Tuesday, January 31, 2012
New Home Sales slowed into the New Year but the market for newly-built homes remains strong. For home buyers in Utah and nationwide, December's New Home Sales report is yet one more signal that the housing market recovery may be underway.
According to the Census Bureau, the number of new homes sold in December 2011 slipped 2 percent to 307,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis nationwide.
A "new home" is a home that is considered new construction; a home for which the buyer will be the first owner and tenant.
As compared to December 2010, last months' sales volume fell seven percent. It's a statistic that suggests housing market weakness. However, in looking at a different component of the New Home Sales report -- the supply of homes for sale -- we're forced to reconsider.
At the current pace of sales, every new home for sale nationwide would be "sold" in a matter of 6.1 months.
Economists believe that a 6.0-month supply defines a market in balance -- anything quicker is termed a "seller's market". Statistics like that are enough to create urgency among today's Sandy home buyers.
Unfortunately, the Census Bureau's data may be wrong.
Although December's New Home Sales report shows sales down 2 percent, the government's data was published with a ±13.2% margin of error. This means that the actual New Home Sales figure may have been as low as -15.2 percent, or as high as +11.2 percent. And, because the range of possible values includes both positive and negative numbers, the Census Bureau had no choice but to assign its December data "Zero Confidence".
It will be a few months before final revisions are made to December New Home Sales data. Until then, therefore, buyers should take cues from the market-at-large and the market-at-large hints at recovery. One example of this is homebuilders showing more confidence in their product than at any time in the last 5 years.
If your plans for 2012 call for buying new construction, therefore, consider using this lull to "make a deal". As the year progresses, the great values in housing may be gone.
Monday, January 30, 2012
When a home is listed for sale, its "clutter" can be the difference between a rapid sale and no sale at all.
Clutter, in its strictest sense, is defined as anything untidy; or in a disorderly state. In real estate, the term is broadened to include unnecessary furniture pieces; unwieldy artwork or collections; stacks of papers and/or magazines; and anything that otherwise restricts the open flow of a home's floor plan.
In other words, clutter is anything that distracts from your home's natural footprint.
As a home seller in South Jordan , understanding how your home's clutter can affect a buyer is paramount to helping your home sell faster, and at a higher contract price.
First, there's the psychological angle. A potential home buyer may see clutter and think "mess". Few people want to buy a house they find messy or otherwise disorganized.
Second, there's the practical angle. A home that appears full of "things" also appears as if its lacking in storage space. This, too, can turn off buyers.
When you list your home for sale, here are basic tips to de-clutter your home. Some of this advice may not be practical with respect to your home, in particular, so make sure to ask your real estate agent for follow-up help.
- In each room, remove photos, trophies, plaques and other personal items on display.
- Remove large collections such as dolls, cars, miniature cans, and the like.
- Remove worn throw rugs
- Remove items from kitchen countertops, including small appliances
- Remove items from bathroom countertops
You should also consider removing distinctive artwork from your walls, or replacing pieces with items that are more bland.
The over-reaching goal of de-cluttering is to depersonalize and neutralize your home so a buyer can visualize himself/herself living there. De-cluttering your home can also make your home appear larger, accentuating the features of each room.
It's no wonder that minimally-cluttered homes tend to have a wider appeal among buyers.
Friday, January 27, 2012
After 3 consecutive months of growth, the housing market appears to have eased a bit in December.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, December's Pending Home Sales Index slipped 4 percent from the month prior. The index measures the number of homes under contract to sell nationwide, but not yet sold.
Despite falling below its benchmark "100 value", December's Pending Home Sales Index is the reading's second-highest value since April 2010 -- the last month of last year's home buyer tax credit program.
In other words, the housing market continues to show signs of improvement, propelled by low home prices and the cheapest mortgage rates of all-time.
Freddie Mac's mortgage rate survey put the 30-year fixed rate mortgage at an average of 3.96% in December -- a 75-basis point improvement from December 2010. This helps to make homes more affordable nationwide.
On a regional basis, December's Pending Home Sales Index varied :
- Northeast Region: -3.1 percent from November 2011
- Midwest Region : +4.0 percent from November 2011
- South Region : -2.6 percent from November 2011
- West Region : -11.0 percent from November 2011
But even regional data is only so helpful. Like everything in real estate, data must be local to be relevant.
Throughout the West Region, for example, the U.S. region in which pending home sales fell the most, several states must have performed better than the regional average. And, undoubtedly, there were cities, towns, and neighborhoods that experienced marked market growth.
Unfortunately, the Pending Home Sales Index can't capture that data. Nor can it identify the markets in which home sales suffered.
For today's South Jordan home buyers and sellers, therefore, it's important to understand your local market and the drivers of local activity. Reports like the Pending Home Sales Index can paint a broad picture U.S. housing but for data that matters to you, you'll want to look local.
For local real estate data, talk to an experienced real estate professional.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Wednesday, the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.
The Fed Funds Rate has been near zero percent since December 2008.
For the third consecutive month, the Fed Funds Rate vote was nearly unanimous. Just one FOMC member dissented in the 9-1 vote, objecting only to the language used in the Fed's official statement.
In its press release, the Federal Reserve noted that the the U.S. economy has "expanding moderately" since its last meeting in December 2011, adding that the growth is occurring despite "slowing in global growth" -- a reference to ongoing economic uncertainty within the Eurozone.
The Federal Reserve expects moderate economic expansion through the next few quarters but is wary of "strains" from global financial markets, and these three threats to the U.S. economy :
- The housing sector remains "depressed"
- The unemployment rate remains "elevated"
- Fixed business investment has "slowed"
On the positive side, the FOMC said that household spending is rising and inflation remains in-check. The group also believes that employment will gradually improve nationwide going forward.
The Federal Reserve neither introduced new economic stimulus, nor discontinued existing market programs.
Immediately following the FOMC's statement, mortgage markets rallied, pressuring mortgage rates to fall in and around Sandy.
Mortgage rates remain near all-time lows and, for homeowners willing to pay points plus closing costs, conventional, 30-year fixed rate mortgages can be locked at below 4 percent. If you're in the process of buying or refinancing a home in Utah , it's a good time to lock a mortgage rate with your lender.
The FOMC's next scheduled meeting is a one-day event slated for March 13, 2012.
The Federal Open Market Committee adjourns from a scheduled 2-day meeting today, its first of 8 scheduled meetings this year.
The FOMC is a designated, rotating, 12-person committee within the Federal Reserve, led by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Members of the FOMC sub-committee are the voting members of the Federal Reserve; the ones that ultimately determine U.S. monetary policy.
The most well-known Federal Reserve monetary policy tool is the central bank's Fed Funds Rate. The Fed Funds Rate is the prescribed interest rate at which banks borrow money from each other for a period of one night.
The Fed Funds Rate can only be changed by FOMC vote.
For home buyers and would-be refinancing households in Sandy , it's important to recognize that the Fed Funds Rate is an interest rate separate and distinct from "mortgage rates". Mortgage rates are not voted upon by the Federal Reserve. Rather, mortgage rates are based on the price of mortgage-backed bonds, a security bought and sold among investors.
Historically, there is little correlation between the Fed Funds Rates and 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates throughout Utah. Going back 20 years, the benchmark rates have been separated by as much as 5.29% and have been as near as 0.52%.
The spread has even gone negative, most recently in 1979 and 1981 -- a period marked by high inflation.
Today, the separation between the Fed Funds Rate and the average, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate is roughly 3.60%. Beginning at 12:30 PM ET, however, that spread is expected to change. The FOMC will make its statement to the press at that time, and will release its quarterly forecast to the markets.
As Wall Street reacts to the Fed's press release and projections, mortgage rates will move.
Investors expect the Fed to vote the Fed Funds Rate unchanged from its current range near 0.000 percent, but are unsure of how the Fed will characterize the U.S. economy. If the Fed speaks optimistically on the economy, stock markets should rise and mortgage bonds should fall, driving mortgage rates higher.
Conversely, if the Fed shows concern for future economic growth, mortgage rates should drop. Either way, today figures to be volatile one for mortgage markets.
When mortgage markets get volatile, the safe play as a rate shopper is to lock your mortgage rate immediately. There too much risk in floating.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
The housing market finished 2011 with strength, and is carrying measurable momentum into 2012.
According to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, December's Existing Home Sales climbed by 120,00 units overall from the month prior on its way to an 11-month high.
An "existing home" is a home that's been previously occupied; that cannot be considered new construction.
After 4.61 million existing homes were sold in December, there are now just 2.38 million homes for sale nationwide. The last time the national home supply was this sparse was March 2005.
At today's sales pace, the complete, national home inventory would be exhausted in 6.2 months -- the fastest pace since before the recession. A 6.0-month supply is believed to represent a market in balance.
The December Existing Home Sales report contained noteworthy foreclosure and short sale statistics, too :
- Foreclosures sold at an average discount of 22% to market value
- Short sales sold at an average discount of 13% to market value
- Together, foreclosures and short sales accounted for 32% of all home sales
Clearly, "distressed homes" remain a large part of the U.S. housing market.
Furthermore, in its report, the real estate trade group also noted that one-third of homes under contract to sell nationwide succumbed to contract failure last month. That's up from 9% one year ago.
Contract failure occurs for a multitude of reasons, most notably homes appraising for less than the purchase price; the buyer's failure to achieve a mortgage approval; and, insurmountable home inspection issues. December's high failure rate underscores the importance of getting pre-approved as a buyer, and of buying homes in "good condition".
For today's home buyer in Draper , December's Existing Home Sales figures may be construed as a "buy signal". Home supplies are dropping and buyer demand is rising. This is the basic recipe for higher home prices ahead.
If your 2012 plans call for buying a home, consider that home values throughout Utah are expected to rise as the year progresses. The best values of the year may be the ones secured this winter.
Monday, January 23, 2012
How long has it been since you last changed your home's air filters?
Home air filters trap and remove dust and particles from the air you breathe; leaving "clean air" to circulate your home.
Clean air in your home is important because it promotes better health.
One way to keep to keep your home's air as clean as possible is to replace its used air filters at least once per quarter; or once monthly in homes with shedding pets or that otherwise "get dusty".
Changing air filters is among the easier do-it-yourself chores for a South Jordan homeowner; a task that takes less than one minute. The secondary benefit of doing it is that new filters help keep your HVAC unit in tip-top shape.
Here's how to change your home's air filter :
- Open the air filter compartment door/slider on your HVAC unit.
- Note the size of your current filter. It's typically written on the frame.
- Note the direction in which the filter is pointing. There may be an arrow on its frame.
- Purchase a new filter at a hardware store. Make sure the sizes matches the size from Step 2.
- Remove the old filter.
- Replace old filter with the newly purchased one from Step 4. Make sure the arrow is pointing in the same direction as the original filter's arrow.
- Using a marker, note the date of filter change on the side of the filter.
- Close the air filter compartment door/slider.
And that's it.
When you find a filter type and style that you like, consider buying them in bulk -- it can be helpful to have extra air filters laying around the home for when you need them -- especially during season changes when you may want to replace filters more frequently.
In addition, when purchasing air filters, don't opt for the cheapest available. Often, the least expensive filters allow large particles to recirculate through the HVAC unit, and back in to your home. Choose a middle- or top-line product instead.
Your home and your health will thank you.
Friday, January 20, 2012
When it comes to housing data, sometimes you have to look past the headlines. December's Housing Starts data offers a terrific illustration of why.
Each month, the Census Bureau tallies Housing Starts for the month prior. A "housing start" is a home on which construction has started.
The Housing Starts report is separated by property type. There is a count for single-family homes; a count for 2-4 unit homes; and a count for buildings of 5 units or more, a category including apartments and condominiums.
In December, as reported by the government, Housing Starts fell 4 percent nationwide overall. This runs contrary to recent strength in housing and the story was quickly picked up by the press :
- U.S. Housing Starts Fall More Than Forecast (BusinessWeek)
- U.S. Housing Starts Fall (MarketWatch)
- December Housing Starts Are Worse Than Expected (Fox Business)
Now, although these headlines are factually true, they're also are a little bit misleading.
Housing Starts did fall 4 percent last month but that was for all Housing Starts, across all three property types. Data like this is somewhat irrelevant to home buyers in Utah or anywhere else nationwide.
Few buyers purchase 2-4 unit homes, and almost nobody purchases an entire apartment building. Rather, it's the Housing Starts reports' "single-family" tally that matters because that's the home type that the majority of home buyers purchase.
In December, for the fourth straight month, Single-Family Housing Starts increased.
Single-family housing starts climbed 4 percent last month to 470,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. This is the highest number of Single-Family Housing Starts since April 2010 -- the last month of last year's home buyer tax credit.
The Single-Family Housing Starts data is the latest in a series of data that point to a housing rebound nationwide. New Home Sales, Existing Home Sales, Pending Home Sales and Homebuilder Confidence has each posted multi-month highs and all are poised for strong gains into 2012.
If you're planning to buy a home in 2012, consider buying in between now and March rather than at some point later. Home prices -- and mortgage rates- are likely to move higher.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Homebuilder confidence is soaring.
For the fourth straight month, the National Association of Homebuilders reports an increase in its Housing Market Index. The index climbed 4 points to 25 this month -- its second four-point gain since October.
With home sales activity increasing across all four regions, the monthly HMI has now nearly doubled in value since June 2011.
The HMI is now at a 55-month high.
The Housing Market Index itself is a composite reading; the result of three home builder surveys sent by the National Association of Homebuilders to its members monthly. Home builders report back on current single-family home sales volume; projected single-family home sales volume for the next 6 months; and current buyer "foot traffic".
The NAHB then results compiles the surveys into a single reading.
In January, home builders reported improving sales conditions across all three categories :
- Current Single-Family Sales : 25 (+3 from December)
- Projected Single-Family Sales : 29 (+3 from December)
- Buyer Foot Traffic : 21 (+3 from December)
The Housing Market Index corroborates recent U.S. government data that suggests housing is mending in Utah. Both Housing Starts and New Home Sales have out-performed expectations of late, it's been shown, and the stock of new homes for sale nationwide is dwindling.
All of this, of course, is happening as demand from buyers heats up. Foot traffic through builder homes is higher than it's been in more than 3 years, say the builders -- a time period that includes the duration of the 2010 home buyer tax credit.
It's no surprise, therefore, that builders expect a strong 2012.
Jobs data is improving, mortgage rates remain low, and housing momentum is building. For home buyers in South Jordan , however, it may spell higher home prices ahead. Big demand and small supply creates scarcity and scarcity correlates to rising prices.
If you're shopping new homes, the best "deal" may be the one you find today.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Foreclosure filings are fewer these days, according to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac.
In December 2011, the number of foreclosure filings nationwide fell 9 percent from the month prior. Not since November 2007 has foreclosure activity been this sparse across the country.
The drop does not appear to be seasonal, either.
Last month's foreclosure filings were down 20 percent from December 2010 with "foreclosure filing” defined to include any one of the following foreclosure-related events : (1) The serving of a default notice, (2) A scheduled home auction, or (3) A bank repossession. As a result of a unexpectedly strong year-end, 2011's annual foreclosure rate was the lowest in 4 years.
One reason why the year may have closed so strongly is that Nevada, California, Michigan and Arizona -- four states typically associated with high rates of foreclosures -- each posted big drops in foreclosure filings between November and December, plus double-digit drops between December 2010 and December 2011.
In fact, among the country's top 10 states for foreclosure activity, nine showed an annual foreclosure filing reduction.
Only Delaware worsened.
It’s also noteworthy that just 4 states accounted for half of last month's total foreclosure filings.
- California : 25.8 percent of all foreclosure filings
- Florida : 12.0 percent of all foreclosure filings
- Michigan : 6.4 percent of all foreclosure filings
- Illinois : 6.2 percent of all foreclosure filings
Foreclosures are heavily concentrated, in other words. By contrast, the last 1% of activity is spread across 14 states.
As a Draper home buyer -- first-timer or investor -- foreclosures can be a great way to find value.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, distressed homes typically sell at "deep discounts" as compared to like, non-distressed homes. However, when you buy a foreclosure home from a bank, it's different from buying a home from a "person". Purchase contract negotiations are different and months may pass before your closing is approved.
If you're buying foreclosure, therefore, seek the help of a professional real estate agent. Real estate agents have experience working in the process-heavy world of foreclosures and can help you come out ahead.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Exposed interior brick can add a nice, decorative touch to your Draper home, but because brick is a porous material and prone to staining, it can be cumbersome to clean.
Standard household detergents alone are rarely enough to clean brick properly, so if your home features exposed interior brick, plan to use alternative cleaning methods instead.
Here is how to do it.
First, find a pair of sturdy rubber gloves to protect your hands from the harsh brick surface and from your cleaning agents. Then, with a dry dish cloth, gently wipe the entire surface of the brick wall to remove loose dirt and dust.
Next, pour a grease-cutting dish detergent into a small bucket. Do not add water to the detergent. Add a small amount of table salt instead.
Next, apply a thin layer of the soap-and-salt mix to the bricks using a cloth and allow the mix to sit on the bricks for 10-15 minutes. Then, with a hard-bristled scrub brush, gently scrub the brick to remove the stubborn dirt.
Lastly, dip a clean dishcloth into a warm water-filled bucket and use the dishcloth to remove the detergent mix from the wall.
Allow the wall to air dry.
Cleaning exposed interior brick is more complicated than cleaning other household surfaces but a clean brick wall can help reduce in-home health hazards and keep your brick in its best possible condition for the long-haul.
Friday, January 13, 2012
Will your home gain value over the next 12 months? Nobody can know for sure, of course, but should recent housing trends continue, there's concrete cause for optimism.
The housing economy has suffered since 2007, knocking home values down nearly 20% nationwide. And while some areas have fared better as compared to others but, in general, home values are down.
Mortgage rates are down, too, and that's good news for buyers in South Jordan. The combination of low rates and low prices has led home affordability to an all-time high. As you'll hear in this 4-minute interview with NBC's The Today Show, carrying a mortgage costs 25% less per month as compared to just 3 years ago.
Some other notes from the interview include :
- There are more buyers out looking for homes today, which leads to more sales
- The housing market is expected to get gradually better, month-by-month, in 2012
- Foreclosures will continue to be a big part of the housing market
With housing supplies shrinking, buyers throughout Utah may find their best "deals" today -- before the Spring Buying Season begins in February.
However, we can't forget that housing markets are local -- not national. Each town and neighborhood has its own market drivers and prices where you live may have already started to climb.
For accurate, up-to-date data on the housing market, talk with a local real estate agent.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
The Federal Reserve has released the minutes from its most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting. The Fed Minutes are a detailed meeting recap; the companion piece to the more brief, more well-known press release.
As a comparison, the minutes of the last FOMC meeting contained 60 paragraphs and 7,027 words. The post-meeting press release was just 5 paragraphs and 382 words.
December's Fed Minutes shows Fed members with a positive, cautious, take on the economy.
Recent data suggests that the U.S. economy is expanding, the Fed said, but "strains" in global financial markets pose "significant risks" to the downside. This tell us that the Fed believes its economy-stimulating programs are working, but that officials remained concerned by events in the Eurozone.
The U.S. economy could be impacted by fallout.
Other meeting consensus included :
- On growth : The economy is expanding, despite slowing in "global economic growth"
- On housing : Data suggests the "depressed" market "could be improving"
- On inflation : Prices are stable, and remain within tolerance levels
The Fed's analysis was of little surprise to Wall Street, and going forward, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke wants to keep it that way. The Fed Minutes contained a passage regarding market communication, and how the Fed will be more pro-active about it in the future.
With the release of its minutes, in a section called "Market Policy Communications", the Federal Reserve showed its plans to release 4 times annually its economic forecasts, and plans for the Fed Funds Rate. This signals in a shift in Federal Reserve transparency.
The Federal Reserve will begin including the forecast in its economic projections beginning after its next policy meeting, January 24-25, 2012.
Mortgage rates in Utah were little changed after the release of the Fed Minutes.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Consumer spending continues to rise nationwide, fueled by jobs growth and a rosier outlook for the U.S. economy. Unfortunately for mortgage rate shoppers |*STATE in % STATE**|, it may also lead to higher mortgage rates later this week.
Thursday morning, the Census Bureau will release its U.S. Retail Sales data for December. The report is expected to show an 18th consecutive monthly increase, with analysts projecting sales volume higher by 0.4 percent from November.
This would be double the increase from last month, which saw a 0.2 percent increase in Retail Sales.
The Retail Sales report tallies receipts collected by retail and food-service stores nationwide. When the sum of these receipts rise, it puts pressure on mortgage rates to do the same. The connection is straight-forward.
Retail Sales are the largest part of "consumer spending" and consumer spending accounts for the majority of the U.S. economy -- up to 70 percent, by some estimates.
As the economy goes, so go mortgage rates.
Remember: today's ultra-low mortgage rates have been partially fueled by weak economies -- both domestic and abroad -- going back 4 years. Stock markets have sold off as economies have faltered worldwide, leading investors to seek refuge in the relative safety of U.S.-backed mortgage bond market. The new-found demand for mortgage-backed bonds has helped drop mortgage rates to levels never seen in history.
When economic recovery is apparent, therefore, we should expect a mortgage rate reversal, and should expect for it to happen quickly. Stock markets should rise; bond markets should fall. Mortgage rates will climb. Rate shoppers will lose.
Last week's strong jobs report sparked hope for the U.S. economy. If Thursday Retail Sales data reveals similar strength, the risk in "floating" your mortgage rate may be too great. The safer play is to lock your rate today.
The Retail Sales report will be released at 8:30 AM ET.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Starting soon, nearly all home buyers and refinancing households throughout Utah and nationwide will pay higher mortgage loan fees. Congress has made it law.
13 months ago, as part of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, Congress enacted a one-year cut to FICA payroll taxes.
FICA stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act. Taxes collected under FICA fund such programs as Social Security and Medicare.
The stimulus plan temporarily lowered tax rates for salaried workers from 6.2% to 4.2%; and for self-employed persons from 12.4% to 10.4%. Effective January 1, 2012, "regular" tax rates were to return.
That is, until late-December 2011. In one of its last moves of the year, Congress passed a temporary, two-month extension to the payroll tax cut, extending it through February 29, 2012. The expected cost to the U.S. Treasury is $33 billion.
To recoup those costs, Congress has turned to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA.
Each entity has been ordered to collect news fees on each new mortgage is backs, and has been told to forward said fees to U.S. Treasury directly. There's no "workaround" allowed or forgiveness applied -- each new loan is subject to the payment.
The rules are listed on page 17 of the law's final draft, in a section unambiguously titled "Title IV -- Mortgage Fees and Premiums".
According to the law :
- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must collect an average fee of no less than 10 basis points (0.1%) per new loan
- The FHA must raise its monthly mortgage insurance premiums 10 basis points for all new loans
The expected cost to consumers is no less than $10 monthly per $100,000 borrowed. Some analysts, however, expect Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to collect more than is minimally required. This could add an additional $30-50 to your monthly mortgage payment per $100,000 borrowed.
Therefore, if you've been shopping for a home or for mortgage rates in South Jordan , take advantage. Within days, lenders are expected to start collecting Payroll Tax Extension fees from mortgage applicants -- a move that will cost you money.
Lock today to avoid the big fees. Save yourself money.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Microwaves are often well-worn. Spills and splatters dot their ceilings; splattered food stuffs line their walls.
To clean your microwave, you can use the harsh chemicals on sale at supermarkets and hardware stores, or you can apply an all-natural approach which yields the same results, with only slightly more preparation time.
The extra time may be worth it, too, considering that the chemicals of an over-the-counter cleaner may seep into your foods over time.
To keep your microwave fresh and clean, using organic materials only, here's what to do :
- Unplug your microwave from the wall for safety.
- Gather a microwave safe bowl; 1 1/4 cups of water; a lemon; baking soda; white vinegar; and cleaning cloths.
- Slice the lemon and place the slices into your bowl. Add the water.
- Heat the bowl in the microwave for 7 minutes. Leave the microwave door closed for an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove the bowl (CAUTION : Bowl will be hot).
- Remove the microwave's glass cooking surface and wheel system. Hand wash and set aside to dry.
- Dip a clean cloth in the lemon water mixture.
- Wipe down the microwave's exterior and interior surfaces, remoistening the cloth as required.
- Moisten a clean cloth with vinegar. Wipe down the microwave door's interior surface.
- Replace glass and wheel system, and plug the microwave back in to the wall.
If you find lingering stains in your microwave, mix baking soda with water to form a thick paste. Dip a corner of your cleaning cloth into the paste and apply it to the stain directly, gently rubbing in a circular motion until the stain is gone.
Microwaves should be cleaned at least once weekly for optimal performance.
Friday, January 6, 2012
For buyers and refinancing households throughout Utah , adjustable-rate mortgages are a relative bargain as compared to fixed-ones.
According to Freddie Mac's weekly survey of more than 125 banks nationwide, Draper mortgage applicants electing for a conventional ARM over a conventional fixed-rate mortgage will save 105 basis points on their next mortgage rate.
"Conventional" loans are loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
Today's average, conventional 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate is 3.91% plus points and closing costs. The average rate for a comparable 5-year ARM is 2.86%, plus points and closing costs.
In other words, for every $100,000 borrowed, a conventional 5-year adjustable-rate mortgage will save you $58.15 per month, or $698 per year.
That's a 12 percent savings just for choosing an ARM.
12 percent is a big figure that adds up over 5 years -- especially for households that plan to sell within those first 60 months anyway. There is little sense in paying the mortgage rate premium for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage when a 5-year ARM is perfectly suitable.
For the reason why adjustable-rate mortgages continue are so much lower than their fixed-rate counterparts, look no further than the U.S. economy. ARMs reflect Wall Street's short-term economic expectations; whereas fixed-rate mortgages reflect medium- to long-term expectations.
In the short-term, analysts expect the U.S. economy to grow slowly, with low levels of inflation. This supports the U.S. dollar, the currency in which mortgage bonds are denominated. When the dollar is strong, demand for mortgage bonds tends to increase.
This supports lower interest rates.
Conversely, over the longer-term, inflation is expected to return, which devalues the dollar and everything paid in it (e.g.; mortgage-backed bonds). This is why inflation is linked to higher mortgage rates. When inflation is present in the economy, mortgage bonds lose value, driving mortgage rates up.
Adjustable-rate mortgages aren't perfect for everyone, but in the right situation, they can be a big money-saver and a helpful tool for stretching a household budget. Given today's rates, the money-saving potential is larger than usual.
Before you choose an ARM, discuss your options with your loan officer.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
If you're floating a mortgage rate, or have yet to lock one in, today may be a good day to call your loan officer. Friday morning, the government releases its Non-Farm Payrolls report at 8:30 AM ET.
The Non-Farm Payrolls report is more commonly called the "jobs report" and, lately, it's been Wall Street's domestic economic metric of choice. As jobs go, so go markets.
In the 12 months beginning November 2007, the economy shed 2.3 million on its way to losing more than 7 million jobs by the end of 2009.
It's no coincidence that the stock market has been wayward. Jobs are a keystone in the U.S. economy and the connection between jobs and growth is straight-forward :
- Workers spend more than non-workers and consumer spending is the economy's largest single component
- Workers pay more taxes to governments and, when governments have money, they build and spend on projects
- Additional consumer and government spending creates revenue for businesses which, in turn, hire more workers.
It's a self-reinforcing cycle. More employees begets more employees.
As a rate shopper in Utah , this is an important understanding. Job loss was, in part, behind the big drop in mortgage rates since 2007. A weak economy drives investors away from equities and into safer securities such as mortgage bonds (which are backed by the U.S. government).
The excess demand causes mortgage rates to drop and that's exactly what we've seen. Since late-2007, mortgage rates have been in decline.
In the first 11 months of 2011, though, 1.5 million people went back to work; the economy showed signs of shoring up and economic optimism is returning. Mortgage markets have temporarily ceded to the Eurozone, but with one more strong jobs report to close out the year, momentum could tip and stock markets could roll.
If that happens, mortgage rates will rise. Maybe by a lot.
This is why Friday's Non-Farm Payrolls data is so important. Economists expect that 150,000 new jobs were created in December. If the government's actual number is larger than that, prepare for higher mortgage rates.
Conversely, if job creation falls short of 150,000, mortgage rates may fall.
If the prospect of rising mortgage rates makes you nervous, remove your nerves from the equation. Call your loan officer and lock your rate ahead of Friday's Non-Farm Payrolls release.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
As the new year begins, there are no shortage of stories telling us what to expect in 2012. Housing finished 2011 with momentum and mortgage rates closed at the lowest rates of all time.
Some expect those trends to continue through the first quarter and beyond. Others expect a rapid reversal.
Who's right and who's wrong? A quick look through the newspapers, websites and business television programs reveals "experts" with opposing, well-delivered arguments views. It's tough to know who to believe.
For example, here are some "on-the-record" predictions for 2012 :
- Home prices will rise in 2012 (says Freddie Mac)
- Home prices will fall in 2012 (says CBS News)
- Mortgage rates will rise in 2012 (says American Banker)
- Mortgage rates will fall in 2012 (ays the LA Times)
The issue for buyers, seller, and would-be refinancers in South Jordan and nationwide is that it can be a challenge to separate a "prediction" from fact at times.
When an argument is made on the pages of a respected newspaper or website, or is presented on CNBC or Bloomberg by a well-dressed, well-spoken industry insider, we're inclined to believe what we read and hear.
This is human nature.
However, we must force ourselves to remember that any analysis about the future -- whether it's housing-related, mortgage-related, or something else -- are based on a combination of past events and personal opinion.
Predictions are guesses about what might come next -- nothing more.
For example, at the start of 2009, few people expected the 30-year fixed rate mortgage to stay below 6 percent, but it did. Then, at the start of 2010, few people expected the 30-year fixed rate mortgage to stay below 5 percent, but it did.
All we can know for certain about today's market is that both mortgage rates and home values are low, creating favorable home-buying conditions nationwide.
At that start of last year, few people expected mortgage rates to even reach 4 percent. Today, rates "with points" price in the 3s.
What 2012 has in store we just can't know.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
If you own oriental rugs, you'll want to clean them at least once annually. But take special care -- the process of cleaning an oriental rug is different from cleaning plain carpet.
Extreme caution is required.
To clean an Oriental rug, first vacuum the rug on both sides, then follow these cleaning instructions:
- Prepare a solution of cool water and gentle shampoo (i.e. shampoo without ammonia)
- Test the solution on tiny corner of the rug to make sure that the rug's colors won't bleed
- Using a soft brush or dense sponge, brush the rug with the shampoo solution
- Use only light pressure and follow the "grain" of the rug
- Shampoo the rug's fringe, then comb it gently with a large comb or brush
- Rinse the entire rug and press out as much water as possible
- Lay the rug flat and leave it to dry
After several hours, test the front of the rug for moisture. When it feels dry, flip the rug over to dry its back.
Note : Do not dry an oriental rug in the sun because the sun's rays may cause it to fade.
Once both sides of the rug are totally dry, feel the top surface. If it feels stiff, crunchy or hard, take a dry brush and make gentle strokes. A light vacuuming will also do the job.
Oriental rugs that receive proper care can become family heirlooms, passed down from one generation to the next. Make sure you clean yours properly.