What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - May 26, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 26 2015Last week's economic reports included several readings related to housing The Wells Fargo/National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, the Commerce Department's releases on Housing Starts and Building Permits, and the National Association of Realtors® report on Existing Home Sales supplied mixed news on recent developments in housing. Freddie Mac and the Labor Department released their usual reports on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims. The details:

NAHB: Builder Confidence Slips, But Remains Positive

The Wells Fargo/ National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released its Housing Market Index report for April. Although April's reading was two points lower at 54, any reading over 50 indicates that more builders consider housing market conditions positive than not. April's reading on builder confidence was the 11th consecutive index reading over 50.

According to NAHB, builder confidence in present housing market conditions dropped by two points to a reading of 59, while builder confidence in market conditions over the next six months rose one point to 64. Builder expectations for buyer foot traffic dropped by one point to 39. The lower readings for buyer traffic could be related to more home shoppers starting their home search online.

Building Permits, Housing Starts Show Improvement

The Commerce Department reported that building permits for April were higher at 1.14 million as compared to the March reading of 944,000 permits issued in March. Analysts expected a reading of 1.03 million permits issued, This was the highest reading for building permits since mid-2008.

Housing starts rose by a noteworthy 20 percent to a reading of 1.14 million in April, but analysts cautioned that this reading was inconsistent with the more moderate pace of improvement in overall housing markets. The Commerce Department reported that starts of single family homes rose by 17.60 percent to a reading of 666,000 starts. This was the highest rate of single-family starts since early 2008, but analysts noted that April's high reading for housing starts could reflect delayed starts that were impacted by winter weather.

Existing Home Sales Fall Due to Rising Home Prices

The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of previously owned homes dropped as home prices increased. A tight supply of available homes and higher home prices slowed the sales pace of existing home sales. April sales of existing homes fell from the March level of 5.21 million sales to 5.04 million sales; analysts had forecasted a higher sales volume of 5.24 million existing homes sold.

Rising home prices pose challenges to first-time and moderate income home buyers, and strict mortgage standards can make it tough for those with less than stellar credit scores to qualify for mortgages. Rising home prices are good news for homeowners as bidding wars have been reported in high-demand areas.

Mortgage Rates Lower, Jobless Claims Up

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates were slightly lower. Mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.84 percent. Discount points rose from 0.60 to 0.70 percent. Mortgage rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.05 percent with average discount points of 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 2.88 percent; discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 274,000 new claims filed. This reading exceeded expectations of 269,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 264,000 new claims. Analysts said that although this was a four-week high for new unemployment claims, layoff s remain low. Year-over-year, new jobless claims were 16 percent lower. New jobless claims remain close to a 15-year low and layoffs hit their lowest level on record. This news could build prospective home buyer confidence as job security plays a major rrole in most decisions to buy a home.

What's Ahead

This week's housing related reports include the S&P Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indexes and the FHFA Home Price Index. New and Pending Home Sales reports and the usual mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims reports are also scheduled.

Concrete Countertops: Learn Why Concrete May Be the Best Thing to Hit Your Kitchen

Concrete Countertops: Learn Why Concrete May Be the Best Thing to Hit Your KitchenUpdating your kitchen may be a project that you have been looking forward to for a long time. Now that the time has come to get started working on your project, you may be exploring the different materials that are available to use in your kitchen. The counter tops are often a prime focal point for a kitchen remodeling project. While there are several materials available to consider, concrete may be the best option for a number of reasons.

Endless Design Options

Concrete is a popular material that is used on patios, decorative floors and more because it can be stained, scored and shaped with almost endless possibilities. Just as the design options are limitless for other areas of the home, the same holds true when using concrete for your counter tops. You can customize the size, shape, finish, edge style and color without limits to achieve the desired look for your space.

Affordable Material

Concrete is not quite as affordable as laminate counter tops, but it is far more affordable than most other options. It also has a higher end look than laminate, and it can be poured, scored, and stained to mimic other higher end materials. This is a great way to get a luxurious look for your counter tops without paying a high price for them.

Highly Durable

Like many other materials that you may be thinking about for your counter tops, concrete will need to be sealed for long-lasting beauty and style. Once sealed, this is a material that is resistant to damage from heat exposure, staining, water exposure and more. Essentially, it is one of the most durable materials that you can use in your kitchen.

The kitchen is by all accounts a functional room, and counters will be exposed to heat, water, sharp edges and more over the course of time. Concrete is a material that holds up well in this type of environment.

It is rarely easy to select the perfect materials to use in your home remodeling project. After all, you may be concerned about style, durability and cost, and each material may have pros and cons. After discovering the benefits of concrete counter tops, however, you may have found the material you are searching for. You can request a quote for your concrete counters and review the incredible design possibilities.

Refinancing on a FHA Mortgage? Learn More About the FHA Streamline Refinance

Refinancing on a FHA Mortgage? Learn More About the FHA Streamline RefinanceHome buyers are often drawn to the FHA mortgage program due to the low interest rates, low closing costs and generally attractive loan terms. However, there will come a time when many who have an FHA mortgage want to refinance. After all, refinancing a mortgage may allow you to tap into your home's equity, obtain a lower interest rate, extend or shorten the loan term or achieve other goals you may have. While there are different loan programs that you can use to refinance, many are taking advantage of the FHA streamline refinance program.

What Is the Streamline Refinance Program?

This is a unique program that is ideal for many who have an FHA loan, and this includes those who are underwater with their home mortgage. This program is unique from others because there is not an appraisal requirement. Many other programs will offer a certain loan amount based on the current value of the home. When the value has declined since the purchase, it may not be possible to refinance with other loan programs. However, this program is well-suited for such situations, and this is regardless of the amount your home has declined in value.

The Loan Terms

While one of the key selling points relates to the fact that the FHA Streamline program does not require an appraisal, there are other selling points. This is a low closing cost option that can close quickly. In addition, you can choose from a fixed or adjustable rate, and the interest rates are very competitive. There are also 15 and 30-year terms available. Plus, the loan program does not have a prepayment penalty associated with it.

Many borrowers also appreciate the fact that the underwriting process is streamlined, and there is minimal documentation required. In fact, there is not an income or employment verification in place, so you will not have to worry about providing all of the paperwork that would need to provide for other loan programs.

If you have an FHA loan currently, you may be ready to refinance. Regardless of what your current goals are for refinancing your existing mortgage, it is smart to learn more about the FHA Streamline mortgage. With how easy it is to qualify and how attractive the loan terms are, this may be the loan program that you have been searching for. You can speak with a home loan specialist about the qualification requirements and loan terms that you may qualify for under this program.

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

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

Make Sure Your Credit Score Is In Good Shape

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

Have a Large Down Payment

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

Have Significant Assets

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

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

Buying a Classic Older Home? Three Upgrades You'll Need to Make Immediately

Buying a Classic Older Home? Three Upgrades You'll Need to Make ImmediatelyWhile some home buyers only want to live in a brand new home and will custom build a home to their specifications, others are drawn to the historic character and charm of a classic home. Older homes may have incredible architectural detail and special features that you simply do not want to change. These older homes can sometimes be a much better investment than a brand new home. However, there are some essential features that should be upgraded as soon as possible after you take ownership of your classic home.

The Electrical Panel

Many older homes were built at a time when electricity use was at a minimum, but the reliance on electricity has increased over the years. Older homes may commonly have an electrical panel with 50 amps or less, but your current needs may require you to have a panel with at least 200 amps. It may be good to have an electrician inspect the electrical panel as well as the wiring in the home to determine if an upgrade is needed in your new home.

Re-Plumbing the Pipes

A quick plumbing inspection will tell you if the home has copper, steel or other materials used with piping. The best material is copper because it is resistant to leaking, corrosion and rusting. Steel pipes generally should be replaced with copper as soon as possible. Other materials, such as cast iron, may be acceptable to keep in place. However, sections may need to be replaced if the pipes are more than 50 years old.

Firestops in the Structure

The good news about the structure of older homes is that older homes generally are better built than newer homes. However, most lack the critical feature of a firestop. A firestop essentially can minimize how fire travels through a home. Adding firestops to an older home can improve safety for the home's occupants in the event of a fire and can minimize fire damage.

It is understandable that you will likely want to retain the historic character and charm of your older home. These may have been the features that you fell in love with when you bought it. However, you also want to ensure that the home has modern features that will make it comfortable and safe for you and your family to live in. These are all important improvements that you will want to make now that ultimately could improve your experience throughout the entire time you live in your home and they can also increase the value of the home.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - May 18, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 18 2015Last week's economic reports included data from the Federal Reserve on student loan debt, job openings and retail sales. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac's survey of average mortgage rates were released as usual on Thursday. A report on consumer sentiment wrapped up the week's scheduled economic new.

Federal Reserve: Student Loan Borrowers Struggle with Payments 

In two reports issued by the New York and St. Louis branches of the Federal Reserve, researchers found that high numbers of student loan borrowers are behind in making payments. According to the New York Fed, 11.10 percent of student loan borrowers were 90 or more days past due on their payments during the first quarter of 2015.

This is a slight improvement over the fourth quarter of 2014, when 11.30 percent of student loan borrowers were 90 or more days behind with their payments. The Fed notes that these percentages do not include borrowers who are behind on payments but who are not required to make payments due to forbearance or other approved payment deferrals. 

The burden of student loan debt is a serious consideration for the housing sector, as student loan debt can keep would-be buyers from qualifying for mortgages needed to buy homes. Worse, delinquency on student loans can damage borrowers' credit and create further obstacles to getting a mortgage.

Job Openings, Retail Sales Lower

The Labor Department reported that job openings fell to 4.99 million in March as compared to February's reading of 5.14 million job openings. March job openings increased by 19 percent year-over-year. There were about 1.72 job seekers for each job opening in March, which is lower than the reading of 1.77 job seekers per job when the recession started in December 2007.

Retail sales were unchanged in April against an expected increase of 0.10 percent and the March reading of 1.10 percent. Retail sales without the automotive sector expanded by 0.10 percent against expectations of 0.40 percent growth and March growth of 0.70 percent. Increasing fuel prices and skepticism over economic conditions likely contributed to slack retail sales.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, Jobless Claims Lower

Weekly jobless claims provided some good news as they came in at 264,000 new claims against expectations of 275,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 265,000 new jobless claims. This was the third consecutive week that new jobless claims were less than 270,000; this has not occurred since 1975.

Freddie Mac reported that average rates for fixed rate mortgages rose, while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage ticked downward by one basis point. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.85 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also increased by five basis points to 3.07 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Consumer sentiment as reported by the University of Michigan dropped to a seven month low of 88.6 as compared to April's reading of 95.9 and an expected reading of 94.9. Consumers are concerned about the economy and their personal finances. The reading for consumer sentiment prior to the recession averaged 86.9 over the year prior to the recession. Economists cited weak wage growth and rising fuel prices as contributing causes of consumer uncertainty.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic news includes a number of housing-related reports. The NAHB Home Builders Housing Market Index, The National Association of Realtors® Existing Home Sales report, Housing Starts and Building Permits and the minutes of the Fed's last FOMC meeting are set for release. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and Weekly Jobless Claims will be released as usual on Thursday.

 

 

Multi-Generational Living: Our Guide to Buying a Home That Suits Your Whole Family

Multi-generational Living: Our Guide to Buying a Home That Suits Your Whole Family It was very common decades ago for several generations of a family to live together, and this may have included kids, parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents in some cases. Today's modern homes are generally designed to accommodate a more traditional modern family, which includes only parents and kids or for only a married couple without kids. When you are buying a home for other generations as well, it is important for you to pay attention to a few important points.

The Right Living Spaces and Accommodations

Generally, a home with a floor plan that is most suitable for multiple generations is one with different wings of bedrooms and several different living areas. There is something to be said for togetherness, but you may find that having several different living areas as well as having a floor plan that keeps older family members' bedrooms away from the bedrooms of younger family members is a good idea.

After all, there will be plenty of times when older family members may want to chit chat or read a good book in a living area while others may want to turn on the TV or music. In addition, they may have different sleeping schedules, and noise from either of their rooms can be bothersome.

Special Considerations for Older and Younger Generations

You should also think about the special needs of older and younger generations. Very young family members, for example, may benefit from a large, enclosed backyard, a play room and well-insulated windows or a home location removed from loud busy roadways. Older generations may prefer a bedroom on the first floor, special safety features in the bathroom and a home without many steps or steep elevations outdoors.

It may be challenging to find a home that can accommodate older and younger generations perfectly, so some modifications may need to be made to a home after purchasing it.

Finding the perfect home for a basic nuclear family is rarely easy, and your challenges may be more significant when you are searching for a home for a multi-generational family. While you may have more needs and desires when looking for a home that is ideal for a larger number of people with more variation in their ages, the fact is that most will be able to find a great home that is ideal for most or all of their needs with a little time and effort.

Real Estate Investing: Why Buying Raw Land Can Be an Excellent Long-Term Strategy

Real Estate Investing: Why Buying Raw Land Can Be an Excellent Long-term Strategy When many people think about investing in property, they think about purchasing income-producing real estate such as a residential property or an office building with tenants. There are indeed many benefits associated with investing in income-producing property. For example, these properties may produce rent that can offset your ownership expenses. However, buying raw land can also be an excellent long-term investment strategy.

By learning more about the benefits of investing in raw land, you may be ready to start searching for real estate to invest in soon.

Minimal Ownership Expenses

Raw land will not have as many ownership expenses as land. This property may not produce rental income for you, but you also will not have to maintain or repair a building or pay for property insurance. Property taxes and a mortgage payment may be lower as well. Typically, your main expense will be the mortgage payment, and this may be far less than what a mortgage payment on developed land may be.

You essentially will be able to pay for the property outright to have no expenses or to leverage your investment and make affordable mortgage payments to pay for your investment.

Significant Potential Gain

There is a significant potential for long-term financial gain with your purchase of raw land. Consider that you can adjust the zoning or subdivide the property as desired. You can also wait for urban sprawl to reach the area to drive up demand and value for the property. It can be difficult to predict when the property value will increase. However, when you select a property in an area that seems to be growing, you may expect there to be some demand for that property in the coming years. Many who have invested in raw land may realize a significant gain when they make plans to hold onto the property for several years or longer before selling it.

Before you make any financial investment, it is important that you consider the amount of time that you wish to hold the investment before seeing a return on it. With raw land, you generally need to anticipate hanging onto the asset for several years or even decades before seeing a financial gain.

Keep in mind that land is a limited resource, and there is increasing demand for it as populations rise in many areas. With this in mind, you can generally expect most property values to eventually rise over time.

Saving Up for Your Down Payment? Try These Money-saving Tips to Speed Things Up

Saving Up for Your Down Payment? Try These Money-saving Tips to Speed Things UpOne of the most significant challenges that many people face when preparing to buy a first home relates to saving money for a down payment. While there are many different loan programs with varying down payment requirements, the fact is that it can still be difficult to save up a large sum of money. Some programs may require you to save as much as 10 percent or 20 percent of the sales price of the home.

You can employ a few different tips and techniques to save money for a down payment more quickly, and these are some of the options that others have successfully used to save money for their home purchase.

Make Saving Automatic

One idea that works well for many people is to make saving for your new home automatic. This may be as simple as scheduling a regular draft or transfer from your checking account when your paycheck is deposited into your savings account. Some employers may even facilitate this process by contributing some of your funds into a savings account on your behalf. With this option, the money would go directly into your savings account without you having a chance to spend it.

Take Advantage of Retirement Accounts

If your employer provides you with the option of investing in an employer-sponsored retirement account, you should take advantage of this option. Many will offer a dollar-for-dollar matching program, and this may essentially double the amount of money that is saved in the account.

More than that, the funds from many retirement accounts may be withdrawn without penalty if they are used for a first-time home purchase. There are some rules and regulations regarding this, so you should research this option more thoroughly.

These are among the two best options for saving money for a down payment for your first home purchase. There are other ideas that you can consider as well. For example, you may borrow from a whole life insurance policy, obtain a gift from a family member or even sell some of your personal belongings that you no longer need or use.

When you combine many of these ideas together, you may be surprised how quickly your down payment fund can grow. You can also speak with a mortgage professional to learn more about the actual amount of money that you may need for the down payment and closing costs.

Mortgage 101: the Basics of How Mortgage Refinancing Works


Mortgage 101: the Basics of How Mortgage Refinancing WorksRefinancing your home mortgage can be beneficial for you for a number of reasons. As a homeowner, you may have spoken with some of your friends and neighbors who have already refinanced, and you may have heard about some of the different benefits associated with refinancing your mortgage. For example, refinancing can result in a lower mortgage payment, the ability to pay your mortgage off more quickly, reduced interest charges, dropping costly PMI, consolidate debt, and other benefits. If you have never gone through this process yourself, however, you may not know what to expect with the refinancing process.
Determining if Refinancing Will Benefit You
The actual benefits that you would receive by refinancing will be unique to your situation. Refinancing is a process that results in replacing your existing mortgage with a new mortgage. This will establish your home financing with a new interest rate, a new term and a different mortgage payment. In some cases, the new loan amount that you qualify for will be higher than the amount that you owe, and you may be able to obtain cash out of the refinancing process because of this. One of the best ways to determine what the specific benefits are for refinancing your mortgage is to speak with a mortgage professional such as Shawn directly.  He offers complimentary reviews of your loan and will provide you with a "Break-even-analysis" which will educate you on whether a refi makes sense or not.
How to Get Started
Refinancing a home mortgage is very similar to applying for the original home mortgage when you purchased the home. However, additional information will be requested regarding your current mortgage, and some information may also be requested about the original purchase. You generally will need to provide tax returns, bank statements and other related financial information to complete the process.
However, initially, you may only be required to fill out a loan application link and to agree to have your credit report pulled. This initial step will help Shawn and his team determine if you may qualify for a refinance mortgage and what the estimated loan terms may be. Generally, this process can be completed quickly.
When you close on your refinance mortgage, the closing will typically take place in a title agency or at our office. The title or escrow agent will facilitate the process of using the funds from the new mortgage to pay off the balance on the existing mortgage and to complete any other required steps on your behalf. While there are some steps that need to be taken for you to refinance your mortgage, the process is typically rather easy when you work with the right mortgage professional. You can request more information about refinancing your mortgage when you speak with us at (615) 383-9292 and simply ask for The Kaplan Team!

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - May 11, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 11 2015Last week's scheduled economic reports primarily revolved around the jobs sector. The federal government released reports on Nonfarm Payrolls, the national unemployment rate and weekly report on new jobless claims. ADP issued its monthly report on private sector payrolls. Readings on labor statistics are important to housing markets as stable employment conditions are a significant consideration for prospective home buyers.

Private-Sector Job Creation Falls, Non-Farm Payrolls Rise

According to ADP, private-sector payrolls fell by 6000 jobs in April to a reading of 169,000 new jobs. This was the fifth consecutive monthly drop in new private sector jobs. ADP also adjusted its March reading to 175,000 new private-sector jobs.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that Nonfarm Payrolls rose by 223,000 in April after a bleak reading of 85,000 new jobs added in March. Analysts said that all economic sectors added jobs in March with the exception of the energy sector. More workers joined the labor force in April, which suggests that jobs are easier to find.

Unemployment Dips to Lowest Rate since 2008

The national unemployment rate fell to 5.40 percent in April, which was the lowest reading since 2008. While a low unemployment rate is good news for job seekers, it will likely prompt the Federal Reserve to raise its target interest rate sometime this year. Analysts expect that if current economic conditions hold steady, the Fed may raise rates in September. Fed policymakers have consistently stated that any decisions to raise rates would be based on careful review of current domestic and foreign economic trends. When the Fed does raise rates, mortgage rates are expected to increase.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported that mortgage rates jumped across the board last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose from 3.68 percent to 3.80 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose from 2.94 percent to 3.02 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 2.85 percent to 2.90 percent. Discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent, but dropped from an average of 0.50 percent to 0.40 percent.

Weekly jobless claims also rose, but were lower than expected at 265,000 new jobless claims filed against an expected reading of 277,000 new claims. The prior week's reading was unrevised at 262,000 new claims filed. New jobless claims remained close to a 15-year low.

While economists note that labor market conditions are improving, wages increased at a year-over-year rate of 2.20 percent as compared to the normal year-over-year increase of 3.00 percent.

What's Ahead

This week's economic reports include more readings on labor market conditions along with reports on retail sales and consumer sentiment. Readings for weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac's mortgage rates report will be released as usual on Thursday.

Ready to Relocate? 3 Tips on How to Set a Moving Budget That Won't Break the Bank

Ready to Relocate? 3 Tips on How to Set a Moving Budget That Won't Break the Bank Relocating to a new area can be exciting, but it can also be expensive. There are many resources to help, but most cost money. However, if you take your time and plan carefully, you can reduce the expense so you don't start your new life with new debt. Here are three tips to controlling your moving budget.

1. Find Out What's Free

Nothing is better than paying nothing, right? Don't assume you have to fork out money for everything you need to move. If you have accepted a new job, ask your new employer whether the company can cover any of your moving expenses.

When it comes to moving supplies, see what you can get without having to pay for it. Stock up on free moving supplies by asking your workplace, local grocery stores, and friends and family for unneeded, sturdy boxes. Instead of paying professional movers, see if you can barter with friends or family for help in moving boxes to and from the truck.

2. Focus On Essentials

After you've pursued every possible angle to cover your needs for free, you will likely need to pay for something. The trick is to only do so for what is absolutely necessary. Many providers will offer you help along the way, but you should only sign up for basic services. This could include moving big items such as a piano, paying for gas and tolls, or buying cartons for oddly-shaped or particularly valuable items. If you are not able to move things yourself, this could include hiring professionals.

3. Do It Yourself

If you have the time and are physically fit, start long before moving day and pack everything yourself. Rent or borrow a truck and move your boxes yourself, perhaps with the help of a friend. Take care of disconnecting old utilities and signing up for new ones. Handle both cleaning your old home and preparing your new one. Anything you can do with a little elbow grease will mean less money out of pocket.

Remember that you are in charge of your move, so don't automatically sign up for every service available. By using free goods and services when available and doing much of the work yourself, you can set and follow a moving budget you can afford.

Understanding Lower FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums and How They May Help You Save Money

Understanding Lower FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums and How They May Help You Save Money FHA loans are designed to help individuals take advantage of the benefits of home ownership, and these loans have low down payment requirements. However, for borrowers who choose to make a down payment that is less than 20 percent of the sales price, the borrower will be required to pay a mortgage insurance premium with the monthly mortgage payment.

This premium is in place to minimize the risk that the lender takes when making a low down payment loan, but it does result in a higher monthly mortgage payment for the homeowner. Recently, the FHA has announced a lower rate for FHA mortgage insurance premiums, and this can help home buyers save money.

A Closer Look At The Reduced Premium

In January 2015, the FHA announced that the FHA premium rate would decline from a current level of 1.35 percent of the loan value to 0.85 percent. This has the potential to save home buyers hundreds of dollars per year in reduced mortgage payments, making home ownership more affordable. In fact, the FHA stated that it believes this reduction will help as many as 250,000 home buyers who currently do not qualify for a mortgage to purchase a home.

Calculating the Savings For You

The mortgage insurance premium is in place on low down payment loans until the home equity has accrued to at least 20 percent of the home's value. This equity is essentially built up between principal reduction with regular monthly payments and increasing property values, but homeowners typically will need to prove that the equity is present before the mortgage insurance premium can be removed from the monthly payment.

As a home buyer, it is important to know that you may be responsible for the mortgage insurance premium for several years or longer. Therefore, this reduced premium can result in considerable savings for you over time. You can use an online calculator to determine your actual savings and to calculate your monthly payment based on the new rate.

If you have not qualified for a mortgage in the past due to the addition of a mortgage insurance premium, you may consider contacting a mortgage representative about your current options. The reduction in the premium rate will help many to qualify for the loan amount that they need, and you can speak with a representative about your financing needs and to request an estimate for your mortgage payment.

Real Estate Investing: Why Buying Raw Land Can Be an Excellent Long-Term Strategy

Real Estate Investing: Why Buying Raw Land Can Be an Excellent Long-term Strategy When many people think about investing in property, they think about purchasing income-producing real estate such as a residential property or an office building with tenants. There are indeed many benefits associated with investing in income-producing property. For example, these properties may produce rent that can offset your ownership expenses. However, buying raw land can also be an excellent long-term investment strategy.

By learning more about the benefits of investing in raw land, you may be ready to start searching for real estate to invest in soon.

Minimal Ownership Expenses

Raw land will not have as many ownership expenses as land. This property may not produce rental income for you, but you also will not have to maintain or repair a building or pay for property insurance. Property taxes and a mortgage payment may be lower as well. Typically, your main expense will be the mortgage payment, and this may be far less than what a mortgage payment on developed land may be.

You essentially will be able to pay for the property outright to have no expenses or to leverage your investment and make affordable mortgage payments to pay for your investment.

Significant Potential Gain

There is a significant potential for long-term financial gain with your purchase of raw land. Consider that you can adjust the zoning or subdivide the property as desired. You can also wait for urban sprawl to reach the area to drive up demand and value for the property. It can be difficult to predict when the property value will increase. However, when you select a property in an area that seems to be growing, you may expect there to be some demand for that property in the coming years. Many who have invested in raw land may realize a significant gain when they make plans to hold onto the property for several years or longer before selling it.

Before you make any financial investment, it is important that you consider the amount of time that you wish to hold the investment before seeing a return on it. With raw land, you generally need to anticipate hanging onto the asset for several years or even decades before seeing a financial gain. Make sure to talk with your trusted loan officer about what would be best for you and your financial situation. 

Keep in mind that land is a limited resource, and there is increasing demand for it as populations rise in many areas. With this in mind, you can generally expect most property values to eventually rise over time.

Save Some Additional Cash with Our Guide to Lowering Your Monthly Mortgage Payment

Save Some Additional Cash with Our Guide to Lowering Your Monthly Mortgage Payment If you are like many other homeowners, your home mortgage payment is the single largest expense in your monthly budget. This is a fixed expense that you will typically be responsible for until your loan is paid in full or until you sell your home, and you may have a 15, 20 or even 30 year term on your mortgage.

If your home mortgage payment has become unaffordable or burdensome for you to manage with your current financial situation, rest assured that you may be able to save some additional cash each month without selling your home. Refinancing your existing mortgage can provide you with important financial benefits to help you better manage your budget.

How Refinancing Lowers Your Mortgage Payment

Refinancing your existing mortgage essentially will replace your existing loan with a new loan, but you may not understand how this will result in a lower mortgage payment. When you initially applied for your current mortgage, your payment was fixed based on the interest rates at the time as well as the original loan balance. Since that time, you likely have reduced your loan balance considerably, and interest rates may be improved as well. In fact, some homeowners are able to refinance to a lower rate as well as pull equity out of their home in the process.

How Home Equity Could Further Reduce Monthly Expenses

While your main goal for refinancing a home mortgage may be to reduce the large monthly mortgage payment that you are responsible for, the fact is that you may be able to use your home equity to further reduce your monthly expenses. For example, you can use extra funds provided to you through a refinance to pay off an outstanding student loan, a car payment or a credit card balance. Some homeowners may even be able to pay off most or all of their debts by tapping into their home equity.

It is common for homeowners who have a high and unmanageable mortgage payment to feel overwhelmed and even trapped by their financial situation. However, as you can see, lowering your mortgage payment and even reducing some of your other expenses may be easier to do than you might think. If you are interested in learning more about how refinancing your mortgage may help you to improve your financial situation, you can speak with an experienced mortgage professional today.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - May 4, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week May 4 2015Last week's economic news included S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports, the Fed's FOMC meeting statement and pending home sales. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims were also released as usual. The details:

Case-Shiller: Denver Leads Home Price Gains in February

The S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index showed that home prices continue to appreciate, but at a slower rate than in previous years. Home prices increased at a seasonally-adjusted year-over-year rate of 4.20 percent in February as compared to the February 2014 reading of 4.40 percent.

Denver, Colorado led February's year-over-year home price appreciation rates with a reading of 10.00 percent. San Francisco, California followed closely with a year-over-year reading of 9.80 percent and Miami Florida reported year-over-year home price gains at 9.20 percent.

FOMC Statement: Fed Expects Moderate Economic Growth

In its customary post-meeting statement the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) the Fed repeated its projections for moderate economic growth, but again kept its options open for raising the target federal funds rate, which currently ranges between 0.00 and 0.250 percent. The Fed noted that inflation remains below its goal of 2.00 percent, largely due to earlier decreases in fuel prices. FOMC indicated it will be monitoring inflation data closely.

FOMC members agreed not to raise the target federal funds rate, but said that FOMC will closely monitor data on its dual mandate to achieve maximum employment and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent. Labor market conditions, readings on expected and actual inflation rates and domestic and international economic developments will be considered before the FOMC raises the target federal funds rate. When the Fed does raise rates, mortgage rates can also be expected to rise.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Jobless Claims Fall to 15 Year Low

Average mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.68 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 2.94 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage increased by one basis point to 2.85 percent. Discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent and rose from 0.40 to 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Weekly first-time jobless claims were lower than expected with a reading of 262,000 claims filed against expectations of 287,000 new claims filed and the prior week's reading of 296,000 claims filed. This was the lowest reading for new jobless claims in 15 years. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims fell by 1250 claims to a reading of 283,750 new claims filed. Analysts typically rely on the four-week rolling average reading as it softens the effects of volatility that can occur from week to week.

What's Ahead

Next week's scheduled economic reports are dominated by employment related data including the National Unemployment Rate, Non-Farm Payrolls and the ADP Employment report. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey will be released as usual on Thursday.

Thinking About a Major Renovation? Three Reasons to Consider Adding a Second Story

Thinking About a Major Renovation? Three Reasons to Consider Adding a Second StoryWhen your home is no longer fully functional for your needs, you may be thinking about moving into a larger home with a more functional floor plan. While this is one option to consider, another option is to renovate your existing home. You could build a wing onto your home, or you could add a second story to the property. There are several reasons why adding a second story to your floor plan may be the best solution for you.

Use the Existing Footprint

When you build a wing outward from your home, you will need to pour more foundation and take up a section of the yard with the new addition. By building upward, you can keep your yard intact and use the existing footprint. You may even be able to build into an attic space without making any structural changes to the home itself.

Improve Property Value

When you add a second story onto your home, you essentially will be adding more usable square footage with finished out space. This can have a direct and significant impact on your property value. You will not need to pay moving expenses or worry about if your existing furniture will fit into a new home. You will be able to enjoy the benefits of a larger and more functional home coupled with the ability to recoup most or all of the cost of the renovation through an increase in property value.

Keep Costs to a Minimum

By using the existing footprint of your home and by avoiding pouring more concrete for the foundation, you will be able to keep costs to a minimum. In some cases, such as if you build into the existing attic, you will not need to adjust the frame or roof to find the additional space you need. You may still need to add drywall, HVAC ducts and other features inside the frame of the home to take advantage of this space, but it generally is more cost-effective to build upward rather than outward when renovating a home.

A major renovation is one that can improve the style of your home, but it often will improve the function and increase value as well. If you are thinking about renovating your home, you may research how beneficial it can be to add more space upward on your home rather than to build outward. Talk with your mortgage professional today to see what financial options you may have available to you for renovating your home.

Do You Need a Real Estate Attorney to Help Close Your Home Purchase? Let's Take a Look

Do You Need a Real Estate Attorney to Help Close Your Home Purchase? Let's Take a LookWhen buying a new home, you may have a close eye focused on your budget and expenses, and your goal may be to keep related expenses to a minimum. However, you may also be well aware that a real estate purchase is a legal transaction, and you may be wondering if you need to pay for legal services from a real estate attorney. With a closer look, you can make a better decision that is right for your home buying plans.

The Legal Forms Used With A Typical Transaction

The majority of real estate contracts will be written using standard legal forms. These are legally binding forms with clauses that protect buyers and sellers alike. While they are standard forms, you do want to read the forms in their entirety and understand your obligations before signing the contract. Keep in mind that you are not required to use these forms, and you can request an attorney to prepare a separate contract for you. However, these are commonly used forms that real estate agents typically will use.

The Services Of A Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is not a legal professional, and your agent likely will not be licensed to practice law in the state. However, the agent can explain your obligations with a standard contract so that you have a better understanding about what you are committed to. Your real estate agent may refer you to a real estate attorney if you require a special contract to be drawn up or if you are not comfortable with different clauses in the standard forms.

When Special Situations Arise

The standard real estate contracts will typically be feasible for use with most transactions, but there are special situations that may arise from time to time. For example, you may only want to purchase a portion of a large estate. While the seller would need to subdivided, your attorney would need to review special documents to ensure the transaction is legal. Perhaps you want to purchase real estate in a corporation or under another entity, or you want to protect your rights when purchasing property with a partner who you are not legally married to.

While real estate agents are not legal professionals, they are able to prepare standard contract forms for you and explain them to you. Because of this, many people will not need to pay for additional legal services, but each situation is unique. When you speak with your trusted mortgage professional about your upcoming purchase, he or she can help you to learn more about services an attorney may provide that your real estate agent may not be able to.

Case-Shiller: 20-City Home Price Index Hits 6 Month High

Case Shiller 20 City Home Price Index Hits 6 Month HighAccording to the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index for February, month-to-month home prices increased by 0.50 percent from January’s reading and achieved the highest year-over-year gain in six months. Analysts expected February home prices to increase by 4.80 percent. David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P Dow Jones index committee, said that home prices continue to rise and outpace both inflation and wage gains. Although this is great news for homeowners, it also demonstrates the challenge of affordability for home buyers.

Year-Over-Year Home Prices: Denver Leads in Home Price Gains

Home prices in Denver, Colorado increased by 10 percent year-over-year in February; San Francisco, California home prices gained 9.80 percent year-over-year. Miami, Florida home prices gained 9.20 percent year-over-year. Dallas, Texas and Portland, Oregon rounded out the top five cities with the highest year-over-year home price appreciation in February. Home prices in Dallas increased by 8.60 percent, while and Portland’s home prices gained 7.10 percent year-over-year.

February readings for year-over-year home price growth were lowest in Washington, DC at 1.40 percent. Cleveland, Ohio and New York, New York posted year-over-year gains of 2.30 and 2.50 percent respectively. Phoenix, Arizona home prices grew by 2.90 percent and Minneapolis, Minnesota home prices gained 3.10 percent year-over-year.

Chicago, Illinois and Detroit Michigan posted year-over-year gains of 3.40 percent and 3.7- percent. Both cities have shown the smallest gains in prior months but home prices are gaining in year-over-year readings.

San Francisco Tops Month-to-Month Home Price Growth

Price gains from January to February 2015 were led by San Francisco, California with a reading of 2.00 percent. Denver, Colorado home prices gained 1.40 percent; Seattle, Washington home prices gained 0.80 percent, and were followed closely by a gain of 0.80 percent in Los Angeles, California and a tie at 0.70 percent for Portland, Oregon and San Diego, California.

Cites showing negative readings and the lowest month-to-month price gains in February were Boston, Massachusetts at -0.20 percent; Cleveland, Ohio at -0.10 percent. Chicago held steady with 0.00 percent gain and Atlanta, Georgia and Minneapolis, Minnesota posted month-to-month gains of +0.10 percent.

Home prices remained about 16 percent below their 2006 peak at the end of February.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 27, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week April 27 2015Last week's housing related reports included the FHFA Home Price Index, the National Association of Realtors® Existing Home Sales report and The Commerce Department's report on new home sales. Results were mixed, but suggest that housing markets are strengthening.

FHFA Home Prices Up in February, Existing Home Sales Highest in 18 Months

The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported that home prices associated with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rose from a 5.10 percent increase in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.40 percent in February.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of previously owned homes rose to 5.19 million in March as compared to expectations of 5.08 million sales and February's reading of 4.89 million sales of pre-owned homes.

March sales represented a 6.10 percent gain over February sales; this was the highest volume of existing home sales in 18 months. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, said that if strong sales of pre-owned homes continue, 2015 could be the best year for existing home sales in nearly a decade.

New Home Sales Lag in March

The Department of Commerce reported that new home sales fell from February's reading of 543,000 new homes sold to 481,000 new homes sold in March. Analysts expected a March reading of 503,000 new homes sold. This was the slowest pace for new home sales since November, but year-over-year, sales of new homes were 19.40 percent higher year-over-year. The national median home price fell by 1.70 percent to $277,400 year-over-year.

Sales of new homes decreased by 33 percent in the Northeast and fell by 16 percent in the South. New home sales fell by three percent in the West and rose by six percent in the Midwest. At the current sales pace, there is a 5.3 month supply of new homes for sale as compared to a 4.6 month supply in February. Analysts said that stagnant wage growth contributed to fewer home sales.

Mortgage Rates Lower, Weekly Jobless Claims

According to Freddie Mac's weekly survey of mortgage lenders, average mortgage rates fell across the board last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 3.67 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also dropped two basis points to an average of 2.92 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was four basis points lower at 2.84 percent. Discount points for a 30 year mortgage fell to 0.60 percent; points for a 15-year mortgage were higher at 0.60 percent and average discount points for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell from 0.50 to 0.40 percent.

Weekly jobless claims came in at 295,000 new claims filed; analysts expected a reading of 288,000 new claims and the prior week's reading was 294,000 new claims filed. Spring break holidays were blamed for higher jobless claims and March job growth hit its lowest in more than a year. Analysts caution against reading too much into weekly fluctuations and prefer to use the four-week rolling average to identify trends in unemployment claims.

What's Ahead

This week's housing related economic reports include Case-Shiller 10 and 20 City Housing Market Index reports, the customary post-meeting statement from the Fed's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) and pending home sales data.