Should You Pay Your Mortgage Bi-weekly or Monthly? Let’s Take a Look

December 9, 2016 by John · Leave a Comment 

Should You Pay Your Mortgage Bi-weekly or Monthly? Let's Take a LookMost homeowners look at their monthly mortgage payment as their largest cost per month, and something they must do to maintain a good credit history. However, you may have heard of bi-weekly mortgage payments and their ability to lower your debt load and help you pay off your mortgage more quickly. If you’re wondering if bi-weekly payments are too good to be true, here’s some information worth consideration.

What Difference Does Bi-Weekly Make?

Making a bi-weekly mortgage payment may seem to mean that your interest will be automatically reduced, but because the lender is not necessarily receiving that payment until the end of the month, this is not necessarily the case. However, while a typical monthly payment will equate to 12 mortgage payments per year, a bi-weekly payment means 26 half payments will be made each year, which equates to 13 months of payments and an additional month. As a result, this can reduce the amount of interest paid on the principal.

Consider More On A Monthly Basis

Bi-weekly payments have the ability to shave a bit off the principal and thereby lower overall interest, but that doesn’t mean you have to switch to paying every two weeks. Instead of bi-weekly, consider dividing your monthly mortgage amount by 12 and adding that amount to your monthly payment. This will bump up your mortgage cost per month, but it will also reduce the total amount you owe. For example, if your mortgage payment is $1200 per month, divide it by 12 to get $100, and add this to your payment, bumping it up to $1300 each month.

Be Aware Of The Options That Work For You

In the event that you decide to make bi-weekly payments, be aware that there may actually be additional fees associated with this offering that will nullify your money savings. As a homeowner, it’s important to stay aware of changes on the market and new mortgage offerings that can benefit you. However, it’s also important to ensure that whatever you choose, you’re aware of the risks involved so they can make for a positive financial shift.

Making a bi-weekly payment on your mortgage may have the benefit of lowering your overall home cost, but you may be able to get this benefit from simply bumping up your monthly payment. 

Winter’s Coming: Learn How to Prepare Your Plants, Trees and Other Landscaping

December 7, 2016 by John · Leave a Comment 

Winter's Coming: Learn How to Prepare Your Plants, Trees and Other LandscapingFrom the approaching holiday season to the New Year, there are a lot of things to prepare for when it comes to the winter. It’s important, though, not to forget about the needs of your lawn for the upcoming cold season. If you’re wondering how to ready your trees, your plants and your yard, here are some tips for saving your vegetation until the springtime.

Fertilize For Grass Growth

It might seem like a waste of time to fertilize your grass going into the winter months, but this is actually the perfect time to prep it for spring. As fertilizer will provide much-needed nutrients to the grass in the months when there is less growth, it will actually stimulate improved growth down the road. It’s just important to ensure that you provide a consistent amount of fertilizer so a patchy-looking yard can be avoided. Since weeds scale back in winter, like most other varieties of plants, it can also be an ideal time to apply a herbicide.

Garden Plants And Perennials

While plant maintenance duties like pruning can be done in the spring or fall months, it can actually be a better idea to give your plants the summer months to grow before diving in. Cutting them back will enable the plant to focus its energy on maintenance through the cold winter months, so it’s a good idea to get to work in before the first signs of cooler air set in. If you happen to have plants that won’t last through the winter, you’ll want to compost them so they can be used for soil in the next gardening season.

Clearing Away The Wood

Beyond the garden and the lawn, it’s also worthwhile to provide a little care for your favorite trees before the winter hits. While you’ll want to be cautious about what you do and may want to consult with a gardening professional, clearing away dead branches can help your tree retain its health throughout the year. You may notice the difference in your trees when the spring rolls around again, as they’ll likely have a revitalized look and show signs of new growth.

Winter is a busy time for many people, but it’s important to make the time to fertilize your grass and prune your perennials so your yard will be ready for spring. If you’re currently prepping your yard for a spring home sale, contact your local real estate professionals for more information.

Buying a New Home? Use This Checklist to Ensure Your Finances Are in Order

December 6, 2016 by John · Leave a Comment 

Buying a New Home? Use This Checklist to Ensure Your Finances Are in OrderBuying a home is a significant expense. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a first-time buyer or have experience. Unless you have a large pile of cash, you’ll need to ensure your finances are in order before closing. In this post we’ll explore four financial items you’ll want to check off before buying a new home.

Figure Out Your Current Monthly Budget

First, you’re going to want to sort out your monthly budget. If you’ve never done a budget before, start with something basic. Open up a spreadsheet or take out a piece of paper. Make two columns: ‘income’ and ‘expenses’. Fill in each column with the amounts that you make or spend each month. Bank, credit card and other statements can help with this process. It’s a good idea to go back at least 3 months to ensure you’re capturing your true spending.

Make A Debt Management Plan

Do you have any debts? If so, you’ll want to make a plan for how you’re going to manage these when you buy a new home. For example, you may have a car payment, student loans, a line of credit or credit card debt. Write down your debts, how much you owe and when payments are due. If any debts are due monthly, make sure you include those in your budget.

Keep in mind that your outstanding debts may impact your ability to borrow for a mortgage as well. If you plan on taking out a mortgage to pay for your new home, it’s best to get your debts figured out beforehand.

Understand All Your Real Estate Costs

Next, you’ll want to determine what all your real estate costs are going to be. If you’re not yet close to the bidding or closing process, this might be a bit challenging. But ask your real estate agent for a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for a home in your price range.

Set Up An Emergency Savings Cushion

Finally, you’ll want to set up a financial cushion in case of emergencies. It’s not much fun to think about, but losing a job or having a health event is possible. Most financial experts recommend having at least six months of expenses saved up. Of course, this is always easier said than done. What’s important is that you have at least some cash tucked away, just in case. If you can, save a bit extra each month or from each pay check and add to this emergency fund.

When you’re ready to buy a new home, a licensed real estate agent is your best bet for success. Reach out to us today and learn more about how affordable a new home in your community will be!

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 5, 2016

December 5, 2016 by John · Leave a Comment 

Last week’s economic news was plentiful with releases on Case-Shiller Home Price Indices and pending home sales. Readings on government and private sector jobs created, the national unemployment rate and weekly readings on new jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey were also released.

Case-Shiller: Western Cities Dominate Home Price Growth

Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index reported that Seattle Washington topped year-over-year home price growth with an increase of 11.00 percent. Portland, Oregon followed closely with a reading of 10.90 percent, and Denver Colorado held third place with year-over-year home price gains of 8.70 percent.

San Francisco, California, which had posted high home price gains in recent years, posted a month-to-month reading of -0.40 percent and a year-over-year gain of 5.70 percent. Analysts said that this reading was evidence that home prices in high cost areas were topping out. Affordability, strict mortgage requirements and low inventories of available homes continued to present obstacles to home buyers.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Pending Home Sales Dip

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, pending home sales dipped in October to 0.10 percent as compared to a growth rate of 1.50 percent in September. Winter weather and holidays can cause would-be home buyers to postpone their home searches until spring.

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week, although the 10-year treasury rate, which is tied to mortgage rates, was unchanged from the prior week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was five basis points higher at 4.08 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by nine basis points to 3.34 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.15 percent. Mortgage rates have risen by 51 basis points in three weeks. This trend, coupled with high home prices, doesn’t bode well for first-time and modest income home buyers.

Consumer spending for October increased by 0.30 percent as compared to predictions for a reading of 0.50 percent and September’s 0.70 percent reading. The core inflation reading for October was unchanged and in line with analyst expectations at 0.10 percent. The core reading excludes volatile food and fuel sectors.

Labor Reports: Job Creation Grows, Unemployment Rate Lower

According to the Labor Department’s Non-Farm Payrolls report for November, 178,000 government and private sector jobs were created as compared to expectations of 200,000 jobs created and October’s reading of 142,000 jobs created in October. According to the Commerce Department, the national unemployment rate for November was 4.60 percent as compared to the expected reading of 4.90 percent and October’s reading of 4.90 percent. Analysts noted that while a lower reading could indicate good news, it was also the result of fewer workers in the work force. The unemployment rate is based on unemployment claims filed by those actively seeking work; it does not include those underemployed or those who have stopped seeking work.

First-time jobless claims rose to 268,000 as compared to expectations of 250,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 251,000 new claims filed.

In spite of higher mortgage rates and dubious labor reports, the Consumer Confidence Index rose to 107.1 in November from October’s reading of 100.8; Analysts had expected an index reading of 102.5.

Whats Ahead

Next week’s economic reports include releases on job openings and consumer sentiment along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Home Equity Tips: 3 Upgrades That Will Make Your House Worth More When You Sell

December 2, 2016 by John · Leave a Comment 

Home Equity Tips: 3 Upgrades That Will Make Your House Worth More When You SellIt’s likely that your house is your biggest asset, so when it comes time to sell it you’ll want to do everything you can to maximize your profit. Good news the value of your home isn’t solely determined by the market, there are several ways in which you can increase its value by making upgrades before listing.

Let’s take a look at 3 top upgrades that will make your house worth more when you sell.

1. Make It Profitable

Not surprisingly, the number one way in which you can increase the value of your home is to add an income suite within the property. If your home has potential to earn buyers’ money it will inevitably be more valuable than a property that doesn’t have any potential cash flow for the owner. Whether it’s a basement suite or a floor that’s been made into a separate unit, income units are a huge bonus for buyers. Making money while paying off their home would be a dream come true for most people, and it’s a dream that buyers are willing to pay a high price for.

2. Kitchen Is Key

Kitchens are often the first area to become dated or worn out within a home, and they’re the most important part of the house when it comes to valuation. Make sure that your cabinets and countertops are updated before selling, and modernize the design with neutral fixtures that are current yet adaptable to many tastes. Having a fresh kitchen shows both function and fashion to buyers. After all, no one wants to see rusty old appliances and dingy lights when walking into the focal point of a home.

3. Beautify The Bathrooms

Besides the kitchen, bathrooms are the second most important aspect of a home when it comes to valuation. Having multiple bathrooms within a home automatically increases its value significantly, especially if at least two have at least three pieces within them, containing at least a sink, toilet, and either a shower or bath. Ensuring that your bathrooms are leak-free, look meticulously clean, and have a modern design is a fantastic way to make sure that buyers will be impressed during an open house.

Bonus tip: if installing a new toilet, consider purchasing one that is eco-friendly with dual-flush options. As people become more and more environmentally conscious, fixtures such as these will cater to a broad spectrum of lifestyle values.

If you’re ready to prepare your home for sale and are looking for more ways in which you can maximize its market value, contact your trusted real estate professional today.

Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Mixed for September

December 1, 2016 by John · Leave a Comment 

September’s 20-City Housing Market Index from Case-Shiller showed signs that rapidly rising home prices in some metro areas may be losing momentum. San Francisco, California, posted a month-to-month reading of -0.40 percent and a year-over-year reading of 5.70 percent. Home prices stayed flat in Seattle Washington from August to September, but posted the highest home price gain of 11.00 percent year-over-year. Slowing home price growth in high-demand areas suggest that affordability concerns are impacting rapid gains in home prices seen in recent years.

Case-Shiller’s National Home Price Index achieved its highest gain with a reading of 5.50 percent as compared to August’s reading of 5.10 percent.

Year-over-Year: Western U.S. Holds Highest Gains in Home Prices

In addition to Seattle’s year-over-year home price growth rate of 11 percent, Portland, Oregon closely followed with a year-over-year reading of 10.90 percent. Denver, Colorado rounded out the top three cities in the 20-City Home Price Index with a year-over-year growth rate of 8.70 percent. September was the eighth consecutive month that the top three cities held their places in the 20-City Index. Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index posted a year-over- year gain of 5.10 percent.

September Home Prices Cap Recovery, Usher in New Progress for Housing Market

According to David M. Blitzer, Chairman of S&P Dow Jones Index Committee, September’s record national reading for home prices marks a transition from housing recovery to “the hoped for start of a new advance.” Mr. Blitzer cited recent data on sales of new and pre-owned homes and said that housing starts reached a post-recession peak.

September’s peak in national home prices was 0.10 percent above the pre-recession peak set in 2006. Adjusted for inflation, the September peak remains approximately 16 percent below the pre-recession peak. During the recession, national home prices reached a trough that was 27 percent lower than Case-Shiller’s September reading. Analysts expressed some caution and noted headwinds to housing markets including slower-than-normal rates of homes construction, higher mortgage rates and strict mortgage approval requirements.

First-time Home Buyers: Here’s a Quick and Easy Guide to Your First Mortgage

November 30, 2016 by John · Leave a Comment 

First-time Home Buyers: Here's a Quick and Easy Guide to Your First MortgageDelving into the real estate market for the first time can be a very intimidating thing with all of the mortgage and housing options available. Whether it’s market conditions or the amount you should be spending, there are a number of factors you’ll need to be aware of. If you’re just starting out and not sure where to begin, here are some points to consider that will set you on the right path.

Is It The Right Time To Buy?

Many people try to time the market, but the right time to buy a home is when it works for you. If you have a solid down payment and you’re truly prepared for home ownership, it’s probably the right time to start looking. While a good home and low interest rates can certainly push you in this direction, if it’s not quite the right time, hold off until it’s right for you.

What’s Your Payment Plan?

It’s easy for a first-time buyer to be taken in by their dream home, but it’s important to be clear on all the costs associated with home ownership like property tax, insurance, maintenance and other fees that will bump up the monthly payment. If you can formulate a budget that includes all of your monthly costs and is feasible in the long term, you’re good to go.

What Documentation Is Required?

Having your personal documentation in order and available will be one of the most important steps in your application, but there are a number of things you’ll need. Beyond recent paystubs, tax returns and bank statements, you’ll also need your credit report, so take a look over it to ensure that it’s correct and displays your financial history in a positive light.

Starting the Search

You may be ready to move as soon as you start looking, but buying your first home can be a rather lengthy process. Instead of being sucked in by too much house or taking the first home that appeals to you, ensure that you have a good sense of the size, neighborhood and style of house you want so you can get out there and find the home that works for you.

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to buying your first home, but by being ready to invest and having your finances in order you’ll be well on your way. If you’re currently in the market for a home, contact your trusted real estate profesisional for more information.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 29, 2016

November 29, 2016 by John · Leave a Comment 

Last week’s economic reports included new and pre-owned home sales, new jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage rates survey.

Home Sales Mixed in October

According to the National Association of Realtors®, sales of previously owned homes reached a seasonally adjusted annual level of 5.60 million sales, which exceeded expectations and October’s reading of 5.49 million sales. Analysts had expected a rate of 5.44 million sales.

October sales of preowned homes rose 2 percent over September’s reading and were 5.90 percent higher year-over-year. This was the highest reading for sales of pre-owned homes since February 2007. High demand for homes is driving housing markets in spite of obstacles including rising mortgage rates and tight mortgage approval requirements.

Sales of new homes were lower in October, which indicated continued ups and downs in the economic recovery. October’s reading of 563,000 sales on a seasonally adjusted annual basis was lower than expectations of 595,000 sales and September’s downwardly revised reading of 574,000 new homes sold.

New home sales were 17.80 percent higher year-over year and 12.60 percent higher year to date, but analysts said that housing markets continue to be constrained by a short supply of available homes. Inventories of available homes are slowly increasing, which is expected to help curtail rapidly rising home prices caused by pent-up demand.

The median price of a new home was $304,500 in October as compared to September’s median price of $314,100 and October 2015’s median price of $298,700. There were 246,000 new homes for sale in October, which was the highest quantity of new homes on the market since September of 2009.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Mortgage rates jumped last week in response to an increase in the 10-year Treasury note rate. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose nine basis points to 4.03 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 11 basis points higher at 3.25 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was five basis points higher at 3.12 percent. Last week’s readings were the first time in 2016 that mortgage rates exceeded four percent.

New jobless claims were also higher last week with 251,000 claims filed as compared to expectations 248,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 233,000 new claims filed. Last week’s reading marked the 90th consecutive week of new jobless claims less than the benchmark of 300,000 new claims, an event that hasn’t occurred since 1970.

Whats Ahead

Economic reports scheduled this week include Case-Shiller Housing Market Indexes, pending home sales and construction spending. Readings on inflation and labor will also be released along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

Five Unique Renovations That Can Make Small Living Spaces Feel Bigger

November 25, 2016 by John · Leave a Comment 

Five Unique Renovations That Can Make Small Living Spaces Feel BiggerJust because you live in a small space doesn’t mean your home needs to feel cramped. There are several renovations that are popular among interior designers to make a space feel larger. Incorporate them into your own home to give it a more open, spacious feel.

1. Crystal Clear

Glass is an absolutely phenomenal way to make a small space feel larger as it removes visual barriers to show off additional square footage, making it seem as though it’s part of the room. Whether you choose a glass railing for a staircases or room divider or incorporate a glass shower into a small bathroom, glass can help your home feel more spacious.

2. Make The Most Of Mirrors

Similar to glass, mirrors can make a small space feel big as they add an illusion of depth to a room. Try installing a large mirror on a wall in lieu of paintings or other decor if you’d like to make a room seem larger than it is.

3. Goodbye Island

If it’s your kitchen that’s feeling cramped, consider removing the island. Islands can add value to a home, but if your kitchen is small enough that it shouldn’t have been there in the first place then getting rid of it will create a much more functional space. Consider whether you’d still have ample counter space and storage without your island, and if the answer is yes it may be time to say goodbye to your island.

4. Tear Down The Walls

Creating an open concept floor plan is a fantastic renovation for a small home as it removes barriers between several small spaces to create one larger open space. Do you really need a wall between your kitchen and dining room? How about between your dining room and living room? If there’s a wall that simply isn’t necessary, it may be time to tear it down.

5. Keep It Light

A very quick and easy renovation to help open up a small space is to paint the walls in a light color as it will reflect more light than a darker shade, making the room feel airy rather than cozy. If you’re considering re-doing the floors, choosing a lighter color can further contribute to the feeling of a larger space.

Small spaces don’t have to cramp your style. In fact, they offer unique design opportunities and can make wonderful living spaces. If you’re looking for more homeowner advice, get in touch with your local real estate professional today.

Let’s Talk Basements: How to Finish Your Basement so It Adds Value to Your Home

November 23, 2016 by John · Leave a Comment 

Let's Talk Basements: How to Finish Your Basement so It Adds Value to Your HomeAre you on the hunt for home renovations that will boost usability and value? Look no further than that unfinished basement. In this article, we’ll show you how to turn that dusty cave into an amazing new living space.

Note: finishing a basement isn’t the easiest job. For most basements, it’s a lot more than a weekend do-it-yourself project. If you’re not comfortable with construction be sure to enlist the help of a professional.

Step 1: Plan Everything Out

The first step is to plan out how you’re going to use the space. Are you going to make an office? A full suite? Is there any plumbing or wiring involved? Will you need to create full walls? Map out how you plan to use the available space so you have an idea of what you’ll need.

Step 2: Measure And Deal With The Floor

Once you figure out how you’ll use the space, you’ll need to measure everything out. Height can be an issue — especially in basements not designed as a living space. You can solve height problems by digging out the concrete slab. Once you get down deep enough, you pour a new slab.

Step 3: Frame Everything In

Is the basement at a good height? Next you’ll need to start framing everything in. Depending on how you have your walls mapped out, this might take a while. You may also need permits or to enlist licensed tradespeople, such as an electrician. If you’re just framing in a single room to add walls, it will be easier.

Step 4: Insulate And Install The Walls

After the framing process, you’ll insulate everything before installing the walls. Adding insulation can drive energy and heating costs down by a lot. So much so that in colder areas of the country, new homes must have insulated basements. After the insulation is in place, you’ll install the drywall and ready the walls for painting.

Step 5: Paint, Carpet And Finish Up

The final step is to get everything painted and finished. If you chose to go with a carpeted floor, you’ll want to save this for last. Once the painting is complete, install the carpets, baseboard and trim. Touch up any final areas and you’re all set.

Finishing your basement into a usable space is an excellent way to add value to your home. To learn more about building your home’s equity, give us a call.

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