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!

Home Ready Example Case

June 6, 2017 by

So let’s take a look at a scenario where the Home Ready program can really help a home buyer, let’s call him “John Doe.”  John’s mortgage credit score is 680.  John wants to buy a house priced at $200,000 and he only has about $10,000 in cash.  In addition to his down payment, he will need to use some cash for closing costs and prepaid escrow, so he can really only afford a 3% down payment.

With a standard conventional loan, John would pay a “premium” for a loan with only 3% down.  His monthly principal and interest payment would be around $985.  And his private mortgage insurance (“PMI”) would be expensive at an estimated $226 per month.  So with the standard conventional loan, John would be looking at a mortgage payment of around $1,200, before we add in the escrow payments for homeowner’s insurance and property taxes.

Now let’s assume that John qualifies for Fannie Mae’s Home Ready program.  John can therefore win approval for a 3% down conventional mortgage without having to pay the “premium price” for the low down payment.  He simply must take the $75 online class and pass the quiz at the end.  In this case, John’s monthly principal and interest payment would be around $940.  And John’s PMI would be an estimated $186 per month.  By taking the class and paying $75, John has used the Home Ready program to reduce his mortgage payment (before escrow) to about $1,126.  If John qualifies for the program, Home Ready will save him about $74 per month in this scenario.

Ultimately John will recoup his $75 online class investment in about one month.  That’s a pretty good return, in my opinion.

Now this is just one example using the assumptions provided, but it provides a realistic picture of how the Home Ready program works.  Do you want to buy a house in Georgia soon?  Do you have average to below average credit and not much money for a down payment?  If so, the Home Ready program might be a great way for you to buy that home you want.  Call me at Dunwoody Mortgage and we can review the Home Ready program and other options that could work for you.

PMI vs MIP vs MPI… What is the difference?

May 17, 2017 by

Lots of acronyms there. What do they all mean?

Many people are familiar with the term “PMI” or Private Mortgage Insurance. This is insurance the borrower pays on behalf of the lender in case of a mortgage default. The insurance protects the lender and becomes a requirement when purchasing a home with less than a 20% down payment (or refinancing with less than 20% equity in the home).

MIP stands for Mortgage Insurance Premium and is completely the same thing as PMI, but that is what mortgage insurance is called on FHA loans.

So what is MPI? That stands for Mortgage Protection Insurance. When buying or refinancing a home, the home owner will get plenty of these offers in the mail in the weeks/months after buying a home. Why? Companies pay people to search through newly recorded deeds at the county. This is legal since the deed is a matter of public record. With the deed information, a company knows your name, your new home address, and who did your loan. The offers for Mortgage Protection Insurance will come regularly in the mail, and these companies make it look like the letter is from your mortgage company. They can be sneaky with these letters.

What does MPI do? If you choose this option, MPI will pay the loan balance off for a borrower in the event of their death. Sounds good, but let’s dig a little deeper. The premiums for this insurance are typically significantly higher thank those for life insurance as they require minimal to no medical examination or health screening. Anyone in any health condition can get this insurance by paying the monthly premiums. The other downside is that as mortgage payments are made, the principal balance of their loan reduces. This means the payout in the event of the borrower’s death reduces… in other words, the premiums stay the same, but the death benefit decreases every month.

MPI is a fantastic option for someone who cannot, for whatever reason, qualify for term life insurance. If you can get term life insurance, it is the better way to go. Typically, people can get more coverage that doesn’t diminish each month for a lower monthly premium.

Just bought your first home and don’t have life insurance? Or maybe you’ve owned your home for a few years, but your family has grown since you last looked at your life insurance coverage. Regardless of your need, my friends at the Sheldon Baker Group can assist you in getting free quotes from the top carriers in the life insurance industry. You can check out the Sheldon Baker Group life insurance page here. You can also call 678-793-2322 or email to sheldon@sheldonbakergroup.com.

Whether you use my friends at the Sheldon Baker Group or someone else, life insurance is important as you own a home and/or have a growing family. Use the MPI offers in the mail as a reminder to evaluate your coverage.

 

Geographic Income Limits for Home Ready Program

May 1, 2017 by


One potentially limiting aspect of the Home Ready program is that income limits are specified by census tract.  (Notice I said “potentially.”  We will get back to that point very soon.)  To qualify for the program, the borrower’s income must be less than or equal to the income limit set for the geographic area of the subject property.  Fannie Mae specifies and publishes the geographic income limits as part of the program.  Many areas in Metro Atlanta have an annual income cap of $67,200, but there are many other areas that do not have an income limit.  Now back to the word “potentially.”  If the home you want to buy lies in a no-income-limit area, you could make a million dollars per year or even per month and still qualify for a Home Ready loan for that house.

Two key points to remember here:  First of all, the income limits are based the subject property’s location, so you can have varying income limits in different parts of the same county.  In fact, the eligibility maps go down to the street level, which means that houses on one side of a street could carry a $67,200 income limit and houses on the other side of the same street could have no income limit.  Secondly, the income limits apply only to borrowers on the loan.  If two employed people plan to live in the home, but only one of you is on the loan, then the other occupant’s income does not count toward the income limit.  Of course that means that the sole borrower must qualify for the loan using his or her income only.   

So how can you determine whether you qualify for the Home Ready program’s low down payment / low-interest rate / low mortgage insurance benefits?  You can call me at Dunwoody Mortgage!!  We will first discuss your income and the geographic area where you want to buy.  I can look up the area online and determine whether your income qualifies for Home Ready in that area.  If you meet the geographic income limits, we will complete your loan application, pull your credit report, and run your application through our Automated Underwriting System (“AUS”).  The AUS findings will then determine if you do qualify for Home Ready’s great benefits. 

Buying a house in Georgia and curious whether you can obtain a Home Ready loan?  Give me a call and we will review Home Ready and your other loan options.  Don’t think you will qualify?  We at Dunwoody Mortgage have secured loans for many customers who initially thought they would not qualify.  Don’t assume you cannot win loan approval!  Call me and let’s discuss your situation.  We might just surprise you!! 

 

 

 

Lock and shop with rate float down

April 25, 2017 by

Last time we discussed the competitive market for home buyers. I suggested getting underwritten prior to making an offer on a home. That way the offer can say the buyer is “approved” and can close in about two weeks (only need the appraisal!). When I talk about this option with clients, they also ask about whether they can lock the interest rate. Most lenders/banks prefer a buyer be under contract to purchase a home, but that isn’t the case with Lock and Shop.

Buyers can lock in their interest rate today without a purchase contract, and then go out looking for a home. The program typically works like this:

  • We start the loan process as if we have a contract to purchase a home.
  • We submit the loan to underwriting for approval, and can lock the borrower into a 60 day rate lock.
  • This provides plenty of time to find a home, get under contract, and complete the closing

This is a great program for buyers. They can go ahead and get underwritten for a home purchase. They can also lock in a rate now, and not feel so pressured to find a home before rates could possibly get worse. With a 60 day lock, there really isn’t a rush on either side of the equation (finding a house and then getting loan approval). 60 days is more than enough time for both!

On top of that, there is a one-time FREE float down on the rate lock. The window to use the float down is within 30 days of closing (or rate expiration) and 8 days prior to closing (or rate expiration). If interest rates have improved by 0.250% or more, the rate can be lowered to the current market. That’s it. No fees and no tricks. There is a roughly 3-week window to use the float down, and rates must be improved by 0.250% or more.

If you’d like to learn more about the lock and shop program for a home purchase in Georgia, you know where to find me!

3% Down and a Great Interest Rate!

April 24, 2017 by

National mortgage giant Fannie Mae offers the Home Ready conventional loan program that can be very helpful for qualifying home buyers.  Home Ready enables qualified buyers to obtain a mortgage with a 3% down payment, so it’s great for people with limited available cash.  In addition, when the buyer has an average credit score, Home Ready provides lower interest rates and mortgage insurance premiums relative to standard conventional loans.

One important point is that this program is NOT limited to first time home buyers.  If you have owned a home before or if you have an ownership interest in another property, you may still qualify for a new Home Ready loan, as long as you plan to occupy the new home as your primary residence. 

Home Ready requires that at least one of the home buyers complete an online home buyer education course.  This course costs $75 and takes about 4 to 6 hours to complete.  The course topics include:

  • Home affordability and budgeting
  • Credit ratings and credit improvement
  • Real estate agent selection
  • Mortgages
  • Offer letters
  • Home inspections
  • The closing process

The prospective home buyer will receive a certificate of completion after passing a final quiz and submitting a feedback survey.   Passing the quiz requires a score of 80%, and the buyer receives three attempts to pass the quiz.  If the buyer does not pass the quiz in three attempts, an additional approximately 30 minute telephone educational review session is required.   After obtaining the certificate of completion, the buyer should send a copy to his / her selected lender.

Here are a couple of additional program benefits:

  • Non-occupant borrowers are permitted.
  • Non-borrower household income from a family member (parents or siblings, for example) can be used to support a higher debt to income ratio than the borrower can obtain alone.

Future posts will cover Home Ready’s geographic income limits, and we will give an example scenario to highlight the program benefits.  But keep this in mind for now, if you want to buy a home in Georgia, but your credit score is less than great and you don’t have much available cash for a down payment, Home Ready could be the program that makes home ownership a reality for you.  Call me to discuss Home Ready and other options.  Or if you have a friend or family member who could benefit from Home Ready, forward this blog post to them.  We at Dunwoody Mortgage love to make home ownership a reality for everyone, and it’s especially fun for people who initially think they can’t qualify!

 

Competing in a seller’s market

April 18, 2017 by

By now I’m sure everyone is aware it is a seller’s market right now. In metro Atlanta, there is less than a 3 month supply of homes available to purchase. For a balanced market, it is good to have close to 6 months of homes available. This is a big change from a few years ago when it was a buyer’s market… low ball offers, take time looking, find the absolute perfect home. Today when making an offer, the initial offer starts at the list price. You better get to a property within day or two of it being listed or it may be under contract, and buyers are making compromises on a home. If the home has, say, 80-90% of what they are looking for in a home, make an offer!

Even with those strategies, buyers can still find themselves being one of many offers on a home in this crowded real estate market. How else can a buyer differentiate themselves from the competition?

                              How some home buyers feel in this market!

One way is being underwritten prior to being under contract on a home purchase. I can start the loan process, send out loan docs, collect financial docs, and submit to underwriting with a “To Be Determined” property address. Once out of underwriting, I can give a letter to my clients for an offer that says “Approved”…. not a prequalification letter… not a preapproval letter… a letter that says the buyer is approved for the purchase pending the appraisal. The buyer can also close in as little as two weeks. We only need the appraisal back at that point!

Looking to buy a home in Georgia? Having problems differentiating yourself from other buyers in this crowded market? Contact me today. I can not only help you get prequalified, but we can submit your loan to underwriting for an approval on the loan. That will give you a major advantage over buyers with a letter that says “prequalified” or “preapproved.”