Don’t Wait too Long to Buy Home Insurance

Home shopping is an arduous, complex process with many, many steps. One step that is often overlooked by buyers is obtaining insurance coverage. As insurance companies will tell you, they routinely get phone calls from frantic title or escrow firms because the buyer forgot to secure coverage. Experts recommend buyers start shopping for coverage as soon as the seller accepts their offer, giving themselves plenty of time to shop around and find the policy that best fits their needs. It’s also a good idea to compile some information before calling insurers to speed up the process.

When you call an insurer to obtain a quote, the agent will need certain information before a rate is quoted. In addition to your personal information, the agent will also need to know some details about the home you are buying. These details include the age, square footage and location of the home, as well as how old the plumbing and electrical wiring are, the type and shape of the roof and the number of claims filed on the house over the last five years. If you’re buying a country home nowhere near a fire department, some insurers will refuse to cover it. In that case, you will have to shop around and may have to use a specialty insurer, which generally takes more time.

When you’ve gathered all the information you need, it’s time to familiarize yourself with home insurance policies, how they work and some tips to save you money. One was to reduce your monthly premiums, or the monthly fees paid for coverage, is to go with a higher deductible. This is the amount that you’ll pay before insurance kicks in when you make a claim. The higher the deductible, the lower the monthly premiums. Be careful, however, as many lenders have a cap on your deductible, and you may lose financing if you get the wrong policy. So contact your lender before taking a policy with a high deductible.

Another way to save money on insurance is to make sure all the discounts you are eligible for are being applied. Insurers offer discounts for a variety of reasons, though individual agents may not always ask all the pertinent questions to determine your eligibility. Some common insurance discounts are for 24-hour alarm monitoring service, senior citizens or multi-policy discounts. Multi-policy discounts are offered by most insurers when policy holders hold more than one type of coverage with the same firm. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to go ahead and get a quote from your auto insurer, if they offer home insurance, even if you’ve already received a low quote from somebody else. Regardless of who you’re getting the quote from, however, make sure to ask them to run through all their discounts.

10

04 2014

What Are Fair Housing Issues?

Fair housing issues stem from the Fair Housing Act of 1974, a law enacted to prevent discrimination in selling or renting homes, or in issuing homeowners insurance or home loans. The law essentially outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. Some fair housing issues are governed by other laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1966, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act or the 14th Amendment, also known as the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even though these laws have protected consumers for at least 40 years, there are still millions of Fair Housing complaints filed by Americans each year.

 

Housing discrimination can come in many forms. In the most obvious cases, the guilty party may slam a door in somebody’s face or make insensitive comments that leave no doubt that the victim has been treated unfairly. But discrimination can also occur as the result of an unlawful policy. An apartment complex, for example, may have a No Pets policy, but that does not entitle them to reject a handicapped person who lives with a service animal. Turning down renters because they have kids is another violation of the Fair Housing Act.

 

As stipulated by the Fair Housing Act, all Americans are entitled to fair treatment from landlords, home sellers, Realtors, and brokers, as well as loan officers and insurance agents. When violations of fair housing policy occur, victims are advised to file a complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD is the agency responsible for investigating claims of unfair housing practices. Those wishing to file a complaint can contact one of 10 Regional offices either by phone or in person, or file the complaint online at HUD.gov. Click Here for the online complaint form, or Click Here to find the nearest regional office.

20

03 2014

Understanding Closing Costs

Buying a home can be a confusing, complicated process, made even more so by the lack of familiarity most of us have with it. Most Americans will only buy a home once in their lifetime, so the process will be completely new to them. One of the more misunderstood aspects of home buying is the concept of closing costs. These are costs related to appraisals, escrow, taxes and other fees for which the buyer is usually responsible. Some buyers prefer to have closing costs rolled into their loans, while others just bring a check along to the closing and pay for them there. Hardly any buyers, however, take the time to educate themselves about the closing costs and just pay what they’re told. To help educate buyers, we’ve included the following breakdown of typical closing costs, and how much they usually run. Buyers should always ask their lender to run them through all closing costs before they close to avoid surprises.

Appraisal Fee – A fee paid to an appraisal company for determining the market value of the home. Typically $300 to $400 in the Colorado Springs market.

Closing or Escrow Fee – A fee paid to the title company, escrow firm or attorney for handling the closing. Typically calculated as a fee of around $250 plus 0.2 percent of sales price.

Home Inspection – In most home sales, the seller should bring in an inspector to ensure that everything in the home is in good working order. Inspector will confirm that there are no problems with the foundation, electrical wiring or anything else in the home. Some sellers fail to get their own inspection, but are then surprised at closing when the buyer wants to be reimbursed for it at closing. Inspection fees should not cost more than $500.

Title Search Fee – Also known as a title exam fee, this fee is paid to a title company for ensuring that a seller is the only person with a rightful claim to the property. This fee varies greatly by market and company.

Credit Report Fee – Typically no more than $30, this fee is paid to a third party for a report on the credit history of either party.

Flood Determination Fee – Fee paid to a third party to determine if property is in a flood zone. If it is, buyer is required to purchase flood insurance separately. Flood Determination fees usually run about $20.

Courier Fee – Not used in all home sales, this fee applies if a courier service is used to transport documents between agents, attorneys and bank staff in order to speed up the closing process.

Title Insurance – A small fee paid to protect the seller in case someone comes forward with an ownership claim on the property after sale.

Home Insurance – All home owners are required to carry insurance as long as they have an outstanding mortgage. Buyers are usually required to pay the first year of insurance at closing or before. Varies based on insurance firm and value of home.

Natural Hazard Disclosure Report – Some states require sellers to provide this report for the seller, informing him of any damage the home has sustained as a result of natural disasters. $100 to $150

Escrow Deposit for Taxes, Mortgage Insurance – Home buyers are often required to put down two months worth of property taxes and mortgage insurance.

Title Transfer Taxes – Fees collected by municipal officials for transferring title from seller to buyer.

Recording Fee – Municipal fee charged for detailing home sale information into the public record. Amount depends on governing agency.

Processing Fee – Lender fee designed to recoup costs associated with issuing a loan. These fees vary greatly depending on the lender, but can run as high as $1,000.

Underwriting Fee – Also charged by a lender, this fee is designed to recoup costs associated with investigating the borrower’s credit-worthiness.

Loan Discount Points – “Points” are essentially pre-paid interest payments. Buyers will often agree to pay points in order to keep their monthly mortgage payments lower. One point is equal to one percent of the total amount financed.

Pre-paid Interest – Buyers will often pay a small amount of insurance at closing in order to get the interest paid up through the beginning of the month.

Property Tax – In most home sales, six months of property taxes are expected to be paid by the buyer at closing.

HOA Transfer Fees – Usually paid by seller, these fees go the the homeowners association, who supplies a report detailing what monthly dues are, whether or not they’re current, the association’s financial records and minutes of its last meeting. Buyers are advised to look over these documents carefully. These fees can vary greatly, running anywhere from $100 to $400 for a complete report and transfer.

11

03 2014

FHFA Gets Leader After 8-Month Delay

The Federal Housing Finance Agency will finally have a new leader Monday when Vice President Joe Biden swears in former North Carolina congressman Mel Watt as the agency’s new director. President Obama nominated Watt for the position last May, but Republicans have blocked the appointment using repeated filibusters. The GOP’s interference has been so frustrating, in fact, that the Democratic-led Senate changed its ruled on filibusters to get Watt’s appointment through. On December 10th, the Senate changed the requirement for bypassing a filibuster, a move that now requires just a simple majority vote. Prior to the change, 60 of the 100 Senators had to vote in favor to get past a filibuster attempt. Mel Watt is expected to be sworn in to his new post at 3 PM ET Monday.

06

01 2014

US Pending Sales End Five Month Losing Streak

The National Association of Realtors reported Monday that pending home sales edged up slightly in November, marking the first time in six months with an increase in signed contracts to purchase homes.  The group said that contracts rose 0.2 percent from October, though the reading was still down 1.6 percent in year-over-year terms.  The gain was slightly less than economists were expecting, as a group forecast a 1.0 percent surge in a recent FactSet survey.

Home sales, which rose earlier in the year, seem to be slowing as 2013 comes to a close.  NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun pointed out, however, that Americans have already purchased more homes than they have in the last seven years, and numerous other housing indicators have also improved.  Yun noted that improvement in the housing sector played a significant part in the Fed’s decision earlier this month to begin winding down its stimulus measures aimed at keeping interest rates down.

Last month’s gain in pending sales was fueled by gains in the West and South, which offset declines in contract signings in the Northeast and Midwest.  For the year, economists are now expecting sales of existing homes to jump by 10 percent from a year ago to just over 5.1 million, a umber that isn’t expected to change much in 2014.  Since 2013 began, the median US home value has surged 12 percent, and the trend is expected to continue into 2014, with prices expected to rise between 5.0 and 5.5 percent, depending on which survey you read.

30

12 2013

Mortgage Applications Jump Following Thanksgiving Week Slide

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday that demand for home loans climbed higher for the first time in six weeks in its latest report, based on the week ended December 6th.  The group said that its Market Composite index, a seasonally adjusted reading on applications for both purchase and refinanced home loans, edged up 1 percent from the prior week on a seasonally adjusted basis.  The gain was an astounding 43 percent in a non-seasonally adjusted terms, but that’s because the week before included the Thanksgiving holiday, when even home shoppers tend to take a break.  During the Thanksgiving week, in fact, application volume fell 40 percent from the week ended November 22nd.

According to the MBA’s report, demand for home refinancings rose 2 percent this week as compared to the Thanksgiving Day week.  Compare the numbers to the week before Thanksgiving, however, and refinancing demand slipped 16 percent.  Demand for purchase loans rose 1 percent from Thanksgiving week, but were down 3 percent from two weeks ago.  The percentage of all mortgage applications requesting refinance loans rose from 63 percent during the Thanksgiving week to 65 percent.

12

12 2013

30-Year Mortgage Rate Drops to 3.43 Percent

US mortgage insurer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that fixed mortgage rates dipped slightly this week after climbing significantly last week.  The average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate loan was 4.42 percent this week, the report showed, down from last week’s average of 4.46 percent.  The average for a 15-year, fixed loan, meanwhile, slid from 3.47 percent a week ago to 3.43 percent.  Economists are keeping a close eye on rates as the Federal Reserve meets next week and will discuss winding down stimulus measures designed to keep rates low.

Mortgage rates reached all-time lows several times in 2012, thanks primarily to the Fed’s bond purchases.  Known as quantitative easing, the program entails the purchase of billions of dollars of Treasury bills each month.  Since interest rates track the yield on the 10-year bond, these purchases lower rates by lowering the yield of the benchmark note.  Speculation about the Fed ending the program began having an impact on rates in May, and they peaked in August, with the 30-year reaching an average interest rate of 4.6 percent.  A series of positive economic indicators have surfaced in recent weeks, fueling increased expectations that the Fed will taper bond purchases sooner rather than later.

Fixed-rate mortgages were not the only mortgage types to see a reduction in interest rate this week, according to Freddie Mac’s report.   The average rate for a 1-year, adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM, dropped from 2.59 to 2.51 percent, according tot the survey, and the average rate for a 5-year ARM fell from 2.99 to 2.94 percent.  To calculate the weekly averages, Freddie’s staff contacts conforming lenders between Monday and Wednesday of a given week, releasing its findings each Thursday.

12

12 2013

Sausalito Firm Secures $50 Million Investment, Looks to Hire About 100

The Marin County job market got a boost Monday when Glassdoor revealed it has secured $50 million in financing from investors.  The cash infusion will allow the company to expand its reach to more global markets, but will also lead to new hires as the firm brings on staff to handle an expanded workload.  Based in Sausalito, Glassdoor operates a website that gives workers a forum to evaluate employers.  The new round of capital lends credence to the company’s business model, considering the company had only raised a total of $42 million in investments since opening up shop in 2008.

Glassdoor CEO Robert Hohman noted in a press conference that the website is working very well in the US, so the focus for new capital will be to expand Glassdoor’s presence in Asia and Europe.  But while the company may be shifting focus to overseas markets, there are currently no plans to open offices outside of Sausalito, and the company is looking to add about 100 new positions to its existing workforce of 200.  Among the positions the company will need to fill in the coming months are software engineer, sales and marketing positions.

09

12 2013

Fixed Mortgage Rates Jump 17 Basis Points

Fixed mortgage rates climbed for the second consecutive week this week, according to a report issued Thursday be mortgage insurer Freddie Mac, with the both the 30-year and 15-year fixed loan rate jumping 17 basis points.  The latest reading comes amid a flurry of positive economic indicators, including an increase to the government’s forecast for economic growth this quarter.  Friday brought a report from the Labor Department showing the unemployment rate fell to 7.0 percent last month, and home sales have been improving since slipping significantly during the summer.  All these positive indicator increase the likelihood of the Federal Reserve beginning to wind down its stimulus program, which would cause rates to move even higher.

According to Freddie, the average rate for a 30-year fixed loan is 4.46 percent this week, up from 4.29 percent a week ago.  Commonly used in home purchases, the 30-year loan has now risen nearly a full percentage point over the last year, though it is lower than the 4.6 percent rate it reached in August.  The average rate on a 15-year fixed loan, more often used in refinancings, rose from 3.30 percent to 3.47.  A year ago, the average was at 2.67 percent.   Rates for so-called adjustable rate mortgages, or ARMs, were mixed, Freddie said, as the rate for a 1-year ARM fell 1 basis point to 2.59 percent while the average 5-year ARM rose 5 basis points to 2.94 percent.

Fixed Mortgage Rates Jump 17 Basis Points

Fixed mortgage rates climbed for the second consecutive week this week, according to a report issued Thursday be mortgage insurer Freddie Mac, with the both the 30-year and 15-year fixed loan rate jumping 17 basis points. The latest reading comes amid a flurry of positive economic indicators, including an increase to the government’s forecast for economic growth this quarter. Friday brought a report from the Labor Department showing the unemployment rate fell to 7.0 percent last month, and home sales have been improving since slipping significantly during the summer. All these positive indicator increase the likelihood of the Federal Reserve beginning to wind down its stimulus program, which would cause rates to move even higher.

According to Freddie, the average rate for a 30-year fixed loan is 4.46 percent this week, up from 4.29 percent a week ago. Commonly used in home purchases, the 30-year loan has now risen nearly a full percentage point over the last year, though it is lower than the 4.6 percent rate it reached in August. The average rate on a 15-year fixed loan, more often used in refinancings, rose from 3.30 percent to 3.47. A year ago, the average was at 2.67 percent. Rates for so-called adjustable rate mortgages, or ARMs, were mixed, Freddie said, as the rate for a 1-year ARM fell 1 basis point to 2.59 percent while the average 5-year ARM rose 5 basis points to 2.94 percent.

06

12 2013

Cold Spell Underscores Need for Marin County Homeless Shelter

With Winter arriving in full force this week, Marin County shelters have been full to capacity, and there’s an obvious need for more shelter, lending credence to the ongoing attempts to establish a County shelter facility.  Currently, the only safe shelters for the area’s homeless are a handful of churches that open their doors to those seeking shelter from the deadly cold.  According to the director of Marin’s Department of Health and Human Services, Larry Meredith, there are hundreds of homeless people living in Marin County and there are simply not enough shelters to accommodate them.  “We need to take care of people who may have fallen on hard times or may be unable to help themselves,” Meredith said in a statement. “That’s what we do.”

In an attempt to address the need for shelter for homeless in the county, officials have begun looking into the possibility of building a year-round facility dedicated to providing homeless folks with a safe haven from the elements.  In addition to a handful of County officials, several cities have joined in on the planning, including San Rafael and Novato, two cities being considered as locations for the shelter.  But despite the ongoing discussions about the project, one major hurdle needs to be overcome before construction can begin:  funding.  Currently, there has not been any money dedicated to the project from the County or city officials.  The idea of a homeless shelter maintained by the county is still very much in the early stages, but several sources said that private donations would likely have to fund at least half of any potential project.

<li><a href=”news-120613-mortgage-rates.html”><font color=”blue”>Mortgage Rates Move Higher for 2nd Straight Week</font></a></li>

06

12 2013