Archives for July 2014

An Insider’s Guide to Reducing Your Remaining Mortgage Years Through a Smart Refinance

An Insider's Guide to Reducing Your Remaining Mortgage Years Through a Smart RefinanceIs it always the best idea to pay off a mortgage over 30 years? While it may help a homeowner lower his or her monthly payment, it can mean paying more in interest and waiting several more years to build sufficient equity in the home.

The question is…how can a homeowner reduce the amount of time it takes to pay off a mortgage by refinancing his or her loan? A few methods for reducing your mortgage term are explained below.

Refinance From A 30-Year Mortgage To A 15-Year Mortgage

For those who don’t want to wait any longer than necessary to pay off their home loan, it may be possible to refinance to a shorter-term mortgage. Instead of taking 30 years to pay off the loan, a homeowner can opt to pay off the loan in 10 years or 15 years. The shorter the term, the less interest will be paid on the loan.

Get A Lower Interest Rate With A Shorter-Term Mortgage

Another good reason to shorten a mortgage term is because it could lower the loan’s interest rate. Instead of paying 4.5 percent over 30 years, it may be possible to pay 4 percent over 15 years. This gives the mortgage holder the chance to build equity in the home faster as they are paying more of the principal balance with each payment. While a mortgage holder can pay more than the minimum amount on a longer-term mortgage each month, it could still end up costing more overall due to the terms of the loan. Be sure to ask your mortgage professional about your options here.

Stop Paying Mortgage Insurance

Those who are paying mortgage insurance could be paying $200 or more per month for nothing more than the right to protect the lender against default. Homeowners who could qualify for a conventional loan should attempt to refinance to a conventional loan if possible to avoid making this payment. Instead of going toward mortgage insurance, put that money toward the principal balance on the loan. There are, of course, risks involved with this approach so be sure to fully discuss them with a professional.

How Can Someone Refinance A Loan?

Now that you know how to pay off your mortgage faster through a refinance, how can someone go about refinancing a home loan? Fortunately, refinancing is similar to the process of securing the home’s first loan. All a borrower will need to do is find a lender that he or she wants to work with, find an offer that works for that borrower and then close on the deal. Although there may be closing costs associated with the new loan, some lenders may be willing to waive some or all of them on a refinance.

Paying off a mortgage as soon as possible can help a borrower save money while building equity in the home at a faster pace. This gives a homeowner financial strength as well as the flexibility to sell the house in the future without worrying about losing money in the deal. To find out more about refinancing options, talk to a mortgage lender.

How Much is Your Home Worth in Today’s Market? Three Key Tips for Assessing Value

How Much is Your Home Worth in Today's Market? Three Key Tips for Assessing ValueIf you’re thinking about putting the house on the market, or are simply curious about its value in the current economic atmosphere, it’s essential to get an honest assessment of its value. An overly inflated figure won’t hold up and will only turn potential buyers away.

It’s best to get a fair assessment in order to ask a reasonable price or avoid over-extending oneself when it comes to taking out a home equity loan. Consider these three key tips to get a true assessment of a home’s value.

Identify Positive Features About The Home And Property

When seeking an appraisal for a home, it’s important to look at the big picture. While the neighborhood and specific location are important, as well as the size and condition of the home, it’s also essential to tally up any improvements or upgrades. Any recent renovations are a plus that are sure to give a boost to a home’s value. Outbuildings and swimming pools add more positives that will increase the initial value of a home. The most important thing any homeowner can do is to stay on top of repairs and give the property a facelift periodically to keep things fresh. This will be taken into consideration during an appraisal.

Pay Attention To The Competition

Whether homeowners try to estimate their home’s value on their own or bring in the professionals, it’s important to pay attention to the surrounding real estate. Take a close look at other properties in the area and their price tags when they come up for sale. It’s especially helpful to look at properties that compare in size and condition. From that point, the most expensive and least expensive homes should be tallied as well, providing a price range for the concerned individual’s home.

Think About Present Circumstances

Be sure to consider if the area is in a recession or showing a period of strong economic growth. If a home is located in an area that is booming, this will inflate the value of the home. It is all part of the law of supply and demand. When buyers are coming in droves, home sales will be ripe for the picking and homeowners can ask a higher price. However, if the population is dwindling and people are migrating elsewhere because job opportunities have fallen, there is a much greater chance that the home’s value will decrease. For those who want to sell, the best bet is to strike when the iron is hot and put the house on the market during a period of economic strength. If the economy is failing, it may be necessary to wait or cut ones’ losses.

Act Now To Learn More

There is no better time than the present to contact a name you can trust in real estate. Discover all the ins and outs of assessing your home’s value, discuss your options, and find out ways to boost your property’s potential as you seek a reliable assessment.

Three Ways That Your Credit Score Affects Your Mortgage (and Your Chance of Obtaining One!)

Three Ways That Your Credit Score Affects Your Mortgage (and Your Chance of Obtaining One!)If you’re thinking of buying a home, you’ve probably been thinking a lot about your credit score as well. Credit scores control so much of what we do in the world of finances, but what does your credit score really have to do with your mortgage? Here are three ways that your credit score could impact your mortgage application.

Your Credit Score Affects Your Ability To Get A Mortgage

The first thing your credit score tells a lender is whether they should lend to you at all. In some cases, if you have a very low credit score, you may not be able to obtain a mortgage at all.

Different lenders will have different criteria for determining safe and unsafe lending situations. Typically, if you have a score below the 600 mark, you’ll have trouble obtaining a mortgage.

If you’re worried about a low credit score, don’t despair – you can still get a mortgage, you just might have to work a little harder to get one. Some lenders will still lend to people with lower credit scores (just make sure you’re approaching legitimate lenders and not mortgage scam artists). Or, if time is on your side, you can work toward building up your credit score so that when it comes time to take out a mortgage, your score will be more appealing to lenders.

Your Credit Score Affects What Types Of Mortgages You Can Obtain

The second thing a lender learns from your credit score is which types of mortgages you qualify for. If a lender sees you as a higher risk, they won’t necessarily be willing to offer you just any old mortgage.

In most cases, if you have a credit score of less than 620, you won’t qualify for a conventional mortgage. In addition, if you have a lower credit score, you may have to make a larger down payment in order to qualify for the type of mortgage you want.

Your Credit Score Affects Your Interest Rate

The final thing that a lender learns from your credit score is what type of interest rate they’re willing to offer you. As a general rule, the higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate.

However, just because you have a high credit score, that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get a great mortgage rate. There’s more that goes into the price of a mortgage than just the interest rate, so watch out for additional factors like extra fees, mortgage insurance, lock-in periods, and so on.

Your credit score tells a lender a lot about what type of borrower you are. Ultimately, a higher credit score means that you’ll be able to borrow money at a lower interest rate. But if your score is low, don’t worry – there’s a lot you can do to bring up that score before you apply for a mortgage, so don’t throw in the towel just yet!

Every financial situation is different, so if you want to find out more about how your credit score will affect your mortgage in your specific circumstance, talk to your mortgage professional.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 14, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week July 14 2014Last week brought news from the Fed as two Federal Reserve Bank Presidents made speeches and the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Fed released the minutes of its last meeting. The minutes reveal the Fed’s intention to wrap up its bond-buying program in October with a final purchase of $15 billion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and Treasury bonds. No economic news was issued Monday following of the 4th of July holiday.

Further indications of a strengthening labor market were seen. May job openings reached their highest level since June 2007, and quits and layoffs fell from April’s reading of 4.55 million to 4.50 million. Weekly jobless claims fell to 304,000 against expectations of 320,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 315,000 new jobless claims.

Fed Speeches Address Inflation, Banks Too Big to Fail

Tuesday’s speech by Minneapolis Fed Bank president Narayana Kocherlakota calmed concerns over inflation; Mr. Kocherlakota said that the Fed expects inflation to remain below its target rate of two percent for several more years. He tied low inflation to the unemployment rate and said that the nation’s workforce is not fully utilized in times of low inflation, and cautioned that June’s national unemployment rate of 6.10 percent “could well overstate the degree of improvement of the U.S. labor market.”

Stanley Fischer, the Fed’s new vice-chairman, spoke before the National Bureau of Economic Research last Thursday. Mr. Fischer addressed the issue of breaking up the nation’s largest banks to eliminate the government’s exposure to banks too big to fail. He said that it wasn’t clear that breaking up the largest banks would end federal bailouts of banks considered too big to fail. Mr. Fisher also said that breaking up the biggest banks would be “a complex task with an uncertain payoff.”

Mr. Fischer also said that any efforts to prevent a housing bubble should focus on the supply side and cautioned that “measures aimed at reducing the demand for housing are likely to be politically sensitive.”

FOMC Minutes Reveal End Date for Bond Purchases

The minutes of the Fed’s last FOMC meeting indicate that the Fed plans to continue bond purchases at the rate of $10 billion per month with a final purchase of $15 billion in October. FOMC members re-asserted their oft-stated position that the Fed’s target interest rate of 0.00 to 0.25 percent will not change for a considerable time after the bond purchase program ends.

Mortgage Rates Rise

Average mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased by three basis points to 4.15 percent; discount points were also higher at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.24 percent with discount points higher at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 2.99 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes retail sales and retail sales without the auto sector, Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s testimony, the Fed’s Beige Book report and the NAHB Homebuilder’s Market Index. Housing Starts, Consumer Sentiment and Leading Economic Indicators round out the week’s economic reports.

Feng Shui 101: How This Ancient Art Can Help Improve Your Home Staging

Feng Shui 101: How This Ancient Art Can Help Improve Your Home StagingIt is a buyer’s market, making home selling a challenge that can range from relatively simple to downright frustrating. Boosting ones’ chances of selling their home can be done in a number of ways. One simple way is to utilize the art of Feng Shui – an ancient Chinese art, used to manipulate the flow of energy in your home.

Feng Shui can be as inexpensive or as costly as you would like. Using what is already on hand is one way to keep it free, but sometimes a simple coating of paint on the front door or a few decorative pieces can make a big difference in the room.

The Entry Way

First impressions are everything, so one of the most important rooms in the home is the one that is entered into first by potential buyers. If the entry way is followed by a hallway, making the hallway look as wide as possible is important, as open, spacious rooms have better energy flows. Using a long, runner rug is one way to achieve this look, as well as brighter paint colors on the walls.

The Main Living Area

The living area will be one of the main draws to potential buyers. They should be able to envision themselves spending time there, reading a good book or entertaining guests. Upon entering the room, buyers should not be looking at the backside of furniture. The furniture should be outward facing, in an inviting way. A simple table in the middle of the furniture arrangement keeps the flow going, while also allowing for utility and style. A few simple art pieces on the walls or on shelves are a nice addition, as long as the space does not look cluttered or ill-kept.

The Bedrooms

Electronics have a negative effect on energy flows, so keeping electronics out of the bedroom during the staging process is important. The bed should be in full view of the door, but the headboard should not be against the wall that is directly in front of the door. Allow as much natural light into the room as possible.

The Bathroom

In Feng Shui, drains are seen as energetically negative, so toilet seats and shower curtains or doors should remain closed. Again, natural light is important, as well as uncluttered counters. Mirrors should be easily accessible and have a good source of light, preferably natural.

The Kitchen

Many counters and tables are magnets for junk – keeping these spaces clear and free of clutter is essential to a nice energy flow, as well as successful staging. Fresh flowers add a nice touch to the room, and make it seem more open. Yellow is considered good for digestion, so painting the room a nice shade of yellow, or adding touches of yellow here and there can be beneficial.

Home staging is a vital, but sometimes overlooked aspect of house selling. Feng Shui can be a great way to interest more buyers, and sell a home quicker. Energy flow is the basis of Feng Shui, and both natural lighting and arrangement of furniture make a difference in the energy levels of a home.

Nearing Retirement? Three Reasons Why You Might Consider a ‘Reverse Mortgage’

Nearing Retirement? Three Reasons Why You Might Consider a 'Reverse Mortgage'If you are nearing retirement, a reverse mortgage might be right for you. This type of mortgage essentially allows you to turn your home equity into cash. If you find yourself with little money, a reverse mortgage could be the perfect solution, and here’s why.

No Worries About Monthly Payments

After taking on a mortgage, there are many costs that you have to worry about. One of these problems is mortgage insurance premiums. Add interest and fees from lender service providers to the mix, and you’ve got yourself many costs.

All of these fees can create tremendous headaches, as a large chunk of the loan amount goes into covering these costs.

When you undertake a reverse mortgage, you don’t have to worry about any of that. The loan is paid back with home equity, not ongoing cash flow, so monthly payments aren’t a worry.

Your Income Won’t Affect Your Eligibility, And The Income You’ll Get Won’t Create Problems

If the reason you’re hoping to get a reverse mortgage is your low income, the last thing you want is that income to be the deciding factor. With this type of loan, it’s not an issue. That’s because the thing that determines eligibility is your house’s value.

In fact, the income you’ll be getting from this loan is not taxable, which means you’ll be able to keep it in full. Plus, any benefits you get from Medicare will not be affected, and neither will your Social Security.

As such, what you’ll be getting is a loan that doesn’t take into account your current income. Rather, it adds on to it, without creating any issues for you. Plus, you’ll be able to get the money in several different ways, which means you’re in control.

Lastly, the money you get is fully yours. That means that you can use it for anything you want, whether that means you’ll be paying off other loans, or simply funding your day-to-day needs.

You Won’t Be Taken Away From Your Home

Your house is yours because it feels that way. It’s the place in which you’ve invested money and effort. It’s also the place where many loved memories were created, and where they’ll keep on being created.

One of the hardest things for the elderly is being removed from their loved homes and placed into care. They have to leave the place they’ve grown to love. Worse than that, they’re thrown into a world they don’t know.

With a reverse mortgage, this doesn’t need to happen. With this type of loan, you get additional income, and you get to stay in your own house.

Not only that, but you’re also keeping the title to that place until you move, pass away, or reach the end of the loan’s term. Your home will stay yours, both effectively and in the documents.

There are many more reasons why a reverse mortgage is a great idea. However, the fact that you’re in complete control of the income you’ll be getting is one of the most important things.

If you’d like to learn more about reverse mortgages, be sure to contact your mortgage professional.

A Quick Guide to Assessing Your Home’s Foundation for Cracks – And What to Do if You Find Them

A Quick Guide to Assessing Your Home's Foundation for Cracks - And What to Do if You Find Them When purchasing a home, there are a number of considerations that need to be taken into account. One of those considerations is the foundation of the home. No matter how perfect or suitable a property looks, taking the time to properly inspect the property for foundation problems can save you thousands of dollars in repairs later on.

While foundation cracks are usually present in older homes, that does not mean that newer and even brand new homes are not susceptible to them. When choosing a property, the following tips can help homebuyers find signs of foundation problems and take the right action if any are found.

Concrete Weakness

One of the easiest ways to check for a damaged foundation is to check the concrete of the home. When the foundation is strong and safe, the concrete is not brittle and breakable. To test this, when trying to poke the foundation with a screwdriver, the foundation should be rock solid. If it isn’t, then there may be a foundation issue.

Posts Should Be Sturdy

If the house has a basement, then the posts that hold up the basement and crawl space should stand firmly in place. The bottom of the post should be unmovable and the post should stand straight and tall. If the posts do not do so, then there might be a problem with the foundation.

Uneven Floors

The next component of the house that should be inspected is the floors. All of the floors within the house must be solid, straight, and not slanted. If the floor is slanted or separates from the wall in any place, then the foundation is unable to support the home properly and there is likely a serious issue.

Exterior Cracks

The walls are also a way to check for foundation issues. Take a tour around the outside of the home and inspect for any cracks to the exterior. Each wall on the outside of the home should be smooth, solid, and free of any cracks. However, if there is a crack, this may mean that the foundation has shifted and the home is uneven.

Windows and Doors

Next, inspect every window and door on the property. Each should be attached to the surrounding wall and they must also open and close without any difficulty. If there is a difficulty in opening and closing windows and doors, there may be a foundation problem like shifting or even ground that is unable to support the property.

Moist Ground Around the Property

Lastly, another sign that there is a foundation problem is if the ground around the property is moist. A strong foundation will usually be set upon ground that is completely solid. When the ground is moist, the dirt particles are porous and unable to bind together, leading to shifting, cracks, and major damage to the home.

Mortgage Budgeting 101: How to Determine What You Can and Can’t Afford

Mortgage Budgeting 101: How to Determine What You Can and Can't AffordWhen taking on a new mortgage, it is important to know that you can afford to carry the debt load involved, as many people find themselves in financial trouble by spending more on real estate than they can comfortably maintain. Your mortgage budget can be calculated to determine just how much you should spend on your next mortgage.

Mortgage Rates And Today’s Market Conditions

Mortgage rates change every day, and in times of high volatility can even fluctuate more than once in a twenty-four hour period. The market reflects a number of economic variables, including relevant world news and events. Wall Street also directly affects the real estate market. By researching and watching mortgage rates closely you will be able to secure your mortgage at the best rate possible.

With so many different loan types, terms and interest can affect your monthly mortgage payment significantly. Shop around, and see which loan types will work for you. The rates available will be effected by the type of real estate you are purchasing, and your credit score.

Your Total Income

Your income helps give lenders an indicator of your ability to pay a mortgage. Your total income may include alimony, investment revenue, or other sources in addition to regular wages. Knowing this total and how it might change in the near future can help one get a sense of what is manageable.

Mortgage Expectations And Monthly Expense

Monthly expenses play a big role in your mortgage budget. Credit card debt, vehicles and other monthly commitments need to be factored in full to clearly understand your financial situation.

If you are carrying a large debt load, you may want to pay your debts down before adding more debt via a mortgage. Clearing up outstanding debts will help boost your credit score and in turn your appeal to lenders.

Expenditures that may be considered frivolous or redundant could be eating away at your mortgage budget. Try to cut out unnecessary spending to create some breathing room in your monthly budget. It is important to be more realistic when budgeting than one would be when goal setting, but it is always a good idea to ‘trim away the fat’.

The Amount You Put Down On The Debt

Another factor of affordability and eligibility will be your down payment. How much money you put as a down payment can and will affect the types of mortgage loans and interest rates accessible to you. The value of the down payment will vary depending on the type of property or investment that is being secured; higher value properties will require a larger down payment.

Real estate is a great way to invest in your future. Although some can turn a profit ‘flipping’ houses, most mortgages are long-term investments. The investment grows more beneficial over time as the principal is paid down.

By carefully considering your personal finances, you will be able to determine what you can and cannot afford. Researching the options available will build your confidence when choosing a loan. Contact your trusted mortgage professional for answers to any additional affordability questions.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 7, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week July 7 2014

Last week’s economic news was mixed, but economic reports for Non-Farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment rate suggest a strengthening labor sector. Pending Home Sales surpassed expectations in May and conversely, construction spending was lower than expected. Here are the details.

Pending Home Sales Reach Highest Level in Eight Months

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that pending home sales in May rose by 6.10 percent over April’s reading. May’s reading was 5.20 percent lower than for May 2013. The index reading for May reached 103.9 as compared to April’s index reading of 97.9. Results for all regions were positive for May:

– Northeast: 8.80%

– West 7.60%

– Midwest 6.30%

– South 4.40%

An index reading of 100 for pending home sales is equal to average contract activity in 2001; pending home sales are a gauge of upcoming closings and mortgage activity.

CoreLogic Home Price Index Reflects Slower Price Gains

National home prices rose by 1.40 percent in May and 10 states posted new month-to-month highs, while year-over-year reading slipped from 10.00 percent in April to 8.80 percent in May. Home prices remain about 13.50 percent lower than their 2006 peak.

The overall rate of construction spending slowed in May to an increase of 0.10 percent from April’s reading of 0.80 percent and against expectations of 0.70 percent. Residential construction spending dropped by 1.50 percent in May.

Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of average mortgage rates brought good news as the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 4.12 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 3.22 percent, as was the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage at 2.98 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and 15-year fixed rate mortgages. Discount rates rose from 0.30 to 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Jobs Up, Unemployment Rate Lower

ADP payrolls, which measures private-sector job growth, reported 281,000 new jobs in June as compared to a reading of 179,000 new private-sector jobs in May. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Non-Farm Payrolls report for June surpassed expectations of 215,000 jobs added with an increase of 288,000 jobs against May’s reading of 224,000 jobs added.

The national unemployment rate fell to 6.10 percent against predictions of 6.30 percent and May’s reading of 6.30 percent. 

No news was released on Friday, which was a national holiday.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic is lean with no events set for Monday. Job Openings, the minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting, along with regularly scheduled weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims round out the week’s economic news.

Buying or Selling, Here Are Three Traits You’ll Want in Your Real Estate Agent

Buying or Selling, Here Are Three Traits You'll Want in Your Real Estate AgentFor both buyers and sellers, choosing the right real estate agent is an important and difficult decision, but making the right selection is critical. Consider the following essential characteristics for a real estate agent before signing a contract:

Experience

An agent must understand the real estate market as well as the practices and processes of buying and selling. While a new agent may have energy and desire, experienced agents will be able to offer insights and experiences which are likely to give their clients the edge in their deal. Experience also indicates negotiating skill.

Of course an agent must be licensed, but they must also be knowledgeable about the specific neighborhoods and types of property their clients are interested in buying or selling. Commercial properties are much different than residential properties, for example, so find an agent with the experience you need.

Creativity

Since a variety of problems can happen at any point in a real estate deal, a real estate agent should be able to solve problems creatively. An agent who helps their clients think through problems, offers reasonable alternatives or finds a way to overcome obstacles is invaluable to both buyers and sellers.

Marketing is essential in the real estate world, so an agent who knows how to creatively use technology to entice buyers or to locate homes is a benefit. Buyers usually start their search online, so an appealing, user-friendly and updated website is essential. For sellers, videos are often the best way to display the best features of a home. These are today’s real estate tools, so an agent who knows how to use them has a better chance of making an effective deal for their clients.

Honesty

Home sellers need someone who will be realistic with them about the value of their home, no matter what other homes in the neighborhood are selling for or what the sellers think their home is worth. Home buyers need an agent who will tell them, for example, that consistently under-bidding in order to get more home for their money is not a viable strategy. These conversations are difficult, but an honest agent will have them in order to achieve a successful result.

Another aspect of honesty is maintaining consistent communication in whatever form suits their clients. Even if there is nothing new to discuss, a quick update to say that nothing is happening is essential to maintaining trust. Silence is a sign of denial or worse, so an agent who communicates regularly is being honest with their clients.

Finally, an agent should be honest enough to put their client’s interest ahead of their own, showing the client every house that fits the criteria and not just those that will get the agent the biggest commission. An effective seller’s agent will give their clients the feedback they receive from potential buyers, even if the news is discouraging. Keeping problem areas from a seller may keep the relationship friendly, but it does not put the seller’s interest above the agent’s.