Last week’s economic reports included readings on new and existing home sales, a speech by Fed Chair Janet Yellen, and a report on consumer sentiment. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.
New Home Sales Rise in July as Pre-Owned Home Sales Fall
Sales of new homes jumped in July to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 654,000 sales, which surpassed expectations of 579,000 sales and June’s downwardly-revised reading of 582,000 sales. This was the highest reading for new home sales since 2008 and represented a 31.30 percent increase since July 2015.
Builders were seen by analysts as addressing the need for more affordable homes; this trend contributes to a healthy housing market by supplying homes for a wider range of buyers. First-time buyers play a vital part in housing markets as their purchases enable current homeowners to buy larger homes or relocate.
Sales of pre-owned homes fell 3.20 percent to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million sales as compared to expectations of 5.59 million sales and June’s reading of 5.57 million sales. Year-over-year, sales were 1.60 percent lower. Limited inventories of available pre-owned homes have narrowed buyer options; increasing prices and narrow choices were seen as factors contributing to lower sales. There was a 4.60 month supply of available homes in July. Real estate pros typically consider a six months a normal reading for homes on the market.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®, noted that a slowdown in home appraisals may have contributed to July’s lower sales reading for pre-owned homes. Low mortgage rates prompted a surge in refinancing which created a backlog in home appraisals. While low mortgage rates may entice home buyers, stricter mortgage requirements can also keep prospective buyers at bay.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen indicated that the stage could be set for a federal rate increase as early as next month. If the Fed hikes its target federal funds rate, interest rates for consumer credit and mortgages can be expected to rise.
Mortgage Rates Hold Steady; New Jobless Claims Fall
Freddie Mac reported that fixed mortgage rates for 30 and 15-year loans were unchanged at 3.43 and 2.74 percent respectively. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 2.75 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60, 0.50 and 0.40 percent.
New jobless claims were lower last week. 261,000 new jobless claims were filed against expectations of 264,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 262,000 new claims filed. Declining jobless claims can indicate strengthening labor markets, but can also indicate that workers are leaving the labor markets.
Consumer sentiment declined slightly in August due to concerns over the upcoming presidential election. Analysts expected a reading of 91.0 for August, but the reading for August was revised from 90.4 to 89.80.
Next week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on pending home sales, inflation, construction spending and consumer confidence. National unemployment, non-farm payrolls and ADP payrolls are also scheduled.
Refinancing a mortgage is a golden opportunity to lock in today’s low interest rate for the next 15 or 30 years. While interest rates now are still low, there’s a good chance they will be heading up in the coming months.
The Fed won’t maintain the current bond purchasing level forever, and just as rates spiked in September when the Fed hinted the bond purchasing would change, rates will spike even more when purchasing levels actually do change.
As interest rates remain very low for 30-year and 15-year mortgages, homeowners can benefit greatly from a refinance. Several types of people in particular should consider refinancing.
Carrying A High Rate
Anyone with an interest rate well above today’s level should think about a refinance. Unless the homeowner is planning to sell within the next few years, a refinance will almost always save money in the long run if the rate can be lowered by at least a percent.
Switching From FHA To Conventional
Given that FHA mortgages now carry mortgage insurance premiums for the life of the loan, it makes a lot of sense for borrowers to switch away from them when they can. Refinancing may be possible once the homeowner has built up enough equity to qualify for a mortgage from a traditional lender, without the burden of mortgage insurance.
ARM Coming Up On Adjustment
The low rate of an adjustable rate mortgage sticks only for the first few years of the mortgage. After this point, the rate adjusts each year based on market trends. Rather than paying the adjusted rate, which is almost always higher, homeowners can refinance into a new fixed rate mortgage to lock in one of today’s low fixed rates for the duration of the mortgage.
Cash Out To Consolidate Debt
Homeowners carrying high-interest debt, like credit cards and personal loans, can often benefit from consolidating it into their mortgage. As long as they maintain at least 20 percent equity in their home, they can get a cash-out refinance for an amount higher than their current mortgage balance. They can then use the difference to pay off high-interest debt.
I have a couple of lenders to recommend, who have served me well for the past decade or two. Shoot me an email or give me a call if you’d like their contact info.
When you have been researching your different options for a mortgage on your home, you might have heard of an “Interest-Only Mortgage”. What exactly does this type of mortgage mean and how does it work?
Usually when you take out a loan, you must pay back the capital debt (the amount you borrowed) and the interest on that debt. An interest-only mortgage offers a cheaper option for purchasing a property, because you will only be making payments on the interest and not the capital.
Compared to a repayment style mortgage where you are paying down the principle of the loan, an interest-only mortgage will have much lower monthly payments.
However, when you reach the end of the mortgage term with an interest-only mortgage, you will not have paid off any of the original principle of the loan. This means that you will still not be any closer to owning the home than when you started, whereas with a repayment mortgage you would be in full possession of the property.
You will reach the end of the loan term, still owing the lender $250,000 or whatever the value of the house was. Also, if you do not pay off that lump sum at that point, the lender will charge you interest on the entire loan for the full time.
From the description of how it works, it seems like there would never be a good situation for taking out an interest-only mortgage. However, if you are stretched financially and you are desperate to get onto the property ladder it might be a viable option. Some people take on an interest-only mortgage so that they can buy their first home, then when their income goes up they switch to a repayment mortgage.
These types of mortgages are often used by buy-to-let investors, who are able to claim their tax back against the mortgage interest. If this is your goal, you might find this strategy advantageous.
A recent study of US and UK home buyers, conducted by the London based Nationwide Building Society, found that more than 40% of people buying homes were confused by the jargon that lenders used to describe mortgages.
When it comes to taking out a mortgage on your home, could confusing mortgage jargon be costing you money and causing you to make ill-informed choices?
According to the study, only 31% of home buyers understood what the term “LTV” meant, an acronym that stands for “loan to value” and describes the ration between the amount of the mortgage and the value of the home.
Not only did the survey show that many mortgage borrowers were confused about what the terms meant, but they also were shy about asking for explanations of various words that they didn’t understand.
In order to make a wise financial decision and choose the right mortgage for you, it is essential to do your research and understand exactly what you are signing up for. If you are unsure of what a mortgage term means, don’t be afraid to ask your lender for clarification.
Here are a few of the common mortgage jargon words that many homebuyers don’t understand:
Adjustable Rate Mortgage
This is a loan that has an interest rate which will fluctuate over time, such as every three years or every year after the first five years. This type of mortgage can be advantageous if you plan to sell the home within the first few years of owning it. Another option is a fixed rate mortgage, which does not fluctuate.
This is a calculation that your mortgage lender will make in order to determine the largest mortgage that you could possibly afford to obtain. The calculation is made by looking at your income, your existing debt and other factors.
Stips Or Stipulations
If your mortgage lender mentions “stips” they are probably talking about stipulations, which are the requirements that are submitted in order to clear your mortgage to close. This includes verifications of your bank statement as well as proof of employment and rent. Verification of Rent and Verification of Employment are often abbreviated as VOR and VOE.
This refers to the US Department Of Housing Development Settlement Statement that you will be required to sign when taking out a mortgage. This document contains the details of the arrangement, including all fees agreed upon.
These are just a few examples of mortgage jargon that you might not be familiar with.
If you are on the verge of buying real estate, you’ve probably heard the term Private Mortgage Insurance. Mortgage professionals talk about it a great deal, but you may be asking, “What is it exactly? And why should I care?”
Private Mortgage Insurance Defined
PMI is required by lenders if the down payment of a purchase is less than 20 percent of the home’s value. It protects the lender if the borrower defaults on the loan.
It also makes the lender more apt to loan, even if the down payment is as low as 3%, because in the long run, the lender’s investment is protected.
You Pay For It
Unlike other types of insurance which you pay to protect your interest in an asset, you pay Private Mortgage Insurance to the mortgage company to protect its interest in your new real estate. (Note that PMI is not usually tax deductible. Check with a tax professional for details.)
Make It Go Away: PMI Can Be Terminated Once You’ve Paid Down Your Loan
Once you pay down your mortgage to the point where it hits the magical 80% of the original purchase price or appraised value, whichever is less, you can request cancellation of PMI. The Homeowners Protection Act requires that loans made after 1999 include notifications to the borrower when you arrive at this point in your payments.
Your PMI payments must be automatically canceled once you pay down your loan to 78%. At closing, and on a yearly basis, you should receive information from your lender about when you can request cancellation.
Whether you’re ready to buy real estate or need more information before taking the plunge, I can help.
There are many reasons people take out reverse mortgages. However, this option is usually considered by cash-strapped seniors who own their homes and are looking to ease the burden of their golden years.
The beauty of reverse mortgages is that you’ll receive money as long as you are current on property taxes and homeowners insurance.
While this seems like an appealing opportunity, it’s a decision that should not be made lightly. Not only is the reverse mortgage complicated in itself, but homeowners make all sorts of mistakes when they’re too quick to sign the dotted line. So if you’re considering one, be wary of the common pitfalls below.
Buying Into A Scam
With reverse mortgages becoming a more common option for those over 62, mischievous opportunists are searching for ways to solicit seniors in need of help. Scammers will take advantage by charging high fees, funneling off parts of payments, creating fake loans or committing identity theft. Ensure you use a lender approved by the Federal Housing Association.
Confusing Your Payment Options
Reverse mortgages come in many forms. You can get the amount in one lump sum. Tenure payments are another option that give you a certain amount each month until you die or move out. There are also term payments, lines of credit, and modified tenure and term payments. You need to take the time to research your options and decide which one will be best for you in the long run.
Compromising Government Assistance
There are several government assistance programs that set asset limits on your monthly spending. These programs provide aid for low-income and disabled individuals. If any assistance programs financially support you, then be sure to consult their advisers before determining your reverse mortgage plan.
Disregarding Other Options
Reverse mortgages are extremely expensive and many people see them as their only option. However, there are other alternatives. Consider taking out a personal loan, downsizing or even taking on roommates. The Golden Girls always seemed to have fun.
A reverse mortgage could be just the thing to give you the extra cash flow you need and ease your mind. However, make sure you’re consulting a trusted home financing specialist, reading the fine print and have carefully considered all your options.
Most of the financial advice out there is focused on how you can pay off the mortgage on your home as quickly as possible, from making lump sum payments to switching to bi-weekly payments rather than monthly.
However, there are a few things that you might want to consider before you put all of your financial efforts into paying off your mortgage as quickly as possible.
Diversifying Your Investments
Of course, paying off your mortgage as fast as possible has a number of obvious advantages. You will be able to own your home a lot sooner and you will decrease the amount of interest you pay over the years. However, are you diversifying your assets?
Savvy investors know that they should decrease their risk by spreading their money into a number of different types of assets and investments so that they don’t have “all their eggs in one basket.”
If you have extra money and you want to invest it, you might want to make sure that you have a variety of investments including savings, stocks and bonds, rather than just investment in your home.
Another thing to consider is that having your money invested in your home means that it will not be a very liquid asset. If you needed the cash right away, you could have to sell your home or take out a home equity loan, which is a complex and time consuming process.
Before investing all of your money in your mortgage, consider creating an emergency fund as well so that you have some easily accessible money when you need it.
Earning More With Better Investments
Before investing all of your money in your mortgage, find out whether you would be able to earn more by investing it into other opportunities such as interest-bearing bonds. Sometimes stocks, bonds and mutual funds have better returns over time than the typical mortgage interest rates.
Perhaps paying off your mortgage as quickly as possible is the best option for you. However, make sure that you consider all of the factors before committing to this decision.
Paying off the mortgage on your home as quickly as possible will ensure that you pay less interest and save money in the long term. But how can you accelerate those payments so that you own your home sooner?
One simple and easy way that you can pay off your mortgage faster is to round up your mortgage payment to the nearest $100 interval. So, for example, if your mortgage payment is $756 per month, you can pay $800 instead.
Not only will this help you to pay off your mortgage sooner, but round numbers are also much easier to handle for simple calculations. You will be able to look at your bank account and easily subtract your mortgage payment in your head to get an idea of where your money stands.
Will This Really Make a Difference?
By rounding up your mortgage payment, you won’t notice the difference in your day to day expenses but you will really notice the difference when it comes to the overall lifespan of your mortgage.
In your monthly budget, you will have already mentally allocated your mortgage payment as $800, so having that $44 less per month won’t make much difference and you can easily adjust. It is an amount that is small enough that you won’t “miss” it.
However, paying $44 extra per month will add up to $528 per year. That’s almost like making an extra payment every year. This extra money will go straight into the principal of the loan, which will make your interest payments go down every year faster and faster.
Over the years, this will compound and will mean that you actually end up reducing your mortgage term by a few years. The savings that you can enjoy over the total life of the loan can be in the thousands!
There are many other ways that you can pay down your mortgage faster, such as contributing a lump sum payment or switching to bi-weekly payments. However, it is interesting to know that just rounding up your payment can make such a significant difference!