mortgage financing and programs

Archive for December, 2013

New Home Sales Show Healthy Year-Over-Year Increase

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New Home Sales Show Healthy Year-Over-Year IncreaseThe holiday season and winter weather slowed home sales in November. Last week, the NAR reported that sales of existing homes had slumped to their lowest level in nearly a year, but this was not unexpected.  

Short supplies of available homes and rising mortgage rates have increased pent-up demand for homes have kept some buyers on the sidelines.

Improvement In The Labor Market

4.90 existing homes were sold in November; this was lower than the 5.13 million existing homes sold in October, as well as lower than expectations of 5.00 million existing home sales in November.

Existing home sales for November 2013 were also 1.20 percent lower than for November 2012; this is the first time in 29 months that existing home sales were lower year-over-year.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, described the slow-down in sales as a “clear loss of momentum.” The outlook for 2014 is better, as analysts expect continued improvement in the labor market. 

The pent-up demand for homes will ease as homeowners begin to list their homes for sale as home prices increase. Mr. Yun also noted that prices for existing homes are increasing at their highest rate in eight years.

The national median home price of existing homes rose to $196,000 in November, which represents a year-over-year increase of 9.40 percent. There was a 5.1 month supply of previously homes available at the current sales rate.

Housing Market Continues To Progress Over Long Term

The Census Bureau and HUD report that 464,000 new homes were sold in November. This was 2.10 percent lower than October’s rate of 474,000 new homes sold. This represents an increase of 16.60 percent as compared to the 398,000 new homes sold in November 2012.

The national median home price for new homes in November was $270,900; with an average new home price of $340,300. The seasonally-adjusted estimate of new homes for sale in November was 167,000; this reading represents a 4.30 month supply of new homes for sale.

While home builder confidence is up and recent labor reports indicate improving job markets, the Fed’s decision to taper its quantitative easing program in January is generating some uncertainty as mortgage rates will likely rise as the Fed winds down the QE program.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 30, 2013

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What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week- December 30, 2013The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index was improved for December at 82.5, after the November reading was adjusted from 82.5 to 75. Analysts noted that consumers were relieved when legislative gridlock ended.

Durable goods orders reached their highest level since May with November’s reading of + 3.5 percent. Without the volatile transportation sector, the reading for November was +1.2 percent.

This could be a sign of economic recovery for manufacturing, as more orders are being placed. Economists expected an overall increase of 2.0 percent for overall durable goods orders.

The U.S. Commerce Department provided housing markets with good news with its New Home Sales report for November. 464,000 new homes were sold in November against expectations of 440,000 new homes sold.

This expectation was based on the original reading of 444,000 new homes sold in October, which has been revised to 474,000 new homes sold. The latest reading for October is the highest since July of 2008.

While rising mortgage rates slowed home purchases during the summer, analysts note that home buyers seem to be adjusting for higher mortgage rates by purchasing smaller homes in less costly areas.

Home Builder Confidence recently achieved its highest reading since 2005, a further indication of overall economic recovery and housing markets in particular.

After Wednesday’s holiday, the Weekly Jobless Claims report came in with a reading of 338,000 new jobless claims filed. This reading was lower than expectations of 345,000 new jobless claims and significantly lower than the previous week’s report of 380,000 new jobless claims.

This was the largest decrease in new jobless claims since the week of November 17, 2012. After seasonal volatility associated with the holidays, analysts expect new jobless claims to decrease at a slower rate in early 2014,

Freddie Mac released its Primary Mortgage Market Survey on Thursday. Although some economic analysts had expected a jump in mortgage rates after the Fed announced its plan to begin tapering its monthly securities purchases in January, mortgage rates showed little change.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 4.48 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. Average 15-year mortgage rates also rose by one basis point to 3.52 with discount points moving up from 0.60 to 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by 4.00 basis points to 3.00 percent, with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

2014 shows promise of a steady economic improvements, and given the latest New Home Sales report, it’s possible that improving housing markets will continue leading the way.

What’s Ahead

As with last week, this week’s schedule of economic events is reduced due to the New Year holiday. Pending home sales for November will be released Monday, Tuesday’s economic reports include The Case/Shiller Housing Market Indices and the Consumer Confidence report.

After the holiday on Wednesday, Thursday’s scheduled reports include the Weekly Jobless Claims and Freddie Mac PMMS on mortgage rates. Construction Spending will also be released. There is no housing or mortgage-related economic reports set for release on Friday.

How To Build An Outdoor Fire Pit

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How To Build An Outdoor Fire PitWith most of the country easing into full-on winter weather, last-minute outdoor projects need to happen soon. And what better way to enjoy a cozy holiday season than by drinking hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows at your very own outdoor fire pit.

In one weekend, the steps below can help you build an outdoor fire pit and get you fired up about the cold!

Determine The Size And Location

The first order of business is to choose where to build your outdoor fire pit. You want to make sure it’s not too close to the house or overhanging trees.

Once you’ve found the spot, lay out a ring of stones and mark it with a shovel before you dig the hole. You’ll want it to be between 35-45 inches in diameter. This will allow a roaring fire, but it will also feel cozy and intimate.

Dig The Pit And Make A Trench

Make a hole six inches deep within the circle your marked using your stones. You want the sides to be straight and the bottom flat. Then dig down an extra six inches around the perimeter.

This trench should be wide enough to fit a ring of stone blocks that will be the base of your wall. Fill the six-inch deep trench with drainage gravel until it’s level with the center of your pit.

Lay The Stone Blocks

Lay out the stone blocks on top of the gravel. Place the first one and use a level to make sure it’s sitting squarely. Set the second block next to it and so on. Use a level to ensure everything is even.

For the second layer, squirt masonry adhesive in a snaking pattern and center a block on top of the seam of the first layer. Build up the wall until it’s about one foot above ground level.

Finish It Off

Fill the pit with gravel until you reach ground level. The gravel will help the base of the walls set straight. If you want to cover the outside of the pit walls with stone cap pieces, then try to fix them together like a puzzle using masonry adhesive.

Then you can either build a fire on top of the gravel or insert an iron campfire ring into the center. Once you’re finished, then it’s time to bundle up and get those marshmallows roasting!

Pitfalls And Warning Signs Of Making A Down Payment

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Pitfalls And Warning Signs Of Making A Down PaymentWhen you already have a home, you may be interested in determining if a refinance is a good option. You will not have to worry about restrictions on down payments or some of the problems that can occur with a down payment.

However, if you are considering purchasing a home in or the surrounding communities, understanding down payment restrictions is important.

Gifting Of A Down Payment

There are some programs that will allow you to use a gift for your home down payment. However, before you assume this, make sure you talk to your loan officer. Generally speaking, the lender will require the person making the gift to provide a letter stating the money was a gift and does not require repayment.

Windfalls Of A Down Payment

When people hit the lottery or come into money through an inheritance, one of the first things they may consider is buying a new home. However, it is important to keep in mind that lenders will typically want to know exactly how you came up with your down payment.

Borrowers still need to show a “trail” of how they came into money. If your down payment amount has not been “seasoned” the lender may not accept your loan.

What Is A Seasoned Down Payment?

Generally speaking, your loan officer will want a “paper trail” to document your down payment. Most lenders require down payment funds to be at a minimum six months old.

For example, let’s assume a borrower did win the lottery: If they deposit the funds into their checking account and leave it there for six months or more, the funds would be considered seasoned.

Lender restrictions on down payment funds are fairly common. If you are uncertain if your funds meet the lender’s criteria, talk to your loan officer. In most cases, a lender will require at least one-half your down payment fall into the category of seasoned funds.

Some borrowers may use their retirement account or other savings to make their home down payment.

Don’t wait until the last minute to discuss your down payment with your loan officer because you may wind up disappointed. Keep in mind, every lender has different requirements and these rules may not apply to your lender.

5 Tips On Safely Hanging Those Christmas Lights

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5 Tips On Safely Hanging Those Christmas LightsChristmas lights can be the most festive of holiday decorations, but actually putting them up can be a huge pain. With these easy step-by-step instructions, you can safely hang Christmas lights outside your house in no time. That way you can get back to what’s important, family time.

Buy Your Lights

You’ll need Christmas lights of course. There are a lot of options. You can get colorful lights or classic white lights. There are icicle lights, blinking lights, classic large bulb lights, and more. Just pick whatever looks good. Remember that consistency is important.

Pick one or two types and stick with them. Also remember to measure your roof, bushes, trees, or whatever you plan to cover with lights. Without proper measurements you won’t know how many lights to buy.

Test The Lights

Be sure to test the lights before you hang them up. Nothing is more frustrating than hanging up all the lights and finding that they don’t work. There are several testers that you can buy or you can even make your own, but I recommend simply plugging in each strand individually before you hang them up.

Get Some Clips

You’ll also need clips to help attach the lights to the roof or the gutter. I recommend buying the more expensive clips. The cheap ones break, and cause more frustration than they’re worth. Make sure you measure the thickness of your gutter as well. The clips come in different sizes.

Automatic Timers Are Your Friend

Finally, you’ll need surge protector with a built-in timer. It’s important to turn off the lights during the day to save energy and keep your bulbs from burning out, but unless you want to be plugging and unplugging your lights all the time, get a timer. They’re cheap, easy to use, and convenient.

Find A Friend

Hanging lights by yourself is a bad idea. It requires a lot of climbing up and down the ladder and that can be dangerous. Have someone else hand you the lights up the ladder, and hold it steady so you can focus on clipping on the lights.

Also, hang them up during the day. They might look prettier at night, but you can wait. Putting them up at night can be a risky venture.

Christmas can be the happiest time of the year, and the lights and decorations are a big part of that. Don’t think of hanging lights as a chore. Get the whole family involved and make it a Christmas activity.

Just be sure you have all your materials ahead of time, you’ve measured out how much you need, and you’ve got a timer to turn them off and on for you. That way when it’s time to hang up the lights, it will take no time at all.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 23, 2013

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What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week- December 23, 2013According to December’s NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, home builder confidence rose by four points to a reading of 58; this surpassed the consensus of 56 and November’s reading of 56.

November Housing Starts were released Wednesday and also exceeded expectations and the prior month’s reading. 1.09 million housing starts were reported for November against expectations of 963,000 and October’s reading of 889,000 housing starts.

Building permits issued in November came in at 1.01 million and fell short of October’s reading of 1.04 million permits issued. November’s reading exceeded expectations of 990,000 permits issued.

The week’s big news emerged after the conclusion of the Federal Reserve’s FOMC meeting. The committee announced that it would begin tapering the Fed’s $85 billion purchases of securities. The taper was modest; the Fed will reduce its rate of purchases to $75 billion monthly, with a split of $40 billion in Treasury securities and $35 billion in mortgage-backed securities.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave his final press conference as Fed chair. He noted that the FOMC was confident that the economy would continue to improve at a moderate rate and that the Fed would continue monitoring economic and financial developments to guide future adjustments in its monthly purchase of securities.

Mortgage rates were expected to rise after news of the Fed’s tapering of its quantitative easing program, as the program was intended to hold down long-term interest rates and mortgage rates.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey confirmed expectations of higher mortgage rates. Average mortgage rates ticked upward by five basis points to 4.47 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by eight basis points to 3.51 percent.

Discount points for a 30-year mortgage were unchanged at 0.70 percent for a 30-year mortgage and dropped from 0.70 to 0.60 percent for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 2.94 percent last to 2.96 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

Weekly Jobless Claims came in at 379,000 and were higher than projections of 338,000 and the prior reading of 369,000 new jobless claims. Although the reading was the highest since March, analysts attributed the higher reading to changes in work schedules during the holidays.

Sales of existing homes slipped to their lowest levels in close to a year. The NAR reported that existing home sales fell from 5.12 million in October to 4.90 million in November.

Projections were set at 5.00 million sales for November, but a shortage of available homes and rising mortgage rates were seen as reasons for fewer sales. The approaching holiday season and cold weather typically contribute to a lull in home sales during the winter months.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news is light due to the Christmas holiday, but Monday’s releases include consumer spending, personal spending and the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index.

New Home Sales for November will be released Tuesday. The week’s scheduled news will conclude with Weekly Jobless Reports on Thursday, as no further economic news is scheduled for Friday.

Fed Minutes Predicts Tapering Of Quantitative Easing Program

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Fed Meeting Minutes Display Strong Signs Of Economic ReceoveryHousing Starts exceeded expectations and also beat October’s reading of 889,000. November housing starts were posted at 1.09 million against a consensus of 963,000.

This reading is more in line with the NAHB/Wells Fargo Home builder Market Index, which reached a four month high with December’s reading.

With that threat resolved and a new federal budget passed, builders can now proceed without worrying about setbacks caused by government shutdowns and legislative gridlock.

Building permits issued in November were slightly lower at 1.01 million than October’s reading of 1.04 million. Viewed as an indicator of future construction, and ultimately, available homes, it is not unusual for construction and permits to slow during the winter months.

FOMC Statement And Chairman Bernanke’s Last Press Conference

Throughout 2013, strong signs of economic recovery have led to predictions of the Federal Reserve tapering its quantitative easing program.

As each FOMC meeting approached, analysts predicted that the Fed would start reducing its $85 billion purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities.

The asset purchases are part of the government’s quantitative easing program that was implemented to keep long-term interest rates and mortgage rates low.

The cut finally came on Wednesday as the FOMC made its customary post-meeting statement. Effective in January 2014, the Fed will reduce its monthly purchases by $10 billion.

The QE purchase will be split between $40 billion in Treasury securities and $35 billion in MBS. The Fed expects that the economy will continue recovering at a moderate pace.

The FOMC statement noted that the Fed will continue monitoring inflation, which remains below the Fed’s target rate of 2.00 percent, and the national unemployment rate, which remains above the Fed’s target rate of 6.50 percent.

The statement noted that asset purchases are not on a predetermined course, and that the Fed will continue to closely monitor labor market conditions, inflation pressure and economic developments in the U.S. and globally.

The Fed did not change its target federal funds rate of 0.00 to 0.25 percent, and would not do so at least until unemployment falls to 6.50 percent. Changes to policy accommodation are made with the Fed’s dual goal of achieving an inflation rate of 2.00 percent and achieving maximum national employment goals.

Bernanke Press Conference

Mr. Bernanke repeated key points of the FOMC statement, and noted that “highly accommodative monetary policy and waning fiscal drag” is helping with the economic recovery, but that the economy has much farther to go before it can be considered fully recovered.

Mr. Bernanke said that FOMC members saw the unemployment rate dropping from 7.00 percent in November 2013 to 6.30 to 6.60 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. Improving labor markets and rising household spending were cited as signs of economic recovery.

Mr. Bernanke mentioned concerns about the high unemployment and underemployment rates and said that the Fed’s benchmarks for unemployment and inflation would not automatically trigger reductions in its QE asset purchases.

He also said that the committee did not expect to adjust the target federal funds rate immediately after the national unemployment rate reaches 6.50 percent. 

Mr. Bernanke repeated that the Fed’s actions regarding monetary policy and QE would be dependent on in-depth review of ongoing financial and economic developments, but said that further tapering of QE purchases is likely if the economy stays on its present course of moderate improvement.

Housing Market Index Shows Builder Confidence Up 23 Percent Year-Over-Year

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Housing Market Index Shows Builder Confidence Up 23 Percent Year- Over- Year According to the National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Homebuilders Market Index for December, builder confidence recovered in with a reading of 58. This surpassed both expectations of 56 and last month’s reading of 54.

Analysts noted that builder confidence has steadied after the government shutdown. December’s reading was the highest in four months. Dave Crowe, NAHB chief economist, said that his organization was expecting a “gradual improvement in the housing recovery” in 2014.

Any reading above 50 indicates that more builders are confident about overall housing market conditions than not.

Builder Confidence – Highest Reading Since 2005

Pent-up demand for housing is driving housing markets in spite of higher mortgage rates. Three components of builder confidence used to calculate the overall reading also rose in December. Builder confidence in current home sales rose to 64 from a reading of 58 in November; this is the highest reading since 2005.

Confidence levels in housing markets over the next six months rose to 62 from last month’s reading of 60. Builder confidence also grew in the area of buyer foot traffic in new developments and gained three points to a reading of 44.

All of this is good news, but the NAHB said that a gap remains between higher home builder confidence and the rate of new home construction. A seasonal lull in home construction is not unusual especially in areas experiencing harsh weather.

More Jobs, Low Refinance Numbers Could Mean More Mortgages Available

MarketWatch analysts suggest that if the economy continues to add jobs “at a brisk pace” and mortgage lenders ease lending requirements next year, the demand for homes could further strengthen the U.S. housing market next year.  

Low numbers of refinance mortgages in 2013 may cause some lenders to loosen mortgage credit requirements, which were tightened after the housing bubble burst.

Economic News scheduled for today may provide a broader picture of economic health and likely trends for 2015. The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee will provide its expected statement after its meeting, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will give his last press conference as Fed chair as well.

Any indication of plans to reduce the Fed’s current quantitative easing program could upset financial and mortgage markets, but most economic analysts don’t expect an announcement of tapering the Fed’s asset purchases before next year.

Data on November Housing Starts and Building Permits will also offer clues as to how housing markets and the general economy are doing.

Get The Overview On Escrow Accounts

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Get The Overview On Escrow AccountsWhether you are purchasing a new home or you are considering applying to refinance your home, chances are the lender will require an escrow account. These accounts are often a source of confusion for homeowners.

In reality, these accounts benefit the homeowner and help protect the lender.

What Is An Escrow Account?

Escrow accounts are sometimes called “impound” accounts. These accounts are set up to help manage payments of property taxes and homeowner’s insurance.

Depending on the individual requirements of the lender, you may be asked to pay as much as one-quarter of these upfront and they will be put into the account for the purposes of making payments.

Who Controls Escrow Accounts?

Lenders have complete control over escrow accounts. However, homeowners are entitled to receive an annual statement advising them of their escrow balance.

If there is an increase or decrease in insurance payments through the year, a homeowner may request the lender evaluate the escrow account and change the amount that is paid.

Is Interest Paid On Escrow Accounts?

There is no mandate to pay interest on escrow accounts. When you refinance your home, the funds for your taxes and insurance are calculated into your overall payment.

The portion that is to be used to pay taxes and insurance is placed in escrow. Arizona laws do not require lenders to pay interest on these accounts.

What Happens If I Sell My Home Or Refinance?

When you sell or refinance your home, your escrow account will be credited at closing. The amount may be used to lower your out-of-pocket costs or may be turned over to you as a direct payment.

What Happens If There Is Not Enough/Too Much Money In Escrow?

If your lender has underestimated your escrow payments, they may request you send an additional payment to make up the difference. In the event you are paying too much into escrow, your lender has the discretion to release the overage amount directly to you.

In most cases, shortfalls or overages of $50 or less are typically not a major concern.

If your lender requires you to have an escrow account for the taxes and insurance portion of your mortgage payment, it can be very helpful. Escrow accounts help ensure you do not have to come up with a large payment once a year for insurance or quarterly for taxes.

In some cases, if a lender does not require an escrow account, as a borrower, you may request they escrow your taxes and insurance for convenience.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 16, 2013

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What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - December 16 2013Mortgage Debt Rises For First Time Since Recession

Last week was relatively quiet concerning scheduled housing-related news, but the Federal Reserve’s financial accounts report, released on Monday, indicated that mortgage debt in the U.S. had increased for the first time since the first quarter (Q1) of 2008.

Mortgage debt increased by a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of $87.4 billion, or 0.90 percent. Mortgage debt remains approximately 12.00 percent below pre-recession levels.

Increasing debt is not often considered good news, but in the case of mortgage debt in today’s economy, it suggests economic recovery in the form of higher home prices and fewer foreclosures.

Another instance of counter-intuitive economic results was released Tuesday. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report for October.

JOLTS indicated that 2.39 million workers quit their jobs in October. This was the highest number of jobs quit since 2008. While this may appear counter-productive to a growing economy, it indicates that workers are leaving their jobs for better positions.

Mortgage Rates Fall, Federal Budget Deficit Shrinks

On Wednesday the U.S. Treasury announced that November’s federal budget deficit had shrunk to -$135 billion from November 2012′s deficit reading of -$172 billion. This represents a year-over-year deficit decrease of 21 percent.

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS) report provided good news as average mortgage rates fell last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 4.46 percent to 4.42 percent. Discount points rose from the previous week’s reading of 0.50 percent to 0.70 percent.

15-year fixed rate mortgage rates fell from 3.47 percent to an average reading of 3.43 percent, with discount points rising from the prior week’s reading of 0.40 percent to 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped from 2.99 percent to 2.94 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

Lower mortgage rates are good news for home buyers facing higher home prices.

Weekly jobless claims rose last week. The previous week’s reading of 300,000 new jobless claims was short-lived as the reading for new jobless claims rose to 368,000 last week and surpassed a consensus of 335,000 new jobless claims.

Financial analysts cautioned that employment data can be volatile during the holidays, and noted that the four-week average of new unemployment claims rose by 6000 to 328,750.

Whats Coming Up

There are several significant releases set for housing-related news. The NAHB housing market index, Housing Starts, and Building permits indicate how current builder confidence and new construction may impact the supply of available homes.

On Wednesday, the FOMC will issue its usual statement at the conclusion of its two-day meeting. Some analysts expect an announcement concerning the Fed’s quantitative easing policy; Outgoing Fed Chair Ben Bernanke is set to give a press conference after the FOMC statement.

In addition to the weekly jobless claims report and Freddie Mac’s PMMS, Reports on Existing Home Sales and Leading Economic Indicators will also be released. 

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