PIWs are back!

October 10, 2017 by

Every few months, there are changes made to loan guidelines. Often, the changes are minute and not worth talking about very much. This time, there is something worth discussing.

Property Inspection Waivers (PIW) are back! Technically, they’ve been back for a while, but it was rare to use them. But what are PIWs? Property Inspection Waivers mean a borrower does not need to order an appraisal for the loan if they are satisfied with the value Automated Underwriting (AUS) assigns it. These have been available, but really only used with making a significant down payment (or having lots of equity if the loan is a refinance). How much is significant? Lets say 40% or more in equity.

With this latest change, Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac are saying it will be more widely used and available for clients with smaller down payments/amount in equity – even for purchase transactions.

Currently, I am working with clients on a refinance with just 20% equity and no appraisal needed. How is this of benefit to the borrower? For one, it saves money. Appraisal costs range from $450-$500, and the PIW fee is only $75. It also creates a much quicker turn time for closing. Imagine closing start to finish in under two weeks.

Lenders will not know if a loan will qualify until it gets into Automated Underwriting. That means the borrower will have to apply and be under contract on a home with the final purchase price. That said, it is always great to have the opportunity to save money and close faster! We’ll see how well this rolls out, but it’s good to have PIWs back as an option.

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Helping People Qualify to Buy a House – Coborrowers

September 25, 2017 by

Another way for people to qualify to buy a home is finding a co-borrower on the loan.  In most circumstances, a parent is used as a non-occupant co-borrower.  They can help qualify and sign for the loan without living in the subject property.  Don’t have a parent that can assist? Today’s guidelines state that if the non-occupant borrower is not a family member, there must be an established relationship and motivation not including equity participation for profit. In other words, it is much easier when it is a family member involved, but not out of the realm of possibility if it is a non-family member.

That said, this technique can pose some challenges for the generous non-occupant co-borrower. So, when is it used and what are the drawbacks?

Non-occupant co-borrwers are often used when our buyer’s debt to income ratio is too high to qualify for the loan on their own.  Whether it’s because of student loans, needing to buy a new home before selling the current home, auto loans, etc., the situation is that the buyer’s debts make up a higher proportion of her income than permitted in underwriting guidelines. It is rarely used when assets are needed as these can be gifted to the borrower MUCH easier than adding someone as a non-occupant co-borrower.

A few years ago, Paul (not his real name) called me.  He wanted to buy the perfect new home, but he had to make an offer without a contingency to sell his current home.  So we had to underwrite him with two mortgages.  He could not qualify for both loans on his salary.  His mother, Beth (not her real name), agreed to sign on the loan with him.  So we completed loan applications for both Paul and Beth, merged the files, and submitted the joint file for underwriting review.  Beth had a great income and little debt, so the two of them together easily won loan approval.

One year later, Beth decided she wanted to buy her own home.  Now the challenge for her – Paul’s home loan showed in her credit report and had to be included in her debt to income calculation.  Now Beth was the one who could not qualify for two mortgage payments.  And this is the “drawback.”  Those who cosign are legally obligated to pay the loan on behalf of the child-the loan belongs to them both!  So cosigning affects the everyone’s credit and may impact their ability to qualify for future loans.

By the time Beth decided to buy, Paul had sold his original house, so he could qualify for a new mortgage by himself.  Therefore, we refinanced his mortgage in his name only, freed Beth from the original loan, and then won loan approval for Beth’s home purchase.

Bottom line, being a non-occupant co-borrwer can help someone buying a home with debt to income limitations, but this solution can eventually impact the cosigner’s financial goals.  It’s an option to be considered carefully.

Do you know a parent who wants to help their adult child escape the landlord and start building home equity?  Refer them to me at Dunwoody Mortgage and we will review all options.  We’ll cover the pros and cons of each option, and let that parent choose the best way to help the child.

 

Helping Relatives Buy a Home – Cash Gifts

September 19, 2017 by

Our recent posts have debunked home buying myths and reviewed tools that can help young adults (or any other home buyers) buy a home.  To recap, buyers can often win mortgage approval with down payments of 5%, 3.5%, and even 3%, if the buyer qualifies.  If the buyer is short on cash to close, there are multiple ways to help cover the cash shortfall.  In this post, let’s review how a home buyer can receive a cash gift from a relative.

First and foremost, the gift must come from a current relative such as a spouse, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.  I have encountered a situation where an ex-spouse was willing to give money for closing, but that is not allowed.  The ex-spouse is no longer considered a “relative” so that will not work.

Secondly, the cash provided must be a gift given to the home buyer.  This cannot be a loan.  Both the giver and recipient must sign documents declaring that the cash is truly a gift and no repayment is expected.  We call this the “gift letter” and it specifies details about the giver, the recipient, the relationship, the gift amount, the gift date, and the source of the gift funds.

Thirdly, we must document a “paper trail” to win underwriting approval.  The documents required depend on HOW the gift is delivered to the recipient.  In all gift situations, the giver must submit their most recent bank statement showing that they have the funds to make the gift and that the account truly belongs to them.  In addition, other documents can be required depending on the gift delivery, as shown below:

  • The giver can wire the funds directly to the closing attorney.  In this case, only the gift letter and the bank statement described above are needed.
  • The giver can electronically transfer the funds to the recipient’s bank account.  In this case, the giver must show a bank account activity listing showing the funds transfer and the recipient must show a bank account activity listing showing the deposit, in addition to the gift letter and bank statement.
  • The giver can write a check to the recipient.  In this case, the borrower must submit a copy of the gift check in addition to all other gift documents described above.

The key here is advance planning to make sure all documents are ready and submitted in a timely manner so the loan can close on time.

Do you know a parent of an adult child who wants to help that child buy their first home?  Refer them to me at Dunwoody Mortgage. We will make sure document the gift right the first time, so everyone can be happy with an on-time closing.

Beyond the Down Payment…Cash to Close

August 30, 2017 by

In the last post, we debunked the myth that home buyers must make a 20% down payment to buy their home.  There are many programs enabling buyers to close with 5%, 3.5%, or even 3% down payments.  But there is one other factor to consider regarding the cash you have available to buy a home…your “cash to close.”

Cash to close includes your down payment, PLUS the closing costs and prepaid escrow.  In short, you need more cash than just the down payment to close the purchase.  Here is a quick description of the other items:

  • Closing costs are the actual costs of transferring title and obtaining a mortgage loan.  Closing costs include items such as appraisal fees, transfer taxes, intangible tax, attorney fees, title insurance, etc.  Some of these costs are fixed while others increase with the home purchase price or loan amount.
  • Prepaid escrow represents the cash needed to pay the first year of homeowners insurance and to prefund your escrow account to pay future property taxes and homeowners insurance premiums.  These typically increase as the home price increases.

So what options does a buyer have when he has scraped together that 3.5% down payment, but does not have enough cash to cover the remaining cash to close?  Here’s where a proactive lender, working as a consultant to help the buyer, can make a huge difference.  Typically, the buyer has 4 options, and the lender should explore them all with the buyer:

  1. The seller can agree to contribute cash towards the closing as part of the purchase contract.  There are limits regarding how much the seller can contribute based on the loan type and down payment percentage, but a seller contribution can be a huge help.  Note that the seller contribution cannot be applied to the down payment.
  2. The buyer can choose a “no closing cost” loan.  Many buyers choose not to use this option because it involves a higher interest rate and monthly payment, but it can be a good option for some buyers who have limited available cash.
  3. The buyer can receive a gift from a relative.  We must carefully document the gift, but this is a great way for parents and grandparents to help a young adult get started building equity.  The gift can be applied to the down payment.
  4. We can combine the 3 options above to resolve a cash shortfall.

The key here is to remember (1) more cash than just the down payment is needed to close a mortgage and (2) there are creative ways we can solve a cash shortfall.

If you know a renter with a good job but not much cash, refer them to me at Dunwoody Mortgage Services.  We will work closely with your referral and his / her Realtor to structure a mortgage that best meets their financial situation.

The Truth About Down Payments…

August 25, 2017 by

Many young adults and other potential home buyers mistakenly assume that they cannot buy a house.  Why?  Because they believe the myth that a home buyer must make a 20% down payment to buy a home.  A recent study by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) shows that the average down payment for 60% of first time buyers is 6% or less.  However, their research indicates that just 13% of adults age 34 and younger understand that they can buy a home with as little as 5% down, or less.  Their analysis shows that, over the last 5 years, more than 70% of non-cash, first time buyers, along with 54% of all home buyers, made down payments of less than 20%.

So why do so many Americans not understand this home buying truth?  Perhaps it is because 20% is the down payment benchmark most often quoted by “experts” in print and other news media.  And perhaps it is because that to avoid mortgage insurance on a conventional loan, you must make at least a 20% down payment.

Whatever the reason, it is time for us to spread the truth about down payments.  That truth is, the majority of home buyers make down payments of less than 20%.  Here are some quick options for folks who want to buy, but don’t have a lot of cash saved for a purchase:

  • Active duty military, National Guard, Reserves, or military veterans may qualify for a 0% down VA loan.
  • FHA loans offer minimum down payments of 3.5% with low interest rates.
  • Buyer who qualify can obtain a Home Ready conventional loan for 3% down, with competitive interest rates and discounted mortgage insurance premiums.
  • Buyers who do not qualify for Home Ready may still qualify for a 3% down payment, but possibly with a higher interest rate.  In this case, the buyer will likely receive a lower interest rate if she makes a 5% down payment.

Bottom line, many home buying options exist for folks who can afford less than a 20% down payment.  These home buyers need a mortgage expert to coach them to the best option for their financial situation.  That is the type of individualized service we deliver at Dunwoody Mortgage.  We work closely with our clients to help them obtain the mortgage solution that best meets their needs.

If you know a young adult in Georgia who has a good job, who is renting and doesn’t think she can buy her own home, suggest that she call me at Dunwoody Mortgage.  She just might be able to fire her landlord, buy her own place, and start building equity.  Don’t let her believe the down payment myths.

 

The Feds are halfway there

August 22, 2017 by

One of the Federal Reserve presidents recently said the Fed was halfway home to raising rates. Currently, the rate sits at 1.25%, and the statement implies the target is 2.5%. The San Francisco Fed President feels a rate of 2.5% is the normal target rate for the US economy.

If true, what does that mean for rates, economy, etc.?

One interesting aspect would be the ability of the Fed to help when the economy experiences another downturn – and it will. The economy rises and falls, and it will slow down again at some point. Before 2008, the Federal Funds rate sat at 5.25%. The Fed lowered the rate to virtually zero to help the economy. What happens the next time there is a down turn, and the rate sits at 2.5%? There wouldn’t be as much room to lower the rate to stimulate the economy. Of course, no one expects another down turn like 2008 to happen.

What about mortgage rates? Since the Feds began raising the Federal Funds rate, mortgage rates have improved every time. The only reason rates haven’t set new historic lows is due to the rapid rise of mortgage rates after the 2016 election. In fact, was the dropping of the Federal Funds rate that helped pushed mortgages rate lower. Over the past 5 months, mortgage rates have been flat. As they are near historic lows, there really isn’t that much more room for improvement. That said, more rate hikes could help push them lower as an increasing Federal Funds rate can help mortgage rates improve.

In the end, it will probably be more of the same when it comes to rates… staying low. That has been the Fed’s goal since the 2008 market crash. They’ve achieved this goal by buying bonds and then several rounds of quantitative easing. Now that the economy has improved, the Fed’s attention turns to keeping inflation in check. They do this by increasing the Federal Funds rate, which helps mortgage rates improve (mortgage rates hate inflation). The Fed continues their goal to keep mortgage rates low. When will rates go up? Honestly, at this point, I don’t think anyone knows. I’ll believe it when I see it!

Potential Shake Up at the Federal Reserve

August 1, 2017 by

Janet Yellen’s days may be numbered. She is the current head of the Federal Reserve, and her role is up for renewal by President Trump. While he has been coy in the past about his plans to (or not to) replace her, signs are pointing to the fact he might indeed do so.

Trump has made no secret about his desire for low interest rates. This tends to fuel stock values/growth (something President Trump enjoys), but it could cause problems down the road. It also marks a significant shift in the philosophies of our major political parties:

  • Democrats traditionally want lower rates to encourage job and wage growth.
  • Republicans tend to want the Federal Funds rate to be higher to fight off inflation.

There is another angle to consider: Ammunition for the Federal Reserve when there is another economic down turn. Lowering the Federal Funds rate is a classic monetary policy employed by the Federal Reserve to help stimulate the economy in times of slow growth/recession. We saw the Federal Reserve lower the funds rate after the “.com” bubble burst, and then raise it as the economy recovered. This repeated after the housing collapse, and the Feds are now raising the rate again to have this as a fallback position for next time (there will be a next time). If rates are kept low, the Feds won’t have this as an option. Japan have kept their “federal funds” equivalent at zero for many, many years with little impact. They recently started a “negative” rate policy that has also shown little results in getting their economy back on track.

It is a delicate balance, and will be interesting to see how it plays out.

The question that most people reading this blog want to know is how will this impact mortgage rates. Mortgage rates tend to work in opposite fashion to the Federal Funds rate.

  • the Federal Funds rate directly impacts rates on second mortgages, car loans, credit cards.
  • mortgage rates are determined by the value of mortgage backed security bonds. These bonds (and all bonds) hate inflation. As inflation rises, bond values drop. As bond values go down, mortgage rates go up.

It stands to reason that mortgage rates could improve as the Federal Reserve raises the Federal Funding Rate. That is exactly what has happened as the Fed raised rates. Mortgage rates improved after the Federal Reserve raised rates in December 2015. Mortgage rates skyrocketed after the election (when stock prices went up dramatically). Mortgage rates have improved since the Fed began raising the Federal Funds rate again at the end of 2016 and into 2017 (while stock values have been mostly flat/slightly higher).

It will be fascinating to watch how this unfolds as traditional party philosophies, the economy, monetary policy, and mortgage rates all stand to be impacted by the decision.

Mortgage Rates and the Second Part of the Fed’s Announcement

June 23, 2017 by

The Federal Reserve’s announcement last week that it was increasing the Federal Funds rate included a second statement regarding the Fed’s bond holdings.  The Fed began buying Treasury and mortgage bonds after the Great Recession to lower long-term loan rates.  In the process, the Fed increased its debt holdings by over five times the previous balance – to over $4.5 trillion.

As part of last week’s announcement, the Fed said it will allow a small amount of bonds to mature without being replaced.  The Fed also said this amount will gradually rise as markets adjusted to the process.  Experts stated, “This process could put upward pressure on long-term borrowing rates.”

With the Fed out of the bond-buying business, the overall demand for Treasury bonds and mortgage backed securities will decrease.  A reduction in the demand for these investments should cause their prices to fall.  Remember that when values of mortgage backed securities fall, mortgage rates rise.

 

That is how the second component of last week’s Fed announcement can push mortgage rates higher.  Not by increasing the Federal Funds Rate, but by no longer buying bonds (and also possibly selling the bonds they already own). We could be entering an environment of lowering bond values and rising mortgage rates.

We can assume that Fed will be careful not to shock the markets too dramatically, so we don’t expect rates to dramatically increase. The goal of the Fed would be to complete the second part of their statement without pushing mortgages rates up.

That being said, mortgage rates are currently at their lowest levels of 2017.  Now is a great time to buy a home – from a mortgage perspective.  If you are looking to buy in Georgia and you want focused service with a keen attention to detail, call me at Dunwoody Mortgage Services.  We will do as much of the “heavy-lifting” as possible so your mortgage experience is as pleasant as possible.

 

How Fed Decisions Could Affect Mortgage Interest Rates

June 19, 2017 by

Yesterday, the United States Federal Reserve increased its short-term interest rate by 0.25%.  From a historical perspective, the “Federal Funds Rate” is still very low.   Many people assume that this increase in the Federal Funds Rate means that mortgage interest rates will rise too.  Not so fast…it’s possible that the opposite could happen.  When the Fed raised this rate in December 2015, mortgage interest rates declined in the weeks following the announcement.  Mortgage interest rates remained very low throughout 2016 until immediately following the Presidential election in November.  The Fed raised rates again in December 2016 and March 2017.  Current mortgage interest rates are about 0.5% lower than their level when the December 2016 Fed rate increase occurred. 

Why do mortgage rates sometime move in opposition to the Federal Funds Rate?  It’s complicated, but at a high level, mortgage interest rates tie more closely to the investment markets than to the Federal Funds Rate.  The majority of American home mortgages are purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Fannie and Freddie then “package” these mortgages into mortgage-backed securities (MBS).  They then sell these MBS as investments. 

So insurance companies, mutual fund companies, and other large investors then buy and sell MBS as a component of their larger investment portfolios.  That means that the MBS must compete with other investments for investors’ attention. 

Many times, if the market for equities increases (as reflected by indices like the Dow Jones or NASDAQ), mortgage interest rates will also increase to keep MBS competitive with the equities.  Similarly, if interest rates on certain Treasury Notes and other bond-type investments increase, mortgage interest rates will follow suit.

Ultimately, it means that in many cases, an increase in the Federal Funds rate does not automatically mean that mortgage interest rates will increase too.  If the stock market reacts negatively to the Fed’s decision or other economic news, mortgage rates can decrease even though the Federal Funds rate has increased. 

Yesterday’s Federal Reserve statement also included another announcement that could affect future mortgage interest rates.  The Fed stated that it will begin reducing its huge holdings of Treasury and mortgage bonds.  Let’s talk about the mortgage impacts of that announcement in another blog post next week.

For now, if you, a friend or family member wants to buy a house and fears that home price appreciation and interest rate increases will hurt your ability to buy, give me a call at Dunwoody Mortgage to discuss your options.  We offer VA, FHA, conventional, jumbo, and Home Ready loans – we offer a mix of mortgage products that can help different buyers’ differing situations.   I would love to explore your options with you.

Homebuyers squeezed out of the market

June 13, 2017 by

Last week there were a series of articles published by the Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, and more describing how Millennials are being squeezed out of buying homes. For the most part, articles focused solely on lending requirements. Honestly, that misses the mark on what is really going on out there right now. Let’s dig into this a little more.

The articles primarily focused on how lending guidelines are stricter. While that is true when compared to 2007, lending requirements have loosened up quite a bit over the past several years. Here are some quick examples:

  • Conventional loans allow borrowers with a credit score of 620 (the same as FHA). Average credit is 660-680 depending on what article/source you read, so home buyers with below average credit can qualify to purchase a home.
  • Smaller down payments are back. VA and USDA loans do not require a down payment, FHA only requires 3.5% down, and Conventional loans can be used to buy a home with as little as 3% down.
  • Self-employed borrowers with an established business of 5+ years can qualify to buy a home with only one year of tax returns.
  • Condos can be purchased with as little as 3% down.
  • Rental income from investment properties can be used even if the property hasn’t been rented out for two years.

Lending guidelines are much more lenient today than they were just a few years ago. That isn’t really the problem.

A Washington Post article from January discussed the elephant in the room, and nailed it when it comes to the issue that all home buyers are facing – inventory.

I attended a Realtor meeting recently where a stat was given stating there is less than a 3-month supply of homes available in in-town Atlanta. A balanced market is a 6-month supply, and nationwide the supply of homes is well under 6 months. That’s not good. Think it is bad in Atlanta? It’s worse in Seattle. The lack of inventory puts Millennials (and any home buyer with a smaller down payment) at a disadvantage. Also, it is pushing home values higher than a normal market due to the impact of supply and demand.

How does one compete in this market? A few things come to mind.

  1. Home buyers must go out and look at homes as soon as they are listed. This can be difficult depending on one’s schedule, but homes are going under contract in a few days in most cases.
  2. Home buyers should be underwritten prior to going out to look at a home. This way the offer letter isn’t a prequalification letter or pre-approval letter, but the letter can read the home buyers are “approved to purchase a home pending a satisfactory appraisal, clear title, and sufficient insurance coverage.” That is much stronger than a simple “prequalification” letter, and I go into more detail this in a previous blog post.

By planning and being ready to move on a home at a moment’s notice, home buyers can increase their odds of getting under contract on a home.

Looking to purchase in Georgia? Wanting to get ahead of the game? Contact me today, and we’ll get started toward achieving the goal of your home ownership!