It’s True What You Hear! There’s Never Been a Better Time to Sell!

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NAR: Pending Home Sales Soar 44.3% in May

The increase broke all records since NAR started tracking the sales. At May’s 99.6, the pending sales level was about equal to those in 2001. NAR’s economist calls it a “spectacular recovery for contract signings” and shows “the resiliency of American consumers.”

WASHINGTON – Pending home sales mounted a record comeback in May, seeing encouraging contract activity after two previous months of declines brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Every major region recorded an increase in month-over-month pending home sales transactions – and the South also experienced a year-over-year increase in pending transactions.

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) – a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings – rose 44.3% to 99.6 in May, chronicling the highest month-over-month gain in the index since NAR started the series in January 2001.

While the increase broke records, however, year-over-year, contract signings fell a slight 5.1%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

“This has been a spectacular recovery for contract signings, and goes to show the resiliency of American consumers and their evergreen desire for homeownership,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “This bounce back also speaks to how the housing sector could lead the way for a broader economic recovery.”

“More listings are continuously appearing as the economy reopens, helping with inventory choices,” Yun says. “Still, more home construction is needed to counter the persistent underproduction of homes over the past decade.”

According to data from realtor.com, active listings were up by more than 10% in May compared to April in several metro areas.

“The outlook has significantly improved, as new home sales are expected to be higher this year than last, and annual existing-home sales are now projected to be down by less than 10% – even after missing the spring buying season due to the pandemic lockdown,” Yun says.

NAR now expects existing-home sales to reach 4.93 million units in 2020 and new home sales to hit 690,000.

“All figures light up in 2021 with positive GDP, employment, housing starts and home sales.” Yun says that in 2021, sales are forecast to rise to 5.35 million units for existing homes and 800,000 for new homes.

The month of May saw each of the four regional indices rise on a month-over-month basis after all were down in April 2020. The Northeast PHSI grew 44.4% to 61.5 in May, although it was still down 33.2% year-to-year. In the Midwest, the index rose 37.2% to 98.8, down 1.4% from May 2019.

Pending home sales in the South increased 43.3% to an index of 125.5 in May – a 1.9% increase year-to-year. The index in the West jumped 56.2% in May to 89.2, down 2.5% from a year ago.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

The Mortgage Business Is Alive, Well, and Online

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With some segments of the economy tentatively reopening, many who are buying a home or refinancing an existing mortgage may be wondering how and where to get financing. The good news is, the loan process hasn’t changed much, and it can all be done online.

While some loan officers still prefer to meet their clients in person, more and more mortgage professionals are equipped to meet virtually and communicate by phone and video conference. Loan officers know many borrowers can’t take off work during the day in order to meet, so they tend to work on-demand, around their client’s schedules.

The rest can be done remotely as well. Clients can submit loan applications online, which are then reviewed at the mortgage office. The loan is then submitted to an online automated underwriting system, or AUS. The AUS then provides a list of all the items needed for a final approval.

Loan officers get their rates online. They order third party services like credit reports and appraisals online. For years, the mortgage industry has been moving toward a remote-ready model, so for many professionals in the sector this isn’t a ‘new’ normal. Just normal.

For those currently in the market for a loan, there’s no need to wait. The mortgage industry is alive and well. And online.

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

Has quarantine forced you to consider a split from your home?

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Has spending more time at home lately had you reconsidering your space? The quirks you lived with just a few months ago might not be so easy to dismiss when you’re stuck with them all day, every day. Here’s how to tell if your relationship with your house can recover or if it’s time to move on.

You have no appetite for a renovation
Your home might be a good candidate for a makeover, but if the thought of living in a dusty construction zone with contractors coming and going is unbearable to you, then it’s time to start over. There’s no shame in foregoing renovations for something move-in ready. After all, there will be plenty of eager DIYers happy to make you an offer.

You’re not crazy about your neighborhood
You know what they say: location, location, location. We’ll put up with a lot for our home to be in a nice spot, close to work and in a good school district. But maybe that spot doesn’t work for you anymore. Do schools still matter or are your kids older now? Are you working from home permanently and your commute is no longer a factor? When you’re no longer tied to a specific neighborhood, the possibilities are endless.

It’s just too small
If the quarantine has made your small space feel even more crowded, or you need to make space for a new home office (or two), it might be time to upgrade.

It’s too old
We all love a heritage home. The architecture! The charm! The 100-year-old… everything. You may have been ready for the sweat equity when you moved in, but when paired with everyday life, ‘this old house’ can feel more like ‘this new nightmare.’

If the emotional and financial toll of living in a home that is just too much of a project is getting to you, consider shopping for a new one. A new construction home might not give you the same character, but you will get a house that’s brand new in every way and a warranty to boot.

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

National Homeownership Month Has New Meaning This Year By Kerry Smith

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During the June celebration, Americans honor the benefits of ownership – yet many already have a new respect for homeownership after months of self-isolation.

ORLANDO, Fla. – June is National Homeownership Month, a time to celebrate the benefits of homeownership for families, neighborhoods and communities.

This year, however, many Americans already understand the importance of home as the nation slowly emerges from two months of self-isolation. Before the pandemic, home for many people was a source of operations – the place where they slept before leaving for work, school and exercise.

Suddenly, home is the safest place in the world, and many Americans’ attitudes about ownership have changed. Some renters look around and realize that the place they call home could be bigger or better. They want to paint the walls, change the flooring and own something that continues to rise in value over time.

For many Americans, however, homeownership is at risk. Owners who lost jobs due to COVID-19 may find themselves on a forbearance plan, while some of those renters who dream of ownership have been shut out by tightened credit restrictions and stay-at-home orders.

Still, Americans generally agree that homeownership is one of the best vehicles for building wealth. In 2019, overall home prices rose 4% year-to-year. And while the coronavirus has created issues for the American economy, home prices have continued to rise with demand still outstripping supply.

National Homeownership Month has changed over time. It started as a week-long celebration in the 1920s by local real estate associations and eventually became a month-long celebration created by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Americans can celebrate Homeownership Month by using #CreatingHome in their social media channels. But the best way to celebrate is to actually become a homeowner.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

Your Essential Spring Lawn Care Guide

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Tired of looking out the window at your dull, dormant lawn? A little prep now will give you a green lawn all summer long.

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Rake
First things first, gently rake leaves, twigs, and dead grass off your lawn, and remove snow mold if you live in colder climates. This allows air and sunlight to reach down to the grass roots. Avoid power-raking, as hacking away at the ground can damage shallow grasses and good soil.

Weed
Weeds like dandelions, hairy bittercress, common chickweed, and henbit go dormant in winter and re-emerge in the spring. For best results, pull as many weeds as possible by hand or use a hoe. Be sure to get the entire plant, roots and all. If you use a pre-emergent weed killer, make sure it’s a calm day. Wind can spread the chemicals onto plants you don’t want to kill and into waterways you don’t want to pollute.

Aerate
Aerating — making small holes in your soil — lets air, water and nutrients reach the roots of your lawn, encouraging healthy growth. On newer lawns (1-3 years old), aeration is encouraged twice a year, in the spring and fall. After that, you can switch to once a year in the spring. Don’t rake the plugs; leave them on the lawn as topsoil. Mow over them, and they will decompose naturally.

Overseed
Overseeding is the practice of spreading grass seed over your existing lawn. Cover bare and thinning patches of grass using a mix of seed that includes slow-growing and low-growing grasses — fine fescue or centipede grass, for example. Cool-season grasses such as bluegrass and annual ryegrass benefit the most from overseeding.

Water
Watering early in the morning prevents wasteful water evaporation and lets the grass blades dry before evening, which helps prevent insect and disease issues. Watering deeply and less frequently makes the roots stronger and deeper. Soil should be moistened to a depth of 6 inches a couple of times a week. Avoid overwatering, as soggy roots will rot and attract disease and insects. As a test, take an 8-inch screwdriver and push it into the lawn. If it goes in easily, your lawn is moist enough.

Fertilize
Fertilizer helps keep your lawn healthy, so it can resist disease and weeds. Grass often needs more nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium than the soil naturally provides. Use fertilizer before the heat of summer but avoid fertilizing when the ground is wet, or you risk fertilizer burn.

Mow
When the grass is growing well, it’s time to mow. The proper mowing height will depend on your type of grass, but for good lawn health, follow the “one-third” rule: Never cut off more than one-third of the length of the grass. Mow more often when growth is peaking and back off when grass growth slows. It’s also best to “grasscycle” by leaving the grass clippings on the lawn. They return moisture and nutrients to the soil, so you’ll need less fertilizer.

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

How to Redecorate Your Space

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Photo by Huseyn Kamaladdin 

Interested in refreshing your home? Want a different vibe? Can’t afford a decorator, but completely lacking in decorating skill yourself?

Good news! Even with all those constraints, you can still pull together a fabulous room. You’ve been in homes you like, so you already know what you like when you see it. You can use that natural ability to your advantage.

3 Places to Get Inspiration

Here are three places to start.

  1. Start with an inspiration room. Look through magazines or websites like Houzz, Studio McGee, or Apartment Therapy. Find a room that perfectly reflects what you like. Then study that room. Understand what they’re doing that you love. Then look around your own space and translate that into your space. Don’t sweat about how you’ll do it yet. Just focus on what would be different to make it work. Later you can figure out the project management bits, like budget and steps in the process.
  2. Start with an item you love that reflects your style. Maybe you absolutely LOVE the multi-colored ceramic frog you bought on a trip to Mexico. Or you bought a blue and white Delftware cookie jar on vacation in The Netherlands, or an ornate Louie the Fourteenth reproduction clock. To design around an object, identify three main colors, as well as the general style of the object. For instance, the Louis the Fourteenth clock has gold and white color, and is an ornate style. Now Google “gold, white, ornate room inspiration.” Then see #1 above.
  3. Start with a store or shop that reflects your style, like Ikea, Crate and Barrel, Target, Pottery Barn, or Bouclair. Go there and ask the workers for advice about how to decorate your home. Take photos. Purchase a few items that can act as the color and style guidelines for your room.

How to Use Your Inspiration

Once you’ve selected a style and color scheme, sit in your space and rethink it. How would you translate your inspiration room to your own space? What is currently in your space that doesn’t reflect the style you want? What could you switch out to better match your style?

For instance, suppose I selected the picture above as my inspiration. That wall color is a perfect mossy green that makes me feel like I’m in a forest. The gray couch is similar to what I already have, but I can substitute different pillows. I like a little more going on in the pillows, so I can pick up the same tone of green, but add more design. I love the gray coffee table and want something like that. I also like the minimalist frames of the photos and can reframe some of my existing photos.

Sometimes you won’t have any existing furniture or décor that fits the style you want, and you’ll need to start from scratch. Sometimes you’ll already have a few things you can keep. And sometimes, you like everything you have and you just need to move it around and add a different paint color or additional décor.

Create a Project Plan

A project plan can be a simple list of things to do and buy. The order of redecorating is fairly linear.

  1. Start with deciding your design and budget. After spending mental time with your inspirations, get practical. Decide which pieces of furniture you’ll keep and what else you’ll want to buy. Add the cost of paint and other supplies. Then create a budget so you’ll know how much you can spend on décor and furniture.
  2. Next, remove your existing furniture.
  3. Then paint. If you need to do any wiring or other construction, do it now.
  4. Next, move stuff back in. Start with the furniture you want to keep. Move it around to different spots before settling on one place. Then add the existing décor you want to keep.
  5. Buy and add the additional new furniture and décor you want (see below).

Buy What Else You Need

Main pieces: Some items carry more weight than others. For instance, lamps and light fixtures can set a tone or style. If you don’t already have lamps that fit the style you want, put them on your buy list. Curtains or window coverings are another highly visible décor item. Finally, end tables or coffee tables or other “main” pieces of furniture can affect the feeling of your space. If you plan to buy second hand furniture, you’ll have a better sense of what to look for.

Décor pieces: Once you have the main items in place, you’ll want to add the fun stuff. If you started with that colorful Mexican pottery frog, now you’ll want to look for other pottery, as well as other Mexican décor items. Or if you started with a blue and white Delft cookie jar, now you’ll want to find more Delft pieces, or use blue frames on your photos with white matting. Your inspiration rooms will give you more ideas about décor items.

A Few Décor “Tricks”

Mirrors: If you lack natural light and can’t add a skylight or window, then consider using mirrors. For instance, we had a living room with just one outside window. The light lit the opposite wall, but didn’t do enough to light the whole room. A floor to ceiling mirror on the window wall and the opposite wall really lit the room!

Height: Don’t be afraid to fill up your wall with a painting or photo wall. Put your curtains up higher above the window. Use very tall lamps. Use layers of height, small, medium, tall.

Groupings: Put a group of photos together with similar or even identical frames. Put a group of décor items together, like several different heights of vases or a group of masks you got on vacation.

Wallpaper: While wallpaper can be overdone, a little can go a long way. If your design idea suits wallpaper, don’t be afraid to use it as an accent.

Wood: If you plan to make wood a dominate feature of your décor, you can often use different styles of furniture as long as the wood is a similar tone. For instance, you might be able to use an ornately carved chair next to a Danish modern coffee table if the woods look similar. Alternatively, you can often use different wood tones if you keep the shapes similar.

Conclusion

You don’t need to decorate all at once! You can start by deciding what one or two things would begin changing things. Maybe your wall color. Maybe a new couch or rug. Maybe a feature wall. Then go from there. For more ideas, Google “Easy Décor Tips.”

Give us a call today; we are happy to lead you in the right direction.

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

April Is Fair Housing Month, Focus Is on Harassment

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Saturday, April 11, marks the Fair Housing Act’s 52nd anniversary. Now, more than ever, it’s time to reflect why “we the people” must advance together as one nation.

In April, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) observes Fair Housing Month. The theme for the 2020 commemoration is Call HUD: Because Sexual Harassment in Housing is Illegal.

HUD says that theme serves a dual purpose: First, it’s a public awareness campaign that urges sexual harassment victims to “Call HUD” for help. Second, it reflects the Department’s continuing efforts to combat this and other forms of discrimination.

A detailed look at the Fair Housing Act and the Florida Civil Rights Act, including legal information on “testers” and 55-plus communities.

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) joins HUD every April in commemorating Fair Housing Month, though the COVID-19 pandemic puts an unusual spin on it for 2020.

“Why think about fair housing in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis?” NAR asks in a release.

“Now, more than ever, is precisely the time to reflect on why the people of this country must advance together, as one nation. We cannot defeat coronavirus without foregoing our individual preferences and putting the health of the community first. And when the best public health advice is to stay in our homes, we are all at risk when the vulnerable among us confront the prospect of losing the roof over their heads.”

Many Americans lost jobs as the pandemic grew, notably those in the low-wage and service industries. In many cases, they have nothing to fall back on.

“Many face increased threats of evictions or foreclosures,” NAR says. “Some face xenophobic threats or violence. Many must take on increased unpaid caregiving work and have difficulty accessing necessary services. As community leaders, Realtors must ensure that we ease these burdens and move forward together.”

HUD says this year’s specific theme “focuses on protecting individuals from harassment by property owners, managers, maintenance workers or other residents, and helps to educate the public about what behaviors and actions constitute sexual harassment and what resources HUD offers to those that experience harassment.”

“This theme, which is a call to action, is an appeal to those who experience discrimination, particularly survivors of sexual harassment, to contact HUD for help,” says HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “Much work remains to be done, but HUD’s efforts in this area are already producing real results for real people.”

“Even as the nation is dealing with a health crisis unlike any we have experienced in recent history, HUD is open for business and working to ensure that no one has to tolerate harassment or unwanted sexual advances in the place they call home,” adds HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Anna María Farías.

This year, throughout the month of April, the “Humans of HUD” photoblog will feature stories from victims of sexual harassment in housing, highlighting the personal testimonies of survivors and those who helped them. FHEO will also be promoting its popular “Real People. Real Results.” (RPRR) series, which highlights the fair housing efforts of extraordinary people around the country. Every week in April, HUD will feature a fair housing hero who combats sexual harassment and other forms of harassment in housing.

Every year, HUD and its fair housing partner organizations pursue enforcement actions, work to enhance the public’s awareness of their housing rights and emphasize the importance of ending housing discrimination. Last year, the Department charged Facebook with violating the Fair Housing Act by encouraging, enabling, and causing housing discrimination through the company’s advertising platform. Overall in 2019, HUD and its partner agencies settled more than 600 complaints alleging discrimination based on one or more of the Fair Housing Act’s seven protected classes.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Realtors are community leaders who work to expand homeownership, build thriving neighborhoods, and uphold the highest ethical standards, NAR says, urging Realtors to continue to be those kinds of leaders in April and beyond.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

Top tips for House Hunting online

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Hunting for a new home online is a great place to start your search, but it should not be your end all be all. Good listing agents are excellent at highlighting the best features of the home, but keep in mind there may be more than meets the eye. To make the most of your time and efforts and gather a well-rounded picture of home listings online, keep the following three things in mind.

  1. Stay up to date. When you start your search, make sure you find a site that pulls up-to-date listings directly from the multiple listing service (MLS) where real estate agents actively post their most current homes for sale. Many online resources update less often or fail to remove listings that are off the market, making it more difficult to sort through the clutter.
  2. Pictures can be deceiving. Real estate photographers are experts at showing a home in the best possible light. Many use tools and strategies to boost appeal, such as a fisheye lens to make areas look larger and creative editing to make colors and textures really pop. But, often listings will not contain photos of unappealing parts of the home, like small closets or outdated bathrooms.
  3. See it to believe it. Once you find what appears to be your dream home online, call up your real estate agent and schedule a showing. You want to take the opportunity to vet the home in person and explore every part of it before beginning the offer process. Your real estate agent will help you cover all your bases and will ask questions you may not have thought of.

Give us a call today; we are happy to lead you in the right direction. We have an app to make you your home search efficient & simple!!

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com


The difference between Home Warranty & Home Insurance

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When purchasing a new home, it’s important to do in-depth research on all facets of the homebuying process. One thing you’ll need to understand is how to best protect yourself and your investment if anything were to go wrong. Check out the information on home insurance versus home warranty below to educate yourself on your options.

Home Insurance

Homeowners insurance pays for any accidental damages and loss that are caused by fire, lightning strikes, windstorms, and hail, however, damage from earthquakes and floods is typically not covered. It also covers the replacement of personal property in case of theft or damage and liability if a person were to get injured in your home or on your property. According to American Home Shield, the average annual cost of a homeowner’s insurance policy ranges between $300 and $1,000 and the bank usually asks you to obtain a policy before the mortgage is issued. Make sure to keep in mind that each type of coverage in the policy is subject to a limit and, in most cases, you will have to pay a deductible.

Home Warranty

A home warranty is designed to cover the cost of repairs and replacements of larger appliances and crucial systems in your home that may fail or break due to age and wear and tear. This includes but isn’t limited to HVAC, electrical, or plumbing components, kitchen appliances, and your washer and dryer. With a home warranty, you are required to pay premiums year-round, even if you do not use it, and it won’t cover damages if appliances were not maintained properly or if the damage is from a fire or other disaster.

Give us a call today; we are happy to lead you in the right direction.

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

New Homeowner? Avoid these lawn care mistakes

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It’s easy to take a few missteps when it comes to lawn care, especially if you’re a new homeowner and it’s your first time being solely responsible for your yard and landscaping. Here are a few tips that will help you avoid lawn-related frustrations.

Cutting the grass short. Lowering the height of your mower blades may give you a few extra days between each mowing, but it’s bad for your grass in the long run. Don’t go any shorter than 2.5 inches, or your grass could be starved for sunlight.

Watch where your dog urinates. Finally out of an apartment and ready to let the dog into the back yard when it’s time to go? You might regret it. Your pets’ urine can kill your plants and grass. Try to train your dog to go in one spot, preferably in stone or gravel.

Be careful with fertilizer. Fertilizing your lawn isn’t as simple as picking up any bag at a local store. Choosing the wrong fertilizer, using too much, or ignoring the instructions is a recipe for disaster. Do plenty of research or ask a professional if you need help choosing.

Give your plants room to breathe. The nutrients in soil are a finite resource, and your plants and shrubs also need their fair share of water and sunlight. If you plant your shrubs, trees, and flowers too close together, they’ll have to compete for those resources and may become malnourished. Pay attention to the planting recommendations for each plant to make sure that they have the proper space to thrive.

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com