News

Dear Brenda,

Thanks to you, and more than 197,000 REALTORS across the nation, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015, which was signed into law does NOT include an extension of guarantee-fees.

The NAR Leadership Team and I would like to thank you and your colleagues for this record breaking level of support for a national Call for Action. Our state and local association partners did a great job in leading the efforts to stop Congress from taxing homeowners to fund the transportation bill.

This victory was made possible by the collective efforts of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS, and our state and local association partners. When REALTORS speak in a single unified voice, Congress listens.

If you’re trying to buy a home for your growing family but find that the pickings are slim, now you’ve got someone to blame: baby boomers. The Washington Post recently blasted this age group for clogging up the real estate pipeline. Apparently, experts say they should be downsizing into smaller homes now that their kids have flown the coop—but these empty nesters just aren’t budging.  “They appear to be staying in the family home longer than previous generations,” Sean Becketti, chief economist of Freddie Mac, told the Post. And this, he says, has created an “imbalance between housing demand and supply.”

Homeowners are less and less pushed to sell by market conditions, according to Seattle-based brokerage firm Redfin.
In an October survey, the company found that 16% of sellers considered the prospect of rising interest rates as one of three major incentives to sell their homes. This contrasts with 59% of respondents surveyed last year.  Instead, 29% of sellers said their top motivations included the desire to move to a larger home, while 27% cited relocating to a new city and 21% cited an aim to downsize. Nevertheless, when asked for their concerns about selling, the general economic environment was a top deterrent, mentioned by 32% of homeowners surveyed.

"Seller optimism is flying high right now," said Redfin chief economist Nela Richardson in a Nov. 12 press release. "But buyers are more grounded now and pricing a home too high is risky. More sellers are having to drop their initial asking price this fall than a year ago."

In this context, 20% of the 730 home sellers surveyed between Oct. 18 and Oct. 20 listed cashing in on the value of their home as a major reason to sell.

Has your financial situation improved greatly since you first took on your mortgage? That’s great! You have some options, including paying off your current mortgage ahead of time or refinancing to a shorter term. When it comes to the former option, it’s important to make sure there isn’t a prepayment penalty and that your credit is in good shape. When it comes to the latter option, we’ve some more information for you. Check out the factors below to help you figure out if this is a good decision and how you might go about refinancing to a shorter-term mortgage.

The benefits of a shorter mortgage

Shortening your loan’s term means that you will pay less interest over the length of the loan. This means you will spend less on your home overall. You will also likely secure lower rates, but your monthly payments may be higher. It’s important to make sure this is sustainable for your financial situation before making a change. Your credit score will have a major impact on the rate you’ll be approved for, so know where you stand before you apply. You can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

If you can afford the higher payments, you will reduce your debt faster, pay less in interest and eventually be done with it altogether. Then you will be able to direct that monthly payment you had been setting aside to other financial goals. Your potential savings and home equity can allow you to make other investments or purchases, all while feeling more financially secure as you enter the next phase of life.

The precautions you need to take

You want to be sure paying off your mortgage early doesn’t pose a significant risk to your finances. The money you use should not threaten your emergency fund or other financial priorities. For example, if you can only afford to make the larger monthly payments by dipping into your savings or not contributing to your retirement fund, it likely isn’t a good idea. Since you will pay off your mortgage sooner, this will likely affect your tax situation.

Should you make the jump?

The first step is making sure changing the term of your loan makes financial sense. Calculate what you will save in interest costs over the life of the loan and compare that to what you will pay in refinance closing costs. If you will save more money than you spend, it could be a good idea.

The next step is contacting your current lender and asking them about your refinance options. Then it’s a good idea to shop around with other lenders to see if you can find better rates or terms.

This is not a decision that should be taken lightly, so evaluate the potential effects refinancing your mortgage could have on your finances before you make your choice. It may feel great to own your home outright and be mortgage-free, but not if it comes at the cost of other financial goals.

When it comes to real estate, a home’s haunted legacy can actually be a selling point. In New Orleans, for example, some agents add “haunted” or “not haunted” on their real estate signs to boost sales. (We’re not sure which works better on prospective Big Easy buyers.) And earlier this year a supposedly haunted house in Camden, NY, topped our Most Popular Homes of the Week for two weeks in a row.

But why are we real-estate stalking homes that could scare us? What’s the (terrifying) appeal, anyway?

A haunting attraction

“It is just a thrill factor for many people,” says sociologist Margee Kerr, who studies fear. “We kind of get caught up in it. We like telling the stories at parties. It is just fun.”

But rumored-to-be-haunted houses must share certain characteristics to get us excited, says Kerr, author of “Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear.”

First, the house should be old. “You’re not going to see too many haunted 21st-century homes,” Kerr says. And it isn’t just that old houses have old pipes and cobwebs. That aura of history gives us a thrill.

“Here we are in front of something that witnessed the passing of time, and that freaks us out because we’re standing close to an almost dangerous unknown,” she says.

It also doesn’t hurt if the house itself can give us the creeps.

“Creaky wood, old plumbing, basically anything that makes a lot of noise is terrifying,” Kerr says. “Every sound could potentially be the ghost.”

You need a proper phantom

But a resident ghost isn’t always a selling point—it has to be sympathetic. “Basically, we look for stories that have good ghosts or fun ghosts, not homes where a serial killer buried 10 bodies in the basement,” says Kerr.

A tragic haunting could be enough to keep a home on the market forever, or force the seller into dropping the price to unload the cursed property. And it even affects buyers who don’t believe in ghosts.

“These stories can circulate, and even if someone doesn’t believe in the folklore, the negative conditions can still sway a buyer,” Kerr says. “Once the house has a negative association, it can be hard to shake.”

A preference that’s made in America

Oddly enough, buying a house for its ghosts may be a truly American tendency. “We just tend to have more fun with it,” says Kerr. “It is almost a lighthearted, funny thing for many people.”

But the same isn’t true in other cultures. For example, Kerr saw a huge difference when visiting Japan.

“For many people in Japan, when a bad death has happened in a house, the house is exceedingly difficult to sell,” she says. “Many people believe the unrest in the home will cause their family problems in life.”

But for us, we’re thrill-seekers, and we might always love a good ghost story.