Posted in Uncategorized

Improve Your Credit Score To Get Better Mortgage Rates

Credit score FICO improvementFor home buyers in Manhantten and nationwide, credit scores can change low mortgage rates and alter home loan approvals.

Borrowers with high credit scores get access to lower mortgage rates, for example, and can find the mortgage approval process to be more smooth that borrowers with low credit scores.

If your credit score is low, here are some basic ways to help improve it. 

Get The Reports
Download an updated version of your credit report from each of the three major reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The reports may mirror each other, but credit accounts — especially derogatory ones — sometimes don’t appear on all three. Ordering reports from all three bureaus is a safety step. Note that the credit bureaus each use different scoring models so your credit scores will vary.

Check For Errors
Yes, credit reports can have errors in them. Should you find any items on any of the three credit reports which, in your opinion, do not belong or are erroneous, contact the credit bureau regarding removal. Errors on a credit report must be addressed with each bureau individually. 

Pay Up 
Or, rather, pay down. Be diligent about paying down your credit card balances in order to lower the percentage of your credit line(s) in use. In general, aim for a 30% ratio or less. An added benefit of paying down debt is that it can lower your total monthly debt load, which can increase your maximum home purchase price.

For items which are harming your score, such as a 30-day or 60-day mortgage late payments, medical collection items, and/or judgments, consider writing a brief letter which explains the circumstance of the derogatory credit event. Such a letter won’t help your score to improve, but it can help your lender to make better credit decisions, which can aid in “exceptions”, if required.

Making even minor changes to an overall credit profile can yield measurable long-term results. It can also result in lower mortgage rates.

Posted in Around The Home

Selling? Improve The Appearance Of Your Home’s Bathrooms.

Bathroom remodel tipsFull-scale bathroom remodeling can be expensive and, in today’s Westchester housing market, you won’t likely get all of the money back that you put into it at the time of sale.

Knowing that bathroom projects tend to have a low return on investment, therefore, here are a few inexpensive changes which you can make to spruce up bathrooms in a home for sale.

Fixtures
Most sellers will notice if the fixtures in a bathroom are old, and it can have a negative effect on their view of your home. Buy a new set of bathroom fixtures at a home improvement store. Most stores have matching towel racks and bathroom tissue holders, too. There is a wide selection of stainless steel, wood or ceramic fixtures available at most stores, too.

Paint
A fresh coat of paint is a simple way to improve the overall look of a bathroom. Choose paints with a light, neutral color to make the room seem more spacious.

Floors
If your bathroom floor has tiles, it’s a good idea to add fresh grout to brighten up the bathroom’s overall look, or, at least, to clean the grout so that it looks like new. Scratched linoleum should also be replaced. There is plenty of inexpensive flooring which is easy to install, in a variety of patterns and colors at your local hardware or flooring store.

De-Clutter
Prospective buyers should be able to imagine themselves living in your home. It’s easier for them to do that when your home is free of clutter. This is even true in the bathroom. Clear out your medicine cabinet. (Yes, many buyers will look in there.) Leave only the essentials such as toothpaste and hairbrushes.

Making a good impression on your prospective buyers can be easier when you’ve redone a bathroom.  It doesn’t require much money, and it may increase the final sale price of home.

Posted in Mortgage Rates

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : January 14, 2013

30-year mortgage ratesMortgage rates rose last week nationwide during a week of sparse economic news.

Thursday’s weekly jobless claims report showed 371,000 new claims, which was 1,000 fewer jobless claims than for the prior week. Wall Street expectations of 365,000 new jobless claims turned out to be too optimistic.

The semi-quarterly statement released Thursday by the European Central Bank (ECB) announced that the region’s inflation remains below its 2 percent ceiling as established by central banker. Economic weakness in the Eurozone is expected to persist into 2013 with signs of recovery becoming evident toward the end of this year.

ECB cited financial and structural reforms as essential to economic recovery, and noted that national governments within the Eurozone have been slow to implement such reforms. Without such reforms, Euro-area economies may continue to struggle, which would likely lead investors to seek a safe haven in the bond market, moving bond prices higher.

As bond prices rise, mortgage rates in Bronx and nationwide typically fall.

Also last week, Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey reported the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rising from 3.34 percent to 3.40 percent for buyers paying 0.7 percent in discount points plus closing costs. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose from 2.64 percent to 2.66 percent.

Required discount points for the 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose from 0.6 to 0.7 percent.

Import prices for December released Friday were reported at -0.1 percent, below the consensus estimate of +0.1 percent. This report measures the prices of goods purchased in the U.S, but produced abroad and is considered an important indicator of inflationary trends affecting internationally produced goods.

Inflation tends to harm mortgage rates.

Next week’s economic calendar is full of economic data and includes the release of the Producers Price Index (PPI), Retail Sales figures, the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The Fed is also set to issue its Beige Book report, and the NAHB Housing Market Index and Consumer Sentiment report will be released.

Mortgage rates remain low, but are rising.

Posted in Around The Home

Help Your Pets Adjust To Your New Home

Help pets adjust to a new homeMoving to a new home can be a difficult transition for everyone in the family, including the furry, four-legged members.

Dogs and cats develop a strong bond with their environment so when they are relocated from their territory it can cause them stress.

Here are some tips to ease your pets’ transition to a new home :

Keep Your Mood Calm
Pets are very tuned-in to your emotions and will sense your mood. If you are stressed throughout the moving process, your cat or dog will pick up on this and it will make him anxious. Try to remain calm and give your pet plenty of attention and reassurance during the process of moving.

Transporting Your Pet
A few weeks before the move, introduce your pet to his pet carrier so that he becomes familiar with it. It will be much less scary for him to be transported in a carrier, which already has recognizable smells and perhaps a favorite chew toy or blanket inside. When you are moving your pets to your new home, it is a good idea not to feed them for about three hours before setting off, as this can help to prevent accidents while in transit.

Upon Arrival
When you get to your new residence, place your pets in one room of the house and provide them with water, food, and a few familiar possessions. Keep them in a closed room while you move things in, as the process of moving boxes and furniture can be chaotic and doors can be left open. Once everything has been moved in, you can take the time to give your pet some one-on-one attention.

Dogs find routines comforting, so try to stick to the same schedule of feeding and walking in your new home. Cats will want to explore and rub their scent all over the house to claim it as their territory. A cat might attempt to return to its old home after a move, so keep it indoors for a few weeks at first.

These are just a few ways that you can make moving to a new home a better experience for your beloved pets. If you’d like more suggestions for helping your pets and family adjust to a move, call or email me with your questions.

Posted in Personal Finance

What To Do When Your Home Doesn’t Appraise At Its Purchase Price

Experienced home sellers in Bronx know that reaching a sales agreement with a potential buyer can be just the start of the negotiation process. There are often inspection issues to resolve, among other items.

One particular negotiation point which can present difficulties for both buyers and sellers is when a home’s appraised value falls short of its contracted sales price.

Home appraisal remedies for home sellersSometimes, this happens because the home’s price was inflated. Other times, it’s the result of a faulty appraisal.

As a home seller, there are some common appraisal problems of which you should be aware. Here are some of them, and how to seek remedy so that the home sale process remains smooth.

Inaccurate comparisons
An appraiser will assign your home’s value based on comparable properties and recent sale prices. However, some homes — notably those in foreclosure; sold via short sale; or which were abandoned — sell at a discount as compared to non-distressed properties. An appraiser may want to ignore these types of comparable homes, or make proper valuation adjustments.

Ignored market conditions
The housing market can improve quickly as we’ve seen in some U.S. markets since 2011. Appraisers, though, may not consider a local market’s demand and its rapidly rising prices — especially after the recent downturn from last decade. If an appraiser is not taking into account such information as multiple offer situations, low local inventory, and days on market, your home’s appraised valuation may be affected.

Slow turn-around time
Appraisers operate under strict time guidelines. When an appraisal takes more time than usual, therefore, it’s often the result of the appraiser’s uncertainty on the home’s value. This is a common scenario for unique homes for which comparable properties are scarce. It can also be the case for when an appraiser is unfamiliar with your area. If an appraisal takes an inordinate amount of time to complete, consider asking your REALTOR® to review the figures.

To err is human and appraisers make mistakes occasionally. How you handle those mistakes as a seller can be the difference between a sold home and a canceled contract.

Posted in The Economy

27 Months Of Consecutive Job Growth Helping Home Prices Rise

Job growth helping housing recoveryThe Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Non-Farm Payrolls report for December exceeded Wall Street’s expectations by 5,000 net new jobs, showing 155,000 positions created in December.

The December tally raised the economy’s 12-month total to 1.84 million net new jobs created nationwide. Jobs added in December mark the 27th consecutive month of job growth.

Job sectors showing the strongest growth to close out 2012 included:

  • Health Care
  • Drinking and Eating Establishments
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing

Private-sector hiring is driving the jobs market, too. 168,000 new private sector jobs were added in December. Government jobs fell by thirteen thousand.

Monthly job creation has averaged +153,000 jobs since 12 months ago. It’s a fine measure of growth but economists believe it’s not enough job creation to significantly reduce the national unemployment rate. 14.4 percent of workers are categorized as under-employed.

December’s national unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, representing 4.8 million job seekers. This figure matched Wall Street’s expectations and was equal to November revised unemployment rate of 7.8 percent.

The improving jobs market and national unemployment rate make an impact on both mortgage rates and Manhantten home prices.

Job creation suggests an expanding economy, which typically leads mortgage rates higher. In addition, with more employed persons nationwide, the potential home buyer pool grows larger, which introduces new demand to the housing market. With more demand, all things equal, home prices rise.

Job growth is one reason why home values climbed more than 5 percent in 2012, according to the Federal Home Finance Agency; and why the national housing supply would be exhausted in fewer than 5 months, at the current sales pace. Demand for homes is high and today’s low mortgage rates are extending buyer purchasing power in New Jersey.

For home buyers, the expanding U.S. economy and steady job growth suggests that home prices may not rocket higher this year, but will continue to increase, little by little.

Posted in Around The Home

Choosing “Green Homes”

Green Home“Green” homes can be great for the environment and can save you money over time.

For environmentally-conscious homeowners wanting to minimize their footprint and their energy bills, there are four areas upon which to focus. 

In-Home Energy-Efficiency
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as of December 2012, buildings account for 68 percent of the nation’s total energy consumption. Green homes can reduce this figure via energy-efficient appliances; well-sealed, double-glazed windows; and good insulation. Alternative energy sources such as solar panels can also reduce energy use.

Green Building Materials
Building materials are determined to be “green” based on manufacturing, shipping, and reclamation procedures, and are composed of renewable resources. Reclaimed materials such as wood from an old barn; or recovered newspapers for use in insulation are often considered to be green. Counter-tops made from recycled materials are often considered green, too. Ceramic tiles, because of how much energy is required to form them, are often not considered green unless reclaimed from a demolition project. 

Home Location And Orientation
A home for which the main living areas are facing south will be warmed by the sun in winter, and will not be overheated by the sun in summer. This is considered “green”, as is proper window placement which allows for cross-breezes which can lower energy costs on warmer days. Living in proximity to work and other frequented spots can reduce automotive energy consumption, too.

Indoor Air Quality
Good air quality means promoting a safe, toxin-free environment. Using non-toxic paints in your home plus other green materials can improve air quality. Most notably because, over time, synthetic paints and materials break down, releasing harmful particles into the air.

When buying a green home in Westchester , be sure to ask questions of the seller including how the home was built, which materials were used in construction, and whether the home’s appliances are Energy Star-rated.

Posted in Mortgage Rates

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : January 7, 2013

Jobs data moves mortgage rates higherMortgage rates in Bronx rose during the first week of 2013.

The fiscal cliff crisis was resolved prior to the market’s opening Wednesday, when legislators voted to approve a deal. While many tax cuts were extended for taxpayers earning less than $450,000 annually, other facets of the fiscal cliff issue are yet to be addressed, including budget cuts for federal government agencies.

Investors were surprised to learn that the Fed may end its third round of quantitative easing (QE3) sometimes in 2013. The FOMC meeting minutes for December 2012 suggested that Fed support for its QE3 program has waned as the economy has improved.

First-time jobless claims increased for the week ending December 29, 2012 to 372,000 from the prior week’s 350,000, worse than Wall Street’s consensus opinion of 360,000 new jobless claims.

The December 2012 Non-Farm Payrolls surpassed analyst expectations, posting 155,000 net new jobs for the month. The report also showed the national Unemployment Rate rising one-tenth of one percentage point to 7.8%. When the jobless rate falls to 6.5%, the Federal Reserve is expected to begin raising the Fed Funds Rate from its current target range near zero percent.

Overall, mortgage rates rose by as much as 0.25 percentage points last week. However, because the increase occurred wholly between Wednesday and Friday, Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rate survey failed to include it.

Freddie Mac reported the previous week’s average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.34 percent for borrowers paying 0.7 percent discount points plus closing costs. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 2.64 percent for borrowers paying 0.7 discount points plus closing costs.

As this week opens, mortgage rates are considerably higher.

This week’s scheduled economic news includes Treasury auctions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; weekly Jobless Claims report on Thursday; and not much else. There will be planned speeches, however, from five members of the Federal Reserve, including Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker.

Fed President Lacker was the lone dissenting vote among voting FOMC members in each of last year’s policy votes. 

Posted in Housing Analysis

Pending Home Sales Index Cruises To Multi-Year High

Pending Home Sales IndexHome buyers continue to push the U.S. housing market forward.

In November, for the second straight month, the Pending Home Sales Index eclipsed its benchmark reading of 100, posting a value of 106.4.

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) is published monthly by the National Association of REALTORS®. It tracks homes under contract to sell, but not sold. The PHSI is relative index, comparing current contract activity to the activity of 2001 — the first year for which “pending homes” were tallied for an index.

The Pending Home Sales Index has posted an average score of 100.2 from January 2012 through November 2012, the most recent month for which there’s data. This is a significant data point because it means that the 2012 housing market is performing better than the 2001 housing market; one which is widely considered a strong one for housing.

It’s also meaningful because it foreshadows a strong market for 2013. With an increasing number of homes under contract to sell, it can be assumed that “closed units” will increase in the future, too.

The National Association of REALTORS® says that 80% of U.S. homes under contract go to closing within 60 days, and that many of the remaining homes go to closing within days 61-120.

The monthly Pending Home Sales Index, therefore, can foreshadow to today’s Long island buyers and sellers what’s ahead for the housing market.

The Pending Home Sales Index is a forward-looking indicator.

Based on November Pending Home Sales Index, we should expect to the home resale market to remain strong, and to pick up strength, through the first quarter of 2013. Demand for homes is high, mortgage rates are low, and buyers are looking to get a good deal.

The first few months of the year are often thought to be “slow” for the housing market. This year, however, that may not be the situation. If you’re actively looking for homes in Manhantten , the best prices may be the ones you get this winter.

Posted in Mortgage Rates

Post-Fiscal Cliff, Mortgage Markets Turn Attention To Jobs Data

Unemployment RateMortgage rates moved higher Wednesday up congressional leaders voted to avoid the “Fiscal Cliff”.

Mortgage-backed securities (MBS) fell as investors bid up stock prices. Confidence among investors and consumers typically causes mortgage rates to rise. That’s what happened Wednesday.

For Thursday and Friday, expect jobs data to dictate where Bronx mortgage rates are headed.

The Federal Reserve has said that the national Unemployment Rate will dictate future monetary policy, with the central banker planning to raise the Fed Funds Rate from its target range near zero percent once joblessness falls to 6.5%. Currently, the jobless rate is 7.7 percent.

As the jobs market improves, equity markets should follow, causing mortgage rates to — again — move higher.

Thursday’s Initial Jobless Claims report has already influenced today’s mortgage rates. New claims rose 10,000 to 372,000 for the week ending December 29, 2012. This is slightly higher than Wall Street expected and mortgage bonds are moving better on the news.

Now, Wall Street turns its attention to Friday’s Non-Farm Payrolls report. 

More commonly called “the jobs report”, Non-Farm Payrolls is a monthly publication from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, detailing the U.S. employment situation, sector-by-sector. The economy has added 4.6 million jobs since 2010 and analysts expect another 155,000 added in December 2012.

The Unemployment Rate is expected to tally 7.8%.

As more people get back to work, the nation’s collective disposable income rises, which gives a boost to the U.S. economy. Furthermore, more taxes are paid to local, state and federal governments which are often used to finance construction and development — two jobs creators in their own right.

Furthermore, as the ranks of the employed increase, so does the national pool of potential home buyers. With demand for homes high and rents rising in many U.S. cities, demand for homes is expected to grow. Home supplies are shrinking.

If you’re currently floating a mortgage rate, or wondering whether it’s a good time to buy a home, consider than an improving economy may lead mortgage rates higher; and an improving jobs market may lead home prices higher.

The market is ripe for a refinance or purchase today.