How Government Policy Impacts Mortgage Rates

February 20, 2018 by

Mortgage interest rates continue rising.  Other recent blog posts have covered the impacts of inflation, the Federal Funds rate, and stock market influences on mortgage rates.  Another major influence on mortgage rates is government policy. 

In 2008, the Federal Reserve implemented a program called “quantitative easing” (QE).  The Fed created money to buy securities like mortgage backed securities and public bonds from banks.  This new money increased bank reserves.  The idea is that the new cash would motivate banks to lend more money.  In buying new assets, stock prices would rise, and interest rates would fall, thus boosting investment further.  Given the trillions of dollars of assets purchased, it’s logical to assume that interest rates on all types of debt are lower than they would have been without QE.

The Fed ceased QE security purchases in October 2014.  A government policy used to keep rates low ended, and experts wondered if mortgage rates would increase.  But rates stayed near their historic lows until November 2016.  Rates rose quickly after the election by almost a full percentage point, and then slowly retreated over most of 2017.

In October 2017, the Fed began “normalizing its balance sheet” by selling its securities holdings – selling the bonds purchased in QE.  Experts predicted this policy would have the reverse effect of QE:

·       Bond price decreases due to increased supply (as the Fed sells its holdings).

·       Falling bond prices lead to increases in bond yields, which translates to rising interest rates.

And that appears to be happening.  From a lender’s perspective – QE was great.  I loved quoting interest rates less than 4%.  And now it’s frustrating and stressful to see interest rates rising and continuing higher.  But it makes sense given the broader economic and government policy environment.

It is impossible to accurately predict where mortgage rates will go.  Sudden changes in government policy, international relations, etc. can cause mortgage rates to change direction.  Given that caveat, it appears likely that mortgage rates have truly left the historic low levels of the last few years and will likely not return there anytime soon.  I think it is logical to expect rates to continue rising for the short term.

So, if you know someone in Georgia who is considering a home purchase, it may be a good financial move to pull the trigger before rates go much higher.  Refer that someone to me and we can explore their loan options together.  We at Dunwoody Mortgage offer competitive rates in this changing environment, and as a small company, we can go directly to our executives to work out the best pricing “deal” possible.  In addition to competitive rates, we consistently deliver outstanding service to get home buyers to closing on time.

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Any hope for mortgage rates?

February 15, 2018 by

As my colleague recently posted, mortgage rates are off to a rough start this year. As of this post, mortgage rates are a half point higher for the year. I won’t dig into the details of why this is happening. Rodney did a great job of it in his recent post. Today, I’ll focus on what can turn the tide for mortgage rates.

Stocks have suffered a rough start to the new year too. That is normally great news for mortgage rates. Normally as stock prices fall, bond values rise, and mortgage rates improve. The Dow fell over 2,000 points at one moment over the past few weeks, and yet mortgage rates also got worse. If a 2,000 point drop couldn’t help mortgage rates, what can?!?

We must look back at one of the root causes Rodney discussed – inflation. Mortgage rates hate inflation as it eats away at the value of mortgage backed security bonds. As those bond prices fall, mortgage rates rise. The way to help mortgage rates is to combat inflation. The best weapon we have at our disposal is the Federal Funds Rate… the Federal Reserve can continue increasing the Federal Funds Rate. In fact, every time they’ve done that over the past couple of years, mortgage rates have initially improved. Why? The higher the Federal Funds Rate goes, the more it can combat inflation.

Of course, the flip side is raising it too much can cool off the economy (don’t want that). Also, with the new budget deal passed last week by the government, more bonds will be sold to fund the increases to our national budget. More bonds available for sale also lower bond values, pushing mortgage rates higher. As I said in a post late last year, the environment for mortgage rates to get worse is here. That seems to be occurring. While mortgage rates are still low, the time of super low rates could finally be behind us.

The Federal Reserve could increase the Federal Funds Rate to fight inflation and help mortgage rates, but given the other factors at play, the increase to the funds rate may not help improve rates over the long haul for the time being.

If you’ve been sitting on the fence about purchasing a home over the past year because “rates are so low, why hurry,” the time may be now. If you are purchasing in the state of Georgia, contact me. We can get the prequalification process completed in minutes and have you ready to go out and find your new home!

Recent Mortgage Rate Changes

February 13, 2018 by

Wow!  Our economic world has gone crazy in recent weeks.  The Dow Jones average has dropped about 7.9% since its high on January 26, less than 3 weeks ago.

Mortgage interest rates have been changing dramatically too.  Rates have increased a half point (0.5%) since January 2.  Back in mid-December, I quoted an interest rate to a first-time home buyer named John.  Today, in mid-February, I would likely have to charge him 0.625% more than what I quoted in December.

So, what is driving the rapid mortgage rate changes?  In short, Wall Street, economic factors, and government policy.

To understand the basics, first realize that the vast majority of conventional mortgages are sold by lenders to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Fannie and Freddie then package these mortgages into mortgage backed securities (MBS).  Money managers, pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds, etc. buy the MBS to keep in their investment portfolios.  They buy and they sell them like other investments. 

That means that the same economic factors that influence stock and bond prices – economic productivity, unemployment, inflation, and government policy – all impact mortgage interest rates.  And MBS must compete with other investment vehicles such as stocks and bonds to attract investors.

Many experts consider the market for 10 Year Treasuries as a benchmark or comparison for MBS.  Both investments offer stable, predictable cash flows.  Since January 2, 2018, the 10 Year Treasury rate has increased almost 0.4%.  Looks like interest rates on these competing investment vehicles are rising at the same time.

Given recent positive unemployment figures and wage growth, inflation concerns are increasing.  Higher inflation expectations tend to drive higher interest rates on Treasuries, bonds, and MBS.  Let’s face it, if investors expect inflation to be 3%, they will want to earn more than 3% on their fixed-income investments, right.  So as inflation concerns rise, it is logical to expect mortgage interest rates to rise accordingly.

When it comes to mortgage interest rates, there’s much more to consider, and we will delve into more details in future posts.  For now, if you know someone in Georgia who is considering a home purchase, please have them contact me.  We at Dunwoody Mortgage offer competitive rates in this changing environment, along with outstanding service to get home buyers to closing on time.

Tools to Access Your Home’s Equity

January 11, 2018 by

Home owners often seek to use their home equity as a source of cash.  They can use this cash for renovations, paying off other high interest debt, funding college educations, etc.

Owners typically access their equity by either (1) paying off their current mortgage and obtaining a new, higher-balance mortgage using a “cash out” refinance or (2) obtaining a home equity line of credit (HELOC).  Each option has some pros and cons.  The new federal tax law somewhat changes the pro / con dynamic.

Under the 2017 tax law, mortgage interest paid on loan balances up to $750,000 remains deductible on your federal taxes.  However, the tax law eliminated the mortgage interest deduction on new home equity loans and lines of credit.  But note that this only affects home owners who itemize their taxes.  And with the doubling of the standard deduction under the new tax law, the number of households that itemize deductions is expected to drop from 34 million to 14 million.

So, if you are considering accessing your home equity, first think through whether this tax change will affect you.  If you are a single filer and your itemized deductions including mortgage interest would be less than $12,000, the interest deductibility will not affect your decision.  If you file jointly and your itemized deductions would be less than $24,000, interest deductibility will again not affect your decision.

Here is my list of benefits for each option:

Cash Out Refi:

·        You can obtain a fixed rate loan.  The monthly principal and interest payment will never change.  HELOC rates are variable and your payments will increase when market interest rates increase.

·        You can deduct all interest (on loan balances up to $750,000) as part of your federal tax calculations as described above.

·        You reduce your outstanding loan principal with every payment.  The monthly payments reduce your outstanding principal every month.  HELOC payments are interest only.  For people who don’t have the financial discipline to pay down HELOC balances, the cash out refi forces you to reduce the loan balance monthly.

HELOC:

·        You can access more of your home’s equity.  HELOC’s typically allow up to 85% loan balance (first mortgage plus HELOC) to home value or loan to value “LTV.”  Cash out refis only allow a maximum 80% LTV.

·        You pay less for the loan itself.  Closing costs are typically lower for a HELOC than for a mortgage.

·        You can pay less each month.  Required HELOC payments are interest only.  By not paying down part of the principal each month, your monthly payments will likely be lower with a HELOC versus a traditional  mortgage.   

Next post, we will cover some “rules of thumb” when choosing between a refi and a HELOC.  Own a home in Georgia and want to access some equity?  Give me a call at Dunwoody Mortgage and let’s review your options.  We can consider the advantages of each as we guide you to the best solution for your situation.

My (FHA Loan) Christmas Wish List

December 19, 2017 by

FHA loans are great for certain borrowers.  I look to FHA loans when my clients have credit scores of say 680 or less, little available cash for a down payment, and want a 30 year mortgage.  FHA loans also can help a home buyer who has a higher level of other outstanding debt, as FHA guidelines allow slightly higher debt to income ratios.

FHA loans typically offer lower interest rates than conventional loans, but they do have some limitations.  But now there is some movement in Washington to change some of these limitations.  Let’s pretend that the federal government is Santa Claus.  Here’s my FHA mortgage wish list:

  • Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif has introduced the Making FHA More Affordable Act.  This bill would repeal the “life of the loan requirement” for FHA mortgage insurance.  Right now, if a borrower closes an FHA loan with a less than 10% down payment, the mortgage insurance is permanent – it never goes away.  In contrast, the mortgage insurance is cancelled automatically on a conventional (non-FHA) mortgage when the outstanding principal balance reaches 78% of the home’s original value.  In my opinion, this would be a good change for consumers who need FHA financing.  I don’t think they should have to pay the mortgage insurance after they have 22% equity in their home.
  • Under Ben Carson, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a report signaling an easing in FHA requirements for condominiums.  Currently, to close a FHA loan on a condo, the condo complex must be on the FHA approved list.  Condos apply for FHA approval based on a number of FHA-specified criteria.  If the complex is not on the FHA approved list, a buyer cannot obtain a FHA loan and must obtain conventional financing.  The National Association of Realtors reported that of the 614,000 condo sales in 2016, only 4% were closed with FHA financing. 
  • In addition to loosening FHA condo complex approval guidelines, the administration is also indicating that it wants to revive FHA’s “spot loan” program.  This program allows homebuyers to purchase a  condo in a complex that has not been approved for FHA financing.  Some estimates have claimed that without the spot loan program, 90% of condo projects cannot have buyers with FHA mortgages. 

We mortgage lenders must work within the rules defined by the regulators – we don’t make the decisions.  But I think the above changes would be very positive, as they would make home and condo ownership less expensive and more realistic for buyers who need the FHA loan program. 

If you know a potential home buyer in Georgia who wants to know if they are on Santa’s, sorry, FHA’s, “good list,” have them contact me at Dunwoody Mortgage.  We will work within FHA guidelines (and explore other potential loan options) to make sure they get the best deal on their mortgage, and hopefully enjoy some FHA guideline “gifts” from Washington soon.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

Happy Holidays

December 17, 2017 by
Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

Republican tax plan and mortgage rates

December 12, 2017 by

All signs are pointing to the Republican party passing tax reform. The Republicans are using the “budge reconciliation” process to get the bill passed. By going this route, the Republicans avoid the need for 60 votes for approval in the Senate while preventing the Democrats the ability to use  a filibuster. Whether you opposed tax reform OR couldn’t wait until it arrived, tax reform seems likely to be here once the House and Senate finish reconciling their two tax reform bills.

What does this mean for mortgage rates?

Initially, nothing. On the surface, tax reform has no direct impact on mortgage rates. This is just like when the Federal Reserve raises the Federal Funds Rate. The Funds rate impacts second mortgages, car loans, credit card rates, etc., and not mortgage rates. But…. the impact these have on the market can impact mortgage rates.

Stocks have been on a major rally for roughly two years now. The DOW continues to set record highs. Why the surge? Wall Street has bet on tax reform that would benefit business. Trump’s election prompted a big rally back in November 2016, and this rally continued throughout 2017.

Now that tax reform is here, stocks seem poised to continue their good run and maybe continue to push higher. As stock values rise, bond prices normally fall due to the fact that people are putting more money into stocks than bonds. As bond values fall (specifically mortgage backed security bonds), mortgage rates go up. While tax reform doesn’t directly affect mortgages rates, the impact on stocks can influence mortgage rates.

Frequent readers of this blog are aware of how stock prices/mortgage backed security bond prices impact mortgage rates. If you are new to this blog, use this link to read past posts about the subject. 

Currently mortgage rates are definitely off of their yearly lows and moving back toward their yearly highs of 2017. Combine tax reform, continued stock market rally, and the Federal Reserve no longer purchasing bonds from quantitative easing (they are beginning to sell their bonds now), and you have an environment where mortgage rates could go noticeably higher.

Market analysts have said for years now (since 2010) that “this is the year mortgage rates go up,” and rates haven’t gone up. When do I think rates will go up? At this point, I’ll believe it when I see it. That said, the environment for mortgage rates to increase is as real as it has ever been in the past several years.

Considering refinancing or buying a home, but been pushing it off since rates are so low? Maybe now is the time to at least have a conversation about your plans, timing, and how to proceed? If the home loan will be in the state of Georgia, I can help! Contact me today and we’ll get started!

Conforming Loan Limits going up!

December 5, 2017 by

For the first time since 2006, there is a significant increase in the conventional loan limit. The new maximum loan amount for conventional loans will be $453,100. Technically there was an increase from 2016 to 2017 (from $417,000 to $424,100, which is less than a 2% increase). This time the maximum limit gets a more significant increase.

What does this mean?

Buyers can purchase a $477,000 home with only a 5% down payment. If using a 3% down conventional loan, then the buyer can purchase a home as high as $467,000 in value. Prior to the increase, if a buyer wanted to purchase a home at $500,000 and avoid a Jumbo loan, then the down payment needed to be 15% to get the loan down to $424,100. Now a $500,000 home can be purchased with less than a 10% down payment.

This increases the purchase power for home buyers, and these new conventional loan limits can be used now! The start date for the conforming loan limit increase is January 2018, but the loan process can start today and close after the start of the new year!

Looking to buy a home in the state of Georgia? Wanting to use a conventional loan to purchase $500,000 or so home using a small down payment? Now you can! Contact me today and we’ll get going on your new home!

 

Waiting Periods After Derogatory Credit Items – Bankruptcies

October 30, 2017 by

In the last post, we looked at how lending guidelines require specific waiting periods for different types of “derogatory items” on a borrower’s credit report.  Then we zeroed in on waiting periods following a property foreclosure.  In this post, we will cover the waiting periods required after bankruptcy filings.  As with foreclosures, the different mortgage types specify different waiting periods.  The waiting periods also vary by the type of bankruptcy filed – Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

Let’s start with Chapter 7 – the required waiting periods are as follows:

  • FHA – 2 years from the discharge date
  • VA – 2 years from the discharge date
  • Conventional – 4 years from the discharge or dismissal date
  • Jumbo – 7 years from the discharge date

The waiting period calculations get a bit more complicated with Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings.  The Chapter 13 waiting periods are as follows:

  • FHA – 1 year from the start of the payout period, as long as the borrower has made all required payments on time.
  • VA – 2 years from the discharge date, or if the Chapter 13 is in repayment, the Trustee must document satisfactory payment history for 12 months of the payout period and the court must give permission to enter into a mortgage transaction
  • Conventional – 2 years from the discharge date or 4 years from the dismissal date
  • Jumbo – 7 years from the discharge date.

So ultimately the good news here is that you don’t have to wait “forever” to apply for a new mortgage after a bankruptcy – unless of course you want a jumbo loan.  (7 years is a long time to wait.)  As always, FHA and VA loans are more “forgiving” of past credit problems.

Do you or someone you know have a bankruptcy in your past and now want to buy a home?  It may be possible to make it happen.  Be sure to work with a lender who will ask detailed questions and help coach you to the best option for your specific situation.  I’ve recently closed loans for multiple clients “bouncing back” after a bankruptcy.  It brings joy to close that loan and help my clients reach another financial milestone following their struggles.  Call me at Dunwoody Mortgage and let’s determine the best option for you or whomever you know with a past bankruptcy.

 

Georgia’s TV and Film Industry is Booming. Forget Hollywood! Put Down Roots Right Here.

October 26, 2017 by

On your commute today, you probably passed a yellow TV or movie production sign – they are that common around Atlanta these days.

Look at the numbers:

  • FilmLA says Georgia is the #1 filming location in the world.
  • 320 film & TV productions will be shot here in 2017, generating $9.5 billion in direct spending.
  • The Motion Picture Association of America reports that more than 28,600 Georgians are directly employed by the film industry, while an additional 12,500 people work in production-related jobs.

The movie business may be kind to Georgia, but the mortgage industry traditionally hasn’t been kind to movie makers.

Film and TV studio workers may earn great livings, but they often have irregular employment schedules. Their employer of record can change with each project, and that’s a big red flag for mortgage underwriting. When it comes time to get financing for a home, regularly employed studio employees may be denied because they can’t demonstrate the stable income underwriters demand.

Until now.

I have access to a new loan program that can ease the way to home ownership for film & TV union members. The qualification requirements are simple.

Union members:

  • Who receive W-2s as salary employees
  • Who have two full years of filed tax returns in the film & TV industry

Underwriting will view the union as the employer, rather than the studio, and the union will be able to verify length of employment. The qualifying income will be based on the monthly average income. The borrower will still produce pay stubs to document current year earnings.

If you know someone in the film & TV industry who complains about renting or apartment life, please forward this email.  They may finally be able to put down roots in the new movie mecca.