Housing and Financial News

23 January 2015

The National Association of REALTORS® reported on Friday that December Existing Home Sales in December rose by 2.4% from November to an annual rate of 5.04 million units, which was below the 5.10 million expected. The report did have some negative news: sales in 2014 fell 3.1% from 2013 totaling 4.93 million units. Within the report it showed that there was a 4.4 month inventory supply, while the median price was $209,500 in December, up 6% from a year earlier.

In earnings news, fast food giant McDonald’s reported that fourth quarter sales fell 7% with profits declining by 21%. Revenues came in at $6.6 billion for the quarter, while profits fell to $1.1 billion from the same period a year ago. The world’s largest restaurant chain saw sales drop across all markets, most notably here in the U.S. as it loses customers to more upscale burger stops such as Five Guys and Chick-fil-A. McDonald’s operates 36,000 restaurants around the globe.

On the lighter side, with Super Bowl Sunday fast approaching, consumers looking to have chicken wings on their menu will have to shell out a few extra bucks, but the wings will be a little fatter. Due to the recent drop in corn and soybean, farmers will be fattening up their chickens with extra feed. The cost of wholesale wings have risen by 8.2% this month to $1.72 a pound, the biggest jump to start a year since 2012. The reason, the number of actual chickens slaughtered last year fell, which has caused a decline in the juicy wings by 50 million this year. Super Bowl Sunday is typically the biggest wing consumption day of the year.

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Financial News

22 January 2015

The European Central Bank (ECB) announced a big Quantitative Easing, or QE, style of stimulus this morning at its monthly meeting. The ECB said that it would purchase up to 60 billion euros per month in Bonds in an effort to fight off deflation and to promote economic growth. ECB President Mario Draghi also said that the central bank would extend the program, if conditions warrant. The eurozone region has seen economic turmoil for the past five years and these actions could help pull it out of its problems.

Americans filing for first time unemployment benefits fell in the latest week, down from seven-month highs in the previous week. The Labor Department reported that Weekly Initial Jobless Claims declined by 10,000 in the latest week to 307,000, but above the 300,000 expected. The uptick in the previous week could be due to the gyrations in hires and fires left over from the seasonal holiday employment picture. Those who continue to collect unemployment benefits increased by 15,000 to 2.44 million in the week ended January 10.

Motor club AAA reports that U.S. motorists are paying the lowest average gas prices since April 2009, and the average price is likely to drift below $2 per gallon before the end of January. The national average price for a regular gallon of gas at the pump is $2.04. The price has now fallen 117 consecutive days, for a total of $1.29 per gallon during the decline. Today’s price is down $1.23 in less than a year. AAA predicts the average price to remain below $3 in 2015.

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Market Update

27 May 2014

Rising home values are cooling off a bit as prices come back down to more normal levels after the big gains seen in 2013. The March Case Shiller 20-city Index rose by an annual rate of 12.4%, above the 11.8% expected, but down from the February annual rate of 12.9% and a recent peak of 13.7% in November. The Index did show a 0.9% increase in prices from February to March.

Consumers attitudes towards jobs, the economy and personal finances were more upbeat in the short term based on a recent survey from the Conference Board. The May Consumer Confidence Index rose to 83.0 from the 82.3 recorded in April and just above the 82.7 that was expected. The Index also revealed that the percentage of consumers expecting their incomes to grow over the next six months is the highest since December 2007, 20.2%.

The closely watched S&P 500 closed at a record high of 1,900 on Friday and is now up a whopping 186% from the low of 666 seen on March 9, 2009, at the height of the Great Recession. The Stock markets have been fueled by rising corporate profits, positive economic data, a comeback in housing and last but not least, support from the Federal Reserve through its QE programs. The S&P 500 is an index of 500 stocks and is designed to be a leading indicator of U.S. equities.

The Commerce Department reported today that March New Single-Family Home Sales plunged by 14.5% from February to an annual rate of 384,000 units. The 384,000 was far below the 455,000 that was expected with declines in three of the four U.S. regions. Sales have been stung by rising mortgage rates and home prices, as well as low inventories. The median sales price hit $229,000 in March, up nearly 13% from the year-ago period.

Despite some of the lowest home loan rates this year, mortgage applications continue to decline. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported today that its Market Composite Index, a measure of total loan application volume, fell by 3.3% in the latest week. Within the report it revealed that the refinance index fell by 4%, while the purchase index dropped 3%.

The heart of corporate earnings season is this week with some big names reporting today, such as Proctor & Gamble, Boeing, AT&T, Facebook and Apple. Of the 85 companies that have reported quarterly earnings in the S&P 500 through Monday morning, 67% have beaten estimates. However, companies had lowered their earnings guidance before the season began and there have been no overwhelming positive surprises.

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What Is A Mortgage Pre-Approval?When you are purchasing a home, your broker may recommend you obtain a mortgage pre-approval before you find the home of your dreams.

There are some benefits to being pre-approved before you find a home, but oftentimes, people confuse pre-qualifications with pre-approvals.

So the question many buyers have is what exactly is a mortgage pre-approval?

In a nutshell, it’s when the lender provides you (the buyer) with a letter stating that your mortgage will be granted up to a specific dollar amount.

What Do I Need For Pre-Approval?

In order to obtain a pre-approval for your home purchase, you will have to provide your lender all of the same information you would need to show for qualifying for a mortgage.

This means providing tax returns, bank statements and other documents that prove your net worth, how much you have saved for your down payment and your current obligations.

What Conditions Are Attached To A Pre-Approval?

Generally speaking, a pre-approval does have some caveats attached to it. Typically, you can expect to see some of the following clauses in a pre-approval letter:

  • Interest Rate Changes – a pre-approval is done based on current interest rates. When rates increase, your borrowing power may decrease.
  • Property Passes Inspection – your lender will require the property you ultimately purchase to come in with a proper appraisal and meet all inspection requirements.
  • Credit Check Requirements – regardless of whether it’s been a week or six months since you were pre-approved, your lender will require a new credit report. Changes in your credit report could negate the pre-approval.
  • Changes In Jobs/Assets – after a pre-approval is received, a change in your employment status or any assets may result in the pre-approval becoming worthless.

Getting pre-approved for a home mortgage may allow you more negotiation power with sellers and may help streamline the entire loan process.

It is important however to keep in mind there are still things that may have a negative impact on actually getting the loan.

It is important to make sure you keep in contact with the lender, especially if interest rates increase or your employment status changes after you are pre-approved.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - February 18, 2014Last week’s economic news was dominated by the first address by the new Fed chairperson, Janet Yellen.

Tuesday’s news included the Jobs Openings report for December 2013, which matched November’s reading of 4.0 million jobs available.

This information was taken from a gauge of competition for available jobs; in December, competition for job openings fell to its lowest level in five years.

Fed Chair Janet Yellens First Address to House

Janet Yellen addressed the House Financial Services Committee for the first time on Tuesday as Chair of the Federal Reserve.

Ms. Yellen indicated that she expected “a great deal of continuity” in terms of Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) monetary policy direction, and noted that markets should expect the FOMC to continue its support of low interest rates.

Chairman Yellen emphasized that the FOMC’s current tapering of its quantitative easing program was expected to continue, but is not on a pre-determined course.

If economic conditions change, the Fed’s monetary policy would be adjusted according to such developments.

Mortgage Rates Mixed According To Freddie Mac

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS), the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose to 4.28 percent from the prior week’s 4.23 percent.

The average rate for 15-year fixed rate mortgage mortgages was unchanged at 3.33 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped from 3.08 percent to 3.05 percent.

Discount points for each category were unchanged at 0.70 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

In other news, Weekly Jobless Claims were higher last week at 339,000 against a forecast of 330,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 331,000 new jobless claims.

Analysts cited bad weather and the possibility of slower economic growth as factors, but said that it was too soon to tell if economic growth is slowing down.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index beat expectations with a reading of 81.2 against expectations for a reading of 80.0. February’s reading was unchanged from January.

Whats Coming Up

This week’s economic news includes the NAHB Home Builder’s Housing Market Index on Tuesday. Wednesday’s events include Housing Starts and the minutes from January’s FOMC meeting.

In addition to Freddie Mac’s PMMS, Thursday’s scheduled reports include Weekly Jobless Claims, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Core CPI. Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for January will also be released.

The National Association of REALTORS® will release data for existing home sales in January on Friday.

What To Consider When Buying A Fixer-UpperIn your imagination it seems like a great idea – you purchase an older run-down property and you have the chance to fix it up and turn it into the home of your dreams.

To Renovate, Or Not To Renovate

However, the renovation project that is simply a quick montage in your imagination will actually take several months or years and thousands of dollars in real life.

The concept of renovating a “fixer-upper” property is exciting, but the reality is a lot of work and investment. How can you make sure that you are making the right choice for you?

One of the main advantages of buying a fixer-upper property is that you will usually be able to get the property for a much cheaper price. But is it worth it for the amount of time and money you will need to invest in the property?

Here Are Some Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself When Making Your Decision:

  • Do you (or your friends and family members) have the skills to be able to perform most of the renovations yourself? If you do the labor yourself, you will be able to save thousands of dollars that you would have spent hiring contractors, which will make the renovation a much more profitable project.
  • Are you comfortable with the idea of living in a construction zone, perhaps for several months or more? There will be dust and noise everywhere and you might have to cope without a kitchen or a shower for a while.
  • Make sure that you have a thorough inspection of the home performed so that you can see whether the home has a sturdy foundation, good wiring and plumbing, etc. If your inspection reveals any structural issues or water damage, you might be in for more than you bargained for. You need to start with a house that has “good bones”.
  • If the home has serious structural, plumbing or wiring problems you should stay away – these repairs are very expensive but “invisible”, so you are unlikely to recoup your costs when you sell the home.
  • Add up the estimated costs for renovating the property along with the cost of the home – does it still work out to be a better deal or would you be better off buying a new property.
  • What is your strategy for financing the renovations? If your only option is putting it on the credit card, you might want to think twice because this is a very high interest option.

Buying a fixer-upper property can be a great investment and can give you the opportunity to transform a run-down old house into the property of your dreams. However, make sure you that you consider the choice carefully before making your decision.

For more information about home mortgage advice and how to get approved to buy a home, contact your trusted mortgage professional. 

What To Consider When Buying A Fixer-UpperIn your imagination it seems like a great idea – you purchase an older run-down property and you have the chance to fix it up and turn it into the home of your dreams.

To Renovate, Or Not To Renovate

However, the renovation project that is simply a quick montage in your imagination will actually take several months or years and thousands of dollars in real life.

The concept of renovating a “fixer-upper” property is exciting, but the reality is a lot of work and investment. How can you make sure that you are making the right choice for you?

One of the main advantages of buying a fixer-upper property is that you will usually be able to get the property for a much cheaper price. But is it worth it for the amount of time and money you will need to invest in the property?

Here Are Some Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself When Making Your Decision:

  • Do you (or your friends and family members) have the skills to be able to perform most of the renovations yourself? If you do the labor yourself, you will be able to save thousands of dollars that you would have spent hiring contractors, which will make the renovation a much more profitable project.
  • Are you comfortable with the idea of living in a construction zone, perhaps for several months or more? There will be dust and noise everywhere and you might have to cope without a kitchen or a shower for a while.
  • Make sure that you have a thorough inspection of the home performed so that you can see whether the home has a sturdy foundation, good wiring and plumbing, etc. If your inspection reveals any structural issues or water damage, you might be in for more than you bargained for. You need to start with a house that has “good bones”.
  • If the home has serious structural, plumbing or wiring problems you should stay away – these repairs are very expensive but “invisible”, so you are unlikely to recoup your costs when you sell the home.
  • Add up the estimated costs for renovating the property along with the cost of the home – does it still work out to be a better deal or would you be better off buying a new property.
  • What is your strategy for financing the renovations? If your only option is putting it on the credit card, you might want to think twice because this is a very high interest option.

Buying a fixer-upper property can be a great investment and can give you the opportunity to transform a run-down old house into the property of your dreams. However, make sure you that you consider the choice carefully before making your decision.

For more information about home mortgage advice and how to get approved to buy a home, contact your trusted mortgage professional. 

How A Mortgage Pre-Approval Can Help You Get A Better Deal On Your Home PurchaseOftentimes, when you are searching for a new home, it may seem obtaining a pre-approval for your mortgage loan is a waste of time and energy. However, there are some significant benefits to a pre-approval which should not be overlooked.

In many cases, buyers can use a pre-approval for leverage when negotiating with sellers and may wind up buying a home for far less than what the listed price is.

Knowing Your Limitations

One significant benefit of a mortgage pre-approval is knowing exactly how much money you will be able to borrow. This means you will be looking at homes you know you can afford.

Whether you are working on your own or you’ve sought the assistance of a real estate broker, there will be no question in your mind how much money you can spend.

Approaching A Seller

When someone is attempting to sell a home, chances are they are either buying a new home or they are relocating. This means they may be facing certain time constraints which can be difficult when they list their home.

When sellers are faced with multiple offers, chances are the potential buyer who has a pre-approval will often be the offer that is accepted, even if it’s slightly lower than other buyers.

Benefits For The Seller

It may seem the seller has nothing to gain if they are taking less money for their home simply because you have a pre-approval. However, this is typically not the case.

Keep in mind the usual process is the buyer makes an offer, they search for a loan and they may eventually get turned down for a mortgage. This means the seller has to start the process all over again; typically 30 to 60 days after they received the first offer.

A pre-approval can give you a great deal of negotiating power simply because your lender has already validated your credit information, your employment, debt and income.

This means when you begin negotiating with a seller, the time from signing a purchase and sale agreement to closing your loan is typically significantly shortened.

Can I Have A Co-Signer For My Mortgage Loan?Like credit cards or car loans, some mortgages allow borrowers to have co-signers on the loan with them, enhancing their loan application.

However, a co-signer on a mortgage loan doesn’t have the same impact that it might on another loan. Furthermore, it poses serious drawbacks for the co-signer.

What Is A Mortgage CoSigner?

A mortgage co-signer is a person that isn’t an owner-occupant of the house. However, the co-signer is on the hook for the loan.

Typically, a co-signer is a family member or close friend that wants to help the primary borrower qualify for a mortgage.

To that end, he signs the loan documents along with the primary borrower, taking full responsibility for them. 

When a co-signer applies for a mortgage, the lender considers the co-signer’s income and savings along with the borrower’s.

For instance, if a borrower only has $3,000 per month in income but wants to have a mortgage that, when added up with his other payments, works out to a total debt load of $1,800 per month, a lender might not be willing to make the loan.

If the borrower adds a co-signer with $3,000 per month in income and no debt, the lender looks at the $1,800 in payments against the combined income of $6,000, and is much more likely to approve it.

CoSigner Limitations

Co-signers can add income, but they can’t mitigate credit problems.

Typically, the lender will look at the least qualified borrower’s credit score when deciding whether or not to make the loan.

This means that a co-signer might not be able to help a borrower who has adequate income but doesn’t have adequate credit.

There Are Risks In CoSigning For A Mortgage

Co-signing arrangements carry risks for both the borrower and the co-signer.

The co-signer gets all of the downsides of debt without the benefits. He doesn’t get to use or own the house, but he’s responsible for it if the mortgage goes unpaid.

The co-signer’s credit could be ruined and he could be sued (in some states) if the borrower doesn’t pay and he doesn’t step in.

For the borrower, having a co-signer may an additional level of pressure to make payments since defaulting on the loan will hurt him and his co-signer.