Best Things To Do Now To Get Your Finances Mortgage Ready

calculator-imageYou probably already know that qualifying for a mortgage can be the biggest hurdle — aside from actually finding that dream property — along the path to home ownership.

Rather than agonizing about it, however, there are some positive actions you can take in advance to help you realize your dream.

Take A Close Look At Your Budget

If you don’t currently operate with a comprehensive household budget, get started now to analyze your income and monitor your spending habits. There’s no better way to prepare for home ownership than by being realistic about how you spend your money. If you don’t have a regular savings program, or if you’re constantly short on cash prior to the next payday, take steps to remedy the problem. Plan for the future by getting the present in check.

Gather Employment And Earnings Records

Mortgage lenders want to see stability and commitment. Finding and organize your employment records to show a consistent earnings pattern and, hopefully, a record of growth, both in terms of income and responsibility. Simplify the task of gathering required documents by collecting all records in a binder or notebook that can easily be copies when it’s time to submit them to a lender. It’s a confidence-building step as well.

Organize Your Banking Records

Lenders will not only want to see employment records, but they will require copies of all bank and investment accounts as well. Again, by being organized and getting a handle on your dollar inflow and outflow, you’ll gain insights into your individual spending habits and make the job easier for a mortgage specialist.

Make Copies Of Your Tax Returns

Tax returns confirm and validate all the other financial information that you will be required to supply. Typically, returns for the past two or three years will be required. If you own a small business or have income in addition to that from paid employment, make copies of those records as well.

Put A Halt To Spending

Perhaps the best way to demonstrate your serious intent to purchase — and pay for — a new home is by curtailing your spending on impulse purchases and expensive entertainment. This is not the time to buy a new car, book an exotic vacation, purchase major electronics or even home furnishings, or commit to time payments of any sort. Frugality should become your mantra in the months leading up to loan qualification.

Monitor Your Credit Cards

If your credit rating is within acceptable limits, do what you can to make all payments on time, pay down balances, minimize new purchases and demonstrate your continuing ability to “live within your means.” Do not apply for new credit cards, no matter how tempting the offers, because increased account activity can adversely affect your FICO score. In addition, if you have a blip on your credit report, do what you can to repair it prior to making a mortgage loan application, or be prepared to explain the circumstances, in detail and in writing.

Applying for a loan need not be scary; understanding the financial reality, however, is a great benefit.

Contact your trusted home mortgage professional who will be able to assist you in organizing your documents and aligning you with your best financing options.

Case-Shiller: Home Prices Hit 11-Month Low in July

home-inventory-decreasing-means-prices-could-riseHome price growth slowed to its lowest pace in nearly a year according to the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. National home price growth averaged 6.00 percent year-over-year as compared to 6.20 percent growth in June.

The 20-city home price index rose 0.10 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.90 percent year-over-year. Slowing home price growth was attributed to buyer fatigue and rising inventories of available homes.

Las Vegas Home Price Growth Tops 20-City Home Price Index

Las Vegas, Nevada topped the 20-City Home Price index with a year-over-year home price growth rate of 13.70 percent. Las Vegas home prices crashed during the recession but continued to recover as the economy improved.Seattle, Washington home prices rose 12.70 percent year-over-year in July; San Francisco, California held third place in the 20-city Home Price Index with year-over-year home price growth of 10.80 percent. Five cities posted higher home price growth rates than in June.

Freddie Mac Predicts Further Slowing In Home Price Growth For 2018 And 2019

Prior to the release of July’s Case-Shiller data, Freddie Mac analysts said that home buyer budget limitations coupled with more homes for sale caused home price growth to slow. Freddie Mac projected home price growth of 5.50 percent for 2018 and 4.50 percent growth in 2019.

FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, released its home price index for July and reported lower home price growth in July. After posting steady year-over-year growth rates of 6.80 percent for April, May and June, July home price growth dipped to 6.40 percent. Data in home price data reported by FHFA includes homes connected with mortgages held or guaranteed by Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac.

While slower growth in home prices are good news for potential home buyers, rising mortgage rates, strict mortgage credit requirements and competition with cash buyers continue to create headwinds for home buyers who depend on mortgage financing to fund their home purchases.

If you are in the market for a new property or interested in refinancing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted mortgage professional who can assist you with custom financing options to meet your specific needs.

What Are The Housing Market Projections For 3rd Qtr 2018 — And Beyond?

mortgage2The National Association of Realtors (NAR), in its ongoing analysis of home sales statistics, believes that prices will continue to rise during the third quarter, but that uncertainty over elections could be a factor during the second half of the year.

However, NAR’s report noted that in July, a typically lackluster month, home prices rose by about nine percent, and days on market decreased significantly, perhaps signaling a strong start for the third quarter.

National statistics don’t necessarily tell the whole story, however. In addition, what will happen in the fourth quarter is, at this point, a bit more difficult to predict. Assessments about how home prices and real estate will end the year differ from one part of the country to another.

Looking Ahead

In 381 of 500 markets that were tracked, homes stayed on the market for fewer days in July 2018 than the median time on market the previous year, even in the highest price markets, typically a sign that demand is still outpacing supply.

Dallas-Fort Worth area mortgage lenders report a noticeable slowdown over the past several months, and the inventory of homes on the market has grown. But another Texas town, Midland, ranked as the nation’s hottest market for the second month in a row in July, based on continued high demand and the speed at which homes have been selling.

The list of fast-moving markets, compiled by by Realtor.com, also places Columbus, Ohio, Boston and Fort Wayne, Ind., at the top; Dallas-Fort Worth, interestingly, ranked 17th of 20 hot markets in the Realtor.com survey.

Potential Benefits

Some housing analysts note that even slight slowdowns in select markets, coupled with rising mortgage rates, may signal a wider downturn in sales nationally, adding that it is not entirely unexpected. Many real estate and mortgage professionals, however, view any potential “adjustment” as a good thing, with the explanation that the double-digit appreciation is unsustainable over the long term.

Prevailing wisdom is to take a wait and see approach leading up to midterm elections. Pollsters and pundits have widely variant opinions and, to date, trends are not sufficiently clear. In addition, the housing industry is seemingly healthy at this point and, barring unexpected major interest rate increases, demand for housing is likely to remain strong.

As one researcher at Texas A&M University explains, even a modest slowdown will likely only bring the real estate market down to 2016 levels and, in retrospect, that was a very good year! Other analysts are more positive, saying that an expected slowdown is positive and will prevent “a new bubble.”

As always, contact your trusted real estate and mortgage professionals to discuss the current situation in your local market.

It’s Pumpkin Spice Season: Plan A Neighborhood Potluck

thanksgiving-decorating-ideas-for-your-homeFall is the time to get back into a comfortable routine, but it’s also a great time to incorporate social events into weekend work parties, and gather friends to offer neighbors a helping hand — or just moral support — to spruce up their property.

While building a new sense of community may be a side effect, it can’t be denied that giving homes in need of minor repairs a little TLC is good for the dollar value of the neighborhood as well as for the soul. REALTORS agree that the overall appeal of a neighborhood adds value to individual homes.

Police departments and security companies also note that cohesive communities are less prone to crime than neighborhoods where residents don’t really know one another.

A Community Work Day

While it’s not uncommon for some subdivisions to sponsor periodic get-togethers, or hold multi-family garage sales and social events, the idea of a day to share work and expertise to tidy up individual homes is less common. But it represents an ideal solution for residents who could use a helping hand to accomplish minor upkeep and repair projects.

Especially if you live in a neighborhood with some older residents, planning a coordinated “home improvement day” can be a unique and wonderful way to bring different generations together. Community work days are a great way to complete seasonal maintenance projects before the weather turns bad. It’s also a way to make light work out of required tasks and to have some fun as well.

Here are some ideas on how to do it right — the results can be greater than expected.

Talk the idea up with your neighbors: Set a tentative date and divide up the planning tasks.

Start a checklist of neighborhood skills. Chances are you’ll find engineers, carpenters, painters, and neighbors with plumbing and electrical skills among the residents. And there are also apt to be artists and craftspeople, master gardeners and children who love to rake leaves or pull weeds!

Plan block party, potluck dinner or homemade ice cream social for the culmination of the workday or weekend, and get as many people as possible involved.
A weekend work project is reminiscent of old-fashioned barn raisings. It’s also a way to build a new sense of community, as well as to add neighborhood appeal and value. The food and the fellowship are bonuses!

There are, however, some cautions: Help should be freely offered, and readily accepted. But leave costly or complicated repairs to professionals. This kind of event should be strictly for easy DIY labor needs.

Done right, this kind of ongoing community effort can become a lasting and honored tradition. It’s worth a try, right? In the end, the entire neighborhood wins.

If you are interested in buying a new home or refinancing your current property, contact your trusted mortgage professional to find out about current financing options.

Fed Raises Key Interest Rate For 3rd Consecutive Time

board-of-the-federal-reserveThe Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve announced that it raised the target federal funds rate to a range of 2.00 percent to 2.25 percent. This was the third consecutive increase in the Fed’s key interest rate and was the eighth time the Fed raised its key interest rate since 2015.

In its customary post-meeting statement, Committee members cited strong economic conditions and continued labor market growth coupled with historically low unemployment rates as a basis for raising the federal funds interest rate.

Fed Cites Steady Inflation, Healthy Household And Business Spending

Further economic conditions cited in the FOMC statement were steady inflation, which has held close to the Fed’s objective of two percent for a year. Projections on long-term inflation were “little changed” according to the statement.

FOMC’s statement explained how committee members make decisions about the target range for the federal funds rate. The Federal Reserve must make decisions based on its legislative mandate of achieving and maintaining maximum employment and an inflation rate at or near two percent.

The FOMC also considers measures of economic and labor conditions, pressures on inflation and projections on inflation. Committee members keep up-to-date on domestic and global economic developments.

After the FOMC statement was released, Fed Chair Jerome Powell gave a press conference.

Fed Chair: Economy Strengthening Without Need Of Fed Accommodation

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell expressed confidence in current economic conditions and said that future rate hikes would help maintain the Fed’s goals and promote healthy economic growth. Mr. Powell said that future meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee would be guided by asking and answering the question of whether current monetary policy is set to achieve FOMC goals. Analysts interpreted Chair Powell’s comments as indicating that current economic conditions are as good as could be expected and that the Fed’s monetary policy decisions are working as planned.

5 Things To Do This Fall To Get Ready For Winter

fall leaves imageSimple home and yard tips don’t have to take a lot of time, but can save a lot of headaches if that first winter storm catches you unaware.

Here’s a checklist to help you prepare:

Assess Your Windows And Doors

Take a walk around your interior, preferably on a windy day. Check for drafts and air leaks; replace weatherstripping, align door thresholds. and repair window frames and sills if they’re damaged. If you have storm windows, make sure they’re ready to install. Replace the screens in a storm door with glass panels. Also check your garage door to make sure that it operates properly.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, nearly half of a home’s total energy use is for heating and cooling, so it makes good financial sense to assure that your systems are as efficient as possible for every season.

Check Your Furnace And Fuel

Before cold weather arrives, schedule or perform any necessary routine maintenance on your furnace or HVAC systems. Clean ducts, replace filters, calibrate the thermostat, and fill the fuel tanks as required. This is also the time to clean the flue and check the chimney if you have a fireplace or woodburning stove. If your home doesn’t have a carbon monoxide detector, consider installing one to assure your safety during the winter.

Prune Trees And Shrubs

Working outside can be a pleasant weekend task during the cooler autumn season. It’s also the time to do some prep work on your landscaping so that your plants will be at their best for the next growing season. Depending on your location, and your commitment to your yard, now is also the time to prepare new garden beds and plant spring bulbs, or tackle projects like brick walls, planters and stone pathways.

Undo Outdoor Hoses

Burst outdoor hose bibbs can be the source of serious interior water damage, and the most common cause is a hose left attached when the first freeze occurs. Eliminate that possibility by undoing your outdoor hoses early in the fall. If you still must water the lawn or your garden, it’s easy enough to reattach the hose as needed. Also, remember to store coiled hoses in the garage or in a shed during the winter. They’ll last longer!

Check Roof Shingles And Gutters

Although it’s not a bad idea to check your roof and clean gutters and downspouts at least quarterly, it’s especially important before winter. Take note of cracked or curling shingles; check to make sure no daylight is visible from the attic, and make sure that all gutters and downspouts are clear of debris prior to snow and ice buildup.

Owning a home requires ongoing maintenance to assure that it will truly be a haven during foul weather, but it doesn’t have to be an unending task or cost a lot of money.

If you are thinking about buying a new property or large home improvement projects this winter, be sure to contact your trusted mortgage professional to find out about current financing options.

Common Misconceptions About House Flipping

best-maryland-mortgage-rates-480 wideReality TV shows have energized everyday people to dive into the real estate market and make money flipping houses. The dramatic presentation and profitable end results make the industry seem like a sure thing. But house-flipping, like any industry, has its share of challenges.

Television often props up ratings by showing industry pros overcoming adversity and getting a big win. But reality, unlike Reality TV, is filled by behind-the-scenes unknown obstacles. While house-flipping has emerged as a viable niche profession, these are some of the common misconceptions entrepreneurs may want to consider before wading into the business.

Perfect Properties Are Available

On television, the home-flipping team often settles on that perfect property that will yield amazing results. It’s important to understand that’s a Hollywood formula designed to improve viewership.

In reality, the perfect home is like finding a unicorn. Most flipping projects deal with less-than-perfect properties. What remains important for home-flippers is that the property enjoys structural integrity and the basic elements are in place.

Projects Run On Time

Watching a home-flipping show makes the process seem quick and easy. After all, many of the shows run between 30 minutes and one hour. Your project time will be considerably longer.

Starting with a listing search through the initial buy, even industry insiders spend months securing a property. After that, the permitting process can be onerous and renovations are commonly met with unforeseen setbacks. Whether you discover mold behind walls or structural issues, remodeling generally experiences delays. Once you get everything copacetic, inspection waiting periods can be excessive. Projects rarely run on time.

Construction Budgets Are Just Math

Watching a TV personality whip out a calculator and add up remodeling costs makes it look simple. There are square footages, materials, labor and other tangibles. Home builders and remodeling professionals are quick to dispute such simplicity because too many “intangibles” exist.

Consider replacing the clapboard on the exterior of a home. One might expect to calculate the square footage and order an equal amount of material. But an experienced contractor might tell you to start by ordering an additional 10 percent to account for waste. That’s because a percentage of material that gets cut might not be reusable.

After accounting for that 10 percent, add another 10 for human error. Many types of clapboard require builders to set the commercially-cut end to the interior only. When inexperienced workers make erroneous cuts, increased waste can be produced. This theme runs across a variety of materials and other aspects of construction. It’s unlikely your crew will be filled with 25-year veterans. Mistakes are more common and costlier than you might expect.

ROI Can Be Measured Accurately

Beginner home-flippers tend to look at the cost of the property, add updating costs and the average market value of similar homes as the basis for determining return on investment (ROI). But selling prices can be more fickle than one might expect.

Today’s home buyers are looking for certain things from newly renovated properties. The math no longer amounts to adding total rooms, bathrooms, square footage and location. While the country is in the midst of a seller’s market due to a significant inventory shortage, home-flippers would be wise to calculate ROI based on a sliding scale.

If the property lacks the conveniences favored by Millennials or other groups buying up homes, it could sell for less than expected. That’s another reason why home-flippers are wise to enlist the guidance of a local real estate professional to gain a reasonable grasp on home trends and pricing.

Don’t forget to calculate in the costs of financing your project. Most often, people utilize a lender to help carry costs. It’s important to meet with your trusted mortgage professional to find the best terms for financing prior to starting your new endeavor.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 1st, 2018

fed-minutes-mortgageLast week’s economic readings included reports on home prices, new and pending home sales and remarks released by the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve. Weekly readings on average mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.

Case-Shiller HPI: Home Price Growth Slows in July

Home prices grew slower in July according to data released last week. Home prices rose at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 6.0 percent in July as compared to June’s rate of 6.2 percent growth. Analysts cited increasing inventories of homes available, which typically increases competition and lowers asking prices. Would-be home buyers have also suspended their home searches due to slim supplies of homes and competition with cash buyers.

New and Pending Home Sales Show Mixed Results

Sales of new homes rose in August according to the Commerce Department. New homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 629,000 sales. Analysts expected a reading of 625,000 sales New home sales grew by 3.50 percent from July to August and were 12.70 percent higher year-over-year. New homes sold for an average price of $320,200 in August, which was a year-over-year price increase of 1.90 percent.

Pending home sales dipped in August with a reading of – 1.80 percent in August as compared to July’s reading, which was also negative at 0.80 percent. Pending sales typically slow as fall approaches and peak hone buying season ends. Pending home sales indicate what’s ahead in closed home sales and mortgage loans. Analysts said that government readings on home sales are gleaned from small samples and are subject to adjustment.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise.

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week after the Federal Reserve announced that it would raise its target federal funds range to 2.00 to 2.25 percent. Analysts said that the Federal Open Market Committee dropped the term “accommodative” in its post-meeting announcement on Wednesday.

Interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.72 percent, which was an increase of seven basis points. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose five basis points to 4.16 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose five basis points to 3.97 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims also rose last week with 214,000 first-time claims filed as compared to expectations of 216,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 202,000 new claims filed. High numbers of claims filed in Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina suggested that the jump in initial claims related to Hurricane Florence.

What‘s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include readings on public and private-sector jobs growth, the national unemployment rate and construction spending. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new unemployment claims will also be released.

Pros And Cons: Older Homes Versus New Construction

builder confidence is upOpinions differ about whether home buyers are best served by purchasing an older home or new construction.

New homes enjoy that “new home” smell and the idea that you are the very first occupant can be very appealing. On the other hand, older homes resonate with nostalgia and many architectural design elements are no longer commonly used.

While some people feel strongly one way or the other, it’s a lot like comparing apples and oranges. The right home for any home buyer is the one that fits your lifestyle. Consider these pros and cons of new and older homes when making your decision.

Construction Differences

Home builders often tout the state-of-the-art aspects of new construction. Perhaps the biggest pro to new construction is the integration of smart and energy efficient technologies.

Today’s homes often come tech-ready with the ability for homeowners to control the environment through mobile apps. Solar panels are more common than ever, and new kitchen, HVAC and other necessities benefit from the latest advancements. Aside from being tremendously convenient, many of the new technology and materials can save you a significant amount of money.

On the flip side, older homes often require updating to include smart technologies. Gaining those conveniences could mean laying out a substantial amount of cash.

But don’t think for a moment that new construction somehow outpaces older homes in terms of energy efficiency. Materials used to build houses decades ago tend to be more durable. Items like thick, hardwood flooring were once commonplace. Today, they are considered high-end materials.

The Bottom Line: New construction offers modern conveniences while older homes showcase vintage materials.

New And Older Construction By The Numbers

One argument for buying new construction leans on the cost of upkeep.

An American Housing Survey reportedly pointed to new construction homeowners spending less on maintenance than their older construction counterparts.

The report promulgated by the Census Bureau indicates that 73 percent of people who owned a home four years old or less spent under $25 monthly on monthly maintenance. Only 11 percent spent upwards of $100 while 26 percent of older homeowners topped this cost. When routine maintenance exceeds $1,000 annually, that’s significant.

On the other side of the coin, older homes often come at a discounted price.

New home listing prices reportedly exceed those of similar older homes by upwards of $100,000 or 30 percent on average. This initial cost should be a strong consideration when doing the long-term math on homeownership. At $1,000-$1,200 additional cost annually, an older homeowner may have to live in the home for a very long time before it became less cost-effective.

The Bottom Line: Homeowners either pay on the front or the back end.

Homeowners Insurance Coverage

One of the common misconceptions about coverage stems from the idea that higher-priced new homes cost more to insure. This is often not true.

When taking out a policy, homeowners often insure the home based on the purchase price. This may satisfy the lender, but it may not be adequate to rebuild in the event of a total loss. New construction estimates tend to be fairly accurate because materials and labor costs haven’t changed significantly.

On the other hand, older homes are often made from materials that are considered specialty of high-end on today’s market. That means rebuilding an older home to its former luster could far exceed the current value. If that nostalgic feel is important, homeowners may need to insure the structure at a higher replacement cost.

The Bottom Line: Both types of homes could require similar coverage.

Regardless of what experts say about new and older construction, it’s important to consider a wide range of pros and cons and determine the home that’s right for you. Speak with an experienced real estate professional for detailed information on the properties that you are considering. And don’t forget to partner up with your trusted mortgage professional for all of your financing needs.

NAHB Housing Market Index Unchanged in September

calculator-imageHome builder confidence in housing market conditions stayed flat in September. The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index reported an index reading of 67, which matched expectations and NAHB’s housing market reading for August. Analysts cited recent tariffs on building materials as a significant cause of easing builder confidence.

While NAHB called September’s reading “solid” at 67, the reading was one full point lower than the average reading for 2017 and equaled the lowest builder confidence reading in 2018 to date. Readings over 50 in the Housing Market Index indicate that more builders than fewer are confident in housing market conditions.

Components of the Housing Market Index were mixed as builder confidence in current market conditions rose one point to 74. Builder confidence in market conditions for the next six months rose two points to a reading of 74. Builder confidence in buyer traffic in new housing developments was unchanged with a reading of 49.

Buyer traffic readings frequently fall below the benchmark reading of 50, so a reading of 49 indicates builders aren’t concerned about buyer interest in new homes.

Home Building Viewed As Cure For Housing Shortages, But Buyers Face Challenges

Housing industry leaders, real estate pros and mortgage lenders continued to look to builders for a solution to severe housing shortages in some areas. Rapidly rising home prices driven by high demand, few choices for buyers and aren’t likely to ease until inventories of available homes increase. Recently rising mortgage rates added to pressures on first-time and moderate-income home buyers.

NAHB Chief Economist Rob Dietz said that trade skirmishes and “burdensome regulations” also contributed to rising home prices. Real estate pros said that local market conditions affected market areas affected by natural disasters including severe red tide algae blooms in Florida and wildfires in Oregon and California. Home sales typically slow in August, but the combination of low inventories of homes coupled with rising prices and natural disasters resulted in lower than expected home sales in August.

Buyer fatigue was cited as a driving factor in slowing home sales as rapidly rising prices and few available homes took a toll on buyer interest. As the school year approached buyers were backing off instead of continuing to compete with cash buyers and bidding wars.

It is commonplace for markets to shift and for trends to change. Your trusted mortgage professional is ready to help you find your best financing options for today’s real estate market.