HAPPY NEW YEAR!

by Buz Wolfe

 

I would like to take this opportunity again to thank our many friends and clients for making 2014 one of our best years ever.  We are off to a very good start and I am extremely optimistic about 2015 as well.

Several of my blogs last year referred to my concern over the decline in first time or entry level buyers both here locally and across the country.  Well, some good news was recently announced that should prove to be a big help for those folks looking to enter the housing market.

Just last month, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government sponsored entities that form the secondary mortgage market, unveiled plans to begin accepting 3% down payment loans.  Over the past several years, the lowest down payment loans for conventional financing amounted to 5% while 3 1/2 % mortgages were available through FHA (Federal Housing Administration)  – – sometimes a more difficult loan and transaction to navigate.

As mentioned before, first time buyers were at their lowest level last year since 1987.  The issues surrounding tough job markets, student loans and the cash required to purchase a first home are often cited as the reasons.

To qualify, the first time home buyer must not have owned a home within the past three years and must purchase a single family residence which will be owner-occupied.  A minimum credit score of 620-660 will be required.  Better yet, generous “gift funding” from other sources (parents, grandparents, seller assistance, etc.) will be permitted.  In some cases, there will also be no monthly PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) added to the principal and interest payment.

I have also mentioned before that one of the reasons that I think there has been a decline in first time buyers is that, for the cognitive period of time that young folks have been paying attention to the economy and the housing market, almost all news has been bad.  I believe it is incumbent upon the “older generation” to take the time to explain to young folks the many tangible benefits of home ownership.  And if you’re not sure how to do that – – – call us!

 EXPERIENCE MATTERS!

 

UPDATE!  FHA has lowered mortgage insurance rates (MI) for most loans effective January 26, 2015.  Coupled with historically low interest rates, this gives Buyers more purchasing power and lower monthly payment!

 

 

 

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law.  No comments made within the confines of his blog should be construed as legal advice.

**All information believed to be accurate but not guaranteed.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

by Buz Wolfe

 

This will likely be my last blog for 2014.  Once again, we have been very blessed with a quite profitable 2014 – – the best year that we have enjoyed since 2006.  I thought I would end the year just with some quick bullet points and a quick comment on each.

  •  Cumberland County home sales were, in the month of October, the best since 2009. This was reported by the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors and is certainly consistent with what we have experienced here at Wolfe & Company Realtors.
  • House flipping in Pennsylvania is down. This was reported by California based RealtyTrac, Inc. via the Central Penn Business Journal. I have never really observed much profitable house flipping here in the Greater Carlisle Area.  There are a few folks out there still trying to do it, but it is difficult and I question the potential profitability.
  • First time buyer sales are down. This has been reported by various entities and most recently by the Wall Street Journal. The number of entry level buyers, as reported by the National Association of Realtors, is at its lowest level since 1987.  I have commented before that the reluctance or inability of young folks to purchase their first home is depriving them of the opportunity to develop equity and affecting the overall “food chain” effect for the housing market.
  • As reported by the Council of Residential Specialists, 80% of homebuyers financed their recent home purchases with the typical loan amount being 90% of purchase price. First time home buyers typically finance 95% compared to 86% for repeat buyers.  This, too, is similar to what we are experiencing in our business and here in the Greater Carlisle Area.
  • The same source reports that 24% of buyers reported the mortgage application and approval process was somewhat more difficult than expected and 16% reported it was much more difficult. Frankly, I am amazed that that percentage is not far higher.  The process of buying a home is more complicated today than it has ever been.  Ergo, the need for an EXPERIENCED Real Estate Professional to help you navigate the process.
  • Nationally, median home prices have risen over the past year. Overall home ownership has declined ever so slightly reports CRS.  Anecdotally, my observation would be that our local market mirrors the national trend.

 

I extend to you my most heartfelt wishes for the Holiday Season.  Around here, we still say “Merry Christmas” and I also hope that your 2015 will be both healthy and prosperous.  At Wolfe & Company, we are counting on it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law.  No comments made within the confines of his blog should be construed as legal advice.

**All information believed to be accurate but not guaranteed.

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IT’S ALL LOCAL FOLKS!

by Buz Wolfe

 

I still read the newspaper every day.  A recent national survey indicated less than 13% of Americans still read the newspaper – – but I do.  It is the very best way to keep up on local news.

While I am not a voracious reader by any stretch, I also read business and trade publications religiously.  Everything that I read lately, by all sorts of so called “experts”, is really just what I would refer to as a “mixed bag”.

We read statistics that the housing market has declined again, we read that the housing market is improving.  We read that the economy is finally on solid ground and emerging from a six or seven year recession.  We read that 2015 will likely drag the United States into a global recession.  Experts and opinions – – everyone has one!  As I have mentioned many times before, real estate is exactly like politics inasmuch as it is ALL LOCAL.

We continue to have a very solid 2014.  As mentioned in a previous blog, it is far and away our best year since 2006.  We are having a very solid 4th quarter and I am optimistic about a continued improvement in the market and the prospects of likely having a good 4th quarter and 1st quarter of 2015.

It remains, however, very difficult.  A recent editorial by Barry Ritholtz from the Bloomberg News details his own personal struggle with a recent mortgage application.  His conclusion, which is exactly the same as I have expressed in the past, is that the mortgage market simply went from being way too easy to way too difficult.  He attributes this to changes in credit standards, automated underwriting and incompetent documentation.  I could not agree more.

The bottom line is this.  You must engage a real estate professional who is capable of MANAGING YOUR TRANSACTION.  Inexperienced or lazy agents have very little chance of carrying the ball over the goal line.  It is just that simple.

For the most experienced real estate service available in South Central Pennsylvania, call me or call any of my associates.  EXPERIENCE MATTERS!

 

 

 

 

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law.  No comments made within the confines of his blog should be construed as legal advice.

**All information believed to be accurate but not guaranteed.

 

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Alternative to the Ice Bucket Challenge

Lou Gehrig ’s disease (ALS) is a terrible, terrible disease.  The recent national effort to draw awareness and funding is to be lauded.

The ALS Association, the organization behind the Ice Bucket Challenge, supports embryonic stem cell research.  While the Catholic Church supports stem cell research, it does not condone stem cell research which frequently involves embryos harvested from the death of an aborted fetus.  For me, and likely many others, this has presented a difficult moral dilemma.

My company and I have made a generous donation to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute instead.  This institute conducts medical research for therapies and cures for a variety of diseases, including ALS, “with an emphasis on medical bio-ethics that is consistent with the dignity of human life”.  Others wishing to respond to the Challenge in this manner may learn more about the John Paul II Medical Research Institute by visiting the research foundation’s website at www.jp2mri.org.

May God Bless and comfort those afflicted with this horrible disease.  May He also provide strength and support to those who so diligently seek its cure.

Ray “Buz” Wolfe, Jr.
Broker/Owner
Wolfe & Company Realtors

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Real Estate and Geography

The Real Estate micro-market in which I primarily work, as does my office, is the Greater Carlisle Area.  This is basically the same area encompassed by the Greater Carlisle Chamber of Commerce and is recognized in the Central Penn Multi-list as Area 7.

The Borough of Carlisle itself is the center of this market.  Carlisle is a Borough of about 19,000 folks and covers a land area of 5.4 square miles.  It is surrounded by five different municipalities – – North Middleton Township, South Middleton Township, Dickinson Township, Middlesex Township, and West Pennsboro Township.  These municipalities, in turn, represent four distinct public school systems – – Carlisle Area, South Middleton, Big Spring, and Cumberland Valley.

Carlisle is the County Seat for Cumberland County.  Cumberland County ranked first in the state last year (April 1, 2010 – July 1, 2013) in population growth and percentage of growth.  When looking at the County of Cumberland, it is interesting to note that about 70% of the land area is West of Route 114 and about 70% of the county’s population is East of Route 114.  The area East of 114 is traditionally referred to as the “West Shore” while the larger, but less populated, land mass West of 114 to the Franklin and Perry County line is typically referred to as “Carlisle”.

While I have done my very best to give back to the Carlisle Community over the past 32 years, I am also very fortunate that the Carlisle Community has supported me and supported my business.  Year to date, Wolfe and Company Realtors leads the Carlisle Area Market in Per Agent Production.  I, personally, lead the Carlisle Area Market in per Agent production.  These are statistics gained from Central Penn Multi List Area 7 and do not include Brokers, Associate Brokers, or Salespersons who operate multi-agent “teams”.

Summer has quickly slipped by, but my prediction for the Fall and for the local real estate market remains colorful!  As always, for the most professional and experienced Real Estate service available in the Greater Carlisle Area, contact the independently and locally owned office of Wolfe & Company Realtors.

Ray “Buz” Wolfe, Jr.
Broker/Owner
Wolfe & Company Realtors

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law.  No comments made within the confines of his blog should be construed as legal advice.

**All information believed to be accurate but not guaranteed.

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First Time Buyer Alert

In several of my previous blogs, I have noted that more and more young Americans are either moving back home or renting.  For the most part, I am addressing young adults 25 to 34 years in age.  Multi-generational households are also on the rise.

Over the years, I have never encouraged our Buyer clients to be “house poor”.  I have always said that there is more to life than making house payments and no one should stretch themselves too thin – – although many choose to do that on their own!

The only exception to my rule has always been First Time Home Buyers. It is sometimes tough – – and a bit of a stretch – – to buy that first house.  It is very important, however, to jump on the merry go round and bite the bullet, largely for three reasons.

First, many First Time Home Buyers put this decision off because they want to “save more money”.  Well, everyone over estimates just how much money they can save in a year or so.  In the meantime, there are other considerations.

The second consideration is that the cost of the very same home that you are considering purchasing will likely be several thousand dollars more if you wait just a year.  This, in effect, wipes out any additional savings that you were able to generate.

Third, and perhaps as important as any, is the uncertainty with mortgage interest rates.   They remain at historically low levels, but it is anyone’s guess where they may be going and when.  No doubt, interest rates simply must increase in the forseeable future.

Owning a home remains the single largest investment for most Americans.   I previously quoted a statistic that the average net worth of a home owner in this country is $250,000 and the average net worth of a tenant is $4,000.  When you write that rent check out each month you are building your landlord’s wealth – – not your own!

For professional and expert assistance with buying your first home, contact Wolfe & Company Realtors.  We can guide you through the process and you will be ever glad that you did!

Ray “Buz” Wolfe, Jr.
Broker/Owner
Wolfe & Company Realtors

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law.  No comments made within the confines of his blog should be construed as legal advice.

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Cumberland County Facts

The Central Penn Business Journal is an absolute must read for business people and professionals.  In addition to its weekly newspaper-like publication, it releases several supplemental publications throughout the year.  What follows are facts reported in the Daulphin/Cumberland Business Report for 2014.

Here are some interesting facts regarding Cumberland County:

Cumberland County has been Pennsylvania’s fastest growing county since 2010.

  • The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA (which includes Perry County) has the lowest population density in Central Pennsylvania.
  • The population for the Harrisburg Carlisle MSA is approximately 550,000.
  • The median house price for the Harrisburg-Carlisle MSA (including Perry County) is $169,000.
  • The median income is $57,368.
  • 28.7% of residents have college degrees.  This compares with just 9.4% in 1970.
  • Of the 10 top employers in Cumberland County, 5 are located in Carlisle.
  • The top employer type in the County is retail trade followed by healthcare and social assistance.  Transportation and warehousing ranks third and accommodations and food service fourth.

Carlisle, and the Greater Carlisle Area, is and has been my market.  I am pleased to report that as of June 1st, I was the top producing Broker* and Wolfe & Company Realtors ranked second in market share ahead of all companies doing business in the market except Berkshire Hathaway Homesale Realty.  We appreciate your continued support and the commitment you have shown to doing business with local, experienced and professional real estate practitioners.

Ray “Buz” Wolfe, Jr.
Broker/Owner
Wolfe & Company Realtors

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law.  No comments made within the confines of his blog should be construed as legal advice.

**All statistics cited obtained from Central Penn MLS are believed, but not guaranteed, to be accurate.

*Does not include Brokers or Agents operating as teams in Area 7 Central Penn MLS

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In Buck We Trust

If you know me at all, you know that I am an avid Baltimore Orioles baseball fan.  Have been since I attended my first game in 1968.  I attend Spring training in Sarasota,  Florida, split an Oriole season ticket package, and pretty much plan my evening and weekends around the televised games.

The Orioles arrived in Baltimore in 1954.  From the mid 1960’s through the 1980’s, they were, arguably, the “gold standard” for Major League baseball teams.  They won six Pennants and played in five World Series – – winning two of them.  Their approach to the game of baseball became known as “The Oriole Way”.

Then, something happened.  “The Oriole Way” was lost.  Fifteen consecutive losing seasons ensued between 1997 and 2012.  Enter Buck Showalter.

Buck was hired late in the 2011.  To be honest, I had serious misgivings.  I knew that Buck Showalter was a winner – – having built World Series Championship teams for the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers.  The problem was, Buck was never around to see the teams that he built actually win the World Series.  In each case, Buck was fired and his successor enjoyed the fruits of Buck’s labor.

Buck was frequently categorized as a “control freak”, anal and obsessed.  A perfectionist.  In short, his organizational skills and penchant for perfection eventually “wore out” those around him.  Well, their loss was our gain.

The downtrodden Oriole’s immediately began playing winning baseball when Buck arrived – – finishing the 2011 season in high fashion and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1997 during the exciting 2012 season.  Another winning record ensued in 2013 and the 2014 version of the Baltimore Orioles continues to battle for first place in the tough American League East.

I have read several articles about Buck Showalter.  Recently, I read a twenty four page article authored by a writer who was privileged to spend a week with him in his Texas home last winter.  The main purpose of the article was to determine whether or not Buck has mellowed and whether he was indeed a control freak.  The conclusion was that both were actually true.

DETAILS ARE AN EXHAUSTING BUSINESS”.  This was the Buck Showalter quote that absolutely jumped off the page for me in this lengthy article.     It is not the control freak or the perfectionist that is responsible for his success, it is an unwavering commitment to details.  And, details are, indeed, an exhausting business.

I pride myself on attention to detail.  While it may sometimes appear to be micro-management or anal behavior to some, I know for a fact that my office is among the most organized, efficient and compliant in the local industry.  I am frequently appalled when I see the sloppy and incompetent work of many licensed salespersons and the absolute failure to supervise by their Brokers.  It simply doesn’t happen here.  Won’t.  Can’t.

If you do business with our firm or any of our capable sales associates and Associate Brokers, you can be sure that you are receiving highly supervised, scrutinized, and carefully monitored service.  It plays into the theme that I shared in one of my previously published blogs and which was espoused by the late Vi Thompson – – “By design we will never be the largest. Through endeavor we will always be the best”.

Buck would agree – – “Experience Matters!”

Ray “Buz” Wolfe, Jr.
Broker/Owner
Wolfe & Company Realtors

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law.  No comments made within the confines of his blog should be construed as legal advice.

**All statistics cited obtained from Central Penn MLS are believed, but not guaranteed, to be accurate.

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Alphabet Soup

There is no such thing as a “Licensed Realtor”.   I have mentioned this before but it is my pet peeve.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issues two classifications of Real Estate Licenses.  They are Salesperson (the vast majority of practitioners) and Broker.

The Realtor organization is a trade association – – one of the largest in the Country.  The National Association of Realtors is a great advocate for both consumers and real estate practitioners and is most notable for its Code of Ethics to which practitioners must ascribe.  The organization is further broken down on the state level, The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, and on the local level which is, here, the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors.

Within the Realtor organization there are various industry designations that are recognized and obtained through additional course work and testing.  These would include the GRI, ABR, CRS, SRES, e-Pro, CCIM and others.  Realtors with advanced designations tend to be more experienced, successful and knowledgeable.

I hold the CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) designation.  Less than 4% of licensees nationally hold the CRS designation.  It would roughly be equivalent to having a “Masters Degree” in the practice of residential real estate.

The Council of Residential Specialists (CRS) publishes a magazine which is periodically distributed to those holding the Designation.  The March/April issue of the magazine held out some interesting facts that I will pass along in this blog.

These national statistics and observations include the following:

In January, the Federal Reserve noted hopeful signs about the state of the housing market, consumer confidence and the economy at large.  The housing sector plays a key role in economic recovery.

  • Home prices in 2013 ended up 11.3% from the year earlier according to the S&P/CASE-Shiller price index.  That is the best year since 2005.
  • More than 24 million young adults ages 18-34 are living with their parents or parents-in-law.  I have mentioned in several previous blogs that this is very much a factor affecting the first time buyer market and, in turn, the trade up housing market.
  • The housing market for home buyers over 55, however, continued to grow.  People over 55 will increase their homeownership rate to nearly 47% by 2020.
  • Almost half of home sellers last year “upsized” to a larger more expensive home.  The typical home seller had lived in their previous home for 9 years.  88% were assisted by a real estate agent.
  • The delinquency rates continue to fall.  The national delinquency rate (mortgage loan holders who were behind on their payments for 60 days or more) fell below 4% in 2013 – – the lowest level since 2008.  All 50 states and the District of Columbia recorded lower delinquency rates in 2013 and in 2014.
  • Distressed property sales rose last year.  This is not necessarily a bad sign inasmuch as this pool of foreclosed or bank owned property is being absorbed.
  • Houses are getting older.  As buyers and sellers get older, so do houses.  More than 40% of the owner occupied homes in the United States were built before 1969.  Homes built between 2000-2009 accounts for only 15% of our owner occupied housing stock.
  • Mortgage payments rose in 2013.  Families are paying more on their monthly home payments than they did last year.  This is largely due to steadily rising home prices and a very light uptick in interest rates. The monthly cost of owning a home is still considerably less than renting in the majority of markets.

I hope these “tid-bits” have been helpful to you.  As always, I am available to speak with you personally regarding any questions or ideas that you might be contemplating in the field of real estate.

Ray “Buz” Wolfe, Jr.
Broker/Owner
Wolfe & Company Realtors

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law.  No comments made within the confines of his blog should be construed as legal advice.

**All statistics cited obtained from Central Penn MLS are believed, but not guaranteed, to be accurate.

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Carlisle Area Market Share

With last week’s news that Warren Buffet has acquired the Prudential Home Sale Services Group, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at who is doing business in Carlisle and where are they really from?

Buffett purchased the Prudential Home Sale Services Group which is currently headquartered in Lancaster and is the Mid-State’s largest residential Broker business.  The name will change in June to Berkshire Hathaway Home Services and, I suppose, they will maintain a branch office on Walnut Bottom Road here in Carlisle.  After June, I suspect you would need to call Warren Buffet if you had a problem with their office or their agents.

Similarly, Howard Hannah is headquartered in Pittsburgh and operates in eight states.  It boasts being one of the top four Residential Real Estate companies in the country.  I imagine contacting Mr. Hannah would be just about as difficult as contacting Mr. Buffett.

NRT is the largest residential real estate company in the country.  They own the Coldwell Banker, Century 21, and ERA labels.  Thus, Jack Gaughen ERA is not locally owned, but I do believe that the corporate Broker of Record “visits“ the Carlisle branch office from time to time.

Keller Williams and Re/Max, both of whom have gained some amount of market share in the Greater Carlisle Area, do not maintain Carlisle offices at all.  Their agents largely operate independently and I would have to do some research to determine how to call the boss.

I am proud to report that Wolfe & Company Realtors, 100% locally owned and operated, boasted a 4th position as to market share in the Greater Carlisle Area again in 2013.  We do this with approximately half as many agents as our competitors.  Our agents are among the best in the business, but “their boss” is available to all of the firm’s customers and clients – – just a phone call or an e-mail away from personal Broker/Owner attention.

Is bigger better?  Well, I have made the pizza analogy before.  You can order your pizza from Dominos, Papa John’s or Little Caesars.  Me? I like to call the Italian guy around the corner.

Ray “Buz” Wolfe, Jr.
Broker/Owner
Wolfe & Company Realtors

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, Jr. is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law.  No comments made within the confines of his blog should be construed as legal advice.

**All statistics cited obtained from Central Penn MLS are believed, but not guaranteed, to be accurate.

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