Low housing inventory

May 22, 2018 by

It is definitely a seller’s market. The amount of inventory on the market is well below what is considered a balanced market – 6 months of homes is ideal. In the metro Atlanta area, the actual inventory is hovering around 3 months. Atlanta is not alone. Most major cities and almost all of the US faces a shortage of homes.

How did we get here?

I am sure many of you have heard the stat that a couple of hundred thousand jobs need to be created each month to keep up with population growth/new people entering the job market. Well, the same holds true for the housing market. Due to homes becoming dilapidated, burned down, flooded, disaster area, etc. you need new homes built every year to keep up with population growth. That is where one of our inventory problems lie. You see, housing construction has not kept pace with population growth in the U.S. for more than a decade. In order to catch up across the nation, builders will need to construct 7.3 million more homes. Also, home construction per household is near the lowest level in 60 years, John Rappaport, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, told the Wall Street Journal.

From 2009-2013/2014, it was a buyer’s market. There were too many homes on the market due to foreclosures and short sales from the housing crash. Now the pendulum swung the other way, and it is a seller’s market. Eventually, it will balance out, but that is of little solace for someone buying a home right now. Is there anything a buyer can do in this market to be more competitive with other buyers?

Yes, there is! Instead of doing a prequalification or pre-approval, buyers can start the loan process prior to being under contract to purchase a home. By going through underwriting early, I can provide my clients with a letter that says they are credit qualified and can close once an acceptable appraisal is back on the home. This can turn into a very quick close for a seller and gives the seller confidence in the buyer’s ability to close on the home loan.

Out there looking for your new home? Are you finding it to be a competitive environment? Give yourself an advantage by going through the underwriting process prior to being under contract. If you are looking to buy in the state of Georgia, contact me today. We can get the loan process started and put you on your way to home ownership.

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Changes to loan guidelines

May 15, 2018 by

Guidelines for getting approval on a home loan can seem like a moving target – they always seem to be changing. While that isn’t true, technically, what is true is this… there are so many guidelines in terms of a buyer’s qualifications (assets, credit, income, etc.) that small changes do tend to happen often. Here are some changes that we may have missed.

IRS Tax Payment plans – this one can be handy when looking to buy a home BUT a larger-than-expected tax bill comes due. As long as there is not a federal tax lien filed, the borrower can move forward with the home purchase using an accepted IRS tax payment plan. The borrower would provide the monthly tax payment, proof of IRS tax payment plan acceptance, and the reminder payment coupon for the second payment. Only one payment needs to be made. In regards to qualifying, the monthly payment is calculated as if it were any other debt such as a monthly car payment, student loan payment, etc.

Sourcing funds – all of those cash or check deposits made into a bank account… during the crash, it seemed we would need to document any deposit that was over $100. It was a nightmare. Fortunately, it has relaxed now. The guideline is any deposit that is less than half of monthly income can be ignored. This means the number of deposits that need to be documented dramatically decreased. One caveat to this is the number of deposits. If no individual deposit is over half of monthly income, but there are multiple deposits adding up to over half of the monthly income, and underwriter can request all of the deposits be documented to ensure no one gave our home buyer extra money as an incentive to purchase the home. While this caveat can be used by an underwriter, it is rare.

Liquidating retirement funds – in some cases (depending on the amount being liquidating and/or loan program), we no longer need to document the liquidation of retirement assets for funds to close. We just need to show the money exists and is accessible to our borrower.

IRS Tax Transcripts – we’ll begin and end with the IRS… IRS tax transcripts are no longer required in a majority of loan situations now. There are some programs that still require it, but tax transcripts are no longer ordered for every single loan. This helps speed up the process of buying a home. Over the past few years during the IRS busy season (think April 15th and Oct 15th), getting copies of transcripts could be delayed. That, in turn, could cause delays for getting loan approval.

In all of these examples, the requirements for loan approval has lightened up some from the housing crash, which is especially helpful during the home buying process.

Wanting to buy a home this year? Looking in the state of Georgia? If so, contact me! I can get you prequalified and well on your way to owning your new home.

 

Study Shows Financial Benefits of Home Ownership – Part 3

May 8, 2018 by

Here is another conclusion from the homeownership study by Laurie S. Goodman and Christopher Mayer (https://www.urban.org/research/publication/homeownership-and-american-dream) – although homeownership carries risks, over time, homeownership correlates with strong wealth accumulation.  The wealth accumulation benefits show the strongest links to owners who maintain their homeownership during market fluctuations (page 53).  In my opinion, this is one of the strongest arguments for home ownership.

With every mortgage payment, the homeowner increases equity and wealth because each payment has a principal component.  If you want to keep your house, you must make your payments, and you grow your equity with each payment.  You grow your wealth by paying a bill.  This means that even folks with less financial discipline – who may not set aside money for “savings” – still build wealth with every mortgage payment.  So homeowners grow wealth first by making their regular payments.

 

Secondly, price appreciation also provides long-term wealth benefits.  The study notes that “Homes have generally appreciated in price over time,” (page 52).  So over time, the homeowner increases his / her ownership percentage of a generally appreciating asset.  Since we humans have to pay for a place to live, why not build wealth as you pay for housing as opposed to rent payments that are simply an expense?

The study also states that homeowners can increase their home’s value by making some improvements themselves.  The home owner’s “sweat equity” serves as yet another way to grow wealth through home ownership.

To wrap up, I’ll quote this statement, “There is little evidence of an alternative savings vehicle (other than a government-mandated program like Social Security) that would successfully encourage low-to-moderate income households to obtain substantial savings outside of owning a home” (page 43).  Like the regular Social Security contributions we make, mortgage payments serve like a “forced savings plan.”  Unlike Social Security, which is subject to the whims of politicians and bureaucratic calculations, homeowners own a specific asset which can appreciate and in which they can invest more.  What’s not to love?

As noted in the first paragraph, home owners must be able to hang on during market fluctuations.  Buying a home with a short-term horizon can decrease wealth.  We all endured a home price roller coaster from 2006 to 2013.  Although this period is fresh in our minds, remember that the only other time when we had home price swings of that magnitude was during the Great Depression.

In the next post, we will explore some other “pitfalls” of ownership, from a financial perspective.  For now, do you have a friend who expresses frustration about ever-increasing rent payments?  Ask them if they would like to increase their own net worth every month (instead of their landlord’s net worth).  Then refer them to me.  We at Dunwoody Mortgage will help them plan effectively for long-term ownership and wealth accumulation.  And we will take great care of them through the process.

 

Study Shows Financial Benefits of Home Ownership – Part 2

April 11, 2018 by

When considering a home purchase, people generally like to have some data to analyze the pros and cons.  Luckily for you, I found a recent study that discusses some of these details.  Also luckily for you, I read it so you don’t have to read it!  You can find a link to the report below, but let’s hit some of the highlights.

The homeownership study by Laurie S. Goodman and Christopher Mayer (https://www.urban.org/research/publication/homeownership-and-american-dream) first concludes that financial returns for a home purchase in a “normal” market are “strong” and typically outperform the stock market.  Goodman and Mayer analyzed home (not apartment) rental data from Zillow, national home ownership cost data from the American Housing Survey (plus other sources for local market data), along with home sales price data.   Their analysis begins by assuming a home purchase at the end of 2002, prior to significant home price increases in 2003 – 2006 followed by the decline in the 2007 – 2012 years (If you want more details, you can see of yourself using the link above on pages 44-45).

The authors go on to explain how they compare the costs of renting a house versus the costs and equity appreciation vs. tax benefits of home ownership.  I’ll let you chew through the details.  They provide a detailed table analyzing multiple years of home ownership relative to other potential investments.  It is very interesting to look at the details on an annual basis over the study’s time frame.  (You can find this information on pages 45 – 46).

(Perhaps a home is not best for everyone)

Ultimately, the authors conclude (page 47) that owning a house “appears to be generally financially advantageous relative to renting, regardless of whether a home buyer itemizes deductions.”  Another key finding reads, “Including the value of deductions, the homebuyer would have outperformed all the alternative investments in all years.”  Note that they report buyers who did not itemize would show a few years of underperforming a comparative index.

As a mortgage lender, I wish there were additional analysis using returns for down payments of less than 20% (the authors’ assumption), as many of my clients do make smaller down payments.  I also find it interesting to consider the “holding period” of home ownership relative to the changes in property values seen during the period of 2008 through 2016.  Bottom line, it really helps the home owner’s return when property values appreciate – no duh, right?

More details to come in a future post.  For now, do you know someone considering buying a Georgia home in the next 3 months?  Are they thinking about renewing a lease?  If so, forward this post to them and ask them to call me.  We can discuss the financial pros and cons of their decision.  If they elect to buy, we at Dunwoody Mortgage will take great care of them and work hard to make their mortgage experience great.

When volatility became normal

April 11, 2018 by


Welcome to 2018. The year where daily 400 point swings on the Dow became normal. In the words of Théoden, King of Rohan, “How did it come to this?”

 

There are a few economic events playing into the recent volatility seen on Wall Street. In no particular order:

  1. Stocks are a little more nervous about inflation.
  2. Stocks are unsettled from rumors of trade wars coming with countries imposing tariffs on one another.
  3. Stocks seemingly rebound after big drops because the numbers on the economy itself are still sound.
  4. The Republican tax plan may also be encouraging businesses to spend.
  5. Businesses are expecting more overall to some of the regulations imposed on them.

Those are some good reasons for stocks to be bouncing back and forth – sometimes literally daily swings in the 100s of points.

This being a mortgage blog, our readers want to know how the volatility impacts mortgage rates. Normally, when stocks have a rough day and lose hundreds of points, mortgage rates improve. How have mortgage rates responded over the past 6 weeks?… they’ve been flat.

Mortgage rates haven’t really improved on days stocks tumble, or got worse on days stocks have rebounded. This is a sure sign the market is expecting volatility and not overreacting to a single day. Will this continue? If stocks drop below 20,000, I would expect mortgage rates to improve (and vice versa should stocks get better). For now, rates have held firm and not overreacted to the craziness on Wall Street. The only damage to mortgage rates to this point has been the half point rise to start the year.

Out looking to purchase a home in the spring market? Needing to get prequalified? Contact me today! If in the state of Georgia, we can have you ready to purchase a home in no time!

Study Shows Financial Benefits of Home Ownership – Part 1

March 28, 2018 by

People have often asked me if owning a house is better financially than renting.  Owning and renting both have pros and cons, and trying to quantify financial comparisons can be quite challenging.  I have recently reviewed a detailed study on home ownership by Laurie S. Goodman and Christopher Mayer.  Their article is entitled Homeownership and the American Dream.  Here is a link where you can download the report .pdf if you want to review the entire document:  https://www.urban.org/research/publication/homeownership-and-american-dream

I will spend the next few posts highlighting some of their findings.  Here is a quick summary of their conclusions:

  • Financial returns for a home purchase in a “normal” market typically outperform the stock market.
  • Home ownership encourages savings in low-to-moderate income households better than alternative savings strategies (except perhaps for a government-required program like Social Security).
  • Home ownership is prevalent in almost all countries and especially so for people nearing retirement age, indicating that most households consider homeownership an important part of saving for retirement.

The bottom line is that home ownership is still good financially for most homeowners, based on the report’s analysis.

Home ownership may not be the best option in certain circumstances.  For example, if a potential career change may require you to move in 2 years or less, renting may be a better financial choice due to a home purchase’s transaction costs.  And the report highlights that the magnitude of ownership’s financial benefits depends on details like property tax rates, itemization of tax return deductions, etc.

Do you know someone considering buying a Georgia home in the next 3 months?  Are they debating whether to renew their lease?  If so, forward this post to them and ask them to call me.  We can discuss the financial pros and cons of their decision.  If they elect to buy, we at Dunwoody Mortgage will take great care of them and work hard to make their mortgage experience great.

New guidelines for PMI

March 5, 2018 by

Not that long ago, conventional loan guidelines began allowing borrowers to have a back debt to income ratio as high as 50%. The “back” ratio is the new housing payment + all other debt / monthly income. The limit was 45%, so the increase allowed  borrowers to carry a slightly higher debt threshold. This is closer to what FHA allows (up to 55%).

Private Mortgage Insurance companies observed the change, and then began making changes of their own. As of this post, all but one of the major PMI companies have changed their guidelines to reflect the following requirement. For borrowers with a debt to income ratio at 45-50%, their credit score must be over 700. For all other borrowers with a debt to income ratio under 45 %, credit scores can go as low as 620. While this change won’t impact a majority of home buyers, it is significant. Basically, if a buyer has a higher debt to income ratio and  a credit score under 700, then they must use an FHA loan to buy a home (or VA if they qualify for a VA loan). For now, conventional loans may not be an option.

Guidelines change frequently, and this could be temporary to see how conventional loans with a debt to income ratio of 45-50% perform. Hopefully that will be the case, but for now, it is in place.

Planning on using a conventional loan to purchase a home, but have a high debt to income ratio? If you are buying a home in Georgia, let’s talk sooner rather than later and make sure no changes need to be made to current plans.

HELOC interest potentially tax deductible

February 27, 2018 by

A clarification has been issued by the Internal Revenue Service about the deductibility of interest that is paid on home-equity lines.

Under the Republican tax law, joint taxpayers can deduct interest on home loans. This includes first mortgages used to secure primary and secondary homes. OK. Sounds right. Nothing unusual so far…

What caused a ruckus was the suspension of the interest deduction for home-equity loans, home-equity lines of credit and second mortgages from 2018 until 2026.

But an exception exists!

WHAT?? Really? Tell me more!

The IRS clarified the new tax law in response to many questions submitted to the IRS by taxpayers and tax professionals. According to IR-2018-32 issued Tuesday by the agency, when HELs & HELOCs are utilized to buy, build or substantially improve the residential properties used as security for the loans, the interest is tax deductible. An example of a deductible expense is when the proceeds from the loan are used to build an addition to an existing home. On the other hand, if the proceeds from lines of credit are utilized to pay off personal expenses, no deduction is allowed.

As was the case under the prior law, the equity line loan must be secured by a primary residence or second home, not exceed the cost of the home, and meet other requirements.

How to proceed? Contact your tax professional. While the IRS provided the clarification, it also said “meet other requirements.” The IRS also did not distinguish how to apply if portions of the equity line was used. For example, what if someone has a $100,000 equity line. They use $80,000 for an addition to the home, but $20,000 to pay off credit card debt.

While this is welcome news, its application can still be tricky. Contact your tax professional today to find out more. If you need a referral to a tax professional, do let me know!

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.

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!