Buying a Home? 3 Reasons it Pays to Hire Real Estate Agent.

January 30, 2015 at 1:01 pm
January 30, 2015 |

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Source: Single Rent Inmobiliaria

The growth of online real estate listings means consumers are equipped with information very early in the home buying process. A generation ago, to get listing information and access to historical data, home buyers needed to connect with a real estate agent much sooner — sometimes even prematurely. But today’s home buyers can do a lot of the legwork themselves, conducting research online and using home search and research applications independently, in addition to attending open houses.

But this access to information doesn’t mean home shoppers can entirely go it alone. Buying a home is a major transaction, and all the data in the world can’t replace a knowledgeable and experienced local real estate agent.

Here are some signs that you are ready to engage with a buyer’s agent:

You think you’ve found the home of your dreams, and you don’t know what to do next.

If you’ve been looking at homes for some time, you likely have a good feel for what you get for the money. You’ve gone to some open houses and have a few homes or searches saved online. Home shopping has become a hobby. But once you find the home of your dreams, it becomes a part-time job.

Independent shoppers get comfortable with the market until their dream home hits them like a ton of bricks. The house is the motivator to take things up a notch. Reaching out to an agent will take you out of the dreaming phase and move you in the direction of actually buying a home.

You’ve found a home that appears too good to be true, but you can’t figure out what the problem is.

Suppose you stumble upon a house that seems like a great deal. It’s priced accurately for the neighborhood, but has been sitting on the market for weeks, if not months. You may have reached out to the listing agent to see the home in person or asked some questions of the agent at the open house. But that agent represents the seller, so you are not sure what the story is.

In this case, you don’t know what you don’t know. That uncertainty, coupled with your curiosity about the home, is the best reason to pair up with a good local agent. They may know the house, its market history or, via their network, have access to information about the home.

The house may have some major structural issues. Or the agent might point out that it is on a less desirable road or in a tough school district. These are the types of things that new, uneducated buyer wouldn’t know on their own.

You’ve been hit by a major life or financial event and need hard information to make a decision.

Sometimes you get news that changes your life’s course. Your landlord is selling your building, and you have 60 days to vacate. You’ve received the job opportunity of a lifetime or a huge increase in pay. Or you’ve done some tax planning and realize you are paying so much in taxes that you need to take advantage of the benefit realized by homeownership.

When you need information fast, rather than taking the time to study the market independently, it’s easier to go right to the source. In a 30-minute phone call or in-person meeting, a local agent can get you up to speed on the market, pricing, timing and what to expect. You can quickly marry this information with your personal financial situation and start to devise a plan.

A generation ago, potential home buyers, curious about getting into the market, had access to little information about homes for sale. They might have checked the open house section of the Sunday paper to get started. Or they simply called a local agent and engaged them. They may not have been quite ready to pull the trigger at that point, but they needed an agent to get them in the game, many times well before they were ready to purchase. While that agent is still an integral part of the process, today’s buyers can hold off a bit longer — as long as they know when the time is right to enlist help.

Why Have Interest Rates Dropped?

January 28, 2015 at 5:17 pm
January 28, 2015 |

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Why Have Interest Rates Dropped? | Keeping Current Matters

The headlines agree mortgage interest rates have dropped substantially below initial projections. Many who are considering purchasing a home, or moving up to their dream home, might think that they should wait to buy, because rates may continue to fall.

A recent article on the Economists’ Outlook blog by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) provides insight into one major factor in the decline in interest rates, the crude oil price.

“As of January 5, 2015, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that the price of regular gasoline was $2.20/gallon, the lowest since gas prices peaked to about $ 4/gallon in May 2011.”

You may have noticed that filling your gas tank has become substantially less expensive in recent months. A welcome change from the close to $5 a gallon that many Americans were paying this time last year. The average US household is projected to save around $550 in 2015.

So what does that have to do with Interest Rates?

NAR explains the correlation like this:

“Lower oil prices mean lower inflation rate, which pushes down mortgage rates.”

Based on Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage survey as of January 22, 2015, the 30-year fixed rate averaged 3.63% and the 15-year fixed rate averaged 2.93%.

“The decline in oil prices is generally positive to households by way of the gas savings and lower mortgage payments. That savings will boost consumer spending in other areas. But there may be some layoffs in oil-producing states.”

How long will rates stay low?

No one really knows how long oil prices will continue to support low mortgage rates. In a New York Times article, the author points to the fact that “adding hundreds of billions of dollars to consumer spending” could start to have a “counter effect” on rates as the economy continues to strengthen.

“If firms start hiring again, and wages increase — that’s when the level of all interest rates in the U.S. would increase.”

Don’t wait too long

The low interest rates we are currently experiencing are not going to stay around forever. The current projections from Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, NAR and the Mortgage Bankers Association all agree that interest rates will increase to between 4.3-5.4% by the end of 2015.

Bottom Line

NAR reports: “At the median home price of $205,300, a 0.75 percentage point drop in mortgage rates will yield savings of about $1,000 annually.”

If you are in a position to buy a home make sure that you meet with a local real estate professional with their finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the market. Don’t let a delay in purchasing impact your family’s financial future.

Comey & Shepherd Realtors | Cincinnati Real Estate Blog | Cincinnati Real Estate | Comey Blog

Ask Yourself These 3 Things Before Buying a Home

January 23, 2015 at 12:42 pm
January 23, 2015 |

All content and images from

If you are thinking about purchasing a home right now, you are surely getting a lot of advice. Though your friends and family have your best interests at heart, they may not be fully aware of your needs and what is currently happening in real estate. Let’s look at whether or not now is actually a good time for you to buy a home.

There are three questions you should ask before purchasing in today’s market:

1. Why am I buying a home in the first place?

This truly is the most important question to answer. Forget the finances for a minute. Why did you even begin to consider purchasing a home? For most, the reason has nothing to do with finances. A study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University reveals that the four major reasons people buy a home have nothing to do with money:

  • A good place to raise children and for them to get a good education
  • A place where you and your family feel safe
  • More space for you and your family
  • Control of the space

What non-financial benefits will you and your family derive from owning a home? The answer to that question should be the biggest reason you decide to purchase or not.

2. Where are home values headed?

When looking at future housing values, Home Price Expectation Survey provides a fair assessment. Every quarter, Pulsenomics surveys a nationwide panel of over one hundred economists, real estate experts and investment & market strategists about where prices are headed over the next five years. They then average the projections of all 100+ experts into a single number.

Here is what the experts projected in the latest survey:

  • Home values will appreciate by 4% in 2015.
  • The cumulative appreciation will be 23.5% by 2019.
  • Even the experts making up the most bearish quartile of the survey still are projecting a cumulative appreciation of over 15.1% by 2019.

3. Where are mortgage interest rates headed?

A buyer must be concerned about more than just prices. The ‘long term cost’ of a home can be dramatically impacted by an increase in mortgage rates.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the National Association of RealtorsFannie Mae and Freddie Mac have all projected that mortgage interest rates will increase by approximately one full percentage over the next twelve months.

Bottom Line

Only you and your family can know for certain the right time to purchase a home. Answering these questions will help you make that decision.

Comey & Shepherd Realtors | Cincinnati Real Estate Blog | Cincinnati Real Estate | Comey Blog

Infographic: Why For Sale By Owner Hurts Your Selling Potential

January 19, 2015 at 3:37 pm
January 19, 2015 |

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5 No Cost Home Staging Tips for You to Try

January 14, 2015 at 3:50 pm
January 14, 2015 |

Article and Images Taken From:

Staging a home for sale is simply preparing a house to be sold. There are many different aspects to staging, but there is a simple foundation to all of it.

Hiring a professional stager is worth the investment because they address all aspects of staging. But what if you have no staging budget?

There are several steps you can take to stage your home for sale — and many of them don’t cost a dime. Here are five free things you can do to prepare your home to sell.

Clean, clean, clean

Sparkling counters and appliances go a long way in home for sale.
Sparkling counters and appliances go a long way in a home for sale. Source: Frayley & Company

The number one thing people think about while in a home is whether or not they believe it is clean. A home that is absolutely pristine presents as well cared for.

Clean all windows inside and out. Dust all door frames, light fixtures, ceiling fans and blinds. Don’t leave a single spot in your home untouched. Potential buyers look everywhere, so make sure the entire home is clean.

Depersonalize the house

Just furnish the room with the absolute minimum items. Source: Zillow Digs.
Just furnish the room with the absolute minimum items. Source: Zillow Digs

Pack up almost all personal photos and family keepsakes. If you have a great photo of your family enjoying a camping trip or other family activity, you can leave it out on display if your home is being marketed to families. This one family photo plants a seed of happiness in a buyer’s mind, making them think how happy their own family could be living in the home.

All other photos, portraits and keepsakes must be packed away out of view — and ideally, stored outside the home. In general, family photos and keepsakes draw a buyer’s attention to your family and keep them from seeing your home as their potential home.

You’re not selling the family, you’re selling the house — so always let that be the center of attention.

Pack — and pack some more

You could probably live comfortably for a short time with about half the things you own, especially if you have lived in your home for more than a few years. We all tend to collect things. Whether we use them or not doesn’t matter, but what does matter is showcasing the space your home has to offer potential buyers. You cannot showcase rooms that are full of stuff — especially too much furniture.

Pack up as much as you can live without, then store it offsite if possible. Store packed boxes and extra furniture neatly away from living spaces no matter what. If you have to store items in the garage, make certain you leave enough room for a car.

Manicure outdoor spaces

Even if the yard is simple, cut grass and clean pathways make an impact. Source: Zillow Digs.
Even if the yard is simple, cut grass and clean pathways make an impact. Source: Zillow Digs

Outdoor living is now a part of everyday life for most of us. Potential buyers will absolutely consider the outdoor spaces as critically as they do indoor spaces. If you don’t have the budget to freshen the landscape with flowers and decorative items, you can still make sure the yard is perfectly manicured.

Keep your yard watered, and cut grass to approximately 3 inches high. Any shorter takes away from the fresh green look, and any longer starts to look unkempt.

Foliage should be very neat and properly shaped to match your neighborhood. Trim the trees so that a 6-foot-tall person can easily pass under them. This makes the trees appear taller, and gives the yard a clean, tidy look.

Power wash the sidewalk, patio, deck, driveway and fence. You will be amazed what a difference this will make in the look of your home.

Lighten up

Turn on the lights and open the shades. Source: Zillow Digs.
Turn on the lights and open the shades. Source: Zillow Digs

When showing or photographing your home for potential buyers, open every blind and curtain in your home, and turn on every light. Even the lights over the stove and inside the oven should be on. (Remember, the appliances are pristine — they need to be shown off!)

Buyers are looking for “light and bright,” not “dark and dreary,” so give them light. Help them see how clean and well cared for your home is. Don’t be afraid to move a lamp to brighten up a space if you need to. Let there be light — and lots and lots of it.

It can be a lot of work getting your house ready to sell. Even with no staging budget, you can still take the time to make a few changes that will have a profound impact on your home sale.

Comey & Shepherd Realtors | Cincinnati Real Estate Blog | Cincinnati Real Estate | Comey Blog

FHA Mortgage Premiums to be Cut to Boost Homeownership

January 9, 2015 at 12:51 pm
January 9, 2015 |


Photographer Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

In an effort to expand homeownership among lower-income buyers, President Barack Obama plans to cut mortgage-insurance premiums charged by a government agency.

The annual fees the Federal Housing Administration charges to guarantee mortgages will be cut by 0.5 percentage point, to 0.85 percent of the loan balance, Julian Castro, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said today during a conference call with reporters. Under the new premium structure, FHA estimates that 2 million borrowers will be able to save an average of $900 annually over the next three years if they purchase or refinance homes.

Shares of private insurers that compete with the FHA fell on the news, which Obama plans to discuss during a visit to Phoenix tomorrow.

“We believe this is striking a very good balance between being fiscally responsible and also enhancing homeownership opportunities,” Castro said.

‘Locked Out of Market’

The FHA has been increasing premiums since 2011 to offset losses caused by defaults on mortgages it backed after the housing bubble burst. Housing industry participants say the increases in annual fees, which are now at 1.35 percent of the loan balance, are squeezing buyers with modest incomes out of the market.

“Lots of people have been locked out of the market, particularly lower-wealth borrowers and borrowers of color, by the high prices at FHA,” said Julia Gordon, director of housing finance and policy at the Center for American Progress, a group affiliated with Democrats. The premium cut “does put homeownership within the reach of more people.”

The FHA estimates that 250,000 first-time homebuyers will enter the market after the premium reductions.

In addition to its annual premiums, the FHA also charges borrowers an upfront fee, which is currently set at 1.75 percent of the loan balance and is not slated to change.

‘Broken FHA’

Democrats and housing groups say reducing FHA fees will help the agency’s bottom line because it will boost the volume of lending, which declined when homebuyers had to pay more to obtain loans. A December study by the Mortgage Bankers Association said the premium increases had reduced the value of the insurance fund by $4.4 billion as higher costs drove away creditworthy borrowers.

Republicans have said premium cuts should be off the table because the agency’s insurance fund remains below legally required levels. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling said last month that “a broke FHA is a broken FHA.”

“This sounds like a move in the wrong direction,” said Mark Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institution, which supports free markets. “FHA has a portfolio of poor quality loans. This will end up costing the taxpayer considerably.”

The agency is required to keep enough cash on hand to cover all projected losses in its $1.1 trillion portfolio. The insurance fund required a $1.7 billion draw from the Treasury Department last year. In fiscal 2014, the fund posted its first positive balance in two years.

Shares Slide

The fund must also maintain a cushion of 2 percent of its value, a level it isn’t projected to reach until fiscal 2016.

Castro, who is scheduled to accompany Obama to Phoenix, said the fee cut would have a “marginal” impact on the insurance fund.

Radian (RDN) Group Inc., which sells insurance to homebuyers, slid 5.5 percent to $15.62 at 1:53 p.m. in New York trading. MGIC Investment Corp. (MGT) slumped 4.7 percent percent and Essent Group Limited (ESNT) fell 9.4 percent.

Radian climbed 18 percent last year after more than doubling in both 2012 and 2013 and had said it benefited as private companies gained market share from the government.

Mortgage insurance helps cover losses when homeowners default and foreclosures fail to recoup costs. The coverage is typically required when borrowers’ down payments are less than 20 percent of a home’s price.

The FHA had a 30 percent share of the mortgage insurance market in the third quarter of last year, down from about 69 percent in 2009, according to data from Inside Mortgage Finance. Private firms wrote 42 percent of the coverage in last year’s third quarter, and a government program for veterans accounted for most of the remainder.

Some Ginnie Mae-guaranteed securities backed by FHA loans also declined on concern that more borrowers will find it worthwhile to refinance, repaying debt that’s trading at higher prices at face value. Bonds with 3 percent coupons fell by 0.15 cent on the dollar more than similar-duration Treasuries as of 11 a.m. in New York, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, after typically outperforming government debt when bond prices have dropped in recent months.

Key Takeaway:

President Obama is set to announce a 0.5 percentage point reduction of Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance premiums to 0.85 percent.

Quick perspective on this…

This takes someone who is buying a home for $150k and either saves them $62 per month on their payment, OR allows them to buy something for $163k now instead. WOW!

Comey & Shepherd Realtors | Cincinnati Real Estate Blog | Cincinnati Real Estate | Comey Blog

Top 5 Downtown and OTR Developments Debuting in 2015

January 7, 2015 at 1:30 pm
January 7, 2015 |

Taken From:

Fourth and Race Street Development Plan, Cincy Biz Blog Photo-Credit

The city and developers announced major projects in 2014 in both downtown and Over-the-Rhine that haven’t been started and are somewhere between a glint in a developers’ and the city’s eyes and the final planning phase.

Here’s five that I’ll be keeping tabs on in 2015:

1. Fourth and Race tower (currently Pogue’s Garage): If I’d done a similar list last year, this one would have been on it as well. After a year of negotiating, Mayor John Cranley, Indianapolis developer Flaherty & Collins and the Cincinnati Center for Development Corp. finally got a deal they could all live with 3CDC, which will own and operate the garage, started out as a city consultant on the project and ended up as a partner. The next milestone in the project will be its design. It’s yet another downtown project where there’s as much parking as there is residential, retail or office space (eight stories of each). Can they make it look decent considering the amazing design in Flaherty & Collins’ original 30-story tower?

2. Seven at Broadway apartment tower and parking garage: This project has already been designed, vetted and praised by the city’s Urban Design Review Board with the parking component hidden away, but developers NorthPointe Group, North American Properties and Al Neyer need financing. NorthPointe’s Rick Kimbler believes city money will be needed. Will Mayor John Cranley and the City Council use some of the money saved on Fourth and Race to do this deal?

3. Development around Findlay Market: This could be one of Over the Rhine’s most exciting projects. It’s one that aims to revitalize housing around the city institution, make the market more of a daily destination for people instead of one they visit mostly on weekends, share more of OTR’s renaissance north of Liberty Street and share it with those who have been left out. Council has approved the Model Group’s development of the 1800 block of Race Street, which will include a grocery store to supplement Findlay Market.

4. Hotel at the Banks: City and county officials and Reds owner Bob Castellini are none too happy that there won’t be a hotel at the riverfront development in time for the 2015 All-Star Game. Will Banks developers Carter and The Dawson Co. come up with a viable plan after Cranley ruled out city money for it earlier this year? They’ll probably have to or settle for a lot less than the laughable $12 million to $16 million they asked for in order to build a high-end hotel. City Hall was burned at the stake for kicking in cash for the now-closed Mahogany’s restaurant and delivered big time on pricey incentives to lure General Electric to phase 2a of the project.

5. Vacant lots on the streetcar line: The streetcar is 21 months from being operational, but developers and businesses along the lines already have cited it as part of the reason they are locating in downtown and Over-the-Rhine, yet there are plenty of vacant lots being used for parking near the line. Will 2015 be the year developers announce major plans for some them?

Comey & Shepherd Realtors | Cincinnati Real Estate Blog | Cincinnati Real Estate | Comey Blog

Cincinnati Named One of Nation’s Best Cities

December 19, 2014 at 2:26 pm
December 19, 2014 |

Taken From:

Photo By Rudy Balasko

Cincinnati has been gaining national attention in recent years, but it was just named one of the best cities in America for 2014.

Real estate blog Movoto ranked the Queen City No. 5 on its list of overall top cities. The ranking is based on several other surveys the site did throughout the year, including most caring cities, most stressed cities, most boring cities, snobbiest cities, cities with the most state pride and best cities for cats.

Cincinnati came in just behind Pittsburgh, and the two had similar scores, but one place they differed was the Pennsylvania town was a little more snobby. The blog gave Cincinnati props for its entertainment, saying, “anyone who lives there can tell you its certainly not boring.”

Cincinnati was also the second proudest of its home state and the No. 24 best city for cats. It also came in among the top third of cities when it comes to stress.

Comey & Shepherd Realtors | Cincinnati Real Estate Blog | Cincinnati Real Estate | Comey Blog

Are The Holidays Really The Time To Buy?

December 17, 2014 at 12:54 pm
December 17, 2014 |

Taken From:

Image From Melinda Shelton Via Flickr Creative Commons

Every December, consumers are deluged with media stories predicting the economic year ahead and offering financial tips to close out the current year. This expert advice often mentions the benefits of buying a home during the holiday season.

But are these benefits really all they’re cracked up to be? Let’s take a look.

Lower home prices

Many holiday home buying stories claim home prices are lower at the end of the year, citing national statistics at the time. But national statistics don’t matter for your local decision-making.

The price of any home you buy will depend on price dynamics in your target city, neighborhood and street. Only your real estate agent can advise properly on the right offer price, and a good agent will tell you whether buying before or after the holidays makes any difference.

The national trend is that home affordability has increased as rent has risen. Conduct local rent-vs.-buy math with your lender and agent to see if that trend holds true for you locally.

Verdict: slightly overblown benefit

Motivated sellers

You can gain significant home price benefit when working with an eager seller. If anyone selling a home — whether an individual or a large corporate builder — keeps the property listed during the holidays instead of pulling it off the market, it means they’re strongly motivated to sell, and you have negotiating power.

Before writing an offer, you and your real estate agent must discover everything you can about the seller’s motivation. Is their new home purchase contingent on this home selling? How much do they owe on the home? (Your agent can get this data.) Answers to these questions will help you structure a firm and fair offer.

Verdict: big benefit

Less buyer competition

Even though the market is slowing, bidding wars are still common in many markets. However, even motivated buyers do indeed drop out during the holidays. If you and your family are able to manage a home buying transaction during this busy time of year, you will avoid some price competition.

Verdict: real benefit

Tax deductions

Home owners can deduct property taxes and mortgage interest every year, so it’s somewhat misleading to say that buying a home during the holidays makes a difference — unless the buyer is specifically concerned about impacting their taxes for the current year.

Buyers can also deduct “discount” or “origination” fees used to buy a rate down  in the year they paid these fees. All of these deductions reduce taxable income each year, thereby reducing taxes that homeowners pay each year. So buyers will get their home owner deductions, regardless of when they close.

Verdict: potential benefit

Low rates

Rates are indeed historically low right now, but claiming low rates as a benefit of holiday home buying is a bit disingenuous — rates have been historically low for years.

Wall Street estimates called for higher rates going into 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 — and so far, many 2015 estimates call for the same. Yet the only year rates spiked was 2013 (then dropped again this year).

It’s more important to get a low price on a home. A price can’t be lowered later if home prices drop, but a rate can be refinanced later if rates drop.

Also, if it’s a question of buying in December 2014 or early 2015, there’s little difference. Global economic fundamentals suggest we won’t see a material rate rise to start the year.

Verdict: not a December-only benefit

Easier mortgage process

Holiday buying stories promote easy mortgage closings during the holidays by claiming that lenders’ business is slower. But the reality is quite the contrary, especially this year.

Rates are at 18-month lows, and most lenders in this country will remain at capacity through the end of the year. Loan officers, like real estate agents, are happy to work during holidays. But they can’t help it if their lender and escrow/title team members — those who approve loans, draw documents, and fund and close loans — are on vacation or closed.

If you’re involved in a holiday transaction, double check that your lender and escrow officer can perform on the timeline dictated by your home purchase contract.

Verdict: greatly exaggerated benefit

Comey & Shepherd Realtors | Cincinnati Real Estate Blog | Cincinnati Real Estate | Comey Blog

Watch These West Coasters Try Cincinnati Favorites

December 12, 2014 at 12:41 pm
December 12, 2014 |


Image taken from Youtube video seen in below link

Cincinnati is known for The Reds, The Bengals, that George Clooney movie, the Lacheys, and most importantly its food. From goetta, to sweet chilies like Skyline and Gold Star, to that special sauce from LaRosas, food is a major part of what it means to be a Cincinnatian. Watch West Coasters try Ohio staples for the first time and notice how many of the foods are from our great city.

West Coasters Try Ohio Foods

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