NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Ticks Up in April

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Ticks Up in AprilThe national reading for home builder confidence rose one point to an index reading of 83 in April; the National Association of Home Builders predicted a reading of 84. Component readings for April’s national index readings were mixed.  Builder confidence in current market conditions for single-family homes rose one point to 88. Builder confidence in market conditions for single-family homes in the next six months fell two points to 81 but homebuilder confidence in buyer traffic in new home developments rose two points to an index reading of 75.

Readings over 50 indicate a majority of builders are positive about housing market conditions. Buyer traffic readings published before the pandemic rarely exceeded index readings of 50.

Regional Home Builder Confidence Varied

Regional readings for home builder confidence varied in April. The Northeast region reported an index reading of 84 in April, which was two points lower than in March. The Midwestern region’s April reading was three points lower at 75 than in March. Homebuilder confidence in the South rose two points to 84 and builder confidence in the West was unchanged with an index reading of 92.

NAHB’s Three-month moving average of regional homebuilder confidence in housing market conditions reported for the Northeast rose six points to 86; builder confidence in the Midwest fell two points to 78 and builder confidence in housing market conditions rose one point to 83. Builder confidence in housing market conditions in the West was unchanged at an index reading of 90.

High Demand for Homes Persists as Materials Costs Limit Affordability

Shortages of available pre-owned homes continued to boost new home sales, but rising materials costs and supply chain issues presented ongoing challenges to builders. NAHB Chair Fowkes said, “The supply chain for residential construction is tight, particularly regarding the cost and availability of lumber, appliances, and other building materials.”

Affordability is a substantial obstacle for first-time and moderate-income home buyers Prices of pre-owned homes are rising at their fastest pace in 15 years as mortgage rates move higher. NAHB Chair Fowkes also said, “Though builders are seeking to keep prices affordable…policymakers must find ways to increase the supply of building materials as the economy runs hot in 2021.”

Homebuilders and potential home buyers can expect ongoing challenges in 2021. As home prices rise, fewer families can enter the housing markets; other potential buyers may decide to postpone buying homes until home price growth eases.

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It’s Almost Spring Cleaning Time! Kick Clutter To The Curb With These Home Cleaning Tips

It's Almost Spring Cleaning Time! Kick Clutter to the Curb With These Home Cleaning TipsSpring is around the corner, and it’s time to get your home in order!

Spring cleaning can be fun and easy if you follow some general guidelines, which are sure to get your home ready for the nice weather and looking as beautiful as the weather is about to. Kick the winter clutter to the curb with these spring cleaning tips.

Start With The Closets

Spring is here, and winter wear is no longer needed! It’s time to box up all of the winter boots, jackets, gloves, and scarfs until next season.

Starting your spring clean with your closets is a good tip, and will get you prepared for the rest of the process while creating more space and organization in the bedrooms of the house. This is also the perfect opportunity to create a “giveaway” box full of clothes that are no longer being worn.

Reorganize: Bookshelves, Countertops, And Desks

Reorganizing is the perfect way to prepare your home for the spring and summer. Good clutter is common in many homes, like useful books that are interesting for guests to read or decorations that offer a sense of warmth and character to the home.

So pick up the fallen and leaning books on the bookshelf, reorganize your kitchen countertops, and de-clutter your home office. For busy home offices, purchase organizational tools like additional shelving units, compile and file away old bills and receipts, and toss anything else that is no longer needed or of any use.

Get Scrubbing: Removing Stains And Odors

Getting ready for spring means removing the stains, dirt, and odors that accumulated in your home over the colder months. First, you should start with wiping your painted walls with a wet cloth to remove scuffmarks and dust.

If the water doesn’t do the trick, you can try mixing a little dishwashing soap in with the bucket of warm water. You may even want to repaint certain high-traffic areas, like entrance halls and the baseboards around the front door.

Next, you can go for the floors. Having a fresh carpet cleaning is sure to kick-start your spring cleaning; this may be something that you wish to have done by a professional. To make the most out of your carpet cleaning, have it scheduled for when the kids are out of the house for a while, and wait until the worst of the weather is over.

Make sure the kids take their shoes off inside, but get them to leave their socks on to avoid natural oils from getting into your freshly cleaned carpet. Vacuum area rugs in the same fashion, and mop the kitchen and bathroom floors at the same time you clean your hardwood floors.

Give the showers, bathtubs, and toilets in the house a good scrub. In the kitchen, empty the fridge and freezer of their contents, and give the inside a good scrub down as well.

Once the tidying, de-cluttering, and scrubbing are done, you will get to enjoy the fun part of spring cleaning: spring decorating! And while you’re at it, why not buy yourself and your home some spring flowers for a job well done.

If you’re doing a big spring clean this year because you’re looking to sell your home, these tips will get your home ready for any buyer’s eyes. Contact your real estate professional today to get more tips on buying or selling a home.

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3 Easy Ways to Put Aside a Bit of Extra Cash So You Can Pay off Your Mortgage Faster

3 Easy Ways to Put Aside a Bit of Extra Cash So You Can Pay off Your Mortgage Faster If your personal budget is similar to many other people’s budgets, your home mortgage payment is by far the largest expense that you pay for each month. In fact, this payment may easily account for 20 or 25 percent or more of your take-home income.

Understandably, you may be focused on trying to pay this expense off early. By focusing on this payment, you can build equity and may be able to achieve financial security more quickly. You simply have to find a way to put aside a bit of extra cash regularly so that you can make extra payments, and there are few easy ways that you can consider.

Use Your Tax Refund

First, if you are one of the many taxpayers who receives a refund each year, consider setting aside some or all of this refund to reduce your outstanding mortgage balance.

Some taxpayers may have such a sizable refund that it can account for two or more mortgage payments each year. However, even a few hundred dollars extra put toward your principal balance will save you a considerable amount of money in interest charges over time and will have a wonderful effect on your balance.

Earmark Your Annual Bonus

If you are lucky enough to receive an annual bonus each year, you may consider using this to pay down your principal balance. While you may usually spend this money on extra holiday gifts or just add it to your spending cash, you can benefit more substantially when you contribute it to your effort to pay down your mortgage.

Use An Automated Draft To Create a Fund

Another great idea that will work well for all individuals is to create an automated draft from your checking account each month. You may set aside the funds in a special account, and you can make an extra mortgage payment from this account periodically. Another idea is to set up auto payments for your mortgage that are higher than the amount due. For example, you may establish auto payments that are $50 or $100 more than your scheduled payments.

Paying off your mortgage earlier can be a life changing event for you. Simply imagine how different your life would be if you were not responsible for this payment each month. The fact is that this could be your reality sooner than you think if you follow these tips. For the best results, apply two or even all three tips to your efforts.

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Boosting Your Credit Score To Qualify For Better Rates

Boosting Your Credit Score To Qualify For Better Rates

The better your credit score, the better the mortgage interest rate for which you should qualify. That can mean thousands of dollars saved over the life of the mortgage. If your credit score needs improving, get started prior to your search for a new home.

Pay Bills On Time
The simplest way to boost your credit score is by ensuring your bills are always paid on time. Nothing harms a credit score more than late payments.

Check for Credit Report Errors
Check your credit reports for any errors. These issues are not uncommon, and can really impact your score. Each of the three major credit card reporting bureaus –Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion –will provide you with a free annual report.

Credit Utilization Rate
Look into your credit utilization, or CU, rate. The CU rate is another big credit score consideration. Your CU rate is the amount of credit authorized versus the amount you use. It’s one reason maxing out your credit cards is not a wise move.

Never allow your CU rate to exceed more than 30 percent of your available credit. In simple terms if you have $1,000 in available credit, never use more than $300. High CU rates are a red flag, as they indicate someone with potential financial problems. For best results, keep your CU rate as low as you can.
Calculate your CU rate by adding up the credit limits on all cards, as well as the balances. Divide the total balances by the total credit limit, then multiply by 100. That amount is your CU rate percentage.

Reduce Your Debt
If you carry credit card debt, pay it down as much as possible. That also helps lower your CU rate.

Avoid Opening New Credit Card Accounts
Do not open new credit card accounts while trying to boost your credit score.   A new account lowers the age of your accounts, affecting your credit history and lowering the CU rate.

Do Not Close Unused Credit Card Accounts
Do you have credit cards you never use? You might think closing them would boost your credit score, but that is not how it works. When you close the account, the amount of credit you have drops. That triggers a CU rate increase.

Refinancing Credit Card Debt
If you have substantial credit card debt, consider refinancing all of it with a personal loan. You should receive a lower interest rate with your balances now merged into a single monthly payment. This also causes your CU rate to go down.

How Long Will It Take?
How long it will take to improve your credit score depends on the severity of your credit problems. Those with serious credit issues may find it takes years to raise their scores significantly, but most people should see improvement within a few months. Then it is time to think about mortgage shopping!

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 12, 2021

Last week’s economic reporting included readings from the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee and a speech given by Fed Chair Jerome Powell. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and jobless claims were also released.

FOMC Minutes: Fed’s Monetary Policy Stance to Remain “Accommodative”

The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve released minutes of its meeting held March 16 and 17. The meeting minutes indicated split opinions on the U.S. economy’s outlook. Several members expected inflation to rise due to constricted supply chains and high demand for goods and services. This scenario resembles trends in residential real estate where supplies of available homes are far lower than buyer demand. Other FOMC members expected continued downward pressure on inflation. Members expected inflation to rise to 2.40 percent in 2022 but expected the inflation rate to ease to 2.10 percent by 2023.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 12, 2021The Federal Reserve has a dual legal mandate to achieve an inflation rate of 2.00 percent and maximum employment. While inflation is expected to exceed 2.00 percent in 2022 and beyond, unemployment remains above pre-pandemic levels. FOMC members did not raise the Fed’s key interest rate range from 0.00 to 0.25 percent.

In related news, Fed Chair Jerome Powell spoke at a webinar hosted by the International Monetary Fund. He emphasized the potential threat of COVID to the U.S. and global economy and encouraged everyone to get vaccinate and said, “Until the world is vaccinated, we’re all going to be at risk of new mutations and we won’t be able to resume activity all around the world.”

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Show Mixed Readings

Fixed mortgage rates were lower last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell by five basis points to 3.13 percent; the average rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages fell by three basis points to 2.42 percent. Rates for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages averaged 2.92 percent and rose by eight basis points. Discount points averaged 0.70 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages and 0.60 percent for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. Discount points averaged 0.10 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Initial jobless claims rose to 744,000 claims filed as compared to the prior week’s reading of 728,000 first-time jobless claims filed. Analysts expected 694,000 new claims for last week. Continuing jobless claims were lower last week with 3.73 million ongoing claims filed. There were 3.75 million continuing jobless claims in the prior week.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic reporting includes readings from the National Association of Home Builders, Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued, and inflation. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims will also be released.

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The Three Essential Habits That Successful Home Buyers Must Embrace

The Three Essential Habits That Successful Home Buyers Must EmbraceWhether you are preparing to purchase your first home or it has been many years since you last walked through the home buying process, you may be starting to feel overwhelmed at the thought of all of the work that lies in front of you. From concerns about finding the right home to the physical act of relocating all of your belongings after the closing, there is certainly a lot to think about. While each home buying transaction is unique, the most successful home buyers have typically adopted a few behaviors. You may keep these in mind to help you navigate through the process with success.

Keep An Eye On Your Budget

Financial stress when buying a home is common. You may have saved for years to afford your down payment, but there are various expenses that some may have not calculated or planned for. It is important to leave extra funds available for unexpected expenses, such as paying for the appraisal up-front on the home you have fallen in love with. Likewise, keep a close eye on your budget so that you are aware of your financial situation at all times.

Be Available And Flexible

It is imperative that you remain available and flexible as much as possible. Your real estate agent may call you at the last minute with a great new listing that has come on the market, and you may need to be flexible with your schedule to see this property before other buyers do. In addition, you may need to be flexible and accommodating with regards to contract negotiations, working with title company requests and more.

Seek Advice And Knowledge

Buying a home does not have to be stressful, but it also is not something that you do every day. There is a lot for even an experienced home buyer to learn, and you should be prepared to seek advice and to educate yourself along the way. Ask questions as necessary, and use the Internet for additional research.

Home buying is a process, and you may consider taking one day at a time as you proceed through the journey to reach your ultimate goal. A skilled real estate agent can guide you through the process and can help you to more successfully reach your goal. Reach out to a real estate agent today to begin looking for your new home.

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Looking at Home Mortgage Refinancing in 2021

Looking at Home Mortgage Refinancing in 2021In 2019 many people expected that the home lending market was going to eventually grow more expensive. Instead, 2020 spent its entire 12 months becoming more affordable when it came to financing a personal home, moving in the opposite direction of what was expected. Not only did the loan cost drop break previous records, but it also presented an additional opportunity for homeowners to reposition and take advantage of lower borrowing costs again.

The General Advantages of a Home Loan Refinance

The refinancing of a mortgage has traditionally been three-fold. First, it is a chance to re-negotiate the loan on a home purchase for a lower interest rate, which means more of the borrower’s payment goes to the loan and less to an interest charge. Second, it gives people an option to change the interest rate charged to a shorter payment period, which can also save considerable money. A borrower will pay dozens of thousands less on a 15-year loan versus a 30-year mortgage. Finally, refinancing allows a borrower to tap into home equity to use that cash value to consolidate debt, pay for other big costs, or make renovations to the home without paying out of pocket for them.

Why 2021 Provides a Good Window

By the time 2020 ended, mortgage rates overall were running at all time lows on a conventional 30-year fixed mortgage, an amazing opportunity for the cost of borrowing and probably the lowest possible in 50 years. The dip won’t last forever, as many people have been trying to project, and eventually what goes down also goes back up. Some amount of rising rates is a firm prediction from the National Association of Realtors® for 2021 which has already occurred, and that loan interest rate cost is expected to eventually go somewhat higher by the end of the year if the economy speeds up again. So, the 2021 window for a valuable refinancing opportunity is clearly the beginning half of the year.

Comparing Current Status to “What If”

Obviously, just chasing a mortgage refinance for minimal gain is silly. The amount paid in closing costs can be expensive. However, when the shift can easily be a percentage point difference or more, then it is worth considering. Many people locked in homes at higher rates in the past and are still paying that amount, especially on an adjustable-rate mortgage. Grabbing a fixed mortgage refinance in the current rate environment is definitely worth the work and time, potentially paying for itself in a handful of years or by consolidating higher cost debt into the home loan.

There is no perfect formula that applies to everyone, but 2021 has already shaped up to be the year that the majority of homeowners can definitely benefit from, especially given the need for financial reserves and a bit of personal finance reorganization after 2020.  As always, consult with your professional mortgage advisor for details on your personal situation.

 

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VA vs FHA vs USDA What’s the Difference?

VA vs FHA vs USDA What's the Difference?You may have more options than you think when it comes to securing a mortgage for your new home. While many buyers opt for conventional financing, another option or program might be a better choice for you, depending on your personal and financial situation. Learning more about FHA, USDA, and VA loans ensures you get the best possible deal for your mortgage and that you secure the loan that you need for your new home. Here’s what you need to know about these useful mortgage options.

FHA Loans
These are traditional mortgages that are backed by the FHA: when you take out an FHA loan, this government agency is insuring the loan. This makes your loan more appealing to lenders who might otherwise feel your credit or income history is not strong enough. An FHA loan is available to a wide range of buyers and price points and offers a low-down payment, reasonable interest, and other perks that make it worth exploring for your next mortgage. 

VA Loans
If you are a veteran then this program, which offers loans insured by the VA, is a great option for you as they do not require money down so you can buy immediately, rather than saving for years for a down payment. The VA loan is available to those who have served or are serving in the armed forces and is a good option to help you get the home you want with no money down, unlike a conventional mortgage loan.

USDA Loans
One of the most useful and often overlooked loan programs is from the USDA. While this government office offers direct loans, far more people qualify for their insured loan programs. USDA loans are for rural areas, but a surprising number of suburban communities and locations qualify as well. With a low-down payment and interest, this subsidized loan program is well worth it if you plan to live in a rural or suburban area. 

Not every borrower will qualify for the mortgage options above; the USDA has guidelines on income and the home you are interested in. The FHA does not have income requirements, but you will need to prove your income and this option also has a loan limit.  If you do meet the guidelines of any of the above programs, they can help you access the home you want by dramatically reducing your upfront and deposit costs. 

The right loan for you will depend on your income, credit, and the home you’ve selected. Your agent can help you find the home that suits the program you want and make it easy for you to secure the financing you qualify for. Get in touch today to talk about your home buying options and see which loan option is right for you. 

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Suffering from Credit Problems? Understanding Mortgage Lenders and How They Assess Your Credit

Suffering from Credit Problems? Understanding Mortgage Lenders and How They Assess Your CreditOne of the most significant factors a mortgage lender will review when you apply for a new mortgage loan is your credit history and rating. While some people have stellar credit, others have a troubled credit history with lower scores.

If you fall into the latter scenario, you may be wondering how lenders will assess your credit situation when you apply for a mortgage in the near future.

Reviewing Your Credit Scores

Initially, lenders will review your credit report to determine your credit scores. Your scores will have a direct impact on the interest rate that you qualify for or if you qualify for a loan at all. There are prime mortgages for good credit borrowers and sub-prime mortgages for those with a blemished credit rating.

If your scores are too low, however, you may not qualify for a mortgage. A mortgage representative can tell you more about their credit rating thresholds and the terms that you may qualify for.

High Debt Balances

Your mortgage lender will dig deeper into your credit report after an initial review of your credit rating. Your debt balances will be reviewed to determine your debt-to-income ratio. Provided your debt-to-income ratio and your credit rating are in line with requirements, high debt balances may not be an issue. Essentially, the lender will determine if you are able to make your payments on time as scheduled or if your debt balances appear to be burdensome. Even if your debt balances are high, you may be approved for a loan if you can afford to make the payments.

Difficulty Making Timely Payments

Your mortgage lender will also review the number of late payments on your credit report as well as the dates for those late payments. When late payments are clustered together, this may indicate a temporary rough patch rather than an on-going issue with making payments on time. However, if you have multiple payments that have been late over the course of the last year or two, this may indicate that you are not creditworthy as a loan applicant.

A credit report can tell a lender many things about you. While it superficially can tell a lender more about your outstanding debts, it also delves into previous financial issues and your overall responsibility with managing debt. If you have suffered from credit problems in the past, you may consider reaching out to a mortgage professional for more insight on how a lender will assess your credit situation.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 5, 2021

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - April 5, 2021Last week’s economic reports included readings on home prices, pending home sales, and construction spending. Data on public and private-sector employment and the national unemployment rate were published along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims. 

vLast week’s economic reports included readings on home prices, pending home sales, and construction spending. Data on public and private-sector employment and the national unemployment rate were published along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims. Last week’s economic reports included readings on home prices, pending home sales, and construction spending. Data on public and private-sector employment and the national unemployment rate were published along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims.

Case-Shiller: Record Home Price Growth in Phoenix, but Will it Last?

Case-Shiller Home Price Indices indicated fast growth in home prices as the national home price growth rate for January grew to 11.20 percent from December’s reading of 10.40 percent national home price growth. Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index reported 19 of 20 cities reported rising home prices in January, but Cleveland, Ohio home prices were lower. Detroit, Michigan resumed reporting to the 20-City Home Price Index after nearly a year’s absence.

Phoenix, Arizona led the January 20-City Home Price Index with a seasonally-adjusted annual pace of 15.80 percent; Seattle, Washington, and San Diego, California followed with home price growth of 14.30 percent and 14.20 percent.

 Analysts expressed concerns that rapidly rising home prices are not sustainable in the long term and cited rising mortgage rates and skyrocketing home prices as obstacles to homebuying. As demand for homes eases, home price growth will slow.

The Commerce Department reported fewer pending home sales in February as pending home sales fell by 10.60 percent. Analysts expected pending home sales to fall to -3.10 percent; pending home sales dropped by -2.40 percent in January. Construction spending fell by -0.80 percent in February; it was expected to fall by one percent as compared to January’s positive reading of 1.25 percent growth in construction spending. Rising lumber prices and severe winter weather influenced construction spending in February.

Mortgage Rates Hold Steady, Jobless Claims Mixed

Freddie Mac reported little change in mortgage rates last week. The average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose one basis point to 3.18 percent; Rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 2.45 percent and were unchanged. The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages was also unchanged at 2.84 percent. Discount points averaged 0.70 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, 0.60 percent for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

The Census Bureau reported 719,000 new jobless claims last week; this surpassed the prior week’s reading of 658,000 initial claims. Ongoing jobless claims fell to 3.79 claims filed as compared to the prior week’s reading of 3.80 million continuing jobless claims filed.

Private-sector jobs grew by 525,000 jobs in March but fell short of the expected 525,000 private-sector jobs added. Public and private-sector jobs also ramped up with 916,000 jobs added in March. Analysts expected 675,000 jobs added to the Non-Farm Payrolls report; 468,000 public and private-sector jobs were added in February. The national unemployment rate decreased to 6.00 percent from February’s reading of 6.20 percent.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include job openings and minutes of the recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and jobless claims will also be reported.

 

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