Turn Your Yard Into An All-Seasons Living Space

Turn Your Yard Into An All-Seasons Living SpaceThink of backyard space as “in-between” or transitional space that is a bit like being inside while being outside. Sunrooms, screened-in covered patios, outdoor kitchens, spas, fire pits and more, are all becoming very popular ways to make more use of the backyard. Making use of the outside area is not limited to only the times of the year that have nice, warm weather.

Sitting around a fire pit, with a blazing fire in it, is a perfect way to spend a chilly winter evening under the stars. This is a bit like camping out, without having to leave the comfort of your home.

Here are some tips about how to turn your backyard space into a comfortable and functional transitional area.

Landscaping

Install shade trees, cobbled paths that invite exploration, and water features that are mixed in with attractive landscaping to make your backyard more inviting. Add some inexpensive solar-powered lights to line the walkways for a nice nighttime look.

This can be a labor of love that you take your time doing without having to rush the end result. It is healthy for you to do a bit of gardening, to get some fresh air and light exercise.

Outdoor Cooking

There are many ways to enjoy outdoor cooking such as simply taking a hibachi grill out to cook on a patio. You can cook hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, chicken, shish kebab, and more. You can even grill vegetables, like delicious slices of eggplant or corn on the cob, for your vegetarian friends on a separate grill reserved for that use.

Pizza Oven

If you really want to impress your guests, then put in a wood-burning pizza oven. Pizza made this way tastes delicious. There are dozens of pizza recipes you can try from thin crust to deep dish.

You can also make loaves of bread and other types of oven-baked foods. When you get a wood-burning pizza oven hot enough to cook properly, you will want to cook plenty of things so be sure to invite over lots of friends and neighbors.

Gourmet Kitchen

Taking the outdoor cooking one step further, some people like to install a full gourmet kitchen and spend lots of time cooking outside. There are many stainless steel grills to choose from that go along well with matching stainless steel appliances, which are strong enough for exposure to the elements.

Temperature Control

When desiring to have some control over the temperature outside, it is best to think of creating usable areas. When it is cold outside, you can use patio heaters that burn propane to make warmer areas for sitting. Another popular idea is to put in a fire pit to sit around.

During warmer times, you will want to have shaded areas and patio covers with ceiling fans. In the hot summers, you might enjoy a misting system that sprays a fine mist of cool water vapor in the air.

Summary

Many neglect their backyards, which is a shame because they can be lovely places to hang out. Rather than investing in an expensive room addition, start thinking about how you can make your backyard more enjoyable as a transitional space between the interior living area and the outside.

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

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Home Sales Are Spiking, Driven By Low Mortgage Rates

Home Sales Are Spiking, Driven By Low Mortgage RatesAccording to data from the National Association of Realtors, existing-home sales increased by 3.6% in December 2019. That pace is the strongest month-over-month in almost two years, since February 2018. The sales figures were also up 10.8% from what they were in December 2018.

What’s behind this uptick? The biggest factor driving the surge in home sales is historically low mortgage interest rates. 

Plummeting Rates

During the last week of February 2020, mortgage rates fell to their lowest in three years and were hovering – just barely – above all-time lows. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was sitting at 3.45%, almost exactly one percentage point below the same week in 2019. Its lowest rate ever, 3.31%, was reached in November 2012 immediately following the recession.

Despite widespread uneasiness about the falling rates, this should come as no surprise. Mortgage rates typically follow the 10-year Treasury yield, and it’s been extremely volatile recently due to investor concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

Consumers are clamoring to take advantage of these low rates, particularly first-time homebuyers. New mortgage loan applications increased over 30% in December 2019 as compared to December 2018, while applications for refinancing rose a stunning 109%. 

Demand Is Outpacing Supply

Interestingly, this considerable spike in home sales comes at the same time as a national jump in median sales prices. January 2020’s median listing price was $299,995, a 3.4% year-over-year increase, and many large metropolitan markets saw increases of more than 10%.

With eager consumers applying for new mortgage loans at a dizzying pace, the supply of available homes simply can’t keep up. The number of previously-owned homes on the market decreased by 13.6% in January 2020 as compared to the year before, with some large cities experiencing decreases of over 14%. This is a classic case of supply and demand, and the current market is strongly favoring sellers.  

Looking Ahead

These upward home sales trends are predicted to continue throughout much of 2020, thanks to the “perfect storm” of incredibly low mortgage loan rates, a decreased supply of available homes, and an unemployment rate that’s settled into a 50-year low. 

If you’re in the market for a new home or interested in refinancing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week -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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Paying Rent And Mortgages With A Credit Card

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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More Than 25% Of Millennial Homebuyers May Be Financially Unprepared

More Than 25% Of Millennial Homebuyers May Be Financially UnpreparedMillennials are the first generation in America that will probably not be able to do as well as their parents. In the United States, there is not as much upward mobility as there was in the past. What is the cause of this?

CNN reports that Millennials have more college degrees than their parents. They also have an enormous amount of student loan debt. Many millennials have lower-paying jobs than their parents had at the same age when adjusted for inflation. Spending patterns changed as well, due to the high cost of living.

Finding The Money

Saving is not easy. The net worth of Americans, who are from 18 to 35 years old, decreased by 34% since 1996. Even though millennials are financially savvy, the 2008 global financial crisis made it difficult to find jobs and made saving for many nearly impossible. Those who have been able to put aside some money in the last ten years are lucky if they have $8,000 in savings, which is the average for those millennials trying to save for a home purchase.

Soaring Home Prices

By 2018, the real estate market recovered from the 2008 collapse. In most American cities, housing prices are going up significantly. The home prices surpassed pre-crash levels and now continue to rise. Soaring home prices make buying a home very challenging.

What To Do?

For most millennials, the best choice is to continue to live with their parents and use the lower cost of living as an opportunity to put away enough money for the required down payment to buy a house. Many plan to live very frugally and to save for up to five years if they want to buy a home of their own.

For others, they are developing co-ownership plans, where millennials plan to share home buying with more than one person. In these deals, they become the landlord and the tenants of a multifamily property that they buy together.

The Math

The median home price in America is $226,800. First-time buyers, who qualify, can get FHA-backed mortgage financing with as little as 3.5% down. Still, that is $7,938 just for the down payment. There is also the need to have 2% to 5% of the loan amount for closing costs, which can add up to $10,943.

Financial prudence recommends having at least three months of living expenses in savings to cover any unexpected temporary emergencies, like losing a job. Add another $12,000 for this contingency. This means to safely buy a home at the median price, with a low-down-payment loan, a millennial may need to have as much as $30,881.

For conventional financing, with 20% down, the numbers are much higher. For that type of financing, a millennial needs about $66,432!

Summary

Millennials face significant challenges in homeownership that are unique to their generation. For these reasons, many are delaying homeownership for at least five years and living with their parents longer, to save more money, to make their dream of homeownership come true in the more distant future.

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

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How to Buy An Investment Property

How to Buy An Investment PropertyIt is important for everyone to take steps to diversify their assets. While many people take this to mean holding multiple stocks, bonds, and mutual funds in the market, this also includes branching out into the real estate industry. The real estate industry is far more stable than the stock market and provides a fantastic opportunity to generate reliable returns. At the same time, there are lots of options to choose from when it comes to investment properties.

Here are a few tips everyone should keep in mind.

Buying And Renting

One option is to purchase a single-family home as a second building and then rent it out. On the other hand, it is also possible to purchase a multi-unit property and rent out each individual unit. One of the biggest factors to keep in mind is that the owner is going to be responsible for collecting deposits, checking the backgrounds of potential tenants, conducting repairs, and completing maintenance tasks. 

If the property is located in a desirable area, it is possible for someone to collect enough rent to cover the cost of the mortgage and more. At the same time, it is also possible that someone might end up spending a considerable amount of time managing the property. It might be a solid idea to hire a property management company; however, this will eat away at the revenue. These are a few of the key factors to think about.

Flipping Houses

Another option real estate investors can consider is flipping houses. In this process, someone buys a home (which is often in a state of disrepair and inexpensive), repairs it, and then sells the home for a profit. It is also possible that someone might end up spending a significant amount of time and money renovating the home, which might eat away at any financial gains. Be sure to know exactly what repairs and renovations the home is going to need before buying.

A Real Estate Investment Trust

Sometimes, it might be too much for someone to buy individual properties. One possible option is called a real estate investment trust (REIT). This is a company that owns numerous big properties that generate incomes. Therefore, these trusts are often compared to mutual funds in the stock market but for real estate. Different REITs specialize in different areas, so there are lots to choose from.

If you are interested in buying a new home or refinancing your current property, be sure to consult with your trusted home mortgage professional.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week -March 17th, 2020

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week -March 17th, 2020Last week’s scheduled economic reports included readings on inflation and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

Inflation Holds Steady in February

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.10 percent in February and matched January’s reading. Analysts expected no inflationary growth for February and noted that the Coronavirus had not yet impacted national inflation.

Higher rents and grocery prices caused inflation to rise in February. Year-over-year, the Consumer Price Index rose 2.30 percent in February after posting its highest reading of 2.50 percent in January; analysts expect inflation to decrease in the coming months.

The Core Consumer Price Index, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors, grew by 0.20 percent and matched expectations and January’s growth rate.

Mortgage Rates Mixed as New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose seven basis points to 3.36 percent last week after posting the lowest rate on record the prior week. The average rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages fell two basis points to 2.77 percent.

The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages dropped by 17 basis points to 3.01 percent. Discount points averaged 0.70 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and 0.20 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims fell to 211,000 claims filed from the prior week’s reading of 215,000 first-time claims filed. Consumer sentiment dropped to an index reading of 95.90 in March as compared to February’s reading of 101.00; analysts expected consumer sentiment to fall to an index reading of 95.00.

The March reading was the weakest in five months and was attributed to fears of the Coronavirus. The current consumer sentiment index covered data through March 11 and index readings are expected to fall lower as impacts of the Coronavirus unfold.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings from the National Association of Home Builders on housing market conditions, sales of pre-owned homes reported by the National Association of Realtors® and Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued.

The Federal Reserve will issue its post-meeting statement of its Federal Open Market Committee and Fed Chair Jerome Powell will give a press conference after the FOMC statement. Additional economic news and policy announcements related to the Coronavirus may also be released.

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