Archive for February, 2019

8 Ways To Maintain A Great Credit Score

February 28, 2019

8 Ways To Maintain A Great Credit ScoreHaving an excellent credit score is very useful. The following are some tips on how to maintain a superb credit score.

Open Credit Accounts When You Do Not Need Them

If you don’t have any credit accounts, you will have a low score. The best time to open them is when you do not need them. Keep a small balance on them and pay it all off at the end of each month to avoid paying interest.

Charge Up To Half The Credit Limit Then Pay It All Back Within A Few Months

If you must use a credit line, only use half of it and pay it back quickly.

Buy Big Ticket Items With A Credit Card For Cash Back And Points

Even if you can pay cash for a big ticket item, you may find it beneficial to buy it with a card that gives a reward for making a purchase like cash back or rewards points. Then pay off the balance as quickly as you can.

Ask For An Increased Credit Line

For credit accounts that you have been paying on time, call the customer service department and tell them you are thinking about buying something that is slightly above your credit limit. Ask them if they can extend the limit. This usually works even if you do not actually buy something.

You can attempt to raise your credit limit this way about once per year. As you increase your available credit capacity while maintaining all accounts in a “paid as agreed” status, your credit score should go up.

Move Credit Balances To A New Card With Zero Interest

Many credit card companies offer a zero-interest period for transfers of credit card balances from another card. After doing this, transfer this balance, once again, to another card that has a similar offer before the zero-interest period expires.

Close Old Accounts When New Ones Are Open

Having too many credit card accounts can lower your score. Keep about half a dozen cards. Close the ones that you transferred the balance from to zero interest cards.

Use Automatic Payments To Make Sure Bills Are Paid On Time

Never miss a payment or pay late. You may want to use automatic bill payment systems to make sure you never let a bill slip by.

Monitor Credit Card Activity For Unauthorized Use

Monitor all credit card activity in real time. Immediately take action if you notice an unauthorized charge. Monitor your credit history file on the three credit bureau services of Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.

Your trusted home mortgage professional can provide you with additional guidelines to improve and maintain your credit while preparing to purchase or refinance your home. Be sure to contact this valuable resource if you have any questions.

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Case-Shiller: December Home Price Growth Slowest in 4 Years

February 27, 2019

Case-Shiller: December Home Price Growth Slowest in 4 YearsCase-Shiller Home Price Indices reported the slowest rate of U.S. home price growth since November 2014. According to the 20-City Home Price Index, Home prices grew by 4.20 percent year-over-year and were 0.20 percent higher in December as compared to November. The 20-City Home Price Index fell short of analysts’ expected gain of 4.80 percent year-over-year. Case-Shiller’s National Home Price Index reported home prices increased 4.70 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018.

While home price growth is sluggish, home prices continued to rise faster than wages. This creates obstacles to affordability for many would-be home buyers. Fears about rising mortgage rates and inflation, also concerned would-be home buyers seeking affordable homes.

20-City Home Price Index: Home Price Growth Rose In Only 5 Metro Areas

Las Vegas, Nevada led in home price growth for December with a year-over-year increase of 11.40 percent. Phoenix, Arizona home prices rose 8 percent year-over-year, and Atlanta, Georgia home prices increased by 5.90 percent. Home prices in west coast cities including  San Francisco, California and Seattle, Washington grew at a slower pace than in prior years, which could indicate that high-demand metro areas are approaching peak home prices.

December home price growth surpassed November readings in five cities tracked in the 20-City Index. Three cities reported no change in month-to-month home prices growth. David M. Blitzer, Chair of the S&P Dow Jones Index Committee, acknowledged that year-over-year home prices continued to fall despite the prior assertion that housing markets were not approaching “bubble” conditions seen in the Great Recession.  

Serious Headwinds Face Prospective Home Buyers

According to data compiled by the National Association of Realtors®, 27 percent of prospective home buyers surveyed at the end of 2017 believed that they would face fewer challenges to finding and buying a home in 2018. Prospective buyers surveyed in late 2018 who planned to buy within the next year decreased from 24 percent to 13 percent. Combined impacts of high home prices, potential increases in mortgage rates and strict mortgage requirements discouraged some would-be buyers, but whether this is a short or long-term trend will depend on factors including inflation, wage growth and inventories of homes for sale.

Market conditions can vary by location. Please be sure to consult with your trusted home mortgage professional to find out about market specifics in your area as well financing options.

Managing Finances Before Applying For A Mortgage

February 26, 2019

Managing Finances Before Applying For A MortgageAre you planning on using a mortgage to help cover the cost of a new home? If so, you will want to prepare your finances and figure out how you will manage all those wallet-draining monthly expenses. Let’s take a look at how to run a quick financial health check to ensure you are ready to apply for a mortgage.

Update (Or Start) Your Monthly Budget

First, it is essential to get the basics out of the way. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start a monthly budget to keep track of your income and expenses. Once you have a mortgage, it will be important to prioritize your monthly payments so that you don’t end up falling behind.

Starting a budget is easy and can be done with mobile apps, software, a spreadsheet or a pen and paper. List all sources of income so that you know exactly how much cash you are working with. Then, list out every one of your expenses. It can be tough to remember them all, so consider using debit and credit card statements from the past few months as a reminder.

Get A Copy Of Your Credit Report

Next, you will want to get a copy of your credit report so you can see what potential mortgage lenders will see when assessing your financial history. This is a free service that you can request once per year, so be sure to take advantage. Note that you will want to use government-approved websites for requesting your credit report. Be wary of scams.

Do You Have A Down Payment?

A down payment is not required for every home purchase, but having one saved up can make the buying process easier. The amount you will want to have saved up will depend on the cost of your home, whether you plan on carrying private mortgage insurance and a variety of other factors. If possible, try to save up an amount close to (or more than) twenty percent of the home’s purchase price.

Ready? Chat With A Professional

Now that you have your financial health in check, it is time to meet with a trusted mortgage professional to discuss your financing options. 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 25th, 2019

February 25, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 25th, 2019Last week’s economic news included readings on homebuilder confidence in housing market conditions, minutes of January’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting, and existing home sales reported by the National Association of Realtors®. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Rises to 4-Month High

Homebuilder confidence rose for the second consecutive month in February and four points higher to an index reading of 62, which exceeded analyst expectations of a one-point increase in builder confidence.

Components of the NAHB Housing Market Index also rose. Builder confidence in current market conditions rose three points to 67; builder confidence in market conditions over the next six months rose five points to 68 and builder confidence rose four points to an index reading of 48. Index readings over 50 are considered positive, but readings for buyer traffic are typically lower than the benchmark of 50.

Real estate and mortgage lending pros consider the Housing Market Index and its component readings as an indication of future home building pace. During times with few available homes and high buyer demand, industry leaders rely on builders to provide more homes.

Fed Holds Off on Raising Key Interest Rate

Minutes of the Fed’s January meeting of its Federal Open Market Committee indicated a divide in members’ positions regarding raising or holding the current federal funds rate steady. The current rate of 2.25 to 2.50 percent was unchanged as Committee members considered global economic uncertainty and domestic concerns including trade policies. On a positive note, the Fed lowered its expected reading for long-term national unemployment from 4.50 percent to 4.40 percent. Strong labor markets encourage would-be home buyers to consider buying homes.

Sales of Pre-owned Homes Fall to Three-Year Low

The National Association of Realtors® reported the lowest level of previously-owned home sales in three years. Sales were 1.20 percent lower than their three-year low in December and were 8.50 percent lower year-over-year. 4,94 million pre-owned homes were sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis; analysts expected 4,99 million sales and 5.00 million pre-owned homes were sold in December.

The national median home price was $247,500 in January, which was 2.80 percent higher year-over-year; this was the slowest rate of home price growth since 2012.

Home prices may have peaked in high-demand metro areas where prices are unaffordable for most residents. First-time home buyers lost market share in January and comprised 29 percent of all sales as compared to a long-term market share of 40 percent. Concerns over affordability, supplies of homes for sale and potential increases in mortgage rates sidelined first-time and moderate-income home buyers.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Lower

Freddie Mac reported lower mortgage rates last week; rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell two basis points to 4.35 percent. Rates for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged three basis points lower at 3.78 percent.

Rates for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage averaged four basis points lower at 3.84 percent. Discount 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.

First-time jobless claims were lower last week with 216,000 claims filed as compared to expectations of 229,000 new claims filed and the previous week’s reading of 239,000 first-time claims filed.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, new home sales, and Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued. Data on consumer confidence is expected along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

FOMC Meeting Minutes: Why Fed’s Rate Policy Reversed Course

February 22, 2019

FOMC Meeting Minutes: Why Fed’s Rate Policy Reversed CourseAfter raising the target range for the federal funds rate in 2018, the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee did not raise the Central Bank’s key interest rate at its meeting of January 29 and 30. While Committee members did not raise the Fed’s key rate, members were divided on the interest rate decision.

FOMC Members Divided On Interest Rate Decision

Minutes of January’s FOMC meeting indicated that member viewpoints varied about how the Fed should deal with the Fed’s target interest rate range. One group said that interest rate increases may be necessary if inflation increases above the Federal Reserve’s baseline forecast.

Other FOMC members supported raising the Fed’s interest rate range later in 2019 if economic conditions move as expected. Overall, FOMC members said that there were “few risks” in the Committee’s current position of patience, but they were open to reassessing that position according to how economic conditions change.

FOMC Cites Reasons For Halting Rate Increases

Committee members provided several reasons for reversing their 2018 policy of consistent rate hikes including declining economic conditions since early 2018. Global and domestic economic conditions slowed; deteriorating conditions were supported by lower readings on consumer and business sentiment. Federal government policies including the partial government shutdown and then-current trade policy contributed to the deteriorating economic outlook in late 2018.

Ongoing influences driving FOMC monetary policy decisions include the Fed’s mandate for achieving maximum employment, stable prices and moderate long-term interest rates. Because short-term data change frequently, Fed monetary policy reflects long-term goals, medium-term outlook and the Committee’s risk assessments in multiple financial and economic sectors. The Committee said that long-term inflation of two percent indicates stable pricing as required by federal mandate; any prolonged deviation above or below the two percent reading would concern Committee members.

FOMC indicated progress with its maximum employment mandate by changing its long-run unemployment outlook from 4.60 percent to 4.40 percent, which suggests a strong outlook for job markets. Fourth quarter Gross Domestic Product was described as “solid”. The meeting minutes indicated that some data typically used by Committee members was limited by the government shutdown.

 

Inexpensive Updates That Will Appeal To Buyers

February 21, 2019

Inexpensive Updates That Will Appeal To BuyersWhile you could spend tens of thousands of dollars or more completing a home makeover, there are more than a few budget-minded ideas that you may consider.

Add Color To Molding And Trim

One cool idea in home décor and interior design is to get rid of the standard white trim and molding and to add color to these areas. Neutral hues like grays and browns have universal appeal, or you can give your space a more contemporary look by adding black to these areas. Generally, you will want a more neutral color like a creamy beige on the walls when executing a look with colored trim.

Another idea is utilizing a color consistent with your wall color as opposed to a contrasting or complimentary color. This helps the trim blend in and almost disappear. This is an especially effective concept when used in small rooms, narrow halls with several doorways or in rooms with low ceilings.

Update Light Fixtures

If you have a little more money to spend, you may consider updating your light fixtures. There are rather affordable yet stylish fixtures available in a wide range of finishes. When your rooms are empty or staged to perfection, the light fixtures can easily set the tone of the room and may be focal points. Outdated fixtures may have limited appeal to buyers who are looking for a home that is modern and current with today’s trends.

When thinking about lighting, don’t forget to consider updating your outdoor lighting. The right fixtures may add an additional element of curb appeal that many buyers appreciate.

Redefine Outdated Spaces

In some older homes, some of the rooms may have originally been built with outdated uses in mind. Today’s savvy buyers may be looking for a home with an exercise room, a media room or a study rather than a formal living or dining area. With this in mind, you may consider how you can stage your home to show that it can be used for modern purposes.

This may simply mean moving your formal dining room set into storage, adding French doors and investing in an affordable desk and side chairs for staging purposes. Murphy beds that offer space for guests that can be hidden away when not in use are a clever way to show dual purpose. Turning a closet or the area under the stairs into a small office is also a clever use of space. 

Whether you are interested in refinancing your current property or purchasing a new property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional for the most current financing options.

5 Simple Tips To Make Your Home Showings Easier

February 20, 2019

5 Simple Tips To Make Your Home Showings EasierYour real estate agent will likely give you 24 hours’ notice before bringing over interested buyers to see your home. Sometimes eager buyers may request less of an advance, or even ask for a last minute showing.

Since you’re eager to be accommodating, you may agree to consider such requests. Whether you have 24 hours to prepare for a showing or 15 minutes, these tips will make showings easier for your family.

Keep The Family Pet Carrier By The Door

Real estate agents advise not leaving your family pet at home during showings. Make it easy to bring along Fido or Fluffy by keeping their carrier right by the door. You’ll be able to quickly place him in the carrier and carry him out to the car with you.

Use Under-Bed Storage

The one place homebuyers won’t look is under your bed. Equip each bedroom with a large under-bed storage container; get the kind with wheels if possible. When you receive notice of a showing, just place any loose odds and ends, clothing, magazines, etc. into the tote and hide it under the bed. 

Have Extra Laundry Baskets On Hand

Invest in two or three extra laundry baskets and keep them near the door. When you have to leave for a showing, have each family member scour the kitchen and living room for things that are out of place. Fill the baskets and just bring them with you in the car.

Stock The Kitchen With Cleanup Supplies

The kitchen is the biggest challenge with showings. It’s both the place that gets messiest and the room that can sell your home. Get it spotless in a jiffy with popup wipes. Make it a habit to clean the kitchen immediately after meals, including sweeping the floor. Consider using paper plates to dine on while your home is listed. Keep a scented jar candle in the kitchen that you can light to mask odors.

Make The Car Comfortable

Your family will likely take a drive or go to a movie while the house is being shown. Stock it with a few snacks and bottles of water as well as any medication that a family member may need.

These tips will make house showings much easier no matter how large your house is, or how many family members you have. And one day, you just might return to find that you have a great offer on your house!

For piece of mind, be sure to be well prepared for your move. Contact your trusted home mortgage professional to secure your financing for your next home purchase!

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 19th, 2019

February 19, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 19th, 2019Last week’s economic reports included readings on the Consumer Price Index, Core CPI, Retail Sales and Retail Sales excluding autos. The University of Michigan also released its Consumer Sentiment Index. Weekly readings for mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.

Retail Sales Slip in December, Inflation Holds Steady

December retail sales were 1.20 percent lower in December; analysts expected no growth as compared to November’s retail sales growth of 0.10 percent. Readings for retail sales excluding the automotive sector were also lower in December with a negative reading of -1.80 percent. Analysts expected a negative reading of -0.10 percent.

November’s reading of -0.20 percent. December’s reading for retail sales was the lowest since September 2009, which was a few months after the Great Recession ended.

Retail Sales excluding Autos also had a negative reading of -1.80 percent; Analysts expected a reading of -0.10 percent based on November’s reading of -0.20 percent. Retailers traditionally rely on December’s holiday season to cover sales shortfalls throughout the year, but the government shutdown and fears of economic slowing kept shoppers away in December. January’s retail sales reports were delayed by the shutdown according to MarketWatch.

January’s Consumer Price Index was unchanged from December’s reading of 0.00 percent; analysts predicted an increase of 0.10 percent, but inflation stayed flat. Lower gas prices were credited with keeping inflation low; the reading for the Core CPI was positive with a 0.20 percent increase that matched expectations and December’s reading. The Core CPI reading excludes volatile food and energy sectors and did not include lower gas prices.

Mortgage Rates, Lower; New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported the lowest mortgage rates in a year. Rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged four basis points lower at 4.37 percent. Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 3.81 percent and were three basis points lower.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage also dropped three basis points to 3.88 percent. Discount points averaged 0.40 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims rose to 239,000 claims as compared to expectations of 225,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 235,000 new claims filed.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index rose in February rose to 95.5. Analysts expected a reading of 94.00; January’s index reading was 91.20. The increase in consumer sentiment could help boost the housing market as uncertain economic projections can sideline home buyers. Housing markets improved somewhat as supplies of homes rose and buyer demand eased.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, Minutes from the most recent meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee and Existing Home Sales reported by the National Association of Realtors®.

Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued will be delayed according to MarketWatch.

3 Ways To Help Your Kids Deal With The Move

February 15, 2019

3 Ways To Help Your Kids Deal With The MoveKids of all ages often have a hard time dealing with moving. They may not be able to understand why the family can’t stay in the same place forever. Even with explanations, children often can’t readily envision how amazing the new place will be.

Here are some ideas for helping your kids deal with the move.

1. Make It Easy To Stay In Touch

For a lot of kids, a big sore spot with moving is having to say goodbye to friends and schoolmates. They may even feel like you’re intentionally wresting them away from their friends. To demonstrate how much you understand the sacrifice, make a gift of a cute set of note cards, stamps included. Even if your child chooses to text or email old friends instead of write, they’ll appreciate your gesture.

2. Visit The New Community

If possible, bring your kids to visit the new neighborhood where you’ll be moving. Encourage positive anticipation by signing them up for things like a library card, pool membership or a community event such as an Easter egg hunt, relay race or something similar. Consider enrolling them in a fun local class such as pottery, horseback riding, or something else they would enjoy. This helps your kids to focus on the upcoming activities instead of leaving their friends behind.

3. Strive To Keep Old Routines

When you’re busy packing and readying for the big move, old routines often fall by the wayside. But children need routines to feel safe. Strive to keep as many old routines as possible in the preliminary days and weeks before the big move. For example, if Wednesday is always family game night, stick to the plan. Your kids will feel more secure knowing that some things will stay the same, even in a new location.

Above all, make the time to listen. Your child might have concerns that you hadn’t thought of, like having to give up their dog or cat in order to move to the new house. Don’t worry, though. Kids tend to adjust very well to new situations. With your support and a few tips like the ones mentioned above, your children will make a happy transition to your new home.

Before you begin your search, be sure to set an appointment with your trusted home mortgage professional to discuss financing options and your home loan pre-approval.

 

 

5 Tips To Price Your Home To Sell For Top Dollar

February 14, 2019

5 Tips To Price Your Home To Sell For Top DollarMany home sellers are confused about how to price their home to sell. It’s definitely challenging to try and find that sweet spot between pricing it low enough so it flies off the market without undercutting the home’s value.

Emotions play into the decision, too. If the seller has a lot of sweat equity in the home, or the property is the only place the children have ever called home, owners may tend to place a higher value on the house.

Here’s how to correctly price a home to sell in any market.

Rely On Your Real Estate Agent

Your Realtor is an expert in all matters related to home buying and selling. They have a vested interest in selling your home within a reasonable time frame. As such, they provide a valuable, objective perspective that you should closely pay attention to in order to correctly price your home to sell.

Look At Comps In Your Neighborhood

One thing that your real estate agent does is analyze the comparable properties in your neighborhood. Remember, what a home sells for in a nearby city doesn’t impact how to price your home in a neighborhood far removed. Your prospective buyers will also compare your home’s price to others they could buy in the same neighborhood.

Consider Special Features

Don’t discount special features that your home has, such as built-in shelving units, out buildings, a home movie theater, etc. These give you an advantage in that you can safely set your price a little higher than comparable homes without those features. Be sure your real estate agent mentions them on your MLS listing so buyers understand the higher asking price.

Be Prepared To Make Price Adjustments

Remember that you might have to come down from your asking price, so keep that in mind when you and your real estate agent set that number. Don’t expect that you’ll get exactly what you’re asking for unless you’re in a high demand area. When you give yourself some margin, you gain negotiating power you can use to make a sale happen.

Consider Your Own Finances

Pricing your home to sell is only one factor to consider. The larger equation takes your entire financial picture into account. Figure out how much you owe, how much commission you’ll pay and any sales concessions, if any, you’d be willing to offer a prospective buyer. This due diligence ensures you’ll be satisfied with the outcome after all the money has changed hands.

Pricing your home to sell correctly is a critical part of making the transaction happen. Remember that your real estate agent is the best judge of the best price point, but you can always point out the reasons why you’d like it higher or lower.

It’s important to plan out where you will live once your current property has sold. A great place to start is by obtaining a current evaluation of how much you can afford for your new property and getting your new home loan pre-approved with assistance from your trusted home mortgage professional.