Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Spring has definitely sprung in Pittsburgh. The birds are singing, everything is blooming, grass is growing and even the air smells fresh. It's a great time to be out and about in the 'Burgh.
It's also a great time to buy a home. Homes have not been this affordable since 1991. According to Fiserv Case-Shiller, the ratio of median home price to median family income is 2.6, down from a peak of 4.1 in mid 2005 and just under the long term average of 2.8. Average principal and interest mortgage payments have fallen from $1063 to $645.
Interest rates have been at all time lows but it looks like the party is about to be over. Two of our clients were recently locked in at rates of 3.5% and 3.75% for 30 year fixed mortgages. A few years ago you couldn't buy a car at that rate. Freddie Mac forecasts a 30 year fixed rate of 5% by end of summer and 6% by late 2012, early 2013. Credit is becoming tighter and you will need a higher credit score and possibly a larger downpayment to qualify for the lowest rates.
In a previous blog post, we reported that college students are graduating with all time high debt and poor job prospects. Many are moving in with their parents, but many others are taking jobs outside of their field of study and renting homes or apartments. In addition, in this area, we have the Marcellus Shale workers. Rentals are becoming more expensive and harder to find. We recently talked to a young couple who are paying $1400 / month for a nothing special apartment. They are purchasing a home and their mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance, will save them $400 / month. In addition, it's much closer to work and they have estimated it will save them another $2000 / year in gas.
In the Pittsburgh area, prices have hit bottom and are on the way back up. People always want to wait until the bottom to buy, but when do you know when the bottom has been reached? When prices start increasing. We are on the upswing. More buyers are out in the market, inventory is getting more depleted, multiple offers are becoming a little more common. These are all signs that the market is recovering.
The weather is great - all buying factors are favorable. It's a great time to look at the possibility of buying a home. Need help? We're here for you. Call or email and we'll set up a personal consultation to explore your options.
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
Is it better to rent a Pittsburgh home, or to buy one? The answer may not be as clear-cut as you think. In this balanced, 3-minute joint interview from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll hear the case for both sides.
From the pro-renting part of the talk, there’s valid points about the economic impact of low credit scores and/or no cash for downpayment, and the ongoing, annual cost of home maintenance — estimated at 2% of a home’s value. Plus, renters have the ability to “follow a job” to a new town or region whereas a homeowner may be restricted, somewhat.
From the pro-purchase part, however, there’s excellent points that were made, too:
- Mortgage rates are low and each 1% drop to rates equates to a 9% drop to home price
- Buyers can zero in on a particular area with particular schools or walkability, for example, better than renters
- A home can a piggybank over the long-term; a place for “forced savings” for families that want it
The segment then closes with 5 of the best cities in which to rent, and 5 of the best cities in which to buy.
Whether buying or renting, don’t try to go at it alone. There’s lot of resources online, and an email to a local real estate or mortgage pro can set you in the right direction.
Monday, 09 August 2010
Just because the expiration date has passed, that doesn’t mean that the food is spoiled. It’s a deep-seated misconception that results in the average American household wasting 14% of all food purchases.
The estimated cost of waste like that totals in the billions.
The data comes from a study commissioned by ShelfLifeAdvice.com, a website devoted to helping households cut food bills by providing better information of how to properly store food; of how food expiration dates work; and, by defining what “use by”, “sell by” and other product dates actually mean.
Among survey participants, women fared better than men, older people fared better than younger people, and married people fared better than non-married people. Overall, however, there’s room for better understanding.
Milk will remain safe for about a week after the “sell by” date. It’s safe to drink beyond that, but the taste may change for the worse.
Cottage Cheese will remain safe for about 2 weeks after the “sell by” date.
Mayonnaise will last for up to 4 months after opening, when kept cold
And, perhaps the biggest surprise, is that eggs, if properly refrigerated, will remain fresh for up to 5 weeks after the “sell by” date on the carton.
Read the survey’s complete results on the ShelfLifeAdvice.com website, including facts you may not have known about keeping your food beyond its expiration date. What you learn will keep you from pitching food prematurely, and help you save money at the grocery store.
Thursday, 25 February 2010
According to an article in Forbes magazine, the best place to buy a home right now is PITTSBURGH!! Pittsburgh has appreciating prices that make home buying a wise investment, 85% of homes in the metro area are affordable to those making $62,500 (median family income) or less, and a relatively low number of foreclosures.
More evidence that the experts are clued in to what ‘Burghers have known all along. We did not experience the big highs of the 2005-2006 housing boom and now that things are leveling off, nationally – we’re not experiencing the big lows. Any way you look at it, Pittsburgh is a great place to live.
Monday, 08 February 2010
10. Steps, steps and more steps. Our terrain is tough on out-of-towners. Especially if they’re from someplace flat like Ohio. They’re worried about big things like their new job, finding the right school, surviving black & gold fever in Blitzburgh during football season. But they think they’ve got the housing situation figured out. They’ve been on the web sites & looked at a gazillion virtual tours but nothing prepares them for the reality of our 3 story houses on the top of a hill with two flights of steps to the front door. Take them from the basement to the attic and our out-of-town visitor thinks they’ve climbed Rapunzel’s tower. What fun! And even the born-in-the-Burgh buyers want to know how realtors manage to take photographs that make a 3 story house on a hill look level. “But I looked at the pictures online – this lot looked flat!” Airbrushing?
9. Keeping with the rolling and hilly terrain – how about split entries and multi-levels? Most everyone from this area is familiar with the abundance of split entries where we live in our game rooms, in the BASEMENT (see # 8). But it’s fun to show a multi-level to an out of towner. Most multi’s start at ground level in the garage, up 5-6 steps to the game room/laundry room/storage; up 5-6 steps to the living room/dining room/kitchen; up 5-6 steps to the bedrooms and if you’re really lucky – some will go up 5-6 steps to additional bedrooms. Level entry? One floor living? Not easy to find in the rolling hills of Western PA.
8. Basement living space. I admit – I’m a basement dweller – have been for years. Long time Pittsburgh residents want a finished basement, or, at the very least, a basement that can be finished. Everybody finishes their basement. Most often, we’re talking game rooms, but there are rooms dedicated to the Steelers and Penguins, rooms for model train displays, playrooms, craft rooms, dens, bedrooms, kitchens (see # 7) and just about any type of room imaginable. Some have very low ceilings because the anxious-to-have-a-finished-basement homeowner covered up all the low beams with ceiling tile and now you have to scooch down to get from the coach to the tv. Out-of-town visitors are like “Is this one of those bomb shelters?” Last year, I showed a house in Canonsburg where the basement ceilings had to be lower than 5’6” (my height) because I could not straighten up. Anywhere! In the entire basement. As opposed to the signs at Kennywood (you must be this tall to ride this ride), this house needed a sign out front that said “You must be no taller than this to buy this house”.
7. Kitchens in the basement. It’s amazing how many houses have two kitchens; the family kitchen on the main floor and the canning kitchen in the basement. I’ve seen a lot of two kitchen houses in the Canonsburg and Houston areas. I’ve been told it’s because many of the people who originally occupied these houses were immigrants from Italy, Greece and eastern Europe. They cooked big meals for large, extended families, had big gardens and did a lot of canning. I always find myself smiling when I walk down the steps to find a basement kitchen because it makes me think about how past owners and their families enjoyed living in the house.
6. Small closets. In the older turn of the century houses, there is a distinct lack of closet space. Some of these houses are oh-so-charming with their stained glass windows, built in cupboards & fireplaces in every room. I can hear the buyers saying “Ooh, aah, oh my – wow”. The showing is going really great and I can feel their excitement growing. Then… as they are imagining large bedroom sized walk-in closets, as seen on MTV’s Cribs, they open the door to find there is not even enough room to put a clothes hanger in straight on – you have to turn it sideways. They’ll turn to me and say “Are there any newer houses on the market in this price range?”
5. Crawl spaces with windows but no doors. Why? So you can look at the space no full sized adult can get in to? Weird. It is fun watching a home inspector debate whether or not he might actually be able to fit through the window or if inspection by flashlight will have to do.
4. Captive bedrooms. A captive bedroom is a bedroom you can only get to by going through another room. No hallway access. This is a tough one for buyers today. If a 3 bedroom house includes a master bedroom and 2 other bedrooms, one of which is captive, most buyers want another bedroom.
3. Septic systems with no holding tanks. Love this one, which is amazingly, not uncommon in parts of Washington County. Here’s a conversation that took place between a buyer & seller: Buyer: “So you flush the toilet and where does it go?” Seller: “Out.” “Out where?” “Outside.” “To a tank?” “Nope, no tank.” “So where does it go?” “Out there – over the hill.” In the car, after this type of exchange, it is not uncommon for the buyer to say: – “let’s only look at houses with public sewers, okay?”
2. Garages. Two issues here. What’s with all those “2 car tandem” garages and narrow driveways? Okay – I don’t care what you say - that is an oversized one car garage. I wish owners and agents would stop calling them two car because nobody in this day and age likes to play the game of shuffling cars around so they can go to work in the morning. And issue #2, in the newer houses – garages are getting smaller and smaller. Today’s two car garage is only really big enough for 2 Honda Civic sized vehicles. Wherever will I park my Hummer and my Suburban?
And the number 1 unique feature: The Pittsburgh Toilet or the Pittsburgh Potty. I know you’ve seen them – in the basement – a toilet – not a bathroom – just a toilet. It can be against a wall and have walls around it (although that’s a pretty high class example); it can be in the center of the room – just kind of freestanding there all by its lonesome. I saw one in the middle of an unfinished basement with a magazine rack next to it and a bright yellow flowered shower curtain around it. You just gotta smile – can’t help yourself.
The Pittsburgh Toilet was born years ago, when steel workers and miners would come home from work and stop in the basement to wash up in the laundry tub and use the facility (toilet) before going upstairs for supper with the family. For those of us whose families first settled in this area – the Pittsburgh Toilet is another little piece of history surviving in houses all over the Burgh that makes us smile and think about our ancestors. And for that anxious-to-have-a-finished basement home owner – a place to begin…”hey, hon – look, a toilet - we can build a game room around it.”