What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - March 2, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 2 2015Last week provided several housing-related reports including New Home Sales, Pending Home Sales and Existing Home Sales reports. Case-Shiller and FHFA also released data on home prices. The details:

Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Hit Nine-Month Low

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), Sales of pre-owned homes dropped to a seasonally-adjusted annual reading 4.82 million sales in January as compared to an estimated reading of 4.95 million sales and December's reading of 5.07 million existing homes sold. This was a month-to-month decline of 4.90 percent, and represented the lowest reading for existing home sales in nine months.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, said that a short supply of available homes coupled with rising prices contributed to the drop in sales. While mortgage rates remain near historical lows, higher home prices and short supply are negatively impacting affordability; this puts home buyers who rely on mortgages in competition with cash buyers.

More encouraging news arrived with the Commerce Department's new home sales report; new home sales reached 481,000 sales on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis in January. Analysts had expected new home sales of 467,000 new homes based on December's reading of 482,000 new homes sold in December.

Pending Home Sales Highest Since August 2013

The National Association of Realtors® reported that pending home sales rose by 1.70 percent in January as compared to December's reading of -3.70 percent. Pending sales were up 8.40 percent year-over-year. Job growth, a little more leniency in mortgage credit standards and slower inflation were seen as factors that contributed to higher pending sales. Pending sales represent under sales contracts that have not closed.

Case-Shiller, FHFA Post Home Price Data

The Case Shiller 20-City Composite reported that home prices rose by 0.10 percent month-to-month and 4.50 percent year-over-year according to its index report for December. San Francisco, California had the highest year-over-year price gain at 9.30 percent, while Chicago, Illinois had the lowest year-over-year home price appreciation rate at 1.30 percent as of December.

FHFA reported that home prices for properties connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans rose by 5.40 percent on a year-over-year basis as compared to November' year-over-year reading of a 5.20 percent increase in home prices.

Mortgage Rates Rise

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 3.80 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage increased by two basis points to 3.07 percent and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was also two basis points higher at 2.99 percent. Discount points for all loan types were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What's Ahead?

This week's scheduled economic news includes consumer spending, construction spending and the Labor Department's non-farm payroll and national unemployment reports. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac's PMMS report on mortgage rates will be released as usual on Thursday.

FHFA House Price Index Rises for 14th Consecutive Quarter

FHFA House Price Index Rises for 14th Consecutive QuarterAccording to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), U.S. home prices rose by 1.40 percent for the fourth quarter of 2014 and were up by 0.80 percent month-to-month from November. The seasonally adjusted FHFA House Price Index measures purchase transactions for homes connected with mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

FHFA also reported that home prices rose 4.9 percent year-over –year from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the fourth quarter of 2014. FHFA Chief Economist Andrew Leventis described the report for the last quarter of 2014 as "relatively strong" and also cited low inventories of available homes and improving labor markets as contributing to home price growth.

FHFA House Price Index Identifies Significant Trends

FHFA's expanded house price data, which adds data from county records and the Federal Housing Administration, to the FHFA House Price Index, indicated that home prices grew by 1.30 percent in the fourth quarter; year-over-year home prices grew by 6.0 percent according to FHFA's expanded house price data report.

According to purchase-only indexes for the 100 most populated metro areas, the San Francisco-Redwood City-south San Francisco, California metro area posted the highest rate of year-over-year home price gains at six percent for the fourth quarter of 2015. The lowest reading was for the El Paso, Texas, which posted a loss of 6.60 percent in the fourth quarter.

The mountain division of the nine U.S. Census divisions posted the highest annual home price growth at 5.50 percent and 1.40 percent in the fourth quarter. House price appreciation was weakest in the New England Division, where home prices fell by0.03 percent.

FHFA also reported that its "distress free" home price indexes which the agency publishes for 12 metro areas have shown less price appreciation than the FHFA purchase only Home Price Index. Distress-free means that foreclosed homes and short sales were not included in these index readings.

FHFA has expanded its home price reports with a set of reports based on three-digit zip codes. Sorting house price data by the first three digits of a zip code provides more specific data for regional home price trends; mortgage and real estate pros can find house price data for specific neighborhoods and communities. FHFA described its three-digit zip code reports as "experimental" at present.

 

3 Easy Ways to Put Aside a Bit of Extra Cash So You Can Pay off Your Mortgage Faster

3 Easy Ways to Put Aside a Bit of Extra Cash So You Can Pay off Your Mortgage Faster If your personal budget is similar to many other people's budgets, your home mortgage payment is by far the largest expense that you pay for each month. In fact, this payment may easily account for 20 or 25 percent or more of your take-home income. Understandably, you may be focused on trying to pay this expense off early. By focusing on this payment, you can build equity and may be able to achieve financial security more quickly. You simply have to find a way to put aside a bit of extra cash regularly so that you can make extra payments, and there are few easy ways that you can consider.

Use Your Tax Refund

First, if you are one of the many taxpayers who receives a refund each year, consider setting aside some or all of this refund to reduce your outstanding mortgage balance. Some taxpayers may have such a sizable refund that it can account for two or more mortgage payments each year. However, even a few hundred dollars extra put toward your principal balance will save you a considerable amount of money in interest charges over time and will have a wonderful effect on your balance.

Earmark Your Annual Bonus

If you are lucky enough to receive an annual bonus each year, you may consider using this to pay down your principal balance. While you may usually spend this money on extra holiday gifts or just add it to your spending cash, you can benefit more substantially when you contribute it to your effort to pay down your mortgage.

Use An Automated Draft To Create a Fund

Another great idea that will work well for all individuals is to create an automated draft from your checking account each month. You may set aside the funds in a special account, and you can make an extra mortgage payment from this account periodically. Another idea is to set up auto payments for your mortgage that are higher than the amount due. For example, you may establish auto payments that are $50 or $100 more than your scheduled payments.

Paying off your mortgage earlier can be a life changing event for you. Simply imagine how different your life would be if you were not responsible for this payment each month. The fact is that this could be your reality sooner than you think if you follow these tips. For the best results, apply two or even all three tips to your efforts.

Case-Shiller: Rising Home Prices Boost Inflation

Case Shiller Rising Home Prices Boost Inflation

December home prices rose by 0.10 percent according to the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index. The composite report tracks home prices in 20 U.S. cities. December's results boosted home prices by 4.50 percent year-over-year, which is approximately double the inflation rate for 2014. Analysts note that the overall reading was less significant than individual readings for the 20 cities included in the report.

Regional Home Prices Suggest Disparity in Housing Recovery

The top three month-to-month home price increases for cities surveyed were led by Miami, Florida with an increase of 0.70 percent, Home prices rose by 0.50 percent in Denver, Colorado, and by 0.50 percent in San Francisco, California.

Chicago, Illinois posted a month-to-month loss of -0.90 percent; Cleveland, Ohio followed with a loss of -0.50 percent, and Las Vegas, Nevada and Minneapolis, Minnesota were tied with monthly losses of -0.30 percent for home prices.

Winter weather conditions and the holidays can dampen demand for homes; it's worthwhile to note that three of the cities posting the largest month-to-month losses are located in cold winter climates.

Month-to-month readings for home prices are typically more volatile; the corresponding year-over-year readings provide a more accurate reading of real estate trends in specific cities. Nine cities posted month-to-month gains for home prices, while six cities posted lower home prices from November to December.

San Francisco Leads Year-over-Year Home Price Growth

San Francisco, California led year-over-year home price growth with a reading of 9.30 percent. Home prices grew by 8.40 percent in Miami, Florida. Denver, Colorado home prices grew by 8.10 percent year-over-year in December.

The three cities showing the least amount of home price growth year-over-year were Chicago, Illinois with a reading of 1.30 percent, Cleveland, Ohio and Washington, D.C. were tied with year-over-year readings of 1.30 percent growth in home prices year-over-year.

Home prices are growing more slowly in the North and Midwest regions, while home prices continue to grow fastest in the Southeast and Western regions.

Home prices in the cities surveyed have increased by 29 percent since the March 2012 low, but remain 16 percent below their July 2006 peak. The Case-Shiller Home Price Index measures home prices using a three-month rolling average, while other home price reports base their readings on monthly sales. Case-Shiller's year-over-year reading of 4.50 percent for December of 2015 closely approached CoreLogic's reading of 5.00 percent home price growth year-over-year.

While increasing home prices are good news for homeowners, higher home prices represent an obstacle for moderate income and first time home buyers, who are also impacted by strict mortgage credit standards. As the peak home buying season approaches, increased demand for homes could drive home prices higher.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - February 23, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Feburary 23 2015

Last week's housing related reports included the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index for February, The Commerce Department's report on Housing Starts for January and Freddie Mac's weekly report on average mortgage rates. The Federal Reserve released the minutes of January's FOMC meeting, which indicated that FOMC members are in no hurry to raise the target federal funds rate. The details:

Home Builder Confidence, Housing Starts Impacted by Winter Weather

The NAHB Housing Market Index for February fell from January's reading of 57 to 55. Analysts expected a reading of 59. This was the lowest reading since October, but February's reading remains above the benchmark of 50. Readings exceeding 50 indicate that more home builders are confident about housing market conditions than not.

According to the NAHB, harsh weather contributed to lower builder confidence in February. NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said that low mortgage rates, increasing affordability and improving job markets are helping home buyers.

The NAHB Housing Market Index is calculated based on three components. Builder confidence dropped by one point to a reading of 61 for current housing market conditions. Not surprisingly, the winter weather caused buyer foot traffic to drop five points to a reading of 39. A gauge of housing market conditions in the next six months was unchanged.

Regional readings showed declines in three of four regions: The Northeast saw a one-point drop to 46; the Midwest and South dropped by two points to readings of 54 and 57. The Western region gained two points for a reading of 68.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that January's Housing Starts dropped from 1.09 million in December to 1.07 million in January; the reading for January matched analysts' expectations.

Weekly jobless claims provided some good news; they dropped from the prior week's reading of 304,000 new claims to 283,000 new claims. The expected reading was 290,000 new jobless claims.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Points Unchanged

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by seven basis points to 3.76 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage increased by six basis points to 3.05 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.97 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.6 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What's Ahead

Next week's scheduled economic news includes several reports related to housing. New and existing home sales reports will be released along with the Case-Shiller Composite Housing Market reports. FHFA will release its House Price Index Report and Fed Chair Janet Yellen is set to testify before Congress. Reports on Consumer Sentiment and Consumer Confidence are also scheduled along with weekly reports on jobless claims and mortgage rates.

Selling Your Home in 2015? Boost Your Resale Value with These Three Inexpensive Renovations

Selling Your Home in 2015? Boost Your Resale Value with These Three Inexpensive RenovationsTo get top dollar for your home, renovations may be necessary. However, some renovations can prove costly and they don't always add value to your home. Here are three inexpensive renovations that are sure to improve the resale value of your home.

First Impressions Matter

Your home needs to have curb appeal. If the potential buyer doesn't see that, it will be difficult to get the price you want. Spend money and time landscaping your yard. Pressure wash your driveway. Paint your front door. Make your porch look welcoming. If you do all of this yourself or with the help of family and friends, the costs will be reasonable.

After a prospective buyer is impressed by your nicely kept lawn, you will want to continue impressing him/her with your interior design. Buyers know what they want when it comes to the number of bedrooms and baths. You have something they want or they wouldn't be looking at your home. Now, you need to keep their attention.

Freshening Up the Interior

Each room needs to be freshly painted in a neutral color. Old wallpaper and borders should be stripped and walls repainted. Make each room look larger by clearing any clutter. If possible, remove any unnecessary furniture and store it somewhere else. Have any carpets professionally cleaned, and be sure to polish any hardwood flooring. In the bedrooms, de-clutter your closets. Your kitchen and bathrooms should be sparkling. Clean and organize counters and cabinets. Again, most of these suggestions cost little but add great value to your home.

Upgrades

When you think of upgrades, you many automatically assume major costs with little return. However, many upgrades may be within your budget. Consider making some of these affordable upgrades to your home.

Living Areas/Family Rooms – If you're going for a more elegant touch, add some crown molding. For a more rustic feel, add box beams. Improving the ceilings of main rooms will add value to your home.

Hardware and Fixtures – Painting and changing the hardware on your cabinet doors can change the look of a room dramatically. Add new fixtures such as lighting and doorknobs for a more updated look.

Selling your home may require you to spend a little money, but you'll likely get the full value of your home.

Fed Not in a Hurry to Raise Rates: FOMC Meeting Minutes

Fed Not in a Hurry to Raise Rates FOMC Meeting Minutes

Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting held January 27 and 28 were released on Wednesday. According to the minute's transcript, it appears that Fed policymakers are in no hurry to raise the target federal funds rate. Members said that raising rates too soon could swamp the strengthening economy and expressed concerns that changing the committee's current "patient" stance on rising rates could cause more harm than good to current economic conditions.

FOMC members discussed the Fed's use of the word "patient" in its guidance, and said that dropping the word could incorrectly suggest that the Fed is planning to act sooner than later on raising the Fed's target interest rates, and could result in "undesirably tight" financial conditions. While a majority of members agreed on protecting current economic conditions by raising rates too soon, member viewpoints varied on which conditions would support the first rate hike.

Target Inflation Rate of Two Percent "Most Consistent" with Fed's Statutory Mandate

According to the Federal Reserve's statutory mandate supplied by Congress, the Fed seeks to provide maximum employment, price stability and moderate long-term interest rates. The Fed established a target inflation rate of 2.00percent as a benchmark for economic health, but inflation has remained consistently below the target rate according to the annualized index reading for personal consumption expenditures.

FOMC members did not set a target rate for annual unemployment; FOMC members cited unpredictable "non-monetary factors that affect the structure and dynamics of the labor market" as reasons why it's impossible establish an accurate target percentage rate for national unemployment. The minutes caution that these factors are sufficiently unpredictable that they may cause the Fed to revise or reverse its policies concerning national unemployment readings.

Committee members noted that short-term fluctuations in the federal funds rate could be expected. The minutes indicated that in general, day-to-day fluctuations outside of the Fed's target range were not surprising as historical data indicated that such changes had "few if any implications for overall financial conditions or the aggregate economy."

FOMC members agreed that the economy had expanded at a solid pace, but noted that inflation had fallen due to rapid decreases in fuel prices.

Fed/FOMC Chair Janet Yellen did not hold a post-meeting press conference at the conclusion of January's FOMC meeting; she is scheduled to hold a press conference at the conclusion of the next FOMC meeting on March 18, 2015.

Saving Up for Your First Home? Our Guide to Finding Ways to Save Your Down Payment Faster

Saving Up for Your First Home? Our Guide to Finding Ways to Save Your Down Payment FasterIf your goal is to purchase a home, you may find that it’s challenging to save up enough money for your down payment. While this is something that many first time home buyers struggle with, it is by no means insurmountable. By making a few simple changes you will be able to accumulate the funds you need for your down payment.

Keep Track Of Your Spending

One of the reasons why it can be difficult to save money is that you aren’t even sure of where your money is going. While you may be aware of major expenses such as rent, car payments and utilities, it’s easy to lose track of many of the smaller bills and impulse purchases. If you aren’t keeping a budget, you should begin as soon as possible. Software programs and apps such as Mint.com can make this simple.

Consider If You Have Anything To Sell

You may be able to raise some quick cash by selling some personal belongings. Don’t part with something that will cause you regrets, such as a precious family heirloom. However, if you’re like many people, you probably have lots of items you no longer need. In addition to holding a garage sale, you could sell items such as jewelry, electronics, art or almost anything on eBay.

Refinance Credit Cards

Refinancing credit cards or any type of debt can help you save money on monthly bills. Balance transfers can often give you a more advantageous rate with credit cards. If you have a car loan, you may be able to find better terms with a different lender.

Find Another Source Of Income

In addition to finding ways to cut back on your spending, taking in some extra money every week can make it much easier to save up for that down payment. Perhaps you or your spouse could find time for a part time job. You might also consider starting a part time business, such as an online store that can be managed from home.

If you are creative about it, you can probably find many ways to save up for your down payment. You should also do plenty of shopping around when it comes to finding the best deal on a mortgage for your first home. Consult with a qualified mortgage professional to get an idea of what you can realistically afford.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - February 16, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Feburary 16 2015

Last week's economic news included an index of labor market conditions provided by the Federal Reserve, a report on small business sentiment, and a report from the Labor Department on job openings. Weekly jobless claims, Freddie Mac's mortgage rates report and a report on Consumer Sentiment rounded out the week. The details:

Labor Market Conditions, Small Business Index Reports Fall

According to the January reading for a labor index report released by the Federal Reserve, labor market conditions declined from December's reading of 7.3 to January's reading of 4.9. This index is based on 19 economic indicators and January's reading was the lowest since September. The National Foundation for Independent Business (NFIB) reported that its index of small business sentiment fell to 97.9 in January as compared to December's reading of 100.4. Analysts said that this report reflected less optimism about business conditions and sales growth rather than concerns over spending and hiring plans.

In other labor–related news, the Labor Department reported that job openings rose to 5.03 million in December; this was 3.70 percent higher than November's reading and represented a year-over-year increase in job openings of 28.50 percent. In contrast, all hiring for 2014 increased by 12.50 percent, which suggested that employers may be having trouble finding employees with needed job skills.

Jobless Claims Rise, but Four Week Average Shows Drop in New Claims

According to the Labor Department's weekly Jobless Claims report, 304,000 new unemployment claims were filed, which once again positioned new jobless claims over the key benchmark of 300,000 new jobless claims filed. Analysts expected a reading of 296,000 new jobless claims based on the prior week's reading of 279,000 new claims. To put this in perspective, new jobless claims have fallen by 3250 claims over the past four weeks to a reading of 289,750 new claims. Economists say that the four-week average is a more accurate measure of developing trends, as week-to-week readings can be volatile.

Mortgage Rates Rise

Last week's only scheduled mortgage-related news was Freddie Mac's weekly survey of average U.S. mortgage rates. Rates were higher with the average rate for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage higher by 10 basis points at 3.60 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by eight basis points to 2.99 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage jumped to 2.97 percent from the previous week's average of 2.82 percent. Average discount points were 0.60 percent for 30 and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and averaged 0.50percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

February's Consumer Sentiment Index dipped as fears of rising inflation caused consumer sentiment to dip from January's reading of 98.1 and expectations of February's reading at 98.5; unfortunately, February's actual reading fell short at 93.6. February's reading was a three-month low after January's reading hit an 11-year high. Fears of growing inflation were noted as an influence on the drop in consumer sentiment; fuel prices are rising, which will contribute to rising inflation.

What's Ahead

No economic reports were scheduled Monday due to the President's Day holiday. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) releases its housing market index report on Tuesday, Housing Starts will be released Wednesday along with the minutes of the most recent FOMC meeting. Weekly jobless claims, Freddie Mac's mortgage rates survey and Leading Economic Indicators round out this week's scheduled reports.

DIY Lovers: 'Greenify' Your Home with These Three Eco-friendly Home Improvement Projects

DIY Lovers: 'Greenify' Your Home with These Three Eco-friendly Home Improvement ProjectsAre you a homeowner who is searching for ways to make your home a bit more eco-friendly? Equipping your home with "green" improvements can save a substantial amount of energy and money, especially over the long term.

In today's post we'll explore a few projects that handy do-it-yourselfers can undertake in order to make a home a bit friendlier to the local environment.

#1: Focus on the Windows

Depending upon the time of year, windows have an impact on both heating and cooling costs. In the summer, older windows can drastically heat up a home causing cooling costs to skyrocket. In the winter, older windows can leak cold air within the home and let out the heat, which causes the heating costs to rise as well.

A simple replacement of older windows can save a homeowner as much as 30 percent on annual energy costs, as newer windows are more efficient at insulating the home against the weather conditions outside.

Combining a window upgrade with other energy-related changes can lead to even greater savings. For example, consider installing a ceiling fan in rooms that are generally occupied – such as the living room or family room – as these can circulate cool and warm air and help to reduce energy use.

During the colder months, use as much solar heating as possible. Open up curtains, and trim trees to allow for natural light to enter the home. The sun heats up the home through radiant heating, which is an effective and essentially free source of energy.

#2: Improve Your Insulation

A home that is properly insulated will help to preserve its heat and cool air. Heat can leak out from the home through cracks, but it can also occur through convection heating. The air within the home will eventually cool down from a steady decline of heat when the heat is transferred outside through the walls.

Beyond hot and cool air leaking out from the home, each room within the home can indirectly influence the temperature in adjoining rooms. This is especially true for the garage and any room that shares common walls. By using insulation in the garage, the home may cool down by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

#3: Install Smart Thermostats

Some green options simply mean a change in which type of appliances are used. In terms of a thermostat, a "smart" one like the Nest Thermostat can be installed. Use of one can cut energy costs by 20 percent, at minimum, by simply adjusting to the homeowners' schedule.

Mortgage Refinancing: How to Ensure a 'Re-Fi' Makes the Most Sense for Your Financial Situation

Mortgage Refinancing: How to Ensure a 'Re-Fi' Makes the Most Sense for Your Financial SituationRefinancing your mortgage can make good financial sense, as long as you are doing it for the right reasons. Before considering a refinance, it's worth spending some time to assess what your financial goals are.

Lowering Your Interest Rate

One of the most common reasons to refinance a mortgage is to take advantage of a lower interest rate. Because mortgages are long-term loans, even a slight drop in the interest rate on the loan can make thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars of difference over the life of the loan.

Before refinancing to get a lower rate, you'll want to ensure that you will stay in your house long enough to reap the benefit of the lower payment. For example, if your refinance is going to save you $50 a month and your closing costs are $3,000, you would need to stay in your home at least five years just to break even.

A Shorter Loan Term

Another common reason people refinance their mortgage is to shorten the term of the loan. Though a 30-year loan gets you a much lower monthly payment, you wind up paying much more in interest over the term of the loan. If interest rates drop significantly, you might be able to refinance into a 15-year loan and only pay a couple hundred dollars more a month, which, if you can afford it, will mean you pay off your house much faster and pay significantly less in finance charges.

Moving From A Variable To Fixed Interest Rate

If you got a loan with a variable interest rate, you likely will want to refinance at some point into a fixed-rate loan. When you do so, however, you want to make sure you are getting a better deal. If interest rates look like they are going to increase, that would be a good reason to move to a fixed-rate loan.

Getting Rid Of Mortgage Insurance

If you put down less than 20 percent of the purchase price of your home, you likely had to get mortgage insurance. Depending on the insurance policy and how quickly your home appreciates in value, it might be beneficial to refinance at some point if you have enough equity in your home to drop the mortgage insurance.

If you think the time is right to consider refinancing your mortgage, contact your trusted mortgage professional to get more information.

Three Excellent Reasons to Buy a Home So You Can Get out of the "Renting Rut"

Three Excellent Reasons to Buy a Home So You Can Get out of the Renting a home is a good option for some, but buying a home just might be the best thing for you. When you rent a home, you send money to someone else every month in exchange for knowing that you can call on your landlord when the roof leaks, an appliance stops working or your bathroom faucet breaks.

There are some big advantages to buying a house that will help you get out of your renting rut and focus more on your future.

Build Equity

Did you know that when you rent a home, you help someone else build equity? Any changes that you make with your landlord's approval puts money back in his or her pocket. Keeping the yard clean and taking care of routine maintenance builds equity in that property. When you buy a home of your own, you have the chance to build equity of your own, which you can use to obtain a loan later.

Save On Your Taxes

When you rent a house, you cannot deduct the money you spend on your taxes. Though some states will let you make a small deduction based on the total amount you spend in rent each month, you cannot make any deductions on your federal taxes. When you buy a home, you can save with a few different types of deductions.

The federal government lets you make a deduction if your home is worth more than what you currently owe on your taxes. If you purchased your first home, you can make a deduction in regards to your property taxes. You can also deduct money that you spend on some renovations and energy saving appliances.

Put Your Personal Touch On Things

As long as you continue renting, you live in a home that belongs to someone else. Your landlord has final say over what you do and do not do. This often means that you cannot make repairs or significant changes without seeking approval first.

Renting a home lets you put your personal touch on things. You can paint the walls any colors you want, rip out the carpet to add hardwood flooring or even make significant changes outside to turn your new home into your dream home.

Now that you know more about the benefits of buying a home and how that purchase can get you out of the rental rut you're in currently, turn to a mortgage professional for assistance.

Freelancing in 2015? Three Tips for How to Secure a Mortgage if You're a Self-Employed Entrepreneur

Freelancing in 2015? Three Tips for How to Secure a Mortgage if You're a Self-employed EntrepreneurIf you are self-employed, either as a freelancer or as the owner of your own business, your income can fluctuate greatly from year to year. That can make it difficult to get approved for a mortgage, although there are some things you can do to improve your chances. Here are three tips for securing a mortgage if you are self-employed.

Make Sure Your Credit Score Is In Good Shape

While your ability to pay back a mortgage is the most important factor in approval, your credit score is a close second, and that goes for every borrower, not just those who are self-employed. If you have a credit score in the high range -- something above 750 or 760 -- it will help you get approved for a mortgage. To boost your score, make sure you pay all bills on time, pay down your debt levels and don't make any new big purchases or apply for new credit soon before you apply for a mortgage.

Have a Large Down Payment

The more money a bank lends you to buy a house, the more risk it is taking in that the money won't be paid back. If you are self-employed and considered a higher risk to begin with, one way you can alleviate some of that risk is to be able to put down a large amount of money. Putting down 20 percent is standard for a conventional loan, and you should be willing to contribute at least that much. Putting down at least 20 percent also will save you money in the long run, because you won't have to pay for mortgage insurance and you will pay less in finance charges over the life of the loan.

Have Significant Assets

One way to put a lender at ease about your ability to pay for a mortgage is to have significant reserves in the form of assets. If you have large amounts of money in regular savings, brokerage and retirement accounts, it offers a reserve for you to tap should your income take a dive. Other forms of property, such as personal and business property that's paid off and has value, also help.

If you are self-employed and are thinking about buying a home, contact a mortgage professional to discuss your situation and to see if you will be able to qualify for a home loan.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - Feburary 9, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Feburary 9 2015Last week's economic news included construction spending, which fell shy of expectations but exceeded the prior month's spending, and several consumer and labor-related reports. The details:

Mortgages More Accessible: Fed Survey

A Federal Reserve survey of senior loan officers at 73 U.S. banks and 23 branches of foreign banks indicated that mortgages may be more accessible. While banks eased credit standards for mortgages eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, consumer demand for mortgages fell over the last three months. This seems puzzling given lower mortgage rates, but mortgage lending rules remain tough for borrowers with less than pristine credit.

Mortgage rates dropped last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.59 percent with discount points higher at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was seven basis points lower at 2.92 percent with discount points higher at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was four basis points lower at 2.82 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

Lower mortgage rates are great news for home buyers and homeowners seeking to refinance, but only if mortgage loans are available.

Construction Spending Higher, Consumer Spending Drops, Inflation Stalls

According to the Department of Commerce, Construction Spending rose by 0.40 percent in December against November's reading of -0.20 percent and expectations of 0.70 percent growth. December's reading represented $981.2 billion in construction spending on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Residential construction rose by 0.30 percent.

Consumer spending fell by -0.30 percent and was consistent with analysts' expectations. This was the highest month-to-month drop in consumer spending since September 2009. Consumers spent less on vehicles and fuel. Lower fuel prices were seen as the driving force behind less consumer spending. Core personal expenditures did not increase in December. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors, was well below the Fed's target annual inflation rate of 2.00 percent with a reading of 1.30 percent year-over-year.

Labor Reports: Mixed Signals

Weekly jobless claims rose to 278,000 against the prior week's reading of 267,000 new jobless claims, but claims were lower than the expected reading of 290,000 new jobless claims. Nonfarm payrolls for January were higher in January at 257,000 jobs added. Analysts expected only 230,000 new jobs added in January based on December's reading of 267,000 jobs added.

ADP Payrolls reported 213,000 private sector jobs added in January against December's reading of 253,000 private sector jobs added. January's lower reading is likely based on seasonal hiring during the holiday season. National Unemployment rose from December's reading of 5.60 percent to 5.70 percent. In recent months national unemployment rates have fallen below the Fed's target reading of 6.50 percent.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic reports include data on retail sales, job openings, labor market conditions and weekly reports on new jobless claims and Freddie Mac's survey of mortgage rates.

 

Are You Ready to Make the Leap into Home Ownership? Here's How You Can Tell

Are You Ready to Make the Leap into Home Ownership? Here's How You Can Tell Are you ready to make that leap from living at home or renting to owning a home of your own? While everyone moves at their own pace, here are some signs that you can use to determine if it is time to own your own home. Let's take a look at some of the reasons you can use to justify your decision.

Are You Sticking Around?

If you plan on moving soon for a job or think that you won't be in town much longer, it may be better to rent. However, if you are thinking about living in the same town or within the same county for years to come, it is time to put down roots.

The stability that comes with home ownership may make you more prepared for a marriage and/or a family if that is something that you want. This stability may make you more attractive if you are single and searching for a long-term relationship.

Do You Have a Steady Job?

Those who have a steady job and know that they have a stable salary may want to make the move to home ownership. As long as there aren't any other major debts eating into your income, you can probably handle a mortgage and other costs associated with home ownership.

The equity that you build in your home can help you build wealth for the future if and when you want to retire. Your home may also make a great rental property in the future, which can help you diversify your portfolio and keep you solvent for years to come.

You Are Spending More Time Watching Television Shows Related to Home Ownership

You may have caught yourself recently watching shows revolving around people or couples who are looking for homes. You may also be watching programs dedicated to giving tips as to how you can upgrade your home. If you watch these shows frequently, it may be a sign that you are ready to move out on your own and take on the exciting challenge of being a homeowner.

Are you ready to be a homeowner in the near future? Only you can say for sure if it is time to make that leap. However, those who are looking for a long-term housing solution may be ready to make that move. For more information, it may be worthwhile to talk to a mortgage professional to see what you can afford to do.

Buying a New Home? Follow These Three Tips to Ensure a Stress-Free Transaction

Buying or Selling Your Home? Follow These Three Tips to Ensure a Stress-free Real Estate TransactionBuying real estate and or taking out a home loan is a significant milestone in life. Frequently, it means that a new phase is starting, whether it's a new job, a new relationship, or moving to a new area. However, when the most basic steps are missed, this transition can be fraught with stress and disaster. To ensure a smooth transaction, home buyers should be sure to mind the following tips.

#1: Always Be Honest

Honesty and clear communication need to be a two-way street. Home buyers expect their mortgage professional to be honest with them, and likewise it is always necessary for a home buyer to be honest with their mortgage professional.

Hiding details or covering up potential problems by either party will only cause more issues when everything comes to light. When important information is withheld, it's possible for delays to occur, costs to rise, or even for the deal to fall through.

It's much better to disclose all necessary information upfront so the situation can be handled appropriately. An expert mortgage professional will be able to guide home buyers through any problems and issues to a workable solution.

#2: Hire A Professional Team

Buying real estate and taking out a mortgage is not an easy process, so it's never a good idea to try to proceed without a professional who can be trusted.

Far too often, people let friends or family members represent them in real estate transactions. In these cases, it's likely for feelings to be hurt, relationships to be damaged, and trust to be compromised.

Rather, it's recommended for home buyers to use a real estate agent and mortgage professional they do not have a close personal relationship with. That way, they can stand confident that their agent or mortgage professional is looking out for their best interests, and nothing else.

#3: Understand The Market

Far too often, home buyers fail to understand the market and their finincial situation.

Failing to identify this crucial information will waste time for buyer and mortgage professional. However, this is where a real estate agent or mortgage professional comes in: he or she will know the market inside out and be able to offer valuable counsel for all financial situations.

Home buyers should call their mortgage professional if at any time they have questions about taking out a mortgage; this professional is the key to a smooth real estate purchase.

Tax Time is Upon Us: Learn About Tax Deductions and How to Write off Your Home Mortgage Interest

Tax Time is Upon Us: Learn About Tax Deductions and How to Write off Your Home Mortgage InterestMuch to the chagrin of taxpayers all over the country, the tax-filing season begins in January and runs through April 15 of each year.

As the current tax season approaches, it presents an opportunity to help tax-payers clarify their responsibilities and remind them of certain important tax deductions that may be available.

Filing Responsibilities

Every person in the United States is required to file their tax returns by April 15 so long as they have some form of qualifying income. Based on filing status, income and available deductions, tax-payers must file a 1040EZ, 1040A or 1040 (long-form for itemized deductions).

Qualifying income is generally defined as, but not limited to wages, commissions, miscellaneous income (rental, interest), investment income and alimony. These forms of income are reported on a periodic basis to the IRS and State governments by employers, banks, contract employers and/or other responsible parties.

The most common tax receipts that must be sent to tax-payers by January 31 are W-2s and 1099-Misc forms.

Calculating Taxes

While the IRS requires individuals to report all forms of income, they also allow certain living costs to be used as deductions to offset income in order to arrive at a "taxable income" number on which tax liabilities are calculated.

If a tax-payer's deductions fail to exceed the combined statutory standard deduction (2014: $6,200 if filing single, $12,400 if filing as married couple, $9,100 if filing Head of Household) and personal exemption of $3,950 per dependent, they will want to file the 1040EZ or 1040A. If itemized deductions exceed this number, the 1040 becomes preferable.

Mortgage Interest Deduction

For a majority of tax-payers, the largest tax deduction available is usually mortgage interest paid on secured debt where the primary residence and in some cases second homes or rental property serve as collateral. In most of these cases, all interest paid during the year is deductible.

If the mortgages are large enough, the total interest paid will typically push the tax-payer into position to itemize deductions. It is important for tax-payers to read the rules related to mortgage interest deductions as they tend to be somewhat complicated.

Other Important Deductions to Consider

Once a tax-payer qualifies to itemize deductions, many other living expenses become deductible. Other prominent deductions include property taxes, charitable contributions, childcare costs, qualified moving expenses, certain work related expenses and certain medical expenses.

Prior to using any deduction, it is incumbent on the tax-payer to review deduction guidelines in order to determine applicability.

Do You Need Mortgage Insurance Even if It's Not Required by Your Lender? Let's Take a Look

Do You Need Mortgage Insurance Even if It's Not Required by Your Lender? Let's Take a LookFinding a proper mortgage loan and understanding the processing procedures behind the loan is the basis of good research. The down payment on a mortgage loan is typically significant when dealing with mortgage insurance.

Most loan applications with less than 20% down payment are required to include mortgage insurance with the loan. However, mortgage insurance may still be required even if it's not typically required by your lender.

Underwriting Requirements

Most home mortgage applications undergo a strict set of standards for approval. These standards are known as underwriting and make up the bulk of time spent on a mortgage application. Unique situations in employment or credit history may require an additional down payment percentage to avoid PMI or private mortgage insurance.

Most underwriting requirements require adequate information on the borrower's credit and employment history for complete application. Self-employed individuals or those with alternative forms of credit may need a few additional hoops to jump through when dealing with mortgage insurance requirements.

Lender-paid Mortgage Insurance

Lender-paid mortgage insurance is a popular option with potential homeowners that seek to avoid the cost of a PMI or FHA-backed insurance on a home loan. Most lenders incorporate payment of private mortgage insurance in exchange for a slightly higher interest rate.

This is one example of the points system on a mortgage application that eliminates the cost of PMI. The increase in interest rate may or may not warrant the need for a lender-paid mortgage insurance arrangement.

What's Involved With Risk Assessment?

Strict lending requirements and banking policy now limit the number of mortgages with zero down payment options. Conventional mortgages and FHA both require private mortgage insurance if it is less than 20% down payment. However, FHA loans can be more flexible with the initial down payment requirements with adequate credit. FHA mortgage costs are now for the life of the loan. Lenders will look at mortgage insurance as risk protection.

The risk protection process may or may not require mortgage insurance in your home loan. For example, VA and USDA loans do not usually require mortgage insurance if the borrower's credit and employment history are adequate.

Conventional loans have a reduction in risk once there is at least 20% equity in the home compared to the principal of the mortgage. Don't hesitate to contact your trusted mortgage professional about potentially dropping mortgage insurance in the future to reduce overall loan costs.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - Feburary 2, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Feburary 2 2015Last week's economic reports included Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Index reports for November along with new and pending home sales for December. Freddie Mac reported on average mortgage rates and new jobless claims dipped unexpectedly. The details:

Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Slower in November

Case-Shiller's 20-City Home Price Index for November indicated that home prices continue to slow across the nation. Seasonally-adjusted annual home price growth slowed to 4.30 percent from October's reading of 4.50 percent. Slowing momentum in year-over-year home price growth placed downward pressure on month-to-month readings. Several cities, including Atlanta, Georgia, Boston Massachusetts and Cleveland Ohio reported lower home prices in November as compared to October. Chicago, Illinois surprised analysts with a -1.10 percent drop in home price growth for November. Although mortgage rates have fallen in recent weeks, analysts cited tough mortgage approval standards, lower demand for homes and growing inventories of available homes as factors contributing to sluggish housing markets.

New and Pending Home Sales: Mixed Readings

New home sales jumped to a seasonally-adjusted annual reading of 481,000 sales in December against expectations of 455,000 sales and November's revised reading of 431,000 new homes sold. The original reading for November was 438,000 new homes sold. New home sales were 8.80 percent higher in December year-over-year. The median price of new homes was $298,100 in December, which was an increase of 8.20 percent year-over-year.

Pending home sales reflected sluggish market conditions in December with pending sales lower by -3.70 percent as compared to November's reading of +0.60 percent. This lull will likely impact completed sales as pending sales generally forecast completed sales within the next 60 days. The National Association of Realtors® said that home prices rose in some areas as supplies dwindled. Fewer homeowners list homes for sale during the fall and winter months than during spring and summer. Analysts also said that home sales trends rely on the willingness of homeowners to list their homes and move up. Although the economy continues to grow, homeowners can impact supplies of available homes if they wait to move up to larger homes.

Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was three basis points higher at 3.66 percent; the average rate for 15-year mortgages rose by five basis points to 2.98 percent, and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 2.86 percent. Discount points fell to 0.60 percent for 30-year mortgages and 0.50 percent for 15-year mortgages. Discount points were unchanged at0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims fell to 265,000; this was lower than the expected reading of 296,000 new jobless claims and the prior week's reading of 308,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that the short work week likely contributed to the drop in weekly jobless claims, which was the largest drop in new jobless claims since November 2012. As labor markets improve, more consumers can afford to buy homes. January's Consumer Confidence Index rose more than expected in January with a reading of 102.9 against expectations of 96.90 and December's reading of 93.10.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled reports include Construction Spending, Personal Income, Core Inflation, and several employment reports including ADP Payrolls, Non-Farm Payrolls and the national unemployment rate. Freddie Mac's mortgage rates report and new unemployment claims will be released on Thursday as usual.

Homeowner's Insurance: What's Covered, What Isn't and Why You Might Need It

Homeowner's Insurance: What's Covered, What Isn't and Why You Might Need It Homeowner's insurance is an incredibly valuable and beneficial policy for homeowners to have, but it is necessary to understand what traditional policies do and do not cover. Once you familiarize yourself with the intricacies of various plans you will be better educated to make the proper decision when selecting your desired level of coverage.

What's Covered In Homeowner's Insurance?

The majority of homeowner's insurance plans will cover dwelling and other structure protection, personal property protection, natural disaster protection, and bodily injury liability protection. Dwelling and other structure protection plans cover damage to your home and other structures that are directly connected to the home, such as the garage. Personal property protection covers damage or loss of personal property within the dwelling. Natural disaster protection covers your home should a natural disaster cause damage, but note that natural disasters such as flooding and earthquakes typically are not covered. Finally, bodily injury liability protection typically covers injuries to individuals while on your property.

What Is Not Included In Homeowner's Insurance?

As mentioned above, two of the major natural disasters that are not covered by homeowner's insurance are flooding and earthquakes. There are specific insurance plans that cover flood damage and earthquake damage, but you'll find that the vast majority of common homeowner's insurance plans do not cover these types of disasters.

Homeowner's insurance does not typically cover home business equipment either. If you are running a business from within your home, small business insurance is required to mitigate your risk.

Personal property over a certain value is also not typically covered unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Items such as expensive musical instruments, artwork, jewelry, and silverware should have their own insurance policy which is dedicated to valuable personal property.

Why You Might Need Homeowner's Insurance

Homeowner's insurance is intended to help protect you against the unexpected. You never know when a natural disaster such as a tornado or a lightning strike which causes a fire within your home might occur. Accidents do happen, and a visiting friend or relative can be injured on your property. Homeowner's insurance is a great protection plan to have to make sure that both you and your property are covered should disaster strike.