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Own For Less Than To Rent

When you can get into a nicely upgraded 3BR home (with new granite counters, new stainless appliances, new paint, new flooring and more) for less than $103,000 and, then, on top of everything else, get a no-down-payment loan…well, that’s a seriously good deal.DSC_5582

This is yet another case where you could own your own home for less money than it would cost to rent.

The home is located at 2148 15th St in Calera.

It’s less than a ten minute drive to I-65, making access north into Alabaster, Pelham and downtown Birmingham easy.

What makes this so outstanding is the price:  $102,900.

Check out our narrated video that shows the treats awaiting inside:

If you know of someone who might be interested (or if you are), we’d suggest acting sooner, rather than later.  Deals like this don’t last long…

David

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

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

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

Helping Shelby Co. People In Need

You can have fun and help people at the same time.

That’s what the Oak Mountain Real Estate Network’s annual Christmas Auction, held November 18th in Pelham, is all about:

Oak Mountain Real Estate Network Auction
Despite a tough economy, we had a lot of Agents and people working in affiliated fields participate. When it was all over, the Network had raised nearly $2,200. The Network supports two very worthy causes here in Shelby County: SafeHouse and Family Connection.

Special thanks to Auctioneers Kelly Bishop-Hicks with Allstate Insurance and John Holliman of the Holliman Law Firm, who did a great job!

David

First Time Buyer Tax Credit Extended, Expanded

Congress has taken a step many people were watching for, and has extended the $8,000 tax credit for people buying a home for the first time. But the extension also carries a big change that could affect you if you own a home right now and want to buy again.

The credit, which was originally set to expire November 30th, now applies to Sales Contracts in place by April 30th, 2010. Homeowners have an additional 60 days beyond then to actually close the sale.

If you currently own your home and have lived in it for five consecutive years, the extension provides for a $6,500 credit if you buy another property by the new deadline. In the current market where so many homes have lost value, this may help Sellers frustrated over not being able to get an Offer for as much as they’ve wanted.

Shelby Co. Homes

So … either way, the extension is intended to make buying a home more enticing to a larger group of people. That’s exactly why Congress passed the bill, in a continuing desire to stimulate the housing market.

Another point many buyers are not aware of is the fact that you can still qualify for the credit even if you owned a home previously. The government defines a first time buyer as someone who has not owned a home during the previous three years. So, if you owned a home in, say, 2004, but have not owned your residence since then, you would qualify for the first time buyer’s credit.

The tax credit’s extension and expansion, coupled with such affordable deals and financing on homes in the Birmingham and Shelby Co. area really do suggest that—unless you plan to move again soon—you’re much better off owning, rather than renting, and—if you qualify as an existing owner and have been wanting to move—now’s the time.

David

October Birmingham/Shelby Co. Home Sale Stats

Getting your home sold in Shelby County is taking longer in some communities and less time in others, while prices have dropped, according to October statistics from the Birmingham Multiple Listing System.

The average number of days on market increased in Alabaster and Chelsea, but fell in Helena, Pelham and Calera:

Days On Market  JUN-OCT 2009
Click here to see a larger version of the Average Days On Market graphic

Prices continued a downward trend in October, and substantially so, compared to September:

Average Prices  JUN-OCT 2009
Click here to see a larger version of the Average Sales Price graphic

How many homes are selling?

Except for Calera, the number of homes sold in October dropped from September. Chelsea saw the sharpest one month drop, while more homes sold in Calera during October than in September:

Homes Sold  - JUN-OCT 2009
Click here to see a larger version of the Number of Homes Sold graphic

Why the uptick in Calera?

Perhaps it’s the large inventory of low cost housing (both new and resale), making for some very attractive deals for first time home buyers, along with the fact that Calera qualifies for USDA financing (which means loans with no down payment required).

I think these statistics are giving us some important messages.

If you’re planning on buying a home, the market is continuing to work very much in your favor in the Birmingham and Shelby County area. Prices have dropped, inventory is in plentiful supply, and loans continue to be very affordable.

If you’re trying to sell, the message these numbers present is that it’s going to take a lot more than just putting a For Sale sign in the yard.

Marketing plays a more critical role than ever, and must be done in innovative ways if your home is to stand out among all the other properties for sale.

Pricing is no less important and will be a huge deciding factor in how quickly you sell, or if you sell, at all (believe me, we have seen examples of both!).

You may also benefit from an informed assessment of your property’s appearance and condition. With so many homes for sale right now, if your property doesn’t sparkle, Buyers will simply move on to another.

These are some very good reasons for trusting the sale of your home to an Agent who’s knowledgeable about the market here in the Shelby Co./Birmingham area and who knows how to achieve success in spite of challenging economic conditions.

David

Cam Ward’s Shelby Co. Economic Update

We just never know who’s going to walk in the door around here.  But I’m not complaining!

It’s always enjoyable and educational to sit and talk with Republican State Rep. Cam Ward, who is a candidate for the Alabama State Senate.

Most Shelby Co. and Birmingham area civic, business and legislative leaders know Cam well, in part, for his track record as a State Representative.  He’s also Executive Director of Alabaster’s Industrial Development Board.

With so many jitters about the national economy, what’s Cam’s take on the economy closer to home here in the Shelby Co. and Birmingham area?

That’s one of the questions we put to Cam, who’s the guest in our latest netcast.

Click the player just below to listen now…

…or click here to download.

We hope you enjoy … and thanks, Cam, for stopping by!

David Black

Seller’s Choice: Lead The Market, or Chase It?

“It’s the sluggish economy.”  That’s what I hear a number of Sellers say when their home fails to sell here in Shelby county.  It’s an easy explanation to fall back on.  But is it accurate?  Many more times than not, the answer is no.

If everyone in the Birmingham area deciding to sell completed a simple one page question sheet with two answers, it would really help determine, up front, whether their home is going to sell successfully, and whether it sells sooner, rather than later.

Here’s what the question sheet would look like:

It’s amazing how many folks have to learn this most basic rule of real estate.  If you don’t know it, not to worry … you will learn it when you try to sell.

If you choose to make your home as attractive as it can be (yes, that can take some work for many owners), and if you commit to setting a price that piques the interest of potential Buyers, you’re automatically positioning yourself to sell sooner, rather than later.  You’re leading the market.  How do you know if you’re doing this?

By gauging response.  Response is everything.

In the current economic climate, if you get an Offer on your property within 30-45 days of putting it up for sale, you’re doing well.

In the area extending from Hoover in north Shelby county across Pelham, Helena, Alabaster and south into Chelsea, Calera and Montevallo, 2,286 homes are listed for sale at the moment, according to the Birmingham Multiple Listing System.  With all this available inventory, Sellers have competition.

As a Seller, you must make your home enticing to potential Buyers, price-wise and appearance-wise.  If they find it tempting, you will no doubt find yourself signing a Sales Contract soon.

But what if your home has been on the market for, say, a couple of months or more, and hardly anyone has even looked inside?  What if you’ve not yet had a single offer?  The response you’re getting—or lack of it—is the market speaking to you.

Planning to lead the market or chase it?  Your decision means whether you will sell sooner or later.

Planning to lead the market or chase it? Your decision means whether you will sell sooner or later.

Many Sellers may wind up not liking what they hear.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes I don’t like what I hear a lot when I listen to the market, either.  But, like it or not, it’s valuable input.

The sooner we accept what the market is telling us and adjust accordingly, the sooner we’re likely to see a successful sale.  And if that’s been our goal all along, why prolong getting there?

We know Sellers who, in essence, checked the ‘Lead the Market’ box.  We know this because they got their property sold successfully, and without being on the market a particularly long time.

We also know Sellers who choose the ‘Chase the Market’ option.  They do this by pricing their home higher than is recommended.  Some neglect to take the steps suggested to make their property aesthetically pleasing.

Market chasers pay a price for their decisions.  They may believe they’re going to get closer to their asking price when an Offer finally does come in, but this often doesn’t happen.  Market chasers can expect to have their property remain for sale with few showings for a long time—other homes will no doubt come on the market and likely get Offers and possibly sell before theirs even gets a nibble.

Some market chasers won’t see their homes sell, at all.

In short, Sellers who say they want to sell, but who are actually market chasers, need to be prepared for frustration.

Which box would you check?

David

Alabaster, Helena & Calera: Good Places To Live

Here’s yet another reason to show why Shelby county is such a good place to live…

Bark In The Park is one of many events that make Alabaster a popular place to live.

Bark In The Park is one of many events that make Alabaster a popular place to live.

Money Magazine has placed Alabaster,  Calera and Helena in its top 100 Best Places to Live for 2009.

Alabaster’s steady construction and housing markets were noted by the magazine, while Helena gets praise for its housing market, along with cultural activities, scenery, and historical charm.

Calera was cited for its low crime rate and strong community values…

Click here for more information on the article…

Of course, folks who live in these communities already know what a good place Shelby county is to live.  Slowly, but surely, the word is getting out.

Housing inventory is plentiful right now:  There are 366 properties presently available for sale in the Alabaster, Maylene and Saginaw areas, while 524 are for sale in Helena and Pelham (Shelby Co.).

Add interest rates for 30-year fixed loans around the 5.125% range, and it all spells a great opportunity to buy a home in the Shelby county and Birmingham market…

David