The Most (and Least) Valuable States in America

most_valuable_states_infog

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Everyone knows location is the most important part of real estate. You can’t change where your house is (all things being equal). You have to consider school districts, crime rates, commute times—the list goes on and on. It can be much simpler when you’re considering buying a home to compare apples to apples so you can see how the real estate market differs according to location, so HowMuch.net created a new visualization showing land and housing prices at a glance.


The blue dots represent the value of an acre of land, and the red circles indicate the median value of a home. The bigger the blue dot and the larger the red circle, the more expensive it is to become a property owner. Small circles and dots likewise indicate a very low cost of purchasing property. The home values are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Consumer Survey, and the numbers behind the land values come from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Several things stand out in the illustration. An acre of land is much more valuable in the Northeast compared to any other part of the country. This is partly because the Eastern seaboard is a very densely populated area with several large cities, most notably New York. New York and Massachusetts have some of the oldest modern structures anywhere in the U.S. In other words, Eastern cities are a lot older than Midwestern cities, so there isn’t a lot of farmland for suburban expansion anymore. In terms of geographic size, these are some of the smallest states in the country. As a matter of fact, the three states where the cost of an acre of land is greater than the median price of a house are all located on the East Coast, and they happen to be some of the smallest states in the Union (Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey).

Median home values (the red circles) are a different and more complicated story. California has the most expensive houses by far ($449,100). Oregon and Washington boast similarly high housing valuations, as well ($264,100 and $284,000, respectively). It is also expensive to buy a home on the East Coast, with six out of the top 10 states with the most expensive median home values.

There’s a noticeable dip in both housing and land prices in Southern and Midwestern states. Prices slowly rise the further you move from east to west. This highlights unique economic developments over the last several years, including the boom in oil exploration in North Dakota and the growth of Western cities, like Denver, thanks to young people. Snowbirds also tend to move to Florida and Arizona when they retire, which also pushes up housing prices in those places.

Top 5 Most Expensive States to Buy a Home

  1. California
    Value per Acre: $39,092
    Median Home Value: $449,100
  1. Massachusetts
    Value per Acre: $102,214
    Median Home Value: $352,100
  1. New Jersey
    Value per Acre: $196,410
    Median Home Value: $322,600
  1. Maryland
    Value per Acre: $75,429
    Median Home Value: $299,800
  1. New York
    Value per Acre: $41,314
    Median Home Value: $293,500

Top 5 Cheapest States to Buy a Home

  1. West Virginia
    Value per Acre: $10,537
    Median Home Value: $112,100
  1. Mississippi
    Value per Acre: $5,565
    Median Home Value: $112,700
  1. Arkansas
    Value per Acre: $6,739
    Median Home Value: $120,700
  1. Oklahoma
    Value per Acre: $7,364
    Median Home Value: $126,800
  1. Kentucky
    Value per Acre: $7,209
    Median Home Value: $130,000

All this shows that the laws of supply and demand are alive and well in the real estate market. You can easily find cheap acres of land where they are plentiful and un-useful (sorry, Nevada), but owning property is a lot more expensive in smaller places crowded with lots of people. As always: location, location, location.

A version of this article originally appeared on HowMuch.net.

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‘Hottest Zip Codes’: A Tale of Three States

Realtor.com®’s annual Hottest Zip Codes in America ranking reads like a tale of three states: California, Colorado and Michigan.

  1. Watauga, Texas (76148)
  2. Livonia, Mich. (48154)
  3. Kentwood, Mich. (49548)
  4. Medford, Mass. (02155)
  5. Littleton, Colo. (80123)
  6. Castro Valley, Calif. (94546)
  7. Colorado Springs, Colo. (80922)
  8. Overland Park, Kan. (66210)
  9. Mira Mesa (San Diego), Calif. (92126)
  10. Hilliard, Ohio (43026)

California, Colorado and Michigan nabbed six spots in the top 10 (another zip in California, 95758, stopped just shy at No. 11), thanks to three traits: affordability, good-paying jobs and millennials. Of California’s zip codes in the top 10, the median home price ranges from $536,394 (Mira Mesa/San Diego) to $728,267 (Castro Valley); of Colorado’s zip codes in the top 10, the median home price ranges from $273,222 (Colorado Springs) to $533,873 (Littleton); and of Michigan’s zip codes in the top 10, the median home price ranges from $118,833 (Kentwood) to $223,780 (Livonia).

Generally, homes in the top 10 are more affordable than counterparts in their county or metropolitan area, and the markets themselves have higher incomes, low unemployment and more millennials.

“While low inventory is a challenge, millennials are the largest generation in U.S. history and they are flexing their muscle when it comes to the housing market,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com. “Increasingly, the hottest housing markets are the ones that appeal to millennial preferences, and right now the standouts are relatively affordable suburbs with local ‘it’ factors such as hiking trails, great restaurants and nightlife.

“With the largest cohort of millennials turning 30 in 2020, we can expect these types of areas to stay in demand in the years to come,” Hale says.

Homes in the top 10 sell in an average 21 days, the ranking reveals, and listings located in the top 10 are viewed four times more on realtor.com than those in the rest of the U.S.

For more information, please visit www.realtor.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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5 Steps to Finding Your Best Mortgage Lender

(TNS)—You’re buying a home and you need a mortgage. How do you choose the right lender—one that will offer not only the best deal, but also good customer service?

You’ll find no shortage of banks, online lenders, mortgage brokers and other players eager to take your loan application. Here are five tips for selecting the best mortgage lender out of the bunch.

Compare Offers and Lenders
Start getting familiar with various lenders and the deals they’re offering by browsing through mortgage rates.

Lenders will “present price differently,” notes Robert Davis, an executive vice president at the American Bankers Association (ABA). “Some lower rates might include fees with it, so the annual percentage rate is different than what you might think.”

Also, understand that some lenders specialize. One might be a good choice if you’re financing a condo, while others might offer a better deal if you’re building your home from scratch. You’ll want to have a general idea of the type of property you’re interested in.

Check With Lenders and People You Know
You might find the right mortgage and the best lender without having to look very far. Go to the bank or credit union where you have a checking or savings account and ask about the types of mortgage deals that are available to current customers.

Compare any offer against what other lenders in your area and online and large national lenders will give you.

“Interest rates change as much as three or four times a day, so get quotes from three different (lenders) to increase your odds,” says Brian Koss, executive vice president of Mortgage Network.

Be sure to ask family members and friends for referrals to loan officers and mortgage brokers who gave them good, professional service and helped them find the most competitive loans.

Decide: DIY or Hire a Broker?
One important decision is whether to seek out a mortgage and lender completely on your own or use the services of a mortgage broker.

A broker can help with your comparison-shopping by gathering quotes from several lenders, but it’s important to understand that a broker isn’t obligated to find the deal that’s best for you.

If you decide to work with a mortgage broker, it’s wise to look at how the loan offers from the broker size up against those you find on your own.

Look at differences in rates, fees, mortgage insurance and down payments—and compare what your bottom-line costs will be.

Talk With Your Real Estate Agent
Be sure to ask your real estate agent for lender recommendations. Smart loan officers rely on that business and take good care of the clients sent their way by local real estate agents.

Keep in mind that agents might have relationships with certain lenders, so when your agent gives you a name, ask whether there is any affiliation.

While some real estate brokerages have their own favored in-house mortgage lending businesses, good agents will not limit their referrals to those particular lenders.

Be Ready for a Possible Hand-Off
Many lenders will end up selling your mortgage to the secondary market, which means you will likely have a different company servicing your loan than your original lender.

This transfer is often outside your control, but you can ask the lender whether it knows if your mortgage will end up being serviced by a different company. If you want a lender you can reach out to immediately if problems arise, finding one who will hold onto your mortgage might be the best option.

“If it’s important for you to have local contact with the lender, then you’ve got to go to a bank that keeps your mortgage,” says Davis.

©2017 Bankrate.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.

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Buying a Home? Factor These Into Your Interest Rate Calculations

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

The mortgage process can be complicated if you jump in without any prior knowledge on home-buying and lending. The best tool you can arm yourself with is an understanding of how your mortgage interest rate is calculated.

Credit can make or break you.

Your credit score will determine how reliable you are in the lending world. The higher your score, the lower your interest rate will likely be. Check your credit on one of the three major credit reporting agency sites—TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—or your credit card company may have a free credit report service (although these aren’t as reliable). Improve your FICO score for a better chance at a lower interest rate.

Factor in size and location.

  • State or County: Even your place of residence can affect your rate.
  • Local Mortgage Lenders: Shop around. Interest rates can vary from company to company even if they’re located in the same town.
  • Loan Size: The size of your home can also impact your interest rate. The bigger the loan, the higher your interest rate will be if you’re not putting more money down.
  • Down Payment Size: Your mortgage interest rate may also depend on how much you’re putting down and if your loan includes closing costs and private mortgage insurance (PMI). Putting down less than 20 percent can increase your risk factor and may require PMI, but your interest rate may be lower depending on the loan.

Not all loans are created equal.

Loan Length: Your loan terms play a bigger role in interest rate calculations than you think. Have you decided whether you want to pay off your loan in 15 or 30 years? You may pay more per month with a shorter term, but you’ll be paying less interest over the life of your loan. Short-term loans may also have a smaller interest rate.

Fixed or Adjustable: You’ll also have to consider whether a fixed- or adjustable-rate loan is right for you. Your interest rate can change over time if you choose an adjustable-rate loan. It may start off low or fixed, but can increase over time depending on market conditions. Fixed-rate loans, however, will have a higher interest rate attached to them.

Loan Type: Interest rates can also vary according to your loan type. Choosing a loan can be overwhelming, but a local lender should be able to provide you with the best options. Some of the more popular loans are conventional, FHA and VA loans. While FHA loans have less down payment restrictions and a smaller interest rate, your monthly payment can be more expensive due to the required PMI added on. VA loans can have smaller interest rates and don’t require PMI like FHA does. Conventional loans are widely accepted in the real estate industry as dependable, but your interest rate may be higher.

Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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San Francisco: The Sweet Spot for Trick-or-Treaters

Zillow Trick-or-Treat Index 2017 (PRNewsfoto/Zillow)

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

The annual Trick-or-Treat Index from Zillow puts San Francisco in the sweet spot: No. 1 for trick-or-treaters.

Zillow Trick-or-Treat Index 2017 (PRNewsfoto/Zillow)

Analysts at Zillow began with the Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI), concocting a formula that includes home values, how close homes are in proximity to each other, and the share of 10-year-olds (and younger) in a given market. Bubble, bubble…

“Searching for neighborhoods with the best candy is a Halloween tradition for many kids and their parents,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “Our annual list is a fun way for families to see how their neighborhood stacks up against others when it comes to trick-or-treating. These are places we think will have plenty of candy and lots of young kids running around from door to door.”

In the City by the Bay, the top three neighborhoods for trick-or-treaters are Presidio Heights, Sea Cliff and Golden Gate Heights; in No. 2 San Jose, the top three are West San Jose, Willow Glen and Cambrian Park.

Is your city out of the running this year? Fear not.

“If you don’t live in one of these cities, look for areas that are getting into the Halloween spirit with decorations and lots of costumed kids,” Gudell says.

See the 2016 Trick-or-Treat Index.

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Home Haunted? No Problem, New Survey Shows

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Would you ever live in a haunted home? A new survey from realtor.com® shows most folks won’t shy away from a spooky space—so long as the price is right.

In September, realtor.com surveyed more than 1,000 online respondents. The verdict? Thirty-three percent were open to living in a haunted house, 25 percent might be, and 42 percent are not open to the idea.

So what factors impacted these results? Let’s explore:

  • Forty percent of respondents indicated that they need a price reduction in order to choose a haunted home over a non-haunted home;
  • 35 percent require a better neighborhood;
  • 32 percent need larger square footage; and
  • 29 percent would do so if more bedrooms are involved.

Who minds a few spooky spirits if there’s a third bedroom, amiright? From the survey, 47 percent of participants indicate they would live in a home where someone died, 27 percent said they might, and 26 percent said they would not.

The survey also showed certain paranormal activities are preferred over others. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed didn’t mind a few cold or hot spots in their home, whereas 45 percent could get down with unexplainable noises, and 39 percent are willing to tolerate strange, freaky feelings in certain rooms. Thirty-five percent of folks could deal with shifting shadows, but only 20 percent were alright with levitating objects or the sensation of being touched.

Of those surveyed, 28 percent believed they already have lived in a haunted house, with 14 percent unsure and 58 percent quite sure they’ve never been haunted.

What do you think? Would you be willing to room with a ghoul for more square footage, a lower price tag or a finished basement?

View more from the survey.

For more information, please visit www.realtor.com.

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at zoe@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Autumn Additions

(Family Features)—Fall provides a time for fun and celebration, but it also can be an opportunity to refocus on taking care of your home both indoors and out.

These simple upgrade ideas can help you improve aesthetic appeal, upgrade safety, keep your home free from pests and save you time, resources and money.

Find more ideas for upgrading and updating your home at eLivingToday.com.

De-Bug Your Doors
Enjoy nature without all the pests by adding a protective barrier to your entryways, such as an ODL Brisa Retractable Screen Door. It can be installed over single, double and sliding doors, and can take just 30 minutes to install from start to finish. With one-touch entry and auto-slide open, it allows for easy access when your hands are full. When you’re not using it, you can use the secure locking latch or let it slide back into its cartridge.

Elegant Entry
With a low-profile cylinder, Baldwin’s Spyglass Entrance Set with Spyglass Levers offers an elegant, architecturally inspired design. With SmartKey re-key technology, the set is the ultimate in convenience and safety as it allows you to re-key your lock in seconds and has American National Standards Institute and Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association Grade 2 security features. Belonging to the premium Prestige Series, the Spyglass Entrance Set delivers effortless, accessible style and affordable luxury.

Get Smart About Laundry
Take a load off and let your washer’s technology do the work. Available in white or diamond gray, the top load laundry line from GE Appliances gives owners the power to pretreat stains or hand-wash delicates with an industry-first soapy water station, automatically dispense the right amount of detergent and fabric softener based on each individual load and control the load remotely through smart devices by using WiFi Connect.

Feel the Heat
If temperatures are dropping and a warm blanket isn’t doing the trick on an especially chilly day, a space heater can help keep you cozy. Many options are light and portable, allowing you to move it from room to room as necessary. Rather than layering up to enjoy a lazy day on the couch, simply plug it in and choose the setting that’s right for maximum comfortability. Plus, by flipping the space heater switch rather than cranking up the heat, you can save money on energy bills.

Simple Shredding
One of fall’s obnoxious chores in the eyes of many is cleaning up leaves scattered about the yard. To help save time and energy, add a leaf shredder to your arsenal of lawn equipment. By shredding leaves rather than expending time and resources bagging and disposing them, you can improve the look of your yard without as much physical stress.

Mess-Free Mudroom
On cold days when a brisk chill sends you seeking indoor shelter, it can be easy to make a mess at the door with shoes and outerwear. Instead of a pile of garments greeting you each time you come home, add some structure to the mudroom with an organizer that allows you to hang coats and scarves and stow away shoes. While keeping clothes orderly, it can also help keep you and guests from tracking salt, mud and other messes throughout the house.

Source: Family Features Editorial Syndicate

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Crowdfunding Your Way Into a Home

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Crowdfunding has appeared in the real estate industry in a variety of forms: house flip investing, mortgage payoff and down payment support. High fees and legality issues have made it difficult for the popular funding method to be taken seriously within U.S. real estate markets.

A new crowdfunding platform—HomeFundMe—was recently launched by GMC Financial, a privately-held mortgage banking firm. This could be a game changer, since it’s the first crowdfunding service approved by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Here’s what GMC financial says about HomeFundMe:

  • No fees for using the service (Anything deposited into HomeFundMe can be used towards the buyer’s down payment.)
  • Better loan terms, more buying opportunities and the possibility of getting rid of or lowering mortgage insurance
  • Potential to receive a grant ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 in exchange for completing required homebuyer education or housing counseling.
  • Matching donations ($2 for every $1) up to the grant limits once the counseling is completed

While over 100 people have already used the platform, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have only approved the service on a trial basis until June 2018. The mortgage giants are keeping a close eye on results before giving it their stamp of approval.

There are a few caveats, of course. Borrowers must first be pre-approved for a mortgage by GMC Financial in order to use the crowdfunding service, which is limited to $7,500 in gifted funds. The loan must also be a Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-approved loan (their 30-, 20- and 15-year fixed loans are eligible, as well). In addition, borrowers must earn less than their area’s median income in order to qualify for matching contributions/grants.

This method will force borrowers into GMC Financial’s rates and fees. Millennial and Gen Z buyers, who are most likely to use such a service because of challenges in obtaining a down payment, will not be able to shop around for the lowest rate—a huge snag that may turn off borrowers from the crowdfunding service.

While other services charge fees and may complicate loan processing, borrowers will have to compare costs, as they may be able to save by using an alternative lender.

Here are some other crowdfunding options:

  • HomeFunded: 5 percent usage fee on total funds and 2.9 percent for processing each transaction
  • GoFundMe: 5 percent usage fee per donation and 2.9 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction
  • FeathertheNest: 5 percent usage fee per donation and 2.9 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction
  • Honeyfund: No usage fee and 2.8 percent plus $0.30 for processing each transaction

Keep in mind that these services may come with additional gifting restrictions in the lending world. Most Fannie, Freddie and FHA loans only allow gifted down payment funds from family and close friends. Loan processing may also be more time consuming if using these services, and you stand the chance of being rejected by lenders.

Crowdfunding may be a quicker way of amassing down payment reserves, but it can be a complicated process—extending your mortgage commitment dates or even threatening your loan approval. It may, however, be a useful option for borrowers who are dealing with high student loan or other debt payments and can’t afford to save.

If given final approval, HomeFundMe may open the door to a widespread financial backing of crowdfunding services in the real estate industry.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Memories Of Motown In Detroit

Warren, MI Properties

Mace Williams grew up during the golden age of of Motown in Detroit, and wants people to know about its impact on the Motor City. Continue Reading →

Indie Brokers Eye Mergers to Stay Competitive

Warren, MI Properties

As technology costs escalate for small and privately owned real estate companies, many are merging with larger firms in order to remain…

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