Federal Open Market Committee, Fed Chair: No Rush to Raise Rates

Federal Open Market Committee Fed Chair No Rush to Raise Rates Wednesday's customary post-meeting statement issued by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve provided some relief to investors and analysts concerned that the Fed may soon raise its target federal funds rate. The target federal funds rate has held steady at between 0.00 and 0.25 percent since the inception of the Fed's current quantitative easing program. The FOMC statement indicated that the committee does not expect to raise the target federal funds rate until the Fed's dual mandate of maximum employment and reaching its target inflation rate is achieved.

FOMC members don't expect the wind-down of scheduled securities purchases under the quantitative easing program to cause long-term interest rates to rise quickly. The FOMC statement indicates that the Fed expects its current holdings and acquisitions of securities to hold down long-term interest rates and help with achieving the Fed's dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and 2.00 percent inflation. As in past meetings, the FOMC statement asserted the committee's dedication to reading and researching economic and financial reports and repeated that Fed policy is not contingent on a predetermined course, but that FOMC members make decisions based on current economic trends and developing domestic and global events.

FOMC members also re-asserted their position that after employment and inflation achieve levels consistent with the Fed's dual mandate, the Fed will likely maintain the target federal funds rate at lower levels than the committee considers normal for "some time."

Fed Chair Janet Yellen provided further insight into Fed policy during a press conference given after the FOMC statement. She also said that the FOMC's view of current economic conditions has not changed over the past few months. Chair Yellen also said that the committee expects to maintain the current target federal funds rate for a "considerable time" after asset purchases under the QE 3 program cease.

Fed Chair Yellen: Gaps Between Current Data and Fed's Mandate Shrink Modestly

In a press conference given after the FOMC policy statement was released, Fed Chair Janet Yellen emphasized that the committee's discussions did not imply any near-term changes to the target federal funds rate. Chair Yellen cited gaps between current unemployment rates and the Fed's mandate of achieving maximum employment and the current inflation rate and the Fed's target inflation rate of 2.00 percent as major considerations in forming current Fed policy. She said that the respective gaps had narrowed "modestly," and again emphasized the Fed's commitment to constant review of economic and financial data as a significant factor in its decisions to change monetary policy.

Ms. Yellen cautioned media representatives and analysts to avoid making economic projections too far into the future and pointed out that longer term predictions are subject to more variables. Chair Yellen also cautioned press conference attendees not to consider anything in the FOMC statement or her press conference to a definite time frame.

Media reps continued to press for definite dates and time projections, but Chair Yellen held fast to the Fed's often-repeated position that policy changes cannot be set by a calendar and also depend on economic trends and news that influence the Fed's monetary policies.

Considering a Vacation Home? Six Tips for Buying a House or Condo for Relaxation and Vacation Use

Considering a Vacation Home? Six Tips for Buying a House or Condo for Relaxation and Vacation UseIf you've just returned from the vacation of a lifetime, you probably wish that wonderful time never had to end. When you buy a vacation home or condo, you can guarantee that you have an escape that will provide you with years of enjoyment. Before you take the plunge, though, take advantage of these six helpful tips about buying a vacation home.

Choose Someplace Versatile

When buying a vacation home, it's all about getting the most out of your investment. Consider choosing a place that you can enjoy throughout the year. Your ideal vacation home will be a haven in the summer, a beauty in the fall, a refresher during the spring, and the perfect place to celebrate the winter holidays.

Think About Convenience

When you choose your vacation home, you will want to find a relaxing getaway that fits your lifestyle. If you love to have easy access to the grocery store and other amenities, don't buy in a remote location. If instead you'd prefer something secluded, opt for a home that is hidden far from civilization.

Consider Your Neighbors

Depending on where you choose to buy a vacation home, you're likely to be surrounded by others who love the area as much as you do. You need to decide if you want to have many others who are in close proximity or if you prefer having your space to yourself.

Find Out About Taxes

If you are opting for an extremely popular location, beware of high taxes. You want to go into your purchase with your eyes wide open. If you choose a home that is off the beaten path, you could have a more favorable tax rate.

Learn About Restrictions

You may have restrictions to deal with when you buy a vacation home. From a Home Owner's Association that stipulates regulations about the care of property to restrictions in paint schemes, you may not have complete freedom with your property.

Look For Excellent Deals

Whether it is due to the strained economy or someone who has to make a property move quickly, you could find a phenomenal deal. Don't rush into any sale until you've reviewed all of your options. Buying a home that is in a community neighboring a hot spot (instead of in the hot spot itself) could make for better prices as well.

A vacation home is a great real estate investment that can make vacation planning much easier. With these tips in hand, you'll be well equipped to find the perfect vacation home for your budget. 

Speeding Up the Close: Five Tips on How to Close Your Mortgage Loan Faster So You Can Start Moving In

Speeding Up the Close: Five Tips on How to Close Your Mortgage Loan Faster So You Can Start Moving InWhen a seller accepts an offer from a buyer, the process of obtaining the property has just begun. The buyer now has to conduct an inspection, get approval from an attorney and obtain a mortgage - all of which can be time consuming. Here are a few ways that you can speed up the mortgage process and close the deal sooner.

Make Sure That You Have Money For Closing Costs

Do you have the money needed for a down payment and to pay other closing and prepaid costs? If not, you won't be able to close until you find the funds to pay those costs - and this could delay the closing on your home indefinitely. Before you arrange the mortgage, make sure you have enough cash on hand to pay closing costs.

Get Conditional Approval Before Making The Offer

If you have not been conditionally approved for a loan before making an offer, you can't be sure that a lender will give you a loan for the amount of the purchase price. In addition, starting the process from scratch could push back the closing timeline. Having your mortgage conditionally approved means the mortgage process is already underway when you make your offer, which saves you time.

Have Your Documents Together

Get your bank statements, pay stubs and other documents together before the seller accepts your offer. Having everything that the lender needs right away decreases the time needed for a lender to assess your application before extending the loan.

Work With An Experienced Mortgage Lender

Your mortgage lender may be able to move everything along by staying on top of the loan approval process. By ensuring that documents are being processed in a timely manner, an experienced lender can reduce the closing time from months to weeks.

Create A Timeline For Repairs The Seller Is Obligated To Make

It is not uncommon for a seller to be obligated to fix certain issues with the house before the new owner takes possession. However, it is important to put these repairs the contract along with a mandatory completion date. Otherwise, the seller could drag his feet with no contractual obligation to finish any repairs before he sees fit to do so.

Closing on a home loan can take anywhere from 30 to 120 days depending on work that needs to be done on the home and how well prepared a buyer is. Contacting and working closely with your mortgage lender or broker can result in a speedy and painless close. Contact an experienced mortgage professional today for more information about closing a mortgage.

Looking to Pay Back Your Mortgage Faster? Three Reasons to Consider Switching to Bi-weekly Payments

Looking to Pay Back Your Mortgage Faster? Three Reasons to Consider Switching to Bi-weekly PaymentsWhile there are differing schools of thought when it comes to whether or not a person should pay off a mortgage before the loan term ends, there may be some benefits to making payments on a bi-weekly basis as opposed to monthly basis. What are some of the reasons why it may be beneficial to make two payments a month instead of one? Here are three reasons why you should ditch the monthly fees and make payments once every two weeks.

You'll Make An Extra Payment Per Year

If you're looking to pay off your mortgage ahead of schedule, making bi-weekly payments means you'll make an extra payment every year. Instead of making 12 large payments every year, you'll make 26 small payments. These 26 small payments would be equal to about 13 large payments.

This is the equivalent of an extra payment per year and 10 extra payments over 10 years. If you have a 30-year mortgage, you could pay it off between two and three years early because you will make your last payment 30 months ahead of schedule.

You'll Provide Yourself With Financial Flexibility

Making extra payments can provide you with financial flexibility that makes it easier to deal with unexpected expenses or a job loss. As you are making a half-payment every two week, you can make your payments in smaller, more manageable chunks.

It may be a good thing if you are self-employed and may not be sure when a client will pay for services rendered. Additionally, you may have your next payment reduced or advanced if you pay more than you owe in a given month.

You'll Reduce the Amount of Interest Paid on the Loan

Paying off your mortgage faster reduces the amount of interest that you pay on the loan. Even if you only make one extra payment per year, you could still save thousands of dollars in interest by paying your loan several months or years early.

To determine exactly how much you will save, you can use an amortization table or calculator to see how much interest you pay over the full 30 years as opposed to taking only 27 or 28 years to pay for your home. It is also important to note that making extra payments adds to the equity that you have in the home.

Making two payments instead of one each month may help you achieve financial flexibility while building equity in your home. By paying off your mortgage as soon as possible, it may enable you to put more money into a savings or retirement account. Contact a mortgage professional for more information about whether bi-weekly payments are right for you.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - Sept 15, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Sept 15 2014Last week's housing related economic reports were slim, but an unexpected increase in weekly jobless claims gained attention. Analysts calmed concerns by noting that last week's reading of 315,000 new jobless claims was not far removed from jobless claim levels before the recession. Expectations for last week's reading were for 301,000 new jobless claims based on the previous week's original reading of 302,000. The previous week's reading was revised to 304,000 new jobless claims.

Jobless Claims: 4-Week Average for Continuing Claims Hits Lowest Level Since 2007

Prospective home buyers and current homeowners typically consider their jobs and employment prospects before seeking a home purchase mortgage or refinancing their existing home loans. Last week's readings released by the Department of Labor suggest that while weekly jobless claims increased, overall trends in hiring and continuing jobless claims indicate a stronger labor sector.

The four-week average of new jobless claims rose from 303,250 to 304,000. The four-week average is typically less volatile than week-to-week readings. Continuing jobless claims increased by 9,000 to 2.49 million for the week ended August 30. The four-week average for continuing jobless claims fell by 15,500 claims to 2.50 million continuing jobless claims. This was the lowest reading for continuing jobless claims since 2007.

In other labor related news, job openings were nearly steady at 4.67 million in July against June's reading of 4.68 million new job openings. The Labor Department reported that job openings increased by 22 percent year-over-year, with private sector jobs rising to 4.19 million job openings and government jobs increasing by 101,000 job openings to 485,000 in July. The number of hires in July rose from June's reading of 4.79 million to 4.87 million in July. This was the highest number of hires since 2007. Pre-recession hiring levels were approximately 5 million; this suggests that U.S. labor trends are approaching pre-recession levels.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Discount Points Unchanged

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates on Thursday, with average discount points unchanged at 0.50 across the board. Average rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose from 4.10 percent to 4.12 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.26 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose to 2.99 percent from the prior week's average of 2.97 percent.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled news includes several reports related to housing. In addition to Freddie Mac's usual mortgage rates report, The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) will release its Housing Market Index and the Department of Commerce will release data on housing starts in August. General economic reports include the Consumer Price Index, Core Consumer Price Index, and Leading Economic Indicators.

The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve will release its post-meeting statement on Wednesday, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen is also expected to give a press conference. The Federal Reserve may provide further indication of its intention concerning the target federal funds rate, which is currently at 0.00 to 0.250 percent. The Fed may address its intentions concerning the federal funds rate, but the FOMC has been consistently vague about details concerning its economic strategy.

It's Not Just Car Storage: How to Transform Your Garage into a Brand New, Highly Usable Space

It's Not Just Car Storage: How to Transform Your Garage into a Brand New, Highly Usable SpaceIn some homes, garages are used only for car storage. They may appear to be bare and without real functional use for homeowners. However, other garages may be an envy of the neighborhood - they may have floor to ceiling shelving systems, and they may be the picture-perfect image of organization.

With a bit of planning and creativity, you can turn your garage into a much more functional space. Here's how you can make your garage the most useful space in the house.

Determine What You Need To Store

One of the most important steps to take when improving the functionality of your garage is to determine which items you need to store. The last thing you want is to invest in a shelving system or cabinets for your garage only to later realize that your belongings do not fit in the features you have purchased. Take an inventory of the items you want to put in the space as well as their sizes and dimensions, and then take stock of the space available to store these items.

Invest In Storage Features

There are numerous types of storage features that you may choose to invest in for your garage, such as cabinets, drawers, wall pegs, shelves, overhead storage features, and bins.

The best storage features for your garage are those that take into account your accessibility needs. For example, seasonal items that you may rarely need access to may be placed in overhead storage features that hang over the cars. On the other hand, screwdrivers and other tools that you may need to use more frequently should be placed in a more accessible area.

Consider The Look Of The Garage

Some homeowners truly do not care what their garage looks like, but you should keep in mind that this is a room that is revealed to the outside world each time your garage doors are raised. This can indeed affect curb appeal and others' impressions of you. Therefore, think about investing in a full garage storage system rather than piecing together different items.

If your garage looks like a war zone, you are wasting valuable storage space and compromising your property value. Investing in aesthetically pleasing and highly functional storage solutions can turn your garage into a major selling point and a great multi-use space.

FICO Scores and Your Mortgage: How to Bump Your FICO Score to Secure a Better Mortgage Rate

FICO Scores and Your Mortgage: How to Bump Your FICO Score to Secure a Better Mortgage RateIs your credit score holding you back from getting the best rate on your next mortgage? The good news is that there are actions that you can take to increase your credit score and improve the interest rate offered on your next home loan.

Here are a few easy and effective tips to help you get your credit score to where you want it to be.

Increase The Amount Of Credit Available To You

The easiest way to increase your credit score is to increase your credit limit, as this reduces your utilization ratio. To do this, you can either apply for another credit card or ask a current credit card provider to increase your credit limit. Those who have a stable income and have made their monthly payments on time should have no problem getting an increase of their credit limit.

Pay Down The Balances On Your Credit Card

Paying down your credit card balances can help you increase your credit score, as a large portion of your score is determined by the percent of available credit that you are using. Ideally, you want each card balance to be under 30 percent of the total limit while also keeping your total credit usage to less than 30 percent of available credit. A utilization ratio under 30 percent tells lenders that you can manage credit responsibly.

Settle Past Due Debts

Roughly one-third of your credit score is determined by your ability to make payments in a timely manner. If you have any payments that are 30 or more days past due, you may wish to settle those debts or make arrangements to pay them.

Creditors who allow you to roll past due payments back into your loan may update your credit report to say that you are current on your payments. This could have a huge impact on your credit score and help you qualify for a better rate on a home loan.

Increasing your credit score is one of the best ways to get the best rate on a mortgage. This may enable you to gain additional leverage when negotiating for a better rate that may lower your monthly payment to a more affordable level.

For more information about how to get a great mortgage rate for your next home purchase, or for advice on how to improve your credit score, contact your local mortgage professional today.

FHA Home Loans: How to Pre-apply and Get Approved Before Making a Home Purchase Commitment

FHA Home Loans: How to Pre-apply and Get Approved Before Making a Home Purchase CommitmentIf you're in the market for your first mortgage, the Federal Housing Administration may be able to help you. Thanks to the FHA home loan program, you can apply for loan approval before you've found a home that you want to buy - which means you know what you can afford before you start your house hunt. Here's what you need to know about FHA home loans and how they can help you find the perfect house.

Pre-Approval: Assessment Includes Employment History and a Credit Check

The pre-approval process can be done over the phone or online in a matter of minutes. All you need to do is find a lender or mortgage broker in your area and start the application process. You'll be asked a series of questions and you'll need to meet several criteria, such as a history of steady employment and consistent income, a credit report in good standing, and a desired mortgage payment of 30 percent of total monthly gross income.

The Variables of the Loan May Change Depending on Your Needs

When the representative for the broker or lender contacts you, he or she may overestimate your property taxes and will assume that you are going to borrow the maximum amount for which you qualify. Therefore, the monthly payment that you are quoted may be higher than the amount that you would pay each month when you actually purchase your home. Based on the property taxes, your down payment and the purchase price of the home, your payment may be higher or lower at closing.

You Will Get a Letter Stating That You Have Conditional Approval

If all goes well, the lender or broker who assessed you will send a letter confirming that you are conditionally approved for an FHA home loan. You may wish to submit this letter with any offer that you make to purchase a house, as without conditional loan approval, a seller may not take your offer seriously. If you are in a bidding war for a home, it may not be possible to win unless you show that you have financing available to close on the property in a reasonable amount of time.

The first step to get a mortgage is to get conditional loan approval. By calling your lender or a broker, it may be possible to obtain pre-approval for the mortgage you need while also negotiating favorable terms. For more information about qualifying for FHA loans, contact your local mortgage professional today.

Buying Land to Build a New Home On? Don't Forget These Three Important Considerations

Buying Land to Build a New Home On? Don't Forget These Three Important ConsiderationsWhen most people talk about real estate, they envision buying an already-built house on already-landscaped property. However, buying vacant land and building a new home is a great way to ensure that you get the home that you want in the location that you want. It's also a major undertaking, which is why you should take these three considerations into account before you buy any land for your new home.

Location, Location, Location: It's More Important Than You Think

People often hear the phrase "location, location, location" and it's a very prudent maxim with buying land. The parcel of land that you buy should be in a good geographic location and on stable ground – which means there shouldn't be any major water sources nearby (like a swamp) and hills should be minimal. You'll also want to consider zoning regulations that influence the acreage and other regulations that influence how you can and cannot use the land.

Utility Connections Will Be Your Responsibility

New land tends to not have utilities laid out under or over the ground. If this is the case, you will need to invest in electrical, water, and possibly heat utilities for the home.

This process involves communicating between the municipal government and utility companies so that the proper infrastructure is put in place. These costs and the implementation can be quite a headache depending on how isolated the land is from municipal or regional infrastructure.

Access: Look Up Any Easements on the Land

Many homeowners may not realize how legal access to land can affect their purchase. An easement refers to the legal right of other entities to use your land even though they do not own it. Before you buy land, you and your lawyer should investigate whether or not the land has easements, and whether or not these easements may interfere with your goals for the property.

These are just a few of the major considerations you need to make when you buy land. Purchasing a plot of land is quite a bit more complicated than buying a house, and if you're not prepared, it can easily turn into a nightmare. When properly planned, though, buying land can give you a great backdrop on which to build the house of your dreams.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - Sept 8, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Sept 8 2014Last week's housing-related economic news was slim, likely due to the Labor Day holiday Monday. On Tuesday, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that construction spending for July increased by 1.80 percent as compared to June's revised reading of 1.0 percent and expectations of a 1.0 percent increase for July.

The Federal Reserve released its Beige Book report Wednesday; the collection of anecdotes from business contacts within the 12 Federal Reserve districts indicated that the general economy was strengthening as well as labor markets. The Fed noted a shortage of skilled workers. New construction and home sales grew modestly, but the Fed reported that fewer than half of the districts reported growth in real estate activity.

This information appears to be consistent with recent media reports of falling home sales, mortgage originations and demand for homes. Analysts say that mortgage lenders remain wary of loosening mortgage credit standards without protection from having to repurchase faulty mortgages from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Mortgage Rates Saw Little Change

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates and discount points saw little change last week. The average rates for a 30-year mortgage and a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage were unchanged at 4.10 percent and 2.97 percent respectively. Discount points were also unchanged at 0.40 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by one basis point to 3.24 percent with discount points also lower at 0.50 percent.

Non-Farm Payrolls Add 142,000 Jobs, Unemployment Rate Unchanged 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Reported that 142,000 new jobs were added in August. Analysts had expected 228,000 new jobs added, but many analysts said that the abrupt decline in jobs added was a fluke. A couple of short-term incidents impacted retail and automotive sectors as a supermarket chain cut hours and fewer July layoffs in the automotive sector led to fewer workers called back in August. The unemployment rate remained at 6.10 percent.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 302,000 against expectations of 300,000 new jobless claims and 298,000 new jobless claims in the prior week.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic news is also light on housing and mortgage reports. Retail spending, consumer credit, and federal budget data are some of the reports set for release.

You Ask, We Answer: Understanding the Real Estate 'Short Sale' and How This Process Works

You Ask, We Answer: Understanding the Real Estate 'Short Sale' and How This Process WorksA short sale is something that occurs when a homeowner is not able to make the mortgage payments on time due to a financial hardship. Instead of foreclosing on the property after one or more missed payments, the bank may agree to allow the homeowner to turn the home over to the bank, which will sell it to as close to market value as possible.

Here's what you need to know about how short sales work and what circumstances might call for one.

Step 1: The Homeowner Provides Information To The Bank

The first step in the short sale process is for the homeowner to submit an information package to the bank. The homeowner will provide information such as the reason for the short sale, an authorization letter allowing the real estate agent to talk to the bank, and a financial statement. In addition, the seller may need to provide an HUD-1 statement as well as a list of comparable homes in the area.

Step 2: The Buyer Makes An Offer

Once the house is put on the market, a buyer can make an offer just as he or she would on any other home. The seller will then have the opportunity to accept any offer that he or she receives from a prospective buyer.

Step 3: The Bank Makes A Decision About The Offer

Once the seller accepts an offer to buy the home on short sale, the seller is responsible for sending information about the sale to the bank. Before the sale is finalized, the bank must approve the buyer's offer. It could take as little as two weeks or as long as 120 days for the bank to approve the offer.

However, not all short sales are immediately approved. The seller's bank bank might decline the buyer's offer for one reason or another. A bank may decline a short sale offer if the bank negotiator thinks the house is worth more than the buyer's offer or if the seller violates a clause in the short sale agreement – such as moving out of the property and violating a clause that states only owner-occupied properties are eligible for short sale.

Buying a home that is being sold as a short sale requires patience and an ability to move at the bank's pace. Working closely with an experienced lender or mortgage broker may make it easier to get through the process without a lot of hassle or drama. 

Children Leaving the Nest? 3 Pieces of Sage Advice You Can Share About How to Manage a Mortgage

Children Leaving the Nest? 3 Pieces of Sage Advice You Can Share About How to Manage a MortgageWhen your children are about to step out into the world on their own, you want to help them on their way. This especially holds true when it comes to buying a house. As your sons or daughters prepare to take the plunge into home ownership, make sure they follow three crucial tips that will help them during the mortgage process.

Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

One of the biggest mistakes that homeowners make is choosing a home that is beyond their price range. Your children need to remember that they are going to be paying for their home for a long time. A crushing house payment could be difficult to manage.

In order to find a reasonable mortgage, you need to look at the numbers. The bank, or mortgage lender, will generally look at a client's income, debt, and the current mortgage rate to determine an acceptable amount when purchasing a home. Your children can look at their own budget, lay out all of their costs, and determine how much spending room is left for a house payment.

Choose A Shorter Term For A Mortgage

When the time comes to sign the dotted line, the mortgage lender will offer various payment terms for your child's home loan. Twenty-five to thirty years is the typical term for most mortgages, but the sooner the mortgage is paid, the better. Advise your children to choose the shortest possible term while still living within their means.

Make Extra Payments When Possible

Your children can pay their mortgage off sooner by making extra payments. While this may seem like a challenge, it can be accomplished with careful budgeting.

Making one extra payment a year will shorten the length of the loan and put more equity into the home. Whether your children plan on staying put or want to buy another home down the line, they'll appreciate it when they have paid off a considerable chunk of their mortgage.

Getting a mortgage is a rite of passage and a milestone that thousands of Americans encounter every year. Make sure that your children get the best mortgage available by following these tips. For more helpful information, or to make sure your children are getting a good deal, contact a trusted mortgage professional today.

Applying for a Mortgage? Three Questions Your Lender Will Ask You - and How to Prepare Your Answers

Applying for a Mortgage? Three Questions Your Lender Will Ask You - and How to Prepare Your AnswersBefore approving a mortgage, your lender is going to have to do his due diligence to ensure that you can afford a loan large enough to pay for a house. That means your lender will be asking you several questions about whether or not you can afford a mortgage.

Here's how you can prepare to answer these questions in a way that will increase your likelihood of approval.

How Stable Is Your Income?

Your lender is going to want to know that your income is going to be stable over the life of the loan. This means that you should be able to document steady employment, that investment income is going to be stable or that the alimony that you receive from your former spouse will continue to come in for the foreseeable future. To document your income, you can provide bank statements, pay stubs or tax returns from the previous three years.

How Much Do You Have In The Bank?

A lender is going to be interested in how much you have in reserve in case you lost your job or suffer an unexpected medical expense that could make it harder to pay your mortgage. For a conventional mortgage, you may be required to have three to six months' worth of expenses in the bank or in other assets that you could liquidate. To show how much you have in the bank, you can provide bank statements or balance statements from any other account where you may get money from if need be.

Where Is The Money For The Down Payment And Closing Costs Coming From?

While some lenders don't mind if the money is gifted from a qualified source such as a family member, friend or employer, other lenders will require that the money for a down payment or other costs comes straight from your own bank account. To prove where the funds are coming from, you will need to show when the money was deposited into your bank account if using your own funds (or a gift letter if the funds are being gifted).

A mortgage lender needs to be sure that you are able to repay any loan that you are approved for. That means you'll want to present your lender with solid, documented proof that you have a steady income and ample cash reserves to pay the mortgage and associated fees. For more information about what lenders look for in mortgage applicants, contact a qualified mortgage professional today.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - Sept 2, 2014

Real Estate Secrets: Understanding the 'Option Period' and What This Term Means for You as a BuyerLast week's economic news included several reports related to housing. The Case-Shiller and FHFA reports for June showed a further slowing in home price growth. New home sales for July fell short of the expected reading, but pending home sales exceeded expectations. The details:

Case-Shiller, FHFA: June Home Price Growth Slows

The Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Index for June moved from May's year-over-year reading of 9.40 percent growth to 8.10 percent in June. Home prices grew by 1.00 percent on a month-to-month basis in June as compared to May's reading of 1.20 percent.

Demand shrank due to increasing inventories of available homes and stricter mortgage standards. For the first time since 2008, each of the 20 cities tracked showed slowing growth in home prices. Home prices are about 17 percent lower than their pre-recession peak in 2006. Case-Shiller also reported that the national median home price rose by 2.90 percent year-over-year to $269,800.

Analysts said that slower gains in home prices coupled with increasing confidence among home builders signals a return to more normal housing market conditions.

FHFA reported that home prices for purchase transactions grew by 0.20 percent less than May's year-over-year reading of 5.40 percent. FHFA reports on properties connected with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

New Home Sales Slip in July, Pending Home Sales Gain

The Department of Commerce reported that New Home Sales missed expectations for July with a reading of 412,000 new homes sold on seasonally adjusted annual basis. June's revised reading was 422,000 new homes sold, and analysts expected new home sales at a rate of 430,000 in July against June's original sales pace of 406,000. Three out of four regions posted slower growth rates for new home sales, with the South posted a gain in new home sales. New home sales were 12.30 percent higher than one year ago.

Analysts said that improving labor market conditions and the slower rate of home price growth are positive trends for housing markets as more home buyers can afford to buy homes. Mortgage rates are approximately one-half percent lower than last year, which also increases affordability.

Pending home sales exceeded expectations for July to an 11 month high, which may ease concerns over July's dip in new home sales. The National Association of REALTORS® Pending Home Sales Index rose to 105.9 in July as compared to June's index reading of 102.5. Homes under contract increased from a negative reading of -1.30 percent in June to July's reading of +3.30 percent. Pending home sales are considered a strong indicator of future home sales.

Mortgage Rates Mixed. Consumer Confidence Jumps

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates were little changed. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 4.12 percent. 15-year mortgages had an average rate of 3.25 percent which was an increase of two basis points over the previous week. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage moved from 2.95 percent to 2.97 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50, 0.60 and 0.50 percent respectively.

Two gauges of U.S. consumer confidence indicated stronger levels of consumer confidence in the economy. The Consumer Confidence Index rose to 92.4 in August from July's reading of 91.9 and exceeded a lower expectation of 88.5. The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index rose to 82.5 against July's reading of 79.2 and the expected reading of 80.1. Increasing consumer confidence suggests that as more consumers become comfortable with current economic conditions, they may be more confident about buying homes.

What's Coming Up

Next week's economic reports include construction spending and the Fed's Beige Book Report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will also release Non-farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment Rate for August. No activity is scheduled for Monday due to the Labor Day holiday.

Six Key Questions to Ask when Hiring a Real Estate Agent to Market and Sell Your Home

Six Key Questions to Ask when Hiring a Real Estate Agent to Market and Sell Your HomeThe work of a real estate agent can make or break how a prospective buyer feels about the property. Now that it's time to sell your home, you want to find the right agent to market it.

How do you find someone you can trust who will make you feel confident they can sell your home quickly for the best price possible? Here are the questions you should be asking.

Are They Licensed?

This one is the easy one. You should be working with a member of the National Association of Realtors®. It is also important that you check whether they have any complaints on record about their practices.

You can check with your state's real estate department as well.

Are They Successful?

A successful real estate agent is more than the number of sales they have completed. You should also find out the average difference between listing and selling prices on their most recent sales.

If an agent is closing deals at far below the original asking price consistently, that might be a red flag.

How Busy Are They?

Make sure you ask in advance how often the agent will contact you and how they will keep you informed of potential buyers. If you're going to be working with one of their associates at times, you should know.

How Familiar Are They With Your Neighborhood?

A real estate agent is not just marketing your home – they're marketing your entire community. If they have closed nearby sales before, they are familiar with the selling points of the neighborhood as well as the right price range for properties similar to yours.

How Much Commission Do They Expect?

Normally you will pay the agent about 6 percent of the sale price. If you find one that offers their services for a low percentage, you should know why. Are they just trying to stay competitive? Or do they expect you to do a large share of the marketing yourself?

Do They Have A Plan?

The real estate agent should be able to tell you exactly which marketing techniques they would use for your home and how they plan to promote the listing. They should come to the table with ideas from the very beginning.

Now that you have a clearer idea of the basics, use the internet to find trusted real estate agents in your area. Then pick up the phone and begin your journey toward becoming a successful home seller today.

Case-Shiller, FHFA Report Slowing Growth in Home Prices

Case-Shiller FHFA Report Slowing Growth in Home PricesThe Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices for June reported year-over-year gains of 8.10 percent while the Case-Shiller National Home Price Index covers all nine census regions and reported a year-over-year gain of 6.20 percent.

Readings for all three indices worsened as compared to May readings, and all cities tracked showed slower growth in home prices. The National Home Price Index, which is now published monthly, rose by 0.90 percent from May's reading, and both the 10 and 20-City Index posted month-to-month gains of one percent.

Five cities including Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, Phoenix and San Diego posted larger gains in June than for May.

Regional Home Price Growth: NYC Leads Cities in June

According to the Case-Shiller 20-City Index, New York City led home price growth in June with a reading of +1.60 percent. Chicago, Detroit and Las Vegas posted gains of 1.40 percent with Las Vegas posting its largest home price gain since last summer.

Year-over-year, Las Vegas posted the highest growth rate at 15.20 percent. San Francisco's home price gains slowed to a year-over-year rate of 12.90 percent. Phoenix posted its slowest home price growth since March of 2012 with its June reading of 6.90 percent.

Home Prices Rise, But Modestly

While home prices in all cities tracked by Case-Shiller rose for the third consecutive month, analysts said that the Federal Reserve may increase its target federal funds rate as soon as the first quarter of 2015. This would lead to higher mortgage rates, which could further flatten home price growth.

Home affordability became an issue for many would-be buyers after the rapid rate of home price growth seen in 2013. Lower demand for homes could also impact the rate of home price appreciation as inventories of available homes rise. With these factors and no one knowing exactly when the Fed will act to raise rates, it's unlikely that home prices will rapidly escalate in the coming months.

FHFA Reports Slower Home Price Growth in June

FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that June home prices slowed from May's reading of 5.40 percent year-over-year to 5.20 percent year-over-year in June. FHFA reports on properties connected with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. FHFA shared some positive trends for seasonally adjusted purchase-only home prices in its June report:

  • June's home prices rose in 40 states.

  • Home prices rose for the seventh consecutive month

  • Home prices rose for 23 of the last 24 months with the November 2013 as the exception.

  • Home prices rose in the second quarter of 2014 in 74 of 100 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) tracked by the federal government.

  • Home prices in the Pacific and Mountain census districts continued to slow in the second quarter. After rapid growth in home prices in 2013, this appears to indicate and expected adjustment rather than an unexpected crash in home prices for these regions.

While slower growth in home prices is of concern to homeowners, more affordable prices will likely encourage more would-be buyers to become actual buyers.

Refi or Wait? How to Choose Between Refinancing Your Mortgage Now or Waiting Until You Need the Money

Refi or Wait? How to Choose Between Refinancing Your Mortgage Now or Waiting Until You Need the MoneyRefinancing your existing mortgage may provide you with the opportunity to lower your interest rate, reduce your mortgage payment and adjust your loan term. For those homeowners who have lived in their home for more than a few years, pulling equity out of the property for everything from a luxurious vacation to making home improvements is a tempting potential benefit.

However, with property values and interest rates adjusting frequently, you may wonder if now is the best time to refinance your mortgage.

Using Equity From Your Refinance

One factor to consider when debating between refinancing now and waiting relates to pulling equity out of your home. If you need access to the cash now for home improvements or other purposes, refinancing now may be ideal. Even if you do not need access to your equity for several months or longer, you can lock in today's rates and invest the money in other vehicles, such as CDs or bonds, until you need the cash.

Anticipating Market Changes

You may have heard that the interest rates for home mortgages have been slowly rising, and while they remain close to historic lows, they are projected to continue to rise. Nobody can predict with certainty how interest rates will adjust in the next few months and years, and locking in today's rates may be beneficial. Keep in mind that if rates decline significantly in the near future, you can always look into refinancing again.

Reducing Your Principal

If you have a higher interest rate on your existing mortgage, your principal balance may be reduced at a slower rate than if you refinance to a lower interest rate. In addition, if you refinance from a 30-year term to a shorter term length, your principal balance will also be reduced more quickly in most cases. In many situations, refinancing your home mortgage today may establish a more efficient repayment schedule that allows you to accrue equity at a faster rate.

Each homeowner has unique factors to consider when refinancing based on property value, credit rating, existing loan terms and other factors. While many will benefit by refinancing an existing mortgage today, you can speak with a mortgage professional for specific advice and recommendations regarding your situation. Call your trusted mortgage representative today to inquire about the options and to begin working on your refinance loan application.

DOC New Home Sales and NAR Existing Home Sales

DOC New Home Sales and NAR Existing Home SalesThe Department of Commerce reported July sales of new homes dropped by 2.40 percent over June to a four month low. Analysts noted that although July's reading of 412,000 new homes sold fell short of expectations and June's reading, the new homes sector is volatile and subject to change.

June's reading of 406,000 new homes sold was revised to 422,000 new homes sold; expectations were based on the original reading. Three of four regions posted a slower rate of growth for home prices with only the South posting a gain.

The average price of a new home in the U.S. rose to $269,800, which is 2.90 percent higher than June's average home price. Inventories of new homes increased to a six-month level based on current sales pace.

This was the highest inventory of new homes available since 2011. Strict mortgage credit requirements and an elevated national unemployment rate contributed to the lower rate of home value appreciation and higher inventories of new homes.

The good news: New home sales increased by 12.90 percent year-over-year in July.

Existing Home Sales Rise: Steady Mortgage Rates, Rising Rents Cited

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that July sales of previously-owned homes rose from June's revised figure of 5.03 million sales to 5.15 million sales and achieved the highest reading for 2014.

The existing home sales readings are calculated on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Existing home sales were 4.30 percent lower than for July 2013, which had the highest reading for existing home sales in 2013.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, said that a growing inventory of available pre-owned homes for sale and strengthening labor markets contributed to sales growth. Mr. Yun said that July's pace of sales was expected to continue based on mortgage rates holding steady and rising rents for apartments.

The inevitable rise of mortgage rates and increasing home prices were cited as factors that could cool existing home sales in coming months. With the Fed scheduled to complete its asset purchase program in October and changes to the Fed's target federal funds rate expected within months, mortgage rates are expected to rise. Affordability looms as an obstacle to sales; home prices continue to rise as wages grow at a slower pace than home prices.

The national median price for existing homes was $222,900, which was a year-over-year increase of 4.90 percent. This was the 29th consecutive month for year-over-year price gains for existing homes. The inventory of existing homes for sale increased by 3.50 percent to 2.37 million available homes and represents a 5.50 month supply. Unsold inventory of existing homes is 5.80 percent higher year-over-year. As compared to July 2013's reading of 2.24 million available pre-owned homes.

Homes sold through foreclosure or short sales have steeply declined from 36 percent of existing home sales in 2009 to approximately 9 percent in July and were down from 15 percent of existing home sales in June.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - Aug 25, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Aug 25 2014Last week's economic news brought several reports related to housing. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for August rose by two points to 55, which was its highest reading in seven months.

Components of the NAHB HMI include builder surveys on conditions related to upcoming sales of new homes, which rose by two points for a reading of 65. Builder sentiment concerning present sales conditions also rose by two points to 58.

Builder views on prospective buyer traffic rose from 39 to 42. Readings above 50 indicate that more builders viewed housing market conditions as positive as negative.

NAHB cited job growth and low mortgage rates as conditions driving higher builder confidence in market conditions.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Up in July

According to the Commerce Department, housing starts and building permits rose in July. Housing starts increased to 1.09 million from June's reading of 945,000 and exceeded expectations of 975,000. This reading reflects higher builder confidence and could contribute to easing demand for housing as new homes expand the inventory of available homes.

Construction of single family homes accounts for about 75 percent of new home construction. July's reading was 656,000 single family housing starts on an annual basis. Regionally, housing starts declined by 25 percent in the Midwest, but rose by 44 percent in the Northeast, 29 percent in the South and 18.60 percent in the West.

Building permits issued in July rose to an annual rate of 1.05 million, which was an increase of 8.10 percent over June's reading of 973,000 permits issued. Permits for single family homes increased by 0.90 percent to a reading of 640,000 permits annually.

July's readings for housing starts and building permits are in line with overall economic growth and suggest that housing markets may improve in coming months as the supply of new homes increases.

Let's add more icing to the cake. The National Association of REALTORS® reported that existing home sales rose to 5.15 million on a seasonally adjusted annual basis against predictions of 5.00 million existing homes sold and June's reading of 5.05 million sales of previously owned homes.

Mortgage Rates Fall, FOMC Minutes Indicate Economic Improvement

Freddie Mac's weekly survey of mortgage rates reported that average rates fell across the board: The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 4.10 percent with discount point lower at 0.50 percent.

The rate for a 15-year mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.24 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 2.95 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve released minutes from its July meeting. Highlights included the committee's 9-1 vote in favor of continuing the slow pace of reducing economic stimulus.

The minutes indicated that the committee intends to keep the federal funds rate below normal levels for "some time." Previous FOMC statements have consistently indicated the Fed's intention to maintain very low short-term interest rates after asset purchases under QE3 end in October, but FOMC has not released a specific time frame or details of its intentions concerning the federal funds rate.

The Fed acknowledged economic improvements, but cited lingering concerns over unemployment, which remains higher than average.

More Good News: Jobless Claims Lower, Economic Indicators Up

Weekly jobless claims fell to 298,000, lower than expectations of 300,000 new jobless claims and the prior week's reading of 312,000 new claims. Leading economic indicators (LEI) rose by 0.89 percent in July after increases in May and June. Analysts interpreted this reading as a further indication of stronger economic conditions.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic reports include New Home Sales, the Case-Shiller Home Price Index and FHFA House Price Index. General economic reports include the Consumer Confidence Index and the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. It will be interesting to see whether consumer views of the economy are consistent with recent economic improvements.

Home Buying Tips: Three Items to Watch out for in a Purchase Agreement Contract

Home Buying Tips: Three Items to Watch out for in a Purchase Agreement ContractThe purchase agreement is a vitally important document that outlines the provisions, terms and conditions for the transfer of property.

It should be read carefully and any ambiguities should be clarified prior to signing. It is a legally binding contract between the buyer and seller.

The purchase agreement may vary depending on the location. Most real estate agents use a form that has been approved by a state realtors association.

The seller may have a different version that was drawn up by an attorney. It should not be assumed that they are all the same.

Typically, the purchase agreement will include an inspection period. This allows the buyer time to verify the conditions stated on the purchase agreement. Three of the most important stipulations in the contract are listed below.

All Owners Must Sign the Purchase Agreement

In most cases, the purchase agreement should be signed by the legal owner of the property.

If there is more than one owner, each owner should sign the agreement. In many states, both parties in a married couple have an interest in a property even if the title is held in one party’s name alone. Therefore, the purchase agreement should be signed by both parties of a married couple.

In the event the property is being sold by a corporation, verify that the person signing the agreement is authorized to commit the corporation to the sale.

List All Fixtures to be Transferred with the Sale

The purchase agreement should list all items that are to convey with the property. “Fixtures” are considered items that are attached to the property.

Legally, they should be included with the sale, but more than a few buyers have been dismayed to find the property stripped of countertops, appliances and window coverings. Any fixtures and personal property that are part of the sale should be included in the purchase agreement.

Verify Zoning Ordinances

The purchase agreement may contain various stipulations. One should include the right to cancel the contract if zoning prohibits the use of the property as planned.

Zoning ordinances may restrict the use of buildings or land. This may prove to be an obstacle for someone who intended to include a workshop on the property. The buyer should be able to withdraw from the contract if they discover that zoning prohibits the intended use.