Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Three Essential Habits That Successful Home Buyers Must Embrace

The Three Essential Habits That Successful Home Buyers Must EmbraceWhether you are preparing to purchase your first home or it has been many years since you last walked through the home buying process, you may be starting to feel overwhelmed at the thought of all of the work that lies in front of you. From concerns about finding the right home to the physical act of relocating all of your belongings after the closing, there is certainly a lot to think about. While each home buying transaction is unique, the most successful home buyers have typically adopted a few behaviors. You may keep these in mind to help you navigate through the process with success.

Keep An Eye On Your Budget

Financial stress when buying a home is common. You may have saved for years to afford your down payment, but there are various expenses that some may have not calculated or planned for. It is important to leave extra funds available for unexpected expenses, such as paying for the appraisal up-front on the home you have fallen in love with. Likewise, keep a close eye on your budget so that you are aware of your financial situation at all times.

Be Available And Flexible

It is imperative that you remain available and flexible as much as possible. Your real estate agent may call you at the last minute with a great new listing that has come on the market, and you may need to be flexible with your schedule to see this property before other buyers do. In addition, you may need to be flexible and accommodating with regards to contract negotiations, working with title company requests and more.

Seek Advice And Knowledge

Buying a home does not have to be stressful, but it also is not something that you do every day. There is a lot for even an experienced home buyer to learn, and you should be prepared to seek advice and to educate yourself along the way. Ask questions as necessary, and use the Internet for additional research.

Home buying is a process, and you may consider taking one day at a time as you proceed through the journey to reach your ultimate goal. A skilled real estate agent can guide you through the process and can help you to more successfully reach your goal. Reach out to a real estate agent today to begin looking for your new home.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Case-Shiller: 20-City Home Price Index Hits 6 Month High

Case Shiller 20 City Home Price Index Hits 6 Month HighAccording to the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index for February, month-to-month home prices increased by 0.50 percent from January’s reading and achieved the highest year-over-year gain in six months. Analysts expected February home prices to increase by 4.80 percent. David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P Dow Jones index committee, said that home prices continue to rise and outpace both inflation and wage gains. Although this is great news for homeowners, it also demonstrates the challenge of affordability for home buyers.

Year-Over-Year Home Prices: Denver Leads in Home Price Gains

Home prices in Denver, Colorado increased by 10 percent year-over-year in February; San Francisco, California home prices gained 9.80 percent year-over-year. Miami, Florida home prices gained 9.20 percent year-over-year. Dallas, Texas and Portland, Oregon rounded out the top five cities with the highest year-over-year home price appreciation in February. Home prices in Dallas increased by 8.60 percent, while and Portland’s home prices gained 7.10 percent year-over-year.

February readings for year-over-year home price growth were lowest in Washington, DC at 1.40 percent. Cleveland, Ohio and New York, New York posted year-over-year gains of 2.30 and 2.50 percent respectively. Phoenix, Arizona home prices grew by 2.90 percent and Minneapolis, Minnesota home prices gained 3.10 percent year-over-year.

Chicago, Illinois and Detroit Michigan posted year-over-year gains of 3.40 percent and 3.7- percent. Both cities have shown the smallest gains in prior months but home prices are gaining in year-over-year readings.

San Francisco Tops Month-to-Month Home Price Growth

Price gains from January to February 2015 were led by San Francisco, California with a reading of 2.00 percent. Denver, Colorado home prices gained 1.40 percent; Seattle, Washington home prices gained 0.80 percent, and were followed closely by a gain of 0.80 percent in Los Angeles, California and a tie at 0.70 percent for Portland, Oregon and San Diego, California.

Cites showing negative readings and the lowest month-to-month price gains in February were Boston, Massachusetts at -0.20 percent; Cleveland, Ohio at -0.10 percent. Chicago held steady with 0.00 percent gain and Atlanta, Georgia and Minneapolis, Minnesota posted month-to-month gains of +0.10 percent.

Home prices remained about 16 percent below their 2006 peak at the end of February.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Thinking About Buying a Rental Property? 3 Reasons You'll Want to Get a Mortgage Pre-Approval

Thinking About Buying a Rental Property? 3 Reasons You'll Want to Get a Mortgage Pre-Approval A rental property is a wonderful investment option to consider, and it can provide you with everything from considerable tax benefits to appreciation and monthly cash flow. While you may be eager to get started searching for a new rental property to invest in, a good idea is to take the initial step to get pre-approved for your mortgage.

There are several good reasons why a pre-approval is an important first step to take.

Determining What Sales Price to Consider

The mortgage rules and guidelines for an investment or non-owner occupied property are different than those for an owner occupied property. For example, a key difference is that most lenders will require you to make a larger down payment. When you get pre-approved for your mortgage, you can more easily narrow down your property choices so that you only consider those that are affordable for your budget.

Estimating Cash Flow

When you invest in a rental property, you will need to estimate the cash flow for the property to ensure that it is a good investment. This may include reviewing the monthly rents and operating expenses, and it also includes analyzing the mortgage payment. When you get pre-approved for your mortgage, you can estimate your monthly payment and determine which properties are a better investment opportunity for you and which will generate the largest profit for you.

Structuring A Stronger Offer

By getting pre-approved, your mortgage professional will provide you with a pre-approval letter. This letter can be given to a seller when you structure your offer, and essentially this will strengthen your offer and make you look like a more serious and qualified buyer. When you are in a bidding war, this letter can make a big difference in your success. Furthermore, it can streamline your mortgage process once your offer is accepted by the buyer, and it will enable you to create a more realistic closing date on your offer.

While you may be ready to jump head first into your property search, you may benefit from taking time to get pre-approved for your mortgage. This process takes very little time to do, and it will facilitate the entire process. From searching for a great property and analyzing its strength as an investment opportunity to helping you pass through the loan process, you will benefit in a number of ways. You can reach out to your trusted real estate agent today to begin the process.

Monday, April 27, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 27, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week April 27 2015Last week's housing related reports included the FHFA Home Price Index, the National Association of Realtors® Existing Home Sales report and The Commerce Department's report on new home sales. Results were mixed, but suggest that housing markets are strengthening.

FHFA Home Prices Up in February, Existing Home Sales Highest in 18 Months

The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported that home prices associated with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rose from a 5.10 percent increase in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.40 percent in February.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of previously owned homes rose to 5.19 million in March as compared to expectations of 5.08 million sales and February's reading of 4.89 million sales of pre-owned homes.

March sales represented a 6.10 percent gain over February sales; this was the highest volume of existing home sales in 18 months. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, said that if strong sales of pre-owned homes continue, 2015 could be the best year for existing home sales in nearly a decade.

New Home Sales Lag in March

The Department of Commerce reported that new home sales fell from February's reading of 543,000 new homes sold to 481,000 new homes sold in March. Analysts expected a March reading of 503,000 new homes sold. This was the slowest pace for new home sales since November, but year-over-year, sales of new homes were 19.40 percent higher year-over-year. The national median home price fell by 1.70 percent to $277,400 year-over-year.

Sales of new homes decreased by 33 percent in the Northeast and fell by 16 percent in the South. New home sales fell by three percent in the West and rose by six percent in the Midwest. At the current sales pace, there is a 5.3 month supply of new homes for sale as compared to a 4.6 month supply in February. Analysts said that stagnant wage growth contributed to fewer home sales.

Mortgage Rates Lower, Weekly Jobless Claims

According to Freddie Mac's weekly survey of mortgage lenders, average mortgage rates fell across the board last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 3.67 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also dropped two basis points to an average of 2.92 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was four basis points lower at 2.84 percent. Discount points for a 30 year mortgage fell to 0.60 percent; points for a 15-year mortgage were higher at 0.60 percent and average discount points for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell from 0.50 to 0.40 percent.

Weekly jobless claims came in at 295,000 new claims filed; analysts expected a reading of 288,000 new claims and the prior week's reading was 294,000 new claims filed. Spring break holidays were blamed for higher jobless claims and March job growth hit its lowest in more than a year. Analysts caution against reading too much into weekly fluctuations and prefer to use the four-week rolling average to identify trends in unemployment claims.

What's Ahead

This week's housing related economic reports include Case-Shiller 10 and 20 City Housing Market Index reports, the customary post-meeting statement from the Fed's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) and pending home sales data.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Staging Tips: Let's Talk Landscaping and How to Prepare Your Yard for the Spring Bloom

Staging Tips: Let's Talk Landscaping and How to Prepare Your Yard for the Spring BloomWhen you are preparing to list your home for sale, you may take various steps to stage the interior so that it is appealing to a potential buyer. In addition to various steps you may take with staging the interior, you want to pay attention to your yard as well. During the spring months, many yards look fresh and vibrant, but they also need some extra care in order to boost curb appeal and make a great first impression on buyers.

Focus On Your Flower Beds

Whether you have one small flower bed or several sprawling areas of beds, you should ensure that all of the vegetation looks fresh and tidy. Trim bushes, and add bright spring annuals to brighten up the space. Pull weeds, and add a layer of fresh mulch to your flower beds to give them a finished, well-maintained look.

Keep The Lawn Neat And Tidy

During the spring months, your lawn may revive from its dormant winter state, and you may find it growing rapidly. The green hue of a spring lawn can have a powerful benefit to curb appeal, but you want to keep the lawn trimmed and edged regularly to give it a manicured appearance. This can also minimize the impact of the look of weeds that may occasionally crop up throughout the spring months.

Pay Attention To Your Patio And Entryway

While your vegetation will require some effort to maintain while you list your home, you do not want to overlook your patio and entryway. These are often visible from the street, and they will be viewed up-close when buyers tour your home. Ensure that the area is clean, and power wash it if necessary. Consider updating front door hardware and the entry mat if they appear worn or dated. You may also need to sweep these areas regularly while your home is listed for sale.

Staging your property can help you to sell your property more quickly and for top dollar, but your staging efforts should not be focused entirely on the interior of your home. Your landscaping also requires extra effort when you are getting your home ready to sell, and these tips can all help you to spruce up your landscaping with beautiful results. You may seek more customized information tailored to your property when you speak with a real estate agent about listing your home.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Home Buying Horror Stories: How Buying a Home Can Go Wrong - and How to Avoid These Mistakes

Home Buying Horror Stories: How Buying a Home Can Go Wrong - and How to Avoid These MistakesWhen you buy a home, you may have dreams of settling into a beautiful new space that meets your needs and that your family can feel comfortable in. While many will enjoy this vision of domestic tranquility after taking ownership of their dream home, others have had their dream turn into a veritable nightmare due to some simple mistakes or oversights on their part. By understanding these mistakes, you can avoid making them yourself.

Paying Too Much For The Property

One the surface, the main cost of buying a home relates to the sales price, and it is true that your monthly housing payment may be the primary related expense. However, other expenses such as homeowners insurance, property taxes, repair and maintenance costs, utilities and more will all need to be factored into the cost of home ownership. Some buyers believe that because an online calculator or a lending professional tells them that they can afford a high priced home that it is the case. You can review your budget and estimate all related home expenses to determine how affordable a specific property is for you.

Finding Out That The Location Is Undesirable

There are many things that can make a location undesirable, and you should take time to become comfortable with the location before making an offer. Consider, for example, if the neighbors like to throw loud parties on the weekend or if there is a teen driver that likes to speed down the street. If you are buying a property with open land or vacant buildings around it, consider researching zoning, and think about future uses for these properties that could influence value and desire.

Discovering That Your Property Is In Bad Condition

Some home buyers discover after purchasing a property that it is not in the best condition, and some even learn that their home needs tens of thousands of dollars of repair work or more. Even properties that appear to be in great condition on the surface may have hidden issues with the foundation, structure, roof, pipes or electrical work, to name a few. You can order a property inspection to learn more about the true condition of a property.

These are among the most common issues that can turn a dream home into a nightmare. When you work with a local real estate agent when buying a home, your agent can help you to avoid unpleasant and costly mistakes such as these.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

First-time Real Estate Investor? Here Are 3 Helpful Tips That Will Get You Started

First-time Real Estate Investor? Here Are 3 Helpful Tips That Will Get You Started Real estate investing comes with many benefits that you may be eager to start taking advantage of. For example, the right rental property can provide you with monthly cash flow coupled with equity appreciation, tax deductions and more, and these can have incredible effects on your overall financial situation. As a first time real estate investor, you may be excited to start searching for a property to invest in, but you may consider following a few helpful tips to make your search more successful.

Determine Your Budget

There are investment properties that range in price considerably, and you will need to know up-front what your budget is before you can begin your search. The right real estate investment will generate revenue to pay your monthly mortgage payment and expenses, but there may be months when your property is vacant. Therefore, in addition to thinking about the amount of down payment that you can afford, also think about how affordable it will be to manage property expenses when the space is vacant.

Consider Different Communities

You may consider being flexible regarding the communities that you invest in. Each community may have a different economic base and primary demographic. For example, some towns or even suburban communities may be largely comprised of college students or military professionals. Think about the benefits between the ease of finding new tenants versus the benefit of having long-term tenants.

Analyze Cash Flow

After you have found a few properties to consider, it is important to analyze cash flow. Each property will be unique with regards to the required mortgage payment, income generated, property taxes and even repair and maintenance needs. While you can estimate these expenses initially, you should request historical operating statements from the sellers early in the process. You will find that some properties can be considerably more profitable than others, so it is important to complete a thorough analysis.

Some real estate agents have considerable experience helping their clients from excellent real estate investments to consider, and they may even complete a basic review of operating statement numbers on your behalf before showing you a property. When you are new to real estate investing, the experience and guidance of a savvy and knowledgeable real estate agent can be invaluable. When you are preparing to make your investment, consider following these tips, and seek the advice of a helpful real estate agent.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

You Ask, We Answer: How Long Should It Take to Sell My House in the Spring?

You Ask, We Answer: How Long Should It Take to Sell My House in the Spring?Depending on where you live, selling your house in the spring could take a few weeks to a few months. Although people are in the market to buy a home all throughout the year, spring time appeals to buyers who may be planning to use an income tax refund to help with the down-payment or closing costs. If you want to sell fast make sure you pay attention to the details like curb appeal, freshening the interior, and pricing your home right.

Curb Appeal Basics

Selling your home quickly in the spring depends on a buyer's first impression when they see your house. If you want to sell in the first couple of weeks it is on the market make sure to clean up debris that has collected and plant some flowers for a pop of color. You may also want to power wash the exterior and touch up paint around windows and doors to help get top dollar for your home.

Clear Out The Clutter

Freshening the interior of your home will give buyers an opportunity to imagine their own belongings in the house. Over the holidays you and the children may have collected new items that need to be packed away and stored out of sight. Once the clutter is cleared out make sure to clean the windows and baseboards to offer spring buyers a fresh clean view of your home.

Sell For The Right Price

Pricing your home right for the spring market is essential to make a quick sale. You may even want to set the price below market value to bring in multiple offers and drive the price up. If you are looking for a quick closing make sure your real estate agent uses this as a bargaining tool with potential buyers.

So how long should it take you to sell your house in the spring? It really depends on the market in your area and how well you prepare your house in advance. Curb appeal will make sure buyers stop in at your open house instead of driving by because the yard looks trashy. Giving the interior of your home a clean non-cluttered look will also help buyers envision a move in ready home. Finally, pricing your home in line with comparable homes in your neighborhood will help ensure you get the right buyer quickly so you can move on to a new adventure.

Monday, April 20, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 20, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week April 20 2015Last week's economic reports included the NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, Housing Starts, and Freddie Mac's weekly survey of mortgage rates. Other news included the weekly jobless claims report and consumer sentiment for April.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Rise

Mortgage rates moved up according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased by one basis point to 3.67 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also increased by one basis point to 2.94 percent.

The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages rose by five basis points to 2.88 percent. Discount points rose from 0.60 percent for 30-year fixed rate loans to 0.70 percent and fell from 0.60 percent to 0.50 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages. Average points for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage held steady at 0.50 percent.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 294,000 against expectations of 281,000 new claims filed and the prior week's reading of 282,000 new jobless claims filed.

Last week's reports ended on a positive note with April's Consumer Sentiment report. The April reading rose nearly three points to 95.9 as compared to the projected reading of 93.5 and March's reading of 93.0.

Home Builder Confidence Increases, Housing Starts Up

The National Association of Home Builders Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) rose to a reading of 56 against the March reading of 52. Builder confidence rose in all three components comprising the HMI. Low mortgage rates and improved labor markets were cited as factors influencing builder confidence.

Regional markets showed mixed results. Three month moving averages showed that builder confidence rose by one point to a reading of 56 in the South; the reading for the Northwest was unchanged at 42. And the Midwestern region lost two points for a builder confidence reading of 54. The West lost three points for a builder confidence reading of 58. The NAHB says that any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are confident about housing market conditions than those who are not.

Housing starts rose in March according to the Department of Commerce, but fell short of expectations. 926,000 housing starts were reported with expectations of 1.04 million starts. February's reading was 908,000 starts. Lingering winter weather conditions contributed to fewer than expected housing starts.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic news includes reports on new and existing home sales, the FHFA Home Price Index and weekly reports on mortgage rates from Freddie Mac along with weekly jobless claims.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ready to Relocate? 3 Tips on How to Set a Moving Budget That Won't Break the Bank

Ready to Relocate? 3 Tips on How to Set a Moving Budget That Won't Break the Bank Relocating to a new area can be exciting, but it can also be expensive. There are many resources to help, but most cost money. However, if you take your time and plan carefully, you can reduce the expense so you don’t start your new life with new debt. Here are three tips to controlling your moving budget.

1. Find Out What’s Free

Nothing is better than paying nothing, right? Don’t assume you have to fork out money for everything you need to move. If you have accepted a new job, ask your new employer whether the company can cover any of your moving expenses.

When it comes to moving supplies, see what you can get without having to pay for it. Stock up on free moving supplies by asking your workplace, local grocery stores, and friends and family for unneeded, sturdy boxes. Instead of paying professional movers, see if you can barter with friends or family for help in moving boxes to and from the truck.

2. Focus On Essentials

After you’ve pursued every possible angle to cover your needs for free, you will likely need to pay for something. The trick is to only do so for what is absolutely necessary. Many providers will offer you help along the way, but you should only sign up for basic services. This could include moving big items such as a piano, paying for gas and tolls, or buying cartons for oddly-shaped or particularly valuable items. If you are not able to move things yourself, this could include hiring professionals.

3. Do It Yourself

If you have the time and are physically fit, start long before moving day and pack everything yourself. Rent or borrow a truck and move your boxes yourself, perhaps with the help of a friend. Take care of disconnecting old utilities and signing up for new ones. Handle both cleaning your old home and preparing your new one. Anything you can do with a little elbow grease will mean less money out of pocket.

Call your real estate agent for advice on keeping moving expenses down. Ask about providers who may give you a discount for being referred by your agent. Remember that you are in charge of your move, so don’t automatically sign up for every service available. By using free goods and services when available and doing much of the work yourself, you can set and follow a moving budget you can afford.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Home Builder Confidence Rises in April

Home Builder Confidence Rises in AprilThe National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported that April's Housing Market Index rose from a reading of 52 in March to 56 for April. This is in line with warmer weather and the peak home buying season in spring and summer. Readings over 50 indicate that more builders view market conditions as positive as those who do not. NAHB members cited lower mortgage rates and better labor market conditions as reasons they expect more home buyers to enter the market.

All Components of Builder Confidence Increase

The NAHB Home Builder Index is calculated from three components. The reading for confidence in current housing market conditions rose from 58 in March to 61 in April. Builder confidence for sales condition in the next six months rose from a reading of 59 to 64, which was the highest reading for 2015 so far.

Home builder confidence in buyer foot traffic moved from 37 to a reading of 41 in April. Lingering winter weather likely kept house hunters indoors in many areas. NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said that the uptick in the NAHB Housing Market Index indicates that housing market conditions can be expected to improve throughout 2015.

Regional Housing Results Mixed, Fed Beige Book Cites Winter Weather

NAHB measures regional changes in housing markets on a three-month rolling average. April's results were mixed.

Builder confidence in the southern region increased from 55 to 56 in April. The northwestern region was unchanged from March to April at 42. Builder confidence in Midwestern housing markets fell by two points from 56 to 54. The western region saw builder confidence fall three points from the March reading of 61 to April's reading of 58.

In an unrelated report, the Federal Reserve also released its Beige Book report which is a collection of anecdotes from business contacts throughout the nation. Winter weather conditions were prominently mentioned in the Beige Book report and were seen as detrimental for housing conditions.

The Beige Book report also mentioned layoffs caused by low oil and gas prices. This could negatively influence housing market conditions in regions where oil and gas provide many jobs and contribute to local economies.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How Does Making Lump Sum Payments Affect Your Mortgage? Let's Take a Look

How Does Making Lump Sum Payments Affect Your Mortgage? Let's Take a Look Periodically, many homeowners will receive a rather sizable amount of extra cash. This may be from a bonus from your employer, a refund on your tax return, a financial gift from a relative or something else altogether.

While there are many things that you could do with your windfall, you may be wondering if paying down your mortgage balance is a wise idea. Before you make your decision about how to spend your money, consider what impact your lump sum payment will have on your mortgage.

Reduction in Principal Balance

The most obvious impact a lump sum payment will have on your mortgage is an immediate reduction in your outstanding principal balance. Your regular monthly payments will be applied to both interest and principal, but your lump sum payment will be entirely applied to principal. Therefore, you can expect to see a rather sizable reduction in the outstanding balance, and this will have a direct and positive impact on your home equity.

More Effective Loan Payments

Your required monthly mortgage payments will not be lowered when you make a lump sum payment on your mortgage, and you will still be required to pay the same amount to your lender going forward. However, your interest charges for each month will be adjusted. Your interest will be calculated based on the current loan balance each month. A reduction in outstanding balance lowers the interest charges. This essentially makes your future payments more effective at debt reduction and reduces the amount of interest you will pay over the life of your loan.

A Change to the Final Loan Payment Date

Because each of your loan payments going forward will be more heavily weighted on principal reduction than on interest charges, the fact is that your final loan payment date can be accelerated. Depending on the amount of the lump sum payment that you make toward your mortgage, this may be an acceleration of a single month, several months or even several years in some cases.

Making a lump sum payment on your mortgage can have many positive effects for you. However, this is not the only option available when deciding how to spend or invest your windfall. Compare these benefits against the benefits of other options available to determine your best course of action.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Spring Rains Are Coming - Here's How to Prepare Your Home if You Live in a Flood Zone

The Spring Rains Are Coming - Here's How to Prepare Your Home if You Live in a Flood ZoneIf your home is located in a flood zone, it's critical that you know how to get ready for those drenching spring rains. Here are some basic steps any homeowner can take to prepare for potentially devastating floods.

Community Emergency Plans

Your community has an emergency plan in case of flooding. There are warning signals to alert residents, evacuation routes mapped out and the locations of emergency shelters are given. Get in touch with your community government center if you haven't already received copies of these preparedness plans.

Have a Family Plan

Floods can be devastating. In an emergency, it's key that every family member knows what to do and where to go. Plan an evacuation route with your family and practice it. Be sure everyone has the name, address and phone number of a family contact who lives out of state in case anyone is separated during a flood event.

Be Proactive

Get ready to prevent disaster. Turn off all electrical power to the home as soon as there is any standing water or before you vacate it. Also turn off gas and water supplies if you evacuate. Hire an electrician to raise your electrical outlets, circuit breakers and other electrical component so they are at least a foot above the home's flood elevation mark.

Emergency Supplies to Have on Hand

Being prepared in a flood zone means having emergency supplies available all the time, just in case. Stock your home with supplies that will last at least five full days. Have about five gallons of clean water per person on hand. Stock up on canned foods or other non-perishable food items. Be sure to have a non-electric can opener. Place aside some prescription medications or any other specific medical needs, in addition to a first aid kit. Have a battery-powered radio on hand and extra batteries. Also have a few flashlights at the ready. Sleeping bags or extra blankets are needed, as are personal hygiene supplies like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and towels.

Prepare Your Home Well in Advance

Finally, you'll want to check on a regular basis that your sump pump is in working order and have a battery-powered back up available. Get a water alarm so you'll know if water is pooling in your basement. Have your gutters and downspouts cleaned out at least twice a year.

Living in a flood zone means that you'll need to be prepared, and there's no better time than now to start getting ready.

Monday, April 13, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 13, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week April 13 2015Last week's economic news included the minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting, which indicated that the Fed's monetary policymakers are eyeing a potential increase in the target federal funds rate, but don't expect to do so immediately.

Members of the Federal Open Market Committee expressed concerns about lagging housing markets and noted that inflation has not yet achieved the Fed's two percent goal. When the Fed decides to raise its target federal funds rate, which now stands at 0.00 to 0.25 percent, Interest rates and mortgage rates can be expected to rise as well.

Mortgage Rates Lower, Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported that mortgage fell last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.66 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage dropped by six basis points to 2.93 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was nine basis points lower at 2.83 percent. Discount points were unchanged across the board at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims rose to 281,000 against projections of 285,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 267,000 new claims. Analysts said that the Easter holiday week affected weekly jobless claims, and that the varied dates of the Easter holiday and spring break weeks for schools can impact weekly readings for new unemployment claims.

The four-week rolling average of jobless claims fell to its lowest reading since June 2000. The four-week rolling average is considered a more dependable source for identifying labor force trends, as it lacks the volatility associated with holidays and one-time events that can cause great variation in weekly readings for new jobless claims.

What's Ahead

Next week's scheduled economic reports include retail sales, retail sales not including the automotive sector, the Federal Reserve's Beige Book report, which includes anecdotal reports of economic conditions reported to the Fed, and Housing Starts. The usual reports for weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac's mortgage rates survey will be released Thursday.

On Friday, the University of Michigan will release its Consumer Sentiment report, which provides indications of how American consumers view current economic conditions. While general in scope, consumer sentiment can suggest how consumers view buying homes.

A lack of positive sentiment about the economy in general and jobs in particular suggests that fewer Americans may be ready to buy homes. Increasing positive sentiment indicates less concern about economic conditions and could point to more Americans entering the housing market as the peak home- buying season gets underway.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Improve Your Home's Resale Value with Our Guide to Adding a Beautiful Wooden Fence to Your Yard

Improve Your Home's Resale Value with Our Guide to Adding a Beautiful Wooden Fence to Your Yard With many types of home improvements, at least a portion of the cost that you put into the improvement can be recouped from additional value when you sell the home.

While each project is different, some projects can have multiple benefits that impact property value and overall desirability with a new home buyer. Adding a beautiful wooden fence to your yard is a great way to boost resale value, and with a closer review, you may determine that you want to install a new privacy fence to your property soon.

Instilling Privacy Around Your Home

While there are different types of wood fences that you can install, a wood privacy fence is among the most common types. Many people enjoy relaxing in their backyards without nosy neighbors and passersby peering at them.

A privacy fence can reduce or eliminate visibility into your yard as well as into the back windows of your home, and this is a true benefit that will make your home more comfortable to live in and more appealing to a potential buyer.

Giving Kids And Pets A Safe Place To Play

While some people want to have a large, open backyard without a visibly defined border, many love the security and peace of mind that comes with having a wood fence around the backyard. In fact, this is almost a priority for home buyers who have kids and pets who may want to roam around in the backyard because it helps to keep them safe and secure when outdoors.

Improving Curb Appeal

A wood fence may commonly be placed around the perimeter of a backyard, it can typically be seen directly from the front of the home. It can be used to conceal certain features of the backyard that may detract from curb appeal, and it can also give your front yard a neater and more refined appearance. A well-maintained and stained wood fence can be a beautiful addition to your front and backyard alike.

Before you make your final decision about whether to install a wood fence on your property, you may be wondering how much of the cost will be recouped through an increase in property value. A great idea is to reach out to an experienced real estate agent with knowledge of your local market. Your real estate agent can provide you with more information about this improvement before you make your final decision.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

FOMC Minutes: Housing Market Stable But Slow

FOMC Minutes: Housing Market Stable But SlowThe minutes of the March meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) were released Tuesday and included a staff review of current economic conditions. The minutes noted that while labor markets continued to grow, inflation to the Fed’s target rate of 2.00 percent was impeded by dropping fuel prices. The Committee noted that expectations for longer-term inflation remained stable.

Non-farm payrolls, which include both private and public sector jobs, grew in January and February and the national unemployment rate reached a new low of 5.50 percent in February. Readings for workers employed part time due to economic reasons edged down and workforce participation was up.

These developments are noteworthy as in recent months analysts have repeatedly cited concerns over the numbers of workers who have stopped looking for work and those who work part time because they cannot find full-time employment. Meeting participants said that underutilization of labor resources “continued to diminish,” but also said that levels for those involuntarily working part-time and still elevated numbers of workers no longer seeking employment.

Personal consumption expenditures slowed in the first quarter due to falling fuel prices and winter weather conditions. Households had more disposable income and household wealth increased due to increasing home values. The Committee said that consumer sentiment was near pre-recession levels according to the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey.

Fed Says Housing Activity “Slow,” No Decision on Raising Fed Funds Rate

The FOMC minutes reflect the committee’s view that housing markets are performing at a slower rate than other economic sectors. The minutes said that building permits and housing starts for single family homes were lower in January and February. Sales of new and existing homes were down in January, but pending home sales rose. This suggests that while markets slowed (as they typically do) during winter, pending sales suggest that completed sales will recover in the late winter and early spring.

The FOMC minutes noted that mortgage credit remained challenging for those in the lower portion of the credit score distribution, but said that the cost of mortgages was historically low for those who qualified for home loans.

The Committee also addressed the likelihood of raising the Federal Funds rate in its usual non-definitive manner. While raising the rate at the next meeting seemed unlikely, committee members wanted the flexibility to raise the target federal funds rate when conditions warrant. The target rate is currently set at 0.00 to 0.25 percent; when the FOMC moves to raise the target federal funds rate, the cost of credit including mortgage loans can be expected to increase.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Understanding Commissions and How Your Real Estate Agent is Compensated When Your Home Sells

Understanding Commissions and How Your Real Estate Agent is Compensated when Your Home SellsWhen you make the decision to sell your home, you may eagerly seek assistance from a skilled real estate agent. A real estate agent offers important services that can help you to more successfully and easily sell your home in the fastest amount of time and for the best price. This is a professional who is committed to helping you achieve your goal and who will not be compensated for his or her efforts unless successful. With a closer look at how real estate commissions are earned, you will see that your agent will work hard for his or her compensation.

The Efforts A Real Estate Agent Makes To Sell Your Home

A real estate agent will go to great lengths to help you sell your home. From helping you to establish a fair and competitive listing price to assisting with marketing, contract negotiations and more, your agent will take considerable steps to help you with all stages in the selling process. He or she will often pay for some related expenses out of his or her own pocket, such as printing fees for flyers and snacks and décor for open houses.

No Compensation Unless Your Home Sells

Real estate agents generally will begin working for you as soon as you sign a listing agreement, and they will not collect any fees up-front. All out-of-pocket expenses will not be reimbursed to the agent unless your home sells, and your agent will not be compensated for the many hours he or she spends marketing your home and working with sellers' agents on your behalf until your home is actually sold. If your home does not sell, your agent will receive nothing for his or her attempts. Keep in mind that the total compensation that you pay for real estate agents' fees will typically be split between the buyer's agent and the seller's agent.

Real estate agents essentially get compensated for their performance and their ability to follow through on what they say they will do for you. Their services are being used by you to sell your home, and you will not pay an agent unless this goal is accomplished. If you are thinking about using the services of a real estate agent when listing your home for sale, you can learn more about the professional services and related agent fees by contacting a real estate agent today.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Pre-Sale Painting: Color Combinations to Use - and Avoid - When Painting Your Home

Pre-sale Painting: Color Combinations to Use - and Avoid - when Painting Your HomeOne of the more common steps that homeowners will take when preparing to list their home for sale involves repainting the walls. Walls can easily give the home a worn, drab look when they have visible signs of dirty, smudgy fingerprints and other unsightly blemishes.

While repainting the walls can have a whitewashing effect that instantly makes the home look cleaner, brighter and more appealing, the color combinations that you choose for your home should be considered with care. You have a rainbow of possibilities for your space when preparing your home for sale, but you want to choose colors that will have broad or universal appeal to buyers and that will showcase your home in the best possible light.

Neutral or Muted Hues are Ideal

Many homeowners love to paint their walls stylish or trendy colors, and they may dislike the banal look of beige walls throughout their home. While this may or may not be what you prefer for your home, keep in mind that you are trying to transform your home so that it has broad appeal to the buyers. The colors you choose should not reflect personal taste or preference. Instead, they should be selected based on colors that may be more likely to appeal to most and that may go well with the color of furnishings most already own. Neutral or muted hues are ideal. These lighter colors can also make smaller rooms seem larger, and they can make your entire home seem cleaner.

Avoid Bold, Dramatic Color Combinations

You may have some colors on your walls that you absolutely love, and you may be sad to see them go. However, when you have a bold, dramatic color combination in a room, a buyer may instantly be taken aback by such an intense color scheme. The buyer's attention may then be focused on your interior design efforts rather than on the home itself, and this is not beneficial to your goal of selling your home. In addition, some may love your bold choices, but many may not. They may think about how those colors would not go well with their furnishings, and they may instantly start thinking about how they would need to work hard to repaint the walls after moving in. The last thing you want is for a buyer to think about your home as needing work.

If you are preparing your home to list for sale, repainting one room or several may be at the top of your to-do list. When you are selecting your paint colors, lean toward neutral hues that may have better appeal toward a larger group of home buyers.

Monday, April 6, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 6, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week April 6 2015Mortgage rates ticked upward for fixed rate loans and were unchanged for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages according to Freddie Mac. Weekly jobless claims were lower in spite of slower job growth reports.

Last week’s economic events included several reports on jobs and unemployment including the ADP report on private-sector payrolls, the Department of Labor’s reports on non-farm payrolls and the national unemployment rate. The details:

Mortgage Rates, Pending Home Sales Weekly Jobless Claims

Fixed mortgage rates rose by one basis point for both 30 and -15-year mortgages. The average rate for a 30 year mortgage rate was 3.80 percent and the average rate for a 15-year mortgage was 2.98 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.92 percent. Average discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent and rose from an average of 0.40 percent to 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that pending home sales for February increased by 3.10 percent against an expected reading of -0.20 percent and January’s reading of 1.20 percent. This was a welcome surprise in light of severe winter weather conditions throughout much of the U.S.

Weekly jobless claims were lower at 268,000 new jobless claims as compared to the prior week’s reading of 288,000 new claims and expectations of 285,000 new jobless claims. Analysts note that week-to-week reports of jobless claims are volatile, and the four-week-rolling average is a better source for identifying jobless trends.

Non-Farm Payrolls, ADP Payrolls Lower

Labor markets received unwelcome readings as the Labor Department’s Non-Farm Payrolls report fell far shy of expectations and the ADP report, which measures private sector jobs, fell below February’s reading. Non-Farm Payrolls for March reflected only 126,000 jobs added against estimates of 243,000 jobs added and February’s reading of 264,000 jobs added.

This was the lowest reading for Non-Farm Payrolls in 15 months. The March reading raised questions concerning the potential for another economic slowdown and whether or not lower readings for labor reports signaled a temporary slowdown or indicated broader challenges to the economy.

ADP reported 189,000 private-sector jobs added in March as compared to February’s reading of 214,000 jobs added. This was the lowest reading since January, 2014. The ADP report is seen by analysts as a precursor of the Non-Farm Payrolls report.

The National Unemployment Rate was unchanged at 5.50 percent in February; this report lags a month behind Non-Farm Payrolls and ADP reports, so does not reflect the drop in job growth for March.

Labor markets are a priority for prospective and active home buyers as mortgage approval and the ability to afford a home hinges on steady employment. Housing markets could be in for more challenges unless dropping job growth proves to be a temporary situation.

What’s Ahead 

This week’s scheduled economic releases include reports on job openings and minutes of the last FOMC meeting along with Thursday’s reports on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.







Friday, April 3, 2015

Looking for a Fun DIY Project This Spring? How to Plant Your Own Vegetable Garden

Looking for a Fun DIY Project This Spring? How to Plant Your Own Vegetable GardenWhen spring arrives, many people want to spend more time outdoors enjoying the fresh air and warmer temperatures. While you could lounge in a chair with a good book, you may find it more enjoyable to plant your own vegetable garden. This is an on-going project that will require you to spend time outdoors regularly, and it can be quite enjoyable to watch the fruits of your labor spring to life. More than that, you may love to sample and even share the tasty treats that you have grown on your own. If you are ready to get started planning and planting your vegetable garden, follow these preliminary steps.

Choose the Plants That You Want to Grow

As a first step, think about the types of plants that you want to grow in your garden. These should ideally produce vegetables that you and your family will enjoy eating. They also ideally will be suitable for growing in your climate and with the type of soil that is present on your property. Additionally, enough space should be available to accommodate the full grown size of the plants. This up-front effort is critical for the next few steps in the planning and preparation process.

Select a Suitable Space in Your Yard

Each plant species will have special growing requirements. Some plants may prefer to be in full sunlight, and others may prefer partial sunlight or mostly shaded areas. Some may prefer soil that is mostly dry or that is regularly moist and wet. Different areas of your yard may be more accommodating for some plant species than others. For example, plants that prefer more moist soil may thrive in a lower area of your yard that receives more runoff when it rains and that takes longer to dry out after a shower.

Choose the Best Time to Plant

A final point to consider is the best time to plant your crops. Some will thrive when cooler temps in early spring are still common, but others may not tolerate a freeze at all. These may need to be planted after the risk for a late spring freeze is gone. Think about how long it takes plants to grow and what the temperatures in your area may be when the plants are fully grown and ready to produce vegetables for you.

You may be able to complete much of this preliminary planning and research during the last few weeks of winter from the comfort of your own home. Keep in mind that you can get outdoors and begin to prepare your garden area before you are ready to plant your crops. These steps will pave the way for a truly enjoyable do-it-yourself project this spring.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Buying a New Home This Spring? How to Avoid Overpaying as the Market Starts to Heat Up

Buying a New Home This Spring? How to Avoid Overpaying as the Market Starts to Heat UpWhile the real estate market in most areas may slow down considerably during the winter months, activity quickly picks up in the spring time. More listings are available for buyers to choose from, but there are typically many more buyers competing for those properties. With the fast-paced and often pressure-filled market activity during the spring, it is easy for buyers to react accordingly and to overpay for the home they fall in love with. By following a few important tips, you can take steps to ensure you get a great deal on your real estate purchase.

Avoid Making Impulsive Or Emotional Decisions

There are many reasons why buyers may overpay during the spring months, and these range from the feeling that they must act quickly to make an offer on a property they love to the belief that they need to offer the asking price even if they feel the price is too high. Some may even be involved in a bidding war with another buyer, and they may structure an offer based on emotion rather than on sound real estate fundamentals. While you may need to move quickly during the spring months, you also should avoid making impulsive, emotional decisions. Spending a little time researching the property and structuring an intelligent offer will generally not kill a deal.

Create A Firm Budget

All home buyers regardless of the season should create a firm budget. This should include a personal monthly budget so that they can determine what home ownership costs are affordable for them, and it should also include a buying budget that accounts for a down payment and closing costs. Keep a trained eye on this budget, and do not deviate from it.

Be Willing To Walk Away

When you fall in love with a property and envision your family living in the space for years, it is easy to develop an emotional attachment to it. While you may be excited about a property, you also should be willing to walk away if the transaction becomes too costly for you through negotiations and counter offers. Remember that there are many other properties on the market to choose from that may be more affordable for you.

Seeking representation from a skilled real estate agent is an important step to take when buying a home. A real estate agent can help you to define your goals and to remain true to them, reminding you of your needs and specifications as well as your budget for your purchase. If you are ready to start looking for a property to purchase, seek assistance from an experienced real estate professional today.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

S&P Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Slows in 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week March 30 2015According to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index report for January, home prices grew by 4.50 percent year-over-year as compared to  January 2014's  year-over-year  price growth rate of 10.50 percent. This was the lowest rate of home price growth since 2012.

Analysts said that although slower growth in home prices could be good news for home buyers, national wage growth is not keeping pace with home price growth. The Labor Department reports that wages are growing at an annual rate of approximately two percent. Other obstacles to home buyers include strict mortgage standards and likely increases in mortgage rates during 2015.

Highest and Lowest Home Price Growth Rates in January

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports that January's five highest rates of year-over-year home price growth were:

Denver, Colorado - 8.40%
Miami, Florida - 8.30%
Dallas, Texas - 8.10%
San Francisco, California - 7.90%
Portland, Oregon - 7.20%

The five cities with the lowest year-over-year rates of home price growth were:

Chicago, Illinois - 2.50%
Minneapolis, Minnesota - 2.20%
New York, New York - 2.10%
Cleveland, Ohio - 1.60%
Washington, D.C. - 1.30%

No cities included in the 20 city index recorded no or negative growth rates on a year-over-year basis.  David Blitzer, S&P Index Committee Chair, cited growing labor markets, current low mortgage rates, lower fuel prices and low inflation as positive influences on U.S. housing markets.

The Case Shiller 20-City Housing Index report for January was also impacted by severe weather conditions that reduced demand for homes.  The 20-City Index has climbed by 29 percent since reaching March 2012 lows.

Pending Home Sales Rise

In other housing related news, pending home sales indicate that home sales are increasing as the peak spring and summer buying season gets underway. The National Association of Realtors® reported that its pending home sale index reading increased by 3.10 percent to 106.9 in February.

This was the highest reading since June 2013 and was up 12.00 percent over February 2014.  Pending home sales are sales for which a contract has been signed, but the sale has not closed. Pending home sales are considered an indicator of future home sales.