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Patty Jo Anzivine
pattyjovine@gmail.com
Patty Jo Anzivine
4550 W. Tilghman Street
Allentown  PA 18104
PH: 610-390-0415
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F: 267-354-6902 
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List of Improving Housing Markets Expands to 259

February 15, 2013 2:36 am

The number of improving housing markets expanded for a sixth consecutive month to a total of 259 metropolitan areas on the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI). This total is up from 242 markets listed as improving in January.

Notably, the IMI list now contains markets from all 50 states, suggesting that the housing recovery has substantial momentum.

The IMI identifies metro areas that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months. A total of 20 new metros were added to the list and three were dropped from it this month. Newly added metros include such geographically diverse locations as Rome, Ga.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Racine, Wis.

Just over 70 percent of the 361 metros covered by the IMI are listed as improving in February. That marks a significant improvement from when the index was initiated with just 12 improving metros in September of 2011.

The IMI is designed to track housing markets throughout the country that are showing signs of improving economic health. The index measures three sets of independent monthly data to get a mark on the top improving Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The three indicators that are analyzed are employment growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, house price appreciation from Freddie Mac and single-family housing permit growth from the U.S. Census Bureau. NAHB uses the latest available data from these sources to generate a list of improving markets. A metropolitan area must see improvement in all three measures for at least six consecutive months following those measures’ respective troughs before being included on the improving markets list.

A complete list of all 259 metropolitan areas currently on the IMI, and separate breakouts of metros newly added to or dropped from the list in February, is available at www.nahb.org/imi.

Read this original post on NAHB's Eye on Housing blog.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homeownership Remains an Essential Part of the American Dream

February 15, 2013 2:36 am

In a recent survey of 1,060 homeowners conducted online by Research Data Technology, Inc. from November 16 to November 27, 2012, 79 percent believe that homeownership remains an essential part of the American dream. Additionally, 76 percent remain confident that if they wished to purchase a new home in the future that they would be able to sell their current home, obtain a mortgage and afford a down payment despite the recent recession and housing market crash.

Of those surveyed, slightly more than half believe the housing market will take 12 months or less to recover and only 19 percent are postponing a home purchase or sale because of a weak housing market.

"Low rates, affordable home prices and a recovering housing market have created a unique window of opportunity for potential homebuyers. The good news is that the housing market is steadily improving and upcoming lending regulations will hopefully provide the clarity needed for lenders to have renewed confidence," said Doug Lebda, chairman and CEO of LendingTree. "Consumers still value owning a home and despite a few difficult years, they remain optimistic that homeownership is a possibility. Now is a great time to invest in a home and make the American Dream reality, if purchasing a home aligns with your financial situation, goals and priorities."

Consumer confidence is even stronger when it comes to home-loan refinancing with 89 percent of those surveyed being confident that they will be able to refinance their mortgage with only 11 percent being uncertain. One in three surveyed had already refinanced their current mortgage, 28 percent still plan to do so and a remaining third are unsure of their plans to take advantage of the historically low interest rates.

Source: LendingTree

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Small Changes You Can Make to be More Heart Healthy

February 15, 2013 2:36 am

Do more. Eat right. Know your numbers. It can't be that simple, right? Northwestern Medicine® cardiologist Clyde Yancy, MD says it is that simple, and has some other little known facts that can help all of us improve our heart health.

While many of us may be focused on maintaining New Year's resolutions after overindulging during the numerous festivities of the holiday season, Dr. Yancy says there are some treats to be enjoyed throughout the year, if done in moderation and part of an overall healthy diet.

"Chocolate can be healthy because it's rich with cocoa and flavonoids," explained Yancy. "The cocoa increases blood flow, which can help mood and maybe even make you smarter, and flavonoids reduce inflammation, promoting healthy arteries and help fight aging by preventing and repairing cellular damage."

Flavonoids may also protect against dementia, Alzheimer's disease and some cancers. Before rushing off to eat a pound of dark chocolate, Yancy reminds us that moderation is the key. While chocolate may have healthy components, the high levels of sugar and fat can be detrimental to heart health if consumed in high quantities.

Another surprisingly heart healthy item is wine, red or white, but Yancy says it is likely not because of the alcohol. "A substance in wine known as resveratrol, which is found in the skins and seeds of grapes, may possess a number of benefits that protect the heart," said Yancy. Since red wines often have extended contact time with the grape's skins, they will naturally have higher levels of resveratrol. But, white wines also have healthy elements. Again, moderation is the key issue – too much wine will limit any health benefits of moderate consumption.

"While treats like chocolate and wine are fine, they must be part of an overall healthy diet that includes foods rich in nutrients," claims Yancy. One item that no diet should lack is fiber, specifically soluble fiber, which is shown to lower both bad cholesterol and risk of diabetes. We often think of oatmeal when we talk about fiber, but Yancy says that fiber can be found in some other surprising places. An apple a day keeps the doctor away is true because of the high fiber content in apples, and there's even more fiber in raspberries. The tip here is to eat the most colorful fruit to get the most fiber.

Beyond eating nutritious foods, exercise is a necessary part of any heart healthy lifestyle. All exercise is good for your heart, especially cardiovascular or aerobic activity sessions lasting 30 minutes, at least three to four times per week. Yancy says women shouldn't be as worried about eliminating a little extra bottom fat, but should focus more on fat around the organs, like belly fat. "Yes, fat is bad, but some kinds of body fat are not quite as bad as others," explained Yancy. "To keep a check on dangerous belly fat, we can measure this using the waist-to-hip ratio. With a ratio above 0.8 for women and 1.0 for men, the risk of heart disease increases."

Yancy believes that rather than just adopting the same resolution to lose weight, think more about the overall commitment to health with a balanced diet and exercise. "When you lead a healthy lifestyle that is focused on improving your overall wellbeing, the weight loss will come naturally," said Yancy. "Not only will you feel and look better, but your heart will be stronger and healthier."

Source: Northwestern Memorial Hospital

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27 Percent of Borrowers That Refinance Shorten Mortgage Term During Fourth Quarter

February 14, 2013 2:36 am

In the fourth quarter of 2012, 27 percent of borrowers that refinanced an existing mortgage chose to shorten their loan term, based on the Freddie Mac Quarterly Product Transition Report released today. Further, refinancing borrowers clearly preferred fixed-rate loans, regardless of whether their original loan was an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) or a fixed-rate.

News Facts
Of borrowers who refinanced during the fourth quarter of 2012, 27 percent shortened their loan term, while 69 percent of borrowers kept the same term as the loan that they had paid off; 4 percent chose to lengthen their loan term.

More than 95 percent of refinancing borrowers chose a fixed-rate loan. Fixed-rate loans were preferred regardless what the original loan product had been. For example, 83 percent of borrowers who had a hybrid ARM chose a fixed-rate loan during the fourth quarter, the highest share since the second quarter of 2010, while the remaining 17 percent chose to refinance back into a hybrid ARM.

Those borrowers who refinanced under the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) were more likely to take out a long-term, fixed-rate mortgage. For example, of HARP borrowers who were refinancing out of an ARM, more than 95 percent chose a fixed-rate mortgage; in contrast, of borrowers that had an ARM but did not refinance through HARP, more than one-third opted for another ARM.

Based on 2012 calendar year data for twelve large metropolitan areas, borrowers who lived in lower-priced metropolitan areas were generally more likely to shorten their term compared to borrowers living in very high-cost housing markets. For the U.S. as a whole, 29 percent of borrowers shortened their loan term when refinancing. Whereas, 43 percent of borrowers in the Dallas metropolitan area shortened their term, compared with 14 percent of those in the San Francisco metropolitan area.

"Fixed mortgage rates averaged 3.36 percent for 30-year loans and 2.67 percent for 15-year product during the fourth quarter in Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey®, the lowest quarterly averages recorded in our survey," says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. "For borrowers motivated to refinance by low fixed-rates, they could obtain even lower rates by shortening their term. Further, a shorter-term, fully amortizing loan reduces the loan balance faster and builds home equity sooner."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Power Outage Protection Tips

February 14, 2013 2:36 am

The powerful winter storm that pounded the Northeast with gusting winds and heavy snow resulted in power failures for hundreds of thousands of people. But, it doesn't matter what part of the country you call home, everyone is susceptible to power outages, particularly when it comes to severe winter weather. Being prepared is the best defense for such energy emergencies.

Here is a list of important things you can do to ensure the safety and security of your family during this and every power outage.

Develop a weather emergency plan. The plan should include a list of important phone numbers in case you need to quickly evacuate your home (i.e. doctors, family members, etc.). The plan should also include an evacuation route, as well as an established meeting place in case you lose communication with loved ones.

Grab a backpack or purchase a large plastic bucket with a lid from a local hardware store or home center. Stuff the backpack or bucket with three days' worth of food and water. Other items should include a flashlight, battery powered/hand-cranked radio, first aid kit, money, medications and a CD or USB drive containing important documents. Store the kit in a place that is easily accessible in an emergency situation. For more tips on how to prepare for weather-related emergencies like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes or tornadoes, visit the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) at http://www.flash.org.

Turn off major appliances such as water heaters, stoves and air conditioning units. Unplug other appliances such as TVs, stereos, microwaves and computers. This will prevent damage to appliances and possible overloads to the system when power is restored.

Leave one light on so you will be able to see when power is restored to your home.
Have a battery-operated or weather radio, multiple flashlights and a battery-operated clock and fan, along with extra batteries.

Stay away from fallen wires, flooded areas and debris. Treat all down wires and anything touching them as though they have electricity running through it!

Do not connect portable generators directly to the electrical system of your home. Electricity could flow backward into the power lines and endanger lives. Either have a qualified electrician perform the work or plug appliances directly into the portable generator.

If you're running a portable generator, be sure to use properly rated extension cords (electrical load and length). Also, make sure the portable generator is properly vented to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not place a portable generator in your home or an enclosed space with limited ventilation like a garage or a screened porch.

Familiarize yourself with your main electrical panel. You may have to turn off the main breaker or have to reset circuit breakers after an outage.

Inspect the area around your electricity meter. If you detect or suspect any damage, call your local utility provider.

Consider installing a commercial-grade, automatic generator for your home. An automatic generator (aka standby generator) is permanently installed outside the home similar to a central air conditioning unit. It runs on natural gas or propane and hooks up to existing gas lines. Standby generators turn on automatically when the power shuts off. A transfer switch constantly monitors utility power and transfers the electrical load to the generator if power is lost, protecting the home even if the home owner is away. A standby generator can power critical and sophisticated appliances and systems in your home, including lights, heating/cooling systems, refrigerators, sump pumps, home security systems and more.

To determine if a standby generator is right for you, be sure to do your homework and look for a unit that offers some of the following:

A commercial-grade engine that provides clean, consistent power, handles heavy loads and powers up quickly.

Make sure to purchase a standby generator with a minimum five-year warranty.

Don't forget about appearance. A standby generator sits outside your home, so look for a unit with a bold, clean look that is corrosion resistant.

Some units have remote monitoring/operating capabilities. This is important for those who spend time away from home.

Source: Kohler Generators

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Is DIY Home Remodeling Dying?

February 14, 2013 2:36 am

The RemodelOrMove.com Spring 2013 U.S. Remodeling Sentiment Report documents strong growth in higher-end home remodeling projects where a homeowner will hire a general contractor and do little or none of the work themselves. So is Do-It-Yourself home remodeling on the way out?

The latest findings show that the influences of the recession are continuing to diminish. The most notable results from the survey are as follows:

-58 percent of homeowners report that the economy is having minimal effect on their plans for remodeling, which is up from the low of just 33 percent in the middle of the recession.

-Average estimated cost for the planned remodels has reached $114,000 to remodel or add on an average of 3.6 rooms, which is up from $80,000 and 2.6 rooms at the depths of the recession.

-Homeowners planning to hire a general contractor for their project is up to 73 percent of respondents; 55 percent will hire an architect, and 80 percent report they will do little or none of the work themselves.

-Kitchen remodels and bathroom remodels tie for the most popular projects with 57 percent of homeowners reporting that these projects are part of their remodeling plans.

-The wealth effect is helping to fuel the recovery in home remodeling as homeowners taking this survey reporting an average home equity of $130,000 – the highest since 2009.

So what does the future hold? Do-it-yourself home improvement has been, and will likely continue to be, a feature of the U.S. home ownership picture. The recent decline in interest is likely a short-term result of the disproportionate economic recovery – homeowners who are better off financially are proceeding with their remodels by hiring others to do the work, while homeowners who are more budget-conscious and more inclined to do some of the work themselves are slower to start their remodeling projects. It is likely that as the economic recovery expands, more homeowners interested in DIY will begin planning remodels, and the sentiment report will show a ratio of DIY and Hire-it-done more in line with pre-recession numbers.

Source: RemodelOrMove.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top Home-Selling Tips for Spring Selling Season

February 13, 2013 2:36 am

For those wanting to sell their home come spring, here are a few data-proven home-selling tips for 2013. These important actions can be used by home sellers to maximize their chance of selling, get the highest price, and decrease time on market.

1. Friday is the best day to list a home. Homes listed on a Friday sell faster (81 days on the market, on average) for a price closer to their asking price (99.1 percent of the original asking price, on average) than homes listed on any other day of the week.

2. April is the best month to list, but definitely before June. Homes listed in April sell for closer to their original asking price, with a 99.2 percent sale price-to-list price ratio, compared with a 97.3 percent ratio for homes listed in December. The period of March through June had the largest percentage of homes that sold within 90 days of their debut.

3. Price your home right the first time. In the first week that a listing goes on the market, it receives nearly four times more visits on real estate websites than it does a month later.

4. Use professional photos on your listing
. Listings with photos taken with a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera sold for prices considerably closer to their asking price than those with point-and-shoot photos. Sellers made $5,700 more for a home priced between $400,000 and $500,000 when they used DSLR photos.

Source: Redfin

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National Mortgage Loan Delinquency Rate Drops Nearly 14 Percent in 2012

February 13, 2013 2:36 am

The national mortgage delinquency rate (the rate of borrowers 60 or more days past due) declined for the fourth consecutive quarter, dropping from 5.41 percent in Q3 2012 to 5.19 percent in Q4 2012. On a year-over-year basis, the mortgage delinquency rate has declined nearly 14 percent from 6.01 percent in Q4 2011.

"The national mortgage delinquency rate experienced its largest yearly decline since the conclusion of the recession, though we still remain far above normal levels," said Tim Martin, group vice president of U.S. Housing in TransUnion's financial services business unit. "For the most part, newer vintage mortgage loans are not the reason for the stubbornly high delinquency rate. They are performing relatively well. The elevated delinquency levels that we are still experiencing are a result of older vintage loans - borrowers who haven't been making their payments for a rather long time that are still in the system, inflating the overall rate."

During the height of the mortgage crisis, mortgage delinquencies rose 54 percent in 2007, 53 percent in 2008 and 50 percent in 2009. The subsequent decline has been a slow process with delinquency levels dropping 7 percent in 2010, 6 percent in 2011 and now falling 14 percent in 2012.

Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia experienced improvement in their mortgage delinquency rates from last quarter. Only three states did not experience mortgage delinquency improvement from last year.

TransUnion expects the mortgage delinquency rate to continue its downward trend in the first quarter of 2013, though it will likely remain above 5 percent.

Source: TransUnion

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Show Some Love for Your Home on Valentine's Day

February 13, 2013 2:36 am

If you believe in the old adage that “home is where the heart is,” then why not show a little love for your abode this Valentine’s Day? There are lots of ways to do it: You can rearrange the furniture, redecorate, or freshen things up with a colorful new coat of interior paint.

“Spicing up your home with some new color is a great way to fight the winter blahs,” says Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert for the Paint Quality Institute. “Studies have shown that color can be a great mood-lifter, and one of the easiest and least expensive ways to introduce new color into a home is with paint.”

One approach is to tackle the room where you spend the most time – your family room or dining area, for example. That way, you’ll get maximum enjoyment from your painting project.

If you’re not quite so ambitious, think about painting only an accent wall in a different color that complements or contrasts with the other walls. This simple project can often be accomplished in just a couple of hours, but can completely change the appearance and feel of a room.

When choosing which wall to paint in your accent color, keep in mind that the eye will tend to be drawn there. As a result, you might want to favor the wall where your best artwork is displayed or where your nicest furniture resides.

To better incorporate the accent wall’s new hue into the room’s overall color scheme, you might want to purchase a few inexpensive items that match the color and sprinkle them here and there. Possibilities include throw pillows, ceramics, a small area rug, even placemats.

Don’t have the budget to buy anything other than paint? Then “create” some matching accents by applying leftover paint to one of your small furniture items, a couple of picture frames, or some old pots with interesting shapes. The objective is simply to inject a little more of the accent color to help pull together the look of the room.

Color selection is a personal matter, but if you want to stay in the spirit of the valentine season, what could be more appropriate than red? The fiery color just so happens to be a great color choice for dining rooms and eating areas, where it tends to stimulate appetite, according to color psychologists.

Being a psychologically “warm” color, red in any tint or shade will tend to make cold February days cozier no matter where you use it in the home. And if you feel warmer, you might even be able to lower your thermostat a degree or two, saving on energy bills.

If you think you might have a passion for painting as Valentine’s Day approaches, Zimmer offers one final bit of advice: purchase the highest quality paint for the longest lasting results. As time goes by, you’ll learn to love the way the color continues to look as bright and fresh as the very first time you laid eyes on it.

Source: Paint Quality Institute

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Fourth Quarter Metro Area Home Prices Show Strongest Performance in Seven Years

February 12, 2013 2:36 am

A growing number of metropolitan areas had higher median home prices in the fourth quarter, with the national price showing the strongest year-over-year increase in seven years, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of Realtors®. A companion report shows record high housing affordability conditions for metro areas in 2012.

The median existing single-family home price rose in 133 out of 152 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) based on closings in the fourth quarter compared with same quarter in 2011, while 19 areas had price declines. In the third quarter, 120 areas showed increases from a year earlier, while in the fourth quarter of 2011, only 29 metros were up.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said all the conditions for strong price growth are at play. "Home sales are on a sustained uptrend, mortgage interest rates are hovering near record lows and unsold inventory is at the lowest level in 12 years," he said. "Home sales are being fueled by a pent-up demand and job creation, along with still favorable affordability conditions and rents rising at faster rates. Our population has been growing faster than overall housing stock, so supply and demand dynamics are very much at play." Yun added that more housing construction is needed to relieve some of the pressure in the market and keep home prices from overheating.

The national median existing single-family home price was $178,900 in the fourth quarter, up 10.0 percent from $162,600 in the fourth quarter of 2011, which is the strongest year-over-year price increase since the fourth quarter of 2005 when the median price jumped 13.6 percent. In the third quarter, the price rose 8.8 percent from a year earlier.

The median price is where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions.

A shrinking market share of lower priced homes continues to account for some of the price growth. Distressed homes - foreclosures and short sales generally sold at deep discounts - accounted for 23 percent of fourth quarter sales, down from 30 percent a year ago.

Total existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, rose 5.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.90 million in the fourth quarter from 4.66 million in the third quarter, and were 12.1 percent above the 4.37 million pace during the fourth quarter of 2011. Sales in the last quarter were at the highest level since the fourth quarter of 2009 when they reached 4.95 million.

At the end of the fourth quarter there were 1.82 million existing homes available for sale, which is 21.6 percent below the close of the fourth quarter of 2011 when 2.32 million homes were on the market. Unsold inventory is at the lowest level since January 2001 when there were 1.78 million homes for sale.
According to Freddie Mac, the national commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage averaged a record low 3.36 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 3.54 percent in the third quarter and 4.01 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Source: NAR

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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