Buyers Should ‘Ask After a Home Inspection’

After an inspector has finished a home report, buyers may feel overwhelmed by any flaws that might have been found. That’s why it’s important they take the opportunity to learn more so that they can move forward confidently in the transaction.

A recent article at realtor.com® recommends home buyers ask their inspector clarifying questions like: “I don’t understand this; what does it mean?” or “Is this a major or minor problem?” and “Do I need to call in another expert for a follow-up?”

If the inspector identifies a potentially major problem, consumers will want to follow up whether they should call an additional expert in to investigate further. For example, consumers may need to bring in an electrician to take a closer look at potential electrical issues that were flagged or a roofer if a roofing problem is suspected. Those specialists can then give an idea of the cost to fix it, which the real estate agent can take to the seller to request a concession, if the seller doesn’t want to fix it prior to the sale.

Source: “Home Inspection’s Complete? Here’s What You Must Ask Afterward,” realtor.com® (Oct. 9, 2018)

Mortgage Rates Surge to 7-Year High

Mortgage rates surged to their highest averages since 2011 following the Federal Reserve’s announcement Wednesday that it is raising its benchmark interest rate by a quarter point. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage jumped to 4.72 percent, up from 4.65 percent last week.

“The robust economy, rising Treasury yields, and the anticipation of more short-term rate hikes caused mortgage rates to move up,” says Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sam Khater. “Even with these higher borrowing costs, it’s encouraging to see that prospective buyers appear to be having a little more success. With inventory constraints and home prices starting to ease, purchase applications have now trended higher on an annual basis for six straight weeks.”

 Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Sept. 27:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.72 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.65 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.83 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.16 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.11 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.13 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Home Loan Interest Rates Keep Increasing

For the fourth consecutive week, mortgage rates continued to climb as home buyers face higher borrowing costs. But, mortgage applications for home purchases have managed to increase.

“Mortgage rates are drifting upwards again and represent continued affordability challenges for prospective buyers—especially first-time buyers,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Borrowing costs are moving right now for three main reasons: the very strong economy, higher U.S. government debt issuances, and global trade tensions.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Sept. 20:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.65 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.6 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.83 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.11 percent, with an average 0.5 point, increasing from last week’s 4.06 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.13 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Home Loan Interest Rates ‘Continue to Decline’

Borrowers continued to get relief with mortgage rates this week, as the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage sank lower for the third consecutive week. Mortgage rates are now at their lowest level since April.

“Backed by very strong consumer spending, the economy is red-hot this month, which is in turn rippling through the financial markets and driving equities higher,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “It is clear affordability constraints” have cooled the housing market, particularly in expensive coastal markets. “Many metro areas desperately need more new and existing affordable inventory to break out of this slump,” he notes.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Aug. 23:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.51 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 4.53 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.86 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.98 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 4.01 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.16 percent.
Source: “Mortgage Rates Maintain Downward Trend,” Freddie Mac (Aug. 23, 2018)

 

Millions of Consumers Getting a Credit Score Boost

An overhaul in how several major credit reporting agencies factor in negative credit information is prompting millions of consumers’ credit scores to rise. Collection events were struck from 8 million consumers’ credit reports in the 12 months ending in June. The New York Federal Reserve reported Tuesday that consumers who had at least one collections account removed from their credit reports are seeing an 11-point increase to their scores.

Critics have long claimed such dings to scores are prone to errors or that they’ve unfairly kept many out of the borrowing market. Equifax, Experian PLC, and TransUnion have all agreed to revamp reports, which stems from a 2015 settlement with state attorneys general on the matter. In the settlement, the firms agreed to remove some non-loan related items that were sent to collection firms, such as gym memberships, library fines, and traffic tickets. They also agreed to strike medical-debt collections that have been paid by a patient’s insurance company.

Source: “Overhaul Boosts Credit Scores of Millions of U.S. Consumers,” The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 15, 2018)

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)

Dip in Rates Provides ‘Stability’ for Home Sales

Borrowers saw a little relief from recent increases. Mortgage rates dropped slightly this week, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaging 4.59 percent, Freddie Mac reports. “This stability is much needed for home sales, which have crested because of the multiyear run up in prices, tight affordable inventory, and this year’s higher rates,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Home prices are still climbing and rates are up from 3.90 percent a year ago. “Some prospective buyers are definitely feeling an affordability crunch,” Khater says.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Aug. 9:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.59 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 4.60 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.90 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.05 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 4.08 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.18 percent.
Source: “Mortgage Rates Inch Backward,” Freddie Mac (Aug. 9, 2018)

New Program Aims to Cap Rent Hikes

Similar to the concept of rent control, Freddie Mac announced a new program to incentivize rental property owners to ease their continuous rent hikes. The mortgage giant is offering discounted financing to owners who agree to cap rent increases for the life of their loans. Owners who take part in the program must limit rent increases on 80 percent of their units. Owners also must agree to make at least 50 percent of their units affordable to those earning the local median income or less.

The program, now available across the country, is voluntary. Freddie Mac officials say they will check rents on an annual basis to make sure participating property owners are complying with the program’s rules. Those who are in violation will be assessed a penalty fee until they return rents to a level that Freddie deems compliant.

Source: “Freddie Mac to Lower Financing Costs for Landlords who Cap Rent Rises,” The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 7, 2018)

The Kitchen New-Home Buyers Want

New-home buyers now rank all-white kitchens—once the most in-demand aesthetic—as their second choice, below natural wood cabinetry, according to a new survey from homebuilder Ashton Woods. Respondents to the survey, who are prospective buyers planning to purchase in the next 10 years, picked distressed wood cabinetry as their third most popular choice.

They also said living space is more important to them than bedroom size. Sixty-one percent say they would trade a larger bedroom in order to get a larger living area. Hobby rooms and home offices are also on their priority list, with 67 percent of respondents saying they want an office in their next home.

Source: “Here’s What Buyers of Newly Constructed Homes Want,” The Washington Post (July 26, 2018)

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)