5 Major Red Flags to Watch for When You’re Touring an Open House

5 Major Red Flags to Watch for When You're Touring an Open HouseAn open house is one of the best opportunities a potential homeowner will have to take stock of a home and determine if it will work for them. However, it can also be a good opportunity to discover some glaring red flags that might make it a less worthwhile investment. If you’re currently perusing the open houses in your neighborhood, here’s some things you should make sure to watch out for.

A Selling Hot-Spot

It’s well and good if you love the home you visit, but ‘location, location, location’ is a popular phrase for a reason. If you’ve noticed a lot of homes for sale in the area, this could be a sign of neighborhood issues that are less than pleasing.

An Odd Smell

Baked goods or room spray are quite common when it comes to an open house, but it’s possible that they’re masking a less-than pleasant odor. Since this can point to a hard home fix-up, it’s worth checking out the closets or the basement where a strange smell can indicate mildew or mold.

A Bad Paint Job

Paint that’s peeling may mean that a few fresh coats are long overdue, but it can also indicate moisture issues in the home that have gone untreated. As this kind of repair can cost a pretty penny, it’s worth determining if there are sealing issues with windows or doors.

A Few Obvious Fix-Ups

A sticky door or a damaged wall may not seem so bad on their own, but if you notice a few things that need to be fixed around the home, it can be a sign that there’s more afoot. If a homeowner has cared for the property during their ownership, it will likely show in small details like this.

Incomplete Construction

It may seem like a good sign to see a house that’s undergoing a renovation, but it can actually be a risk to invest in a home that’s not complete. Instead of leaving this to chance, you may want to check with the construction contractor to determine the scope of the work and when it will be finished.

An open house may be a good time to decide if you’re interested in a home, but it can also be the perfect opportunity to search for deficiencies that may end up costing you.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 3, 2017

Last week’s economic reports were in short supply due to the Christmas holiday. Events reported included Case-Shiller home price indices, pending home sales and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. Consumer confidence was also released.

 

CaseShiller Readings Indicate No Slowdown in Home Price Gains

Case-Shiller’s October readings for its home price indices showed continued growth in home prices. In spite of rising home prices and mortgage rates, high demand for homes and slim supplies of homes for sale continued to fuel higher home prices.

According to Case-Shiller’s national home price index for October, home prices rose 5.60 percent on an annual basis as compared to September’s reading of 5.40 percent. The 20-city home price index rose to 5.10 percent from September’s reading of 5.00 percent. Case-Shiller’s 10-city index also gained 0.10 percent in October with a reading of 4.30 percent year-over-year.

Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon and Denver, Colorado had the highest year-over-year home price gains in October with readings of 10.70, 10.30 and 8.30 percent respectively. David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the S&P Indices Committee, said that “Home prices and the economy are both enjoying robust numbers,” but he also cautioned that rising mortgage rates and home prices growing faster than wages continue to pose obstacles for some home buyers. The Federal Reserve is expected to raise its federal funds rate in 2017, which is expected to prompt rising mortgage rates.

 

Mortgage Rates Mixed, Pending Home Sales Fall

Pending home sales fell 2.50 percent in November. Analysts said that post-election reaction helped to drive mortgage rates higher, which made homes less affordable for first-time and moderate-income buyers; Sellers and buyers may have postponed decisions to sell or buy as they waited for volatile post-election responses to ease.

According to the National Association of Realtors┬«, pending home sales fell to their lowest level in almost a year with an index reading of 107.30 in November. September’s reading was 110.00. The holiday season and rising mortgage rates were seen as contributing to fewer pending home sales.

Freddie Mac reported the ninth consecutive week that fixed rate mortgages rose. In the final mortgage rates survey for 2016, the average rate for a 30-year mortgage rose two basis points to 4.32 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was three basis points higher at 3.55 percent. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rates averaged 3.30 percent, which was two basis points lower than the prior week. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for all three mortgage types.

New jobless claims were lower last week with a reading of 265,000 new claims filed. Analysts had expected 270,000 new claims filed based on the prior week’s reading of 275,000 new claims filed.

In spite of rising home prices and mortgage rates, consumer sentiment was higher than expected in December with a reading of 113.70 as compared to expectations of 110.00 and November’s reading of 109.40.

 

Whats Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic reports include Labor Department releases on Non-Farm Payrolls, and the national unemployment rate. ADP payrolls and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released. Financial markets will be closed on Monday in observance of New Year’s Day.

3 Simple Tips for Boosting Your FICO Credit Score Before Applying for a Mortgage

3 Simple Tips for Boosting Your FICO Credit Score Before Applying for a MortgageThere are a variety of factors that are involved in getting your mortgage approved, but few things will have more of an impact than your FICO score and the credit history that goes along with it. Instead of leaving your score up to chance when submitting your application, here are a few ways that you can boost your financial wellbeing and leave your credit score better off than it was before.

Put More On Your Card

It’s important to put purchases on your credit card that you can afford to pay off consistently, but many people are not aware that how much debt you owe can actually positively contribute to your credit score. While it’s good to use up to 30% of your available debt load, a significantly higher percentage than this can be a signal to lenders that you are experiencing financial difficulties. By putting everyday items on credit, it will be easier to give your score an instant boost.

Clear Your Credit History

Many people who think they have bad credit are too afraid to even review it, but it’s very important to take a look at your credit history when it comes to taking control of your finances and your FICO score. If there happens to be incorrect information on your credit report, this will enable you to contact the appropriate lenders and dispute the charges so they can be corrected prior to your mortgage application. It may not seem significant, but this can actually have a marked impact on the outcome of your application.

Make Your Payments On Time

It’s often the case that those who are struggling with debt may push away the bills altogether and give up on the minimum payment, but it’s very important that the minimum is made to keep your financial health in check. It may take a few months to see the results of putting down this amount before the due date, but it will improve your credit over time and forge good habits for the future.

Your credit score is an important aspect of determining your financial health for lenders, and this means that your credit history is of significant importance when it comes to your mortgage. Instead of leaving it up to chance, ensure that you’re making the minimum payments and correct any discrepancies in your credit report. If you’re currently in the market for a home and are considering your options, contact one of our mortgage professionals for more information.

3 Key Reasons Why Buying Your First Home Is Like Planning a Wedding

3 Key Reasons Why Buying Your First Home Is Like Planning a WeddingYou may not see the connection right away, but buying a home and planning a wedding are two experiences that require certain skills and challenge you in similar ways. Check out the three key similarities below!

1. Budget

Whether you’re buying your first home or planning a wedding, you are likely facing one of the biggest financial obligations of your life. That’s why, in both cases, it is essential that you pick a realistic budget and stay within it.

Sounds simple, but in either case it can be difficult! Unexpected obstacles may force you to spend more than you planned, or you may find yourself wanting to overspend as you find things that would be “just perfect” additions even though they don’t fit your budget. These temptations can be expected, but it’s important to remember the big picture. When it comes to your budget, pick it and stick it.

2. Details

When it comes to a home purchase or a wedding, there are countless details to consider. It’s not a simple, pre-packaged purchase, there will always be big decisions that you have to make and if you overlook something you may regret it later on.

Some decisions that you face will be similar in both experiences: Does the location work for you? Does it work for your friends and family? What is the parking situation? Is it appropriate for the climate? Will you be satisfied with your decision in the long-term?

Other details will be more unique to the situation: Do you need a cocktail hour? Do you need a walk-in closet? What style of photography would you like? Is there too much traffic noise?

Either way you’ll have lots to think about, and you’ll become acutely aware of ‘the little things.’

3. You’ve Got Style

Both your wedding and your home say something about you, they’re a reflection of your personal style. When being presented with so many choices that are particularly catered towards your personal taste, you’ll learn what you like and what you don’t. However, you’ll also learn what it is that you absolutely need, and what you’re willing to budge on.

Whether you’re choosing a wedding dress that is both gorgeous and functional for your ceremony or deciding whether or not you need an extra bedroom in your home, you’ll learn what it is that you’d want in a perfect world, and what is absolutely necessary for your current situation.

Home Equity Tips: 3 Upgrades That Will Make Your House Worth More When You Sell

Home Equity Tips: 3 Upgrades That Will Make Your House Worth More When You SellIt’s likely that your house is your biggest asset, so when it comes time to sell it you’ll want to do everything you can to maximize your profit. Good news the value of your home isn’t solely determined by the market, there are several ways in which you can increase its value by making upgrades before listing.

Let’s take a look at 3 top upgrades that will make your house worth more when you sell.

1. Make It Profitable

Not surprisingly, the number one way in which you can increase the value of your home is to add an income suite within the property. If your home has potential to earn buyers’ money it will inevitably be more valuable than a property that doesn’t have any potential cash flow for the owner. Whether it’s a basement suite or a floor that’s been made into a separate unit, income units are a huge bonus for buyers. Making money while paying off their home would be a dream come true for most people, and it’s a dream that buyers are willing to pay a high price for.

2. Kitchen Is Key

Kitchens are often the first area to become dated or worn out within a home, and they’re the most important part of the house when it comes to valuation. Make sure that your cabinets and countertops are updated before selling, and modernize the design with neutral fixtures that are current yet adaptable to many tastes. Having a fresh kitchen shows both function and fashion to buyers. After all, no one wants to see rusty old appliances and dingy lights when walking into the focal point of a home.

3. Beautify The Bathrooms

Besides the kitchen, bathrooms are the second most important aspect of a home when it comes to valuation. Having multiple bathrooms within a home automatically increases its value significantly, especially if at least two have at least three pieces within them, containing at least a sink, toilet, and either a shower or bath. Ensuring that your bathrooms are leak-free, look meticulously clean, and have a modern design is a fantastic way to make sure that buyers will be impressed during an open house.

Bonus tip: if installing a new toilet, consider purchasing one that is eco-friendly with dual-flush options. As people become more and more environmentally conscious, fixtures such as these will cater to a broad spectrum of lifestyle values.

If you’re ready to prepare your home for sale and are looking for more ways in which you can maximize its market value, contact your local mortgage professional today.

Self-Employed? Here’s What You’ll Need to Get a Mortgage Approval

Self-Employed? Here's What You'll Need to Get a Mortgage ApprovalThere’s a lot of flexibility and personal freedom associated with self-employment that can be a great benefit to your lifestyle and your pocketbook. However, because of the somewhat unpredictable nature of self-employment, it can make acquiring a mortgage a little more difficult. If you’ve recently become self-employed or have been in the game for a while, here are some things you may want to consider before submitting your mortgage application.

Putting More Money Down

20% is often considered the magic number when it comes to the down payment because this will allow you to avoid homeowner’s insurance. However, if you’re self-employed, you may want to consider putting even more money down as this will be an even stronger signifier to lenders that you’re prepared for homeownership and in control of your finances. While your down payment will provide you with equity instantly, a higher payment will also lower your monthly cost and make your finances even more secure from month to month.

Minimizing Your Debt

The amount of debt a potential homeowner has can adversely affect any mortgage application, but in the event you’re self-employed, a high debt load means even more money is being paid out of a salary that is not necessarily predictable. By paying off the debts you can before applying for your mortgage, you’ll be able to invest that much more of your hard-earned money into your monthly payment without breaking the bank and cutting monthly expenditures.

A History Of Self-Employment

Being self-employed means you’ll have more to prove to your lender, but if you have a spotty self-employment history and long periods without bringing in any income, this will make it even harder. Instead of jumping into the mortgage market soon after becoming self-employed, try and have at least two years of successful self-employment behind you. By being able to prove this, the lender will see that you’re a solid financial bet and an experienced professional who will be able to find work when it’s required.

The nature of being self-employed and the fluctuations in income that can come along with it can make a mortgage lender nervous. However, by having a solid history of self-employment behind you and minimizing your debt load, you’ll be able to prove to the lender that you’re serious about home ownership. If you’re currently perusing the market for a home, contact one of our mortgage professionals for more information.

Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Continues

Home increased in October according to Case-Shiller’s 20City Home Price Index. Home prices rose from September’s annualized reading of 5.40 percent to 5.60 percent. Factors contributing to rising home prices include stronger economic conditions and outlook along with short inventories of available homes coupled with high demand. On average, October home prices rose 5.10 percent on seasonally adjusted annual basis, which was unchanged from September’s reading.

West Continues to Lead Home Price Growth

Top home price growth rates were in Seattle, Washington at 10.70 percent, Portland, Oregon at 10.30 percent and Denver, Colorado with a seasonally-adjusted annual price increase of 8.30 percent. New York, New York had the lowest home price growth in October with a reading of 1.70 percent.

In a separate report, December consumer confidence exceeded expectations with an index reading of 113.70 as compared to an expected reading of 110.00 and November’s reading of 109.40. This was the highest reading for consumer confidence since 2001. Analysts said that the strong reading for consumer confidence was a sign that consumers will increase their spending in 2017, but what will happen with mortgage rates is a big question.

Rising Mortgage Rates May Slow Home Prices, High Demand for Homes

With the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise its target federal funds range in December comes a question of how rising mortgage rates will affect housing markets. Rising fed rates typically lead to increases in consumer lending rates including rates for home loans and refinancing. Combined effects of rising home prices and mortgage rates create challenges for first-time and moderate income home buyers. While higher mortgage rates have not impacted buyer demand so far, rising mortgage rates could sideline some buyers.

A recent compilation of the most expensive places to live in America illustrates the imbalance of home prices as compared to consumer incomes. Brooklyn, NY topped this list with a reading of 127.70 percent of average household income earned in Brooklyn to buy an average priced home in Brooklyn. Analysts reporting this data noted that many Brooklyn homeowners work in Manhattan and earn more than those who work in Brooklyn. Disparities in average home prices and home buyer incomes could “trickle down” to less expensive areas if mortgage rates and home prices continue to rise.

Meanwhile, builder confidence is strong and is expected to lead to higher levels of home construction in 2017.

Not so Fast: 3 Reasons Why You Might Want to Avoid Paying Off Your Mortgage Early

Not so Fast: 3 Reasons Why You Might Want to Avoid Paying Off Your Mortgage EarlyThe burden of debt, especially when it comes to the high price tag of a home, can be a significant worry to many people. However, what many homeowners may not be aware of is that paying your mortgage off early can actually have a negative impact on your financial health. Whether you’ve recently come into money or you’re working hard to bump up your monthly mortgage payments, here are some reasons you may want to hold off on paying it off too quickly.

Creating A Credit History

It can certainly be a weight off your mind to pay down your mortgage if you inherit a substantial sum of money, but your monthly payment actually has the added benefit of positively impacting your credit history. While paying down debt may free up your mind to think about other things, the month-to-month payment of your mortgage will prove your reliability to a lender and enables you to take advantage of the tax breaks associated with consistent mortgage payments.

A Limited Disposable Income

It may be fulfilling to pay down your debt by foregoing some of your monthly expenditures, but a very strict budget can be very limiting. Forcing yourself to save money on a consistent basis and sticking with a budget are good in the long run, but cutting back on all the things you love in order to pay off more debt can make for unhappiness and added stress. It’s important to find a balance between paying down debt and enjoying life.

Extra Money To Invest

The feeling of being debt-free is a good one, but putting most of your money into your mortgage will likely leave you with nothing to invest or save. Many homeowners think that the savings will make up for the money that’s not being invested, but this is not necessarily the case. According to Elle Kaplan, CEO of LexION Capital Management, “A smart investment plan is very likely to outmatch any savings you’d get from paying off a home early.” Instead of putting all your funds into your mortgage, set some aside for saving and investing.

Many homebuyers think it’s a good financial move to pay down their mortgage early, but it can actually be better for your credit and bank balance to make consistent payments and start investing early. If you’re currently in the market for a home, contact one of our mortgage professionals for more information.

Buying a New Home? Use This Checklist to Ensure Your Finances Are in Order

Buying a New Home? Use This Checklist to Ensure Your Finances Are in OrderBuying a home is a significant expense. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a first-time buyer or have experience. Unless you have a large pile of cash, you’ll need to ensure your finances are in order before closing. In this post we’ll explore four financial items you’ll want to check off before buying a new home.

Figure Out Your Current Monthly Budget

First, you’re going to want to sort out your monthly budget. If you’ve never done a budget before, start with something basic. Open up a spreadsheet or take out a piece of paper. Make two columns: ‘income’ and ‘expenses’. Fill in each column with the amounts that you make or spend each month. Bank, credit card and other statements can help with this process. It’s a good idea to go back at least 3 months to ensure you’re capturing your true spending.

Make A Debt Management Plan

Do you have any debts? If so, you’ll want to make a plan for how you’re going to manage these when you buy a new home. For example, you may have a car payment, student loans, a line of credit or credit card debt. Write down your debts, how much you owe and when payments are due. If any debts are due monthly, make sure you include those in your budget.

Keep in mind that your outstanding debts may impact your ability to borrow for a mortgage as well. If you plan on taking out a mortgage to pay for your new home, it’s best to get your debts figured out beforehand.

Understand All Your Real Estate Costs

Next, you’ll want to determine what all your real estate costs are going to be. If you’re not yet close to the bidding or closing process, this might be a bit challenging. But ask your real estate agent for a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for a home in your price range.

Set Up An Emergency Savings Cushion

Finally, you’ll want to set up a financial cushion in case of emergencies. It’s not much fun to think about, but losing a job or having a health event is possible. Most financial experts recommend having at least six months of expenses saved up. Of course, this is always easier said than done. What’s important is that you have at least some cash tucked away, just in case. If you can, save a bit extra each month or from each pay check and add to this emergency fund.

When you’re ready to buy a new home, a professional mortgage agent is your best bet for success. Reach out to us today and learn more about how affordable a new home in your community will be!

Graduating Soon? Tips to Prepare You for Your First Mortgage

If you’ve recently graduated from college, or will be graduating soon, and plan to become a homeowner, you’re in a somewhat unique position. You’re about to embark on a great journey, but at the same time, you may also be taking on an awful lot of debt. That said, it is possible to successfully manage a high debt load if you’re careful.

So how can you make sure you can pay your mortgage, your student loans, and your mortgage expenses all without losing your mind? Here’s what you need to know.

Make Sure You Have An Emergency Fund

Managing a high debt load isn’t necessarily a challenge if you have a consistent income stream. But if interest rates rise on your adjustable rate mortgage, if your portfolio doesn’t do as well as expected, or if you lose your job, you may find yourself unable to pay your expenses without dipping into your savings. That’s why you’ll want to establish an emergency fund a spare supply of cash you can live on for 6 months or longer, if necessary.

Extra Cash At The End Of The Month? Attack High-Interest Debt

Mortgage rates are at a historical low right now, which makes now a great time to become a homeowner but if you’re going to carry a mortgage and student loans, you’ll need to be smart about how you repay your debts. High-interest rates can quickly add up and eventually crush you, which is why your debt with the highest interest rate should be your primary priority. This is most likely your student loan so if you have some extra money left over at the end of every month, put it toward your student loan first.

Never Roll Student Loans Into A Mortgage

Some young people seem to think that getting a mortgage is the answer to student debt. By rolling your student loans into a mortgage, you can worry about just one monthly payment instead of two. The problem with this thinking, though, is that your student loan is probably the size of the principal on a mortgage and you’ll have to stretch your loan term out farther in order to afford the monthly payments.

This means that you’ll pay more money in interest over the long term. Your mortgage loan is also a loan with more severe consequences for missing a payment. If you miss a number of mortgage payment, you could run the risk of losing your home but if you miss a student loan payment, there are lesser consequences. Paying off a student loan and a mortgage at the same time may seem like a daunting task, but it is possible.