Saving Up for Your First Home? Our Guide to Finding Ways to Save Your Down Payment Faster

Saving Up for Your First Home? Our Guide to Finding Ways to Save Your Down Payment FasterIf your goal is to purchase a home, you may find that it’s challenging to save up enough money for your down payment. While this is something that many first time home buyers struggle with, it is by no means insurmountable. By making a few simple changes you will be able to accumulate the funds you need for your down payment.

Keep Track Of Your Spending

One of the reasons why it can be difficult to save money is that you aren’t even sure of where your money is going. While you may be aware of major expenses such as rent, car payments and utilities, it’s easy to lose track of many of the smaller bills and impulse purchases. If you aren’t keeping a budget, you should begin as soon as possible. Software programs and apps such as Mint.com can make this simple.

Consider If You Have Anything To Sell

You may be able to raise some quick cash by selling some personal belongings. Don’t part with something that will cause you regrets, such as a precious family heirloom. However, if you’re like many people, you probably have lots of items you no longer need. In addition to holding a garage sale, you could sell items such as jewelry, electronics, art or almost anything on eBay.

Refinance Credit Cards

Refinancing credit cards or any type of debt can help you save money on monthly bills. Balance transfers can often give you a more advantageous rate with credit cards. If you have a car loan, you may be able to find better terms with a different lender.

Find Another Source Of Income

In addition to finding ways to cut back on your spending, taking in some extra money every week can make it much easier to save up for that down payment. Perhaps you or your spouse could find time for a part time job. You might also consider starting a part time business, such as an online store that can be managed from home.

If you are creative about it, you can probably find many ways to save up for your down payment. You should also do plenty of shopping around when it comes to finding the best deal on a mortgage for your first home.

FHFA House Price Index Rises for 14th Consecutive Quarter

FHFA House Price Index Rises for 14th Consecutive QuarterAccording to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), U.S. home prices rose by 1.40 percent for the fourth quarter of 2014 and were up by 0.80 percent month-to-month from November. The seasonally adjusted FHFA House Price Index measures purchase transactions for homes connected with mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

FHFA also reported that home prices rose 4.9 percent year-over –year from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the fourth quarter of 2014. FHFA Chief Economist Andrew Leventis described the report for the last quarter of 2014 as “relatively strong” and also cited low inventories of available homes and improving labor markets as contributing to home price growth.

FHFA House Price Index Identifies Significant Trends

FHFA’s expanded house price data, which adds data from county records and the Federal Housing Administration, to the FHFA House Price Index, indicated that home prices grew by 1.30 percent in the fourth quarter; year-over-year home prices grew by 6.0 percent according to FHFA’s expanded house price data report.

According to purchase-only indexes for the 100 most populated metro areas, the San Francisco-Redwood City-south San Francisco, California metro area posted the highest rate of year-over-year home price gains at six percent for the fourth quarter of 2015. The lowest reading was for the El Paso, Texas, which posted a loss of 6.60 percent in the fourth quarter.

The mountain division of the nine U.S. Census divisions posted the highest annual home price growth at 5.50 percent and 1.40 percent in the fourth quarter. House price appreciation was weakest in the New England Division, where home prices fell by0.03 percent.

FHFA also reported that its “distress free” home price indexes which the agency publishes for 12 metro areas have shown less price appreciation than the FHFA purchase only Home Price Index. Distress-free means that foreclosed homes and short sales were not included in these index readings.

FHFA has expanded its home price reports with a set of reports based on three-digit zip codes. Sorting house price data by the first three digits of a zip code provides more specific data for regional home price trends; mortgage and real estate pros can find house price data for specific neighborhoods and communities. FHFA described its three-digit zip code reports as “experimental” at present.

 

Have You Outgrown Your Current Home? Here Are Five Easy Ways to Tell if It’s Time to Upgrade

Have You Outgrown Your Current Home? Here Are Five Easy Ways to Tell if It's Time to Upgrade Your home is your castle, your own little piece of the American dream. But lately, your little corner of the world has been feeling cramped and you find yourself eyeing those larger homes. Is it time to pull up stakes and move on from your starter home?

Growing Family

If you’ve added to your family in recent years, you may have more bodies than bedrooms. A two-bedroom home may have been a great idea when it was just you and your spouse, but with two kids, you’re starting to have turf wars over the play area.

Overflowing With Stuff

From an overflowing toy chest to closets packed so tightly with shoes and coats you risk an avalanche every time you open the door, your home just doesn’t have the space to keep all your things. You may have even had to move some things off-site, spending money to rent storage space to keep that antique dresser your grandmother left you or the set of state spoons you carefully collected during your college years.

No Rest For The Weary

You’d love to spend an afternoon soaking in the tub, but before the warmth of the water can take you away, there’s a banging on the door of the only bathroom in the house and a chorus of “hurry up” invading your quiet time. And the man cave you dreamed of? Those visions of a big screen television were shattered by the realization you needed somewhere for the kids to sleep.

No Room For Extras

When you first moved in, the two-car garage doubled as your woodworking shop. Now, the equipment has been sent to storage to make room for the family’s second car. You’d love to take up organic gardening, but your tiny yard barely has room for a grill and a lawn chair. You’d love to host your friends visiting from out of state, but there is hardly room for their luggage, much less them.

Changes In Career

You may have opted for a starter home when you first entered the market because you had a smaller income. Now, thanks to changes in careers or promotions at work, you can afford a home with greater square footage and room for your growing family that will provide the space you need for many years of happy memories.

Home prices across the country are starting to rise. Contact your local real estate agent today and take advantage of the opportunity to give your family the most space at the best price now.

Case-Shiller: Rising Home Prices Boost Inflation

Case Shiller Rising Home Prices Boost Inflation

December home prices rose by 0.10 percent according to the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index. The composite report tracks home prices in 20 U.S. cities. December’s results boosted home prices by 4.50 percent year-over-year, which is approximately double the inflation rate for 2014. Analysts note that the overall reading was less significant than individual readings for the 20 cities included in the report.

Regional Home Prices Suggest Disparity in Housing Recovery

The top three month-to-month home price increases for cities surveyed were led by Miami, Florida with an increase of 0.70 percent, Home prices rose by 0.50 percent in Denver, Colorado, and by 0.50 percent in San Francisco, California.

Chicago, Illinois posted a month-to-month loss of -0.90 percent; Cleveland, Ohio followed with a loss of -0.50 percent, and Las Vegas, Nevada and Minneapolis, Minnesota were tied with monthly losses of -0.30 percent for home prices.

Winter weather conditions and the holidays can dampen demand for homes; it’s worthwhile to note that three of the cities posting the largest month-to-month losses are located in cold winter climates.

Month-to-month readings for home prices are typically more volatile; the corresponding year-over-year readings provide a more accurate reading of real estate trends in specific cities. Nine cities posted month-to-month gains for home prices, while six cities posted lower home prices from November to December.

San Francisco Leads Year-over-Year Home Price Growth

San Francisco, California led year-over-year home price growth with a reading of 9.30 percent. Home prices grew by 8.40 percent in Miami, Florida. Denver, Colorado home prices grew by 8.10 percent year-over-year in December.

The three cities showing the least amount of home price growth year-over-year were Chicago, Illinois with a reading of 1.30 percent, Cleveland, Ohio and Washington, D.C. were tied with year-over-year readings of 1.30 percent growth in home prices year-over-year.

Home prices are growing more slowly in the North and Midwest regions, while home prices continue to grow fastest in the Southeast and Western regions.

Home prices in the cities surveyed have increased by 29 percent since the March 2012 low, but remain 16 percent below their July 2006 peak. The Case-Shiller Home Price Index measures home prices using a three-month rolling average, while other home price reports base their readings on monthly sales. Case-Shiller’s year-over-year reading of 4.50 percent for December of 2015 closely approached CoreLogic’s reading of 5.00 percent home price growth year-over-year.

While increasing home prices are good news for homeowners, higher home prices represent an obstacle for moderate income and first time home buyers, who are also impacted by strict mortgage credit standards. As the peak home buying season approaches, increased demand for homes could drive home prices higher.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 23, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Feburary 23 2015

Last week’s housing related reports included the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index for February, The Commerce Department’s report on Housing Starts for January and Freddie Mac’s weekly report on average mortgage rates. The Federal Reserve released the minutes of January’s FOMC meeting, which indicated that FOMC members are in no hurry to raise the target federal funds rate. The details:

Home Builder Confidence, Housing Starts Impacted by Winter Weather

The NAHB Housing Market Index for February fell from January’s reading of 57 to 55. Analysts expected a reading of 59. This was the lowest reading since October, but February’s reading remains above the benchmark of 50. Readings exceeding 50 indicate that more home builders are confident about housing market conditions than not.

According to the NAHB, harsh weather contributed to lower builder confidence in February. NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said that low mortgage rates, increasing affordability and improving job markets are helping home buyers.

The NAHB Housing Market Index is calculated based on three components. Builder confidence dropped by one point to a reading of 61 for current housing market conditions. Not surprisingly, the winter weather caused buyer foot traffic to drop five points to a reading of 39. A gauge of housing market conditions in the next six months was unchanged.

Regional readings showed declines in three of four regions: The Northeast saw a one-point drop to 46; the Midwest and South dropped by two points to readings of 54 and 57. The Western region gained two points for a reading of 68.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that January’s Housing Starts dropped from 1.09 million in December to 1.07 million in January; the reading for January matched analysts’ expectations.

Weekly jobless claims provided some good news; they dropped from the prior week’s reading of 304,000 new claims to 283,000 new claims. The expected reading was 290,000 new jobless claims.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Points Unchanged

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by seven basis points to 3.76 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage increased by six basis points to 3.05 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.97 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.6 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes several reports related to housing. New and existing home sales reports will be released along with the Case-Shiller Composite Housing Market reports. FHFA will release its House Price Index Report and Fed Chair Janet Yellen is set to testify before Congress. Reports on Consumer Sentiment and Consumer Confidence are also scheduled along with weekly reports on jobless claims and mortgage rates.

Moving In: Our Ultimate Guide to Unpacking Will Help You Maximize Your Space

Moving In: Our Ultimate Guide to Unpacking Will Help You Maximize Your Space Many buyers anticipate the day they drive to their new home. Then it happens: the movers pull up. It’s time to move everything in. This can be a daunting task, but following a few steps will break down the work and careful planning will maximize space in the years ahead.

Clear Your Space

Go through each room to make sure the seller removed all belongings. Contact the real estate agent if the seller did not do this. Check the condition of all surfaces to determine how much preparation may be required.

Place Boxes In Correct Rooms

Boxes should be marked by room and either carry a label detailing what’s inside or be matched to a list showing what’s inside. Put each box in the correct room.

Place Boxes In Order Of Need

In each room, place boxes that will not be immediately needed against the far wall. Place boxes needed sooner in front of or on top of those boxes.

Eliminate Excess Items

If this wasn’t done while packing, buyers should stop any unwanted belongings from being taken into the house.

Create A Strategy

Unpacking does not have to be done in one day. Create a strategy for unpacking in three steps: immediate, secondary, and long-term needs.

Immediate Unpacking

Unpack what you need in the next couple of days. This will include bedding, toiletries, basic cooking equipment, and a few changes of clothing.

Secondary Unpacking

In the first week, unpack secondary items. Each day, unpack these items for one or two rooms. In the bedroom, for example, unpack your clothing and accessories. In the kitchen, unpack the rest of what you use for everyday cooking and eating. Do the same for other rooms.

Long-term Unpacking

By the end of the first month, decide what you are going to do with items you don’t use every day. Use extra closets, cupboards, basement or storage rooms, outdoor sheds, and the like. Remember where you put things so you can find them later.

Organize as You Go

Put items away in an organized fashion. Don’t just haphazardly unpack and toss things. It’s better to unpack more slowly and take time to put things away thoughtfully.

Call your real estate agent for moving-in tips and lists to track belongings. Take your time with unpacking and you will create a home where you can find things easily, maintain livable spaces, and enjoy a spacious environment.

Fed Not in a Hurry to Raise Rates: FOMC Meeting Minutes

Fed Not in a Hurry to Raise Rates FOMC Meeting Minutes

Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting held January 27 and 28 were released on Wednesday. According to the minute’s transcript, it appears that Fed policymakers are in no hurry to raise the target federal funds rate. Members said that raising rates too soon could swamp the strengthening economy and expressed concerns that changing the committee’s current “patient” stance on rising rates could cause more harm than good to current economic conditions.

FOMC members discussed the Fed’s use of the word “patient” in its guidance, and said that dropping the word could incorrectly suggest that the Fed is planning to act sooner than later on raising the Fed’s target interest rates, and could result in “undesirably tight” financial conditions. While a majority of members agreed on protecting current economic conditions by raising rates too soon, member viewpoints varied on which conditions would support the first rate hike.

Target Inflation Rate of Two Percent “Most Consistent” with Fed’s Statutory Mandate

According to the Federal Reserve’s statutory mandate supplied by Congress, the Fed seeks to provide maximum employment, price stability and moderate long-term interest rates. The Fed established a target inflation rate of 2.00percent as a benchmark for economic health, but inflation has remained consistently below the target rate according to the annualized index reading for personal consumption expenditures.

FOMC members did not set a target rate for annual unemployment; FOMC members cited unpredictable “non-monetary factors that affect the structure and dynamics of the labor market” as reasons why it’s impossible establish an accurate target percentage rate for national unemployment. The minutes caution that these factors are sufficiently unpredictable that they may cause the Fed to revise or reverse its policies concerning national unemployment readings.

Committee members noted that short-term fluctuations in the federal funds rate could be expected. The minutes indicated that in general, day-to-day fluctuations outside of the Fed’s target range were not surprising as historical data indicated that such changes had “few if any implications for overall financial conditions or the aggregate economy.”

FOMC members agreed that the economy had expanded at a solid pace, but noted that inflation had fallen due to rapid decreases in fuel prices.

Fed/FOMC Chair Janet Yellen did not hold a post-meeting press conference at the conclusion of January’s FOMC meeting; she is scheduled to hold a press conference at the conclusion of the next FOMC meeting on March 18, 2015.

Freelancing in 2015? Three Tips for How to Secure a Mortgage if You’re a Self-Employed Entrepreneur

Freelancing in 2015? Three Tips for How to Secure a Mortgage if You're a Self-employed EntrepreneurIf you are self-employed, either as a freelancer or as the owner of your own business, your income can fluctuate greatly from year to year. That can make it difficult to get approved for a mortgage, although there are some things you can do to improve your chances. Here are three tips for securing a mortgage if you are self-employed.

Make Sure Your Credit Score Is In Good Shape

While your ability to pay back a mortgage is the most important factor in approval, your credit score is a close second, and that goes for every borrower, not just those who are self-employed. If you have a credit score in the high range — something above 750 or 760 — it will help you get approved for a mortgage. To boost your score, make sure you pay all bills on time, pay down your debt levels and don’t make any new big purchases or apply for new credit soon before you apply for a mortgage.

Have a Large Down Payment

The more money a bank lends you to buy a house, the more risk it is taking in that the money won’t be paid back. If you are self-employed and considered a higher risk to begin with, one way you can alleviate some of that risk is to be able to put down a large amount of money. Putting down 20 percent is standard for a conventional loan, and you should be willing to contribute at least that much. Putting down at least 20 percent also will save you money in the long run, because you won’t have to pay for mortgage insurance and you will pay less in finance charges over the life of the loan.

Have Significant Assets

One way to put a lender at ease about your ability to pay for a mortgage is to have significant reserves in the form of assets. If you have large amounts of money in regular savings, brokerage and retirement accounts, it offers a reserve for you to tap should your income take a dive. Other forms of property, such as personal and business property that’s paid off and has value, also help.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 16, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Feburary 16 2015

Last week’s economic news included an index of labor market conditions provided by the Federal Reserve, a report on small business sentiment, and a report from the Labor Department on job openings. Weekly jobless claims, Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report and a report on Consumer Sentiment rounded out the week. The details:

Labor Market Conditions, Small Business Index Reports Fall

According to the January reading for a labor index report released by the Federal Reserve, labor market conditions declined from December’s reading of 7.3 to January’s reading of 4.9. This index is based on 19 economic indicators and January’s reading was the lowest since September. The National Foundation for Independent Business (NFIB) reported that its index of small business sentiment fell to 97.9 in January as compared to December’s reading of 100.4. Analysts said that this report reflected less optimism about business conditions and sales growth rather than concerns over spending and hiring plans.

In other labor–related news, the Labor Department reported that job openings rose to 5.03 million in December; this was 3.70 percent higher than November’s reading and represented a year-over-year increase in job openings of 28.50 percent. In contrast, all hiring for 2014 increased by 12.50 percent, which suggested that employers may be having trouble finding employees with needed job skills.

Jobless Claims Rise, but Four Week Average Shows Drop in New Claims

According to the Labor Department’s weekly Jobless Claims report, 304,000 new unemployment claims were filed, which once again positioned new jobless claims over the key benchmark of 300,000 new jobless claims filed. Analysts expected a reading of 296,000 new jobless claims based on the prior week’s reading of 279,000 new claims. To put this in perspective, new jobless claims have fallen by 3250 claims over the past four weeks to a reading of 289,750 new claims. Economists say that the four-week average is a more accurate measure of developing trends, as week-to-week readings can be volatile.

Mortgage Rates Rise

Last week’s only scheduled mortgage-related news was Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of average U.S. mortgage rates. Rates were higher with the average rate for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage higher by 10 basis points at 3.60 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by eight basis points to 2.99 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage jumped to 2.97 percent from the previous week’s average of 2.82 percent. Average discount points were 0.60 percent for 30 and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and averaged 0.50percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

February’s Consumer Sentiment Index dipped as fears of rising inflation caused consumer sentiment to dip from January’s reading of 98.1 and expectations of February’s reading at 98.5; unfortunately, February’s actual reading fell short at 93.6. February’s reading was a three-month low after January’s reading hit an 11-year high. Fears of growing inflation were noted as an influence on the drop in consumer sentiment; fuel prices are rising, which will contribute to rising inflation.

What’s Ahead

No economic reports were scheduled Monday due to the President’s Day holiday. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) releases its housing market index report on Tuesday, Housing Starts will be released Wednesday along with the minutes of the most recent FOMC meeting. Weekly jobless claims, Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey and Leading Economic Indicators round out this week’s scheduled reports.

Three Tips for Reducing Your Closing Costs if You’re Looking Forward To Buying a Home in the Spring

Three Tips for Reducing Your Closing Costs if You're Buying a Home in the Spring Spring is approaching fast and it is usually the busiest time of the year for home buying. After a long and cold winter, many people are ready to enjoy the nicer weather and begin to shop for a new home. Spring is also the perfect time for home buying for families with children because it allows them to move during the summer without interrupting school.

Home buying has costs associated with it other than the mortgage itself. Known as closing costs, these fees are a part of the home buying process and they are due at the time that the mortgage is finalized. Buyers, however, can negotiate these costs and reduce the expense with a little bit of effort and with the help of a good mortgage professional.

If you are thinking of buying a new home in the spring here are three helpful tips to reducing your closing costs.

Compare All of Your Mortgage Options

If you’re using mortgage financing to cover some of the up-front purchase cost of your home you’ll have other closing costs to pay including lender fees, mortgage insurance and more. Be sure to compare all of your options with your trusted mortgage adviser to ensure that you’re getting the best possible deal and paying the least amount in fees and interest.

You may also be able to save a bit on your closing costs by choosing a “no points” mortgage. In this type of mortgage you’ll end up saving on closing costs but you’ll be left paying a higher interest rate. Spend a bit of time doing the math to determine the best course of action.

Third Party Fees

Some of the closing cost fees will be associated with third party vendors that must perform required services. Home appraisals, title searches, and costs for obtaining credit reports are some of the items included in this area. While these may be a little harder to negotiate because the lender uses specific companies to perform these services, it does not hurt to ask if you can use your own appraiser or title search company.

Zero Closing Cost Mortgages

Buyers may also wish to inquire about a no closing cost mortgage. This type of mortgage eliminates all closing costs. The lender covers all of the closing cost fees in exchange or a slightly higher interest rate on the loan. In most cases the increase is less than one-quarter of a percent. This type of loan can be very helpful to buyers. Buyers can then use the money that they saved on closing costs to help with the move.

With a little preparation, you can find the best mortgage product for the up-coming spring season.

Compare All of Your Mortgage Options

If you’re using mortgage financing to cover some of the up-front purchase cost of your home you’ll have other closing costs to pay including lender fees, mortgage insurance and more. Be sure to compare all of your options with your trusted mortgage advisor to ensure that you’re getting the best possible deal and paying the least amount in fees and interest.

You may also be able to save a bit on your closing costs by choosing a “no points” mortgage. In this type of mortgage you’ll end up saving on closing costs but you’ll be left paying a higher interest rate. Spend a bit of time doing the math to determine the best course of action.