7 Excellent Ideas For Building An Eco-Friendly Home

7 excellent ideas for building and eco friendly homeIn recent years, building an environmentally friendly home or updating an existing home to be more energy efficient has become much more mainstream. While building an entirely green residence isn’t always fiscally possible, simple eco-friendly building techniques and upgrades will ultimately lower your water and electricity bills.

These green home improvements will save you money in the long run, while also saving the planet. The following are some of the easiest ways to lower your carbon footprint when building or updating a home.

Build or Purchase a Smaller Home

Smaller homes naturally have a lower impact on the environment. There is less square footage to cool and heat, which keeps energy consumption down. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to give up your dream home. Instead, create an ideal floor plan with usable space, and downsize rooms you know you will not use on a daily — or even weekly — basis.

Use Energy-Efficient Windows

When building a home or updating an existing home, use Energy Star-labeled windows. This important label means that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed them as energy efficient. The money saved on future heating and cooling bills often more than make up for the initial cost differential.

Use Energy-Efficient Products

Like windows, certain appliances are also Energy Star-labeled. Energy Star appliances conserve energy, without sacrificing performance. Everything from a single light bulb to a geothermal heat pump can come with this important, government-approved label.

Use Proper Insulation

Heating and cooling typically accounts for approximately half of a home’s energy consumption, and this energy usage is often wasted due to poor insulation. Start by making sure there are no drafts by windows and doors. This is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and the price of your monthly bills.

Install Solar Panels

Solar energy is both clean and renewable, and solar panels are the perfect way to harness this remarkable form of energy. While the initial cost of installation can seem high, the money saved in the long term is extraordinary. Plus, there are often tax breaks and other monetary incentives. When building a new home, consult with a knowledgeable architect about positioning the property and the solar panels for maximum sun exposure.

Use Sustainable Building Materials

Sustainable building materials can be utilized throughout the entire building process. When picking out wood for the frame of the home, use a supplier who practices an environmentally friendly planting and harvesting process. Once in the design phase, consider bamboo and/or cork flooring. They are both eco-friendly and trendy.

Save Water

There are numerous ways to cut back on water usage. To start, install low-flow aerators on toilets and shower heads, invest in a tankless water heater and only use an Energy Star-rated washing machine. Next, capture rainwater on your property in a cistern or barrel. This water can be used for landscaping and irrigation.

Creating a green home doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple updates and a bit of forethought can drastically reduce monthly bills, while simultaneously reducing fossil-fuel emissions.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 26th, 2018

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 26th 2018Last week’s economic releases included minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting, a report on January sales of pre-owned homes and weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.

FOMC Minutes: Economic Strength Hints at More Rate Hikes

Minutes of the January 30-31 meeting of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee indicated that most Committee members believe that inflation will reach the Fed’s goal of 2.00 percent. Members found that the economy was stronger since 2017 and expected “a gradual upward trajectory of the federal funds rate would be appropriate.”

While analysts expect three rate hikes in 2018, the FOMC voted to hold the federal funds rate at 1.25 to 1.50 percent. Most FOMC members expected that the goal of 2 percent inflation was within reach in 2018.

Analysts were not as confident about reaching to Fed’s inflation goal. Instead, the said that in response to tax cuts, the labor market could exceed full employment and lead to higher wages and surging inflation.

A minority of FOMC members said that inflation could fall short of the Fed’s goal as retailers would compete by lowering prices.

Existing Home Sales Drop in January

According to the National Association of Realtors®, sales of previously-owned homes dipped from a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.56 million sales to 5.38 million sales in January. This reading was the lowest in more than three years; it could indicate that the shortage of homes for sale has reached critical mass.

Months of short supplies of homes for sale have caused rapidly rising home prices, buyer competition and fewer choices of homes for would-be buyers. Real estate pros have repeatedly said the only solution to shortages of available homes is that builders must build more homes but increasing materials costs and labor shortages have caused construction pace to lag demand for homes. Affordability continued to weigh on moderate-income and first-time buyers.

Mortgage Rates Rise for 7th Consecutive Week

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates on average last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 4.40 percent; rates for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged one basis point higher at 3.85 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.65 percent.

New jobless claims dropped by 7000 first-time claims and regained a 45-year low. 222,000 new claims were filed last week as compared to expectations of 229,000 new claims and 230,000 new claims filed the prior week. Real estate pros and analysts cite strong labor markets as driving housing markets and high demand for homes. Workers with job security and options for advancement in their careers are more likely to consider investing in a home than paying rising rents.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic releases include Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, readings on new and pending home sales and construction spending. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released along with a report on consumer sentiment.

3 Reasons You Might Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage in Early 2018

3 Reasons You Might Consider Refinancing Your Mortgage in Early 2018If you are a homeowner who has had their mortgage for a few years, you may be starting to wonder about refinancing. In essence, this is the process of retiring your current mortgage and taking out a new one because the terms are more favorable to you. Below we will share three reasons why you might want to look at refinancing your mortgage this year. Let’s get started.

Can You Use Some Extra Cash?

Ask yourself: if you had some extra money on hand, how would you use it? Many homeowners refinance to pull out some of the equity value that they have built up in their home over time. You might use this cash for a major renovation, or to upgrade your furnishings, or even just for a nice vacation.

Of course, you should keep in mind that you are borrowing a brand-new mortgage loan that will replace your old one. You will still need to pay attention to your credit score, monthly debt load and other personal finances.

Can You Get A Better Interest Rate?

Moving to a mortgage product with a better interest rate is another reason that homeowners refinance. Mortgage interest rates tend to fluctuate over time and it is possible that you may be able to get a lower rate, which in turn lowers your monthly payments. If your credit score has improved significantly since you first borrowed your mortgage, you may find that you have access to favorable interest rates as well.

Would You Prefer A Lower Monthly Payment?

Finally, an efficient use of refinancing is to reduce the amount you have to pay for your mortgage each month. For example, if you owe $60,000 and you have five years remaining, that ends up being about $1,000 per month. However, depending on your circumstances it may be possible to extend this out to 8 or 10 years, which means that you will pay a lower monthly payment for a longer time period.

The above are just a few of the many good reasons that you might consider refinancing your mortgage sometime in 2018. To learn more about the benefits of refinancing, or to get the process started, give us a call today. Our friendly team of professional mortgage advisors is ready to share our experience and help you get the most out of your refinancing.

Speed Your Mortgage Approval by Following This Checklist

In a Hurry to Buy a Home? Speed Your Mortgage Approval up by Following This ChecklistHave you finally found your dream home after months of searching, only to discover that the seller has received other offers? Few circumstances can raise your stress level as much as finding yourself in a bidding war against another buyer. However, being unprepared by not having your finances in order can make the situation even worse. Let’s take a quick look at a few ways that you can speed up your mortgage approval if you are in a hurry to buy your next home.

Pull Your Credit Report ASAP

The first step you will want to do is check your credit report so you have an idea what your mortgage lender will be seeing. You can get a free copy from the major credit reporting agencies up to once per year, so take advantage. There are scams out there, so be sure to only request a report from a government-approved credit agency.

Get All Of Your Paperwork Ready Before You Go In

You will want to gather up as much financial documentation as you can before heading in to meet with your mortgage advisor. Pay stubs, tax forms, and bank statements are all going to be required to prove that you are accurately reporting your current financial situation. You will also want to be able to provide reasons for any substantial loans or other transactions that have taken place in the past couple of years.

Share It All And Keep No Secrets

If you want your mortgage approval to come back quickly, it’s best to be truthful and hold nothing back during the application process. If you lie or try to gloss over areas that you feel are a bit negative, it can end up delaying your approval. Be straight with your advisor and don’t keep any secrets from them.

Work With A Professional Team

Last but not least, if you want the fastest possible mortgage approval you will want to work with a professional team. An experienced mortgage advisor knows the ins-and-outs of the mortgage marketplace. They know which lenders will be able to process quickly and which tend to be on the slower side. If you try to borrow a mortgage from a bank or large lender, you are tied into their process which may not be as quick as you would like.

When you’re ready to buy a home, give us a call. Our mortgage team is happy to help you secure your financing, no matter how much of a hurry you might be in. We look forward to assisting you!

Don’t Make These Mistakes When Shopping for a Mortgage

Shopping for a Mortgage? Don't Make These Key Mistakes That Trip Up First-time BuyersAre you ready to dive into the real estate market for the first time? Buying a new house, condo or apartment is an exciting experience that sets you on the path to building your net worth. However, if you are planning to take out a mortgage, you should be aware that there are some potential pitfalls to avoid. Let’s explore a few of the key mistakes that first-time homebuyers make when they are shopping around for a mortgage.

Mistake #1: Trying To Rush The Process

The first mistake that you will want to avoid making is trying to rush the mortgage process along. Even if you have all of your paperwork ready before you enter the building, it can still take your mortgage lender some time to complete the background checks necessary to determine how much risk you represent. If you need to close on your new home quickly, it’s best to get pre-approved for your mortgage amount first.

Mistake #2: Ignoring Your Credit Score

Ask yourself: when is the last time you checked your credit score? Is your credit history healthy or does it need some attention? Are there any black marks or delinquencies in your past that need to be dealt with? Many first-time buyers fail to appreciate the importance of their credit score when they apply for a mortgage. Don’t make the same mistake.

Mistake #3: Being Behind On Your Taxes

Another crucial mistake that is commonly made is not being up to date with the IRS. While being behind on your taxes is never a good place to be, it can be significantly worse if you are trying to take out a mortgage. Remember that a mortgage is a large loan and one that presents a certain amount of risk to the lender. If you are not paying your bills on time, they may decide that you aren’t worth the trouble.

Mistake #4: Not Working With A Mortgage Professional

The last mistake we will warn you to avoid is trying to move forward with a mortgage without consulting a professional first. An experienced mortgage advisor knows far more about the current market than the average person does. The last thing that you need when you are trying to buy a home is bad advice. It is a good idea to work with a mortgage professional who has your best interests in mind.

When you are ready to buy your next home, contact us. We would be happy to share our insight and help you choose the mortgage product that best suits your needs.

New Construction vs. Existing Home: Why New Might Be Better

3 Ways That Buying a New Construction Home Beats Buying an Existing One, Every TimeAre you in the market for a new house? Whether you are a first-time home buyer or are upgrading to get more space, you will need to choose between buying an existing home or building a brand new one. As you might imagine, there are pros and cons to each kind of home. But if it is in your budget, you may want to lean towards a newer home over an older one. Let’s explore three reasons why new construction homes are better than existing homes.

Customize Every Aspect To Your Tastes

Ask anyone living in a custom-built home and they are likely to tell you that the ability to customize everything was a major deciding factor. When you build a brand-new home, your input isn’t limited to the floor plan or room layout. Your family can choose everything from the paint colors to the door hinges. Imagine having your pick of appliances, cabinets, flooring, and trim in every room – that’s what new construction is all about.

Modern, Efficient And Convenient

A brand-new home means a home that is energy-efficient and built for convenience. Your home can be designed with as much advanced technology as you have in mind. Seamless Wi-Fi and other wireless connectivity for all your devices. A cutting-edge video security system to keep your family safe. Efficient heating and cooling that offers superior indoor air quality. And, of course, lower energy costs and a smaller carbon footprint.

If you are a fan of technology and the conveniences it can provide, a new construction home is a perfect choice.

Many Years of Trouble-Free Living

Another benefit of living in a new home is that everything around you far less likely to fail over the next few years. Moving into an older home means worrying about the roof, the electrical wiring, the appliances and a whole host of other potential problems. In a new construction home, you will be surrounded by brand-new machinery that is built with the future in mind. Also, even if you do run into any issues with your home or appliances, it should all be under warranty.

If you’re ready to discuss financing options for a new construction home, contact us today. Our professional mortgage team is happy to help.

3 Great Reasons to Use an Experienced Mortgage Pro for Your Next Mortgage

3 Great Reasons to Use an Experienced Mortgage Professional for Your Next MortgageAre you thinking about buying a new home in 2018? Whether you are a first-time home buyer or you’re downsizing now that the kids have moved out, you are likely considering whether or not you will need a mortgage. Even if you can afford to buy a home in cash, taking out a mortgage can help you maintain your liquidity for other spending purposes.

No matter what the case, you will want to work with someone who can help you understand your options and what the right decision might be. Let’s explore three excellent reasons why you should work with an experienced mortgage professional for your next mortgage.

Helpful Advice, Every Step Of The Way

The first – and best – reason to work with a mortgage professional is that they are working with your best interests in mind. For example, you may qualify for a number of different interest rates and amortization periods. Which do you choose? Or perhaps your options are more limited as you are rebuilding your credit. Do you know which mortgage will best help you over the long term?

Your mortgage advisor is there to provide helpful, supportive advice as you move through the process.

Access To The Best Possible Rates

Another reason to work with a mortgage professional is that they have access to a wide variety of mortgage products, including those with lower interest rates. While you might think that 0.1 percent off of your mortgage rate doesn’t seem like much, over time this can result in thousands of dollars in savings.

Building A Long-Term Relationship For Future Needs

Finally, keep in mind that you will not just be a “one and done” with your mortgage advisor. This is the start of a long-term relationship that you may come to rely on in the future. You may decide to buy a larger home when you start a family or buy an investment property to diversify your portfolio. No matter the case, you will need someone whom you can trust will guide you in the right direction.

These are just a few of the many good reasons to work with an experienced mortgage professional. When you are ready to buy a new home, or if you are a homeowner in search of refinancing, contact our offices today. We will be happy to share our advice and expertise to help you choose the best mortgage product.

How to Run a Quick Financial Health Check Before You Apply for a Mortgage

How to Run a Quick Financial Health Check Before You Apply for a MortgageAre you planning on using a mortgage to help cover the cost of a new home? If so, you will want to prepare your finances and figure out how you will manage all those wallet-draining monthly expenses. Let’s take a look at how to run a quick financial health check to ensure you are ready to apply for a mortgage.

Update (Or Start) Your Monthly Budget

First, it is essential to get the basics out of the way. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start a monthly budget to keep track of your income and expenses. Once you have a mortgage, it will be important to prioritize your monthly payments so that you don’t end up falling behind.

Starting a budget is easy and can be done with mobile apps, software, a spreadsheet or a pen and paper. List all sources of income so that you know exactly how much cash you are working with. Then, list out every one of your expenses. It can be tough to remember them all, so consider using debit and credit card statements from the past few months as a reminder.

Get A Copy Of Your Credit Report

Next, you will want to get a copy of your credit report so you can see what potential mortgage lenders will see when assessing your financial history. This is a free service that you can request once per year, so be sure to take advantage. Note that you will want to use government-approved websites for requesting your credit report. Be wary of scams.

Do You Have A Down Payment?

A down payment is not required for every home purchase, but having one saved up can make the buying process easier. The amount you will want to have saved up will depend on the cost of your home, whether you plan on carrying private mortgage insurance and a variety of other factors. If possible, try to save up an amount close to (or more than) twenty percent of the home’s purchase price.

Ready? Chat With A Professional

Now that you have run a quick financial health check, it is time to meet with a mortgage professional to discuss your options. Contact us today to book an appointment with one of our friendly expert advisors. We are happy to help you with financing so you can buy your perfect dream home.

Mortgage 101: Understanding ‘PITI’ and What Goes in to Your Monthly Payments

Mortgage 101: Understanding 'PITI' and What Goes in to Your Monthly PaymentsAsk any friend or family member that owns a home and they will share that it takes a bit of management to keep all the expenses under control. Let’s explore the concept of PITI and why it is vital to have a clear picture of how much your home is costing you each month.

Just What Is PITI, Anyway?

PITI is an acronym that stands for “principal, interest, taxes and insurance,” which are the four main components that make up your housing costs.

Principal – this is the amount that you are paying against the total amount that you borrowed when you purchased the home. For example, if you used a mortgage to cover $200,000 of the home’s purchase price, the remaining balance of that $200,000 is the principal. A part of your monthly mortgage payment goes to paying down the principal.

Interest – this is the extra cost that the lender charges for the service of lending you the principal amount. For most mortgages, you will see this expressed as an “interest rate” which is a small percent charged on the loan. A portion of your monthly mortgage payment goes to paying down the interest owed.

Taxes – tax costs are not included in your monthly mortgage payment, but will be added by your lender as part of your yearly expenses when calculating your debt-to-income ratio (see below). Property taxes and other assessments will need to be paid each year.

Insurance – this is the cost of insuring your mortgage and your home. Like taxes, your mortgage lender will typically include some insurance costs in your DTI ratio calculation.

How Lenders Use PITI

Many mortgage lenders use some form of PITI calculation when determining your debt-to-income ratio. This ratio helps the lender understand your ability to manage your monthly mortgage payments without being at risk of missing one. The lower the ratio, the more likely you can afford all your monthly expenses.

Don’t Forget Your Other Monthly Expenses

Finally, don’t forget that along with PITI you will have a variety of other monthly expenses that need to be budgeted for. Leave some space for utilities, repairs and other renovations that need to be made throughout the year.

Once you have the full picture of what is coming in and going out each month, managing your expenses is easy. When you are ready to discuss or apply for a mortgage, get in touch with us. Our friendly team of mortgage professionals is happy to help.

How Do I Know If It’s a Good Idea to Refinance My Mortgage?

You Ask, We Answer: How Do I Know If It's a Good Idea to Refinance My Mortgage?Are you interested in paying less per month on your mortgage? Or perhaps you would prefer if your mortgage was paid off a couple of months – or years – faster? If you are a homeowner with a mortgage, one option that is open to you is refinancing.

How Does Refinancing Work?

In short, refinancing is a process in which you pay off your existing mortgage and borrow a new mortgage under a different set of terms. In most cases, homeowners will use the funds from the new mortgage to pay off the old one. Depending on the terms of your new mortgage, there may or may not be cash left over which you can use to invest, pay down debts, make renovations or for other purposes.

Refinancing To A Lower Interest Rate

Mortgage interest rates tend to fluctuate over time and because of this, refinancing to a mortgage with a lower rate is quite popular. If you initially borrowed your mortgage when interest rates were at 5%, you may be able to lock-in a new mortgage at a lower rate. Note that it can be tough to try to “time” the mortgage market, so check in with your mortgage professional to find out if the time is right.

Refinancing For Lower Monthly Payments

Another great use of refinancing is to reduce the monthly payment required on the mortgage. If you have ten years remaining on a 20-year mortgage, refinancing to extend the payments out to 15 years will lower the monthly payment.

Refinancing To Eliminate Other Debts

Finally, many homeowners will refinance their mortgage to use some of the home’s equity to pay off other debts. For example, a family might have $25,000 in debts that are being charged a higher interest rate than their mortgage. If they have built up enough equity, they can refinance and draw out $25,000 from the home’s value. This shifts the debt from the higher interest areas into the mortgage, where it can be paid off over time.

As you can see, there are many reasons why you might want to refinance your mortgage. To learn more about the refinancing process, or to discuss your options, contact us today. Our professional team of mortgage advisors is ready to help you choose the path that best suits your financial needs.