first time home buyer

More millennials living at home, and you can’t blame the economy

From 7/29/15

The economy might be recovering, but millennials are still largely living with their parents, one survey says.

According to the report released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center, the nation’s 18- to 34-year-old population is less likely to be living independently of their families and establishing their own households than they were during the recession.

In early 2015, the report said, about 42.2 million millennials, or 67%, lived independently, compared with 42.7 million millennials, or 71%, before the recession in 2007.

Master the “Unclutter”

4 Things People With Perfectly

 Uncluttered Cabinets Do

4 Things People With Perfectly Uncluttered Cabinets Do

You know the types. You grab a peek inside their cabinets as they’re fishing a glass out for you and you don’t see precarious stacks of plates just waiting to fall, too many coffee mugs to count or a jumble of canned vegetables and bags of chips. You see clean, uncluttered cabinets that could totally be door-less, they’re so sleek and organized. This type of kitchen cabinet organizers have secrets to keeping them that way; we’re sharing four today.

Having cabinet interiors you’re not afraid of showing off isn’t the object (though not a bad side effect); it’s about making sure this small storage is its most efficient so your space is its most functional. And because these spots have doors on them — ways of shutting out the mess — they can sometimes be put on the back burner of the organization list (and occasionally get messier than intended). These four simple but effective tips should help:

Don’t over stuff them

Easier said than done, right? Especially if you have few precious cabinets in a small kitchen or bathroom. But — and we bet you know what’s coming — do you really need all those things? Pare down your supplies to the real essentials (not the stuff you hope you’ll use one day) and put those in the most accessible cabinet spots.

Put things where you need it

Sometimes we organize our kitchens and other cabinet spaces as soon as we move in, before we’ve actually used the space all that much. That original laying out of things inside of cabinets can work out, but sometimes it needs to be evaluated. Having to reach into a weird spot to find something you use daily or not wanting to walk across the room to put something back in its spot means you might find yourself stuffing items into whatever spot is closest, creating unsightly stacks and messes. Giving your cabinets occasional function makeovers will help let the space evolve as you live in the room.

Maximize all space

Even though we mention above not over stuffing your cabinets, it doesn’t mean you should squander opportunities to make smart storage tool choices that not only make more room in your existing cabinets, but make the storage space you do have function more smoothly. So embrace shelf risers, behind the door hooks and whatever tools make sense for your space.

Use the outside

Folks with sleek cabinets inside also understand the power of the outside of their cabinets, harnessing that space for stylish display and storage in a way that adds to the function and feel of the room. Hooks underneath cabinets, baskets on top, storage screwed into the sides, open shelving installing beside closed…don’t just think of your cabinets from the inside. Consider their exterior real estate as well to take some of the pressure of the inside.

Relaxing Outdoor Nook

Check out these from Buzzfeed – 19 Genius Ways To Turn Your Tiny Outdoor Space Into A Relaxing Nook

Median-Priced Homes: What You Can Buy Right Now for $232,000

Take a look at this

House of Brokers Realty, Inc.

Given the hype over skyrocketing home prices these days, here’s a fact that might come as a bit of a surprise: the national median home price is a reasonably affordable $232,000 in June, according to® data.

“The median price is still affordable for the median-income household in the U.S., but just barely,” according to Jonathan Smoke, our chief economist. Why just barely? “List prices—and affordability—vary greatly around the country” explains Smoke. “That price won’t get you in the front door in San Francisco, but it will provide a greater-than-typical home in more inexpensive places likePittsburgh or Cleveland.”

Bottom lime: if you’re willing to expand your horizons and make your way to an emerging locale, you can end up with an affordable prize.

So how does that translate in the real world? Here’s a selection of what $232,000 will get you from around the country:

Address:11317 Lady Slipper Ln, Richmond, VA

What you get: This “classic colonial”…

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Bidding Wars

Bidding wars return to home


This time, the battles are prompted by too few homes offered for sale, not easy-to-get mortgages

The Wall Street Journal

From The Wall Street Journal 7/20/15


Christina and Kevin Dirks have been searching for a house in the Denver area for four months at prices up to $275,000. They made offers on six homes—and were outbid on each one.

“When we first started looking, you had to pay $10,000 over” list price to win the bidding, Ms. Dirks said. “Then, as the weeks went by, it went up to $20,000. And now it’s up to $30,000 and $40,000.”

Ms. Dirks, a 28-year-old office coordinator, said she and her husband, a 30-year-old merchandiser, hope that as the market slows down this winter, “people will put a halt on being so crazy.”

Bidding wars, a hallmark of last decade’s housing boom, are making a comeback in a number of metro areas across the U.S. But while the earlier wars reflected enthusiasm fueled by easy-money mortgages, the current froth stems from a market short of homes for sale.

The reasons for the scant supply are myriad, including a much-slower-than-expected recovery in home construction. Yet an equally significant problem is that millions of people aren’t listing their homes for sale because they suspect they can’t qualify for a new mortgage, can’t afford the costs associated with a sale or fear that they won’t prevail in the scrum for the few houses available.

At the end of May, there were 2.3 million existing U.S. homes for sale, enough supply to last 5.1 months at the current sales pace. That is below the six to seven months of supply that the National Association of Realtors says is needed for a balanced market.

But in more than one-third of the 300 largest metropolitan areas tracked by, homes listed for sale in June had been on the market for a median of less than two months. A low median figure indicates rapid turnover in inventory as demand for homes exceeds supply.

Those include big markets like San Francisco, with a median time on market of 27 days, and Dallas at 38 days, as well as smaller markets like Vallejo, Calif., at 26 days and Kennewick, Wash., at 36 days.

The tightest market in June was Santa Rosa, Calif., a relatively affordable Bay Area suburb, where the median time a home was on the market was 24 days.

In those markets with limited supply, bidding wars tend to push prices higher, creating price bubbles. According to, the $580,000 median listing price in Santa Rosa is up nearly 10% from a year ago. That handily outpaces the national average increase in resale prices, which the National Association of Realtors calculates at 7.9%. is operated by Move Inc., which like The Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp.

The low supply of homes reflects a reluctance or inability of owners to sell their current house or apartment and trade up to their next, often larger, one. Some remain skittish about the economy, their own finances or their ability to qualify for a mortgage. Others can’t sell because they are underwater, meaning they owe more on their mortgages than the homes are worth.

Even though U.S. home prices are up 31% in the past five years, 15.4% of homes—an estimated 7.9 million—remained underwater in the first quarter, according to real estate website Zillow. The long term average is 3% to 5%, Zillow says. These owners can’t sell unless they have thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of dollars on hand to pay the shortfall on their old mortgage and finance costs of selling and moving.

Another pressure on housing inventories is growth in U.S. household formation. The U.S. added roughly 1.5 million households in the first quarter from a year earlier, though almost all were formed by renters.

Some economists say renters will add demand to the housing market as steep rent increases prompt them to purchase. Apartment rents have risen nearly 16% nationwide since 2010, according to real-estate research firm Reis Inc.

Meanwhile, at least 2.6 million homes have been taken out of the market since 2008 after investors purchased them and converted them to rentals, according to Stephen Kim, a housing analyst at the U.S. unit of Barclays PLC.

“Today’s seller is tomorrow’s buyer, and people aren’t selling mainly because they don’t have anything to move to or they can’t afford what they find,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist at real-estate brokerage Redfin Corp. “We’re in this vicious cycle of low inventory, and there isn’t a short-term fix. Everyone thought the buyers would take a long time to recover from the downturn. But it’s not just the buyers, it’s the sellers.”

Earlier this year, Carrie Foster, a 33-year-old education specialist, considered selling her Portland, Ore., townhome, appraised at $400,000. But she changed her mind out of concern that she wouldn’t be able to find another home.

Ms. Foster looked at more than 100 homes online, but deemed nearly all of them overpriced. Still, she bid on one, offering $30,000 more than its $475,000 asking price. She lost out to another bidder. Homes for sale in the Portland area in June had been on the market for a median of only 38 days.

Ms. Foster has opted to sit out the market for another year until inventory loosens rather than chancing the alternative of selling her townhome and renting elsewhere until she can beat out other bidders for her next home purchase.

“Homes are [selling] within days, going for tens of thousands of dollars above asking price,” she said. “I didn’t want to be pressured into making an offer on a home the day that I see it.”

Kelli and Ben Barnett, who aren’t underwater on their mortgage, own the type of house that many first-time buyers are seeking: a relatively new three-bedroom ranch in the Denver suburb of Castle Rock. The Denver area in June tied with Sacramento, Calif., as the fourth-tightest market, with 29 days of supply.

But rather than listing, the Barnetts are abstaining.

The couple paid $270,000 for their house in 2005 when it was newly built. They financed the entire cost, a technique common during the boom but nearly extinct today. Now, 10 years and a refinancing later, the Barnetts’ home is appraised at $287,000 and they owe $269,000. The $17,000 in equity isn’t enough to cover the costs of moving, including a down payment, real estate fees, closing costs and thousands of dollars in anticipated repairs to the current house to ready it for sale.

In addition, Ms. Barnett is concerned that, because she took a lower-paying job with less travel since 2013 to look after the youngest two of her three children, the couple won’t qualify to borrow as much as they did just two years ago when they refinanced.

“It just feels like we haven’t had any options while the real-estate market was going through its slump,” Ms. Barnett said. “Now as we see it recovering, we see all of our neighbors moving and we feel like it should be our turn as well. But it’s not. We’re going to have to wait longer.”

During times of weak inventory, home builders normally ramp up construction. But though construction picked up this spring, the national pace of building single-family homes in June amounted to just 49.7% of the annual average from 2001 to 2003, which the National Association of Home Builders considers the latest normal housing market.

Aside from a lack of demand in recent years for entry-level for-sale housing, a major reason for the tepid construction is a persistent lack of financing for small and midsize builders. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. estimates that outstanding loans by FDIC-backed institutions for home construction totaled $53.6 billion in the first quarter. That figure has climbed steadily from its nadir in early 2013, but it remains 71% below its peak of $186.3 billion in early 2008.

Financing has been particularly difficult to land for small builders and developers, which collectively account for most U.S. home construction. The 10 largest publicly traded U.S. builders, which are the few that are truly national in scope, accounted for only 27% of new homes sold last year, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Chicago-based Next Generation Development LLC is one of those small developer-builders. Chief Executive James Hughes said Next Gen built 80 homes last year. He said demand warrants building a greater number this year, but the scarcity of development financing limits him from doing so.

“There is the opportunity with the right product in the right places to build and sell homes,” Mr. Hughes said. “Unfortunately, the [dearth of development] financing is still a big hurdle to clear.”

Enter Contest Win Home

Got a Killer Dessert Recipe? This

House Could be Yours

Got a Killer Dessert Recipe? This House Could be Yours

You could win this house in California if your dessert recipe wins. (Photo: Gold Country Home Recipe Contest/Facebook)

ANTIOCH, Calif. (AP) — A Northern California woman is offering a sweet deal on her 1906 Craftsman home in Jackson. She’s trading it for a great dessert.

The Contra Costa Times reports that Erin Allard is hosting a dessert contest with the 2,267-square-foot century-old home as the grand prize. The four bedroom, two bathroom home has been restored and is valued at $390,000.

She says she opted for the competition because it can take months to sell a home in rural Jackson.


You could win this contest if your dessert recipe wins. (Photo: Gold Country Home Recipe Contest/Facebook)

“I strongly believe everyone should get to live in a place that brings them happiness. I’m lucky to be a catalyst for that,” she told Contra Costa Times. “I love the creative process involved in turning a dilapidated home into a newfound gem.

Allard, who is a licensed real estate agent, has spent weeks checking details and legalities to make sure the competition goes off without a problem.

The contest will be judged by a panel of food experts. Those looking to apply have until Sept. 7 to submit a $100 entry fee and a million-dollar recipe.

Agent Commission?

Why Do I Have to Pay My Real

Estate Agent 6%?!

Real estate agent

Selling a house can be expensive. Not only are you probably going to have to lay out some cash to spruce it up so you can get top dollar, you also have to plan on paying a real estate commission, which usually runs 6% of the sales price. On a $300,000 home that’s $18,000 — not a small chunk of change.

So why 6%? Why not 3%? Why not a flat fee of $2,500?

In the 1940s and ’50s, the National Association of Realtors required its members to set commissions at a certain level — and also required its members to either work full time or have enough customers to earn a living as a Realtor — in order to join (only members had access to the Multiple Listing Service). In 1950, the Supreme Court ruled that requiring certain rates was illegal. (After that it became a “suggested” rate, some sources say.)

How it became 6%, however, no one seems to know.

“I have been in the industry for nearly 40 years and know of no one who can say how, when or why it was established originally,” says Steve Murray, president of REAL Trends, which tracks real estate data. “I do know that we have been tracking it since 1991 on a national level (and are used as the source for such data by the Federal authorities) and it has fallen from an average of 6.1% that year to just above 5.18% in 2014. We see signs that it is continuing to decline at this time,” he said in an email.

Is the 6% Commission Outdated?

One thing to keep in mind is that real estate services are generally bundled. Services on the seller side may include marketing, advertising, open houses and help during the negotiation process. On the buyer side, real estate professionals may spend a lot of time finding and showing houses to prospective buyers, as well as helping them navigate the purchase. Similar to other bundled services, like Internet, cable or phone service, however, bundling sometimes requires consumers to purchase services they don’t need.

More and more, consumers are seeking (and finding) an “unbundling” of such services. Years ago, potential homebuyers talked to an agent, seeking advice on areas with good schools and public transportation, or low crime — now they may research it themselves. In addition, they may be checking online for homes for sale and contacting agents about a house that just went on the market, instead of looking to a real estate agent to find them a home. Furthermore, sellers may not want open houses, or to pay for services they won’t use.

Alternatives to a Full Commission

Rates can be negotiated. If you are a seller and a contract calls for a 6% commission, you can ask whether the agent will take less. “Offer 4%,” suggests Bob Nettleton, a social media editor for a natural health products website, who negotiated the commission when he used a real estate agent to sell his home. Or, he says, offer 2% if you find the buyer on your own and just need the agent to help with the standard process. He added that other factors, such as home price and how many services you expect, may also affect how much you can negotiate on the commission.

While some worry that a smaller commission gives an agent less incentive to sell the house, it may be relative. After all, a $300,000 house doesn’t necessarily take twice as much work to sell as a $150,000 one, even though it nets double the commission. If someone saw your home on the Internet and called an agent to see it, the agent may not be any less likely to show it even if the commission is lower.

Another alternative is to look into services such as Redfin, ListingDoor or local flat-fee MLS agents that don’t use the traditional commission structure. And of course, some DIYers (or FSBOs — For Sale By Owners — as they are referred to in the industry) are using Craigslist, Zillow and similar sites to market their homes themselves.

But before you automatically think cheaper is better, there can be times when you get what you pay for. Tom Scanlon, a financial advisor with Raymond James in Manchester, Conn., tells this story: “About 20 years ago, we were trying to sell our home. It just wasn’t moving. My wife suggested we drop the price $10,000 to move it. I did the math and called my Realtor. I told her I wanted to rip up our contract. I then told her I wanted to INCREASE her commission to 7%. She drove right over to our house with a new contract. Two days later, the house was sold for very close to the asking price. All of the other agents saw the 7% commission and jumped on it!”

Buying or selling real estate is a costly financial transaction, and the commission is just one part of that. Negotiating a real estate commission may pale in comparison to the extra money you’ll pay over the lifetime of a mortgage if your credit isn’t excellent. Someone with poor credit can end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more in interest, than someone with great credit (this tool estimates your lifetime cost of debt, based on your credit standing).

Buyers should review their free credit reports and check their credit scores (something you can do for free on, with updates every 30 days and get an action plan for improvement, if needed) several months before they start house hunting, in order to give them time to resolve any credit issues that arise. And for sellers, working with a buyer who has already been preapproved can help you avoid the headache of a deal that falls through due to financing glitches.