Relocating to a new area can be exciting, but it can also be expensive. There are many resources to help, but most cost money. However, if you take your time and plan carefully, you can reduce the expense so you don’t start your new life with new debt. Here are three tips to controlling your moving budget.
1. Find Out What’s Free
Nothing is better than paying nothing, right? Don’t assume you have to fork out money for everything you need to move. If you have accepted a new job, ask your new employer whether the company can cover any of your moving expenses.
When it comes to moving supplies, see what you can get without having to pay for it. Stock up on free moving supplies by asking your workplace, local grocery stores, and friends and family for unneeded, sturdy boxes. Instead of paying professional movers, see if you can barter with friends or family for help in moving boxes to and from the truck.
2. Focus On Essentials
After you’ve pursued every possible angle to cover your needs for free, you will likely need to pay for something. The trick is to only do so for what is absolutely necessary. Many providers will offer you help along the way, but you should only sign up for basic services. This could include moving big items such as a piano, paying for gas and tolls, or buying cartons for oddly-shaped or particularly valuable items. If you are not able to move things yourself, this could include hiring professionals.
3. Do It Yourself
If you have the time and are physically fit, start long before moving day and pack everything yourself. Rent or borrow a truck and move your boxes yourself, perhaps with the help of a friend. Take care of disconnecting old utilities and signing up for new ones. Handle both cleaning your old home and preparing your new one. Anything you can do with a little elbow grease will mean less money out of pocket.
Call your real estate agent for advice on keeping moving expenses down. Ask about providers who may give you a discount for being referred by your agent. Remember that you are in charge of your move, so don’t automatically sign up for every service available. By using free goods and services when available and doing much of the work yourself, you can set and follow a moving budget you can afford.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported that April’s Housing Market Index rose from a reading of 52 in March to 56 for April. This is in line with warmer weather and the peak home buying season in spring and summer. Readings over 50 indicate that more builders view market conditions as positive as those who do not. NAHB members cited lower mortgage rates and better labor market conditions as reasons they expect more home buyers to enter the market.
All Components of Builder Confidence Increase
The NAHB Home Builder Index is calculated from three components. The reading for confidence in current housing market conditions rose from 58 in March to 61 in April. Builder confidence for sales condition in the next six months rose from a reading of 59 to 64, which was the highest reading for 2015 so far.
Home builder confidence in buyer foot traffic moved from 37 to a reading of 41 in April. Lingering winter weather likely kept house hunters indoors in many areas. NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said that the uptick in the NAHB Housing Market Index indicates that housing market conditions can be expected to improve throughout 2015.
Regional Housing Results Mixed, Fed Beige Book Cites Winter Weather
NAHB measures regional changes in housing markets on a three-month rolling average. April’s results were mixed.
Builder confidence in the southern region increased from 55 to 56 in April. The northwestern region was unchanged from March to April at 42. Builder confidence in Midwestern housing markets fell by two points from 56 to 54. The western region saw builder confidence fall three points from the March reading of 61 to April’s reading of 58.
In an unrelated report, the Federal Reserve also released its Beige Book report which is a collection of anecdotes from business contacts throughout the nation. Winter weather conditions were prominently mentioned in the Beige Book report and were seen as detrimental for housing conditions.
The Beige Book report also mentioned layoffs caused by low oil and gas prices. This could negatively influence housing market conditions in regions where oil and gas provide many jobs and contribute to local economies.
Periodically, many homeowners will receive a rather sizable amount of extra cash. This may be from a bonus from your employer, a refund on your tax return, a financial gift from a relative or something else altogether.
While there are many things that you could do with your windfall, you may be wondering if paying down your mortgage balance is a wise idea. Before you make your decision about how to spend your money, consider what impact your lump sum payment will have on your mortgage.
Reduction in Principal Balance
The most obvious impact a lump sum payment will have on your mortgage is an immediate reduction in your outstanding principal balance. Your regular monthly payments will be applied to both interest and principal, but your lump sum payment will be entirely applied to principal. Therefore, you can expect to see a rather sizable reduction in the outstanding balance, and this will have a direct and positive impact on your home equity.
More Effective Loan Payments
Your required monthly mortgage payments will not be lowered when you make a lump sum payment on your mortgage, and you will still be required to pay the same amount to your lender going forward. However, your interest charges for each month will be adjusted. Your interest will be calculated based on the current loan balance each month. A reduction in outstanding balance lowers the interest charges. This essentially makes your future payments more effective at debt reduction and reduces the amount of interest you will pay over the life of your loan.
A Change to the Final Loan Payment Date
Because each of your loan payments going forward will be more heavily weighted on principal reduction than on interest charges, the fact is that your final loan payment date can be accelerated. Depending on the amount of the lump sum payment that you make toward your mortgage, this may be an acceleration of a single month, several months or even several years in some cases.
Making a lump sum payment on your mortgage can have many positive effects for you. However, this is not the only option available when deciding how to spend or invest your windfall. Compare these benefits against the benefits of other options available to determine your best course of action.
If your home is located in a flood zone, it’s critical that you know how to get ready for those drenching spring rains. Here are some basic steps any homeowner can take to prepare for potentially devastating floods.
Community Emergency Plans
Your community has an emergency plan in case of flooding. There are warning signals to alert residents, evacuation routes mapped out and the locations of emergency shelters are given. Get in touch with your community government center if you haven’t already received copies of these preparedness plans.
Have a Family Plan
Floods can be devastating. In an emergency, it’s key that every family member knows what to do and where to go. Plan an evacuation route with your family and practice it. Be sure everyone has the name, address and phone number of a family contact who lives out of state in case anyone is separated during a flood event.
Get ready to prevent disaster. Turn off all electrical power to the home as soon as there is any standing water or before you vacate it. Also turn off gas and water supplies if you evacuate. Hire an electrician to raise your electrical outlets, circuit breakers and other electrical component so they are at least a foot above the home’s flood elevation mark.
Emergency Supplies to Have on Hand
Being prepared in a flood zone means having emergency supplies available all the time, just in case. Stock your home with supplies that will last at least five full days. Have about five gallons of clean water per person on hand. Stock up on canned foods or other non-perishable food items. Be sure to have a non-electric can opener. Place aside some prescription medications or any other specific medical needs, in addition to a first aid kit. Have a battery-powered radio on hand and extra batteries. Also have a few flashlights at the ready. Sleeping bags or extra blankets are needed, as are personal hygiene supplies like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and towels.
Prepare Your Home Well in Advance
Finally, you’ll want to check on a regular basis that your sump pump is in working order and have a battery-powered back up available. Get a water alarm so you’ll know if water is pooling in your basement. Have your gutters and downspouts cleaned out at least twice a year.
Living in a flood zone means that you’ll need to be prepared, and there’s no better time than now to start getting ready.
Last week’s economic news included the minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting, which indicated that the Fed’s monetary policymakers are eyeing a potential increase in the target federal funds rate, but don’t expect to do so immediately.
Members of the Federal Open Market Committee expressed concerns about lagging housing markets and noted that inflation has not yet achieved the Fed’s two percent goal. When the Fed decides to raise its target federal funds rate, which now stands at 0.00 to 0.25 percent, Interest rates and mortgage rates can be expected to rise as well.
Mortgage Rates Lower, Jobless Claims Rise
Freddie Mac reported that mortgage fell last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.66 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage dropped by six basis points to 2.93 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was nine basis points lower at 2.83 percent. Discount points were unchanged across the board at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
New jobless claims rose to 281,000 against projections of 285,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 267,000 new claims. Analysts said that the Easter holiday week affected weekly jobless claims, and that the varied dates of the Easter holiday and spring break weeks for schools can impact weekly readings for new unemployment claims.
The four-week rolling average of jobless claims fell to its lowest reading since June 2000. The four-week rolling average is considered a more dependable source for identifying labor force trends, as it lacks the volatility associated with holidays and one-time events that can cause great variation in weekly readings for new jobless claims.
Next week’s scheduled economic reports include retail sales, retail sales not including the automotive sector, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report, which includes anecdotal reports of economic conditions reported to the Fed, and Housing Starts. The usual reports for weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey will be released Thursday.
On Friday, the University of Michigan will release its Consumer Sentiment report, which provides indications of how American consumers view current economic conditions. While general in scope, consumer sentiment can suggest how consumers view buying homes.
A lack of positive sentiment about the economy in general and jobs in particular suggests that fewer Americans may be ready to buy homes. Increasing positive sentiment indicates less concern about economic conditions and could point to more Americans entering the housing market as the peak home- buying season gets underway.
With many types of home improvements, at least a portion of the cost that you put into the improvement can be recouped from additional value when you sell the home.
While each project is different, some projects can have multiple benefits that impact property value and overall desirability with a new home buyer. Adding a beautiful wooden fence to your yard is a great way to boost resale value, and with a closer review, you may determine that you want to install a new privacy fence to your property soon.
Instilling Privacy Around Your Home
While there are different types of wood fences that you can install, a wood privacy fence is among the most common types. Many people enjoy relaxing in their backyards without nosy neighbors and passersby peering at them.
A privacy fence can reduce or eliminate visibility into your yard as well as into the back windows of your home, and this is a true benefit that will make your home more comfortable to live in and more appealing to a potential buyer.
Giving Kids And Pets A Safe Place To Play
While some people want to have a large, open backyard without a visibly defined border, many love the security and peace of mind that comes with having a wood fence around the backyard. In fact, this is almost a priority for home buyers who have kids and pets who may want to roam around in the backyard because it helps to keep them safe and secure when outdoors.
Improving Curb Appeal
A wood fence may commonly be placed around the perimeter of a backyard, it can typically be seen directly from the front of the home. It can be used to conceal certain features of the backyard that may detract from curb appeal, and it can also give your front yard a neater and more refined appearance. A well-maintained and stained wood fence can be a beautiful addition to your front and backyard alike.
Before you make your final decision about whether to install a wood fence on your property, you may be wondering how much of the cost will be recouped through an increase in property value. A great idea is to reach out to an experienced real estate agent with knowledge of your local market. Your real estate agent can provide you with more information about this improvement before you make your final decision.
The minutes of the March meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) were released Tuesday and included a staff review of current economic conditions. The minutes noted that while labor markets continued to grow, inflation to the Fed’s target rate of 2.00 percent was impeded by dropping fuel prices. The Committee noted that expectations for longer-term inflation remained stable.
Non-farm payrolls, which include both private and public sector jobs, grew in January and February and the national unemployment rate reached a new low of 5.50 percent in February. Readings for workers employed part time due to economic reasons edged down and workforce participation was up.
These developments are noteworthy as in recent months analysts have repeatedly cited concerns over the numbers of workers who have stopped looking for work and those who work part time because they cannot find full-time employment. Meeting participants said that underutilization of labor resources “continued to diminish,” but also said that levels for those involuntarily working part-time and still elevated numbers of workers no longer seeking employment.
Personal consumption expenditures slowed in the first quarter due to falling fuel prices and winter weather conditions. Households had more disposable income and household wealth increased due to increasing home values. The Committee said that consumer sentiment was near pre-recession levels according to the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey.
Fed Says Housing Activity “Slow,” No Decision on Raising Fed Funds Rate
The FOMC minutes reflect the committee’s view that housing markets are performing at a slower rate than other economic sectors. The minutes said that building permits and housing starts for single family homes were lower in January and February. Sales of new and existing homes were down in January, but pending home sales rose. This suggests that while markets slowed (as they typically do) during winter, pending sales suggest that completed sales will recover in the late winter and early spring.
The FOMC minutes noted that mortgage credit remained challenging for those in the lower portion of the credit score distribution, but said that the cost of mortgages was historically low for those who qualified for home loans.
The Committee also addressed the likelihood of raising the Federal Funds rate in its usual non-definitive manner. While raising the rate at the next meeting seemed unlikely, committee members wanted the flexibility to raise the target federal funds rate when conditions warrant. The target rate is currently set at 0.00 to 0.25 percent; when the FOMC moves to raise the target federal funds rate, the cost of credit including mortgage loans can be expected to increase.
When you make the decision to sell your home, you may eagerly seek assistance from a skilled real estate agent. A real estate agent offers important services that can help you to more successfully and easily sell your home in the fastest amount of time and for the best price. This is a professional who is committed to helping you achieve your goal and who will not be compensated for his or her efforts unless successful. With a closer look at how real estate commissions are earned, you will see that your agent will work hard for his or her compensation.
The Efforts A Real Estate Agent Makes To Sell Your Home
A real estate agent will go to great lengths to help you sell your home. From helping you to establish a fair and competitive listing price to assisting with marketing, contract negotiations and more, your agent will take considerable steps to help you with all stages in the selling process. He or she will often pay for some related expenses out of his or her own pocket, such as printing fees for flyers and snacks and décor for open houses.
No Compensation Unless Your Home Sells
Real estate agents generally will begin working for you as soon as you sign a listing agreement, and they will not collect any fees up-front. All out-of-pocket expenses will not be reimbursed to the agent unless your home sells, and your agent will not be compensated for the many hours he or she spends marketing your home and working with sellers’ agents on your behalf until your home is actually sold. If your home does not sell, your agent will receive nothing for his or her attempts. Keep in mind that the total compensation that you pay for real estate agents’ fees will typically be split between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent.
Real estate agents essentially get compensated for their performance and their ability to follow through on what they say they will do for you. Their services are being used by you to sell your home, and you will not pay an agent unless this goal is accomplished. If you are thinking about using the services of a real estate agent when listing your home for sale, you can learn more about the professional services and related agent fees by contacting a real estate agent today.
One of the more common steps that homeowners will take when preparing to list their home for sale involves repainting the walls. Walls can easily give the home a worn, drab look when they have visible signs of dirty, smudgy fingerprints and other unsightly blemishes.
While repainting the walls can have a whitewashing effect that instantly makes the home look cleaner, brighter and more appealing, the color combinations that you choose for your home should be considered with care. You have a rainbow of possibilities for your space when preparing your home for sale, but you want to choose colors that will have broad or universal appeal to buyers and that will showcase your home in the best possible light.
Neutral or Muted Hues are Ideal
Many homeowners love to paint their walls stylish or trendy colors, and they may dislike the banal look of beige walls throughout their home. While this may or may not be what you prefer for your home, keep in mind that you are trying to transform your home so that it has broad appeal to the buyers. The colors you choose should not reflect personal taste or preference. Instead, they should be selected based on colors that may be more likely to appeal to most and that may go well with the color of furnishings most already own. Neutral or muted hues are ideal. These lighter colors can also make smaller rooms seem larger, and they can make your entire home seem cleaner.
Avoid Bold, Dramatic Color Combinations
You may have some colors on your walls that you absolutely love, and you may be sad to see them go. However, when you have a bold, dramatic color combination in a room, a buyer may instantly be taken aback by such an intense color scheme. The buyer’s attention may then be focused on your interior design efforts rather than on the home itself, and this is not beneficial to your goal of selling your home. In addition, some may love your bold choices, but many may not. They may think about how those colors would not go well with their furnishings, and they may instantly start thinking about how they would need to work hard to repaint the walls after moving in. The last thing you want is for a buyer to think about your home as needing work.
If you are preparing your home to list for sale, repainting one room or several may be at the top of your to-do list. When you are selecting your paint colors, lean toward neutral hues that may have better appeal toward a larger group of home buyers.
Mortgage rates ticked upward for fixed rate loans and were unchanged for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages according to Freddie Mac. Weekly jobless claims were lower in spite of slower job growth reports.
Last week’s economic events included several reports on jobs and unemployment including the ADP report on private-sector payrolls, the Department of Labor’s reports on non-farm payrolls and the national unemployment rate. The details:
Mortgage Rates, Pending Home Sales Weekly Jobless Claims
Fixed mortgage rates rose by one basis point for both 30 and -15-year mortgages. The average rate for a 30 year mortgage rate was 3.80 percent and the average rate for a 15-year mortgage was 2.98 percent.
The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.92 percent. Average discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent and rose from an average of 0.40 percent to 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
The National Association of Realtors® reported that pending home sales for February increased by 3.10 percent against an expected reading of -0.20 percent and January’s reading of 1.20 percent. This was a welcome surprise in light of severe winter weather conditions throughout much of the U.S.
Weekly jobless claims were lower at 268,000 new jobless claims as compared to the prior week’s reading of 288,000 new claims and expectations of 285,000 new jobless claims. Analysts note that week-to-week reports of jobless claims are volatile, and the four-week-rolling average is a better source for identifying jobless trends.
Non-Farm Payrolls, ADP Payrolls Lower
Labor markets received unwelcome readings as the Labor Department’s Non-Farm Payrolls report fell far shy of expectations and the ADP report, which measures private sector jobs, fell below February’s reading. Non-Farm Payrolls for March reflected only 126,000 jobs added against estimates of 243,000 jobs added and February’s reading of 264,000 jobs added.
This was the lowest reading for Non-Farm Payrolls in 15 months. The March reading raised questions concerning the potential for another economic slowdown and whether or not lower readings for labor reports signaled a temporary slowdown or indicated broader challenges to the economy.
ADP reported 189,000 private-sector jobs added in March as compared to February’s reading of 214,000 jobs added. This was the lowest reading since January, 2014. The ADP report is seen by analysts as a precursor of the Non-Farm Payrolls report.
The National Unemployment Rate was unchanged at 5.50 percent in February; this report lags a month behind Non-Farm Payrolls and ADP reports, so does not reflect the drop in job growth for March.
Labor markets are a priority for prospective and active home buyers as mortgage approval and the ability to afford a home hinges on steady employment. Housing markets could be in for more challenges unless dropping job growth proves to be a temporary situation.
This week’s scheduled economic releases include reports on job openings and minutes of the last FOMC meeting along with Thursday’s reports on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims.