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News And Mortgage Reports

3 Reasons for Military Homebuyers to Be Thankful This Year

2014-11-24 06:18:00

Filed under: News, Buying, Financing Getty Images Mortgage credit is thawing, VA loans are booming and interest rates remain within striking distance of all-time lows. For military homebuyers, there's much to be thankful for this year. They are a demographic group that continues to embrace both the opportunities and challenges of homebuying. The homeownership rate among veterans and service members is 81 percent, compared to about 65 percent for the nation as a whole, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. It's tough to predict what shape the housing market will take in 2015, with both home prices and rates almost certainly on the rise. But this Thanksgiving, there are a few key trends for which many military buyers can give thanks. Here's a look at three big ones. VA loan resurgence The historic VA home loan program celebrated its 70th anniversary in June. But in many ways its zero-down mortgage option is more important than ever. Veterans and active military members have turned to VA loans in record numbers given the tight conventional mortgage market. During an uneven year for many buyers, VA purchases increased nearly 13 percent year-over-year in 2014 (the VA's fiscal year runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30), according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. These are more flexible and forgiving loans when it comes to things like credit, debt ratios and assets. It can be tough for many veterans and military buyers to build the kind of financial profile and nest egg needed for conventional financing. VA lenders often are looking for a FICO score around 620. Conventional lenders may set the benchmark more than 100 points higher, then also require at least a 5 percent down payment. Those can be tall hurdles to clear. Credit thawing But there's also positive news for military buyers wanting to take a hard look at conventional mortgage options. Signs continue to point to an overall relaxing of credit requirements as the economic outlook improves. Credit availability in the conventional mortgage market jumped 12 percent in September compared to March 2012, according to a Mortgage Bankers Association index. At the same time, conventional buyers had an average 755 FICO score in September, a four-point drop from last year's average, according to mortgage software firm Ellie Mae. The Federal Housing Finance Agency also unveiled plans recently to open lending to borrowers with as little as 3 percent down. The FHFA regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant government-sponsored entities that purchase two of every three new mortgages. "These loans will be underwritten more conservatively and will likely come with higher mortgage insurance costs," David H. Stevens, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, told Bloomberg News. "History has shown that these loans, when properly underwritten, perform well." Interest rates After a stretch of historically low interest rates, many economists and housing experts expected the party to end in 2014. Heading into this year, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, Lawrence Yun, predicted rates would hit 5.4 percent by year's end. Instead, global political issues, a stop-and-start recovery and other factors combined to keep rates down. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.43 percent in January, according to Freddie Mac. For October? Try 4.04 percent. Forecasts for 2015 vary, but it's likely the average rate will near 5 percent, if not top it. "The impact of rising interest rates on affordability will be minimal as long as job creation keeps pace," Yun, the NAR economist, said earlier this month at the trade group's annual convention. "Furthermore, if the credit box slowly begins to open up, that will also mitigate the impact of rising rates." To be sure, buying a home isn't the right fit for every veteran or military member. Military service can come with frequent relocation and unique financial strain, both of which can make homebuying untenable or flat-out undesirable. But for those eyeing a home purchase on the horizon, there's a lot to be grateful for this year. Permalink | Email this | Comments


Zillow: 30-Year Fixed Mortgage at 3.82%

2014-11-18 21:03:00

Filed under: News, Buying, Financing, Refinancing Zillow*The weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest in six-hour intervals. By Lauren Braun Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.82 percent, down from 3.90 percent at this same time last week. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate hovered around 3.85 percent for most of the week before falling to the current rate. "Rates remained flat for most of last week, but dipped slightly early Monday on news that Japan fell into a recession in Q3," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "Despite incoming inflation and home sales data, we do not expect rates to move dramatically this week." Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 2.99 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.82 percent. Purchase Mortgage Application Activity Zillow predicts tomorrow's seasonally adjusted Mortgage Bankers Association Weekly Application Index will show purchase loan activity to increase by 4 percent from the week prior. To learn more about this Zillow analysis, click here. What are the interest rates right now? Check Zillow Mortgages for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state.  Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments


House of the Day: Michigan Victorian With Lighthouse

2014-11-17 13:05:00

Filed under: News, Buying, House of the Day ZillowThis Bellevue Island home with three bedrooms is on the market at $415,000. By Emily Heffter The lakeside community of Lake Orion was a popular weekend getaway for the wealthy of Detroit in 1900, when this Victorian home was built. In its heyday, Bellevue Island had an amusement park with an old wooden roller coaster. Now the quiet community about an hour outside of Detroit is known more for its great school district. The sellers raised two daughters in the three-bedroom, two-bath home while restoring its unique features and have it on the market at $415,000. "They brought it back to life over the last 20 years," said Leslie Mihalak, the RE/MAX listing agent. Most notable are the home's two copper-topped towers: A five-story working lighthouse on the lakefront side serves as a hidden fort, accessible via ladder from one of the bedrooms. On the land side of the house, a second tower looks like a windmill. The owners painted the original cedar shake siding a raspberry color, and the bottom of the house is constructed of fieldstone. Inside, the home is modernized with an updated kitchen, granite countertops and wood floors. There are beautiful views of the lake, two docks and a patio.  Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments


House of the Day: Ivy-Covered 'Castle' in The Hamptons

2014-11-14 07:56:00

Filed under: News, Buying, House of the Day Zillow"The Castle" in Southhampton, New York, would stand out even if it didn't have a turret. By Emily Heffter The upscale village of Southampton, New York, is an oceanfront enclave of shake-sided beach mansions and 1920s stucco homes. So this red-brick historic home for sale at $4.3 million would stand out, even if it didn't have a turret. Locally known as "the castle," this 1911 home at 143 Herrick Road, Southampton, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The home's owner, William Sofield, is a world-class designer who bought the home for $830,000 in 1999 and restored it carefully. He updated all the systems but decorated the interior in the arts-and-crafts style of the home's era. There is no stainless steel or white marble in the kitchen -- he instead used white, retro appliances. The home is on the small side for the area -- less than 3,000 square feet -- and is covered in ivy, so that it just peeks out of surrounding greenery. There are two bedroom suites on the main level. In the turret, the master bedroom has a free-standing soaking tub. The gazebo poolhouse is perhaps the home's most distinctive feature, with carved windows and doors. The 0.43-acre property is landscaped with gardens and brick walkways, with a heated gunite pool. Harald Grant of Sotheby's International Realty holds the listing.  Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments


Jon Stewart Triples Money on Tribeca Duplex Deal

2014-11-14 01:14:00

Filed under: News, Celebrity Homes, Selling Zillow Comedian Jon Stewart just sold two loft units in this Tribeca building for $17.5 million. APJon Stewart Funnyman/pundit Jon Stewart has unloaded his duplex loft in New York City's Tribeca neighborhood for $17.5 million in a private deal. And a good deal it was for "The Daily Show" host, who bought the units in 2005 for $5.8 million, a year after the building went condo, reports The Real Deal. In true Stewart style, the duplex on 161 Hudson St. was officially owned by the Stanley Monkey Trust, named after Stewart's pit bull named Monkey and cat, Stan. The condo, in a prewar building with just 24 units, features three-direction exposures and 600 square feet of terrace and 1,200 feet of private roof. Actor Jeremy Piven reportedly also owns a condo there. The New York Post says Stewart owns two lakeside properties in Red Bank, New Jersey, worth a total $7 million. Permalink | Email this | Comments


We Can Build Toward an Energy-Efficient Future, If We Want To

2014-11-14 00:05:00

Filed under: News, Buying, Lifestyle Courtesy of Sergio PucciThe futuristic Casa Iseami in the jungle of Costa Rica is totally off the energy grid. Whether you view the recent deal that President Obama brokered with China to cut greenhouse gas emissions as a long-overdue breakthrough or "irresponsible" and "expensive," here's a fact: We already have the cost-effective know-how to achieve its goals by changing the way we use energy in our homes -- and do it in style. Under the agreement announced on Nov. 12, the United States would substantially cut emissions by 2025 (26 to 28 percent less than in 2005). One of the ways this can be done is by transforming our dependence on coal and oil to solar and wind power. About 40 percent of the energy used in this country is used to heat and cool buildings -- and we have the technological means to drastically reduce our dependence them for that. Courtesty of Sergio Pucci Casa Iseami's large exterior overhang allows natural light to pass through to the seating area below. Many countries, particularly those in the European Union, already are working to meet their commitments to the Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997. This means a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20 percent increase in renewable energy and a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020. It's becoming the norm for homes there to be built to meet these standards. The rising cost of energy in many countries also motivates homeowners to build houses that are less reliant on fossil fuel. Some houses are built in locations where there's simply no access to fossil fuel, so must be designed to use less energy to operate or even become self-sufficient by creating energy. My book, Prefabulous World, profiles some of the most energy efficient and "green" houses in 20 countries, including the United States. Most homeowners who live in very energy efficient houses report their energy bills are half to a fraction of that of their neighbors. Jeff Armstrong, an architect and homeowner of a LEED Platinum house (see the slideshow below) in Ontario, Canada, reports his house consumes about half of the energy used by a similar-size house for space and water heating. Another very energy-efficient house, Casa Iseami (pictured above), built in the deep tropical jungle of Costa Rica, is totally off the grid. Researching these homes was an opportunity to explore some of the innovative methods and materials being used to save energy and conserve resources in other countries. We can learn from Often people assume energy-efficient and prefab homes to be unattractive. But those conceptions couldn't be further from the truth. those ingenious and creative technologies developed for these homes. The following are just a few of the methods and materials: One of the most important ways to reduce the need for heating and cooling is to have very efficient insulation. One excellent example of a new technology is Aerogel that was used in a house in the Netherlands -- the Energy Neutral Residence. Aerogel insulation was developed for NASA and is one of the lowest density materials on earth but a highly effective insulator. It is four times more efficient than fiberglass or foam. Yankee Barn Homes in the United States uses a polyisocyanurate insulation in their panels. It offers high R-value per inch and fire resistance. The Laurel Hollow house in East Hampton, New York. was built using these panels. This same insulation was used in The Morris Island House in Ontario, Canada. That house was certified LEED Platinum and showed to be quite airtight on a blower door test (1.5 ACH at 50 Pascals). A house In Ebeltoft, Denmark -- Villa Langerkamp -- incorporates a "solar comb façade": a thin honeycomb-like pattern which passively helps to heat and cool the house. Several houses in the book, including this one, have retractable blinds, which can minimize heat gain in the summer and reduce the need for air conditioning. The Elsternwick house in Melbourne, Australia, was built using a steel frame, structural insulated panels (or SIPs) and modular construction. The steel frame made the construction very strong, the SIPs made it very energy efficient and the modular construction allowed this house to be completed in just three weeks. Concept Bio Architect Frèdèric Michel used a patented fabric on awnings on the south façade of his Evolutive Home, which absorbs and reflects 97 percent of the sun. One of the most unique and interesting houses I found while researching this book is a house in Dobling, Austria, built like a solar tube. This house was built to passively maintain a comfortable interior environment for the occupants while being very energy efficient. Often people assume energy-efficient and prefab homes to be unattractive. But those conceptions couldn't be further from the truth. As you can see in the photos below -- all of the houses I profile are prefab, very energy efficient, have healthy interior environments, use environmentally friendly materials and are still attractive. Most of the houses are architecturally designed and very well thought out, with consideration toward blending with the neighborhoods where they're located and the aesthetics of their owners. I hope that readers see how easy it is to build a beautiful house that requires less energy to operate and uses fewer resources. The world has a limited amount of resources available to us. If we squander them, we are hurting our children and our children's children. Reducing energy consumption in construction can have a significant effect on overall energy usage in this country. We have the knowledge and ability to reduce this number substantially. I hope anyone considering building a house in the future will use prefabricated methods and techniques and materials that reduce wastage and energy. I have been so inspired by the houses in Prefabulous World; I hope readers will also be inspired to consider some of the methods, materials and systems in this book for their own homes. Permalink | Email this | Comments


For Rent: Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen's Pricey Pied-a-Terre

2014-11-13 13:49:00

Filed under: News, Celebrity Homes, Renting, Inside Look Courtesy of Coleman Real Estate GroupTom Brady and Gisele Bundchen's apartment-for-rent features walls of glass overlooking most of Manhattan. APTom Brady, left, and Gisele Bundchen My dream of a Manhattan pied-a-terre is a West Side studio where I can pop into town to see a Broadway show and buy some lox at Zabar's. I don't dream big enough. Because Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen reportedly have a Manhattan getaway that's four bedrooms, 4.5 baths and is on the rental market for $40,000 per month. The 47th floor apartment at 23 East 22nd St. features walls of glass overlooking most of Manhattan and sunsets on the Hudson River. It also features: keyed elevator onto a private entrance foyer. great room overlooking Madison Square Park and the Empire State Building. furnishings by designer Yabu Pushelberg for an extra $2,500/month. custom closets and electric blinds. Not sure if this is a plus, but media mogul Rupert Murdoch reportedly owns the top floors of the building. Curbed reports that Brady-Bundchen bought the apartment in 2013 for $14 million.  Permalink | Email this | Comments


House of the Day: 'The Godfather' Home in Staten Island

2014-11-13 12:26:00

Filed under: News, Celebrity Homes, Selling#fivemin-widget-blogsmith-image-401567{display:none;} .cke_show_borders #fivemin-widget-blogsmith-image-401567, #postcontentcontainer #fivemin-widget-blogsmith-image-401567{width:570px;display:block;} try{document.getElementById("fivemin-widget-blogsmith-image-401567").style.display="none";}catch(e){} Getty ImagesJames Caan, left, as Sonny and Marlon Brando in the title role of Don Vito in the wedding scene of "The Godfather." Make them an offer they can't refuse -- at least $2.895 million -- and you'll be the new owner of the Staten Island house that played the Corleone home base in "The Godfather" blockbuster. Paramount Pictures selected 110 Longfellow Ave. to serve as the exterior of the mob boss's home, where daughter Connie was married. "The opening scene was filmed in the huge yard," says Joseph Profaci, who works with his mother, the listing agent Connie Profaci. (See the slideshow below.) "They put up a big tent. I was living in Staten Island at the time, and I remember driving by." The house sold in 2012 for $1.69 million after being listed for $2.9 million, according to Zillow. But just when you thought this location for the 1972 movie was out of the market, they pulled it back in with a total facelift and $1 million-plus price increase. The 6,248-square-foot house sits on a half-acre and includes: five bedrooms and seven natural stone bathrooms. dream eat-in kitchen with a breakfast area. great room with built-in coffered ceilings. basement with English pub and "man cave" area. four-car garage. saltwater pool where you can swim with the fishes. Who's likely to buy the house? "A movie buff is going to be excited about living at such a famous location," Joseph Profaci says. "Or somone who wants to raise a family." Our advice: Take the house; leave the cannoli.  Permalink | Email this | Comments


DIY Effort Makes Industrial Loft Unique

2014-11-13 11:33:00

Filed under: Design, News, How ToBy Mitchell Parker Photos by Ryan Patrick Kelly Photographs After living for six years in his downtown Edmonton loft in the Canadian province of Alberta, this homeowner was ready for a change. He liked the industrial nature of the space -- soaring ceilings, raw redbrick walls, exposed ducting and conduit -- but didn't like its low-grade cabinetry. Plus, he was flat-out tired of his furniture. While he didn't mind getting his hands dirty doing some of the work of refreshing the space, he knew he needed professional help when it came to the layout and choosing colors and furniture styles. He found designer Brenda Brix of AMR Design while searching for local professionals on Houzz and enlisted her help through a design consultation. She wrote up a detailed plan, and he implemented it himself, finding materials and furnishings and even teaching himself how to build and modify pieces. For example, he bought mirror tiles and antiqued them. He took a basic pine cabinet from Ikea and distressed it. He even located his own stainless steel and installed it himself as a backsplash. "I wanted to add personal touches and cool things that people would come in and we could talk about them for five minutes," he says. Industrial living room by Edmonton interior designers and decorators AMR Design Brix's plan divided up the long, narrow space without interior walls into a TV room with a sectional near the farthest window, a reading area with a single chaise in the middle and a conversation grouping with four chairs, seen here in the foreground. The sleeping area is to the right (not shown), separated by bookshelves. Each chair in the conversation area is from a different supplier, because Brix and the homeowner felt that four of the same club chair would have made the space feel too heavy. (Red chair: Costco; leather chair with metal: Wayfair; metal chair with sheepskin: Restoration Hardware) Breaking up the three walls of brick with artwork also kept things from feeling too heavy. The homeowner made the bus stop-style signs himself on canvas. "It brings a little script into the space and flows with the brick, so it feels like you're outside," says Brix. BEFORE: The low-grade kitchen cabinets and lack of a backsplash played a big part in the homeowner's decision for a new look. Industrial kitchen by Edmonton interior designers and decorators AMR Design AFTER: The homeowner removed the cabinets and countertop himself and found a contractor to weld the sink and integrated countertop from stainless steel. He then had the steel cut for the counter-to-ceiling backsplash and enlisted the help of his neighbor to install it. He created the live-edge floating shelf from a piece of wood he picked out at a local supplier and attached it himself. He bought the range hood from Costco and took it to a local powder-coating shop. The stairs lead to a home office. Drum shades from Ikea replaced a wineglass rack that had hung over the island. While the loft gets a good amount of light from three large windows, during the winter it gets dark by 4 p.m., so Brix suggested bringing in more light fixtures, like the chandelier that now hangs over the dining table to the left of the kitchen. Industrial dining room by Edmonton interior designers and decorators AMR Design The homeowner bought the mirror tiles at a hardware store, then used a chemical to remove the paint on the back of each one. He then bought some gold and silver spray paint and sprayed that on the backs and mounted them to create an antique mirror. "It was way more work than I thought it would be," he says. Industrial home bar by Edmonton interior designers and decorators AMR Design A chaise lounge provides an intimate spot for reading. For the liquor cabinet, the homeowner had looked at retail stores for something distressed or whitewashed but thought he'd like to try distressing one on his own. So he bought a plain pine cabinet from Ikea and went to the local Benjamin Moore paint store, where an employee gave him some guidelines on what to do. Before assembling the cabinet, he applied two coats of white paint as a base, then did a little sanding on each piece. He then played with brown and green colors in a couple of layers and sanded the pieces until he was happy with what he saw. Chaise: Costco  Permalink | Email this | Comments


After Recent Gains, Mortgage Rates Head Back Down

2014-11-13 10:23:00

Filed under: News, Buying, Financing, Refinancing Getty Images WASHINGTON -- Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates edged lower this week, approaching their lows for the year. The benchmark 30-year loan rate hovered near 4 percent. Mortgage company Freddie Mac said Thursday the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage slipped to 4.01 percent from 4.02 percent last week. The 30-year rate, which stood at 4.53 percent back in January, now is at its lowest level since June 2013. The average for a 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, ticked down to 3.20 percent from to 3.21 percent. Long-term rates recovered in recent weeks following a five-week decline that had sparked a wave of homeowners looking to refinance mortgages at a bargain rate. To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was unchanged from last week at 0.5 point. The fee for a 15-year mortgage also remained at 0.5 point. The average rate on a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage rose to 3.02 percent from 2.97 percent. The fee was steady at 0.5 point. For a one-year ARM, the average rate declined to 2.43 percent from 2.45 percent. The fee held at 0.4 point.  Permalink | Email this | Comments

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Last updated on Dec 21, 2014.