Archive for February, 2016

Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 29, 2016

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 29, 2016


2016
02.29

 Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week February 29, 2016Last week’s economic reports included Existing and New Home Sales and Consumer Confidence along with regularly scheduled weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Exceed Expectations

January sales of previously owned homes rose to an annual level of 5.47 million sales against expectations of 5.30 million sales and December’s reading of 5.45 million sales. Existing home sales rose by 0.40 percent month-to-month, which was the second-highest month-to-month reading since existing home sales were first tracked. Sales of existing homes had a strong showing with sales 11 percent higher year-over-year.

Real estate markets continue to face challenges as a severe shortage of available homes reached a four-month supply; real estate pros typically consider a six-month supply of available homes a normal reading. The shortage of homes for sale has caused home prices to escalate quickly in many markets; this creates affordability issues for would-be buyers. National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun expressed concerns that rapidly rising home prices may not be good for the economy, but there was some positive news.

Nearly 32 percent of existing homes were bought by first-time buyers in January according to the National Association of Realtors. This is good news as first-time and moderate income buyers accommodate homeowners’ ability to move up to larger homes.

New home sales dipped in January to 494,000 sales as compared to expectations of 520,000 new home sales and the prior annual rate of 544,000 new homes sold. As the shortage of available homes continued, analysts said that the market is unbalanced in favor of sellers as offers from cash buyers make it difficult for offers from less qualified buyers to compete. Analysts said that low supplies of pre-owned homes drive buyers to purchase new homes. The number of homes purchased but not yet built is near a ten-year high.

Mortgage Rates Lower And Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported lower mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was three basis points lower at 3.62 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 2.93 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by six basis points to 2.79 percent. Average discount points were 0.60, 0.50 and.50 percent respectively.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 272,000 new claims as compared to expectations of 270,000 new claims and the prior reading of 262,000 new claims. The four-week rolling average of new claims also posted a reading of 272,000 new claims, which was lower by 1250 new claims. In spite of the higher week-to-week reading, new jobless claims remain near historical lows. Low readings for new jobless claims indicate a low rate of layoffs, which analysts said indicates that employers are maintaining staff levels in spite of conditions suggesting a slower economy.

Consumer confidence dropped more than five points in February. The Conference Board reported an index reading of 92.20 percent as compared to an expected reading of 97.20 and the prior month’s reading of 97.80. Consumers indicated growing concerns about business, personal finances and the labor market.

What’s Ahead This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on pending home sales, construction spending, ADP Payrolls, federal Non-Farm Payrolls and the national unemployment rate.

Comments Off on 3 Quick Painting Tips That Will Help Take Your Walls from Tacky to Tasteful

3 Quick Painting Tips That Will Help Take Your Walls from Tacky to Tasteful


2016
02.26

3 Quick Painting Tips That Will Help Take Your Walls from Tacky to TastefulWhether you happen to be a painting pro or you’ve never dared to pick up a roller, there are a few tricks of the trade that professionals use to make a paint job look its best. If you want to take an old, outdated paint job and turn it into something you can be proud of, here are a few tips from those who know best.

Start With A Perfectly Smooth Surface

If you’re trying to rush through it, sanding might seem like an unnecessary step in re-covering your walls, but it’s very important in order to level out the spackle paste and ensure that no ridges will appear in the paint around the nails. According to one professional painter, you should start by sanding from the baseboard to the ceiling with a fine grit sandpaper, and then move on to a horizontal sand that will make for a smooth wall finish.

Forget About The Plastic

The proper floor coverage while painting is just as important as the paint when it comes to getting the job done properly, so opt for a large canvas cloth instead of linens or plastic. Paint on linen can sink through to your floor and stain it, while paint on plastic takes a long time to dry and may end up smearing all over other things. A canvas cloth will keep any paint splotches away from your floor and ensure they aren’t tracked throughout the home after they fall.

Stick To One Wall

It can be tempting to get done the rudimentary step of completing the corners and trim before you move on to painting, but this can actually make for a less smooth finish. Instead of finishing one task at a time, complete the corners and trim on one wall and immediately reach for the roller. This is something professional painters do to ensure that the brushed and rolled paint will blend together more seamlessly.

There are a few simple steps you can follow when painting a room that will make it look like a professional did the job. By using a canvas cloth to cover your surfaces and sticking with one wall until the job is done, you should have a smooth new surface you can be proud of. If you’re currently painting your home and preparing to sell, you may want to contact one of our local real estate agents for information about your options on the market.

Comments Off on December Home Prices Rise According To S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index

December Home Prices Rise According To S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index


2016
02.25

December Home Prices Rise According To S&P Case-Shiller Home Price IndexHome prices rose slightly in December according to S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices released Tuesday. According to the S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index, which covers cities representing all nine US Census divisions, home prices rose 5.40 percent year-over-year in December as compared to November’s reading of 5.20 percent.

December’s year-over-year home price increases were led by Portland Oregon at 11.40 percent, San Francisco, California at 10.30 percent and Denver, Colorado with a year-over-year reading of 10.20 percent. 10 cities reported higher home prices while eight cities reported lower home prices and year-over-year home prices were unchanged for two cities.

Year-over-year national home prices equaled winter 2007 home price levels, The S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index has recovered by 36.30 percent since March 2012. Phoenix, Arizona posted its 12th consecutive month of home price gains for the longest streak of price gains in 2015.

Home Price Growth Surpasses Core Inflation Rate

David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that while home prices continue to rise, they are rising at a slower pace. All but one city (Washington, D.C.) posted home price gains higher than the core inflation rate of 2.20 percent. Home prices rising faster than inflation is positive for home sellers, but would-be-buyers may sit on the sidelines due to concerns about affordability. On the plus side, job markets are strong and mortgage rates remain low, which will likely encourage more first-time and moderate income buyers to enter the market.

S&P Case-Shiller Month-to-Month Readings

After seasonal adjustments, both the Case-Shiller 10 and 20 City home price indices posted a month-to-month gain of 0.80 percent. 19 of 20 cities posted month-to-month gains after seasonal adjustments. Factors contributing to higher home prices include high demand for homes coupled with a short supply of available homes. Home builders are ramping up construction, which should ease demand and help stabilize prices.

In related news, The National Association of Realtors reported that January sales of existing homes rose to 5.47 million sales on an annual basis as compared to expectations of 5.30 million sales and December’s reading of 5.45 million sales. January’s reading was 11 percent higher year-over-year and indicated that homes are selling in spite of rapidly rising prices in many areas.

Analysts said that the shortage of homes is causing an imbalance in market conditions; currently there is a four month supply of available homes as compared to an average six month supply of available homes. There have been only three instances when home supplies were lower in the past 16 years.

Comments Off on Buying a New Home? Learn How the ‘Conforming Loan Limit’ Might Affect Your Purchase

Buying a New Home? Learn How the ‘Conforming Loan Limit’ Might Affect Your Purchase


2016
02.24

Buying a New Home? Learn How the 'Conforming Loan Limit' Might Affect Your PurchaseFrom mortgage to equity to debt-to-income ratio, there are many terms associated with home ownership that can be quite confusing if you’ve never been on the market for a home before. ‘Conforming loan limit’ may be a less familiar real estate term than the rest, but here are some things you’ll need to know about it and what it could mean for your biggest investment.

What Is The ‘Conforming Loan Limit’?

The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) are legally required to provide loans for balances below a specific amount, and this amount is what is known as the ‘conforming loan limit’. While the loan amount is determined by credit history and income amount, these conforming loans that are less than the specific amount are considered lower risk. If a loan amount is above the conforming loan limit, it is known as a jumbo loan and usually comes with higher rates.

How The ‘Conforming Loan Limit’ Is Determined

The Federal Home Financing Agency determines any adjustments made to conforming loan limits and the decided-upon amount is based on the home prices from October to October for the previous year. This amount is released annually in November and is enforced the following January. While this limit was continued at $417,000 through 2016, the amount for regions like Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and the United States Virgin Islands is significantly higher than the standard amount due to the cost of housing.

Going Above The ‘Limit’ And Combination Loans

While jumbo loans carry more risk, there are ways to avoid going above the conforming loan limit. There is the option of acquiring a conforming loan for $417,000, the amount established for 2016, and then utilizing a second mortgage for the remaining amount that will ensure you do not have to take out a jumbo loan; however, the rates for a second loan will likely be higher. In the event that you would like to avoid jumbo loans or a combination loan, you may want to consider putting more money down on your initial down payment.

The conforming loan limit changes each year, but it may have a significant impact on your home purchase if it falls below a certain amount. If you are curious about real estate terms because you’re considering a home purchase in the near future, you may want to contact one of our local real estate professionals for more information.

Comments Off on How to Calculate Your True Cost of Living and Determine How Much Mortgage You Can Afford

How to Calculate Your True Cost of Living and Determine How Much Mortgage You Can Afford


2016
02.23

How to Calculate Your True Cost of Living and Determine How Much Mortgage You Can AffordA monthly mortgage can seem like enough of a financial responsibility on its own, but there are many factors involved in home ownership that affect its fiscal feasibility. If you’re in the market for a house and are wondering how your income will stack up against the rest of your expenses, here’s how to determine a home cost that’s reasonable for you.

Determine Your Down Payment

Before you start with anything else, you’ll want to determine the amount of money you can put down so you can estimate your monthly payments. The traditional amount for a down payment is 20% of the home’s purchase price, so if you don’t have anything close to this amount it might be worth waiting a little longer so you can minimize your payments and the amount of interest or mortgage insurance you’ll be paying in the long run. Each person’s situation is different, and there may be programs available with less than 20% down. This is an excellent question to pose to your trusted mortgage advisor.

Calculate Your Monthly Budget

If your mortgage cost already seems high, it will definitely be worth carefully calculating your monthly expenditures. Instead of a wild guess, take the time to sit down and calculate what your costs are including food, utilities, transportation and any other monthly necessities. Once you do this, it’s also very important to add any debt repayments you’re making to the mix. The total amount of your estimated mortgage costs, debt payments and living expenses should give you a pretty good sense of if your mortgage is viable in the long term.

Don’t Forget About The Extras

When it comes to purchasing a home, many people envision that they will be eating and sleeping their new home so don’t pay attention to all of the additional costs that can arise with living life. A new home is certainly an exciting, worthwhile financial venture, but ensure you’re realistic about what it entails. If you’re planning to go back to school or have children in the future, you’ll want to add a little bit of extra cushion in your budget so that you don’t have to put your other dreams on hold for the sake of your ideal home.

It can be very exciting to find a home you feel good about, but it’s important before making an offer to realize the amount of house you can afford so you don’t find yourself in a hole down the road. If you’re currently on the market for a new home, contact your trusted mortgage professional for a personal consultation.

Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 22, 2016

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 22, 2016


2016
02.22

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - February 22, 2016Last week’s economic news included the NAHB Housing Market Index, Commerce Department releases on housing starts and building permits and minutes of the most recent meeting of the Fed’s FOMC meeting.

Home Builder Confidence Falls in February

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), home builders had less confidence in market conditions for newly built homes. The reading for February was three points lower at 58 than the upwardly adjusted reading for January. Analysts had expected a reading of 59; any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are confident about conditions than those who are not.

Builder confidence was mixed for the three components used to calculate the NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index reading. Confidence in current market conditions was lower by three points to 65, but builder confidence in future market conditions rose one point to 65. The reading for buyer foot traffic in new housing developments hasn’t topped the benchmark of 50 since the peak of the housing bubble; in February, the reading for buyer foot traffic dropped five points to 39.

NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said that builder confidence is likely to improve in 2016 due to low mortgage rates, stable job markets and pent-up demand for homes. Mr. Crowe also said that shortages of available land and labor were concerns for builders.

Housing Starts,Building Permits Issued Lower

Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued also showed lower readings for January than for December. Housing starts reached 1.099 million starts in January as compared to an expected reading of 1.165 million starts and December’s reading of 1.145 million starts.  Winter weather likely contributed to fewer housing starts.

Fewer building permits were issued in January than in December. January’s reading was 1.202 million permits issued as compared to December’s reading of 1.143 million building permits issued. Building permits issued for single family homes dropped by 1.60 percent to 731,000 permits issued. While lower month-to-month readings for current conditions may seem discouraging, the pace of single-family home building grew steadily during 2015 and is expected to do likewise in 2016.

FOMC Minutes: Policy Makers Eye Economic Developments

Minutes of January’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting indicate that members will closely monitor developing economic conditions as part of any future decision to raise the target federal funds rate from its current range of 0.250 to 0.500 percent. The Fed raised this rate in December, but did not increase the federal funds rate at its January meeting. Fed Chair Janet Yellen emphasized that decisions to raise the federal funds rate were not on a pre-determined course and that developing economic trends would continue to inform FOMC decisions.

Mortgage Rates and Weekly Jobless Claims

Average rates for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.65 percent and the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 2.95 percent with Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for both types of fixed rate mortgages. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 2.85 percent with average discount points at 0.40 percent.

Analysts have consistently cited stronger labor markets as a factor driving U.S. housing markets. New weekly jobless claims dropped last week and added evidence of expanding job markets. 262,000 new jobless claims were filed last week; the reading was lower than expectations of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 269,000 new jobless claims. Stable job markets are important to would-be home buyers; as labor conditions improve more buyers are likely to enter the housing market.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on sales of new and pre-owned homes and the Case-Shiller 10 and 20 City Home Price Indices. Reports on consumer sentiment and inflation will also be released.

Comments Off on Eliminate These 5 Barriers To Saving For Your Down Payment This Month!

Eliminate These 5 Barriers To Saving For Your Down Payment This Month!


2016
02.19

Saving Up: 5 Barriers to Saving Money That You Can Eliminate in Just One MonthWith all the expenses that go into monthly living and the temptations that come along with life, saving money for the down payment on your new home can be quite a struggle for many people. If you’re having a hard time saving and are wondering what you can do to ensure a higher bank balance next month, here are a few things that may pose a risk to getting the home of your dreams.

Forgetting To Take Lunch

One of the things most likely to defeat your bank balance is the daily office trip to the deli or diner. Instead of opting for an easy but expensive $10.00 lunch, take a few minutes at the end of each day to put together a sandwich or salad so you don’t have to spend extra funds on your lunch break.

Relying On Cable Television

With all the available options for streaming services, many people are switching out their packages for something a lot more economical. Cable can easily add up to $100.00 a month to your expenses, but a streaming service may only be a fraction of the cost and will provide savings you’ll soon notice.

Splurging On Morning Coffee

Grabbing the familiar cup of joe on the way to the office is certainly a way to ease yourself into the day, but one coffee can add up to a huge expense by the end of the month. If this is a vice you crave, try taking your own coffee to work and opt for a treat once a week if you really can’t resist.

Impulse Buys At The Grocery Store

Food certainly counts as a necessity, but there are many things that end up in the grocery cart at the end of a shopping trip that aren’t really staple items. If your cart is filling up with chips and chocolate, you might want to stick to your list or review your cart before the final purchase.

Avoiding Your Budget

Unless you’re taking to a spreadsheet to balance out your expenses and earnings, you may not see any significant savings at the end of each month. Budgeting will give you a better idea of what you can and can’t afford consistently, so make sure you’re writing everything down.

The idea of cutting back on spending is rarely a popular one, but there are things you can do every day that will make for a better bank balance at the end of the month. If you’re looking for more tips on buying your own home, contact your trusted mortgage professional today!

Comments Off on HARP Refinancing Ends in 2016: Here’s How to Take Advantage Before It’s Gone

HARP Refinancing Ends in 2016: Here’s How to Take Advantage Before It’s Gone


2016
02.18

HARP Refinancing Ends in 2016: Here's How to Take Advantage Before It's GoneMany homeowners are struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments on a monthly basis, and it can often seem like there are limited options for remedying the situation. If you haven’t heard of HARP refinancing and you’re a homeowner who’s looking for a lower interest rate, this may be the right solution to your payment woes. Instead of letting the opportunity blow by, here’s all you need to know before this option ends in 2016.

The Details On HARP Refinancing

Known as HARP, the Home Affordable Refinance Program was created in 2009 following the economic crash that was brought on by the housing crisis. In the wake of hard economic times, the program was devised as a means of streamlining the process for those who couldn’t refinance their mortgage. Instead of reliable homeowners being stuck with a rate because they don’t qualify for refinancing, HARP enables them to acquire lower interest rates.

Some Of The Requirements For HARP

In order for you to be able to apply for a HARP refinancing, you must have a mortgage owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac that was provided to you on or before May 21, 2009. While you’ll want to check with your mortgage holder to determine if you are eligible for this refinancing option, you’ll have to be up-to-date on your mortgage payments with a loan-to-value ratio that is above 80%. For more information on a HARP refinancing, you can visit their website for all the details.

Carefully Consider The Closing Costs

While refinancing your mortgage and acquiring a lower interest rate may sound like instant money savings, it’s important to find a lender that can offer HARP without any closing costs, or at least costs low enough they’ll balance out in your favor. HARP refinancing can certainly be an option worth serious consideration, but if you have lowered interest rates and a high closing cost, it’s possible that you will not be able to re-coup the extra money you’re paying.

HARP refinancing is set to end in 2016, but if you’re a homeowner who is looking to refinance you may want to look into this program for saving money on your mortgage. By familiarizing yourself with the requirements and determining if the closing costs balance out, you may have an easier monthly payment on your hands. If you are paying off your home but are interested in what’s available on the market, you may want to contact your local mortgage professional for more information.

Comments Off on New Home Construction Seen As A Possible Solution To Pent Up Demand For Homes

New Home Construction Seen As A Possible Solution To Pent Up Demand For Homes


2016
02.17

New Home Construction Seen As A Possible Solution To Pent Up Demand For HomesBuilder confidence in markets for new homes fell three points in February to a reading of 58. January’s reading was revised upward to 61. Builders have repeatedly expressed concerns shortages of labor and lots for development, but continue to express confidence in future sales conditions.

David Crowe, National Association of Home Builder’s (NAHB) chief economist, said that builders are watching slowing economic trends, but also cited low mortgage rates, improving labor markets and pent-up demand for homes as factors for strong U.S. housing markets. The NAHB notes that any reading over 50 indicates that more builders were confident than those who were not.

HMI Components Readings

The three readings used to calculate the NAHB Housing Market Index (HMI) were also lower. The reading for current sales conditions fell by three points to 65; the reading for sales conditions over the next six months fell by one point to 65. Home builders were less confident in buyer traffic in new home developments; the February reading dropped by five points to 39. Although the buyer traffic gauge was its lowest in nine months, it hasn’t topped the benchmark of 50 since the peak of the housing bubble ten years ago.

Three month rolling averages for the four regions charted by NAHB also dropped. The Northeastern region was 2 points lower at 47; the Southern region also lost two points for a reading of 59. The Midwestern region lost one point for a reading of 57 and the Western region dropped three points for a reading of 72.

Building New Homes Seen as Solution to Pent Up Demand for Homes

Analysts responded to February’s HMI with mixed views. Some analysts said that buyer demand for homes would override concerns over building costs. This view makes sense in view of pent-up demand driving up home prices. At some point, affordability and buyers ability to qualify for mortgage loans are likely slow the rate of increasing home prices.

Less pent-up demand could also help first-time and moderate income buyers compete for homes as buyer demand eases. First-time and moderate income buyers are essential in driving home sales, as their purchases of pre-owned homes allow homeowners to buy larger homes or relocate.

Reports on Housing Starts and Building Permits scheduled this week will shed additional light on home builder activity.

Comments Off on What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 16, 2016

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 16, 2016


2016
02.16

Last week’s economic events included weekly releases on new jobless claims, mortgage rates and testimony by Fed Chair Janet Yellen concerning the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy. Here are the details:

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Drop

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell across the board last Thursday, with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage seven basis points lower at 3.65 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was six basis points lower at 2.95 percent, and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points lower at 2.83 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30 and 15 year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Lower mortgage rates may encourage first-time and moderate income home buyers to enter the market, although slim supplies of available homes and rising home prices have caused ongoing concerns about affordability in many markets.

Weekly jobless claims were also lower. 269,000 new claims were filed as compared to estimated claims of 280,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 285,000 new jobless claims. This was the lowest reading in two months and suggests healthy labor markets as more workers find jobs. Readings lower than 300,000 new jobless claims indicate healthy jobs markets. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims was lower by 3500 claims at 281,250 new claims filed. Analysts consider the four-week reading as a more accurate indicator of labor markets as it smooths out anomalies in weekly claims.

Yellen Testimony: Fed Won’t Change Course on Rates

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that she doesn’t expect interest rate cuts in view of slowing economic indicators. In testimony before the House Financial Services panel, Chair Yellen indicated that although there are signs of slower economic conditions, there was still room for economic growth. She cited a strong labor market and strong consumer and business spending as indicators of economic expansion. Analysts interpreted Chair Yellen’s testimony to indicate that the Fed would not likely raise its target federal funds rate in March.

Chair Yellen said that monetary policy is not on a “preset course”. Federal Reserve press releases consistently state that policy makers review current and developing domestic and global economic trends as part of any decision to raise rates. In view of this, Chair Yellen’s testimony did not cover what could happen if future economic developments influence Fed policy. Recent concerns over volatile financial markets caused by the weakening in China’s economy were cited as examples of “downside risks” that could impact the Fed’s monetary policy.

Readings for Consumer Sentiment suggest that consumers are also watching economic developments. February’s reading decreased to 90.7 as compared to January’s reading of 92.0.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic events include the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, federal reports on housing starts and building permits. FOMC minutes and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.