Thursday, September 30, 2010

30-Year Mortgage Rate Falls to Another Record Low

U.S. 30-year and 15-year mortgage rates either tied or reached record lows in the latest week, according to a survey released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the second-largest U.S. mortgage finance company

While rock-bottom rates offer a glimmer of hope for a housing market struggling to find footing in the aftermath of the expiration of popular home buyer tax credits, their impact on home loan demand has been tepid.

A weak jobs market and flailing economy continue to weigh on consumer confidence.

Interest rates on U.S. 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, the most widely used loan, averaged 4.32 percent for the week ended Sept. 30, down from the previous week's 4.37 percent and matching a record low set earlier in the month, according to the survey.

Rates were also below their year-ago level of 4.94 percent.
Freddie Mac started the survey in April 1971.

Fifteen-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.75 percent, down from 3.82 percent last week, the lowest since Freddie Mac began surveying this loan type in 1991.

"Confidence in the state of the economy fell among consumers and businesses, which led to a decline in long-term bond yields and brought many mortgage rates to record lows this week," Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, said in a statement.

Mortgage rates are linked to yields on Treasuries and yields on mortgage-backed securities.
Re-printed from CNBC
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fielding a Low Ball Purchase Offer on Your Home

Consider before you ignore or outright refuse a very low purchase offer for your home. A counteroffer and negotiation could turn that low purchase offer into a sale.

You just received a purchase offer from someone who wants to buy your home. You're excited and relieved, until you realize the purchase offer is much lower than your asking price. How should you respond? Set aside your emotions, focus on the facts, and prepare a counteroffer that keeps the buyers involved in the deal.


A purchase offer, even a very low one, means someone wants to purchase your home. Unless the offer is laughably low, it deserves a cordial response, whether that's a counteroffer or an outright rejection. Remain calm and discuss with your real estate agent the many ways you can respond to a lowball purchase offer.


Unless you've received multiple purchase offers, the best response is to counter the low offer with a price and terms you're willing to accept. Some buyers make a low offer because they think that's customary, they're afraid they'll overpay, or they want to test your limits.

A counteroffer signals that you're willing to negotiate. One strategy for your counteroffer is to lower your price, but remove any concessions such as seller assistance with closing costs, or features such as kitchen appliances that you'd like to take with you.


Price is paramount for most buyers and sellers, but it's not the only deal point. A low purchase offer might make sense if the contingencies are reasonable, the closing date meets your needs, and the buyer is preapproved for a mortgage. Consider what terms you might change in a counteroffer to make the deal work.


Ask your REALTOR whether any homes that are comparable to yours (known as "comps") have been sold or put on the market since your home was listed for sale. If those new comps are at lower prices, you might have to lower your price to match them if you want to sell.


Buyers sometimes attach comps to a low offer to try to convince the seller to accept a lower purchase offer. Take a look at those comps. Are the homes similar to yours? If so, your asking price might be unrealistic. If not, you might want to include in your counteroffer information about those homes and your own comps that justify your asking price.

If the buyers don't include comps to justify their low purchase offer, have your real estate agent ask the buyers' agent for those comps.


If the purchase offer is too low to counter, but you don't have a better option, ask your real estate agent to call the buyer's agent and try to narrow the price gap so that a counteroffer would make sense. Also, ask your real estate agent whether the buyer (or buyer's agent) has a reputation for lowball purchase offers. If that's the case, you might feel freer to reject the offer.


Buyers are sensitive to signs that a seller may be receptive to a low purchase offer. If your home is vacant or your home's listing describes you as a "motivated" seller, you're signaling you're open to a low offer.

If you can remedy the situation, maybe by renting furniture or asking your agent not to mention in your home listing that you're motivated, the next purchase offer you get might be more to your liking.


6 Tips for Choosing the Best Purchase Offer for Your Home

6 Reasons to Reduce Your Home Price

Marcie Geffner is a freelance reporter who has been writing about real estate, homeownership and mortgages for 20 years. She owns a ranch-style house built in 1941 and updated in the 1990s, in Los Angeles.

Article From

By: Marcie Geffner

Published: June 10, 2010
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Art blooms at Franklin Square Gallery

Art in Bloom is the central attraction at Franklin Square Gallery’s First Friday Gallery Walk, 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 1.

Local garden clubs have joined with local artists to showcase the art of flower arranging. More than 100 exhibiting members of the Associated Artists of Southport will also have their work on display in an accompanying Members Show.

The Class Show, which features work by the pottery classes, advanced watercolor class, multiple painting classes and advanced figure-drawing class, opens Sunday, Sept. 27, and runs until Oct. 30.

The pottery classes made ceramic drums with goat skin covers for the show. After a few rehearsals, the students will play their drums at their reception.

For more information on the Franklin Square Gallery’s programs, visit or call 457-5450. Franklin Square Gallery, 130 E. West St., is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Riverfest -- From fireworks to pirate-style fun, activities pack weekend festival

The theme for 2010's festival, which opens with a Friday night concert in Riverfront Park and runs through Sunday, is “preserving the river for future generations.” And while you might not think that you or the tens of thousands of people who attend Riverfest each year are doing much for the ol' Cape Fear by checking out the arts and crafts booths or food vendors strung up and down Water Street, consider this.

Since Riverfest began in 1979, said festival chairman Donna Worrell, The Old Wilmington Riverfront Celebration Inc. has given more than $200,000 to Cape Fear Community College, including more than $20,000 in scholarships to the school's Marine Technology program in the past three years alone. Some of that scholarship money goes to young people looking for careers working on and protecting our waters.

Just something to think about while you're hanging out in the beer garden, watching the fireworks Saturday night or taking your kid(s) to the Kids Zone.

Below are some highlights of this year's festival.

Invasion of the Pirates

Invasion of the Pirates is a partnership between Riverfest and the Wilmington Harbor Enhancement Trust, a nonprofit group of business owners and local boaters “interested in promoting the orderly development of property and recreational activities along the Wilmington riverfront,” according to WHET's website.
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Existing-Home Sales Move Up in August

Existing-home sales rose in August following a big correction in July, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 7.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.13 million in August from an upwardly revised 3.84 million in July, but remain 19.0 percent below the 5.10 million-unit pace in August 2009.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said home sales still remain subpar. “The housing market is trying to recover on its own power without the home buyer tax credit. Despite very attractive affordability conditions, a housing market recovery will likely be slow and gradual because of lingering economic uncertainty,” Yun said.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 4.43 percent in August from 4.56 percent in July; the rate was 5.19 percent in August 2009.

Yun added, “Home values have shown stabilizing trends over the past year, even as the economy shed millions of jobs, because of the home buyer tax credit stimulus. Now that the economy is adding some jobs, the housing market needs to steadily improve and eventually stand on its own.”

The national median existing-home price2 for all housing types was $178,600 in August, up 0.8 percent from a year ago. Distressed homes3 rose to 34 percent of sales in August from 32 percent in July; they were 31 percent in August 2009.

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz., said consumers have been getting mixed signals about the housing market. “People understand the good affordability conditions with stable home prices in most areas, but they’re concerned about the economy and speculation on Wall Street,” she said. “We need to stick with the facts about the long-term value of homeownership and avoid unrealistic assessments. Tight credit and slow short sales are ongoing problems – expediting short sales will help the market to recover more quickly.”

Total housing inventory at the end of August slipped 0.6 percent to 3.98 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 11.6-month supply4 at the current sales pace, down from a 12.5-month supply in July.

A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 31 percent of homes in August, down from 38 percent in July. Investors rose to a 21 percent market share in August from 19 percent in July; the balance of purchases were by repeat buyers. All-cash sales slipped to 28 percent in August from 30 percent in July.

Single-family home sales rose 7.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.62 million in August from a level of 3.37 million in July, but are 19.2 percent lower than the 4.48 million level in August 2009. The median existing single-family home price was $179,300 in August, up 1.2 percent from a year ago.

Single-family median existing-home prices were higher in 10 out of 19 metropolitan statistical areas reported in August from a year ago (the price in one of 20 tracked markets was not available). Existing single-family home sales were down in all 20 metro areas from August 2009.

Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 8.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 510,000 in August from 470,000 in July, but are 17.1 percent below the 615,000-unit pace in August 2009. The median existing condo price5 was $174,000 in August, which is 2.8 percent below a year ago.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 7.9 percent to an annual level of 680,000 in August but are 24.4 percent below August 2009. The median price in the Northeast was $260,300, up 7.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 5.0 percent in August to a pace of 840,000 but are 26.3 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $149,600, up 0.4 percent from August 2009.

In the South, existing-home sales rose 5.2 percent to an annual level of 1.62 million in August but are 13.4 percent below August 2009. The median price in the South was $155,000, down 1.5 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West jumped 13.8 percent to an annual pace of 990,000 in August but are 16.1 percent lower than August 2009. The median price in the West was $214,700, which is 2.5 percent below a year ago.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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Green treatment transforms standard home into energy miser

Their electric bill is $27 a month. They sell power back to the utilities. They flush their toilets with rainwater. And they live in Wilmington.

The home of architect Jay DeChesere and his wife, Heather Smith, has undergone a makeover in the past year to become sort of a demonstration project of how green – energy-efficient and sustainable – an existing home can be.
It’s on the Solar & Green Building Tour, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The tour, by the Cape Fear Green Building Alliance, begins at Snipes Academy of Arts and Design, 2150 Chestnut St.
The house is a laboratory and not meant to imply that homeowners should adhere to all its ideas, DeChesere said. “It’s to give people an idea of what to do first. People are replacing their windows; they should be doing something else first, spending less money for more benefits.”
“One thing we are interested in over the years is to see if green homes will appraise higher,” DeChesere said. The appraisers have no comparables.
“We are doing an interior upgrade up the street, and the appraiser could not give them any additional value.”
DeChesere’s and Smith’s home is not a sprawling mansion on the Intracoastal. It’s in a 1970s-80s, middle-class neighborhood in Wilmington’s Pine Valley section.
The StarNews visited the home in July 2009 – before any of the work started.

In the rehab, DeChesere added to the house’s size by incorporating the existing garage, bringing the square footage to 1,648 square feet from 1,250, he said. A carport took the garage’s place.
The architect took out the fireplace and installed a built-in entertainment center in its place. “We opened the flue and sheathed the inside of the chimney” and thus created a light well.
“We opened up the kitchen, which was enclosed,” he said, but it retained its galley shape.
The materials used throughout the house, however, are radically different than in the original.
Floors are pre-finished bamboo.
The kitchen’s eating counter is a material made from sunflower seed husks, DeChesere explained. The working counter in the kitchen is concrete by ILM Design Build, which also polished and sealed it.
The backsplashes are made from recycled glass, and under-counter lighting is 17-watt LED, which throws very little heat.
The kitchen cabinets are made of bamboo, and the translucent fronts are made from recycled PVC imbedded with a design of sea grass.
Decorative walls in the foyer, kitchen and office look like rattan but are flat and made of a product from leftover stalks of sorghum.
The home’s doors are made from scrap wood. “It’s the first time they have built doors out of this material,” he said. Before the material was used for cutting boards and the like.
Bathroom tile consists of a 20 percent-recycled material made in Tennessee.
And for those who hate the low-flow, 1.6-gallon-per-flush toilets, the house goes one better – 1.28-gallon Toto toilets in both bathrooms, which DeChesere says work better than the 1.6-gallon variety.
When someone enters the master bathroom, a sensor automatically turns on a hot-water circulation loop that yields fast hot water. Because of the loop, there is no waste, DeChesere explained.

The loop gives a clue to the house’s solar and geothermal workings.
The solar-thermal water heater is in a closet. But, “we never turn the water heater on,” the architect said, as thermal panels on an inclined portion of the home’s roof heat the water. The 20 gallons in the tank drain back into the panels at night, DeChesere said.

“We’re using 85 percent water from the roof for rainwater harvesting,” DeChesere said. That water is used for irrigation and flushing toilets, he said. A 1,750-gallon cistern in the back yard stores water.
An array of solar panels in the back yard is used exclusively for power that is generated for 10 cents per kilowatt and sold to N.C. Green Power and Progress Energy for 19 cents, he said. The two panels on the roof provide the house’s energy.

Full Article
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Leland celebrates Founder's Day

The celebration of a town. Leland is celebrating 20 years of incorporation during an event known as Founder's Day. It's the town's biggest event of the year - drawing thousands of people.

The Brunswick County town had a special day packed full of entertainment, food and fun. The day featured performances by bands, along with arts and crafts and vendors. Admission was free!
Organizers say they are pleased with the turnout and feel a sense of pride in their community.

"I think it's good because people can come and meet their neighbors or ones they might not have seen in a long time and come enjoy some entertainment and enjoy some food and really just bring that hometown feeling to Leland," said Neil Brooks who is the Director of Leland Parks & Recreation and an organizer for Founder's Day.

Brooks says Founder's Day is traditionally on the second Saturday in September and it's just a coincidence that it fell on 9/11 this year. Brooks doesn't mind it though. He says there is a love of country in Leland and it shows throughout the event.

Others, like Keonte James came out just to have some fun! "I went rock climbing, I went down the slide, I raced my brother around here a couple of times I bought a few sodas and things to eat and I'm just having a real good time out here," said James.

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Free waste disposal at Brunswick County landfill

Brunswick County residents will be able to get rid of unwanted items that are not typically picked up with regular trash service this week.

Brunswick County's fall clean-up week started today. Residents can dispose of all materials, except regular household trash and land clearing debris, at the county landfill in Bolivia... for free.

The event is designed to encourage proper disposal of waste and save people money in the process. There will also be a household hazardous waste collection, a clothes drive and even an electronic recycling event at South Brunswick Middle School on Saturday.

Even though it's the first day - a lot of people have been taking advantage of the service.
"It's been busy it's been very busy...alot of people are utilizing this people are getting used to it and are looking forward to it every spring and every fall," said Kimberly Thompson of Brunswick County Solid Waste & Recycling.

Businesses and anyone driving commercial vehicles and trailers will be charged the regular fees. The event is only for Brunswick County residents, so make sure you have proof of residency to show at the landfill.

Landfill hours are Monday through Saturday from 8 am to 4 pm.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bookseller in Brunswick County knows her niche

For Susan Warren, reading isn’t just a pleasant pastime. It is her passion and her profession. And she has parlayed it into a very nice business.

As the owner of Books ‘n’ Stuff bookstore on Long Beach Road near Southport, Warren has the distinction of having the oldest bookstore in Brunswick County. She’s been at it for 23 years.

Technically speaking, Warren is a bookseller. But to her customers, she is an invaluable resource for suggesting a good read for the beach or for book groups, for the intellectual or the lighthearted, and for everyone between.

Books ‘n’ Stuff carries some 50,000 books, about 94 percent of which are used paperbacks.

“I’m in the used paperback book business,” she said. “Read it, enjoy it, trade it in and get another one.”

Warren’s business model is very simple: Sell new paperbacks at a discount. Buy them back by issuing a credit slip for a fraction of the cost, and then resell them.

She sells new paperbacks at a 25 percent discount, then buys them back, as well as all other paperbacks that meet her criteria. She gives the customer a credit slip for 20 percent of the original cover price. She then resells the books for 50 percent of the cover price. It plays out like this. A new paperback with a retail price of $20 would sell for $15. The customer brings it back, and gets a credit slip for $4 to be spent on used books only. That locks them into spending more money in her store. She now has another used book to sell for $10, she has “the newest used books,” and she doesn’t have to pay for her inventory.

A large sign above the cash register spells out all the details.

For example, books with clipped covers or with a missing front or back cover are not accepted.

Books on CDs are becoming an increasingly important part of her business, and the same rules apply here for the sale and purchase of used CDs.

“Books ‘n’ Stuff” was originally located on Oak Island, however that came to an end when Warren’s landlord wanted to use the space. “It turned out to be the best bad thing that ever happened to me,” she said. The move changed her target market from a reliance on seasonal tourists to a year-round population. “I went from beach reads to book club reads, more men, more mysteries, spy novels and military books.”

Another shift in her business occurred a few years ago. She no longer carries miscellaneous items and accessories because they didn’t sell well, she said. That is with one exception – bookmarks. “I can’t keep them in stock.”

When asked what she expects e-books will do to her business, she said, “Nothing. I’ve got customers that have e-readers, and they still want the book. They want to put it on their shelf or they want to give it to a friend.”

Warren augments her bookselling business with ancillary services. She is a professional editor for fiction manuscripts, offers a typing service and provides faxing capability. But she is quick to say that her core business is selling used paperbacks, and her competitive edge is she knows her market and she knows her books. “I read three or four books at a time,” she said, “and I have this weird, quirky mind that remembers all the books I have read.”

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sea Coast "Scoop Off"

Wilmington's real estate community is squaring off in a a "Scoop Off" to benefit the American Heart Association!

Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty president Tim Milam will be scooping Italian ice and frozen custard at Rita's in Wilmington's Lumina Commons on Wednesday, September 8, 2010, 1:00-3:00PM.

Rita's will donate all of the profits from all of Milam's scoops to the American Heart Association's Heart Walk.

To heat up the cool contest, Milam will be competing against Intracoastal Realty's Jim Wallace to see who can serve up the most scoops for charity.

Bring your friends, family, and co-workers to cool off with some frozen custard or Italian ice for a great cause. Rita's is located in Lumina Commons at 1982 Eastwood Road in Wilmington.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pending Home Sales Rise

Following a sharp drop in the months immediately after expiration of the home buyer tax credit, pending home sales have modestly risen, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator, rose 5.2 percent to 79.4 based on contracts signed in July from a downwardly revised 75.5 in June, but remains 19.1 percent below July 2009 when it was 98.1. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, cautioned that there would be a long recovery process. “Home sales will remain soft in the months ahead, but improved affordability conditions should help with a recovery,” he said. “But the recovery looks to be a long process. Home buyers over the past year got a great deal, and buyers for the balance of this year have an edge over sellers. For those who bought at or near the peak several years ago, particularly in markets experiencing big bubbles, it may take over a decade to fully recover lost equity.”

Yun added, “Affordability could reach a generational high in the second half of this year because of rock-bottom mortgage interest rates, helped partly by the Fed’s very accommodative monetary policy. The loan underwriting standards are tighter, but home buyers can improve their chances of getting a loan by staying well within their budget.”

The PHSI in the Northeast rose 6.3 percent to 62.5 in July but is 21.1 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index increased 4.1 percent to 66.7 but remains 25.7 percent below July 2009. Pending home sales in the South rose 1.2 percent to an index of 86.3, but are 15.6 percent lower than a year ago. In the West the index jumped 11.6 percent to 95.0 but is 17.6 percent below July 2009.

The national index had fallen 29.9 percent in May and another 2.8 percent in June.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

*The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.
The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months. There is a closer relationship between annual index changes (from the same month a year earlier) and year-ago changes in sales performance than with month-to-month comparisons.
An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales.

Existing-home sales for August will be reported September 23 and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be on October 4; release times are 10 a.m. EDT.

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Undeterred by Earl, tourists flock to region for holiday weekend

If the lack of parking and the heavy traffic at Wrightsville Beach on Monday afternoon are any indication, the looming hurricane that ended up missing the Cape Fear region didn't keep the tourists inland this Labor Day weekend.

Official numbers are not available yet, but area accommodations officials say despite the threat of the storm, tourists turned out for the sunny weekend.

“If anything, it drew people's attention to the beach that it was going to be a wonderful weekend,” said Jason St. Clair, general manager of the Blockade Runner on Wrightsville Beach.

Like the Blockade, some hotels in New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties reported being fully booked for the holiday weekend despite Hurricane Earl. The storm threatened the East Coast all last week but spared the region Thursday as it headed north, brushing the Outer Banks.

That's not to say Earl didn't make a local impression.

Several out-of-town tourists waited until the last minute to book their trips, and some who had planned to come Thursday waited until Friday to be sure the storm had passed, area hotel officials said.

Anne Marie Hartman, general manager of the Holiday Inn Resort on Wrightsville Beach, said it ended up being just as busy as the Fourth of July weekend.

Buddy Rudd, vice president of Margaret Rudd and Associates Inc. in Oak Island, said the weekend turned out well “despite the Weather Channel trying to destroy it.”

Connie Nelson, communication and public relations director for the Wilmington Cape Fear Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, said out-of-state tourists might have gotten the impression from national media outlets that the entire North Carolina coast would be in Earl's path.

As soon as it was clear that Earl had passed without scathing the Cape Fear Coast, Nelson said, the bureau sent out news releases and notified people via social media that the area would be open for business.

“It's always a challenge to try to get the word out that everything's OK in spite of what people might have seen and what might have been implied in national media forecast,” she said.

Nelson expects to have surveys from hotels in New Hanover County back by late Tuesday to see how many people made it to the area.

The hope, she said, is that people booked at the last minute after they realized Earl was a nonevent.

That was the impression Tiffani Blowers got at Tiffany's Motel in Surf City. The reservationist said the motel got a lot of last-minute travelers.

“But it was beautiful out and everybody showed up,” she said, adding the motel was booked.

Nelson said this trend of waiting to book vacations until the last minute is not specific to Earl. She said in the past couple of years and this year especially, people are waiting to plan their trips. Because of this, the bureau has created a website called for local hotels to post last-minute deals.

Nelson said the trend is a product of the poor economy and people not knowing month to month if they can afford trips. She said the ability to track hotel availability online is also feeding the procrastination trend.


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Landscaping for Curb Appeal

A well-landscaped yard creates curb appeal and helps your property retain maximum value.

A beautiful yard is a head-turner, no doubt about it. The good news is that even if you can't tell a tulip from a turnip at the garden center, you can still create eye-catching curb appeal by paying attention to the basics of good landscaping. Ignoring your yard--or doing something that's out of character with the neighborhood-can jeopardize the assessed value of your home.
"We have several categories for design and appeal," says Frank Lucco, a real estate agent and professional appraiser in Houston. "That's where we make those adjustments. Poorly maintained landscaping can be as much as a 5 or 10% deduction."
Appraisers are quick to praise the allure of a well-tended lawn and good-looking landscaping when it comes time to sell your home, but most do not assign any specific increase in monetary value for upkeep.
"Landscaping is going to add to the appeal of the property and it may sell quicker, but it's hard to determine value," says John Bredemeyer, president of Omaha-based Realcorp. "You have to have a number to compensate someone if you drove into their tree and killed it, but is it really market value? Probably not."
Nevertheless, most professionals agree that curb appeal and a well-maintained appearance prevent your property from losing value. Here are the top suggestions from real estate agents, appraisers, and landscape designers for boosting the curb appeal of your yard:
If your house has a front yard, make sure it's neat and green. You don't want bare spots, sprawling weeds, or an untrimmed appearance.
"It's so simple to go to Home Depot, buy fertilizer, apply it every six weeks, and water it," says Mitch Kalamian, a landscape designer in Huntinginton Beach, Calif. "It will green up."
If the yard looks really scruffy, you may decide to invest in some sod. According to the National Gardening Association, the average cost of sod is 15 to 35 cents per sq. ft. If you hire a landscaper to sod your yard for you, labor will add 30% to 50% to the total cost of the project.
Another alternative is to plant low-maintenance turf grasses. Turf grasses are durable and drought-resistant. Expect to pay $18 to $30 for enough turf grass seed to plant 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn area.
Flower beds add color and help enliven otherwise plain areas, such as along driveways and the edges of walkways. In general, annual flowers are a bit cheaper but must be replaced every year. Perennials cost a bit more but come back annually and usually get larger or spread with each growing season.

If you're not sure what to plant, inquire at your local garden center. Often, they'll have a display of bedding plants chosen for their adaptability to your area. Also, they'll be inexpensive because they're in season, says Peter Mezitt, president of Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton, Mass. Try pansies in the summer, and asters and mums in the fall to add vibrant color. "That's what we do around the entrance to our garden center," Mezitt says.
Valerie Torelli, a California REALTOR; who dresses up her clients' yards to sell their houses faster and for more money, says that in her market, she can put in a bed of colorful annuals and bark, as well as cutting down overgrown shrubs, for less than $500. "We can buy gorgeous plants for $3.99 to $15.99," she says.
For homeowners who have made a sizeable investment in landscaping, it makes sense to think about adding another 10% to 15% to the bill for professional lighting. "You can't see landscaping after dark," says Brandon Stephens, vice president of marketing for a landscape lighting firm in Lubbock, Texas, "and buyers are not always looking at houses on a Saturday afternoon."
The cost of a system runs from $200 for a DIY installation to more than $4,000 for a professional job. If you're doing it on your own, the key is to light what you want people to see, such as mature trees and flowering shrubs.
The value of mature trees is particularly difficult to determine. Lucco says that in his market, mature trees contribute as much as 10% of a $100,000 property's overall value. In addition, a properly placed shade tree can shave as much as $32 a year on your energy bills. Expect to pay $50 to $100 for a young, 6- to 7-foot deciduous tree.
You can make your own initial assessment of the value of your property's trees by visiting the National Tree Benefit Calculator. For example, a mature Southern red oak tree with a diameter of 36 inches in the front yard of a house in Augusta, Ga., would add $70 to the property value this year, according to the calculator.
Georgia-based freelance writer Pat Curry writes extensively about housing and real estate for consumer and trade publications. While a fair hand at remodeling, she is hopeless as a gardener. As a result, her landscaping is made up of plants that thrive on neglect.
Article From

By: Pat Curry

Published: March 25, 2010

Ken KeeganReal Estate Broker(910) 523-0903 mobileEmail

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pending Home Sales Post Surprise Jump in July

Pending sales of previously owned U.S. homes rose unexpectedly in July, an industry group said on Thursday, suggesting a tax credit-related housing market decline was close to bottoming.

The National Association of Realtors said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in July, increased 5.2 percent to 79.4 from June.

June contracts were revised to show a slightly bigger 2.8 percent decline instead of the previously reported 2.6 percent fall.

Compared to the July last year, pending home sales fell 19.1 percent. Economists polled by Reuters forecast the index, which leads existing home sales by a month or two, falling 1.0 percent in July.

Home sales and building activity have dropped sharply following the end in April of a popular tax credit for home buyers.

"Home sales will remain soft in the months ahead, but improved affordability conditions should help with a recovery," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.


Ken KeeganReal Estate Broker(910) 523-0903 mobileEmail