S&P Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Slows in 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 30 2015According to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index report for January, home prices grew by 4.50 percent year-over-year as compared to  January 2014′s  year-over-year  price growth rate of 10.50 percent. This was the lowest rate of home price growth since 2012.

Analysts said that although slower growth in home prices could be good news for home buyers, national wage growth is not keeping pace with home price growth. The Labor Department reports that wages are growing at an annual rate of approximately two percent. Other obstacles to home buyers include strict mortgage standards and likely increases in mortgage rates during 2015.

Highest and Lowest Home Price Growth Rates in January

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports that January’s five highest rates of year-over-year home price growth were:

Denver, Colorado – 8.40%
Miami, Florida – 8.30%
Dallas, Texas – 8.10%
San Francisco, California – 7.90%
Portland, Oregon – 7.20%

The five cities with the lowest year-over-year rates of home price growth were:

Chicago, Illinois – 2.50%
Minneapolis, Minnesota – 2.20%
New York, New York – 2.10%
Cleveland, Ohio – 1.60%
Washington, D.C. – 1.30%

No cities included in the 20 city index recorded no or negative growth rates on a year-over-year basis.  David Blitzer, S&P Index Committee Chair, cited growing labor markets, current low mortgage rates, lower fuel prices and low inflation as positive influences on U.S. housing markets.

The Case Shiller 20-City Housing Index report for January was also impacted by severe weather conditions that reduced demand for homes.  The 20-City Index has climbed by 29 percent since reaching March 2012 lows.

Pending Home Sales Rise

In other housing related news, pending home sales indicate that home sales are increasing as the peak spring and summer buying season gets underway. The National Association of Realtors® reported that its pending home sale index reading increased by 3.10 percent to 106.9 in February.

This was the highest reading since June 2013 and was up 12.00 percent over February 2014.  Pending home sales are sales for which a contract has been signed, but the sale has not closed. Pending home sales are considered an indicator of future home sales.

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3 Huge Mortgage Mistakes Made by First-time Home Buyers – and How to Avoid Them

3 Huge Mortgage Mistakes Made by First-time Home Buyers - and How to Avoid Them As a first-time home buyer, you may actively be seeking out information about your upcoming purchase. Buying a home is a huge financial move to make, and it can impact your financial situation and even your lifestyle for many years to come. While it is important to learn more about what to look for in a home, it is also important to learn about mistakes home buyers have made. When you learn more about mortgage mistakes that others have made, you can take steps to prevent making those same mistakes yourself.

Committing To A Large Mortgage Payment

Many first-time home buyers contact a mortgage professional to determine what the largest loan amount and monthly payment they qualify for is. However, just because you qualify for a loan amount and monthly payment from a lending perspective does not mean that it is affordable for your budget. After all, you may have a more expensive lifestyle, childcare expenses and other expenses that are not factored into the lending equation.

Not Reviewing All Home Expenses

When you own a home, you will be required to pay for expenses that are not in place when you rent a home. For example, you will have to pay for lawn care, home maintenance tools and supplies, repair bills, homeowners’ association dues and more. It is important to allow room in your budget for all of the expenses related to home ownership to ensure that your new home is affordable for you.

Failing To Inquire About Closing Costs

Your mortgage representative is required to disclose all loan charges and fees to you early on in the loan process, but some first-time home buyers do not take the time to thoroughly review or understand these fees. Many are unfortunately surprised by the amount of money they must come to the closing table with at the end of the loan process, and this can be avoided by simply asking questions and reviewing the preliminary loan statement up-front.

Each of these home mortgage mistakes can be costly to a first-time home buyer, but they also are all entirely avoidable. As you begin your loan process and proceed through it to closing, keep these mistakes in mind. Be sure to ask your loan consultant for more information if you have any questions. You can begin the loan process today by contacting a loan consultant directly.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 30, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 30 2015Last week’s economic reports included reports on new and existing home sales and FHFA’s monthly home price index for properties associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages. The details:

New Home Sales Surge, Existing Home Sales Drop 

According to the Department of Commerce, new home sales rose in January to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 539,000 which exceeded the expected rate of 455,000 sales and the revised figure of 500,000 sales of new homes in December 2014. This was a 7.80 percent increase over December’s figure and was the first time since 2008 that new home sales met or exceeded the benchmark of 500,000 sales for two consecutive months.

Sales of new homes were close to 25 percent higher than for January 2015, and analysts said that more jobs and relatively low mortgage rates could boost the traditionally busy spring and summer home buying season.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of previously owned homes rose by 1.20 percent in February to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million sales against expectations of 4.94 million sales of previously owned homes. Extreme winter weather was cited as a cause for the decline in sales.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors® said that the average price for pre-owned homes rose to $202,600, which represents a 7.50 percent increase year-over-year. Wages are rising at an average of 2.00 percent annually and rents are rising at an average of 3.50 percent annually. This is creating affordability issues for renters and would-be homebuyers as their incomes are not keeping pace with escalating housing and rental prices. The share of first-time home buyers rose by 1.00 percent in February, but analysts said that historically the market share for first-time buyers averages about 40.00 percent. 

FHFA: Home Price Index Falls by 0.30 Percent

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that home prices for sales of homes associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages fell by 0.30 percent year-over-year in January to an increase of 5.10 percent year-over-year as compared to January 2014′year-over-year increase of 5.40 percent.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

Mortgage rates fell last week. Freddie Mac reported average rates for fixed rate mortgages fell by none basis points with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaging 3.69 percent and the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaging 2.97 percent. Discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by five basis points to an average of 2.92 percent. Discount points also fell from 0.50 percent to 0.40 percent.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 282,000 new claims against an expected reading of 290,000 new claims and the previous week’s reading of 291,000 new jobless claims. This reading supports reports of expanding labor markets that may give would-be home buyers the confidence to buy homes.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, Pending Home Sales, Non-Farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment Rate along with regularly scheduled releases on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

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Spring DIY Projects: How to Build a Treehouse That the Kids Will Love

Spring DIY Projects: How to Build a Treehouse That the Kids Will Love If you have children, no home is complete without a treehouse. Besides the fact that treehouses provide kids with hours of entertainment, they can also confer ancillary benefits that are hard to quantify. For starters, treehouses can improve property values by boosting curb appeal. When building any type of treehouse, keep the following tips in mind.

Location, Location, Location

Before you head off to Home Depot and get all the necessary supplies, you need to spend some serious time storyboarding the build process. Pick a tree with low, sprawling branches such as an oak or a maple. Furthermore, consider issues like wind, shade and privacy before you start to nail up supports.

Choose Your Materials Wisely

A treehouse built with subpar materials will fall short in the longevity department and disappoint the kids. Pick out stout oak 4×4 posts for the structural elements and top them off with pressure-treated pine for the floors and railings. Use quality plywood for the interior walls and seal it to avoid rot.

Make Multi-Use Your Mantra

Treehouses that are simply shacks suspended above ground will quickly bore youngsters no matter how well-built they may be. Incorporate elements such as swings, rope ladders and even zip-lines to get more from your treehouse. As long as you’re putting in the effort, you might as well add all of the bells and whistles.

Bake Safety Into the Recipe

You don’t want the kids to get hurt when they’re frolicking among the branches. Make sure to bolt handles and permanent rails into the truck so that adolescents are less likely to slip and fall. If you want to go all out, add a few safety nets around the edges.

Heed Aesthetics When Designing

An unadorned treehouse quickly turns into an eyesore over time as it’s battered by the elements. Shingle the roof and paint the exterior walls so that they match your home. Kids will naturally gravitate towards a treehouse that looks appealing and your neighbors won’t complain about a shoddy structure in your weeping willow.

It’s More Than a Treehouse

While many young kids will no doubt love a full-featured treehouse, it’s usually the improvement in home value that will appeal to adults.

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3 Reasons Why Your Mortgage Lender Might Ask for Your Tax Returns – And Why You Should Provide Them

3 Reasons Why Your Mortgage Lender Might Ask for Your Tax Returns - and Why You Should Provide Them After you have completed the initial loan application and have signed the preliminary loan disclosures, your mortgage loan application will generally receive a preliminary prequalification. This prequalification will be based in large part on your ability to provide documentation to support your statements on your loan application, including your stated income and assets. Typically, a lender will include a request for least the last two to three years of your income tax returns with this documentation. There are several reasons why a lender may need to review your tax returns and why you should provide requested documentation as soon it is requested.

To View All Sources Of Income

Your mortgage lender will typically request a copy of your W2 tax forms, which will show your salary and compensation from your employer. However, the W2 form will not show all sources of income that you may receive. For example, rental property income, dividend income and even alimony or child support are just some of the many types of income that you can document through your tax returns.

To Average Income From Self-Employment

Most lenders will require self-employed borrowers to document their income through their tax returns. They will receive income as well as business-related expenses on the tax return. It is common for mortgage lenders to average this type of income for the previous two to three years. Typically, this is the only way that self-employed income is verified for mortgage purposes.

To Comply With Underwriting Guidelines

There are various types of mortgage loans that you may apply for, including stated income loans and low documentation loans. While not every type of loan that you apply for will require you to submit tax returns, some loans will have this as a firm requirement. Your loan request simply will not be reviewed and approved until you provide the required documentation to the lender.

If you want to be approved for your mortgage, it is important to comply with lender requirements. Providing documentation as soon as it is requested can speed the application process up, and your personal income tax returns may only be some of several documents that you will be required to submit to the underwriter for your loan request. You can speak with your mortgage representative about questions you have regarding required documentation, and you can work diligently to comply with underwriting information requests.

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FHFA: Home Prices Rise 0.30 Percent in January

FHFA Home Prices Rise 0.30 Percent in JanuaryThe Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that home prices rose by a seasonally-adjusted rate of 0.30 percent in January, and were 5.10 percent higher as compared to home prices in January 2014.

FHFA oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and its home price report is based on sales of homes financed by mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Month- to- Month FHFA Home Prices Mixed

Month to month home price data was mixed for January. Home prices ranged from -0.40 percent in the Middle and South Atlantic census divisions to +2.30 percent in the East South Central census division.

Month-to month readings are considered more volatile than year-over-year home price readings. Year-over-year readings for all nine U.S. census divisions were positive and ranged from a 1.70 percent increase in the Middle Atlantic division to an increase of 8.20 percent in the Pacific division. This suggests that overall, home prices are gaining, but slowly.

Commerce Department: New Home Sales Hit 7-Year Peak

In an unrelated report, the Commerce Department reported that February sales of new homes reached a seven-year peak with 539,000 sales of new homes expected on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. This was significantly higher than the expected reading of 455,000 new home sales and was also higher than the revised reading of 500,000 new home sales in January.

Analysts said that this positive reading may indicate a robust sales for the peak spring and summer home buying season. The reading for new home sales in February was nearly 25 percent higher than for February 2014.

In spite of this good news, analysts cautioned that the new home sales numbers are often volatile, and future revisions could result in lower sales figures for new homes.

With jobs increasing and mortgage rates remaining relatively low, more homebuyers may enter the market and boost home sales. Tight mortgage lending standards remain an obstacle for would-be buyers with less than stellar credit scores.

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Considering a Reverse Mortgage Loan? Here’s What You Need to Know

Considering a Reverse Mortgage Loan? Here's What You Need to Know Many seniors are looking for a great way to improve their financial situation. Retirement or semi-retirement can be difficult due to the need to live on a fixed income. Some may have been unable to save enough in their working years, or their accounts may have been hit hard by stock market fluctuations. Still others are feeling the effects of inflation and the rising costs of medical care and general living expenses. If you are like many other seniors, you may not have a huge cash reserve available in your bank account, but you may have a sizable nest egg in your home. The fact is that you can tap into that equity without selling your home or taking on a mortgage payment when you apply for a reverse mortgage.

What Is A Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a unique type of loan that utilizes the current equity in your home and allows you to make regular withdrawals from that equity. Rather than you making a payment to a lender, the lender pays the funds to you. The terms of the mortgage are structured so that you will never owe more money on the reverse mortgage than the home is worth. When you decide to sell it or when your estate is being settled, the home’s value will pay off the mortgage. This essentially gives you the opportunity to keep living in your home and to use the equity now when you need it most.

Is This The Right Option For You?

A reverse mortgage is not suitable for everyone, but it may be suitable for you. You can easily learn more about the amount of payments that you could receive on a monthly basis if you were to apply for a reverse mortgage, and you can consider how these payments would ease your financial concerns. This loan will decrease the amount of equity you have in your home over time. Therefore, if you have plans to sell your home later and use the equity for other retirement plans, you should carefully consider if the reduction in equity is feasible for your situation and goals.

One of the best steps that you can take is to learn more about this option. You will not know if a reverse mortgage is suitable for your financial needs and long-term goals unless you take the step of speaking with a loan agent.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 23, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 23 2015Last week’s events included the National Association of Home Builder’s Housing Market Index, which fell to its lowest reading since last summer. Other news included reports on housing starts and building permits, the FOMC meeting statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference.

Home Builder Confidence Falls, Building Permits Rise

The NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index fell by two points for a reading of 53 in March. The expected reading was 57. Analysts said that this proves that lower mortgage rates and steady job growth aren’t fueling housing markets as expected. NAHB chief economist David Crowe also cited supply chain issues such as a shortage of available lots, labor shortages and tight mortgage underwriting standards. Home builders remain optimistic that as labor markets continue to improve and more home buyers enter the market during the traditional spring and summer buying season, that builder confidence will also grow.

The Department of Commerce reported that building permits for February rose from January’s reading of 1.06 million to 1.09 million. This represents a 3.00 percent increase and was the highest reading since October. Permits fell for single family homes fell by 6.20 percent in February, but were 2.80 percent higher year-over-year. Single family permits account for 75 percent of building permits issued.

Housing starts fell dramatically due to bad weather. The Northeast saw housing starts fall by 56 percent due to extreme snowfall; Housing starts in the Midwest fell by 37 percent and the West saw housing starts decline by 18.20 percent in February. The South reported a 2.50 percent decrease in housing starts, but since nearly 50 percent of housing starts are in the South, this decline is more significant than it appears.

Fed Rates Hold Steady, Mortgage Rates Fall

The Federal Reserve noted in its post FOMC meeting statement that the Fed is in no hurry to raise rates. Citing ongoing concerns about low inflation and a sluggish housing market recovery, the Fed’s policymakers indicated that they don’t plan to rush on raising the target federal funds rate. In her press conference held after the FOMC statement, Fed Chair Janet Yellen reiterated the Fed’s intention to raise rates only when domestic and global economic developments warrant.

Mortgage rates fell according to Freddie Mac with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage eight basis points lower at 3.78 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was four basis points lower at 3.06 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was also four basis points lower at an average rate of 2.97 percent. Discount points were unchanged at an average of 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What’s Ahead

This week’s housing-related news includes new and existing home sales, the FHFA home price index and FHFA’s home price index. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims will also be released as usual on Thursday.

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Three Unique Upgrades That Will Drive Your Home’s Resale Price Through the Roof

Three Unique Upgrades That Will Drive Your Home's Resale Price Through the RoofIf you are a homeowner, you should always be thinking about ways that you can boost the resale value of your home. Whether you are planning on putting the home on the market, or simply want to be prepared for the future, there are upgrades that can make your property more desirable. Give your home the attention it deserves and you’ll be prepared for whatever may come down the line.

Go Solar With A Home Solar Installation

There’s no doubt that solar power is big in today’s housing market. It’s an excellent resource that will save you money on your utility bills. You could even find yourself in a situation where the power company is actually buying energy from you. It’s also a move that is environmentally-friendly. If you feel a responsibility to the world around you, you will have the peace of mind that comes with reducing your carbon footprint. As energy becomes scarce, solar power is something you can count on. Future buyers will benefit as well.

Install An HVAC System That Does It All

When it comes to your heating and cooling, install a system that will meet all of your needs. Keep your home at a comfortable temperature throughout the year at the touch of a button. Choose an energy saver model that uses the most feasible type of energy source in order to trim costs. When you have a modern system with automation capability, you should see a difference in your utility bills. You’ll also have a huge selling feature to show off when prospective buyers come knocking at your door.

Make the Most of Your Existing Space

Take the space that you have and make sure that you utilize it to its full potential. Whether you create an attic bedroom or a finished basement, making better use of your space will increase your home’s appeal. When it’s time to sell, buyers want to see possibilities and appreciate it more when the work has already been done for them. Give them options and let them make the space their own.

Turn to the Experts for Advice

Call your mortgage professional today to further assist you with questions and solutions when considering an upgrade to your home. You’ll be able to tap into a vast store of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t before investing in any upgrades.

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FOMC Statement: Federal Reserve Discusses Rate Increase, But Concerned About Growth

FOMC Statement: Federal Reserve Discusses Rate Increase, but Concerned About GrowthThe post-meeting statement of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee indicated that while the Federal Reserve is considering raising its target rate as early as June, the agency is in no hurry to cast anything in cement. The statement cited stronger labor markets and low unemployment rates as encouraging, but noted that FOMC members remain concerned about economic growth due to low inflation failing to meet the FOMC goal of two percent.

15 of 17 Federal Open Market Committee members said that they expected interest rates to increase before year-end, but downwardly revised forecasts of how high rates might be raised. Committee members further expressed concerns about economic growth and inflation, which is likely to impact Fed decisions about raising interest rates or not.

Economic Growth, Inflation Slower than Expected

The FOMC statement noted that economic growth has “moderated somewhat,” which was less enthusiastic than in January, when the Fed noted solid economic growth. The Fed revised its projections for the national unemployment rate from December’s expected range of 5.20 to 5.50 percent to 5.00 percent to 5.20 percent.

The target federal funds rate remains at a range of 0.00 to 0.250 percent and is expected to increase to 0.625 percent by year-end, and forecasted to reach 0.875 percent by the end of 2016. The target rate is expected to rise to 1.25 percent at the end of 2017.
Raising the target federal funds rate would impact mortgage rates, rates on vehicle loans and corporate loans. As the cost of loans rises, and wages stay relatively flat, consumers will have less cash for discretionary spending and may put off buying homes and purchasing big-ticket items that require financing.

Fed Chair Says Fed Isn’t “Impatient” about Raising Rates

After the FOMC statement was issued, Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a press conference. Asked about the FOMC removing the word “patient” from its description of the committee’s attitude about raising the target federal funds rate, Chair Yellen said that removing the word patient does not mean that FOMC members are impatient about deciding when to move on interest rates.

Chair Yellen reiterated what’s she has said many times in recent FOMC statements and press conferences, that although the committee may project when it will raise rates, the decision will be based on incoming economic data.

In her opening remarks, Chair Yellen said that when the Fed does raise its target interest rate, the FOMC will retain a “highly accommodative” stance in line with the FOMC’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and a target inflation rate of 2.00 percent.

All in all, this FOMC statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference revealed no great changes in the Fed’s stated policy over the last several months. While low unemployment rates are prompting the Fed to consider raising the federal funds rate, no date for doing so has been set; the agency will provide plenty of advance notice before it raises rates and in the meantime will closely monitor domestic and global financial and economic developments for guidance in deciding when to raise rates.

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