What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - June 22, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - June 22, 2015Last week's economic news included National Association of Home Builders / Wells Fargo (NAHB) Housing Market Index and Commerce Department reports on Housing Starts and Building Permits, the post-meeting statement of the Fed's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), and Fed Chair Janet Yellen's scheduled press conference.

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Hits 9 Month High

Home builder confidence in housing market conditions is growing in spite of a planned merger between two builders and related cost-cutting efforts. According to the NAHB's the home builder index posted a reading of 59 in June as compared to an expected reading of 55 and May's reading of 54. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are confident about housing markets than those who are not. June's reading was the 12th consecutive month for readings above 50.

The NAHB index is composed of three assessments of market conditions. The reading for current market conditions was seven points higher at 65; builder confidence in current market conditions rose by 6 points for a reading of 69 and the reading for buyer traffic in new single-family housing developments rose five points to a reading of 44.

Regional results for builder confidence were also positive, with three of four regions posting gains in the three-month rolling average of builder confidence. The South posted a gain of three points to a reading of 60; the Northeast region also gained three points for a reading of 44. The West gained two points for a reading of 57 and the Midwest's reading dropped by one point to 54.

Housing Starts Drop, Building Permits Increase

According to the Commerce Department, Housing starts fell in May while building permits rose. The reading of 1.04 million housing starts was lower than the expected number of 1.08 million starts and April's reading of 1.17 million housing starts. Analysts note that apartment construction is heating up as fewer families are buying homes. Tight lending standards and concerns about stable job markets continue to keep would-be home buyers from buying homes.

Building permits in May rose from April's reading of 1.14 million to 1.28 million permits issued. This report includes all types of building permits. David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders noted that the demand for rental units in large metro areas was fueling the pace of permits for multi-family housing.

Fed: No Date Set for Rate Hike; Analysts Predict Rate to Rise in Fall

The Federal Reserve's FOMC statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen's press conference did not provide a date for raising the target federal funds rate, but suggested that most members approved of a rate hike before year-end. While Chair Yellen characterized a rate hike as positive in terms of providing better yields on savings accounts, a rate hike would also lead to higher rates for consumer loans and mortgages.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Lower

Weekly jobless claims fell to 267,000 new claims filed, a reading much lower than expectations of 275,000 new claims filed and the prior week's reading of 279,000 new jobless claims filed. Analysts said that the lower reading indicates a healthier labor market.

Mortgage rates fell across the board last week. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 4.00 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 3.23 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped one basis point to an average rate of 3.01 percent. Average discount points were 0.70 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, 0.50 percent for a 15 year mortgage and 0.04 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic news includes reports on new and existing home sales and FHFA's monthly home price report. Reports on consumer spending and consumer sentiment will also be released along with Freddie Mac's mortgage rates survey and weekly jobless claims.

Family Matters: How to Choose the Perfect Home for a Large or Growing Family

Family Matters: How to Choose the Perfect Home for a Large or Growing Family Selecting the right home to purchase for a family is a monumental task, and this process can seem even more challenging for those with a large or growing family. A common goal may be to give everyone ample space to stretch out and feel relaxed, but some home buyers may also be focused on other factors like location, cost and even the general style of the home. While choosing the perfect home for a large or growing family is not easy, the process can be simplified by focusing on a few points.

Focus On Storage Space

There are few things that can make home life more miserable in the coming years than a lack of storage space. When a large family does not have adequate storage space in closets, the attic, the garage and your cabinets, their items will likely find a home on the counters, on the floor and in other undesirable locations. Home buyers can consider looking for a home that has more storage space than is needed right now to ensure that the new home can accommodate growing needs over the years.

Think About Function Over Size

Many people who are looking a new home will focus on finding a home that has a specific minimum square footage or a minimum number of bedrooms, but function is generally more important. For example, if a home has bar-style seating at the kitchen counter, the family may not need as large of a breakfast room to accommodate its needs. The family may also get more use out of a home that has a second living area, such as a game room, rather than a formal dining room that may rarely be used.

Choose The Right Floor Plan

In addition, consider reviewing the floor plan of the home carefully. Many prefer to have the kids' rooms away from the master room, a study placed away from the kids' game room or an open area where the kitchen and family room are connected so that a parent can oversee the kids while making meals. Home buyers should consider how they live and their likes and dislikes about their current space to determine which floor plan is best for them.

Deciding which home to purchase is rarely easy to do, but be sure to keep these tips in mind when making your decision.

Federal Reserve: No Change on Target Fed Funds Rate

Federal Reserve: No Change on Target Fed Funds RateThe Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve did not move to increase the Fed's target federal funds rate, which is currently 0.00 to 0.250 percent. Although the committee acknowledged further progress toward achieving the Federal Reserve's dual goal of maximum employment and an inflation rate of two percent, committee members indicated that they want to see further improvements in both areas before raising the federal funds rate.

In its customary post meeting statement, the FOMC said that it may not raise rates when both goals have been achieved. This statement may have been meant to calm ongoing speculation that the Fed will soon raise rates. The statement also said that FOMC members may "elect to keep the target federal funds rate below levels the committee considers normal in the longer term." This stance suggests that the Fed wants to be very sure that economic improvement is on a solid track before it raises rates.

The statement further indicated that the FOMC is not completely influenced by the Fed's goals of maximum employment and two percent inflation; instead, the committee said that it will consider ongoing domestic and global news and economic reports along with readings on financial and economic developments as part of its decision to raise or not raise the target federal funds rate.

Analyst reactions to the decision not to raise rates suggests that the Fed is likely to raise rates at its September meeting and possibly again in December.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen's Press Conference

Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a scheduled press conference after the FOMC statement was issued and answered questions on a variety of topics. Ms. Yellen noted that retiring baby boomers are expected to take up slack in employment lags; as boomers retire, they drop out of the work force and reduce the number of people actively seeking employment.

Ms. Yellen also noted that when the Fed does raise rates, seniors and retirees could benefit from higher yields on savings.

In response to questions about when the Fed will raise its target federal funds rate, the Fed Chair said that the Fed has not decided when to raise rates and said that unfolding economic developments would play a role when the Fed does decide to raise rates.

Ms. Yellen encouraged emphasis on when the Fed will make its first rate hike. She recommended focusing on "the entire trajectory" of rate increases, which some analysts took to mean don't panic about the first rate increase.

Suffering from Credit Problems? Three Ways You Can Patch Up Your Credit to Get a Mortgage Approved

Suffering from Credit Problems? Three Ways You Can Patch Up Your Credit to Get a Mortgage Approved Credit problems are unfortunately common, and they can make it difficult for you to obtain a mortgage. Even if you are able to obtain a mortgage with your credit issues, the rate may be rather high in comparison to what you may qualify for if you obtain a mortgage without fixing your credit problems. While some issues may take a while to fix, you may be able to see a decent increase in your credit rating when you follow a few easy steps.

Pay Off Outstanding Derogatory Credit Items

When you review a copy of your credit report, you may notice that some items have an outstanding balance due. If the account is in good standing, the outstanding balance is not a primary issue unless you have an excessive amount of debt. If the account is not in good standing, such as if you have a series of late payments or a collection account being reported on the credit report, you can see a boost in your credit rating when you pay off these debts.

Settle Judgments

Legal matters can also be reported on your credit report, and they may be settled or still outstanding. An example of this would be if an electrician serviced your home, and you did not pay the bill. The electrician could file a lien against you. A settled judgment may still be a ding on your credit rating, but it is far better than having an unsettled judgment. If you notice that you have a judgment reported on your credit report, you may consider taking the necessary steps to settle it and get back in good standing.

Pay Off Small Balances

If you can afford to do so, it can improve your credit rating to pay off small balances. A portion of your credit rating will be determined by the number of open accounts and the number of accounts with balances that you have. By focusing on the small balances, you can often see a quick improvement in your credit score. There may also be a benefit to closing these accounts after they have been paid off.

Before you apply for a mortgage, it is wise to request a copy of your credit report. You want to remove any items that you find on the report that do not belong to you. For those derogatory items that are yours, you can follow these steps to help improve your credit rating with fast results.

An Insider's Look at Mortgage Closing Costs and How to Minimize the Amount You'll Pay

An Insider's Look at Mortgage Closing Costs and How to Minimize the Amount You'll Pay When buying a new home, you may be focused on finding a mortgage program that has a down payment requirement that is manageable for you. However, some home buyers will overlook the costs that they are responsible for at closing. These costs can vary, but it is common for home buyers to pay between two to three percent of the loan amount in closing costs, if not more. This can be a hefty sum of money that you will need to budget for. The good news is that there are some steps that you can take to keep these costs to a minimum.

Shop For a Title Insurance Company

There are numerous fees that will be listed on your closing statement, but one of the highest fees is the title company charge. The title charges vary from company to company. Most lenders and real estate agents have preferred title companies that they want to work with, but you typically have the ability to shop around and compare the fees. You simply have to inquire what the lender's or real estate agent's preferred title company is and what the fees are. Then, you can shop around to find a better deal.

Consider Your Escrows

Another large expense on your closing statement will be the prepaid taxes and insurance as well as the escrows for these amounts. One idea is to ask your lender to waive escrows. This request is not always granted, but it can drastically reduce the amount of money you need to pay for out of your pocket at closing. You can also shop around for a better deal on property insurance to lower your escrow expense.

Ask the Seller to Pay for Closing Costs

While you are ultimately responsible for many of the closing costs, you may be able to structure your sales contract so that the seller pays for some or all of the costs. This is generally something that may be negotiated at the time the original offer is made, but you could also submit a revision request to the contract through your real estate agent.

Understanding what the closing costs are and which costs can be negotiated or shopped around for is important. You can also look at how gifts from the seller or other parties can be used to reduce your out of pocket expenses when buying a new home.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - June 15, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - June 15, 2015

Retail Sales, Consumer Confidence Up

Retail sales rose for the third consecutive month. May sales increased at a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.20 percent according to Commerce Department data. Auto and gasoline sales led the charge to higher retail sales, but analysts said that most retail sectors posted gains. Upward revisions of March and April's retail sales provided evidence of stronger economic conditions.

Consumer sentiment jumped nearly four points from May's reading of 90.7 to 94.6 in June. This appears to be great news compared to the year before the recession, when consumer sentiment averaged a reading of 86.9.

Weekly Jobless Claims, Mortgage Rates

Weekly jobless claims rose last week and were also higher than expected. 279,000 new jobless claims were filed against an expected reading of 275,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 277,000 new jobless claims. This was the fourteenth consecutive week that new jobless claims remained below 300,000, an accomplishment that hasn't occurred in 15 years.

Mortgage rates rose sharply last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage jumped from 3.87 percent to 4.04 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose from 2.08 percent to 3.25 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage increased by five basis points from 2.96 percent 3.01 percent. Average readings for discount points were 0.60 percent for 30 and 15 year mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. Higher mortgage rates may sideline some home buyers as they wait to see if rates will drop or are priced out of the market. Expectations that the Fed will raise its target federal funds rate this fall may be fueling higher rates.

What's Ahead

Next week's economic news schedule includes more housing-related readings. The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, the Commerce Department's reports on Housing Starts and Building Permits along with the weekly reports on new Jobless Claims and Freddie Mac's mortgage reports are set for release. On Wednesday, the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve will release its post-meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen will also give a press conference. These events are important as they may shed light on the Fed's intentions for raising rates. When the Fed raises the target federal funds rate, mortgage rates and interest rates for consumer credit are expected to rise as well.

Hunting for the Best Local Schools? Here Are 5 Checklist Items You'll Want to Look For

Hunting for the Best Local Schools? Here Are 5 Checklist Items You'll Want to Look ForThere are numerous factors that you may review when choosing a new place to live. If you have children, the quality of the schools and the level of education that your kids will receive in the schools is important. However, you may not be certain how to determine if a school is good or not. When you are looking at schools, use this helpful checklist to guide you in making a great decision.

Achievement Data

One of the easiest factors for you to research about different school districts and individual schools is achievement data. This may include the percentage of students graduating high school versus dropping out, the enrollment percentage for college, SAT and ACT scores and other relevant data. This is typically published online, or a call to the district's office may provide you with the information.

Student to Teacher Ratio

The student to teacher ratio can vary drastically between school districts. This will impact how much personal attention your child receives as well as how crowded the classrooms are. Generally, the lower the number, the better overall experience your child may receive.

A Safe Location

The last thing you may want is for your child to be exposed to safety issues or to feel threatened or intimidated in school or while getting to or from school every day. You can research crime statistics online for the area surrounding the schools, and you can visit the school personally to visibly inspect the area.

Extracurricular Activities

The school age years are a time for kids to experience many new things. Everything from a drama and art club to a wide range of sports can benefit kids. Consider reviewing extracurricular activities available for younger and older students alike so that you can get a better idea for the experiences that a child may have outside of the classroom.

A Positive Environment

A final important factor to consider is the environment in the school. You will need to set up a tour of the school to experience this yourself. The staff members and students should be happy and positive. Remember that this is a place where your child may spend many long hours each day.

Where you choose to live will impact what school your child attends. Therefore, it is important to review the schools carefully before you make a final buying decision for a new home.

The Pros and Cons of Using Spare Funds to Pay Your Mortgage Down Faster

The Pros and Cons of Using Spare Funds to Pay Your Mortgage Down Faster A home mortgage payment can be a large or even the largest expense in a person's budget, and not having this payment any longer can be a life changing experience. Because of this, you may be dreaming about the day when you no longer have to make this payment. Some people may even actively make extra payments to their mortgage in order to pay the outstanding balance off more quickly. These may be funds from an IRS tax refund, cash received from the holidays or a birthday or some other windfall. Before you make the decision about whether to use spare funds to pay your mortgage down more quickly, consider these pros and cons.

The Benefits of Making Extra Mortgage Payments

You can shave many years off of your home mortgage when you make even a single extra payment each year. This can help you to achieve long-term financial goals, build equity and avoid paying more than necessary in interest charges. Keep in mind that any principal that is removed from the outstanding balance now will not generate interest charges going forward. This can have a snowball effect on your home equity, and this is especially true when you make extra payments on a regular basis.

Why Extra Payments Are Not Always the Best Option

Clearly, there are some great benefits associated with making extra payments on your home mortgage. However, there are also some downsides to consider before you take this step. Your home mortgage may be one of your debts with the lowest interest rate.

For example, many mortgage interest rates today are below five percent while some credit card rates may exceed 15 or 18 percent. Over the long-term, you may benefit more from savings on interest charges by reducing higher interest rate debts. Even if you have no other debts besides your home mortgage payment, you may be able to invest the money for a higher return than the interest rate on the mortgage.

Each person has different short and long term goals as well as a different financial situation to consider. With how low mortgage rates are today, however, many will benefit from paying off high interest rate debts and making smart investment decisions with any extra money they have.

Did You Know: Reverse Mortgage Requirements Are Changing - Here's How

Did You Know: Reverse Mortgage Requirements Are Changing - Here's HowMany seniors have taken advantage of reverse mortgages in recent years. These unique mortgages allow seniors who are existing homeowners to tap into their home equity without taking on a mortgage payment. This can be a true benefit to seniors who are on a tight budget or who want to take advantage of their home equity without giving up ownership of their home.

However, with new rules and requirements in place regarding reverse mortgages, the fact is that some of the benefits associated with reverse mortgages may be limited. In addition, some who may have qualified in the past may no longer qualify for a reverse mortgage.

Merging Two Reverse Mortgage Programs

One of the major changes related to reverse mortgage programs is tied to merging the Saver and Standard programs together. This change is already in effect, and the result essentially means that borrowers may qualify for as much as 15 percent less in loan proceeds than with the Standard program than they previously would have qualified for.

Additionally, this merger has resulted in some borrowers being charged higher fees. One reason for this change related to a drop in housing prices in recent years. Because borrowers are guaranteed to never be upside down in their reverse mortgage, some changes were necessary to compensate for declining home values.

The Amount of Loan Proceeds Available

Another important change in reverse mortgages relates to how much money the borrowers can draw on their loan initially. At one time, borrowers were able to pull up to 100 percent of the loan proceeds out on the loan as soon as the loan closed. However, some borrowers were not using their proceeds wisely and wound up in a more dire financial situation after spending most or all of their loan proceeds very quickly.

To prevent this from happening, a new regulation is now in place that limits the amount of funds that can be drawn from the loan to 60 percent within the first year after the loan closes. This is designed to prevent the borrower from going into default by not keeping up with property taxes and premiums on homeowners insurance.

While there are some changes that have been implemented recently regarding reverse mortgages, it is important to note that many homeowners will still benefit from tapping into their home equity in this way. You can learn more about some of the different requirements in place for home equity loans and begin the loan application process when you contact your trusted mortgage professional.

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!