Archives for December 2014

Looking for Luxury? How to Upsize Your Next Home Without Upsizing Your Costs

Looking for Luxury? How to Upsize Your Next Home Without Upsizing Your Costs Size matters when you are buying a new home. Whether you plan to expand your family, need more room for your stuff, or are concerned with resale value, you want to get the most space for your money. Also, if you want to add a feel of luxury to your home, one of the best ways to do it is to create open spaces rather than cramming all your furniture in rooms so tiny you can barely walk around without knocking something over.

Traditionally speaking, the larger a home is, the more it costs. If there are two newly built houses side by side in a subdivision, the bigger one is likely to cost more. However, there are some tricks to finding spacious houses that are affordable.

Choose Emerging Neighborhoods

Houses in this year’s trending neighborhood are at their peak prices. Clever buyers look for neighborhoods that are in the process of being gentrified, buying at the bottom rather than the top of the market, to get more house for their money.

Fix It Up

Houses in perfect condition, that show well, sell for a premium. If you want to get more house for your money, choose something that needs a bit of TLC. A house that has pink walls and orange shag carpet might appear just too ugly to consider when you first view it, but it might just need a few coats of paint and some new carpet to become a spacious dream home.

Do Some Finishing

Unfinished areas such as attics and basements can be finished to create additional living spaces. The basement could become a family room and the attic an extra bedroom or study. An unfinished space can become the extra bathroom you need to make morning more manageable.

Consider an Addition

Contractors can add rooms to a house. If you have a large lot, you can build an extra wing. With a one story ranch house, it may be possible to raise the roof and add a second story.

The more stuff you have, the smaller your home appears. Reduce clutter and invest in smaller condo size furniture to give even the smallest home the appearance of spaciousness.

You Ask, We Answer: What is Private Mortgage Insurance or ‘PMI’ and How Does It Work?

You Ask, We Answer: What is Private Mortgage Insurance or 'PMI' and How Does It Work? For many homeowners, their mortgage payment contains more than just principal and interest. A little something called PMI could be representing a significant portion of that payment, and it’s important for home buyers to understand this cost.

What Is PMI?

PMI stands for private mortgage insurance, or sometimes just mortgage insurance. However, it isn’t intended to mitigate risk for the homeowner, but rather the bank.

Statistics show that when a home buyer puts less than 20% down on a home, he/she is much more likely to default. So, requiring these buyers to carry PMI helps the bank hedge their losses in the event of a default.

It’s important to note that the home buyer doesn’t shop for PMI; this is all taken care of by the lender. However, the cost of PMI should be calculated out well before closing to help the home buyer be aware of his/her final mortgage payment.

Who Needs PMI?

Who will need to carry PMI depends on factors like the credit rating of the buyer and the exact mortgage being sought out. However, it’s safe to say that most home buyers with less than a 20% down payment will be required to carry PMI.

Does PMI Ever Go Away?

Eventually, PMI can be removed from a mortgage once enough of the principle has been paid down or enough years have passed.

It’s important for home buyers to fully understand the terms of their PMI requirement. Sometimes, it will be automatically removed once 20% of the house has been paid off, while other times, refinancing may be required.

Should Those Who Cannot Put 20% Down, Not Buy A House To Avoid PMI?

Unfortunately, this is not an easy question to answer. Yes, PMI is an extra cost that needs to be calculated into the cost of the home – but putting off a home purchase isn’t necessarily the right course of action.

For many families, it’s financially challenging to save up 20% of the cost of a home. After all, in 2010, the median home price of new homes sold in America was $221,800. A 20% down payment on such a home would be $44,360.

However, many find that it’s still cheaper, or just financially wiser, to buy a home with PMI than to continue renting. Each potential home buyer should call their mortgage professional to get more information about market trends in their area and to decide the appropriate course of action.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 29, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 29 2014Last week’s economic news included several housing related reports. Housing markets continue to cool as November reports on existing and new home sales fell below expectations. New Jobless claims were lower than expected by 10,000 claims. The details:

Existing and New Home Sales Down, FHFA House Price Index Up

The National Association of Realtors® reported that November sales of existing homes fell to 4.93 million sales against expectations of 5.18 million sales. October’s reading was revised from 5.25 million sales to 5.26 million. This was seen as an anomaly that may have occurred during uncertainty caused by volatile stock markets. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen slow housing markets to tight lending standards in a recent statement.

FHFA reported that October home prices connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages increased incrementally year-over-year. October house prices increased to 4.50 percent year-over-year as compared to September’s year-over-year house price increase of 4.40 percent.

November sales of new homes fell short of expectations according to the Commerce Department. 438,000 new homes were sold as compared to expectations of 450 new home sales and September’s reading of 445,000 new homes sold. This was the slowest rate of growth in four months.

New home sales declined in three of four regions. Readings for November were -12.00 percent in the Northeast, -6.40 percent in the Southeast, -6.30 percent in the Midwest. Sales of new homes rose by 14.80 percent in the West. Analysts typically caution against reading too much into volatile month-to-month figures, but they are concerned about longer-term sales trends too. Sales of new homes were 1.60 percent lower year-over-year.

The median sale price of new homes was $280,900 in November, which was 1.40 percent higher year-over-year.

Mortgage Rates Up, New Jobless Claims Down

Mortgage rates rose across the board according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of average mortgage rates. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased three basis points to 3.83 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose one basis point to 3.10 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was six basis points higher at 3.01 percent. Discount points were 0.60 for 30 and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

280,000 new jobless claims were filed last week, a seven-week low. Analysts expected 290,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 289,000 new claims. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims also showed improvement with 8500 fewer claims at 290,250 new jobless claims filed. Stronger labor markets are considered good news for housing markets as more consumers can afford to buy homes.

No economic reports were scheduled Thursday or Friday due to the Christmas holiday.

What’s Ahead

This week brings Case-Shiller Home Price reports, Pending Home Sales and Construction Spending. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and Weekly Jobless Claims will be released on Wednesday due to the New Year’s Day holiday on Thursday.

Existing Home Sales Dip to Lowest Level since May

Existing Home Sales Dip to Lowest Level since MayThe National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of existing homes dropped to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.93 million as compared to expectations of a 5.18 million existing homes sold. Projections were based on October’s reading of 5.25 million. November’s reading showed a 6.10 percent dip in sales of existing homes and was the lowest reading since May.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen said last week that the less than robust housing recovery is due in part to tight lending standards. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®, said that November’s reading was likely an aberration due to volatility in the stock market, which could have dampened home buyer enthusiasm.

Analysts expect easing of mortgage guidelines and an improved job market to help increase home sales. The national median price for existing homes rose to $205,300 in November, which represented a year-over-year increase of five percent. Inventories of used homes rose to a 5.10 month supply, which was more than double the 2.01 month supply of existing homes for sale in November 2013.

FHFA Reports Year-Over-Year Increase in Home Prices

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported a monthly gain of 0.60 percent for home prices associated with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. FHFA said that home prices rose 4.50 percent year-over-year in October as compared to the October 2013 reading of 4.40 percent year-over-year. The increase in FHFA home prices was likely connected to a decrease in foreclosure rates and fewer distressed sales.

FHFA house prices encompass the nine census divisions. On a month-to-month basis, FHA home prices rose by 0.60 percent in October. Month-to-month home prices by census division ranged from -0.30 percent for the Pacific division to +1.50 percent for the Atlantic division. On a year-over-year basis, home prices increased for all nine regions and ranged from +0.80 percent in the Mid-Atlantic division to +6.00 percent in the Pacific division.

Are You Applying for a Reverse Mortgage? Here Are 3 Considerations You’ll Need to Make

Are You Applying for a Reverse Mortgage? Here Are 3 Considerations You'll Need to MakeIf you’re a homeowner who is looking to tap in to the home equity that you’ve spent years building you may be interested in a “reverse mortgage” or “home equity conversion mortgage”. While these unique financial tools aren’t for everyone, if you qualify for a reverse mortgage you’ll find that this might be the perfect financial solution which allows you to pay off your existing mortgage, or for some other regular expenses that you have.

Let’s take a closer look at how reverse mortgages work, including how to qualify, what happens to your existing mortgage and what a reverse mortgage might cost.

Do You Meet the Requirements for a Reverse Mortgage?

In short, a reverse mortgage is a type of home loan in which the lender pays you monthly payments or a lump sum based on the equity that you’ve built up in your home. At some point in the future – when you move out of the home, or pass away – the reverse mortgage loan will become payable.

As mentioned above, reverse mortgages aren’t for everyone. You’ll need to be at least 62 years of age and be a homeowner who has enough equity built up in your home to qualify. You’ll also need to understand that your lender will scrutinize your current financial position to ensure that you can keep up with property taxes and other regular costs that you may incur.

What Happens to Your Existing Mortgage?

If you have a regular mortgage it’s still possible to qualify for a reverse mortgage, but you’ll need to use some of the proceeds to pay off your existing mortgage. For example, if you have $50,000 owing on your mortgage and you receive a reverse mortgage for $100,000, you can pay your initial mortgage off and still have $50,000 to use as you see fit.

Do You Know What a Reverse Mortgage Costs?

Keep in mind that like a traditional mortgage, a reverse mortgage has costs attached. You’ll need to pay mortgage insurance premiums, service fees, lender fees and other third-party fees that are typically referred to as “closing costs”.

Learn More About Your Reverse Mortgages Options

A reverse mortgage can be an excellent way to take advantage of the equity that is currently locked up in your home. To learn more about reverse mortgages, contact your local mortgage professional and they’ll be able to share their guidance and expertise.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 22, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 22 2014

Last week’s scheduled economic events were few but informative. Housing related reports included the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for December, which stayed close to a nine-year high reading of 59 in September. December’s reading was 57 and fell two points shy of the expected reading of 59. November’s reading was 58. Readings above 50 indicate that more builders are positive about market conditions than those who are not.

Housing Starts for November were lower according to the Department of Commerce’s report released Tuesday. The reading for November was 1.028 million starts on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Analysts expected a reading of 1.035 million housing starts based on October’s level of 1.045 million starts.

Fed Confident, but Watchful of Economic Conditions

The Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released its statement at the conclusion of its final meeting in 2015. Fed Chair Janet Yellen also gave a press conference that primarily supported information contained in the statement. The Fed did not foresee rising the target federal funds rate until mid to late 2015, and said that no changes were likely to be made at the first two FOMC meetings of the year. The target federal funds rate remains steady at 0.00 to 0.250 percent. FOMC members noted improvement in labor markets, but said that housing continued to recover at a slow rate. The Fed repeated its customary statement that FOMC members would monitor ongoing economic conditions and developments as part of any decision to change monetary policy. Chair Janet Yellen affirmed the committee’s position in her press conference.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall

Mortgage rates fell according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.80 percent as compared to the prior week’s reading of 3.93 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.09 percent, which was 11 basis points below the prior week’s reading. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages had an average rate of 2.95 percent; this was three basis points lower than the previous week. Discount points remained steady at 0.50 percent with the exception of average points charged for a 15-year mortgage, which increased to 0.60 percent.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 289,000 against expectations of 295,000 new jobless claims; expectations were based on the prior week’s reading of 295,000 new claims. Analysts cautioned that weekly jobless claims readings can be particularly volatile during the holiday and early winter season.

What’s Ahead

Economic news scheduled for next week includes the National Association of Realtors® report on November sales of existing homes and November sales of new homes, which is issued by the Department of Commerce. Consumer sentiment, consumer spending and core inflation reports will also be issued next week. No economic reports will be issued Thursday or Friday due to the Christmas holiday.

Don’t Be That Guy or Gal: 3 Easy Ways to Ruin Your Relationship with Your Real Estate Agent

Don't Be That Guy or Gal: 3 Easy Ways to Ruin Your Relationship with Your Real Estate AgentAre you thinking about buying or selling a home? If you don’t know a real estate agent or have a referral to one, you may end up working with someone unfamiliar who you will need to build a relationship with. Of course, as with any relationship there’s always a chance that things can go sour.

In today’s blog post we’ll share three easy ways that you can ruin the trust and rapport that you’ve built with your real estate agent.

#1: Lie or Embellish the Facts

When you ask a real estate agent to represent you in the home buying or selling process they’re going to need accurate information to help you make the best decisions. Lying or embellishing the facts can cause significant issues and should obviously be avoided.

For example, if your agent asks you how much you can afford for your new home, give them an accurate figure based on your mortgage pre-approval, your income and your current financial situation. If you’re selling your home and your real estate agent asks you about the home’s maintenance history, be honest and don’t try to cover anything up.

#2: Cheat on Them with Another Agent

Once you have a real estate agent searching for that perfect new home, they may need to expend quite a bit of effort in order to find exactly what you’re looking for. Imagine how hard they would work if they discovered that you’re having another real estate agent perform the same job, but only one of them will be paid for their work?

Don’t cheat on your real estate agent. If you feel that your agent is doing a poor job or you could find someone better, let them know. It’s better to move on than to have professionals working behind each other’s backs.

#3: Fail to Be Trusting or Respectful

If you fail to show trust and respect for your real estate agent you can rest assured they’re not going to bend over backwards to help you squeeze out that extra discount or get your home sale closed as quickly as possible. Treat your real estate agent as you wish to be treated and they’ll be more than willing to do their job.

Whether buying or selling, an experienced real estate agent is the best way to ensure that your transaction goes according to plan and that you accomplish your goals. When you’re ready to discuss buying a new home or selling your current one, contact your real estate agent and they’ll be happy to assist, or contact us for a referral if you don’t already have an agent you trust. Don’t forget to keep the above points in mind!

FOMC Statement: No Year-End Surprises

You Ask, We Answer: How to Choose Between Expanding Your Current Home and Buying a New OneThe Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said in its last statement for 2014 that although economic conditions have improved at a moderate pace, the Fed believes that the target federal funds rate of between 0.00 and 0.25 percent remains “appropriate.” While labor markets show expanding job growth and lower unemployment rates, FOMC members noted that housing markets are recovering slowly.

Inflation remains below the committee’s target rate of two percent; this was attributed to lower fuel costs. Household income and business investment were seen as increasing, and the underutilization of workforce resources was described as “diminishing.” These developments indicate better economic conditions for consumers, business and job seekers, as employers picked up the pace of hiring.

Target Fed Funds Rate Unchanged

No year-end changes in monetary policy were made; the Fed issued its usual statement that developing economic conditions would guide the Committee’s decisions concerning the target federal funds rate. The FOMC statement said that changes could be made according to progress toward or away from achieving the Fed’s dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability. No specific date was given for raising the target federal funds rate. The FOMC statement noted that no change is likely as long as the inflation rate remains below the Fed’s longer-term target of two percent.

The FOMC statement was followed by a press conference given by Janet Yellen, fed chair and Chair of the FOMC. 

Fed Chair: Oil Price Influence on Inflation “Transitory” 

Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve and FOMC, said that she expects lower oil prices to be a transitory influence on inflation, which continues to run lower than the Fed’s target rate of two percent. Media representatives noted that Chair Yellen replaced the phrase “considerable time” with “patient” in reference to when the Fed might raise the target federal funds rate.

Ms. Yellen said that the gross domestic product (GDP) had increased by 2.50 percent over the prior four quarters ending with the third quarter of 2014, and said that the economy continues to grow at approximately the same pace. Concerning falling inflation, Ms. Yellen said that she expected the inflation rate to increase after transitory influences including oil prices dissipate. The Fed Chair said that she perceived lower oil prices to be a positive development for the U.S. economy on net.

In response to questions about when the Fed would raise the target federal funds rate, Chair Yellen said that it would likely occur sometime in 2015 and also mentioned “sometime after the next couple of FOMC meetings. This suggests that mid 2015 may bring a change, but Ms. Yellen repeated the Fed’s oft-stated position that continual review of economic conditions and developing trends would impact any decision to change or not change the federal funds rate.

Home Builder Index Stays Near Nine Year Peak

Home Builder Index Stays Near Nine Year Peak

Home Builder Sentiment slipped to a reading of 57 in December according to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index. November’s reading of 58 prompted analysts to project a reading of 59 for December. The latest reading marks the sixth consecutive month for readings above 50. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are positive about housing market conditions than not.

The one-point decline in December’s reading kept the NAHB Housing Market Index within two points of a nine-year high reached in September.

NAHB: Housing Market Index Suggests Slow Return to Normalcy

NAHB’s chief economist, David Crowe, said that December’s reading was in line with NAHB’s assessment that housing markets are on a “slow march back to normal.” Home builder confidence in conditions contributing to the NAHB Housing Market Index also fell in two categories while remaining unchanged in one.

The gauge of builder confidence in current market conditions moved from last month’s reading of 62 to 61. Builder confidence in upcoming home sales fell from 65 to 64, while confidence in prospective buyer traffic was unchanged at a reading of 45. These results are consistent with real estate market trends slowing during the holiday season and winter months.

Builders Challenged in 2014, Better Conditions Expected in 2015

Analysts said that steady builder confidence may be a result of builders surviving a tough year in 2015. Market conditions, unpredictable interest rates and higher costs of supplies along with high unemployment subdued builder confidence during 2014. The New Year brings prospects of easing mortgage standards and better labor markets, which are expected to boost builder confidence as more home buyers enter the market for new homes.

The Commerce Department is set to release Housing Starts for November on December 16; analysts expect an increase to 1.035 million starts on a seasonally adjusted annual basis as compared to October’s reading of 1.01 million starts. A positive reading for housing starts could further bolster home builder confidence for future readings.

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

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.