Why Should My Clients Lock In Their Interest RatesInterest rates fluctuate frequently, often depending on the news. If you are considering refinancing your home, your loan officer may suggest locking in the interest rate on your loan.

There are some valid reasons why this is a good idea including:

Saving Money For The Long-term

Over the life of a loan, an increase of as little as one-quarter of a percent can cost thousands of extra dollars. Spending a small amount of money now to lock in a rate can save money over the life of the loan.

Your loan officer will explain the difference in rate increases initially, over a year and over the life of the loan.

You May Not Qualify At Higher Rates

Whether you are considering refinancing your property or you are buying a new home, you may discover your rate just qualified for your loan to meet the required debt-to-income ratios. An interest rate increase may mean you will not qualify for the loan.

Closing Times May Impact Their Decision

If a loan is scheduled to close within 30 days, it may be a good idea to consider locking in the interest rate your loan officer is offering. The lock will help protect against potential increases in rates during that period of time. This will help you plan your final closing costs and ensure your monthly payments will not be higher that estimated.

Don’t Forget: Upcoming News Impacting Rates

There are often issues that will have a serious impact on interest rates. For example, the current Quantitative Easing program by the Fed is keeping rates low. Should the Fed reveal they intend to modify or taper their program; chances are fairly good that rates will take a slight hike.

Loan officers can help you unwind the news and make sure your refinance is not negatively impacted by interest rate increases.

Not every refinance customer will want or need to lock in their interest rates. However, once a loan has been approved, you should consider talking with your loan officer about the potential of locking in. The small fee that may be required could save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

The Pros And Cons Of Making Biweekly Mortgage PaymentsHave you ever considered paying off the mortgage on your home in two biweekly payments rather than one monthly payment? It might seem like this wouldn’t make a difference, but the truth is that biweekly payments really do add up more quickly.

Since there are 52 weeks in a year you will end up making 26 payments in total – which is equal to 13 months rather than 12. This means that your mortgage will be paid off more quickly and you will save money on interest payments in the long run.

This arrangement might be the best for you when it comes to paying off your mortgage quickly and saving money, but it’s important to consider the possible disadvantages before you make the decision.

Cons Of A Biweekly Mortgage Payment

  • Often lenders do not offer biweekly services free of charge. You will be required to pay a registration fee as well as paying biweekly charges.
  • If your budget doesn’t allow the room to pay more toward your mortgage every year, this could be a foolish move. Don’t neglect the importance of having an emergency savings fund or paying your bills.
  • If you have your mortgage payment set up via direct debit from your bank account, taking out a payment every two weeks could catch you out if the funds are not there, especially if you are only paid once per month. This would result in charges for insufficient funds from both your lender and your bank.

Pros Of A Biweekly Mortgage Payment

  • Some people find that paying their mortgage biweekly fits better into their budget because it’s easier to plan for a smaller payment amount – especially if they are paid every two weeks.
  • By shaving years off the length of your mortgage, you are reducing the amount of money you will pay over the long run.
  • You will also be speeding up the time it takes to build equity in your home.
  • You will be compelled to make an extra mortgage payment per year, enforcing good habits on yourself that will eventually pay off.

These are just a few factors to consider before deciding whether you should make biweekly payments on your mortgage. If you don’t want to commit to biweekly payments on your home mortgage, you can always save up your money and make a lump sum payment at the end of the year.

For more tips and advice, feel free to reach out to your trusted mortgage professional today.

The Low Down On HUD1 Settlement StatementWhen preparing for a closing on your refinance or home purchase, one of the documents you will be provided with a few days before closing is a HUD-1 Form. This form provides you with valuable information about your loan.

While at first, this three page document may seem intimidating, if you understand what you see in each section, it is not as confusing as you might think. Let’s break down the various parts of the HUD-1 and talk about what they mean.

Loan Information

On the first page of your HUD1, you will see your loan information at the top. This includes the type of mortgage, property location, loan amount and the date of closing. This information is very basic but also is very important to review for accuracy.

Buyer And Seller Costs

If you are refinancing your home, you will only see information in the buyer section of the HUD-1. This section will define any charges associated directly with the home including taxes, insurance and any amounts that are due from you or payable to you at closing.

You will also see a total of all settlement costs which you can find broken down by category on page two of the HUD-1.

Page 2 Is Important

On the second page of your HUD-1 form, you will see a complete breakdown of all costs associated with your loan. This includes appraisal fees, broker or lender fees, and if your loan is a purchase loan, you will also see information regarding fees paid to a real estate broker if applicable.

Additional information found on this page includes escrow payments the lender may require be paid prior to closing. In most cases, escrow will include a portion of taxes and insurance payments that will be due through the quarter following closing on the mortgage.

Final And Important Highlights Of Page 3

Finally, you will need to review the signature page of your HUD-1 form. This page also contains critical information regarding your loan. Your interest rate, information on whether or not your loan will increase and the total amount you will pay over the life of your loan.

Additionally, you will see a comparison of the fees that you are actually paying compared to what your lender estimated at the type of application.

Borrowers need to review their HUD-1 form thoroughly prior to signing any loan documents. Typically, this form will be provided to a borrower a day or two prior to closing to allow for review and to get any questions answered prior to closing.

Having a basic understanding of the HUD-1 form can help make your closing much less stressful. For further questions on this topic feel free to reach out to your trusted mortgage professional.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - December 9, 2013Last week brought several indicators of a strengthening economy. New home sales, private and federal employment and mortgage rates rose.

The Department of Commerce released construction spending numbers for October with mixed results. Although public projects fueled an 0.80 percent increase in month-to-month construction spending, residential construction fell by 0.60 percent.

Analysts had expected an increase of 0.50 percent and also noted that the negative effect of the government shutdown was a “blip.” October’s reading for construction spending was the highest since 2004.

CoreLogic released data that home prices rose by 0.20 percent, which represents a year-over-year growth rate of 12.50 percent for home prices.  Pending home sales were suggested that November sales are expected to hold steady as compared to October, and projected year-over-year sales for November at 12.20 percent.

Slower growth in home prices was attributed to higher mortgage rates and a fear of a housing bubble in the West, where demand for homes far exceeds the number of available homes.

Not wanting to buy at the top of the current housing market, some potential buyers may be waiting for the talk of another housing bubble to subside before buying. Robert Shiller, co-author of the Case-Shiller Housing Market Index, noted that home buyers may not be “psychologically ready” for another housing bubble.

New home sales for October were higher than expectations of 419,000 homes sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. October’s reading of 444,000 new home sales was 21.60 percent higher than September’s reading of 354,000 new homes sold. The national median home price fell by 4.50 percent to $245,800 in October; this was the lowest month-to-month reading since November 2012.

The number of available homes fell to a 4.90 month supply in October. This may cause buyers to put their home searches on hold as they wait out the winter months and hope for supplies of available homes to increase.

U.S. Employment Improving, Mortgage Rates Rise

ADP a private-sector provider of payroll services reported 215,000 new jobs added in November as compared to October’s reading of 184,000 jobs added. Weekly jobless claims supported the ADP reading as new jobless claims fell to 298,000 against expectations of 325,000 new claims and a prior reading of 321,000 new claims.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics brought more good news with its Non-Farm Payrolls report and Unemployment Rate for November. Non-Farm payrolls added 203,000 jobs in November against expectations of 180,000 jobs added and October’s reading of 200,000 jobs added.

The National Unemployment rate dipped to 7.00 percent in November against expectations of a 7.20 percent reading and October’s reading of 7.30 percent. The Federal Reserve has set a benchmark unemployment rate of 6.50 percent as an indicator of economic recovery.

Last week’s strong economic news boosted mortgage rates; Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by 17 basis points to 4.46 percent with discount points lower at 0.50 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also gained 17 basis points at 3.47 percent with discount points at 0.40 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by 5 basis points to 2.99 percent with discount points at 0.4 percent.

What’s Coming Up

This week’s scheduled economic news includes Retail Sales, Weekly Jobless Claims and Freddie Mac’s report of average mortgage rates.

Ensure Your Fireplace Is Up To SnuffWhen it’s cold outside, there’s nothing quite as cozy as curling up on the sofa with a good book in front of a roaring fire. A fireplace evokes the idea of a warm and pleasant atmosphere.

However, if it isn’t properly maintained, your living room could be filled with a cloud of soot, or worse, fire. A fireplace not only creates a snug setting, but most are actually functional and can help heat your home.

Harness their heat and generate the ambiance of a softly lit living space by following the tips below to ensure yours is properly maintained and working efficiently before the first cold spell hits.

Clean It Regularly

Have your chimney cleaned out twice a year. The recommended number varies depending on how often you use your hearth. However, you should have it cleaned every fall to ensure it’s properly vented so that smoke has a way to escape.

Also, you’ll want to make sure that no animals have made their home there over the summer.

Close The Damper

Make sure you close the damper when you’re not using the fireplace. You don’t want to make your furnace work overtime because warm air is sneaking up and out the chimney.

Install A Chimney Cap

If your home doesn’t have a chimney cap, then have one installed. These help to prevent snow, leaves, animals and other debris from falling down the chimney. Caps also help keep downdrafts from gusting into your living area.

Burn Firewood Only

A fireplace isn’t the spot to burn your broken chair or ex-girlfriends photos. Painted wood, plastic and other treated wood surfaces can release chemicals into the air of your home. Worse, they can coat the interior walls of your fireplace, so you continue breathe them in for the next couple of fires. 

Mount Smoke Alarms

If you don’t already have them, mount smoke alarms near your hearth and in every bedroom. Consider installing combined carbon monoxide and smoke detectors if you have a home with a gas-burning fireplace.

Don’t use your fireplace without taking the right precautions. Get it cleaned, and if it’s your first use, then be sure to get it inspected beforehand. Make the hearth in your home the heart of your home by following the tips above to ensure it’s up to snuff this fall.

10 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Applying For A Mortgage Part 2Yesterday you may have read the blog post on questions to ask yourself before applying for a mortgage. Here are 5 additional that you may want to think about before you go into your meeting with your loan officer.

Here are questions 6-10 that you may need to get answers to before completing your application:

6. How Long Until We Can Close Our Loan?

Loan closing times are based on a number of factors. Closing dates may be delayed if there are missing documents or other underwriting delays. Speak with the loan officer to get an estimate on the time from application to closing.

7. What Possible Delays May I Face In Closing?

There are a number of delays that often cannot be avoided. However, some can be avoided by making sure you provide your loan officer with all the documents they request in a timely manner. In some cases, there may be a delay in getting the appraisal completed or for title searches. Your loan officer can discuss other reasons why a delay may occur.

8. Do I Need An Attorney For Closing?

When you are ready to close your loan, you are welcome to have an attorney representing you. Generally, there will be an attorney present at the closing however, they are there to represent the lender. If you feel more comfortable having an attorney present, discuss this with your loan officer to ensure the attorney receives the date, time and location of closing.

9. Should I Lock In My Interest Rate?

Before locking in a rate, make sure it is important to understand there may be fees associated with an interest rate lock. Bear in mind, should rates decline during the period between application and closing you will not be able to take advantage of those lower rates.

10. When Will I Get A HUD1 Statement?

As a borrower, you are entitled to review their HUD1 statement prior to closing. Your loan officer should make arrangements with you to provide the statement one or two days prior to closing for your review. This will give you an opportunity to review loan terms, interest rate and costs of the loan.

Never hesitate to ask your loan officer any questions you may have. The more questions you have addressed during the application process, the less likely you will be to be confused at the time of your mortgage closing.

Keep in mind, your loan officer is there to answer your questions and guide you through the entire loan process.

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10 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Applying For A Mortgage Part 1If you are considering applying for a refinance, it is important to understand the mechanics of your mortgage loan. Before you sit down to speak with your loan officer, you should consider preparing a list of questions you feel may need to be answered.

Typically, your loan officer will be available to assist through the entire mortgage process. Here are some questions that you may need to get answers to before completing your application:

1. What Type Of Loan Is Best For Me?

Your loan officer can discuss the various loan programs available to help you refinance. Some borrowers will benefit greatly from adjustable rate mortgages while others prefer fixed rate. However, other borrowers may find a fixed rate is the best option. Discuss various loan terms such as 30-year or 20-year mortgage loans.

2. What Documents Are Required?

Be prepared to provide your loan officer with several documents. The most common documents include pay stubs, bank statements and tax returns. Loan officers will also need a complete list of debts including auto payments, credit card payments and student loans.

3. What Costs Are Involved?

Prior to a loan closing you will be required to pay some costs up front. These may include appraisal fees, credit report fees and application fees.

Discuss all these costs with the loan officer to determine how much money will be required prior to the loan being approved. In addition, discuss any funds that will be required to complete the loan closing.

4. Can I Select My Own Appraiser?

When you apply for a refinance loan, lenders will require a property appraisal. Lenders typically maintain a list of approved appraisers and supply those lists to the loan officers. Typically, the loan officer will assign an appraiser to review the property. Borrowers generally have no input regarding the choice of appraisers.

5. When Will I Get A Good Faith Estimate?

Good Faith Estimates must be issued after you have completed your loan application. A second GFE is typically presented along with the HUD1 prior to closing. Keep in mind, the GFE is only an estimate of costs and that actual costs may be slightly higher or lower.

Never hesitate to ask your loan officer any questions you may have. The more questions you have addressed during the application process, the less likely you will be to be confused at the time of your mortgage closing.

Keep in mind, your loan officer is there to answer your questions and guide you through the entire loan process. For additional questions you should ask, check out tomorrow’s blog post.

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Case Shiller Price Index Shows A Spike In Home Prices In The WestAccording to the S&P Case-Shiller 10-and 20-City Housing Market Indices for September, home prices grew at an average of 13.30 percent year-over-year and achieved the highest growth rate for home prices since February 2006.

On a month-to month basis, home prices are slowing in most areas with 19 cities included in the S&P 20-City Housing Market Index showing lower rates of growth in home prices. September’s average month-to-month growth rate was 1.0 percent for the 20-City HMI as compared to 0.90 percent in August, and 1.90 percent posted earlier in 2013.

Home prices increased by 0.70 percent in September for the combined 20-City and 10-City Housing Market Indices tracked by Case-Shiller.

Rapidly Rising Home Prices In The West: Another Housing Bubble On Tap?

Home prices continued rising in the West, with Las Vegas leading the pack with a 29.10 percent gain year-over-year although average home price in Las Vegas, Nevada remains 46 percent than its peak in February of 2006.

California also showed double-digit year-over-year growth for home prices with San Francisco at 25.70 percent, Los Angeles at 21.80 percent and San Diego posting 20.90 percent growth in home prices year-over-year.

Rapidly increasing home prices in the West are largely due to demand exceeding supply, but buyers may be sitting on the sidelines due to concerns over another housing bubble in the making.

Buyers in this scenario are aware of increasing home prices, but aren’t buying now to avoid higher prices later. Instead they are waiting to see what happens with current home prices and housing market conditions in the longer term.

Chicago, Illinois posted its highest year-over-year growth rate since 2005 while Cleveland, Ohio posted a growth rate of 5.00 percent for September as compared to a month-to-month growth rate of 3.70 percent.

This was the second lowest month-to-month growth rate for home prices, with New York City posting a month-to-month home price growth rate of 4.00 percent from August to September.

FHFA Reports Slight Gain In Home Prices

The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported stronger gains in home prices for properties financed with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. In September, home prices reported by FHFA rose by 0.30 percent as compared to August’s growth rate of 0.40 percent. 

On a year-over-year basis, FHFA reported a gain of 8.40 percent between the third quarter of 2012 and the third quarter of 2013. Adjusted for inflation, home prices as reported by FHFA have risen approximately 7.20 percent. FHFA noted that home prices are growing at a rate far above the rate of 1.20 percent reported for other “goods and services.”

Lower numbers of foreclosed homes are seen as a boost for home prices in general; as mortgage lenders tend to offer foreclosed homes for sale at low prices in order to reduce inventories of real estate owned.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week -December 2, 2013The short holiday week brought a flurry of economic reports last week. Highlights included pending home sales, the S&P Case-Shiller Housing Market Indices and the FHFA home price index. No reports were released on Thursday and Friday in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The NAR released its Pending Home Sales report for October. Although pending home sales dropped by -0.60 percent, the decline was less than September’s reading of -4.60 percent.

NAR cited higher home prices and mortgage rates along with concerns over the then-pending government shutdown as factors that contributed to fewer pending sales. Pending sales are determined by signed purchase contracts and are considered an indication of future completed home sales and mortgage loan closings.

Department of Commerce reported that building permits issued increased from 974,000 in September to 1.03 million for October. Permits for multi-family dwellings rose by 17 percent from September, but permits for single-family homes rose by 1.00 percent.

A lagging supply of available single-family homes has been driving home prices up as demand also increases. The multi-family reading reflected the sector’s volatile nature and was largely concentrated in the West.

Case-Shiller And FHFA Report Higher Year-Over-Year Average Home Prices

The S&P Case-Shiller 20-City Housing Market Index for September reported its highest year-over-year gain in seven years, but the month-to-month reading was lower. The year-over-year reading was 13.30 percent in September and the month-to-month reading showed lackluster growth at 0.70 percent.

When seasonally adjusted, September’s reading was 1.00 percent against the seasonally-adjusted August reading of 1.90 percent.

In addition to the then-looming government shutdown, concerns over rapidly rising home prices in the West may have caused would-be buyers to sit on the sidelines as fears of another “housing bubble” gained traction.

Rising home prices also impact affordability and impact the ability of buyers depending on mortgage loans to compete with cash buyers.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, issued its housing market index report for September. Based on sales of homes financed with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac-owned mortgages, FHFA’s report indicated that year-over-year home prices at an annual rate of 8.50 percent in September as compared to August’s year-over-year reading of 8.40 percent.

Economists noted that the increase of home prices is slowing due to a number of factors including higher mortgage rates and restrictive lending policies that are making it more difficult for buyers to purchase homes.

Analysts said that next year could bring a more sustainable rate of home appreciation with year-over-year readings averaging between five and eight percent.

Freddie Mac issued its weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey on Wednesday; average mortgage rates for 30 and 15 year mortgages rose to 4.29 percent and 3.30 percent respectively.

Discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 2.94 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include Construction Spending, ADP Employment, New Home Sales and the Fed’s Beige Book. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its Non-farm Payrolls report and the national unemployment rate.

Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey will be released as usual on Thursday.

Quick Tips To Prepare Your Home For The WinterThe calendar has turned and with that we receive less sunlight, colder temperatures, and shorter days ahead, it’s an opportune time to cross those last-minute maintenance items off your homeowner to-do list.

Practicing preventive care – both inside and outside your home – can save thousands of dollars in repairs come later this winter. What follows is a brief checklist to get you started.

For Outside The Home:

  • Inspect exterior lights and outlets. Be sure that none of the outlets are cracked or broken, or have exposed wires.
  • Clean gutters and clear all blockages. If leaves are falling, redo after leaves are off all trees.
  • Inspect and test outdoor railings and stairs.
  • Have problem trees trimmed, including those that may damage your home in a storm.
  • Protect outdoor water faucets from freezing. Consider using foam cups, sold at hardware stores.

For Inside The Home:

  • Change batteries in all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms, whether they’re “dead” or not.
  • Vacuum refrigerator condenser coils, plus the front bottom grill. Empty and clean the drip pan.
  • Inspect wood stoves and fireplace inserts. Hire a certified chimney sweeper to clean the chimney, if needed.
  • Insulate bare water pipes running through your home to prevent freezing and to limit condensation on cold-water lines.
  • Inspect automatic garage door opener. Lubricate chains according to manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure bolts and screws are properly tightened and secured.

As a constant series of chores, home maintenance is a four-season job and one which should not be taken lightly. The tasks of each season are unique and this month is mostly preparatory in advance of colder weather.

If your routine maintenance uncovers larger issues including a faulty HVAC unit, or a leaking faucet, for example, seek professional help to make the repair.