7 Excellent Ideas For Building An Eco-Friendly Home

7 excellent ideas for building and eco friendly homeIn recent years, building an environmentally friendly home or updating an existing home to be more energy efficient has become much more mainstream. While building an entirely green residence isn’t always fiscally possible, simple eco-friendly building techniques and upgrades will ultimately lower your water and electricity bills.

These green home improvements will save you money in the long run, while also saving the planet. The following are some of the easiest ways to lower your carbon footprint when building or updating a home. 

Build or Purchase a Smaller Home

Smaller homes naturally have a lower impact on the environment. There is less square footage to cool and heat, which keeps energy consumption down. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to give up your dream home. Instead, create an ideal floor plan with usable space, and downsize rooms you know you will not use on a daily — or even weekly — basis. 

Use Energy-Efficient Windows

When building a home or updating an existing home, use Energy Star-labeled windows. This important label means that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed them as energy efficient. The money saved on future heating and cooling bills often more than make up for the initial cost differential. 

Use Energy-Efficient Products

Like windows, certain appliances are also Energy Star-labeled. Energy Star appliances conserve energy, without sacrificing performance. Everything from a single light bulb to a geothermal heat pump can come with this important, government-approved label. 

Use Proper Insulation

Heating and cooling typically accounts for approximately half of a home’s energy consumption, and this energy usage is often wasted due to poor insulation. Start by making sure there are no drafts by windows and doors. This is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and the price of your monthly bills.

Install Solar Panels

Solar energy is both clean and renewable, and solar panels are the perfect way to harness this remarkable form of energy. While the initial cost of installation can seem high, the money saved in the long term is extraordinary. Plus, there are often tax breaks and other monetary incentives. When building a new home, consult with a knowledgeable architect about positioning the property and the solar panels for maximum sun exposure.

Use Sustainable Building Materials

Sustainable building materials can be utilized throughout the entire building process. When picking out wood for the frame of the home, use a supplier who practices an environmentally friendly planting and harvesting process. Once in the design phase, consider bamboo and/or cork flooring. They are both eco-friendly and trendy. 

Save Water

There are numerous ways to cut back on water usage. To start, install low-flow aerators on toilets and shower heads, invest in a tankless water heater and only use an Energy Star-rated washing machine. Next, capture rainwater on your property in a cistern or barrel. This water can be used for landscaping and irrigation.

Creating a green home doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple updates and a bit of forethought can drastically reduce monthly bills, while simultaneously reducing fossil-fuel emissions. 

 

 

 

Five Reasons Why Spring Is The Perfect Time To Sell

5 Reasons Spring Is The Perfect Time to SellSpring is many people’s favorite season of the year. Obviously, there are many valid reasons why this is so;  but, one of the best things about spring is that it is an ideal time to sell your home.

If you have considered putting your home on the market any time in the next year or so, check out these five reasons which make spring the ideal time.

  • Buyers are searching – A huge majority of home buyers want to move during summer. Many families have school or work vacations that make the moving process a little easier during this time. If you put your home on the market during spring, you ready things for someone to purchase and move in during this prime time

  • The weather is cooperative – Yes, there may be a few spring rain showers here and there, but during the spring season (in most parts of the country,) you’ll find that the weather is neither too hot nor too cold to keep buyers from searching. In addition, the spring sunshine makes for beautiful listing photos.

  • It’s a great time for home improvement – Whether you want to make improvements to your house to make selling easier, or you plan to sell your home as a fixer-upper, the knowledge that spring and the coming summer months is the perfect time to attend to these tasks will benefit you during the listing and sales process.

  • Your yard will look great – They say that curb appeal is one of the most important things that is considered when someone purchases a home. When you sell in springtime, the grass is green, the flowers are in bloom and your yard will look it’s very best. You may find that it’s a little easier to sell during this time just because of the extra “wow factor” your yard brings to the table.

  • The market is prime – Listen to any news or finance program and you’ll hear that the real estate market is booming. Take advantage of this benefit and pair it with all the other reasons to sell your home this spring. You may find that selling your property quickly and at your asking price is much easier than you ever imagined it would be.

As you can see, spring really is an excellent time to sell a home. However, don’t wait until the peak of the season to think about putting it on the market and expect to reap all the benefits. Act now and be ready to make a splash when the weather warms up and the sun comes out to shine.

 

The Humble Vegetable Garden: A Fun, Health-conscious Home Project for the Entire Family

The Humble Vegetable Garden: A Fun, Health-conscious Home Project for the Entire FamilyWhether you are hunting for a project that will pry the kids away from their phones or you just want a head start on the spring, few home projects are as rewarding as a vegetable garden.

Invest a few hours in planting today, some maintenance throughout the year and soon you’ll be enjoying some delicious, home-grown veggies. Ready? Let’s get started!

Selecting The Right Spot For Your Garden

The first decision you will need to make is where your garden will live. If you are new to gardening, you can start with a small patch of land in the corner of your backyard. The area needs to have full exposure to sunlight at least six to eight hours each day. Your plants will also need watering, so ensure that your hose can reach the plot or that you have another water source nearby.

Having good soil is necessary but not critical as you can buy a load of topsoil from a local nursery. You may want to invest in a composter as well so that you can make efficient use of food waste.

Choosing Which Vegetables To Grow

Next, you will need to choose what you want to grow in your garden. As mentioned above, if you are new to gardening you can start small with a few simple vegetables. Tomatoes are an excellent choice as they continue to produce throughout the year and can be used in so many different types of food. Root vegetables like carrots and potatoes are also a great choice. If you like fresh herbs, consider setting aside a part of your garden for basil, thyme and other herbs.

Materials You’ll Need To Get Started

As you might imagine, you do not need very much to start a garden. Some soil, gloves, a few hand tools and seeds or starter plants are enough to get going. Take the family out for a trip to a local nursery and ask about the best plants to start in the spring. From there, a trip to one of the large home supply stores will provide you with the rest.

Make What You Can, Buy What You Can’t

Finally, don’t forget that this is supposed to be a fun project! If you decide you need planter boxes, try to build them instead of buying them. Figure out what you can recycle or upcycle from around your home to use in the garden. Try to avoid buying over building unless you’re stuck.

Follow the steps above and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor. If you decide you need a more substantial yard, contact our offices today. Our real estate team will be happy to show you homes with yards that are perfect for planting your garden.

Your Guide To Aging In Place Home Modifications

Your Guide To Aging in Place Home ModificationsIf you’ve had to watch your parents transition into assisted living, you may have no desire to call such a place home. You are not alone. According to the Aging in Place Housing Survey conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), more than 90 percent of seniors want to remain in their home.

Many survey respondents said that they would rather use nursing home funds towards purchasing a home that is suited for aging in place or making accessible home modifications.  

You’ve probably heard the buzzwords — aging in place, non-assisted living, universal design — these phrases mean the same thing: growing older in your home. Today, home modifications can help you continue to live in your home as you age. Plus, aging-in-place home modifications are much less expensive than moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility.

The problem is that most existing homes are not conducive to aging in place. There are more than 100 million homes in the United States. However, only one percent of them are currently set up for accessibility. Fortunately, there are a variety of home modifications that you can do to make any home more accessible. Here is a handy guide to accessible home modifications.

Think About Your Future Needs

The first step in making sure your home is suited to aging in place is to consider how your needs might change in the future. Everyone’s situation is different.

If you have a chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart disease, it is best to talk with your doctor to determine how these health issues might make it hard for you to live on your own in the future. Consider what modifications you’ll need to make to ensure that your home will suit your future needs.

For example, if you are thinking of buying a new home with an upstairs, you might use the upper part of the house for your home office now and convert the area into a caregiver’s quarters in the future.

Consider a First-Floor Master Suite

An essential home modification for aging in place is first-floor living. Although you might not have mobility issues now, hip replacements and other problems that affect mobility are frequent with increasing age.

Plus, a first-floor suite can increase the value of your home should you sell in the future. According to data from Builder Online, out of the best-selling new home floor plans, more than 83 percent feature accessible master suites.

Choose Slip-Resistant Flooring

Falls are a serious threat to the independence and health of older adults. They are the leading cause of injuries among Americans ages 65 and older. That is why it is so important to take steps to reduce the likelihood of a fall.

One of the easiest modifications that you can make in this area is to choose slip-resistant flooring. Cork and bamboo flooring are both popular for aging in place as they are softer and thus more forgiving during a fall.

These are just a few of the aging in place modifications that you can make to your home. There are many others. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to sacrifice lifestyle or luxury to have a home that is also accessible.

Many of the above modifications can be made anytime and can help enhance the beauty and comfort of your home.

 

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 26th, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 26th, 2018Last week’s economic releases included readings on new and pre-owned home sales and the Federal Open Market Committee’s customary post meeting statement. Fed Chair Jerome Powell gave his first press conference as Chair of the Federal Reserve and FOMC. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.

February Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Exceed Expectations, New Home Sales Fall Short

Sales of previously-owned homes exceeded expectations at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.54 million sales. Analysts expected a rate of 5.40 million sales based on January’s reading of 5.38 million sales.

Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors® Chief Economist, said that low inventories of available homes continued to impact rising home prices. Mr. Yun said that he did not expect any let-up on home price growth. February’s inventory of available homes slipped to a 3.4 months supply; a six-months supply of homes for sale is considered average and an indication of healthy housing markets.

Mr. Yun said that he may adjust forecasts for home price growth. First-time buyers are being squeezed out of housing markets due to rapidly rising home prices. The average price for a home was $241,700 in February. First-time buyer participation dropped to 29 percent of buyers as compared to an average of approximately 40 percent.

Regional sales of pre-owned homes were mixed. Sales in the Northeast dipped 12.30 percent; Midwest sales dipped by 2.40 percent. The South posted 6.60 percent growth in home sales, and the West reported 11.40 percent growth in home sales year-over-year.

Sales of new homes dipped in February.to 618,000 sales as compared to expectations of 630,000 sales and January’s reading of 622,000 sales of new homes. Combined effects of seasonal weather and homebuyer concerns over rising mortgage rates and home prices likely contributed to the drop in new home sales.

FOMC Raises Key Rate, New Fed Chair Sees Stronger Economy

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee raised the target federal funds rate to a range of 1.50 -1.75 percent, a move that was widely expected. Fed Chair Jerome Powell indicated that the Fed would continue a modest pace of raising rates in 2018 but indicated a more aggressive pace for raising rates may be appropriate in 2019.

Federal Reserve analysts predicted eight rate hikes between 2018 and the end of 2020; this estimate includes that last three rate increases. Wednesday’s rate hike was the sixth quarter-point rate hike since December 2015.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell gave his first press conference as Fed Chair after the FOMC post-meeting statement. He indicated he is not fearful of inflation overheating and said that he would protect recent tax cuts.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported that mortgage rates ticked up by one basis for all three types of mortgages it tracks. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.45 percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.91 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 3.68 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims rose last week to 229,000 new claims filed as compared to an expected reading of 225,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 226,000 new jobless claims filed. Analysts noted that winter readings for jobless claims can be unpredictable and don’t indicate weakening job markets.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include readings from Case-Shiller on home prices, readings on pending home sales and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

5 Tips For Prospective Buyers To Submit A Winning Offer

5 Tips For Prospective Buyers To Submit A Winning OfferIn a hot real estate market, agents often tell buyers they must expect to make multiple offers before one is accepted. Disappointment may be the new normal rather than an exception. The stress of repeated rejections isn’t easy, so be prepared.

Significant numbers of first-time buyers find the process difficult, and recent research indicates that about 60 percent of Millennials choose to rent rather than own, delaying other important life decisions, including marriage and family. 

There are, however, at least 5 ways to strengthen your buyer profile and give yourself an advantage: 

Check Your Credit

Take advantage of the free credit checks offered by the three credit reporting agencies, and clean up any questionable entries. At the very least, be prepared to offer clear and cogent reasons for any late payments that appear within the last couple of years. Pay down credit card balances and student loan debt as much as possible, and assure that your employment record is stable. 

Sock Away Some Cash

Try to delay your home search until you have enough money for a reasonable down payment and required closing costs, plus a comfortable nest egg or contingency fund. Demonstrate a consistent savings habit. If you plan to borrow the down payment from parents or other family members, be certain it will be adequate and available when you need it.

Talk With Your Loan Officer

Get a definitive idea of how much you can comfortably afford. If you’re a veteran or qualify for other special loan programs, find out in advance. Gain a comfort level with a lender, and listen to the advice that is offered. Interest rates are currently still low, but any rate change will affect the amount you can borrow. Limit your home search homes priced lower than your loan limit.

The only thing better than a pre-qualification letter is approval confirmation for a specific loan amount. In a fast-paced real estate market, seek that pre-approval, so that you’ll be able to move quickly when you find the right property. A pre-approved loan, an offer with no contingencies, and a quick closing date are the marks of an “A-list” buyer.

Define Your Needs

Know your preferred neighborhoods, and prepare a list of “must have” items as well as a wish list to guide your search. But be realistic. Know that home-buying is a matter of priorities and a game of give and take.

Look at a home’s structure and condition; consider the location, and realize that there is no such thing as the perfect house. Know that tired style can be updated, and decor changes are relatively easy on the pocketbook.  

Make the First Offer Your Best Offer

In a seller’s market, it’s wise to make the initial offer your best offer. A lowball bid will not impress the seller, and you may never get a chance to submit a higher bid. When there is serious competition for homes, it pays to be serious about every offer. 

Finally, know that if you’re persistent and prepared, you will find a home to suit you. Practice patience!

What Important Items Can Upset My Mortgage Pre-Approval Status?

What is a mortgage pre-approvalWhen you are purchasing a home, your lender may recommend you obtain a mortgage pre-approval before you find the home of your dreams. There are some benefits to being pre-approved before you find a home, but oftentimes, people confuse pre-qualifications with pre-approvals.

So the question many buyers have is what exactly is a mortgage pre-approval? In a nutshell, it’s when the lender provides you (the buyer) with a letter stating that your mortgage will be granted up to a specific dollar amount.

What Do I Need For Pre-Approval?

In order to obtain a pre-approval for your home purchase, you will have to provide your lender all of the same information you would need to show for qualifying for a mortgage. This means providing tax returns, bank statements and other documents that prove your net worth, how much you have saved for your down payment and your current obligations.

What Conditions Are Attached to a Pre-Approval?

Generally speaking, a pre-approval does have some caveats attached to it. Typically, you can expect to see some of the following clauses in a pre-approval letter:

  • Interest rate changes – a pre-approval is done based on current interest rates. When rates increase, your borrowing power may decrease
  • Property passes valuation and inspection – your lender will require the property you ultimately purchase to come in with a proper appraisal and meet all inspection requirements
  • Credit check requirements – regardless of whether it’s been a week or six months since you were pre-approved, your lender will require a new credit report. Changes in your credit report could negate the pre-approval
  • Changes in jobs/assets – after a pre-approval is received, a change in your employment status or any substantial assets may result in the pre-approval becoming worthless

What Items Can Change My Mortgage Pre-Approval Status?

One of the major issues that affect some borrowers as they are preparing to purchase their new home is financing large ticket items before the home purchase loan is completely funded.  Even if you are buying new furniture or other items for the home, it’s best to wait until after your home loan is entirely complete before purchasing any of these new items.

Work changes can also drasitically affect your pre-approval status.  Make sure your loan professional is well aware of any changes well in advance of them happening in order to plan effectively.  There are ways to work with job changes but it is a delicate matter during the mortgage underwriting process.

Getting pre-approved for a home mortgage may allow you more negotiation power with sellers and may help streamline the entire loan process. It is however important to keep in mind there are still things that may have a negative impact on actually getting the loan.

It is important to make sure you keep in contact with your trusted real estate professional, especially if interest rates increase or your employment status changes after you are pre-approved.

7 Tips To Plan A Spring Yard ‘Tune-Up’ Before Listing A Home For Sale

7 Tips to Plan a Spring Backyard Tune UpThe oft-repeated maxim that there is never a second chance to make a great first impression is especially true when it comes to real estate. Street appeal may focus on a dramatic approach to the front door, but prospective buyers will be especially “wowed” by an appealing back yard.

Early spring is the perfect time to add some new plants, set out pots of blooming flowers and focus on one memorable feature. A little work now will pay big dividends later, in terms of buyer interest, increased showings, quick offers, and even a higher price.

Here are 7 ideas that are cost-effective weekend projects:

  1. Create a focal point: Find an antique garden trellis and plant some vines to create an arbor. Add a piece of sculpture or statuary either in the center of the yard or in a secluded garden spot. Install a “gate to nowhere” and add bright flowers on one side. Paint giant sunflowers on a privacy fence or on the side of a storage shed. 
  2. Build a partial wall or shade trellis: There is little that’s more appealing that an an “outdoor living room.” Accent and define your patio space in an interesting way — use a sisal rug or paint a graphic design on the concrete — and fill the room with appropriate furniture. Add a small fountain or a charcoal fire pit to create a real gathering spot.
  3. Install a simple drip irrigation system: Minimize landscape upkeep by planning DIY drip irrigation that will keep planting areas looking their best. All that’s really needed is some tubing and a few fittings; the system itself can be attached to an outside hose bibb and operated by a simple timer. It’s not necessary to extend the system to the entire lawn; that would be a more costly and time-consuming project perhaps best left to a professional.
  4. Create a dry creek bed: If parts of the yard or garden are plagued by standing water following heavy rain, give drainage an assist by making a dry creek bed. It’s not too difficult and will add function and beauty to the back yard. Add some large boulders or a “Zen bench” to boost the appeal.
  5. Plant or hang solar lights: Define a pathway, highlight planting areas or just add night-time interest to the yard with solar lighting. Buy inexpensive versions at a home store, or order artistic lights from a catalog. They’re fun, functional and portable.
  6. Plant a specialty garden: Attract butterflies and hummingbirds with a patch of wildflowers. Build a small raised garden plot to grow kitchen herbs, or plant seasonal vegetables and edible flowers. Carrots. kale and rainbow chard are especially pretty and don’t take much space. Melons, squash and pumpkins have beautiful flowers and yield great fruit, but they do spread! 
  7. Clean up, trim, weed and mow: Finally, don’t neglect the routine maintenance that is required in every yard, both front and back. Nothing else is as important to prospective buyers as an attractive, well-kept home exterior. 

 

What Are The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Putting 20 Percent Down On A Home Purchase?

Should You Put 20 Percent Down On Your Home Purchase?Several generations ago, lenders required home buyers to have a 20 percent down payment in order to get a mortgage. While there were a few options out there for people who couldn’t save this substantial amount, the reality was that for the majority of people, the 20 percent down was a requirement.

It was the way to show that you were financially responsible enough for homeownership. And it was a strong way that the banks felt secure in making a home loan.

Today, however, homebuyers have many options available to them as they shop for a new home, and those mortgage options mean that the 20 percent down payment is no longer as much of a requirement. For most buyers, especially those who do not have the equity of an existing home to help with their purchase, the 20 percent down payment is not even a possibility.

Yet for those who can do so, putting 20 percent down carries some benefits worth considering. Here is a closer look at when the large down payment makes sense, and what the potential drawbacks are that buyers should consider.

How The 20 Percent Down Payment Helps

When it is possible for the buyer to save enough, the 20 percent down payment does have some benefits that are worth considering. First, when you are able to save 20 percent, you can get a mortgage that has no private mortgage insurance or similar fees. Because lenders consider a borrower with less than 20 percent for the down payment to be higher risk, they charge additional fees to serve as insurance on these loans.

Putting 20 percent down also means you are borrowing less. Because every dollar you borrow will be charged interest, the less you borrow the lower your repayment costs should be over the life of the loan. If you have the ability to save 20 percent, this is a benefit worth considering.

The Drawbacks Of 20 Percent Down

While saving 20 percent does have some benefits, it also has drawbacks that you must also consider. First, 20 percent of a home loan is a significant amount of money. On a modestly priced $100,000 house, that means you have to save $20,000. For the average home buyer, this represents years of saving. And you could be giving up years of price appreciation on the home that you could have purchased earlier by using one of the other financing options.

Also, if you are putting all of that money down as your down payment, you may find yourself cash strapped for other home buying costs, like new furniture or closing costs on your mortgage. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warns that this can be a significant downside, especially for first-time buyers who have a lot of expenses as they make the move into their first homes.

Many people find themselves digging into their other investments, like their 401(k), to come up with the money for the down payment. When mortgage interest rates are low, this can be an unwise move. Paying a bit more in interest over the life of a mortgage is often better than creating a serious financial bind for your future needs. Digging into your retirement also means you are not getting that vital compounding interest.

Finally, saving 20 percent often means you can’t buy a home quite as quickly. Since home prices historically tend to rise, not fall, the longer you wait, the more you may spend on your home. If home prices rise by 5 percent a year, which is fairly standard, waiting two years to purchase the home means $10,000 in extra costs for a $100,000 home. The higher purchase price counters any savings you may have when you put down 20 percent.

Can You Buy With Less Than 20 Percent Down?

So can you buy a home with less than 20 percent down? The answer to that question is yes, and often it makes more financial sense to do so. In fact, according to Freddie Mac, 40 percent of homebuyers in today’s markets are making down payments of less than 10 percent. So if you are going to buy a home without saving the 20 percent, what are your options?

If you have strong credit, many lenders are still offering piggyback loans. These loans allow you to take out a smaller loan for part of your down payment, then a traditional loan for the rest of the purchase price. You may still need about 5 percent of your own money to put down on the purchase. Then you can work with your lender to borrow 15 percent with a smaller, and many times shorter-term loan, and the remainder with a conventional mortgage.

Down payment assistance is another option to consider. These programs, which are available through non-profit organizations or government-run programs, give homeowners a hand in coming up with the down payment they need to purchase the home.

Finally, consider the low down payment options that are out there. USDA loans, VA loans, FHA loans and similar loan products are designed for those with just a little bit to put down on the home. The FHA loan, for example, is a government-backed loan that requires just 3.5 percent down on the home.

Forbes indicates it is even possible to get a conventional loan with as little as 3 percent down. In some instances, like the USDA home loan program, you can even buy a home with no down payment.

While these home loans do have additional costs, like the funding fee for the VA loan or private mortgage insurance for conventional low down payment loans, they give you the ability to buy now without 20 percent down so you can start enjoying the benefits of homeownership sooner.

When buying a home, getting sound financial advice is always wise. Whether you choose to put down a large amount on your home or take advantage of these different loan options to buy with a smaller amount down, make sure you weigh your options before making your choice.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 19th, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 19th, 2018Last week’s economic news included readings From National Association of Home Builders, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

NAHB Posts 3rd Consecutive Decline in Builder Confidence

According to the National Association of Home Builders, builder confidence in housing market conditions dropped by one point in March to an index reading of 70. Three sub-categories of builder sentiment used to calculate the overall reading were either unchanged or lower than February readings. 

Confidence in current market conditions were unchanged at 72, Builder confidence in market conditions for the next six months fell two points to an index reading of 78. The index for buyer traffic in new housing developments dipped three points to 51. Any reading over 50 indicates positive builder sentiment.

Builders cited increased demand for homes as a positive influence on builder confidence, but recent decisions to impose tariffs on some building materials concerned builders, but pronounced shortages of new and pre-owned homes contributed to positive builder sentiment.

Mortgage applications for new homes were 4.60 percent higher year-over-year in February according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Housing Starts Lower in February

The Commerce Department reported an annual rate of 1.236 million housing starts in February; this was seven percent lower than January’s reading of 1.329 million starts. Analysts expected a reading of 1.25 million starts. Housing starts were higher in the Northeast regions, but the Midwest, South and Western regions reported fewer starts in February than for January.

Permits for building new homes slipped by 5.70 percent in February, but ups and downs in construction activity during winter months can cause volatility in readings for permits and housing construction.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, New Jobless Claims Dip

Freddie Mac reported lower fixed mortgage rates for the first time in 2018; the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was two basis points lower at 4.44 percent, Rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 3.90 percent, which was four basis points lower than for the prior week. Mortgage rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged 3.67 percent, an increase of four basis points on average.

First time jobless claims dipped last week to 226,000 new claims. Analysts expected new claims to drop to 228,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 230,000 new jobless claims. The week ended on a positive note with consumer sentiment rising from an index reading of 99.7 to 102 in March. The Consumer Sentiment Index is produced by the University of Michigan.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include readings on sales of new and previously-owned homes; the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve will issue its customary post-meeting statement, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell will give a press conference after the FOMC statement. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.