Great time to buy/refinance!

An election year is a great time to purchase a new home or investment property because interest rates tend to stay low. Right now I am seeing people close loans around 3.5-3.75% for a 30 year loan. Last year they were a whole percentage point higher! The Fed insists the low interest rates are based on economic factors such as Brexit and poor unemployment rates.

Low interest rates are wonderful because they allow people to qualify for home prices that they would not otherwise be able to afford.

If you are thinking of upgrading your home or purchasing an investment property, I’d love to help you!

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Parade of Homes Highlights

Dear Clients & Friends,

Here were the top trends from the 2016 Parade of Homes:

1. Grey Cabinets: We saw grey painted cabinets in kitchens, laundry rooms, and hallways. They were used as an alternative to white cabinets.

2. Geometric Railings: These were used most commonly with entry stairways made of wood or rod iron.

3. Pops of Blue & Pink: Homes were still mainly decorated in white and grey neutrals with accents of pink (fuchsia or blush pink) or navy blue. The accents were mainly used with pillows, chairs, or curtains.

4. Brick: We saw the return of red brick in grand fireplaces, accent walls, and even flooring.

5. Textured Carpets: We saw carpets that were flat with patterns–softer than berber carpet and lacking piling. Carpet colors were mainly grey.

If you are looking for a new home, please give us a call. We would love to help you find one and be your realtors. We can also recommend many tradesmen to help redecorate your home!

Ashley Jensen and Associates

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Considering Listing Your Home? Read this…

With the market being so “hot” right now in the 2nd quarter of 2016, it can be tempting to overprice a home in the hopes that someone will pay it. It could happen, but more often it will sit and buyers will wait until the price reduces. Or, if it sells, it may not appraise.

In my experience, one mistake that can be made when selling one’s home is that sellers will price their house on what is on the market “unsold” versus what has actually sold. In this “hot market,” homes go unsold for one reason: they are overpriced. So, it is important to price competitively so that there is a lot of interest. You may even get a bidding war!

Another thing to consider in pricing your home is that you may not get 100% of the value back in upgrades you have done, such as high-end appliances, granite, heated floors, etc. The real value of a home comes from its location and square footage. Then, you look at the level of updating a home has and give it a price range. According to Remodeling Magazine’s yearly “Cost versus Value” report, in most cases, improvements earn back about 60 percent to 70 percent of what they cost.

A mistake I also see sometimes in pricing is that Sellers will price a home based on what they need to net for their next purchase or to pay off debt. The problem is that the buyer won’t care what the sellers need. They will pay what the market says it is worth. Real estate is pretty transparent-realtors can look up comparables and let their buyers know what others have paid for something similar. On the other hand, sellers don’t discount the price of the house just because the buyer can’t afford it.

Avoid the Zestimate. Zillow itself says it has a median error rate of 8%, which means that half the Zestimates are off by more than 8 percent. So for homes with Zestimates of, say, $400,000, only half those homes are going to sell inside a range of about $368,000 to $432,000. The other half is worth more or less than that range. The Zestimate is also especially difficult in Utah because Utah is a non-disclosure state, so Zillow does not have access to the MLS and the cities do not collect sale prices in their tax records. So, Zillow is often inaccurate.

Pricing is both an art and a science, and you never quite know exactly how the market is going to react when you list a home. However, the market can “speak” to you and let you know what buyers think. If there is a lack of interest and showings, then the market is telling you that the price is as much as 10% too high. If the price is too low, then there will be a mad rush for it and it will be bid up. It is important to listen to the market!

Ashley

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Revitalized Downtown Provo

If you have been to Downtown Provo anytime recently, it looks strikingly different than it did just 5 years ago. Sure, there is the fantastic Provo City Center Temple, built from the Provo Tabernacle, but also many of the historic shops and buildings have been restored.

Interestingly, the City of Provo has been offering a Downtown Facade Grant. As business owners commit money to remodel older buildings, they receive matching funds to spruce up their storefronts as well. It has made a big difference and has transformed the downtown from a dilapidated, vacant feel to a thriving marketplace. Many restaurants, shops, tech companies, advertising agencies, and so forth have been moving downtown, and foot traffic has increased dramatically.

Provo

This improvement is one of several things that has been making home prices in Provo soar. The great schools, Google Fiber, the Provo recreation center, and city culture have helped as well.

It is an exciting time to invest in Provo, especially downtown where improvements are far from over! Many developers have been purchasing properties for apartment buildings, a movie theater, and additional shops. It is truly becoming an urban downtown, attractive to both empty-nesters and young professionals. If you would like to learn more about investing in Provo, please call me at 801-830-2006 or email at ashley@autahhome.com. 

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The Top 5 Reasons You Should Not “For Sale By Owner”

In today’s market, with homes selling quickly and prices rising, some homeowners might consider trying to sell their home on their own, known in the industry as a For Sale by Owner (FSBO). There are several reasons this might not be a good idea for the vast majority of sellers.

Here are five of those reasons:

1. There Are Too Many People to Negotiate With

Here is a list of some of the people with whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to For Sale By Owner:

  • The buyer who wants the best deal possible
  • The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interest of the buyer
  • The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)
  • The home inspection companies, which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house
  • The appraiser if there is a question of value

2. Exposure to Prospective Purchasers

Recent studies have shown that 89% of buyers search online for a home. That is in comparison to only 20% looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an internet strategy to promote the sale of your home. Do you?

3. Results Come from the Internet

Where do buyers find the home they actually purchased?

  • 44% on the internet
  • 33% from a Real Estate Agent
  • 9% from a yard sign
  • 1% from newspaper

The days of selling your house by just putting up a sign and putting it in the paper are long gone. Having a strong internet strategy is crucial.

4. FSBOing has Become More and More Difficult

The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 8% over the last 20+ years.

The 8% share represents the lowest recorded figure since NAR began collecting data in 1981.

5. You Net More Money when Using an Agent

Many homeowners believe that they will save the real estate commission by selling on their own. Realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe they can save the real estate agent’s commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.

Studies have shown that the typical house sold by the homeowner sells for $210,000 while the typical house sold by an agent sells for $249,000. This doesn’t mean that an agent can get $39,000 more for your home as studies have shown that people are more likely to FSBO in markets with lower price points. However, it does show that selling on your own might not make sense.

Bottom Line

Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your house on your own, sit with a real estate professional in your marketplace and see what they have to offer.

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Help Wanted

Your help is needed! So far in 2016, the inventory of homes for sale in Utah has dropped so dramatically that if no one listed another house after today, the supply of homes for sale would be drained by the end of April 2016. According to the Daily Herald, due to the sharp population increase along the Wasatch Front, home buyers are having a harder time finding any home, much less their ideal home (http://www.heraldextra.com/business/local/inventory-shortage-continues-more-utah-homes-are-being-sold-than/article_1196cf84-fcad-501c-8d00-d9eb61df696a.html) .

Over the holidays, the real estate market in Utah was stronger than usual for the time of year, and it hasn’t slowed down. My team and I work with many home buyers, and almost every one of them lately has found themselves in a multiple offer situation on the property of their choosing.

That’s why your help is needed…do you know someone who is interested in selling their home? If so, I would love to talk to them about how right now is the perfect time to get their house on the market. With spring approaching and the real estate market ramping up even more, now would be the idea time to consider investing in some repairs and upgrades in order to comfortably allow for the maximum asking price. I can provide guidance in determining what repairs/upgrades are worthwhile as well as recommendations on asking price based on comparative neighborhood analysis.

Please let me know if you or someone you know is considering selling their house in the near future, and thank you for your help and attention!

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Solar Panels: A Good Investment?

Right now Solar Panels appear to be all the rage in California and other neighboring states. Many companies such as Vivint Solar, Utah Sun Solar, and Auric Solar are all entering the Utah market in hope of getting Utahns to join in on the solar trend.

Solar panels are capable of harvesting energy even on bad weather days–even on snowy days in Utah, solar panels still typically operate at 70% efficiency. We average about 5.5 hours of sunlight during the day and that is usually enough for them to power a house.

Regarding incentives, the state of Utah offers a 25% tax credit on solar systems, up to $2,000. In addition, the Federal Government offers a 30% tax credit with no cap (expires 12/2016). Of course, it may cost you around $20k-$30k to have them installed–so you have to decide if the savings are enough of an incentive for you!

Here are some links that are helpful with weighing the pros and cons of converting to solar, especially the cost calculator.

General Information: http://www.solarsimplified.org/

Cost calculator: http://www.solarsimplified.org/solar-resources/calculate-your-solar-savings?view=calcbuilderfront

Tax credits: http://programs.dsireusa.org/system/program?state=UT

To me, they seem to be a significant investment and they aren’t particularly attractive, but their long term cost appears comparable to electricity, plus they have a positive environmental impact.

I would love to answer any questions that you or your friends may have about solar panels or buying/selling a home!

Ashley

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Rental Market in UT County

I am often asked about the rental market in Utah county, specifically the Provo-Orem area, because many of my clients are real estate investors. To gain additional insight on rent rates and factors to consider when purchasing an investment property, my team reached out to RESE property management (http://resepm.com/) to get their input on the current state of the rental market in Utah county and especially Provo-Orem.

According to Glen Harris, General Manager of Rese Property Management, rent rates have been on a gradual increase for the last 5 years in Utah county; however, where there is a prevalence of newly constructed multi-unit properties, as in Orem, rents of pre-existing units stabilize or even suffer as the market is saturated with the new builds. If given the option, renters will always lean towards a newer construction.

Those markets that encircle colleges and universities, like Orem’s own UVU and Provo’s BYU, are usually hotbeds for rental demand, but you do want to consider the effort and extra cost that can be involved in managing those units. For example, to appeal to the widest range of clientele, you would want your property close to BYU to be “BYU contracted/approved,” meaning you need to take a few extra steps to become a contracted housing provider, such as getting a business license. In addition, not surprisingly, property managers like RESE will need to charge a higher property management fee than the standard 8% as those properties are usually leased out by room and therefore require 3x the work.

You may wonder as I did how rentals fair in a fluctuating market since downturns are inevitable. Rese has noticed when the economy takes a dive as it did in 2008, rental rates may decrease, but not nearly as drastically as how actual home prices are affected. Typically in a “crash” or economy downturn, rents remain quite stable. During a recovery period, many home owners have lost their homes and prospective buyers are often afraid to buy, so subsequently, demand for rentals is very strong then as well.

If you’re an aspiring investor, here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin your investment property search:

  • Location is everything! Focus on finding a property that is in a good neighborhood, meaning the area has a low crime rate and good schools with high test scores.

You can check an area’s crime activity/history here: https://www.crimereports.com/

And local schools with respective test scores here: https://k12.niche.com/

  • Stick to properties within the 2-3 bedroom range; those are in highest demand in our county. Rese PM has found that for homes with any more than 5 bedrooms, the demand starts to sharply decrease.
  • If considering a duplex, focus on side-by-side (2 units next to each other) properties as opposed to up-down (top floor and basement). Tenants in an up-down property tend to have greater conflict, and it is generally more difficult to rent a basement unit.
  • Be prepared to hire a property management company. Speaking from personal experience, having a property manager can eliminate almost all of the headache of owning a rental property. From the notorious eviction to the late night phone call announcing a leaking toilet, a property manager provides the buffer between you and your tenant, thereby granting you the peace of mind to find another rental property!

If you’d like more information on managing your rental property, you can contact Rese Property Management at (801) 655-2449 or http://resepm.com/

If you’re considering acquiring a rental property, I’d be happy to help you begin your search! Call or text at (801) 830-1717, ashley@ashleyjensenrealestate.com

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Home Renovations on the Rise

Everyone knows that an updated kitchen with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and a subway tiled backsplash make a prospective home buyer more inclined to fall in love with a house than one in which the kitchen is outdated. But a recent study by Harvard’s Joint Center for House Studies (JCHS) implies that a home owner considering listing his house for sale may have to invest in those upgrades and others in order to remain competitive in the current housing market.

According to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) report produced by JCHS each quarter, “Last year, year-over-year [home improvement/remodeling] spending increased by about 4 to 7 percent each quarter.” By the 3rd quarter of 2016, “the level of annual spending in nominal terms is anticipated to surpass the previous peak set in 2006 and hit about $154.8 million, the report predicted” (Swinderman, 2016; http://www.inman.com/2016/01/22/harvard-jchs-report-predicts-strong-home-improvement-activity-this-year/).

LIRA

 

What do these numbers mean? That your neighbors and others in your community may be updating their homes to prepare them to sell, either now or in the near future, and that if you want to remain competitive when you decide to sell your own home, you may have to consider going the extra mile to beautify your home in order to get top dollar out of it.

If you are considering selling your home or know someone who is, I can recommend contractors, painters, etc. that can get your house in that ideal condition to exceed a potential buyer’s expectations!

(PC: www.clipartpanda.com)

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Should I pay an interest rate over 4%?

Mortgage interest rates, as reported by Freddie Mac, have increased over the last several weeks. Along with Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors are all calling for mortgage rates to continue to rise over the next four quarters.

This has caused some purchasers to lament the fact they may no longer be able to get a rate less than 4%. However, we must realize that current rates are still at historic lows.

Here is a chart showing the average mortgage interest rate over the last several decades.

Interest Rates

Bottom Line

Though you may have missed getting the lowest mortgage rate ever offered, you can still get a better interest rate than your older brother or sister did ten years ago; a lower rate than your parents did twenty years ago and a better rate than your grandparents did forty years ago.

 

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