Impact of Potential Fed Rate Cuts

According to recent reports, the Fed is considering cutting interest rates.  These cuts would be due to the continued low inflation, slow growth, and trade war.  This is a complete contradiction of the stance the Fed had about six months ago.

Why would this occur? Typically, it is a strategy used by the Fed to keep a possibly looming recession at bay.

The question is though, how could any cuts affect the housing market?

Let us start with current homeowners with a mortgage.  A fed cut means, not a whole lot unless you have an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM).  If you have a mortgage with a fixed rate, you really do not care. Your rate is fixed, obviously.  Now, if you have an ARM, than a cut should lower your monthly payments. Your rate would be lower, therefore lower payment.  

There may be some value out there for those considering or currently using a HELOC.  HELOCs or home equity lines of credit are linked to the Fed’s rates. Therefore, lower Fed rates could lead one to take advantage of a HELOC’s use for consolidating debt or helping with covering a major expense.  

If you are a home buyer, the impacts are not as easily determined.  The Fed’s rate changes do not necessarily always correlate with changes.  There have been occasions over the last few decades, when the Fed manipulated rates, mortgage rates did the opposite.  In 2004 and 2005, the Fed raised rates nearly 20 times. The initial reaction by lenders was reduce mortgage rates. Yet, by summer 2006, the rates shot back up.  The same activity occurred in 2017, not near the same extremes, but still the same reaction.

This does not necessarily imply rates won’t come down.  Mortgage rates are currently extremely low, and there does not seem to be any indication of that changing in the near future.

Good Signs for Inventory after Q2?

The second quarter has come to a close.  The metrics are not fully recorded to this point, but there are certainly some indications that the market, while maintaining healthy, looks to begin to have some subtle change in the near future.  The exciting change centers on a strong possibility that housing inventory may be on the rise.  The National Association of Realtors’ Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey released this past week presented some key findings.

Per the HOME survey, inventory is on the rise.  Which will provide much relief to a market desperate of new homes.  The survey indicated that 46% of consumers are strongly optimistic that now is a good time to sell.  This up from 37% in the first quarter.  Coupling that with the realization by most homeowners that the year after year sales price climbs are moderating, you have a large segment of people ready to list their home and capitalize while they can.

It makes perfect sense to have been unwilling to list your property due to possessing favorable interest rates and an expectation that your return would be higher next year.  Not to mention, where would you go.  If the market is thin as it it, you sell your home, now you have to find a new one.  Those times are changing though it would seem.

For years now the inventory has been at all time low levels, allowing home sellers to capitalize on a thin market.  It has also forced many buyers to sit back and wait longer to find the home they want, or spend more to avoid coming up short in a deal.

What is also positive is that the HOME survey showed a 38% response of “strongly agreeing” now it a good time to buy, and 27% “moderately agree” now is a good time to buy.  Coupling that with consumer belief the economy continues to show signs of growth.

If this all holds, and rates maintain record lows, the market could get really hot late this summer and maintain activity into throughout the fall.

Rockwood Park

Rockwood Map

One of the best things living in RVA is the number green spaces in and around the city.  The number and variety of parks are incredible. One of our favorites to hit up is Rockwood Park in Chesterfield, pretty much on the corner of Hull Street and Courthouse.

 

The park sits on 161 acres.  It offers a numerous amenities for anyone trying to get outside.  From the two legged kids to the four legged ones, the joggers, team sports, and nature enthusiasts can find something at Rockwood.

We have always enjoyed taking the kids on the soft trails through the woods to see nature up close.  The longest trail is a mile and half, so not too crazy, but certainly not for those serious hikers. Trails are easily navigated by the little ones as long as they don’t get worn out.  If you like to bring the stroller, you certainly can stay on the hard trails that intersect with the soft ones.

 

Rockwood Nature Center

At the primary entrance of the trails, the Rockwood Nature Center is open most weekends throughout the year, and then most of the week during the summer months.  The Nature Center is FREE to visit and has several local wildlife displays inside, and often has programs for the kids and seniors.

Tons of sport space as well.  There are seven ball fields, six tennis courts, horseshoe pits, pickleball courts, basketball courts, and even an archery range.  And if you bring Fido, there is a great dog park available as well.

 

Parking is a breeze, and the restrooms are centrally located.  

Rockwood is always a great place to hit up on a beautiful day when you’re looking to get out of the house.  It has never felt too crowded to us. And we can bounce around from the trails, to the Nature Center, to the playground.  And what is great is that when you are done, you can hop on Courthouse or Hull Street and head to a lot of places to grab a snack.  Another great reason to live in the RVA area!

Pocahontas Park

Right in RVA’s back yard is one of VA’s best state parks.

Pocahontas Park offers a variety of outdoor recreation over its nearly 8,000 acres land.  It really covers everything from day activities to weekend camping opportunities. Pocahontas Park is located in Chesterfield County and easily accessible from nearly anywhere across the state.

The park boasts over 64 miles of trails for hiking and biking for all skill levels. For bike enthusiasts, you can even download an app to fully view the trails.  You even bring your four legged hoofed friends to Pocahontas as well to trek across over 13 miles of horse trails.

If you want to get your cardio in the pool, the Aquatic Recreation Center is a great way to cool down.  The pool is free to those who camp on the site, but there are some small fees for day usage.  The water park setup is a blast for the kids, I know ours love it!

Speaking of the water, the park has major water zones for fishing and boating.  Swift Creek and Beaver lake offer great opportunities to cast a line or kayak out in open water.  A fishing license is required, but can be purchased at the parks main office. You can also rent paddle-boats, paddle-boards, kayaks and canoes if you don’t have you own.

While camping isn’t for everyone, there are certainly several options for those that are into it.  The traditional tent and sleeping bag is one way to go at the campsites that have electric and water available.  Pocahontas Park also offers Yurtsrentals of cabins and yurts. Yurts are a tent/cabin combo. These sleep 3-4, and like a tent you can’t cook in it.   If the sleeping in the outdoors is not really what you want to do, because you like your own bed and shower at night (that’s me), you can simply rent picnic shelters for the end of a long park day if you want to cookout or gather as group.

One last cool thing about the park is the list of nature and history programs offered.  While most of these are scheduled in advance, it is certainly a neat idea to have a guided hike or have fun campfire programs.  You can also visit the CCC Museum on the grounds. For you non-history buffs, the CCC or Civilian Conservation Corps was a part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program to combat the Great Depression in the 1930’s.  Additionally, the Pocahontas Premieres is a summer music series that boasts a wide variety of music styles.

Pocahontas Park is another really great RVA green space for the communities around the city.  Outdoor activities year round are available for all skill and age levels. Getting off the couch and seeing nature is something we try and do with the kids when we can.  As they get older their appreciation is growing as they want to explore more and more. Pocahontas Park is an awesome place for us to this!

Note there is no copyright infringement intended with photographs.

What Do to on Spring Break

FINALLY!  Spring has arrived!  Green is sprouting and flowers blooming.  Time to get outside and go!  Whether you’re looking for some weekend fun or Spring Break activities, here is an awesome list of places to go and things to do!

Richmond Flying Squirrels  

RVA’s favorite minor league baseball team is back.  The 2019 season starts Thursday, April 6th.  Like any minor league franchise, baseball is only half the fun.  The between-innings excitement is where it is at, the price of admission is not too bad, and there is always a wacky promotion or giveaway.  Every Friday and Sunday kids get to run the bases post-game.  From fireworks to Bark in the Park nights, you can always find a great time at the Diamond. 

VA State Parks

There is plenty of outdoor adventure around RVA.  From Maymont to Pocahontas, exploring nature is everywhere.  You can hike, ride, and search for creatures of all sorts. Each park offers its own unique experience.  If you are looking for a chance to soak up nature a little longer, you can always find a place to setup camp for an overnight experience as well.  Explore the entire list of state parks at their site. 

Amusement Parks

If you are looking for a little more excitement, there are other options as well. With Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens not too far a drive from Richmond, you can spend the day at either of these family fun theme parks packed with rides and roller coasters for any level of thrill seeker.  As it warms up, the water parks will open and offer a great way to cool down as well.   

Richmond Metro Zoo

This one probably belongs with the parks, but it is a Butler family favorite.  Since we have lived in Chesterfield, we have bought season passes every year.  About 30 minutes west of Richmond, it is a hidden gem for animal lovers and kids.  The zoo is open Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 5:00pm year-round.  Over 2,000 feathered, scaled, and furry animals on the premises with the new ones added every year.  The parakeet house is always kid favorite and where else can you feed giraffes!  And if the kids are a little older, you can also check out the treetop zoofari.  

Brushing up on some History

If you paid attention in history class, you VA is rich in historical landmarks.  Several presidents were Virginians, making their homes awesome exploration sites.  And to the east you have Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg.   At these living history sites you can throw axes, dig at archaeological, and really take a step back in time.  You can even climb aboard the re-created ships from 400 years ago.

Museums

While it is it is Spring, IT is Central VA, so it is going to rain.  And you don’t want to burn Spring Break or any weekend for the matter, stuck in the house with the kids.  VA boasts several cool museum spots.  In RVA alone you have the Science Museum of Virginia and the Children’s Museum.  The Science Museum has rotating exhibits that kids love, and the hands on experience of the Children’s Museum will burn that energy up too.  You also have the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center and Virginia Museum of Natural History you can check out. 

I could easily keep going on with the other historical sites in RVA, as well as family-friendly activity options around the city, but you can see there are lots of options where you can spend some quality time around RVA.  The variety is great, and you can maximize the quality time! 

Note there is no copyright infringement intended with photographs.

Spring Home Maintenance

This cold is going to break at SOME POINT.  And when it does, SPRING WILL BE HERE!! With the change of the season comes the need for some basic home maintenance tasks.  You have put a lot of time, money, and love into your home and it is really important you ensure you take care of it.

Here is a great checklist of items to take care:

OUTSIDE

  • CHECK THE GUTTERS:  Look for gaps and repair those. But more importantly is making sure the gutters are cleaned and free of debris.  Doing this ensures that water goes where it is supposed to, away from the house.
  • ROOF EXAMINATION:  Don’t worry, no ladder necessary here.  Walk around the house, take some pictures with your phone and look for anything that looks odd of sorts.  This could be missing singles broken pipes, anything that looks wrong, call a roofer. Leaks are no fun.
  • LOOK AT THE WOOD:  The winter can be hard on your decks, porches, and fencing.  Look for loose rails and other weathering. Clean all the wood with specialized detergent and reseal.  This will extend the life and keep it looking great.
  • SIDING:  No matter the material, an annual cleaning with the pressure washer does wonders for the house.  It gets any grime off, and creates a nice shining gleam. If you don’t have a pressure washer, hop on Facebook and find someone who performs this service.  It is usually relatively inexpensive.
  • CAULKING:  This is one of those tasks that is so simple, yet people seem to be afraid of the caulk gun.  Check for any erosion around caulked surfaces, remove and redo.
  • PIPES AND WATER:  Inspect all irrigation systems and exterior faucets.  Look for freeze damage. Run and flush the system out.  If flow is not smooth, call a professional.
  • YARD WORK:  Clean up all those leaves, pine needles, and any debris.  Check for low lying areas and fill in with some compacted soil.  And start up your yard machines. You may not have to cut the grass today, but it really stinks when you go to and the mower won’t start.

INSIDE

  • WINDOWS:  Open the windows.  Check the screens and the tracks.  Clean out the sills that have piled up the dirt and dust.  This also is great time to let the house air out.
  • BASEMENT AND ATTIC:  Be sure to look around these less used spaces.  You stayed out of them during the cold months, but now you need to ensure there is not moisture anywhere.
  • SAFETY FIRST:  Test all the smoke detectors, replace batteries, and ensure fire extinguishers are at satisfactory.  
  • DRYERS:  Get out the vacuum and an extension hose, clean out all the nooks and crannies you can.  Get down the exhaust pipes and under the dryer itself.

Most of the tasks above can be done in a day.  Staying on top of this routine maintenance can save thousands and thousands of dollars if there is a need for any repair or even replacement.  One really important note here. If you do have to any thing you are not comfortable with, call a professional. YouTube has a lot of great videos, but that doesn’t make you plumber or electrician after a five minute tutorial.

Wings and Hoops, Where to Get Both?

Its March!  

  • Three of my favorite things happen in March:
  • The housing market picks up.
  • March Madness-NCAA Basketball Tournament

Another excuse to eat wings and watch sports. Okay so the last one isn’t isolated to March, I pretty much try and make that happen ALL THE TIME.  But March is certainly a good reason to gorch on saucy wings and a few cold ones while watching wild hoops action.   

While I do enjoy sitting on my couch and grilling on the back porch with the garage fridge not too far away; I also love where we live and the ability to hang out with friends at any of the great sports bar in RVA area and binging the NCAA tournament.  Here are our favorite spots in RVA to chow down on wings and watch hoops.

Buffalo Wild Wings/BDubs 

It really is hard to beat this franchise.  The restaurant and bar is covered with TVs, usually including several projector screens.  They offer over 20 sauce and dusting flavors for their wings, and a ton of other snack and entree options.  Classic american food and a large selection of drink options, including local craft brews. What is great about BDubs is that while you are watching the game, those maybe not quite into the games have other activities they can focus on. The game boards are awesome for the kids, and usually WiFi is available too.  BDubs often has great promotions, you can order online to-go, and there are several locations around RVA. Our go to is the ultimate nachos and a platter of wings.  Buffalo dry rub and spicy garlic, if you were wondering.

Glory Days

Another family favorite is Glory Days.  Glory Days has TVs covering all the walls with a few projections as well.  A cool bonus is that each table is equipped with a speaker to tune into the TV you want to hear.    There are about a dozen sauce selections, Glory is our go-to!  What is great about Glory Days is the menu is certainly extensive.  If you want true entrees such as ribs or salmon, they have it.  The Glory Burger is spot on. And to pay a little homage to a good friend of mine the cheese fries are great!  Each location may be a little different, but most have some arcade games setup for the kiddos too.   

Wood and Iron

Tons of craft beer options, excellent wings, and a little more upscale feel, Wood and Iron is certainly a cool spot off Huguenot in the Shoppes at Belgrade.  No shortage of TVs around the place, but certainly has a feel as if the games are secondary to the company and the food.  It does have a solid family feel, but also a fun spot to go with friends. Portions are huge, and there is a level of care given to each serving.  The menu is classic american style bar food with a little culinary flair. The wings are killer.  And it is a local spot, which is great to support local in the RVA Metro area.

Wing Command 

If you like the dive-feel or off-the-beaten path, Wing Command is your spot.  It is a local restaurant that has unique flair. You have your sports joint with a Filipino twist that shows up all over the menu.  Your wing flavors cover the gamut of traditional styles, but you also find a few fruit flavors like raspberry and strawberry.  Yes you read that correctly. And when you bring the crew, they do some of the math and packaging for you with their “crew packs.”  Pre-fabbed combos for two to twelve people. And don’t forget to try the Filipino section of the menu. Several dishes with seafood, rice noodles etc.   If you want to catch THE game and step outside your comfort zone head down Hull Street to Wing Command.  We’ve never been disappointed.   

There are ton of great spots in and around the city to hit up for wings and hoops.  That is one of the great benefits of living in RVA. Great communities with awesome dining and activities.

March HOME Survey 2019

The Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) report is an opportunity to get a snapshot of how the consumer feels about the current housing market.  The survey is released each month and provides insight on perspectives of buying and selling homes in relation to a good time or not a good time along with other economic trends.

The most noteworthy statistic is that over half of the people survey believe it is a good time to buy and/or sell.

Lawn Care Tips

Whether preparing to sell your house or just checking off your Spring to Do List, one of the most important elements to consider is curb appeal.  Flower beds, shrubbery, the exterior of the home all require attention and care. The most well seen part of curb appeal is the lawn itself.  The lawn requires the most time and the most attention. If you stay on top of it, it isn’t that hard to keep green. BUT, if you fall behind, it can get ugly fast and then you are in some trouble.

SO, what can you do to keep that lawn lush and green.  Here are a few tips to stay on top of it.

  1. Get to know your lawn:  Inspect the Inspecting the yardgrass and what else may be growing.  While you don’t have to be a grass expert, it is important you know what type of grass you have.  Is it all-season?  Hot-summer thriving? This important so you can properly maintain. Check out Scotts guide to identify your grass for help.

  2. Weeds:  This is starting to sound like a Snoop Dogg article, weeds… grass…  Nevermind! Weeds can grow fast and takeover. Inspect the yard and remove.  As much fun as your kids have making wishes on dandelions, they are not good for the yard.  If it is out of control, you may want to invest in a herbicide treatment of some sort.

    Dethatcher

  3. Dethatching:  I had never heard of this until one of m best friends told me a few years back, but it can really change the yard.  Throughout the grass you will likely see matted dead grass and other organic material. This makes the grass growth sparse and can lead to open areas in the yard, inviting weeds.  Grab a thatch rake, or rent a thatching machine and run it through the yard. Don’t freak out right after when it looks terrible, it will bounce back, stronger!

  4. Aeration:  It is usually a good idea every fall to look into core aeration.  This when you run across your yard with a core aerator and pull plugs up allowing for the roots of the grass to revitalize and grow with greater depth and strength.

  5. Seed and feed:  Early spring and early fall are the best times to seed bare spots, or the entire yard for that matter.  In the fall, right after aeration is a good time. The key to seeding is to maintain watering. The seed is dried out and until it sprouts it needs to be fed with water. Speaking of feeding, the grass needs nutrients. Fertilizing at the right time and the right amount is important.  Here is a good guide to check out to determine what you may want to do.

  6. Mowing is critical. Photo by Daniel Watson on Unsplash

    CUT IT:  The one last important task is regular cutting of your grass.  Be sure your blade is not too high OR not too low. It is something you will need to do at least once a week by the time we get to the heart of spring.

Your grass can look great with basic care.  But there may be some times where you feel like it needs more.  If you feel like you are really struggling to get the green you want.  Call an expert. There are so many yard maintenance companies out there.  We use Virginia Green and they have taken awesome care of us over the years.

March Madness

To piggyback off my wings and March article last week, I thought I’d take a few quick moments to share some thoughts on filling out a bracket for this year’s March Madness, NCAA basketball tournament.  The 68-team field is set, seeds are doled out, and everyone is scrambling to make their picks.

I have been filling out brackets for over 20 years!  Never missing a single March.  I love doing it.  It is exciting and fun and makes the entire tournament more engaging.  I also think that the it creates such a sense of community or sports unity with the folks that I have done it with.

For years, I ran my office pool. I loved managing the brackets and doing the math.  For some goofy reason I was resistant to moving the bracket management to the online automated format.  I’d lug the big envelope around for three weeks and highlight and calculate standings.

As I am sitting here mulling this year’s bracket, trying to convince myself Duke is going to lose and UNC is going to win it all, I thought I’d share some of the madness behind my methodology over the years.

Straight Chalk

Top seeds are top seeds for a reason.  They are the best teams in the country.  Duke, Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky are the blue bloods and they should not be overlooked.  Picking the higher rated seed is hardly the worst approach. It may be boring, and quick, but the higher seed usually wins.  This doesn’t mean all four number one seeds will be in the Final Four, but the odds are certainly there.

The Wise Guys

Speaking of odds.  The odds-makers seem to always know.  ALWAYS. An easy method is to simply go with their choices.  This does not always mean the higher seed is the odds on favorite. But the sports-books make millions because they are usually closer than the average person. If you not sure how to do this, look at the -/+ number next to a game.  For example, if the Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets read with a -11 next to their name. This means the odds-makers favor them by 11 points to win.  Therefore, they are the odds favorite.  I won’t get into all the gambling elements here.

What About the Madness

Upsets will happen.  The 5-12 seemingly always happens.  But as the years have gone on, you have more double-digit seeded teams winning at least one game, some two or three.  For the first time EVER last year we had a 16 over a 1. Sorry Hoos. I wouldn’t bank on this happening again. A little nugget for you here when looking at the upsets.  Pay attention to who received an automatic bid for winning their tournament versus an at-large bid from a major conference. This may give a little guidance on the selections too.

Outside the Box

Now for the fun approach.  People have used all sorts of wild and unique strategies to fill out their bracket.  One of the most fun is the mascot match-up approach. In essence, you pick the mascot who would win in some fantasy fight if the two creatures met on the street.  I know this sounds nuts, but check out this article where they have actually gone into a little more statistical analysis to guide your madness.

At the end of the day, you cannot predict it.  Yes, someone will claim to know it all win they when your office pool.  But let’s all admit it, they got lucky. At least that is what I say when I never win.  But I love filling my bracket out. And will continue forever. Hopefully some of these tips will help you win yours.  Or even entice you to fill one out for the first time. Good luck to everyone and Go Heels!