Economic Growth Remained Solid in the Third Quarter of 2017

Economic growth remained solid in the third quarter of 2017, spurred on by robust business spending that was well above the weak levels experienced at the beginning of the year. The final read on third quarter Gross Domestic Product rose 3.2%, just above the 3.1% from second quarter. However, within the report it showed that consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of economic activity, rose 2.2%, down from 3.3% in the second quarter. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period. It is considered the broadest measure of economic activity.

Home price gains continue to make the headlines as low mortgage rates, a strong U.S. economy and low inventories of homes for sale continue to drive prices higher. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reports that its October Home Price Index (HPI) rose 0.5% from September. On an annual basis, prices jumped 6.6%. The FHFA monthly HPI is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages sold to, or guaranteed by, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

With the Christmas holiday on Monday, many Americans will travel to their destinations between now and January 1. Motor club AAA says that more than 107.3 million Americans are predicted to travel between December 23 and January 1, which would be a new record and the ninth consecutive year of increased year-end travel. In addition, AAA says about 97.4 million people are expected to travel by car, 6.4 million people will take plane rides and 3.6 million others will travel by train, bus, rails and cruise ships. Just remember, if you travel via automobile, be sure to have an emergency kit that consists of a flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, first aid kits, water, nonperishable food items, matches, blankets and warning devices. Your car should also have an ice scraper and a small shovel in case you get stuck in snow.

Housing Market Continues To Improve

Monday – December 18

The housing market continues to improve as home builders report strong optimism as the year comes to a close. The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index jumped to its highest level in 18 years, up 5 points to 74 and above the 70 expected. Builder confidence has improved in 2017 on hopes of an improved regulatory environment for firms in the residential construction sector. The NAHB said that home buyer traffic and current sales conditions both increased in December. The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months.

Retail Sales surge. Fed hikes rates

Thursday – December 14

The Commerce Department reported on Wednesday that retailers saw consumer spending jump in November to kick off the holiday shopping season. November Retail Sales rose 0.8%, well above the 0.3% expected, while October was revised higher to 0.5% from 0.2%. Since November 2016, Retail Sales grew by 5.8%. A strong labor market coupled with an improving economy were the catalysts behind the gains.

The Federal Reserve raised the benchmark short term Fed Funds Rate by 0.25% yesterday bringing that rate to 1.50%. The hike in rates now leaves the Prime Rate at 4.5%, which is calculated by taking the Fed Funds Rate and adding three points. On the inflation front, the Fed said that “both overall inflation and inflation for items other than food and energy have declined this year and are running below 2%.

Fed Meeting Kicks off Tuesday.

The two-day Fed meeting kicks off on Tuesday and ends Wednesday with the 2:00 p.m.ET release of the Fed statement. Fed Chair Yellen will hold a press conference immediately following the release at 2:30 p.m. ET in what will be her last as Fed Chair. The Fed Funds Rate is expected to rise by 0.25% to 1.50%. The statement could reveal more rhetoric on the Fed’s balance sheet and will reveal the current state of the economy. The Fed statement always carries a big headline risk.

Rising home prices across the U.S. lifted many underwater mortgages into positive equity between the second and third quarters of 2017. Analytics firm CoreLogic reports that 260,000 mortgaged properties regained equity between the second and third quarters of 2017. CoreLogic Chief Economist Frank Nothaft said, “Homeowner equity increased by almost $871 billion over the last 12 months, the largest increase in more than three years. This increase is primarily a reflection of rising home prices, which drives up home values, leading to an increase in home equity positions and supporting consumer spending.” Negative equity means your home’s current fair market value is less than your outstanding loan balance (i.e you owe more on your home than it’s worth).

November Job Growth Solid

Job growth remained solid in November after the brief hiccup in September due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 228,000 workers were hired last month, above the 190,000 expected. Within the report it showed that the Unemployment Rate remained at 4.1 %, which is considered full employment. However, average hourly earnings disappointed, growing by 0.2% from October to November, below the 0.3% expected. Year-over-year, earnings rose 2.5%, again below the 2.7% expected. In 2017, average monthly job growth eased to 174,000 new jobs per month from 187,000 in 2016.

Mortgage credit availability loosened a bit in November driven in part by a net increase in investor offerings. The Mortgage Bankers Association reports that mortgage credit availability index increased to 182.4 last month, an uptick of 0.8%. An increase in the index indicates that credit availability is loosening, while a decrease signals that lending standards are tightening. The index was bench marked to 100 in March 2012.

The House and Senate approved a measure Thursday to avert a partial government shutdown ahead of the midnight deadline tonight. The bill, also known as a continuing resolution, would keep federal agencies functioning for an additional two weeks through Dec. 22.

6 Tips for a Quick and Easy Mortgage

Westport Mortgage has been in business since 1996 which means we have lots of experience in closing loans. We’ve learned from our experiences and would love to share what makes for a smooth loan process. Please read the following tips so YOUR loan could also close smoothly.

CONTACT US BEFORE YOU FIND A HOUSE

If you are in the market to buy a house, PLEASE reach out to us first! Let us review your finances so you can become pre-qualified. This way, your realtor will show you only homes you are qualified to purchase. Your realtor may not even agree to show you homes UNTIL they have a pre-qualification letter from a mortgage broker. Also, when you want to put in an offer, time is of the essence and offers are typically presented with a pre-qual letter! In a hot market, buyers can find themselves in a multiple bid situation. Including a prequalification letter from a trusted mortgage company can sway the seller in your favor.

[Read more…]

“Moving” In The Right Direction

With last week’s announcement by Wells to cut 700 mortgage jobs and Chase’s announcement to slash 22 mortgage products and 8,000 jobs, we just want to remind you that we are doing just the opposite. We have recently added two seasoned Loan Officers, Jim Hanrahan and Paula Greenberg, and an additional full time Loan Processor, Lisa Abassi, to serve you.

In addition, we have significantly increased the number of lenders and types of loan products (CHFA, VA, USDA, FHA, Jumbo and Conventional) to better serve you.

Fairfield County Events for this Weekend!

Here are some of the events that are happening in Fairfield County this weekend:

MUSIC

  • Citizen Cope at The Klein on Saturday 1/18. Citizen Cope presents a unique acoustic tour. Come and see this self realized writer & performer the way that he is, has been, and will be; a man and a guitar.
  • Martin Sexton at the Ridgefield Playhouse on Saturday 1/18. Spirited and soulful, Sexton’s songwriting covers the American landscape from gospel, R&B, country and blues. His songs are featured in film and television including NBC’s Scrubs and Showtime’s hit series Brotherhood.

VISUAL ARTS

  • Fairfield’s Rockin’ Top Ten at the Fairfield Museum & History Center. For more than 75 years, some of America’s most renowned musicians have called this area home. This exhibition celebrates 10 musicians who have helped create our region’s musical legacy.

FAMILY & KIDS

  • Hip Hop Dinosaurs is at the Bruce Museum on Monday, 1/20. Celebrate this important day at the Bruce where Connecticut’s Arts for Learning presents Hip Hop Dimensions, a diverse collection of dancers who give electrifying performances and educate audiences on the history, culture, and dance styles of Hip-Hop.
  • Dino-Light is at the Westport Country Playhouse on Sunday, 1/19.Westport Country Playhouse presents “Dino-Light,” in which glowing electroluminescent creatures will light up the darkness in a heart-rending original tale.

67% Believe Now is a “Good Time To Buy!”

This is an excerpt from a recent post from Dan Green:

Each month, Fannie Mae conducts a National Housing Survey. The agency speaks with 1,000 households nationwide about the state of the U.S. housing market. Survey results from December show consumers overwhelmingly bullish on the future of housing with 67% of those surveyed said now is “a good time to buy a home”. It’s easy to understand why respondents are optimistic. As compared to one year ago, home values in many U.S. cities are up ten percentage points or more versus last year, with some areas seeing growth of 20% or more.

The housing market’s recovery has been national news. Hard-hit cities during last decade’s downturn have led this decade’s rebound. Phoenix, Arizona and San Francisco, California are two notable markets in which single-family home values have climbed twenty-plus percent. Condos are faring even better.

A sampling of recent statistics demonstrates how much U.S. housing has improved.

  • Existing home supply is at just 5.1 months nationwide
  • New Home Sales are up 17% annually
  • Homebuilder confidence is at a 7-year high

Things to do in Fairfield County this Weekend!

Here are some of the events that are happening in Fairfield County this weekend:

MUSIC

  • Phil Vassar Friday at the Ridgefield Playhouse. Known as one of Nashville’s top tunesmiths, Phil has hit the Top 5 seven times and his songs other artists have taken to #1 include “My Next Thirty Years” by Tim McGraw, “She’s Right On The Money” by Alan Jackson, and Jo Dee Messina’s “Bye, Bye” and “I’m Alright.”
  • An Evening of Music at the Pequot Library on Saturday. Local pianist, Alex Beyer, vocalist, Katherine Waugh, and pianist Reverend Alan Murchie perform in this not-to-be-missed unique concert.
  • Keller Williams – Fairfield Theater Company on Saturday night. Keller Williams, the ultimate one man band, has made his mark playing from coast to coast with his Boss Loop Station. Creating kaleidoscopic tunes one layer at a time, Keller is a one man jam band and a legend in the making.

Comedy

  • Whose Barn is it Anyway? Improv comedy – Start the year with laughs! The Role in the Hay Players are back for their popular comedy night. In the unpredictable world of improv comedy, anything can happen…and usually does.
  • Brian Regan – Stamford Center for the Art on Sunday. Critics and peers agree, Brian Regan has distinguished himself as one of the premier comedians in the country. The perfect balance of sophisticated writing and physicality, Brian fills theaters nationwide with fervent fans that span generations.

VISUAL ARTS

  • Julie & Julia – A WestportREADS Movie on Saturday. This is the true story of how Julia Child’s life inspired fledgling cookbook writer Julie Powell to whip up 524 recipes in 365 days and introduce a new generation to the magic of French cooking.
  • 34th Annual Photography Show – 1/11-2/9 Carriage Barn Arts Center – Who knew that photography could be so interactive? One area of focus of the Carriage Barn’s 34th Annual Photography Show is innovative presentation and process.

FAMILY & KIDS

  • Amahl & Peter: A Family Affair. The Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestras (GBYO), and the Fairfield County Children’s Choir present Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors and the Greater Bridgeport Symphony (GBS) presents Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf with narration, and together.
  • The Little Mermaid – Downtown Cabaret Theater – 1/11 through 2/16 – With the help of Cindy Lobsta and friends Fish and Chips, the littlest of the mermaids believes all her dreams will come true – but what’s the catch?