What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 24, 2014

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week November 24 2014Last week’s scheduled economic news included the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and Existing Home Sales. FOMC meeting minutes were released along with weekly Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

In addition, the National Association of Realtors® suggested that FHA should lower its mutual mortgage insurance premiums (MMI) as its fund for paying claims has normalized since recession.

Homebuilder Confidence Nears Nine-Year High

The National Association of Home Builders/ Wells Fargo Housing Market Index achieved a reading of 58 for November. This was two points higher than the expected reading of 56 and four points above September’s reading. This was the fifth consecutive month of readings above 50.

Readings above 50 indicate that more builders are confident about housing market conditions than not. Components of the index improved with builder confidence in present sales of new homes up 5 points to a reading of 62, confidence in sales over the next six months rose by two points to 66, and the reading for prospective buyer traffic rose four points to 45.

Housing Starts Slow, Existing Home Sales Suggest Stronger Housing Market

Housing starts were lower by 2.80 percent in October at a seasonally-adjusted rate of 1.01 million against an expected reading of 1.03 million and September’s reading of 1.04 million homes started. October’s reading was affected by a 15.50 percent drop in multi-family construction, but single-family home construction increased by 4.20 percent. Analysts noted that the multi-family sector is notoriously volatile.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that the seasonally-adjusted annual rate of existing home sales for October exceeded the expected reading of 5.15 million with 5.26 million existing homes sold. October’s reading also surpassed September’s reading of 5.17 million previously-owned homes sold. October’s reading represented a 1.50 percent increase over September sales of existing homes, and was the highest reading since September 2013.

The median price of previously-owned homes rose to $208,500 in October, which represented a 5.50 percent increase year-over-year. The inventory of homes for sale is higher with a 5.1 month supply of homes available, which was a year-over-year increase of 5.20 percent. Higher inventories of homes available and low mortgage rates were seen as factors contributing to more home sales.

Builders, Realtors® Call for Lower FHA Premiums

Kevin Kelly, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors® called for the FHA to lower its mortgage insurance premiums. The cost of FHA loans, which require borrowers to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium and annual premiums that are pro-rated and added to monthly mortgage payments, were seen as an obstacle to first-time and moderate income homebuyers. This request was based on a report that indicated the FHA fund for paying mortgage insurance claims is in the black for the first time since 2011.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell across the board on Thursday with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage lower by two basis points at 3.99 percent, and the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage lower by three basis points at 3.17 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.01 percent. Average discount points remained the same for all loan types at 0.50 percent.

The Commerce Department reported that new jobless claims fell to 291,000 from the prior week’s reading of 293,000. Analysts expected a reading of 280.000 new jobless claims, but this was the tenth consecutive week of readings for fewer than 300,000 new jobless claims. The four-week rolling average of new claims rose by 1750 to a reading of 287,500. The four week average reduces the volatility of weekly jobless claims and provides a more accurate reading of unemployment trends.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled events include the Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices, FHFA’s House Price Index and New and Pending Home Sales reports. There are no reports set for Thursday or Friday due to the Thanksgiving Holiday.

USDA Mortgages: Take Advantage of These Low-Rate Mortgage Loans to Buy a New Home

USDA Mortgages: Take Advantage of These Low-rate Mortgage Loans to Buy a New HomeAre you thinking about buying a home in a rural or suburban area? If so, you’ll want to take a look at the United States Department of Agriculture’s mortgage programs as you may qualify for them.

In today’s blog post we’ll introduce the USDA Rural Development Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program, explain the benefits of this mortgage program and how to determine if you qualify.

What is a USDA Mortgage Loan?

The USDA mortgage program is one of a number of programs in which the federal government will guarantee a mortgage loan as long as the recipient meets certain criteria. The intent of this program is to provide a boost to residents of rural or suburban areas who are struggling to obtain a traditional mortgage.

USDA mortgage loans are an ideal solution for those who are looking for 15 or 30-year amortization periods as they tend to have lower interest rates than mortgages offered by banks and other lenders.

USDA Mortgage Loan Benefits

There are numerous benefits to USDA mortgages that make this an enticing option compared to a mortgage from a traditional lender. As these loans offer full 100 percent financing you won’t have to place a large down payment when buying the home. The USDA offers very competitive 15 and 30-year fixed interest rates, something you won’t find from many banks or other mortgage lenders.There’s also no maximum home purchase price with USDA mortgages, however note that you’ll still be limited by your risk and your ability to manage the monthly mortgage payment.

USDA Mortgage Loan Requirements

The USDA mortgage program is open to all homebuyers that meet a number of initial requirements. The home you intend to purchase has to be located in a rural area (as determined by the USDA) and it cannot be a vacation home or investment property. As with any mortgage, you’ll need a relatively clean credit history. Finally, note that your annual income will also be assessed and you’ll need to prove that you’re within 115 percent of the region’s median income.

As you can see, the USDA Rural Development Mortgage program can be an excellent option if you’re planning on buying a home in a rural or suburban area. Contact your local mortgage advisor today and they can explain the USDA home loan program and answer any questions that you might have.

FOMC Minutes: Economy Growing, Housing Lags

FOMC Minutes Economy Growing Housing LagsMinutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting held October 28 and 29 were released Wednesday. The report suggests that the U.S. economy continues to improve, although the annual inflation rate remains near 1.50 percent and short of the committee’s goal of 2.00 percent. Falling crude oil prices were cited as a cause of faltering inflation rates. The minutes indicated that FOMC members expect inflation to remain below the 2.00 percent benchmark for the next year or so.

The minutes did not reveal an exact date for raising the target federal funds rate, which is currently 0.00 to 0.250 percent, but analysts expect a rate change in mid-to-late 2015. One committee member said that the Fed should commit to keeping the target federal funds rate at its present level until inflation reaches the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent.

Job Markets Improve, Mortgage Rates Fall

FOMC members said that labor markets had improved “somewhat further.” The minutes noted that the national unemployment rate had declined to 5.90 percent in September, which was lower than the FOMC goal of 6.50 percent for national unemployment. While this was good news, FOMC discussed the fact that a significant number of part-time workers suggested under-utilization of the labor force. A combination of stronger labor markets and a 0.25 percent reduction of mortgage rates during the intermeeting period between September 17 and October 28 were seen as positive for housing markets, but the committee noted that mortgage lending standards for single-family homes had not changed much. Lending requirements were more accommodative for commercial real estate.

QE Ends, FOMC Seeks to Maintain “Accommodative” Financial Conditions

FOMC members voted to end asset purchases made under the Fed’s quantitative easing program, but said that ongoing reinvestment of principal payments on bonds and MBS with the goal of maintaining “sizeable” holdings of long-term securities. The minutes indicated that this would help maintain “accommodative” financial conditions.

The committee agreed to re-assert its position that although national unemployment and inflation may achieve or surpass FOMC goals, the committee could maintain the target federal funds rate at current levels for “some time” after the benchmarks are achieved. Ultimately, the FOMC’s decision to change the target federal funds rate will include thorough and ongoing review of global and domestic economic developments.

Committee members concluded this meeting with a decision to set the next FOMC meeting for December 16 and 17.

Three Key Tips to Help Ensure Your Mortgage Pre-Approval Isn’t Declined

Three Key Tips to Help Ensure Your Mortgage Pre-Approval Isn't DeclinedIf you’re thinking about buying a new home and using a mortgage to help cover some of the purchase costs, it’s a good idea to get an initial pre-approval from your lender before putting in an offer.

In today’s blog post we’ll share three quick tips that can help to ensure that your mortgage pre-approval isn’t declined.

Demonstrate Your Income and Good Credit

A mortgage is a major financial transaction and one that carries a certain amount of risk for the lender. It’s your goal to help them see that you have the ability to make your monthly payments and that there is very little risk in approving your mortgage. Be ready to demonstrate all of your sources of income and that your credit rating is clean.

It may be worth paying for your credit report before starting the pre-approval process so you can clean up any black marks or false reports and so that you can see what the lender will see when they check your credit history.

Choose the Right Property at the Right Price

As the home you’re buying will be used as collateral to back the mortgage, the lender will need to see that there is enough value in the home to cover the cost of the mortgage should you fail to pay it back. The “loan to value” or LTV ratio is the amount of your mortgage divided by the value of the home. For example, if you’re borrowing $150,000 to buy a home valued at $200,000, you’ll have a LTV ratio of 75 percent. Keep in mind that each lender will have their own target LTV that they prefer to work with, so you may need to shop around a bit.

Start the Process with Multiple Lenders

Finally, if you feel that your income or credit history isn’t perfect you may want to consider visiting a couple of different mortgage lenders to see what they can offer you. There are dozens of different mortgage products on the market today, and each lender has their own set of qualification criteria that they will use to assess risk and whether they feel that you can afford to pay the mortgage back. Getting a second opinion may help you to discover a more suitable mortgage or one with a better interest rate.

As you can see, there are a number of ways that you can work to ensure that your mortgage pre-approval passes without a hitch. For more information about pre-approvals and to get the process started, contact a local mortgage professional today. After you’re approved it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be moving in to your new home.

The Down Payment: Everything You Need to Know About Your Down Payment on a New Home

The Down Payment: Everything You Need to Know About Your Down Payment on a New HomeWhether you’re just starting to shop for a new home or you’ve found the perfect house and are crafting your offer, if you’re taking out a mortgage to help cover your real estate purchase you’ve likely given some thought to your down payment.

In today’s blog post we’ll explore the topic of down payments and share how the amount you put down on your home will affect your mortgage.

How Your Down Payment Affects Your Mortgage

As you know, your mortgage is essentially a large long-term loan that is paid back with interest over a set time period. If you put a large down payment against the purchase, you will not only reduce the amount that you’ll need to pay back, but you’ll also reduce the lender’s risk and this may allow them to provide you with lower interest rates.

Conversely, if you can’t place very much down on your home and you’re left borrowing as much as you can you may find that your mortgage comes with higher interest rates or that some mortgage lenders refuse your business entirely.

The Gold Standard: 20% of the Purchase Price

For the vast majority of homeowners it’s expected that they will be able to contribute at least 20 percent of the home’s purchase price. For example, if you are buying a $200,000 house you’ll need to have at least $40,000 available for your down payment. Note that the 20 percent figure isn’t a hard requirement; some mortgage lenders will be willing to approve you with less, but you may be subject to private mortgage insurance, higher interest rates and more.

Saving Up Your Down Payment

Depending on your financial situation and the cost of your home you may find that saving up 20 percent of the purchase price to put toward a down payment places a strain on your finances. If you still have a year or more before you’re ready to jump into the real estate market, consider putting some money aside each month that can be used for a down payment. If you receive any lump sum payments like a tax return, save this in your down payment fund as well.

As you can see, your down payment is one of the more important considerations you’ll have to make when buying your home with a mortgage. If you have questions about mortgages or down payments, be sure to call your local mortgage professional today as they’ll be able to share their guidance and expertise to help you make the best financial decision.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 17, 2014

Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing Costs Last week’s housing related news was lean, with no scheduled reports released other than Freddie Mac’s primary mortgage market survey.

We’ll start with some good news. The University of Michigan / Thompson-Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index reported its highest reading in more than seven years. November’s reading of 89.4 surpassed the expected reading of 88.0 and was higher than October’s reading of 86.9

Mortgage Rates Near 4.00 Percent, Weekly Jobless Claims Up

Freddie Mac reported a one-basis point drop in the average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgage from 4.02 percent to 4.01 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also fell by one basis point to 3.20 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by 5 basis points to 3.02 percent. Discount points for all three loan types held steady at an average of 0.50 percent.

Weekly jobless claims rose by 12,000 to 290,000 against expectations of 280,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 278,000.

Last week’s report was the ninth straight week that new jobless claims came in under 300,000. The reading for the four-week rolling average was 285,000 new jobless claims, which represented an increase of 6,000 new claims.

What’s Ahead

This week’s number of scheduled economic reports will be more robust. The NAHB Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales reports will be released.

The minutes of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting of the Federal Reserve will also be released along with weekly mortgage rates and jobless claims data.

Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs This Winter in Just Three Easy Steps

Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs This Winter in Just Three Easy Steps It doesn’t matter if you heat your home with electricity, natural gas or some other energy source; prices continue to rise and that means increased heating costs for most of us.

In today’s blog post we’ll share three easy ways that you can save money on your home energy costs this winter.

Install and Use Programmable Thermostats

Now that Nest and other companies have brought Wi-Fi enabled, programmable thermostats on the market there’s very few excuses to avoid using them. At bare minimum you’ll want a digital thermostat that can be programmed to turn on and off at certain hours of the day.

For example, you can shut your heat off after leaving for work and have it turn back on again a half-hour or so before you get home. You can do the same at night when you’re fast asleep under warm blankets. If possible, try to get a thermostat for each room so that rooms can be heated individually as needed.

Switch Up Your Ceiling Fans

If you have ceiling fans you may not know that by reversing their direction you can keep your rooms feeling much warmer. In the winter you’ll want your fans spinning in a clockwise direction, which will push warm air downward into the room where you’ll be able to feel it. In the summer you’ll want to switch the fans back to counter-clockwise as this will help move warm air towards the ceiling.

Check Your Insulation, Furnace and Ducts Now

Finally, you’ll want to check that your home heating system is operating at peak efficiency. If you can access your attic, check to ensure that your insulation is tightly packed and that it’s still in good condition. Clean or replace the air filter on your furnace, and check your ducts for any leaks that need to be repaired. If it has been a few years, consider having a professional furnace and duct cleaning to get all of the dust and debris out of the ductwork.

As you can see, a little time spent on home maintenance can end up saving quite a bit in energy costs when the temperatures drop. When you’re ready to look at buying a newer, more energy-efficient home, contact your local real estate agent and book a consultation where you can share your needs and price range.

Refinancing Your Mortgage: Understanding the Various Types of Refinancing

Refinancing Your Mortgage: Understanding the Various Types of RefinancingWhether you’ve been thinking about ways that you can draw on your home equity to fund a renovation project or you want to take advantage of low interest rates before they rise again, refinancing your mortgage is an excellent option.

In today’s blog post we’ll introduce mortgage refinancing and discuss a few of the ways that you can use this tool to help accomplish your financial goals.

Cash-In and Cash-Out Refinancing

Many homeowners refinance their mortgage in order to take some of the home equity out for other purposes. In a “cash-out” refinancing, you take out a new mortgage loan which is greater in value than your current loan. After paying off the existing mortgage you’ll receive a check for the difference which can then be reinvested in home upgrades or put to use elsewhere in your financial portfolio. You may also be able to get a better interest rate in this type of refinancing, saving additional money over the long term.

Do you owe more on your mortgage than your home is currently worth but still want to take advantage of lower interest rates? If so, “cash-in” refinancing is an option that can help you to avoid the mortgage insurance costs that you may be facing when you refinance. As the name implies, cash-in refinancing will provide you with a loan that is for less than the amount that you currently owe, so you’ll need to add “cash-in” to make up the difference.

Home Affordable Refinance Program or “HARP” Refinancing

If you find that you’re unable to refinance your mortgage as the value of your home has declined, the federal government’s Home Affordable Refinance or “HARP” Program may be an option. HARP was developed to assist homeowners in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the resulting instability that was caused in the real estate and mortgage markets. If you have been making your mortgage payments on time, have a mortgage guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and your current “Loan to Value” ratio is greater than 80% it’s likely that you’ll qualify for HARP refinancing.

The above are just a few of the ways that you can refinance a mortgage to better suit your needs and financial goals. Contact your local mortgage professional today to learn more about refinancing and to discuss how you can tap in to the home equity that you’ve built up over time.

How to Use a Mortgage Calculator to Determine Your Monthly Payments, Interest and More

How to Use a Mortgage Calculator to Determine Your Monthly Payments, Interest and MoreAre you thinking about using a mortgage to buy a new home? Buying your own piece of local real estate is a major financial investment and one that can require some pretty complex math to fully understand.

In this blog post we’ll discuss mortgage calculators and how to use one of these tools to determine your monthly mortgage payments, interest charges, amortization periods and more.

Determining Your Principal and Down Payment Amounts

To get started with a mortgage calculator you’ll need to know how the price of the home and how much you intend to contribute as a down payment. Generally speaking you’ll want to place a down payment of at least 20 percent in order to avoid having to pay for private mortgage insurance and to give you access to better interest rates.

Choosing Your Interest Rate and Amortization Period

Now that you have an idea of the amount of mortgage financing you’ll need, the next step is to choose your interest rate and amortization period. Different lenders will offer different interest rates for every one of their mortgage products, so again you’ll want to play around with these numbers and run the calculation to see which combination of mortgage financing, interest rate and amortization period gives you a monthly payment that suits your budget.

Using a Mortgage Calculator for Refinancing

If you’re thinking about refinancing your current mortgage you can also use a mortgage calculator to help make the math a bit easier. Simply use your outstanding mortgage balance as the principal amount and then choose an amortization schedule that fits your financial goals. Be sure to keep an eye on your interest payments, as you may find that by refinancing to a longer amortization period your monthly payments go down but your total interest paid is quite a bit higher.

Don’t Forget the Closing Costs

Finally, don’t forget that there are numerous “closing costs” – fees, taxes and more – which you’ll need to factor in to your overall calculation. Closing costs will include everything from home appraisal fees to government filing fees and property taxes, and will vary depending on the home and the city or community you’re buying in.

While online mortgage calculators can handle the tricky math to determine monthly payments and interest costs you may still find that you have questions about your mortgage or some aspect of the process. For more information, contact your local mortgage professional and they’ll be happy to share their advice and expertise.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 10, 2014

Negotiation Tips: How to Ask the Seller to Pay the Closing CostsLast week’s economic reports contained mixed reports indicating that the economy continues to recover with occasional “blips” in its progress. Construction spending was lower than expected.

A Federal Reserve survey of senior loan officers indicated that credit standards remain strict for mortgages and other types of lending. According to the survey, a “modest net fraction” of large banks had eased credit standards for prime mortgage lending.

First-Time Homebuyers Struggle as Market Share Hits 27-Year Low

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reported that first-time buyers’ share of home purchases has slipped to 33 percent, which was its lowest level in 27 years. According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, high home prices and mortgage insurance costs along with strict mortgage credit requirements continue to sideline first-time buyers.

In other news, the Department of Commerce reported that construction spending dropped by 0.40 percent in September as compared August’s reading of -0.50 percent and an expected reading of +0.70 percent. September’s reading represented a seasonally-adjusted annual construction spending rate of $950.90 billion.

Mortgage Rates: Average 30-Year Mortgage Rate Tops Four Percent

Average mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 4.02 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by eight basis points to 3.21 percent, while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rose by three basis points from 2.94 percent to 2.97 percent. Average discount points remained at 0.50 percent for all three types of mortgages.

This is not altogether bad news, as higher mortgage rates are typically prompted by improving economic conditions. 2014 started with an average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages of 4.05 percent.

Labor Reports Suggest Stronger Jobs Markets

Last week’s economic news included several reports that indicated improvements in U.S. labor markets. The Department of Labor released its Non-Farm Payrolls report for October with a reading of 214,000 jobs added against expectations of 243,000 jobs added and September’s reading of 256,000 jobs added. While this appears contrary to stronger labor markets, analysts said that a new low in the national unemployment rate of 5.80 percent indicated that fewer new jobs were needed. October was the ninth consecutive month reporting 200,000 or more jobs added.

The ADP employment report, which tracks payrolls in the private sector, reported an increase of 5,000 jobs from September’s reading of 225,000 jobs to October’s reading of 230,000 jobs.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 278,000 against expectations of 285,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 288,000 new claims filed. This reading supports a stronger jobs market and may compel would-be home buyers to enter the market as concerns about unemployment and jobs wanes.

The national unemployment rate reached a new low with October’s reading of 5.80 percent. In related news, Fed Chair Janet Yellen indicated in a speech on Friday that the target Federal funds rate will likely rise in 2015, but she gave neither a prospective date nor details about how much the benchmark federal funds rate may rise.