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Simplest Ways To Lower Your Heating Bill This Winter

When the holiday season starts and the winter chill comes around, the heating bill at your property will naturally increase as you keep yourself warm and cosy. However, if your home is not being heated efficiently, you are essentially letting your hard earned dollars escape into the air as wasted energy. What are some simple and inexpensive ways that you can cut down your heating expenses this winter and save yourself some money? Only Heat The Rooms You Are Using If you work from home and are spending eight hours of the day sitting in your home office, there is no need to keep the rest of the house toasty warm. If you have heaters that you can turn on and off for each room, you can direct the heat to the room that you are using. 0If you have a spare bedroom, you don’t even have to heat it at all unless a guest is coming to stay over. Change The Air Filter On Your Furnace If the air filter on your furnace is getting old and clogged up, it will block the airflow from the furnace itsel
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Flaws You Cannot Hide By Staging Your Home

When you sell your home, you want it look as good as possible. To do this, your real estate agent will help you stage your home or, if needed, help you find a professional to stage your home. This means de-cluttering your home, re-arranging furniture, and de-personalizing each room. A staged home is more appealing to buyers and helps to highlight your home’s positive features. However, staging is not meant to cover major flaws in your home. Some things just have to be repaired. Roof Problems It doesn’t matter how pretty your home is, your buyer is going to expect you to fix roof problems or adjust your price to cover them. Your roof is one of the most important parts of your home. Cracked Tile Of course, you can use throw rugs to cover cracks in your tile, but chances are your buyers are going to look under them. Then they may think you are trying to hide a serious problem like a shifting foundation. Save yourself the headache and have your floors fixed. Broken Windows You have to
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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – 01.20.2014

Welcome news arrived last week as lower mortgage rates and a higher number of housing starts were reported. Other economic news was mixed: The Federal Reserve released its Beige Book Report released last Tuesday indicated modest economic growth throughout the 12 Federal Reserve districts. Analysts predicted that this would cause the Fed to further reduce the volume of monthly asset purchases made under its quantitative easing program. The Atlanta, Cleveland and Kansas City districts reported slower home sales, which supported recent expectations of slowing gains in home prices. Mortgage Rates Dip, Housing Starts Up According to Freddie Mac, average mortgage rates fell last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped from 4.51 to 4.41 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.45 percent as compared to the prior week’s reading of 3.56 percent. Discount points rose from 0.60 to 0.70 percent. The average rate fo
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Dodd-Frank Update For 2014: The Qualified Mortgage Rule

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s latest provision – the Qualified Mortgage rule – is going to effect on January 10, 2014. While, like many of Dodd-Frank’s other features, its ability to protect customers remains to be seen, one of its impacts is already clear. Taking out a home loan just got harder. The QM rule contains a set of provisions that, if followed, may protect lenders from lawsuits. They will also make it harder for customers to qualify to borrow money to buy a house. Verifying Incomes Lenders now have to follow stringent procedures to verify that borrowers can repay their loans. While many home loan lenders are already verifying and documenting borrower incomes, assets and debts, they will have to create additional paperwork to prove that they did their jobs. DTI Caps For a loan to be considered a qualifying mortgage, the borrower’s debt-to-income ratio can be no more than 43 percent. This means that if a borrower has $4,500 in gross
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Case Shiller Price Index Shows Highest Year-Over-Year Gains Since 2006

The Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices for October were released on December 31. Although home prices in most cities continued to show year-over-year gains, the pace of home price appreciation is expected to slow in 2014. Year-over-year increases have been in double digit territory since March 2013, but month-to-month readings suggest that the rate of increasing home prices is slowing. According to David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, “…the monthly numbers show that we are living on borrowed time and the boom is fading.” The 10 and 20 city indices are showing that home prices some cities that were showing little or no growth in 2013 are posting higher rates of appreciation, while growth in cities that have shown very high increases in home prices are beginning to lose momentum. Year-over-Year Growth In Double Digits The 10-and 20-city indices each posted year-over year gains of 13.60 percent between October 2012and October 2013. Th
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5 Ways To Use Your Dead Christmas Tree

The holiday season is coming to an end. It’s time to pack up the stockings, and take the ornaments off the tree. That tree was a beautiful Christmas decoration, but now that the evergreen is turning brown, and its needles are falling all over the carpet, you realize it’s time to get it out of the house. But don’t just throw it away. You have several options. Here are five interesting ways to use your dead Christmas tree. It’s For The Birds Keep the tree in its stand and set it outside. You can put some birdhouses in it, or surround it with bird seed. The birds will appreciate your Christmas tree long after you’re tired of looking at it. Take off the tinsel first! It’s For The Fish If you (or your neighbor) has a pond, just drop the tree overboard and give it a proper sailor’s burial. A dead Christmas tree is the ultimate home for fish. The fish can sleep easy behind the branches, and you can sleep easy, knowing your beloved tree is still getting some use. It’s a big he
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Simple, Inexpensive Ways To Prep Your Home For Sale

When homeowners get ready to list, advice will often come from all corners of their personal and social network what within the home to upgrade; what to repair; what to replace. And, although some advice remains valuable, much of it can be ignored. The costs of an expensive upgrade are rarely recouped at the time of sale and studies show that smaller, simpler actions can yield a bigger return on your investment of time and money. Here are four inexpensive, yet highly effective, ways to prepare your home for sale. Improve the curb appeal It s not just the inside of your home which should be inviting to buyers the outside of your home should be, too. Trim hedges, maintain the lawn, power wash the walls and try to inject some color, where possible. Your yard is your home s first impression on buyers. Make it a great one. Lighten up the place Extra sunlight lends an airy feeling to your home, and interior lights provide cozy glow. Therefore, wash your windows, pullback your drapes, replac
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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week 01-06-2014

The last week of 2013 brought relatively good news in view of the economic roller coaster rides caused by legislative impasse. A brief shutdown of federal government agencies, and nail-biting suspense over if and when the FOMC of the Federal Reserve would taper its quantitative easing program. Last week’s news was not high in volume due to the New Year holiday, but it does suggest that a general economic recovery is progressing and that housing markets are leading the “charge!”. Here are the details: The NAR’s data of month-to-month reading of 0.20 percent showed an increase of 0.20 percent over October’s reading of -1.20 percent, which was the lowest reading for pending home sales in five months. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, said that “…the positive fundamentals of job creation and household formation are likely to foster a fairly stable level of contract activity in 2014.” November’s year-over-year reading for pending home sales was 101.7 against a readin
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Pitfalls And Warning Signs Of Making A Down Payment

When you already have a home, you may be interested in determining if a refinance is a good option. You will not have to worry about restrictions on down payments or some of the problems that can occur with a down payment. However, if you are considering purchasing a home in or the surrounding communities, understanding down payment restrictions is important. Gifting Of A Down Payment There are some programs that will allow you to use a gift for your home down payment. However, before you assume this, make sure you talk to your loan officer. Generally speaking, the lender will require the person making the gift to provide a letter stating the money was a gift and does not require repayment. Windfalls Of A Down Payment When people hit the lottery or come into money through an inheritance, one of the first things they may consider is buying a new home. However, it is important to keep in mind that lenders will typically want to know exactly how you came up with your down payment. Borrow
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How Choosing Kitchen Colors Can Affect Your Eating Habits

Have you ever walked into your kitchen and instantly felt hungry? Rarely do people think about the colors that they choose to paint their kitchens. They are often too busy worrying about whether the kitchen will match the rest of the home, or whether the colors will be satisfactory to the rest of the household. However, when painting and decorating your kitchen, you may want to think about the process in a way many people do not how the colors you choose will affect the way in which you eat. As behavioral psychologists have documented, the presence of specific colors your the kitchen can change your eating habits and your cravings for food. Here are some examples : The color red increases your appetite. This is why so many restaurants paint their walls red. Although associated with romance and passion, red is also a color which promotes hunger. Furthermore, it has been noted that the color red in your kitchen can influence high blood pressure. The color blue is calming, which can slow
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Housing Market Index Shows Builder Confidence Up 23 Percent Year-Over-Year

According to the National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Homebuilders Market Index for December, builder confidence recovered in with a reading of 58. This surpassed both expectations of 56 and last month’s reading of 54. Analysts noted that builder confidence has steadied after the government shutdown. December’s reading was the highest in four months. Dave Crowe, NAHB chief economist, said that his organization was expecting a “gradual improvement in the housing recovery” in 2014. Any reading above 50 indicates that more builders are confident about overall housing market conditions than not. Builder Confidence – Highest Reading Since 2005 Pent-up demand for housing is driving housing markets in spite of higher mortgage rates. Three components of builder confidence used to calculate the overall reading also rose in December. Builder confidence in current home sales rose to 64 from a reading of 58 in November; this is the highest reading since 2005. Confidence leve
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Fed Minutes Predicts Tapering Of Quantitative Easing Program

Housing Starts exceeded expectations and also beat October’s reading of 889,000. November housing starts were posted at 1.09 million against a consensus of 963,000. This reading is more in line with the NAHB/Wells Fargo Home builder Market Index, which reached a four month high with December’s reading. With that threat resolved and a new federal budget passed, builders can now proceed without worrying about setbacks caused by government shutdowns and legislative gridlock. Building permits issued in November were slightly lower at 1.01 million than October’s reading of 1.04 million. Viewed as an indicator of future construction, and ultimately, available homes, it is not unusual for construction and permits to slow during the winter months. FOMC Statement And Chairman Bernanke’s Last Press Conference Throughout 2013, strong signs of economic recovery have led to predictions of the Federal Reserve tapering its quantitative easing program. As each FOMC meeting approached, analyst
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Why You Should Lock In Your Interest Rate

Interest rates fluctuate frequently, often depending on the news. If you are considering refinancing your home, your loan officer may suggest locking in the interest rate on your loan. There are some valid reasons why this is a good idea including: Saving Money For The Long-term Over the life of a loan, an increase of as little as one-quarter of a percent can cost thousands of extra dollars. Spending a small amount of money now to lock in a rate can save money over the life of the loan. Your loan officer will explain the difference in rate increases initially, over a year and over the life of the loan. You May Not Qualify At Higher Rates Whether you are considering refinancing your property or you are buying a new home, you may discover your rate just qualified for your loan to meet the required debt-to-income ratios. An interest rate increase may mean you will not qualify for the loan. Closing Times May Impact Their Decision If a loan is scheduled to close within 30 days, it may be a
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Pros And Cons Of Adjustable Rate Mortgages

When you are in the market for a new home, you may be faced with numerous options for financing your home. One of the choices you will have to make is whether to apply for a fixed or adjustable rate mortgage. In some cases, an adjustable rate mortgage may be your best option, but keep in mind, they are not the answer for everyone. Adjustable rate mortgages can be risky for some borrowers and it’s important to understand both the pros and cons. When To Consider An Adjustable Rate Mortgage Perhaps one of the best things about ARMs is they typically have a lower starting interest rate than fixed rate mortgages. For some borrowers, this means it is easier for them to qualify for a loan. ARMs Are Beneficial For Borrowers Who: Anticipate an income increase for borrowers who are anticipating their income to increase over the next year or two, an ARM may be the right option. Will be reducing their debt those borrowers who have automobile loans or student loans that will be paid off in the n
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Should I Shorten My Mortgage Term

When you first bought your home a few years ago, perhaps you started off with a 30 year mortgage. Now, you are considering refinancing and changing it to a 20 year or even a 15 year mortgage. Shortening your mortgage term and refinancing can be a smart financial move, but before you make this decision there are a number of factors that you should consider. Switching to a shorter mortgage will mean that your monthly payments will be higher, but you will be 100% paid off much sooner and you will save thousands of dollars in interest rates. Here are a few of the factors to consider before making this decision: Has Your Situation Improved? Perhaps you have moved to a higher paying position, allowing you to earn a higher income and pay off more of your mortgage every month? Or maybe you have received an inheritance, which will help you to make the payments? Perhaps your expenses have gone down and you will have more money left over from your wage? Whatever the reason, if your financial sit
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Build A Home Gym For Your New Year’s Resolution

While many people claim every January that they are going to exercise more, a lot of them give up after the first couple of months. It takes a great deal of effort to make it to the gym before work or have the energy to go afterward. So don’t make a New Year’s resolution you know you won’t keep. Set yourself up for success by bringing the workout to you. Build your own home gym. Designate A Space The ideal situation would be to dedicate an entire room to your new home gym. That way you can close the door, crank up the music, block out the children arguing and focus on you. However, a section of your garage or the back of your basement will also work. You just need enough room for a set of weights, a mat, a bench and a cardio machine, if you have one. Prepare The Area Put down a rubberized floor, especially if you’re in a basement or garage with concrete surfaces. You can purchase them pretty cheaply in foot-by-foot interlocking squares. Then hang mirrors. This is important so
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3 Considerations When Making A Down Payment

One of the challenges you will face when deciding how much money to put down on your new home is whether to put down a larger down payment or to take a bit of money from your down payment and use it to pay “discount points” to lower your interest rate. There are pros and cons to doing both and each borrower’s situation will be different so it’s important to understand which option is best for your individual need. Some Factors You Should Consider Include: Cost Of Borrowing - generally speaking, to lower your interest rate will mean you pay a premium. Most lenders will charge as much as one percent (one point) on the face amount of your loan to decrease your mortgage interest rate. Before you agree to pay discount points, you need to calculate the amount of money you are going to save monthly and then determine how many months it will take to recover your investment. Remember, discount points are normally tax deductible so it may be important to talk to your tax planner for gui
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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week 01-13-2014

The first post-holiday week of 2014 brought mixed economic and housing-related news. CoreLogic reported via its Housing Market Index that November home prices grew by 11.80 percent year-over-year. This was just shy of October’s year-over-year reading of 11.90 percent. As with Case-Shiller’s recently reported Home Price Indices, a slower rate of home price growth suggested to analysts that the housing market is cooling down. The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee released the minutes from its December meeting. The minutes reiterated the Committee’s decision to begin tapering its asset purchases this month. The Fed announced that it would reduce its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion to $75 billion. As always, the Fed indicated that it would continue monitoring economic data for determining future actions concerning monetary policy. Mortgage Rates Mixed Freddie Mac’s Primary Market Survey reported mixed results for average mortgage rates last week. The rate fo
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Finding A Mortgage That Works For You

Before taking out a mortgage to buy a home, it’s time to take a realistic survey of your finances so that you can determine your price range and what size of home you can comfortably afford. Buying a home that suits your finances will mean that your mortgage payments will be easily within your budget and won’t cause you financial stress. Stay In Your Price Range Many people, when offered a large mortgage by the bank, are tempted to buy homes that are outside of their price range. It’s easy to see why a larger property or a more luxurious home might be appealing, but by stretching too far beyond your means you are courting with disaster. If your monthly mortgage rate just barely fits within your budget, without room for savings, retirement contributions, or to build up an emergency fund – it will only be a matter of time before things start to get tight. What happens if you lose your job, or if your income decreases? If you are unable to meet your mortgage payments, it is easy
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New Home Sales Show Healthy Year-Over-Year Increase

The holiday season and winter weather slowed home sales in November. Last week, the NAR reported that sales of existing homes had slumped to their lowest level in nearly a year, but this was not unexpected. Short supplies of available homes and rising mortgage rates have increased pent-up demand for homes have kept some buyers on the sidelines. Improvement In The Labor Market 4.90 existing homes were sold in November; this was lower than the 5.13 million existing homes sold in October, as well as lower than expectations of 5.00 million existing home sales in November. Existing home sales for November 2013 were also 1.20 percent lower than for November 2012; this is the first time in 29 months that existing home sales were lower year-over-year. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, described the slow-down in sales as a “clear loss of momentum.” The outlook for 2014 is better, as analysts expect continued improvement in the labor market. The pent-up demand for homes will ease as ho
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How To Build An Outdoor Fire Pit

With most of the country easing into full-on winter weather, last-minute outdoor projects need to happen soon. And what better way to enjoy a cozy holiday season than by drinking hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows at your very own outdoor fire pit. In one weekend, the steps below can help you build an outdoor fire pit and get you fired up about the cold! Determine The Size And Location The first order of business is to choose where to build your outdoor fire pit. You want to make sure it’s not too close to the house or overhanging trees. Once you’ve found the spot, lay out a ring of stones and mark it with a shovel before you dig the hole. You’ll want it to be between 35-45 inches in diameter. This will allow a roaring fire, but it will also feel cozy and intimate. Dig The Pit And Make A Trench Make a hole six inches deep within the circle your marked using your stones. You want the sides to be straight and the bottom flat. Then dig down an extra six inches around the perim
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Questions First-Time Home Buyers Should Ask

Nationwide, mortgage rates are low and home prices remain relatively low, too. This combination, plus rising rents, is pushing renters in some cities toward first-time homeownership. Buying your first home can be exciting, but you should also do your research to make sure that you ask the proper questions of the process, and make the best choices for yourself and your household. For example, recommended questions for first-time buyers to ask home sellers include : What major repairs have been made to your home? Although standard disclosure forms are supposed to provide information regarding past damage and renovation to the property, there are occasionally repairs that are omitted or otherwise forgotten. Be proactive and ask pointed questions about the roof, the foundation, and the electrical system. Some home issue have a way of resurfacing many years later and it s best to know in advance. • To which school district does the home belong? As a first-time homebuyer, you may or may n
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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 30, 2013

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index was improved for December at 82.5, after the November reading was adjusted from 82.5 to 75. Analysts noted that consumers were relieved when legislative gridlock ended. Durable goods orders reached their highest level since May with November’s reading of + 3.5 percent. Without the volatile transportation sector, the reading for November was +1.2 percent. This could be a sign of economic recovery for manufacturing, as more orders are being placed. Economists expected an overall increase of 2.0 percent for overall durable goods orders. The U.S. Commerce Department provided housing markets with good news with its New Home Sales report for November. 464,000 new homes were sold in November against expectations of 440,000 new homes sold. This expectation was based on the original reading of 444,000 new homes sold in October, which has been revised to 474,000 new homes sold. The latest reading for October is the highest since July of
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Get The Overview On Escrow Accounts

Whether you are purchasing a new home or you are considering applying to refinance your home, chances are the lender will require an escrow account. These accounts are often a source of confusion for homeowners. In reality, these accounts benefit the homeowner and help protect the lender. What Is An Escrow Account? Escrow accounts are sometimes called “impound” accounts. These accounts are set up to help manage payments of property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Depending on the individual requirements of the lender, you may be asked to pay as much as one-quarter of these upfront and they will be put into the account for the purposes of making payments. Who Controls Escrow Accounts? Lenders have complete control over escrow accounts. However, homeowners are entitled to receive an annual statement advising them of their escrow balance. If there is an increase or decrease in insurance payments through the year, a homeowner may request the lender evaluate the escrow account and c
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Tips For Winter Roof Maintenance

It’s that time of year again when the weather outside gets frightful but the holiday cheer is delightful. You’ve probably got a lot on your mind during these busy winter months, but make sure that you don’t neglect the roof of your home. Taking care of your roof is an important part of home maintenance and you don’t want to suffer a leak or any other problem during the cold months. So how can you make sure that Santa and his sleigh have a solid and well-maintained landing pad when they touch down at your house this year? Here are some tips that every homeowner should know: Check Out Your Gutters Your gutters are an important part of your roof, because they allow water to flow away from the roof surface before it causes rot and damage. During the winter, your gutters will be more likely to get clogged with fallen leaves, snow and ice and can get blocked if they are not cleared out. Get yourself a ladder and a friend to hold it for you and clean any leaves, debris and dirt from
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