Archive for May, 2015

Real Estate Roundup: The Top 5 Apps to Use When Buying or Selling a Home

May 29, 2015

Real Estate Roundup: The Top 5 Apps to Use When Buying or Selling a HomeWhether you are buying property, selling property or both, the process can be challenging, stressful and even overwhelming at times. Just as you may use various mobile apps to streamline and simplify other aspects of your life, you can also use some well-designed apps to improve your overall experience when you are buying or selling property. These are some of the best apps for you to use as you move forward with your real estate plans.

iBank

This app is not free for you to download, but the small fee that you pay to use iBank may be well worth paying for. This is an app that you can use to track your bank account balances and living expenses. Financial strain is one of the most significant sources of stress for those who are moving, and this is an app that you can use to ease your money management challenges.

PowerOne FinancePro Calculator

The property that you choose to purchase will impact your budget in a number of ways. The most obvious difference will be a change in your mortgage payment, but there are other expenses that will change as well. For example, there will be changes to your property insurance, property taxes, homeowners insurance and more. This is an app that will help you to better estimate your total housing expenses.

GoodReader

You can accumulate a mountain of paperwork when buying or selling property, and GoodReader is an affordable app that will help you keep track of the paperwork. You can scan the items into the system and keep them stored for easy access and portability.

Zillow

You may already use Zillow on your PC or laptop, but you may love the experience of using it on your smartphone. This is a property search app that buyers can use to get details about property listings while on the go. It can also be used to help you learn more about other listings and their prices that your own home may be competing with when you list a property for sale.

Although property search apps like Zillow are a good resource for general information, working with your trusted, local real estate agent is always a better option when you are seriously considering a property purchase. Your agent may also offer a local app that you can download to access the most current, relevant property search data.

ScannerPro

When you need to scan documents to send digital copies of them, ScannerPro is a great app to use. This is an affordable app that works with your iPhone or iPad. Essentially, it creates a photo image of your documents, and you can then transmit them or store them as desired.

Buying real estate can be cumbersome and complicated, but it does not have to be. Working with a trusted mortgage professional is always the first step to buying a home.

Did You Know: Reverse Mortgage Requirements Are Changing – Here’s How

May 28, 2015

Did You Know: Reverse Mortgage Requirements Are Changing - Here's HowMany seniors have taken advantage of reverse mortgages in recent years. These unique mortgages allow seniors who are existing homeowners to tap into their home equity without taking on a mortgage payment. This can be a true benefit to seniors who are on a tight budget or who want to take advantage of their home equity without giving up ownership of their home.

However, with new rules and requirements in place regarding reverse mortgages, the fact is that some of the benefits associated with reverse mortgages may be limited. In addition, some who may have qualified in the past may no longer qualify for a reverse mortgage.

Merging Two Reverse Mortgage Programs

One of the major changes related to reverse mortgage programs is tied to merging the Saver and Standard programs together. This change is already in effect, and the result essentially means that borrowers may qualify for as much as 15 percent less in loan proceeds than with the Standard program than they previously would have qualified for.

Additionally, this merger has resulted in some borrowers being charged higher fees. One reason for this change related to a drop in housing prices in recent years. Because borrowers are guaranteed to never be upside down in their reverse mortgage, some changes were necessary to compensate for declining home values.

The Amount of Loan Proceeds Available

Another important change in reverse mortgages relates to how much money the borrowers can draw on their loan initially. At one time, borrowers were able to pull up to 100 percent of the loan proceeds out on the loan as soon as the loan closed. However, some borrowers were not using their proceeds wisely and wound up in a more dire financial situation after spending most or all of their loan proceeds very quickly.

To prevent this from happening, a new regulation is now in place that limits the amount of funds that can be drawn from the loan to 60 percent within the first year after the loan closes. This is designed to prevent the borrower from going into default by not keeping up with property taxes and premiums on homeowners insurance.

While there are some changes that have been implemented recently regarding reverse mortgages, it is important to note that many homeowners will still benefit from tapping into their home equity in this way. You can learn more about some of the different requirements in place for home equity loans and begin the loan application process when you contact your trusted mortgage professional.

Case-Shiller Home Prices: San Francisco, Denver see Double-Digit Increases

May 27, 2015

Case Shiller Home Prices San Francisco Denver see Double Digit IncreasesSan Francisco, California where home prices rose 10.30 percent year over year in March, and Denver, Colorado with an even 10 percent gain in year-over-year home prices led the Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index for March. Rounding out the top-five cities for year-over-year home price growth were Dallas Texas at 9.30 percent, Miami, Florida at 8.70 percent and Tampa, Florida with a year-over-year average gain in home prices at 8.10 percent. San Francisco’s reading for March was the first double-digit increase in home prices since last July.

The five lowest year-over-year price gains occurred in Washington, D.C. and Cleveland, Ohio tied at gains of 1.0 percent, New York City with a year-over-year gain of 2.70 percent, Minneapolis, Minnesota with a gain of 3.00 percent and Phoenix, Arizona with a year-over-year increase of 3.10 percent.

Overall, the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index rose by 5.0 percent year-over-year and by 0.90 percent in March. Analysts said that while home prices remain 16 percent below their pre-recession peaks, home prices are 31 higher than the lows recorded in March 2012.

When asked if house prices are in a bubble, David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P Index Committee said that “The only way to tell if housing prices were in a bubble is looking back after it’s over.” Mr. Blitzer said that adjusted for inflation, home prices have increased on average by one percent per month since 1975, and that the current 4.10 percent monthly growth of home prices could suggest a bubble. Mr. Blitzer cautioned that home price increases are outpacing increases in personal income and national wage growth, a circumstance which reduces the pool of potential home buyers due to affordability issues.

FHFA House Price Index Posts 5.2 Percent Gain Year-Over-Year

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that as of March, prices for homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages rose by 5.20 percent year-over-year. The agency also said that average home prices increased by 1.30 percent in the first quarter of 2015.

Home prices were 5.0 percent higher in the first quarter of 2015 than for the first quarter of 2014. This data is consistent with the unrelated Case-Shiller home price data for March. FHFA reported that home prices rose in 48 states between the first quarters of 2014 and 2015. The states with the top rates of year-over-year home price growth were:

Colorado 11.20 percent

Nevada 10.10 percent

Florida 8.70 percent

Washington 7.60 percent

California 7.50 percent

The Mountain Division led the nine Census Bureau Divisions in home price growth with a growth rate of 2.60 percent in the first quarter and a year-over-year growth rate of 6.80 percent.

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

May 26, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 26 2015Last week’s economic reports included several readings related to housing The Wells Fargo/National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, the Commerce Department’s releases on Housing Starts and Building Permits, and the National Association of Realtors® report on Existing Home Sales supplied mixed news on recent developments in housing. Freddie Mac and the Labor Department released their usual reports on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims. The details:

NAHB: Builder Confidence Slips, But Remains Positive

The Wells Fargo/ National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released its Housing Market Index report for April. Although April’s reading was two points lower at 54, any reading over 50 indicates that more builders consider housing market conditions positive than not. April’s reading on builder confidence was the 11th consecutive index reading over 50.

According to NAHB, builder confidence in present housing market conditions dropped by two points to a reading of 59, while builder confidence in market conditions over the next six months rose one point to 64. Builder expectations for buyer foot traffic dropped by one point to 39. The lower readings for buyer traffic could be related to more home shoppers starting their home search online.

Building Permits, Housing Starts Show Improvement

The Commerce Department reported that building permits for April were higher at 1.14 million as compared to the March reading of 944,000 permits issued in March. Analysts expected a reading of 1.03 million permits issued, This was the highest reading for building permits since mid-2008.

Housing starts rose by a noteworthy 20 percent to a reading of 1.14 million in April, but analysts cautioned that this reading was inconsistent with the more moderate pace of improvement in overall housing markets. The Commerce Department reported that starts of single family homes rose by 17.60 percent to a reading of 666,000 starts. This was the highest rate of single-family starts since early 2008, but analysts noted that April’s high reading for housing starts could reflect delayed starts that were impacted by winter weather.

Existing Home Sales Fall Due to Rising Home Prices

The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of previously owned homes dropped as home prices increased. A tight supply of available homes and higher home prices slowed the sales pace of existing home sales. April sales of existing homes fell from the March level of 5.21 million sales to 5.04 million sales; analysts had forecasted a higher sales volume of 5.24 million existing homes sold.

Rising home prices pose challenges to first-time and moderate income home buyers, and strict mortgage standards can make it tough for those with less than stellar credit scores to qualify for mortgages. Rising home prices are good news for homeowners as bidding wars have been reported in high-demand areas.

Mortgage Rates Lower, Jobless Claims Up

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates were slightly lower. Mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.84 percent. Discount points rose from 0.60 to 0.70 percent. Mortgage rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.05 percent with average discount points of 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 2.88 percent; discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 274,000 new claims filed. This reading exceeded expectations of 269,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 264,000 new claims. Analysts said that although this was a four-week high for new unemployment claims, layoff s remain low. Year-over-year, new jobless claims were 16 percent lower. New jobless claims remain close to a 15-year low and layoffs hit their lowest level on record. This news could build prospective home buyer confidence as job security plays a major rrole in most decisions to buy a home.

What’s Ahead

This week’s housing related reports include the S&P Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indexes and the FHFA Home Price Index. New and Pending Home Sales reports and the usual mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims reports are also scheduled.

Concrete Countertops: Learn Why Concrete May Be the Best Thing to Hit Your Kitchen

May 22, 2015

Concrete Countertops: Learn Why Concrete May Be the Best Thing to Hit Your KitchenUpdating your kitchen may be a project that you have been looking forward to for a long time. Now that the time has come to get started working on your project, you may be exploring the different materials that are available to use in your kitchen. The counter tops are often a prime focal point for a kitchen remodeling project. While there are several materials available to consider, concrete may be the best option for a number of reasons.

Endless Design Options

Concrete is a popular material that is used on patios, decorative floors and more because it can be stained, scored and shaped with almost endless possibilities. Just as the design options are limitless for other areas of the home, the same holds true when using concrete for your counter tops. You can customize the size, shape, finish, edge style and color without limits to achieve the desired look for your space.

Affordable Material

Concrete is not quite as affordable as laminate counter tops, but it is far more affordable than most other options. It also has a higher end look than laminate, and it can be poured, scored, and stained to mimic other higher end materials. This is a great way to get a luxurious look for your counter tops without paying a high price for them.

Highly Durable

Like many other materials that you may be thinking about for your counter tops, concrete will need to be sealed for long-lasting beauty and style. Once sealed, this is a material that is resistant to damage from heat exposure, staining, water exposure and more. Essentially, it is one of the most durable materials that you can use in your kitchen.

The kitchen is by all accounts a functional room, and counters will be exposed to heat, water, sharp edges and more over the course of time. Concrete is a material that holds up well in this type of environment.

It is rarely easy to select the perfect materials to use in your home remodeling project. After all, you may be concerned about style, durability and cost, and each material may have pros and cons. After discovering the benefits of concrete counter tops, however, you may have found the material you are searching for. You can request a quote for your concrete counters and review the incredible design possibilities.

Refinancing on a FHA Mortgage? Learn More About the FHA Streamline Refinance

May 21, 2015

Refinancing on a FHA Mortgage? Learn More About the FHA Streamline RefinanceHome buyers are often drawn to the FHA mortgage program due to the low interest rates, low closing costs and generally attractive loan terms. However, there will come a time when many who have an FHA mortgage want to refinance. After all, refinancing a mortgage may allow you to tap into your home’s equity, obtain a lower interest rate, extend or shorten the loan term or achieve other goals you may have. While there are different loan programs that you can use to refinance, many are taking advantage of the FHA streamline refinance program.

What Is the Streamline Refinance Program?

This is a unique program that is ideal for many who have an FHA loan, and this includes those who are underwater with their home mortgage. This program is unique from others because there is not an appraisal requirement. Many other programs will offer a certain loan amount based on the current value of the home. When the value has declined since the purchase, it may not be possible to refinance with other loan programs. However, this program is well-suited for such situations, and this is regardless of the amount your home has declined in value.

The Loan Terms

While one of the key selling points relates to the fact that the FHA Streamline program does not require an appraisal, there are other selling points. This is a low closing cost option that can close quickly. In addition, you can choose from a fixed or adjustable rate, and the interest rates are very competitive. There are also 15 and 30-year terms available. Plus, the loan program does not have a prepayment penalty associated with it.

Many borrowers also appreciate the fact that the underwriting process is streamlined, and there is minimal documentation required. In fact, there is not an income or employment verification in place, so you will not have to worry about providing all of the paperwork that would need to provide for other loan programs.

If you have an FHA loan currently, you may be ready to refinance. Regardless of what your current goals are for refinancing your existing mortgage, it is smart to learn more about the FHA Streamline mortgage. With how easy it is to qualify and how attractive the loan terms are, this may be the loan program that you have been searching for. You can speak with a home loan specialist about the qualification requirements and loan terms that you may qualify for under this program.

Freelancing in 2015? Three Tips for How to Secure a Mortgage if You’re a Self-Employed Entrepreneur

May 20, 2015

Freelancing in 2015? Three Tips for How to Secure a Mortgage if You're a Self-employed EntrepreneurIf you are self-employed, either as a freelancer or as the owner of your own business, your income can fluctuate greatly from year to year. That can make it difficult to get approved for a mortgage, although there are some things you can do to improve your chances. Here are three tips for securing a mortgage if you are self-employed.

Make Sure Your Credit Score Is In Good Shape

While your ability to pay back a mortgage is the most important factor in approval, your credit score is a close second, and that goes for every borrower, not just those who are self-employed. If you have a credit score in the high range — something above 750 or 760 — it will help you get approved for a mortgage. To boost your score, make sure you pay all bills on time, pay down your debt levels and don’t make any new big purchases or apply for new credit soon before you apply for a mortgage.

Have a Large Down Payment

The more money a bank lends you to buy a house, the more risk it is taking in that the money won’t be paid back. If you are self-employed and considered a higher risk to begin with, one way you can alleviate some of that risk is to be able to put down a large amount of money. Putting down 20 percent is standard for a conventional loan, and you should be willing to contribute at least that much. Putting down at least 20 percent also will save you money in the long run, because you won’t have to pay for mortgage insurance and you will pay less in finance charges over the life of the loan.

Have Significant Assets

One way to put a lender at ease about your ability to pay for a mortgage is to have significant reserves in the form of assets. If you have large amounts of money in regular savings, brokerage and retirement accounts, it offers a reserve for you to tap should your income take a dive. Other forms of property, such as personal and business property that’s paid off and has value, also help.

If you are self-employed and are thinking about buying a home, contact a mortgage professional to discuss your situation and to see if you will be able to qualify for a home loan.

Buying a Classic Older Home? Three Upgrades You’ll Need to Make Immediately

May 19, 2015

Buying a Classic Older Home? Three Upgrades You'll Need to Make ImmediatelyWhile some home buyers only want to live in a brand new home and will custom build a home to their specifications, others are drawn to the historic character and charm of a classic home. Older homes may have incredible architectural detail and special features that you simply do not want to change. These older homes can sometimes be a much better investment than a brand new home. However, there are some essential features that should be upgraded as soon as possible after you take ownership of your classic home.

The Electrical Panel

Many older homes were built at a time when electricity use was at a minimum, but the reliance on electricity has increased over the years. Older homes may commonly have an electrical panel with 50 amps or less, but your current needs may require you to have a panel with at least 200 amps. It may be good to have an electrician inspect the electrical panel as well as the wiring in the home to determine if an upgrade is needed in your new home.

Re-Plumbing the Pipes

A quick plumbing inspection will tell you if the home has copper, steel or other materials used with piping. The best material is copper because it is resistant to leaking, corrosion and rusting. Steel pipes generally should be replaced with copper as soon as possible. Other materials, such as cast iron, may be acceptable to keep in place. However, sections may need to be replaced if the pipes are more than 50 years old.

Firestops in the Structure

The good news about the structure of older homes is that older homes generally are better built than newer homes. However, most lack the critical feature of a firestop. A firestop essentially can minimize how fire travels through a home. Adding firestops to an older home can improve safety for the home’s occupants in the event of a fire and can minimize fire damage.

It is understandable that you will likely want to retain the historic character and charm of your older home. These may have been the features that you fell in love with when you bought it. However, you also want to ensure that the home has modern features that will make it comfortable and safe for you and your family to live in. These are all important improvements that you will want to make now that ultimately could improve your experience throughout the entire time you live in your home and they can also increase the value of the home.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 18, 2015

May 18, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 18 2015Last week’s economic reports included data from the Federal Reserve on student loan debt, job openings and retail sales. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s survey of average mortgage rates were released as usual on Thursday. A report on consumer sentiment wrapped up the week’s scheduled economic new.

Federal Reserve: Student Loan Borrowers Struggle with Payments 

In two reports issued by the New York and St. Louis branches of the Federal Reserve, researchers found that high numbers of student loan borrowers are behind in making payments. According to the New York Fed, 11.10 percent of student loan borrowers were 90 or more days past due on their payments during the first quarter of 2015.

This is a slight improvement over the fourth quarter of 2014, when 11.30 percent of student loan borrowers were 90 or more days behind with their payments. The Fed notes that these percentages do not include borrowers who are behind on payments but who are not required to make payments due to forbearance or other approved payment deferrals. 

The burden of student loan debt is a serious consideration for the housing sector, as student loan debt can keep would-be buyers from qualifying for mortgages needed to buy homes. Worse, delinquency on student loans can damage borrowers’ credit and create further obstacles to getting a mortgage.

Job Openings, Retail Sales Lower

The Labor Department reported that job openings fell to 4.99 million in March as compared to February’s reading of 5.14 million job openings. March job openings increased by 19 percent year-over-year. There were about 1.72 job seekers for each job opening in March, which is lower than the reading of 1.77 job seekers per job when the recession started in December 2007.

Retail sales were unchanged in April against an expected increase of 0.10 percent and the March reading of 1.10 percent. Retail sales without the automotive sector expanded by 0.10 percent against expectations of 0.40 percent growth and March growth of 0.70 percent. Increasing fuel prices and skepticism over economic conditions likely contributed to slack retail sales.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, Jobless Claims Lower

Weekly jobless claims provided some good news as they came in at 264,000 new claims against expectations of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 265,000 new jobless claims. This was the third consecutive week that new jobless claims were less than 270,000; this has not occurred since 1975.

Freddie Mac reported that average rates for fixed rate mortgages rose, while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage ticked downward by one basis point. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.85 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also increased by five basis points to 3.07 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Consumer sentiment as reported by the University of Michigan dropped to a seven month low of 88.6 as compared to April’s reading of 95.9 and an expected reading of 94.9. Consumers are concerned about the economy and their personal finances. The reading for consumer sentiment prior to the recession averaged 86.9 over the year prior to the recession. Economists cited weak wage growth and rising fuel prices as contributing causes of consumer uncertainty.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes a number of housing-related reports. The NAHB Home Builders Housing Market Index, The National Association of Realtors® Existing Home Sales report, Housing Starts and Building Permits and the minutes of the Fed’s last FOMC meeting are set for release. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and Weekly Jobless Claims will be released as usual on Thursday.

 

 

Multi-Generational Living: Our Guide to Buying a Home That Suits Your Whole Family

May 15, 2015

Multi-generational Living: Our Guide to Buying a Home That Suits Your Whole Family It was very common decades ago for several generations of a family to live together, and this may have included kids, parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents in some cases. Today’s modern homes are generally designed to accommodate a more traditional modern family, which includes only parents and kids or for only a married couple without kids. When you are buying a home for other generations as well, it is important for you to pay attention to a few important points.

The Right Living Spaces and Accommodations

Generally, a home with a floor plan that is most suitable for multiple generations is one with different wings of bedrooms and several different living areas. There is something to be said for togetherness, but you may find that having several different living areas as well as having a floor plan that keeps older family members’ bedrooms away from the bedrooms of younger family members is a good idea.

After all, there will be plenty of times when older family members may want to chit chat or read a good book in a living area while others may want to turn on the TV or music. In addition, they may have different sleeping schedules, and noise from either of their rooms can be bothersome.

Special Considerations for Older and Younger Generations

You should also think about the special needs of older and younger generations. Very young family members, for example, may benefit from a large, enclosed backyard, a play room and well-insulated windows or a home location removed from loud busy roadways. Older generations may prefer a bedroom on the first floor, special safety features in the bathroom and a home without many steps or steep elevations outdoors.

It may be challenging to find a home that can accommodate older and younger generations perfectly, so some modifications may need to be made to a home after purchasing it.

Finding the perfect home for a basic nuclear family is rarely easy, and your challenges may be more significant when you are searching for a home for a multi-generational family. While you may have more needs and desires when looking for a home that is ideal for a larger number of people with more variation in their ages, the fact is that most will be able to find a great home that is ideal for most or all of their needs with a little time and effort.