I hope your February is off to a great start! In this month’s newsletter, you’ll find a quick market update, some easy money-saving tips, and a peek into how real estate agents go about pricing a home. I’ve also included a recipe for a deliciously sweet Valentine’s Day treat.
Market Update: Home buying Season Starts Early This Year
Spring is typically the busiest time of year for selling and buying a home, but in 2020—as a result of historically low mortgage rates and a shortage of for-sale homes—the market is already heating up.
In mid-January, total mortgage applications soared 30.2% in just one week. Many of those were homeowners looking to refinance, but even purchase application volume hit the highest level since October 2009, rising 16% in a week.
What this means for you:
– If you’re a homeowner, look into whether refinancing would benefit you.
– If you’re looking to buy or sell a home, there’s no need to wait for spring. Get started now!
13 Pain-Free Ways To Save Money
Life can get expensive. Buying a home, remodeling the kitchen, proposing to your Valentine with a glittering diamond ring—these things cost money and lots of it.
- Consider the 50/30/20 budget: “Devote 50% of your income to necessities, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings.”
- Set up automatic deposits to your savings account through online banking. With some banks, you can arrange for a small deposit to be made to your savings every time you swipe your debit card.
- Make a list before going grocery shopping. Plan your meals for the next week, then check to see what you already have in your fridge and pantry. And remember to use the loyalty card or app for whatever store you visit!
- If you love going out to eat with friends, you can still save money without cramping your social life. Get a small plate or appetizer instead of a main dish, and limit yourself to one drink instead of two.
- Time major purchases according to annual sale periods
- Try the 30-day rule for large purchases: When there’s something big you want to buy, first write down what it is and how much it costs, and if you still want it 30 days later, go for it!
- Make online shopping less convenient. Always check out as a guest so your payment and address information won’t be saved.
- Cancel subscriptions you’re not really using. If you mostly watch Netflix, maybe you can live without Hulu.
- Split your Netflix account with a family member or friend. You can still have your own profile, but at half the cost!
- Simplify your cell phone plan. Use WiFi whenever it’s available, and monitor your data usage to see if you really need that unlimited plan.
- Take simple actions to lower your utility bills—turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth or scrub dishes, and unplug appliances when you’re not using them.
- Switch to a cheaper gym (or run outside). Planet Fitness is only $10 a month.
- Throw away less food. The “best by” date refers to a food item’s last day of peak quality, but it’s still usually safe to eat afterward—sometimes even weeks later.
How It Works: Pricing Your Home
Pricing your home is both a science and an art. Your agent will look at facts and figures, of course. But they’ll also tap into their finely-tuned instincts about how buyers interpret and react to home prices.
Your real estate agent will begin by performing a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). They’ll look at active listings and recent sales of similar homes in your neighborhood—homes with similar square footage, age, number of beds/baths, amenities, etc. The range of final sale prices of these homes will provide a starting point for how you should price your home.
Because here’s the thing: Your home is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it. In a competitive “seller’s market,” you’ll be able to price your home higher than you’d be able to in a “buyer’s market” where inventory is overflowing and buyers have more options.
That’s the scientific part of pricing. Next comes the artistry. This is where your agent’s expertise and experience will really be beneficial.
It can be tempting to start by overpricing your home, reasoning that buyers will try to lowball you—but this could come back to bite you.
If your price is too high, people who would otherwise be interested might not bother taking a look. If your home sits on the market for too long, and if you start dropping the price, buyers will wonder what’s wrong with the property. If you set a fair price—even a price on the low end of the range you determined from the CMA—you’re more likely to receive multiple offers, which can drive up the price.
Learn more about determining home price at themortgagereports.com.
For Your Valentine: White Chocolate Raspberry Scones
Recipe by Gluesticks. Makes 8 scones.
These heart-shaped scones are the perfect way to show some love to your neighbors, teachers, family, and friends this Valentine’s Day!
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup COLD butter, grated
1 cup fresh raspberries
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 tbsp butter, melted
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.
Add cold grated butter to flour mixture and mash with a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Fold in raspberries.
In a small bowl, beat egg, milk, and lemon juice.
Stir into flour/raspberry mixture.
Fold in white chocolate chips.
Gently turn out dough onto a generously floured surface.
With a rolling pin, roll into a 12 inch round disc. (It will be sticky, so flour your hands as needed. But you don’t have to knead or work the dough; the less you handle it, the better.)
Cut out individual scones with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Repeat with remaining dough scraps, working gently to press dough together before cutting again.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Finish by brushing with melted butter.