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5 Tips To Get Your Lawn Ready For Spring

Get Your Lawn Ready For SpringIf you live in a climate where your yard has been hibernating for months, then you’re probably ready for warmer weather and a hint of green outside your kitchen window.

So, in preparation for children running on lush grass through spritzing sprinklers, use the five tips below to get your lawn ready for spring. It will reward you with picnic perfect grass all summer long.

1. Clean Up Winter’s Clutter

Take a rake and remove all of the dead leaves and debris left over from the winter months. Leaving a layer of last-year’s foliage on the ground can smother your grass and hinder your lawn’s growth.

Once your yard is clear, spread a thin layer of compost to enrich your soil and provide nutrients for when you grass is ready to sprout.

2. Aerate Your Yard

Compacted soil makes it hard for roots to grow and water to drain and distribute throughout your yard. So rent an aerator. It uses steel tubes to take plugs from your lawn. These holes will allow air and water to penetrate your soil, which will create healthier and lusher grass.

3. Check Your Soil’s PH

Most grass and plants grow best when your soil’s pH level is between 6.0 and 7.0. Some plants like a little bit more acidic soil, such as hydrangeas and azaleas. Plants grown in soil with their proper pH level are healthier and more resistant to disease. You can buy soil test kits at local garden centers.

4. Prevent Weeds From Growing

Once you’ve aerated and only if you’re not planning to plant new grass seed, then distribute a chemical weed preventer, which can be found at any home improvement store. When watered, it creates a barrier on the soil to keep weeds from sprouting.

5. Have Your Lawn Mower Inspected

Your lawn mower has been sitting idle all winter, so give it a tune-up before those first blades of grass get too long. Take it into a local service shop to have the carburetor and fuel lines cleaned and the blades sharpened. This will make it run more efficiently and put out a little less pollution.

Even if you live in a warm climate and your flowers have been blooming all year, spring is the perfect time to do an annual assessment of your yard.

S & P Case-Shiller Shows Home Prices Down For Third Consecutive Month

S & P Case-Shiller Shows Home Prices Down For Third Consecutive MonthHarsh winter weather conditions contributed to home prices falling in January. The S&P Case-Shiller 20-City composite index reported that home prices dropped by 0.10 percent in January, but after seasonal adjustments, home prices increased by 0.80 percent in January as compared to December. 12 of 20 cities posted declines in home prices in January.

There’s no cause for alarm, as year-over-year home prices increased by 13.20 percent as compared to year-over –year readings of 13.40 percent in December and 13.70 percent in November. David Blitzer, chair of the S&P Dow Jones index committee, said “The housing market is showing signs of moving forward with more normal price increases.” Home prices remain about 20 percent below a peak reached in 2006.

Housing Markets Face Challenges

Analysts expect home prices to grow at a slower pace in 2014. Factors impacting home prices include higher mortgage rates that make homes less affordable, new mortgage rules that may affect some homebuyers’ ability to qualify for a mortgage.

A shortage of available homes overshadowed housing market growth in 2013; there just weren’t enough homes available to meet demand in some areas.  The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) noted in its statement last week that it was difficult to determine the exact scope of winter weather on recent economic reports.

Regional Markets Show Discrepancies In Recovery

The S & P Case-Shiller 10 and 20-city home price index reports shed light on a “patchwork quilt” housing recovery. While some areas have seen a higher than average rate of year-over-year home price growth, other areas are underperforming.

Here is a sampling of Case-Shiller’s January data throughout the U.S:

Las Vegas, Nevada                             +24.90 percent

San Francisco, California                     +23.10 percent

Chicago, Illinois                                 +10.80 percent

Washington, D.C.                              +9.20 percent

New York, New York                           +6.70 percent

Cleveland, Ohio                                 + 4.00 percent

 The S & P Case Shiller 10 and 20 city home price indices posted year-over-year gains of 13.50 and 13.20 percent respectively.

FHFA Data Shows Similar Trend

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, released its House Price Index (HPI) for January with similar results for homes mortgaged or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The House Price Index indicated that home prices rose by a seasonally-adjusted rate of 0.50 percent from December to January. According to the FHFA HPI, home prices increased by 7.40 percent year-over-year.

January’s HPI was 8.00 percent below the index’s April 2007 high.

The FHFA HPI data is seasonally adjusted and is based on home purchases only.

FHFA month-to-month data for the nine census bureau districts reflects the differences in housing markets throughout the U.S.

FHFA month-to –month home price growth December 2013 to January 2014:

Middle Atlantic division:    + 1.30 percent

New England                        + 1.00 percent

West North Central             + 1.00 percent

Pacific                                    + 0.80 percent

East South Central              + 0.70 percent

Mountain                              + 0.50 percent

South Atlantic                      + 0.30 percent

East North Central              + 0.10 percent

West South Central             -  0.30 percent

Along with warm weather’s arrival is the potential for regional housing markets sidelined over the winter to recover.

BUSTED: 4 Myths About Buying Your Home That Just Aren’t True

BUSTED 4 Myths About Buying Your Home That Just Aren't TrueIt can be pretty intimidating to dip your toes into the realm of home ownership, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. To make things worse, there are a number of myths floating around out there surrounding the home buying process.

Such misconceptions have many kept many would-be homeowners from realizing the personal and financial rewards of owning a property. To clear things up, here are 4 myths about buying your first home that simply aren’t true.

Myth #1 - It’s Cheaper To Rent Instead Of Own

If you buy a property that is within your budget and your mortgage terms allow you to make comfortable monthly payments, the cost of rent can often be higher than mortgage payments.

Sure, there are other expenses associated with owning a property that you wouldn’t be responsible for if you were renting, but one thing that many people forget is the fact that renting does not allow you to build equity.

The ability to build equity into a property that you own is like paying into a savings account – if you buy a home for $200,000, and pay down your mortgage to $175,000 in 5 years, you’ll have $25,000 in home equity that can be tapped into later if you need a lump sum of cash to pay for other large expenses.

If you sell your property down the line, any equity that the property has accumulated will provide you with more profit from the sale of the home.

Myth #2 - Whatever Shows Up On The Inspection Report Is The Seller’s Responsibility

Most offers on a home usually come with a home inspection condition that makes the offer contingent on the acceptance of a home inspection report by the buyer. Many buyers, however, are under the impression that sellers are responsible for any issues that show up on the inspection report.

Although the seller is required to make certain major repairs as stipulated by the lender, everything is still negotiable. A buyer may ask the seller to fix a minor crack in the basement wall or repair any scuff marks on the hardwood flooring, but the seller can essentially refuse, leaving the buyer with the decision of whether or not to continue with the offer anyway.

Myth #3 - The Perfect Home Is Out There – I Just Have To Wait For It

Buyers have a tendency to focus too much on all the little things that may be wrong about a house rather than on the majority of the things that are right. Homes are much like people – they aren’t perfect. Even brand new homes might have a few minor flaws.

The goal of a house hunt is to find the perfectly acceptable home – one that may have a couple of quirks that you can either live with or fix, but is otherwise ideal. An experienced buyer’s agent can help you identify issues that are deal-breakers, and help keep some perspective by separating irritating details from the big picture.

Myth #4 - I Don’t Need A Real Estate Agent To Buy A House

Without the proper team behind you – especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer – you could potentially find yourself in a compromised position. Many buyers don’t take the time necessary to shop for an agent who can best represent them in their purchase.

Think about it this way – would you perform surgery on yourself? Do you feel comfortable filing your own income taxes, or do you opt to use the services of an accountant? Being represented by a licensed real estate agent will give you the benefit of professional skills and knowledge, including the ability to find financing and close the deal with your best interests put first.

It’s always in your best interests to have an experienced, knowledgeable agent representing you in a home purchase. With such a major investment on the line, you want to have someone who can help you complete a purchase leaving no stone unturned, and ultimately saving you money – and a lot of headaches.

A professional real estate agent will be able to sort the myths from the reality and make your first home-buying experience a positive one.

FOMC Statement Shows “Moderate” Economic Growth

FOMC Statement Shows The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee met last week and Janet Yellen held her first press conference as Fed chair. According to the FOMC statement released after the meeting, the Fed cited severe winter weather conditions as a reason for slow economic growth in recent months.

FOMC members will continue to monitor economic conditions and developments as part of any decision to change the Fed’s change monetary policy. Highlights included:

“Moderate” Economic Growth; Asset Purchases Reduced For April

FOMC made the predicted cut to its asset purchase program and reduced April’s purchase of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury bills to $55 billion. Citing moderate economic growth and modest improvement in labor markets, the FOMC expects to continue tapering the Fed’s monthly asset purchases in the coming months.

The FOMC statement indicated that the committee’s policy concerning asset purchases is not set in stone and can be adjusted in response to economic developments

Monthly asset purchases are part of the Fed’s economic stimulus program and are intended to hold down longer-term interest rates such as mortgage rates. If the Fed tapers its asset purchases too quickly, mortgage rates could potentially rise too quickly.

The FOMC statement noted that the U.S. housing market recovery has slowed. It is likely that FOMC members will continue to monitor mortgage rates as part of their “forward guidance” for tapering monthly asset purchases.

FOMC members also voted to maintain the federal funds rate at 0.000 to 0.250 percent. The FOMC said that inflation rates consistently below the committee’s target rate of two percent could pose risks to economic growth, but that the committee will wait and see if inflation moves closer to FOMC’s target reading over the medium term.

Unemployment Benchmark Removed

FOMC members voted to remove the previously established benchmark of 6.50 percent national unemployment rate as a criterion for changes to its stimulus programs. Going forward, the committee will rely on “forward guidance,” which indicates that the FOMC will change monetary policy according to global and domestic economic news and developments.

Chair’s Press Conference

FOMC and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen gave her first press conference after the FOMC meeting statement was released. Ms. Yellen said that the FOMC decision to remove the benchmark unemployment rate was not an indication of change in the Fed’s monetary policy, but said that it would clarify how FOMC would evaluate its monetary policy after the national unemployment rate falls below 6.50 percent.

FOMC expects the national unemployment rate to fall between 6.10 and 6.30 percent by the end of 2014.

Chair Yellen said that weather conditions in January and February interfered with FOMC’s ability to assess the underlying strength of the economy. She added that economic conditions were broadly in line with the committee’s expectations in December 2013. Stronger economic conditions were seen as supporting growth in labor markets.

Chair Yellen said that the committee expected to maintain the federal funds rate at current levels “well past” the time the national unemployment rate falls below 6.50 percent. Inflationary pressures and expectations, labor market conditions and readings on financial developments.

It’s Spring Cleaning Time! But Where Do You Start?

It's Almost Spring Cleaning Time! Kick Clutter to the Curb With These Home Cleaning TipsSpring is around the corner, and it’s time to get your home in order!

Spring cleaning can be fun and easy if you follow some general guidelines, which are sure to get your home ready for the nice weather and looking as beautiful as the weather is about to. Kick the winter clutter to the curb with these spring cleaning tips.

Start With The Closets

Spring is here, and it’s about time to box up all of the winter boots, jackets, gloves, and scarfs until next season.

Starting your spring clean with your closets is a good tip, and will get you prepared for the rest of the process while creating more space and organization in the bedrooms of the house. This is also the perfect opportunity to create a “give away” box full of clothes that are no longer being worn.

Reorganize: Bookshelves, Countertops, And Desks

Reorganizing is the perfect way to prepare your home for the spring and summer. Good clutter is common in many homes, like useful books that are interesting for guests to read or decorations that offer a sense of warmth and character to the home.

So pick up the fallen and leaning books on the bookshelf, reorganize your kitchen countertops, and de-clutter your home office. For busy home offices, purchase organizational tools like additional shelving units, compile and file away old bills and receipts, and toss anything else that is no longer needed or of any use.

Get Scrubbing: Removing Stains And Odors

Getting ready for spring means removing the stains, dirt, and odors that accumulated in your home over the colder months. First, you should start with wiping your painted walls with a wet cloth to remove scuffmarks and dust.

If the water doesn’t do the trick, you can try mixing a little dishwashing soap in with the bucket of warm water. You may even want to repaint certain high-traffic areas, like entrance halls and the baseboards around the front door.

Next, you can go for the floors. Having a fresh carpet cleaning is sure to kick-start your spring cleaning; this may be something that you wish to have done by a professional. To make the most out of your carpet cleaning, have it scheduled for when the kids are out of the house for a while, and wait until the worst of the weather is over.

Make sure the kids take their shoes off inside, but get them to leave their socks on to avoid natural oils from getting into your freshly cleaned carpet. Vacuum area rugs in the same fashion, and mop the kitchen and bathroom floors at the same time you clean your hardwood floors.

Give the showers, bathtubs, and toilets in the house a good scrub. In the kitchen, empty the fridge and freezer of their contents, and give the inside a good scrub down as well.

Once the tidying, de-cluttering, and scrubbing are done, you will get to enjoy the fun part of spring cleaning: spring decorating! And while you’re at it, why not buy yourself and your home some spring flowers for a job well done.

If you’re doing a big spring clean this year because you’re looking to sell your home, these tips will get your home ready for any buyer’s eyes. Contact your mortgage professional today to get more tips on buying or selling a home.