Monday, March 29, 2010

St. Louis region ranked in top 10 best housing markets

Our area is also a “best-bang-for-the-buck” and home prices edge up.

It seems as though St. Louis has a lock on the good news department lately. Our region was selected for two lists and home prices are moving up. If you’re shopping for a house, St. Louis is one of the best markets, according to The magazine recently released their list of Top 10 Best Housing Markets and St. Louis landed in the number eight slot. The list is based on the stability of each metro area as measured by affordability rankings and foreclosure rates as an indicator of a lack of excess inventory, making the top cities what they call the best opportunities for home shoppers. The top 10 housing markets include: Pittsburgh, PA, Louisville, KY, Houston, TX, Minneapolis, MN, Indianapolis, IN, Memphis, TN, Columbus, OH, St. Louis, Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX and Austin, TX.

In another Forbes list, St. Louis made the “Best-Bang-For-The-Buck Cities” analysis. This top 100 list is based on solid housing markets, relatively stable employment, a low cost of living and quick commutes.

Home prices are on the way up too, growing for the second straight month in January–up 0.6%, according to real estate data firm First American Core Logic’s Home Price Index. In December the year-over-year increase was 1.54 percent, the first positive number after at least nine months of declines. Nationwide, prices are still falling, down 0.7 percent in January, according to First American.

All good news as we look forward to a spring surge in home sales.

Written by Myra Vandersall

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Down payment assistance makes home ownership easier

Homebuyers can take advantage of a variety of tax credits to choose the perfect home.

An array of financial assistance for home purchase is available for qualified buyers in just about every income level. Of course there’s the $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers, which expire on June 30, but potential buyers can also look for help with the down payment.

Here’s a run down of what to expect:

The city of St. Charles– The HOME St. Charles Down Payment and Closing Costs Assistance Program helps low to moderate income purchasers to become homeowners. HOME St. Charles will make up to $10,000 available for qualified households to help with the down payment and closing costs. Down payment assistance for St. Louis County is $3,000 and Jefferson County $7,500.

Income levels apply and the sale price must be under $185,000. A mandatory nine-hour home buying seminar and a one-on-one counseling session to review finances and credit history is also required.

And there’s more. The Missouri Housing Development Commission is offering up to a $1,250 credit in property tax breaks for qualified buyers with an extra $500 thrown in if the house is energy efficient or if the buyer begins energy efficient steps within 60 days of closing. The MHDC offers more assistance, administering a number of housing programs, from purchasing a home with a First Place loan, assistance for veterans, buying property in a disaster area, foreclosed properties and home repair grants.

The federal government is also offering tax credits for energy efficient upgrades, up to $1,500 or 30 percent of the improvement cost, which includes windows and doors, insulation, roofs, air conditioners and furnaces. The tax credit is applied for either 2009 or 2010 taxes and expires on December 31, 2010.

With all of this assistance, plus a wide variety of properties to chose from, now is really the time to make that move!

Written by Myra Vandersall

Monday, March 8, 2010

Home staging is vital for quick sell, best price

Staging increases your chances of a quick sell, reduces the time on the market, and supports your asking price.

Making your home alluring for potential buyers is a smart move in today’s real estate market. In fact, staging your home is now almost a must-do for a quick sell and the best price. The Internet has drastically changed how potential buyers initially shop for a home, and crisp, bright photos on a webpage are essential.

Home staging can take many forms, from the homeowner staging for little or no money, to hiring a professional stager to using the virtual staging technique. The two most important concepts of staging are valid for all methods–de-clutter and depersonalize.

Before doing anything, remove all clutter and personal effects, including that family photo on the mantel, the kids’ artwork on the refrigerator, the kitchen magnets and all those theme-room knick knacks. Sometimes this is a very hard thing to do because of the personal memories and comfort of living with your “stuff.”

Once you’ve done a de-cluttering and de-personalizing sweep, ask a friend or neighbor to come in a point out more things that should go. There will always be more and someone with an impersonal view can help you open up the space and show off your house to its best advantage. All your personal items will become an integral part of your new home. But right now you want a buyer to see their stuff in the house.

De-cluttering also has the added plus of helping you get organized for your move, and sorting thorough things that can be recycled, donated or thrown away. You’ll be ahead in the long run.

Next, remove excess furniture. Large, bulky pieces will make your home seem smaller and give a false perspective. Arrange your furniture in a conversational setting and let the room breathe with extra space.

If you have a fireplace, that should be the focus of your room. Remove the television; a flat-screen shouldn’t be the center of attention. If your fireplace has some black soot, it can be cleaned and even repainted.

Painting will be a big part of your home staging. Repainting an area makes it fresh and covers the scuff marks. You don’t have to stick to a neutral color—there are many softer shades of beige, light yellow, blue and green that will make an impression on potential buyers.

In the kitchen, remove ALL appliances from the countertops. This is extremely important if you have a small kitchen and need to create more countertop space. And as in the bathroom, cleaning and updating are the two most important tasks for these rooms. Kitchens and baths attract the most dirt, so showing a sparkling area will make a big difference.

A relatively new technique in home staging is virtual staging. This is used mostly with homes that are vacant and don’t show up to their potential. Virtual home stagers use computers to work with photos of the house and create a concept of the room, from changing the paint, placing furniture, lighting, and accessories.

This makes a better impression for potential buyers as viewed on the Internet, and can be less expensive than hiring a home stager and renting furniture. The trick here is to use prominent disclaimers saying that the property has been digitally enhanced to show the rooms can look with good design. Otherwise, a potential buyer who views the home online and sees a totally different looking house upon visiting will feel deceived and consider the treatment unethical.

More information on the Home Buying Institute’s website.

Written by Myra Vandersall