3 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Plumbing

Everyone wants their pipes to last as long as possible, but there are a couple of simple problems that might be sucking the life out of your plumbing. Long-term stress is the enemy, when it comes to your water system.

Get The Most Out Of Your PlumbingEveryone wants their pipes to last as long as possible, but there are a couple of simple problems that might be sucking the life out of your plumbing. Long-term stress is the enemy when it comes to your water system.

The three most common enemies are high water pressure, mineral-laden hard water, and grease. Avoid these three mistakes, and your water system will last years longer.

Take The Pressure Off Your Pipes

You might enjoy high water pressure when you’re taking a shower, but your pipes aren’t enjoying it at all. Over time, this high pressure stresses your plumbing system and can lead to leaks.

Is your high-pressure shower worth an expensive plumbing leak? To test your water pressure, you’ll have to hire a professional. Proper pressure should be somewhere between forty and eighty pounds per square inch.

To have a plumber reduce your water pressure should cost no more than about three or four hundred dollars. That sounds expensive, but it’s a lot cheaper than a leak.  Just imagine if that leak was to happen in the winter, especially one like the winter we have had this year in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Soft Water Is Good Water

If your water has a lot of minerals dissolved it, then it’s known as hard water. Many homes in the Fairfax and Clifton Virginia area have well water and it has to be treated every so often with softener. If you don’t already have a water softener you should consider it, because over time, those minerals will build up in your plumbing.

Eventually this will lead to a leak, so nip the problem in the bud, and look into getting a water softener. A good water softener should cost around five hundred dollars.

Hard water also makes soaps and detergents less effective. Soft water will get your clothes, your dishes, and even your hair cleaner.

Cease The Grease

Don’t ever pour cooking grease down the drain. It might be liquid when you pour it, but after a while, it will cool and solidify in your pipes. This won’t break the plumbing and cause a leak, but it will clog it all up.

The water that goes down afterward won’t do anything to wash away the sticky grease. You don’t want your pipes backing up, trust me. That is one messy problem.

Instead pour your grease into containers and throw it away in the garbage. Even better, go ahead and save it in the pantry and cook with it later.

Indoor plumbing is one of the most convenient technologies we have. So don’t take it for granted. Take care of your plumbing, and get the most out of it.

Avoid excessive water pressure, get a water softener, and don’t pour any grease down the drain. A little care now will go a long way. No one wants to deal with a plumbing leak. They’re expensive and a huge hassle.

Case Shiller Price Index Shows Homeowners A Rise In Home Equity

According to the S&P/Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices released Tuesday, the U.S. Housing Market is on a roll based on year-over-year increases in average home values, but month-to-month results were mixed.

Case Shiller Price Index Shows Homeowners A Rise In Home Equity According to the S&P/Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices released Tuesday, the U.S. Housing Market is on a roll based on year-over-year increases in average home values, but month-to-month results were mixed.

The 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices showed year-over-year growth of 13.80 and 13.70 percent respectively.

Highlights Include:

  • Dallas, Texas posted its highest rate of annual growth since 2000.
  • Chicago’s average home price rose by 11.00 percent, its highest annual gain since December 1988.
  • The 10 and 20-City Indices posted their best November home prices since 2005.

Top year-over-year gains in home prices included Las Vegas, Nevada at 27.30 percent, San Francisco, California at 23.20 percent, Los Angeles, California at 21.60 percent and San Diego, California at 18.70 percent. Atlanta, Georgia rounds out the top five cities with a year-over-year increase in home prices of 18.50 percent.

The annual readings for the S&P/Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Housing Market Indices in November suggests that U.S. markets are strong enough to sustain momentum in spite of rising mortgage rates. The month-to-month results show that both indices decreased by an incremental 0.10 percent in November, 2013.

Keeping in mind the traditional slump in home sales during the winter and holiday season, lower month-to-month readings were neither unexpected nor disappointing.

Eight of the nine top cities posting the highest month-to-month growth in home prices were located in the Sun Belt. San Diego, California and Minneapolis, Minnesota home prices remained nearly flat after decreasing in October.

Nine of the 20 cities surveyed posted positive month-to-month growth in home prices. Of the nine cities, only Boston, Massachusetts and Cleveland, Ohio were not located in the Sun Belt.

S&P/ Dow Jones Index Committee Chairman Expects Slower Growth In 2014

David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, noted that November’s month-to-month readings for the 10 and 20-city home price indices indicated that Phoenix, Arizona, Los Angeles California and Las Vegas, Nevada had each posted 20 or more consecutive months of rising home prices.

While positive in his remarks about increasing home prices, Mr. Blitzer also noted that indicators suggested a slower rate of growth during 2014.

This aligns with previously released economic news citing uncertainty about mortgage rates that may continue to rise as the Federal Reserve continues tapering its monthly asset purchases under its quantitative easing program.

The Fed’s FOMC meeting is scheduled to end Wednesday, January 29, at which time the committee’s customary statement will indicate whether or not the Fed’s monthly asset purchases will be reduced from their current level of $75 billion.

On the positive side, Chairman Blitzer said that the low inflation rate (1.50 percent in 2013) and rising home prices are helping homeowners accumulate home equity at a faster pace.

What's Your Home's Real Value?

As a society, it seems like we’ve gotten away from appreciating our homes for their emotional and sentimental worth. Instead, we focus solely on their monetary value.

What's Your Home's Real Value?As a society, it seems like we’ve gotten away from appreciating our homes for their emotional and sentimental worth. Instead, we focus solely on their monetary value.

An Appraiser Can Estimate A Home’s Monetary Value, But To Gain A True Concept Of Your Home’s Worth, You Must Also Take Into Consideration:

  1. Pride Of Ownership. You don’t buy a pair of Prada shoes because you’re going to be able to resell them and make a profit. You buy them because they make you look good and feel good.
  2. Security And Stability.Your home provides a roof over your head that’s in your control. You can decorate it how you want. You don’t have to worry about a landlord selling the property or asking you to move out. In the Fairfax Station, Virginia area many houses come with acreage as well as a home. In the “olden days” (or should I say “golden days”), we called our homes our castles because, as owners, we felt like the kings and queens of our homes. You can still feel that way! Claim your castle and crown yourself king or queen today.
  3. A Safe Haven. After a tough day at work or a day of disappointments, where’s the first place you think of going?  Home! As Dorothy says, “There’s no place like home.”
  4. A Place To Make Memories.  Your son’s tree house and daughter’s playhouse. The markings on the wall that tracked your children’s growth. The bay window in the living room where you watch the first snowflakes of winter fall in Northern Virginia. The porch swing where you start and end every anniversary celebration.
  5. A Neighborhood Full Of Friends. In the event of an emergency, your neighbors are your first line of defense. They’re also the simplest, best and least expensive form of security. Additionally, they may have the exact tool you need for a project; the extra pair of hands you need to complete a project or children to become playmates with yours. Neighbors also give you that much needed in-person, up-close social network and in many neighborhoods in Fairfax County, Virginia they have home owner associations.

Even if your home’s economic value has dropped, you continue to benefit from its emotional values of community, stability, security and success.

Thinking of buying a home? I can help you evaluate the emotional and monetary worth of homes and find a home that fits your values and lifestyle. Give your trusted real estate professionals at the DC Team a call today.

Existing Home Sales Reach Highest Level In 7 Years

The NAR provided great year-end news as existing home sales in December pushed 2013 sales of existing homes to a 7 year high.

Existing Home Sales Reach Highest Level In 7 YearsThe NAR provided great year-end news as existing home sales in December pushed 2013 sales of existing homes to a 7 year high. December’s reading of 4.86 sales of pre-owned homes came in at 4.87 million on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

Although projections had been for 4.89 million sales, the December reading topped November’s revised sales of 4.82 million pre-owned homes.

December’s reading showed the first gain in existing home sales in three months. NAR reported that existing home sales for 2013 reached 5.09 million, which represented a 9.10 percent increase over 2012.

More Good News: Median Price Of Existing Homes Rises

NAR reported that the national median price for pre-owned homes increased to $198,000, a year-over-year increase of 9.90 percent. The average price of an existing home for all of 2013 was $197,100. This was the strongest growth in existing home prices since 2005 and represented an increase of 11.50 percent.

There were 1.86 million pre-owned homes for sale in December. At current sales rates, this represents a 4.60 month inventory. Real estate pros like to see a minimum of a six-month supply of available homes, so existing homes remain in short supply.

Analysts attributed rising home prices to improving economic conditions and a persistent shortage of homes for sale.

FHFA: Slower Gain for Home Prices In November

FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that November prices of homes financed with mortgages owned or guaranteed by the two agencies rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.10 percent as compared to October’s increase of 0.50 percent and an expected growth rate of 0.40 percent.

November’s reading brought year-over-year home sales to an increase of 7.60 percent, but is still 8.90 percent below their April 2007 peak.

Analysts noted that recent reports of increasing new home construction and rising new home sales as reasons why prices of existing homes are seeing slower growth.

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 27, 2014

Last week was an action-packed week for economic news, and all of it was packed into Thursday.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 27, 2014Last week was an action-packed week for economic news, and all of it was packed into Thursday:

Weekly Jobless claims came in at 326,000 which was lower than the expected 330,000 new claims. This week’s claims were higher than the prior week’s 325,000 new jobless claims filed.

The NAR released its Existing Home Sales Report for December; sales of existing homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.86 million.

December’s reading fell shy of estimates of 490 million existing home sales, but the estimate was based on November sales that were later adjusted downward to 4.82 million sales of existing homes. Existing home sales for 2013 came in at 5.09 million sales, a 9.10 percent increase over 2012 sales.

The median price of a pre-existing home reached $198,000 in December, with the median price for all of 2013 at $197,100, which was an increase of 11.50 percent over the average price for an existing home in 2012.

Pent-up demand and a lingering shortage of available homes likely contributed to last year’s rapid rise in home prices.

Mortgage Rates Mixed, FHFA Reports Slower Gain For Home Prices

Freddie Mac reported mixed results for average mortgage rates in its weekly PMMS report. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from last week’s 4.41 to 4.39 percent.  In Fairfax County Virginia mortgage rates are 4.375 percent for a 30-year fixed rate.

The average rate for a 15-year mortgage dipped by one basis point to 3.44 percent; discount points for both 30 and 15-year mortgages were unchanged at 0.70 percent.  A 15-year mortgage in Fairfax, Virginia is 3.250 to 3.375 percent according to

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 3.10 to 3.15 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.50 percent.

FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, released its Home Price report for November 2012. This report is based on information gathered about homes with mortgages owned or backed by the two firms. According to FHFA, home prices increased by 7.60 percent year-over-year.

Home prices moved up by 0.10 percent in November as compared to a rate of 0.50 percent in October.

Leading Economic Indicators Suggest Economy Strengthening

The Leading Economic Indicators report for December moved up by 0.10 percent, which pushed the index to a reading of 99.4. December’s reading represented the sixth consecutive month that the index gained ground.

Economists associated with the LEI report note that while steady growth is expected during the spring, the economy will likely encounter a few obstacles including rising interest rates and possible political gridlock over raising the national debt ceiling.

This Week

This week’s economic news is set to include New Home Sales, the Consumer Confidence Index, and Weekly Jobless Claims. Freddie Mac’s PMMS mortgage rates and reports on consumer spending and consumer sentiment round out the week’s news.

The FOMC statement expected after the committee concludes its meeting on Wednesday is expected to provide news of the Fed’s plan for further tapering of its quantitative easing program.

Inspect And Maintain Your Garage

In most parts of the country, garages are especially appreciated at this time of year. Even if you don’t live in a colder climate, it’s important to do an annual inspection and routine maintenance to keep everything in working order.

Inspect And Maintain Your GarageIn most parts of the country, garages are especially appreciated at this time of year. I know in Northern Virginia area they are a must have come snow storms. Even if you don’t live in a colder climate, it’s important to do an annual inspection and routine maintenance to keep everything in working order.

Make sure yours is doing its job well by following the care tips below.

Check The Tracks

You’ll want to make sure the garage door can go up and down smoothly. Get your leaf blower and blow any cobwebs, bugs or leaves from the track.  Just a few days ago my neighbor’s garage door froze shut due to winter storm Janus that has left Fairfax Station Virginia with five to seven inches of snow.  So also check the rain gutters to make sure they are clear over the garage door openings to keep unwanted moisture from getting to the garage door.

With older doors, you’ll also need to oil the metal rollers, hinges and tracks in order to keep everything moving easily.

Inspect For Pests

This time of year, pests are searching for a warm place to take shelter and find food. In Fairfax County, Virginia since we have had snow for a few days now the number of small pests that are seeking shelter in a warm dry area is very high and with the winter they are calling for this year its only going to get worse. Look along the walls where they meet the foundation and double-check any spots where you’ve had moisture problems.

If you see chewed wood or trails of sawdust, call an exterminator because they could be signs of termites or carpenter ants.

Insulate Your Garage

If you have a workshop or gym located out in the garage, then insulating this space is a must for colder climates. Not only will it make your home warmer, but also it will reduce your electricity bills. You can buy DIY kits for under $100.

However, be careful if your door is over nine feet wide, because the extra weight can be too much for some opening mechanisms.

Spend Time On The Floor

Don’t actually get down on the floor, but definitely give it some care. Move everything out and hose down the entire surface. Patch any gaps to prevent tripping. Then give the foundation a good inspection.

If you notice mold or major cracks, call a contractor to come take a look and see if you have settling or water drainage issues.

Consider Replacing The Doors

You’ll know it’s time to replace your door when the panels are rusted and scratched or there are wooden ones that are warped. There are many decent replacement options, including wood, steel or aluminum.

The prices can range from high to reasonable depending on the quality of the material. If you decide to do a replacement, talk to an expert and take your climate into account.

Top 10 Indoor Houseplants For Your Air Quality

Houseplants are great for decorating. They can brighten up any room. Plus, houseplants can increase the air quality in a room. That makes you happier, healthier and reduces stress.

Top 10 Indoor Houseplants For Your Air QualityHouseplants are great for decorating. They can brighten up any room. Plants are a great way to reduce winter blues with their green look that reminds us spring is on the way. Plus, houseplants can increase the air quality in a room. That makes you happier, healthier and reduces stress.

Speaking of stress, these plants won’t create any at all. All of the plants on this list are great at producing oxygen and require very little care.

10. Heartleaf Philodendron

A tough plant that’s a good filter for toxins like formaldehyde, Heartleaf Philodendron makes a great houseplant. The only downside is that it’s toxic to eat, so it may not be the best choice for those with kids or pets. But if you can control your appetite, the Heartleaf Philodendron is an excellent indoor houseplant for air quality especially for those in the metropolitan areas such as Fairfax Station, Virginia.

9. Snake Plant

Also called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, the Snake plant thrives in the bathroom. It loves the steamy conditions and can do without much light. It’s a great air filter as well.

8. Bamboo Palm

It thrives indoors and requires little maintenance. The Bamboo Palm even produces flowers and berries.

7. Red-edged Dracaena

Another great air filter, the Red-edged Dracaena is interesting because of its size. It can grow all the way to the ceiling. This beast of an oxygen-producing plant makes a great addition to the living room.

6. Chinese Evergreen

This is one of the prettier options. With interesting leaf colorings as well as berries and blooms, the Chinese Evergreen will contribute to your décor as well as your air quality.

5. Peace Lily

The Peace Lily only needs water about once a week. This is a great houseplant for air quality, and it’s easy to care for.

4. Devil’s Ivy

This air purifier looks great in a basket. Try hanging it in the garage, however if you live in areas like Northern Virginia, I would not suggest leaving it there in the extremely cold winter season.

3. English Ivy

English Ivy is an excellent filter plant. It’s been shown to filter out formaldehyde, which can be found in some cleaning products, and it even filters fecal matter particles (I bet you didn’t even know there were any of those in your house).

English Ivy is an invasive species though. It is fine to keep inside as a houseplant, just make sure it doesn’t end up in the yard it can cause vegetation to die, and erosion.  Many people in the Northern Virginia area, where there are many steep slopes and hills, use English Ivy as ground cover. The Virginia Department of Forestry suggests planting trees rather than English Ivy on a slope due to their root structure.

2. Weeping fig

A type of Ficus, this is a great houseplant for air quality. It’s a bit bigger than the others though. It would fit best in the living room.

1. Spider Plant

The Spider plant is nearly impossible to kill. Even if you’ve been a plant murderer in the past, try this one. It will do wonders for your air quality, and I promise you won’t kill it.

Houseplants have been shown to reduce stress in the home. Combine that with higher air quality and your quality of life can be greatly improved with the help of a new green friend. An indoor plant can also help those living in large cities such as Washington, DC or urban areas such as Fairfax, Virginia, where backyard space is scarce. You will still be able to enjoy the greenery and fresh air. By adding a plant to your home it also creates a conversation piece and adds decor to make your house seem more inviting.  Plants are a great way to remember what the once green outdoors looked like during the harsh winters such as the one we are experiencing in Fairfax, Virginia.

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you can take care of these. These are great houseplants that improve the air quality in your home, as well as adding a visually unique dimension to each room of your house.

Check out our Pinterest site for more indoor Plant Ideas!

Stay Organized Under The Kitchen Sink

Kitchen space is a valuable commodity. If you feel stretched for storage space, you could throw away all the flatware your mother-in-law gave you, or you could keep the flatware and learn to use the space you have – more efficiently.

Stay Organized Under The Kitchen SinkKitchen space is a valuable commodity, especially in some of the older, but charming homes you will find in places like Fairfax, Virginia. If you feel stretched for storage space, you could throw away all the flatware your mother-in-law gave you, or you could keep the flatware and learn to use the space you have – more efficiently.

The number one most likely spot to find extra storage space is right under your kitchen sink. Organize your under sink area and it will free up space all over your kitchen.

Clean It Up

The cabinet below the sink has a nasty reputation. It’s home to rusty pipes, water stains, and other insects that find this to be their “final resting place”. In places such as Northern Virginia you will find ladybugs and the famous “stink bugs” under your the sink. First thing is first – clean it up. If it still looks a little dingy, give it a fresh coat of white paint. That will lighten things up. You can also get a simple cloth mat to lie down. You can find one for less than five dollars.

Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’

You can find a home for just about anything under the kitchen sink. It’s a good spot for pots and pans, cleaning supplies, a trash can, or dog food. (Maybe not all of those things together – yuck.)

No matter what you decide to store in this wonderful space, it will be easier to access with the help of a rolling organization shelf. Fairfax, Virginia offers many in-home consultants that specialize in maximizing the space for the way you live. Northern Virginia also has many home stores that will allow you to customize your own space at a reduced price by doing it yourself.

With one of these bad boys, you won’t have to stick your head in the cabinet to find the right tool. You can find some that are made specifically for this space or you can get creative and use other “off the shelf” storage options that suit your specific needs.

Get Hooked

The key to saving space is to build vertically. Buy some plastic hooks, and hang things under the kitchen sink. It’s a great way to store things like dishwashing gloves or dishrags. One clever trick is to secure a narrow dowel rod across the opening of the cabinet. Then you can hang any cleaning sprays across the rod. They come with a built in hook – the spray trigger.

Top Shelf Storage

You can buy amazing under-sink shelving at the numerous home stores located throughout Fairfax County, Virginia. Many of them snap easily together like Legos, and you can build them around your sink’s pipes. If you fill the cabinet with shelving, then you’re more likely to keep things organized.

If you’re like me, then after a couple of weeks, you’ll let your organized cabinet go to pot. With shelves, hopefully you won’t end up just throwing everything underneath the sink.

If you’re feeling short on kitchen space, try reorganizing. It’s a lot cheaper than getting new cabinets, and you’ll be amazed by how much space you already have. The space under the sink is a whole world of storage possibilities. If you have wasted space under the kitchen sink, then use it!

Why You Should Think About A Wood Burning Stove

It’s getting cold again. But before you reach for the thermostat, consider a traditional wood-burning stove. You can install one in the center of a room, and the heat will radiate through the whole house.

Why You Should Think About A Wood Burning StoveAs winter storm Janus hits Northern Virginia I began to think about a pretty bad storm we had a few years back leaving my subdivison in Fairfax without power for a few hours.  Now that it’s cold again, you may want to consider a traditional wood-burning stove before you reach for the thermostat. You can install one in the center of a room, and the heat will radiate through the whole house.  It also brings the traditional feel of old Virginia into the home.

It’s an elegant solution to the winter cold, and makes for a much cozier warmth than the furnace. Here’s why you should consider getting one.

Energy Bills

Save money. Stop paying each month to keep your house warm. You can do it yourself, with a wood-burning stove and a pile of wood. Finding wood is not too hard to come by, especially for those living on an acre or more in the Clifton and Fairfax Station area of Fairfax County, Virginia.

One well-placed stove can heat a whole house, and pay for itself in a few months. It produces a better heat than a furnace anyway. Picture yourself with a cup of tea with your feet up next to the fire.

Be Ready For Anything

Do you want to be independent? By switching to this more traditional heat source, you’re also moving off the grid. That means if the power goes out, you won’t be stuck in the cold.  The weather channel warning in Northern Virginia recommended having a wood-burning stove due to the number of winter storms that typically hit the Fairfax County area.

Plus, you can heat your house, and even cook on the stove. Even if the power doesn’t go out, it’s nice to have the peace of mind.

Go Green

Cranking up the furnace costs money, and burns fossil fuels. We all know we’re running out of fossil fuels, but we often don’t do our part. A wood-burning stove can you help you contribute to the environment and keep your carbon footprint small.

Burning wood releases carbon dioxide just like burning coal does, but the difference is that it only takes a few years to grow a tree and there are plenty of people selling firewood in Fairfax county.  Just the other day I drove by a place in Chantilly, Virginia that had a great deal on firewood. In fact, for those of you that like convenience, many vendors will deliver wood to your home and stack it in a designated location you determine.

But I Don’t Have A Chimney

No chimney? No problem. You can easily have a chimney installed. You’ll need a metal chimney to handle this heat, but if it doesn’t suit your tastes, you can have them covered with stone. Try to build the chimney straight up through the roof.  Just remember to get a great contractor that has all the appropriate permits and knows the codes for your county.  For example in Fairfax County Virginia, a chimney must extend a minimum of three feet above the roof and two feet higher than any thing within ten feet of the chimney.

If you want to cut down on energy bills, reduce your carbon footprint, and heat your home no matter what the weather is like, consider a wood-burning stove. It is an economical solution to stay comfortable during the typical Northern Virginia winters.

They’re an elegant solution to the winter cold, and can make the biggest, draftiest rooms feel cozy. Keep the thermostat low, stock the wood pile and put on a hot kettle of tea and enjoy!

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 20, 2014

Welcome news arrived last week as lower mortgage rates and a higher number of housing starts were reported. Other economic news was mixed.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – January 20, 2014Welcome news arrived last week as lower mortgage rates and a higher number of housing starts were reported. Other economic news was mixed:

The Federal Reserve released its Beige Book Report released last Tuesday indicated modest economic growth throughout the 12 Federal Reserve districts. Analysts predicted that this would cause the Fed to further reduce the volume of monthly asset purchases made under its quantitative easing program.

The Atlanta, Cleveland and Kansas City districts reported slower home sales, which supported recent expectations of slowing gains in home prices.

Mortgage Rates Dip, Housing Starts Up

According to Freddie Mac, average mortgage rates fell last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped from 4.51 to 4.41 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.70 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.45 percent as compared to the prior week’s reading of 3.56 percent.

Discount points rose from 0.60 to 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped from 3.15 to 3.10 percent; discount points rose from 0.40 to 0.50 percent.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Home Builders Confidence Index dropped slightly in January. Although expectations were for a reading of 59, January’s reading was 56 and lower than December’s revised reading of 57.

The NAHB Index has increased by 19 percent year-over-year and is expected to continue rising in 2014 due to relatively lower mortgage rates, and pent-up demand for homes.

Housing starts for December came in at 999,000 against expectations of 985,000 and November’s revised reading of 1.11 million. Cold weather and concerns over rising mortgage rates in 2014 were cited as causing fewer housing starts. As the Fed tapers its QE program, mortgage rates are expected to rise.

Consumer sentiment toward the economy was lower than expected according to the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for January. The confidence index was expected to rise to 84.0 based on December’s reading of 82.5, but only achieved a reading of 80.4.

Higher gasoline prices and a slower labor market likely contributed to wavering consumer sentiment; rising inflationary expectations were also considered a cause.

This Week

This week’s scheduled economic news includes an action-packed Thursday as today is Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday and no economic reports are scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday.

Thursday’s reports include Weekly Jobless Claims, Freddie Mac’s PMMS, along with Existing Home Prices, FHFA Home Prices and Leading Economic Indicators.