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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.

October 16, 2014

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Four Ways You Can Enhance Your Home’s Value Before You List It for Sale

Four Ways You Can Enhance Your Home's Value Before You List It for SaleWhether you’ve decided it’s time for an upgrade or you’re moving on to a new city, if you’re selling your home you may be wondering how you can boost its value before listing it up for sale.

In today’s blog post we’ll share four ways that you can spend a bit of time and money upgrading your home before it hits the local real estate market.

Spruce Up Your Landscaping

You’ll want your home to make a great first impression, and as such a great place to start is by sprucing up your lawn, gardens and other landscape features. Your grass should be a healthy green, free of weeds and freshly trimmed.

If you can, look to add seasonal flowers in your front gardens as this can add a bit of color to your home. Keep any shrubs or trees trimmed away from the home so that buyers can get a good look.

Apply A Fresh Coat Of Paint

Another excellent way to increase your home’s “curb appeal” is by applying a fresh coat of paint to the house, the trim around the windows and the front door.

Of course, painting a house is a big job so this might be one that is best left to a team of professionals. For added effect, replace the fixtures on the front door and pick up new house numbers.

Upgrade Your Kitchen Appliances

Many buyers will focus intently on your kitchen and the condition of everything from your flooring to your cupboards. If you have an older refrigerator or stove you’ll want to replace those with newer stainless-steel models.

You’ll also want to ensure that you have quality countertops – if you’re replacing them, consider going with granite as it’s popular with younger buyers.

Install A New Set Of Bathroom Fixtures

Finally, if you haven’t renovated your bathroom recently you’ll want to invest in modernizing your faucets, mirrors and other fixtures. The decor of your bathroom should match that in the rest of your home, but also stand out in its own unique way.

If you have an old bathtub with stained porcelain, consider replacing it with a glass-enclosed waterfall shower. Don’t forget about your light fixtures; if you find the bathroom is a bit dark, replace these with something that adds brightness.

For more information about the home staging and selling process, contact a local real estate professional today. Real estate agents are your best source for expert advice when selling a home, so don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call if you have questions.

October 15, 2014

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You’re Not Just Selling a House: How to Promote the Local Community and Lifestyle to Potential Buyers

You're Not Just Selling a House: How to Promote the Local Community and Lifestyle to Potential BuyersHave you listed your home up for sale? If so, you’ve likely spent a lot of time crafting your listing and highlighting the many features of your home and property – but have you focused on the community around your home as well?

Let’s take a look at a few ways that you can promote the qualities of your local neighborhood as you’re working to convince a buyer that purchasing your home is a great decision.

Give Your Buyers The A Tour Of The Neighborhood

After your listing goes live it won’t be long before potential buyers and their agents are calling to set up viewings so they can see what your home looks like in person.

When a buyer tours your home, offer to spend a few minutes giving them a quick tour of the local community as well. Have a quick route determined beforehand which takes you past schools, medical facilities and other amenities that will help to reinforce that your area is a great one to live in.

Highlight Local Community Centers And Parks

Do you have a community center, fitness center or large park nearby? If so you’ll definitely want to ensure that your buyer knows about these – especially if you’re selling your home to a family with children.

Modern buyers are very appreciative of green space and local cultural amenities as in many areas they’re becoming a bit harder to find. Point out just how close those local running trails are or how the recreation center is just a short jog away.

Have A List Of Local Restaurants And Shops Handy

Whether you live in the suburbs or the downtown core of your city, it’s likely that you have a number of restaurants, cafés and shops nearby. Consider making a quick list of these, highlighting any favorites or popular spots that are well-known to everyone who lives in the area.

Virtually everyone likes to dine out on occasion, and many buyers will prefer to live in a community that has what they need within a short drive.

If you’re unsure of what community features you should be telling potential buyers about, be sure to ask your real estate agent as they have been through the selling process numerous times before and will know how to market the community around your home.

October 14, 2014

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

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week October 14 2014Economic news was lean last week as the first week of the month tends to be calm in the aftermath of the rush of end-of-month reporting.

Of note was CoreLogic’s report on housing markets, the release of the minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting and lower mortgage rates reported by Freddie Mac.

CoreLogic Reports Lowest Home Price Gains in Almost Two Years

August home prices hit their slowest growth rate in nearly two years according to CoreLogic data released last Tuesday. Annual home prices grew by 6.40 percent in August as compared to July’s reading of 6.80 percent. Year-over-year home price growth reached a rate of 11.40 percent in August.

Analysts have recently said that a slow-down in home price growth may increase slowing demand for homes as inventories of available homes have increased in recent months. Low inventories of available homes and high demand contributed to rapid growth of home prices in 2013.

The slower pace of home price gains is expected to continue next year; analysts predicted an annual growth rate of 5.20 percent in August 2015. Home prices remain about 12 percent below peak levels reached in 2006.

Federal Reserve Policy Makers Watch U.S. Dollar, European Markets

Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting held in September were released Wednesday. Of note were member concerns that changing the committee’s language for its oft-repeated assertion that target rates for federal funds would remain between 0.00 percent and 0.250 percent for a considerable time” after asset purchases under the QE program ended could be viewed as a fundamental policy change.

The FOMC also registered concerns over the impact of a stronger U.S. dollar on the economy and said that persistent weakening of the European economy could cause the dollar to strengthen too much. This would cause exports to decrease and could also slow inflation.

The Fed decided not change language in its forward guidance in order to avoid unintended reactions in the financial markets.

Mortgage Rates and Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey reported that average mortgage rates fell last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by seven basis points to 4.12 percent with discount points higher at 0.50 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by six basis points to 3.30 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage was lower by one basis point to 3.05 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

Weekly jobless claims were lower at 287,000 new claims filed against predictions of 294,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 288,000 new claims filed. This supports recent indications of stronger job markets; coupled with lower home prices, this could prompt more would-be homebuyers to buy homes.

What’s Ahead

Markets are closed for Monday’s Columbus Day holiday and no economic reports are scheduled for Tuesday. The Fed releases its Beige Book report Wednesday and the NAHB Home Builder’s Market index for October is due Thursday along with Freddie Mac’s PMMS report and weekly jobless claims.

Housing Starts and the Consumer Sentiment Index are scheduled for next Friday.

October 10, 2014

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Closing Costs: Understanding What It Costs to Close on a Home and What You Can Expect to Pay

Closing Costs: Understanding What It Costs to Close on a Home and What You Can Expect to PayIf you’re in the process of buying a new home, you’ve likely heard the term “closing costs” in regards to the many different fees and taxes that you’ll be required to pay during the purchase process.

In this post we’ll look at a number of these closing costs and what you will be expected to pay when you buy that next dream home.

Taking out a Mortgage? There Will Be Fees Attached

If you’re taking out a mortgage to finance the cost of buying your home you’ll end up incurring a variety of fees. Nearly all lenders will charge a mortgage application fee, which covers the cost of processing your application and all of the necessary paperwork.

You’ll likely have to pay for a professional appraisal of the home as well, as the lender will want to ensure that they aren’t lending you more than the house and property are actually worth.

Inspection And Insurance Costs Will Add Up

If you’re buying a pre-owned home you’ll need to pay for a home inspection to gain an understanding of the home’s condition and if you’ll need to make any repairs in the near future. You’ll also need to purchase homeowner’s insurance on the property to protect yourself in the event that something does go wrong with the home.

If you put less than 20 percent down on the cost of the home, your mortgage lender may also require that you purchase private mortgage insurance; this will vary depending on which state or province you are buying in.

Don’t Forget About Escrow Fees and Taxes

As with any major financial transaction you’ll need to satisfy the tax man by paying various taxes on your purchase. These will vary depending on where you are buying your home, but might include sales taxes, property taxes, transfer taxes, recording fees, title transfer fees and more.

If you used a third-party escrow service to manage these fees or to hold your deposit during the closing process you’ll also need to pay escrow fees prior to signing the final paperwork.

If you have other questions about the closing process and fees or costs that you’ll need to pay when you purchase a home, contact your local real estate agent. They’ve assisted many individuals just like you with their home purchase and will be able to provide expert advice.

October 9, 2014

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Are Open Houses Still Important in Selling a Home? Three Reasons You May Want to Save Your Time

Are Open Houses Still Important in Selling a Home? Three Reasons You May Want to Save Your TimeWhether you’re in the early stages of the home selling process or your home has been on the market for some time, you may be considering hosting an open houses or two in order to welcome potential buyers in to see your property.

Let’s take a look at three reasons you may want to pass on the idea of open houses in order to invest your time in other areas which may lead to a faster sale.

Most Buyers Start Their House Hunt Online

According to statistics from the National Association of REALTORS®, the majority of home buyers begin their house hunt by browsing through online real estate listings.

If you have had professional photos taken and have a well-designed property listing which highlights the features and amenities in your home, you may find that the time and money you would spend hosting open houses is better spent marketing your listing and conducting private viewings.

There’s Too Many Listings To Tour Them All

Depending on where you live, there is anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of homes on the market at any given time.

The sheer number of houses and condos available makes the prospect of visiting so many open houses seem daunting to many buyers, so many tend to skip this step in favor of booking viewings for homes they’re interested in.

A Virtual Open House Allows Buyers To Tour 24/7

Many real estate websites offer the attach dozens of photos and videos to your listing, essentially offering you the ability to host a virtual “open house” online where prospective buyers can get a feel for your property before deciding if they would like to see more.

If you can provide a buyer with the ability to tour through your home from their mobile phone, there’s little sense in going through the preparation and expense of hosting open houses. Even if you do, you may find that few people decide to show up.

It’s important to note that the best source of advice when selling your home is a professional real estate agent who has experience with homes sales in your area. Contact your local real estate agency before you start the home selling process and they’ll be able to suggest the best approach for marketing your home to interested local buyers.

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