Stocks, Bonds, and Oil

20140309-080351.jpgIt is interesting. For years we have gone through a very slow recovery from the recession. Yet the stock market has kept moving up each year for over five years with few interruptions. And now that we seem to be on the verge of gaining economic momentum, the stock market is acting like it needs to take a breather, a correction or something more severe. Why the glum news at a time we should be celebrating? There are plenty of theories. Perhaps the stock market may just need a breather which it has earned. Perhaps it is a “sell on the news” phenomenon. Other theories include the hypotheses that the markets are worried about events overseas or investors are afraid interest rates will rise soon because of the good economic news.

We have had plenty of bad spells in the past five years and the stock market seems to bounce back up each time. On the other hand, if it is a true correction, we have to say that the stock market has earned a breather after five strong years. What is also interesting is that oil prices and interest rates have fallen significantly in tandem with stocks. Lower oil prices are not typically the norm when we have a war going on in the Middle East. And rates should not be lower when the economy starts to accelerate. In this respect, lower rates could be another indication of global concerns. Continue reading

How a Great Real Estate Agent Can Help You Buy Your Next Home

I recently worked with a great real estate agent who helped one of my friends buy a home.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are a lot a good Realtors in our community.  But based on the level of service that she provided, I asked her to give me the down and dirty details on what made her different from other agents.

I’d like to share those with you, because if you are in the market to buy a home, here are some of the things you might look for when hiring a Buyer’s Agent.

  • Will they compare prices in neighboring towns, neighborhoods and subdivisions?
  • Will they honestly give you the pros and cons when you narrow it down to a few properties?
  • Will they immediately recommend properties BEFORE you find them online yourself?
  • Will they explain the purchase agreement and other documents in detail?
  • Will they preview the property BEFORE showing it to you?
  • Will they be on your side when negotiating with the seller?
  • Will they follow up with you after the sale?
  • Will they provide names and phone numbers of people they represented?

I’m sure that you probably have other questions you’d like to ask them—but these will help you start the conversation when interviewing to find a “great” real estate agent to represent you when you buy your next home.

Oh, and if you would like me to refer a couple of great agents that I have worked with in the past, please contact me.

If it is all about jobs, then…

20140309-080351.jpgFor years we have gone through a tepid recovery from a very deep recession. And all along we have indicated that we don’t recover from such an event if Americans are not working. Year after year we waited and waited. Well, the wait is over. The recovery in jobs is more than underway, it has arrived. The average of 220,000 jobs added each month thus far this year — and the unemployment rate dropping below 6.0% — is just what the doctor ordered in this regard. This is not to say that we are all the way back. Many of the jobs created have been lower paying jobs, which has held back the pace of personal income growth. In addition, the low labor participation rate tells us that if jobs keep getting created, we will have to absorb many returning to the labor market.

On the other hand, the progress we have made will cause a ripple effect throughout the economy. We are on pace to add almost 3 million jobs this year and this will increase consumer spending which will create more jobs. And some of this spending will make the real estate market stronger — whether it is the purchase of new homes or major renovation projects for existing homes. Already we are seeing the strength in car sales and home improvement projects. But the one area we have not seen strength in this year is within the real estate sector. Continue reading

Small Remodeling Tips that Pay Big Returns

tipsDo you ever watch those “remodeling “ shows on TV?  It seems like they totally gut a room, and spend thousands of dollars and a lot of time turning it into something fabulous.

However, in an article I just read, there are also some low-cost ways to get the biggest bang for your remodeling buck.

  • A new front door – There are some really great styles available.  Different materials like wood, steel, frosted glass or combinations of all three. Remodeling Magazine says that you can expect a 96% return on your investment.
  • New kitchen appliances – No need to go high-end, but stainless steel and matching appliances will give you an 82% return on your investment.
  • New cabinet knobs/drawer pulls – Low cost, high impact
  • New faucets – Low cost, high impact
  • New kitchen sink – Low cost, high impact
  • Kitchen tile backsplash – Don’t go overboard with fancy tile or colors.  Choose more neutral colors and materials.
  • Re-glaze bathtubs and sinks – It can make a porcelain tub or sink look like new for a fraction of the cost of replacing them.
  • New bathroom light fixtures – Low cost, high impact
  • New bathroom faucets – Low cost, high impact
  • New lighting fixtures in hallway/dining room – You can expect to get an 87% return on investment.

Most of these low-cost remodeling tips costs less than $1,000 and some of them under $100.

You also might want to keep this list if you are thinking of selling your home in the future.  It just may help you get more money and sell your home more quickly.

Are there any other low-cost remodeling tips I should add to this list?

Finding Lost Money

Unclaimed fundsHave you moved and thought you may have left some money stashed away in a savings account?  Or do you think a deceased loved-one had an insurance policy that never got paid?  Maybe even stocks, bonds and retirement accounts?

Here are some website links where you can do your research, and maybe you’ll find your name (or a relative’s name) on the list.

MissingMoney.com – Forgotten bank accounts, stock dividend checks, utility company deposit refunds, etc. (free)

PolicyLocator.com – Life insurance policies that have not been cashed in (costs money)

PBGC.gov – Government website to find unclaimed pensions (free)

UnclaimedRetirementBenefits.com – Government website for unclaimed retirement and 401k accounts (free)

TreasuryDirect.gov – Government website for unclaimed savings bonds (free)

 

Try My Mobile App

mortgage appHow would you like to have an app on your smart phone that let’s you calculate mortgage payments instantly, provides easy access to the most up-to-date mortgage information, and direct contact to SoDel’s leading mortgage banker?

You would right!  Just click here:  Baxter Mortgage Team Mobile App – Powered by Fairway Mortgage

 

Fairway Independent Mortgage’s Steve Jacobson Named 2014 CEO of the Year

CEO of the YearWhat great news!  Everything this man said to me since I joined Fairway earlier this year has been true.  Every promise he has made was delivered.  That’s just the way he rolls!

Thanks Jake for believing in me and I’m very proud you have been recognized by Mortgage Executive Magazine as CEO of the Year for 2014.