Friday, January 29, 2016

Video: What Is A Counter-Offer?

What Is A Counter-Offer?

The video puts this in more visual terms, but basically, a seller can respond to a buyer's offer with changes - a "counter" - that improves the terms.

You need to put yourself in their shoes and construct a modified offer that you think they might take that meets more of your needs. Then it's their turn - accept, reject, or construct yet another counter.

It's an efficient market process, but beware: clauses and costs matter. Your broker should be closely involved in constructing a counter. Successful bargaining is best done with a win/win approach where each side is meeting their biggest needs and compromising others to reach an agreement.

Remember that outside conditions like interest rates, and supply and demand, will keep evolving so you'll need to be patient but decisive to craft an counter-offer that works for both sides.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

FOMC Statement: Fed Holds Steady on Rates

FOMC Statement Fed Holds Steady on RatesAccording to statement issued at the conclusion of today's Federal Open Market Committee meeting, committee members decided against raising the target federal funds rate. Mixed economic conditions, slower economic growth in the 4th quarter and low inflation contributed to the decision against raising rates. The target federal funds rate was raised in December to a range of 0.25 to 1.59 percent after remaining at 0.00 to 0.25 percent for several years. While rising fed rates were expected to cause a hike in mortgage rates, mortgage rates fell after December's rate hike.

Committee Cites Mixed Data in Decision

While labor conditions and housing markets continue to improve, FOMC members said that further improvement in labor markets and achieving the medium term goal of inflation influenced the committee's decision not to raise rates. The Federal Reserve has a dual goal of achieving maximum employment and 2 percent inflation. While labor conditions continue to improve, the Committee wants to see further improvement. The inflation rate has stubbornly stayed below 2 percent and lower energy and non-energy import prices caused the inflation rate to fall further in recent weeks. The Fed also downgraded its reading of household spending and business investment growth from "strong" to "moderate."

FOMC members consider global economic and financial conditions as well as trends and developing news affecting domestic economic and financial developments. Wednesday's statement emphasized that constant monitoring and analysis of financial and economic readings are significant in monetary policy decisions. Analysts noted that recent economic developments including slowing economic growth in the US and China, along with resulting turbulence in financial markets likely contributed to the Fed's decision not to raise the federal funds rate.

FOMC Says Policy Decisions to Remain "Accommodative"

Members of the FOMC do not expect marked economic improvement in the short term and said that they expect Fed monetary policy to remain accommodative "for some time." This suggests that rapid rate hikes are not likely to occur in the near future; the Fed's commitment to gradual rate increases is expected promote further improvements in labor markets and hold down borrowing rates for consumer credit and mortgages.

The Committee's vote not to increase rates was unanimous. The next FOMC meeting is set for March 15 and 16. In the meantime, Fed Chair and FOMC Chair Janet Yellen is slated to testify before Congress about the economic outlook on February 10 and 11.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mythbusting: is Winter a Bad Time to Buy a Home? No - and Here's Why

Mythbusting: is Winter a Bad Time to Buy a Home? No - and Here's WhyThe cooler months of winter often seem like the best time to hibernate into your house and wait for spring to appear, but it can actually be a prime opportunity to start looking for a new home. If you're not interested in waiting until next season, here are a few reasons you may want to get started on your home search a little earlier than expected

Opportunity For A Lower Price

With prime moving time occurring during the months of fall and spring, there's a good chance that a home purchase will end up costing you less in winter than it will during other times of the year. Most home sellers are not going to want to keep their house on the market for an extended period of time, so if it happens that their house is still for sale when the winter comes, they'll likely be willing to consider a lower offer.

More Attention From Your Agent

Since fewer people will be selling and buying in the winter months, it's quite likely that your real estate agent will have a lot more free time on their hands and will be able to give you more of their attention. Instead of sitting back and waiting for the New Year to arrive, take the opportunity to redefine your needs to your agent so - no matter the season - you'll have someone who's truly prepared to tackle the market for you.

The Added Perks Of A Slower Season

Most home sellers will have been advised by their real estate agent that the winter market is a lot slower, so you may be able to get some added benefits along with your purchase that make for a better deal. Whether you can garner a better negotiation, a quicker closing date or provide an offer that includes updated home appliances, there will probably be a few opportunities which will make the cooler winter search worth the effort.

The winter months can be a great time to hibernate, but they can also be ideal for searching for a home if you're in the market. With the slow selling season, you may be able to take advantage of lower prices and more perks along with your purchase.

If you're planning on moving a little bit sooner than expected, you may want to contact one of our local real estate professionals to see what opportunities are on the market.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

First Time Home Buyers: 3 Essential Tips That You Won't Hear from Your Friends

First Time Home Buyers: 3 Essential Tips That You Won't Hear from Your FriendsWhen it comes to diving into home ownership for the first time, it can seem like there are so many things you just don't know. Whether you're getting advice from your real estate agent, your friends or your family, there are so many things that seem like common sense that they might be lost in the mix of details. Instead of having to squeeze it out of them, here are three tips that are easily forgotten but still essential.

Be Patient And Take Your Time

It's certainly not the most popular advice, but one of the most important things when deciding to purchase a home is having the time and know-how to make the decision that is right for you. Since you'll need to consider so many different things when committing to such a significant purchase, from the neighborhood to the local amenities to the future salability of the home, it's always best to ask the questions so there will be less to regret.

Get More Than One Opinion

It's entirely possible that you've found a home you love and there's nothing that's going to get between you and it, but getting someone else's opinion may provide the criticism you need to take a step back from a home-buying mistake. Instead of going it alone, bring along a friend or family member whose opinion you trust that will be honest with you about the flaws they see. It's possible that they may notice something you've missed that could make or break the entire deal.

Prepare For The Home Inspection

Until you do it, you never really know what you're going to find out during the home inspection, but doing a little bit of research to determine things you should be looking for can go a long way in saving money down the road. It may seem like you should be able to rely on the inspector to assess things for you, but by asking the right questions you might be able to spot the water tank that's about to give out or a leak that's about to get much worse.

There are a lot of little details that go hand in hand with purchasing a home, but often the advice that is the simplest is the easiest to forget. If you're curious about other aspects of purchasing real estate that go beyond the home inspection, you may want to contact your local real estate agent for more information.

Monday, January 25, 2016

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - January 25, 2016

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week January 25 2016Last week's scheduled economic news included releases from the National Association of Home Builders, Housing Starts, and Existing Home Sales. Weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates were also released.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of previously owned homes rose to 5.46 million sales on an annual seasonally adjusted basis in December. This reading surpassed expectations of 5.21 million sales and November's reading of 4.76 million sales. November's low reading was in part affected by new mortgage rules, which delayed some closings into December. Economic factors pushing housing markets include low driven by falling fuel costs easing consumers' budgets could provide confidence to move up to a larger home and for first time buyers to enter the market.

Existing Home Sales Up 7.6 Percent in December

There was a 3.9 month supply of pre-owned homes on the market in December; this was the lowest inventory since January 2005. High demand for homes and a slim supply of available homes continued to tighten housing markets. Growing demand for homes coupled with a shortage of homes for sale are driving up prices; the national average price of a pre-owned home rose 7.60 percent in December to $224,100. Rapidly rising home prices present an obstacle to first time buyers and as home prices rise, more buyers will face affordability concerns.

Housing Starts dipped in December to 1.15 million as compared to expectations of 1.23 million and November's reading of 1.18 million housing starts annually. Builders constructed homes in 2015 at the highest rate since the recession. While December's reading fell short of expectations, housing starts increased nearly 11 percent year-over-year. While builders cite obstacles such as shortages of land and labor, a growing pace of housing starts is seen as a partial solution to the shortage of available homes.

Building permits issued increased 12 percent in 2015; permits issued gauge future building activity and supply of available homes.

Mortgage Rates Fall for Third Consecutive Week

Average mortgage rates fell last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped 11 basis points to 3.81 percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by nine basis points to an average of 3.10 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped 10 basis points to 2.91 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60, 0.50 and 0.40 percent respectively. Sean Becketti, chief economist for Freddie Mac, cited turbulence in the financial markets as a factor contributing to lower mortgage rates.

New jobless claims rose to a seven week high of 293,000 new claims as compared to expectations of 279,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 283,000 new claims. The four-week rolling average of new claims jumped by 6.500 new claims to an average of 285,000 claims. Lingering layoffs of temporary holiday workers were cited as contributing to higher first-time claims.

What's Ahead

Next week's scheduled events include data on new and pending home sales, the Case-Shiller home price indexes. The Fed will release its latest FOMC statement. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released as usual. Reports on consumer confidence and sentiment will also be released.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Staging Tips: How to Make a Small Backyard a Great Selling Feature

Staging Tips: How to Make a Small Backyard a Great Selling FeatureSmall backyards are not the detriment that sellers seem to worry about. By putting in some work, any homeowner should be able to turn the smallest backyard into a selling feature by highlighting its assets.

Here are some surefire ways to change a cramped backyard into a cozy, outdoor paradise:

Invest In Size Appropriate Outdoor Furniture

Too many people with small backyards make the mistake of picking out patio furniture that is meant for a larger space. While this may not matter for the people living in the house, it will make a world of difference to anybody looking to buy.

Large furniture will make the yard look even smaller and cramped by comparison. Patio furniture is made in all shapes and sizes, and picking out smaller pieces to use in the backyard will make the space look larger and help play to its strengths

 Open Spaces Ignite The Imagination

Too many sellers go overboard in the staging process and end up with a result that has the exact opposite effect. While a fire pit or a water feature will add value to the home, in a small backyard these features can be cumbersome if they are all used simultaneously.

Focus on one or two signature areas, a seating area, water feature or barbeque are good examples, and keep the rest of the yard open and clear so that it looks larger and the buyers can imagine what they could do with the space. Many young couples are looking for a home to raise kids in and a clear backyard helps them visualize the space children have to play.

Treat The Backyard The Same As The Front

While curb appeal is important, it's easy to forget that the same rules should apply to other outdoor areas of a house. Considering a yard is high on the list of criteria buyers look for in a new home, especially those starting a family, the backyard should be given the same treatment as the front yard.

Remove clutter, weed the gardens, trim the trees and put away any toys, tools or grills that are not part of the staging to keep visitors' eyes drawn to the actual yard and not lingering away to something unsightly that wasn't cleaned up.

With enough work and imagination, there are ways to make any perceived drawback into a selling point. Any real estate professional will be able to look through your home and help identify trouble areas and how to fix them.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Did You Know: Here's Why Buying a New Home Grows Your Wealth Faster Than Renting

Did You Know: Here's Why Buying a New Home Grows Your Wealth Faster Than RentingThere can be many downsides to both renting and buying, depending on what side of the coin you are on, but if you're leaning towards purchasing a home it can have added benefits for your bank account that renting does not. While renting can certainly alleviate many of the costs that go along with property ownership, here's why purchasing a home can have positive monetary affects in the long run

The Good Impacts of Inflation

While inflation is often seen as a dirty word, a real estate purchase can see the positive side of inflation with how your home purchase investment will grow over the years. Putting money into rent will mean that money is gone and out the window once you've paid for the month, but investing into a property will come back to you in future gains that are made in the real estate market. While buying a home will be more expensive in the short term, it can also provide you with greater financial flexibility and equity in the future.

Renovations Will Increase Home Value

While changing up the bathroom or the paint on the wall in your apartment isn't going to add any extra lining to your wallet when you move out, making upgrades to a home that you own will have the very opposite effect! Renovations can certainly be unpopular while they're taking place, but no matter how small or large, they can mean an easier sell and a higher profit when the home finally goes on the market.

The Opportunity For Rental Property

An apartment you rent won't offer opportunity for investment if you're away from your home for an extended period of time, but a home you own may serve as an ideal investment property at some point in the future. With the success of Airbnb and unique modern housing needs that may only require a home rental for a short period of time, being able to use your house as a rental property can be a significant boon for earning money you would have otherwise been without.

Buying a home can require a lot of number crunching in the beginning that rent does not, but it can also provide significant financial benefits down the road that might not exist without such a purchase. If you're considering purchasing a home in the near future, you may want to contact your local real estate professional for more information.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Home Builders Remain Confident in January

Home Builders Remain Confident in JanuaryHome builders maintained December's confidence level according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index for January. The latest reading of 60 mirrored December's reading, but was two points lower than expected. Readings of more than 50 indicate that more builders were confident about housing conditions than those who were not.

Although January's reading fell shy of October's reading of 65, which was a ten-year high for the home builder index. Any reading in the low 60's suggests gradual improvement in housing market conditions according to NAHB. While December's year-over-year reading for new home sales was 14 percent higher than in December 2014, home builders cited industry challenges including cost of new lots and a scarce labor force. The Fed's recent rate hike may have influenced builder confidence as higher mortgage rates would sideline some buyers.

National unemployment reached a seven-year low, which is pushing wages upward. Labor market readings are important to would-be home buyers, who typically need to be confident about jobs before investing in a home. Demand for homes continues to drive new home prices up and contributes to home builder confidence levels. The flip side of high demand is that rising home prices can price some would-be home buyers out of the market.

Components of Housing Market Index Mixed

The NAHB Housing Market Index readings are based on three components. January's readings were mixed. Builder confidence in current market conditions rose two points to 67, but builder confidence in market conditions over the next six months slipped three points to 63. Builder confidence in buyer traffic in new home developments slipped two points to 44; this was likely due in part to winter weather.

In related news, the University of Michigan released January's Consumer Sentiment Index last week. Consumer sentiment rose from December's reading of 92.60 to 03.30 and surpassed the expected reading of 93.0. Low inflation drove consumer confidence according to analysts. Low wage gains were offset by falling inflation rates. Strong consumer confidence readings suggest that more home buyers could enter the market as worries about economic conditions ease.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - January 18, 2016

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week January 18 2016In addition to weekly reports on mortgage rates and new unemployment claims, last week's economic news included the Fed's Beige Book report, retail sales and consumer sentiment. January's Empire State Index showed an unexpected dip and Consumer Sentiment increased for January.

Fed's Beige Book Shows Diverse Economic Trends

According to the Federal Reserve's Beige Book report for January, the central bank's business contacts reported strength in housing, while agriculture, energy and manufacturing sectors were struggling. New York's Empire State Manufacturing Index for January supported this trend with a sharp drop. New York manufacturing has hit its lowest level since the recession and has stayed in negative territory since March 2009. Two analysts said that the Fed's recent rate hike and subsequent hikes could slow housing markets. Consumer lending rates, including mortgage rates, typically follow suit when the Fed increases its target federal funds rate.

In other news, retail sales posted negative growth of -0.10 percent in December against an expected reading of -0.20 percent and November's reading of +0.40 percent. December retail sales not including auto motive also posted a reading of -0.10 percent as compared to expectations of +0.20 percent and November's reading of 0.30 percent.

Mortgage Rates Fall, New Unemployment Claims Rise

Last week's average mortgage rates fell across the board according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by five basis points to 3.92 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage rate also fell by five basis points to 3.19 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was eight basis points lower at 3.01 percent. Average discount points were 0.60, 0.50 and 0.40 percent respectively.

New unemployment claims rose to 284,000 against expectations of 275,000 new claims and the prior week's reading of 277,000 new claims. Analysts said that the jump in claims resulted from job losses related to temporary holiday positions, but noted that last year's momentum of falling jobless claims has slowed.

Last week's economic news ended on a positive note; consumer sentiment rose according to the University of Michigan. Lower prices were credited for the boost in consumer confidence in current economic conditions.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic events include the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, Housing Starts, Consumer Price Index and Core Consumer Price Index. No news will be released on Monday due to the Martin Luther King holiday.

Friday, January 15, 2016

How Do I Determine The Initial Offer?

As you'll see in this video, unless you have a buyer's agent remember that the agent works for the seller. Make a point of asking him or her to keep your discussions and information confidential.

Listen to your real estate agent's advice but follow your own reason on deciding a fair price.

Calculating your offer should involve several factors: what homes sell for in the area, the home's condition, how long it's been on the market, financing terms and the seller's situation.

By the time you're ready to make an offer you should have a good idea of what the home is worth and what you can afford.

Be prepared for give-and-take negotiation which is very common when buying a home. The buyer and seller may often go back and forth until they can agree on a final price.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

5, 10, 20 Percent or More? How to Determine How Big of a Down Payment You Need

5, 10, 20 Percent or More? How to Determine How Big of a Down Payment You NeedWhether or not you're new to real estate, there's little doubt that you've heard the term down payment as it relates to purchasing a home. There's a lot of different information out there in regards to how much this figure should be and it can be hard to determine exactly what the importance of this payment is. If you're trying to determine the ideal amount to put down, here are some things to consider

Explaining Down Payments And Why They're Important

The down payment is probably one of the largest single payments you'll make for anything, and this is why so many people save for years. When you buy a home, the down payment is the amount of money that goes into the initial home investment, and this is taken off of the cost of the house. In essence, while this money qualifies as an asset, it is tied up in paying off the total cost of your home

The Differing Amounts For Down Payments

It's often the case that many figures are thrown around in regards to the ideal down payment percentage, and they generally vary from 3-20% of the home's cost. If you are paying a percentage on the low side of the scale, this can unfortunately mean that you will have fewer mortgage options and will be stuck with an increased interest rate. The amount you should pay depends on your financial health and purchasing commitment, but the larger the down payment is, the more minimal your monthly payments will be.

Deciding The Perfect Percentage

Saving up 20% of a home's total price may seem like a lot of time and effort, but this can be the ideal amount to put down. In addition to lowered monthly payments and a better interest rate, you'll also be able to avoid Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), which is required if you put down less than 20%. There is no right answer to the question of how much to put towards a down payment, but you may end up spending less in the long run if you can invest more in the beginning.

There are many figures thrown around when it comes to real estate, but the amount of a down payment should be economically feasible for you and enable you to make your monthly payments consistently. If you're planning on purchasing soon and are looking for home options, you may want to contact one of our local real estate professionals for more information.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Have You Been Denied for a Mortgage? Here Are 3 Reasons Why You'll Want to Keep Trying

Have You Been Denied for a Mortgage? Here Are 3 Reasons Why You'll Want to Keep TryingIf you're in the market for a new home, you'll most likely need a mortgage in order to afford it. But for some home buyers, getting a mortgage isn't easy. Banks and other lenders are often hesitant to lend money to certain consumers, often for good reason.

But sometimes, lenders' reasons for declining you aren't entirely valid. That's why, if you've been denied for a mortgage, you'll want to keep trying to get mortgage funds. Here are three factors that can influence the likelihood of approval on the second try

A Second Appraisal Might Change Your Circumstances

Sometimes, a mortgage lender will deny a loan because the property value of the home in question isn't large enough to back the loan. If your mortgage lender declines you because of a poor loan-to-value ratio, getting a second appraisal could help. A lot of appraisal companies will give wildly different appraisals on the same property, with some brokers reporting valuation differences of up to $1.3 million.

Bear in mind that you cannot get two appraisals through the same lender, so if you choose to have the home appraised a second time, you'll need to find a new lender.

Cleaning Up Your Credit Report Can Work Wonders

What's on your credit report will have a large role in determining whether or not you get the mortgage you want. If you've been denied because of entries on your credit report, you'll want to take every step possible to correct those report issues. If you've been more than 30 days late on a payment in the past, it will show on your credit report and affect your score - but by calling your creditor and asking them to remove the negative, you can bring your credit report back into good standing.

You'll also want to pay off any and all past due balances as soon as possible. If you can't pay what you owe in full, you'll want to negotiate with your creditor to pay part of the amount. This will result in the debt showing on your credit report as "paid as agreed", which will boost your credit score.

An Extra Down Payment May Be A Good Idea

Sometimes, a lender will decline a borrower if the borrower is asking for too much money. If you're pursuing a mortgage worth more than 95% of the property value, you'll probably be declined. But if you make an extra down payment, you can lower your loan amount - which may incline your lender to approve your application.

If you've been declined for a mortgage, don't give up. As you can see there are steps you can take to get approved.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

3 'Must Know' Pieces of Advice for First-time Home Buyers

3 'Must Know' Pieces of Advice for First-time Home BuyersWhen delving into the realities of home ownership, there can be many factors involved that make it difficult to determine what you need to know and what can wait until later. If you happen to be a first-time buyer who's looking for the best tips for purchasing a home, look no further than the following three pointers to set you on the right path.

Get Familiar With Your Credit Score

If you haven't looked at your credit report for a long time, it can be a daunting task to request this information. Fortunately, your credit report is free from and it will prepare you for what lenders are going to see. By taking this important step, you will be able to determine any delinquent accounts or balances owing that have gone to collections, and hopefully have these cleaned up before they can become a problem for your mortgage.

Determine The Price You Can Pay

While you may have a price in mind for what you're willing to pay for a home, it's important to determine your debt-to-income ratio before putting in an offer. Your DTI ratio can be determined by taking your total monthly costs, adding it to what you would be paying for a home and dividing it by your monthly gross income. If it's a housing price that will work for you, this amount should equate to less than 43%.

Organize Your Housing History

If you have a good history as a tenant, the next step will probably be the easiest of all, but it's very important in order to prove you're a responsible candidate for home ownership. Once you've acquired a Verification of Rent from any applicable landlord in the previous year, you'll want to ensure that you have money in the bank. While RRSP's can make a good impression, make sure you have liquid assets available so you can convince the lender your home investment is manageable.

There are a lot of things to know when it comes to buying a home, but if you're a first time buyer the most important thing is to ensure that your finances are organized and that you're not diving into more house than you can afford. By taking the time to determine your debt-to-income ratio and looking into your credit, you can ensure a positive first-time buying experience. If you're wondering about homes for sale in your area, you may want to contact your trusted real estate professionals for more information.

Monday, January 11, 2016

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - January 11, 2016

You Ask, We Answer: 5 Ways That You Can Proactively Build and Improve Your Credit ScoreThe first week of 2016 was quiet concerning housing and mortgage related news, but reports on construction spending and several labor-related reports were released. Construction spending is connected to housing markets as it provides evidence of builder confidence and also future housing supply. Labor market trends provide a sense of economic performance in general and can influence potential buyers on decisions about buying or not buying homes.

Construction Spending Dips in November

According to the Commerce Department, construction spending dropped by 0.40 percent in November to a seasonally adjusted annual reading of $1.12 trillion. November's reading was short of the expected reading of 0.90 percent, which was based on October's original reading of a 1.00 percent increase in construction spending. October's reading was later revised downward to 0.30 percent. November's construction spending was 10.50 percent higher year-over-year.

While private construction spending decreased by 0.20 percent in November, it was up 12.10 percent year-over-year due to housing construction. Housing markets have been squeezed due to consistently short supplies of available homes. New construction is seen as an important way to ease the bottleneck as buyers sit on the sidelines waiting for homes to come on the market.

Residential construction was up 0.30 percent in November and increased 10.80 percent year-over-year.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, Weekly Jobless Claims Lower

Freddie Mac reported mixed results for mortgage rates. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped four basis points to 3.97 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose two basis points to 3.26 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 3.09 percent. Last week's discount points averaged 0.60 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages, 0.50 percent for 15 year fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New weekly jobless claims fell to 277,000 as compared to expectations of 275.000 and the prior week's reading of 287,000 first-time claims. Fewer first-time claims for jobless benefits point to stronger economic conditions in general as evidenced by expanding job markets. National unemployment held steady 5.00 percent, which mirrored expectations and the same as November's reading.

Labor Department: 292,000 New Jobs Added in December

According to the Labor Department, 292,000 new jobs were added in December, which resulted in the fifth consecutive year where jobs grew by 2 million or more year-over-year. Upward revisions to jobs reports for October and November supported stronger economic conditions. October's reading was adjusted from 298,000 new jobs to 307,000 new jobs; November's original reading for new jobs was raised from 211,000 jobs added to 252.000 jobs added.

Last week's positive jobs reports were released against a backdrop of market volatility due to fears that the Chinese economy is slowing. As the second largest global economy, China's economy could influence global financial markets and economic conditions if it experiences serious difficulties.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic releases include reports on job openings, retail sales and the Federal Reserve's Beige Book. In addition to reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims, a reading on consumer sentiment will round out this week's news.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Greenify Your Home with Our Guide to Conducting a DIY Energy Audit

Greenify Your Home with Our Guide to Conducting a DIY Energy AuditThe idea of conducting an energy audit on your home might seem like something complicated that should be left to the experts, but there are ways for you to make your home a little greener without consulting anybody. Instead of having someone else do the work, here are a few simple ways for you to inspect your home and green up its energy use.

Do A Candle Test Of Exterior Walls

Since cold air coming in from outside your home can impact your energy use significantly, do the simple test of taking a candle on a tour of your home to determine if there are any drafts. Ensure that you check all of the windows, doors and exterior areas where outside air can gain access; if your candle blows out or wavers, this is a surefire sign that a fix-up is needed. If you've located an area where air is getting in, you may need to caulk it or add insulation to remedy the problem.

Carefully Inspect The Attic

Since we rarely venture up to the attic, it can be one of the last places that we would look for a draft, but it can be one of the most vulnerable areas when it comes to insulation. Before heading up, put on a mask and some work gloves to protect yourself from the dusty surfaces, and lift up the insulation to inspect for any spaces where air could be accessing your home. If you've noticed gaps or places that lack coverage, fill them with additional insulation and seal it with expanding insulation for added coverage.

Don't Take Ducts For Granted

Since ducts are made of thin metal and can easily lose heat if they are damaged or unclean, it's important to inspect them for holes and make sure they are joined sufficiently so air is not escaping. If you've found an issue, you will want to replace or insulate them more effectively so that energy loss can be prevented and does not impact energy use throughout your entire home.

There are plenty of ways that your home can lose energy - from the ducts through to the exterior walls - but there are simple things you can do to test its efficiency and improve your energy use. If you happen to be doing some minor renovations so you can put your home on the market soon, you may want to contact your trusted real estate agent for more information.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Welcoming Strangers: the Pros and Cons of Hosting Open Houses During the Home Selling Process

Welcoming Strangers: the Pros and Cons of Hosting Open Houses During the Home Selling ProcessWhether you're ready to put your home on the market or you're preparing yourself for the ins and outs of the process, you've probably heard about open houses. While open houses can offer an easy, instant way for many interested parties to view your house, there can also be downsides to this type of showing. If you're considering whether or not to stage an open house, here are some insights into what it may mean.

Potential Buyers Or Open House Aficionados?

An open house will mean that many people can see your house at the same time, which can save the time and energy that goes into multiple viewings, but open houses can also attract many people that have no intention to buy. With so many people interested in the interior of a home or the houses in a particular neighborhood, open houses can actually attract more curiosity than actual offers. While an open house can be a great way to create interest, private viewings can be more indicative of how interested the viewer really is.

Living In Your Home Or Merely Showing It

The effort that goes into properly staging a home for public viewing can be quite considerable depending on how long your house is on the market. While an open house will get many viewers in and out on the same day, a bevy of private viewings can mean that a lot more energy will be spent cleaning up your home, which may make you feel like you live in a show home. It's worth considering how much time you want to spend staging your home before deciding if an open house will work for you.

A Private Home Or A Public Place

You may be leaving your old, familiar home behind soon enough, but that doesn't mean it's still not a place of refuge and privacy from the outside world. It's worth realizing that an open house means many people you don't know will be walking through your home and viewing your possessions, which can be quite disconcerting for some people. This may be acceptable if the benefits outweigh the risks, but if your home is too special a space you may want to consider another avenue.

Open houses can be an important part of getting your house out on the market, but whether or not this option will work for you is dependent on many factors. If you're wondering about all of the options for viewings and putting your home on the market, you will want to contact your trusted real estate professional for more insight.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Understanding Mortgage Pre-Approvals and How to Avoid Being Declined for One

Understanding Mortgage Pre-approvals and How to Avoid Being Declined for OneThe mortgage process is a long and complicated one, with a number of similar-sounding terms that can easily confuse first-time homebuyers. A pre-approval is not the same thing as a pre-qualification, and it's important to understand everything that goes into a pre-approval. Being declined during the pre-approval process means you'll have a hard time getting the funds you need to buy your home, so it's important that you know what the process is going to look like before going into it.

How does a pre-approval work, and how can you make sure you won't be declined? Here's what you need to know.

What Is A Mortgage Pre-Approval?

A mortgage pre-approval is a step that happens somewhere near the start of the home buying process. Being pre-approved means you have a preliminary loan commitment from a mortgage lender. Pre-approval isn't necessarily a guarantee that you'll get a mortgage, but rather, a statement that if all goes according to plan, your lender will most likely issue a mortgage to you.

Pre-approvals can make the mortgage process shorter and easier, but they're not legally binding. If you later find a better mortgage through another lender, you don't have to take out a mortgage through the lender that pre-approved you.

What Do You Need To Be Pre-Approved?
In order to be pre-approved, your lender will need to evaluate your finances and your ability to pay for your mortgage. You'll want to meet with your lender and provide them with bank and creditor documents that clearly show your income, your assets, and your debts. You can expect your lender to run a credit check on you in order to determine your employment status and verify that you've accurately reported your finances.

If you meet your lender's criteria, you'll receive a commitment letter that states what size of a mortgage your lender is willing to give you.

Red Flags: Sure Signs That You're Destined To Be Declined

You can be declined for a mortgage pre-approval for any number of reasons. If you have a poor credit score, a high debt-to-income ratio, or a low or unstable income, you likely won't meet the lender's minimum borrower requirements – and you'll be declined. To avoid being declined for a pre-approval, you'll want to ensure you always pay your bills on time, negotiate with your creditors to pay off your debts, or boost your income.

A mortgage pre-approval can help you to narrow your home search and access a mortgage loan. That's why it's important to ensure you don't get declined during the pre-approval.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Dealing with an Empty Nest? 5 Great Reasons to Downsize into a New Condo

Dealing with an Empty Nest? 5 Great Reasons to Downsize into a New CondoThere's a good chance if your children have recently moved out that your home is feeling a lot larger than it used to, and perhaps you're re-considering the extra space. If downsizing to a condo is on your mind and you're weighing the benefits of this kind of move, here are some that might make it worth the switch in size.

A Little Extra Money

With the additional money you should be making off the sale of your home, there's a good chance that downsizing may provide you with extra assets to sock away for retirement, travel or whatever your heart fancies. If you don't need the money, it might not matter, but in the retirement years a little extra can be of benefit for many.

Minimize Your Costs

Usually, there are many utility and heating costs that go along with home ownership, but by moving into a condo you can alleviate many monthly payments instantly. Instead of paying for every utility, condo living can help to simplify and minimize the amount you owe each month.

Free Up Your Retirement

Often times it may seem like home ownership is the dream, but many people approaching retirement would rather have the flexibility of renting. Because there are limited responsibilities with a rental, it means you can spend the winter months in Mexico without having to worry about who will take care of your home.

A Condominium Community

The great thing about many condo buildings is that they are built close to amenities like grocery stores, dry cleaners and restaurants, so you don't have to worry about venturing far out. It might not seem important if you're used to driving to the store to make your purchases, but being able to walk might make you a convert to a different way of life.

Forget About The Maintenance

If you've gotten used to all of the maintenance that goes into a home, downsizing can be a great relief in terms of the time you'll be saving. Instead of a lawn to cut or a multi-level home you're responsible for, you'll be able to rely on the building manager to do this for you.

It can be comforting to have a home you've bought and paid for that belongs to you, but by downsizing you may be able to save on time and significantly lower your living costs. If you're considering purchasing a condo and would like to learn more about your options, you may want to contact one of our local real estate agents for more information.

Monday, January 4, 2016

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - January 04, 2016

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week January 04 20162015 said farewell with reports on Case Shiller home prices, pending home sales, and consumer confidence. The details:

Case-Shiller Home Prices Post Double Digit Gains in October

According to Case-Shiller's 20 City Home Price Index, Denver, Colorado, Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California tied for the highest home price gains in October with year-over-year home price gains of 10.90 percent. Lowest annual price gains were posted by Chicago, Illinois at 1.30 percent followed by Washington, D.C with a year-over-year –reading of 1.70 percent. Home prices rose at their fastest rate since August 2014 according to Case-Shiller.

Month-to-month home prices showed mixed results in October. Miami, Florida posted the highest month-to-month gain of 0.70 percent. San Francisco, California posted a gain of 0.60 percent; Phoenix, Arizona and Portland, Oregon posted month-to-month home price gains of 0.60 percent.

Cities posting month-to-month declines in home prices included Chicago, Illinois where home prices declined 0.70 percent, Cleveland Ohio and San Diego, California posted month-to-month declines of 0.40 percent, Washington, DC home prices dropped 0.30 percent month-to-month. Home prices in Boston, Massachusetts and Las Vegas, Nevada were unchanged in October from September readings.

While Case-Shiller's 20-City Index remains 11 to 13 percent below 2006 peak home prices, the index is approximately 36 percent higher than lowest home prices posted in 2012.

Pending Home Sales Dip in November

According to the National Association of Realtors®, pending home sales dipped 0.90 percent in November after posting a gain of 0.20 percent in October. Analysts expected a 1.0 percent gain in pending sales for November. Pending home sales peaked in May 2015, but short supplies of available homes and rising prices have caused home sales to slow. Pending home sales are defined as homes for which a sales contract is signed, but aren't yet closed. November's pending sales were 2.70
percent higher than for October and represented the 15th consecutive month of annual gains in pending home sales.

Regional results for November's pending sales were mixed. The Northeast reported a reading of 91.8, which was nearly three points lower than October's reading. The Western region posted a reading of 100.4, a decline of nearly 6 points. The Midwestern region posted a gain of one point to a reading of 104.9. The South had the strongest reading for pending home sales in November with a reading of 119.9, which represented an increase of 1.50 percent.

The National Association of Realtors® expects sales of pre-owned homes to top out at 5.25 million for 2015, which would be the highest reading since 2006. The national median home price for pre-owned homes is $220,700, which is six percent higher than in November 2014.

Mortgage Rates, Consumer Confidence Rise

Freddie Mac reported that the average mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was three basis points higher at 4.01 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.24 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage also rose two basis points to 3.08 percent. Average discount points were unchanged at 0.6, 0.6 and 0.4 percent respectively.

On a positive note for year-end, consumer confidence increased to a reading of 96.5 in December as compared to November's upwardly revised reading of 92.6 and an expected index reading of 93.50. Analysts were relieved to see increasing consumer confidence after an unexpected decline in November.

What's Ahead

This week's scheduled economic news includes reports on construction spending, the government's Non-farm Payrolls report and ADP's payroll reports. Labor reports act as potential indicators of future housing markets as steady employment is typically a major factor in home-buying decisions.