Just as the kitchen is a magnet for family activity, when a Long Neck home goes up for sale, it’s the one room guaranteed to get rapt attention at every showing. Older Long Neck homes can be at something of a disadvantage here, especially when structural design elements prohibit their being transformed into one of today’s popular airy open plan kitchens.

Perhaps you've already taken a paintbrush to your cabinets to give them a new look, or discovered the transformative power of inexpensive subway tile on a dingy backsplash. If your kitchen is still looking a bit uninspired, enhance it before the home showings start with a final inexpensive tweak or two.

Where empty wall space is present, you may be able to create additional storage space. Open shelving is a trendy look that’s both aesthetically pleasing and functional. A blank wall can be transformed by installing rustic wooden or sleek metal shelving units…but with one proviso: open shelving does double duty as display space—and that’s no place for mismatched or over-the-hill china and glassware!

A little of the right kind of handiwork can go a long way toward adding some 21st Century features to an aging Sussex County home. Where an outlet is handy, transform a cabinet shelf into a docking station for smartphones and tablets. A small wall-mounted flat screen monitor can bring TV (or web video) to liven up the area. Hooks mounted near a back door can be made available for hanging backpacks, grocery bags, keys, or leashes. A bottom kitchen drawer can be transformed into a rollout pet feeding station.

No matter what else, it’s a plus whenever a kitchen space can clearly function as a gathering place as well as the meal preparation hub. It may be as simple as placing stools on one side of an island, adding a pub table and chairs, or transforming a neglected corner into a coffee station (those Keurigs make it a snap!)—giving your Long Neck home yet another spot for a family to congregate.

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry reported that kitchens were the top remodeling project in last year. In fact, 82% of NARI members stated that kitchen remodels represent their primary work—and I think we can guess what the results for 2015 will be. It makes a good argument for putting in a little elbow grease and creativity to spruce up the kitchen before you put your Long Neck home up for sale. You can also give me a call: I’m pleased to do a no-obligation walk-through for my feedback on how your listing should fare in today’s market!

 

Inside Mortgage Finance is a periodical that precisely lives up to its name: Long Neck residential real estate professionals can turn to it for the latest word on national trends inside the mortgage industry. Admittedly, this usually makes for pretty dull reading for outsiders (that is, everyone else); but one story in last week’s edition was interesting enough that it was picked up by the general business press.

The topic was jumbo loans. In Sussex County real estate circles, the issuing of jumbo loans is of particular interest because of their indicator status. Jumbos are the ones with mortgage amounts exceeding the limits for government-backed loans. They’re also known as ‘nonconforming’—and like all the other non-conformists in life, they don’t quite behave like everyone else. Long Neck jumbo loans tend to be slightly harder to qualify for than run-of-the-mill mortgages, and as a rule carry higher interest rates. If their share of the home loan market grows, it indicates that high-end home sales are improving.

And that’s what happened in the U.S. in 2014, according to IMF. "Jumbo Lending Stronger than Overall Market, Hits Highest Share in 10 Years" was the headline in a report that pegged fourth quarter jumbo loan volume at $67,000,000,000. That’s a lot of high-end real estate!

When The Wall Street Journal picked up the story, they pointed to a decrease in mortgage lending overall, but pointedly less so for jumbo loans. Bank of America reported a 3% growth in the number of first-time home buyers who took out jumbos in 2014—and applicants were a younger bunch, too: their average age decreased from 46 years to 44. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, the largest jumbo provider, observed a similar trend: more first-timers taking out jumbo loans.

If this has local real estate watchers wondering whether the popularity of jumbo loans in Long Neck will follow the national trend (and if so, why), there was at least one straightforward explanation. HSH, the housing and mortgage data firm, reported that by the end of this January, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed jumbo mortgage "dropped below 4% and was at a historic low of 3.92%...." With rates like those, the WSJ wrote, "Low interest rates are spurring more older affluent Americans to consider a mortgage."

You don’t have to be in the jumbo market to seize the financial advantages this season's favorable real estate climate offers. Just call me!

 

It’s one of the skills a successful Long Neck rental property investor needs to cultivate: if or when to sell. With property prices on the rise, some Long Neck landlords may in fact be asking themselves whether now is the time to cash in. Especially for most everyone whose rental property investment was made during the last few years, it’s already been a profitable gambit. According to the Case Schiller Index, by last year’s close, property prices across the nation had risen at the fastest rate in the previous nine years.

But if—and then when—to sell a Long Neck rental property can be a tough call. As a relatively illiquid investment, it takes a great deal more commitment than the decision to sell a stock or cash in a bond. But sometimes there are circumstances that can make the decision a little easier. For instance:

-Cash flow
One clear reason why you might choose to sell is if the rental property is losing money. The rental may have been vacant for too long, or the rent level may not have been sufficient to cover expenses. In many cases, other real estate investors will be willing to lose money in the short term on a property they believe will appreciate in the future. It’s also possible that a full-time rental property professional may be able to tap economies of scale that are not possible for every individual investor.

-Greener pastures
Your Long Neck rental property may be doing fine—making money and showing substantial value growth—but now an unusually promising alternative investment has appeared. With the strong market, it may make sense to sell now to reinvest the profits elsewhere.

-Taxes

Everyone’s tax situation is different, and the tax environment is subject to change. Even if that weren’t the case, there are some years when personal finances mean that a sale would be a much better idea than others. As with any substantial financial decision, your accountant or other financial advisor will have the relevant input.

-Landlorditis
Being a landlord is not for everyone. Sometimes a professional property manager can alleviate nearly all the stress for an investor who doesn’t relish the vocation, but even then, there can be other chores: bookkeeping, manager management, a leak-through of tenant personality issues…that prompt a landlord to decide he or she would rather direct energy elsewhere. Opting for more passive forms of investment is always a possibility.

Long Neck has already benefitted from some of the fruits of the national real estate recovery – but that alone doesn’t answer whether this season is an opportune time for you to consider selling your Long Neck rental property. Call me today for a comprehensive property evaluation—the key piece of information that will help you decide!

It can be perplexing—and not least because it’s one of the least-discussed details you run into when buying a home. The issue is flood insurance, and it’s sometimes first brought to the fore when you are buying a home in Long Neck that you would not have thought was on a “flood plain.” If it is, it’s going to require flood insurance before the bank will sign off on a loan.

As we only see from time to time, devastating floods can strike when and where least expected: sometimes, in areas where that ruinous flooding is unprecedented. In 2005, when FEMA paid out over $17 billion in flood claims, it once again became clear why flood insurance is absolutely necessary. Here’s what you need to know about flood insurance if the home you are looking at is in a flood plain.

The Zone Matters

FEMA assigns different zones within a single flood plain. For example, homes that are located on the bank of a creek may be assigned to Zone A, (floods highly likely). Homes that are further away from a water source may be assigned to Zone Z, (lower risk). Naturally, Zone Z premiums are a good deal more affordable than premiums for Zone A. In fact, if your home is in a Z zone, you may even qualify for a special price break for two years before full premium goes into effect.

Figuring Out the Cost

Unlike car or home insurance, you won’t find a better rate on flood insurance by shopping around. The federal government sets flood premium rates based on factors like the zone, the home’s value, and the value of its contents. You may choose to insure the home only, but it’s seldom a good idea to leave contents without coverage. Any Long Neck insurance agent specializing in flood insurance will be able to assist you in determining the cost of the policy; they will also answer any questions you may have about the process.

Making Your Decision

Buying a Long Neck home that turns out to be on considered within a flood plain means factoring in some added insurance expense, and possibly even potential risk to your personal items. But when the house is right, and your heart is absolutely set on the property, it’s a dollars-and-cents calculation. I’m always at the ready to help my clients clarify this and all other the other details that go into buying a home in Long Neck.

Russell Stucki

Call/text 302-228-7871 or email me, Russell Stucki, REALTOR® of Beach Real Estate Market to provide detailed information on Delaware homes for sale, investment and commercial properties, luxury and  waterfront homes, condos/townhomes, new construction, lots and land, farms and equestrian properties located in but not limited to Bethany, Bethel, Bridgeville, Dagsboro, Delmar, Ellendale, Fenwick Island, Frankford, Georgetown, Greenwood, Harbeson, Laurel, Lewes, Lincoln, Milford, Millsboro, Millville, Milton, Ocean View, Rehoboth Beach, Seaford, Selbyville, Delaware.