Get Green and Recycle Everyday Household Items

 

get-green-and-recycleEvery week the trash truck comes to pick up our garbage and unwanted items, which are promptly taken to landfills. Instead of filling landfills and just buying new items to stuff our homes, we can help the earth and recycle everyday household items.

Below are a few fun and creative ideas for recycling things around your home that you might be ready to trash.

Coffee Table Into Bench

If you just purchased a new coffee table, don’t give away the old one — repurpose it. Find a space in your home where you could use some additional seating, like at the end of your bed or in the entryway.

Push it up against the wall so that any drawers and shelves are facing out. Then add some cushions and pillow. Tada; a bench!

Copper Piping Into Bathroom Hardware

Whether you’re going for a modern industrial look or a French country theme, old copper piping can add an attractive and interesting conversation piece to your restroom.

Utilize a U-shaped piece of piping as a toilet paper holder and long pieces of pipe as towel racks. Polish the copper and then seal it with spray lacquer so that it keeps its sheen.

Light Bulbs Into Decorations

Recycle filament light bulbs with a fun little craft project for your children. Grab paint, twine, glitter and glue. You can make flower pots and hang them in the yard as a simple green accent. Use the twine to create loops for hanging.

Pillowcase Into Shopping Bag

Take an old or vintage pillowcase, lay it flat and cut the top corners off of the open end. You’ll want to cut the corners off in a half-C shape so that that there is only about a two-inch strip left in the middle at the top.

Sew that two-inch strip together and you’ve got your handle. This reusable shopping bag rolls up tight and is easy to wash.

Drawer Into Dog Bed

The size of your animal will dictate the size of drawer you should repurpose. A cat might like a kitchen drawer while a bigger dog would use a large dresser drawer. Strip the wood off the drawer and repaint. Remove the hardware.

Maybe stencil your pet’s name on the front of the drawer. Then create a mattress using foam, batting and a soft and durable material.

Before getting rid of that broken side table or trashing those carry-out chopsticks, take a second look and tap into your creative side to see if you might be able to recycle and give them a second life.

Factors To Consider When Applying For A Home Mortgage

applying-for-a-mortgageOwning a home can be a sign of independence and success. It allows you to build up equity and the mortgage interest and property taxes are tax-deductible. What can you do to make a home affordable for you.

Reputable lenders look at a list of criteria to decide how much they’ll loan you.
This List Includes:

  • Credit score
  • Existing assets including cash
  • Car leases or loans
  • Credit card balances
  • Debt consolidation loans
  • Home equity loans
  • Installment loans
  • Student loans
  • Other monthly debts
  • Size/source of your down payment

If you’d like to get an idea of what you can afford before talking to a lender, here are a few tools you can use to decide whether a home is within your budget.

Here Are Some Guidelines:
As a rule of thumb, your house hunting budget shouldn’t be more than 2.5 times your pre-tax annual income. If you earn $50,000 a year, your budget for house hunting should be around $125,000.

Your Housing Expense Ratio, which is principal, interest, taxes and insurance shouldn’t be more than 25% to 28% of your pre-tax monthly income.

Your Debt-to-Income Ratio should be no more than 36% of your pre-tax monthly income. This is the ratio between how much you owe and how much you earn.

Use an online calculator to figure how much home you can afford.

“Qualifying for” and ”can afford” are two different things. Shopping for a home within your budget will save you a lot of heartache now and in the future.

If you’d like help determining how much mortgage you can really afford, call your trusted mortgage professional today.

See if 50 Year Mortgages Are a Good Financing Option

50-year-mortgage-optionsWhen most people are taking out a mortgage on a property, they select either a 15 or 30 year mortgage loan. However, there is a new mortgage option that has been available to home owners since 2006 and that is the 50 year mortgage loan.

Although a half-century might seem like a very long loan term, there can be some advantages to taking out a five-decade mortgage. Here are some of the pros and cons to taking out a mortgage that you repay over 50 years.

Advantages

The main benefit that you will experience with a 50 year mortgage is the ability to take out a larger loan and buy a more expensive house that you might not have otherwise been able to afford. This means that you can enjoy a better standard of living with lower monthly payments.

A 50 year mortgage might also make home ownership easier to qualify for as a first time homebuyer. On a monthly basis, it means that you will have more room in your budget for paying for other expenses.

Disadvantages

Of course, the major disadvantage to a 50 year mortgage is that you will end up paying much more interest over the loan period. Also, you will build equity in the home very slowly and you will not gain back much equity if you sell the home a few years on.

Also, often 50 year mortgages will come with higher interest rates than their 30 year counterparts. You can usually expect to pay an extra 0.25% or more than you would if you took out a 30 year mortgage, which can really add up over time.

It might be advantageous to take a 50 year mortgage with low payments in the beginning, with the aim to refinance and reduce your term in the future when you are earning more money and can make higher mortgage payments.

A 50 year mortgage can sometimes be advantageous, but ask yourself if you really want to wait until you are in your 70s or 80s before owning your home! If a 50 year mortgage is the only way you can afford your mortgage payments, you might be considering a home that is beyond your price range.

To find out more about the right mortgage term for you on your property, call your trusted mortgage professional today.

Why You Should Shred Your Financial Documents

shredding-financial-documentsHow do you know what happens to your documents when you put a piece of paper in the trash? It can be difficult to know who is seeing it and what they are doing with it. It isn’t very common to burn trash anymore; therefore you can be sure that your paper garbage or recycling is likely to pass through several hands on its way to a landfill or recycling center.

Step-By-Step, Your Documents Can Get Pilfered
Every step that occurs once the trash leaves your control has risk that someone will find personal information they can use to cause you harm. One way to safeguard personal information is to shred it before it goes into the trash.

Shredding devices are available at most office supply stores. Cross-cut shredders provide more security than strip-cut shredders. You may want to consider one depending on your level of concern. Shredding services or shredding events are often offered by financial institutions or community organizations.

Properly destroying sensitive personal information is a key step in helping to keep your identity secure. You really should shred any documents containing personal information, but be cautious not to shred financial documents that you may still need.

To Shred Or Not To Shred, That Is The Question…Or Maybe It‘s When To Shred

The Better Business Bureau offers these guidelines on when to shred:

Deposit, ATM, credit, and debit card receipts can be shredded once the transaction appears on your statement

Canceled checks, credit card statements, and bank statements with no long-term significance can go through the shredder after one year; if used to support tax returns, keep them for seven years

Monthly bill statements can be shredded one year after receiving, to allow for year-to-year bill comparisons (another good way to monitor your budget!)

Credit card contracts and loan agreements should be saved for as long as the account is active
Pay stubs can be shredded yearly after reconciling with your W-2 or other tax forms

Documentation of investment purchases or sales should be kept for as long as you own the investment and then seven years after that; shred monthly investment account statements annually after reconciling with a year-end statement

Always shred documents with Social Security numbers, birth dates, PIN numbers or passwords, financial information, contracts or letters with signatures, pre-approved credit card applications, medical and dental bills, travel itineraries, and used airline tickets.

Recent Government Activity And Its Effect On Mortgage Interest Rates

U.SMortgage rates typically are tied more to the yields on the 10-year Treasury note more than any other indicator. With the government in flux as the shutdown happened and ended, mortgage rates are also changing.

Overall, mortgage rates have decreased because of a lack of confidence in the government’s ability to get its finances under control.
Although rates spiked in September when the Fed hinted that they would not be purchasing as many bonds, they quickly released an announcement that they would actually be maintaining their current purchasing habits.

The Time Is Ripe For Homeowners
Since then, mortgage interest rates have been dropping back down to their previous levels. With 30-year and 15-year fixed mortgage rates continuing at very low levels, the time is ripe for homeowners to purchase or refinance.

In the day following the reopening of the government, mortgage rates continued at their low levels, which surprised some economists. The stock market went down and yields on the 10-year Treasury note also decreased, which both suggest a lack of confidence in the government.

Despite their ability to come to an agreement, investors and economists note that it is just a temporary fix, and there will likely be anothershowdown looming. Rates may remain low for a little while, but as the government begins releasing more economic data, mortgage interest rates could increase if the data shows growth in the economy.

Buyers Expect An Increase Of Applications
The government shutdown did have an effect on the volume of applications for government mortgages, like FHA and VA loans. Both reached a six-year low, largely because there were no staff on hand to answer questions over the phone and the offices were running on skeleton crews.

As the offices are back up and running again, buyers are expected to increase their volume of applications because those who had been delaying their applications now need to get the ball rolling on their home purchases.

Amidst all of the uncertainty, one thing is quite clear. It’s unlikely that interest rates will drop significantly lower than they are now, so buyers looking to get a mortgage and homeowners looking to refinance may be best off locking a rate soon rather than waiting.

Hope Of A Stronger Economy With New Measures – Fed Minutes

fed-minutes-mortgageThe Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee released its customary after-meeting statement on Wednesday. In the context of meeting its dual mandate of stabilizing pricing and achieving maximum employment.

The FOMC statement indicated that although the economy has improved in areas including household spending and labor market conditions, the national unemployment rate remains high and the housing market recovery has slowed.

Fed Says Fiscal Policy Restraining Economic Growth

The FOMC statement said that current fiscal policy and ”retrenchment” is restraining economic growth as evidenced by failure to achieve benchmarks set by FOMC as indicators of a healthy economy. Benchmarks include a national unemployment rate no higher than 6.50 percent and achieving an inflation rate of 2.00 percent.

September’s unemployment rate was 7.20 percent and inflation has run consistently below the FOMC objective. Not to be confused with the FOMC statement’s references to monetary policy, the term fiscal policy refers to the government’s budgetary policy.

Committee Sees Moderate Economic Growth, Seeks Improvement

While the Fed cited ”moderate economic growth,” the FOMC statement clearly indicated that the committee is not ready to alter its current policy of quantitative easing and estimates that it will maintain the target federal funds rate at between 0.00 percent and 0.250 percent for a considerable time after the QE bond-buying program is phased out.

The Federal Reserve currently purchases $40 billion per month in mortgage-backed securities and $45 billion in Treasury securities as part of its QE program. The Fed will also continue its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments it receives on holdings of agency debt and MBS, as well as selling maturing Treasury securities at auction.

These activities are part of FOMC’s strategy for supporting low mortgage rates and mortgage markets while making ”broader financial conditions more accommodative.” The Fed expects these measures to assist with a stronger economic recovery and stabilizing inflation at the Fed’s target rate.

Fed To Continue Monitoring Economic, Financial Developments

FOMC reasserted its position that any decision to alter current QE policy is not solely subject to economic benchmarks, but will be based on the Committee’s close review of labor market conditions, inflation pressures, and financial developments.

FOMC commented in its statement that it will continue to review economic and financial conditions in the “coming months” and will decide when to taper its monthly asset purchase according to what is learned.

This suggests that changes to the present QE policy are not anticipated for several months, and that the effects of QE combined with dampened speculation may help with keeping mortgage rates lower.

Beware Of Zombie Titles

property-titleWith the economic downturn, anyone dealing in real estate quickly became familiar with previously little-known terms such as foreclosure and short sale. Now that the housing market is picking back up and people are moving on, a new term is coming to light — zombie titles.

The Zombie Title

This is when a home has been vacated because the owners defaulted on their loan and their bank started the foreclosure process. However, for some reason or another the bank never completed the foreclosure and sold the home.

So, when the city starts fining someone for the overgrown grass and dilapidated structure, the homeowner who thought they were finished with the property gets the bill.

A Home That Keeps Haunting

Homeowners think they don’t own the property any longer and therefore try to move on by rebuilding their credit score and finding a new place to live. It can be a rude awakening to find out that not only do they still own a home they could have been living in, but also its long vacancy has caused it to fall into disrepair.

Its Spooking The Neighborhood

These vacant homes can decrease the value of a neighborhood. If the bank or the un-suspecting homeowner are neither one taking care of the property, then it can become overgrown and an eyesore on the block. It becomes a problem with no solution because the owner won’t want to invest any money in fixing up the property when the bank could come back with the foreclosure at any time.

Nail Shut The Foreclosure Coffin

Homeowners who have foreclosed on a home should double check that their bank actually followed through to closing on a sale. They could contact their lender or check public property records just to make sure. Otherwise, they could be haunted by their housing nightmare all over again.

Don’t let the zombie title of a past property haunt your future! Check with your bank to make sure you’re free and clear of your foreclosure. If you’d like more information on zombie titles or have other questions, please contant your trusted mortgage professional.

What You Should Know About Pending Home Sales This Month

sale-pending-sign-real-estatePending home sales fell in September by -5.60 percent, and were 1.20 percent lower year-over-year. This is the first time in more than two years that pending home sales have fallen below year-earlier readings. September’s reading was below August’s reading of -1.60 percent.

The National Association of REALTORS®, which released the report, expects lower home sales for the fourth quarter of 2013 and flat sales into 2014. NAR provided good news in its forecast of 10 percent growth in existing home sales in 2013 as compared to 2012.

A spike in mortgage rates in August coupled with rapidly rising home prices were seen as major factors leading to lower pending sales.

Real estate analysis firm CoreLogic has reported that August home prices were 12.4 percent higher than for the previous 12 months; this was the fastest annual growth rate for home prices since February 2006.

While positive news for homeowners and housing markets, rapidly rising home prices can cause some buyers to postpone or cancel their plans for purchasing a home.

Economic, Government Policy Challenges Reduce Buyer Enthusiasm

In addition to higher mortgage rates and home prices, recent concerns of investors and consumers about the government shutdown and its consequences were noted as factors contributing to lower pending home sales.

High unemployment rates are a lingering influence, as would-be home buyers waver in their decisions to take on a long-term obligation when unemployment rates remain higher than normal and job security is questionable.

Fed Expected To Maintain BondBuying At Current Level

The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve meets this week and is expected to maintain its current level of $85 billion per month in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities. The fed’s program is intended to keep long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates, low as a means of supporting the economic recovery.

Mortgage rates are affected by bond prices; if the fed reduces its monthly bond purchases, demand for bonds would fall, and mortgage rates would be expected to rise.

Mortgage rates spiked in August on expectations that the FOMC would taper its monthly bond-buying, but have since trended lower.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – 11.04.13

freddie-mac-mortgage-ratesLast week’s economic news came from a variety of sources. Most significant was the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee statement after its meeting ended Wednesday. The statement indicated that the Fed saw moderate economic growth. FOMC did not taper its purchase of MBS and Treasury securities.

The FOMC statement announced the committee’s intention to closely monitor economic and financial developments ”in the coming months,” which suggested that the FOMC is taking a wait-and-see position on reducing its $85 billion monthly asset purchases.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall

The Fed’s asset purchase program, also known as quantitative easing, was implanted in 2012 with a goal of stabilizing mortgage rates and other long-term interest rates.

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that pending home sales fell by 5.60 percent in September. Uncertainty over the FOMC’s decision concerning tapering its asset purchases during its September meeting and concerns over a then potential government shutdown.

These were noted as primary reasons for the drop in pending home sales, which are measured by signed real estate contracts. Pending Home Sales are used for estimating future closings and mortgage loan activity.

Tuesday’s economic reports included the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for August. Home prices increased by 12.80 percent year-over-year in August as compared to 12.30 percent year-over-year for August 2012. August’s reading shows a dampened pace of rising home prices.

The Conference Board, a research organization, reported that consumer confidence fell from a reading of 80.2 in September to 71.2 in October. A reading of 75.00 was expected, but consumer confidence crashed as the government shutdown and its consequences diminished consumer and investor confidence.

According to ADP, a payroll administration firm, private-sector payrolls came in well shy of the expected 150,000 new jobs with a reading of 130,000 jobs. October’s reading was also lower than September’s reading of 145,000 new jobs.

Weekly jobless claims brought good news; new jobless claims came in at 340,000 and fell by 10,000 new claims from the previous week’s 350,000 new jobless claims. Expectations had been for 335,000 new jobless claims.

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by three basis points to 4.10 percent, with discount points down from 0.80 percent to 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.20 percent, with an uptick in discount points from 0.60 percent to 0.70 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by four basis points to 2.96 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

Whats Coming Up

There is no housing or mortgage economic news scheduled this week other than Freddie Mac’s PMMS due on Thursday.

Reporting for this week includes Leading Economic Indicators, Weekly Jobless Claims, Non-farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment Rate will be posted. The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index will be released Friday.

This week’s economic reports are expected provide a general gauge of the economy and information about how consumers are responding to recent economic events and news.

3 Easy Tips To Protect Your Deck This Winter

protect-your-deckBarbecue season is all but over, and you won’t be spending as much time out on the deck. Don’t let it get you down, though. Spring will be here before you know it. There are a lot of things that can wear down and damage your deck, so protect your deck and make sure it stays in tip top shape over the winter.

Cover The Furniture

You want your deck to look as good in the spring as it does now. The first step is to cover all the furniture (don’t forget the grill!). Cover everything with commercial furniture covers or just use a tarp. Be sure that the covers fit snuggly.

They won’t do any good if they’re blowing through the neighbor’s yard. If you’ve got the space, make room in the garage for the deck chairs and table. They’ll last longer if you store them indoors for the winter.

Give It One More Good Cleaning

Dirt and dust can get trapped in the wood over the course of the summer, not to mention dog slobber or barbecue sauce. If you let these things stain your deck all winter, it will be a pain in your neck to get them out in the spring. Make sure to give your deck a thorough cleaning before it gets too cold.

You can use a pressure washer to spray away all the dirt. However, be careful not to splinter your wood, as pressure washers are powerful. Another option is to scrub the deck down with a brush.

There are several commercial cleaners to choose from, but don’t get one with bleach. You don’t want your wood to fade. If this sounds like too much work, consider hiring someone to give your deck a professional cleaning.

Moisture Is The Enemy

Rain, sleet, and snow will seep into the cracks of your deck all winter. They can cause discolor, warping, and even cracking. Now is the perfect time to use a waterproof finish to seal all the little cracks in your deck and keep out the moisture all winter. There are a wide variety of finishes to choose from. Choose a darker or lighter finish to give your deck a new look.

We’re leaving behind the days of barbecues and swimming pools, and replacing them with wool socks and fireplaces. Over the winter you can’t give your deck as much attention, but you can make sure it stays healthy and strong until spring. A good deep cleaning and a fresh new finish are your keys to avoiding cracking, warping, fading, and mold. Put in the time now, and you’ll extend your deck’s life by years.