Archive for January, 2015

Homeowner’s Insurance: What’s Covered, What Isn’t and Why You Might Need It

January 30, 2015

Homeowner's Insurance: What's Covered, What Isn't and Why You Might Need It Homeowner’s insurance is an incredibly valuable and beneficial policy for homeowners to have, but it is necessary to understand what traditional policies do and do not cover. Once you familiarize yourself with the intricacies of various plans you will be better educated to make the proper decision when selecting your desired level of coverage.

What’s Covered In Homeowner’s Insurance?

The majority of homeowner’s insurance plans will cover dwelling and other structure protection, personal property protection, natural disaster protection, and bodily injury liability protection. Dwelling and other structure protection plans cover damage to your home and other structures that are directly connected to the home, such as the garage. Personal property protection covers damage or loss of personal property within the dwelling. Natural disaster protection covers your home should a natural disaster cause damage, but note that natural disasters such as flooding and earthquakes typically are not covered. Finally, bodily injury liability protection typically covers injuries to individuals while on your property.

What Is Not Included In Homeowner’s Insurance?

As mentioned above, two of the major natural disasters that are not covered by homeowner’s insurance are flooding and earthquakes. There are specific insurance plans that cover flood damage and earthquake damage, but you’ll find that the vast majority of common homeowner’s insurance plans do not cover these types of disasters.

Homeowner’s insurance does not typically cover home business equipment either. If you are running a business from within your home, small business insurance is required to mitigate your risk.

Personal property over a certain value is also not typically covered unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Items such as expensive musical instruments, artwork, jewelry, and silverware should have their own insurance policy which is dedicated to valuable personal property.

Why You Might Need Homeowner’s Insurance

Homeowner’s insurance is intended to help protect you against the unexpected. You never know when a natural disaster such as a tornado or a lightning strike which causes a fire within your home might occur. Accidents do happen, and a visiting friend or relative can be injured on your property. Homeowner’s insurance is a great protection plan to have to make sure that both you and your property are covered should disaster strike.

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Buying a New Home in the City? The Pros and Cons of Buying a Home on a Busy Street

January 29, 2015

Buying a New Home in the City? The Pros and Cons of Buying a Home on a Busy Street Finding the perfect property is an exciting feeling, but its relative location can leave a lot of room for worry. Buying a home in the city is a venture that comes with an entire assortment of advantages and disadvantages. While the location might be close in proximity to businesses, services, and other people, it’s easy to worry about the other aspects of city living. What are the great and not-so-great facets of living on a busy street?

Pro: Access to Businesses and Schools

The chances are high that anyone living in a busy area is within walking distance of any store, shop, or service. Likewise, children have a range of options for education in busier areas; there are often multiple schools to choose from in any given busy area.

Pro: Access to Many Internet/TV Providers

In highly populated areas, a large number of internet and TV providers can co-exist. This means residents have a number of options when the time comes to choose providers. Luckily, it’s often difficult for providers monopolize densely populated areas.

Pro: Sense of Community

Many people that live in busy areas will be quick to share that they adore the sense of community. In fact, a large population is often one of the biggest reasons that people choose to move to bigger areas.

Con: Noise Level

As a street sees more activity, there’s no doubt that the noise level will also be a bit higher than usual. Residents that own homes on busy streets not only hear lots of noise from outside traffic, but they also often hear police sirens, animals, conversation, and more.

Con: Higher Price

It’s no secret that busy areas are a bit more expensive to live in. As anyone would expect, the convenience of city living comes with a higher price. Expect to hand over quite a bit more for a property in a highly populated area.

Con: Parking

Depending on the location of the neighborhood, parking can also be a problem. If street parking isn’t allowed, a resident in a big city might have to sacrifice their vehicle or park it a long distance from the property. This can be off-putting for many buyers.

Case-Shiller Reports Home Price Growth A Bit Slower in November

January 28, 2015

Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Slower in November

Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports for November indicate that home price growth continues to slow. The 20-City Home Price Index dropped by 0.20 percent to November’s reading of 4.30 percent year-over-year. 

The five cities with highest year-over-year home price growth rates in November were:

San Francisco, California 8.90%

Miami, Florida 8.60%

Las Vegas, Nevada and Dallas, Texas 7.70%

Denver, Colorado 7.50%

The five cities with the lowest year-over-year growth in home prices were:

Cleveland, Ohio 0.60%

Washington, DC 1.90%

New York, New York and Minneapolis, Minnesota 1.50%

Chicago, Illinois 2.00%

There were no instances of year-over-year depreciation in home prices for the year-over-year readings, but month-to-month readings indicated that slower momentum in year-over-year home prices is producing negative home price readings on a month-to-month basis. First the good news; although no city included in the 20-City Home Price Index had month-to-month home prices increases of one percent or more, there were some gains.

Month-to-Month Home Price Readings Mixed

According to the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index for November, 12 cities posted month-to-month gains for home prices and eight cities saw home prices decline from October to November.

The five cities with the highest month to month home price growth in November were:

Tampa, Florida 0.80%

Miami, Florida 0.60%

Las Vegas Nevada 0.50%

Los Angeles and San Diego, California 0.50%

San Francisco, which led year-over-year home price growth rates for November, posted a month-to-month gain of 0.10 percent.

The five cities with the highest declines in month-to-month home price growth were:

Chicago, Illinois -1.10%

Detroit, Michigan -0.90%

New York, New York -0.80%

Minneapolis, Minnesota -0.70%

Washington, DC -0.50%

In spite of gloomy month-to-month readings for November home prices for cities included in the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price report, overall signs of economic growth persist. In separate reports released Tuesday, The Department of Commerce reported that December sales of new homes rose by 11.60 percent year-over-year.

481,000 newly constructed homes were sold in December as compared to expectations of 455,000 new homes sold and November’s reading of 431,000 sales of new homes in November.

Home Sales Should Continue to Increase with Warmer Weather

As warmer weather approaches, it’s likely that overall home sales will continue to increase. Stronger job markets, low mortgage rates and the possibility of relaxing mortgage standards likely contributed to a jump in consumer confidence for January.

Consumer confidence increased from December’s index reading of 93.10 to 102.90, which was the highest reading since August 2007. Analysts had forecasted an index reading of 96.90 for January. Expectations of wage growth, which has been largely flat post-recession, were seen a significant contribution to January’s boost in consumer confidence. 

Three iPhone and Android Apps That Make Managing Your Mortgage Payments Quick and Easy

January 27, 2015

Three iPhone and Android Apps That Make Managing Your Mortgage Payments Quick and EasyYour mortgage payment may be among the largest payments you make every month. While certainly an important part of your budget, this payment is also critical to helping you build equity in your home because it attributes to mortgage principal reduction. Managing your mortgage payments can be challenging, but there are some incredible apps available for use with Android or iPhone smartphones that can simplify your mortgage management tasks.

Mortgage Mentor

This app is available for both iPhones and Android devices, and is designed to be compatible with all types of mortgages. It can calculate PMI for adjustable rate and variable rate mortgages, and it can help you to determine the true cost of a mortgage. Through the use of this intelligent app, you can track your account information in real-time, or you can manipulate the numbers to help you to make more thoughtful and intelligent decisions about your finances.

Loan Calculator Pro

This app is only currently available on iOS devices, but those with this operating system may want to download it today. It has some of the same capabilities as Mortgage Mentor, but it goes a step above and beyond by providing you with mortgage payment notification reminders. It also has a unique feature that allows you to set a final payoff date for your mortgage, and it will calculate how much money you need to pay per month toward your mortgage to accomplish this goal.

Bill Payment Log

The Bill Payment Log app is a unique program that can entirely replace the outdated manual entry checkbook balancing task. It is suitable for use with iOS, Android and even Windows. You can use it to monitor and track payments for all credit accounts, including mortgages. While it does not have the analytical tools associated with some of the other mortgage apps, those who are looking for an all-in-one app that facilitates bill payment tasks for all accounts, this may be a great option to consider.

Making your mortgage payments on time is important, but you also may need to know if you need to pay extra each month and what the effects of that will be. You may also be concerned about “what if” scenarios for your adjustable rate mortgage. There are numerous apps available on the market today that can help you to facilitate your efforts, and these are among the leading choices available.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 26, 2015

January 26, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week January 26 2015Last week’s economic reports included the National Association of Home Builders Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, Housing Starts for December and the FHFA Home Price Index report for November. The National Association of Realtors® also released its Existing Home Sales report for December.

Freddie Mac and the Department of Commerce released their weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Builder Confidence Close to Record High, Housing Starts Rise

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported that home builder confidence slipped by one point in January to an index reading of 57. This was not a significant decline as any reading over 50 indicates that a majority of builders are confident about current housing market conditions. January’s confidence reading remained close to a 2005 peak. 

Housing Starts rose in December to 1.09 million starts as compared to expectations of 1.04 million starts and November’s reading of 1.04 million housing starts according to the Department of Commerce.

December’s annual reading reflected strong home builder confidence and was the highest for housing starts since 2007. Low mortgage rates and improving labor markets were seen as factors contributing to housing construction.

Existing Home Sales Fall, FHFA Home Price Index Gain 

The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of previously owned homes fell to 4.05 million in December, which fell short of 5.08 million expected sales and 4.93 million sales of existing homes in November. Analysts were puzzled at the first drop in sales volume for existing homes since 2010.

Low mortgage rates, job growth and the possibility of less restrictive mortgage requirements were cited by analysts as factors that should have fueled sales of existing homes and should continue to boost home sales as more home buyers enter the market.

FHFA reported that prices of homes associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages rose 5.30 percent year-over-year in November. This was an increase of 0.90 percent over October’s year-over-year reading of 4.40 percent.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Lower

Mortgage rates dropped across the board according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by three basis points to 3.63 percent with discount points higher at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was five basis points lower at 2.93 percent and discount points higher at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by seven basis points to 2.83 percent with discount points unchanged at an average of 0.40 percent.

Weekly jobless claims fell from the prior week’s reading of 317,000 new claims filed to 307,000 new claims filed. Analysts had expected a reading of 298,000 new jobless claims filed. Analysts noted that this was the third consecutive reading above 300,000 new jobless claims since July, but the higher readings were attributed to layoffs of seasonal holiday workers.

What’s Ahead

Case-Shiller will release its composite home price index reports; new home sales, consumer confidence and consumer sentiment reports are scheduled along with a customary statement from the FOMC at the conclusion of its January meeting.

2015 and Kitchen Design: Three Trends That You Need to Be Aware of Before You Renovate

January 23, 2015

2015 and Kitchen Design: Three Trends That You Need to Be Aware of Before You RenovateRenovating your kitchen is an excellent way to improve its look, increase the value of your home and appeal to a more diverse range of home buyers if you decide to sell. However, a kitchen remodel can easily cost $10,000 to $20,000 or more, which is why you want to make choices that you can live with.

Learning more about some of hottest trends for 2015 can help you decide what you want and don’t want in your kitchen.

Traditional Is Back

Trends come and go, but the classics remain constant. One of the hottest renovation trends for 2015 is a more traditional look. Homeowners today are no longer attached to trendy colors and modern designs; they want homes that have a more traditional look and will retain that traditional look for years to come.

Experts predict that 2015 will bring a return to darker wood colors for cabinets, tables, counters and even floors.

There are also some reports that homeowners will use oil rubbed bronze and darker pulls and handles on cabinets and drawers as opposed to flashy and contemporary chrome accents.Other trends include rustic farmhouse tables, double porcelain sinks and natural stone counters.

Going Green

It’s hard to go anywhere today without seeing or hearing about green decorating trends, and those trends carry over into kitchens. Homeowners want products made from recycled materials and the chance to “go green” at home. Adding a recycling center is just one of the hottest trends for the kitchen.

Designers also found that homeowners want counters and floors made from recycled or sustainable materials. Bamboo is a sustainable construction material that works well in flooring applications. Homeowners can also find counters made from old tires, soda bottles and other recycled goods.

Homeowners Want More Space

Ask anyone want they need in their homes, and the odds are good that many will say they need more space. Recessed lighting is one trendy accent that adds more space and reduces the number of fixtures and cords hanging down from the ceiling. Other ways to add more space include adding an island with storage to the center of the room and cutting down on the number of cabinets lining the walls.

There are a number of trendy ways that you can renovate and change your kitchen. Going green, adding more space and bringing in traditional elements are just a few of those ways.

Three Tips for Reducing Your Closing Costs if You’re Looking Forward To Buying a Home in the Spring

January 22, 2015

Three Tips for Reducing Your Closing Costs if You're Buying a Home in the Spring Spring is aproaching fast and it is usually the busiest time of the year for home buying. After a long and cold winter, many people are ready to enjoy the nicer weather and begin to shop for a new home. Spring is also the perfect time for home buying for families with children because it allows them to move during the summer without interrupting school.

Home buying has costs associated with it other than the mortgage itself. Known as closing costs, these fees are a part of the home buying process and they are due at the time that the mortgage is finalized. Buyers, however, can negotiate these costs and reduce the expense with a little bit of effort and with the help of a good mortgage professional.

If you are thinking of buying a new home in the spring here are three helpful tips to reducing your closing costs.

Compare All of Your Mortgage Options

If you’re using mortgage financing to cover some of the up-front purchase cost of your home you’ll have other closing costs to pay including lender fees, mortgage insurance and more. Be sure to compare all of your options with your trusted mortgage adviser to ensure that you’re getting the best possible deal and paying the least amount in fees and interest.

You may also be able to save a bit on your closing costs by choosing a “no points” mortgage. In this type of mortgage you’ll end up saving on closing costs but you’ll be left paying a higher interest rate. Spend a bit of time doing the math to determine the best course of action.

Third Party Fees

Some of the closing cost fees will be associated with third party vendors that must perform required services. Home appraisals, title searches, and costs for obtaining credit reports are some of the items included in this area. While these may be a little harder to negotiate because the lender uses specific companies to perform these services, it does not hurt to ask if you can use your own appraiser or title search company.

Zero Closing Cost Mortgages

Buyers may also wish to inquire about a no closing cost mortgage. This type of mortgage eliminates all closing costs. The lender covers all of the closing cost fees in exchange or a slightly higher interest rate on the loan. In most cases the increase is less than one-quarter of a percent. This type of loan can be very helpful to buyers. Buyers can then use the money that they saved on closing costs to help with the move.

With a little preparation, you can find the best mortgage product for the up-coming spring season. Be sure to contact your experienced mortgage professional, as they will be able to help you find the right mortgage for your specific needs with the lowest out-of-pocket expenses.

Compare All of Your Mortgage Options

If you’re using mortgage financing to cover some of the up-front purchase cost of your home you’ll have other closing costs to pay including lender fees, mortgage insurance and more. Be sure to compare all of your options with your trusted mortgage advisor to ensure that you’re getting the best possible deal and paying the least amount in fees and interest.

You may also be able to save a bit on your closing costs by choosing a “no points” mortgage. In this type of mortgage you’ll end up saving on closing costs but you’ll be left paying a higher interest rate. Spend a bit of time doing the math to determine the best course of action.

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Nears 2005 High

January 21, 2015

NAHB Home Builder Confidence Nears 2005 HighThe National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) Wells Fargo Housing Market Index reported that homebuilder confidence in sales conditions for single-family homes declined one point to a reading of 57. The NAHB Housing Market Index measures home builder confidence based on builder opinions of current market conditions, future market conditions and buyer foot traffic in new homes.

Home Builder Confidence Stable for Seven Consecutive Months

January’s index reading of 57 was one point below December’s reading of 58. Any index reading above 50 indicates that more home builders are confident about housing market conditions than not. January’s reading was the seventh consecutive reading above 50. NAHB said that builder confidence in future market conditions slipped by four points to a reading of 60; builder confidence in current housing market conditions was unchanged at a reading of 62 and the reading for buyer foot traffic fell two points for a January reading of 44.

David Crowe, NAHB chief economist, cited improving labor markets, stronger economic conditions and higher consumer confidence as factors that contributed to January’s reading. In addition, analysts said that certain economic trends including higher rents and low mortgage rates may compel more renters to buy homes. Although pent-up demand contributed to buyer interest in recent months, restrictive mortgage credit policies are seen as a deterrent to higher sales volume. Builder confidence in home sales conditions would likely improve if the government can ease lender concerns about providing mortgages to buyers who don’t have strong credit scores.

Housing Market Index Indicates Room for Growth

In spite of strong builder confidence, there’s plenty of room for improvement in markets for new single-family homes. As of November, the sales pace for new homes was approximately 41 percent below the average pace for the last 20 years; housing starts for the same period were approximately 24 percent below the average for the prior 20 years. The Department of Commerce reported that housing starts were 24 percent below the 20 year average. This suggests that while borrowers are confident in housing market conditions overall, they may be taking a conservative approach on building new homes until more buyers enter the market.

This week’s upcoming housing-related reports will help determine the overall climate for housing market growth. Existing home sales and housing starts for December will be released along with FHFA’s home price report for November.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 20, 2015

January 20, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week January 20 2015Last week’s scheduled economic news was mixed. Job openings increased and jobless claims increased, and consumer sentiment rose. Mortgage rates fell across the board. Labor market conditions improved and consumer prices fell in large part due to decreasing fuel prices. The details:

Labor Market Conditions Index Suggests Stronger Economy, Jobless Claims Jump

Positive labor market ratings continued to show evidence of strengthening economic conditions. The Federal Reserve’s Labor Market Conditions Index rose from November’s revised reading of 5.50 to December’s reading of 6.10. This index measures 19 economic indicators and rose well above its median reading of 1.90. November’s reading was the highest since May.

The Fed does not comment on month-to-month readings for this index. Job openings increased from November’s reading of 4.80 million to December’s reading of 5.00 million in according to the federal government.

Weekly Jobless Claims jumped to 316,000 as compared to the expected reading of 295,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 297,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that some volatility in new unemployment claims are expected in the aftermath of the holiday season and noted that the latest reading was the highest since September.

Mortgage Rates, Retail Sales Fall

Freddie Mac reported lower average rates across the board. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by seven basis points to 3.66 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also fell seven basis points to 2.98 percent. The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages dropped by eight basis points from 2.98 to 2.08 percent.

Discount points for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage were unchanged at 0.60 percent, while average discount points for a 16-year mortgage dropped to 0.50 percent from the prior week’s reading of 0.60 percent. Discount points for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 0.40 percent as compared to the prior week’s average of 0.50 percent. Lower mortgage rates help increase affordability and support home purchases by first-time and moderate income homebuyers.

Retail Sales for December dropped by -0.90 percent against expectations of -0.20 percent and November’s reading of +0.40 percent. December’s reading for retail sales except autos was lower by-0.10 percent as expected against November’s reading of +0.40 percent.

Last week ended on a positive note with the January reading for the Consumer Sentiment Index beating the expected reading of 95.0 with a reading of 98.20. December’s reading was 93.60.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic reports include the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index, Housing Starts, The National Association of Realtors® Existing Home Sales report, FHFA Home Prices and Leading Economic Indicators. Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates reports and weekly jobless claims will be released as usual.

 

Three Subtle Painting Tricks That Will Make Your Home Look Amazing

January 16, 2015

Three Subtle Painting Tricks That Will Make Your Home Look Amazing This Spring When it comes to painting the walls of a house, sometimes subtle is best. You want to add design, color, and texture to the walls, but you don’t want it jarring to the eyes. Here are three subtle painting techniques you can try on your home walls.

Tissue Paper Texture

One easy way to add texture to walls is to use tissue paper. You apply the tissue paper to the walls and it stays there until you want something new.

Crumple up a piece of tissue paper into a tight ball and then open it up and smooth it out. Small textured lines will appear on the paper. Those lines will remain when you use the paper on the walls.

Use the colored wall paint as glue to adhere the tissue paper to the wall. Paint an area of the wall that’s a little bit bigger than the piece of tissue paper. Press the paper to the painted area and smooth it out so all the edges stick to the wall. Paint over the tissue paper. Repeat the process until the entire wall is covered.

Sponge Color-on-Color Technique

Natural sponges create a unique look on painted walls. If you use two versions of the same color, satin and semi-gloss, then it creates a subtle look that isn’t shocking to the eyes. The color is the same but the shine is different.

Paint your wall with the satin color paint. Let it dry completely. Dip the top of the natural sponge in the semi-gloss paint. Dab the sponge to the wall over and over. It’s OK to overlap the paint in areas and you aren’t going to completely cover the wall.

Once dry, the satin paint will show from beneath the semi-gloss paint creating a neat shine effect.

Taped Stripes

You don’t want bold multi-color stripes on your wall because it will stand out too much. Subtle stripes create a beautiful effect.

Choose two colors that sit side-by-side on the color spectrum. Or, choose two similar colors from different companies. Paint companies tend to have slight differences in colors.

Paint the walls your first color choice. Let it dry completely. Tape the walls using painters tape to make stripes. Make them horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. Make them wide or thin. It’s up to you. Paint the walls again with the second color choice. Paint right over the tape. When you remove the tape, the first color will show.

These simple and subtle paint techniques will make your walls beautiful. This is especially useful if you plan to sell your home and want to increase its value.