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October 31, 2014

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Buying a Home? 4 Steps You Can Take to Ensure You Start out with a Low Monthly Mortgage Payment

Buying a Home? 4 Steps You Can Take to Ensure You Start out with a Low Monthly Mortgage PaymentAre you thinking about buying a new house or condo? If so, you’ve likely given some thought to your mortgage and as to how you can pay as little as possible in order to own your new home.

Below we’ll share four easy steps that you can take to ensure you start out with an affordable monthly mortgage payment.

Make A Large Down Payment On Your Home

The easiest way to reduce your monthly payment is to invest as much as possible in your down payment. The less you have to borrow, the less you’ll be required to pay back.

If you can put a sizeable amount down on your home you’ll find that your monthly payments are going to be very manageable. You’ll also save a lot of money in interest.

Maintain A High Credit Score

When a lender assesses your financial history they’ll take an in-depth look at your credit score in order to determine how much risk you present to them. If you’ve kept a clean credit rating and have a high score, it’s likely that you will qualify for a lower interest rate than someone with a lower credit score – even if you both have the same monthly income.

Buy A Smaller, More Efficient Home

When you’ve made your short list of homes and you’re scheduling your viewings, ask yourself – do you need a home this big, or this expensive? If you can do with a smaller, more efficient home you can reduce the amount of mortgage financing that you require and this will in turn reduce the amount that you need to pay each month.

Consider A Longer Mortgage Term

Finally, if you need to reduce your monthly payment at any cost you can stretch out your mortgage repayment period by a few years. Note that while this can reduce your payment amount it will actually increase the total amount that you end up paying back as you’ll pay more in interest.

While the above are general tips for reducing your mortgage payment, it’s likely that there are other strategies that are unique to your financial situation. Contact your local mortgage professional at your convenience and they’ll be able to share insights that are relevant to your income, your credit and the price range you’re looking to buy into.

October 30, 2014

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Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index And FOMC QE Update

Case Shiller 20 City Home Price Index And FOMC QE UpdateAccording to the S&P Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index, Home prices rose by 0.20 percent in August. Three of the 20 cities tracked saw home prices drop, while Detroit, Michigan posted the highest price growth. The seasonally adjusted growth rate for cities tracked declined by 0.10 percent as compared to a decline of 0.10 percent in July.

Detroit led monthly home price growth with a gain of 0.80 percent. Dallas, Denver, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada posted gains of 9.50 percent as compared to July. Cities posting declines in home price growth included San Francisco at -0.40 percent, Charlotte, North Carolina and San Diego, California at -0.10 percent.

Home prices increased by a seasonally-adjusted year-over-year rate of 5.60 percent in August, which was the lowest reading since November 2012. Year-over-year home prices grew by 6.70 percent in July. August home prices were 16 percent lower than their 2006 peak.

The Case-Shiller National Home Price Index posted a year-over-growth rate of 5.10 percent. This index covers all nine U.S. census regions.

Analysts note that slower growth in home prices will likely attract more buyers, but is a sign of overall decline in demand for homes. August home prices were 16 percent lower than their 2006 peak. As the jobs market continues to improve and if mortgage rates remain low, more buyers are expected to enter the housing market.

FOMC Statement: QE Ends, Labor Market Forecast Brighter

In its customary post-meeting statement, The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve announced that it voted to reduce asset purchases under its current quantitative easing (QE) program to zero. The committee’s decision concluded 37 consecutive monthly purchases of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

FOMC cited “substantial improvement” in the outlook for the labor market since the inception of QE purchases, and also noted “sufficient underlying strength in the broader economy” as the basis for the committee’s decision. The demise of QE was no surprise as FOMC has consistently tapered asset purchases each month along with its advisory that it planned to end asset purchases under the current QE program this year.

The FOMC characterized the pace of economic improvement as “moderate,” but also said that “labor market conditions improved somewhat further with solid job gains and a lower unemployment rate.” Along with the stronger outlook for jobs, the Fed noted that “underutilization of labor resources is gradually diminishing.”

The committee held to its position that it would not increase the target federal funds rate for a “considerable time” after the quantitative easing program ended. Analysts following the Fed estimate that no changes to the federal funds rate will be made until June 2015 or later.

October 28, 2014

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Buying a Vacation Home? A Quick Guide to Renting Out Your Second Home to Generate Income

Buying a Vacation Home? A Quick Guide to Renting Out Your Second Home to Generate IncomeAre you thinking about buying a second home to spend some time in when you’re on vacation? Whether you’re picking up a small house near the beach or you’re looking at a ski-in/ski-out condo at your favorite ski resort, if you’re only going to be in the home for short periods each year you may want to consider renting the property out the rest of the time to generate some additional income.

In this post we’ll share a few tips for getting your property ready to rent to short-term visitors and how to get things started.

Preparing Your Home For Use As A Rental

Before you list your vacation property up for rent you’ll need to get it ready for your first tenants. Spend some time walking through the home to determine what’s missing and what might need to be upgraded.

Do you have a few spare sets of sheets and towels? Are all of the kitchen appliances in top condition? If you’re going to be supplying soap, shampoo and other toiletries, are you fully stocked?

Remember – your goal should be to impress each and every client to ensure they leave a positive review and come back again in the future.

Hiring Housekeeping And Property Management Services

Since you likely don’t live in the area around your vacation home, you’ll want to contract out the cleaning and management to local vendors who specialize in managing vacation properties. It should be relatively easy to find these companies with a quick web search, but be sure to ask for recent references so that you can rest easy knowing your home is in good hands.

Listing Your Rental On Popular Websites

Once your home is prepared and you have your team lined up, it’s time to list your property on websites such as VRBO, HomeAway and AirBnB. Browse through other local listings to see how your competition markets themselves and to get an idea of how much you should be charging on a nightly or weekly basis. Also, remember you’ll need to set up a PayPal account or figure out another way for your clients to pay for their stay.

Don’t forget that your local real estate agent will have some additional strategies on how to turn a second home into one that generates a positive return on your investment. Contact a real estate agent today to discuss investment properties and they’ll be happy to help.

October 27, 2014

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 27, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 31,2014Last week’s economic news included a few developments connected with housing and mortgage industries. While no economic reports were released on Monday, the rest of the week provided good news for existing home sales, home prices and mortgage rates.

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that existing home sales in September exceeded expectations and the prior month’s reading with a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million sales.

Three of four U.S. regions posted higher sales of previously owned homes with only the Midwest region reporting a decline in existing home sales. Analysts said that consistent job growth and improved access to mortgage loans are two keys to improving U.S. housing markets.

FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reported that home prices for properties associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages rose by 0.50 percent in August.

In a separate development, FHFA Director Mel Watt said that the agency is reviewing policies that could lessen lender concerns over requests to repurchase Fannie and Freddie loans due to early defaults or other deficiencies. This was seen as a possible solution to current strict mortgage approval requirements that are limiting access to home loans by first-time and moderate income buyers.

Mortgage Rates Fall, Weekly Jobless Claims Rise

After falling below four percent the prior week, last week’s mortgage rates continued to decrease. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by five basis points to 3.92 percent; 15-year fixed rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.08 percent, a decrease of 10 basis points. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was one basis point below the prior week’s reading at 2.91 percent.

Average discount points were unchanged at 0.50 percent. Lower mortgage rates help with making home loans more affordable, but analysts again noted the importance of improved access to mortgage loans for would-be home buyers.

Weekly jobless claims were higher at 283,000 new claims filed as compared to projections of 285,000 and the prior week’s reading of 266,000 new claims filed. While higher than in recent weeks, new jobless claims have remained below 300,000 for six weeks. The Labor department reported that new claims over the past month fell by 3000 to 281,000 new claims. This reading was the lowest since May 2000. Due to week-to-week volatility, financial analysts and economists view the month-to-month readings as a more consistent data source.

New Home Sales Hit Six-Year High in September

Sales of new homes in September ended the week on an upbeat note and exceeded expectations; they reached a six-year high in spite of downward adjustments to sales figures reported earlier. September’s reading was 467,000 new homes sold on an annual basis as compared to expectations of 455,000 new homes sold and August’s reading of 466,000 new homes sold.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes pending home sales, the Case-Schiller home price index reports, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) post-meeting statement and reports on consumer sentiment and consumer confidence. The Freddie Mac PMMS and Weekly Jobless Claims reports will be released as usual on Thursday.

October 24, 2014

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Good News! Existing Home Sales Up And FHFA Home Prices Rise

Good News! Existing Home Sales FHFA Home Prices RiseAfter months of reports of slowing home price momentum and forecasts of a lagging housing market, we are pleased to report an increased volume of existing home sales as reported by the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported rising prices for homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages. Here are the details.

Pedal to the Metal: Existing Home Sales Achieve Fastest Rate in a Year

September sales of previously owned homes reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million sales against expectations of 5.10 million sales and August’s reading of 5.05 million sales.

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that the national reading for sales of previously owned homes rose by 2.40 percent to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million sales.

Analysts had expected September’s reading for existing home sales to reach 5.10 million based on August’s reading of 5.05 million existing homes sold.

Three of four regions posted month-to-month gains in existing home sales for September; only the Midwest showed a decline. Overall, September’s sales pace for existing homes was 1.70 percent lower year-over-year.

Steady home prices and lower mortgage rates contributed to a higher pace of existing home sales, but obstacles remain. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS® said that September’s reading for existing home sales reflected ongoing economic uncertainty; he said that labor markets will need to strengthen in order to maintain the pace of existing home sales.

Mr. Yun also said that restoration of more “normal” lending standards would allow more first-time and moderate income buyers to qualify for mortgage loans and could potentially increase home sales by 10 percent.

FHFA: Home Prices Rise, Mortgage Credit Standards May Ease

FHFA reported that home prices of properties connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages rose by 0.5 percent in August as compared to a month-to-month revised increase of 0.20 percent in July. August’s reading represents a year-over-year increase of 4.80 percent as compared to July’s year-over-year increase of 4.60 percent.

In related news, FHFA Director Mel Watt hinted at some welcome news during a meeting on October 21 in Las Vegas.

Strict mortgage requirements are frequently cited as a cause of lukewarm home sales, but there is some hope that mortgage credit requirements may return to pre-housing bubble standards. Mr. Watt said that the agency is working on relaxing certain rules affecting how and when mortgage lenders are required to repurchase loans that they’ve sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

These changes are designed to clarify FHFA regulations and to narrow the criteria for when repurchasing loans is required. Lenders have been using strict mortgage approval standards as a protection against Fannie and Freddie requests to repurchase loans categorized as “early defaults.”

October 23, 2014

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Moving to a New City? Tips for Finding a Family-friendly Community to Buy Your New Home In

Moving to a New City? Tips for Finding a Family-friendly Community to Buy Your New Home InIf you’re moving to a new city with children, one of your likely considerations is finding a family-friendly community where you can settle in and call home.

In this post we’ll share a handful of tips that you may find helpful if you’re searching for a family-friendly neighborhood in a new city.

Check Out The Quality Of Local Schools

Schools are one of the cornerstones of a community and high-quality schools are a sign that a community is suitable for your family. When you’ve made your short list of communities that you are considering, take some time to research the local elementary or high schools to see how they stack up against other schools in the surrounding area.

You may also want to connect with the school’s principal or dean to ask about the environment and whether or not it would be suitable for your children.

Look Around For Local Churches And Other Community Groups

Great communities are those which are filled with engaged citizens who are actively working to better the area for everyone. When you drive through a community that you’re considering, look around to see if there are churches and other groups that get local residents together on a regular basis.

You may find that these groups make for an excellent welcoming committee who can introduce you to the area and help to get your family settled.

Parks And Other Gathering Spaces Are A Good Sign

Another excellent way to determine if a community is suitable for raising a family is the number of nearby parks and public gathering spaces. You’ll want to ensure that your children have a nice area to run around and play with your family pet, or that you have a nice park in which to have the occasional picnic lunch to spend some quality time together.

When In Doubt: Ask The Locals

If you’re visiting a community or touring through homes, spend some time talking to the locals to hear their thoughts and opinions on how family-friendly the local area is. If you haven’t yet, you should also connect with a local real estate agent who can share the ups and downs of the community you’re thinking about moving to.

Follow these tips and trust your instincts, and you’ll be able to find a great new community that makes a perfect home for your family.

October 22, 2014

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Three Reasons Why Setting Your Listing Price is the Most Important Aspect of the Home Sales Process

Three Reasons Why Setting Your Listing Price is the Most Important Aspect of the Home Sales ProcessHave you decided to sell your home, perhaps to make an upgrade to a newer, larger house? Whatever your reasons for selling, you’ll have a number of decisions to make as you craft your listing and begin receiving offers from buyers but few are as important as your initial selling price.

Let’s take a look at three reasons why setting your listing price is the most important factor in your home sale.

Reason #1: You Can Scare Off Potential Buyers With A High Price

You’ll receive the majority of your buyer interest in the first few days and weeks after you place your home up for sale, so it’s critical that your price isn’t set so high that it scares a number of buyers off.

While some sellers believe that it’s better to price high and let buyers submit lower offers, this can actually work against you. It’s better to have your home priced fairly from the beginning as you can always refuse offers that you deem are too low.

Reason #2: Your Price Directly Impacts How Long Your Sale Will Take

If you’re interested in seeing your home sell quickly it’s going to be in your best interest to have it priced competitively. Buyers will be shopping around for similar homes in your community and if there are other listings with lower prices on the market you may find it takes you a while to get your home sold.

Also, if you do find a buyer that is interested they’ll likely try to enter into price negotiations with you which can extend the length of the sale by a week or more as you go back and forth to reach an agreement.

Reason #3: A Low Price Means Leaving Money On The Table

While pricing too high can cause issues with your sale, pricing your home too low isn’t going to benefit you either. While you’ll likely find that you receive a high number of offers very quickly, you’ll end up leaving some of your home equity on the table – equity that you could easily have realized as buyers would have been willing to pay the difference.

Remember – the best way to ensure your home is priced competitively is to have it valued by a real estate professional. Contact your local real estate agent when you’re ready to sell your home and they’ll be able to determine the true value of your home.

October 21, 2014

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Juggling Priorities: How to Manage Buying a New Home and Selling Your Old One at the Same Time

Juggling Priorities: How to Manage Buying a New Home and Selling Your Old One at the Same TimeAre you a homeowner who is thinking about selling their current home and making an upgrade to a newer, larger home?

If you’re facing the prospect of having to manage a home purchase and a home sale at the same time you’ll find that there are numerous priorities that are begging for your attention.

In today’s blog post we’ll share a few tips for how to manage a buying and selling transaction simultaneously without being overwhelmed by them.

Start By Getting Your Finances In Order

Before you start the hunt for a new home you’ll want to ensure that your finances are in order and that you’re fully prepared for the many costs that you’ll face.

If you are currently paying off a mortgage on your home, you’ll either need to be approved for a second mortgage to buy your new home or you’ll need to sell your current home first.

You’ll also need to have your down payment lined up for the new home, as well as some money set aside to cover your closing costs. If you plan on selling first and then buying afterwards you may want to have a “transition fund” set aside to cover any rental or other costs if it takes a month or two before you get into a new home.

Selling First Is Typically Far Easier

It’s worth noting that selling your home first and then buying is far easier than buying first and trying to sell. There is a lot of uncertainty in the selling process, especially if you’re in a slower real estate market. Conversely, once you find that perfect new home you can typically get an offer in and close on it quickly if you’re the only bidder.

Begin The Hunt For Your New Home Immediately

Although you may want to wait before you buy your new home, you’ll want to get your house hunt started as soon as you decide to make your move. The more time you give yourself to find a new home, the better the chance you’ll get one in your target community and with the features you’re after.

Leverage Professional Expertise To Help You Manage It All

Trying to manage both selling your current home and buying a new one at the same time will be a significant challenge – one that can be made far easier by working with an experienced real estate agent who knows the ins and outs of the local market. Contact your real estate agent before getting started and they’ll be able to advise you how to best proceed.

October 20, 2014

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 20, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week October 20 2014Last week’s economic highlights included the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index for October. The Commerce Department also released Housing Starts for September. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped below four percent. The Fed released its Beige Book report, and Weekly jobless claims came in lower than expected. Here are the details:

Homebuilder Confidence Slips in Spite of Lower Mortgage Rates

U.S. Homebuilder confidence in housing market conditions slipped by 5 points to October’s reading of 54 as compared to September’s reading; this was also lower than the expected reading of 59. Builders are concerned over strict mortgage credit rules, but the NAHB’s chief economist noted that pent-up demand, lower mortgage rates and improved labor markets are expected to drive builder confidence in the near term. Readings of 50 and above indicate that more builders are confident about market conditions than not.

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.97 percent, a drop of 15 basis points from the prior reading. 15-year fixed rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.18 percent from the prior week’s reading of 3.30 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by 13 basis points to 2.92 percent. Average discount points remained at 0.50 for all mortgage types.

If 30-year fixed rate mortgages can stay below the four percent mark, this could mean additional incentive for fence-sitters to become active home buyers.

Surprise: New Jobless Claims Hit 14-Year Low

Concerns over job markets and employment stability have consistently been of concern to home buyers in the aftermath of the recession. Last week’s jobless claims report brought encouraging news as it came in at 264,000 new jobless claims filed against predictions of 289,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 287,000 new jobless claims filed. This was the lowest number of new jobless claims filed in more than 14 years. Analysts said that lower numbers of weekly jobless claims indicate fewer layoffs, which should help boost prospective home buyers’ confidence in job stability.

Fed: Economy Growing at “Modest to Moderate Pace”

The Federal Reserve released its Beige Book report on Wednesday. This report contains anecdotes from business sources within the 12 Federal Reserve districts. The report said that the economy continues to grow at a modest to moderate pace and noted that potential concerns over the stronger U.S. dollar causing increases in export costs did not concern the Fed’s business sources.

Housing Starts, Consumer Confidence Up

September’s housing starts were above both expectations and August’s reading. 1.02 million starts were reported with the majority being multi-family homes. The expected reading was 1.015 million housing starts; this was based on August’s reading of 956,000 starts. This news is consistent with the drop in builder confidence for sales of new single-family homes.

The University of Michigan/Thompson-Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index for October rose to 86.4 against an expected reading of 83.5 and September’s reading of 84.6. This was the highest consumer sentiment reading in seven years. Analysts rained on the consumer sentiment parade by noting that recent jitters over Wall Street and concerns about Ebola outbreaks could cause the Consumer Sentiment Index to lose ground.

What’s Ahead:

Next week’s scheduled economic reports include the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales report, FHFA’s Home Price Index and New Home Sales. Leading Economic Indicators will also be released.

October 17, 2014

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NAHB Reports: Home Builder Confidence Drops in October

NAHB Reports Home Builder Confidence Drops in October The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported that home builder sentiment lost its momentum in October and posted a seasonally adjusted reading of 54 in its Home Builder Market Index.

This reading was five points lower than expected and also five points lower than September’s reading. October’s reading was the first time in five months that builder confidence has fallen.

To put October’s reading in perspective, things aren’t all that bad. A reading over 50 indicates more builders are confident about housing market conditions than not. Also, October’s lower reading of 54 after the HMI reading reached a nine-year high in September.

Low Mortgage Rates, Pent-up Demand Expected to Drive Housing Markets

David Crowe, Chief Economist for NAHB said that low mortgage rates, improved labor markets and “significant” pent-up demand for homes all point to continued growth for housing markets.

NAHB reported that builders’ views on current market conditions dropped from September’s reading of 63 to 57 in October. The confidence rating for upcoming sales fell from 67 to 64. The gauge of home buyer traffic for new homes fell by six points to a reading of 41.

Analysts said that although stronger jobs markets can help would-be buyers get into the market, concerns over ultra-strict mortgage standards are dampening potential home sales.

Multi-family Housing Starts Outstrips Single Family Home Construction

Starts for all types of housing gained 8.60 percent in the first eight months of 2014, but single family housing construction accounted for only 3.10 percent of housing starts between January and August. September’s housing starts are set for release today (Friday).

New Jobless Claims Fall to Lowest Since 2005

In related news, the Labor Department reported that weekly jobless claims were lower than expected and also lower than for the prior week. The reading for new jobless claims was 264,000 new claims; this was 23,000 fewer new claims than the prior week’s reading of 287,000 new jobless claims filed. A reading of 289,000 new jobless claims had been expected. This was the lowest reading for new jobless claims since April 2005.

Chris Brown
Chris Brown is the premier expert on HARP loans and Government FHA and VA loans. Please visit The Mortgage Chili Blog