Posted in Market Outlook

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 15, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 15 2014

Although there were few scheduled economic events related to mortgages and housing, last week brought an article about housing projections for 2015. Other news included increased job openings along with lower than expected jobless claims and higher mortgage rates.

Job Openings, Retail Sales and Mortgage Rates Rise

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that November job increased to 4.80 million as compared to October’s reading of 4.70 million job openings. Weekly jobless claims corresponded as new claims fell to 294,000 as compared to the prior week’s reading of 297,000 new jobless claims. This was the lowest reading for new jobless claims in three weeks. Analysts had expected a reading of 206,000 new jobless claims.

Further signs of economic strengthening were seen in the retail sector. Retail sales posted their strongest gains in eight months with a gain of 0.70 percent in November according to the Commerce Department. November’s reading exceeded expectations of a 0.40 percent increase which was based on October’s original reading of a 0.30 percent increase in retail sales. November’s retail sales (excluding automotive sales) rose by 0.50 percent, which was the highest reading since June. October’s reading was later revised to 0.50 percent. Automotive sales rose by 1.70 percent in November, which was their highest reading since August.

Amidst last week’s economic gains, mortgage rates also rose. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.93 percent, a gain of four basis points over the previous week. The average rate 15-year mortgage gained 10 basis points at 3.20 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 2.94 percent. Average discount points for all three loan types remained steady at 0.50 percent.

Analysts Offer Housing Predictions for 2015

Fortune reported predictions made by analysts during a panel discussion on housing trends. David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S& P Index Committee, characterized next year’s housing trends as “mysterious.” Analysts pinpointed the influence of the millennial generation as gaining strength in housing markets. As millennials begin to buy their first homes, their tastes and preferences are expected to overshadow the long-held influence of the baby boomer generation. Millennial influence includes a trend called millennial mis-match; Millennials prefer to live in high-cost areas including New York City, Honolulu, Hawaii and Austin, Texas, but their status as first-time home buyers conflicts with this preference. Other trends discussed by analysts attending the panel discussion included:

Mortgage rates predicted to rise: Stronger economic conditions and no Federal stimulus are expected to contribute to rising mortgage rates, which some analysts said were expected to rise to approximately 5.00 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

Home price growth and affordability expected to decline: Home prices gained 6.40 percent year-over-year in October 2014 as compared to growth of 10.60 percent for the same period in 2013. High demand for homes in pricey markets coupled with rising mortgage rates are expected to price the middle class out of many high-demand markets.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic events include the Wells Fargo/National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index report for December and the Commerce Department’s December report on Housing Starts. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve will release its customary statement after its meeting concludes on Wednesday. The FOMC statement will be followed by a press conference given by Fed chair Janet Yellen, who also chairs the FOMC.

Posted in Real Estate Tips

Don’t Be That Guy or Gal: 3 Easy Ways to Ruin Your Relationship with Your Real Estate Agent

Don't Be That Guy or Gal: 3 Easy Ways to Ruin Your Relationship with Your Real Estate AgentAre you thinking about buying or selling a home? If you don’t know a real estate agent or have a referral to one, you may end up working with someone unfamiliar who you will need to build a relationship with. Of course, as with any relationship there’s always a chance that things can go sour.

In today’s blog post we’ll share three easy ways that you can ruin the trust and rapport that you’ve built with your real estate agent.

#1: Lie or Embellish the Facts

When you ask a real estate agent to represent you in the home buying or selling process they’re going to need accurate information to help you make the best decisions. Lying or embellishing the facts can cause significant issues and should obviously be avoided.

For example, if your agent asks you how much you can afford for your new home, give them an accurate figure based on your mortgage pre-approval, your income and your current financial situation. If you’re selling your home and your real estate agent asks you about the home’s maintenance history, be honest and don’t try to cover anything up.

#2: Cheat on Them with Another Agent

Once you have a real estate agent searching for that perfect new home, they may need to expend quite a bit of effort in order to find exactly what you’re looking for. Imagine how hard they would work if they discovered that you’re having another real estate agent perform the same job, but only one of them will be paid for their work?

Don’t cheat on your real estate agent. If you feel that your agent is doing a poor job or you could find someone better, let them know. It’s better to move on than to have professionals working behind each other’s backs.

#3: Fail to Be Trusting or Respectful

If you fail to show trust and respect for your real estate agent you can rest assured they’re not going to bend over backwards to help you squeeze out that extra discount or get your home sale closed as quickly as possible. Treat your real estate agent as you wish to be treated and they’ll be more than willing to do their job.

Buying or selling, an experienced real estate agent is the best way to ensure that your transaction goes according to plan and that you accomplish your goals. When you’re ready to discuss buying a new home or selling your current one, contact your real estate agent and they’ll be happy to assist. Don’t forget to keep the above points in mind!

Posted in Home Mortgage Tips

Trying to Save on Your Closing Costs? Here Are Three Tips That Can Help Lower Them

Trying to Save on Your Closing Costs? Here Are Three Tips That Can Help Lower ThemWhether you’re about to close on a lovely new house for your growing family or a stylish beachfront condo so you can retire close to the ocean, one thing is certain: you’re going to face a variety of closing costs. Insurance, taxes, financing fees, title fees, attorney fees and other costs will need to be paid, and if you’re a savvy buyer you’ll do everything you can to save on them.

In today’s post we’ll share three quick tips that can help you reduce your closing costs when you buy your next home.

Tip #1: Include Closing Costs in Your Negotiations with the Seller

As closing costs are a part of the real estate transaction they’re an excellent item to include in your negotiations with the seller.

For example, if you consider that closing costs might be 3 or 4 percent of the home’s value you can try to bring the seller’s asking price down to get those costs included. Or, you may be able to entice the seller with the prospect of a quick sale if they are willing to pay your closing costs in order to get you to sign on the dotted line.

Tip #2: Compare All of Your Mortgage Options

If you’re using mortgage financing to cover some of the up-front purchase cost of your home you’ll have other closing costs to pay including lender fees, mortgage insurance and more. Be sure to compare all of your options with your trusted mortgage advisor to ensure that you’re getting the best possible deal and paying the least amount in fees and interest.

You may also be able to save a bit on your closing costs by choosing a “no points” mortgage. In this type of mortgage you’ll end up saving on closing costs but you’ll be left paying a higher interest rate. Spend a bit of time doing the math to determine the best course of action.

Tip #3: Ask About Every Fee You’re Required to Pay

Finally don’t forget that you’re the customer and that you have the right to know about each one of your closing costs and why you’re expected to pay them. Being informed about all of the various items in your transaction will help ensure that you’re not paying something you could have avoided.

There you have it – three excellent tips for reducing your closing costs when you purchase your next home.

Posted in Home Buyer Tips

You Ask, We Answer: How to Choose Between Expanding Your Current Home and Buying a New One

You Ask, We Answer: How to Choose Between Expanding Your Current Home and Buying a New OneDoes your home feel like it’s starting to burst at the seams? Many homeowners across the country can relate to this feeling having bought a home only to run out of space due to a growing family or for other reasons. Let’s take a quick look at a few questions that will help you to determine whether buying a new home or expanding your current home is the best choice when you’re in need of some extra space.

Why Are You in Need of More Space?

The first question you’ll need to answer is…”why?” Are you running out of space because you’ve decided to start a family and have another child on the way? Or perhaps you’ve decided to start a business out of your home and you’ve outgrown the small room you had set aside as your office? Whatever the case, a major renovation or a move to a new home are both major decisions and ones that shouldn’t be made lightly. Sit down with your family and consider why you need more space and what you would do with a larger home if you had one.

How Much Space Do You Need?

“How much space” is another consideration that you’ll need to make in order to come to the best decision between expansion and buying a new home. If you find that your needs are perfectly suited except for that missing bedroom you may want to undergo a renovation. Conversely, if you find that you could use at least 2 or 3 new rooms and some extra room in the garage, you may want to start shopping for a new home.

Note that expanding your home to add an extra bedroom or to finish the basement will provide a limited amount of additional space – space which may end up feeling constrained later if your family or needs continue to grow. If you’re thinking bigger over the long term, you’ll likely be better served in finding a larger home that has extra room that you can grow into.

Other Factors for Consideration

If you’re thinking about expanding your current home you’ll want to consider how this will impact the other rooms in the house. Are you going to feel the need to renovate every room once that new bedroom is added? If so, is renovating a wise investment or should you simply move on to a newer home?

Living in a more spacious home is a liberating experience that your entire family will enjoy. Contact your local real estate agent today to learn more about buying larger properties and to view available real estate opportunities in your area.

Posted in Home Buyer Tips

Looking for Luxury? How to Upsize Your Next Home Without Upsizing Your Costs

Looking for Luxury? How to Upsize Your Next Home Without Upsizing Your Costs Size matters when you are buying a new home. Whether you plan to expand your family, need more room for your stuff, or are concerned with resale value, you want to get the most space for your money. Also, if you want to add a feel of luxury to your home, one of the best ways to do it is to create open spaces rather than cramming all your furniture in rooms so tiny you can barely walk around without knocking something over.

Traditionally speaking, the larger a home is, the more it costs. If there are two newly built houses side by side in a subdivision, the bigger one is likely to cost more. However, there are some tricks to finding spacious houses that are affordable.

Choose Emerging Neighborhoods

Houses in this year’s trending neighborhood are at their peak prices. Clever buyers look for neighborhoods that are in the process of being gentrified, buying at the bottom rather than the top of the market, to get more house for their money.

Fix It Up

Houses in perfect condition, that show well, sell for a premium. If you want to get more house for your money, choose something that needs a bit of TLC. A house that has pink walls and orange shag carpet might appear just too ugly to consider when you first view it, but it might just need a few coats of paint and some new carpet to become a spacious dream home.

Do Some Finishing

Unfinished areas such as attics and basements can be finished to create additional living spaces. The basement could become a family room and the attic an extra bedroom or study. An unfinished space can become the extra bathroom you need to make morning more manageable.

Consider an Addition

Contractors can add rooms to a house. If you have a large lot, you can build an extra wing. With a one story ranch house, it may be possible to raise the roof and add a second story.

The more stuff you have, the smaller your home appears. Reduce clutter and invest in smaller condo size furniture to give even the smallest home the appearance of spaciousness. Call an experienced real estate professional if you want to find your spacious luxury home at a bargain-basement price.

Posted in Market Outlook

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 8, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 1 2014

Last week’s economic reports related to housing and mortgages were few, but construction spending, the Fed’s Beige Book report, non-farm payrolls and the national unemployment report indicated trends for the end of the year.

Construction Spending Increases

U.S. construction spending rose by 1.10 percent in October according to the Commerce Department. This reading translates to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of $971 billion. Analysts had expected an increase of 0.70 percent based on September’s original reading of -0.40 percent, but September’s reading was revised to -0.10 percent on Tuesday. Private spending on residential projects increased 1.30 percent.

Federal Reserve Beige Book Indicates Economic Improvement, or Not

Oil prices were cited by participants in the Federal Reserve’s survey of regional business leaders; Texas and the Gulf coast areas noted that falling oil prices were a threat to those economies, while other participants said that lower prices at the gas pump were putting more cash in consumers’ pockets. The report noted upward pressure on both minimum wages and higher wages for skilled workers. Wages have remained mostly flat while consumer costs have increased; higher wages can provide more discretionary income for consumers and may build confidence for would-be home buyers that have been waiting for more positive economic trends.

Freddie Mac: Mortgage Rates Down

Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of average mortgage rates brought good news for home buyers and homeowners seeking to refinance their mortgages. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 3.97 percent to 3.89 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.10 percent from last week’s reading of 3.17 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped to 2.94 percent from last week’s reading of 3.01 percent. Average discount points were unchanged for all loan types at 0.50 percent.

Labor Data Mixed, Unemployment Rate Unchanged

Weekly jobless claims beat expectations by 1000 fewer jobless claims with a reading of 297,000 new claims against expectations of 298,000 new claims. The prior week’s reading was higher at 314,000 new jobless claims. The Commerce Department also released Non-Farm Payrolls figures for November with 321,000 jobs added against expectations of 235,000 jobs added and October’s reading of 243,000 jobs added. Holiday hiring and climate related slowdowns are expected to impact year-end labor statistics. Analysts prefer to look at trends occurring over several months to determine labor trends.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on November retail sales and consumer sentiment in addition to Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey and the Commerce Departments weekly jobless claims report.

Posted in Home Mortgage Tips

Understanding the Difference Between a Mortgage Pre-qualification and a Pre-approval

Understanding the Difference Between a Mortgage Pre-qualification and a Pre-approvalIf you’re in the market for a new home and you’ve been researching mortgages, you’ve likely come across the terms “pre-qualification” and “pre-approval”. While these terms are self-explanatory in some circumstances, they are quite different in regards to mortgage financing.

In today’s blog post we’ll explain the difference between a mortgage pre-qualification and a pre-approval.

Pre-qualification: an Initial Look at Your Mortgage Options

The first – and easiest – step on the way to receiving mortgage financing to buy a home is known as pre-qualification. During this process you’ll meet with a mortgage advisor or lender who will assess your financial history including your current income and any debts that you might have. Using these numbers they’ll perform a quick calculation that suggests how much mortgage financing you might qualify for when you’re ready to buy a home.

Your mortgage professional will also answer any questions that you might have about the process, including what interest rates you may qualify for, how much you’ll need to invest in your down payment and more.

Pre-approval: a Conditional Mortgage Commitment

After you’ve been pre-qualified for your mortgage and you’re ready to start looking for a new home you’ll go through the pre-approval process. At this time your mortgage advisor or lender will take a much deeper look into your current financial situation, including pulling a credit report to assess how much risk they will have in lending you money. You’ll also complete a full mortgage application as this will allow your lender to get a conditional approval for a certain amount or range. Finally you’ll be informed about the interest rate and the terms of the mortgage once you find your new home and complete the purchase.

The Final Step: Finding the Perfect Home

Now that you’ve been pre-approved and have received a conditional commitment from your lender, you’re ready to find that perfect new home. On top of having a better idea of your price range and what you can afford, you’ll find that sellers are far more receptive to your offers as having a pre-approval signals that you’re a serious buyer who is ready to make your move.

When you’re ready to buy your new house or condo, your local mortgage professional is ready to help. Contact them to learn more about pre-qualification, pre-approval and your financing options. Enjoy your new home!

Posted in Around The Home

Winter is Here: Prepare Your House with These Three Home Maintenance Tips

Winter's Coming: Prepare Your House with These Three Home Maintenance TipsHave you prepared your home for the winter? With colder temperatures starting you’ll need to spend an hour or two getting your home ready to deal with the possibility of harsher weather and below-freezing temperatures, depending on where you live. Let’s take a look at a few quick home maintenance tips that will help you get your house ready for the cold of winter.

Check Your Roof, Gutters and Spouts

Your roof is one of the most important structural elements in your home and one that is going face the brunt of any inclement weather that passes through your area. If you feel comfortable on a ladder, climb up and quickly inspect the roof for damage or missing shingles. You’ll also want to clean the gutters and drain spouts, removing leaves and other gunk so that water can flow freely from your roof to the ground.

Drain Your Faucets, Hoses and Irrigation System

If you have exterior faucets and hoses you’ll need to flush out and drain any remaining water before storing them away for the winter. In-ground irrigation systems should have an anti-freezing treatment performed by a professional as freezing can cause a significant amount of damage to pipes and outlets.

Check Your Doors and Windows for Drafts

Leaky windows and doors can cause your heating bill to skyrocket, so spend a few minutes going around the house to inspect seals and frames to see if anything is leaking. Pay close attention to any single-pane windows as leaks can appear over time due to expansion caused by temperature fluctuations. It takes just a few cents worth of caulking to save many dollars in wasted heat.

Store Your A/C and Prep Your Furnace

Finally you’ll want to ensure that your air conditioning unit has been fully shut down and properly stored. If you have an in-ground unit, you’ll also need to cover it to protect it from rain, snow and wind. If you use a furnace to heat your home, be sure to clean or replace its air filter and consider firing the entire system up so you can check the ducts for leaks.

These home maintenance tips will help keep your home in peak condition and prevent damage that can reduce your resale value. If you’re thinking about selling your home, give your local real estate agent a call and they can assist you with getting the process started.

Posted in Home Buyer Tips

First Time Buyers: Understanding How Property Taxes Work and What You Can Expect to Pay

First Time Buyers: Understanding How Property Taxes Work and What You Can Expect to PayAre you about to buy a house or condo for the first time? Congratulations! Owning your own piece of real estate is a liberating experience and one that will provide you with the foundation to build your personal wealth and equity. Once you own your own home you’ll be responsible for a variety of new costs, including property taxes which are assessed by your local government to pay for municipal services. In this blog post we’ll share how property taxes work and what you can expect to pay when you buy your new home.

It All Begins with a Local Property Tax Assessment

As mentioned above, local governments assess property taxes as a means for paying for police officers, fire fighting services, road maintenance and the other various costs that come with running a town or city. Whether you’re buying a house, a townhouse or a condo, the property that your home sits on is inside of an area known as an “assessment area”. When the local government determines what your local tax levy or tax rate will be, they will assess your home based on the real estate market value of similar homes in the area. You can multiply your tax rate by the assessed value of your home to determine how much you’ll owe in property tax.

Property Taxes as Part of Your Closing Costs

When you close on your new home you’ll have to pay property taxes, and your real estate agent will help you to understand how much these taxes will be and how they will be paid. In most cities and counties you’ll pay a pro-rated amount of property tax that covers the time span from the date you purchase the home until the end of the year, after which time you’ll be paying your full assessed rate.

Don’t Forget Your Overall Tax Picture

Finally, don’t forget that property taxes can be factored in to the rest of your overall tax picture. Check with your accountant or another financial professional to determine whether or not you can write your property taxes off against your income tax to save some additional money. There are numerous tax benefits to owning a home, so it’s best to start using them from day one.

As with all other taxes, property taxes are a fact of life that every homeowner faces. When you’re ready to buy a new home and to learn more about how property taxes will affect your purchase, contact your local real estate agent today.

Posted in Home Buyer Tips

Buying an Investment Property? Here’s How You Can Maximize Your Rental Revenue

Buying an Investment Property? Here's How You Can Maximize Your Rental RevenueWhether you’re buying a ski-in/ski-out condo at your favorite resort or you’re thinking of picking up a small home in a busy tourist area, buying a property for short-term rental purposes can be an excellent investment that quickly begins to provide additional revenue.

Let’s take a quick look at a few steps that you can take to maximize the revenue that your investment properties bring in each month.

Upgrade Your Home to Give It a Luxurious Feel

It should go without saying that if you want your home to rent for a high price it has to have a significant amount of value behind it. After you purchase the home, spend some time on upgrades that help to enhance the home’s beauty and usability. If possible each sofa should be a sofa-bed so that additional guests can stay the night. Upgrade the televisions, have Wi-Fi internet access available and provide a phone number that guests can call if anything goes awry.

Professional Photos and Copywriting

If you’re renting your property out to short-term or vacationing tenants you’re most likely going to use online services like VRBO, HomeAway or AirBnB to attract new business. While these sites have a lot of visitor traffic you’re also going to face a high level of competition from other property owners in the area. It’s worth paying a professional photographer to take pictures of your home as well as having a professional copywriter handle the sales copy for your listing. These are one-time costs that can help you to defeat your competition and close high-ticket clients.

Cater to Large Groups or a Niche Crowd

There are a number of “niche” travelers out there and if you can cater to these groups you’ll find that you’re able to charge more than the average vacation property. For example, you may be buying a home in a popular wedding destination that can be marketed to couples who are being married. If you’re buying a larger 3 or 4 bedroom home, be sure to note that it can house large groups who may be traveling together.

Referrals and Repeat Business

Finally, don’t forget to ask your clients to refer you to their friends and family who many want to stay in your unit, and always invite them to return in the future. You may want to consider offering a discount to repeat visitors to encourage them to visit annually.

Renting out your vacation home or investment property can provide a lucrative income stream as long as you have a professional approach and focus on providing a high level of customer service. When you’re ready to start shopping for the perfect investment properties, contact your local real estate agent.