The 4-Step Financial Checkup to Get Ready for a Mortgage in 2018

The 4-Step Financial Checkup to Get Ready for a Mortgage in 2018Are you ready to join the ranks of homeowners in our local community? Congratulations – homeownership is a big step towards building your net worth and financial freedom. However, it is also a significant transaction that will affect your finances for the foreseeable future. Let’s take a look at a quick four-step checklist that will help you to get ready to buy a home with a mortgage in 2018.

Step 1: Set Up A Monthly Budget

It might sound a little basic, but the best first step is to commit to a monthly budget. After you buy a home using a mortgage, you will be responsible for making monthly payments for a period of time. The faster you get used to working inside of a budget, the better.

Your budget doesn’t have to be extravagant. Simply list your sources of income and your expenses. If you are spending more than you are making, you are going to need to cut back a bit.

Step 2: Start Setting Aside Your Down Payment

If you haven’t already, it is an excellent time to start gathering the funds necessary to make your down payment. This is the amount of cash that you put forward against the price of the home. The remainder of the purchase cost is covered by your mortgage, which you will pay off monthly in the future.

Note that the standard down payment amount is 20 percent of the home’s purchase price. If you have less than this available, you may be required to purchase mortgage insurance. But don’t let this deter you from starting the process now, especially if you have found the house that you want to buy.

Step 3: Check Your Credit Rating

Next, you will want to check your credit rating and FICO score to find out if you have any outstanding issues. You can access a free credit report from any of the major reporting agencies up to once per year, so be sure to take advantage.

Step 4: Meet With Your Mortgage Advisor

Last, but not least, you will want to schedule a meeting with your mortgage advisor. This is your opportunity to have all your mortgage-related questions answered by a professional who has your best interests in mind. If you decide that you are ready to move forward with buying a home, you can begin the pre-approval process at your convenience. We look forward to helping guide you down the path to buying your dream home!

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 5th, 2018

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 29, 2018Last week’s economic releases included readings on pending home sales, Case-Shiller Home Price Indices and construction spending. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve released its monthly statement and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were released. Last week’s economic readings wrapped with a report on consumer confidence.

Case-Shiller: Home Prices Rise in November

Home prices rose an average of 0.70 percent monthly and 6.20 percent year-over-year according to Case-Shiller’s national home price index for November. Seattle, Washington posted the highest year-over-year home price growth rate at 12.70 percent. Las Vegas, Nevada posted year-over-year home price growth of 10.60 percent and San Francisco, California posted a home price growth rate of 9.10 percent. Home price gains were attributed to slim supplies of available homes in many areas.

While analysts suggested that strong housing markets (as reflected by high demand for homes) were good for the economy, issues of affordability, slim inventories of homes available and obstacles facing builders continue to impact housing markets.

Recent gains in home prices are fueled by artificially high demand caused by low inventories of homes for sale. Builders cited shortages of labor and buildable lots and said increasing materials costs were impacting rising prices for new homes. Construction spending rose 0.70 percent in December, which exceeded expectations of 0.50 percent and November’s month-to-month reading of 0.60 percent growth in construction spending.

Pending Home Sales Rise, Key Fed Interest Rate Unchanged

The National Association of Realtors® reported 0.50 percent growth in pending home sales in December and the highest month-to-month reading since March 2017. Year-over-year pending home sales gained only 0.50 percent. Pending sales reflect purchase contracts signed with sales not yet closed.

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee announced that it would not raise the target federal funds range of 1.25 to 1.50 percent, but indicated that inflation was nearing the Fed’s goal of 2 percent annually. Analysts said this could foreshadow a rate increase at the Committee’s next meeting in March.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims

Mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Markets Survey. Rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by seven basis points to an average of 4.22 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose six basis points to 3.68 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage ticked up one basis point to 3.53 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims dipped by 1000 claims to 230,000claims. Analysts expected 240,000 new claims. The University of Michigan reported a lower reading for consumer sentiment in January with an index reading of 95.7 as compared to an expected reading of 95.0 and December’s reading of 95.90. Consumer sentiment remains near pre-recession highs. Consumers cited tax breaks and large stock market gains as the basis for high confidence.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic releases include readings on job openings and consumer credit along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

What Is Mortgage Insurance and How Does It Benefit Me? Let’s Take a Look

What Is Mortgage Insurance and How Does It Benefit Me? Let's Take a LookAre you in the market for a new home? If you are considering a mortgage, you may be curious about mortgage insurance, commonly referred to as PMI or MI. Let’s explore the topic of mortgage insurance, including how it works to reduce risk and how it benefits you as the mortgage borrower.

Mortgage Insurance = Risk Reduction

You might not know this, but the toughest part of the home buying process for many individuals and families is coming up with the required down payment. For example, if you were to buy a $200,000 home, you may want to invest $40,000 or $60,000 or more in the down payment. The remainder would be borrowed in your mortgage, which you would then pay off each month.

Most mortgage lenders require a minimum of 20 percent as a down payment. In the example above, this means having $40,000 cash on hand before you buy the home. If you can’t come up with this much, your lender may require mortgage insurance be purchased to protect them in case you default on the loan.

Mortgage Insurance Can Help You Qualify

Since mortgage insurance reduces the lender’s exposure to risk, it can help you in a number of ways during the qualification process. First, you can put less in your down payment than you had initially intended, which can increase your buying power and the size of home you can afford. Mortgages backed with a private insurance policy tend to be approved a bit faster than those that aren’t. Also, if you decide that you don’t need it later, many mortgage insurance policies can be canceled, which saves you a bit of money.

Look For Supplemental Benefits

Finally, don’t forget to ask your mortgage lender about any supplemental benefits offered with your mortgage insurance policy. Some policies protect you in the event that you lose your job or provide a partial claim advance if you can’t pay your mortgage. Note that not all policies have these benefits, so be sure to ask.

While it is true that mortgage insurance provides benefits to lenders, it also offers significant benefits to you as the borrower. To learn more about mortgage insurance or to get pre-approved for a mortgage so you can buy a home, give us a call today. Our friendly team of mortgage professionals is happy to help.

The Mortgage Helper: How to Find the Perfect Tenant for Your Basement Suite

The Mortgage Helper: How to Find the Perfect Tenant for Your Basement SuiteDo you have an empty basement or separated suite in your home? If you have a suite sitting empty, you are missing out on collecting some extra monthly income in the form of rent. Let’s take a look at a quick four-step process that will help you find the perfect tenant to rent out your basement suite.

Step 1: Play By The Rules

Is this your first time renting out a home or suite to a tenant? If so, you will want to do a bit of research first. Read up on Fair Housing Rules and other regulations as these will inform you of your responsibilities as a landlord. Keep in mind that you cannot discriminate in any way when it comes to race, religion, gender, family status or disability. Anyone who applies must be given a fair chance.

Step 2: Be Specific In Your Advertising

When you place a rental listing, be as specific as possible in what you are looking for in a tenant. If you are a single, quiet person, you may want someone similar as you will be compatible. Conversely, if you are a young couple, you may clash with a retired senior or someone older. Be as specific as possible but remember that you cannot be discriminatory.

Step 3: Meet Potential Tenants In Person

Be sure to take the time to meet with every short-listed applicant in person. If you are not comfortable with having so many strangers over to your home, consider meeting at a local coffee shop. An in-person meeting will allow you to visually assess the person and determine if your personalities are a fit for living in the same home.

Step 4: Don’t Skip The Checks

Finally, don’t take any shortcuts when performing background, credit and other checks. Ask your tenant for at least one or two references that you can call to verify their rental history. Investing in a credit check will help to assess their risk of missing monthly rent payments. And if necessary, a criminal records check can let you know if they have been in trouble with the law.

As long as you are well-prepared and diligent, finding a suitable tenant for your basement suite can be a painless process. To learn more about mortgage products are perfect for rentals, contact us today. Our mortgage team will be happy to help you!

Spring Is Coming: Get a Jump on Spring Cleaning and Breathe New Life into Your Tired Spaces

Spring Is Coming: Get a Jump on Spring Cleaning and Breathe New Life into Your Tired SpacesSpring is almost here – and with it, the need to clean out the clutter and freshen up your home. Let’s explore a few tips that will help you to get a jump on your spring cleaning so that you can get outside and enjoy the nice weather later.

Need It? No? It’s Got To Go!

Do you consider yourself a bit of a ‘hoarder’? Is there furniture, appliances and other items in your home that have been collecting dust since the ’90s? If so, it is time to minimalize your lifestyle. A great rule of thumb is the one in bold above – if you don’t need it, it’s time to get rid of it. Consider listing anything you don’t need up for sale on a local resale marketplace as you may find an interested buyer willing to give your old stuff a new home. Once you have the clutter kicked out, the actual cleaning can begin.

Your Garage Is Not A Storage Locker

If your garage is so full of miscellaneous junk that you can barely get your car door open, it’s time for a thorough cleaning. Again, the first mission is to get all of the stuff you don’t need either thrown out or otherwise disposed of.

Letting go of your old possessions can be tough, but you will be amazed at how much space you have once it’s all gone. And that space can be put to better use – once it’s cleaned.

Consider Hiring Help For The Deep Clean

Finally, don’t be afraid to enlist professional help if you are feeling overwhelmed. Having a couple of cleaners come into your home for a few hours is a cost-effective way to speed up the spring cleaning process. Note that it’s best to have cleaners join you after the clutter has been removed, so they aren’t wasting their time trying to move old furniture and other items you are going to dispose of anyway.

Unless you absolutely love washing walls and cleaning out closets, spring cleaning is rarely fun. However, it is necessary to ensure that your home stays in tip-top condition. If you have decided that you are in need of more space, or are looking to downsize your home, contact us today. Our friendly team of mortgage professionals are happy to show you some financing options that will perfectly suit your needs.

Curious About Homeowners’ Association (HOA) Fees? Here’s What You Need to Know

Curious About Homeowners' Association (HOA) Fees? Here's What You Need to KnowIf you are thinking of buying a condominium or a home that is part of a planned community, you have likely come across the term “homeowners’ association” or HOA. In short, the HOA is a coalition of local homeowners who have banded together to manage the needs of the local community. Let’s explore the concept of the homeowners’ association, why they charge fees and what you can expect from your HOA if you buy a home that is part of one.

HOA Fees Are Meant To Make Things Easier

HOA fees are meant to make your life easier. Common sense dictates that all homeowners won’t be able to commit to investing some of their time in community upkeep. So the HOA charges a monthly fee to everyone to cover the costs of keeping everything in order. Of course, some HOAs can make mistakes or foolish investments that don’t benefit all equally. But most are well-intended and do positive work.

What Do HOA Fees Cover?

Your HOA fees will be used to pay for needs that benefit all homeowners’ in the community. If you live in a building, this will be everything from elevator maintenance to keeping the doors in good order. If you live in a townhouse complex or planned community, this includes landscaping, gardening, road maintenance and more. As long as your HOA leaders are doing their job, they will use fees to maintain and improve the community for everyone.

Some Pros And Cons Of HOA Fees

The main benefit of paying HOA fees is that you are offloading your share of the responsibility for building or community upkeep. In essence, you are trading a monthly payment so that you don’t have to vacuum the common areas, change the light bulbs or worry about repairing the gate when it breaks. The main downside to paying HOA fees is that you only have a single vote as to how they are spent and you may disagree with other homeowners about the HOA’s priorities.

All things considered, whether or not you have a favorable view of your HOA generally comes down to you. If you are the type that likes to share their opinion and is willing to commit the time to improve your local community, you may want to join your HOA. However, if you are less interested in having someone spend your money, you might disagree with their approach. Whatever the case, when you are ready to buy your next home, contact our professional mortgage team. We’re happy to help you find the right financing for your new home – HOA or not.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 29, 2018

Last week’s economic news included releases on new and existing home sales along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims.

Home Sales Fall Due to Slim Supply of Homes

December sales of previously-owned homes dipped to an 18-year low with a reading of 5.57 million sales on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Pre-owned home sales were expected to reach 5.73 million homes based on November’s downwardly- revised reading of 5.78 million sales. December sales were 3.6 percent lower month-to-month, but were 1.10 percent higher year-over-year.

Analysts credited the shortage of sales to tight inventories of homes for sale. Low inventories of homes for sale have worsened, a situation that sidelines would-be buyers due to the slim selection of homes, rapidly rising prices and buyer competition.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist of the National Association of Realtors, said that December sales were lower in all four regions tracked by his organization. The Northeast had 7.50 percent fewer sales; The Midwestern region has 6.30 percent fewer sales in December and the South and West had 1.70 percent and 1.60 percent fewer sales.

Available homes reached a 3.20-month supply; the National Association of Realtors typically views a six-month supply of available homes as average. The national median home price was $246,800 in December and was 5.80 percent higher year-over-year.

Sales of new homes were also significantly lower in December, at an annual rate of 625,000 sales. Analysts expected 679,000 sales and November’s reading showed a sales pace of 689,000 sales.

New Home Sales Fall in December

Sales of new homes were lower in December but were strong overall for 2017. The Commerce Department reported 625,000 sales of new homes for December as compared to expectations of 680,000 sales and November’s downwardly revised reading of 689,000 sales of new homes.

The annual sales pace of new homes was 9.30 percent lower in December than in November, but the sales price of new homes increased 14.10 percent year-over-year. The median price of a new home was $335,400, which was 2.50 percent higher year over year. A 5.6 month supply of new homes for sale reflected healthy market conditions for new homes.

Mortgage Rate, New Jobless Claims Higher

Mortgage rates rose for the third consecutive week with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage 11 basis points higher at 4.15 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.62 percent and was 13 basis points higher. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.52 percent and rose by six basis points. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. Higher mortgage rates were attributed to an increase in the 10-year Treasury yield, which was at its highest rate since 2014.

First-time jobless claims rose last week after reaching a 45-year low the previous week. 233,000 new claims were filed last week; analysts expected a reading of 240,000 new claims filed against the previous week’s reading of 216,000 new jobless claims filed. Bad weather, two holidays in January and seasonal layoffs at the end of the holiday shopping season contributed to the increase in new jobless claims.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include readings from Case-Shiller Home Price Indexes, homeownership rates, and inflation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release monthly reports on private and public-sector jobs and the national unemployment rate. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims will also be released.

3 Reasons You Might Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage in Early 2018

3 Reasons You Might Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage in Early 2018If you are a homeowner who has had their mortgage for a few years, you may be starting to wonder about refinancing. In essence, this is the process of retiring your current mortgage and taking out a new one because the terms are more favorable to you. Below we will share three reasons why you might want to look at refinancing your mortgage this year. Let’s get started.

Can You Use Some Extra Cash?

Ask yourself: if you had some extra money on hand, how would you use it? Many homeowners refinance to pull out some of the equity value that they have built up in their home over time. You might use this cash for a major renovation, or to upgrade your furnishings, or even just for a nice vacation.

Of course, you should keep in mind that you are borrowing a brand-new mortgage loan that will replace your old one. You will still need to pay attention to your credit score, monthly debt load and other personal finances.

Can You Get A Better Interest Rate?

Moving to a mortgage product with a better interest rate is another reason that homeowners refinance. Mortgage interest rates tend to fluctuate over time and it is possible that you may be able to get a lower rate, which in turn lowers your monthly payments. If your credit score has improved significantly since you first borrowed your mortgage, you may find that you have access to favorable interest rates as well.

Would You Prefer A Lower Monthly Payment?

Finally, an efficient use of refinancing is to reduce the amount you have to pay for your mortgage each month. For example, if you owe $60,000 and you have five years remaining, that ends up being about $1,000 per month. However, depending on your circumstances it may be possible to extend this out to 8 or 10 years, which means that you will pay a lower monthly payment for a longer time period.

The above are just a few of the many good reasons that you might consider refinancing your mortgage sometime in 2018. To learn more about the benefits of refinancing, or to get the process started, give us a call today. Our friendly team of professional mortgage advisors is ready to share our experience and help you get the most out of your refinancing.

In a Hurry to Buy a Home? Speed Your Mortgage Approval up by Following This Checklist

In a Hurry to Buy a Home? Speed Your Mortgage Approval up by Following This ChecklistHave you finally found your dream home after months of searching, only to discover that the seller has received other offers? Few circumstances can raise your stress level as much as finding yourself in a bidding war against another buyer. However, being unprepared by not having your finances in order can make the situation even worse. Let’s take a quick look at a few ways that you can speed up your mortgage approval if you are in a hurry to buy your next home.

Pull Your Credit Report ASAP

The first step you will want to do is check your credit report so you have an idea what your mortgage lender will be seeing. You can get a free copy from the major credit reporting agencies up to once per year, so take advantage. There are scams out there, so be sure to only request a report from a government-approved credit agency.

Get All Of Your Paperwork Ready Before You Go In

You will want to gather up as much financial documentation as you can before heading in to meet with your mortgage advisor. Pay stubs, tax forms, and bank statements are all going to be required to prove that you are accurately reporting your current financial situation. You will also want to be able to provide reasons for any substantial loans or other transactions that have taken place in the past couple of years.

Share It All And Keep No Secrets

If you want your mortgage approval to come back quickly, it’s best to be truthful and hold nothing back during the application process. If you lie or try to gloss over areas that you feel are a bit negative, it can end up delaying your approval. Be straight with your advisor and don’t keep any secrets from them.

Work With A Professional Team

Last but not least, if you want the fastest possible mortgage approval you will want to work with a professional team. An experienced mortgage advisor knows the ins-and-outs of the mortgage marketplace. They know which lenders will be able to process quickly and which tend to be on the slower side. If you try to borrow a mortgage from a bank or large lender, you are tied into their process which may not be as quick as you would like.

When you’re ready to buy a home, give us a call. Our mortgage team is happy to help you secure your financing, no matter how much of a hurry you might be in. We look forward to assisting you!

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Drops in January

Homebuilder confidence in housing market conditions dipped two points in January; ongoing challenges including labor shortages and materials costs were cited by the National Association of Home Builders, which provides monthly readings on home builder sentiment. Three component readings of the Housing Market Index declined by one point each. Readings for current sales conditions, housing market conditions for the next six months and for buyer traffic within new single-family housing developments were 79, 78 and 54 respectively.

Readings over 50 indicate positive builder sentiment. The reading for buyer traffic seldom exceeds 50. Current readings support continued builder confidence in current and future housing market conditions. NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said housing demand should continue to grow in 2018 based on the gauge of future market conditions remaining in the 70s range. Real estate pros have repeatedly cited slim inventories of homes for sale as driving rapidly rising home prices.

NAHB estimated 1.125 million housing starts for 2018, which was 2.70 percent higher than for2017. The Commerce Department released its annual rate of housing starts in December at 1.192 million starts; Building permits were issued at the annual rate of 1.302 million permits issued in December, based on November’s annualized reading of 1.303 million permits issued.

Regional Builder Confidence Readings Rise

Regional readings for builder confidence were higher in all four regions tracked by NAHB. Calculated on a three-month rolling average, the Northeast gained five points for an index reading of 59; The Midwest posted a one-point gain for a January reading of 70. The South posted a one-point gain for an index reading of 73 and the West reported a two-point gain for a reading of 81.

Analysts said throughout 2017 that building more homes would be the only way to solve the housing shortage and resulting challenges including rapidly rising home prices that eliminate first-time and moderate-income home buyers out of affordable home prices and home financing options.