The Department Of Veterans Affairs Is Allowing Drive-by Appraisals Because Of COVID-19

The Department Of Veterans Affairs Is Allowing Drive-by Appraisals Because Of COVID-19The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has impacted every industry across the country. Many people are being asked to shelter in place and everyone has been asked to practice social distancing to try to curtail the spread of this deadly virus.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has asked both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to make some changes in the manner they conduct property appraisals and employment verification.

Shortly after the move by the FHFA, The Veteran’s Administration (VA) and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) followed suit by relaxing property appraisal requirements. Due to the unusual circumstances that are facing the country right now, these changes are necessary to keep people safe while minimizing the blow to the economy.

Exterior Inspection Appraisals

One of the critical parts that must happen during the purchase of a home is something called an appraisal. Typically, these appraisals involve an on-site inspection of the home, taking a close look at everything inside to try to make sure the price is as accurate as possible. Now, appraisals can be done on something that is called an exterior-only or “drive-by” basis. This means that appraisers might drive by to confirm that the property exists, but will not physically inspect it. 

In some cases, they might just use the computer, find comparable properties, and appraise it in this manner. This is normally referred to as a “desktop appraisal”. This is important for everyone, including those who are Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) home loan borrowers.

Why Appraisals Are Needed Now

Even though fewer people may be currently looking at houses, there are other reasons why an appraisal might be necessary. Many people are looking for sources of emergency funding, particularly as hours get cut and people get laid off.

There are still bills that need to be paid, including utility bills and mortgages. Therefore, many people are looking at taking out a second mortgage as a source of immediate liquidity. Sometimes, an appraisal might be needed to make this happen.

Other Measures Are Being Taken By The FHFA

In addition to the notice about drive-by appraisals, the FHFA has also suspended any foreclosures and evictions in many cases. People who are facing hardship due to the pandemic can also apply for forbearance, which can take a lot of stress off of the shoulders of individuals and families.

If you have questions about your mortgage and financing options available to you during the Coronavirus pandemic, contact your trusted mortgage professional. They will be best able to analyze your personal situation and provide the most accurate feedback.

Case-Shiller: January Home Price Growth Strong; Pandemic Impact Unknown

Case-Shiller: January Home Price Growth Strong; Pandemic Impact UnknownUnited States home prices increased by 3.90 percent year-over-year in January as compared to December’s growth rate of 3.70 percent according to Case-Shiller’s National Home Price Index. Home prices also rose in Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index.

20-City Home Price Index: Phoenix Arizona Leads in Home Price Growth

The Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index is followed closely by real estate pros and its trends are used to gauge home price growth within cities included in the index. Phoenix, Arizona led home price growth rates for the eighth consecutive month with a year-over-year growth rate of 6.90 percent.

Seattle, Washington followed with year-over-year home price growth of 5.10 percent; Tampa, Florida also reported home price growth of 5.10 percent.

Seattle replaced Las Vegas, Nevada in second place, which showed a comeback for coastal housing markets that lost ground in recent months.

Case-Shiller’s 10-City, 20-City, and National Home Price Indices all posted higher home price growth rates in January. 14 of 20 cities in the 20-City Home Price Index showed faster growth rates for home prices in January than in December. Home price growth was strongest in the South and West; home price growth was weaker in the Midwest and Northeast.

FHFA Reports 5.20 Percent Yearly Home Price Growth in January

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported 5.20 percent annual home price growth for homes owned or financed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

While home prices have been fueled by limited supplies of available homes, demand for homes will likely fall as the coronavirus spreads throughout the U.S.

Local and statewide requirements to limit nonessential activities caused businesses and schools to close and many workers were laid off.  Prospective homebuyers could be sidelined for months if not indefinitely.

Analysts had mixed opinions on how the coronavirus outbreak could impact home prices; if companies and jobs reopen after the virus has passed, housing markets are expected to recover. Because the ultimate length and impact of the pandemic remain unknown, it’s currently impossible to know how housing markets will be impacted.

 

 

Building An Emergency Fund During An Emergency

Building An Emergency Fund During An EmergencyBy now, it should be apparent that this COVID-19 (Corona-virus) pandemic is going to be here for several months. It is already causing the market to plummet and is disrupting jobs all over the country. Many people who work as hourly employees (or are independent contractors) are starting to suffer. As people’s budgets start to feel the squeeze, this is exactly the time that people should be relying on an emergency fund; however, for those who don’t have one, it is time to start saving.

How To Create An Emergency Fund

Even though cash assistance from the government might be coming soon, this is not going to be enough to get people through the crisis. To start building an emergency fund, it is important to take a look at the regular income first. Try to figure out how many shifts are going to cut and estimate what money is left (unless you are a salaried employee).

After this, take a look at other possible sources of credit. Know the limits on the card and figure out to what extent these cards can be drawn out. If there is an income tax refund coming, plan for this; however, remember that the government might be behind.

Finally, try to cut spending where possible. Remember that vacations should be postponed, given travel restrictions. Most restaurants are going to close, so try to shop at the grocery store instead. Finally, consider asking the bank to put a stop on mortgage payments. These are all great ways to save immediate money.

Save What Is Left

Finally, after figuring out all of the expenses, subtract this from the expected monthly income over the next few months. Whatever is left should be socked away into an emergency fund. It is critical to have this fund put away in case a repair is needed on the house or if someone gets laid off. 

Other Ideas To Consider

Finally, while this is not advisable, people might be able to cut retirement contributions to help with the emergency fund. It is better to save for the future when possible, but this can help people save money in a pinch, if needed. Take these tips to heart over the next few months and build an emergency fund.

How To Retain Your Sanity While Working From Home

How To Retain Your Sanity While Working From HomeThere are a lot of people who enjoy working from home; however, with the COVID-19 pandemic, many people who are not used to working from home are forced into this new arrangement. It can be hard for individuals o stay focused when they are stuck in the environment at home. Particularly if the kids are home from school, it is easy to get distracted. Fortunately, there are a few ways people can retain their sanity as they work from home.

Get Into A Routine

One of the first steps people need to follow is to find a routine. It can be tempting to sleep in every day, procrastinate while watching TV, and take long breaks for meals; however, it is critical to remember that there is still a job to do. Try to wake up at the same time every day. Start work at a consistent hour. Take a consistent break for lunch. Finding a routine will make working from home feel more like a job than a vacation.

Take Advantage Of Technology

Even though working from home can feel lonely, it doesn’t have to be this way. With technology, it is easy for people to stay in touch with their partners from work. Use technology to talk to people. Check up on others and see how they are doing. Ask for help when it is needed. Communicate with multiple people at a time. This is incredibly important for those who work in a team. At the same time, those who typically work alone should make sure this doesn’t become a distraction. Talking to others can be a great way to break up the monotony of the day.

Learn Something New Every Day

Finally, take the time to learn something new! Those who no longer have a morning or evening commute are going to wind up with some extra free time on their hands. Take this opportunity to learn something new. Even though some people might feel like they are being forced to work from home, turn this situation into a positive one. use the extra time wisely and find a way to expand those horizons ever so slightly. Learning new skills can pay big dividends down the road.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 30th, 2020

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 30th, 2020

Scheduled monthly readings were released for new home sales and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

New Home Sales Beat Expectations in February

Sales of new homes dropped 4.40 percent in February after reaching a 13-year high in January. 765,000 new homes were sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis, which exceeded expectations of 750,000 sales in February. New home sales were 14.30 percent higher year-over-year.

Analysts said that further declines monthly new home sales are expected as the coronavirus spreads.

The national median price for a new home was $345,900 and there was a five-month inventory of new homes for sale in February; this was the lowest inventory of new homes since 2017.

Regional sales rose 39 percent in the Northeast and 7.00 percent in the Midwest. Sales rose 1.00 percent in the South and fell by 17 percent in the West.

Mortgage Rates Mixed After Fed Moves to Create Stability

Freddie Mac reported lower average rates for fixed-rate mortgages last week; rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped 15 basis points to 3.50 percent. Rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages fell by 14 basis points to an average of 2.92 percent. The average rate for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages rose 23 basis points to an average rate of 3.34 percent; this was caused by rising yields for 5-year treasury bills.

Discount points averaged 0.70 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, 0.60 percent for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages and 0.30 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

Sharp adjustments in mortgage rates and financial markets continued last week and are likely to continue as uncertainty increases over coronavirus impacts. Analysts noted that as tenants face prolonged unemployment, landlords will also be impacted when rents aren’t paid. The stimulus payments of $1200 per adult will not cover one month’s rent for households in high-cost housing market.                                                                                                   

First-time Jobless Claims Skyrocket as Consumer Sentiment Falls

3.28 million initial jobless claims were filed last week as compared to 282,000 claims filed the prior week. Analysts project higher numbers of jobless claims as the coronavirus spreads and more employers close their doors. Not surprisingly, consumer sentiment fell in March according to the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index.

The March index reading dropped to 89.1 from February’s reading of 95.9. Analysts expected a March reading of 89.0. 

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news includes readings on pending home sales, Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, and labor-sector readings on job growth and national unemployment. 

When It Makes Sense To DIY

When It Makes Sense To DIYMany homeowners enjoy DIY, or Do-it-Yourself, home improvement projects. There’s nothing quite like the pride of knowing you used your own hands to put together or improve something.

With the explosion of social media sites such as YouTube, Pinterest,and TikTok, spending a weekend on DIY projects seems easier than ever before. After just a couple of minutes spent searching, you can find a step-by-step tutorial, before and after photos, or a time-lapse video of any project imaginable. Anyone can do this! Right?

Not so fast. In some cases, it may not make sense to DIY. How do you decide whether it will be worth the elbow grease or if you should leave it to the professionals?

To DIY Or Not To DIY

Building, fixing, painting, or any other -ing isn’t always easier or more affordable, despite what HGTV would have you believe. As you consider whether or not to take a project on yourself, here are some things to consider. 

  • Cost – Calculate the cost of materials you’ll need for your project, factoring in tools and equipment. If the job requires some you don’t already own, you’ll have to rent or buy them, which can be quite costly. However, if you already have some of the necessary materials or you can borrow tools from someone, going the DIY route may make sense. 
  • Time – As Greek philosopher Theophrastus said, “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” Even if a DIY project offers substantial cost savings, it’s important to factor in the time you’ll have to spend on it. Consider whether saving money is a worthwhile trade-off for your time.
  • Skill level – No matter how many tutorials you study, some things are better left to truly skilled professionals. If you don’t have any experience working in electrical, you shouldn’t attempt to do a project that requires running wires. Knowing your limitations and when to hire someone can save you time, money, and stress.

Potentially saving money is certainly not the only thing to consider when it comes to DIY projects. Before deciding to take it on, ask yourself if you’ll truly enjoy the project and whether or not you have the necessary skills. 

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in refinancing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional.

Home Improvement Projects For The Quarantined

Home Improvement Projects For The QuarantinedIf you have paid attention to the news recently, you have probably heard about the coronavirus pandemic which also goes by the name COVID-19. Those who are exposed to the virus might be asked to place themselves in quarantine. Some states have even told their residents to shelter in place. While this infection has forced everyone to change the way they live their lives, there are still some home improvement projects you can tackle during quarantine to put your free time to use.

Jump On Spring Cleaning

One of the first home improvement projects people need to tackle is spring cleaning. Spring is right around the corner so it is time to sort through items that aren’t needed anymore. Start with the wardrobe closet and figure out what is going to be worn during the warmer months, what can be put into storage, and what can be donated. Then, move to the kitchen. Take a look at the drawers and see if there is anything that can be put away. Try to pull out the separators can clean the drawers as well. Finally, move to the living room and declutter anything that isn’t needed anymore. This is going to make the home feel more open, which is important during quarantine.

Repurpose A Room In The Home For A Gym

If you or your family are going to miss going to the gym, it is time to repurpose a room to act as an indoor space to exercise. Think about using the bonus room or basement as an athletic area. Furthermore, you can even save money on gym costs. Try to move chairs and coffee tables out of the way. If possible, put down some rubber flooring, an old mat, or even a few towels to prevent from staining the rug. If you are going to use a jump rope, make sure that nothing valuable is in the way. Try to shift items to make plenty of space for push-ups, sit-ups, jump rope, and free weights.

Home Improvement During Quarantine

It is important for people to follow the advice of medical professionals during the pandemic. Being quarantined is not an ideal situation, but these are only a few of many home improvement projects that can be accomplished during your time at home. 

Turn Your Yard Into An All-Seasons Living Space

Turn Your Yard Into An All-Seasons Living SpaceThink of backyard space as “in-between” or transitional space that is a bit like being inside while being outside. Sunrooms, screened-in covered patios, outdoor kitchens, spas, fire pits and more, are all becoming very popular ways to make more use of the backyard. Making use of the outside area is not limited to only the times of the year that have nice, warm weather.

Sitting around a fire pit, with a blazing fire in it, is a perfect way to spend a chilly winter evening under the stars. This is a bit like camping out, without having to leave the comfort of your home.

Here are some tips about how to turn your backyard space into a comfortable and functional transitional area.

Landscaping

Install shade trees, cobbled paths that invite exploration, and water features that are mixed in with attractive landscaping to make your backyard more inviting. Add some inexpensive solar-powered lights to line the walkways for a nice nighttime look.

This can be a labor of love that you take your time doing without having to rush the end result. It is healthy for you to do a bit of gardening, to get some fresh air and light exercise.

Outdoor Cooking

There are many ways to enjoy outdoor cooking such as simply taking a hibachi grill out to cook on a patio. You can cook hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, chicken, shish kebab, and more. You can even grill vegetables, like delicious slices of eggplant or corn on the cob, for your vegetarian friends on a separate grill reserved for that use.

Pizza Oven

If you really want to impress your guests, then put in a wood-burning pizza oven. Pizza made this way tastes delicious. There are dozens of pizza recipes you can try from thin crust to deep dish.

You can also make loaves of bread and other types of oven-baked foods. When you get a wood-burning pizza oven hot enough to cook properly, you will want to cook plenty of things so be sure to invite over lots of friends and neighbors.

Gourmet Kitchen

Taking the outdoor cooking one step further, some people like to install a full gourmet kitchen and spend lots of time cooking outside. There are many stainless steel grills to choose from that go along well with matching stainless steel appliances, which are strong enough for exposure to the elements.

Temperature Control

When desiring to have some control over the temperature outside, it is best to think of creating usable areas. When it is cold outside, you can use patio heaters that burn propane to make warmer areas for sitting. Another popular idea is to put in a fire pit to sit around.

During warmer times, you will want to have shaded areas and patio covers with ceiling fans. In the hot summers, you might enjoy a misting system that sprays a fine mist of cool water vapor in the air.

Summary

Many neglect their backyards, which is a shame because they can be lovely places to hang out. Rather than investing in an expensive room addition, start thinking about how you can make your backyard more enjoyable as a transitional space between the interior living area and the outside.

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in refinancing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional.

Home Sales Are Spiking, Driven By Low Mortgage Rates

Home Sales Are Spiking, Driven By Low Mortgage RatesAccording to data from the National Association of Realtors, existing-home sales increased by 3.6% in December 2019. That pace is the strongest month-over-month in almost two years, since February 2018. The sales figures were also up 10.8% from what they were in December 2018.

What’s behind this uptick? The biggest factor driving the surge in home sales is historically low mortgage interest rates. 

Plummeting Rates

During the last week of February 2020, mortgage rates fell to their lowest in three years and were hovering – just barely – above all-time lows. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was sitting at 3.45%, almost exactly one percentage point below the same week in 2019. Its lowest rate ever, 3.31%, was reached in November 2012 immediately following the recession.

Despite widespread uneasiness about the falling rates, this should come as no surprise. Mortgage rates typically follow the 10-year Treasury yield, and it’s been extremely volatile recently due to investor concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

Consumers are clamoring to take advantage of these low rates, particularly first-time homebuyers. New mortgage loan applications increased over 30% in December 2019 as compared to December 2018, while applications for refinancing rose a stunning 109%. 

Demand Is Outpacing Supply

Interestingly, this considerable spike in home sales comes at the same time as a national jump in median sales prices. January 2020’s median listing price was $299,995, a 3.4% year-over-year increase, and many large metropolitan markets saw increases of more than 10%.

With eager consumers applying for new mortgage loans at a dizzying pace, the supply of available homes simply can’t keep up. The number of previously-owned homes on the market decreased by 13.6% in January 2020 as compared to the year before, with some large cities experiencing decreases of over 14%. This is a classic case of supply and demand, and the current market is strongly favoring sellers.  

Looking Ahead

These upward home sales trends are predicted to continue throughout much of 2020, thanks to the “perfect storm” of incredibly low mortgage loan rates, a decreased supply of available homes, and an unemployment rate that’s settled into a 50-year low. 

If you’re in the market for a new home or interested in refinancing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week -March 23rd , 2020

 What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week -March 17th, 2020Last week’s economic reports included readings from the National Association of Home Builders on housing market conditions, Commerce Department readings on housing starts and building permits issued and  National Association of Realtors® reporting on sales of previously-owned homes.

The Federal Reserve canceled the scheduled meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee and Fed Chair’s press conference, but the Fed did lower its target federal funds rate early in the week. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and initial jobless claims were also released.

 Builder Confidence, Housing Starts and Building Permits Decrease

Builder confidence in housing market conditions dropped two index points to 72 in March. Readings over 50 indicate that most builders are confident about housing market conditions. Component readings of the Housing Market Index were also lower.

Builder confidence in current housing market conditions fell two points to 79; builder sentiment about housing market conditions within the next six months fell four points to 75 and builder confidence about buyer traffic in new housing developments dropped one point to 56.

NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said that March readings were compiled before the coronavirus outbreak and that April’s readings would show more accurate impacts of the coronavirus on builder confidence. As state and local governments begin to restrict non-essential activity, home sales and buyer traffic readings will decline.

February housing starts fell to 1.599 million starts as compared to January’s reading of 1.624 million starts; analysts expected 1.493 million housing starts for February’s report. The Commerce Department also reported lower numbers for building permits issued. 1.464 million building permits were issued in February; analysts expected 1.500 million permits issued as compared to January’s reading of 1.550 million permits issued. Analysts expect the coronavirus to cause declines in housing starts and real estate activity in general as the virus spreads.

Mortgage Rates Rise as Fed Lowers Target Federal Funds Rate

The Federal Reserve canceled the scheduled meeting of its Federal Open Market Committee after announcing its decision to lower the target federal funds rate to 0.00 to 0.25 percent.

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week as mortgage lenders worked through a backlog of refinancing applications. Rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.65 percent and were 29 basis points higher. 15-year fixed-rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.06 percent, which was also 29 basis points higher than in the prior week. 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rates averaged 10 basis points higher at 3.11 percent.

Discount points averaged0.70 percent for fixed-rate mortgages and 0.20 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

First-time jobless claims jumped to 281,000 initial claims last week as employers closed and citizens were encouraged to limit non-essential activities. Unemployment claims will increase as more businesses close or reduce services.

The National Association of Realtors® reported rising sales of previously-owned homes with a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 5.77 million homes sold and was the highest reading for February sales since 2007. Home sales are expected to decrease as the coronavirus advances.

Open houses and home showings will decrease as stricter efforts to contain the coronavirus occur.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic reports include readings on new home sales, inflation and consumer sentiment. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.