Posted on 30 June 2011.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has recently agreed to a reduction in its rate hike request for people who buy their own health insurance. Starting April 1, insurance rates for people who purchase their own health insurance will rise to 9.3% from 7% depending on the type of policy they have.
As a part of the new agreement, rates will increase to 9.3% for 114,000 consumers who pay for their own insurance. This 9.3% increase will result in an average increase of $30.29 for these consumers. While this may seem like a lot money, it is substantially less than the 21.3% increase that the insurance company was seeking.
For the 58,000 subscribers who buy group conversion policies, which is insurance offered to someone who used to have insurance from their previous employer, will see their rates increase to 7%. This increase will result in a monthly increase of $28.61.
The other type of insurance that will be affected by these rate increases are the 25,000 consumers who buy age-related, high-deductible plans. The monthly increase for these types of insurance policies will range from 7% to 9.3%, and will be dependent on the renewal date. These rate increases where fairly close to what the insurance company was seeking which was 7.8% to 10.9%.
Even though it seems like the insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield is raising insurance rates substantially for its subscribers, the fact that these rates were not increased as much as the insurance company wanted will result in large savings for people in Michigan who buy their own health insurance. In fact, Attorney General Bill Schuette predicts the agreed rate increase will result in $60 million in savings for health insurance subscribers in the state of Michigan.
Posted in Featured, Health Insurance, News
Posted on 28 June 2011.
According to a national survey released by the Mortgage Bankers Association, the number of homeowners who fell behind on their mortgage payments dropped in the last three months of 2010 bringing this rate to the lowest it has been since 2008. While this is considerably good news to what has been reported in the previous months, the actual delinquency rate still remains higher than what is usually considered normal. Also, the number of homes that are in some stage of the foreclosure process returned to its highest numbers since early 2010.
While the numbers supporting the decline of mortgage delinquency rates are encouraging, the data presented in this survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association is a little misleading. Of course if the mortgage delinquency rates are declining that is a good thing, but if the number of homes in foreclosure are still at an all time high we are really only treading water. This increased supply of low-priced, foreclosed properties is a constant reminder that home prices can continue to decline, which would do further damage to the already ailing housing market.
It is important to cautiously review the results of this survey so that we do not get ahead of ourselves in declaring a full housing market recovery. When doing so you can look at other signs of economic improvement and hope that the trend continues in the months ahead. For example, mortgages that were only one payment past due are at the lowest level since 2007, suggesting the employment workforce is improving as well. If we carefully monitor these positive indicators, and do everything that we can to support this recovery in the housing market, we will have a much better chance of seeing the whole economy recover much more quickly than it has been over the past few months.
Posted in Home Equity Loan, News
Posted on 23 June 2011.
Credit cards that offer points or miles that can be redeemed for airline tickets are making a huge comeback within the credit card industry. In the third quarter of 2010, these types of credit cards accounted for 40% of the 1.2 billion credit card offers sent to consumers, up 30% from the year before. As a way to entice consumers into signing up for these credit cards, the airlines are offering special incentives that differ from the previous incentives they used to offer consumers. For example, Delta Airlines is offering its cardholders a first checked bag free during the month of May, which is a $25 savings. Other airlines such as Continental were offering 30,000 – 50,000 air miles when someone signed up for their card, which is enough miles for one or two round-trip domestic flights.
These new bonus offers seem to be working as the number of credit card applicants increased dramatically after these airlines changed their bonus programs. Jet Blue saw an increase of 30% with its frequent flier program when the airline decided to get rid of expiration dates and change the point earning system from miles flown to every dollar spent. These changes make it much easier for consumers to earn free flights from the carrier as well as earn them with every point representing a dollar spent on an airline ticket.
These new reward programs are making it easier for consumers to see the savings associated with these credit cards. Previously, it was hard for consumers to justify the high interest rates, large annual fees, and huge dollar amounts that needed to be charged in order to cash in on the airline mileage. Now with such discounts as free baggage check, discounts on in-flight amenities, and reduced annual fees, consumers can really see the advantage of signing up for one of these credit cards to take advantage of the savings they will receive whenever they travel.
Posted in Credit Cards, News
Posted on 21 June 2011.
According to the database kept by Insurance.com, the average American can expect to pay $84,000 for auto insurance in their lifetime. This average amount for car insurance makes auto insurance policies one of the more expensive bills Americans will have during their lifetime. Knowing that auto insurance will cost so much during your life, there are a few steps you can take to help lower the overall costs of your auto insurance.
One easy way to keep your auto insurance costs at a minimum is to obey all traffic laws and stay ticket-free. Piling up the speeding tickets is a quick way to increase your insurance premiums. Once you start getting into a lot of accidents or receiving a handful of tickets, you will be viewed as a liability by the insurance companies and forced to pay a higher insurance premium. Also, when you stay accident-free some insurance companies will reward you for good behavior and offer you lower insurance rates.
Adding teen drivers to your insurance policy is one of the most common reasons why someone’s insurance rates increase. While this is an unavoidable formality for most Americans, there are ways that you can receive lower insurance rates even when you have to insure teen drivers. Some insurance companies will offer good grade discounts to teen drivers, so make sure you ask your insurance agent what you can do to qualify for these reduced rates. Also, some insurance companies will offer a discount if you install a device in your car to monitor your teen’s driving habits.
Another good way to save money on car insurance is to purchase a type of car that has good vehicle safety ratings. By staying away from the cars that are always on the most stolen lists or have poor accident performance ratings will allow you to receive lower insurance premiums from your auto insurance company.
Posted in News
Posted on 18 June 2011.
According the U.S. Commerce Department, retail sales rose 0.5% in April to a seasonally adjusted $389.4 billion. Also, March sales numbers were revised to reflect a 0.9% growth rather than the 0.4% that was initially reported and February’s numbers were given a boost as well. When comparing this April’s sales numbers to those of April 2010, retail sales are up 7.6%. The sales numbers for the month of April was pretty much on par with analyst’s predictions of 0.7%. However, when you factor in the revisions to February and March retail sales beat expectations.
Industry analysts are warning that these recent April sales figures should not be over celebrated because when looking at April’s sales figures compared to the newly adjusted sales numbers for February and March it appears that real spending has started to stall. Also, a vast majority of the sales made in April and March were made at the gas pump and grocery store, as sales at gas stations rose 2.75 in April after a 4.1% increase in March. So, even though consumers are spending more money, they are spending it in essential items such as gasoline and food, which does not have a big of an impact on the economy as spending solely on retail items.
While retail sales may have stalled slightly in April, there are still two more months to the second quarter where U.S. consumers can open up their pocket books and increase the retail sales numbers. If gasoline prices decline like many economists are predicting, consumers will have more money to spend on other items which will help grow the U.S. economy.
Posted in News
Posted on 17 June 2011.
According to the California-based real estate tracking company RealtyTrac, foreclosure-related actions decreased during the month of April in the state of Mississippi. In April, only 361 properties in Mississippi saw some sort of foreclosure related action taken against it, ranging from an initial notice of default to the outright possession of the property. Last month saw 149 properties scheduled for a foreclosure sale while lenders took back 212. The rate of foreclosure actions in the state of Mississippi was 2.7% from March of 2011 and 2.2% from April of 2010, placing Mississippi 45th in the nation when it comes to these actions.
Mississippi was not the only state to see a reduction in the number for foreclosure actions within its borders. RealtyTrac reported that national foreclosure actions dropped 9% from March and 34% from April of 2010. Also, April was the seventh straight month of national foreclosure rate declines, bringing foreclosure activity across the country to a 40-month low. While this may all sound like great news for the housing market, the truth of the matter is that these declining foreclosure numbers are a bit of a false positive. RealtyTrac chief executive James Saccacio feels that the number of foreclosure actions is declining because of massive delays in processing foreclosures rather than a housing market recovers. Once these delays in the foreclosure process are fixed, it appears that the U.S. will start to see an increase in the number of foreclosure actions across the country.
Posted in News
Posted on 16 June 2011.
Last week U.S. mortgage applications increased at their fastest pace in the previous two months thanks in large part to another drop in interest rates. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage applications, which includes both refinancing and home purchase mortgages, rose by 8.2% for the week ending May 6th.
According to Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s vice president of research, the interest rates dropped again last week because the Federal Reserve continued its asset purchase program. The reduction in interest rates led many current and prospective homeowners to apply for a home mortgage, trying to take advantage of these lower interest rates. Over the last four weeks the Mortgage Bankers Association has seen its refinance index increase by about 18%. However, even though this index has been steadily increasing the past month or so, refinance application volumes remain 50% below what they were at this time last year.
Looking at all of MBA’s recent index numbers, the refinance figures dominated the large increases seen in mortgage applications. Refinancing application requests climbed 9% this past week, while the figure for home purchase loan requests only rose by 6.7%. Also, the refinancing figures accounted for 63.1% of total loan applications, up from 62.7% in the week before. These index numbers are at their highest levels since late March.
Posted in Home Purchase Loan, Home Refinance Loan, News
Posted on 15 June 2011.
Five of the largest banks in the United States face a potential liability of $17 billion in civil lawsuits if a settlement is not reached with state attorneys general to address improper foreclosure practices. The figure does not cover additional claims from federal agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Justice Department, which could add additional billions of dollars to the lawsuit settlement. State and federal officials have yet to propose a specific settlement figure, but a source close the negotiations believes it will be at least $17 billion to start with.
Earlier this week, bank representatives met with state and federal officials to discuss the potential costs the banks could face if they did not reach a settlement over claims of abuses related to mortgage servicing. While government officials have started the settlement negotiations at $17 billion, banks feel that they should only pay $5 billion to compensate any borrowers that were previously wronged during the foreclosure process and provide transition assistance for borrowers who were removed from their homes.
If the banks do not agree on a settlement with state and federal officials, they could be facing lawsuits for their alleged unfair and deceptive practices, which could lead to even larger fines being imposed on the banks. Banks are arguing that the issues that arose during the foreclosure crises were largely technical and that very few borrowers faced wrongful foreclosures. While more states around the country intensify their investigations of the mortgage process, Attorneys general in California and New York have announced wide-ranging mortgage investigations to see exactly who was at fault for the mortgage crisis and if anything could have been done to help homeowners avoid the foreclosure process.
Posted in News
Posted on 14 June 2011.
In another round of bad news concerning the housing market, the number of Americans agreeing to buy previously owned homes fell more than anticipated during the month of April, providing more evidence that the real estate market continues to struggle. A Bloomberg News study had forecasted a 1% decline in the pending sales of existing homes for the month of April, but the actual index number fell 12% after a gain of 3.5% in March. While many industry experts were starting to be encouraged about the state of the housing market after March saw an increase in the number of previously owned home sales, this current news is another blow to an already struggling market.
To make matters worse, the prospect that foreclosures will continue to drive property value well below its market price may keep potential home buyers out of the market to see if these home prices will continue to fall. Add in the fact that unemployment continues to hover around 9% and stricter credit requirements are making it more difficult for consumers to obtain mortgage loans and it would appear that it will take years for the housing market to fully recover.
Until these three factors, number of foreclosures on the market, unemployment rates, and lending requirements change for the better the housing market will continue to struggle. Even though other aspects of the economy such as consumer spending and consumer confidence appear to be slowly growing, the housing market has continually lagged behind these other economic indicators. Hopefully homebuyers will start to take advantage of the record low interest rates and low priced homes sooner rather than later so that the real estate market can start to get back on its feet along with the rest of the economy.
Posted in News
Posted on 13 June 2011.
Like many counties across the country, Allen County in Indiana has felt the negative effects of the poor housing market the last few years. In 2009, 2028 families lost their home due to foreclosure and 2010 saw that number increase to 2,134. So far, 2011 has shown some slight signs of improvement as only 556 families have lost their homes to the foreclosure process in the beginning of 2011 and a local foreclosure program is being given the credit for the lower numbers.
Allen County Superior Court Judge Nancy Boyer is leading an Indiana State program that requires homeowners be given a notice informing them of their right to a settlement conference in their foreclosure. While the program has been around for a couple of years now, it appears that more homeowners are taking notice of the program and seeking its assistance. In the first year of the program only 2% of homeowners responded to the notice. After some changes were made to the way homeowners were notified of their right to a settlement conference, the response rate has risen to 34%. Of those 34% of homeowners that actually attend a settlement conference, 82% that stick with the program stay in their home and avoid the negative consequences of a foreclosure.
Making this program even better for distressed homeowners is the fact that is free of charge. Other foreclosure settlement companies can charge as much as $2,000 with no guarantee of success. Judge Boyer warns that any company charging to help you with your foreclosure case should raise red flags. Homeowners are encouraged to seek government sponsored foreclosure programs if they are in need of avoiding the foreclosure process.
Posted in News