February Real Estate Roundup

February Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Mac’s results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® shows that “mortgage rates fell for the third consecutive week, continuing the general downward trend that began late last year. Wages are growing on par with home prices for the first time in years, and with more inventory available, spring home sales should help the market begin to recover from the malaise of the last few months.”

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.35 percent with an average 0.5 points for the week ending February 21, 2019, down from last week when it averaged 4.37 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.40 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.78 percent with an average 0.4 points, down from last week when it also averaged 3.81 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.85 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.84 percent this week with an average 0.3 points, down from last week when it averaged 3.88 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.65 percent.

Financing a Home in a Rural Area? Here’s How

Financing a Home in a Rural Area? Here’s How

Homes that are located in rural or semi-rural areas can be more difficult to find financing for when researching conventional loans. Homes in these areas by nature are somewhat isolated as well as remote. This is important as it relates to identifying comparable sales in the area. When lenders evaluate a loan application there are actually two separate approvals going on- one for the applicant and one for the property. The applicant will provide income and employment documentation as well as copies of bank statements and more. A credit report will be pulled and reviewed.

As it relates to the property, the lender wants to make sure the property is marketable. This simply means how long would it take to sell the home and how are other homes in the area selling? This is primarily answered with the completion of a property appraisal. The appraisal compares the subject property, the property under contract, with similar homes in the area. Appraisal guidelines then ask the comparable sales be relatively near the subject property, at least three of them, typically less than one mile away and have sold within the previous three to six months. But there’s the problem with a conventional loan- it’s highly unlikely such comparable sales can be documented. But that’s where the USDA loan comes into play.

The United States Department of Agriculture oversees the USDA home loan program. First introduced back in 1935, it was an inducement by the federal government to help people buy homes with as little cash to close as possible while at the same time moving people and homes into sparsely populated areas. As long as the applicants used the USDA program to live in the home as a primary residence, it was a welcomed program.

Today, the zero-down USDA loan is still used to finance homes in rural areas and the rates and terms are extremely competitive. Buyers can get the loan directly from the USDA but it’s much easier to work with a lender experienced with this program. If you take a quick look at the timeline between working directly with an experienced mortgage loan officer with applying with the USDA and all the bureaucratic baggage that would carry, the local loan officer is the preferred choice.

The USDA loan also carries a guarantee to the lender should the loan ever go into default. Should a home go into foreclosure, the lender is compensated for the loss. Just like other loan programs that carry a guarantee to the lender, the guarantee is financed with a form of mortgage insurance. And in the case with a USDA loan, two such policies are attached to the loan. The upfront policy, called the guarantee fee, is 1.00% of the loan amount but does not have to be paid for out-of-pocket but instead is rolled into the final loan amount. There is also an annual premium that is paid for in monthly installments along with the principal and interest amount, property tax and homeowner’s insurance.

There are a few restrictions that come with the program, one of which is making sure the home being financed is located in an approved area. These areas are identified via the U.S. Census Bureau when the Census is taken. What’s interesting about this is areas that look nothing like “rural” but more suburban in mind it still may be an approved area by the Census Bureau. If an area increases in population since the last Census was taken, buyers can still take advantage of this zero-down loan. That is, until the next Census comes around.

When someone sees a potential purchase, the first thing to do contact the loan officer and provide the property address. The loan officer can then look up the address to make sure it’s eligible. Second, there is also a limit on household income. All occupants 18 years of age and older must report gross monthly income. The lender will then make sure this income does not exceed 115 percent of the median income for the area.

One final mention- the USDA loan comes in one flavor and one flavor only, the 30 year fixed rate loan. There are no other loan term options but at the same time there is no prepayment penalty so borrowers can pay any amount they wish beyond the required 30 year monthly payment.

Does Pressure Washing Damage Vinyl Siding on Your Home?

Does Pressure Washing Damage Vinyl Siding on Your Home?

Residential pressure washing is an excellent way to improve a home’s curb appeal, removing years of baked-on mud, dirt, and other unsightly grime. Roof washing, as well as gutter brightening and window washing, also protect those surfaces from long-term damage caused by abrasive and corrosive debris. However, is pressure washing safe for vinyl siding?

Improper pressure washing techniques can absolutely damage vinyl siding, boring a hole through the vinyl or causing dents and warped areas. Concentrated pressure can also leave streaks or water marks across the front of vinyl siding.

While improper techniques can damage vinyl siding, as well as old and brittle roofing shingles, thin exterior window glass, worn timber decking, and aged mortar along brick walls, the right residential power washing techniques can get these surfaces clean and pristine. To ensure you’re doing everything possible to keep your home in good condition and looking its best, note some tips for avoiding damage while power washing a house, and for ensuring the job is done thoroughly and effectively.

Ways to Properly Pressure Wash a Home Safely and Effectively

Residential power washing isn’t always damaging to vinyl siding and other surfaces and materials, as long as the work is done right! Note a few tips from local pros at pressure washing in St. Petersburg, FL, for safely pressure washing a home, and remember that you might rely on a professional soft clean system instead of tackling this job yourself, so you avoid damaging your roof, walls, and windows during the cleaning process.

  • • Start by removing mold and mildew by hand. Use a watered down bleach solution in a spray bottle and then scrub these contaminants with a damp rag.
  • • Begin pressure washing with plain water only. Some detergents might dry out vinyl siding or strip its color, and dry along the surface of siding, brick walls, windows, and timber decking, leaving behind dirty and unsightly streaks.
  • • If you must use detergent, be sure you opt for surfactants made for particular surfaces. Cleansers meant for a wood deck might be too harsh for exterior window glass, and some detergents should be used with hot water rather than cold.
  • • Always use the lowest pressure available as you begin cleaning, optimally no more than the force produced by a garden hose! You can increase the strength as needed and as you see what is safe for each surface, as you continue to clean.
  • • Start by washing higher areas of the home and hidden corners where dirt collects; this includes roof eaves, behind shutters, and under gutters and around downspouts.
  • • Hold the pressure washing wand at a forty-five-degree angle to the siding and other such surfaces, either to the side or downward, rather than standing directly in front of the area you’re washing. Holding the wand at an angle will help to loosen dirt and also lessen the pressure against s surface, reducing the risk of damage.
  • • Keep the pressure washing wand moving and never hold it over one spot continuously, as this is a surefire way to bore a hole right through vinyl, brick, and timber, or shatter an exterior window.
  • • Work in sections and be sure you rinse away dirt and residual detergent thoroughly before you move on to the next part of a wall or next set of windows.
  • • Keep an eye on the water as you work; if it’s still dirty and gray, you need to keep washing that particular section of your home! Keep working until the water runs clean and clear and is free of suds and residual detergent.

When to Hire Residential Pressure Washing Services

Most homeowners can rent or buy a pressure washer and manage some light, everyday cleaning of their property’s exterior. However, it’s good to call a professional for many power washing needs around your home, to avoid damage and for a thorough and effective wash. Note when it’s good to hire residential pressure washing services:

• Never attempt roof washing on your own. Managing a pressure washer while on a roof or a ladder is very dangerous, and it’s quite easy to loosen shingles and tiles with a power washer. Soft wash systems will also dissolve years of thick soot and grime from a roof without damaging old and brittle shingles.

• Window washing is often more difficult than homeowners realize, and it takes some special skill and knowhow to clean windows without leaving behind streaks and water marks. A professional window cleaning service can also make quick work of cleaning shutters and screens without causing damage.

• Cleaning gutters with a garden hose or power washer is often messy and difficult. Soft wash cleaning dissolves thick silt and mud in gutters, without creating a mess or pulling those gutters away from their connectors and roof eaves.

• Specialty surfactants will kill roots and spores of algae, mold, mildew, and moss, to ensure these contaminants don’t grow back along a home’s exterior walls and roof edges. If your home has mold, algae, or any such biological contaminants growing along any surface, opt for professional power washing rather than tackling these residues yourself.

Never Wash These With a Power Washer!

While power washing is effective for virtually every surface of your property’s exterior, some areas and items should never be washed with a pressure washer, as they might damage rather easily. For example, never clean under the hood of your car with a power washer, as you might dislodge certain parts or get electrical parts wet, causing a short.

Power washing can also split canvas and other fabrics, so avoid washing a tent, tarp, and similar items with your pressure washer. Wicker patio furniture can come unwoven under extreme pressure, and power washing might chip or split clay pots and thin patio pavers.

Related Questions

Does bleach kill outside mold?

Bleach is an effective mold killer, but be sure you water down and dilate bleach before applying it to vinyl and timber. Otherwise, bleach will dry these materials very easily and cause them to chip and crack, and leave behind unsightly streaks.

Does pressure washing damage concrete?

Using too much pressure and the wrong detergent can damage any exterior surface, but a professional power washing company will be able to clean concrete, patio pavers, pool decks, patios, and other all surfaces effectively and safely, without causing damage.


Nate Knebl is the owner of ProClean Pressure Washing of St. Petersburg who has been power washing homes and businesses in the southern Florida area for over 18 years. He uses a special soft wash system that fully protects delicate surfaces while provided a deep and thorough clean.

9 Things That May Surprise You About Today’s Homebuyers

9 Things That May Surprise You About Today’s Homebuyers

Are you too young? Too old? Too single? Think you make too little money or don’t have enough for a down payment? Turns out, none of those factors may be standing in the way of buying a home. We’re going behind the numbers of the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers to take a look at some surprising buyer statistics.

33%: That’s the percentage of total buyers for the year that were first-timers. That number is a tick down from 2017’s 34%, but still represents the largest share of homebuyers today. Hello, millennial invasion.

46: Then again…maybe it’s not only millennials, because 46 was the median age of all buyers for the year. It just goes to show that age is not a deterrent to buying a home, on either end of the spectrum.

13%: That was the median down payment of all buyers for the year. There goes that myth that you need 20% down to buy a home! Breaking that statistic down further, repeat homebuyers had an average down payment of 16% last year, but, for first-time buyers, that number was just 7%.

$250,000: That was the median purchase price of a home last year. Think homeownership is still out of reach at that number? Here’s a few more digits that may be surprising:

$91,600: That was the median household income of all buyers in the NAR report.
3.5%: That’s the minimum down payment required for a loan from the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), the most popular loan for first-time buyers in large part because of that low down payment requirement as well as generous credit score requirements.
$8,750: That’s 3.5% of $250,000. Buy a home at the median price, and that’s what you’ll have to come up with for an FHA loan.

18: That was the percentage of homebuyers who were single females last year. Additionally, 9% were single males, and 8% were unmarried couples. Who says you need to be married to buy a home?
12: That’s the percentage of homebuyers who bought a multigenerational home in 2018, “to take care of aging parents, because of children over the age of 18 moving back home, and for cost-saving,” said the NAR.

This is representative of a greater multigenerational trend across the country; The most recent data from the Pew Research Center in 2016 shows that, “A record 64 million people, or 20% of the U.S. population, lived with multiple generations under one roof.” The trend is strong across nearly all racial and age groups.

An Alternative to Cash? Using Sweat Equity for Down Payments

An Alternative to Cash? Using Sweat Equity for Down Payments

Down payment standing in your way of becoming a homeowner? Coming up with the cash is so yesterday. You may be able to use your sweat equity to get in the door, instead.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) just announced it will be awarding $10 million in sweat equity grants to nonprofit housing organizations through its Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP). “The funds, combined with labor contributed by the homebuyers and volunteers, will lower the cost of homeownership for certain buyers,” said HousingWire. “According to HUD, through the program, homebuyers contribute ‘significant sweat equity’ toward the development of their housing units or the units of others participating in the local self-help housing programs.”

Low-income homebuyers can work toward their down payment through activities including “landscaping, foundation work, painting, carpentry, trim work, drywall, roofing, and siding. A minimum of 100 sweat equity hours is required from a household of two or more persons, while a minimum of 50 sweat equity hours is required from a household of one person.”

More than half of the money in this round of grants is earmarked for Habitat for Humanity, which they will apply toward at least 284 SHOP units for low-income homebuyers who meet the sweat equity requirement. HUD has a history of awarding SHOP grants; they provided $9.9 million in sweat equity grants in 2016, $13.5 million in 2011, and $25 million in 2006.

The FHA isn’t the only place buyers may be able to use sweat equity to help with their down payment. The Home Possible mortgage, which already offers one of the lowest down payments around at a minimum of three percent, is another option. “Do-it-yourselfers can apply sweat equity to assist in meeting their down payment and closing costs, co-borrowers who do not live in the home can be included for a borrower’s one-unit residence, borrowers are permitted to own other properties, and more—all with competitive pricing and the ease of a conventional mortgage,” said Freddie Mac.

Freddie Mac recently expanded the program so that borrowers can “cover their entire down payments with sweat equity,” said Tim and Julie Harris Real Estate Coaching. “The Home Possible Sweat Equity Offering supports renovations of aging homes and provides borrowers with an additional form of down payment instead of cash, particularly in rural areas,” said a spokesperson for Freddie Mac. “Borrowers can use sweat equity with no limits on the amount that can be applied to down payments, provided that the labor performed is completed in a skillful manner to support the appraised value (of the home) and is certified by an appraiser.”