What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week 01-06-2014

is the housing market improvingThe last week of 2013 brought relatively good news in view of the economic roller coaster rides caused by legislative impasse. A brief shutdown of federal government agencies, and nail-biting suspense over if and when the FOMC of the Federal Reserve would taper its quantitative easing program.

Last week’s news was not high in volume due to the New Year holiday, but it does suggest that a general economic recovery is progressing and that housing markets are leading the “charge!”. Here are the details:
The NAR’s data of month-to-month reading of 0.20 percent showed an increase of 0.20 percent over October’s reading of -1.20 percent, which was the lowest reading for pending home sales in five months.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, said that “…the positive fundamentals of job creation and household formation are likely to foster a fairly stable level of contract activity in 2014.”

November’s year-over-year reading for pending home sales was 101.7 against a reading of 103.3 for November 2013. The good news is that November’s reading exceeded a 10-month low of 101.50 for October 2013.

Rapid Rises In Home Prices May Have Peaked
The S&P Case-Shiller 10 and 20- city home price indices for October was released Tuesday with positive results for both indices showing year-over-year gains in average home prices at 13.60 percent.

On an un-adjusted basis, the 10 and 20 city indices each gained 0.20 percent between September and October. The indices each showed a 1.00 percent gain in home prices on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Case-Shiller cautioned that home prices are expected to rise at single-digit rates during 2014.

Consumer Confidence Rises, Housing And Manufacturing Sectors Improve
December’s consumer confidence reading gained 6.1 points for a reading of 78.1. This also exceeded the expected reading of 76.2.

The prior two months had shown decreased in readings thought to have been caused by the government shutdown in October. Consumers indicated that they are more confident about the economy than they have been in five and a half years.

Housing and manufacturing are leading the recovery, which reflects stronger housing, production and possibly manufacturing jobs, which have lagged behind increased production.

The national unemployment rate stood at 7.00 percent last week, which remains 0.50 percent above the Federal Reserve’s targeted rate of 6.50 percent.

Weekly jobless claims came in lower than expectations of 342,000 jobless claims at 339,000 new jobless claims. The prior week’s reading showed 341,000 new jobless claims.

Although a small decrease in new claims, last week’s reading further suggested that the economic recovery is on track.

Mortgage Rates
Thursday’s mortgage interest rate survey showed incremental increases in mortgage rates; concerns over continued tapering of the Fed’s QE program may have been a factor in the slight uptick in last week’s rates.

Average rates for mortgage loans rose as follows. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased from 4.48 to 4.53 percent with discount points rising from 0.70 percent to 0.80 percent.

The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.55 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.05 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

Economists seem to agree on continued improvement in the economy for 2014, however rising mortgage rates and high unemployment remain as obstacles for faster economic recovery.

How To Build An Outdoor Fire Pit

building an outdoor fire pitWith most of the country easing into full-on winter weather, last-minute outdoor projects need to happen soon. And what better way to enjoy a cozy holiday season than by drinking hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows at your very own outdoor fire pit.

In one weekend, the steps below can help you build an outdoor fire pit and get you fired up about the cold!

Determine The Size And Location
The first order of business is to choose where to build your outdoor fire pit. You want to make sure it’s not too close to the house or overhanging trees.

Once you’ve found the spot, lay out a ring of stones and mark it with a shovel before you dig the hole. You’ll want it to be between 35-45 inches in diameter. This will allow a roaring fire, but it will also feel cozy and intimate.

Dig The Pit And Make A Trench
Make a hole six inches deep within the circle your marked using your stones. You want the sides to be straight and the bottom flat. Then dig down an extra six inches around the perimeter.

This trench should be wide enough to fit a ring of stone blocks that will be the base of your wall. Fill the six-inch deep trench with drainage gravel until it’s level with the center of your pit.

Lay The Stone Blocks
Lay out the stone blocks on top of the gravel. Place the first one and use a level to make sure it’s sitting squarely. Set the second block next to it and so on. Use a level to ensure everything is even.

For the second layer, squirt masonry adhesive in a snaking pattern and center a block on top of the seam of the first layer. Build up the wall until it’s about one foot above ground level.

Finish It Off
Fill the pit with gravel until you reach ground level. The gravel will help the base of the walls set straight. If you want to cover the outside of the pit walls with stone cap pieces, then try to fix them together like a puzzle using masonry adhesive.

Then you can either build a fire on top of the gravel or insert an iron campfire ring into the center. Once you’re finished, then it’s time to bundle up and get those marshmallows roasting!

Pitfalls And Warning Signs Of Making A Down Payment

making a down paymentWhen you already have a home, you may be interested in determining if a refinance is a good option. You will not have to worry about restrictions on down payments or some of the problems that can occur with a down payment.

However, if you are considering purchasing a home in or the surrounding communities, understanding down payment restrictions is important.

Gifting Of A Down Payment
There are some programs that will allow you to use a gift for your home down payment. However, before you assume this, make sure you talk to your loan officer. Generally speaking, the lender will require the person making the gift to provide a letter stating the money was a gift and does not require repayment.

Windfalls Of A Down Payment
When people hit the lottery or come into money through an inheritance, one of the first things they may consider is buying a new home. However, it is important to keep in mind that lenders will typically want to know exactly how you came up with your down payment.
Borrowers still need to show a “trail” of how they came into money. If your down payment amount has not been “seasoned” the lender may not accept your loan.

What Is A Seasoned Down Payment?
Generally speaking, your loan officer will want a “paper trail” to document your down payment. Most lenders require down payment funds to be at a minimum six months old.

For example, let’s assume a borrower did win the lottery: If they deposit the funds into their checking account and leave it there for six months or more, the funds would be considered seasoned.

Lender restrictions on down payment funds are fairly common. If you are uncertain if your funds meet the lender’s criteria, talk to your loan officer. In most cases, a lender will require at least one-half your down payment fall into the category of seasoned funds.
Some borrowers may use their retirement account or other savings to make their home down payment.

Don’t wait until the last minute to discuss your down payment with your loan officer because you may wind up disappointed. Keep in mind, every lender has different requirements and these rules may not apply to your lender.

Questions First-Time Home Buyers Should Ask

questions first time homebuyersNationwide, mortgage rates are low and home prices remain relatively low, too. This combination, plus rising rents, is pushing renters in some cities toward first-time homeownership.

Buying your first home can be exciting, but you should also do your research to make sure that you ask the proper questions of the process, and make the best choices for yourself and your household.

For example, recommended questions for first-time buyers to ask home sellers include :

What major repairs have been made to your home?

Although standard disclosure forms are supposed to provide information regarding past damage and renovation to the property, there are occasionally repairs that are omitted or otherwise forgotten. Be proactive and ask pointed questions about the roof, the foundation, and the electrical system. Some home issue have a way of resurfacing many years later and it’s best to know in advance. •

To which school district does the home belong?

As a first-time homebuyer, you may or may not have school-aged children. However, in many areas, public school rankings positively (or negatively) affect home values. Ask your real estate agent for school district data. Consider asking the seller for feedback, too.

Is this a “distressed” property, and what does that mean to me?

For many home buyers, the allure of a foreclosed home or a home in short sale can be large. Prices are discounted as compared to comparable real estate — sometimes by as much as 20%. However, many distressed properties are sold as-is,” with little room for negotiation. This means that homes may be defective or, worse, uninhabitable. Ask your real estate agent for help with distressed homes and their suitability to your home buying needs.

After asking the above questions, and other questions, too, it’s important to remember that buying a home can be an emotional decision; and one that requires using your “brain” as much as your “heart”. Try to keep emotions in check so that you don’t overpay for a home that’s unsuitable, for example.

How Choosing Kitchen Colors Can Affect Your Eating Habits

choosing-kitchen-colorsHave you ever walked into your kitchen and instantly felt hungry?

Rarely do people think about the colors that they choose to paint their kitchens. They are often too busy worrying about whether the kitchen will match the rest of the home, or whether the colors will be satisfactory to the rest of the household.

However, when painting and decorating your kitchen, you may want to think about the process in a way many people do not — how the colors you choose will affect the way in which you eat. As behavioral psychologists have documented, the presence of specific colors your the kitchen can change your eating habits and your cravings for food.

Here are some examples :
The color red increases your appetite. This is why so many restaurants paint their walls red. Although associated with romance and passion, red is also a color which promotes hunger. Furthermore, it has been noted that the color red in your kitchen can influence high blood pressure.

The color blue is calming, which can slow your eating speed, and prevent you from over-eating. When decorating your kitchen and dining room, therefore, using blue wallpaper or blue paint; and blue placemats, for example, can result in “slower” eating and fewer feelings of fullness.

The color orange is a “stimulating” color; increasing oxygen supply to the brain and providing a mental boost. An orange-themed kitchen may stimulate your appetite, therefore, and make over-eating more likely.

Then, there is gray. Gray can be an ideal appetite-suppressing color for your kitchen. This is because, psychologically, gray is calming and relaxing, and it neutralizes anxiety. Gray can arrest binge eating and impulsive snacking. It’s also a color which home stagers recommend for its neutrality.

Whether you’re a home buyer , a home seller, or just getting ready to remodel, consider the influence of colors in your home. They do more than just “match the next room” — they affect your food and drink cravings as well.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 30, 2013

mortgage-news-this-weekThe University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index was improved for December at 82.5, after the November reading was adjusted from 82.5 to 75. Analysts noted that consumers were relieved when legislative gridlock ended.

Durable goods orders reached their highest level since May with November’s reading of + 3.5 percent. Without the volatile transportation sector, the reading for November was +1.2 percent.

This could be a sign of economic recovery for manufacturing, as more orders are being placed. Economists expected an overall increase of 2.0 percent for overall durable goods orders.

The U.S. Commerce Department provided housing markets with good news with its New Home Sales report for November. 464,000 new homes were sold in November against expectations of 440,000 new homes sold.

This expectation was based on the original reading of 444,000 new homes sold in October, which has been revised to 474,000 new homes sold. The latest reading for October is the highest since July of 2008.

While rising mortgage rates slowed home purchases during the summer, analysts note that home buyers seem to be adjusting for higher mortgage rates by purchasing smaller homes in less costly areas.

Home Builder Confidence recently achieved its highest reading since 2005, a further indication of overall economic recovery and housing markets in particular.

After Wednesday’s holiday, the Weekly Jobless Claims report came in with a reading of 338,000 new jobless claims filed. This reading was lower than expectations of 345,000 new jobless claims and significantly lower than the previous week’s report of 380,000 new jobless claims.

This was the largest decrease in new jobless claims since the week of November 17, 2012. After seasonal volatility associated with the holidays, analysts expect new jobless claims to decrease at a slower rate in early 2014,

Freddie Mac released its Primary Mortgage Market Survey on Thursday. Although some economic analysts had expected a jump in mortgage rates after the Fed announced its plan to begin tapering its monthly securities purchases in January, mortgage rates showed little change.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 4.48 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. Average 15-year mortgage rates also rose by one basis point to 3.52 with discount points moving up from 0.60 to 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by 4.00 basis points to 3.00 percent, with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

2014 shows promise of a steady economic improvements, and given the latest New Home Sales report, it’s possible that improving housing markets will continue leading the way.

What’s Ahead

As with last week, this week’s schedule of economic events is reduced due to the New Year holiday. Pending home sales for November will be released Monday, Tuesday’s economic reports include The Case/Shiller Housing Market Indices and the Consumer Confidence report.

After the holiday on Wednesday, Thursday’s scheduled reports include the Weekly Jobless Claims and Freddie Mac PMMS on mortgage rates. Construction Spending will also be released. There is no housing or mortgage-related economic reports set for release on Friday.

Housing Market Index Shows Builder Confidence Up 23 Percent Year-Over-Year

builder confidence is upAccording to the National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Homebuilders Market Index for December, builder confidence recovered in with a reading of 58. This surpassed both expectations of 56 and last month’s reading of 54.

Analysts noted that builder confidence has steadied after the government shutdown. December’s reading was the highest in four months. Dave Crowe, NAHB chief economist, said that his organization was expecting a “gradual improvement in the housing recovery” in 2014.

Any reading above 50 indicates that more builders are confident about overall housing market conditions than not.

Builder Confidence – Highest Reading Since 2005

Pent-up demand for housing is driving housing markets in spite of higher mortgage rates. Three components of builder confidence used to calculate the overall reading also rose in December. Builder confidence in current home sales rose to 64 from a reading of 58 in November; this is the highest reading since 2005.

Confidence levels in housing markets over the next six months rose to 62 from last month’s reading of 60. Builder confidence also grew in the area of buyer foot traffic in new developments and gained three points to a reading of 44.

All of this is good news, but the NAHB said that a gap remains between higher home builder confidence and the rate of new home construction. A seasonal lull in home construction is not unusual especially in areas experiencing harsh weather.

More Jobs, Low Refinance Numbers Could Mean More Mortgages Available

MarketWatch analysts suggest that if the economy continues to add jobs “at a brisk pace” and mortgage lenders ease lending requirements next year, the demand for homes could further strengthen the U.S. housing market next year.

Low numbers of refinance mortgages in 2013 may cause some lenders to loosen mortgage credit requirements, which were tightened after the housing bubble burst.

Economic News scheduled for today may provide a broader picture of economic health and likely trends for 2015. The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee will provide its expected statement after its meeting, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will give his last press conference as Fed chair as well.

Any indication of plans to reduce the Fed’s current quantitative easing program could upset financial and mortgage markets, but most economic analysts don’t expect an announcement of tapering the Fed’s asset purchases before next year.

Data on November Housing Starts and Building Permits will also offer clues as to how housing markets and the general economy are doing.

Get The Overview On Escrow Accounts

understanding-mortgage-escrow-accountsWhether you are purchasing a new home or you are considering applying to refinance your home, chances are the lender will require an escrow account. These accounts are often a source of confusion for homeowners.

In reality, these accounts benefit the homeowner and help protect the lender.

What Is An Escrow Account?

Escrow accounts are sometimes called “impound” accounts. These accounts are set up to help manage payments of property taxes and homeowner’s insurance.

Depending on the individual requirements of the lender, you may be asked to pay as much as one-quarter of these upfront and they will be put into the account for the purposes of making payments.

Who Controls Escrow Accounts?

Lenders have complete control over escrow accounts. However, homeowners are entitled to receive an annual statement advising them of their escrow balance.

If there is an increase or decrease in insurance payments through the year, a homeowner may request the lender evaluate the escrow account and change the amount that is paid.

Is Interest Paid On Escrow Accounts?

There is no mandate to pay interest on escrow accounts. When you refinance your home, the funds for your taxes and insurance are calculated into your overall payment.

The portion that is to be used to pay taxes and insurance is placed in escrow. Arizona laws do not require lenders to pay interest on these accounts.

What Happens If I Sell My Home Or Refinance?

When you sell or refinance your home, your escrow account will be credited at closing. The amount may be used to lower your out-of-pocket costs or may be turned over to you as a direct payment.

What Happens If There Is Not Enough/Too Much Money In Escrow?

If your lender has underestimated your escrow payments, they may request you send an additional payment to make up the difference. In the event you are paying too much into escrow, your lender has the discretion to release the overage amount directly to you.

In most cases, shortfalls or overages of $50 or less are typically not a major concern.

If your lender requires you to have an escrow account for the taxes and insurance portion of your mortgage payment, it can be very helpful. Escrow accounts help ensure you do not have to come up with a large payment once a year for insurance or quarterly for taxes.

In some cases, if a lender does not require an escrow account, as a borrower, you may request they escrow your taxes and insurance for convenience.

Fed Minutes Predicts Tapering Of Quantitative Easing Program

quantatative easingHousing Starts exceeded expectations and also beat October’s reading of 889,000. November housing starts were posted at 1.09 million against a consensus of 963,000.

This reading is more in line with the NAHB/Wells Fargo Home builder Market Index, which reached a four month high with December’s reading.

With that threat resolved and a new federal budget passed, builders can now proceed without worrying about setbacks caused by government shutdowns and legislative gridlock.

Building permits issued in November were slightly lower at 1.01 million than October’s reading of 1.04 million. Viewed as an indicator of future construction, and ultimately, available homes, it is not unusual for construction and permits to slow during the winter months.

FOMC Statement And Chairman Bernanke’s Last Press Conference
Throughout 2013, strong signs of economic recovery have led to predictions of the Federal Reserve tapering its quantitative easing program.

As each FOMC meeting approached, analysts predicted that the Fed would start reducing its $85 billion purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities.

The asset purchases are part of the government’s quantitative easing program that was implemented to keep long-term interest rates and mortgage rates low.

The cut finally came on Wednesday as the FOMC made its customary post-meeting statement. Effective in January 2014, the Fed will reduce its monthly purchases by $10 billion.

The QE purchase will be split between $40 billion in Treasury securities and $35 billion in MBS. The Fed expects that the economy will continue recovering at a moderate pace.

The FOMC statement noted that the Fed will continue monitoring inflation, which remains below the Fed’s target rate of 2.00 percent, and the national unemployment rate, which remains above the Fed’s target rate of 6.50 percent.

The statement noted that asset purchases are not on a predetermined course, and that the Fed will continue to closely monitor labor market conditions, inflation pressure and economic developments in the U.S. and globally.

The Fed did not change its target federal funds rate of 0.00 to 0.25 percent, and would not do so at least until unemployment falls to 6.50 percent. Changes to policy accommodation are made with the Fed’s dual goal of achieving an inflation rate of 2.00 percent and achieving maximum national employment goals.

Bernanke Press Conference
Mr. Bernanke repeated key points of the FOMC statement, and noted that “highly accommodative monetary policy and waning fiscal drag” is helping with the economic recovery, but that the economy has much farther to go before it can be considered fully recovered.
Mr. Bernanke said that FOMC members saw the unemployment rate dropping from 7.00 percent in November 2013 to 6.30 to 6.60 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. Improving labor markets and rising household spending were cited as signs of economic recovery.
Mr. Bernanke mentioned concerns about the high unemployment and underemployment rates and said that the Fed’s benchmarks for unemployment and inflation would not automatically trigger reductions in its QE asset purchases.

He also said that the committee did not expect to adjust the target federal funds rate immediately after the national unemployment rate reaches 6.50 percent.

Mr. Bernanke repeated that the Fed’s actions regarding monetary policy and QE would be dependent on in-depth review of ongoing financial and economic developments, but said that further tapering of QE purchases is likely if the economy stays on its present course of moderate improvement.

Tips For Winter Roof Maintenance

winter-roof-maintenanceIt’s that time of year again when the weather outside gets frightful but the holiday cheer is delightful. You’ve probably got a lot on your mind during these busy winter months, but make sure that you don’t neglect the roof of your home.

Taking care of your roof is an important part of home maintenance and you don’t want to suffer a leak or any other problem during the cold months.

So how can you make sure that Santa and his sleigh have a solid and well-maintained landing pad when they touch down at your house this year? Here are some tips that every homeowner should know:

Check Out Your Gutters
Your gutters are an important part of your roof, because they allow water to flow away from the roof surface before it causes rot and damage. During the winter, your gutters will be more likely to get clogged with fallen leaves, snow and ice and can get blocked if they are not cleared out.

Get yourself a ladder and a friend to hold it for you and clean any leaves, debris and dirt from the gutters. Flush the gutters out with a hose afterward to ensure they are clean. If your gutters have become damaged or leaky, you can use gutter sealant or fibreglass resin to patch up the hole.

Trim Back The Trees
If you have a lot of trees and vegetation overhanging above your roof, it’s a good idea to trim it back before the winter months. At the moment, it might not be touching your roof – but once it is weighted down with snow or blown around by the wind it might do some damage.

When hiring a tree trimming service, get a few different quotes from a range of contractors so that you can be sure that you are getting the right price.

Inspect Your Roof For Weak Spots
A roof inspection can save you from a lot of roof damage, which could get even more serious when the weather gets colder and wetter. Start by performing a visual inspection of the inside and outside of your roof.

Look around for any missing tiles and make sure that the gutters are allowing the water to drain freely from the roof. This can be done while walking around your property with binoculars.

If you spot something that looks suspicious, you can hire a professional roofer to take a closer look. They will be experienced and will know what to look for, so that they can find the weak spot and fit it right away. A roof inspection will cost you, but it is a lot cheaper than paying for a new roof!

These are just a few important maintenance tasks that you can perform in order to ensure that your roof is in tip top shape to welcome the winter season – and a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer! For more handy tips and info about your home, contact your trusted mortgage professional today.