Apr 05

3 Ways to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Your Home Renovation Project

do-it-yourself-kitchen-remodeling-ideasThe right home renovation strategy can increase property values and improve the comfort and utility of your space. However, your actions could have a harsh impact on our natural resources.

Here are several ways you can reduce your renovation’s effect on the environment.

Use Sustainable Products

Choose Earth-friendly materials for a greener build.

Try reclaimed flooring. Ask permission at construction sites or search internet exchange boards to find unwanted extras. With a little artistic imagination, you can turn those cast-offs into a unique visual display.
Re-purpose existing material. Turn old doors into unique furniture pieces like tables and privacy shades to spruce up your new space.
Pick low-VOC paints to eliminate harsh chemicals in your immediate environment.
The best way to lower your impact on the Earth is to carefully choose which products you use in your project.

Evaluate Your Trash

Think about what you’re putting in the dumpster. Instead of taking up space in a landfill, many items can be redistributed and put to better use.

Donate household items that are no longer needed in your new space to your favorite charity.
Contact your local Habitat for Humanity office to help your community by donating your unused construction materials.
Contact your local school district. Some teachers take community donations to use in their classrooms.
Your trash could be someone else’s treasure. Don’t toss out something that others might need.

Take Care Of Your Immediate Area

Your environment includes the area in which you live. Use these tips to keep your property pristine during and after construction.

Rent a dumpster to make clean up easier. Pick up tools, trash, and other items at the end of each work session.
Use plastic tarps to protect landscaping and plant life from flying debris or chemical sprays.
Dispose of chemicals properly. Never pour paints, solvents, or other chemicals into your plumbing system or down a municipal drain.
Protect your neighborhood by taking careful actions during your build.

A home renovation is a fresh start for your property. Make it even more enjoyable by adding these Earth-friendly strategies to your construction plan.

If you’re planning on completing a home renovation, it might be the right time to access some of your home equity. Contact your trusted mortgage professional to learn about the best financing options available.

Apr 04

Case-Shiller Home Price Growth Slower in January

house sold with signHome price indices issued by S&P Case-Shiller showed further slowing in home price growth in January. The national home price index showed 4.30 percent home price growth for the three months ended in January. Analysts expected home prices to grow 4.20 percent for the same period in cities surveyed by Case-Shiller. More cities reported declines in home prices than those that posted gains in home prices.

The top cities posting year-over-year home price gains in the 20-City Home Price Index were Las Vegas, Nevada with 10.50 percent growth; Phoenix, Arizona posted a year-over-year home price gain of 7.50 percent. Three cities tied for third place with Charlotte, North Carolina, Minneapolis, Minnesota and Tampa, Florida posting year-over-year home price growth rates of 5.10 percent.

Home Price Growth Stalls Throughout U.S.

Noteworthy in January’s readings were the West Coast’s loss of dominance in home price growth rates and the retreat of double-digit yearly growth rates for home prices. Las Vegas, Nevada posted the only double-digit price gain year-over-year, but it suffered steep declines in home values during the recession. The 20-City HPI for January showed month-to-month home price growth slowed in 14 cities, was unchanged in one city and five cities posted gains in home price growth rates.

David M. Blitzer, managing director and chair of the S&P Case-Shiller Index Committee, said that the home prices had not grown so slowly since April 2015. Rapidly rising home prices sidelined many buyers who could not afford to keep up with home prices that rose faster than inflation and wages. Analysts said that housing markets were leaning in favor of home buyers as home price growth slowed. Mr. Blitzer said that it “remains to be seen if recent low mortgage rates and smaller price gains can sustain improved home sales.”

Federal Reserve policymakers recently announced that the Fed would hold steady on its target federal funds rate range of 2.25 to 2.50 percent; this fueled a drop in mortgage rates. Analysts said that rates could continue to fall. Slower home price growth and lower mortgage rates are expected to encourage would-be home buyers back into the market.

If you are interested in purchasing a new property or refinancing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional to discuss financing options.

Apr 03

Are Multi-Unit Properties the Right Move for You?

best-coop-lenders-234x300Real estate isn’t a one-size-fits-all pursuit. Buying and renting multi-unit properties is one of the ways investors build residual income while increasing their property portfolios. However, multi-unit rentals come with some unique challenges. Are you ready to manage a multi-unit rental property?

Ask yourself these questions to help you decide which path best fits your resources, goals, and interests.

Do You Plan To Live On The Property?

Living in one of your rental units offers a myriad of benefits. First, you get to keep a close eye on building conditions and the actions of your renters. Next, you’ll be able to respond quickly to an emergency. Last, you won’t have to pay extra for your own living quarters. You won’t have this option with single-occupancy properties.

Will You Work With A Property Management Company?

If you are more of a hands-off investor, a property management company makes owning properties simple. Their staff will collect the rents, respond to requests for maintenance and repairs, and take care of all the paperwork that comes along with rental units.

All you need to do is collect your portion of the payments and keep up with your bank loans. You can still work with a property management company if you opt for single-family properties. However, it may not be the most cost-effective solution in that situation.

Are Market Conditions In Your Area Changing Quickly?

When rental prices go up, it can be difficult for investors to take advantage. Long-term occupants may balk at the idea of paying more for the same property. With multi-unit buildings, you can raise prices as tenants vacate. In this way, you can keep your current occupants happy without sacrificing potential profits.

Are You Looking For More Ways To Increase Your Income?

Multi-unit properties are a unique opportunity for enterprising investors. Rent out space under stairways or in common areas to vending machine companies. Your residents get convenient snacks and you earn a little extra cash each month. A coin-operated laundry room is another addition that adds value for your residents while increasing your own payouts.

Managing a multi-unit building means more paperwork, maintenance, and marketing. However, the potential profits might be worth it. Take some time to review your own goals and abilities before committing to a purchase.

Be sure to consult with your trusted real estate and mortgage professionals to find out more information about purchasing multi-unit rentals.

Apr 02

What Causes Mortgage Interest Rates To Fluctuate?

economic-growth-and-developmentThe mortgage interest rate represents the cost of borrowing money to purchase a property. Mortgage interest rates are not fixed; that is, they fluctuate from one period of time to the next.

Many different factors play into what your mortgage interest rate will finally turn out to be. Some of these factors have to deal with the economy and government decisions. Other factors have to do with your personal financial situation.

Finally, mortgage interest rates can differ between lending institutions, which is why you may get different mortgage interest rate quotes from different places.

Economic Factors That Cause Mortgage Interest Rates To Fluctuate

Mortgage interest rates are somewhat connected to the stock market. When the stock market indexes go up, mortgage rates tend to rise as well. The Consumer Price Index is a measure of inflation rates. When inflation rises, you can expect to see mortgage interest rates go up, too. Other economic factors that affect mortgage interest rates include Data from the Gross Domestic Product, Consumer Confidence, and Home Sales reports.

Government Decisions That Lead To Mortgage Interest Rate Changes

The federal government keeps close tabs on the economy. Government officials are always making adjustments in order to keep the economy strong. Periodically, the government will raise or lower key interest rates in order to adjust bank lending economics. When the government raises or lowers the Federal Funds interest rate, it is always announced in the media.

Personal Financials And Your Mortgage Interest Rate

Finally, your personal financial situation influences what kind of mortgage interest rate your lender offers. A higher credit score will generally get you a lower mortgage interest rate. This is another reason why it’s always a good idea to review and improve your credit score before applying for a mortgage.

When you are ready to apply for a mortgage, meet with a trusted home mortgage professional. Because mortgage interest rates fluctuate often, you could find that the interest rate gets higher in the short time in which you’re still shopping for your home. Once you do find an attractive program for your personal situation, be sure that you are ready to take the necessary steps to lock in that rate.

Apr 01

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 1st, 2019

board-of-the-federal-reserveLast week’s economic reports included readings from Case-Shiller on home price growth, Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued. The Conference Board issued its monthly reading on consumer confidence. Pending home sales and weekly reports on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims were also released.

Case-Shiller Home Price Indices: Price Growth Slows in January

S&P Case-Shiller Indices reported the slowest rate of home price growth in six years. January readings suggested that home price growth slowed due to easing demand. Affordability concerns sidelined buyers; participation of first-time home buyers remained lower than average.

Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index charted its third month-to-month decline in home price growth; the National Home Price Index fell to 4.30 percent during the three months ending in January as compared to 4.60 percent growth for the three month period ending in October 2018.

Las Vegas, Nevada led the 20-City Home Price Index with year-over-year home price growth of 10.50 percent. Phoenix, Arizona held second place with 7.50 percent home price growth. Third place was tied by Minneapolis, Minnesota, Charlotte, North Caroline and Tampa, Florida with 5.10 percent growth. This tie suggested that home prices were leveling out, and west coast cities were notably absent from the top three spots after home prices rocketed to historic levels in recent years.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Issued

Commerce Department readings for housing starts and building permits issued were lower in February. Housing starts posted on a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.162 million starts. Analysts expected 1.201 million starts based on February’s reading of 1.273 million housing starts. Single-family housing starts fell 17 percent in March.

Regional readings for housing starts were mixed: The Northeast reading was 30 percent lower; the Southern region posted 7 percent fewer starts in February and housing starts in the West fell 19 percent. The Midwest posted a positive year-over-year growth rate of 27 percent for housing starts.

Fewer building permits were issued in February with 1.295 million permits issued as compared to February’s reading of 1.317 million permits issued. While some of the slowdowns in housing starts and building permits were likely related to winter weather, real estate and mortgage lending pros continued to count on home builders to provide more homes to ease housing shortages in many cities and metro areas.

Pending home sales were lower in February; the National Association of Realtors® said pending sales were 1.00 percent lower in February, and those pending sales had declined nearly 5.00 percent year-over-year. Pending sales represent home sales for which purchase offers have been signed, but not completed.

Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®, said a shortage of available homes in the West coupled with rapidly rising home prices contributed to lower pending sales numbers.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Fall

Average mortgage rates fell to their lowest readings in ten years last week. Freddie Mac reported that rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 22 basis points lower at 4.06 percent; the average rate for 15-year fixed rate mortgages fell 14 basis points to 3.57 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.75 percent and were 9 basis points lower.

Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages, 0.40 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. Lower mortgage rates are expected to prevail as the Fed announced its decision not to raise the target federal funds rate range in 2019.

Consumer confidence fell to an index reading of 124.1 in February as compared to 131.4 in January. Analysts expected an index reading of 133, which indicates that consumers have less confidence in current economic conditions.

What‘s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on retail sales, construction spending and labor sector reports on jobs and national unemployment. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and first-time jobless claims will also be released.

Mar 28

14 Remodeling Projects That Increase the Value of Your Home

calculatorYour home is likely your largest investment. Beyond repairs and regular maintenance to keep it clean, comfortable, and safe, there are a number of projects that can increase the resale value of your property. These renovations top the list of changes you can make that positively impact your home’s value.

Kitchen

With the right strategy, your kitchen remodel could return up to 92.9% of your construction investment. The trick is to not overdo it. You don’t need to gut and rebuild the entire room. Instead, make strategic upgrades that increase the comfort and usability of the room.

Paint wooden cabinets or install new doors and fixtures.
Install track lighting or LED features.
Refresh or change countertops.
Refurbish flooring and spruce up walls with warm, neutral colors that are easy to clean.
Invest in new appliances right before you put your home on the market to catch the eye of potential buyers and pull them in.

Odd Spaces

Older homes with distinctive architecture stand out from the crowd of cookie-cutter residences. However, these unique buildings often hide a lot of unused space. Make the most of every inch of your home to entice buyers to place a bid.

Convert a basement into a bonus room.
Turn the space underneath a staircase into a storage closet.
Divide oversized dining rooms to create a small home office.
Most buyers aren’t looking for a long-term project. Instead of pointing out the potential of your property, make it easy to see by getting creative with odd spaces.

Increase Energy Efficiency

The average monthly utility bill can easily cost a homeowner $200 per month. Help potential buyers lower their monthly costs by installing energy-efficient options throughout the home.

Install a solar water heater.
Change the windows to more energy-efficient models.
Add extra insulation to outer rooms and around doors and windows.
Use LED lighting outdoors and throughout the home.
You may be able to get some help paying for your earth-friendly upgrades with state and federal incentives.

Bathrooms

After the kitchen, bathrooms are the most scrutinized feature of homes for sale. Once again, a little goes a long way in these rooms.

Update fixtures with shiny metals for a modern look.
Change out the toilet seat.
Fix up the shower tiles and head.
These projects don’t take a lot of time. However, they can offer a big payoff when you decide to sell your home.

If you are looking for a new home or interested in refinancing your current property, contact your trusted home mortgage professional to discuss current financing options.

Mar 27

4 Ways To Get Your Home Loan Closed Faster

consumer1You’ve finally found the perfect home for your family. Now the only thing standing between you and domestic bliss is the loan process. Use these techniques to shorten the amount of time between placing your bid and getting the final approval on your new home mortgage.

Perfect Your Credit Rating

Your credit score is a measure of your financial responsibility. Lenders look closely at your creditworthiness in their attempt to decide your loan’s risk. Before you start shopping, take some time to clean up your credit history.

Some credit habits that help shorten your loan approval period include:

At least one year of on-time payments for utilities, loans, and other regular obligations.
A low debt-to-income ratio.
A credit utilization rate of 20% or less.
Lenders spend less time researching your financial history when your credit report is clear, which means you spend less time waiting to move in.

Practice Patience

Driven by the excitement of their new home purchase, many buyers spend the closing period investing in new furniture and appliances for their potential home. However, it’s better to wait until the final paperwork goes through before committing to new lines of credit.

Even after applications are filed, lenders still monitor your credit usage. Suddenly spending large amounts of money can cause red flags that delay your loan processing. Practice a little restraint and wait until you’re sure the process is complete before indulging in a spending spree.

Stabilize Yourself

Your ability to repay is a big part of your creditworthiness. A long and solid work history is your best ally in the fight for quality loan products. Establish at least one year of solid work history before starting the loan application process. Hold off on any career changes until you’re comfortably moved into your new residence.

Open The Lines Of Communication

Stay in touch with your trusted home mortgage professional to ensure a smooth loan process. If you move or change your phone number, be sure to update your information right away. While most institutions are very professional about keeping loan applicants updated, don’t be afraid to call and ask about the status of your account. If you feel you haven’t heard back in a timely manner, send a short email or leave a voicemail to ensure you haven’t missed any important requests.

These tips help you spend less time waiting and more time enjoying your new home purchase.

Mar 26

3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy Your First Home

fotolia 3663046 XSHunting for your new home can be a confusing process. There are countless factors you need to take into account to ensure your new location fits your family’s lifestyle and preferences. In their excitement, first-time home buyers can easily overlook some essential points about their potential property.

When you’re searching for your new residence, ask these questions to get exactly what you’re looking for.

Am I Financially Ready For A New Home Purchase?

It takes more than money to find the right home. Your credit rating is an important factor in your ability to secure enough funding to finance your dream. Check out your credit score before you buy to make sure you won’t have to settle for less.

Some of the things you have the greatest control over include:

Payment history
Credit utilization ratio
Debt-to-income ratio
Even with a large down payment, having a questionable credit history can endanger your chances of qualifying for mortgage loans. Spend some time shining up your credit report for the best results. Getting a pre-approved home loan is a great way to find out how much house you can afford before you start shopping.

Is This The Right Neighborhood For Me?

No matter how beautiful the structure itself is, your house won’t seem like a home unless you’re comfortable with the surrounding neighborhood. Take a walk around your potential block to assess the area and compare it to your needs.

For families with children, are there high-quality schools in the area?
Do your neighbors’ homes seem well-kept?
What amenities (dry cleaner, grocery stores, parks, etc) do you want in your community?
How do the roads and sidewalks look?
Before committing to a purchase, visit the home at different times of the day to get an idea of what you might have to live with.

Am I Ready To Settle Down?

Align your home purchase with your future goals. If you know you’re planning to move out-of-state in the next several years, take that into account when shopping for a home. Will you be able to sell quickly enough before you leave? Or do you plan to retain ownership of the home and rent it out while you’re away?

Think about the directions your life might take in the next 5 to 10 years. By looking ahead, you can make a better plan for the best home you can afford which will accommodate you and your family in the years to come.

Buying your first home is a major decision. Knowing your goals, desires, and abilities before agreeing to a purchase a home will make you the most comfortable moving forward.

One of the best partners in your home purchase process will be your trusted mortgage professional. Be sure to make contact as soon as you are considering a new home purchase to start the pre-approval process.

Mar 25

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 25th, 2019

board-of-the-federal-reserveLast week’s economic news included readings from the National Association of Home Builders, Federal Reserve Federal Open Market Committee and a press conference by Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

Sales of pre-owned homes in February were reported along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

NAHB: Builder Confidence Unchanged Despite Headwinds

Home builders remained confident about housing market conditions in March. The NAHB Housing Market Index posted a reading of 62, which matched February’s reading and fell one point short of expectations. NAHB Index readings above 50 represent a positive outlook on housing market conditions.

Home builders continued to face obstacles including high materials costs and lack of buildable lots and labor. Analysts said builders focused on building larger homes, which were not affordable for many prospective buyers.

FOMC: Fed Puts Brakes on Interest Rate Hikes

Monetary policymakers reversed course on raising the target range for federal funds and voted not to raise the current rate range of 2.25 to 2.50 percent. FOMC members cited global economic concerns including Brexit and wavering economic conditions in China.

While the U.S. Labor sector was strong with ongoing jobs and wage growth and low national unemployment, FOMC members said that the Fed could be “patient” about raising rates and did not expect to raise rates in 2019. Slowing economic growth and inflation were reasons for holding interest rates steady.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell described the current economy as “good” and said that the Fed would gradually roll back its accommodative purchase of treasury bonds. This news was likely to cause yields on 10-year Treasury notes to fall; this would cause mortgage rates to fall due to their connection with 10-year Treasury notes.

Pre-Owned Home Sales Hit 11 Month High in February

The National Association of Realtors® reported 5.50 million sales of pre-owned homes on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. February sales reading fell short of 5.12 million sales expected but were higher than the rate of 4.93 million sales in January.

February’s reading was 11.80 percent higher than January’s sales. The sales pace was 1.80 percent lower year-over-year, but the median sale price of preowned homes was $249,500., which was 3.60 percent higher year-over-year.

First-time buyers accounted for 34 percent of sales; this falls short of the typical 40 percent participation rate for first-time buyers. Affordability and strict mortgage qualification requirements continued to challenge first-time and moderate-income buyers.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported lower average rates for fixed rate mortgages. 30-year fixed mortgage rates were three basis points lower and averaged 4.28 percent; Mortgage rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 3.71 percent and were five basis points lower on average. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage was unchanged at 3.84 percent. Discount points averaged 0.40 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims were lower last week with 221,000 new claims filed. Analysts expected 225,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 230,000 new claims filed.

What‘s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on housing starts and building permits issued, new and pending home sales and inflation. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

Mar 22

5 Financial Terms Every Real Estate Investor Should Know

buying real estateThe success of your real estate ventures depends on your ability to navigate the financial world. Learn these terms to make it easier to understand what’s going on with your real estate investments.

Cash Flow

Contrary to popular belief, cash flow isn’t just the amount of liquid assets you have available. Your cash and unused lines of credit are an essential indicator of your ability to complete projects and pay the cost of ongoing operations. However, these factors don’t tell the whole financial story.

Your actual cash flow is the difference between your gross income and your financial obligations. You can have a large cash reserve but still have a negative cash flow if you aren’t making enough to cover your obligations.

Gross Yield

When evaluating potential properties, it’s helpful to understand the gross yield. To calculate gross yield, divide the annual income you expect the property to produce by the property’s price. This number comes in handy for comparing properties and narrowing down your options.

Amortization

Lending institutions offer a variety of loan structures to fit your goals and financial standing. An amortized loan features a set amount of interest. This amount is integrated into each monthly payment. That means that borrowers are paying on the loan’s principal and paying down their interest liabilities from the very first payment.

Amortization is an excellent way to quickly build equity. This enables real estate investors to use existing properties to fund other projects without having to sell off their holdings.

Carrying Costs

Flippers and other short-term real estate investors need to keep a close eye on their carrying costs. These are all the expenses incurred after the initial purchase and before the property is sold for profit. Carrying costs include mortgage and interest payments, utility bills, taxes, and insurance.

The best way to limit carrying costs is to flip your property as quickly as possible. However, sudden changes in the market, illness, and other unexpected factors can prolong your need to make monthly payments. In this event, investors should carefully monitor their cash flow to ensure they don’t end up losing their entire investment.

Double Close

Wholesale home buyers often already have an exit strategy before signing on new properties. In this case, a double closing allows the wholesaler to purchase the property and sell it to a new buyer in a single transaction. This is also sometimes called a back-to-back closing.

Knowing these terms will make it easier for you to manage the financial details of your real estate investments as well as partnering with a trusted and skilled home mortgage professional.

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