mortgage financing and programs

Archive for February, 2014

How To Make Your Home Look More Luxurious On A Budget

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How To Make Your Home Look More Luxurious On A BudgetHave you been looking through home décor magazines and gazing with wonder at the gorgeous homes inside? Do you want to add a touch of elegance and luxury to your home, but you are on a tight budget?

No need to worry, there are many ways that you can make your home look like a million bucks, without actually having to spend a fortune.  

Luxury Home Decor Ideas

Here are a few great ideas that don’t have to cost a lot, they just require a little bit of planning and some elbow grease and they will take your home from ordinary to luxury.

  • Mount your curtains at ceiling level rather than the top of the windows. This draws the eye upwards and gives the illusion of high ceilings.
  • Paint your interior doors a sleek and shiny shade of black. This looks very modern and sophisticated and is much cheaper than buying expensive doors.
  • If your home doesn’t have crown moulding, paint a white band around the ceiling to fake the look.
  • The little details can make a big difference when it comes to making a home look elegant and luxurious. Add in finishing touches such as a beautiful glass vase, a stack of coffee table books, fresh flowers or a piece of artwork.
  • Remember, less is more and a cluttered house will not create the impression of luxury. Eliminate as much clutter as possible, making your home seem more spacious and sophisticated.
  • Lighting can also have a big impact on how luxurious your home appears. Invest in a few beautiful and stylish lamps, or a chandelier, and you will transform the entire space.
  • When choosing fabrics for accessories and upholstery, go for fabrics that have a luxurious texture such as velvet, satin or fur. They can be faux to make them cheaper, but they will still add to the luxurious look.
  • You can take simple and cheap accessories such as a candle holder or a vase from the dollar store and then paint them with gold paint. They will have a luxurious look, for much less than the real thing!

These are just a few ideas that you can incorporate into your home décor of your home in order to make it look and feel more luxurious. For more helpful information, contact your mortgage professional.

Case Shiller Price Index Shows That It’s A Buyers Market

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Case Shiller Price Index Shows That It's A Buyers MarketTwo major indicators of home price trends showed a slowing momentum for home prices in December. The S&P Case Shiller 10 and 20 city indices reported that of 20 cities tracked, home prices were lower in December than for November.

Case-Shiller’s seasonally adjusted month-to month reading showed that home prices rose by 0.8 percent as compared to 0.90 percent in November.

David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that “Gains are slowing from month-to-month and the strongest part of home price recovery may be over.” He also noted that seasonally adjusted data was showing a loss of momentum for home prices.

December home prices posted a year-over-year gain of 13.40 percent, down from November’s year-over-year reading of 13.70 percent. December’s reading reflected the highest year-over-year increase in home prices since 2005.

Analysts note that a slower pace of increasing home prices may allow more buyers to enter the market, and may also encourage more buyers to list their properties for sale. This would increase inventories of available homes and relieve pent-up demand for homes.

Although home price growth is cooling off, average home prices remain 20 percent below their pre-recession peak in 2006.

Home Prices Face Challenges In 2014

Another factor in slower growth of home prices is regional differences in the rate of economic recovery. Cities including Dallas, Texas and Denver, Colorado recently set records for escalating home prices.

Five states including Florida and Michigan accounted for almost half of foreclosures completed during 2013. Slow job growth and poor winter weather were also blamed for slower gains in home prices.

New mortgage rules and relatively strict mortgage lending standards may continue to dampen housing markets, but there is some good news as some lenders are easing credit standards.

FHFA: Home Prices Higher For 10th Consecutive Quarter

The Federal Housing Finance Administration reported similar trends in December home price data for properties either financed or owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Home prices rose by a seasonally adjusted rate of 0.80 percent in December as compared to November’s reading. Home prices were 7.70 percent higher for the fourth quarter of 2013 than for the same period in 2012. Adjusted for inflation, this reading indicates an approximate year-over-year increase of 7 percent.

FHFA reported higher readings for 38 states in its fourth quarter 2013 Home Price Index, as compared with 48 states in in the third quarter of 2013.  

In order of home price appreciation, the top five states with highest growth in home prices were Nevada, California, Arizona, Oregon and Florida. These calculations were seasonally adjusted and based on home purchases only.

How Can I Get A Cash-Out Refinance Using An FHA Loan?

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How Can I Get A Cash-Out Refinance Using An FHA Loan?While homeowners typically equate the FHA loan program with low-down payment mortgages, FHA refinances are also available.

In addition to easy-to-source rate-and-term and streamline refinances that replace an existing FHA mortgage with a better one, the FHA even offers cash-out refinance loans.

A cash-out FHA loan refinance allows the borrower to take out up to 85 percent of the value of his property. In today’s market, the ability to pull out 85 percent of a home’s equity is attractive, but not as generous as a 96.5 percent FHA purchase mortgage.

Nevertheless, while the borrower doesn’t get the high leverage of a regular FHA mortgage, he still gets many of its other benefits.

FHA Refinance Requirements

FHA cash-out refinances don’t impose limitations on how borrowers use the cash they take out. In addition, they also don’t require the applicant to have stellar credit.

It’s possible that someone could qualify with a credit score in the 500s. What they don’t need is an existing FHA mortgage — FHA cash-out loans are available even when a borrower is coming from a conventional mortgage.

100% And Beyond

It is also possible to borrow more than 100 percent of your home’s value through the FHA 203(k) program. 203(k) loans have one catch, though. Borrowers have to spend the money on their home.

203(k) loans are sometimes referred to as rehabilitation loans. Based on the assumption that the repairs or renovations performed with the money will raise the home’s value, the FHA lets borrowers take out extra money to pay for them.

Applying for a 203(k) loan isn’t always easy, but it can provide extra money for repairs. If a borrower thinks of an FHA loan as only being a tool to buy a house, he is missing out on some of the FHA program’s biggest benefits.

For many people, it is also the best cash-out refinance program available, whether in its traditional or in its 203(k) guise.

Existing Home Sales Lowest Since 2012

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Existing Home Sales Lowest Since 2012Sales of existing homes fell by 5.10 percent in January according to the National Association of REALTORS.

Pre-owned home sales slowed to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million homes against an expected reading of 4.65 million and December’s reading of 4.87 million existing homes sold.

Rising home prices are reducing the number of affordable homes and a shrinking inventory of available homes were said to be underlying causes to January’s slump in existing home sales.

Severe winter weather also contributed to lower sales.

January’s reading was the lowest for existing home sales since July of 2012. The national inventory of available pre-owned homes was 1.90 million, which represents a 4.90 month supply at the current sales pace.

Real estate pros look for a 6 to 6.50 month supply of existing homes to balance demand and availability between buyers and homes for sale.

High demand against a low supply of available homes suggests that some home sales weren’t completed due to a bottleneck between willing buyers and a low supply of available homes. Rising home prices also limit affordability for first-time and moderate income home buyers.

Regional Sales Of Existing Homes Lower

Existing home sales fell across all four regions:

  • Northeast: -3.10 percent
  • Midwest: -7.1 percent
  • South: -3.5 percent
  • West: 7.3 percent

Slow job growth, new mortgage rules and high loan approval standards were also reported as causes for slower sales. Short supplies of existing homes in high demand locations are causing multiple offers on homes, and in some areas, cash offers are in play. High competition for homes can eliminate home buyers with a limited range of purchasing power.

Reports on new construction and home builder confidence in housing market conditions supported the slower rate of existing home sales in January

Home prices, while still increasing, are not growing at the rapid rates seen in 2013. The national median home price in January rose to $188,900, which represents a 10.70 percent increase year-over-year. Analysts said that existing home sales that weren’t completed due to the winter weather can be expected to recover as warmer weather arrives.

Distressed Home Sales Impact Average Home Price 

Distressed sales of existing homes including foreclosed properties and short sales represented 15 percent of January sales of existing homes, down from 24 percent in January 2013, and higher than December’s reading of 14 percent.

Sales of foreclosed homes averaged 16 percent below market value and short sales were completed at an average of 13 percent below market value. Discounted home prices impact home prices in areas that have larger numbers of distressed homes for sale.

As warmer weather approaches, new home construction will pick up and more homeowners will be likely to put their homes on the market.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 24, 2014

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What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week February 24, 2014Last week’s economic data supported recent reports indicating that housing markets are slowing, The National Association of Home builders/Wells Fargo Home Builders Index (HBI) dropped by 10 points to a reading of 46 for February.

Home builder confidence dropped to its lowest reading in nine months,  and fell below the benchmark of 50, which indicates that more builders are pessimistic about current market conditions than not.

Severe weather was blamed for the lower builder confidence reading, which fell below the expected reading of 56.

Regional readings of builder confidence were also lower:

  • Northeast: Builder confidence fell from 41 to 33 points. This suggests that weather is a major concern as this area has experienced a series of nasty winter storms.
  • South: The HBI reading fell from 50 in January to 46 in February and was the smallest decline among the four regions. Fewer index points lost in the South appears to support builder’s concerns about bad weather in other regions.
  • Midwest: Builder confidence dropped from 59 points to a reading of 50.
  • West: Builder confidence fell by 14 points to February’s reading of 57. Desirable areas in the West had been leading the nation in home price appreciation. February’s reading may signal an easing of buyer enthusiasm as rapidly rising home prices have reduced affordable options for first-time and moderate income buyers.

Builders also cited concerns over labor and supplies as reasons for lower confidence readings.

Housing Starts Lower, Mortgage Rates Higher

On Wednesday, Housing Starts for January were released. Although analysts predicted a figure of 945,000 housing starts as compared to an upwardly adjusted 1.05 million housing starts in December, only 880,000 housing starts were reported for January.

The Department of Commerce also cited extreme winter weather as a cause for the drop in housing starts, which reached their fastest pace since 2008 in November. There is some good news. Economists said that housing starts delayed during winter could begin during spring.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, average mortgage rates rose across the board. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate loan rose by 5 basis points to 4.33 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.35 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage moved up by three basis points to an average rate of 3.08 percent. Discount points for all three products were unchanged with readings of 0.70 for 30-year and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent discount points for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that weekly jobless claims came in at 336,000 against expectations of 335,000 new jobless claims. The prior week’s reading was for 339,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that job growth may be slowing after last year’s growth, but also noted that winter weather had slowed hiring in labor sectors such as construction and manufacturing.

Existing home sales fell by 5.10 percent in January according to the National Association of REALTORS®, which reported a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of home sales at 4.62 million sales against expectations of 4.65 million and December’s reading of 4.87 million sales of pre-owned homes. The national average home price rose to $188,900, which was 10.70 percent higher year-over-year.

January’s inventory of available existing homes was 1.9 million homes; this represented a 4.90 month supply of existing homes for sale. Real estate pros prefer to see at least a six month inventory of available homes for sale.

What’s Ahead

Next week brings a series of economic reports and opportunities for good news. The Case Shiller Home Price Indices, FHFA Home Price Index will be released. Consumer Confidence and the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment report along with New and Pending Home Sales reports round out next week’s scheduled news.

Smart Ways To Create Equity Within Your Home

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Smart Ways To Use The Equity In Your HomeHome equity is the difference between what your home can sell for and what you owe on it. Generally, the longer you own your home, the more equity you build.

This is money you can use before you sell your home through a home equity loan. Just keep in mind that a home equity loan is secured with your home. If you can’t make the payments, you can lose your home.

Use Your Home Equity In Smart Ways:

  1. Remodel Your Home - If you’ve wanted to add on a family room or modernize your kitchen, consider using your home’s equity to fund the project. Home improvements usually increase your home’s marketability and value.
  2. Make Needed Major Repairs - Your home’s equity can be a funding source for major repairs like plumbing problems and re-roofs. Once again, this is an improvement for your home that will help keep its value up.
  3. Buy Another Property - Real estate is still a safe investment. You can use your home equity to buy a second property when home values are down. When the market recovers, you can sell the investment property for a profit. This also works if you have to move out of town and are still trying to sell your home. If you can afford the payments, use your home’s equity to purchase your new home until the current one sells.
  4. Pay For Unexpected Medical Expenses Or Job Loss - You never know when a medical emergency or job loss will leave you in debt. A home equity loan can give you the money you need to get through this difficult time.

It’s easy to build equity in your home when you find the right deal. Let me help you find your perfect home and negotiate a great price and terms for you. Contact your mortgage professional today.

What Are The Requirements To Sell A Home Using An FHA Loan?

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What Are The Requirements To Sell A Home Using An FHA Loan?Before an owner can market a property to buyers that want to use a FHA loan, he will want to familiarize himself with the FHA’s standards. FHA won’t insure loans on just any property.

While their standards aren’t as stringent as they used to be, a home needs to be in relatively good condition to qualify for FHA financing.

Location And Lot

To qualify for FHA financing, the property has to be located on a road or easement that lets the owner freely enter and exit.

The access also has to be paved with a surface that will work all year a long dirt driveway that washes out in spring won’t qualify.

The FHA also wants the lot to be safe and free of pollution, radiation and other hazards. For that matter, it also needs to provide adequate drainage to keep water away from the house.

Property Exterior

The FHA’s requirements for making a loan start with the home’s roof. To pass muster, the house must have a watertight roof with some future life left. In addition, if the roof has three or more layers of old shingles, they must all be torn off as part of the replacement process.

The property’s exterior has to be free of chipped or damaged paint if the home has any risk of having lead paint. Its foundation should also be free of signs of exterior (and interior) damage. It also needs full exterior walls.

Property Interior

The property’s interior also needs to be inspected. FHA standards require that the home’s major systems be in good working order.

Bedrooms should have egress routes for fire safety and the attic and basement should be free of signs of water or mold damage.

The bottom line is that the FHA wants to make loans on homes that borrowers can occupy. This doesn’t mean that a home has to be in perfect condition to be sold to an FHA mortgage-using borrower. It just needs to be a place that they can live.

What Is A Mortgage Pre-Approval?

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What Is A Mortgage Pre-Approval?When you are purchasing a home, your broker may recommend you obtain a mortgage pre-approval before you find the home of your dreams.

There are some benefits to being pre-approved before you find a home, but oftentimes, people confuse pre-qualifications with pre-approvals.

So the question many buyers have is what exactly is a mortgage pre-approval?

In a nutshell, it’s when the lender provides you (the buyer) with a letter stating that your mortgage will be granted up to a specific dollar amount.

What Do I Need For Pre-Approval?

In order to obtain a pre-approval for your home purchase, you will have to provide your lender all of the same information you would need to show for qualifying for a mortgage.

This means providing tax returns, bank statements and other documents that prove your net worth, how much you have saved for your down payment and your current obligations.

What Conditions Are Attached To A Pre-Approval?

Generally speaking, a pre-approval does have some caveats attached to it. Typically, you can expect to see some of the following clauses in a pre-approval letter:

  • Interest Rate Changes – a pre-approval is done based on current interest rates. When rates increase, your borrowing power may decrease.
  • Property Passes Inspection – your lender will require the property you ultimately purchase to come in with a proper appraisal and meet all inspection requirements.
  • Credit Check Requirements – regardless of whether it’s been a week or six months since you were pre-approved, your lender will require a new credit report. Changes in your credit report could negate the pre-approval.
  • Changes In Jobs/Assets – after a pre-approval is received, a change in your employment status or any assets may result in the pre-approval becoming worthless.

Getting pre-approved for a home mortgage may allow you more negotiation power with sellers and may help streamline the entire loan process.

It is important however to keep in mind there are still things that may have a negative impact on actually getting the loan.

It is important to make sure you keep in contact with the lender, especially if interest rates increase or your employment status changes after you are pre-approved.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 18, 2014

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What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - February 18, 2014Last week’s economic news was dominated by the first address by the new Fed chairperson, Janet Yellen.

Tuesday’s news included the Jobs Openings report for December 2013, which matched November’s reading of 4.0 million jobs available.

This information was taken from a gauge of competition for available jobs; in December, competition for job openings fell to its lowest level in five years.

Fed Chair Janet Yellens First Address to House

Janet Yellen addressed the House Financial Services Committee for the first time on Tuesday as Chair of the Federal Reserve.

Ms. Yellen indicated that she expected “a great deal of continuity” in terms of Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) monetary policy direction, and noted that markets should expect the FOMC to continue its support of low interest rates.

Chairman Yellen emphasized that the FOMC’s current tapering of its quantitative easing program was expected to continue, but is not on a pre-determined course.

If economic conditions change, the Fed’s monetary policy would be adjusted according to such developments.

Mortgage Rates Mixed According To Freddie Mac

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS), the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose to 4.28 percent from the prior week’s 4.23 percent.

The average rate for 15-year fixed rate mortgage mortgages was unchanged at 3.33 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped from 3.08 percent to 3.05 percent.

Discount points for each category were unchanged at 0.70 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

In other news, Weekly Jobless Claims were higher last week at 339,000 against a forecast of 330,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 331,000 new jobless claims.

Analysts cited bad weather and the possibility of slower economic growth as factors, but said that it was too soon to tell if economic growth is slowing down.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index beat expectations with a reading of 81.2 against expectations for a reading of 80.0. February’s reading was unchanged from January.

Whats Coming Up

This week’s economic news includes the NAHB Home Builder’s Housing Market Index on Tuesday. Wednesday’s events include Housing Starts and the minutes from January’s FOMC meeting.

In addition to Freddie Mac’s PMMS, Thursday’s scheduled reports include Weekly Jobless Claims, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Core CPI. Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for January will also be released.

The National Association of REALTORS® will release data for existing home sales in January on Friday.

What To Consider When Buying A Fixer-Upper

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What To Consider When Buying A Fixer-UpperIn your imagination it seems like a great idea – you purchase an older run-down property and you have the chance to fix it up and turn it into the home of your dreams.

To Renovate, Or Not To Renovate

However, the renovation project that is simply a quick montage in your imagination will actually take several months or years and thousands of dollars in real life.

The concept of renovating a “fixer-upper” property is exciting, but the reality is a lot of work and investment. How can you make sure that you are making the right choice for you?

One of the main advantages of buying a fixer-upper property is that you will usually be able to get the property for a much cheaper price. But is it worth it for the amount of time and money you will need to invest in the property?

Here Are Some Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself When Making Your Decision:

  • Do you (or your friends and family members) have the skills to be able to perform most of the renovations yourself? If you do the labor yourself, you will be able to save thousands of dollars that you would have spent hiring contractors, which will make the renovation a much more profitable project.
  • Are you comfortable with the idea of living in a construction zone, perhaps for several months or more? There will be dust and noise everywhere and you might have to cope without a kitchen or a shower for a while.
  • Make sure that you have a thorough inspection of the home performed so that you can see whether the home has a sturdy foundation, good wiring and plumbing, etc. If your inspection reveals any structural issues or water damage, you might be in for more than you bargained for. You need to start with a house that has “good bones”.
  • If the home has serious structural, plumbing or wiring problems you should stay away – these repairs are very expensive but “invisible”, so you are unlikely to recoup your costs when you sell the home.
  • Add up the estimated costs for renovating the property along with the cost of the home – does it still work out to be a better deal or would you be better off buying a new property.
  • What is your strategy for financing the renovations? If your only option is putting it on the credit card, you might want to think twice because this is a very high interest option.

Buying a fixer-upper property can be a great investment and can give you the opportunity to transform a run-down old house into the property of your dreams. However, make sure you that you consider the choice carefully before making your decision.

For more information about home mortgage advice and how to get approved to buy a home, contact your trusted mortgage professional. 

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