4 Reasons to Improve Your Home This Fall


(BPT) – For nearly 74 million homeowners, a new fall tradition has emerged: home improvement.

According to a recent Metrostudy Residential Remodeling Index<a , several factors point to a rise in home improvement projects this season.

Energy-Efficiency – With colder weather on the horizon, homeowners shudder at the thought of higher heating costs. They upgrade windows, layer in more insulation, service or replace old furnaces and, in some cases, do all of the above.

Weather – Home improvement projects can be challenging, particularly for DIY-ers. Lower temperatures and humidity create a much more comfortable environment for completing projects.

The Holiday “Wow” – Everyone wants their home to sparkle when they welcome family and friends during the holidays. Completing a home improvement project during the fall sets up a big reveal when the holidays roll around.

Falling Prices – Fall is an excellent time to save money by finding great deals on home improvement supplies and service. Year-end sales begin and discounts can be steep. Also, contractors are busiest during the warmer months – their business cools as the weather does.
Judy Gratton Your Real Estate Edge

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.


Fed Offers Buyers a Short-Term Reprieve, but Mortgage Rates May Rise before December

Home buyers were granted a bit more time to lock in today’s incredibly low mortgage rates before the era of low interest rates ends with the Fed’s decision to postpone raising its short-term target rate. However the move by the Fed just substantially increased the odds of the important symbolic move occurring in December. And like we’ve seen this week and in prior periods when the Fed was widely expected to tighten monetary policy, mortgage rates may move up before they officially act.

“Those planning to get into the housing market in 2016 may want consider a home purchase before the end of the 2015,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com. “When rates go up, not only will monthly mortgage payments increase, that increase will also lessen some buyers’ ability to get approved for a home loan – due to an increased debt to income ratio.”

Forecasts for mortgage rates vary, but indicate a potential increase of 50 basis points over the 12 months following an official move to increase the Federal Funds target rate. And with that move being more certain than this close call, mortgage rates may move ahead of the target increase.

Smoke’s analysis of loan-level data from Optimal Blue, an enterprise lending services platform, for the first half of this year demonstrates how a 50 basis point rate increase could impact potential buyers.

A 50 basis point increase in the effective mortgage rate could result in:
• A 6 percent increase in monthly payments on new mortgages. In May, the average loan with a 30-year fixed mortgage was $231,000, which had a monthly principal and interest payment of $1,107 at the average interest rate of 4.03 percent. When rates reach 4.53 percent, that same loan amount would result in a monthly payment of $1,175, an increase of 6 percent.
• As much as 7 percent rejection of mortgage applications. The increase in the monthly debt burden as a result of higher rates will stress the upper limits of loan- and debt-to-income ratios for new loan applicants. “Based on analysis of loan-level ratios for a large sample of loans approved in the first half of this year, as much as 7 percent of mortgage applicants would have failed to get approval as a result of higher debt-to-income ratios caused by higher rates,” says Smoke.
• Average debt-to-income ratio to increase by 4 percent. The average debt-to-income ratio for mortgages in the first half of 2015 was 35.5 percent. With an increase of mortgage rates by 50 basis points and keeping all other factors equal, the average debt-to-income ratio increases by 4 percent to 37.0 percent.
• Popularity of loan types will likely shift with rate increases. In the first half of this year, conventional mortgages were most popular, capturing 50 percent of the market, followed by 31 percent FHA, and 12 percent VA. Under the modeled higher rate scenario, conventional and jumbo mortgages were most likely to hit an upper limit on debt-to-income ratios, and VA and FHA loans were least likely to hit an upper limit.
The potential impact to borrowers also varies dramatically by geography. “High cost markets and markets where first-time buyers have been just barely able to qualify this year are most at risk of seeing more failed mortgage applications as a result of higher debt burdens triggered by higher rates,” added Smoke.

Most impacted markets (those with 10 percent or more by percentage of potential failed applications):

1. Honolulu – 14 percent
2. Stockton, Calif. – 12 percent
3. Fresno, Calif. – 12 percent
4. El Paso, Texas – 11 percent
5. Fort Pierce, Fla. – 11 percent
6. San Diego – 11 percent
7. Visalia, Calif. – 11 percent
8. Chattanooga, Tenn. – 10 percent
9. Los Angeles – 10 percent
10. Miami – 10 percent
11. Modesto, Calif. – 10 percent
12. Reno, Nev. – 10 percent
13. Sacramento – 10 percent
14. San Francisco – 10 percent

For more information, visit http://www.realtor.com.
Judy Gratton Your Real Estate

HUD Makes Millions Available to Fight Housing Discrimination

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced that it is making $39.2 million available to fight housing discrimination under HUD’s 2015 Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA). This year’s funding notice also creates six new types of grants that support fair housing capacity building, education and outreach activities, and testing in rental and sales transactions.

Each year, HUD makes funding available to support organizations interested in the enforcement of fair housing laws and policies as well as educating the public, housing providers, and local governments about their rights and responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act.

“The funding is part of the Department’s ongoing commitment to giving our fair housing partners the vital financial resources they need to create sustainable, inclusive communities of opportunity,” says HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Gustavo Velasquez. “Organizations dedicated to this work are an essential component of our efforts to put an end to unlawful housing discrimination and these grants make their work possible.”

The categories of grants being made available are:

  • Private Enforcement Initiative grants (PEI) – $29,275,000 available. HUD awards these to help local non-profit fair housing organizations carry out testing and enforcement activities to prevent or eliminate discriminatory housing practices.
  • Education and Outreach Initiative grants (EOI) – $3,500,000 available. HUD awards these to groups that educate the public and housing providers about their rights and responsibilities under federal law or state and local fair housing laws that are equivalent to the Fair Housing Act.
  • Fair Housing Organizations Initiative (FHOI) – $6,425,000 available. HUD awards these to help build the capacity and effectiveness of non-profit fair housing organizations, particularly organizations that focus on the rights and needs of underserved groups, such as rural and immigrant populations.

The new categories of grants being made available today include:


  • Special Emphasis Component – Up to $350,000 per grant – These grants will strengthen the enforcement activities and capacity building efforts of organizations and help them pursue cases that investigate systemic patterns of discrimination.
  • National/Regional Testing Component – Up to $500,000 per grant – These grants will enable organizations to develop and support a national/regional testing program to identify discrimination in rental and sales transactions.


  • National Programs Component – Sex Discrimination – $500,000 per grant – Organizations will use this grant to conduct education and outreach projects that counter sex discrimination in housing, including domestic violence, sexual harassment, gender stereotyping or discrimination based on gender identity.
  • National Programs Component – Sex/Familial Status Discrimination – $500,000 per grant – This grant will enable organizations to conduct education and outreach projects that focus on one or more forms of sex or familial status discrimination.
  • National Programs Component – National Origin Discrimination – $500,000 per grant – Organizations will use this grant to address one or more forms of national origin discrimination in rental, sales, or lending.
  • National Programs Component – Disability Discrimination – $500,000 per grant – This grant will enable organizations, using the results of recent discrimination studies, to conduct education and outreach activities that address discrimination based on disability, particularly discrimination experienced by individuals with mobility impairments, hearing impairments, and cognitive or mental disabilities.

For more information, visit www.hud.gov.

Judy Gratton Your Real Estate Edge

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Building a Deck- A Comparison of Materials

Building a Deck? A Comparison of Materials

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Looking for a way to enhance your outdoor space? A deck may be the answer. According to the experts at Fiberon Decking  the materials you decide to use, whether wood or composite, can affect the project from initial investment to maintenance years from now.

Building a deck with composite materials will cost more than virgin wood initially, but not as much as most homeowners think. The substructure is the same cost for either option and the remainder of the project could cost about 25 percent more for composite. However, most wood lumber is pressure-treated with different chemicals to boost its integrity and make it last longer.

That cost is often recouped over time because there is little maintenance required with composites – maintaining a wood deck can cost hundreds of dollars each year. Nail pops and splinters are common safety hazards with wood decks, as are cracked, warped and rotted boards that need to be replaced. And refinishing a wood deck can cost up to $850!

Composites are also environmentally-friendly – the material not only saves trees, but is created from recycled materials, keeping waste out of landfills.

Want to see how the numbers compare? Visit http://www.epa.gov and check out the EPA’s GreenScapes Tools Excel Decking Cost Calculator.

Judy Gratton Your Real Estate Edge

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Buyer Beware (of Maytag Appliances)


I just got of the phone with a supervisor named “Ingrid” at the Maytag “Customer Experience” call center. My Maytag French door bottom freezer refrigerator that I bought in 2006 just quit on Saturday. Not only did it quit but the ice door that drops ice out keeps opening and closing with a snapping sound that you can hear all over the house. It’s sort of like Chinese water torture without the water! She told me that Maytag made a decision to stop fixing this problem in January of 2013. She also told me that Maytag reserves the right to deny service to anyone who buys one of their products!
I guess that’s why they refer to it as a “Customer Experience” rather than “Customer Service”
I paid a couple of thousand dollars for that refrigerator and it is less than a 10 years old! I have a 15 year old Kenmore in my garage that I have never had a single problem with.
There have been many people who have reported the same problem. Maytag acknowledged that it was a fault in the manufacturing and was fixing it until January of 2013. This is one of two Maytag appliances I bought at the same time. The other was a washing machine that died earlier this year.
So I guess you can count on Maytag to last maybe 9 years if your lucky. Don’t buy Maytag appliances unless you are okay with a “CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE” rather than “Customer Service”! #Maytag, #Badappliances, #Badcustomerservice

Complimentary First Time On-line Home Buyers Seminar!/ Google Chat 3-26-2015 7:00pm

downloadHave you been considering buying a home?  This seminar is for you!  So many people think that buying a home is just not something that they can do right now.  Here are some of the thoughts I hear everyday:

*I don’t have enough money to put down

*I don’t have good enough credit

*I want to wait for interest rates to come down

                                                  *   I can’t afford the payments

                                                   *  I can’t find my dream home

                                                     * etc., ect., etc.

Are you uncomfortable about going to a Realtor, or a lender because you don’t want to commit to something your not sure of?

This live seminar will cover all the information you need to make an informed decision on whether the time is right for you, or not to buy a home.

It’s short, live, and you can ask questions.

Please join us for this no obligation first time event- you will be glad you did!

Here’s the link: https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cl09ctoc09sdfuvv9qbjcjnkjf8?authkey=CKT12sO4xfDVSQ

#homebuying, #bothellhomesforsale, #bothell, #Buyingahome

Surveys Show That Mortgage Rates Are Moving Higher

Survey Shows Mortgage Rates Moving Higher on Strong Jobs Report
Mortgage rates are moving higher amid a strong jobs report, bringing rates back to where they were at the start of 2015, according to the recently released results of Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey. Results showed that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has averaged below 4 percent since the week ending November 13, 2014.

“The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.86 percent for this week following a strong labor market report, essentially bring rates back to where they were at the start of the year,” says Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist, Freddie Mac. “The U.S. economy created 295,000 jobs in February while the unemployment rate dipped to 5.5 percent from 5.7 percent in January, both outperforming market expectations.”

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.86 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week ending March 12, 2015, up from the last week when it averaged 3.75 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.37 percent.

The 15-year FRM averaged 3.10 percent with an average 0.6 point, up from the previous week when it averaged 3.03 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.38 percent.

Results show the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.01 percent with an average 0.5 point, up from the last week when it averaged 2.96 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.09 percent.

The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.46 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.44 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.48 percent.

For more information, visit www.FreddieMac.com.

Judy Gratton Your Real Estate Edge