The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said in its last statement for 2014 that although economic conditions have improved at a moderate pace, the Fed believes that the target federal funds rate of between 0.00 and 0.25 percent remains “appropriate.” While labor markets show expanding job growth and lower unemployment rates, FOMC members noted that housing markets are recovering slowly.
Inflation remains below the committee’s target rate of two percent; this was attributed to lower fuel costs. Household income and business investment were seen as increasing, and the underutilization of workforce resources was described as “diminishing.” These developments indicate better economic conditions for consumers, business and job seekers, as employers picked up the pace of hiring.
Target Fed Funds Rate Unchanged
No year-end changes in monetary policy were made; the Fed issued its usual statement that developing economic conditions would guide the Committee’s decisions concerning the target federal funds rate. The FOMC statement said that changes could be made according to progress toward or away from achieving the Fed’s dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability. No specific date was given for raising the target federal funds rate. The FOMC statement noted that no change is likely as long as the inflation rate remains below the Fed’s longer-term target of two percent.
The FOMC statement was followed by a press conference given by Janet Yellen, fed chair and Chair of the FOMC.
Fed Chair: Oil Price Influence on Inflation “Transitory”
Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve and FOMC, said that she expects lower oil prices to be a transitory influence on inflation, which continues to run lower than the Fed’s target rate of two percent. Media representatives noted that Chair Yellen replaced the phrase “considerable time” with “patient” in reference to when the Fed might raise the target federal funds rate.
Ms. Yellen said that the gross domestic product (GDP) had increased by 2.50 percent over the prior four quarters ending with the third quarter of 2014, and said that the economy continues to grow at approximately the same pace. Concerning falling inflation, Ms. Yellen said that she expected the inflation rate to increase after transitory influences including oil prices dissipate. The Fed Chair said that she perceived lower oil prices to be a positive development for the U.S. economy on net.
In response to questions about when the Fed would raise the target federal funds rate, Chair Yellen said that it would likely occur sometime in 2015 and also mentioned “sometime after the next couple of FOMC meetings. This suggests that mid 2015 may bring a change, but Ms. Yellen repeated the Fed’s oft-stated position that continual review of economic conditions and developing trends would impact any decision to change or not change the federal funds rate.
So – you’ve completed an initial mortgage pre-qualification and now you’re ready to take the next step and meet with your lender or mortgage advisor for the pre-approval interview. Are you ready?
At this stage of the application process your lender will dig into your financial background to ensure that you’re fully capable of making your mortgage payments and that you don’t present too high a risk. Let’s take a quick look at a few questions you should know the answers to before you go in for a mortgage pre-approval.
Do You Have a Specific Home in Mind?
If you’ve already picked out the perfect new home, be sure to bring along some of the details when you meet with your lender. At minimum you’ll want to know the price range that you’re expecting to buy in so that your mortgage advisor can try to find a mortgage that allows you to purchase the home and still meet your other financial goals.
What is Your Current Income from All Sources?
Your income (and that of your spouse, if you have one) will be a major factor in the size of your mortgage, your payment terms and the interest rate that you qualify for. If you have a significant income and it’s clear that you will have little trouble making the mortgage payments you’ll likely qualify for a shortened amortization period that includes a lower interest rate. Conversely, if you can only afford to make a bare minimum monthly payment you’ll be facing a longer mortgage term.
Do You Have Any “Black Marks” on Your Credit?
If you have any negative spots in your credit history you’ll want to ensure that you’re able to answer for them, because your lender will certainly ask about them. Be honest and confident, and remember that the lender wants your business as much as you want to receive a pre-approval for mortgage financing.
What Are Your Plans in the Next Five to Ten Years?
Finally don’t forget that interest rates will continue to fluctuate and that may have an impact on your mortgage in the near future. Be sure to share any major financial plans that you have with your mortgage advisor as they can keep you appraised of any refinancing opportunities that come about.
Buying a home is an exciting time – one that will be far less stressful if you are fully prepared for the many steps along the way. Contact your local mortgage professional today to learn more about how you can get pre-approved for mortgage financing.
Home Builder Sentiment slipped to a reading of 57 in December according to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index. November’s reading of 58 prompted analysts to project a reading of 59 for December. The latest reading marks the sixth consecutive month for readings above 50. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders are positive about housing market conditions than not.
The one-point decline in December’s reading kept the NAHB Housing Market Index within two points of a nine-year high reached in September.
NAHB: Housing Market Index Suggests Slow Return to Normalcy
NAHB’s chief economist, David Crowe, said that December’s reading was in line with NAHB’s assessment that housing markets are on a “slow march back to normal.” Home builder confidence in conditions contributing to the NAHB Housing Market Index also fell in two categories while remaining unchanged in one.
The gauge of builder confidence in current market conditions moved from last month’s reading of 62 to 61. Builder confidence in upcoming home sales fell from 65 to 64, while confidence in prospective buyer traffic was unchanged at a reading of 45. These results are consistent with real estate market trends slowing during the holiday season and winter months.
Builders Challenged in 2014, Better Conditions Expected in 2015
Analysts said that steady builder confidence may be a result of builders surviving a tough year in 2015. Market conditions, unpredictable interest rates and higher costs of supplies along with high unemployment subdued builder confidence during 2014. The New Year brings prospects of easing mortgage standards and better labor markets, which are expected to boost builder confidence as more home buyers enter the market for new homes.
The Commerce Department is set to release Housing Starts for November on December 16; analysts expect an increase to 1.035 million starts on a seasonally adjusted annual basis as compared to October’s reading of 1.01 million starts. A positive reading for housing starts could further bolster home builder confidence for future readings.
Although there were few scheduled economic events related to mortgages and housing, last week brought an article about housing projections for 2015. Other news included increased job openings along with lower than expected jobless claims and higher mortgage rates.
Job Openings, Retail Sales and Mortgage Rates Rise
The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that November job increased to 4.80 million as compared to October’s reading of 4.70 million job openings. Weekly jobless claims corresponded as new claims fell to 294,000 as compared to the prior week’s reading of 297,000 new jobless claims. This was the lowest reading for new jobless claims in three weeks. Analysts had expected a reading of 206,000 new jobless claims.
Further signs of economic strengthening were seen in the retail sector. Retail sales posted their strongest gains in eight months with a gain of 0.70 percent in November according to the Commerce Department. November’s reading exceeded expectations of a 0.40 percent increase which was based on October’s original reading of a 0.30 percent increase in retail sales. November’s retail sales (excluding automotive sales) rose by 0.50 percent, which was the highest reading since June. October’s reading was later revised to 0.50 percent. Automotive sales rose by 1.70 percent in November, which was their highest reading since August.
Amidst last week’s economic gains, mortgage rates also rose. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.93 percent, a gain of four basis points over the previous week. The average rate 15-year mortgage gained 10 basis points at 3.20 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by four basis points to 2.94 percent. Average discount points for all three loan types remained steady at 0.50 percent.
Analysts Offer Housing Predictions for 2015
Fortune reported predictions made by analysts during a panel discussion on housing trends. David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S& P Index Committee, characterized next year’s housing trends as “mysterious.” Analysts pinpointed the influence of the millennial generation as gaining strength in housing markets. As millennials begin to buy their first homes, their tastes and preferences are expected to overshadow the long-held influence of the baby boomer generation. Millennial influence includes a trend called millennial mis-match; Millennials prefer to live in high-cost areas including New York City, Honolulu, Hawaii and Austin, Texas, but their status as first-time home buyers conflicts with this preference. Other trends discussed by analysts attending the panel discussion included:
Mortgage rates predicted to rise: Stronger economic conditions and no Federal stimulus are expected to contribute to rising mortgage rates, which some analysts said were expected to rise to approximately 5.00 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage.
Home price growth and affordability expected to decline: Home prices gained 6.40 percent year-over-year in October 2014 as compared to growth of 10.60 percent for the same period in 2013. High demand for homes in pricey markets coupled with rising mortgage rates are expected to price the middle class out of many high-demand markets.
This week’s scheduled economic events include the Wells Fargo/National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index report for December and the Commerce Department’s December report on Housing Starts. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve will release its customary statement after its meeting concludes on Wednesday. The FOMC statement will be followed by a press conference given by Fed chair Janet Yellen, who also chairs the FOMC.
Are you feeling the “renovation itch” or perhaps looking for a fun project that you can take on which will provide you with a return on your investment? There are numerous home upgrades and renovations that can add value to a home without costing a large sum of money to complete.
Let’s take a look at three popular home renovations that can increase your home equity without draining your bank account.
Paint Your Home Inside and Out
Painting the interior or exterior of your home costs very little when compared to how much it can freshen up your home’s appearance and increase its value. Painting is also an excellent time to get rid of any old wallpaper or other decor touches that are a little dated. Spend some time browsing through Pinterest or through home improvement websites in order to choose a color palette that is warm and inviting without being too bold. Remember, if the goal is to increase your home’s value you’ll need to paint using colors that buyers will find attractive.
Upgrading Your Windows
If your local environment is cold or wet during parts of the year you may find that upgrading your windows improves your home’s appearance and provides you with some additional savings in the form of reduced energy costs. Look for windows that are energy-efficient and that are guaranteed to eliminate drafts. Depending on the area of the country that you reside in, you may find that windows that are insulated with vinyl or aluminum are your best bet.
Finishing Your Basement into a Suite
If you have an unfinished basement which has a lot of space and running water you may want to consider finishing it in to a full basement suite. Some buyers will be enticed by the additional rental income that can come from a suite, while others will be excited at the opportunity to provide an older child or family member with their own suite inside of the same home.
You’ll find that investing a little time and money in your home now can pay huge dividends later when it’s time to sell and move on.