Education is the key to home ownership

July 10, 2018 by

My colleague, Rodney Shaffer, is putting together a series on the advantages of home ownership. There are four posts as of this entry. They all focus on how home ownership, over time, provides a solid return in investment along with stabilizing/increasing the home owners own net worth.  Those are very good reasons to consider home ownership, but there is still on major hurdle for potential home buyers.

Many potential homebuyers are not aware of the realities of getting a mortgage and may be putting off their purchase because of it.

A new survey from FDIC-insured bank Laurel Road asked college-educated Americans about their homebuying plans. The poll found many misconceptions about the housing market and arranging financing, with down payments, interest rates, and affordability all weighing on potential buyers. The survey found that almost half of respondents are unaware of alterative down payment requirements; instead, believing that 20% down is barrier to their homeownership dreams. This is fundamentally untrue. Conventional loans require as little as 3% down and this is not limited to first time home buyers. FHA loans only require 3.5% down.

There is also a misconception about interest rates with many thinking they will hit 6% by year-end and believing they’ve missed out. This is also untrue. The Mortgage Bankers Association forecast for year end is just 4.6%, which is about where rates sit now. Why do people think mortgage rates will continue to rise? While mortgage rates can rise, most believe they will rise exponentially due to the Federal Reserve raising rates. The Federal Reserve raising rates doesn’t directly impact mortgage rates (it does impact home equity lines, car loan rates, credit card rates, etc.). This blog has discussed ad nauseam the fact that mortgage rates are not directly tied to the Federal Reserve raising rates. Recent examples can be found here, here and here. For the full list of entries dealing with this topic, check out this link. It is a lot of posts.

In reality, you STILL do not need 20% down in order to qualify to purchase a home. While rates are higher in 2018 versus previous years, they are not anywhere close to 6%. Don’t get mortgage rates confused with prime rate (that is over 5% and will be closer to 6% by the end of the year. Prime rate and mortgage rates are not the same thing!

Wanting to buy a home in Georgia but don’t have 20% down? Not a problem! Contact me today, and I can help you toward owning your new home!

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Feds raising rates again?

June 12, 2018 by

This week the Federal Reserve meets again with the prospects of another hike in the Federal Funds Rate. While there seems to be positive sentiment for an increase, the excitement for an increase is lower than it was a few weeks ago. There are concerns in the markets with events overseas, increased prices in oil, and a sluggish first quarter of economic growth in the US.

If the Fed raises rates, it would be the seventh increase within the past 30 months. That said, rates would still be well below where they were at the start of the recession. Whether they raise rates or not, analysts will be watching carefully for the Fed’s statement which will be released on Wednesday along with the rate decision. This statement may give us a clue of what the Fed is thinking about rate increases for the rest of the year and perhaps even into next year. A major question to answer will be at what level will they consider rates “normalized.”

In terms of mortgage rates, the last several times the Feds have raised the Federal Funds Rate, mortgage rates have either improved or at least stayed the same. Why? The higher the Federal Funds Rate, the more inflation is kept in check. Since mortgage rates hate inflation, this can help push mortgage rates down. Considering mortgage rates have increased by 0.750% this year, any relief would be welcomed. So don’t worry about hearing the Feds are raising rates because that may actually help mortgage rates improve.

Looking to get prequalified to buy a home in Georgia? Contact me today today and I can help you toward owing your new home!

Study Shows Financial Benefits of Home Ownership – Part 4

May 30, 2018 by


Here is another observation from the homeownership study by Laurie S. Goodman and Christopher Mayer (https://www.urban.org/research/publication/homeownership-and-american-dream) – home ownership is especially prevalent for Americans near retirement age, and this suggests that “most households view homeownership as a critical part of a life-cycle plan for savings and retirement” (p. 43).

The study notes that home ownership rates peak at or near retirement.  80% of Americans aged 65 to 74 own a home.  In most European countries, the ownership rate at this age peaks between 75 and 90 percent.  This is much higher than the ownership rate for younger households.  Home equity for older households in large European countries exceeded 8 trillion euros in 2013.  At the same time, seniors in America held 5 trillion euros in home equity. 

Regarding home ownership effects on retirement savings, the authors conclude, “This pattern suggests that home equity often plays an important role in retirement savings, although homeowners often don’t access the equity directly except for the rent-free use of the property” (p. 34).  The bottom line is that wealth built from home ownership plays a key role in retirement savings for many, many people.

Do you have a friend in Georgia who is renting and laments that she will never be able to retire?  Connect your friend with me at Dunwoody Mortgage.  We will explore all options to see if we can get her in a home.  If not now, we can help her plan for a future home purchase.  Then she can start building her wealth every month instead of building wealth for her landlord.

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.

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.