FOMC Statement: No Year-End Surprises

You Ask, We Answer: How to Choose Between Expanding Your Current Home and Buying a New OneThe Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said in its last statement for 2014 that although economic conditions have improved at a moderate pace, the Fed believes that the target federal funds rate of between 0.00 and 0.25 percent remains “appropriate.” While labor markets show expanding job growth and lower unemployment rates, FOMC members noted that housing markets are recovering slowly.

Inflation remains below the committee’s target rate of two percent; this was attributed to lower fuel costs. Household income and business investment were seen as increasing, and the underutilization of workforce resources was described as “diminishing.” These developments indicate better economic conditions for consumers, business and job seekers, as employers picked up the pace of hiring.

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Target Fed Funds Rate Unchanged

No year-end changes in monetary policy were made; the Fed issued its usual statement that developing economic conditions would guide the Committee’s decisions concerning the target federal funds rate. The FOMC statement said that changes could be made according to progress toward or away from achieving the Fed’s dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability. No specific date was given for raising the target federal funds rate. The FOMC statement noted that no change is likely as long as the inflation rate remains below the Fed’s longer-term target of two percent.

The FOMC statement was followed by a press conference given by Janet Yellen, fed chair and Chair of the FOMC.

Fed Chair: Oil Price Influence on Inflation “Transitory”

Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve and FOMC, said that she expects lower oil prices to be a transitory influence on inflation, which continues to run lower than the Fed’s target rate of two percent. Media representatives noted that Chair Yellen replaced the phrase “considerable time” with “patient” in reference to when the Fed might raise the target federal funds rate.

Ms. Yellen said that the gross domestic product (GDP) had increased by 2.50 percent over the prior four quarters ending with the third quarter of 2014, and said that the economy continues to grow at approximately the same pace. Concerning falling inflation, Ms. Yellen said that she expected the inflation rate to increase after transitory influences including oil prices dissipate. The Fed Chair said that she perceived lower oil prices to be a positive development for the U.S. economy on net.

In response to questions about when the Fed would raise the target federal funds rate, Chair Yellen said that it would likely occur sometime in 2015 and also mentioned “sometime after the next couple of FOMC meetings. This suggests that mid 2015 may bring a change, but Ms. Yellen repeated the Fed’s oft-stated position that continual review of economic conditions and developing trends would impact any decision to change or not change the federal funds rate.

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Home Builder Index Stays Near Nine Year Peak

Home Builder Sentiment slipped to a reading of 57 in December according to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index. November’s reading of 58 prompted analysts to project a reading of 59 for December. The latest reading marks the sixth consecutive month for readings above 50. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are positive about housing market conditions than not.

The one-point decline in December’s reading kept the NAHB Housing Market Index within two points of a nine-year high reached in September.

NAHB: Housing Market Index Suggests Slow Return to Normalcy

NAHB’s chief economist, David Crowe, said that December’s reading was in line with NAHB’s assessment that housing markets are on a “slow march back to normal.” Home builder confidence in conditions contributing to the NAHB Housing Market Index also fell in two categories while remaining unchanged in one.

The gauge of builder confidence in current market conditions moved from last month’s reading of 62 to 61. Builder confidence in upcoming home sales fell from 65 to 64, while confidence in prospective buyer traffic was unchanged at a reading of 45. These results are consistent with real estate market trends slowing during the holiday season and winter months.

Builders Challenged in 2014, Better Conditions Expected in 2015

Analysts said that steady builder confidence may be a result of builders surviving a tough year in 2015. Market conditions, unpredictable interest rates and higher costs of supplies along with high unemployment subdued builder confidence during 2014. The New Year brings prospects of easing mortgage standards and better labor markets, which are expected to boost builder confidence as more home buyers enter the market for new homes.

The Commerce Department is set to release Housing Starts for November on December 16; analysts expect an increase to 1.035 million starts on a seasonally adjusted annual basis as compared to October’s reading of 1.01 million starts. A positive reading for housing starts could further bolster home builder confidence for future readings.

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You Ask, We Answer: How to Choose Between Expanding Your Current Home and Buying a New One

You Ask, We Answer: How to Choose Between Expanding Your Current Home and Buying a New OneDoes your home feel like it’s starting to burst at the seams? Many homeowners across the country can relate to this feeling having bought a home only to run out of space due to a growing family or for other reasons. Let’s take a quick look at a few questions that will help you to determine whether buying a new home or expanding your current home is the best choice when you’re in need of some extra space.

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Why Are You in Need of More Space?

The first question you’ll need to answer is…”why?” Are you running out of space because you’ve decided to start a family and have another child on the way? Or perhaps you’ve decided to start a business out of your home and you’ve outgrown the small room you had set aside as your office? Whatever the case, a major renovation or a move to a new home are both major decisions and ones that shouldn’t be made lightly. Sit down with your family and consider why you need more space and what you would do with a larger home if you had one.

How Much Space Do You Need?

“How much space” is another consideration that you’ll need to make in order to come to the best decision between expansion and buying a new home. If you find that your needs are perfectly suited except for that missing bedroom you may want to undergo a renovation. Conversely, if you find that you could use at least 2 or 3 new rooms and some extra room in the garage, you may want to start shopping for a new home.

Note that expanding your home to add an extra bedroom will provide a limited amount of additional space – space which may end up feeling constrained later if your family or needs continue to grow. If you’re thinking bigger over the long term, you’ll likely be better served in finding a larger home that has extra room that you can grow into.

Other Factors for Consideration

If you’re thinking about expanding your current home you’ll want to consider how this will impact the other rooms in the house. Are you going to feel the need to renovate every room once that new bedroom is added? If so, is renovating a wise investment or should you simply move on to a newer home?

Living in a more spacious home is a liberating experience that your entire family will enjoy. Contact your local real estate agent today to learn more about buying larger properties and to view available real estate opportunities in your area.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 8, 2014

Last week’s economic reports related to housing and mortgages were few, but construction spending, the Fed’s Beige Book report, non-farm payrolls and the national unemployment report indicated trends for the end of the year.

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Construction Spending Increases

U.S. construction spending rose by 1.10 percent in October according to the Commerce Department. This reading translates to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of $971 billion. Analysts had expected an increase of 0.70 percent based on September’s original reading of -0.40 percent, but September’s reading was revised to -0.10 percent on Tuesday. Private spending on residential projects increased 1.30 percent.

Federal Reserve Beige Book Indicates Economic Improvement, or Not

Oil prices were cited by participants in the Federal Reserve’s survey of regional business leaders; Texas and the Gulf coast areas noted that falling oil prices were a threat to those economies, while other participants said that lower prices at the gas pump were putting more cash in consumers’ pockets. The report noted upward pressure on both minimum wages and higher wages for skilled workers. Wages have remained mostly flat while consumer costs have increased; higher wages can provide more discretionary income for consumers and may build confidence for would-be home buyers that have been waiting for more positive economic trends.

Freddie Mac: Mortgage Rates Down

Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of average mortgage rates brought good news for home buyers and homeowners seeking to refinance their mortgages. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 3.97 percent to 3.89 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.10 percent from last week’s reading of 3.17 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped to 2.94 percent from last week’s reading of 3.01 percent. Average discount points were unchanged for all loan types at 0.50 percent.

Labor Data Mixed, Unemployment Rate Unchanged

Weekly jobless claims beat expectations by 1000 fewer jobless claims with a reading of 297,000 new claims against expectations of 298,000 new claims. The prior week’s reading was higher at 314,000 new jobless claims. The Commerce Department also released Non-Farm Payrolls figures for November with 321,000 jobs added against expectations of 235,000 jobs added and October’s reading of 243,000 jobs added. Holiday hiring and climate related slowdowns are expected to impact year-end labor statistics. Analysts prefer to look at trends occurring over several months to determine labor trends.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on November retail sales and consumer sentiment in addition to Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey and the Commerce Departments weekly jobless claims report.

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Understanding the Difference Between a Mortgage Pre-qualification and a Pre-approval

Understanding the Difference Between a Mortgage Pre-qualification and a Pre-approvalIf you’re in the market for a new home and you’ve been researching mortgages, you’ve likely come across the terms “pre-qualification” and “pre-approval”. While these terms are self-explanatory in some circumstances, they are quite different in regards to mortgage financing.

In today’s blog post we’ll explain the difference between a mortgage pre-qualification and a pre-approval.

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Pre-qualification: an Initial Look at Your Mortgage Options

The first – and easiest – step on the way to receiving mortgage financing to buy a home is known as pre-qualification. During this process you’ll meet with a mortgage advisor or lender who will assess your financial history including your current income and any debts that you might have. Using these numbers they’ll perform a quick calculation that suggests how much mortgage financing you might qualify for when you’re ready to buy a home.

Your mortgage professional will also answer any questions that you might have about the process, including what interest rates you may qualify for, how much you’ll need to invest in your down payment and more.

Pre-approval: a Conditional Mortgage Commitment

After you’ve been pre-qualified for your mortgage and you’re ready to start looking for a new home you’ll go through the pre-approval process. At this time your mortgage advisor or lender will take a much deeper look into your current financial situation, including pulling a credit report to assess how much risk they will have in lending you money. You’ll also complete a full mortgage application as this will allow your lender to get a conditional approval for a certain amount or range. Finally you’ll be informed about the interest rate and the terms of the mortgage once you find your new home and complete the purchase.

The Final Step: Finding the Perfect Home

Now that you’ve been pre-approved and have received a conditional commitment from your lender, you’re ready to find that perfect new home. On top of having a better idea of your price range and what you can afford, you’ll find that sellers are far more receptive to your offers as having a pre-approval signals that you’re a serious buyer who is ready to make your move.

When you’re ready to buy your new house or condo, your me to get a recommendation for lending, at 985-626-1313. Contact them to learn more about pre-qualification, pre-approval and your financing options. Enjoy your new home!

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Winter is Here: Prepare Your House with These Three Home Maintenance Tips

Winter's Coming: Prepare Your House with These Three Home Maintenance TipsHave you prepared your home for the winter? With colder temperatures starting you’ll need to spend an hour or two getting your home ready to deal with the possibility of harsher weather and below-freezing temperatures, depending on where you live. Let’s take a look at a few quick home maintenance tips that will help you get your house ready for the cold of winter.

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Check Your Roof, Gutters and Spouts

Your roof is one of the most important structural elements in your home and one that is going face the brunt of any inclement weather that passes through your area. If you feel comfortable on a ladder, climb up and quickly inspect the roof for damage or missing shingles. You’ll also want to clean the gutters and drain spouts, removing leaves and other gunk so that water can flow freely from your roof to the ground.

Drain Your Faucets, Hoses and Irrigation System

If you have exterior faucets and hoses you’ll need to flush out and drain any remaining water before storing them away for the winter. In-ground irrigation systems should have an anti-freezing treatment performed by a professional as freezing can cause a significant amount of damage to pipes and outlets.

Check Your Doors and Windows for Drafts

Leaky windows and doors can cause your heating bill to skyrocket, so spend a few minutes going around the house to inspect seals and frames to see if anything is leaking. Pay close attention to any single-pane windows as leaks can appear over time due to expansion caused by temperature fluctuations. It takes just a few cents worth of caulking to save many dollars in wasted heat.

 

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 1, 2014


Last week’s scheduled economic events were packed into Tuesday and Wednesday, but several housing-related reports were released including the Case-Shiller National and 10-and 20-City Home Price Indices for September, The FHFA House Price Index also for September, and New and Pending Home Sales for October.

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Case-Shiller, FHFA Report Slower Growth in Home Prices

According to Case-Shiller home price indices released Tuesday, the national rate of home price growth has slowed from August’s year-over-year reading of 5.60 percent to September’s reading of 4.90 percent. This was the lowest rate of home price growth in two years and was seen by analysts as a positive development in terms of sustainable price growth.

Double-digit percentage gains in home price growth in 2013 and earlier this year drove many would-be home buyers to the sidelines as narrow inventories of homes caused bidding wars in high-demand areas. 20 cities tracked by Case-Shiller had mixed results, with home prices falling in nine cities, rising in nine cities and prices were unchanged in two cities.

FHFA, the Federal Housing Finance Agency and overseer of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported year-over-year price growth of 4.30 percent in September against August’s reading of 4.80 percent. Lower price gains for September were expected as the prime period of summer sales wound down. FHFA reports on home prices related to mortgages and properties held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Pending and New Home Sales Show Mixed Results

The National Association of Realtors® reported that the Pending Home Sales Index dipped to 104.3 in October as compared to September’s reading of 105.1.Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®, said that lagging wage growth and tight mortgage credit conditions were stalling demand for homes. Pending home sales usually close within two months and serve as a gauge for upcoming home sales and mortgage activity. A reading of 100 for the Pending Home Sales Index is equivalent to pending home sales performance in 2001.

Better news came from the Department of Commerce New Home Sales report for October. New home sales achieved a five month high with a reading of 458,000 new homes sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. October’s reading was 0.70 percent higher than September’s reading of 455,000 new homes sold, but missed analysts’ expectations of 469,000 new homes sold. New home sales increased by 1.80 percent year-over-year with regional rates as follows:

  • Midwest: +15.8 percent
  • Northeast +7.1 percent
  • West -2.7 percent
  • South -1.9 percent

The median price of new homes rose to a record high of $305,000 in October. The supply of new homes rose to a 5.60 month supply from September’s reading of a 5.50 month supply of new homes.

Mortgage Rates Fall or Flat, Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 3.99 percent to 3.97 percent; the average rates for 15 year mortgages and 5/1 mortgages were unchanged at 3.17 percent and 3.01 percent respectively. Average discount points were unchanged for all loan types at 0.50 percent.

New Jobless Claims rose to 313,000 last week and surpassed 300,000 for the first time in several weeks. Analysts had expected a seasonally-adjusted reading of 288,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that a rise in claims could indicate a slower pace in hiring, but said that weekly readings are too volatile to indicate a trend. The four-week average of jobless claims was 294,000 new claims, which was near an eight-year low.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic events include Construction Spending, the Fed’s Beige Book Report, Non-Farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment Rate. Freddie Mac’s PMMS report on mortgage rates and Weekly Jobless claims will also be released as usual.

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

Are 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.

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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.

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You Ask, We Answer: Should I Consider a Warranty when Buying a New Home?

Are you buying a new home? If so, you’ve likely pondered whether or not you should invest in a warranty to protect your investment. In today’s blog post we’ll briefly explore home warranties including some of the pros and cons of buying one and how they differ from homeowner’s insurance.

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The Benefits of Buying a Home Warranty

Home warranties are an excellent solution if you’re buying a brand new home which has a lot of new appliances and fixtures inside of it, or if you’re not really the “do it yourself” type and would prefer to make a service call if something inside of your home breaks down.

For example, imagine that you have a home warranty that covers your central air conditioning system and one day it stops working. You simply call the warranty provider to book a service call and as long as the problem falls within the scope of your warranty the repairs are completed without any additional cost to you.

How a Home Warranty Differs from Homeowner’s Insurance

Home warranties and homeowner’s insurance are vastly different but work together to protect your investment. Insurance policies cover your home against unexpected damage – fires, crime, wind storms, water damage and more, depending on your policy. A home warranty tends to cover items inside of the home – the furnace, the plumbing, electrical wiring and appliances – and will provide you with discounts on repairs or replacement should the covered items break down or otherwise stop working.

Cost and Other Home Warranty Downsides

Of course, there are a few downsides to buying a home warranty. You’ll need to pay the up-front purchase cost of the warranty unless you’re buying a brand new home in which the warranty is included. You’ll also find that warranties generally won’t cover a lack of maintenance due to the previous homeowner, which can be a bit of an issue if something breaks down and you find out it’s not going to be covered. Finally you may find that any necessary repairs are actually less costly than the warranty itself.

As you can see, home warranties aren’t the perfect solution for every scenario but if you’re buying a new home they are an option worth considering. For more information about home warranties and how they will affect your purchase, ask your real estate professional as they’ll be able to share their guidance and expertise.

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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.

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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.

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