The 7 Most Unaffordable Cities for Real Estate in the USA (And 3 Affordable Gems!)

The 7 Most Unaffordable Cities for Real Estate in the USA (And 3 Affordable Gems!)As prices continue to rise across the board with everything from food to gas, it's no wonder that real estate prices are high in many cities across the USA. While this is the case for a large number of cities, there are also certain areas in which prices are decidedly low. Here's a small look at the most affordable and unaffordable cities within America.

The Seven Most Unaffordable Cities

Oakland, CA - Though Los Angeles and San Francisco are 2 California cities that may first come to mind, Oakland is also highly expensive when it comes to real estate, with a median home value of nearly $450,000, which is over 100 percent more than the national average.

Los Angeles, CA - Los Angeles is another city in California that is particularly unaffordable. With a median household income of just under $50,000, the exceedingly high median home value of nearly $470,000 is largely galling in its expensiveness.

Boston, MA - The Boston real estate market becomes more unaffordable with each passing year. The median home value within the city is set at well over $350,000. This, combined with the relatively high cost of living, can make for a bleak outlook.

New York City, NY - As one of, if not the most, unaffordable cities in America, NYC is also the most populous city in the country. While the borough of Manhattan is the most expensive for real estate prices, Brooklyn and Queens aren't much better, while the median home value of the entire city is just over $500,000.

Washington, D.C. - Though the median household income within the city of Washington D.C. is higher than the national average, the median home value sits at a substantial $443,000, with a cost of living over 40 percent above the national average.

San Francisco, CA - Living in San Francisco is extremely unaffordable, though mitigated a bit by higher household incomes. The median home value is likely the highest in the nation, at just over $750,000.

Honolulu, HI - As the capital city of Hawaii, Honolulu is much higher than the national average in everything from utilities to transportation, with the median home value sitting at $547,000.

Three Affordable Alternatives

Cleveland, OH - Though there are a surprising amount of affordable cities in Ohio, Cleveland has a median home value of just over $75,000, well below the state average of $129,000.

Knoxville, TN - Knoxville is a city in Tennessee that combines a generally low median home value of $140,000 with a median household income of just over $60,000, which is much higher than the national average.

Syracuse, NY - If you want to live in New York, but can't afford the high real estate prices of NYC, the city of Syracuse has a low median home value of just under $80,000.

Can One Missed Mortgage Payment Affect Your Credit Rating? Yes! Here's What to Do if You Miss One

Can One Missed Mortgage Payment Affect Your Credit Rating? Yes! Here's What to Do if You Miss OneMost people don't know whether or not a single missed mortgage payment can have serious consequences for their credit score.

The good news is that there are things that can be done to mitigate the damage and help anyone who has missed a payment repair their credit. What are some options to help homeowners get back in the good graces of their creditors?

Own Up To The Mistake

The best thing to do is to admit that the payment was missed and immediately make amends for it. For the most part, mortgage lenders are sympathetic to the fact that people miss payments for reasons that may be beyond their control.

By calling the lender as soon as it appears that a payment may be late or not forthcoming at all, it is easier to make arrangements to roll that payment back into the mortgage or take other steps to decrease the odds of a negative remark being made on a credit report.

Don't Let A Single Missed Payment Turn Into Multiple Missed Payments

While a single missed payment can hurt a credit score, it is important to not compound the mistake by missing more payments. In some cases, someone may decide to make up for the late payment before making any further payments.

However, that only makes the mistake worse because a borrower will be considered late on all subsequent payments. It is better to make the most current payment on time and make the late payment the secondary priority.

Hire A Third-Party If Necessary To Negotiate A Loan Modification

It is important to not let emotion get in the way of negotiating a modification to a mortgage. When a borrower hires a credit counselor or a bankruptcy attorney to talk his or her creditors, the negotiations can stay professional and on topic.

In most cases, a lender will be willing to make modifications for those who need them because it is better to get the money from the borrower willingly instead of having to go through a foreclosure proceeding.

While a missed mortgage payment can be bad news for a credit score, it is possible to make amends for the missed payment while minimizing long-term damage to a borrower's credit score. By owning the mistake, staying current on all future payments and working with a third-party, it may be possible for a lender to forget that the missed payment ever happened.

National Association of REALTORS Existing Home Sales Exceed Projections

National Association of REALTORSAccording to the National Association of REALTORS®, existing home sales surpassed both May sales and expectations for June. Sales of previously owned homes increased by 2.60 percent in June and reached a seasonally adjusted annual level of 5.04 million sales. June's reading was the third consecutive monthly increase in sales of existing homes and was the highest reading for existing home sales in eight months. Existing home sales remain 2.30 percent below the June 2013 reading of 5.16 million sales of existing homes.

Analysts projected sales of 5 million existing homes for June against May's initial reading of 4.89 million sales of previously owned homes; the May reading was later revised to 4.91 million sales. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS® said that market conditions are becoming "more balanced," and noted that inventories of existing homes are at their highest level in over a year and that price gains have slowed to much more welcoming levels in many parts of the country.

Housing Market Headwinds Declining

After a particularly harsh winter and lagging labor reports, analysts forecasted lower annual sales of existing homes for 2014 than for 2013. Labor markets are stronger according to recent labor market reports and a declining national unemployment rate. Steady work is an important factor for families considering a home purchase; as labor markets improve, more would-be homeowners are expected to become active buyers.

Housing markets are not without challenges. In recent unrelated reports, the Federal Reserve has noted higher than anticipated inflation may cause the Fed to raise its target Federal Funds rate in the next several months. Gas and food prices, important components of consumers' household budgets continue to rise and could slow save toward a home for some families. Steve Brown, president of the National Association of REALTORS®, said that first-time and moderate income buyers continue to deal with affordability due to increased FHA costs and tight mortgage credit. Relief may be in sight as a slower pace of home price growth suggests that more buyers may be able to afford homes.

FHFA House Price Index Reports Gain in May Home Sales

FHFA released its May index of home sales connected with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The index posted a month-to-month gain of 0.40 percent in May and a year-over-year gain of 5.90 percent year-over-year. FHFA said that increased sales were driven by a 9/60 percent increase in sales in the Pacific region and that average home prices remain 6.50 percent below April 2007.

Is Now the Time to Consider a 15-Year Mortgage? Five Reasons to Give the 15Y Another Look

Is Now the Time to Consider a 15-Year Mortgage? Five Reasons to Give the 15Y Another LookA 15-year fixed mortgage is, as its name suggests, a mortgage that's paid off after 15 years. Since it amortizes fully, after that amount of time you won't have to pay anything else. This type of mortgage has a lot of benefits, and below we'll share just a few of them.

1) No Need For Payments After Retirement

Here it highly depends on when in life you choose to take on the mortgage. However, most people decide to take on a mortgage at around 30 years of age.

If this is the case for you, then it means you'll be 45 years old when your mortgage will be fully paid. There will be no need to worry about having to use Social Security or pension checks to pay it off.

Another consideration is the fact that the older you are, the more your health costs will go up. Having costs like that pile up while having to make mortgage payments can be a huge problem. For that reason, not having to pay off your mortgage after retirement is a tremendous bonus.

2) Your Home Will Be Yours Sooner

You might think your house is yours the minute you step into it. However, in reality, it's only yours after you have fully paid your mortgage off. Until then, it can be repossessed if you fail to make payments.

With a 15-year mortgage, your home will become yours in the blink of an eye. Then, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy other things in life, knowing you already own your home.

3) You'll Pay Less Interest

If you were to pick, say, a 30-year mortgage, there will be twice as many years in which interest will add up. This will more than double the amount you end up having to pay, as mortgage interest compounds over time.

As such, getting a 15-year mortgage will not only reduce the time you'll pay it off; it will also reduce the amount you pay back. Saving both time and money is an amazing deal.

4) Get Lower Rates

On most 15-year mortgages, the amount you have to pay in terms of rates is usually lower than for 30-year ones. As such, you'll be saving money in two ways. First, you'll save by reducing the time, then, by reducing the actual rate.

5) Learn To Push Yourself

Some people fear getting a 15-year mortgage. The reason is that they think the payments will be too expensive. They think that getting a 30-year mortgage is likely a better idea.

If you can't afford to make the payments of a 15-year mortgage, you might want to reconsider. However, if you can afford it, but you're afraid, don't be. Pushing yourself to achieve something you truly want is a good thing. You'll become a stronger person, and you'll have more reason to be proud of your achievement.

A 15-year mortgage has many benefits. The main one is simply that you'll be able to pay it faster, which means that you won't worry about it for long. This, in addition to the fact that you'll be paying less are very convincing factors.

If you'd like to learn more about 15-year mortgage plans, contact your mortgage professional for more information.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - July 21, 2014

Mythbusters: 5 Reasons Why Diet Sodas Might Not Be as Healthy as You ThinkLast week's economic news offered a variety of indications that the economic recovery continues, but some readings missed their expected levels. The Philadelphia and New York branches of the Federal Reserve Bank reported higher than anticipated manufacturing for their respective regions and new jobless claims were lower than expected.

Fed Chair's Senate Testimony Hints at Coming Interest Rate Hike

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testified that the Fed might have to raise interest rates sooner than expected if the economy continues to outperform the Fed's projections. Ms. Yellen said that the central bank presently estimates that the first rate increases will take place approximately one year from now.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Fed has repeatedly stated that members will continue to review data and economic conditions changing monetary policy. Ms. Yellen said in last week's remarks that this holds true whether economic conditions improve or decline.

In other Fed-related news, the Philadelphia Fed released its manufacturing index for July with higher than expected results. The Philly Fed's reading for July was 23.90 as compared to expectations of 16.50 and June's reading of 17.80.

The New York Fed reported a similar trend for July with a reading of 25.60 as compared to an estimated reading of 17.50 and June's reading of 19.30. This is good news after the Northeast's economy was slammed by severe weather last winter. Weather conditions stalled area housing and labor markets.

Weekly jobless claims were lower at 303,000 than expectations of 310,000 new jobless claims and the prior week's reading of 305,000 new jobless claims.

Home Builders Post Positive Confidence Reading for July

The National Association of Home Builders posted its highest builder confidence reading in six months for July with a reading of 53 against the expected reading of 50 and June's reading of 49. Numbers above 50 indicate that more builders surveyed have a positive outlook than not.

Housing Starts for June were reported lower than expected at an annual level of 893,000 against an expected reading of 1.02 million and May's reading of 985,000 housing starts.

Mortgage Rates Lower

According to Freddie Mac's weekly survey, average mortgage rates were slightly lower last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 4.13 percent. Discount points were 0.60 as compared to the prior week's reading of 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.23 percent as compared to the previous reading of 3.24 percent.

Discount points for a 15-year mortgage averaged 0.50 percent against the prior week's reading of 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 2.87 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index for July fell just short of expectations at 81.3. Analysts expected a reading of 83.0, based on June's reading of 82.50. Analysts said that although labor markets are improving, consumers continue to face rising costs for gasoline and food, which likely explained the dip in confidence for July.

What's Ahead

This week's economic news releases include Existing Home sales from the National Association of REALTORS®, New Home Sales from the Department of Commerce and the FHFA House Price Index. The Chicago Fed is set to release its National Activity Index. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and New Jobless Claims will be released Thursday as usual.

Buying a House or Condo? Why the Home Inspection Process is One You Won't Want to Skimp On

Buying a House or Condo? Why the Home Inspection Process is One You Won't Want to Skimp OnOnce you have found that perfect home with the right price and every little feature you were hoping for, it's important to keep in mind that the home has been presented in a way that accentuates its highlights and shadows any flaws. For this reason, it is crucial that you get a home inspection before completing a purchase.

Many sellers also have inspectors investigate the home in order to determine its sale value. As such, they should be aware that a prospective buyer will want to request an independent inspection to verify the findings.

Reasons For Home Inspections

If you are the one purchasing the home, getting an inspection is likely to be the most important investigation you need to perform to ensure you are getting the best value. It can also help to know what reasons each party has for requiring a home inspection.

Buyers, for example, feel peace of mind knowing the home in question is safe. They also gain the ability to negotiate in the event a problem arises from inspection, or they can request repairs first. They can also opt out if the problems that arise are too overwhelming to deal with prior to or after the purchase. Finally, buyers can learn about the kind of maintenance and upkeep be required for the home in the long run.

Sellers, on the other hand, want to make the transaction as smooth of a process as possible to prevent issues that could slow down the sale. They can also learn about any problems they need to repair before putting the house on the market, and they can determine the sale price for the transaction. Lastly, this allows the seller to prove their transparency by having an inspection report available, even though he or she should expect that the buyer should be requesting an independent home inspection regardless.

It should be evident, having an inspection conducted is vital for buyers and sellers alike; though the price might seem costly at first, it is merely a small fee that is well worth the effort to solidify a home purchase.

Finding A Home Inspector

The first thing to keep in mind is that most states lack a licensing process for those who inspect homes. If your state does not have such criteria, finding an inspector in good standing with a nationally recognized organization can help as well.

It is very important not to take a seller's inspection report at face value, no matter what kind of reputation they may have as a person. You might not even want to accept an inspector that someone else hires since they may have a vested interest that can influence the report.

Keep in mind that a general inspector is not typically licensed to check for specific issues like gas or pests. As such, you will need to either seek someone who is licensed for a full inspection or specificaly request inspection for pests, especially for those in high risk areas. 

An Insider's Guide to Reducing Your Remaining Mortgage Years Through a Smart Refinance

An Insider's Guide to Reducing Your Remaining Mortgage Years Through a Smart RefinanceIs it always the best idea to pay off a mortgage over 30 years? While it may help a homeowner lower his or her monthly payment, it can mean paying more in interest and waiting several more years to build sufficient equity in the home.

The question is...how can a homeowner reduce the amount of time it takes to pay off a mortgage by refinancing his or her loan? A few methods for reducing your mortgage term are explained below.

Refinance From A 30-Year Mortgage To A 15-Year Mortgage

For those who don't want to wait any longer than necessary to pay off their home loan, it may be possible to refinance to a shorter-term mortgage. Instead of taking 30 years to pay off the loan, a homeowner can opt to pay off the loan in 10 years or 15 years. The shorter the term, the less interest will be paid on the loan.

Get A Lower Interest Rate With A Shorter-Term Mortgage

Another good reason to shorten a mortgage term is because it could lower the loan's interest rate. Instead of paying 4.5 percent over 30 years, it may be possible to pay 4 percent over 15 years. This gives the mortgage holder the chance to build equity in the home faster as they are paying more of the principal balance with each payment. While a mortgage holder can pay more than the minimum amount on a longer-term mortgage each month, it could still end up costing more overall due to the terms of the loan. Be sure to ask your mortgage professional about your options here.

Stop Paying Mortgage Insurance

Those who are paying mortgage insurance could be paying $200 or more per month for nothing more than the right to protect the lender against default. Homeowners who could qualify for a conventional loan should attempt to refinance to a conventional loan if possible to avoid making this payment. Instead of going toward mortgage insurance, put that money toward the principal balance on the loan. There are, of course, risks involved with this approach so be sure to fully discuss them with a professional.

How Can Someone Refinance A Loan?

Now that you know how to pay off your mortgage faster through a refinance, how can someone go about refinancing a home loan? Fortunately, refinancing is similar to the process of securing the home's first loan. All a borrower will need to do is find a lender that he or she wants to work with, find an offer that works for that borrower and then close on the deal. Although there may be closing costs associated with the new loan, some lenders may be willing to waive some or all of them on a refinance.

Paying off a mortgage as soon as possible can help a borrower save money while building equity in the home at a faster pace. This gives a homeowner financial strength as well as the flexibility to sell the house in the future without worrying about losing money in the deal. To find out more about refinancing options, talk to a mortgage lender.

How Much is Your Home Worth in Today's Market? Three Key Tips for Assessing Value

How Much is Your Home Worth in Today's Market? Three Key Tips for Assessing ValueIf you're thinking about putting the house on the market, or are simply curious about its value in the current economic atmosphere, it's essential to get an honest assessment of its value. An overly inflated figure won't hold up and will only turn potential buyers away.

It's best to get a fair assessment in order to ask a reasonable price or avoid over-extending oneself when it comes to taking out a home equity loan. Consider these three key tips to get a true assessment of a home's value.

Identify Positive Features About The Home And Property

When seeking an appraisal for a home, it's important to look at the big picture. While the neighborhood and specific location are important, as well as the size and condition of the home, it's also essential to tally up any improvements or upgrades. Any recent renovations are a plus that are sure to give a boost to a home's value. Outbuildings and swimming pools add more positives that will increase the initial value of a home. The most important thing any homeowner can do is to stay on top of repairs and give the property a facelift periodically to keep things fresh. This will be taken into consideration during an appraisal.

Pay Attention To The Competition

Whether homeowners try to estimate their home's value on their own or bring in the professionals, it's important to pay attention to the surrounding real estate. Take a close look at other properties in the area and their price tags when they come up for sale. It's especially helpful to look at properties that compare in size and condition. From that point, the most expensive and least expensive homes should be tallied as well, providing a price range for the concerned individual's home.

Think About Present Circumstances

Be sure to consider if the area is in a recession or showing a period of strong economic growth. If a home is located in an area that is booming, this will inflate the value of the home. It is all part of the law of supply and demand. When buyers are coming in droves, home sales will be ripe for the picking and homeowners can ask a higher price. However, if the population is dwindling and people are migrating elsewhere because job opportunities have fallen, there is a much greater chance that the home's value will decrease. For those who want to sell, the best bet is to strike when the iron is hot and put the house on the market during a period of economic strength. If the economy is failing, it may be necessary to wait or cut ones' losses.

Act Now To Learn More

There is no better time than the present to contact a name you can trust in real estate. Discover all the ins and outs of assessing your home's value, discuss your options, and find out ways to boost your property's potential as you seek a reliable assessment.

Three Ways That Your Credit Score Affects Your Mortgage (and Your Chance of Obtaining One!)

Three Ways That Your Credit Score Affects Your Mortgage (and Your Chance of Obtaining One!)If you're thinking of buying a home, you've probably been thinking a lot about your credit score as well. Credit scores control so much of what we do in the world of finances, but what does your credit score really have to do with your mortgage? Here are three ways that your credit score could impact your mortgage application.

Your Credit Score Affects Your Ability To Get A Mortgage

The first thing your credit score tells a lender is whether they should lend to you at all. In some cases, if you have a very low credit score, you may not be able to obtain a mortgage at all.

Different lenders will have different criteria for determining safe and unsafe lending situations. Typically, if you have a score below the 600 mark, you'll have trouble obtaining a mortgage.

If you're worried about a low credit score, don't despair - you can still get a mortgage, you just might have to work a little harder to get one. Some lenders will still lend to people with lower credit scores (just make sure you're approaching legitimate lenders and not mortgage scam artists). Or, if time is on your side, you can work toward building up your credit score so that when it comes time to take out a mortgage, your score will be more appealing to lenders.

Your Credit Score Affects What Types Of Mortgages You Can Obtain

The second thing a lender learns from your credit score is which types of mortgages you qualify for. If a lender sees you as a higher risk, they won't necessarily be willing to offer you just any old mortgage.

In most cases, if you have a credit score of less than 620, you won't qualify for a conventional mortgage. In addition, if you have a lower credit score, you may have to make a larger down payment in order to qualify for the type of mortgage you want.

Your Credit Score Affects Your Interest Rate

The final thing that a lender learns from your credit score is what type of interest rate they're willing to offer you. As a general rule, the higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate.

However, just because you have a high credit score, that doesn't mean you'll automatically get a great mortgage rate. There's more that goes into the price of a mortgage than just the interest rate, so watch out for additional factors like extra fees, mortgage insurance, lock-in periods, and so on.

Your credit score tells a lender a lot about what type of borrower you are. Ultimately, a higher credit score means that you'll be able to borrow money at a lower interest rate. But if your score is low, don't worry - there's a lot you can do to bring up that score before you apply for a mortgage, so don't throw in the towel just yet!

Every financial situation is different, so if you want to find out more about how your credit score will affect your mortgage in your specific circumstance, talk to your mortgage professional.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - July 14, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week July 14 2014Last week brought news from the Fed as two Federal Reserve Bank Presidents made speeches and the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Fed released the minutes of its last meeting. The minutes reveal the Fed's intention to wrap up its bond-buying program in October with a final purchase of $15 billion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and Treasury bonds. No economic news was issued Monday following of the 4th of July holiday.

Further indications of a strengthening labor market were seen. May job openings reached their highest level since June 2007, and quits and layoffs fell from April's reading of 4.55 million to 4.50 million. Weekly jobless claims fell to 304,000 against expectations of 320,000 new jobless claims and the prior week's reading of 315,000 new jobless claims.

Fed Speeches Address Inflation, Banks Too Big to Fail

Tuesday's speech by Minneapolis Fed Bank president Narayana Kocherlakota calmed concerns over inflation; Mr. Kocherlakota said that the Fed expects inflation to remain below its target rate of two percent for several more years. He tied low inflation to the unemployment rate and said that the nation's workforce is not fully utilized in times of low inflation, and cautioned that June's national unemployment rate of 6.10 percent "could well overstate the degree of improvement of the U.S. labor market."

Stanley Fischer, the Fed's new vice-chairman, spoke before the National Bureau of Economic Research last Thursday. Mr. Fischer addressed the issue of breaking up the nation's largest banks to eliminate the government's exposure to banks too big to fail. He said that it wasn't clear that breaking up the largest banks would end federal bailouts of banks considered too big to fail. Mr. Fisher also said that breaking up the biggest banks would be "a complex task with an uncertain payoff."

Mr. Fischer also said that any efforts to prevent a housing bubble should focus on the supply side and cautioned that "measures aimed at reducing the demand for housing are likely to be politically sensitive."

FOMC Minutes Reveal End Date for Bond Purchases

The minutes of the Fed's last FOMC meeting indicate that the Fed plans to continue bond purchases at the rate of $10 billion per month with a final purchase of $15 billion in October. FOMC members re-asserted their oft-stated position that the Fed's target interest rate of 0.00 to 0.25 percent will not change for a considerable time after the bond purchase program ends.

Mortgage Rates Rise

Average mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased by three basis points to 4.15 percent; discount points were also higher at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.24 percent with discount points higher at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 2.99 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic news includes retail sales and retail sales without the auto sector, Fed Chair Janet Yellen's testimony, the Fed's Beige Book report and the NAHB Homebuilder's Market Index. Housing Starts, Consumer Sentiment and Leading Economic Indicators round out the week's economic reports.

Feng Shui 101: How This Ancient Art Can Help Improve Your Home Staging

Feng Shui 101: How This Ancient Art Can Help Improve Your Home StagingIt is a buyer's market, making home selling a challenge that can range from relatively simple to downright frustrating. Boosting ones' chances of selling their home can be done in a number of ways. One simple way is to utilize the art of Feng Shui - an ancient Chinese art, used to manipulate the flow of energy in your home.

Feng Shui can be as inexpensive or as costly as you would like. Using what is already on hand is one way to keep it free, but sometimes a simple coating of paint on the front door or a few decorative pieces can make a big difference in the room.

The Entry Way

First impressions are everything, so one of the most important rooms in the home is the one that is entered into first by potential buyers. If the entry way is followed by a hallway, making the hallway look as wide as possible is important, as open, spacious rooms have better energy flows. Using a long, runner rug is one way to achieve this look, as well as brighter paint colors on the walls.

The Main Living Area

The living area will be one of the main draws to potential buyers. They should be able to envision themselves spending time there, reading a good book or entertaining guests. Upon entering the room, buyers should not be looking at the backside of furniture. The furniture should be outward facing, in an inviting way. A simple table in the middle of the furniture arrangement keeps the flow going, while also allowing for utility and style. A few simple art pieces on the walls or on shelves are a nice addition, as long as the space does not look cluttered or ill-kept.

The Bedrooms

Electronics have a negative effect on energy flows, so keeping electronics out of the bedroom during the staging process is important. The bed should be in full view of the door, but the headboard should not be against the wall that is directly in front of the door. Allow as much natural light into the room as possible.

The Bathroom

In Feng Shui, drains are seen as energetically negative, so toilet seats and shower curtains or doors should remain closed. Again, natural light is important, as well as uncluttered counters. Mirrors should be easily accessible and have a good source of light, preferably natural.

The Kitchen

Many counters and tables are magnets for junk - keeping these spaces clear and free of clutter is essential to a nice energy flow, as well as successful staging. Fresh flowers add a nice touch to the room, and make it seem more open. Yellow is considered good for digestion, so painting the room a nice shade of yellow, or adding touches of yellow here and there can be beneficial.

Home staging is a vital, but sometimes overlooked aspect of house selling. Feng Shui can be a great way to interest more buyers, and sell a home quicker. Energy flow is the basis of Feng Shui, and both natural lighting and arrangement of furniture make a difference in the energy levels of a home.

Nearing Retirement? Three Reasons Why You Might Consider a 'Reverse Mortgage'

Nearing Retirement? Three Reasons Why You Might Consider a 'Reverse Mortgage'If you are nearing retirement, a reverse mortgage might be right for you. This type of mortgage essentially allows you to turn your home equity into cash. If you find yourself with little money, a reverse mortgage could be the perfect solution, and here's why.

No Worries About Monthly Payments

After taking on a mortgage, there are many costs that you have to worry about. One of these problems is mortgage insurance premiums. Add interest and fees from lender service providers to the mix, and you've got yourself many costs.

All of these fees can create tremendous headaches, as a large chunk of the loan amount goes into covering these costs.

When you undertake a reverse mortgage, you don't have to worry about any of that. The loan is paid back with home equity, not ongoing cash flow, so monthly payments aren't a worry.

Your Income Won't Affect Your Eligibility, And The Income You'll Get Won't Create Problems

If the reason you're hoping to get a reverse mortgage is your low income, the last thing you want is that income to be the deciding factor. With this type of loan, it's not an issue. That's because the thing that determines eligibility is your house's value.

In fact, the income you'll be getting from this loan is not taxable, which means you'll be able to keep it in full. Plus, any benefits you get from Medicare will not be affected, and neither will your Social Security.

As such, what you'll be getting is a loan that doesn't take into account your current income. Rather, it adds on to it, without creating any issues for you. Plus, you'll be able to get the money in several different ways, which means you're in control.

Lastly, the money you get is fully yours. That means that you can use it for anything you want, whether that means you'll be paying off other loans, or simply funding your day-to-day needs.

You Won't Be Taken Away From Your Home

Your house is yours because it feels that way. It's the place in which you've invested money and effort. It's also the place where many loved memories were created, and where they'll keep on being created.

One of the hardest things for the elderly is being removed from their loved homes and placed into care. They have to leave the place they've grown to love. Worse than that, they're thrown into a world they don't know.

With a reverse mortgage, this doesn't need to happen. With this type of loan, you get additional income, and you get to stay in your own house.

Not only that, but you're also keeping the title to that place until you move, pass away, or reach the end of the loan's term. Your home will stay yours, both effectively and in the documents.

There are many more reasons why a reverse mortgage is a great idea. However, the fact that you're in complete control of the income you'll be getting is one of the most important things.

If you'd like to learn more about reverse mortgages, be sure to contact your mortgage professional.

A Quick Guide to Assessing Your Home's Foundation for Cracks - And What to Do if You Find Them

A Quick Guide to Assessing Your Home's Foundation for Cracks - And What to Do if You Find Them When purchasing a home, there are a number of considerations that need to be taken into account. One of those considerations is the foundation of the home. No matter how perfect or suitable a property looks, taking the time to properly inspect the property for foundation problems can save you thousands of dollars in repairs later on.

While foundation cracks are usually present in older homes, that does not mean that newer and even brand new homes are not susceptible to them. When choosing a property, the following tips can help homebuyers find signs of foundation problems and take the right action if any are found.

Concrete Weakness

One of the easiest ways to check for a damaged foundation is to check the concrete of the home. When the foundation is strong and safe, the concrete is not brittle and breakable. To test this, when trying to poke the foundation with a screwdriver, the foundation should be rock solid. If it isn't, then there may be a foundation issue.

Posts Should Be Sturdy

If the house has a basement, then the posts that hold up the basement and crawl space should stand firmly in place. The bottom of the post should be unmovable and the post should stand straight and tall. If the posts do not do so, then there might be a problem with the foundation.

Uneven Floors

The next component of the house that should be inspected is the floors. All of the floors within the house must be solid, straight, and not slanted. If the floor is slanted or separates from the wall in any place, then the foundation is unable to support the home properly and there is likely a serious issue.

Exterior Cracks

The walls are also a way to check for foundation issues. Take a tour around the outside of the home and inspect for any cracks to the exterior. Each wall on the outside of the home should be smooth, solid, and free of any cracks. However, if there is a crack, this may mean that the foundation has shifted and the home is uneven.

Windows and Doors

Next, inspect every window and door on the property. Each should be attached to the surrounding wall and they must also open and close without any difficulty. If there is a difficulty in opening and closing windows and doors, there may be a foundation problem like shifting or even ground that is unable to support the property.

Moist Ground Around the Property

Lastly, another sign that there is a foundation problem is if the ground around the property is moist. A strong foundation will usually be set upon ground that is completely solid. When the ground is moist, the dirt particles are porous and unable to bind together, leading to shifting, cracks, and major damage to the home.

Mortgage Budgeting 101: How to Determine What You Can and Can't Afford


Mortgage Budgeting 101: How to Determine What You Can and Can't Afford
When taking on a new mortgage, it is important to know that you can afford to carry the debt load involved, as many people find themselves in financial trouble by spending more on real estate than they can comfortably maintain. Your mortgage budget can be calculated to determine just how much you should spend on your next mortgage.


Mortgage Rates And Today's Market Conditions
Mortgage rates change every day, and in times of high volatility can even fluctuate more than once in a twenty-four hour period. The market reflects a number of economic variables, including relevant world news and events. Wall Street also directly affects the real estate market. By researching and watching mortgage rates closely you will be able to secure your mortgage at the best rate possible.
With so many different loan types, terms and interest can affect your monthly mortgage payment significantly. Check with a licensed mortgage expert with experience, and see which loan types will work for you. The rates available will be effected by the type of real estate you are purchasing, and your credit score.

Your Total Income
Your income helps give lenders an indicator of your ability to pay a mortgage. Your total income may include alimony, investment revenue, or other sources in addition to regular wages. Knowing this total and how it might change in the near future can help one get a sense of what is manageable.

Mortgage Expectations And Monthly Expense
Monthly expenses play a big role in your mortgage budget. Credit card debt, vehicles and other monthly commitments need to be factored in full to clearly understand your financial situation.
If you are carrying a large debt load, you may want to pay your debts down before adding more debt via a mortgage. Clearing up outstanding debts will help boost your credit score and in turn your appeal to lenders.
Expenditures that may be considered frivolous or redundant could be eating away at your mortgage budget. Try to cut out unnecessary spending to create some breathing room in your monthly budget. It is important to be more realistic when budgeting than one would be when goal setting, but it is always a good idea to 'trim away the fat'.

The Amount You Put Down On The Debt
Another factor of affordability and eligibility will be your down payment. How much money you put as a down payment can and will affect the types of mortgage loans and interest rates accessible to you. The value of the down payment will vary depending on the type of property or investment that is being secured; higher value properties will require a larger down payment.
Real estate is a great way to invest in your future. Although some can turn a profit 'flipping' houses, most mortgages are long-term investments. The investment grows more beneficial over time as the principal is paid down.

By carefully considering your personal finances, you will be able to determine what you can and cannot afford. Researching the options available will build your confidence when choosing a loan. Contact your trusted mortgage professional for answers to any additional affordability questions. He can also assist you with a correct action plan producing the best results so you will be ready when you do decide to buy! ~ Shawn

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - July 7, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week July 7 2014

Last week's economic news was mixed, but economic reports for Non-Farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment rate suggest a strengthening labor sector. Pending Home Sales surpassed expectations in May and conversely, construction spending was lower than expected. Here are the details.

Pending Home Sales Reach Highest Level in Eight Months

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that pending home sales in May rose by 6.10 percent over April's reading. May's reading was 5.20 percent lower than for May 2013. The index reading for May reached 103.9 as compared to April's index reading of 97.9. Results for all regions were positive for May:

- Northeast: 8.80%

- West 7.60%

- Midwest 6.30%

- South 4.40%

An index reading of 100 for pending home sales is equal to average contract activity in 2001; pending home sales are a gauge of upcoming closings and mortgage activity.

CoreLogic Home Price Index Reflects Slower Price Gains

National home prices rose by 1.40 percent in May and 10 states posted new month-to-month highs, while year-over-year reading slipped from 10.00 percent in April to 8.80 percent in May. Home prices remain about 13.50 percent lower than their 2006 peak.

The overall rate of construction spending slowed in May to an increase of 0.10 percent from April's reading of 0.80 percent and against expectations of 0.70 percent. Residential construction spending dropped by 1.50 percent in May.

Freddie Mac's weekly survey of average mortgage rates brought good news as the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 4.12 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 3.22 percent, as was the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage at 2.98 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and 15-year fixed rate mortgages. Discount rates rose from 0.30 to 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Jobs Up, Unemployment Rate Lower

ADP payrolls, which measures private-sector job growth, reported 281,000 new jobs in June as compared to a reading of 179,000 new private-sector jobs in May. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Non-Farm Payrolls report for June surpassed expectations of 215,000 jobs added with an increase of 288,000 jobs against May's reading of 224,000 jobs added.

The national unemployment rate fell to 6.10 percent against predictions of 6.30 percent and May's reading of 6.30 percent. 

No news was released on Friday, which was a national holiday.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic is lean with no events set for Monday. Job Openings, the minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting, along with regularly scheduled weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims round out the week's economic news.

Buying or Selling, Here Are Three Traits You'll Want in Your Real Estate Agent

Buying or Selling, Here Are Three Traits You'll Want in Your Real Estate AgentFor both buyers and sellers, choosing the right real estate agent is an important and difficult decision, but making the right selection is critical. Consider the following essential characteristics for a real estate agent before signing a contract:

Experience

An agent must understand the real estate market as well as the practices and processes of buying and selling. While a new agent may have energy and desire, experienced agents will be able to offer insights and experiences which are likely to give their clients the edge in their deal. Experience also indicates negotiating skill.

Of course an agent must be licensed, but they must also be knowledgeable about the specific neighborhoods and types of property their clients are interested in buying or selling. Commercial properties are much different than residential properties, for example, so find an agent with the experience you need.

Creativity

Since a variety of problems can happen at any point in a real estate deal, a real estate agent should be able to solve problems creatively. An agent who helps their clients think through problems, offers reasonable alternatives or finds a way to overcome obstacles is invaluable to both buyers and sellers.

Marketing is essential in the real estate world, so an agent who knows how to creatively use technology to entice buyers or to locate homes is a benefit. Buyers usually start their search online, so an appealing, user-friendly and updated website is essential. For sellers, videos are often the best way to display the best features of a home. These are today's real estate tools, so an agent who knows how to use them has a better chance of making an effective deal for their clients.

Honesty

Home sellers need someone who will be realistic with them about the value of their home, no matter what other homes in the neighborhood are selling for or what the sellers think their home is worth. Home buyers need an agent who will tell them, for example, that consistently under-bidding in order to get more home for their money is not a viable strategy. These conversations are difficult, but an honest agent will have them in order to achieve a successful result.

Another aspect of honesty is maintaining consistent communication in whatever form suits their clients. Even if there is nothing new to discuss, a quick update to say that nothing is happening is essential to maintaining trust. Silence is a sign of denial or worse, so an agent who communicates regularly is being honest with their clients.

Finally, an agent should be honest enough to put their client's interest ahead of their own, showing the client every house that fits the criteria and not just those that will get the agent the biggest commission. An effective seller's agent will give their clients the feedback they receive from potential buyers, even if the news is discouraging. Keeping problem areas from a seller may keep the relationship friendly, but it does not put the seller's interest above the agent's.

Giving and Getting: Why the Terms of a Home's Sale Are Far More Important Than the Price Paid

Giving and Getting: Why the Terms of a Home's Sale Are Far More Important Than the Price PaidOne of the most significant factors home buyers and sellers focus on when buying real estate is the negotiated sales price in the purchase contract. While the sales price is undeniably important, the reality is that other terms in the sales contract may have more far-reaching and significant effects on the transaction.

In fact, with a closer look at some of the most important terms, you will see why you and your agent should actively negotiate for improved terms rather than a lower sales price.

Closing Costs

Some buyers and sellers will haggle over a few thousand dollars in the sales price without paying attention to the closing costs, but the fact is that the closing costs for a typical transaction may cost the buyer between two to five percent of the sales price on average.

A sales contract may be negotiated so that the seller assumes some or most of the closing costs, and this can result in considerable savings the buyer. Likewise, when a contract is negotiated in the interest of the seller, the seller may save thousands of dollars at closing if the contract states that the buyer is responsible for these costs.

The Appraised Value

In an ideal world, a home would appraise for the contracted sales price, but this is not always the case. A sales contract may be written with terms that allow for the sales price to be renegotiated after the appraised value is confirmed, and this may benefit both parties. Some sales contracts, however, state that the negotiated sales price is final regardless of the appraised value.

The Property Inspection

Many home buyers opt to obtain a property inspection to determine if there are hidden issues with the property structure, foundation, roof, air quality and other components. Some inspections reveal that a home is in fairly good condition, but others may reveal that a property needs thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars' worth of repairs.

Some sales contracts may be written so that the buyer may back out of a contract within a certain period of time after receiving the property inspection report or so that the terms of the sales contract may be renegotiated once the property inspection report has been completed.

Special Contingencies

A real estate transaction may extend for several weeks or even months while the buyer contracts with a lender, an appraiser, a property inspector and other third parties. During this period of time, many events can occur that may adjust the interest level or even the ability of the buyer and seller to fulfill the contract.

Some sales contracts are written so that the buyer may opt out of the contract within a certain period of time with minimal expense and regardless of other factors related to the appraisal and inspection.

Generally, there are standard terms found in many real estate sales contracts, but these terms can be adjusted by either party to benefit buyers or sellers. Those who are preparing to buy or sell property should actively communicate their needs and desires with their real estate agent so that the contract may be negotiated with terms most favorable to their needs.

Understanding the 'Qualified Mortgage' or QM and Why It's Important to New Home Buyers

Understanding the 'Qualified Mortgage' or QM and Why It's Important to New Home BuyersAre you shopping for a home or a new mortgage? If you are interested in finding the best possible financial product, it is important to consider the benefits of selecting a Qualified Mortgage. With so many different types of loan products to choose from and financial terms to learn, schooling yourself on the mortgage market before you buy your first home or apply for your first refinance mortgage may seem like a daunting task.

Luckily, there are resources that are designed to help you learn the basics of products and terms so that all consumers have the power to inform themselves before securing a loan.

What is a Qualified Mortgage?

There are many different categories of home loans that individual loan products can fall into and one of these categories is simply referred to as a Qualified Mortgage. Qualified Mortgages, also referred to as the QM in the industry, is a product that has been approved as a qualified product because it has stable features that benefit you as a borrower.

All lenders who are interested in offering a Qualified Mortgage must make a good-faith effort to assess your income and your debt-to-income ratio to ensure that you are able to repay the loan before you take the loan out. All lenders must meet a long list of certain requirements that are free of harmful features that could affect a borrower's ability to pay.

Common Requirements of Qualified Mortgages

The main purpose of a qualified mortgage is to protect borrowers from forms of predatory lending. The standards that the loan must meet are set by the Federal government. In addition to assessing the borrower's ability to pay before approving an application, lenders must meet loan product requirements that are very specific in nature. Some of the harmful features that a QM product is not permitted to have include:

Negative Amortization: This feature affects consumers by allowing principal to increase over time.

Interest-only Periods: Where payments are only applied to interest on the money borrowed.

Balloon payment requirement: A requirement where borrowers must pay a large payment at the end of the loan term.

Long Terms: Loans cannot have terms longer than 30 years.

A Large Debt-to-Income Ratio: There is a limit in how much income that can go to monthly debt payments. This limit is 43% for a QM.


How Can a QM Benefit a New Home Buyer?

As you can see, there are safeguards built into a Qualified Mortgage that are designed to protect you from entering into a long-term binding loan contract that puts you in an unfair position. There are also legal protections that are designed to protect lenders who are committed to designing qualified mortgage products. You can sign a loan that you can afford to repay, have payments applied to your principal as well as interest, and become a homeowner without unnecessary stress. If you are interested in learning more, contact your mortgage professional to review interest rates and loan terms.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - June 30, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week June 30 2014Last week brought several economic and housing sector reports including Existing Home Sales, Case-Shiller and FHFA home prices for April, as well as New Home Sales. Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rates survey and the weekly report on new jobless claims were released on Thursday, and Consumer Sentiment for June rounded out the week on Friday.

Existing Home Sales Stronger than Expected! 

Good news came from the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales report for May, which reported 4.89 million previously owned homes sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Analysts had projected a seasonally-adjusted annual figure of 4.75 million existing homes sold based on April's reading of 4.65 million existing homes sold; April's reading was later adjusted to 4.66 million. May's reading represented a monthly increase of 4.90 percent over April's reading and was the second consecutive monthly increase in previously owned home sales.

The median sales price for existing homes sold in May was $213,400, which represented a 5.10 percent increase year-over-year.

May's reading for existing home sales was the highest in seven months, and mortgage rates trended down during May, but strict lending standards were cited as a significant obstacle to first-time homebuyers.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen recently said in a press conference that mortgage lenders "need more clarity" as to their potential liability for failed mortgages. Mortgage lenders and loan servicing companies can be required to repurchase defaulted loans or to reimburse Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for losses associated with mortgage defaults and foreclosures.

Case-Shiller, FHFA Report Slower Pace for Home Price Growth

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index and FHFA's House Price Index for April documented slowing rates of home price growth. Case-Shiller reported a 10.80 percent year-over-year growth in home prices for April, and FHFA reported a year-over-year gain of 5.90 percent rate of appreciation for home sales associated with mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Analysts noted that home price growth is leveling out after last year's steep appreciation in home prices. While homeowners may disagree, economists say that a slower rate of home price growth can actually bode well for housing markets. More buyers can afford a home, which adds stability to housing markets. First-time buyers provide a foundation for home sales; if they cannot buy homes, then homeowners can't sell existing homes and buy new homes. A slower but consistent rate of home price growth allows homeowners to build home equity, but won't likely lead to housing "bubble."

New Home Sales Blast Past Expectations, Mortgage Rates Fall

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that new home sales for May reached a six-year high with a reading of 504,000 new homes sold on an annual basis. April's reading exceeded expectations of 440,000 new homes sold as well as April's adjusted reading of 425,000 new homes sold. The month-to-month increase in new home sales from April to May was the largest monthly increase in home sales in 22 years.

Although analysts caution that month-to-month seasonally-adjusted sales reports are volatile, this uptick in new home sales may help bolster builder confidence in housing markets. May prices for new homes also rose with the median home price at $282,000. This reading represents a year-over-year increase of 6.0 percent for new home prices.

The Northeast led regional results for new home sales with its reading of 54.50 percent; The West reported an increase of 34.00 percent. New home prices in the Southeast rose at an annual rate of 14.20 percent, and the Midwest region reported a 1.40 percent increase in new home prices. While analysts characterized the Northeast region's May reading as exaggerated, overall results for new home prices indicate a comeback for new home prices.

Freddie Mac put some icing on the good news cake with its weekly mortgage rates report. Average rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped to 4.14 percent with discount points lowered to 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by eight basis points to 3.22 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 2.98 percent with discount points lower at 0.40 percent.

Thursday's Weekly Jobless Claims Report reading fell by 2000 new claims to a seasonally adjusted reading of 312,000 new claims filed. Analysts had expected a reading of 310,000 new jobless claims. 214,000 per month have been added to the economy from January to May 2014.

Positive economic developments were not lost on consumers. The Consumer Sentiment Index for June posted a reading of 82.5 against an expected reading of 81.9 and May's reading of 81.2.

This Week's News

Scheduled economic news includes Pending Home Sales, Construction Spending, the ADP Employment report, and the Non-farm Payrolls Report. The National Unemployment Rate report along with Freddie Mac's PMMS and Weekly Jobless Claims round out the week. No news is scheduled for Friday's Independence Day holiday.

A Guide to Selecting a Home and Property That Will Suit Your Growing Family

A Guide to Selecting a Home and Property That Will Suit Your Growing FamilyBoth seasoned homeowners and first-time buyers know making the decision to purchase a new home is not one that is taken lightly. There are so many things to consider, from choosing a home with growth potential to finding a community to support a family's interests and lifestyle.

While the decisions may seem endless, don't be discouraged. Develop a strategic approach to buying a home with our definitive guide to selecting a home and property that will suit a growing family's needs. Use this guide, along with advice from a trusted real estate professional in your area, to get started on the path to home ownership.

Look For Neighborhoods With Growth Potential

Choosing the right location is one of the most grappled with decisions when it comes to buying a home. While some home-buyers aspire to "keep up with the Joneses," purchasing a home in the "trendy" neighborhood of the moment, savvy home-buyers know the best bargains can be found in "up-and-coming" locales.

Skip the higher property values and congestion and search for a home in an unincorporated area with growth potential. This might require driving a few extra blocks for that morning Starbucks coffee, but this will easily be overlooked once the community grows (and your home value with it).

Unfinished Basements Are Your Friend

Sure, most home-buyers cringe when they enter the sometimes scary, always dark and lonely, unfinished basement. But the savvy home-buyer knows unfinished basements are their friend.

A basic renovation can take the space from ghastly to awesome. Unfinished basements provide a number of options for growing families and are a great way to add bathrooms, bedrooms and common areas for kids and teens.

Choose A Home With Income Potential

While the average buyer is interested in a single-family home, don't discount homes with basement apartments or mother-in-law suites. These types of home configurations can lead to significant income potential and can help to offset the cost of a monthly mortgage payment.

Income potential doesn't just include garage apartments and mother-in-law suites; it encompasses open space as well. Build a duplex or a guesthouse on extra land for a significant return on investment. Or, take advantage of special land grants to grow crops or house bees on unused acreage.

Think Long-Term When Choosing Schools

When choosing schools, think macro not micro. Remember to evaluate school districts at all levels: elementary, middle and high schools. Don't choose a community based on the elementary school, if the middle and high schools are not as impressive.

A young child might be an elementary school student upon purchasing the home, but will matriculate through the school district during the course of a 30-year mortgage. Be sure to select a home in a community with a school district that can support youngsters at every level.

For more information about finding a home for a growing family, contact a real estate agent in your area.