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November
30

December Holidays - Daily Calendar National, World Days

About December Holidays

It's hard to believe, but the December holidays are upon us. You could say that December is one big holiday. It includes the big ones like Christmas, New Year, Hanukah, and Kwanza. It also includes a plethora of December National holidays and, December International Holidays for us to enjoy. Many of them are seasonal holidays like "Festivus for the Festivus" and "Christmas Card Day" and "Hum Bug Day". Make sure to take a little time from your busy holiday shopping and preparation, to thoroughly enjoy all of the December holidays on our calendar.

December Monthly Celebrations

  • Bingo Month
  • National Fruitcake Month
  •  Safe Toys and Gifts Month
  • World Food Service Safety Month
  • Write a Friend Month

December Weekly Events

  • National Handwashing Awareness Week –  first week of the month

  • Human Rights Week – second week in December

  • Thank a Soldier Week – the week including Christmas

Santa Baking

2022 December Daily Holidays, Special and Wacky Days:

December 1

 Eat a Red Apple Day

World Aids Awareness Day

December 2

 National Fritters Day

December 3

 National Roof over Your Head Day

December 4

 Santa's List Day – we hope you are on the "Nice" list

 Wear Brown Shoes Day

December 5

 Bathtub Party Day

 Repeal Day – The 21st Amendment ends Prohibition. I'll drink to that!

December 6

Bartender Appreciation Day – in Europe

St. Nicholas Day

Mitten Tree Day

Put on your own Shoes Day

December 7

International Civil Aviation Day

Letter Writing Day

National Cotton Candy Day – would you like some fairy floss?

Pearl Harbor Day

December 8 

National Brownie Day

Take it in the Ear Day

December 9

Christmas Card Day

National Pastry Day

December 10

Human Rights Day

Nobel Prize Day

Santa with Boy

December holidays include many International and National Holidays

Christmas Tree

Hang Up Your Stocking

November
25

Avoid These Mistakes When Selling Your Home

Selling your home can be surprisingly time-consuming and emotionally challenging. It can feel like an invasion of privacy when strangers open your closets and poke around. They will openly criticize your home and your decorating abilities, and to top it all off, they will offer you less money than you think your home is worth.

With no experience and a complex transaction on your hands, it's easy for home sellers to mistakes. The best way to sell a house comes down to a few basics:

  • Keep your emotions in check and stay focused on the business aspect.
  • Hire an agent. It'll cost you in commission, but it takes the guesswork out of selling.
  • Set a reasonable price.
  • Keep the time of year in mind and avoid the winter months if possible.
  • Prepare for the sale. Your home must look its best to compete.
  • Take time over your listing and add lots of high-quality photographs, inside and out.

See more below on the fatal errors that can prevent you from selling your home.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • To sell your home, think like a salesperson, not like a homeowner.
  • Do your research and set a realistic asking price.
  • Wait until spring if you can.
  • Take time to prepare and photograph your home.

Getting Emotional

It's easy to get emotional about selling your home, especially your first one. You spent a great deal of time and effort to find the right one, saved up for your down payment and furniture, and created many memories. People generally have trouble keeping their emotions in check when it comes time to say goodbye.

Think it's impossible? It's not. When you decide to sell your home, start thinking of yourself as a businessperson and salesperson rather than just the homeowner. In fact, forget altogether that you're the homeowner. By looking at the transaction from a purely financial perspective, you'll distance yourself from the emotional aspects of selling the property.

Also, try to remember how you felt when you were shopping for that home. Most buyers will also be in an emotional state. If you can remember that you are selling a piece of property as well as an image and a lifestyle, you'll be more likely to put in the extra effort of staging and doing some minor remodeling to get top dollar for your home. These changes in appearance will not only help the sales price; they'll also help you create emotional distance because your home will look less familiar.

Not Hiring a Real Estate Agent

Although real estate agents command a hefty commission—usually 5% to 6% of the sale price of your home—it's probably not a great idea to try to sell your home on your own, especially if you haven't done it before.1 It can be tempting, especially if you've seen all those "for sale by owner" signs on people's front lawns or on the Internet. So does it pay to hire an agent?

A good agent generally has your best interests at heart. They will help you set a fair and competitive selling price for your home, increasing your odds of a quick sale. An agent can also help tone down the emotion of the process by interacting with potential buyers and eliminating tire kickers who only want to look at your property but have no intention of making an offer.

Your agent will also have more experience negotiating home sales, helping you get more money than you could on your own. If any problems crop up during the process, an experienced professional will be there to handle them for you. Finally, agents are familiar with all the paperwork and pitfalls involved in real estate transactions and can help make sure the process goes smoothly. This means there won't be any delays or unforeseen legal ramifications in the deal.

After reading all this, should you really hire an agent? Only you can decide.

What to Do If You Don't Use a Real Estate Agent

So you've decided not to hire an agent. That's fine because it's not like it can't be done. There are people who sell their own homes successfully. Remember, though, you'll need to do your research first—on recently sold properties in your area and properties currently on the market—to determine an attractive selling price. Keep in mind that most home prices have an agent's commission factored in, so you may have to discount your price as a result.

You'll be responsible for your own marketing, so make sure to get your home on the multiple listing service (MLS) in your geographic area to reach the widest number of buyers. Because you have no agent, you'll be the one showing the house and negotiating the sale with the buyer's agent, which can be time-consuming, stressful, and emotional for some people.

Because you're forgoing an agent, consider hiring a real estate attorney to help you with the finer points of the transaction and the escrow process. Even with attorney's fees, selling a home yourself can save you thousands. If the buyer has an agent, however, they'll expect to be compensated. This cost is typically covered by the seller, so you'll still need to pay 1% to 3% of the home's sale price to the buyer's agent.1

Setting an Unrealistic Price

Whether you're working with an agent or going it alone, setting the right asking price is key. Remember the comparative market analysis you or your agent did when you bought your home to determine a fair offering price? Buyers will do this for your home, too, so as a seller you should be one step ahead of them.

 

You may think your home is worth more, but remember to set a realistic price based on comparable homes in the area.

Absent a housing bubble, overpriced homes generally don't sell. In a survey conducted by the informational home sale website HomeLight.com, 70% of real estate agents said that overpricing is the top mistake that sellers make.2

Don't worry too much about setting a price that's on the low side, because in theory, this will generate multiple offers and bid the price up to the home's actual market value. In fact, underpricing your home can be a strategy to generate extra interest in your listing, and you can always refuse an offer that's too low.3

Expecting the Asking Price

Any smart buyer will negotiate, and if you want to complete the sale, you may have to play ball. Most people want to list their homes at a price that will attract buyers while still leaving some breathing room for negotiations—the opposite of the underpricing strategy described above. This may work, allowing the buyer to feel like they are getting good value while allowing you to get the amount of money you need from the sale.

Of course, whether you end up with more or less than your asking price will likely depend not just on your pricing strategy but also on whether you're in a buyer's market or a seller's market and how well you have staged and modernized your home.

Selling During Winter Months

Believe it or not, there really is a right time to sell during the year. Winter, especially around the holidays, is typically a slow time of year for home sales. People are busy with social engagements, and the cold weather across much of the country makes it more appealing just to stay home.

Because fewer buyers are likely to be looking, it may take longer to sell your home, and you may not get as much money. However, you can take some consolation in knowing that while there may not be as many active buyers, there also won't be as many competing sellers, which can sometimes work to your advantage.

You may be better off waiting. Barring any mitigating circumstances that may force you to sell during the winter or holidays, consider listing when the weather begins to warm up. People are usually ready and willing to purchase a home when it's warmer.4

Skimping on Listing Photos

Because so many buyers look for homes online these days, and so many of those homes have photos, you'll be doing yourself a real disservice if you don't have high-quality visuals of your home. At the same time, there are so many poor photos of homes for sale that if you do a good job, it will set your listing apart and help generate extra interest.

Good photos should be crisp and clear and taken during the day when there is plenty of natural light available. They should showcase your home's best attributes. Consider using a wide-angle lens if possible—this allows you to give potential buyers a better idea of what entire rooms look like. Ideally, hire a professional real estate photographer to get top-quality results instead of just letting your agent take snapshots on a phone.

Consider adding a video tour or 360-degree view to further enhance your listing. This can be easily done with any smartphone. You can certainly entice more potential buyers into walking through your doors for showings. You may even get more offers if you give them an introductory walk-through of your property.

Not Carrying Proper Insurance

Your lender may have required you to acquire a homeowners insurance policy. If not, you'll want to make sure you're insured in case a viewer has an accident on the premises and tries to sue you for damages. You also want to make sure there are no obvious hazards at the property or that you take steps to mitigate them (keeping the children of potential buyers away from your pool and getting your dog out of the house during showings, for example).

Hiding Major Problems

Think you can get away with hiding major problems with your property? Any problem will be uncovered during the buyer's inspection. You have three options for dealing with any issues. Either fix the problem ahead of time, price the property below market value to account for it, or list the property at a normal price and offer the buyer a credit to fix the problem.

Remember: if you don't fix the problem in advance, you may eliminate a fair number of buyers who want a turnkey home. Having your home inspected before listing is a good idea if you want to avoid costly surprises after the home is under contract.

Further, many states have disclosure rules.5 Some require sellers to disclose known problems about their homes if buyers ask directly, while others decree that sellers must voluntarily disclose certain issues.

Not Preparing for the Sale 

Sellers who do not clean and stage their homes throw money down the drain. Don't worry if you can't afford to hire a professional. There are many things you can do on your own. Failing to do these things can reduce your sales price and may also prevent you from getting a sale at all. If you haven't attended to minor issues, such as a broken doorknob or dripping faucet, a potential buyer may wonder whether the house has larger, costlier issues that haven't been addressed either.

Have a friend or an agent (someone with a fresh pair of eyes) point out areas of your home that need work. Because of your familiarity with the home, you may be immune to its trouble spots. Decluttering, cleaning thoroughly, putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and getting rid of any odors will also help you make a good impression on buyers.

Not Accommodating Buyers

If someone wants to view your house, you need to accommodate them, even if it inconveniences you. Clean and tidy the house before every single visit. A buyer won't know or care if your house was clean last week. It's a lot of work, but stay focused on the prize.

Selling to Unqualified Buyers

It's more than reasonable to expect a buyer to bring a pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender or proof of funds (POF) for cash purchases to show that they have the money to buy the home. Signing a contract with a buyer may be contingent on the sale of their own property, which may put you in a serious bind if you need to close by a particular date.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Sell a House With a Mortgage?

Yes, you can sell a house with a mortgage. During the escrow process, you will get a mortgage payoff statement (sometimes called a payoff quote) from the lender holding your mortgage that lists the exact remaining balance. When your loan closes, the escrow agent will send the balance of your mortgage to your lender, paying off your mortgage.

Should I Stage My House?

Staging a home can lead to quicker sales and higher home prices.6 However, not everyone needs to hire a professional staging service. Just taking a few steps like cleaning and decluttering can have a significant impact on a home's sale and will need to be done before moving regardless of the sale.

How Much Will I Make Selling My House?

How much you will make depends on the sale price, agent commissions, closing costs, and the remaining mortgage balance. If working with a real estate agent, you should receive a seller's net sheet before you even list your property, which details what you can estimate to make.7 When you have accepted an offer and are in escrow, you will get a closing disclosure from your lender that details exactly how much you will receive after your loan closes.

Should You Sell Your Home for Cash?

Selling a home for cash is a quick way to avoid the hassle and stress of staging a house, showing it, making repairs, and juggling competing offers. However, most cash buyers won't buy a home for more than 75% of the home's value, minus any anticipated fixing-up expenses.8 Selling a home for cash is easier, but at a significant financial cost that should be considered.

The Bottom Line

Learning how to sell a house is crucial. Make sure you prepare mentally and financially for less-than-ideal scenarios, even if you don't make any of these mistakes. The house may sit on the market for far longer than you expect, especially in a declining market.

If you can't find a buyer in time, you may end up trying to pay two mortgages, having to rent your home out until you can find a buyer, or, in dire situations, in foreclosure. However, if you avoid the costly mistakes listed here, you'll be a long way toward putting your best foot forward and achieving that seamless, lucrative sale for which every home seller hopes. 

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November
23

Mortgage and refinance rates today, Nov. 22, 2022

Today's mortgage and refinance rates

Average mortgage rates remained almost steady yesterday. So, there has still been no noticeable bounce following those rates' record-breaking tumble on Nov. 10.

So far this morning, it's looking as if mortgage rates today might move lower. But that could change later in the day.

Find your lowest rate. Start here (Nov 23rd, 2022)

Current mortgage and refinance rates

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 year fixed 6.753% 6.782% -0.12% 
Conventional 15 year fixed 5.938% 5.97% +0.04% 
Conventional 20 year fixed 6.482% 6.539% -0.27% 
Conventional 10 year fixed 6.522% 6.618% +0.02% 
30 year fixed FHA 6.508% 7.288% +0.1% 
15 year fixed FHA 6.133% 6.663% +0.05% 
30 year fixed VA 6.421% 6.654% +0.21% 
15 year fixed VA 6.375% 6.736% +0.09% 
Rates are provided by our partner network, and may not reflect the market. Your rate might be different. Click here for a personalized rate quote. See our rate assumptions here.

Should you lock a mortgage rate today?

Don't lock on a day when mortgage rates look set to fall. My recommendations (below) are intended to give longer-term suggestions about the overall direction of those rates. So, they don't change daily to reflect fleeting sentiments in volatile markets.

Of course, there's a chance that mortgage rates will fall over the next few months. But I reckon rises are more likely.

So, my personal rate lock recommendations for the longer term remain:

  • LOCK if closing in 7 days
  • LOCK if closing in 15 days
  • LOCK if closing in 30 days
  • LOCK if closing in 45 days
  • LOCK if closing in 60 days

Market data affecting today's mortgage rates

Here's a snapshot of the state of play this morning at about 9:50 a.m. (ET). The data, compared with roughly the same time yesterday, were:

  • The yield on 10-year Treasury notes edged lower to 3.77% from 3.79%. (Good for mortgage rates.) More than any other market, mortgage rates typically tend to follow these particular Treasury bond yields
  • Major stock indexes were mostly higher soon after opening. (Sometimes bad for mortgage rates.) When investors buy shares, they're often selling bonds, which pushes those prices down and increases yields and mortgage rates. The opposite may happen when indexes are lower. But this is an imperfect relationship
  • Oil prices climbed to $80.95 from $76.43 a barrel. (Bad for mortgage rates*.) Energy prices play a prominent role in creating inflation and also point to future economic activity
  • Gold prices rose to $1,747 from $1,743 an ounce. (Neutral for mortgage rates*.) It is generally better for rates when gold rises and worse when gold falls. Gold tends to rise when investors worry about the economy.
  • CNN Business Fear & Greed index —rose to 64 from 60 out of 100. (Bad for mortgage rates.) "Greedy" investors push bond prices down (and interest rates up) as they leave the bond market and move into stocks, while "fearful" investors do the opposite. So lower readings are better than higher ones

*A movement of less than $20 on gold prices or 40 cents on oil ones is a change of 1% or less. So we only count meaningful differences as good or bad for mortgage rates.

Caveats about markets and rates

Before the pandemic and the Federal Reserve's interventions in the mortgage market, you could look at the above figures and make a pretty good guess about what would happen to mortgage rates that day. But that's no longer the case. We still make daily calls. And are usually right. But our record for accuracy won't achieve its former high levels until things settle down.

So, use markets only as a rough guide. Because they have to be exceptionally strong or weak to rely on them. But, with that caveat, mortgage rates today look likely to fall. However, be aware that "intraday swings" (when rates change speed or direction during the day) are a common feature right now.

Find your lowest rate. Start here (Nov 23rd, 2022)

Important notes on today's mortgage rates

Here are some things you need to know:

  1. Typically, mortgage rates go up when the economy's doing well and down when it's in trouble. But there are exceptions. Read 'How mortgage rates are determined and why you should care'
  2. Only "top-tier" borrowers (with stellar credit scores, big down payments and very healthy finances) get the ultralow mortgage rates you'll see advertised
  3. Lenders vary. Yours may or may not follow the crowd when it comes to daily rate movements — though they all usually follow the broader trend over time
  4. When daily rate changes are small, some lenders will adjust closing costs and leave their rate cards the same
  5. Refinance rates are typically close to those for purchases.

A lot is going on at the moment. And nobody can claim to know with certainty what will happen to mortgage rates in the coming hours, days, weeks or months.

Are mortgage and refinance rates rising or falling?

Mortgage rates have been becalmed since their dramatic tumble on Nov. 10. Indeed, according to Mortgage News Daily's archive, they were just 2 basis points higher last night than they were on the morning of Nov. 11.

And a basis point is one-hundredth of 1% (0.01%). So those 2 bps really do represent an imperceptible difference.

The bounce that never came

Ever since that tumble, I've been predicting that mortgage rates would bounce back, at least to a limited extent. But no. Not a sign of one.

For once, I doubt I was wrong to expect one. The Federal Reserve and leading figures in the financial media have all been saying that markets called their play wrongly on Nov. 10.

The fall in mortgage rates was triggered by a single better-than-expected inflation report. And Investing 101 says you never bet heavily on a just one month's report. But betting heavily is precisely what Wall Street did.

So, why's there still been no bounce? I haven't a clue. And, over the weekend, my best guess was a metaphor: Investors are sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting la-la-la-la.

What's next?

Of course, there's still a possibility of investors suddenly recognizing how exposed they are and pushing mortgage rates higher. Or they might choose to wait to see how the next couple of inflation reports turn out. They're due on Dec. 1 and Dec. 13.

If those confirm the Nov. 10 report's inflation trend, mortgage rates might fall even further. But if they show it to be an outlier, stand by for a big — if belated — bounce.

To catch up and to discover more background, please read the weekend edition of this report.

According to Freddie Mac's archives, the weekly all-time low for mortgage rates was set on Jan. 7, 2021, when it stood at 2.65% for conventional, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages.

Freddie's Nov. 17 report put that same weekly average at 6.61%, sharply down from the previous week's 7.08%.

Belatedly, from Nov. 17, Freddie has stopped including discount points in its forecasts. It has also moved later the time of day at which it publishes its Thursday reports. And, from now on, we'll be updating this section on Fridays.

Expert mortgage rate forecasts — updated today

Looking further ahead, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) each has a team of economists dedicated to monitoring and forecasting what will happen to the economy, the housing sector and mortgage rates.

And here are their rate forecasts for the current quarter (Q4/22) and the first three quarters of next year (Q1/23, Q2/23 and Q3/24).

The numbers in the table below are for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages. Fannie's forecast appeared on Nov. 22, the MBA's on Oct. 23 and Freddie's on Oct. 21.

Forecaster Q4/22 Q1/23 Q2/23 Q3/23
Fannie Mae 7.0% 7.0%  6.9% 6.7%
Freddie Mac 6.8% 6.6%  6.5% 6.4%
MBA 6.7% 6.2%  5.7% 5.5%

Of course, given so many unknowables, the whole current crop of forecasts might be even more speculative than usual. And their past record for accuracy hasn't been wildly impressive.

Find your lowest rate today

You should comparison shop widely, no matter what sort of mortgage you want. As federal regulator the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says:

"Shopping around for your mortgage has the potential to lead to real savings. It may not sound like much, but saving even a quarter of a point in interest on your mortgage saves you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan."

Verify your new rate (Nov 23rd, 2022)

Mortgage rate methodology

The Mortgage Reports receives rates based on selected criteria from multiple lending partners each day. We arrive at an average rate and APR for each loan type to display in our chart. Because we average an array of rates, it gives you a better idea of what you might find in the marketplace. Furthermore, we average rates for the same loan types. For example, FHA fixed with FHA fixed. The end result is a good snapshot of daily rates and how they change over time.

November
21

National Stuffing Day

Stuffing is a major player in the world of Thanksgiving. Let's face it: chicken and turkey can pop up at any time of the year, but when we want to dress those birds up, there's just no substitute for some good ol' carbyfilling. Even better, stuffing comes in all shapes and sizes. There are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes it—it can be bread, any kind of bread, rice, quinoa, and even matzo. There's only one hard and fast stuffing rule: mix some ingredients, stuff it inside a cavity of another food item, and voila! Make no bones about it—it's delicious. That's why, on November 21, we celebrate National Stuffing Day!

NATIONAL STUFFING DAY TIMELINE

2nd century B.C
Much Ado About Stuffing

A chef named Apicius created recipes for stuffed rabbit, chicken and even dormouse in his cookbook "Apicius de re Coquinaria."

1836
Turkey Traditions

Stuffing Turkey became a regular staple for the Thanksgiving Day meal.

1972
Making Thanksgiving more delicious

Ruth Siems made life easier and Turkey more delicious with 'Stove Top Stuffing.'

November 21, 2005
National Stuffing Day

National Stuffing Day seems to have started in 2005 as a promotion for stuffing, and is now observed annually with great zeal.

NATIONAL STUFFING DAY ACTIVITIES

  1. Have a stuffing tasting party

    Invite friends or family to come for a stuffing tasting party. Not only can others pre-test their stuffing, but also a whole group of people can benefit from it! Plus, who ever argued with getting to try lots of stuffing varieties? Who knows—one of your friends might have your next greatholiday recipe.

  2. Make a stuffing you've always wanted to try

    There's a whole world of stuffing out there, and yet, we only tend to make it for the holidays. Today's the day to stray away from that boring turkey stuffing and try some of the other varieties. If anyone in your family turns up their noses, tell them you made it all for yourself and you're not sharing!

  3. Get inspired

    Go back into vintage Julia-Child-Land and watch her make stuffing. Go to your favorite food blogger's page and see what heor she has kicking in the recipe department! There's no shortage of places to look for stuffing inspiration. So get onto that internet and go crazy.

WHY WE LOVE NATIONAL STUFFING DAY

  1. It's a practice session

    With Thanksgiving just around the corner, today is the day to perfect your stuffing recipe. Making a traditional apple and onion stuffing? Use today to hone your ratios of caramelized onions to tart apples to thyme. Or, if you're hosting a holiday for the first time, test that fabulous stuffing recipe before it's too late.

  2. There's an endless variety of stuffing recipes

    Do you want a simple formula for making stuffing? Here it is: Start with a grain, add liquid and/or fat, spices and herbs and something with flavor and texture. For example, start with cooked rice, add chicken stock, season with thyme, garlic, marjoram, salt and pepper and add dried cherries and cranberries with a sprinkling of chopped walnuts. Stuff the whole mixture into pork chops and you have stuffed pork chops! Are you more of a traditionalist? Start with cubed stale bread, add turkey stock and melted butter. Throw in some rosemary and parsley, and cube some apples for texture. Mix together and stuff the entire mixture into your favorite member of the fowl family. Roast and relax until dinner is ready!

  3. It's a great way to use up leftovers

    With the holidays on the way, you're going to need some serious refrigerator space. Stuffing is a great way to use up some of the leftovers taking up valuable refrigerator real estate. Take those croutons left over from last week's salad, a little butter, those sad looking celery stalks and half an onion and mix it together using a little hot water and stuff them into those red peppers that are going to go bad if you don't use them soon. Pop the whole the whole thing into a casserole dish with a little oliveoil on top and bake in a hot oven and no one will ever guess that last night's leftovers have become tonight's dinner. You're a culinary superstar!

NATIONAL STUFFING DAY DATES

Year Date Day
2022 November 21 Monday
2023 November 21 Tuesday
2024 November 21 Thursday
2025 November 21 Friday
2026 November 21 Saturday
November
14

Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Like any big project, a successful homebuying experience is all about getting the details right from start to finish. These tips for first-time home buyers will help you navigate the process, save money and close the deal. We organized them into four categories:

  • Preparing to buy tips.

  • Mortgage selection tips.

  • Home shopping tips.

  • Home purchasing tips.

Preparing to buy tips

1. Start saving early

Here are the main costs to consider when saving for a home:

  • Down payment: Your down payment requirement will depend on the type of mortgage you choose and the lender. Some conventional loans aimed at first-time home buyers with excellent credit require as little as 3% down. But even a small down payment can be challenging to save. For example, a 3% down payment on a $300,000 home is $9,000. Use a down payment calculator to decide on a goal, and then set up automatic transfers from checking to savings to get started.

  • Closing costs: These are the fees and expenses you pay to finalize your mortgage, and they typically range from 2% to 5% of the loan amount. If you were making a 3% down payment on that $300,000 home, your closing costs could be between $5,820 and $14,550. That's additional money you'd have to pay, on top of your down payment. In a buyer's market, you can often ask the seller to pay a portion of your closing costs, and you can save on some expenses, such as home inspections, by shopping around.

  • Move-in expenses: You'll need some cash after the home purchase. Set some money aside for immediate home repairs, upgrades, and furnishings.

2. Decide how much home you can afford

Figure out how much you can safely spend on a house before starting to shop. NerdWallet's home affordability calculator can help with setting a price range based on your income, debt, down payment, credit score and where you plan to live.

3. Check and strengthen your credit

Your credit score will determine whether you qualify for a mortgage and affect the interest rate lenders will offer. Having a higher score will generally get you a lower interest rate, so take these steps to strengthen your credit score to buy a house:

  • Get free copies of your credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — and dispute any errors that could hurt your score.

  • Pay all your bills on time, and keep credit card balances as low as possible.

  • Keep current credit cards open. Closing a card will increase the portion of available credit you use, which can lower your score.

Mortgage selection tips

4. Explore mortgage options

A variety of mortgages are available with varying down payment and eligibility requirements. Here are the main categories:

  • Conventional mortgages are not guaranteed by the government. Some conventional loans targeted at first-time buyers require as little as 3% down.

  • FHA loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration and allow down payments as low as 3.5%.

  • USDA loans are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They are for rural home buyers and usually require no down payment.

  • VA loans are guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. They are for current and veteran military service members and usually require no down payment.

You also have options when it comes to the mortgage term. Most home buyers opt for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, which is paid off in 30 years and has an interest rate that stays the same. A 15-year loan typically has a lower interest rate than a 30-year mortgage, but the monthly payments are larger.

When interest rates are increasing, you might consider an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM. ARM rates are often lower than fixed rates, enabling you to buy a more expensive home for the same monthly payment, but they can also increase (or decrease) over time.

5. Research first-time home buyer assistance programs

Many states and some cities and counties offer first-time home buyer programs, which often combine low-interest-rate mortgages with down payment assistance and closing cost assistance. Tax credits are also available through some first-time home buyer programs.

6. Compare mortgage rates and fees

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends requesting loan estimates for the same type of mortgage from multiple lenders to compare the costs, including interest rates and possible origination fees.

Lenders may offer the opportunity to buy discount points, which are fees the borrower pays upfront to lower the interest rate. Buying points can make sense if you have the money on hand and plan to stay in the home for a long time. Use a discount points calculator to decide.

In a buyers' market, some motivated sellers may offer to pay some or all of the buyer's points to close the deal.

7. Get a preapproval letter

A mortgage preapproval is a lender's offer to loan you a certain amount under specific terms. Having a preapproval letter shows home sellers and real estate agents that you're a serious buyer and can give you an edge over home shoppers who haven't taken this step yet.

Apply for preapproval when you're ready to start home shopping. A lender will pull your credit and review documents to verify your income, assets and debt. Applying for preapproval from more than one lender to shop rates shouldn't hurt your credit score as long as you apply for them within a limited time frame, such as 30 days.

Home shopping tips

8. Choose a real estate agent carefully

A good real estate agent will scour the market for homes that meet your needs and guide you through the negotiation and closing process. Get agent referrals from other recent home buyers. Interview at least a few agents, and request references. When speaking with potential agents, ask about their experience helping first-time home buyers in your market and how they plan to help you find a home. You might also ask how they find homes that aren't yet on the market, which can be a handy skill when buyer competition is fierce.

9. Pick the right type of house and neighborhood

Weigh the pros and cons of different types of homes, given your lifestyle and budget. A condominium or townhome may be more affordable than a single-family home, but shared walls with neighbors will mean less privacy. Don't forget to budget for homeowners association fees when shopping for condos and townhomes, or houses in planned or gated communities.

Another option to consider is buying a fixer-upper — a single-family home in need of updates or repairs. Fixer-uppers usually sell for less per square foot than move-in ready homes. However, you may need to budget extra for repairs and remodeling. Renovation mortgages finance both the home price and the cost of improvements in one loan.

Think about your long-term needs and whether a starter home or forever home will meet them best. If you plan to start or expand your family, it may make sense to buy a home with extra room to grow.

Research potential neighborhoods thoroughly. Choose one with amenities that are important to you, including schools and entertainment options, and test out the commute to work during rush hour.

10. Stick to your budget

A lender may offer to loan you more than what is comfortably affordable, or you may feel pressure to spend outside your comfort zone to beat another buyer's offer. To avoid financial stress down the road, set a price range based on your budget, and then stick to it.

In a competitive market, consider looking at properties below your price limit to give some wiggle room for bidding. In a buyer's market, you may be able to view homes a bit above your limit. Your real estate agent can suggest a range for your offering price.

11. Make the most of open houses

Online 3D home tours have become more popular as technology improves. These tours let shoppers virtually walk through a home at any hour and observe details that regular photos don't catch. They don't supply all the information in-person visits do — like how the carpets smell — but they can help you narrow the list of properties to visit.

Open your senses when touring homes in person. Listen for noise, pay attention to any odors and look at the overall condition of the home inside and out. Ask about the type and age of the electrical and plumbing systems and the roof.

Home purchasing tips

12. Pay for home inspections

A home inspection is a thorough assessment of the structure and mechanical systems. Professional inspectors look for potential problems, so you can make an informed decision about buying the property. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Standard inspections don't test for things like radon, mold or pests. Understand what's included in the inspection and ask your agent what other inspections you might need.

  • Make sure the inspectors can get to every part of the house, such as the roof and any crawl spaces.

  • It's usually helpful if the buyer attends any inspections. By following the inspectors around you can get a better understanding of the home and ask questions on the spot. If you can't attend the inspections, review the reports carefully and ask about anything that's unclear.

13. Negotiate with the seller

You may be able to save money by asking the seller to pay for repairs in advance or lower the price to cover the cost of repairs you'll have to make later. You may also ask the seller to pay some of the closing costs. But keep in mind that lenders may limit the portion of closing costs the seller can pay.

Your negotiating power will depend on the local market. It's tougher to drive a hard bargain when there are more buyers than homes for sale. Work with your real estate agent to understand the local market and strategize accordingly.

14. Buy adequate home insurance

Your lender will require you to buy homeowners insurance before closing the deal. Home insurance covers the cost to repair or replace your home and belongings if they're damaged by an incident covered in the policy. It also provides liability insurance if you're held responsible for an injury or accident. Buy enough home insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding the home if it's destroyed.

It may be worth buying an umbrella policy if you need to cover your home, cars and other major assets.

November
7

Mortgage and refinance rates today, Nov. 5, and rate forecast for next week

Today's mortgage and refinance rates

Average mortgage rates barely moved yesterday. Unfortunately, however, they rose appreciably over the last seven days.

Last week, I managed a rare (and correct) forecast of where mortgage rates would head this week. But that's something I can't repeat today. And we're back to those rates being wholly unpredictable over that period.

Current mortgage and refinance rates

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 year fixed 7.409% 7.44% -0.07% 
Conventional 15 year fixed 6.63% 6.66% -0.07% 
Conventional 20 year fixed 7.356% 7.409% -0.05% 
Conventional 10 year fixed 6.618% 6.697% -0.01% 
30 year fixed FHA 7.001% 7.709% -0.26% 
15 year fixed FHA 6.714% 7.286% -0.1% 
30 year fixed VA 6.888% 7.127% -0.05% 
15 year fixed VA 6.606% 6.97% -0.02% 
Rates are provided by our partner network, and may not reflect the market. Your rate might be different. Click here for a personalized rate quote. See our rate assumptions here.

Find and lock a low rate (Nov 7th, 2022)


Should you lock a mortgage rate today?

Don't lock on a day when mortgage rates look set to fall. My recommendations (below) are intended to give longer-term suggestions about the overall direction of those rates. So, they don't change daily to reflect fleeting sentiments in volatile markets.

The Federal Reserve's report and comments on Wednesday only reinforced my view that mortgage rates are unlikely to fall far (at least for long) for several months.

So, my personal rate lock recommendations remain:

  • LOCK if closing in 7 days
  • LOCK if closing in 15 days
  • LOCK if closing in 30 days
  • LOCK if closing in 45 days
  • LOCK if closing in 60 days

However, with so much uncertainty at the moment, your instincts could easily turn out to be as good as mine — or better. So let your gut and your own tolerance for risk help guide you.

What's moving current mortgage rates

Unfortunately, last week's Federal Reserve activity panned out pretty much as I predicted. The central bank remains committed to doing what it takes to tame inflation. And that includes hiking interest rates.

When the Fed raises the federal fund rate, almost all interest rates rise in line with it. There's a direct tie.

Now, it's true that mortgage rates are different. They're not directly tied to any other rate. Instead, they're largely determined by the yield on a type of bond (the mortgage-backed security or MBS) traded on a specialist bond market.

However, the Fed has a huge influence on that market. And we've seen mortgage rates rise this year as Fed rate hikes have been implemented.

What's next?

With Wednesday's Fed activities out the way, what's next? Well, there's a repeat due on Dec. 14. And markets are already focusing on that.

CME's FedWatch tool puts the probability of a 50-basis-point (0.5%) hike that day at 52% and of another 0.75% increase at 48%. But those will change as the weeks pass.

In the meantime, of course, data in economic reports will move mortgage rates. But reactions to those reports will at least in part be driven by a single question: What impact will these data have on the Fed's next rate hike?

What to look out for

The reports that are most likely to influence mortgage rates over the coming weeks are those for:

  1. Inflation — Notably the consumer price index (CPI) and the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index
  2. Employment — Especially the monthly employment situation report
  3. Growth — Gross domestic product (GDP) revisions

Higher unemployment and lower growth and inflation are likely to be good for mortgage rates. But the opposites of those would probably be bad news for those rates. That would typically be true at all times, but, currently, their influence on the Fed could magnify their effect.

The first of those comes next Thursday in the shape of the CPI report for October. And at least one of each are scheduled before those Dec. 14 Fed events.

All this leaves me pessimistic about mortgage rates over the next few months. In its communications on Wednesday, the Fed noted that "recent data indicate modest economic growth, a very tight labor market, and elevated inflation," to quote a Comerica Bank e-newsletter yesterday.

Of course, there's always hope that future figures will become more friendly to mortgage rates. But I fear it would take an exceptionally sharp turn to divert the Fed from its rate-hiking path before next spring. And yesterday's employment situation report suggests good news is unlikely anytime soon.

Economic reports next week

Next week, it's all about Thursday's consumer price index. There's really very little else to worry about. Oh, and markets are closed on Friday for the Veterans Day holiday.

That important report is shown below in bold. Others are unlikely to move mortgage rates unless they contain shockingly good or bad data.

  • Tuesday — October small business index from the National Federation of Independent Business
  • Thursday — Consumer price index (CPI) for October. Plus weekly new claims for unemployment insurance to Nov. 5
  • Friday — Bond markets closed for Veterans Day holiday. Mortgage rates shouldn't move and we won't be publishing our usual daily report. However, the consumer sentiment report for November should appear that day

Thursday's the big day next week.

Verify your new rate (Nov 7th, 2022)

Mortgage interest rates forecast for next week

Unfortunately, I have to revert to my recent default position and fail to provide a forecast for where mortgage rates will move next week. Things are simply too volatile and unpredictable to make a judgment.

How your mortgage interest rate is determined

Mortgage and refinance rates are generally determined by prices in a secondary market (similar to the stock or bond markets) where mortgage-backed securities are traded.

And that's highly dependent on the economy. So mortgage rates tend to be high when things are going well and low when the economy's in trouble. But inflation rates can undermine those tendencies.

Your part

But you play a big part in determining your own mortgage rate in five ways. And you can affect it significantly by:

  1. Shopping around for your best mortgage rate — They vary widely from lender to lender
  2. Boosting your credit score — Even a small bump can make a big difference to your rate and payments
  3. Saving the biggest down payment you can — Lenders like you to have real skin in this game
  4. Keeping your other borrowing modest — The lower your other monthly commitments, the bigger the mortgage you can afford
  5. Choosing your mortgage carefully — Are you better off with a conventional, conforming, FHA, VA, USDA, jumbo or another loan?

Time spent getting these ducks in a row can see you winning lower rates.

Remember, they're not just a mortgage rate

Be sure to count all your forthcoming homeownership costs when you're working out how big a mortgage you can afford. So, focus on your "PITI." That's your Principal (pays down the amount you borrowed), Interest (the price of borrowing), (property) Taxes, and (homeowners) Insurance. Our mortgage calculator can help with these.

Depending on your type of mortgage and the size of your down payment, you may have to pay mortgage insurance, too. And that can easily run into three figures every month.

But there are other potential costs. So you'll have to pay homeowners association dues if you choose to live somewhere with an HOA. And, wherever you live, you should expect repairs and maintenance costs. There's no landlord to call when things go wrong!

Finally, you'll find it hard to forget closing costs. You can see those reflected in the annual percentage rate (APR) that lenders will quote you. Because that effectively spreads them out over your loan's term, making that higher than your straight mortgage rate.

But you may be able to get help with those closing costs and your down payment, especially if you're a first-time buyer. 

November
4

Which home renovations have the best ROI (return on investment)?

No matter what the motivation for your home renovation may be, you'll want to know that your money is well spent. These are the home improvements that provide the best return on investment (ROI) to increase your home's value.

Summary

  • On average, home renovations provide a 70% ROI.
  • Home renovations are one of the only investments that can improve the quality of life in your living space and increase the value of your home for the future.
  • The home improvements with the best ROI are projects that add functional space and square footage. Common examples are finishing basements, addition projects that add bedrooms/bathrooms, and new kitchens.
  • Home improvements that don't add value are: luxury upgrades, aesthetic-only improvements, or out-of-the-norm projects for your homes in your neighborhood.
What is the ROI of a Home Renovation?#

The ROI from a home renovation, depends on several factors:

  • Real estate market
  • Location
  • Project type
  • Timing

However, most home improvements will not give you a 100% return on investment. While HGTV shows like Fix it or Flip it can make it seem like renovations are a great way to make money, that's not the reality for the majority of home remodeling. 

The rule of thumb that we share with homeowners is that you can expect a 70% ROI, on average, with home renovation projects. 

If you're looking for a way to invest your money and turn good profit, any financial expert worth their salt will not advise renovating as the way to do it. There are many other routes to invest your money, like putting money into the S&P 500, for example, that will give you a better return than a home renovation.

The reason why ROI is such a big factor in home renovations is that remodeling is the only method of investing where you get two means of value: you can get the ROI, and the greatly improved quality of life with a new space in your home.

For example, when you purchase a car and get repairs, you're spending money on a depreciating asset. You're putting money into your car and you won't get back a single dollar. 

When you purchase and renovate a home, you're putting work into an appreciating asset - and chances are some of that money will stay with you! But there are still better ways to invest if that's your number one priority.

So while ROI is exciting and important, it should not be the end-all-be-all of your project. 

With that said, there are some insights we can provide based on experience in the renovation world, as well as remodeling research.

What Home Improvements Give the Best Return?#

'Type of project' is one of the biggest factors in determining your renovation's ROI. While obviously the other factors like timing, market and location will make a difference too, there are some common projects that generally provide a better ROI than others. 

In general, projects that add functional space and square footage add the most value. 

But let's break that down even further:

1. Remodeling Kitchen & Bathrooms#

As the two most utilized spaces in a home, investing in these rooms makes sense for both ROI and quality of life. 

While renovating your kitchen or bathroom can be the most expensive in terms of construction, you'll get as much out of it as you put in. 

In some of the hottest housing markets, that means a return of 100% or more of the renovation costs. 

These spaces are functional, filled with appliances and a necessary piece of every home - which means that they're useful for any future buyer, no matter what. 

However, this high ROI does not ring true if you're completing a renovation that is purely aesthetic, using luxury materials and finishes, or creating a kitchen that's far outside the norms for your neighborhood. 

If you stick to a moderate kitchen or bathroom renovation, and your home actually needs an update, you can get a great ROI.

2. Finishing the Basement#

High-income buyers value a finished basement, according to a study by NAHB. 

On average, finishing this space will provide 70% ROI, meaning you can increase your property value by $700 for every $1,000 you spend. 

With some drywall, flooring, and paint, this space offers more heated square footage, which can bump a home into a different price bracket.

Adding functional space to your home is always a surefire way to get a good ROI when you're doing renovations, and more homeowners in high-income areas expect basements to be functional, livable areas.

3. Upgrading the Curb Appeal#

In addition to enhancing the beauty of your property, certain upgrades also help improve your home's efficiency and security. 

Overall, projects that involve exterior improvements - from new windows, roofing, and siding to painting and landscape maintenance - can result in 80% ROI (see the table below).

One reason for this is that "curb appeal" is the first thing home buyers notice when they see a property - even if they don't go inside. 

So, a general rule of thumb for top ROI projects: adding more functionality and square footage will add value.

What Home Improvements Give the Worst Return?#

Generally, any home improvements that are purely aesthetic and outside of the norm for your neighborhood will give you a worse than average ROI. 

Luxury, entertainment, and aesthetic upgrades#

Luxury entertainment upgrades probably won't give you a great ROI because they're not necessary for all future homebuyers, and they're also heavily based on personal preference. 

What do we mean by this?

  • Pools/hot tubs
  • Renovations with unusually expensive materials
  • Luxury or upscale kitchen/bathroom designs
  • In-home theatres
  • Backyard sports courts
  • Other highly specialized spaces, like wine cellars or home movie theatres

The only exception is if you live in an extremely high-income area. Then it's possible that some of these spaces will be expected or common for homes and the ROI won't be as low. 

However, if you live in a low-income or medium-income area, these spaces will provide little to no ROI, because future home buyers will not be willing to pay for them. 

A general rule of thumb for bottom ROI projects: purely aesthetic or entertainment-based upgrades with no extra square footage will not add value. 

For example, if you're redoing your kitchen and picking out luxury materials, finishes and appliances - there's a good chance that the person purchasing your home in the future may not like these choices more than their more moderately-priced equivalents. 

Renovation Return on Investment Chart 2021#

Another factor that impacts ROI with renovations is timing. Depending on the month or year, certain renovations can provide more value than others. 

For example, after the pandemic, more homeowners value functional outdoor spaces - like backyards, porches, decks and patios - because of the safety and distance they offer when people are sick.

According to Remodeling Magazine, this is the average ROI for these 22 common renovation projects in 2021:

Project Job Cost Resale Value Cost Recouped
Garage Door Replacement $3,907 $3,663 93.8%
Manufactured Stone Veneer $10,386 $9,571 92.1%
Minor Kitchen Remodel | Midrange $26,214 $18,927 72.2%
Siding Replacement | Fiber-Cement $19,626 $13,618 69.4%
Window Replacement | Vinyl $19,385 $13,297 68.6%
Siding Replacement | Vinyl $16,576 $11,315 68.3%
Window Replacement | Wood $23,219 $15,644 67.4%
Deck Addition | Wood $16,766 $11,038 65.8%
Entry Door Replacement | Steel $2,082 $1,353 65.0%
Deck Addition | Composite $22,426 $14,169 63.2%
Grand Entrance | Fiberglass $10,044 $6,116 60.9%
Roofing Replacement | Asphalt Shingles $28,256 $17,147 60.7%
Bath Remodel | Midrange $24,424 $14,671 60.1%
Bath Remodel | Universal Design $38,813 $22,475 57.9%
Major Kitchen Remodel | Midrange $75,571 $43,364 57.4%
Roofing Replacement | Metal $46,031 $25,816 56.1%
Bath Remodel | Upscale $75,692 $41,473 54.8%
Master Suite Addition | Midrange $156,741 $85,672 54.7%
Major Kitchen Remodel | Upscale $149,079 $80,284 53.9%
Bathroom Addition | Midrange $56,946 $30,237 53.1%
Bathroom Addition | Upscale $103,613 $54,701 52.8%
Master Suite Addition | Upscale $320,976 $152,996 47.7%

As you can see, outdoor improvements that are part of curb appeal make the list, as well as kitchen and bath remodels. But upscale remodels in general provide a worse return on value.

How Do You Calculate the ROI on Home Renovations?#

There is no tried-and-true mathematical formula for calculating the ROI for home improvements.  And the only official way to calculate home value is an appraisal, which is a process where a real estate appraiser determines the fair market value of a home. 

This is usually only done when you're buying and selling a home, so it might be tough to correlate the calculated value with a renovation project to see how home improvements may have impacted the value.

As-Completed Appraisals#

However, there is a unique type of appraisal called an "as-completed appraisal" where an appraiser will look at your renovation plans and your current home value and determine how much value they will add upon completion. 

As-completed appraisals cost money, and are normally only completed if part of the process for applying for a "renovation loan," where the borrowing power is based on the equity of the home "as-completed."

For this unique type of appraisal, an inspector will look at sales comparisons in your neighborhood, as well as your current home's specs and your renovation plans. 

But this process is an art not a science, and two different appraisers could come to different conclusions on the same house. 

One benefit of financing a renovation with a renovation loan, which relies on this type of appraisal, is that you can be sure exactly how much value you're getting from a renovation.

In other cases where you're not getting an "as-completed appraisal" - all you can do is guess - or use our 70% rule of thumb to determine your project's ROI.

Short term value vs. long-term value#

One important thing to note is short-term value vs. long-term value when thinking about ROI. 

Projects that are adding functional space and square footage - like additions, finishing the basement, or making moderate upgrades to appliances - are value-adds that will stand the test of time, because they do not rely on design trends. 

These types of projects add "long-term value." For example, if you're adding a bed and a bath to your home (and this addition won't take it outside of the norm for the neighborhood), this renovation will be useful to homeowners now and in 50 years.

But other renovations, like new kitchens, will add "short-term value," because in 20 years any aesthetic improvements made could be out of style. 

For example, giving your kitchen a farmhouse, all-white style renovation could greatly boost your home's value in a hot market within the next 5-10 years. 

But if you're not planning on selling for another 20 years - this design style could be seen as a negative, and out of date, by homebuyers. Thus - the value of this upgrade only holds up for so long. Think about your mom's pink bathroom from the 80s. At one point it was the peak of style. Now, you'd struggle to sell that without re-doing it.

This is why we don't recommend making ROI your biggest motivator when it comes to kitchen and bathroom renovations - because your style preferences might not be "in" in thirty years. 

You should make your quality of life your top motivator for your remodel, so you can make choices based on your family's needs when it comes to renovation style. 

Just because an open floor plan might not be the hottest new layout, that doesn't mean it won't be awesome now for you and your family.

Is Renovating a Good Investment?#

Any financial advisor will tell you that there are a lot of smarter and easier places to invest your money and get a better return. But renovating your home is a really unique investment because it kills two birds with one stone: it improves your quality of life, and it adds value at the same time. 

Your home is an appreciating asset - and therefore it makes sense to put money into it over time to keep it in good condition, especially toward safety hazards, or broken/non-functioning parts.

But - renovation, solely as a means to add value, does not make sense and isn't necessary unless you're fixing and flipping. 

If you're considering renovation outside of adding value though, when you factor in 70-90 cents on the dollar in ROI AND a major improvement in quality of life? It's genius.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you're considering a renovation:

  • Is my renovation plan really "trendy"?
  • Will these upgrades stay within the bounds of what is "normal" in my neighborhood?
  • Is my renovation adding square footage?
  • Is my renovation making my house more functional?
  • Am I choosing materials, appliances and finishes that are well-priced?
  • Is the main motivator behind this renovation my own quality of life?
  • How long do I plan to stay in this house before moving?
October
31

Halloween 2022

Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31, and Halloween 2022 will occur on Monday, October 31. The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats.

Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago, mostly in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes.

When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By A.D. 43, the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the 400 years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.

The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of bobbing for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

All Saints' Day

On May 13, A.D. 609, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1.

By the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted older Celtic rites. In A.D. 1000, the church made November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It's widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, church-sanctioned holiday.

All Souls' Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints' Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

Halloween Comes to America

The celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies.

As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups and the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included "play parties," which were public events held to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other's fortunes, dance and sing.

Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the 19th century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.

In the second half of the 19th century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing the Irish Potato Famine, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally.

History of Trick-or-Treating

Borrowing from European traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes.

Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything "frightening" or "grotesque" out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

Halloween Parties

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide Halloween parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague some celebrations in many communities during this time.

By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated.

Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats.

Thus, a new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country's second largest commercial holiday after Christmas.

Halloween Movies

Speaking of commercial success, scary Halloween movies have a long history of being box office hits. Classic Halloween movies include the "Halloween" franchise, based on the 1978 original film directed by John Carpenter and starring Donald Pleasance, Nick Castle, Jamie Lee Curtis and Tony Moran. In "Halloween," a young boy named Michael Myers murders his 17-year-old sister and is committed to jail, only to escape as a teen on Halloween night and seek out his old home, and a new target. A direct sequel to the original "Halloween" was released in 2018, starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle. A sequel to that—"Halloween Kills," the twelfth film in the "Halloween" franchise overall—was released in 2021.

Considered a classic horror film down to its spooky soundtrack, "Halloween" inspired other iconic "slasher films" like "Scream," "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Friday the 13." More family-friendly Halloween movies include "Hocus Pocus," "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "Beetlejuice" and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." 

All Souls Day and Soul Cakes

The American Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating probably dates back to the early All Souls' Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called "soul cakes" in return for their promise to pray for the family's dead relatives.

The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as "going a-souling," was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food and money.

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry.

On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.

On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.

Black Cats and Ghosts on Halloween

Halloween has always been a holiday filled with mystery, magic and superstition. It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends. For these friendly spirits, they set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and along the side of the road and lit candles to help loved ones find their way back to the spirit world.

Today's Halloween ghosts are often depicted as more fearsome and malevolent, and our customs and superstitions are scarier too. We avoid crossing paths with black cats, afraid that they might bring us bad luck. This idea has its roots in the Middle Ages, when many people believed that witches avoided detection by turning themselves into black cats.

We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred (it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe). And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.We try not to walk under ladders for the same reason. This superstition may have come from the ancient Egyptians, who believed that triangles were sacred (it also may have something to do with the fact that walking under a leaning ladder tends to be fairly unsafe). And around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.

Halloween Matchmaking and Lesser-Known Rituals

But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today's trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead.

In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married. In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.

In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl's future husband. (In some versions of this legend, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolized a love that would not last.)

Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband.

Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands' initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands' faces.

Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry. At others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.

Of course, whether we're asking for romantic advice or trying to avoid seven years of bad luck, each one of these Halloween superstitions relies on the goodwill of the very same "spirits" whose presence the early Celts felt so keenly.

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