Archives for December 2015

Federal Reserve Raises Short-Term Interest Rates

Federal Reserve Raises Short Term Interest RatesAfter prolonged speculation by economic analysts and news media, the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates for the first time in seven years. Committee members voted to raise the target federal funds rate to a range of 0.25 to 0.50 percent from a range of 0.00 to 0.25 percent to be effective December 17. The good news about the Fed’s decision is that the Central Bank had enough confidence in improving economic conditions to warrant its decision. But how will the Fed’s decision affect mortgage rates?

December’s FOMC statement cited improving job markets, increased consumer spending and declining unemployment as conditions supporting the Committee’s decision to raise the target federal funds rate. While inflation has not yet reached the Fed’s goal of two percent, FOMC members were confident that the economy would continue to expand at a moderate pace in spite of future rate increases. The FOMC said that the Central Bank’s monetary policy remained “accommodative.”

Little Impact Expected on Mortgage Rates after Fed Decision

The Fed’s decision to raise short-term rates likely won’t affect mortgage rates in a big way. The Washington Post quoted Doug Douglas, chief economist at Fannie Mae: “This one change, will in the larger scheme of things, will be unlikely to make a dramatic impact on what consumers will feel.”

Mortgage rates, which are connected to 10-year Treasury bonds, may not rise and could potentially fall. While the interest rate increase could increase yields on these bonds, analysts say that multiple factors impact 10-year Treasury bonds, so a rate increase is not set in stone for mortgage rates.

Rising Mortgage Rates Would Impact Affordability and Cost of Buying Homes

Higher mortgage rates could sideline some first-time and moderate income home buyers and would also increase the long-term cost of buying a home. Interest rates on vehicle loans and credit cards are more closely tied to the Fed rate and may rise according to current and future Fed rate hikes. Rising consumer interest rates indirectly impact housing markets as prospective home buyers face higher debt-to-income ratios caused by higher interest rates on car loans and credit card balances.

During a press conference following the Fed’s announcement, Fed Chair Janet Yellen emphasized that future rate increases would be “gradual.” Chair Yellen said that the Fed’s decision reflects the agency’s confidence in an economy that is on a path of “sustainable improvement.” When questioned about inflation rates, Chair Yellen said that the Fed will closely monitor both expected and actual changes in the inflation rate.

Buying or Selling a Home This Winter? Keep These Tax Tips in Mind!

Buying or Selling a Home This Winter? Keep These Tax Tips in Mind!With all of the expense that can go into buying and selling a home, it’s good to be aware of what you can claim and how a home can benefit you come tax time. When the New Year rolls around and you’re sitting down to the task of completing your taxes, here are a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind.

Gaining from Capital Gains

In the event that you’ve made money off the sale of your home through a capital gain, it’s possible that you may be able to exclude this amount from your tax filing. If you’ve lived in the home you just sold for at least two of the five years before the sale date, not having to report this amount on your taxes may come as a financial win.

Reporting Your Gain

If you have not lived in your home for two of the five years, you will have to report the sale of your home and the capital gain when you file your taxes. This is necessary whether or not you decide to claim the amount. If this happens to be the case for you, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on ‘Net Investment Income Tax’ before filing your return so you can ensure your claim’s accuracy.

A Two-Year Claim For Capital Gain

While there is definitely a great financial benefit in not having to report your gain in all situations, it’s important to be aware that you can only exclude any gain you’ve received from a home sale every 2 years. So, if it happens to be the case that you’ve moved more than once in the last few years, you will have to report any amount that you’ve made from these home sales.

Selling Your Home At A Loss

The boon of a capital gain is certainly ideal if you’ve made some money on your home, but if you’ve sold your home for less than you paid, you won’t be able to claim this. While the end result may be a bit disheartening, this amount cannot be deducted off of your tax return.

Beyond the benefits of buying or selling your home, there are ways that your tax filing can be more pleasant next year if you know some of these tips. If you have any further mortgage related financial questions, you may want to contact your trusted mortgage professional for more information.

Refinancing This Winter? Follow These 5 Expert Tips to Get the Most from Your Mortgage

Refinancing This Winter? Follow These 5 Expert Tips to Get the Most from Your MortgageRefinancing a mortgage is a great way to take advantage of historically low interest rates or change your payment terms to be more affordable. And with interest rates at historical lows, there’s never been a better time to refinance your mortgage. If you’re planning to refinance your mortgage this winter, though, you’ll want to make sure you get the best possible deal.

How can you make sure that your mortgage works for you, and not the other way around? Here’s what you need to know.

Know What Your Break-Even Point Is

Your break-even point is the point at which the extra amount you paid out of pocket for the refinance and the amount you saved in a reduced interest rate is equal. In other words, it’s the point at which a refinance actually starts saving you money – and it’s important that you know when that point is. If you pay $5,000 in refinancing fees and your refinance reduces your monthly interest payment by $200, for instance, you’ll break even after two years and one month.

Opt For a Shorter Loan Term, If Possible

Refinancing gives you the ability to turn a long mortgage into a short one. And although a shorter mortgage comes with higher payments, more of your monthly payment is applied to your principal. With a 30-year mortgage, for instance, you’ll be paying mostly interest for the first 16 years – but with a 15-year mortgage, your payments will go mostly toward the loan principal after just five years.

Try To Avoid Prepayment Penalties

A prepayment penalty is an amount of money you pay in order to pay off your mortgage early. If you experience a sudden windfall and can pay off your home in one lump sum, or if you choose to sell your home, you might incur a prepayment penalty. Not all mortgages have these penalties – so talk with your mortgage professional and let them know you are looking for a morgage without a prepayment penalty.

Lock In Your Rate

Mortgage rates are at historical lows right now. One of the biggest reasons why people refinance their homes is to get lower interest rates – which is why, if you’re refinancing your home, you’ll want to choose a fixed rate mortgage. It’ll keep your interest payments low and manageable, so you don’t pay more than you have to.

Know Your Home’s Current Fair Market Value

Housing prices rise and fall over time, which can impact your loan rate when you refinance. Higher-value homes generally get better rates, so make sure you know your home’s fair market value.

Refinancing often means better mortgage terms, so make sure you take full advantage of this opportunity. Call your trusted mortgage professional to learn more.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 14, 2015

Closing Paperwork: How to Read and Understand the Truth-in-Lending Disclosure StatementLast week’s scheduled economic releases included reports on job openings, retail sales and consumer confidence in addition to usual weekly releases on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. The details:

According to the U.S. Labor Department, job openings were down 2.70 percent in October to a reading of 5.38 million as compared to September’s reading of 5.50 million job openings and the all-time high reading of 5.67 million job openings in July. October’s reading was the third highest since the recession ended in 2009.

Analysts said that a gap between job skills sought by employers and job skills applicants bring to the table continues to affect hiring, but fewer job openings may indicate that this gap is closing. Prospective home buyers view healthy job markets as a confidence booster in their decisions to buy a home. The Fed also monitors job openings as part of its decision making on U.S. monetary policy. All eyes will be on the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting set for next week, as members are expected to raise the federal funds rate. If the Fed raises rates, mortgage rates will also rise.

Retail sales rose in November to 0.20 percent from October’s reading of 0.10 percent growth. Retail sales excluding the automotive sector rose by 0.40 percent against expectations of an 0.20 percent increase and October’s reading of 0.10 percent. This information is consistent with typical increases in sales during the holiday shopping season.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported that mortgage rates rose across the board last week; the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose two basis points to 3.95 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.19 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose four basis points to 3.03 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60, 0.50 and 0.50 percent respectively. 

New jobless claims rose to 282,000, which exceeded expectations of 270,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 269,000 new jobless claims filed. Last week’s reading was the highest since the week of July 4, but also represented the 40th week that new jobless claims were below a benchmark of 300,000 new claims.

Employment figures typically show volatility during the holiday season. Analysts researching trends in jobless claims generally prefer the four-week rolling average of new jobless claims as it evens out volatility shown week-to-week. The four-week reading for new jobless claims increased by 1500 new claims to 270,750 new claims filed.

What’s Ahead

Analysts’ eyes and ears will closely monitor the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee statement set for next week. Fed policy makers are expected to raise the federal funds rate. If the Fed raises rates, mortgage rates will also rise. Fed Chair Janet Yellen has scheduled a press conference to be given after the FOMC statement. Other scheduled economic reports include Housing Starts, the Wells Fargo/NAHB Housing Market Index and the Consumer Price Index, which tracks inflation.



Moving to a New Home? Use These Websites and Apps to Research Potential Neighborhoods

Moving to a New Home? Use These Websites and Apps to Research Potential NeighborhoodsRelocating to a new city? Thinking about moving to a new neighborhood? While word of mouth from friends and family is valuable, sometimes it’s necessary to get a different perspective.

With the advancement of technology, it’s now possible to research new neighborhoods without getting up off the couch. Here are some websites and apps that have proven invaluable with researching new areas:

Use The Forums On City-Data For Exact Answers

While is a valuable resource for people who are looking into relocating to a different city, one of the best uses of the site is the active forums. Here, locals will answer questions about different cities to help narrow down the selection.

Track Specific Neighborhoods With Street Advisor

Once the city is narrowed down, a quick visit to will give a better overview of the different areas. The website is designed to provide visitors the opportunity to review entire communities instead of single businesses. All neighborhoods in a city are ranked based on how well the users have rated them.

Take A Look At The Numbers At Neighborhood Scout

Now that reviews have been read and questions have been answered, people can take a trip to to get a look at the numbers that define communities. Some details require a subscription, but anybody interested in the crime rate, sex offender registry or appreciation rate of property should join the site.

Get A Unique Perspective With Ratings Apps

There are plenty of apps for phones and tablets that are used to rate restaurants and businesses. Popular choices like Yelp and Foursquare can give a different perspective of what locals think about the businesses in their neighborhoods. Do the local diners get high marks or are people driving across the city for brunch? How are the parks in the area received? These questions can be answered with these apps.

While you can do a lot of preliminary research on your own, sometimes the best person to contact about new neighborhoods is a real estate professional. They will be able to tell you which areas are heating up and which areas should be avoided and help narrow down choices if you’re undecided. Contact one who operates out of the neighborhood you’re thinking about buying in so that you can work with a local who has experience in the area.

Yes, It’s True: Mortgage Closing Costs Are Down. Here’s How You Can Take Advantage

Yes, It's True: Mortgage Closing Costs Are Down. Here's How You Can Take AdvantageMortgage closing costs have been coming down in recent years, which is good news for buyers. But if you’re buying a home in the near future, you’ll want to ensure you’re prepared to take full advantage of these lower fees – after all, keeping more money in your pocket is always good. When you close on your mortgage, take these three steps and you’ll find that you’ll pay far less in closing fees than most buyers would.

Ask The Seller To Pay Some Of The Closing Costs

In most situations, the buyer is responsible for paying all closing costs – that’s the industry standard agreement. But just because that’s what generally happens most of the time, that doesn’t mean you need to pay all the closing costs on your new home.

Negotiate with the sellers to see if they’d be willing to cover some of the closing costs. If you want to make a deal like this, though, you’ll want to add an extra incentive for the sellers to agree to it. Tell the sellers that they can choose any closing date they wish, or offer to accept the home “as-is” rather than requesting repairs.

Use The Money You Save For An Extra Annual Payment

With lower closing costs come savings that you can either pocket or spend. One great way to leverage lower closing costs is to use the amount of money you saved with reduced closing fees as an extra mortgage payment.

Most lenders will allow you to make one extra lump sum payment per year, without penalty – and by making this extra payment every year, you’ll save on interest payments. So use the money you saved in closing costs as part of an extra payment to reduce your debt load.

Reducing your closing costs and taking advantage of the lower fees is easy if you know what you’re doing. A mortgage advisor can help you to understand what closing fees are negoitable and how you can budget for success. Call your trusted mortgage professional today to learn more.

Real Estate Investing: 3 Secrets of Successful Home Buyers That You Can Use Today

Real Estate Investing: 3 Secrets of Successful Home Buyers That You Can Use TodayWhile making a real estate purchase can be a matter rife with many questions, buying to invest in a long-term property can be even more confusing. If you’re looking into investing in real estate and wondering what variables to consider, here are a few tips that you’ll want to keep in mind before deciding on a fruitful investment property.

Be Aware Of The Market You’re Buying Into

Since you’ll need to be aware of what other people are looking for in a property if you’re diving into real estate to invest, you’ll want to carefully consider the neighborhood and city that you’re buying in and think about what the future holds. While becoming knowledgeable about home prices in the area you’re thinking of buying is a must, you’ll also want to think about market projections, trendy new neighborhoods and what the appeal will be to renters or buyers of the home you’re contemplating.

Consider A Diamond In The Rough

It might seem like a home that is a little rough around the edges is going to be a high-maintenance endeavor that doesn’t balance out in the end, but a fixer upper of a place may be end up being the best option. While you may need to renovate a little here and there to unearth some of its natural features, improvements to a home with a good structure in a good neighborhood can be more economical than spending more on a home that instantly appeals. It can also provide a better return on your investment in the long-term.

Stay Within Your Spending Means

When considering an investment property, it can be quite easy to get derailed and think about what you’ll be making instead of the expenditure of the initial investment. However, it’s important to determine beforehand that what you’re choosing to afford is going to be manageable in case you have to swing it on your own. By determining whether or not it’s an affordable expense, you can have a successful investment that will balance out in your favor at the end of the day without having to worry about sinking beneath the cost.

There are many questions that can come along with choosing to invest in real estate, but by carefully considering the market and keeping your purchase at a reasonable price point, you may have a long-term moneymaker on your hands.

Recent College Grad? Learn How to Successfully Juggle Student Loans and a New Mortgage

Recent College Grad? Learn How to Successfully Juggle Student Loans and a New MortgageIf you recently graduated from college and are about to become a homeowner, you’re in a somewhat unique position. You’re about to embark on a great journey, but at the same time, you’re also taking on an awful lot of debt. That said, it is possible to successfully manage a high debt load if you’re careful.

So how can you make sure you can pay your mortgage, your student loans, and your mortgage expenses – all without losing your mind? Here’s what you need to know.

Make Sure You Have An Emergency Fund

Managing a high debt load isn’t necessarily a challenge if you have a consistent income stream. But if interest rates rise on your floating mortgage, if your portfolio doesn’t do as well as expected, or if you lose your job, you may find yourself unable to pay your expenses without dipping into your savings. That’s why you’ll want to establish an emergency fund – a spare supply of cash you can live on for 6 months or longer, if necessary.

Extra Cash At The End Of The Month? Attack High-Interest Debt

Mortgage rates are at a historical low right now, which makes now a great time to become a homeowner – but if you’re going to carry a mortgage and student loans, you’ll need to be smart about how you repay your debts. High interest rates can quickly add up and eventually crush you, which is why your debt with the highest interest rate should be your primary priority. This is most likely your student loan – so if you have some extra money left over at the end of every month, put it toward your student loan first.

Never Roll Student Loans Into A Mortgage

Some young people seem to think that getting a mortgage is the answer to student debt. By rolling your student loans into a mortgage, you can worry about just one monthly payment instead of two. The problem with this thinking, though, is that your student loan is probably the size of the principal on a mortgage – and you’ll have to stretch your loan term out farther in order to afford the monthly payments.

This means that you’ll pay more money in interest over the long term. Your mortgage loan is also a loan with more severe consequences for missing a payment. If you miss a mortgage payment, you can get evicted from your home – but if you miss a student loan payment, they’ll just take your tax return.

Paying off a student loan and a mortgage at the same time is a daunting task, but it is possible. Talk to a mortgage professional near you for more repayment strategies that work.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 07, 2015

Closing Paperwork: How to Read and Understand the Truth-in-Lending Disclosure Statement

Multiple economic reports released last week indicate further improvement in economic conditions. Pending home sales, construction spending and ADP payrolls increased while Non-farm Payrolls fell and the national unemployment rate held steady. The details:

Pending Home Sales, Construction Spending Increase

According to the Commerce Department, pending home sales increased by 0.20 percent in October as compared to September’s reading of -2.30 percent. Construction spending of 1.00 percent for October exceeded September’s reading of 0.60 percent growth and expectations that October’s reading would hold steady with a growth rate of 0.60 percent. Increased construction spending suggests that home builders may increase home building projects, which could relax tight inventories of available homes and ease demand for homes.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Average mortgage rates fell last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages fell by two basis points to 3.93 percent; average rates for 15-year fixed rate and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages also fell by two basis points with readings of 3.16 percent and 2.99 percent respectively. Average discount points were 0.60 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages. Average discount points for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage held steady at 0.50 percent.

New jobless claims rose last week with 269,000 new claims filed as compared to the prior week’s reading of 260,000 new claims and analysts’ expectations of 265,000 new claims. The level of new jobless claims neared levels not seen since 2000. The four week rolling average of new claims dropped by 1750 claims to a reading of 269,250 new claims filed. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims is considered less volatile than weekly readings which can be impacted by holidays and other anomalies that can cause volatility.

Labor Reports Show Growth, Unemployment Rate Unchanged 

Hiring increases and lower layoffs have contributed to the lowest national unemployment rate since 2007. The national unemployment rate held steady at 5.00 percent. ADP reported 217,600 new jobs in November as compared to October’s reading of 196,000 new private sector jobs. Non-Farm Payrolls reported lower job growth of 211,000 jobs as compared to expectations of 200,000 jobs added and October’s reading of 298,000 jobs added. Non-Farm Payrolls covers government and private-sector jobs.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include reports on job openings, retail sales and consumer sentiment. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

Video: Are There Special Mortgages For First-Time Homebuyers?

Yes. Like the video shows, lenders now offer several affordable mortgage options which can help first-time homebuyers overcome obstacles that made purchasing a home difficult in the past.

Lenders may now be able to help borrowers who don’t have a lot of money saved for the down payment and closing costs, have no or a poor credit history, have quite a bit of long-term debt, or who have experienced income irregularities.