Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Understanding Valuations and How a Real Estate Agent Can Determine Your Home's Value

Understanding Valuations and How a Real Estate Agent Can Determine Your Home's ValueIf you are thinking about listing your home for sale, one of the biggest factors that may be holding you back from pulling the trigger on this decision is the value of your home. You may have a decent idea about the value of your home by researching other listings in your community, but you may not be able to pinpoint a fair asking price that would get your home sold quickly without leaving money on the table. The fact is that your knowledgeable real estate agent will provide you with a valuation up-front, and this can help you to make a more informed decision. There are several components to the valuation that you may need to know more about.

The Layout Of The Home

When a real estate agent is preparing a market valuation, he or she will initially tour your home to get a feel for the layout. Factors like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the size of the living areas, if the kitchen is closed off or open to the home and more will all impact desirability and therefore value. Because of this, it is not always easy for a homeowner to determine value with accuracy, and the insight of a knowledgeable and experienced agent is important.

The Square Footage Of The Home

Your real estate agent will know the average price per square foot of homes in the area, and this price per square foot can be applied to your own home. However, keep in mind that there is a difference based on one or two-story homes. Generally, one-story homes will have a higher price per square foot than two-story homes. Other factors such as the condition of the home and special features will come into play.

The Condition And Special Features

When you receive a valuation for your home, the real estate agent will give you additional value for special features that have broad market appeal or for an improved condition over other homes in the community. For example, if your home is in an older community and you have recently updated the kitchen, you may have a value based on a higher price per square foot than other homes in your area.

The fact is that the average price per square foot of similar homes in the area will come into play for your valuation, but there are adjustments made for different features and for the condition of the home. You can learn more about the value of your home by speaking with your real estate agent.

Monday, March 30, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - March 30, 2015

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

New Home Sales Surge, Existing Home Sales Drop 

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

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

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

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

FHFA: Home Price Index Falls by 0.30 Percent

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

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

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

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

What's Ahead

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

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

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

Go Solar With A Home Solar Installation

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

Install An HVAC System That Does It All

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

Make the Most of Your Existing Space

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

Turn to the Experts for Advice

Call your real estate professional today to further assist you with questions and solutions when considering the resale value of your home. You'll be able to tap into a vast store of knowledge about what works and what doesn't before investing in any upgrades.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Three Handy Home Staging Tips That Will Help You Display Your Home in the Best Light

Three Handy Home Staging Tips That Will Help You Display Your Home in the Best Light Your home may be one of your largest assets, and you certainly want to take steps to get the highest price possible for it when you list it on the market to sell. In addition, you may have plans to purchase a new home or to take other similar steps when list your home, so you may need to your house to sell quickly. Staging your home is a great way to present it in the best possible light for potential buyers to see. While there are dozens of staging tips and ideas that you may use, there are a few that are rather simple and affordable for most to complete.

Give Each Room a Single Purpose

If your home is like most, there may be several rooms that have multiple uses. For example, you may have a work desk placed in the master bedroom, or a section of the living room may be designated as a kids' play area. While this may be functional for how your family lives, it can confuse buyers. Buyers need to be able to walk into a room and imagine their own family living in the area. They may not have a need or use for a desk in the master bedroom, and this can confuse the use of the space. In addition, it also can make a room look smaller and more cramped than it is.

De-Clutter Your Rooms

In addition to defining a single use for each room in your home, you should also de-clutter your rooms. Depending how long you have lived in your home and how significant your periodic spring cleaning sessions have been, this can be a major undertaking. As a good rule of thumb, items that have not been used in more than six months may need to be donated or tossed away. The exception to this rule is seasonal items, like winter coats, pool toys or holiday décor. Keep in mind that buyers will open cabinets, drawers and closets, so your cleaning session should be thorough and not superficial.

Pack Away Personal Belongings

A final step to take is to pack away personal belongings. Everything from religious symbols like crosses to a family photo over the mantel should be packed in boxes. Your goal is to make your home look like any family could live there rather than to make it look like your home. Only decorative items that have a broad or universal appeal should remain.

When a home is properly staged, it may feel as though your home is not your own and even as though you are camping out in your own home. Keep in mind that staging can help you to sell your home as quickly as possible and to get the highest bid possible. Therefore, your effort is well worthwhile.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

FHFA: Home Prices Rise 0.30 Percent in January

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

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

Month- to- Month FHFA Home Prices Mixed

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

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

Commerce Department: New Home Sales Hit 7-Year Peak

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How Safe is Your Home from a Fire? Learn How to Run a Quick Fire Safety Assessment

How Safe is Your Home from a Fire? Learn How to Run a Quick Fire Safety Assessment A fire can rage through your home at a moment's notice, and it can cause a significant amount of damage in a very short period of time. Damage from the flames, intense heat, smoke and soot can cause tens of thousands of dollars or more in some cases, and a severe fire event can result in a total loss for the homeowner. More than that, a fire can create a serious health and safety risk for you and your loved ones inside the home. If you are concerned about how safe your home is from a fire, consider a few important points.

Do You Have Fire Extinguishers On All Floors?

When a small fire breaks out, you may only have a few seconds to respond. You simply do not have time to rush around the house in search of a fire extinguisher. Instead, you should know immediately where it is at and how to use it. More than that, you should have one available on all floors of your home. While you may want to reach for a fire extinguisher to put out a small flame, you should still yell for others in the home to vacate while you use the fire extinguisher.

Do You Have Smoke Alarms in Ideal Locations?

Fires can break out during all hours of the day and night. When you are awake, you may easily be able to smell smoke from a nearby room. However, when you are asleep or when the smoke is in a removed area of the home, it can be more difficult to observe the signs of a fire until it is too late. Placing a loud smoke alarm in all bedrooms in your home is a wise idea. You will also need one in living areas of the home. If your home is larger in size, you may consider investing in additional smoke alarms.

When Was the Last Time You Replaced the Batteries in Your Smoke Detectors?

It is not enough to simply have the smoke detectors mounted to your walls or ceiling. Instead, you need to make sure that they are loud and that they work well. If you have a hearing impaired person in the home, you should invest in detectors with a visible strobe light to alert them to a danger. Batteries generally should be replaced every few months, and you may consider replacing the batteries each time you replace the filters for your HVAC system. Keep in mind that it is better to replace the batteries before they lose power than to be without the function of an alarm in your home when you need it.

Even a small fire can be a dangerous and costly event. By focusing on these factors in your home, you can most easily prepare for a fire, and you will be able to take immediate action in the event a fire develops in your home.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - March 23, 2015

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

Home Builder Confidence Falls, Building Permits Rise

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

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

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

Fed Rates Hold Steady, Mortgage Rates Fall

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

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

What's Ahead

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

Friday, March 20, 2015

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

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

Location, Location, Location

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

Choose Your Materials Wisely

A treehouse built with subpar materials will fall short in the longevity department and disappoint the kids. Pick out stout oak 4x4 posts for the structural elements and top them off with pressure-treated pine for the floors and railings. Use quality plywood for the interior walls and seal it to avoid rot.

Make Multi-Use Your Mantra

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

Bake Safety Into the Recipe

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

Heed Aesthetics When Designing

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

It's More Than a Treehouse

While many young kids will no doubt love a full-featured treehouse, it's usually the improvement in home value that will appeal to adults. If you're interested in learning more about homes in your area that would support your desire to build a treehouse, call a professional real estate agent today.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

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

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

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

Economic Growth, Inflation Slower than Expected

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

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

Fed Chair Says Fed Isn't "Impatient" about Raising Rates

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spring Cleaning: Follow Our Handy Guide to Organizing Your Garage, Basement and Attic

Spring Cleaning: Follow Our Handy Guide to Organizing Your Garage, Basement and AtticSpring is not far off, and your garage, basement and attic need your attention. From sweeping cobwebs to throwing out old, useless junk and organizing family photos, spring cleaning is essential to keeping a tidy house. Follow our handy guide to organizing your garage, basement and attic.

Make Room For Your Car

You'll likely need to set aside a full weekend to organize your garage. As you won't be able to complete this task by yourself, get your family or friends to help you out. It might be a good idea to bribe them with free pizza for lunch.

Go through every square inch of the garage from top to bottom, including tools, unpacked boxes from when you moved and anything else that gets in your way. Separate the items that you want to sell or donate into one area of your driveway, items that you want keep into another area and stuff that you want to throw away into a separate pile.

Organize the items you want to keep into small, well-marked boxes and place back in the garage. Use as much wall space as possible to store tools and boxes by installing shelves inside your garage. Organize the items you want to sell into separate piles on a tarp in your garage for temporary storage.

De-Clutter Your Basement

Similar to your garage, you'll want to get rid of the clutter in your basement. Make sure you have enough room for multiple piles of items and be aware that you'll need to add to your garage piles later on.

Organize your items into three piles: one pile for items you wish to keep, another one for items you wish to sell and the final pile for items you want to throw out. If you have a significant amount of clothing in your basement, you might want to consider purchasing mobile hanger units and place them against the wall.

Turn Your Attic Into An Inviting Room

Your attic doesn't have to be a storage space if you can clean it up and organize it correctly. Place everything you want into marked boxes and dust the attic before you place them in their respective areas.

Selling and throwing away personal belongings can be a huge hassle, especially if you have an emotional attachment to them. Generally speaking, items that are broken, expired or out of date can be thrown away while items that you no longer use but don't hold much sentimental value can be sold or donated.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tax Time 2015: How Buying a New Home Can Impact the Amount of Tax You'll Pay

Tax Time 2015: How Buying a New Home Can Impact the Amount of Tax You'll PayFew people consider the tax implications of buying a home, but there are many. Here are a few ways buying a home can impact the amount of tax you pay.

Mortgage Interest

Most people put down the minimum amount of money needed to buy a home and finance the rest, usually over 30 years. This means that, especially in the early years of the loan, most of what they are paying are the finance charges. The good news is that all that interest is tax-deductible for people who itemize their deductions, which adds up to several thousands of dollars in deductions annually. You also can deduct interest on home equity loans, up to a certain amount.

Property Taxes

Another way that buying a home affects your taxes is property taxes. In most jurisdictions, property taxes are based to some extent on the price you pay for your home, meaning the more you pay, the higher your taxes will be. The positive is that, just as with mortgage interest, those property taxes you pay are deductible if you itemize deductions on your income tax return.


Points are up-front fees you pay to lower the interest rate on your home mortgage. If you paid them when buying your home, you can deduct the entire amount on your tax return. If you paid points on a refinance or home equity loan, you have to deduct them a bit at a time over the entire term of the loan.

Tax-Free Appreciation

One of the reasons many people treat homes as an investment is the favorable tax treatment on profit from a sale. For example, in the United States as long as the home is your principal residence for at least two years out of the five years before you sell, you can exclude up to a $250,000 gain from capital gains taxes, or $500,000 if you are married.

Retirement Accounts

Buying a home for the first time is one of the few situations in which the government allows you take money from retirement accounts early without paying a tax penalty. For example, you can take up to $10,000 out of an individual retirement account without having to pay the early withdrawal penalty, although you still might face income taxes if your contributions were tax-deferred.

If you are considering buying a home, contact a real estate professional to discuss the potential tax and other benefits.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - March 16, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 16 2015Last week's economic reports included job openings, retail sales, retail sales except automotive, consumer sentiment for March and the usual reports on weekly jobless claims and mortgage rates.

Job Openings Highest in 14 Years

The Labor Department reported that job openings reached their highest level in 14 years in January, and rose by 2.50 percent over December 2014 job openings. On a seasonally adjusted basis, there were five million job openings in January. Job openings rose by 28 percent year-over-year.

Hiring rose by 3.50 percent to 5.24 million, but analysts said that employers continue to have difficulty in finding workers with skills needed to fill their job openings. Winter weather was also mentioned as contributing to lower hiring rates.

Stable full-time employment is a key requirement for qualifying for a home loan. Inconsistent, part-time and self-employment typically make it more difficult to qualify for mortgages in today's conservative lending environment.

Retail Sales Lower

Retail sales fell by –0.60 percent in February against an expected reading of +0.30 percent and January's reading of -0.80 percent. This was the third consecutive drop in retail sales volume and suggests that consumers are not confident about spending. Retail sales except automotive were also lower with a February reading of -0.10 percent against an expected reading of +0.40 percent and January's reading of -1.10 percent.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall

According to Freddie Mac average mortgage rates rose across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.86 percent, an increase of 11 basis points. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose by seven basis points to 3.10 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose five basis points to 3.01 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 389,000 against expectations of 310,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week's reading of 325,000 new claims filed. This was good news after a spike in new jobless claims that was likely caused by bad weather. Although week to week data tends to be more volatile than month-to-month trends, there was good news in that new jobless claims fell below a benchmark of 300,000 new claims filed. Readings of 300,000 or fewer new jobless claims filed represent strong labor market conditions.

What's Ahead

This week's economic reports include the NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, federal reports on housing starts and building permits and the Federal Reserve's FOMC meeting statement. Fed Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to present a press conference, which analysts will watch closely for any indication of when the Fed will raise interest rates.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Three Inexpensive Makeovers That Will Boost Your Home's Appeal to Young Buyers

Three Inexpensive Makeovers That Will Boost Your Home's Appeal to Young BuyersWhen preparing to list your home for sale, you may be wondering who will buy your home. While this initial thought may be one spurred by curiosity, the fact is that understanding who your target audience is and what they are looking for in a home may help you to position your home to sell more quickly and for a better price. If you have determined that there are many younger buyers moving into your area, you may want to make a few changes that will add appeal to this target audience. While you could spend tens of thousands of dollars or more completing a home makeover, there are a few budget-minded ideas that you may consider.

Add Color to Molding and Trim

One of the hottest trends in home décor and interior design is to get rid of the standard white trim and molding and to add color to these areas. Neutral hues like grays and browns have universal appeal, or you can give your space a more contemporary look by adding black to these areas. Generally, you will want a more neutral color like a creamy beige on the walls when executing a look with colored trim.

Update Light Fixtures

If you have a little more money to spend, you may consider updating your light fixtures. There are rather affordable yet stylish fixtures available in a wide range of finishes. When your rooms are empty or staged to perfection, the light fixtures can easily set the tone of the room and may be focal points. Outdated fixtures may have limited appeal to young buyers who are looking for a home that is modern and current with today's trends.

Redefine Outdated Spaces

In some older homes, some of the rooms may have originally been built with outdated uses in mind. Today's younger buyers may be looking for a home with an exercise room, a media room or a study rather than a formal living or dining area. With this in mind, you may consider how you can stage your home to show that it can be used for modern purposes. This may simply mean moving your formal dining room set into storage, adding French doors and investing in an affordable desk and side chairs for staging purposes. This is just one of several options available that may give your home broader appeal to a younger audience shopping for a modern floor plan.

If you are thinking about listing your home for sale and you believe that you will likely attract younger buyers to your home, you can consider implementing some of these ideas in your space. Your real estate agent may be able to offer additional suggestions that are customized for your specific home.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Taking an Extended Vacation? Renting Your Home to Long-term Tenants is a Great Option

Taking an Extended Vacation? Renting Your Home to Long-term Tenants is a Great OptionTaking an extended vacation can seem like a dream come true. You may have plans to spend your summer in Europe, your winter in the Caribbean or even a full year or longer exploring a different region. If you have the luxury of taking an extended vacation, you may have your sights set on adventure and relaxation.

However, you also need to consider the practicality of leaving behind your home and belongings for an extended period of time. A great idea is to take on a long-term tenant for your home, and there are a number of benefits that you can enjoy by doing this.

Generate Income From Your Home

When you lease your home to a long-term tenant, you will be able to generate a monthly income from the property. This can be used to pay for your mortgage, property insurance and other related expenses while you are gone. Essentially, it can make it more affordable for you to take your trip for an extended period of time.

Decrease Your Maintenance Expenses

When you are away from your home, you may still have maintenance and upkeep chores to do. When you are home, for example, you may easily be able to water your lawn and mow the grass on your own. You may deal with a leaky pipe before it becomes problematic and causes considerable damage to the home. When you are gone, you may need to pay for a lawn service, and you have nobody to watch over the interior of the home. However, when you lease your home to a tenant, the tenant may be responsible for caring for the yard. In addition, he or she can alert you to issues that develop inside the home.

Someone to Keep an Eye on Your Property

When a home appears to be vacant, it is more likely to be vandalized or burglarized. A tenant will give your home an occupied look and will decrease the risk of criminal activity. In addition, the tenant may change your air filters, replace batteries in the smoke detectors and take other steps to keep the home in great condition for you while you are gone. You can specify your requirements in the lease.

If you are planning an extended vacation and you are looking for a convenient way to ensure that your home is taken care of while you are gone, consider the benefits of taking on a long term tenant. You can speak with a real estate agent to learn more about the market rental rate for your home.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time? How to Juggle These Two Transactions

Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time? How to Juggle These Two Transactions There are few things that can be more stressful than buying or selling a home. When you are buying and selling a home at the same time, your stress level may understandably skyrocket through the roof. There may be financial aspects of both transactions that may be cause you stress, and you may be dealing with logistical issues or simply feel stressed by the stacks of documents piling up for both transactions. While this will inevitably be a challenging time in your life, you can more easily navigate through the transactions with success by following a few tips.

Consider the Timing of Both Transactions

One of the best things you can do when buying and selling a home at the same time is to plan ahead and consider the timing of both transactions. You may get lucky enough to get an offer on your home from a buyer who wants to close just a few days before you close on your new home. However, it is more likely that these two transactions may be finalized weeks or longer apart from each other. You may need to plan on finding an interim home or paying double mortgages for a period of time. You may consider which of these two options is more preferable to you based on your work situation, your family's needs and your budget.

Prepare a Budget Ahead of Time and Update It Periodically

Financial stress can mount during this period of time. You will need to make a good faith deposit and pay for third party reports and mortgage application fees for your new home purchase. You may also need to pay money to make repairs and to stage your current home before you list it. It is common to rent a storage unit and to pay for boxes and moving supplies as well.

In addition, a buyer for your current home may request that you make repairs to your home before closing. It is important that you prepare a budget so that you can pay for all of these expenses as they arise, and you should consider leaving yourself ample funds for unexpected expenses. If you run into a cash crunch, consider completing the sale of your current home entirely before going under contract with your new home purchase.

Use the Same Real Estate Agent for Both Transactions

The knowledge and support of a real estate agent can be beneficial to you for both transactions, and you may consider using the services of the same agent for both. Dealing with one person who is familiar with your goals and needs can be truly beneficial to you throughout the entire process, and he or she may offer insight about the best steps to take to make the transition from one home to the other smoother for your family.

While buying and selling real estate can be stressful, you do not have to make the process more difficult than it needs to be. You can set up a time to meet with a real estate agent today to begin discussing your plans and to take the initial step.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

All About Radon: How to Test Your Home for Radon Gas and What to Do if You Find It

All About Radon: How to Test Your Home for Radon Gas and What to Do if You Find It If you are concerned about the presence of radon in your home, you are not alone. The fact is that radon is an invisible, odorless gas that may be found in buildings around the world. It is a radioactive gas that is emitted from the ground soil as trace amounts of naturally occurring uranium break down. The gas can enter a building and remain trapped, and this is known to cause as many as 21,000 deaths related to lung cancer each year, according to the EPA. Testing your home from time to time is a necessity, and you can easily accomplish this in two different ways.

A Home Radon Test Kit

Regardless of the age or location of your home, you should test your home periodically for the presence of radon. You may be able to purchase a radon test kit at a local home improvement store or even online. These kits are designed to be easy to use and to read, and they can provide you with the information you seek in a short period of time.

A Professional Indoor Air Quality Test

Another option is to hire a professional to complete a full indoor air quality test. This may provide you with more information about the presence of radon, asbestos, mold spores and many other pollutants and particulates that may be making you and your family sick. A professional test may be more comprehensive and sensitive. Furthermore, the results can be more reliable.

If You Have Radon In Your Home

If you have the unfortunate experience of learning that your home has radon gas inside of it, you may immediately feel stressed and concerned. This is understandable considering this is a known carcinogen. However, while it is important that you take immediate action to cleanse and purify your home's air, there is not a need to panic. There are numerous filtration and purifier systems that you can invest in that have amazing results. In fact, some can eliminate up to 99 percent of the radon in your home.

Even if your home tests clean for radon today, keep in mind that this gas can naturally seep into your home over time. You may consider testing your home periodically for radon at regular intervals for the entire time you live in the space. This will help you to identify a problem in your home and to take action soon to minimize the health risks for you and your loved ones.

Monday, March 9, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - March 9, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 9 2015Last week's economic news was light on housing related reports, but several employment reports were released along with the national unemployment rate, which dipped to 5.50 percent. This was a full point below the Federal Reserve's original target rate of 6.50 percent. Construction spending was incrementally lower than expected and mortgage rates also fell.

Fewer Private-Sector Jobs, Non-Farm Payrolls Increase

The ADP employment report for February fell from January's reading of 250,000 jobs to 212,000 private-sector jobs. January's reading was upwardly revised from the original tally of 213,000 jobs added. News was better for Non-Farm Payrolls for February. The Labor Department reported that 295,000 jobs were added; analysts expected a reading of 238,000 new jobs based on January's original reading of 257,000 jobs added, but January's reading was revised to 239,000 jobs added. The Non-Farm Payrolls report includes both public and private-sector jobs.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 320,000 against expectations of 301,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 313,000 new jobless claims. The week-to-week jobless claims report is considered volatile; most analysts base forecasts on a four-week rolling average.

National unemployment decreased from 5.70 percent in January to 5.50 percent in February as compared to an expected reading of 5.60 percent. February's reading was the lowest since May 2008. Construction added 29,000 in February, which could indicate a boost in home construction. The unemployment rate does not account for 17.50 million workers who work part-time but want full-time work and those who have left the job market. The labor market participation rate fell to 62.8 percent, which was its lowest since the late 1970s.

Analysts said that based on the lower unemployment rate, the Fed may move as soon as June to raise the target federal funds rate to prevent rapid inflation, but Federal Reserve policy makers have consistently cited concerns over labor markets as a reason why the fed funds rate hasn't been raised. A combination of stagnant wages, higher mortgage rates combined with stubbornly strict mortgage credit requirements could cause housing markets to lag behind other economic sectors until would-be home buyers achieve steady employment and can qualify for home financing.

Mortgage Rates Drop

Freddie Mac provided good news as average mortgage rates dropped.  Last week's rate for a 30-year mortgage was 3.75 percent and lower by five basis points; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by four basis points to 3.03 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was three basis points lower at 2.96 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What's Ahead

This week's economic news includes reports on job openings and labor market conditions along with retail sales reports. Consumer sentiment will be release and Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims data will be released as usual on Thursday.

Friday, March 6, 2015

3 Easy Ways to Put Aside a Bit of Extra Cash So You Can Pay off Your Mortgage Faster

3 Easy Ways to Put Aside a Bit of Extra Cash So You Can Pay off Your Mortgage Faster If your personal budget is similar to many other people's budgets, your home mortgage payment is by far the largest expense that you pay for each month. In fact, this payment may easily account for 20 or 25 percent or more of your take-home income.

Understandably, you may be focused on trying to pay this expense off early. By focusing on this payment, you can build equity and may be able to achieve financial security more quickly. You simply have to find a way to put aside a bit of extra cash regularly so that you can make extra payments, and there are few easy ways that you can consider.

Use Your Tax Refund

First, if you are one of the many taxpayers who receives a refund each year, consider setting aside some or all of this refund to reduce your outstanding mortgage balance.

Some taxpayers may have such a sizable refund that it can account for two or more mortgage payments each year. However, even a few hundred dollars extra put toward your principal balance will save you a considerable amount of money in interest charges over time and will have a wonderful effect on your balance.

Earmark Your Annual Bonus

If you are lucky enough to receive an annual bonus each year, you may consider using this to pay down your principal balance. While you may usually spend this money on extra holiday gifts or just add it to your spending cash, you can benefit more substantially when you contribute it to your effort to pay down your mortgage.

Use An Automated Draft To Create a Fund

Another great idea that will work well for all individuals is to create an automated draft from your checking account each month. You may set aside the funds in a special account, and you can make an extra mortgage payment from this account periodically. Another idea is to set up auto payments for your mortgage that are higher than the amount due. For example, you may establish auto payments that are $50 or $100 more than your scheduled payments.

Paying off your mortgage earlier can be a life changing event for you. Simply imagine how different your life would be if you were not responsible for this payment each month. The fact is that this could be your reality sooner than you think if you follow these tips. For the best results, apply two or even all three tips to your efforts.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Making the Offer: 4 Ways to Craft an Offer That Will Catch the Seller's Attention

Making the Offer: 4 Ways to Craft an Offer That Will Catch the Seller's AttentionIt can take a time and effort to find the perfect home to purchase. After you have found that home, you need to convince the seller that your offer is the one they want to choose. There may be multiple offers made at the same time, and you may be in a situation where you are competing for the home.

Even if your offer is the only one the seller receives, there is no requirement that they must accept the offer you make. Crafting an effective offer that will catch the seller's attention is important, and you may be able to accomplish this by following a few tips.

Offer Close To The Asking Price

One of the first things most sellers will look at when they receive an offer is the price you are offering to pay. You may feel as though the seller is asking too much for the home, and your agent may advise you to offer a lower price. On the other hand, there may be multiple offers, and you may feel as though you need to offer a price higher than what is being requested. With your real estate agent's advice in mind, consider that a seller will be more inclined to accept an offer if it is close to what they are asking. If your offer is too low, they may decline it without looking at the other merits to your offer.

Request A Quick Closing

When you prepare your offer, one of the factors that you will have control over is the requested closing date. Sellers generally want to close quickly, but this is not always the case. Each market is unique, but a general rule of thumb is to offer a closing date that is 21 to 28 days away, contingent on mortgage approval. You may work with your real estate agent and mortgage company to determine when a reasonable closing date is. However, offering a quick closing generally shows that you are a motivated buyer.

Choose A Shorter Option Period

A sales contract has an option period, which allows the buyer to back out of the deal for any reason. This may be a time when you get your third party reports, such as the property inspection, completed. A shorter option period may be preferred by sellers. This is because the buyer is generally locked into the contract contingent on mortgage approval after the option period has expired.

Offer A Higher Non-Refundable Good Faith Amount

When you make an offer, you will also give the seller a good faith or earnest money deposit. The amount of the deposit will be disclosed in the contract, and you will typically hand it off after the offer has been accepted. This is the amount of money that you stand to lose if you do not follow through on the terms of the contract. A higher good faith or earnest money amount shows that you are serious about buying the home.

There are many factors that a seller is thinking about when reviewing an offer. While the entire offer will be reviewed fully, the fact is that these factors are generally given significant weight in most seller decisions. You can work with your real estate agent to structure the best offer possible.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Home Security in 2015: Here's How New Technology Can Keep You Even Safer

Home Security in 2015: Here's How New Technology Can Keep You Even SaferSecuring your home is a top priority, and you will need to make periodic updates and upgrades to your efforts from time to time. Today's criminals are highly intelligent, and they often use superior techniques to break into homes criminals from past years and decades did not use.

As homeowners' efforts to secure their homes become more sophisticated, the fact is that criminals are also becoming more sophisticated. There are several new products on the market that you may consider installing and implementing in your home to improve security going forward.

Wireless Video Cameras

Many of the more advanced home security systems today have some type of video surveillance system in place. Generally, this is a closed circuit system that records activities or that is motion activated so that the area is only recorded when movement is detected.

More advanced options, however, are wireless by design, and you may be able to both listen to and watch your home from your smartphone or wireless device. Keep in mind that not all activities will take place in the small perimeter that is monitored by your camera, so the ability to listen to the home in real-time is a benefit.

Keyless Entry Locks With Alarm Sounds

Many homeowners have already invested in keyless entry locks. These are often viewed as a convenience feature for homeowners because they do not have to worry about misplacing their keys or giving a key to their maid service or others who need to enter the home. The key code can easily be changed as needed to add security to the home. However, a new spin on the keyless entry lock is an audible alarm sound. With this product, the lock will emit a loud alarm signal that can alert you and others passing nearby that someone is trying to break into your home.

Smart Door Locks

You can also choose to invest in smart door locks. These are locks that you can monitor and even control through an app on your smartphone or mobile device. You do not have to give out a code to the maid service because you can simply unlock the door for the cleaners when they arrive at your home. You may have forgotten to lock your door that morning before you left for work, and you can use the app to lock the door remotely. You can also receive a notification each time the door is opened or unlocked.

Each of these innovative features can enhance the security of your home in different ways. When you want to gain better control over your home security, you may consider investing in some of these state-of-the-art products for your home in the near future.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What Factors Determine Your Home's Resale Value? Let's Take a Look

What Factors Determine Your Home's Resale Value? Let's Take a LookThere are several factors that will help you determine the value of your home when you want to sell it. Location, condition, layout, upgrades, and events relating to your home are all important when selling your home.

It's All About Location

Anyone in real estate will tell you location, location, location is the first thing to consider when buying real estate. If your home is on a busy street, it’s going to be harder to sell unless someone is looking for that exact location.

If a buyer is looking to have a business inside the home, then having more exposure could be important. However, for a family, the most sought after location is in a cul-de-sac or dead-end street where traffic is kept to a minimum.

Your Home's Condition Is Important

The home you are selling must be in excellent condition to ensure you get top dollar. Buyers are primarily looking for a home that is in move-in condition. If it needs painting, new flooring, a new roof, or new plumbing, it isn’t as desirable as a home that doesn’t need any work. Newer homes typically are in better condition than older homes, unless they have been well-maintained.

Your Home's Layout

Is your floorplan functional? Most buyers prefer homes with open floorplans and ample kitchens, living areas, and bathrooms. Closets are also important as everyone needs storage space. The number of bedrooms a home has can also be important. Two bedrooms aren’t as popular or functional as three or four bedrooms. It’s also nice to have a flex room that can be a study, exercise room, or a formal dining room if need be. If a smaller home is well-designed, it can be easier to resale than a larger home.

Upgrades And Renovations

If you have an older home, but have upgraded the kitchen and bathrooms, then your home will be easier to sell. Updated appliances can also be a big plus when selling a home.

Natural Disasters And Other Events

If your home has been flooded, been through a fire, or damaged from wind or a storm, then that may cause the value to be less. If a buyer happens to talk to a neighbor who tells them a negative story, that may spook a buyer and cause them to look elsewhere.

Before putting your home on the market, you should call your real estate agent to help you with pricing. They can also suggest making repairs or changes to your home to help it sell.

Monday, March 2, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - March 2, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 2 2015Last week provided several housing-related reports including New Home Sales, Pending Home Sales and Existing Home Sales reports. Case-Shiller and FHFA also released data on home prices. The details:

Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Hit Nine-Month Low

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), Sales of pre-owned homes dropped to a seasonally-adjusted annual reading 4.82 million sales in January as compared to an estimated reading of 4.95 million sales and December's reading of 5.07 million existing homes sold. This was a month-to-month decline of 4.90 percent, and represented the lowest reading for existing home sales in nine months.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, said that a short supply of available homes coupled with rising prices contributed to the drop in sales. While mortgage rates remain near historical lows, higher home prices and short supply are negatively impacting affordability; this puts home buyers who rely on mortgages in competition with cash buyers.

More encouraging news arrived with the Commerce Department's new home sales report; new home sales reached 481,000 sales on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis in January. Analysts had expected new home sales of 467,000 new homes based on December's reading of 482,000 new homes sold in December.

Pending Home Sales Highest Since August 2013

The National Association of Realtors® reported that pending home sales rose by 1.70 percent in January as compared to December's reading of -3.70 percent. Pending sales were up 8.40 percent year-over-year. Job growth, a little more leniency in mortgage credit standards and slower inflation were seen as factors that contributed to higher pending sales. Pending sales represent under sales contracts that have not closed.

Case-Shiller, FHFA Post Home Price Data

The Case Shiller 20-City Composite reported that home prices rose by 0.10 percent month-to-month and 4.50 percent year-over-year according to its index report for December. San Francisco, California had the highest year-over-year price gain at 9.30 percent, while Chicago, Illinois had the lowest year-over-year home price appreciation rate at 1.30 percent as of December.

FHFA reported that home prices for properties connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans rose by 5.40 percent on a year-over-year basis as compared to November' year-over-year reading of a 5.20 percent increase in home prices.

Mortgage Rates Rise

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 3.80 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage increased by two basis points to 3.07 percent and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was also two basis points higher at 2.99 percent. Discount points for all loan types were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What's Ahead?

This week's scheduled economic news includes consumer spending, construction spending and the Labor Department's non-farm payroll and national unemployment reports. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac's PMMS report on mortgage rates will be released as usual on Thursday.