How To Improve Your Credit Score For Better Financing Terms

How To Improve Your Credit Score For Better Financing TermsImagine that you've found the perfect home and are ready to apply for financing. Your home loan approval amount comes back lower than you would have expected and at an interest rate significantly above what you have heard is available on the market.

This could be because you have an average to poor credit score.

Mortgage lenders base interest rates on many things, but your credit score plays a large part. Anything between 720 and 850 will typically qualify for better interest rates. A mediocre score is usually between 660 and 719, and a low score is 659 and under.

If you have a lower score than you'd like, below are a few traits for you to follow of people who possess higher credit scores and secure the best home financing.

They don't max out their cards.

It's better to keep a low revolving balance on a few cards than to spend every dime allotted on one. The ratio of credit card balance to your credit limit is called credit utilization. The higher your credit utilization, the larger affect it can have one your credit score.

They make payments on time.

This is very likely the most important tip for your credit health. If you miss a payment on a term loan, credit card account or monthly home bill, then you could be turned over to collections, which will affect your score negatively.  You will almost surely be reported as late to the credit bureaus, which will in turn drop your credit score precipitously. Absolutely make all of your payments before their due date.

They stay with one card.

Don't close and open credit card accounts frequently. Each time you make a change to your line of credit, it affects your score. Even if you don't want to be tempted to use a credit card, keep the account open and leave the card at home. According to the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO), high credit achievers have accounts that are usually at least 11 years old.

Excellent credit could qualify you for a better interest rate, which might save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. So stay on top of your monthly credit bills and keep a low balance on just a few cards to watch your score steadily increase.

If you're ready to learn more about your ability to purchase a Atlanta home, call your trusted home financing professional today.


5 Important Tips To Help Smooth Your Move When You Have Teens In The Home

5 Important Tips To Help Smooth Your Move With TeensYou've got a new job offer across the country and you are planning to pack your things, buy a home and make the big move.

However, when you tell your 17 year old daughter your plans, she lets out a mournful wail and cries that it is not fair. How can you possibly take her away from all of her friends, her favorite hangout spots and the cute boy she just started seeing?

Moving is a difficult transition and it is often even more traumatic for teenagers. The teenage years are an important stage where young adults establish their individuality and independence and during this time their social circle is extremely important to them.

Being removed from that against their will can make any teen feel sad, confused, angry and resentful. Also, fitting into a new social scene in a different location can be a challenge for a teen that might be singled out as the "new kid".

How can you help your teen during this transition so that the experience will be easier on them?

5 Tips To Help Your Teen Move More Smoothly

Here are some tips that will make the experience of moving a little bit easier on your teenager:

  • Give them as much notice as possible so that they have time to adjust to the idea of moving. They will feel like they have enough time to say goodbye to their friends and close a chapter of their lives.
  • Try to schedule the move around the school calendar, as moving in the summer is much less disruptive to your teen's life than relocating in the middle of the school year.
  • Make sure that they have ample time to spend with their close friends before they leave and once you arrive, understand that they might go through a grieving process of missing their old pals.
  • When you get to your new home, make sure that your teen has plenty of ways to keep in touch with their old friends, such as an internet connection and a cell phone plan.
  • Encourage your teen to get involved in the community of your new hometown, like joining sports clubs or attending events. This can help them to make new friends.

Moving to a new city is always exciting but offers challenges like this one for families. For more advice on moving to a new Alpharetta home, contact your trusted mortgage professional today.


Home Prices Record Highest Monthly Gains Since Case Shiller Index Inception

Home Prices Record Record Month To Month GainsThe S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for April indicate that the housing recovery gained ground.

In April 2013 average home prices tracked in the Case-Shiller 10 and 20-city Composites increased by 11.60 and 12.10 percent year-over-year. On a month-to-month basis, the Composites increased by 2.60 and 2.50 percent respectively.

According to David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the S&P Dow Jones Indices' Index Committee, the 10-and 20- City Composites experienced their largest month- to- month gains since their inception: "Thirteen cities posted month- to-month gains of two percent or more, with San Francisco leading with a month-to-month gain of 4.90 percent."

The 10-and-20 City Indices reported the highest year-over-year gains in home prices since 2006.  Cities where home prices gained more than 20 percent year-over-year included Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Francisco. Phoenix posted its 12th consecutive month of double-digit increases in home prices while San Francisco home prices increased year-over-year by an average of 23.90 percent. Home prices increased year-over-year in 19 the 20 cities included in the 10-and 20 City Composites, with home prices in Detroit remaining flat.

Mortgage Loan Requirements Showing Signs Of Loosening

Mr. Blitzer also noted that according to the most recent Fed Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey, some lenders are beginning to relax credit requirements for mortgage loans. This good news, along with the availability of adjustable-rate mortgage loans is expected to help with maintaining affordability and providing access to homes for more buyers.

According to the S&P Case-Shiller 10-and-20 City Composites, home prices fell approximately 26 to 27percent from their highest in June 2006 to their lowest in March 2012. As of April 2013, average home prices had recovered by 13.10 percent for the 10-City Composite and 13.60 percent for the 20-City Composite.

More Reports Show Ongoing Housing Recovery

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that home prices increased an average of 7.40 percent year-over-year as of April 2013, and rose by 0.70 percent between March and April 2013. While this data fell short of an expected month-to-month increase of 1.10 percent, Average FHFA home prices were 11.70 percent below their peak in April 2007.

FHFA bases its report on sales of homes financed with mortgages owned or securitized by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that sales of new homes reached a five-year high in May, the highest level since July 2008. May sales increased 2.10 percent between April and May 2013 to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 476,000 homes. This represents a year-over-year increase of 29 percent from May 2012.

While rising mortgage rates and home prices may slow demand for homes, economists don't believe that either factor will halt the housing recovery. A good next step is asking your trusted mortgage professional about current home values and loan options in and around Atlanta.


3 Clever But Simple Ways To Get Your Home Mortgage Paid Faster

3 Clever But Simple Ways to Get Your Home Mortgage Paid FasterPaying off the mortgage on your home faster means that you will not only have the satisfaction of owning your own home sooner, you will also have the benefit of paying much less in interest over the years.

The faster you pay off your mortgage, the more money you can save, so here are some tips to accelerate your payment schedule.

Pay Your Mortgage Every Other Week (Bi-Weekly)

Did you know that if you take your monthly mortgage payment and divide it in half and then pay it every two weeks that you will end up making a full extra month of payments every year? This is called a bi-weekly payment program which has been around for a long time, and it's still a good idea today!

You likely won't notice the difference since the extra half payments occur in long months with bigger paychecks, but over the years this will end up saving you thousands of dollars in interest payments.

Make a Bigger Monthly Payment

Similar to the bi-weekly payment plan above, you can accomplish the goal by dividing your principal and interest portion of your payment by 12 and then adding that amount to your regular monthly payment.  You will be paying that extra payment every year, but spacing it out over each monthly payment.  

Most homeowners using this tactic can shorten their term by up to seven years.

Put Any Windfall Toward the Mortgage

Was your tax rebate larger than you expected? Have you received an inheritance from your great aunt Thelma? Have you won a cash prize in a contest?

Put any unexpected chunks of cash straight toward your mortgage instead of spending them. This won't affect your budget at all, because you were never expecting or counting on that money in the first place. But once again, it can make a huge difference in the overall amount of interest that you pay on your mortgage loan.

However, keep in mind your particular situation. Spending every last penny paying off your mortgage as quickly as possible might not be the best option for you if you have no emergency savings fund or if you have a credit card languishing with high interest debt.

It is usually more important to deal with these pressing financial issues before attempting to save money on your mortgage.

One great way to start your research on how to pay your Alpharetta home off faster is to talk with your trusted mortgage professional.  They can answer your questions and point you in the best direction for your situation.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - June 24, 2013

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - June 24, 2013Comments by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke after Wednesday's FOMC meeting caused havoc in financial markets as investors anticipated the potential effects of any rollback of the Fed's policy of quantitative easing (QE). Chairman Bernanke said that the Fed may begin reducing its $85 billion monthly purchase of Treasury securities and MBS toward the end of this year.

The chairman made it clear that any decision concerning QE would be based on careful review of current and developing economic conditions. QE is intended to keep long-term interest rates low; any reduction of the QE securities purchases could cause mortgage rates to rise.

Economic News Bodes Well For Housing

The week's other economic news included more good news for housing. The NAHB/WF Housing Market Index for June came in ahead of expectations at 52, which surpassed the expected reading of 45 and May's reading of 44. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders surveyed believe that housing market conditions are positive.

Tuesday was busy for economic news. The Consumer Price Index for May rose from April's reading of –0.40 percent to +0.10 percent in May, which was below expectations of +0.20 percent.

The Department of Commerce released its Housing Starts Report for May; the reading for May missed expectations of 953,000 housing starts and came in at 914,000 which exceeded April's 856,000 housing starts. Increasing the number of available homes could help steady recently increasing home prices, but existing homes remain in short supply in many areas.

Fed Expects Moderate Improvement Continuing For Economy

Wednesday's news involved the Fed's FOMC meeting and press conference. The Fed stated after the meeting that it expects moderate improvement in economic condition and noted that housing, which was a primary cause of the economic downturn, is now leading the economy's recovery.

Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 3.98 percent with 0.7 percent discount points to 3.93 percent with borrowers paying 0.8 percent in discount points.  The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 3.10 percent to 3.04 percent with 0.7 percent in discount points for both weeks. Investor response to the Fed's mention of possibly reducing its QE program is likely to send mortgage rates up next week.

The National Association of REALTORS® released its Existing Home Sales report for May. Existing home sales came in at 5.18 million and beat projections of 5.00 million and April's sales of 4.97 million existing homes.

Increasing sales of existing homes is good news as demand has exceeded supplies of existing homes in recent months. High demand drives up home prices and impacts affordability along with rising mortgage rates.

What's Ahead For This Week

Next week's scheduled news includes a number of housing related reports, FHFA Home Prices, the Case-Shiller Home Prices Report and New Home Sales are set for release Tuesday.

The Gross Domestic Product Report comes out on Wednesday. On Thursday, data for weekly jobless claims, consumer spending and pending home sales will be released.

Friday brings the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index and the Consumer Sentiment Index.

The data released in these reports will continue to inform the Fed's decision-making with regard to bond purchasing and interest rate policy. It's possible though, following the aggressive market sell-off activity from last week, that we may see a softening in long-term rates over the course of this week.


The Federal Open Market Committee Holds Steady With Mortgage Backed Security Investments

The Federal Open Market Committee Holds Steady With Mortgage Backed Security InvestmentsThe Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve decided to continue its current policy of quantitative easing (QE) based on current economic conditions. The Fed currently purchases $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and $45 billion in Treasury securities monthly.

Objectives for the QE program include:

  • Keeping long term interest rates, including mortgage rates, low
  • Supporting mortgage markets
  • Easing broader financial conditions

FOMC repeated its position of evaluating QE policy based on inflation, the unemployment rate and economic developments.

Members of the FOMC determined that keeping the federal funds rate between 0.00 and 0.25 percent until the following conditions are met:

  • National unemployment rate reaches 6.50 percent
  • Inflation is expected not to exceed 2.50 percent within the next one to two years
  • Longer term inflation expectations are "well-anchored."

Committee members agreed to consistently review labor market conditions, inflationary pressures and expected rates of inflation and other financial developments for determining their course of action on QE.

In its post-meeting statement, FOMC asserted that any changes to current QE policy would be taken in consideration of longer range goals for maximum employment and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent.

Fed Chairman Gives Press Conference

After the FOMC statement, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke held a press conference which provided details about the future of QE and how the Fed will "normalize" its monetary policy. Chairman Bernanke noted that as QE is reduced and eventually stopped, the Fed will not be selling its MBS holdings.

This is important, as demand for MBS is connected to how mortgage rates perform. If the market is flooded with MBS, demand would slow, and prices would fall. When MBS prices fall, mortgage rates typically rise.

According to Chairman Bernanke, the FOMC does not see any immediate reason for changing its purchase of Treasury securities and MBS in the near term, but will continue to monitor conditions. Using the analogy of driving a car, the chairman indicated that the Fed's intent regarding QE and the federal funds rate would be better compared to easing up on the accelerator rather than putting on the brakes.

Chairman Bernanke also characterized benchmarks cited in connection with increasing the federal funds rate as "thresholds, and not triggers." This suggests that even if national unemployment and inflation reach Fed targets, that other economic conditions occurring at that time could cause the Fed to alter its plan for raising the federal funds rate.

The Fed chairman said that during Wednesday's FOMC meeting, 14 of 19 participants did not expect changes to the federal funds rate until 2015, and one member didn't expect a change until 2016.


Three Tips To Get The Best Financing On Your Second Home Purchase

Three Tips To Get The Best Financing On Your Second HomeAre you buying a property as your second home? Perhaps you are looking for a small cottage or apartment where you can escape to for your vacations, or maybe you want to have another home closer to your relatives?

Maybe you want to rent out your second property and make a steady income from your investment. Whatever the reason, a second piece of real estate can be a fantastic investment. However, sometimes getting a mortgage on your second home can present a challenge.

Generally, a mortgage lender will have tougher standards for vacation home -- or second home -- loans than primary home loans. This is because usually when you are buying a second home your finances will be stretched thinner and you will have less money to spare due to already paying a mortgage on your primary home.

This additional risk may mean that your second home mortgage can be more difficult to close and likely could carry a higher interest rate.

Here are three tips to keep in mind that will help you to get the best mortgage on your second property:

Build up a decent amount of savings.

Your mortgage lender will want to be able to see that you have a large amount of savings in reserve so that you will have enough to pay for the mortgage even if you were to lose your job or other income source.

Pay off any credit card or installment debt.

Many lenders will be hesitant to approve your second home mortgage if they see that you have a lot of debt on your credit card. They will want to see that you have a low debt to income ratio so that you will be able to pay back the loan.

Use your primary home as a resource.

If you have always made your payments on time and you are well on your way through paying off your first house, you may have equity to borrow against for some or all of your second home purchase. Be careful here though.  There is a little known IRS regulation that requires the second home be financed under it's own home loan within 90 days of closing to get the best tax advantages.

These are just a few tips to keep in mind in order to make getting a mortgage for your second property as easy as possible.

To find out more about investing in a second home or vacation property, contact your trusted real estate professional today. 


Home Builder Confidence Jumps By Widest Margin Since 2002

Home Builder Confidence Jumps By Widest Margin Since 2002U.S. housing markets are gaining as demand for homes exceeds available supplies in many areas. The National Association of Home Builders/ Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) for June increased by eight points over May's reading to achieve a positive reading of 52. This last happened in August-September of 2002, when HMI monthly readings also jumped by eight points.

Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders consider housing market conditions positive than negative. June's reading was the first time the HMI reading surpassed a reading of 50 since April 2006.

Limited Inventory Drives Sales Of New Homes

Rick Judson, NAHB Chairman, cited short supplies of existing homes as a factor driving sales of new homes. As demand for homes grows and inventories of available existing homes fall, buyers are increasingly buying new homes.

Sales of existing homes continue to be impacted by factors such as homes worth less than the mortgages held against them and sellers taking a “wait and see” attitude toward listing their homes for sale.

All three of the components of June's national HMI gained:

  • The reading for current sales conditions rose from 48 to 56.
  • Expectations for future sales gained nine points to 61.
  • June's reading for buyer foot traffic in new homes gained seven points for a reading of 40.

Regional Home Builder Confidence Grows In 3 Of 4 Regions

The 3-month rolling average readings for regional home builder confidence showed increases in three of four regions:

  • Northeast: Builder confidence increased by one point to 37.
  • Midwest: Builder confidence rose by one point to 47.
  • South: Builder confidence rose by four points to 46.
  • West: Builder confidence dropped by one point to 48.

High demand and a shortage lots available for building new homes contributed to the West's slight decrease in builder confidence. Overall, increasing home builder confidence is a sign of economic recovery, but as the economy gains momentum and home prices continue rising, mortgage rates can be expected to rise as well.

Housing Starts Up 28% Annually In May

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported Wednesday that national housing starts rose by 6.80 percent from April's revised reading. May's reading of 914,000 housing starts was reported on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. May's reading was 28.80 percent higher than for May 2012.

Single-family housing starts (one to four units) fell short of investor expectations of 953,000 but exceeded April's revised reading of 856,000.

Multi-family housing starts surpassed single-family housing starts, but any additions to low inventories of single-family homes could ease the difference between high demand and low inventories of available homes. Meeting demand for homes would temper rising home prices, which could help potential buyers qualify for mortgage loans.


RealtyTrac Foreclosure Report Shows 28% Decrease From May 2012

RealtyTrac Foreclosure Report Shows 28 Percent Decline From May 2012

Foreclosure actions increased by 2.0 percent in May from April's 75 month low point for foreclosure activity according to RealtyTrac's U.S. Foreclosure Market Report released June 11. However, the good news is that May 2013 foreclosure filings were still 28 percent below May 2012 filings.

RealtyTrac reports that approximately one in 885 homes were in some stage of foreclosure in May. This does not mean that 1 in 885 homes was lost to foreclosure, but it does indicate that documents related to some phase of foreclosure (Notice of Default, Notice of Trustee Sale, and Bank Reposession) were filed.

Actual lender repossessions (REO) increased by 11 percent in May, but were down by 29 percent as compared to May 2012. 33 states reported increases in REOs with North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin having the highest numbers of REO properties added.

Judicial Foreclosure States Lagging In Clearing Foreclosure Inventory

Foreclosure starts were up by 4 percent in May, but were 33 percent lower than for May of 2012. States using judicial foreclosure proceedings were 5 of the top 6 states for foreclosure filings. The state of Nevada, which uses non-judicial foreclosure proceedings, was second after Florida and ahead of Ohio, South Carolina and Illinois.

In general, judicial foreclosure proceedings take longer to complete than non-judicial foreclosures. This results in homes being unavailable for sale for longer periods of time. Lenders are required to complete the foreclosure process and in some cases, they must await expiration of a redemption period before a foreclosed home can be repaired and sold.

In states using non-judicial foreclosure proceedings, the time between the initial foreclosure filing and the foreclosure sale can be as little as three to four months. Quickly turning over foreclosed homes is helpful for improving regional housing markets and making more homes available for purchase. Economists have recently cited low inventories of homes as holding back housing markets in some areas.

Bank Owned Properties Provide Buying Opportunities

Lender-owned properties provide potential opportunities for first-time buyers and others seeking affordable homes. Mortgage lenders tend to offer attractive sale terms on REO properties, as their objective is to move these homes out of their inventories as quickly as possible.

Some foreclosure properties are also lacking current maintenance and are often sold as-is. DIY enthusiasts can buy and renovate foreclosed homes for owner occupancy or investment. 

It's a good idea to discuss your interest in the opportunities available for financing a Alpharetta lender-owned home with your trusted mortgage professional.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - June 17, 2013

What's Ahead This Week - June 17, 2013Last week's news was relatively quiet with no data significant to the mortgage lending released until Wednesday, when the federal government announced a $138 billion budget deficit for May.

According to the U.S. Treasury this figure is 11 percent higher than for May of 2012, but the federal budget is expected to come in with less than a -$1 trillion deficit for the 2013 fiscal year, which runs from October to September.

The Treasury estimates that the 2013 budget deficit will come in at approximately -$642 billion, well below fiscal 2012's deficit of -$1.1 trillion. The federal budget has been running deficits over -$1 trillion since 2008.

Employment Market Continues To Strengthen

On Thursday, the Weekly Jobless Claims report brought good news; jobless claims fell from the prior week's 346,000 jobless claims to 334,000 jobless claims. This was also less than expectations of 350,000 jobless claims. As more workers gain steady employment, this will enable more would-be home buyers to become active buyers.

May Retail sales also showed slight improvement as they moved from 0.60 percent from April's 0.10 percent.

According to Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS), the average mortgage rate for a 30year fixed rate mortgage rose from last week's 3.91 percent to 3.98 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose from last week's 3.03 percent to 3.10 percent with discount points holding at 0.70 percent.

What's Coming Up This Week

Next week's economic news schedule has a number of reports due including Wednesday's FOMC statement and Fed Chair Ben Bernanke's press conference. This meeting and press conference are significant as any move by the Fed to reduce or cease its current quantitative easing (QE) program could cause mortgage rates to rise further.

Monday's news includes the Home Builders Index for June. Tuesday brings the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for May and the Core CPI, also for May. The indices measure prices paid by consumers for goods and services; the Core CPI eliminates the volatile food and energy sectors included in the CPI. Rising or falling consumer costs influence how much discretionary income consumers have for saving toward buying a home.

No news is scheduled for Wednesday other than the FOMC statement and press conference.

Thursday brings the Existing Home Sales Report, Weekly Jobs Report, Freddie Mac PMMS and Leading Indicators. These reports are expected to provide news about U.S. housing markets, mortgage rates and economic influences impacting consumers.

There is no economic news scheduled for Friday.


Make Your Home A Movie Star! How To Rent Out Your Property As A Film Location

Make Your Home a Movie Star! Whenever a scene in a film or television show takes place in a private home, have you ever thought about who owns that property? Well, it could be you!

The fact is that film and television production companies are always on the lookout for new locations where they can shoot their footage. If you advertise your property in the right way, your home could have its 15 minutes of fame as the set for a film or a television show episode.

Many production companies have been gradually switching over the last few years into filming at 'authentic' private properties rather than in film sets and studios.

You don't have to own a stunning mansion or a historic property to rent out your home as a film location. Film and TV location scouts are looking for a wide range of different homes, from small condos to townhouses to log cabins and any other style of dwelling.

Turning Your Home Into Hollywood

Of course, the obvious advantage of renting out your property as a film location is that you can get paid hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars per day just for letting a film crew take over your kitchen or dining room. Also, you will have the prestige and excitement of being able to meet celebrities and see your home featured on the big screen.

However, the process may disrupt your routine for a day or two or possibly longer. The film crew might want to move furniture around and you might even find yourself having to move out for a while. If you need to stay in a hotel during filming, make sure that the amount you are getting paid is enough to compensate for the costs of accommodation.

If you think that renting out your home as a film set sounds like a good idea for you, there are a number of different websites where you can list the property and post photos.  Sometimes your real estate professional can help refer you to a specialist in the local area who consistently works with location scouts and producers.

When you are making the arrangements, make sure that you draft up a contract that states your fee, how long the filming will take, the type of production and an agreement to return your house to the original state that it was found in.

If you are interested in purchasing a Atlanta home that could be film-worthy, please give us a call!


Why It's Critically Important To Have A Home Inspection

Why It's Critically Important To Have A Home InspectionMany home buyers have found the perfect house, signed on the dotted line and may think they've watched enough home improvement shows to know if the home they're getting is in good shape. Unfortunately, some buyers make the mistake of skipping a home inspection in order to save a little cash.

Even if a home has already stolen your heart and you're ready to pay for it as-is, you need to bite the bullet and hire a home inspector to let you know what repairs and financial repercussions await you.

Why You Should Hire A Home Inspector

You might know a thing or two about home remodeling and repairs. However, most people are not experts on the inner workings of a home. That is why it's important to hire a professional to search for potential furnace issues, electrical wiring mishaps, plumbing weaknesses or roofing deterioration to name a few.

While a home might look like it's in perfect condition on the surface, there could be major issues hiding beneath its façade. That's why it really is imperative for your safety that you hire an inspector to scrutinize the bones of your home. Understanding any imperfections may also help you budget for immediate and future repairs.

When to Schedule the Home Inspection

Once you've signed a purchase contract, you'll want to schedule a home inspection before the inspection period has ended. Even though you've signed the offer, an inspector could just find something that you just cannot live with or afford to fix.

While you would normally schedule an inspection after you've signed a contract, it's important to have an inspector or two picked out beforehand. Ask your real estate professional or friends and family for referrals and then contact the inspectors for pricing and a list of what they will and will not cover at the inspection.

Once again, remember that the cheapest price may not be the best deal on home inspections.  Have a good understanding of what, and who, you are investing in.

Even if you do know a lot about the structure, plumbing and wiring of houses, don't let your ego get the better of you. It's important to shell out the additional money to hire an inspector and cover your assets. You'd hate to end up with a home that needs major renovations and not have known about it.

For more information on hiring a professional for your Marietta home inspection or for a referral, please call today!


Homeowners -- Are You Making These Mistakes Planning Next Year's Taxes?

Planning For Your Next Year Tax Deductions

Filing your taxes can be a complicated and confusing process. If you are a home owner you may have many different home tax deductions and credits to consider.

Since we recently passed the filing date for 2012 taxes, it may be a good time to plan for next year and get your tax tracking systems in place. Check carefully to make sure that you are not making any of these common homeowner tax mistakes – which could cost you money or get you in trouble with the IRS.

Miscalculating Your Home Office Tax Deduction

If you work from home, you will be able to deduct a percentage of your housing costs for your home office. However, most people don't know how to calculate this and don't realize that it also has to be recaptured when you eventually sell your home. You will only want to claim it if it is worth it, so make sure you know exactly what you can write off.

Failing To Keep Track Of Home Expenses

Don't forget to keep a record of home maintenance, repair expenses and any other relevant documents as you go along.   The money you spend on improving your property can help offset future capital gains tax. Keeping good records will save you a lot of headaches when tax time comes around.

Forgetting To Pay Tax On Capital Gains

If you have sell your primary residence this year, you will need to pay capital gains tax on any profit that you have received. Capital gains are the amount that you gained on the property's value – so if you bought it for $150,000 and sold it for $300,000, your capital gains are $150,000. You may be able to exclude $250,000 of any profits for taxes, or $500,000 if you are a married couple if this exclusion stays the same as in 2012.

Deducting The Wrong Year For Property Taxes

Remember that you must take the tax deduction for your property taxes in the year that you have actually paid them. No matter what the date is on your property taxes bill, you should enter the amount that you paid in the calendar year. If you confuse this part, you might end up claiming the incorrect amount for the year.

These are just a few of the common mistakes that home owners can make when filing their taxes. Avoiding these mistakes will ensure that you pay the right amount and avoid any hassle from the IRS.  Also, please double-check all of these suggestions with a qualified, licensed tax preparer in the Marietta  area.


Increasing May Jobs Report Shows Strengthening Economy

Increasing May Jobs Report Shows Strengthening EconomyThe U.S. Department of Labor released its Non-Farm Payrolls and National Unemployment Rate reports Friday showing 175,000 jobs were added in May, which surpassed expectations of 164,000 new jobs and April's reading of 149,000 jobs added. The jobs added in May were largely from the private sector.

However, the national unemployment rate for May was 7.60 percent, one-tenth of a percent higher than expectations and the April reading of 7.50 percent. The rise was attributed to more people entering the workforce as opposed to people losing jobs.

420,000 workers joined the workforce in May, which pushed the civilian participation rate in the labor market to 63.4 percent; the highest participation rate since October 2012. A rising participation rate suggests that more workers believe they can find jobs and have joined or returned to the labor market.

Economists Pleased With Increasing Jobs In Difficult Environment

Economists were pleased to see jobs increasing against an environment of higher taxes, a soft global economy and budget cutbacks in the U.S. government.

A lingering issue for U.S. labor markets is the number of people looking for full time work, but who are unable to find full-time employment. When these workers are added to the ranks of the unemployed who are actively seeking work, the actual unemployment rate almost doubles to 13.8 percent for May.

The national unemployment rate is based on workers who are actively seeking work. Many U.S. workers stopped looking for work after years of unemployment.

Fed May Review Quantitative Easing Program Soon

These reports don't provide a clear indication of what the Federal Reserve may do regarding its current monetary policy; the Fed is currently purchasing $85 billion a month in U.S. Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). This effort is intended to keep long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates, lower.

The Fed has indicated that it will review its quantitative easing (QE) policy relative to improvements in the economy. In recent months, the Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve (FOMC) has discussed lowering or eliminating its QE efforts, but so far is maintaining its current level of QE and maintaining the federal funds rate at 0.250 percent.

While housing markets are improving, the jobs sector is moving at a slower pace. This suggests that home prices could rise even faster if more consumers had sufficient income for buying a home.


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week -- June 10, 2013

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week -- June 10, 2013Last week's economic reports provided a mixed bag of results. On Monday, the Department of Commerce reported that construction spending increased by 0.40 percent in April and fell shy of the expected reading of 1.0 percent, but exceeded the March reading of -0.80 percent.

Home Prices Increase Fastest Since 2006

On Tuesday, CoreLogic released its Home Prices reported that the national average home price had increased by 12.10 percent year-over-year in April. The comparable year-over-year reading for April 2012 was 11.00 percent. This represents the fastest pace of home price increases since 2006.

The national average home price expanded by 3.20 percent as compared to March,  but average prices grew faster in the West, which is experiencing a pronounced lack of available homes and developed land for building.

New Jobs Created Showing Improvement Over April Revisions 

ADP released its private-sector Payrolls Report for May on Wednesday; 135,000 new private sector jobs were added as compared to investor expectations of 170,000 jobs added in May. The May reading surpassed April's downwardly-revised reading of private-sector jobs added.

Friday's Jobs Report, issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consists of the Non-Farm Payrolls Report and the National Unemployment Rate. Non-Farm Payrolls added 175,000 public and private sector jobs and surpassed both the consensus reading of 164,000 new jobs and the prior week's reading of 149,000 jobs added. The National Unemployment Rate ticked up from 7.50 to 7.60 percent. The Department of Labor attributes this increase to more people joining or returning to the labor market.

Investors Watching Fed Mortgage Backed Security Buying Activity Closely

The Federal Reserve Beige Book Report was also released Wednesday. It contained no surprises and noted modest to moderate economic growth in 11 of 12 Federal Reserve Districts. The Dallas Federal Reserve District reported strong growth, but investors will be watching next week's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting closely for proposed changes to the Fed's current policy of buying bonds and mortgage backed securities (MBS) with the goal of keeping long term interest rates lower.

Thursday's Primary Mortgage Market Survey brought disquieting news of rising mortgage rates. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage had risen from the prior week's rate of 3.81 percent to 3.91 percent. Discount points fell slightly from 0.80 percent to 0.70 percent with buyers paying all of their closing costs. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose from last week's average rate of 2.98 percent to 3.03 percent with discount rates remaining the same at 0.70 percent for buyers paying all of their closing costs.

What's Ahead for Next Week

There is no news scheduled for release on Monday. The rest of the week's calendar includes the NFIB Small Business Index on Tuesday and the Federal Budget for May on Wednesday. Thursday's scheduled releases include Weekly Jobless Claims, Average weekly mortgage rates as reported by Freddie Mac, and Retail Sales for May. Friday's schedule includes the Producer's Price Index for May and June's Consumer Sentiment Report.


What Does The Future Hold For The Security System In Your Home?

What Does The Future Hold For Home Security SystemsImagine walking into your home and turning off the alarm, locking your doors, opening the windows and starting your coffee maker, all with a few taps of your finger on your smart phone?

What if you had a home security camera that you could monitor from anywhere and a motion sensor that would send you an email when your kids come home from school? What if you could open your blinds or unlock your home for a visitor, even from halfway around the world?

The technology that powers our home security systems is getting more and more sophisticated and in the future, our homes will be more responsive than we could ever imagine.

Rather than a simple line of defense that keeps out burglars, it will be a completely integrated and custom designed automated system that responds intelligently to your needs.  

Here are a few of the upcoming technology innovations:

Smart Home Technology

At the moment, prototypes are being developed for integrated home security systems that have individual Internet protocols that can address everything from a fridge to a window to a door.  Even your home appliances, like your refrigerator, air conditioning systems and lighting systems may be able to be managed remotely through a smart phone.

This connectivity essentially gives everything in your house an Internet address, so that you can control them and monitor them digitally. Once the system is linked up it can be controlled remotely by Blackberry, Apple or Android.

The 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year showcased a number of smart phone apps and devices designed to control everything within your home so that you can master the household with the click of a button.

The Future Is Still On Its Way

Although the technology is being developed, there is still a long way to go until we all live in automated houses like on The Jetsons. One underlying and yet unsolved issue is the security systems inability to function in a power outage or with bandwidth and connectivity challenges.

There are also many different conflicting operating systems, setups, standards and approaches that will need to be worked out before the dream of a fully automated Marietta home can become a reality. 

Even so, the technological advances being made in home security and management systems are impressive and exciting to learn more about.


Four Important Home Maintenance Tips Everyone Should Know

Four Important Home Maintenance TipsOne of the important aspects of owning a home is having the knowledge of how to keep it maintained to avoid costly repairs and serious damage. Over the years weather and use will wear down both the interior and exterior of your property.

If you are able to practice preventative care on your home, then you will prolong the life of all of its systems and components. At least every six months or so, you should be performing an inspection of your property so that you can ensure that it is still functioning properly and safely.

What should you be looking for when it comes to preventative home maintenance?

Here are a few important pointers to keep in mind:

Pests and Insects

Check your home thoroughly for any insects and unwanted pests such as carpenter ants and termites. Make sure that there is no point where the wood of your home is in contact with the soil and trim away and bushes and trees away from the foundation of the property.

If you can catch the infestation right away, it could save you thousands of dollars on repairing future structural damage.

Windows and Doors

Take a close look at the windows and doors of your home to see if you need to repair any leaks to save energy. A draughty door or window can really add to your energy bill over time, so it will be worth it to ensure that everything is sealed properly.

Gutters and Downspouts

Another important home maintenance task is to go around the exterior of your home and clean out all of the debris from your downspouts and gutters. This will ensure that they are draining properly and moving water away from the house. Otherwise, the water can collect on the eaves of the roof or around the foundation and cause leaks and damage.

Check the Roof

Make sure that you also inspect the roof at least every six months. Look for any loose shingles or damaged roof tiles. If you spot any damage early, it will be a lot less expensive to fix than the water damage that would be caused in your attic by leaving a leaky roof for a long time.

These are just a few of the most important preventative home maintenance tasks that every Atlanta property owner should know. For any additional questions regarding your home maintenance, feel free to contact your trusted local real estate professional. 


3 Critical Tips To Improve Your Credit Score And Mortgage Terms

3 Critical Tips To Improve Your Credit Score And Mortgage TermsWhen you are looking for a mortgage for your home, your credit score is very important. Any potential lender will check your score and will use the number to assess your creditworthiness and the interest rate that they offer you.

The better your credit score the lower the mortgage interest rates will be available to you, as the lender will be able to see that you can handle credit well.

However, if you have a very bad credit score, it could be causing you to be offered high interest rates on your mortgage that could cost you thousands over the years.

Improving your credit score before searching for a mortgage will ensure that you get the best rate possible. But what can you do to improve your credit score?

Here are three tips that can help you improve your credit score and your mortgage loan:

Be Patient

Remember that improving your bad credit will be a little bit like losing weight. You might not see results right away but it is the long term benefit of your good habits that will make all the difference.

When it comes to all of the ways to improve your credit score, there are no quick-fixes and the best way to rebuild your credit is to be responsible over time.

Check Your Credit Report For Errors

If you don't know precisely what your credit score currently is, the first step will be for you to obtain a credit report. You can request a free copy of your credit report and check it over carefully for errors. There might be an error on the report that is making your score appear worse than it should be.

Set Up Payment Reminders

If you have trouble remembering to make your credit payments by the due date, this can be one of the biggest negative factors bringing down your score. You can ask your bank to set up convenient reminders through the online banking portals so that you will receive an email or a text whenever your payments are due.

Your credit score is very important when looking for a Marietta home mortgage, as it will mean that you receive much better program options and interest rates. Keep these tips in mind so that you can enjoy the best rates possible on your mortgage.

For more tips on how to improve your prospects for the best mortgage, feel free to contact your local, trusted mortgage professional.


6 Ceiling Solutions To Update Your Home

Ceiling Update OptionsIf you're absolutely sick of looking at the popcorn ceiling of your 1980's home - it's time for a change.

However, behind the facade of a ceiling is a mess of plumbing, wiring, joists and structural beams, so you have to be careful and creative when updating your home.

Whether you're dealing with an older home, a tricky duct system or an unfinished basement, below are several ceiling solutions to brighten up the space above your head.

Bring Back Wood Paneling

The 70's are making a comeback. If you have a flat or slanted ceiling, wood paneling is easy to affix and can create a cozy cabin-like feel. This works well in living rooms, bedrooms and basements where you want generate a warm, comfortable atmosphere. 

Create An Industrial Vibe

If you like the look of a modern home, then this might be the most cost-effective solution for you. If there's an existing ceiling, remove it and then buy a paint sprayer and coat everything except the duct work in one dark color. Many converted lofts and urban spaces use this technique.

Drop It Like It's Hot

These aren't your parent's drop ceilings. Today's drop ceilings come in pressed metal, compressed wood panels and other attractive designs. They're affordable, simple to install and allow easy access to the plumbing and electrical systems.

Go Back To The Basics With Drywall

Whether you're looking to get rid of a popcorn surface, fixing water damage or finishing your basement, it might be prudent to minimize the cost and work involved by using drywall. You can purchase drywall for as little as 50 cents per square foot and it's easy to paint once installed.

Utilize Soffits

Duct work and plumbing that cut through the middle of a room can be an eyesore and hard to work around. Utilize soffits to create ceilings of different heights, called tray ceilings, or use them to blend uneven surfaces into corners along a wall. They'll help hide obstructions and make it easier to cover with drywall and paint.

Don't let an unattractive ceiling get you down. Use one of the solutions above for an eye-catching ceiling that will keep you looking up and improve the value of your home at the same time.

For additional advice on updating your home for top-dollar, just give your trusted Marietta real estate professional a call!


What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week -- June 3, 2013

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 3, 2013Last week’s financial news was relatively limited due to the Memorial Day holiday and no economic reports being released on Wednesday.

The biggest news in terms of housing and mortgages was the S&P/Case-Shiller Housing Market Indices (HMI) released on Tuesday.

The March HMI data for national housing markets reflected a sharp increase in year-over-year home prices from 9.30 percent in February to 10.90 percent in March.

Twelve cities included in the Case-Shiller 20-city index reported double-digit year-over-year percentage gains for March home prices. While this data strongly supports recovering home prices, analysts cite the need for more jobs, which would enable more consumers to buy homes.

Thursday’s weekly Jobless Claims Report from the Labor Department highlighted ongoing problems with lagging employment as new jobless claims jumped to 354,000. The four-week moving average for new jobless claims increased by 6.75 percent to 347,250 new jobless claims.

Bullish Stock Market Affects Mortgage Interest Rates

Mortgage rates jumped in connection rising stock prices; Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased to 3.81 percent plus 0.80 percent in discount points.  The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage increased to 2.98 percent plus 0.70 percent in discount points.

Rising mortgage rates suggest that home buyers may benefit from considering hybrid adjustable rate mortgages; the average rate for a 5/1 hybrid ARM was 2.66 percent with 0.50 percent in discount points.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index (Chicago PMI) measures how manufacturing and related businesses perform on a monthly basis.  May’s reading increased to 58.70 and surpassed expectations of a 49.90 reading as well as April’s reading of 49.00. Readings above 50 are considered positive.

Consumer Sentiment rose in May to a reading of 84.50, which exceeded both the expected reading of 83.80 and April’s reading of 83.70. As consumers gain confidence in the economy, they are more likely to buy homes.

Next Week’s News

Construction spending for April is due Monday with a consensus of +1.00 percent as compared to -1.70 percent in March. Rising construction spending could indicate an increase in residential construction, which has been facing obstacles including increasing labor and material costs and a shortage of available land for residential building.

Thursday’s news includes the weekly Jobless Claims report and Freddie Mac’s weekly report of average mortgage rates.

Friday brings the monthly Jobs Report, which consists of the Department of Labor’s Non-farm Payrolls report and the monthly unemployment rate. These reports are significant for gauging national and regional labor markets and for anticipating the Fed’s decision regarding its current quantitative easing policy.

If the Fed ceases or reduces its purchase of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS), mortgage rates are likely to rise.