Holiday Home Safety Tips

Written by Paul Davis on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 9:27 am 

The holidays can create greater risk at home when cooking meals, displaying decorations, and using unsafe heating sources. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires including 67 percent starting with the ignition of food or other cooking materials. Paul Davis Emergency Services of Denton, a leading provider of fire, water and mold damage restoration services for residential and commercial properties offers the following tips to make the holidays safe.

Cooking: Keep children away from cooking areas. Turn pot handles facing in to prevent scalds and burns. Avoid wearing loose clothing which can be ignited by hot burners. Don't store items on top of the stove. Turkey fryers should be used outdoors and away from buildings and flammable materials.
Portable space heaters: Place space heaters at least three feet away from anything combustible and operate only when you are in the room. Don't leave a space heater on overnight or near children and pets.
Holiday Decorations: The use of holiday decorations such as Christmas trees, garlands, electric lights, and candles can increase the possibility of holiday fires. Use non-combustible, flame-resistant materials. Never use lighted candles on a tree, evergreens or other flammable materials.
Lights: Connect no more than 3 strands of mini light sets and no more than 50 bulbs for screw-in light sets on your tree. Fasten lights to the tree and prevent bulbs from coming in contact with the needles or branches. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that burns. Check for loose connections, broken or cracked sockets or frayed wires. Use UL approved lighting. Turn off all holiday lights when leaving home or retiring for the evening.
Trees: A natural tree should be fresh and will be less likely to become a fire hazard. Cut two inches off the trunk and place in a sturdy water stand, water daily. Keep the tree away from fireplaces, wall furnaces and other heat sources. Consider using a 'fire resistant' artificial tree.
Fire Escape Plan: Know your escape routes. Have a working fire extinguisher in the kitchen, laundry room, and garage. Never burn greens, papers, or other decorations in the fireplace. Working smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home, test them monthly, replace batteries every six months.

Know who to call in case of an emergency: Keep contact numbers handy for police and fire departments, doctors and poison help line. In case of emergency property damage, contact a licensed, professional fire damage clean up and restoration company.


What You Need to Know About Buying a Home During the Holiday Season

For sale in winter

If you’re house hunting over the holidays, you’re likely a serious buyer with an immediate need.  Perhaps you have to relocate for a new job opportunity, or there’s been a change in your personal life? Regardless, while you may assume it’s not an ideal time to be looking — namely because there isn’t much to look at — there are some advantages to buying this time of year.

Less competition

Let’s start with the obvious one: less competition. This lowers the chances of multiple offers and bidding wars (something we saw a lot of last spring/summer), and should translate into a bigger discount for you. Know your market! This is where sites like Zillow come in handy. Start your research here for comps in your area and to see what homes are selling for.

Serious home sellers

Why would sellers pick such an inconvenient time — while everyone is busy entertaining family and friends and enjoying the spirit of the holidays  — to list their properties? Probably because they need to sell and may feel compelled to do so before the end of the year for tax purposes. What this means for you: less hassle when it comes to negotiating; a greater willingness, on the part of the seller, to agree to concessions; less chance of the seller waffling; and greater respect for your offer, even if it’s a little lower than the seller was perhaps expecting.

Faster mortgage approval

Lenders aren’t as busy this time of year, and less volume could mean faster approval. Some lenders might even be willing to reduce fees during the off-peak season in hopes of gaining your business. Regardless, don’t just go with the first lender who comes along. It pays to shop around. Get multiple quotes and check out lender reviews on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace.

Greater affordability

Sure, home prices have been rising, but they’re typically lower in December than during any other month (so you don’t have to be as aggressive with your initial first offer, compared with buying during peak to high season). Zillow’s third quarter Real Estate Market Reports showed home value appreciation slowing. As we enter the slower home shopping season many overheated markets are moving away from bubble brink and ultimately becoming more affordable than they have been historically. If you want to take advantage of low interest rates, the time to act is now.


US Homes Spending Less Time on the Market

The housing market is improving every day, and as a result, homes nationwide spent far fewer days listed for sale on Zillow in September than a year ago — one month less, to be exact.
Homes sold in the U.S. in September spent a median of 86 days on Zillow, down 30 days from 116 days in September 2012.

Zillow calculated the median number of days listings spent on Zillow, at the national, metro and county levels, dating to January 2010. In order to correct for homes that are listed, then removed and re-posted with new prices, Zillow considered multiple listings within 40 days at the same address as one listing. Since the beginning of 2010, homes nationwide have spent a median of 119 days on Zillow before being sold or taken off the market.
“The declining inventory of for-sale homes over the past year naturally creates pressure for buyers to more quickly snap up the inventory that is on the market. This demand has been fueled by huge resets in home prices since market peak, historically low mortgage rates and a slowly improving broader economic climate,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “Home shoppers in today’s environment need to be prepared to move quickly, with pre-approvals in place and an established sense of what they’re willing to pay for a home. But even though things are moving fast, buyers should resist the urge to enter into bidding wars or pay prices they’re uncomfortable with. We do expect that this need for speed will abate in the near-term as mortgage rates rise and more inventory becomes available because of new construction and declining negative equity.”
Among the 50 largest metros nationwide, here are the top 10 fastest-moving markets, with homes spending the fewest days listed for sale on Zillow before being sold:

METRO Sept. 2013 Days on Zillow
San Jose, CA 43
San Francisco, CA 48
Austin, TX 57
Sacramento, CA 59
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX 60
San Diego, CA 60
Denver, CO 60
Los Angeles, CA 64
Seattle, WA 64
Phoenix, AZ 65
Many metro areas are moving much faster this year than they were last year. Below are the top 10 metro markets accelerating the fastest (measured in the year-over-year percent change in days spent for sale on Zillow), among the nation’s 50 largest metro areas:
METRO YoY % Change in Days on Zillow
Sacramento, CA -42.2%
Las Vegas, NV -36.7%
San Diego, CA -36.5%
Austin, TX -35.4%
San Antonio, TX -33.9%
Riverside, CA -31.7%
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX -31.3%
Los Angeles, CA -29.4%
Houston, TX -29.3%
Charlotte, NC -28.3%


Where Are Mortgage Rates Heading in 2014?

Daily Real Estate News | Tuesday, October 29, 2013    

Mortgage rates will likely rise above 5 percent in 2014 and average 5.3 percent by the end of 2015, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s forecast.
That would mark a big jump over where mortgage rates stand now. The MBA reported this week that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.33 percent, the lowest average since June.
The MBA expects that the Federal Reserve will decide to taper its $85-billion per month bond-purchasing program in early 2014 and end it altogether in September 2014. The Fed’s bond buying program has been keeping mortgage rates low. The Fed has hinted in recent months that it will soon be winding down the program.
“As a result, mortgage refinancing will continue to drop, and borrowers seeking to tap the equity in their homes will be more likely to rely on home equity seconds rather than cash-out refinances,” says Jay Brinkmann, the MBA’s chief economist.
The MBA said in its forecast that it expects home purchase applications for mortgages to rise 9 percent next year, following expected continued home sales and price increases.
However, the MBA projects that overall mortgage originations will drop 32 percent in 2014, as the number of refinancing applications post a large drop in the new year due to expected rising interest rates.
While refinancings make up the bulk of home applications today, that trend is expected to reverse next year. Purchase loans are expected to make up 60 percent of originations next year compared to about 38 percent this year.
“We are projecting home purchase originations will increase in 2014 due largely to gains in home sales and home prices,” says Brinkmann. “We expect to see a decline in the share of sales paid for with cash, and higher average LTVs on purchase mortgages, due to the rise in home prices.”
Source: “U.S. Mortgage Applications Increase as Rates Edge Down,” Reuters (Oct. 30 2013) and “Purchase Loans Expected to Buck Rising Mortgage Rates Next Year,” Inman News (Oct. 29, 2013)