Archives for March 2017

Spring Fever: How to Detect If Allergy Hotspots Are Developing in Your Home

Spring Fever: How to Detect If Allergy Hotspots Are Developing in Your HomeThe spring season may be a time of cherry blossoms and longer days, but it’s also common for allergies to ramp up. While you won’t be able to stop the season, there are things you can do to limit the impact of allergies in your home. If you’re wondering what has the greatest impact on your sinus health in the home, here are a few places you’ll want to check out.

Have You Looked Under The Bed?

Many diligent housecleaners will do a sweep under the bed each time, but for those of us who want to avoid pulling everything out, this area can be a very dusty spot. Next time you clean the house, take the time to remove everything out from under the bed that’s been collecting dust, whether there are old boxes, shoes or things you’ve forgotten about. Dust everything off, vacuum the area underneath and you’ll be well on your way to a cleaner air space.

Do You Like The Retro Rug?

Most vintage looks come back for business, and the shag rug is no exception; however, this style of carpet captures a lot of dust and can greatly impact your sinus health. If this is your favorite style of carpet, you’ll want to ensure you vacuum it frequently to pull out all of the dust. In the future, you may also want to opt for a different style of floor covering, as something lightweight and durable will be a better option when it comes to cleaning and taking care of yourself.

Blame It On The Bookshelf

There are few things that will collect dust like a bookshelf lined with old books. Unfortunately, bookshelves and books can be one of the most rarely dusted areas in the house since it’s a more time consuming task to pull out each book and wipe down the shelves. If you don’t want to downsize, you may want to take a damp cloth to your bookshelf every time you clean to give it a once over. Ensure you clean it more carefully at the end of each month to avoid dust buildup.

There are a lot of areas where dust can accumulate in the home and make allergies worse, but by checking under the bed and dusting the books you can avoid its worst ills.

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Highest in 12 Years

According to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for March, builder confidence in market conditions reached its highest level in 12 years and was six points higher than February’s index reading of 65.

Housing market index readings are based on three components. Builder confidence in current market conditions for new single family homes rose seven points to 78; builder confidence in market conditions for the next six months increased five points to an index reading of 78. Most surprising was the reading for buyer traffic in new housing developments, which eight points to 54 in March. Buyer traffic readings typically don’t exceed the benchmark reading of 50, which indicates neutral builder sentiment. Builder confidence in buyer traffic for March surpassed 50 only twice since the housing bubble era.

Housing Market Index Readings Expected to Moderate in Coming Months

Robert Dietz, Chief Economist for NAHB, said that Housing Market Index readings will probably be more moderate in coming months as builders continue to face obstacles. Builders cited rising costs for materials and ongoing shortages of labor and lots. On the upside, builders surveyed said that a less regulatory environment contributed to higher confidence readings.

While home builder confidence is higher, the connection between confidence and building more homes isn’t matched by housing starts. Builders also said that rising mortgage rates are a barrier to buying new homes. The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee raised the target federal funds rate to 0.75 to 1.00 percent on Wednesday; federal rate hikes typically influence private lenders to raise consumer rates including mortgage rates.

In a post-meeting statement, Fed officials said that the federal funds rate remains accommodative and will continue to sustain economic growth and the Fed’s goal for a long-run inflation rate of 2.00 percent. The Fed cited its dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and price stabilization as supporting its decision to raise rates, but stated that actual decisions to raise the federal funds rate are based on close readings and information about global and domestic economic developments; future decisions could be impacted by emerging economic factors.

Mortgage 101: Five Key Mortgage Terms You Need to Understand

Mortgage 101: Five Key Mortgage Terms You Need to UnderstandFrom putting your home on the market to finding the lender with the best rates, there are so many things involved in buying a home that the terminology is just one more thing to add to the list. While there may be quite a few words you’ll hear that may be unclear, here are a few you’ll want to watch out for so you’ll be prepared for home ownership.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgage

Often known as ARM, an adjustable-rate mortgage corresponds to the conditions of the market. This means that your interest rate will shift from day to day along with the market, and the amount of your monthly mortgage payment will fluctuate along with it.

Fixed-Rate Mortgage

Unlike an ARM mortgage, a fixed-rate mortgage will offer a predictable monthly interest rate that you can rely on. While this can be comforting for many homeowners who are market-weary, it can also end up costing more than an adjustable-rate mortgage by the end of the loan term.

Down Payment

Down payment is one of the most familiar mortgage terms out there, and refers to the amount of money you put down on your home to secure it. While putting 20% down will enable you to avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance, the amount that is required varies from lender to lender.

Private Mortgage Insurance

Often known as PMI, this type of insurance can often be confused with homeowner’s insurance, which protects your home in the event of fires, floods and other damage. PMI, however, is the type of insurance that is required for those who do not put 20% down and is there to protect the lender in case of loan default. For homebuyers who can put down 20% or more, PMI will not be an issue.

The Principal

With the costs involved in interest, insurance and the down payment, it can be confusing to keep all the mortgage fees straight. However, the principal is different from all of these things and is the total loan that you borrow to make your home purchase. When you hear the phrase “paying down the principal”, it refers to the total amount of your loan, without any interest.

There are many terms that may not be familiar to the layman, but there are a few that will be important to know when you’re hitting the real estate market. If you’re currently getting ready to purchase a home, contact one of our mortgage professionals for more information.

Predicting a Hefty Tax Refund This Spring? 3 Reasons You Should Use It for Home Renovations

Predicting a Hefty Tax Refund This Spring? 3 Reasons You Should Use It for Home RenovationsThere’s a burden that comes along with having to do your taxes every spring, but it can actually be a great benefit if you’re getting a sizeable refund this year. While many people like the idea of going on a trip or spending the extra funds, here’s why you may want to consider investing it back into your home for a profit you’ll be able to see!

It’s Free Money

Many people will argue that your tax refund is money that’s already owed to you and is part of your income, but it still tends to feel like a bonus since most don’t work their taxes into their budget. While you may have your eye on something you’ve really wanted to buy of late, you may want to consider investing it into your home instead. This can be a simple way of reaping the benefits of a renovation without having to move money around in your monthly budget.

Bumping Up Your Home’s Value

Renovations often come with a very high price tag, but you can see the benefits of renovating by using just a portion of your tax return. Instead of spending the whole amount on renovations that will not increase your home’s value, consider things like an appliance upgrade, a new paint job or resurfacing your kitchen cabinets for changes that will financially benefit you down the road. You may also want to invest in some energy efficient fixes as these will likely draw in the environmentally friendly buyer.

Spring Is Selling Time

Many people put off renovations due to the cost involved, but spring is the optimal time to put your home on the market, which means a sizeable return can instantly benefit you. Instead of weighing your options and waiting until the busy real estate season is over, invest in some relatively quick fixes that will upgrade the look of your home. By getting these things done before the spring is over, you may have a much better chance at selling success at the price you’re looking for.

There are very few people that look forward to tax time, but getting a sizeable return can be a good reason to do some renovations and put your home on the market for the spring.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 13, 2017

Last week’s economic readings included reports on construction spending, Case-Shiller Home Price Indices and pending home sales. Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a speech that federal interest rates would “likely” be raised. Weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates were also released.

Pending Home Sales Slump as Available Homes Dwindle

Pending Home sales fell in January as inventories of available homes declined. Prospective buyers faced with fewer choices may have chosen to wait rather than purchase homes that weren’t a good match for their needs. Analysts expected pending home sales to grow by 1.10 percent in January, but they fell by 2.80 percent to an index reading of 106.4, which was the lowest reading since January 2016. Additional factors contributing to lower pending sales, which represent sales under contract but not yet closed, include consumer uncertainty about economic conditions under the new administration and fear of rising mortgage rates. Affordability is also an issue for first-time buyers as short supplies of homes create more competition among prospective buyers.

Real estate pros have repeatedly said that the only way to resolve shortages of homes is to build more. While home builder confidence in market conditions has grown in recent months, housing starts and construction spending have not followed suit. Construction spending in January was 0.10 percent lower despite projections of 0.60 percent growth in construction spending and a positive reading of 0.10 percent in spending for December. Winter weather conditions can affect construction during winter months. Ongoing shortages of available lots and labor have also held back builders from optimum construction rat

Home Prices Rise in December

S&P Case-Shiller Home Prices rose to 5.80 percent on a seasonally-adjusted annual rate. November’s reading showed 5.60 percent growth in average home prices, Home prices continue to grow in the West as Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon and Denver, Colorado held on to the top three spots for fastest growth in home prices among cities surveyed.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Lower

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates last week. 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.10 percent rate, which was six basis points lower than the prior week. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was five basis points lower at 3.32 percent. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rates were two basis points lower at 3.14 percent on average. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims were lower last week with 233,000 new claims filed as compared to expectations of 245,000 new claims filed. There were 244,000 new claims filed in the prior week.

What’s Ahead

Labor reports including ADP payrolls Non-farm payrolls and the national unemployment rate will be released along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Making the Grade: How to Research Local Schools Before Buying Your Next Home

Making the Grade: How to Research Local Schools Before Buying Your Next HomeThere are so many things involved in moving into a new home in a different neighborhood that it can be easy to forget about the proximity of many nearby amenities. However, if you have children, the local schools available can make-or-break the decision on whether or not to invest in a house. If you’re wondering how you can find out more about the local school, let the following tips be your guide.

Take a Web-Search To SchoolMatch.com

One of the benefits of so many things being online these days is that local schools are no exception, and SchoolMatch.com is a great resource that puts this information at your fingertips. While you’ll have to pay a fee to get the details on many public and private institutions, this resource features ratings on schools throughout the country which can make it worth the price.

Contact The NAEYC

With a wealth of information on preschools, kindergartens and elementary schools located throughout the country, the National Association for the Education of Young Children is another helpful website to visit. While the organization offers informational pamphlets that can help you decide a school’s benefits, you can also call in if you want to speak with someone directly about a particular institution.

Make A Visit To The Neighborhood

While it can take a lot of time to visit the schools in the neighborhood you’re considering, this is a great way for you to get a sense of the area you’re moving to and what it affords. By taking a walk through the hallways to view the building’s upkeep and even visiting the office to talk with the Principal, you’ll be able to decide whether it’s a good fit.

Talk To An Agent

It might seem a bit strange to talk to a realtor about local schools, but real estate agents are responsible for providing a multitude of information to potential homebuyers so they have to be in the know. Whether they’re able to help you with a house or not, it’s certain they’ll have some of the basic details about your neighborhood’s educational offerings, whether it’s good or bad.

There are a variety of amenities that can improve the appeal of a new neighborhood, but good schools are a necessity when it comes to the kids.

Are You ‘Mortgage Pre-approval Worthy’? Learn How to Assess Your Finances in 10 Minutes

Are You 'Mortgage Pre-approval Worthy'? Learn How to Assess Your Finances in 10 MinutesFinding the right home and the right mortgage can take a lot of time and energy, so it’s important to consider whether you’ll be prepared for approval before diving into the process. Whether you’ve had some financial setbacks or you just want to have an idea ahead of time, here are some ways to quickly determine if you’ll be pre-approved for a mortgage.

Do You Have A Down Payment?

You may have heard that the ideal down payment amount is 20% of the cost of the home, but this doesn’t mean you have to have this amount. However, it is important that you have a significant chunk of change put away so that it can signal to the lender that you’re financially sound and will be able to come up with your monthly payment. A down payment will not only minimize the amount of money you owe the lender each month, it will also show that you know how to save and can be trusted with a significant financial investment.

Determine Your Credit History

Many potential homebuyers have financial hiccups in their history, but it’s how they’re dealt with that determines the future. While you may have considerable issues getting a mortgage approved if you’re not paying your minimum payments on time and have debt, by making this change, you can have a positive impact on your credit history in a matter of months. You may also want to get a copy of your credit report to ensure there are no errors that have adversely impacted your score.

Do You Have A Solid Employment History?

It’s very important to have a solid work history in the event that you’re applying for a mortgage, as this will signal to the lender that you have the funds to make your monthly payment. Keep in mind that it’s good to have at least 2 years of solid employment under your belt, and you’ll need to provide paystubs. If you’re self-employed or your recent job opportunities have been sporadic, this can cause issues with getting pre-approved.

It can take a lot of time to find the right house and the right lender, but if you have a solid history of employment and a sizeable down payment you’re well on your way to pre-approval. If you’re preparing for purchasing a home and would like to learn more, your trusted mortgage professionals for more information.

Buying Small, Living Large: 4 Big Pros to Buying a Smaller House or Condo

Buying Small, Living Large: 4 Big Pros to Buying a Smaller House or CondoAre you on the hunt for a more efficient living space? Whether you’re a first-time buyer or downsizing from a larger home, buying small can still mean living big. Let’s explore four positives to living in a smaller, more intimate house or condo.

You’re Going To Save Money

The first, most obvious and most exciting reason is that you’re going to save money. The home itself will cost less than a larger one, especially if there is less land or property included. Even better: the money you save on space can be re-invested in quality. Losing a bedroom or two but having brand-new appliances? It might be a fair trade.

It’s Much Easier To Customize

Are you excited to renovate and customize your home to suit your family’s tastes? A smaller space is going to be far easier to make changes to. And while you may think that this limits your options, that’s not the case. As long as you buy with renovations in mind, you’ll be all set.

Bear in mind that some upgrades won’t work with a smaller home. For example, you may not be able to add that large deck or patio you’ve always wanted. Before you buy a small home, make sure it suits your future vision.

Living Small Is More Energy Efficient

Yes, it’s true: living smaller means using less energy. Much of the energy we use in our homes is for heating and/or cooling our living space. The smaller the home, the less energy needed for either. Depending on where you live, that difference can mean a lot of energy — and money — saved.

Cleaning Is A Lot Less Of A Chore

The smaller the space, the less of it there is to clean. It’s as simple as that. Even if the difference in cleaning time is as short as an hour each week, it adds up. Over ten years, that small one-hour difference becomes a total of more than three weeks! So if you’d rather not spend extra weeks or months cleaning your home, a smaller space is a big plus. If you want to leave a smaller footprint, a great place to start is with a smaller new home.

Feeling ‘Priced Out’ of Your Local Market? Here’s How You Can Still Buy a Great New Home

Feeling 'Priced Out' of Your Local Market? Here's How You Can Still Buy a Great New HomeIf you’re trying to buy a new home, few things are more frustrating than a hot real estate market. When home prices are climbing fast it can feel like you’ll never be able to save enough for your down payment. In today’s post we’ll share a few ways that you can get in – even if you’re feeling priced out.

Start Smaller And Upgrade Later

If you’re a single professional or a young couple, it might be wise to start with a smaller starter home. While a townhouse or condo might not feel as large as a detached house, they are more affordable options. Starting small allows you to build equity in your home. This, plus your increased earning power as you work for longer, can open up more home options later.

Another benefit of starting small is that you’ll already have a home. If the local real estate market experiences a quick change, you won’t need to scramble. You can plan to buy a larger home – that ‘perfect’ house – when the time is right.

Bring In Family As Investors

Do you have family members who might be willing to provide a loan or financing? If so, start the conversation with them to see if they are willing to co-invest in your new home.

There are many ways to bring in family as investors when you buy. They can provide a straight loan of funds to increase your down payment. Or if they want to be less involved, they can co-sign your mortgage, which will allow you to borrow a larger amount. In many areas, a family member or investor can also be a legal co-owner of the house or the property it sits on.

Make Use Of Experienced Professionals

Finally, don’t forget to ask the local experts for more advice. Real estate agents and mortgage brokers are in-tune with the local market. They spend each day helping buyers like you with understanding their options. If you’re short on ideas, a real estate professional is a great place to start.

It can be tough to stay positive when you’re feeling priced out of the local real estate market. But with a little ingenuity and planning, you can get out of the rental market and into a great new home.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 6, 2017

Last week’s economic readings included reports on construction spending, Case-Shiller Home Price Indices and pending home sales. Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a speech that federal interest rates would “likely” be raised. Weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates were also released.

Pending Home Sales Slump as Available Homes Dwindle

Pending Home sales fell in January as inventories of available homes declined. Prospective buyers faced with fewer choices may have chosen to wait rather than purchase homes that weren’t a good match for their needs. Analysts expected pending home sales to grow by 1.10 percent in January, but they fell by 2.80 percent to an index reading of 106.4, which was the lowest reading since January 2016. Additional factors contributing to lower pending sales, which represent sales under contract but not yet closed, include consumer uncertainty about economic conditions under the new administration and fear of rising mortgage rates. Affordability is also an issue for first-time buyers as short supplies of homes create more competition among prospective buyers.

Real estate pros have repeatedly said that the only way to resolve shortages of homes is to build more. While home builder confidence in market conditions has grown in recent months, housing starts and construction spending have not followed suit. Construction spending in January was 0.10 percent lower despite projections of 0.60 percent growth in construction spending and a positive reading of 0.10 percent in spending for December. Winter weather conditions can affect construction during winter months. Ongoing shortages of available lots and labor have also held back builders from optimum construction rat

Home Prices Rise in December

S&P Case-Shiller Home Prices rose to 5.80 percent on a seasonally-adjusted annual rate. November’s reading showed 5.60 percent growth in average home prices, Home prices continue to grow in the West as Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon and Denver, Colorado held on to the top three spots for fastest growth in home prices among cities surveyed.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Lower

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates last week. 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.10 percent rate, which was six basis points lower than the prior week. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was five basis points lower at 3.32 percent. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rates were two basis points lower at 3.14 percent on average. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims were lower last week with 233,000 new claims filed as compared to expectations of 245,000 new claims filed. There were 244,000 new claims filed in the prior week.

Whats Ahead

Labor reports including ADP payrolls Non-farm payrolls and the national unemployment rate will be released along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.