The Top 5 Home Features That Buyers Are Hunting For This Fall

The Top 5 Home Features That Buyers Are Hunting for this AutumnWhether you’re getting prepared to buy a new home or just curious about upcoming trends in housing, there are a bevy of features gaining momentum on the real estate market. From top to bottom and room to room, here are five popular features that homebuyers will be sure to notice this fall.

Bigger Is Not Necessarily Better

There was a time when a bigger home meant a better home, but with the cost of maintenance and heating, bigger homes are experiencing a decline in popularity. Instead of sizeable mansions that look the part, buyers are becoming more interested in houses that are more economical to maintain and possess a warmer, cozier vibe.

A Modern, Up-To-Date Kitchen

Where a living room and a bedroom can often be fixed up with a layer of paint, the costs that can go into updating an old kitchen can be quite prohibitive for a new buyer. Instead of a space they’ll just have to renovate, buyers are interested in a sleek, modern looking kitchen with stainless steel appliances that offer modern conveniences.

Energy Efficient And Environmentally Friendly

While older homes can offer character and the history that goes along with them, new homes are winning when it comes to energy efficiency. With people becoming more conscientious of the environment and their impact, energy efficiency in a home is not only popular right now, but will come to be a necessity in the next few years.

Options For A Smart Home

Technology has become so ubiquitous these days that it makes more sense for buyers to invest in homes with smart features. From thermostats that can be adjusted with mobile devices to doors opened via Bluetooth, smart features are a huge part of what makes a modern home.

A Burst Of Bright Color

Muted tones can often be the best for allowing a potential buyer to envision a home as their own, but color here and there can definitely draw in the younger crowd. With bright color making a design comeback, a brilliantly bold sink or appliance can be the type of risk that pays off and has the potential to sway the right kind of home seeker.

The features that grab a potential buyer can change all the time, but certain popular trends will not be going out of style anytime soon. If you’re curious about trends that will be hitting the market in your area, contact your trusted real estate professional for some inside tips.

Buying in a New Community: How to Meet and Make Friends with Your New Neighbors

Buying in a New Community: How to Meet and Make Friends with Your New NeighborsOne of the stresses of moving to a new area is giving up the familiarity that you have with your old neighbors and starting from scratch. Whether you’ve just moved to a different locale or you’re planning to relocate in the near future, there are some easy ways that you can make a home of your new neighborhood right from the start.

Stand Up and Smile

While there are neighborhoods where people are definitely friendlier than others, by making your presence positively known you can make an instant impression on those that live around you. When you’re walking around the neighborhood, make sure you use it as an opportunity to engage with your fellow dwellers by throwing a smile in their direction, saying “Good Morning!” or paying attention to their children or their pet. It may not start a conversation right away, but if you see each other a few more times you might soon have a new fast-friend in the neighborhood.

Become a Community Member

If you happen to have a community center specific to your area, it will be even easier to meet the people who live in your neighborhood and make friends with some of them. Look into the offerings of your local center and find some classes or events that appeal to you. Whether it happens to be a craft festival or a fitness class that interests you, this will not only help you meet new people, but will ensure that their interests are aligned with your own so you’ll have some new pals to pursue old hobbies with.

Knock on the Door!

This is definitely the most assertive of options, and seems a throwback to another era, but instead of leaving meeting people up to chance, bake a cake or a batch of cookies and take them over to your new neighbor as a gesture of friendship and kindness. Your neighbors will probably love the baked goods, but this can also be the first step in forming a relationship with them that will come to be one you can both rely on.

When it comes to a new neighborhood, forming new attachments can seem all-but impossible, but there are things you can do to begin a bond right from the start.

Case-Shiller: August Home Prices Accelerate

Case-Shiller August Home Prices AccelerateAccording to the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index, U.S. home prices increased by 0.40 percent in August, which boosted year-over-year home price growth to 5.10 percent. Denver, Colorado continued to lead in home price gains with a monthly increase of 0.90 percent and a year-over-year gain of 10.70 percent. San Francisco, California also posted a year-over-year gain of 10.70 percent, but posted a month-to-month loss of -0.10 percent. Portland, Oregon posted a year-over-year gain of 9.40 percent with a month-to-month gain of 1.10 percent.

Cities with the slowest growing home prices year-over-year included New York City with a reading of 1.80 percent; Chicago, Illinois and Washington D.C. each posted year-over-year gains of 1.90 percent.

Majority of Cities Show Home Price Gains

Before seasonal adjustments, home prices were higher in 18 of 20 cities; after seasonal adjustments, 11 cities had higher home prices, four were unchanged and five cities had lower home prices. After adjustments for inflation, current home price growth approached rates seen in the housing boom of 2005and 2006, but current home price growth is driven by a slim supply of available homes rather than excessive demand seen during the housing boom.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported that home prices for sales of homes related to mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rose by 5.50 percent year over year.

New Home Sales Slump in September

Sales of new homes dropped by 11.50 percent in September; this was the lowest level since last November. The drop largely attributed to a steeper than usual drop in home sales in the Northeast, which accounted for 62 percent of slumping home prices. Over the past two years, the Northeast region accounted for 32 percent of declining home sales. Low inventories of available homes and rising home prices contributed to the slump in sales; home builders are working to close the gap between available homes and current demand. September’s supply of available homes increased to a 5.80 month supply from August’s reading of a 4.90 percent

Analysts said that September’s inventory of homes for sale reached its highest level in and a half years and also noted that homes under construction had achieved their highest volume in six and a half years. Although millennials are expected to boost home sales as they begin to start families, some analysts pointed out that the slump in sales coincided with indications that third quarter growth may be weaker than economic growth during the second quarter of 2015.

Mortgages 101: How to Calculate How Much You Will Need for Your Down Payment

Mortgages 101: How to Calculate How Much You Will Need for Your Down PaymentIf you’re planning to buy a home in the near future, you’re probably already in the process of saving up for a down payment. But if you haven’t seen a mortgage advisor or started looking at properties yet, you probably don’t have a good idea of what a down payment will cost you. Different mortgages have different down payment requirements, and you’ll need to figure out ahead of time how much of a down payment you need to put forward.

Following are some general guidelines. Be sure to speak with a knowledgeable, local lender to get the best advice for your area

How can you calculate what you’ll need for a down payment?  Here’s what you need to know.

Look at What the Lenders Are Asking For

When it comes to down payments, you’ll need to take into account what lenders want to see. A lender wants to know that you can afford the home you’re planning to buy. That’s why a sizable down payment looks great on a mortgage application.

Although you can pay as little as 5 percent down, a 20 percent down payment looks better on paper. It also means you don’t have to get private mortgage insurance, which will save you money in the long run on a conventional mortgage.

Use Your Debt-to-Income Ratio as a Guideline

Your debt-to-income ratio is a measurement that you can use to determine what kind of a mortgage you can afford. Your down payment will be subtracted from your total mortgage, and it’s your monthly mortgage payment that will determine your debt-to-income ratio.  As a general rule, your non-mortgage housing expenses (or your back end ratio) should probably account for no more than 28 percent of your before-tax income.  With all housing costs included (mortgage or rent, private mortgage insurance, HOA fees, etc.) most lenders are looking for the debt-to-income ratio (the front end ratio) of 36 percent or less.

Lets say for example, you want to get a $300,000 mortgage amortized over 25 years and you expect to make a $25,000 down payment, your monthly mortgage payment will be approximately $916.67. To afford that mortgage payment, you’ll probably need to have a total before-tax household income of around $3273.82 per month. But if you were to increase your down payment to $50,000, your monthly payment decreases to about $833.33 making the debt-to-income ratio lower if you made the same amount of money.  

Doing the Math: Down Payment Requirements for Various Specialty Mortgages

Although there are certain laws around how much of a down payment you’ll need, in some cases the rules are different. The Veterans Affairs office provides mortgages through private lenders designed specifically for active military service people, veterans, and their spouses. A VA home loan requires zero down payment for loans that are within the maximum conforming loan limit, with a 25% down payment on the difference if you opt to buy a house worth more than the loan limit.

Your down payment size will influence a variety of other factors, like your mortgage terms and whether lenders are willing to give you a mortgage. A mortgage professional can help you understand the nuances of down payments. Check with your trusted mortgage advisor to learn what will for your particular situation.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 26, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week October 26 2015Last week’s economic news included the National Association of Home Builders Index, Housing Starts and FHFA’s report on August home sales. The National Association of Realtors® released its monthly report on sales of previously owned homes.

Builder Confidence and Housing Starts Post Gains

The Wells Fargo National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for September posted its highest level of builder confidence in 10 years a higher than expected results with a reading of 64 for October. Analysts expected a reading of 62 based on September’s reading of 61.

The NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index reading is based on three builder confidence readings. Builder confidence in current market conditions rose three points to a reading of 70; builder confidence in housing market conditions over the next six months rose seven points to 75 and buyer traffic in new housing developments held steady with a reading of 47. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are confident about market conditions than those who are not.

This news was consistent with September housing starts, which were also higher. The U.S. Commerce Department reported September’s housing starts at an annual level of 1.206 million starts against expectations of 1.139 million starts and August’s reading of 1.132 million housing starts.

Sales of Previously Owned Homes Surpass Expectations

September sales of pre-owned homes surpassed expectations according to a report released by the National Association of Realtors®. Sales of previously owned homes reached 5.55 million sales on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis against an expected reading of 5.34 million sales. August’s reading was adjusted downward from 5.31 million sales to 5.30 million sales of previously owned homes.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors®, cited lower mortgage rates, higher demand for homes and low inventories of available homes as driving higher sales. Slight easing of mortgage credit standards was also said to be driving home sales.

FHFA’s Home Price Index for August showed that home prices for properties associated with mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac increased at a rate of 5.05 percent in August as compared to a growth rate of 5.80 percent year-over-year in August 2014.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, Weekly Jobless Claims Lower

Weekly reports on mortgage rates and jobless claims yielded mixed results. Freddie Mac reported that average rates for fixed rate mortgages dipped with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage three basis points lower at 3.79 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by five basis points to 2.98 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage ticked upward by one basis point to 2.89 percent. Average discount points were 0.60 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, 0.50 percent for a a5-year fixed rate mortgage and were unchanged at 0.40 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.

Weekly jobless claims were lower than expectations with a reading of 259,000 new claims filed against expectations of 265,000 new jobless claims. New claims were higher than the previous week’s reading of 256,000 new claims. Analysts are keeping an eye on jobs reports as stronger job markets are essential to expanding home sales.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes Case-Shiller reports on home prices along with reports on new home sales, consumer confidence and consumer sentiment. Core inflation readings will be released Friday after Thursday’s releases of Freddie Mac mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.

Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Hit Second Highest Level in 8 Years

Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Hit Second Highest Level in 8 YearsHousing markets show continued strength as the National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of existing homes reached their second highest level since February 2007. Sales of pre-owned homes increased by 4.70 percent and reached 5.55 million sales on a seasonally adjusted annual basis against analyst expectations of 5.34 million sales and August’s reading of 5.30 million sales of previously owned homes.

August’s reading for existing home sales was revised downward from 5.31 million sales. Economists said that August’s lower than expected sales of existing homes may have been influenced by volatility in financial markets and concerns over mortgage rates may have kept would-be home buyers on the sidelines, but September’s reading showed that August’s dismal readings were an aberration rather than a trend.

Higher Home Sales Driven by Low Mortgage Rates

Low mortgage rates are making homes more affordable, a fact that’s reflected by current inventories of available homes. At the current sales pace, there is a 4.8 month supply of available homes as compared to September 2014’s reading of a 5.40 month supply of available homes. 

In addition to average mortgage rates hovering below four percent, industry advocates s cited stronger job markets and also indicated that a slight easing of mortgage credit standards are driving home sales. Increased demand for homes is causing home prices to rise. The national average price of a home rose to $221,900, which was 6.10 percent higher than for September 2014.

Housing Recovery: 2015 Could Show Best Results Since 2007

Lawrence Yun Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors® said that although some economists expect home sales to cool down before the end of 2015, it’s possible that 2015 will end with the best home sales figures since 2007. Mr. Yun said characterized the housing recovery as “a slow steady process” and said “This year, it’s finally coming out.”

On the other hand, some analysts are skeptical about how housing markets can maintain their momentum into 2016. First-time buyers are losing market share in home sales, with their participation rate decreasing from 32 percent in August to 29 percent in September. First-time buyers play an integral role in housing markets, as their purchase of starter homes allows first-time homeowners to buy larger homes. First-time buyers also represent new demand for homes, which is essential to expanding housing markets.

Understanding the Reverse Mortgage and How to Best Use This Unique Financial Tool

Understanding the Reverse Mortgage and How to Best Use This Unique Financial ToolIf you’ve studied the real estate market recently, you’ve probably heard about the reverse mortgage. This unique tool is a financial arrangement designed for senior citizens who have limited incomes and want to use the equity in their homes to meet their everyday expenses. And although it’s becoming increasingly popular, few homeowners truly understand it.

So how does a reverse mortgage work, and when is it appropriate for a homeowner to get one? Here’s what you need to know.

What is a Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a loan that uses your home equity as collateral – essentially, you borrow money against the value of your home. But unlike home equity loans, you don’t have to repay a reverse mortgage until you sell your home or are no longer able to meet the terms of the reverse mortgage. If you’ve paid off your home in full, a reverse mortgage can be a great source of income if you don’t have other income streams to rely on.

However, there are tight restrictions around who can quality for a reverse mortgage. To receive a reverse mortgage, you must be at least 62 years old and you must use the property in question as your primary residence. You also need to have equity in your home – you can’t owe more on the property than it’s worth.

The Benefits and Risks of This Arrangement

A reverse mortgage is a fast and easy way to access funds. The most popular kind – a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage – is a federally insured reverse mortgage that offers strong borrower protection. Most reverse mortgages don’t have any income requirements or monthly payments, and they can provide elderly seniors with a much-needed supplemental income.

Reverse mortgages can be risky. The processing fees can be high as 5% of your home’s value. If you spend the funds irresponsibly and miss property tax or homeowners insurance payments, your reverse mortgage may come due.

How to Make a Reverse Mortgage Work for You

The best way to use a reverse mortgage is to take it in the form of a variable-rate line of credit. And according to the AARP, longer loan terms are better – especially if you may need long-term care.

A reverse mortgage can be a great tool for meeting your expenses if you’re beyond your working years. But it also carries some risks, which is why you’ll want to make sure you have a thorough plan for how you’ll use the funds. Contact your trusted mortgage professional to learn more about reverse mortgages and if they will work for you.