THIS N’ THAT

by Buz Wolfe

 

As we find ourselves squarely into the traditional busy spring market, I thought I would pass along some “tid-bits” that I have taken from the numerous trade publications that I review frequently.  For the most part, it remains good news:

Real Estate again named best long term investment. That is according to a recent Gallup Survey where respondents chose real estate ahead of stocks, gold, savings accounts, CD’s or bonds as the best long term investment. Real Estate also took the top spot last year.

  • The most popular home improvement projects. In Pennsylvania, which differed from other parts of the country, HVAC services ranked first.  Door installation, in Pennsylvania, came in second. Third was actually pest control.  It appears to me that our conservative “Pennsylvania Dutch” characteristics are alive and well!
  • Housing market shows healthy activity with sales up. The Pennsylvania housing market saw an 11% jump in closed sales in the first quarter of 2015 according to a report published by the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors.
  • In Pennsylvania, median prices rose to $158,000 and Days On Market remains steady at 95 days. Locally, these figures are about $189,000 and 105 days.
  • 1st time buyers are beginning to enter the market. Thanks to continued low interest rates and recent changes by the FHA which lowered mortgage insurance premiums, younger and entry level buyers are beginning to again enter the market place. 30 year fixed mortgage rates remain below 4%!
  • High consumer optimism exists among consumers. According to a Fannie Mae February 2015 housing survey, consumer optimism toward the housing market and the economy has reached a new all-time survey high.  Without question, increasing home sales benefit the overall economic recovery.  Many related industries benefit from a strong housing market.
  • Cumberland County has seen the largest increase in housing units and residential building permits. Cumberland County remains the fastest growing of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.  Over 71% of the homes in Cumberland County are actually owner-occupied.
  • Word of mouth and good customer services continue to be a Realtors greatest marketing asset. 55% of recent home buyers indicated that they hired a Realtor based on a friend or family member’s recommendation or by using a Realtor that they had used in the past.  This is no surprise to us – the large majority of our business at Wolfe & Company Realtors comes from satisfied past clients or clients referred to us by others.

Our first quarter of 2015 will rank among the best ever.  The month of April was the single best month for Wolfe & Company settled transactions in nearly 10 years.  We remain very busy – – but never too busy to provide you , your friends, relatives or others the highest level of personalized assistance available within the Greater Carlisle Area.

  EXPERIENCE MATTERS! 

 

Credit to the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors JUST LISTED column as well as studies available through the Central Penn Business Journal and the Residential Specialist CRS Magazine for many of the above statistics.

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, CRS has been Broker/Owner of his own firm since 1986.  In 2014, he was again the Carlisle Area’s Top Producing Broker with $10,000,000 in settled transactions.

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

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SO, YOU’VE GOT CASH…

by Buz Wolfe

 

SO, YOU’VE GOT CASH…

BIG DEAL!

 Really, it’s not that big of a deal.  You just think it is.

Cash sales accounted for 36% of all home sales in Pennsylvania during the month of December.  This is pretty consistent with what we are seeing in the Greater Carlisle Area where approximately 1/3 of all transactions have been cash transactions since the market crash of 2007.  Prior to the housing crisis, cash sales averaged about 25% across the United States.

I frequently see cash buyers and buyer agents making ridiculous, low ball offers on our listings simply because they have CASH.  Well, the truth of the matter is that cash will have some impact on the seller, but it is not going to allow you to buy the property for 80 cents on the dollar.  Remember, it’s all cash to the seller – be it your’s, the bank’s, or the mortgage company’s!

The ratio of list price to actual sales price here in the Greater Carlisle Area remains at 98%.  This, too, is consistent with what we have experienced here in our “micro-market” for many, many years.  When the market is slower, this percentage changes very little, but Days On Market tends to increase.  We are currently seeing Days On Market actually decline as more and more listing inventory is absorbed.

Anecdotally, I can tell you that we have recently sold four or five properties that were on the market for periods of up to a year or more.  In three of these instances, we actually received multiple or competing offers and were able to sell the properties at or near their full asking price.  It is very clear to me that the market is improving dramatically and that 2015 will likely be the best year in residential real estate since 2006.

So, you’ve got cash?  The best thing that you can do is to make the seller a reasonable offer on their property so that you will, in turn, get their attention.  Far too often, I see low ball offers that offend, antagonize or insult the seller.  In turn, the seller often does not offer a counter proposal at all or, at a minimum, does not respond with their “bottom line number”.  If you want to make effective use of your cash, make the seller an offer that they will take seriously and you will benefit from getting their best counter proposal.

Perhaps you have seen some of our local billboards touting our continued campaign of No Fees, No Teams, No Nonsense.  To the best of my knowledge, we are the only real estate agency in the Greater Carlisle Area that charges NO FEES to our buyer clients and NO ADDITIONAL FEES (other than commission) to our selling clients.  If you are paying additional fees, you are paying too much!  We not only provide the highest level of professional real estate service available in Carlisle – – we also provide the best VALUE available for real estate services in the Greater Carlisle Area.

EXPERIENCE MATTERS! 

 

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, CRS has been Broker/Owner of his own firm since 1986.  In 2014, he was again the Carlisle Area’s Top Producing Broker with $10,000,000 in settled transactions.

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

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“THE ROAD TO SUCCESS……”

by Buz Wolfe

…is always under construction”.  This is another adage from my favorite baseball manager, Baltimore Orioles skipper Buck Showalter.  So, what does it mean?  Well, I think it speaks to the need to adapt and adjust to new and changing trends within your business or industry.

Hey, I am “old school”.  But, I realize that if you are going to “stand pat” or adopt the attitude that “all change is bad”, your business will eventually suffer and time will pass you by.  So, why do I bring all of this up?  Last week, I got my first smart phone.

That’s right. For many years now, I have been successfully running my business with a home computer, a laptop at my cabin and office and a cell phone (The Octane) that was able to make and receive calls as well as to send and receive text messages.  Well, that all changed last week.  Personally, I have not always warmly embraced change and I am not the biggest fan in the world of our ever evolving technology.  However, finally, I have made the move.

So, if you need to get in touch with me you have all of the following options:  Office Land Line at 717-243-1551 (with voice mail); Direct Dial Land Line at 717-240-5070 (with voice mail);    Home Land Line at 717-243-6840 (with voice mail); Cell Phone calls at 717-576-8102; Text Messages at the same 717-576-8102; or e-mail at buzwolfe@wolfecr.com.  You can also find me on Facebook (3 pages – personal, professional and office); Twitter and Linkedin.

Better yet, just send me a fax……………..

 

 

 

*Ray L. “Buz” Wolfe, CRS has been Broker/Owner of his own firm since 1986.  In 2014, he was again the Carlisle Area’s Top Producing Broker with $10,000,000 in settled transactions.

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

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THINGS LOOKING UP?

by Buz Wolfe

 

I have reasonably good vibes on the continued improvement of the real estate market both nationally, across the state and here locally.  Overall activity for this time of year, and particularly this kind of weather, is good.

The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors recently reported that existing home sales are forecasted to rise about 7% in 2015.  According to the Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors, Lawrence Yun, this is thanks to an improving economy, steady job gains and a continued increase in overall home prices.  New home sales are also on the rise with December having posted some of the largest gains in recent years.  As noted in my previous blog, historically low interest rates and more generous down payment and mortgage underwriting requirements are helpful.

I am often asked the question “What is my home worth these days?”  Well, I have been telling folks that your home is worth today approximately what it was worth in 2005.  During a recent economic forecast meeting held by Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors, a subsidiary of M&T Bank, a graph was provided regarding the Carlisle – Harrisburg Metro Area.  It confirmed that current values in the Carlisle Area are basically equivalent to the values of 2006 – – the height of the bubble market.  While some additional appreciation was seen from 2006-2007, 2008 began a period of gradual decline which was slightly reversed in the 2010 market and then followed by some additional market depreciation in the 2012 early 2013 period.  Values have steadily climbed from 2014 to present with an overall gain in the Metro Area of approximately 0.4% relative to the first quarter of 2006.  Relative to a year ago, the Carlisle Area has seen a positive overall appreciation rate of 1.6% – – not outstanding, but certainly an improvement.

Wolfe and Company Realtors will be continuing to promote our theme of “NO FEES, NO TEAMS, NO NONSENSE” over the next several months with a local billboard campaign.  We are the only Brokerage Company in South Central Pennsylvania, to my knowledge, that charges NO FEES to our Buyer clients and NO FEES in addition to the basic commission to our Seller Clients.  This does not mean you are dealing with a “discount” Broker.  The fact is, you are dealing with the most knowledgeable and experienced real estate company available to you in the Greater Carlisle Area.

For all of your Real Estate needs, contact Wolfe & Company Realtors of Carlisle.  Because……….

 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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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 Bright Multiple Listing Service 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 Bright Multiple Listing Service 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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