FHFA House Price Index Rises for 14th Consecutive Quarter

FHFA House Price Index Rises for 14th Consecutive QuarterAccording to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), U.S. home prices rose by 1.40 percent for the fourth quarter of 2014 and were up by 0.80 percent month-to-month from November. The seasonally adjusted FHFA House Price Index measures purchase transactions for homes connected with mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

FHFA also reported that home prices rose 4.9 percent year-over –year from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the fourth quarter of 2014. FHFA Chief Economist Andrew Leventis described the report for the last quarter of 2014 as “relatively strong” and also cited low inventories of available homes and improving labor markets as contributing to home price growth.

FHFA House Price Index Identifies Significant Trends

FHFA’s expanded house price data, which adds data from county records and the Federal Housing Administration, to the FHFA House Price Index, indicated that home prices grew by 1.30 percent in the fourth quarter; year-over-year home prices grew by 6.0 percent according to FHFA’s expanded house price data report.

According to purchase-only indexes for the 100 most populated metro areas, the San Francisco-Redwood City-south San Francisco, California metro area posted the highest rate of year-over-year home price gains at six percent for the fourth quarter of 2015. The lowest reading was for the El Paso, Texas, which posted a loss of 6.60 percent in the fourth quarter.

The mountain division of the nine U.S. Census divisions posted the highest annual home price growth at 5.50 percent and 1.40 percent in the fourth quarter. House price appreciation was weakest in the New England Division, where home prices fell by0.03 percent.

FHFA also reported that its “distress free” home price indexes which the agency publishes for 12 metro areas have shown less price appreciation than the FHFA purchase only Home Price Index. Distress-free means that foreclosed homes and short sales were not included in these index readings.

FHFA has expanded its home price reports with a set of reports based on three-digit zip codes. Sorting house price data by the first three digits of a zip code provides more specific data for regional home price trends; mortgage and real estate pros can find house price data for specific neighborhoods and communities. FHFA described its three-digit zip code reports as “experimental” at present.

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.

Case-Shiller: Rising Home Prices Boost Inflation

Case Shiller Rising Home Prices Boost Inflation

December home prices rose by 0.10 percent according to the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index. The composite report tracks home prices in 20 U.S. cities. December’s results boosted home prices by 4.50 percent year-over-year, which is approximately double the inflation rate for 2014. Analysts note that the overall reading was less significant than individual readings for the 20 cities included in the report.

Regional Home Prices Suggest Disparity in Housing Recovery

The top three month-to-month home price increases for cities surveyed were led by Miami, Florida with an increase of 0.70 percent, Home prices rose by 0.50 percent in Denver, Colorado, and by 0.50 percent in San Francisco, California.

Chicago, Illinois posted a month-to-month loss of -0.90 percent; Cleveland, Ohio followed with a loss of -0.50 percent, and Las Vegas, Nevada and Minneapolis, Minnesota were tied with monthly losses of -0.30 percent for home prices.

Winter weather conditions and the holidays can dampen demand for homes; it’s worthwhile to note that three of the cities posting the largest month-to-month losses are located in cold winter climates.

Month-to-month readings for home prices are typically more volatile; the corresponding year-over-year readings provide a more accurate reading of real estate trends in specific cities. Nine cities posted month-to-month gains for home prices, while six cities posted lower home prices from November to December.

San Francisco Leads Year-over-Year Home Price Growth

San Francisco, California led year-over-year home price growth with a reading of 9.30 percent. Home prices grew by 8.40 percent in Miami, Florida. Denver, Colorado home prices grew by 8.10 percent year-over-year in December.

The three cities showing the least amount of home price growth year-over-year were Chicago, Illinois with a reading of 1.30 percent, Cleveland, Ohio and Washington, D.C. were tied with year-over-year readings of 1.30 percent growth in home prices year-over-year.

Home prices are growing more slowly in the North and Midwest regions, while home prices continue to grow fastest in the Southeast and Western regions.

Home prices in the cities surveyed have increased by 29 percent since the March 2012 low, but remain 16 percent below their July 2006 peak. The Case-Shiller Home Price Index measures home prices using a three-month rolling average, while other home price reports base their readings on monthly sales. Case-Shiller’s year-over-year reading of 4.50 percent for December of 2015 closely approached CoreLogic’s reading of 5.00 percent home price growth year-over-year.

While increasing home prices are good news for homeowners, higher home prices represent an obstacle for moderate income and first time home buyers, who are also impacted by strict mortgage credit standards. As the peak home buying season approaches, increased demand for homes could drive home prices higher.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 23, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Feburary 23 2015

Last week’s housing related reports included the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index for February, The Commerce Department’s report on Housing Starts for January and Freddie Mac’s weekly report on average mortgage rates. The Federal Reserve released the minutes of January’s FOMC meeting, which indicated that FOMC members are in no hurry to raise the target federal funds rate. The details:

Home Builder Confidence, Housing Starts Impacted by Winter Weather

The NAHB Housing Market Index for February fell from January’s reading of 57 to 55. Analysts expected a reading of 59. This was the lowest reading since October, but February’s reading remains above the benchmark of 50. Readings exceeding 50 indicate that more home builders are confident about housing market conditions than not.

According to the NAHB, harsh weather contributed to lower builder confidence in February. NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said that low mortgage rates, increasing affordability and improving job markets are helping home buyers.

The NAHB Housing Market Index is calculated based on three components. Builder confidence dropped by one point to a reading of 61 for current housing market conditions. Not surprisingly, the winter weather caused buyer foot traffic to drop five points to a reading of 39. A gauge of housing market conditions in the next six months was unchanged.

Regional readings showed declines in three of four regions: The Northeast saw a one-point drop to 46; the Midwest and South dropped by two points to readings of 54 and 57. The Western region gained two points for a reading of 68.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that January’s Housing Starts dropped from 1.09 million in December to 1.07 million in January; the reading for January matched analysts’ expectations.

Weekly jobless claims provided some good news; they dropped from the prior week’s reading of 304,000 new claims to 283,000 new claims. The expected reading was 290,000 new jobless claims.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Points Unchanged

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by seven basis points to 3.76 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage increased by six basis points to 3.05 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.97 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.6 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic news includes several reports related to housing. New and existing home sales reports will be released along with the Case-Shiller Composite Housing Market reports. FHFA will release its House Price Index Report and Fed Chair Janet Yellen is set to testify before Congress. Reports on Consumer Sentiment and Consumer Confidence are also scheduled along with weekly reports on jobless claims and mortgage rates.

Selling Your Home in 2015? Boost Your Resale Value with These Three Inexpensive Renovations

Selling Your Home in 2015? Boost Your Resale Value with These Three Inexpensive RenovationsTo get top dollar for your home, renovations may be necessary. However, some renovations can prove costly and they don’t always add value to your home. Here are three inexpensive renovations that are sure to improve the resale value of your home.

First Impressions Matter

Your home needs to have curb appeal. If the potential buyer doesn’t see that, it will be difficult to get the price you want. Spend money and time landscaping your yard. Pressure wash your driveway. Paint your front door. Make your porch look welcoming. If you do all of this yourself or with the help of family and friends, the costs will be reasonable.

After a prospective buyer is impressed by your nicely kept lawn, you will want to continue impressing him/her with your interior design. Buyers know what they want when it comes to the number of bedrooms and baths. You have something they want or they wouldn’t be looking at your home. Now, you need to keep their attention.

Freshening Up the Interior

Each room needs to be freshly painted in a neutral color. Old wallpaper and borders should be stripped and walls repainted. Make each room look larger by clearing any clutter. If possible, remove any unnecessary furniture and store it somewhere else. Have any carpets professionally cleaned, and be sure to polish any hardwood flooring. In the bedrooms, de-clutter your closets. Your kitchen and bathrooms should be sparkling. Clean and organize counters and cabinets. Again, most of these suggestions cost little but add great value to your home.

Upgrades

When you think of upgrades, you many automatically assume major costs with little return. However, many upgrades may be within your budget. Consider making some of these affordable upgrades to your home.

Living Areas/Family Rooms – If you’re going for a more elegant touch, add some crown molding. For a more rustic feel, add box beams. Improving the ceilings of main rooms will add value to your home.

Hardware and Fixtures – Painting and changing the hardware on your cabinet doors can change the look of a room dramatically. Add new fixtures such as lighting and doorknobs for a more updated look.

Selling your home may require you to spend a little money, but you’ll likely get the full value of your home.

Fed Not in a Hurry to Raise Rates: FOMC Meeting Minutes

Fed Not in a Hurry to Raise Rates FOMC Meeting Minutes

Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting held January 27 and 28 were released on Wednesday. According to the minute’s transcript, it appears that Fed policymakers are in no hurry to raise the target federal funds rate. Members said that raising rates too soon could swamp the strengthening economy and expressed concerns that changing the committee’s current “patient” stance on rising rates could cause more harm than good to current economic conditions.

FOMC members discussed the Fed’s use of the word “patient” in its guidance, and said that dropping the word could incorrectly suggest that the Fed is planning to act sooner than later on raising the Fed’s target interest rates, and could result in “undesirably tight” financial conditions. While a majority of members agreed on protecting current economic conditions by raising rates too soon, member viewpoints varied on which conditions would support the first rate hike.

Target Inflation Rate of Two Percent “Most Consistent” with Fed’s Statutory Mandate

According to the Federal Reserve’s statutory mandate supplied by Congress, the Fed seeks to provide maximum employment, price stability and moderate long-term interest rates. The Fed established a target inflation rate of 2.00percent as a benchmark for economic health, but inflation has remained consistently below the target rate according to the annualized index reading for personal consumption expenditures.

FOMC members did not set a target rate for annual unemployment; FOMC members cited unpredictable “non-monetary factors that affect the structure and dynamics of the labor market” as reasons why it’s impossible establish an accurate target percentage rate for national unemployment. The minutes caution that these factors are sufficiently unpredictable that they may cause the Fed to revise or reverse its policies concerning national unemployment readings.

Committee members noted that short-term fluctuations in the federal funds rate could be expected. The minutes indicated that in general, day-to-day fluctuations outside of the Fed’s target range were not surprising as historical data indicated that such changes had “few if any implications for overall financial conditions or the aggregate economy.”

FOMC members agreed that the economy had expanded at a solid pace, but noted that inflation had fallen due to rapid decreases in fuel prices.

Fed/FOMC Chair Janet Yellen did not hold a post-meeting press conference at the conclusion of January’s FOMC meeting; she is scheduled to hold a press conference at the conclusion of the next FOMC meeting on March 18, 2015.

Saving Up for Your First Home? Our Guide to Finding Ways to Save Your Down Payment Faster

Saving Up for Your First Home? Our Guide to Finding Ways to Save Your Down Payment FasterIf your goal is to purchase a home, you may find that it’s challenging to save up enough money for your down payment. While this is something that many first time home buyers struggle with, it is by no means insurmountable. By making a few simple changes you will be able to accumulate the funds you need for your down payment.

Keep Track Of Your Spending

One of the reasons why it can be difficult to save money is that you aren’t even sure of where your money is going. While you may be aware of major expenses such as rent, car payments and utilities, it’s easy to lose track of many of the smaller bills and impulse purchases. If you aren’t keeping a budget, you should begin as soon as possible. Software programs and apps such as Mint.com can make this simple.

Consider If You Have Anything To Sell

You may be able to raise some quick cash by selling some personal belongings. Don’t part with something that will cause you regrets, such as a precious family heirloom. However, if you’re like many people, you probably have lots of items you no longer need. In addition to holding a garage sale, you could sell items such as jewelry, electronics, art or almost anything on eBay.

Refinance Credit Cards

Refinancing credit cards or any type of debt can help you save money on monthly bills. Balance transfers can often give you a more advantageous rate with credit cards. If you have a car loan, you may be able to find better terms with a different lender.

Find Another Source Of Income

In addition to finding ways to cut back on your spending, taking in some extra money every week can make it much easier to save up for that down payment. Perhaps you or your spouse could find time for a part time job. You might also consider starting a part time business, such as an online store that can be managed from home.

If you are creative about it, you can probably find many ways to save up for your down payment. You should also do plenty of shopping around when it comes to finding the best deal on a mortgage for your first home. Consult with a qualified mortgage professional to get an idea of what you can realistically afford.