APM Elevate: April 2024


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It’s that time of year when everything seems to come alive, including our spirits! Whether you’re dreaming of a new home, thinking about refinancing, or just curious about your options, APM has your back. So kick back, enjoy the sunshine, and let’s make this month one to remember. Here’s to finding your perfect place to call home and making some great memories along the way!


Is Consumer Spending Keeping Rates High?

While our economy is a capitalist market economy, which means that the nation’s population controls it, there are instances where economic data appears to be better news than it really is. For example, although we’ve been enjoying low unemployment rates, this bumped up inflation as many employers ended up paying higher wages to retain staff.

More recently, consumer spending was described as one of several factors affecting inflation. Recent findings by the Bureau of Economic Analysis found that consumer spending rose by 1% in January 2024 and by 0.8% in February. This tells us that the Federal Reserve’s recent decision to postpone interest rate cuts hasn’t deterred many people from shopping.

Higher interest rates are put in place to help control inflation, as it’s expected that higher price tags will result in less consumer spending. However, inflation hasn’t cooled as much as expected over the last few months, as increased spending has been fanning the flames. Since customers continue buying, most retailers are hesitant to reduce prices. In turn, the Federal Reserve interprets this as a reason to keep interest rates where they are.

Source: investopedia.com


Less Square Footage = More Affordability

As the nation’s housing industry celebrates New Homes Month, more builders are constructing smaller homes in response to buyer demand. A recent National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) analysis found that new homes built in 2023 reached their smallest median size in 13 years. This helped reduce median new home prices to $428,200 in 2023, which was a 6% decrease from 2022.

Around 38% of builders say they built smaller homes in 2023, and more than a quarter (26%) plan to construct even smaller properties this year. According to NAHB’s latest What Home Buyers Really Want study, there has been a downward shift in buyer preferences for home size in the last 20 years, which is confirmed by Census Bureau data.

In 2003, the typical buyer wanted 2,260 square feet. Today, that number is 2,067 square feet, which is roughly equal to the size of a 2003 home minus the primary (master) bedroom.

2021 was the only year that saw home sizes increase, due to a combination of lower mortgage interest rates and an increase in remote offices.

While smaller properties are expected to improve pricing, builders still face challenges that can potentially limit their efforts. These include a scarcity of lots available for development, lack of skilled labor and restrictive codes in some cities.

Source: nahb.org


The Latest Student Loan Consolidation News

If you’re one of the millions repaying student loans, you may have an opportunity to lower or even eliminate the balance—but the deadline to apply is April 30, 2024.

Here’s the latest: The U.S. Department of Education will be carrying out a one-time loan adjustment this summer. Depending on your loan’s terms and other factors, you may need to consolidate them to receive credit toward loan cancellation.

If you hold a combination of these federally managed loans, you’ll need to consolidate them by visiting the Federal Student Aid website:

  • Commercially held Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL)
  • Parent PLUS loans
  • Perkins loans
  • Health Education Assistance Loan (HEAL) Program loans

After you take this step, your new Debt Consolidation Loan should be eligible for a one-time adjustment, and more of the payments you have made up to this point will be counted toward loan cancellation.

If you apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), these extra periods of payment count toward that program if you meet the other eligibility requirements. PSLF forgiveness can be received after 10 years of eligible payments.

Other ways to lower or eliminate your student loan payments may be available to you. Click here to review your options and apply for assistance with student loans.

Source: consumerfinance.gov 


Don’t Miss These Top 5 Tax Breaks for Homeowners

When you own your own home, you want to make sure you take every deduction possible to maximize your tax refund. Many people view these refunds as “found money,” but they’re really not. It’s money that you’re entitled to receive back…as long as you claim the proper deductions.

Owning a home is often considered a cornerstone of the American dream. Beyond the pride and security of homeownership, there are also financial perks that come with it, particularly when it comes to tax benefits. Understanding these tax advantages can mean significant savings and a more efficient financial strategy for many homeowners.

Read more on our blog.


Current Overdraft Fees Challenged

Earlier this year, changes to bigger banks’ overdraft protection plans were announced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). These include lowering penalty fees and are part of the Biden Administration’s campaign against exorbitant consumer fee structures. Since 2020, overdraft fees for American consumers have added up to around $280 billion.

The proposed CFPB rule would offer big banks two options for managing overdraft coverage:

  • Banks could offer overdraft loans, managing the funds they advance as credit line loans. Consumers would apply for credit and institutions would determine their ability to repay. In addition, consumers would be able to repay the credit manually. These protections could result in fewer consumers being surprised by overdrafts and the resulting fees.
  • Large banks could continue offering overdraft coverage as a courtesy, rather than a revenue-generating line of credit. These funds would continue to be exempt from Truth in Lending (TILA) regulations. However, banks would be limited to charging fees in line with their actual costs.
    The CFPB proposed benchmark rates for overdrafts to be reduced to $3 to $14 per transaction. It’s a big reduction to overdraft fees that currently run as high as $37.

Source: consumerfinance.gov


Artichoke, Asparagus and Tomato Pasta Salad

It’s the time of year when many of the ingredients in this salad are in season, so keep an eye out for them at your favorite grocery or farmer’s market. This Artichoke, Asparagus and Tomato Pasta Salad can be prepared in less than an hour.


Time To Say Goodbye to These Decor Trends?

Depending on your taste, budget and future plans, you may be shopping the decorating and lighting trends that are hot for 2024. If bringing in new items means that you’ll have to remove their current counterparts, here are some styles and trends that are considered past their prime.

White kitchens have been around for almost ten years, so many homeowners are doing colorful updates. While ombre and blue kitchens have been surfacing during the past three years, you can take a shortcut by converting to a retro-style black and white kitchen.

Gray rooms and furniture took over a few years ago, but take a look at Facebook Marketplace and you’ll probably find dozens of gray sofas and chairs for sale. Thankfully, homeowners have reasonably free rein when replacing gray tones, as both neutral and striking colors are making the news.

Animal prints may always be a fashion favorite, but many interior decorators are putting them out to pasture. If you can’t bear to be 100% critter-free, keep the smaller items such as throw pillows.

Sliding barn doors were popular when farmhouse styles were the rage, and while they’re still selling, they may eventually date your home. If you can’t think of an alternative, be creative by adding wall decor or even painting them.

Word signs and stencils were seen in practically every home for several years, but this trend can make an otherwise-attractive room appear dated. Instead, choose art and wall decorations that complement each room.

Source: stonegableblog.com



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