Teens get ‘Mad’ at money-management boot camp in Antioch

ANTIOCH — A $2,000 laptop purchased on a credit card with a 24 percent interest rate will take 11 years to pay off at the monthly minimum — and will cost a whopping $3,800 by the time all is said and done.

That was one of the stark financial lessons Travis Credit Union and nearly two dozen volunteers brought to the teenage participants at Tuesdays Mad City Money financial literacy boot camp in Antioch.

The 50 teens gathered at Paradise Skate Roller Park were the first in Contra Costa County to go through the credit unions program, which has been wildly successful in Solano County since 2009, according to Travis director of corporate relations, Sherry Cordonnier.

Part classroom lesson and part interactive role play, Mad City Money first teaches the teens the basics of managing their money — writing checks, balancing a budget, prioritizing expenses and managing debt.

Then its on to the shopping session, where the teens visit eight stores armed with imaginary income profiles, checkbooks and debit cards. There, the volunteers act as merchants, giving them the hard sell on leisure activities, food, clothes and big-ticket items like cars.

Cordonnier said the role-play part of the event is the perfect venue for missteps — as opposed to the real world, where a $2 cup of coffee purchased on a debit card can turn into a $35 beverage once overdraft fees kick in.

We welcome mistakes so we can correct them here, Cordonnier said. We know its not taught in schools.

Damian Alarcon, the credit unions financial education officer for Contra Costa County, compared financial literacy to any skill, such as sports or math, that takes time to get right.

You have to practice, start early and do it often, Alarcon said.

Alarcon said this sort of outreach is what credit union members expect of their institution and that providing financial education ultimately strengthens communities.

For example, he said, finances are among the top reasons that students drop out of college, and helping them navigate loans, budgets and tuition can help avoid that outcome.

Many Mad City Money participants even go home and teach their parents financial skills they had never learned, Alarcon added.

Volunteer John Strickland, who works for Bay Alarm, was helping run the fun stuff booth, where activities the teens could choose from ran from going for a hike (free) to baseball tickets ($65 per person) or even a trip to Hawaii ($1,000 per person).

He said its never too early to start kids thinking about what life will be like once theyre on their own, managing their own finances.

Its reality, really, Strickland said. This will help the wheels start turning in their heads.

Among the teens who appeared to take the lesson to heart was 18-year-old Precious Madison, a senior at Antiochs Bidwell Continuation High School.

Its nice to get your life started ahead of time so you have a plan for what to do, Madison said, adding that the most interesting parts of the lesson had been the ins and outs of check writing — and the shocking example of what paying interest really means.

Later, as she shopped for household items, Madison was careful to choose only the things she thought she needed, rather than what she might have wanted had her budget been unlimited.

In this case, it was a couch and some towels. But she passed on the blender because smoothies are a want, not a need.

VA loans ease veterans’ path to home ownership

By Prashant Gopal and Jody Shenn | Bloomberg News

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During his third deployment in Afghanistan, Air Force Staff Sgt. Claude Hunter was so eager to return to the United States and buy a house that he signed a contract for a property that his agent showed him over Skype.

Hunter got back in time to close the deal, paying $219,000 in May for the four-bedroom Waldorf, Maryland, house that he financed with a Department of Veterans Affairs mortgage. It didnt require a down payment.

On Facebook, my friends have started posting: I got my VA loan, I got my house, said Hunter, 31. Everybody is just ready. A lot of them have done their jobs overseas and are coming home.

Americas fragile housing recovery is getting a boost from military buyers using VA mortgages as the US draws down troops after more than a decade of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. About 4.7 million full-time troops and reservists served during the wars and many are now taking advantage of one of the easiest and cheapest paths to homeownership. The programs share of new mortgages, at a 20-year high, is also increasing as other types of government-backed loans have grown more costly.

The reduction in uncertainty for the returning vets allows them the freedom to spend more, including buying housing, said Sam Khater, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic Inc., an Irvine, California-based property-data firm. VA buyers are coming into the market in higher and higher proportions and tend to be first-time buyers, one of the missing drivers in the recovery in housing demand.

VA loans accounted for 8.1 percent, or $19.5 billion, of mortgages made in the first quarter, up from less than 2 percent a decade ago, according to newsletter Inside Mortgage Finance. There are more than 2 million VA loans, with balances in excess of $370 billion, after six years of increasing volumes.

The road to homeownership for Michael Malarsie, 26, began on a bridge in Afghanistans Kandahar province, less than a month into his deployment. An improvised explosive device threw Malarsie 20 feet into an irrigation canal during an ambush of his patrol team.

When he woke up a week later at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington, he learned four friends were killed in the Jan. 3, 2010, attack and that the injuries to his face were so severe that he would never see again.

Two years later, he got a different kind of surprise. A veterans nonprofit called Operation Finally Home presented Malarsie, and his family with a newly built house near his Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. They sold the property because he needed to live closer to public transit and, on July 8, Malarsie purchased a house in South Jordan, Utah, using a VA mortgage.

Now Malarsie, who has a wife and three young children, plans to go to college to study communications, possibly with a minor in computer science, he said. Homeownership is our step to normal life, the retired Air Force staff sergeant said.

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VA loans came into existence in 1944, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the GI Bill of Rights, which included college tuition assistance as well as help with mortgages, business loans and unemployment benefits.

As veterans returned from fighting against Germany and Japan, the loans jumped to 28 percent of all mortgages recorded in 1947. That drove up homeownership and helped create a suburban building boom, said Daniel Fetter, assistant professor of economics at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

The most important thing in the increase in homeownership after World War II is mortgage finance, Fetter said.

While about half of todays 21 million veterans served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam era, many of the 2.8 million veterans who joined since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks are now prime candidates for homebuying as they shift into civilian life.

For some, the combat deployments helped them build a nest egg. Service members dont pay taxes during deployments in war zones and receive $225 a month in danger pay for service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Basic salaries range from $18,378 to $64,933 for enlisted personnel and $34,078 to $153,925 for officers with less than 20 years experience. In addition, service members receive significant tax-free housing and food allowances.

Reynaldo Diaz, 35, retired from the Marines a year ago after five deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. He dreams of buying a three-family brownstone in New York City where he plans to remake his life. Hes working to raise his credit score, damaged during his divorce, complete his degree in business administration, and get a job.

Diaz, who struggles with nightmares caused by post- traumatic stress disorder, said he lost three close friends to combat in Iraq, and one who committed suicide. Buying a house is part of the healing process, he said.

Its part of the reason we were fighting and the reason we lost so many people out there, he said. We were fighting for the American Dream.

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VA mortgage benefits are available to veterans, their surviving spouses, active members of the armed forces and reservists who have served six years or been called up for 90 days. The government reduces risks for lenders by covering a portion of losses, typically up to 25 percent of the loan amount.

While the VA program hasnt always been the best deal, its popularity surged as the Federal Housing Administration boosted the cost of its mortgages over the past few years to bolster its finances, said Jason Pepsnik, a veteran who oversees retail mortgage lending in the South for JPMorgan Chase amp; Co.

Unlike the FHA, which allows down payments as little as 3.5 percent, the VA doesnt charge monthly insurance premiums, and the relatively moderate upfront cost can be rolled into loan balances. About 90 percent of VA mortgages dont have down payments.

Underwriters are required to test how much income VA borrowers have left over to cover other living expenses, an approach that has kept default rates low compared with other loans, Urban Institute researchers Laurie Goodman, Ellen Seidman, and Jun Zhu said in a report this month.

The VA backed a record 629,293 mortgages in its last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. That partly reflected booming refinancing as rates reached record lows.

At the same time, home purchases financed with the loans jumped 19 percent to 241,190 during the 2013 fiscal year, reaching the highest level since at least 2000, according to VA data. During the same period, all US home purchases with mortgages grew about 9 percent, according to Black Knight Financial Services data. VA borrowers purchased more than 196,000 properties since then, adding demand to the relatively weak entry-level segment of the housing market.

Its really the only avenue out there for people who are completely cash-strapped to be able to get into a home, said Michael Litzner, a real estate broker at Century 21 American Homes in Levittown, New York, the town that symbolized the post- World War II suburbanization of America the loans helped fuel.

The housing market has turned around from the worst crisis since the 1930s after extraordinary Federal Reserve measures to revive the financial system, employment gains and purchases of thousands of houses nationwide by institutional landlords. Even so, housing starts unexpectedly declined in June to a nine-month low, underlining the recoverys fragility.

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After returning from Afghanistan in November, Army Cavalry Scout Jordan Hensler paid $106,000 for the two-bedroom house that he shares with his wife and 5-year-old son near the Fort Carson base in Colorado.

Now that the wars are closing off, you have less worry about being deployed out, said Hensler, 25, who got a VA loan through iFreedom Direct. You get more family time and now you get to change your mode of thinking from What are we going to be doing out in the field? to What are we going to be having for dinner tonight?

The Pentagon is making cuts identified by Congress as the wars come to an end. The Army alone plans to reduce its current force of 520,000 active duty soldiers to about 450,000. It had about 566,000 at the peak in 2010.

With the US pulling back from Afghanistan, the 30,800 troops there will be reduced over the next two years to fewer than 4,900, from a peak of 100,000 as recently as 2011, President Barack Obama said in May. In 2011, the US brought troops back from Iraq, where there were as many as 166,300 in October 2007.

As the militarys downsizing, we are seeing more people coming out and needing a home, said Winston Wilkinson, USAAs senior vice president of real estate lending. VA loans have climbed to about 70 percent of originations at the San Antonio- based financial-service firms for the military community and their families, from about 40 percent in 2009, and its volumes of the loans and purchase mortgages are at records.

Changes in the maximum size of the VAs guarantees have helped expand its worth since the mid-2000s, especially in high- cost states such as California, according to Mike Frueh, director of the VAs Loan Guaranty Service. VA consumers can get loans of more than $1 million in the most expensive areas of the US, higher than other taxpayer-backed loans offer.

While VA underwriting can be cheaper and more flexible than other types of mortgages, most VA lenders require at least a 620 FICO credit score, said Chris Birk, director of VA loan education at Veterans United Home Loans, a national lender based in Missouri. Credit scores go up to 850.

One lender with no minimum credit score for VA loans is the Navy Federal Credit Union, with more than 5 million members. It matches its guidelines to what the agency will accept while making judgments based on an individual borrowers circumstances, said Katie Miller, vice president of mortgage lending.

Theres no reason we should be saying no if the VA is saying yes, Miller said.

The loans now make up about 55 percent of the lenders originations, up from less than 30 percent five years ago, she said. While the loans require the use of VA appraisers with more rigorous rules, home sellers should want to deal with the buyers because lenders can get the agency to approve exceptions to its stated underwriting guidelines and VA personnel want the best for a veteran and they want to work with us.

Now that values are increasing, Hunter, the Air Force man who returned from Afghanistan, said he wanted to purchase before they get any higher. His agent used a cell phone to give him a tour of a properties before he settled on a four-bedroom brick house with gleaming hardwood floors, a country kitchen and a large backyard where his 6-year-old son, Claude, can play.

Hunter, who is less than six years away from retirement, spent six years in Portugal, Korea and England and 18 months in Afghanistan during the three deployments. Andrews Air Force Base, 10 miles from his new home, will likely be his final stop, he said.

I went overseas for the love of my country. I didnt do it to gain the VA benefit, Hunter said. But because the benefit is there, I took advantage of it. I now have a stable place where I can raise my son and know that, at some point, I can leave him this property.

With assistance from Tony Capaccio in Washington.

Home loans easier to get now as lenders loosen standards for credit scores …

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Getting a mortgage became a little bit easier last month, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The availability of mortgage credit increased by a half-point to 116.4 in July, the association said. That means credit is loosening. The index was 100 about 2-1/2 years ago.

The increase in credit availability was fueled by an increase in the number of programs for jumbo adjustable loans, as well as for FHA and VA loans, the MBA said.

Also, some standards for minimum credit scores and maximum loan-to-value ratios loosened for several loan programs.

While credit is loosening, it was about eight times easier to get a mortgage in the summer of 2006. The index was at nearly 900 in June 2006, back in the day when mortgages were approved for people whod recently declared bankruptcy, as well as unemployed people, dead people and pets.

The lax standards from 2004-08 caused the financial crisis as banks were holding loans that should never have been approved and those loans started defaulting, to the tune of billions of dollars in losses. The index fell from about 875 in February 2006 to about 725 in late 2006. It then fell to about 550 in June 2007, to 300 in early 2008. It then shrank to about 100 in June 2008.

The index is calculated using several factors related to borrower eligibility, including credit score, type of loan and loan-to-value ratio, among others. MBA evaluates data from more than 85 lenders.

Mortgage Rate Predictions For August 2014 (FHA, VA, USDA & Conv)

Mortgage Rate Predictions For August 2014 (FHA, VA, USDA Conv)

  • Mortgage Rates

Current mortgage rates continue to move lower.

According to Freddie Macs weekly mortgage rate survey of more than one hundred banks, the average 30-year mortgage rates dropped one basis points (0.01%) last week to reach 4.12%; and the average 15-year mortgage rates dropped three basis points (0.03%).

Mortgage interest rates are near a 14-month low. Home buyers have benefitted from low rates all year. Now, refinancing households are benefitting, too.

Click to get todays live mortgage rates. 

30-Year Mortgage Rates Average 4.12%

30-year mortgage rates moved lower again last week. Nationwide, the average conforming 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate fell 0.01 percentage points to 4.12%. The rate is available to prime borrowers willing to pay an accompanying 0.6 discount points at closing.

Discount points are a one-time loan cost, where one discount point carries a cost equal to one percent of your first mortgage loan size amount.

For example, 1 discount point on a loan Miami, Florida at the 2014 conforming loan limit of $417,000 would require $4,170 to be paid at closing.

Discount points can be paid as cash or, for a mortgage refinance, they can be added to your loan size.

Discount points are typically tax-deductible.

15-year mortgage rates also dropped last week, shedding 0.03 percentage points to fall to 3.23% nationwide. Locking a 15-year mortgage rate at 3.23% costs 0.7 discount points on average.

Note that Freddie Macs weekly mortgage interest rate survey covers conforming loans only. FHA mortgage rates and VA mortgage rates are not included in the report; nor are mortgage rates for USDA loans.

Last week, however, similar to their conventional loan counterpart, mortgage rates for FHA, VA and USDA loans improved. Rates are now near 14-month lows and buyer purchasing power is up close to 8% from the start of the year.

Its an excellent time to compare todays mortgage rates. Pricing is as good as its been all year.

Click to get todays live rates now. 

Mortgage Rates In August

Last month, mortgage rates were mostly unchanged. When July began, 30-year mortgage rates averaged 4.12%, and they averaged 4.12% when July ended.

On average, mortgage rates moved just 1.6 basis points per week throughout July, which marks the smallest weekly moves in more than five years. Rates were uncommonly stable last month, which made for simple shopping.

In August, the trend may end — todays market is wound tight like a coil and sits ready to spring.

There are a number of factors which could affect this months mortgage rates.

More Jobs In The Economy

Last week, the July Non-Farm Payrolls report showed 209,000 net new jobs added to the economy; plus, a 15,000 upward revision to the prior two releases. July marked the sixth straight month in which job growth topped 200,000 — the longest such streak since 1997.

Slowly and steadily, the jobs market is returning. This has implications beyond just the Unemployment Rate. As more workers are added to the economy, consumer spending tends to rise and inflation pressures often increase.

Furthermore, the Federal Reserve makes labor markets a focal point for future policy and stimulus. As the jobs market expands, expect the Fed to play a lesser role in holding todays mortgage rates down. 

A Rise In Inflation Rates

The Federal Reserve also watches inflation rates. As inflation rates rise, the Fed is more inclined to remove its market stimulus, which can cause mortgage rates to rise. But, aside from the Fed and its policies, inflation is generally bad for low mortgage rates.

When inflation rates rise, mortgage rates do, too. This is because inflation devalues the US dollar which, in turn, devalues dollar-denominated US mortgage bonds. During periods of inflation, mortgage rates tend to rise. 

Since 2012, inflation rates have been stable and low. Theres evidence, though, that inflation rates are climbing. GDP beat estimates; wage growth continues; and, everyday prices are rising. As inflation pressures build, mortgage rates are expected to rise. 

Geopolitical Concerns

Tensions in the Gaza Strip; between Ukraine and Russian; and, in Africa each affect this months mortgage rates. In general, as nations move closer to war, US mortgage rates improve. This is the result of an investing pattern known as a flight-to-quality.

Flight-to-Quality describes, during periods of economic or political uncertainty, the flow of money from risky assets toward safe ones. Investors seek safe assets to protect their principal investments, and to shield against loss.

So, because mortgage bonds are among the safest investment classes in the world, 30-year mortgage rates tend to improve when war is imminent; or, when large global economies face an uncertain future.

This is another reason mortgage rates stayed low in July. In August, rates could begin rising.

Click for todays live mortgage rates.

This Weeks Economic Calendar

This week, there is very little on the US economic calendar to affect current mortgage rates. Therefore, expect for markets to move on politics and momentum.

The complete calendar is as follows:

  • Monday : None
  • Tuesday : Factory Orders; ISM Non-Manufacturing Index
  • Wednesday : None
  • Thursday : Jobless Claims; Consumer Credit
  • Friday : Productivity and Costs

Note that there are no Federal Reserve members scheduled to speak this week; and, there are no Treasury auctions scheduled for the markets. Mortgage rates have very few outside influences to affect whether pricing will rise or fall.

During weeks such as this, be wary of momentum. Rates can change quickly, and without notice — especially with stock markets posting two weeks of losses. Wall Street is jittery and mortgage rates may suffer.

Its a good, safe time to lock a low rate. Todays mortgage rates may not last. 

Get Todays Rate Quotes Here

Mortgage rates are near a 14-month low. Home buyers have their greatest purchasing power of the year; and refinancing households are saving more money.

Compare todays live mortgage rates and see what you can save. Free mortgage rates are available online with no social security number required to get started and no obligation to proceed.

Click for todays rates now. 

On the Rise: Applications for New Home Purchases

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Builder Application Survey (BAS) data for July 2014 shows mortgage applications for new home purchases increased by 2 percent relative to the previous month.  This change does not include any adjustment for typical seasonal patterns.

By product type, conventional loans composed 68.8 percent of loan applications, FHA loans composed 16.1 percent, RHS/USDA loans composed 1.5 percent and VA loans composed 13.6 percent.  The average loan size for new homes increased from $296,078 in June to $297,253 in July.

The MBA estimates new single-family home sales were running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 433,000 units in July 2014, based on data from the BAS.  The new home sales estimate is derived using mortgage application information from the BAS, as well as assumptions regarding market coverage and other factors.

The seasonally adjusted estimate for July is an increase of 12.2 percent from the June pace of 386,000 units.  On an unadjusted basis, the MBA estimates that there were 37,000 new home sales in July 2014, an increase of 2.8 percent from 36,000 new home sales in June.

MBA’s Builder Application Survey tracks application volume from mortgage subsidiaries of home builders across the country.  Utilizing this data, as well as data from other sources, MBA is able to provide an early estimate of new home sales volumes at the national, state, and metro level. This data also provides information regarding the types of loans used by new home buyers. Official new home sales estimates are conducted by the Census Bureau on a monthly basis. In that data, new home sales are recorded at contract signing, which is typically coincident with the mortgage application.

For more information, visit www.mba.org.

Housing Market Boosted by 20-Year High for VA Loans

In the first quarter, VA loans made up 8.1% — or $19.5 billion — of mortgages originated, up from 6.9% in 2013 and less than 2% ten years ago, according to Inside Mortgage Finance. There are now over 2 million VA loans with balances of more than $370 billion after six straight years of improving volume.

Home purchases financed with a VA loan have climbed 19% to 241,190 during the 2013 fiscal year. This is the highest level since 2000, according to the VA. During the same period, all US home purchases with a loan grew 9%. Since then, VA borrowers have purchased over 196,000 properties, adding much-needed demand to the still weak entry-level segment of the housing market. Many VA borrowers are first-time borrowers, who have been largely missing from the recovery.

As the military’s downsizing, we are seeing more people coming out and needing a home, said Winston Wilkinson, senior vice president of real estate lending at USAA, a lender serving military members and veterans. VA loans have grown to about 70% of the firm’s originations, up from 40% in 2009.

VA loans began with the 1944 GI Bill of Rights signed by President Roosevelt, giving assistance with college tuition, home loans, business loans and unemployment benefits to military servicemembers and veterans.

The loans rapidly climbed to 28% of all home loans in 1947 as veterans returned from the war, driving up the homeownership rate in the United States and leading to a suburban construction boom.

VA home loan benefits are available to veterans, surviving spouses, active members of the armed forces and reservists who have served at least six years or have been called up for 90 days. With a VA loan, the government reduces risk for lenders by covering up to 25% of the loan amount.

The VA program has soared in popularity as the FHA has increased the cost of its home loans over the past several years to improve its finances. While the FHA requires a 3.5% down payment and often costly mortgage insurance premiums paid monthly, the VA does not require a down payment and the lower upfront costs may be rolled into the loan. Nearly 90% of all VA loans do not have a down payment.

An FAQ to Personal Loans

Ever since we added a personal loan calculator and aggregator on our site, we’ve had many questions from interested readers about these loans. The questions appeared similar so we decided to compile the most commonly asked questions about personal loans by Malaysians here with our list of answers!

Question 1: I earn less than RM1500; can I still apply for a personal loan?

Personal loans that allow for salaries below RM1500 are very limited. Only two thus far have RM1500 as a minimum monthly salary and another two do not stipulate a minimum and base the application on overall credit availability but these loans come tied to high interest rates.

However, if you do earn less than RM1500; you might want to reconsider taking on a personal loan. Minimum income ranges are there for a reason: to ensure you will be able to afford to repay them. Do weigh your options carefully. An income less than RM1500 will make it difficult for one to repay after considering EPF deductions and other necessities.

Question 2: How much of a loan can I take on my salary?

How much of a loan you are able to take will depend on your salary, credit report, commitments and of course, the discretion of the bank. Although many ‘best practices’ abound, the truth remains that approval will in the end be dependent on how ‘attractive’ an applicant you are to the bank. You may have a large income but if you are riddled with unsecured debts (such as credit cards and personal loans), these make you an unattractive customer.

Rule of thumb for commitments allowed on your salary is a maximum of 60% of net salary. To calculate this; take all the monthly repayments you have (loans, credit card minimum payments, etc) and add them up. If this is less than 60% of your net salary; the remaining amount will be the available monthly commitment you can take on further. If the repayments exceed 60%, any further loan or credit applications will most likely be rejected.

Question 3: Will I get the full amount I applied for?

The answer to this is unfortunately, no. But how much lesser you receive will depend on two factors. The first being whether you are a high or low risk customer and the second is tied in to the bank’s processing fees and administrative charges.

Whether you are high or low risk will depend on how much you earn; how much debt you currently hold and if you have been a good paymaster. Low risk customers will likely be approved for the amount they’ve applied for or at least 80% thereof. There are also degrees of high and low risk and how much you receive will be based on where you fall on the risk bar. Again, this will also depend on the bank’s internal processes of calculating risk.

Let’s say Ahmad has been decided by the bank to be a low risk customer and his loan was approved for 90% of the sum he asked for. From that sum, Ahmad will still be charged stamp duty fees (compulsory for all loan documentation) and any processing or administrative fees the bank may charge. Always ask the bank about any fees before applying.

If Ahmad was found to be a high risk customer; depending on how high a risk he is found to be, the bank will either reject his loan or offer a much lower amount. Ahmad can then either agree to take the loan or not.

Question 4: How long can I take a loan for?

Bank Negara set the maximum number of years for personal loans at 10 years but many commercial banks will not allow this much. The usual number is between 7-8 years. However, if you are able to, it is always better to pay of your loan quickly as personal interest rates are very high.

Question 5: Can I apply for a loan on your site if I am blacklisted on CCRIS?

You can apply on the site but as we are not a bank or lending agency; whether you receive the loan or not is still dependent on the bank. We are not agents nor do we provide loans. We provide information on banking products and help link you to the banks to apply for the loan of your choice. As the approval will still come from the bank and as is standard banking practice; a blacklisted CCRIS customer will not likely be approved for anymore loans.

This was brought you by DIANA CHAI from RinggitPlus.com. RinggitPlus compares credit cards, personal loans and home loans to help Malaysians get more for their money.

MORTGAGE BANKERS: Applications for New Home Purchases Up 2% in July …

By product type, conventional loans composed 68.8 percent of loan applications, FHA loans composed 16.1 percent, RHS/USDA loans composed 1.5 percent and VA loans composed 13.6 percent.  The average loan size for new homes increased from $296,078 in June to $297,253 in July.

The MBA estimates new single-family home sales were running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 433,000 units in July 2014, based on data from the BAS.  The new home sales estimate is derived using mortgage application information from the BAS, as well as assumptions regarding market coverage and other factors. 

The seasonally adjusted estimate for July is an increase of 12.2 percent from the June pace of 386,000 units.  On an unadjusted basis, the MBA estimates that there were 37,000 new home sales in July 2014, a increase of 2.8 percent from 36,000 new home sales in June. 

MBA’s Builder Application Survey tracks application volume from mortgage subsidiaries of home builders across the country.  Utilizing this data, as well as data from other sources, MBA is able to provide an early estimate of new home sales volumes at the national, state, and metro level.  This data also provides information regarding the types of loans used by new home buyers.  Official new home sales estimates are conducted by the Census Bureau on a monthly basis.   

Study: Fewer Women Seeking Professional Help Managing Money

When it comes to handling day-to-day finances, women think they are doing pretty well. Thats according to Prudentials latest research study, which was the main item on the menu at a recent breakfast panel. When asked to grade their knowledge of things like managing money or managing debt, roughly one-third of female respondents gave themselves an A.

Where they need to hit the books, however, is their understanding of long-term planning tools.

They understand checking accounts and savings accounts and CDs, they understand credit cards, and they get what it means to have a mortgage, but they dont really get it about mutual funds as much, says Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, founder of askthemoneycoach.com. Theyre not as confident about their knowledge of, say, annuities.

Theyre also not asking for help. In fact, fewer women are actually working with a pro – 31 percent in this latest study, compared to 48 percent in 2008.

To actually see that go backwards, I think, is shocking, surprising, admittedly disappointing, says Lori Dickerson FouchÃ, the CEO of Prudential Group Insurance.

Dickerson Fouchà says a do-it-yourself attitude is fine, but not necessarily in all areas of life.

We wouldnt think about necessarily opening up the hood of our car and trying to diagnose what’s gone wrong with the car, or we wouldnt think about trying to diagnose ourselves without going to a doctor, and yet, we seem to be OK that we can figure out what we need to do from a finance perspective, she says.

Of course, no adviser can guarantee a particular financial outcome, but research shows that working with a professional will likely have an impact on your financial outlook.

Women who have financial advisers, tend to do better, and they tend to feel more prepared, which reduces your financial stress, Khalfani-Cox says. And who among us wants to be stressed?

Take retirement planning, a big source of stress, particularly for Baby Boomers. The study found that those who work with a professional are much more likely to consider themselves on track or ahead of schedule than those who go it alone.

Its hard to be confident about something youre not even sure what it is, and so, even trying to help define what that picture is for women, I think is really important, Dickerson Fouchà says. Its really the first step. How do I want to live, and whats that going to cost me?