Be Prepared for Your Mortgage Pre-approval Interview by Having Answers to These 4 Questions

Be Prepared for Your Mortgage Pre-approval Interview by Having Answers to These 4 QuestionsSo – you’ve completed an initial mortgage pre-qualification and now you’re ready to take the next step and meet with your lender or mortgage advisor for the pre-approval interview. Are you ready?

At this stage of the application process your lender will dig into your financial background to ensure that you’re fully capable of making your mortgage payments and that you don’t present too high a risk. Let’s take a quick look at a few questions you should know the answers to before you go in for a mortgage pre-approval.

Do You Have a Specific Home in Mind?

If you’ve already picked out the perfect new home, be sure to bring along some of the details when you meet with your lender. At minimum you’ll want to know the price range that you’re expecting to buy in so that your mortgage advisor can try to find a mortgage that allows you to purchase the home and still meet your other financial goals.

What is Your Current Income from All Sources?

Your income (and that of your spouse, if you have one) will be a major factor in the size of your mortgage, your payment terms and the interest rate that you qualify for. If you have a significant income and it’s clear that you will have little trouble making the mortgage payments you’ll likely qualify for a shortened amortization period that includes a lower interest rate. Conversely, if you can only afford to make a bare minimum monthly payment you’ll be facing a longer mortgage term.

Do You Have Any “Black Marks” on Your Credit?

If you have any negative spots in your credit history you’ll want to ensure that you’re able to answer for them, because your lender will certainly ask about them. Be honest and confident, and remember that the lender wants your business as much as you want to receive a pre-approval for mortgage financing.

What Are Your Plans in the Next Five to Ten Years?

Finally don’t forget that interest rates will continue to fluctuate and that may have an impact on your mortgage in the near future. Be sure to share any major financial plans that you have with your mortgage advisor as they can keep you appraised of any refinancing opportunities that come about.

Buying a home is an exciting time – one that will be far less stressful if you are fully prepared for the many steps along the way.

Winter Staging: How to Make Your Home Look Beautiful when It’s Miserable Outside

Winter Staging: How to Make Your Home Look Beautiful when It's Miserable OutsideWhen the weather outside is frightful, you may feel anything but delightful if you’re hoping to attract potential homebuyers. When you’re staging a home for sale, you want to make it as appealing as possible – especially during the winter months. Even if the outdoors aren’t exactly in your favor, you can still create an unforgettable interior that will leave everyone impressed and longing for a second look.

Embrace The Season

Winter has an allure all its own, so take advantage of that when deciding on your staged decor. Catch the seasonal spirit and place festive accents throughout the home like Christmas trees, ornaments and holiday vignettes. This evokes a pleasing “home for the holidays” feel and will delight anyone who steps foot into your house.

Although there are many possibilities for wintertime decorations, be sure your choices are tasteful, but not overdone. Too many blinking lights or faux wreaths can look tacky, so use your best judgment as you decorate. The age-old adage, “less is more” rings quite true in this scenario.

Keep It Clean

In the colder months, it’s all too easy to drag the outdoors in. If you live in an area prone to snow, you’re no stranger to the inevitable mess brought on by a winter storm. Keep entryways clean and clutter-free, and provide a sturdy mat on which visitors can wipe their shoes. Vacuum up any dirt or residue and give the area a quick tidying-up with a sweeper-mop before showings.

Warm It Up

Few things are more welcoming than a warm, cozy home. Just as you layer your clothing in the winter, try applying the same concept to your furniture with extra throw pillows and blankets. Create an inviting mood with scented candles placed tastefully around the home. Choose rich scents like cinnamon and vanilla that fill the air without being overpowering.

If you have a fireplace, take the opportunity to fire it up and enjoy the crackling ambiance. Visitors will be sure to envision themselves huddled around the blaze on a cold winter’s night – and that’s just what you want them to do.

If you need additional tips for staging a home during the winter, an experienced real estate agent can make an excellent resource. Many will be happy to come to your home and offer suggestions to ensure you get the best possible results.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 29, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 29 2014Last week’s economic news included several housing related reports. Housing markets continue to cool as November reports on existing and new home sales fell below expectations. New Jobless claims were lower than expected by 10,000 claims. The details:

Existing and New Home Sales Down, FHFA House Price Index Up

The National Association of Realtors® reported that November sales of existing homes fell to 4.93 million sales against expectations of 5.18 million sales. October’s reading was revised from 5.25 million sales to 5.26 million. This was seen as an anomaly that may have occurred during uncertainty caused by volatile stock markets. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen slow housing markets to tight lending standards in a recent statement.

FHFA reported that October home prices connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages increased incrementally year-over-year. October house prices increased to 4.50 percent year-over-year as compared to September’s year-over-year house price increase of 4.40 percent.

November sales of new homes fell short of expectations according to the Commerce Department. 438,000 new homes were sold as compared to expectations of 450 new home sales and September’s reading of 445,000 new homes sold. This was the slowest rate of growth in four months.

New home sales declined in three of four regions. Readings for November were -12.00 percent in the Northeast, -6.40 percent in the Southeast, -6.30 percent in the Midwest. Sales of new homes rose by 14.80 percent in the West. Analysts typically caution against reading too much into volatile month-to-month figures, but they are concerned about longer-term sales trends too. Sales of new homes were 1.60 percent lower year-over-year.

The median sale price of new homes was $280,900 in November, which was 1.40 percent higher year-over-year.

Mortgage Rates Up, New Jobless Claims Down

Mortgage rates rose across the board according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of average mortgage rates. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased three basis points to 3.83 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose one basis point to 3.10 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was six basis points higher at 3.01 percent. Discount points were 0.60 for 30 and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

280,000 new jobless claims were filed last week, a seven-week low. Analysts expected 290,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 289,000 new claims. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims also showed improvement with 8500 fewer claims at 290,250 new jobless claims filed. Stronger labor markets are considered good news for housing markets as more consumers can afford to buy homes.

No economic reports were scheduled Thursday or Friday due to the Christmas holiday.

What’s Ahead

This week brings Case-Shiller Home Price reports, Pending Home Sales and Construction Spending. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and Weekly Jobless Claims will be released on Wednesday due to the New Year’s Day holiday on Thursday.

Existing Home Sales Dip to Lowest Level since May

Existing Home Sales Dip to Lowest Level since MayThe National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of existing homes dropped to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.93 million as compared to expectations of a 5.18 million existing homes sold. Projections were based on October’s reading of 5.25 million. November’s reading showed a 6.10 percent dip in sales of existing homes and was the lowest reading since May.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen said last week that the less than robust housing recovery is due in part to tight lending standards. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®, said that November’s reading was likely an aberration due to volatility in the stock market, which could have dampened home buyer enthusiasm.

Analysts expect easing of mortgage guidelines and an improved job market to help increase home sales. The national median price for existing homes rose to $205,300 in November, which represented a year-over-year increase of five percent. Inventories of used homes rose to a 5.10 month supply, which was more than double the 2.01 month supply of existing homes for sale in November 2013.

FHFA Reports Year-Over-Year Increase in Home Prices

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported a monthly gain of 0.60 percent for home prices associated with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. FHFA said that home prices rose 4.50 percent year-over-year in October as compared to the October 2013 reading of 4.40 percent year-over-year. The increase in FHFA home prices was likely connected to a decrease in foreclosure rates and fewer distressed sales.

FHFA house prices encompass the nine census divisions. On a month-to-month basis, FHA home prices rose by 0.60 percent in October. Month-to-month home prices by census division ranged from -0.30 percent for the Pacific division to +1.50 percent for the Atlantic division. On a year-over-year basis, home prices increased for all nine regions and ranged from +0.80 percent in the Mid-Atlantic division to +6.00 percent in the Pacific division.

Moving This Winter? Here Are 5 Relocation Tips That Will Help Ease the Stress of Moving

Moving This Winter? Here Are 5 Relocation Tips That Will Help Ease the Stress of Moving Moving is not exactly enjoyable at any time of the year, but it can be especially stressful in the winter. Moving all of your items when it is snowing and blowing outside makes things a lot tougher. However, if you prepare accordingly and have the right attitude, you’ll find that your move will go much smoother. Here are five relocation tips that will help ease the stress of a move.

Do not Pack Your Winter Supplies

When you are moving in the wintertime, you should keep your winter supplies, such as a snow shovel and salt, in the car with you. For example, let’s say you get to your new place and there is a lot of snow on the ground. If you have your shovel nearby, you can dig out a path from the driveway to the front door. If you see ice on the ground, you can sprinkle salt on it to prevent falling and hurting yourself.

Pay Attention to the Weather

It is a good idea to watch the weather reports the day of your move. If they are predicting a big snowstorm or other dangerous conditions, it may just be best to reschedule your move to a different day.

Hire Movers

Hiring movers will cost some extra money, but it will be well worth it. If you hire professional movers to move your belongings, you will not have to worry about carrying heavy furniture in the snow and ice. They have the experience to get your items moved in a timely manner.

Get Your Car Serviced

If you are moving a long distance, you should get your car serviced beforehand. Take it to a trusted mechanic and have him check your tires and brakes. If you let a professional look at your car before your move, you will be less likely to break down on the road.

Protect Your Entryways

When you move in the winter, you can bring in a lot of snow and salt from the outside, damaging your floors. That is why you should place cardboard or plastic on your flooring before you start the moving process. It will prevent snow, ice and other particles from ruining your floors.

Moving during the winter is not exactly pleasant, but it does not have to be impossible. If you follow these helpful tips, you will have a much easier move. If you have any more questions, you should contact our trusted real estate professional today.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 22, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 22 2014

Last week’s scheduled economic events were few but informative. Housing related reports included the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for December, which stayed close to a nine-year high reading of 59 in September. December’s reading was 57 and fell two points shy of the expected reading of 59. November’s reading was 58. Readings above 50 indicate that more builders are positive about market conditions than those who are not.

Housing Starts for November were lower according to the Department of Commerce’s report released Tuesday. The reading for November was 1.028 million starts on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Analysts expected a reading of 1.035 million housing starts based on October’s level of 1.045 million starts.

Fed Confident, but Watchful of Economic Conditions

The Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released its statement at the conclusion of its final meeting in 2015. Fed Chair Janet Yellen also gave a press conference that primarily supported information contained in the statement. The Fed did not foresee rising the target federal funds rate until mid to late 2015, and said that no changes were likely to be made at the first two FOMC meetings of the year. The target federal funds rate remains steady at 0.00 to 0.250 percent. FOMC members noted improvement in labor markets, but said that housing continued to recover at a slow rate. The Fed repeated its customary statement that FOMC members would monitor ongoing economic conditions and developments as part of any decision to change monetary policy. Chair Janet Yellen affirmed the committee’s position in her press conference.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall

Mortgage rates fell according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.80 percent as compared to the prior week’s reading of 3.93 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.09 percent, which was 11 basis points below the prior week’s reading. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages had an average rate of 2.95 percent; this was three basis points lower than the previous week. Discount points remained steady at 0.50 percent with the exception of average points charged for a 15-year mortgage, which increased to 0.60 percent.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 289,000 against expectations of 295,000 new jobless claims; expectations were based on the prior week’s reading of 295,000 new claims. Analysts cautioned that weekly jobless claims readings can be particularly volatile during the holiday and early winter season.

What’s Ahead

Economic news scheduled for next week includes the National Association of Realtors® report on November sales of existing homes and November sales of new homes, which is issued by the Department of Commerce. Consumer sentiment, consumer spending and core inflation reports will also be issued next week. No economic reports will be issued Thursday or Friday due to the Christmas holiday.

Let There Be Light! 3 Easy Ways to Make over a Room by Adding New Light Fixtures

Let There Be Light! 3 Easy Ways to Make over a Room by Adding New Light Fixtures Light is an important design element that can be used to influence your interior decor in a number of ways. In fact, you can experience a major transformative change on the overall style and ambiance of a room by making a few simple lighting changes. Consider how these ideas can help you to improve the look of your space with great results, and think about ways that you can improve your space by making a few changes.

The Addition of Spotlights

If you have fine pieces of artwork, decorative display areas or other features that you want to illustrate with beautiful clarity, the addition of spotlights is a great idea. You can shine light on these special features in your home by installing a single, bright fixture with a focused beam overhead, or you can use track lighting to highlight larger features. In some cases, the design or layout of your room may be sufficient to allow lighting to be placed at eye-level or even below the fixture to shine upward at it.

Background Illumination

While spotlights can shine a focused beam of light on fixtures, you can also use background lighting for ambiance. Consider how you can incorporate background lighting with under-cabinet kitchen lighting, dimmer recessed lighting placed behind a sofa or other features. Generally, these are lights that do not provide direct lighting, and the light may not be the main source of light in the room. It may even have a hint of color to it for a dramatic flair that further establishes ambiance.

Beautiful Lamps

Another idea is to use beautiful or decorative lamps in your room. These may be smaller desk lamps, towering floor lamps or table top lamps. There are lamps available in a wide range of colors, sizes and styles. The lighting from the lamps may influence ambiance and provide functional lighting, but the decorative nature of the lamps themselves can enhance the décor even when the lights are not turned on.

There are many different types of lighting that can influence your home’s décor, and in many cases, it makes sense to incorporate each of these styles of lighting in a single room to enjoy different benefits. You can study your rooms’ layouts and designs today to learn more about how the existing light fixtures influence decor, and you can make a few appropriate changes to enjoy better overall results for your space.

FOMC Statement: No Year-End Surprises

You Ask, We Answer: How to Choose Between Expanding Your Current Home and Buying a New OneThe Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said in its last statement for 2014 that although economic conditions have improved at a moderate pace, the Fed believes that the target federal funds rate of between 0.00 and 0.25 percent remains “appropriate.” While labor markets show expanding job growth and lower unemployment rates, FOMC members noted that housing markets are recovering slowly.

Inflation remains below the committee’s target rate of two percent; this was attributed to lower fuel costs. Household income and business investment were seen as increasing, and the underutilization of workforce resources was described as “diminishing.” These developments indicate better economic conditions for consumers, business and job seekers, as employers picked up the pace of hiring.

Target Fed Funds Rate Unchanged

No year-end changes in monetary policy were made; the Fed issued its usual statement that developing economic conditions would guide the Committee’s decisions concerning the target federal funds rate. The FOMC statement said that changes could be made according to progress toward or away from achieving the Fed’s dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability. No specific date was given for raising the target federal funds rate. The FOMC statement noted that no change is likely as long as the inflation rate remains below the Fed’s longer-term target of two percent.

The FOMC statement was followed by a press conference given by Janet Yellen, fed chair and Chair of the FOMC. 

Fed Chair: Oil Price Influence on Inflation “Transitory” 

Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve and FOMC, said that she expects lower oil prices to be a transitory influence on inflation, which continues to run lower than the Fed’s target rate of two percent. Media representatives noted that Chair Yellen replaced the phrase “considerable time” with “patient” in reference to when the Fed might raise the target federal funds rate.

Ms. Yellen said that the gross domestic product (GDP) had increased by 2.50 percent over the prior four quarters ending with the third quarter of 2014, and said that the economy continues to grow at approximately the same pace. Concerning falling inflation, Ms. Yellen said that she expected the inflation rate to increase after transitory influences including oil prices dissipate. The Fed Chair said that she perceived lower oil prices to be a positive development for the U.S. economy on net.

In response to questions about when the Fed would raise the target federal funds rate, Chair Yellen said that it would likely occur sometime in 2015 and also mentioned “sometime after the next couple of FOMC meetings. This suggests that mid 2015 may bring a change, but Ms. Yellen repeated the Fed’s oft-stated position that continual review of economic conditions and developing trends would impact any decision to change or not change the federal funds rate.

Home Builder Index Stays Near Nine Year Peak

Home Builder Index Stays Near Nine Year Peak

Home Builder Sentiment slipped to a reading of 57 in December according to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index. November’s reading of 58 prompted analysts to project a reading of 59 for December. The latest reading marks the sixth consecutive month for readings above 50. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are positive about housing market conditions than not.

The one-point decline in December’s reading kept the NAHB Housing Market Index within two points of a nine-year high reached in September.

NAHB: Housing Market Index Suggests Slow Return to Normalcy

NAHB’s chief economist, David Crowe, said that December’s reading was in line with NAHB’s assessment that housing markets are on a “slow march back to normal.” Home builder confidence in conditions contributing to the NAHB Housing Market Index also fell in two categories while remaining unchanged in one.

The gauge of builder confidence in current market conditions moved from last month’s reading of 62 to 61. Builder confidence in upcoming home sales fell from 65 to 64, while confidence in prospective buyer traffic was unchanged at a reading of 45. These results are consistent with real estate market trends slowing during the holiday season and winter months.

Builders Challenged in 2014, Better Conditions Expected in 2015

Analysts said that steady builder confidence may be a result of builders surviving a tough year in 2015. Market conditions, unpredictable interest rates and higher costs of supplies along with high unemployment subdued builder confidence during 2014. The New Year brings prospects of easing mortgage standards and better labor markets, which are expected to boost builder confidence as more home buyers enter the market for new homes.

The Commerce Department is set to release Housing Starts for November on December 16; analysts expect an increase to 1.035 million starts on a seasonally adjusted annual basis as compared to October’s reading of 1.01 million starts. A positive reading for housing starts could further bolster home builder confidence for future readings.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 15, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 15 2014

Although there were few scheduled economic events related to mortgages and housing, last week brought an article about housing projections for 2015. Other news included increased job openings along with lower than expected jobless claims and higher mortgage rates.

Job Openings, Retail Sales and Mortgage Rates Rise

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that November job increased to 4.80 million as compared to October’s reading of 4.70 million job openings. Weekly jobless claims corresponded as new claims fell to 294,000 as compared to the prior week’s reading of 297,000 new jobless claims. This was the lowest reading for new jobless claims in three weeks. Analysts had expected a reading of 206,000 new jobless claims.

Further signs of economic strengthening were seen in the retail sector. Retail sales posted their strongest gains in eight months with a gain of 0.70 percent in November according to the Commerce Department. November’s reading exceeded expectations of a 0.40 percent increase which was based on October’s original reading of a 0.30 percent increase in retail sales. November’s retail sales (excluding automotive sales) rose by 0.50 percent, which was the highest reading since June. October’s reading was later revised to 0.50 percent. Automotive sales rose by 1.70 percent in November, which was their highest reading since August.

Amidst last week’s economic gains, mortgage rates also rose. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.93 percent, a gain of four basis points over the previous week. The average rate 15-year mortgage gained 10 basis points at 3.20 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 2.94 percent. Average discount points for all three loan types remained steady at 0.50 percent.

Analysts Offer Housing Predictions for 2015

Fortune reported predictions made by analysts during a panel discussion on housing trends. David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S& P Index Committee, characterized next year’s housing trends as “mysterious.” Analysts pinpointed the influence of the millennial generation as gaining strength in housing markets. As millennials begin to buy their first homes, their tastes and preferences are expected to overshadow the long-held influence of the baby boomer generation. Millennial influence includes a trend called millennial mis-match; Millennials prefer to live in high-cost areas including New York City, Honolulu, Hawaii and Austin, Texas, but their status as first-time home buyers conflicts with this preference. Other trends discussed by analysts attending the panel discussion included:

Mortgage rates predicted to rise: Stronger economic conditions and no Federal stimulus are expected to contribute to rising mortgage rates, which some analysts said were expected to rise to approximately 5.00 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

Home price growth and affordability expected to decline: Home prices gained 6.40 percent year-over-year in October 2014 as compared to growth of 10.60 percent for the same period in 2013. High demand for homes in pricey markets coupled with rising mortgage rates are expected to price the middle class out of many high-demand markets.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic events include the Wells Fargo/National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index report for December and the Commerce Department’s December report on Housing Starts. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve will release its customary statement after its meeting concludes on Wednesday. The FOMC statement will be followed by a press conference given by Fed chair Janet Yellen, who also chairs the FOMC.