Friday, June 29, 2012

FHFA : Home Values Up 3% Since Last Year

HPI from April 2007 peak

The Federal Home Finance Agency's Home Price Index shows home values up 0.8% in April on a monthly, seasonally-adjusted basis.

April marks the third consecutive month during which home values increased and the index is now up 3 percent from last year at this time.

As a home buyer in Draper , it's easy to look at the Home Price Index and believe that its recent, sustained climb is proof of a broader housing market recovery. Ultimately, that may prove true. However, we cannot base our buy-or-sell decisions on the HPI because, like the private-sector Case-Shiller Index, the Home Price Index is flawed.

There are three main flaws in the FHFA's Home Price Index. They cannot be ignored.

First, the FHFA Home Price Index's sample set is limited to homes with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. By definition, therefore, the index excludes homes with mortgages insured by the FHA.

5 years ago, this wasn't such an issue because the FHA insured just 4 percent of mortgage. Today, however, the FHA's market share is estimated to exceed 30 percent.  This means this the HPI excludes more than 30% of U.S. homes from its calculations right from the start.

The index also excludes homes backed by the VA; jumbo mortgages not securitized through the government; and, portfolio loans held by individual banks.

Second, the FHFA Home Price Index is based on the change in price of a home on consecutive home sales. Therefore, it's sample set cannot include sales of new home sales, nor can it account for purchases made with cash because cash purchases require no mortgage.

Cash purchases were 29% of the home resale market in April.

Third, the Home Price Index is on a 60-day delay.

The report that home values are up 0.8% accounts for homes that closed two months ago, and with contracts from 30-75 days prior to that. In other words, the Home Price Index is measuring housing market activity from as far back as January. 

Reports such as the Home Price Index are helpful in spotting long-term trends in housing but data from January is of little help to today's Utah home buyers and sellers. It's real-time data that matters most and the best place to get real-time housing market data isn't from a national home valuation report -- it's from a local real estate agent.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Simple Real Estate Definitions : Right To Cancel

Right To Cancel noticeAs part of the federal Truth-in-Lending Act, refinancing homeowners are granted a 3-day "cooling off" period post-closing during which they retain the right to rescind, or "cancel", their recent refinance without penalty or cost.

The Right To Cancel is protection against surprises at closing and/or a change of heart. It's also a safety valve for homeowners signing paperwork under duress. With 3 days to revisit and rethink the terms of a loan, a homeowner can maintain tighter control of his/her financial situation. 

If you ever have the wish (or need) to execute your right to rescind, be aware that the process is a formal one. The required steps must be completed on-time, and in order, or else your request will be invalid.

The process starts with a document labeled "Right To Cancel". It's included in your closing package and lists the terms of a rescission in straight-forward language. Among the key points :

  1. You have 3 business days during which to cancel your loan
  2. When you cancel the refinance, the entire transaction is cancelled
  3. You must submit your Right To Cancel in writing

"Business day" is defined by the government to be every day, save for Sundays and federal holidays. A loan that closes on a Monday, therefore, must be rescinded prior to Friday at 12:00 AM.

Typically, rescission requests are faxed to the settlement agent, notary, or title company assigned with the refinance. It's good practice to ask for an acknowledgement of receipt as proof of delivery, too.

There are some refinances for which the Right to Cancel does not apply, however. This includes refinances linked to an investment property, and loans not collateralized by residential real estate. There are other conditions, too, that may supersede your right to rescind so be sure to ask your lender.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

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New Home Sales Rise To 2-Year High

New Home Supply The new construction market continues to improve.

As reported by the Census Bureau, 369,000 new homes were sold last month on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. A "new home" is a home that is considered new construction.

May's data marks the highest number of new homes sold since April 2010, the last month of that year's federal home buyer tax credit.

It's also a 14% increase over the rolling 12-month average.

The news was somewhat expected based on the most recent Homebuilder Confidence survey, which rose to a 5-year high. Home builders have been reporting higher sales volume and rising buyer foot traffic since October of last year. 

The May New Home Sales report confirms what builders already told us.

Furthermore, new homes are selling more quickly than builders have built them, lowering the national "home supply" to levels not seen since October 2005. There are currently 145,000 new homes for sale.

A supply of 6.0 months is believed to represent a market in balance. Anything less connotes a "sellers' market". At the current pace of sales, the entire new home housing stock would be exhausted in 4.7 months.

The South Region continues to account for the majority of new construction sales, posting a 55% market share in May. South Region sales were up 13 percent as compared to April. The other 3 regions turned in mixed results :

  • Northeast Region : +36.7% from April 2012
  • Midwest Region : -10.6% from April 2012
  • West Region : -3.5% from April 2012

For all its strength, though, the Census Bureau's New Home Sales data may also be "off".

Although New Home Sales were said to rise by roughly 8 percent nationally from April to May, the government's monthly report was also footnoted with a ±12.2% margin of error. This means that the actual New Home Sales reading may have been as high as +20% last month, or as low as -4%. The values could be positive or negative -- we can't know for certain.

However, that's not to say that the New Home Sales should be ignored.

Longer-term, new home trends have been positive and builder confidence survey suggests the same.  If you're in the market for new construction in Draper , you may want to go into contract soon. Home prices and mortgage rates remain low -- a terrific combination for today's home buyers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Existing Home Sales Slip 2% In May

Existing Home SalesHome resales slipped last month; a slight setback for the nation's housing market's recovery.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, Existing Home Sales fell to 4.55 million units in May 2012 on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis, representing a 2 percent drop from April.

An "existing home" is a home that's been previously owned or occupied, and cannot be categorized as new construction.

Despite May's retreat, however, as compared to last year at this time, Existing Home Sales by units are higher by 10 percent. In other words, like everything else in housing, the long-term statistical trend has been a positive one.

The housing market has seen its bottom and is finding balance.

Other data from the Existing Home Sales report includes :

  • First-time buyers accounted for 34% of all purchasers, down from 35% in April
  • Real estate investors accounted for 17% of all purchasers, down from 20% in April
  • Cash buyers accounted for 28% of all purchasers, down from 29% in April

In addition, distressed sales accounted for 25% of all sales in May, down from 28% in April.

"Distressed sales" include the sale of homes in various stages of foreclosure, and of short sales. This is the smallest percentage of homes sold in a "distressed" status since the real estate trade group began tracking the data in 2008. 

And, lastly, home supplies rose by 0.1 months to 6.6 months nationwide in May. This means that, at the current pace of sales, the complete U.S. home resale inventory would be sold out before the end of 2012.  A 6-month supply is widely believed to represent a market in balance between buyers and sellers.

There are now 2.49 million homes for sale -- a 20% reduction from May 2011.

Home resales may have slipped last months but volume remains brisk nationwide. All-time low mortgage rates and high home affordability are keeping buyers in the market. Home prices are rising in many U.S. cities as the housing market continues its slow, steady recovery. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

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How To Choose The Proper Paint Color(s) For A Room

Whether you're moving into a new home and want to make it "yours", or just want to change the feel of your current place, a painting project is an easy way forward. Painting is relatively inexpensive yet it can transform a home's look-and-feel.

But how do you make sure you're choosing the best colors and the proper type of paint?

This 8-minute video from Lowe's tells it all. In it, you'll learn how professional designers identify a potential paint palette for a room, then how they choose between shade, finish and type.

Among the tips and advice in the video :

  • How to use 2x2 "test blocks" to ensure a color works in both natural and artificial light
  • How to choose the right colors for a small room, and for a large room
  • Why painting the ceiling can change a room's perceived size
  • How to build complementary, split-complementary and analogous color schemes for a room
  • How to choose between latex and oil-based paint products

In addition, the video shares notes on how light bulb types can affect the "warmness" of a particular paint color, and how to consider existing room elements such as furniture in your final color choices.

Paint projects require little advance planning and, if done properly, they can change the feel of a room, and a home. Most projects can be completed within a weekend.

Friday, June 22, 2012

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Mortgage Rates Make New Lows At 3.66%

Freddie Mac mortgage rates for June 21 2012

Mortgage rates have resumed their downward trend.

According to Freddie Mac's weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the national average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate fell 5 basis points to 3.66% this week. The rate is available to "prime" borrowers who are willing to pay, on average, 0.7 discount points plus a full set of closing costs.

30-year fixed rate mortgage rates are down in seven of the last eight weeks but, depending where you live, the mortgage rates made available to you will vary. The Freddie Mac survey notes that mortgage rates vary by region.

For example, mortgage applicants in the West Region received the lowest rates from lenders, on average, but also paid the highest number of discount points. Discount points are a specific type of closing cost where 1 discount point is a fee equal to one percent of your loan size.

Average mortgage rates in the five U.S. regions, as tracked by Freddie Mac :

  • Northeast Region : 3.70% with 0.7 discount points 
  • West Region : 3.62% with 0.8 discount points
  • Southeast Region : 3.68% with 0.7 discount points
  • North Central Region : 3.65% with 0.7 discount points
  • Southwest Region : 3.68% with 0.7 discount points

Nationally, one year ago, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate was 4.50%. Today, it's 3.66%. This 84 basis points difference yields a monthly savings of $49 per $100,000 borrowed at today's rates, or $588 per year.

A $400,000 mortgage would save $2,352 annually at today's mortgage rates as compared to June 2011.

The 15-year fixed rate mortgage rate is also low, averaging 2.95% nationwide with 0.6 discount points. This is the second-lowest reading in recorded history. However, when the 15-year fixed averaged 2.94%, banks required an average of 0.7 discount points to get it. One could argue that this week's average rate-and-points combination is actually a better "deal" because closing costs are lower.

Mortgage rates continue to break new lows so, if you're eligible to refinance, the timing may be right to explore your mortgage options. Similarly, if you're in the market to buy a home, today's low rates will help to keep your home affordability high.

Talk to your loan officer about capitalizing on the lowest rates of all-time. Rates in Sandy may not rise starting next week, but when they do rise, they'll expected to rise quickly.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (June 20, 2012)

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishThe Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent Wednesday.

For the fifth consecutive meeting, the Fed Funds Rate vote was nearly unanimous. Just one FOMC member, Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker, dissented in the 9-1 vote.

The Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent since December 2008. 

In its press release, the Federal Reserve noted that the U.S. economy has been "expanding moderately" this year. Beyond the next few quarters, the Fed expects growth to "pick up very gradually". 

In addition, the Fed re-acknowledged that "strains in global financial markets" continue to pose "significant downside risks" to the U.S. economic outlook. This statement is a repeat from the FOMC's April press release and is in reference to the sovereign debt concerns of Greece, Spain and Italy, plus the potential for a broader European economic slowdown.

The Fed's statement also included the following economic observations :

  1. The housing sector remains "depressed"
  2. Labor conditions have "slowed in recent months"
  3. Household spending is "rising at a somewhat slower pace" than earlier this year

With respect to inflation, the Fed said that pressures have declined, led by falling oil and gasoline prices. Longer-term inflation expectations remain stable.

The biggest news of the FOMC meeting is that the Federal Reserve will be extending its "Operation Twist" program. The program sells shorter-term securities on the Federal Reserve's balance sheet and uses the proceeds to purchase longer-term securities. This move puts "downward pressure on longer-term interest rates" and makes "broader financial conditions more accommodative."

The Fed also pledged to keep the Fed Funds Rate at "exceptionally low" levels at least through late-2014.

Mortgage markets are muted post-FOMC. There has been no real change in rates, although that may change later in the day, or weel. Mortgage rates in South Jordan remain at all-time lows.

The FOMC's next scheduled meeting is a two-day event slated for July 31-August 1, 2012.

Housing Starts Up 26% In Last 12 Months

Housing StartsSometimes, the housing data headlines tell just half the tale. The stories on May's Housing Starts figures are proving to be a terrific illustration.

Tuesday, the Census Bureau released its monthly Housing Starts report. A "housing start" is a home on which construction has started.

The report is separated by property type with a separate count for single family homes such as detached residences and town homes; for multiple-unit homes such as 2-unit, 3-unit and 4-unit structures; and, for buildings of 5-units of more such as new condominiums.

In May, Housing Starts fell 4.8 percent nationwide. This runs contrary to recent housing market statistics and home builder confidence data which both have suggested a recovery. The press picked up the story and ran the following headlines :

  • Housing Starts In U.S. Fall 4.8% In May (BusinessWeek)
  • Housing Starts Plunge, But Permits Surge In Mixed Market (CNBC)
  • Housing Starts Slump In May (US News)

Although factually correct, these headlines are somewhat misleading. 

Housing Starts did slip 4.8 percent last month but that figure accounts for all Housing Starts. It fails isolate the single-family starts that matter to today's buyers and sellers throughout Utah. Homeowners rarely buy multi-unit homes or entire apartment buildings.

If we remove the report's tally of 2-4 unit homes and apartment buildings, we find that, in May, single-family housing starts rose for the 4th straight month, registering 516,000 homes started on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. This is the highest tally since April 2010, the last month of that year's frderal home buyer tax credit. 

Single-family housing starts are up 26% as compared to last year. 

The housing starts report, therefore -- headlines aside -- is the latest in a series of housing market data that points to a sustained recovery nationwide. If you're planning to buy a home in 2012, consider buying in between now and September because after that point, home prices and mortgage rates are likely to be higher.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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Building Confidence Rises To 5-Year High

Homebuilder confidence since 2000

Home builders anticipate growth in the market for newly-built, single-family homes.  

For June 2012, the National Association of Homebuilders reports its monthly Housing Market Index at 29 -- an increase of more than 100% from one year ago and the highest HMI value since May 2007.

When the Housing Market Index reads 50 or better, it's meant to indicate favorable conditions for builders in the single-family, new-construction market. Readings below 50 suggest unfavorable conditions for builders.

The index has not been above 50 since April 2006. 

The NAHB Housing Market Index is not a "single survey" -- it's a composite. Three separate surveys are sent by the trade association to its members and roughly 400 builders respond. The NAHB's survey questions query builders on their current single-family home sales volume; their projected single-family home sales volume for the next 6 months; and, their current levels of buyer "foot traffic".

The results are then compiled into the NAHB Housing Market Index.

In June, home builders provided mixed replies :

  • Current Single-Family Sales : 32 (+2 from May)
  • Projected Single-Family Sales : 34 (Unchanged from May)
  • Buyer Foot Traffic : 23 (Unchanged from May)

Of particular interest to today's new construction buyers is that builders are reporting higher levels of single-family sales, and expect their sales volume to increase over the next six months. This expectation is rooted in housing market momentum and low mortgage rates.

Never in recorded history have homes been as affordable as they are today and home buyers are taking notice. Foot traffic through builder models remains strong and is at its highest pace in more than 5 years. 

When demand for homes outweighs the supply of homes, home prices rise. If builder expectations are met, therefore, buyers in Sandy should expect new home prices to rise in 2012's second half.

Planning to buy new construction this year or next? Consider moving up your time frame.

Monday, June 18, 2012

10 Cities Projecting Home Value Increases Through 2013

10 cities poised for growth through 2013Nationwide, the U.S. housing market is showing signs of recovery. Home prices are rising as demand for homes outweighs existing home supply in many metropolitan regions.

As is customary in real estate, though, the degrees to which home values change vary by area.

In some U.S. markets, the housing recovery is outpacing the national average. In other markets, it lags. In an effort to measure the changes, CNNMoney has named the 10 U.S. housing markets in which home prices may rise the fastest.

The list is stuffed with small- to mid-size cities, most of which have experienced huge price drops since the housing market's peak in 2007. The cities are gems, however, for the right type of home buyer. This may include real estate investors, first-time buyers, move-up buyers, and even parents with children in need of "college housing".

As listed by CNNMoney, the 10 cities in which home values are rising fastest are :

  1. Madera, CA (Down 53.1% from peak; Forecast 21.5% gain through 2013)
  2. Medford, OR (Down 37.1% from peak; Forecast 20.1% gain through 2013)
  3. Yuma, AZ (Down 37.4% from peak; Forecast 16.7% gain through 2013)
  4. Corvallis, OR (Down 11.4% from peak; Forecast 13.2% gain through 2013)
  5. Eugene, OR (Down 21.2% from peak; Forecast 12.4% gain through 2013)
  6. Olympia, WA (Down 26.3% from peak; Forecast 11.3% gain through 2013)
  7. Boise, ID (Down 36.9% from peak; Forecast 11.0% gain through 2013)
  8. Billings, MT (Down 3.0% from peak; Forecast 10.1% gain through 2013)
  9. Lewiston, ID (Down 7.5% from peak; Forecast 10.0% gain through 2013)
  10. Sante Fe, NM (Down 17.1% from peak; Forecast 10.0% gain through 2013)

These 10 cities are more diverse in their make-up than their geography. All ten can be found in the western half of the United States. However, whereas some cities are expected to excel as a result of proximity of universities -- Eugene and Corvallis, for example -- others are expected to excel for economic reasons.

This includes cities such as Yuma, which is in a Foreign Trade Zone.

Real estate remains a local market, though, and even within these ten cities, there will exist neighborhoods in which growth exceed national averages, and areas in which growth falls behind.

For accurate, real-time real estate data in South Jordan , be sure to speak with a real estate professional.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Georgia Takes Top Foreclosure Spot For First Time Since 2006

Foreclosure concentration June 2012

According to foreclosure data firm RealtyTrac, the number of foreclosure filings nationwide rose 9 percent in May as compared to April 2012. Filing topped 200,000 units for the first time in 3 months.

The term "foreclosure filing" is a catch-all term comprising default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions. On average, 1 in every 639 U.S. homes receiving a foreclosure filing in May.

As in most months, foreclosure activity was concentrated by state. Just 6 states accounted for more than half of the nation's total filings.

Those six states were :

  1. California : 13.6% of all repossessions
  2. Florida : 11.0% of all repossessions
  3. Georgia : 9.8% of all repossessions
  4. Illinois : 6.6% of all repossessions
  5. Michigan : 6.5% of all repossessions
  6. Arizona : 6.3% of all repossessions

An interesting note, though, is that for the first time since February 2006, Georgia was the country's most foreclosure-heavy state, displacing Nevada, which has dominated the foreclosure landscape for the last 5 years.

1 in 300 Georgia homes received a foreclosure filing in May. The national average last month was 1 in 639 homes.

At the other end of the foreclosure spectrum is Vermont. There was just 1 foreclosure filing for every 15,539 homes in The Green Mountain State last month.

Meanwhile, distressed homes remain in high demand with today's home buyers, accounting for 28 percent of April's overall existing home sales based on data from the National Association of REALTORS®. However, if your home purchase plans call for buying a foreclosed or bank-owned home, make sure you do your research first.

Buying bank-owned property is a different process as compared to buying a non-distressed home. The purchase contracts are different, the buyer-seller negotiations are different, and the homes are sometimes sold with defects. This can make it difficult to get a mortgage -- or even impossible.

Before buying "distressed", therefore, be sure to with a real estate agent. It's good to have an experienced agent on your side to coach you through the process.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

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31 States Represented In June's Improving Market Index

Improving Markets Index June 2012The number of U.S. housing markets showing "measurable and sustained growth" slipped by 20 in June, according to the National Association of Homebuilders.

The Improving Market Index is meant to identify housing markets in which economic growth is occurring as a whole -- not just in the real estate space.

By using three separate, independently-collected data series, each tied to local economic conditions, the Improving Market Index takes a broader view of the housing market than other housing market indicators -- the Case-Shiller Index, for example -- which are often singularly tied to housing contracts.

The Improving Market Index tracks three distinct data series :

  1. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics : Employment statistics
  2. From Freddie Mac : Home price growth
  3. From the Census Bureau : Single-family housing growth

A given metropolitan area is categorized as "improving" by the National Association of Homebuilders if all three data series indicate growth at least six months after that area's most recent economic trough.

In other words, the Improving Market Index looks past head-fakes of recovery, instead in search of long-term, sustainable growth.

This is one reason why its list of included cities is so fluid. It's difficult for a metropolitan area to meet the Improving Market Index's inclusion requirements month-after-month in a post-recession economy.

The Improving Market Index dropped to 80 in June, says the home builder trade group.

The list includes 28 new entrants, with forty-eight markets removed as compared to May. 31 states are represented nationwide.

For home buyers in Utah , the Improving Markets Index is a non-actionable report but it does do a good job of highlighting the local nature of real estate. For example, Columbus, Indiana was added as an Improving Market in June. Yet, Indianapolis, Indiana -- located just 46 miles away -- was downgraded from the same list. 

Economies vary by locale.

The complete Improving Markets Index is available for download at the NAHB website. For a better gauge of what's happening on the local level in Sandy , though, talk to a local real estate agent.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

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Before Moving, Check Your New Cost Of Living Estimates

Cost of Living adjustments in a new townWith home values slow to rise and mortgage rates at all-time lows, there's never been a more affordable time to own a home.

However, there is more to the cost of living than just a mortgage payment. There's the cost of groceries, gasoline and routine medical care, too.

Not surprisingly, where we live affects our costs.

Big cities are often more expensive in which to live, for example, and local tax laws influence daily costs, too. 

For home buyers moving across state borders, therefore -- or even for those moving long distances intra-state -- it's important to know the relative costs in your new hometown as compared to your current one. Your household cash flow depends on it. You can't know your budget for a home if you don't know what life in a new town will cost you.

Enter's Cost of Living Comparison Calculator.

In comparing the costs of 60 mundane, everyday items, the Cost of Living Comparison calculator can show you how common costs in your current home town compare to costs in your soon-to-be new home town.

The calculator asks for just three inputs -- (1) In what city do you live now, (2) To what city are you moving, and (3) What is your current salary -- then uses that information to produce a detailed cost comparison.

Some of the Cost of Living items compared include :

  • Ground beef costs
  • Veterinary services costs
  • Dozen egg costs
  • Doctor visit costs
  • Hair care costs

The calculator also includes local mortgage rate differences to help plan for housing, and accounts for median home prices, too.

The online Cost of Living calculator is based on data from the ACCRA. On the ACCRA website, a similar cost comparison report sells for $5. At, you can get the data for free.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mortgage Payments Fall To All-Time Lows

Mortgage payments

It's a money-saving time to be a Draper home buyer. Historically, mortgage rates of all types -- conventional, FHA, VA and USDA -- have never been lower and low mortgage rates make for low monthly payments. 

According to Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.67% nationwide last week for borrowers willing to pay 0.7 discount points at closing, plus a full set of closing costs. 0.7 discount points is a one-time closing cost equal to 0.7 percent of your loan size, or $700 per $100,000 borrowed.

Today's mortgage rates are a bargain as compared to just 1 year ago.

In early-June 2011, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage nationwide was higher by 88 basis points, or 0.88%. If you are among the many U.S. homeowners who bought or refinanced a home around that time, refinancing to today's mortgage rates could save you 10% or more on your payment.  

Home buyers have measurably more buying power, too.

Here is how mortgage payments on a typical 30-year fixed rate mortgage have changed in 12 months :

  • June 2011 : $509.66 principal + interest per $100,000 borrowed
  • June 2012 : $458.59 principal + interest per $100,000 borrowed

Setting the math to a real-life example, a homeowner whose $350,000, 30-year fixed rate mortgage dates to last June would recognize monthly savings of at least $179 per month just by refinancing into a new 30-year fixed rate mortgage at today's current levels. That's more than $2,145 in payment savings per year.

Even after accounting for the required loan discount points and closing costs, the "break-even point" on a refinance like that can come quickly.

Mortgage rates have been dropping but there's no promise they'll fall forever. Once rates reverse higher, they're expected to rise sharply. Therefore, if you're planning to buy a home or refinance one in Utah , consider locking in a mortgage rate while mortgage rates are low.

The market looks good for that today.

Monday, June 11, 2012

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How To Keep A Clean Refrigerator

Clean refrigeratorDo you clean your refrigerator regularly, or only after you've run out of space? If your answer is the latter, your refrigerator may be harboring dangerous bacteria that can make you, your family, and your house guests ill.

Refrigerators should be cleaned monthly, inside and out, ideally. The process involves removing all foods, cleaning all shelves, and wiping down drawers. Spoiled food is removed and old containers reclaimed.

The process takes 20 minutes. Here's how to do it.

First, prepare your cleaning stations, including filling a sink with soapy water, and having drying towels handy. Complete this step before you start to remove food from the refrigerator. This limits the amount of time that food has available to reach room temperature.

Next, remove all food from the appliance. Throw out old food past its expiration, and leftovers which have been in containers for more than a few days. Check dairy products for expiration dates -- especially cheeses and creams. Toss fruits and vegetables that have spoiled. Wipe down condiment jars and bottles with a damp towel.

Next, with the refrigerator empty, remove all shelves and drawers and wash them in the water-filled sink. Scrub to remove any caked-on foods and spills. Rinse off the soapy water and dry the part on your drying towels.

Then, while the shelves and drawers are drying, using a mixture of baking soda and water, wipe down the interior surfaces of your appliance. The mixture should be roughly 2 tablespoons of baking soda for every 1 gallon of water. Wipe the mixture off with a clean towel.

Lastly, move the shelves and drawers back into the refrigerator and replace all of the food that's "good".

Refrigerators can be a dirty place. We rarely wash our hands before handling food in a refrigerator and that can contribute to a bacteria-heavy environment. A good cleaning, though, can keep our foods -- and our home -- healthy.

Clean your refrigerator regularly.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

FHA To Change Its Mortgage Insurance Premium Schedule Monday, June 11, 2012

New FHA MIPBeginning Monday, June 11, the FHA is changing its mortgage insurance premium schedule for the second time this year.

Some FHA mortgage applicants will pay lower mortgage insurance premiums going forward. Others will pay more. The new premiums apply to all FHA mortgages, both purchase and refinance.

The MIP update will be the 5th time in four years that the FHA has changed its mortgage insurance premium schedule.

FHA-backed homeowners who have not refinanced within the last 3 years will benefit from the new MIP. This is because, beginning with all FHA Case Numbers assigned on, or after, June 11, 2012, homeowners whose current FHA mortgage pre-dates June 1, 2009 will be entitled to dramatically reduced annual mortgage insurance premiums and almost zero upfront MIP via the FHA Streamline Refinance program.

Whereas new FHA applicants may pay up to 1.25% per year for annual mortgage insurance plus 175 basis points at closing for upfront MIP, the "grandfathered" FHA applicants will pay just 0.55% per year for mortgage insurance and 1 basis point at closing.

Assuming an FHA loan size of $200,000, the savings are large :

  • New FHA applicant : $208 per month for annual MIP; $3,500 due at closing for upfront MIP.
  • Pre-June 2009 FHA applicant : $92 per month for annual MIP; $20 due at closing for upfront MIP.

The premiums apply to all FHA mortgage applicants, regardless of loan product or term. For example, 15-year FHA mortgage will follow the same mortgage insurance premium schedule as a 30-year FHA mortgages.

Another class of FHA-backed homeowners won't get so lucky. For homeowners in high-cost areas whose mortgages are between $625,500 and the local FHA loan limit, annual mortgage insurance premiums will be raised by 0.25% for all 15-year and 30-year loan terms.

For loan sizes above $625,500, the new annual FHA mortgage insurance premiums are as follows :

  • Loan term of 15 years or fewer, loan-to-value of 90% or less : 0.35% per year
  • Loan term of 15 years or fewer, loan-to-value greater than 90% : 0.60% per year
  • Loan term of more than 15 years, loan-to-value of 95% or less : 1.45% per year
  • Loan term of more than 15 years, loan-to-value greater than 95% : 1.50% per year

FHA-backed homeowners with loan terms of 15 years or fewer, and with loan-to-values below 78%, are exempt from annual MIP. Upfront MIP payments, however, remain mandatory.

The FHA continues to tinker with its mortgage insurance premiums, attempting to strike a balance between affordability for its homeowners and solvency for its program. Experts expect the FHA to change its premiums again. And, when it does, it's likely that premiums will rise.

If your FHA mortgage will be for more than $625,000, and you plan to make a purchase or refinance application soon, it's best to get your FHA Case Number prior to Monday, June 11. Otherwise, you'll pay higher annual MIP.

Against a $700,000 mortgage, the extra 0.25% in MIP per year will add $1,750 to your annual housing payment.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Simple Real Estate Definitions : Home Inspection

Get a home inspectionWhen you preview homes as a home buyer, you can get a good feel for the home's visible traits -- its finishes, its room counts, and its landscaping, for example. What you can't get a feel for, though, is the home's "bones".

It's for this reason that real estate professionals recommend that you have a property formally inspected immediately after going into contract for it.

A home inspection is a thorough, top-to-bottom check-up of a property's structure and systems. It is not the same as a home appraisal, which is a valuation of the property. By contrast, home inspections are an objective report on a home's physical condition.

Home inspections are performed by home inspectors who will typically do the following :

  • Check heating and cooling systems for leaks and efficiency
  • Check electrical systems for safety and soundness of design
  • Check plumbing systems for venting, distribution, and drainage

In addition, a home inspector will review a home's roofing system; its doors, windows and garages; plus, any attic spaces and basements, where appropriate.

A home inspection may also uncover out-of-code electrical work that municipalities required to be fixed by law.

Meanwhile, it's not just home buyers who can order inspections. Sellers can order them, too.

One recommended tactic is for a home seller to have the home inspected prior to listing for sale so that all required repairs can be made in advance of showing the home. This can speed up and simplify the sales process, and may help your home sell at a higher price. Buyers often prefer homes in "move-in" ready condition.

A thorough home inspection can take up to 6 hours to complete, depending on the size of the home.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

U.S. Posts Its 20th Straight Month Of Job Growth

Non-Farm Payrolls 2010-2012For the second straight year, the jobs market looks to be slowing into the summer.

Last Friday, in its monthly Non-Farm Payrolls report for May 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 69,000 net new jobs created, plus a one-tick rise in the national Unemployment Rate to 8.2%.

2012 is shaping up like 2011, it appears.

Last year, between May and August, the jobs market was decidedly worse as compared to the rest of the year, adding just 80,000 jobs on average per month as compared to 190,000 new jobs created on average during each of the other 8 months.

This year, a similar slowdown may be in store. 

Although the May jobs report marks the 20th consecutive month during which the U.S. economy added new jobs, the reported figure fell well short of analyst expectations, which called for 150,000 net new jobs last month.

In addition, it was found that the previously-reported tallies for new jobs created in March and April were overstated by a total of forty-seven thousand jobs. This lowered the overall net new jobs created last month to 22,000.

Mortgage rates in Draper are falling on the news.

Since the jobs report's release, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates have dropped below Freddie Mac's reported 3.75% mortgage rate for borrowers willing to pay 0.7 discount points plus closing costs; and, the 15-year fixed rate mortgage has dropped farther below 3.00%.

The weaker-than-expected data has moved Wall Street investors away from stock markets in favor of the relative safety of bond markets, a market which includes the one for mortgage-backed bonds. When mortgage-backed bonds are in demand like this, it helps to push down mortgage rates nationwide.

That's exactly what we're seeing.

Mortgage rates are expected to make new lows this week, in part, because of U.S. employment weakness. Should this year's jobs market rebound like in 2011, though, look for mortgage rates to climb back shortly.

Monday, June 4, 2012

How To Keep Your Home House Fly Free

Keep your home house-fly freeAs the calendar turns to June and the temperatures start to rise in Utah and nationwide, we begin to spot more bugs, insects and pests as compared to during the winter.

Hiring an exterminator is one way to limit the number of ground-based bugs in your home. For example, periodic treatments can help to keep ants, beetles and termites at bay.

For airborne pests, however, prevention can be more difficult.

House flies can be especially nagging. They often enter through open doors and windows, then buzz through kitchen and bedrooms, spreading germs and general annoyance.

If your home is battling house flies, the good news is that there are a number of chemical-free, environmentally-friendly ways to reduce or eliminate house flies; solutions that are safe for homes with children and pets.

First, make sure your screen doors and screened-in windows are all in working order. Tears, rips and holes should be repaired or replaced. This is often a house fly's easiest point of entry into your home.

Next, remember that house flies are attracted to surfaces with sugar or protein. Therefore, it's important to keep kitchen surfaces and non-carpeted floors clean because these are probable "hot spots" for a house fly. Clean once or multiple times per day, and try to use products containing orange, clove or lemon oil. These oils often repel flies.

Then, examine all trash cans. Lids should remain tightly closed and garbage bags should be changed frequently. Garbage is a breeding ground for house flies and, because flies can hatch from eggs in a matter of hours, the sooner your garbage is sealed and moved to a garage or outdoor dumpster, the better.

Lastly, consider placing 2-3 dozen cloves into an apple and leaving it in a room in which flies are bothersome. The smell of the cloves repels flies and, although it won't prevent flies from returning, the method is helpful for temporary fly relief.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Insurance Policies : Which Do You Need, Which Should You Skip?

Insurance is protection against unexpected expenses and insurance policies are available for nearly any scenario you can envision -- even your own ransom. But just because an insurance policy is available, that doesn't mean you should buy it.

Some insurance policies give you good bang for the buck. Others are plain wasteful.

In this 3-minute segment from NBC's The Today Show, you'll hear of several common insurance policies and their relative merits to people of Utah who purchase them.

For example, Americans will spend an estimated $450 million on pet insurance this year. Because of the policies' restrictions and deductibles, though, it's an insurance policy that rarely pays off. This is one reason why financial experts often recommend that you pass on purchasing pet insurance.

Within the segment, other reviewed insurance policies include :

  • Mobile phone insurance
  • Flight and travel insurance
  • Extended warranties for electronics
  • Umbrella policies
  • Renters insurance

There's also discussion about home warranties, and why you should avoid policies that last longer than one year.

Insurance should be an important part of your overall financial plan. However, the key is to have the proper policies in place, with an appropriate amount of coverage. Review your policies annually and keep your coverage current.