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Archive for May, 2014

The Green Thumb: Four Easy Ways To Get More From Your Home Garden

May 30, 2014 Comments off

The Green Thumb: Four Easy Ways to Get More From Your Home GardenGrowing a home garden creates beauty, oxygen and even food for our families to enjoy. If you’re looking to get more from your home garden, here are four easy ways to improve a green thumb.

A Good Foundation For Your Garden

Good soil is the foundation of a healthy garden. By using quality soil, you can give your garden plants the best start possible. Adding a variety of organic matter to soil will give plants a happy home to grow in.

Add two to three inches of organic matter to your garden bed at the beginning of each season. Compost, dried leaves, grass clipping and dry manure are all good organic materials to use in your garden.

Manures provides nitrogen, which is a great contributor to soil aeration and composting efforts. Being so far along in the decomposing process, the nutrients in manure are readily available for plants.

Fresh manure, however, is more likely to leach out of the soil into groundwater and streams (where the nutrients it provides can become pollutants).

Design Fundamentals To Achieve Harmony And Flow

Although landscaping your home garden is a matter of personal taste and preference, there are some fundamental principles for creating a good garden.

Balance and proportion establish the basic structure of a garden. Order is obtained through symmetry, repetition of plants, and colors or thoughtful contrast. This will create a garden space that is both balanced and proportioned.

Harmony and unity is achieved when different aspects of your garden work together as a whole. Strong focal points and a limited color palette can help with the overall look of your garden.

Prevent the eye from making sudden stops with good flow and transition in your garden. Gradual changes in height and color create the illusion of a larger space, and will make for a full and finished look in your garden.

Variety Is Important And Maintenance A Must

Have a good combination in your garden of annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and food producing plants. Plants that require little maintenance and come back each year will take some of the pressure off when it comes to seasonal changes and garden preparation.

With more time to focus on bedding plants and vegetable gardens, you’ll yield a bigger reward for your gardening efforts. Water features and other structural focal points work in much the same way; they provide your outdoor space with added beauty and appeal that is easy to maintain throughout the year.

Don’t Be Bothered By Pests And Bugs

Although people have differing opinions on pests, at home a greener garden is always a healthier garden. Harsh pest control products can hurt wildlife and pollute groundwater.

You may be solving one problem, but using chemical pesticides contributes to another. There are many ways keep pests under control without chemical products.

With so many easy to make homemade pesticides to discover, gardeners can ditch the chemical alternative without sacrificing quality. There are also plants such as marigolds that can be incorporated into your garden that deter pests.

A garden is a labor of love that creates a welcoming outdoor space that your family can enjoy. Call your local mortgage professional for more information on creating or finding your perfect home garden.

5 Tips To Protect Yourself When Buying Newly Constructed Real Estate

May 29, 2014 Comments off

5 Tips To Protect Yourself When Buying Newly Constructed Real EstateBuying newly constructed real estate isn’t much different from buying an “already used” home. What variances there are, however, can make all the difference between buying a diamond or a lemon. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when buying new construction:

Tip #1: Don’t Use The Builder’s Sales Agent – Hire Your Own

If they’re the builder’s agent, they’re being paid to represent the builder, no matter what they tell you.  Your own real estate agent, who is representing you, is required to tell you the negatives as well as the positives.  The builder’s agent doesn’t have to tell you the drawbacks of the transaction.

Tip #2: Find Your Own Lending Agency

Again, if you go through the builder, the lending agency may offer you a deal that isn’t in your best interest.  In addition, the builder may actually own the lending company, and will have full information on your personal progress. 

Your real estate agent can refer you to a reputable lender, if you don’t already have one of your own.

Tip #3: Talk To A Real Estate Agent Or Lawyer

Although standard agreements are made to keep everyone out of court, they aren’t necessarily in your best interests. Ask about cancellation rights and make sure you understand both your liability and your commitments.  Also, check your contract to make sure it doesn’t contain warnings about health issues.

Tip #4: Decide What Options Or Upgrades You Want

Remember that the profit margin for many builders is highest in upgrades.  Find out if your lender allows the options and upgrades you’ve chosen to be added to the loan. If your lender doesn’t allow this, the cost of the upgrades will come out of your pocket in cash. 

Tip #5: Research The Builder

It’s amazing how many people think a builder is good, simply because they can build a house. Unless you’re a licensed home inspector, the chance of you catching a cut corner or shoddy building practices is slim to none. 

Check out the neighbors’ homes and talk to them. Are the homes a consistent size or are they shrinking in size?  Do the neighbors have consistent complaints about the quality of their homes?  Also, check public records for lawsuits.

Owning newly constructed real estate and knowing that you’re the first person to live in the home can be a wonderful, exciting experience.  Make sure that you protect yourself so you can enjoy it!

Thinking of buying newly constructed real estate? Talk with me before you start shopping.  If you visit a builder prior to working with me, I won’t be able to legally represent you with that builder. 

To find out more about how I can help you save money and get the best terms when buying newly constructed real estate, call or email your trusted mortgage professional for more information.

FOMC Minutes: Committee Discusses “Normalizing” Policy

May 28, 2014 Comments off

FOMC Minutes: Committee Discusses “Normalizing” PolicyApril’s meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee was held along with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Meeting minutes released Wednesday indicated the committee’s interest in “normalizing” its monetary policy. This included the FOMC’s ongoing commitment to tapering its asset purchases under its quantitative easing program.

The committee agreed to taper the Fed’s monthly asset purchases by $10 billion to $45 billion per month. Committee members discussed raising the target federal funds rate, which now stands at 0.00 to 0.25 percent, but the minutes clearly stated that this topic was undertaken as part of “prudent planning, and did not indicate that normalization would necessarily begin sometime soon.”

The FOMC minutes reflected the committee’s concern with achieving a balance between normalizing the Fed’s monetary policy and keeping short-term interest rates under control.

Meeting attendees considered methods for managing interest rates and considered potential impact of each method discussed on overall financial stability.

Importance Of Early Communication

Meeting participants discussed the importance of early communication of pending changes to the Fed’s monetary policy, and agreed that advising the public “well before the first steps in normalizing policy become appropriate.”

Early communication to the public of planned changes was viewed as a means of providing clarity and credibility to FOMC policy decisions and help FOMC achieve its statutory goals of maximum employment, stable pricing and moderate long term interest rates.

Potential Impact Of Achieving Normalcy

 FOMC members discussed the possible impact of tools considered for use in normalizing the economy on the following:

  • Fed control over short-term interest rates
  • The Fed’s balance sheet and Treasury remittances
  • Functionality of Federal Funds Market
  • Financial stability in normal times and times of stress

The minutes noted that the Fed has never used any of the methods discussed while the Fed held a large balance sheet, and recommended that flexibility in using tools for achieving normal fiscal policy.

No decision was made about normalizing current monetary policy; FOMC and Fed Board members agreed that further study and analysis were needed before any decisions would be made.

Fed: Mortgage And Refinance Applications “Tepid”

The FOMC minutes characterized the level of mortgage and refinance applications through March as tepid, due to increasing mortgage rates and home prices.

While a survey of senior loan officers revealed that mortgage credit had been loosened for applicants with prime credit, mortgage credit remained tight for those with less than excellent credit.

The unemployment rate held steady at 6.70 percent and remained above the FOMC’s benchmark of 6.50 percent. There was some good news as the workforce expanded and the ranks of the long-term unemployed decreased.

Stable employment is important to potential home buyers; if unemployment levels continue to fall, numbers of home buyers are likely to increase.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 27, 2014

May 27, 2014 Comments off

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 19, 2014Last week’s economic news was dominated by speeches given by Federal Reserve presidents, the minutes from April’s FOMC meeting and commencement address given by Fed Chair Janet Yellen. The latest readings for new and existing home sales were also released.

Federal Reserve Speeches Suggest Concerns Over Monetary Policy Dependence, Low Inflation

Here are highlights of comments made by each of the Fed presidents’ speeches. Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Fed, and John Williams, President of the San Francisco Fed, spoke at a conference held at the Bush Institute.

Mr. Fisher said that 98 percent of jobs lost during the recession had been recovered, and that other jobs had been added. He also cited “bad fiscal policies,” and said he is worried about dependence on the Fed’s monetary policy when “Congress and the Executive Branch have put on the brakes.” 

John Williams, president of the San Francisco Fed, said that he was concerned about slowing momentum in housing markets, although he noted that housing had driven economic recovery in the aftermath of the recession.

The inflation rate has remained well below the Federal Reserve’s target rate of 2.00 percent, and Mr. Williams said that the Fed is paying close attention to this. His remarks were supported in Wednesday’s release of the FOMC minutes of its April meeting.

Charles Plosser, the Philadelphia Fed’s president, took an optimistic tone at a speech given before the Women in Housing Foundation on Tuesday. He said that the national unemployment rate could fall below 6.00 percent by the end of 2014 and that he expects the housing market to bounce back as well.

This makes sense, as strong labor markets are known to influence consumer decisions to buy a home.

New York Fed President William Dudley spoke before the New York Association for Business Economics, and said that there would be “a considerable period of time” between when the current asset purchase program ends and the first Fed rate hike would occur.

He also indicated that he expected longer-term interest rates (which include mortgage rates) to be “well below” a historical average of 4.25 percent.

Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said that the Fed should consider targeting price levels rather than the current policy of targeting the inflation rate. He said that this was not likely to occur any time soon, but noted that current Fed policy is “undershooting” the central bank’s goals for unemployment and inflation.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen cited her predecessor, Ben Bernanke as a positive example when she spoke at New York University’s commencement. She noted that he took “courageous actions unprecedented in ambition and scope” and that his “grit willingness to take a stand” had directed his decisions during the recession.

Mortgage Rates Down, Existing Home Sales Up

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates dropped last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 4.14 percent, a drop of six basis points. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.25 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by five basis points to 2.96 percent. Discounts were unchanged at 0.60 percent for 30-year mortgages and 0.40 for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages, but dropped to 0.50 percent for 15-year mortgages.

Sales of existing homes rose to their highest level in four months according to the NAR. Month-to-month sales of previously-owned homes rose by 1.63 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.65 million sales as compared to March’s reading of 4.59 million sales. This was the first rise in sales of existing homes in 2014, and nearly met expectations of 4.66 million sales.

This Week

After the Memorial Day holiday, this week’s economic news includes the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, FHFA’s house price index and consumer confidence index.

Pending home sales, jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report along with the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index round out the week’s scheduled events.

Did You Know? How Paint Color Choices Can Drastically Affect The ‘Mood’ Of Your Home

May 23, 2014 Comments off

Did You Know? How Paint Color Choices Can Drastically Affect the 'Mood' of Your HomeWhether you’re sprucing up your house to sell or simply looking for a color to bring out the beauty of your home, it’s imperative that you do your homework.

Before you head off to your local DIY store with a paint sample in one hand and a wallet in the other, you need to ensure that you’re picking the colors that are right for your home and your personality.

It is true that you can never go wrong with a neutral, but you can also go so much more right with the correct color in the appropriate space, whether it’s a neutral or not.

Give The Buyers The Blues

Blue is a great calming color and has even been known to lower blood pressure. When a person walks into a blue room they feel tranquil and at peace.

Blue is also the color of trustworthiness and dependability, so if you are selling your home, or if you just want to make your guests feel welcome, put a blue paint color on the walls of your front hall or foyer.

Eat Your Heart Out Red

Red is a high-energy color and it has been proven to stimulate the appetite. This makes it a perfect color for a kitchen. An accent wall splashed with a deep, rich red can bring interest and vibrancy to an ordinary kitchen. Be sure not to overdo the red though; one wall or a back splash is enough to get the point across without becoming garish.

Approach Yellow With Caution

Yellow is one of the most difficult colors to pull off correctly in a home. The light plays tricks with it, and what you thought was a sunny yellow in the store might become a sallow jaundice on a cloudy day.

If you must paint with yellow keep it very pale and keep it in a less used room. It can be a soothing color but it’s best to leave it out of the main rooms.

Give Green A Go

Green is said to be the most restful color on the eyes. Certainly, when we think of green, we think of the outdoors. Experts say the color green taps into our need for balance and makes us feel safe and at home.

With all that going for it, the color green is an ideal choice for any room in your house; especially a master bedroom where the restfulness of the color invites you to climb into bed and have lovely dreams.

Visions Of Violet

Purple or violet is often a favorite color of children. As we grow older, we tend to forget about this under-used color. The truth is, however, it can be an absolutely stunning color in a family room or living room.

Although we associate purple with children, a deep royal purple can give your room a regal look, which is perfect if you have high or vaulted ceilings. If you want to give your home a feeling of luxury with a bit of decadence, then violet or purple is the color for you.

No matter what colors you choose in your home, if you’re looking to resell it’s a good idea to consult an expert to ensure that your colors are compatible with one another. There’s nothing worse than a house that has a chopped-up effect due to its rooms being painted a myriad of different colors.

Three Mobile Apps That Make Home Automation Tasks Quick And Easy

May 22, 2014 Comments off

Three IPhone Apps That Make Home Automation Tasks Quick and EasyThese days, efficiency and productivity are the keys to life, which is why it’s no surprise that home automation is a bigger topic than ever before.

As more and more people become tech savvy and get used to working with handheld devices, home automation becomes a natural fit for your smartphone or other handheld device.

After all, it’s a true pleasure to be able to control nearly everything in your home from just one device! You have so many things to do each and every day that it would be too much of a hassle to do everything separately and to control everything independently.

Home automation solves that problem for you. Here are the three iPhone apps that will make home automation tasks much quicker and easier.

The Haiku Home Automation App For HAI

Sure, this app will cost you $50, but it’s well worth it in order to have everything controlled at the tips of your fingers. You can use this app from anywhere on the planet or simply while you’re plopped down on the couch… your choice entirely!

It incorporates HAI’s solid home automation controls with an amazing user interface experience to deliver convenience and efficiency to users. So far the app has received excellent ratings from users. Out of 112 ratings, it’s averaged a 4.5 out of 5 score on iTunes.

Try The Revolv Smart Home Automation Solution

This iOS app from Revolv Inc. allows you to unify and centrally control a slew of various, connected home devices. Examples include locks, smart lights, outlets, sensors, thermostats and even wireless music systems, just to name a few possibilities. The app taps into the iOS system to empower you to seamlessly and effortlessly complete a bunch of automated tasks.

This app lets you create several automated directives from geo-location, time and on-demand triggers and sensors. Such convenience and control is both practical and highly rewarding.

Finally: The Loxone App

The Loxone app allows you to control your residence from your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. The possibilities are endless because, with this app, you can regulate everything from your home’s blinds and heating to the music that’s playing in any given room. All you have to do is make a few taps on your iPhone’s screen, and you’re done!

This makes the Loxone app one of the most ideal and efficient home automation apps out there. It’s definitely a good idea to install this app on your iPhone today. You won’t regret it, and running the devices inside of your own home will be something you’ll look forward to, rather than something you dread.

Thanks to these home automation apps, you’re in good shape to feel in control of all of the devices in your home. Whether it’s the blinds, the heating or an entertainment device like your stereo, these apps have you covered so that you can proceed efficiently and productively.

Don’t forget to call your trusted mortgage professional today for more information on home automation and everything you need to make your home comfortable.

Here’s How You Can Leverage Your Home To Reduce Your Tax Burden For Next Year

May 21, 2014 Comments off

It's Tax Time - Here's How You Can Leverage Your Home to Reduce Your Tax BurdenEach year around April, we can find ourselves becoming a little more tense at the thought of what is about to occur: tax time.

Instead of falling into the trap of procrastinating your taxes, however, it’s much more beneficial to face tax time head-on and do your research on your applicable deductions well in advance.

Your home is good for many things, but using your home to reduce your tax burden may be one benefit you haven’t thought of. Here are some tax benefits that can be leveraged with your home, and some ways to lower your tax bill in 2014.

Deduct Interest On Home Loans

Though interest paid on personal loans isn’t deductible on your tax return, interest paid on mortgages is.

Home mortgage interest, for both your primary residence and a second home such as an investment property, can account for a large bill near the end of the year, and can significantly decrease your tax bill for 2014.

Interest paid on a line of credit for your home or a home equity loan is also usually deductible, and you may also qualify to deduct the insurance premiums on your private mortgage if this was a requirement from your lender. Ensure you keep your Form 1098 from you lender, and be sure not to miss each of your interest deductions.

Deducting Points Paid For A Better Rate

If you paid points in order to get a better interest rate on your home mortgage, the IRS will allow you to deduct these, too. If you meet the requirements for this deduction, one of which is that you paid the points in the same year that you purchased your primary residence, be sure to add the points to your list of deductions.

Deduct Property Taxes

Property taxes are also deductible on your tax return, and since they make up a significant portion of your home expenses each year, they certainly shouldn’t be excluded from your list of deductions in 2014.

As an annual deduction for the entire period you own your home, ensure you don’t forget about your first year in your home. If you’ve just purchased your home, the property taxes would have been split between the seller, the previous homeowner, and you, the buyer, at the time of the property transfer. Your portion of your first year’s property taxes for the home is also fully deductible.

Tax-Free Sales Gain

If you’ve owned and lived in your home for a minimum of two years and are ready to sell, you likely qualify for up to $250,000 dollars of tax-free profit, or up to $500,000 for married couples.

If the sale falls short of the two year mark, the IRS provides some tax relief if the sale is due to a list of unforeseen circumstances, such as changes in employment or health. Be sure to see where you qualify, and leverage the sale of your home for tax-free sales gain.

Having the ability to leverage your home in order to lower your tax burden is, of course, another benefit of being a homeowner. Often, reaping the full benefits of tax deductions is a simple matter of doing your research or speaking with a professional to get the information applicable to you.

For more information on the financial benefits of homeownership, including those related to taxes, call your trusted mortgage professional today for the answers you need.

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