Forecast for the Week: Did July home sales sizzle or fizzle?

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Find out if July home sales sizzled or fizzled.

• Housing data kicks off Wednesday with New Home Sales followed by Existing Home Sales on Thursday.
• Also on Thursday, weekly Initial Jobless Claims will be released.
• On Friday, Durable Goods Orders will be shared.

Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve. In contrast, strong economic news normally has the opposite result. The chart below shows Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), which are the type of Bond on which home loan rates are based.

When you see these Bond prices moving higher, it means home loan rates are improving. When Bond prices are moving lower, home loan rates are getting worse.

To go one step further, a red “candle” means that MBS worsened during the day, while a green “candle” means MBS improved during the day. Depending on how dramatic the changes are on any given day, this can cause rate changes throughout the day, as well as on the rate sheets we start with each morning.

As you can see in the chart below, Mortgage Bond prices improved recently, lifted by economic news in addition to geopolitical events at home and abroad. Home loan rates remain near historic lows.

Chart: Fannie Mae 3.5% Mortgage Bond (Friday Aug 18, 2017)

Last Week in Review: Retail Sales were hot. Housing Starts were not.

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July Retail Sales rose 0.6 percent from June versus the 0.3 percent expected, while June was revised higher to 0.3 percent from -0.2 percent. It was the largest increase in seven months as consumers spent on autos and discretionary items. When stripping out autos, sales rose 0.5 percent in July, also above expectations. Consumer spending makes up about two-thirds of the U.S. economy, so this report was welcome news.

New construction ground down in July with Housing Starts falling 4.8 percent from June to an annual rate of 1.155 million units, below the 1.217 million expected. Homebuilders cite many reasons for the decline, including a lack of skilled labor, lack of lots to build on and higher costs for materials. Single-family starts, which make up the biggest share of the housing market, fell 0.5 percent. Starts on multi-family dwellings with five or more units plunged 17.1 percent from June to July. Year over year, Housing Starts were down 5.6 percent.

Building Permits, a sign of future construction, also fell in July, down 4.1 percent from June to an annual rate of 1.223 million annualized units. This was just below the 1.247 million expected.

Meanwhile, minutes released from the July Federal Open Market Committee meeting revealed some Fed members are concerned about low inflation and expect it to remain below the Fed’s target 2 percent objective longer than previously expected. Also, no indication was given as to a start date for the reduction in the Fed’s $4.5 trillion balance sheet.

The dovish Fed minutes coupled with weaker-than-expected construction data lifted Bond prices. At this time, home loan rates remain near historic lows.

If you or someone you know has questions about home loan products or current rates please contact me. I’d be happy to help.

3 Steps to a More Secure Home

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More than 75 percent of Americans are concerned about the security of their home, yet few think about door hardware when it comes to added protection.

In fact, out of those who have ever purchased a new lockset or deadbolt, only 19 percent have done so with the safety of their home in mind, according to a Harris Poll conducted on behalf of the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA). However, when it comes to protecting your home, the right lockset or deadbolt can provide the best first line of defense.

When purchasing new locks, it isn’t simply “one size fits all.” Choosing the right lock or deadbolt for your specific needs can sometimes seem overwhelming. Two in five Americans polled don’t even know what factors to look for when purchasing one.

While many of today’s locks deliver improved security for your home, be sure to follow these easy steps to ensure you’re properly selecting and installing the product that best suits your needs.

1. Look for the BHMA Certified Secure Home label.

The hardware industry has strict standards when it comes to the quality of locks and deadbolts, and BHMA is the only organization accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop and maintain these standards. Each lock or deadbolt that features the BHMA Certified Secure Home label on its packaging has been tested to these stringent standards – the highest performance standards for residential hardware. The label also indicates that the product has been certified in three different areas: security, durability and finish. Products without the Secure Home label are not assured to have been tested and certified by a third-party laboratory.

2. Check the ratings combination.

Once a lock or deadbolt is tested to ANSI/BHMA standards for security, durability and finish, it is given a rating of Good (C), Better (B) or Best (A) in each area based on its performance during testing. The rating system is defined by progressive levels of performance requirements. Be sure to select the lock or deadbolt that is rated highly in the area(s) most important to you. For example, when looking for a new interior lock, you may not require the same rating for security or finish as you would for a lock being installed on your front door.

3. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

After purchasing the lock(s) best suited for your home needs, consult the installation instructions provided by the manufacturer for proper application. A BHMA Certified lock – or any lock, for that matter – cannot function to its expectations if it isn’t installed correctly.

The added protection that locks and deadbolts can provide you and your family is not something to be overlooked. By fitting your doors – both interior and exterior – with certified hardware, using proper installation techniques and being diligent about using your locks when at home or away, you can greatly reduce the likelihood of unwanted company.

To learn more about BHMA Certified locksets and deadbolts, or the BHMA Certified Secure Home label, watch this short video or visit www.securehome.org.

Upcoming Home Improvement? How to Navigate Big Purchases and Make Wise Decisions

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Are you planning an upcoming home improvement? If so, you are not alone.

Higher-than-average renovation spending is expected in 2017, according to a leading consumer magazine, with more than half of homeowners planning to spend money on home improvements throughout the year.

From upgrading appliances to gutting entire rooms, big projects can have a big impact on a home and on your wallet, so it’s important to approach any renovation with thoughtful intention.

To ensure you make the right decisions when it comes to large purchases and major home improvements, ask yourself these five questions:

How long do you plan to live in the home?

Knowing how long you expect to live in your home can help you better navigate home improvements. If you only plan to live in your home for five years you’ll likely make different decisions than if it is your forever home.

What is your budget?

Home upgrades don’t come cheap, so it’s helpful to determine a budget before you start. Consider renovations and upgrades as a smart way to maintain your home investment. By putting money into your home, you are helping maintain its integrity, style, usefulness and value.

When setting a budget, you can pay out of pocket or take out a personal or home equity loan. Additionally, some companies offer low-interest financing. If you plan to borrow for your project, make sure you clearly understand and are comfortable with payment terms.

Once you set a budget, stick to it. Problems may arise that require unexpected additional costs, but often budget blowouts are from homeowners who start spending and the excitement of the project causes them to go beyond their means.

What purchases are worth the splurge?

Research and decide which purchases are worth spending more on. For example, appliances used nearly every day are a worthwhile investment – especially if they are more energy efficient and offer features that enhance your day-to-day routine. Rather than getting a basic washer, opt for the LG TWINWash(TM) 2-in-1 washer. It can run two loads at once, saving homeowners time and energy.

LG TWINWash combines any Energy Star(R)-certified LG front load washer – including the largest capacity on the market (at 5.8 cu. ft., it’s large enough to fit a full set of king-size bedding and a comforter) – with a second washer, the LG SideKick(TM). This smaller washer sits in place of the pedestal, and washes 3-4 lbs. of clothes, making it perfect for custom-care items.

Owners of LG washers can also decide to upgrade their existing front load washer from 2009 on with the LG SideKick instead of purchasing a new one – making a big upgrade simple.

Bottom line: Make sure your purchase improves your daily life and is proven to last. (For example, LG washers and dryers were recently named the most reliable in all laundry categories by a leading U.S. consumer products publication).

What is the ROI?

The return on investment should be considered in many ways for home improvements. First, check out reputable reports like the Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report. For example, adding fiberglass attic insulation recoups 107.7 percent of the cost.

In addition to resale ROI, consider other ways you’ll get a return on your investment. Will your upgrade help you save energy and reduce your bills? Will it save you time and stress in daily life? Does it enhance your home’s aesthetic and flow? These are other ROIs that are just as valuable to consider as resale ROI.

What does the research say?

It’s worth your time to conduct research so you get the best outcome possible. Learn about materials to discover which is best for your lifestyle and research brands. If you’re hiring the project out, research contractors to find a reputable professional for the job.

Starting a home improvement project is exciting. Answering these questions will help ensure your time and financial investment are well spent.

5 Affordable Weekend DIY Projects That Completely Recreate Your Home

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The cold months of winter have a batten-down-the-hatches feel to them, don’t they? Fortunately, they’re over. Now that summer is here, you want to spread out, bask in the beautiful weather and finally tackle those home improvement projects you were eyeing during those colder months.

Now is the perfect time to make a big impact on your home, and you can do so without spending a lot. Below are five do-it-yourself projects you can tackle in a single weekend, and each will still leave you enough money in your budget to enjoy everything else summer has to offer.

• Freshen up your landscaping. Your home’s outdoor appearance gets a pass during the winter, but in the summer the exterior of the house is all about curb appeal. That makes improving your landscaping a great place to start your summer projects, plus the work you do can be completely customizable to your budget. If you have some extra money, plant a tree or a bush. If your budget is tighter, opt for potted flowers. Even an activity like trimming around your trees and bushes or pulling weeds can have a big impact on the look of your home and it costs you nothing.

• An accent wall that truly accents. You’ve seen hundreds of DIY tips suggesting you add an accent wall to your home with a fresh coat of paint. However, to add an accent wall that goes above and beyond, replace the paint project with Charred Wood Shiplap from UFP-Edge instead. This wood, burnt through an ancient Japanese technique to highlight its beauty and character, then sealed with a satin finish, offers the perfect contrast to any room for an accent you’ll relish every time you see it.

• Update your bathroom on your terms. A full bathroom remodel is hardly DIY, and you’re certainly not finishing it in one weekend. However, that doesn’t mean this room is completely off-limits when it comes to improvements. Instead, pick the project that matches your needs and your budget. Large-scale improvements could include replacing your outdated sink or toilet. You could go smaller and simply replace the hardware on the sink. This is also a great time to look at the smaller aspects of your bathroom and see if you want to replace your medicine chest, your towel rack or the handles on your cabinets.

• The perfect wrap for your kitchen or bar. The kitchen is a focal point in any home, so improvements made here tend to stand out. If you’re looking to improve your kitchen with an incredibly popular country look, you can add your island to the motif with a rustic wrap. UFP-Edge Rustic Collection is new lumber that has been distressed to provide that worn country charm. Rustic wood is available in shiplap siding and trim boards that allow you to create a wood project that supports your style in any size and any location. Start with a wrap for your kitchen or bar and see where your creativity takes you.

• Rethink your window treatments. Like your bathroom, a full-scale replacement of your window treatments can be pretty expensive. However, like your bathroom, you also have plenty of freedom to pick and choose your options here as well. If a favorite room feels too dark, replace the existing curtains with something light and airy. If you want the room to feel darker, install room-darkening shades. Spend your money and your time on the rooms that matter most to you and you won’t be disappointed.

These warm-weather months are the perfect time to make your home everything you want it to be, so invest your time in a little DIY. You, your home and your budget will all be better for it. To learn more about these accent wall materials available from UFP-Edge, visit UFP-Edge.com.