Saturday, March 29, 2014

Where are the first time buyers?

According to the National Association of Realtors most recent Realtor magazine, there are 40 million renter households in the United States.  What is keeping them from buying?

According to statistics, in a normal market, about 40% of the sales are first time buyers.  About 27% of sales at this time are first time buyers.  This reduction in first time buyers is due to several factors.

New QRM standards imposed by the Federal government are definitely having an impact on first time buyers.  Credit score requirements are up and so is the reqirement for down payment money.

Additionally, new home construction is not up to "pre-bubble" production and mortgage default rates have been at historic lows in the last few years.  Is it time to ease up on mortgage qualification standards instead of tightening the noose?  Will builders have the confidence to build when loan standards are so tight?

With interest rates still at historic lows and home pricing set to rise it seems that there is nothing to fear but fear itself!

Home ownership has always been a rewarding investment, as well as a wonderful way to have control of your life.

If you would like to buy or sell a home, call me today.  I will treat your transaction as if it were my own.

Thank you for visiting my blog,

Carla Brooks

Ps all photos are a courtesy of free digital photos

Friday, March 21, 2014

Where does the United States stand with regard to Positive Equity and Negative Equity?

I read an interesting article in the Los Angeles times recently concerning positive and negative equity across the country.  Here is a recap:

The real estate market peaked in 2005-2006.  Although the sales activity had definitely cooled in the last half of 2005, industry experts and homeowners preferred to hold onto the notion that the "lull" in the market was just temporary.  History, however, has shown us otherwise.

It is now the first half of 2014 and the real estate market continues to inch toward the recovery of 2005-2006 values. Nearly 4 million USA homeowners climbed out of negative equity on their homes to positve equity last year.  There is steady improvement year by year!

Positive equity is defined as having a home value worth more than the debt on the property.  Likewise, negative equity is defined as having more debt on the property than the home is worth.  Negative equity situations hurt the homeowner and the economy.  The homeowner is typically unable to refinance to more affordable interest rates and unable to sell either unless they have the money to bring to the table to pay off the mortgage debt.

The most ideal situation is to have 20% equity or greater.  The homeowner with at least 20% equity will be able to refinance, move, buy other properties and contribute to the overall economic growth of the country.

The states with the best positive equity are:

Texas -3.9%
Alaska 4.2%
New York 6.3%
Oklahoma 6.4%
District of Columbia 6.5%

The states with the highest % of underwater mortgages (Debt is more than home is worth) are:

Nevada- 30.4%
Florida- 28.1%
Arizona- 21.5%

Other states with high underwater percentages are:

California- 12.6%
Ohio- 19%
Illinois- 18.7%
Rhode Island-81.3%

2014 is set to be another recovery year for the real estate industry.  Hopefully, this time next year will show vast improvement once again from the above figures.

If you would like to buy or sell a home call me today.  I will treat your transaction as if it were my own.

Thank you for visiting my blog,

                                                                   Carla Brooks

PS the photos in this blog are from here

Friday, March 14, 2014

Now is the time

The past week's weather has proven that Northern Virginia is on the verge of the spring season!  Hooray from the rooftops!!!

In spite of the groggy moments brought on by the recent spring forward time change, we are all feeling the energy and excitement warmer weather brings.

Why not put this energy and excitement to good use by accomplishing some spring-like tasks around the house?

For example:


Your deck is looking grey from the cold harsh winter elements, power wash it. Your windows are dirty (inside and out).  Clean under your furniture and beds ( accumulated dust.) Brush off the dust on all the blinds in your home.


Get rid of all the winter clothing that you did not wear this past season.  Studies have shown that if you do not wear something over the year, you will never wear it.  Someone else can use that item and you will get the tax donation for dropping it off at a local charity.


Chalk paint or refinish that solid wood table you bought at the yard sale three years ago.


Many communities are holding "shredding parties" at local school parking lots this spring.  Check out the schedules in your community.  Again, why waste valuable storage space on papers you no longer need?


Not satisfied with your bookshelf appearance?  Take the time to organize those books so the look is pleasing to the eye.  I read recently in a design book that picture frames look better on Vertical surface (walls) than they do on book shelves.  My home took on a brand new look by moving all framed pictures to a collage on the wall and organizing the books remaining on the shelves by color.

Plant some flowers

Freshen up your flower pots with some cold resistant pansies.  Pansies will not wilt in freezing weather (or snowy weather) and they are an instant way to bring on the excitement of spring!

Thank you for visiting my blog.  

If you are ready to buy or sell a home, call me today.  I will treat your transaction as if it were my own!

                                                           Carla Brooks

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dissecting the Reverse Mortgage

I recently checked with a loan officer to see if a "Reverse Mortgage" would be a viable option for my mother to supplement her social security income.  Living in Northern Virginia is expensive. Real estate taxes are nearly $800 a month.  Add in food, utilities and various medications and the monthly cost to survive is up towards $3,000 per month.

The starting point for a reverse mortgage estimate is the appraised value of the home.   A maximum claim amount is set based on the appraised value and/or the FHA limit of $625,500.  (The reverse mortgage program is a federally backed  and the FHA limit applies.)

 A "Principal Limit" is set based on the maximum claim amount.  Bear in mind that interest accrues monthly on the unpaid escalating balance.  This is the reverse of a standard residential home mortgage where the balance is reduced with each monthly payment.

  In addition to the interest accruals, the reverse mortgage starts with a "balance".  This "balance" is the up front cost to do business and is tied to the interest rate on the reverse mortgage.  Due to this up front cost, the reverse mortgage is an expensive way to finance retirement in the short run.  The longer one draws on the reverse mortgage, the lower the total loan cost rate will be.  The initial start up cost for the loan on my mom's property would be $10,383.12.

Based on the amortization schedule provided, I was able to ascertain that a reverse mortgage was not in the best interests for my mother since she has a less expensive way to fill the gap between her monthly expenses and monthly income.

Over the course of 10 years the balance would be nearly $600,000 (draws + interest) on a home that is currently mortgage free.  Interest was calculated at an annual interest rate of 5.790%.

I would recommend the reverse mortgage to those individuals that do not have a less expensive way to supplement their retirement income.  The positives are of a reverse mortgage are as follows:

-monthly "draws" provide support to pay monthly expenses
 -one never gives up title to the home
- one can live in the home forever (as long as they can care for themselves)
- the reverse mortgage does not effect social security or medicare
- the monthly payments are not taxable income
-one can extend the life of their portfolio income and assets (if applicable)

For more information please contact a reverse mortgage specialist.

Thank you for visiting my blog.  If you want to buy or sell a home call me today.  I will treat your transaction as if it were my own.

                                                      Carla Brooks

PS attached photo is a courtesy of

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Open House today in Cardinal Forest

I am at : 15571 Andover Heights Drive in Woodbridge today from 1-4.  This home is strategically priced at $399,900.  It boasts 4 bedrooms and 3 full bathrooms.

  The kitchen is brand new within the last 12 months.  Features include:

Quartz countertops
sliding drawers
built in double silverware drawer
new kitchen cabinetry
stainless steel refrigerator and microwave

The home has a cathedral ceiling in the main living area and custom paint throughout.  There is a sliding glass door to the deck from the dining area.  All bathrooms have upgraded vanities and ceramic tiled flooring.

Thank you for visiting my blog,

                                             Carla Brooks

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Springing Forward on Sunday!

In the fall, I love when its time to turn the clocks back.  So wonderful to gain an hour!

In the spring,  I groan at the thought of sleep deprivation. For goodness sakes, its only an hour! Still, its easier to adjust to a one hour gain than a one hour loss, right?

Nevertheless, its time to spring forward.  I think we are all ready after  the cold, snowy winter:)

If you are ready to buy or sell a home, or just want to discuss your real estate plans, call me today.

Thank you for visiting my blog,

Carla Brooks

Ps The first photo is From "My Book House" by Olivia Beaupre' Miller