The Largest Historic Homes In The United States

June 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Interesting Homes 

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NCIn 2009, the median size of new homes started was roughly 2,100 square feet. This figure was down from 2,200 square feet between 2005-2007 which, itself, was down from 2,350 in 2004.

Homes are getting smaller across the United States.

But, as compared to the nation’s largest homes, the shrinking is laughable. The Biltmore Estate, built in 1895 by George Washington Vanderbilt II, measures 175,000 square feet — 83 times the size of a typical home today.

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina is the largest home in the country and, meanwhile, another Vanderbilt-built property built in 1895 checks in at number two. The Breakers, in Newport, Rhode Island, measures 165,000 square feet and cost $150 million to build in today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation.

Both homes are open to the public.

The next three largest U.S. estates in terms of square footage are:

Hearst Castle, arguably the most famous “large home” in the country, measures 60,645 square feet and ranks 7th.

See the complete list of Largest Historic Homes In The United States, including their build date and architecture style, on Wikipedia.

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Good News For Sellers : Housing Starts Fall To 1-Year Low In May 2010

June 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Housing Starts 

Housing starts June 2008 - May 2010Single-family housing starts plummeted to a one-year low in May, just 30 days after soaring to a 20-month high.  It’s no wonder home builders are confused.

Against a revised April figure, Housing Starts fell 97,000 units in May, a figure representing almost one-fifth of the total market size.

It’s the worst showing for Housing Starts since May 2009, a surprise to builders and economists alike.

Furthermore, single-family Building Permits plunged in May, too — down 10 percent from April. A permit is a certification from local government that authorizes home construction.

Housing permits are a precursor to Housing Starts with 82% of homes starting construction within 60 days of permit-issuance. Fewer permits, therefore, directly reduces the number of new homes coming to market in the coming months.

For home buyers in Mason , this should create a sense of urgency.

Home prices are based on supply and demand and supply appears to be falling about the same time that economists predict a surge in home demand.  It could spell rising home prices and a complete loss of negotiation power with home sellers.

For now, though, home affordability remains high with properties cheap and mortgage rates near all-time lows. If you plan to buy a home later this year, the May 2010 Housing Starts data may be a reason to move up your timeframe a bit.

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Loan Application Alert : Conforming, Interest Only Mortgages Guidelines Change Next Week

June 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Mortgage Guidelines 

Fannie Mae changes the interest only guidelinesIf you plan to finance your Cincinnati home with a conforming interest only mortgage, get your loan application submitted no later than this Friday, June 18. 

Starting next week, Fannie Mae is clamping down on the popular loan product.

An “interest only” mortgage is exactly what its name implies — a mortgage for which the monthly payments consist entirely of interest with no principal reduction. Because there’s no amortization, payments are less costly on a month-to-month basis.

For example, assuming principal + interest payments at 5 percent, a $250,000 mortgage carries a monthly payment of $1,342.  The payment on a comparable interest only mortgage, however, drops to $1,042.

That’s a payment difference of $300 and the size of the cost savings, not surprisingly, is the biggest reason why Fannie Mae is making its changes.

In its official announcement, Fannie Mae says it wants the give the interest only option to “borrowers who are in a position to choose it as a financial management tool” rather than allowing homeowners use it as an affordability tool for their budgets.

Going forward, there are new minimum standards for interest only home loans.

  • Applicants must have a 720 credit score or better
  • Applicants must have at least 24 months of reserves
  • The property type may not be a 2-unit, 3-unit or 4-unit
  • The property must be a primary residence, or vacation home

Furthermore, only purchase and rate-and-term refinances are eligible.  Cash out refinances are prohibited.

Interest only home loans aren’t for everyone, but if you plan to finance with a Fannie Mae mortgage and interest only is your preference, get your loan application submitted as soon as possible. Starting Monday, approvals will be tougher to come by.

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Shopping And Paying Bills Online? Here’s Methods To Protect Your Online Financial Identity

June 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Household Finances 

In May 2010, Retail Sales at non-store retailers — a category that includes Amazon and eBay — topped $29 billion, up 16 percent from May 2009. Clearly, Americans are doing an increasing amount of shopping online.  And we’re paying our bills online, too.

But how well are we protecting our identities?

In this 5-minute piece from NBC’s The Today Show, you’ll learn the basics of online fraud and methods to minimize the likelihood of identity theft.  Furthermore, the tips go beyond the basic “choose a challenging password”.  For example, you’ll hear about:

  • Why you shouldn’t pay bills from a coffee shop
  • Who might be hiding behind an unprotected public wifi network
  • The dangers of storing credit card numbers with an online retailer

And, although, at one point, the interviewee goes over the top with respect to spyware and anti-phishing prevention, the point being made is a good one — you can’t be too careful with your online financials and common sense goes a long way.

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Change Your Air Filters Monthly (But Don’t Go Cheap)

June 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Home Appliances 

3M Filtrete for HVAC units

As the mercury rises into the summer months, don’t forget to change your home’s air filters regularly.  It not only extends the life of your HVAC unit, but can help keep your energy costs down, too.

Not all air filters are created alike, however. Don’t go cheap.

Your local hardware store carries a variety of air filters ranging in price from less than a dollar to $20 or more per filter. They’re all purported to do the same job, but after watching this 1-minute video, you’ll see why cheaper isn’t necessarily better.

Airborne particles are smaller than most mesh filters. Pleated filters are recommended instead.

 

Most high-quality air filters start around $11 and can be purchased in bulk from Amazon at discounts of up to 20 percent.  3M’s Filtrete line of products is a popular, well-selling brand and can last up to 3 months.

If your home has shedding pets or is dust-prone, consider changing them monthly.

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FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums Approved To Triple In Cost

June 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: FHA Mortgages 

FHA mortgage insurance premiums approved to triple Starting sometime later this year, the monthly cost to carry an FHA-insured mortgage is expected to rise.

In a near-unanimous vote, the House of Representatives gave the FHA power to raise the monthly mortgage insurance premiums it charges to its borrowers.

Currently, monthly mortgage insurance premiums are 0.55% of the unpaid loan balance, divided by 12.  The recently approved Federal Housing Administration Reform Act provides for an increase in monthly premium of up to 1.55 percent, among other details of the bill.

Despite the ability to charge 1.55 percent, FHA officials say an increase to 0.90 percent would be sufficient to self-insure its loans.

In everyday terms, assuming a $200,000 mortgage, the math to a homeowner looks as follows:

  • Current Premium (0.55%) : $91.67 monthly mortgage insurance premium
  • Expected Increase (0.90%) : $150.00 monthly mortgage insurance premium
  • Maximum Increase (1.55%) : $258.33 monthly mortgage insurance premium

A increase in monthly mortgage insurance premiums will reduce home affordability for buyers in Cincinnati and strain household budgets. 

The news isn’t all terrible, however.

Because higher monthly insurance premiums are expected to pad the FHA coffers sufficiently, the FHA has said it plans to reduce its upfront mortgage insurance premium paid at closing from 2.25 percent down to 1.000 percent. 

On the same $200,000 mortgage, a move like that would reduces closing costs by $2,500.

The bill awaits companion legislation in Senate and final approval into law, but considering the House’s lopsided vote Thursday, it could happen rather quickly.  If you’re planning to buy or refinance a home using an FHA mortgage, you may find that waiting to take the next step could be a costly one, long-term.

The FHA insured close to a quarter of all mortgages made in the first three months of 2010.

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Bank Reposessions Reach Record Levels For The Second Straight Month

June 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Foreclosures 

Foreclosure concentration, by state (May 2010)

According to foreclosure-tracking firm RealtyTrac.com, bank repossessions reached record levels for the second straight month in May, topping 93,000 properties nationwide.

As compared to May 2009, all 50 states now show an increase in annual REO activity.

Data like that won’t surprise today’s active home buyers in Mason.  Foreclosed homes are prevalent, available and accounted for one-third of all home resales made in April

Furthermore, total foreclosure actions — the sum of REO, default notices, and foreclosure auctions in May — topped 300,000 for the 15th straight month.

Foreclosures remain a huge influence on the housing market.

However, two interesting trends emerged in the data:

  1. 9 of the top 10 metro areas for foreclosure posted annual activity decreases
  2. Each of the top 4 states for Foreclosures per Household posted annual activity decreases

We can infer, therefore, that foreclosure activity may be in permanent decline in the areas hardest hit through 2007, 2008, and 2009.  In 2010, the data shows, foreclosures are waning.

This is reason for optimism — especially as FHA delinquencies slow nationwide. As fewer homeowners go delinquent, the pace of foreclosures will slow further and that should help boost home values on every block in the country.

If you’ve been considered bank-owned homes for your own purchase, give a look at the RealtyTrac foreclosure report.  It’s provides insight on a state-by-state level, and in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. 

 

Then, to complement your research, talk to your real estate about the foreclosure market and what opportunities may exist.   Competition for bank-owned homes can be fierce at times, but there’s plenty of “deals” out there.

You just have to know where to look.

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Conforming Loan Costs Are Rising, Says Freddie Mac

June 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Mortgage Rates 

Mortgage discount points are risingMortgage rates may be dropping, but mortgage costs are not.

According to Freddie Mac, the average required discount points on a conforming mortgage rate are higher by 0.1 percent since early-May.

A “discount point” is prepaid mortgage interest; an up-front fee paid by a borrower in exchange for a lower mortgage rate. In most cases, discount points are tax-deductible.

Tax-deductible or not, though, rising costs are rising costs and Freddie Mac glosses over it.  In its weekly press release, the government group offers mortgage rate comparisons to weeks prior, but doesn’t do the same for required points.

The press fails to mention discount points entirely.

An increase of 1/10 percent in discount points costs homebuyers and refinancing households in Cincinnati an extra $100 per $100,000 borrowed.

The hike reminds us that there’s more to a mortgage than just its rate — costs matter, too.  And if you’ve only been watching the headlines, you would have missed how costs are rising.

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Fannie Mae’s Loan Quality Initiative : Repulling Your Credit Just Before Closing

June 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Mortgage Guidelines 

Fannie Mae adds credit repullsA new loan quality initiative from Fannie Mae is making it harder for Madeira home buyers and refinancing homeowners everywhere to close on a mortgage.

Beginning June 1, 2010, with all new applications, Fannie Mae wants lenders to verify that borrowers have not taken on new debt during the underwriting phase of the mortgage. 

If new debts are found, the mortgage is subject to a re-underwrite and a possible turndown.

For Fannie Mae, the goal is to reduce the number of loans that go bad because of new, non-disclosed debt. Lenders have the freedom to verify in whatever manner they wish, but in most cases, the verification process will amount to a credit re-pull made just prior to closing.

The underwriters will be looking for 3 things in particular — even after your loan is approved.

First, your updated credit report will show your current credit card bills and minimum monthly payments.  Those numbers will replace your original numbers made at the time of application.  If the debts exceed a certain threshold, your loan will be denied.

Second, underwriters will be looking at your updated credit score. If your FICO has dropped below minimum lending standards, your loan will be denied. Or, you may be subject to a new loan-level pricing adjustment. 

Loan level pricing adjustments are mandatory loan fee based on your credit score.

And, lastly, underwriters will be looking at your credit report’s Credit Inquiry section. The goal is to see if you’ve been applying for credit elsewhere. Underwriters can use this information at their discretion.

Fannie Mae’s Loan Quality Initiative is just one more way that the government-backed group is trying to improve its loan pools. Unfortunately, it’ll mean more turndowns for mortgage applicants.

Therefore, take extra care of your credit between the time of application and the time of closing. Don’t buy new cars, don’t buy new appliances, and — most definitely — don’t open new credit cards.  Be extra safe with your credit because a mortgage application that’s supposedly cleared-to-close can be revoked at the eleventh hour.

When in doubt, talk to your loan officer about what may or may not trigger the Loan Quality Initiative.  Your loan approval is at stake.

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Fannie Mae’s Loan Quality Initiative : Repulling Your Credit Just Before Closing

June 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Mortgage Guidelines 

Fannie Mae adds credit repullsA new loan quality initiative from Fannie Mae is making it harder for Mason home buyers and refinancing homeowners everywhere to close on a mortgage.

Beginning June 1, 2010, with all new applications, Fannie Mae wants lenders to verify that borrowers have not taken on new debt during the underwriting phase of the mortgage. 

If new debts are found, the mortgage is subject to a re-underwrite and a possible turndown.

For Fannie Mae, the goal is to reduce the number of loans that go bad because of new, non-disclosed debt. Lenders have the freedom to verify in whatever manner they wish, but in most cases, the verification process will amount to a credit re-pull made just prior to closing.

The underwriters will be looking for 3 things in particular — even after your loan is approved.

First, your updated credit report will show your current credit card bills and minimum monthly payments.  Those numbers will replace your original numbers made at the time of application.  If the debts exceed a certain threshold, your loan will be denied.

Second, underwriters will be looking at your updated credit score. If your FICO has dropped below minimum lending standards, your loan will be denied. Or, you may be subject to a new loan-level pricing adjustment. 

Loan level pricing adjustments are mandatory loan fee based on your credit score.

And, lastly, underwriters will be looking at your credit report’s Credit Inquiry section. The goal is to see if you’ve been applying for credit elsewhere. Underwriters can use this information at their discretion.

Fannie Mae’s Loan Quality Initiative is just one more way that the government-backed group is trying to improve its loan pools. Unfortunately, it’ll mean more turndowns for mortgage applicants.

Therefore, take extra care of your credit between the time of application and the time of closing. Don’t buy new cars, don’t buy new appliances, and — most definitely — don’t open new credit cards.  Be extra safe with your credit because a mortgage application that’s supposedly cleared-to-close can be revoked at the eleventh hour.

When in doubt, talk to your loan officer about what may or may not trigger the Loan Quality Initiative.  Your loan approval is at stake.

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