July 28th, 2015 categories: Home Mortgage Tips
The United States government established the HARP program, otherwise known as the Home Affordable Refinance Program, to assist homeowners who are struggling with their mortgage payments. Initially, the program was founded in March 2009, and it has provided many homeowners with an easier route to adjusting their mortgage payments to make them more affordable. However, the program will be ending soon, and homeowners who have not yet taken advantage of the program and who intend to do so may need to act quickly.
When Does the Program End?
The HARP mortgage program will officially end on December 31, 2015. If you intend to apply for a mortgage under this program, you must have your application submitted by this date. However, a closing date may extend into early 2016. There are special rules and eligibility requirements that must be met in order for you to take advantage of this program, and these must be in place before you submit a full application. Therefore, it is important that anyone who is interested in applying for a mortgage under the HARP program take time initially to understand more about the rules and eligibility requirements in place.
What Are the Requirements?
It is important to note that the HARP program is not suitable for all homeowners who wish to refinance, and special requirements must be in place. Just a few of the requirements include that you must be in good standing with your current mortgage with no late payments within the last six months. You also cannot have had more than one late payment within the last 12 months. In addition, you must be able to pay for the new mortgage payment, and the mortgage must be a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan. These are just a few of the requirements, and you will need to work with a mortgage professional to ensure that you qualify for these and other requirements that are in place.
The HARP program has already helped many homeowners who have been struggling with their mortgage payments. While the program offers a permanent solution to homeowners by re-establishing a new mortgage payment amount, the program itself was only intended to be temporary in nature. Because it will officially end at the end of 2015, any homeowners who are still interested in taking advantage of the benefits of the HARP program should consider speaking with their trusted mortgage professional soon to learn more about the requirements and to begin the application process.
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July 27th, 2015 categories: Market Outlook
Last week’s scheduled economic news releases were limited as no news was released on Monday or Tuesday, but good news did arrive in the form of a dip in mortgage rates for fixed rate loans. The National Association of Realtors® reported higher sales of pre-owned homes and FHFA reported that home price growth associated with mortgages held or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac held steady in May.
Sales of Pre-Owned Homes and FHFA House Prices Rise
According to the National Association of Realtors®, June sales of existing homes reached their highest level since February 2007. Sales of used homes reached a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.47 million previously owned homes sold against expectations of 5.42 million homes and May’s reading of 5.32 million pre-owned homes sold. By comparison, sales of existing homes remain about 24 percent below a pre-recession peak. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors® cited improving labor markets and home buyer concerns over rising mortgage rates as factors contributing to May’s reading for existing home sales.
FHFA, the federal agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that home prices associated with sales of homes financed with loans owned or backed by Fannie and Freddie rose by 0.40 percent month-over-month in May and held steady with April’s revised reading of 0.40 percent. FHFA home prices rose by 5.70 percent year-over-year in May.
Mortgage Rates Mixed
Freddie Mac reported that average rates for 30 and 15-year mortgages fell while the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage ticked upward by one basis point. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by five basis points to 4.04 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.21 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate rose by one basis point to 2.97 percent. Average discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent, 0.60 percent and 0.50 percent respectively.
Expected reports on weekly jobless claims and new home sales were not released last week.
Scheduled economic reports for this week include the usual weekly reports on jobless claims and mortgage rates along with the Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports for May and the Commerce Department’s report on pending home sales. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve has scheduled an announcement on Wednesday, and reports on consumer confidence and consumer sentiment will also be released next week.
By the way, our Search Tool will help you find and locate properties of interest all over Northern Virginia. Kathy is always available to help you with your home search and/or home sale!
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July 24th, 2015 categories: Around The Home
Chantilly homeowners who are thinking about listing their home for sale in the coming weeks or months may be focused on improving their home to help it sell more quickly, but there also may be a focus on adding value to the home in the process. While each home is unique, there are a few projects that most homeowners would benefit from. In fact, these are a few simple and easy projects that can typicaly be completed over the course of a weekend; that can add value and desirability to the home.
Replace The Front Door
The front door has an impact on curb appeal, and it also is one of the primary features that buyers will see when they approach your home to take a tour. Replacing an older door that lacks style or that is plagued with signs of wear and tear can improve property value and curb appeal alike. Many homeowners who have basic tools and some do-it-yourself experience with other projects will be able to replace the front door without additional help from a contractor.
Update The Kitchen Back Splash
A kitchen is a key selling point in a home, and the back splash is among the most visible features in this space. Replacing the back splash with stylish tile can improve the look and can instantly make the home more desirable. This can be a relatively simple type of home renovation project, if you have experience with tile work, that may be completed within just a few hours.
Repaint The Walls And Baseboards
Few things can improve the look of a home more easily than a fresh coat of paint. If the walls are showing signs of wear or the colors do not have modern or universal appeal, applying a fresh coat of paint to walls and baseboards is a simple enough project to tackle. For the best results, focus on the rooms with the most undesirable paint colors, in the most visible rooms of the home or in areas where the paint is in generally poor condition.
Each of these projects can have a dramatic impact on the homes appeal and can influence the value of the home itself. Each of these projects under most circumstance can be completed with minimal time and cost to the homeowner. Those who are ready to improve their home in a short period of time can consider which of these projects will yield the most significant results in their home.
And if you are considering selling your own Chantilly home, please know we’d be happy to give you a quick estimate of the property’s current market value. Let us know how we can help!
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Selling to Millennials: Three High-Tech Upgrades That Will Increase Your Home’s Appeal to Young Buyers
Millennials are finally starting to enter the real estate market here in Northern Virginia after delaying home purchases for several years. With a completely new client base looking for homes, it is time to start making your home more appealing to these young buyers.
Millennials are used to using high-tech gadgets every day, so they are going to desire these things in their new home. While there are several high-tech upgrades you can make on your home, these three will appeal the most to young homebuyers.
Keyless Entry: Security for the New Millennium
Keyless entry doors are becoming a popular way of keeping a home secure while adding that great “wow” factor. These keyless entry systems mean there’ll be no more fumbling for keys when all you want to do is get in the door. It may seem like something out of a sci-fi film, but several companies have mastered the art of keyless entry doors that you can use in your home today.
The door automatically locks when it is shut, and you will need the correct fingerprint to unlock the door. If you could show off a keyless entry system at your open house, you would immediately pique the interest of every young buyer interested in technology.
A Home Security System is a Great Practical Addition
A high-tech home security system will certainly make your home more appealing to young buyers, who may even be thinking about having children in the near future. No matter how safe your neighborhood is, everyone is always looking to feel more secure at home. Placing a few security cameras around the exterior of your home will allow you to know what is happening outside at all times, and buyers will love having that peace of mind.
Home Energy Monitor: For the Eco-Conscious Generation
Young people are extremely conscious of the environment, so they would love seeing a home energy monitor when shopping for a new home. A home energy monitor is able to track the energy use of every aspect of your home.
If you think your air conditioner is not running efficiently, a home energy monitor can tell you whether or not you’re right. Since young people know about the dangers of improper energy use, they will want to make the home as efficient as possible.
Millennials are slowly entering the real estate market, and although they are starting to look at homes, you’ll face a lot of competition from other homeowners looking to pass properties onto this new generation. These three upgrades will increase your home’s value and make it more appealing to Millennial buyers.
By the way, if you are considering either buying or selling a home in the Chantilly or surrounding area, please know we how we can help. We are always here for you: Contact us.
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July 23rd, 2015 categories: Market Outlook
Housing markets here in Chantilly and the rest of the country show continued signs of strengthening according to reports released on Wednesday. The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of pre-owned homes rose to 5.49 million in June as compared to May’s revised reading of 5.32 million pre-owned homes sold and expected sales estimated at 5.42 million sales. Expectations were based on May’s original reading of 5.35 million sales. June’s reading was the highest since February of 2007. Readings for existing home sales are calculated on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.
Buyers Gain Confidence in Labor Markets, Rush to Beat Rate Hikes
Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors® said that buyers may be influenced by rising mortgage rates and encouraged by improving job markets. Analysts expect the Federal Reserve to raise its target federal funds rate this fall, which means that mortgage rates along with consumer lending rates will rise.
The national median home price rose by 6.50 percent annually to $236,400, also a record reading.
While this news paints a rosy picture for housing markets, challenges remain. Strict mortgage standards are an obstacle for first time and moderate income buyers as well as for buyers with less than stellar credit scores. While construction of new homes is increasing, the majority of projects are apartment complexes. 41 percent of housing starts in June were multi-family projects with five or more units. This data falls in line with stricter mortgage standards and a trend for millennials, an expected group of first-time homebuyers, preferring to rent in large cities rather than moving to suburban areas.
FHFA House Prices Rise in May
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that home prices associated with mortgage loans owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was unchanged from April’s revised reading of 0.40 percent month-to-month home price growth. April’s month-to-month reading was originally reported at 0.30 percent. FHFA home prices were up 5.70 percent year-over-year in May.
FHFA reported that year-over-year home price growth was positive in all nine census divisions, with the lowest growth rate of 0.90 percent in the Mid Atlantic division and the highest growth rate of 8.40 percent in the Pacific division.
By the way, if you are considering either buying or selling a home in the Chantilly or surrounding area, please know we how we can help. We are always here for you. Contact us.
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One of the more common methods that home loan applicants use to find the best loan program available is to compare interest rates, but choosing the lowest rate possible is not always the best option available. In fact, in some cases, it may be one of the least advantageous options when all factors are considered. With a closer look, home mortgage applicants may decide to review other factors in combination with the interest rate to make a more informed decision when applying for a new loan.
The Closing Costs Impact The Rate
It is important to note that lenders can increase or decrease the interest rate with adjustments to closing costs, and this means that some of the lowest interest rates available may also have some of the higher closing costs. In some situations, choosing the lowest interest and paying more in closing costs is acceptable. However, a loan applicant should be aware of this and should compare interest rates along with closing costs in order to find the best loan program available.
The Loan Term Affects The Rate
Generally, a shorter loan term will have a lower interest rate. However, even with the lower interest rate, the mortgage payment may be higher due to the shorter term. A higher mortgage payment can impact affordability as well as loan qualification in some cases, and there are instances when the higher interest rate associated with a longer term is most desirable.
The Interest Rate May Adjust
Adjustable rate mortgages typically have lower interest rates than fixed rate mortgages, but the interest rate with an ARM may adjust higher in the future. For those who only plan to own the home or to retain the mortgage for a short period of time, this may be acceptable and even desirable. However, for those who plan to own the home or retain the mortgage for a longer period of time, the potential for a rate adjustment in the future may not be preferable.
For individuals who are shopping around to compare interest rates and to find the best deal on a mortgage, there may be a desire to opt for the lowest interest rate, but this is not always the best strategy. The interest rate can reflect many aspects of the loan, and each of these points should be analyzed to find the best loan program. A mortgage broker can provide assistance comparing loan terms and helping loan applicants determine which is the best solution for their needs.
By the way, our Search Tool will help you find and locate properties of interest all over Northern Virginia. Kathy is always available to help you with your home search and/or home sale!”
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From the sales price to the general layout of the building, there are numerous factors that buyers will consider when touring homes. While there are specific factors that buyers may be searching for in a new house, there are also a few warning signs that home buyers should keep their eyes open for. The following are among the top red flags that may serve as warning signs.
Signs Of Poor Home Maintenance
It is reasonable to expect all homes to have some signs of wear and tear unless they are new construction. However, it is also reasonable to expect that sellers have taken some steps to improve the condition and look of the property before listing it. When a home appears to be poorly maintained on a superficial level, home buyers should pause to consider what other aspects of the home have also been poorly maintained that are not visible.
The Grading In The Yard
When a yard grades toward the house, issues with erosion and even flooding may be concerns. Everything from a brief, torrential downpour to snow melt can result in water running toward a property when grading is a concern. Home buyers should take time to review the yard carefully to determine how water may flow when it rains or when snow melts.
A Foul Odor
It is common for sellers to try to make their home smell appealing, and different types of deodorizers may be used to mask everything from food smells to pet odors. However, it is important for home buyers to pay attention to the underlying smells in a home. Everything from a musky or mildew-y smell to sewage smells and gas odors should be warning signs.
Repairs To One Wall
Homeowners may repaint walls to make the space look cleaner, brighter and more appealing, so a fresh coat of paint by itself is not a warning sign. However, if the paint is on just one wall or if the area under the fresh coat of paint appears to have been recently textured or repaired, these are signs that water damage or other damage may have been addressed recently.
Signs Of Pests And Rodents
Another warning sign relates to signs of pests and rodents. Even if bugs and rodents are not visible during the initial tour, things like a can of bug spray, mouse traps and other related items may indicate that the seller has had an issue with bugs and rodents.
Some warning signs will be obvious during an initial home tour, but others may require more skill and experience to see. Because of this, it is best for all home buyers to consider ordering a property inspection to learn more about the condition of the home before finalizing their buying plans.
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July 20th, 2015 categories: Market Outlook
Last week’s economic news included an encouraging report from the National Association of Home Builders, whose housing market index held steady with a reading of 60 in July. This was the 13th consecutive month for readings over 50, which indicate that more builders are confident about housing markets than those who are not. July’s reading was noteworthy as it was the highest since November 2005 prior to the recession.
Housing Starts, Building Permits Increase
The Commerce Department provided further evidence of stronger housing markets with reports on housing starts and building permits issued in June. Housing starts rose from May’s reading of 1.07 million to 1.17 million, which surpassed the expected reading of 1.11 million housing starts.
May’s reading for housing starts was revised from 1.04 million to 1.07 million an annual basis.
Construction of apartments and other multifamily housing complexes attained their highest level since 1987, which supports reported trends that millennials who prefer to live in larger cities are renting rather than buying homes. Housing starts gained nearly 10 percent between May and June. Would-be home buyers are also renting due to tighter mortgage approval standards; others may be “sitting on the fence” as they wait for further indications of stronger labor markets and improvements in overall economic conditions.
Building permits issued in June supported trends in housing starts, with permits for multi-family housing units higher by 16. 10 percent and was the highest reading for multi-family building permits since 1990. Analysts said that the increase in multifamily building permits was in caused by the pending expiration of a tax credit for builders in New York State that was set to expire June 30.
Permits for single family homes rose only 0.90 percent in June, to an annual pace of 689,000 but this was still the highest reading for single family housing permits since 2008.
Mortgage Rates Rise, Jobless Claims Fall
Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.09 percent and was higher by five basis points. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was also five basis points higher at 3.25 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was up by three basis points to 2.96 percent. Discount points were 0.60 percent for 15 and 30 year mortgages and 0.50 percent for 6/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
New jobless claims fell to 281,000 last week against the prior week’s reading of 296,000 new claims and an expected reading of 285,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that the current reading indicates that last week’s spike in new unemployment claims was a false alarm. Seasonal anomalies and re-tooling at some auto plants were cited as causes for the prior week’s high reading. New jobless claims have remained under the benchmark reading of 300,000 since February for the longest consecutive period in 15 years.
Last week’s reports ended with the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index, which fell from June’s reading of 96.1 to 93.3; analysts expected a reading of 95.0.
Scheduled economic reports for next week include new and existing home sales, and FHFA home prices along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.
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July 17th, 2015 categories: Home Mortgage Tips
When applying for a new mortgage or after closing, many may have the option to choose between a single monthly mortgage payment or smaller bi-weekly payments. There are benefits and drawbacks associated with both options, and some personal financial considerations may need to be reviewed in order to make a decision that is best for the individual. With a closer look at the pros and cons of both options, homeowners or home mortgage applicants can make a more informed decision.
Easy Budget Management For Some
With a single monthly mortgage payment, there is often a need for those who get paid two or more times per month to properly budget so that they can comfortably manage the large mortgage payment with all of their other expenses throughout the month. With bi-weekly payments, the two smaller payments may be easier for some who are paid multiple times per month to manage and budget for. When an individual gets paid one time per month, the individual pay prefer to make the single payment each month.
Faster Debt Reduction
With a monthly payment schedule, 12 full payments will be made per year, and this is in contrast to a bi-weekly schedule which will result in the equivalent of 13 full payments being made per year. Essentially, the extra full payment that will be made with a bi-weekly payment schedule will result in faster debt reduction and in greater accumulation of equity over time. This can improve the homeowner’s financial standing over time.
Lower Interest Charges Over The Life Of The Loan
Because the principal balance will be reduced at a faster rate over time with bi-weekly mortgage payments, the total interest that is assessed on the loan will be reduced in comparison to monthly payments. Depending on the size of the loan and the interest rate on the loan, this may equate to a savings of tens of thousands of dollars or more in some cases.
Each homeowner’s or home applicant’s financial situation will be unique, and factors related to income, payment schedule, the desire to increase equity quickly and more should all be carefully considered. Bi-weekly payments often can be established during the loan application process, but they may also be set up after closing. Those who are interested in establishing affordable mortgage payments can speak with a mortgage representative about some of the different options available.
By the way, our Search Tool will help you find and locate properties of interest all over Northern Virginia. Kathy is always available to help you with your home search and/or home sale!”
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July 16th, 2015 categories: Around The Home
Many people look forward to the long, relaxed, sunny days of summer, but they also dread opening up their energy bills throughout the summer months. Cooling a home can be costly, and many are searching for convenient ways to lower cooling costs without sacrificing on comfort inside the home on the warmest days of the year. These are just a few of the cost-effective and convenient options that can help homeowners to reduce cooling costs throughout the summer.
Keep The Blinds Closed
A significant amount of heat can enter a home through the windows, and blinds and curtains provide an extra layer of insulation between the window glass and the interior of the home. Some types of blinds and curtains are more effective at blocking heat than others, and homeowners may consider making an upgrade for the best results. For example, wood blinds can block significantly more heat than thin, almost translucent sheers.
Run The Ceiling Fans
Another way to keep cooling costs lower throughout the summer months is to run ceiling fans regularly. Ceiling fans help to circulate the air, and this helps the central cooling system function more efficiently. In addition, ceiling fans also can make those who are in the room feel cooler, and this may mean that homeowners can keep the home’s thermostat set at a slightly higher level than it otherwise would need to be set at for comfort indoors.
Use Heat-Generating Features At Night
There are numerous appliances and types of equipment that may be used indoors throughout the summer that can generate a considerable amount of heat, and running these at night can reduce the need to run the central cooling system as much during warm days. Consider that everything from running the washing machine and dryer to using the dishwasher and oven or range can emit heat in the home, and these serve to counteract the work that the cooling system is doing. When possible, limit the use of these features to cooler nighttime hours.
Keeping the home cool throughout the summer is a top priority for most, and the good news is that there are easy ways to reduce the cost associated with keeping a home cool. These ideas all can be beneficial in a homeowner’s quest to reduce energy costs during the summer.
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