October 2009 Vol. 4 No.10
• Is the Housing Market in Recovery? Why it Doesn't Matter • Debbie Interviewed on Money Matters Radio • October's Home Value Improver • About Us

Is the Housing Market in Recovery? Why it Doesn't Matter

The financial picture has gone from bleak to hopeful to confusing. One headline screams that we are in a recovery, while another declares that the unemployment rate continues to climb past record highs. Since home sales are such a strong indicator of the economy, it's natural for people to start looking in that direction when they want some answers.

Are homes moving faster? Is the real estate market picking up? Technically, yes. Sales have increased over the past several months. However, the main reason is the offer of an $8,000 first-time homebuyers' tax credit, which will be ending very shortly.

Another reason home sales are going up is because people think that the economy - and home prices - has hit bottom. All the people who have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for prices to go as low as they will ever go have stepped forward and made their purchases.

While it would be nice to believe that all economic circumstances follow sound fiscal wisdom, they actually follow the beliefs and activities of everyday people. Some people call this reality the "Oprah Effect." Oprah buys a book and it shoots to the top of the bestseller list. Oprah raves about a product called Spanx, and the company can't keep up with its orders.

Real estate sales are no different. No, Oprah does not announce she is buying a home (even if she did, most of America is shrewd enough to know their financial situation is vastly different from Oprah's.) But when people wonder if it's a good time to buy, they ask themselves "What is everyone else doing?" I have one client who admitted to me that she was buying a new house because she had contracted "house fever" after learning her friend Eileen was home shopping.

While watching what others are doing can give you a good gauge of the market, it is not an indication of your situation at all. I always tell my clients: "Keep your eyes on your own paper. Don't worry about what your neighbor is doing." Instead of using your friends and relatives as a guide, ask yourself these important questions:

  1. Is it a good time to buy?
    This obviously depends on your financial situation. Yes, prices have fallen from the highs that they reached 4 or 5 years ago, but they haven't stabilized.
  2. Is it a good time to refinance?
    Like any financial question, the answer depends on several factors such as your current rate, term, and years left on the mortgage. Your job and income situation are major factors, too. What about points?

No matter what the headlines are saying, I will always ask my clients the same important questions when they ask about refinancing:

  • What is your situation? Sure, the bigger picture of the overall economy might be interesting, but it may have no relevance to your situation at all.
  • Why are you trying to refinance? Do you want a lower payment? Are you looking to cash out?
  • Do you have and know your monthly budget?
  • What are your long-term and short-term goals?

While it is important to watch the state of the economy, nothing is as important as your own set of financial realities and goals.

Debbie Interviewed on Money Matters Radio

Debbie was interviewed this month by Chuck Nilosek of Money Matters Radio. She offered insights for homebuyers and homeowners who are hearing the hype about a housing recovery and wondering how to respond.

Debbie also will be interviewed next Monday, November 2 on Women for Women at 11:45 AM. This program, designed for women by women was launched on September 14, 2009 and features four women in business each Monday. Don't miss this great interview with Debbie - Visit 980 WCAP and click Listen Live!

October's Home Value Improver

Time for a Fall Cleanup!

It may be getting time to hunker down and spend more time indoors, but you can't ignore that mess in your yard. Dried leaves, branches from storms, and whatever is left of your outdoor furniture are not exactly increasing your curb appeal.

Of course, a call to your local landscape company would cure your cosmetic issues, but those are not the only things to consider.

If you decide to do this yourself, it will require reaching some heights. Remember to have someone hold the ladder, and don't try to scoot the ladder along while you're on it. Get down to move the ladder. If climbing a ladder sounds too unappealing, you could try getting an extension for your leaf blower to blow the leaves out from the where you are standing. Be sure to clear out the gutter joints. Another option is to order some permanent protection from the leaves with a gutter guard type product.

It's also a good time to check how well your gutters are working. Pour some water into them at the top, and watch the route the water takes. Be sure the water is not running into your foundation or into an area where you will be walking.

Leaf Removal
It's the time of year that many of us remember the drawback of living in a leafy suburb - the leaves! You can put them in your yard waste disposal or dump them in your compost pile. To speed along the composting, run the mower over your dried leaves.

Cutting the Lawn
For your final lawn cutting of the season, cut the grass as short as possible. To speed up the compost process, dump the leaves in a metal barrel and stick the weed whacker in.

Be sure to run the lawn mower until the gas runs out, and perform general maintenance on it - sharpen blades, change the oil, etc. before you put it away for the season.

Check the Snow Blower
If you've ever gone to grab the snow blower after a storm, only to find it doesn't start, you know the perils of not maintaining your snow blower in the off season.

Clear the Sprinkler System
If you have an automatic sprinkler, have someone "blow it out" for the season. This is absolutely necessary. If you don't have a sprinkler system, get all the water out of your hoses. Put them on a downward slope and coil them. Then, inside your house, shut off the water supply to the outdoor spigots.

As we talk this month about a housing recovery, it's a good time to think about your own financial situation and any recovery steps you've taken this year. As 2009 winds down, consider whether you've consolidated or paid down debt, created and stuck to a budget or started saving more aggressively.

If you've taken positive steps toward your own financial recovery, congratulate yourself. If you still have things to do, now is a great time to put your 2010 plan together to keep moving forward.

As you think about your overall financial picture, I invite you to call or email anytime to talk about your home financing options.

Best regards,
Debbie Siegel
Westchester Mortgage

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