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Mortgage Applications Increase in Latest MBA Weekly Survey

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 1.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier.  On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 15 percent compared with the previous week.  The Refinance Index increased 3 percent from the previous week.  The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 2 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 16 percent compared with the previous week and was 3 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

“Following several weeks of already elevated refinance activity due to falling interest rates, FHA refinance applications increased 76.5 percent in response to a reduction in annual mortgage insurance premiums which took effect January 26,” said Lynn Fisher, MBA’s Vice President of Research and Economics.  “Conventional refinance volume was up only 0.5 percent for the week while VA refinance volume was down 24.3 percent.  FHA purchase applications were also up 12.4 percent over the week prior, despite a decrease in purchase applications in the rest of the market.”

The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 71 percent of total applications from 72 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 5.3 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications increased to 13.1 percent this week from 9.1 percent last week.  The VA share of total applications decreased to 8.5 percent this week from 10.7 percent last week.  The USDA share of total applications decreased to 0.6 percent from 0.7 percent last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 3.79 percent, the lowest level since May 2013, from 3.83 percent, with points increasing to 0.29 from  0.26 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans.  The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $417,000) decreased to 3.82 percent, the lowest level since May 2013, from 3.87 percent, with points decreasing to 0.22 from 0.33 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans.  The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA decreased to 3.69 percent from 3.71 percent, with points remaining unchanged at 0.07 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans.  The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 3.14 percent from 3.15 percent, with points increasing to 0.31 from 0.28 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate remained unchanged from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 3.03 percent from 2.96 percent, with points decreasing to 0.39 from 0.42 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans.  The effective rate increased from last week.

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Front Entry Tips and Trends for Every Home

An important feature for buyers and sellers to stage graciously is the point of arrival. Most visitors enter a home through its front door and these 8 design tips will improve that first look.

  • Mel Blog1-2Size, scale, sequence. Due to energy-efficiency concerns, an entry with a soaring ceiling and sweeping staircase is far less popular than it once was. Still, a modest entryway as small as 4 feet to 5 feet wide can convey a proper sense of arrival. More important than size is the scale (the space should be in proportion with the rest of the house) and the sequence (the rest of the home should flow out in a logical way). In the best layouts, there may even be a view straight through to a backyard.
  • Height. The number of levels or floors in the structure often determines this factor, though even two- and three-Mel Blog 1-3story homes are moving away from entries with soaring ceilings. The location of a stairway will hinge in part on square footage and what role an architect or builder wants the stairs to play. In smaller homes, it’s often part of the foyer but off to the side, and goes straight up—being purely functional. In larger homes, the staircase might occupy its own separate hall and curve gracefully to a landing, past a window or window bank, and up to the next level. To carpet or not is a personal preference, though bare treads can be noisy; a good compromise is a runner covering painted or hardwood treads.
  • Millwork. To fashion a gracious entry, most design pros recommend a door that is at least three feet wide and 72 inches tall. The trend of pricey double doors is disappearing, according to Chicago-area builder Orren Pickell. Whether a door includes a glazed transom or sidelights should depend on how home owners feel about privacy and bringing natural light into the interior. The size of the glazing should be proportional to the door’s width and height. For baseboard and crown molding, simplification is the overriding trend, which keeps fussiness and costs down, except for the most traditional homes. Columns are helpful to screen off adjoining rooms without completely walling them off. Hacker uses two columns with space for books cut out on the back side of each on the living room side to separate areas in her home.
  • Lighting. Good lighting is essential for safety, but it also sets a welcoming mood. A chandelier or large pendant is the obvious choice, while ceiling cans or sconces also work well. Whatever fixture home owners prefer, advise them to install dimmers. Not only will this allow them to save energy, but options for differing lighting intensity and color can also help set a dramatic mood for a party, a bright feel for an open house, and a low-light one for romance.Mel Blog1-4
  • Flooring. A visually rich, substantial looking floor will reward visitors, says Dickinson. But due to the wear and tear common for front entryways, it should also be practical. Slate, stone, and porcelain meet that criteria, though they can be cold on bare feet in winter. Avoid soft woods that may dent and scratch; don’t use carpeting since it will become too dirty with traffic; and avoid vinyl unless it’s one of the more expensive, newer-looking versions. Home owners may wish to set off the area in a different material than adjacent rooms and hallways. But choosing one common material for several rooms produces a feeling of continuous flow and makes smaller rooms appear larger.
  • Furnishings. Depending on the entry’s size, home owners might consider adding a table to place mail, gloves, hats, and keys. Also, a mat or rug to wipe off feet and a chair or bench to put on and take off footwear can be helpful for maintaining tidiness. Finally, a mirror to check one’s appearance before heading out the door—or joining a group when entering—can be a welcome sight.
  • Wallpaper vs. paint. This choice is highly personal. If home owners love color, they should go for the paintbrush, with the knowledge that darker palettes can add drama and romance. Of course, not all future buyers will have the same taste, but repainting is an easy home repair in smaller areas. If your clients are into patterns, the same rule applies, though today many wallpapers are quite easy to hang and remove. The key is for surfaces to appear clean and not look dated, which may mean banishing that old-school floral style.
  • Bells and whistles. A coat closet is a nice extra, as is a powder room, though newer construction may feature such conveniences at the back of a domicile where they’ll be used most frequently. An umbrella stand can hold a variety of other items—canes, tennis racquets—neatly, and niches or shelves can display collectibles. A doorknocker outside, even if rarely used, is a classic touch.

If your buyers and sellers take away just one lesson from you, it should be that a well-planned front entrance—no matter the name, size, or style—will add value to their home. Call me today to hear all the tips on staging your current listing.


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Creative Home Decor: 5 Clever Ways to Use Everyday Items in Your Home

home decor

Creative home decor can be both beautiful and functional. Using everyday items in a clever way is also a budget-friendly method for sprucing up your home. The options for repurposing common items are endless. Try these ideas!

Creative home decor can be both beautiful and functional. Using everyday items in a clever way is also a budget-friendly method for sprucing up your Maui home. Shopping at antique stores or thrift stores provides options for repurposing common items. Here are some examples of using everyday items to decorate, de-clutter, and personalize your house.

Transform an Old Shutter Into an Organizer

Shutters aren’t just for the outside of your house — bring them inside and transform them into a new organizational station for your wall. To breathe new life into an old shutter, just add a fresh coat of paint, and you’ve got a new wall-hanging catchall. Consider painting the shutter a vibrant hue to add a pop of color to your kitchen, entryway, or home office. HGTV.com shows that a shutter can be used to hold and sort mail, hang keys (just attach some S-shaped hooks), and store greeting cards or party invitations with clothespins.

Suspend a Ladder to Hang Clothessuspended-ladders

Is your closet lacking in space? Perhaps your laundry room doesn’t have a drying rack? An easy solution for more hanging space that provides a rustic, unique touch is tosuspend a painted ladder from the ceiling. With four sturdy hooks and chain links, a suspended ladder could hold plenty of lightweight clothing items.

Repurpose Shower Tension Rods

The most common use for a tension rod is in a shower, but these rods can also be used in narrow closets and shelves for extra storage. Need more space for accessories like purses or ties? Just mount an everyday tension rod and some shower hooks, and you’ve got a new place to hang light items and reduce clutter in your home.

Organize Utensils and Office Supplies in Canning Jars

Canning jars, or mason jars, offer more than just a place to store homemade strawberry jam. These glass cans are great for home office and bathroom organization. You can use canning jars to sort markers, pens, and even makeup brushes. If you want to dress up this clever organization tool, consider tying ribbons around each jar, or tinting or spray-painting these jars in colors that complement your decor.

wine bottlesReuse Old Bottles or Labeled Jars for Rustic Vases

An old wine bottle or a jar that formerly housed a kitchen item can be transformed into a vase with little effort. If you prefer these glass containers without a label, soak them in hot water or use nail polish remover to help peel off the labels. A bottle or jar could stand alone as a vase or you could use an assortment of shapes and sizes to create a decorative arrangement.

When you find ways to repurpose common items, the sky’s the limit with your creative home decor options. Not only can you make your home unique and personal, you can easily store items that are difficult to organize. For more inspiration, search online or purchase some of your favorite home and garden magazines.

Image Source: Flickr


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Hawaiian Electric Companies Propose New Plan for PV Systems

solar-photovoltaic-array

The Hawaiian Electric Companies are proposing a new plan for PV systems that will reportedly increase the use of solar power in a way that is safe, sustainable, and fair for all customers on the power grid.

Through the proposed “Transitional Distribution Generation” plan, the companies hope to increase distributed solar power and renewable energy sources to over 65 percent by 2030, and double circuit capacities for PV systems on the electric grid, while reducing customer electric bills. The program also aims to distribute operating and maintenance costs for the electric grid more evenly among customers.

“We want to ensure a sustainable rooftop solar program to help our customers lower their electric bills,” said Alan Oshima, Hawaiian Electric president and CEO. “That means taking an important first step by transitioning to a program where all customers are fairly sharing in the cost of the grid we all rely on.”

Solar customers who are currently on the existing Net Energy Metering program use the electric grid daily, sending energy into the grid and using power only when their system cannot draw sunlight.  Many of these customer reduce their energy bills drastically, shifting the majority of costs associated with maintaining and operating the grid to those without PV systems.

“At the end of 2013, the annualized cost shift from customers who have rooftop solar to those who don’t totaled about $38 million. As of the end of 2014, the annualized cost shift had grown to $53 million–an increase of $15 million. And that number keeps growing. So change is needed to ensure a program that’s fair and sustainable for all customers,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of customer service.

The proposed plan would address this issue by adjusting credits issued to customers with solar systems generating energy to account for operation and maintenance costs of the electric grid.

Current solar customers on the Net Energy Metering program, and those with pending applications will not be affected if the transitional plan is implemented. The new program will apply only to new customers.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies will also be implementing newly developed performance standards, as established by the collaborative effort of Hawaiian Electric, SolarCity, and the Electric Power Research Institute.  The new standards are designed to accommodate a larger network of PV systems, and can reportedly reduce the risk of damage to personal electronics in customer homes and to utility equipment on the grid, increase safety for electrical line workers, and decrease the possibility of power outages.

The companies will work with the solar industry on these system upgrades to determine where demand is highest. The State of Hawai‘i’s Green Energy Market Securitization program will make low-cost loans available to customers needing financial assistance for necessary solar improvements.

Hawaiian Electric is also planning a community solar program in an effort to make solar available to all customers, including those who may be unable to install rooftop solar systems like renters or condo dwellers.

The transitional plan is pending approval by the Public Utilities Commission, following a request by Hawaiian Electric to accept the program within 60 days. The plan would remain in effect until the PUC has developed a permanent replacement program in collaboration with stakeholders across the solar community, including the solar industry.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies have more than 51,000 customers with rooftop solar systems.  As of December 2014, about 12 percent of Hawaiian Electric customers, 10 percent of Maui Electric customers and 9 percent of Hawai‘i Electric Light customers have rooftop solar. Hawai‘i has comparatively higher rates of solar customer compared with the national average which stands at one-half of 1 percent, as of December 2013.

Originally written by

By Maui Now Staff


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3 things VA homebuyers need from real estate agents

Feb blog #2 pic 1Growing demographic may not realize all the loan benefits at their fingertips!

More veterans are taking advantage of their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loan benefit than ever before. With no down payment, no mortgage insurance and flexible credit standards, it’s easy to see why. The VA loan that was once looked down upon by agents has become a streamlined process with closing-time statistics that are neck and neck with conventional loans.

Some agents may believe that if they don’t work in a community near a military base, then they don’t need to ask their buyers if they served. But this isn’t the case at all. Buyers don’t have to be active-duty military to use the VA loan, so there are buyers eligible for VA loan benefits all across the country.

Maui’s Governor,  Neil Abercrombie notes the percentage of veterans in Hawaii as 1 out of 10   “Just look around you, one out of every 10 people in Hawaii is a veteran,” Abercrombie said.“It is vitally important for us to take care of them.”  Hawaii’s population, as of July 2012, was 1,392,313, that means there are 139,000 veterans living in the islands.

That’s more than 100,000 potential buyers who may be eligible for VA loan benefits. This is why it’s so important to ask each and every buyer the question, “Did you serve?” You might be surprised by how many of your clients could potentially buy a home with no money down using their VA loan benefits.

So what you need to know..

1. Understand VA loan basics.

As more veterans and servicemembers become aware of their VA home loan benefits, you may begin receiving more VA loan-specific questions. It’s important for you to be able to answer their questions or be able to find the answers in a timely manner.

The VA loan has unique requirements, including some that cover a property’s condition. A knowledgeable lender who focuses on VA loans can be an invaluable asset as you navigate the VA loan process. You must be able to identify potential issues with the property when showing homes to VA buyers so they can make an informed decision before proceeding with an offer on a property that may require repairs prior to closing.

2. Appreciate their situation.

Each one of your VA buyers will have a unique story to tell; thank them for their service. Each will also have a unique set of needs. Get to know them. Ask questions to discover more about the character of their service, their home buying timeline, and what they are looking for in an agent and in a home.

Active-duty service members relocate, on average, every two to four years. Frequent moves mean they need a home that maintains its value and will sell quickly. They may also have a very short timeline from the date they receive orders for a permanent change of station (PCS) to the day they relocate. Upon receiving PCS orders, they’ll receive up to 10 days of leave to visit the new duty station and find housing. As an agent, you need to understand their timeline, be efficient and determine how you can best meet their needs.

3. Know your market.

Veterans and servicemembers relocating to a new market not only need your real estate expertise but also your knowledge of the community. They’ll need information about everything from service providers to community resources. Being an expert in your market can significantly help their transition into their new community.

It’s important to note that not every buyer using their VA loan is on active duty or unfamiliar with your area. Even so, your high level of market knowledge will be a necessary tool to assist them in finding a home that will meet the minimum property requirements of the VA loan while also meeting their needs.

Working with VA buyers can be a rewarding experience. Arm yourself with knowledge of VA loan basics, listen to your buyers’ needs and know your market well, and you’ll be on the right track.

Interested in the newest Maui Market Statistics? Click here for more information. Call me at 808-870-7162 to inquiry about your VA home loan.


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Front Entry Tips and Trends for Every Home

Feb blog #1 pic3 An important feature for buyers and sellers to stage graciously is the point of arrival. Most visitors enter a home through its front door and these 8 design tips will improve that first look.

1.  Size, scale, sequence. Due to energy-efficiency concerns, an entry with a soaring ceiling and sweeping staircase is far less popular than it once was. Still, a modest entryway as small as 4 feet to 5 feet wide can convey a proper sense of arrival. More important than size is the scale (the space should be in proportion with the rest of the house) and the sequence (the rest of the home should flow out in a logical way). In the best layouts, there may even be a view straight through to a backyard.

  1. The number of levels or floors in the structure often determines this factor, though even two- and three-story homes are moving away from entries with soaring ceilings. The location of a stairway will hinge in part on square footage and what role an architect or builder wants the stairs to play. In smaller homes, it’s often part of the foyer but off to the side, and goes straight up—being purely functional. In larger homes, the staircase might occupy its own separate hall and curve gracefully to a landing, past a window or window bank, and up to the next level. To carpet or not is a personal preference, though bare treads can be noisy; a good compromise is a runner covering painted or hardwood treads.
  1. To fashion a gracious entry, most design pros recommend a door that is at least three feet wide and 72 inches tall. The trend of pricey double doors is disappearing, according to Chicago-area builder Orren Pickell. Whether a door includes a glazed transom or sidelights should depend on how home owners feel about privacy and bringing natural light into the interior. The size of the glazing should be proportional to the door’s width and height. For baseboard and crown molding, simplification is the overriding trend, which keeps fussiness and costs down, except for the most traditional homes. Columns are helpful to screen off adjoining rooms without completely walling them off. Hacker uses two columns with space for books cut out on the back side of each on the living room side to separate areas in her home.
  1. Good lighting is essential for safety, but it also sets a welcoming mood. A chandelier or large pendant is the obvious choice, while ceiling cans or sconces also work well. Whatever fixture homeowners prefer, advise them to install dimmers. Not only will this allow them to save energy, but options for differing lighting intensity and color can also help set a dramatic mood for a party, a bright feel for an open house, and a low-light one for romance.Feb blog #1 pic1
  1. A visually rich, substantial looking floor will reward visitors, says Dickinson. But due to the wear and tear common for front entryways, it should also be practical. Slate, stone, and porcelain meet that criteria, though they can be cold on bare feet in winter. Avoid soft woods that may dent and scratch; don’t use carpeting since it will become too dirty with traffic; and avoid vinyl unless it’s one of the more expensive, newer-looking versions. Homeowners may wish to set off the area in a different material than adjacent rooms and hallways. But choosing one common material for several rooms produces a feeling of continuous flow and makes smaller rooms appear larger.
  1. Depending on the entry’s size, homeowners might consider adding a table to place mail, gloves, hats, and keys. Also, a mat or rug to wipe off feet and a chair or bench to put on and take off footwear can be helpful for maintaining tidiness. Finally, a mirror to check one’s appearance before heading out the door—or joining a group when entering—can be a welcome sight.
  1. Wallpaper vs. paint. This choice is highly personal. If home owners love color, they should go for the paintbrush, with the knowledge that darker palettes can add drama and romance. Of course, not all future buyers will have the same taste, but repainting is an easy home repair in smaller areas. If your clients are into patterns, the same rule applies, though today many wallpapers are quite easy to hang and remove. The key is for surfaces to appear clean and not look dated, which may mean banishing that old-school floral style.
  1. Bells and whistles. A coat closet is a nice extra, as is a powder room, though newer construction may feature such conveniences at the back of a domicile where they’ll be used most frequently. An umbrella stand can hold a variety of other items—canes, tennis racquets—neatly, and niches or shelves can display collectibles. A doorknocker outside, even if rarely used, is a classic touch.

If your buyers and sellers take away just one lesson from you, it should be that a well-planned front entrance—no matter the name, size, or style—will add value to their home. Call me today to hear all the tips on staging your current listing.  www.OwnYourMauiHome.com