Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting held October 28 and 29 were released Wednesday. The report suggests that the U.S. economy continues to improve, although the annual inflation rate remains near 1.50 percent and short of the committee’s goal of 2.00 percent. Falling crude oil prices were cited as a cause of faltering inflation rates. The minutes indicated that FOMC members expect inflation to remain below the 2.00 percent benchmark for the next year or so.
The minutes did not reveal an exact date for raising the target federal funds rate, which is currently 0.00 to 0.250 percent, but analysts expect a rate change in mid-to-late 2015. One committee member said that the Fed should commit to keeping the target federal funds rate at its present level until inflation reaches the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent.
Job Markets Improve, Mortgage Rates Fall
FOMC members said that labor markets had improved “somewhat further.” The minutes noted that the national unemployment rate had declined to 5.90 percent in September, which was lower than the FOMC goal of 6.50 percent for national unemployment. While this was good news, FOMC discussed the fact that a significant number of part-time workers suggested under-utilization of the labor force. A combination of stronger labor markets and a 0.25 percent reduction of mortgage rates during the intermeeting period between September 17 and October 28 were seen as positive for housing markets, but the committee noted that mortgage lending standards for single-family homes had not changed much. Lending requirements were more accommodative for commercial real estate.
QE Ends, FOMC Seeks to Maintain “Accommodative” Financial Conditions
FOMC members voted to end asset purchases made under the Fed’s quantitative easing program, but said that ongoing reinvestment of principal payments on bonds and MBS with the goal of maintaining “sizeable” holdings of long-term securities. The minutes indicated that this would help maintain “accommodative” financial conditions.
The committee agreed to re-assert its position that although national unemployment and inflation may achieve or surpass FOMC goals, the committee could maintain the target federal funds rate at current levels for “some time” after the benchmarks are achieved. Ultimately, the FOMC’s decision to change the target federal funds rate will include thorough and ongoing review of global and domestic economic developments.
Committee members concluded this meeting with a decision to set the next FOMC meeting for December 16 and 17.
Are you getting ready to sell your home? As soon as your listing goes live you’ll begin entertaining potential buyers who will be inspecting your home from top to bottom to ensure it meets their needs perfectly. Your bathrooms will be a key area of focus and you might be surprised to learn that the look and feel of these small rooms can make or break a sale.
In today’s blog post we’ll share three quick tips for renovating or upgrading your bathrooms to freshen up their look before potential buyers start viewing your home.
Clean Your Bathroom Out and Start Fresh
Before you begin, take a close look at your bathroom. Is there wallpaper on the walls? Are the sinks and faucets a bit dated and stained? Does the bathtub have a crack in it or is there some discoloration in the tiles or grout?
If your bathroom hasn’t been renovated in the past few years, there’s a good chance that the entire room needs a top-to-bottom overhaul. Clean all of the fixtures, materials, cabinets and even that dated flooring out and start from scratch.
Choose Your Color Palette Wisely
Before you begin you’ll want to have some sort of color palette in mind. Does the bathroom receive some sort of direct sunlight? Is there a skylight or a window in the room? Is there a color theme in other rooms in the house that you’ll need to match up with? Having some color ideas in mind will greatly assist with painting and adding shower curtains, mats, towels and more.
Don’t Skimp on Fixtures and Accessories
Remember that you’re selling the home and that you’re likely to recoup some or all of the costs of your bathroom renovations in the form of a bump in your selling price. Don’t buy cheap faucets or fixtures as buyers will be looking closely and they’ll want to ensure they’re buying a home that has quality building materials used throughout. If you’re going to upgrade your bathrooms, use materials that are high-quality but avoid anything too luxurious unless it fits with the rest of the decor.
Breathing some new life in to your bathrooms won’t break the bank, but it might just help secure your home sale. For more tips and strategies on how to ensure a quick and successful sale, contact your local real estate agent today.
Last week’s housing related news was lean, with no scheduled reports released other than Freddie Mac’s primary mortgage market survey.
We’ll start with some good news. The University of Michigan / Thompson-Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index reported its highest reading in more than seven years. November’s reading of 89.4 surpassed the expected reading of 88.0 and was higher than October’s reading of 86.9
Mortgage Rates Near 4.00 Percent, Weekly Jobless Claims Up
Freddie Mac reported a one-basis point drop in the average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgage from 4.02 percent to 4.01 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also fell by one basis point to 3.20 percent.
The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by 5 basis points to 3.02 percent. Discount points for all three loan types held steady at an average of 0.50 percent.
Weekly jobless claims rose by 12,000 to 290,000 against expectations of 280,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 278,000.
Last week’s report was the ninth straight week that new jobless claims came in under 300,000. The reading for the four-week rolling average was 285,000 new jobless claims, which represented an increase of 6,000 new claims.
This week’s number of scheduled economic reports will be more robust. The NAHB Housing Market Index, Housing Starts and the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales reports will be released.
The minutes of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting of the Federal Reserve will also be released along with weekly mortgage rates and jobless claims data.
Are you thinking about using a mortgage to buy a new home? Buying your own piece of local real estate is a major financial investment and one that can require some pretty complex math to fully understand.
In this blog post we’ll discuss mortgage calculators and how to use one of these tools to determine your monthly mortgage payments, interest charges, amortization periods and more.
Determining Your Principal and Down Payment Amounts
To get started with a mortgage calculator you’ll need to know how the price of the home and how much you intend to contribute as a down payment. Generally speaking you’ll want to place a down payment of at least 20 percent in order to avoid having to pay for private mortgage insurance and to give you access to better interest rates.
Choosing Your Interest Rate and Amortization Period
Now that you have an idea of the amount of mortgage financing you’ll need, the next step is to choose your interest rate and amortization period. Different lenders will offer different interest rates for every one of their mortgage products, so again you’ll want to play around with these numbers and run the calculation to see which combination of mortgage financing, interest rate and amortization period gives you a monthly payment that suits your budget.
Using a Mortgage Calculator for Refinancing
If you’re thinking about refinancing your current mortgage you can also use a mortgage calculator to help make the math a bit easier. Simply use your outstanding mortgage balance as the principal amount and then choose an amortization schedule that fits your financial goals. Be sure to keep an eye on your interest payments, as you may find that by refinancing to a longer amortization period your monthly payments go down but your total interest paid is quite a bit higher.
Don’t Forget the Closing Costs
Finally, don’t forget that there are numerous “closing costs” – fees, taxes and more – which you’ll need to factor in to your overall calculation. Closing costs will include everything from home appraisal fees to government filing fees and property taxes, and will vary depending on the home and the city or community you’re buying in.
While online mortgage calculators can handle the tricky math to determine monthly payments and interest costs you may still find that you have questions about your mortgage or some aspect of the process. For more information, contact your local mortgage professional and they’ll be happy to share their advice and expertise.
It doesn’t matter if you heat your home with electricity, natural gas or some other energy source; prices continue to rise and that means increased heating costs for most of us.
In today’s blog post we’ll share three easy ways that you can save money on your home energy costs this winter.
Install and Use Programmable Thermostats
Now that Nest and other companies have brought Wi-Fi enabled, programmable thermostats on the market there’s very few excuses to avoid using them. At bare minimum you’ll want a digital thermostat that can be programmed to turn on and off at certain hours of the day.
For example, you can shut your heat off after leaving for work and have it turn back on again a half-hour or so before you get home. You can do the same at night when you’re fast asleep under warm blankets. If possible, try to get a thermostat for each room so that rooms can be heated individually as needed.
Switch Up Your Ceiling Fans
If you have ceiling fans you may not know that by reversing their direction you can keep your rooms feeling much warmer. In the winter you’ll want your fans spinning in a clockwise direction, which will push warm air downward into the room where you’ll be able to feel it. In the summer you’ll want to switch the fans back to counter-clockwise as this will help move warm air towards the ceiling.
Check Your Insulation, Furnace and Ducts Now
Finally, you’ll want to check that your home heating system is operating at peak efficiency. If you can access your attic, check to ensure that your insulation is tightly packed and that it’s still in good condition. Clean or replace the air filter on your furnace, and check your ducts for any leaks that need to be repaired. If it has been a few years, consider having a professional furnace and duct cleaning to get all of the dust and debris out of the ductwork.
As you can see, a little time spent on home maintenance can end up saving quite a bit in energy costs when the temperatures drop. When you’re ready to look at buying a newer, more energy-efficient home, contact your local real estate agent and book a consultation where you can share your needs and price range.
Whether you’re just listing your home for sale or you’ve already started entertaining potential buyers, focusing on your “curb appeal” can drastically increase your chances of a quick and successful sale.
In today’s blog post we’ll discuss how to stage your front and back yards in order to make them seem more inviting and welcoming to home buyers.
It All Starts with a Great Lawn
Whether you’re standing on the street looking at the front of your home or you’re on your patio looking out over your back yard, your lawn sets the tone and is one area that potential buyers are sure to focus on.
You’ll want to ensure that your lawn is very well-kept, with no weeds, dandelions or patches of clover breaking up the continuity of the grass. You’ll also want your lawn to be a healthy green, unless you’re in an area which has some seasonal turnover or your community has watering restrictions.
Use Gardens to Add a Splash of Color
Once the lawn looks incredible, it’s time to move on to your gardens and other landscape features. Gardens are the best way to add a vibrant splash of color to your yard and they can be used to accessorize the front or back of your home to break up the monotony.
Choose flowers or plants that are in season for your area to ensure that they are healthy while potential buyers are driving past and viewing the home. Also, keep in mind that most of the time, less is more; don’t overdo your gardening or you’ll have a small jungle on your hands.
Make Your Backyard Feel as Inviting as Possible
Your backyard will be a major selling feature for many different types of homebuyer – especially those with children. You’ll want to ensure that your backyard feels as inviting as possible. If you have a deck or patio, ensure that you have furniture and your BBQ tastefully arranged so the buyer can picture themselves hosting friends and family.
Staging your front and backyards is just one of the many tasks that you’ll need to take care of in order to prepare your home for a successful sale. For more information about how to prepare your home, contact your local real estate agent today and they’ll be able to share expertise that is specific to your local community.
Last week’s economic reports contained mixed reports indicating that the economy continues to recover with occasional “blips” in its progress. Construction spending was lower than expected.
A Federal Reserve survey of senior loan officers indicated that credit standards remain strict for mortgages and other types of lending. According to the survey, a “modest net fraction” of large banks had eased credit standards for prime mortgage lending.
First-Time Homebuyers Struggle as Market Share Hits 27-Year Low
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reported that first-time buyers’ share of home purchases has slipped to 33 percent, which was its lowest level in 27 years. According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, high home prices and mortgage insurance costs along with strict mortgage credit requirements continue to sideline first-time buyers.
In other news, the Department of Commerce reported that construction spending dropped by 0.40 percent in September as compared August’s reading of -0.50 percent and an expected reading of +0.70 percent. September’s reading represented a seasonally-adjusted annual construction spending rate of $950.90 billion.
Mortgage Rates: Average 30-Year Mortgage Rate Tops Four Percent
Average mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 4.02 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by eight basis points to 3.21 percent, while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rose by three basis points from 2.94 percent to 2.97 percent. Average discount points remained at 0.50 percent for all three types of mortgages.
This is not altogether bad news, as higher mortgage rates are typically prompted by improving economic conditions. 2014 started with an average rate for 30-year fixed rate mortgages of 4.05 percent.
Labor Reports Suggest Stronger Jobs Markets
Last week’s economic news included several reports that indicated improvements in U.S. labor markets. The Department of Labor released its Non-Farm Payrolls report for October with a reading of 214,000 jobs added against expectations of 243,000 jobs added and September’s reading of 256,000 jobs added. While this appears contrary to stronger labor markets, analysts said that a new low in the national unemployment rate of 5.80 percent indicated that fewer new jobs were needed. October was the ninth consecutive month reporting 200,000 or more jobs added.
The ADP employment report, which tracks payrolls in the private sector, reported an increase of 5,000 jobs from September’s reading of 225,000 jobs to October’s reading of 230,000 jobs.
Weekly jobless claims fell to 278,000 against expectations of 285,000 new jobless claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 288,000 new claims filed. This reading supports a stronger jobs market and may compel would-be home buyers to enter the market as concerns about unemployment and jobs wanes.
The national unemployment rate reached a new low with October’s reading of 5.80 percent. In related news, Fed Chair Janet Yellen indicated in a speech on Friday that the target Federal funds rate will likely rise in 2015, but she gave neither a prospective date nor details about how much the benchmark federal funds rate may rise.
If you’ve had some trouble getting approved for a mortgage recently, you’re not alone. Many individuals face mortgage challenges due to past blemishes on their credit reports or a personal financial crisis that resulted in bills not being paid on time.
In this post we’ll share three quick tips for sprucing up your personal credit before reapplying for a mortgage. With a bit of luck and hard work you can be on your way to purchasing that new dream home.
Pay Off Your Credit Cards And Lines Of Credit
The easiest way to improve your credit score and prove that you can afford your mortgage payments is to eliminate other forms of debt from your monthly budget. If you have outstanding credit card, student loan or other debts, get them paid off as quickly as possible.
You’ll also want to avoid taking on any new loans while you’re trying to get your mortgage approved as these are likely to show up on your credit report and can hurt your chances at approval.
Pull Your Credit Report And Look For Errors
If you haven’t seen your credit report recently, it might be worth investing in a copy so you can see exactly what your lender sees when they are evaluating you for a mortgage. You may discover that there are errors or inaccuracies that can be cleared off with a quick phone call, such as a past loan that was fully paid or a missed car payment that was reported in error. Every credit report error that you can fix will bring you one step closer to your mortgage approval, so spend a few minutes combing through your report.
Pay All Of Your Bills On Time
Did you know that every overdue bill can leave a negative mark on your credit report? With so many bills to juggle – credit cards, cell phones, utilities and more – it can be tough to keep them all organized and paid before the due date. However, if you’re working to secure a mortgage you must keep your bills paid to avoid being reported as a late or overdue payment.
If you’ve had some trouble getting approved for a mortgage in the past, take a few minutes to contact your local mortgage professional today to ask for their advice. You may find that they have additional tips and strategies that you can leverage to better your chances of being approved.