Last week was jam-packed with economic news; here are some highlights with emphasis on housing and mortgage related news:
Monday: Retail sales for April increased to -0.1 percent from the March reading of -0.5 percent and also surpassed Wall Street’s downward forecast of -0.6 percent. Retail sales are important to economic recovery as sales of goods and services represent approximately 70 percent of the U.S. economy.
Tuesday: The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released its Small Business Optimism Index for April with encouraging results. April’s index rose by 2.6 points to 92.1. A reading of 90.7 indicates economic recovery. This index is based on a survey of 1873 NFIB member businesses.
Wednesday: The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) for May matched investor expectations with a reading of 44. At three points above the March reading of 41, this report suggests that builders are slowly gaining confidence in national housing markets.
Thursday: The U.S. Commerce Department reported that Housing Starts fell by 16.5 percent in April to a seasonally-adjusted annual level of 853,000 from 1.02 million housing starts in March. This reading fell short of investors’ consensus of 965,000 housing starts, however, this decrease was caused by the volatile apartment construction sector.
Friday: Consumer sentiment for May surpassed investor expectations of +0.3 percent and came in at +0.6 percent. As consumer sentiment improves, it’s likely that more consumers will buy homes.
Rising Interest Rates Show Strengthening Economy
Mortgage rates rose last week according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose from 3.42 percent to 3.51 percent with borrowers paying 0.70 in discount points and all of their closing costs.
15-year fixed rate mortgages rose from 2.61 percent last week to 2.69 percent this week with borrowers paying 0.70 in discount points and all of their closing costs.
This news is consistent with a strengthening economy, but is narrowing opportunities for home buyers seeking both affordable home prices and low mortgage rates.
Federal Open Market Committee Minutes To Be Released This Week
Looking ahead, economic news for this week includes the Existing Home Sales report for April with an expectation of 5.00 million homes sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis against the March tally of 4.93 million homes sold.
Also set for release on Wednesday are the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) Minutes for the meeting held April 30 and May 1. The FOMC meetings typically include discussions of the Federal Reserve’s current policy on quantitative easing (QE) which consists of the Fed buying $85 billion per month in MBS and treasury bonds.
When the QE program ends, mortgage rates will likely increase as bond prices decline due to lesser demand.
Thursday brings the weekly Jobless Claims Report along with New Home Sales for April. The consensus for new homes sold is 430,000 as compared to the March reading of 417,000 new homes sold.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will release its Home Price Index for March on Thursday.
Going green is not just a new trend; it is a way of life that benefits not only the environment, but also your health — and your pocketbook.
Green living cuts down on carbon emissions and creates a healthier environment both inside and outside of a home. While green structures sometimes cost more initially, the money (and environment) saved in the long run is well worth the investment.
Owning a green Maine home has significant health benefits. Many conventional buildings are not properly ventilated and indoor air quality is often more polluted than the air outside.
Poor air quality is bad for your health and can aggravate asthma and allergies. Certified green properties tend to have excellent airflow and ventilation. They also use toxin-free materials in building and may have fewer problems with mold and mildew.
Homes are responsible for a significant portion of the carbon emissions on earth. A green home has a smaller carbon footprint since it is built with better insulation and fitted with energy-efficient appliances.
Green structures are built from sustainable or recycled materials that are meant to lower the impact on the environment. Proper green buildings also take advantage of natural lighting and airflow to reduce the use of electricity to light and to help warm and cool their interiors.
Green buildings are constructed to use less energy, which means you should pay less in energy costs. Ventilation systems in green structures are better insulated to reduce air leakage.
Builders also install fixtures that conserve water and are energy efficient. The initial cost might be slightly higher, but the monthly bills can be cut almost in half in many cases.
There are even more financial, environmental and health benefits to owning a green property. Living in a green home can allow you to save yourself money and help the earth, all while living in a healthy environment.
If you’re looking to purchase a new house, consider a green property. If you have any questions on current green properties available in the local market, please call your trusted real estate professional right away.
Home builders are gaining confidence in current and future market conditions for new homes, but continue to see below-average foot traffic in new homes.
The reading for May’s National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) /Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) increased by three points to a reading of 44 as compared to April’s revised reading of 41. The HMI measures builder confidence in current sales conditions for newly built homes, buyer foot traffic in new homes and builder expectations for future sales conditions.
Builder Confidence In Future New Home Sales Highest Since February 2007
The HMI reading for current sales conditions for newly built homes rose from 44 to 48. The reading for buyer foot traffic in new homes rose from 30 to 33, and builder confidence in future sales of new homes rose from 52 to 53, which is the highest reading posted for builder expectations since February 2007.
A reading of more than 50 indicates that more builders consider housing markets good than bad.
NAHB Chairman Rick Judson noted that home builders are facing challenges including rising costs for building materials, lots and labor as supply chains recover from the recession. He also said that builders took note of “urgency” among home buyers wanting to take advantage of low mortgage rates, but who are facing a dwindling supply of available homes.
Regional Housing Market Index Unchanged Except In West
HMI readings for three of the four geographical regions used in the HMI survey of builders remained unchanged with the Northeast at 37, Midwest at 45 and South at 42.
The reading for the West declined by five points to 49, and likely reflects the shortage of building space and available new homes for sale. The regional HMI figures are calculated as a three-month rolling average.
In some areas of the West, home sellers are again receiving multiple offers for homes, a clear indication of diminishing inventories of homes for sale.
As an example, the Sacramento Bee recently reported the dilemma of builders faced with fewer available construction-ready lots alongside an increasing demand for homes. As inventories of both new and pre-owned homes shrink, demand for homes is growing as buyers take advantage of low mortgage rates.
With builders feeling confident about the future and poised to ramp up their home building efforts, it is a great time to consider buying or selling a home in Maine.
Contact your trusted real estate professional to discuss your options right away to take advantage of this exciting opportunity.
Everyone knows that first impressions are important. By carefully staging your home, you can positively influence the feelings your potential buyers have when they are viewing the property.
Staging is the art of decorating and arranging the spaces within your house to make it more appealing to buyers. If you can adapt the rooms to create an attractive and welcoming zone that home buyers can see themselves in, they will be more likely to buy your property.
One of the most important rooms to stage is the living room, because it is such a central part of the house. This is where a lot of the social activity occurs, so it should appear comfortable and welcoming.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when staging your living room before the next showing of your home:
- Clear out the clutter. The most important step is to de-clutter, because a mess will turn off potential buyers. Clear away any papers, toys and other items to make your living room as clean and minimalist as possible.
- Go zen. The main purpose of a living room is for relaxation, so make the space look as comfortable as possible. Try a soft throw on the sofa, plush cushions and a big chair that is just begging you to come curl up with a book.
- Strategically place furniture. Arrange the living room furniture to create areas of conversation, such as two sofas facing each other with a low coffee table in the middle.
- Depersonalize. Remove your personal items. If you have too many family photos and personal effects in the room, it can make it difficult for your potential buyers to imagine their own family living there.
- Remove the bulk. If your living room feels small, you can remove some of the furniture to give it the illusion of being bigger.
- Channel your green thumb. You might want to consider bringing in some plants to make the space feel fresh.
- Brighten it up. If your living room has dark corners, invest in upright lamps that will help illuminate the space and provide an aura of intimacy.
With these seven tips, the living room in your Maine home will be much more appealing to potential buyers.
If you are ready to make a move to your next home, call your trusted mortgage loan officer for a personal consultation to get the best home mortgage loan for your purchase.
In almost every Maine home, there are awkward spaces that are difficult to utilize.
Especially in older houses, there are rooms, closets and nooks that once had a purpose that is now outdated.
So before you try to cover it up or fill it with junk, take a look at the smart solutions below to see how you can revitalize those problematic spaces and turn them into something useful.
The Space Under The Stairs
While this is likely to be more of a hiding spot for dust-bunnies than teenage wizards, it is valuable space that you don’t have to board up. Use it for storage!
Create custom storage cabinets, or if it’s near the kitchen, build in a wine refrigerator or display shelves for china.
You could also build in a coat or shoe closet if the stairs are in the front entryway.
The Bedroom Too Small For A Bed
You might have an office that sometimes needs to be used as a bedroom or a bedroom that could fit a bed and nothing else.
If these issues strike a chord, then you might want to invest in a Murphy bed.
These space-saving inventions allow you to use a small space for another purpose during the day, and then miraculously have a place to sleep at night.
The Unused Closet
Especially in an older home, you’ll run across closets that just don’t make sense. If you don’t need it for storage, then turn it into something creative, such as a small library or toy room.
Take off the door, add adjustable shelves, build a comfortable cushioned bench and install attractive lighting. Now you and your family can curl up for story time in your new book nook.
Or put in a desk or countertop, an office chair and table lamp and use it as an office nook that can be closed off when you’re not using it.
Don’t write off awkward spaces in your home as lost causes. With a little ingenuity, hard work and smart design, you can create a useful area that everyone in your family can use and enjoy.
Mortgage rates fell last week and approached or reached record low levels.
According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage (FRM) fell from 3.40 percent to 3.35 percent. Average rates for a 15-year FRM moved from 2.61percent to 2.56 percent.
Average rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) fell to 2.56 from last week’s average of 2.58 percent Discount points for last week’s mortgage rates ranged from 0.7percent for 30 and 15 year FRM loans to 0.5 percent for a 5/1 ARM.
Rock-bottom mortgage rates can offset the impact of rising home prices.
Last Week Was A Strong Showing For The US Economy
Last week’s economic news provided further indications of economic recovery, with housing related reports contributing to overall confidence in a stronger economy.
Highlights of last week’s news include:
Monday: Pending home sales moved up to 1.50 percent in March from February’s -1.07 percent. This reading also surpassed Wall Street’s forecast of 0.90 percent for March.
Tuesday: The Case-Shiller Home Price Index for February reported that the national average home price had increased by 9.3 percent year-over-year between February 2012 and February 2013. By comparison, the average national home price between January 2012 and January 2013 increased by 8.1 percent year-over-year. Rising home prices are contributing to the economic recovery, but in some areas demand for homes exceeds supply, which also contributes to rising home prices.
Wednesday: The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) issued its scheduled statement after its meeting concluded. Committee members noted signs of an improving economy, and cited housing markets as a leading contributor to the recovery. The FOMC statement also indicated that economic conditions were not sufficiently improved for the FOMC to change or cease the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policy. The Fed’s goal for its current quantitative easing program is keeping long-term interest rates including mortgage rates low.
Thursday: The weekly Jobless Claims Report brought better-than-expected news with new jobless claims coming in at 324,000, less than the expected reading of 345,000 new jobless claims and also higher than the previous report’s reading of 342,000 new jobless claims.
Friday: The Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its monthly “Jobs Report,” which consists of the Non-farm Payrolls Report and the national Unemployment Rate. Again new jobs added exceeded expectations for April with 165,000 jobs added against expectations of 135,000 new jobs added. April’s reading also surpassed the March reading of 138,000 new jobs.
The unemployment rate dropped to 7.5 percent as compared to a consensus of 7.6 percent and last month’s reading of 7.6 percent. To put this reading in perspective, the FOMC has targeted an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent as a benchmark for adjusting its current policies including quantitative easing.
What To Look For This Week
This week’s economic events include latest Jobless Claims report on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if this week’s reading will be lower than last week’s reading of 324,000 new jobless claims.
On Friday, the Federal Budget will be released; this could influence financial markets depending on what programs and services are cut or reduced.
Wednesday’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) statement indicates the Federal Reserve’s commitment to keeping long term interest rates and inflation under control.
The Fed will continue monitoring inflation, but does not expect inflation to rise more than 0.50 percent above its target rate of 2.00 percent over the next one to two years.
Ongoing monitoring of inflation and unemployment, as well as developing economic news, will guide the Fed in its future determinations concerning policy for its present iteration of quantitative easing (QE3).
Currently, the Fed purchases $85 billion of treasury securities and mortgage –backed securities each month with the goal of keeping long-term interest rates lower.
This includes mortgage rates, which can assist homebuyers with qualifying for mortgage loans in an environment of increasing home prices. Other goals include stabilizing the labor market, and limiting inflation.
Job Growth To Be Determining Factor On Fed Interest Rate Action
The statement also noted that the Fed will keep its interest rates between 0.00 and 0.25 percent, until the Fed sees the national unemployment rate fall below 6.50 percent.
While noting that the housing sector is improving, the Fed stated concerns about ongoing high unemployment rates. Jobs are a key aspect to supporting the economy, as 70 percent of the U.S. economy involves the purchase of goods and services by consumers.
The Fed also repeated its position to evaluate the efficacy of its quantitative easing program; if the agency finds that the program is not achieving their desired objectives, changes to the program can be expected.
While a clear majority of FOMC members voted to keep current policies intact, one member voted against this course of action citing the potential for continued quantitative easing at current levels to fuel inflation.
The bottom line for today’s statement is that the Fed continues its “wait and see” position concerning quantitative easing and low federal interest rates.The committee also re-asserted its intention to gradually reduce quantitative easing when it’s time for a change.
In addition, the Fed is committed to monitoring a wide range of economic data with an eye toward adjusting its policies in the best interest of economic recovery.
Housing markets continue to improve according to the S&P Case Shiller Home Price Indices released April 30 for February’s data.
The Indices consist of a 10-City Composite Index and a 20-City Composite Index with housing markets for each city reported based on a three-month rolling average of home prices.
Case Shiller Posts Highest Growth Rates Since 2006
The data released yesterday comprised the Indices’ highest growth rates since May 2006.
For the 12 months between February 2012 and February 2013, the 10-City Composite Index reports that average home prices posted a gain of 8.6 percent and average home prices for the 20-City Composite Index grew by 9.3 percent on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.
All 20 cities posted a year-over-year gain for at least two consecutive months.
The 10-City Composite Index grew by 0.4 percent between January and February, while the 20-City Composite Index grew by 0.3 percent for the same time period.
16 of the 20 cities reported rising annual growth rates for home sales between January and February 2013, while four cities including Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis and Phoenix saw decreases between -0.1 and -0.4 percent in annual home prices between January and February 2013 readings.
Longer-term readings provide a more positive light, as with the example for Phoenix, Arizona.
The month-to-month reading of annual home prices indicated a decrease, but the reading for Phoenix year over year indicates a + 23.0 percent increase in average home prices.
Ten Metro Areas Gain Double Digits Over Past Year
10 cities posted double-digit year-over-year growth rates; they include Atlanta, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco and Tampa.
San Diego and Tampa have joined the double-digit cities in February with average home prices increasing for each city of just over 10 percent.
Phoenix, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Atlanta posted the highest year-over-year gains in average home prices.
Three older cities, New York, Boston and Chicago posted the lowest year-over-year rates in average home price readings.
Atlanta and Dallas achieved the highest annual growth rates since the inception of the 10-City Composite (1991) and the 20-City Composite (2001).
Improving Housing Markets Seen As Beacon Of Economic Recovery
Improving housing markets are considered a leading indicator of overall economic recovery as home ownership typically increases wealth and leads to more spending.
Economists note that while current news for housing markets is good, average home prices remain at 2003 levels, which can be very good for new home buyers.
Shortages of available homes in some areas and news that apartment construction is increasing can impact availability and ultimately, the sale of single-family homes.
Whether you have new neighbors next door or old friends moving across town, a housewarming gift is a great way to show you care.
New owners always appreciate anything that relieves the pressures of moving and settling in to an unfamiliar neighborhood.
Here are seven fun and easy housewarming-gift ideas for your friends moving into their home.
A Door Wreath
You can choose a wreath that fits the season or that is simply attractive on the front door.
Include a wreath door-hanger and storage box so they can easily hang it or put it away.
A Pair of Candlestick Holders
Candlesticks are a simple, yet practical gift for a new Brunswick home.
They’re perfect for a mantel, dresser or table. Choose attractive candlestick holders that match the house’s decor and include a set of candles to burn.
A Homemade Meal
Moving and getting settled in a new house takes a tremendous amount of time and effort.
This leaves little time to cook nutritious meals.
Bring either a takeout or home-cooked meal along with disposable plates and utensils for a much appreciated housewarming gift.
Nothing makes a room look more inviting than fresh-cut flowers or a lush green plant.
Flowers add a punch of color while plants last longer while still requiring little work.
Choose flowers that fit the season or a plant with full, green leaves that is easy to maintain.
Not only are they practical, but they also help bring comfort and serenity to the chaos of moving.
Choose a theme for the candles, such as a color or a scent that matches the style.
Include candles of different shapes and sizes and a lighter.
Keep in mind the house’s décor as you choose a picture frame.
Wood, pewter, bamboo or decorative glass looks great in a casually decorated house.
If the house has a more formal décor, choose crystal or silver.
It’s be fun for your friends to have a place to display their new memories.
There are few experiences that offer the excitement of moving into a new home, and you can add to that excitement and wonder by giving one of these housewarming gift ideas.
And if you want to be the one receiving housewarming gifts by moving to a new home, then call your trusted mortgage professional today for your home loan approval!