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New Home Sales Show Healthy Year-Over-Year Increase

December 31, 2013 Leave a comment

New Home Sales Show Healthy Year-Over-Year IncreaseThe holiday season and winter weather slowed home sales in November. Last week, the NAR reported that sales of existing homes had slumped to their lowest level in nearly a year, but this was not unexpected.  

Short supplies of available homes and rising mortgage rates have increased pent-up demand for homes have kept some buyers on the sidelines.

Improvement In The Labor Market

4.90 existing homes were sold in November; this was lower than the 5.13 million existing homes sold in October, as well as lower than expectations of 5.00 million existing home sales in November.

Existing home sales for November 2013 were also 1.20 percent lower than for November 2012; this is the first time in 29 months that existing home sales were lower year-over-year.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, described the slow-down in sales as a “clear loss of momentum.” The outlook for 2014 is better, as analysts expect continued improvement in the labor market. 

The pent-up demand for homes will ease as homeowners begin to list their homes for sale as home prices increase. Mr. Yun also noted that prices for existing homes are increasing at their highest rate in eight years.

The national median home price of existing homes rose to $196,000 in November, which represents a year-over-year increase of 9.40 percent. There was a 5.1 month supply of previously homes available at the current sales rate.

Housing Market Continues To Progress Over Long Term

The Census Bureau and HUD report that 464,000 new homes were sold in November. This was 2.10 percent lower than October’s rate of 474,000 new homes sold. This represents an increase of 16.60 percent as compared to the 398,000 new homes sold in November 2012.

The national median home price for new homes in November was $270,900; with an average new home price of $340,300. The seasonally-adjusted estimate of new homes for sale in November was 167,000; this reading represents a 4.30 month supply of new homes for sale.

While home builder confidence is up and recent labor reports indicate improving job markets, the Fed’s decision to taper its quantitative easing program in January is generating some uncertainty as mortgage rates will likely rise as the Fed winds down the QE program.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 30, 2013

December 30, 2013 Leave a comment

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week- December 30, 2013The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index was improved for December at 82.5, after the November reading was adjusted from 82.5 to 75. Analysts noted that consumers were relieved when legislative gridlock ended.

Durable goods orders reached their highest level since May with November’s reading of + 3.5 percent. Without the volatile transportation sector, the reading for November was +1.2 percent.

This could be a sign of economic recovery for manufacturing, as more orders are being placed. Economists expected an overall increase of 2.0 percent for overall durable goods orders.

The U.S. Commerce Department provided housing markets with good news with its New Home Sales report for November. 464,000 new homes were sold in November against expectations of 440,000 new homes sold.

This expectation was based on the original reading of 444,000 new homes sold in October, which has been revised to 474,000 new homes sold. The latest reading for October is the highest since July of 2008.

While rising mortgage rates slowed home purchases during the summer, analysts note that home buyers seem to be adjusting for higher mortgage rates by purchasing smaller homes in less costly areas.

Home Builder Confidence recently achieved its highest reading since 2005, a further indication of overall economic recovery and housing markets in particular.

After Wednesday’s holiday, the Weekly Jobless Claims report came in with a reading of 338,000 new jobless claims filed. This reading was lower than expectations of 345,000 new jobless claims and significantly lower than the previous week’s report of 380,000 new jobless claims.

This was the largest decrease in new jobless claims since the week of November 17, 2012. After seasonal volatility associated with the holidays, analysts expect new jobless claims to decrease at a slower rate in early 2014,

Freddie Mac released its Primary Mortgage Market Survey on Thursday. Although some economic analysts had expected a jump in mortgage rates after the Fed announced its plan to begin tapering its monthly securities purchases in January, mortgage rates showed little change.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 4.48 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. Average 15-year mortgage rates also rose by one basis point to 3.52 with discount points moving up from 0.60 to 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by 4.00 basis points to 3.00 percent, with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

2014 shows promise of a steady economic improvements, and given the latest New Home Sales report, it’s possible that improving housing markets will continue leading the way.

What’s Ahead

As with last week, this week’s schedule of economic events is reduced due to the New Year holiday. Pending home sales for November will be released Monday, Tuesday’s economic reports include The Case/Shiller Housing Market Indices and the Consumer Confidence report.

After the holiday on Wednesday, Thursday’s scheduled reports include the Weekly Jobless Claims and Freddie Mac PMMS on mortgage rates. Construction Spending will also be released. There is no housing or mortgage-related economic reports set for release on Friday.

How To Build An Outdoor Fire Pit

December 27, 2013 Leave a comment

How To Build An Outdoor Fire PitWith most of the country easing into full-on winter weather, last-minute outdoor projects need to happen soon. And what better way to enjoy a cozy holiday season than by drinking hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows at your very own outdoor fire pit.

In one weekend, the steps below can help you build an outdoor fire pit and get you fired up about the cold!

Determine The Size And Location

The first order of business is to choose where to build your outdoor fire pit. You want to make sure it’s not too close to the house or overhanging trees.

Once you’ve found the spot, lay out a ring of stones and mark it with a shovel before you dig the hole. You’ll want it to be between 35-45 inches in diameter. This will allow a roaring fire, but it will also feel cozy and intimate.

Dig The Pit And Make A Trench

Make a hole six inches deep within the circle your marked using your stones. You want the sides to be straight and the bottom flat. Then dig down an extra six inches around the perimeter.

This trench should be wide enough to fit a ring of stone blocks that will be the base of your wall. Fill the six-inch deep trench with drainage gravel until it’s level with the center of your pit.

Lay The Stone Blocks

Lay out the stone blocks on top of the gravel. Place the first one and use a level to make sure it’s sitting squarely. Set the second block next to it and so on. Use a level to ensure everything is even.

For the second layer, squirt masonry adhesive in a snaking pattern and center a block on top of the seam of the first layer. Build up the wall until it’s about one foot above ground level.

Finish It Off

Fill the pit with gravel until you reach ground level. The gravel will help the base of the walls set straight. If you want to cover the outside of the pit walls with stone cap pieces, then try to fix them together like a puzzle using masonry adhesive.

Then you can either build a fire on top of the gravel or insert an iron campfire ring into the center. Once you’re finished, then it’s time to bundle up and get those marshmallows roasting!

Pitfalls And Warning Signs Of Making A Down Payment

December 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Pitfalls And Warning Signs Of Making A Down PaymentWhen you already have a home, you may be interested in determining if a refinance is a good option. You will not have to worry about restrictions on down payments or some of the problems that can occur with a down payment.

However, if you are considering purchasing a home in or the surrounding communities, understanding down payment restrictions is important.

Gifting Of A Down Payment

There are some programs that will allow you to use a gift for your home down payment. However, before you assume this, make sure you talk to your loan officer. Generally speaking, the lender will require the person making the gift to provide a letter stating the money was a gift and does not require repayment.

Windfalls Of A Down Payment

When people hit the lottery or come into money through an inheritance, one of the first things they may consider is buying a new home. However, it is important to keep in mind that lenders will typically want to know exactly how you came up with your down payment.

Borrowers still need to show a “trail” of how they came into money. If your down payment amount has not been “seasoned” the lender may not accept your loan.

What Is A Seasoned Down Payment?

Generally speaking, your loan officer will want a “paper trail” to document your down payment. Most lenders require down payment funds to be at a minimum six months old.

For example, let’s assume a borrower did win the lottery: If they deposit the funds into their checking account and leave it there for six months or more, the funds would be considered seasoned.

Lender restrictions on down payment funds are fairly common. If you are uncertain if your funds meet the lender’s criteria, talk to your loan officer. In most cases, a lender will require at least one-half your down payment fall into the category of seasoned funds.

Some borrowers may use their retirement account or other savings to make their home down payment.

Don’t wait until the last minute to discuss your down payment with your loan officer because you may wind up disappointed. Keep in mind, every lender has different requirements and these rules may not apply to your lender.

5 Tips On Safely Hanging Those Christmas Lights

December 24, 2013 Leave a comment

5 Tips On Safely Hanging Those Christmas LightsChristmas lights can be the most festive of holiday decorations, but actually putting them up can be a huge pain. With these easy step-by-step instructions, you can safely hang Christmas lights outside your house in no time. That way you can get back to what’s important, family time.

Buy Your Lights

You’ll need Christmas lights of course. There are a lot of options. You can get colorful lights or classic white lights. There are icicle lights, blinking lights, classic large bulb lights, and more. Just pick whatever looks good. Remember that consistency is important.

Pick one or two types and stick with them. Also remember to measure your roof, bushes, trees, or whatever you plan to cover with lights. Without proper measurements you won’t know how many lights to buy.

Test The Lights

Be sure to test the lights before you hang them up. Nothing is more frustrating than hanging up all the lights and finding that they don’t work. There are several testers that you can buy or you can even make your own, but I recommend simply plugging in each strand individually before you hang them up.

Get Some Clips

You’ll also need clips to help attach the lights to the roof or the gutter. I recommend buying the more expensive clips. The cheap ones break, and cause more frustration than they’re worth. Make sure you measure the thickness of your gutter as well. The clips come in different sizes.

Automatic Timers Are Your Friend

Finally, you’ll need surge protector with a built-in timer. It’s important to turn off the lights during the day to save energy and keep your bulbs from burning out, but unless you want to be plugging and unplugging your lights all the time, get a timer. They’re cheap, easy to use, and convenient.

Find A Friend

Hanging lights by yourself is a bad idea. It requires a lot of climbing up and down the ladder and that can be dangerous. Have someone else hand you the lights up the ladder, and hold it steady so you can focus on clipping on the lights.

Also, hang them up during the day. They might look prettier at night, but you can wait. Putting them up at night can be a risky venture.

Christmas can be the happiest time of the year, and the lights and decorations are a big part of that. Don’t think of hanging lights as a chore. Get the whole family involved and make it a Christmas activity.

Just be sure you have all your materials ahead of time, you’ve measured out how much you need, and you’ve got a timer to turn them off and on for you. That way when it’s time to hang up the lights, it will take no time at all.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 23, 2013

December 23, 2013 Leave a comment

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week- December 23, 2013According to December’s NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, home builder confidence rose by four points to a reading of 58; this surpassed the consensus of 56 and November’s reading of 56.

November Housing Starts were released Wednesday and also exceeded expectations and the prior month’s reading. 1.09 million housing starts were reported for November against expectations of 963,000 and October’s reading of 889,000 housing starts.

Building permits issued in November came in at 1.01 million and fell short of October’s reading of 1.04 million permits issued. November’s reading exceeded expectations of 990,000 permits issued.

The week’s big news emerged after the conclusion of the Federal Reserve’s FOMC meeting. The committee announced that it would begin tapering the Fed’s $85 billion purchases of securities. The taper was modest; the Fed will reduce its rate of purchases to $75 billion monthly, with a split of $40 billion in Treasury securities and $35 billion in mortgage-backed securities.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave his final press conference as Fed chair. He noted that the FOMC was confident that the economy would continue to improve at a moderate rate and that the Fed would continue monitoring economic and financial developments to guide future adjustments in its monthly purchase of securities.

Mortgage rates were expected to rise after news of the Fed’s tapering of its quantitative easing program, as the program was intended to hold down long-term interest rates and mortgage rates.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey confirmed expectations of higher mortgage rates. Average mortgage rates ticked upward by five basis points to 4.47 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by eight basis points to 3.51 percent.

Discount points for a 30-year mortgage were unchanged at 0.70 percent for a 30-year mortgage and dropped from 0.70 to 0.60 percent for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 2.94 percent last to 2.96 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

Weekly Jobless Claims came in at 379,000 and were higher than projections of 338,000 and the prior reading of 369,000 new jobless claims. Although the reading was the highest since March, analysts attributed the higher reading to changes in work schedules during the holidays.

Sales of existing homes slipped to their lowest levels in close to a year. The NAR reported that existing home sales fell from 5.12 million in October to 4.90 million in November.

Projections were set at 5.00 million sales for November, but a shortage of available homes and rising mortgage rates were seen as reasons for fewer sales. The approaching holiday season and cold weather typically contribute to a lull in home sales during the winter months.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news is light due to the Christmas holiday, but Monday’s releases include consumer spending, personal spending and the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index.

New Home Sales for November will be released Tuesday. The week’s scheduled news will conclude with Weekly Jobless Reports on Thursday, as no further economic news is scheduled for Friday.

4 Safety Tips For Your Christmas Tree

December 20, 2013 Leave a comment

4 Safety Tips For Your Christmas Tree It’s Christmas time, it’s Christmas time – which means it’s time to get a tree for your home. Whether you get a real tree or an artificial one, it’s also time to think about Christmas tree safety.

Prevent A Fire Hazard

There’s a potential fire hazard that comes with real trees, a danger that’s lessened with artificial trees, but artificial trees have their own safety issues. 

For instance, those that spin on their bases shouldn’t be left to rotate on their own. Make sure the motor is turned off whenever you leave the room.

Even though safety precautions are more necessary with real Christmas trees, sometimes you can’t resist the fresh pine smell filling your home. Should you decide to go with a real Christmas tree, here are some safety precautions that should be followed to avoid fire hazards.

Safety Precautions For That Tree Of Yours

1. Place the tree as far from any heat sources as possible. While it may seem picturesque to have your tree close to the fireplace, the heat can dry out the tree and make it more susceptible to burning.

2. Fresh cut the tree. While you may have cut the tree down before bringing it home, you still need to cut a little bit more off the bottom just before you put it in the Christmas tree stand. This gives the tree a better ability to absorb the water in the stand, which stops it from drying out.

3. Don’t let the water run out. It’s important to stress that your Christmas tree needs to stay moist and green. To check for dryness, lightly grab the end of a branch and pull on it.  If several needles come off, it’s time to take it down. 

4. Don’t burn the tree to get rid of it. A dry tree blaze is hard to control, and pine generates a lot of creosote that can catch fire. There are safer ways to dispose of your tree including recycling your Christmas tree. To learn more about safe disposal of your tree, contact your local city or state.

Have fun decorating your home and tree and for Christmas. Just remember to be safe as you celebrate the season! If a new home is on your Christmas list, contact your trusted mortgage professional today.

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