Fed Meeting Minutes Reflect Support For Reducing QE Program

reducing-fed-QE-programThe minutes of last month’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting show significant support for tapering the Fed’s current amount of monthly securities purchases. These purchases, known as quantitative easing (QE), are an effort to maintain lower long-term interest rates including mortgage rates.

The Fed has been buying $85 billion per month in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS).
Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve and FOMC has hinted at “tapering” the Fed’s securities purchases by year-end in recent statements. The FOMC minutes released Wednesday further suggest that tapering based on strengthening economic trends is likely.

FOMC Members Express Mixed Views
The minutes for the last FOMC meeting, which took place on July 30 and 31, states that many members are “broadly comfortable” with tapering QE securities purchases later this year if the economy continues to improve. At the same time, many FOMC members indicated that it “isn’t yet time” to scale back the purchases.

All along, the FOMC has emphasized that it will closely monitor domestic and global financial and economic developments as part of its decision about when tapering the QE purchases will begin.

The minutes for July’s meeting reflected this sentiment and noted “A few members emphasized the importance of being patient and evaluating additional information on the economy before deciding on any changes to the pace of asset purchases.”

On the other side of the issue, the minutes note that a few members said that “It might soon be time to slow somewhat the pace of purchases as outlined in the QE plan.”

QE Tapering Not The Only Influence On Mortgage Rates
The Fed is likely to monitor its words as well as economic conditions, as previous announcements about tapering QE made by Chairman Bernanke and FOMC have created havoc in world financial markets.

In relation to mortgage rates, it’s likely that tapering QE purchases will cause mortgage rates to rise. Demand for bonds will fall as the Fed reduces its purchases, falling bond prices usually cause mortgage rates to rise.

It’s important to keep in mind that tapering QE securities purchases is only one among many things that can impact financial markets, mortgage rates and the economy.

While the Fed is expected to begin tapering its securities purchases as soon as September, developing economic news throughout the world can potentially impact mortgage rates and could cause the Fed to revise its timeline for tapering the volume of its securities purchases.

Follow These Steps When Using Gift Funds For Your Down Payment

gift-funds-for-new-home-purchaseAs lenders tighten mortgage guidelines for home buyers, minimum downpayment requirements are increasing.

Several years ago, you could finance a home with nothing down. Today, most conventional mortgages require at least 5 – 10 percent.

Incidentally, these guideline changes have led to an increase in the number of home buyers accepting cash gifts from family.

Gifts are allowed in most cases but the problem is, if you don’t accept the gift in a “lender-friendly” way, the mortgage underwriter could reject it, and negate it.

Three Steps To Success With Your Down Payment Gift Funds

You can’t just deposit a cash gift into your bank account. You have to follow a series of steps and keep records.

  1. Provide an acceptable gift letter signed by all parties
  2. Provide documentation of the gifter’s withdrawal of funds via teller receipts
  3. Provide documentation of the giftee’s deposit of funds via teller receipts

Lenders require these 3 steps for two basic reasons. First, they want to make sure that the cash gift is “clean” (i.e. not laundered). Second, they want to make sure the gift is really a gift and not a loan-in-disguise. It’s why lenders typically require that the loan application be accompanied by a signed, dated letter.

For example:

I am the [relationship to recipient] of [name of recipient] and this letter serves as evidence that I am gifting [name of recipient] [amount of gift] to be used for the purchase of the home at [complete address of property]. This is a gift — not a loan — and there is no expectation of repayment. Signed, [Signature of gifter]

Keep The Cash Gift Funds Separate From Your Other Money

As an additional step, home buyers receiving cash gifts should make sure that gifted funds are not commingled at the time of deposit.

If the cash gift is for $10,000, therefore, the bank’s deposit slip should indicate that a $10,000 deposit was made — nothing more, nothing less. Don’t add a random $100 deposit to the transaction, in other words. The $100 deposit should be a separate transaction.

It’s also worth noting that gifting funds between family members can create both legal and tax liabilities.

If you’re unsure about how donating or receiving a gift may impact you, call or email me directly. If I can’t help you with your questions, I can refer you to somebody that can.

Home Builder Confidence Highest Level In Nearly 8 Years

new construction homesThe National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported Thursday that its Housing Market Index rose three points to a reading of 59 for August.

Confidence among builders is likely growing in connection with stronger housing markets and high demand for homes. These conditions are being driven by short supplies of homes for sale in many markets.

Builder confidence in current market conditions rose by three points to a reading of 62, while builder confidence in market conditions within the next six months rose by one point to a reading of 68. Confidence in buyer foot traffic was unchanged from July’s reading of 45.

Readings above 50 indicate that more builders surveyed view housing market conditions as positive rather than negative; there was some concern that the high builders’ confidence reading could trigger the Fed to announce the tapering of its $85 billion monthly purchase of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities.

Housing Starts Driven By Apartment Construction

Housing starts rose in July, but were led by the volatile apartment sector rather than single- family homes.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported 896,000 housing starts on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. This reading fell short of expectations of 915,000 housing starts, but exceeded June’s reading of 846,000 housing starts.

Starts for residential buildings with five or more units rose by 20.90 percent year-over-year while construction of one of one-to-four family residential buildings fell by 2.20 percent. Demand for rental properties and a shortage of available single family homes was seen by economists as contributing to increasing multi-family housing construction.

Analysts said that some home builders may be holding back on single-family home construction due to increasing materials and labor costs, but this doesn’t reflect the record level of builder confidence reported in the NAHB Housing Market Index.

Building homes at less than optimum capacity isn’t good news for the shortage of available single-family homes. Rising mortgage rates are also a concern for home builders, as fewer borrowers may be able to qualify for mortgage loans needed for financing home purchases.

Building permits numbers were also released on Friday, and presented a more positive picture than housing starts. July’s reading for building permits issued rose by 2.70 percent in July to an annual reading of 943,000 permits against expectations of 953,000 permits issued and exceeded June’s reading of 918,000.

Building permits issued provide an indication of future housing starts.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 26, 2013

mortgage rates this weekLast week brought mixed economic news, but Leading Indicators released Thursday suggest that the U.S. economy is growing at a moderate rate.

Mortgage rates for fixed rate loans were higher, but the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged from the prior week. Weekly jobless claims were also higher.
The National Association of REALTORS released its Existing Home Sales report for July and reported existing home sales came in at 5.39 million on an annualized basis.

This reading surpassed expectations of 5.21 existing homes sold as well as June’s reading of 5.06 million existing homes sold on an annualized basis.

FOMC Minutes Released, Mortgage Rates Rise
The minutes for the July 31 FOMC meeting were released, and emphasized the likely “tapering” of the Fed’s quantitative easing program possibly as early as September, though no dates have been set. Many of the FOMC members support reducing the $85 billion in monthly securities purchases made by the Fed; fewer members supported tapering the asset purchases sooner than planned.

Previous announcements by the Fed regarding its plan to reduce QE have created erratic responses in financial markets, but the release of the meeting minutes seemed to cause a sharp rise in mortgage rates.

Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage moved from the prior week’s average rate of 4.40 percent to 4.58 percent; average discount points moved up from 0.70 to 0.80 percent. Average rates for a 15 year fixed-rate mortgage also rose from 3.44 percent to 3.60 percent with average discount points moving from 0.60 to 0.70 percent.

Average rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage were unchanged from the previous week at 3.21 percent with average discount points paid at 0.50 percent.

FHFA reported that home prices for homes with mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rose by 7.70 percent year-over-year in June, home prices rose slightly from May’s year-over-year- rate of 7.60 percent.

Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for July rose by 0.60 to a reading of 96.0; this exceeded expectations for an increase of 0.50 percent. The LEI measures the health of the economy by measuring 10 top economic sectors; eight of 10 factors measured increased; these were led by the spread on interest rates, availability of credit, stock prices and permits issued for building new homes.

New home sales for July were lower than expected at 394,000; Wall Street expected new home sales to come in at 485,000 on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis against the revised number of 455,000 new home sales reported for June. 497,000 homes were initially reported sold in June. Hew home sales gained by 6.80 percent year-over-year in July.

What’s Coming Up
Scheduled economic news for this week includes the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, and Consumer Confidence on Tuesday, Pending Home Sales will be out Wednesday. Thursday brings Weekly Jobless Claims, and Friday brings consumer spending and the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment report.

Tips For Helping Your Kids Adjust To A New School

back to schoolAugust means it’s time to get your children ready for school once more. Picking out backpacks, going clothes shopping and finding all the right school supplies can be hectic enough.

However, when you’ve moved and your children have to start all over in a new district, there’s even more to worry about!

Summer fun can make the sunny months fly by. It’s easy to forget that with the beginning of school comes excitement and anxiety for your little ones — especially if they’re starting out somewhere new.

So help them get adjusted with the back-to-a-new-school strategies below.

Explain Why You’ll Be Moving

Whether you’re moving states or just school districts, it’s best to give your children as much notice as possible and explain to them the reason for the change. They’ll need time to get used to the idea and say goodbye to friends.

Be Positive

As the first day draws near, be positive about what they’ll experience. School will be a place where they’ll learn new things and make great friends.

Become Involved

Think about joining the PTA, so you can learn about what’s happening in the school, meet teachers and be able to discuss policies and issues with your children.

Stick To A Routine

A new school is going to hold a lot of unknowns for your little ones. So it’s best to keep a consistent routine at home. This will help children know what to expect and feel they at least have some control in their own space.

Tap Into Their Feelings

Your children might be excited or sad about the new change and they’ll need someone to release all of this positive or negative energy upon. Just listen and be sure not to minimize their feelings. They’ll need an understanding ear throughout this adjustment.

Encourage Participation

While it’s always important for your children to focus on their schoolwork, they would also benefit by joining some sort of club, group or team. The sooner they make friends, the more settled they’ll feel.

Moving to a new school can be tough on your children, which in turn makes it tough on you.

If you can set aside the time to prepare for the first weeks, talk positively about their upcoming experiences and take the time to really listen to your children, then adjusting to the new environment can be a smooth transition for all.

For more helpful tips on adjusting to a new home and neighborhood, please feel free to contact your trusted mortgage professional today.

These Overlooked Issues Can Become Deal-Killers For Your Mortgage Application

Mortgage-ApplicationA mortgage loan approval is never final until it’s funded. And that means after you’ve signed the final paperwork and the bank has wired funds to escrow.

Mortgages are made up of many moving parts, any of which might “go wrong” while your home loan is underway.

Some are in your control, like deciding to purchase new items on credit during the mortgage process, many more are not. These “not in your control” items are the ones that you may not be thinking of.

Just being aware of some potential pitfalls could help save your loan down the road, and your peace of mind today.

What Many Mortgage Articles Don’t Say

Many mortgage related articles offer similar things like buying a car before closing, or opening a bunch of new credit cards, but there are more uncommon factors that can lead to a similar loan turndown.

For example, a home not be able to get approved if it’s unsuitable, or unsafe, for human habitation — a condition you may not discover until after a thorough home inspection’s been made.

Broken windows, lack of plumbing, major electrical code violations and/or major foundation damage are all deal-breakers with a lender.

You’ll either have to fix the home prior to your loan closing, or don’t close at all.

More Mortgage Pitfalls To Avoid

There are others ways in which a mortgage approval can go bad, too:

You’re self-employed and your income was declining over the years leading up to your mortgage application
Your tax return shows large amounts of unreimbursed employee expenses
You have switched lines ofwork or had unexplained breaks of employment in recent years

Mortgage approvals are delicate and, despite an improving economy, lenders still operate with caution. Talk with your real estate agent and your loan officer and put together a game plan.

The best way to beat the mortgage system is to know the rules before you start to play.

And the best way to know the rules is to speak with your trusted mortgage professional today!

Whatever You Do, Don’t Make These Common Mortgage Mistakes

prepare for your mortgage applicationAre you applying for a mortgage on your home? Keep in mind that a mortgage is a major financial decision and choosing one will have a significant impact on the rest of your life.

Many people go into this decision without understanding all of the essential mortgage information they need to know. This means that they may not make the best choices which could result in paying much more than they need to.

If you want to save yourself from throwing away your hard earned money, here are a few common mistakes to avoid:

Trying To Time The Mortgage Interest Rate Market

Many people will wait too long to make a decision to lock in their mortgage rate, trying to wait until they think that the rates have hit bottom. However, unfortunately most of the time this leads them to wait too long and end up with a higher interest rate.

If you are waiting things out, keep a very close eye on the economic indicators. Better yet, your trusted mortgage professional would be a good source of information about the fluctuations of interest rates.

Forgetting About Closing Costs

In addition to saving up a down payment for your mortgage, don’t forget to factor in the closing costs. These can range from two percent all the way up to six percent of the value of your home.

Make sure that you have budgeted for this in advance, so that these fees don’t catch you by surprise.

Not Considering All Loan Options

There are many people out there who haven’t considered certain loan products, such as an adjustable rate mortgage, because they just don’t understand how they work. However, you might be missing out on an option that would really work well for you.

Make sure you do your research and gain an understanding of the loan options available to you. Ask your loan officer for guidance in this area.

Looking At Just The Mortgage Rate

Remember that the mortgage interest rate is only one factor that you should consider when choosing a mortgage. Don’t forget to also consider the time frame of the mortgage closing, any restrictions on lump sum payments and any other important factors.

Following these steps will help you avoid a few of the common mistakes people make when choosing a mortgage. For more information about home buying and mortgages, you can contact your trusted mortgage professional today.

How To Choose The Right Neighborhood When Buying A Home

tree lined streetThe old real estate cliche’ about “location, location, location” is true, as the area of the city where your home is located will have an impact on its future value as well as your lifestyle.

So what factors should you consider when you are choosing which neighborhoods to house hunt within?

Proximity to Your Daily Needs

If you work downtown, living out in the suburbs means that you will be adding time for a commute onto your day.

While this might be worth the cheaper prices for properties out of the town center, it is something to consider when making your decision.

You will also need to consider whether the house is near shopping centers, schools, doctors, dentists and other services that you will need regularly.

Planned Developments

When you are choosing a neighborhood to buy in, do some research into what developments are planned in the future for that part of town.

For example, you might be able to get a cheap price on a home that is out of the way, but a new proposed highway leading straight into the town center that will be built in the next five years could increase property values considerably.

Overall Atmosphere

Take a walk around the neighborhood where you are considering buying and get a sense of the overall atmosphere. Are there a lot of families living there? Are there green places to relax? Are people friendly and saying hello to you?

You want to live in a place where you feel welcome and comfortable.

Property Values

Different neighborhoods will have a range of house prices and you will want to look for something with the right balance of value.

Some areas of town will be very expensive but very nice; other areas will have cheap house prices but might not be as pleasant to live in. Take the time to find the neighborhood that is in the middle, where you will find the right house, and neighborhood, at a good price.

These are just a few of the factors to consider so that you can choose the right neighborhood to buy in.

For more information about buying a home, feel free to contact your trusted mortgage professional today.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – August 19, 2013

green-homeLast week wasn’t kind to stock market investors, but weekly jobless claims fell to an unexpected low of 320,000 new jobless claims filed, the lowest level in nearly six years.

Here is a review of the major events of the week.

Monday: The federal budget for July shows an increase in its deficit to -$98 billion, a deficit increase of $28 billion over June’s figure of -$70 billion. The good news is that the deficit for the first 10 months of the fiscal year is $38 billion less than during the same period of the prior fiscal year.

Thursday: Thursday was a busy day for economic news. The weekly jobless claims report came in lower than expected with 320,000 new jobless claims filed. This was lower than the expected.

While this is a strong sign for the economy that would typically boost stock prices, the markets fell. Analysts cite a good news/bad news scenario in describing what happened. The good news was that jobless claims fell to a new low, but the bad news is that investors feared that this may give the Fed a signal to begin tapering its quantitative easing (QE) program.

The Fed is expected to begin tapering its monthly purchases of $85 billion in treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities as early as next month. The QE purchases are intended to help hold down long term interest rates including mortgage rates.

The fall in stock prices on Thursday and Friday suggested that fear of the Fed ending QE is more compelling than the lowest number of new jobless claims since October 2007.

Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage remained unchanged at 4.40 percent with 0.7 percent in discount points. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage ticked upward by one basis point from 3.43 to 3.44 percent.

Discount points fell from 0.70 percent the prior week to 0.60 percent last week.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) rose from 3.19 to 3.23 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent. The 5/1 ARM provides an alternative to higher fixed rates for borrowers seeking lower mortgage rates and payments.

Friday: Included Housing Starts for July, which came in at 896,000 as compared to expectations of 915, 00 0 and June’s figure of 846,000 housing starts. Building permits issued in July came in at 943,000, and surpassed June’s reading of 918,000 building permits.

Increasing home values, buyer demand and a short supply of available homes were seen as motivating factors for builders to construct more homes.

Looking Ahead

This week’s schedule of economic news is set to include the Chicago Fed’s National Activity Index on Tuesday. The FOMC minutes will be released on Wednesday along with Existing Home Sales.

Thursday will bring Weekly Jobless Claims, Freddie Mac’s survey of mortgage rates and the FHFA home price index. Friday will finish the week with a New Home Sales report.

Quick Tips Save On Your Electric Bill

how to save on your electric billSummer always brings with it a hard choice: Do you turn down the thermostat to stay cool and resign yourself to high power bills? Or, do you sweat it out to save some dough?

If you’ve been struggling with this dilemma, don’t fret.

With a programmable thermostat, you can beat the heat and save money, too. They are easy to install and can save you over $100 a year.

The key is that they have different temperature settings for certain times of the day. The latest models can be self-installed, are easy to program and can be controlled over the Internet.

Save Energy

This is obviously the biggest perk. Not only are you helping the environment, you’re also helping your monthly budget.

You can preset the thermostat to adjust the temperature when you’re away from the house, so you’re using less energy. Then it can kick back on just before you arrive home.

Save Money

You’ll immediately see a difference in your utility bills when you set your programmable thermostat to turn off for eight-hour periods while you’re at work. Every little bit counts!

Save Yourself The Frustration

If you’re going to be home early from work or are arriving back from a week long vacation, don’t worry about coming home to a sweltering sauna of a house.

Most modern thermostats allow you to access their controls online through a computer, or even your smart phone. With the touch of a button, you’ll arrive to a perfectly comfortable home.

Save Even More

Below are a few tips to keep bills down and your thermostat running efficiently.

  • Make sure you place the thermostat away from air vents, open doorways and windows with direct sunlight.

  • Try to set temperatures for longer increments, such as when you’re at work or while you’re asleep.

  • Every time you hit the buttons you’re using more energy.

  • If your thermostat runs on batteries, change them once a year.

Don’t waste any more energy! Make the investment in a programmable thermostat and start saving this summer. The convenience and lower utility bills will make you glad you did.

For more tips on home maintenance and savings, reach out to your trusted mortgage professional today.