USDA Mortgages: Take Advantage of These Low-Rate Mortgage Loans to Buy a New Home

USDA Mortgages: Take Advantage of These Low-rate Mortgage Loans to Buy a New HomeAre you thinking about buying a home in a rural or suburban area? If so, you'll want to take a look at the United States Department of Agriculture's mortgage programs as you may qualify for them.

In today's blog post we'll introduce the USDA Rural Development Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program, explain the benefits of this mortgage program and how to determine if you qualify.

What is a USDA Mortgage Loan?

The USDA mortgage program is one of a number of programs in which the federal government will guarantee a mortgage loan as long as the recipient meets certain criteria. The intent of this program is to provide a boost to residents of rural or suburban areas who are struggling to obtain a traditional mortgage.

USDA mortgage loans are an ideal solution for those who are looking for 15 or 30-year amortization periods as they tend to have lower interest rates than mortgages offered by banks and other lenders.

USDA Mortgage Loan Benefits

There are numerous benefits to USDA mortgages that make this an enticing option compared to a mortgage from a traditional lender. As these loans offer full 100 percent financing you won't have to place a large down payment when buying the home. The USDA offers very competitive 15 and 30-year fixed interest rates, something you won't find from many banks or other mortgage lenders.There's also no maximum home purchase price with USDA mortgages, however note that you'll still be limited by your risk and your ability to manage the monthly mortgage payment.

USDA Mortgage Loan Requirements

The USDA mortgage program is open to all homebuyers that meet a number of initial requirements. The home you intend to purchase has to be located in a rural area (as determined by the USDA) and it cannot be a vacation home or investment property. As with any mortgage, you'll need a relatively clean credit history. Finally, note that your annual income will also be assessed and you'll need to prove that you're within 115 percent of the region's median income.

As you can see, the USDA Rural Development Mortgage program can be an excellent option if you're planning on buying a home in a rural or suburban area. Contact your local mortgage advisor today and they can explain the USDA home loan program and answer any questions that you might have.

FOMC Minutes: Economy Growing, Housing Lags

FOMC Minutes Economy Growing Housing LagsMinutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting held October 28 and 29 were released Wednesday. The report suggests that the U.S. economy continues to improve, although the annual inflation rate remains near 1.50 percent and short of the committee's goal of 2.00 percent. Falling crude oil prices were cited as a cause of faltering inflation rates. The minutes indicated that FOMC members expect inflation to remain below the 2.00 percent benchmark for the next year or so.

The minutes did not reveal an exact date for raising the target federal funds rate, which is currently 0.00 to 0.250 percent, but analysts expect a rate change in mid-to-late 2015. One committee member said that the Fed should commit to keeping the target federal funds rate at its present level until inflation reaches the Fed's goal of 2.00 percent.

Job Markets Improve, Mortgage Rates Fall

FOMC members said that labor markets had improved "somewhat further." The minutes noted that the national unemployment rate had declined to 5.90 percent in September, which was lower than the FOMC goal of 6.50 percent for national unemployment. While this was good news, FOMC discussed the fact that a significant number of part-time workers suggested under-utilization of the labor force. A combination of stronger labor markets and a 0.25 percent reduction of mortgage rates during the intermeeting period between September 17 and October 28 were seen as positive for housing markets, but the committee noted that mortgage lending standards for single-family homes had not changed much. Lending requirements were more accommodative for commercial real estate.

QE Ends, FOMC Seeks to Maintain "Accommodative" Financial Conditions

FOMC members voted to end asset purchases made under the Fed's quantitative easing program, but said that ongoing reinvestment of principal payments on bonds and MBS with the goal of maintaining "sizeable" holdings of long-term securities. The minutes indicated that this would help maintain "accommodative" financial conditions.

The committee agreed to re-assert its position that although national unemployment and inflation may achieve or surpass FOMC goals, the committee could maintain the target federal funds rate at current levels for "some time" after the benchmarks are achieved. Ultimately, the FOMC's decision to change the target federal funds rate will include thorough and ongoing review of global and domestic economic developments.

Committee members concluded this meeting with a decision to set the next FOMC meeting for December 16 and 17.

Three Key Tips to Help Ensure Your Mortgage Pre-Approval Isn't Declined

Three Key Tips to Help Ensure Your Mortgage Pre-Approval Isn't DeclinedIf you're thinking about buying a new home and using a mortgage to help cover some of the purchase costs, it's a good idea to get an initial pre-approval from your lender before putting in an offer.

In today's blog post we'll share three quick tips that can help to ensure that your mortgage pre-approval isn't declined.

Demonstrate Your Income and Good Credit

A mortgage is a major financial transaction and one that carries a certain amount of risk for the lender. It's your goal to help them see that you have the ability to make your monthly payments and that there is very little risk in approving your mortgage. Be ready to demonstrate all of your sources of income and that your credit rating is clean.

It may be worth paying for your credit report before starting the pre-approval process so you can clean up any black marks or false reports and so that you can see what the lender will see when they check your credit history.

Choose the Right Property at the Right Price

As the home you're buying will be used as collateral to back the mortgage, the lender will need to see that there is enough value in the home to cover the cost of the mortgage should you fail to pay it back. The "loan to value" or LTV ratio is the amount of your mortgage divided by the value of the home. For example, if you're borrowing $150,000 to buy a home valued at $200,000, you'll have a LTV ratio of 75 percent. Keep in mind that each lender will have their own target LTV that they prefer to work with, so you may need to shop around a bit.

Start the Process with Multiple Lenders

Finally, if you feel that your income or credit history isn't perfect you may want to consider visiting a couple of different mortgage lenders to see what they can offer you. There are dozens of different mortgage products on the market today, and each lender has their own set of qualification criteria that they will use to assess risk and whether they feel that you can afford to pay the mortgage back. Getting a second opinion may help you to discover a more suitable mortgage or one with a better interest rate.

As you can see, there are a number of ways that you can work to ensure that your mortgage pre-approval passes without a hitch. For more information about pre-approvals and to get the process started, contact a local mortgage professional today. After you're approved it's only a matter of time before you'll be moving in to your new home.

The Down Payment: Everything You Need to Know About Your Down Payment on a New Home

The Down Payment: Everything You Need to Know About Your Down Payment on a New HomeWhether you're just starting to shop for a new home or you've found the perfect house and are crafting your offer, if you're taking out a mortgage to help cover your real estate purchase you've likely given some thought to your down payment.

In today's blog post we'll explore the topic of down payments and share how the amount you put down on your home will affect your mortgage.

How Your Down Payment Affects Your Mortgage

As you know, your mortgage is essentially a large long-term loan that is paid back with interest over a set time period. If you put a large down payment against the purchase, you will not only reduce the amount that you'll need to pay back, but you'll also reduce the lender's risk and this may allow them to provide you with lower interest rates.

Conversely, if you can't place very much down on your home and you're left borrowing as much as you can you may find that your mortgage comes with higher interest rates or that some mortgage lenders refuse your business entirely.

The Gold Standard: 20% of the Purchase Price

For the vast majority of homeowners it's expected that they will be able to contribute at least 20 percent of the home's purchase price. For example, if you are buying a $200,000 house you'll need to have at least $40,000 available for your down payment. Note that the 20 percent figure isn't a hard requirement; some mortgage lenders will be willing to approve you with less, but you may be subject to private mortgage insurance, higher interest rates and more.

Saving Up Your Down Payment

Depending on your financial situation and the cost of your home you may find that saving up 20 percent of the purchase price to put toward a down payment places a strain on your finances. If you still have a year or more before you're ready to jump into the real estate market, consider putting some money aside each month that can be used for a down payment. If you receive any lump sum payments like a tax return, save this in your down payment fund as well.

As you can see, your down payment is one of the more important considerations you'll have to make when buying your home with a mortgage. If you have questions about mortgages or down payments, be sure to call your local mortgage professional today as they'll be able to share their guidance and expertise to help you make the best financial decision.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - November 17, 2014

Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing Costs Last week's housing related news was lean, with no scheduled reports released other than Freddie Mac's primary mortgage market survey.

We'll start with some good news. The University of Michigan / Thompson-Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index reported its highest reading in more than seven years. November's reading of 89.4 surpassed the expected reading of 88.0 and was higher than October's reading of 86.9

Mortgage Rates Near 4.00 Percent, Weekly Jobless Claims Up

Freddie Mac reported a one-basis point drop in the average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgage from 4.02 percent to 4.01 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also fell by one basis point to 3.20 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by 5 basis points to 3.02 percent. Discount points for all three loan types held steady at an average of 0.50 percent.

Weekly jobless claims rose by 12,000 to 290,000 against expectations of 280,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week's reading of 278,000.

Last week's report was the ninth straight week that new jobless claims came in under 300,000. The reading for the four-week rolling average was 285,000 new jobless claims, which represented an increase of 6,000 new claims.

What's Ahead

This week's number of scheduled economic reports will be more robust. The NAHB Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales reports will be released.

The minutes of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting of the Federal Reserve will also be released along with weekly mortgage rates and jobless claims data.

Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs This Winter in Just Three Easy Steps

Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs This Winter in Just Three Easy Steps It doesn't matter if you heat your home with electricity, natural gas or some other energy source; prices continue to rise and that means increased heating costs for most of us.

In today's blog post we'll share three easy ways that you can save money on your home energy costs this winter.

Install and Use Programmable Thermostats

Now that Nest and other companies have brought Wi-Fi enabled, programmable thermostats on the market there's very few excuses to avoid using them. At bare minimum you'll want a digital thermostat that can be programmed to turn on and off at certain hours of the day.

For example, you can shut your heat off after leaving for work and have it turn back on again a half-hour or so before you get home. You can do the same at night when you're fast asleep under warm blankets. If possible, try to get a thermostat for each room so that rooms can be heated individually as needed.

Switch Up Your Ceiling Fans

If you have ceiling fans you may not know that by reversing their direction you can keep your rooms feeling much warmer. In the winter you'll want your fans spinning in a clockwise direction, which will push warm air downward into the room where you'll be able to feel it. In the summer you'll want to switch the fans back to counter-clockwise as this will help move warm air towards the ceiling.

Check Your Insulation, Furnace and Ducts Now

Finally, you'll want to check that your home heating system is operating at peak efficiency. If you can access your attic, check to ensure that your insulation is tightly packed and that it's still in good condition. Clean or replace the air filter on your furnace, and check your ducts for any leaks that need to be repaired. If it has been a few years, consider having a professional furnace and duct cleaning to get all of the dust and debris out of the ductwork.

As you can see, a little time spent on home maintenance can end up saving quite a bit in energy costs when the temperatures drop. When you're ready to look at buying a newer, more energy-efficient home, contact your local real estate agent and book a consultation where you can share your needs and price range.

Refinancing Your Mortgage: Understanding the Various Types of Refinancing

Refinancing Your Mortgage: Understanding the Various Types of RefinancingWhether you've been thinking about ways that you can draw on your home equity to fund a renovation project or you want to take advantage of low interest rates before they rise again, refinancing your mortgage is an excellent option.

In today's blog post we'll introduce mortgage refinancing and discuss a few of the ways that you can use this tool to help accomplish your financial goals.

Cash-In and Cash-Out Refinancing

Many homeowners refinance their mortgage in order to take some of the home equity out for other purposes. In a "cash-out" refinancing, you take out a new mortgage loan which is greater in value than your current loan. After paying off the existing mortgage you'll receive a check for the difference which can then be reinvested in home upgrades or put to use elsewhere in your financial portfolio. You may also be able to get a better interest rate in this type of refinancing, saving additional money over the long term.

Do you owe more on your mortgage than your home is currently worth but still want to take advantage of lower interest rates? If so, "cash-in" refinancing is an option that can help you to avoid the mortgage insurance costs that you may be facing when you refinance. As the name implies, cash-in refinancing will provide you with a loan that is for less than the amount that you currently owe, so you'll need to add "cash-in" to make up the difference.

Home Affordable Refinance Program or "HARP" Refinancing

If you find that you're unable to refinance your mortgage as the value of your home has declined, the federal government's Home Affordable Refinance or "HARP" Program may be an option. HARP was developed to assist homeowners in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the resulting instability that was caused in the real estate and mortgage markets. If you have been making your mortgage payments on time, have a mortgage guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and your current "Loan to Value" ratio is greater than 80% it's likely that you'll qualify for HARP refinancing.

The above are just a few of the ways that you can refinance a mortgage to better suit your needs and financial goals. Contact your local mortgage professional today to learn more about refinancing and to discuss how you can tap in to the home equity that you've built up over time.

How to Use a Mortgage Calculator to Determine Your Monthly Payments, Interest and More

How to Use a Mortgage Calculator to Determine Your Monthly Payments, Interest and MoreAre you thinking about using a mortgage to buy a new home? Buying your own piece of local real estate is a major financial investment and one that can require some pretty complex math to fully understand.

In this blog post we'll discuss mortgage calculators and how to use one of these tools to determine your monthly mortgage payments, interest charges, amortization periods and more.

Determining Your Principal and Down Payment Amounts

To get started with a mortgage calculator you'll need to know how the price of the home and how much you intend to contribute as a down payment. Generally speaking you'll want to place a down payment of at least 20 percent in order to avoid having to pay for private mortgage insurance and to give you access to better interest rates.

Choosing Your Interest Rate and Amortization Period

Now that you have an idea of the amount of mortgage financing you'll need, the next step is to choose your interest rate and amortization period. Different lenders will offer different interest rates for every one of their mortgage products, so again you'll want to play around with these numbers and run the calculation to see which combination of mortgage financing, interest rate and amortization period gives you a monthly payment that suits your budget.

Using a Mortgage Calculator for Refinancing

If you're thinking about refinancing your current mortgage you can also use a mortgage calculator to help make the math a bit easier. Simply use your outstanding mortgage balance as the principal amount and then choose an amortization schedule that fits your financial goals. Be sure to keep an eye on your interest payments, as you may find that by refinancing to a longer amortization period your monthly payments go down but your total interest paid is quite a bit higher.

Don't Forget the Closing Costs

Finally, don't forget that there are numerous "closing costs" – fees, taxes and more – which you'll need to factor in to your overall calculation. Closing costs will include everything from home appraisal fees to government filing fees and property taxes, and will vary depending on the home and the city or community you're buying in.

While online mortgage calculators can handle the tricky math to determine monthly payments and interest costs you may still find that you have questions about your mortgage or some aspect of the process. For more information, contact your local mortgage professional and they'll be happy to share their advice and expertise.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - November 10, 2014

Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing CostsLast week's economic reports contained mixed reports indicating that the economy continues to recover with occasional "blips" in its progress. Construction spending was lower than expected.

A Federal Reserve survey of senior loan officers indicated that credit standards remain strict for mortgages and other types of lending. According to the survey, a "modest net fraction" of large banks had eased credit standards for prime mortgage lending.

First-Time Homebuyers Struggle as Market Share Hits 27-Year Low

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reported that first-time buyers' share of home purchases has slipped to 33 percent, which was its lowest level in 27 years. According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, high home prices and mortgage insurance costs along with strict mortgage credit requirements continue to sideline first-time buyers.

In other news, the Department of Commerce reported that construction spending dropped by 0.40 percent in September as compared August's reading of -0.50 percent and an expected reading of +0.70 percent. September's reading represented a seasonally-adjusted annual construction spending rate of $950.90 billion.

Mortgage Rates: Average 30-Year Mortgage Rate Tops Four Percent

Average mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 4.02 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by eight basis points to 3.21 percent, while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rose by three basis points from 2.94 percent to 2.97 percent. Average discount points remained at 0.50 percent for all three types of mortgages.

This is not altogether bad news, as higher mortgage rates are typically prompted by improving economic conditions. 2014 started with an average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages of 4.05 percent.

Labor Reports Suggest Stronger Jobs Markets

Last week's economic news included several reports that indicated improvements in U.S. labor markets. The Department of Labor released its Non-Farm Payrolls report for October with a reading of 214,000 jobs added against expectations of 243,000 jobs added and September's reading of 256,000 jobs added. While this appears contrary to stronger labor markets, analysts said that a new low in the national unemployment rate of 5.80 percent indicated that fewer new jobs were needed. October was the ninth consecutive month reporting 200,000 or more jobs added.

The ADP employment report, which tracks payrolls in the private sector, reported an increase of 5,000 jobs from September's reading of 225,000 jobs to October's reading of 230,000 jobs.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 278,000 against expectations of 285,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week's reading of 288,000 new claims filed. This reading supports a stronger jobs market and may compel would-be home buyers to enter the market as concerns about unemployment and jobs wanes.

The national unemployment rate reached a new low with October's reading of 5.80 percent. In related news, Fed Chair Janet Yellen indicated in a speech on Friday that the target Federal funds rate will likely rise in 2015, but she gave neither a prospective date nor details about how much the benchmark federal funds rate may rise.

Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing Costs

Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing CostsYou've found the perfect new house or condo, and you are now preparing an offer that you believe the seller will find tempting enough to accept. However, you know that there are going to be thousands of dollars in closing costs that need to be paid before the sale is completed and you become the home's new owner.

The question is, should you ask the seller to pay some or all of the closing costs? In today's blog post we'll address this question and list a few scenarios in which you may want to consider having the seller pick up the tab.

Ask if You're Offering the Full Listing Price

If you're prepared to offer the full asking price for the home you can certainly include the caveat that the seller assist with some or all of the closing costs. Many sellers will price their home slightly higher than they expect to receive as they believe that buyers will submit low initial offers which need to be negotiated.

For example, if a home is listed at $275,000 a seller might actually be expecting $260,000 or $265,000 for it. You can offer $275,000 but ask that they take care of the closing costs.

Ask if You're Confident the Seller Has Few Other Options

If the home has been on the market for a number of months or if you're fairly confident that the seller isn't going to find much luck elsewhere you can ask them to pick up the closing costs as one of your purchase conditions. You'll obviously want to negotiate in good faith, but if you're coming from a position of strength you can leverage this in to some additional savings.

Ask if You're Ready to Close Immediately

Are you ready to sign on the dotted line today? If you're sure that this is the right home for you, let the seller know that as long as they're willing to assist with the closing costs and accept your bid that you'll start the closing process today. Nearly all sellers will be willing to make a small sacrifice to get the deal done.

As you can see, there are a number of situations in which it makes sense to ask the seller to shoulder some of the closing costs. If you have found a home that you wish to purchase and you'd like advice on how to proceed, contact a real estate agent today. An experience real estate professional can help you craft an offer that the seller won't be able to refuse.

Did You Know That Your FICO Score Can Drastically Affect Your Mortgage? Here's Why

Did You Know That Your FICO Score Can Drastically Affect Your Mortgage? Here's WhyAre you about to apply for a mortgage loan in order to buy a home? If so, you may be curious about your credit score and how this might impact your financing.

Let's take a quick look at how FICO credit scores can affect your mortgage and share a couple of ways that you can boost your score to ensure your application is approved.

What is a FICO Score?

The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) is the country's leading producer of credit scoring information and is the primary source that most lenders will check to assess how much risk you present. FICO combines information from credit bureaus such as TransUnion, Experian and Equifax and produces a score ranging from 300 to 850.

The higher your FICO score is, the better your credit history and the lower the risk you present to lenders. If you have a score above 750 you can expect that most lenders will offer you a mortgage and likely a very good interest rate. If you have a score below 620 or 630 you may find it challenging to get approved and below 500 it will be almost impossible.

How Does a FICO Score Affect My Mortgage?

Your FICO score will affect you in two main ways. First, as mentioned above your FICO score will help to determine whether or not you are approved for a mortgage. Second, you'll find that the interest rates offered to you by various lenders will change based on your FICO score. An individual with a score of 800 and very clean credit presents much lower risk than someone with a score of 500, and thus a higher score generally means a lower rate.

How Can I Boost My FICO Score?

If you find that your credit score is a bit low and you're concerned that it will have a negative effect on your mortgage application there are a few steps you can take. First, get a full copy of your FICO score and credit history so you can see who is reporting to the credit bureaus and what information they are providing. You may find that there are mistakes or old items that have not yet been removed which you can then challenge to have taken off of your credit report.

While your FICO score can certainly impact your mortgage and your interest rate you shouldn't let a low score hold you back from applying. Contact your local mortgage professional today to discuss your options and to determine whether or not your credit will cause you to have any issues in securing a mortgage to pay for your new home.

You Ask, We Answer: What is a "Reverse Mortgage"?

You Ask, We Answer: What is a Reverse MortgageIf you've recently considered your options for taking some of the equity out of your home you may have heard about reverse mortgage loans. If you meet the requirements for a reverse mortgage it can be an excellent way to tap into the value of your home, freeing up that cash to be reinvested or used for other purposes.

In today's blog post we'll explore reverse mortgage loans, explaining how they work and whether or not you're qualified to receive one.

How Does a Reverse Mortgage Work?

As the name implies, a reverse mortgage is the opposite of a traditional or "forward" mortgage in which you borrow a lump sum of money from a lender to buy a home, paying it back to them over time. With a "reverse" mortgage, instead of paying the lender you will receive money from them which does not have to be repaid until you are either no longer using that house or condo as your primary home or until you fail to meet the obligations of the mortgage contract.

Note that a reverse mortgage is still a loan, which means you will still be required to pay interest on it. As your loan balance increases with principal and interest each month the amount of equity you have in your home will decrease accordingly.

Do I Qualify for a Reverse Mortgage?

According to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, there are a number of requirements that you must meet in order to qualify for a reverse mortgage. You must be at least 62 years of age when you apply, the home you're applying with must be your primary residence, and most or all of your outstanding mortgage debt on the home must be paid off.

If you still owe money on your original or second mortgage against the home note that part of the money from the reverse mortgage must be used to pay this debt off.

How Much Can I Borrow in a Reverse Mortgage?

Like any type of loan, the amount of money that you can receive with a reverse mortgage depends on a variety of factors. Your age, the value of your home, any outstanding mortgage debt, current interest rates and Federal Housing Administration requirements will all be taken into consideration when determining how much you will qualify for.

While a reverse mortgage isn't terribly complex, there is certainly more to the process that can be covered in a single blog post. For more information, contact your local mortgage professional today and they can share the specifics of how you might qualify for a reverse mortgage and whether or not it's your best option for making use of some of your home equity.

Have You Had Trouble Getting a Mortgage? Three Tips for Sprucing Up Your Credit Before Reapplying

Have You Had Trouble Getting a Mortgage? Three Tips for Sprucing Up Your Credit Before ReapplyingIf you've had some trouble getting approved for a mortgage recently, you're not alone. Many individuals face mortgage challenges due to past blemishes on their credit reports or a personal financial crisis that resulted in bills not being paid on time.

In this post we'll share three quick tips for sprucing up your personal credit before reapplying for a mortgage. With a bit of luck and hard work you can be on your way to purchasing that new dream home.

Pay Off Your Credit Cards And Lines Of Credit

The easiest way to improve your credit score and prove that you can afford your mortgage payments is to eliminate other forms of debt from your monthly budget. If you have outstanding credit card, student loan or other debts, get them paid off as quickly as possible.

You'll also want to avoid taking on any new loans while you're trying to get your mortgage approved as these are likely to show up on your credit report and can hurt your chances at approval.

Pull Your Credit Report And Look For Errors

If you haven't seen your credit report recently, it might be worth investing in a copy so you can see exactly what your lender sees when they are evaluating you for a mortgage. You may discover that there are errors or inaccuracies that can be cleared off with a quick phone call, such as a past loan that was fully paid or a missed car payment that was reported in error. Every credit report error that you can fix will bring you one step closer to your mortgage approval, so spend a few minutes combing through your report.

Pay All Of Your Bills On Time

Did you know that every overdue bill can leave a negative mark on your credit report? With so many bills to juggle - credit cards, cell phones, utilities and more - it can be tough to keep them all organized and paid before the due date. However, if you're working to secure a mortgage you must keep your bills paid to avoid being reported as a late or overdue payment.

If you've had some trouble getting approved for a mortgage in the past, take a few minutes to contact your local mortgage professional today to ask for their advice. You may find that they have additional tips and strategies that you can leverage to better your chances of being approved.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - November 3, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - November 3, 2014Last week's economic news brought mixed developments as pending home sales moved to their second highest level of 2014.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced the expected end of asset purchases under its quantitative easing program. In its post-meeting statement, the committee noted improvements in overall economic conditions labor markets as indications of better than expected economic trends.

The Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports for August showed continued slowing in housing price gains. Mortgage rates were higher, but consumer confidence exceeded expectations.

Pending Home Sales Rise, Case-Shiller Reports Slower Price Gains

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that pending home sales gained 0.30 percent in September for an index reading of 105 as compared to August's reading of 104.7. Analysts said that lower home prices and more homes available likely brought more buyers into the market.

The S&P Case Shiller 10 and 20-city home price index reports for August showed further slowing in home price growth with a year-over-year reading of 5.60 percent as compared to July's year-over-year reading of 6.70 percent.

This was the slowest price increase since November 2012. Home price growth is slowing as demand decreases. Tight mortgage qualification requirements are likely contributing to lower demand for homes.

FOMC ends QE, Mortgage Rates Rise

The Fed ended its asset purchases under its QE program according to a statement after the FOMC meeting on Wednesday. This move was expected, and the statement repeated its plan to leave the target federal funds rate unchanged for a considerable period after the QE program's conclusion. Analysts interpreted that to mean that no rate change would likely occur until approximately June 2015.

Mortgage rates responded to the demise of QE with an across the board increase. Average rates reported by Freddie Mac on Thursday were 3.98 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, 3.13 percent for a 15-year mortgage and 2.94 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent for all three loan types.

New Jobless Claims Up, But No Big Deal

Housing market trends are connected with what's happening in labor markets. Last week's report for new jobless claims took an unexpected jump with 287,000 new jobless claims filed against predictions of 281,000 new claims and 284,000 new jobless claims filed the prior week. The four-week average for new jobless claims dropped to 281,000 and new claims remained below the 300,000 benchmark for the seventh consecutive week.

October's Consumer Confidence Index rose to a reading of 94.50 as compared to the expected reading of 87.3 and September's reading of 89.0. The Consumer Sentiment Index for October was also showed an increase of 0.50 percent with a reading of 86.9 against a predicted reading of 86.4 and September's reading of 86.4.

What's Ahead

Next week's scheduled economic news includes construction spending for September, Non-farm payrolls, national unemployment, and the ADP employment report. Regularly scheduled reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released on Thursday.

Buying a Vacation Home? A Quick Guide to Renting Out Your Second Home to Generate Income

Buying a Vacation Home? A Quick Guide to Renting Out Your Second Home to Generate IncomeAre you thinking about buying a second home to spend some time in when you're on vacation? Whether you're picking up a small house near the beach or you're looking at a ski-in/ski-out condo at your favorite ski resort, if you're only going to be in the home for short periods each year you may want to consider renting the property out the rest of the time to generate some additional income.

In this post we'll share a few tips for getting your property ready to rent to short-term visitors and how to get things started.

Preparing Your Home For Use As A Rental

Before you list your vacation property up for rent you'll need to get it ready for your first tenants. Spend some time walking through the home to determine what's missing and what might need to be upgraded.

Do you have a few spare sets of sheets and towels? Are all of the kitchen appliances in top condition? If you're going to be supplying soap, shampoo and other toiletries, are you fully stocked?

Remember – your goal should be to impress each and every client to ensure they leave a positive review and come back again in the future.

Hiring Housekeeping And Property Management Services

Since you likely don't live in the area around your vacation home, you'll want to contract out the cleaning and management to local vendors who specialize in managing vacation properties. It should be relatively easy to find these companies with a quick web search, but be sure to ask for recent references so that you can rest easy knowing your home is in good hands.

Listing Your Rental On Popular Websites

Once your home is prepared and you have your team lined up, it's time to list your property on websites such as VRBO, HomeAway and AirBnB. Browse through other local listings to see how your competition markets themselves and to get an idea of how much you should be charging on a nightly or weekly basis. Also, remember you'll need to set up a PayPal account or figure out another way for your clients to pay for their stay.

Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index And FOMC QE Update

Case Shiller 20 City Home Price Index And FOMC QE UpdateAccording to the S&P Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index, Home prices rose by 0.20 percent in August. Three of the 20 cities tracked saw home prices drop, while Detroit, Michigan posted the highest price growth. The seasonally adjusted growth rate for cities tracked declined by 0.10 percent as compared to a decline of 0.10 percent in July.

Detroit led monthly home price growth with a gain of 0.80 percent. Dallas, Denver, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada posted gains of 9.50 percent as compared to July. Cities posting declines in home price growth included San Francisco at -0.40 percent, Charlotte, North Carolina and San Diego, California at -0.10 percent.

Home prices increased by a seasonally-adjusted year-over-year rate of 5.60 percent in August, which was the lowest reading since November 2012. Year-over-year home prices grew by 6.70 percent in July. August home prices were 16 percent lower than their 2006 peak.

The Case-Shiller National Home Price Index posted a year-over-growth rate of 5.10 percent. This index covers all nine U.S. census regions.

Analysts note that slower growth in home prices will likely attract more buyers, but is a sign of overall decline in demand for homes. August home prices were 16 percent lower than their 2006 peak. As the jobs market continues to improve and if mortgage rates remain low, more buyers are expected to enter the housing market.

FOMC Statement: QE Ends, Labor Market Forecast Brighter

In its customary post-meeting statement, The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve announced that it voted to reduce asset purchases under its current quantitative easing (QE) program to zero. The committee's decision concluded 37 consecutive monthly purchases of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

FOMC cited "substantial improvement" in the outlook for the labor market since the inception of QE purchases, and also noted "sufficient underlying strength in the broader economy" as the basis for the committee's decision. The demise of QE was no surprise as FOMC has consistently tapered asset purchases each month along with its advisory that it planned to end asset purchases under the current QE program this year.

The FOMC characterized the pace of economic improvement as "moderate," but also said that "labor market conditions improved somewhat further with solid job gains and a lower unemployment rate." Along with the stronger outlook for jobs, the Fed noted that "underutilization of labor resources is gradually diminishing."

The committee held to its position that it would not increase the target federal funds rate for a "considerable time" after the quantitative easing program ended. Analysts following the Fed estimate that no changes to the federal funds rate will be made until June 2015 or later.

Four Ways You Can Enhance Your Home's Value Before You List It for Sale

Four Ways You Can Enhance Your Home's Value Before You List It for SaleWhether you've decided it's time for an upgrade or you're moving on to a new city, if you're selling your home you may be wondering how you can boost its value before listing it up for sale.

In today's blog post we'll share four ways that you can spend a bit of time and money upgrading your home before it hits the local real estate market.

Spruce Up Your Landscaping

You'll want your home to make a great first impression, and as such a great place to start is by sprucing up your lawn, gardens and other landscape features. Your grass should be a healthy green, free of weeds and freshly trimmed.

If you can, look to add seasonal flowers in your front gardens as this can add a bit of color to your home. Keep any shrubs or trees trimmed away from the home so that buyers can get a good look.

Apply A Fresh Coat Of Paint

Another excellent way to increase your home's "curb appeal" is by applying a fresh coat of paint to the house, the trim around the windows and the front door.

Of course, painting a house is a big job so this might be one that is best left to a team of professionals. For added effect, replace the fixtures on the front door and pick up new house numbers.

Upgrade Your Kitchen Appliances

Many buyers will focus intently on your kitchen and the condition of everything from your flooring to your cupboards. If you have an older refrigerator or stove you'll want to replace those with newer stainless-steel models.

You'll also want to ensure that you have quality countertops – if you're replacing them, consider going with granite as it's popular with younger buyers.

Install A New Set Of Bathroom Fixtures

Finally, if you haven't renovated your bathroom recently you'll want to invest in modernizing your faucets, mirrors and other fixtures. The decor of your bathroom should match that in the rest of your home, but also stand out in its own unique way.

If you have an old bathtub with stained porcelain, consider replacing it with a glass-enclosed waterfall shower. Don't forget about your light fixtures; if you find the bathroom is a bit dark, replace these with something that adds brightness.

Buying a Home? 4 Steps You Can Take to Ensure You Start out with a Low Monthly Mortgage Payment

Buying a Home? 4 Steps You Can Take to Ensure You Start out with a Low Monthly Mortgage PaymentAre you thinking about buying a new house or condo? If so, you've likely given some thought to your mortgage and as to how you can pay as little as possible in order to own your new home.

Below we'll share four easy steps that you can take to ensure you start out with an affordable monthly mortgage payment.

Make A Large Down Payment On Your Home

The easiest way to reduce your monthly payment is to invest as much as possible in your down payment. The less you have to borrow, the less you'll be required to pay back.

If you can put a sizeable amount down on your home you'll find that your monthly payments are going to be very manageable. You'll also save a lot of money in interest.

Maintain A High Credit Score

When a lender assesses your financial history they'll take an in-depth look at your credit score in order to determine how much risk you present to them. If you've kept a clean credit rating and have a high score, it's likely that you will qualify for a lower interest rate than someone with a lower credit score – even if you both have the same monthly income.

Buy A Smaller, More Efficient Home

When you've made your short list of homes and you're scheduling your viewings, ask yourself – do you need a home this big, or this expensive? If you can do with a smaller, more efficient home you can reduce the amount of mortgage financing that you require and this will in turn reduce the amount that you need to pay each month.

Consider A Longer Mortgage Term

Finally, if you need to reduce your monthly payment at any cost you can stretch out your mortgage repayment period by a few years. Note that while this can reduce your payment amount it will actually increase the total amount that you end up paying back as you'll pay more in interest.

While the above are general tips for reducing your mortgage payment, it's likely that there are other strategies that are unique to your financial situation. Contact your local mortgage professional at your convenience and they'll be able to share insights that are relevant to your income, your credit and the price range you're looking to buy into.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - October 27, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 31,2014Last week's economic news included a few developments connected with housing and mortgage industries. While no economic reports were released on Monday, the rest of the week provided good news for existing home sales, home prices and mortgage rates.

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that existing home sales in September exceeded expectations and the prior month's reading with a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million sales.

Three of four U.S. regions posted higher sales of previously owned homes with only the Midwest region reporting a decline in existing home sales. Analysts said that consistent job growth and improved access to mortgage loans are two keys to improving U.S. housing markets.

FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reported that home prices for properties associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages rose by 0.50 percent in August.

In a separate development, FHFA Director Mel Watt said that the agency is reviewing policies that could lessen lender concerns over requests to repurchase Fannie and Freddie loans due to early defaults or other deficiencies. This was seen as a possible solution to current strict mortgage approval requirements that are limiting access to home loans by first-time and moderate income buyers.

Mortgage Rates Fall, Weekly Jobless Claims Rise

After falling below four percent the prior week, last week's mortgage rates continued to decrease. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by five basis points to 3.92 percent; 15-year fixed rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.08 percent, a decrease of 10 basis points. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was one basis point below the prior week's reading at 2.91 percent.

Average discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent. Lower mortgage rates help with making home loans more affordable, but analysts again noted the importance of improved access to mortgage loans for would-be home buyers.

Weekly jobless claims were higher at 283,000 new claims filed as compared to projections of 285,000 and the prior week's reading of 266,000 new claims filed. While higher than in recent weeks, new jobless claims have remained below 300,000 for six weeks. The Labor department reported that new claims over the past month fell by 3000 to 281,000 new claims. This reading was the lowest since May 2000. Due to week-to-week volatility, financial analysts and economists view the month-to-month readings as a more consistent data source.

New Home Sales Hit Six-Year High in September

Sales of new homes in September ended the week on an upbeat note and exceeded expectations; they reached a six-year high in spite of downward adjustments to sales figures reported earlier. September's reading was 467,000 new homes sold on an annual basis as compared to expectations of 455,000 new homes sold and August's reading of 466,000 new homes sold.

What's Ahead

Next week's scheduled economic news includes pending home sales, the Case-Schiller home price index reports, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) post-meeting statement and reports on consumer sentiment and consumer confidence. The Freddie Mac PMMS and Weekly Jobless Claims reports will be released as usual on Thursday.

Good News! Existing Home Sales Up And FHFA Home Prices Rise

Good News! Existing Home Sales FHFA Home Prices RiseAfter months of reports of slowing home price momentum and forecasts of a lagging housing market, we are pleased to report an increased volume of existing home sales as reported by the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported rising prices for homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages. Here are the details.

Pedal to the Metal: Existing Home Sales Achieve Fastest Rate in a Year

September sales of previously owned homes reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million sales against expectations of 5.10 million sales and August's reading of 5.05 million sales.

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that the national reading for sales of previously owned homes rose by 2.40 percent to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million sales.

Analysts had expected September's reading for existing home sales to reach 5.10 million based on August's reading of 5.05 million existing homes sold.

Three of four regions posted month-to-month gains in existing home sales for September; only the Midwest showed a decline. Overall, September's sales pace for existing homes was 1.70 percent lower year-over-year.

Steady home prices and lower mortgage rates contributed to a higher pace of existing home sales, but obstacles remain. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS® said that September's reading for existing home sales reflected ongoing economic uncertainty; he said that labor markets will need to strengthen in order to maintain the pace of existing home sales.

Mr. Yun also said that restoration of more "normal" lending standards would allow more first-time and moderate income buyers to qualify for mortgage loans and could potentially increase home sales by 10 percent.

FHFA: Home Prices Rise, Mortgage Credit Standards May Ease

FHFA reported that home prices of properties connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages rose by 0.5 percent in August as compared to a month-to-month revised increase of 0.20 percent in July. August's reading represents a year-over-year increase of 4.80 percent as compared to July's year-over-year increase of 4.60 percent.

In related news, FHFA Director Mel Watt hinted at some welcome news during a meeting on October 21 in Las Vegas.

Strict mortgage requirements are frequently cited as a cause of lukewarm home sales, but there is some hope that mortgage credit requirements may return to pre-housing bubble standards. Mr. Watt said that the agency is working on relaxing certain rules affecting how and when mortgage lenders are required to repurchase loans that they've sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

These changes are designed to clarify FHFA regulations and to narrow the criteria for when repurchasing loans is required. Lenders have been using strict mortgage approval standards as a protection against Fannie and Freddie requests to repurchase loans categorized as "early defaults."