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 By Aly J. Yale, Senior Contributor |Jan. 15, 2020

Mortgage Rates Drop — And Could Go Lower Thanks To Global Uncertainty

The mortgage market had a good week. On the backs of yet another rate drop, refinancing activity surged once again. And purchase loans? They hit their highest point in more than a decade.

According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, mortgage rates dropped to an average 3.87% this week—their lowest point since September.

Thanks to the dip, refinance applications jumped 43% in just the last week and a whopping 109% over this time last year. All in all, refinancing accounted for almost 63% of total mortgage activity.

Purchase loan activity also increased, rising 16% over the week and 8% over the year. The market notched the highest levels of purchase loan applications since October 2009.

As Joel Kan, associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting at MBA, puts it, “The mortgage market saw a strong start to 2020.” Will that strength continue? That largely depends on rates. But according to Mark Fleming, chief economist at title insurance firm First American, the current geopolitical and economic uncertainty in U.S. might work in buyer’s favors.

By Aly J. Yale, Senior Contributor | Jan 8, 2020

Here's how much Increasing your Credit Score can save you on a Mortgage

It pays to have good credit. In fact, bumping your score from the “fair” range to the “very good” range could save you a whopping $41,000 on your mortgage (and thousands on student, car and personal loans, too).

A new study from loan marketplace LendingTree shows the stark difference in interest costs across credit score tiers. Borrowers with “fair” scores—those between 580 and 669—pay significantly more than those in the “very good” range of 740 to 799. In fact, “fair” borrowers pay anywhere from $2,995 to upwards of $41,400 more over time.

The discrepancy is biggest on mortgages. The average mortgage borrower with a “very good” credit score pays just $219,660 in interest over time. “Fair” score borrowers pay a shocking $261,076. 

There’s also a big difference in the amount of interest paid on student loans. While borrowers with “fair” scores pay an average of $8,640, those with “very good” scores pay only $3,933. 

In total, the analysis shows that borrowers with a fair score will end up paying over twice as much interest on personal, car and student loans, and 97% more on their credit cards.

For Americans holding the average debt across all five categories (credit cards, personal loans, car loans, student loans and mortgages), they could save more than $56,000, or around $316 per month, just by bumping their credit score from the “fair” to “very good” range.

By Gary Beasley | Jan 2, 2020

Real Estate Offers A Powerful Hedge Against Market Volatility

The practice of diversifying assets in a portfolio to mitigate the effects of market volatility is as old as investing itself. When it comes to hedging against volatile equity markets, real estate can be a smart alternative to add to a portfolio, particularly in light of current market conditions.

The fundamentals of the U.S. economy remain strong: The economy added 128,000 jobs in October and 325,000 Americans decided to re-enter the workforce from unemployment to look for work. As a result, the unemployment rate rose slightly to 3.6% from its 50-year low. That being said, some signals indicate the possibility of a slowdown or recession in the future, including the current trade war with China, weaker economic growth in Europe and Asia and movements in the U.S. bond market.

When it comes to stock market performance, 2019 reversed the losses experienced in the fourth quarter of 2018, which proved to be one of the worst quarters in recent memory for the market and caused the major indices to finish in negative territory for 2018. In fact, the S&P 500 was up about 37% as of this Christmas Eve versus where it was after the 2% drop experienced last Christmas Eve. While the market rallied through much of 2019, signs of slower growth are starting to show up in the data. The Congressional Budget Office projects that 2019 GDP growth will slow to 2.3%, down from 3.1% in 2018, “as the effects of the 2017 tax act on the growth of business investment wane.”

Despite a spectacular 10-year bull run in the equity markets, recent volatility and the persistent inversion of the yield curve — a predictor of past recessions — has many investors and observers concerned. A National Association of Business Economics poll revealed that 60% of economists believe there will be a recession by the end of 2020.

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