The HARP Mortgage Program is Coming to an End Soon – Here’s What You Need to Know

The HARP Mortgage Program is Coming to an End Soon - Here's What You Need to KnowThe United States government established the HARP program, otherwise known as the Home Affordable Refinance Program, to assist homeowners who are struggling with their mortgage payments. Initially, the program was founded in March 2009, and it has provided many homeowners with an easier route to adjusting their mortgage payments to make them more affordable. However, the program will be ending soon, and homeowners who have not yet taken advantage of the program and who intend to do so may need to act quickly.

When Does the Program End?

The HARP mortgage program will officially end on December 31, 2015. If you intend to apply for a mortgage under this program, you must have your application submitted by this date. However, a closing date may extend into early 2016. There are special rules and eligibility requirements that must be met in order for you to take advantage of this program, and these must be in place before you submit a full application. Therefore, it is important that anyone who is interested in applying for a mortgage under the HARP program take time initially to understand more about the rules and eligibility requirements in place.

What Are the Requirements?

It is important to note that the HARP program is not suitable for all homeowners who wish to refinance, and special requirements must be in place. Just a few of the requirements include that you must be in good standing with your current mortgage with no late payments within the last six months. You also cannot have had more than one late payment within the last 12 months. In addition, you must be able to pay for the new mortgage payment, and the mortgage must be a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan. These are just a few of the requirements, and you will need to work with a mortgage professional to ensure that you qualify for these and other requirements that are in place.

The HARP program has already helped many homeowners who have been struggling with their mortgage payments. While the program offers a permanent solution to homeowners by re-establishing a new mortgage payment amount, the program itself was only intended to be temporary in nature. Because it will officially end at the end of 2015, any homeowners who are still interested in taking advantage of the benefits of the HARP program should consider speaking with their trusted mortgage professional soon to learn more about the requirements and to begin the application process.

July 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 27, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week July 27 2015Last week’s scheduled economic news releases were limited as no news was released on Monday or Tuesday, but good news did arrive in the form of a dip in mortgage rates for fixed rate loans. The National Association of Realtors® reported higher sales of pre-owned homes and FHFA reported that home price growth associated with mortgages held or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac held steady in May.

Sales of Pre-Owned Homes and FHFA House Prices Rise

According to the National Association of Realtors®, June sales of existing homes reached their highest level since February 2007. Sales of used homes reached a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.47 million previously owned homes sold against expectations of 5.42 million homes and May’s reading of 5.32 million pre-owned homes sold. By comparison, sales of existing homes remain about 24 percent below a pre-recession peak. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors® cited improving labor markets and home buyer concerns over rising mortgage rates as factors contributing to May’s reading for existing home sales.

FHFA, the federal agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that home prices associated with sales of homes financed with loans owned or backed by Fannie and Freddie rose by 0.40 percent month-over-month in May and held steady with April’s revised reading of 0.40 percent. FHFA home prices rose by 5.70 percent year-over-year in May.

Mortgage Rates Mixed

Freddie Mac reported that average rates for 30 and 15-year mortgages fell while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage ticked upward by one basis point. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by five basis points to 4.04 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.21 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate rose by one basis point to 2.97 percent. Average discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent, 0.60 percent and 0.50 percent respectively.

Expected reports on weekly jobless claims and new home sales were not released last week.

What’s Ahead

Scheduled economic reports for this week include the usual weekly reports on jobless claims and mortgage rates along with the Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports for May and the Commerce Department’s report on pending home sales. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve has scheduled an announcement on Wednesday, and reports on consumer confidence and consumer sentiment will also be released next week.

July 27, 2015 by · Leave a Comment

Have a Weekend to Spare? Consider These Quick Renovations to Add Value to Your Home

Have a Weekend to Spare? Consider These Quick Renovations to Add Value to Your HomeHomeowners who are thinking about listing their home for sale in the coming weeks or months may be focused on improving their home to help it sell more quickly, but there also may be a focus on adding value to the home in the process. While each home is unique, there are a few projects that most homeowners would benefit from. In fact, these are a few simple and easy projects that can typicaly be completed over the course of a weekend; that can add value and desirability to the home.

Replace The Front Door

The front door has an impact on curb appeal, and it also is one of the primary features that buyers will see when they approach your home to take a tour. Replacing an older door that lacks style or that is plagued with signs of wear and tear can improve property value and curb appeal alike. Many homeowners who have basic tools and some do-it-yourself experience with other projects will be able to replace the front door without additional help from a contractor.

Update The Kitchen Back Splash

A kitchen is a key selling point in a home, and the back splash is among the most visible features in this space. Replacing the back splash with stylish tile can improve the look and can instantly make the home more desirable. This can be a relatively simple type of home renovation project, if you have experience with tile work, that may be completed within just a few hours.

Repaint The Walls And Baseboards

Few things can improve the look of a home more easily than a fresh coat of paint. If the walls are showing signs of wear or the colors do not have modern or universal appeal, applying a fresh coat of paint to walls and baseboards is a simple enough project to tackle. For the best results, focus on the rooms with the most undesirable paint colors, in the most visible rooms of the home or in areas where the paint is in generally poor condition.

Each of these projects can have a dramatic impact on the homes appeal and can influence the value of the home itself.   Each of these prjects under most circomstances can be completed with minimal time and cost to the homeowner. Those who are ready to improve their home in a short period of time can consider which of these projects will yield the most significant results in their home.

July 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment

Good News! Existing Home Sales, FHFA Home Prices Increase

Good News Existing Home Sales FHFA Home Prices IncreaseHousing markets show continued signs of strengthening according to reports released on Wednesday. The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of pre-owned homes rose to 5.49 million in June as compared to May’s revised reading of 5.32 million pre-owned homes sold and expected sales estimated at 5.42 million sales. Expectations were based on May’s original reading of 5.35 million sales. June’s reading was the highest since February of 2007. Readings for existing home sales are calculated on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

Buyers Gain Confidence in Labor Markets, Rush to Beat Rate Hikes

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors® said that buyers may be influenced by rising mortgage rates and encouraged by improving job markets. Analysts expect the Federal Reserve to raise its target federal funds rate this fall, which means that mortgage rates along with consumer lending rates will rise.

The national median home price rose by 6.50 percent annually to $236,400, also a record reading.

While this news paints a rosy picture for housing markets, challenges remain. Strict mortgage standards are an obstacle for first time and moderate income buyers as well as for buyers with less than stellar credit scores. While construction of new homes is increasing, the majority of projects are apartment complexes. 41 percent of housing starts in June were multi-family projects with five or more units. This data falls in line with stricter mortgage standards and a trend for millennials, an expected group of first-time homebuyers, preferring to rent in large cities rather than moving to suburban areas.

FHFA House Prices Rise in May

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that home prices associated with mortgage loans owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was unchanged from April’s revised reading of 0.40 percent month-to-month home price growth. April’s month-to-month reading was originally reported at 0.30 percent. FHFA home prices were up 5.70 percent year-over-year in May.

FHFA reported that year-over-year home price growth was positive in all nine census divisions, with the lowest growth rate of 0.90 percent in the Mid Atlantic division and the highest growth rate of 8.40 percent in the Pacific division.

July 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment

Assessing Your ‘Debt-to-Income Ratio’ and Why This Number Matters When Getting a Mortgage

Assessing Your Debt-to-Income Ratio and Why This Number Matters When Getting a MortgageIf you are looking to buy a home, you may want to consider shopping for a loan first. Having your financing squared away ahead of time can make it easier to be taken seriously by buyers and help move along the closing process. For those who are looking to get a mortgage soon, keep in mind that the Debt-to-Income ratio of the borrower plays a huge role in the approval of your mortgage application.

What is a Debt-to-Income Ratio?

A debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of monthly debt payments compared to the amount of gross income that a person earns each month. Your gross monthly income is typically the amount of money you earn before taxes and other deductions are taken out. If a person’s monthly gross income is $2,000 a month and they have a monthly debt payments of $1000 each month, that person would have a DTI of 50 percent. The lower the DTI the better. 43 percent is in most cases the highest DTI that potential borrowers can have and still get approved for a mortgage.

What Debt Do Lenders Look At?

The good news for borrowers is that lenders will disregard some debt when calculating a borrower’s DTI. For example, utilities, cable, phone and health insurance premium would not be considered as part of your DTI. What lenders will look at are any installment loan obligations such as auto loans or student loans as well as any revolving debt payments such as credit cards or a home equity line of credit. In some cases, a lender will disregard an installment loan debt if the loan is projected to be paid off in the next 10-12 months.

What Is Considered Income?

Almost any source of income that can be verified will be counted as income on a mortgage application. Wage income is considered as part of a borrower’s monthly qualifying income. Self-employed individuals can use their net profit as income when applying for a mortgage, however, many lenders will average income in the current year with income from previous years. In addition, those who receive alimony, investment income or money from a pension or social security should make sure and include those figures in their monthly income as well when applying for a loan.

How Much Debt Is Too Much Debt?

Many lenders prefer to only offer loans to those who have a debt-to-income ratio of 43 percent or lower. Talking to a lender prior to starting the mortgage application process may help a borrower determine if his or her chosen lender offers such leeway.

A borrower’s DTI ratio can be the biggest factor when a lender decides whether to approve a mortgage application. Those who wish to increase their odds of loan approval may decide to lower their DTI by either increasing their income or lowering their debt. This may make it easier for the lender and the underwriter to justify making a loan to the borrower.

July 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment

Seeking the Perfect Summer Home Improvement Project? It’s Time for an Inground Pool

Seeking the Perfect Summer Home Improvement Project? It's Time for an Inground Pool The warmer summer months provide homeowners with the ideal conditions for making improvements to their property. One of the more popular options for summer time improvement ideas is installing an in-ground swimming pool.  While a swimming pool may seem like a pure luxury to some, there are actually considerable benefits that homeowners can enjoy by adding an in-ground pool. With closer consideration, homeowners may decide that this is the ideal improvement to make to their property.

The Perfect Place For Relaxation And Entertainment

Many homes provide ample space for basic living, but they often lack an extra space that is well-suited for personal relaxation and for entertaining family and friends. An in-ground swimming pool can enhance a backyard area and can create the ideal space for everything from spending quiet, lazy afternoons alone to hosting a backyard get-together with family and friends. This can be a true extension of the home that improves its functionality in a number of ways.

Beautification For The Backyard

More than that, a backyard swimming pool can beautify the yard tremendously. This is a feature that enhances ambiance as well as function through its tranquil, serene water and the general décor of the pool itself. While additional landscaping can be improved around the pool, the pool itself can create a luxurious, relaxing look to a backyard.

Enhanced Appeal When Selling The Home

A swimming pool may not always have a direct impact on property value, it can improve desirability. Some home buyers may not want a pool, but many will choose a home that has a swimming pool over one that does not have one in a head to head comparison. Therefore, a swimming pool installation project now may give a property enhanced appeal later when the homeowner decides to sell it.

There may be a number of different home improvement projects for homeowners to consider completing this summer, but many will want to place the installation of a backyard swimming pool at the top of their list. With so many benefits associated with having an in-ground pool, this is an option that homeowners should take a closer look at.

July 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 20, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week July 13 2015Last week’s economic news included an encouraging report from the National Association of Home Builders, whose housing market index held steady with a reading of 60 in July. This was the 13th consecutive month for readings over 50, which indicate that more builders are confident about housing markets than those who are not. July’s reading was noteworthy as it was the highest since November 2005 prior to the recession.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Increase

The Commerce Department provided further evidence of stronger housing markets with reports on housing starts and building permits issued in June. Housing starts rose from May’s reading of 1.07 million to 1.17 million, which surpassed the expected reading of 1.11 million housing starts.

May’s reading for housing starts was revised from 1.04 million to 1.07 million an annual basis.

Construction of apartments and other multifamily housing complexes attained their highest level since 1987, which supports reported trends that millennials who prefer to live in larger cities are renting rather than buying homes. Housing starts gained nearly 10 percent between May and June. Would-be home buyers are also renting due to tighter mortgage approval standards; others may be “sitting on the fence” as they wait for further indications of stronger labor markets and improvements in overall economic conditions.

Building permits issued in June supported trends in housing starts, with permits for multi-family housing units higher by 16. 10 percent and was the highest reading for multi-family building permits since 1990. Analysts said that the increase in multifamily building permits was in caused by the pending expiration of a tax credit for builders in New York State that was set to expire June 30.

Permits for single family homes rose only 0.90 percent in June, to an annual pace of 689,000 but this was still the highest reading for single family housing permits since 2008.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.09 percent and was higher by five basis points. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was also five basis points higher at 3.25 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was up by three basis points to 2.96 percent. Discount points were 0.60 percent for 15 and 30 year mortgages and 0.50 percent for 6/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims fell to 281,000 last week against the prior week’s reading of 296,000 new claims and an expected reading of 285,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that the current reading indicates that last week’s spike in new unemployment claims was a false alarm. Seasonal anomalies and re-tooling at some auto plants were cited as causes for the prior week’s high reading. New jobless claims have remained under the benchmark reading of 300,000 since February for the longest consecutive period in 15 years.

Last week’s reports ended with the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index, which fell from June’s reading of 96.1 to 93.3; analysts expected a reading of 95.0.

What’s Ahead

Scheduled economic reports for next week include new and existing home sales, and FHFA home prices along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

July 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment

NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Holds Steady

NAHB Home Builder Confidence Holds SteadyHome builder confidence remained steady at the highest reading in almost ten years according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for July. The latest reading of 60 for the index was identical to expectations and June’s reading, which was revised to 60 from an initial reading of 59. The NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index is based on readings of zero to 100 with readings over 50 indicating that a majority of home builders surveyed are confident about housing market conditions. July’s reading was the 13th consecutive month of readings above 50.

July’s Housing Market Index Highest Since November 2005

NAHB chief economist David Crowe said that July’s reading is consistent with stronger markets for new and existing homes as well as job growth, but also noted builder concerns over obtaining lots for development and necessary labor at favorable prices.

The monthly reading for housing market condition is based on three components. Two components showed improvement with the reading for current market conditions up one point to 66; the reading for housing market conditions in the next six months gained two points for a reading of 72 and the reading for buyer foot traffic in new housing developments lost one point for a reading of 63.

Report Details Regional Market Conditions

NAHB’s three month moving average of regional builder confidence showed gains of one point in the South for a reading of 61; the Midwest also reported a gain of one point to 55. Builder confidence readings for the Northeast and West each gained three points to readings of 47 and 60 respectively.

NAHB chairman Tom Woods said that based on current readings, housing markets should continue to improve throughout the second half of 2015. Economic analysts agreed with this assessment and noted that evidence suggests that housing markets are seeing a steady upswing.

In unrelated reporting, the Department of Commerce is due to release reports on housing starts and building permits today.

July 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment

House Hunting? Watch for These 5 Red Flags when Viewing Potential New Homes

House Hunting? Watch for These 5 Red Flags when Viewing Potential New Homes From the sales price to the general layout of the building, there are numerous factors that buyers will consider when touring homes. While there are specific factors that buyers may be searching for in a new house, there are also a few warning signs that home buyers should keep their eyes open for. The following are among the top red flags that may serve as warning signs.

Signs Of Poor Home Maintenance

It is reasonable to expect all homes to have some signs of wear and tear unless they are new construction. However, it is also reasonable to expect that sellers have taken some steps to improve the condition and look of the property before listing it. When a home appears to be poorly maintained on a superficial level, home buyers should pause to consider what other aspects of the home have also been poorly maintained that are not visible.

The Grading In The Yard

When a yard grades toward the house, issues with erosion and even flooding may be concerns. Everything from a brief, torrential downpour to snow melt can result in water running toward a property when grading is a concern. Home buyers should take time to review the yard carefully to determine how water may flow when it rains or when snow melts.

A Foul Odor

It is common for sellers to try to make their home smell appealing, and different types of deodorizers may be used to mask everything from food smells to pet odors. However, it is important for home buyers to pay attention to the underlying smells in a home. Everything from a musky or mildew-y smell to sewage smells and gas odors should be warning signs.

Repairs To One Wall

Homeowners may repaint walls to make the space look cleaner, brighter and more appealing, so a fresh coat of paint by itself is not a warning sign. However, if the paint is on just one wall or if the area under the fresh coat of paint appears to have been recently textured or repaired, these are signs that water damage or other damage may have been addressed recently.

Signs Of Pests And Rodents

Another warning sign relates to signs of pests and rodents. Even if bugs and rodents are not visible during the initial tour, things like a can of bug spray, mouse traps and other related items may indicate that the seller has had an issue with bugs and rodents.

Some warning signs will be obvious during an initial home tour, but others may require more skill and experience to see. Because of this, it is best for all home buyers to consider ordering a property inspection to learn more about the condition of the home before finalizing their buying plans.

July 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment

Mortgage 101: 3 Reasons to Avoid Giving Wrong Information on Your Mortgage Application

Mortgage 101: 3 Reasons to Avoid Giving Wrong Information on Your Mortgage ApplicationA mortgage application is typically several pages in length, and it requires you to provide a considerable amount of information about your personal, professional and financial life. Some mortgage applicants may not have access to all of the information when completing the application, and others may simply skim over the form and provide incomplete answers. These are only a few of the reasons why information on the mortgage application may not be accurate, but there are several key reasons why applicants should avoid giving inaccurate information.

Loan Approval is Based on It

The initial loan application will usualy serve as a basis for the pre-qualification of the mortgage request. The applicant may make a decision to move forward with an offer to purchase a home based on this pre-qualification, but the pre-qualification is based on the accuracy of the information that is initially provided to the lender in the loan application. If the information is incorrect then an applicant may not be able to qualify for the loan and the deal could fall through. 

Information Will Be Verified

The majority of the information that is provided by the applicant in the loan application will be verified at various points throughout the loan process. For example, a credit report may be pulled very early on in the loan process, and it may be used to document the accuracy of the debts and monthly payments that the applicant wrote on the loan application. Tax returns, pay stubs and other related documentation may also be required. Essentially, the lender will eventually have access the accurate data, so there is little benefit to provide inaccurate information up-front on the loan application.

It Is Against the Law

A final reason why it is not advisable to provide inaccurate information on the application is because this is illegal. There is a disclaimer on the standard mortgage application that goes into detail about the law regarding providing false information on a loan application. There are also disclosures that are signed before and during closing that relate to this.

Completing a loan application is among the first steps mortgage applicants take when applying for a loan, and it is easy to overlook the importance of providing accurate and detailed information at this stage in the process. It is best to take time complete the loan application as thoroughly and accurately as possible since it is a legal requirement and because of many other negative consequences. Those who have questions about how a loan application works or who would like to begin the loan application process can reach out to their trusted mortgage professional for assistance.

July 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment