mortgage financing and programs

Just How Sustainable Is The Micro Housing Trend?

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Just How Sustainable Is the Micro Housing Trend?Something that the Europeans have been doing for decades has finally made its way over the Atlantic Ocean to North America: the trend is called micro housing, and it’s turned into an entirely new way of living.

With micro housing, we’re beginning to do away with oversize condos and even detached homes, learning to live in a more minimalistic manner and curbing our hoarding habits for good.

The affordability of micro housing is making it possible even for young adults and students to purchase their homes in the city centers across North America. But one must ask, is the micro housing trend good for the globe too?

Sustainability Of Micro Condominiums

Being able to pack a higher number of salable units into one building and lowering the prices to widen the market and encourage young buyers to purchase instead of rent is certainly economically beneficial; but is this trend sustainable and beneficial for the planet too?

As it turns out, the cost of building a micro-apartment structure over a regular sized one has a much lighter footprint on our earth. Micro-housing is a sustainable part of urban design because it is made to be a contributing asset to compact cities across North America, requiring less infrastructure cost, fewer resources, and a smaller environmental impact from shipping to construction to ongoing management and maintenance.

Some micro-buildings even have shared areas like kitchens and lounges; this helps to cut back on building costs even further and lessens air pollution from shipping.

Micro Homes: Are They Green?

Though micro detached homes are also on the rise, they have run into problems with bylaws in certain cities across North America. They may just be the way of the future, though, with the real estate prices in many areas growing out of control. These micro homes are similar to the micro condominium units in their petite sizes, however they typically do not have a standard foundation, instead resting on screw piles that are attached to the ground.

These easy-to-assemble micro homes, though perhaps battling with particular municipalities and their bylaws, offer practical housing that is sustainable too. Green features of these micro homes include the additional options of a composting toilet, solar power energy systems, grey water treatment system and a rainwater collection system.

The Lifestyle Of The Micro-Housing Trend

Another factor that should be taken into consideration when looking at the sustainability of the micro-housing trend in the kind of lifestyle it is promoting. Generally situated in the dense city centers, micro housing encourages a lifestyle that is affordable, thereby attracting residents who will take public transit or be within walking distance to work or school, and lessening the need for the daily use of a vehicle.

Perhaps we’re looking a little too enthusiastically at the future, but as it seems, the micro housing trend is bringing with it all kinds of benefits, both economically and sustainably. A lifestyle and housing solution that finally benefits the planet is always accepted among our modern cities across North America, and soon it may just be the reason to purchase instead of rent, allowing us to walk instead of drive.

For more information on the micro housing trend in your area, call your trusted mortgage advisor today!

The Ultimate Guide To Winning At Auction! Don’t Let Your Dream Home Slip Away

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The Ultimate Guide to Winning at Auction! Don't Let Your Dream Home Slip AwayWhile the traditional method of trawling for sale listings, making bids, and negotiating with the seller has been a popular rite of passage for many home buyers, buying a house at auction is swiftly becoming a favored way to purchase property.

Buying a home through auction can be tricky, so it’s best to do your research and keep your cool on auction day, lest you find yourself stuck with a less-than-ideal place to live for a price you didn’t expect to pay. If you’re in the market to buy through auction for the first time, here are some things you need to know.

How To Find Houses Up for Auction

Real estate agents will often use the same methods to sell a house by auction as they do in a traditional sale: adverts in newspapers and online, posters in their office windows, and signs outside the property.

Depending on the reason for the sale, a home auction may be held at a local courthouse, an auction house, or, in some cases, online.

Viewing A House Before Auction

It’s always best to try before you buy, so make sure you are able to view the house prior to the auction. Some real estate agents will insist on exterior views of the home only, but, if you’re a new buyer, this may not be enough.

Seasoned home buyers can often pick a house by looking at the exterior and reading a description; buyers new to the game should bank on seeing inside first.

Checking The Price Of An Auction

Look into the price that is offered for the home you seek to buy; sometimes, if a house is in foreclosure, the starting price of the home may be the balance of the mortgage, or a lower price to get people to begin bidding. Lenders, such as banks, are not permitted to make a profit from selling a foreclosure and may often sell homes at a loss; look out for these bargains when checking house prices in your local area.

Bidding At An Auction

On auction day, make sure you enter the auction knowing the general value of the house and the maximum amount you are willing to pay; having these parameters set out will help prevent you from getting swept up in the auction process and bidding more than what you have or what the house is worth.

On the day, bring a cashier’s check—auction holders ask winners to pay for auction fees, bidding fees, and a deposit on the purchase. If you are successful on auction day, you will then have to close the deal with the seller just like any other property purchase.

If you need financing, you may wish to be pre-cleared by your lending company before the auction. Also, be aware that your winning bid may not be accepted. Many homes have a reserve price, and if the reserve is not met, the house will not be sold on the day.

If you are interested in buying a home through auction, go into the process knowing that auctions can be riskier than buying a home via traditional means. Also remember that just because a house is up for auction doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a good price. Some houses sell for a lot of money, and others sell cheaply but have hidden costs, such as urgent maintenance.

When you’re ready to find your new home by auction and finance it, call your local trusted mortgage professional for information.

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

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What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week 4-14-14While little housing-related news was released, last week’s economic news showed signs of a brighter economic picture.

Labor statistics were stronger, with job openings up and new jobless claims filed lower than expected.

Mortgage rates fell, and the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index was higher than expected.

More Jobs Available, Fewer New Jobless Claims

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that February job openings rose to 4.20 million, which exceeded January’s reading of 3.9 million jobs. New jobless claims were lower than expected with 300,000 new jobless claims filed against expectations of 316,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 332,000 new jobless claims filed.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve released minutes of its meeting held March 18 and 19. The minutes noted that payroll jobs expanded, but the unemployment rate remained elevated, and inflation was below the committee’s goal of 2.00 percent. Indicators of longer-run inflation expectations were seen as stable.

Severe winter weather was viewed as a cause for slowing economic activity. FOMC noted that it would be difficult to determine the effects of winter weather on the economy as opposed to slower economic growth caused by unemployment or other negative factors.

Housing Starts and Building Permits were lower, but FOMC noted the impact of winter weather on these reports. FOMC asserted its intention to continue reducing its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion per month as economic conditions permit.

The FOMC emphasized its commitment to continuous review of financial and economic news as it makes month-to-month decisions concerning asset purchases.

Mortgage Rates Fall, Consumer Sentiment Rises

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 4.41 to 4.34 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped from 3.47 to 3.38 percent, and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by three basis points from 3.12 percent to 3.09 percent.

Discount points were unchanged at 0.70, 0.60 and 0.50 percent respectively. Lower mortgage rates may encourage more buyers into the market as the spring and summer buying season gets under way.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index for April rose to 82.60 percent against the March reading of 80.00 percent and the projected reading of 80.80 percent. If expectations prove correct, this week’s economic reports are expected to bring more good news.

Whats Coming Up This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news includes Retail Sales for March, which are expected to show a gain, the Consumer Price Index which is expected to hold steady, and the Home Builder Index, which is expected to rise.

Projections for Housing Starts are also higher. Fed Chair Janet Yellen is set to give a speech in New York on Wednesday, and the Fed Beige Book report will also be released. This week’s economic reports will wrap up Friday with Leading Economic Indicators. 

 

Green Living: Water Saving Tips For Spring

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Green Living: Water Saving Tips for SpringWater is the planet’s most precious resource. Access to clean water is a privilege that, unfortunately, many people still take for granted.

By utilizing new water efficiency technologies and age-old conservation methods, we can help preserve the water supply for future generations. Cutting down on consumption whenever possible is something that everyone can do to live a little greener.

Making Sure Your Home Holds Water

The first stop on your journey to save water is to ensure your home is free of water leaks. Make your way through your home, and properly shut off the water at all fixtures and faucets. Air-cooling systems and other devices that use water should also be shut of.

Read your water meter, wait two hours (without using any water), and check it again. If your water meter gives you two different readings, you are losing water somewhere, and the problem needs farther investigating.

If you find yourself flooded with problems, it may be time to call your local real estate professional. Most issues are easily repaired or upgraded, but sometimes a fresh efficient start may be a simpler solution.

Air It Out And Get In the Flow

Installing aerators on faucets and shower heads reduce their usage by half. These contraptions are inexpensive and easy to install. By injecting air into the water flow, you keep the same water pressure, but use less water.

If you are in the market for a new toilet, complete your water saving bathroom makeover with a low flow, water efficient model. These toilets can save about 9,000 gallons of water a year.

If a new toilet is not in your near future, a simple homemade contraption can cut down on water being flushed away. Fill a water bottle with some pebbles so it sinks, and fill the rest with water. Place the bottle in the cistern of your toilet. By displacing some of the water in the tank, you can save around 500 gallons of water a year.

Obtain A Lush Lawn With Less Water

Over-watering your grass is wasteful and counterproductive. Watering your lawn two times a week is better for grass than daily sprinklings. Giving your lawn a good soaking with an inch of water every few days will keep it lush and save water. You should also avoid over-mowing.

Grass is happiest at two to three inches tall. Over-mowed grass tends to have weak roots, and requires more water to keep it growing strong. Let Mother Nature take care of the watering on occasion, especially during the spring.

Mulch Landscape To Lock In Moisture

Mulch around the trees and shrubs in your yard. Mulch holds in moisture, and will keep the water in the ground longer. There are also water bags on the market that do a great job of keeping young trees hydrated.

Make sure your sprinklers are putting water where it is needed, and not unnecessarily watering the sidewalk. When the sidewalks and patios need a sweeping, make sure you reach for the broom and leave the hose on standby.

By making a few informed decisions to cut down on water consumption, you can feel good knowing you are doing your part to conserve. When water flows freely, it is easy to forget how precious it is.

Remind yourself that water is a resource that needs to be saved, and should not be wasted. Access to clean water is something no one wants to see lost. 

The Happenings In A Reverse Mortgage

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The Happenings In A Reverse MortgageWhen you’re looking for ways to supplement your retirement income, there are a number of different options to consider. A reverse mortgage is becoming a more popular and more common way to provide income when your retirement savings don’t leave enough to live on.

But with all the information out there, how do you know what happens in a reverse mortgage and whether it’s a good option for you?

What Is A Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage essentially reverses the typical actions of a mortgage. Instead of making payments on your home, you receive payments against your home’s equity. The amount you are loaned is dependent on your age, your home’s value, the interest rate and any restrictions placed by state or local laws.

Then when your home ownership changes through sale, death or moves out permanently, the loan comes due and is paid for out of the sale of your home. If you borrow more than the value of your home, you or your heirs will not have to make up the difference.

If your home’s value increases and it sells for more than the total of the loan, you or your heirs receive the difference.

There are a number of requirements that must be met that were implemented in late 2013. These include a the home being your primary residence, reaching a minimum age of 62, an increasing progressive percentage of your home’s value that can be borrowed against based on your current age and limitations on exactly how much value you can borrow against in the first year of the loan.

Let’s Break It Down

As an example, a 62-year-old could borrow 52.6% of their home’s value and receive a disbursement of 60% of that percentage. So if their home had 500,000 in value, they could borrow $263,000 and take out $157,800 the first year. By comparison, a 90-year-old could borrow 66%, so the same home would let them borrow $330,000 and they could take out $198,000 the first year.

Disbursements typically are awarded in three ways: as a lump sum at closing, as periodic payments over the life of the loan or as a line of credit with a checkbook. It is also common for a combination of these three ways be used for disbursement.

4 Of The Best Questions To Ask Before Refinancing Your Mortgage

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The Best Questions To Ask Before Refinancing Your Mortgage1) Do I Have Enough Equity To Get A Mortgage?

To get a conventional loan, you will usually need to have at least 20 percent equity. This means that your house will have to be worth at least $250,000 to get a $200,000 loan. If you have less equity, you could end up having to pay for private mortgage insurance, which can easily add $100 or more to your monthly payment.

2) How’s My Credit?

Most lenders will look at your credit score as a part of determining whether or not to make you a loan. With conventional lenders, your rate will depend on your score and the higher it is, the lower your payment will be. Other lenders, like the FHA and VA programs have an all or nothing rule.

If you qualify, your rate won’t be based on your credit, but if your score is too low, you won’t be able to get any loan. Generally, 620 credit scores are the lowest that will qualify you for any loan.

3) What Do I Want To Accomplish?

Mortgages typically offer a choice as to their term. While the 30-year loan is the most popular, shorter term mortgages save you money since you pay less interest over their lives. They also get you out of debt sooner, at least as regards your house.

The drawback is that they carry higher payments since you pay off more principal every month. This can make them less affordable for some borrowers.

4) How’s My Current Loan?

If you have an adjustable rate mortgage, you may want to switch to a fixed rate mortgage simply for the additional security it offers you. On the other hand, if you are planning to move relatively soon, your current mortgage could be a better deal whether it’s fixed- or adjustable-rate.

When trying to decide what to do, compare the cost of refinancing with what it would cost you in additional interest to hold on to your existing loan. While the breakdown is different for every borrower, generally, you’ll need to keep your current house and loan for anywhere from three to six years to break even on the costs of refinancing.

Deciding what to do with your mortgage can be complicated. Working with a qualified loan broker that can consider every angle with you can help you to make a better decision.

Four Places To Look For Tax Deductions In Your Home

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Four Places To Look For Tax Deductions In Your Home Paying your income taxes each year leave your wallet a bit thin? There may be money hiding in your home that lessens your tax burden. Here are four places to look:

1. Home-Office Deduction

If you work from home, you could qualify for a home-office deduction. Taking the deduction can be a bit complicated; so many people who qualify don’t claim the exemption. An estimated 26 million Americans have home offices, but only 3.4 million claim them on their tax return.

Perhaps that’s why the Internal Revenue Service attempted to simplify the process in 2013.

The write-off takes into account depreciation, utilities, insurance, the amount of square footage dedicated for office space, whether you host clients at your house and other factors.

Because the parameters involved in filing a home-office exemption are rather complicated, it’s best to keep all business-related receipts, records of client meetings and other pertinent information to make things easier when you prepare your return.

2. Casualty Loss

Damage to your home from an act of God or a theft or burglary may qualify you for an income tax exemption. To qualify for the write-off, the causality loss must meet the “sudden event test.” That means it must be sudden, unpredictable, have involved some natural force and occur in a single instance.

To claim thefts and burglaries, you must be able to prove that a wrong doing has actually occurred. It can’t just be a case of a lost item that you suspect was stolen. Proof can come in the form of witness statements, police reports or newspaper accounts.

3. Energy Efficiency Upgrades And Repairs

Upgrading your home with energy efficient improvements can qualify you for a tax deduction. New roofs, insulation, windows, doors and a number of additional items qualify for the deduction. The deductions lets homeowners claim 10 percent of the total bill for energy efficient materials. The maximum credit is $500.

4. Real Estate Taxes And Newly Purchased Homes

New home owners should look at their settlement statement a bit closer. If the previous owner prepaid property taxes that cover any of the time you owned the home, you can include the prepaid taxes in your property tax deduction.

Don’t pay more than you have to when you file your taxes each April. Consider these commonly overlooked deductions that can lessen the amount you have to pay.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 7, 2014

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What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 7, 2014Last week’s economic news included readings on February construction spending and multiple reports on employment data.

Private sector employment was higher in March, but The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Non-Farm Payrolls for March fell short of expectations. According to Freddie Mac, mortgage rates ticked upward.

Employment And Unemployment News

ADP’s payrolls report for March was higher than February’s reading, with 191,000 new private sector jobs added. In February, 178,000 jobs were added. February’s reading originally showed 138,000 new jobs added.

While analysts were confident that private-sector employment was showing signs of stability, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics swamped excess confidence in labor markets Friday with its March reading for Non-Farm Payrolls.

192,000 jobs were added in March against predictions of 200,000 jobs added and February’s reading of 197,000 jobs added.

The news was not all bad as job gains for January and February were revised upward. January’s job gains were revised from 129,000 to 144,000 and February’s reading was revised from 175,000 to 197,000 jobs added. The revised readings represent a total of 37,000 more jobs added.

As data impacted by severe winter weather “shakes out,” it would not be surprising to see a revision to March’s new jobless claims reading as well.

Unemployment Rate Holds Steady, Workforce Numbers Higher

While readings on employment have been up and down in recent months, the national unemployment rate has held relatively steady, with last week’s reading at 6.70 percent. 503,000 workers joined the workforce this increased the labor participation rate for March from 63 percent to 63.20 percent.

Mortgage rates were incrementally higher last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased by one basis point to 4.41 percent; discount points moved from 0.60 percent to 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by five basis points to 3.47 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.60 percent. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.12 percent, which was two basis points higher than the previous week. Discount points for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.50 percent.

This Week’s Economic News Highlights

Job openings for February, FOMC minutes and the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for March are set for release this week. As usual, Freddie Mac will post results of its latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey and weekly unemployment claims will also be reported.

Give Your Home An Instant Facelift, Wallpaper Is Back!

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Give Your Home an Instant Facelift: Wallpaper Is Back in a Big Way, Baby!Though it can be an entirely different story for a trend shift in the opposite direction, which then requires you to get out the soaking bucket and scraping tool, wallpaper coming back into style is a home décor blessing for many.

Wallpaper is back in – in a big way! – and it’s making your dreams of accomplishing a fashionable living space come true much faster and easier than you could have imagined.

Quite frankly, wallpaper can do the “fashionable home” trick to virtually any room in your house, adding that touch of warmth and personality you’ve so far only seen in show homes. It’s time to get with the trends, and give your home a quick and easy facelift!

A World Of Design With Wallpaper

Let’s face it: wallpaper can achieve a world of options that paint simply never could! Now that wallpaper has come back in to style, we are seeing plenty of homes being “glammed” and “dolled” up accordingly.

With many patterns and styles available, suddenly your home’s imperfections can easily be hidden. You can give the small room in your home a facelift with a wallpaper pattern with vertical stripes, instantly making the room feel larger.

Or you can suddenly have the accent wall you’ve always dreamed of but have been to afraid to commit to, creating a focal point behind the bed in your master bedroom, or behind the sofa in the living room. Or if you’re an artsy person, you can add more art to your walls without lifting a nail – instead just install some patterned, decorative wallpaper.

Modern Innovations: Digitally Printed Wallpaper

Wallpaper is certainly back in style, but not without new and creative innovations since its last time around. Now, homeowners can get ultra creative and get personalized wallpapers for their homes with the technical innovation that allows for digitally printed wallpaper designs.

Do you have a specific wall or room in your house that you want to transform for a particular theme? Do you have a photograph that you’d like to use as the inspiration for a one-wall mural in your living room? Well, with customized digital printed wallpaper, you’re in luck.

Vinyl Wallpaper: Easy Installation And Removal

Now that wallpaper is back in style, more innovations have been made in terms of how it is installed and removed. Luckily, for us wallpaper fans, we will no longer have to struggle when we choose to put it up or when we decide to take it down! Now there are many vinyl wallpapers that are self-adhesive and very simple to install.

They are also available in a range of textures and finishes, and make use of eco-solvent inks. Easy to install, easy to remove, and cleanable with simply a damp cloth, a vinyl wallpaper print might be just the key to your home’s quick and easy facelift.

Whether you opt for the vinyl or digitally printed innovation of wallpaper or choose to stick with the good old paper version, you’ll have your home beautified in no time. There’s no need to worry about changing trends either; regardless of what you choose, advancements in the modern return of wallpaper mean that less rigorous activity will be required should the wallpaper trend go back “out.”

So take advantage of this practical design trend, and give your home the facelift it deserves! And of course you can always contact your trusted real estate advisor for design tips or places where you can get your show home inspiration. 

Millenials Have Great Homebuying Tools Available To Them

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Millenials Have Great Homebuying Tools Available To ThemThe economy seems to be finally turning, and home loan interest rates are still historically low. Real estate values are starting to climb as well, all of which makes for a growing opportunity for new homeowners to get into the market before it gets too expensive again.

Millennials Don’t Seem To Be On Board

They represent the next generation of homebuyers, but a number of barriers can seem to be smack in the way, discouraging many. Yet there are ways around these issues.

According to the Boston Globe, only 32 percent of Millennials are homeowners in 2014, either with a house or a condominium. A number of factors contribute to this situation, and the big issue is finding a viable career. The general unemployment rate for young people is at 16 percent nationwide, almost double the regular average for all ages combined.

Add in the fact that many have large student loans eating up what income is earned in loan payments, and that doesn’t leave much for saving into a down payment or a mortgage payment. In fact, one out of three college graduates right now has moved back in with the parents.

The career-chase situation is not a new one. The previous bunch, Generation X, experienced the same thing in the early 1990s with just as high an unemployment rate. The big takeaway from their experience is that the dip and labor famine is temporary. Most Generation X folks now are well-employed and living in regular, affordable homes across the country.

Further, Some Very Helpful Tools Are Still Available For New Buyers:

  • Any homebuyer with military status can take advantage of Veterans Administration loans with far better rates than the normal market, making mortgage payments cheaper.
  • Those buying in rural areas can take advantage of rural homebuyer’s assistance programs provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help people move to small towns and similar communities.
  • The Housing and Urban Development Agency provides HUD loans that make it very affordable for those with limited income to purchase HUD-owned homes as first-time buyers and get into real estate.
  • And the current market still has plenty of quality used homes from prior foreclosures that are marked well below their real value to move these units in sales.

Of course, the big response from Millenials is how do I earn more to even get started. Like Generation X folks before them, Millenials can’t wait for a job to be made available on a platter. While looking, many smart folks have started their own businesses on the Internet. If a current job is enough to cover current bills, a second income can be entirely dedicated to saving, which can generate thousands of dollars quickly. Even a part-time second job that creates $1,000 a month produces $12,000 a year and in two years enough for a sizable down payment.

Don’t give up, but definitely try smarter.

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