Archives for June 2015

An Insider’s Look at Mortgage Closing Costs and How to Minimize the Amount You’ll Pay

An Insider's Look at Mortgage Closing Costs and How to Minimize the Amount You'll Pay When buying a new home, you may be focused on finding a mortgage program that has a down payment requirement that is manageable for you. However, some home buyers will overlook the costs that they are responsible for at closing. These costs can vary, but it is common for home buyers to pay between two to three percent of the loan amount in closing costs, if not more. This can be a hefty sum of money that you will need to budget for. The good news is that there are some steps that you can take to keep these costs to a minimum.

Shop For a Title Insurance Company

There are numerous fees that will be listed on your closing statement, but one of the highest fees is the title company charge. The title charges vary from company to company. Most lenders and real estate agents have preferred title companies that they want to work with, but you typically have the ability to shop around and compare the fees. You simply have to inquire what the lender’s or real estate agent’s preferred title company is and what the fees are. Then, you can shop around to find a better deal.

Consider Your Escrows

Another large expense on your closing statement will be the prepaid taxes and insurance as well as the escrows for these amounts. One idea is to ask your lender to waive escrows. This request is not always granted, but it can drastically reduce the amount of money you need to pay for out of your pocket at closing. You can also shop around for a better deal on property insurance to lower your escrow expense.

Ask the Seller to Pay for Closing Costs

While you are ultimately responsible for many of the closing costs, you may be able to structure your sales contract so that the seller pays for some or all of the costs. This is generally something that may be negotiated at the time the original offer is made, but you could also submit a revision request to the contract through your real estate agent.

Understanding what the closing costs are and which costs can be negotiated or shopped around for is important. You can also look at how gifts from the seller or other parties can be used to reduce your out of pocket expenses when buying a new home.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 15, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - June 15, 2015

Retail Sales, Consumer Confidence Up

Retail sales rose for the third consecutive month. May sales increased at a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.20 percent according to Commerce Department data. Auto and gasoline sales led the charge to higher retail sales, but analysts said that most retail sectors posted gains. Upward revisions of March and April’s retail sales provided evidence of stronger economic conditions.

Consumer sentiment jumped nearly four points from May’s reading of 90.7 to 94.6 in June. This appears to be great news compared to the year before the recession, when consumer sentiment averaged a reading of 86.9.

Weekly Jobless Claims, Mortgage Rates

Weekly jobless claims rose last week and were also higher than expected. 279,000 new jobless claims were filed against an expected reading of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 277,000 new jobless claims. This was the fourteenth consecutive week that new jobless claims remained below 300,000, an accomplishment that hasn’t occurred in 15 years.

Mortgage rates rose sharply last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage jumped from 3.87 percent to 4.04 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose from 2.08 percent to 3.25 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage increased by five basis points from 2.96 percent 3.01 percent. Average readings for discount points were 0.60 percent for 30 and 15 year mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. Higher mortgage rates may sideline some home buyers as they wait to see if rates will drop or are priced out of the market. Expectations that the Fed will raise its target federal funds rate this fall may be fueling higher rates.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s economic news schedule includes more housing-related readings. The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, the Commerce Department’s reports on Housing Starts and Building Permits along with the weekly reports on new Jobless Claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage reports are set for release. On Wednesday, the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve will release its post-meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen will also give a press conference. These events are important as they may shed light on the Fed’s intentions for raising rates. When the Fed raises the target federal funds rate, mortgage rates and interest rates for consumer credit are expected to rise as well.

Hunting for the Best Local Schools? Here Are 5 Checklist Items You’ll Want to Look For

Hunting for the Best Local Schools? Here Are 5 Checklist Items You'll Want to Look ForThere are numerous factors that you may review when choosing a new place to live. If you have children, the quality of the schools and the level of education that your kids will receive in the schools is important. However, you may not be certain how to determine if a school is good or not. When you are looking at schools, use this helpful checklist to guide you in making a great decision.

Achievement Data

One of the easiest factors for you to research about different school districts and individual schools is achievement data. This may include the percentage of students graduating high school versus dropping out, the enrollment percentage for college, SAT and ACT scores and other relevant data. This is typically published online, or a call to the district’s office may provide you with the information.

Student to Teacher Ratio

The student to teacher ratio can vary drastically between school districts. This will impact how much personal attention your child receives as well as how crowded the classrooms are. Generally, the lower the number, the better overall experience your child may receive.

A Safe Location

The last thing you may want is for your child to be exposed to safety issues or to feel threatened or intimidated in school or while getting to or from school every day. You can research crime statistics online for the area surrounding the schools, and you can visit the school personally to visibly inspect the area.

Extracurricular Activities

The school age years are a time for kids to experience many new things. Everything from a drama and art club to a wide range of sports can benefit kids. Consider reviewing extracurricular activities available for younger and older students alike so that you can get a better idea for the experiences that a child may have outside of the classroom.

A Positive Environment

A final important factor to consider is the environment in the school. You will need to set up a tour of the school to experience this yourself. The staff members and students should be happy and positive. Remember that this is a place where your child may spend many long hours each day.

Where you choose to live will impact what school your child attends. Therefore, it is important to review the schools carefully before you make a final buying decision for a new home.

The Pros and Cons of Using Spare Funds to Pay Your Mortgage Down Faster

The Pros and Cons of Using Spare Funds to Pay Your Mortgage Down Faster A home mortgage payment can be a large or even the largest expense in a person’s budget, and not having this payment any longer can be a life changing experience. Because of this, you may be dreaming about the day when you no longer have to make this payment. Some people may even actively make extra payments to their mortgage in order to pay the outstanding balance off more quickly. These may be funds from an IRS tax refund, cash received from the holidays or a birthday or some other windfall. Before you make the decision about whether to use spare funds to pay your mortgage down more quickly, consider these pros and cons.

The Benefits of Making Extra Mortgage Payments

You can shave many years off of your home mortgage when you make even a single extra payment each year. This can help you to achieve long-term financial goals, build equity and avoid paying more than necessary in interest charges. Keep in mind that any principal that is removed from the outstanding balance now will not generate interest charges going forward. This can have a snowball effect on your home equity, and this is especially true when you make extra payments on a regular basis.

Why Extra Payments Are Not Always the Best Option

Clearly, there are some great benefits associated with making extra payments on your home mortgage. However, there are also some downsides to consider before you take this step. Your home mortgage may be one of your debts with the lowest interest rate.

For example, many mortgage interest rates today are below five percent while some credit card rates may exceed 15 or 18 percent. Over the long-term, you may benefit more from savings on interest charges by reducing higher interest rate debts. Even if you have no other debts besides your home mortgage payment, you may be able to invest the money for a higher return than the interest rate on the mortgage.

Each person has different short and long term goals as well as a different financial situation to consider. With how low mortgage rates are today, however, many will benefit from paying off high interest rate debts and making smart investment decisions with any extra money they have.

Buying a Home This Summer? Our Guide to Finding the Perfect New Neighborhood

Buying a Home This Summer? Our Guide to Finding the Perfect New Neighborhood Finding the perfect home to purchase is easier said than done, and savvy home buyers understand the importance of researching the neighborhood as well as the home. All home buyers have unique things that they are looking for in an ideal neighborhood, and these factors will play a major role in how enjoyable a homeowner’s living experience is. Those who are shopping for a new home this summer may focus on a few points to find the perfect neighborhood to live in before deciding which home to purchase in that community.

Get A Feel For The Ambience And Energy Of the Neighborhood

Some home buyers want to find a lovely home in a quiet, mature community. Others may be searching for an active community with kids playing freely in their yards and people taking walks of jogging in their free time. Home buyers can get a great feel for the ambiance and energy of the neighborhood by driving around at different times of the day during the week as well as on the weekend.

Look At Neighborhood Amenities

The amenities in the neighborhood are important for many home buyers, and you can easily research amenities by driving through the area. Look for everything from a fitness center and community swimming pool to parks and hike and bike trails. Home buyers may research this aspect of the neighborhood further online to determine if the neighborhood regularly hosts community events or special activities.

Focus On Security

Security is a top concern for home buyers, and it is possible to research crime rates online. However, home buyers can also gauge the general feeling of security that residents have by looking for home security features on various homes in the community and by paying attention to how many people are outdoors on nice weather days. Many will find comfort in selecting a neighborhood where the residents feel safe and secure on a daily basis.

A primary factor to take into consideration when buying a home is its location. While the area of town is important to consider, the neighborhood is a more localized environment that will have a greater impact on a homeowner’s living experience. Those who are in the market to purchase a new home can begin researching neighborhoods today.

First-time Mortgage Borrowers: Avoid These “Rookie Mistakes”

First-time Mortgage Borrowers: Avoid These Many home buyers who are applying for their first mortgage will go to great lengths to research the options, learn more about loan terms and generally educate themselves about a process that they are unfamiliar with. Despite these common steps that rookie mortgage applicants make, they often make similar mistakes when applying for their first mortgage. By learning about these common mistakes, you can take steps to prevent making them yourself.

Not Focusing on All Costs of Home Ownership

Many first-time home buyers are overwhelmingly focused on setting up a mortgage payment that is affordable for their budget. While this is important, the mortgage payment is not the only expense associated with home ownership. For example, there are property taxes, insurance, repair and maintenance expenses, homeowners’ association dues and more. All of these expenses should be reviewed when you consider what mortgage payment is affordable for your budget.

Not Thinking About Short and Long-Term Plans

You should also think about short and long-term plans for your home ownership experience. Some will choose a long term or an adjustable rate to keep the payments low. However, they will not consider the fact that the payment will be in place until the home is sold or the loan is refinanced. It is not certain what mortgage rates will be in the future or if you may qualify for a great rate on a refinance loan in the future, so you should always ensure that you can maintain the payment structure for as long as needed.

Not Getting Pre-Qualified

It can be intimidating to get pre-qualified for a home mortgage. Some may fear rejection or denial altogether, and some may estimate an amount they may qualify for without actually getting pre-qualified. This can backfire for you. The pre-qualification process helps you to learn the maximum loan amount you may qualify for and the payment for that amount, and this is sound, valuable information that can help you to make a more informed decision when selecting your home.

As a first-time home buyer, you may be stressed about finding the right home to buy and researching the neighborhoods and schools. While these are all factors to pay attention to, you also need to focus heavily on your mortgage. Through these efforts, you can set up an affordable home loan that is comfortable for you to manage on your budget.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 8, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - June 8, 2015Last week’s economic news included reports on construction spending, Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey and several employment related reports. The details:

Construction Spending Jumps

The Commerce Department reported that construction spending reached its fastest annual pace since November 2008. Most of the momentum was caused by construction of apartments, commercial projects and roads, and construction of single family homes. Builders spent 2.20 percent more in April than they did in March, which equated to an annual outlay of $1.01 trillion for all types of construction spending. Analysts said that increased spending in construction indicated that the housing sector could see improvement as construction provides more jobs.

Mortgage Rates Mixed

Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates reported that average mortgage rates were mixed last week. Average rates were reported as follows: 30-year fixed rates were unchanged at 3.87 percent with discount points also unchanged at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 3.11 percent to 3.08 percent with discount points unchanged at an average of 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by six basis points to 2.96 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

Employment Reports Suggest Stronger Labor Market

Several labor-related reports released last week suggest that job markets are gaining strength as they continue to improve. ADP, a private-sector payrolls company, reported 201,000 new jobs in May against April’s reading of 165,000 new jobs. The Labor Department released its Nonfarm Payrolls report for May and reported 280,000 new jobs against expectations of 210,000 new jobs and April’s reading of 221,000 new jobs.

Average hourly wages rose by 0.30 percent and surpassed expectations of a 0.20 percent increase and April’s reading of 0.10 percent. Although incremental, this suggests that labor markets are strengthening to a point where employers are comfortable with increasing wages.

Weekly Jobless claims were reported at 276,000 new claims filed as compared to expectations of 278,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 284,000 new jobless claims filed. The national unemployment rate for May ticked up to 5.50 percent from the prior month’s reading of 5.40 percent, but this reading remains below the Federal Reserve’s original benchmark of 6.50 percent for potentially raising the target federal funds rate. The Fed has not moved to change the rate, but analysts expect that this could occur by Fall if economic conditions hold steady.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic reports include job openings, retail sales, consumer sentiment along with the usual weekly reports on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

Four Handy Tips for Managing Your Lawn Now That the Spring Rains Have Arrived

Four Handy Tips for Managing Your Lawn After the Spring Rains Have Arrived In many areas, the spring months mean warmer temperatures, more sunshine and plenty of beneficial rainfall that your yard may thrive with. These are prime growing conditions for your lawn, but they can also make lawn maintenance a challenge. By following these helpful tips, you can take better care of your yard during this rainy spring season.

Re-Seed or Re-Sod Carefully

The spring months are one of the best times of the year to re-seed or re-sod your lawn. If you have bare spots in your yard, these spots can turn into giant mud puddles during a heavy rainstorm that can be a true eyesore. New grass seed and fresh sod both require ample water to grow, so you can take advantage of the rain to grow new grass in your bare areas.

Mow When Possible

The sunshine, warm temperatures and ample rain can all make your grass grow quickly, and it can also make your weeds grow even faster. Mowing your lawn frequently will help you to keep the weeds from spreading seeds throughout the yard and creating an even greater problem. It can be difficult to find a time when the grass is dry enough to mow at certain times, so you may need to make mowing a priority during dry spells. This will also help you to keep your yard looking neat and tidy during the peak growing season.

Fertilize As Needed

Fertilizing the yard can also be beneficial during the warm weather season. Fertilization now can give you lush, green grass for many months to come. It can also be beneficial for you by helping to get rid of weeds that may be cropping up. Fertilizer needs water, so fertilizing before a light rain storm is a smart idea.

Avoid Walking On It

Grass can easily become damaged when you walk across it after a rain storm. It can tear the blades from the roots and create a trampled upon look that is not desirable. You can minimize damage to your yard by not walking on it until the ground has dried out again.

Taking care of your lawn may be a top priority year-round, but your focus may be drawn to it after the chilly winter months transition into warmer, wetter spring months. By following these tips, you can take better care of your yard throughout the spring and beyond.

Which is Better: Bi-weekly or Monthly Mortgage Payments? Let’s Take a Look

Which is Better: Bi-weekly or Monthly Mortgage Payments? Let's Take a Look When you apply for a new mortgage, your lender may ask if you want to set up monthly payments or bi-weekly payments. At one time, monthly payments were common, but bi-weekly payments are increasing in popularity. This is because they break a large expense up into two smaller and seemingly more manageable payments. In addition, you can also make what equates to a full extra payment on the mortgage each year with a bi-weekly payment structure. Before you decide which is best for you, consider a few factors.

Your Personal Budget

Many people may believe that if they get paid every two weeks, a bi-weekly mortgage payment is a better option than a monthly mortgage payment. This is not always the case. You should consider other sources of income and how much your payment is in relation to your paychecks. In addition, consider which part of the month your other regular bills are due. This is critical to establishing the best payment plan for you.

Control Over the Payments

You can still enjoy the benefit of making an extra payment per year with a monthly mortgage payment schedule. For example, you would simply need to pay $100 per month more each payment to realize the same results. When you establish a bi-weekly payment plan, this extra payment is automatic. This may be ideal if you do not think you would stick with paying more per month on your own. However, if you want more control over your monthly payment amount and when you make the extra payment, it may be best to choose a monthly mortgage payment.

The Financial Obligation

A final factor to consider is the financial obligation. When you set up bi-weekly payments, your total amount paid per month will be higher. This means that your total financial obligation will be higher than if you had a monthly payment plan. This financial obligation may impact your ability to qualify for other loans or to achieve other goals.

If you want to pay your mortgage off early, you can choose to make an extra small payment with each monthly payment or set up a bi-weekly payment plan. While each will give you the same overall result over the course of the long term, one option may be preferred for your financial situation. Consider the pros and cons of each option carefully to make a better decision for your financial circumstances.

Buying a Home? What to Do if Problems Are Found During the Final Home Inspection

Buying a Home? What to Do if Problems Are Found During the Final Home InspectionAs a home buyer, you may go through a number of different steps to ensure that the property that you purchase is in great condition. For example, you may complete an initial walk-through or even several home tours before you make an offer. You may also order a property inspection and even negotiate for the seller to make some repairs on your behalf. A day or two before your closing date, you may set up a final home inspection to ensure that the home is still in the same condition as the initial walk-through. In most cases, there will be no problems with the final inspection. However, in the event that there is a problem with the final inspection, you will need to know how to handle it.

Work With Your Real Estate Agent

As a first step, you should discuss the issues with your real estate agent. Your real estate agent may have some strategies or ideas that can be used to help you overcome the issue in the best possible way. Minor issues may be resolved with a last minute negotiation to the sales contract. More significant issues may need to be rectified prior to closing, and you may need to delay the closing by a few days or longer until any issues are resolved.

Consider Walking Away

It may be rare for a property to have issues during the final home inspection, and most issues that do arise at this late stage in the buying process may be resolved through negotiations between the buyer and seller. However, in the event that the seller plays hard ball and refuses to work with you to resolve the matter or in the event that the issue is so significant that you are not comfortable with it, it may be an option to walk away from the property.

In most sales contracts, wording is present that requires the property to be delivered to the buyer in the same condition as it was when the contract was signed less general wear and tear. Walking away may not be ideal, but it may be the best option in some cases.

Making a final home inspection is not a requirement, but it is advisable. It can ensure that the home your purchase is in the same condition as it was when you did the initial walk-through, and you can apply these tips if you discover that the home is not in the same condition.