Tired of Waiting for Summer? 3 DIY Projects That Will Keep You Busy Until the Weather Warms Up

Posted in Around The Home by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 2nd, 2018

Tired of Waiting for Summer? 3 DIY Projects That Will Keep You Busy Until the Weather Warms UpDo you find yourself staring out the window, longing for an early sunrise, hot days and late evenings? With spring just around the corner, it might feel like summer is a lifetime away.

However, the good news is that you can be productive around the home while you wait for summer to arrive. Let’s take a quick look at three easy do-it-yourself projects that will keep you busy until the summer sun is shining.

Add A Splash Of Spring-y Color

As long as you are willing to do the prep work, painting is one of the most straightforward home improvement projects you can undertake. It is also the best way to put your own personal touch in each room in your home.

If you haven’t painted before, it is best to start with a single room. Spend an hour or two watching instructional videos on YouTube before you head out and begin buying supplies.

The colors that you choose are up to you, but if you are going for a ‘spring’ look, consider pastel colors including soft greens, powder blues and creamy whites.

New Planters For The Garden

If you have a flower or vegetable garden, building new planters is a fun weekend DIY project. You can make planters out of wood, but a more durable option is to use granite, marble or another hard stone.

Simply buy four slabs of stone and a tube or two of stone adhesive. Line up the slabs together and, using a ruler, ensure they are at 90-degree angles. Caulk or glue the slabs on the inside of where they meet and then tape them together on the outside to hold them until the glue cures.

Bird Seed Rings For Your Feathered Friends

Do you enjoy the sound of birds around your home? If so, bird seed rings are the perfect treat to attract them. Creating these delicious treats is easy. Combine gelatin, corn syrup and flour into a thick paste. Mix this paste with a bag of bird seed, ensuring that it is fully combined. Then mold the rings together using a donut pan. Hang these tasty treats outside for your feathered friends to enjoy.

Investing your time in home improvement projects is an excellent way to wait out the sunny days of summer. If you decide that it’s too much work to renovate and that you would rather explore a new home, give us a call. Our friendly real estate team is happy to show you some beautiful new homes in the local area.

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Current Servicemember or Veteran? 4 Reasons Why a VA Home Loan Is an Excellent Choice

Posted in Home Mortgage Tips by Michigan Real Estate Expert on March 1st, 2018

Current Servicemember or Veteran? 4 Reasons Why a VA Home Loan Is an Excellent ChoiceAre you current or former member of the US military service who is looking to buy a new home? If so, you will be pleased to know that there are some special mortgage programs that are open to you. Let’s take a look at five reasons why a mortgage backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs is an excellent choice when buying your new home.

You Can Borrow Up To 100% Of The Home’s Value

You read that correctly! VA-backed mortgages are available to you even if you choose to put no money towards your down payment. This can be a huge benefit for those individuals and families who are looking to buy a new home but don’t have a large chunk of cash on hand to fund the down payment. Instead, you can work with your VA mortgage advisor to get financing for the entire purchase price of your home.

You Can Qualify For A ‘Jumbo’ Loan

Depending on the real estate market in your city, the size of home you need and how luxurious you want it, you may need a larger mortgage. The great news is that there are ‘jumbo’ options available with VA-backed home loans. In some cases, you may qualify for over $1 million in mortgage financing, which is likely to put most homes in your area within reach.

You Can Avoid Mortgage Insurance Fees

Home buyers using a conventional mortgage with less than 20 percent down are typically required to buy private mortgage insurance or “PMI.” However, this is not a requirement with VA-backed mortgages. If you qualify for a VA home loan, this can save you a significant amount of money over the loan’s term.

You Can Accelerate Your Payments At No Cost

If you decide that you want to pay your VA mortgage off a bit faster by accelerating your payments, you can do so without incurring fees or penalties. For example, if you are gifted a large sum of money or have a significant income tax return, you can contribute that amount directly against your mortgage.

These are just a few of the many great reasons to explore using a VA-backed mortgage to fund your next home purchase. For more information about VA home loans to buy your next home, contact your trusted real estate professionals today.

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3 Tips To Consider When Buying A Home With An FHA Mortgage

Posted in Mortgage by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 28th, 2018

Tips to Sidestep Common FHA Loan Problems

FHA loans are becoming increasingly popular these days as potential homeowners may not able to qualify as easily for conventional mortgages.

The FHA insures some higher-risk loans, in turn allowing borrowers with low down payments and less than perfect credit to purchase homes and bolster the housing market.

However, while getting through the loan process with an FHA mortgage loan is not necessarily more difficult than with a conventional or conforming loan, there are some issues that you will want to be aware of.

Property Condition

You can’t buy just any property with a FHA loan, or any other loan for that matter. All lenders are concerned with the condition of a property, especially as it relates to livability and safety. 

Major deficiencies in a home will almost always be noted when the home is seen by the FHA appraiser. The appraiser must deem it to be livable, without any conditions that could jeopardize health or safety. 

Sometimes you can get the seller to make the needed repairs to pass the lender requirements. In other cases, you may want go an alternate route. The FHA 203K streamline loan allows you to borrow up to $35,000 for home repairs to bring the house up to code.

Low Appraisal

The primary role of the appraiser is to estimate it’s market value. These estimates are based on the property’s features and a comparison to similar properties that have sold recently. If the appraisal is low, the loan funding could fall through because the FHA underwriting guidelines (along with almost all conventional guidelines) will not let you borrow more than the home’s appraised value. You can, however, add to the amount you bring in to closing if you prefer to compensate for a low appraised value.

Rather than trying to scrape together a bigger down payment, you may want to take the information to the seller to renegotiate the purchase price. The seller will likely recognize that other buyers would be in the same boat, leading the seller to agree to a lower purchase price.

High Debt-to-Income Ratio

Debt to income ratios are a concern with virtually every type of mortgage loan on the market today. Your FHA loan may encounter a snag in the underwriting process if your total debt payments, including your new mortgage, would be a high percentage of your income.

FHA has an automated underwriting program called TOTAL Scorecard which uses an algorithm to determine a borrower’s qualification. The process is quick, and often you can make up for a high debt-to-income ratio with other compensating factors, like a larger down payment or a cash reserve of several months of mortgage payments.

If you have any questions regarding FHA loans or any other home financing questions, please give us a call!

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3 Great Homebuying Tools Millenials Have Available to Them Right Now

Posted in Mortgage by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 27th, 2018

Millennials Have Great Home Buying Tools AvailableThe economy seems to be heating up rapidly, but home loan interest rates are still at historically low levels. Real estate values have climbed a bit across the country, but low interest rates and affordable prices makes for an excellent opportunity for new homeowners to get into their first home before it rates and prices rise higher.

According to the recent studies, there were 4 consecutive quarters of homeownership growth where new homeowners outpaced new renters.  The solid economic fundamentals are likely responsible for creating this excellent home buying environment.

Over the past year, Millennials seem to be on board and helping to drive the upward trend. They represent the next generation of homebuyers, and as this group is getting older, they are getting married more frequently. They are also starting families which tend to encourage the idea of home ownership. In fact, a recent analysis showed that home ownership is 30% higher among married couples than non-married couples.

Specifically, low unemployment numbers and a progressively aging pool of Millennials with a desire for home ownership appear to be driving this trend. US homeownership actually increased over 2017 to an unadjusted rate of 64.2%, which was a significant uptick from the previous year at 63.7%.

Here are a few very helpful tools are still available for new buyers:

  • Any homebuyer with military status can take advantage of Veterans Administration loans with far better rates than the normal market, making mortgage payments cheaper.
  • Those buying in rural areas can take advantage of rural homebuyer’s assistance programs provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help people move to small towns and similar communities.
  • The Housing and Urban Development Agency provides HUD loans that make it very affordable for those with limited income to purchase HUD-owned homes as first-time buyers and get into real estate.

Of course, the big response from Millenials is how do I earn more to even get started. Like Generation X folks before them, Millenials can’t wait for a job to be made available on a platter.

While looking, many smart folks have started their own businesses online or in their local marketplace. If a current job is enough to cover current bills, a second income can be entirely dedicated to saving, which can generate thousands of dollars quickly.

Even a part-time second job that creates $1,000 a month produces $12,000 a year and in two years enough for a sizable down payment. 

If you have questions about buying your next home, give us a call. We’d be happy to help!

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 26th, 2018

Posted in Market Outlook by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 26th, 2018

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 26th 2018Last week’s economic releases included minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting, a report on January sales of pre-owned homes and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

FOMC Minutes: Economic Strength Hints at More Rate Hikes

Minutes of the January 30-31 meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee indicated that most Committee members believe that inflation will reach the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent. Members found that the economy was stronger since 2017 and expected “a gradual upward trajectory of the federal funds rate would be appropriate.”

While analysts expect three rate hikes in 2018, the FOMC voted to hold the federal funds rate at 1.25 to 1.50 percent. Most FOMC members expected that the goal of 2 percent inflation was within reach in 2018.

Analysts were not as confident about reaching to Fed’s inflation goal. Instead, the said that in response to tax cuts, the labor market could exceed full employment and lead to higher wages and surging inflation.

A minority of FOMC members said that inflation could fall short of the Fed’s goal as retailers would compete by lowering prices.

Existing Home Sales Drop in January

According to the National Association of Realtors®, sales of previously-owned homes dipped from a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.56 million sales to 5.38 million sales in January. This reading was the lowest in more than three years; it could indicate that the shortage of homes for sale has reached critical mass.

Months of short supplies of homes for sale have caused rapidly rising home prices, buyer competition and fewer choices of homes for would-be buyers. Real estate pros have repeatedly said the only solution to shortages of available homes is that builders must build more homes but increasing materials costs and labor shortages have caused construction pace to lag demand for homes. Affordability continued to weigh on moderate-income and first-time buyers.

Mortgage Rates Rise for 7th Consecutive Week

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates on average last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 4.40 percent; rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged one basis point higher at 3.85 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.65 percent.

New jobless claims dropped by 7000 first-time claims and regained a 45-year low. 222,000 new claims were filed last week as compared to expectations of 229,000 new claims and 230,000 new claims filed the prior week. Real estate pros and analysts cite strong labor markets as driving housing markets and high demand for homes. Workers with job security and options for advancement in their careers are more likely to consider investing in a home than paying rising rents.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, readings on new and pending home sales and construction spending. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released along with a report on consumer sentiment.

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Can Your Waistline Be Affected By Your Kitchen Colors?

Posted in Home Decorating by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 23rd, 2018

Have you ever walked into your kitchen and instantly felt hungry?Have you ever walked into your kitchen and instantly felt hungry?

Rarely do people think about the colors that they choose to paint their kitchens. They are often too busy worrying about whether the kitchen will match the rest of the home, or whether the colors will be satisfactory to the rest of the household.

However, as much as you might want to have a special color in your kitchen, your brain is very likely wired in a way to react in ways that you may not have intended! When painting and decorating your kitchen, you may want to think about the process in a way many people do not — how the colors you choose will affect the way in which you eat. 

Colors affect a lot of our subconscious thinking. As behavioral psychologists have documented, the presence of specific colors your the kitchen can change your eating habits and your cravings for food.

Here are some examples :

Red: The color red increases your appetite. This is why so many restaurants paint their walls red. Although associated with romance and passion, red is also a color which promotes hunger. Furthermore, it has been noted that the color red in your kitchen can influence high blood pressure.

Orange: The color orange is a “stimulating” color; increasing oxygen supply to the brain and providing a mental boost. An orange-themed kitchen may stimulate your appetite, therefore, and make over-eating more likely.

Gray: Gray can be an ideal appetite-suppressing color for your kitchen. This is because, psychologically, gray is calming and relaxing, and it neutralizes anxiety. Gray can arrest binge eating and impulsive snacking. It’s also a color which home stagers recommend for its neutrality.

Blue: The color blue is calming, which can slow your eating speed, and prevent you from over-eating. When decorating your kitchen and dining room, therefore, using blue wallpaper or blue paint; and blue placemats, for example, can result in “slower” eating and fewer feelings of fullness.

And there’s more about blue! There are very few foods that are naturally blue outside of blueberries and some varieties of potatoes. So over time your subconscious mind has trained itself to be wary of any food that is blue. Some weight loss programs suggest eating on a blue plate and even putting a blue light in your refrigerator!

So if you’re concerned about the amount you or your family is eating, painting your kitchen blue may very well help curb the appetite.

Whether you’re a home buyer, a home seller, or just getting ready to remodel, consider the influence of colors in your home. They do more than just “match the next room” — they affect your food and drink cravings as well.

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When Is the Right Time to Buy Your First Home? Use This Easy 4 Point Checklist

Posted in Home Buyer Tips by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 22nd, 2018

When Is the Right Time to Buy Your First Home? Use This Easy 4 Point ChecklistAre you growing tired of renting? Or perhaps you’ve recently graduated from college and are looking to set down some roots?

Whatever the case, buying your first home is an exciting prospect. Let’s take a look at a quick and easy four-point checklist that you can use to determine if you are ready to buy your first home.

#1: Is Your Credit In Good Shape?

How is your overall financial health? Once you have your down payment saved up, you should turn your attention to your credit rating.

If you are going to borrow a mortgage to help cover the cost of your home, your lender will be doing some digging into your credit history. It is best to ensure that you aren’t late with any payments and have cleared off any black marks from past credit problems.

#2: Can You See Yourself Living In This Community?

Do you love the area you live in? Or are you thinking about moving to a community that you like a bit more than your current one?

Perhaps it’s the local shops, the amenities, the walking trails or just being closer to work. It is always best to ‘love where you live,’ so ensure that you are buying your first home in a community that you can call home.

#3: Is Your Job Situation Stable?

Another factor to consider is your job or career situation. Are you likely to switch companies or be transferred to another division within the next few years? Be sure to give some thought to this as it will be inconvenient to have to move shortly after buying and furnishing a home.

#4: Are You Planning To Have Children?

Finally, have you considered what your family might look like in the future? Are you planning to get married, or if you are already married are you planning to have a family? If you have children now, do you expect to have any more of them?

Keep in mind that as your children grow older, they will need a bit more space. If you have a couple of young kids sharing bunk beds, each will need their own bedroom soon enough.

When you’re ready to buy your first home, our friendly real estate team is here to help you find the perfect home. Give our offices a call and we will be happy to meet with you to discuss your needs.

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The 4-Step Financial Checkup to Get Ready for a Mortgage This Year

Posted in Home Mortgage Tips by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 21st, 2018

The 4-Step Financial Checkup to Get Ready for a Mortgage in 2018Are you ready to join the ranks of homeowners in our local community? Congratulations – homeownership is a big step towards building your net worth and financial freedom.

However, it is also a significant transaction that will affect your finances for the foreseeable future. Let’s take a look at a quick four-step checklist that will help you to get ready to buy a home with a mortgage this year.

Step 1: Set Up A Monthly Budget

It might sound a little basic, but the best first step is to commit to a monthly budget. After you buy a home using a mortgage, you will be responsible for making monthly payments for a period of time. The faster you get used to working inside of a budget, the better.

Your budget doesn’t have to be extravagant. Simply list your sources of income and your expenses. If you are spending more than you are making, you are going to need to cut back a bit.

Step 2: Start Setting Aside Your Down Payment

If you haven’t already, it is an excellent time to start gathering the funds necessary to make your down payment. This is the amount of cash that you put forward against the price of the home. The remainder of the purchase cost is covered by your mortgage, which you will pay off monthly in the future.

Note that the standard down payment amount is 20 percent of the home’s purchase price. If you have less than this available, you may be required to purchase mortgage insurance. But don’t let this deter you from starting the process now, especially if you have found the house that you want to buy.

Step 3: Check Your Credit Rating

Next, you will want to check your credit rating and FICO score to find out if you have any outstanding issues. You can access a free credit report from any of the major reporting agencies up to once per year, so be sure to take advantage.

Step 4: Meet With Your Mortgage Advisor

Last, but not least, you will want to schedule a meeting with your mortgage advisor. This is your opportunity to have all your mortgage-related questions answered by a professional who has your best interests in mind.

If you decide that you are ready to move forward with buying a home, you can begin the pre-approval process at your convenience. We look forward to helping guide you down the path to buying your dream home!

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 20th, 2018

Posted in Financial Reports by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 20th, 2018

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 20th, 2018Last week’s weeks economic releases included readings on the NAHB Housing Market Index, housing starts and building permits issued and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

NAHB: Builder Confidence in Housing Market Holds Steady in February

The National Association of Home builders reported an index reading of 72 for its Housing Market Index in February. January’s reading was also 72; readings over 50 indicates that more builders than fewer are confident about housing market conditions.

Three readings comprising the overall NAHB HMI reading include builder confidence in current market conditions, which was one point lower in February at 78. Builder confidence in housing market conditions in the next six months rose two points to an index reading of 80.

This was the highest reading for future housing market conditions since before the recession. Builder confidence in buyer traffic in new housing developments was unchanged at 54.

Builders surveyed cited strong labor markets and short supplies of pre-owned homes as fueling confidence in current market conditions, but identified ongoing labor and lot shortages and rising materials costs as concerns for builders.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Issue Rise in January

High builder confidence was reflected in readings for housing starts and building permits issued in January. Housing starts rose to their highest level in more than 10 years. The annual pace of housing starts reached 1.326 million starts.

January’s reading exceeded expectations of 1.324 million starts and December’s reading of 1.209 million housing starts. January’s starts reflect strong builder confidence readings and may also signal future relief for short supplies of available homes and high demand for homes in many metro areas.

High demand for homes has caused rapid appreciation in home values and sidelined first-time and moderate-income buyers in areas with high home values. According to the Commerce Department, building permits issued rose to 1.396 million from December’s1.380 million starts annually.

The University of Michigan reported the second highest reading for consumer sentiment in 14 years. February’s reading of 99.9 was higher than expectations for a reading of 95.3 and January’s reading of 95.7Analysts said that recent tax cuts likely stabilized consumer outlook in spite of volatile financial markets.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates for all three types of mortgages it tracks in its Primary Mortgage Market Survey. Rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose an average of six basis points to 4.38 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was seven basis points higher at an average of 3.84 percent. Rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage averaged 3.63 percent, which was six basis points higher than the prior week.

New jobless claims were higher last week with 230,000 new claims filed, which matched expectations and exceeded 223,000 new jobless claims filed the prior week.

Whats Ahead

This week’s economic releases include readings on existing home sales along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. Financial markets were closed on Monday for President’s Day.

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Questions and Answers Regarding Escrow Accounts

Posted in Mortgage by Michigan Real Estate Expert on February 16th, 2018

What is an escrow accountWhether you are purchasing a new home or you are considering applying to refinance your home, chances are the lender will require an escrow account. These accounts are often a source of confusion for homeowners. In reality, these accounts benefit the homeowner and help protect the lender.

What is an escrow account?

Escrow accounts are sometimes called “impound” accounts. These accounts are set up to help manage payments of property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Depending on the individual requirements of the lender, you may be asked to pay as much as one-quarter of these upfront and they will be put into the account for the purposes of making payments.

Who controls escrow accounts?

Lenders have complete control over escrow accounts. However, homeowners are entitled to receive an annual statement advising them of their escrow balance. If there is an increase or decrease in insurance payments through the year, a homeowner may request the lender evaluate the escrow account and change the amount that is paid.

Is interest paid on escrow accounts?

There is no mandate to pay interest on escrow accounts. When you refinance your home, the funds for your taxes and insurance are calculated into your overall payment. The portion that is to be used to pay taxes and insurance is placed in escrow. Federal laws do not require lenders to pay interest on these accounts.

What happens if I sell my home or refinance?

When you sell or refinance your home, your escrow account will be credited at closing. The amount may be used to lower your out-of-pocket costs or may be turned over to you as a direct payment.

What happens if there is not enough/too much money in escrow?

If your lender has underestimated your escrow payments, they may request you send an additional payment to make up the difference. In the event you are paying too much into escrow, your lender has the discretion to release the overage amount directly to you. In most cases, shortfalls or overages of $50 or less are typically not a major concern.

If your lender requires you to have an escrow account for the taxes and insurance portion of your mortgage payment, it can be very helpful. Escrow accounts help ensure you do not have to come up with a large payment once a year for insurance or quarterly for taxes.

In some cases, if a lender does not require an escrow account, as a borrower, you may request they escrow your taxes and insurance for convenience.

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