NEW YORK -- Applications for U.S. home mortgages rose last week as both purchase and refinancing applications jumped, an industry group said Wednesday.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, rose 10.3 percent in the week ended June 6.
The MBA's seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications rose 11 percent, while the gauge of loan requests for home purchases, a leading indicator of home sales, increased 9.3 percent.
Fixed 30-year mortgage rates averaged 4.34 percent in the week, up 8 basis points from 4.26 percent the week before.
The survey covers more than 75 percent of U.S. retail residential mortgage applications, according to MBA.
1. Separate laundry room
Buyers who want this feature: 93 percent
Cost to renovate: $2,637-$3,077 for an 80-square-foot space (replacing existing cabinetry, countertops, sink and flooring, painting the walls, and updating the plumbing and lighting fixtures)
Fifty-seven percent of home buyers say they wouldn't buy a home without a laundry area. "Having a separate room [to use for things such as folding or ironing clothes] helps to keep the mess out of your living space," says Paul Sullivan, a Newton, Massachusetts, remodeler and custom builder. "Potential buyers will see it as a huge benefit." The laundry room in this Charlotte, North Carolina, home has a space large enough for a full-size washer and dryer, storage space for folded clothes and laundry supplies, additional electrical outlets and a sink.
2. Exterior lighting
Buyers who want this feature: 90 percent
Cost to buy and install: $150 to $250 per fixture
Exterior lighting is the most-wanted outdoor feature, according to the National Association of Home Builders. "Exterior lighting -- specifically, wall lanterns and landscape lights for accent plus above ground spotlights aimed at the front wall -- makes an attractive first impression and enhance curb appeal after dark," says Neil Parsons, owner of Design Build Pros, a Toms River, New Jersey, remodeling firm.
The lighting at this four-bedroom, 4½-bathroom Cave Creek, Arizona, home illuminates the front walkway, with recessed fixtures along the front porch.
3. Energy Star windows
Buyers who want this feature: 89 percent
Cost to buy and install: $270-$800 per window
Swapping out your old windows for new fuel-efficient versions (similar to the window replacement done to this Lawrenceville, Georgia, home) will help your home stand out to buyers looking to cut down on utility costs.
Energy Star-qualified windows, which can help reduce energy bills by up to 15 percent, come equipped with an invisible coating, vacuum-sealed spaces filled with inert gas between panes, sturdier weather stripping and improved framing materials -- all of which reduce undesirable heat gain and loss in the home. "Buyers are most impressed with smart, energy-efficient choices that in no way limit their comfort, but in every way save them money in the long run," Lewis says.
4. Garage storage space
Buyers who want this feature: 86 percent
Cost to install: $2,025-$2,363 for a 380-square-foot space (including adding cabinetry, a peg wallboard for tools and improved lighting and electrical circuits)
Buyers with growing families need lots of storage space. "A seller should ensure that such bonus space is easily accessible and wonderfully organized," Lewis says. Additional storage units in the garage (similar to this Wilsonville, Oregon, home) help to keep clutter out of the main living areas. Unlike an attic or backyard shed, the garage is easily accessible.
5. Eat-in kitchens
Buyers who want this feature: 85 percent
Cost to install: $1,000+
Eat-in kitchens are a must-have for many, especially families with children. "[It] adds soul to a home," Lewis says. It's a space where families often congregate in the morning for breakfast. Or in the evening for dinner so everyone can share highlights from their day.
If you're looking to maximize space by knocking out a wall to allow for a small table and chairs in your kitchen (similar to the recently remodeled Salt Lake City home shown here), you should first determine whether the wall is structural or load bearing, Parsons says. Another concern is the possibility of mechanicals in the wall, such as plumbing, duct work and electrical wiring, that may need to be removed, he adds. Lastly, once an interior wall has come down, the flooring material that surrounds the drywall and base molding will need to be patched up. Removing a wall is relatively inexpensive, but that price can quickly escalate if additional repair work is needed, Parsons warns.
6. Walk-in pantry
Buyers who want this feature: 85 percent
Cost to install: Varies depending on design and location
Additional storage space in the kitchen is a big plus for potential home-buyers. Walk-in pantries that have built-in organization systems help make an tight space feel less cluttered. "The key is [having] strong adjustable shelving that allows people to change things around as their needs change," Sullivan says. It's a bonus if your pantry also allows you to neatly tuck away mops and brooms.
The walk-in kitchen pantry in this Hoover, Alabama, home has several built-in shelving units, counter space for small appliances and storage hooks for mops and brooms.
7. Wireless home security system
Buyers who want this feature: 50 percent
Cost to install: $100-$300
Wireless home security systems rank the highest among technology features buyers would like to have most, according to homebuilders association. Systems that can be easily controlled by a tablet or smart phone app are especially attractive, Parsons adds. Installing a wireless home security system is less expensive than a hard-wired version and doesn't require professional assistance to install.
The two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in the trendy Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington comes with a wireless alarm system.
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