It’s Hammer Time: 4 Common Remodeling Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

It's Hammer Time: 4 Common Remodeling Mistakes and How to Avoid ThemInvesting in your home by remodeling or renovating is an excellent way to increase its value. However, a significant renovation project can quickly turn into a disaster, especially for those who are inexperienced. Let’s take a look at four of the more common home renovation mistakes that homeowners make and how you can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Skipping The Permit Process

The first mistake you will want to avoid is undertaking any home renovation without the required permits. While some remodeling projects will not require a permit, others will. Regardless, it is more than worth taking the time to do your research to ensure you do not run afoul of the law. A visit to the city’s website or a quick phone call is all you will need to find out if a permit is required and how much it will cost.

Mistake #2: Being Afraid

A great way to ruin your renovation is to be too afraid to transform the space into whatever best suits your family. Try to avoid being trendy and going with renos that you saw recently on television. Instead, consider how you currently use your kitchen, bathroom or whatever other space you’re changing and improve it for the better.

Mistake #3: Using Cheap Materials Or Labor

When it comes to contractors, going cheap is rarely a good idea. You want someone who is going to do the best quality of work at a fair, affordable price. Moreover, since you’re investing in that contractor, it is best to also invest in using high-quality materials for the job.

Also, don’t be the type that skimps on costs just because something isn’t visible. A good example is if your contractor recommends that you install something like a bathroom membrane system. Yes, it’s an extra cost that is mostly a preventive measure against mold getting under your tiles. However, it is a small consideration in protecting the more substantial investment you’re making in upgrading your home.

Mistake #4: Changing Your Mind

As the old saying goes: “measure twice, cut once.” Changing your mind in the middle of your renovation is almost certainly going to cost you. Once you commit, try to stick to the plan unless circumstances force you to make a change. These are just four of the many mistakes that can be made by an inexperienced home renovator.

Considering a New Home Next Year? Start Now and Get a Jump on Improving Your Credit Score

Considering a New Home Next Year? Start Now and Get a Jump on Improving Your Credit ScoreIn the market for a new home in 2018? With the new year just a few short weeks away, that leaves you with precious little time to get your finances in order. Let’s explore a few tips that will help you get a jump on improving your credit score before the end of the year.

Grab A Fresh Copy

The first step is to order a fresh copy of your credit report from one of the major agencies. The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to access a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months. So, if you have not ordered a copy recently, it is time to do so. You can access this free service through AnnualCreditReport.com, which is a website recommended by the Federal Trade Commission.

Clean Up Anything Outstanding

Now that you have a copy of your credit report, it’s time to go through it, line-by-line. You should recognize every current and outstanding account in the report. Any balances owing should be in order and reflect how much you owe. It’s critical that you flag any mistakes or old debts that you have already paid in full. If you come across anything that shouldn’t be on your credit report, call the reporting agency to let them know. If necessary, they will assist you with challenging the issue.

Pay Down Those High-Interest Debts

The final tip in today’s guide is to prioritize your outstanding debts so that you can pay them off more efficiently. The essential debt payments are your mandatory minimums, which you need to pay to avoid being sent to a collection agency. From there, try to pay off your debts with the highest interest rates first. Getting these paid off faster means that over time, you’re spending less on interest payments. Moreover, you can use that extra cash to pay your debts down further.

The above are just a few of the action steps that you can take today to start improving your credit score. When you’re ready to discuss a mortgage for your new home, give our team a call. We will be happy to advise you on the mortgage offer that suits your needs, budget, and credit.

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

Last week’s economic news included readings on Case-Shiller home prices, construction spending, and consumer sentiment. Labor sector readings on private and public employment and the national unemployment rate were also released. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

CaseShiller: Home Price Growth Approaches Record

Home price growth approached a record set in 2006 in August, but analysts said that affordability and the shortage of homes for sale could signal slower growth ahead. David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the S&P Index Committee, said that while home prices appeared to be “unstoppable,” signs of slowing momentum could signal the end of rapid home price growth.

Case-Shiller’s national home price index reported a seasonally-adjusted annual growth rate of 6.10 percent as compared to July’s corresponding reading of 5.90 percent. The 20-City Index reading was 1.80 percent short of the record set in 2006. Seattle, Washington led home price growth with a reading of 13.20 percent year-over-year. Las Vegas, Nevada held second place with a seasonally-adjusted annual growth rate of 8.60 percent and San Diego, California held third place in the 20-City Index with a reading of 7.80 percent.

While the West continued to post highest home price gains, some home price gains are leveling out. San Francisco, California, which posted double digit home price growth in recent years, posted 6.10 percent growth year-over-year and a negative reading of -0.10 percent in August as compared to July.

September construction spending rose due to public works projects and housing construction. This was good news as a shortage of available homes has daunted real estate sales in past months. Building more homes is the only solution to the ongoing shortage of homes for sale. Construction spending 4ose0.30 percent in September as compared to an expected reading of no change, which was based on August’s reading of 0.10 percent.

Mortgage Rates Little Changed, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported no change in the average rate of 3.94 percent. Average rates for a 15-year mortgage and a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage were each two basis points higher at 3.27 percent and 3.23 percent respectively. Average discount points were 0.50 percent for all three mortgage types. The President is expected to announce the appointment of a new Federal Reserve Chair this week, which could impact interest rates either way.

First-time jobless claims were lower last week with 229,000 claims filed as compared to expectations of 235,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 234,000 new jobless claims. Private-sector employment grew by 235,000 jobs in October as compared to September’s reading of 110,000 new private-sector jobs.

The Commerce Department reported 261,000 new public and private-sector jobs in October. Analysts expected 325,000 new jobs, but September’s reading was adjusted to 18,000 new public and private sector jobs added. The national unemployment rate dipped to 4.10 percent as compared to an expected reading of 4.10 percent and September’s reading of 4.20 percent.

Consumer confidence grew to an index reading of 125.9 in October as compared to analysts’ expected reading of 121.3 and the prior month’s reading of 119.5.

You Ask, We Answer: Should I Build a New Custom Home or Buy an Existing One?

You Ask, We Answer: Should I Build a New Home or Buy an Existing One?Are you looking to buy a new house in the near future? If so, one of the choices you will face is constructing your own brand-new home or buying an existing home. The idea of building a new house on the right piece of land might sound enticing, but what if you could have a larger, more luxurious existing home in the same neighborhood for a much lower cost?

As you might imagine, there are pros and cons to each kind of home. In today’s blog post we will explore whether you should build a new home or buy an existing one.

Building Your Ultimate Dream Home

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. If you can afford the combined cost of the land, the house and all of the furnishings, then building a new home is an amazing experience. It is the chance to completely customize everything about your home, right down to having your family put their handprints in the foundation. You will be able to design the garage, media room, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and everything else exactly the way you want it. The house will truly feel “yours,” as it’s built in your vision.

Aside from the higher cost, there are other potential downsides to building a new home. Between permits, booking contractors, wrapping up all of the necessary paperwork and construction time, building a new home can be stressful. It can also take much longer than buying an existing home outright.

Well-Kept Existing Homes Have Lots Of Upside

Buying an existing home has its upsides as well. It’s almost certainly going to be a much faster process than trying to build your own home from scratch. As long as you can find suitable listings, you can typically purchase and move into an existing home within a few weeks. You can also customize it to your liking, although not to the extent that you would with brand-new construction. It’s also likely to be less expensive, although that depends on a variety of factors including the city you’re buying in, the real estate market, the size of the home and more.

In the end, the choice comes down to budget, timing and personal preference. However, whether you decide to build new or you are okay with a lovely home that already exists, our professional mortgage team is here to help.

Mortgage 101: How Interest-Only Mortgages Work and Why They’re A Good Solution for Some Buyers

Mortgage 101: How Interest-Only Mortgages Work and Why They're A Good Solution for Some BuyersWhether you’re a first-time homebuyer or an experienced real estate investor, if you are planning to borrow funds to buy a home you will want to choose the right mortgage product. In today’s blog post we’ll explore how interest-only mortgages work and why they’re the perfect choice for some homebuyers.

How Interest-Only Mortgages Differ From Conventional Ones

As the name suggests, interest-only mortgages are loans where you are only required to pay off the interest portion of the loan each month for some specific term. The length of these loans can be up to ten years, although five or seven is the most common. Once this period is over, you will have some options. Some choose to refinance their mortgage into a new term; others will make a lump-sum payment to pay off the balance. The most important item of note is that during the interest-only period, no principal is paid off unless you pay a bit extra.

The Pros And Cons Of Interest-Only Mortgages

Interest-only mortgages are a popular choice because of their many upsides. Your monthly payments are almost certainly going to be far lower during the interest-only period. This is because you’re not responsible for paying down the principal of the loan. A lower monthly payment frees up money that you can use for other purposes, such as investing. Also, your entire monthly payment during the interest-only period should be tax deductible, which may contribute to a refund each year.

Note that there are some potential downsides to interest-only mortgages as well. For example, if your mortgage interest rate is adjustable, you can end up paying more in interest than if you had locked in. You also need to stay disciplined financially. Once the interest-only period ends, your monthly payment may increase significantly to cover both interest and principal.

Who Should Consider An Interest-Only Mortgage?

Interest-only mortgages are a good fit for those individuals or families where you are confident that your income is going to grow significantly in five or ten years. Alternatively, if your income is somewhat sporadic and you want the option of paying lower payments in some months and more substantial payments in others. The key point is that these mortgages offer flexibility that other mortgage products do not.

As you can see, interest-only mortgages are an excellent choice in certain circumstances. To learn more about how an interest-only mortgage might be right for you, contact our professional mortgage team today. We are happy to share our experience to find mortgage financing that perfectly suits your needs.

Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Near All-Time High in August

Case-Shiller’s National Home Price Index rose to a year-over-year home price increase of 6.10 percent as compared to July’s reading of 5.90 percent. The 20-City Home Price Index rose to a year-over-year reading of 5.90 percent over July’s reading of 5.80 percent.

Home Prices Nearing Their Peak? 

Some cities that previously had high home price increases saw lower paces of growth. San Francisco, California, which reported double-digit home price growth rates in recent years, reported -0.10 percent growth rate month-to-month and a year-over-year home price growth rate of 6.10 percent. Home prices grew at a faster rate in nine cities as compared to year-over-year home price growth rates reported for July 2016 to July 2017.

David M. Blitzer, Operating Manager and Chairman of the S&P Index Committee said, “Price increases appear to be unstoppable, but rapid increases can’t continue forever. Measures of affordability are beginning to slide, indicating that the pool of buyers is shrinking.”

Factors pressuring home buyers include slim supplies of homes for sale, high competition for homes and affordability as demand increases and supplies of homes for sale decrease First-time and moderate-income buyers face additional challenges including the ability to meet mortgage qualification requirements and increasing amounts required for down payments.

Role of NonResident Foreign Buyers Minimal

Non-resident foreign buyers who buy U.S. homes on speculation and leave them vacant may contribute to the high demand for homes as the homes they buy may sit vacant and are removed from the supply of available homes. Such speculative buyers typically pay cash for homes which can sideline mortgage-dependent buyers.

The National Association of Realtors reports that approximately two percent of pre-owned homes are sold to non-resident foreign buyers; this suggests that the impact of such buyers on demand for homes is currently minimal. 

62 or Older? 3 Reasons Why a Reverse Mortgage Might Be the Perfect Financial Solution for You

62 or Older? 3 Reasons Why a Reverse Mortgage Might Be the Perfect Financial Solution for YouAre you and your spouse starting to move into your retirement years? If so, you already know that you are going to need a solid financial plan for when your primary sources of income are no longer bringing money in. If you have invested in your retirement, you might be all set. However, what if your house makes up the majority of your net worth?

Let’s take a quick look at three reasons why a reverse mortgage might be a great way to unlock the equity you’ve built up in your home.

Reason #1: This Is Your Last Home

To qualify for a reverse mortgage, you have to own your home or be very close to paying off any outstanding mortgage debt. A reverse mortgage is money borrowed against the equity in your home, which is considered collateral. So, if staying in this house is your long-term plan, then a reverse mortgage should be a good fit.

Note that it is not impossible to buy a new home or move when you have a reverse mortgage. You simply have to pay the outstanding balance as with any other loan or mortgage product.

Reason #2: You Don’t Plan On Leaving Your House To Anyone

It is important to note that when you or your spouse dies, your reverse mortgage becomes due. In most circumstances, the house is either sold or transferred to cover the outstanding amount of the mortgage. This means that anyone inheriting the house is going to inherit the reverse mortgage as well, leaving them responsible for the outstanding balance.

If you do not have any children, or if they are already financially stable and not in need of an inheritance, you may not have to leave your house to anyone. This makes a reverse mortgage a good source of extra cash.

Reason #3: You Can Afford Taxes And Upkeep

Finally, don’t forget that with a reverse mortgage, you are still responsible for taxes, insurance and maintenance costs. Falling behind on these items can cause your reverse mortgage to become repayable immediately. If you can afford these costs without having to stretch, then you’re in good shape.

If you are looking to make more of your home equity as a financial asset and both you and your spouse are 62 or older, reverse mortgages are an excellent idea. To learn more about these financial products and your options, contact us today. Our professional team of mortgage advisors is happy to show you why a reverse mortgage is a good fit.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 30, 2017

Last week’s economic news included readings on new and pending home sales and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

New Home Sales Exceed Expectations; No Growth for Pending Sales

September sales of new homes reached a 10-year high with a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 667,000 new homes sold. Analysts said that high demand drove September sales past the expected rate of 555,000 sales and August’s reading of 561,000 sales of new homes. September’s reading was 19.9 percent higher than for August and was 17 percent higher year-over-year. September’s reading was 8.60 percent higher for year-to-date sales of new homes. This news may encourage builders to ramp up new home construction, but the widespread damage caused by hurricanes and fires will account for rebuilding thousands of previously-owned homes in the coming months.

The national average price for a new home was $319,700 as compared to $314,700 year-over-year. Real estate professionals said that it would take five months to sell all new homes currently available.

Pending home sales did not change from August to September. The Commerce Department reported no change from August’s reading of – 2.80 percent. Low inventories of pre-owned homes and affordability concerns may have sidelined would-be buyers as competition for available homes and home prices rose.

Regional results for pending sales were mixed. The Northeast region reported 1.20 percent growth in pending home sales, while the Midwest reported 1.40 percent growth and the West topped regional pending sales rates with 1.90 percent growth. The Southern region posted -2.30 percent fewer pending sales; hurricanes likely accounted for fewer contracts signed in September. Year-over-year pending home sales were lower in all regions.

Weekly Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Mortgage rates rose across the board last week. Freddie Mac reported that averaged rates for a fixed rate mortgage rose by six basis points for 30-year and 15-year mortgages. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.94 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.25 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose four basis points to 3.21 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims rose to 233,000 claims, which matched expectations and exceed the prior week’s reading of 223,000 first time claims, which was a 44-year low. The jump in first-time claims is not due to layoffs as employers report shortages of skilled candidates to fill job openings.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on Case-Shiller home prices, construction spending and labor sector readings on private and public-sector employment. The national unemployment rate will be released along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Buying an Older Home? Watch Out for These 3 Key Flaws That Could Spell Trouble

Buying an Older Home? Watch Out for These 3 Key Flaws That Could Spell TroubleAre you a fan of homes with a bit more character than newer, modern designs? Whether in pristine condition or more of a “fixer upper,” older homes are incredibly popular in cities across the country. However, there are some key factors to consider if you’re thinking about buying a home built decades ago before modern standards were enforced.

Let’s take a look at three key design issues that you will need to be aware of if you’re thinking about buying an older house.

Old Electrical Designs Can Be A Significant Fire Hazard

No matter when a home was built, it’s almost guaranteed to have electrical wiring running through walls to supply rooms with lighting and power outlets. However, if the wiring was run in decades past it may be with older cords that are less able to withstand a modern workload. A quick check of the circuit-breaker panel or fuse box and the wires leading from it can give an idea just how old the wiring is. As older designs can be a fire hazard, you will want to ensure the wiring is up to date.

Poor Plumbing Design Can Lead To Rot Or Worse

Plumbing can also be an issue in older houses – especially those in states that experience a cold winter. Water pipes tend to expand and contract due to temperature, which can lead to stress and leaks over time. Moreover, even though older pipes are typically made of metal, they can still wear out. The last thing you need is to wake up to a flooded basement, so be sure to have the plumbing professionally inspected.

Is The Roof And Insulation Strong Enough?

While the roof might look solid from the outside, it may not be as well put together on the inside. Even the smallest of holes or leaks in roof membrane can wreak havoc on the structural integrity of the roof. It’s worth spending some time in the attic to inspect the inside of the roof, the condition of the insulation and how well the entire structure is holding up.

While the above list might sound a bit scary, it isn’t meant to turn you away from buying an older character home. If you’re diligent in checking out the home’s history and invest in a professional inspection, you’ll stay safe. When you’re ready to explore a mortgage for a character home, contact your trusted mortgage professional.

Stuck in a Bidding War? 3 Ways to Win Without Busting Through Your Mortgage Approval Amount

Stuck in a Bidding War? 3 Ways to Win Without Busting Through Your Mortgage Approval AmountAre you making an offer on a new home in a hot housing market? If so, one possibility is that you are going to end up bidding against other buyers who are looking to buy the same home. Unfortunately, in some cases bidding wars are inevitable, and they can be a significant source of stress. Let’s take a look at three ways that you can win a bidding war without having to spend more than you can afford.

Price Is Important, But It’s Not Everything

The first consideration to keep in mind is that price is important, but it isn’t the sole consideration that sellers make when deciding which offer to choose. In fact, for many home sellers, the price is secondary to a variety of other factors.

For example, consider whether or not the sellers need to close quickly. Perhaps they are moving to a new city, or have already bought a new house and are looking to get out of their old one. If you have your mortgage financing pre-approved and your paperwork in order, you can promise a shorter close than other buyers may be able to provide.

Have A Face-To-Face Conversation With The Listing Agent

It’s worth investing the time in a sit-down chat with the seller’s real estate agent to find out what their motivations are. Are they selling for the money, are they moving, are they under pressure or just getting rid of the house to make an upgrade? All are factors that you can use to your advantage in a bidding war.

Another great tip: be sure to find out where the sellers plan to live once they sell their home. If they want to stay in the house, you may be able to buy it and lease it back to them. That’s a difficult offer to refuse.

Be Flexible, But Be Firm

Finally, keep in mind that you will need to be flexible to win a bidding war, but you should remain firm. Don’t bend your offer or terms too much. If you table a great offer and still lose the bidding war, that’s life. You can move on and find another great home to live in.

If you are in a hot real estate market, it’s a good idea to mentally prepare for a bidding war when you submit an offer on a new home. For more insight or to find out how much mortgage financing you qualify for, contact us today. Our professional mortgage team will be happy to meet with you and show you how you can purchase your dream house or condo.