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Take Your Bathroom From ‘Drab’ to ‘Fab’ With These Do-it-Yourself Bathroom Renovations

Take Your Bathroom From 'Drab' to 'Fab' With These Do-it-Yourself Bathroom RenovationsDoes your bathroom look amazing? As one of the most used rooms in every home, the bathroom can almost always use a bit of a facelift. In today’s blog post we will share a few DIY renovations that will take your bathroom from drab to fab.

Embrace A New Color Palette

One of the best ways to start your bathroom makeover is to figure out a new color palette for the room. Do you like soft, muted colors like a powder blue, light gold or cream? Or maybe something a bit louder and more exciting like a merlot red or deep purple? Whatever your taste, a splash of color might be just what your bathroom needs.

Start with a fresh coat of paint on the bathroom walls and work outwards from there. If you have windows, consider how you want the trim to contrast with the walls. Baseboards or molding can also offer contrasting effects, helping them to stand out more.

And of course, don’t forget to take care of the smaller bathroom accessories. Your shower curtain, hand towels, and even your toothbrush cup can all be matched.

Take Your Fixtures To The Next Level

Once you have decided on colors, it is time to turn your attention to the fixtures around your bathroom. The towel racks, hooks, faucets, shower head and toilet paper holder should all match in some way. If you do not have a lot of cabinet space, investing in a mirror that includes storage might be the perfect solution. If you have items like a scale or plunger in plain sight, think on some creative ways to hide them.

Brighten Things Up With Better Lighting

While you do not need ‘selfie quality’ professional lighting in your bathroom, it might be time for a brighter, more efficient light fixture. Aim for a design that complements the rest of the accents in your bathroom while being large enough to cast a bright light. You can also spend a bit of time choosing the correct color temperature for your bathroom light bulbs. LED lighting can offer some bold whites, but be careful that you don’t go overboard.

Renovating your bathroom is a fun way to spend a weekend or two improving your home. If you are thinking about buying a new home, contact us. Our professional mortgage team is happy to help you find the perfect financing option.

How to Run a Quick Financial Health Check Before You Apply for a Mortgage

How to Run a Quick Financial Health Check Before You Apply for a MortgageAre you planning on using a mortgage to help cover the cost of a new home? If so, you will want to prepare your finances and figure out how you will manage all those wallet-draining monthly expenses. Let’s take a look at how to run a quick financial health check to ensure you are ready to apply for a mortgage.

Update (Or Start) Your Monthly Budget

First, it is essential to get the basics out of the way. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start a monthly budget to keep track of your income and expenses. Once you have a mortgage, it will be important to prioritize your monthly payments so that you don’t end up falling behind.

Starting a budget is easy and can be done with mobile apps, software, a spreadsheet or a pen and paper. List all sources of income so that you know exactly how much cash you are working with. Then, list out every one of your expenses. It can be tough to remember them all, so consider using debit and credit card statements from the past few months as a reminder.

Get A Copy Of Your Credit Report

Next, you will want to get a copy of your credit report so you can see what potential mortgage lenders will see when assessing your financial history. This is a free service that you can request once per year, so be sure to take advantage. Note that you will want to use government-approved websites for requesting your credit report. Be wary of scams.

Do You Have A Down Payment?

A down payment is not required for every home purchase, but having one saved up can make the buying process easier. The amount you will want to have saved up will depend on the cost of your home, whether you plan on carrying private mortgage insurance and a variety of other factors. If possible, try to save up an amount close to (or more than) twenty percent of the home’s purchase price.

Ready? Chat With A Professional

Now that you have run a quick financial health check, it is time to meet with a mortgage professional to discuss your options. Contact us today to book an appointment with one of our friendly expert advisors. We are happy to help you with financing so you can buy your perfect dream home.

NAHB: Builder Confidence Outstrips Pre-Bubble Highs

Home builders surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders expressed their highest level of confidence in housing markets since 1999. The index reading for housing market conditions in December hit 74, which exceeded November’s reading of 70. Analysts expected a flat reading of 70 for December. Readings over 50 indicate improvement in housing market conditions.

The three component readings used to comprise the Housing Market Index also rose in December. Builder confidence in current market conditions rose four points for a reading of 81; builder confidence in housing market conditions over the next six months rose three points to 79. Most surprising was the jump in builder confidence in buyer traffic levels in new housing developments. Traditionally, this reading rarely exceeded 50, but in November, it achieved the benchmark reading. December’s reading for buyer traffic gained eight points to 58. December’s reading for builder confidence in buyer traffic reached its highest level since 1999.

Home Builder Confidence Reflects Strong Economic Conditions

Strength in jobs markets and overall economic conditions drove builder confidence; home builders also cited potential tax breaks associated with pending tax legislation. Tariffs on Canadian lumber were cited as an obstacle to builder profits and increased prices.

High demand for homes caused by slim supplies of homes for sale continues to boost home prices. Real estate pros have said that increasing construction of single-family homes is the only way to correct the current imbalance between rapidly increasing home prices and challenges for first-time and moderate-income home buyers who cannot compete with cash buyers or afford rapidly rising home prices.

Builder Confidence Expands in All Regions

Builder confidence also rose according to the three-month rolling average for builder confidence in the four regions tracked by NAHB. The Northeastern region reported a one-point increase for a regional reading of 54.  Home builder confidence gained six points in the Midwestern region for a reading of 69. Home builders in the South reported a confidence reading of 72, which was three points higher than in November. Builders in the Western region reported a two-point gain in confidence with a reading of 79 in December.

Mortgage 101: Understanding ‘PITI’ and What Goes in to Your Monthly Payments

Mortgage 101: Understanding 'PITI' and What Goes in to Your Monthly PaymentsAsk any friend or family member that owns a home and they will share that it takes a bit of management to keep all the expenses under control. Let’s explore the concept of PITI and why it is vital to have a clear picture of how much your home is costing you each month.

Just What Is PITI, Anyway?

PITI is an acronym that stands for “principal, interest, taxes and insurance,” which are the four main components that make up your housing costs.

Principal – this is the amount that you are paying against the total amount that you borrowed when you purchased the home. For example, if you used a mortgage to cover $200,000 of the home’s purchase price, the remaining balance of that $200,000 is the principal. A part of your monthly mortgage payment goes to paying down the principal.

Interest – this is the extra cost that the lender charges for the service of lending you the principal amount. For most mortgages, you will see this expressed as an “interest rate” which is a small percent charged on the loan. A portion of your monthly mortgage payment goes to paying down the interest owed.

Taxes – tax costs are not included in your monthly mortgage payment, but will be added by your lender as part of your yearly expenses when calculating your debt-to-income ratio (see below). Property taxes and other assessments will need to be paid each year.

Insurance – this is the cost of insuring your mortgage and your home. Like taxes, your mortgage lender will typically include some insurance costs in your DTI ratio calculation.

How Lenders Use PITI

Many mortgage lenders use some form of PITI calculation when determining your debt-to-income ratio. This ratio helps the lender understand your ability to manage your monthly mortgage payments without being at risk of missing one. The lower the ratio, the more likely you can afford all your monthly expenses.

Don’t Forget Your Other Monthly Expenses

Finally, don’t forget that along with PITI you will have a variety of other monthly expenses that need to be budgeted for. Leave some space for utilities, repairs and other renovations that need to be made throughout the year.

Once you have the full picture of what is coming in and going out each month, managing your expenses is easy. When you are ready to discuss or apply for a mortgage, get in touch with us. Our friendly team of mortgage professionals is happy to help.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 18, 2017

Last week’s economic reporting included readings on inflation, core inflation and the Post-meeting statement of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee. Fed Chair Janet Yellen also gave a press conference; weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

Inflation Rises in November

U.S. inflation rose by 0.30 percent to 0.40 percent in November; October’s reading was 0.10 percent and November’s reading met analysts’ expectations. Core Consumer Price Index readings for November posted a gain of 0.10 percent, which fell short of the expected reading and October’s reading of 0.20 percent. Core CPI readings are less volatile as they do not include volatile food and energy sectors.

FOMC Statement: Fed Raises Target Rate

The post-meeting statement of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee cited strong economic signs in its decision to raise the target federal funds range by 0.25 percent to 1.25 percent to 1.50 percent. The Committee indicated that it expects inflation to hold steady in the near term and to stabilize closer to the Fed’s goal of two percent annually in the medium term.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave a press conference after the FOMC statement was released. She cited strong labor markets and low unemployment as signs of healthy economic conditions. The Fed’s dual mandate of achieving maximum employment and stable pricing has not been met due to lagging inflation. The Federal Reserve’s goal of 2 percent annual inflation fell short at 1.60 percent year-to-date. Job growth was strong with job growth expanding at a monthly average of 170,000 jobs over the past three months.

The Fed expects the inflation to achieve its 2 percent goal in 2019; unemployment is expected to remain at or near its current rate of 4.10 percent. This was good news as the expected exit of aging workers will increase in coming years as baby-boomers retire. Ms. Yellen affirmed her intention to aid in a smooth transition for the Federal Reserve as incoming Chair Jay Powell prepares to take over in February.

Mortgage Rates, Mixed, Weekly Jobless Claims

Fixed mortgage rates averaged one basis point lower last week with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.93 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.36 percent’ the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages rose one basis point to 3.36 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages. Analysts said that lenders expected the Fed to raise rates and so factored in an increase of long term loan rates over time.

New Jobless claims dropped by 11,000 last week to 225,000. Analysts had expected 235,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 236,000 new claims.

You Ask, We Answer: How Do I Know If It’s a Good Idea to Refinance My Mortgage?

You Ask, We Answer: How Do I Know If It's a Good Idea to Refinance My Mortgage?Are you interested in paying less per month on your mortgage? Or perhaps you would prefer if your mortgage was paid off a couple of months – or years – faster? If you are a homeowner with a mortgage, one option that is open to you is refinancing. In today’s post, we will explore the topic of mortgage refinancing and how to know if it is a good idea.

How Does Refinancing Work?

In short, refinancing is a process in which pay off your existing mortgage and borrow a new mortgage under a different set of terms. In most cases, homeowners will use the funds from the new mortgage to pay off the old one. Depending on the terms of your new mortgage, there may or may not be cash left over which you can use to invest, pay down debts, make renovations or for other purposes.

Refinancing To A Lower Interest Rate

Mortgage interest rates tend to fluctuate over time and because of this, refinancing to a mortgage with a lower rate is quite popular. If you initially borrowed your mortgage when interest rates were at 5%, you may be able to lock-in a new mortgage at a lower rate. Note that it can be tough to try to “time” the mortgage market, so check in with your mortgage professional to find out if the time is right.

Refinancing For Lower Monthly Payments

Another great use of refinancing is to reduce the monthly payment required on the mortgage. If you have ten years remaining on a 20-year mortgage, refinancing to extend the payments out to 15 years will lower the monthly payment.

Refinancing To Eliminate Other Debts

Finally, many homeowners will refinance their mortgage to use some of the home’s equity to pay off other debts. For example, a family might have $25,000 in debts that are being charged a higher interest rate than their mortgage. If they have built up enough equity, they can refinance and draw out $25,000 from the home’s value. This shifts the debt from the higher interest areas into the mortgage, where it can be paid off over time.

As you can see, there are many reasons why you might want to refinance your mortgage. To learn more about the refinancing process, or to discuss your options, contact us today. Our professional team of mortgage advisors is ready to help you choose the path that best suits your financial needs.

The Pros and Cons of a Large Down Payment When Buying a Home

The Pros and Cons of a Large Down Payment When Buying a HomeIf you are in the market for a new home, one of the considerations you will need to make is how much to invest in your down payment. Let’s take a quick look at some of the pros and cons of making a large down payment when buying your next home.

A Large Down Payment Has Its Benefits

If you have the funds available, you may find a bit of an advantage in a large down payment. The following are a few potential benefits that you may realize.

You Can Afford More ‘House’ – if you are aiming for a large, luxurious home a significant down payment can help you get there. As long as your credit is in line with your needs, a large down payment leaves more room in your mortgage.

You May Pay Less Interest – conversely, if you don’t need to carry a big mortgage you can choose a shorter amortization period for your mortgage. A shorter loan period means that you are likely to pay less in interest.

You Might Not Need PMI – if you can afford to invest more than 20 percent of the home’s value in your down payment, you may not be required to purchase private mortgage insurance.

A Few Of The Downsides

Of course, there are some potential downsides to using a large portion of your available cash as a down payment:

Do You Have The Money? – a large down payment doesn’t make a lot of sense if your finances can’t tolerate that hit right now. If you have your down payment and little else, you might want to reconsider.

You Will Be Less Liquid In The Short Term – keep in mind that once you sign the closing paperwork, your down payment cash is gone. This will leave you a bit less liquid in the short term since you would need to sell your home to get that cash back out.

You Can’t Invest That Money Elsewhere – you won’t be able to use these funds for other investment purposes. Of course, real estate is an investment itself so this may be less of a concern.

Still Have Questions? Get In Touch

Choosing the right amount for a down payment is a decision best made with professional help. Contact your trusted mortgage professionals and we will be happy to share our experience and insight.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 11, 2017

Last week’s economic reports included readings on projected top housing markets for 2018, weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. Labor sector readings on private-sector job growth, private and public-sector job growth and the national unemployment rate were released. Projected top housing markets in 2018 were also released.

Realtors Release Projections for Top Housing Markets in 2018

Prospective homebuyers and retirees facing home affordability issues in metro areas such as New York City and the West Coast are seeking affordable housing markets according to data released by the National Association of Realtors®.

The top three housing markets for 2018 are expected to be Las Vegas, Nevada with a median home price of $285.405 and expected annual price growth of 6.90 percent. Dallas Texas held second place with a median home price of $339,000 and expected annual home price growth of 5.60 percent. Deltona, Florida held the third position for top housing markets in 2018. Deltona is located between Daytona Beach and Orlando, Florida. Within the city of Deltona, home prices average $159,000 in Deltona and $275.000in the metro area. Home prices are expected to grow at an annual rate of 6.0 percent.

Home prices continue to be driven by low supplies of homes for sale. High demand is causing prices in many metro areas to rise to unaffordable levels/ Retirees who are no longer tied to pricey metro areas are moving to less costly neighborhoods.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates across the board. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose 0.04 basis points to 3.94 percent. 15-year fixed mortgage rates averaged 0.06 basis points higher at 3.36 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 0.03 basis points higher for an average rate of 3.35 percent. Discount points average 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims were lower last week, with 236,000 new claims filed against expectations of 240,000 new claims filed and the prior week’s reading of 238,000 new jobless claims filed. According to November’s federal Non-Farm Payrolls report, government and private sector payrolls grew by 228,000 jobs as compared to expectations of 200,000 new public and private sector jobs added and the prior month’s reading of 244,000 jobs added.

ADP reported 190,000 private-sector jobs added in November as compared to 235,000 new jobs added in October. The national unemployment rate held at 4.10 percent, which was the lowest level in almost 17 years.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic readings include releases on inflation, the Fed’s FOMC post-meeting statement, Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

To Stay or to Go: Should You Hang Around During Your Open House?

To Stay or to Go: Should You Hang Around During Your Open House?Are you thinking of listing your home for sale? Whether this is your first sale or you have been through the process a few times, you are probably aware that you will need to host at least one open house. Welcoming strangers in to tour your home can range from delightful to irritating, but it is a critical part of the selling process. So, should you stick around or disappear when potential buyers are viewing your home? Let’s explore your options.

The Best-Case Scenario

For almost every buyer, the ideal situation is that they are viewing a clean, vacant home which is empty of all furnishings. It can be challenging to visualize your family in your future house when you are trying to see past the current tenant’s clutter and furniture. Depending on your circumstances, this might not be possible.

Are You A ‘People’ Person?

Would you consider your family welcoming and extroverted? Or are you more of the private, inclusive type? If you aren’t really ‘people’ people, then it is probably best if you disappear during your open house. Your real estate agent will be working hard to ensure that your potential buyers start to feel ‘at home’ while touring through your home.

If your personality is more of the shy, quiet type, then you may find interacting with buyers awkward or even intimidating. If that is the case, you should find someplace else to be during your open house.

When In Doubt, Let Your Agent Answer

Finally, keep in mind that interested potential buyers are going to have a lot of questions. They will want to know the fine details about the condition of the home, if there are any surprises waiting to be found and if they can grind down the price. If you do decide to stick around, it might be best to let your agent give the answers.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to being home during an open house. If you are ready to move forward with selling your home, contact us today. Our professional real estate agent team is happy to meet with you, discuss your options and share how to get your home listed so it quickly sells for the best possible price.

Downsizing? Here’s What You Can Expect When You Move From a House to a Condo

Downsizing? Here's What You Can Expect When You Move From a House to a CondoWhether the kids have moved out or you just aren’t using the extra bedrooms, having a house that feels ‘too big’ is rarely fun. In today’s post, we will share a few changes you can expect when you downsize from a large house to a smaller apartment or condo.

Why Downsize At All?

As you might imagine, having too much space is the primary reason that couples and families downsize. Larger homes cost more to maintain and can feel empty if it’s just one or two people living there. In many cases, old items and clutter tend to build up as there is so much storage space. Downsizing to a smaller home helps to maintain a lifestyle that is more efficient but no less luxurious.

Ask Yourself: Are You Ready?

Another consideration that you will need to make: are you ready to move? If you are retired from work, then you likely have enough time on your hands to manage a move. Conversely, if you and your spouse are both working full-time and live near your workplace, you may want to source a smaller home nearby.

Don’t forget that if you own the house you are living in now, this might mean having to list and sell it while buying your new home. This is a common situation and isn’t a significant problem, but it will require a bit of scheduling and financial planning.

The Hardest Part: Choosing What To Keep

Ask any couple or family that has downsized their home about the toughest part, and many will share that it was choosing what stays and what goes. When space is at a premium, everything from shoes to appliances needs to be considered.

Spend some time going through each room in your house, taking an inventory of what you have. Are there any family heirlooms or other emotional items that you can’t part ways with? After that, is there anything that will be usable in your new home? Everything else should be considered fair game. Sell it, donate it or toss it out.

Moving to a smaller home can seem challenging at first, but it is a lifestyle choice that can pay significant dividends. When you are ready to make a move, contact our professional mortgage team.