What Causes Home Loan Rates to Move Up and Down?

The Federal Reserve (Fed) monitors the U.S. economy and, when necessary, takes steps to address inflationary concerns to avoid economic recession. When the Fed discusses interest rates, it is primarily concerning the Fed Funds Rate, which is the rate banks use when lending money to each other overnight.

Home loan rates, on the other hand, are dictated by the trading of Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS or Mortgage Bonds), which are a type of bond.

At the real heart of home loan rate movement is the dual relationship between Stocks and Bonds, as they compete for the same investment dollars on a daily basis. Inflationary pressures, economic conditions, and geopolitical events all influence the direction of Stocks and Bonds.

When economic reports are weak or disappointing, investors often move their money from riskier investments like Stocks into Bonds, which are considered safer. Since home loan rates are tied into Mortgage Bonds, this helps home loan rates improve and go down.

In contrast, strong economic news often causes investors to move their money into Stocks to take advantage of any gains. This can cause Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates to worsen, or in other words, the home loan rates go up.

Inflation also plays a role as it reduces the value of fixed investments like Bonds. This means that a low inflation environment tends to be good for Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates (think lower rates), while high inflation can cause both to worsen (think high rates).

Political turmoil or economic crises around the world can also cause investors to move their money into the safety of the Bond markets, helping Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates improve.

If you’re trying to decide if now is a good time to purchase a new home, visit with our Mortgage Center or call your neighborhood mortgage expert! We’ll analyze your financial situation together and create a plan that’s right for you.

Share Button

4 Steps for Buying a Home in Today’s Economy

Whether you’re a regular news junkie or you rely on your better half to keep you updated on the latest, you’ll get the same conflicting messages about the state of today’s economy. One day you’ll hear about rising wages, and the next day you’ll read about the lagging growth in the GDP, or Gross Domestic Product.

The only thing certain about today’s economy is that it is uncertain. While things look relatively stable now, no one can guarantee what the next few years will bring.

Fortunately, you don’t have to give up on the home of your dreams because of a fluctuating economy. Read on for four steps you can take to make sure your money – and your house – are completely safe regardless of what’s going on.

1.) Maximize your down payment

The magic number for down payments has been established at 20% of the home’s value. Those who can’t afford to plunk down that much money, though, will often put down a much smaller amount.

If you can’t come up with a down payment worth at least 5% of the home’s total value, UCCU can help you get access to some of the down payment assistance programs out there. Call, click, or visit a UCCU branch for more information on what programs might be available for you.

2.) Get less than you qualify for

If you’ve been hoping to qualify for a more expensive home, you may be planning to push the limits of your mortgage approval. In fact, it’s best to buy a house that comes in well under your approved limit, allowing you to maintain a lower debt-to-income ratio. This will give you breathing room and keep your mortgage payments from dwarfing your monthly budget.

Also, if the economy worsens and you feel the effects, you’ll have a smaller mortgage payment to scrape together each month.

The good news is that with UCCU you’re going to get more house for the same payment when compared to getting a mortgage through a conventional bank or mortgage lender.

3.) Pick the right Realtor

Here’s how to cut through the hype of the real estate market and find the Realtor that is truly best for you:

  • Speak to recent clients. Ask about their level of satisfaction and their overall experience with this agent.
  • Look up the licensing of your prospective agent. You should be able to easily find this information online.
  • Choose a winner. A Realtor who has been recognized for their excellent work is one you want working for you.
  • Research how long the agent has been in the business. You don’t want the rookie Realtor who’s building their experience through you.
  • Check the current listings under the Realtor’s name. Are they in the same price range as the house you’re hoping to buy?

4.) Look for red flags

A professional inspection before signing on a home is a given, but did you take a careful look around? You don’t want any unpleasant surprises after you’ve moved in.

Check for the following:

  • A sturdy roof.   Do the shingles look like they’re going to give way in a few years? That can translate into expensive repairs. If you like the house and don’t mind replacing a faulty roof, use it as a negotiating point to get a lower price.
  • Efficient heating and cooling systems. These can be costly to fix and replace, and inefficient systems can really hike up your utility bills.
  • Strong structural components. Most sellers will give their house a new coat of paint before showing it to buyers, but don’t be fooled. If the foundation is weak, the best paint job won’t cover it up. Check beneath the surface for strong pipes, wiring, and insulation.
  • Overall functioning of the home. Don’t be shy; try out everything in your potential new home. Open doors and windows, turn on every faucet, flick each light switch, flush toilets and taste the water. If you find any major problems, you may want to give this house a second thought. If you don’t mind a handful of minor repairs, remember to use these as a negotiating point.

Don’t forget to call, click, or stop by a UCCU branch to learn about our fantastic programs on home loans and mortgages before you start your search. We’re here to help you with the finances as you find the home of your dreams!

Your Turn: Did you recently purchase a new home? What did you wish you’d known before you started on your search? Let us learn from your experience; share your wisdom with us in the comments!

Share Button

Mother’s Day On A Budget

Along with the blossoming flowers, the blazing sunshine and the tinkling bell of the ice cream truck come ideas and plans for celebrating Mother’s Day.

Our moms are always there for us, as a sounding board, a virtual treasure trove of advice and to dote on us when we need a little pampering. Mother’s Day, then, is when we show them how much we appreciate all they do for us throughout the year.

However, between purchasing the perfect gift, buying mom flowers and dining out, Mother’s Day costs can quickly add up to a small fortune. How do you keep within a reasonable budget while still showing mom how much she means to you?

Fortunately, with just a bit of forethought and careful planning, you can save big while still celebrating Mother’s Day in style. Here’s how:

1.) Frugal flowers

Nothing says “I love you” quite like a vibrantly colored bouquet, but those beautiful blossoms can cost a bundle. Start your savings on mom’s flowers by doing some of the work yourself. Instead of relying on the florist to provide the perfect base for the bouquet, bring your own basket from home. Alternatively, you can pick up a cheap but pretty vase at a craft or thrift store, adding a strand of ribbon to customize it to mom’s style.

Also, consider shopping your local grocery store or sidewalk stand before visiting a florist. You might find significant savings – such as a bouquet for as little as $10 – by cutting out the middleman.

Lastly, if you’re shopping at a floral shop, be sure to call first to find out when their flowers are delivered so you get the freshest of the bunch.

2.) Gift it right

More difficult than dreaming up the perfect gift for mom is scraping together the money for it. Solve both problems by getting creative. Mom would love something you personally crafted, like a decorated framed photo of a shared memorable moment, or a scrapbook of your best childhood memories. You can even make your mom a playlist of songs that both of you love.

If you’d rather purchase a gift than create one yourself, remember to shop early so you don’t feel pressured into buying something you can’t afford. Also, don’t forget to carefully mine coupon sites like RetailMeNot, Coupons.com and Couponcabin to see if you can snag a deal.

Remember, gifts that show effort and thought matter a lot more than how much you spend.

3.) Dining out (or in) for less

Of course, celebrating Mom’s special day won’t be complete without sharing a wonderful meal together. But restaurants can be expensive, so don’t book reservations without carefully considering if they’re absolutely necessary.

Maybe Mom would enjoy a home-cooked meal more than an evening out. You can whip up her favorite foods, set the table with long candlesticks, your finest dishes and best silverware, and enjoy a deluxe, sumptuous dinner at home.

Or throw together a family barbecue. Load the car with Frisbees, balls and kites, pack up a cooler and stake out a corner at the local park. Then, get the grill fired up for a delectable dinner that’s fun to prepare and even more fun to eat!

If you’ve got your heart set on taking mom out to a restaurant, shop around for the best Mother’s Day deals. It’s worth making a few phone calls and checking out sites like Groupon or LivingSocial before making reservations.

Once you’re at the restaurant, save money by checking the left side of the menu first. Restaurants usually put their pricier dishes on the right side of the menu since that’s where most people’s gazes automatically land. Also, consider sharing a few bigger portions instead of ordering individual plates for every diner. Lastly, be sure to wait a bit between courses so you don’t end up with a table full of leftovers that you’re too stuffed to eat.

4.) Plan ahead

It’s never too early to start saving, and it’s not too early to start thinking about next year’s Mother’s Day. While you obviously can’t buy mom flowers that far ahead of time, shop the post-Mother’s-Day sales for fantastic deals on greeting cards, wrapping paper and gifts for mom.

It isn’t that hard to save on Mother’s Day expenses. And it’s worth it. After all, no one will be happier to see you saving money than dear sweet mom!

Your Turn: How do you show your mom how much she means to you while sticking to a budget? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

Share Button

Score.org – Free Business Mentors

Do you ever wish you could discuss your business challenges with a person who has real-world business experience? Do you want to tackle your issues armed with advice from someone who is familiar with your field, not just a good friend or random acquaintance?

Score.org does exactly that. This website offers free business mentoring and education in over 60 industries.

Working on a business plan.

Score.org can help provide personalized business help.

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses launch and achieve their goals. The website is easy to use, with a clear search function for business questions. Users can search for mentors by area of expertise or industry, from accommodation and food services to waste management and more. You can choose the area for which you’re seeking assistance, such as accounting and budgeting or tax planning and technology. Mentors are available for face-to-face meetings, email questions or video conferences.

Score.org also offers workshops and live webinars in a range of topics. Expert speakers offer insight on the latest business strategies and answer questions from participants. Workshops are offered on everything from e-commerce and SEO to nonprofit planning and cyber security. You can also search the archive of recorded seminars by topic.

Aside from the standard search parameters — by industry, location or keyword — there is also an option catering to specialized groups, such as women entrepreneurs or veteran-owned businesses. Users can narrow their search by business stage, from pre-start to already in business.

The library on Score.org is chock full of useful advice, with an easy to browse functionality. It offers e-guides, templates, infographics and videos. In just five minutes on the site, entrepreneurs can read an article on “understanding business credit” and view a template for a pricing strategy worksheet.

Score volunteer mentors all have practical business experience. In addition, Score.org provides a Mentoring Methodology Training program to certify each of their mentors and provide them with valuable tools and methods to help equip others for success.

Share Button

Presidents on Your Money (Infographic)

How much do you know about the cash you carry and the figures on them? Here’s an infographic to help you know more:

This comes from NerdWallet.com, a website that helps people find low rates on credit cards, savings and checking accounts, scholarships, and other things.

Share Button

Intro To Investing – Dividends

Intro To Investing – Dividends

Most people dream of being able to make a stable income just from investing the money they have now. One of the easiest ways to do this is through dividends – one form of return you can receive on your investment dollars.

Dividends are the payments companies make to their owners, who in this case are their stockholders. Here’s a helpful analogy to make it clear.

If you and a friend built a chair using lumber you purchased for $10 and you sold that chair for $50, you’d each take home $20. The “company” in this case is you and your friend, who are working together. Whoever paid for materials would be reimbursed out of the sale of the proceeds. The rest of the money would be the company’s earnings and the company would pay you both, as owners.

Things aren’t so straightforward with stocks and dividends, though. You’re an investor in the company, so you’re essentially loaning the company money (or are buying someone else’s loan). The company might use that money to pay employees, buy raw materials, improve their machinery or expand their business. In exchange for that loan, the company agrees to pay you a set amount, called a dividend. Dividends can pay out monthly, quarterly, semiannually or annually.

There are a few other keywords to know when looking at dividends. First, recognize the difference between dividend yield (a percentage) and payable dividend (an amount of money). Payable dividend is the amount of money the company pays per share. If a company pays 32 cents per share, and you own 100 shares, your dividend will be $32. The yield is the payable dividend divided by the stock price. This lets you know what percentage return you’ll get on your investment.

Be careful when shopping for stocks that offer a high dividend yield. Often, companies looking to attract investment will take steps to lower the price of their stock by increasing the percentage yield without changing the payable amount. A company that pulls these kinds of tricks is often not in the best financial position, and your dividend money could dry up in a hurry.

The second set of terms is pay date, ex-date and announcement date. The pay date is the date on which the company will pay out the dividends. They’ll deposit money in your brokerage account or mail you a check on that date. The “ex-date” is short for excluded dividend date. If you were a shareholder on the ex-date, you are entitled to dividend payments. If you sold before that or bought after that, you don’t get dividend payments. The announcement date is the date at which the board of directors announces they’ll be paying a dividend. Such an announcement will include a pay date, an ex-date and a payable dividend amount.

Dividend investment strategies differ from growth strategies in two key ways. First, growth investors try to get in on the ground floor of an emerging stock, while dividend investors are usually buying shares of established companies that have strong track records. Second, growth investors have to sell their shares to receive their investment gains. Dividend investors want to hold their shares as long as possible to keep getting those dividend payments. While growth investment offers more risk, it also has the potential of offering a higher reward. Growth stocks generally increase in value faster than dividends increase.

Fortunately, the UCCU Financial Group is ready and willing to help you navigate through the complexities of investing. Visit uccufinancialgroup.com, or contact Steve Lloyd at lloyds@peakfns.com , 801-223-7502, to learn more about how you can maximize your investment portfolio.

Share Button

3 Reasons to Refinance Your Car Loan

Some bills can’t be changed. For other bills, though, a little legwork can make a big difference in your monthly payment. Your car payment is a great example. Refinancing your vehicle loan can lead to a lower monthly payment, a shorter payment term or both! It depends on various factors, including the value of your vehicle, how much you owe and your credit standing.

Read on for three common life changes that might mean it’s a good time to refinance your vehicle.

1.) Your credit rating improves

The biggest factor determining your auto loan status is your credit score. When your lender builds a loan package, they pull a credit report as a central part of that process. That number determines your interest rate, whether you’ll pay an insurance premium and what other fees your lender might charge.

Keep a copy of the documents your lender pulled. That can let you see if your credit score has improved. Nine months of steady repayment can boost your credit score, resulting in a less costly loan.

If you didn’t have much credit history when you purchased, refinancing can do you a world of good. Interest rates as high as 18% are common for new borrowers. Just a few months of solid payments may cut that rate in half.

2.) You didn’t shop around initially

Many people feel railroaded throughout the car-buying process. They choose a car, and then are told the price, the monthly payment and everything else. It’s almost like the lender for your car loan is predetermined.

Dealers usually have a smaller range of lenders with whom they exclusively work. Those lenders have limited exposure to competition, so they can charge higher fees and rates. Do your own comparison shopping. Dealer rates can be 1 to 1.5% higher than those offered at smaller lenders, like credit unions.

If you’ve never shopped around for a car loan, it’s worth doing now. Do your shopping inside a 15-day period, though; multiple checks on your credit could negatively impact your credit score.

3.) You need to change your monthly payment

Your financial situation may have improved since you bought the car and you can now afford to pay more per month. You’ll save money in the long term by doing just that. Shorter-term loans usually have lower interest rates. Also, you’ll pay off the overall balance on your car faster.

If money is tight, consider refinancing for a longer term. Although you’ll pay more in interest, you’ll reduce your monthly payment and save the money you need now. You may also be able to reduce the monthly payment if your credit score has improved, interest rates have dropped or if you’re getting a better rate from another lender.

Your Turn: How do you save money on your car payment? Let us know your best tips and tricks in the comments, and don’t forget to stop by Utah Community Credit Union to find out how refinancing can improve your financial life!

SOURCES:

http://www.bankrate.com/loans/auto-loans/10-steps-to-your-best-deal-on-a-car-loan/

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/long-improve-credit/story?id=33695732

https://www.learnvest.com/knowledge-center/ask-credit-karma-how-does-my-auto-loan-refinance-affect-my-credit/

https://www.creditkarma.com/article/refinancing-credit-effects

http://www.bankrate.com/auto/5-situations-when-it-makes-the-most-sense-to-refinance-your-car/

Share Button