Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mortgage Rates and Your Home

Your home value is affected by many changes in the housing market, but one thing you don’t have to wonder about this week is mortgage rates. It’s been three weeks now and the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) has held steady at 3.53 percent with less than a point, according to the Weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey®. The 15-year FRM remained the same this week, as well with a 2.77 percent rate and average 0.8 point.

Freddie Mac Vice President and Chief Economist Frank Nothaft shared that “Mortgage rates remain near record lows and continue to support housing demand, translating into a pick-up in home prices in most markets.”

Nothaft further stated that, “Among large metropolitan areas, 88 percent saw positive annual increases in the fourth quarter, compared to 81 percent in the third quarter and 75 percent in the second.” Phoenix at 34 percent, Detroit at 31 percent and San Francisco at 28 percent showed the highest increases.

At 2.64 percent (.6 point) and 2.61 percent (.3 point), even Treasury rates seem to be pretty stable, too. The 5 year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.64 percent, down from a 2.84 last year. The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM increased slightly to 2.61 percent but is still well below last year’s average of 2.84 percent.

To check the rates each week for yourself and see other news that may impact your home, please visit Freddie Mac here.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Do You Dream of Building Your Home?

Ideas for building your homeIn an effort to be in the know about trends relating to your home, I consider it a good business practice to follow real estate news. When coursing through headlines, I came across one that captured my attention. “Architect to build home using 3-D printer” it read.

I pondered it for a second and then clicked through to read the article.

The article was a curious piece, but the reality that my clients are not likely to spend $5-6 million dollars on a paper house began to become clear and I moved on to the next piece of news.

I kept thinking about it, though, wondering how many of you (my clients) dream of building your home?

In case any of you do, I wanted to share some tips learned from the Association of Home Builders (NAHB) when they recently presented their 2012 Best in American Living Awards (BALA).  A quick look through the home designs and features points out emerging trends, giving you something to think and dream about should you want to build or even consider upgrades to your home.

Review the list below to see if your home thoughts are in line with the award winners.

  • Pay Attention – Architectural features in everything from molding to cabinetry and flooring need to be in harmony with the flow and integrity of your home.
  • Natural Lights Work – Using light tubes, skylights, window additions, and additional light fixtures, you can really change the look of your home.
  • Make Mealtime Prep Areas Worthwhile – Common kitchen trends involve the use of Carrara marble and “islands” where you and your guests can create meals or socialize together in a less formal setting.
  • Customize Your Home – Specifically consider adding outdoor entertainment areas and cooking spaces, pet-friendly spaces and wine rooms.
  • Look Up! – Color and texture on ceilings is a changing trend, too.
  • Plan for the (Un)Expected – When building or remodeling your home, keep in mind that flexibility is important. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted, “Nothing endures but change.” Make plans in your home design that can expand to fit your needs now AND years into the future.

To see a clear idea of these principles in action, click here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Finding Your Home Taking Too Long?

Finding Your Home Taking Too Long?

Monday, January 21, 2013

5 Credit Myths - BUSTED!

When it comes to credit, sometimes the largest challenge is the most difficult to surmount: we simply don’t know what we don’t know, so our assumptions and inaccurate beliefs run wild and free through our mental real estate. Most of the time, there’s no harm; following finance fundamentals like paying every bill on time, every time, keep us out of credit danger zones. 

But when it’s approaching the time to buy, refi or even rent a home, relatively small credit score differences can stop you from getting your dream home, and can cost (or save) you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of your loan.

If you’re at a time in your life where it makes sense to invest some time and effort into optimizing your credit score, here are five common credit myths we’d like to help you bust without further ado:

Myth #1:
 Having lots of cash, a great income, or tons of equity, makes your FICO score less relevant. 

Fact:  No matter how much cash you have, if you want a mortgage, you must meet the lender’s FICO score guidelines.  Of course, if you’re flush with cash, it should be relatively easy to make your monthly payments on time.  But if you have come into cash relatively recently or you’re coming off a rough financial patch, lenders don’t not look at your credit score on the theory that your other assets diminish your credit riskiness. Most lenders want nothing more than to avoid having to foreclose on a home, even if the homeowner has other assets. 

And the best predictor of whether you’ll default on a loan in the future is how you’ve handled your credit in the past, so your credit score will drive whether you qualify for a home loan and what interest rate you’re charged, no matter how much you make.  

Two exceptions: if you buy a home with all cash, or take a hard money loan, which usually requires a much larger-than-average down payment and interest rate, you might be able to bypass credit score scrutiny, but you’ll pay for it.

Myth #2:  Having no debt or no late payments means you have great credit.  

 Financial responsibility and good credit are two different things. Your FICO score is meant to be a measure of your responsibility when it comes to managing debt, as proven by the fact that you have credit accounts, use them regularly and don’t abuse them.  

Having no credit accounts or debts doesn’t give you good credit - it gives you no credit.  And on the other end of the credit usage spectrum, being maxed out on various credit accounts all the time, submitting lots of credit applications and other credit moves that indicate you may abuse your credit can actually depress your score.  Best practice is to have several credit accounts (student and car loans count!) that you actively and responsibly use on a monthly basis.

Tip: FICO gives a top score to accounts with balances that are 30 percent of the credit limit, so if you can keep your credit card or loan account balances at or around that mark, even better.

Myth #3:  Checking your own credit score in advance prevents surprises when you apply for a mortgage.

 Your mortgage originator (broker or banker) must pull their own version of your report from their own provider, and it might have a very different score, rating scale or even different line items than the free or paid report you pulled online.  This is why it’s imperative to start working with a mortgage professional as early as possible - a year in advance is not overkill - so you can detect any errors or issues and get their recommended fix in the works with plenty of lead time.

Myth #4:  If you’ve had a foreclosure or short sale, your credit report will be damaged for 7 years.
Derogatory credit items, like late mortgage payments, foreclosures and short sales, appear on your credit report for 7 years, but your credit score can be rehabilitated enough to buy a home or obtain other credit in less time, depending on your circumstances. Your post-short sale or foreclosure waiting period depends on a number of things, including what type of loan you’ll be seeking to buy your next home with, how much cash you’ll have to put down and whether there were any extenuating circumstances involved in losing your home in the first place; some loans allow for an immediate purchase, others require a waiting period of 2, 4 5 or even 7 years after the loss of a home.

Of course, your FICO score is also a key criteria in a post-home loss “buy,” but interestingly enough, the length of time it takes to get your FICO score back up depends on how high it was beforehand.  Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that it would take a consumer with a 680 FICO score three years after a foreclosure to bring their score back to that level, while it might take someone with a 780 FICO score (near-perfect) seven years for full score recovery.  

And keep in mind that as your foreclosure or short sale ages, its impact on your score will decrease, too.

Myth #5:  Short sales have much less impact on your credit score than foreclosures.

Hear ye, hear ye - short sales and foreclosures have the same impact on your credit score, according to the FICO folks themselves. (The only exceptions are for short sales or deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure where the property was not upside down, which are few and far between, if they’re not just a real estate urban legend!)


However, the number of missed payments you had before your home was lost to foreclosure or short sale might weigh on how gravely injured your FICO score is in the process. At the going rate at which banks are foreclosing on homes - clocking roughly 2 years of missed payments before a home is repossessed - your FICO score could take an even greater hit than if you were able to divest of it via a short sale in 1 year’s time.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Being A Good Neighbor Starts in Your Home

fresh bread from your homeIn talking with a friend about her recent cross country move, I was reminded of how delightful it is to give and receive service. Perhaps you had a similar experience when you purchased your home. Maybe you’ve been the helpful neighbor yourself. Either way, her story explaining a surprising relocation and a neighborhood welcoming will warm your heart.

“With my husband’s recent promotion we were unexpectedly moved to a really small town. I was pretty scared at first transporting my two small children cross country while being pregnant with a third and we really had no time to prepare. We packed what we had and sent it in the moving truck and took a plane to our new home. I’ve been overwhelmed by how much people really care about one another here. When we moved in, I had neighbors bringing over dinner every night for the first two weeks! Other moms even offered to help with caring for my children and unpacking boxes. The men who lived on the street have helped us move our furniture around the house, multiple times. It’s been an amazing experience for me, simply because I have great neighbors.”

Stories like these are not unheard of in our area. We have a great community and friendly residents, and I’m sure you are one of them (my readers always are). However I’ve been thinking of ways to be a better neighbor and I wanted to share with you the list I’ve created. If you have more ideas, please share them so we can all learn together to make your home, my home, and the homes of our neighbors happier places.

  • Food - Whether you bring over a meal, fresh produce, ice cold waters, or a just baked treat, move-in day is a great time to get know your new neighbors. You can also plan a BBQ or dinner at your home for later in the week to further the relationship.
  • Help - Offering to unload or unpack boxes, pick up something at the grocer while you’re out, or introduce your new neighbor to the kiddie carpool are invaluable things you can do to help your new friend.
  • Information - Sharing your favorite deli or restaurant or the best parks and schools in the area are really helpful and open the door to conversation, as well. You could also pass along names of hair stylists, handymen, and other service providers and mention street sweeping and trash days.
  • Cheer - Dropping off some freshly cut flowers or a candle with a card and your contact information can really make someone feel welcomed, too. But if you really want to do the trick, try raking their leaves, mowing the lawn or bringing in their trash cans. That’ll win a smile any day.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Laundry Pods Can Poison Kids


These laundry detergent pods are convenient, but they might look like candy to kids. Image: CPSC

New, single-use laundry pods are cute and colorful — and all too tempting to children, who are ending up in the emergency room when they eat one like candy.

That’s why the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a safety alert, warning parents that children exposed to the chemicals in these pods are at risk of serious injury.

The commission is aware of 500 incidents involving children and adults injured by the liquid pods, which are made by several laundry detergent companies — not just Tide. 

The pods contain concentrated toxic chemicals and dissolve quickly when exposed to wet hands or saliva. If eaten, the pods can produce vomiting, drowsiness, throat swelling, difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness.

The CPSC recommends:

  • Do not let children handle laundry pods.
  • Keep pods sealed in original packaging and locked up out of your child’s sight or reach.
  • If swallowed or exposed to the eye, immediately call Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

No Sweat: Programmable Thermostats Reduce Your Energy Costs

Visit for more articles like this.