Average US 30-year mortgage rate rises to 4.30 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) – Long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week for a second straight week, posting new highs for the year. The markets were anticipating an increase in a key interest rate by the Federal Reserve, which the Fed announced Wednesday.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the rate on 30-year, fixed-rate loans climbed to 4.30 percent from 4.21 percent last week. The benchmark rate stood at 3.73 percent a year ago and averaged 3.65 percent through 2016, the lowest level in records dating to 1971.

The rate on 15-year mortgages increased to 3.50 percent from 3.42 percent last week.

The Fed’s move marked the second time in three months that the central bank has raised its benchmark interest rate. The Fed also forecast two additional hikes this year. The Fed action reflects a consistently solid U.S. economy and will likely mean higher rates on some consumer and business loans.

The key short-term rate is rising by a quarter-point to a still-low range of 0.75 percent to 1 percent. The Fed said in a statement that a strengthening job market and rising prices had moved it closer to its targets for employment and inflation.

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 this week at 0.5 point. The fee on 15-year loans also remained at 0.5 point.

Rates on adjustable five-year loans rose to 3.28 percent from 3.23 percent last week.  The fee held at 0.4 points.

By Associated Press

 

 

Ideas To Improve Your Small Front Yard

There are many ways to improve your small front yard without uprooting your driveway or dialing back your front porch. In fact, with the right touches, small front yards can be just as appealing as large ones. Here are some ideas to make your small yard appealing year round:

#1 Take a symmetrical approach.

One way to make your small front yard more appealing is to use symmetry. Balancing the elements of your yard on either side of your sidewalk — grass, fencing, flowers, shrubs — will make it look grand and inviting; it will also cost less than it would in a larger yard, because you have less acreage to cover. You can also find a local landscaperto map out and implement a symmetrical yard plan for you.

#2 Make a seamless transition from yard to house.

Use materials like box planters, stone steps or retaining walls to blend your home and yard together. Potted plants on your front porch or patio will also extend the yard without cluttering it. Make sure you choose plants that complement one another, so you don’t have a lot of overgrowth.

#3 Use a hint of color.

If you want to wow people in your small front yard, pick a brightly colored flower, shrub or tree that stands out either on the porch or in the yard itself. Then use neutral colors around to make it stand out. This will be the eye-catching piece in your small yard that people will never miss.

#4 Hang basket flowers.

Hang flower baskets around your front porch or patio. They add fresh color and a natural element to your home without cluttering the porch area itself. You can change them every season or every year, depending on the flowers or shrubs you choose.

#5 Light it up.

Your front yard might be less appealing if people see it at night. That’s why you should add plenty of lighting. One option is to install standing, solar-powered lamps along the walkway; another is to hang lamps on your front porch to illuminate the plants there. It just depends on how much moneyand time you want to invest.

#6 Refresh your front door.

While not a traditional part of the “yard”, your front porch is still important to the beauty of the area as a whole. This means your front door needs to be appealing as well. Fix any cracks, scratches or other damage to the door. Also, think about revitalizing it with a new coat of paint. Choose a color that complements the exterior landscape.

Conclusion

These are only a few tips to help you improve your small front yard. You want to make it seem bigger, if not at least more comfortable. Adding a fence might be another option to consider, though you’ll want to lean towards an open design pattern like picket or chain link. Just keep your budget in mind and try not to clutter your yard while trying to redesign it. For more tips on making the most of a patio in a small yard, check out this post from HuffPost Homes.

WRITTEN BY ANDREA DAVIS

Should You File Your Taxes Early?

There are plenty of good reasons to file your taxes ahead of schedule. Here are just a few.

Though taxes are typically due on the 15th of April, this year, you’ll get an extra three days to submit your return. The reason? Any time April 15 falls on a weekend, the tax deadline is pushed to the following Monday, but because Monday, April 17, is Emancipation Day (a D.C. holiday), filers have until Tuesday, April 18, to get their taxes in.

That said, you still shouldn’t wait until the very last minute to file your taxes. In fact, there are actually a number of good reasons to get your taxes in early.

Get your money back sooner

Not only did 73% of tax filers get a refund last year, but the average refund amount hovered in the $2,850 range. If you’re anticipating a refund this year, filing your taxes early should basically be a no-brainer. As long as you have all of your documents and paperwork in order, filing early means you’ll most likely get your hands on that cash sooner. In fact, the IRS expects that it will issue more than 90% of its refunds in 21 days or less from the time it receives the corresponding returns.

If you’re sitting on debt (whether it’s general debt or bills left over from the holidays), having your refund in hand sooner could save you a nice chunk of money in interest charges. Even if you don’t have debt, there’s really no reason to give the government access to your money for a longer period than necessary, so it pays to file early either way.

Keep in mind, however, that if you file a paper return, you may have to wait longer to get your cash back. Though refunds from electronically filed returns are typically issued within three weeks, it usually takes six to eight weeks to receive a refund from a paper return. Not only that, but if you file your taxes early and do so electronically, you should be able to check your refund status within 24 hours. File on paper and you’ll probably wait a solid month before your refund information even becomes available.

Prevent tax fraud

Tax fraud is a growing problem and, unfortunately, it’s easy enough these days for crooks to pull off. Typically, someone will get his or her hands on your personal information, file a return in your name, and attempt to claim your refund.

Because the IRS is equipped to flag duplicate tax returns, if this happens and you then attempt to file your own return, yours will get rejected because there will already be a return with your Social Security number in the system. At that point, the IRS will need to figure out which return is legitimate, and you’ll be sitting in limbo while that happens — not to mention waiting on your refund.

On the other hand, if you file your tax return early enough, you just might beat those criminals to the punch. Then, if someone attempts to file a return using your information, that fraudulent return will get rejected instead of yours.

Give yourself time to pay your tax debt

Not everyone gets a refund during tax season. If it turns out you owe the IRS money and you’re unable to pay off your balance in full, you’ll face a late payment penalty for whatever amount you fail to come up with. But if you file your return early, you’ll buy yourself a little extra time to come up with a game plan. That might involve selling off some possessions to scrounge up the cash or working a few extra shifts on the job to generate extra earnings.

Remember, if you owe the IRS money but file your return early, you don’t have to pay off your balance until the April 18 filing deadline. Even if you owe money, you have nothing to lose by submitting your return ahead of schedule.

One final point to consider is that the sooner you file your taxes, the sooner you can check that task off your to-do list. Filing a tax return can be a time-consuming process, so the earlier you get it done, the less stressed you’ll be.

A $6,269 opportunity lurking in your tax return?
Taxes can be confusing and downright miserable. But a handful of “tax tricks” could help millions of Americans save thousands of dollars. That’s free money you could be leaving on the table. For example: the IRS believes that a full 20% of eligible Americans miss out on a tax break worth up to $6,269… each year! Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

Maurie Backman

Whistler: The Must-Do Spring Destination

Presented by SnowSeekers

 

There are really two Whistlers. The first we see as tourists: the seasonal workers, the Australian lifties with their indefatigable cheer, the British server providing that critical après Caesar salad at the Garibaldi Lift Co (GLC). Yet there’s also a vibrant, if less publicized Whistler–one that doubles as home for thousands who wouldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world. Tap into this crowd and you’ve hit the motherlode of secret stashes, cherished seasonal traditions, and plenty of reasons why so many Whistlerites think spring is the prime time to come up and play.  Which ever Whistler you decide to explore, Whistler Blackcomb has a host of deals to help you celebrate the spring ski scene.

 

1. Alpine Picnics & Patio Happy Hours

Take it from John Brown, Whistler’s Adult Ski School Manager, and snag some cheese, cured meats, crusty bread and an IPA or two and ski to some newly-exposed rock for a killer spread in the sun. (Note: Poles and skis make for great recliners.) Or, simply slide into happy hour. “Patio hopping is a cherished tradition around here during the WSSF and really right ’til we close on May 22nd,” says Brown. “You can bop from Tapley’s to Merlin’s to the undiscovered Bearfoot Bistro terrace, which is awesome in the full sun.” The Bearfoot Bistro boasts the coldest vodka tasting room in the world and gourmet bites like Braised Short-Rib Poutine and Confit Quail Salad. Brown also suggests popping down Peak-to-Creek (the legendary 7-mile run from the top of Whistler to Creekside), followed by a well-deserved adult beverage (available by the pail) at Dusty’s patio. Learn what you are in store for by reading up on Crai Bower’s SnowSeekers story.

2. The World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF)

From April 7-16, Whistler is home to the best mountain culture celebration in North America. Watch insanely world-renowned skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes, listen to comedians and Canadian Indie bands (plus national stars like Busta Rhymes) perform on the GLC’s newly expanded terrace, check out decked out pups in the Whistler dog parade, or get your entertainment on screen at the Olympus 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown, when Whistler-area filmmakers create outrageously good movies in just three days and screen them for an audience of over a 1,000. But don’t just be a spectator. There’s plenty of opportunities to join in, like at the Twisted Tea Slush Cup, where anyone can careen down the spring snow in an outlandish costume and try to make it across the icy cold slush pond. Take home a prize for Best Costume, Best trick, Best Wipe-Out and more. Or, you know, just laugh at those who do. For details and deals, visithttps://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/events-and-activities/events/2017/04/world-ski-and-snowboard-festival.

 

3. The Whistler Trifecta: Ski, Bike/Hike, Golf

Locals love to ski the north-facing slopes, with their great spring conditions, followed by a bike ride to Lost Lake and a twilight tee-time at Whistler Golf Club. You can also hike along a nature trail down to the lake that hugs the creek before ascending into a gentle climb that weaves through forest. Break for lunch or a snack at Connection Café (at the trailhead), which serves locally-roasted organic coffees, smoothies, paninis, soup and chili, and freshly-baked cookies. In June, the café offers morning bike rides. “The village is totally weather-based in the spring,” says GLC Assistant Manager Derek Pretty. “The moment the days warm up the hiking routes start to open. We even make the most of spring here in Whistler and at the GLC patio overlooking the mountain village.” Pretty, who arrived from Australia “ages ago” and never left, offers one final observation about why he loves springtime in Whistler. “There’s just a lot of chilling out.”  Bower lays out those details in this SnowSeekers story.

4. Deep Discounts

The math is pretty easy, as an American, our dollar goes further in Canada.  Those who have been know exactly what we are talking about. Basically, Canada gives you around 25% extra on anything you spend. Through April you can ski and stay in Whistler starting at $135 CDN per night, which based on US dollars is around $100 – lift tickets AND accommodations.  Do your homework and go, you can start here:https://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/purchase/deals-packages.

 

 

Why School District Should Play a Part in Your Home Selection

When it comes to buying a home, the potential resale value should stay top of mind, which is why the local school district is important to take into consideration. Many studies show a home’s school district has a direct impact on its value and ability to sell down the road.

“When thinking of an area’s long-term and resale potential, the school district should be a top consideration,” says Doug Breaker, president and chief executive of HomeFinder Opens a New Window. “Buying a home in a good school district can result in resale advantages, offer protection from market fluctuations and provide a great education.

According to Relator.com, one out of five home buyers said they would pay 6% to 10% more than their budget to purchase a home in the right school district. Meanwhile, a survey from real estate company Redfin last fall showed people were willing to pay $50 more per square foot for a home in a top-rated school district.

Figuring out what constitutes an excellent school district can get complicated. Review the schools’ test scores, teacher-to-student ratios, after school programs, extracurricular activities and  awards and technology in the classrooms.  There are a host of websites that rank schools, including Great Schools.org Opens a New Window., Schooldigger.com Opens a New Window., and U.S. News rankings Opens a New Window..

Don’t be scared to ask your real estate agent about the school district, what it was like 1o years ago, how it’s changed over the years and how it stacks up against other neighborhoods.  If you track school scores, when they go up, home values in the neighborhood follow suit.

Buyers with school-aged children should visit the school to get a better sense of its quality. If it’s a large school district with many elementary, middle schools and high schools the performance can vary.  On a visit, I recommend reviewing classroom sizes, the maintenance of facilities, safety and use of technology. It’s also imperative potential buyers check availability of the schools.

While purchasing a home in a good school district will help protect a home’s value, it’s not a guaranteed. After all, lesser-performing school districts can improve as easily as top schools can deteriorate.

By Donna Fuscaldo Home Mortgage FOXBusinessOpens a New Window.

 

**All the above information may be great but the main reason to pick a home with a good school district is to provide a better education for your children.  It is a “No-Brainer!” Check out the link below for information on the Issaquah School District.

http://www.issaquah.wednet.edu/

http://www.greatschools.org/washington/issaquah/issaquah-school-district/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be a Happier Person in Business and In Life

What are the keys to happiness? Research reveals how you can be happier in your personal and professional life.

Stay positive.

“Bad things happen to everyone, including happy people,” writes Travis Bradberry, co-writer of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” and co-founder of TalentSmart. “Instead of complaining about how things could have been or should have been, happy people reflect on everything they’re grateful for.” Happy people tend to find the best solution to a problem and then move on, refusing to dwell on negative events.

Surround yourself with the right people.

You’ll build confidence and stimulate creativity by surrounding yourself with other upbeat people. Negative people, on the other hand, can zap away your energy.

Exercise more.

Even moving for as little as 10 minutes can help release a neurotransmitter that helps soothe your brain and keep you in control over your impulses. Schedule regular exercise into your daily life.

Slow down.

Don’t be so caught up in a routine that you forget to appreciate the little things in life. Enjoy a conversation or take a step outside to enjoy a fresh breath of air.

Have deep conversations.

Avoid gossip, small talk, and judging others. Have meaningful interactions by engaging with others on a deeper level and seek to build an emotional connection, Bradberry writes.

Help others.

Employees who helped others were 10 times more likely to be focused at work and 40 percent more likely to get a promotion, according to a study conducted by Harvard University. Those helping employees also were more likely to be happy during stressful times. “As long as you make certain that you aren’t over committing yourself, helping others is sure to have a positive influence on your mood,” Bradberry says.

 

Tahoma School District Home on 3.9 Acres….An Entertainers Delight!

Don’t miss out on this Country oasis, a true beauty, within the award winning Tahoma School District. Home sits on nearly 4 acres of Serene, wooded setting crossed by Honey Creek and backs up to pipeline trail.  Home is 3913 sqft with 3 upstairs bedrooms and 2 downstairs, 3.5 total baths.  Cozy up to a brick fireplace & corner breakfast nook in the spacious kitchen with upgraded stainless steel appliances.   The master bedroom is vaulted with a newly remodeled 5 piece bath with tile & granite. Great quality…..great craftsmanship!  Downstairs rec room with full 2nd entertaining kitchen, 5th bedroom downstairs use as a den or a perfect for mother-in-law suite.  Close-in country lifestyle complete with tree house & chicken coop & work-shed.  Spend your summer nights relaxing in the gazebo or around the fire pit.

 

HOME APPRAISAL: HOW IT WORKS AND HOW SELLERS CAN IMPROVE IT

Home appraisal is the process aimed at determining the true market value of a house, so that the mortgage company or a bank receives the unbiased estimate of what the property the buyer is trying to receive the mortgage for and makes sure that the amount of money the borrower asks for is appropriate for that exact house.

The thing that makes the appraisal process so stressful and deal breaking for both parties involved in the sales-and-purchase agreement is the fact that it takes place after the seller and buyer have gone through the negotiation process, agreed on a certain price they’re both most comfortable with, spent a good share of money on lawyer‘s services, signed the contract and approached the few last, but particularly tense steps to closing their real estate deal.

In fact, both home buyers and sellers underestimate the importance of the appraisal process until they face the bank that isn’t willing to lend the selling price the sides have already settled on due to the fact that the appraisal received from a real estate agent or a property value came to be lower than the mortgage claim.

In this situation, the deal the home buyer and the seller have already sealed is most likely to be over unless the seller agrees to lower the price to meet the bank’s requirements, the borrower finds another bank ready to finance the mortgage to the fullest extent or manages to gather the difference between the seller’s price claim and the sum covered by mortgage in cash to fulfill the seller’s requirements and not to abandon the deal he has already spent so much time, money and effort on. The aforementioned scenario is too idealistic to have something in common with real life, as rare reliable financial institutions are willing to lend more than the essential appraisal stated. There’s no wonder that most sellers, who’ve already dropped the price for their property during the negotiation process, do not agree to decrease it even more. Surely, the buyer isn’t interested to pay more than the home’s estimated worth as well.

Consequently, it’s rather important for home sellers to thoroughly prepare for the home appraisal process to avoid failed deals, losses in value and time wastes. Obviously, the appraisal professional is an independent expert, who provides adequate home selling price estimates without being subjected to the seller’s and agent’s direct influence.

However, there’re a few tricks and preparation steps one may take to get a positive appraisal, finalize the deal with the buyer and receive the money your house deserves to be sold for.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO PREPARE YOUR HOUSE FOR AN APPRAISAL
1. GET EDUCATED ABOUT THE DETAILS OF THE APPRAISAL VALUE DETERMINATION PROCESS TO KNOW WHAT THE EXPERTS CONDUCTING THE EVALUATION PAY ATTENTION TO:
This article’s purpose is not to give an exhaustive description of the appraisal procedure, but rather provide the sellers with a few pieces of advice on how to improve its results. But, we’re going to base the further info considering these most important facts about house appraisal:

  • its real purpose is to figure out whether the home’s value expressed in the monetary equivalent (the selling price)coincides with the average prices of similar local properties, which have been recently sold or which are currently available on the market;
  • it takes the evaluation expert one 45-60-minute visit to collect the necessary data for his conclusion;
  • it’s safe to say that home appraisals are normally carried out to protect the interests of the lender and prevent the excessive crediting – the home value’s estimate is used as the maximum amount of money the bank may offer to the borrower to finance the mortgage of the house, that is the subject of the contract;
  • even though the expert conducting the appraisal is supposed to be independent, honest and unbiased in his estimates, it’s the bank/mortgage company who orders his services and becomes his client – more often than not the evaluation expert is going to make sure that the client doesn’t invest in the property more than its actual market cost;
  • in most cases, lenders don’t accept appraisals from experts they haven’t approved for a particular appraisal;
  • the process doesn’t take too much time – home appraisal is far from being as deep as home inspection home buyers order to receive a professional inference on the condition of the property they’re particularly interested in, identify its possible hidden flaws, understand the true value and continue the negotiations guided by the inspection’s results; home appraisal is a brief estimate conducted within an hour or so;
  • the things appraisers pay attention to are: lot size, square footage of finished and unfinished space, the overall condition of the property, upgrades that boost its value, style and age of house, garages, fireplaces; when those are reviewed, the property’s value is compared to the selling prices of similar houses within the same neighborhood and the mortgage limit is determined;
  • home appraisal is less expensive than inspection – it costs about $300 dollars on average and most lenders include it in the mortgage costs;
  • house appraisals are also carried out during mortgage refinancing initiated by the borrower.

2. THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO TO GET YOUR HOME APPRAISED IN YOUR FAVOR. ACCORDING TO THE SELLERS AND APPRAISERS, THESE MEASURES TEND TO WORK THE BEST:

  • Get your home deep cleaned professionally to make sure that its true value isn’t hidden under the dirt and dust that’s accumulated over the years. Hire house cleaning specialists to get your windows washed, your walls cleaned, your kitchen spotless, your wooden floors polished and your carpets steam cleaned. Tidy homes look more attractive to appraisers, as the cleanliness is a sign of a well-kept property.
  • Point out the most recent upgrades and additions you’ve carried out, as those boost the property’s value and reflect on the expert’s report in the most positive way. Let the appraiser know that you’ve installed new kitchen cabinets, refinished hardwood floors, upgraded plumbing, replaced windows, installed new energy-efficient HVAC units, protected your household by an advanced security system, replaced bathroom tile or got new carpet not too long ago. Even the smallest details may make a significant difference.
  • Consider minor repairs and sprucing up. Walk around your house paying close attention to the damage the expert’s critical eye may notice and use as one of the reasons to give a lower appraisal. No roof leaks, loose floor boards, shabby windows, dirty gutters, scratched walls and other flaws are allowed. Fix everything that has to be fixed, repaint walls, install new blinds or refinish kitchen cabinets. If you have some money to spare, think about hiring remodeling contractors to replace obviously outdated things like counter tops, bathtubs, linoleum floors or garage storage. Do everything you can to prove that you’ve maintained your house in a great condition and showcase its modern, but not outdated appearance.
  • Get your yard picked up. It has to look as nice and organized, cause appraisers pay just as much attention to the lot as to the house. Clean driveways, neat fences, mowed lawns, trimmed trees, a well-kept landscape and a patio, a good-looking curb and maintained house exterior make a positive impression on appraisers, as these factors indicate the property’s condition.
  • Conduct your own market research. It goes without saying that appraisers gather their own data regarding the value of similar properties and the prices they’re sold for in your local area. But carrying out your own research to have a few real numbers justifying the appraisal price your claim, determine the common problems similar properties faced during their appraisal, as well as understand what you may realistically hope for and what else may be fixed prior to the expert’s visit.

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Groundhog Day 2017: Meteorologists, Phil predict 6 more weeks of winter lie ahead

Just after sunrise on Thursday, Punxsutawney Phil declared six more weeks of winter for the United States – a prognostication AccuWeather meteorologists largely agree with.

Though many Americans are longing for warmer weather, most of the country will be faced with weeks of wintry conditions.

In this Feb. 2, 2016, photo, Groundhog Club handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather predicting groundhog, during the annual celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Across the Northeast, stormy weather is set to continue.

“There will be more rain than snow in the big East Coast cities,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Paul Pastelok said. However, the interior Northeast will have a higher chance for snow as temperatures remain below normal.

“As far as a significant warmup goes across the Northeast, I think you have to hold off til late April or early May,” he said.

Cold air and snow will also persist in the Midwest, northern Plains and Northwest, enveloping nearly the entire northern tier of the country.

Northern and central California will see additional winter storms and rainfall. The abundant precipitation will continue to build a buffer for reservoirs in the coming months, Pastelok said.

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather staff writer

Washington is the 9th Most Educated State in America

No wonder all my friends and family are little smarty pants’!

WalletHub set out to find which states are the most educated and Washington scored high at the number nine spot. Go Washingtonians!

Analysts from Wallethub developed criteria that measured educational attainment, school quality, and achievement gaps between genders and races. More specifically – data set ranges from the “percentage of adults aged 25 and older with at least a high school diploma” to “average university quality” to “gender gap in educational attainment.”

Here’s how we stacked up:

  • 15th – % of High-School Diploma Holders
  • 3rd – % of Associate’s Degree Holders or College-Experienced Adults
  • 11th – % of Bachelor’s Degree Holders
  • 13th – % of Graduate- or Professional-Degree Holders
  • 22nd – Avg. University Quality
  • 26th – Racial Gap in Educational Attainment

Not too shabby! And for the list of the top 10:

  1. Massachusetts
  2. Maryland
  3. Colorado
  4. Connecticut
  5. Vermont
  6. New Hampshire
  7. Virginia
  8. Minnesota
  9. Washington
  10. New Jersey

by  GENA WYNKOOP