Why Your Should Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage

why-refinance-your-mortgageRefinancing a mortgage is a golden opportunity to lock in today’s low interest rate for the next 15 or 30 years. While interest rates now are still low, there’s a good chance they will be heading up in the coming months.

The Fed won’t maintain the current bond purchasing level forever, and just as rates spiked in September when the Fed hinted the bond purchasing would change, rates will spike even more when purchasing levels actually do change.

As interest rates remain very low for 30-year and 15-year mortgages, homeowners can benefit greatly from a refinance. Several types of people in particular should consider refinancing.

Carrying A High Rate
Anyone with an interest rate well above today’s level should think about a refinance. Unless the homeowner is planning to sell within the next few years, a refinance will almost always save money in the long run if the rate can be lowered by at least a percent.

Switching From FHA To Conventional
Given that FHA mortgages now carry mortgage insurance premiums for the life of the loan, it makes a lot of sense for borrowers to switch away from them when they can. Refinancing may be possible once the homeowner has built up enough equity to qualify for a mortgage from a traditional lender, without the burden of mortgage insurance.

ARM Coming Up On Adjustment
The low rate of an adjustable rate mortgage sticks only for the first few years of the mortgage. After this point, the rate adjusts each year based on market trends. Rather than paying the adjusted rate, which is almost always higher, homeowners can refinance into a new fixed rate mortgage to lock in one of today’s low fixed rates for the duration of the mortgage.

Cash Out To Consolidate Debt
Homeowners carrying high-interest debt, like credit cards and personal loans, can often benefit from consolidating it into their mortgage. As long as they maintain at least 20 percent equity in their home, they can get a cash-out refinance for an amount higher than their current mortgage balance. They can then use the difference to pay off high-interest debt.

The Government Shutdown And Its Effect On Existing Home Sales

existing-home-salesExisting home sales for September fell by 1.90 percent from August’s revised reading of 5.39 million sales to 5.29 million sales. Economists had expected 5.30 million sales for September, so a slow-down in existing home sales had been anticipated.

The National Association of REALTORS cited higher home prices and mortgage rates as factors contributing to fewer sales of previously owned homes.

Home Prices Easily Outpaced Income Growth
According to Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, home prices ”easily outpaced income growth.” Consequently, affordability has fallen to a five-year low. Mr. Yun also indicated that a government shutdown was expected to affect home sales in October.

NAR also cited a ”notable increase” in federal flood insurance premiums as a deterrent to homebuyers in flood zones. The premium increase was set for October 1.

There is some good news. The NAR reported that existing home sales had increased from 4.78 million in September 2012. As compared to the reading for September 2013, this was an annual increase of 10.70 percent in existing home sales.

This increase represented the 27th consecutive month for increasing sales of existing homes on a year-over-year basis.

Higher National Median Home Price
According to the NAR report, the national median home price increased by 11.70 percent to $199,200 as compared to one year ago. This was the 10th consecutive month of double-digit year-over-year increases in existing home prices.

NAR estimated that it would take five months to sell the 2.21 million previously owned homes currently available, which indicates that available existing homes remain in short supply.

Sales of distressed properties rose to 14.00 percent share of existing home sales, up from August’s share of 12.00 percent. August’s level was the lowest share of distressed properties sold since NAR began tracking monthly sales of distressed properties in October 2008. Sales of distressed properties during September included 9.00 percent foreclosed properties and 5.00 percent short sales.

Distressed properties typically sell for less than market value; fewer distressed properties included in existing homes for sale would contribute to higher prices. September’s percentage of distressed sales is down by 10 percent year-over-year.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week 10-28-13

mortgage-rates-dropFederal government agencies issued reports that were delayed by the government shutdown; and Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell for all types of loans it reports. The National Association of REALTORS issued its Existing Home Sales report on Monday. While 5.30 million home sales were expected an annual basis, September’s reading fell short at 5.29 million sales.

August’s reading was adjusted from an original reading of 5.48 million, which equaled July’s reading. Higher mortgage rates and home prices were cited as contributing to the slip in September’s sales.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics issued the Nonfarm Payrolls report for September on Tuesday. September’s reading indicated that only 148,000 jobs were created as compared to economists’ expectations of 185,000 jobs and August’s reading of 173,000 new jobs.

National Unemployment Rate Dropped

Analysts indicated that the modest reading for September was caused by uncertainty over the government shutdown, and also indicated that the economy is growing, but continues to experience ups and downs. The national unemployment rate for September fell from August’s reading of 7.30 percent to 7.20 percent.

According to the Commerce Department, construction spending rose by 0.60 percent in August as compared to expectations of 0.50 percent and July’s revised reading of 1.40 percent, of which 1.20 percent represented spending on residential construction. The Federal Reserve characterized residential construction as growing at a ”moderate pace” in September.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported that August sales of homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac grew by 8.50 percent on a seasonally adjusted year-over-year basis. This represented monthly growth of 0.30 percent and was the smallest rise since September 2012.

Good News! Mortgage Rates Fall

Thursday brought encouraging news with Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey. Average mortgage rates fell across the board with the average rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage falling from last week’s 4.28 percent to 4.13 percent.

The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped from 3.33 percent to 3.24 percent, and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped from 3.07 percent to 3.00 percent. Discount points rose to 0.8 percent for 30 and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and stayed steady for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages at 0.4 percent.

Weekly Jobless claims were higher than expected at 350,000 new claims; analysts had expected 337,000 new claims. The latest reading was below the prior reading of 362,000 new jobless claims.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index was released Friday with some telling results. October’s reading 73.2 from September’s revised reading of 77.5. A reading of 74.8 had been expected based on September’s original reading of 75.2. Consumers interviewed for the October CSI indicated that the federal government was the major factor in lower confidence in the economy.

What’s Coming Up

A number of federal agencies are still delaying their reports. Next week’s scheduled economic news includes the Case-Shiller Housing Market Index, Consumer Confidence report and ADP’s Employment Report. Weekly Jobless Claims and the Freddie Mac PMMS will be issued Thursday.

What To Do With All Those Leaves In Your Yard

raking leaves-fall-home-upkeepThe kids are back in school, the weather is getting cooler and your yard is covered in a layer of fallen leaves. Yep, it’s that time of the year again, but don’t think of fall leaves as a chore. They can be a useful resource for fertilizing your lawn or even decorating your home for autumn.

Finish The Raking
It’s tempting to just let the leaves lie in the yard. It’s good fertilizer anyway, right? Wrong. You should rake everything up as soon as the trees begin to look bare, or else risk the blanket of leaves smothering your lawn over the winter season. Gather them up in plastic bags and put them to use.

Refuse To Rake Leaves
If you can’t bring yourself to pick up a rake, you do have an alternative. Wait until the leaves are dry and crunchy and fire up the lawnmower once more before winter. Many mowers have a mulch setting that will chop the fallen leaves to bits.

The smaller pieces won’t suffocate your lawn, and the crushed leaves make a good fertilizer. If you’d rather use the leaf bits in the garden or a flowerbed, use a grass clipping catcher with your mower to gather up the pieces as you mow.

Use Mulch And Fertilizer
Fresh chopped leaves are a good homemade mulch. Put a layer on the garden and the flower bed to replenish the soil over winter. Also, be sure to put a thick layer around young trees and shrubs to keep them warm. If you really want to get the most out of your leaves, then take them to the compost pile.

Mix the leaves in with the regular green yard waste, and the leaves will boost the composting process into overdrive. The fully composted material makes a potent fertilizer.

Get Crafty
Set some leaves aside to take indoors. The changing colors of the fall leaves are part of the beauty of autumn. Why not bring some of that beauty into the house?

Fill a vase with leaves for a seasonal centerpiece, or use a wire frame to make a wreath for the front door. You can make leaf etchings with the kids or simply use one as a bookmark.

It’s sad to see so many fall leaves burned up in piles, or put out with the trash. The leaves on the lawn aren’t just a mess to be cleaned up. Inside or outdoors, autumn leaves are an easy, natural, and free material. Be sure to put them to use!

Builders Outlook on Housing Market – Positive

builder-outlook-positiveThe National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index dropped two points to 55 from September’s revised reading of 57. Builder concerns over labor costs and availability and economic uncertainty related to the federal government shutdown were noted as factors contributing to the lower reading for October.

Key Points Noted In Octobers HMI included:

  • Builder confidence remains above 50, which indicates that more builders have a positive outlook on housing market conditions than those with negative sentiment.
  • The October HMI cites pent-up buyer demand in markets throughout the US as a positive influence on October’s reading.
  • A spike in mortgage rates lowered builder confidence, but the Federal Reserve’s decision not to change its quantitative easing program eased fears about rapidly rising mortgage rates.
  • The federal government shutdown, along with builder and consumer concerns about the national debt ceiling also contributed to a dip in homebuilder confidence.
  • National HMI results are comprised of homebuilder ratings of three factors. Homebuilders rated current market conditions at 58, which was two points lower than September’s reading.
  • Builder outlook for market conditions over the next six months fell by two points to October’s reading of 62. The lowest reading came in at 44 for buyer foot traffic. This reading was also two points lower than the September reading.

Regional HMI Results Mixed

Readings for regional homebuilder confidence varied for October:

Northeast: The reading for October fell three points to 38. Concerns over the government shutdown were felt here.

Midwest: Up by one point for October at 64, the Midwestern region posted the only gain for October.

South: The October reading for the Southern region was unchanged at 56.

West: The West lost one point on its HMI for October. Lack of available homes and developed land for building likely contributed to this reading.

NAHB Projects Single And MultiFamily Housing Starts

The NAHB estimated that starts for single and multi-family housing units for September will fall between 875,000 and 900,000 on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Single-family housing starts are expected to range between 620,000 and 630,000 for September.

NAHB produced this estimate in lieu of the US Department of Commerce report on housing starts that was delayed due to the federal government shutdown. NAHB also reported continued volatility in multi-family housing construction.

A continuation of the government shutdown will almost certainly create ongoing consequences for housing and mortgage lending.

How to Tackle PMI – Private Mortgage Insurance

how-to-tackle-pmiYou may have heard the term Private Mortgage Insurance when looking to finance real estate. What is PMI, and how do you know when you need to purchase it?

The answer can be hard to find among all the real estate jargon you’re hearing lately. Below is the short version of what you need to know.
What Is Private Mortgage Insurance?

PMI is an extra insurance required by some lenders to offset their risk of you defaulting on your home loan. When you put down less than 20 percent of the real estate’s value, your lender may tell you that you have to buy PMI.

It is usually added into your monthly mortgage payment until the equity in your real estate reaches 20 percent.

Under the current law, the PMI will be canceled automatically at 22 percent equity, if you are current on your payments. If you aren’t current, the lender does not have to cancel the insurance because the loan is high-risk.

After getting caught up on your payments, the PMI will be cancelled. Any money that you have overpaid must be refunded to you within 45 days.

What If Your Real Estate Increases In Value?
With a conventional loan, it may take as many as 15 years of a 30-year loan to pay down 20 percent. But, if property values in your area rise, you might be able to cancel the PMI sooner.

Some lenders may be willing to consider the new value of your home to determine the equity in your home. You may be responsible for any fees, like an appraisal, that occur.

You’ll have to weigh the costs of the appraisal against the savings of the PMI premium. In most cases, you’ll find that the added expense is worth it. Private mortgage insurance is a good thing if you can’t afford to pay 20 percent of the cost of your real estate as down payment.

Are you a first-time homebuyer? Now is the best time for you to make the investment. Call your trusted mortgage professional to find out why.

Nail The Final Walkthrough Before Closing

final-walkthrough-checklist-real-estateBy the time you get to the final walkthrough on your property, the home buying process is almost complete. However, it is still important to pay close attention to this final step, as it will be crucial in the success of your home purchase.

The final walkthrough is your last opportunity to ensure that everything in the home is in working order and that there are no potential problems waiting for you when you take over ownership of the property.

While conducting a final walkthrough of the property, give yourself enough time to look carefully at everything and not be rushed. You are looking for any new issues that might have arisen since the last time you viewed the home.

Once you close on the purchase the previous owners will not be obligated for fixing any damage. For this reason, you should schedule your walkthrough approximately 24 hours before closing on a home.

What You Should Look For?
When you are performing your walkthrough, here are some of the important issues that you should be watching out for:
Are all major appliances in working condition? Do they all have their warranties and owner’s manuals?

Do all of the light switches and outlets work?

Have any of the fixtures or appliances gone missing, even though the seller agreed to leave them behind?

If you have agreed on any repairs, has the seller had these repairs completed?

Are there any signs of damage (i.e. scratched walls or floors) as a result of the previous owner moving out?

Do all of the water faucets and toilets function as they should?

Check the exterior of the house, especially if there has been a storm or strong winds since your last visit.

Did the previous owner leave any garbage, extra furniture or unwanted items behind?

What To Do If You Spot A Problem?

If you find a problem when you are going through your walkthrough, there are a few options of what you can do. If the issue is very serious, you might choose to walk away from the deal completely. However, if the issue is not that significant you might decide that it is not worth losing your dream home over.

You could simply pay for the repair yourself, or postpone the closing until the seller fixes the problem. If the repair was agreed upon during the negotiations, you have a legal recourse.

To find out more about buying property, feel free to contact your trusted real estate professional.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week of 10-21-13

mortgage-news-checkupMany of the economic and housing reports typically scheduled were delayed by the federal government shutdown.

The National Association of Homebuilders Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for October was released Wednesday with a reading of 55, lower than the projected 58 and previous month’s revised reading of 57. The original reading for September was 58, which was the highest measure of builder confidence since 2005.

NAHB cited concerns over mortgage rates and the federal government shutdown and its consequences as reasons for homebuilder confidence slipping.

While the NAHB HMI reading was lower than last month, it remains in positive territory as any reading over 50 indicates that more home builders are confident about housing market conditions than those who are not.

Pent-up demand for homes is fueling home builder confidence, which grew by 34 percent over the past year and exceeded the rate of home construction growth.

NAHB Releases Housing Starts Data For September
The Census Bureau was unable to release data on housing starts for September. NAHB released a report estimating September housing starts would be approximately 900,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis.

Single family home construction is expanding while multi-family home construction remains volatile. The NAHB report estimates single-family housing starts for September at between 620,000 and 630,000 homes annually.

Fed Beige Book: Residential Real Estate Improved, 4 Districts Report Slower Growth
The Fed released its ”Beige Book” survey of its 12 banking districts on Wednesday. eight districts reported little or no change in economic conditions and 4 districts reported slower economic growth for September and October.

Real estate and home construction were improved, although several Fed districts reported concerns over rising mortgage rates. The Beige Book report was based on data gathered October 7, one week after the government shutdown began.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Jump
Freddie Mac reported increases in average mortgage rates; the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.28 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent.This was five basis points higher than the previous week.

The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.33 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.07 percent. Discount points for both 15 year mortgages and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.70 percent and 0.40 percent respectively.

Weekly jobless claims reported on Thursday rose from the prior week. 358,000 new jobless claims were filed as compared to the expected number of 335,000. During the prior week, 373,000 new jobless claims were filed. The latest data was from the week of October 7, the second week the government was shut down.

What‘s Ahead: Delayed Government Data Expected
Some federal agencies have given dates for releasing data delayed by the shutdown. These included Nonfarm Payrolls and the Unemployment rate for September, which are set for release October 22. The Consumer Price Index and Core CPI for September are scheduled for October 30.

Helpful Tips On Giving Your Mudroom A Makeover

remodeling your mud roomFrom crunched-up leaves stuck to bottoms of shoes to bulky coats shed as soon as kids walk through the door, mudrooms are ideal for keeping outdoor dirt, wet clothing and outerwear from being strewn throughout your home.

Mudrooms not only keep the rest of your house clean, but they also designate a spot for those last-minute grabs, such as coats, umbrellas and purses, when you’re running out the door.

These rooms are great catchalls. However, an organized mudroom can make your life and those hectic mornings much less stressful. Below are smart tips for getting your mudroom ready this fall.

1. Put In Seating
After shedding outer layers, the next thing anyone wants to do after coming inside on a cold, wet day is to take off their mucky shoes. So make sure there is a built-in bench or convenient chair for people to sit down and tend to their tootsies. Whether taking off or putting on shoes, it makes life a little more comfortable.

2. Install A Sink
A mudroom is supposed to be the catchall for everything dirty from the outdoors. With this in mind, a sink for washing off the grime and mud makes sense. Then you can clean your clothing in the contained space without having to haul them to the kitchen sink or laundry room.

3. Create Cubbies
Even though this space is designated as a drop-off point before entering the main living space, you don’t want everything just thrown into one big confusing pile. Create individual cubbies for every person in your household. Each cubby should contain a shelf for purses and backpacks, hooks for coats and a low place for shoes.

4. Splurge On A Boot Warmer
While electric boot warmers can be a little expensive, you will definitely think it’s worth the money when it’s freezing outside and your shoes are damp. Electric boot warmers heat your shoes on pegs and dry them out at the same time. They also work well on gloves.

Fall is a mudroom’s busy season; so get it in shape with the tips above. With all the coats hanging on their hooks, shoes in their cubbies and dirt contained to this designated space, your life will be a little more organized and much less stressful!

5 Cool Ideas For Green Home Remodeling

remodeling-greenEvery home seems to have a never-ending remodeling list. As you consider tackling your next project, it usually pays off if you also think about helping the environment.

Green remodeling can last longer, utilize recycled materials and typically end up saving you money in the long run. Below are several environment-friendly ideas that will have your neighbors green with envy.

1. Rain Gardens

Rain gardens are a shallow depressions in your yard planted with native shrubs and flowers. When there is a large rainfall, all the water rushes along roadways picking up dirt and pollutants along their way to drainage systems and eventually rivers and streams.

Rain gardens catch water run-off, which reduces the street flooding and makes for cleaner water sources.

2. Reclaimed Hardwoods

Using reclaimed wood is all of the rage right now – and it’s easy to see why. Reclaimed wood helps the environment by being recycled and repurposed from other structures. Turning an old barn into your new hardwood floors not only saves trees and looks great, but is an interesting conversation point.

3. Paper Covers Rock

Most kitchen remodels usually include the discussion of to go with granite or quartz countertops. However compressed paper or glass surfaces are actually better for the environment. Instead of harvesting natural resources, you’ll be recycling resources that have already been used.

4. One Shower Head

It’s tempting to use multiple showerheads and powerfully flushing toilets. However, reducing your water usage saves you money. Install low-flow water fixtures and limit yourself to just one fantastic showerhead in each bathroom. You’ll help the earth and your pocketbook by saving water.

5. Passive Solar Design

Solar panels are a great way to trap the sun’s energy and reduce your utility bills. However, if you’re not ready to directly tap into the grid, then there are ways you can remodel your home using passive solar design. Concrete floors and thick concrete, brick or plaster walls soak up the suns rays during the day and release them at night when the temperature drops.

Going green doesn’t have to hamper your lifestyle or your home’s design. With the five green remodeling ideas above, you’ll add value to your home, help the environment and put money back in your bank account.