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November
2

Cleaning your carpets may seem like a hassle, but it's a necessary task. This guide will make the process easier.

While a nice, clean carpet is often a key component of a comfortable living space, it doesn't take long for it to get nasty. Carpet is a harbor for germs, dust, debris, dirt, and so regular cleaning is important for keeping your family healthy and your home's interior looking good.

A good carpet cleaning routine involves more than just regular vacuuming; however, the process doesn't have to be difficult. Establishing a regular cleaning cadence is key. Our real estate agents pulled together this quick guide to carpet cleaning options so you can help preserve the floors and air quality in your home:

Click Here to Read More...

October
31

Halloween 2022

Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31, and Halloween 2022 will occur on Monday, October 31. The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats.

Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago, mostly in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes.

When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By A.D. 43, the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the 400 years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.

The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of bobbing for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

All Saints' Day

On May 13, A.D. 609, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1.

By the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted older Celtic rites. In A.D. 1000, the church made November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It's widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, church-sanctioned holiday.

All Souls' Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints' Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

Halloween Comes to America

The celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies.

As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups and the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included "play parties," which were public events held to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other's fortunes, dance and sing.

Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the 19th century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.

In the second half of the 19th century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing the Irish Potato Famine, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally.

History of Trick-or-Treating

Borrowing from European traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes.

Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything "frightening" or "grotesque" out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

Halloween Parties

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide Halloween parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague some celebrations in many communities during this time.

By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated.

Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.

Thus, a new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country's second largest commercial holiday after Christmas.

Halloween Movies

Speaking of commercial success, scary Halloween movies have a long history of being box office hits. Classic Halloween movies include the "Halloween" franchise, based on the 1978 original film directed by John Carpenter and starring Donald Pleasance, Nick Castle, Jamie Lee Curtis and Tony Moran. In "Halloween," a young boy named Michael Myers murders his 17-year-old sister and is committed to jail, only to escape as a teen on Halloween night and seek out his old home, and a new target. A direct sequel to the original "Halloween" was released in 2018, starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle. A sequel to that—"Halloween Kills," the twelfth film in the "Halloween" franchise overall—was released in 2021.

Considered a classic horror film down to its spooky soundtrack, "Halloween" inspired other iconic "slasher films" like "Scream," "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Friday the 13." More family-friendly Halloween movies include "Hocus Pocus," "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "Beetlejuice" and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." 

All Souls Day and Soul Cakes

The American Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating probably dates back to the early All Souls' Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called "soul cakes" in return for their promise to pray for the family's dead relatives.

The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as "going a-souling," was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food and money.

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry.

On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.

On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.

Black Cats and Ghosts on Halloween

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. For these friendly spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along the side of the road and lit candles to help loved ones find their way back to the spirit world.

Today's Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too. We avoid crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. This idea has its roots in the Middle Ages, when many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into black cats.

We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred (it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe). And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred (it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe). And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.

Halloween Matchmaking and Lesser-Known Rituals

But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today's trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead.

In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married. In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.

In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl's future husband. (In some versions of this legend, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.)

Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband.

Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands' initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands' faces.

Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry. At others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.

Of course, whether we're asking for romantic advice or trying to avoid seven years of bad luck, each one of these Halloween superstitions relies on the goodwill of the very same "spirits" whose presence the early Celts felt so keenly.

October
26

Mortgage and refinance rates today, Oct. 25, 2022

Today's mortgage and refinance rates

Average mortgage rates just edged lower yesterday. Rejoice! That was the second consecutive business day of falls, which has been a rare phenomenon recently. However, I wouldn't yet read too much into the good news.

Still, so far this morning, mortgage rates today look likely to fall. Just be aware that these short trends can turn on a dime, so there are no guarantees.

Find your lowest rate. Start here (Oct 26th, 2022)

Current mortgage and refinance rates

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 year fixed 7.351% 7.384% +0.05% 
Conventional 15 year fixed 6.71% 6.748% -0.1% 
Conventional 20 year fixed 7.421% 7.484% +0.11% 
Conventional 10 year fixed 6.716% 6.834% -0.06% 
30 year fixed FHA 7.217% 7.931% -0.1% 
15 year fixed FHA 7.125% 7.401% Unchanged
30 year fixed VA 6.75% 6.982% +0.02% 
15 year fixed VA 6.125% 6.483% Unchanged
Rates are provided by our partner network, and may not reflect the market. Your rate might be different. Click here for a personalized rate quote. See our rate assumptions here.

Should you lock a mortgage rate today?

Don't lock on a day when mortgage rates look set to fall. My recommendations (below) are intended to give longer-term suggestions about the overall direction of those rates. So, they don't change daily to reflect fleeting sentiments in volatile markets.

Next week's likely to bring another big rate hike by the Federal Reserve. They may get smaller after that, but it's looking likely they won't stop rising for a while. And I doubt mortgage rates will fall far and for long until they do.

So, my personal rate lock recommendations for the longer term remain:

  • LOCK if closing in 7 days
  • LOCK if closing in 15 days
  • LOCK if closing in 30 days
  • LOCK if closing in 45 days
  • LOCK if closing in 60 days

Market data affecting today's mortgage rates

Here's a snapshot of the state of play this morning at about 9:50 a.m. (ET). The data, compared with roughly the same time yesterday, were:

  • The yield on 10-year Treasury notes fell to 4.08% from 4.23%. (Good for mortgage rates.) More than any other market, mortgage rates normally tend to follow these particular Treasury bond yields
  • Major stock indexes were mostly higher soon after opening. (Sometimes bad for mortgage rates.) When investors buy shares, they're often selling bonds, which pushes those prices down and increases yields and mortgage rates. The opposite may happen when indexes are lower. But this is an imperfect relationship
  • Oil prices decreased to $84.78 from $84.83 a barrel. (Neutral for mortgage rates*.) Energy prices play a prominent role in creating inflation and also point to future economic activity
  • Gold prices nudged up to $1,661 from $1,650 an ounce. (Neutral for mortgage rates*.) It is generally better for rates when gold rises and worse when gold falls. Gold tends to rise when investors worry about the economy. And worried investors tend to push rates lower
  • CNN Business Fear & Greed index — climbed to 53 from 47 out of 100. (Bad for mortgage rates.) "Greedy" investors push bond prices down (and interest rates up) as they leave the bond market and move into stocks, while "fearful" investors do the opposite. So lower readings are better than higher ones

*A movement of less than $20 on gold prices or 40 cents on oil ones is a change of 1% or less. So we only count meaningful differences as good or bad for mortgage rates.

Caveats about markets and rates

Before the pandemic and the Federal Reserve's interventions in the mortgage market, you could look at the above figures and make a pretty good guess about what would happen to mortgage rates that day. But that's no longer the case. We still make daily calls. And are usually right. But our record for accuracy won't achieve its former high levels until things settle down.

So, use markets only as a rough guide. Because they have to be exceptionally strong or weak to rely on them. But, with that caveat, mortgage rates today look likely to decrease. However, be aware that "intraday swings" (when rates change speed or direction during the day) are a common feature right now.

Find your lowest rate. Start here (Oct 26th, 2022)

Important notes on today's mortgage rates

Here are some things you need to know:

  1. Typically, mortgage rates go up when the economy's doing well and down when it's in trouble. But there are exceptions. Read 'How mortgage rates are determined and why you should care'
  2. Only "top-tier" borrowers (with stellar credit scores, big down payments and very healthy finances) get the ultralow mortgage rates you'll see advertised
  3. Lenders vary. Yours may or may not follow the crowd when it comes to daily rate movements — though they all usually follow the broader trend over time
  4. When daily rate changes are small, some lenders will adjust closing costs and leave their rate cards the same
  5. Refinance rates are typically close to those for purchases.

A lot is going on at the moment. And nobody can claim to know with certainty what will happen to mortgage rates in the coming hours, days, weeks or months.

Are mortgage and refinance rates rising or falling?

The Federal Reserve's rate-setting body (the Federal Open Market Committee or FOMC) begins a two-day meeting one week today. And it will announce the size of its next rate hike the following day, Nov. 2.

Markets seem convinced it's going to be another giant 75-basis-point (0.75%) one. Overnight, CME's FedWatch tool reckoned there was a 97.2% probability of that big an increase.

If that's correct, mortgage rates may barely move next Wednesday as a result of the hike. That's because investors are expecting it and will have traded ahead based on that expectation.

However, they could still move that day as a result of something called the "dot plot." That's a graph on which each FOMC member plots his or her forecast of where the Fed rate will be at various points in the future.

And Wall Street will be hoping several members are expecting that rate to plateau and fall soon. If that's the case, mortgage rates might fall that day. But if most members still expect high rates well into 2023, mortgage rates might rise.

Key economic reports this week

A couple of highly influential economic reports are due out later this week. They're likely to be viewed largely through the prism of how they'll affect the FOMC's plans for its rate.

Thursday sees the publication of the first reading (of three) of gross domestic product (GDP) during the third quarter. Economists polled by MarketWatch are expecting healthy annualized growth of 2.3% during that period. If it's much higher, mortgage rates might rise — or fall if its appreciably lower.

Friday brings the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) report for September. And that includes the PCE price index, which is the Fed's favorite measure of inflation. MarketWatch says economists are expecting a year-over-year number of 5.2%. Again, a higher figure could push mortgage rates up while a lower one might drag them down.

In the meantime, while we're waiting for those reports, mortgage rates might (no promises!) continue to drift. Let's hope they continue to do so in a downward direction. But drifting is generally pretty random.

For more background on where mortgage rates might be heading, read the weekend edition of this daily report.

According to Freddie Mac's archives, the weekly all-time low for mortgage rates was set on Jan. 7, 2021, when it stood at 2.65% for conventional, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages.

Freddie's Oct. 20 report put that same weekly average at 6.94% (with 0.9 fees and points), up from the previous week's 6.92%.

Note that Freddie expects you to buy discount points ("with 0.9 fees and points") on closing that earn you a lower rate. If you don't do that, your rate would be closer to the ones we and others quote. Belatedly, Freddie says it plans to stop including discount points in its forecasts later this year.

Expert mortgage rate forecasts

Looking further ahead, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) each has a team of economists dedicated to monitoring and forecasting what will happen to the economy, the housing sector and mortgage rates.

And here are their rate forecasts for the current quarter (Q4/22) and the first three quarters of next year (Q1/23, Q2/23 and Q3/24).

The numbers in the table below are for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages. Fannie's forecast appeared on Oct. 10, the MBA's on Oct. 23 and Freddie's on Oct. 21.

Forecaster Q4/22 Q1/23 Q2/23 Q3/23
Fannie Mae 6.7% 6.6%  6.5% 6.4%
Freddie Mac 6.8% 6.6%  6.5% 6.4%
MBA 6.7% 6.2%  5.7% 5.5%

Of course, given so many unknowables, the whole current crop of forecasts might be even more speculative than usual. And their past record for accuracy hasn't been wildly impressive. Personally, I think they're too optimistic.

Find your lowest rate today

You should comparison shop widely, no matter what sort of mortgage you want. As federal regulator the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says:

"Shopping around for your mortgage has the potential to lead to real savings. It may not sound like much, but saving even a quarter of a point in interest on your mortgage saves you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan."

Verify your new rate (Oct 26th, 2022)

Mortgage rate methodology

The Mortgage Reports receives rates based on selected criteria from multiple lending partners each day. We arrive at an average rate and APR for each loan type to display in our chart. Because we average an array of rates, it gives you a better idea of what you might find in the marketplace. Furthermore, we average rates for the same loan types. For example, FHA fixed with FHA fixed. The end result is a good snapshot of daily rates and how they change over time.

October
24

How to prepare your house for sale

Investing some time and effort upfront to prepare your house for showings will generally increase the likelihood of receiving offers soon after you list your home. The longer your home stays on the market, the harder it can be to sell.

Things like repairs, staging, and cleaning can help attract better offers, but they can also be a time-consuming and expensive process.

This step-by-step guide will walk you through how to prepare your home for sale so you can get the most value from the effort you put in.

1. Identify repairs and make a plan

Normal wear and tear can add up, especially if you've lived in your home for a long period of time. From a door that squeaks to a window that sticks or a toilet that runs until you jiggle the handle, it's easy to ignore minor issues that seem like quirks.

Buyers, however, may see these quirks as problems that lower the value of your home or as bargaining chips during the closing process. If you have too many noticeable repairs, buyers may also wonder if more serious issues lurk below the surface, and that could prevent them from making a good offer.

Go through your home room by room, noting repairs that need to be made. Check out our blog to learn more about the most important things to repair before selling a house. Look for holes or dents in walls. Floors should be free from cracks or chips.

In the kitchen, appliances should be in working order. Examine cabinets and drawers to ensure that they open and close properly. Kitchen and bathroom faucets, fixtures and drains must be leak-free and operational. Bathroom tubs and showers should have no broken tiles. Also, look for signs of water damage.

→ Want to skip the hassle of listings, showings, and repairs? Learn how selling to Opendoor works.

Your home's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system should work and be leak-free. So should your water heater, smoke detectors, electrical panel and circuit breakers.

Outside, examine exterior surfaces, weather-stripping, eaves and windows. Look for damage such as peeling, cracks or rot. Decks and patios should be in good condition. Fencing should be free from damage, like rot or rust. Landscaping should be trimmed back from your home, eliminating the potential for causing damage.

Some repairs might be easy do-it-yourself projects, such as patching a hole in drywall or unclogging a slow drain. If it's your first time making repairs like these, video tutorials on YouTube are a great place to get started.

More serious or complicated repairs may require hiring a professional. If your roof leaks, outlets don't work, or you have cracks in your foundation, having the job done by someone who has the right tools and know-how can save time and ensure the repairs are done correctly.

Repairs and upgrades can increase the value of your home so you'll need to consider the time and cost it will take versus the impact on your home value — read our list of improvement projects that can generate higher returns (based on proprietary Opendoor market data).

A pre-sale inspection can ensure all repairs necessary for the sale are handled before buyers walk through. If the inspection unearths costly issues, such as needing a new roof, you can decide to make the fix or price your home a little lower to account for the needed repair. An inspection typically costs between $200 and $483, according to HomeAdvisor.com. Most buyers will include an inspection contingency in their offer so if both parties aren't able to agree on repairs following an inspection, the buyer can walk away without a penalty.

Dreading the hours of prep work and home showings? Consider selling your home to an iBuyer like Opendoor. At Opendoor, we take a single service charge to provide you with a hassle-free sales process without listing, showings, and months of stress. You're in complete control of your moving timeline, and choose your own closing date. Read our guide and learn more on how Opendoor's home condition assessment and repair process works.

2. Declutter and clean – make it feel spacious

Big kitchens, bathrooms and storage tend to be big selling points so it can help to make your rooms look as spacious as possible. Professional home stagers recommend that you remove 50% of your items.

Go through your home, decluttering and organizing spaces. Don't just shove belongings in closets, cabinets, attics and basements, as buyers look inside all of those places. Use storage bins that can be tucked under beds or neatly stacked in a basement or closet. Baskets or cubbies inside cabinets can make things look neat and clean.

Decluttering also includes furniture. The scale of your pieces should match the size of the room, and buyers should be able to easily walk around spaces without bumping into furniture. Make sure furnishings don't block doors, windows or architectural features. In a small living room, for example, consider removing end tables or accent chairs. Such moves aren't convenient, but remember, they're temporary.

You may need to rent a storage unit during the home-selling process. Keeping your belongings offsite is the best way to maximize the space in your home. Storage units can range in price from $30 to $300 per month, depending on size, location and features like climate control and security, according to MovingTips.

Consider hiring a professional organizer to help you declutter. He or she can help you identify items to discard, store or donate. Organizers typically charge hourly fees ranging from $30 to $80, according to Angie's List. This process also makes moving easier since you'll have fewer items, and others already boxed.

After decluttering comes deep cleaning. Hiring a professional may prove the most effective way to do the job quickly and thoroughly. The average cleaning service charges $167, according to HomeAdvisor.com. You'll also want to clean carpeting, bringing the fibers and colors bring back to life. Rent a machine from a home improvement store for about $50, or hire a professional. The average cost of a carpet cleaning service is $176, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

3. Depersonalize your home and help buyers to see its full potential

In addition to cleaning and decluttering, you should consider depersonalizing your home. The goal when selling is to have a buyer fall in love with your house, picturing themselves living there and imaging their belongings inside. That can be difficult if your home has your personal stamp all over it.

Neutralize the space by removing items such as family photos, souvenirs, religious symbols, diplomas and certificates, hobby supplies, and collections, including CDs and DVDs. You don't want a buyer to feel like they're intruding in your space or, worse, take offense at your lifestyle.

Also, consider updating your accessories and furnishings if your décor is outdated or avant-garde. You don't want buyers to miss out on key features of your home because they're distracted by your belongings.

4. Paint where it needs it most

A fresh coat of paint can make a home feel new. In fact, painting is one of the most common recommendations real estate agents make to sellers before they list. Paint can help small rooms appear larger and highlight architectural details, such as crown molding and trim. Be mindful of your color choice, however. Experts recommend warm neutral colors, such as beige, tan, gold, gray, and "greige," a blend of gray and beige. Because these shades go with anything, they can help buyers to picture their belongings in your home.

If you don't have time to paint your entire home, HouseLogic.com recommends painting the kitchen, bathrooms, entryway and foyer. If you've had your house painted in the past few years, you can likely just touch up scuff marks or stains on walls or baseboards.

Homeowners often tackle painting projects themselves. For best results, prep the rooms by cleaning the dust and dirt from walls, repairing any damage or holes, applying painter's tape to trim, and covering furniture and floors with a drop cloth. While painting isn't difficult, it can be time-consuming. The average bedroom will take 30 minutes to two hours to prepare, and one to two hours per coat to paint, according to the paint company Glidden. Hiring a professional painter runs from $380 to $790 per room, not including ceilings, trim or paint costs, while doing the project yourself can cost between $200 and $300 per room, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

5. Set the stage—make it feel like home

Now comes the final step: staging your home. The goal is to create a great first impression so that buyers put your home at the top of their list. On average, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more than those that aren't staged, according to Realtor.com.

You don't need to spend a lot of money — a few updates can make a room feel new. Tuning into HGTV shows like "Fixer Upper," "Flip or Flop," and "Love It Or List It" can provide you with decorating inspiration. They showcase the most popular looks and trends in home decor, which can help you make design decisions when staging your home.

You don't need to stage your entire home. Focus instead on rooms that impress buyers most, such as the kitchen, living room, master suite, and bathrooms. In the kitchen, for example, place a bowl of fresh fruit on the countertop and set the table with beautiful dinnerware and linens.

In the living room, toss a decorative blanket on the arm of the sofa and add a vase of fresh flowers to the coffee table. Update bathrooms with fluffy new towels and display a dish of decorative soaps.

Put a tray with a book and teapot on the edge of the master bed. Create a single focal point in each room, hanging a simple piece of artwork that enhances your staging, or highlighting architectural details, such as a fireplace or beautiful windows.

While staging is mostly about the details, you might need to update your furniture, especially if your current furnishings are dated or in bad condition. If you were thinking of replacing your worn out sofa, for example, it might be a good idea to do that before you sell your home. You can also rent furniture while your house is on the market. This is a good idea if you've already moved into your new home, and the home you need to sell is vacant. Unfurnished rooms look smaller, and placing furniture in rooms helps buyers better understand where they would put their own belongings.

Staging also helps you give rooms purpose, giving prospective buyers ideas about how they might use an extra bedroom, basement or nook. Choose a function that might appeal to your demographic. For example, if your house is a starter home in an area that appeals to young families, set up a bedroom as a nursery or playroom. If your condo appeals to single buyers, think about designing a home office or home gym. Staging is about design and lifestyle.

Don't forget to stage the exterior, creating curb appeal. A buyer's first impression happens when they pull up in front of your house. The appearance of your home's exterior can increase your home's value up to 17%, according to a study from Texas Tech University.

Stage your exterior by keeping your yard tidy. Mow the grass, trim bushes and shrubs, and freshen your mulch. Add color by planting flowers in your front yard or in pots on your front porch. In winter, consider seasonal touches like a wreath or holiday lights.

If decorating isn't your strength, you can hire a professional stager. An initial consultation costs between $300 and $600, according to Realtor.com. If the stager brings in new furnishings, you'll pay a monthly rental fee. Some professional home stagers require a minimum contract, even if your house sells quickly. The national average for home staging is between $2,000 and $3,200, according to Fixr.com.

A real estate agent can recommend a professional stager, and in many cases agents will cover the cost of staging to help your home sell. Staging your home will helps set the stage for creating the best listing photos—and that can boost interest and showings.

6. Keep it clean and consistent

Once your home is ready to sell, the trick can be maintaining that level of repair and decoration. Showing requests can happen at a moment's notice, and you won't always have time to ready your home.

Create a cleaning schedule and stick to it. Control of clutter by putting things away when you're done using them. Enlist the whole family, so the responsibility is shared. Make a habit of wiping kitchen and bathroom fixtures and surfaces daily. Keep wastebaskets emptied. Vacuum or sweep before you leave the house. Mow your lawn and remove weeds every week. Keep your walkway and porch clean and accessible.

Home showing checklist

It's showtime! Before each showing, complete these tasks on your way out the door:

  • Spot check rooms for clutter or dirt
  • Vacuum or sweep
  • Wipe down sinks and faucets
  • Clean kitchen countertops
  • Empty the trash
  • Secure your valuables
  • Put away pet dishes
  • Sweep your front porch
  • Open curtains and shades
  • Turn on the lights
  • Play soft music

If you have children, keeping things tidy can be more challenging. Streamline their toys for the time being, or create a rule around how many toys can be out at one time. If you have pets, keep their belongings and food put away, and pick up your yard.

Nothing would be worse than a potential buyer walking around your yard and getting an unwelcome surprise. If possible, consider boarding your pets with a relative, friend or kennel for a few weeks or during showings to help eliminate pet odors.

It can take several showings before you receive your first offer, which means your house can sit on the market for weeks or even months. If you have babies or toddlers who nap or several pets, consider moving out of your house while it's on the market if at all possible.

Ask friends or family if you can stay with them, look for a month-to-month rental, or consider an extended-stay hotel. You might plan a vacation for the first week, or weeks, after listing the home. The initial two weeks of listing can bring a flurry of showings and getting away can reduce the stress.

7. Takeaway

When you live in a home, especially for a long time, it's easy to overlook the things that can make or break an offer. Selling your home is about taking an objective look from a buyer's point of view. Remove yourself and your memories from the equation, and imagine that you are seeing your home for the first time.

Consider asking friends or family for their honest feedback so you can be sure you've done everything possible to make your home look its best before you put it on the market. You'll impress buyers who, in turn, will impress you with good offers.

October
24

Halloween is almost here! Visit these Holland events that are fun for the whole family.

Halloween is one of our favorite times of the year. Our real estate agents love decorating for Halloween and preparing for trick-or-treating, and we also try to attend one local Halloween event every year. We truly can't get enough of this spooky time of year!

From Halloween concerts to kid's parties, there are Halloween events around town suitable for all age groups. If you're looking for a great way to celebrate the holiday with the family, here are some Halloween events to put on your calendar this year:

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October
17

Mortgage and refinance rates today, Oct. 15, and rate forecast for next week

Today's mortgage and refinance rates

Average mortgage rates rose yesterday. And they did so over the short week, though more modestly than they sometimes have recently. Still, those rates start today at a new 20-year high.

Forecasts for the week ahead remain as impossible as they have for several months. Flipping a coin will give you as reliable a guide to mortgage rates over the next seven days as I can.

Find and lock a low rate (Oct 17th, 2022)

Current mortgage and refinance rates

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 year fixed 7.24% 7.272% +0.12% 
Conventional 15 year fixed 6.601% 6.639% +0.13% 
Conventional 20 year fixed 7.198% 7.258% -0.13% 
Conventional 10 year fixed 5.85% 6.061% -0.45% 
30 year fixed FHA 6.984% 7.697% -0.17% 
15 year fixed FHA 7.013% 7.289% +0.02% 
30 year fixed VA 6.75% 6.982% Unchanged
15 year fixed VA 6.125% 6.483% Unchanged
Rates are provided by our partner network, and may not reflect the market. Your rate might be different. Click here for a personalized rate quote. See our rate assumptions here.

Find and lock a low rate (Oct 17th, 2022)


Should you lock a mortgage rate today?

Don't lock on a day when mortgage rates look set to fall. My recommendations (below) are intended to give longer-term suggestions about the overall direction of those rates. So, they don't change daily to reflect fleeting sentiments in volatile markets.

Volatility may mean I'm unable to forecast where mortgage rates will move next week. But the longer term is clearer, though not certain. I doubt those rates will fall far — at least for long — until sometime in 2023.

So, my personal rate lock recommendations remain:

  • LOCK if closing in 7 days
  • LOCK if closing in 15 days
  • LOCK if closing in 30 days
  • LOCK if closing in 45 days
  • LOCK if closing in 60 days

However, with so much uncertainty at the moment, your instincts could easily turn out to be as good as mine — or better. So let your gut and your own tolerance for risk help guide you.

What's moving current mortgage rates

Mortgage rates are largely determined by the yields on a type of bond called the mortgage-backed security (MBS). And those yields — which move inversely to MBS prices — are very sensitive to changes in the economic outlook.

So, when investors are worried about that outlook, they tend to buy "safe" bonds as they flee riskier investments. That pushes the price of MBSs up, which sends yields and mortgage rates lower. The opposite usually happens when those investors are confident about the future.

There's another big influence on MBSs. And that's inflation. When you buy any bond, you're buying a fixed income, often over many years. So, you're nervous about high inflation, which might eat up all your profits and then some. You might also look at rapidly rising yields and ask, "Why would I buy a bond with a 2% yield now when I look likely to get 3% in a few months' time?"

So that's the theory of how mortgage rates are set. But how's the current economy affecting them?

Resilient economy

Reporting yesterday's quarterly results from megabank JPMorgan Chase, The Wall Street Journal (paywall) ran the headline, "JPMorgan Chase Earnings Show Economy Is Resilient, but [CEO] Jamie Dimon's 'Hurricane' Looms."

The article explained about the wider financial sector: "The banks sit smack in the middle of an uncertain economy. Inflation is near its highest level in decades and the Federal Reserve is trying to curb it by rapidly lifting rates. That is making loans more expensive, putting pressure on Americans on multiple fronts. Investors worry that the higher interest rates will eventually tip the U.S. into recession."

And that's where we are now. The economy's holding up surprisingly well. But there's a real possibility of a recession. Normally, that would provide the prospect of rates moderating if and when that recession arrives. But there's more to this story ...

Inflation and the Fed

In normal times, the Federal Reserve would intervene when a recession looms, cutting interest rates and perhaps buying bonds. Those moves would typically help drive mortgage rates lower.

But, right now, the Fed is obsessed with taming inflation, partly because it's embarrassed by its role in letting price increases grow to their current levels. And it's made crystal clear that it has no intention of backing off its plans to rein in rising prices, no matter how painful any resulting recession.

Some market players seem convinced that the Fed will cave and pivot if a recession gets bad enough. But I'm not so sure. Fed Chair Jerome Powell has repeatedly said he regards one of his predecessors, Paul Volker, as a hero for fighting inflation by hiking rates during a terrible recession. Here's what happened then, according to FederalReserveHistory.org:

"Prior to the 2007-09 recession, the 1981-82 recession was the worst economic downturn in the United States since the Great Depression. Indeed, the nearly 11 percent unemployment rate reached late in 1982 remains the apex of the post-World War II era. ... Three-fourths of all job losses in the goods-producing sector were in manufacturing, and the residential construction industry and auto manufacturers ended the year with 22 percent and 24 percent unemployment, respectively."

Mr. Powell may see even a recession of historic proportions next year as an opportunity to emulate his hero.

Recessions and mortgage rates

If that turns out to be the case, mortgage rates may remain elevated throughout any 2023 recession. The Fed directly determines most interest rates, but not mortgage rates. However, its policies certainly influence MBS yields.

Now, in theory, it's possible for mortgage rates to fall while the Fed is hiking other rates. So none of us can be certain about anything.

However, Freddie Mac's archives show mortgage rates averaging 16.63% in 1981 and 16.04% in 1982, when Mr. Volker was hiking other, general interest rates during a ghastly recession. So I'm not holding my breath while I wait for a recession to make mortgages more affordable.

And, in my opinion, significant and sustained falls in mortgage rates are unlikely until well into 2023.

Economic reports next week

This week was crammed with economic reports and events that might have moved mortgage rates. However, next week provides a bit of a respite. And reports over the coming seven days are unlikely to have much impact unless they contain shockingly good or bad data.

  • Tuesday — September's industrial production index and capacity utilization rate. Plus the home builders' index for October from the National Association of Home Builders
  • Wednesday — September building permits and housing starts
  • Thursday — September existing home sales and leading economic indicators. Plus weekly new claims for unemployment insurance to Oct.15
  • Friday — Third quarter indexes of common inflation expectations for the coming five and 10 years

If there are sharp movements in mortgage rates next week, they're unlikely to be triggered by these usually innocuous reports.

However, you might want to keep an eye on events in the United Kingdom, where a new and inexperienced government has unleashed economic and political mayhem through its radical policies. If it manages to regain the markets' confidence, mortgage rates might move lower. But if it fails to do that (and there's a chance the prime minister could be forced to resign), those rates may rise.

Verify your new rate (Oct 17th, 2022)

Mortgage interest rates forecast for next week

Longer-term forecasts for mortgage rates can be based on where the economy is heading. And daily ones have the benefit of each morning's market performance. But weekly ones lack any such insights. And current volatility and unpredictability make weekly forecasts impossible.

Sorry! I'll reinstate them just as soon as I can.

How your mortgage interest rate is determined

Mortgage and refinance rates are generally determined by prices in a secondary market (similar to the stock or bond markets) where mortgage-backed securities are traded.

And that's highly dependent on the economy. So mortgage rates tend to be high when things are going well and low when the economy's in trouble. But inflation rates can undermine those tendencies.

Your part

But you play a big part in determining your own mortgage rate in five ways. And you can affect it significantly by:

  1. Shopping around for your best mortgage rate — They vary widely from lender to lender
  2. Boosting your credit score — Even a small bump can make a big difference to your rate and payments
  3. Saving the biggest down payment you can — Lenders like you to have real skin in this game
  4. Keeping your other borrowing modest — The lower your other monthly commitments, the bigger the mortgage you can afford
  5. Choosing your mortgage carefully — Are you better off with a conventional, conforming, FHA, VA, USDA, jumbo or another loan?

Time spent getting these ducks in a row can see you winning lower rates.

Remember, they're not just a mortgage rate

Be sure to count all your forthcoming homeownership costs when you're working out how big a mortgage you can afford. So, focus on your "PITI." That's your Principal (pays down the amount you borrowed), Interest (the price of borrowing), (property) Taxes, and (homeowners) Insurance. Our mortgage calculator can help with these.

Depending on your type of mortgage and the size of your down payment, you may have to pay mortgage insurance, too. And that can easily run into three figures every month.

But there are other potential costs. So you'll have to pay homeowners association dues if you choose to live somewhere with an HOA. And, wherever you live, you should expect repairs and maintenance costs. There's no landlord to call when things go wrong!

Finally, you'll find it hard to forget closing costs. You can see those reflected in the annual percentage rate (APR) that lenders will quote you. Because that effectively spreads them out over your loan's term, making that higher than your straight mortgage rate.

But you may be able to get help with those closing costs and your down payment, especially if you're a first-time buyer. Read:

Down payment assistance programs in every state for 2021

October
14

After the strong rebound for the U.S. economy in 2021, growth in 2022 has slowed in the face of rising inflation, the household incomes squeeze, and geopolitical events. While the economy continues to deal with elevated inflation, there is a slowdown in the growth of commercial real estate. 

Multifamily and industrial properties were the leading sectors in 2022. With healthy balance sheets, consumer demand boosted retail, multifamily, and industrial asset classes. While the industrial boom continues to show no signs of stopping, multifamily absorption and rent growth are decelerating. Multifamily absorption in the last four quarters was below the pre-pandemic levels, in the range of 60,000-70,000 units. In the meantime, rents rose year-over-year at a slower pace, by less than a double-digit percentage. However, multifamily housing demand remains relatively strong. Considering rising mortgage rates and home prices, people may be forced to rent for longer due to decreasing affordability.

As consumers cut back on spending due to elevated inflation, the net absorption of retail store space decreased to 16 million sq. ft. in the third quarter of the year. However, neighborhood retail that offers in-person services continues to advance. Net absorption for neighborhood centers rose by 35 percentage points compared to the second quarter of the year.

As the country navigates hybrid work, the office sector continues to struggle. Although more people return to their offices, after four quarters with positive net absorption, demand for office space dropped as net absorption turned negative again.

Inflation, interest rates, supply chain, and geopolitical events are the main factors that will determine how commercial real estate will perform in the following months. The National Association of REALTORS® will keep you informed monthly about the developments in commercial real estate.

October
12

The appraisal is an important step in selling your home. Here's how you can prep for it.

While a home appraisal is a normal part of the closing process, it's common for sellers to be a bit nervous about the outcome. The purpose of an appraisal is to gain an independent third-party valuation of your property. Naturally, sellers want the appraised value to come back as high as possible. If the appraisal comes in lower than the offer price, then you may need to return to the negotiating table to determine who is going to cover the difference, which could ultimately eat into your return.

While a good portion of your appraisal will be based on recent sales of nearby homes, some of the assessment is subjective. Therefore, doing everything you can to make a good impression can impact the outcome. Our real estate agents suggest these tips for preparing for your home appraisal.

Click Here to Read More...

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