3 Huge Mortgage Mistakes Made by First-time Home Buyers - and How to Avoid Them

3 Huge Mortgage Mistakes Made by First-time Home Buyers - and How to Avoid Them As a first-time home buyer, you may actively be seeking out information about your upcoming purchase. Buying a home is a huge financial move to make, and it can impact your financial situation and even your lifestyle for many years to come. While it is important to learn more about what to look for in a home, it is also important to learn about mistakes home buyers have made. When you learn more about mortgage mistakes that others have made, you can take steps to prevent making those same mistakes yourself.

Committing To A Large Mortgage Payment

Many first-time home buyers contact a mortgage professional to determine what the largest loan amount and monthly payment they qualify for is. However, just because you qualify for a loan amount and monthly payment from a lending perspective does not mean that it is affordable for your budget. After all, you may have a more expensive lifestyle, childcare expenses and other expenses that are not factored into the lending equation.

Not Reviewing All Home Expenses

When you own a home, you will be required to pay for expenses that are not in place when you rent a home. For example, you will have to pay for lawn care, home maintenance tools and supplies, repair bills, homeowners' association dues and more. It is important to allow room in your budget for all of the expenses related to home ownership to ensure that your new home is affordable for you.

Failing To Inquire About Closing Costs

Your mortgage representative is required to disclose all loan charges and fees to you early on in the loan process, but some first-time home buyers do not take the time to thoroughly review or understand these fees. Many are unfortunately surprised by the amount of money they must come to the closing table with at the end of the loan process, and this can be avoided by simply asking questions and reviewing the preliminary loan statement up-front.

Each of these home mortgage mistakes can be costly to a first-time home buyer, but they also are all entirely avoidable. As you begin your loan process and proceed through it to closing, keep these mistakes in mind. Be sure to ask your loan consultant for more information if you have any questions. You can begin the loan process today by contacting a loan consultant directly.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - March 30, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 30 2015Last week's economic reports included reports on new and existing home sales and FHFA's monthly home price index for properties associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages. The details:

New Home Sales Surge, Existing Home Sales Drop 

According to the Department of Commerce, new home sales rose in January to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 539,000 which exceeded the expected rate of 455,000 sales and the revised figure of 500,000 sales of new homes in December 2014. This was a 7.80 percent increase over December's figure and was the first time since 2008 that new home sales met or exceeded the benchmark of 500,000 sales for two consecutive months.

Sales of new homes were close to 25 percent higher than for January 2015, and analysts said that more jobs and relatively low mortgage rates could boost the traditionally busy spring and summer home buying season.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of previously owned homes rose by 1.20 percent in February to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million sales against expectations of 4.94 million sales of previously owned homes. Extreme winter weather was cited as a cause for the decline in sales.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors® said that the average price for pre-owned homes rose to $202,600, which represents a 7.50 percent increase year-over-year. Wages are rising at an average of 2.00 percent annually and rents are rising at an average of 3.50 percent annually. This is creating affordability issues for renters and would-be homebuyers as their incomes are not keeping pace with escalating housing and rental prices. The share of first-time home buyers rose by 1.00 percent in February, but analysts said that historically the market share for first-time buyers averages about 40.00 percent. 

FHFA: Home Price Index Falls by 0.30 Percent

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that home prices for sales of homes associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages fell by 0.30 percent year-over-year in January to an increase of 5.10 percent year-over-year as compared to January 2014'year-over-year increase of 5.40 percent.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

Mortgage rates fell last week. Freddie Mac reported average rates for fixed rate mortgages fell by none basis points with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaging 3.69 percent and the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaging 2.97 percent. Discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by five basis points to an average of 2.92 percent. Discount points also fell from 0.50 percent to 0.40 percent.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 282,000 new claims against an expected reading of 290,000 new claims and the previous week's reading of 291,000 new jobless claims. This reading supports reports of expanding labor markets that may give would-be home buyers the confidence to buy homes.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic news includes the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, Pending Home Sales, Non-Farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment Rate along with regularly scheduled releases on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

Spring DIY Projects: How to Build a Treehouse That the Kids Will Love

Spring DIY Projects: How to Build a Treehouse That the Kids Will Love If you have children, no home is complete without a treehouse. Besides the fact that treehouses provide kids with hours of entertainment, they can also confer ancillary benefits that are hard to quantify. For starters, treehouses can improve property values by boosting curb appeal. When building any type of treehouse, keep the following tips in mind.

Location, Location, Location

Before you head off to Home Depot and get all the necessary supplies, you need to spend some serious time storyboarding the build process. Pick a tree with low, sprawling branches such as an oak or a maple. Furthermore, consider issues like wind, shade and privacy before you start to nail up supports.

Choose Your Materials Wisely

A treehouse built with subpar materials will fall short in the longevity department and disappoint the kids. Pick out stout oak 4x4 posts for the structural elements and top them off with pressure-treated pine for the floors and railings. Use quality plywood for the interior walls and seal it to avoid rot.

Make Multi-Use Your Mantra

Treehouses that are simply shacks suspended above ground will quickly bore youngsters no matter how well-built they may be. Incorporate elements such as swings, rope ladders and even zip-lines to get more from your treehouse. As long as you're putting in the effort, you might as well add all of the bells and whistles.

Bake Safety Into the Recipe

You don't want the kids to get hurt when they're frolicking among the branches. Make sure to bolt handles and permanent rails into the truck so that adolescents are less likely to slip and fall. If you want to go all out, add a few safety nets around the edges.

Heed Aesthetics When Designing

An unadorned treehouse quickly turns into an eyesore over time as it's battered by the elements. Shingle the roof and paint the exterior walls so that they match your home. Kids will naturally gravitate towards a treehouse that looks appealing and your neighbors won't complain about a shoddy structure in your weeping willow.

It's More Than a Treehouse

While many young kids will no doubt love a full-featured treehouse, it's usually the improvement in home value that will appeal to adults.

3 Reasons Why Your Mortgage Lender Might Ask for Your Tax Returns - And Why You Should Provide Them

3 Reasons Why Your Mortgage Lender Might Ask for Your Tax Returns - and Why You Should Provide Them After you have completed the initial loan application and have signed the preliminary loan disclosures, your mortgage loan application will generally receive a preliminary prequalification. This prequalification will be based in large part on your ability to provide documentation to support your statements on your loan application, including your stated income and assets. Typically, a lender will include a request for least the last two to three years of your income tax returns with this documentation. There are several reasons why a lender may need to review your tax returns and why you should provide requested documentation as soon it is requested.

To View All Sources Of Income

Your mortgage lender will typically request a copy of your W2 tax forms, which will show your salary and compensation from your employer. However, the W2 form will not show all sources of income that you may receive. For example, rental property income, dividend income and even alimony or child support are just some of the many types of income that you can document through your tax returns.

To Average Income From Self-Employment

Most lenders will require self-employed borrowers to document their income through their tax returns. They will receive income as well as business-related expenses on the tax return. It is common for mortgage lenders to average this type of income for the previous two to three years. Typically, this is the only way that self-employed income is verified for mortgage purposes.

To Comply With Underwriting Guidelines

There are various types of mortgage loans that you may apply for, including stated income loans and low documentation loans. While not every type of loan that you apply for will require you to submit tax returns, some loans will have this as a firm requirement. Your loan request simply will not be reviewed and approved until you provide the required documentation to the lender.

If you want to be approved for your mortgage, it is important to comply with lender requirements. Providing documentation as soon as it is requested can speed the application process up, and your personal income tax returns may only be some of several documents that you will be required to submit to the underwriter for your loan request. You can speak with your mortgage representative about questions you have regarding required documentation, and you can work diligently to comply with underwriting information requests.

FHFA: Home Prices Rise 0.30 Percent in January

FHFA Home Prices Rise 0.30 Percent in JanuaryThe Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that home prices rose by a seasonally-adjusted rate of 0.30 percent in January, and were 5.10 percent higher as compared to home prices in January 2014.

FHFA oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and its home price report is based on sales of homes financed by mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Month- to- Month FHFA Home Prices Mixed

Month to month home price data was mixed for January. Home prices ranged from -0.40 percent in the Middle and South Atlantic census divisions to +2.30 percent in the East South Central census division.

Month-to month readings are considered more volatile than year-over-year home price readings. Year-over-year readings for all nine U.S. census divisions were positive and ranged from a 1.70 percent increase in the Middle Atlantic division to an increase of 8.20 percent in the Pacific division. This suggests that overall, home prices are gaining, but slowly.

Commerce Department: New Home Sales Hit 7-Year Peak

In an unrelated report, the Commerce Department reported that February sales of new homes reached a seven-year peak with 539,000 sales of new homes expected on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. This was significantly higher than the expected reading of 455,000 new home sales and was also higher than the revised reading of 500,000 new home sales in January.

Analysts said that this positive reading may indicate a robust sales for the peak spring and summer home buying season. The reading for new home sales in February was nearly 25 percent higher than for February 2014.

In spite of this good news, analysts cautioned that the new home sales numbers are often volatile, and future revisions could result in lower sales figures for new homes.

With jobs increasing and mortgage rates remaining relatively low, more homebuyers may enter the market and boost home sales. Tight mortgage lending standards remain an obstacle for would-be buyers with less than stellar credit scores.

Considering a Reverse Mortgage Loan? Here's What You Need to Know

Considering a Reverse Mortgage Loan? Here's What You Need to Know Many seniors are looking for a great way to improve their financial situation. Retirement or semi-retirement can be difficult due to the need to live on a fixed income. Some may have been unable to save enough in their working years, or their accounts may have been hit hard by stock market fluctuations. Still others are feeling the effects of inflation and the rising costs of medical care and general living expenses. If you are like many other seniors, you may not have a huge cash reserve available in your bank account, but you may have a sizable nest egg in your home. The fact is that you can tap into that equity without selling your home or taking on a mortgage payment when you apply for a reverse mortgage.

What Is A Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a unique type of loan that utilizes the current equity in your home and allows you to make regular withdrawals from that equity. Rather than you making a payment to a lender, the lender pays the funds to you. The terms of the mortgage are structured so that you will never owe more money on the reverse mortgage than the home is worth. When you decide to sell it or when your estate is being settled, the home's value will pay off the mortgage. This essentially gives you the opportunity to keep living in your home and to use the equity now when you need it most.

Is This The Right Option For You?

A reverse mortgage is not suitable for everyone, but it may be suitable for you. You can easily learn more about the amount of payments that you could receive on a monthly basis if you were to apply for a reverse mortgage, and you can consider how these payments would ease your financial concerns. This loan will decrease the amount of equity you have in your home over time. Therefore, if you have plans to sell your home later and use the equity for other retirement plans, you should carefully consider if the reduction in equity is feasible for your situation and goals.

One of the best steps that you can take is to learn more about this option. You will not know if a reverse mortgage is suitable for your financial needs and long-term goals unless you take the step of speaking with a loan agent.

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

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 23 2015Last week's events included the National Association of Home Builder's Housing Market Index, which fell to its lowest reading since last summer. Other news included reports on housing starts and building permits, the FOMC meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen's press conference.

Home Builder Confidence Falls, Building Permits Rise

The NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index fell by two points for a reading of 53 in March. The expected reading was 57. Analysts said that this proves that lower mortgage rates and steady job growth aren't fueling housing markets as expected. NAHB chief economist David Crowe also cited supply chain issues such as a shortage of available lots, labor shortages and tight mortgage underwriting standards. Home builders remain optimistic that as labor markets continue to improve and more home buyers enter the market during the traditional spring and summer buying season, that builder confidence will also grow.

The Department of Commerce reported that building permits for February rose from January's reading of 1.06 million to 1.09 million. This represents a 3.00 percent increase and was the highest reading since October. Permits fell for single family homes fell by 6.20 percent in February, but were 2.80 percent higher year-over-year. Single family permits account for 75 percent of building permits issued.

Housing starts fell dramatically due to bad weather. The Northeast saw housing starts fall by 56 percent due to extreme snowfall; Housing starts in the Midwest fell by 37 percent and the West saw housing starts decline by 18.20 percent in February. The South reported a 2.50 percent decrease in housing starts, but since nearly 50 percent of housing starts are in the South, this decline is more significant than it appears.

Fed Rates Hold Steady, Mortgage Rates Fall

The Federal Reserve noted in its post FOMC meeting statement that the Fed is in no hurry to raise rates. Citing ongoing concerns about low inflation and a sluggish housing market recovery, the Fed's policymakers indicated that they don't plan to rush on raising the target federal funds rate. In her press conference held after the FOMC statement, Fed Chair Janet Yellen reiterated the Fed's intention to raise rates only when domestic and global economic developments warrant.

Mortgage rates fell according to Freddie Mac with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage eight basis points lower at 3.78 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was four basis points lower at 3.06 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was also four basis points lower at an average rate of 2.97 percent. Discount points were unchanged at an average of 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What's Ahead

This week's housing-related news includes new and existing home sales, the FHFA home price index and FHFA's home price index. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims will also be released as usual on Thursday.

Three Unique Upgrades That Will Drive Your Home's Resale Price Through the Roof

Three Unique Upgrades That Will Drive Your Home's Resale Price Through the RoofIf you are a homeowner, you should always be thinking about ways that you can boost the resale value of your home. Whether you are planning on putting the home on the market, or simply want to be prepared for the future, there are upgrades that can make your property more desirable. Give your home the attention it deserves and you'll be prepared for whatever may come down the line.

Go Solar With A Home Solar Installation

There's no doubt that solar power is big in today's housing market. It's an excellent resource that will save you money on your utility bills. You could even find yourself in a situation where the power company is actually buying energy from you. It's also a move that is environmentally-friendly. If you feel a responsibility to the world around you, you will have the peace of mind that comes with reducing your carbon footprint. As energy becomes scarce, solar power is something you can count on. Future buyers will benefit as well.

Install An HVAC System That Does It All

When it comes to your heating and cooling, install a system that will meet all of your needs. Keep your home at a comfortable temperature throughout the year at the touch of a button. Choose an energy saver model that uses the most feasible type of energy source in order to trim costs. When you have a modern system with automation capability, you should see a difference in your utility bills. You'll also have a huge selling feature to show off when prospective buyers come knocking at your door.

Make the Most of Your Existing Space

Take the space that you have and make sure that you utilize it to its full potential. Whether you create an attic bedroom or a finished basement, making better use of your space will increase your home's appeal. When it's time to sell, buyers want to see possibilities and appreciate it more when the work has already been done for them. Give them options and let them make the space their own.

Turn to the Experts for Advice

Call your mortgage professional today to further assist you with questions and solutions when considering an upgrade to your home. You'll be able to tap into a vast store of knowledge about what works and what doesn't before investing in any upgrades.

FOMC Statement: Federal Reserve Discusses Rate Increase, But Concerned About Growth

FOMC Statement: Federal Reserve Discusses Rate Increase, but Concerned About GrowthThe post-meeting statement of the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee indicated that while the Fed is considering raising its target rate as early as June, the agency is in no hurry to cast anything in cement. The statement cited stronger labor markets and low unemployment rates as encouraging, but noted that FOMC members remain concerned about economic growth due to low inflation failing to meet the FOMC goal of two percent.

15 of 17 FOMC members said that they expected interest rates to increase before year-end, but downwardly revised forecasts of how high rates might be raised. Committee members further expressed concerns about economic growth and inflation, which is likely to impact Fed decisions about raising interest rates or not.

Economic Growth, Inflation Slower than Expected

The FOMC statement noted that economic growth has "moderated somewhat," which was less enthusiastic than in January, when the Fed noted solid economic growth. The Fed revised its projections for the national unemployment rate from December's expected range of 5.20 to 5.50 percent to 5.00 percent to 5.20 percent.

The target federal funds rate remains at a range of 0.00 to 0.250 percent and is expected to increase to 0.625 percent by year-end, and forecasted to reach 0.875 percent by the end of 2016. The target rate is expected to rise to 1.25 percent at the end of 2017.
Raising the target federal funds rate would impact mortgage rates, rates on vehicle loans and corporate loans. As the cost of loans rises, and wages stay relatively flat, consumers will have less cash for discretionary spending and may put off buying homes and purchasing big-ticket items that require financing.

Fed Chair Says Fed Isn't "Impatient" about Raising Rates

After the FOMC statement was issued, Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a press conference. Asked about the FOMC removing the word "patient" from its description of the committee's attitude about raising the target federal funds rate, Chair Yellen said that removing the word patient does not mean that FOMC members are impatient about deciding when to move on interest rates.

Chair Yellen reiterated what's she has said many times in recent FOMC statements and press conferences, that although the committee may project when it will raise rates, the decision will be based on incoming economic data.

In her opening remarks, Chair Yellen said that when the Fed does raise its target interest rate, the FOMC will retain a "highly accommodative" stance in line with the FOMC's dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and a target inflation rate of 2.00 percent.

All in all, this FOMC statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen's press conference revealed no great changes in the Fed's stated policy over the last several months. While low unemployment rates are prompting the Fed to consider raising the federal funds rate, no date for doing so has been set; the agency will provide plenty of advance notice before it raises rates and in the meantime will closely monitor domestic and global financial and economic developments for guidance in deciding when to raise rates.

Variable-rate vs. Fixed-rate Mortgages - Which is Better for Your Financial Situation?

Variable-rate Vs. Fixed-rate Mortgages - Which is Better for Your Financial Situation? When applying for a new home mortgage, many loan applicants initially consider applying for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. This is perhaps the most common and traditional type of mortgage available. It allows you to enjoy the opportunity to pay for your home over the course of 30 years with equal payments every month. While this is one option, there are actually multiple choices available. For some applications, a variable rate mortgage may be more advantageous. If you are comparing the options between a fixed rate and a variable rate mortgage, you may consider a few points.

A Lower Initial Interest Rate

When you compare the fixed rate and variable rate options, you will immediately notice that the variable rates have a lower start rate. The interest rate will influence the mortgage payment amount. Because of this, you will benefit from a lower initial mortgage payment with a variable rate. However, it is important to understand that the interest rate on a variable rate mortgage will adjust periodically over the life of the loan. This means that the mortgage payment will also adjust.

Managing A Potential Rate Adjustment

The true benefit of a fixed rate mortgage is the ability to better control your budget and manage your funds. A mortgage payment can be a large expense item in your budget, and it may be the largest single expense you have by far. An increase to your variable rate and therefore your mortgage payment can be difficult to bear if you have a tight budget with no wiggle room. In some cases, the rate may go beyond what is affordable for a homeowner to endure. If you do take on a variable rate loan, it is important that you understand what the highest possible interest rate adjustment is and what your payment may be with that rate. If you can manage that payment, then you may confidently apply for a variable rate mortgage.

If you are thinking about applying for a mortgage, it is important that you consider all of the options carefully and that you understand the key differences between them. You can speak with a mortgage loan officer or lending representative in detail to get more information about the options available to you. This can help you to make a better decision about your mortgage application and to better plan and budget for your future as a homeowner.

Understanding the Key Factors That Affect Your Mortgage Interest Rate

Understanding the Key Factors That Affect Your Mortgage Interest RateWhen you initially start shopping for a home mortgage, you may be drawn to advertisements for ultra-low interest rates. These may be rates that seem too good to be true, and you may gladly contact the lender or mortgage company to complete your loan application. However, the unfortunate truth is that all too often, mortgage applicants are unpleasantly surprised and even disheartened to learn that they do not qualify for the advertised interest rate. By learning more about the factors that influence your interest rate, you may be able to structure you loan in a more advantageous way.

Your Credit Rating

One of the most important factors that influence an interest rate is your credit score. Lenders have different credit score requirements, but most have a tiered rating system. Those with excellent credit scores qualify for the best interest rate, and good credit scores may qualify for a slightly higher interest rate. Because of this, you may consider learning more about your credit score and taking time to correct any errors that may be resulting in a lower score.

The Amount Of Your Down Payment

In addition, the amount of your down payment will also play a role in your interest rate. The desired down payment may vary from lender to lender, but as a rule of thumb, the best home mortgage interest rates are given to those who have at least 20 to 30 percent of funds available to put down on the property, and this does not include subordinate or secondary financing. If you are applying for a higher loan-to-value loan, you may expect a higher interest rate.

The Total Loan Amount Requested

In addition, the total loan amount will also influence the rate. There are different loan programs available, but one of the biggest differences in residential loans is for very large loan amounts. The qualification for a jumbo loan will vary for different markets, but these loans qualify for different rates than conventional loans with a smaller loan amount.

While you may be able to use advertised interest rates to get a fair idea about the rate you may qualify for, the only real way to determine your mortgage rate will be to apply for a loan and to get pre-qualified. You can contact a mortgage lender today to request more information about today's rates and to begin your pre-qualification process.

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

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 16 2015Last week's economic reports included job openings, retail sales, retail sales except automotive, consumer sentiment for March and the usual reports on weekly jobless claims and mortgage rates.

Job Openings Highest in 14 Years

The Labor Department reported that job openings reached their highest level in 14 years in January, and rose by 2.50 percent over December 2014 job openings. On a seasonally adjusted basis, there were five million job openings in January. Job openings rose by 28 percent year-over-year.

Hiring rose by 3.50 percent to 5.24 million, but analysts said that employers continue to have difficulty in finding workers with skills needed to fill their job openings. Winter weather was also mentioned as contributing to lower hiring rates.

Stable full-time employment is a key requirement for qualifying for a home loan. Inconsistent, part-time and self-employment typically make it more difficult to qualify for mortgages in today's conservative lending environment.

Retail Sales Lower

Retail sales fell by –0.60 percent in February against an expected reading of +0.30 percent and January's reading of -0.80 percent. This was the third consecutive drop in retail sales volume and suggests that consumers are not confident about spending. Retail sales except automotive were also lower with a February reading of -0.10 percent against an expected reading of +0.40 percent and January's reading of -1.10 percent.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

According to Freddie Mac average mortgage rates rose across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.86 percent, an increase of 11 basis points. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose by seven basis points to 3.10 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose five basis points to 3.01 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 389,000 against expectations of 310,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week's reading of 325,000 new claims filed. This was good news after a spike in new jobless claims that was likely caused by bad weather. Although week to week data tends to be more volatile than month-to-month trends, there was good news in that new jobless claims fell below a benchmark of 300,000 new claims filed. Readings of 300,000 or fewer new jobless claims filed represent strong labor market conditions.

What's Ahead

This week's economic reports include the NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, federal reports on housing starts and building permits and the Federal Reserve's FOMC meeting statement. Fed Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to present a press conference, which analysts will watch closely for any indication of when the Fed will raise interest rates.

Have You Outgrown Your Current Home? Here Are Five Easy Ways to Tell if It's Time to Upgrade

Have You Outgrown Your Current Home? Here Are Five Easy Ways to Tell if It's Time to Upgrade Your home is your castle, your own little piece of the American dream. But lately, your little corner of the world has been feeling cramped and you find yourself eyeing those larger homes. Is it time to pull up stakes and move on from your starter home?

Growing Family

If you've added to your family in recent years, you may have more bodies than bedrooms. A two-bedroom home may have been a great idea when it was just you and your spouse, but with two kids, you're starting to have turf wars over the play area.

Overflowing With Stuff

From an overflowing toy chest to closets packed so tightly with shoes and coats you risk an avalanche every time you open the door, your home just doesn't have the space to keep all your things. You may have even had to move some things off-site, spending money to rent storage space to keep that antique dresser your grandmother left you or the set of state spoons you carefully collected during your college years.

No Rest For The Weary

You'd love to spend an afternoon soaking in the tub, but before the warmth of the water can take you away, there's a banging on the door of the only bathroom in the house and a chorus of "hurry up" invading your quiet time. And the man cave you dreamed of? Those visions of a big screen television were shattered by the realization you needed somewhere for the kids to sleep.

No Room For Extras

When you first moved in, the two-car garage doubled as your woodworking shop. Now, the equipment has been sent to storage to make room for the family's second car. You'd love to take up organic gardening, but your tiny yard barely has room for a grill and a lawn chair. You'd love to host your friends visiting from out of state, but there is hardly room for their luggage, much less them.

Changes In Career

You may have opted for a starter home when you first entered the market because you had a smaller income. Now, thanks to changes in careers or promotions at work, you can afford a home with greater square footage and room for your growing family that will provide the space you need for many years of happy memories.

Home prices across the country are starting to rise. Contact your trusted mortgage advisor today to see what you can quilafy for to take advantage of the opportunity to give your family the most space at the best price now.

The Mortgage Pre-approval Letter: Why It's Important and How to Get One

The Mortgage Pre-approval Letter: Why It's Important and How to Get One If you are thinking about buying a new home in the near future, you may already be searching online to get a feel for the different types of homes available in the local area. You may have reviewed your budget, and you may have a fair idea about a sales price that is comfortable for you to afford.

While you may feel as though you have taken the preliminary steps necessary to prepare yourself to buy a home, it is important that you also get a mortgage pre-approval letter for your financing before you starting hunting for that perfect new house or condo.

The Importance of a Pre-Approval Letter

A mortgage pre-approval letter is issued to a loan applicant after he or she has passed through a preliminary credit review process. Most of these letters state that the individual is pre-qualified for a property with a maximum sales price, and it is contingent on the loan applicant providing supporting documentation, such as tax returns and bank statements.

This letter gives you a better idea about what it will take for you to get final loan approval and what loan amount you may qualify for. The letter is also provided to a seller, and it gives the seller the confidence that comes with knowing that you are a qualified buyer. When a seller has an offer from a buyer with a letter and another offer from one without a letter, there is a good chance that the seller will opt for a buyer who is already pre-qualified for financing.

How to Get Your Pre-Approval Letter

As you can see, there are several reasons why it is important to get pre-qualified for your mortgage financing. Getting a pre-approval is generally a straightforward process, but it can seem intimidating. You will need to complete a loan application, and this may be done in person or online with a lender or mortgage company. You will also need to sign an authorization for the lender to pull your credit report. After taking these steps, you typically will be able to receive a pre-approval letter within a day or two.

When you have plans to purchase a new home, you likely will need to apply for financing in order to complete your plans. Getting a pre-approval letter up-front can help you in a number of ways, and you can easily take the steps necessary to get pre-approved for your mortgage. Simply contact a mortgage company or lender today to get started with the process.

Taking an Extended Vacation? Renting Your Home to Long-Term Tenants is a Great Option

Taking an Extended Vacation? Renting Your Home to Long-term Tenants is a Great OptionTaking an extended vacation can seem like a dream come true. You may have plans to spend your summer in Europe, your winter in the Caribbean or even a full year or longer exploring a different region. If you have the luxury of taking an extended vacation, you may have your sights set on adventure and relaxation.

However, you also need to consider the practicality of leaving behind your home and belongings for an extended period of time. A great idea is to take on a long-term tenant for your home, and there are a number of benefits that you can enjoy by doing this.

Generate Income From Your Home

When you lease your home to a long-term tenant, you will be able to generate a monthly income from the property. This can be used to pay for your mortgage, property insurance and other related expenses while you are gone. Essentially, it can make it more affordable for you to take your trip for an extended period of time.

Decrease Your Maintenance Expenses

When you are away from your home, you may still have maintenance and upkeep chores to do. When you are home, for example, you may easily be able to water your lawn and mow the grass on your own. You may deal with a leaky pipe before it becomes problematic and causes considerable damage to the home. When you are gone, you may need to pay for a lawn service, and you have nobody to watch over the interior of the home. However, when you lease your home to a tenant, the tenant may be responsible for caring for the yard. In addition, he or she can alert you to issues that develop inside the home.

Someone to Keep an Eye on Your Property

When a home appears to be vacant, it is more likely to be vandalized or burglarized. A tenant will give your home an occupied look and will decrease the risk of criminal activity. In addition, the tenant may change your air filters, replace batteries in the smoke detectors and take other steps to keep the home in great condition for you while you are gone. You can specify your requirements in the lease.

If you are planning an extended vacation and you are looking for a convenient way to ensure that your home is taken care of while you are gone, consider the benefits of taking on a long term tenant.

Missed a Mortgage Payment? How to Ensure It Doesn't Affect Your Credit Score

Missed a Mortgage Payment? How to Ensure It Doesn't Affect Your Credit ScoreIf you pay attention to your credit rating, you may be well aware that a single late payment reflected on your credit report can result in a decline in your scores.

In some cases, the decline can be rather significant, and you will have to work hard to make regular payments over a period of time to show that you remain creditworthy and to rebuild your credit score.

It is far better to avoid late payments altogether than to deal with the stress and ramifications of a late payment on your credit report. If you have already missed the due date on your mortgage loan, you may be wondering what you can do to prevent this late payment from showing up on your credit report.

Contact Your Mortgage Company Immediately

Initially, contact your mortgage company to make payment arrangements and to discuss the situation. In some cases, a mortgage company may be willing to work with you on structuring a new arrangement for the payment to be made or you may even have a surplus in your escrow account that could be applied toward the payment.

You can also determine when they will report your late payment to the credit bureaus and how much time you have before you absolutely need to make the payment to avoid credit ramifications.

Make Your Payment Before The Next One Is Due

Generally, lenders will report late payments when they are more than 30 days late. While you may be assessed a late fee after the initial grace period has expired, you may not have technical late payment in terms of what credit reporting bureaus consider to be late. Generally, if you make your payment before the next mortgage payment is due, your late payment will not show up as a late payment with the bureaus. However, you do want to verify this with your mortgage company and work with them to bring your account current.

A late payment on a mortgage can have a substantial and negative impact on your credit rating, and it can take months or even years to restore your scores to their previous level. Rather than go through the effort to try to improve your score after the fact, it is best to avoid the late payment altogether. While you may have already missed a payment and may be required to pay a late fee, it may not be too late to avoid having this event reflected on your credit report.

Contact your lender today to learn more about your options and to make your payment.

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

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 9 2015Last week's economic news was light on housing related reports, but several employment reports were released along with the national unemployment rate, which dipped to 5.50 percent. This was a full point below the Federal Reserve's original target rate of 6.50 percent. Construction spending was incrementally lower than expected and mortgage rates also fell.

Fewer Private-Sector Jobs, Non-Farm Payrolls Increase

The ADP employment report for February fell from January's reading of 250,000 jobs to 212,000 private-sector jobs. January's reading was upwardly revised from the original tally of 213,000 jobs added. News was better for Non-Farm Payrolls for February. The Labor Department reported that 295,000 jobs were added; analysts expected a reading of 238,000 new jobs based on January's original reading of 257,000 jobs added, but January's reading was revised to 239,000 jobs added. The Non-Farm Payrolls report includes both public and private-sector jobs.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 320,000 against expectations of 301,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 313,000 new jobless claims. The week-to-week jobless claims report is considered volatile; most analysts base forecasts on a four-week rolling average.

National unemployment decreased from 5.70 percent in January to 5.50 percent in February as compared to an expected reading of 5.60 percent. February's reading was the lowest since May 2008. Construction added 29,000 in February, which could indicate a boost in home construction. The unemployment rate does not account for 17.50 million workers who work part-time but want full-time work and those who have left the job market. The labor market participation rate fell to 62.8 percent, which was its lowest since the late 1970s.

Analysts said that based on the lower unemployment rate, the Fed may move as soon as June to raise the target federal funds rate to prevent rapid inflation, but Federal Reserve policy makers have consistently cited concerns over labor markets as a reason why the fed funds rate hasn't been raised. A combination of stagnant wages, higher mortgage rates combined with stubbornly strict mortgage credit requirements could cause housing markets to lag behind other economic sectors until would-be home buyers achieve steady employment and can qualify for home financing.

Mortgage Rates Drop

Freddie Mac provided good news as average mortgage rates dropped.  Last week's rate for a 30-year mortgage was 3.75 percent and lower by five basis points; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by four basis points to 3.03 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was three basis points lower at 2.96 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What's Ahead

This week's economic news includes reports on job openings and labor market conditions along with retail sales reports. Consumer sentiment will be release and Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims data will be released as usual on Thursday.

Three Inexpensive Makeovers That Will Boost Your Home's Appeal to Young Buyers

Three Inexpensive Makeovers That Will Boost Your Home's Appeal to Young BuyersWhen preparing to list your home for sale, you may be wondering who will buy your home. While this initial thought may be one spurred by curiosity, the fact is that understanding who your target audience is and what they are looking for in a home may help you to position your home to sell more quickly and for a better price.

If you have determined that there are many younger buyers moving into your area, you may want to make a few changes that will add appeal to this target audience. While you could spend tens of thousands of dollars or more completing a home makeover, there are a few budget-minded ideas that you may consider.

Add Color to Molding and Trim

One of the hottest trends in home décor and interior design is to get rid of the standard white trim and molding and to add color to these areas. Neutral hues like grays and browns have universal appeal, or you can give your space a more contemporary look by adding black to these areas.

Generally, you will want a more neutral color like a creamy beige on the walls when executing a look with colored trim.

Update Light Fixtures

If you have a little more money to spend, you may consider updating your light fixtures. There are rather affordable yet stylish fixtures available in a wide range of finishes.

When your rooms are empty or staged to perfection, the light fixtures can easily set the tone of the room and may be focal points. Outdated fixtures may have limited appeal to young buyers who are looking for a home that is modern and current with today's trends.

Redefine Outdated Spaces

In some older homes, some of the rooms may have originally been built with outdated uses in mind.

Today's younger buyers may be looking for a home with an exercise room, a media room or a study rather than a formal living or dining area. With this in mind, you may consider how you can stage your home to show that it can be used for modern purposes.

This may simply mean moving your formal dining room set into storage, adding French doors and investing in an affordable desk and side chairs for staging purposes. This is just one of several options available that may give your home broader appeal to a younger audience shopping for a modern floor plan.

If you are thinking about renovating your home and you believe that you will likely attract younger buyers to your area, you can consider implementing some of these ideas in your space. 

Buying for the First Time? The Ultimate Guide to Surviving the Mortgage Process

Buying for the First Time? The Ultimate Guide to Surviving the Mortgage ProcessIf you have heard nightmarish stories from friends and family members about the home mortgage application process, you are not alone. In fact, some of these stories may have even been a reason why you have held out on moving forward with your plans to purchase your first-home. While some have indeed had unpleasant experiences, the fact is that there is nothing to be intimidated about. When you follow a few easy tips, you can streamline the process and navigate through it with minimal effort or stress.

Find The Right Mortgage Professional To Work With

One of the best steps that you can take when applying for a mortgage is to choose a friendly, knowledgeable and experienced mortgage professional. Do not be afraid to ask the loan officer how long he or she has been working in the field and with the current company. They want your business, and they should be more than willing to answer your questions. More than that, pay attention to how easy it is to get ahold of them and how quickly they respond to your questions and concerns. If you cannot get a fast response up-front, you likely will not get one when you are in the middle of the loan process.

Ask Questions As Needed

As a first-time mortgage applicant, it is important that you understand as much as possible about your application and your mortgage. If you have any questions about closing costs, payment adjustments, the general loan process, how to verify your earnest money deposit or anything else, you should ask. A friendly mortgage professional will be more than willing to answer all of your questions as needed to ensure that you are a confident and informed borrower. You never should worry about a matter, and you simply have to ask the questions to get the answers you need.

Respond To Inquiries For Information Promptly

During the loan process, your lender will ask you for specific items. This may be your signature on their loan documents, a loan application, tax returns, pay stubs and other related financial documentation. The loan process may be on hold until you respond to those requests for information. Keep in mind that the loan process and underwriter will need to review the items, and some items may trigger the need for more documentation. For example, if you have a large deposit on a bank statement, the lender may request more information about this.

You may be stressed and even fearful about the mere thought of applying for a mortgage, but rest assured that many people successfully navigate through the process with minimal stress or fanfare. Your mortgage broker or lender is committed to helping you get the loan you need, and you can easily reach out to a friendly, experienced lending professional today to begin learning more about the loan programs that may be right for you.

What Factors Determine Your Home's Resale Value? Let's Take a Look

What Factors Determine Your Home's Resale Value? Let's Take a LookThere are several factors that will help you determine the value of your home when you want to sell it. Location, condition, layout, upgrades, and events relating to your home are all important when selling your home.

It's All About Location

Anyone in real estate will tell you location, location, location is the first thing to consider when buying real estate. If your home is on a busy street, it’s going to be harder to sell unless someone is looking for that exact location.

If a buyer is looking to have a business inside the home, then having more exposure could be important. However, for a family, the most sought after location is in a cul-de-sac or dead-end street where traffic is kept to a minimum.

Your Home's Condition Is Important

The home you are selling must be in excellent condition to ensure you get top dollar. Buyers are primarily looking for a home that is in move-in condition. If it needs painting, new flooring, a new roof, or new plumbing, it isn’t as desirable as a home that doesn’t need any work. Newer homes typically are in better condition than older homes, unless they have been well-maintained.

Your Home's Layout

Is your floorplan functional? Most buyers prefer homes with open floorplans and ample kitchens, living areas, and bathrooms. Closets are also important as everyone needs storage space. The number of bedrooms a home has can also be important. Two bedrooms aren’t as popular or functional as three or four bedrooms. It’s also nice to have a flex room that can be a study, exercise room, or a formal dining room if need be. If a smaller home is well-designed, it can be easier to resale than a larger home.

Upgrades And Renovations

If you have an older home, but have upgraded the kitchen and bathrooms, then your home will be easier to sell. Updated appliances can also be a big plus when selling a home.

Natural Disasters And Other Events

If your home has been flooded, been through a fire, or damaged from wind or a storm, then that may cause the value to be less. If a buyer happens to talk to a neighbor who tells them a negative story, that may spook a buyer and cause them to look elsewhere.