The Art of Mortgage Pre-Approval

Buying a home can feel like a cut-throat process. You may find the craftsman style house of your dreams only to be bumped out of the running by a buyer paying in all cash, or moving super swiftly. But fear not, understanding the home buying process and getting a mortgage pre-approval can put you back in the race and help you secure the house you want.

What is Mortgage Pre-approval?

Mortgage pre-approval is essentially a letter from a lender that states that you qualify for a loan of a certain amount and at a certain interest rate based on an evaluation of your credit and financial history. You’ll need to shop for homes within the price range guaranteed by your pre-approved mortgage. You can find out how much house you can afford with our home affordability calculator.

Armed with a letter of pre-approval you can show sellers that you are a serious homebuyer with the means to purchase a home. In many ways it’s competitive to buying a home in cash. In the eyes of the seller, pre-approval can often push you ahead of other potential buyers who have not yet been approved for a mortgage.

Getting pre-qualified for a mortgage is not the same as pre-approval. It’s actually a relatively simple process in which a lender looks at a few financial details, such as income, assets, and debt, and gives you an estimate of how much of a mortgage they think you can afford.

Taking out a mortgage is a huge step and pre-qualification can help you hunt down reputable lenders and find a loan that potentially works for you. Going through this process can be useful, because it gives you an idea of your buying power, or how much house you can afford.

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It also gives you an idea of what your monthly payment might be and is a chance to shop around to various lenders to see what types of terms and interest rates they offer. Pre-qualification is not a guarantee that you will actually qualify for a mortgage.

Getting pre-approval is a more complicated process. You’ll have to fill out an application with your lender and agree to a credit check in addition to providing information about your income and assets. There are a number of steps you can take to increase your chances of pre-approval or to increase the amount your lender will approve. Consider the following:

Building Your Credit

Think of this as step zero when you apply for any type of loan. Lenders want to see that you have a history of properly managing your debt before offering you credit themselves. You can build credit history by opening and using a credit card and paying your bills on time. Or consider having regular payments , such as your rent, tracked and added to your credit score.

Checking Your Credit

If you’ve already established a credit history, the first thing you’ll want to do before applying for a mortgage is check your credit report and your FICO score. Your credit report is a history of your credit compiled from sources such as banks, credit card companies, collection agencies, and the government.

This information is collected by the three main credit reporting bureaus, Transunion, Equifax and Experian. Your FICO score is one number that represents your credit risk should a lender offer you a loan.
You’ll want to make sure that the information on your credit report is correct.

If you find any mistakes, contact the credit reporting agencies immediately to let them know. You don’t want any incorrect information weighing down your credit score, putting your chances for pre-approval at risk.

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Stay on Top of Your Debt

Your ability to pay your bills on time has a big impact on your credit score. If you can, make sure you make regular payments. And if your budget allows, you can make payments in full. If you have any debts that are dragging on your credit score—for example, debts that are in collection—work on paying them off first, as this can give your score a more immediate boost.

Watch Your Debt-to-income Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio is your monthly debts divided by your monthly income. If you have $1,000 a month in debt payments and make $5,000 a month, your debt-income ratio is $1,000 divided by $5,000, or 20%.

Lenders may assume that borrowers with a high debt-to-income ratio will have a harder time making their mortgage payments. Keep your debt-to-income ratio in check by avoiding making large purchases before seeking pre-approval for a mortgage. For example, you may want to hold off on buying a new car until you’ve been pre-approved.

Prove Consistent Income

Your lender will want to know that you’ve got enough money coming in each month to cover a potential mortgage payment. So, they’ll likely ask you to prove that you have consistent income for at least two years by taking a look at your income documents (W-2, 1099 etc.).

For some potential borrowers, such as freelancers, this may be a tricky process since you may have income from various sources. Keep all pay stubs, tax returns, and other proof of income and be prepared to show them to your lender.

What Happens if You’re Rejected?

Rejection hurts. But if you aren’t pre-approved, or you aren’t approved for a large enough mortgage to buy the house you want, you also aren’t powerless. First, ask the bank why they made the decision they did. This will give you an idea about what you might need to work on in order to secure the mortgage you want.

SoFi Mortgage.


The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi Mortgages are not available in all states. Products and terms may vary from those advertised on this site. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria#eligibility-mortgage for details.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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Source: sofi.com

From Bitcoin to GameStop to SPACs: 8 Tips for Mania Investing

Market speculation is seemingly everywhere.  From new SPACs being issued, to the prevalence of Reddit stocks such as GameStop to the popularity of electric vehicle stocks and the rise of cryptocurrency – speculation is alive and well in the markets today. 

“Mania” is a good word to describe the energy surrounding these types of investments.  Dramatic daily swings are the new normal in these holdings.  Hollywood elites and business moguls are attaching their names to crypto and the latest SPAC investments. 

The top mania investment areas are electric vehicles, cryptocurrency, Reddit stocks, space, SPACs, precious metals and pot stocks.  The dictionary definition of mania describes “excessive or unreasonable enthusiasm.”  That seems about right.  The result has been a meteoric rise in value not tied to business fundamentals but tied to hype, expectations or projections. 

Investors looking to boost performance often wonder how much exposure to these types of investments should they have.  With strong appreciation in some of the holdings, it is tempting to get into the game.  Here are our top eight tips for mania investing. 

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1. Admit that it is a mania

A woman is swept away on waves of water.A woman is swept away on waves of water.

Have some honest reflection about the investment environment you are in.  Mania investing can be fun, it can be thrilling and, ultimately, it can be painful.  But mania investing is not your conventional long-term investing strategy.  Admit you are being swept up in a mania and acknowledge what that might mean regarding your tactics.  It’s impossible to explain to yourself or your friends the fundamentals of a company with no earnings, so stop trying to make sense of it.  It is a mania, not an investment based on fundamentals. 

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2. Have an exit strategy & set a price target

Price tags.Price tags.

How far are you willing to watch your investment drop before you pull out?  Set a price target and stick to it.  Some of the biggest mistakes happen with investors who fall in love with a company or a product and hold it while closing their eyes.  Mania investments are not typically long-term plays, and you must plan for how much risk you are willing to take.  Set a target to get out and limit your downside exposure.

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3. Limit your overall portfolio exposure

A colorful pie chart.A colorful pie chart.

If you are going to be a mania investor, maybe you limit your exposure to 3%, 5% or 10% of your total portfolio.  Understand it is the high-risk portion of your portfolio and do not allocate more than you are willing to lose.  The older you are and the closer to retirement, the less you can afford to lose.  The younger you are, the more you might be willing to allocate to more aggressive strategies. 

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4. Diversify your manias 

A woman balances a bitcoin on a red tightrope.A woman balances a bitcoin on a red tightrope.

Maybe you like cryptocurrency — go ahead and invest in it, but buy into three different types, instead of just one, to diversify.  Maybe you like electric vehicles. If so, consider adding some exposure to space or precious metals as well.  Even in your mania investing, you do not want to concentrate all that allocation to just one mania strategy.  Diversification can help reduce risk even in a risky space.  Although, be careful of too much diversification.  In a world like electric vehicles, there is a possibility of there being few winners and many losers. 

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5. Understand performance in context 

Woman standing under an orange umbrella in the rainWoman standing under an orange umbrella in the rain

The S&P 500 10-year average over the past 100 years is around a 10% return per year.  Warren Buffett has averaged about 15% per year.  If your mania investments have made 100% in a year, understand how rare that is and that the odds of duplicating that performance year after year are incredibly remote.  Part of good investment performance is not just making money in good times, but also weathering losses during challenging times. 

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5. Know the difference between investing and speculating

A stack of gambling chips tumbles over.A stack of gambling chips tumbles over.

Investing for the long term carries its own set of disciplines and rules and expectations.  Mania investing is more akin to speculating or even gambling.  It often has dramatic movements in price over a short period of time.  It might include hype in the media, memes on social networks and inexperienced people giving investment advice.  Be careful and realize speculating is a high-risk game — it is not the same as sound investment on fundamentals.   

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6. Take some winnings off the table

A man cashes in his gambling pot.A man cashes in his gambling pot.

Maybe you own one of the stock names that have doubled or tripled in value over the past year.  Consider selling some of the holdings and locking in your gains.  Maybe reduce your exposure by 50%.  Keep some of the holdings a bit longer, but diversify into something more stable or consistent.  Setting a price target on the upside can be just as important as setting one on the downside. 

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7. Do not gamble the farm

The sun sets over the red barn of a farm.The sun sets over the red barn of a farm.

A smart gambler, if they go to Vegas, will set their own personal limit on what they are willing to lose.  Whether that is $100, or $10,000 — set a limit when it comes to mania investing.  Also, do not raid all your retirement money on a whim to chase manias.  While a portion could make sense, the lion’s share of your retirement should be focused on fundamental investment strategies that are consistent.  Pulling all your retirement money to buy into different manias would likely be a crazy idea, just like putting your house keys in the pot of a poker table would be ill advised. 

Investing in some of these sexy stocks and industries has appeal, and there is money to be made.  But there is also money to be lost, and it is important to have a rule set for investing even if you are investing in mania stocks.  Finally, know how risk taking can fit in your overall financial plan and realize that the risk you are willing to tolerate is likely to be different from someone else. 

Investing carries an inherent element of risk, and it is possible to lose principal and interest when investing in securities. Strategies are used to assist in the management of your account. Even with these strategies applied to the account, it is possible to lose money. No strategy can guarantee a profit or prevent against a loss. There may be times when the strategy switches between equities or fixed income at an inopportune time, causing the account to forfeit potential gains.

CEO – Senior Wealth Adviser, Sterling Wealth Partners

Scot Landborg has over 17 years of experience advising clients on retirement planning strategies. Scot is CEO and Senior Wealth Adviser for Sterling Wealth Partners. He is host of the retirement planning podcast Retire Eyes Wide Open. Scot is a regular contributor to Kiplinger.com and has been quoted in “U.S. News & World Report,” Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq and Investopedia. He also formally hosted the nationally syndicated radio show “Smart Money Talk Radio.”

Investment Adviser Representative of USA Financial Securities. Member FINRA/SIPC A Registered Investment Advisor. CA license # 0G89727 https://brokercheck.finra.org/

Source: kiplinger.com

What to Know about FHA 203K loans

Buying a fixer-upper is sometimes romanticized by pop culture. While it’s fun to dream, the reality of home renovation is that it can be laborious and draining, especially if the home needs serious help.

Repair work requires energy and resources, and it can be difficult to secure a loan to cover both the value of the home and the cost of repairs—especially if the home is currently uninhabitable. Most lenders won’t take that sort of chance.

But if you have your heart set on buying a fixer upper, an FHA 203(k) loan can help.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), insures loans for the purchase and substantial rehab of homes. It is also possible to take out an FHA 203(k) loan for home repairs only, though it might not be your best option if that’s all you need.

If you have the vision to revive a dreary house, here’s info about FHA 203(k) loans and other home improvement loan options.

What Is an FHA 203(k) home loan?

Section 203(k) insurance lets buyers finance both the purchase of a house and its rehabilitation costs through a single long-term, fixed- or adjustable-rate loan.

Before the availability of FHA 203(k) loans, borrowers often had to secure multiple loans to obtain a mortgage and a home improvement loan.

The loans are provided through HUD-approved mortgage lenders and insured by the FHA. The government is interested in rejuvenating neighborhoods and expanding homeownership opportunities.

Because the loans are backed by the federal government, you may be able to secure one even if you don’t have stellar credit. Rates are generally competitive but may not be the best, because a home with major flaws is a risk to the lender.

The FHA 203(k) process also requires more coordination, paperwork, and work on behalf of the lender, which can drive the interest rate up slightly. Lenders also may charge a supplemental origination fee, fees to cover review of the rehabilitation plan, and a higher appraisal fee.

The loan will require an upfront mortgage insurance payment of 1.75% of the total loan amount (it can be wrapped into the financing) and then a monthly mortgage insurance premium.

Applications must be submitted through an approved lender .

What Can FHA 203(k) Loans Be Used For?

Purchase and Repairs

Other than the cost of acquiring a property, rehabilitation may range from minor repairs (though exceeding $5,000 worth) to virtual reconstruction.

If a home needs a new bathroom or new siding, for example, the loan will include the projected cost of those renovations in addition to the value of the existing home. An FHA 203(k) loan, however, will not cover “luxury” upgrades like a pool, tennis court, or gazebo (so close!).

If you’re buying a condo, 203(k) loans are generally only issued for interior improvements. However, you can use a 203(k) loan to convert a property into a two- to four-unit dwelling.

Your loan amount is determined by project estimates done by the lender or the FHA. The loan process is paperwork-heavy. Working with contractors who are familiar with the way the program works and will not underbid will be important.

Contractors will also need to be efficient: The work must begin within 30 days of closing and be finished within six months.

Mortgage LoanMortgage Loan

Temporary Housing

If the home is indeed unlivable, the 203(k) loan can include a provision to provide you with up to six months of temporary housing costs or existing mortgage payments.

Who Is Eligible for an FHA 203(k) Loan?

Individuals and nonprofit organizations can use an FHA 203(k) loan, but investors cannot.

Most of the eligibility guidelines for regular FHA loans apply to 203(k) loans. They include a minimum credit score of 580 and at least a 3.5% down payment.

Applicants with a score as low as 500 will typically need to put 10% down.

Your debt-to-income ratio typically can’t exceed 43%. And you must be able to qualify for the costs of the renovations and the purchase price.

Again, to apply for any FHA loan, you have to use an approved lender. (It’s a good idea to get multiple quotes.)

Home Improvement Loan Options

The FHA 203(k) provides the most comprehensive solution for buyers who need a loan for both a home and substantial repairs. However, if you need a loan only for home improvements, there are other options to consider.

Depending on the improvements you have planned, your timeline, and your personal financial situation, one of the following could be a better fit.

Other Government-Backed Loans

In addition to the standard FHA 203(k) program, there is a limited FHA 203(k) loan of up to $35,000. Homebuyers and homeowners can use the funding to repair or upgrade a home.

Then there are FHA Title 1 loans for improvements that “substantially protect or improve the basic livability or utility of the property.” The fixed-rate loans may be used in tandem with a 203(k) rehabilitation mortgage.

The owner of a single-family home can apply to borrow up to $25,000 with a secured Title 1 loan.

With Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle® Renovation Mortgage, homebuyers and homeowners can combine their home purchase or refinance with renovation funding in a single mortgage. There’s also a Freddie Mac renovation mortgage, but standard credit score guidelines apply.

Cash-Out Refinance

If you have an existing mortgage and equity in the home, and want to take out a loan for home improvements, a cash-out refinance from a private lender may be worth looking into.

You usually must have at least 20% equity in your home to be eligible, meaning a maximum 80% loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of the home’s current value. (To calculate LTV, divide your mortgage balance by the home’s appraised value. Let’s say your mortgage balance is $225,000 and the home’s appraised value is $350,000. Your LTV is 64%, which indicates 36% equity in the home.)

A cash-out refi could also be an opportunity to improve your mortgage interest rate and change the length of the loan.

PACE Loan

For green improvements to your home, such as solar panels or an energy-efficient heating system, you might be eligible for a PACE loan .

The nonprofit organization PACENation promotes property-assessed clean energy (or PACE) financing for homeowners and commercial property owners, to be repaid over a period of up to 30 years.

Home Improvement Loan

A home improvement loan is an unsecured personal loan—meaning the house isn’t used as collateral to secure the loan. Approval is based on personal financial factors that will vary from lender to lender.

Lenders offer a wide range of loan sizes, so you can invest in minor updates to major renovations.

Home Equity Line of Credit

If you need a loan only for repairs but don’t have great credit, a HELOC may provide a lower rate. Be aware that if you can’t make payments on the borrowed funding, which is secured by your home, the lender can seize your home.

The Takeaway

If you have your eye on a fixer-upper that you just know can be polished into a jewel, an FHA 203(k) loan could be the ticket, but options may make more sense to other homebuyers and homeowners.

SoFi offers cash-out refinancing, turning your home equity into renovation money.

Or maybe a home improvement loan of $5,000 to $100,000 seems like a better way to turn your home into a haven.

Check your rate today.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Source: sofi.com

The evolution of the good faith estimate

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

A good faith estimate (GFE) is a comparison of mortgage offers provided by lenders or brokers to a consumer. It was recently replaced by the loan estimate—a similar concept with a few small differences. 

What Is a Good Faith Estimate Designed to Do?

The GFE’s purpose was to present mortgage shoppers with all the details they need to know about their mortgage options to help them make well-informed decisions. This transparency ensures consumers are aware of all the costs associated with the mortgage—including fees, APR and other expenses.

Borrowers would receive a GFE three business days after submitting their mortgage application, and after thorough review, would then select which mortgage option they would like to move forward with. 

Are Good Faith Estimates Still Used?

The term “good faith estimate” is not used by lenders anymore, but the concept remains prevalent. In 2015, the GFE was replaced by the loan estimate. Anyone who purchased a home after October 3, 2015, received a loan estimate rather than a GFE. 

In October of 2015, the good faith estimate was replaced by the loan estimate.

If you applied for a reverse mortgage, HELOC, a mortgage through an assistance program or a manufactured loan not secured by real estate, you will not receive a loan estimate. Instead, you will receive a Truth-in-Lending disclosure. 

The purposes of a GFE, a loan estimate and a Truth-in-Lending disclosure are largely the same: providing transparency to borrowers. The main difference—and benefit—of a loan estimate is that there’s more regulation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Since the GFE was not standardized through regulations, they were sometimes difficult to decipher, especially for first-time homebuyers. Conversely, each loan estimate must contain the exact same information in a standardized way, which we’ll cover below. 

What Appears on a Loan Estimate?

According to the CFPB, a complete, compliant loan estimate should include the length of the loan term, the purpose of the loan, the product (fixed versus adjustable interest rate, for example), the loan type (conventional, FHA, VA or other), the loan ID number and indication of an interest rate lock. Additionally, the loan estimate will include the following:

  • Loan terms: A summary of the total loan amount, interest rate, monthly principal and interest and penalties, and whether these amounts can increase after closing.
  • Projected payments: A summary of monthly principal, interest, mortgage insurance, taxes and insurance. Broken down by years 1–7 and 8–30 for a 30-year mortgage.
  • Costs at closing: Estimated closing costs and the total estimated cash needed to close, which includes the down payment and any credits.
  • Loan costs: Origination charges—which is broken down by 0.25% of the loan amount, application fees and underwriting fees—and other fees.
  • Other costs: Taxes, government fees, prepaid homeowners insurance, interest and prepaid property, escrow payment at closing and title policy.
  • Comparisons: Metrics you can use to compare your loan to others. Includes the total principal, interest, mortgage insurance and loan costs you will have paid after five years.
  • Other considerations: Information about appraisal, assumption, homeowner’s insurance, late payment fees, refinancing and servicing.
  • Confirmation of receipt: A line at the end of the statement that confirms you have received the form. This does not legally bind you to accept the loan.

Your loan estimate will also include your personal information, including your full name, income, address and Social Security number. Make sure to double-check all of this information for errors, as they could cause potential problems later in the process.

To better understand your loan estimate, explore the CFPB’s interactive guide.

Closing Disclosure

For first-time homebuyers in particular, it’s important to understand the timeline of events so that you can be prepared for your home buying process and have all the information and necessary documents at hand.

Closing Disclosure Timeline

Lenders are required to send you a loan estimate form no more than three business days after receiving your application. Finally, at least three business days prior to loan consummation—when you are contractually obligated to the loan—you will receive a closing disclosure.

Lenders are required to send you a loan estimate no more than three days after receiving your application and a closing disclosure at least three days prior to loan consummation.

What Is the Purpose of a Closing Disclosure?

The purpose of a closing disclosure is to assign “tolerance levels” to fees listed in the loan estimate form. This means that fees cannot increase over their tolerance level unless a specific triggering event occurs. There are three different tolerance levels:

  • Zero percent tolerance: Fees in this category cannot increase from what is listed on the loan estimate. These fees are typically those paid to a creditor, broker or affiliate, such as origination fees.
  • 10 percent cumulative tolerance: Fees in this category are added together, and the sum of these fees are not to increase by more than 10 percent of the amount listed in the loan estimate. Fees include recording fees and third-party service fees.
  • No tolerance or unlimited tolerance: Fees in this category have no limits at all, and can increase by any amount, as long as they are disclosed “in good faith,” using the best information available. These are usually fees lenders have little to no control over.

Remember not to confuse “zero percent tolerance” with “no tolerance,” as they are quite different. Zero percent tolerance fees cannot increase, while no tolerance fees can increase by any amount as long as it is considered “in good faith.”

Does a Loan Estimate Affect My Credit?

The act of applying for a mortgage may temporarily cause your credit score to dip, as it requires a hard inquiry by lenders. However, you may shop around for different mortgages from different lenders to get multiple preapprovals and loan estimates. As long as you do this all within a 45-day window, these separate credit checks will be recorded on your credit report as one single hard inquiry.

This is because lenders realize that you are only going to buy one home, so they categorize all of the actions you take under one umbrella of applying for a mortgage. Note that you may want to consider the 45-day rule loosely. Prioritize finding the best mortgage deal possible. Even if this means processing a hard inquiry outside of the 45-day window for a better deal, you’ll likely end up saving more money in the long run.

To learn more about what affects your credit and how to work toward improving your credit profile, contact our team at Lexington Law.


Reviewed by Kenton Arbon, an Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Kenton Arbon is an Associate Attorney in the Arizona office. Mr. Arbon was born in Bakersfield, California, and grew up in the Northwest. He earned his B.A. in Business Administration, Human Resources Management, while working as an Oregon State Trooper. His interest in the law lead him to relocate to Arizona, attend law school, and graduate from Arizona State College of Law in 2017. Since graduating from law school, Mr. Arbon has worked in multiple compliance domains including anti-money laundering, Medicare Part D, contracts, and debt negotiation. Mr. Arbon is licensed to practice law in Arizona. He is located in the Phoenix office.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

Stock Market Today: Dow Leads in a Mixed May Start for Stocks

The Dow Jones Industrial Average kicked off the month with a 0.7% gain to 34,113 on Monday that came despite a weaker-than-expected Institute of Supply Management manufacturing report.

Supply bottlenecks resulted in an April reading of 60.7 – a slower rate of expansion than March’s 64.7 reading indicated, but expansion nonetheless.

“Although the composite was a fair bit below expectations (Barclays 64.5; consensus 65.0), the decline comes off of a robust March reading that was the highest since 1983,” says Barclays economist Jonathan Millar. “Indeed, components of the composite continue to point to very strong growth, which comes as no surprise, given highly favorable demand conditions amid fiscal stimulus, easing of social distancing restrictions, and ongoing progress in vaccinations.”

We’re glad to see that at least some investors heeded our advice to ignore the urge to “sell in May and go away.” But stocks weren’t exactly up across the board. The Nasdaq Composite (-0.5% to 13,895) struggled, thanks to weakness in mega-cap tech and tech-esque names such as Tesla (TSLA, -3.5%), Amazon.com (AMZN, -2.3%) and Salesforce.com (CRM, -2.9%).

“For the first time in a while there is a clear value/cyclical bias while growth/tech is under pressure,” says Michael Reinking, senior market strategist for the New York Stock Exchange. “Tech wobbled last week despite blowout numbers from the mega-cap stocks. This is especially concerning as the rate environment remains in check.”

Sign up for Kiplinger’s FREE Closing Bell e-letter: Our daily look at the stock market’s moves, and what moves investors should make

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The S&P 500 gained 0.3% to 4,192.
  • The small-cap Russell 2000 also finished in the black, up 0.5% to 2,277.
  • Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B, +1.7%) held its 2021 annual shareholder meeting this weekend. Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett and Executive Vice Chairman Charlie Munger addressed a number of topics, including trimming Berkshire’s stake in Apple (AAPL) in Q4 2020. “It was probably a mistake,” said Buffett, adding that AAPL’s stock price is a “huge, huge bargain” given how “indispensable” the company’s products are to people. Also of note: Berkshire grew fourth-quarter operating income by 20%, to $5.9 billion, while cash grew 5% to $145.4 billion.
  • Domino’s Pizza (DPZ, +2.6%) was a notable winner today. The pizza chain revealed an accelerated stock buyback program, saying in a regulatory filing that it will pay Barclays $1 billion in cash for roughly 2 million DPZ shares.
  • U.S. crude oil futures jumped 1.4% to end at $64.49 per barrel.
  • Gold futures snapped a four-day losing streak, adding 1.4% to settle at $1,791.80 an ounce.
  • The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) declined 2.3% to 18.18.
  • Bitcoin prices improved by 1.1% to $57,530.32. More impressive was the 18.6% improvement in Ethereum, to $3,300.64 (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m. each trading day.)
stock chart for 050321stock chart for 050321

Another Big Week of Reports … And Dividends

What should investors be looking forward to this week?

On Thursday and Friday, we’ll get the latest weekly unemployment filings and April jobs data, respectively, but throughout the week, another heaping helping of earnings reports, anchored by the likes of General Motors (GM), Pfizer (PFE), Under Armour (UAA) and PayPal (PYPL).

And given that many companies tend to synchronize their dividend and buyback actions with their earnings reports, you also can expect plenty of news on the dividend-growth front.

In some cases, those raises might be token upticks meant to secure current or future membership in the Dividend Aristocrats. But others are bound to compete with this year’s most explosive payout hikes – improvements of 15%, 20% or even 30% that drastically change the income aspect of current shareholders’ investments. Ideally, of course, investors want the best of both worlds: income longevity and generosity.

These 10 dividend stocks just might fit the bill. This group of mostly blue-chip household names offer a strong history of payout increases, a sharp level of recent hikes compared to their peers, and the operational quality to continue affording these annual raises.

Kyle Woodley was long AMZN, CRM, PYPL and Ethereum as of this writing.

Source: kiplinger.com

Do You Own the Land Under Your Home?

Do your due diligence to ensure you know about liens, easements or land grants made on property you’re thinking about purchasing.

When you buy a home, you probably assume that you own everything in and around it within the property lines. But in some parts of the country, homeowners are discovering the property they’re buying does not fully include the land beneath it.

For example, in Tampa Bay, FL a family realized at closing that their home builder had already signed away the rights to the land underneath their home to its own energy company. The “mineral rights” grant gave the energy company the freedom to drill, mine or explore for precious minerals beneath the home.

How is this even possible, and how can it be avoided? Who really owns the land beneath your home? Here’s what you need to know.

You probably own the land

Generally speaking, it’s likely that you own the property underneath and around your house. Most property ownership law is based on the Latin doctrine, “For whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to heaven and down to hell.”

There can be exceptions, though. On occasion, a buyer will uncover an easement for a driveway or walkway that goes through their property. This is why it’s important to carefully review contracts and disclosures.

Contract and disclosures

A seller, be it a home builder or a homeowner, can’t claim any sort of rights to the property without first disclosing those rights in the real estate contract or in some sort of disclosure statement.

Each state is different with regard to how things are disclosed. Many disclosure statements require the seller to tell the buyer whether or not someone else has laid claim to the property or if the buyer is limited to claims in the future. If the seller is unaware, or the home you’re purchasing is in a state that doesn’t require the seller to disclose, then you should carefully review the property’s title report before signing off.

Preliminary title report

There can be a situation in which a seller doesn’t know that someone else has laid claim to the property. For example, this could happen in the case of a resale in a newer subdivision where the current owner bought from a homebuilder directly.

Throughout the years, there have been instances when an easement, encroachment or even a small mechanic’s lien sits on a title unbeknownst to the current seller. When this happens, all parties must work together to determine the best course of action. Access to the land below your home would have to be granted via a deed and, as such, it would show up on the preliminary title report.

The title report provides ownership information and acknowledges loans, deeds or trusts, easements, encroachments, unpaid property taxes or anything else that has been recorded against the property. If a homebuilder deeded mineral rights to themselves, for instance, they would have had to record that deed. If so, it stays on the title report until they and the current owner agree to take it off.

How to avoid last-minute disclosures

In Tampa Bay, unsuspecting homeowners signed over to the builder’s holding company the “eternal rights to practically anything of value (found) buried underground, including gold, groundwater and gemstones,” according to the Tampa Bay Times. If that weren’t enough, homeowners who didn’t realize they had signed over the mineral rights, or who did so at the last minute under duress, could have trouble selling their home later to wary buyers.

With any home purchase, you should give yourself enough time so that you can do your due diligence, either as a contingency to the contract or in the period leading up to the contract before you sign it.

When buyers think about due diligence, they immediately think “property inspection.” And in the case of new construction, it’s uncommon to do an inspection. But there is so much more to due diligence than a simple property inspection.

Never wait until the closing to discover such a big disclosure, as the unfortunate buyers in Tampa Bay experienced. It’s common practice for a good listing agent or seller, in states where disclosure is required, to raise something like mineral rights as a red flag to all buyers from the get-go.

Deeding access to the land below your home isn’t simply some “fine print” buried in the closing papers that could be easily overlooked. Such a disclosure would require paragraphs, if not pages, of documentation.

Best course of action: Review all documentation, disclosures and title paperwork prior to signing a real estate contract or during a due diligence period. If you’re uncertain, ask your agent for help reviewing the documents or hire a real estate attorney to pore through the paperwork on your behalf.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com