Real Estate and Community News

July 18, 2020

July Newsletter Real Estate News

July Newsletter

Your Home - How to Make the Most Out of a Small Outdoor Space

When spending so much time at home these days, it's more important than ever to make sure your outdoor spaces are ready and usable to help give you a little extra breathing room and opportunities for relaxation. 

In addition to extending your living space, it's a great opportunity to design the area and give it a great ambiance. It will help pass the time while working toward the goal of having a beautiful oasis in which to relax. Even better, you can do this project on a budget, using lots of things you probably have sitting around your garage or house. 

Whether your small outdoor space is a balcony or urban garden, start by measuring your space and sketch out a floor plan. 

Small spaces have benefits - they feel intimate and comforting. Here are some helpful tips and ideas to consider when creating an outdoor oasis. 

Decide What to Add 

To create a Zen space: white, green, sand, cream and blue are colors that will create a calming effect. Think about feng shui principles and ways to incorporate wood, metal, earth, water and fire.  

There are a lot of ways to add those elements. Straw mats, mounted to a wall or backyard fence, add a touch of nature and soften the space, as do white canvas drapes. Both the mats and drapes can be placed strategically (on a common balcony wall or to create a partial wall along the balcony railing for example) to create privacy. 

Trellises and wood slats are another way to add a touch of wood and they can also be strategically placed for privacy. Wood can be left untouched or white washed for a lighter feeling. 

Incorporate metal with accessories, such as planters, for example. Fill those pots with flowers in pale colors, such as baby pink and white for a fresh clean ambiance. 

Consider a Peaceful Water Feature 

The sound of water is soothing. If you can't add a water feature, a clear bowl filled with soft blue sea glass will represent water. 

Consider Candles 

Candles, even if they are just tea lights, are a great addition to a space. Again, the key is to use white or soft colors. However, bright colors will add energy to the space. For a touch of shabby chic, add soft lavenders and pinks. Put tea lights on vintage plates or a cup and saucer. 

To add clarity, choose white candles or white washed pottery. Use statues, like a Buddha statue, to add a touch of serenity. Pillows and carpets provide seating on the ground or floor. 

Recycle No-Longer-Wanted Items 

Recycle elements by taking no-longer-wanted indoor items outdoors. Change their look by repainting them or use them for something other than what they were intended. Create signs of positivity by adding inspirational words, such as joy and happiness, to old pieces of wood, plates or rocks. 

Upcycle old clothes into pillow covers. Decorate your pillows with fabric paint. Sew fringe onto a blanket for a boho touch. Use candle holders as planters. The list is limited only by your imagination. However, keep your space uncluttered. 

Dollar stores are a great source of inexpensive decorating items, from rocks to marbles to lanterns and craft supplies. 

Consider a Fire Pit 

If you're decorating an urban backyard, you have a little more space. You may want to add a real fire pit. On the other hand, if you live in a condo that doesn't have a balcony, create “outdoor” space in your solarium by following the same principles and adding lots of plants. If the space is too bright, add an inexpensive roller blind. 

During these times, creating a multi-functional Zen oasis is a great feel-good project from start to finish. It's time well spent that you will thank yourself for, for months to come.

Finances - What to Do When Your Spouse Has Bad Credit

When a couple decides to buy a house together, it's a very important step in their life journey. There's lots to do from gathering all the paperwork, to applying for a preapproval, to shopping for a new home, and plenty of stuff in between. It's certainly a big decision, especially for a couple buying their very first home. One of the main qualifying factors is credit. Lenders want to make sure the applicants have demonstrated both the ability and willingness to pay off debt. The credit evaluation process is what makes the determination in these questions. 

Three-digit scores are provided by all three of the main credit repositories of Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. While all three use the very same algorithm, rarely will these numbers be exactly the same. Some businesses don't subscribe and report to all three. Different regions can also affect the timing of the reported information. 

And, businesses won't report credit payments all at the same time. But they will be similar. For instance, a credit report might show three scores of 690, 730 and 725. Of these, lenders will throw out the highest and the lowest score using the middle score for qualifying, or 725 in this example. But what if there are two people on the same application? 

In that scenario, the lender pulls credit for both applicants along with their credit scores. Again, using the same example, one applicant has a qualifying score of 725. The other applicant's scores read 710, 724 and 760. The middle score of these is then 724. Now we have two qualifying scores, 724 and 725. The lender will then use the lower of the two for qualifying. Sounds simple, right? Well, sometimes a problem can present itself. 

Let's say the second spouse has credit scores of 550, 570 and 515. Of these three, the qualifying score is 550, too low for most programs. The first step to normally follow is signing up for credit counseling. But that takes time. What if there is a house the couple wants to buy now? Should they stop everything and wait a few months for credit to improve? The answer, surprisingly, is no. 

There's a term in the mortgage industry referred to as a "non-purchasing spouse." This means one spouse will be on the mortgage application and the other left off. Doing so removes the damaged credit from the application altogether. But the non-purchasing spouse can still be on the title showing evidence of an ownership interest in the property just not on the mortgage. 

The tricky part is making sure there is enough income for the purchasing spouse to qualify for the new mortgage. If both incomes were needed in order to qualify for the home they want, that's going to be a challenge. But, if the purchasing spouse can qualify using his or her own income, there's no need to put the other spouse on the loan application. Or, perhaps putting more money down in order to lower the loan amount to the level where the purchasing spouse can now qualify. 

Damaged credit doesn't have to stall the home purchase process. As long as the spouse with the better credit has enough income to justify the loan, the deal can still go through. 

This article is for information, illustrative and entertainment purposes only and does not purport to show actual results. It is not, and should not be regarded as investment advice or as a recommendation regarding any particular investment action.

Personal Interest - Is it Safe to Go to a Community Pool this Summer?

After months of being quarantined at home, the world is opening up again. That's perfect timing for many, considering it's hot outside, and when it's hot out, there is nothing better than heading to the pool. If you have your own swimming pool, you're probably considering yourself pretty lucky right now. But what if you don't? Is it safe to use the community pool? 

Can you get coronavirus from swimming pools? 

The growing consensus among experts is that the possibility of catching the coronavirus outdoors is much lower than indoors. But it is not zero. 

The latest research indicates that the water itself doesn't pose a danger. "There's nothing inherent about ocean water, or especially pool water, that is risky," Dr. Ebb Lautenbach, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, told them. "The bug isn't transmitted via a waterborne route. Chlorine and bromine that are in pools inactivate the virus and makes it even lower risk in terms of catching it from the water." 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed in its recent guidelines for operating swimming pools during the coronavirus pandemic that, "There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas. 

So, the problem isn't in the water. But that doesn't mean it's safe to run to your local community pool and enjoy pool time in large groups. Large group gatherings are still an issue to worry about and avoid. 

CDC Recommendations 

The CDC has set out some recommendations to follow if you decide to head to your community pool this summer: 

Keep your distance - Avoid group events, gatherings, or meetings both in and out of the water if social distancing of at least 6 feet between people who don't live together cannot be maintained 

Keep clean - Make sure to wash hands often and cover sneezes and coughs. It also helps to be aware of frequently touched surfaces at the pool, like door handles, handrails, lounge chairs, and tabletops. 

Bring your own disinfectant - Especially now, community pools should be well-stocked with cleaning supplies and should have advanced procedures for keeping common areas disinfected. But it doesn't hurt to be prepared. Stock your swim bag with soap, hand sanitizer, and wipes so you can help everyone stay safe. 

Wear a mask, when appropriate - The CDC encourages the use of cloth face coverings as feasible. Face coverings are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult. That said, masks shouldn't be worn in the water because they can make it hard to breathe. 

Know when to stay home - Stay home if you have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days. 

Don't share objects - If you plan to bring accessories like balls, goggles, or pool noodles, be sure they're not being shared with other people.
Thank you and have a great month!
June 27, 2020

July Newsletter Real Estate News

Brought to you by Harry Clark
What Will Homes Look Like In A Post-pandemic World?
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A lot has changed in just a few months, and for many that includes the idea of what a 'dream home' looks like. Not long ago, buyers were showing preference toward smaller homes and open concept spaces conducive to gathering. After a few months cooped up inside, those features don't seem so appealing - and developers have taken note.

"While the coronavirus still rages on, it's hard to predict what post-pandemic abodes might look like," according to Barrons. "Yet, developers around the U.S. are already rethinking projects, anticipating residents' needs and preferences that Covid-19 would spur. In doing so, they are re-evaluating current in-unit aesthetics and in-demand amenities."

Dedicated Home Office Space

Here are just a few areas of home design where trends may shift in the coming years:

Home size
Homes had been trending smaller, but that may be over. With so many families spending (way) more time around the home lately, there's never been more need for personal space. Expect homes to grow in size accordingly.

Prioritizing the home office
As more and more businesses relax work-from-home policies, or shift to full-time remote work entirely, the home office will become a near-essential for many buyers. A space that was once an after-thought now will need to offer privacy, good lighting and be pre-wired for telecommuting.

Return to the closed-floor plan
For some buyers, the appeal of the open-floor plan was already trending down prior to 2020, and the past few months have only made the reasons why more evident. Sharing more time and space at home demands privacy for school work, hobbies, and entertainment. With more meals being cooked at home, an open concept kitchen becomes noisy epicenter practically all day long. Builders expect a rise in demand for closed floor plans, where rooms are partitioned for purpose.

Smart technology
This is already one of the fastest growing trends in home design, but smart home technology will soon move from a 'plus' to a 'must'. Temperature and lighting control can now be voice or motion-activated. Touchless faucets, once thought superfluous, are now an inexpensive and health-conscious upgrade. Systems that filter air and monitor air quality will become more common and affordable.
The Hot Trend of the Summer: Stock Tank Pools
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Stock Tank Pool For many of us, summer means pool time. But if you usually visit a community pool or recreation center, that might not be an option right now. Building a traditional pool at your home is a big and expensive project. That's where the stock tank pool comes in.

"These inexpensive farm staples were originally designed as water troughs for livestock," said Country Living "but that's part of their country-chic appeal. Nowadays, stock tank swimming pools have been popping up in backyards across the country."

Here's how to make a splash with a stock tank pool in your own backyard.

Pick your size
Round stock tanks come in 10ft, 8ft, and 6ft diameters. As popularity has grown, the larger sizes have become more challenging to secure. There are also oval options, but they don't necessarily provide the same kind of swimming experience.

Pick your spot
Where you're going to put your stock tank pool is just as important as the pool itself. Without a level foundation, you'll have leaks. "Job one is obviously selecting the site for your stock tank pool. You'll need to prepare the area by creating a solid, level base," said Tractor Supply. "You could use compacted sand, or even crushed granite. But, it's very important to ensure that it's a smooth surface, free of any rocks or sharp edges."

Add your accessories
And by accessories, we mean design and function.

Function first. A stock tank pool isn't as easy to set up as a kiddie pool. You could just fill it with water and call it a day, but you'll end up swimming in gunk. Take a cue (and detailed instructions) from the Hey Wanderer blog, and keep your pool clean all summer long with proper pumps and chlorine.

Once you've got your stock tank set up, it's time to make it fancy. While the tank alone has its own distinct vibe, it can be dressed up in any number of ways. Paint the metal, build deck seating around it, hang lights, and incorporate tikis to create a tropical getaway feel—the sky's the limit!


June 19, 2020

June Newsletter

Your Home - Need Help With a Home Maintenance Project? Use Your Smartphone

Undoubtedly, if you have recently needed to speak with your primary care physician, you've been doing that on the phone or via an online meeting. Medical checkups are currently almost all virtual. If you are an active member of the workforce, Zoom meetings have become the new norm as well. But did you know there is now a virtual service that can help you with your home maintenance needs? Enter Hippo Home Care. A virtual tele-maintenance service, Hippo is now offering free help to homeowners so they keep their home working properly while we're all staying sheltered in place. 

According to the company, you can use their free tele-maintenance service to talk directly with a home maintenance professional whenever you have questions or issues in your home. They'll allow you to schedule a complimentary virtual 'house call' with a Hippo Home Care Pro that will help you solve your problem by phone or video chat. 

The company has completely shifted to a virtual model for the time being as a service to customers who might not be comfortable having strangers in their house during the pandemic. Customers can schedule a Virtual House Call to troubleshoot specific issues and also use the tele-maintenance service for a complimentary guided Hippo Home Care Home Checkup. 

The free service is available to anyone in the U.S. who needs help with home repair or maintenance. Homeowners can visit the company's website to schedule a time to talk to a certified professional. During the appointment, Hippo's Home Pros can "walk you through resolving issues yourself or recommend getting professional help." Calls are set in 30-minute increments, but, should the problem not be fixed, the call may be extended, or Hippo can arrange an in-home service from a local provider, if needed. Customers should be prepared with a general set of tools; screwdrivers, Allen wrenches, adjustable wrenches, and a cordless drill can typically do the trick.

Finances - Want to Raise Your Credit Score? Here's How

No matter what type of mortgage you are applying for, you can rest assured that the program is going to require a minimum credit score. Depending upon the type of loan and the amount of down payment, credit score minimums can vary. 

Most conventional loans ask for a minimum score of 620. If you're just starting out to establish your credit history, or if you have a credit history but it has a few blemishes on it, it's possible your existing scores are too low at the present time for the loan you're looking for. But there are some things you can do right away to nudge those scores back up. Even for someone with a score near 700, these tips can help as well. 

Make Your Payments on Time 

You of course want to always make every effort to make credit card and other loan payments on time. There is a key number of days though that you never want to extend past. That key number is 30 days past the due date. Let's say an account has a due date on the 5th but you don't get paid until the 15th. If you pay it on the 15th it won't be counted as a late payment on your credit report. You may have to pay some late payment penalties for making your payment after the payment due date, but staying inside that 30-day window will ensure that nothing gets reported to the credit bureaus. 

Keep Balances to About 1/3 of Your Total Available Credit 

Think paying off all your debt and keeping your credit card balances at zero is the way to go? Believe it or not, that's actually not the case. Your scores will actually improve if you show a small balance and a history of making timely payments. If there's no balance, there are no payments being made and therefore no history. Timely payments account for 35% of the total score, while proper balances make up 30%. You can tell right away that concentrating on these two tips alone will have the greatest impact, and that being sooner rather than later. For those with sterling credit, this category will carry the biggest punch. 

Keep an Eye on How Many Accounts You Have Open 

You also need to pay attention to how many credit accounts you have. When first starting out with credit accounts, there will be credit inquiries made by the creditors you're applying with. Most mortgage programs ask there be at least three credit accounts appearing on a credit report. Once you've reached these numbers, stop applying for more accounts and instead focus on using a small portion of your available credit and regularly making payments on time. Don't apply for additional credit. A few initial inquiries for credit won't hurt your scores, but multiple requests over an extended period of time will actually impact your credit score, driving it lower. 

This article is for information, illustrative and entertainment purposes only and does not purport to show actual results. It is not, and should not be regarded as investment advice or as a recommendation regarding any particular investment action.

Personal Interest - Want a Healthier Lifestyle? Try These Five Tips

We all have a vision of us being our best selves and want to know how to be healthy, but at times it can seem like an unattainable goal. Where do you even start? Do you need to overhaul your entire life in one shot? The answer, happily is no. When it comes to adopting new healthy habits and making them stick, there are lots of little things you can do that will make a big difference in the long run, without driving you insane. Instead of trying to upgrade your health with a huge makeover, start with these five small, practically painless tips for long-lasting results. 

Put your food away when you're done serving yourself 

When preparing your meals, put your serving of food on a plate and put away the rest. It's human nature to eat more if the food is sitting right there within reach. You can of course always make an additional portion if you are truly hungry, but you want to always make sure you are only putting more food on your plate because you are actually hungry and not because it's just conveniently in front of you. 

Drink a glass of water before each meal 

Drinking the amount of water you need each day is necessary for all of your body's systems to function smoothly, but it will also keep you from overeating due to hunger, making it easier to take a more mindful approach to your meals. As you are in the kitchen preparing your meal, start your meal out with an appetizer of a glass of water. You'll find you not only eat less overall, but find your meal that much more satisfying. 

Chew each bite thoroughly before swallowing 

Powering through your plate and not chewing can lead to bloating because of the extra air you're swallowing. The result is feeling way too full because you didn't give your body a chance to process the food before you polish off your plate. You completely miss out on the taste of the food and how good it actually was. If you are unsatisfied with the meal you just ate, even if you feel full, you are likely to seek out more food to eat. 

To combat this, chew slowly and completely. Enjoy the taste of each bit and swallow naturally and slowly, avoiding gulping down your meals. 

For Every Hour You Sit, Walk for Five Minutes 

Sitting all day isn't good for you. It's bad for your metabolism and it's bad for your heart. Physical activity is extremely important for your longevity. Having a busy work and home life can sometimes make it feel impossible to fit it in, but peppering movement throughout your day is much more doable. 

Many smartwatches and smartphones have apps built into them to remind you to get up every hour and get a little movement. Taking that break is not only important for your health, but also great to clear your mind and give you a “reset,” making you more effective when you sit back down to pick up where you left off with your work. 

If You Hate a Particular Type of Exercise, Find Something Else 

The key to being consistently healthy is picking an exercise activity you'll actually enjoy enough to continue doing. The types of exercise that make your soul want to die but has the maximum immediate caloric payoff will not help you in the long run. 

This kind of approach helps you get honest with yourself about where your motivation comes from. Getting to the bottom of this is key when trying to cement any sort of habit, especially physical ones like exercising. It's much harder to stick with despised activities than pleasant ones.

Thank you and have a great month!

June 15, 2020

Real Estate Tops Best Investment Poll for 7th Year Running


Real Estate Tops Best Investment Poll for 7th Year Running | MyKCM

Every year, Gallup conducts a survey of Americans to determine their choice for the best long-term investment. Respondents are asked to select real estate, stocks/mutual funds, gold, savings accounts/CDs, or bonds.

For the seventh year in a row, real estate has come out on top as the best long-term investment. Gallup explained:

“Real estate remains the most favored investment to Americans, as has been the case since 2013, when the housing market was on the rebound. More than a third of Americans have named real estate as the top investment since 2016.”

This year’s results indicated 35% of Americans chose real estate, followed by stocks at 21%. The full results covering the last decade are shown in the chart below:Real Estate Tops Best Investment Poll for 7th Year Running | MyKCM

Bottom Line

The belief of the American people in the stability of housing as a long-term investment remains strong, even through the many challenges our economy faces today.

June 11, 2020

Real Estate Will Lead the Economic Recovery


Real Estate Will Lead the Economic Recovery | MyKCM

With more U.S. states reopening for business this summer, and as people start to return to work, we can expect the economy to begin improving. Most expert forecasts indicate this economic recovery will start to happen in the second half of this year. As we get back to work and the financial landscape of the country begins to turn around, many experts also agree that real estate has the potential to lead the way in the recovery process.

According to Ivy Zelman of Zelman & Associates:

 “Housing will fare better than expected during this severe downturn.”

In addition, CNBC notes:

“Mortgage demand from home buyers shows unexpectedly strong and quick recovery…The quick recovery has surprised most forecasters.”

Robert Dietz, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President for Economics and Housing Policy of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) says:

“Overall, the data lend evidence to the NAHB forecast that housing will be a leading sector in an eventual economic recovery.”

One of the big reasons why housing has the potential to be such a driving force is the significant impact it has on the local economy. This impact is particularly strong when a newly constructed home is built and sold. According to a recent study by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average new home sale has a total economic impact of $88,416. As outlined in the graphic below, this is a combination of income generated from real estate industries, expenditures, and new home construction.Real Estate Will Lead the Economic Recovery | MyKCMWith so many unknowns today, especially in the wake of a worldwide pandemic, one known factor is the bright spark the housing market can play in local and national recovery. Buying and selling a home goes well beyond personal growth and satisfaction – it supports our economy as a whole.

Bottom Line

According to experts, the economy will begin to recover in the second half of this year. With real estate as a driver, that recovery may start sooner than we think.

June 11, 2020

Is a Recession Here? Yes. Does that Mean a Housing Crash? No.


Is a Recession Here? Yes. Does that Mean a Housing Crash? No. | MyKCM

On Monday, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) announced that the U.S. economy is officially in a recession. This did not come as a surprise to many, as the Bureau defines a recession this way:

“A recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, normally visible in production, employment, and other indicators. A recession begins when the economy reaches a peak of economic activity and ends when the economy reaches its trough. Between trough and peak, the economy is in an expansion.”

Everyone realizes that the pandemic shut down the country earlier this year, causing a “significant decline in economic activity.”

Though not surprising, headlines announcing the country is in a recession will cause consumers to remember the devastating impact the last recession had on the housing market just over a decade ago.

The real estate market, however, is in a totally different position than it was then. As Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First Americanexplained:

“Many still bear scars from the Great Recession and may expect the housing market to follow a similar trajectory in response to the coronavirus outbreak. But, there are distinct differences that indicate the housing market may follow a much different path. While housing led the recession in 2008-2009, this time it may be poised to bring us out of it.”

Four major differences in today’s real estate market are:

  1. Families have large sums of equity in their homes
  2. We have a shortage of housing inventory, not an overabundance
  3. Irresponsible lending no longer exists
  4. Home price appreciation is not out of control

We must also realize that a recession does not mean a housing crash will follow.  In three of the four previous recessions prior to 2008, home values increased. In the other one, home prices depreciated by only 1.9%.

Bottom Line

Yes, we are now officially in a recession. However, unlike 2008, this time the housing industry is in much better shape to weather the storm.

June 11, 2020

Are You Ready for the Summer Housing Market?

Are You Ready for the Summer Housing Market? | MyKCM

As the health crisis started making its way throughout our country earlier this spring, sellers have been cautious about putting their homes on the market. This hesitation stemmed primarily from fear of the spread of the coronavirus, and understandably so. This abundant caution has greatly impacted the number of homes for sale and slowed the pace of a typically busy spring real estate season. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American notes:

“As more homeowners are reluctant to list their homes for sale amid the pandemic, the supply of homes available to potential home buyers continues to dwindle.”

With many states beginning a phased approach to reopening, virtual best practices and health and safety guidelines for the industry are in place to increase the comfort level of buyers and sellers. What we see today, though, is that sellers are still making a very calculated return to the market. In their latest Weekly Housing Trends Report, indicates:

“New listings: On the slow path to recovery. Nationwide the size of declines held mostly steady this week, dropping 23 percent over last year, a slight increase over last week but still an improvement over the 30 percent declines in the first half of May.”

Although we’re starting to inch our way toward more homes for sale throughout the country, the number of homes on the market is still well below the demand from buyers. In the same report, Javier Vivas, Director of Economic Research for shares:

“Sellers have yet to come back in full force, limiting the availability of homes for sale. Total active listings are declining from a year ago at a faster rate than observed in previous weeks, and this trend could worsen as buyers regain confidence and come back to the market before sellers.”

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR) seems to agree:

“In the coming months, buying activity will rise as states reopen and more consumers feel comfortable about homebuying in the midst of the social distancing measures.”

What we can see today is that homebuyers are more confident than the sellers, and they’re ready to make up for lost time from the traditional spring market. Summer is gearing up to be the 2020 buying season, so including your house in the mix may be your best opportunity to sell yet. Interest in your house may be higher than you think with so few sellers on the market today. As Vivas says:

“More properties will have to enter the market in June to bring the number of options for buyers back to normal levels for this time of the year, nationwide and in all large markets.”

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to sell your house this summer, let’s connect today. Buyers are interested and they may be looking for a house just like yours.

July 31, 2017

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