Hints for Saving Money on Your Mortgage

Hints for Saving Money on Your Mortgage

It is estimated that mortgage payments account for up to 35% of the average homeowners’ income. In a struggling economy people are pinching pennies, but most are unaware of the simple ways to save money on their largest monthly expense: their mortgage. There are many ways in which homeowners can save both monthly and over the life of their mortgages. With just a little effort and research, you might be able to lower your housing expense and save.

Make One Extra Mortgage Payment Annually

If you have the means to do so, making extra payments on your mortgage is the quickest way to reduce the remaining balance. The more you pay, the less you owe (it’s as simple as that!). These payments are applied to your principal (not interest) so you will not be required to pay monthly interest on that principal for the remainder of the term.

Making one extra mortgage payment a year on a 30-year term can potentially cut up to 7 years off the life of the loan. This essentially does the same thing as a bi-weekly payment plan but allows you the flexibility of choosing when to make the extra payment.

Set up Bi-weekly Mortgage Payments

Consider setting up a budget where you put half of your monthly mortgage in a savings account or separate checking account every 2 weeks. When your monthly mortgage is due, use this money to make the payment. At the end of 12 months you will have made 26 half mortgage payments, which equals 13 full mortgage payments. This means you’ve made an extra payment to be applied to your principal. This option is especially convenient for those who get paid bi-weekly.

Most mortgage servicers offer bi-weekly payment plans for your convenience. This option can be a bit pricier since you will be paying for the service. Be sure to ask about “set-up” fees and monthly fees before deciding whether to join your lender’s plan or go it alone.

Eliminate Private Mortgage Insurance

Private mortgage insurance is required for homeowners who obtain conventional home loans worth more than 80% of their home’s value. You can avoid having to pay PMI right off the bat if you make a down payment of at least 20%. Or once you’ve paid the loan balance down to 80% of the property value (LTV), the PMI should automatically terminate. You may be required to have a new appraisal to prove the appreciation of your home, but eliminating PMI will reduce your monthly expenses right away and save thousands in the long run.

Also, those homeowners who currently have FHA loans can eliminate their monthly mortgage insurance. They must carry the insurance for a minimum of five years. At that point, they must be under 78% of the home’s value before requesting the removal.

Property Assessment

If you believe your home’s value has decreased within the past year and was improperly accounted for in your property tax assessment, you can challenge the assessed value. Contact your state department of assessment and taxations for any concerns and you may be issued a refund.

Refinance to a Lower Mortgage Rate or Higher Mortgage Term

You may want to take advantage of historically low mortgage rates by considering a mortgage refinance while the time is right. Refinancing to a lower mortgage rate will reduce your monthly mortgage payments and save you hundreds or thousands of dollars a year on interest payments.

Also, increasing your mortgage term can reduce your payment dramatically. There is no point in struggling with a 10, 15, or 20 year term. Refinancing to a 30 year term provides you with options. You can either pay the minimum 30 year payment, or pay extra when and if you are able to do so. The key is that you will never be obligated to pay extra.

Homeowners looking to lower their payments or increase their long term mortgage savings have many viable options available to them. A few of these options don’t involve refinancing at all. It is important to understand your options so that can maximize your savings.

Call a loan officer today to discuss.

Abusing Trigger Leads

Abusing Trigger Leads

This voicemail is from an actual trigger call made after someone applied for a mortgage. This is a prime example of a lender abusing the trigger data that they purchased from a credit bureau.

Everything the caller below says is factually inaccurate. He misrepresents who he is, where he is calling from, and even the purpose of the call.

First, he cleverly gives the impression that he is an Underwriter. This is simply a ploy to make his call seem official. The problem with this claim is that Underwriters are not telemarketers. They are not salespeople or customer service reps who speak with applicants.

Hear an actual trigger call below:

In the same breath, the caller falsely claims to be calling from Fannie Mae. Fannie Mae is not a lender. They are not in the business of calling consumers. Fannie Mae is a quasi-government agency that backs mortgages. An employee of Fannie Mae would have no reason to call you about an application that you just placed with a lender.

The caller goes on to misrepresent the reason for his call. He states that he is calling about a “loan application that was submitted to our agency yesterday.” This statement is false on multiple levels:

  • First, the consumer never applied with this “agency.” How can he be calling about an application that was never submitted? This is a common ploy used to trick the consumer into thinking that he already has their information and just needs to ask a few questions and button up the application.
  • By using the word agency, he is again implying that he represents the government or Fannie Mae. Why not clearly state his company’s name? He purposely uses the word “agency” to infer legitimacy. Referring to Fannie Mae is also a trademark infringement.

The sole purpose of trigger calls like this is to trick consumers into applying with their company. Many consumers have been duped into allowing these lenders to pull credit and review their financial information. It’s only after speaking with their original lender that they realize they have inadvertently opened a credit file with an unknown entity.

It’s important to screen these callers and add your name to the National Do Not Call Registry.

You’ve Been Triggered

You’ve Been Triggered

Credit bureaus can sell your information to lenders, including the fact that you just applied for a mortgage. This is known as trigger data. Certain
aggressive lenders routinely abuse the trigger leads that they purchase. Some of their tactics are not only incredibly annoying, but also highly manipulative.

It doesn’t take long for unsolicited offers to begin rolling in. Relentless telemarketing calls can start within hours of an application. Then, a barrage of mail offers can continue for weeks afterward. It’s not uncommon to receive up to ten or fifteen mail offers after applying just one time. It’s strictly a numbers game for these lenders. The more people they repeatedly attempt to contact, the more business they are bound to get. The calls can become so incessant that many people simply choose to turn their phones off.

Our customers have complained about the aggressive sales tactics used by some of these lenders. Telemarketers often exaggerate and spin the truth while some of the mail offers are peppered with cleverly worded, but unrealistic promises. Many who fall for these tactics usually find out that they’re too good to be true long after they cancel their original application.

Most worrisome are the manipulative nature of some of these offers. A common tactic is to give you the impression that you’re speaking to a representative of the bank that originally took your application. For example, they might say something vague like “I am calling from the bank to review your application,” or “I am reviewing your file.” Before you know it, you are signing documents and sending an unknown third party your personal financial information!

Listen to an actual trigger call below:

It is a good idea to screen callers by asking them something that only the original lender would know. Adding your number to the national Do Not Call registry is an excellent way to avoid these unwanted calls altogether.

For more information about trigger-calls, check out this CBS News video.

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FICO Changes = Higher Credit Scores for Consumers

FICO Changes = Higher Credit Scores for Consumers

Fair Isaac Corp. will soon change their FICO scoring algorithm used in determining a person’s credit scores. It should result in higher credit scores for many consumers. FICO calls their new scoring method FICO Score 9. This method will no longer grade medical collections as harshly and it will not factor in any paid or settled consumer collection accounts in credit scores at all.

What is FICO?

FICO is the credit scoring algorithm created by Fair Issac Corp. It only uses information reported to the three major credit bureaus to grade a consumers credit worthiness. According to myfico.com, a FICO Score estimates the “level of future credit risk” of a consumer.

Consumers have three FICO Credit Scores – one for each of the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Each bureau uses the information reported to them when determining their FICO score. So while each bureau uses the same FICO scoring algorithm, the scores can differ because not every creditor or lender reports to all three bureaus.

FICO Score 9, once released, should result in higher scores for many consumers thanks to two major changes in how they will grade collection accounts.

Medical Collections

Open medical collections will no longer negatively affect your credit score as much as they do now. They will no longer be counted the same as other open consumer collection accounts.

Most major lenders have long overlooked medical collections, knowing that they do not give a true indication of a consumer’s ability to re-pay debt. An applicant who is ill-prepared to pay for a sudden major medical debt, for example, should not be graded as harshly as one that walked away from consumer debt that they had promised to pay.

Still, these collections can have a major negative impact on credit scores. And lenders are still very credit score driven. Lower scores due to medical collections can lead to higher rates, higher fees, and even loan denials.

The upcoming changes in FICO scoring will finally acknowledge what lenders have known for years; that medical collections do not represent a borrowers true ability to re-pay debt. Thankfully, credit scores will no longer suffer once these changes take effect. In fact, FICO claims that consumers can see as much as a 25 point increase in their score!

Paid/Settled Consumer Collections

As of right now, if you have older collection accounts that have been paid in full or satisfied, they can still negatively affect your credit scores for years, even though they report as being satisfied or paid.

But after FICO Score 9 takes effect, these paid/satisfied collection accounts will be dropped from your credit report altogether. They will no longer have a negative impact on your FICO scores. In other words, the new FICO scoring method will continue to count open or unpaid collections against a consumer’s score, but it will reward them by removing the collection account once it is paid or settled.

Who Benefits?

These two major changes in the FICO scoring method should open doors for a lot of consumers who will realize higher credit scores as a result. It can equate to lower rates, lower fees, and even loan approvals instead of denials. It also benefits lenders by providing a more accurate assessment of a consumer’s ability to re-pay debt.

There is no exact date for the FICO 9 Score release, but rumor has it that it will happen sometime in the Fall, 2014.

Please do not hesitate to call one of our Personal Advisers for more information. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

11 Reasons to Not Rent a Home

11 Reasons to Not Rent a Home

I recently read a great article by Forbes contributor Kelly Phillips Erb on the 11 reasons why one may not want to own a home.

(11 Reasons Why I Never Want to Own a House Again)

You would think that as a CEO of a mortgage brokerage, I’d recommend that everyone buy a home. As a matter of fact, I don’t.

When people tell me they want to buy a home because they think it’s a good financial move, I recommend that they reconsider why they want to buy a home. You see, you should buy a home because that’s where you want be – for whatever reason: you’re close to your family, you want your children to grow up there, it’s 10 minutes from your job, you have access to public transportation, you love the community, etc. etc.

Buying a home is not always a smart financial move – for many of the reasons Erb points out. When you buy a home, you’re buying a physical asset – an asset that can take years to appreciate in value or, as many of us have discovered, depreciate in value through no fault of your own.

But, as in any discussion, a list can easily be made for the 11 reasons why someone would not want to ever rent again either . . . for instance:

1. Your landlord could be a complete jerk and make your life miserable.

He or she can stipulate that you not make any changes to your home or apartment or that you not have pets (even a hamster or fish!). If you live in the same building as your landlord, he or she knows your (intimate) business.

2. You can get kicked out at any time.

A landlord can sell the property and or tell you that you have to move because his daughter and her husband need a place to live. Or, if you become pregnant, you violate the “no children” lease clause the minute your baby is born.

3. There’s always the thought that you’re making someone else “rich” by paying rent.

The building appreciates in value – but you don’t benefit financially from this appreciation.

4. You have to deal with the stigma that something is wrong with you because you “rent” –

Even if you travel a great deal or you’re an empty nester or you simply can’t afford right now to buy (and that is ok!), or you don’t want to deal with maintenance, or [add your own personal yet valid reason]. Let’s face it, when you don’t own a home, people think something is wrong with you, which is how the whole, “buying a home makes financial sense” meme got started. It’s also why too many people buy homes they can’t afford.

5. It is more difficult to “rent” that lovely close-knit neighborhood.

When you rent, you’re subject to the market and available inventory. And, if you do luck out and find a great house, your landlord could sell it or tell you it’s time to move . . . just as your kids have become settled into their schools.

6. You may spend money to improve someone else’s property.

Some landlords are perfectly fine with you making minor upgrades to their property – as long as you pay for them. This scenario leads to a damned if you do, damned if you don’t outcome: if you don’t make the upgrades (and your landlord refuses to), you’re stuck living in an ugly home. Damn.

7. You don’t get the mortgage interest deduction.

A few states, such as California, give you a renters credit, but otherwise, you get nada. In the early years of a mortgage, that interest deduction is considerable.

8. Your rent can go up.

If you lease your apartment or home, you’re rent is stable for the year – but when you renew your lease, your landlord can raise your rent – to whatever she thinks she can get for your apartment. Don’t like it? Move or suck it up.

9. A rental is not an asset from which you can borrow.

Now, I’m not advocating you use your home as an ATM, but you can borrow from it in case of an emergency (if you have equity built up). When you rent, don’t have an asset from which to borrow, and thus can’t take advantage of home equity loans or cash out refis. You also have no collateral to help you obtain other loans.

10. You don’t have a home you can leave to your heirs.

You don’t need to be John D. Rockefeller to leave behind an “estate.” If you have young children and/or a spouse, one thing you can do is set up a trust and put your house in it. Think of trust as a suitcase: should something happen to you, the suitcase (and everything in it) is passed to your heirs intact without having to go through probate – which means, your children and spouse can continue to live in the house. You can’t do this when you rent.

11. Your quality of life is different.

Now, you can have a wonderful quality of life when you rent – but it does depend on why you’re renting and where you live. But, if you’ve dreamed of owning a cozy home on that wonderful tree-lined street, having parties in your backyard as you grill burgers, and walking your children to the local elementary school, then your quality of life is not what it could be if you rent.

Renting vs. owning — Do what’s right for you

Renting is good – especially if you don’t want to be tied down and you want freedom – or your empty nester and you simply want a smaller space without having to deal with the maintenance a house entails.

But, when you’re making the decision between renting and owning, take the “it’s a smart financial decision” off the list and instead consider all the other reasons listed in this article and the one by Erb. You’ll find that whatever you choose, you’re doing so for the right reasons.

Need help with deciding if owning a home is right for your situation? Call one of our financial advisers. We do more than simply quote mortgage rates – we’re here to help make the right decision for you.

Trend: More Single People Buying Homes

Trend: More Single People Buying Homes

We love discussing market trends here at the Meridian office in Westminster, Maryland. One trend that caught us by surprise is that single men and women now comprise 25% of the home buying market.

According to the National Association of Realtors, single women accounted for 16% of homebuyers in 2012 while single men accounted for 9%. Wow!

This data got us talking about the changes our society has undergone in the last 30 – 50 years and how these changes have affected home sales. We had an interesting discussion about why more single people are buying homes – and some of the reasons we think this trend is on the rise include:

One: People are getting married later

Since 1960, the average age at which men and women marry has continued to rise. In 1960, the average age of women at marriage was 20; for men it was 22. In 1990 it was 23 years of age and 26 years respectively. Today, the average age of women who marry for the first time is 27; for men it’s 29. (Source: HuffingtonPost)

Interesting how age has increased seven years for both genders!

Two: More people – including women — are educated

In 1960, fewer people attended college, with 254,000 men and 138,377 women enrolled. (Source: InfoPlease) According to Cleveland.com, women comprised 39% of undergraduate enrollment.

Today, that number has increased significantly – especially the numbers of women graduates. For 2009, the latest year for which data is available, 685,000 men and 916,000 women graduated from college – with women outnumbering men by 25%.

Three: Fewer people are marrying

In addition to marrying later, fewer people are marrying at all. In 1960, 72% of people got married. Today it’s 51%. (Source: Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends)

Adding these three changes together – people getting married later, more people obtaining college degrees, and fewer people marrying, it’s easy to see why more single people are buying homes.

Owning a home is a dream for many people – one that the data indicates single people aren’t putting off until they marry.

Societal changes have lead to the purchasing “gap”

What really interested us at the office, however, is the gap between women and men. Why are more single women than men are buying homes? No one knows.

Walter Molony, National Association of Realtors, stated in the New York Times piece, “Homeownership: Where Single Women Prevail,” that it might be something as simple as, “Most guys don’t get serious about housing until they meet the right woman.”

We also surmised that women simply have more buying power than they did even 10 or 15 years ago. Despite the wage gap (which still exists), women’s earnings grew 44% from 1970 – 2007, according to the Pew Research Center.

And, as more women enter the job force, they’re able to support themselves — meaning they no longer “have” to get married for financial reasons.

Four: It’s just easier to buy a home

Whatever the reason more single women then men are purchasing homes, one fact is clear: it is much easier to buy a home today than it was in 1960 – or even 2009.

  • Interest rates are still very low (a 30-year fixed is still in the low fours).
  • As a single purchaser, you may not need 20% down if you have excellent credit and a secure job
  • Lots of options exist to help get you into your first home, such as FHA or other programs.

Whether you’re a single man or woman considering your first home purchase, it pays to educate yourself. Read books, attend a class or lecture held by your community college or read websites such as HUD’s 9 Steps to Buying a Home.

And of course, if you have any questions – or you’d like help figuring out if a home purchase is right for you — please give one of our Loan Officers a call. We’re here to help you!

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae Not Going Anywhere Fast

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae Not Going Anywhere Fast

President Obama visited Arizona on August 6, 2013 to tout the housing industry’s recovery. He also endorsed a Senate effort to dismantle Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in order to allow the private sector to begin backing mortgages.

Mr. Obama’s endorsement of Corker-Warner has garnered major press from critics, financial experts and analysts – and buried the real question. Is the U.S. housing market on the mend? (I’ll talk about Freddie and Fannie in a bit.)

Yes, we’re in recovery – a cautious one

If you’re like me and you walk around your neighborhood, you may be seeing evidence of the housing market on the upswing. People have their homes up for sale and houses are selling – always a good thing!

Even better, you can see people doing home improvements. To me, this signifies that homeowners are optimistic; few people will do improvements if they believe their home values will go down.

But, activity in your neighborhood or mine isn’t the best indicator of a broad recovery. For that, you want to look at two things: the number of new jobs and home prices.

You can find the monthly jobs report at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job openings increased for July (+162,000 new jobs) with unemployment edging down slightly to 7.4%.

In conjunction with new jobs, home prices are rising. According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, home prices rose for Q1 2013 – and continue to rise. Their latest data show prices rising 2.5% and 2.4% in May for their 10- and 20-City Composites.

One thing to note: Many news agencies rely on data published by the National Realtors Association. I personally don’t trust their data, especially after they were caught a few years ago “spinning” their numbers. If you want data driven, unbiased information, use the Case-Shiller Indices.

Given that the U.S. is creating new jobs, coupled with the rise of housing prices, it’s safe to say the housing industry is in recovery mode. But I’ll qualify that – we’re in a cautious recovery. A geopolitical or other unexpected event can bring the market to its knees pretty fast.

Can the U.S. housing market survive without Freddie and Fannie?

The idea of closing down Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, two huge federal government-sponsored entities that taxpayers bailed out in 2008, sounds good – but as many analysts and experts have pointed out, it’s not that easy.

The reason lenders provide mortgages is because they know the federal government guarantees them. If Freddie and Fannie were eliminated, consumers would have far fewer options for obtaining a mortgage as interest rates and costs would go up. Home buyers would need larger down payments – forcing many people out of the market.

Two, we have too many industries dependent on the housing industry – everything from new construction to consumer goods (think washers and dryers). Eliminating Freddie and Fannie – and by extension, limiting the availability of mortgages – would dramatically impact the market in ways we can’t even foresee.

In my opinion, it’s easy to introduce legislation – and easy to say the U.S. should do this or that. But the housing industry – and its associated industries – plays a large role in the U.S. economy. Reforming Freddie and Fannie may make sense, but trying to eliminate them is a whole other kettle of fish – something President Obama learned with Guantanamo Bay early in his presidency.

If you’re considering buying a home, don’t worry about Freddie and Fannie. Any change that takes place won’t happen anytime soon. For now, focus on these three things: Interest rates are still low, inventory is good, and prices are still much lower than they were in 2008.

If you have questions – or you’re looking for a mortgage – give us a call. We’re here to help you.

Rent vs. Own: Which is the Winner Now?

Rent vs. Own: Which is the Winner Now?

In 2011, we wrote a blog post weighing the pros and cons of renting versus owning a home. In our assessment, we considered variables such as the economy and job stability, interest rates, home values, the rental market and the mortgage interest rate deduction. At that time, there was no clear winner between renting and owning. Now that two years have passed, have any of these variables changed? Is there a clear winner between renting and buying today?

Some variables have changed since our 2011 analysis. The U.S. economy and job market has recovered considerably, although slowly, which is good news if you’re considering buying a home. If you’re going to take on the responsibility of home ownership, you need to be able to cover expenses like real estate tax and maintenance in the long term, so the state of the economy and your job stability is important.

Housing market: Prices continue to rise

House values have also changed over the past two years. In 2011, home values were extremely low. Foreclosures and short sales meant previously unaffordable homes were selling at much reduced prices. Today, home prices are rising and fewer deals are available. U.S home prices jumped almost 11% in March 2013 as compared to March 2012 according to a Financial Post article. This may put some homes out of reach of potential buyers. It may also encourage potential buyers to get into the market before (and if!) housing prices climb higher.

At the same time, the rental market is also changing. Private equity investors, such as Blackstone Group LP and Colony Capital LLC, have been buying up low-priced homes and putting them on the rental market. In some areas, more rental homes are available than before, and increased availability may help keep rents low – a benefit if you’re considering renting.

Interest rates still very low

But not everything has changed since 2011. Interest rates remain low, and (as before) analysts continue to speculate on how long they’ll stay that way. If you’re considering buying a house, it makes sense to get in while rates are low.

As in 2011, the mortgage interest deduction also remains in place – for now. Discussions about eliminating the deduction continue. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp has been looking for ways to eliminate tax loopholes and, apparently, the mortgage interest deduction is under consideration. At the same time, several powerful groups are in favor of keeping the deduction, such as the real estate lobby. It’s anyone’s guess as to the final outcome.

My personal advice

Too many people buy a home based on the thinking that it’s a “smart investment.” A home is a tangible asset that requires time, money, and care; often times, your “investment” can feel like a big hole in the ground where you’re pouring money. If you’re looking for return on investment, my advice is to invest your money in stocks and bonds instead.

If you want to buy a home, buy it because living there will make you and your family happy for a long time. When you have this mentality – versus a “cash register” one – the market ups and downs won’t bother you. You’ll view your house as your home – one that sustains you and your family.

When you approach the home buying decision process this way, the decision to rent also becomes easier. In the U.S., we have an unspoken stigma about renting. If you rent – and you may have very good reasons for doing so – it’s assumed you can’t afford to buy a home. Due to this societal pressure, many people are driven into making a huge financial purchase for the simple reason they don’t want to tell people they rent. If they purchase a home they really can’t afford, they fall into financial trouble.

If you rent, and you want to keep renting because of the benefits it offers you, ignore this pressure. As I’ve indicated in this article, renting or owning a home both have their pros and cons. Whether you should rent or own comes down to your personal situation and what’s best for you.

If you’re considering a home purchase, however, and need a loan, consider Meridian Home Mortgage. We’re here to help you.

HARP 3.0 – How to Help Push the Bill Through Congress

HARP 3.0 – How to Help Push the Bill Through Congress

Like many companies in the real estate industry, we’re watching the progress of HARP 3.0.

Reintroduced to Congress in February 2013 by Senators Robert Mendez and Barbara Boxer, S. 249, The Responsible Homeowner Refinancing Act of 2013 (HARP) , will seek to help homeowners with conventional loans. Currently, only those people with Freddie and Fannie backed loans dated before May 31, 2009 can refinance their loans through HARP 2.0.

As of this writing, the Bill has been referred back to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

If it passes, HARP 3.0 will allow people who currently owe more on their home than what it’s worth (typically 85 – 150% LTV) to refinance their conventional loans. We’re also hoping Congress will eliminate the seemingly arbitrary May 31, 2009 loan origination cutoff date.

The House has also introduced an identical Bill, H.R. 736, which is also in committee.

What can you do while waiting for Congress to move on S. 249?

1. Contact the Bill’s sponsors and voice your support – Visit Congress.gov to see the progress of S. 249 and a listing of its sponsors (with links to each Senator’s webpage and contact information).

Many bills die in committee. To help ensure S. 249 moves out of committee, contact the Bill’s sponsors and the Senators that sit on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee. Your voice does count, so be sure to call and let these Senators know you’re tracking this important bill (when you call or email, be sure to state the Bill’s name and number).

2. Consider your options – If having an underwater house is truly a hardship (meaning, you can’t afford the payments or you’ve missed payments), you do have options:

  • Obtaining a loan modification (you must meet eligibility requirements)
  • Selling your house in a short sale
  • Bankruptcy
  • Renting out your home and moving to an apartment

Before you make any significant change, however, get advice from your CPA, a real estate attorney and/or a tax attorney. Don’t listen to well-meaning friends or believe what you read on the Internet. As we’ve posted on this blog in the past, myths abound concerning real estate. Rather than make a huge financial mistake based on erroneous information, get the facts from your Loan Officers.

3. Be patient – Having a mortgage that’s more than your home is worth can be frustrating. However, home prices are rising in many parts of the country. The latest S&P Case-Shiller home price index showed average home prices increased 8.6% and 9.3% for the 10- and 20-City Composites in the 12 months ending in February 2013.

While prices may not reach their pre-2006 levels for years, the market has stabilized, which means foreclosures have decreased and more people are out buying homes versus waiting out falling prices.

Be sure to check this blog often for HARP 3.0 updates – we’ll post them as soon as we hear about them.