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

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

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

Keyless Entry: Security for the New Millennium

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

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

A Home Security System is a Great Practical Addition

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

Home Energy Monitor: For the Eco-Conscious Generation

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

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

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

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

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

Existing Home Sales Lower, New Home Sales Higher

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mortgage Rates Mixed

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

Jobless Claims Rise, Consumer Sentiment Holds Steady

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

What's Ahead

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

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

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

Mold, Water Spots and Water Damage

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

Doors and Windows That Stick

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

Small Cracks in the Walls

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

Fresh Paint on a Small Area of the Wall

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

Floors That Slant

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

Understanding Title Insurance and How It Impacts Your Mortgage Loan

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

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

How Title Insurance Protects A Lender

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

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

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

How Title Insurance Protects A Buyer

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

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

How Much Does Title Insurance Cost?

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

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

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

National Association of Realtors, Existing Home Sales Slip in August

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

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

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

FHFA Home Sales Show Fractional Gain in July

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

First-Time Buyers Missing in Action

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

Turned Down for a Mortgage? What to Do if You are Declined - and How to Get Second Opinion

Turned Down for a Mortgage? What to Do if You are Declined - and How to Get Second OpinionIf you have been declined for a mortgage, you may think that buying that new home is out of reach. However, there are ways to turn a rejection into an approval and to find a more accessible loan. Here are just a few steps you can take to learn about your loan options and get the mortgage that works for you.

Find Out Why The Mortgage Application Was Denied

The first step to getting a second opinion is to find out why your mortgage application was denied. Banks commonly deny mortgages for reasons like a low credit score, a high debt-to-income ratio, or concerns about the applicant's past and present employment status.

To qualify for a mortgage, most lenders want to see someone with a credit score of 640, a debt-to-income ratio of less than 43 percent after the mortgage is included and at least 30 days in your current position if using wage income to qualify for the loan.

Not All Lenders View An Application The Same Way

A good reason why it is worthwhile to ask for a second opinion about your ability to get a loan is because no two lenders will view an application the same way. For one lender, a credit score of 650 is insufficient for getting a loan - but another lender might be more than happy to offer you a mortgage with a score of 650. To get a second opinion, you may wish to talk to a mortgage broker who will be able to scan a variety of loan programs to find one that works for you.

There Are Ways To Find Down Payment And Closing Cost Assistance

Those who have a low credit score or other questionable metrics may be able to qualify for a loan by offering a larger down payment. While a first-time buyer may not have the cash on hand to make a larger payment, there may be programs that provide grants or low-interest loans that can be used as part of your down payment or to help pay closing costs. With this extra money, it may be possible to overcome lender objections and obtain a mortgage.

If your mortgage application has been rejected, it doesn't mean that you can't get a mortgage from another lender. If you're ready to buy a house but just need to clear the mortgage approval hurdle, there are ways to get a leg up.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - Sept 22, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Sept 22 2014Last week's economic news largely concerned the Federal Reserve's FOMC meeting statement and a post-meeting conference given by Fed Chair Janet Yellen. The FOMC statement indicated that the Fed continued its wind-down of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities and that its purchases are expected to cease after the next FOMC meeting.

The FOMC statement said that committee members find the economy to be improving at a moderate pace and currently strong enough to further reduce the QE3 monthly asset purchases. The Fed seeks to achieve and sustain its dual mandate of maximum employment and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent. While the unemployment rate is lower than the Fed's benchmark of 6.50 percent, FOMC members cited concerns that the labor force is underutilized and that labor markets, while recovering, could use further improvement. The Fed repeated its customary statement that the Fed's monetary policies are not on a pre-determined course, and that FOMC members continually review and interpret developing financial and economic news as part of their decision-making process.

Chair Yellen explained during her press conference that it is not possible to provide a specific date when the Fed will change its target federal funds rate. Economists and media analysts expressed concerns that raising the target federal funds rate, which is currently at 0.00 to 0.250 percent, could cause overall interest rates to rise. Chair Yellen said that she expects the current target federal funds rate to remain for a “considerable time” after the QE asset purchases cease. She also said that it is impossible to provide a specific date when the Fed will change its target federal funds rate and cited multiple influences considered by FOMC when changing monetary policy.

Home Builder Confidence Grows, Housing Starts Fall

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index rose by three points in September for a reading of 59. Analysts had predicted an index reading of 56 against August's reading of 55. September's reading was the third consecutive reading above 50. Stronger labor markets were cited as supporting the higher reading, but builders were also concerned by tight mortgage credit standards. Any reading above 50 indicates that more builders perceive market conditions for new homes as positive as those that do not.

August's housing starts were inconsistent with the Home Builders Index; according to the Department of Commerce, construction of new homes fell by 14.4 percent from July's reading to 956,000. Analysts expected 1.03 million starts against July's reading of 1.12 million homes started.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week. Average mortgage rates rose across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage 11 basis points higher at 4.23 percent. The rate for a 15-year mortgage also rose by 11 basis points to 3.37 percent and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 2.99 to 3.06 percent. Average discount points were unchanged for all mortgage types at 0.50 percent.

New weekly jobless claims dropped to 280,000 against an expected reading of 305,000 and the prior week's adjusted reading of 316,000 new jobless claims. The original reading for the prior week was 315,000 new jobless claims. The less volatile four-week average of new jobless claim fell by 4,750 new claims to a reading of 299,500 new claims.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic news brings multiple housing-related reports. The National Association of REALTORS® will release its Existing Home Sales report for August. Case-Shiller's monthly Housing Market Index report and the FHFA's Home Value report will bring new light to national market trends. The Department of Commerce will release its New Home Sales report, and as usual, Freddie Mac's weekly report on mortgage rates will come out on Thursday.

Federal Open Market Committee, Fed Chair: No Rush to Raise Rates

Federal Open Market Committee Fed Chair No Rush to Raise Rates Wednesday's customary post-meeting statement issued by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve provided some relief to investors and analysts concerned that the Fed may soon raise its target federal funds rate. The target federal funds rate has held steady at between 0.00 and 0.25 percent since the inception of the Fed's current quantitative easing program. The FOMC statement indicated that the committee does not expect to raise the target federal funds rate until the Fed's dual mandate of maximum employment and reaching its target inflation rate is achieved.

FOMC members don't expect the wind-down of scheduled securities purchases under the quantitative easing program to cause long-term interest rates to rise quickly. The FOMC statement indicates that the Fed expects its current holdings and acquisitions of securities to hold down long-term interest rates and help with achieving the Fed's dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and 2.00 percent inflation. As in past meetings, the FOMC statement asserted the committee's dedication to reading and researching economic and financial reports and repeated that Fed policy is not contingent on a predetermined course, but that FOMC members make decisions based on current economic trends and developing domestic and global events.

FOMC members also re-asserted their position that after employment and inflation achieve levels consistent with the Fed's dual mandate, the Fed will likely maintain the target federal funds rate at lower levels than the committee considers normal for "some time."

Fed Chair Janet Yellen provided further insight into Fed policy during a press conference given after the FOMC statement. She also said that the FOMC's view of current economic conditions has not changed over the past few months. Chair Yellen also said that the committee expects to maintain the current target federal funds rate for a "considerable time" after asset purchases under the QE 3 program cease.

Fed Chair Yellen: Gaps Between Current Data and Fed's Mandate Shrink Modestly

In a press conference given after the FOMC policy statement was released, Fed Chair Janet Yellen emphasized that the committee's discussions did not imply any near-term changes to the target federal funds rate. Chair Yellen cited gaps between current unemployment rates and the Fed's mandate of achieving maximum employment and the current inflation rate and the Fed's target inflation rate of 2.00 percent as major considerations in forming current Fed policy. She said that the respective gaps had narrowed "modestly," and again emphasized the Fed's commitment to constant review of economic and financial data as a significant factor in its decisions to change monetary policy.

Ms. Yellen cautioned media representatives and analysts to avoid making economic projections too far into the future and pointed out that longer term predictions are subject to more variables. Chair Yellen also cautioned press conference attendees not to consider anything in the FOMC statement or her press conference to a definite time frame.

Media reps continued to press for definite dates and time projections, but Chair Yellen held fast to the Fed's often-repeated position that policy changes cannot be set by a calendar and also depend on economic trends and news that influence the Fed's monetary policies.

Considering a Vacation Home? Six Tips for Buying a House or Condo for Relaxation and Vacation Use

Considering a Vacation Home? Six Tips for Buying a House or Condo for Relaxation and Vacation UseIf you've just returned from the vacation of a lifetime, you probably wish that wonderful time never had to end. When you buy a vacation home or condo, you can guarantee that you have an escape that will provide you with years of enjoyment. Before you take the plunge, though, take advantage of these six helpful tips about buying a vacation home.

Choose Someplace Versatile

When buying a vacation home, it's all about getting the most out of your investment. Consider choosing a place that you can enjoy throughout the year. Your ideal vacation home will be a haven in the summer, a beauty in the fall, a refresher during the spring, and the perfect place to celebrate the winter holidays.

Think About Convenience

When you choose your vacation home, you will want to find a relaxing getaway that fits your lifestyle. If you love to have easy access to the grocery store and other amenities, don't buy in a remote location. If instead you'd prefer something secluded, opt for a home that is hidden far from civilization.

Consider Your Neighbors

Depending on where you choose to buy a vacation home, you're likely to be surrounded by others who love the area as much as you do. You need to decide if you want to have many others who are in close proximity or if you prefer having your space to yourself.

Find Out About Taxes

If you are opting for an extremely popular location, beware of high taxes. You want to go into your purchase with your eyes wide open. If you choose a home that is off the beaten path, you could have a more favorable tax rate.

Learn About Restrictions

You may have restrictions to deal with when you buy a vacation home. From a Home Owner's Association that stipulates regulations about the care of property to restrictions in paint schemes, you may not have complete freedom with your property.

Look For Excellent Deals

Whether it is due to the strained economy or someone who has to make a property move quickly, you could find a phenomenal deal. Don't rush into any sale until you've reviewed all of your options. Buying a home that is in a community neighboring a hot spot (instead of in the hot spot itself) could make for better prices as well.

A vacation home is a great real estate investment that can make vacation planning much easier. With these tips in hand, you'll be well equipped to find the perfect vacation home for your budget. 

Speeding Up the Close: Five Tips on How to Close Your Mortgage Loan Faster So You Can Start Moving In

Speeding Up the Close: Five Tips on How to Close Your Mortgage Loan Faster So You Can Start Moving InWhen a seller accepts an offer from a buyer, the process of obtaining the property has just begun. The buyer now has to conduct an inspection, get approval from an attorney and obtain a mortgage - all of which can be time consuming. Here are a few ways that you can speed up the mortgage process and close the deal sooner.

Make Sure That You Have Money For Closing Costs

Do you have the money needed for a down payment and to pay other closing and prepaid costs? If not, you won't be able to close until you find the funds to pay those costs - and this could delay the closing on your home indefinitely. Before you arrange the mortgage, make sure you have enough cash on hand to pay closing costs.

Get Conditional Approval Before Making The Offer

If you have not been conditionally approved for a loan before making an offer, you can't be sure that a lender will give you a loan for the amount of the purchase price. In addition, starting the process from scratch could push back the closing timeline. Having your mortgage conditionally approved means the mortgage process is already underway when you make your offer, which saves you time.

Have Your Documents Together

Get your bank statements, pay stubs and other documents together before the seller accepts your offer. Having everything that the lender needs right away decreases the time needed for a lender to assess your application before extending the loan.

Work With An Experienced Mortgage Lender

Your mortgage lender may be able to move everything along by staying on top of the loan approval process. By ensuring that documents are being processed in a timely manner, an experienced lender can reduce the closing time from months to weeks.

Create A Timeline For Repairs The Seller Is Obligated To Make

It is not uncommon for a seller to be obligated to fix certain issues with the house before the new owner takes possession. However, it is important to put these repairs the contract along with a mandatory completion date. Otherwise, the seller could drag his feet with no contractual obligation to finish any repairs before he sees fit to do so.

Closing on a home loan can take anywhere from 30 to 120 days depending on work that needs to be done on the home and how well prepared a buyer is. Contacting and working closely with your mortgage lender or broker can result in a speedy and painless close. Contact an experienced mortgage professional today for more information about closing a mortgage.

Looking to Pay Back Your Mortgage Faster? Three Reasons to Consider Switching to Bi-weekly Payments

Looking to Pay Back Your Mortgage Faster? Three Reasons to Consider Switching to Bi-weekly PaymentsWhile there are differing schools of thought when it comes to whether or not a person should pay off a mortgage before the loan term ends, there may be some benefits to making payments on a bi-weekly basis as opposed to monthly basis. What are some of the reasons why it may be beneficial to make two payments a month instead of one? Here are three reasons why you should ditch the monthly fees and make payments once every two weeks.

You'll Make An Extra Payment Per Year

If you're looking to pay off your mortgage ahead of schedule, making bi-weekly payments means you'll make an extra payment every year. Instead of making 12 large payments every year, you'll make 26 small payments. These 26 small payments would be equal to about 13 large payments.

This is the equivalent of an extra payment per year and 10 extra payments over 10 years. If you have a 30-year mortgage, you could pay it off between two and three years early because you will make your last payment 30 months ahead of schedule.

You'll Provide Yourself With Financial Flexibility

Making extra payments can provide you with financial flexibility that makes it easier to deal with unexpected expenses or a job loss. As you are making a half-payment every two week, you can make your payments in smaller, more manageable chunks.

It may be a good thing if you are self-employed and may not be sure when a client will pay for services rendered. Additionally, you may have your next payment reduced or advanced if you pay more than you owe in a given month.

You'll Reduce the Amount of Interest Paid on the Loan

Paying off your mortgage faster reduces the amount of interest that you pay on the loan. Even if you only make one extra payment per year, you could still save thousands of dollars in interest by paying your loan several months or years early.

To determine exactly how much you will save, you can use an amortization table or calculator to see how much interest you pay over the full 30 years as opposed to taking only 27 or 28 years to pay for your home. It is also important to note that making extra payments adds to the equity that you have in the home.

Making two payments instead of one each month may help you achieve financial flexibility while building equity in your home. By paying off your mortgage as soon as possible, it may enable you to put more money into a savings or retirement account. Contact a mortgage professional for more information about whether bi-weekly payments are right for you.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - Sept 15, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Sept 15 2014Last week's housing related economic reports were slim, but an unexpected increase in weekly jobless claims gained attention. Analysts calmed concerns by noting that last week's reading of 315,000 new jobless claims was not far removed from jobless claim levels before the recession. Expectations for last week's reading were for 301,000 new jobless claims based on the previous week's original reading of 302,000. The previous week's reading was revised to 304,000 new jobless claims.

Jobless Claims: 4-Week Average for Continuing Claims Hits Lowest Level Since 2007

Prospective home buyers and current homeowners typically consider their jobs and employment prospects before seeking a home purchase mortgage or refinancing their existing home loans. Last week's readings released by the Department of Labor suggest that while weekly jobless claims increased, overall trends in hiring and continuing jobless claims indicate a stronger labor sector.

The four-week average of new jobless claims rose from 303,250 to 304,000. The four-week average is typically less volatile than week-to-week readings. Continuing jobless claims increased by 9,000 to 2.49 million for the week ended August 30. The four-week average for continuing jobless claims fell by 15,500 claims to 2.50 million continuing jobless claims. This was the lowest reading for continuing jobless claims since 2007.

In other labor related news, job openings were nearly steady at 4.67 million in July against June's reading of 4.68 million new job openings. The Labor Department reported that job openings increased by 22 percent year-over-year, with private sector jobs rising to 4.19 million job openings and government jobs increasing by 101,000 job openings to 485,000 in July. The number of hires in July rose from June's reading of 4.79 million to 4.87 million in July. This was the highest number of hires since 2007. Pre-recession hiring levels were approximately 5 million; this suggests that U.S. labor trends are approaching pre-recession levels.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Discount Points Unchanged

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates on Thursday, with average discount points unchanged at 0.50 across the board. Average rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose from 4.10 percent to 4.12 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.26 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose to 2.99 percent from the prior week's average of 2.97 percent.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled news includes several reports related to housing. In addition to Freddie Mac's usual mortgage rates report, The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) will release its Housing Market Index and the Department of Commerce will release data on housing starts in August. General economic reports include the Consumer Price Index, Core Consumer Price Index, and Leading Economic Indicators.

The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve will release its post-meeting statement on Wednesday, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen is also expected to give a press conference. The Federal Reserve may provide further indication of its intention concerning the target federal funds rate, which is currently at 0.00 to 0.250 percent. The Fed may address its intentions concerning the federal funds rate, but the FOMC has been consistently vague about details concerning its economic strategy.

It's Not Just Car Storage: How to Transform Your Garage into a Brand New, Highly Usable Space

It's Not Just Car Storage: How to Transform Your Garage into a Brand New, Highly Usable SpaceIn some homes, garages are used only for car storage. They may appear to be bare and without real functional use for homeowners. However, other garages may be an envy of the neighborhood - they may have floor to ceiling shelving systems, and they may be the picture-perfect image of organization.

With a bit of planning and creativity, you can turn your garage into a much more functional space. Here's how you can make your garage the most useful space in the house.

Determine What You Need To Store

One of the most important steps to take when improving the functionality of your garage is to determine which items you need to store. The last thing you want is to invest in a shelving system or cabinets for your garage only to later realize that your belongings do not fit in the features you have purchased. Take an inventory of the items you want to put in the space as well as their sizes and dimensions, and then take stock of the space available to store these items.

Invest In Storage Features

There are numerous types of storage features that you may choose to invest in for your garage, such as cabinets, drawers, wall pegs, shelves, overhead storage features, and bins.

The best storage features for your garage are those that take into account your accessibility needs. For example, seasonal items that you may rarely need access to may be placed in overhead storage features that hang over the cars. On the other hand, screwdrivers and other tools that you may need to use more frequently should be placed in a more accessible area.

Consider The Look Of The Garage

Some homeowners truly do not care what their garage looks like, but you should keep in mind that this is a room that is revealed to the outside world each time your garage doors are raised. This can indeed affect curb appeal and others' impressions of you. Therefore, think about investing in a full garage storage system rather than piecing together different items.

If your garage looks like a war zone, you are wasting valuable storage space and compromising your property value. Investing in aesthetically pleasing and highly functional storage solutions can turn your garage into a major selling point and a great multi-use space.

FICO Scores and Your Mortgage: How to Bump Your FICO Score to Secure a Better Mortgage Rate

FICO Scores and Your Mortgage: How to Bump Your FICO Score to Secure a Better Mortgage RateIs your credit score holding you back from getting the best rate on your next mortgage? The good news is that there are actions that you can take to increase your credit score and improve the interest rate offered on your next home loan.

Here are a few easy and effective tips to help you get your credit score to where you want it to be.

Increase The Amount Of Credit Available To You

The easiest way to increase your credit score is to increase your credit limit, as this reduces your utilization ratio. To do this, you can either apply for another credit card or ask a current credit card provider to increase your credit limit. Those who have a stable income and have made their monthly payments on time should have no problem getting an increase of their credit limit.

Pay Down The Balances On Your Credit Card

Paying down your credit card balances can help you increase your credit score, as a large portion of your score is determined by the percent of available credit that you are using. Ideally, you want each card balance to be under 30 percent of the total limit while also keeping your total credit usage to less than 30 percent of available credit. A utilization ratio under 30 percent tells lenders that you can manage credit responsibly.

Settle Past Due Debts

Roughly one-third of your credit score is determined by your ability to make payments in a timely manner. If you have any payments that are 30 or more days past due, you may wish to settle those debts or make arrangements to pay them.

Creditors who allow you to roll past due payments back into your loan may update your credit report to say that you are current on your payments. This could have a huge impact on your credit score and help you qualify for a better rate on a home loan.

Increasing your credit score is one of the best ways to get the best rate on a mortgage. This may enable you to gain additional leverage when negotiating for a better rate that may lower your monthly payment to a more affordable level.

For more information about how to get a great mortgage rate for your next home purchase, or for advice on how to improve your credit score, contact your local mortgage professional today.

FHA Home Loans: How to Pre-apply and Get Approved Before Making a Home Purchase Commitment

FHA Home Loans: How to Pre-apply and Get Approved Before Making a Home Purchase CommitmentIf you're in the market for your first mortgage, the Federal Housing Administration may be able to help you. Thanks to the FHA home loan program, you can apply for loan approval before you've found a home that you want to buy - which means you know what you can afford before you start your house hunt. Here's what you need to know about FHA home loans and how they can help you find the perfect house.

Pre-Approval: Assessment Includes Employment History and a Credit Check

The pre-approval process can be done over the phone or online in a matter of minutes. All you need to do is find a lender or mortgage broker in your area and start the application process. You'll be asked a series of questions and you'll need to meet several criteria, such as a history of steady employment and consistent income, a credit report in good standing, and a desired mortgage payment of 30 percent of total monthly gross income.

The Variables of the Loan May Change Depending on Your Needs

When the representative for the broker or lender contacts you, he or she may overestimate your property taxes and will assume that you are going to borrow the maximum amount for which you qualify. Therefore, the monthly payment that you are quoted may be higher than the amount that you would pay each month when you actually purchase your home. Based on the property taxes, your down payment and the purchase price of the home, your payment may be higher or lower at closing.

You Will Get a Letter Stating That You Have Conditional Approval

If all goes well, the lender or broker who assessed you will send a letter confirming that you are conditionally approved for an FHA home loan. You may wish to submit this letter with any offer that you make to purchase a house, as without conditional loan approval, a seller may not take your offer seriously. If you are in a bidding war for a home, it may not be possible to win unless you show that you have financing available to close on the property in a reasonable amount of time.

The first step to get a mortgage is to get conditional loan approval. By calling your lender or a broker, it may be possible to obtain pre-approval for the mortgage you need while also negotiating favorable terms. For more information about qualifying for FHA loans, contact your local mortgage professional today.

Buying Land to Build a New Home On? Don't Forget These Three Important Considerations

Buying Land to Build a New Home On? Don't Forget These Three Important ConsiderationsWhen most people talk about real estate, they envision buying an already-built house on already-landscaped property. However, buying vacant land and building a new home is a great way to ensure that you get the home that you want in the location that you want. It's also a major undertaking, which is why you should take these three considerations into account before you buy any land for your new home.

Location, Location, Location: It's More Important Than You Think

People often hear the phrase "location, location, location" and it's a very prudent maxim with buying land. The parcel of land that you buy should be in a good geographic location and on stable ground – which means there shouldn't be any major water sources nearby (like a swamp) and hills should be minimal. You'll also want to consider zoning regulations that influence the acreage and other regulations that influence how you can and cannot use the land.

Utility Connections Will Be Your Responsibility

New land tends to not have utilities laid out under or over the ground. If this is the case, you will need to invest in electrical, water, and possibly heat utilities for the home.

This process involves communicating between the municipal government and utility companies so that the proper infrastructure is put in place. These costs and the implementation can be quite a headache depending on how isolated the land is from municipal or regional infrastructure.

Access: Look Up Any Easements on the Land

Many homeowners may not realize how legal access to land can affect their purchase. An easement refers to the legal right of other entities to use your land even though they do not own it. Before you buy land, you and your lawyer should investigate whether or not the land has easements, and whether or not these easements may interfere with your goals for the property.

These are just a few of the major considerations you need to make when you buy land. Purchasing a plot of land is quite a bit more complicated than buying a house, and if you're not prepared, it can easily turn into a nightmare. When properly planned, though, buying land can give you a great backdrop on which to build the house of your dreams.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - Sept 8, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Sept 8 2014Last week's housing-related economic news was slim, likely due to the Labor Day holiday Monday. On Tuesday, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that construction spending for July increased by 1.80 percent as compared to June's revised reading of 1.0 percent and expectations of a 1.0 percent increase for July.

The Federal Reserve released its Beige Book report Wednesday; the collection of anecdotes from business contacts within the 12 Federal Reserve districts indicated that the general economy was strengthening as well as labor markets. The Fed noted a shortage of skilled workers. New construction and home sales grew modestly, but the Fed reported that fewer than half of the districts reported growth in real estate activity.

This information appears to be consistent with recent media reports of falling home sales, mortgage originations and demand for homes. Analysts say that mortgage lenders remain wary of loosening mortgage credit standards without protection from having to repurchase faulty mortgages from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Mortgage Rates Saw Little Change

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates and discount points saw little change last week. The average rates for a 30-year mortgage and a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage were unchanged at 4.10 percent and 2.97 percent respectively. Discount points were also unchanged at 0.40 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by one basis point to 3.24 percent with discount points also lower at 0.50 percent.

Non-Farm Payrolls Add 142,000 Jobs, Unemployment Rate Unchanged 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Reported that 142,000 new jobs were added in August. Analysts had expected 228,000 new jobs added, but many analysts said that the abrupt decline in jobs added was a fluke. A couple of short-term incidents impacted retail and automotive sectors as a supermarket chain cut hours and fewer July layoffs in the automotive sector led to fewer workers called back in August. The unemployment rate remained at 6.10 percent.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 302,000 against expectations of 300,000 new jobless claims and 298,000 new jobless claims in the prior week.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic news is also light on housing and mortgage reports. Retail spending, consumer credit, and federal budget data are some of the reports set for release.

You Ask, We Answer: Understanding the Real Estate 'Short Sale' and How This Process Works

You Ask, We Answer: Understanding the Real Estate 'Short Sale' and How This Process WorksA short sale is something that occurs when a homeowner is not able to make the mortgage payments on time due to a financial hardship. Instead of foreclosing on the property after one or more missed payments, the bank may agree to allow the homeowner to turn the home over to the bank, which will sell it to as close to market value as possible.

Here's what you need to know about how short sales work and what circumstances might call for one.

Step 1: The Homeowner Provides Information To The Bank

The first step in the short sale process is for the homeowner to submit an information package to the bank. The homeowner will provide information such as the reason for the short sale, an authorization letter allowing the real estate agent to talk to the bank, and a financial statement. In addition, the seller may need to provide an HUD-1 statement as well as a list of comparable homes in the area.

Step 2: The Buyer Makes An Offer

Once the house is put on the market, a buyer can make an offer just as he or she would on any other home. The seller will then have the opportunity to accept any offer that he or she receives from a prospective buyer.

Step 3: The Bank Makes A Decision About The Offer

Once the seller accepts an offer to buy the home on short sale, the seller is responsible for sending information about the sale to the bank. Before the sale is finalized, the bank must approve the buyer's offer. It could take as little as two weeks or as long as 120 days for the bank to approve the offer.

However, not all short sales are immediately approved. The seller's bank bank might decline the buyer's offer for one reason or another. A bank may decline a short sale offer if the bank negotiator thinks the house is worth more than the buyer's offer or if the seller violates a clause in the short sale agreement – such as moving out of the property and violating a clause that states only owner-occupied properties are eligible for short sale.

Buying a home that is being sold as a short sale requires patience and an ability to move at the bank's pace. Working closely with an experienced lender or mortgage broker may make it easier to get through the process without a lot of hassle or drama. 

Children Leaving the Nest? 3 Pieces of Sage Advice You Can Share About How to Manage a Mortgage

Children Leaving the Nest? 3 Pieces of Sage Advice You Can Share About How to Manage a MortgageWhen your children are about to step out into the world on their own, you want to help them on their way. This especially holds true when it comes to buying a house. As your sons or daughters prepare to take the plunge into home ownership, make sure they follow three crucial tips that will help them during the mortgage process.

Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

One of the biggest mistakes that homeowners make is choosing a home that is beyond their price range. Your children need to remember that they are going to be paying for their home for a long time. A crushing house payment could be difficult to manage.

In order to find a reasonable mortgage, you need to look at the numbers. The bank, or mortgage lender, will generally look at a client's income, debt, and the current mortgage rate to determine an acceptable amount when purchasing a home. Your children can look at their own budget, lay out all of their costs, and determine how much spending room is left for a house payment.

Choose A Shorter Term For A Mortgage

When the time comes to sign the dotted line, the mortgage lender will offer various payment terms for your child's home loan. Twenty-five to thirty years is the typical term for most mortgages, but the sooner the mortgage is paid, the better. Advise your children to choose the shortest possible term while still living within their means.

Make Extra Payments When Possible

Your children can pay their mortgage off sooner by making extra payments. While this may seem like a challenge, it can be accomplished with careful budgeting.

Making one extra payment a year will shorten the length of the loan and put more equity into the home. Whether your children plan on staying put or want to buy another home down the line, they'll appreciate it when they have paid off a considerable chunk of their mortgage.

Getting a mortgage is a rite of passage and a milestone that thousands of Americans encounter every year. Make sure that your children get the best mortgage available by following these tips. For more helpful information, or to make sure your children are getting a good deal, contact a trusted mortgage professional today.

Applying for a Mortgage? Three Questions Your Lender Will Ask You - and How to Prepare Your Answers

Applying for a Mortgage? Three Questions Your Lender Will Ask You - and How to Prepare Your AnswersBefore approving a mortgage, your lender is going to have to do his due diligence to ensure that you can afford a loan large enough to pay for a house. That means your lender will be asking you several questions about whether or not you can afford a mortgage.

Here's how you can prepare to answer these questions in a way that will increase your likelihood of approval.

How Stable Is Your Income?

Your lender is going to want to know that your income is going to be stable over the life of the loan. This means that you should be able to document steady employment, that investment income is going to be stable or that the alimony that you receive from your former spouse will continue to come in for the foreseeable future. To document your income, you can provide bank statements, pay stubs or tax returns from the previous three years.

How Much Do You Have In The Bank?

A lender is going to be interested in how much you have in reserve in case you lost your job or suffer an unexpected medical expense that could make it harder to pay your mortgage. For a conventional mortgage, you may be required to have three to six months' worth of expenses in the bank or in other assets that you could liquidate. To show how much you have in the bank, you can provide bank statements or balance statements from any other account where you may get money from if need be.

Where Is The Money For The Down Payment And Closing Costs Coming From?

While some lenders don't mind if the money is gifted from a qualified source such as a family member, friend or employer, other lenders will require that the money for a down payment or other costs comes straight from your own bank account. To prove where the funds are coming from, you will need to show when the money was deposited into your bank account if using your own funds (or a gift letter if the funds are being gifted).

A mortgage lender needs to be sure that you are able to repay any loan that you are approved for. That means you'll want to present your lender with solid, documented proof that you have a steady income and ample cash reserves to pay the mortgage and associated fees. For more information about what lenders look for in mortgage applicants, contact a qualified mortgage professional today.