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Hunting for the Best Local Schools? 5 Checklist Items

There are numerous factors that you may review when choosing a new place to live. If you have children, the quality of the schools and the level of education that your kids will receive in the schools is important. However, you may not be certain how to determine if a school is good or not. When you are looking at schools, use this helpful checklist to guide you in making a great decision. Achievement Data One of the easiest factors for you to research about different school districts and individual schools is achievement data. This may include the percentage of students graduating high school versus dropping out, the enrollment percentage for college, SAT and ACT scores and other relevant data. This is typically published online, or a call to the district’s office may provide you with the information. Student to Teacher Ratio The student to teacher ratio can vary drastically between school districts. This will impact how much personal attention your child receives as well as how cr
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Guide to Finding the Perfect New Neighborhood

Finding the perfect home to purchase is easier said than done, and savvy home buyers understand the importance of researching the neighborhood as well as the home. All home buyers have unique things that they are looking for in an ideal neighborhood, and these factors will play a major role in how enjoyable a homeowner’s living experience is. Those who are shopping for a new home this summer may focus on a few points to find the perfect neighborhood to live in before deciding which home to purchase in that community. Get A Feel For The Ambience And Energy Of the Neighborhood Some home buyers want to find a lovely home in a quiet, mature community. Others may be searching for an active community with kids playing freely in their yards and people taking walks of jogging in their free time. Home buyers can get a great feel for the ambiance and energy of the neighborhood by driving around at different times of the day during the week as well as on the weekend. Look At Neighborhood Ameni
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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 15, 2015

Retail Sales, Consumer Confidence Up Retail sales rose for the third consecutive month. May sales increased at a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.20 percent according to Commerce Department data. Auto and gasoline sales led the charge to higher retail sales, but analysts said that most retail sectors posted gains. Upward revisions of March and April’s retail sales provided evidence of stronger economic conditions. Consumer sentiment jumped nearly four points from May’s reading of 90.7 to 94.6 in June. This appears to be great news compared to the year before the recession, when consumer sentiment averaged a reading of 86.9. Weekly Jobless Claims, Mortgage Rates Weekly jobless claims rose last week and were also higher than expected. 279,000 new jobless claims were filed against an expected reading of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 277,000 new jobless claims. This was the fourteenth consecutive week that new jobless claims remained below 300,000, an accomplishmen
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Which is Better: Bi-weekly or Monthly Mortgage Payments?

When you apply for a new mortgage, your lender may ask if you want to set up monthly payments or bi-weekly payments. At one time, monthly payments were common, but bi-weekly payments are increasing in popularity. This is because they break a large expense up into two smaller and seemingly more manageable payments. In addition, you can also make what equates to a full extra payment on the mortgage each year with a bi-weekly payment structure. Before you decide which is best for you, consider a few factors. Your Personal Budget Many people may believe that if they get paid every two weeks, a bi-weekly mortgage payment is a better option than a monthly mortgage payment. This is not always the case. You should consider other sources of income and how much your payment is in relation to your paychecks. In addition, consider which part of the month your other regular bills are due. This is critical to establishing the best payment plan for you. Control Over the Payments You can still enjoy
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Guide to Fannie Mae’s HomePath Program

Home buyers today may be concerned about finding the perfect home to purchase, but they are also often concerned with the process of applying for a mortgage. The loan application process itself may seem daunting, but many are concerned about finding a great deal on their mortgage. This may include getting a great interest rate and finding a program with low closing costs. The Fannie Mae HomePath program and closing cost assistance program is a beneficial option for many, and you may benefit from learning more about it. What Is This Program? The Fannie Mae loan program has been around for many years, and it is designed to provide borrowers with a lower interest rate than some of the other programs available. It also has easier underwriting guidelines than some of the other options. However, the HomePath program started in 2009 in response to the rising number of foreclosures at that time. This program gives buyers a great opportunity to find homes that were financed through Fannie Mae
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5 Apps to Use When Buying or Selling a Home

Whether you are buying property, selling property or both, the process can be challenging, stressful and even overwhelming at times. Just as you may use various mobile apps to streamline and simplify other aspects of your life, you can also use some well-designed apps to improve your overall experience when you are buying or selling property. These are some of the best apps for you to use as you move forward with your real estate plans. iBank This app is not free for you to download, but the small fee that you pay to use iBank may be well worth paying for. This is an app that you can use to track your bank account balances and living expenses. Financial strain is one of the most significant sources of stress for those who are moving, and this is an app that you can use to ease your money management challenges. PowerOne FinancePro Calculator The property that you choose to purchase will impact your budget in a number of ways. The most obvious difference will be a change in your mortgag
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Home Prices: San Francisco, Denver see Double-Digit Increases

San Francisco, California where home prices rose 10.30 percent year over year in March, and Denver, Colorado with an even 10 percent gain in year-over-year home prices led the Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index for March. Rounding out the top-five cities for year-over-year home price growth were Dallas Texas at 9.30 percent, Miami, Florida at 8.70 percent and Tampa, Florida with a year-over-year average gain in home prices at 8.10 percent. San Francisco’s reading for March was the first double-digit increase in home prices since last July. The five lowest year-over-year price gains occurred in Washington, D.C. and Cleveland, Ohio tied at gains of 1.0 percent, New York City with a year-over-year gain of 2.70 percent, Minneapolis, Minnesota with a gain of 3.00 percent and Phoenix, Arizona with a year-over-year increase of 3.10 percent. Overall, the Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index rose by 5.0 percent year-over-year and by 0.90 percent in March. Analysts said that while home pri
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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 1, 2015

Last week’s economic reports included the Case-Shiller Home Price Indexes, FHFA’s House Price Index and Pending Home Sales from the Commerce Department. The details: Home Prices Dip in March, Pending Home Sales Up According to the Case-Shiller 20-City Housing Market Index, the national reading for average home prices dipped in March. The 20-City Index moved from February’s year-over-year home price growth of 4.20 percent to an average year-over-year home price growth rate of 4.10 percent in March. San Francisco, California reclaimed the top spot for home price growth of 10.30 percent year-over-year. The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported results that mirrored the Case-Shiller report. The FHFA House Price Index tracks purchase-only transactions for homes connected with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The March reading for home price growth slipped to 5.20 percent year-over-year as compared to February’s reading year-over-year growth rate of 5.50 pe
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Learn More About the FHA Streamline Refinance

Home buyers are often drawn to the FHA mortgage program due to the low interest rates, low closing costs and generally attractive loan terms. However, there will come a time when many who have an FHA mortgage want to refinance. After all, refinancing a mortgage may allow you to tap into your home’s equity, obtain a lower interest rate, extend or shorten the loan term or achieve other goals you may have. While there are different loan programs that you can use to refinance, many are taking advantage of the FHA streamline refinance program. What Is the Streamline Refinance Program? This is a unique program that is ideal for many who have an FHA loan, and this includes those who are underwater with their home mortgage. This program is unique from others because there is not an appraisal requirement. Many other programs will offer a certain loan amount based on the current value of the home. When the value has declined since the purchase, it may not be possible to refinance with other l
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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week

Last week’s economic reports included several readings related to housing The Wells Fargo/National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index, the Commerce Department’s releases on Housing Starts and Building Permits, and the National Association of Realtors® report on Existing Home Sales supplied mixed news on recent developments in housing. Freddie Mac and the Labor Department released their usual reports on mortgage rates and weekly jobless claims. The details: NAHB: Builder Confidence Slips, But Remains Positive The Wells Fargo/ National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released its Housing Market Index report for April. Although April’s reading was two points lower at 54, any reading over 50 indicates that more builders consider housing market conditions positive than not. April’s reading on builder confidence was the 11th consecutive index reading over 50. According to NAHB, builder confidence in present housing market conditions dropped by two points to a rea
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Why Buying Raw Land Can Be an Excellent Long-Term Strategy

When many people think about investing in property, they think about purchasing income-producing real estate such as a residential property or an office building with tenants. There are indeed many benefits associated with investing in income-producing property. For example, these properties may produce rent that can offset your ownership expenses. However, buying raw land can also be an excellent long-term investment strategy. By learning more about the benefits of investing in raw land, you may be ready to start searching for real estate to invest in soon. Minimal Ownership Expenses Raw land will not have as many ownership expenses as land. This property may not produce rental income for you, but you also will not have to maintain or repair a building or pay for property insurance. Property taxes and a mortgage payment may be lower as well. Typically, your main expense will be the mortgage payment, and this may be far less than what a mortgage payment on developed land may be. You e
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Mortgage 101: The Basics of How Mortgage Refinancing Works

Refinancing your home mortgage can be beneficial for you for a number of reasons. As a homeowner, you may have spoken with some of your friends and neighbors who have already refinanced, and you may have heard about some of the different benefits associated with refinancing your mortgage. For example, refinancing can result in a lower mortgage payment, the ability to pay your mortgage off more quickly, reduced interest charges and other benefits. If you have never gone through this process yourself, however, you may not know what to expect with the refinancing process. Determining if Refinancing Will Benefit You The actual benefits that you would receive by refinancing will be unique to your situation. Refinancing is a process that results in replacing your existing mortgage with a new mortgage. This will establish your home financing with a new interest rate, a new term and a different mortgage payment. In some cases, the new loan amount that you qualify for will be higher than the a
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3 Tips on How to Set a Moving Budget That Won’t Break the Bank

Relocating to a new area can be exciting, but it can also be expensive. There are many resources to help, but most cost money. However, if you take your time and plan carefully, you can reduce the expense so you don’t start your new life with new debt. Here are three tips to controlling your moving budget. 1. Find Out What’s Free Nothing is better than paying nothing, right? Don’t assume you have to fork out money for everything you need to move. If you have accepted a new job, ask your new employer whether the company can cover any of your moving expenses. When it comes to moving supplies, see what you can get without having to pay for it. Stock up on free moving supplies by asking your workplace, local grocery stores, and friends and family for unneeded, sturdy boxes. Instead of paying professional movers, see if you can barter with friends or family for help in moving boxes to and from the truck. 2. Focus On Essentials After you’ve pursued every possible angle to cover your
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Pros and Cons of Using Spare Funds to Pay Your Mortgage Down Faster

A home mortgage payment can be a large or even the largest expense in a person’s budget, and not having this payment any longer can be a life changing experience. Because of this, you may be dreaming about the day when you no longer have to make this payment. Some people may even actively make extra payments to their mortgage in order to pay the outstanding balance off more quickly. These may be funds from an IRS tax refund, cash received from the holidays or a birthday or some other windfall. Before you make the decision about whether to use spare funds to pay your mortgage down more quickly, consider these pros and cons. The Benefits of Making Extra Mortgage Payments You can shave many years off of your home mortgage when you make even a single extra payment each year. This can help you to achieve long-term financial goals, build equity and avoid paying more than necessary in interest charges. Keep in mind that any principal that is removed from the outstanding balance now will no
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First-time Buyers: Avoid These Rookie Mistakes

Many home buyers who are applying for their first mortgage will go to great lengths to research the options, learn more about loan terms and generally educate themselves about a process that they are unfamiliar with. Despite these common steps that rookie mortgage applicants make, they often make similar mistakes when applying for their first mortgage. By learning about these common mistakes, you can take steps to prevent making them yourself. Not Focusing on All Costs of Home Ownership Many first-time home buyers are overwhelmingly focused on setting up a mortgage payment that is affordable for their budget. While this is important, the mortgage payment is not the only expense associated with home ownership. For example, there are property taxes, insurance, repair and maintenance expenses, homeowners’ association dues and more. All of these expenses should be reviewed when you consider what mortgage payment is affordable for your budget. Not Thinking About Short and Long-Term Plans
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4 Tips for Managing Your Lawn Now That the Rain Has Arrived

In many areas, the spring months mean warmer temperatures, more sunshine and plenty of beneficial rainfall that your yard may thrive with. These are prime growing conditions for your lawn, but they can also make lawn maintenance a challenge. By following these helpful tips, you can take better care of your yard during this rainy spring season. Re-Seed or Re-Sod Carefully The spring months are one of the best times of the year to re-seed or re-sod your lawn. If you have bare spots in your yard, these spots can turn into giant mud puddles during a heavy rainstorm that can be a true eyesore. New grass seed and fresh sod both require ample water to grow, so you can take advantage of the rain to grow new grass in your bare areas. Mow When Possible The sunshine, warm temperatures and ample rain can all make your grass grow quickly, and it can also make your weeds grow even faster. Mowing your lawn frequently will help you to keep the weeds from spreading seeds throughout the yard and creati
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What if Problems Are Found During the Final Home Inspection

As a home buyer, you may go through a number of different steps to ensure that the property that you purchase is in great condition. For example, you may complete an initial walk-through or even several home tours before you make an offer. You may also order a property inspection and even negotiate for the seller to make some repairs on your behalf. A day or two before your closing date, you may set up a final home inspection to ensure that the home is still in the same condition as the initial walk-through. In most cases, there will be no problems with the final inspection. However, in the event that there is a problem with the final inspection, you will need to know how to handle it. Work With Your Real Estate Agent As a first step, you should discuss the issues with your real estate agent. Your real estate agent may have some strategies or ideas that can be used to help you overcome the issue in the best possible way. Minor issues may be resolved with a last minute negotiation to t
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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 8, 2015

Last week’s economic news included reports on construction spending, Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey and several employment related reports. The details: Construction Spending Jumps The Commerce Department reported that construction spending reached its fastest annual pace since November 2008. Most of the momentum was caused by construction of apartments, commercial projects and roads, and construction of single family homes. Builders spent 2.20 percent more in April than they did in March, which equated to an annual outlay of $1.01 trillion for all types of construction spending. Analysts said that increased spending in construction indicated that the housing sector could see improvement as construction provides more jobs. Mortgage Rates Mixed Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates reported that average mortgage rates were mixed last week. Average rates were reported as follows: 30-year fixed rates were unchanged at 3.87 percent with discount points also unchanged at
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Reverse Mortgage Requirements Are Changing – Here’s How

Many seniors have taken advantage of reverse mortgages in recent years. These unique mortgages allow seniors who are existing homeowners to tap into their home equity without taking on a mortgage payment. This can be a true benefit to seniors who are on a tight budget or who want to take advantage of their home equity without giving up ownership of their home. However, with new rules and requirements in place regarding reverse mortgages, the fact is that some of the benefits associated with reverse mortgages may be limited. In addition, some who may have qualified in the past may no longer qualify for a reverse mortgage. Merging Two Reverse Mortgage Programs One of the major changes related to reverse mortgage programs is tied to merging the Saver and Standard programs together. This change is already in effect, and the result essentially means that borrowers may qualify for as much as 15 percent less in loan proceeds than with the Standard program than they previously would have qual
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Buying an Older Home? 3 Upgrades You’ll Need to Make

While some home buyers only want to live in a brand new home and will custom build a home to their specifications, others are drawn to the historic character and charm of a classic home. Older homes may have incredible architectural detail and special features that you simply do not want to change. These older homes can sometimes be a much better investment than a brand new home. However, there are some essential features that should be upgraded as soon as possible after you take ownership of your classic home. The Electrical Panel Many older homes were built at a time when electricity use was at a minimum, but the reliance on electricity has increased over the years. Older homes may commonly have an electrical panel with 50 amps or less, but your current needs may require you to have a panel with at least 200 amps. It may be good to have an electrician inspect the electrical panel as well as the wiring in the home to determine if an upgrade is needed in your new home. Re-Plumbing the
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Learn Why Concrete May Be the Best Thing to Hit Your Kitchen

Updating your kitchen may be a project that you have been looking forward to for a long time. Now that the time has come to get started working on your project, you may be exploring the different materials that are available to use in your kitchen. The counter tops are often a prime focal point for a kitchen remodeling project. While there are several materials available to consider, concrete may be the best option for a number of reasons. Endless Design Options Concrete is a popular material that is used on patios, decorative floors and more because it can be stained, scored and shaped with almost endless possibilities. Just as the design options are limitless for other areas of the home, the same holds true when using concrete for your counter tops. You can customize the size, shape, finish, edge style and color without limits to achieve the desired look for your space. Affordable Material Concrete is not quite as affordable as laminate counter tops, but it is far more affordable th
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3 Tips for How to Secure a Mortgage if You’re a Self-Employed Entrepreneur

If you are self-employed, either as a freelancer or as the owner of your own business, your income can fluctuate greatly from year to year. That can make it difficult to get approved for a mortgage, although there are some things you can do to improve your chances. Here are three tips for securing a mortgage if you are self-employed. Make Sure Your Credit Score Is In Good Shape While your ability to pay back a mortgage is the most important factor in approval, your credit score is a close second, and that goes for every borrower, not just those who are self-employed. If you have a credit score in the high range — something above 750 or 760 — it will help you get approved for a mortgage. To boost your score, make sure you pay all bills on time, pay down your debt levels and don’t make any new big purchases or apply for new credit soon before you apply for a mortgage. Have a Large Down Payment The more money a bank lends you to buy a house, the more risk it is taking in that the m
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Guide to Buying a Home That Suits Your Whole Family

It was very common decades ago for several generations of a family to live together, and this may have included kids, parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents in some cases. Today’s modern homes are generally designed to accommodate a more traditional modern family, which includes only parents and kids or for only a married couple without kids. When you are buying a home for other generations as well, it is important for you to pay attention to a few important points. The Right Living Spaces and Accommodations Generally, a home with a floor plan that is most suitable for multiple generations is one with different wings of bedrooms and several different living areas. There is something to be said for togetherness, but you may find that having several different living areas as well as having a floor plan that keeps older family members’ bedrooms away from the bedrooms of younger family members is a good idea. After all, there will be plenty of times when older family member
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Saving Up for Your Down Payment? Try These Money-saving Tips

One of the most significant challenges that many people face when preparing to buy a first home relates to saving money for a down payment. While there are many different loan programs with varying down payment requirements, the fact is that it can still be difficult to save up a large sum of money. Some programs may require you to save as much as 10 percent or 20 percent of the sales price of the home. You can employ a few different tips and techniques to save money for a down payment more quickly, and these are some of the options that others have successfully used to save money for their home purchase. Make Saving Automatic One idea that works well for many people is to make saving for your new home automatic. This may be as simple as scheduling a regular draft or transfer from your checking account when your paycheck is deposited into your savings account. Some employers may even facilitate this process by contributing some of your funds into a savings account on your behalf. With
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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – May 18, 2015

Last week’s economic reports included data from the Federal Reserve on student loan debt, job openings and retail sales. Weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s survey of average mortgage rates were released as usual on Thursday. A report on consumer sentiment wrapped up the week’s scheduled economic new. Federal Reserve: Student Loan Borrowers Struggle with Payments In two reports issued by the New York and St. Louis branches of the Federal Reserve, researchers found that high numbers of student loan borrowers are behind in making payments. According to the New York Fed, 11.10 percent of student loan borrowers were 90 or more days past due on their payments during the first quarter of 2015. This is a slight improvement over the fourth quarter of 2014, when 11.30 percent of student loan borrowers were 90 or more days behind with their payments. The Fed notes that these percentages do not include borrowers who are behind on payments but who are not required to make payments due t
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