Mortgage Changes to Know in 2014

loan2The New Year is here, and with it comes a bevy of legal and regulatory changes, especially for the mortgage industry. To help potential homebuyers understand how the changes will affect their mortgage processes, Don Frommeyer, CRMS, President of NAMB (The Association of Mortgage Professionals), outlines some of the regulations set to start in 2014.

“Since 2009, the housing market has been working to create standards and regulations that minimize the risk of another mortgage industry fiasco,” says Frommeyer. “The ability-to-repay mandate is a perfect example of this and it exemplifies how mortgage professionals are taking extra caution with every customer.”

Upcoming mortgage industry changes include:

Ability-to-Repay Mandate: The CFPB designed this regulation to set a gold-standard for lending to ensure each and every borrower is a qualified borrower. Lenders will follow a set of guidelines to establish a consumer’s income, assets and obligations before deeming them eligible. The CFPB rules establish a standard for what the government considers a “qualified mortgage.”

Decrease in FHA Loan Limit: The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced that beginning January 1, 2014, mortgages will be limited to $625,000, down from $729,750. Homebuyers looking to obtain a larger loan will have to apply for a jumbo loan, which will most likely come with a higher down payment. “For many areas of the country this change won’t be a huge issue as average home prices fall below the established limit. However, borrowers in metropolitan areas with higher average housing prices may face challenges when applying for mortgages as the 20 percent down payment associated with jumbo loans will be an enormous increase from a traditional loan’s 3.5 percent down payment,” notes Frommeyer.

Caps on Loan Origination Fees: January 10, 2014 brings a rule for the Qualified Mortgage that points and fees on mortgages cannot exceed 3%.

Tighter Regulations for Self-Employed: As the rules to create a QM (qualified-mortgage) take effect, people without a W-2 will face difficulty when they apply for loans. It’s more of a task for individuals to prove their debt-to-income ratio without the proper documentation, even if they have a high net-worth and perfect credit. The income is calculated bringing into play the customer write offs to reduce taxable income.

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Safety Tips for Your Home’s Largest Moving Object – The Garage Door

garage1The garage door’s role in the home has changed dramatically over the last 30 years and most people don’t realize it. Consider this: garage door openers have been installed in 35 million homes across the United States, making them one of the most widely used appliances. In fact, more than 70 percent of today’s homeowners use their attached garage as their main entrance to their home.

While the garage door is one of the most convenient aspects of your home, it is also the largest, heaviest moving object in your home. This means homeowners need to ensure it is working safely. Industry professionals estimate that one out of 15 garage door openers lack the latest safety features.

To combat this trend and increase knowledge about garage door safety, the professionals at LiftMaster have announced the “Don’t Chance It. Check It. Garage Safety initiative.”

Here are some safety tips you can follow to make sure your garage door is safe.

* Safety checks. In 1993, Congress passed legislation that required all new garage door openers sold in the U.S. to come with a set of photo-eyes. These sensors, located near the floor along the sides of the garage door opening, alert the system if anything crosses their path and stops the door from descending further. It’s easy to determine if your system is operating properly with a quick 3-Step Safety Check.

  • First, make sure the photo-eyes have been installed no higher than 6 inches above the garage floor.
  • Second, block one of the eyes with an object over 6 inches tall and try to close the door. The garage door should not close.
  • Third, lay an object at least 1.5 inches in height across the door’s path and press the button to close the door. The door should reverse upon sensing the object.

garage3With every seasonal change, your garage remains a hub of activity – from parking your car to extra storage for the holiday decorations or sporting equipment. No matter the season, it is always the right time to instill good garage safety habits.

* Keep your garage door in tip-top shape. Garage doors, much like cars and other machines, require maintenance in order to run their best. You can keep your garage door running safely and smoothly by making sure all the moving parts are clean and lubricated, especially hinges and rollers.

* Find the right balance. Ensuring your garage door is properly balanced will lead to safer use. To check the balance, close the door and pull the opener release mechanism, allowing you to maneuver the door by hand. A properly balanced door should lift with minimal effort and stay open 3 to 4 feet above the floor.

* Have a backup plan. Much like the rest of your home, your garage door can also be the victim of bad weather. Severe storms can cut power to your garage, making your garage door useless. A battery backup system available on LiftMaster garage door openers guarantees you another 40 successful up-down cycles.

6 Ways to Create an Attractive Home Office

office1A home office is on its way to becoming an essential item on a house buyer’s wish list. After all, many people work at least part of the time at home — and even if they don’t, they still want somewhere to store the computer and their household papers. Here are some tips to help you create an attractive home office that you’ll actually want to spend time in.

An attractive place to work

A home office doesn’t have to be just functional — it can be attractive, too. So take as much care with the décor as you would in the other rooms in your house, making sure office furniture and accessories coordinate with wall and floor coverings.

Good lighting

If you don’t have a lot of natural light (or you’ll be working mainly in the evenings), make sure you have good lighting, particularly task lights for illuminating your desk. Include other types of lighting too, so you’ll make the room feel comfortable.

office2Choose good furniture

It’s essential that your desk and chair are comfortable to work at, so take time choosing them. Make sure the seat and backrest of your chair are adjustable and that the height of your desk is comfortable.

Power and the Internet

Make sure there are plenty of power outlets in the room and easy Internet access. Avoid a “rat’s nest” of cables by bundling them together and tucking them out of sight.

Include good storage

Think carefully about the kind of storage you’ll need and make sure there’s enough of it. Consider stackable boxes to store paperwork efficiently, and an attractive filing cabinet. Put shelves on the walls and use them to store books; add wire baskets to the shelves for documents.

Bulletin board

Put up a bulletin board for reminders and other essential information you use every day. Then you’ll avoid ugly sticky notes all over your computer.

Bold New Door Colors for 2014

doors1Raucous Orange. Quixotic Plum. Relic Bronze. These are just some of the bold colors that national color expert Kate Smith predicts will be most popular on residential door exteriors in 2014.

“There are two trends I see influencing front door colors for 2014,” says Smith, chief color maven and president of Sensational Color. “First, there’s the trend of people painting their doors with exuberant hues as a way of telling the world they’re tired of spinning their wheels in place. These people are ready to move forward, embrace challenges and show their energy through vibrant colors like Capri blue and Dynamo raspberry.

“The other trend is that some people are seeking colors that are vibrant yet at the same time connect us to a sense of community and culture. These simpler colors, like Classic French Gray and Polished Mahogany, give us comfort, warmth and reliability, which are found in these rich paint colors.”

doors5For homeowners looking to express their “colorful self,” Smith recommends selecting paintable doors. “Smooth-finish doors are ideal for adding personal expression to a home,” says Smith. “They feature clean lines, crisp angles and attractive glass configuration options. By painting the doors in unique colors to match the homeowner’s personality, people can really make a statement with these durable doors.”

Top 10 Door Colors for 2014

The top five door colors Smith has identified as gaining popularity in 2014 that match up with the “exuberant homeowner” trend include:

1 – Capri – A tropical blue that wakes up natural woods and neutral surroundings, this color adds a splash of energy on the door for a home.

doors62 – Raucous Orange – True to its name, this vibrant color demands attention with its energetic orange tone and makes the perfect punctuation point for the front of a home with a modern look.

3 – Dynamo – This flirty violet hue instantly updates a traditional color scheme on a home exterior to a trendier home front.

4 – Relic Bronze – A deep, almost brown mustard color, Relic Bronze reflects aged beauty on a home that shows up in unexpected exterior element combinations.

5 – Quixotic Plum – This sophisticated deep purple breaks out of its noble bonds in 2014 to dance along the edge of where trendy meets timeless as it graces the front entry of homes.

The remaining top five door colors that follow the trend of “community and culture” identified by Smith include:

6 – Georgian Bay – Brighter and more moving than dark navy, this step-above reserved blue is a trusted color when it comes to the welcoming message it sends on a door to family and friends.

doors77 – Show Stopper – Like classic red at dusk, Show Stopper adds a touch of mystery to this bright hue. A slight spin on traditional red, this color warmly welcomes people to a home.

8 – Polished Mahogany – The deep, rich shade of this brown color has a staying power that traverses trends and captures a solid feeling for homeowners.

9 – Classic French Grey – Stepping out of the shadows to stand on its own, this cool, neutral grey will continue to rule the palette in 2014.

10 – Gulfstream – This bright, modern blue has an of-the-moment appeal. At the same time, it still feels rooted in something familiar and nostalgic for homeowners.

Kate Smith is a career color trend forecaster who recently authored the free e-book, “FRESH Color Schemes for Your Home Exterior”