Archives for October 2013

Housing Market Index Shows Builders Continue To Have A Positive Outlook

Housing Market Index Shows Builders Continue To Have A Positive OutlookThe National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index dropped two points to 55 from September’s revised reading of 57. Builder concerns over labor costs and availability and economic uncertainty related to the federal government shutdown were noted as factors contributing to the lower reading for October. 

Key Points Noted In Octobers HMI included:

  • Builder confidence remains above 50, which indicates that more builders have a positive outlook on housing market conditions than those with negative sentiment.
  • The October HMI cites pent-up buyer demand in markets throughout the US as a positive influence on October’s reading.
  • A spike in mortgage rates lowered builder confidence, but the Federal Reserve’s decision not to change its quantitative easing program eased fears about rapidly rising mortgage rates.
  • The federal government shutdown, along with builder and consumer concerns about the national debt ceiling also contributed to a dip in homebuilder confidence.
  • National HMI results are comprised of homebuilder ratings of three factors. Homebuilders rated current market conditions at 58, which was two points lower than September’s reading.
  • Builder outlook for market conditions over the next six months fell by two points to October’s reading of 62. The lowest reading came in at 44 for buyer foot traffic. This reading was also two points lower than the September reading.

Regional HMI Results Mixed

Readings for regional homebuilder confidence varied for October:

Northeast: The reading for October fell three points to 38. Concerns over the government shutdown were felt here.

Midwest: Up by one point for October at 64, the Midwestern region posted the only gain for October.

South: The October reading for the Southern region was unchanged at 56.

West: The West lost one point on its HMI for October. Lack of available homes and developed land for building likely contributed to this reading.

NAHB Projects Single And MultiFamily Housing Starts

The NAHB estimated that starts for single and multi-family housing units for September will fall between 875,000 and 900,000 on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Single-family housing starts are expected to range between 620,000 and 630,000 for September. 

NAHB produced this estimate in lieu of the US Department of Commerce report on housing starts that was delayed due to the federal government shutdown. NAHB also reported continued volatility in multi-family housing construction. 

A continuation of the government shutdown will almost certainly create ongoing consequences for housing and mortgage lending.

Get The Lowdown On Private Mortgage Insurance

Get The Lowdown On Private Mortgage InsuranceYou may have heard the term Private Mortgage Insurance when looking to finance real estate. What is PMI, and how do you know when you need to purchase it?

The answer can be hard to find among all the real estate jargon you’re hearing lately. Below is the short version of what you need to know.

What Is Private Mortgage Insurance?

PMI is an extra insurance required by some lenders to offset their risk of you defaulting on your home loan. When you put down less than 20 percent of the real estate’s value, your lender may tell you that you have to buy PMI.

It is usually added into your monthly mortgage payment until the equity in your real estate reaches 20 percent.

Under the current law, the PMI will be canceled automatically at 22 percent equity, if you are current on your payments. If you aren’t current, the lender does not have to cancel the insurance because the loan is high-risk.

After getting caught up on your payments, the PMI will be cancelled. Any money that you have overpaid must be refunded to you within 45 days.

What If Your Real Estate Increases In Value?

With a conventional loan, it may take as many as 15 years of a 30-year loan to pay down 20 percent. But, if property values in your area rise, you might be able to cancel the PMI sooner.

Some lenders may be willing to consider the new value of your home to determine the equity in your home. You may be responsible for any fees, like an appraisal, that occur.

You’ll have to weigh the costs of the appraisal against the savings of the PMI premium. In most cases, you’ll find that the added expense is worth it. Private mortgage insurance is a good thing if you can’t afford to pay 20 percent of the cost of your real estate as down payment.

Are you a first-time homebuyer? Now is the best time for you to make the investment. Call your trusted mortgage professional to find out why.

Nail The Final Walkthrough Before Closing

Nail The Final Walkthrough Before ClosingBy the time you get to the final walkthrough on your property, the home buying process is almost complete. However, it is still important to pay close attention to this final step, as it will be crucial in the success of your home purchase.

The final walkthrough is your last opportunity to ensure that everything in the home is in working order and that there are no potential problems waiting for you when you take over ownership of the property.

While conducting a final walkthrough of the property, give yourself enough time to look carefully at everything and not be rushed. You are looking for any new issues that might have arisen since the last time you viewed the home.

Once you close on the purchase the previous owners will not be obligated for fixing any damage. For this reason, you should schedule your walkthrough approximately 24 hours before closing on a home.

What You Should Look For?

When you are performing your walkthrough, here are some of the important issues that you should be watching out for:

  • Are all major appliances in working condition? Do they all have their warranties and owner’s manuals?
  • Do all of the light switches and outlets work?
  • Have any of the fixtures or appliances gone missing, even though the seller agreed to leave them behind?
  • If you have agreed on any repairs, has the seller had these repairs completed?
  • Are there any signs of damage (i.e. scratched walls or floors) as a result of the previous owner moving out?
  • Do all of the water faucets and toilets function as they should?
  • Check the exterior of the house, especially if there has been a storm or strong winds since your last visit.
  • Did the previous owner leave any garbage, extra furniture or unwanted items behind?

What To Do If You Spot A Problem?

If you find a problem when you are going through your walkthrough, there are a few options of what you can do. If the issue is very serious, you might choose to walk away from the deal completely. However, if the issue is not that significant you might decide that it is not worth losing your dream home over.

You could simply pay for the repair yourself, or postpone the closing until the seller fixes the problem. If the repair was agreed upon during the negotiations, you have a legal recourse.

To find out more about buying property, feel free to contact your trusted real estate professional.

4 Tips On Giving Your Mudroom A Makeover

4 Tips On Giving Your Mudroom A MakeoverFrom crunched-up leaves stuck to bottoms of shoes to bulky coats shed as soon as kids walk through the door, mudrooms are ideal for keeping outdoor dirt, wet clothing and outerwear from being strewn throughout your home.

Mudrooms not only keep the rest of your house clean, but they also designate a spot for those last-minute grabs, such as coats, umbrellas and purses, when you’re running out the door.

These rooms are great catchalls. However, an organized mudroom can make your life and those hectic mornings much less stressful. Below are smart tips for getting your mudroom ready this fall.

1. Put In Seating

After shedding outer layers, the next thing anyone wants to do after coming inside on a cold, wet day is to take off their mucky shoes. So make sure there is a built-in bench or convenient chair for people to sit down and tend to their tootsies. Whether taking off or putting on shoes, it makes life a little more comfortable.

2. Install A Sink

A mudroom is supposed to be the catchall for everything dirty from the outdoors. With this in mind, a sink for washing off the grime and mud makes sense. Then you can clean your clothing in the contained space without having to haul them to the kitchen sink or laundry room.

3. Create Cubbies

Even though this space is designated as a drop-off point before entering the main living space, you don’t want everything just thrown into one big confusing pile. Create individual cubbies for every person in your household. Each cubby should contain a shelf for purses and backpacks, hooks for coats and a low place for shoes.

4. Splurge On A Boot Warmer

While electric boot warmers can be a little expensive, you will definitely think it’s worth the money when it’s freezing outside and your shoes are damp. Electric boot warmers heat your shoes on pegs and dry them out at the same time. They also work well on gloves.

Fall is a mudroom’s busy season; so get it in shape with the tips above. With all the coats hanging on their hooks, shoes in their cubbies and dirt contained to this designated space, your life will be a little more organized and much less stressful!

5 Strategies To Secure Your Home Against A Break In

5 Strategies To Secure Your Home Against A Break InHaving your home broken into is completely violating. Burglars don’t just steal your stuff; they steal your peace of mind. While this is the sort of thing you think will never happen to you, it’s worth the time and effort to make sure you’re not a target.

Below are five strategies to help secure your home against a break-in.

1. Use Landscaping As A Barrier

Purposefully place plants in spots that create a natural barrier to your home. Plant thorny rose bushes in front of bedroom windows and remove overgrown shrubs that provide coverage for creepers.

Also, trim back any tree branches that might make an open upstairs window accessible.

2. Put In A Security Alarm

While a loud alarm might not stop a burglar from quickly grabbing the large flat screen in your living room, it does limit their time for snooping around and finding other valuables. Install an alarm that monitors the entire perimeter of your home.

Only give the code to family members and trusted friends. Also, be sure to advertise your alarm system with a sign out front.

3. Install Motion Detector Lights

Not only should these be placed in the front of your home, but also on the sides and in the backyard. Install motion detector floodlights that cover a wide area, and use LED bulbs so that you don’t have to change them as often.

4. Hide The Spare Key Better

Get creative when it comes to hiding your spare key. Seasoned thieves know the common places to look, such as under your doormat, in the mailbox and beneath flowerpots. If you can’t seem to find an obscure spot, then you’re best to leave it with a close neighbor.

5. Don’t Tweet Your Trips

While we may have the strictest of privacy settings on all of our social media outlets, you never know who your real Facebook friends are — or who’ve they’re talking to. So don’t let all of your friends know over the Internet that you’ve arrived safely in Paris and will see them again in two weeks.

The insecurities a robbery creates might even be worse than losing your precious valuables. Follow the precautions above to secure your home and make your possessions less of a target for looters on the lookout.

Tips On Passing Your Home Inspection With Flying Colors

Tips On Passing Your Home Inspection With Flying ColorsHome inspections are a tense time for everyone. Sellers are fervently hoping that nothing major is wrong with their home that could hold up the transaction.

Buyers are eager to hear that their new house is in prime condition. Whatever the wishes, one thing is for sure; any news from an inspector is usually bad news.

Home inspectors have a tough job. They have to be trained to spot hundreds of potential issues with a home and be knowledgeable of local codes, community restrictions and residential permit parameters.

Stay one step ahead of your home inspector by reading the list of common home inspection issues below. Then hopefully your inspection won’t reveal any unwelcome surprises.

Electrical Wiring

This is a common bubble-busting issue, especially in older homes. Wiring might have been up to code when the home was built, but it now violates code and is a fire hazard.

Look for ungrounded outlets, shoddy wiring or a mass of confusing connections in the electrical panel. Replacing an entire electrical system can be expensive, but it’s worth it not to risk a fire.

Plumbing

Look for signs of water damage in the ceilings. This could be a sign that something above, like a bathtub or sink is leaking into the floor or walls. Look around toilets and inside kitchen cabinets for traces of wet flooring or wood.

While external leaks are easy enough to fix, interior pipes might require you to rip up flooring.

Foundation And Framing

Examine the foundation and framing of your home for any structural issues. You’ll want to keep an eye out for cracking in the foundation due to water runoff or settling. Also, look for signs of wood rot or termite damage.

These issues affect the framing of your home and could cause scary structural problems if left unattended.

Roofing

While it’s probably too difficult for you to inspect the roof yourself, just stand back in the yard and see if you can notice any bare spots. Also, check for water damage around the roofline from rain leaking in. Don’t get too discouraged about roof issues. It might not call for a complete replacement, but just a repair on one section.

These common home inspection issues affect both sellers and buyers. As a buyer, you’ll want to keep a eye out for these problems so that you know what you’d be getting for your hard-earned money.

As a seller, it’s good to stay one step ahead of the home inspector so that whatever price is agreed upon goes through.

When Is It A Good Idea To Use A Home Equity Loan?

When Is It A Good Idea To Use A Home Equity Loan?A home equity loan is a type of loan that allows you to use the equity of your home as collateral. It is an option that home owners have available to them and that some people use to pay for major expenses such as home renovations, college education or medical bills.

These types of loans became popular in 1996 because they provided a way for consumers to circumvent their tax charges for that year, which eliminated the deductions on the interest for most consumer purchases.

It is a good idea to leverage your shelter for cash? What is a legitimate reason for taking out a home equity loan? It can be tempting to use the equity you have in your property to pay for expensive luxuries, but there are only a few things that you should be spending a home equity loan on.

Home Renovation Projects

Home renovations are a popular reason why people take out a home equity loan. This idea actually makes sense, because making improvements to the home can greatly improve its value.

The renovation could pay for itself and more, when it comes to increasing the value of the property.Of course, the value of the home is also dependent on other factors beside the renovation, so there are no guarantees.

Debt Consolidation

Another reason why people take out home equity loans is so that they can combine all of their bills and debts into one, such as the credit card debt, retail credit debt and more. This can be advantageous, because the interest rate on a home equity loan is a lot cheaper.

Having a single monthly bill rather than having to keep track of several debts can also make things a lot simpler and improve your monthly cash flow.

Investing In Your Kids

Many parents have chosen to use their home equity loans to fund their child’s university or college education. With the extremely high costs of post-secondary education these days, this option can make a lot of sense.

However, if you are just about to consider retirement when your kids are going to college, you might want to look for scholarships or student loans instead so that you don’t reduce the nest egg you planned to retire on.

These are just a few things for homeowners to consider when it comes to home equity loans. To learn more about owning a home, you can contact me your trusted mortgage professional.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 7, 2013

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week- October 7, 2013This week’s economic news commentary has been dominated by the “what ifs” of a government shutdown; opinions of potential consequences are limited only by the number of commentators sharing their opinions.

Unfortunately, more concrete examples of the shutdown were evident last Tuesday and Friday.

The Department of Commerce delayed release of August’s Construction Spending report that were due last Tuesday and The Bureau of Labor Statistics delayed the release of September’s Non-farm Payroll and Unemployment that were due last Friday.

The ADP Employment report for September posted a reading of 166,000 private sector jobs added against expectations of 180,000 new jobs added. September jobs added surpassed August’s reading of 159,000 new jobs added in the private sector.

Mortgage Rates Remain Near Record Lows

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey released Thursday brought a third consecutive week of falling mortgage rates. 30-year fixed rate mortgages had an average rate of 4.22 percent down from 4.32 percent the previous week.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by eight basis points from 3.37 percent to 3.29 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell to 3.03 percent from 3.07 percent.

Discount points were unchanged from last week at 0.70 percent for both 30-year and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and rose from 0.50 percent to 0.60 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage loans.

Weekly Jobless Claims were lower than projected. The reading of 308,000 new jobless claims was better than the 313,000 new jobs expected, but was higher than the prior week’s 307,000 new jobless claims.

Whats Coming Up Next

This week’s scheduled economic reporting is also subject to adjustment if the federal government’s budget is not resolved. The most recent FOMC meeting minutes are due on Wednesday; if released they are expected to provide details about the Fed’s decision not to change its current quantitative easing program.

Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s PMMS survey of average mortgage rates are due Thursday. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for October is set for release on Friday.

Do Fence Me In, Here Are A Few Good Yard Fencing Options

Do Fence Me In… Your Yard Fencing OptionsWhether you just got a puppy, have newly mobile children or built a pool, there are a multitude of reasons for wanting to keep people and animals in your yard, while preventing other from entering.

Picking the perfect fence can be difficult, so below we’ve outlined the main fencing materials to choose from and characteristics to consider about each.

Wood

Wood seems to be the most common material used in yards across the country — especially when wanting privacy. Depending on the type of wood you purchase, you’ll probably want to stain the planks to protect them from rot and ultra-violet light. Be prepared to retreat and maintain your wooden fence about every four years.

Chain Link

This economical option does its job well as a security fence. It’ll keep pets in and people out. And with the new black or green plastic coating chain link comes in, it almost blends into any background.

Chain link fences shouldn’t require any maintenance for at least 10 years, and they usually come with warranties for at least that long.

Wrought Iron

If you’re in the market for an ornate fence that you can see through and provides high security, then wrought iron should be your pick. These fences are actually made from steel and aluminum and need virtually no upkeep. Don’t expect to see any issues for at least 20 years.

Vinyl

You like the look of wood, but you hate the upkeep. Well, if you’re willing to spend the extra dough, usually four to five times the cost of wood, then you can have a man-made product that looks like the real thing.

Faux-wood fencing is usually seen in white, but can come in a variety of colors and even look almost identical to actual wooden planks. The best part is — no maintenance required!

Whatever your reason for building a fence, such as privacy, security, safety or to add curb appeal, you’ll have hundreds of options to choose amongst. Be sure you carefully consider each of the main fencing materials above, along with their look and maintenance requirements before you make the investment.

Do Those Additions Really Add Value To Your Home?

Do Those Additions Really Add Value To Your Home?When you own a home, there are additions that you can make to the property that will improve the value of your home. For example, a newly renovated kitchen or bathroom is a popular choice that will really make the home more desirable to buyers.

Also, adding storage space or a well-thought-out family room or other practical space can be a very good investment that will bring up the home’s value.

However, there are other projects that are not really worth your time or money and will allow very little opportunity to recover your costs when it is time to sell the property. Here are a few examples of things that you think might add to the value of your home, but really don’t.

An Elaborately Landscaped Garden

A beautifully landscaped garden might make the home more visually attractive to buyers when they are looking at the property, but it will not likely add to the selling price.

This is especially true if the new buyer is not interested in putting in the effort to keep the garden well-maintained and sees it as a burden. If they don’t have time to do the landscaping, they will need to hire a gardener which will add to their expenses.

A Hobby Specific Room

Are you tempted to convert a bedroom into a room that is specific to one of your particular interests, such as an art studio, a library or a wine cellar? This will not add a lot of value to the home, because the next buyer is not likely to share your passions.

It might even make the home less than desirable, because the next owner will not want to spend the time and money renovating the room back into a bedroom.

You can create a hobby room; just make sure that you make non-permanent chances to the room so that you can quickly and easily switch it back to a bedroom.

A Renovated Garage

Redoing your garage and turning it into a family room or a play room might give you a short term benefit, but you might regret it when you go to sell the home. Most people want a garage to serve its original purpose – as a place to protect their cars from the elements and store their shovels, garbage cans, leaf blowers and other outdoor things.

These are a few examples of home additions that will not add to the resale value of your property. To find out more about selling your home, contact your mortgage professional.