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4 Cool Ways to Perk Up Your Travel

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Paying to park and napping in a terminal chair are so last year.
By Pat Mertz Esswein, Kiplinger.com

Whether for business or adventure, travel can wear you out. Check out these little-known travel amenities that will ease your burden, defray your cost, or add productivity or pleasure to your day.

Ditch your coat. Flying JetBlue out of John F. Kennedy International Airport, in New York City? CoatChex will hold your heavy winter outerwear until you return ($2 per day or $10 for one week).

Get paid to park. With FlightCar, available at 10 major U.S. airports, you can park free and get paid if your car is rented to a preapproved driver. For an average five-day trip, members save $100 in parking fees and earn $30 in rental fees.

Need a nap? Snag a private space with a sofabed and desk at a Minute Suite in Atlanta, Philadelphia or Dallas/Fort Worth. Cost: $38 an hour, one-hour minimum. Wake-up call included.

Snowed in (or out)? Chill. The LoungeBuddy app (free for Apple iOS and Android phones) will show you airport lounges around the world to which you have access (although you’ll often have to pay a one-time fee) and book you in. If you’re stuck in San Francisco or Chicago, meditate in an airport yoga room. The Phoenix airport has an indoor fitness trail with views of the skyline, mountains and buttes. Or rustle up a game of ping-pong in Milwaukee.

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Shopping for Auto Loans

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Purchasing a vehicle is a big deal, and consumers often spend weeks researching features and prices of various automobiles. Yet, when it comes to financing, many car buyers are unaware of their options. Even if you have enough cash on hand to buy a car outright, an auto loan could make good financial sense if you can secure a low interest rate and place the cash in a high yielding investment.

Loans offered from dealerships often include a markup, so you may be better off going through a local bank or credit union. Online banks may offer competitive rates as well, but research them through the Better Business Bureau at www.BBB.com to make sure they’re legitimate.

Applying for a single loan can impact your credit score, but according to About.com, most credit scoring models do not penalize you, beyond the first inquiry, for multiple loan applications within a 14-day period. In other words, if you plan to shop for a loan, try to keep it within that two-week window.

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MMG Weekly – March 23, 2015

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Last Week In Review

“When doves cry.” Prince. The Fed’s dovish statement after their March meeting caused a rally in Mortgage Bonds, helping home loan rates move closer to record lows.

The Fed’s Monetary Policy Statement had a little something for Stocks and Bonds as both traded sharply higher after the statement was released on Wednesday. Perhaps most significant: the word “patient,” which had been used to describe the Fed’s stance on raising the benchmark short-term Fed Funds Rate, was dropped from the text. The Fed Funds Rate is the rate banks charge each other to lend money overnight. This was a clear sign that a Fed rate hike is not happening just yet, which prompted the rally in the markets.

Also of note, the Fed said that “economic growth has moderated somewhat,” a downturn as compared to their January commentary that “economic activity is expanding at a solid pace.” The Fed also decreased projections on Gross Domestic Product and now expects our economy to grow 2.3 to 2.7 percent this year, down from the 2.6 to 3 percent growth it projected in February. The Fed’s forecast for inflation was also lowered.

Over in the housing sector, severe weather across the country caused a big 17 percent decline in Housing Starts in February, as builders broke ground on just 897,000 units. This was well below the 1.040 million units expected, and also the lowest level since January 2014. Starts on single-family units fell nearly 15 percent, while multi-family units declined 21 percent. February’s reading was also 3.3 percent lower than a year ago.

A bright spot in the report saw Building Permits, a sign of future construction, up 3 percent in February from January to 1.092 million units. This is a good sign that the setback in Housing Starts is temporary due to the weather. It will be important to see if these housing numbers improve as the weather begins to warm.

The bottom line is that home loan rates remain attractive, and now is a great time to consider a home purchase or refinance.

Forecast for the Week

Key reports will be released every day this week!

  • Important housing data is ahead with Existing Home Sales on Monday and New Home Sales on Tuesday.
  • Also on Tuesday, we’ll get a read on inflation with the closely-watched Consumer Price Index.
  • Durable Goods Orders will be released on Wednesday.
  • As usual, look for Weekly Initial Jobless Claims on Thursday.
  • Friday brings the final reading on Gross Domestic Product for the fourth quarter of 2014, along with the Consumer Sentiment Index.

Remember: Weak economic news normally causes money to flow out of Stocks and into Bonds, helping Bonds and home loan rates improve, while 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—and when they 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 were 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 Bonds rallied after the Fed’s statement, helping home loan rates hover near record lows.

Chart: Fannie Mae 3.0% Mortgage Bond (Friday March 20, 2015)


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