Archive for December, 2014

Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 15, 2014

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 15, 2014


2014
12.15

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 15 2014

Although there were few scheduled economic events related to mortgages and housing, last week brought an article about housing projections for 2015. Other news included increased job openings along with lower than expected jobless claims and higher mortgage rates.

Job Openings, Retail Sales and Mortgage Rates Rise

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that November job increased to 4.80 million as compared to October’s reading of 4.70 million job openings. Weekly jobless claims corresponded as new claims fell to 294,000 as compared to the prior week’s reading of 297,000 new jobless claims. This was the lowest reading for new jobless claims in three weeks. Analysts had expected a reading of 206,000 new jobless claims.

Further signs of economic strengthening were seen in the retail sector. Retail sales posted their strongest gains in eight months with a gain of 0.70 percent in November according to the Commerce Department. November’s reading exceeded expectations of a 0.40 percent increase which was based on October’s original reading of a 0.30 percent increase in retail sales. November’s retail sales (excluding automotive sales) rose by 0.50 percent, which was the highest reading since June. October’s reading was later revised to 0.50 percent. Automotive sales rose by 1.70 percent in November, which was their highest reading since August.

Amidst last week’s economic gains, mortgage rates also rose. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.93 percent, a gain of four basis points over the previous week. The average rate 15-year mortgage gained 10 basis points at 3.20 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 2.94 percent. Average discount points for all three loan types remained steady at 0.50 percent.

Analysts Offer Housing Predictions for 2015

Fortune reported predictions made by analysts during a panel discussion on housing trends. David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S& P Index Committee, characterized next year’s housing trends as “mysterious.” Analysts pinpointed the influence of the millennial generation as gaining strength in housing markets. As millennials begin to buy their first homes, their tastes and preferences are expected to overshadow the long-held influence of the baby boomer generation. Millennial influence includes a trend called millennial mis-match; Millennials prefer to live in high-cost areas including New York City, Honolulu, Hawaii and Austin, Texas, but their status as first-time home buyers conflicts with this preference. Other trends discussed by analysts attending the panel discussion included:

Mortgage rates predicted to rise: Stronger economic conditions and no Federal stimulus are expected to contribute to rising mortgage rates, which some analysts said were expected to rise to approximately 5.00 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

Home price growth and affordability expected to decline: Home prices gained 6.40 percent year-over-year in October 2014 as compared to growth of 10.60 percent for the same period in 2013. High demand for homes in pricey markets coupled with rising mortgage rates are expected to price the middle class out of many high-demand markets.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic events include the Wells Fargo/National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index report for December and the Commerce Department’s December report on Housing Starts. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve will release its customary statement after its meeting concludes on Wednesday. The FOMC statement will be followed by a press conference given by Fed chair Janet Yellen, who also chairs the FOMC.

Comments Off on Three Hot Renovations That Will Boost Your Home’s Value Without Breaking the Bank

Three Hot Renovations That Will Boost Your Home’s Value Without Breaking the Bank


2014
12.12

Three Hot Renovations That Will Boost Your Home's Value Without Breaking the BankAre you feeling the “renovation itch” or perhaps looking for a fun project that you can take on which will provide you with a return on your investment? There are numerous home upgrades and renovations that can add value to a home without costing a large sum of money to complete.

Let’s take a look at three popular home renovations that can increase your home equity without draining your bank account.

Paint Your Home Inside and Out

Painting the interior or exterior of your home costs very little when compared to how much it can freshen up your home’s appearance and increase its value. Painting is also an excellent time to get rid of any old wallpaper or other decor touches that are a little dated. Spend some time browsing through Pinterest or through home improvement websites in order to choose a color palette that is warm and inviting without being too bold. Remember, if the goal is to increase your home’s value you’ll need to paint using colors that buyers will find attractive.

Upgrading Your Windows

If your local environment is cold or wet during parts of the year you may find that upgrading your windows improves your home’s appearance and provides you with some additional savings in the form of reduced energy costs. Look for windows that are energy-efficient and that are guaranteed to eliminate drafts. Depending on the area of the country that you reside in, you may find that windows that are insulated with vinyl or aluminum are your best bet.

Finishing Your Basement into a Suite

If you have an unfinished basement which has a lot of space and running water you may want to consider finishing it in to a full basement suite. Some buyers will be enticed by the additional rental income that can come from a suite, while others will be excited at the opportunity to provide an older child or family member with their own suite inside of the same home.

You’ll find that investing a little time and money in your home now can pay huge dividends later when it’s time to sell and move on.

Comments Off on First Time Buyers: Understanding How Property Taxes Work and What You Can Expect to Pay

First Time Buyers: Understanding How Property Taxes Work and What You Can Expect to Pay


2014
12.11

First Time Buyers: Understanding How Property Taxes Work and What You Can Expect to PayAre you about to buy a house or condo for the first time? Congratulations!

Owning your own piece of real estate is a liberating experience and one that will provide you with the foundation to build your personal wealth and equity. Once you own your own home you’ll be responsible for a variety of new costs, including property taxes which are assessed by your local government to pay for municipal services.

In this blog post we’ll share how property taxes work and what you can expect to pay for them when you buy your new home.

It All Begins With a Local Property Tax Assessment

As mentioned above, local governments assess property taxes as a means for paying for police officers, fire fighting services, road maintenance and the other various costs that come with running a town or city. Whether you’re buying a house, a townhouse or a condo, the property that your home sits on is inside of an area known as an “assessment area”.

When the local government determines what your local tax levy or tax rate will be, they will assess your home based on the real estate market value of similar homes in the area. You can multiply your tax rate by the assessed value of your home to determine how much you’ll owe in property tax.

Property Taxes As Part of Your Closing Costs

When you close on your new home you’ll have to pay property taxes, and your real estate agent will help you to understand how much these taxes will be and how they will be paid. In most cities and counties you’ll pay a pro-rated amount of property tax that covers the time span from the date you purchase the home until the end of the year, after which time you’ll be paying your full assessed rate.

Don’t Forget Your Overall Tax Picture

Finally, don’t forget that property taxes can be factored in to the rest of your overall tax picture. Check with your accountant or another financial professional to determine whether or not you can write your property taxes off against your income tax to save some additional money. There are numerous tax benefits to owning a home, so it’s best to start using them from day one.

As with all other taxes, property taxes are a fact of life that every homeowner faces. When you’re ready to buy a new home and to learn more about how property taxes will affect your purchase, contact your mortgage professional for expert advice.

Comments Off on Trying to Save on Your Closing Costs? Here Are Three Tips That Can Help Lower Them

Trying to Save on Your Closing Costs? Here Are Three Tips That Can Help Lower Them


2014
12.10

Trying to Save on Your Closing Costs? Here Are Three Tips That Can Help Lower ThemWhether you’re about to close on a lovely new house for your growing family or a stylish beachfront condo so you can retire close to the ocean, one thing is certain: you’re going to face a variety of closing costs. Insurance, taxes, financing fees, title fees, attorney fees and other costs will need to be paid, and if you’re a savvy buyer you’ll do everything you can to save on them.

In today’s post we’ll share three quick tips that can help you reduce your closing costs when you buy your next home.

Tip #1: Include Closing Costs in Your Negotiations with the Seller

As closing costs are a part of the real estate transaction they’re an excellent item to include in your negotiations with the seller.

For example, if you consider that closing costs might be 3 or 4 percent of the home’s value you can try to bring the seller’s asking price down to get those costs included. Or, you may be able to entice the seller with the prospect of a quick sale if they are willing to pay your closing costs in order to get you to sign on the dotted line.

Tip #2: Compare All of Your Mortgage Options

If you’re using mortgage financing to cover some of the up-front purchase cost of your home you’ll have other closing costs to pay including lender fees, mortgage insurance and more. Be sure to compare all of your options with your trusted mortgage advisor to ensure that you’re getting the best possible deal and paying the least amount in fees and interest.

You may also be able to save a bit on your closing costs by choosing a “no points” mortgage. In this type of mortgage you’ll end up saving on closing costs but you’ll be left paying a higher interest rate. Spend a bit of time doing the math to determine the best course of action.

Tip #3: Ask About Every Fee You’re Required to Pay

Finally don’t forget that you’re the customer and that you have the right to know about each one of your closing costs and why you’re expected to pay them. Being informed about all of the various items in your transaction will help ensure that you’re not paying something you could have avoided.

There you have it – three excellent tips for reducing your closing costs when you purchase your next home. For more information and advice about mortgage closing costs and how to best manage them, be sure to get in touch with your local mortgage professional.

Comments Off on Understanding Mortgage Insurance and the Difference Between FHA, VA and USDA Mortgages

Understanding Mortgage Insurance and the Difference Between FHA, VA and USDA Mortgages


2014
12.09

Understanding Mortgage Insurance and the Difference Between FHA, VA and USDA MortgagesAre you thinking about using mortgage financing to buy a new home? If so, you’ve likely heard about mortgage insurance policies requirements and you may be wondering how they will affect you. In today’s blog post we’ll explore mortgage insurance and explain the difference between conventional, FHA, VA and USDA mortgage insurance policies.

How Does Private Mortgage Insurance or “PMI” Work?

While there are a number of reasons that your lender may require mortgage insurance, in general you’ll be required to purchase a conventional PMI policy if you are putting less than 20 percent of the home’s value in as a down payment. Another way your lender might explain this is that you have a “loan to value” or “LTV” ratio of higher than 80 percent, which means that the amount of your loan divided by the value of your home is higher than 0.8.

The cost of your private mortgage insurance policy will vary depending on a number of factors, such as your financial situation, FICO credit score, the cost of your home and more. Generally speaking you’ll be required to pay from one-half to one percent of the cost of your monthly mortgage payment in insurance fees. Once your LTV ratio moves below 80 percent you may no longer be required to pay for PMI.

How Does VA Mortgage Insurance Work?

If you qualify for a mortgage from Veterans’ Affairs you’ll be pleased to know that you won’t be required to pay for mortgage insurance. In some instances you actually won’t be required to pay a down payment either, meaning that you may be able to borrow up to $400,000 to purchase a home without having to invest a cent of your own capital.

How Does USDA Mortgage Insurance Work?

Did you know that the Department of Agriculture runs a mortgage program? The USDA Rural Development mortgage offering is government-backed and like the VA mortgage program above you can finance 100 percent of the cost of your home without investing a down payment. However, unlike the VA program you’ll be required to pay for mortgage insurance. Currently the annual mortgage insurance premium on USDA loans is 0.5 percent.

How Does FHA Mortgage Insurance Work?

Finally, don’t forget about the Federal Housing Administration’s mortgage program. If you qualify for a FHA-backed mortgage, you’ll be paying about 1.35 percent in mortgage insurance premiums if you make the minimum down payment.

As you can see, there is a bit of a learning curve involved with fully understanding how all of the different types of mortgage insurance work. To learn more about mortgages and how insurance can benefit you, contact your local mortgage professional today.

Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 8, 2014

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 8, 2014


2014
12.08

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 1 2014

Last week’s economic reports related to housing and mortgages were few, but construction spending, the Fed’s Beige Book report, non-farm payrolls and the national unemployment report indicated trends for the end of the year.

Construction Spending Increases

U.S. construction spending rose by 1.10 percent in October according to the Commerce Department. This reading translates to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of $971 billion. Analysts had expected an increase of 0.70 percent based on September’s original reading of -0.40 percent, but September’s reading was revised to -0.10 percent on Tuesday. Private spending on residential projects increased 1.30 percent.

Federal Reserve Beige Book Indicates Economic Improvement, or Not

Oil prices were cited by participants in the Federal Reserve’s survey of regional business leaders; Texas and the Gulf coast areas noted that falling oil prices were a threat to those economies, while other participants said that lower prices at the gas pump were putting more cash in consumers’ pockets. The report noted upward pressure on both minimum wages and higher wages for skilled workers. Wages have remained mostly flat while consumer costs have increased; higher wages can provide more discretionary income for consumers and may build confidence for would-be home buyers that have been waiting for more positive economic trends.

Freddie Mac: Mortgage Rates Down

Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of average mortgage rates brought good news for home buyers and homeowners seeking to refinance their mortgages. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 3.97 percent to 3.89 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.10 percent from last week’s reading of 3.17 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped to 2.94 percent from last week’s reading of 3.01 percent. Average discount points were unchanged for all loan types at 0.50 percent.

Labor Data Mixed, Unemployment Rate Unchanged

Weekly jobless claims beat expectations by 1000 fewer jobless claims with a reading of 297,000 new claims against expectations of 298,000 new claims. The prior week’s reading was higher at 314,000 new jobless claims. The Commerce Department also released Non-Farm Payrolls figures for November with 321,000 jobs added against expectations of 235,000 jobs added and October’s reading of 243,000 jobs added. Holiday hiring and climate related slowdowns are expected to impact year-end labor statistics. Analysts prefer to look at trends occurring over several months to determine labor trends.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on November retail sales and consumer sentiment in addition to Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey and the Commerce Departments weekly jobless claims report.

Comments Off on You Ask, We Answer: How to Choose Between Expanding Your Current Home and Buying a New One

You Ask, We Answer: How to Choose Between Expanding Your Current Home and Buying a New One


2014
12.05

You Ask, We Answer: How to Choose Between Expanding Your Current Home and Buying a New OneDoes your home feel like it’s starting to burst at the seams? Many homeowners across the country can relate to this feeling having bought a home only to run out of space due to a growing family or for other reasons. Let’s take a quick look at a few questions that will help you to determine whether buying a new home or expanding your current home is the best choice when you’re in need of some extra space.

Why Are You in Need of More Space?

The first question you’ll need to answer is… “why?” Are you running out of space because you’ve decided to start a family and have another child on the way? Or perhaps you’ve decided to start a business out of your home and you’ve outgrown the small room you had set aside as your office? Whatever the case, a major renovation or a move to a new home are both major decisions and ones that shouldn’t be made lightly. Sit down with your family and consider why you need more space and what you would do with a larger home if you had one.

How Much Space Do You Need?

“How much space” is another consideration that you’ll need to make in order to come to the best decision between expansion and buying a new home. If you find that your needs are perfectly suited except for that missing bedroom you may want to undergo a renovation. Conversely, if you find that you could use at least 2 or 3 new rooms and some extra room in the garage, you may want to start shopping for a new home.

Note that expanding your home to add an extra bedroom or to finish the basement will provide a limited amount of additional space – space which may end up feeling constrained later if your family or needs continue to grow. If you’re thinking bigger over the long term, you’ll likely be better served in finding a larger home that has extra room that you can grow into.

Other Factors for Consideration

If you’re thinking about expanding your current home you’ll want to consider how this will impact the other rooms in the house. Are you going to feel the need to renovate every room once that new bedroom is added? If so, is renovating a wise investment or should you simply move on to a newer home?

Comments Off on Buying an Investment Property? Here’s How You Can Maximize Your Rental Revenue

Buying an Investment Property? Here’s How You Can Maximize Your Rental Revenue


2014
12.04

Buying an Investment Property? Here's How You Can Maximize Your Rental RevenueWhether you’re buying a ski-in/ski-out condo at your favorite resort or you’re thinking of picking up a small home in a busy tourist area, buying a property for short-term rental purposes can be an excellent investment that quickly begins to provide additional revenue.

Let’s take a quick look at a few steps that you can take to maximize the revenue that your investment properties bring in each month.

Upgrade Your Home to Give It a Luxurious Feel

It should go without saying that if you want your home to rent for a high price it has to have a significant amount of value behind it. After you purchase the home, spend some time on upgrades that help to enhance the home’s beauty and usability. If possible each sofa should be a sofa-bed so that additional guests can stay the night. Upgrade the televisions, have Wi-Fi internet access available and provide a phone number that guests can call if anything goes awry.

Professional Photos and Copywriting

If you’re renting your property out to short-term or vacationing tenants you’re most likely going to use online services like VRBO, HomeAway or AirBnB to attract new business. While these sites have a lot of visitor traffic you’re also going to face a high level of competition from other property owners in the area. It’s worth paying a professional photographer to take pictures of your home as well as having a professional copywriter handle the sales copy for your listing. These are one-time costs that can help you to defeat your competition and close high-ticket clients.

Cater to Large Groups or a Niche Crowd

There are a number of “niche” travelers out there and if you can cater to these groups you’ll find that you’re able to charge more than the average vacation property. For example, you may be buying a home in a popular wedding destination that can be marketed to couples who are being married. If you’re buying a larger 3 or 4 bedroom home, be sure to note that it can house large groups who may be traveling together.

Referrals and Repeat Business

Finally, don’t forget to ask your clients to refer you to their friends and family who many want to stay in your unit, and always invite them to return in the future. You may want to consider offering a discount to repeat visitors to encourage them to visit annually.

Renting out your vacation home or investment property can provide a lucrative income stream as long as you have a professional approach and focus on providing a high level of customer service.

Comments Off on Understanding the Difference Between a Mortgage Pre-qualification and a Pre-approval

Understanding the Difference Between a Mortgage Pre-qualification and a Pre-approval


2014
12.03

Understanding the Difference Between a Mortgage Pre-qualification and a Pre-approvalIf you’re in the market for a new home and you’ve been researching mortgages, you’ve likely come across the terms “pre-qualification” and “pre-approval”. While these terms are self-explanatory in some circumstances, they are quite different in regards to mortgage financing.

In today’s blog post we’ll explain the difference between a mortgage pre-qualification and a pre-approval.

Pre-qualification: an Initial Look at Your Mortgage Options

The first – and easiest – step on the way to receiving mortgage financing to buy a home is known as pre-qualification. During this process you’ll meet with a mortgage advisor or lender who will assess your financial history including your current income and any debts that you might have. Using these numbers they’ll perform a quick calculation that suggests how much mortgage financing you might qualify for when you’re ready to buy a home.

Your mortgage professional will also answer any questions that you might have about the process, including what interest rates you may qualify for, how much you’ll need to invest in your down payment and more.

Pre-approval: A Conditional Mortgage Commitment

After you’ve been pre-qualified for your mortgage and you’re ready to start looking for a new home you’ll go through the pre-approval process. At this time your mortgage advisor or lender will take a much deeper look into your current financial situation, including pulling a credit report to assess how much risk they will have in lending you money. You’ll also complete a full mortgage application as this will allow your lender to get a conditional approval for a certain amount or range. Finally you’ll be informed about the interest rate and the terms of the mortgage once you find your new home and complete the purchase.

The Final Step: Finding the Perfect Home

Now that you’ve been pre-approved and have received a conditional commitment from your lender, you’re ready to find that perfect new home. On top of having a better idea of your price range and what you can afford, you’ll find that sellers are far more receptive to your offers as having a pre-approval signals that you’re a serious buyer who is ready to make your move.

When you’re ready to buy your new house or condo, your local mortgage professional is ready to help. Contact them to learn more about pre-qualification, pre-approval and your financing options. Enjoy your new home!

Comments Off on The LTV Ratio: How ‘Loan-to-Value’ Works and Why You Need to Understand This Ratio

The LTV Ratio: How ‘Loan-to-Value’ Works and Why You Need to Understand This Ratio


2014
12.02

The LTV Ratio: How 'Loan-to-Value' Works and Why You Need to Understand This RatioAre you in the market for a new home? If you plan on using mortgage financing to buy your next home you’ve likely heard the phrase “loan-to-value” or the acronym “LTV” before. Let’s take a quick look at the loan-to-value ratio including why it’s important, how to calculate it and how it can affect your mortgage.

What is the Loan-to-Value or LTV Ratio?

In short, the LTV ratio is a number that compares how much money you owe against your home with its resale value in the marketplace. A low LTV ratio indicates that you have far more equity in your home than you owe in mortgage payments; conversely, a high LTV ratio indicates that you owe almost as much as your home is worth.

Calculating your LTV ratio is easy. Simply divide the amount that you have (or will have) remaining in your mortgage by your home’s value. For example, if you own a home worth $250,000 and you still owe $150,000 on your mortgage, the calculation would be $150,000 divided by $250,000, which gives you a LTV ratio of 0.6 or 60 percent.

Why is the LTV Ratio Important?

Your LTV ratio is important for a number of reasons. First, your mortgage lender will use this figure as part of their risk calculation when they assess your financial suitability for your mortgage. If you’re only putting 5 percent of the purchase price in as a down payment you’ll have a LTV ratio of 95 percent, which is a more risky loan than one with a LTV ratio of 30 percent and thus will almost certainly come with a higher interest rate.

If you have a LTV ratio higher than 80 percent and you’re getting a mortgage from a conventional lender you’ll also be required to pay for private mortgage insurance or “PMI”. Although PMI rates generally sound quite low – in the neighborhood of 0.5 to 1 percent – they can add hundreds of dollars to your monthly mortgage payment. Note that PMI may not apply to you if you’re seeking out a government-backed mortgage from Veteran’s Affairs, the USDA or the FHA.

While the LTV ratio might seem simple, this number can affect your mortgage in a variety of ways. Contact your local mortgage advisor today to learn more about the LTV ratio and to have your questions answered by an experienced professional.