If anyone involved in Sussex County real estate were to try to pick a word to characterize the mortgage industry as a whole, “sentimental” wouldn’t be among them. Especially over the past several years, “frustrated” might be apt, or “hog-tied.” Mortgage issuers been hampered by tough rules developed in reaction to the sub-prime mortgage mess. They certainly wanted to issue more mortgages, if only for their own profitability, but until recently, the lending guidelines made that difficult.

In any case, this is an industry that relies on hard facts and statistics to govern lending decisions. Mortgage industry leaders are therefore not inclined to be overly optimistic, overly pessimistic—nor are they prone to exaggeration in their public pronouncements.

So when the powers-that-be at Fannie Mae come out each quarter with their Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey, the “sentiment” is not the Cry Me a River or You Are the Sunshine of My Life variety. This “sentiment” describes how real estate lenders (presumably including some Sussex County mortgage companies) feel about mortgage business prospects in the coming months. The actual report has a remarkable record of a lack of sentiment: it’s usually pretty much on target.

So it is that when the 2015 first quarter Survey appeared last month (this is one real estate report whose ‘first quarter’ paper actually appears in the first quarter), it sounded another positive note in the assemblage of springtime real estate projections. The summary talked about “an improving outlook among mortgage lenders” because those surveyed “expect mortgage demand…to grow over the next three months.” The hard number was 71% having that expectation, which wouldn’t be surprising, given our entry into the busy spring selling season. The optimism drew more from the fact that this is a substantial improvement compared with the same quarter 2014 (71% vs. the previous 59%).

If the growth they anticipate holds true for our own market, it wouldn’t just indicate improving activity for Sussex County home buyers and sellers. After what they viewed as an “uneven” 2014, Fannie Mae’s Chief Economist Doug Duncan said the results were “consistent with our view that an improving economy, strengthening employment, and increasing consumer confidence” pointed to the more cheerful outlook.

Also cheerful was the picture mortgage issuers expected for their own well-being. A year ago, lenders who thought their profitability would increase were in the extreme minority: 21%. This year, the size of the optimistic group doubled.

Local mortgage applicants could find good news in one more of the reasons for the expectation for mortgage demand to grow over the next three months. The report talked about how last year’s credit tightening was continuing to “trend down.” And there at the top was the headline which mentioned “Gradual Credit Easing.” For anyone who had found it hard to qualify under last year’s rules, that’s very welcome news.

If you will be buying or selling anytime soon, I hope you’ll give me a call: the sentiment here is also the green light kind!

From time to time it can be fun to scour the latest “Top Ten” lists of cost-conscious ways to increase the value of Delaware house value.

Some make more sense than others. Upgrading bathroom vanity cabinets appears on some of the house value lists, for instance—but those lists were probably thrown together in a hurry since the return on investment is admitted to be 66%. When an investment returns two-thirds of its cost, it’s hardly competitive. For Delaware homeowners preparing to sell, vanity cabinets don’t belong on the action list.

The best idea lists are the ones which show ROI: the return on investment. Here’s a new compilation, offered purely as food for thought (since the “return” number for any individual case can’t actually be verified)—

  1. Yard improvement, AKA Landscaping. Return on investment registers at a hefty 303% according to the NAR® (and even 400%, per This Old House). And it’s true that a weedy, dried-up lawn is not the way to woo any but the most bargain-thirsty buyers. We can assume that the investment figure the NAR points to does not include the homeowner’s time, but even so, a shipshape yard definitely provides a house value gain.
  2. Repair (electrical, plumbing, what-have-you). Return: 299%. This is for sure: Delaware houses with unaddressed mechanical defects are handicapped in the marketplace—in the end, it’s just too costly.
  3. Clean and Declutter. Return: 403%. With an average cost estimated at about $400, there’s no argument that it will be easily returned multiple times. When you can rely on truly professional help, the boost is invaluable.
  4. Carpet. The return on investment for an average outlay ($671) is calculated by the HomeGain website at 160%. I might add a caveat to this one: a truly threadbare or uncleanable carpet surely rates replacement—but if existing carpet is presentable, that cost might be better directed elsewhere.
  5. Staging. With a return of 196%, it’s hard to disagree—especially since Delaware’s professional stagers can often save by directing attention away from areas that might be overly expensive to renew.
  6. Lighten and brighten. This includes everything from “clean windows” or “repainting dark-colored rooms” to boosting the wattage of living room lamps. As a result, the “return” numbers are all over the map: but they’re all positive.
  7. Upgrade appliances. Full kitchen remodels are usually too expensive to fully reclaim their cost, although when necessary, minor kitchen remodels reclaim 79%. As an alternative, replacing seriously outmoded kitchen appliances is much more likely to add enough value to make it a canny move. 
  8. Declutter and Clean. (I know—but if anything is worth repeating, this is it)!

Your Delaware house’s value is what the market proves it to be—but it’s also the shelter your family calls home. If it’s filled with happy memories, that value is probably the one that winds up counting the most. But as for the other kind, when it’s time to shift gears, I hope you’ll give me a call! Call/Text me Russell Stucki at (302) 228-7871, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., visit more listings at www.beachrealestatemarket.com

For Sussex County homeowners, the news was a long time coming. The bounce back from last decade’s dizzying plummet in the nation’s residential housing values has been underway for quite a while now—but those values hadn’t quite returned to their former heights.
Until last month!
The Wall Street Journal was early to break the long-awaited headline, “Existing-Home Prices Hit Record: $236,400.” Using just-released June sales numbers, the Journal reported that the nation’s average housing prices now topped the previous high water mark set in 2006. It meant that a lot of paper losses have been obliterated—and the return of full nights’ sleep for many U.S. homeowners who have long been underwater.
Another aspect of June’s housing report card could also ease nerves on a wider scale. USA Today led with it: “Existing homes were sold at the fastest pace in eight years…” It quoted the NAR’s Lawrence Yun as pronouncing this year’s spring buying season “the strongest since the economic turndown.”
That’s where the current housing market profile seems to differ in kind from the previous peak of $230,400, registered in July 2006. That mark was reached after sales volume had started to fall. Prices then followed, starting with a slow decline that continued until the spring of 2008, when the slump became a nosedive—unleashing the subprime mortgage crisis. The “bubble” of unsupported high prices had burst.
There was more glad tidings in last week’s news, as well. U.S. home builder confidence levels hit its highest mark in “nearly a decade” (WSJ). A rise in demand for apartment housing caused a jump of 9.8% in housing starts.
But the biggest news was the existing-home price rise, reported as having “rocketed” 35% since 2011, “benefiting current homeowners by giving them an opportunity to trade up to better homes or sell and cash out.” That’s the kind of spur that can stimulate the entire housing market.
With one economist (Andrew Hunter of Capital Economics) quoted as saying “the housing recovery has shifted into a higher gear,” it wasn’t surprising that other analysts were in agreement. “Don’t Laugh” read one headline from international observer Quartz.com; “the U.S. housing market is the best story in the global economy right now.” Reuters agreed about the implications. Their headline: “Strong U.S. housing data boosts dollar.”
Sussex County residents don’t have to be global investors to take advantage of this summer’s values. A simple call to my office is all it takes to get things started! Call/Text me Russell Stucki at (302) 228-7871, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., visit more listings at www.beachrealestatemarket.com.

The number of households belonging to older adults is on the rise across the nation, and (let’s face it) the homes themselves aren’t getting any younger. So states the Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies' Housing Perspectives (JCHS), which recently published the projection that, if true, makes it likely that Sussex County home remodeling activity will spike in the coming years.
Abbe Will, research analyst for JCHS drew this conclusion:
"Since much of the housing stock is currently ill-equipped with even basic accessibility features, older homeowners aging in place will need to invest in retrofitting their homes in order to age comfortably and safely.” In other words, even for homes which remain in their owners’ hands, home remodeling activity could grow markedly.
Home remodeling is no minor industry. Home improvement expenditures by older homeowners already topped $90 billion in 2013—making it a significant economic contributor. Now the JCHS projects that it could surge by an extra $17 billion annually over the next three years. Welcome news indeed for the construction and design industries, who had been in the doldrums until recently.
But what does this mean for Sussex County homeowners who plan to sell in the near future? When considering a remodel, if you want your home to attract potential older buyers, consider the innovations modern designs have made for individuals in that demographic group. That will be the competition.
JCHS's analysis notes, "… not even a third of (existing) homes have what could be considered basic accessibility features, such as a no-step entry and bedroom and full bathroom on the entry level.” Both young and old can appreciate other features, as well. Wider hallways in a kitchen remodel is one example. Another is bathrooms showers with ‘edgeless’ design, which holds appeal both to Millennial buyers (for the sleek, modern look) and to seniors with limited movement. A bedroom on the main level that can readily be converted to a master if needed can be attractive to older homeowners—and also to anyone looking for a guest or au-pair suite. Investing wisely by thinking long-term when it comes to home remodeling plans is part of strategic home ownership. If you are considering selling your Sussex County home at some point, it doesn’t hurt to inform yourself about forward-looking trends.
Wondering what today’s buyers are looking for? I’m here to help with all your Sussex County real estate-related concerns: call me anytime this summer! Call/Text me Russell Stucki at (302) 228-7871, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., visit more listings at www.beachrealestatemarket.com.