mortgage financing and programs

Archive for January, 2014

3 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Plumbing

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Get The Most Out Of Your PlumbingEveryone wants their pipes to last as long as possible, but there are a couple of simple problems that might be sucking the life out of your plumbing. Long-term stress is the enemy when it comes to your water system.

The three most common enemies are high water pressure, mineral-laden hard water, and grease. Avoid these three mistakes, and your water system will last years longer.

Take The Pressure Off Your Pipes

You might enjoy high water pressure when you’re taking a shower, but your pipes aren’t enjoying it at all. Over time, this high pressure stresses your plumbing system and can lead to leaks.

Is your high-pressure shower worth an expensive plumbing leak? To test your water pressure, you’ll have to hire a professional. Proper pressure should be somewhere between forty and eighty pounds per square inch.

To have a plumber reduce your water pressure should cost no more than about three or four hundred dollars. That sounds expensive, but it’s a lot cheaper than a leak.

Soft Water Is Good Water

If your water has a lot of minerals dissolved it, then it’s known as hard water. If you don’t already have a water softener you should consider it, because over time, those minerals will build up in your plumbing.

Eventually this will lead to a leak, so nip the problem in the bud, and look into getting a water softener. A good water softener should cost around five hundred dollars.

Hard water also makes soaps and detergents less effective. Soft water will get your clothes, your dishes, and even your hair cleaner.

Cease The Grease

Don’t ever pour cooking grease down the drain. It might be liquid when you pour it, but after a while, it will cool and solidify in your pipes. This won’t break the plumbing and cause a leak, but it will clog it all up.

The water that goes down afterward won’t do anything to wash away the sticky grease. You don’t want your pipes backing up, trust me. That is one messy problem.

Instead pour your grease into containers and throw it away in the garbage. Even better, go ahead and save it in the pantry and cook with it later.

Indoor plumbing is one of the most convenient technologies we have. So don’t take it for granted. Take care of your plumbing, and get the most out of it.

Avoid excessive water pressure, get a water softener, and don’t pour any grease down the drain. A little care now will go a long way. No one wants to deal with a plumbing leak. They’re expensive and a huge hassle.

Case Shiller Price Index Shows Homeowners A Rise In Home Equity

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Case Shiller Price Index Shows Homeowners A Rise In Home Equity According to the S&P/Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices released Tuesday, the U.S. Housing Market is on a roll based on year-over-year increases in average home values, but month-to-month results were mixed.

The 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices showed year-over-year growth of 13.80 and 13.70 percent respectively.

Highlights Include:

  • Dallas, Texas posted its highest rate of annual growth since 2000.
  • Chicago’s average home price rose by 11.00 percent, its highest annual gain since December 1988.
  • The 10 and 20-City Indices posted their best November home prices since 2005.

Top year-over-year gains in home prices included Las Vegas, Nevada at 27.30 percent, San Francisco, California at 23.20 percent, Los Angeles, California at 21.60 percent and San Diego, California at 18.70 percent. Atlanta, Georgia rounds out the top five cities with a year-over-year increase in home prices of 18.50 percent.

The annual readings for the S&P/Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Housing Market Indices in November suggests that U.S. markets are strong enough to sustain momentum in spite of rising mortgage rates. The month-to-month results show that both indices decreased by an incremental 0.10 percent in November, 2013.

Keeping in mind the traditional slump in home sales during the winter and holiday season, lower month-to-month readings were neither unexpected nor disappointing.

Eight of the nine top cities posting the highest month-to-month growth in home prices were located in the Sun Belt. San Diego, California and Minneapolis, Minnesota home prices remained nearly flat after decreasing in October.

Nine of the 20 cities surveyed posted positive month-to-month growth in home prices. Of the nine cities, only Boston, Massachusetts and Cleveland, Ohio were not located in the Sun Belt.

S&P/ Dow Jones Index Committee Chairman Expects Slower Growth In 2014

David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, noted that November’s month-to-month readings for the 10 and 20-city home price indices indicated that Phoenix, Arizona, Los Angeles California and Las Vegas, Nevada had each posted 20 or more consecutive months of rising home prices.

While positive in his remarks about increasing home prices, Mr. Blitzer also noted that indicators suggested a slower rate of growth during 2014.

This aligns with previously released economic news citing uncertainty about mortgage rates that may continue to rise as the Federal Reserve continues tapering its monthly asset purchases under its quantitative easing program.

The Fed’s FOMC meeting is scheduled to end Wednesday, January 29, at which time the committee’s customary statement will indicate whether or not the Fed’s monthly asset purchases will be reduced from their current level of $75 billion.

On the positive side, Chairman Blitzer said that the low inflation rate (1.50 percent in 2013) and rising home prices are helping homeowners accumulate home equity at a faster pace.

What’s Your Home’s Real Value?

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What's Your Home's Real Value?As a society, it seems like we’ve gotten away from appreciating our homes for their emotional and sentimental worth. Instead, we focus solely on their monetary value. 

An Appraiser Can Estimate A Home’s Monetary Value, But To Gain A True Concept Of Your Home’s Worth, You Must Also Take Into Consideration:

  1. Pride Of Ownership. You don’t buy a pair of Prada shoes because you’re going to be able to resell them and make a profit. You buy them because they make you look good and feel good.
  2. Security And Stability.  Your home provides a roof over your head that’s in your control. You can decorate it how you want. You don’t have to worry about a landlord selling the property or asking you to move out. In the “olden days” (or should I say “golden days”), we called our homes our castles because, as owners, we felt like the kings and queens of our homes. You can still feel that way! Claim your castle and crown yourself king or queen today.
  3. A Safe Haven.  After a tough day at work or a day of disappointments, where’s the first place you think of going? Home! As Dorothy says, “There’s no place like home.”
  4. A Place To Make Memories.  Your son’s tree house and daughter’s playhouse.  The markings on the wall that tracked your children’s growth. The porch swing where you start and end every anniversary celebration.    
  5. A Neighborhood Full Of Friends.  In the event of an emergency, your neighbors are your first line of defense. They’re also the simplest, best and least expensive form of security. Additionally, they may have the exact tool you need for a project; the extra pair of hands you need to complete a project or children to become playmates with yours. Neighbors also give you that much needed in-person, up-close social network.

Even if your home’s economic value has dropped, you continue to benefit from its emotional values of community, stability, security and success.

Thinking of buying a home? I can help you evaluate the emotional and monetary worth of homes and find a home that fits your values and lifestyle. Give your trusted mortgage professional a call today.

Existing Home Sales Reach Highest Level In 7 Years

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Existing Home Sales Reach Highest Level In 7 YearsThe NAR provided great year-end news as existing home sales in December pushed 2013 sales of existing homes to a 7 year high. December’s reading of 4.86 sales of pre-owned homes came in at 4.87 million on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

Although projections had been for 4.89 million sales, the December reading topped November’s revised sales of 4.82 million pre-owned homes.

December’s reading showed the first gain in existing home sales in three months. NAR reported that existing home sales for 2013 reached 5.09 million, which represented a 9.10 percent increase over 2012.

More Good News: Median Price Of Existing Homes Rises

NAR reported that the national median price for pre-owned homes increased to $198,000, a year-over-year increase of 9.90 percent. The average price of an existing home for all of 2013 was $197,100. This was the strongest growth in existing home prices since 2005 and represented an increase of 11.50 percent.

There were 1.86 million pre-owned homes for sale in December. At current sales rates, this represents a 4.60 month inventory. Real estate pros like to see a minimum of a six-month supply of available homes, so existing homes remain in short supply.

Analysts attributed rising home prices to improving economic conditions and a persistent shortage of homes for sale.

FHFA: Slower Gain for Home Prices In November

FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that November prices of homes financed with mortgages owned or guaranteed by the two agencies rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.10 percent as compared to October’s increase of 0.50 percent and an expected growth rate of 0.40 percent.

November’s reading brought year-over-year home sales to an increase of 7.60 percent, but is still 8.90 percent below their April 2007 peak.

Analysts noted that recent reports of increasing new home construction and rising new home sales as reasons why prices of existing homes are seeing slower growth.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 27, 2014

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 27, 2014Last week was an action-packed week for economic news, and all of it was packed into Thursday:

Weekly Jobless claims came in at 326,000 which was lower than the expected 330,000 new claims. This week’s claims were higher than the prior week’s 325,000 new jobless claims filed.

The NAR released its Existing Home Sales Report for December; sales of existing homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.86 million.

December’s reading fell shy of estimates of 490 million existing home sales, but the estimate was based on November sales that were later adjusted downward to 4.82 million sales of existing homes. Existing home sales for 2013 came in at 5.09 million sales, a 9.10 percent increase over 2012 sales.

The median price of a pre-existing home reached $198,000 in December, with the median price for all of 2013 at $197,100, which was an increase of 11.50 percent over the average price for an existing home in 2012.

Pent-up demand and a lingering shortage of available homes likely contributed to last year’s rapid rise in home prices.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, FHFA Reports Slower Gain For Home Prices

Freddie Mac reported mixed results for average mortgage rates in its weekly PMMS report. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from last week’s 4.41 to 4.39 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year mortgage dipped by one basis point to 3.44 percent; discount points for both 30 and 15-year mortgages were unchanged at 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 3.10 to 3.15 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, released its Home Price report for November 2012. This report is based on information gathered about homes with mortgages owned or backed by the two firms. According to FHFA, home prices increased by 7.60 percent year-over-year.

Home prices moved up by 0.10 percent in November as compared to a rate of 0.50 percent in October.

Leading Economic Indicators Suggest Economy Strengthening

The Leading Economic Indicators report for December moved up by 0.10 percent, which pushed the index to a reading of 99.4. December’s reading represented the sixth consecutive month that the index gained ground.

Economists associated with the LEI report note that while steady growth is expected during the spring, the economy will likely encounter a few obstacles including rising interest rates and possible political gridlock over raising the national debt ceiling.

This Week

This week’s economic news is set to include New Home Sales, the Consumer Confidence Index, and Weekly Jobless Claims. Freddie Mac’s PMMS mortgage rates and reports on consumer spending and consumer sentiment round out the week’s news.

The FOMC statement expected after the committee concludes its meeting on Wednesday is expected to provide news of the Fed’s plan for further tapering of its quantitative easing program.

Dine In Style, Kitchen Design Dos And Don’ts For 2014

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Dine In Style, Kitchen Design Dos And Don’ts For 2014The kitchen is one of the most important rooms of your home. It is where you prepare all of your meals and it is often a hub of family activity. When you host a party, the action often ends up in the kitchen.

Where drinks and snacks are enjoyed into the early hours of the morning. It’s crucial that your kitchen functions well because you will use it every day, but you also want to make it beautiful and stylish.

Renovating and decorating your kitchen can also be one of the best ways to increase the resale value of your home. If you are planning on a kitchen makeover:

Here Are Some Dos And Don’ts To Keep In Mind:

  • Don’t forget to consider the proportions of everyone who will use the kitchen. Don’t choose kitchen stools that are too high for your kids to sit on, or cabinets that your wife cannot reach.
  • Think carefully about storage space. What do you need to store and how much room do you need? You might want to store away your blender and toaster and other small appliances as well, so that they don’t have to clutter up the counter all the time.
  • One of the hottest trends of 2014 is a simple and elegant white and cream kitchen. A neutral color like this can be accented with vibrant splashes of color, such as a bright fruit bowl or a wall hanging. If you are selling your home, a neutral tone will appeal more to the majority of buyers.
  • Another popular trend is green and environmentally sustainable elements within the kitchen. Recycled, renewable and energy-efficient products are in abundance at the moment and these options will not only save you money, they will be much better for the environment.
  • Instead of placing your microwave on the counter, it makes a lot more sense to fit it in seamlessly with your cabinets. This will allow you to free up counter space in your kitchen.
  • Be careful not to over design – it’s a common decorating mistake. Keep things simple and know when to stop, so that you don’t have a kitchen that looks overwhelming and cluttered.

These are just a few tips to keep in mind if you are giving the kitchen of your home a makeover for 2014. For more helpful tips and information, contact your trusted mortgage professional.

Top 10 Indoor Houseplants For Your Air Quality

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Top 10 Indoor Houseplants For Your Air QualityHouseplants are great for decorating. They can brighten up any room. Plus, houseplants can increase the air quality in a room. That makes you happier, healthier and reduces stress.

Speaking of stress, these plants won’t create any at all. All of the plants on this list are great at producing oxygen and require very little care.

10. Heartleaf Philodendron

A tough plant that’s a good filter for toxins like formaldehyde, Heartleaf Philodendron makes a great houseplant. The only downside is that it’s toxic to eat, so it may not be the best choice for those with kids or pets. But if you can control your appetite, the Heartleaf Philodendron is an excellent indoor houseplant for air quality.

9. Snake Plant

Also called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, the Snake plant thrives in the bathroom. It loves the steamy conditions and can do without much light. It’s a great air filter as well.

8. Bamboo Palm

It thrives indoors and requires little maintenance. The Bamboo Palm even produces flowers and berries.

7. Red-edged Dracaena

Another great air filter, the Red-edged Dracaena is interesting because of its size. It can grow all the way to the ceiling. This beast of an oxygen-producing plant makes a great addition to the living room.

6. Chinese Evergreen

This is one of the prettier options. With interesting leaf colorings as well as berries and blooms, the Chinese Evergreen will contribute to your décor as well as your air quality.

5. Peace Lily

The Peace Lily only needs water about once a week. This is a great houseplant for air quality, and it’s easy to care for.

4. Devil’s Ivy

This air purifier looks great in a basket. Try hanging it in the garage.

3. English Ivy

English Ivy is an excellent filter plant. It’s been shown to filter out formaldehyde, which can be found in some cleaning products, and it even filters fecal matter particles (I bet you didn’t even know there were any of those in your house). English Ivy is an invasive species though. It’s fine to keep inside as a houseplant, just make sure it doesn’t end up in the yard.

2. Weeping fig

A type of Ficus, this is a great houseplant for air quality. It’s a bit bigger than the others though. It would fit best in the living room.

1. Spider Plant

The Spider plant is nearly impossible to kill. Even if you’ve been a plant murderer in the past, try this one. It will do wonders for your air quality, and I promise you won’t kill it.

Houseplants have been shown to reduce stress in the home. Combine that with higher air quality and your quality of life can be greatly improved with the help of a new green friend.

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you can take care of these. These are great houseplants for air quality.

Improve Your Curb Appeal This Winter

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Improve Your Curb Appeal This WinterAfter all of the excitement of the holidays, the sparkle of the lights and the over-stimulation of decorations, the rest of winter can seem lackluster. Don’t let your home add to the dreariness of the season.

Spruce up your curb appeal with the tips below and inspire your neighbors to create well-groomed street that will make drivers passing through smile.

Tend The Plants

If you’re currently located in a winter wonderland, then dig up any dead plants that won’t grow back. Replace them with cold-loving flowers, such as snowberry or lambs ear.

In warmer climates, this is the time for any landscaping changes you’d like to make. It will give your plants a chance to flourish by spring and have solid roots before the harsh heat of summer.

Light The Way

With daylight hours dwindling, well-placed outdoor lighting will help highlight your home’s best features in the evening.

Not only do they make your home look warm and cozy, but they also provide much-needed walkway lighting so that your guests arrive safely.

For a festive New Year’s sparkle, wrap white lights around the porch and in the trees.

Create A Custom Mailbox

Reclaim a vintage mailbox or get creative with paint to let the neighborhood know your family’s favorite sports team. A personalized letterbox says a lot about your household, so make it something special that doesn’t look like every other box on the street.

Also, visitors trying to find your home always appreciate large, easy-to-read address numbers visible from both directions.

Place Pots Strategically

Create focal points with terra cotta or colorful pots. Place them around your door to make a cozy entrance. Use evergreens and holly to give the curb appeal of your home a wintry feeling or brighten up a dark doorstep with cheerful pansies.

Paint Your Front Door

Perk up your curb appeal when the weather is dreary by painting your front door in a color that packs a punch. Try a vibrant red, bright blue or sage green. These colors will make your home feel warm and cheerful. However, don’t apply paint if the weather is below 40 degrees, because it will dry brittle and crack.

Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac, How They Impact Real Estate

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Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac, How They Impact Real EstateFannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been in the news quite a bit over the past few years, so it’s a good time to do a refresher on who they are and what role they play in the real estate market.

Who Are Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac?

Fannie Mae is the Federal National Mortgage Association. Freddie Mac is the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. They were originally created to raise homeownership levels and increase the availability of affordable housing.

Fannie and Freddie don’t sell mortgages directly to homeowners. They buy mortgages from lenders, so the lenders can use the money to issue new home mortgages.

In 2008, due to mismanagement resulting in billions of dollars of losses, Fannie and Freddie were taken over by the government.

How Do Fannie And Freddie Impact Real Estate?

  • They contributed to the financial crisis and real estate downturn, by loosening underwriting standards, buying and guaranteeing risky loans and increasing purchases of mortgage-backed securities.
  • They are key players in the government’s Making Home Affordable foreclosure-prevention program. If your mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you may be able to refinance your loan and take advantage of lower interest rates.
  • They influence mortgage interest rates and the availability of home loans. Freddie, Fannie and the Federal Housing Administration together now guarantee about 90 percent of all new mortgages, far above their historic level.

What’s Going To Happen To Fannie And Freddie?

Fannie and Freddie’s future is uncertain. An amendment to the bailout legislation passed in 2012 which will require both to wind down by 2018. But this will not happen soon, if at all.

Congress must agree on a plan, which could take years, and then the market’s dependence on the companies and the financial backing they provide must be reduced.

As of the end of 2013, Fannie and Freddie will have repaid nearly all of the $187 billion dollar bailout loan back to taxpayers. In 2013, Fannie and Freddie made more than $100 billion and are involved in more than half of all new mortgages.

If you have further questions on this topic, please contact myself or your trusted mortgage professional. I’m happy to help.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 20, 2014

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 20, 2014Welcome news arrived last week as lower mortgage rates and a higher number of housing starts were reported. Other economic news was mixed:

The Federal Reserve released its Beige Book Report released last Tuesday indicated modest economic growth throughout the 12 Federal Reserve districts. Analysts predicted that this would cause the Fed to further reduce the volume of monthly asset purchases made under its quantitative easing program.

The Atlanta, Cleveland and Kansas City districts reported slower home sales, which supported recent expectations of slowing gains in home prices. 

Mortgage Rates Dip, Housing Starts Up

According to Freddie Mac, average mortgage rates fell last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped from 4.51 to 4.41 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.45 percent as compared to the prior week’s reading of 3.56 percent.

Discount points rose from 0.60 to 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped from 3.15 to 3.10 percent; discount points rose from 0.40 to 0.50 percent.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Home Builders Confidence Index dropped slightly in January. Although expectations were for a reading of 59, January’s reading was 56 and lower than December’s revised reading of 57.

The NAHB Index has increased by 19 percent year-over-year and is expected to continue rising in 2014 due to relatively lower mortgage rates, and pent-up demand for homes.

Housing starts for December came in at 999,000 against expectations of 985,000 and November’s revised reading of 1.11 million. Cold weather and concerns over rising mortgage rates in 2014 were cited as causing fewer housing starts. As the Fed tapers its QE program, mortgage rates are expected to rise.

Consumer sentiment toward the economy was lower than expected according to the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for January. The confidence index was expected to rise to 84.0 based on December’s reading of 82.5, but only achieved a reading of 80.4.

Higher gasoline prices and a slower labor market likely contributed to wavering consumer sentiment; rising inflationary expectations were also considered a cause.

This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news includes an action-packed Thursday as today is Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday and no economic reports are scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday.

Thursday’s reports include Weekly Jobless Claims, Freddie Mac’s PMMS, along with Existing Home Prices, FHFA Home Prices and Leading Economic Indicators.

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