Archive for July, 2015

First-time Home Buyers: Why Splurging for a Larger Home Beats Condo Living

July 31, 2015

First-time Home Buyers: Why Splurging for a Larger Home Beats Condo Living Some first-time home buyers are on a tight budget when making their real estate purchase, and there may be an inclination by many to purchase a smaller property, such as a condo, rather than the home they truly want. While there may be some initial financial benefit associated with buying a smaller property, there are a few benefits associated with splurging and buying a larger home as a first purchase. By analyzing these benefits, first-time home buyers can make a more informed decision about how to proceed.

Costs Associated With Upgrading In The Future

Some people will purchase a smaller property initially with the goal of later upgrading to a larger property. This can provide the home buyer with the initial benefits of building equity, taking advantage of tax benefits associated with real estate ownership and more. However, there are costs associated with selling property, including closing costs, real estate fees, make-ready and improvement costs and more that should be considered.

Benefits Of Long-Term Ownership

For many, there will be a need to have a larger property over the years, such as when starting a family or when young children grow into teenagers who need more space. When the first property purchased is large enough for the family to grow into, the homeowner can enjoy long-term appreciation and equity growth. More than that, the higher value of the property may mean that there is more upside for property appreciation over the years.

Getting Established In A Community

In addition to the financial benefits associated with investing in a larger property initially, there are intangible benefits. Moving into a new home in a few years means that there is a need to get re-established in a community. When a home buyer settles down into a larger home that he or she plans to stay in for many long years or even decades, getting established and settled in the community can begin right away.

These are considerable benefits that can be enjoyed when a first-time home buyer makes a purchase that he or she plans to enjoy for many years to come, but there are other factors to consider. Each person needs to make a decision regarding a real estate purchase that is best for their needs, goals and financial situation, so there is not a best-fit solution that is right for everyone. Those who are thinking about buying their first piece of real estate should consider contacting their trusted mortgage professional for assistance to determine what they can afford and to discuss the loan process.

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Federal Reserve FOMC Announcement

July 30, 2015

Federal Reserve FOMC AnnouncementThe stage was set in high suspense for FOMC’s post-meeting announcement on Wednesday. As fall approaches, analysts and the media are looking for any sign of when and how much the Fed will raise its target federal funds rate. According to CNBC, some analysts were projecting two interest rate hikes before year end, but the truth of the matter remains unknown until the Federal Open Market Committee announces its intentions.

Meanwhile, reports of what Fed rate hikes will mean for consumers were released prior to the FOMC statement. Real estate analyst Mark Hanson said that a rate hike would “crush” housing markets, which continue to improve slowly in spite of the current 0.00 to 0.25 percent federal funds rate.

Last Friday’s report on June sales of new homes shows unpredictable progress in housing. Analysts estimated that new home sales would reach 550,000 units based on May’s reading of 517,000 new homes sold. June’s reading came in at 482,000 units sold.

FOMC Statement: Current Federal Funds Rate “Remains Appropriate”

The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserved announced as part of its post-meeting statement that it would not immediately increase the federal funds rate. The FOMC statement cited concerns over the inflation rate, which remains below the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent. According to the statement, the FOMC will not move to raise the federal funds rate until the committee is “reasonably confident” that inflation will achieve the committee’s goal of 2.00 percent over the medium term.

No prospective dates for raising the target federal funds rate were given. The FOMC statement repeated language included in previous statements indicating that committee members anticipate that economic events could further postpone increases in the federal funds rate. The FOMC statement asserted that committee members continue to monitor domestic and global financial and economic developments as part of the decision-making process for raising the target federal funds rate.

FOMC members agreed that policy accommodation may be required “for some time” after the committee’s dual mandate of maximum employment and 2.00 percent inflation have been achieved. This suggests that FOMC members are not in a hurry to boost rates when economic uncertainty remains.

In terms of housing markets, the Fed’s decision not to raise rates likely caused a sigh of relief as rate increase would have caused consumer interest rates including mortgage rates to rise.

Understanding the Basics of How the Adjustable Rate Mortgage or ‘ARM’ Works

July 29, 2015

Understanding the Basics of How the Adjustable Rate Mortgage or 'ARM' WorksAs the 2009 recession fades into the sunset, the home buying market is showing signs of improvement in areas all over the United States. With more home buyers now entering the market, this becomes a good time to discuss one popular type of mortgage called the “Adjustable Rate Mortgage” or ARM.

What is an Adjustable Rate Mortgage?

An adjustable rate mortgage is a non-traditional home loan offered by lenders where the interest rate is tied to a specific rate index. The applicable rate on this type of mortgage is adjusted on an annual basis, usually beginning after the first 12 months. The rate index used is usually tied to one of the most popular indexes such as the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) or a cost-of-funds rate determined by the lending institution.

What Are Some Characteristics of an ARM?

ARMs are offered as a promotional option to help home-buyers purchase a home, beginning with an interest rate that is typically lower than normal markets rates. The loan provides for an adjustment period (the stated time-frames when the rate will be adjusted), the index to be used to determine rates, parameters on how the new rates will be determined at point of adjustment, and any caps related to the frequency and the minimum/maximum rates that will be charged during the life of the loan.

What Are Some Advantages of an ARM?

The primary advantages of an ARM begin with the borrower having access to a mortgage where the applicable interest rates are usually lower that those charged on fix-rate loans, which helps keep the monthly payments lower over the first couple years of the loan. This is particularly valuable to marginal borrowers who may need lower payments in order to qualify for a home loan. Also, many ARMs allow for principle prepayments without being charged a prepayment penalty.

What Are Some Disadvantages of an ARM?

The biggest issue related to an ARM in the unpredictability of the interest rate. During times of inflation, interest rate may escalate rapidly. This will result in a corresponding increase in related ARM rate, which might create payments larger than the borrower had envisioned. Consumers also need to be aware of potential rate errors or overcharges, whether intentional or not.

When Are ARMs Preferable?

The best time for a borrower to consider an ARM is if rates are high, but trending lower. This will keep the borrower’s payments lower over the life of the loan. Arms are also preferable if the borrower plans on holding the home for a shorter period of time. Finally, ARMs work well if the borrower wants to keep their initial payments lower in anticipation of high income in the future when larger payments are more feasible.

The HARP Mortgage Program is Coming to an End Soon – Here’s What You Need to Know

July 28, 2015

The HARP Mortgage Program is Coming to an End Soon - Here's What You Need to KnowThe United States government established the HARP program, otherwise known as the Home Affordable Refinance Program, to assist homeowners who are struggling with their mortgage payments. Initially, the program was founded in March 2009, and it has provided many homeowners with an easier route to adjusting their mortgage payments to make them more affordable. However, the program will be ending soon, and homeowners who have not yet taken advantage of the program and who intend to do so may need to act quickly.

When Does the Program End?

The HARP mortgage program will officially end on December 31, 2015. If you intend to apply for a mortgage under this program, you must have your application submitted by this date. However, a closing date may extend into early 2016. There are special rules and eligibility requirements that must be met in order for you to take advantage of this program, and these must be in place before you submit a full application. Therefore, it is important that anyone who is interested in applying for a mortgage under the HARP program take time initially to understand more about the rules and eligibility requirements in place.

What Are the Requirements?

It is important to note that the HARP program is not suitable for all homeowners who wish to refinance, and special requirements must be in place. Just a few of the requirements include that you must be in good standing with your current mortgage with no late payments within the last six months. You also cannot have had more than one late payment within the last 12 months. In addition, you must be able to pay for the new mortgage payment, and the mortgage must be a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan. These are just a few of the requirements, and you will need to work with a mortgage professional to ensure that you qualify for these and other requirements that are in place.

The HARP program has already helped many homeowners who have been struggling with their mortgage payments. While the program offers a permanent solution to homeowners by re-establishing a new mortgage payment amount, the program itself was only intended to be temporary in nature. Because it will officially end at the end of 2015, any homeowners who are still interested in taking advantage of the benefits of the HARP program should consider speaking with their trusted mortgage professional soon to learn more about the requirements and to begin the application process.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 27, 2015

July 27, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week July 27 2015Last week’s scheduled economic news releases were limited as no news was released on Monday or Tuesday, but good news did arrive in the form of a dip in mortgage rates for fixed rate loans. The National Association of Realtors® reported higher sales of pre-owned homes and FHFA reported that home price growth associated with mortgages held or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac held steady in May.

Sales of Pre-Owned Homes and FHFA House Prices Rise

According to the National Association of Realtors®, June sales of existing homes reached their highest level since February 2007. Sales of used homes reached a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.47 million previously owned homes sold against expectations of 5.42 million homes and May’s reading of 5.32 million pre-owned homes sold. By comparison, sales of existing homes remain about 24 percent below a pre-recession peak. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors® cited improving labor markets and home buyer concerns over rising mortgage rates as factors contributing to May’s reading for existing home sales.

FHFA, the federal agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that home prices associated with sales of homes financed with loans owned or backed by Fannie and Freddie rose by 0.40 percent month-over-month in May and held steady with April’s revised reading of 0.40 percent. FHFA home prices rose by 5.70 percent year-over-year in May.

Mortgage Rates Mixed

Freddie Mac reported that average rates for 30 and 15-year mortgages fell while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage ticked upward by one basis point. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by five basis points to 4.04 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.21 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate rose by one basis point to 2.97 percent. Average discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent, 0.60 percent and 0.50 percent respectively.

Expected reports on weekly jobless claims and new home sales were not released last week.

What’s Ahead

Scheduled economic reports for this week include the usual weekly reports on jobless claims and mortgage rates along with the Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports for May and the Commerce Department’s report on pending home sales. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve has scheduled an announcement on Wednesday, and reports on consumer confidence and consumer sentiment will also be released next week.

Have a Weekend to Spare? Consider These Quick Renovations to Add Value to Your Home

July 24, 2015

Have a Weekend to Spare? Consider These Quick Renovations to Add Value to Your HomeHomeowners who are thinking about listing their home for sale in the coming weeks or months may be focused on improving their home to help it sell more quickly, but there also may be a focus on adding value to the home in the process. While each home is unique, there are a few projects that most homeowners would benefit from. In fact, these are a few simple and easy projects that can typicaly be completed over the course of a weekend; that can add value and desirability to the home.

Replace The Front Door

The front door has an impact on curb appeal, and it also is one of the primary features that buyers will see when they approach your home to take a tour. Replacing an older door that lacks style or that is plagued with signs of wear and tear can improve property value and curb appeal alike. Many homeowners who have basic tools and some do-it-yourself experience with other projects will be able to replace the front door without additional help from a contractor.

Update The Kitchen Back Splash

A kitchen is a key selling point in a home, and the back splash is among the most visible features in this space. Replacing the back splash with stylish tile can improve the look and can instantly make the home more desirable. This can be a relatively simple type of home renovation project, if you have experience with tile work, that may be completed within just a few hours.

Repaint The Walls And Baseboards

Few things can improve the look of a home more easily than a fresh coat of paint. If the walls are showing signs of wear or the colors do not have modern or universal appeal, applying a fresh coat of paint to walls and baseboards is a simple enough project to tackle. For the best results, focus on the rooms with the most undesirable paint colors, in the most visible rooms of the home or in areas where the paint is in generally poor condition.

Each of these projects can have a dramatic impact on the homes appeal and can influence the value of the home itself.   Each of these prjects under most circomstances can be completed with minimal time and cost to the homeowner. Those who are ready to improve their home in a short period of time can consider which of these projects will yield the most significant results in their home.

Good News! Existing Home Sales, FHFA Home Prices Increase

July 23, 2015

Good News Existing Home Sales FHFA Home Prices IncreaseHousing markets show continued signs of strengthening according to reports released on Wednesday. The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of pre-owned homes rose to 5.49 million in June as compared to May’s revised reading of 5.32 million pre-owned homes sold and expected sales estimated at 5.42 million sales. Expectations were based on May’s original reading of 5.35 million sales. June’s reading was the highest since February of 2007. Readings for existing home sales are calculated on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

Buyers Gain Confidence in Labor Markets, Rush to Beat Rate Hikes

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors® said that buyers may be influenced by rising mortgage rates and encouraged by improving job markets. Analysts expect the Federal Reserve to raise its target federal funds rate this fall, which means that mortgage rates along with consumer lending rates will rise.

The national median home price rose by 6.50 percent annually to $236,400, also a record reading.

While this news paints a rosy picture for housing markets, challenges remain. Strict mortgage standards are an obstacle for first time and moderate income buyers as well as for buyers with less than stellar credit scores. While construction of new homes is increasing, the majority of projects are apartment complexes. 41 percent of housing starts in June were multi-family projects with five or more units. This data falls in line with stricter mortgage standards and a trend for millennials, an expected group of first-time homebuyers, preferring to rent in large cities rather than moving to suburban areas.

FHFA House Prices Rise in May

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that home prices associated with mortgage loans owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was unchanged from April’s revised reading of 0.40 percent month-to-month home price growth. April’s month-to-month reading was originally reported at 0.30 percent. FHFA home prices were up 5.70 percent year-over-year in May.

FHFA reported that year-over-year home price growth was positive in all nine census divisions, with the lowest growth rate of 0.90 percent in the Mid Atlantic division and the highest growth rate of 8.40 percent in the Pacific division.

Assessing Your ‘Debt-to-Income Ratio’ and Why This Number Matters When Getting a Mortgage

July 22, 2015

Assessing Your Debt-to-Income Ratio and Why This Number Matters When Getting a MortgageIf you are looking to buy a home, you may want to consider shopping for a loan first. Having your financing squared away ahead of time can make it easier to be taken seriously by buyers and help move along the closing process. For those who are looking to get a mortgage soon, keep in mind that the Debt-to-Income ratio of the borrower plays a huge role in the approval of your mortgage application.

What is a Debt-to-Income Ratio?

A debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of monthly debt payments compared to the amount of gross income that a person earns each month. Your gross monthly income is typically the amount of money you earn before taxes and other deductions are taken out. If a person’s monthly gross income is $2,000 a month and they have a monthly debt payments of $1000 each month, that person would have a DTI of 50 percent. The lower the DTI the better. 43 percent is in most cases the highest DTI that potential borrowers can have and still get approved for a mortgage.

What Debt Do Lenders Look At?

The good news for borrowers is that lenders will disregard some debt when calculating a borrower’s DTI. For example, utilities, cable, phone and health insurance premium would not be considered as part of your DTI. What lenders will look at are any installment loan obligations such as auto loans or student loans as well as any revolving debt payments such as credit cards or a home equity line of credit. In some cases, a lender will disregard an installment loan debt if the loan is projected to be paid off in the next 10-12 months.

What Is Considered Income?

Almost any source of income that can be verified will be counted as income on a mortgage application. Wage income is considered as part of a borrower’s monthly qualifying income. Self-employed individuals can use their net profit as income when applying for a mortgage, however, many lenders will average income in the current year with income from previous years. In addition, those who receive alimony, investment income or money from a pension or social security should make sure and include those figures in their monthly income as well when applying for a loan.

How Much Debt Is Too Much Debt?

Many lenders prefer to only offer loans to those who have a debt-to-income ratio of 43 percent or lower. Talking to a lender prior to starting the mortgage application process may help a borrower determine if his or her chosen lender offers such leeway.

A borrower’s DTI ratio can be the biggest factor when a lender decides whether to approve a mortgage application. Those who wish to increase their odds of loan approval may decide to lower their DTI by either increasing their income or lowering their debt. This may make it easier for the lender and the underwriter to justify making a loan to the borrower.

Seeking the Perfect Summer Home Improvement Project? It’s Time for an Inground Pool

July 21, 2015

Seeking the Perfect Summer Home Improvement Project? It's Time for an Inground Pool The warmer summer months provide homeowners with the ideal conditions for making improvements to their property. One of the more popular options for summer time improvement ideas is installing an in-ground swimming pool.  While a swimming pool may seem like a pure luxury to some, there are actually considerable benefits that homeowners can enjoy by adding an in-ground pool. With closer consideration, homeowners may decide that this is the ideal improvement to make to their property.

The Perfect Place For Relaxation And Entertainment

Many homes provide ample space for basic living, but they often lack an extra space that is well-suited for personal relaxation and for entertaining family and friends. An in-ground swimming pool can enhance a backyard area and can create the ideal space for everything from spending quiet, lazy afternoons alone to hosting a backyard get-together with family and friends. This can be a true extension of the home that improves its functionality in a number of ways.

Beautification For The Backyard

More than that, a backyard swimming pool can beautify the yard tremendously. This is a feature that enhances ambiance as well as function through its tranquil, serene water and the general décor of the pool itself. While additional landscaping can be improved around the pool, the pool itself can create a luxurious, relaxing look to a backyard.

Enhanced Appeal When Selling The Home

A swimming pool may not always have a direct impact on property value, it can improve desirability. Some home buyers may not want a pool, but many will choose a home that has a swimming pool over one that does not have one in a head to head comparison. Therefore, a swimming pool installation project now may give a property enhanced appeal later when the homeowner decides to sell it.

There may be a number of different home improvement projects for homeowners to consider completing this summer, but many will want to place the installation of a backyard swimming pool at the top of their list. With so many benefits associated with having an in-ground pool, this is an option that homeowners should take a closer look at.

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

July 20, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week July 13 2015Last week’s economic news included an encouraging report from the National Association of Home Builders, whose housing market index held steady with a reading of 60 in July. This was the 13th consecutive month for readings over 50, which indicate that more builders are confident about housing markets than those who are not. July’s reading was noteworthy as it was the highest since November 2005 prior to the recession.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Increase

The Commerce Department provided further evidence of stronger housing markets with reports on housing starts and building permits issued in June. Housing starts rose from May’s reading of 1.07 million to 1.17 million, which surpassed the expected reading of 1.11 million housing starts.

May’s reading for housing starts was revised from 1.04 million to 1.07 million an annual basis.

Construction of apartments and other multifamily housing complexes attained their highest level since 1987, which supports reported trends that millennials who prefer to live in larger cities are renting rather than buying homes. Housing starts gained nearly 10 percent between May and June. Would-be home buyers are also renting due to tighter mortgage approval standards; others may be “sitting on the fence” as they wait for further indications of stronger labor markets and improvements in overall economic conditions.

Building permits issued in June supported trends in housing starts, with permits for multi-family housing units higher by 16. 10 percent and was the highest reading for multi-family building permits since 1990. Analysts said that the increase in multifamily building permits was in caused by the pending expiration of a tax credit for builders in New York State that was set to expire June 30.

Permits for single family homes rose only 0.90 percent in June, to an annual pace of 689,000 but this was still the highest reading for single family housing permits since 2008.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.09 percent and was higher by five basis points. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was also five basis points higher at 3.25 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was up by three basis points to 2.96 percent. Discount points were 0.60 percent for 15 and 30 year mortgages and 0.50 percent for 6/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims fell to 281,000 last week against the prior week’s reading of 296,000 new claims and an expected reading of 285,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that the current reading indicates that last week’s spike in new unemployment claims was a false alarm. Seasonal anomalies and re-tooling at some auto plants were cited as causes for the prior week’s high reading. New jobless claims have remained under the benchmark reading of 300,000 since February for the longest consecutive period in 15 years.

Last week’s reports ended with the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index, which fell from June’s reading of 96.1 to 93.3; analysts expected a reading of 95.0.

What’s Ahead

Scheduled economic reports for next week include new and existing home sales, and FHFA home prices along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.