What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week 02-24-2014

mortgage-rates-this-weekLast week’s economic data supported recent reports indicating that housing markets are slowing, The National Association of Home builders/Wells Fargo Home Builders Index (HBI) dropped by 10 points to a reading of 46 for February.

Home builder confidence dropped to its lowest reading in nine months, and fell below the benchmark of 50, which indicates that more builders are pessimistic about current market conditions than not.

Severe weather was blamed for the lower builder confidence reading, which fell below the expected reading of 56.

Regional readings of builder confidence were also lower:

Northeast: Builder confidence fell from 41 to 33 points. This suggests that weather is a major concern as this area has experienced a series of nasty winter storms.

South: The HBI reading fell from 50 in January to 46 in February and was the smallest decline among the four regions. Fewer index points lost in the South appears to support builder’s concerns about bad weather in other regions.

Midwest: Builder confidence dropped from 59 points to a reading of 50.

West: Builder confidence fell by 14 points to February’s reading of 57. Desirable areas in the West had been leading the nation in home price appreciation. February’s reading may signal an easing of buyer enthusiasm as rapidly rising home prices have reduced affordable options for first-time and moderate income buyers. Builders also cited concerns over labor and supplies as reasons for lower confidence readings.

Housing Starts Lower, Mortgage Rates Higher
On Wednesday, Housing Starts for January were released. Although analysts predicted a figure of 945,000 housing starts as compared to an upwardly adjusted 1.05 million housing starts in December, only 880,000 housing starts were reported for January.

The Department of Commerce also cited extreme winter weather as a cause for the drop in housing starts, which reached their fastest pace since 2008 in November. There is some good news. Economists said that housing starts delayed during winter could begin during spring.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, average mortgage rates rose across the board. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate loan rose by 5 basis points to 4.33 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.35 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage moved up by three basis points to an average rate of 3.08 percent. Discount points for all three products were unchanged with readings of 0.70 for 30-year and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent discount points for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that weekly jobless claims came in at 336,000 against expectations of 335,000 new jobless claims. The prior week’s reading was for 339,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that job growth may be slowing after last year’s growth, but also noted that winter weather had slowed hiring in labor sectors such as construction and manufacturing.

Existing home sales fell by 5.10 percent in January according to the National Association of REALTORS®, which reported a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of home sales at 4.62 million sales against expectations of 4.65 million and December’s reading of 4.87 million sales of pre-owned homes. The national average home price rose to $188,900, which was 10.70 percent higher year-over-year.

January’s inventory of available existing homes was 1.9 million homes; this represented a 4.90 month supply of existing homes for sale. Real estate pros prefer to see at least a six month inventory of available homes for sale.

What’s Ahead
Next week brings a series of economic reports and opportunities for good news. The Case Shiller Home Price Indices, FHFA Home Price Index will be released. Consumer Confidence and the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment report along with New and Pending Home Sales reports round out next week’s scheduled news.

What To Consider When Buying A Fixer-Upper

buying-a-fixer-upper-homeIn your imagination it seems like a great idea – you purchase an older run-down property and you have the chance to fix it up and turn it into the home of your dreams.

To Renovate, Or Not To Renovate

However, the renovation project that is simply a quick montage in your imagination will actually take several months or years and thousands of dollars in real life.

The concept of renovating a “fixer-upper” property is exciting, but the reality is a lot of work and investment. How can you make sure that you are making the right choice for you?

One of the main advantages of buying a fixer-upper property is that you will usually be able to get the property for a much cheaper price. But is it worth it for the amount of time and money you will need to invest in the property?

Here Are Some Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself When Making Your Decision:

  • Do you (or your friends and family members) have the skills to be able to perform most of the renovations yourself? If you do the labor yourself, you will be able to save thousands of dollars that you would have spent hiring contractors, which will make the renovation a much more profitable project.
  • Are you comfortable with the idea of living in a construction zone, perhaps for several months or more? There will be dust and noise everywhere and you might have to cope without a kitchen or a shower for a while.
  • Make sure that you have a thorough inspection of the home performed so that you can see whether the home has a sturdy foundation, good wiring and plumbing, etc. If your inspection reveals any structural issues or water damage, you might be in for more than you bargained for. You need to start with a house that has “good bones”.
  • If the home has serious structural, plumbing or wiring problems you should stay away – these repairs are very expensive but “invisible”, so you are unlikely to recoup your costs when you sell the home.
  • Add up the estimated costs for renovating the property along with the cost of the home – does it still work out to be a better deal or would you be better off buying a new property.
  • What is your strategy for financing the renovations? If your only option is putting it on the credit card, you might want to think twice because this is a very high interest option.

Buying a fixer-upper property can be a great investment and can give you the opportunity to transform a run-down old house into the property of your dreams. However, make sure you that you consider the choice carefully before making your decision.

For more information about home mortgage advice and how to get approved to buy a home, contact your trusted mortgage professional.

How A Mortgage Pre-Approval Can Help You Get A Better Deal On Your Home Purchase

how-a-mortgage-pre-approval-can-benefit-youOftentimes, when you are searching for a new home, it may seem obtaining a pre-approval for your mortgage loan is a waste of time and energy. However, there are some significant benefits to a pre-approval which should not be overlooked.

In many cases, buyers can use a pre-approval for leverage when negotiating with sellers and may wind up buying a home for far less than what the listed price is.

Knowing Your Limitations

One significant benefit of a mortgage pre-approval is knowing exactly how much money you will be able to borrow. This means you will be looking at homes you know you can afford.

Whether you are working on your own or you’ve sought the assistance of a real estate broker, there will be no question in your mind how much money you can spend.

Approaching A Seller

When someone is attempting to sell a home, chances are they are either buying a new home or they are relocating. This means they may be facing certain time constraints which can be difficult when they list their home.

When sellers are faced with multiple offers, chances are the potential buyer who has a pre-approval will often be the offer that is accepted, even if it’s slightly lower than other buyers.

Benefits For The Seller

It may seem the seller has nothing to gain if they are taking less money for their home simply because you have a pre-approval. However, this is typically not the case.

Keep in mind the usual process is the buyer makes an offer, they search for a loan and they may eventually get turned down for a mortgage. This means the seller has to start the process all over again; typically 30 to 60 days after they received the first offer.

A pre-approval can give you a great deal of negotiating power simply because your lender has already validated your credit information, your employment, debt and income.

This means when you begin negotiating with a seller, the time from signing a purchase and sale agreement to closing your loan is typically significantly shortened.

Can I Have A Co-Signer For My Mortgage?

getting-a-cosigner-for-your-mortgageLike credit cards or car loans, some mortgages allow borrowers to have co-signers on the loan with them, enhancing their loan application.

However, a co-signer on a mortgage loan doesn’t have the same impact that it might on another loan. Furthermore, it poses serious drawbacks for the co-signer.

What Is A Mortgage CoSigner?

A mortgage co-signer is a person that isn’t an owner-occupant of the house. However, the co-signer is on the hook for the loan.

Typically, a co-signer is a family member or close friend that wants to help the primary borrower qualify for a mortgage.

To that end, he signs the loan documents along with the primary borrower, taking full responsibility for them.

When a co-signer applies for a mortgage, the lender considers the co-signer’s income and savings along with the borrower’s.

For instance, if a borrower only has $3,000 per month in income but wants to have a mortgage that, when added up with his other payments, works out to a total debt load of $1,800 per month, a lender might not be willing to make the loan.

If the borrower adds a co-signer with $3,000 per month in income and no debt, the lender looks at the $1,800 in payments against the combined income of $6,000, and is much more likely to approve it.

CoSigner Limitations

Co-signers can add income, but they can’t mitigate credit problems.

Typically, the lender will look at the least qualified borrower’s credit score when deciding whether or not to make the loan.

This means that a co-signer might not be able to help a borrower who has adequate income but doesn’t have adequate credit.

There Are Risks In CoSigning For A Mortgage

Co-signing arrangements carry risks for both the borrower and the co-signer.

The co-signer gets all of the downsides of debt without the benefits. He doesn’t get to use or own the house, but he’s responsible for it if the mortgage goes unpaid.

The co-signer’s credit could be ruined and he could be sued (in some states) if the borrower doesn’t pay and he doesn’t step in.

For the borrower, having a co-signer may an additional level of pressure to make payments since defaulting on the loan will hurt him and his co-signer.

3 Important Credit Considerations Before You Apply For A Mortgage

credit-considerations-buying-a-homeBefore applying for a mortgage, borrowers need to build a plan for how they are going to manage their credit both going into the mortgage process and as they navigate through it.

Lenders like to know that borrowers have a strong likelihood of repaying the loans they take out and, as such, look carefully at an applicant’s credit.

Here are three must-dos that can help an applicant turn into a home owner.

PreChecking Credit Reports

Before even starting the home loan application process, borrowers are well served to check their own credit reports and see what appears. If everything is correct, their credit score can help them understand what type of loans are open to them and what they might cost.

When errors come up, pre-checking gives the applicant time to have the errors corrected before applying for a loan.

When an applicant has credit issues, knowing gives him time to fix them. He can pay down balances, add new lines to his report or take other action in advance of applying.

Manage The Debt To Income Ratio

Mortgage lenders calculate a borrower’s ability to borrow based on the debt-to-income ratio. They add up the proposed mortgage payment and the other debt payments and divide them into his monthly gross income.

If he has too much debt or not enough income he won’t get the loan he wants.

To manage this, borrowers have two choices.

One is to earn more by taking on a second job. The other is to have lower payments.

Paying down credit cards can be a quick way to solve this problem.

Avoid Taking On New Debt

When an applicant takes on more debt while applying for a home loan, it can cause three problems:

  1. The inquiry can drop his credit score.
  2. The payments can change his DTI.
  3. The lender might not feel good about a borrower taking on more debt.

Getting a mortgage can be tough. The key is to understand what lenders want to see and give it to them.

If you need help understanding credit and how to prepare for your mortgage transaction, contact your trusted mortgage professional.

Happy Presidents Day

happy-presidents-dayWe’d like to wish everyone a safe and Happy Presidents Day!

The Low Down On Heating And Cooling Your Home

1000884638If the temperature in your home is too hot at night, then you can’t sleep. If it’s too cold during the day, then you have to wear excessive layers.

Everyone has his or her own idea of the ideal temperature, but to keep it on that perfect number can get expensive. So, below we’ve outlined five ways you can take care of your heating and cooling system and help it run more efficiently.

1. Set It And Forget It

To maximize the effectiveness of your heating and cooling systems, you need to program your thermostat and refrain from changing it. Adjusting the thermostat makes your system work harder.

The best way to avoid tempting temperature changes is to choose a thermostat that fits your schedule, such as one with 7-day, 5-1-1, 5-2 or 1-week programming options.

2. Clean The Air Ducts

Even though your air filter catches most dust, over time debris can build up. The accumulation of dirt can restrict airflow throughout your ducts and even start blowing particles out of your registers.

Check inside the ducts and if there is any mold, dead insects, rodent feces or a thick layer of dust, then consider hiring a professional to do a deep cleaning.

3. Put Your Ceiling Fans To Work

Ceiling fans can help with heating and cooling by distributing the flow of air throughout your home. Most fans are reversible, which means they can push air down in summer to create a nice breeze and pull air up in winter to aid in circulating the heat. To change the direction of the fan’s rotation, look for a switch on its base.

4. Replace Your Air Filter

It’s standard to change your air filter every 90 days. However, you should take a peek at it every month. If it looks grimy and clogged, then go ahead and change it.

Also, consider investing in high-efficiency pleated filters. They have an electrostatic charge that grabs onto even the smallest dirt specks.

5. Consider Booster Fans

If one room in your house is always warmer or colder than the rest of your home, it might not be your HVAC system. It could be the ductwork. The twists and turns of air ducts, especially in older homes, can reduce airflow.

Booster fans are easy to install and do exactly what their name implies. They boost the flow of air to the part of your home in need of more heating or cooling.

Can I Get Cash Out From My Home Right After I’ve Purchased It?

cash out refinance right after purchaseGenerally when you are purchasing a home, you are buying below the appraised value and you are making a down payment. The good news is this means you have “instant equity” in your home.

For some homeowners, this means may be considering taking cash-out from your home equity in order to pay off credit card bills, purchase a car or pay for college for one of your children. However, it is important understand, this may not be as simple as it sounds.

Cash Out Refinance, Equity Loan Or Second Mortgage
There are three basic ways to access the equity in your home which are common these include:

Cash Out Refinance – you refinance your current mortgage and you request cash-out for the equity. For example, if your home is worth $200,000 and you have a current mortgage of $100,000 you may be able to access an additional $60,000 to $70,000 in cash depending on your lender’s requirements.

Home Equity Loan – a home equity loan is typically a line of credit that you take out with your local bank. These loans are typically what are known as “revolving” where you can access the funds over and over again as you make payments. Home equity loan interest payments are generally not tax deductible.

Second Mortgage – in order to qualify for a second mortgage on your home, the lender would require you to meet specific credit requirements as well as certain debt-to-income ratios. Generally, new mortgage borrowers will not qualify for a second mortgage.

In most cases, lenders will require borrowers to have had their mortgage at least one year before they are allowed the option of any type of cash-out refinance.

What’s So Special About One Year?

The one year may seem subjective but there are some important things to keep in mind. When you applied for your original mortgage, your lender based their decision on your existing credit.

Before you can take cash out, you may need to demonstrate a history of making your mortgage payments on time, as agreed.

While you may already have a substantial amount of equity in your home, lenders are taking an additional risk if you are allowed to “tap into” that equity. Before you make the decision to access the equity, talk to your lender regarding possible restrictions including prepayment clauses.

Overpay On Your Mortgage Or Add To Your Savings, This Is The Question

mortgage refinance calculatorSo you find yourself with a little bit of extra money – perhaps due to a raise, an inheritance or an unexpected windfall?

Should you put all of your money toward paying down the mortgage on your home? Or would you be better off placing your extra cash into a savings account?

Deciding whether to pay down your mortgage or add to your savings is a complex choice and it depends on a number of factors in your personal financial situation.

Here are some of the things that you will need to consider when making the decision:

How Much Are Your Savings Earning?
Take a look at the savings accounts where you are keeping your money and assess the interest that your savings are earning. Is your money earning more in savings than you would save by paying down your mortgage earlier?

Does Your Mortgage Have Overpayment Penalties?
Some mortgage lenders will charge you a fee if you try to repay your mortgage earlier than the agreed upon term. Check with your lender to find out and calculate whether the extra costs will outweigh the benefits you get from overpaying your mortgage. If they do, put your windfall in savings instead.

What are Your Other Debts?
It doesn’t make sense to be overpaying on your mortgage if you have a lot of credit card debt that is charging you an enormous amount in interest. Prioritize your high-interest debt first before you think about overpaying on your mortgage.

Do You Have An Emergency Fund?
You should always have an emergency fund in cash that will protect you from having to use expensive credit card debt if an unexpected payment comes up such as a burst pipe or a flat tire on your car or if you lose your job.

A good rule is to have the equivalent of three to six months of savings in a bank account just in case you need it. This is a first priority and only when you have this emergency fund established should you consider overpaying on your mortgage.

These are just a few of the important factors that you should consider when deciding whether to overpay the mortgage on your home or place the money in savings. For more information, contact your trusted mortgage professional.

FOMC Statement Shows Tapering Of Quantitative Easing Purchases

tapering-of-qe-purchasesAccording to a statement provided by the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve, the committee has approved another reduction of the Fed’s monthly asset purchases.

The adjustment will be made in February and cuts monthly purchases of mortgage backed securities from $35 billion to $30 billion and monthly purchases of Treasury securities from $40 billion to $35 billion.

FOMC began reducing its asset purchase under its quantitative easing program in January, when the monthly purchases of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury securities was reduced from $85 billion per month to $75 billion.

Citing its goals of maximum employment and price stability, the FOMC said that it has seen consistent improvement in the economy and specifically mentioned a lower, but still elevated unemployment rate. The statement also indicated that the FOMC expected labor markets to improve.

FOMC Asset Purchases: How They Impact Mortgage Rates

The Fed initiated the QE program in an effort to control rising long-term interest rates, which include mortgage rates. Yesterday, the FOMC statement said that Fed expects its purchases of longer-term assets will continue to control long-term interest rates and mortgage rates while supporting mortgage markets.

FOMC’s statement reported that it sees the risks to its economic outlook and the labor market as having become nearly balanced. The FOMC is still looking for inflation to reach its 2.00 percent goal.

Fed Monetary Policy To Remain “Highly Accommodative”

The Fed intends to maintain a highly accommodative stance on monetary policy after the QE asset purchases end and the economy is significantly stronger. The current Federal Funds Rate of between 0.00 and 0.250 percent will be maintained at least until the national unemployment rate drops below 6.50 percent.

FOMC members reaffirmed their commitment to monitoring economic indicators as part of any decision to alter current QE measures or the Federal Funds Rate.

Indicators Mentioned In The FOMC Statement Include:

  • Additional indicators of labor market conditions
  • Inflationary pressures and expectations
  • Readings on financial developments

FOMC statements have consistently included the committee’s assertion that no arbitrary benchmark alone will be sufficient for the committee to change either QE asset purchases or the Federal Funds Rate.

FOMC stated that it will seek a “balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation at two percent.”

Although fears of tapering the Fed’s monthly asset purchases may persist, it appears that each FOMC decision to reduce asset purchases under the QE program indicates economic growth.