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Are you considering leaving the world of renting and making the the leap into home ownership?  Or maybe you are a seasoned home owner who is thinking about finally buying or building your new dream home.  In either case, you are likely starting to realize that there has never been a better time to buy a new Wisconsin home than right now.

It is no secret that mortgage rates have dropped to historic lows.  Rates on 30 year fixed mortgages have gone from 6.5% to under 5% over the last six months.  This is great news for would be homeowners looking to make a move into a new home.  If you are a first-time home buyer, the news is better still because the federal government has introduced an $8000 tax credit to be awarded with the purchase of a home.  For more information on the federal housing tax credit, please visit our recent blog posting. 

 

The combination of factors has resulted in a significant decrease in the monthly mortgage payment for 2009 homebuyers.  Below is a snapshot of the monthly savings on a $200,000 mortgage amortized over 30 years:

 

Mortgage amount:

$200,00

$200,000

$192,000

Interest Rate

6.5%

5%

5%

Monthly Payment

$1,264

$1,073

$1,030

Annual Savings

 —

$2,285

$2,801

 

 

 

 

As you can see, the difference in your monthly payment between a mortgage at 6.5% and 5% is quite significant.  A savings of over $190 would be realized per month, which equates to nearly $2,300 a year – or almost $70,000 over the life of your loan!  The last column shows how first time home buyers (or any person who hasn’t owned their principle residence in three years) can benefit even further from taking advantage of the recently passed Federal Housing Tax Credit. 

In addition to the money you’ll save by taking advantage of today’s lower interest rates and tax credit, Brookstone Homes is currently offering several promotions to help get buyers through the door.  Any person who purchases a completed and move-in-ready Brookstone home will benefit from having No Mortgage Payments for Six Months (see website for details).  Customers who choose to have the home of their dreams built from the ground up will get to choose between $7,500 in free options/upgrades

Whether or not you choose to buy or build your next new home from Wisconsin’s largest and most respected home builder, Brookstone Homes, we encourage you to take the time and really consider all of the reasons why there has never been a better time to buy a new home.

On July 30th, 2008, former president Bush signed into law a one of the largest packages of housing legislation passed by Congress in a number of years. In addition to providing foreclosure and property tax relief to current home owners, the legislation includes provisions that will allow for refinancing of subprime mortgages, greater regulation and funding for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and grant money for local governments to rehabilitate distressed properties. Most notably, however, is a provision that will provide a $7,500 tax credit to new home buyers.

UPDATE TO TAX INCENTIVE
Although many home buyers took advantage of the previous tax incentive, President Obama has revamped this program in an attempt to provide greater incentives for people to take advantage of the great buyers’ market that currently exists.  Of the changes to the tax incentive program, the most important differences are:

  • The tax credit amount has increased from a maximum of $7,500 to $8,000 – or 10% of the home’s purchase price.
  • Repayment within five years of the purchase date was required with the previous tax credit.  The updated legislation provides a tax rebate that will NOT have to be repayed.  Instead of homeowners receiving what amounted to an interest free loan, the revamped tax incentive truly provides a valuable money-back rebate.
  • The end date for this tax incentive has been extended to include any qualifying new home purchase made between January 1, 2009 and December 1st, 2009 (any home purchased before January 1st, 2009 may be elligible for the previous $7,500 tax credit).


WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE $8,000 HOUSING TAX CREDIT?

This provision of the Housing Bill is commonly referred to as a tax credit for “first-time home buyers.” But in reality, any buyer that has not owned a home for three years or longer is eligible for the tax credit. For married couples, neither person may have owned their principal residence within the last three years.


 

WHAT ARE THE INCOME LIMITS?

The federal housing tax credit is not targeted strictly at low income home buyers. In fact, the adjusted gross income limit is $75,000 for singles and $150,000 for married couples who file jointly. Additionally, a partial credit is still available for people with incomes that exceed the AGI limits. For singles who make up to $95,000 per year or married couples with a combined income of up to $170,000, there is still an opportunity to receive a tax credit on your new home purchase.

 

HOW LONG WILL THE CREDIT BE AVAILABLE?

The housing tax credit is available to home buyers who purchase a new home between January 1st, 2009 and December 1st, 2009.  This will surely come as welcome news to first-time buyers who recently purchased a new home without any expectation of receiving a tax credit. Likewise, people who have been on the fence about whether or not to buy now have yet another reason to take advantage of the great market conditions that exist for new buyers. In addition to the new $8,000 housing tax credit, interest rates remain near historically low levels, an abundance of new home inventory is available, and new homes continue to be a great long-term investment. Taking all this into consideration, there has never been a better time to buy a new home than right now.

Although the southern Wisconsin housing market has experienced a slow down during the past 24 months, the effects have been only minor when compared with some of the harder hit markets in the U.S. – or even other Midwestern states such as Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota.  The demand for new single-family homes in southern Wisconsin has remained steady and you can bet that the new housing tax credit will help many more people realize their dream of owning a new home.

To begin searching for a new home in Wisconsin or to learn about Brookstone Homes, please visit www.brookstonehomes.com

Investing in a new home has long been a great personal investment and the same holds true today.  In fact, it can be argued that now is an amazing time to consider buying a new home.  Interest rates are extremely low and falling even further, a great selection of new and used homes is available to choose from, and home prices have become more affordable than ever.  There is no doubt that it is a buyer’s market. The conditions that make now a great time to buy are sure to change, however, so don’t miss this opportunity!

 

GREAT RATES

The Federal Reserve recently took a key interest rate to nearly zero percent.  It was widely anticipated that the Fed would cut the rate by about a half percentage point, but this bold move took many by surprise.  Yields on 10 year Treasury Bonds, which have traditionally been a good indicator of future mortgage rates, plummeted as a result of the rate cut.  Although mortgage rates were already near historic lows, downward movement can already been seen.  In fact, many banks have begun advertising rates at or below 5% on traditional 30 year fixed rate mortgages.  According to Freddie Mac, mortgage rates are at a 37-year low! If there were not already enough great reasons for Americans to consider home ownership, plummeting interest rates may provide the extra incentive needed to get buyers off the fence.  You may be tempted to wait and see if interest rates will drop lower, but be warned that trying to time the bottom is a dangerous game and rates are likely to snap back quicker than you might expect.  Time is certainly limited, so don’t miss this opportunity. 

 

GREAT PRICES

Securing a lower interest rate should be seen as icing on the cake because new homes are already being offered at unbelievable prices.  Never mind all of the promotions and incentives that builders are offering these days, new homes prices simply cannot be beat.  You can buy a new home and lot package with a great selection of standard features for as low as $170,000 – that’s under $900 per month for principle and interest!  It has been said that the housing industry was the first place that showed weakness during the current economic downturn and it is likely that housing will be the first to bounce back when the market regains its strength.  Fewer houses have been built this year than at any other time since 1959 (when the country’s population was half of what it is today), so you can expect to see the supply of available houses greatly reduced as demand strengthens.  When this happens, house prices will begin to creep up and the great deals that are available today will disappear.  Don’t miss the boat!

 

GREAT SELECTION

There is no doubt that the market is over supplied with available new and used housing right now.  What does this mean for you as a consumer?  Great selection.  Like the new home market, the existing home market features houses of many different shapes, sizes and styles for you to choose from.  The problem with buying a used home, however, is that it has already been lived in, remodeled, and decorated by somebody else.  As a result, you may have more difficulty finding a used house that fits your style and needs than if you were to select a new home.  With a new home, you’ll be able to select your own colors, carpeting, cabinetry, and even design options without having to worry about remodeling or undoing somebody else’s vision.  With more houses than ever to choose from, you’re sure to find a home – new or used – that works for you. 

 

NEW HOMES ARE BETTER

We know that now is a great time to buy a new home so the question is whether you should buy a new home or an existing home.  Simply put, homes built today are simply better than older homes.  Engineering has improved and technologies have become available that make new homes much more efficient than older homes.  New homes utilize better insulation, have less air infiltration, include more efficient heating and cooling systems, and make better use of space.  At a time when energy prices fluctuate greatly, it is important to have a home that will save you money by using less energy.  Additionally, the products used to build new homes are much safer than those used in older homes (think lead paint, asbestos, etc).  Not only will your family be more comfortable in a new home, you can rest assured that they’ll also be safer and healthier.  The best part of a newly built home is that everything is new!  No need to worry about unexpected break-downs or expensive repairs.  In fact, most new homes even come with a warranty!  So whether you are a first-time homebuyer who is currently renting or a move-up buyer that has always dreamed of owning a new home, now is the time to make the move.  You’ll enjoy the peace of mind that comes with owning an energy-efficient home that is safe for you and your family and you’ll surely appreciate all of the extra free time that comes with owning a low-maintenance home.

 

To learn more about new homes in Wisconsin, please visit www.brookstonehomes.com

How to Find the Perfect Homebuilder

 

You have so many important decisions to make when building a home and choosing the right builder, from the very start, is arguably the most important one.  So how can you tell which builder is right for you?

 

Takes Time to Learn About You

Look for the builder who asks you all the right questions – and pays close attention to your every answer.  The right builder will show a natural interest in your lifestyle needs and wants – from start to finish.  The builder should ask questions about where you live now, what you like and dislike about it, and what your motivations for moving are.  The right builder will also be interested in your overall lifestyle, including the size of your family now – and into the future.  Do you like to entertain?  What things in a new home are important to you?  What things about the community and surrounding area are most important to you?  These types of questions, and the corresponding answers, will indicate that your builder can effectively help you select the new home that is absolutely right for you and your family. 

5 Steps to finding the perfect builder

 

Knowledge of Surrounding Community

Not only does the right builder construct your house, they also work hard to help you find a community that fits the needs and wants of your family.  Whether the perfect spot ends up being an off-site lot or within the builder’s own subdivision, the right builder will take the time to weigh all of the considerations on your behalf.  Builders tend to know the overall characteristics and demographics of the homeowners in their communities and will therefore be able to share insights into the community culture with you.  The surrounding community extends beyond your backyard and subdivision streets; the local school districts, parks, shopping centers, and access to major highways, are all details the right builder will explore with you.

 

Locations and Home Plans Offered

Where do you want to live and what type/size house do you want to live in?  Odds are these will be two of the very first questions you will ask yourself even before looking for the right builder.  Naturally, the right builder will need to offer a subdivision in the geographical area you hope to move to, or at the very least offer a Build-on-Your-Lot program to help you find the right piece of land to build on.  Be wary of home builders that try to persuade you into a developed community that feels outside your reasonable geographic range of commuting to your daily activities. 

 

Build on your lot our ours!

Build on your lot or ours

Once you find the perfect home site, it’s time to view the home builder’s floor plans and options.  Are you looking for a two-story home?  How about a ranch?  Or is a condominium home more attractive to you right now?  What about the number of bedrooms and bathrooms needed today, and into the future?  Considering future expansion options with your new home is important – even at this early stage.  This is when the home builder will really focus in on the question, “What things in a new home are important to you?”  Based on your answers, the right home builder will suggest their floor plans that fit your needs.  And better yet, the right home builder will find a model home of each floor plan for you to tour in person.

 

 

 

Referral Rates

A good assessment of potential builders includes the current referral rate they’ve received from their homeowners.  It is said that there is no better compliment than a referral.  A strong referral rate proves that current homeowners are satisfied enough with their new home that they would encourage a friend or family member to choose the same builder. 

 

The use of third party surveys by home builders gives new homeowners the opportunity to rate their builder on a variety of categories, including “clean and safe construction environment”, “quality construction”, and “warranty and problem resolution.”  These results, often times compared directly against “peer” builders, provide excellent information to systematically research the competition and find the right builder for you.

 

Overall Systems and Processes

Established home builders often have a very controlled construction process and have established very reliable relationships with vendors and partners.  What does this mean to you?  Consistent construction work from house to house with skilled workers who know the builders’ requirements and expectations is a huge advantage.  Built into these requirements should be check points along the way that provide opportunities for the home owner to participate in the building process.  Such examples include pre-drywall walk-throughs, homeowner orientation meetings with the construction manager, and eventually warranty checks after closing.  Established home builders will also incorporate third party inspections for specification standards, such as Energy Star certification and

Find the right builder for your family

Find the right builder for your family

overall quality construction methods and procedures.  As a potential home owner, it’s very important to select the right builder who demonstrates their internal and external quality systems by sticking with you and supporting you throughout the entire construction process.

 

These five recommendations should give you a good start in selecting the right builder for your new home.  Building a home with a builder is essentially like forming a new relationship – you both have to learn enough about each other to feel comfortable moving forward – together.  And just like a good home builder will do, ask questions – lots of them!  This will help ensure that your new home is absolutely right for you and your family.

 

 

Brookstone Homes, Inc. is one of the largest single-family home builders in the Metropolitan Milwaukee and Madison areas. Currently operating in 17 single-family communities throughout Southern Wisconsin, Brookstone Homes’ product offering is built around 34 single-family and condominium designs that range in size from 1360 to 3191 square feet. Brookstone Homes offers complete home and lot packages at an average price point of $220,000 or as homes built off-site for customers who already own their lot. In addition to their base plans, Brookstone offers over 10,000 options for customers to personalize their homes.

To begin searching for a new home in Wisconsin or to learn more about Brookstone Homes, please visit www.brookstonehomes.com

While the debate rages in Washington about the legislation to support the United States financial system, some important good news for Wisconsin home buyers has been overlooked.

                                

Mortgage interest rates, which reached a five-year high this summer of over 6.60% for a thirty-year fixed loan, have fallen dramatically.  Home buyers with a good credit history can now obtain a thirty-year fixed loan for under 6.00% – making new homes more affordable for Wisconsin buyers.

 

The decline in rates, despite the turmoil on Wall Street, in many ways is attributable to the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The rescue plan has provided stability to the mortgage markets and changed an implicit to an explicit government guarantee of the debt for both entities.  This removed much of the uncertainty about the future of both enterprises – uncertainty that was reflected in the form of higher interest rates.

 

As mortgage interest rates have declined, more and more home buyers are taking advantage of the opportunity to purchase a new home.  Lower interest rates, coupled with home prices that have stabilized, have people taking advantage of the buying opportunity found in Wisconsin’s real estate market. 

 

There will be much debate about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as the role of government sponsored enterprises (GSE’s).  Some argue that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be made smaller and fully privatized so they never again risk being too big to fail.  Some argue that they should be retained as a government entity with a carefully defined role of guaranteeing private providers of mortgage credit and not competing with the private sector.  That is a debate for another day.

 

However it is ultimately decided, this much is true:  the steps taken by the government to take over these institutions have stabilized the mortgage markets and caused a reduction in interest rates.  This is some welcome news for home buyers.

 

To begin searching for a new home in Wisconsin or to learn more about Brookstone Homes, please visit www.brookstonehomes.com


What Is It Going to Cost?

Are you thinking of building a new home?  Do you wonder how much it will really cost?  In many cases, the answer to this question is: “It depends.”  Traditionally, the final cost of a new home can depend on several factors, which may or may not be fully known prior to the start of construction, such as allowances for Site Improvements or upgrades, unforeseen building conditions not specifically included in a building contract, weather-related issues, construction delays caused by labor or materials shortages, or even customer-selected changes.  The fact is, many new home buyers won’t really know what their home will cost until it has been completed.  One major factor in this uncertainty is time.  With traditional owner-carried construction financing, the home buyer uses a construction loan.  In this situation, the home owner is responsible for making interest payments throughout the construction period on the loan balance, which is increased each time the builder requests a “draw” as payment for work completed.  As the loan balance increases and the period of time it takes the builder to complete the home, the more the home costs the homeowner in the end.
 

Can I live on my allowance? 

The other major factor that makes the final price of many new homes a mystery is something called an allowance.  When you were a kid, an allowance was something you asked your mom or dad for.  Make no mistake that when you’re building a home, you don’t want one – an allowance is essentially an unknown price.  When embarking on their search for a New Home and Lot, most buyers will know exactly what their lot price will be.  Many builders will also give their customers a “base” price for the “sticks and bricks” of the home itself.  What many consumers do not realize, however, is that there is a third item, something called Site Improvements, and that Site Improvements are often included in a builder’s contract as a variable allowance.  Site Improvements are things that are neither house nor lot, but that are required to connect one to the other.  Things like Building Permits, Sewer, Water, Well or Septic Systems, Erosion Control, Driveway Stone, Dirt Hauling and Trash Removal are all examples of Site Improvements; neither “sticks and bricks” – a.k.a. the house, nor “dirt” – the home site, but improvements needed to complete the package nonetheless.  Having Site Improvements included in a building contract as allowances is the major contributing factor to the most famous and dreaded building nightmare, the Cost Overrun.  So just how do these things called allowances contribute to home buyer headaches?   In the simplest terms, an allowance is a guess at what the price will be.  Simply put, an allowance is an adjustable dollar figure for a specific item included in a builder’s contract.  The dollar figure is included in the contract as a placeholder but is subject to adjustment based on the actual cost of construction.  Any time you’re looking at an itemized price preceded by the words “up to,” you’re dealing with an allowance.  For example, if the allowance for sewer and water connections is $2000, but the bill comes in at $2700, the contract requires the buyer to pay the $700 difference.  You can almost hear the quotes from backyard barbeque horror stories:  “They actually called and said we had to pay $XXX more for YYY because we went over our allowance!”  Allowance overruns become especially challenging for buyers because the total amount of the construction loan is determined prior to the start of construction.  If overruns occur, the cost may not just be “tacked on” to the loan amount; instead the buyer may have to pay cash right out of their own pocket for over-allowance items.  Without a doubt, allowances are the major culprit responsible for the time-honored advice from veteran new home buyers to first-timers:  “Thinking about building?  Make sure to budget 10% more than the price they told you!!”  Can you imagine ordering a new car from any automaker and receiving a call prior to delivery:  “well, the price of steel just went up so your car is now going to cost $XXX more”?????

Is There an Alternative?

Lately, the term “Turn-key Financing” has started to find its way into the vocabulary of today’s new home buyer.  Turn-key Financing is an important departure from the traditional methods of pricing, buying, and building a home.  When a home is built Turn-key, the buyer and builder agree on the price before construction begins, but the buyer doesn’t pay for home and land until after construction is complete! The home AND lot are financed with a purchase-money mortgage at a pre-determined price.  Because the price is set up front and the buyer’s lender approves a mortgage for that set amount, the builder must insure that there will be no cost overruns.  With Turn-key, the builder assumes the risk of cost overruns, not the buyer.   Additionally, the buyer is not responsible for interest payments during construction; they will begin making payments on the home only after they move in.  When you build with a builder who does Turn-key, you’re really placing an order for a new home.  The builder bears all of the necessary expenses for procuring the land, building materials and labor required for constructing your new home, while you pay only for the completed real estate upon delivery, at the price you agreed to up front.  At Brookstone Homes, we’ve been building Turn-key homes since our company was founded almost 15 years ago.  Today, you’re hearing more and more about Turn-key because it just makes sense; other builders have even begun offering Turn-key as an “option”, meaning that for an additional fee, you won’t make payments until the building is complete.  At a Brookstone Homes community, there is no extra fee to build your home Turn-key.  
It’s the only way we do it because it’s So Much Easier for you – the customer – and at Brookstone Homes, that’s what we’re all about!  You owe it to yourself to learn more about building Turn-key with Brookstone Homes – visit www.brookstonehomes.com to take the next step.

What does it mean to be a customer-focused organization?  At Brookstone Homes, we are proud of the fact that 92.3% of our buyers would recommend us to a friend.

Homebuilders all over the United States talk about their customer satisfaction rates and how important they are, but as a customer do you really know if these ratings are meaningful?  When purchasing a new home it is most important to learn if the builder’s customer satisfaction ratings are independent and unbiased.

Having an independent company conduct the surveying guarantees that the information you collect from your surveys is unfiltered.  Furthermore, you can be sure that the ratings are not manipulated.  If a home builder gives you a survey and it is created by the builder, it is safe to assume that the final ratings are suspect.

There are other things to take note of when dealing with a homebuilder and customer satisfaction ratings.  First, the timing of the survey is critically important.  Too often homebuilders will survey their customers at the closing table when the customers have yet to live in their new house.  Most customers are at an emotional high point the day of closing and are very excited about moving into their new home. Also, giving a customer a survey to fill out while a member of the homebuilder’s staff is present puts pressure on the customer that may impact the honesty or the candor of the responses.  The results of this type of survey tend to be artificially inflated.  Surveys should be conducted at a point in time where the customer can relax and reflect on their experiences with the builder.

 Secondly, how many surveys are conducted?  One survey of a buyer’s purchasing, building, and ownership experience does not accurately reflect what is important to all customers.  Make sure that a survey is conducted at least twice; shortly after closing and about one year after the customer moves into the home.  The one year survey is a very good indication of what type of product you will ultimately get from a builder and how well they service the product.

Thirdly, make sure the survey has the ability to accept comments.  This is an important aspect of a good survey because, if you wish to communicate something to the homebuilder that was not covered in the predetermined questions, there must be a mechanism for doing so.

Click here to read what Brookstone homeowners are saying.

Click here to see what Brookstone homeowners are saying.

The Brookstone Experience
At Brookstone Homes, we survey our customers three times during the buying, building and ownership process to assure accurate customer satisfaction ratings.  The first survey is sent approximately 5-10 days after you sign your purchase agreement so that Brookstone can make sure that the relationship has started on the correct foot.  The second survey is conducted about 30 days after you move into your new home.  This survey allows Brookstone to learn about your satisfaction with the building process.  Lastly, we survey our customers one year after closing to determine how the home and our service department have preformed.

All the surveys at Brookstone are conducted by Guild Quality – an independent third party survey company.  When you receive a survey from Guild Quality, it will always be via e-mail unless specified otherwise.  This allows you to take the survey in the privacy of your own home and when it is convenient for you.

The survey system at Brookstone Homes is designed to allow the customer to interact with Brookstone in an open and honest format.  We pride ourselves on our outstanding customer satisfaction ratings and are consistently rated well above the current industry norm of 88.9%.

To begin searching for a new home in Wisconsin or to learn more about Brookstone Homes, please visit www.brookstonehomes.com

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