Blog

Childproofing: Protect Your Family and Your Home from Potential Hazards

 

When you think of your home, it likely conjures up feelings of safety, shelter, and comfort. However, accidental injuries in the home are one of the leading causes of harm to children 14 and younger. By taking certain precautions, many of these accidents can be prevented.

While supervision is the best way to keep your children safe at home, you can’t watch them every second. Childproofing, to whatever degree you are comfortable, will go a long way toward keeping your littlest loved ones safe and healthy at home.

Here are some tips to get you started.

Many accidents happen with or around water.

If you have children at home, it’s advisable to adjust your water heater to no higher than 120 degrees to prevent scalding. Furthermore, you should never leave a small child unattended in a bath tub, even for a few seconds. And be sure to safely secure doors that lead to swimming pools and hot tubs, including pet doors. When cooking or boiling water, turn pot handles in, or better yet use the back burners, to prevent little hands from pulling them off the stove.

Household chemicals can be very harmful to children.

It’s important not to keep poisonous materials under the sink, even if you have a cabinet guard in place. Keep dangerous chemicals up high and in a room that isn’t accessible to your little ones. Seemingly innocuous medicines can also be dangerous. Make sure your medicine cabinet is out of sight, mind, and reach.

Use safety latches and gates.

It’s advisable that you use safety latches on drawers, cabinets, toilets, and windows, as well as place covers on all electrical outlets. Gate off stairways and entrances to rooms, such as garages, that contain dangerous or fragile objects.

Secure furniture and other objects.

Heavy furniture, electronics, and lamps must be secured to prevent a child from pulling them over. Bookshelves and entertainment centers often come with devices that attach them to walls so that a climbing child won’t topple the furniture. The end-caps on door stoppers can be a choking hazard, so it’s advisable to remove them. Place plastic bumpers on sharp corners or edges of coffee tables, entertainment centers, and other furniture to prevent cuts and bruises.

Install a carbon monoxide detector.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that consumers purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors in addition to smoke alarms. Be sure to test both devices regularly and replace batteries as needed. The American Red Cross advises families to learn first aid and CPR, and to devise an emergency evacuation plan for fires and earthquakes.

Emergency contact info.

Last, but not least, in case an emergency does happen, always keep numbers for your child’s doctor, your work and cell, and other emergency contact info in an easily found place, preferably near the phone.

Accidents can and will happen, but by following a few small steps you can have peace of mind knowing that you’ve done everything you can to protect your family from harm in your home.

Windermere and YouthCare – Helping Homeless Youth

Pictured from left to right:  Cassie Walker Johnson, YouthCare Board Member & Windermere Broker; Jill Jacobi Wood, Co-President, Windermere Real Estate; Christine Wood, Executive Director, Windermere Foundation; Geoff Wood, CEO & Co-President, Windermere Real Estate.

 

For the past 30 years, Windermere Real Estate has supported more than 500 non-profit agencies dedicated to helping low-income and homeless families through donations from the Windermere Foundation. We have worked with many worthy organizations that provide shelter, food, youth/children’s programs, emergency assistance, education/counseling, school assistance, scholarships, and other services to those in need in our communities. One organization that we have been honored to partner with these past three years is YouthCare, a non-profit in Seattle, Washington that provides critical services to homeless youth. YouthCare works to end youth homelessness and to ensure that young people are valued for who they are and empowered to achieve their potential.

 

Three years ago, we embarked on a campaign to #tacklehomelessness with the Seattle Seahawks and YouthCare. Together, our goal was to bring resources to help homeless youth move forward, and to inspire our neighbors and friends to take action. Windermere committed to donating $100 for every Seahawks home game defensive tackle to YouthCare. During the three seasons of the campaign, a total of $98,700 was raised to help fund housing and residential care for homeless youth.

 

In addition to the #tacklehomelessness campaign, Windermere offices throughout the greater Seattle area came together each fall to hold a “We’ve Got You Covered” winter drive for YouthCare. Over three years, a combined total of over 14,600 hats, gloves, scarves, socks, and an assortment of other accessories and cash donations were collected through the drives.

 

    

 

“We fielded a mountain (literally!) of donated items from the Windermere Community,” said Jody Waits, Development & Communications Officer for YouthCare. “Windermere understands the power of home, and that a safe and welcoming place to call your own causes joy. We are so honored to have cheered for the Hawks and had this incredible partnership to tackle homelessness, together! While our friendship is evolving, we know that, united, we’ll always be working to help homeless youth be safe today and build a thriving future for tomorrow. Thank you!”

 

Although our campaign with YouthCare has come to an end, Windermere is still actively involved with the non-profit. Cassie Walker Johnson, managing broker at the Windermere Wedgwood office, is a member of YouthCare’s Board of Directors.

 

Windermere is proud to partner with non-profits like YouthCare, and we are thankful for all the generous donations made to the Windermere Foundation, which enable us to continue to support them.

 

If you would like to learn more about the Windermere Foundation, please visit windermerefoundation.com.

Windermere Launches “All in, for you” Branding Campaign

 

Windermere Real Estate has officially launched a new branding campaign on the heels of the company’s brand refresh that was completed in 2018. The “All in, for you” campaign is the next step in bringing the refreshed Windermere brand to life by amplifying the company’s unique “why”. 

 

Told, in part, through stories generated by actual Windermere agents, the “All in, for you” campaign sets out to illustrate Windermere’s unique culture, and what has drawn both agents and clients to it for nearly 50 years. 

“We’re lucky to have a brand with such a rich legacy, but we have to continue to innovate and press forward,” said Windermere president, OB Jacobi. “The brand refresh that we did last year was part one of Windermere’s brand story; part two is about bringing our stories to life and showing our clients how we’re ‘all in’, for them.” 

 

Development of the “All in, for you” campaign was led by Windermere Vice President of Marketing, Julie Dey, and Portland, OR-based global design firm, Ziba Design, whose clients include companies, such as FedEx, P&G, Adidas, REI, and Intel. Ziba started the year-long process by conducting interviews and holding focus groups with Windermere agents, franchise owners, and staff. They also interviewed past buyers and sellers to better understand the experience of working with a Windermere agent.

 

“We needed to speak directly with consumers to understand what people want, where real estate is headed, and the differentiated value that Windermere agents provide,” said Rob Wees, Creative Director at Ziba, adding, “Real estate is an infrequent, emotional, and complicated process. And every experience is so different.”

 

“In an era of technology and convenience, we wanted to show the public the real value of working with a Windermere agent—one that shows how compassion, expertise, advocacy and an over-commitment to service can help people through an incredibly important moment in their lives,” said Wees.

 

 

Components of the “All in, for you” campaign include TV, print, digital marketing, out-of-home advertising, and partnerships with key media companies to create unique content opportunities. To kick-off the campaign, TV ads will begin running March 21 in the Seattle market. 

 

“While some real estate companies are telling what is essentially a technology story about ones and zeroes, our story is more about connecting humans with their dreams. And it’s a story we can’t wait to tell,” said Dey. 

Should I Move or Remodel?

There are a number of things that can trigger the decision to remodel or move to a new home. Perhaps you have outgrown your current space, you might be tired of struggling with ancient plumbing or wiring systems, or maybe your home just feels out of date. The question is: Should you stay or should you go? Choosing whether to remodel or move involves looking at a number of factors. Here are some things to consider when making your decision.

 

Five reasons to move:

1. Your current location just isn’t working.

Unruly neighbors, a miserable commute, or a less-than-desirable school district—these are factors you cannot change. If your current location is detracting from your overall quality of life, it’s time to consider moving. If you’re just ready for a change, that’s a good reason, too. Some people are simply tired of their old homes and want to move on.

2. Your home is already one of the nicest in the neighborhood.

Regardless of the improvements you might make, location largely limits the amount of money you can get for your home when you sell. A general rule of thumb for remodeling is to make sure that you don’t over-improve your home for the neighborhood. If your property is already the most valuable house on the block, additional upgrades usually won’t pay off in return on investment at selling time.

3. There is a good chance you will move soon anyway.

If your likelihood of moving in the next two years is high, remodeling probably isn’t your best choice. There’s no reason to go through the hassle and expense of remodeling and not be able to enjoy it. It may be better to move now to get the house you want.

4. You need to make too many improvements to meet your needs.

This is particularly an issue with growing families. What was cozy for a young couple may be totally inadequate when you add small children. Increasing the space to make your home workable may cost more than moving to another house. In addition, lot size, building codes, and neighborhood covenants may restrict what you can do. Once you’ve outlined the remodeling upgrades that you’d like, a real estate agent can help you determine what kind of home you could buy for the same investment.

5. You don’t like remodeling.

Remodeling is disruptive. It may be the inconvenience of loosing the use of a bathroom for a week, or it can mean moving out altogether for a couple of months. Remodeling also requires making a lot of decisions. You have to be able to visualize new walls and floor plans, decide how large you want windows to be, and where to situate doors. Then there is choosing from hundreds of flooring, countertop, and fixture options. Some people love this. If you’re not one of them, it is probably easier to buy a house that has the features you want already in place.

 

Five reasons to remodel:

1. You love your neighborhood.

You can walk to the park, you have lots of close friends nearby, and the guy at the espresso stand knows you by name. There are features of a neighborhood, whether it’s tree-lined streets or annual community celebrations, that you just can’t re-create somewhere else. If you love where you live, that’s a good reason to stay.

2. You like your current home’s floor plan.

The general layout of your home either works for you or it doesn’t. If you enjoy the configuration and overall feeling of your current home, there’s a good chance it can be turned into a dream home. The combination of special features you really value, such as morning sun or a special view, may be hard to replicate in a new home.

3. You’ve got a great yard.

Yards in older neighborhoods often have features you cannot find in newer developments, including large lots, mature trees, and established landscaping. Even if you find a new home with a large lot, it takes considerable time and expense to create a fully landscaped yard.

4. You can get exactly the home you want.

Remodeling allows you to create a home tailored exactly to your lifestyle. You have control over the look and feel of everything, from the color of the walls to the finish on the cabinets. Consider also that most people who buy a new home spend up to 30 percent of the value of their new house fixing it up the way they want.

5. It may make better financial sense.

In some cases, remodeling might be cheaper than selling. A contractor can give you an estimate of what it would cost to make the improvements you’re considering. A real estate agent can give you prices of comparable homes with those same features. But remember that while remodeling projects add to the value of your home, most don’t fully recover their costs when you sell.

 

Remodel or move checklist:

Here are some questions to ask when deciding whether to move or remodel.

1.      How much money can you afford to spend?

2.      How long do you plan to live in your current home?

3.      How do you feel about your current location?

4.      Do you like the general floor plan of your current house?

5.      Will the remodeling you’re considering offer a good return on investment?

6.      Can you get more house for the money in another location that you like?

7.      Are you willing to live in your house during a remodeling project?

8.      If not, do you have the resources to live elsewhere while you’re remodeling?

 

If you have questions about whether remodeling or selling is a wise investment, or are looking for an agent in your area, we have professionals that can help you. Contact us here.

Destination Living – The Allure of Los Cabos

 

When people dream of paradise, many envision palm trees, stunning sunsets, and long days filled with endless possibilities. In Cabo San Lucas, those dreams are an everyday reality. From pristine beaches to world-class dining and golf courses, there’s no limit to the options for entertainment and relaxation. In an effort to highlight the possibilities of destination living, today we’re shining a light on what Los Cabos has to offer.

 

While Los Cabos refers to an entire municipality on the southern tip of Baja California in Mexico, the Cabo that springs to mind for most people is Cabo San Lucas. The resort town has established itself as a paradise for those desiring any number of luxuries, but it can also prove more affordable than many other second-home destinations. Both the initial investment and the cost of living can vary, but more often than not, your dollar (or peso) will go further in Los Cabos. Many who seek out a home in this region are pursuing a second home, a retirement locale, or an investment opportunity. Los Cabos provides possibilities for all comers. 

 

 The quintessential Cabo San Lucas experience is one of luxury and opportunity. Providing homes that allow residents to utilize the resources around them is paramount in Los Cabos. An example of this is the newly-constructed Rancho San Lucas community which is privy to numerous resort-style activities and amenities. Nearby are several scenic hikes with stunning ocean views await, while on the waterfront snorkelers and scuba divers can be found year-round. Golfers have long flocked to Los Cabos, and the newly constructed Greg Norman-designed 18-hole course coming within the community will be a perpetual draw. Tennis courts and nearby access to the extravagant Grand Solmar at Rancho San Lucas are just a few of the other luxuries at residents’ fingertips.

 

Cabo San Lucas is well-outfitted to serve full-time residents and seasonal visitors alike. It offers a safe, relaxing destination for those looking to own a slice of their own tropical haven south of the border. Learn more about the Los Cabos housing market and the opportunities it provides for destination living.

Windermere Foundation: Celebrating 30 Years of Giving

 

Giving back has always been a big part of who we are at Windermere. In the early days of our company, it was pretty simple; we would see a need and help any way we could. But as we grew, we realized we could accomplish much more if we had a common purpose. That’s how the Windermere Foundation was born. 

A big idea

We started with an idea that would give every Windermere agent the ability to make a difference. Housing is our business, so helping homeless families seemed like a natural fit. We later expanded that to include low-income families, with an emphasis on helping children. 

Every time a home is sold

For the past 30 years, a portion of every Windermere agent’s commission has been donated to the Windermere Foundation. Having 100% participation gives us a common purpose and sends a powerful message about our commitment to the community.

Who we help

Last year alone we provided funding to more than 500 organizations throughout the Western U.S. Homeless shelters, food banks, schools, hospitals, community centers, parks; the list goes on. The main thing that they all have in common is a deep devotion to helping our neighbors in need.

How we help

Our agents have proven time and time again how committed they are to making their communities a better place to live. Their generosity funds backpacks full of food so school kids don’t go hungry on the weekends. They help keep families in their homes by covering housing costs. And their donations make sure the homeless are getting their most basic needs met, and the dignity that goes with it. 

Thank you

If at any point during the past 30 years you’ve bought or sold a home using a Windermere agent, you are a part of the Windermere Foundation too, and you’ve helped make a positive difference in your community. And for that, we thank you on behalf of everyone at Windermere. 

If you would like to learn more about the Windermere Foundation, please visit windermerefoundation.com.

10 Tips to Minimize Stress When Selling Your Home

When I was growing up, my family must have moved a dozen times. After the first few moves, we had it down to a science: timed out, scheduled, down to the last box. Despite our best efforts, plans would change, move-out and move-in days would shift, and the experience would stress the entire family out. Despite the stress, we always managed to settle in our new home and sell our old one before the start of school. 

With a lot of planning and scheduling, you can minimize the stress of selling your house and moving. Here are some tips: 

Plan Ahead

Know when you want to be moved out and into your new home and have a backup plan in case it falls through. Before you sell your home, familiarize yourself with local and state laws about selling a home so you’re not caught by surprise if you forget something important. 

Lists and schedules are going to be your new best friend through the process. Have a timetable for when you want to sell your house when you have appraisers, realtors, movers, etc. over. Also, keep one for when your things need to be packed and when you need to be moved into the new place. I suggest keeping it on an Excel sheet so you can easily update it as the timeline changes (and it will – stuff happens). 

Use Resources

First time selling a house? Check out some great resources on what you need to know. US News has excellent, step-by-step guides on what you need to know to sell. Appraisers and realtors can also be good resources, and since you’ll be working with them through the process, be sure to ask them questions or have them point you to resources. 

Appraisal

Have your house appraised before you sell so you know your budget for your new home. This will help you look for an affordable home that meets your family’s needs. It will also help you maximize the amount you can receive for your old home. You can also learn useful information from an appraisal, such as which repairs need to be made, if any. 

Repairs

Does your house need repairs before you move? If so, figure out whether you’ll be covering them, or whether your buyers will (this will be a part of price negotiations, so factor it in with your home budget). Will you need to make repairs in your new house, or will that be covered? Either way, make sure you know which repairs need to be made – and either be upfront with buyers about them or make them before you sell. 

Prepare to Move

If you’re moving to a new town or a new state, you need to prepare more than just a new home. Research doctors and dentists, places to eat, and what to do for fun. If you have school-aged children, look at the local school district or private school options – not only to learn how to enroll your kids, but also to get a feel for the school culture, see what extracurricular activities your kids can do, what standards/learning methods your kids’ new school will implement, etc. 

Packing

Think: how soon are you moving, what will you need to use before you move, what can get boxed and what needs to stay out?  The sooner you’re moving out, the sooner you need to pack, but if you have time, just take a day per weekend to organize a room, pack what you want to take and arrange to donate what you want to get rid of

Downsizing

Moves are a great time to purge old, unwanted and unused stuff from your home. Sometimes, it’s necessary if you’re moving into a smaller space. Either way, as you pack each room, think about whether you use what you’re packing to take with you. If you do, pack it to go. If not, put it in a separate box to go to your local donations place. You can also call some organizations to have your unwanted things picked up, no hassle. 

If You Have Kids

Moving with kids can be extra stressful. Be sure to include them in the process. This is a wonderful opportunity to teach younger children about moving and prepare them for the changes it brings. Older children can help out with responsibilities, like packing their room or researching their new town. 

Your New Place

Moving into a new place takes some planning as well. Once you’ve bought your new home or condo, design at least a basic outline for where your stuff will be set up. Make necessary repairs and decorate (painting, for example) before you unpack. Ideally, you should have some time to do these things before, but if you don’t, don’t be in a hurry to unpack everything – it can be a hassle to paint if you have all your furniture and bookshelves up! 

Staying In Touch and Making New Friends

Finally, moving can mean good-byes with family and/or friends. Social media is a great way to keep in touch with people after you’ve moved, but distance can still weaken these old relationships. Make some time to call or message your old friends to keep in touch. Pair that work with a concerted effort to meet new people. See what hobbies or groups are in your new area and start there. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it can make your new house a home and make your new town a community you can enjoy.

 

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. Patrick is currently a writer for Mountain Springs Recovery as well as on his own blog.

How to Cover Unexpected Costs with a Personal Loan

By Jennifer Calonia

Owning a home comes with its rewards — it’s an investment, a cozy haven to kick-up your feet after a long day of work, and a welcoming place to bring family and friends together. Although all of this makes homeownership fulfilling, owning a home also opens the door for unexpected (but necessary) expenses.

If you’ve suddenly been hit with a home improvement project that’s pinching your budget, like a roofing issue or heater malfunction, a personal loan might be an option to help cover the cost.

What is a personal loan?

A personal loan is an installment loan that’s typically issued by a bank, credit union or online lender. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate on a two-year personal loan is 10.70% but varies depending on your credit score and other criteria. Some lenders offer repayment terms anywhere from 12 months to five years.

A benefit of using a personal loan for emergency home improvement projects is that the approval process is generally quick so you can address urgent home repairs sooner. Some online lenders can run a credit check, approve your application and send funds your way with a couple of days. The approval process for banks and credit unions, on the other hand, can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, if the lender needs additional information.

How to find a personal loan

If you’ve decided that a personal loan makes sense to fund your next home project, make sure you’re aware of these next steps.

1. Assess your budget

 

The last thing you need is taking out a personal loan only to realize after the fact that you can’t afford to repay it. Calculate how much you realistically need for your home improvement project, giving yourself a reasonable buffer for unforeseen repair expenses (e.g. permit fees, price changes for a specific material, etc.)

Then, tally your monthly income and financial obligations to ensure you still have enough cash on hand to keep the lights on and make monthly installments toward your loan. Using a spreadsheet or budgeting app can help you track these numbers easily.

2. Know your credit score

 

Generally, you need a good credit score to get approved for a personal loan. Your credit score is one of the key factors that lenders use to determine whether your application is approved, and a higher credit score results in a lower interest rate offer.

Check your credit score with the three credit bureaus to ensure there isn’t an error or suspicious activity that might inadvertently lower your credit score. For a free credit report, go to AnnualCreditReport.com to see where your credit stands before moving forward in the process.

3. Compare rates and terms

 

When you’ve confirmed that you have a good credit score that can get you competitive interest rates, it’s tempting to accept a loan from the first lender that approves you. But like other major purchases, it’s important to shop around.

Compare interest rates, annual percentage rates (APR), and term durations available, and read the fine print for any conditions or fees that might offset any benefits.

To start, try reaching out to your existing financial institution first to see what they can offer; sometimes credit unions, in particular, offer rate incentives for loyal members. Also, consider using a personal loan aggregator website to compare offers from multiple online lenders at once (just do your due diligence to ensure the site is legitimate).

4. Submit an application

 

If you’re ready to submit an application, you can either complete a form online or apply in-person, depending on your lender. Although all lenders require different information to process a loan application, some common information to prepare ahead of time include:

  • Personal information
  • Income 
  • Employment information
  • Reason for the loan
  • Amount you want to borrow

 

To minimize any delays on your end, it’s helpful to prepare copies of verification documents, such as a driver’s license, proof of address like a utility statement, information about your home and pay stubs. Your prospective lender will likely reach out to you if they need any other information to make a decision.

Although it’s always best to have emergency savings set aside for a sudden home improvement project, turning to a personal loan is a useful option when you’re pressed for funds and time. As urgent as your project might feel, however, always take the time to do your research to ensure you’re making the right move for your situation.

 

Jennifer Calonia is a native Los Angeles-based writer for Upstart whose goal is to help readers get excited about improving their financial health and lifestyle. Her work has been featured on Forbes, The Huffington Post, MSN Money, Business Insider, CNN Money, and Yahoo Finance. When she’s not wordsmithing, you can find her outdoors, exploring state and national parks.

Hawaii/Maui Real Estate Market Update

 

The following analysis of select Maui real estate markets is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere Agent.

 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Hawaii’s economy offered a mixed bag of growth in the fourth quarter of 2018. Employment declined 1.4% but the unemployment rate was a healthy 2.3%. Over the past year, the economy has shed 9,300 jobs, and annual job gains have been negative for the past three months.

On Maui, employment growth dropped 1.9% and was negative for the whole of the fourth quarter. That said, there are 78,600 persons employed and over 3,400 job openings on Maui. The unemployment rate was 2.3%, up from 1.7% a year ago. The market’s civilian workforce has been in decline since last summer, which may be artificially keeping the unemployment rate low. The contraction in employment during fourth quarter doesn’t overly concern me as it is likely just seasonal.

 

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • In the fourth quarter of 2018, 510 homes sold, a drop of 9.4% compared to the last quarter of 2017.
     
  • Two markets saw growth in sales over the same period a year ago. The Spreckelsville/Pala/Kuau market saw an impressive 25% increase in transactions and Wailuku/Kahului saw sales rise by 6.9%. There was a significant decline in sales in Wailea/Makena/Kihei.
     
  • The contraction in sales came as inventory levels dropped by 9.2%. It is possible that this is due to the 2018 volcanic eruption that occurred on the Big Island but, at this point, that is just speculation. I will be watching the data as we move through 2019 to see if this is the case or if there are other reasons for the slowdown.
     
  • Inventory growth slowed, and this lack of choice may be why we saw sales drop. That said, well- positioned and well-priced homes are still selling relatively quickly.

 

 

HOME PRICES

  • The average home price in the region rose 3.8% year-over-year to $866,107.
     
  • Affordability is an issue, but the drop in interest rates at the end of 2018 may stimulate buyers. I will be watching the numbers in the first and second quarters closely to see if we experience a turnaround in price growth.
     
  • Appreciation was strongest in the Wailea/Makena/Kihei market, where prices rose by 22.8%. Two areas saw prices rise between the fourth quarter of 2017 and the final quarter of 2018, and three markets saw average sale prices drop.
     
  • Because of affordability constraints in many Maui market areas, I anticipate we will see home prices continue to rise at fairly modest rates.

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home on Maui dropped 24 days compared to the final quarter of 2017.
     
  • The amount of time it took to sell a home fell in four markets with market time rising only in the Wailuku/Kahului area, but that increase was a modest six days.
     
  • In the fourth quarter of 2018, it took an average of 67 days to sell a home. The fastest moving market was in Wailuku / Kahului and the slowest was Lahaina / Kaanapali / Kapalua.
     
  • Even with the slowdown in home sales in fourth quarter, housing demand is still there, as the drop in market time demonstrates. I anticipate we will see more activity and rising sales as we move through 2019.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

The speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.

For the fourth quarter of 2018, I have placed the needle in favor of sellers, but the market may be approaching equilibrium. Although there was a drop in home sales and price growth was fairly modest, we saw a small decline in pending sales, which may limit closings in the first quarter of 2019. That said, I remain positive about the longer-term outlook for home prices and demand on Maui.

 

 

 

As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.

Are You Better Off Paying Your Mortgage Earlier or Investing Your Money?

Photo Credit: Rawpixel via Unsplash

Few topics cause more division among economists than the age-old debate of whether you’re better off paying off your mortgage earlier, or investing that money instead. And there’s a good reason why that debate continues; both sides make compelling arguments.

For many people, their mortgage is the largest expense they will ever incur in their lives. So if given the chance, it only makes logical sense you would want to pay it off as quickly as possible. On the other hand, a mortgage is also the cheapest money you will ever borrow, and it’s generally considered good debt. Any extra money you obtain could be definitely be put to good use elsewhere.

The reality is, however, a little less cut and clear. For some homeowners, paying off their mortgage earlier is the right answer. While for others, it would be far more advantageous to invest their money.

 

Advantages of paying off your mortgage earlier

  • You’ll pay less interest: Each time you make a mortgage payment, a portion is dedicated towards interest, and another towards principal (we’ll ignore other costs for now). Interest is calculated monthly by taking your remaining balance, the length of your amortization period, and the interest rate agreed upon with your lending institution.

If you have a $300,000 mortgage, at a 4% fixed rate over 30 years, your monthly payment would be around $1,432.25. By the time you finish paying off your mortgage, you would have paid a total of $515,609, of which $215,609 were interest.

If you wanted to lower the total amount you pay on interest, you don’t need to make a large lump sum to make a difference. If you were to increase your monthly mortgage payment to $1,632.25 (a $200 a month increase), you would be saving $50,298 in interest, and you’ll pay off your mortgage 6 years and 3 months earlier.

Though this is an oversimplified example, it shows how even a small increase in monthly payments makes a big difference in the long run.

  • Every additional dollar towards your principal has a guaranteed return on investment: Every additional payment you make towards your mortgage has a direct effect in lowering the amount you pay in interest. In fact, each additional payment is, in fact, an investment. And unlike stocks, bonds, and other investment vehicles, you are guaranteed to have a return on your investment.
     
  • Enforced discipline: It takes real commitment to invest your money wisely each month instead of spending it elsewhere.

 

Your monthly mortgage payments are a form of enforced discipline since you know you can’t afford to miss them. It’s far easier to set a higher monthly payment towards your mortgage and stick to it than making regular investments on your own.

Besides, once your home is completely paid off, you can dedicate a larger portion of your income towards investments, your children or grandchildren’s education, or simply cut down on your working hours.

 

Advantages of investing your money

  • A greater return on your investment: The biggest reason why you should invest your money instead comes down to a simple, green truth: there’s more money to be made in investments. 

Suppose that instead of dedicating an additional $200 towards your monthly mortgage payment, you decide to invest it in a conservative index fund which tracks S&P 500’s index. You start your investment today with $200 and add an additional $200 each month for the next 30 years. By the end of the term, if the index fund had a modest yield of 5% per year, you will have earned $91,739 in interest, and the total value of your investment would be $163,939.

If you think that 5% per year is a little too optimistic, all we have to do is see the S&P 500 performance between December 2002 and December 2012, which averaged an annual yield of 7.10%.

  • A greater level of diversification: Real estate has historically been one of the safest vehicles of investment available, but it’s still subject to market forces and changes in government policies. The forces that affect the stock and bonds markets are not always the same that affect real estate, because the former are subject to their issuer’s economic performance, while property values could change due to local events. 

By putting your extra money towards investments, you are diversifying your investment portfolio and spreading out your risk. If you are relying exclusively on the value of your home, you are in essence putting all your eggs in one basket.

  • Greater liquidity: Homes are a great investment, but it takes time to sell a home even in the best of circumstances. So if you need emergency funds now, it’s a lot easier to sell stocks and bonds than a home.

 

Misael Lizarraga is a real estate writer with a passion for teaching real estate concepts to first time buyers and investors. He runs realestatecontentguy.com and is a contributing writer for several leading real estate blogs in North America.