Wildfires May Make Insurance Harder to Get in California

As firefighters work on the containment of at least 11 wildfires that continue to burn throughout the state, the California Department of Insurance is already warning homeowners about the insurance headaches they will likely face, even for those whose homes weren’t affected in the latest fires.

The increasing number and severity of wildfires will likely make it more difficult for homeowners in the state to find and hold onto insurance, the California Department of Insurance warns.

California Insurance Commissioner David Jones told the Associated Press that more insurance companies may choose not to renew policies, or may stop writing homeowners policies in areas with the highest fire risk. He also says homeowners in the state should be prepared to face rate increases. Also, some portions of the state may be reclassified from safe to high-risk for wildfires that could jump costs for homeowners.

Source: “California fires may make homeowners insurance harder to get,” Associated Press (Aug. 13, 2018)

5M Renters Have Fallen Prey to Online Scams

More than 43 percent of renters say they’ve found online rental listings that seemed fraudulent, and more than 5 million say they’ve actually been scammed—sometimes to the tune of thousands of dollars—according to a new report released by rental website ApartmentList.com.

The survey revealed that the most common scam is a “bait-and-switch” one, where a different property is advertised than the one that is actually available. The scammer is often able to collect a deposit or get a lease signed for the fake property. Another common scam is the “hijacked ad,” where a scammer takes a home that is legitimately for sale and poses as a fake landlord to collect funds. Apartment List also warns of a growing scam in which a listing property that is already leased is posted online. The scammer then attempts to collect application fees or security deposits from an unsuspecting consumer.

Source: “Ready to Rent a Home? Beware of These New Scams,” CNBC (Aug. 9, 2018)

Too Much Income Devoted to Making Rent

Renters are struggling to catch a break. In seven of the largest U.S. cities, the average household would need to make at least six figures to comfortably afford the rent on a two-bedroom apartment, according to a new study by SmartAsset, a personal financial website. SmartAsset researchers looked at how much it takes to afford average rental rates in the nation’s 25 largest cities.

Households that spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing are considered “cost burdened” by most economists. SmartAsset researchers found rents in California’s largest cities took some of the biggest bites out of American’s paychecks. Four California cities ranked in the top 10 on the list: San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Diego.

A separate study, recently released by PropertyShark and RentCafe, found that if renters could save enough for a down payment they may fare better as homeowners. Renters in more than half of the 50 cities in the study could barely make it until payday, while in 44 of the 50 cities tracked, homeowners were projected to be able to save money each month.

An Artificial Lawn Isn’t Maintenance-Free

Artificial grass, which comes in multiple textures, finishes, and colors, can give homeowners a low-maintenance alternative to natural lawns. But it has pros and cons.

Artificial grass doesn’t need watering and remains green all year, which is a big selling point for homeowners. It works well in most climates, particularly dry climates, but it’s not totally maintenance-free. For example, you’ll need to rinse an artificial lawn to clear it of dirt and debris. Also, you’ll need to “groom your lawn to fluff the blades of grass and keep it from becoming matted,” Rob Turley, general manager at Custom Turf in Finleyville, Pa., told realtor.com®.

Artificial lawn materials can be pricey and require special equipment to install, costing between $8 to $20 per square foot, Turley says. Natural grass costs about $0.25 per square foot, for comparison.

Source: “Is Artificial Grass Right for Your Yard? 5 Factors to Consider,” realtor.com® (July 23, 2018)

‘Extra Time to Find the Right Home’ for Buyers

Mixed economic data this week prompted mortgage rates to remain in mostly a holding pattern, says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Manufacturing output and consumer spending showed improvements, but construction activity was a disappointment,” Khater says. “This meant there was no driving force to move mortgage rates in any meaningful way, which has been the theme in the last two months. That’s good news for price-sensitive home shoppers, given that this stability in borrowing costs allows them a little extra time to find the right home.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending July 19:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.52 percent this week, with an average 0.5 point, dropping slightly from last week’s 4.53 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.96 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4 percent this week, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 4.02 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.23 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Mortgage Rates Continue to Slide This Week

Mortgage rates this summer have been dropping the past few weeks after sharp rises this spring. “A record number of people quit their job last month, most likely for a new opportunity with higher wages and better benefits,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “This positive trend, along with these lower mortgage rates, should increasingly give some previously priced-out prospective home buyers the financial wherewithal to resume their home search.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending July 12:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.53 percent for the week, up from last week’s 4.52 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.03 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.02 percent this week, up from last week’s 3.99 percent average. A year ago, 15-year fixed-rates averaged 3.29 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Mortgage Rates Fall to 3-Month Low

Mortgage rates were back down across the board again this week, offering some temporary relief to home buyers. Rates posted a rapid increase throughout most of the spring but have recently reversed course, declining in five of the past six weeks to the lowest average since April.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending July 5:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.52 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 4.55 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.96 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.99 percent, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 4.04 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.22 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.74 percent, with an average 0.3 point, falling from last week’s 3.87 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.21 percent.
Source:

Falling Mortgage Rates Offer Affordability Relief

Mortgage rates declined this week, marking the fourth drop in the past five weeks, Freddie Mac reports.

“The decrease in borrowing costs is a nice slice of relief for prospective buyers looking to get into the market this summer,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Some are undoubtedly feeling the affordability hit from swift price appreciation and mortgage rates that are still 67 basis points higher than this week a year ago.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending June 28:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.55 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 4.57 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.88 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.04 percent, with an average 0.5 point, which is unchanged from a week ago. Last year at this time, 15-year rates averaged 3.17 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.87 percent, with an average 0.3 point, rising from last week’s 3.83 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.17 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Mortgage Rates Hit Highest Level in 7 Years

“Healthy consumer spending and higher commodity prices spooked the bond markets and led to higher mortgage rates over the past week,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Not only are buyers facing higher borrowing costs, gas prices are currently at four-year highs just as we enter the important peak home sales season.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending May 17:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.61 percent, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 4.55 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.02 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.08 percent, with an average 0.4 point, increasing from last week’s 4.01 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.27 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Mortgage Rates Barely Stirred This Week

Mortgage rates have mostly taken a pause after a series of rises in April. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.55 percent last week, unchanged from a week ago.

“The minimal movement of mortgage rates in these last three weeks reflects the current economic nirvana of a tight labor market, solid economic growth, and restrained inflation,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending May 10:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.55 percent, with an average 0.5 point, unchanged from a week ago. A year ago, 30-year rates averaged 4.05 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.01 percent, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 4.03 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.29 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac