Blog Archives

Lake Forest Summer ’13 Sales Update

If you’re looking to buy a home in the Birmingham, Alabama, area, Lake Forest—a lake and sidewalk neighborhood in Alabaster—is a popular choice for several reasons.

It’s attractive, offers a great quality of life, and is in a convenient location.  A number of people who work in Birmingham choose to live in Lake Forest because they enjoy it so much.

Alabaster is also home to the city’s newly formed school system, which has many excited for the future.

Here’s a video update showing homes selling and available in Lake Forest (you can watch this video in high definition if you like—simply click the ‘Full Screen’ icon in the lower right corner of the video window below).

Whether it’s Lake Forest or throughout the north Shelby Co. and south Jefferson Co. areas, we’re ready to help with your home buying or selling needs.

Let us know if we can answer any questions; we’re reachable at 205.356-5412 (voice or text).  

Start packing!

David

Lake Forest Sales Update

If you’re looking to buy a home in the Birmingham area, Lake Forest in Shelby Co. is one of the neighborhoods where you can’t go wrong.

Folks love this area because of its surroundings, which include a lake, walking track, playground and more.

Here’s a look at sales activity in the neighborhood during 2012:

If you’d like help with finding a home anywhere in the greater Birmingham or Shelby Co. area, let us know.

There are plenty of good opportunities out there…

Big Changes Coming For Short Sales

Short sales—long dreaded by many Buyers and Sellers alike for taking so long to conclude—may just actually become shorter, after all.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency has just announced new rules designed to speed up the Short Sale process.  In the Birmingham area, getting your home sold in a Short Sale can sometimes take 90 days or longer … but that time could wind up dropping in some cases.

Under the new guidelines, which take effect November 1st, if you own a home with a mortgage backed by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you’ll be able to sell your home in a Short Sale even if you are current on your payments, as long as you can prove a hardship.

The process of getting a Short Sale approved will be further streamlined, since, in some cases, mortgage servicers will no longer be required to gain additional approval from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Both entities will waive the right to pursue a deficiency judgement against borrowers who have sufficient income or assets if the borrower agrees to make a financial contribution or signs a promissory note.

If you have a second loan, the new rules authorize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to offer up to $6,000 to the second lien holder.  This may help speed up getting a Short Sale through, too, since—in the past—the process has sometimes been bogged down by second lien holders negotiating for higher settlements.

In addition, borrowers who serve in the U.S. military and who are being relocated will automatically be eligible for Short Sale approval, even if they are current on their mortgages.

The changes, backed by the National Association of Realtors, are expected to make Short Sales a more viable option for many home owners who otherwise might have faced defaulting on their loans and being Foreclosed.

Calera and Chelsea to Lose USDA Loan Coverage

If you’re thinking of buying a home in Shelby County’s Calera or Chelsea area and are planning on financing your purchase with a no-down-payment USDA loan, you better get moving with your purchase, because time may be about to run out.

As of October first, the USDA is expected to update the areas that qualify for its loans.  For Shelby Co., this means that Calera—which has long been a popular spot for home Buyers using USDA financing—will be dropped from the eligibility list.   Chelsea is also set to be dropped.

In Walker Co., Jasper will be dropped from USDA loan eligibility, as will Moody and Pell City in St. Clair Co., and Pleasant Grove in Jefferson Co.
In all, more than 90 communities will be removed from the list of qualifying areas.

The change in qualifying areas is not a 100% sure thing.  At least one U.S. Congressman—Republican Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska—is pushing to get Congress to order a one year extension of USDA’s existing eligibility zones.  Others pushing USDA to grant an extension include the National Association of Realtors, the National Association of Home Builders and the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Why does USDA plan to change the zones?  The answer lies partly with the 2010 Census.   An existing grandfathering clause allowed any community considered ‘rural’ in 1990 to continue to be eligible for USDA funding until the 2010 Census, as long as it has a population below 25,000 and met other critera.  That clause, which was first enacted in 1990 and extended in 2000, is now set to expire.

So, unless Congress takes action, many communities that currently qualify for USDA financing will lose their eligibility—and for many of those areas, USDA loans are the only source of federal housing funding.

David

Are Birmingham Area Homes Selling?

From time to time, people ask us, “How’s business?”

If you look around and ask various Agents throughout the Birmingham area how their business is going, you’re likely to get varied answers.  One Agent we spoke with recently has struggled much of the year.  Other Agents we know have been doing much better.   Colleen and I have had an extremely busy year, for which we’re grateful.

The fact is that—regardless of the economy in general and what’s reported in the news media—homes still sell.  That’s because people’s lives change.  New jobs, a change in family size or wanting to be closer to a particular area can be among the reasons.

I’ve heard people thinking of selling their home say, “I’ll wait until the economy improves.”  To be sure, values are still down considerably, compared to previous years.
But that can also be like saying, “I’m going to buy a new car when the models get better.”

Here in the Birmingham and Shelby Co. area, the number of homes for sale in many communities is down considerably, compared to previous months.  In Shelby County’s Alabaster and vicinity, the Birmingham MLS shows 220 homes for sale at present.  This continues to be among the lowest numbers we’ve seen.

This drop in inventory is having an effect.  Homes for sale that we consider excellent deals don’t stay on the market long.  Buyers are out there, and pounce as soon as the excellent deals appear.

I’ve heard some home owners trying to sell without luck lamenting the lack of Buyers.   It’s really not that Buyers are scarce.  It’s just that they’re finding better deals elsewhere; the homes they wind up buying are in nicer condition, have more features, or are priced more attractively (or maybe all three).

A home needs to have pizazz to sell in the current market, and must be priced to grab a Buyer’s attention.
Homes lacking these attributes typically take much longer to sell (we’ve seen homes remain on market over a year before getting an Offer).

When it comes to getting your home sold, there are definitely success stories in the Birmingham area.   Colleen and I recently listed a home in Alabaster that got two Offers and went Under Contract 13 days after going on the market.  The Seller was motivated, priced his home so that Buyers had to notice, and has done a lot of fixing up to make his home look nice.  The payoff to his work is that his home is set to sell, so he can move.

The drop in inventory being seen in some areas around Birmingham is starting to put a bit of a squeeze on Buyers.  The Buyer who sees a really good deal on a home for sale in this area now realizes that there’s a chance to be taken by waiting:  Someone else might swoop in and grab the home in the meantime.

If you’re looking to buy a home in the area, our advice is to think about what’s important in a home to you, as well as area, and to contact us (205-356-5412).  If you’re planning to get a loan, another critical step to take early in the process is to get in touch with a Lender.  Here is a link to some area Lenders we recommend contacting.

Remember that the world of home mortgages can be confusing, because there are so many different kinds of loans and differences in fees, down payments and other charges.   A good Lender will be able to sort this out for you to help to simplify your decision.

Getting quotes from other Lenders to compare is a good idea, too; just be sure to understand that comparing different loans effectively means looking at all the overall costs, and not just a single fee that might be higher with one loan.  You might also ask about “locking” in your interest rate (which involves being assured of getting the same rate if you wind up buying a little later).

By following these steps, you’ll be on the road to being part of the home sales success stories we’re seeing throughout much of the Shelby Co. and Birmingham area.

David

Birmingham Loans Not As Scarce As You Hear…

It’s no wonder that folks who rely on the news media to know about our world often wind up confused, or sometimes, downright misled.

With the possible exception of politics (no, I’m not going there), I see few better examples of consumers getting misleading information than in real estate.

I have to hand a blue ribbon for disappointment to Marketplace, a program by American Public Media which recently produced a report about the difficulty of getting a home mortgage.

Reporter Gigi Douban in effect focused her magnifying glass on one part of the real estate industry and left folks with the impression that it’s just flat hard to get a home loan. Period.

“Now it’s nearly impossible to get a loan,” the show’s anchor said, leading into Douban’s report.

Douban interviewed people active in the Birmingham real estate industry:  Woody Woodfin, a Lender with Mortgage America; Johnny Montogmery, a Realtor with ERA King; and Jon Mulkin with BBVA Compass.

“There are plenty of folks who want to buy a house, but there aren’t that many who can,” Douban said.

I have no issue with anything anyone interviewed in the report said.

Woodfin talked about the fact that more of the Buyers approaching him for a loan than in the past wind up not being able to qualify.  That’s true.  We all know that mortgage requirements have gotten tighter, something that, in my opinion, needed to happen.

The fact is that getting a loan is difficult.  For some people.

The timing of this story seemed particularly ironic.  On May 14th–the same day Marketplace aired Douban’s report–BBVA Compass announced that it’s expanding its–get this–mortgage operations, and–guess where–in Birmingham, as well as in Tempe, Arizona.

“Even in Alabama, it’s hard to get a home loan,” the headline reads on the Marketplace website.

“Even in Alabama.”  Hmmm.  Is our state supposed to have always been easy street for getting a home loan?  “Well, shoot, Maybel, it’s not lookin’ good for us here in Tupelo, so let’s just head past Pete’s barbecue joint and cross the state line into Alabama.  Anybody can get a loan there…”

In a news release, BBVA Compass cited the rapid growth of its mortgage business as the reason for the expansion.  They’re hiring 60 more people to handle loans.

Huh?

The bank said 270 people will be involved in mortgage operations in Birmingham.   Pretty impressive numbers, if you ask me.  It certainly suggests that BBVA Compass must have some reason to feel confident that they’ll be helping more people buy homes in the coming years, and, specifically, by writing loans.

Why else would they spend the money?

If the Marketplace report had provided a more balanced perspective, it would have mentioned that there are quite a few sales happening in the Birmingham and Shelby Co. real estate market.

Some in the business even feel the industry is turning around.

April home sales within the Birmingham and Shelby Co. area are up more than 10% compared to a year ago.

The fact is that if you have good credit–no, not absolutely through-the-roof sterling credit, but just good credit–you can get a loan.   Sure, some Buyers are paying cash, but don’t kid yourself; a lot of those sales are being financed.

It’s the people in less than sound financial condition, who are late or have missed payments, or who have judgements against them who likely face mortgage rejection.

With more homes selling, it’s only logical to realize that mortgages are not nearly as impossible to obtain as the media tells us they are.

The problem is that folks don’t always hear what the market is really like.

David

Alabaster Area Home Sales Rise in August

With summer behind us, here’s a look at home sales trends in the Alabaster, Maylene and Saginaw areas (stats from the Birmingham MLS):

ALABASTER - JAN-AUG 2010 SALES

After taking a dip in June, average sales prices are holding fairly steady:

ALABASTER - JAN-AUG 2010 ASP

How long does it take to get a home sold in these areas? According to the MLS, the time needed is just a little over two months (the shortest it has been all year):

ALABASTER - JAN-AUG 2010 DOM

Right now, 354 conventional single family houses and townhomes are for sale in the Alabaster, Maylene and Saginaw areas. Of those:

289 are priced at or below $250,000;
127 are priced at or below $150,000;
22 are priced at or below $100,000;
338 have 3 or more bedrooms;
170 have 4 or more bedrooms;
29 have 5 or more bedrooms;
113 have pools or access to pools;
5 have 4 or more acres…

Need a loan to buy? Rates right now continue to be among the lowest in history. Qualified borrowers can get a 30-year fixed rate loan for as low as around 4.25%; 15-year fixed rate loans can be found by some borrowers as low as 3.75%. Colleen and I have been able to help a number of first time Buyers say ‘adios’ to renting and move into their first homes with some excellent loans at very low rates.

Needless to say, this continues to be a tremendous time to buy a home … let us know if we can help!

David

Alabaster, Helena Home Sales Up In March

More folks want homes!

The number of properties sold in Alabaster and Helena rose sharply in March, compared to February, according to the Birmingham Multiple Listing System. In Helena, March sales were double those for February:

Helena, Alabama, home sales update

Meanwhile, home sales in the Alabaster, Maylene and Saginaw areas were up sharply during March, as well.

Alabaster, Alabama, home sales update

Why the big rise in sales?

  • Buyers are realizing that very little time remains before the end of the First Time Buyer’s Tax Credit (Contracts must be signed no later than April 30th);
  • Loan rates continue to be extremely attractive; and
  • A large inventory of homes remains available in Shelby County, with Sellers motivated to sell
  • Last but certainly not least, the return of spring has no doubt been a welcome change from the extended bitterly cold winter Alabamians had to endure. Most people found going out looking for homes—only to be blasted in the face by freezing wind—to be less than fun.

    For more reasons than one, we’re glad Spring is here!

    David

    Birmingham January Home Sales Drop

    After taking a look at new numbers from the Birmingham MLS, it’s clear that Buyers have the upper hand when it comes to purchasing a home in the area.

    Almost all across the board in the areas we checked, sales in January were down, and in some cases, half of what they were four months ago:

    Birmingham Home Sales Update

    The message for now is clear: Buyers call the shots.

    If you’re looking to buy, all sorts of factors are on your side at the moment. First, there are lots of homes available (482 in Helena and Pelham, 350 in Alabaster and 684 across the North Shelby Co. area at the moment!). Second, smart Sellers know they have competition and will do whatever they can to ‘work a deal.’

    Third, interest rates are, in two words, still great. One of the Lenders we work with reports 30-year fixed rates remain below five percent, while 15-year rates (which were around 4.375% last week) have dropped a bit more.

    So, if you’re a Seller, the message here is that you absolutely must meet Buyer’s expectations in terms of how nicely your home shows, and price. Fail to meet either of those requirements, and your home won’t sell.

    And if you’re a Buyer, with such a good market for buying a home, one question comes to mind:
    What are you waiting for?
    What are you waiting for?

    David

    Selling Your Home Without A Crystal Ball

    Ever wished for a crystal ball so you’d know what’s ahead? That might, or might not, be a good thing, depending on what you want to know…!

    On the one hand, having a crystal ball to look into the real estate market could sure help ease concerns for some folks here in the Birmingham and Shelby county areas. Or would it?

    Crystal Ball - Home For Sale Birmingham

    Suppose you’re thinking of selling your home. Would you be more inclined to sell sooner, if, say, the ball suggested values would continue to slide in 2010? What if the ball suggested you’d get more if you wait?

    I don’t think we really need a crystal ball to know that home values will rise. Nearly every expert out there predicts they will, at some point.

    It’s those last three words that are the kicker: At some point.

    Hmm. Does that mean in the next three months? Ten months? Two years? This is where having a crystal ball would be pretty handy.

    However, crystal balls are about as plentiful as bumper stickers in Alabama supporting the Texas Longhorns. People ask us questions frequently that would pretty much need a crystal ball to answer accurately. “What is my home going to be worth in a year?” would be one such question.

    “What will my home sell for if I list it right now?”

    Ahh. There’s a question that doesn’t need a crystal ball as badly to answer. We have good resources we can draw upon to come up with a figure that—more times than not—winds up being very close to actual selling price.

    Birmingham homeThe fact is that if your home ‘shows nicely’ as Agents like to say, and is priced where we know Buyers will bite, your odds of selling are promising. And, yes, that’s true even in the tough market affecting so many neighborhoods in the Birmingham and Shelby Co. areas as we plow into 2010.

    This might sound ridiculously obvious to some, but the ‘shows nicely, priced right’ concept is one we’ve seen trip up a lot of people trying to sell their homes. So, not everyone really understands how important this really is. Or put another way, not everyone really ‘gets it.’

    During 2009, we represented Sellers who agreed to price their homes where we suggested. Granted, they weren’t always thrilled with the price we recommended. But they swallowed hard and said, ‘okay.’ Why? Because they needed to sell. Helping ease this frustration was their knowledge that—when they turned around to buy another home—they’d be enjoying the opposite side of the tough selling market, getting a very good deal on the home they’re buying.

    We also dealt with Sellers in 2009 who disagreed with us. They felt they had a better idea than we did of what their home would would sell for. And guess what happened with their efforts to sell? Nothing. Zilch. Their homes didn’t sell, despite being on the market plenty long enough to sell. I remember several cases where other homes in the same neighborhood as our Clients’ house sold, and in the general price range we had recommended.

    There were some cases where our Client’s home never even got an Offer. We always talk about how important it is to listen to what the market is telling us. Let me assure you of one thing: If a home for sale doesn’t even get an Offer, that’s the market talking. It may even be shouting.

    sold Alabaster homeI know one thing for sure about trying to get a home sold in this market. You either have to ‘get it,’ or you have to trust your Agent’s advice. Otherwise, your home is probably not destined to sell.

    I think the real question that emerges is: How badly do you want, or need, to sell?

    Clearly, there are many situations for folks where—regardless of how the market may be performing at the moment—it’s important to sell sooner, rather than later. Some Sellers who contact us tell us they need to sell as fast as possible, and are waiting for us to tell them what to do to make it so.

    These are the people we feel confident we can help.

    And no, we don’t have a crystal ball to predict the outcome.

    But listening to the market and to your Agent go a long way right now, and will most likely mean you can start packing sooner, rather than later.

    David