FOMC Minutes: Economy Growing, Housing Lags

FOMC Minutes Economy Growing Housing LagsMinutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting held October 28 and 29 were released Wednesday. The report suggests that the U.S. economy continues to improve, although the annual inflation rate remains near 1.50 percent and short of the committee’s goal of 2.00 percent. Falling crude oil prices were cited as a cause of faltering inflation rates. The minutes indicated that FOMC members expect inflation to remain below the 2.00 percent benchmark for the next year or so.

The minutes did not reveal an exact date for raising the target federal funds rate, which is currently 0.00 to 0.250 percent, but analysts expect a rate change in mid-to-late 2015. One committee member said that the Fed should commit to keeping the target federal funds rate at its present level until inflation reaches the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent.

Job Markets Improve, Mortgage Rates Fall

FOMC members said that labor markets had improved “somewhat further.” The minutes noted that the national unemployment rate had declined to 5.90 percent in September, which was lower than the FOMC goal of 6.50 percent for national unemployment. While this was good news, FOMC discussed the fact that a significant number of part-time workers suggested under-utilization of the labor force. A combination of stronger labor markets and a 0.25 percent reduction of mortgage rates during the intermeeting period between September 17 and October 28 were seen as positive for housing markets, but the committee noted that mortgage lending standards for single-family homes had not changed much. Lending requirements were more accommodative for commercial real estate.

QE Ends, FOMC Seeks to Maintain “Accommodative” Financial Conditions

FOMC members voted to end asset purchases made under the Fed’s quantitative easing program, but said that ongoing reinvestment of principal payments on bonds and MBS with the goal of maintaining “sizeable” holdings of long-term securities. The minutes indicated that this would help maintain “accommodative” financial conditions.

The committee agreed to re-assert its position that although national unemployment and inflation may achieve or surpass FOMC goals, the committee could maintain the target federal funds rate at current levels for “some time” after the benchmarks are achieved. Ultimately, the FOMC’s decision to change the target federal funds rate will include thorough and ongoing review of global and domestic economic developments.

Committee members concluded this meeting with a decision to set the next FOMC meeting for December 16 and 17.

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Three Key Tips to Help Ensure Your Mortgage Pre-Approval Isn’t Declined

Three Key Tips to Help Ensure Your Mortgage Pre-Approval Isn't DeclinedIf you’re thinking about buying a new home and using a mortgage to help cover some of the purchase costs, it’s a good idea to get an initial pre-approval from your lender before putting in an offer.

In today’s blog post we’ll share three quick tips that can help to ensure that your mortgage pre-approval isn’t declined.

Demonstrate Your Income and Good Credit

A mortgage is a major financial transaction and one that carries a certain amount of risk for the lender. It’s your goal to help them see that you have the ability to make your monthly payments and that there is very little risk in approving your mortgage. Be ready to demonstrate all of your sources of income and that your credit rating is clean.

It may be worth paying for your credit report before starting the pre-approval process so you can clean up any black marks or false reports and so that you can see what the lender will see when they check your credit history.

Choose the Right Property at the Right Price

As the home you’re buying will be used as collateral to back the mortgage, the lender will need to see that there is enough value in the home to cover the cost of the mortgage should you fail to pay it back. The “loan to value” or LTV ratio is the amount of your mortgage divided by the value of the home. For example, if you’re borrowing $150,000 to buy a home valued at $200,000, you’ll have a LTV ratio of 75 percent. Keep in mind that each lender will have their own target LTV that they prefer to work with, so you may need to shop around a bit.

Start the Process with Multiple Lenders

Finally, if you feel that your income or credit history isn’t perfect you may want to consider visiting a couple of different mortgage lenders to see what they can offer you. There are dozens of different mortgage products on the market today, and each lender has their own set of qualification criteria that they will use to assess risk and whether they feel that you can afford to pay the mortgage back. Getting a second opinion may help you to discover a more suitable mortgage or one with a better interest rate.

As you can see, there are a number of ways that you can work to ensure that your mortgage pre-approval passes without a hitch. For more information about pre-approvals and to get the process started, contact a local mortgage professional today. After you’re approved it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be moving in to your new home.

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The Down Payment: Everything You Need to Know About Your Down Payment on a New Home

The Down Payment: Everything You Need to Know About Your Down Payment on a New HomeWhether you’re just starting to shop for a new home or you’ve found the perfect house and are crafting your offer, if you’re taking out a mortgage to help cover your real estate purchase you’ve likely given some thought to your down payment.

In today’s blog post we’ll explore the topic of down payments and share how the amount you put down on your home will affect your mortgage.

How Your Down Payment Affects Your Mortgage

As you know, your mortgage is essentially a large long-term loan that is paid back with interest over a set time period. If you put a large down payment against the purchase, you will not only reduce the amount that you’ll need to pay back, but you’ll also reduce the lender’s risk and this may allow them to provide you with lower interest rates.

Conversely, if you can’t place very much down on your home and you’re left borrowing as much as you can you may find that your mortgage comes with higher interest rates or that some mortgage lenders refuse your business entirely.

The Gold Standard: 20% of the Purchase Price

For the vast majority of homeowners it’s expected that they will be able to contribute at least 20 percent of the home’s purchase price. For example, if you are buying a $200,000 house you’ll need to have at least $40,000 available for your down payment. Note that the 20 percent figure isn’t a hard requirement; some mortgage lenders will be willing to approve you with less, but you may be subject to private mortgage insurance, higher interest rates and more.

Saving Up Your Down Payment

Depending on your financial situation and the cost of your home you may find that saving up 20 percent of the purchase price to put toward a down payment places a strain on your finances. If you still have a year or more before you’re ready to jump into the real estate market, consider putting some money aside each month that can be used for a down payment. If you receive any lump sum payments like a tax return, save this in your down payment fund as well.

As you can see, your down payment is one of the more important considerations you’ll have to make when buying your home with a mortgage. If you have questions about mortgages or down payments, be sure to call your local mortgage professional today as they’ll be able to share their guidance and expertise to help you make the best financial decision.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 17, 2014

Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing Costs Last week’s housing related news was lean, with no scheduled reports released other than Freddie Mac’s primary mortgage market survey.

We’ll start with some good news. The University of Michigan / Thompson-Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index reported its highest reading in more than seven years. November’s reading of 89.4 surpassed the expected reading of 88.0 and was higher than October’s reading of 86.9

Mortgage Rates Near 4.00 Percent, Weekly Jobless Claims Up

Freddie Mac reported a one-basis point drop in the average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgage from 4.02 percent to 4.01 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also fell by one basis point to 3.20 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by 5 basis points to 3.02 percent. Discount points for all three loan types held steady at an average of 0.50 percent.

Weekly jobless claims rose by 12,000 to 290,000 against expectations of 280,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 278,000.

Last week’s report was the ninth straight week that new jobless claims came in under 300,000. The reading for the four-week rolling average was 285,000 new jobless claims, which represented an increase of 6,000 new claims.

What’s Ahead

This week’s number of scheduled economic reports will be more robust. The NAHB Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales reports will be released.

The minutes of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting of the Federal Reserve will also be released along with weekly mortgage rates and jobless claims data.

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Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs This Winter in Just Three Easy Steps

Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs This Winter in Just Three Easy Steps It doesn’t matter if you heat your home with electricity, natural gas or some other energy source; prices continue to rise and that means increased heating costs for most of us.

In today’s blog post we’ll share three easy ways that you can save money on your home energy costs this winter.

Install and Use Programmable Thermostats

Now that Nest and other companies have brought Wi-Fi enabled, programmable thermostats on the market there’s very few excuses to avoid using them. At bare minimum you’ll want a digital thermostat that can be programmed to turn on and off at certain hours of the day.

For example, you can shut your heat off after leaving for work and have it turn back on again a half-hour or so before you get home. You can do the same at night when you’re fast asleep under warm blankets. If possible, try to get a thermostat for each room so that rooms can be heated individually as needed.

Switch Up Your Ceiling Fans

If you have ceiling fans you may not know that by reversing their direction you can keep your rooms feeling much warmer. In the winter you’ll want your fans spinning in a clockwise direction, which will push warm air downward into the room where you’ll be able to feel it. In the summer you’ll want to switch the fans back to counter-clockwise as this will help move warm air towards the ceiling.

Check Your Insulation, Furnace and Ducts Now

Finally, you’ll want to check that your home heating system is operating at peak efficiency. If you can access your attic, check to ensure that your insulation is tightly packed and that it’s still in good condition. Clean or replace the air filter on your furnace, and check your ducts for any leaks that need to be repaired. If it has been a few years, consider having a professional furnace and duct cleaning to get all of the dust and debris out of the ductwork.

As you can see, a little time spent on home maintenance can end up saving quite a bit in energy costs when the temperatures drop. When you’re ready to look at buying a newer, more energy-efficient home, contact your local real estate agent and book a consultation where you can share your needs and price range.

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Refinancing Your Mortgage: Understanding the Various Types of Refinancing

Refinancing Your Mortgage: Understanding the Various Types of RefinancingWhether you’ve been thinking about ways that you can draw on your home equity to fund a renovation project or you want to take advantage of low interest rates before they rise again, refinancing your mortgage is an excellent option.

In today’s blog post we’ll introduce mortgage refinancing and discuss a few of the ways that you can use this tool to help accomplish your financial goals.

Cash-In and Cash-Out Refinancing

Many homeowners refinance their mortgage in order to take some of the home equity out for other purposes. In a “cash-out” refinancing, you take out a new mortgage loan which is greater in value than your current loan. After paying off the existing mortgage you’ll receive a check for the difference which can then be reinvested in home upgrades or put to use elsewhere in your financial portfolio. You may also be able to get a better interest rate in this type of refinancing, saving additional money over the long term.

Do you owe more on your mortgage than your home is currently worth but still want to take advantage of lower interest rates? If so, “cash-in” refinancing is an option that can help you to avoid the mortgage insurance costs that you may be facing when you refinance. As the name implies, cash-in refinancing will provide you with a loan that is for less than the amount that you currently owe, so you’ll need to add “cash-in” to make up the difference.

Home Affordable Refinance Program or “HARP” Refinancing

If you find that you’re unable to refinance your mortgage as the value of your home has declined, the federal government’s Home Affordable Refinance or “HARP” Program may be an option. HARP was developed to assist homeowners in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the resulting instability that was caused in the real estate and mortgage markets. If you have been making your mortgage payments on time, have a mortgage guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and your current “Loan to Value” ratio is greater than 80% it’s likely that you’ll qualify for HARP refinancing.

The above are just a few of the ways that you can refinance a mortgage to better suit your needs and financial goals. Contact your local mortgage professional today to learn more about refinancing and to discuss how you can tap in to the home equity that you’ve built up over time.

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How to Use a Mortgage Calculator to Determine Your Monthly Payments, Interest and More

How to Use a Mortgage Calculator to Determine Your Monthly Payments, Interest and MoreAre you thinking about using a mortgage to buy a new home? Buying your own piece of local real estate is a major financial investment and one that can require some pretty complex math to fully understand.

In this blog post we’ll discuss mortgage calculators and how to use one of these tools to determine your monthly mortgage payments, interest charges, amortization periods and more.

Determining Your Principal and Down Payment Amounts

To get started with a mortgage calculator you’ll need to know how the price of the home and how much you intend to contribute as a down payment. Generally speaking you’ll want to place a down payment of at least 20 percent in order to avoid having to pay for private mortgage insurance and to give you access to better interest rates.

Choosing Your Interest Rate and Amortization Period

Now that you have an idea of the amount of mortgage financing you’ll need, the next step is to choose your interest rate and amortization period. Different lenders will offer different interest rates for every one of their mortgage products, so again you’ll want to play around with these numbers and run the calculation to see which combination of mortgage financing, interest rate and amortization period gives you a monthly payment that suits your budget.

Using a Mortgage Calculator for Refinancing

If you’re thinking about refinancing your current mortgage you can also use a mortgage calculator to help make the math a bit easier. Simply use your outstanding mortgage balance as the principal amount and then choose an amortization schedule that fits your financial goals. Be sure to keep an eye on your interest payments, as you may find that by refinancing to a longer amortization period your monthly payments go down but your total interest paid is quite a bit higher.

Don’t Forget the Closing Costs

Finally, don’t forget that there are numerous “closing costs” – fees, taxes and more – which you’ll need to factor in to your overall calculation. Closing costs will include everything from home appraisal fees to government filing fees and property taxes, and will vary depending on the home and the city or community you’re buying in.

While online mortgage calculators can handle the tricky math to determine monthly payments and interest costs you may still find that you have questions about your mortgage or some aspect of the process. For more information, contact your local mortgage professional and they’ll be happy to share their advice and expertise.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 10, 2014

Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing CostsLast week’s economic reports contained mixed reports indicating that the economy continues to recover with occasional “blips” in its progress. Construction spending was lower than expected.

A Federal Reserve survey of senior loan officers indicated that credit standards remain strict for mortgages and other types of lending. According to the survey, a “modest net fraction” of large banks had eased credit standards for prime mortgage lending.

First-Time Homebuyers Struggle as Market Share Hits 27-Year Low

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reported that first-time buyers’ share of home purchases has slipped to 33 percent, which was its lowest level in 27 years. According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, high home prices and mortgage insurance costs along with strict mortgage credit requirements continue to sideline first-time buyers.

In other news, the Department of Commerce reported that construction spending dropped by 0.40 percent in September as compared August’s reading of -0.50 percent and an expected reading of +0.70 percent. September’s reading represented a seasonally-adjusted annual construction spending rate of $950.90 billion.

Mortgage Rates: Average 30-Year Mortgage Rate Tops Four Percent

Average mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 4.02 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by eight basis points to 3.21 percent, while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rose by three basis points from 2.94 percent to 2.97 percent. Average discount points remained at 0.50 percent for all three types of mortgages.

This is not altogether bad news, as higher mortgage rates are typically prompted by improving economic conditions. 2014 started with an average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages of 4.05 percent.

Labor Reports Suggest Stronger Jobs Markets

Last week’s economic news included several reports that indicated improvements in U.S. labor markets. The Department of Labor released its Non-Farm Payrolls report for October with a reading of 214,000 jobs added against expectations of 243,000 jobs added and September’s reading of 256,000 jobs added. While this appears contrary to stronger labor markets, analysts said that a new low in the national unemployment rate of 5.80 percent indicated that fewer new jobs were needed. October was the ninth consecutive month reporting 200,000 or more jobs added.

The ADP employment report, which tracks payrolls in the private sector, reported an increase of 5,000 jobs from September’s reading of 225,000 jobs to October’s reading of 230,000 jobs.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 278,000 against expectations of 285,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 288,000 new claims filed. This reading supports a stronger jobs market and may compel would-be home buyers to enter the market as concerns about unemployment and jobs wanes.

The national unemployment rate reached a new low with October’s reading of 5.80 percent. In related news, Fed Chair Janet Yellen indicated in a speech on Friday that the target Federal funds rate will likely rise in 2015, but she gave neither a prospective date nor details about how much the benchmark federal funds rate may rise.

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Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing Costs

Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing CostsYou’ve found the perfect new house or condo, and you are now preparing an offer that you believe the seller will find tempting enough to accept. However, you know that there are going to be thousands of dollars in closing costs that need to be paid before the sale is completed and you become the home’s new owner.

The question is, should you ask the seller to pay some or all of the closing costs? In today’s blog post we’ll address this question and list a few scenarios in which you may want to consider having the seller pick up the tab.

Ask if You’re Offering the Full Listing Price

If you’re prepared to offer the full asking price for the home you can certainly include the caveat that the seller assist with some or all of the closing costs. Many sellers will price their home slightly higher than they expect to receive as they believe that buyers will submit low initial offers which need to be negotiated.

For example, if a home is listed at $275,000 a seller might actually be expecting $260,000 or $265,000 for it. You can offer $275,000 but ask that they take care of the closing costs.

Ask if You’re Confident the Seller Has Few Other Options

If the home has been on the market for a number of months or if you’re fairly confident that the seller isn’t going to find much luck elsewhere you can ask them to pick up the closing costs as one of your purchase conditions. You’ll obviously want to negotiate in good faith, but if you’re coming from a position of strength you can leverage this in to some additional savings.

Ask if You’re Ready to Close Immediately

Are you ready to sign on the dotted line today? If you’re sure that this is the right home for you, let the seller know that as long as they’re willing to assist with the closing costs and accept your bid that you’ll start the closing process today. Nearly all sellers will be willing to make a small sacrifice to get the deal done.

As you can see, there are a number of situations in which it makes sense to ask the seller to shoulder some of the closing costs. If you have found a home that you wish to purchase and you’d like advice on how to proceed, contact a real estate agent today. An experience real estate professional can help you craft an offer that the seller won’t be able to refuse.

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Did You Know That Your FICO Score Can Drastically Affect Your Mortgage? Here’s Why

Did You Know That Your FICO Score Can Drastically Affect Your Mortgage? Here's WhyAre you about to apply for a mortgage loan in order to buy a home? If so, you may be curious about your credit score and how this might impact your financing.

Let’s take a quick look at how FICO credit scores can affect your mortgage and share a couple of ways that you can boost your score to ensure your application is approved.

What is a FICO Score?

The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) is the country’s leading producer of credit scoring information and is the primary source that most lenders will check to assess how much risk you present. FICO combines information from credit bureaus such as TransUnion, Experian and Equifax and produces a score ranging from 300 to 850.

The higher your FICO score is, the better your credit history and the lower the risk you present to lenders. If you have a score above 750 you can expect that most lenders will offer you a mortgage and likely a very good interest rate. If you have a score below 620 or 630 you may find it challenging to get approved and below 500 it will be almost impossible.

How Does a FICO Score Affect My Mortgage?

Your FICO score will affect you in two main ways. First, as mentioned above your FICO score will help to determine whether or not you are approved for a mortgage. Second, you’ll find that the interest rates offered to you by various lenders will change based on your FICO score. An individual with a score of 800 and very clean credit presents much lower risk than someone with a score of 500, and thus a higher score generally means a lower rate.

How Can I Boost My FICO Score?

If you find that your credit score is a bit low and you’re concerned that it will have a negative effect on your mortgage application there are a few steps you can take. First, get a full copy of your FICO score and credit history so you can see who is reporting to the credit bureaus and what information they are providing. You may find that there are mistakes or old items that have not yet been removed which you can then challenge to have taken off of your credit report.

While your FICO score can certainly impact your mortgage and your interest rate you shouldn’t let a low score hold you back from applying. Contact your local mortgage professional today to discuss your options and to determine whether or not your credit will cause you to have any issues in securing a mortgage to pay for your new home.

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