Archives for September 2017

5 Key Maintenance Tasks to Prepare Your Home for the Winter

5 Key Maintenance Tasks to Prepare Your Home for the WinterThe days are getting shorter, the temperature is dropping and the kids are heading back to school. The approach of autumn means that winter is just around the corner. The question is – is your home ready? Break out your checklist and let’s run through five key maintenance tasks that will get your home prepared to face the winter.

Pack Up And Protect Your Outdoor Furniture

Unfortunately, the arrival of winter means that the patio has to be closed up for the season. It’s time to get chairs, tables and other furniture covered up or stored if you have space. The BBQ will also need to be covered or moved off to the shed or another dry area.

Get Your Windows Ready For Cold Weather

Next, take some time to inspect your windows for drafts, leaks and other issues. This can be as easy as shutting them tight on a windy day and using your senses to determine if any air is leaking in. Depending on where you live in the country, you might need to do some additional work on your windows to get them prepared for the cold.

Turn Down Your Garden, Plants And Flower Beds

Unless you have a garden full of robust, cold-loving plants, it’s likely that you will see most of them die off as we move from autumn into winter. Spend some time turning down your gardens and other areas. This can help to move nutrients into the soil where they’ll be ready to nourish new plants in the spring.

Check Your Furnace And Heating Ducts

If you haven’t used it in a few months, now is the time to fire up the furnace and check the home’s heating system. The last thing you want is to discover that your home isn’t heating on the first cold night!

Consider Giving The Roof And Gutters A Quick Inspection

Last but not least, don’t forget to check your roof for any damage or areas that might be prone to leaking. You will also want to check the gutters to ensure they are clear of debris. Keep in mind that this does involve climbing up a ladder and physically inspecting these areas. If you’re not good with heights or don’t own the proper equipment, don’t sweat it. Give a professional roofing team a call and have them handle the inspection instead.

The better your home is prepared for winter, the less likely you are to have a nasty surprise waiting for you in the spring. If you would rather upgrade or check out a newer home than try to winterize yours, contact your local real mortgage professional to get started.

Pay Your Mortgage Off Faster With These Money-Smart Strategies

Pay Your Mortgage Off Faster With These Money-Smart StrategiesAs with any loan or line of credit, there are benefits to getting your mortgage paid down. You’ll pay less in interest, potentially saving thousands over the repayment period. Moreover, you’ll own your home outright that much quicker.

Let’s explore four money-smart strategies that will help you to pay your mortgage off faster.

Start With The Obvious And Increase Your Payments

It won’t come as a surprise that one of the easiest ways to get your mortgage paid off is to increase the amount you put towards your monthly payments. Most lenders will allow you to place any extra funds directly against the outstanding loan amount or “principal.” This is very efficient as it avoids having to commit any additional funds to interest.

One trick that many families use is to round the payment amount up to the nearest hundred-dollar figure. For example, if your mortgage payment is $652.32, you would pay $700 instead. This might be an easy burden on your wallet but still amounts to an extra seven percent of your payment.

Accelerate Your Payment Schedule

Another way to get your mortgage paid off as quickly as possible is to accelerate how frequently you make payments. For example, if you are currently making payments on a monthly basis, you can switch to bi-weekly payments instead. This means that instead of 12 large payments per year, you’re making 26 smaller payments. However, your interest will still compound on a monthly basis which means that over time you’ll end up paying less in interest. Not all mortgage products support this, so it is best to check with your mortgage professional to ensure it is an option open to you.

Dedicate Your Tax Refund To Your Mortgage

If you receive a tax refund or other large sum of money, consider using it to pay your mortgage down further. This is an excellent use for a spare block of cash as it gets you one step closer to owning your home, free and clear.

Refinance Your Mortgage To A Shorter Term

Finally, one last strategy is to look at a shorter term for your mortgage. For example, if you started with a 30-year amortization, you can refinance down to a 15-year loan instead. This will require having access to significantly more money to place against your payment, so be sure to carefully budget for this additional cost.

These are just four of the many ways that you can get your mortgage loan paid off faster. For more information or to inquire about a mortgage for your next home, contact us today. Our professional team is happy to share additional strategies that can have you owning your dream home in no time.

Case-Shiller: Home Prices Higher in July, Home Prices May Have Peaked

Case-Shiller reported higher sales of new homes for July; the national reading for new home sales increased by 0.10 percent to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.90 percent. The 20-City Home Price Index rose by 0.20 percent to 5.80 percent on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

Seattle Washington held the top spot in the 20-City Index with a growth of 13.50 percent year-over-year. Seattle home prices are growing faster than home prices in Portland Oregon, which reported a year-over-home price growth rate of 7,60 percent. Dallas, Texas lost its third-place standing in the 20-City Index to Las Vegas, Nevada, which reported 7.40 year-over-year growth in home prices. Dallas, Texas and Detroit, Michigan tied for fourth position with 7.30 percent home price growth.

David M. Blitzer, managing director and chair of the S&P Case Shiller Home Price Index Committee, said that the Pacific Northwest largely drove July home prices,12 of 20 cities surveyed reported higher home prices in July. Home prices rose to their highest level since May 2009 but were selling for less than half of what new homes sold for in 2009.

Home Prices Rise, Falling Sales Suggest Prices May Have Peaked

High demand for a limited number of available homes continued to cause home prices to rise, but home sales fell in July. Three of four regions reported lower sales with the Midwestern region sales volume unchanged. Low inventories of homes for sale have increased competition among homebuyers; this creates bidding wars that cause artificially high home prices in high-demand markets.

In related news, The Commerce Department reported that new home sales fell by 3.40 percent in August. The inventory of homes on the market rose from a 5.70month supply to a 6.10month supply of homes for sale. Real estate pros consider a six-month supply of homes for sale a good balance between homes on the market and active home buyers. Increasing inventories of homes for sale suggests that home prices could be peaking as home buyers face strict mortgage rules and affordability concerns.  

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma impacted 14 percent of building permits issued in 2016. While building permits issued may increase, ongoing concerns over labor shortages and building materials costs could become more pronounced as rebuilding in the hurricane zones progresses.

Did You Know: Your Choice of Community Will Impact Your Mortgage – Here’s How

Did You Know: Your Choice of Community Will Impact Your Mortgage – Here's HowIf you are in the market for a new home, you’ve probably begun the process of choosing the neighborhood or community in which you want to live. The perfect spot to call home will depend on your age, the size and composition of your family, your working life and other factors. However, one thing you may not know is that the community you choose to live in can also impact your mortgage. In today’s post, we’ll explore how the local area in which you live can affect your mortgage financing and interest rate.

Lender Pricing Varies By State

As you might imagine, the mortgage market is subject to a variety of legal rules and regulations. These laws vary from state-to-state, which means that they affect mortgages differently depending on where you live. All lenders have slight differences in their pricing depending on where you’re going to live.

Also, if you are looking to buy in a rural area which isn’t close to a major city, that can affect your mortgage as well. Some lenders might not service rural areas in your state, so you won’t be able to access their mortgage products. Price is another factor that can change your mortgage. If you are buying a home in a popular or luxurious community, that will drive the price up.

Is The Local Market Hot Or Cold?

Don’t forget that the pace of the local housing market may impact your mortgage as well. For example, if fewer new homes are being built or added to the local inventory, you may find that scarcity is causing prices to increase. Conversely, if no new homes are being built because there is no demand, prices are likely to be trending downward. 

In closing, it is important to remember that the community you choose to live in is one where you could find yourself situated for decades. Your mortgage interest rate should be less of a concern than ensuring you have access to great amenities, quality schools, and a safe environment. To learn more about mortgage costs in your community of choice, contact our professional team and we’d be happy to help.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – September 25th, 2017

Last week’s economic news included readings on housing starts, building permits issued and sales of pre-owned homes. The Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee issued its customary post-meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a press conference. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

Housing Starts Lower, but Building Permits Increase

August saw fewer housing starts with 1.18 million starts on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. July’s reading was upwardly adjusted to 1.19 million starts; analysts expected 1.175 million starts annually in August. Building permits rose in August, which suggested builder confidence was strong regardless of fewer starts.

Recent hurricanes had little effect on August building permits, but building permits will likely increase as rebuilding gets under way in affected areas. 1.30 million building permits were issued on an annual basis as compared to July’s reading of 1.23 million permits issued. August’s reading for permits issued was the second highest since 2007.

Analysts noted that more permits were issued for single-family residences than for multi-family complexes. This is likely a response to high demand for single-family homes caused by persistent shortages of homes for sale. Multi-family permits issued fell by 5.80 percent in August with 323,000 permits reported. August’s reading for multi-family housing permits was 23 percent lower year-over-year.

PreOwned Home Sales Dip, Fed Holds Steady on Federal Funds Rate

Sales of previously-owned homes fell to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million sales in August. Analysts expected a reading of 5.44 million sales, which matched July’s seasonally-adjusted annual reading of 5.44 million sales of previously-owned homes. High demand and very low inventories of homes for sale has caused sales to fall although very low unemployment rates and relatively low mortgage rates were positive indicators for would-be home buyers.

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee announced it did not raise the current federal funds rate of 1.00 to 1,25 percent. Fed Chair Janet Yellen remarked that “the basic message here is U.S. economic performance has been good.” The Fed was puzzled by sluggish inflation and revised its long-term inflation goal from 3.00 percent to 2.80 percent. The Fed is expected to raise its target federal funds rate one more time in 2017 and twice in 2018; this prediction may change if economic forecasts and world events change significantly.

Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless Claims Fall

Mortgage rates rose last week in response to the 10-year Treasury rate rising by seven basis points. The average rate for a 30-year mortgage rate rose five basis points to 3.83 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose five basis points to 3.13 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose four basis points to 3.17 percent. 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 with 259,000 new claims filed. Analysts expected a reading of 302,000 new jobless claims based on the prior week’s reading of 282,000 new jobless claims filed.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include readings on new and pending home sales, personal income, and inflation. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims are scheduled along with a monthly reading on consumer sentiment.

DIY Home Projects: Creating a Study Space That Will Help Your Children Stay Focused

DIY Home Projects: Creating a Study Space That Will Help Your Children Stay FocusedIf you’re a parent of school-aged children, you’ve likely been concerned with their study habits at some point. Sitting down in front of the television or at the dinner table to crack open the books is going to be less efficient than doing so in a quieter, more productive work space. Let’s explore how to create a study space that will help keep your children focused and on task.

Ask The Kids What They Need To Be Productive

Before you get to work on creating a new studying space, it’s a good idea to have a chat with those will be using it most. Ask the children what kind of surroundings they feel would help to keep them productive. Younger kids may only need a small desk area but would appreciate more space in the room. Conversely, older children who are in high school are likely to need a lot of desk space for laptops, textbooks, and other studying materials. Starting the project out by asking what they need ensures that they get what they need out of the space.

Brighten Up The Room

Next, you’ll want to focus on how the room is lit. A dark room isn’t likely to be a positive studying environment. If possible, natural light sources should be used as much as possible. Studies indicate that sunlight is better at keeping individuals alert and focused than fluorescent or other types of home lighting. Also, consider adding some plants which can help to keep oxygen levels a bit higher in the room.

Note that you’ll want to avoid making the room so bright that it’s distracting. Plus, the sun can cause quite a bit of glare depending on how much outdoor exposure the room has. If there’s already a lot of natural light, consider a set of curtains that can reduce or block out any glare to allow for a more comfortable learning environment.

Eliminate Any And All Distractions

Distractions – especially those which are useful for procrastinating – are the bane of any productive space. There should be no television, no video games and no other distracting elements in the study area. The only furnishings should be those used for studying.

A study room is an excellent addition to any home with school-aged children. If you’re in the market for a new home – study spaces included – contact your local mortgage professional today.

It’s Pre-approval Time: How to Get Your Finances in Order for Your Mortgage Approval

It's Pre-approval Time: How to Get Your Finances in Order for Your Mortgage ApprovalBuying a new home is one of the most exciting experiences a person or family can have. Of course, before you can step foot into your new dream home you will need to get prepared financially, especially if you are taking out a mortgage to cover some of the purchase price. Let’s take a look at a few key steps that will help you to prepare for the financial background checks that are part of the mortgage process.

Square Up With The Government

The first place you’ll want to start is making sure that you are fully caught up on any income or other taxes. Rest assured that your lender will be checking your financial history and being behind on government payments is a significant red flag. Make a quick call to the IRS or visit them online to check on your status and verify that you’re fully paid up.

Scrub Your Credit History Clean

Next, you will want to check in with the major credit reporting agencies to get a copy of your credit report. Your credit or FICO score is an important indicator that suggests your risk level and creditworthiness. However, any unpaid or delinquent amounts on your report are equally as important as they can signal that you may have skipped out on debts in the past. Check for any red flags on your credit report and work with the agencies to get them challenged or removed

Get Your Down Payment Saved Up

You’ll also want to have your down payment amount saved and ready for use. Your mortgage lender will want to know how much of your savings you’re contributing to the overall purchase price. Also, if you’re committing less than 20 percent down you may be required to purchase private mortgage insurance.

Have All Your Paperwork Ready

Finally, check in with your mortgage lender to find out what paperwork you’ll need to bring in for your approval meeting. Recent W-2 or tax returns, pay stubs and financial asset information is a good place to start. Your lender may have other requirements so check in to find out what’s needed or give us a call and we can share some insight.

These are just a few of the tasks that you’ll complete on the path to securing your mortgage financing and buying your new home. For more information on the mortgage process or to start your pre-approval, contact us today.

NAHB: Builder Confidence Dips on Hurricane Damage

Home builders had less confidence in housing market conditions in September. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, builders worried that ongoing shortages of construction labor and materials would worsen.  NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald said that concerns over labor and building materials were “intensified,” but said that builder confidence was expected to return to high readings once rebuilding is underway.

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index dropped three points to an index reading of 64 with all three component readings lower than they were in August. Builder confidence in current market conditions for new single-family homes dipped for points to an index reading of 70. Builder confidence in housing market conditions over the next six months also dropped points to 74. September’s reading for buyer traffic in new housing developments was one point lower at 47.

Construction Labor and Materials Shortages Expected to Worsen

Home builders have cited shortages of labor and building materials in recent years, but these shortages are expected to grow in coming months due to massive amounts of construction workers needed for rebuilding after severe storm damage and flooding wiped out homes, businesses, and infrastructure. As with the high demand for homes caused by low inventories of homes for sale, labor and materials costs will likely rise as rebuilding begins

The NAHB Housing Market Index measures builder confidence on a scale of 0 to 100. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders than fewer consider housing market conditions to be in positive territory. While September readings are well within positive territory, approaching winter weather and shortages may cause builder confidence in housing market conditions to decrease.

Regional Builder Confidence Readings Mixed

Three-month rolling average readings for four regions tracked by NAHB had missed results in September. The Northeast posted a one-point gain to 49; the Midwest posted a loss of three points for a reading of 63 and the Southern region posted a one-point loss for a reading of 66. The West posted a two-point gain for a reading of 77.

Future builder confidence readings depend on conditions as storm season continues and winter weather sets in.

How Much Is the Right Amount to Commit to Your Down Payment? Let’s Take a Look

How Much Is the Right Amount to Commit to Your Down Payment? Let's Take a LookAre you thinking about buying a new home? If you are going to take out mortgage financing, one consideration you will have is your down payment, which is the amount you pay up front in cash to cover some of the purchase cost. Let’s consider a few points that will help you to decide how much is the right amount for your down payment.

How Much Do You Have?

The most obvious question you will need to answer is: how much do I realistically have to place as a down payment? Keep in mind that your down payment is money that you aren’t going to see again until you sell your home. While you want to invest a significant amount for reasons we will share below, you still need to maintain a cash cushion of a year’s salary or so in case you fall ill or lose your job.

More Down, Less Monthly

The main case for putting as much as you can into your down payment is that the more you invest, the less you have to borrow. This means that over time, you will pay less interest and you will also have lower monthly payments. Keep in mind that with today’s low interest rates it’s a bit less of a burden to carry a large mortgage. However, these rates may swing upwards over the years, which will increase your costs.

The Need For Private Mortgage Insurance

If you’re going to put less than 20 percent down on your home, you’re almost certainly going to be required to purchase mortgage insurance. There are numerous options available to you, including those offered by the Federal Housing Administration or FHA. Your mortgage lender will share this and other private insurance policies that will protect you.

Don’t Forget About Lost Opportunity Cost

Finally, don’t forget to factor in the lost opportunity cost that comes with investing a large down payment. Unless you have a terrible money manager, your mortgage interest rate is likely to be less than you would be able to make investing the difference in your financial portfolio. If you’re thinking about putting an extra $50,000 in your down payment, consider that you might be able to make 5 to 10 percent on that over the next decade. There are no guarantees in investing, so speak with a professional for further guidance.

It’s not easy to choose the perfect amount for your down payment. If you have further questions or would like to know more about your mortgage options, contact us today. We’re happy to share our experience to help you choose the best mortgage for your new home.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – September 18, 2017

Last week’s economic readings release included reports on inflation, core inflation retail sales and retail sales excluding autos. Consumer sentiment, along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also reported.

Inflation Exceeds Expectations, Retail Sales Lag

Consumer prices rose 0.40 percent in August, which surpassed expectations of 0.30 percent growth and July’s reading of 0.10 percent. Core consumer prices, which exclude volatile food and energy sectors, matched expectations with a reading of 0.20 percent growth and exceeded July’s growth of 0.10 percent.

August retail sales fell to -0.20 percent against expectations of no change from July’s reading of 0.30 percent.

Retail sales excluding auto sales grew by 0.20 percent, which was lower than expected growth of 0.40 percent, which was based on July’s growth rate of 0.40 percent.  

Mortgage Rates Hold Steady, Weekly Jobless Claims Dip

Freddie Mac reported no change for averaged fixed mortgage rates; the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 3.78 percent. Rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.08 percent and was also unchanged from last week’s reading. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 3.13 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. The readings for fixed rate mortgages were the lowest in 2017, and provided an ongoing incentive for home shoppers who continued to face high home prices and slim inventories of homes for sale.

New jobless claims were lower at 284,000 new claims filed than last week and were also lower than the expected reading of 300,000 first-time jobless claims The prior week’s reading reported 297,000 first-time jobless claims.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include readings on home builder sentiment, existing home sales, housing starts and building permits issued. The Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee will issue its post-meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen will give a press conference. Weekly readings for mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.