Archive for March, 2020

Staying Social While Distancing

Posted in Mortgage by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 31st, 2020

Staying Social While DistancingFor many months, the COVID-19 (Corona-virus) pandemic appeared to be a problem that only existed in foreign lands. Now, this virus has arrived on the shores of the United States and has disrupted jobs, hospitals, and lives. People are being asked to practice social distancing measures to curtail the spread of the virus while some parts of the country are being asked to stay home entirely. The good news is that there are still ways for people to remain social while being safe. 

Get Outside Safely

One of the first tips that people need to remember is that they are still allowed to go outside. Even in states that are telling people to shelter in place, people are still allowed to go outside and get some fresh air. This is a great way for people to not only stay in shape but many other people are doing the same thing. Therefore, this is an opportunity for everyone to get some vitamin D, run into a few neighbors, and socialize (while practicing safe social distancing measures, of course!).

Get The Family Involved In The Cooking Process

Next, given that many restaurants are going to be closed during this crisis, take this opportunity to get the entire family involved in the cooking process. Take a few minutes and bake some cookies with the kids. Ask them for ideas on what to cook for dinner. This is a great opportunity for children to learn about something new, given that they are going to be home from school for a while.

Use Video Chat Applications

Finally, remember that there are still ways for people to stay in contact with one another through video chat apps. These include FaceTime and Skype. Even though that trip to visit the grandparents was canceled, this is still a great way to stay in touch. Furthermore, this can be a way for families to check in with each other and make sure that everyone is doing alright.

Stay Social During The Pandemic

In the end, it is going to be a challenging few months; however, with the right strategies, the country is going to come out stronger on the other side. Put these tips to use and stay social during the pandemic! 

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 30th, 2020

Posted in Financial Reports by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 30th, 2020

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 30th, 2020

Scheduled monthly readings were released for new home sales and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

New Home Sales Beat Expectations in February

Sales of new homes dropped 4.40 percent in February after reaching a 13-year high in January. 765,000 new homes were sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis, which exceeded expectations of 750,000 sales in February. New home sales were 14.30 percent higher year-over-year.

Analysts said that further declines monthly new home sales are expected as the coronavirus spreads.

The national median price for a new home was $345,900 and there was a five-month inventory of new homes for sale in February; this was the lowest inventory of new homes since 2017.

Regional sales rose 39 percent in the Northeast and 7.00 percent in the Midwest. Sales rose 1.00 percent in the South and fell by 17 percent in the West.

Mortgage Rates Mixed After Fed Moves to Create Stability

Freddie Mac reported lower average rates for fixed-rate mortgages last week; rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped 15 basis points to 3.50 percent. Rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages fell by 14 basis points to an average of 2.92 percent. The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages rose 23 basis points to an average rate of 3.34 percent; this was caused by rising yields for 5-year treasury bills.

Discount points averaged 0.70 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, 0.60 percent for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Sharp adjustments in mortgage rates and financial markets continued last week and are likely to continue as uncertainty increases over coronavirus impacts. Analysts noted that as tenants face prolonged unemployment, landlords will also be impacted when rents aren’t paid. The stimulus payments of $1200 per adult will not cover one month’s rent for households in high-cost housing market.                                                                                                   

First-time Jobless Claims Skyrocket as Consumer Sentiment Falls

3.28 million initial jobless claims were filed last week as compared to 282,000 claims filed the prior week. Analysts project higher numbers of jobless claims as the coronavirus spreads and more employers close their doors. Not surprisingly, consumer sentiment fell in March according to the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index.

The March index reading dropped to 89.1 from February’s reading of 95.9. Analysts expected a March reading of 89.0. 

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on pending home sales, Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, and labor-sector readings on job growth and national unemployment. 

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Home Improvements For A New Home Or When Getting Ready To Sell

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 27th, 2020

Home Improvements For A New Home Or When Getting Ready To SellSome simple home improvements increase the attractiveness of a home and may help with a sale. If you are getting ready to sell your home or if you just want to beautify it a little, here are some low-cost tips for home improvements to consider.

Go Green

Adding indoor plants is nice and improves interior air quality. If you have the room for it, consider a vertical garden. A vertical garden may use the entire ceiling-to-floor area of one wall. With the proper type of grow lights, it is possible to create the feeling of a lush tropical forest inside the home.

You can grow a herb garden in a window box, so you always have fresh herbs for cooking. Flowers, which make a lovely fragrance, are wonderful for aromatherapy to create positive feelings. Hang a sprig of fresh eucalyptus in the shower for a spa-like experience.

Water Elements

A water fountain or birdbath in the garden is a pleasant touch. Use a solar-powered water pump so there is no need to connect it to electricity. It will attract birds that are enjoyable to watch.

A small fountain in the home will have a soothing effect from the sound of the falling water. The Chinese art of Feng Shui recommends having some water elements in the home for a more peaceful living space. It can be something as simple as a desk or tabletop water fountain to have a nice effect.

Wall Decor

To spice up a room and give it a fresh look, consider changing the wall decor. Give the wall a fresh coat of paint or new wallpaper and hang new things on it in an attractive way.

Throw Rugs

Colorful throw rugs are helpful to cover a worn area of old carpet. Rugs improve the look of a room without the expense of replacing the carpet. In a larger room, a throw rug may create a space for a certain use, such as a sitting or dining area.

Add Some Color to the Front Door

One quick and easy technique to give a dreary home exterior a bit of curb appeal is to power wash the siding on the front and then paint the front door a dramatic contrasting color. A superbly-colorful front door is very attractive and welcoming.

Summary

With a little imagination and a modest budget, it is possible to make attractive home improvements that have appeal. Just try some of our suggestions and make improvements that you enjoy.

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Paying Rent And Mortgages With A Credit Card

Posted in Mortgage by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 26th, 2020

Using a credit card for mortgage or rent

When people purchase a house, they usually set up their mortgage payments as a direct draft out of a checking account. The same is typically true of rent payments; however, many people have wondered if there was another way to pay rent or mortgage. After all, there are credit cards out there that have fantastic rewards. It would be great to take advantage of these rewards by placing rent and mortgage payments on a card.

Sadly, there is no way to pay rent or mortgage with a credit card without a fee. There are bank interchange fees that would lead to a surcharge for banks and landlords. This prevents them from readily accepting credit cards without a fee. What if there was a better way?

Possibilities For Credit Card Payments

It is rare to find an apartment complex that accepts a credit card. It is even harder to find a bank that does this. It is helpful to ask about the different ways to pay rents and mortgages when talking to banks and landlords. It can be helpful to do the math on any fees that are charged and compare them to rewards. For example, if a credit card gives five percent cash back on rotating categories, it might be beneficial to take advantage of this five percent back and pay a two percent fee to use the card. This would still net three percent in savings.

Using Third-Party Payment Options

There are also third-party service providers that will allow someone to pay nearly any bill online with a debit or credit card. This includes rent and mortgage payments. These third-party sites still charge fees. Sometimes, it is a flat rate. Other times, it is a percentage of the total.

When To Use Credit And Debit Cards

The most appropriate time to use a credit or debit card to pay this bill is when a minimum spending requirement is needed to trigger a significant bonus. For example, if a card requires someone to spend $5,000 to trigger a bonus, it is easier to reach this number by using the card to pay rent. Otherwise, it is better to calculate the fee versus and points and see which option makes the most sense.

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Should I Pay Off My Mortgage Or Invest the Money?

Posted in Mortgage by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 25th, 2020

Should I Pay Off My Mortgage Or Invest the MoneyTo understand what to do with a windfall or extra disposable income when it comes to paying down a mortgage or investing the money, we need to discuss and understand the concept of opportunity cost.

What Is Opportunity Cost?

The concept of opportunity cost takes into consideration the total financial impact of the use of funds when applied in different ways, to be able to compare the effectiveness of how it is best to use them. The opportunity cost considers the risks involved, the potential reward, as well as the tax implications of the choices.

Risk Versus Reward Evaluation

All investments have risks. When comparing the potential earnings from an investment against the savings of mortgage interest, only the investment side has any downside risk. If you pay down the mortgage, there is a 100% certainty that the loan will reduce and the interest paid will go down. You can calculate the saving on the interest and know the exact amount.

If you invest those same funds, there is always a risk that the investment money can be lost or the investment returns are lower than expected. Moneywise did a comparison of using money to lower a mortgage versus investing in the S&P 500 stock market index over 43 years from 1971 to 2013. For 26 of those 43 years (60% of the time), paying down the mortgage was a better financial move.

Tax Implications

The tax implications involve the impact of the mortgage interest deduction, and its effect on reducing federal income taxes, and the cost of paying capital gains tax on investment profits.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 reduced the possibility for many people of benefiting from an itemized mortgage interest deduction because the standard deduction increased. For comparative purposes, most Americans pay capital gains at the current rate of 15%.

Take the tax savings from the mortgage deduction, if you can use it, and compare this to the investment income, less the applicable capital gains taxes. Ask your tax accountant to do the calculation for you if you cannot do this yourself.

Summary

For some, paying down a mortgage is more beneficial than investing. Paying down a mortgage certainly has less risk. Be sure to consider paying down high-interest credit card bills first. That is always a wise idea because the interest rate charged on credit cards is so high.

Every person’s financial circumstances are somewhat different so there is no standard answer when comparing paying down a mortgage to investing the same amount of money. Each person needs to do this calculation of the opportunity costs, to be able to apply their extra funds in ways that are most beneficial for them.

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in listing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted real estate professional to discuss current financing options.

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When It Makes Sense To DIY

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 24th, 2020

When It Makes Sense To DIYMany homeowners enjoy DIY, or Do-it-Yourself, home improvement projects. There’s nothing quite like the pride of knowing you used your own hands to put together or improve something.

With the explosion of social media sites such as YouTube, Pinterest,and TikTok, spending a weekend on DIY projects seems easier than ever before. After just a couple of minutes spent searching, you can find a step-by-step tutorial, before and after photos, or a time-lapse video of any project imaginable. Anyone can do this! Right?

Not so fast. In some cases, it may not make sense to DIY. How do you decide whether it will be worth the elbow grease or if you should leave it to the professionals?

To DIY Or Not To DIY

Building, fixing, painting, or any other -ing isn’t always easier or more affordable, despite what HGTV would have you believe. As you consider whether or not to take a project on yourself, here are some things to consider. 

  • Cost – Calculate the cost of materials you’ll need for your project, factoring in tools and equipment. If the job requires some you don’t already own, you’ll have to rent or buy them, which can be quite costly. However, if you already have some of the necessary materials or you can borrow tools from someone, going the DIY route may make sense. 
  • Time – As Greek philosopher Theophrastus said, “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” Even if a DIY project offers substantial cost savings, it’s important to factor in the time you’ll have to spend on it. Consider whether saving money is a worthwhile trade-off for your time.
  • Skill level – No matter how many tutorials you study, some things are better left to truly skilled professionals. If you don’t have any experience working in electrical, you shouldn’t attempt to do a project that requires running wires. Knowing your limitations and when to hire someone can save you time, money, and stress.

Potentially saving money is certainly not the only thing to consider when it comes to DIY projects. Before deciding to take it on, ask yourself if you’ll truly enjoy the project and whether or not you have the necessary skills. 

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in listing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted real estate professional.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week -March 23rd , 2020

Posted in Financial Reports by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 23rd, 2020

 What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week -March 17th, 2020Last week’s economic reports included readings from the National Association of Home Builders on housing market conditions, Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued and  National Association of Realtors® reporting on sales of previously-owned homes.

The Federal Reserve canceled the scheduled meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee and Fed Chair’s press conference, but the Fed did lower its target federal funds rate early in the week. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and initial jobless claims were also released.

 Builder Confidence, Housing Starts and Building Permits Decrease

Builder confidence in housing market conditions dropped two index points to 72 in March. Readings over 50 indicate that most builders are confident about housing market conditions. Component readings of the Housing Market Index were also lower.

Builder confidence in current housing market conditions fell two points to 79; builder sentiment about housing market conditions within the next six months fell four points to 75 and builder confidence about buyer traffic in new housing developments dropped one point to 56.

NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said that March readings were compiled before the coronavirus outbreak and that April’s readings would show more accurate impacts of the coronavirus on builder confidence. As state and local governments begin to restrict non-essential activity, home sales and buyer traffic readings will decline.

February housing starts fell to 1.599 million starts as compared to January’s reading of 1.624 million starts; analysts expected 1.493 million housing starts for February’s report. The Commerce Department also reported lower numbers for building permits issued. 1.464 million building permits were issued in February; analysts expected 1.500 million permits issued as compared to January’s reading of 1.550 million permits issued. Analysts expect the coronavirus to cause declines in housing starts and real estate activity in general as the virus spreads.

Mortgage Rates Rise as Fed Lowers Target Federal Funds Rate

The Federal Reserve canceled the scheduled meeting of its Federal Open Market Committee after announcing its decision to lower the target federal funds rate to 0.00 to 0.25 percent.

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week as mortgage lenders worked through a backlog of refinancing applications. Rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.65 percent and were 29 basis points higher. 15-year fixed-rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.06 percent, which was also 29 basis points higher than in the prior week. 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rates averaged 10 basis points higher at 3.11 percent.

Discount points averaged0.70 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and 0.20 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims jumped to 281,000 initial claims last week as employers closed and citizens were encouraged to limit non-essential activities. Unemployment claims will increase as more businesses close or reduce services.

The National Association of Realtors® reported rising sales of previously-owned homes with a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 5.77 million homes sold and was the highest reading for February sales since 2007. Home sales are expected to decrease as the coronavirus advances.

Open houses and home showings will decrease as stricter efforts to contain the coronavirus occur.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include readings on new home sales, inflation and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

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The Long-Term Toll Of College Costs

Posted in Mortgage by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 20th, 2020

The Long-Term Toll Of College CostsTaking out enormous student loans to get a college degree may be a terrible idea for some. The burden of paying off this debt can make it far more challenging to do other important things like buying a home.

Here are some common problems that come from taking out large student loans:

  • Not Worth It: The college degree may not help you land a high-paying job. Even high-paying jobs like being a dentist have extremely high educational costs as well. Aspiring dentists borrow, on average, over $500,000 to go to dental school and spend multiple decades paying it back.
  • Tuition Hyper-Inflation: Colleges and universities saw the easy money from student loans as a great reason to increase tuition. In many institutions, tuition increases, over the past 42 years, went out of control, especially for trade schools and private universities. College costs rose by 1,400% since 1978. That is five times more than the inflation rate over the same period.
  • OverBorrowing: The easy ability that students have in many cases to over-borrow for living expenses on top of college costs means that they take bigger loans than they need and wastefully spend the money.

In the olden days, they had a phrase for a person who sold themselves into a kind of work-slavery. They called these people “indentured servants.” By taking out student loan debt that may take decades to pay back, this is a form of indentured servitude, especially because it is difficult, if not impossible to get out of paying the student loans back. Even bankruptcy does not discharge student loan debt.

If your student loan goes into default, there is the possibility of a wage garnishment, which means up to 25% of your take-home pay will be deducted from your checks and used to pay off the student loan debt. This is like a modern version of being an indentured servant.

But You Need A College Degree To Succeed, Right?

For many, earning a college degree that teaches skills and knowledge, which help get a high-paying job, is a reasonable idea. However, not all degrees are equal in their influence over getting a job. Many degree certificates are not worth the paper they are printed on. Moreover, some do better than those who have degrees.

Conclusion

What do Bill Gates, Coco Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Rachel Ray, Mark Zuckerberg, Sean “Diddy” Combs, James Cameron, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Richard Branson, Simon Cowell, Larry Ellison, Ted Turner, and Wolfgang Puck all have in common? They all do NOT have a college degree and still became immensely successful. Many are billionaires, who simply started their businesses and did not have time to finish college, so they dropped out.

Before you saddle yourself with student debt for a huge portion of the rest of your life, think carefully about the ramifications. Then, if you must borrow, borrow as little as possible and make sure you get a degree that helps get a high-paying job.

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in listing your current property, be sure to consult with your trusted real estate professional.

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Millions Now Qualify For Home Refinancing To Save Money

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 19th, 2020

Millions Now Qualify For Home Refinancing To Save MoneyTo refinance or not to refinance, that is the question. How do you know when it is an appropriate time to refinance? Many factors influence this decision, besides just the cost of the mortgage loan. Here is a checklist to follow when considering a refinancing opportunity.

Check Your Credit Score

Refinancing is similar to getting the original home loan. The lenders will run a credit check and verify your current income. Your total debt level and your credit history are both important. If you have some “dings” on your credit record, you may be better off staying with the existing mortgage rather than attempting refinancing.

The opposite is also true. If your credit score has significantly improved since the time when you took out a mortgage, you may benefit from refinancing.

Be aware that every time you ask a lender for loan approval, and the lender runs a credit check, the credit inquiry will lower your credit score. It is highly advisable to check your credit history first before applying for any mortgage financing. If there is anything that is not correct in your credit file, then dispute the bad information to improve your credit score.

To get the best rates on mortgage financing, aim for a credit score of above 740, with a debt-to-income ratio of below 75%. The rule of thumb is that for every 20 points that your credit score goes up you will benefit from lower rates.

Private Mortgage Insurance

Another consideration on the checklist is whether you pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI is usually a requirement for a low down payment loan. If the equity value that you have in the home increased significantly since the time you bought it, the PMI may no longer be necessary. Sometimes a lender will accept a new appraisal of the home and recalculate the PMI requirements. Ask your lender if they allow this. If they do, you may be able to get rid of the PMI without refinancing.

If a lender will not remove the PMI requirement, and the equity value of the home is substantially higher, then refinancing may be beneficial, if the new loan does not require PMI.

Closing Costs

Covering the closing costs is a mathematical calculation. The amount saved on the monthly mortgage payment needs to be larger than the closing costs on a refinancing loan. The amount of savings depends on how long you plan to own the property. For example, if the closing costs are $3,600 and your monthly saving on the mortgage is $200, the break-even, where you save more than the closing costs, is 18 months later. You should plan to own the property for at least 18 months for this refinance to make financial sense.

Cash Out

Sometimes the benefits of refinancing also include the possibility of taking cash out from the refinancing loan to use for other purposes. If this is the case, consider the savings on the cost of those funds if borrowed elsewhere.

Summary

Those are the things to think about when considering refinancing. Work with a qualified real mortgage broker to get advice if you are not certain about the best thing to do.

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in listing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted real estate professional.

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What Is Pooled-Funds Investing?

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 18th, 2020

What Is Pooled-Funds InvestingUnder the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on April 5, 2012, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) relaxed the rules about advertising investments. This allowed the trend of crowdfunding to expand dramatically giving real estate investors more opportunities for pooled-funds investing.

What Is Polled-Funds Investing?

A pooled investment fund takes in money from a group of investors to use to acquire real estate for larger amounts than each investor’s money would support. Prior to the passage of the JOBS Act, these pooled investment funds were only accessible by large investors through private placements and private real estate investment trusts (REITs). The minimum investment might be up to $250,000 or more. High-net-worth individual investors and institutions were the only investors capable of the buy-in to gain access to these investments, which usually offered better and more stable returns.

After the JOBS Act came into being, the advertising of these pooled investment funds was possible under the new law. The phenomena of crowdfunding came out of this. Money from many investors creates a larger investment fund managed by a professional team, intending to obtain strong performance results.

Better Investment Opportunities For The Smaller Investor

These new investment opportunities allow the smaller investor to participate in a greater diversity of real estate than they could achieve on their own. Moreover, an investor can create a pooled fund to acquire a property with the help of other investors. To use this technique to buy real estate, it is helpful to work with a qualified real estate agent or broker who understands this concept of pooled investment funds.

Due Diligence Required

Not all investment pools succeed in producing decent returns for investors. The SEC is no longer regulating these polled investments carefully. This means that the challenge of due diligence falls on the individual investor. Before investing, it pays to conduct exhaustive research about the pooled investment fund, the cost of the fund management fees, the expertise of the fund’s management, and their past investment-performance history. Always remember past results are no guarantee of future performance and never invest any funds that you cannot afford to lose.

Summary

The relaxing of SEC regulations in 2012 allowed many opportunities for pooled investments to flourish. While there is the possibility of strong returns on investment, there is also some risk. Investors considering a pooled investment fund, such as a crowdfunding deal, should conduct thorough due diligence and get advice from a qualified REALTORS® in the market where the property will be located before making any investment.

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in listing your current property, be sure to consult with your trusted real estate professional.

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