Anthony Noland
Linked In
Anthony Noland

Noland's Notes

Noland Knows

Understanding Energy Efficient Mortgages

August 3, 2012 4:20 pm

Green features are all the rage today among homebuyers who are looking to lessen their carbon footprint and adhere to a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Thanks to the Federal Housing Association’s Energy Efficient Mortgage program, homebuyers can add energy efficient features to a house they buy as part of their FHA insured home purchase.

That means that renovating or upgrading your new home to make it more energy efficient won’t be financially out of reach.

Congress first mandated a pilot demonstration of EEMs in five states more than 20 years ago and although it wasn’t a popular program, it did prove to be successful and by 1995, it became a national program. Still, even in a more environmentally friendly 2012, many people are unfamiliar with what these mortgages do.

FHA EEMs provide mortgage insurance for a person to purchase or refinance a principal residence and incorporate the cost of energy efficient improvements into the mortgage. The borrower does not have to qualify for the additional money and does not make a down payment on it.

This “green mortgage” results in a more environmentally friendly living space that uses fewer resources for heating and cooling and has dramatically lower utility costs. The program covers energy efficient upgrades such as the addition of double paned windows, tankless water heaters, modern HVAC systems, the addition of Energy Star appliances and new insulation.

According to data released by the U.S. Department of Energy, 60 percent of all homes in the U.S. are not properly insulated. Updating a home’s insulation can save a homeowner up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs or up to 10 percent of your total yearly energy bill.

In addition, energy loss from outdated windows accounts for nearly 25 percent of the annual heating and cooling costs for the average American home. Therefore, replacing windows can go a long way toward saving money. In houses with central air and heating, about 20 percent of the air is lost due to faulty, outdated duct work.

Although EEMs are created separately from your primary mortgage, they won’t be considered a second mortgage as they will ultimately be rolled into your primary mortgage.

The FHA requires that you make at least a 3.5 percent cash investment on the property, based on the sale price, and all work must begin within 90 days of closing. The total amount of your mortgage is based on the value of your home plus the projected cost of energy-efficient improvements.

There’s also the Veteran’s Administration EEM, which is available to qualified military personnel, reservists and veterans for energy improvements when purchasing an existing home. The VA EEM caps energy improvements at $3,000 to $6,000.

An EEM mortgage enables a homeowner to make older homes more comfortable and affordable with lower utility payments, plus it lessens the amount of energy needed to maintain the temperature in the home and therefore lessens one’s carbon footprint.

To learn more about energy efficient mortgages, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Energy Efficient Mortgages, FSBOs

August 3, 2012 4:20 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines how energy efficient mortgages can help buyers lessen their carbon footprint while adhering to a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Other topics covered this month include tips for taking the stress out of the home-selling process and how to attract prospective buyers even while you’re out of town. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Improving the Mental Health of City Dwellers

August 3, 2012 2:42 am

With more than half of the world's population living in cities, researchers are paying more attention to how social conditions, such as poverty, violence and isolation, in many urban areas can harm the mental health and well-being of underserved individuals and communities — and are working to identify what can be done about it.

This September, leading global experts on the social determinants of mental health will join the Adler School of Professional Psychology to discuss the many ways in which city living can affect the well-being of urban residents, particularly the most vulnerable. The conference is hosted by the Adler School of Professional Psychology's Institute on Social Exclusion (ISE), led by Lynn Todman, Ph.D., ISE executive director and a prominent U.S. expert on the link between public policies and the mental health of urban communities.

"The Social Determinants of Urban Mental Health: Paving the Way Forward" conference takes place Sept. 19 and 20 at the Chicago Marriott Downtown.

Leading speakers will share recent and emerging research on the social determinants of mental health, and how the findings inform and shape government agencies' and philanthropic organizations' programming and funding priorities.

This conference is jointly sponsored by University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Medicine, the UIC Jane Addams College of Social Work, and the Adler School of Professional Psychology.

Source: The Adler School of Professional Psychology

Published with permission from RISMedia.


U.S. Employee Confidence Index Heats Up

August 3, 2012 2:42 am

While U.S. second quarter growth and hiring outlooks remain sluggish, employees are surprisingly more upbeat about their personal employment situation. Randstad's Employee Confidence Index increased by 1.1 points to 52.2 in July after declining for three consecutive months. Compared to this time last year, the Index is measuring 4.4 points higher and still remains above the positive confidence threshold of 50.0.

The online survey was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Randstad. It surveyed 1,248 employed U.S. adults, aged 18 and over between July 11-13, 2012.

"Similarly to the U.S. Consumer Confidence Index rising for the first time in months, our index also ticked up a bit," explains Joanie Ruge, SVP & chief employment analyst for Randstad U.S. "Our own report suggests that workers believe in their abilities to not only find a new job if they had to, but nearly 40 percent are likely to do so. While many employers remain cautious about making full-time hires, temporary or contract hiring, is continuing to be of interest. In fact, many employers who remain reluctant to add permanent staff are re-evaluating their workforce to determine the right mix of talent moving forward. Even though economists still expect U.S. growth to occur, many are pointing towards sustainability at this point. All eyes are certainly on tomorrow's jobs report."

With fewer than a quarter of employees indicating their optimism for an improving economy, others are split on whether the economy is staying the same (38 percent) or getting worse (39 percent). Women indicate more confidence in the future of their current employer at 63 percent versus men (55 percent). Seventy-four percent of both men and women say it is not likely they will lose their jobs, and men (42 percent) are more likely than women (34 percent) to look for a new job in the next 12 months.

In July, employees' confidence in the security of their current job continued to remain strong with an increase of three percentage points to 74 percent. Despite the gloomy attitude around the economy, 59 percent of employees are confident in the future of their employers.

Source: Randstad

Published with permission from RISMedia.


81 Percent of Refinancing Homeowners Maintain or Reduce Mortgage Debt in Second Quarter

August 3, 2012 2:42 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its second quarter refinance analysis showing homeowners who refinance continue to strengthen their fiscal house.

In the second quarter of 2012, 81 percent of homeowners who refinanced their first-lien home mortgage either maintained about the same loan amount or lowered their principal balance by paying-in additional money at the closing table. Of these borrowers, 59 percent maintained about the same loan amount, and 23 percent of refinancing homeowners reduced their principal balance; the share of borrowers that kept about the same loan amount was the highest in the 27-year history of the analysis.

According to Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, "The typical borrower who refinanced reduced their interest rate by about 1.5 percentage points. On a $200,000 loan, that translates into saving about $2,900 in interest during the next 12 months. Fixed-rate mortgage rates hit new lows during June, with 30-year product averaging 3.68 percent and 15-year averaging 2.95 percent that month, according to our Primary Mortgage Market Survey.”

The net dollars of home equity converted to cash as part of a refinance, adjusted for consumer-price inflation, was at the lowest level in 17 years (since the second quarter of 1995). In the second quarter, an estimated $5 billion in net home equity was cashed out during the refinance of conventional prime-credit home mortgages, substantially less than during the peak cash-out refinance volume of $84 billion during the second quarter of 2006.

The median interest rate reduction for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was about 1.5 percentage points, or a savings of about 28 percent in interest rate, the largest percent reduction recorded in the 27 years of analysis.

Among the refinanced loans in Freddie Mac's analysis, the median depreciation of the collateral property was 16 percent over the median prior-loan life of 5.1 years. The prior-loan age was the oldest in 13 years, surpassed only by the prior-loan age recorded in the third quarter of 1999.

Property-value change and loan age varied between Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and other refinance loans. For loans refinanced during the second quarter through HARP, the median depreciation in property value was 34 percent and the prior loan had a median age of about 5.5 years (to be eligible for HARP, the prior loan had to be originated before June 1, 2009). Excluding HARP loans, other loans refinanced during the second quarter had a median property-value decline of 2 percent over a median prior-loan age of about 4 years.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips for a Great New School Year

August 2, 2012 2:40 am

Experts agree that it takes 21 days to form new habits, so if you want to start the school year off successfully, it's time to start preparing now. Here are five important tips for getting the new school year off to a great start:

1. Get on a “school schedule” at least three weeks before school starts: early bedtime, early wake-up, limited TV/video games/computer, healthy lunches and (yes) even a little homework.

2. Why is a good sleep schedule so important to your child’s success? Extensive research on sleep is well documented in the best-seller “Nurture Shock” by Po Bronson. Researchers found that even one less hour of sleep in children drastically affects their IQ, emotional well-being, ADHD and obesity.

3. Brush up on math, grammar, geography and foreign language before the school year starts. Why? In the mega best-selling book on success, “The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, academic success was measured between rich kids and poor kids and also between American kids and Asian kids. Gladwell says, “America doesn’t have a school problem. We have a summer vacation problem.” His extensive research finds that by the end of a school year in June, the poor kids are slightly ahead of the rich academically and the American kids are equal to the Asian kids. But when these same kids are re-tested in September after returning from summer vacation, the poor kids are far behind the rich kids and the Americans are overall far behind the Asian kids. Why? American kids have 180 school days versus the Japanese kids having 243, so the American kids fall into a greater “achievement gap.” So invest in workbooks and other curriculum to help keep your children’s brain cells moving over the summer. Early childhood specialist, Naomi Schafer says, “It doesn’t matter what you do—just do something. Talk about fractions as you make dinner—say, ‘do you think these apple pieces are a quarter or an eighth? How can you know?’ Vary it based on your child’s ability.”

4. Mentally prepare your child for new social or emotional challenges she might face in a new school year. A new year might bring a new bully to the classroom. It is much easier to overcome these challenges when you talk to your child before she is challenged with them – not after.

5. Work with you teacher. How easy is it to manage 25-30 unruly children in today’s classrooms? Not easy at all. Teachers have extremely stressful jobs. Any teacher will tell you that the No. 1 component of a successful year versus a stressful year is the amount of participation she receives from the parents. Be involved. Volunteer in the classroom. Always attend teacher meetings…and listen to her needs and requests. Talking consistently with your child’s teacher will help you to handle and deal with issues in advance that, if left unchecked, could become stumbling blocks.

Source: Southwestern Parents

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Job Openings Increase in Top 50 Major Metro Areas, According to New Report

August 2, 2012 2:40 am

A new report points to a 4.5 percent increase in nationwide job openings month-over-month and a 9.9 percent increase year-over-year. According to the August 2012 Employment Report from Simply Hired, nationwide job competition remained at a ratio of three unemployed persons for every one job opening. The August 2012 Employment Outlook highlights the job industry and employer trends in national and regional U.S. markets.

"With nationwide job openings increasing for the third month in a row, we see an improved outlook for those who are unemployed," said Gautam Godhwani, co-founder and CEO of Simply Hired. "While there is uncertainty with the nation's slow growing economy and whether the Federal Reserve may stimulate it in the coming months, it's clear that companies across the U.S. are looking to hire in the meantime."

For the second month in a row, job openings increased in all 50 of the major metros. Grand Rapids (9 percent) and Cleveland & Akron and Salt Lake City (both 8 percent, respectively) experienced the largest increases. Metro area job competition also improved slightly for job seekers in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and Houston.

Job openings increased in 14 of 18 industries in July, with hospitality (11 percent) and non-profit (9 percent) showing the largest amount of growth. Industries that decreased in job openings include retail (-6 percent), construction, media and manufacturing (all -2 percent, respectively).

Occupations experiencing the largest growth in job openings were law enforcement, fire and safety (15.8 percent) and engineers (excluding computer) (14.1 percent). The only occupation experiencing a decline month-over-month was educators (-2 percent). In addition, the nation's top hiring companies continue to be healthcare-related, followed by technology and financial companies.

Source: Simply Hired

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Pending Home Sales Slip in June, Remain Above a Year Ago

August 2, 2012 2:40 am

Pending home sales declined in June but marked 14 consecutive months of year-over-year gains, according to the National Association of REALTORS.®

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, slipped 1.4 percent to 99.3 in June from a downwardly revised 100.7 in May but is 9.5 percent higher than June 2011 when it was 90.7. The data reflect contracts but not closings.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says inventory shortages are a factor. “Buyer interest remains strong but fewer home listings mean fewer contract signing opportunities,” Yun explains. “We’ve been seeing a steady decline in the level of housing inventory, which is most pronounced in the lower price ranges popular with first-time buyers and investors.”

According to the REALTORS® Confidence Index, the buyer traffic index stood at 60 in June while the seller index was 41, which shows a large imbalance between buyer and seller interest. A value of 50 implies neutral market conditions; the disparity between buyers and sellers began to grow in early spring and has been in a particularly large imbalance for the past two months.

“Any bank-owned properties that have been held back in markets with inventory shortages should be released expeditiously to help meet market demand,” Yun says. “Housing starts will likely need to double over the next two years to satisfy the pent-up demand for both rentals and ownership.”

The PHSI in the Northeast fell 7.6 percent to 76.6 in June but is 12.2 percent higher than a year ago. In the Midwest the index slipped 0.4 percent to 94.4 in June but is 17.3 percent above June 2011. Pending home sales in the South declined 2.0 percent to an index of 106.2 in June but are 8.8 percent above a year earlier. In the West the index rose 2.6 percent in June to 111.5 and is 3.0 percent higher than June 2011.

Yun said there have also been delays in the closing process. “With record low mortgage interest rates, there has been a surge of refinancing on top of a higher level of home purchases, which has been creating delays recently in the closing process,” he explains.

“In addition, there have been some delays with recent foreclosure sales as banks take steps to ensure there are no paperwork problems. This is causing an uneven performance in sales closings, which is likely to continue, but we also see notably higher levels of sales activity compared with a relatively flat performance in the preceding four years,” Yun says.

Source: The National Association of REALTORS®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Consumer Confidence Index Increases After Four Consecutive Declines

August 1, 2012 2:40 am

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, which had declined in June, improved slightly in July. The Index now stands at 65.9 (1985=100), up from 62.7 in June. The Expectations Index improved to 79.1 from 73.4. The Present Situation Index, however, decreased slightly to 46.2 from 46.6 a month ago.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey®, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was July 19.

Consumers' appraisal of current conditions eased in July. Those claiming business conditions are "good" declined to 13.8 percent from 14.2 percent, while those saying business conditions are "bad" decreased to 34.2 percent from 35.9 percent. Consumers' assessment of the labor market was also mixed. Those stating jobs are "hard to get" declined to 40.8 percent from 41.2 percent, while those claiming jobs are "plentiful" decreased to 7.8 percent from 8.3 percent.

On the other hand, consumers were generally more optimistic about the short-term outlook in July. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months rose to 18.9 percent from 16.0 percent, while those anticipating business conditions will worsen decreased to 14.6 percent from 15.8 percent. Consumers' outlook for the labor market was also more upbeat in July. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead increased to 17.6 percent from 14.8 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs edged down to 20.3 percent from 20.8 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes, however, declined to 14.2 percent from 15.3 percent.

Source: The Conference Board

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Why Homebuyers and Sellers Should Work with a Real Estate Agent

August 1, 2012 2:40 am

While it can be tempting to go it alone when buying or selling a home, the vast majority of real estate consumers ultimately recognize the many benefits of working with a professional real estate agent. According to Lexington, Mass.-based REALTOR® KristinBrown Orr,while it may initially seem appealing to save some money, pursuing a real estate transaction without the assistance of an experienced real estate professional could actually end up costing you money…and causing lots of unnecessary stress.

Orr offers the following important reasons for working with a credible real estate agent and what they’ll bring to the table:

• Professionalism. Agents work for brokerages and are licensed professionals, Orr explains, which means they have a broker to answer to and are bound by law to act in the best interest of their clients. “Licensed agents have access to the tools of the trade – such as The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Database –that is available only to professionals as well as the latest marketing techniques,” she explains. “They also have the benefit of a wide network of other real estate agents, mortgage brokers and attorneys from which to draw information.”

• Negotiation. Negotiating can be delicate or tedious between buyers and sellers, but real estate agents have specific experience in this arena, says Orr. “An agent can play the role of the ‘bad guy’ when it comes to negotiating, avoiding hard feelings between the buyer and seller. Real estate agents are skilled in conveying clients' concerns in a professional manner to ensure happiness for both parties – and ultimately that sale.”

• Knowledge. Real estate agents are highly knowledgeable when it comes to important information such as where the best neighborhoods are, what school is being closed or re-built, new developments or subdivisions popping up, and other critical local information. As Orr says, experienced agents know what comparable homes looked like, what they sold for and why. “A good agent knowsthe dirty little secrets and coveted features of different neighborhoods and communities. That agent may just have that ‘gem’ tucked up his or her sleeve that a buyer is looking for.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.