Archive for June, 2019

Home Staging Tip – Urban Gardening in Small Spaces

June 28, 2019

Home Staging Tip - Urban Gardening in Small SpacesHome staging means getting a home ready for sale with the goal to maximize the sale price and close a sale as fast as possible. Some home staging tasks are very dreary, like having to get the place sparkling clean. That is really not fun work. It may be better, if it is affordable, for the homeowner to hire professionals to do that grunt work.

Another part of home staging is really fun and even can start long before putting a home on the market for sale. Children like to participate in this as well. It is creating an urban garden.

Urban Garden

An urban garden fits in anywhere. The idea is to create space for plants to thrive even if there is no backyard or in-ground growing opportunities. Here are some easy ways to achieve this:

  • Window Planter Boxes: Any window that gets sunlight can have a window box. Install these boxes on the inside or on the outside of the window depending on the climate. These are perfect places to have flowers add color that is attractive. Transplant low-cost flowering plants into window boxes. Using this strategy, window boxes stay full of flowers, which are constantly in bloom.
  • Big Pots: Decorative large pots are a great thing to use to create a garden space. Strawberry pots made of clay are popular things to put on a balcony or a porch. Flower pots that line the walkway to the front door add to a home’s curb appeal.
  • Roof Gardens: For townhouses without a backyard, balcony, or a patio, there may only be an urban garden space available on a roof. If there is a good view as well, this is a real plus. Be sure to have a nice picnic table to sit around and enjoy the area.
  • Herbs: Herb gardens are very easy to start. Herbs of many kinds can grow in simple planters. One added advantage is, if growing aromatic herbs, they put a pleasant smell in the air.

Summary

Besides growing flowers, urban gardens may also provide fresh herbs and vegetables to eat. Many things are really easy to grow, such as the herb basil, and they add a nice flavor to a meal.

Start with a small herb garden. If you have children, get them involved. Soon, it will be so much fun growing plants that your house will fill with color, nice smells, and good things to eat.

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

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Case-Shiller: Annual Home Price Growth Slows for 13th Consecutive Month

June 27, 2019

Case-Shiller Annual Home Price Growth Slows for 13th Consecutive MonthCase-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index for April showed further declines in home price growth with 2.50 percent year-over-year home price growth as compared to March home price growth of 2.60 percent. New York City home prices held steady month-to-month and Seattle, Washington’s home prices were unchanged year-over-year after posting 13 percent home price growth in 2018.

The top three cities with the highest rates of year-over-year home price growth were Las Vegas, Nevada with 7.10 percent growth; Phoenix, Arizona followed with 6.0 percent growth and Tampa, Florida reported 5.60 percent home price growth. All three cities were hard-hit during the recession. While U.S. home prices are rising, they aren’t rising as fast as in prior years. The fastest home price growth rates remained in single digits as compared to double digit home price growth rates posted in recent years.

Changing geography played a role in this year’s home price growth as San Francisco, California, Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington fell to sun-belt cities east of the west coast. Astronomical home prices and pronounced shortages of homes in many west coast cities caused home buyers to seek affordable homes elsewhere.

The Case-Shiller 10-City Home Price Index posted a year-over-year gain of 2.30 percent in April as compared to its March reading of 2.20 percent. Analysts said that slower gains for home prices indicated more normalized price conditions, but noted that home price growth remains about 1.50 percent ahead of inflation.

Buyers Benefit from Slower Home Price Growth, More Available Homes

First-time and moderate income home buyers were sidelined by competing investors and cash buyers as home prices rose quickly, but may find it easier to compete as market conditions achieve a balance of advantages to home buyers and sellers.

The flip side of easing home price growth may be that prospective buyers who are leery of buying at peak market prices will put off buying homes. Low mortgage rates continued to boost affordability and decreasing shortages of homes provided buyers with more options. Homebuyer sentiment is likely to vary according to economic trends, regional and personal circumstances.

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

 

Simple Tips To Pay Off A Home Mortgage Loan Faster

June 26, 2019

It is a major life decision to buy a home and yet many do not consider how much they will pay on the interest over the life of the loan. All they usually think about is if they can afford to pay the monthly mortgage payments.

It is helpful to learn how different loan structures impact the amount of money wasted on the interest paid for a home loan. Here is a comparison of different loan lengths and payment options to show some helpful ways to reduce the total interest paid.

Standard 30-Year Fixed Mortgage

For a buyer who has a good credit history, purchasing a median-priced home with a significant down payment usually helps get the best mortgage financing. A standard 30-year mortgage on a home requires 360 monthly payments to pay off the loan.

The total cost of the loan includes paying back the principal amount borrowed and all the interest. Over 30 years, the total interest paid can be as much as one-third or more of the principal amount borrowed, depending on the loan interest rate.

Standard 15-Year Fixed Mortgage

Comparing a standard 30-year fixed mortgage with a standard 15-year mortgage shows a surprising result. The differences are that the length of the loan term is less and the monthly mortgage payments are higher. A standard 15-year mortgage on a home requires 180 monthly payments to pay off the loan.

The shorter loan period may reduce the total interest paid to less than one-half of a 30-year mortgage, depending on the loan interest rate. The savings can be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Payment Techniques That Save Money

Simple Tips To Pay Off A Home Mortgage Loan FasterA simple way to save money is to pay an extra monthly payment each year and ask the lender to apply the extra payment to reduce the principal amount owed. On a 30-year mortgage, the loan pay-off date is more than two and one-half years sooner, reducing the total interest paid by about 10% percent.

A smaller savings amount is possible without even needing to pay more, just by paying more frequently. Instead of paying a mortgage once per month, make arrangements with the lender to pay half the monthly mortgage payment twice per month. The amount the lender receives monthly, in the two payments, totals the same amount that the lender would receive in one payment.

This technique works because there is a daily calculation of mortgage interest. By making payments more frequently, there are fewer days of use for some of the loaned funds. This tiny change in periodic repayments can be a nice way to save a few thousand extra dollars over the life of a loan.

In addition, since there are 26 two-week periods in one year, you’re getting an extra payment in over the longer months in the year. So you’re paying the equivalent of 13 monthly payments instead of 12. You might not feel it as much since you’re likely making more money in the longer months as well.

If you’d like to do this strategy and the lender won’t accept bi-weekly payments, then just divide the principal and interest portion of your mortgage payment by 12 and add that amount to each regular monthly payment. You’ll save a ton of interest over the life of the loan!

Summary

Think about interest paid as money that could have a better purpose. Choosing a shorter loan period for a home mortgage and increasing the mortgage payment frequency are important things to consider for the savings that they can produce.

Be sure to consult with your trusted home mortgage professional for answers to all of your financing related questions.

Fed Holds Key Rate Steady As It Watches Economic Trends

June 25, 2019

Fed Holds Key Rate Steady As It Watches Economic TrendsFederal Reserve policymakers held the federal funds rate at its current range of 2.25 to 2.50 percent. Analysts speculated that the Fed may lower its key rate based on signs of slowing economic growth and the President’s encouragement to lower the Fed rate.

Federal Open Market Committee members cited “uncertainties” in support of their decision not to change the Fed’s key lending rate. A stiff month-to-month drop in jobs growth and worries over trade problems associated with recent tariffs assessed against China contributed to the Committee’s decision to hold rates steady and closely watch domestic and global economic trends.

Signs of slowing economic growth caused the Fed to adjust its forecast for achieving the benchmark inflation rate of 2.00 percent to 2021 and lowered expectations for inflationary growth from 1.80 percent to 1.50 percent.

Fed Chair: Fed Closely Monitoring Economic Developments

After the FOMC statement, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell gave a press conference in which he further addressed the Fed’s response to slowing economic growth and current developments in global affairs. Chairman Powell said that it is important for policymakers to respond based on emerging economic trends rather than reacting to quickly shifting data.

Chairman Powell identified trade concerns and slowing global economic growth as factors impacting slowing domestic economic growth. Due to recent economic changes, Chairman Powell said that a “somewhat accommodative” policy stance was indicated. Uncertainty over supply chains due to tariffs was an example of factors causing concern over economic growth. Positive indicators centered around labor as job growth continued and employers reported a shortage of workers for available jobs.

Manufacturing declined globally and domestically as service-related-jobs expanded. When asked about Fed oversight over banks’ risk exposure due to lending policies, Chairman Powell said that large institutional holdings presented the greatest risk for banks, but did not say such risk was currently problematic. The chairman re-emphasized that FOMC members constantly assess economic data and global events to determine the Fed’s economic policies.

 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 24th, 2019

June 24, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 24th, 2019Last week’s economic reports included monthly readings on housing market conditions, housing starts and building permits issued. Sales of pre-owned homes were released; the Federal Reserve announced its decision not to raise its key interest rate range. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Slips in June

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for June showed builder confidence was two points lower at an index reading of 64. Builders surveyed said ongoing concerns such as lot and labor shortages impacted their outlook, but builders were also concerned over the impact of trade wars and tariffs on the cost of building materials.

Housing starts dipped to 1.27 million starts on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis in May. April’s reading was 1.28 million starts and surpassed the expected reading of 1.23 million starts. Although housing starts were higher, they were 3 percent lower year to date than for the same period in 2018 and were 4.79 percent lower year-over-year.  Building permits issued held steady in May at 1.29 million permits issued; analysts expected a reading of 1.30 million permits issued.

Sales of pre-owned homes were higher in May with 5.34 million sales; 5.28 million sales were expected based on April’s reading of 5.21 million sales. The National Association of Realtors® said that sales of pre-owned homes were 2.50 percent higher than for April, but were 1.10 percent lower year-over-year.

Warmer weather and peak home-buying season contributed to the increase in sales. Lower mortgage rates likely compelled would-be buyers to enter the market. The Federal Reserve did not raise its target interest rate range, which stands at 2.25-2.50 percent. Lenders typically raise rates charged to consumers when the Fed raises its key rate range.

Mortgage Rates Little Changed, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported little change in mortgage rates last week. 30-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 3.84 percent and rose two basis points week-to-week. Interest rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 3.25 percent and fell one basis point on average.

The average rate for 5/1 fixed-rate mortgages was three basis points lower at 3.48 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims fell to 216,000 claims from the prior week’s reading of 222,000 new claims filed and expectations of 220,000 initial jobless claims filed.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include readings from Case-Shiller Indices, readings on sales of new homes, pending home sales and the consumer sentiment index. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims are also scheduled.

Pros And Cons Of Installing A Pet Door

June 21, 2019

Pros And Cons Of Installing A Pet DoorIf you’ve just moved into your new home and you have a pet, you may be thinking of installing a pet door. A pet door is a permanent door feature that is cut into the bottom third of an entry door. Before making a permanent alteration to your door, consider the pros and cons of installing a pet door. 

Pro: Your Pet Can Come And Go As Needed

A pet door could cut down on indoor pet accidents if that’s a problem you’ve had to deal with in the past. This is especially convenient if you get home late to let the dog out, or if they have a temporary gastric illness that requires more frequent outings. 

Con: An Unwanted Visitor Could Get Inside

Pet doors are designed to give egress to pets, but your pet door might give indoor access to an unwanted animal. It’s not common, but it does occur, particularly in areas where wildlife is abundant.

Pro: You Could Do Without A Litter Box

Cats can be trained to go outdoors instead of using a litter box. With a pet door, you can dispense with the odorous litter box entirely, knowing your cat will always be able to take care of business outside.

Con: It’s Something Else You Must Remember To Lock

Most pet doors have a locking mechanism for times when you need to secure the home, such as at night. But this is just one more thing you’ll have to remember to do, along with setting the alarm and locking windows. And, the more you have to remember, the more you could forget.

Pro: Better Energy Efficiency

Anyone with pets knows that they can ask to go out and come back in numerous times per day. Every time you open the door you’re letting hot air in, cooled air out, or vice versa. With a pet door, your conditioned air stays in the home much better because there’s a smaller opening, and less time spent with the door open.

Con: New Homebuyers Might Not Want It

If you ever sell your home, the new homebuyers might see a pet door as a negative. Since a quality new door costs around $500, they could ask for a price discount on the home purchase.

A pet door can be a huge convenience, but there are some drawbacks as you can see. However, depending on your view (and the opinion of your pet!) the pros may outweigh the cons.

If you are interested in buying a new home or refinacing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional to discuss your current financing options.

 

 

NAHB: Builder Confidence Slips in June

June 20, 2019

NAHB Builder Confidence Slips in JuneHomebuilder confidence dropped two points in June according to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index. June’s index reading was 64, which indicates strong sentiment among home builders for current housing market conditions.

NAHB component readings also dropped in June with builder confidence in current home sales one point lower at an index reading of 71. Home builder confidence in home sales conditions over the next six months dropped two points to 70 and builder confidence in buyer traffic was one point lower at 48. Buyer traffic readings seldom exceed the NAHB benchmark reading of 50. Index readings over 50 indicate that most builders have positive sentiment toward conditions surveyed.

Home Builders Cite Ongoing Concerns and Growing Worry Over Tariffs

Home builders surveyed for June’s Housing Market Index cited continued concerns over shortages of labor and buildable lots, but also worried over increased materials costs resulting from recent tariffs. Analysts said that high demand for homes is driven by a current shortage of several million available homes; demand should be driving builder sentiment and housing starts much higher than current levels. Builder sentiment reported in the Housing Market Index typically drove housing starts, but this hasn’t been the case in the aftermath of the housing crisis. Severe shortages of homes for sale drive home prices up; this creates competition between buyers and sidelines first-time and moderate income home buyers.

While buyer traffic is robust, headwinds including high home prices and concerns about general economic conditions could be keeping would-be buyers on the fence. Low mortgage rates, which may drop further if the Federal Reserve lowers its key lending rate, could prompt more buyers to enter the market, but rapidly rising home prices in recent years have caused would-be buyers to hold off on buying homes. Faced with few options and high home prices, buyers may be waiting until more homes come on the market. Industry leaders have long said that building more homes is the only way to resolve the shortage of homes and high demand from home buyers.

Faced with rising materials costs and strict zoning rules, builders are tasked to find affordable housing solutions when fewer buildable lots and zoning rules discourage higher density affordable housing developments.

 

Buying A Home In Foreclosure

June 19, 2019

Buying A Home In ForeclosureForeclosure is a process that happens over many months. There are various opportunities to acquire real estate that is in a different stage of foreclosure, including before the foreclosure process completes. This short guide identifies the different stages and the opportunities that may exist to acquire a property at a discounted price.

Get The Money Lined Up First

To acquire a property at any part of the foreclosure process requires cash or pre-approved credit. Have the full amount of cash available to pay for the transaction or have a recent pre-approval letter from a reliable lender. The letter shows the amount of mortgage financing available and approved for buying a foreclosure.

Pre-Foreclosure

Before a lender forecloses on a home, to take legal possession of it, they must go through a legal process filed with the courts. All those legal filings are public records.

The borrower, who is in default on the loan, gets a legal “Notice of Foreclosure” that gives a date when the foreclosure will occur. There are subscription services that collect these dates from the court records and assemble a database of information about the properties coming up for foreclosure.

Up until the foreclosure date, it is possible for the homeowner to make a deal to sell the home, which pays off the lender and that stops the foreclosure.

Sometimes the existing loan can be acquired and the past-due payments brought up to date and that is all that is needed to satisfy the lender. In other cases, the outstanding loan must be paid off entirely or refinanced by the new owner.

To find an attractive deal in this stage of the foreclosure, a real estate investor looks for a property that has significant equity and the loan(s) on the property are far below the market value of the property.

If the home continues to foreclosure then the existing owner will lose all the equity they have in the property. This makes the owner very motivated to sell the property at any price, even at a steep discount, which helps them to not lose everything.

Foreclosure Auction Sales

Some lenders immediately put a property up for auction right after foreclosure. An investor with an interest in these foreclosed properties, bids with other bidders at the auction. The highest bid wins.

All that is needed is to get on the mailing list to be informed of upcoming auctions and have a cashier check in hand for the required deposit at the auction to be able to bid.

REO Properties

Other lenders take ownership of foreclosed properties and then sell them off through authorized broker/dealers who work for the lender. Some lending systems, like HUD, for example, maintain a public database online that shows all the foreclosed properties that are for sale and their minimum offer price.

Creating personal relationships with the bank/lending officers who manage REO properties is a terrific way to get leads. It helps to have the first chance to buy a foreclosed property, which is recently added to a lender’s REO system, that other investors may not yet know about.

Conclusion

Foreclosed properties may create significant opportunities; however, there are also serious risks when buying these properties because they are sold on an “as-is” basis. This type of investment is definitely a “buyer be aware” opportunity. It can be lucrative, yet investors need to be careful as well.

If you are interested in trying to find a foreclosed property, one of the most important steps is getting your financing pre-approved. Be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional to discuss your current financing options.

The Benefits Of Adding An In-Law Apartment To A Home

June 18, 2019

The Benefits Of Adding An In-Law Apartment To A HomeOne renovation that may add value to a home is an in-law apartment. Even if a homeowner does not have any relatives, an in-law apartment makes wonderful guest accommodations. It is possible to rent it when unoccupied to earn some money.

Homeowners who rent out part of a home need to check with their insurance agent to upgrade insurance to accommodate commercial use of a part of the home.

Additionally, a person staying in an in-law apartment, who is not a member of the owner’s household, may need to get renter’s insurance to cover any personal property kept in the in-law apartment.

Renovation Plans

An in-law apartment may be in a basement or attic. Creating one is possible as a home addition, a garage makeover, or as a tiny house in the backyard.

Check the building regulations for the area where the home is. It is wise to get the proper building permits needed for the construction. Work done without permits usually does not add value when reselling because it creates a liability.

Some people make an in-law without having to do major renovations if partitioning the house is possible. It may be possible to separate an area to create an in-law apartment if the house has an extra bedroom with a connected bathroom.

If no existing part of the home is suitable for remodeling, then adding an addition is an option. A better choice for a backyard that usually increases the resale value is building an in-law cottage rather than investing in installing a swimming pool. Some people may prefer having in-law accommodations when compared to the cost of maintaining a swimming pool.

Multiple Uses For An In-Law Apartment

Almost everyone has a use for an in-law apartment. This is why they are attractive to potential home buyers. Children can stay with parents as they become adults. Elderly parents can live with their children. Couples without children can use the room as a home office. Single people can rent out the space to help pay the bills.

Use of the space may change over time, so be sure to think creatively about the space. The value-added for having this space is the privacy it allows. Living together is normally easier when the parties also have some privacy.

Having a private bathroom, a separate entrance, and a kitchenette in the in-law apartment covers all the needs. This allows the space to be self-contained.

Summary

Consider adding an in-law apartment for the convenience, potential improvements in the resale value of the home, and to reduce the expense of supporting family members who live elsewhere and pay rent for an apartment to others.

If adding additional space for in-laws or guests sounds like a good fit for your family, you may want to consider accessing some of your home equity funds to cover the cost of renovation. Be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional for current financing options.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 17th, 2019

June 17, 2019

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 17th, 2019Last week’s economic reports included readings on inflation, retail sales and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.

Consumer Price Index Lower in May as Retail Sales Hold Steady

Last month’s Consumer Price Index, which is a widely-used gauge of inflation, dropped to 0.10 percent in May and matched expectations. April posted month-to-month growth of 0.30 percent. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and fuel sectors, rose 0.10 percent in May and fell short of expectations of 0.20 percent growth.

April’s Core Consumer Price Index grew by 0.10 percent. Analysts reported a likely slowdown in economic expansion last week. Consumers, vendors and financial analysts said trade wars and global economic uncertainty were factors in concerns over economic conditions.

Retail sales rose from April’s reading of 0.30 percent to 0.50 percent in May; retail sales without automotive sales held steady with 0.50 percent growth. April retail sales also had 0.50 percent growth.

Mortgage Rates Stay Near Two Year Low

Freddie Mac reported average mortgage rates were little changed last week. 30-year mortgage rates averaged 3.52 percent and were unchanged from the prior week. 15-year fixed mortgage rates averaged 3.26 percent and were two basis points lower.

5/1 adjustable rate mortgages dropped one basis point to 3.51 percent on average. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages, 0.50 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims rose to 222,000 claims filed last week, which exceeded expectations of 218,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 219,000 initial jobless claims. Analysts said that labor markets remained solid, but layoffs in California and Pennsylvania caused new jobless claims to rise last week.

The University of Michigan reported lower consumer sentiment in June with an index reading of 97.90 as compared to May’s reading of 100.00; 40 percent of consumers surveyed cited concerns over pending tariffs against Mexico for falling confidence in economic conditions.

The tariffs against Mexico were sidelined, which may boost consumer confidence readings in July. When tariffs were set against imports from China, only 21 percent of survey participants identified tariffs as cause for concern.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include reports from the National Association of Home Builders on housing markets conditions, the Federal Reserve’s FOMC meeting statement and a press conference from Fed Chair Jerome Powell. Data on sales of pre-owned homes will be released along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.