Happy New Year!


Posted by Terry Brunner.  Terry is a Senior Loan Officer with Horizon Financial.  Terry can be reached toll free @ (877) 627-9211 x150 or email TBrunner@HorizonFinancial.org.  Visit Horizon’s website at www.horizonfinancial.org


Pipe Up- Winter Plumbing Tips

During the winter season we usually prefer to entertain family and friends instead of worrying about tedious home maintenance chores like plumbing—and for good reason!    Now is an ideal time to relax and enjoy your home. Nevertheless, homeowners and renters alike tend to take their pipes for granted. Being prepared for problems makes them more manageable if they should occur—so here are a few basic tips for dealing with a pipe leak.

Ahead of Time

Know where your main water shutoff is. You may not need to use it—if the leak coming from a faucet knob, for example, you can simply shut off the water at the sink. But when in doubt, go to the main valve.

Do It Yourself… Maybe

If you know what’s causing the problem and can tell the difference between a slip joint and a saddle valve, feel free to fix it yourself. However, many plumbers make a good living off fixing botched home repair jobs—so feel free to get it done right the first time.


When It’s Cold

If you ever encounter a frozen pipe, you can often thaw it with a hair dryer. If you’re going on vacation when there’s a cold snap in the forecast, you can help prevent frozen pipes by opening cabinet doors below your sink to let your home’s warm air circulate. You may also try turning the faucet on to a slow drip to keep the water moving and prevent freezing.

It’s smart to take care of plumbing repairs well in advance of putting your home on the market. Buyers can have more confidence in the value of a well-maintained home—and many signs are pointing to acceleration in the real estate market in 2010.

If you’d like more information about how a remodel can affect the value of your home, please don’t hesitate to call or email.

 Posted by: Mike Owens Partner with Horizon Financial, Inc.     Mike can be reached at 864 907 2678 or via e-mail at MOwens@horizonfinancial.org

Holiday Season great time to get a mortgage or buy a home!

With housing market still a little bit soft, but with many signs of future rebound, now is a great time to buy a new home.  It still is a buyer’s market, but most likely that will change some in the new year.  There is always a little bit of a housing boom in the Spring through early Summer, so there is a good chance home prices should recover some in the coming months.  This means now is the time to buy.

Mortgage rates are near an all time low, but with many indicators pointing toward future inflation (a interest rate killer that always increases mortgage rates), now is the time for the mortgage rate fence sitters to lock a rate.  It’s only a matter of time (a few more weeks, maybe a few more months) and rates will approach the more normal 6% to 7% range that is the typical average for the last 10 or 20 years.  Right now, rates under 5% are still available, which is amazing.  Lock in today, before it’s too late.

-Gary Schoenholz – Manager- 864-979-1111,

 Website: www.GaryTheMortgageExpert.com

The Interest Rate Bogeyman Is Lurking!


No, that’s not a picture of the interest rate Bogeyman.  But it may well be the expression on your face if you wait much longer to refinance or purchase a home.  Some consumers are still holding out, hoping for mortgage rates to go lower.

The interest rate Bogeyman is inflation.  Inflation is the bogeyman, the monster at the ball, the uninvited party crasher that will bring an abrupt end to the abnormally low mortgage interest rates we have experienced for the last year.

One of the most frequently asked questions of me is, “Do you think interest rates will go lower?”  To answer that honestly, I look at the latest inflation information from the United States and other countries.

Let’s see…In the U.S., energy prices up 4.1%, food prices up .1%, air fare up, medical care up, new cars up.  U.S. producer prices surge 1.8% in November.  Core inflation flat last month after ten straight monthly increases.

Around the world…food prices in India surge 20%, the Central Bank of the Philippines sees inflation inching up, the Central Bank of Thailand prepared to raise interest rates in 2010, Canada’s annual inflation rate higher than expected in November.

The Fed has helped keep mortgage rates down by spending 1.25 trillion dollars to buy Mortgage Backed Securities but these purchases are expected to be completed by Spring.

The Office of Management and Budget is trying desperately to reconcile massive government spending and a gargantuan deficit while holding interest rates and inflation at bay.  These are some of the same brilliant people who in 2002 concluded, “On the basis of historical experience, the risk to the government from a potential default on Government-Sponsored Enterprise (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) debt is effectively zero”.  Oops!  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went into conservatorship in 2008 and are rumored to soon go begging to the government for billions more to stay afloat.

 So, do I think that interest rates are going to go up or down?

 Up…and soon!


 Posted by Terry Brunner.  Terry is a Senior Loan Officer with Horizon Financial.  Terry can be reached toll free @ (877) 627-9211 x150 or email TBrunner@HorizonFinancial.org.  Visit Horizon’s website at www.horizonfinancial.org

US Foreclosure Show Decline, But Drop May Be Temporary

The nation’s foreclosure rate fell last month to its lowest level since February, according to new data, but the drop may not last.  A total of 306,627 Americans received a foreclosure notice in November, an 8 percent decrease from the month before but 18 percent higher than a year ago, according to a report by RealtyTrac. That is one in every 417 units receiving a foreclosure notice.

Experts believe there a several reasons for this drop but the main reasons for the drop are the approaching holiday season, the government’s modification programs and the mandatory mediation in more states between homeowners and lenders before going to foreclosure.

For example Nevada saw its foreclosure rate drop 33% from the month before but the state still leads the country in foreclosures with one in every 119 homes receiving a notice. Florida ranked second, followed by California, Arizona and Idaho. The state with the lowest rate of foreclosure was Vermont.

Though the numbers are encouraging to see there most experts believe this is going to remain a problem in the economy for some time to come.

Posted by Randy Ratchford…Randy can be reached toll free 877-627-9211 ext107 or by email RRatchford@HorizonFinancial.org

How is the Recent Housing Market in the Upstate SC Area?

Barclay-Guest-HouseAccording to Zillow.com statistics, the housing market for the Upstate South Carolina area has not been faring as bad as many areas.  Many areas across the country have taken steep declines in value or have a very limited amount of homes that have sold.  I will break down some of the statistics by some larger Upstate cities based on the Zillow Home Value Index change for the last year (Oct 2008 to Oct 2009) and also by total homes sold in the last year.

Greenville SC:   There has been a -6.3% decline this past year in the Zillow Home Value Index and the Index has shown a pretty consistant 0.5% approximate drop each month, which is a little concerning, but on the positive side, there has been better news with the Total homes sold this year.  Though the last full month on record in October 2009 the number of homes sold in the city of Greenville was only 63 (not a great number and close to the 5 year low back in February 2009), the numbers really have been better for most of the last few months.   In July and September, we almost hit 100 houses sold in Greenville (96 and 98, respectively).  Overall, the last 6 months have shown improvement compared to the previous 6 months.  Perhaps because of the Home Buyer’s Tax Credits being offered by the IRS.

Anderson SC:  Anderson has shown similar trends as Greenville.  Anderson’s one year change of the Zillow Home Value Index has been -4.6%, not very good.  On the otherhand, the total homes sold in Anderson has shown some signs of life the last few months.  The last month in October fell to an unimpressive 23 homes sold, but the 2 previous months hit a yearly high of 30 and 32 in August and September and overall has shown some promise of recovery.

Spartanburg SC:  The city of Spartanburg SC has actually shown the most promise of the bigger Upstate SC cities as far as its housing numbers are concerned.  The Zillow Home Value Index has actually increased (+8.6%) the last year.  Also the number of homes sold has recovered from it’s low point early this year (January, only 23 homes sold) to double on several occasions (it sits at 46 in the last October 2009 report and hit 52 in July).  All good signs.

Other smaller cities showing promise:  Greer SC: (+2.7% Zillow Home Value Index for the last year) and got to a 1 year high in homes sold in July at 46 homes, but has shown some recent sluggishness (dropped to the 30′s the last 3 months, 31 in October 2009).   Pickens SC: Pickens, though small, has shown some growth through our statistics.  The ZHV Index has gone up +11.5% the last year (very strong).

Overall, compared to many housing markets across the United States, the Upstate of South Carolina looks relatively strong.  Hopefully these trends of “acceptable losses” or some slight increases of home values can continue into the new year.  Let’s hope 2010 starts a general housing recovery, but that, of course, remains to be seen.

-Gary Schoenholz – Loan Officer Manager – www.GaryTheMortgageExpert.com 864-979-1111 cell phone, call for free mortgage rate quotes.

Rate Update – December 14, 2009








Reports from fellow mortgage professionals indicate the par 30 year fixed rate mortgage remains in the 4.75% to 5.00% range for well qualified consumers. 

To secure a par interest rate you must have a FICO credit score of 740 or higher, a loan to value at 80% or less and pay all closing costs including an estimated one point loan origination/discount/broker fee.   You may elect to pay less in fees but you will have to accept a higher interest rate. 

The FOMC has its last scheduled meeting of 2009 on Wednesday.  As always, this can be a big mortgage rate mover.  The Fed isn’t expected to raise the Fed Funds Rate from its current “target range” near 0%, but when the FOMC adjourns, its press release will dominate the news. 

It will be interesting to see the Fed’s expectation for economic growth for 2010.   If the Fed says inflation is under control, mortgage rates should fall, but if the Fed says inflation pressures are growing, mortgage rates should rise.

If you need to lock a rate this week, it may be safer to lock prior to the Fed’s statement.  Given the recent strength in Retail Sales,  the Fed may choose to revise its growth estimates for the economy, a move that would be awful for mortgage rates.


Posted by Scott Fowler.  Scott is a Partner / Mortgage Planner with Horizon Financial.  Scott can be reached @ 864-527-8900 x 104 or SFowler@HorizonFinancial.org.  Visit Scott’s website @ www.ScottFowlerTeam.com.

Don’t Be Imprisioned By Your Mortgage Lender

j0402864Some mortgage lenders and mortgage brokers use a variety of tricks to ensure that a potential customer concludes a mortgage transaction with their company. 

The most common of these schemes is the “application fee”.  This fee, which can vary between $400 to $800, is charged upfront with the promise that it will be returned once the loan is concluded.  There are various excuses for charging this fee, but in reality the fee is charged with the sole purpose of keeping the customer captive.

Suppose you just paid an application fee to one lender only to find a much better deal with a different lender.  You an either stay with the original lender or switch to the new lender and lose the application fee you have already paid.  You’re trapped!

Another trick is charging an appraisal fee when the appraisal may not even be necessary.  Sometimes, under the Fannie Mae Home Affordable program, an appraisal is not required.  If the lender hasn’t done their homework or they are unscrupulous, they may charge an unwary customer a non-refundable appraisal fee upfront.  They may even say that the “application fee” covers the appraisal which was never needed in the first place.

Be aware of these ploys when getting mortgage quotes.  Avoid dealing with companies that demand an upfront application fee.  And make sure that you are working with a lender who has checked to make sure that an appraisal is required.

When possible, try to work with companies that offer a free float down if rates improve.  Instead of paying money upfront…do your due diligence upfront.


Posted by Terry Brunner.  Terry is a Senior Loan Officer with Horizon Financial.  Terry can be reached toll free @ (877) 627-9211 x150 or email TBrunner@HorizonFinancial.org.  Visit Horizon’s website at www.horizonfinancial.org

Fannie Mae Tightening Credit Guidelines

Effective December 12, 2009  the eligibility requirements for approval of a home purchase or refinance will get tougher. I will highlight a few of the changes below.

The maximum allowable total expense ratio will be lowered to 45% with flexibilities offered up to 50% with strong compensating factors.

Fannie Mae is modifying the minimum representative credit score requirement for all loans delivered to Fannie Mae to 620.

There are several other industry changes that will be implemented as of December 12 but these two items are the major highlights  for potential borrowers. As always if you have any questions regarding these new changes please feel free to consult myself or your trusted mortgage professional.

Posted by Randy Ratchford Mortgage Planner/Partner. Randy can be reached toll free 877-627-9211 ext107 or email RRatchford@HorizonFinancial.org

Increase Your 2009 Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction


For many American homeowners, interest paid on a mortgage is tax deductable in the year in which it was paid.

Knowing that, eligible homeowners can increase their 2009 tax deductions just by making their January 2010 mortgage payment before the end of the year.

By paying in 2009, the mortgage interest paid can be applied against 2009′s itemized tax deductions even though the payment isn’t technically due until 2010.

It can reduce your tax burden.

And, if you think you’re paying the mortgage “in advance”, remember mortgage interest is paid in arrears; payment due January 1 accounts for interest accumulated in December 2009, anyway. 

Tax planning is a complicated issue and not all homeowners qualify for mortgage interest tax deductions. Check with your tax professional before making tax planning decisions.

If you don’t have an accountant you trust, call or email me anytime; I’m happy to make a recommendation to you.


Posted by Scott Fowler.  Scott can be reached @ 864-527-8900 x104 or SFowler@HorizonFinancial.org.  Visit Scott’s website @ www.ScottFowlerTeam.com .