Mortgage markets improved last week as the Federal Reserve introduced new economic stimulus. The move trumped bond-harming action from the Eurozone, and a series better-than-expected U.S. economic data.
The 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate dropped last week for most loan types, including for conforming, FHA and VA loans. 15-year fixed rate mortgage rates improved, as well.
Mortgage rates are back near their lowest levels of all-time.
Last week’s main event was the Federal Open Market Committee’s sixth scheduled meeting of 2012. Wall Street expected the Fed to launch a third round of quantitative easing (QE3) after its meeting and the nation’s central banker did not disappoint.
It launched QE3 and did so with such scale that even Wall Street was shocked.
The Federal Reserve announced a plan to purchase $40 billion monthly of mortgage-backed bonds indefinitely, a move aimed at lowering U.S. mortgage rates in order to stimulate the housing market which can create more jobs in construction and other related industries.
The Fed will continue to buy mortgage bonds until it deems such purchases no longer necessary. The Fed also announced a commitment to holding the Fed Funds Rate in its current target range of 0.000-0.250% until mid-2015, at least.
Mortgage rates responded favorably to the stimulus, falling to their lowest levels of the week. It masked a rise in rates from earlier in the week tied to the German court’s clearing of the European Stability Mechanism — the Eurozone “bailout fund”.
The action clears the way for debt-burdened nations including Spain and Greece to get the support necessary to remain solvent.
Mortgage rates were also pressured higher by a strong consumer confidence report. When consumers are more confident in the economy, they may be more likely to spend and consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy.
This week, mortgage rates throughout Virginia face competing pressures. The Fed’s bond-buy has started and that will lead rates lower, but with Housing Starts and Existing Home Sales data set for release, data could pull rates up.
Germ studies show that a kitchen cutting board carries up to 200 times more bacteria than a toilet seat.
This is because homeowners clean their bathrooms with fervor, while only “rinsing” down parts of their kitchens.
In failing to disinfect cutting boards (among other kitchen mainstays), homeowners in Fort Lee and everywhere else leave untouched a prime bacteria breeding ground, and may be getting sick as a result.
According to the CDC, 48 million Americans get sick from food-borne bacteria each year.
If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned your kitchen cutting board, here are some tips on how to do it properly.
Homeowners with plastic cutting boards will have an easier go that homeowners with wooden cutting boards. If your cutting board is plastic, just place it in the dishwasher with dishwasher detergent. If your dishwasher has a “sanitize” feature, be sure to select it.
If your cutting board is made of wood, or another material that may crack and/or splinter in a dishwasher, follow these steps instead :
- Prepare a solution of natural dish soap and hot water.
- Without submerging the cutting board, scrub it with the solution.
- Towel dry the board and allow it to air-dry until completely dry.
- Apply a thin layer of undistilled white vinegar to the board surface either by spray can or paper towel.
- Allow the vinegar to sit for 30 minutes, then wipe clean.
For preventative care, you should also consider using separate cutting boards for meats and for fruits and vegetables. This can prevent cross-contamination. In addition, purchase a food-grade mineral oil and apply it to your wooden cutting boards regularly.
The kitchen is among the “germiest” places in your home. With extra attention, though, you can help keep it as bacteria-free as possible
Jason Gonsalves worked hard to turn his 6,500- squarefoot stucco- and- stone home in the suburbs of Sacramento into the ultimate grown- up party pad, complete with game room, custom wine cellar and an infinity- edge pool overlooking Folsom Lake. When interest rates fell recently, Mr. Gonsalves, who runs a lobbying firm, looked into refinancing his $750,000 mortgage. That’s when he got startling news— the home had dropped more than $ 200,000 in value while he was renovating.
Or at least, that’s what one real- estate website told him. Another valued the house at only $ 640,500. And these online estimates left him all the more confused when a real-life appraiser, assessing the house for the refinancing loan, pinned its value at $1.5 million. “I have no idea how those numbers could be so different,” Mr. Gonsalves says. Right or wrong, they’re the numbers millions of consumers are clamoring for. After years of real- estate pros holding all the informational cards in the home- sale game, Web- driven companies like Zillow, Homes.com and Realtor.com are reshuffling the deck, giving home shoppers and owners estimates of what almost any home is worth. People have flocked to the data in startling numbers: Together, four of the biggest sites that offer homevalue estimates get 100 million visits a month, with web surfers using them to determine what to ask or bid for a home, or whether to refinance.
But for figures that can carry such weight, critics say, the estimates can be far rougher than most people realize. Valuations that are 20% or even 50% higher or lower than a property’s eventual sale price are not uncommon, as the sites themselves acknowledge. The estimates frequently change, too—sometimes by hundreds of thousands of dollars— as sites plug new data into their algorithms.
All of the competitors make it clear their numbers are guesstimates, not gospel. “A Trulia estimate is just that—an estimate,” says a disclaimer on that site’s new home-value tool. Zillow goes a step further, publishing precise numbers about how imprecise its estimates can be. And every major site urges home- price hunters to consult appraisers or real-estate agents to refine their results.
But despite the disclaimers, homeowners and real- estate agents say, many Web surfers put enough faith in the estimates to sway the way they shop and sell.
After Frank and Sue Parks put their manor- style house in Louisville, Ky., on the market, they watched as Zillow put a $331,000 value on the dwelling in May; by July it had climbed to $1.5 million. (Zillow says the lower estimate reflected errors in its statistical model.) The couple got potential buyer referrals from the site, but they fended off a stream of lowball offers before they sold this fall. Mrs. Parks says the estimate roller coaster “ really affected our ability to move the place.”
Determining a home’s value has traditionally been the job of an appraiser, who gathers data on recently sold homes and compares them with the “subject property” to arrive at an estimate.
In the late 1980s, economists started developing automated valuation models, or AVMs, computer models that could analyze data about comparable sales, square footage, number of bedrooms and the like, in a matter of seconds. For years, these tools were mostly reserved for in- house analysts at lending banks.
It wasn’t until 2006 that Zillow took them to the masses, with its Zestimates, which now offer values for more than 100 million homes based on the company’s own algorithms. “ Humans don’t make these decisions,” says Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow.
Numbers like these have become weapons in the arsenal of consumers like Simms Jenkins, an Atlanta marketing executive, who has recently relied on online estimates to help him both buy and sell homes. “ I can’t imagine 25 years ago, when people would just go out and spend their entire Saturday looking at homes,” he says. “ You don’t have to do that now.”
But appraisers and real- estate consultants say the online models can veer off target with alarming frequency. Most data for the models come from two sources: records from tax assessors and listing data for recent sales. Collection is a challenge, however, because not every county tracks properties the same way— some calculate home size by number of bedrooms, others by overall square footage. And automated models aren’t designed to account for the unique construction details that often make or break a deal, or for intangible factors like a neighborhood’s gentrification. “You cannot use a computer model in certain areas and expect the value to come out right,” says John May, the former assessor of Jefferson County, Ky., which includes the state’s largest city, Louisville.
For all these reasons, models that banks use often add a “confidence score” to their estimates. Consumer- oriented sites, meanwhile, rely on disclaimers, some of which are eye- opening. Zillow surfers who read the “About Zestimates” page find out that the site’s overall error rate— the amount its estimates vary from a homes’ actual value—is 8.5%, and that about one- fourth of the estimates are at least 20% off the eventual sale price. In some places, the numbers are far more dramatic: In Hamilton County, Ohio, which includes Cincinnati, it’s 82%.
The sites argue that, over time, edits and corrections will help them perfect their numbers— with many fixes coming from their customers.
On Homes.com, anyone who knows a homeowner’s surname and the year the home was last purchased, can edit the details of a property listing in ways that can eventually change the estimated value.
Zillow has accepted revisions on 25 million homes— perhaps the strongest testament to how seriously consumers take its estimates. Today, the site says its figures are accurate enough to give consumers a good sense of any home’s value. In the meantime, says Mr. Humphries, its economist, “ We’re always tweaking the algorithm or building a new one.”
Congratulations Team Estes…2011 Richmond Five Star Real Estate Agents.
Five Star Professional partnered with Richmond magazine to determine the real estate agents in the Richmond area who provide exceptional service and overall satisfaction. The Five Star Professional research team contacted clients, peers and industry experts and asked if they had experience working with a real estate agents. Those who participated in the research provided the name of a real estate agents and rated that individual according to criteria such as integrity, communication and customer service. The survey data was collected and scored, resulting in the list of 2011 Richmond Five Star Real Estate Agents. The research methodology allows no more than 7 percent of real estate agents to be named a Five Star Real Estate Agent. I have been named as one of the Five Star Real Estate Agent’s 2011.
Super Value in Sherwood Hills Subdivision with this nice 4 bedroom, 2 bath brick home. Hardwood floors in formal living room, dining room, bedrooms and 3rd level hallway. Entire house has been freshly painted. 1st floor bedroom and full bath. New carpet in the family room with brick fireplace and private home office. A must see, close to Sherwood Hills Swim Club, Fort Lee and local shopping and dining. Please check the links associated with this property for the property virtual tour and video.
Want to replace your kitchen faucet? It’s a job for which you could hire a plumber, or, with just a little bit of craftsman skill, it’s a project you could finish yourself.
Watch this video from the Lowe’s YouTube channel. You’ll get step-by-step instruction on how to take out an old faucet and how to install a new one. The supplies you’ll need are minimal, too.
In 3 minutes, the video covers:
- How to shut the kitchen water supply off and drain residual water from the pipes
- How to detach and remove the old kitchen faucet
- How to align the new faucet and reconnect to the water lines
There’s some good tips along the way, too, including how to make sure you don’t accidentally connect the hot water supply to the cold-water faucet.
If you’re uncomfortable working with your home’s plumbing and would like a referral to a plumber near The Highlands , please just ask. I’m happy to help how I can.
A kitchen is often a home’s busiest room — a meeting place for meals and conversation. It’s also among the home’s most grimy rooms. Bacteria, dirt and germs collect on floors, on countertops, and inside appliances.
In this 4-minute clip from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn how to rid your kitchen of “nastiness”. The featured fixes use nothing but basic household cleansers and elbow grease, and they include:
- How to clean and restore wooden cutting boards and bowls
- How to remove “burn stains” from the side of a frying pan
- How to eliminate pervasive dishwasher odors
The segment also tackles why you should choose loofah over sponge, and how to catch fruit flies.
For as much time as you spend in your kitchen, it’s best to keep it clean and sanitized.
Supermarket aisles in the Chesterfield area are filled with specialty cleansers — some for the kitchen, some for the bathroom, some for the carpets. Loaded with chemicals, these cleansers can be tough on the environment and costly, too.
If you’re in search of an alternative, consider white distilled vinegar. It’s inexpensive, safe to store, and highly effective as a household cleanser.
White vinegar’s strength comes from its acidity, roughly 8%. It’s acidity kills most mold, germs, and bacteria, and can remove minerals deposits from coffee makers and glass surfaces.
Some uses for white distilled vinegar include:
- Cleaning the garbage disposal : 1/2 cup hot white distilled vinegar + 1/2 cup baking soda. Pour down drain and let sit for 5 minutes. Run hot water to flush it.
- Removing lunch box odors : Soak bread slice in white distilled vinegar. Place it in lunch box overnight.
- Remove dark spots on aluminum pots : Mix 1 cup white distilled vinegar + 1 cup hot water. Boil in pot.
- Brighten carpets : Mix solution of 1 cup white distilled vinegar + 1 gallon water. Test on inconspicuous area first.
- Remove water rings from wood : Mix solution of 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar + 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Rub with the grain.
White distilled vinegar is extremely versatile, but it can strip finish from counter-tops and floors if left to soak. Be sure to exercise care, therefore, when using vinegar at home.
There’s plenty of reasons to want to change a showerhead in your head. Perhaps you’re trying to fix a leak in the faucet; or, remodeling your bathroom; or, trying to conserve water via a low-flow showerhead.
Whatever the reason, changing a showerhead can be a basic do-it-yourself project. The tools aren’t complicated and the job is a quick one.
In this 2-minute video from AOL, you’ll learn:
- What tools you’ll need to change the showerhead
- How to remove your old showerhead
- How to firmly attach your new showerhead to prevent leaks
If you get stuck, or just want to outsource, call a professional handyman to finish the job. Changing a showerhead should take less than a hour to complete.