A classic New York co-op penthouse now belongs to pregnant Hollywood star Anne Hathaway and her actor-producer husband, Adam Shulman. The 1,200-square-foot space cost the couple $2.55 million, but its storied New York legacy is a big part of that price.
The five-unit mansion was built in 1904 by the Clark family, the real estate magnates who built The Dakota a few decades earlier. As one of the last private mansions built on the Upper West Side, this unit is a piece of history.
But there is great potential for the future, too: It seems the co-op board will entertain selling air rights for expansion. Perhaps Hathaway has expansion on her mind, but she may simply want a place to call home while she stars in the premiere of her own one-woman off-Broadway play, opening this spring.
Despite being small, the space manages to live large with two bedrooms and two bathrooms -- perfect for the new baby coming soon.
There are, of course, a few perks to being the penthouse: skylights in the bedrooms and kitchen, and 18-foot ceilings. Spring should be lovely here for Hathaway, who can enjoy two planting balconies and a private full terrace for sunbathing or entertaining.
A sweeping iron staircase can lead to the penthouse, but when you're the last stop on the elevator, the staircase is mainly for show. The most unique feature in the space might well be the bathroom -- a vibrant, contemporary space in shades of gray, blue and orange.
While it seems Hathaway will be staying in this apartment during her time in New York, in the past she has kept apartments merely to store her massive wardrobe. But that proved a tough sell when she was ready to move on.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans fell this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow at 3.50 percent Tuesday, down 11 basis points from last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell throughout the week, reaching 3.47 percent on Sunday before rising slightly.
"Mortgage rates fell last week, touching their lowest levels since mid-2013 before edging slightly higher on Monday," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "This week, markets will look toward Friday's monthly jobs report and should move upward if the data exceeds expectations."
Inspired by the Palladian architectural style of the 1700s, the villa boasts five bedrooms, eight baths, a library, pool room, elevator, and a luxurious screening room worthy of an Oscar and Golden Globe winner.
Examples of the home's elite craftsmanship include an imported Portuguese limestone exterior and continue inside with gold leaf and verdigris ceilings in the library and master suite, oak panels with mother-of-pearl inlays, and mosaic glass tile rotundas.
Villa Sorriso offers climate-controlled wine cellars and a viewing tower for taking in the acreage and its spring-fed pond, tennis court, hiking trails, horse barn, olive orchard and vineyards.
Antique European stone terraces overlook the grounds, which include a 65-foot infinity edge swimming pool with a wading pool and spa. There's also a 3,200-square-foot guest house.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans rose slightly this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow at 3.61 percent, up two basis points from last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose to 3.63 percent on Friday and hovered there before retreating.
"Despite minor fluctuations, mortgage rates were roughly flat last week, holding near nine-month lows," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "We expect more volatility this week with important GDP [gross domestic product] data on Friday and, more significantly, a Fed meeting mid-week which should provide the first read on the Central Bank's reaction to recent financial turmoil."
The 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.81 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, or adjustable-rate mortgages, the rate was 2.77 percent.
Check Zillow for rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.
Take a deep breath and ask yourself: Has the time come to relocate?
Moving isn't anyone's favorite thing to do. Aside from the physical process of shifting everything you own into a new space and/or paying people to do so, there are many other factors to consider, such as budget, location, and (perhaps most importantly) your sanity. But the challenges are worth the struggle if you've reached the point where relocation truly is best for you.
If you're on the fence about moving, start 2016 by perusing these 16 signs that it's time to take the plunge and start a new house search.
1. One word: money.
Yes, it's an obvious point, but examining expenses is a task that shouldn't be overlooked when you're considering a move. Sure, you might be able to upgrade your current home to fit your future needs -- but will you see a return on investment when it's time to sell? Now is the time to examine your finances and figure out if you should continue to save some cash to boost your down payment or explore financing for that upgraded master bathroom you've been dying to take on.
2. You've outgrown your storage space.
There's only so much Pinterest-surfing you can do for inspiration on reorganizing your kitchen and clearing out the clutter before you start to realize that your current space isn't working for you anymore. If more cabinets will make your life easier, so be it. It's up to you whether that means a remodel or a new kitchen in a new house.
3. Your family is expanding.
If you're adding a couple of kids and/or pets to your brood, upgrading your home is a logical next step. Aside from needing more space, aspects you may have overlooked before -- like A-rated school districts and that sweet neighborhood park -- may be suddenly appealing. Don't have kids? This rule still applies, since buying a house in a great school district is a big plus when it's time to sell.
4. The kids/roommates are gone.
In the opposite vein, don't waste money on space you don't need. If it's just you and your honey now, why not downsize to a smaller house or studio apartment to save not only on your mortgage but also on utilities, repairs, cleaning time, and more?
5. Your neighborhood is on the decline.
If the crime rates in your neighborhood are headed in the wrong direction, it might be a good idea to move -- quickly -- before it gets even harder to rent or sell your place to someone else. There's no shame in wanting to make your nest in a home where you feel safe and secure.
6. You have a dream your current place won't support.
Whether you envision a home dressed to the nines with luxurious upgrades or one with an extra room you can dedicate to home brewing (hey, whatever floats your boat), it might be a sign that you're ready to move on.
7. Your city isn't as appealing to future buyers as it once was.
Every trendy city has its moment. If yours is one of those whose popularityis steadily declining, selling now rather than later could save you a lot of cash (and heartache) down the line.
8. It would cost you less to move than to keep repairing your current place.
It can be hard to admit when it's time to throw in the towel on repairs, especially if you've put a lot of hard DIY work into your beloved abode. But it might be time to take a step back and think about how nice it would be on your stress levels and wallet if you could start fresh.
9. You've started cooking at home more (or less).
If you never have time to cook anymore -- and don't see that trend slowing down any time soon -- downsizing to a home with a smaller (or less fancy) kitchen could be worth the cost of moving. On the flip side, if a lifestyle change means you're at home more (and spending more time honing your knife skills), a larger, upgraded kitchen could be a great thing to focus on during your home search.
10. Your kids have stopped inviting their friends over.
Is your kid always like, "BRB, Mom, I'm going to Johnny's," but Johnny never comes to hang out at your place? Sounds silly, but it might be time to face the fact that since it has more room to roam, Johnny's house is just a more comfortable hangout spot (or his fridge is extremely well-stocked). If your kids seem hesitant to invite friends over because there is nowhere to play or no space to work on that group project together, you might want to rethink your housing priorities and start the house search (and bump a refinished basement or big backyard to the top of your list).
11. You're intimidated by the thought of rising interest rates.
If you bought your current house when interest rates were at their rock bottom and before housing prices started to rise, you might be reluctant to give up that amazingly low mortgage payment -- even if you really need a square footage upgrade. And while it's true that even a small increase in mortgage rates can have an impact on your bottom line, the reality is that you can't control all the factors. So if you've outgrown or just aren't happy with your current home, there's no reason not to at least explore your options. You might be surprised at what you can afford if you've built up enough equity in your current home.
12. You've been putting off moving for a while.
Similarly, if you've been meaning to put your house on the market but have a lot of work to do to prep your home for sale -- or are just dreading the home-selling process -- now is the time. While interest rates aren't rising too rapidly, they are rising. So if you've been waiting for the push to get started, this might be it.
13. You just don't jibe with your neighborhood anymore.
Still living in your old college town? Is the nearest grocery store (what feels like) a thousand miles away? Ask yourself whether your current living situation fits your lifestyle. If the answer is "no," it's time to figure out what you want in a neighborhood and move forward.
14. Your office commute is the bane of your existence.
Commuting to and from the office can take hours out of your week. Just think, you could be doing much more important things -- such as binge-watching Netflix (or just not wasting huge amounts of gas and time in hours of stop-and-go traffic). Whether you're starting a new job or keeping your current one, moving closer to work has a lot of benefits.
15. Things are getting serious with that special someone.
Having a new love doesn't necessarily mean it's suddenly time to pack up and move in. But purchasing a new place together can be spatially, emotionally, and financially rewarding.
16. A fresh start sounds like just the ticket.
Sometimes, life deals us cards akin to flashing neon signs saying, "GO FORTH AND START ANEW." If you feel that tug in your heart and are in a place financially to do it, don't hesitate. You only live once, and life's too short not to experience it fully.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow at 3.59 percent, down nine basis points from last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell throughout the week, reaching 3.56 percent on Monday before rising slightly.
"Mortgage rates fell last week to their lowest levels since last April on the heels of falling oil prices and continued global turmoil surrounding growth worries in China," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "With little U.S. economic data on the docket this week, more 'flight-to-quality' should dominate headlines until markets find a bottom."
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.79 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, or adjustable-rate mortgages, the rate was 2.66 percent.
Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.
Amid the typical New Year's resolutions, getting organized is an oft-promised, seldom-achieved goal that plagues busy parents, office workers, college students and everyone in between. Clutter and a messy environment are proven causes of distraction and increased stress levels, both of which prohibit creativity and productivity. Despite our best efforts, staying organized is a big challenge when life gets hectic and tossing our belongings wherever they fall trumps storing them where they belong (assuming they have a designated home at all).
Those seeking a more streamlined lifestyle this year are likely influenced by the rise of the minimalist movement, the allure of tiny houses and the surprising popularity of such texts as Marie Kondo's bestseller, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up." These trends are not simply strategies for enhanced organization; they're lifestyles that espouse a more intentional approach to living. Underlying the need to be organized, after all, is a desire for more control.
"Organizing is about making decisions," says Alison Kero, owner of ACK Organizing in New York City, adding that it's ultimately about wanting the best for yourself. Consider these steps toward a more organized and intentional life in 2016:
Toss or Donate
Decluttering is a natural first step in getting organized, but experts agree tossing things you don't want isn't just about making space for more stuff. "It's more about becoming aware of what you're choosing to bring into your life and making a decision to keep it or let it go based on what's best for you and what you really like," Kero says. Practically speaking, it's best to group like items together before you start purging so you can easily identify duplicates and keep your favorites.
"Start by doing an initial sort," says Sandra Schustack, owner of Clear Your Space East in Manhattan and New York Chapter Board Director for the National Association of Professional Organizers. "Only keep what you use and love; the rest is taking up precious space."
The idea of your space being "precious" or valuable is key to keeping sentimentality from sabotaging this process. "If you don't love it, need it, or use it, then it doesn't deserve a place in your home," says Janet Bernstein, Certified Professional Organizer and owner of The Organizing Professionals, LLC, in Philadelphia. "I keep my clients focused on this mantra as we're decluttering," she says. "It speeds up the process when you're forced to categorize your possessions in this way."
Experts also note that getting organized takes time, so don't expect overnight results. Remove items room by room, starting with the area that bothers you most. That way, you can carry the sense of accomplishment you feel in tackling that room to others throughout your space.
Find a Home for Everything
Putting back items you've decided to keep is not as simple as tossing them into a storage container. In fact, rows of clear plastic bins with expertly-applied labels simply disguise chaos as order, and don't provide for long-term organization.
"The reason so many people find it hard to stay organized is that they do it once, dismantle it when they need something stored at the bottom of the bin, and then don't have the energy to put it all back together again," says Holly Rollins, minimalist and blogger at HollyLaurel.com. Instead, determine the proper home for items based on when and where you need them, so access and storage are both intuitive and practical. Moreover, continue the "like with like" grouping strategy you employed during the decluttering process so you always know where to find (and store) batteries, light bulbs and even important documents.
Keep Functionality in Mind
Most experts agree storage containers are worthy investments, but purchasing these items before deciding how they'll be used is a waste of money. "I see far too many potential clients purchase organizing products believing these items will solve their clutter woes," Bernstein says. "What they don't realize is they're putting the cart before the horse."
Placing all your cosmetics in a decorative box under your bathroom cabinet may be tidy, but it's neither functional nor sustainable. Since you use these items frequently, they will likely end up strewn about drawers and countertops more often than tucked behind cabinet doors. Instead, organize your makeup by type within the top drawer of your vanity for easy access. "Get some shallow square and rectangular trays from the dollar store," suggests Alison Warner, owner of Prepped to Organize, LLC, in Chester County, Pennsylvania. "Stick Velcro tabs on the bottom of each tray to adhere them to the drawer. No more rolling items every time you open the drawer!"
This strategy can be applied elsewhere in your home, including the "junk" drawer in your kitchen or the utility cabinet in your garage. The trick is to organize spaces well enough that replacing items once you've used them becomes habit.
It doesn't matter how organized you become; the moment you start to accumulate more stuff, you'll be surrounded by the very clutter you sought to eliminate in the first place. Before you buy anything new, remember the criterion you used during the decluttering phase. "Keep only what you use, what you love, and what you need," Rollins says. "If you make and keep this promise to yourself, you'll never have organization problems again."
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed home loans fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow at 3.68 percent, down 13 basis points from last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell steadily until Friday, then hovered around the current rate for the rest of the week.
"Mortgage rates fell last week despite strong U.S. economic data as investors sought safe assets in the wake of stock market turmoil in Asia," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "With rates near their lowest levels since late October, we expect rates to move cautiously upward this week."
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.87 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, or adjustable-rate mortgages, the rate was 2.97 percent.
Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.
A disagreement between neighbors can escalate quickly. One minute you're mowing your lawn, the next you're plotting revenge on the homeowner next to you for parking his car on your freshly cut grass.
"You hear about neighbors chasing each other down with spades and all sorts of weird things," notes Nick Hall, director of the Dispute Resolution Center of Harris County, Texas, which offers mediation for civil disputes, including neighborhood problems.
It doesn't serve you well to pick a fight with the people who live on the properties surrounding yours, and especially not when you've just moved in. But it can be all too easy to start off on the wrong foot with a neighbor, and it can haunt you for years to come. (Another strategy: Check out the neighbors before you buy the house.)
While you don't have to be the next Lucy and Ethel, you and your neighbors should be able to get along amicably enough to avoid major disagreements when it comes to what you each do with your properties. Follow a few simple guidelines to get on your neighbor's good side from the start.
You're not required to bring a casserole, but a knock on the door and friendly handshake will go a long way. It's harder for your neighbors to make assumptions about you when you approach them with a friendly greeting -- and it's not as easy for them to hate you when they think you're just so darn sweet.
"Don't have the first contact with your neighbors be when you need something, or when you have a complaint," says Stuart Watson, a staff mediator at Resolutions Northwest, a center for dispute resolution in Portland, Oregon. "Build some kind of relationship first, so that when you do want to remodel your garage into a spare rec room ... you're not coming up to somebody you don't know with demands."
If you're moving into a community with a homeowners association or other kind of neighborhood group, Hall says it's a good idea to attend the first meeting you can and start the relationships early. You can even go as far as offering to organize a community event. "Everyone likes potlucks, so why not do a block party or a street party and invite everyone?" Hall says.
Know the Rules
Everyone wants to think they're right, but before you do anything to your property, be sure you're following the neighborhood or municipal rules when it comes to construction, noise and other hot buttons for cranky neighbors.
Reading up on the community's regulations should happen even before you buy the property, says Brad Aldrich, senior attorney at Aldrich Legal Services in Plymouth, Michigan, who specializes in real estate law, among other areas. Especially if the home you're buying is part of a homeowners or condo association, be sure any construction or landscaping you do on your property doesn't put you in the wrong.
"Forget bothering your neighbor -- if you wanted to put in a pool, but for whatever reason your local homeowners association didn't allow pools ... you're not going to be able to put one in," Aldrich says.
Being familiar with regulations and local ordinances, like setback requirements from the property line for any structures, could help you know if your neighbor is infringing on the rules as well.
"We get a lot of people call in and say, 'I've never owned a home before, and I don't know if my neighbor is doing something wrong,'" Aldrich says, adding that familiarity with regulations can help you avoid speculation, so any issues are based on fact and written rules or laws.
Let Them Know of Any Changes
Whether you're planning to redo the landscaping or put an addition on the back of your home, it's a courtesy to give your neighbors advance warning of any construction on your property.
Renee Bove, a staff mediator with Watson at Resolutions Northwest, says many of the neighbor disputes that come to mediation reach a heightened level simply because one person didn't communicate well with the other. "Oftentimes, it's just a simple misunderstanding that somebody had a pretty good intention that kind of backfired and had a negative impact. And they don't talk about it, so it takes a life of its own," Bove says.
For example, warning that you plan to put up a tall fence because your dog can jump high will probably go over better than erecting a privacy fence without any notice.
If it Would Bother You, Don't Do It
The rule of treating others the way you want to be treated still applies as a homeowner. If you keep your neighbors in mind when you make decisions, you're far less likely to tick them off.
An example: You don't want excess water runoff on your property, so don't assume your neighbor will think any differently if you direct your drain pipes at his foundation. Yet, Aldrich says water runoff is a common cause of neighbor disputes.
"If the natural topography of the land is that water runs off into an adjacent property, that's really not the other property owner's fault -- it's just the way the land is," Aldrich says. "But if that property owner were to put in a sump pump and then route the water line to where it dumps directly on the neighbor's property, well then, that is an act of the one property owner where it does negatively impact the neighbor," Aldrich says.
In Portland, Bove says a growing topic of dispute involves using a home for Airbnb stays, whether it's the whole house or individual rooms. The new home rental trend "just brings a lot more traffic and new people into a neighborhood that can be disconcerting for other neighbors," Bove explains.
It can be useful to have a conversation with your neighbors before listing your home for rent, and, ensure you are not infringing on any laws, guidelines or regulations.
Count to 10
Being a good neighbor doesn't mean you have to let everyone walk all over you (or your land). If you believe your neighbor is encroaching on your property or your ability to live peacefully, you shouldn't have to suffer.
But keep in mind, people have a tendency to dig in their heels when they feel their property is being threatened, so it's best to tread lightly when addressing issues.
"If you give someone a ticket, or if you go to court or to trial of some kind, you're going to make even bigger enemies of the neighbors," Hall says. "And yet, [you're] going to have to continue living together in the same neighborhood."
Bove uses the example of a homeowner parking a few inches in front of a neighbor's driveway during a personal emergency. Seeing the car blocking part of the driveway, but not knowing why, the neighbor assumes it is an intentional slight.
"They just didn't take a moment to come from a place of curiosity: 'Hey, I noticed your car was in my driveway a little bit. What was happening for you?'" Bove says.
In the event you simply can't resolve a problem on your own, mediation is often an effective way to ensure both parties are heard, and put some rules down without taking it all the way to court.
Watson estimates mediation through Resolutions Northwest resolves about 80 percent of the disputes brought to them, with a solution made that day. But the number of parties that come out of mediation feeling it was a positive experience is even higher, he says. "Even in those more rare times when they don't come to some kind of agreement, it was helpful for them to be able to have a discussion and to feel their concerns were heard."
Sylvester Stallone and wife Jennifer Flavin may be walking a lot of red carpets soon, thanks to Stallone's Golden Globe-nominated role in the movie "Creed." But they still want to walk away from their California desert retreat.
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans fell this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow at 3.74 percent, down seven basis points from last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.78 percent on Thursday, then hovered there before dropping to the current rate.
"Mortgage rates fell early this week as financial markets returned from the New Year's holiday to a collapse in Asian equities, which pushed capital flows to safe assets including U.S. mortgage bonds," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "We expect continued volatility this week leading up to Wednesday's publication of the December Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes and Friday's all-important jobs report."
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.96 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, or adjustable-rate mortgages, the rate was 2.97 percent.
Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.
When it comes to timing your home sale, predicting the real estate market can seem impossible. Even psychics don't always know what the future holds for real estate. But you can make some predictions based on what's happened in past real estate cycles.
For starters, 2016 is an election year. There's also talk of interest rates potentially rising even higher than the quarter-point hike that went into effect in December, the first such rate increase since 2006. Your strategies for selling, because of those issues and more, might differ this year.
Here are six clever tips to learn how to sell a house fast and to help your home sell quickly in 2016.
1. Price the home right.
If you ask two real estate agents whether you should underprice or overprice your home for sale, you might get opposite responses. The overprice camp believes you can get more money by asking for more money.
The underprice side believes you'll pique the interest of more potential buyers by asking less than the price that comparable properties fetch. That could start a bidding war, which could drive the price back up.
"I am a huge proponent of underpricing just ever so slightly," says Brett Miles, an agent with Douglas Elliman in New York. "Buyers are extremely savvy these days and watch the market like hawks. They are well aware of the bloated asking prices we are experiencing currently."
Sellers have been "successfully pushing the envelope on ask for three-plus years," says James Brune, also an agent with Douglas Elliman in New York. "But prices are plateauing now," he says. "Sellers will need to be realistic and price at or below current market to get maximum interest [in their home]."
2. Finance the sale yourself.
Federal Reserve officials are calling for a gradual rate increase over time. The federal funds rate has been 0 percent for years. The recent December increase brings the rate to 0.25%. The next increase will bring it to 0.5 percent, and there could be more increases after that. "If mortgage rates [keep rising], this will begin to affect affordability across the board," says Brune.
One way to help a potential buyer afford to buy your home if interest rates rise is to "offer to finance the purchase; be the bank," says Miles. If you finance the deal, you can make the monthly payments work for your buyer by offering a lower interest rate than they could get from a traditional mortgage lender.
3. Stage your home.
It's always a good idea to present your home in the best light possible before a sale, and doing so becomes even more important during a buyer's market.
If buyers believe election results "will affect their pocketbooks directly, they may wait to buy," says Miles. The same happens with increased interest rates. "People sit where they are [instead of buying]," says Jessica Dolan, a Pennsylvania home stager. "Therefore, it becomes a buyer's market, and sellers will really need to make their properties shine through."
Dolan suggests some tips and tricks, many of which won't cost you anything, except a little elbow grease:
-- Deep-clean from top to bottom.
-- Remove screens from windows to let in more light (make sure the glass is clean).
-- Clear all walkways throughout the house.
-- Make sure all doors, closets, and cabinets can open easily.
-- Put out fresh fruit on the kitchen table and fresh flowers on bathroom counters.
-- Display clean towels in bathrooms.
-- Hide all personal items in bathrooms, including trash cans.
-- Pull furniture away from walls to create social sitting areas.
-- Give each room a purpose, especially oddly shaped or random rooms.
-- Paint the ceilings white, especially in dark rooms, to reflect more light.
4. Prepare for El Niño.
The topic of weather is more than just small talk when it comes to selling your home. Extreme weather conditions, such as more rain from El Niño, for example, play a role. And El Niño is likely to be a factor during winter and early spring 2016, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"It may seem strange that a weather event could have an impact on home sales, but knowing that weather is coming can be a deciding factor for purchasing older homes, fixer-uppers, and anything with a roofing, foundation, or plumbing problem," says Alexander Ruggie of 911 Restoration.
But there are ways to make your home more marketable during El Niño conditions, says Ruggie:
-- For colder-climate homes: Add gutter heaters, which keep gutters and downspouts running free and clear. Doing so helps prevent ceiling leaks from overflows from increased snowfall.
-- For homes in warmer climates: Keep water at bay by adding weatherproofing tape and new window glazing.
-- For homes with basements: Purchase a sump pump.
You can also appeal to environmentally conscious buyers by installing a water catchment system to harvest rainwater from El Niño.
5. Time the sale.
Springtime and early summer are traditionally good times to put your house on the market for a quick sale. And this becomes even more important in 2016 since it's an election year.
"Election years mean uncertainty to a housing market," says Mike Minihan, a real estate agent in Atlanta. "If you are concerned that the election could potentially throw a wrench in the market, [spring and early summer] will be early enough in the year to get the house sold before wild speculation starts breeding fear in homebuyers."
6. Target millennials.
It's a safe bet that when you sell your home in 2016, your target market will be millennials, people between the ages of 18 and 34.
"Baby boomers will start to cash out of their houses, which will put more houses on the market," says Sam Heskel, CEO of Nadlan Valuation, a New York City appraisal company. An increased inventory of homes combined with an improving job market "will enable more millennials to become homebuyers."
Millennials tend to like backyard decks, gourmet kitchens, open floor plans, balconies with views, and vegetable gardens. If your home has any of those amenities, feature them in your marketing.
In 2015, the value of all homes across the U.S. increased $1.1 trillion, growing 4.1 percent over the past year. At year end, the entire housing stock is expected to be valued at $28.5 trillion -- $10 trillion more than 2015's third quarter U.S. gross domestic product.
The most valuable market going into 2016 is the Los Angeles metropolitan area, with a total value of $2.4 trillion. California as a whole accounts for almost a quarter of the country's cumulative home value, which isn't surprising considering it's home to such high-valued markets as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose.
Renters spent $535 billion nationally on housing in 2015 -- nearly as much as the total budget of the Department of Defense ($575 billion). That's almost $20 billion more than in 2014, due to 1.8 million new renter households and rental prices rising at record pace.
Renters in the New York/Northern New Jersey market spent the most on rent in 2015 -- about $56 billion.
Here are the 10 most valuable housing markets and the 10 markets that paid the most rent in 2015.
Total Home Value at Year End
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif. - $2.4 trillion
Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans rose this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted Tuesday on Zillow at 3.81 percent, up six basis points from last week.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rose throughout the week, reaching 3.86 percent on Saturday before falling Monday.
"Mortgage rates increased modestly early last week, mostly due to market anomalies associated with the holiday-shortened week," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "We expect another quiet couple of days in mortgage markets this week."
Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 3.02 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 3.05 percent.
Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.
But when you're ready to sell your home and find yourself tasked with pricing the place you hold so dear, how do you do it right?
Gregory Barr, chief appraiser for Graham Appraisal in Glasgow, Kentucky, explains that all too often homeowners expect a higher appraisal value for their home when they put it on the market. "When we come by, everyone thinks their house is worth a lot more. When the tax assessor comes by, it's worth a lot less," he says.
At the end of the day, your home is worth as much as someone else will pay for it -- and it's an appraiser's job to estimate what that value could be. "The market value is what a prospective buyer is willing to pay for the subject property," explains Kelly Kellogg, owner of Appraisal Experts Inc. near Orlando, Florida. Kellogg is the author of "ABCs of a CMA," which provides real estate agents with a breakdown of comparative market analysis to price and sell properties.
An appraisal can be used at different stages of the home selling or buying process by the buyer, seller or lender to determine the market value of a home. The appraisal process is often helpful for owners preparing to put their home on the market and especially when a seller and real estate agent have trouble agreeing on an initial asking price.
If you're told your home is worth less than what you thought it was, what could be the cause? Appraisers weigh in on some of the major factors that could be dragging down the value of your home.
Your home doesn't compare to that house down the street. Appraisers use recent transactions of similar homes in the area to assess your home's potential value -- but the houses must have the same amenities, features and condition to be truly comparable.
According to Carole Christensen, owner of Appraisal Minnesota in Northfield, Minnesota, homeowners are often confused when they receive an appraisal value lower than expected, and argue that the neighbor's house down the street sold for X more dollars. "Well, [your] neighbor's house has a brand-new kitchen and baths and is 30 percent larger than your house and is a different design," Christensen says.
The number of bedrooms, in particular, is a key factor in selecting comparable sales. Kellogg says appraisers aim to compare prices of homes with the same number of bedrooms because the detail changes what the potential buyer is willing to pay.
"Typically we find that three-bedrooms sell for a higher value variance than a two-bedroom dwelling. You want to compare apples to apples if possible," Kellogg says.
Planes, trains and automobiles are always zooming past your house. There are a lot of things you can control when it comes to ensuring at least a certain value in your home, but some are outside your reach -- and outside your property lines.
Christensen says while a lake or pond can add value to a home, property backing up to a busy road, airport or power line is typically less desirable. "If you have a highway or a railroad, that's not conducive to a good sales price. But that's the exterior stuff you can't do anything about," she says.
You upgraded too much. Updates and added amenities can be a great way to increase the value of your home, but don't expect to get back what you paid for those changes when you sell the home.
Many subdivisions with homes that are similar to each other will often sell within a 20 percent price range of each other, depending on the age of the homes and renovations, Christensen says. For instance, a homeowner could make major upgrades, such as "a pool and a sauna, and an outdoor kitchen," she says.
But spending $100,000 on improvements doesn't mean you'll sell your house for $100,000 more -- and especially not in a subdivision where homes sell for $150,000 to $200,000. "They're not going to get that back because the area does not support that," Christensen says.
Barr says improvements made for the purpose of selling your home might not have the return on investment you're hoping for either. "If you put in $10,000 worth of landscaping, it might help you sell your house faster, but no one's going to give you back that $10,000," he says.
What You Can Do With a Low Appraisal
If your home appraised for less than you were hoping for, you're not doomed. The calculated value isn't set in stone; it serves as a snapshot of the market at a certain time, rather than an everlasting price.
"If I'm at your house on the 15th of December and I do an appraisal, and the next day the house across the street sells, that could have changed [the value] dramatically," Barr explains.
You can't guarantee changes in the market, and you can't change your neighborhood, but appraisers recommend doing a few things to ensure you understand your home's value, and they offer some easy fixes to increase interest from buyers.
Talk to the appraiser. It doesn't hurt to talk to the appraiser about what led him or her to the specific value of your home. And if you think something is missing from the conclusion, mention it. Lance Coyle, president of the Appraisal Institute and an appraiser in Dallas, says human error can potentially lead to a mistake in the analysis. "If it's not factually correct, 99.9 percent of appraisers out there are going to fix it, with no questions asked," Coyle says.
Even when all the facts are right, it's possible the appraiser is unaware of a similar house on the market that isn't available in the public record, and any missing transactions can have an impact on your home's value.
"Maybe you know your neighbor sold their house in the last six months. It sold off of the [multiple listing service] and so not a lot of people know about it," Coyle says. "If you have a situation like that, then that's certainly something you'd want to convey to the appraiser."
Ask for the price you think is best. An appraised value lower than expected doesn't mean there isn't a possibility you could sell your home for more money. If you believe you can get a higher offer, go for it.
"A seller can still sell the home or put the home on the market for what they believe the value is. But at least when a buyer comes along and makes an offer, now the seller has the appraisal to go back and say, 'Oh, there's something here, because I'm getting a similar offer [to the appraisal],' and then they can negotiate," Kellogg says. "Or if they get a lowball offer, the seller may decide to pull the appraisal out and share it with the potential buyer."
Just keep in mind, it's not easy to pass off a home for more than it's worth. "Buyers and sellers of homes are pretty astute as to what they're looking for and what they're willing to pay for," Coyle says. The appraised value reflects what people would be willing to pay, and it can be hard to find an outlier who will pay significantly more.
Fix things up. A new coat of paint and tidying up around the property can go a long way. Any real estate professional will encourage you to make your home clean and clutter-free , both inside and out, before potential buyers start touring.
Barr also recommends painting any rooms that might have bright or unique colors, and using neutral tones. "Neutral sells because people want to be able to go in and visualize their stuff in the house," he says.
Get the neighbors to help. To draw more interest and potential bids, ask your neighbors to park in their driveway, which will make the street less crowded. Kellogg says the fewer cars parked on the street in a subdivision, the better for any homes on the market.
It's only a slight inconvenience, and Kellogg explains the neighbors will benefit in the long run. "As a neighbor, you want the person who's moving to sell their home for the highest [price] the market will bear," he says, "because that affects your real estate value indirectly."
Sorry if these tips burst your home value hopes, but at least you'll be ready for an appraised price tag below the one you may have in your head -- and maybe even be prepared with a few tricks to increase interest and add value to your home.
Unless you're lucky enough to live in a grand older building, a loft, or one of the high-design modern luxury developments that are popping up everywhere, your apartment might best be described as a plain white box defined by a distinct lack of character. After all, apartment complexes are generally built to appeal to just about everyone.
That's where decor comes in. But decorating that new apartment isn't necessarily about what you like -- it's also about what won't affect your security deposit. The following apartment decor ideas will help you bring personality to your pad without freaking out your landlord. (Just make sure to read the fine print of your lease or get the OK from said landlord before reaching for that paint roller.)
Repurpose a Craft Staple
Washi tape is all over Pinterest, and for good reason. The adhesive-backed paper strips are affordable and come in a rainbow of patterns and colors. Since it's basically pretty masking tape, washi tape presents endless DIY options for renters. We love how Molly Madfis of the blog Almost Makes Perfect used washi tape to create a pattern on her plain white closet doors that's reminiscent of architectural molding.
Can't Paint? Go for Temporary Wall Coverings
"Look into removable wallpaper. The stuff has grown leaps and bounds in recent years -- there are so many cute varieties on the market," says designer Jacqueline Clark. "It's a great way to personalize your space, without any permanency." Chasing Paper is just one of the many companies offering an impressive range of motifs and solids that rival "real" wallpaper, with precut options backed with a low-tack adhesive that allows you to simply peel away panels once moving day rolls around.
Use Color Strategically
Whether you use removable wallpaper or can actually paint your apartment, a "statement wall" makes the task easy. By focusing the attention on one wallthrough color or pattern, you'll create a visual illusion that makes a room seem longer or wider (depending on the dimensions of the wall you choose).
Hide Visual Clutter
Apartments never quite have enough outlets, which leads to a mass of wires, cables, and extension cords. However, this inconvenience presents an option to get creative. "When it comes to hiding wires, try your best to camouflage them into your existing decor," says designer Kristin Jackson of Hunted Interior. "I like to use garden stools for hiding wires and routers to keep my desk area clean and stylish."
Choose Dual-Purpose Pieces
Jennifer Koen, vice president of business development at the designer furniture consignment site Viyet, has noticed a demand for furniture that can serve more than one purpose. "Dual-purpose pieces such as ottomans with storage inside, small x-base benches that can be tucked under a console and pulled out for extra seating, pull-out sofas, and nesting tables for entertaining are always on trend," she says. Koen also points to the trend of bar carts, which can add style and be of endless service. You can use the cart for entertaining, as a movable bookshelf, or as display space for small items and art. Use it by the door to bring a welcoming touch to your entry (no matter how tiny).
Accessorize with Storage
There's only so much that can fit in an under-the-bed box. Baskets and decorative bins provide a spot to hide clutter while adding a little personality to your space. You can also pair them with open shelving or a storage piece, a la Liz Fourez of the blog Love Grows Wild. She used rustic bins to bring a vintage feel to the credenza.
Fix a Boring View with Window Decals
Peel-and-stick film ranges from privacy-boosting frosted effects to patterns reminiscent of stained glass. No matter what you choose, it's one of the cheapest ways to add a little extra interest to a window.
Most of us make a daily effort to keep our kitchens and food preparation areas fairly clean and tidy. But if you think your kitchen is really clean, you may have to think again.
There are literally dozens of places in your kitchen that are rarely touched in those regular mop-ups, and these areas can detract from the overall appearance and function of one of your most-used rooms. The solution: a kitchen deep-clean.
Every kitchen could use an intense scrub every couple of months, but don't let that daunt you. Follow this strategy, and your cleaning day will be as painless as it is productive.
1. Clean out your kitchen cabinets.
The kitchen typically is the focal point of most household activity, and therefore accumulates a number of items that don't necessarily have any business being there. Grab a box or bag, and fill it up with any items - such as books, electronics, and mail - that belong elsewhere.
Once the obvious miscellany are removed, empty all the cupboards and drawers. As you remove dishes, glassware, cookware, and gadgets, separate out any pieces that are damaged or infrequently used into another pile for repair, donation, or trash.
Give your pantry's contents a quick once-over, too. Throw away any items past their expiration date, and donate anything you won't eat to the local food pantry.
Before you move your curated collection back in, wipe down all the cabinet interiors and shelves with soapy water. A diluted vinegar spray is ideal for pantry shelves, since its main ingredient is both non-toxic and anti-bacterial. Dry with a clean cloth or paper towel, then line the shelves with paper for a more visually streamlined appearance.
Finally, fill up your cabinets, making sure the things you use the most - and those closest to expiring - are the easiest to reach.
2. Say goodbye to grime and grease.
Cooking inevitably leads to a sticky buildup of food particles and grease on your cabinets, walls, and countertops, so once you've dealt with the interiors, turn your attention to the exteriors.
-- Wipe down all surfaces with a kitchen degreaser, then polish the wood and metal with an appropriate polish.
-- Unscrew whatever parts can be removed (knobs, pulls, and handles), and place them in a mixture of lemon juice and water. While they soak, you'll be able to better clean the surface where they attach. Rinse well with water and replace.
-- Remedies for splotches and stains vary depending on the countertop material. If yours is a wooden butcherblock counter, for example, remove stains with a solution of one teaspoon of lemon juice or hydrogen peroxide per two ounces of water. For laminate, treat stains with a baking soda and water paste. In any case, stick with soft cloths and sponges to avoid scratching up your surface.
-- If you have a tile backsplash, scrub the grout lines with lemon juice and salt to get rid of stains and discoloration; rinse with warm water.
-- Wipe down door knobs, light fixtures, light switches and switch plates, and any other surfaces that could possibly collect dust, including spice racks, pot hangers, and clocks.
3. Give your appliances some extra TLC.
The surfaces of your fridge, oven, and dishwasher tend to get completely covered in fingerprints, smudges, and germs over time. Start by cleaning their exteriors using the cleanser recommended by the manufacturer. Then target each appliance individually.
-- Treat the refrigerator as you did the cabinets. Pull everything out, and toss any food and condiments past their expiration dates. Wipe down all of the emptied appliance's shelves, drawers, and bins using a vinegar and water mixture. Attack any stubborn spills with the additional scrubbing power of a pinch of baking soda. Refill the fridge, and repeat with your freezer. Before you've finished, thoroughly dust and vacuum the unit's fan and coils.
--Clear your stovetop of any burners and move them to a bucket or sink full of warm, sudsy water while you wash the surface where they sit. Don't forget to wipe down the front, sides, and knobs, too. Soapy water works for a light cleaning, but if you need to scrub off a stain, mix equal parts water, baking soda, and salt into a mild abrasive paste and let it sit on your spill for a few minutes. Apply the paste to any splotches on the stovetop, then wait a few minutes. Use a little elbow grease to rub off the spot, and wipe away the paste. Rinse and towel off the grates before you replace them.
--You'll have already wiped the worst off the outside of your dishwasher, so freshen the inside by running a couple of almost-empty loads while you work in the kitchen. First, fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with 1 cup vinegar, place it in the top rack, and run a full hot-water cycle. Then remove the bowl, sprinkle a cup of baking soda over the bottom of the appliance, and run it on a short hot-water cycle.
--Wipe down the garbage disposal. Run a few pieces of cut citrus fruit through the garbage disposal to kill any stench, followed by a rinse with boiling-hot water. Even if you don't have a disposal, at minimum wipe down the tub of your sink, faucet, and knobs. Then flush any potential clogs from its drain with a half-cup baking soda and a half-cup vinegar.
And don't neglect small countertop appliances in your deep-clean:
--Toaster: Remove the crumb trap, brush away any food particles, and wipe down the exterior.
-- Coffee maker: Run a 50-50 vinegar-and-water mixture through the machine, then do several water-only brews to wash out the lingering acidic flavor.
--Microwave: Nuke a bowl full of water and cut lemons for 10 to 15 minutes so their steam soaks away all the burnt-on food bits. Wipe the interior clean with a damp microfiber cloth.
4. Finish with the floor.
While wiping down every last surface in your kitchen, you've likely knocked more than a few crumbs to the ground. That's why it's best to end your deep-clean with a good sweep or vacuum.
Grab your dust-busting instrument of choice, and zero in on the collection along baseboards and heating registers. Use a lightly damp mop and an appropriate cleanser for your flooring to wipe up.
Send soiled towels, oven mitts, rugs, and curtains through the wash and replace.
Return your cleaning supplies to their homes.
Then wash your hands of all the hard work in the fresh sink in your bright, shiny kitchen.
If you're buying a house soon, you may be mulling over the idea of getting an adjustable-rate mortgage. Or you were, until you heard about the Federal Reserve's recent decision to raise interest rates a quarter point. That likely put a chill on many homeowners' desires to have an adjustable-rate mortgage, also known as an ARM.
If you currently have an ARM, you might be in full-blown-panic mode, wondering if your interest rate is going to climb soon.
"My voicemail and email has been inundated by my clients, friends and partners all asking the same question, 'What should I do about my ARM mortgage and when?'" says Drew Grandi, a loan originator with Wintrust Mortgage in Massachusetts.
What should you do? It really depends. An ARM can be a terrific strategy for paying a mortgage, or a terrible one. Before you get one, or get rid of one, you need to think about how you want to proceed.
What Is an ARM?
It's a home loan with a fixed interest rate, usually for five years -- but after that, it can adjust every year. (That's why you'll often hear ARMs referred to as a 5/1 ARM, although you could have a fixed interest rate for a different period, like a 7/1 ARM or 10/1 ARM.)
After those five or more years are up, the interest rate can go up or down for the duration of your mortgage.
Because the interest rate could go up, it can be risky to have an adjustable rate. Nobody wants an ARM to cost them an arm and a leg.
So why get an ARM if your monthly mortgage payment can turn on you like that? Because the fixed rate for those five years or so is lower than a traditional fixed mortgage rate. It hasn't been all that much lower in recent years, of course, since all mortgage rates have been low. Still, even a percentage point can reduce a mortgage payment enough to save a homeowner thousands of dollars in the long run.
How High Can an ARM Go?
While your monthly mortgage payment can adjust every year to a higher and higher rate, there is a limit to how much financial pain you'll endure.
"There are protective caps, so the loan cannot adjust higher than the designated annual cap or lifetime overall rate cap," says Staci Titsworth, regional manager of PNC Mortgage in Pittsburgh. This is looked upon as insurance against risk.
"Most ARMs are capped so that your interest rate will not exceed more than 5 percent above your original rate," Grandi says.
That doesn't sound so bad, but it can add up. Grandi offers an example of the homeowner who has a 5/1 ARM at 3 percent on a $300,000 mortgage. That would mean you're paying $1,264.81 a month for the first five years, he says. If interest rates shot up, the most you would pay is 8 percent on that $300,000, which would mean a max monthly payment of $2,201.29, or about $936 more than your original payment.
If you are thinking about an ARM, Titsworth suggests having the loan officer run a few examples of payments, including the worst-case-scenario payment. It may be eye-opening.
What if You Have an ARM Now?
Don't panic, Grandi says. "Everyone currently in an ARM should not necessarily be hounding their mortgage expert to refinance into a fixed-rate mortgage," he says.
In fact, if you have a low-rate ARM now and you refinance into a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, you'd likely pay around 4 percent and your monthly payment would jump a little. With that previous $300,000 ARM example, Grandi says, the homeowner's payment would go up less than $200 a month.
That may well be worth it to have the comfort of knowing you have a fixed mortgage payment. But if you're planning to move in the next couple of years, you're probably better off keeping the ARM. That's because one of the biggest factors in whether you should get an ARM is how long you plan to live in your house. Generally, if you're going to live in your home for a short time before selling it, an ARM is considered a financially shrewd move.
"I'm a big believer in ARM loans and have one now," Titsworth says. "Adjustable rate mortgages are a good option for consumers that have a shorter-term need, and also those that are comfortable with a little risk," she adds.
Who Shouldn't Get an ARM?
Do what you want, but if you'd like some general rules of thumb, there are three types of homeowners who should likely avoid an ARM.
-- First-time homebuyers. Ali Vafai, president of The Money Source, a national correspondent lender and mortgage loan servicer on New York's Long Island, says first-time homebuyers or those with little down payment should not choose ARM loans. Since rates are near historic lows today, he says it's very likely rates will be higher in five years and payments would increase after the fixed period. Even if you're not planning to stay very long, maybe you'll discover you hate moving and realize you don't want to go anywhere.
-- People on a tight budget.So you scraped up your down payment, barely, and you figure you can afford to live in a house if you pare back your budget a bit. It sure doesn't sound like you would do well if, in five years, your monthly mortgage payment shot up a couple hundred dollars a month.
-- Natural-born worriers.As has been duly noted, ARMs are a risk. Before you get an ARM, ask yourself some risk-related questions, Grandi suggests.
For instance, when you've been living in your home for two years, will you suddenly have sleepless nights because you aren't sure what your mortgage payment will be in three years?
"Do you expect continued doom and gloom for the United States' economy with unemployment increasing and inflation staying low?" Grandi asks.
In other words, if you a worrier, the ARM is probably not for you.
Titsworth agrees. She loves the ARM, though, and points out what isn't often emphasized: When your fixed rate ends and it adjusts, your monthly payment doesn't necessarily have to go higher. "It's possible the rate could drop," she says.
Still, all in all, "ARM loans are typically not the product of choice for someone that believes they will be in their home long term and wants [the] peace of mind of knowing what their payment will be," Titsworth says. "The long-term fixed rates come with less risk and therefore a higher rate."