Last week’s economic news included Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, along with new and pending home sales readings. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve met analyst’s expectations and did not raise the target federal funds rate, which remains at 0.25 to 0.50 percent. Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey and the Labor Department’s weekly jobless claims report were also released.
Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Slows in February
Average home prices growth slowed in February according to the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index. Home prices fell from January’s year-over-year reading of 5.70 percent to 5.40 percent. 13 of 20 cities included in the index showed slower growth in home prices. Portland, Oregon showed the highest year-over-year price gain at 11.90 percent followed by Seattle, Washington at 11.00 percent and Denver, Colorado at 9.70 percent
Washington, DC had the slowest year-over-year growth rate of 1.40 percent; Chicago, Illinois and New York, New York where home prices grew 1.80 percent and 2.10 percent respectively. S&P Index Chairman David Blitzer said that tight inventories of available homes continued to drive home prices. Analysts are concerned with shrinking affordability, which keeps first-time and moderate income buyers from buying homes. Analysts caution that first-time and moderate-income buyers are the “bread and butter” of housing markets. Without their participation, current homeowners cannot sell and move up to larger homes.
New Home Sales Lower after February Reading Revised
New home sales dipped in March to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 511,000 after February’s reading was revised upward to 519,000 sales. Regional results for new home sales were mixed. The Northeast posted flat sales in March; The Midwest posted the highest year-over-year growth in home prices at 18.50 percent followed by the South with a year-over-year gain of 5.00 percent. New home sales fell by 23.60 percent in the West, which was likely due to rapidly escalating home prices in high-cost metro areas.
Pending home sales for March grew by 1.40 percent for a second consecutive monthly increase. Analysts viewed March’s reading as positive for a healthy spring season for home sales. Pending home sales forecast future closings and mortgage lending.
Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise
Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage seven basis points higher at 3.66 percent. 15-year fixed mortgage rates were four basis points higher at 2.89 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was five basis points higher at 2.86 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60, 0.50 and 0.50 percent respectively.
New jobless claims also rose last week with 257,000 new claims filed as compared to expectations of 260,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 248,000 new claims filed. Analysts said that fewer layoffs suggest strengthening job market. Last week’s four-week average of new jobless claims was 256,000 new claims, which was the lowest reading since December 1973. Improving labor markets can encourage would-be home buyers to become active buyers.
This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on construction spending, private sector employment, non-farm payrolls and the national unemployment rate. Weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates will be released as usual.
In its post-meeting statement, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve announced its decision not to raise the current federal funds rate of 0.25 to 0.50 percent. Although FOMC members acknowledged further improvement in the U.S. economy and jobs markets, the committee cited the following as influencing its decision not to raise the current federal funds rate:
- Household income continued to rise, but consumers have “moderated” their spending.
- Inflation is expected to remain below the Fed’s goal of two percent in the near term.
- Temporary influences including low energy and import prices are expected to ease.
FOMC monetary policy decisions made in April’s meeting were guided by the Fed’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and its inflation goal of two percent. Labor markets improved since the Committee’s March meeting, but inflation is not expected to reach the Fed’s goal in the near term.
No Fed Rate Increase in April; Moderate Increases Expected
While the FOMC did not raise the federal funds rate, its statement suggested that future rate increases are likely. Potential increases in the federal funds rate would be gradual into the medium term. FOMC’s April statement hinted that incremental rate increases over time would be expected to facilitate further economic growth and help achieve the two percent inflation goal. According to the statement, any potential increases in the federal funds rate would be “accommodative.” This indicates that FOMC members do not want to raise rates too quickly, which could interfere with current economic growth.
Fed Concerns over Global Economy Ease
Notably absent from April’s FOMC statement were concerns over global economic conditions and developments. In March, the Fed characterized global economic and financial conditions as a risk to U.S. economic growth, but April’s statement said that FOMC members would continue monitoring global news and developments with no mention of potential risks.
Analysts said that the Fed could have been “more hawkish” in its position, but also said that a rate increase could occur in June if FOMC members conclude that economic conditions are favorable. FOMC statements typically indicate that monetary policy decisions are pre-determined way, but rely on the committee’s ongoing review of global and domestic financial and economic developments.
Unless economic developments intervene, Fed policy makers opened the door to a rate increase in June. Past FOMC statements indicated plans to raise the federal funds rate up to four times in 2016, but these plans were revised to two potential rate increases for 2016.
Buying a home isn’t cheap – and even though mortgage rates are low, your own financial circumstances may mean that your monthly payment is more than you can afford. Whether you’re a new buyer looking to save money or a cash-strapped owner who needs to free up extra income, there are several ways you can lower your monthly payments – here are just five of them.
Make 13 Payments Every Year
If you have some extra money and you’re looking to pay down more of your principal amount, making 13 annual payments instead of the usual 12 is a great way to not only reduce what you owe, but also lower your monthly costs. Most lenders will allow you to make one additional lump sum payment per year on top of your regular monthly payments. Pro tip: Combine your tax refund and Christmas bonus into one big lump sum to pay down your mortgage.
Still Paying PMI? Ask Your Lender To Cancel It
Private mortgage insurance is a standard cost that you’re legally obligated to pay if your down payment was less than 20% of your home’s value. But once you’ve paid off that 20%, you’re no longer required to have PMI on a conventional mortgage. If you’ve built up 20% equity, talk to your lender about removing PMI from your mortgage agreement – it could save you thousands.
Recast Your Mortgage
If you’ve been diligently paying your mortgage for years but suddenly run into money problems, recasting your mortgage is a great way to make your monthly payments easier to manage. Recasting is fairly simple – it takes your remaining loan balance and stretches it across your original loan term. For example, if you’re 15 years into a 30-year mortgage that has half of its balance remaining, you can recast your mortgage to pay off the balance over another 30-year period.
Facing Financial Hardship? Get A HAMP Modification
If you encounter financial hardship, you can ask your lender if they offer a Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). HAMP is a government program designed to make housing more affordable for low-income citizens. It’s possible to save a significant amount of money with a HAMP modification.
Contact your trusted real estate professional to learn more about getting the most from your home financing.
Beyond the mortgage, maintenance and property taxes of a new home, you may not be aware that many newer communities require you to be part of the Homeowner Association (HOA). If you’re wondering about what the HOA entails and how this can impact the home and community you live in, here are some facts that may be important to know before you buy.
What Is A HOA?
If you happen to have a Homeowner Association present in your new community, it’s important to know that this body works to enforce the rules of the neighborhood. Made up of a group of volunteers that live within a given area, different community members will be responsible for different aspects of the community. While there are annual fees for an HOA and they vary from place to place, communities with this type of association often come with a higher price tag on the market.
The Types Of Rules Enforced
The rules that are enforced by a HOA differ depending on the community, but they can range from issues as diverse as the height of fences to the number of pets per residence to the amount owed for fines. While you may have found your ideal home in a great community, it can be worth looking into the rules of your local HOA so that you can determine if they’ll work for you. If there are any red flags, you may want to consider your options or decide if the sacrifice is worth it.
Dealing With The Rules
It’s important to stick to the rules of the community you live in because you can be taken to small claims court if you don’t pay your fees or respond appropriately to complaints. If you’re in a position where you disagree with the rules and would like to pursue another option, you will want to make a written request to the board and wait it out. You may not get a response very quickly due to the voluntary nature of most HOA, but it’s important to be compliant with the regulations until your request is approved.
It’s great news if you’ve found your dream home in a nice new community, but it’s important to be aware of the HOA rules that you’ll have to comply with. If you’re currently on the market for a new home, contact your local real estate professional for more information.
Spring-cleaning might seem like a necessity if you’ve accrued a lot of stuff through the fall and winter seasons, but it can be hard to determine how to get your kids involved. If you’re looking for tips on how to get this task done and engage your children at the same time, here are a few fun ways.
Play Some Tunes
It goes without saying that almost everything is more fun with music, and kids will readily agree with this! Instead of silence, pique your children’s interest with their favorite album and encourage them to take the duster or mop along with them.
Offer Up A Reward
It’s important that your children understand that helping out around the house is everyone’s job, but offering them a treat can be a good means of getting them involved. Whether it’s a couple of dollars or a trip to the ice cream parlor, a little work for a reward has always been a positive thing.
Give Them A Choice
Most kids don’t like to be told what to do, so providing them with the opportunity for leadership can be a great thing when it comes to the task of spring-cleaning. Not only will they be happy to help you along if they can direct, it will give them confidence in their own capabilities.
Make Room For New Duds
Getting rid of old clothing isn’t always fun, but if it makes way for a new outfit or toy many kids will spring at the chance. Instead of large scale, let your children tackle their own space to clear away stuff they no longer use. It will make them aware of what they need and what they can get along without.
Get Out The Gear
Outside of a damp cloth, most adults don’t have any specific clothes for cleaning the house, but dressing up is always a fun activity for kids! Whether it’s overalls, a cap and some rubber gloves, making cleaning a game of dress up is an easy way to appeal to the imagination of your children.
Spring-cleaning may not always seem like the most fun, but there are a few simple ways you can make it appealing to your kids and liven up an old activity for yourself. If you’re perking up your home in the hopes of a summer sale, you may want to contact trusted local real estate professional for more information.
Last week’s economic releases included Existing Home Sales, Commerce Department Releases on Housing Starts and Building Permits and the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. Mortgage rates and new jobless claims were released according to their weekly schedule.
Home Builder Confidence Holds Firm in April
According to April’s National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, home builder confidence held steady with a reading of 58 for the third consecutive month. Analysts viewed April’s reading as a sign of steady expansion for home building, but builders noted concerns over labor shortages. NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said that builders were “cautiously optimistic” concerning housing market conditions.
The National Association of Realtors® reported a jump in sales of previously owned homes in March. The seasonally-adjusted annual rate of sales rose to 5.33 million and surpassed expectations of 5.30 million sales and February’s reading of 5.07 million sales of pre-owned homes.Mr. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, said that demand is increasing and noted that the national average home price increased more than twice as fast as average wages.
In other housing-related reports, the Commerce department reported slower growth in housing starts, which reached 1.089 million starts in March. Analysts expected 1.170 million starts based on March’s reading of 1.194 housing starts. Building permits were also lower with 1.086 million building permits issued as compared to 1.177 million building permits issued in March.
National Association of Realtors®: Sales of Pre–Owned Homes Exceed Expectations
March sales of previously owned homes reached a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million sales against predictions of 5.30 million sales and February’s reading of 5.07 million sales. While March sales of pre-owned homes coincide with the approaching peak home selling season, high demand for homes and low supplies of homes for sale could slow sales. Inventories of available homes are currently at a 4.5 month supply; a six month supply of available homes indicates a normal reading for available homes.
Mortgage Rates Mixed, Jobless Claims Lowest Since 1973
Freddie Mac reported mixed results for last week’s average mortgage rates. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was one basis point higher at 3.59 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 2.85 percent while the average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages fell by three basis points to 2.81 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
Weekly jobless claims dropped to their lowest level since 1973 with a reading of 247,000 new claims filed. Analysts expected a reading of 265,000 new claims filed based on the prior week’s reading of 253,000 new claims filed. Strong labor markets can be an incentive to home buyers to move up to larger homes or transition from renting to owning, but short supplies of available homes and rapidly rising home prices present obstacles. First-time buyers account for approximately 30 percent of home sales; their participation could diminish unless available homes increase and demand for homes eases.
This week’s scheduled economic reports include the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices along with new and pending home sales reports. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released on schedule.
Home buyers kicked the spring home shopping season into gear and boosted sales of pre-owned homes in March. Existing home sales rose 5.10 percent in March according to the National Association of Realtors®. 5.33 million pre-owned homes were sold in March against expectations of 5.30 million sales and February’s reading of 5.07 million sales on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.
Demand for homes remains strong in spite of rapidly escalating prices in many areas. Short supplies of available homes continue to drive demand and home prices. Sales rose only 1.50 percent year-over-year, but during the first quarter of 2016, existing home sales rose by 4.80 percent as compared to the first quarter of 2015. Sales were 11.11 percent higher in the Northeast, which was a notable improvement over lagging sales in recent months.
There was a 4.50 month supply of available homes in March and the median price of an existing home rose 5.70 percent to $222,700. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun noted that the annual increase in home prices was more than twice the rate of average wage increases. First-time home buyers represented 30 percent of buyers in March; this was the same percentage as February. First-time and moderate income buyers continue to face challenges due to rapidly rising home prices competition for available homes.
NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Unchanged in March
According to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for March, home builder confidence remained at 58 for the third consecutive months. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are confident about current market conditions than not.
Builder confidence in current market conditions fell two points to 63 while builder confidence rose 1 point to 62 for market conditions in the next six months. Builder confidence in buyer traffic for new home developments also rose one point to 44. Readings for buyer traffic have not exceeded 50 for approximately 10 years. NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz characterized home builder sentiment as “cautiously optimistic.”
Challenges facing home builders include a short supply of labor; the number of job vacancies reached a post-recession high in February. All four regional builder confidence readings declined in April; the Northeast lost two points for a reading of 44. The Midwest and South each lost one point for readings of 57 and 58 respectively. The Western region posted a loss of two points for a reading of 67.
Finding the right mortgage can be a struggle. There’s a wide array of mortgage products on the market, and you don’t always need to get a mortgage through your bank – and with so many options, it’s hard to know which one is your best bet.
Your ideal mortgage will depend on your own individual financial situation, but when you understand how different kinds of mortgages work, it’s easier to choose the right one. Here’s what you need to know about mortgage types.
Fixed-Rate Mortgages: Home Financing At A Guaranteed Rate
A fixed-rate mortgage is exactly what it sounds like: A mortgage with a fixed interest rate. With a fixed-rate mortgage, your interest rate is locked for the life of the mortgage loan and cannot change.
When interest rates are at historical lows, a fixed-rate mortgage is an ideal financing option. By purchasing a fixed-rate mortgage at a low interest rate, buyers lock in low payments and are protected from sudden rate increases. However, fixed-rate mortgages are more difficult to qualify for when interest rates are high.
Variable-Rate Mortgages: Lower Rates And Larger Loans
A variable-rate mortgage is a mortgage wherein the interest rate fluctuates over time. Typically, the interest rate will stay constant during a set period of time near the start of the mortgage, and then start to vary. These mortgage rates rise and fall in line with the prime lending rate.
The major advantage of a variable-rate mortgage is that its lower initial rates and payments allow buyers to qualify for larger homes. Buyers can also take advantage of falling interest rates without having to refinance. However, variable-rate mortgages can quickly become expensive if interest rates see a sharp rise – and while some mortgages put caps on the maximum annual increase, these caps don’t usually apply to the first rate change.
Interest-Only Jumbo Mortgages: Flexible Terms For Wealthy Buyers
An interest-only jumbo mortgage is a specialty mortgage designed specifically for wealthy buyers purchasing luxury homes. The major advantage of this kind of mortgage is that borrowers can make interest-only payments for the first 10 years of the loan. However, interest-only mortgages are typically only available to well-heeled buyers who can afford a hefty down payment and prove that they have large cash reserves.
Finding the right mortgage can be a challenge. That’s why it helps to consult with a mortgage advisor who understands the terms and rates, and can negotiate a great deal for you. For more information, contact your trusted real estate professional.
It can be easy to forget, but the first thing people will see when they come to your home is the outside, so it’s important to have a well-maintained and picturesque property that represents the inside of your home positively. If you’re looking for a few ways to boost your outdoor space, here are a few tips to help with curb appeal.
Plant A Flower Bed
Whether you decide on a tiny plot or a much larger space, a splash of flowers is great for adding a warm, homey atmosphere to your front yard. This can easily be done by going to your local nursery, picking out some easy-to-maintain perennials and watching the blooms begin to appear.
Trim The Hedges
It’s entirely possible that you have a few trees or shrubs in your yard that have gotten a little bit unruly, but a little time with the snippers for some shaping and the look of your yard will be automatically improved! If you have any shrubs or small trees that have seen better days, you may want to remove and replace.
A Fresh Coat Of Paint
It’s quite common to hear how much a layer of paint can improve things but this is especially true when it comes to your front door. While a tired and dull looking door can reflect poorly on the house within, a new coat of paint will add instant shimmer to your exterior.
Keep It Tidy
Whether you have kids who love to play in the yard or you’ve been doing a little lawn maintenance, leaving out toys or shovels and wheelbarrows can really take a lot away from your property’s look. While you may only be planning on keeping these items out for the short term, a quick pick up at the end of each day makes a marked difference.
Make A Stone Pathway
It may not be something you need, but a whimsical walkway with flattened stones can add a nice touch to your property and make it stand out. If you’re feeling ambitious, you may even want to add a bench or a birdbath to make for a unique escape for your family.
There are a lot of simple fixes you can utilize that will instantly boost the look of your home’s exterior. If you’re fixing up the outside of your home in the hopes of putting your property on the market, contact your trusted local real estate professional for more information.
There are plenty of things to consider when purchasing a home, from the size of place that you’re looking for to the amount of home you’re able to afford. While it’s certainly worth knowing what you want going in, here are a few factors that investors often think about when it comes to making or breaking the appeal of a real estate purchase.
Will The Location Last?
‘Location, location, location’ is a popular expression for a reason, and it’s among the first things that any person purchasing a property will consider when they think about long term-investment potential. It can be easy to think that a currently trendy community or beachfront property will always be a great investment, but trendy places go out of style and sea levels can rise. An investor will want a location that’s ideal, but they’ll also consider what the area’s future might hold.
Are You In A Bubble?
If you’ve found the perfect home to live in and are considering an offer, you may not be too worried about it’s selling potential a few years on. However, if you’re buying in a bubble, your price may be inflated, and this can cause problems if you want to make a profit in five years’ time. Real estate is on the up and up all over the world, so a true investor will consider if the market value will continue to rise or if it’s readied for a considerable economic setback.
Will It Survive The Trends?
The market for condos is certainly booming right now with the rising price of real estate, but many people are also choosing to move away from urban centers to buy a little bigger and start a family. Whether it’s an open concept or a sizeable townhouse, it can be tempting to buy the type of home that is hot right now, but these trends may not be so popular in the coming years. Instead of going for flash, consider what will always be in style or can at least be easily renovated.
The most important thing when purchasing a home is buying a place that you can feel good about, but real estate investors know that there are a number of important factors to consider. If you’re currently on the market for a new home and are weighing your options, contact your trusted local real estate professional for more information.