The New Normal?

The crisis that almost collapsed the financial system, the markets and the economy was a once-in-a-lifetime event for most of us. The effect was not only monetary, but psychological. Shifts in attitudes about money, financial independence, retirement, leverage and consumption may leave their marks for years to come.

Many people have seen the values of their financial assets, including real estate, drop close to 18 percent; however, few have changed their approaches to investment management. Some affluent investors suffered losses of 40 percent to 50 percent – enough to shatter their faith.

January is Financial Wellness month, so let’s take a quick look back and then think about what’s to come and how to work toward restoring some semblance of stability.

There is a lot of evidence out there to support all the scary thoughts. The 100-year flood happens about every five to seven years. Markets are never average or normal and are usually above or below the bell curve. The tools available to make investment decisions are not forward-looking. They are always historical. Can you imagine using only the rear-view mirror?

Financial advisors need to help people rebuild plans that address new economic realities and long-term goals. With my long-time clients, I still check and double check to make sure I understand their thinking and feelings. In many cases, my clients’ families have become even more important, and we include them in meetings. Mindsets continue to shift, and approaches need adjustments. Simply keeping in touch is more critical than ever. Many of my older clients are now looking to move into an active adult community when they retire; something that they did not think of doing before.

Many successful Americans come from average backgrounds and circumstances, and have worked hard to earn their success, wealth and comforts. Their financial position, investing and saving has been a source of pride. They felt they understood the rules of the game – the American dream. The sharp downturn in real estate values, falls of some of the leading financial institutions and job losses lead to weakened faith in the system.

Some have responded by shifting their behavior, reducing discretionary spending and looking for exceptional value. Psychologically, it feels wrong to be wasteful. Saving feels more moral and has increased significantly in recent months.

We’ve arrived at a time many are referring to as the new normal.

High unemployment and slow growth for the U.S. Gross Domestic Product of 1 percent to 2 percent have been forecast. This will be unacceptable to Americans, who will put pressure on politicians to encourage domestic growth. Americans are burdened with high debt and slow growth. Some are unhappy with government presence.
How do we turn the economy toward healthier growth and exports with a cheap dollar? These are questions that will continue to be explored into 2010. In the new normal, people will think and plan differently for the future.

There is a sense that the worst is over and a kind of pride in surviving the worst of times. There is a satisfaction that comes from emphasis on real needs, simple pleasures and a focus on managing what one can control. People are taking pride in their shopping skills. Shopping at thrift stores is no longer just fun and funky; it just makes more sense, in most cases, than buying new.

I’ve seen family ties that have been strengthened. In times of financial crisis, many families are forced to communicate. Even divorce rates are falling.
In the investment world, we’re focusing on quality and value, which is fundamental.

There is some evidence of renewed confidence. But investors remain cautious. Low-quality investments in the early stages of recovery may be attractive, but can be far too risky. It is important to measure the risk of investing against the risk of not investing. Staying in cash at no return won’t help in the long term.

Don’t sit and wait. Know what to fear and what may be advantageous. Embrace the new economic reality.

Contact Carson Wealth Portland financial planning.

Sweat Equity on the Rise!!

Jim and Kristina have taken advantage of the real estate market.

At the start of 2009 this couple sold their home in Meridian with the intention of moving to California to be near family. After months and months of looking at several homes in the Golden State, the couple became discouraged and began to sense that Boise Idaho’s pricing, along with quality of living, was too good to pass up. With that, Jim, Kristina and I began a search for their new home.

New construction, short sales, bank-owned property and occupied homes alike all had positives and negatives. When the dust settled, however, the couple found that a well-built bank-owned property within a cozy community fit the bill very nicely. Although the paint was distasteful and the curb lacking any appeal, the parquet flooring of the house made up for that. The kitchen was open and bright with plenty of cabinet space, the floor plan flowed with ease and the quality of construction was first rate. In 2006 this home would have sold for the mid 180’s but by working together, the Beans were able to make the purchase for only $130,000.

Jim and Kristina have always been “handy” people. In fact, while in California the couple spent many weeks helping their son and daughter construct their personal home. During this time, Jim and Kristina learned trades that included installing tile, hardwood flooring, siding-you name it!! The knowledge was definitely put to good use.

The work began. Kristina began stripping the countertops and laying tile. Jim started pulling the dirty carpet and ripped vinyl planning to lay a hickory floor. Even the roofs had to be repaired with the broken ones to be replaced with new pieces to prevent leaks. Commercial roof repair St. Louis helped them with that while they were busy working on the kitchen renovation. All the while, doing prep work for the full interior paint job, they also found some helpful roofing tips from Bourdeau Contracting LLC website. After nearly 30 days of sleeping on cots and eating cold dinners, the Beans completed their project and invited me over to see the results of their “sweat equity”.

I could hardly believe that it was the same home! The smell of fresh paint and lacquer was prevalent while Kristina excitedly directly me toward the kitchen. Granite and tile graced the middle island, countertops and backsplashes; the cabinetry was antiqued while the stainless steel appliances topped it off. “Wow!” I exclaimed. Next, Jim spoke about the hickory flooring that was laid throughout the first floor. It was gorgeous and only cost $1,000 for the material! Jim and Kristina were proud of their work and had every right to be. Click for more information if you want to achieve such an impressive result, too.

Before leaving, Jim and I discussed the market and what the home might sell for right now. At least $150,000, I mentioned, if not more. Jim stated that he and Kristina had put $2,000 (plus or minus) into material and couldn’t be more thrilled that they had realistically made $16,000 for their time. “In a year or so, Matt, we’ll be doing this again. And also, my kids down South are itching take advantage of the pricing around here”.

Jim, Kristina and I

Jim, Kristina and I

Before Remodel--Kitchen

Before Remodel–Kitchen

After Remodel--Kitchen

After Remodel–Kitchen

Before Remodel--Living Room

Before Remodel–Living Room

After Remodel--Living room/mantle

After Remodel–Living room/mantle

The Consequences Of Foreclosure

Foreclosure can be a stressful process and it can also stick with you for a long time.  Give us a call at 208-869-3469 if you are facing foreclosure so we can see if we can help.  There are some options that you need to explore such as loan modifications and short sales.

First Time Home Buyer $8000 Tax Credit

First Time Home Buyer $8000 Tax Credit is still available, but quickly coming to an end.  You must close on your new home by December 1, 2009.  Keep in mind that most transactions take about 30 days.  So, time is really running out.

The law defines “first-time home buyer” as a buyer who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase. For married taxpayers, the law tests the homeownership history of both the home buyer and his/her spouse.

The tax credit is equal to 10 percent of the home’s purchase price up to a maximum of $8,000.

Just as an example, assume that a married couple has a modified adjusted gross income of $160,000. The applicable phaseout to qualify for the tax credit is $150,000, and the couple is $10,000 over this amount. Dividing $10,000 by the phaseout range of $20,000 yields 0.5. When you subtract 0.5 from 1.0, the result is 0.5. To determine the amount of the partial first-time home buyer tax credit that is available to this couple, multiply $8,000 by 0.5. The result is $4,000.

Home Selling Quick Tip 3

Make sure to clear out the clutter.  You want your home to shine above and beyond the other homes on the market.  Remember that the average home buyer is going to look at 10-20 homes that meet their criteria before they make a decision.  This is a case of first impressions.  If you don’t make the list of top 2-3 homes on their list, your home will be forgotten and discarded from their search.  You usually only get one chance.  Make it count.

By taking 4-5 hours upfront to fix up your home and stage it a bit can go a long way.  Even $200 – $500 in staging can end up netting you thousands more on your house.  It is so worth it.

Sell Your Home Quick: Tip 2

Come up with a sales strategy, but make sure it’s flexible. What’s your initial asking price? How long will you insist on it before making a reduction? How much of a cut will you accept? What about after that? Having a plan in place will help you react quickly, according to Greenwood, and will move your home that much more quickly.

Buyers want to feel like they are getting a deal these days.  It is important to know your bottom line and not be offended if you don’t get a full price offer.   Roll with the punches and understand that this is business and not to take it personal.  You always have final say when it comes to the actual accepted price.

Sell Your Home Quick: Tip 1

Price it right. The No. 1 thing that will sell a house quickly is price.  Of course you want to make sure that it is out there and people know it is for sale.  But all the marketing in the world won’t sell an overpriced house.

OK, so just how do you play the home-sale version of “The Price is Right”? That crackerjack agent you hired should have a good sense of what price will help sell your home sooner rather than later. As the owner, your objectivity is diminished, so give your agent free rein, within reason, to set the price. The broker will look at the average days a home in your neighborhood is on the market, how your home compares to others in the area and its condition.

Keep in mind too that even if you are able to find a buyer at above market value, an appraiser will have to “approve” the price if the buyer is financing the home.   This can be a deal killer and is becoming more and more prominent.

HomeBuyer Big Mistakes

The best way to avoid making a mistake it to learn from the mistakes others have made. Buying a home in a desirable location is your best defense. Remember: location, location, location.

* First-Time Home Buyer Tips.
Start your search online, and don’t rely on print because most homes are not advertised in the newspaper.

* Preview Homes for Sale.
Ask your agent to look at homes before showing them to you, and tour only those that fit your parameters.

* Avoid the Top 3 Home Buying Blunders.
Protect your earnest money deposit by writing contingencies into your contract.

Don’t go at it alone.  One of the most important steps if finding the right buyer’s agent to help you along the way.

Make sure you know the difference between the signing time and the actual closing date.   This can help you avoid a ton of frustration.

How To Pick An Agent

With so much information available online, you might wonder why you need an agent at all. But all local markets vary from one another, and a good agent can guide you by giving you information based on experience and market knowledge.

* Why Hire an Agent?.
An agent with experience can help you to avoid making mistakes such as choosing the wrong home or offering too much.

* Find a Real Estate Agent.
Start by asking your friends and family member for referrals. Make sure you are comfortable with your agent before committing to work with that person.

* Follow Protocol for Working with Agents.
Here are 10 tips to prevent you from messing up or saying the wrong thing to an agent.