Archives for April 2016

Three Tips to Ensure That a Reverse Mortgage Makes Sense for Your Financial Situation

Three Tips to Ensure That a Reverse Mortgage Makes Sense for Your Financial SituationIf you’re having financial troubles, or if you need to free up a large sum in a short period of time, a reverse mortgage is a great way to get the money you need without having to take on new debt or make monthly payments. When you apply for a reverse mortgage – also known as a home equity conversion mortgage – you’re essentially borrowing money from the equity you’ve built up in your house. The great advantages of a reverse mortgage are that you don’t need to make any loan payments until you decide to move out of the house and that in spite of the interest rates attached, you’ll never owe more than the value of your home.

However, there are tight restrictions and requirements with respect to who can get a reverse mortgage and what needs to be done before you receive any money. In order to qualify, you must meet an age requrement and the property must be your primary residence. You also can’t owe more money on the property than it is worth.

So how can you tell if a reverse mortgage is a good solution for you? Here are three factors you’ll want to consider.

Will You Use The Money Responsibly?

In general, the high-cost, high-risk nature of a reverse mortgage makes it ideal for people who are having trouble meeting their everyday living expenses. That means you’ll need to ensure you use the money responsibly. Good uses of reverse mortgage funds include paying living expenses and medical costs when no other options are available, and paying for emergency care after a serious injury if you’re uninsured.

Have You Exhausted All Other Avenues?

A reverse mortgage can have significant upfront costs. The fees may be higher than other loans, which means even if you don’t actually use any of the credit you obtain through a reverse mortgage, you’ll still may be paying a large sum out of pocket. Furthermore, your lender has the authority to recall the loan if you let your home insurance expire, if you fall behind on your property taxes or home maintenance, or if you spend a full year in an assisted living facility.

These risk factors mean that a reverse mortgage is typically best used as a last resort. If you have other options – for instance, if you have stocks or investments you can cash out, or if you can sell your home to your children and then rent it back from them – you’re better off going down another route. But if you’ve already exhausted all other options, a reverse mortgage may make sense.

Are You Planning To Stay In Your Home For The Foreseeable Future?

A reverse mortgage generally works best for people who intend to stay in their homes for several years. When you get a reverse mortgage, you’ll need to take out insurance to protect against the possibility of your loan balance growing beyond your property value. That means you’ll need to pay monthly insurance premiums – and if you only plan to stay in your home for a short period of time before selling, it’s very unlikely that your loan balance will grow beyond the value of your home.

A reverse mortgage can be a convenient way to access emergency cash reserves – and when used responsibly, it’s a great tool that can help you to help you with otherwise unmanageable expenses. However, reverse mortgages can also be risky and complicated – and you’ll want to consult a professional before applying for one. Call your local mortgage expert to learn more about whether a reverse mortgage is right for you.

Selling Your Half of a Jointly-owned Home? Here’s What You Need to Know

Selling Your Half of a Jointly-owned Home? Here's What You Need to Know

There are many factors to consider when it comes to selling your home, and if you own your home with someone else the details involved can be even more confusing. If you’re wading into your co-ownership options and are curious about your next steps, here’s a short list of some things to think about.

Buyout: Selling Your Half

If you own your home with a friend, family member or former partner who would like to keep the property, the first thing you’ll want to do is contact an appraiser who will provide you with the market value of your home. Once you know this amount, you can discuss it with your co-owner and decide on the amount they can pay you for a buyout. While some co-owners will decide to get a loan and pay a lump sum, they may also want to schedule monthly payments until the buyout amount is completely paid off.

Partition Sale: Leave It To Legal

In the event that both you and the co-owner of your home would like to get rid of your property without any fuss, you have the option of a partition sale which means that the court will take care of your property sale for you. Once this occurs and any fees are paid, the total purchase price that is made from the home will be divided between the co-owners and the property will no longer be an issue for either party. If one owner has invested more into the home, it’s possible that one party may benefit more than the other.

Voluntary Sale: Coming To An Agreement

There are many situations involving property and personal possessions where the fence cannot be mended, but in the event that you want to sell your portion of a property it is in your best interest to sell together. While a partition sale provides the opportunity to get the property off the co-owner’s hands quickly, there’s a good chance that some of the money earned will be caught up in legal fees. If you’re able to come to an understanding, you may both reap a larger sum.

Whether you’re moving on to the next chapter of your life or experiencing a settlement, there are many available options for selling a home that is co-owned. If you’re considering options for your co-owned home, please contact one your trusted mortgage professional for more information.

Key Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding to Refinance Your Mortgage

Key Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding to Refinance Your MortgageIf you’re looking to reduce your interest payments or get more favorable loan terms, there are lots of ways you can change your mortgage. But one of the most effective ways to take advantage of low interest rates is with a mortgage refinance. That said, refinancing typically comes with a variety of costs and may not be a good solution or all homeowners.

So how can you tell whether it’s a good idea to refinance your home? Here are three questions you need to ask yourself if you want to find out.

How Much Equity Do I Have?

If you have less than 20 percent equity in your home, your lender can require you to get private mortgage insurance. While refinancing could get you a lower interest rate and better terms, extra PMI costs will usually devour any savings you may have had. Before you decide to refinance your mortgage, determine how much equity you have in your home and how close you are to the 20 percent mark – if you can pay down enough of the balance to drop your PMI, refinancing may be a viable option.

How Long Do I Plan To Live Here?

When you refinance your home, you’ll pay administrative costs ranging from 3 to 6 percent of the loan’s value. You’ll need to do some calculations to determine your break-even point – the point in time when the money you save from a lower interest rate is equal to the amount of money you paid in administrative costs. If you’re close to paying off your entire mortgage or if you plan to move before you hit the break-even point, a refinance will only cost you money.

Is It A Good Time To Refinance?

Refinancing creates a new loan based on your home’s current value – and if your home has increased in value since you bought it, you can cash out your equity. However, refinancing may also lose you money. For example, if you have $300,000 worth of equity in a $750,000 home, refinancing allows you to cash out your $300,000.

But if your property value has decreased in recent years – for instance, if it’s dropped to $500,000 – then a refinance can change your equity status. Equity is your home’s current value minus your remaining loan balance. If you owe $450,000 and your property value drops to $500,000, then your equity is only $50,000 instead of the $300,000 you had before.

The key lesson? Always check market conditions before refinancing a home.

Refinancing is a complex issue with a variety of nuances. That’s why it pays to consult your local mortgage professional to learn whether a refinance is right for you.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 11, 2016

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 11, 2016Last week’s economic news included minutes of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

FOMC Minutes Indicate Fed Not Pressing Rate Increases

Minutes of the FOMC meeting held March 15 and 16 suggest that FOMC members are easing their enthusiasm for raising the target federal funds rate. In recent months, the committee has indicated that it was leaning toward raising rates on a slow but steady pace. Ongoing concerns over changing global economic and financial conditions contributed to FOMC’s decision not to raise the key federal funds rate. Low energy prices continue to cause U.S. inflation to stay below the Fed’s goal of two percent, which suggests that the economy is not recovering as fast as originally expected.

Labor markets continued to improve as the national unemployment rate held steady at 4.90 percent in February. FOMC noted that the labor force participation rate and employment to population ratio increased. The four-week moving average of new jobless claims fell in March after increasing in February. These readings support continued expansion of labor markets.

Housing markets and household spending improved. Committee members characterized developments in labor and housing markets as “broadly consistent” with earlier expectations. Some housing markets connected with energy production weakened. FOMC members elected to maintain the target federal funds rate at a range of 0.25 to 0.50 percent. Global financial and economic developments were cited as contributing to the Committee’s decision not to raise its target rate.

Mortgage Rates, Weekly Jobless Claims Lower

Mortgage rates fell across the board last week. According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates, the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped to 3.59 percent from the previous week’s reading of 3.71 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage dropped 10 basis points to 2.88 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped to 2.82 percent from 2.90 percent. Average discount points held steady at 0.50, 0.40 and 0.50 percent respectively. Last week’s mortgage rates were the lowest in 14 months.

Analysts said this news was positive in the sense that lower rates make mortgages more affordable, but more home buyers entering the market would further increase demand for homes. Low inventories of homes and high demand have fueled higher home prices in many areas.

Weekly jobless claims fell to 267,000 new claims against expectations of 268,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 276,000 new jobless claims. New jobless claims remained below the benchmark of 300,000 new claims for the 57th consecutive week.

What’s Ahead This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news releases include retail sales, the Fed’s Beige Book report, the consumer price index and core consumer price index. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report will be released as usual on Thursday.

Can You Refinance into a VA Mortgage from Another Type of Mortgage? Yes, If You Qualify

Can You Refinance into a VA Mortgage from Another Type of Mortgage? Yes - if You Qualify VA mortgages stand out as one of the biggest benefits to men and women serving in the military. Although private lenders make the loan, the Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees all VA mortgages, which is why these loans come with favorable terms and benefits not found with other mortgage types.

The Benefits Of Refinancing To A VA Mortgage

A VA loan may very well be the borrower’s only option for putting no money down, as many lenders will cover 100% of the value of the home, thanks to the backing of Veterans Affairs. There is a ceiling on the amount covered depending on the area of the country, so contacting a qualified VA mortgage professional is the preferred way to discover limits locally.

VA loans also require no mortgage insurance, cover many of the costs associated with closing or refinancing and, in many cases, have lower mortgage rates than comparable loans.

Veterans who had never considered a VA mortgage may wish to take advantage of the flexible terms and the favorable market to refinance their current mortgage into one that offers tremendous benefits.

Qualifying For A VA Mortgage

Veterans Affairs mortgages are limited to service men and women and their spouses, a benefit for serving their country. After a set amount of service time veterans are able to apply for a certificate of eligibility that will allow them to apply for the loan.

Those who are eligible include most military members in active duty, members of the National Guard, veterans both discharged and retired, military academy cadets as well as any spouse of a deceased serviceperson.

Eligible Homeowners Can Refinance Through Cash-Out Refinancing

The Department of Veterans Affairs considers a conventional mortgage to VA mortgage refinancing to be the same as cash-out refinancing and treats it accordingly.

This process is as intensive as an initial mortgage because it will replace the current mortgage altogether, so all applicants are expected to go through the standard credit and underwriting process.

VA loans are incredibly beneficial to current military members as well as retired veterans who may have never considered taking advantage of the program. Although the mortgage can cover 100% of the value of a home, the actual amount varies depending on the area. The only way to know for sure how much will be covered and whether it’s the right time to refinance is to contact a mortgage professional who has experience with VA mortgages.

3 Psychological Hacks That Will Help You Sell Your Home Faster

3 Psychological Hacks That Will Help You Sell Your Home FasterFrom real estate agents to home buyers, there are so many tips out there on how to sell your home that it can be overwhelming to determine which tricks will boost your success rate and make the sale. If you’re looking for a few sure-fire hacks for getting your home off the market quickly, the following may do a lot of the hard work for you so that selling won’t remain a worry for long.

Stick To A Neutral Palette

Neutral colors like white and grey may seem like a boring approach to design, but they’re actually a great way to grab a potential buyer’s attention. While an especially bold color like red or dark blue can distract the viewer, neutral tones will not jar the eye and will enable the viewer to see the features that your home truly offers. Instead of a space they can’t see for the color, they’ll be able to pay attention to the details that really matter.

Discard The Oversized Items

Most of us have an old, bulky piece of furniture that we still haven’t bothered to get rid of, but when preparing your home for viewings you may want to finally let go of this ostentatious piece. A bulky furniture item will make an undersized space look even smaller, whereas – in a large, sprawling space – it will swallow the size of the room. Instead of a large-scale item, stick to classy, medium-sized pieces that will effectively complement each other.

Keep Personal Items To A Minimum

It may seem like personalizing your home, from pictures all over the fridge to movie posters, will add to its appeal, but it can actually take away from the impression that potential buyers will get. While a home that has a few personal touches here and there can make it more memorable, too many of these little details may actually make the viewer feel out of place. Since the end goal is an offer on your home, enabling potential buyers to imagine themselves in your space is key.

There are an endless amount of tricks involved in a successful home sale, but there are a few little hacks you can do that may work wonders on the minds of potential buyers.

5 Tips to Reduce Your Monthly Mortgage Payment

5 Tips to Reduce Your Monthly Mortgage PaymentBuying a home isn’t cheap – and even though mortgage rates are low, your own financial circumstances may mean that your monthly payment is more than you can afford. Whether you’re a new buyer looking to save money or a cash-strapped owner who needs to free up extra income, there are several ways you can lower your monthly payments – here are just five of them.

Make 13 Payments Every Year

If you have some extra money and you’re looking to pay down more of your principal amount, making 13 annual payments instead of the usual 12 is a great way to not only reduce what you owe, but also lower your monthly costs. Most lenders will allow you to make one additional lump sum payment per year on top of your regular monthly payments. Pro tip: Combine your tax refund and Christmas bonus into one big lump sum to pay down your mortgage.

Still Paying PMI? Ask Your Lender To Cancel It

Private mortgage insurance is a standard cost that you’re legally obligated to pay if your down payment was less than 20% of your home’s value. But once you’ve paid off that 20%, you’re no longer required to have PMI on a conventional mortgage. If you’ve built up 20% equity, talk to your lender about removing PMI from your mortgage agreement – it could save you thousands.

Recast Your Mortgage

If you’ve been diligently paying your mortgage for years but suddenly run into money problems, recasting your mortgage is a great way to make your monthly payments easier to manage. Recasting is fairly simple – it takes your remaining loan balance and stretches it across your original loan term. For example, if you’re 15 years into a 30-year mortgage that has half of its balance remaining, you can recast your mortgage to pay off the balance over another 30-year period.

Facing Financial Hardship? Get A HAMP Modification

If you encounter financial hardship, you can ask your lender if they offer a Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). HAMP is a government program designed to make housing more affordable for low-income citizens. It’s possible to save a significant amount of money with a HAMP modification.

Mortgages can be expensive – but with a professional mortgage advisor on your side, you’ll know how to handle or even reduce the costs. Contact a mortgage professional near you to learn more.

Budgeting for a New Home?: 3 Unlikely Costs to Consider in Your Overall Budget

Budgeting for a New Home? 3 Unlikely Costs to Consider in Your Overall BudgetIf you’re planning to buy a new home in the near future, you’re probably working hard to prepare a budget and determine how much you can afford before you start viewing homes. While it’s good to have an idea of what you can pay for a new house, many buyers routinely miss several key home buying costs that can later cause a variety of problems. Before you start looking for your new home, make sure you add these three commonly forgotten costs to your budget.

Title Insurance: Critical Protection Against Title Claims

Title insurance is something that most buyers forget about until closing, but it’s a necessary form of protection for every soon-to-be homeowner. Title insurance provides you with protection against financial losses in the event that you later discover title defects. For example, title insurance can protect you from losses in situations where the seller doesn’t actually own the home, where there is a lien on the property, or where a previous owner accidentally omitted or deliberately falsified critical property records.

In a standard real estate contract the seller will pay for the buyer’s title insurance, but in most states, the buyer is also required to buy title insurance to protect the mortgage lender. Title insurance for lenders usually costs, on average, $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Unexpected Renovations: Home Inspectors Aren’t Perfect

Typically, your home inspector will alert you to any issues requiring renovation or repair before you buy your new home. But if your home inspector is negligent and misses a critical problem with the home, you may need to find money for surprise renovations – and fast.

While you can file an insurance claim or sue the inspector for negligence in order to recoup damages, court cases and insurance claims take time – time that you may not have if you’re facing an urgent home problem. Most real estate agents suggest budgeting 1% of your home’s budget each year for maintenance costs.

Initial Interest: Your First Month Comes Due Before You Know It

Your mortgage starts accruing interest on the day you close the home sale, not on the day you move in. So in order to make sure that you have a consistent payment, the lender collects the first partial month of interest at the closing table.  It’s called “prepaid interest” and is included in your overall closing costs.  That means if you sign the contract on March 15, you’ll need to make an interest payment for the period of time lasting from March 15 to March 31 at closing. Your payment will then come due on May 1 – so be sure to include your first interest payment in planning for your closing costs.

Buying a home isn’t cheap. But when you clearly understand the various costs involved, it’s easier to plan your home purchase and budget for expenses, both expected and not. Contact your local mortgage professional to learn more about home buying costs.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 4, 2016

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 4, 2016Last week’s economic calendar was full of new releases including pending home sales, Case-Shiller Home Price Indices and construction spending. Labor related reports including ADP payrolls, federal Non-farm payrolls, and the national unemployment rate were also released along with reports on consumer confidence and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new unemployment claims.

Case-Shiller: January Home Prices Up 5.7% Year-Over-Year

According to the S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index for January, home prices increased by 5.70 percent year-over-year. The West led price increases with double-digit price gains posted for San Francisco, California, Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. Denver, Colorado also posted a double-digit gain, but dropped its recent lead for metro areas tracked by the 20-City Index.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported better than expected growth in February pending home sales. Low mortgage rates pushed pending home sales to their highest rate in seven months. Pending home sales rose 3.50 percent in February, which exceeded the expected reading of 1.80 percent and January’s reading of 03.00 percent. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said that February’s reading indicated that housing markets may be recovering after choppy winter sales. Mr. Yun also noted a “slight uptick in inventory,” which is good news for housing markets currently experiencing low inventories of homes for several months or more.

S&P Index Committee Chair David M Blitzer echoed Mr. Yun’s remarks about the impact of low inventories of homes for sale. While higher home prices driven by low inventories benefit home sellers, there comes a point where potential buyers cannot find and / or afford available homes. Constructing new homes is the only immediate solution to increasingly limited supplies of homes for sale.

Construction spending slipped in February from January’s upwardly revised $1.150 trillion on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. February’s reading was $1.144 trillion. Construction spending fell 0.50 percent as compared to analysts’ expectations of 0.20 percent. Year-over-year, construction spending was 10.30 percent higher in February.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rates survey reported mixed results last week. The average rate for a 30-yar fixed rate mortgage held steady at 3.71 percent; the average rate for 15-year fixed rate mortgages rose by two basis points to 2.98 percent and the rate for 5/1 adjustable rate rose by one basis point to 2.90 percent. Average discount points were unchanged across the board at 0.50, 0.40 percent and 0.50 percent respectively.

New unemployment claims rose to 276,000 against an expected reading of 270,000 new claims and 265,000 new claims the prior week.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported fewer jobs created in March than for February. 215,000 jobs were added in March as compared to the expected reading of 203,000 new jobs and February’s reading 245,000 new jobs. ADP reported a lower reading of 200,000 private sector jobs added as compared to expectations of 205,000 jobs added and February’s reading of 205,000 private sector jobs added. The national unemployment rate ticked up to 5.0 percent over February’s reading of 4.90 percent.

Consumer confidence rose over two percent in March with a reading of 96.20 percent. Analysts expected a reading of 94.20 based on February’s reading of 94.00.

What’s Ahead This Week

Economic reports scheduled this week include job openings and weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

3 Budget-Friendly DIY Weekend Renovations to Step into Spring

3 Budget-friendly DIY Weekend Renovations to Step into SpringThe springtime is often the best time of the year for cleaning up and getting rid of old items, but with its proximity to the winter months it can still be hard to commit to large-scale renovations. If you’re looking for some small fixes to give your home a seasonal boost, here are a few options that won’t take up a lot of time.

Freshen Up The Window Frames

Paint can instantly enhance the brightness of any room, but deciding to repaint can be a job that takes more than just a weekend. Instead of committing to everything, paint your window frames for a task that is cheap and doesn’t require a huge expenditure of time. Since the eyes will naturally be drawn to the windows in any room, this will serve to improve your space without all the work that goes into sanding and taping everything.

Add An Accent With Wallpaper

A creative, striking way to upgrade the look of your home is a wallpaper accent that will be easy to install but add trendy appeal to your home’s aesthetic. Instead of going for the same old, choose a wallpaper with a funky design to the area of your choice. By placing it behind a mirror or another picture, you’ll add a lot of oomph without all of the effort that goes into completely repapering a wall. It’s just important to ensure you use an adhesive wallpaper that can be repositioned in the event your first attempt doesn’t work out.

Replace An Old Fixture

It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of legwork to easily revamp a stale space, so consider a light fixture that will instantly draw the eye and can serve as a high-impact piece that really sets the tone for your chosen space. While you’ll want to choose something that won’t completely contrast with the style already present, the right piece can really enhance and modernize what you already have. It’s just important to turn off the breakers before you start fiddling around with installation.

The idea of home renovations can make people think of large scale projects that consume a lot of time, but there are plenty of little things to be done that will make for big changes without an excess of effort. If you’re making some upgrades want to see options for financing, please contact us for more information.