Numbers of underwater mortgages plummets

The number of underwater mortgages is plummeting as the housing market continues to recover. This will have huge ramifications for the finances of millions of people and families.

Maggie Medved was stuck with her Phoenix house for two years after the market crash wiped out the equity in the property. Last year, as prices in the area rose by the most in the U.S., she and her partner were finally able to sell the 3-bedroom 1950’s style home and move to a larger place.

“We were counting the days for when we could move,” said Medved, 40, who trains employees for weight loss company Jenny Craig Inc. “We definitely knew it was a waiting game because it would’ve been financial suicide if we had sold earlier.”

Medved was among the 12 million borrowers in the U.S. who at the peak of the real-estate downturn owed more on their mortgages than their houses were worth, blocking them from moving or saving money by taking advantage of the lowest borrowing costs on record to refinance. As prices recovered, the number of underwater borrowers fell by almost 4 million last year to 7 million, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), and could drop to 4 million within 2 years.

The housing market is rebounding faster than anyone thought possible, according to Blackstone Group LP (BX)’s global head of real estate Jonathan Gray, as the Federal Reserve buys mortgage bonds to keep rates near record lows and investors sop up a diminishing supply of properties for sale. Housing construction could boost U.S. gross domestic product by 0.4 percentage point and home price appreciation may add another 0.2 percentage point, Bank of America Corp. (BAC)’s senior economist Michelle Meyer forecasts.

The housing recovery is one of the main reasons why we can now start getting optimistic on the US economy. So many people were stuck in impossible situations, and now that burden is being lifted. The Fed has been a huge driver of this improvement, along with the billions in private investment looking for deals on under-priced homes.


Economic optimism continues to rise

The political campaign is in full swing, and surprisingly the polling data is showing an increase in optimism among Americans with regard to the future prospects of the economy. This trend was emerging even before the recent job report that showed the unemployment rate dipping to 7.8%. Many analysts are crediting Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic convention where he explained that things are improving, even if it’s slower than many of us would hope.

Other factors probably have to do with the stock market, which affects millions of 401K accounts, while the rebound in housing in many markets along with very low interest rates has to be helping as well.

Families have responded over the past several years by reducing debt, and now we’re seeing some increases in consumer spending. Now we just need businesses to follow suit by hiring more people and making more investments. Big companies are still sitting on a ton of cash, but hopefully this improved sentiment will nudge entrepreneurs to make more investments, buy more supplies, use more printing services and bring on more workers. Frugality has been the key in businesses along with personal finance as people look to do more with less. Businesses with shop around for deals on brochures from UPrinting rather than just using the local printer, or use interns or independent contractors instead of bringing on permanent employees. Cars that use less gas are also very popular now with consumers and business owners. Money saved is money earned.

But hopefully the improved sentiment will lead to more risk-taking as well for entrepreneurs and other businesses, as we need this for the economy to grow.


Should you consider a biweekly mortgage?

This video does a pretty good job of explaining exactly how a biweekly mortgage works and the benefits. The benefits really go to making extra payments each year which can cut years off of your mortgage. It also aligns well with your biweekly paychecks, so it’s extremely convenient.

Just be careful in case you bank ties fees to this payment structure.


Refinancing made simple

Getting your finances in order can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. There are simple steps you can take to prevent or cure a financial letdown. One of the options you can take to get back on track, and stay there, is by refinancing your auto loan. Here’s how the process works.

Much like when you refinance a home mortgage, refinancing your auto loan pays off your existing vehicle loan. But it’s much faster and simpler to refinance the loan on your car or truck. During the process, your new lender pays off your old loan and the title to your vehicle is transferred to your new lender.

Refinancing your auto loan can lower your interest rate, decrease your monthly payment by changing your terms, or both. Most often, people refinance when interest rates are low to reduce the amount of interest they’re responsible to pay. You can also lower your monthly payments by extending the duration of your auto loan to break your payments up over a longer time frame.

You could potentially enjoy significant savings by refinancing your vehicle loan. Exactly how much you’ll save depends on the remaining balance of your current loan, the difference between your old and the new interest rates, and the terms of your new loan.

No matter what motivates you to do it, refinancing your vehicle loan is an option that’s well worth your time and effort. A little extra research now could blossom into huge savings over the remaining months or years of your auto loan.


Parents are getting sucked in by college education costs

There are plenty of stories out there covering the issue of spiraling college costs and ridiculous student loan amounts piling up on college kids. College students need to be smarter about taking on so much debt and start taking cost into account when they choose a college.

Parents need to get smarter as well, otherwise college costs will suck up their retirement savings. Here’s a familiar story.

Terry Williams borrowed about $7,000 to earn a degree from Spelman College 38 years ago. For her youngest child, a sophomore at Belmont University in Nashville, she will take on almost $40,000 in parental loans. Williams, a 59-year-old widow who runs a nonprofit that helps black families navigate private-school admissions, is watching her retirement savings dwindle as she pays college bills for her three children. “I’ll probably work until I fall dead at my keyboard,” says the Decatur (Ga.) resident.

Read the article and avoid a similar fate.


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