Archives for March 2016

Fed Policymakers Make Interesting Decision on Interest Rates

Fed Policymakers Make Interesting Decision on Interest RatesAccording to a press release by the Federal Reserve, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the current target federal funds rate will hold steady at  0.25 to 0.50 percent. Committee members cited positive developments in the U.S economy including jobs growth, stronger labor markets and gradually increasing inflation. In addition, stronger housing sector and household spending were also noted as positive signs for the economy. Committee members cited risks associated with global economic and financial developments as a concern.

FOMC members are guided in decision making by the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability. Inflation remains below the committee’s longer-term goal of 2.00 percent; FOMC members attributed slow inflation growth to lower energy prices. The Fed described its current monetary policy stance as “accommodative” and expects it to remain so until inflation reaches 2.00 percent.

Analysts said that the Fed has scaled back its forecast for rate increases from four increases to two increases in 2016, but any actions will depend on FOMC review of current and expected domestic and global factors. Fed Chair Janet Yellen previously cited turbulent market conditions as “significantly” tightening financial conditions due to lower stock prices.

Fed Chair  Janet Yellens Press Conference

Fed Chair Janet Yellen explained policy makers’ decision not to raise the target federal funds rate in a press conference after the FOMC statement. Chair Yellen responded to media representatives’ questions about FOMC’s views on inflation and unemployment, zero or negative interest rates and uncertainty about China’s economy

Ms. Yellen cautioned against over-emphasis of the relationship between unemployment and inflation as employment rates only modestly impacts tracking inflation indicators as they relate to wages and prices. In her remarks about the decision not to raise the target federal funds rate, Chair Yellen cited uncertainty about China’s economy as a factor in the decision not to raise the benchmark federal funds rate.

The U.S. economy is strengthening as Europe and Japanese economies wane. Chair Yellen indicated that although global economic decisions influence U.S. monetary policy, that U.S. decisions are not based solely on global economic and financial developments.

In response to a question about whether the FOMC has considered the effects of zero to negative interest rates used by Japan and other nations, Chair Yellen said that committee members were not actively considering or discussing negative interest rates in view of improving economic conditions. Ms. Yellen said that Japan incorporated negative interest rates but did not realize the desired effect of increasing inflation.

Media analysts said that a rate increase in April’s FOMC meeting seems unlikely, but with world-wide economic conditions changing quickly, such, forecasts can’t be cast in cement.

Understanding Mortgage Tax Benefits and How They Save You Money in the Long Run

Understanding Mortgage Tax Benefits and How They Save You Money in the Long RunIf you’re considering whether home ownership is the right decision for you, there are lots of different factors you’ll want to take into account. Do you want to keep moving around, or are you ready to lay down roots in a community? Are you prepared for the additional upkeep that home ownership requires?

But one of the big factors in home ownership that few potential buyers consider is the tax benefits of getting a mortgage. Although it may seem counterintuitive, getting a mortgage on a property that you own can reap lots of dividends come tax time.

So how does a mortgage work for you and help you keep more of your hard-earned money? Here’s what you need to know.

Mortgage Interest Deductions: How Your Mortgage Interest Saves You Money

If you’re a homeowner in the United States, your mortgage interest is tax deductible. The mortgage interest tax deduction was introduced in 1913, and is one of the longest standing and most used tax deductions out there. The deduction allows you to deduct all of your mortgage interest payments from your federal taxes.

But in order to deduct your interest payments, you’ll need to meet certain basic eligibility requirements. Firstly, you’ll need to file Form 1040 and itemize your deductions on Schedule A in order to be eligible. You’ll also need to be the primary borrower named in the mortgage – you can’t deduct interest on someone else’s mortgage, even if you’re the one making the payments.

And finally, you need to (at some point) make a payment on your home. Note that rental properties are not usually eligible for a mortgage interest deduction (though there are some exceptions).

First-Time Buyer? Mortgage Credits And Other Buyer Programs Keep More Money in Your Pocket

If you’re a first-time buyer (and even if you’re not), you’ll have access to a variety of new buyer incentives and mortgage tax credits that other buyers don’t receive. Firstly, as a first-time buyer, you’re able to take out $10,000 from your traditional or Roth IRA at any point during your lifetime – without paying the 10% penalty for withdrawing early. There are also several credit programs for buyers, including the Residential Energy Credit, which gives you up to $500 toward any home improvement project or equipment purchase that makes your home more energy efficient.

It may seem like getting a mortgage is a great way to spend money, but it’s also a great way to save money through various government tax programs and rebates. To learn more about the various tax credits and incentives available for home buyers, contact your local mortgage professional today.

3 Tips and Tricks to Make Mortgage Pre-Qualification Easy

3 Tips and Tricks to Make Mortgage Pre-qualification EasyIf you’re planning to buy a home, you should know that the mortgage pre-qualification process is the first in a series of steps that eventually lead to home ownership. A pre-qualification is different from a pre-approval – the pre-qualification meeting is simply you and your lender hashing out how much you can afford to spend on a property. But once you’ve been pre-qualified, it makes the mortgage process easier.

So how can you make the pre-qualification quick and painless so you can get on with your house hunt? Here’s what you need to know.

Get Your Debts In Order

One of the major questions during the pre-qualification meeting will be your credit history and debt payments. Your lender will use your social security number to look up your credit history and determine how your income and current monthly debt payments stack up. If you have a high amount of debt, you may want to do everything you can to pay it down to qualify for your dream home. However, it’s important to go over the details with a trusted mortgage professional for specific guidance here.

Chart Your Income And PITI

Your lender will use a specific ratio (the PITI to income ratio) to determine how much it’s willing to lend you in order to buy a home – and that’s why, if you calculate this ratio beforehand, you’ll know what to expect going into the meeting. PITI stands for “Principal and Interest, including Taxes and Insurance”.  It refers to the four components of a standard mortgage payment. Your PITI ratio, often referred to as the “front end ratio” then, shows how much of your income goes toward your monthly mortgage payment.

To calculate your front end ratio, simply divide your gross monthly income by your monthly mortgage payment (your PITI amounts plus your mortgage insurance). Most lenders will want to see a PITI to income ratio that is under 28%.

Build Up Your Savings Account

It’s important that you have some savings over time that can be used for a down payment, closing costs and reserves.  Although there are some very low down payment options, having a decent balance in your savings account always helps you qualify easier for a mortgage.  

Closing costs are the fees associated with getting a mortgage loan.  These can also be negotiated to be paid by the seller if you choose.  But once again, they aren’t required to make that concession, so it would be wise to move toward saving for those expenses. 

Reserves are the amounts that will need to be collected to cover your taxes, insurance and mortgage insurance on the property.  These will fund the “reserve” in your escrow account so you’ll always have enough to cover those expenses as they come due throughout the year.  Your mortgage company keeps this money for you and pays the expenses on time as well.

Pre-qualifying for a mortgage can seem like a daunting process, but it’s actually quite simple. Your mortgage advisor can help you to understand what goes into a pre-qualification. Contact us today to learn more about how pre-qualifications work and how you can get started.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 14, 2016

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - March 14, 2016Last week’s economic news included Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. The City of Detroit also announced a program to help would-be buyers purchase homes that do not qualify for mortgage loans due to severe damage.

Fannie Mae: Home Buyer Sentiment Index Rises

Fannie Mae’s Home Buyer Sentiment Index (HBSI) gained 1.20 percent for an overall reading of 82.70 percent for February. The index reading is calculated using responses to several questions contained in Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey. HBSI components include consumer responses to questions about whether it’s a good or bad time to sell or buy a home, consumer expectations concerning whether home prices and mortgage rates will rise, whether respondents expected to keep or lose their jobs, and consumer outlook for their income to significantly increase year-over-year.

The HBSI is designed to assess consumer attitudes about housing markets and their decisions about buying a home.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose four basis points to 3.68 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose two basis points to 2.96 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was eight basis points higher at 2.92 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims dropped to a five-month low last week with a reading of 259,000 new claims filed as compared to expectations of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 277,000 new claims. New claims readings under 300,000 new claims indicate a healthy labor market; new claims readings have held below the 300,000 benchmark for more than a year. The lowest reading of 256,000 new jobless claims occurred in October 2015.

City of Detroit Addresses Problems with Ravaged Homes

The City of Detroit announced a program designed to facilitate the purchase and rehabilitation of vacant and damaged homes that do not meet appraisal requirements for traditional home loans. While many markets have recovered from the Great Recession, housing markets such as Detroit have languished due to the lack of financing options. The program offers mortgages to cover the home purchase and second mortgages up to $75,000 for repairs and renovation. Program administrators say they plan to issue 1000 loans over the next three years. This type of program may help struggling housing markets recover while providing homeownership opportunities to those who could not otherwise afford to buy a home.

What’s Ahead This Week

This week’s scheduled economic events include the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, federal reports on housing starts and building permits issued. The Federal Reserve will release its usual post-meeting statement after its Federal Open Market Committee meeting. Fed Chair Janet Yellen will also hold a press conference.

Ready to Move in to Your New Home? Not So Fast! Take Care of These 3 Items Before the Big Move

Ready to Move in to Your New Home? Not So Fast! Take Care of These 3 Items Before the Big MoveWith the excitement involved in moving into a new home and all of the things that need to be done, it can be easy to forget a few important things before you load up the moving van. If the day of departure is drawing closer and you’re mulling over the final details, here are some items you may want to check off the list first.

Install A New Lock

One of the most important aspects of home ownership is the feeling of security it automatically provides, so you’ll want to change out the locks on the doors before you embark on the big move. As soon as you’ve received the keys to your new home, contact a locksmith who will be able to do the dirty work for you or, if time permits, you may want to take on this task on your own and save a little bit of money in the process.

Do A Quick Clean

With so many boxes to unpack and items to organize, the concept of cleaning the house you’ve just moved into might not be very appealing; however, this can be a necessary step in making you and your family feel more at home. It doesn’t have to be the kind of cleanup that will take 10 hours, but a quick dusting and wiping of cabinets and appliances, as well as a quick sweep and vacuum of the floor, may change the way you feel about your new home.

If Time Permits, Paint!

If the walls of your new house happen to be in immaculate shape, you can probably avoid paint; however, a prime up of the walls can add a lot to the sparkle of your new home and may make it feel like yours much sooner. Instead of going for boldness or deciding on a decorating scheme right away, choose a neutral color that will instantly brighten your room. If the walls are in particularly bad shape, you may even want to contact a professional who will be happy to sand and spackle away.

Moving into a new home is undoubtedly a time of great excitement, but there are some things you should do before you make yourself comfortable in your new place. If you’re curious about what’s available on the market and would like to know your options, you may want to contact one of our local real estate professionals for more information.

Worried about Your FICO Score? 4 Easy Strategies to Fix It Up

Worried about Your FICO Score? 4 Easy Strategies to Fix It UpIf you’re worried about your bad credit, you’ll want to do everything in your power to improve your rating as quickly as possible – especially if you have a major purchase coming up. Improving your credit rating can give you access to better interest rates on mortgages or even help you to get that job you’re after.

IMPORTANT! If you are currently involved in a home loan transaction, speak with your trusted mortgage lender before taking any action regarding your credit!

So how can you boost your FICO score quickly and easily? Here’s what you need to know.

Get Your Credit Report And Dispute Any Errors

Credit reporting agencies don’t always keep 100% perfect records, and there’s a good chance that your credit report contains at least one error. One recent FTC study found that 25% of consumers have an error on their credit report, and that in 5% of cases, the errors were actually severe enough to impact the loan terms that borrowers were able to negotiate.

You can get your annual credit report from all three credit reporting agencies for free. Carefully read over it. If you see any errors – if your name is misspelled, if they have the wrong address on file, or if there are late or unpaid charges that you didn’t make – you can dispute the items in question.

Still Overdue? Negotiate Payment Terms With Your Creditors

If you’re overdue on a payment, it will weigh heavily on your credit score. As your payment history makes up a full 35% of your FICO score, this is one area where you’ll want to invest a great deal of time and effort.

Contact any creditors you owe money to and ask if you can negotiate your bill. The ideal outcome for you is to have the creditor report your debt as paid in full, so see if you can secure that promise in writing in exchange for an accelerated payment schedule.

Try Maintaining A Lower Utilization Ratio

Your utilization ratio refers to the amount of credit you use at any given time. If this number goes beyond 30 percent, you’ll start to see your credit score drop. Ideally, you should aim for a utilization ratio below 10 percent – this will prove to your lender that you can responsibly pay for the credit you use.

Have Recurring Bills? Automate Your Payments

Automating your monthly payments can be a great way to boost your credit score. Whether it’s your mortgage, your credit card, or your student loan, a pre-authorized monthly payment will ensure that everything gets paid on time and give you a great credit history.

Your FICO score is a number that will determine your eligibility for mortgages and other loans. These are general tips to help with your credit score and improve the overall reporting of your credit.

Call your local mortgage professional to learn about what kind of a mortgage your credit score can afford you.

It Isn’t Always a Clear Road after Pre-approval: 4 Reasons Why Your Mortgage May Be Denied

It Isn't Always a Clear Road after Pre-approval: 4 Reasons Why Your Mortgage May Be DeniedSo you’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage – great! You’ve taken the first step toward becoming a homeowner. But before you start picking out china patterns, you’ll want to keep in mind that a pre-approval isn’t the same thing as a mortgage agreement. There’s still no guarantee that you’ll actually get a mortgage.

But why would a lender deny a mortgage after pre-approving a borrower? Here’s what you need to know.

Sudden Changes In Income Or Employment History

A number of mortgages will require borrowers to have consistent employment for a certain length of time. If you apply for an FHA mortgage, for instance, you’ll be obligated to have an employment history dating back at least two years. Any gaps in your employment history will require a written explanation that your underwriter will need to approve.

If you switch career fields while in the process of buying a home and it has a significant impact on your income, your lender may deny your mortgage.

Credit Mismanagement After Pre-Approval

Lenders like to see consistency – so if your credit score suddenly drops after you’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage, it sends up a red flag. Even something as minor as a late payment on a cell phone bill could affect your credit score just enough to cause your lender to deny you. Pay extra attention to your bills throughout the home buying process, and make sure nothing slips past you.

Taking On More Debt In The Interim

A number of buyers will take on more debt after they’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage. Although it may be tempting to get a new car to go with your new house, getting a car loan will change your debt-to-income ratio and cause your lender to think twice about how responsible you are. If you’re in the process of buying a home, hold off on any other major purchases until after the deal has closed.

An Unsatisfactory Bank Appraisal

Sometimes, your mortgage can be denied for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Some lenders will only issue a mortgage if the property value of the house in question is appraised above a certain level. Others will deny a mortgage if the home requires roof repairs, electrical work, or a new heating system.

You’ll want to check with your lender to see what home conditions could be cause for denying your mortgage application.

Getting approved for a mortgage is a convoluted process at best, but a mortgage advisor can help you to navigate the approval process with ease. Contact your local mortgage professional for more tips on how to ensure you get approved.

The Pros and Cons of A Fixed Rate Second Mortgage vs. Opening a Home Equity Line of Credit

The Pros and Cons of Refinancing Your Mortgage vs. Opening a Home Equity Line of CreditWhen it comes to a mortgage and the financial stability of your home, there’s no such thing as too much you can know in the case of keeping your biggest investment safe. If you’re looking at paying off debt and are considering using the equity in your home, here are a few things you’ll need to know about refinancing your mortgage and home equity lines of credit.

Fixed Second Mortgage vs. HELOC

Refinancing your mortgage to access equity (without changing the existing first mortgage)comes in two basic flavors: a fixed rate mortgage or a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). A fixed rate second mortgage is also known as a home equity loan. While you’re expected to pay the amount loaned back in monthly payments for a pre-determined number of years, you’ll receive this money at a fixed rate of interest. On the other hand, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) is similar to a credit card where the amount you can borrow is determined by your credit history and income, and funds are withdrawn using this line of credit, can be paid down, and then drawn back on again.

All About The Interest Rates

When you refinance using a fixed rate second mortgage, the interest rate will be fixed so you won’t have to worry about any volatile increases down the road. Since this qualifies as a second mortgage, the interest rate on it will be higher than your typical first mortgage but lower than a HELOC. When it comes to HELOC’s, the amount of interest you’ll be paying will be linked to the prime rate and will fluctuate with the market, and this means you may end up paying a higher amount of interest than you bargained on.

How The Interest Is Calculated

While refinancing your mortgage can seem like a great opportunity since you’ll be able to deal with a fixed interest rate, it’s worth noting that the way you’ll be charged is different. A mortgage refinancing will charge you interest on the total amount of your loan while a HELOC will only require you to pay interest on the money you’ve withdrawn from it, so you’ll want to consider which option works best for you.

When it comes to getting a second mortgage or opening a HELOC, there are pros and cons to both that should be considered before delving into either. As these can risk the security of your most important investment, you’ll want to carefully weigh what will work best for you. If you’re curious about other homes in your area or are thinking of downsizing, you may want to contact one of our local mortgage professionals for more information.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 7, 2016

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - March 7, 2016Week in Review

Last week’s scheduled economic news included reports on pending home sales, construction spending and several jobs related readings including ADP Payrolls, the government’s Non-Farm Payrolls and the national unemployment rate.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Unemployment Claims Rise

Mortgage rates rose across the board according to Freddie Mac’s weekly report. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose two basis points to 3.64 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 2.94 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose five basis points to 2.84 percent. Discount points were consistent at 0.50 percent for all three types of home loans.

Weekly jobless claims also rose to 278,000 new claims as compared to expectations of 270,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of $272,000 new jobless claims. While an increase in new unemployment claims may seem discouraging, new claims for unemployment remain near pre-recession lows.

The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims dropped by 1750 claims to 270,250 and reached its lowest reading in three months. Analysts view the four-week reading as more reliable than week-to-week readings that can be volatile.

Pending Home Sales and Construction Spending

In other news, pending home sales fell by 2.50 percent as compared to December’s reading. Analysts expected an increase in pending sales of 0.50 percent; December’s reading was 0.10 percent higher than for November. Pending home sales represent sales contracts that have not yet closed and are considered an indicator of future closings and mortgage activity.

Home sales have been impacted in recent months by a shortage of available homes; this creates a backlog of would-be buyers who can’t find homes they want to buy and also causes rapidly escalating home prices in desirable areas. Bidding wars and cash sales can sideline buyers who can’t pay cash or are whose offers are outbid.

Analysts say that new home construction is a key component of easing the housing shortage. Construction spending increased by 1.50 percent in January, but month-to-month spending for residential projects was flat in January. Spending for residential projects was 7.60 percent higher year-over-year.

Labor Reports Reflect Stronger Economy

Federal and private sector reports on jobs indicate that job growth continues. The Department of Commerce reported that Non-Farm Payrolls grew by 242,000 jobs in February, which was higher than expectations of 195,000 new jobs and January’s reading of 172,000 new jobs. According to ADP, which tracks private sector payrolls, 214,000 new jobs were created in February as compared to expectations of 185,000 new jobs and January’s reading of 193,000 new jobs.

Improving jobs markets are a positive indicator for housing markets as stable employment is important to home buyers’ ability to qualify for mortgages. The National Unemployment Rate remained stable in February with a reading of 4.90 percent; the expected reading and prior month’s reading were also 4.90 percent.

Whats Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic reports include the NFIB Small Business Index and February’s Federal Budget along with regularly scheduled weekly reports on mortgage rates and new unemployment claims.

Dream Renovations: Upgrading Your Bathroom from ‘Regular’ to ‘In-Home Spa’

Dream Renovations: Upgrading Your Bathroom from 'Regular' to 'In-home Spa'There are times you might long for the relaxed leisure of the spa experience, but with the cost of a manicure it’s not always a pleasure one can afford. If your current bathroom set-up isn’t the optimal place for rest and relaxation, here are some cues for how you can turn it from a bit of a problem to a consummate pleasure.

Install A Vintage Vanity

The look of slick steel and porcelain can certainly be classy, but if you’re looking for an upscale room you’ll love to spend time in, consider a vintage dresser that you can turn into your very own unique vanity. While you’ll need to develop some plumbing and woodworking know-how to make this dream a reality, it will easily fancy up your bathroom and lend for an elegant, everyday experience.

Spring For A Bold Color

Part of the spa experience is often the palette of jewel-toned colors that are used on the walls, but it can often be considered a risk to take on such an intense tone in one’s own bathroom. However, if you have a smaller sized bathroom and can find a brilliant color you really love that will work with your decor, it may make for a unique and singular spa-style experience.

Add An Accent With Tile

A sizeable Jacuzzi that you can really get comfortable in is a great start for an in-home spa experience, but there are some stylish ways you can add to it that will make for a particularly sophisticated look. Instead of taking out the tub, pick a colorful tile that will mesh with the other colors and textures of your bathroom to add an accent. It’s not necessarily a simple fix but it will add a lot of oomph.

Work A Walk-In Shower

It goes without saying that a shower curtain does not always provide for the most sublime of bathroom experiences, so one step towards your own ‘in-home Spa’ may involve the addition of a walk-in shower. While this can be an expensive upgrade, it can completely change the look and feel of your bathroom, and might just mean you’ll save on manicures.

The spa experience can be enticing for the relaxation and comfort it offers, but you can create a similar experience in your own bathroom with a few changes that will elegant it up. If you happen to be renovating your home because and would like to look at financing options, you may want to contact your trusted mortgage professional for more information.