S&P/Case-Shiller: Home Prices Closed Out a Strong 2012

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Data through December 2012, released today by S&P Dow Jones Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, showed that all three headline composites ended the year with strong gains. The national composite posted an increase of 7.3 percent for 2012. The 10- and 20-City Composites reported annual returns of 5.9 percent and 6.8 percent in 2012. Month over- month, both the 10- and 20-City Composites moved into positive territory with gains of 0.2%; more than reversing last month’s losses.

In addition to the three composites, nineteen of the 20 MSAs posted positive year-over-year growth – only New York fell.

The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded a 7.3 percent gain in the fourth quarter of 2012 over the fourth quarter of 2011. In December 2012, the 10- and 20-City Composites posted annual increases of 5.9 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively.

“Home prices ended 2012 with solid gains,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Housing and residential construction led the economy in the 2012 fourth quarter.

In December’s report all three headline composites and 19 of the 20 cities gained over their levels of a year ago. Month-over-month, 9 cities and both Composites posted positive monthly gains. Seasonally adjusted, there were no monthly declines across all 20 cities.

“The National Composite increased 7.3 percent over the four quarters of 2012. From its low in the first quarter, it surged in the second and third quarter and slipped slightly in the 2012 fourth period. The 10- and 20-City Composites, which bottomed out in March 2012 continued to show both year-over-year and monthly gains in December. These movements, combined with other housing data, suggest that while housing is on the upswing some of the strongest numbers may have already been seen.

“Atlanta and Detroit posted their biggest year-over-year increases of 9.9 percent and 13.6 percent since the start of their indices in January 1991. Dallas, Denver, and Minneapolis recorded their largest annual increases since 2001. Phoenix continued its climb, posting an impressive year-over-year return of 23.0 percent; it posted eight consecutive months of double-digit annual growth.”

As of December 2012, average home prices across the United States for the 10-City and 20-City Composites are back to their autumn 2003 levels. Measured from their June/July 2006 peaks, the decline for both Composites is approximately 30 percent through December 2012. For both Composites, the December 2012 levels are approximately 8-9 percent above their recent lows seen in March 2012.

In December 2012, nine MSAs and both Composites posted positive monthly gains, led by Las Vegas with an increase of 1.8 percent. Eleven cities declined with Chicago posting the largest negative monthly return of 0.7 percent.

Atlanta and Detroit remain the only three cities with average home prices below their January 2000 levels. Detroit with an 80.04 print is 20 percent below its January 2000 level.

“The high end of the market is doing well and while it’s a fashionable thing to say that it is because of foreign money, I suspect the actual reason is that the one percent have gotten 122 percent of the recovery,” says USC Lusk Center for Real Estate Director, Richard Green. “Since the low end of the market is being targeted by investors, it’s the middle market that needs help – particularly in the form of higher income – if it is going to have a sustained recovery.”

For more information, visit www.homeprice.standardandpoors.com.

As Housing Market Warms, Keep These Buying Tips in Mind

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(BPT) – Ready to buy your first home, or move up to a larger home for your expanding family?
Home sales seem to be finally warming up after a five-year chill, as demand gradually builds among first-time homebuyers and existing homeowners seeking more room. Historically low mortgage rates, rising rents and relatively positive economic indicators are enhancing consumer confidence and driving the trend, according to the National Association of REALTORS(NAR).

As demand grows, home prices for a median existing home are expected to rise as much as 5 percent nationwide in 2013, according to the NAR. This should encourage existing homeowners who’ve been patiently sitting on the sidelines to consider putting their homes on the market.

Even though the outlook is looking brighter, Daniel Watkins, an attorney who specializes in real estate law at the Watkins Firm, APC in San Diego, says the hurdles to buying a home in today’s market are significantly higher than they were a few years ago.

"The big hurdle is financing. Expectations among lenders and sellers are a lot higher today," Watkins says. "If you’re serious about buying a home, you need to have a sizeable down payment, a good credit score, low debt and a solid track record of employment to qualify for a loan."

Lenders are paying close attention to buyers’ ability to repay a loan, according to FindLaw.com, the nation’s leading legal information website. The generally accepted principle is that no more than 30 percent of a household’s take-home income should go toward the principal, interest, taxes and insurance.

Here are some tips from FindLaw.com about buying a home within the next six to nine months:

  • Start planning now. Even if you’re a year or more away from buying a home, start preparing now. Build up your cash for a down payment plus other expenses that come with owning a home. Check your credit report for accuracy. Pay all your bills on time and zero out all credit card debt. And don’t take on new debt, like a large car payment.
  • Get a pre-approval letter. Home sellers want to know that you can get a loan to buy their home. It’s OK to window shop, but don’t make any offers unless you are certain you can obtain financing. After shopping around for a financial institution, get pre-approved for a home mortgage. Showing a seller a pre-approval letter will increase your chances of your offer being accepted. And don’t be surprised if the seller or his real estate agent contacts your loan officer to verify that you’ve been pre-approved.
  • Build a strong buying position. As the home market warms up, bidding wars will become more common. However, the highest bid doesn’t always win in today’s housing market. Instead, home sellers want to know the deal will go through with smooth sailing. So, today, the highest value is being placed on non-contingent offers (not contingent on the sale of your home), pre-approved financing, higher-than-normal earnest money deposit and personalized bids (share with the seller why the home would be a perfect match for you and your family).
  • Get a lawyer. In some states, the law requires that a real estate attorney be part of the process of making an offer and reviewing loan documents as part of the closing, according to FindLaw.com. Where a real estate attorney isn’t required, buyers and sellers should consider seeking legal assistance for relatively more complicated real estate transactions, such as purchasing a property directly from the homeowner, the purchase of a rental property, a short sale or the purchase of a foreclosed property.
  • Learn about the neighborhood. When you buy a home, you’re also buying into a community. Start your home search by first targeting a neighborhood where you want to live. Avoid neighborhoods where homes are not being kept up, or yards are full of old cars and junk. Check out the schools, too. Great schools attract families, and keep up home values. Avoid busy streets, homes under flight patterns or near railroad tracks. And contact the local police department for crime statistics and the location of nearby sex offenders.
  • Keep your emotions in check. If you’ve found a home you like, don’t fall in love with it yet. Make sure your offer is contingent upon a satisfactory home inspection conducted by an inspector that you hire (not the seller).
  • Save some extra money. Whether you’re buying your first home or your third, moving and getting a household established can cost more than you anticipated. Make sure you save enough extra money to redecorate your new home to fit your lifestyle, and to pay for unexpected repairs.

For more information, visit www.findlaw.com.

5 Ways to Update Your Bathroom for Less

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By Barbara Pronin

“These days,” says California bathroom designer Ted Reedy, “you can spend $15,000 or more to remodel an outdated bathroom. But while a trendy bath appeals to buyers and ultimately adds value to your home, you can achieve a fresh new look and improve functionality while spending whole lot less.”

Reedy suggests five ways to improve your old bathroom without spending any more than you need to:

Reface vanity/cabinets –
You can give bathroom cabinets and/or vanity a whole new look by refacing – not replacing – the old, tired-looking front surfaces. Refacing will cost just a third of the replacement cost and add new life to the room.
Add a stylish sink - Consider an integrated sink, which has no edges or hangovers from the countertop to the sink, or a bowl sink, which sits above the countertop, for between $150-$500. Even installing a shiny new chrome faucet and/or porcelain handles can be a smart and stylish small investment.
Change the lighting – Improve your bathroom’s look and feel by replacing those glaring overhead lights. Accent lighting, such as canister lights installed in the ceiling, or track lighting installed over the sink, will improve functionality and appearance at a very reasonable cost.
Update the flooring –Replacing vinyl tiles or linoleum with porcelain, ceramic or natural stone tiles is a cost-effective and savvy investment. Choose simple tile designs you can install yourself or have professionally installed.
Change the shower head - Turn your shower into an oasis you will enjoy by updating your shower head with a rain head. They can cost as little as $100 and the small investment can be a real turn-on to buyers when the time comes to sell.

Dublin St. Patrick’s Day Celebration 2013

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Dublin is hosting its annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration with the Green & White Gala beginning tonight at 6:00pm at the Dublin Senior Center located at 7600 Amador Valley Blvd., Dublin, CA 94568.

The parade will begin on Saturday at 9:30am and goes through Amador Plaza, Dublin Blvd, Village Parkway and Amador Valley Blvd.

The festival is on both Saturday and Sunday from 10:00am to 5:00pm at the Dublin Civic Center located at 100 Civiv Plaza, Dublin, CA 94568.

For all of you “go getters” out there the Shamrock 5k Fun Run & Walk is on Sunday at 8:30am and begins on Dublin Blvd at Civic Plaza.

Here are some helpful links:

Festival Activities & Entertainment Schedule
http://dublinca.gov/index.aspx?NID=873

Directions & Parking
http://dublinca.gov/index.aspx?NID=865

FAQs
http://dublinca.gov/index.aspx?NID=866

Hope to see you all there!

Avoid These Common Home Improvement Blunders

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(BPT) – Consumer complaints and lawsuits regarding home improvements are on the rise according to Ripoff Reports; a homeowner that does not do their homework before embarking on a project could find themselves with poor workmanship, inferior products, health and safety issues or even legal problems.

So what’s a homeowner in need of a fix up to do?

"Start by reviewing the three most common mistakes people make when embarking on a home improvement project," says Dave Harrison, chief marketing officer of Champion Windows, Sunrooms, Roofing and Home Exteriors, one of the nation’s leading home improvement companies.

No.1: Buying Only on Price
Your home is probably one of the most expensive items you own, so making improvements is not the place to budget shop.- "Make sure you are getting quality products professionally installed. A properly done home improvement should only have to be done once," added Harrison, "and remember the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’."

No. 2: Not looking at the Long Term Investment Benefits
When your home improvement project is finally over, you should be getting more than an upgrade to your home; you should also see an increase in your home’s value. When you do it right you can reduce energy and maintenance costs and increase comfort and pride in your home, and never have to worry about it again for as long as you own your home.

On the flip side a poorly executed project can lower the value of your home, have to be re-done in several years and even put your family’s health at risk. For example, water damage from faulty windows could cause mold.

No. 3: Not Knowing How to Screen a Contractor

"I’ve seen many independently owned contractors close their businesses after a short year or two," said Harrison. "When selecting a contractor to work with it is important to get a sense of who they are, what products they use and how long they have been in business."

According to Harrison there are four essential questions to ask during this screening process:
- Who designs it?
- Who builds it?
- Who installs it?
- Who guarantees it?

"When you don’t get the correct answers to these four questions you may end up with an inferior investment, expensive surprises, property damage or even lawsuits and liabilities," says Harrison.

"Ultimately, the answer you want is that there is a single source of accountability for your project. Having one company design, build, install and guarantee the product and work can save you time, money and hassles in the long run."

Make sure you have a contractor relationship you can trust for the long-term. This long-term relationship starts with a quality product and professional installation and includes a lifetime warranty from a company that has longevity and provides you with a sense that they will still be in business five or ten years down the road. -You should also ensure that your warranty is transferable, applies to all systems, applications and materials, and is non-prorated. A non-prorated warranty is considered to be the most valuable as it means that the manufacturer or seller will replace or repair the item at no cost to the buyer if there is a problem with a product.