Archive for April, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 30th, 2018

April 30, 2018

What's ahead for mortgage rates april 30 2018Last week’s economic reports included readings from Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, new and existing home sales and weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims.

Case-Shiller: Home Prices Rise to Near Four-Year High

February home prices rose 6.30 percent year-over-year and 0.50 percent month-to-month. Home prices rose just shy of a record set in 2014. The 20-City Home Price Index reported home prices were 6.80 percent higher year-over-year and rose 0.80 percent month-to-month in February. The year-over-year reading surpassed the peak reading in 2006. Home prices accelerated in contrast to analyst expectations that they nay slow as buyers deal with a short supply of homes for sale.

Cities with the three highest readings in year-over-year home price growth were Seattle, Washington with 12.70 percent growth, Las Vegas, Nevada home prices rose 11.60 percent, and San Francisco, California home prices rose by 10.10 percent according to Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index for February.

Severe shortages of homes and high demand in the west and in areas impacted by the housing bubble burst are driving the rapid rise of home prices; while it appears that homebuyers may be sidelined by high home prices, increasing home sales suggest that buyers may be buying before higher prices cut them out of the market.

Sales of New and Existing Homes Surpass Expectations in March

Sales of pre-owned homes rose to 5.60 million sales on a seasonally-adjusted year-over-year basis. Analysts expected a reading of 5.52 million sales based on February’s reading of5.54 million pre-owned homes sold. Sales of new homes also exceeded expectations with a sales rate 0f 694,000 sales on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Analysts expected a reading of 634,000 new hone sales. February’s reading was 667,000 new home sales. As with the boost in sales of pre-owned homes, analysts said that buyers are anxious to buy before they’re priced out of the market or cannot qualify for mortgage loans.

Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher average mortgage rates for the third consecutive week. Rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.58 percent and were 11 basis points higher. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 8 basis points higher at 4.02 percent; The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was seven basis points higher at 3.74 percent. Rising Treasury yields were driven by higher commodity prices drove mortgage rates higher.

Economic indicators have steadily strengthened, which traditionally boosts home prices. While analysts have shown concerns over rapidly rising home prices and mortgage rates, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported mortgage applications were 11 percent higher year-over-year.

New jobless claims fell to 209,000 first-time claims filed as compared to expectations of 230,000 new claims, and the prior week’s reading of 233,000 new claims filed. Lower jobless claims indicate fewer layoffs and strengthening labor markets.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic releases include readings on inflation, job growth, and national unemployment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

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Five Reasons Why Spring Is The Perfect Time To Sell

April 27, 2018

5 Reasons Spring Is The Perfect Time to SellSpring is many people’s favorite season of the year. Obviously, there are many valid reasons why this is so. One of the best things about spring is that it is an ideal time to sell your home.

If you have considered putting your home on the market any time in the next year or so, check out these five reasons which make spring the ideal time.

  • Buyers are searching – A huge majority of home buyers want to move during summer. Many families have school or work vacations that make the moving process a little easier during this time. If you put your home on the market during spring, you ready things for someone to purchase and move in during this prime time.

  • The weather is cooperative – Yes, there may be a few spring rain showers here and there, but during the spring season (in most parts of the country), you’ll find that the weather is neither too hot nor too cold to keep buyers from searching. In addition, the spring sunshine makes for beautiful listing photos.

  • It’s a great time for home improvement – Whether you want to make improvements to your house to make selling easier, or you plan to sell your home as a fixer-upper, the knowledge that spring and the coming summer months is the perfect time to attend to these tasks will benefit you during the listing and sales process.

  • Your yard will look great – They say that curb appeal is one of the most important things that is considered when someone purchases a home. When you sell in springtime, the grass is green, the flowers are in bloom and your yard will look it’s very best. You may find that it’s a little easier to sell during this time just because of the extra “wow factor” your yard brings to the table.

  • The market is prime – Listen to any news or finance program and you’ll hear that the real estate market is booming. Take advantage of this benefit and pair it with all the other reasons to sell your home this spring. You may find that selling your property quickly and at your asking price is much easier than you ever imagined it would be.

As you can see, spring really is an excellent time to sell a home. However, don’t wait until the peak of the season to think about putting it on the market and expect to reap all the benefits. Act now and be ready to make a splash when the weather warms up and the sun comes out to shine.

 

The Home-Buying Closing Process in a Nutshell

April 26, 2018

The Home-Buying Closing Process in a NutshellThe closing process for a home purchase is an exciting time. The home is finished, the purchase is ready to be finalized and it’s almost time to move in. The final steps of the closing process ensures both parties are able to meet their requirements and all the paperwork is in place and verified.

The Key Players

There are actually four parties involved in a typical closing: the buyer, the seller, the bank or lender financing the purchase, and the escrow agent. Each has an important role in making sure the closing happens effectively and efficiently.

As is common with most purchases, the buyer is already familiar with the need to have a down payment ready and to be committed to a purchase. Additionally, the buyer will have already worked out the loan approval preliminary reviews and steps with the bank financing the purchase if it is not an all cash purchase.

The Escrow Process

During escrow the purchase is then validated through a number of steps. These include:

  • Ensuring the property title is clear of any problems or previous liens (a legal method by which other parties get paid for the seller’s outstanding prior debts).
  • Ensuring the property has been appraised and represents the actual worth represented to the bank.
  • Ensuring the bank is ready to pay the seller with a payment check and that the buyer has paid any down payment as well. Both payments are put into an escrow account managed by an escrow agent and not to be released until all the purchase requirements are met.
  • Ensuring the buyer has been notified, read and has committed by signature to all the purchase documentation necessary to complete the sale. This includes understanding the nature of the home loan, payment responsibilities, and what happens if there is a default.
  • Ensuring any property taxes, homeowner’s association fees, and other fees have all been addressed before the seller transfers the property to the escrow agent, which is then transfered to the seller.
  • Finally, passing along the keys and title of the property to the buyer, the title lien to the bank financing the deal, and the payments for the property to the buyer.

When all the above happens, a home purchase is closed and the home officially belongs to the buyer. The seller also gets paid and can deposit his income accordingly. The escrow agent files all the paperwork with the bank, the county recorder’s office, and copies are sent to the buyer and the seller for their own records.

Contact your trusted mortgage professional if you have any additional questions about the closing process as well as other aspects of financing your new home. 

 

Solar Roof Panels: A Mainstream Option For Homeowners?

April 25, 2018

Solar Roof Panels A Mainstream Option For HomeownersDo rooftop solar panels add value to a home, and are they cost-effective in terms of energy savings? The short answer is yes, say the experts. Although more than a million U.S. homes boasted solar panels in 2016, the percentage of solar-equipped households is still miniscule. 

That may change, however, as domestic prices for solar installations continue to decrease and property values rise.

The Pros And Cons Of Solar

While there is global agreement on the need to encourage cost-effective, non-polluting renewable energy sources, it is also acknowledged that solar effectiveness is not equal in all locations or situations. 

Several Southwestern states boast abundant sunshine, a high percentage of roofs that face in the proper direction for solar capture, and high consumption of electricity, including the the need for air conditioning. Experts predict that California could supply 74 percent of its total electrical needs if its roofs were clothed in solar panels.

On the other hand, Nevada, with a much smaller population and a different climate, only has the ability to supply 14 percent of its total need. The truth is that solar is not equally beneficial in all locations.

Solar Costs On Par With Grid Electricity

Even so, according to information provided by the Union of Concerned Scientists, more than half of U.S. states have reached or are close to the point where rooftop solar costs are on par with grid costs for electricity. In areas where utility companies offer net metering, solar producers can return excess energy for credit, which results, in the best of cases, in a monthly electricity bill that is extremely low, perhaps even zero.

Before committing to rooftop solar panels, homeowners should ask some pertinent questions. An investment in solar is still pricey, even though installation costs have dropped by about 50 percent over the past decade. With government incentives of various kinds, the total cost may dip to $10,000 or below for an average size home.

On average, the payback on that initial investment will be long-term, even though monthly savings on electrical bills can be immediate. Panel leasing is a popular option, with no initial down payment required, although the lease term may extend for 10 or even 20 years. Another option in some areas is to invest in a solar farm or cooperative.

Important Questions For Homeowners

Pertinent questions include personal motivation: Are solar panels simply a way to save money or do they demonstrate eco-consciousness and a concern for quality of life? Owners should also consider how long they plan to own a specific home before investing in rooftop panels.

Current data suggests that buyers will pay a premium for solar-equipped homes. A study by Energy Sage confirms that buyers in some states are more “pro-solar” than other U.S. residents, but notes that the national value boost is around $15,000 for an average solar home, and higher in select locales. That equates to between $3 and $4 per kilowatt of solar power generated.  

Even though the added value is not uniform throughout the country, it is obvious that rooftop solar panels are emerging as mainstream home amenities. Talk with your trusted mortgage professional about the impact of solar improvements to your home.

 

 

Equity Loan and HELOC vs. Reverse Mortgage – What’s the Difference?

April 24, 2018

Equity Loan and HELOC vs. Reverse Mortgage - What's the Difference?There are times in our lives when the idea of freeing up cash becomes desirable or necessary. Near retirement, this is a common consideration. The typical financial tool that many retirees want to know about is a reverse mortgage, but it’s not the only equity tool available.

Equity Loan

The equity loan, or second mortgage, is essentially an additional fixed interest loan attached to the home. However, unlike the first mortgage which was used to buy the home, the second mortgage can be used for other purposes such as putting in a pool, redesigning the home to make it more accessible, or to pay for a dream vacation. This kind of loan can be set up for a long pay period which reduces its monthly financial impact. The fact that it is attached to the home can result in a very low interest rate for the borrower. However, to qualify, one does have to have the income or assets to pay it back, which may be challenging for those on a fixed income.

HELOC

The Home Equity Line of Credit, or HELOC, is similar to the equity loan, but it is not a fixed loan amount. Instead, the HELOC works more like a credit card. The homeowner makes charges against the line of credit, develops a balance and then pays it off. The homeowner retains the ability to borrow against it again, as needed. Much like the equity loan, the HELOC is attached to the home for collateral, which can result in a lower interest rate, but the borrower is not under obligation to the entire loan value at once. The HELOC can result in a lower monthly payment and can be used multiple times. Most HELOCs have a variable interest rate. 

Reverse Mortgage

A reverse mortgage is an option for borrowers age 62 or older who have a sizable amount of equity in their home. This loan takes equity out of an owned home and converts it into cash for the borrower. A key benefit, compared to other tools, is that there is no monthly payment. Many times, the reverse mortgage loan is used to pay off an existing mortgage to eliminate that monthly payment as well. The homeowner is able to stay in their home and is not obligated for repayment until the home is no longer the primary residence or he or she passes away. The loan principal and accruing interest are paid back at the end of the loan life with a balloon payment or by transferring over the home itself to satisfy the debt. The loan is never more than the value of the home at the time of origination, so in most cases the home value will have risen and is more than enough to repay the loan. Many seniors have found the reverse mortgage to be a powerful way to boost monthly cash flow in their lives and make their later years more comfortable.

The home equity loan, HELOC and the reverse mortgage are three equity borrowing tools that can effectively give a homeowner greater cash flexibility. Each have varied requirements and benefits as well as certain risks to be aware of. Contact your trusted mortgage professional who can answer your questions and help you determine the very best option for you.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 23rd, 2018

April 23, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 23rd, 2018Last week’s economic reports included readings on builder confidence, housing starts and building permits issued. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

NAHB: Builder Confidence Drops by One Point

The National Association of Home Builders reported that builder confidence dipped by one point in April to an index reading of 69. While any reading over 50 indicates positive builder sentiment, NAHB noted that builder sentiment has decreased for the past four months.

During the housing bubble of 2004 and 2005, builder confidence in market conditions averaged 68, but analysts said that the post bubble crash in home values was preceded by several months of decreasing builder sentiment. 

Builders are maintaining a steady approach to housing starts despite high demand in many markets. Short supplies of available homes are driving prices higher and causing issues of affordability for would be buyers. Home builders continued to face shortages of buildable lots and rising materials prices. This could account for decisions not to ramp up home construction enough to meet demand.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Rise

According to the Commerce Department, housing starts and building permits issued rose in March. 1.319 million starts were reported on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis as compared to 1.1,295 million starts in February. Analysts expected housing starts to drop in March to 1.255 million, due to rising materials costs and concerns over trade wars. Housing starts were 10.90 percent higher year-over-year.

Single-family housing starts were lower by 3.70 percent lower than for February, but were 8.00 percent higher year-over-year. This suggests that aside from seasonal fluctuations, home builders are boosting their efforts to keep up with demand for homes.

Building permits issued increased in March to 1.354 million on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis; the February reading showed 1.321 million building permits issued. Building permits issued in March were 2.50 percent higher than for February and 7.50 percent higher year-over-year.

Mortgage Rates, Jump, New Jobless Claims Dip

Freddie Mac reported higher average mortgage rates last week, with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rising by five basis points to 4.47 percent. This was the highest average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages since January 2014 and the highest weekly rate increase since February. Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 3.94 percent and increased by seven basis points.

The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages was six basis points higher at 3.67n percent. Discounts points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages, 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims were lower last week with 232,000 new claims filed. Analysts expected 230,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 233,000 new claims filed.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic reports include readings from Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, sales reports for new and previously-owned homes, and weekly readings on average mortgage rates and new jobless claims. A monthly reading for consumer sentiment will be released Friday.

Your Guide To Aging In Place Home Modifications

April 20, 2018

Your Guide To Aging in Place Home ModificationsIf you’ve had to watch your parents transition into assisted living, you may have no desire to call such a place home. You are not alone. According to the Aging in Place Housing Survey conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), more than 90 percent of seniors want to remain in their home.

Many survey respondents said that they would rather use nursing home funds towards purchasing a home that is suited for aging in place or making accessible home modifications.  

You’ve probably heard the buzzwords — aging in place, non-assisted living, universal design — these phrases mean the same thing: growing older in your home. Today, home modifications can help you continue to live in your home as you age. Plus, aging-in-place home modifications are much less expensive than moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility.

The problem is that most existing homes are not conducive to aging in place. There are more than 100 million homes in the United States. However, only one percent of them are currently set up for accessibility. Fortunately, there are a variety of home modifications that you can do to make any home more accessible. Here is a handy guide to accessible home modifications.

Think About Your Future Needs

The first step in making sure your home is suited to aging in place is to consider how your needs might change in the future. Everyone’s situation is different.

If you have a chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart disease, it is best to talk with your doctor to determine how these health issues might make it hard for you to live on your own in the future. Consider what modifications you’ll need to make to ensure that your home will suit your future needs.

For example, if you are thinking of buying a new home with an upstairs, you might use the upper part of the house for your home office now and convert the area into caregiver’s quarters in the future.

Consider a First-Floor Master Suite

An essential home modification for aging in place is first-floor living. Although you might not have mobility issues now, hip replacements and other problems that affect mobility are frequent with increasing age.

Plus, a first-floor suite can increase the value of your home should you sell in the future. According to data from Builder Online, out of the best-selling new home floor plans, more than 83 percent feature accessible master suites.

Choose Slip-Resistant Flooring

Falls are a serious threat to the independence and health of older adults. They are the leading cause of injuries among Americans ages 65 and older. That is why it is so important to take steps to reduce the likelihood of a fall.

One of the easiest modifications that you can make in this area is to choose slip-resistant flooring. Cork and bamboo flooring are both popular for aging in place as they are softer and thus more forgiving during a fall.

These are just a few of the aging in place modifications that you can make to your home. There are many others. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to sacrifice lifestyle or luxury to have a home that is also accessible.

Many of the above modifications can be made anytime and can help enhance the beauty and comfort of your home. As you plan for your future in your home, please contact your mortgage professional to explore finance options for these and other necessary home modifications.

 

Best Tax Deductible Home Improvements for Homeowners

April 19, 2018

Best Tax Deductible Home Improvements For HomeownersBefore delving into tax-deductible home improvements, it’s important to understand that these tax deductions won’t be applied immediately. In most cases, homeowners can only benefit, tax-wise, from their home renovations later, when they sell their home.

It’s important for homeowners to keep receipts for their improvements, though so they have proof of the improvements they made, even if it’s years later when they sell their residence.

Typical Renovations/ Home Improvements That Can Yield Eventual Tax Benefits

A home improvement is any project that substantially adds value to a home. It can include adapting it to be more useful or be improvements that allow it to be used differently. The following are some general home improvements that can yield tax savings when a home is sold for a profit.

  • Room additions.
  • Upgrades to plumbing.
  • Kitchen improvements.
  • A new roof.
  • New bathrooms.
  • Upgraded landscaping.
  • Improvements to fencing.
  • New decks.
  • Improved wiring.
  • New walkways.
  • Driveway improvements.
  • Plumbing upgrades.

How Delayed Tax Benefits Work

While a homeowner can’t take the amount of money they spent on one of the above home improvements and deduct it that same tax year, they can sometimes benefit from the investment in their home. This is true because a homeowner can effectively reduce the amount of taxes they have to pay if they sell their home for a profit down the road.

When an improvement is made, the cost of those improvements are added to the tax basis of a home. The basis is the investment in a home for tax purposes. The greater this number becomes, the less the profit is from selling a home.

The following explains it a little better:

Example Of Tax Basis And Home Improvement Tax Savings

A fictional homeowner purchases their home for $600,000 and sells their home 20 years later for $1,000,000. Their original “profit” from the sale would have been $400,000, which would have been taxable income at the time of the sale. However, throughout the 15 years when they resided in the home, this homeowner made around $60,000 worth of home improvements, including a roof improvement and a kitchen update. The $60,000 is then added to the original investment this homeowner made in their home, bringing their tax basis to $660,000.

The homeowner’s profit when they sell their home is then reduced from $400,000 to $340,000. Many homeowners use home improvements as a way to reduce the amount of taxes they will one day have to pay when they sell their home for a substantial profit.

Other Ways For Homeowners To Benefit From Their Home This Tax Season

Homeowners can make their home work for them each and every tax year by qualifying for the home office deduction. This only works if they own and operate a legitimate business out of their home, though. A part of the home must be used either regularly or exclusively for the business to qualify.

The above is some pertinent information on how homeowners can use home improvements to reduce their tax burden.  As always, check with your trusted tax professional for accurate advice on your personal situation.

Pros and Cons of Adjustable Rate Mortgages

April 18, 2018

Pros and Cons of Adjustable Rate MortgagesWhen you are in the market for a new home, you may be faced with numerous options for financing your home. One of the choices you will have to make is whether to apply for a fixed or adjustable rate mortgage. In some cases, an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) may be your best option, but keep in mind, they are not the answer for everyone.

Adjustable rate mortgages can be risky for some borrowers and it’s important to understand both the pros and cons.

When To Consider Adjustable Rate Mortgages

Perhaps one of the best things about ARMs is they typically have a lower starting interest rate than fixed rate mortgages. For some borrowers, this means it is easier for them to qualify for a loan. ARMs are beneficial for borrowers who:

  • Anticipate an income increase – for borrowers who are anticipating their income to increase over the next year or two, an ARM may be the right option.
  • Will be reducing their debt – those borrowers who have automobile loans or student loans that will be paid off in the next few years may benefit from an ARM which would allow them to qualify for a larger mortgage today anticipating their ability to covert to a fixed-rate mortgage.
  • Are purchasing a starter home – when you anticipate living in a home for five years or less, an adjustable rate mortgage may help you save money for a bigger home.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage Concerns

There are a number of different types of adjustable rate mortgages and they are each tied to specific interest rate indexes. While an ARM may offer borrowers some flexibility in terms of income and debt ratios, the downsides cannot be ignored. Some of the cons of using an ARM to finance your mortgage include:

  • Rate adjustments – borrowers should carefully review their loan documents to see how frequently their interest rates may increase. Some loans adjust annually while other may not increase for three to five years after the mortgage is signed. For borrowers, this means they may anticipate an increase in their monthly payments.
  • Prepayment clauses – oftentimes, lenders include a prepayment penalty with ARM loans which can be surprising for borrowers. Before agreeing to an ARM, make sure you read the documents very carefully to determine how long you need to hold the loan and if there is a prepayment clause.
  • Home values – one of the biggest challenges borrowers face with an ARM is what happens if the property value decreases: Refinancing a home into a fixed-rate mortgage may be more difficult if this occurs.

Borrowers who are searching for the right mortgage should discuss all options with their loan officer. There are specific instances when an ARM may be the best option and there are other times, such as if you plan to stay in your home for more than five years, where a fixed-rate mortgage may be your best option.

Should You Pay Discount Points When You Get Your Mortgage?

April 17, 2018

Should You Pay Discount Points When You Get Your MortgageOne of the challenges you will face when deciding how much money to put down on your new home is whether to put down a larger down payment or to take a bit of money from your down payment and use it to buy “discount points” to lower your interest rate.

There are pros and cons to doing both and each borrowers situation will be different so it’s important to understand which option is best for your individual situation. Some factors you should consider include:

  • Cost of borrowing – generally speaking, to lower your interest rate will mean you pay a premium. Most lenders will charge as much as one percent (one point) on the face amount of your loan to decrease your rate. Before you agree to pay points, you need to calculate the amount of money you are going to save monthly and then determine how many months it will take to recover your investment. Remember, closing points are tax deductible so it may be important to talk to your tax planner for guidance
  • Larger down payment means more equity – keep in mind, the larger your down payment, the less money you have to borrow and the more equity you have in your new home. This is important for borrowers in a number of ways including lower monthly payments, better loan terms and potentially not having to purchase mortgage insurance depending on how much equity you will have at the time of closing
  • Qualifying for a loan – borrowers who are facing challenges qualifying for a loan should weigh which option (points or larger down payment) is likely to help them qualify. In some instances, using a combination of down payment and lower rates will make the difference. Your mortgage professional can help you determine which is most beneficial to you

There is no answer that is right for every borrower. All of the factors that impact your mortgage loan and your overall financial situation must be considered when you are preparing for your mortgage loan.

Talking with your mortgage professional and where appropriate your tax professional will help you make the decision that is right for your specific situation.