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  Sat Mar 10


The Housing Market is Doing Just Fine

There are some that think that housing affordability is a challenge. Historically, that’s not true. Others think that home prices are approaching bubble values. If we look back over the last sixteen years, that is also not the case. As a matter of fact, the numbers show that the U.S. residential real estate market is doing just fine.

Here are two articles and excerpts that make this point:

The Housing Market Is Finally Starting to Look HealthyThe NY Times

It has been an excruciatingly long time coming, but the housing sector in the United States is finally getting healthy. Thank millennials and thank homebuilders who are starting to produce more of the starter houses young people demand.”

Why the U.S. Housing Market Is Good and Getting Even BetterThe Street

“Interest rates are so low now that a family can buy the median-priced U.S. home on income of less than $45,000 a year -- about $11,000 less than the median household income. And half of America's houses are cheaper than that.” 
There are those worried that all this positive talk resembles what was being said in 2004 and 2005. Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist at, explains the difference very simply but effectively:
“The havoc during the last cycle was the result of building too many homes and of speculation fueled by loose credit. That’s the exact opposite of what we have today.” (emphasis added)
  Sat Feb 03

Real Estate Info

Common Appraisal Myths

An appraisal is an important part of many real estate transactions. An appraisal is typically done if a buyer requires a mortgage loan to purchase a property. The appraisal is done by an appraiser (who is licensed), and it's based on multiple data gathered during an inspection by the appraiser. When it comes to appraisals, there are many myths or misconceptions around them. Whether you're looking to buy a home, looking to refinance a current mortgage, or you're looking for more information about all that goes into real estate transactions, here are some of the most common myths when it comes to appraisals.

An Appraisal is the same as a Home Inspection

While both an appraisal and home inspection provide important information to all parties, the two are not the same. An appraisal is done to determine the value of a property, generally for the benefit of a lender. The appraiser will inspect a property for improvements and deficiencies but only to determine the overall value of a property. A home inspection, on the other hand, is an inspection, but its main purpose is to look at the 'guts' of a property, assessing the overall condition, and inspecting the major systems, appliances and structure to determine the shape of a property. The appraisal is done to determine the value of a property; a home inspection (which isn't required) is done to determine the overall health of a property.

Assessed Value, Appraised Value and Market Value are all the Same

For many properties and in many states, the idea that the assessed value, appraised value and the market value are equal is understandable. But, in many areas and instances, this isn't the case. Assessed value is determined by an assessor (who works for a city, town or county) and is usually used to levy taxes; if the assessor doesn't actually physically inspect the property, s/he won't know if any improvements (remodeling projects, interior updates, additions, etc.) have been done. The same can also be said if nearby properties have not been reassessed for a long period of time or they don't reflect the area's current real estate market. Appraised value is determined by an appraiser, and is a result of a detailed physical inspection of a property and research done on the neighborhood and any nearby recently sold properties. Market values are consumer-driven and can be influenced by a buyer - if a buyer is willing and able to pay more for a property, then the market value is what the buyer is willing to pay. While all three values can be similar, all three also have the chance of being vastly different.

The Appraiser is Hired by the Buyer

An appraisal is required when a home is being purchased with a mortgage loan; a current homeowner is looking to refinance his/her existing mortgage; or when someone is selling a home to someone that is not an all-cash buyer. The appraisal acts as a security for the lender to understand the value of the property when making the loan decision. Due to federal changes several years ago, although the lender orders the appraisal, the lender does not hire a specific appraiser; the appraiser comes from a 'pool'. For the majority of property transactions, the buyer is responsible for the cost of the appraisal (sometimes a seller will cover the cost of the appraisal, but this is unique, and for the most part the buyer or borrower pays the costs through the lender). There are times when a seller may want to get an appraisal to get an idea of a home's value before listing the property - in this case, the seller would hire the appraiser and pay for the appraisal.

The Appraisal Varies Whether it's For the Buyer or Seller

Typically, an appraiser has no vested interest in the price of a property - s/he doesn't represent any particular person. The appraiser should complete an independent and objective appraisal, simply performing the service of determining a property's appraised value. Appraisals can be done for a number of reasons: insurance, home loans, tax losses, estates, liquidation and net worth. Because of this, depending upon the purpose of the appraisal, the market value and appraised value can vary, but the appraiser does not complete an appraisal in favor of the seller or the buyer.

Appraisers Use a Formula to Determine the Value of a Property

The way in which appraisers determine the value of a property is very detailed. An appraiser will analyze all aspects of a property: location, condition, size, proximity to amenities and other facilities, and s/he will also consider the recent sale prices of comparable properties in the area. Other items that are considered in the appraisal: number of bedrooms and bathrooms and the floor plan functionality. The appraiser does a visual and physical inspection of the interior and exterior of the property. S/he will take into consideration the type of flooring in a home; the materials used in the kitchens, bathrooms, and other rooms; the siding and any other recent upgrades. An appraiser will also consider things that need to be repaired, and other miscellaneous items. Far from a specific formula, appraisers use a lot of data to determine the appraised value of a property and an appraisal can take a number of hours to complete depending on the size of a house and complexity of the property.

  Tue Mar 13


 Education & Experience

You don't need to know everything about buying and selling real estate if you hire a real estate professional who does. Henry Ford once said that when you hire people who are smarter than you are, it proves you are smarter than they are. The trick is to find the right person. For the most part, they all cost roughly the same. Why not hire a person with more education and experience than you? We're all looking for more precious time in our lives, and hiring pros gives us that time.

Agents are Buffers

Agents take the spam out of your property showings and visits. If you're a buyer of new homes, your agent will whip out her sword and keep the builder's agents at bay, preventing them from biting or nipping at your heels. If you're a seller, your agent will filter all those phone calls that lead to nowhere from lookie loos and try to induce serious buyers to immediately write an offer.

Negotiation Skills & Confidentiality

Top producing agents negotiate well because, unlike most buyers and sellers, they can remove themselves from the emotional aspects of the transaction and because they are skilled. It's part of their job description. Good agents are not messengers, delivering buyer's offers to sellers and vice versa. They are professionals who are trained to present their client's case in the best light and agree to hold client information confidential from competing interests.


  Wed Feb 14

Fixed Rate Doesn't Mean Fixed Payments

This is one of the best times to get a fixed-rate mortgage. A fixed rate simply means that the mortgage lender charges you a fixed rate of interest that doesn't ever change over the life of the loan.

If you get a fixed rate of 4.00 percent, you will be paying four percent in interest until you sell the home. At such a low rate, it's unlikely you'd refinance.

You can see how much you pay in interest in an amortization schedule. The longer you pay on a fixed rate, the more interest you pay down because your interest payment is front-loaded into the beginning years of your loan schedule.


The longer you own your home and pay on your mortgage, you'll see that a greater percentage of your monthly payment goes to reduce principal, helping you to build equity or ownership in the home.

An adjustable rate mortgage is initially lower than a fixed rate, but the loan will adjust periodically according to market rates after one year, three years, five years, or whatever you and the lender have agreed to.

The danger is that the new adjusted rate could become too expensive for you, especially if it adjusts higher every year. Part of your terms can include ceilings that limit the number of times and the amount your loan can increase. Adjustments can add as much as two percentage points more to your interest rate, or as much as several hundred dollars more to your monthly payment.

Rates first hit historical lows in 2011, and have retouched those lows several times since. Any time the national average for fixed rate mortgages is below four percent, that's a gift to homebuyers. Adjustable rates are certain to be higher down the road, making fixed rates a lower risk.

Even with a fixed rate mortgage, your monthly payment can change in other ways. You may decide to roll the costs of your mortgage into your loan, in which case you'll be paying the APR rate because the loan amount is higher, yet is still being compressed into a 30, 15 or ten-year term, depending on your loan.

Another way your monthly payment can change is by adding private mortgage insurance (PMI). If you put less than 20 percent of your home's purchase price as a down payment, lenders will require that you pay for PMI. Rates on PMI vary, but you can expect your payments to rise by 0.3 percent to 1.2 percent of the loan amount.

Last, your monthly payments can include escrows for hazard insurance and for property taxes. You should receive a statement from your insurer when it's time to renew your insurance, and your lender will divide the annual amount into monthly payments.

Your property tax authority will send you a new statement annually, usually in the spring or early summer. If you're basing your future payments on what the previous owner paid, you may be in for a surprise. Your tax basis will be based on the purchase price of the home. Most communities limit the amount that the taxing authority can raise property taxes every year.

Mortgage interest, PMI and property taxes are deductible from your income taxes if you itemize, but you still have to make the payments. For these reasons, you want to stick closely to borrowing guidelines such as loan-to-income and debt-to-income ratios.

Your mortgage should be no more than 28 to 32 percent of your gross income or 36 to 42 percent of your income including your monthly debts. That way you'll be able to handle any future changes in your monthly mortgage payments.

  Mon Oct 30


They continued, "Well, you may not be stupid or broke. Maybe you already have a house and you don't want to move. Or maybe you're a Trappist monk and have forsworn all earthly possessions. Or whatever. But if you want to buy a house, now is the time, and if you don't act soon, you will regret it. Here's why: historically low interest rates."


They were talking about rates hovering around five percent. Today, rates are under four percent for a 30-year fixed-rate loan.

Reason No. 1 to buy now: Rates are low

"Low mortgage rates continue to keep ownership less expensive than renting," said Investopedia. "Even a small change in interest rates has a significant effect on what you'll pay each month and over the life of a 30-year mortgage. Take a $172,000 30-year mortgage, for example ($172,000 is 80% of the median sales price for existing homes of $215,000 after a 20% down payment). With an interest rate of 4%, you would pay $821.15 each month. At an interest rate of 5%, the monthly payment would be $923.33, and at 6%, the payment rises to $1031.23."

Reason No. 2: Rents are high

In many markets, rents are rising to unsustainable levels, reports the National Association of Realtors (NAR). "In the past five years, a typical rent rose 15% while the income of renters grew by only 11%."

The cities with the highest rent increase since 2009 include New York, San Jose, San Francisco, Denver, and Seattle. For the rest of the list, click here, and to see how much more renting can cost you over a lifetime, check out Riskology.

Reason No. 3: Qualifications are easier

During the real estate downturn of the mid-2000s, banks and lenders tightened the reins, and often only the most qualified applicants could get approved. Post-recession, qualifications have loosened. Buyers who can't show solid income and a minimum credit score probably won't be offered a risky interest-only ARM today, however, those with less-than-perfect credit and minimal funds still have options. The Federal Housing Association (FHA) minimums are a 620 credit score and a 3.5 percent down payment.

Reason No. 4: Private mortgage insurance fees are down

Buyers who put less than 20 percent down on their home generally incur a monthly fee in the name of private mortgage insurance (PMI). In January 2015, the government announced lower PMI rates on Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, which equates to a savings of about $900 a year. Seventy-five dollars a month may not seem like much, but every little bit helps when you're committing to an investment as large as a home.

Reason No. 5: It's still one of the best investments out there

In fact, some would say it's the very best investment out there.

"Buying a home is the best investment any individual can make. Affordability is still at an all-time high," said CNBC.

Not only as a comparison between buying and renting, but as a measurable asset, homeownership stands up—as long as buyers make a smart decision.

"The largest measurable financial benefit to homeownership is price appreciation," said Investopedia. "Price appreciation helps build home equity, which is the difference between the market price of the house and the remaining mortgage payments."

Reason No. 6: It feels good

You know that pride of ownership thing? It's true. Really. Nothing compares to the feeling of walking into a home that's yours for the first time. Or painting the walls a color other than white. Updating the kitchen. Making it your own. Not worrying about your rent being raised. And, of course, watching your equity grow over time.

  Thu Mar 08

Rent Or Purchase ?


House in HandsTrulia released a Rent vs. Buy Report. The report explained that homeownership remains cheaper than renting in all of the 100 largest metro areas by an average of 38%!

The other interesting findings in the report include:

  • Even though prices increased sharply in many markets over the past year, low mortgage rates have kept homeownership from becoming more expensive than renting.
  • Some markets might tip in favor of renting this year as prices continue to rise faster than rents and if – as most economists expect – mortgage rates rise, due both to the strengthening economy and Fed tapering.
  • Nationally, rates would have to rise to 10.6% for renting to be cheaper than buying – and rates haven’t been that high since 1989.

Buying a home now makes sense. You can lock in a mortgage payment before home prices and mortgage rates rise as experts expect they will. If you rent, your housing expense will only continue to increase.

  Mon Feb 26

Remodeling? Recoup Your Investment When You Sell

Remodeling? Recoup Your Investment When You Sell

Before you pour your savings into a new kitchen and a rainforest shower for the master, think about whether or not you'll be able to recoup your investment when it comes time to sell. 

If you have equity in your home, you can make improvements, but don't go over the limit of what other buyers can spend for a home similar to yours in your neighborhood. 

While it's tempting to make your home more beautiful, you have to consider the rest of your neighborhood. If most residences in your neighborhood are three-bedroom single-story homes, buyers are unlikely to shop in your area for two-story four-bedroom homes. 

Buyers want to shop for a home where there is the most selection of homes that fit their criteria. If they want a swimming pool, they're going to look in neighborhoods where many homes have pools. They won't be aware of your home if you have the only pool in your subdivision.  

That's why over-improving for the neighborhood is a bad idea. Not only will you not get your money back for some updates, your home my be harder to sell because of them.  

Another reason buyers don't tend to pay as much for updates as you might think is broad differences in taste. Your updates may include choices your buyer wouldn't have made because of several reasons:  

You only improved one or two rooms, leaving the rest of the home looking unfinished. 

Your updates were too radical, such as cold minimalism in a traditional setting. 

Your updates masked a problem but didn't solve it, such as a kitchen that's too small. If the kitchen is still too small after you've put in granite counters, don't expect buyers to care. 

You failed to do necessary repairs and updates that were less visible than the new décor but buyers noticed anyway. 

Your updates are beautiful but require a lot of cost and upkeep. 

Buyers want to make a home their own, and don't want to be distracted or confused by design statements that they don't agree with. Enjoy your home while you can, but make sure your new look can be easily depersonalized when it comes time to sell. 

Don't expect to set a listing price based on what you've put into your home no matter how long you own it. Your home will be worth market value no matter when you sell, whatever the value is for that point in time. 

All the improvements in the world won't change that basic fact. Your home and the improvements you make are only worth what willing buyers say they will pay. 

Before you begin renovations, talk to your Realtor and your lender. They will help you develop a reasonable plan for updates that will add value to your home. 

  Sat Feb 10

Home Purchase in Winter

As the temperature in many areas of the country starts to cool down, you might think that the housing market will do the same. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Here are 4 reasons you should consider buying your dream home this winter instead of waiting for spring!

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that home prices have appreciated by 6.3% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 5.2% over the next year.

The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates are Projected to Increase

Your monthly housing cost is as much related to the price you pay for your home as it is to the mortgage interest rate you secure.

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage are currently at 4.08%. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac & the National Association of Realtors are in unison, projecting that rates will increase by this time next year.

An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

3. Either Way You’re Paying a Mortgage

There are some renters who have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent free, you are paying a mortgage - either yours or your landlord’s.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

4. It’s Time to Move on with Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide whether it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

  Thu Mar 15

Mortgage Pre-Qualification vs Pre-Approval

Two often confused terms in the home buying process are a mortgage loan pre-qualification and a home loan pre-approval. Even some loan officers and real estate agents will use the terms incorrectly, so here's what you really need to know about each one.



A mortgage loan pre-qualification is simply an estimate of how much house you can afford and how much money a lender would be willing to loan you. The best time to get a pre-qualification is right at the beginning of your home buying process, before you even start looking at houses. This involves either sitting down with a lender or talking with one on the phone, and providing information on your income, assets, debts, and a potential down payment amount. The lender would then provide you with a ballpark figure in writing of how much he thinks you could afford to pay for a monthly mortgage. There is no cost involved and there is no commitment on either side. This estimate is just helpful in helping you figure out if buying a home is a viable option, and if so, what your price range would probably be.



Getting pre-approved means that you have a tentative commitment from a specific lender for mortgage funding. In this case, you provide a home loan lender with actual documentation of your income, assets, and debts. This process typically requires an application fee as well, since the bank will run a credit check and work to verify all your employment and financial information. Once you are approved, the lender will give you a letter of commitment, stating how much money her bank is willing to loan you for a home purchase. With a pre-approval in hand you can start your shopping - real estate agents and sellers will take you much more seriously when they see you have your mortgage funding in place.

It is important to understand, however, that even a pre-approval is not a guarantee that you will be approved for a mortgage loan.  The funding will only be given when the property appraisal, title search, and other verifications check out on the home you have chosen to buy.  Neither is the pre-approval binding; you can still obtain a mortgage from a different lender. If you do stick with the same company that pre-approved you though, the application process will be much shorter once you find the right house.

  Mon Feb 05

Home Inspection List - You do as many as possible to prepare

Prepare your house for an inspection

What will a home inspector be looking at and how you can prepare for a home inspection?  The below listing may be helpful in preparing for a home inspection.  Many of these items can be done with little or no cost and many are regular maintenance items for a home. 

  1. Remove grade or mulch from contact with siding.  Six (6) or more inches of clearance is preferred. 
  2. Clean out dirty gutters or debris from the roof. 
  3. Divert all water away from the house; i.e. downspouts, sump pump, condensation drains, etc.  Grade should slope away from the structure.  Clean out basement entry drains. 
  4. Trim trees, roots and bushes back from the foundation, roof, siding and chimney. 
  5. Paint all weathered exterior wood and caulk around the trim, chimney, windows and doors. 
  6. Seal asphalt driveways, if cracking. 
  7. Seal or point up masonry chimney caps.  Install metal fluecap. 
  8. Clean or replace HVAC filter.  Clean dirty air returns and plenum. 
  9. Point up any failing mortar joints in brick or block. 
  10. Test all smoke detectors to ensure they are in safe working condition. 
  11. Update attic ventilation if none is present. 
  12. Have the chimney, fireplace or woodstove cleaned and provide the buyer with a copy of the cleaning record. 
  13. Seal masonry walls in the basement. 
  14. Don't do quick cheap repairs.  You may raise questions that will unfairly cause great concern to buyers and inspectors. 
  15. Ensure that all doors and windows are in proper operating condition, including repairing or replacing any cracked window panes. 
  16. Ensure that all plumbing fixtures (toilet, tub, shower, and sinks) are in proper working conditions.  Check for and fix any leaks.  Caulk around fixtures if necessary. 
  17. Install GFCI receptacles near all water sources.  Test all present GFCI receptacles for proper operation. 
  18. Check sump pump for proper operation. 
  19. Replace any burned out light bulbs. 
  20. Remove rotting wood and/or firewood from contact with the house. 
  21. Ensure that proper grading is followed under a deck. 
  22. Install proper vapor barrier in crawlspaces. 
  23. Caulk all exterior wall penetrations. 
  24. Check to ensure that the crawlspace is dry and install a proper vapor barrier if necessary.  Remove any visible moisture from a crawlspace.  Moisture levels in wood should be below 18% to deter rot and mildew. 
  25. Check that bath vents are properly vented and in working condition. 
  26. Remove paints, solvents, gas, etc., from crawlspace, basement, attic, porch, etc. 
  27. If windows are at or below grade, install window wells and covers. 
  28. Have clear access to attic, crawlspace, heating system, garage and other areas that will need to be inspected. 
  29. If the house is vacant, make sure that all utilities are turned on, including water, electric, water heater, furnace, air condition and breaks in the main panel.


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