Moving to a New City? Tips for Finding a Family-friendly Community to Buy Your New Home In

Moving to a New City? Tips for Finding a Family-friendly Community to Buy Your New Home InIf you're moving to a new city with children, one of your likely considerations is finding a family-friendly community where you can settle in and call home.

In this post we'll share a handful of tips that you may find helpful if you're searching for a family-friendly neighborhood in a new city.

Check Out The Quality Of Local Schools

Schools are one of the cornerstones of a community and high-quality schools are a sign that a community is suitable for your family. When you've made your short list of communities that you are considering, take some time to research the local elementary or high schools to see how they stack up against other schools in the surrounding area.

You may also want to connect with the school's principal or dean to ask about the environment and whether or not it would be suitable for your children.

Look Around For Local Churches And Other Community Groups

Great communities are those which are filled with engaged citizens who are actively working to better the area for everyone. When you drive through a community that you're considering, look around to see if there are churches and other groups that get local residents together on a regular basis.

You may find that these groups make for an excellent welcoming committee who can introduce you to the area and help to get your family settled.

Parks And Other Gathering Spaces Are A Good Sign

Another excellent way to determine if a community is suitable for raising a family is the number of nearby parks and public gathering spaces. You'll want to ensure that your children have a nice area to run around and play with your family pet, or that you have a nice park in which to have the occasional picnic lunch to spend some quality time together.

When In Doubt: Ask The Locals

If you're visiting a community or touring through homes, spend some time talking to the locals to hear their thoughts and opinions on how family-friendly the local area is. If you haven't yet, you should also connect with a local real estate agent who can share the ups and downs of the community you're thinking about moving to.

Follow these tips and trust your instincts, and you'll be able to find a great new community that makes a perfect home for your family.

First-time Home Buyer? Don't Miss These Tips to Ensure Your Mortgage Application is Approved

First-time Home Buyer? Don't Miss These Tips to Ensure Your Mortgage Application is ApprovedAre you buying a home for the first time? Congratulations! Buying your own home is an excellent way to build your net worth while living in a space that you can renovate and truly make your own.

If you're going to be taking out a mortgage to help pay for the up-front costs of your home, you'll want to get a head start on the approval process.

With that in mind, below are four handy tips to ensure that your mortgage application is approved on your first try.

Gather All Of The Necessary Information And Paperwork

You're going to need as much financial data as possible so try to prepare your past two income tax returns, pay stubs and other details ahead of time. It may also be helpful to create a quick budget to show your lender how your income stacks up against your monthly bills.

Maintain A Clean Credit History

It likely goes without saying that you'll need as clean a credit history as possible in order to ensure a quick mortgage approval. If you think that there may be some negative items on your report, try to have a copy pulled before you see your mortgage lender as they'll be asking you about them.

Don't Try To Fudge Any Facts On Your Application

Your mortgage lender is legally and professionally obligated to perform a significant amount of due diligence on you before they are able to process your approval. If you've lied on your application it is likely to be discovered and will be seen as a serious breach of trust on your part.

Even if your financial picture isn't all that strong it's far better to be honest than to try to hide or falsify your data.

Make A Down Payment Higher Than 20 Percent

Finally, if you can make a down payment on your home that is higher than 20 percent of the purchase cost you may find it easier to get approved. Placing more than 20 percent down typically eliminates you from various mortgage insurance requirements and can show the lender that you're capable of paying the mortgage back in full.

The above tips are just a few ways that you can work to ensure that you have a better chance at being approved for your mortgage. If you have other questions or for more information, contact your local mortgage professional and they'll be happy to share their expertise.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - October 20, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week October 20 2014Last week's economic highlights included the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index for October. The Commerce Department also released Housing Starts for September. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped below four percent. The Fed released its Beige Book report, and Weekly jobless claims came in lower than expected. Here are the details:

Homebuilder Confidence Slips in Spite of Lower Mortgage Rates

U.S. Homebuilder confidence in housing market conditions slipped by 5 points to October's reading of 54 as compared to September's reading; this was also lower than the expected reading of 59. Builders are concerned over strict mortgage credit rules, but the NAHB's chief economist noted that pent-up demand, lower mortgage rates and improved labor markets are expected to drive builder confidence in the near term. Readings of 50 and above indicate that more builders are confident about market conditions than not.

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.97 percent, a drop of 15 basis points from the prior reading. 15-year fixed rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.18 percent from the prior week's reading of 3.30 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by 13 basis points to 2.92 percent. Average discount points remained at 0.50 for all mortgage types.

If 30-year fixed rate mortgages can stay below the four percent mark, this could mean additional incentive for fence-sitters to become active home buyers.

Surprise: New Jobless Claims Hit 14-Year Low

Concerns over job markets and employment stability have consistently been of concern to home buyers in the aftermath of the recession. Last week's jobless claims report brought encouraging news as it came in at 264,000 new jobless claims filed against predictions of 289,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 287,000 new jobless claims filed. This was the lowest number of new jobless claims filed in more than 14 years. Analysts said that lower numbers of weekly jobless claims indicate fewer layoffs, which should help boost prospective home buyers' confidence in job stability.

Fed: Economy Growing at "Modest to Moderate Pace"

The Federal Reserve released its Beige Book report on Wednesday. This report contains anecdotes from business sources within the 12 Federal Reserve districts. The report said that the economy continues to grow at a modest to moderate pace and noted that potential concerns over the stronger U.S. dollar causing increases in export costs did not concern the Fed's business sources.

Housing Starts, Consumer Confidence Up

September's housing starts were above both expectations and August's reading. 1.02 million starts were reported with the majority being multi-family homes. The expected reading was 1.015 million housing starts; this was based on August's reading of 956,000 starts. This news is consistent with the drop in builder confidence for sales of new single-family homes.

The University of Michigan/Thompson-Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index for October rose to 86.4 against an expected reading of 83.5 and September's reading of 84.6. This was the highest consumer sentiment reading in seven years. Analysts rained on the consumer sentiment parade by noting that recent jitters over Wall Street and concerns about Ebola outbreaks could cause the Consumer Sentiment Index to lose ground.

What's Ahead:

Next week's scheduled economic reports include the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales report, FHFA's Home Price Index and New Home Sales. Leading Economic Indicators will also be released.

NAHB Reports: Home Builder Confidence Drops in October

NAHB Reports Home Builder Confidence Drops in October The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported that home builder sentiment lost its momentum in October and posted a seasonally adjusted reading of 54 in its Home Builder Market Index.

This reading was five points lower than expected and also five points lower than September's reading. October's reading was the first time in five months that builder confidence has fallen.

To put October's reading in perspective, things aren't all that bad. A reading over 50 indicates more builders are confident about housing market conditions than not. Also, October's lower reading of 54 after the HMI reading reached a nine-year high in September.

Low Mortgage Rates, Pent-up Demand Expected to Drive Housing Markets

David Crowe, Chief Economist for NAHB said that low mortgage rates, improved labor markets and "significant" pent-up demand for homes all point to continued growth for housing markets.

NAHB reported that builders' views on current market conditions dropped from September's reading of 63 to 57 in October. The confidence rating for upcoming sales fell from 67 to 64. The gauge of home buyer traffic for new homes fell by six points to a reading of 41.

Analysts said that although stronger jobs markets can help would-be buyers get into the market, concerns over ultra-strict mortgage standards are dampening potential home sales.

Multi-family Housing Starts Outstrips Single Family Home Construction

Starts for all types of housing gained 8.60 percent in the first eight months of 2014, but single family housing construction accounted for only 3.10 percent of housing starts between January and August. September's housing starts are set for release today (Friday).

New Jobless Claims Fall to Lowest Since 2005

In related news, the Labor Department reported that weekly jobless claims were lower than expected and also lower than for the prior week. The reading for new jobless claims was 264,000 new claims; this was 23,000 fewer new claims than the prior week's reading of 287,000 new jobless claims filed. A reading of 289,000 new jobless claims had been expected. This was the lowest reading for new jobless claims since April 2005.

Three Reasons Why Setting Your Listing Price is the Most Important Aspect of the Home Sales Process

Three Reasons Why Setting Your Listing Price is the Most Important Aspect of the Home Sales ProcessHave you decided to sell your home, perhaps to make an upgrade to a newer, larger house? Whatever your reasons for selling, you'll have a number of decisions to make as you craft your listing and begin receiving offers from buyers but few are as important as your initial selling price.

Let's take a look at three reasons why setting your listing price is the most important factor in your home sale.

Reason #1: You Can Scare Off Potential Buyers With A High Price

You'll receive the majority of your buyer interest in the first few days and weeks after you place your home up for sale, so it's critical that your price isn't set so high that it scares a number of buyers off.

While some sellers believe that it's better to price high and let buyers submit lower offers, this can actually work against you. It's better to have your home priced fairly from the beginning as you can always refuse offers that you deem are too low.

Reason #2: Your Price Directly Impacts How Long Your Sale Will Take

If you're interested in seeing your home sell quickly it's going to be in your best interest to have it priced competitively. Buyers will be shopping around for similar homes in your community and if there are other listings with lower prices on the market you may find it takes you a while to get your home sold.

Also, if you do find a buyer that is interested they'll likely try to enter into price negotiations with you which can extend the length of the sale by a week or more as you go back and forth to reach an agreement.

Reason #3: A Low Price Means Leaving Money On The Table

While pricing too high can cause issues with your sale, pricing your home too low isn't going to benefit you either. While you'll likely find that you receive a high number of offers very quickly, you'll end up leaving some of your home equity on the table – equity that you could easily have realized as buyers would have been willing to pay the difference.

Refinance Now or Wait? How to Determine the Best Time to Refinance Your Mortgage

Refinance Now or Wait? How to Determine the Best Time to Refinance Your MortgageRefinancing your mortgage is a great way to reduce your monthly payments or take out some of the equity in your home to reinvest in renovations, upgrades or in other areas in your financial portfolio.

Let's take a quick look at a few questions that you can ask yourself in order to determine whether you should refinance now or wait until sometime in the future.

Can You Lock In A Lower Interest Rate?

Depending on when you first purchased your home and took out your mortgage, you may find that by refinancing now you can lock in a lower interest rate.

Getting a lower rate can end up saving you thousands of dollars a year in interest, but you'll need to weigh the closing costs of the refinancing against the savings you'll obtain to ensure that refinancing is worthwhile.

How Much Do You Owe On The Home?

If you still owe a significant amount on your home you may find that it's worth refinancing, especially if you're confident that you won't be selling the home any time soon. Conversely, if you're very close to having your mortgage paid off you may find that refinancing has little benefit.

Do You Need To Tap Into Your Home Equity?

If you feel that now is the time to tap into the equity you've built up in your home over time in order to cover renovation or upgrade costs you may want to consider refinancing. This will allow you to take out a large chunk of cash without having to open a new loan or line of credit. If possible, try to secure a lower interest rate for added benefit.

Do You Plan On Moving?

If you're planning on moving in the next couple of years then you may want to hold off on refinancing your mortgage. As mentioned above, there are closing costs attached with a refinancing deal and these must be factored in when assessing whether or not you stand to gain or lose.

If you're staying in your home for the near future there's a far better chance that the costs of a refinancing will be covered by the amount that you save.

Every financial situation is unique, and you may find that you have other questions about refinancing that aren't listed above. Don't hesitate to contact your mortgage professional as they've worked with all sorts of refinancing clients and can share helpful advice that is relevant to your situation.

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

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week October 14 2014Economic news was lean last week as the first week of the month tends to be calm in the aftermath of the rush of end-of-month reporting.

Of note was CoreLogic's report on housing markets, the release of the minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting and lower mortgage rates reported by Freddie Mac.

CoreLogic Reports Lowest Home Price Gains in Almost Two Years

August home prices hit their slowest growth rate in nearly two years according to CoreLogic data released last Tuesday. Annual home prices grew by 6.40 percent in August as compared to July's reading of 6.80 percent. Year-over-year home price growth reached a rate of 11.40 percent in August.

Analysts have recently said that a slow-down in home price growth may increase slowing demand for homes as inventories of available homes have increased in recent months. Low inventories of available homes and high demand contributed to rapid growth of home prices in 2013.

The slower pace of home price gains is expected to continue next year; analysts predicted an annual growth rate of 5.20 percent in August 2015. Home prices remain about 12 percent below peak levels reached in 2006.

Federal Reserve Policy Makers Watch U.S. Dollar, European Markets

Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting held in September were released Wednesday. Of note were member concerns that changing the committee's language for its oft-repeated assertion that target rates for federal funds would remain between 0.00 percent and 0.250 percent for a considerable time" after asset purchases under the QE program ended could be viewed as a fundamental policy change.

The FOMC also registered concerns over the impact of a stronger U.S. dollar on the economy and said that persistent weakening of the European economy could cause the dollar to strengthen too much. This would cause exports to decrease and could also slow inflation.

The Fed decided not change language in its forward guidance in order to avoid unintended reactions in the financial markets.

Mortgage Rates and Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey reported that average mortgage rates fell last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by seven basis points to 4.12 percent with discount points higher at 0.50 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by six basis points to 3.30 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage was lower by one basis point to 3.05 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

Weekly jobless claims were lower at 287,000 new claims filed against predictions of 294,000 new claims filed and the prior week's reading of 288,000 new claims filed. This supports recent indications of stronger job markets; coupled with lower home prices, this could prompt more would-be homebuyers to buy homes.

What's Ahead

Markets are closed for Monday's Columbus Day holiday and no economic reports are scheduled for Tuesday. The Fed releases its Beige Book report Wednesday and the NAHB Home Builder's Market index for October is due Thursday along with Freddie Mac's PMMS report and weekly jobless claims.

Housing Starts and the Consumer Sentiment Index are scheduled for next Friday.

The Pros and Cons of Buying a New Home Versus Buying Pre-owned

The Pros and Cons of Buying a New Home Versus Buying Pre-ownedAre you thinking about buying a new home? Congratulations!

Buying a house, condo or townhouse is an exciting and rewarding time which tends to be a lot of fun. However, along the way you'll need to make a number of decisions – including whether you want to buy a pre-owned home or one that has been built recently and is brand new.

Let's take a quick look at some of the pros and cons of buying a new home versus buying pre-owned.

New Homes Tend To Have Fewer Problems

One of the major upsides of buying new is that newly-built homes tend to have very few problems within the first few years of ownership.

While you'll still be required to make regular maintenance on a new home, when you buy pre-owned you're buying a house that has seen years or decades of weather and regular wear-and-tear.

New Construction Allows For Customization

If you want to be able to customize certain aspects of your home, it might be better to buy brand new as the builder will be able to incorporate your requests as they're building the home. Of course, you can always renovate and upgrade a pre-owned home but if you have significant needs you may find it easier to get them built into the home as it's being developed.

The Major Downsides To Buying New: Cost And Location

While there are a number of upsides to buying new, there are some downsides that you'll need to know.

First, new homes almost always cost more than an equivalent pre-owned home. Brand new homes are filled with new appliances, fixtures and modern building materials which add to the overall cost of the home. Unless the pre-owned home is on a larger lot or property, you'll generally be able to save a bit when you buy pre-owned.

Depending on where you're buying, you may also find that the location where brand new homes are being constructed is much further from the downtown or urban area. In many cities, the only available space for new construction is in suburban areas, which means that you may be in for a lengthy commute to and from work each day if you choose to buy new.

These are just a few of the factors that you'll need to consider when buying your next dream home.

Self Employed and Seeking a Mortgage? How to Ensure That Your Lender Knows You're Able to Pay

Self Employed and Seeking a Mortgage? How to Ensure That Your Lender Knows You're Able to PayWhether you're a freelance web designer who spends their days working from a coffee shop or a small-business entrepreneur with a team of staff, if you're a self-employed individual and you're thinking about buying a new house you may face some difficulty getting approved for a mortgage.

In today's blog post we'll share how you can provide paperwork and other evidence to show your mortgage lender that you're a quality applicant who has the ability to make their payments.

Have Your Accountant Prep Your Paperwork

As a general rule of thumb, if you're in business you should invest in the services of an accountant to handle your tax preparation and other financial matters so that you don't miss anything important.

If you have an accountant, let them know that you're applying for a mortgage and ask them to create a package that includes your business financials as well as your past two or three years of income tax documents.

Watch Your Debt-to-income Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio is one of the primary factors calculated during the mortgage application process and if you don't have a regular paycheck or salary this is how your lender will assess your ability to pay.

In short, this number is the percentage of your monthly gross income that is used to pay debts, taxes, insurance, and other items. Add up your car payment, loan payments, credit card payments, child support and any other regular debts and divide this number from your monthly income. If this number is too high, your application may be declined.

Ensure You Have A Clean, Stable History

Your credit rating – and that of your business – will be intensely scrutinized by any potential lender in order to determine whether or not you present a significant risk of missing a payment or defaulting entirely.

Maintaining a positive credit history can be challenging as an entrepreneur, especially if you're in the early stages of your business and you're relying on loans or other financing to help fund your operations. Try to make sure that every bill is paid and avoid situations that can leave a blemish on your credit report.

Seek The Advice Of A Mortgage Professional

Even if you have your past taxes and a clean credit history you may still face a bit of an uphill battle in getting that mortgage approved. It's best to seek a mortgage professional's advice as early on in the process as you can, as they work with self-employed individuals regularly and will be able to help you craft your application. Good luck!

Closing Costs: Understanding What It Costs to Close on a Home and What You Can Expect to Pay

Closing Costs: Understanding What It Costs to Close on a Home and What You Can Expect to PayIf you're in the process of buying a new home, you've likely heard the term "closing costs" in regards to the many different fees and taxes that you'll be required to pay during the purchase process.

In this post we'll look at a number of these closing costs and what you will be expected to pay when you buy that next dream home.

Taking out a Mortgage? There Will Be Fees Attached

If you're taking out a mortgage to finance the cost of buying your home you'll end up incurring a variety of fees. Nearly all lenders will charge a mortgage application fee, which covers the cost of processing your application and all of the necessary paperwork.

You'll likely have to pay for a professional appraisal of the home as well, as the lender will want to ensure that they aren't lending you more than the house and property are actually worth.

Inspection And Insurance Costs Will Add Up

If you're buying a pre-owned home you'll need to pay for a home inspection to gain an understanding of the home's condition and if you'll need to make any repairs in the near future. You'll also need to purchase homeowner's insurance on the property to protect yourself in the event that something does go wrong with the home.

If you put less than 20 percent down on the cost of the home, your mortgage lender may also require that you purchase private mortgage insurance; this will vary depending on which state or province you are buying in.

Don't Forget About Escrow Fees and Taxes

As with any major financial transaction you'll need to satisfy the tax man by paying various taxes on your purchase. These will vary depending on where you are buying your home, but might include sales taxes, property taxes, transfer taxes, recording fees, title transfer fees and more.

If you used a third-party escrow service to manage these fees or to hold your deposit during the closing process you'll also need to pay escrow fees prior to signing the final paperwork.

Shopping Around: How to Compare Mortgages from Different Lenders or Underwriters

Shopping Around: How to Compare Mortgages from Different Lenders or UnderwritersBuying a home is a major financial transaction, especially if you're going to need mortgage financing to help cover the purchase cost.

The only way to know if you're getting the best deal on a mortgage is to shop around, but with so many different lenders vying for your business it can be very tough to choose which mortgage is the best fit for your own situation.

In this post we'll share how you can compare mortgages from different lenders or underwriters so that you can get the best possible deal on your mortgage loan.

Start By Comparing Interest Rates

The most important factor in your mortgage is the interest rate that you'll be required to pay so this should be your starting point.

While most lenders will keep their rates competitive with one another, you may find that there are discounts available based on your credit or financial history. You might also find that some lenders are willing to adjust the rate based on how long of a mortgage term you'll need, and how much you're investing in your down payment.

Get An Estimate Of Your Total Closing Costs

While the number that you're likely focused on is the total monthly payment that you'll be making for the next few years, you'll also want to find out how much in fees and closing costs you will have to pay in order to take out the mortgage.

Every lender charges different fees and the amounts can vary wildly, so be sure to get an estimate on these costs to find out how they'll affect your home purchase.

Watch Out For Early Payment Penalties

Finally, you'll want to keep an eye out for early repayment penalties as these can cause you a headache later on if you decide you want to pay your mortgage off a bit faster. The ideal mortgage is one that allows you to repay the principal amount at any time without facing a penalty, but depending on the other terms that you require you might need to shop around a bit before you find a mortgage like this.

You may find that comparison shopping can be a bit overwhelming with so many different mortgage options, terms and interest rates to choose from. If you have questions or you need help sorting through it all to determine which mortgage suits you best, contact your local mortgage professional today to book a quick consultation.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - October 6, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week October 6 2014Last week's economic news included multiple reports on housing and the labor sector. The good news is that job markets appear to be stronger, with new jobless claims and the national unemployment rate lower. Unfortunately, housing continues to struggle in its recovery.

Pending home sales slumped in August and the S&P Case-Shiller Housing Market Index reports for July showed slower growth in home prices with 19 of 20 cities posting lower gains than for June.

Mortgage rates were mixed, but remained relatively steady.

Housing Reports Show Slower Price Gains, Suggest Falling Demand

The National Association of REALTORS® released data for August that showed that pending home sales dropped by 1.10 percent to a reading of 104.7 as compared to July's reading of 105.8. Pending home sales indicate upcoming closings and mortgage loan volume.

Pending home sales fell by 2.20 percent year-over-year. Analysts attributed the drop in pending sales to lower investor participation.

Analysts said that as distressed home sales diminish, mortgage rates and home prices rise, investors are not buying as many homes Regional results showed fewer pending sales in all regions except the West, where pending sales rose by 2.60 percent in August. A reading of 100 in the pending home sales index is consistent with 2001's average contract level.

S&P Case-Shiller Housing Market Index reports indicated that July home prices gained 6.70 percent year-over-year as compared to June's year-over-year reading of 8.10 percent. Prices even dropped in San Francisco to its lowest reading since 2012. On a seasonally adjusted basis, July home sales fell by 0.50 percent in July as compared to June's decrease of 0.30 percent. 19 of 20 cities showed lower rates of price growth in July.

Slower growth of home prices was viewed by analysts as potentially increasing demand for homes provided that mortgage rates stay low.

Construction spending for August fell by 0.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis. The good news here is that spending on residential construction dropped only 0.10 percent.

Freddie Mac Mortgage Rates: No Major Changes

According to Freddie Mac's PMMS report, average mortgage rates were a mixed bag. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 4.19 percent with discount points lower at 0.40 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage held steady at 3.36 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 3.06 percent; discount points rose from 0.40 percent to 0.40 percent.

Lower mortgage rates are seen as a potential stimulus for housing markets as more buyers may be encouraged to enter the market.

Jobs Reports Readings Improve, Unemployment Rate Drops

Job markets are showing signs of improvement according to data on weekly jobless claims and reports released by the Department of Commerce. Weekly jobless claims grew by 287,000 as compared to expectations of 298,000 new claims filed. The prior week's reading was also higher at 295,000 new claims filed.

The Department of Commerce released its Non-farm Payrolls report for August with more good news. 248,000 jobs were added against expectations of 220,000 new jobs and 180,000 new jobs reported in the prior week. The national unemployment fell below the six percent benchmark in August with a reading of 5.90 percent, which indicates proof that the jobs market is improving.

September's Consumer Confidence Index suggests that economic conditions continue to concern consumers. The reading for September was 86.0 against an expected reading of 92.3 and Augusts reading of 93.4.

What's Ahead

There is no scheduled housing news for next week other than Freddie Mac's weekly report on mortgage rates. Other economic news includes Labor Market Conditions Index, Job Openings, and the release of minutes from the last FOMC meeting, which is expected to reaffirm the Fed's position that it doesn't expect to increase the target federal funds rate for a "considerable time" after the Fed concludes its asset purchases this year.

Looking for a Value-adding Upgrade? Why Residential Solar Panels Are Becoming a Popular Renovation

Looking for a Value-adding Upgrade? Why Residential Solar Panels Are Becoming a Popular RenovationIf you're looking for a home upgrade that can add resale value to your home while paying itself off over time, look no further than a solar panel setup. In the past few years, the cost of installing residential solar has declined while the efficiency of the panels has increased. This combination has made home solar one of the best investments that a homeowner can make - provided they live in an area that receives a good deal of sunshine.

Solar Adds Immense Value To Your Home

While solar panel installations are not inexpensive, in almost every case they add at least their total cost to the value of the home as soon as they are installed. If you decide to sell your home, it will be very attractive to those who are interested in leaving a lighter footprint or for anyone who was thinking of going solar after they bought their new home.

A Quality Install Will Pay For Itself Over Time

As they generate electricity which can be used in your home or sold back in to the public grid, residential solar panels are one of the only home upgrades that will pay for themselves over time. If you live in a very sunny area and watch your home energy consumption, you may even find that after a few years your solar setup actually begins generating a profit each month. Home solar setups typically come with a 25-year warranty so you can rest assured that your panels will be producing energy for at least the next couple of decades.

Tax Credits And Incentives Reduce The Up-front Financial Cost

Renewable energy sources like solar quality for significant tax credits and rebates which will vary depending on the city and state or province that you live in. A quick web search will show you which types of incentives that you will qualify for, or you can call a local residential solar installer as they'll be fully aware of all of the various incentives that are available.

Setting Your Budget: How to Analyze Your Finances to Determine How Much Mortgage You Can Afford

Setting Your Budget: How to Analyze Your Finances to Determine How Much Mortgage You Can AffordWhether you're buying a home for the first time or you've decided it's about time that you upgraded to a larger, more expansive house, if you're making a real estate purchase you'll need to be aware of how much you can reasonably afford to borrow in a mortgage. In today's post we'll take a look at a few ways that you can analyze your financial situation to help decide how much mortgage you can truly afford.

Prepare An Honest Monthly Budget

The first step in understanding how much of a monthly payment you can afford is to create an honest monthly budget which includes all of your family's income and spending. Although you won't have to pay them every month, it's also important that you include costs that show up irregularly like car repairs, Christmas gifts or tuition bills as these still need to be paid. The more information you can place in your budget, the more accurate your financial picture will be.

Your Down Payment Plays A Huge Role

As you might imagine, the amount you can invest in your down payment plays a significant role in how much mortgage financing you will need. Every dollar that you can place in your down payment today is one less dollar that you'll need to borrow and pay interest on over the amortization period of your mortgage. Take some time to consider how much you can put down, and see if there's any way you can bump this figure a bit higher.

What Interest Rate Will You End Up Paying?

Small changes to your mortgage interest rate can have significant impacts on how much you are required to pay back over the life of your mortgage. As you're shopping around, be sure to consider how long your interest rates are valid for and try to determine the lowest rate you might qualify for. You may also find it helpful to use an online mortgage calculator which can help you to understand how your interest rate impacts your monthly payments.

Consult A Mortgage Professional To Learn More

While building a quick budget to analyze your family's expenses is easy, factoring in all of the various items that a lender will consider might be harder than you expect. If you have questions about the mortgage process and whether or not you're ready financially, contact your local mortgage professional today.

Case-Shiller: July Home Prices Cool Across U.S.

Case-Shiller: July Home Prices Cool Across U.S.The stifling heat of July did not penetrate U.S. housing markets according to the S&P Case-Shiller 10-and 20 City Home Price Index reports.

San Francisco's sizzling home prices dropped in July and posted its lowest price gains since 2012. According to the Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Index reports, month-to-month home price appreciation fell to identical readings of an 0.60 percent increase as compared to a 1.00 percent increase reported in June.

Case-Shiller also reported that home prices grew by 0.50 percent throughout the nation. This was the seventh consecutive monthly increase for national home prices.

Year-over-year, seasonally adjusted home price growth was lower in July. Both the 10 and 20 city index reports showed a gain of 6.70 percent over July 2013 as compared to June's year-over-year reading of an 8.10 percent gain in June. 19 of 10 cities tracked in the Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index reports posted lower average home prices in July.

New York posted a 1.10 percent gain in July, while home prices dropped by 0.40 percent in San Francisco. San Francisco showed a marked loss of momentum with July's year-over-year reading of home price growth decreasing to 10.30 percent from June's reading of 12.20 percent

On average, July's home prices were approximately 16 percent below a 2006 peak.

Slowing Demand Puts Brakes on Home Prices

Analysts report that reduced demand for homes is contributing to lower price growth. Rising home prices have put homes out of reach of first-time and moderate income buyers and stringent mortgage credit standards that became effective in January have taken the edge off of high demand and low inventories of homes seen earlier in 2014.

Home prices continue to grow at two to three times the inflation rate according to David M. Blitzer, chair of the S&P Dow Jones Indices Committee. Stagnant wage growth has also quieted housing markets.

New Home Sales Buck Slowing Home Price Trends

The Department of Commerce reported that August sales of new homes grew by 18 percent in August to the highest reading since 2008. August sales of new homes topped out at 504,000 new homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Analysts predicted new 426,000 new home sales and July's reading was 427,000 new home sales.

Demand for new homes grew in direct opposition to Case-Shiller's July data for existing home sales in 20 major metropolitan areas. While good news for home builders and those employed by them, new home sales account for only about a tenth of the housing market.

Analysts also note that new home sales readings are somewhat volatile and often subject to revision. Increases in new home sales are seen as a positive sign for the general economy as builders are expected to increase hiring and will buy more materials as home construction increases.

Selling to Millennials: Three High-Tech Upgrades That Will Increase Your Home's Appeal to Young Buyers

Selling to Millennials: Three High-Tech Upgrades That Will Increase Your Home's Appeal to Young BuyersMillennials are finally starting to enter the real estate market after delaying home purchases for several years. With a completely new client base looking for homes, it is time to start making your home more appealing to these young buyers.

Millennials are used to using high-tech gadgets every day, so they are going to desire these things in their new home. While there are several high-tech upgrades you can make on your home, these three will appeal the most to young homebuyers.

Keyless Entry: Security for the New Millennium

Keyless entry doors are becoming a popular way of keeping a home secure while adding that great "wow" factor. These keyless entry systems mean there'll be no more fumbling for keys when all you want to do is get in the door. It may seem like something out of a sci-fi film, but several companies have mastered the art of keyless entry doors that you can use in your home today.

The door automatically locks when it is shut, and you will need the correct fingerprint to unlock the door. If you could show off a keyless entry system at your open house, you would immediately pique the interest of every young buyer interested in technology.

A Home Security System is a Great Practical Addition

A high-tech home security system will certainly make your home more appealing to young buyers, who may even be thinking about having children in the near future. No matter how safe your neighborhood is, everyone is always looking to feel more secure at home. Placing a few security cameras around the exterior of your home will allow you to know what is happening outside at all times, and buyers will love having that peace of mind.

Home Energy Monitor: For the Eco-Conscious Generation

Young people are extremely conscious of the environment, so they would love seeing a home energy monitor when shopping for a new home. A home energy monitor is able to track the energy use of every aspect of your home.

If you think your air conditioner is not running efficiently, a home energy monitor can tell you whether or not you're right. Since young people know about the dangers of improper energy use, they will want to make the home as efficient as possible.

Millennials are slowly entering the real estate market, and although they are starting to look at homes, you'll face a lot of competition from other homeowners looking to pass properties onto this new generation. These three upgrades will increase your home's value and make it more appealing to Millennial buyers.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - Sept 29, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Sept 29 2014Last week's economic news included several housing-related reports that provided mixed results with lower than expected sales of previously owned homes and higher than expected sales of new homes. The FHFA also released its House Price report for July, which noted that year-over-year home prices were lower than year-over-year prices reported in June. Here's a look at the details:

Existing Home Sales Lower, New Home Sales Higher

The National Association of REALTORS® reported August sales of existing home sales fell to 5.05 million previously owned homes sold. This was lower than the expected reading of 5.20 million existing homes sold and July's revised reading of 5.14 million previously owned homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. The consensus figure was based on the original reading of 5.15 million homes sold in July. While the sales pace of existing homes has slowed in recent months, August's reading marked the first time in five months that sales fell below the previous month's reading.

Analysts cited consumer concerns over sluggish labor markets as a deterrent to home sales, and also said that tighter mortgage credit standards are making it tough for first-time home buyers to purchase homes. 

New home sales were higher in August according to the Department of Commerce. 504,000 new homes were sold and surpassed expected sales of 426,000 new homes and July's reading of 427,000 new homes sold. This surge propelled new home sales to their highest level since May 2008, and surpassed expectations of 426,000 new homes sold. The original reading for July was 412,000 new homes sold on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, but the Department of Commerce later adjusted July's reading to 427,000 new homes sold during July. Month-to-month readings for new home sales are notoriously volatile, and many analysts prefer to consider a rolling average of several months' new home sales data.

FHFA: Home Prices Rise in August, Regional Home Prices Higher Year-Over-Year

FHFA (Federal Housing Finance Agency), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that prices of homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages grew by 0.10 percent in July; this was lower than the 0.30 percent growth in home prices reported in June. FHFA also said that prices of homes were up by 4.04 percent year over year; this again represented a slower pace in home price growth. This was the eighth consecutive monthly gain for FHFA home prices, but U.S. home prices remain approximately 6.40 percent below their peak in 2007.

Year-over-year home prices rose in all nine census divisions according to FHFA. While regional home prices ranged from -0.50 to +0.40 percent from June to July, FHFA reported that year-over-year home prices grew in all nine regions and varied between +1.60 percent in the Mid-Atlantic region to 7.20 percent in the Pacific region.

Mortgage Rates Mixed

Freddie Mac reported mixed readings for average mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped three basis points to 4.20 percent. 15 year mortgage rates averaged 3.36 percent, one basis point lower than the prior week's reading. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.08. Discount points remained steady at 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages, but dropped to 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Jobless Claims Rise, Consumer Sentiment Holds Steady

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that new jobless claims rose to 293,000 from the prior week's reading of 281,000 new jobless claims filed. The latest jobless claims reading was lower than expectations of 300,000 new jobless claims filed. Last week's economic reports were rounded out by the Consumer Sentiment Index, which held steady in September with a reading of 84.6. This reading was identical to July's reading and higher than the expected reading of 84.3.

What's Ahead

Next week's economic news wil include the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for July and Construction Spending for August.

Five Small Signs That Can Indicate Much Bigger Problems with a Home

House Hunting: Watch for These Five Small Signs That Can Indicate Much Bigger Problems with a HomeIt's not uncommon for homebuyers to recount horror stories about properties that appeared to be fine at first glance, but were actually hiding very expensive problems. If you fail to do your due diligence, you might find your dream house turning into a nightmare. The next time you walk through a house, pay attention for these five signs that the property might be hiding a unfortounate secret or two.

Mold, Water Spots and Water Damage

Older and newer homes alike may develop a leaky pipe or another similar plumbing issue from time to time, but any type of water issue can result in mold growth inside the walls. Water spots and warped wood indicate that the property has had a water issue in the past, and this means that the property should be more thoroughly inspected for mold growth before you make a purchase.

Doors and Windows That Stick

One of the most common signs of a foundation issue is doors and windows that stick or that are difficult to open and close. As you walk through the home, open and close the doors at leisure to identify if they are not in the frame properly. The issue should be reviewed by a structural home inspector or foundation contractor.

Small Cracks in the Walls

Some cracks in both interior and exterior walls can indicate that the home's foundation has shifted and is no longer flat and level. Significant issues may be indicated by molding or door frames that appear to have shifted after installation.

Fresh Paint on a Small Area of the Wall

Many property sellers will apply fresh paint to walls before listing a home for sale, and this is not necessarily a sign of damage to the home. However, when fresh paint is applied on one area of the wall alone, this may be a sign that the homeowner is attempting to conceal water damage or other related issues with the property. Further inspection of the property is in order.

Floors That Slant

Any time a floor slants to a level that you feel as though you are walking up or down across the home, this is a significant indicator that the foundation has shifted. Foundation issues result in the movement of the foundation that the entire home rests on, and this can result in an uneven feeling when you walk across the floor. If you notice that the floors in a property slant, you should schedule an inspection of the foundation.

Understanding Title Insurance and How It Impacts Your Mortgage Loan

Understanding Title Insurance and How It Impacts Your Mortgage LoanWhen you buy a home, you will be given a title to your new property. A title is a legal document that proves you own the property, and in most cases the title excludes other parties from making an ownership claim.

However, not all titles give you free and clear ownership of the property. Title insurance protects you and your lender from title disputes and other ownership issues that may arise. Here are just a few ways that title insurance can impact your mortgage.

How Title Insurance Protects A Lender

There are certain situations in which someone might put a lien on your property. New owners might see liens if the previous owner failed to pay the mortgage, if a contractor did work without the new owner's consent or if the previous owner owes unpaid property taxes.

If these liens were not disclosed prior to the sale, a buyer could face a situation where a third party is making a claim to the property. Should the title by voided in court, the insurance policy would repay the lender the outstanding balance on the mortgage. The policy is valid until the mortgage loan is paid off.

When a homeowner refinances, it may be necessary to purchase a new title loan policy, as the new loan will technically pay off the old loan.

How Title Insurance Protects A Buyer

Title loan policies do not just protect the lender. In many cases, the lender will require the buyer's title insurance to include an owner policy. This policy confirms that the buyer owns the title and that the title is free from defects.

The policy is in effect for as long as the buyer or his or her descendants own the house. Should a homeowner have his or her title challenged, the policy will cover all losses up to the amount of the original purchase price of the home.

How Much Does Title Insurance Cost?

The cost of title insurance can vary between locations. Sometimes, the purchase contract will stipulate that the seller is responsible for buying title insurance.

If this is the case, the buyer may pay nothing. However, it is common to pay on a sliding scale. Title insurance is usually a few hundred dollars for houses selling for under $500,000.

Title insurance is a great way to protect your investment in your home. It insures you against ownership disputes and liens, which means your house is truly yours. For more information about title insurance, contact a qualified mortgage professional in your area.

National Association of Realtors, Existing Home Sales Slip in August

National Association of Realtors Existing Home Sales Slip in AugustSales of previously owned homes fell in August according to the National Association of REALTORS®. This was the first decline in sales in five months. Although not welcome news to homeowners and real estate pros, there is good news. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®, as first-time buyers and moderate income families may now have an opportunity to find and buy affordable homes.

Bidding wars and slim inventories of available homes made buying a home difficult for many prospective buyers in recent months, but Mr. Yun said that these obstacles have subsided in many markets. Other obstacles contributing to a slowdown in housing markets are labor markets, which have shown some improvement, and stringent mortgage credit requirements that became effective in January.

Analysts had expected an annual sales rate of 5.20 million existing homes in August against July's original reading of 5.15 million sales, which was later adjusted to 5.14 million sales of existing homes. August's reading was 5.05 million previously owned homes sold.

FHFA Home Sales Show Fractional Gain in July

FHFA, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, reported that July sales of homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owned mortgages rose by a tenth of a percent in July on a seasonally-adjusted basis. On a year-over-year basis, home prices were 4.40 percent higher than in July 2013. It's important to bear in mind that FHFA reports a month behind the readings reported for existing home sales in August. Another thing to consider is that FHFA readings are based on properties connected with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

First-Time Buyers Missing in Action

Falling home prices and sales volume may be due in part to a vortex of challenges facing first-time home buyers. The census bureau reports that homeownership rates have dropped for the 25-29 age groups; about 40.6 percent owned homes in 2007 as compared to 34.1 percent in 2013. The national unemployment rate for millennials is higher at approximately 9.00 percent as compared to the national unemployment rate for all workers at about 6.00 percent. Stricter mortgage rules and long-term under-employment are also impacting first-time buyers' ability to purchase homes. The inability of would-be first-time buyers to buy homes can impact buyers and sellers at all levels of local housing markets as most sellers rely on selling their existing home to fund down payments and closing costs for their next homes.