Buying a home isn’t cheap – and even though mortgage rates are low, your own financial circumstances may mean that your monthly payment is more than you can afford. Whether you’re a new buyer looking to save money or a cash-strapped owner who needs to free up extra income, there are several ways you can lower your monthly payments – here are just five of them.
Make 13 Payments Every Year
If you have some extra money and you’re looking to pay down more of your principal amount, making 13 annual payments instead of the usual 12 is a great way to not only reduce what you owe, but also lower your monthly costs. Most lenders will allow you to make one additional lump sum payment per year on top of your regular monthly payments. Pro tip: Combine your tax refund and Christmas bonus into one big lump sum to pay down your mortgage.
Still Paying PMI? Ask Your Lender To Cancel It
Private mortgage insurance is a standard cost that you’re legally obligated to pay if your down payment was less than 20% of your home’s value. But once you’ve paid off that 20%, you’re no longer required to have PMI on a conventional mortgage. If you’ve built up 20% equity, talk to your lender about removing PMI from your mortgage agreement – it could save you thousands.
Recast Your Mortgage
If you’ve been diligently paying your mortgage for years but suddenly run into money problems, recasting your mortgage is a great way to make your monthly payments easier to manage. Recasting is fairly simple – it takes your remaining loan balance and stretches it across your original loan term. For example, if you’re 15 years into a 30-year mortgage that has half of its balance remaining, you can recast your mortgage to pay off the balance over another 30-year period.
Facing Financial Hardship? Get A HAMP Modification
If you encounter financial hardship, you can ask your lender if they offer a Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). HAMP is a government program designed to make housing more affordable for low-income citizens. It’s possible to save a significant amount of money with a HAMP modification.
Contact your trusted real estate professional to learn more about getting the most from your home financing.
Beyond the mortgage, maintenance and property taxes of a new home, you may not be aware that many newer communities require you to be part of the Homeowner Association (HOA). If you’re wondering about what the HOA entails and how this can impact the home and community you live in, here are some facts that may be important to know before you buy.
What Is A HOA?
If you happen to have a Homeowner Association present in your new community, it’s important to know that this body works to enforce the rules of the neighborhood. Made up of a group of volunteers that live within a given area, different community members will be responsible for different aspects of the community. While there are annual fees for an HOA and they vary from place to place, communities with this type of association often come with a higher price tag on the market.
The Types Of Rules Enforced
The rules that are enforced by a HOA differ depending on the community, but they can range from issues as diverse as the height of fences to the number of pets per residence to the amount owed for fines. While you may have found your ideal home in a great community, it can be worth looking into the rules of your local HOA so that you can determine if they’ll work for you. If there are any red flags, you may want to consider your options or decide if the sacrifice is worth it.
Dealing With The Rules
It’s important to stick to the rules of the community you live in because you can be taken to small claims court if you don’t pay your fees or respond appropriately to complaints. If you’re in a position where you disagree with the rules and would like to pursue another option, you will want to make a written request to the board and wait it out. You may not get a response very quickly due to the voluntary nature of most HOA, but it’s important to be compliant with the regulations until your request is approved.
It’s great news if you’ve found your dream home in a nice new community, but it’s important to be aware of the HOA rules that you’ll have to comply with. If you’re currently on the market for a new home, contact your local real estate professional for more information.
Spring-cleaning might seem like a necessity if you’ve accrued a lot of stuff through the fall and winter seasons, but it can be hard to determine how to get your kids involved. If you’re looking for tips on how to get this task done and engage your children at the same time, here are a few fun ways.
Play Some Tunes
It goes without saying that almost everything is more fun with music, and kids will readily agree with this! Instead of silence, pique your children’s interest with their favorite album and encourage them to take the duster or mop along with them.
Offer Up A Reward
It’s important that your children understand that helping out around the house is everyone’s job, but offering them a treat can be a good means of getting them involved. Whether it’s a couple of dollars or a trip to the ice cream parlor, a little work for a reward has always been a positive thing.
Give Them A Choice
Most kids don’t like to be told what to do, so providing them with the opportunity for leadership can be a great thing when it comes to the task of spring-cleaning. Not only will they be happy to help you along if they can direct, it will give them confidence in their own capabilities.
Make Room For New Duds
Getting rid of old clothing isn’t always fun, but if it makes way for a new outfit or toy many kids will spring at the chance. Instead of large scale, let your children tackle their own space to clear away stuff they no longer use. It will make them aware of what they need and what they can get along without.
Get Out The Gear
Outside of a damp cloth, most adults don’t have any specific clothes for cleaning the house, but dressing up is always a fun activity for kids! Whether it’s overalls, a cap and some rubber gloves, making cleaning a game of dress up is an easy way to appeal to the imagination of your children.
Spring-cleaning may not always seem like the most fun, but there are a few simple ways you can make it appealing to your kids and liven up an old activity for yourself. If you’re perking up your home in the hopes of a summer sale, you may want to contact trusted local real estate professional for more information.
Last week’s economic releases included Existing Home Sales, Commerce Department Releases on Housing Starts and Building Permits and the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. Mortgage rates and new jobless claims were released according to their weekly schedule.
Home Builder Confidence Holds Firm in April
According to April’s National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, home builder confidence held steady with a reading of 58 for the third consecutive month. Analysts viewed April’s reading as a sign of steady expansion for home building, but builders noted concerns over labor shortages. NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said that builders were “cautiously optimistic” concerning housing market conditions.
The National Association of Realtors® reported a jump in sales of previously owned homes in March. The seasonally-adjusted annual rate of sales rose to 5.33 million and surpassed expectations of 5.30 million sales and February’s reading of 5.07 million sales of pre-owned homes.Mr. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, said that demand is increasing and noted that the national average home price increased more than twice as fast as average wages.
In other housing-related reports, the Commerce department reported slower growth in housing starts, which reached 1.089 million starts in March. Analysts expected 1.170 million starts based on March’s reading of 1.194 housing starts. Building permits were also lower with 1.086 million building permits issued as compared to 1.177 million building permits issued in March.
National Association of Realtors®: Sales of Pre–Owned Homes Exceed Expectations
March sales of previously owned homes reached a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million sales against predictions of 5.30 million sales and February’s reading of 5.07 million sales. While March sales of pre-owned homes coincide with the approaching peak home selling season, high demand for homes and low supplies of homes for sale could slow sales. Inventories of available homes are currently at a 4.5 month supply; a six month supply of available homes indicates a normal reading for available homes.
Mortgage Rates Mixed, Jobless Claims Lowest Since 1973
Freddie Mac reported mixed results for last week’s average mortgage rates. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was one basis point higher at 3.59 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was one basis point lower at 2.85 percent while the average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages fell by three basis points to 2.81 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
Weekly jobless claims dropped to their lowest level since 1973 with a reading of 247,000 new claims filed. Analysts expected a reading of 265,000 new claims filed based on the prior week’s reading of 253,000 new claims filed. Strong labor markets can be an incentive to home buyers to move up to larger homes or transition from renting to owning, but short supplies of available homes and rapidly rising home prices present obstacles. First-time buyers account for approximately 30 percent of home sales; their participation could diminish unless available homes increase and demand for homes eases.
This week’s scheduled economic reports include the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices along with new and pending home sales reports. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released on schedule.
Home buyers kicked the spring home shopping season into gear and boosted sales of pre-owned homes in March. Existing home sales rose 5.10 percent in March according to the National Association of Realtors®. 5.33 million pre-owned homes were sold in March against expectations of 5.30 million sales and February’s reading of 5.07 million sales on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.
Demand for homes remains strong in spite of rapidly escalating prices in many areas. Short supplies of available homes continue to drive demand and home prices. Sales rose only 1.50 percent year-over-year, but during the first quarter of 2016, existing home sales rose by 4.80 percent as compared to the first quarter of 2015. Sales were 11.11 percent higher in the Northeast, which was a notable improvement over lagging sales in recent months.
There was a 4.50 month supply of available homes in March and the median price of an existing home rose 5.70 percent to $222,700. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun noted that the annual increase in home prices was more than twice the rate of average wage increases. First-time home buyers represented 30 percent of buyers in March; this was the same percentage as February. First-time and moderate income buyers continue to face challenges due to rapidly rising home prices competition for available homes.
NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Unchanged in March
According to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for March, home builder confidence remained at 58 for the third consecutive months. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are confident about current market conditions than not.
Builder confidence in current market conditions fell two points to 63 while builder confidence rose 1 point to 62 for market conditions in the next six months. Builder confidence in buyer traffic for new home developments also rose one point to 44. Readings for buyer traffic have not exceeded 50 for approximately 10 years. NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz characterized home builder sentiment as “cautiously optimistic.”
Challenges facing home builders include a short supply of labor; the number of job vacancies reached a post-recession high in February. All four regional builder confidence readings declined in April; the Northeast lost two points for a reading of 44. The Midwest and South each lost one point for readings of 57 and 58 respectively. The Western region posted a loss of two points for a reading of 67.