Buying in a New Community: How to Meet and Make Friends with Your New Neighbors

Buying in a New Community: How to Meet and Make Friends with Your New NeighborsOne of the stresses of moving to a new area is giving up the familiarity that you have with your old neighbors and starting from scratch. Whether you’ve just moved to a different locale or you’re planning to relocate in the near future, there are some easy ways that you can make a home of your new neighborhood right from the start.

Stand Up and Smile

While there are neighborhoods where people are definitely friendlier than others, by making your presence positively known you can make an instant impression on those that live around you. When you’re walking around the neighborhood, make sure you use it as an opportunity to engage with your fellow dwellers by throwing a smile in their direction, saying “Good Morning!” or paying attention to their children or their pet. It may not start a conversation right away, but if you see each other a few more times you might soon have a new fast-friend in the neighborhood.

Become a Community Member

If you happen to have a community center specific to your area, it will be even easier to meet the people who live in your neighborhood and make friends with some of them. Look into the offerings of your local center and find some classes or events that appeal to you. Whether it happens to be a craft festival or a fitness class that interests you, this will not only help you meet new people, but will ensure that their interests are aligned with your own so you’ll have some new pals to pursue old hobbies with.

Knock on the Door!

This is definitely the most assertive of options, and seems a throwback to another era, but instead of leaving meeting people up to chance, bake a cake or a batch of cookies and take them over to your new neighbor as a gesture of friendship and kindness. Your neighbors will probably love the baked goods, but this can also be the first step in forming a relationship with them that will come to be one you can both rely on.

When it comes to a new neighborhood, forming new attachments can seem all-but impossible, but there are things you can do to begin a bond right from the start. If you’re searching for a new neighborhood and are wondering about places to look, you may want to contact your local real estate professional for more information.

Mortgages 101: How to Calculate How Much You Will Need for Your Down Payment

Mortgages 101: How to Calculate How Much You Will Need for Your Down PaymentIf you’re planning to buy a home in the near future, you’re probably already in the process of saving up for a down payment. But if you haven’t seen a mortgage advisor or started looking at properties yet, you probably don’t have a good idea of what a down payment will cost you. Different mortgages have different down payment requirements, and you’ll need to figure out ahead of time how much of a down payment you need to put forward.

Following are some general guidelines. Be sure to speak with a knowledgeable, local lender to get the best advice for your area

How can you calculate what you’ll need for a down payment?  Here’s what you need to know.

Look at What the Lenders Are Asking For

When it comes to down payments, you’ll need to take into account what lenders want to see. A lender wants to know that you can afford the home you’re planning to buy. That’s why a sizable down payment looks great on a mortgage application.

Although you can pay as little as 5 percent down, a 20 percent down payment looks better on paper. It also means you don’t have to get private mortgage insurance, which will save you money in the long run on a conventional mortgage.

Use Your Debt-to-Income Ratio as a Guideline

Your debt-to-income ratio is a measurement that you can use to determine what kind of a mortgage you can afford. Your down payment will be subtracted from your total mortgage, and it’s your monthly mortgage payment that will determine your debt-to-income ratio.  As a general rule, your non-mortgage housing expenses (or your back end ratio) should probably account for no more than 28 percent of your before-tax income.  With all housing costs included (mortgage or rent, private mortgage insurance, HOA fees, etc.) most lenders are looking for the debt-to-income ratio (the front end ratio) of 36 percent or less.

Lets say for example, you want to get a $300,000 mortgage amortized over 25 years and you expect to make a $25,000 down payment, your monthly mortgage payment will be approximately $916.67. To afford that mortgage payment, you’ll probably need to have a total before-tax household income of around $3273.82 per month. But if you were to increase your down payment to $50,000, your monthly payment decreases to about $833.33 making the debt-to-income ratio lower if you made the same amount of money.  

Doing the Math: Down Payment Requirements for Various Specialty Mortgages

Although there are certain laws around how much of a down payment you’ll need, in some cases the rules are different. The Veterans Affairs office provides mortgages through private lenders designed specifically for active military service people, veterans, and their spouses. A VA home loan requires zero down payment for loans that are within the maximum conforming loan limit, with a 25% down payment on the difference if you opt to buy a house worth more than the loan limit.

Your down payment size will influence a variety of other factors, like your mortgage terms and whether lenders are willing to give you a mortgage. A mortgage professional can help you understand the nuances of down payments. Check with your trusted mortgage or real estate advisor to learn what will for your particular situation.

Case-Shiller: August Home Prices Accelerate

Case-Shiller August Home Prices AccelerateAccording to the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index, U.S. home prices increased by 0.40 percent in August, which boosted year-over-year home price growth to 5.10 percent. Denver, Colorado continued to lead in home price gains with a monthly increase of 0.90 percent and a year-over-year gain of 10.70 percent. San Francisco, California also posted a year-over-year gain of 10.70 percent, but posted a month-to-month loss of -0.10 percent. Portland, Oregon posted a year-over-year gain of 9.40 percent with a month-to-month gain of 1.10 percent.

Cities with the slowest growing home prices year-over-year included New York City with a reading of 1.80 percent; Chicago, Illinois and Washington D.C. each posted year-over-year gains of 1.90 percent.

Majority of Cities Show Home Price Gains

Before seasonal adjustments, home prices were higher in 18 of 20 cities; after seasonal adjustments, 11 cities had higher home prices, four were unchanged and five cities had lower home prices. After adjustments for inflation, current home price growth approached rates seen in the housing boom of 2005and 2006, but current home price growth is driven by a slim supply of available homes rather than excessive demand seen during the housing boom.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported that home prices for sales of homes related to mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rose by 5.50 percent year over year.

New Home Sales Slump in September

Sales of new homes dropped by 11.50 percent in September; this was the lowest level since last November. The drop largely attributed to a steeper than usual drop in home sales in the Northeast, which accounted for 62 percent of slumping home prices. Over the past two years, the Northeast region accounted for 32 percent of declining home sales. Low inventories of available homes and rising home prices contributed to the slump in sales; home builders are working to close the gap between available homes and current demand. September’s supply of available homes increased to a 5.80 month supply from August’s reading of a 4.90 percent

Analysts said that September’s inventory of homes for sale reached its highest level in and a half years and also noted that homes under construction had achieved their highest volume in six and a half years. Although millennials are expected to boost home sales as they begin to start families, some analysts pointed out that the slump in sales coincided with indications that third quarter growth may be weaker than economic growth during the second quarter of 2015.

Seller Stress: Ease the Stress of Selling Your Home with These Three Easy Tips

Seller Stress: Ease the Stress of Selling Your Home with These Three Easy TipsDespite all of the excitement that comes along with moving to a new area or home, it can also be a time of considerable stress. Whether you’re just getting prepared to put your house on the market or you’ve been up to bat for a while and are feeling the effects, here are some pointers for how you can keep your stress level low and your attitude positive.

Queue the Clean-Up!

It may seem like an inopportune time for such a task, but de-cluttering your home can have a positive impact on your mental health. Instead of saving all the cleanup to the last moment when you’re trying to get your family out under a deadline, do a bit of a spring-clean. By looking through the items in your bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen – and getting your family involved – you can make the packing up that will come down the road a much more straightforward task.

Maintain an Optimistic Outlook!

This might sound a little obvious, but maintaining a positive attitude towards the sale of your home is one of the key factors in minimizing your stress level. It can be quite easy when you’re putting your house on the market to get ahead of yourself and hope that each viewer is a potential buyer, but your house probably won’t sell with the first viewing. By maintaining a positive attitude, you can enjoy the last memories you and your family will be making in your home, and think ahead for what you’ll have to do when selling time comes.

Move It All Out!

It’s not likely that everyone will be able to take advantage of this option, but if you have good friends or close family in the area, you may want to consider moving in with them while your house is for sale so you can be ahead of the game when crunch time comes. While this option may lead to other types of stress, it can severely minimize all of the things you’ll have to do when you sell your home since you’ll only have to worry about moving in.

There are no certainties when it comes to selling your house stress free, but there are things you can do to minimize the impact it will have on your well-being. If you’re wondering about additional ways to keep your stress level low throughout the selling of your home, you may want to contact your trusted real estate professional for more advice.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 26, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week October 26 2015Last week’s economic news included the National Association of Home Builders Index, Housing Starts and FHFA’s report on August home sales. The National Association of Realtors® released its monthly report on sales of previously owned homes.

Builder Confidence and Housing Starts Post Gains

The Wells Fargo National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for September posted its highest level of builder confidence in 10 years a higher than expected results with a reading of 64 for October. Analysts expected a reading of 62 based on September’s reading of 61.

The NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index reading is based on three builder confidence readings. Builder confidence in current market conditions rose three points to a reading of 70; builder confidence in housing market conditions over the next six months rose seven points to 75 and buyer traffic in new housing developments held steady with a reading of 47. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are confident about market conditions than those who are not.

This news was consistent with September housing starts, which were also higher. The U.S. Commerce Department reported September’s housing starts at an annual level of 1.206 million starts against expectations of 1.139 million starts and August’s reading of 1.132 million housing starts.

Sales of Previously Owned Homes Surpass Expectations

September sales of pre-owned homes surpassed expectations according to a report released by the National Association of Realtors®. Sales of previously owned homes reached 5.55 million sales on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis against an expected reading of 5.34 million sales. August’s reading was adjusted downward from 5.31 million sales to 5.30 million sales of previously owned homes.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors®, cited lower mortgage rates, higher demand for homes and low inventories of available homes as driving higher sales. Slight easing of mortgage credit standards was also said to be driving home sales.

FHFA’s Home Price Index for August showed that home prices for properties associated with mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac increased at a rate of 5.05 percent in August as compared to a growth rate of 5.80 percent year-over-year in August 2014.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, Weekly Jobless Claims Lower

Weekly reports on mortgage rates and jobless claims yielded mixed results. Freddie Mac reported that average rates for fixed rate mortgages dipped with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage three basis points lower at 3.79 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by five basis points to 2.98 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage ticked upward by one basis point to 2.89 percent. Average discount points were 0.60 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, 0.50 percent for a a5-year fixed rate mortgage and were unchanged at 0.40 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

Weekly jobless claims were lower than expectations with a reading of 259,000 new claims filed against expectations of 265,000 new jobless claims. New claims were higher than the previous week’s reading of 256,000 new claims. Analysts are keeping an eye on jobs reports as stronger job markets are essential to expanding home sales.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes Case-Shiller reports on home prices along with reports on new home sales, consumer confidence and consumer sentiment. Core inflation readings will be released Friday after Thursday’s releases of Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Hit Second Highest Level in 8 Years

Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Hit Second Highest Level in 8 YearsHousing markets show continued strength as the National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of existing homes reached their second highest level since February 2007. Sales of pre-owned homes increased by 4.70 percent and reached 5.55 million sales on a seasonally adjusted annual basis against analyst expectations of 5.34 million sales and August’s reading of 5.30 million sales of previously owned homes.

August’s reading for existing home sales was revised downward from 5.31 million sales. Economists said that August’s lower than expected sales of existing homes may have been influenced by volatility in financial markets and concerns over mortgage rates may have kept would-be home buyers on the sidelines, but September’s reading showed that August’s dismal readings were an aberration rather than a trend.

Higher Home Sales Driven by Low Mortgage Rates

Low mortgage rates are making homes more affordable, a fact that’s reflected by current inventories of available homes. At the current sales pace, there is a 4.8 month supply of available homes as compared to September 2014’s reading of a 5.40 month supply of available homes. 

In addition to average mortgage rates hovering below four percent, industry advocates s cited stronger job markets and also indicated that a slight easing of mortgage credit standards are driving home sales. Increased demand for homes is causing home prices to rise. The national average price of a home rose to $221,900, which was 6.10 percent higher than for September 2014.

Housing Recovery: 2015 Could Show Best Results Since 2007

Lawrence Yun Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors® said that although some economists expect home sales to cool down before the end of 2015, it’s possible that 2015 will end with the best home sales figures since 2007. Mr. Yun said characterized the housing recovery as “a slow steady process” and said “This year, it’s finally coming out.”

On the other hand, some analysts are skeptical about how housing markets can maintain their momentum into 2016. First-time buyers are losing market share in home sales, with their participation rate decreasing from 32 percent in August to 29 percent in September. First-time buyers play an integral role in housing markets, as their purchase of starter homes allows first-time homeowners to buy larger homes. First-time buyers also represent new demand for homes, which is essential to expanding housing markets.

Squeezing a Seller: 3 Tips to Help Bring a Seller’s Price Down to Fit Your Budget

Squeezing a Seller: 3 Tips to Help Bring a Seller's Price Down to Fit Your BudgetIf you’ve been searching the real estate market for a while and you’ve finally come across a home that you love, it’s possible you may be ready to pounce at any price. However, if you’re hoping to bring the seller’s price down for a deal that’s closer to what you want to spend, here are some ways you may be able to have your home and pay the right price too.

Get Some Background on the Sale

It’s important to realize that by understanding the motivation of the seller, you’ll be better able to give them the kind of deal they’re looking for. So, instead of going into it blind, ask questions to try and determine why the home is on the market. If the motivation happens to be time-related, and the current owners are moving to a new city or have purchased another home, you may have some leeway in terms of what you’re offering. By knowing the motivation ahead of time, you’ll be able to better align your offer with the seller’s expectations.

Research the Surrounding Market

This will definitely be something that a real estate agent should help you with, but utilizing a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) will enable you to determine the sale price of houses in the area and should give you an idea of what constitutes a reasonable offer. While it’s important that this compendium is made up only of properties that have successfully sold in the local neighborhood, this can easily reveal if the seller’s price is standard and should give you insight into what the limitations in your offering price should be.

Consider a Quicker Close

It can seem like real estate all comes down to price, but there are a number of things you may be able to offer the home seller that may make them seriously consider a lower offer than they were hoping for. Instead of thinking only in terms of price, you may want to suggest a closing date that is sooner than usual; in the event that they’ve already purchased a home this will work out better for them in terms of cost savings and may make up for a difference on price.

If you’ve found your ideal home after viewing a lot of houses and you’re wondering how you can make it a better deal, you may score a lower price by being aware of a seller’s motivations or offering a quicker closing date. If you’re curious about other tips for real estate success, you should contact your trusted real estate agent for more information.

Can You Give a Relative a Gift of Cash for a Mortgage Down Payment? Yes – Here’s How

Can You Give a Relative a Gift of Cash for a Mortgage Down Payment? Yes – Here’s HowA new house is a major investment. Even if you have a mortgage, the bank and the seller will still expect a sizeable down payment. That’s why lots of people regularly gift down payments to friends and relatives – it’s a great way to help young people start out on the path of home ownership.

But what are the rules around gifting down payments? Can you simply give someone everything they need? Although it’s a generous thought, it’s not always possible – here’s what you need to know.

Make Sure You Write a Gift Letter

If you’re giving one of your relatives money for a down payment, you’ll need to accompany the money with a gift letter. A gift letter is a letter written to the mortgage company that clearly asserts the money is a gift, not a loan. There are several key components that mortgage companies need to see on a gift letter, so make sure you have everything they need.

You’ll need to include your name, address, and phone number, as well as your relationship to the homeowner and the amount of the gift. Your letter should list the date on which you gifted the money and clearly explain that you do not expect to be repaid. Finally, you’ll need to include the address of the property being purchased and then sign the letter.

Tell Your Relatives to Pay the Right Down Payment Amount

When your relatives give their down payment, they’ll want to ensure they pay the right amount from their own money to ensure they don’t run afoul of any mortgage laws. In a conventional mortgage agreement, the borrower can pay the entire down payment with a gift if their down payment is worth at least 20% of the purchase price. If the down payment is for less than 20%, then the borrower can use gift money, but must also put forward a certain minimum amount that varies by loan type. For mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration or the Department of Veteran Affairs, the rules are slightly different.

Giving the gift of a mortgage is a great way to help friends or family members become homeowners. But with mortgages, there are strict rules around gifts. Contact your trusted real estate professional or mortgage officer to learn more about giving the gift of a mortgage.

Don’t Fear the Last Minute Home Showing – Here’s How You Can Impress Potential Buyers

Don't Fear the 'Last Minute' Home Showing! Here's How You Can Impress Potential BuyersThe idea of impressing potential buyers can be a matter rife with stress, but there are a few things you can do before a viewing to ensure your home is seen in the best light. If you’ve recently put your house on the market and you’re looking for some fast and easy fix-ups, here are a handful of ways you can be sure to create a positive first impression.

It’s All About the Smell

It may seem like purchasing a home is all about appearance, but you shouldn’t underestimate the power of scent when it comes to the overall impact of your home viewing. Instead of leaving this invisible factor up to chance, consider giving the house a quick light spray with a pleasant scent or even baking something that will be sure to remind potential buyers of the familiar comforts of home. Make sure you dont over do it though, having too much sent may make potential buyers uncomfortable or even sick.

Take Away the Family Portraits

While it won’t be necessary to clear away everything of personal value, a large number of photographs in the home can actually remind potential homebuyers that it’s not their home and may make them feel like they’re a visitor in a place they want to live. By removing the photos that adorn the fridge and the side tables, you can eliminate distractions for potential homebuyers and keep them focused on what the home might come to mean for them.

Clear Away Any Clutter

This might seem like the most common sense of points, but it’s very important that your house is clean so that viewers can see your home in its best light and will easily be able to imagine themselves living in it. While it’s important for giving your house the best possible presentation, it will also make your house look more spacious than it would with a lot of unkempt clutter.

Highlight Your Favorite Features

With potential homebuyers viewing a lot of different houses, having a few key features in your home that will help it stand out from the pack can be a definite benefit. Whether you have a fabulous Jacuzzi in the master bathroom or unique kitchen tiles that you installed yourself, ensuring that these features are noticed, and even accentuated, may help your home stick in the mind of its viewers.

Showing your home can be a stressful matter, but a few quick tips can ensure success with potential buyers. If you’re curious about other ways to impress viewers of your home, you may want to contact your trusted real estate professional for some valuable insights.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 19, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week October 19 2015Last week’s economic reports included Consumer Price Index and Core index for September, the minutes of the FOMC meeting held September 15 and 17, and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. The details:

FOMC Minutes Hint at Looming Rate Hike as Inflation Lags

Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting held in September suggest that while Fed policy makers have reservations about low inflation and labor markets, they may go ahead and raise the target federal funds rate from its current range of 0.00 to 0.25 percent. When the fed does raise rates, consumers can expect to see higher mortgage rates as well as loan rates on products such as personal loans and credit cards. FOMC members also expressed concerns over lagging inflation below the FOMC benchmark of 2.00 percent.

September’s Core Consumer Price Index report showed a slight reduction as consumer prices fell by -0.20 percent which matched analyst’s expectations and was lower than August’s reading of -0.10 percent. The reduction in consumer prices was caused by falling fuel prices. The Core Consumer Price Index for September, which does not include readings for energy or food prices, rose by -0.20 percent which exceeded predictions of an 0.10 percent increase and August’s reading of +0.10 percent.

Mortgage Rates Rise as New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that fixed mortgage rates rose while rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage held steady last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by six basis points to 3.82 percent while the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 3.03 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.88 percent. Average discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims fell to 255,000 against expectations of 270,000 and the prior week’ reading of 262,000 new claims. The four-week rolling average of new claims fell by 2250 new jobless claims and reached its lowest level since 1973.

In other jobs-related news, job openings fell from July’s reading of 5.70 million to 5.40 million in August. The Labor Department also reported that the hiring rate and quit rates held steady at 3.60 percent and 1.90 percent.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news releases include The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, September Housing Starts and Existing Home Sales in addition to usual weekly reports on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.