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April 27, 2016

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Homeowner Association Rules: How They May Affect Your Buying Decision

Homeowner Association Rules: How They May Affect Your Buying DecisionBeyond the mortgage, maintenance and property taxes of a new home, you may not be aware that many newer communities require you to be part of the Homeowner Association (HOA). If you’re wondering about what the HOA entails and how this can impact the home and community you live in, here are some facts that may be important to know before you buy.

What Is A HOA?

If you happen to have a Homeowner Association present in your new community, it’s important to know that this body works to enforce the rules of the neighborhood. Made up of a group of volunteers that live within a given area, different community members will be responsible for different aspects of the community. While there are annual fees for an HOA and they vary from place to place, communities with this type of association often come with a higher price tag on the market.

The Types Of Rules Enforced

The rules that are enforced by a HOA differ depending on the community, but they can range from issues as diverse as the height of fences to the number of pets per residence to the amount owed for fines. While you may have found your ideal home in a great community, it can be worth looking into the rules of your local HOA so that you can determine if they’ll work for you. If there are any red flags, you may want to consider your options or decide if the sacrifice is worth it.

Dealing With The Rules

It’s important to stick to the rules of the community you live in because you can be taken to small claims court if you don’t pay your fees or respond appropriately to complaints. If you’re in a position where you disagree with the rules and would like to pursue another option, you will want to make a written request to the board and wait it out. You may not get a response very quickly due to the voluntary nature of most HOA, but it’s important to be compliant with the regulations until your request is approved.

It’s great news if you’ve found your dream home in a nice new community, but it’s important to be aware of the HOA rules that you’ll have to comply with. If you’re currently on the market for a new home, contact your local real estate professional for more information.

April 26, 2016

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5 Fun Ways to Spring Clean with the Kids

5 Fun Ways to Spring Clean with the Kids Spring-cleaning might seem like a necessity if you’ve accrued a lot of stuff through the fall and winter seasons, but it can be hard to determine how to get your kids involved. If you’re looking for tips on how to get this task done and engage your children at the same time, here are a few fun ways.

Play Some Tunes

It goes without saying that almost everything is more fun with music, and kids will readily agree with this! Instead of silence, pique your children’s interest with their favorite album and encourage them to take the duster or mop along with them.

Offer Up A Reward

It’s important that your children understand that helping out around the house is everyone’s job, but offering them a treat can be a good means of getting them involved. Whether it’s a couple of dollars or a trip to the ice cream parlor, a little work for a reward has always been a positive thing.

Give Them A Choice

Most kids don’t like to be told what to do, so providing them with the opportunity for leadership can be a great thing when it comes to the task of spring-cleaning. Not only will they be happy to help you along if they can direct, it will give them confidence in their own capabilities.

Make Room For New Duds

Getting rid of old clothing isn’t always fun, but if it makes way for a new outfit or toy many kids will spring at the chance. Instead of large scale, let your children tackle their own space to clear away stuff they no longer use. It will make them aware of what they need and what they can get along without.

Get Out The Gear

Outside of a damp cloth, most adults don’t have any specific clothes for cleaning the house, but dressing up is always a fun activity for kids! Whether it’s overalls, a cap and some rubber gloves, making cleaning a game of dress up is an easy way to appeal to the imagination of your children.

Spring-cleaning may not always seem like the most fun, but there are a few simple ways you can make it appealing to your kids and liven up an old activity for yourself. If you’re perking up your home in the hopes of a summer sale, you may want to contact trusted local real estate professional for more information.

April 25, 2016

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 25, 2016

What's Ahead In Mortgage News

Last week’s economic releases included Existing Home Sales, Commerce Department Releases on Housing Starts and Building Permits and the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. Mortgage rates and new jobless claims were released according to their weekly schedule.

Home Builder Confidence Holds Firm in April

According to April’s National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, home builder confidence held steady with a reading of 58 for the third consecutive month. Analysts viewed April’s reading as a sign of steady expansion for home building, but builders noted concerns over labor shortages. NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said that builders were “cautiously optimistic” concerning housing market conditions.

The National Association of Realtors® reported a jump in sales of previously owned homes in March. The seasonally-adjusted annual rate of sales rose to 5.33 million and surpassed expectations of 5.30 million sales and February’s reading of 5.07 million sales of pre-owned homes.Mr. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, said that demand is increasing and noted that the national average home price increased more than twice as fast as average wages.

In other housing-related reports, the Commerce department reported slower growth in housing starts, which reached 1.089 million starts in March. Analysts expected 1.170 million starts based on March’s reading of 1.194 housing starts. Building permits were also lower with 1.086 million building permits issued as compared to 1.177 million building permits issued in March.

National Association of Realtors®: Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Exceed Expectations

March sales of previously owned homes reached a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million sales against predictions of 5.30 million sales and February’s reading of 5.07 million sales. While March sales of pre-owned homes coincide with the approaching peak home selling season, high demand for homes and low supplies of homes for sale could slow sales. Inventories of available homes are currently at a 4.5 month supply; a six month supply of available homes indicates a normal reading for available homes.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, Jobless Claims Lowest Since 1973

Freddie Mac reported mixed results for last week’s average mortgage rates. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was one basis point higher at 3.59 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 2.85 percent while the average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages fell by three basis points to 2.81 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Weekly jobless claims dropped to their lowest level since 1973 with a reading of 247,000 new claims filed. Analysts expected a reading of 265,000 new claims filed based on the prior week’s reading of 253,000 new claims filed. Strong labor markets can be an incentive to home buyers to move up to larger homes or transition from renting to owning, but short supplies of available homes and rapidly rising home prices present obstacles. First-time buyers account for approximately 30 percent of home sales; their participation could diminish unless available homes increase and demand for homes eases.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices along with new and pending home sales reports. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released on schedule.

April 22, 2016

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Existing Home Sales Jump, Builder Confidence Holds Steady

Home buyers kicked the spring home shopping season into gear and boosted sales of pre-owned homes in March. Existing home sales rose 5.10 percent in March according to the National Association of Realtors®. 5.33 million pre-owned homes were sold in March against expectations of 5.30 million sales and February’s reading of 5.07 million sales on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

Demand for homes remains strong in spite of rapidly escalating prices in many areas. Short supplies of available homes continue to drive demand and home prices. Sales rose only 1.50 percent year-over-year, but during the first quarter of 2016, existing home sales rose by 4.80 percent as compared to the first quarter of 2015. Sales were 11.11 percent higher in the Northeast, which was a notable improvement over lagging sales in recent months.

There was a 4.50 month supply of available homes in March and the median price of an existing home rose 5.70 percent to $222,700. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun noted that the annual increase in home prices was more than twice the rate of average wage increases. First-time home buyers represented 30 percent of buyers in March; this was the same percentage as February. First-time and moderate income buyers continue to face challenges due to rapidly rising home prices competition for available homes.

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Unchanged in March

According to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for March, home builder confidence remained at 58 for the third consecutive months. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are confident about current market conditions than not.

Builder confidence in current market conditions fell two points to 63 while builder confidence rose 1 point to 62 for market conditions in the next six months. Builder confidence in buyer traffic for new home developments also rose one point to 44. Readings for buyer traffic have not exceeded 50 for approximately 10 years. NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz characterized home builder sentiment as “cautiously optimistic.”

Challenges facing home builders include a short supply of labor; the number of job vacancies reached a post-recession high in February. All four regional builder confidence readings declined in April; the Northeast lost two points for a reading of 44. The Midwest and South each lost one point for readings of 57 and 58 respectively. The Western region posted a loss of two points for a reading of 67.

April 21, 2016

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How to Determine the Right Mortgage for You: The Pros and Cons of Each Type

How to Determine the Right Mortgage for You: The Pros and Cons of Each TypeFinding the right mortgage can be a struggle. There’s a wide array of mortgage products on the market, and you don’t always need to get a mortgage through your bank – and with so many options, it’s hard to know which one is your best bet.

Your ideal mortgage will depend on your own individual financial situation, but when you understand how different kinds of mortgages work, it’s easier to choose the right one. Here’s what you need to know about mortgage types.

Fixed-Rate Mortgages: Home Financing At A Guaranteed Rate

A fixed-rate mortgage is exactly what it sounds like: A mortgage with a fixed interest rate. With a fixed-rate mortgage, your interest rate is locked for the life of the mortgage loan and cannot change.

When interest rates are at historical lows, a fixed-rate mortgage is an ideal financing option. By purchasing a fixed-rate mortgage at a low interest rate, buyers lock in low payments and are protected from sudden rate increases. However, fixed-rate mortgages are more difficult to qualify for when interest rates are high.

Variable-Rate Mortgages: Lower Rates And Larger Loans

A variable-rate mortgage is a mortgage wherein the interest rate fluctuates over time. Typically, the interest rate will stay constant during a set period of time near the start of the mortgage, and then start to vary. These mortgage rates rise and fall in line with the prime lending rate.

The major advantage of a variable-rate mortgage is that its lower initial rates and payments allow buyers to qualify for larger homes. Buyers can also take advantage of falling interest rates without having to refinance. However, variable-rate mortgages can quickly become expensive if interest rates see a sharp rise – and while some mortgages put caps on the maximum annual increase, these caps don’t usually apply to the first rate change.

Interest-Only Jumbo Mortgages: Flexible Terms For Wealthy Buyers

An interest-only jumbo mortgage is a specialty mortgage designed specifically for wealthy buyers purchasing luxury homes. The major advantage of this kind of mortgage is that borrowers can make interest-only payments for the first 10 years of the loan. However, interest-only mortgages are typically only available to well-heeled buyers who can afford a hefty down payment and prove that they have large cash reserves.

Finding the right mortgage can be a challenge. That’s why it helps to consult with a mortgage advisor who understands the terms and rates, and can negotiate a great deal for you. For more information, contact your trusted real estate professional.

April 20, 2016

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5 Easy Ways to Brighten up Your Curb Appeal

5 Easy Ways to Brighten up Your Curb AppealIt can be easy to forget, but the first thing people will see when they come to your home is the outside, so it’s important to have a well-maintained and picturesque property that represents the inside of your home positively. If you’re looking for a few ways to boost your outdoor space, here are a few tips to help with curb appeal.

Plant A Flower Bed

Whether you decide on a tiny plot or a much larger space, a splash of flowers is great for adding a warm, homey atmosphere to your front yard. This can easily be done by going to your local nursery, picking out some easy-to-maintain perennials and watching the blooms begin to appear.

Trim The Hedges

It’s entirely possible that you have a few trees or shrubs in your yard that have gotten a little bit unruly, but a little time with the snippers for some shaping and the look of your yard will be automatically improved! If you have any shrubs or small trees that have seen better days, you may want to remove and replace.

A Fresh Coat Of Paint

It’s quite common to hear how much a layer of paint can improve things but this is especially true when it comes to your front door. While a tired and dull looking door can reflect poorly on the house within, a new coat of paint will add instant shimmer to your exterior.

Keep It Tidy

Whether you have kids who love to play in the yard or you’ve been doing a little lawn maintenance, leaving out toys or shovels and wheelbarrows can really take a lot away from your property’s look. While you may only be planning on keeping these items out for the short term, a quick pick up at the end of each day makes a marked difference.

Make A Stone Pathway

It may not be something you need, but a whimsical walkway with flattened stones can add a nice touch to your property and make it stand out. If you’re feeling ambitious, you may even want to add a bench or a birdbath to make for a unique escape for your family.

There are a lot of simple fixes you can utilize that will instantly boost the look of your home’s exterior. If you’re fixing up the outside of your home in the hopes of putting your property on the market, contact your trusted local real estate professional for more information.

April 19, 2016

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Investor Thoughts: What Home-buyers Can Learn from a Real Estate Investor’s Stand-point

Investor Thoughts: What Home-buyers Can Learn from a Real Estate Investor's Stand-pointThere are plenty of things to consider when purchasing a home, from the size of place that you’re looking for to the amount of home you’re able to afford. While it’s certainly worth knowing what you want going in, here are a few factors that investors often think about when it comes to making or breaking the appeal of a real estate purchase.

Will The Location Last?

‘Location, location, location’ is a popular expression for a reason, and it’s among the first things that any person purchasing a property will consider when they think about long term-investment potential. It can be easy to think that a currently trendy community or beachfront property will always be a great investment, but trendy places go out of style and sea levels can rise. An investor will want a location that’s ideal, but they’ll also consider what the area’s future might hold.

Are You In A Bubble?

If you’ve found the perfect home to live in and are considering an offer, you may not be too worried about it’s selling potential a few years on. However, if you’re buying in a bubble, your price may be inflated, and this can cause problems if you want to make a profit in five years’ time. Real estate is on the up and up all over the world, so a true investor will consider if the market value will continue to rise or if it’s readied for a considerable economic setback.

Will It Survive The Trends?

The market for condos is certainly booming right now with the rising price of real estate, but many people are also choosing to move away from urban centers to buy a little bigger and start a family. Whether it’s an open concept or a sizeable townhouse, it can be tempting to buy the type of home that is hot right now, but these trends may not be so popular in the coming years. Instead of going for flash, consider what will always be in style or can at least be easily renovated.

The most important thing when purchasing a home is buying a place that you can feel good about, but real estate investors know that there are a number of important factors to consider. If you’re currently on the market for a new home and are weighing your options, contact your trusted local real estate professional for more information.

April 18, 2016

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 18, 2016

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 18, 2016

Last week’s scheduled economic releases included reports on retail sales, inflation and the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a limited program for reducing principal on eligible mortgages held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This program is intended to resolve remaining “underwater” mortgages on homes worth less than their current mortgage amounts.

Retail Sales Fall, Inflation Rises

Retail sales fell in March to close out a weaker than expected first quarter 2016. Retail sales fell 0.30 percent in March as compared to expectations of a 0.10 percent increase and February’s flat reading. Analysts said consumers were reluctant to spend in spite of improving job markets and household finances. Retail sales rose by 1.70 percent year-over-year, a reading categorized as “weak” by analysts.

Hiring for lower wages and fewer hours worked was seen as contributing to consumers’ reluctance to spend, especially on big-ticket items including vehicles. Retail sales excluding auto sales were 0.20 percent higher than in February, but did not meet the expected reading of 0.50 percent and incrementally exceeded February’s reading, which was unchanged from January.

Inflation rose by 0.10 percent in March against expectations of 0.20 percent and February’s negative reading of -0.70 percent. Core inflation readings that exclude volatile food and energy sectors mirrored the Consumer Price Index with 0.10 percent growth against an expected reading of 0.20 percent and February’s Core Consumer Price Index reading of 0.30 percent. Lagging inflation is largely attributed to lower fuel prices, but this doesn’t impact the Core CPI reading.

Fed Beige Book: Economy Recovering at Modest to Moderate Rate

According to the Federal Beige Book report for March, business contacts surveyed by the Federal Reserve suggested that increases in wages and oil prices should bump up the economy, but the Fed expects economic expansion to increase at a “modest to moderate” rate for the long term. Employers noted difficulties in hiring for low and high skilled jobs in some areas, and retailers were optimistic about sales for the rest of 2016.

In general, the Fed has adopted a cautious approach to raising its target federal funds rate. Fed Chair Janet Yellen repeatedly cited concerns over global risks for scaling back Fed rate increases from four to two in 2016.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported the lowest mortgage rates for 2016; rates were also their lowest since May 2013. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell one basis point to 3.58 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell two basis points to 2.86 percent. The average rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage also slipped two basis points to 2.84 percent. Discount points were 0.50, 0.40 and 0.50 percent respectively.

In unrelated mortgage news, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a limited program for reducing mortgage balances for eligible mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that exceed home values. Mortgage lenders will notify eligible homeowners by December 31.While limited in scope, this program is expected to prevent foreclosure of eligible properties that cannot be sold or refinanced.

Jobless claims fell to 253,000 new claims last week, which was lower than the expected reading of 270,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 266,000 new claims. Coupled with the Beige Book findings that employers are facing shortages of qualified workers, this low reading appears to further support improving economic conditions.

Whats Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic releases include the National Association’s Home Builders Housing Market Index along with Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits. The National Association of Realtors® will also release its Existing Home Sales Report.

April 15, 2016

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2016 Kitchen Decor Trends to Inspire Your Renovations

2016 Kitchen Decor Trends to Inspire Your RenovationsA kitchen upgrade may seem like the sort of renovation that will cost a pretty penny, but there are a lot of funky things you can do that will add an easy accent and make for a current look. If you’re planning some home improvements in 2016, here are some upcoming trends you may want to try out.

Cue The Contrasting Cabinets

It can be a major undertaking to change the style of your kitchen cabinets, and that’s probably why many people are considering a little switch instead of a major upheaval. By keeping your top cabinets the same and adding a funky new color or material to the bottom half, you can create a striking appearance. Keep in mind that if you don’t want to change out your cabinets entirely, you can go for a bold paint color instead.

Bring Color Into Stainless Steel

From teakettles to mixers, brightly colored kitchen appliances have certainly seen a retro rebirth in recent years, but the stainless steel trend is also experiencing a bit of an upgrade. While the material remains popular, many people are becoming interested in different stainless steel color options like black and sunset bronze which offer a unique look for an old mainstay.

A Multi-Use Island

Space in the kitchen can become an issue when it comes to dinner parties, and that’s why the diverse utility of a kitchen island is maintaining its popularity. Instead of the prominent counter for holding fruit bowls and extra papers, think of a funky, fashionable drink cart or side table that can be used for prepping extra food and will have many other purposes once the party is over.

The Non-Committal Kitchen Shelf

While kitchens have become more of a gathering space for family and friends in recent years, this has led to the popularity of a less-formal kind of kitchen. Instead of a lot of counter space and pots and pans in their place, create a bookshelf or cabinet that mixes the living room and kitchen together, full of dishware, books, utensils and other popular household items. It’s a piece that will easily transform your space.

There are a lot of unique fixes on the horizon for 2016 that will instantly modernize your kitchen and easily improve its look. If you’re currently renovating and are looking to put your home on the market, contact your trusted real estate agent for more information.

April 14, 2016

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5 Documents First-time Home-buyers Need for a Smoother Purchasing Process

5 Documents First-time Home-buyers Need for a Smoother Purchasing ProcessWith all the work that goes into finding the kind of home you’ll want to put an offer on, it can be easy to forget about all the little things that happen after the deal has been made. While the paperwork involved in purchasing may seem like a long way off, here’s a quick review of some of the documents you’ll need when the time comes to seal the deal.

Your Credit Report

It’s important to review your credit before putting an offer in, so ensure that you request your credit report in advance and review it for any errors that may be present. If there are any discrepancies negatively impacting your credit score, you’ll be able to have them corrected before they can cause an issue with your real estate purchase.

Pay Stub Proof

In order to ascertain your ability to pay your monthly mortgage, you will need to provide pay stubs from your current place of employment. You won’t want to give away your originals, but a photocopy of your paychecks usually serves as adequate verification.

Recent Bank Statements

The number of bank statements required to prove your credit history may change depending on the lender you’re dealing with, but you’ll probably need photocopies from the last two to three months. This will be a means of proving your financial health as well as your ability to pay your monthly mortgage.

Tax Return Copies

Your federal tax returns will provide further proof of your employment and financial standing, so the last two years of these – complete with your signature – will need to be submitted. Keep in mind that any schedules you’ve filled out to complete your yearly returns should also be included.

Additional Asset Statements

In addition to recent bank statements, if you have any stocks and bonds, mutual funds, RRSPs or other investments, you should also provide statements of proof for these. While these accounts will only require your most recent statements, they will be beneficial in providing a more comprehensive picture of your finances.

There are many aspects of purchasing a home that can be time consuming, but having the documents you need beforehand can save a lot of stress when crunch time comes. If you’re planning on purchasing a home soon, contact your trusted local real estate professional for more information.

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