Mortgage Market Insights: Inflation, GDP, and Rate Expectations

After a dynamic week in the market, we thought it would be helpful to share some key highlights. Let’s dive into the recent events and their impact on inflation, GDP growth, and interest rate expectations.

GDP Surprise

Yesterday, there was a significant selloff following the release of the Q1 GDP report. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measures the total value of goods and services produced in an economy over a specific period. The initial estimate of Q1 GDP growth was 1.1%. However, it was later revised to an robust 2%. This unexpected increase challenges the prevailing belief of an impending recession and influences expectations for future interest rates.

Inflation Numbers

Inflation remains the central focus for the Federal Reserve, with Core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) being their favored measure. Core PCE inflation, which excludes volatile components like food and energy costs, reported at 3.8% year-over-year, in-line with market expectations. Digging deeper, the monthly Core PCE inflation came in at 0.3%, slightly below the expected 0.4%. The annualized rate was 4.6% compared to the anticipated 4.7%. Although Fed officials will likely emphasize the need to bring down inflation from its elevated level, it’s worth noting that inflation is gradually declining towards the 2% target.

Fed’s July Meeting

The Federal Reserve has indicated that the upcoming July meeting is considered “live,” meaning rate increases are possible based on incoming data. Notably, today’s PCE report is the final one before the July meeting, making it a crucial data point for decision-making. It’s important to remember that the impact of the Fed’s actions takes time to manifest in the economy. The availability of credit from commercial banks remains constrained in the wake of the regional banking crisis.  This is affecting the economy but is not yet displaying in backward-looking economic data. Despite the consistent rhetoric about potential rate hikes, many market participants are of the opinion that the more appropriate course of action is to pause and continue to evaluate the impact of the Fed’s previous actions.

Profit Margin Inflation

Some experts have started discussing profit margin inflation as a driver of overall inflation in the economy. Post-COVID lockdown, demand inflation surged, followed by supply-side inflation triggered by events like the Ukraine invasion, leading to disruptions in supply chains and rising prices. However, one of the primary contributors to current inflation is wider retail profit margins. Fortunately, there are signs that consumers are becoming more price-conscious and are pushing back against inflated prices. As a result, companies may be compelled to reduce their profit margins, potentially easing inflation.


While it’s premature to make definitive projections regarding future interest rates, there are positive aspects to consider amidst the surprises in GDP growth. The dynamics of inflation, profit margins, and consumer behavior will continue to shape rate expectations and the overall economic outlook.

Please note that market conditions are subject to change, and it is advisable to consult with financial experts for personalized advice.

First Home Mortgage Shines in Scotsman Guide’s Top Overall Mortgage Lenders

Today, we are proud to announce that for the ninth consecutive year, First Home Mortgage has made the Scotsman Guide 2023 Top Mortgage Lenders! In the Top Overall Lenders category, First Home was ranked among the top 50 lenders – a prominent spot in a crowded field of some of the largest names in the industry.

Scotsman Guide’s annual Top Mortgage Lenders rankings, originating in 2013, has long been a trusted benchmark for excellence in the industry. In the words of the publication, the list is “the industry’s most comprehensive, verified rankings of the nation’s top-producing mortgage companies.”

Thanks to the hard work of our talented team of loan officers located across our 31 offices, First Home has been honored to make the list for nine years in a row! For us, it’s another indication that our commitment to working with our local communities to deliver first-rate service and exceptional mortgage solutions continues to be noticed.

“We are delighted to be recognized once again as a Top Mortgage Lender in the nation by Scotsman Guide,” said Matt Nader, Senior Vice President, Director of Sales at First Home. “This achievement is a testament to the effort, dedication, and commitment of our entire team to providing distinguished service to our clients. Our mission is to help individuals and families realize their dreams of homeownership, and this recognition is just one more indication that we are on the right path.”

The Top Overall Lenders for 2023 is available online, allowing industry professionals and mortgage enthusiasts to explore the best-in-class lenders in the country.

Raising Your Home’s Curb Appeal: The Makeover That Makes the Right First Impression

While it’s true that homebuying demand remains strong and housing prices have been trending higher for the last few years, some experts believe we’re headed for a buyer’s market before long. Whether that turns out to be true is up for debate, but no matter what market conditions look like, certain opportunities will always remain for sellers to raise their asking price and attract more offers. We’re talking about curb appeal – and if you’re planning to sell your house now or in the future, it may be worth considering if it’s time your home got a little glow-up.

What is curb appeal?

First impressions can mean everything to prospective homebuyers. Curb appeal is a broad term for the overall attractiveness of a property when viewed from the outside. A home’s curb appeal will likely influence a prospective buyer from the moment they first approach the home, potentially impacting the amount of their offer – or their decision to walk away.

In a recent report by the National Association of Realtors®, 92% of Realtors suggested sellers improve curb appeal prior to listing a home for sale. In this article, we’ll cover some of the basics that you might want to consider before listing your own home.

A note before beginning

The elements that contribute to a home’s curb appeal range from large to small. Before starting any major projects, you should set some expectations and consider the expenses, time commitments, and risks that may be involved. As with any investment, there are no guarantees on your return. If you’re working with a real estate agent to list your home, consider consulting with them for additional insight on what your best moves might be.

Raising your home’s curb appeal

Once you’re ready to take a critical look at your home for ways to boost curb appeal, here are some great places to start:

Landscaping. A study by Virginia Tech found that homes with good landscaping and curb appeal sold for 5.5% to 12.7% more than homes with average or poor landscaping. Luckily, this is one of the easiest and most cost effective improvements a homeowner can make. A well cared-for lawn that’s free of weeds, along with some neatly trimmed trees, shrubs, or other greenery, can make a home look clean and attractive from the outside, while suggesting that the inside is equally well maintained. Removing dead or overgrown trees can revitalize a home and give it a better view from the street.

Clean and declutter. It may sound obvious, but often we get used to the status quo and “look past” clutter that accumulates – like the seasonal decorations that are overdue for taking down, kids’ toys scattered across the lawn, or seasonal yardwork that we’re behind on. Luckily, a little bit of cleanup, organization, and some pressure washing of your porch, deck, walls and windows can go a long way. Utilize your garage (if you have one) to store vehicles, tools, and toys to keep things looking tidy. Once things are in order, keep them that way with a diligent clean-up and maintenance schedule.

Front-of-house refresh. You’ve got a beautiful home – why not show it off? Make your house appear more welcome and inviting with the right steps. Restore or repaint your walkway, porch and any gates or railings to remove rust and chipped paint, creating a fresher, cleaner look. Consider repainting your front door – maybe even using a bolder color – for an eye-catching look. Repair or replace any old or broken porch lights, door knobs, or mailbox features. Some simple outdoor furniture, plants, and decor can also add style and character at relatively little expense.

Renovations and repairs. Obviously, major elements of the home’s exterior like a distressed roof, cracked windows, and other structural issues are easily noticeable and will have a big impact on curb appeal. Unfortunately, these are often some of the biggest and most expensive improvement projects that a homeowner will encounter. A good compromise may be to start small: fix crooked or damaged gutters, touch up paint on window shutters, fill cracks in the sidewalk or driveway, and replace damaged siding. Then, you can reassess and decide on any bigger issues that need to be addressed.

Don’t stop at the exterior

Finally, although we’ve been focusing on your home’s exterior in this article, many of the same ideas can be carried over into the exterior. Most buyers will see photos of the exterior and interior of the home on sites like Zillow or Trulia long before they see it in person. Here are a few quick, easy, and affordable DIY makeover moves to help with the inside of your home:

  1. Start with easy touch-ups. Replace cracked or broken switch plate covers and ventilation registers, fill holes in the wall, recaulk sinks, tubs, and showers, etc.
  2. Find the right lighting. Create a cozier atmosphere with ambient light. Pay attention to light temperature and bulb wattage to set a tone that makes guests feel welcome.
  3. Go green. It doesn’t take much to add a little greenery to your space. A few houseplants can add color and vibrancy to your home for relatively little cost or maintenance.

Remember – when it comes to curb appeal, a little work can go a long way! Get your best shot at a successful sale with these curb appeal tips to make your listing stand out above the rest.

Buying a Home When You Have Student Loans: Don’t Let Debt Be a Dealbreaker

Congratulations to all the college graduates out there as we kick off another graduation season! Whether you’re a recent grad, still in school, or you finished years ago, chances are high that you’re carrying some student loan debt. According to the Education Data Initiative, over 43 million Americans have student loan debt, with the average debt per borrower coming in at over $37,000 for federal student loans and nearly $55,000 for private loans.

If you’re hoping to buy a house soon, having that much debt hanging over you can feel like a real barrier to entering the market. Thankfully, there are a variety of options to consider that can help bring your homeownership dreams within reach. Here are some tips, strategies, and resources to help you navigate the homebuying process while carrying student loan debt.

Determine Your Financial Health

Just like any homebuyer, your first step should always be to assess your financial situation to gain a better understanding of what you can afford and what your buying strategy should look like. Start by reviewing your credit score, making a plan to address any credit issues , and calculating your monthly income and debt obligations.

Explore Mortgage Loan Programs for Borrowers with Student Loan Debt

Many first-time buyers are surprised to learn that there are a variety of mortgage loan assistance programs that can greatly benefit them – and some of those programs are designed specifically for borrowers with student loan debt. These programs offer a range of advantages, including lower interest rates, reduced down payment amounts, debt forgiveness, and more.

In our home state of Maryland, for instance, the Maryland SmartBuy Program is offered by the Department of Housing and Community Development. Through the program, qualifying homebuyers can receive up to 15% of the home purchase price to pay off student debt in the form of a 0% interest deferred loan with no monthly payments, forgivable over five years.

Terms for programs like this one may seem a bit complicated, and figuring out the best route for your unique circumstances can be a challenge. If you’re ready to start exploring your options, it’s never a bad idea to speak with an experienced loan officer. who can help you determine your eligibility and the potential benefits of programs like these.

Reevaluate Your Student Loan Repayment Plan

When you took out your student loans, you entered into an agreement about how and when those loans would be repaid. Like with most types of loans, you likely still have some options at your disposal for refinancing, restructuring, or otherwise modifying your student debt. You may want to investigate some of the following strategies:

  • Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans cap your monthly payments relevant to your earned income. While altering your repayment terms may actually add to the long-term cost of the loan, the reduced monthly payment obligations could potentially help improve your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, helping you to secure a mortgage that works for you.
  • Lengthening the term of your loan is another way you may be able to reduce your monthly payments, thereby improving your DTI ratio. Keep in mind however that this, too, often increases long-term costs by stretching your borrowing over a longer period.
  • Consolidating your loans (if you have several of them) may open new options for you to refinance your total overall debt at a lower rate, choose a new loan servicer, or receive more favorable terms.

Keep in mind that all of the options listed above are highly specific and may come with tradeoffs. Before making any changes to your payment plans or loan details, be sure to consult with a financial advisor and consider all the relevant implications.

Buying a home while dealing with student loan debt may be challenging, but it’s far from impossible. With the right planning and guidance, you can find the best options available to you and begin the search for the home you’ve been dreaming of.

If you’re ready to hit the housing market but you don’t know where to start, get in touch with one of our loan officers to see how you can take advantage of the right programs and strategies to help you succeed.

Springing Into Service With Volunteer Week

As a community-focused residential lender, we pride ourselves in the strong relationships we’ve developed with our surrounding neighborhoods. Supporting these communities is a critical part of our identity, so in May, we launched Volunteer Week – an exciting new initiative to rally together in the spirit of giving back!

During the week of May 15-19, about 200 members of the First Home team volunteered their time, talent, and energy to support the critical work of six local nonprofits. The end result was a series of memorable experiences where team members spent quality time together, giving back in a meaningful way while providing support and awareness for these important organizations.

Here’s a look at each of the nonprofits we partnered with during Volunteer Week:


Pathways to Housing DC (Washington, DC)

For the last five years, First Home Mortgage’s Chevy Chase, MD branch has been proudly donating $100 for every closing they’ve performed to the phenomenal Pathways to Housing DC, a local nonprofit working to end homelessness while bringing health and hope to those who have been affected by it. For Volunteer Week, the office got more hands-on with their giving, assembling welcome-home baskets and hygiene kits for members of the community who have recently experienced homelessness.

“As a lender, we’re able to help a lot of people move into their first home,” said Jake Ryon, loan officer for our Chevy Chase branch. “But there are some people we can’t help – and they deserve to have these same opportunities. Pathways is this organization that runs parallel to what we do, and it helps those we can’t help. That’s why we’re very passionate about it.”


Ronald McDonald House of Maryland (Baltimore, MD)

Members of our Canton branch and our corporate office in Baltimore assembled and delivered non-perishable donations for guests of The Ronald McDonald House of Maryland, which has been providing a “home-away-from-home” for seriously ill children and their families for over 40 years.

“We’re very involved in our community here,” said Jack Hinder, sales manager of our Canton office. “We do the bulk of our business here in Baltimore and the surrounding county. It feels good to give back to the community that’s given us so much.”

“It was a very overwhelming response from everyone in our branch and at corporate, who wanted to not only donate, but also volunteer their time and go drop off the goods at the Ronald McDonald House,” said Ayaz Rahemanji, branch manager of our Canton office.


Nourishing Bethesda (Bethesda, MD)

Our Bethesda office partnered with Nourishing Bethesda, whose mission is to fight food insecurity in the area by providing nutritious food and community support to neighbors in need. Volunteers put together bags of snacks and nonperishable foods that will go to seniors, schoolchildren, and others in the community who are struggling with food insecurity.

“I think volunteering is our way of saying thank you to the local community,” said Rob Mercer, branch manager of our Bethesda office. “It’s also a great team building experience. It’s nice to help those who aren’t as fortunate as us – it just feels great.”


Calvert County Parks & Recreation (Prince Frederick, MD)

Hallowing Point Park is a treasured outdoor space for children, families, and residents of all kinds in the Calvert County area. Members of our Dunkirk, MD and Hollywood, MD offices organized a trash cleanup through Calvert County’s Adopt-A-Park program as a way of giving back to the park where they’ve cherished for so many years.

“Hallowing Point is really special to us,” said Tim Sisson, branch manager of our Dunkirk office. “All of us played sports here growing up, and now we have kids that are playing sports here. So it just feels really good to be able to clean it up.”

“I lived in Calvert for 20 years,” said Arlene Dean, loan officer for our Hollywood office. “I love this area, love this community. My boys have played football here for many years – it feels great to give back to the community.”


Habitat for Humanity of Greater Plymouth (Plymouth, MA)

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Plymouth is a nonprofit organization that provides affordable homeownership opportunities to help low-income families. The group constructs, rehabilitates, and preserves homes throughout southeastern Massachusetts with the help of dedicated volunteers.

To make their work a little easier, members of our downtown Plymouth branch hosted a donation drop-off to collect much-needed items that support the builders and office workers who carry out the nonprofit’s mission, as well as the homeowners that the group supports.

“Groups like Habitat for Humanity of Greater Plymouth have the power to completely change a family’s life for the better,” said Anne Borghesani, branch manager of our downtown Plymouth office. “It was truly inspiring to know the resources we helped collect will be put to good use for such meaningful work.”


Annapolis Light House (Annapolis, MD)

Finally, members of our Annapolis office rolled up their sleeves and lent a hand with painting and powerwashing at Annapolis Light House, a homeless prevention support center providing shelter and services to combat homelessness and empower people transitioning toward housing.

“Volunteering is really an opportunity for us to give back,” said Chris Edge, loan officer for our Annapolis office. “Working in housing, it was important to us to identify and partner with someone in the community who’s doing the good work to help people re-enter housing.”

“The work that Light House does in our community is as inspirational as it is impactful,” said Jason Nader, branch manager of our Annapolis office. “They go beyond just providing food and shelter to those experiencing homelessness by addressing underlying causes with long-term solutions. We’re proud to support their mission.”

Volunteer Week was a great reminder that no matter how many branches our team is spread out across, each of our offices is deeply rooted within its community. Cheers to all of our participants – keep up the great work, and we look forward to future opportunities for growing closer and giving back!

We’re Welcoming Jeff Modeski as Columbia Office Branch Manager

First Home Mortgage’s Columbia, Maryland office location is about to get a little bit bigger with the exciting addition of our newest branch manager, Jeff Modeski.

Jeff is an experienced mortgage professional with more than 22 years of experience working for some of the best mortgage lenders in the industry – including First Home Mortgage! That’s right, Jeff actually began his career as a loan officer with First Home in 1997, working as part of our team for nearly five years before venturing off to explore other opportunities throughout the industry. Now, he’s returning to us as a seasoned expert in the field of residential lending.

“First Home is where I got my start in the industry,” said Modeski. “I learned invaluable lessons and had some truly memorable experiences that have stayed with me throughout my career. I look forward to beginning this new chapter as branch manager of the Columbia office and once again being a part of this incredible organization.”

The branch manager role is an essential one, and Jeff will be in good company as he leads his team to success. He joins Chris Sittig, the current branch manager of the Columbia office, who himself has more than 20 years of experience originating mortgage loans and helping buyers achieve their dreams of homeownership.

Both Chris and Jeff share a passion for working with clients to meet their unique homeownership goals. The two branch managers will be leading branch operations together to provide the local community with their signature level of high-quality service.

“On behalf of the entire First Home team and the Columbia branch, we’re excited to welcome Jeff back to First Home,” said Sittig. “This office has set some ambitious goals and set the bar high for client service. Jeff’s talent and experience will no doubt help us continue to reach even higher as we build on our tradition of excellence.”


Welcome home, Jeff!

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