What Is The REAL Health Status Of Homeowner Mortgages And Our Economy?

Generally speaking, the consensus seems is that the residential real estate market in most parts of the country is on the upswing in the aggregate.  As a licensed Realtor, I will run with that consensus as much as I can because so much of our economic health is psychological and relies on consumer perception.  Anecdotal evidence indicates that there is an impressive correlation between the tone of the national headlines about the economy and the psyche of the average consumer.  If the news anchors say the sky is falling everyone will soon be running for shelter, even if there is no empirical evidence to support the claim.  Similarly, if national headlines are droning on about the lousy economy, high unemployment, and soon-to-be-rising interest rates, home-buying will grind to a virtual stand-still.  What both of these occurrences have in common is that they frequently rely on inconclusive, or superficial, data that do not adequately represent the economic “status-quo”.  For example, below is a graphical representation of actual data from Core Logic, an aggregator of real estate data (among other things).


The old saying goes: “The only difference between a recession and a depression is that in a recession your neighbor is out of work, in a depression YOU are out of work”  So what does this mean?  Selfishly speaking, I don’t know and as long as houses are selling in RI and MA (which they are) I am not sure if I should be concerned.   However, when I read economic data that do not support the economic outlook; in the back of my mind I can hear the voice of one of my college economics professors emphatically stating that the real numbers do not lie…but those numbers can be manipulated by others for political gain. Case in point: http://tiny.cc/ifnutx an article in the NYT trumpeting the great employment outlook, and this sobering report by the CEO of Gallup http://tiny.cc/oknutx.   What do you think???

Is Now A Good Time To Buy Or Sell A Home?

This past week I came across two separate indications about what may happen to the residential real estate market in southern New England, and elsewhere, in 2015.  The first was actual data that demonstrated that while sales were down in 2014 compared to 2013, the prices had risen close to 5%…and this is in Rhode Island, traditionally one of the “lagging indicators” of all states and historically one of the last to exit from economic downturns.  See the below:Median House Prices and Sales 2013-14

Rhode Island has been hit especially hard since the last downturn because the unemployment rate has been one  of the highest in the nation, and it has been ranked last by CNBC on several occasions for business attractiveness.  Next I read the predictions for interest rates from several different sources and they all indicated that rates are going up from .3% to 1.2% by the 2015 4Q.

Mortgage Rate Predictions 2015

So to extrapolate: In a “worst case scenario”, if the price of a house increases from $200,000 to $210,000 AND interest rates increase 1.2% (NAR) the monthly payment excluding taxes and insurance would increase from $948/mo today to $1,143/mo at the end of 2015.  That is an extra $2,340/year, $35,100 over 15 years, and a whopping, uncompounded,  $70,200 over 30 years.  Wouldn’t it be better to have that money in your retirement account, or use it for a vacation home?  Since we have been at historic lows for a few years, and prior to the downturn the “Fantastic Rates” were well over 5%, this is not that outlandish.  It is also not outlandish to think that we will not be returning to rates this low for generations since prior to 2010 we had never had rates in the 4% range (BankRate.com.)  So what do you think is now a good time to buy or sell a home???  If you have questions about buying or selling a home, email Joe@JoeLucaRealEstate.com or voice/text at 401-580-9797.

5 Easy Ways to Increase Your Home’s Resale Value

Are you getting ready to sell your home? Do you want to get it sold quickly, and for the price you want? Did you know that most buyers form their first impression of your home within minutes of first seeing it? Years ago sellers would list their homes for sale in “as is” condition. In today’s market, that no longer works. Today you need to make the best possible first impression to get the sale you want – and you only get one chance to make a great first impression. If you’re getting ready to put your home on the market, here are 5 great tips to help you sell it fast and get what you asked for–or maybe even more!

1. Deep Clean

Graciela Rutkowski - sell your home 6 Buyers want to see a fresh, clean home – a dirty home will turn buyers off.

  • Kitchens sell homes. Give special attention to countertops, grout lines, appliances, and cabinets, inside and out. Clean the refrigerator and pantry, and hide any trash cans.
  • Clean floors until they shine, and clear away pet areas. Dust all surfaces, including those above your line of sight. Don’t forget the ceiling fans!
  • Make bathrooms look good and smell fresh. Scrub toilets, and clean shower doors. Invest in fresh bedding, linens, and towels. Odors will turn off buyers. Refresh the space with room deodorizers, but don’t use heavy scents.
  • Clean corners, doorways, and window frames. Don’t forget the garage!
  • Clear out closets, and store what you’re not using. A half-filled closet looks much larger than one that is stuffed.

2. Add Curb Appeal

Graciela Rutkowski Interiors - curb appeal When buyers drive up to your home, you want them to be excited to come in!

  • Invest in professional landscaping. Make sure the lawn is mown, re-seed where the grass looks thin, and trim hedges, trees, and anything that blocks the view to your home. Add colorful flowers along pathways and by the front entry.
  • Power wash the outside of your home, including paths and driveways. Wash windows to make them sparkle and let in light, and clean gutters and walkways.
  • Give your front porch a makeover. Add a bench or chair and a decorative touch. Don’t forget the mailbox! Give it a touch of paint, and be sure it’s standing up straight.
  • Park cars in the garage–or even better, out of the way entirely.

3. Fix What’s Broken

Graciela Rutkowski Interiors - sell your home 3 You want buyers to focus on the best features of your home, and not on problems from deferred maintenance. This is the time to do those ‘fix-it’ projects that you’ve been putting off. It may cost a bit up front, but it will pay off in the long term.

  • Walk through your home with a fresh eye to see if there are obvious maintenance issues. Fix the things you can yourself, and hire a handyman for larger projects. A fresh coat of paint in a neutral color will go a long way!
  • Small details add up. Replace worn, dated hardware and knobs with new pieces that suit the style of the home. Replace worn switch plates and old heating and air conditioning registers with new ones that are clean and uncracked.
  • Lighting makes all the difference. Replace old bulbs with higher wattage, full spectrum light bulbs. Open curtains to let in natural light.
  • If the weather allows, open the windows for fresh air.

4. Stage It!

Graciela Rutkowski Interiors - sell your home Home staging is one of the best steps you can take when preparing to list your home. Statistically, a staged home will sell 80% faster, and for 10% more than an un-staged home! The cost of staging is one of the best returns on investment a seller can make over any other improvements. If you can afford to, hire a professional stager. You will be surprised at the difference they can make for a small investment. A stager will:

  • Showcase the best features in your home, placing furniture to define focal points and maximize the space.
  • De-clutter to help create a feeling of spaciousness.
  • De-personalize the home so that potential buyers can envision themselves in your home, rather than focusing on the things you own
  • Highlight the best features of your home–a beautiful kitchen, a stunning view, a great fireplace, or whatever it is about your home that makes it special.
  • Organize furniture placement so that it helps to create visual space and good flow, and define rooms, so that buyers can see how each room in your home can be used.

5. Invest in Professional Photos

Graciela Rutkowski Interiors - sell your home 2 Today’s buyers are more likely to see your home for the first time on the internet. Great professional photos will make your listing stand out over similar homes, and encourage potential buyers to come see your home. Once you get your home looking its best, be sure to keep it “show ready” for a quick sale. Put out some fresh flowers, and you’re ready to go! All photos courtesy of Graciela Rutkowski Interiors

FUTSAL and Life in Real Estate

I was at a FUTSAL clinic with my daughter this evening and, among other things, the coach was trying to get these aspiring soccer players to understand that when on defense, the should be playing a “tighter” formation and when on offense they should play in a “loose” formation with more space between them. Which almost seems counter-intuitive, especially as a little kid. They want to run to the ball, steal it from the opponent and then kick/dribble/run it down the field to score a goal. What they need to do is play intelligently, watch the ball, but also read the opposing player to determine what his options are and anticipate where the ball is going to be after his next kick or pass.

There is a lesson that many adults in the business world could take from this clinic. It is an experienced, knowledgeable, and confident individual who understands “the game” of business (or real estate in my case) and intuitively knows when to play in a “tight formation” and when to back off and play in a “loose formation”. Sometimes you cannot force a transaction to consummation. It may fall apart if all parties are not ready to consummate, or you may get your wish but the outcome is not what was expected (that usually means you lose money). Life, business and real estate are not always as simple as offense and defense in soccer. However, it is extremely important to know when to play in a “tight formation” aggressively pursuing the “deal”, and when to back off, gain some perspective, and “see where the ball is going to be when it leaves your opponent’s foot.” Maybe this isn’t the “play” for you, maybe there is another opportunity to “steal the ball” or make the deal that you cannot see when in the middle of the “scrum” – to borrow a term from rugby.

So whether you are looking for that next house to “flip”, a “buy and hold” investment, or another big move, maybe you should consider taking a step back, play a “loose formation” and see if it helps score that goal.

​Joseph Luca, CDPE
Associate Broker
RE/MAX Preferred
The Mercurio Group
1417 Douglas Ave
North Providence, RI 02904

Remax Preferred – A Great Move

This past Autumn, I made the move from a local real estate brokerage company to Remax; an international organization with 90,000 agents that made over $290 BILLION in commissions last year. This past week I was given the opportunity to attend their 40th Anniversary Convention in Las Vegas and all I can say it – WOW. Great classes every day, dynamic speakers from within the industry as well as internationally recognized speakers like Condoleeza Rice. The caliber of agents was impressive and their level of success, regardless of where they are from, is admirable in these challenging economic times.

Going forward, I will be more diligent with my posts and hopefully will give readers a reason to want to come back and read more.

Social Media Marketing – It’s Not Just For Kids

It has been said that the impact of Social Media Marketing on commercial enterprise is going to be similar to that of the Printing Press on the publishing industry. Going forward, Business Marketing Strategies MUST incorporate some aspect of Social Media Marketing in order to be relevant and effective.

While many use Twitter to inform their “Followers” of activities they engage in, and pompously expound their opinions, many entrepreneurs recognize its potential as a marketing tool. As part of a good Marketing Strategy, the savvy entrepreneur will have a Twitter account that includes a well cultivated, refined list of Followers which would allow the entrepreneur to Test the effectiveness of a promotion, drive consumers to a website/blog, or get the word out about an important announcement.

Facebook, Groupon, Yelp, Foursquare and other social media sites are an effective platform for sending out coupons, announcing special promotions, or daily food specials. REALTORS have increasingly been using all of these for marketing properties and soliciting new business. The Home Buyers have responded. In fact, real estate has now become the most searched for item on the Internet; even surpassing pornography. There are Social Media and promotional sites for many industries; food/beverage, entertainment, real estate, health/fitness, job/career related, and others continually pop up. Additionally, there is no financial barrier to entry. A small business owner can do it without hiring someone or having to buy advertising. The learning curve is minimal and the results can be almost immediate.

Those who dismiss Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare et al, as “something for kids”, are missing the boat – and do so to their detriment. This is the advent of a new day in marketing and advertising; the difference between success and failure could be Social Media Marketing.

Necessity Prompts Creativity, Opportunity And Success in New Orleans

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina the immediate devastation was horrific; homelessness, lack of functioning sewers and clean water, disrupted electrical and telephone service. However, that was not the worst of it because the long-term issues were at least as daunting. What could be done to mitigate, or even avoid, such devastation in the event of another “Katrina”? This is the Necessity.
Thanks to the resourcefulness and creativity of a number of individuals, as well as the commitment, financial “seed money”, and PR from movie star Brad Pitt, great things are happening in New Orleans. However, New Orleans will not be the only benefactor from this success. Architects, engineers, builders and individuals have worked together to look at the problem and create a solution that can be duplicated in almost any other locale that could be hit by a strong hurricane. This is the Creativity.
Perhaps this could become a “cottage industry” for the manufacturer of these manufactured homes; as was the Quonset Hut when the George Fuller Construction Company built over 150,000 of them for the US Navy in 1941. In that instance, the Navy needed an all purpose, lightweight building, that could be shipped anywhere and be assembled with unskilled labor; the first units were produced within 60 days of contract. While the Float House that resulted from Hurricane Katrina disaster took longer than 60 days to design and build, its level of finish, materials list, and utility are “light-years” ahead of the Quonset Hut. This design will reduce the number of displaced families after a storm, and could possibly save lives. This is the Opportunity.
This was largely done with private citizens, enterprising individuals who remained focused on a goal. It was not run by the Government; if it had been, it could still be awaiting approval. This demonstrates how many can work together to attain a synergistic result and is a testimony to the resourcefulness and ingenuity of Americans. In true American fashion, the result is a new profit center for some entrepreneurs – budding capitalists. Unfortunately, it took a disaster for it to happen.
Thanks for stopping by.
May You Be Healthy, Wealthy, & Wise

Do You Want The Peaceful Overthrow Of Our Government?

Cheering on my training buddies for the IronMan in Providence

The First Tuesday After The First Monday Of November is this week. Federal Elections in the United States are an opportunity for the peaceful overthrow of our government. If we aren’t happy with things we can make a sweeping change and put new people in charge of our government. Do you think they can do that in Venezuela? or China? or North Korea? or even Cuba? No, they cannot. These can wine and dine with Hollywood elite like Oliver Stone and Sean Penn but their citizens do not have free elections. In fact, their citizens are routinely put in jail or killed for making statements about their government like those made by Messrs. Stone and Penn.

An fact of much concern in our country is jobs. Or lack of them. Currently, unemployment has been at or above 9.5% for fourteen months. This is the longest stretch since the Great Depression. How does that make you feel?

Our national jobs crisis is actually more dire when factoring in the part-time workers who want full time work, the under-employed, and those who have “given up” looking for full time employment. When these groups are included the unemployment rate is reportedly approaching 20% for those making under $75,000.

So, what needs to be done to get people working? My Conservative friends and colleagues believe we need to cut taxes to everyone. Then people can consume more goods (i.e.: spend more money) so businesses will invest in new technologies, or expand, and then will increase their payroll. My Liberal friends and colleagues believe we need to increase government spending via job training programs, which would retrain workers, and government sponsored construction projects which would provide jobs while improving our deteriorating infrastructure. Do you agree with my Liberal friends or my Conservative friends? In two days you can have your voice, and your opinion, be heard this election season.

Peaceful overthrow of our government or a rubber stamp to “stay the course”? Clearly there is quite a bit at stake; President Obama has been out trying to energize his “Base” while Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and others from the Right have been doing the same. It will be interesting to see which side is more energized and who is crying in their beer and who celebrating on Wednesday morning after (presumably) all the election returns are in.

Let us not forget, many young men and women have given their lives and limbs so that we can have the right to vote and maintain our American lifestyle. This is our ONLY VOICE in how our governance is conducted; so let your voice be heard loud and clear.

Happy Halloween:)

Thanks for stopping by.

May You Be Healthy, Wealthy, & Wise

Dancing With The Stars – The Path To Excellence

Much to my surprise, a few seasons ago I started watching Dancing with The Stars on TV. Since then I have witnessed many “Stars” succeed on the Path To Excellence. Initially I watched it out of curiosity; “I wonder how foolish these people are going to look?” To my surprise it was entertaining and I continued to watch every week, and now I watch it quite consistently – which is saying a lot since my TV selections are usually limited to news shows and the History Channel. Looking back over the previous seasons, I have always had a favorite contestant. Usually it is obvious which one or two contestants are not going to last too long, but after that it, it gets interesting. It is often very impressive, and illustrative, to see which contestants improves, and how much, from one week to the next. What I have found is that every season there are one or two contestants who are horrible dancers and who I would have figured would not last to the final weeks – but they prove me wrong. Whether this can be attributed to the Professionals’ coaching ability, the competitive atmosphere or something else I am not sure, but it is truly amazing that some “knucklehead” guy or a woman who does not appear to have a graceful bone in her body, can improve so much and actually be a joy to watch. Additionally, the contestants in the final weeks typically seem to be genuinely “nice” – the ones with bad attitudes having been voted off. Whether it is a professional athlete with the “Bad Guy” reputation or a reality TV star who has never demonstrated any sense of etiquette or class, it is truly impressive to watch them “blossom” into a ballroom dancer with grace and musicality. They do more than learn “the right steps”, they develop a fundamental understanding of the art of ballroom dancing – perhaps the “Zen” of Ballroom. this puts them on the Path To Excellence. Some of the qualities the best contestants embody are courage (to try and dance,) confidence (they can pull it off,) perseverance (to overcome setbacks,) patience (to improve,) and the integrity to win.
The lesson for the rest of us: Many of us are so busy Doing, that we “Miss-The-Boat” when it comes to “attaining enlightenment” in life – the “Zen” of things. Whether it is working at our job, working to be a better parent and provider, or working to improve at a leisure activity – sometimes we need to take a breath, smell the flowers, or just enjoy that which we are doing. Like the best contestants on Dancing With The Stars, we need to find the Path To Excellence in life. We should strive to have the courage to try, the confidence to do it, the perseverance to overcome failure, the patience to persist until we improve, and the integrity to succeed.

Thanks for stopping by.

May You Be Healthy, Wealthy, and WISE