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28 05, 2014

FOMC Minutes: Committee Discusses “Normalizing” Policy

FOMC Minutes: Committee Discusses “Normalizing” PolicyApril’s meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee was held along with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Meeting minutes released Wednesday indicated the committee’s interest in “normalizing” its monetary policy. This included the FOMC’s ongoing commitment to tapering its asset purchases under its quantitative easing program.

The committee agreed to taper the Fed’s monthly asset purchases by $10 billion to $45 billion per month. Committee members discussed raising the target federal funds rate, which now stands at 0.00 to 0.25 percent, but the minutes clearly stated that this topic was undertaken as part of “prudent planning, and did not indicate that normalization would necessarily begin sometime soon.”

The FOMC minutes reflected the committee’s concern with achieving a balance between normalizing the Fed’s monetary policy and keeping short-term interest rates under control.

Meeting attendees considered methods for managing interest rates and considered potential impact of each method discussed on overall financial stability.

Importance Of Early Communication

Meeting participants discussed the importance of early communication of pending changes to the Fed’s monetary policy, and agreed that advising the public “well before the first steps in normalizing policy become appropriate.”

Early communication to the public of planned changes was viewed as a means of providing clarity and credibility to FOMC policy decisions and help FOMC achieve its statutory goals of maximum employment, stable pricing and moderate long term interest rates.

Potential Impact Of Achieving Normalcy

 FOMC members discussed the possible impact of tools considered for use in normalizing the economy on the following:

  • Fed control over short-term interest rates
  • The Fed’s balance sheet and Treasury remittances
  • Functionality of Federal Funds Market
  • Financial stability in normal times and times of stress

The minutes noted that the Fed has never used any of the methods discussed while the Fed held a large balance sheet, and recommended that flexibility in using tools for achieving normal fiscal policy.

No decision was made about normalizing current monetary policy; FOMC and Fed Board members agreed that further study and analysis were needed before any decisions would be made.

Fed: Mortgage And Refinance Applications “Tepid”

The FOMC minutes characterized the level of mortgage and refinance applications through March as tepid, due to increasing mortgage rates and home prices.

While a survey of senior loan officers revealed that mortgage credit had been loosened for applicants with prime credit, mortgage credit remained tight for those with less than excellent credit.

The unemployment rate held steady at 6.70 percent and remained above the FOMC’s benchmark of 6.50 percent. There was some good news as the workforce expanded and the ranks of the long-term unemployed decreased.

Stable employment is important to potential home buyers; if unemployment levels continue to fall, numbers of home buyers are likely to increase.

27 05, 2014

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 27, 2014

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 19, 2014Last week’s economic news was dominated by speeches given by Federal Reserve presidents, the minutes from April’s FOMC meeting and commencement address given by Fed Chair Janet Yellen. The latest readings for new and existing home sales were also released.

Federal Reserve Speeches Suggest Concerns Over Monetary Policy Dependence, Low Inflation

Here are highlights of comments made by each of the Fed presidents’ speeches. Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Fed, and John Williams, President of the San Francisco Fed, spoke at a conference held at the Bush Institute.

Mr. Fisher said that 98 percent of jobs lost during the recession had been recovered, and that other jobs had been added. He also cited “bad fiscal policies,” and said he is worried about dependence on the Fed’s monetary policy when “Congress and the Executive Branch have put on the brakes.” 

John Williams, president of the San Francisco Fed, said that he was concerned about slowing momentum in housing markets, although he noted that housing had driven economic recovery in the aftermath of the recession.

The inflation rate has remained well below the Federal Reserve’s target rate of 2.00 percent, and Mr. Williams said that the Fed is paying close attention to this. His remarks were supported in Wednesday’s release of the FOMC minutes of its April meeting.

Charles Plosser, the Philadelphia Fed’s president, took an optimistic tone at a speech given before the Women in Housing Foundation on Tuesday. He said that the national unemployment rate could fall below 6.00 percent by the end of 2014 and that he expects the housing market to bounce back as well.

This makes sense, as strong labor markets are known to influence consumer decisions to buy a home.

New York Fed President William Dudley spoke before the New York Association for Business Economics, and said that there would be “a considerable period of time” between when the current asset purchase program ends and the first Fed rate hike would occur.

He also indicated that he expected longer-term interest rates (which include mortgage rates) to be “well below” a historical average of 4.25 percent.

Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said that the Fed should consider targeting price levels rather than the current policy of targeting the inflation rate. He said that this was not likely to occur any time soon, but noted that current Fed policy is “undershooting” the central bank’s goals for unemployment and inflation.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen cited her predecessor, Ben Bernanke as a positive example when she spoke at New York University’s commencement. She noted that he took “courageous actions unprecedented in ambition and scope” and that his “grit willingness to take a stand” had directed his decisions during the recession.

Mortgage Rates Down, Existing Home Sales Up

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates dropped last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 4.14 percent, a drop of six basis points. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.25 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by five basis points to 2.96 percent. Discounts were unchanged at 0.60 percent for 30-year mortgages and 0.40 for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages, but dropped to 0.50 percent for 15-year mortgages.

Sales of existing homes rose to their highest level in four months according to the NAR. Month-to-month sales of previously-owned homes rose by 1.63 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.65 million sales as compared to March’s reading of 4.59 million sales. This was the first rise in sales of existing homes in 2014, and nearly met expectations of 4.66 million sales.

This Week

After the Memorial Day holiday, this week’s economic news includes the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, FHFA’s house price index and consumer confidence index.

Pending home sales, jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report along with the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index round out the week’s scheduled events.

23 05, 2014

Did You Know? How Paint Color Choices Can Drastically Affect The ‘Mood’ Of Your Home

Did You Know? How Paint Color Choices Can Drastically Affect the 'Mood' of Your HomeWhether you’re sprucing up your house to sell or simply looking for a color to bring out the beauty of your home, it’s imperative that you do your homework.

Before you head off to your local DIY store with a paint sample in one hand and a wallet in the other, you need to ensure that you’re picking the colors that are right for your home and your personality.

It is true that you can never go wrong with a neutral, but you can also go so much more right with the correct color in the appropriate space, whether it’s a neutral or not.

Give The Buyers The Blues

Blue is a great calming color and has even been known to lower blood pressure. When a person walks into a blue room they feel tranquil and at peace.

Blue is also the color of trustworthiness and dependability, so if you are selling your home, or if you just want to make your guests feel welcome, put a blue paint color on the walls of your front hall or foyer.

Eat Your Heart Out Red

Red is a high-energy color and it has been proven to stimulate the appetite. This makes it a perfect color for a kitchen. An accent wall splashed with a deep, rich red can bring interest and vibrancy to an ordinary kitchen. Be sure not to overdo the red though; one wall or a back splash is enough to get the point across without becoming garish.

Approach Yellow With Caution

Yellow is one of the most difficult colors to pull off correctly in a home. The light plays tricks with it, and what you thought was a sunny yellow in the store might become a sallow jaundice on a cloudy day.

If you must paint with yellow keep it very pale and keep it in a less used room. It can be a soothing color but it’s best to leave it out of the main rooms.

Give Green A Go

Green is said to be the most restful color on the eyes. Certainly, when we think of green, we think of the outdoors. Experts say the color green taps into our need for balance and makes us feel safe and at home.

With all that going for it, the color green is an ideal choice for any room in your house; especially a master bedroom where the restfulness of the color invites you to climb into bed and have lovely dreams.

Visions Of Violet

Purple or violet is often a favorite color of children. As we grow older, we tend to forget about this under-used color. The truth is, however, it can be an absolutely stunning color in a family room or living room.

Although we associate purple with children, a deep royal purple can give your room a regal look, which is perfect if you have high or vaulted ceilings. If you want to give your home a feeling of luxury with a bit of decadence, then violet or purple is the color for you.

No matter what colors you choose in your home, if you’re looking to resell it’s a good idea to consult an expert to ensure that your colors are compatible with one another. There’s nothing worse than a house that has a chopped-up effect due to its rooms being painted a myriad of different colors.

22 05, 2014

Three Mobile Apps That Make Home Automation Tasks Quick And Easy

Three IPhone Apps That Make Home Automation Tasks Quick and EasyThese days, efficiency and productivity are the keys to life, which is why it’s no surprise that home automation is a bigger topic than ever before.

As more and more people become tech savvy and get used to working with handheld devices, home automation becomes a natural fit for your smartphone or other handheld device.

After all, it’s a true pleasure to be able to control nearly everything in your home from just one device! You have so many things to do each and every day that it would be too much of a hassle to do everything separately and to control everything independently.

Home automation solves that problem for you. Here are the three iPhone apps that will make home automation tasks much quicker and easier.

The Haiku Home Automation App For HAI

Sure, this app will cost you $50, but it’s well worth it in order to have everything controlled at the tips of your fingers. You can use this app from anywhere on the planet or simply while you’re plopped down on the couch… your choice entirely!

It incorporates HAI’s solid home automation controls with an amazing user interface experience to deliver convenience and efficiency to users. So far the app has received excellent ratings from users. Out of 112 ratings, it’s averaged a 4.5 out of 5 score on iTunes.

Try The Revolv Smart Home Automation Solution

This iOS app from Revolv Inc. allows you to unify and centrally control a slew of various, connected home devices. Examples include locks, smart lights, outlets, sensors, thermostats and even wireless music systems, just to name a few possibilities. The app taps into the iOS system to empower you to seamlessly and effortlessly complete a bunch of automated tasks.

This app lets you create several automated directives from geo-location, time and on-demand triggers and sensors. Such convenience and control is both practical and highly rewarding.

Finally: The Loxone App

The Loxone app allows you to control your residence from your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. The possibilities are endless because, with this app, you can regulate everything from your home’s blinds and heating to the music that’s playing in any given room. All you have to do is make a few taps on your iPhone’s screen, and you’re done!

This makes the Loxone app one of the most ideal and efficient home automation apps out there. It’s definitely a good idea to install this app on your iPhone today. You won’t regret it, and running the devices inside of your own home will be something you’ll look forward to, rather than something you dread.

Thanks to these home automation apps, you’re in good shape to feel in control of all of the devices in your home. Whether it’s the blinds, the heating or an entertainment device like your stereo, these apps have you covered so that you can proceed efficiently and productively.

Don’t forget to call your trusted mortgage professional today for more information on home automation and everything you need to make your home comfortable.

21 05, 2014

Here’s How You Can Leverage Your Home To Reduce Your Tax Burden For Next Year

It's Tax Time - Here's How You Can Leverage Your Home to Reduce Your Tax BurdenEach year around April, we can find ourselves becoming a little more tense at the thought of what is about to occur: tax time.

Instead of falling into the trap of procrastinating your taxes, however, it’s much more beneficial to face tax time head-on and do your research on your applicable deductions well in advance.

Your home is good for many things, but using your home to reduce your tax burden may be one benefit you haven’t thought of. Here are some tax benefits that can be leveraged with your home, and some ways to lower your tax bill in 2014.

Deduct Interest On Home Loans

Though interest paid on personal loans isn’t deductible on your tax return, interest paid on mortgages is.

Home mortgage interest, for both your primary residence and a second home such as an investment property, can account for a large bill near the end of the year, and can significantly decrease your tax bill for 2014.

Interest paid on a line of credit for your home or a home equity loan is also usually deductible, and you may also qualify to deduct the insurance premiums on your private mortgage if this was a requirement from your lender. Ensure you keep your Form 1098 from you lender, and be sure not to miss each of your interest deductions.

Deducting Points Paid For A Better Rate

If you paid points in order to get a better interest rate on your home mortgage, the IRS will allow you to deduct these, too. If you meet the requirements for this deduction, one of which is that you paid the points in the same year that you purchased your primary residence, be sure to add the points to your list of deductions.

Deduct Property Taxes

Property taxes are also deductible on your tax return, and since they make up a significant portion of your home expenses each year, they certainly shouldn’t be excluded from your list of deductions in 2014.

As an annual deduction for the entire period you own your home, ensure you don’t forget about your first year in your home. If you’ve just purchased your home, the property taxes would have been split between the seller, the previous homeowner, and you, the buyer, at the time of the property transfer. Your portion of your first year’s property taxes for the home is also fully deductible.

Tax-Free Sales Gain

If you’ve owned and lived in your home for a minimum of two years and are ready to sell, you likely qualify for up to $250,000 dollars of tax-free profit, or up to $500,000 for married couples.

If the sale falls short of the two year mark, the IRS provides some tax relief if the sale is due to a list of unforeseen circumstances, such as changes in employment or health. Be sure to see where you qualify, and leverage the sale of your home for tax-free sales gain.

Having the ability to leverage your home in order to lower your tax burden is, of course, another benefit of being a homeowner. Often, reaping the full benefits of tax deductions is a simple matter of doing your research or speaking with a professional to get the information applicable to you.

For more information on the financial benefits of homeownership, including those related to taxes, call your trusted mortgage professional today for the answers you need.

20 05, 2014

Getting Past No: What To Do If You’re Turned Down For A Mortgage Or Other Home Financing

Getting Past No: What to Do If You're Turned Down for a Mortgage or Other Home FinancingGetting pre-approved for a mortgage loan is an integral part of having the ability to purchase a home in today’s society.

With most home prices well above what the majority of us have in the bank, getting approved for a mortgage can be the deal maker or breaker when it comes to purchasing a piece of property. Therefore, getting rejected for a mortgage can feel like a huge loss.

The first thing to realize, however, is that there are action steps you can take to get to “yes.” Here’s what to do if you’re turned down for a mortgage or other home financing.

Shop Around: Don’t Take “No” The First Time

If you get a “no” from your bank the first time around, don’t be fooled into thinking that everyone will give you the same answer.

Instead, be sure to shop around your mortgage with different banks, and opt to speak to a mortgage broker to leverage all of your options.

When looking at several different lenders, you’ll have a much higher chance of getting a yes since every lender adheres to different rules and restrictions. Though you may end up with a mortgage with a slightly higher interest rate, you’re likely to get approved for a mortgage or other home financing.

Ask Friends: Get A Co-Signer

If your “no” was the result of bad credit history or a low credit score, perhaps you should consider asking for the help of friends and family. Sometimes bringing a co-signer in on the deal who has better credit history and a higher credit score will change the response of your bank or lender significantly, and suddenly you’ll find yourself hearing the sought-after “y” word.

Ask Questions: Fix The Problem

If you’ve sought out several different banks and lenders, and still find yourself with rejected mortgage applications, be sure to understand why the “no” came in the first place. If it’s an issue of your credit history, which can’t be appeased with a co-signer, you may need to put in the time in order to correct some of your credit issues.

Other common reasons why people are rejected for a mortgage include unrealistic borrowing expectations, i.e. applying for a mortgage that is too high for you to satisfy, as well as an unreliable employment history or a general lack of credit history. Speak with your mortgage professional to determine the reason, and if shopping around or bringing in a co-signor doesn’t transform the “no” to a “yes,” seek to fix the problem instead.

Though it can be a daunting task to apply for a mortgage after you’ve been rejected, ensuring that you arrive at that ultimate “yes” is something you need to undertake in order to purchase a home and reach that next milestone in your life.

Having trusted professionals on your side is something that will surely ease the tension on all things involved in purchasing a home, including getting approved for a mortgage. For more information on how to get past “no” when searching for a home, call your trusted mortgage professional today.

19 05, 2014

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 19, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - May 19, 2014Last week’s economic news was relatively flat, but highlights include the NAHB Housing Market Index for May, which posted its lowest reading since May 2013. Although analysts expected a May reading of 48, the May 2014 index reading was 45 as compared to April’s reading of 46.

The NAHB reported that rising home prices and unpredictable job markets were factors in builders’ loss of confidence. Although the economy is growing stronger, many would-be homebuyers remain skeptical of economic conditions and remain on the sidelines.

NAHB: Stronger Builder Confidence Expected in Coming Months

Builder confidence in market conditions for single family homes within the next six months were higher at 57, a one-point improvement over April’s reading. Builder confidence in buyer foot traffic increased by two points to 33; this was likely a result of warmer weather. David Crowe, chief economist of the NAHB, said that builder confidence is expected to improve as consumers grow more secure about their employment.

Economy: Retail Sales Slow

Retail sales for April posted a gain of 0.10 percent over the March reading of an upwardly revised 1.50 percent and expectations of 0.40 percent for April. The Commerce Department reported that without the automotive sector, April’s retail sales were unchanged. The difference between March and April retail sales readings was attributed to a burst of spending after severe winter weather and the Easter holiday.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Lower

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates across the board, with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage one basis point lower at 4.20 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was three basis points lower at 3.29 percent. Discount points for 30 and 15-year mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.01 percent. Discount points dropped from 0.50 percent to 0.40 percent. 

New Jobless claims fell from the prior week’s reading of 321,000 to 297,000. Analysts had expected jobless claims to be unchanged from the prior week’s reading.

Manufacturing Sector Shows Strength

The Empire State Index, which measures manufacturing growth in New York rose to 19.0 in May against an expected reading of 5.0 and April’s reading of 1.3. The Philly Fed Index, another indicator of manufacturing, surpassed its expected reading of 14.3 and came in at 15.4, but May’s reading was lower than April’s 16.6.

This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news includes the release of the minutes of the last FOMC meeting, New Jobless Claims, Freddie Mac’s report on mortgage rates, Existing Home Sales, New Home Sales and Leading Indicators. 

17 05, 2014

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16 05, 2014

3 DIY Kitchen Upgrades That Will Boost Your Home Selling Price With Just A Few Hours Work

3 DIY Kitchen Upgrades That Will Boost Your Home Selling Price With Just a Few Hours WorkHomeowners who want to increase the appeal of their residence before putting it up for sale can, within a few hours and with a little elbow grease, perform some do-it-yourself (DIY) kitchen upgrades that are sure to pique the interest of would-be buyers.

Many people either have or are in the process of listing their home, so it makes sense to do as much as possible to attract the interest of prospective purchasers.

It need not cost a proverbial arm and a leg to boost the selling price of a home. Here are three DIY kitchen upgrades that will help homeowners gain a competitive advantage in the real estate market and get attractive offers for their residence.

On-The-Cheap Cabinet Upgrades

For a DIY upgrade project that won’t cost much money and won’t take much time, homeowners should consider revamping their cabinetry, as long as the cabinets are structurally sound. After cleaning them and, if necessary, sanding down any rough spots, homeowners can apply a coat or two of paint and, after the paint dries, install new knobs or handles to finish off the project.

The end result will be a totally transformed kitchen that likely won’t require more than a can of paint, sandpaper, some cleaner and some knobs or handles.

Upgrade Your Countertops

It’s amazing how much of a difference an upgraded countertop can make to the overall look of a kitchen. Homeowners who believe that a new countertop would definitely transform their kitchen have a number of options at their disposal such as buying a new one, tiling over the existing one or repainting the existing one.

Often the easiest of the three options is repainting, since this simply involves sanding the surface, priming it, applying the paint and then applying numerous coats of polyurethane to safeguard the finish.

Transform Your Kitchen Backsplash

While a nice-looking kitchen backsplash can be a plus for would-be home buyers, the fact of the matter is that an ugly backsplash will definitely turn off prospective purchasers.

A cheap and relatively quick way to give a backsplash a new lease on life is to use so-called tile decals that, because of the adhesive they contain, can be pasted over top of existing backsplash tiles.

There many different options in terms of styles, colors and concepts, so homeowners will be able to find the perfect option to make their backsplash look as good as new.

Preparing to list a home and get acceptable offers involves ensuring that your home will stack up nicely compared to other homes up for sale in the area.

As it turns out, doing some quick and relatively simple kitchen upgrades will help to attract prospective buyers. Tips for performing any of these DIY upgrades can be found either at neighborhood big-box stores or online.

For more information on the real estate market or to get more information on any related topics, call your trusted mortgage professional today for a no-obligation consultation.

15 05, 2014

Tips For Maximizing Your Home’s Appraised Value

Tips For Maximizing Your Home's Appraised ValueA home appraisal is an independent opinion of your home’s value, performed by a licensed home appraiser. Appraisals are part of the traditional home purchase process, and lenders require them for most refinances, too.

Appraisers Are Trained Professionals

First, they derive a base for your home’s value based on the recent sales prices of homes that are comparable to yours in terms of bedrooms, bathrooms, style, and square footage.

Then, accounting for features and amenities that make your home different, the appraiser applies “adjustments” to that base value.

This methodology is called the “Sales Comparison” approach and the result is your home’s appraised value. It’s the most common appraisal method used by lenders.

As a homeowner , you can’t affect the sales prices of your home’s comparable properties, but you can help your appraiser understand how your home stands apart from these homes.

This, in turn, can affect your home’s adjustments, resulting in a higher appraised value. With home appraisals, every valuation dollar can matter.

With That In Mind, Here Are A Few Tips For Maximizing Your Home’s Appraised Value:

  1. Be home for your appraisal so you can answer the appraiser’s question, if there are any.
  2. Mention any new roofing, flooring, HVAC, plumbing, or windows you’ve installed since purchase.
  3. Don’t mention projects or repairs you’re “about to undertake”. Appraisers don’t credit for unfinished projects.
  4. Make minor household fixes prior to the appraisal (e.g.; leaky sink, running toilet, peeling paint).
  5. Present a tidy home. This can contribute to a higher “overall condition” adjustment.

Lastly, schedule the appraisal for a time that is convenient for your entire household. An appraiser needs to see, measure, and take photos of every room in your home.

If a room’s door is closed because of a resting child, for example, the appraiser may need to schedule a second appointment to complete the appraisal, and that can raise your appraisal costs.

14 05, 2014

Whatever You Do, Don’t Make These Common Mortgage Mistakes

Whatever You Do, Don't Make These Common Mortgage MistakesAre you applying for a mortgage on your home? Keep in mind that a mortgage is a major financial decision and choosing one will have a significant impact on the rest of your life.

Many people go into this decision without understanding all of the essential mortgage information they need to know, which means that they are likely to make poor choices that will result in paying much more than they need to.

If you want to save yourself from throwing away your hard earned money, here are a few common mistakes to avoid:

Trying To Bottom Out the Market

Many people will wait too long to make a decision to lock in their mortgage rate, trying to wait until they think that the rates have hit bottom. However, unfortunately most of the time this leads them to wait too long and end up with a higher interest rate.

If you are waiting things out, keep a very close eye on the economic indicators. Your daily newspaper will be a good source of information about the fluctuations of interest rates.

Forgetting About Closing Costs

In addition to saving up a down payment for your mortgage, don’t forget to factor in the closing costs. These can range from two percent all the way up to six percent of the value of your home. Make sure that you have budgeted for this in advance, so that these fees don’t catch you by surprise.

Not Considering All Loan Options

There are many people out there who haven’t considered certain loan products, such as an adjustable rate mortgage, because they just don’t understand how they work.

However, if you do this you might be missing out on an option that would really work well for you. Make sure you do your research and gain an understanding of the loan options available to you.

Looking At Just The Mortgage Rate

Remember that the mortgage interest rate is only one factor that you should consider when choosing a mortgage. Don’t forget to also consider the time frame of the mortgage, the restrictions on lump sum payments and any other important factors.

These are just a few of the common mistakes people make when choosing a mortgage, so make sure to avoid falling into these traps yourself.

For more information about home buying and mortgages, you can call your trusted mortgage professional. 

13 05, 2014

What Will Harp 3.0 Mean For Homeowners After 2014?

What Will Harp 3.0 Mean for Homeowners After 2014?As economic influences affect the housing market in the United States, there has been the introduction and development of programs to assist with the downturn.

During the 2009 economic crisis in the United States that resulted in home prices and values falling, a program named HARP was introduced to assist the many affected homeowners.

Harp has since developed and a 3.0 version has been introduced. As a result, many homeowners are beginning to wonder: What will Harp 3.0 mean for homeowners after 2014?

The Economic Crisis: Harp 1.0 In 2009

In 2009, HARP 1.0 was introduced. The program was designed to help homebuyers who couldn’t refinance their homes because of the sudden and significant dip in home values.

It was open to borrowers with loans that were taken out prior to May 31, 2009, and other requirements made the program available only to homebuyers with a good payment history and a loan-to-value ration of 125 percent, meaning that the borrower could not receive a loan of over 25 percent of the home’s total value.

This program came to help some homeowners who were affected by the economic downturn, but wasn’t available to those in the foreclosure centers in particular areas of California, Nevada, and Arizona.

Harp 2.0: Redefined Assistance

In October of 2011, Harp 2.0 was introduced with changes that helped to make the program more helpful to homeowners who were in trouble as a result of the financial and housing downturn.

The 125 percent limit on the loan-to-value of the Harp 1.0 program was removed, allowing those with significant value drops in their homes to receive help as well. Changes were also added to allow borrowers to refinance investment properties, and borrowers were allowed to switch lenders to shop around for a refinance under the Harp 2.0 program.

Harp 3.0 For Homeowners In 2014

Though the previous Harp programs have assisted over three million homeowners since the financial downturn, there are still many homeowners in need of assistance. With nine million homeowners in a financial crisis after the 2009 economic downturn, there is still much that can be improved upon to help assist in these circumstances.

The Responsible Homeowner Refinancing Act of 2013, which is widely referred to as Harp 3.0, is one approach to solving the problem.

The Harp 3.0 program has been presented, and, if passed, will lower the fees involved. This means that need for appraisals will be lessened, making the program more widely available to homeowners experiencing financial difficulties, and there will be greater ease in the underwriting process.

The Harp 3.0 program, if passed, would also not be constrained to only loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, as restricted in Harp 1.0 and 2.0. The new version of the Harp refinance program means that homeowners with sub-prime mortgages may become eligible, too.

With the media covering the possibility of Harp 3.0 in 2014 and many homeowners anticipating its availability, which might finally mean their eligibility for refinancing, there is a great chance of significant financial improvement and progress for homeowners. Getting refinanced is exactly the progress many homeowners have been awaiting.

For more information on the Harp 3.0 program, talk to your mortgage professional today.

12 05, 2014

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 12, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - May 12, 2014Results from a Federal Reserve survey of senior bank loan officers indicated that lenders have held the line on prime lending standards and have raised standards for sub-prime and non-traditional home loans.

Survey respondents represented 74 U.S. banks and 23 foreign banks. Survey respondents also said that demand for mortgage loans was lower; this could be an unintentional result of tight credit standards for mortgage loans.

Analysts said that tight credit requirements and less demand for home loans could mean more trouble for the housing industry.

Home Prices Rise In March, But At Slower Rate

The annual rate of increase for national home prices was 11.10 percent as compared to February’s 11.80 percent year-over-year rate of increase.

February’s reading was the fastest pace of home price growth in eight years, but March’s slower level of home price appreciation was the lowest month-to-month reading in three years. Fewer affordable homes were cited as a reason for slower growth in housing markets.

CoreLogic reported that home prices rose by 1.40 percent in March, and that Arkansas was the only state that posted a drop in home prices. Several states, including North Dakota and Texas, achieved new peaks in home prices due to strong job growth.

The slow-down in home price growth isn’t necessarily all bad news; analysts said that home prices could not continue to climb when household incomes aren’t keeping up.

Many first-time buyers have been sidelined with a combination of slow job growth, higher home prices and tight mortgage credit. CoreLogic reported that these factors contributed to their forecast for home prices to grow by about 6.70 percent in 2015.

Mortgage Rates Fall, Fed Chair Speaks

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates on Thursday. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.21 percent as compared to last week’s reading of 4.29 percent. Discount points dropped from 0.70 to 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was 3.32 percent and six basis points lower than the prior rate of 3.38 percent.

Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 3.05 percent, but discount points dropped from 0.50 to 0.40 percent.

Janet Yellin, chair of the Federal Reserve, spoke before the Senate Budget Committee on Thursday and said that the Fed can shrink its current balance sheet of $4.3 trillion by not reinvesting proceeds from its portfolio of maturing bonds.

This is directly connected to the Fed’s tapering of its quantitative easing (QE) program, which is currently at a level of $45 billion per month in mortgage backed securities (MBS) and treasury securities.

Some analysts believe that members of the Fed’s FOMC meeting discussed the end of QE in their last meeting, but this cannot be verified until the minutes of the meeting are released May 21.

The end of QE could cause higher mortgage rates as the program’s purpose is to hold down long-term interest rates.

Weekly Jobless claims fell to a new low of 319,000 against predictions for 325,000 new jobless claims and 345,000 new claims for the prior week. Seasonal anomalies caused by the Easter holiday and spring break schedules were cited as causes for ups and downs in new jobless claims in recent weeks.

What’s Next

This week’s scheduled economic news includes several consumer-related reports including Retail sales, Consumer Price Index, core CPI, Homebuilder’s Index, and Housing Starts.

9 05, 2014

Vegetable Garden 101: Get The Kids Started On A Veggie Patch Project Today

Vegetable Garden 101: Get the Kids Started on a Veggie Patch Project TodayThinking about ways to engage your children in gardening and educational opportunities outside of the classroom?

Creating your very own veggie patch with them is a great way to help them develop interest in the wonderful hobby of gardening!

Growing a vegetable garden links together many concepts your children are learning about in school while teaching them the art of discipline, responsibility and delayed gratification. Here are some great tips on how to nurture this project with your children.

Choose Pick-And Eat-Vegetables

The joy of being able to eat the fruits of their labors straight out of the garden will be an amazing reward for children. Vegetables like snap peas and cherry tomatoes are great for this. A bonus is that pea seeds are big and easy for those tiny hands to plant if you are going to have your children involved in the garden from the very beginning.

Pick Fun Vegetables The Kids Can Use Later

Another great route when choosing what to plant is picking vegetables that children have a strong connection to. Pumpkins are a great example of this. Children will love to grow pumpkins because of the promise of carving a jack-o-lantern later in the year.

Ensure Your Garden Is Conveniently Placed

One thing you don’t think about until you have kids is how to streamline your garden activities in a way that accommodates them. Convenience is critical when trying to manage children and do gardening at the same time. Go easy on yourself by placing your garden as close to a water source as possible.

Plant A Few Seeds That Will Grow Quickly

It is always nice to give children a bit of excitement right off the start. Lettuce is always good for this. It grows fairly quickly and will grab the interest of your children while they wait for the other plants to sprout.

Make Your Children Planting Assistants

Involving your kids in the planting is definitely a lot of work, but it really helps build their interest and education later on. Get them to hoe rows, dig holes, or water as you plant. This will help them connect all the processes together in their minds, and will keep the engaged later on.

Keep The Garden Front Of Mind

Make the garden an ongoing, continuous project that the children are involved in. Don’t let weeks go by before you bring the kids out to it again – they might get bored or develop other interests. Always look for opportunities to involve them in the work.

Plant A Colorful Garden

One of the easiest ways to get children excited about what is growing in the garden is to make it come alive with color. There are many different ways you can bring a splash of color to the garden. Choose a variety of lettuce, radishes, or squash to bring interesting and unique shapes, sizes and color to the garden!

Building a garden is a fun way to teach your children the value of hard work and perseverance, and to help them learn science! A garden can engage children and draw you all closer together as you work toward a common goal. If you have questions as to whether a garden will increase the value of your property, call your trusted mortgage professional today for more information.

8 05, 2014

The Magic Number: Does Your Credit Score Need To Be Above 800 To Apply For A Mortgage?

The Magic Number: Does Your Credit Score Need to Be Above 800 to Apply for a Mortgage?Over the course of a lifetime, financial development can lead to some wonderful opportunities. A person’s financial development and state of affairs is something that is particularly important when it comes to taking out a bank loan to further progress in life, and the largest loan most people will require is a mortgage for a home purchase.

Since the process of getting approved for a mortgage is heavily dependent on credit history and that three-digit credit score that reflects reliability as a borrower, you should always put forth practices to keep that number healthy and growing.

However, how much importance does a credit score hold? Does that magic, three-digit number need to be above 800 in order to get approved for a mortgage?

The FICO Score: The Magic Number That Counts

When you apply for a mortgage, you will have to provide certain information to your financial institution or mortgage broker. The mortgage specialist at your bank or mortgage broker will then pull your credit score and your credit report.

Fair, Isaac and Company is the scorekeeper of your FICO score, which ranges from 300 to 850, 850 being the highest of all scores, and 300 being the lowest.

Every person in the United States has three FICO scores from the three different credit-reporting bureaus. Up to 80 percent of financial lenders will use a borrower’s FICO score in order to approve a mortgage application and determine a suitable interest rate on the loan.

The 600 Range: Fair And Good Credit Mortgage Options

If your credit score isn’t perfect (ie. above the 800 mark), you need not worry too much. There are many options available for those with credit scores around 600, and, with many different financial lenders to consider, having a mortgage approved sometimes means persisting with an application to several different lenders before receiving a “yes.”

With a “fair” and “good” credit rating falling between 620 and 719, there are options available to get approved for a mortgage well under the perfect 800 mark.  An FHA loan is a type of mortgage loan that is insured by the US Federal Housing Administration, offering an option with more flexible qualification measures. For homebuyers with a credit score above 620, this is a viable and common option.

720 To Perfect: Under 800 And Still In Great Shape

The median credit score in the United States is 723, and anything above 720 is placed with the marker of “excellent credit.” Therefore, just because you may range just slightly above 720, which may feel miles away from a perfect 800, you’re likely in just as good of shape when it comes to getting approved for a mortgage. You can expect a mortgage approval with good interest rates if you have a credit score higher than 720.

Keeping an eye on your credit rating and understanding the measures that are used in determining your credit score will certainly help you maintain a good score. Of course, speaking with a professional and receiving expert advice is always recommended. For specified information on your particular situation, contact your mortgage professional to discuss your options for receiving a mortgage loan.

7 05, 2014

Is It Best To Put Down A Large Down Payment, Or Be Agile With Your Savings?

Is It Best to Put Down a Large Down Payment, or Be Agile With Your Savings?Putting down the largest sum of money at your disposal might seem like the best way to go when it comes to your mortgage down payment. There is a certain amount of truth to this, but the reality is bigger is not always better.

Ideally, the amount of money you settle on for your mortgage down payment will take into account your monthly budgeting requirements.

The Big Advantages Of A Large Down Payment

Fewer Mortgage Payments: The larger the down payment, the higher the likelihood that you will be able to afford a shorter mortgage. Unlike some of the other benefits of large down payments, ensuring this perk is available to you is solely dependent on whether or not your post-down payment budget will be able to support the necessary payments.

Lower Payment Totals: If you choose to stick to a longer payment plan, each month’s payment will be significantly less than it would have been had you chosen to put less money down up front. Of course, if you choose a shorter mortgage you will be required to pay more.

No Need For Mortgage Insurance: When the down payment is a lower percentage of the purchase amount, lenders will often require clients to apply for mortgage insurance as way to protect themselves in the case that a client defaults on the loan. However, if the buyer is able to make a larger down payment, mortgage insurance can be completely avoided.

Lower Interest Rates: The interest rate on your mortgage is dependent on how much you need to borrow. The more you pay out of pocket, the less money you will have to borrow from a lender. This means the interest rate on the loan will be lower and you will lose less money on the loan overall.

Coping Smartly With A Small Down Payment

Making a larger down payment may not be an option for you in your current financial state. Opting to make a smaller down payment will still allow you to purchase your new home, with a few extra conditions. Higher interest rates and having to take out mortgage insurance are the two primary conditions you are likely to come across.

Once the down payment is made, your main concern becomes making the most of your monthly mortgage payments.

A great coping strategy is to get into the habit of paying off more than the amount due on as many scheduled payment days as possible. Another good strategy is to arrange for an accelerated payment schedule. These small adjustments could help you pay off your mortgage faster, and save you more money as a result.

When settling on a down payment amount, the most important issue to factor into your decision is whether or not you are capable of remaining financially secure after the payment is made.

If a larger down payment is going to dramatically impact your emergency funds, you may want to reconsider. Contact your local mortgage professional to learn more about choosing the most suitable mortgage for your budget.

6 05, 2014

How Will A Short Sale Affect Your Ability To Buy Another House In The Future?

How Will a Short Sale Affect Your Ability to Buy Another House in the Future?The last few years have been financially difficult for millions of homeowners, with job losses and decline in home values devastating families all over the US. As a result, a great number of homes have gone through short sales, which has had a detrimental effect on consumers’ credit ratings.

If you’ve considered or experienced a short sale, one of the biggest concerns you may have is how it will impact your ability to purchase another property in the future. Here are five key variables on how a short sale can impact your next home purchase.

Duration Of Delinquency Plays A Big Role

Short sale transactions take a long time to complete, depending on the state that you live in and the bank’s policies. During this process, homeowners in a short sale may have trouble continuing to make monthly mortgage payments. The duration of delinquency can have a major negative impact on your credit score, even before the final short sale is reported.

Deficiency Judgments May Have Long-Lasting Effects

A short sale usually with comes a large debt that is left unpaid that banks look to settle. In the case of short sale, this debt is the difference between the amount owed and the amount for which the home is sold.

When you’re on the hook to come up with this difference, a deficiency judgment is filed through the courts and is attached to your credit rating as a negative debt outstanding. This can have a lasting effect on your credit rating, and can hinder your chances of buying a home in the future.

Lower Credit Scores Often Mean Higher Interest Rates

The poorer your credit rating, the more likely you are to be charged a higher interest rate when borrowing money. With the large cost of a home purchase, a high interest rate over a long amortization period can prove to be extremely costly, which many home owners may find difficult, if not impossible, to pay for.

Larger Down Payments May Be Necessary

Many banks and credit unions have specific guidelines that require you to put more money down on a future home purchase if you’ve experienced a housing-related credit issue in the past. Certain banks may request as much 20 percent for a down payment. Many homeowners may not be able to come up with such funds, or may need a lot of time to build up such capital before being able to buy a house.

A Long Waiting Period Might Apply

Since the housing crisis in the US, many major mortgage insurers and investors, like Freddie Mac, FHA, and Fannie Mae, have implemented new rules on how long you have to wait after a short sale before you can purchase again. Depending on the type of loan, this can be anywhere between two to four years on a short sale.

It’s critical to stay informed and understand how these rules can impact your ability to buy a home in the future after a short sale. Speaking with a seasoned mortgage specialist can help you stay in the know, and help you assess your finances and credit health before you plunge into the real estate market in the future.

5 05, 2014

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 5, 2014

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 5, 2014Last week’s economic news included several reports related to housing and mortgages. The NAR started the week on a positive note with its Pending Home Sales Index released Monday. Pending home sales in March were higher with an unexpected increase of 3.40 percent over February for an index reading of 97.40.

This is encouraging news for home sales that were severely affected by a hard winter in many areas, and suggests that as warmer weather approaches, home sales will pick up. Analysts do not expect the rapid rate of price appreciation seen in 2013. The Fed’s tapering of its “quantitative easing” program has caused mortgage rates to rise, and last year’s rapid run-up of home prices has made affordability an issue in many areas.

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index for February performed slightly better than expected with a seasonally-adjusted month-to-month reading of 0.80 percent. The expected reading was 0.70 percent.

The year-over-year reading fell short of January’s reading of 13.20 percent and the expected reading of 13.00 percent at 12.90 percent. Analysts noted the continuing trend of slowing momentum in home price growth, but seem confident that home prices will continue to increase over the spring months.

Fed Continues Tapering Of QE, Mortgage Rates Mixed

Wednesday brought the FOMC’s customary statement after its two-day meeting concluded. There were no surprises as the statement verified another monthly tapering of $10 billion from the Fed’s quantitative easing (QE) program of asset purchases.

The tapering was evenly divided with $5 billion less in MBS purchased and $5 billion less in treasury securities purchased. The ongoing tapering was seen as contributing to rising mortgage rates, but the Fed asserted that its asset purchases remain sufficient to dampen rapid increases in long-term interest rates, which include mortgage rates.

The Fed repeated its usual reminder that its decisions are not on a pre-set course and that the committee members would closely monitor economic and financial developments as guidance for future decisions.

Freddie Mac reported mixed results for mortgage rates on Thursday. Average rates rose by four basis points to 4.29 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage with discount points of 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 3.38 percent; discount points steady at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 3.05 percent; discount points dropped from 0.50 to 0.40 percent.

Weekly jobless claims made an unexpected jump to 344,000 as compared to the prior week’s revised figure of 329,000 jobless claims and an expected reading of 320,000 new jobless claims.

Analysts note that week-to-week figures continued to show volatility, but said that on balance, the rolling average for jobless claims appeared consistent with moderate growth in labor markets.

This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news shows no events related to housing and mortgages. Highlights include Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s appearance before the Joint Economic Committee in Washington, D.C. and the usual releases of mortgage rates and new jobless claims on Thursday. 

2 05, 2014

What’s in a Color? Six Paint Colors That Will Affect Your Mood

What’s in a Color? Six Paint Colors That Will Affect Your MoodBelieve it or not, paint colors can affect your mood. When remodeling your home, the color you use on the walls can end up being just as critical to the thematic consistency of your home as the furniture you use to decorate it.

Before you slap any old color on the walls, take some time to consider what mood you’d like each room to inspire.

Red, Yellow And Orange: The Colors Of Excitement, Hunger And Happiness

Ever wonder why the dining rooms, kitchens and entertainment rooms you see in magazines always seem come in every shade of red? It’s because these rooms are dedicated to eating and leisure time. Shades of red, especially bright, vibrant reds, have been linked to increased appetite and increases in energy levels.

In a similar vein, we have shades of yellow. Typically, yellow hues have been known to encourage feelings of happiness and joy.

That said, it’s a good idea to steer clear of especially bright shades of yellow that can be harder on the eyes, as they can foster feelings of frustration and an inability to concentrate.

Orange, like red, provides a great way to bring up energy levels, but like yellow, is prone to cause irritation when used excessively. People are more likely to be excitable and show more enthusiasm in rooms that incorporate this color. In order to reap the benefits of orange without causing irritation, restrict your use of it to the odd wall here and there.

Blue, Green And Purple: The Colors Of Restfulness, Peace And Serenity

It’s no surprise that blue is the color of calm and relaxation. For bedrooms and bathrooms, blue hues are ideal for inspiring restfulness; however, this color’s calming influence makes it a poor paint color choice for high traffic areas where high energy levels are necessary. 

Occasionally, overusing this color – especially in darker shades – can bring moods down beyond calmness and into sadness and depression.

Green is yet another color that inspires peace and restfulness. The advantage of green is that the serenity it brings on is accompanied by feelings of rejuvenation and replenishment. Think of green spaces as places where you can gather yourself and quietly rebuild your energy levels.

Purple is often associated with lavishness and luxury in deep, rich hues that spark creative thinking. In lighter shades, it has the same calming influence of blue but, thanks to its red undertones, none of the sadness that blue can often have.

Making The Most of These Colors: A Little Goes A Long Way

It’s unlikely that you will be painting any of the rooms in your house in a single shade of any of these colors. Experiment with different shades and work with colors that inspire similar emotions to break up the visual impression of the room.

You can use neutral paint colors like brown, black and white to bring depth to room, or to suppress the harsh tones of brighter colors like yellow and orange.

Psychologists have long known that colors affect mood, and in recent years, the interior design world has caught on as well. Now that you understand how paint colors can alter your mood, it’s important to paint your walls wisely.

1 05, 2014

FOMC Noted Retail Sales In March Reached Highest Level Since September Of 2012

FOMC Noted Retail Sales In March Reached Highest Level Since September Of 2012The FOMC of the Federal Reserve released its customary statement after its meeting concluded April 30.

FOMC members said that the economy is improving after a winter lull caused by poor weather. The national unemployment rate remains high, although some improvement in labor markets was reported. Fiscal policy is restraining economic growth, although FOMC said that the restraint is diminishing.

FOMC Monitors Inflation, Further Reduces Asset Purchases

The FOMC statement reflected members’ concerns about the inflation rate remaining below its goal of two percent, and said that this could eventually impact economic recovery. The Fed expects inflation to approach its goal within the “medium term.”

The Fed will reduce its monthly asset purchases of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury securities to a total of $45 billion in May. FOMC members said that the Fed’s level of asset purchases is sufficient to maintain downward pressure on long term interest rates and to support mortgage markets.

The Fed expects to continue reducing its asset purchases as long as improvements in the labor market and general economic conditions occur. As of March, the national unemployment rate was 6.70 percent; the Fed previously established a goal of 6.50 percent unemployment as an indicator of economic recovery.

The statement included its usual comment that asset purchases are not on a pre-set course and that FOMC members monitor economic reports and other financial data on an ongoing basis as part of the FOMC’s decision making process.

Fed Funds Target Rate Unchanged

FOMC members agreed to maintain the Fed’s current “highly accommodative” monetary policy and left the target Federal Funds rate at between 0.00 and 0.25 percent. The committee expects this policy to continue long after the asset purchase program concludes.

FOMC members will continue to monitor economic and financial developments along with inflation to determine the course of the target federal funds rate.

The FOMC noted that retail sales in March reached their highest level since September of 2012; this was viewed as a sign of a stronger overall economy.

This FOMC statement mentioned inflation as a basis for reviewing monetary policy more than in recent statements, and clearly established maximum employment and the committee’s target two percent inflation rate as benchmarks for decisions related to future policy decisions.

April’s unemployment rate is set for release on May 2.