Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Though Economic and Housing News is Mixed, Builders Remain Optimistic

With not much economic data to trade on, investors have been using speculation to fuel their investment decisions this week. From concerns regarding healthcare to tax reform, investors are making guesses as to what legislation will be passed in the coming months and year to base today’s investment decisions. The Dow has been trading from positive to negative, back to positive territory throughout the week. However, the index has remained within a 200 point range up and down.

In the housing sector, builders continue to remain optimistic on the future of new construction sales. Buyer traffic has been significant in recent months and shows no sign of slowing anytime soon. The traffic component of the index came in above 50 for the 4th time in the last 5 months. Future and current sales continue to remain very strong. The West Coast continues to stay out front as far as new construction. The Northeast, to no one’s surprise, came in last out of the 4 regions. The South and Midwest remain strong as well, however at a pace slightly behind the West.

In contrast to builder optimism on the housing market, the number of new starts on single family homes was down 6.8 percent. This is the weakest level since November. The greatest strength came from the multi-family side. The good news in the overall report is that both sectors are up nearly 10.0 percent from the same time last year.

To offset the less than stellar housing starts data, permits for new construction are up 3.6 percent. Once again, multi-family home permits are leading the way. What is hard to figure out is the difference between the positive builder sentiment displayed in the housing market index versus the disappointing data on housing starts. In the coming months, we should expect to see them come more in-line with each other and reflect similar trends.

The Mortgage Bankers Association of America reported that applications for home purchases declined 3.0 percent for the week ending April 14th. Despite mortgage rates moving down towards 2017 lows, it seems that buyer activity has slowed. The most likely culprit for this is the national lack of available inventory. What used to be an issue primarily in the Northwest, has spread to many areas of the country. Even the East Coast, which has not seen a shortage of inventory since prior the market meltdown, is experiencing a significant shortage of available homes for sale.

Refinance applications for the same week were up by 0.2 percent. It will require rates to go lower by about 50 basis points in order to rekindle another refinance boom.

Next week’s potential market moving reports are:

· Monday April 24th – Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey
· Tuesday April 25th – FHFA House Price Index, S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller HPI, New Home Sales, Consumer Confidence
· Wednesday April 26th - MBA Applications
· Thursday April 27th - First Time Jobless Claims, Durable Goods Orders, Pending Home Sales
· Friday April 28th – GDP, Consumer Sentiment

As your mortgage and real estate professional, I am happy to assist you with any information you may need regarding mortgage or real estate trends. I welcome the opportunity to serve you in any way I possibly can. Please feel free to reach me at (707) 455-7070.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Stock Market, Mortgage Refinancing Lag While Home Sales Tick Upward

Trump euphoria certainly appears to have ended in the minds and hearts of investors. The stock market finished the week down once again by a total of 223 points. Markets are closed on Friday in observance of Good Friday.

The challenges to the market is that with each passing week, it appears that President Trump will continue to have major headwinds working against him in passing tax reform along with his other economic stimulus ideas touted during his run on the campaign trail. Although, almost every President runs into challenges implementing the ideas and changes from their campaign, investors had very high hopes that the new administration would be able to facilitate changes rapidly that would have an immediate impact on corporate profitability.

Mortgage rates have been steadily declining and have returned to the lowest point for 2017. Although refinances have yet to show signs of resurgence, purchase application increased last week by 3.0 percent according to the Mortgage Bankers Association of America.

In the labor markets, first time jobless claims continue to remain extremely low. The latest report for the week ending April 8th shows claims all the way down to 234,000. This was below most analyst’s expectations and continues to float at all time historical lows. Continuing claims also remain very low. Overall the labor markets are considered to be at “full employment”.

If you have been listening to the Fed for a number of years, they have been focused on getting inflation to the range of about 2.0 percent per year. Once again it seems like consumers are making it almost impossible for this to occur. Although in the last few months we have seen inflation tick upward on both the wholesale and retail levels, the latest reports may have thrown a monkey wrench into the likelihood that the trend will continue.

The latest PPI for the month of March showed that prices on the wholesale level declined by 0.1 percent. Experts were expecting the latest results to either be flat or show a slight increase. Pricing on the consumer level declined by a shocking 0.3 percent, while analysts were looking for prices to rise by 0.2 percent. Even when the volatile food and energy prices are removed from the CPI, prices still declined 0.1 percent. It is too early to tell, but the lack of price growth may have an impact on the Fed’s decision to put forth another interest rate increase anytime soon.

Next week’s potential market moving reports are:

· Monday April 17th – Housing Market Index
· Tuesday April 18th – Housing Starts, Industrial Production
· Wednesday April 19th - MBA Applications
· Thursday April 20th - First Time Jobless Claims, Leading Indicators
· Friday April 21st – Existing Home Sales

As your mortgage and real estate professional, I am happy to assist you with any information you may need regarding mortgage or real estate trends. I welcome the opportunity to serve you in any way I possibly can. Please feel free to reach me at (707) 455-7070.

Friday, April 14, 2017

No Brainer Steps to Better Pantry Storage

Say goodbye to pantry clutter for good. Our top tips for tidying up a pantry or kitchen closet will help you store food more efficiently.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Closing Costs Breakdown for Home Buyers and Home Sellers

If you are buying or selling a home, you will have to pay closing costs. Closing cost typically range between 2 and 6% of the sales price of the house, but vary greatly depending on the sales price, location of the property, loan type, and lenders fees. The following list of fees are standard costs associated when buying or selling a house.

Application Fee - This is usually the only fee that you will pay upfront when applying for a mortgage. Typically, it covers the cost of the credit report fee and appraisal.

Appraisal - This is paid to the appraisal company to verify the condition and fair market value of the home.

Appraisal Re-Inspection Fee - The appraisal fee pays for a professional appraiser to visit a home, evaluate the condition and features, and provide an estimate of the market value. If any repairs are cited, they will typically have to be completed and re-inspected by the appraiser prior to closing.

Attorney Fee - The fee for an attorney to review the closing documents on behalf of the buyer or seller.

Closing Fee/Escrow Fee/ Settlement Fee - This is paid to the title company, escrow company, or attorney for conducting the closing.

Courier/Overnight Fee - This covers the cost of transporting documents to complete the loan transaction.

Credit Report - A tri-merge credit report is used to review your credit history and credit scores.

Discount Fees or Points - Additional costs charged to buy the interest rate down.

Escrow Deposit for Property Taxes & Mortgage Insurance - Funds placed in your escrow account to ensure enough funds are available to pay future property tax, home owners insurance, and private mortgage insurance bills.

FHA Up-Front Mortgage Insurance Premium - If you are applying for an FHA loan, you'll be required to pay the upfront MIP of 1.75% of the base loan amount. This expense is typically rolled into your mortgage.

Flood Determination - This is paid to a third party to determine if the property is located in a flood zone. If the property is found to be located within a flood zone, you will need to purchase flood insurance.

Home Inspection - Private inspection to determine condition of property.

Homeowners' Insurance - This covers possible damages to your home. Your first year's insurance is often paid at closing.

Home Warranty - This is a one year insurance policy on the appliances and/or electrical, heating, and plumbing systems in the house.

Lender's Policy Title Insurance - This is insurance to assure the lender that you own the home and the lender's mortgage is a valid lien. It also protects the lender if there is a problem with the title.

Lead-Based Paint Inspection - May be required to determine if lead-based paint is present in property.

Lock in Fee - A fee charged by the lender to protect the interest rate during the processing and underwriting phase of the loan process.

Owner's Policy Title Insurance - This is an insurance policy that protects you in the event someone challenges your ownership of the home. Many lending institutions require this protection.

Origination Fee - This is a fee charged by some mortgage lenders and covers part of the lender's costs. It's usually about 1 percent of the total loan amount, but is negotiable.

Pest Inspection - This fee covers the cost to inspect for termites.

Prepaid Interest - Most lenders will ask you to prepay any interest that will accrue between closing and the date of your first mortgage payment.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) - If your down payment is less than 20% of the home's purchase price, you will likely be required to pay PMI.

Processing Fee - A lender fee used to cover overhead costs.

Property Tax - Lenders unusually require any taxes due within 60 days of the purchase to be paid at closing.

Recording Fees - A fee charged by your local county recording office for the recording of public land records.

Survey Fee - This service verifies that there are no encroachments on the property you are purchasing.

Title Insurance Policy - The Loan Policy is usually based on the dollar amount of the loan and it protects the lender's interests in the property should a problem with the title arise.

Title Search - An investigation into the origin and validity of a title to a property.

Title Exam Fee - This fee is paid to search the property's records. The title company researches the deed to your new home, ensuring that no one else has a claim to the property.

Transfer Taxes - This is the tax paid when the title transfers from seller to buyer. Underwriting Fee - This is a fee that your lender may charge to cover the cost of underwriting your mortgage file.

VA Funding Fee - If you have a VA loan, you may be required to pay a VA funding fee at closing (or you can roll this fee into the loan if you prefer). This is a percentage of the loan amount that the VA assesses to fund the VA home loan program, however disabled veterans are exempt from this fee.

Most loan types allow the seller to pay a percent of the sales price towards the buyers closing costs. FHA mortgages allow the seller to pay up to 6%, conventional loans allow the seller to pay between 2 to 6% of the sales price toward buyers closing costs, and for VA loans the seller is typically allowed to pay all of the buyers closing costs.

Your mortgage lender is required to provide you with a disclosure called a "Loan Estimate" which is a detailed list of the closing costs, down payment, and total costs needed to close your mortgage. Many of the fees listed on the loan estimate can change as much as 10% of the amount listed, unless your loan program changes. If an unforeseen event occurs and the mortgage program changes in order to close your loan, you should receive a form called a "Change of Circumstance" which provides a detailed list of any changes and discloses your new fees. After you receive your final approval, your lender will email you a form called the "Closing Disclosure" at least 3 days prior to your actual closing date. After receiving your closing disclosure, you should compare the fees listed to your initial loan estimate and/or change of circumstance disclosure to verify that your fees have not changed more than the 10% allotted variance.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Michael_Zuren_PhD./1966583

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

7 Residential Real Estate Features to Examine Closely

Purchasing residential real estate is pretty exciting for most buyers. However, you must not let your eagerness to close a deal hinder your view of the home's features. It is wise to take your time and examine certain amenities closely.


More than likely, the built-in kitchen appliances in your prospective home will be included in the real estate purchase. The stove and oven range, dishwasher, microwave, and possibly a refrigerator will be part of the deal. You may even be negotiating the procurement of the washer and dryer. It is imperative that you review the age, condition, and any existing warranties on these appliances. Open the doors and take a peek inside. Do not assume that a nice exterior is indicative of the interior. You want to avoid the need to service these items shortly after moving into the home.


Inspect the carpet, tile, wood, granite, slate, or other solid floor surfacing in each room. Note any possible cracks, creaks, or discoloration. Determine what kind of maintenance the flooring will need and how often. If the home has carpeting, ask about the flooring underneath. You may be surprised to find beautiful hardwood floors that have been covered. Be sure to survey the carpet for stains and unusual wear and tear.


Be sure to look up: cracks and water spots are telltale signs of structural damage. Peruse the ceilings of the closets and inspect the attic as well.

Walls and Doors

Scrutinize the walls for stud and nail holes resulting from pictures that were hung previously. Look for voids due to removed outlets and shelving. Make sure the walls are not in need of a fresh coat of paint and test the doors to ensure that they close properly and are hung well on the frames.

Air Conditioning and Heating Systems

Heating and air conditioner units and hot water heaters are costly to repair if they are not in good condition. Obtain a report from your realtor regarding their maintenance. Are these devices operated by gas or electricity? Knowing this will help you gauge your monthly expenses for its use.

Bathroom Fixtures and Plumbing

Review the condition and functionality of the bathroom fixtures. Turn on the water in the sinks and showers and flush the toilets. Examine if there are any delays in water flow and listen for abnormal sounds. Will the vanity knobs need to be replaced soon?

Expansion Possibilities

Sometime in the future, you may want to build an addition to your home. A sunroom or patio deck on the rear of the residence may be an option. Perhaps you might want to put a swimming pool in the backyard, so it's a good idea to decide whether you would be able to do this based on the lot size and square footage. Even if you do not think you will want to expand, consider the resale value of your real estate for the next owner.

These seven features are essential facets of a residence. By gathering information on their advantages and disadvantages, you can make informed decisions about their inclusion in your buying experience.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Andrew_Stratton/83489

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/8946977

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

This Security System Protects Your House Without Any Cameras

Aura is a new home security system that uses wireless signals to protect your home. The team met with FORBES to explain how it all works.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Despite Stock Dip, Housing and Other Markets Remain Strong

For the first time since October, the stock market is going to finish a month at a point lower than where it began. With one trading remaining in March, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is lower from March 1st by 387 points. The reason for the lower value is that belief President Trump will be able to pass his agenda on tax reform in a timely manner has dimmed.

Home prices continue to rise, gaining for the third consecutive month by 0.9 percent, according to the latest S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index for January. This is the strongest increase in home prices in the last 4 years. The rise in prices is being led by cities that have been behind most of the country in price appreciation. Chicago was up 1.3 percent, Washington DC rose 1.0 percent, and New York increased 0.7 percent. The Pacific Northwest continues to lead the country with increases of 11.2 percent and 9.6 percent in Seattle and Portland respectively.

Expectations are high for existing home sales to jump in April due to the 5.5% increase in February’s pending home sales index. Analysts were expecting only an increase of 2.4 percent. The Index, which tracks contract signings, jumped from 106.4 all the way up to 112.

Even though mortgage rates moved lower last week, refinance applications dropped by 3.0 percent as reported by the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. Purchase apps increased by a seasonally adjusted 1.0 percent. Purchase applications are up by 4.0 percent from the same time last year.

First time jobless claims fell by 3000 down to 258,000. Many analysts feel this number is a little high and were expecting the number to be lower. What is quite surprising is just 2 months ago, a claim amount in the mid 200’s was considered fantastic and pretty much at the bottom of where they would ultimately ever go. Not surprising is how analysts continue to change their projections and expectations with little data to support their change in beliefs about the numbers.

The most recent Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index dropped from 51.3 down to 49.7 for the week of March 26th. Given all the negativity surrounding what is going in Washington relating to the investigations and the defeat of the healthcare reform bill, it is not surprising that Americans are feeling a little more unsettled about the direction of the economy.

The final significant report for the week was on Thursday with the announcement of 4th quarter GDP. With a 2.1 percent gain, up from 1.9 percent in the previous quarter, it appears that consumers are increasing their spending. Spending on automobiles was up significantly by 11.4 percent.

Next week’s potential market moving reports are:

· Monday April 3rd – PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Manufacturing Index, Construction Spending
· Tuesday April 4th – Factory Orders
· Wednesday April 5th - MBA Applications, ADP Employment Report, FOMC Minutes
· Thursday April 6th - First Time Jobless Claims
· Friday April 7th – National Employment Situation

As your mortgage and real estate professional, I am happy to assist you with any information you may need regarding mortgage or real estate trends. I welcome the opportunity to serve you in any way I possibly can. Please feel free to reach me at (707) 455-7070.