Buyer & Seller Guides

    • Fixed Rate Mortgage Rates Relatively Flat

      Freddie Mac recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing averaged fixed mortgage rates largely unchanged following a week of light economic reports.


      "Mortgage rates were little changed amid a week of light economic reports. Of the few releases, the economy added 113,000 jobs [PDF] in January, which was below the market consensus forecast and followed a slight upward revision of 1,000 jobs in December,” says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. “Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell to 6.6 percent, which makes thirteen consecutive months without an increase."

      According to results, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.28 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending February 13, 2014, up from last week when it averaged 4.23 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.53 percent.

      Additionally, the 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.33 percent with an average 0.7 point, unchanged from last week. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.77 percent.

      The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.05 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.08 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.64 percent.

      Results show that the 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.55 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.51 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.61 percent.

      For more information, visit www.FreddieMac.com.

      Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

       

    • Raise Your Hand: 3 Questions Every Investor Should Ask

      (BPT)—We live in a busy world full of demands on our time and attention—everything from keeping up with our families and careers to making sure we are taking care of ourselves and answering our cellphones by the third ring.

      To meet all of life's challenges, sometimes you need to take a step back, sometimes you need to take charge, and other times it makes sense to delegate tasks to someone else - often times a professional such as a contractor, attorney or financial advisor. But for most people, turning things over to someone else shouldn't mean tuning out completely—especially when it comes to something as important as your financial future. When it comes to money and investing, most people feel more confident keeping one hand on the wheel to help ensure their best interests are being served.

      But how do you know if you're doing that now or not? Here are three questions every person who invests should ask to determine how involved they are with their investments and if they're getting the level of engagement they want from their current investment professional:

      1. Does my broker encourage me to be actively involved in my investment strategy?

      Ninety-seven percent of Americans who are highly engaged in various activities in their lives say they want to be involved in the decisions that their broker is making, according to a Schwab study of engaged Americans conducted in May 2013. Does your broker make this easy for you to do? Sitting down and having a conversation with your broker to discuss the level of involvement you want is the first step. You should determine how and when you'd like to be contacted so your broker can keep you up-to-date on major developments in your financial situation. Make sure you feel empowered to ask questions and your broker's answers make sense, you are comfortable giving feedback, and your broker encourages you to check in as frequently as you want - on your terms.

      2. What are my broker's recommendations based on?

      Do you ask for the rationale behind the recommendations your broker is making for your money? Not only do you deserve an explanation, but you need to understand how your broker's recommendations are suitable for your unique goals, risk tolerance, time horizon and ongoing changes in your personal and financial situation—as opposed to being the same cookie cutter ideas everyone else receives. It's also a good idea to make sure you understand how your broker is compensated for the advice you receive and the products being recommended.

      3. Do I understand the progress I am making toward my goals?

      Schwab's study of engaged Americans from May 2013 found that 56 percent of those surveyed have a customized financial plan, which is an important first step to taking ownership over your financial future. But do you understand the progress you are making in that plan? It's important to have simple and transparent benchmarks and measures, so make sure your broker offers the tools you both need to track progress against your goals.

      If you weren't able to answer these questions on your own, it may be time to ask your broker. Communication is key to any good working relationship and your broker is no exception. It's worth the time and effort to make sure you are on a path toward a successful financial future.

      Source: Schwab.com/ownyourtomorrow.

    • For Your Clients:10 Reasons to Buy an Existing Home

      By Geneva Ives

      If you work with buyers who are looking for a home in an already established neighborhood – or who are perhaps weighing the pros and cons of each type of home – share this list of ten reasons to buy a resale home with them.

      Get more house for less money
      Existing houses typically cost less per square foot than new builds do. And lot sizes may be bigger, too, an important consideration for people who love to spend time in the yard.

      Move in immediately
      Instead of waiting for building to complete on your new house, you can usually move into a new house immediately after closing day. No rain delays or builder setbacks to worry about.

      Love your neighborhood
      Many people choose to buy an existing home because they fall in love with a certain neighborhood. When you purchase a home in an established neighborhood as opposed a community that’s being developed, you know exactly what you’re getting – whether it’s loud or quiet, family-friendly or full of college students. You may even have a chance to meet the neighbors before placing your offer.

      Enjoy the view
      Sometimes one of the very best things about buying the house you fall in love with is that someone has already loved it first! They have planted trees and flowers that are now fully grown. There’s a lot to be says for mature landscaping. You can hang a tree swing right away, and you won’t have to wait a few seasons for a good fruit harvest.

      Delight in architectural details
      Homes built in previous decades can have beautiful design details that can’t be found or are hard to replicate in newer homes. Plaster molding, pocket doors and tin ceilings are just a few of the architectural gems that come to mind.

      Spend less on upgrades
      When you have a home built, you pay a set price for every upgrade you choose. But when you purchase an existing home, you also purchase all of the upgrades done by the previous owners at a depreciated value because it’s been slightly used. A fancy floor that’s been walked on a few times usually costs less than a fancy floor that’s brand spanking new.

      Breeze through your home inspection
      Homes that have been lived in are usually much easier for home inspectors to thoroughly inspect. Existing problems can be brought to light immediately, helping you to make the right decision and potentially negotiate savings on your contract. New homes are harder to inspect – some problems, like slow leaks, may not come to light until long after you’ve moved in.

      Rest easy when it comes to home values
      Homes in established neighborhoods will have a proven track record of home values. Area ups and downs can be tracked through the years, allowing you to feel more secure in your investment.

      Shorten your commute
      Many new developments are built where there’s space, and that often means in an up-and-coming (or just plain far away) part of town. If you work in the heart of the city or want your children to go to certain well-known school, chances are the neighborhood in that area is built up already so a resale home is your best, and possibly only, option.

      Soak up some history
      It’s always fun to do research on your home. Existing homes come with built-in character. Who lived there before you? And before them? Some buyers even find treasures left behind by previous owners.

      Geneva Ives is the marketing writer for Point2.

      To learn more about affordable online marketing solutions for real estate, visit Point2.com.

      Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

       

    • Save Money on Your Kitchen Remodel without Skimping on Style

      (BPT) - Home remodel projects don't have to require an extensive budget or look cheap when using less expensive materials. If you're interested in updating the look of your kitchen this year, you can find products and materials that allow you to create a beautiful and stylish home without paying a high price.


      The trick to finding these products and materials is keeping an open mind, says Summer Baltzer, interior designer and former host of HGTV's Design on a Dime.

      "Most homeowners are surprised by how reasonable kitchen redecorating can be when they use and reorganize existing furniture and cabinetry in new ways, or by taking a new look at how technology has improved the products their grandmothers had in their kitchens," Baltzer says. "We can save money without skimping on style, using what is already there and bringing back what has worked for years with a new look."

      For example, laminate was the kitchen countertop surface of choice "back in the day." Today's laminate has evolved to improve its style - looking like real wood, stone or tile. Wilsonart Laminate has many new designs that look and feel like natural stone, like granite or marble, as well as wood, making visitors to the home think they're seeing the authentic material on surfaces like countertops, tables and even walls.

      When remodeling your kitchen, consider ways to use what already exists, but upgrade it with a fresh, new look. For example, if your kitchen countertops are faded, covered in stains and worn out, don't try to replace everything. Instead, consider replacing just the tops with granite-styled laminate - designed to mirror the look of granite, but at a fraction of the cost. The laminate is resistant to scratching and marring from sharp objects. This way you can keep the existing cabinets, but change the color and look of the room simply by switching out the countertops.

      Or consider turning a former countertop or table into a beautiful faux butcher block - without the expensive cost or ongoing maintenance of real wood. From darker oaks to light maples, laminate can transform the look of your kitchen quickly and easily.

      Another way to give your kitchen a fresh new look is modernizing the style. Backsplashes by the sink are very trendy in restaurants and homes these days, but tiling a large area with stone or granite can be both time-consuming and costly. Instead, consider choosing a laminate that will bring out the colors of the room, and add a bit of patterning to the walls.

      Switching out the fabrics in the kitchen will help you finalize the entire project within a reasonable budget. Keep the counter-height chairs, but add new seat cushions or replace the current seat cushions for a fresh style. Swap out the curtains in the window to enhance the new color scheme. Hang some new towels - you may be surprised, but the room will look completely different.

      As you begin to plan your kitchen remodel, keep an open mind and take a new look at those long-term products that have improved over the years. Consider how laminate designed to replicate granite, marble, stone or wood could drastically improve the look of your kitchen.

      Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

       

    • Ways to Determine How Much a Home is Worth

      Q: Are there standard ways to determine how much a home is worth?

      A: Yes. A comparative market analysis and an appraisal are the two most common and reliable ways to determine a home's value.

      Your real estate agent can provide a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Reviewing comparable homes that have sold within the past year along with the listing, or asking, price on current homes for sale should prevent you from overpricing your home or underestimating its value.

      A certified appraiser can provide an appraisal of a home. After visiting the home to check such things as the number of rooms, improvements, size and square footage, construction quality, and the condition of the neighborhood, the appraiser then reviews recent comparable sales to determine the estimated value of the home.

      You also can check recent sales in public records, through private firms, and on the Internet to help you determine a home’s potential worth.

      Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.