek in the Closet?
“Absolutely,” says Tg Glazer, 2016 president of the New Jersey Association of REALTORS®. “Buying a home is probably the biggest purchase you’re ever going to make, and you need to check out everything.”
Basically, look all you want, but don’t rifle around. You’re shopping for closet space, not a new wardrobe.
How About a Quick Selfie With This Awesome, Lemon-Colored Range?
With smartphones being practically an appendage for many buyers, snapping pics to share with friends and family is so easy. But hold your trigger finger, especially if you’re planning to share the images online.
Whether you can take photos and videos “seems to be a regional custom,” Vredevoogd Combs says. “In some cases, sellers have valuable things and don’t even want their homes promoted online. Ask permission first.”
Can I Plop Down on That Chaise Lounge?
Vredevoogd Combs says she’s not a fan. “Feeling comfortable enough to want to sit on the furniture might be a good intent to buy, but it isn’t your furniture and you’re not buying it.” Plus, that cozy looking couch or comfy bed might be staged — air beds or cardboard boxes wearing fancy clothes — so you might take a spill.
If you need to sit, for health reasons or that sprained ankle from your last marathon, just ask. That’s not unreasonable.
The bottom line is the old-fashioned Golden Rule: Do unto others’ homes as you’d have them do unto yours.
“Be on your best behavior,” says Vredevoogd Combs. Pretend the seller is there — and sometimes they are, even if you can’t see them. They might be waiting next door at a neighbor’s house and wander back at any minute. So it’s also a good idea to keep comments to yourself. You wouldn’t want them to overhear how much you love the master suite — that could mess up your negotiating power if you decide to buy.
If your property is currently listed for sale or lease, this is not intended as a solicitation of that listing.