Archives for September 2017

3 Useful Tips for First-time Homebuyers Trying to Navigate the System

3 Useful Tips for First-time Homebuyers Trying to Navigate the SystemWhether you’re tired of renting, need more space or want to make an upgrade, buying your first home is the solution. However, if you have never participated in the market before it can be a bit daunting at first. Let’s explore a few useful tips that are helpful for first-time homebuyers who are new to the process of buying real estate.

Tip #1: Begin With The End In Mind

Before you start exploring local home listings and shopping around, it’s worth asking yourself both what you ‘need’ in a home and what you ‘want’ in a home. For example, are you single or married? If you are married or are likely to be in the near future, are you planning on having a family? Will you need space for pets? What area of the city is most convenient for your commute? And so on. If you start by knowing exactly what you need, it will be that much easier to narrow down your options.

Tip #2: The Market Determines The Value Of A House

The second tip to keep in mind is that your local real estate market is what determines how much a home is worth. What you can afford has nothing to do with a home’s value, nor does your opinion of its current condition. In some cities, homes will sell with the intention of being torn down after the purchase completes.

Tip #3: Go Low, Start Slow

Finally, when you’re ready to make an offer, it should be one that is as low as possible without insulting the homeowner. Buying a house is not like buying groceries or clothing. The price isn’t fixed and is certainly going to be open to negotiation. Conversely, you shouldn’t be surprised if and when the seller makes a counteroffer against yours. The more you’re prepared for a lengthy back-and-forth to hammer out a final price, the more likely you are to be successful.

When you’re ready to buy your first home, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

Speed up Your Mortgage Closing Process With This Handy Four-step Guide

Speed up Your Mortgage Closing Process With This Handy Four-step GuideAre you in the market for a new house or apartment? If you are financing the purchase by taking out a mortgage, you’ll want to know how to make this transaction run as smooth as possible. In today’s article, we’ll share a quick four-step guide to speeding up the mortgage closing process.

Step #1: Check In On Your Credit Score

The first step before applying for your mortgage is to check in on your credit. Request a copy of your credit score and history from one of the major reporting firms. Go over this report, paying close attention to any old or outstanding items that you may have already dealt with. Many individuals have old delinquencies that must be challenged to be removed from the report, so take care of these first before applying.

Step #2: Have All Your Documents Prepared

As with any loan, taking out a mortgage requires a small mountain of paperwork. The best way to speed this process up is to have all of your financial documentation ready for inspection and use by the lender.

Note that each mortgage provider has different requirements for what you’ll need. A brief list of some items which are commonly requested includes your current employment details, recent pay stubs, recent W-2 forms or tax returns, proof of self-employment or other means of income, asset details such as bank accounts and investments and debt information such as other mortgages, student loans and more.

Step #3: Have An Offer Ready

If you have already settled on the home that you want to buy, it’s best to get your offer prepared in advance of being fully approved for mortgage financing. Your real estate agent will be able to help with crafting an offer that is subject to the home passing an inspection. It’s especially important to have an offer ready in the event that other buyers are competing for the same home that you are.

Step #4: Get The Inspection Finished Promptly

While your lender is completing the home appraisal process, you should be having the home inspected. Getting the inspection completed promptly will prevent any delays due to problem areas that might be uncovered. For example, a pest problem like termites may need to be dealt with, or minor repairs to the roof structure may need to be scheduled.

Following the steps above will help to ensure that your mortgage closing process goes as smoothly as possible. To learn more about your mortgage options or to get the pre-approval process started, contact us today. Our friendly mortgage professionals are happy to assist.

Kids Moving Out of the House? Here Are 3 Tips for Creating a Warm, Welcoming Guest Bedroom

Kids Moving Out of the House? Here Are 3 Tips for Creating a Warm, Welcoming Guest BedroomIf you’re a homeowner with children, at some point, you’ll be saying goodbye. They’ll move off to college or to start their career and adult life. As children move out, you’ll discover that you have extra bedrooms and other living spaces that will need a new purpose. Let’s take a look at three ways that you can transform an unused bedroom into a welcoming place for guests to stay.

Get Started With A Deep Clean

The first thing you’ll want to do is engage in a top-to-bottom deep clean of the room. Get everything out of the room so that nothing’s left but the carpet. Clean the walls, windows, light fixtures and closets until they’re sparkling clean. If the carpet is still in good condition and doesn’t have a lot of stains, have it professionally steam-cleaned. Or if it’s a little beat up from years of abuse, consider replacing it with beautiful new carpeting.

Consider A Fresh Coat Of Paint

Have a look at the condition of the paint and walls. Does the paint still add a colorful “pop” to the room? Or have the years taken away its luster? Do the walls have scratches, dents, and holes in random areas? Are they in need of repairs?

Even if the paint is in good condition, this is an excellent opportunity to completely change the look and feel of the room. Consider going with a lighter color palette that gives off a welcoming vibe.

Go With Matching Furniture And Tables

Once the room itself is in tip-top shape, you’ll need to focus on the bed, dresser, tables and other furniture. As mentioned above, this is the perfect time to get rid of any mismatched furniture and replace it with a matching bedroom set. Also, be sure to toss out any dated mirrors or light fixtures that don’t match up with the room’s new look.

As your children get older and move out of the family home to start their own lives, you’ll be granted with a lot more space to make use of. Having a welcoming guest bedroom or two will ensure that you’ve always got some room for family members to come and visit. But if you decide that you’ve got too much space, contact your trusted mortgage professional.

Worried About Interest Rates Rising? Here’s How You Can Prepare for an Upward Trend

Worried About Interest Rates Rising? Here's How You Can Prepare for an Upward TrendWhether you are just starting to shop for a new home or you’ve been paying off your mortgage for years, the news of potential interest rate increases may be worrying. Of course, interest rates naturally cycle higher and lower over time, so is there anything to be genuinely concerned about? In today’s article, we’ll explore interest rates and how you can prepare for an upward trend in rates if and when the time comes.

Speak With Your Mortgage Advisor First

If you already have a mortgage, the first step would be to speak with your lender to discuss what’s coming in regards to interest rates. If you are locked into a “fixed” rate, check and see how long you have left before this needs to be adjusted. If you are on a floating or adjustable rate, you may be able to lock that in for a few years.

If you do not already have a mortgage advisor or if you want a second opinion, we can help. Get in touch with us at your convenience.

Refinance When The Time Is Right

It is always a good idea to understand when the best time to refinance your mortgage might be. In short, refinancing refers to the process of swapping out your current mortgage loan for a new one. Your new mortgage pays off your old mortgage, and you continue forward paying down the new loan. This is typically done when interest rates are on the way down, but refinancing applies to many home owners at different times. Have an honest discussion with your lender to determine if refinancing is right for you.

Start Tucking Aside Extra Cash

Finally, if you are truly concerned that you may have to spend a bit more to cover your monthly mortgage payment in the future, it’s best to start saving now. Put aside an extra $25 or $50 each month into a savings account where it can stay until you need to use it. The upside is that, if you don’t need it, you’ll have a nice nest egg which can be invested or added to your retirement savings.

Aside from preparing yourself financially, there is little else you can do about the direction of mortgage interest rates. To learn more about rate trends or to discuss how they might impact your mortgage, contact us today. We’re happy to share our experience and insight to help you make the best decision.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – September 11, 2017

Last week’s economic news was slim due to the Labor Day Holiday. Scheduled releases included the Fed’s Beige Book Report and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. 

Beige Book Cites Concerns Over U.S. Auto Industry

Federal Reserve Board members shared anecdotes from their respective regions; of note were concerns about U.S. automakers. Auto production was more than 16 percent lower year-over-year in Cleveland, Ohio. Fed business contacts said that automakers are no longer seeking buildings for expanding production. Analysts said that slowing auto production and sales could indicate slowing economic trends. Auto industry slow-downs could also result in layoffs in auto production and sales/

Economic conditions, in general, continue to improve at a “modest to moderate” rate. August’s Beige Book did not include responses to damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, but damage to Houston and surrounding areas were expected to impact negatively impact the economy.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported lower fixed rate mortgage rates last week; this was the second consecutive week of record low rates. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by four basis points to 3.78 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was also four basis points lower at 3.08 percent and rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.15 percent. Discount points for fixed rate mortgages averaged 0.50 percent and points for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 0.40 percent.

New jobless claims rose sharply to 298,000 new claims filed as compared to expectations of 242,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 236,000 new jobless claims filed. Hurricane Harvey was blamed for the surge in new jobless claims. Further impacts on jobless claims were expected as two hurricanes, Irma and Jose, approached Florida on Friday. Severe damage was predicted; the total economic impact will be assessed in the aftermath of the hurricanes.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic reports include readings on job openings, inflation, retail sales and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

You Ask, We Answer: What Are the Fees and Costs That Come Along With a Mortgage?

You Ask, We Answer: What Are the Fees and Costs That Come Along With a Mortgage?Have you been considering a mortgage for your next home purchase? As with any loan or financial product, there are a variety of fees and costs you may incur in the process of closing your mortgage. In today’s post, we’ll explore a few of these potential fees and the situations in which you may encounter them. Let’s get started!

Title Insurance Costs

You’re almost certainly going to incur insurance fees and charges. In most cases, you’ll need to pay for title insurance for the lender, which is based on the purchase price of the home but varies from state to state. This protects the lender if something is missed during the title search, which shows whether or not there are any liens on the property.

Mortgage Underwriting Fees

Depending on the lender, you may or may not be assessed an underwriting fee. When you apply for a mortgage, there’s an intense amount of research required to determine the types of mortgage products that you qualify for and the amount of financing you can afford. This fee covers the costs involved in conducting this research. This may also be referred to as the ‘origination fee’ or included within it.

The Closing Fee

As mentioned above, there are title costs associated with finalizing your home purchase. As the name suggests, the closing fee covers the cost of having a representative from the title company present at the final ‘closing’ of the deal. This professional supervises the formal legal transfer of the home from the previous owner to you.

Legal And Attorney’s Fees

Speaking of legal, in most states you will require an attorney for some part of the closing process. This may or may not be related to the mortgage financing itself. For example, in some states, you will need to have an attorney present when you finalize the mortgage paperwork. In others, you’ll only need them for other parts of the purchase transaction.

Other Miscellaneous Costs

Finally, there are a handful of less common fees and costs that you might incur. These range from courier fees to get documents moved around the city to bank and wire fees to transfer your down payment.

While the list above may look like a lot, in the grand scheme of your total mortgage cost you won’t even notice most of these fees. For more information about mortgage fees or to apply for financing, contact our friendly team of mortgage professionals today. We’re happy to help.

Understanding the Differences Between ‘Prequalified’ And ‘Preapproved’ For a Mortgage

Understanding the Differences Between 'Prequalified' And 'Preapproved' For a MortgageAre you in the market for a new home? If you are going to rely on mortgage financing to cover some of the purchase cost, you will need to start the application process as soon as possible. However, what if you just need to know how much you will be able to borrow so you can start finding homes in your price range?

Let’s take a quick look at the difference between being ‘prequalified’ and ‘preapproved’ for mortgage financing.

The Process Starts With Prequalification

The first step in obtaining mortgage financing is to speak with a mortgage professional to get prequalified. After sharing some quick information about your financial assets, income, and any debts, your advisor will share a range of financing options and amounts that you may qualify for. Prequalification is typically done free of charge and either in person or over the phone.

Note that your mortgage lender will not be doing any digging in the prequalification stage. There’s no credit check and no hard look at your assets. Don’t get too excited if you are prequalified for a large mortgage as you will still need to be approved.

Once You Are Preapproved, You Are All Set

Preapproval, on the other hand, is a firm commitment to access to a certain level of mortgage financing. Your mortgage lender will require a variety of information to get an idea of your financial situation, your current and future employment, your level of risk and more. Once they have a good idea of how much mortgage you can afford, you will be provided with a conditional commitment letter. This letter outlines how much the lender is willing to offer to you as well as other vital information like your mortgage loan interest rate.

Speed Up The Process By Preparing Beforehand

Finally, it is worth a mention that you can speed up the mortgage process by having all of your application paperwork ready before the initial meeting. Gather up your most recent income tax returns, pay stubs and bank statements. If you have investments or other financial assets, document those. You will also want to be up front about any outstanding debts that you are paying off. The more prepared you are, the faster the application and pre-approval process will go.

Have you found the home of your dreams? Our team of mortgage professionals are ready to help you finance it. Contact us today and we will be happy to assist you with getting both prequalified and approved for a mortgage.

Ready to Buy Your First Home? Don’t Forget to Check Your Credit Score – Here’s Why

Ready to Buy Your First Home? Don't Forget to Check Your Credit Score – Here's WhyWhether you’re just out of college, recently married or simply haven’t jumped into the market yet, buying your first home is an exciting prospect. It can also be an expensive one, which is why most people will take out a mortgage to help finance the cost.

If you are planning on engaging with a mortgage lender, you’ll need to have your finances in order. In today’s post, we’ll share a few key reasons why you’ll want to check your credit score well in advance of buying your first home.

Your Credit Score Is A Signal For Lenders

As you know, mortgage lenders have a responsibility to lend to those individuals and families who are at a low risk of default. So when a mortgage lender starts to dig into your financial background, they are looking at your credit history and credit score to help them assess that risk.

Note that having a low score doesn’t necessarily mean you have bad credit. If you’re still in your 20s and have only had a credit card, your score might be low even though you are fully capable of managing a mortgage.

Your Score Impacts Your Mortgage Interest Rate

As mentioned above, your credit score helps to signify your risk. If your credit score is in a lower range, perhaps a 640 or 660, you’re presenting a greater risk than someone with a score of 760 or 800. Because of this, the interest rate that you pay on your mortgage will in part be determined by your credit score. Those individuals who present a higher risk pay a higher rate to compensate. And vice versa, if your credit is spotless you can expect to pay a lower interest rate.

You’ll Need Time To Challenge Any Issues

Finally, you’ll need to give yourself some lead time to challenge any irregularities with your credit report. The credit reporting agencies aren’t perfect and they do make mistakes. There may be some old, retired credit card or other debt sitting on your report which is holding the score down. Even worse, there may be some incorrect delinquency or other error which ends up as a big red flag for potential mortgage lenders.

As you can see, it’s worth spending the time to check your credit score. You get to check it for free once per year, so take advantage of the opportunity. And when you’re ready to discuss buying your first home, contact your trusted mortgage professional. We’ll share how to navigate the credit score and mortgage process so you can land the home of your dreams.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – September 5, 2017

Last week’s economic reports included readings on home prices, pending home sales and construction spending. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were released along with labor-sector readings on Non-Farm Payrolls, ADP employment and National Unemployment.

CaseShiller: Three Western Cities Hold Top Three Places for Home Price Growth

According to Case-Shiller’s June edition of its 20-City Home Price Index, the top three spots were again held by Seattle, Washington, Portland Oregon and Dallas, Texas. Seattle home prices outstripped Portland, Oregon with a reading of 13.40 percent home price growth on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Portland, Oregon home prices grew by a seasonally-adjusted year-over-year rate of 8.20 percent while Dallas, Texas held third place with its year-over-year reading of 7.70 percent growth.

 David Blitzer, CEO and Managing Director of S&P’s Index Committee, said that he sees no indications that home prices will cool anytime soon. Strong labor markets and economic growth are encouraging home buyers while low inventories of homes for sale coupled with high demand continued to fuel home price growth.

Construction spending dipped in July by -0.60 percent as compared to expected growth of + 0.60 percent and June’s reading of 1.30 percent growth in spending. Real estate pros said that building more homes is the only way to ease demand for homes, but builders cited labor and lot shortages along with rising materials costs as obstacles to building more homes faster.

Mortgage Rates Fall, Weekly Jobless Claims Rise

Mortgage rates remain relatively low; Freddie Mac reported average mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell four basis points to 3.82 percent; interest rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage were four basis points lower at 3.12 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was three basis points lower at 3.14 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for all three mortgage types.

First-time jobless claims rose by 1000 claims to 236,000. Analysts had expected no change from the prior week’s reading of 235,000 new jobless claims.

ADP payrolls rose to 237,000 new jobs reported for August as compared to 201,000 new private-sector jobs reported in July. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 156,000 new public and private sector jobs in August; Based on the ADP report and the expected reading of 170,000 new public and private-sector jobs, revision of the Non-Farm Payrolls report appears likely.

The National Unemployment rate ticked up from July’s reading of 4.30 percent to 4.40 percent in August. Low readings for unemployment indicate that layoffs are not significantly contributing to unemployment.

Whats Ahead

No financial reports will be issued Monday in observance of the Labor Day Holiday. The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report will be released along with reports on productivity and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Expecting a Newborn? Baby-proof Your Home With This Quick and Easy Checklist

Expecting a Newborn? Baby-proof Your Home With This Quick and Easy ChecklistIt’s a very exciting time for most parents when their kids begin to crawl, but it can also be much more difficult to watch over your child and ensure their safety. If your child is starting to get along on their own and you’re preparing to baby proof, here are the main areas and items you’ll want to watch out for.

Clearing Away The Crib

There’s no place your child is going to spend more time, so ensure that there are no toys left in their crib when they’re going to sleep. You’ll also want to stay away from fluffy blankets that can smother their breathing. It’s entirely likely that you’ll have a lot of stuff to store for your baby, but ensure there are no heavy pieces of furniture in the room that they will be able to pull over or move.

In The Bathroom

It goes without saying that you should never leave a baby in the bathtub alone, but there are other things to do as soon as they become mobile. In addition to non-slip mats for the tub and the area outside of the tub, you may also want to invest in soft covers for the knobs and the spout on the bathtub. It’s also good to keep any hazardous cleaning products out of reach.

Care In The Kitchen

Your baby is likely to wreak havoc on all of the door handles they can, so ensure that you have cabinets that don’t close automatically and a latch for your oven door. If you happen to be cooking in the kitchen when your baby is about, ensure that all pot handles are turned in and all cooking items are kept away from the edges of the counter.

Around The House

Your quickly crawling child will be able to find many hazards if they move fast, so ensure you’ve covered up any electrical outlets or cords that can be pulled out. If there are sharp edges your infant can reach, put safety guards on them to protect your baby’s head. Safety gates should also be used at the top and bottom of stairs to avoid any falls.

Most parents get pretty enthusiastic about the idea of their baby starting to crawl, but it’s important to be prepared for that time by baby proofing your home. If you’re currently getting ready to buy a home for your growing family, contact your trusted mortgage professional for more information.