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Finally, the northeastern part of the country is experiencing seasonal weather. For two consecutive days the sun has shone and it’s great to feel the warm rays on my skin.  This warm weather also harkens the season for home-selling; the busiest time of year for REALTORS.  Lawns become greener, tree buds appear, and hopefully all those yard projects were completed if you were thinking about putting your home on the market.  

It definitely is a seller’s market, so NOW is the time to call a REALTOR to take the final steps to put your house on the market. In the event that you haven’t done anything, don’t despair, there are some simple things you can do to “put your best foot forward.” 

  1. CURB APPEAL should be at the top of your list because the first thing that people will see when they look at an online listing is typically a picture of the front of your house.  Make your house “Pop” with a nice green lawn (you can always fertilize it yourself) straight edges along walkways, the driveway, and curbs. Trim shrubs so they are not overgrown. Scrape peeling paint and touch it up with a matching color. 
  2. AIR QUALITY is something that may seem trivial but if it is not fresh it will leave a lasting, negative, impression.  If there are smokers in your house, lingering pet odors (especially urine), mold/mildew odors, dampness odors, or other smells, get rid of them! You don’t want your house to be remembered for a bad smell; and don’t try to “cover them up” with fragrances or scented candles because buyers and their REALTORS can “smell right through” those tricks. 
  3. PAINT- chipping and peeling paint is noticeable and easily rectified. You can attempt it yourself or hire a pro.  It shouldn’t take long and won’t cost much.
  4. CLEANLINESS is also super important. Dirty windows, dusty sills, dust-bunnies on the floor, are things by which you don’t want to be remembered. If you don’t have time, hire someone to do it for you because it will be worth it.

If you have any questions about preparing your home for sale email me at JosephLuca@remax.net

April 11 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the federal Fair Housing Act. Why is the commemoration a top priority for the National Association of REALTORS®?
The right to own property, and to own a home, is the foundation of our business.

NAR has taken an active role in promoting, and educating REALTORS® about, equal housing opportunity for 50 years.


The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.
NAR incorporates all of those requirements, as well as equal opportunity on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, into our REALTORS® Code of Ethics, because it makes our association, our industry, and our country stronger.

FAIR Housing Commemoration

 

NAR’s commemoration of the Fair Housing Act is vital because it highlights how far we’ve come in promoting equal housing opportunity—both as a society and as an association—and, more importantly, that our work is on-going.
When Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1968, many in organized real estate had a far different view of fair housing. The new era of openness and equality in the sale or rental of housing clashed with hardwired beliefs at that time; and many believed that fair housing law posed a threat to individual property rights.

President Lyndon Johnson, as he signed the Fair Housing Act on April 11, 1968, famously declared that the right to fair housing “is now a part of the American way of life.”
That right also became every REALTOR®’s responsibility. For all the progress made to raise awareness and end discriminatory practices, as specified in the law and the REALTORS® Code of Ethics, the challenges for the industry and society persist. Fifty years later, REALTORS® commitment to upholding the principles of fair housing remains a top priority.

Despite all of the strides that have been made in Fair Housing, we must learn from the past. Housing is not a special interest; it is a human right. NAR and the RI Association of REALTORS® is committed to safeguarding this right.

Our vigilance must continue so that future generations may also enjoy the benefits of Fair Housing.

Some areas of concern include:

1. How to avoid Steering claims in the age of big data;
2. How emotional support animals like therapy dogs are finding their way into fair housing law;
3. Illegal discrimination based on familial status.
While we may not be able to predict the adversity of our society, or the challenges of the market place, in the future, we must always work together as a nation, and as REALTOR® professionals, to protect the right of Fair Housing for ALL who live here in the greatest country on earth.

As was widely expected, The Federal Reserve raised interest rates, and indicated that they will continue to do so throughout the year.  This actually indicates that things are good in our economy… a positive sign that consumers are spending money, and prices are being pushed upward by the forces of supply and demand.  Interest rates are like a “brake system” on a train, when things start moving too fast apply the brakes, to slow the train down.  Likewise, when the economy starts to “move too fast”, prices are getting pushed higher (Inflation) so a slight increase in interest rates will temper, or slow down, these price increases.  Inflation, like our debt, diet, and data, needs to be managed so it  doesn’t become a problem.  Which was why The Fed repeatedly lowered interest rates during the depths of The Great Recession – to spur economic activity (buying stuff.)

1st Home Mortgage

What will this mean for me?  If you have a 30 year mortgage of $250,000, at a fixed interest rate of 5%, the monthly payment (not including taxes and insurances) would be about $1,342. A rate increase to 5.25% would raise your monthly payment by about $35.  Most consumers spend more than that on coffee every month.  Will that be detrimental for some consumers? Probably.  However, rising incomes, should mitigate that affect.  The US unemployment rate is 4.1%, and Full Employment is considered to be about 5%.  Many economists believe that this dynamic pushes wages higher so (theoretically) more people should be able to afford the extra $35/month.

resnick logo

If you are considering Selling your house, you should act sooner and not later. Inventory is tight, so there is not much competition at this time; but more people may list their homes for sale increasing the competition. You best option is to contact a Full Time, Experienced, REALTOR® to get the answers to your questions for your situation.  Feel free to call me, Joe Luca at 401-580-9797.  All questions are welcomed and answers are free and without obligation.

GentryMoving

REALTOR® Colleagues and Consumers alike have had questions and comments since the RI Statewide Multiple Listing Service (MLS) introduced the “Coming Soon” status on the MLS. First of all, for the Consumer, a “Coming Soon” status is nt an Active Listing, it is considered to be “Off Market”; which means the house CANNOT be shown by the Listing Agent. This is probably fine if you are not ready to show your house because you need to de-clutter, make repairs, or take care of other “last minute” items…as long as it is completed in less than 30 days, because the listing will automatically switch to Active and will have to be shown to Buyers. A Coming Soon listing is NOT an opportunity for the Listing Agent to show the home to Buyers without other REALTORS® haveing the opportunity for their Buyers to see the house. If the Listing Agent attempts to do this, he or she is doing the Seller a disservice because other Buyers will not have an opportunity to make a potentially higher offer on the house. If this happens to you, or someone you know, call the local Board of REALTORS® because it is a violation of MLS rules and the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.

The REALTOR® Code of Ethics is the demarcation line between individuals buying and selling their own real estate, licensees selling the real estate of others (who are required to only abide by the law,) and REALTORS®. We are held to a higher standard of conduct. We “police” our members for the protection of the consumers and other members.

REALTORS® demand a higher level of business conduct and professionalism from our members, and we are always striving to provide better service for the consumer. Full time REALTORS® treat the job as the profession it is by continually taking classes and attending webinars in addition to the required Continuing Education classes mandated by the state licensing body.

If you are interested in a Coming Soon listing feel free to give ma a call at 401-580-9797.

 

Much has been written, spoken, debated, and lamented, about the lack of housing inventory in states from the Northeast, to the Midwest, to the West Coast.  There are myriad reasons and explanations for why, and most of them are probably accurate to some degree.  Many may even help alleviate the pressure on the market to stem the reduction in housing sales.  However, most of these ideas would take time.  While the Free Market is efficient in the long run… it is not necessarily so in the short run. It certainly is not responding quickly to the needs of first time home buyers in the market today.

When I was installed as President of the Rhode Island Association of REALTORS, I called upon my colleagues to Engage, and Inspire others to Engage, in order to remain relevant and productive in our current and ever-changing economy. Now is the time for us to Engage. Politically Engage .  This is also the time we should Inspire others, including consumers, to Engage.  We must inform our legislators and municipal officials that our economy needs to be unbridled by the regulatory restraints that are preventing First Time Home Buyers from participating in the American Dream of Home Ownership.  We have witnessed our national economy quickly rebound, with consecutive fiscal quarters of 3%+ growth, after the federal government eliminated numerous regulations which were restricting economic activity.  Why can that not be done at the state and municipal level so that builders can build houses that lower income families can afford?  Why should “the little guy”, who is too frequently an immigrant, not be able to buy a home because there is nothing available, or nothing is affordable?  This should be not be acceptable in the United States of America.  We must Engage with our legislators and municipal officials, to convince them that it is essential and vital that those at the lower income levels not be precluded from participating in the American Dream of Home Ownership.

As Architects of The American Dream, REALTORS® protect Private Property Rights.  The National Association of REALTORS® is against any obstacles to home ownership:

  • Unnecessary fees to buy a home,
  • Restrictive regulations/policies that infringe on the home-buying process,
  • Restrictive underwriting policies that may “freeze out” some from buying a home,
  • Increasing regulations and fees for consumers to retain ownership,
  • Anything else that may infringe or impede on the home sale process.

REALTORS® need to Engage, and lead the way for consumers to Engage, with the political process. Why shouldn’t everyone that qualifies for a mortgage be able to buy a home?  Why shouldn’t they participate in the American Dream of Home Ownership?  REALTORS® can make it happen so we should make it a reality.  If you want to Engage but don’t know how, email me at JosephLuca@remax.net.

The short answer is: “You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know”

For the purposes of this discussion, when I refer to a REALTOR®, I am referring to a full-time, experienced REALTOR®, who averages at least 11 closings per year. For what it is worth, over 70% of RI REALTORS® do less than 5 transactions per year, which is why you should seek out an experienced full-time, REALTOR® to handle, what for most of us, is the largest financial transaction of our lives.

In essence, sellers are potentially exposing themselves to liabilities that may be unnecessary.  Either as it relates to disclosure of information, utilizing correct forms to expedite the transaction, and the general practice know-how that protects buyers and sellers from liability. Experienced full-time REALTORS® guide and control their client’s transaction so purchases and sales happen on schedule, and the buyer and seller can easily transition to the next stage of their life.  Additionally, REALTORS® know the market; we know houses, and we know sellers and buyers.  It’s our job.  Those of us that take our job seriously are continually learning, studying, reading and taking classes, so that we are aware of new regulations, financial instruments, and mortgage programs that best serve our clients.

As a full time REALTOR®, I make it my job to be aware of the latest financial incentives from housing authorities, tax incentive programs, mortgage programs from various lenders, and the latest guidelines from the government backed loan products (FHA and VA.) Being current on these programs gives me the tools to work with a full spectrum of clients, being able to assess their needs and help them best maximize goals.

REALTOR® Associations frequently change forms to accommodate the needs of members and consumers, so it is also part of my job to be aware of these changes and use the latest forms.  These forms frequently have time triggers with deadlines which, if missed, could cost the buyer or seller A LOT of money.  I take classes, attend webinars, and go to conferences to remain sharp and have the best skills, training, and tools for the benefit of my clients. I’m proud of this because it makes me extremely qualified to assist them with what I’ll mention again is likely the biggest financial investment of their lives.  This requires a large time-commitment and a significant amount of mental “focus.”  Most, if not all, of my top-producing colleagues approach their job in the same professional manner.

If a part-time REALTOR® has a “real” or “full-time” job, where would he/she find the time to do this?   I say this not to throw anyone under the bus.  I am not disparaging any REALTOR®; I am simply asking the aforementioned question.

These are just some things to think about as you consider hiring /working with a REALTORS®. I hope this post has giving you some food for thought, and I would love to discuss any of this with you and how it relates to your personal real estate needs and objectives. I look forward to hearing from you!

Hopefully everyone will have a healthy and prosperous 2018.  It certainly seems to be shaping up that way so far.  The Dow, has broke 26,000, dropped below 25,000 and closed up over 300 points today.  We have experienced well in excess of $1 trillion of new wealth in the stock market in the past twelve months.  That is a good thing.  It is not just the wealthy, the stockbrokers, and other “big shots” that realize this increase in wealth from the stock market.  It is the little guy too.  The laborer/teacher/police officer/fireman who has paid into to a union pension reaps these benefits too.  The pensions invest in the stock market, bonds, real estate and other assets.  As do many mutual funds, some directly and some indirectly.  The word “Wealth” has, in many sectors of society, been erroneously associated with “evil”, “greed”, and other nefarious behavioral traits.  Increasing your wealth is not a bad thing for you, your family and your heirs.  Pretty much everyone wants to make it “easier” for our children to have a better life than we do.  Which brings us to the whole “transfer of wealth” issue.  Full disclosure, I was raised in a family that owned a small business.  My parents, aunts, and uncles all worked hard to assure that their families could be supported by the business.  Was it easy? I don’t think so; trying to sell musical instruments when interest rates were 18% must have been a challenge.  But they did it, they worked hard to increase the value of the business every year.  When the time comes that they pass on they will have the value of their business as a part of their estate. An estate that is composed of assets (typically cash, stocks, bonds, real estate) that are taxed annually.  Why does it make sense that upon their death, the estate should have to pay a tax on these assets yet again? This the government acting like a silent partner, reaping the rewards of decades of hard work without ever participating in the “work” aspect of the business.  So the “wealth” of a small family-owned business will be transferred to the heirs, after the proverbial “pound of flesh” is taken by the government.  We are not talking Kennedy/Rockefeller/Getty wealth, but small time family business “wealth”.  This scenario is repeated millions of times across the country with immigrant families, first and second generation American families, who work hard to build something of value that could be decimated by estate taxes.  This confiscation of wealth is not a good thing. It discourages hard work for the delayed gratification of leaving children and grandchildren in a better financial position than their predecessors. Is that good for America?

Communication is important – it is how we convey information to each other. To communicate effectively, and be successful in conveying the information accurately, we need to do a few things well:

  • Word Choice, use language your audience can understand. If I am trying to explain something to an audience (even if it’s one person,) I should be less concerned with trying to impress them with my knowledge and more concerned with them understanding and comprehending my message.  If I use “$2 Words”, and no one else knows what they mean, what did I accomplish other than wasting everyone’s time?
  • Spelling, homonyms can be tricky for many.  Are you drinking “Sweat Tea” or “Sweet Tea”? Both are spelled correctly but mean something totally different. Allowed and aloud are others that have different meanings but sound the same. Then there are the plain-old typos and misspellings. Some of my favorites are: “Peeface from the Editor”, “Panty stuffers”, and “School of Pubic Affairs”;
  • Punctuation, “Did the Bear eat John?” or “Did the bear eat, John?” and everyone has seen “Let’s eat Grandma!” instead of “Let’s eat, Grandma” …a comma CAN save a life.

Perhaps errors like these should be expected from grammar school students, but what drives me bonkers is when the NY Times, the Providence Journal, and GolocalProv make these errors. Spellcheck is not adequate, and is for lazy writers.  Why don’t these writers check their own work with their own eyeballs? After-all, it has THEIR name on it. I submit to you that it is due to a lack of self-pride.  They are not proud of themselves, and they are not proud of their own work which represents them.  What do you think?

 

BUT WILL IT LAST?

According to the CNBC All-America Economic Survey, for the first time in at least 11 years, more than half of all survey respondents rated the economy as Good or Excellent.  Forty-one percent believe the economy will improve in 2018, and forty-two percent approve of President Trump’s job performance.  This poll was conducted by a Democratic firm and pollster, Hart Research – so this is not a firm with an agenda to make the economy and the president look “good”.

What is also interesting is that this poll was conducted December 10-13, during the tug-of-war debate about tax reform; so there is a certain amount of “uncertainty” that may have suppressed these numbers.  It is also worth noting that there has been a significant “talk” on the business-news channels that there are going to be two or three Fed rate-hikes in 2018.  This, one would think, should provide reason to be doubtful about the prospects of a strong economy.  However, the respondents to this poll by a Democratic pollster have feelings that are contrary to that presumption.  Why is that? What does it mean? (If anything.)

Our economy is good, or bad, because we believe it is.  So, what are some things that would contribute to our believing the economy is good/going to improve if:

  • There are multiple negative-news headlines,
  • Alleged lack of certainty in our economic prospects,
  • There aren’t enough positive-news headlines reported by the “Main Stream Media” (if you believe Fox News.)

Well, I submit to you that perhaps, people are making more money, becoming more gainfully employed, and more people are making more money.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, civilian worker compensation was up 2.5%, year over year, in the third quarter of 2017.  In the nonfarm business sector Output was up 4.1%, and hourly compensation was up 2.7%, in the third quarter of 2017. Nonfarm payroll employment was up 228,000 in November 2017. The unemployment rate has been trending downward and is at the lowest rate in 17 years – even in the wake of several hurricanes.   This has probably contributed to the fact that the Average FICO score is up to 700 from a recent low of 688 in 2005.  As consumers earn more money they pay more bills in a timely manner.

This economic data can be viewed against positive birth-rate trends.  The age range that has the largest number of home buyers is 30 to 34 years old.  If we look at the birth rates from 30 years ago we can see that the trend increased for several years. From 3.82 million in 1987 to 3.91 million, to 4.02 million, to 4.17 million before starting a downward trend.  This would indicate that there will be an increasing number of home-buyers in that demographic for several more years before leveling off and then declining.

A statistic that could be viewed as a negative is the fact that housing inventory is very tight across the country.  So in the absence of new construction (still at a 50 year low) we will continue to have a limited supply of product to sell.

So what does all of the above have to do with real estate and housing?  It bodes well for the housing industry and positively for property values.  In the coming years we are going to experience increasing demand, a sense of economic-optimism, increasing wages, an improved consumer-credit profile, and presumably higher employment.  So to extrapolate; there will be more buyers, with a better credit profile, earning more money from more jobs, chasing a limited supply of product (housing inventory).  Economics 101 taught me that a greater demand with a limited supply will drive prices up; and this is supported by empirical data.  THAT is good news for consumers looking to buy, those looking to sell, and the REALTORS® that consumers will work with to receive maximum value from the largest financial transaction of their life.

Secret Santa has brought your gift early this year.  A holiday recipe for finding the best deal on your home purchase this year: sauté •strong demand with •less competition from other listings marinate in •low interest rates and add a dash of •Holiday Season. The result?  The perfect blend for an Artisan deal.

The Holiday Season is upon us, and everyone’s mind is occupied with shopping, parties, sending out cards and wrapping gifts. But, all holiday shopping isn’t done on line, or at the mall, or at that swanky boutique…

In fact, there is a significant amount of home-buying that happens during the “holiday shopping season”.  Last year there were almost 1,000 Rhode Island houses that went Pending between November 15, 2016 and January 15, 2017!  This “shopping List” was valued at OVER $317 million …THAT is a lot of shopping!

Why is it good to go House Shopping during the Holiday Season???  Well to start, there is less competition from other buyers, so it is less likely that that there will be a “Bidding War” for your dream house – as has happened throughout the year with some houses in high demand areas.  The same holds true for putting your house on the market during the Holiday Season.  There are fewer active listings as the temperature drops; but according to the National Association of REALTORS, demand for houses remains strong through the Holiday Season.  Additionally, interest rates are still below 4% for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.  This is half of the historical average of 8% for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

Strong demand, less competition from other listings, and low interest rates.  That is a holiday recipe for getting an excellent value on a home purchase.

While the average buyer has pushed the average price for a single-family home in Rhode Island almost to the $270,000 marker, there are houses that sell for a multiple of that as well.  In fact, Little Rhody, The Biggest Little State In The Union, has had its fair share of “celebrity” buyers too.  The most recent was the announced purchase of The Seafair by Jay Leno and his wife Mavis for $13.5 million.  This year it is the highest so far, and the highest since The Fairholme Estate in Newport sold for $16.1 million in 2016.  And get this, for $13.5 million, he didn’t even get the whole house! (He bought 4 condo units.)  So technically, since it was bought in parcels totaling $13,500,000, this year’s record stands at $11,650,000 for a single-family sale in Newport.

For the entire state of Rhode Island, Single Family sales greater than $1 million increased to 232 houses from 183 houses last year.  As for Condo sales over $1 million this year there were 16 in 2017, up from 10 last year.

There were five single-family sales greater than $5 million through November 30 of this year; which is the same as 2016.

If you have any questions about the real estate market in your area, the value of your house or any real estate questions whatsoever, call a REALTOR.  If you are going to engage in the largest financial transaction of your life you deserve the guidance of an experienced, ethical, real estate professional.

As of the publication of this Premier Issue of Real Estate Today, there are 80 properties priced over $1 million listed on RILiving.com – a really good place to do your Holiday Shopping.

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