Banks stop banking on mortgages, report says

Fearful of regulations and expensive penalties, banking is backing away from traditional mortgages.

According to Inside Mortgage Finance, banks loaned less than half of all mortgage dollars in the third quarter of 2016. This is the first time in 30 years that banks and credit unions have not taken the lead in mortgage lending.

Traditional banks have shied away from making mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration. This follows a series of costly lawsuits brought by the federal government surrounding these loans in the last few years, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Non-bank lenders, such as Quicken Loans, have stepped into the market snapping up borrowers with less than pristine credit.

Meanwhile, banks have concentrated on jumbo loans (those more than $417,000 in most parts of the country) because they are considered less risky both financially and legally, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Living longer means planning for later life

With Americans living longer than in the past, planning for long-term care has become a priority.

In March, the results of a Nationwide Retirement Insurance survey revealed that many women over the age of 50 are hiding a big retirement worry from those they love: the fear of burdening family if long-term care is needed. But, it doesn’t have to be such a worry, or such a secret. With planning ahead of time, people can feel secure in their futures.

Some of the issues families must consider:
1. Housing: Will Dad sell the house and move to a long-term care facility if he can no longer live alone? Does he agree? Has he chosen some places he likes? If he does not agree, what are the options for the family?

2. Health care: If mom stays healthy and active, she may avoid the move to long-term care. It could be helpful now, while she is strong, healthy and of sound mind, to create a living will or health care directive that lays out exactly what they want to happen if they get sick and need long-term care. Getting that information on paper and signed can help to protect her and ensure that wishes will be followed if they cannot make those decisions on their own.

3. Legal decisions and planning: There are several documents that are helpful and important in situations where long-term care is a possibility. The first of these is a living will or health care directive, as outlined above. The second is a health care power of attorney. This designates a specific person to make medical decisions if a person cannot make them.

4. Financial planning: Long-term care can get expensive. To reduce this expense and stress, it is important to consider purchasing a long-term care policy that will pay for costs when that help is needed. Having long-term care insurance can lessen the financial impact.

Celebrate at home, not on the road

The holidays are here, bringing with them family, fun and a dose of partying. It may be no surprise then that December is known as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2013, there were more than 10,076 fatal crashes that involved a driver with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.

There is good news: The number of fatal, alcohol involved crashes in the entire year of 2013 has declined from a high of 13,582 fatal accidents involving alcohol in 2005.

To remind individuals of the dangers involved in driving while impaired, the NHTSA launches a “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign each year, from December to January. The NHTSA reports that nearly 1,000 deaths occur because of impaired drivers during the month of December alone.

Although fatal crashes where drivers died have declined over the years, more drivers are impaired not by alcohol, but by other drugs. From 2006 to 2012, drug involvement in this type of crash increased six percentage points. Although the campaigns used to target drunken driving specifically, now that marijuana is legal in a handful of states, the campaigns have changed to target impaired driving as a whole, including driving after smoking marijuana or ingesting another drug.

For example, in May 2016, AAA reported that deadly crashes that occurred after drivers had used marijuana in Washington State doubled between 2013 and 2014.

These campaigns highlight the importance of making the right choices during the holiday season. If you’ve been out drinking, there are options: call a cab; get a ride with a sober friend; have a designated driver. There are always options that are better than getting into a car and driving after you’ve been drinking or partying for the holiday season.

Tips for Avoiding Car Accidents This Holiday Season

When winter hits in Cypress, TX, more auto accidents occur. This is because roads are slick from rain and ice, it gets dark earlier, affecting visibility, and more people are preoccupied with holiday thoughts in their heads. However, just because accidents are more likely to occur during this timeframe doesn’t mean you can’t do things to prevent them. Here are a few tips for avoiding car accidents this holiday season.

Stick to Routes You Are Familiar With

Believe it or not, but you are more likely to be involved in a car accident if you are driving on roads or routes you are not familiar with. As such, when you are out driving this holiday season, stick to roads that you are familiar with to avoid an accident.

Pull Your Emergency Brake if You Are Sliding on Ice

You can’t always avoid icy roads. But if your car starts to slip on a patch of ice, hitting quickly on the brakes can cause you to slide even more, which can cause an accident. Instead, pull up on the emergency brake to attempt to stop your car faster. Keep this tip in mind, so you don’t panic if this happens to you.

Never Drink and Drive

The last way to avoid car accidents this holiday season is never to drink and drive. While it may be legal to drive after having a drink or two, your reflexes are drastically slowed when you drink even a single drink. This can cause an accident to occur. Simply avoid drinking and driving to reduce the likelihood you will be in an auto accident.

Avoiding car accidents not only helps to keep you and your family safe, but it can help to keep your auto insurance premiums affordable. If you are looking to price out auto insurance policies, contact InsureUS, serving the Cypress, TX area today. We can help you with all of your auto insurance needs, regardless of whether you have accidents or not. Give us a call today to get started.

New ways to twinkle for the holidays

New lines of technology-enhanced decorations are making decorating easier.

1. Color-changing LED Lights from LED wholesalers LED Strip Lights: A flexible strip of LED lights is a great option that is not only more energy-efficient, but also easier to install. These are available in indoor and outdoor models. The indoor strip is approximately 16.4 feet long and contains 150 LED lights.

2. The iTwinkle Christmas tree by GE: The iTwinkle Christmas tree is covered with 500 tiny sparkling lights and 75 LEDs. With a smartphone app, it’s easy to control this Christmas tree’s looks. Choose from more than 1,500 different colors on this 7-foot tall Christmas tree.

3. Holiday Landscape Projector from Sharper Image: This projector is a weatherproof device meant to be positioned in the yard to decorate the outside of the home, or inside to make the walls sparkle with color. This projector puts hundreds of tiny lights all over the walls, indoors or out. The remote allows users to choose from red or green lights, or a mix of both; and it also lets the user choose between flashing light mode, or continuous.

Tips to Avoid Holiday Safety Hazards

Christmas is a time to celebrate, spend time with family and friends, and to relax. But, it’s also a time when safety should be on your mind because the holiday season brings a unique combination of hazards into the home.

Christmas Light Safety

1. Make sure the holiday lights are meant for outdoor use. Lights made for outdoor use are designed to withstand cold and wet conditions. The tag near the plug will specify whether lights are made for indoor or outdoor use.

2. Make sure all cords and lights are intact. Frayed cords and cracked light bulbs are more likely to cause a fire.

3. Never leave lights on overnight. Be sure to turn off the lights before retiring for the night.

Christmas Tree Safety

1. If using a real tree, water often. A tree that dries out causes a fire hazard. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that one of every 31 reported home fires in the holidays is caused by a Christmas tree fire and results in death.

2. Keep the tree away from heat. Trees, unlike humans and animals, don’t need to be kept warm during the winter months. This only dries the tree out and increases the risk of fire. Keep it away from the fireplace, space heaters, even living room lamps.

3. Use lights specifically created for indoor use. Although indoor and outdoor lights can look similar, they are very different. It may be tempting to use them interchangeably, but that is a bad idea.

Candle Safety

1. Use battery operated window or tree candles.

2. If traditional candles are a must, be very careful about placement. Place them on sturdy, non-flammable surfaces, away from decorations, curtains, the Christmas tree and anything else that could catch fire.

3. Do not allow candles to burn when no one is in the room.