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A patch for the QM patch

July 14, 2020

Back in February 2020 BC (before Covid), the Qualified Mortgage Patch (QM patch) situation made headlines in the mortgage industry. And a month later, Covid took over all headlines.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) provided an update to the QM patch. For those of you who like reading, check out my previous posts on the proposed changes to QM loans and the history of how we got to QM loans.

The TL;DR version is simply… there is a debt to income exemption for those applying for a mortgage backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA and USDA loans. The CFPB wrote in 2014 the debt to income ratio could not exceed 43%, yet allowed a temporary “patch” to allow the loan programs listed above time to transition.

Eliminating the patch would be shattering for the mortgage industry. Conventional loans (Fannie/Freddie) allow for a debt to income ratio up to 50%, and FHA can go as high as 55%.

I know what some readers may be thinking… “someone should not be able to purchase a home with a debt load that high.” While I get the sentiment, it isn’t always straight forward as “too much debt.” Here are some examples:

  • self employed borrower writing off a lot of their gross income. This lowers what appears to be their income on paper through the “magic of accounting,” yet their real income is higher.
  • joint applicants deciding to apply with only one person. Let’s say two people are buying a home. One has great credit. The other does not. The person with great credit qualifies (barely) on their own, so on paper the debt to income ratio is high. But without the other applicant, we are not seeing the true house hold income (because the other person’s income is not on the loan).
  • Often student loans allow for income-based repayment, yet many loan programs require student loan payments to be either 1% of the balance OR an amortized payment. The higher debt to income ratio allows the higher student loan payments to be absorbed when the client actually won’t be making that high of a student loan payment.

Almost all of my clients with high debt to income ratios fit in these boxes. Meaning the real household cash flow is better than what loan guidelines allow. By requiring a maximum 43% debt to income ratio, it will really hurt many buyers out there (especially those with student loan debt).

The proposed change by the CFPB – eliminate debt to income qualification entirely (Really?ok.), and use a price based approach (measuring the loans APR to an average prime rate of a comparable transaction) as a more reasonable indication of someone’s ability to repay.

Who knows exactly what that means… how it will be implemented… or what loan guidelines will look like for documenting it… the takeaway is this… with the January 2021 deadline approaching, the CFPB is going to find a way to prevent the mortgage/housing industry from being impacted by the implementation of a hard cap of 43% on the debt to income ratio.

Who knows what the final result will be, but it appears we are going to get some sort of change to keep the industry going. If nothing else, perhaps a several year extension of the QM Patch. The last thing anyone wants right now is the slowing of the housing market during a recession!

Moving to the suburbs?

June 16, 2020

Another change in sentiment from Covid is the possibility of people moving from the city and into the suburbs. A recent Harris poll stated about a third of those surveyed are considering moving to the suburbs in light of the pandemic.

Larger lots… more green space… less population density… easier to get to grocery stores… these are essential items for those surveyed considering moving out from the city. Couple this with the my recent post detailing an increased desire for dedicated home office space, we have definite trend changes in home buying due to Covid.

Homes are going fast right now. I’m seeing my clients getting under contract on homes just hitting the market. How does one set their offer apart from such a competitive field. Consider either:

  1. Making a non-contingent offer. If one qualifies to carry two mortgages, it makes the offer more appealing to the seller when they see the offer to buy their home is not contingent on the sale of the potential buyer’s home.
  2. Getting pre-underwritten. Using a “TBD” underwrite strategy is great for potential offers. The seller knows the potential buyer’s credit file (credit score, income, assets) has been reviewed and approved. This gives the seller more confidence the potential buyer’s offer will close.

Using either one (or both) of these options can set an offer apart from others in such a crowded market.

The purchase market is definitely hot right now. If you are buying in the state of Georgia, contact me today. We can get you prequalified and on your way to a “TBD” underwrite to help make your offer more competitive and stand out in the crowd.

Furloughs, layoffs, and low rates

June 9, 2020

The Covid-19 virus created a = interesting dynamic in the housing market (and also for those looking to refinance). The impact on the economy helped push interest rates down to record/near record levels. Covid also caused unemployment to jump for record lows to around 15% (before improving some from the May jobs report).

This combination is interesting for home buyers and home owners. Yes, rates are low (super low). Yet millions of people considering a home loan find themselves either temporarily furloughed and/or laid off from their jobs. The income needed to qualify to take advantage of these super low rates is now missing.

How does one qualify when furloughed/returning to work. It is not as bad as one may think:

  • for those who received a temporary reduction in pay, an updated pay stub showing the new income. Also an updated verification of employment from HR stating the new pay. As long as the buyer still qualifies at the reduced pay, then no need to wait for their salary go back to normal.
  • for those who are furloughed, so far all that is being required is an updated pay stub showing normal income and documentation from HR (such as a letter or an updated Written Verification of Employment) stating the employee is no longer furloughed and back to work full time.
  • for those laid off and finding a new job, if the new job is a W2 salaried position, the first pay stub at the new job.

One doesn’t need to worry about a job gap at this time. When out of work for 6+ months, additional requirements could apply. Considering furloughs/lay offs began in mid March, we are well inside of the 6 month time frame for being unemployed.

I’ve even helped someone buy a home who was furloughed and the brought back to work at 75% of their normal salary. As long as one qualifies at the reduced level, we are good to go.

Two areas I did not touch on that are very important – self employed and those who took advantage of mortgage forbearance. My colleague Rodney Shaffer posted on these topics last month, and you can find those posts here (for self employed) and here (for forbearance).

Covid-19 causing problems for your home buying plans? Impacted by being furloughed, laid off, or a reduction in pay? This doesn’t mean buying a home in 2020 is no longer an option. Contact me today! If buying a home in the state of Georgia, we can run some numbers and see where everything stands. You may be able to buy a home faster than you think!

Pandemic baby boom?

May 26, 2020

Recent comments coming from the Mortgage Brokers Association point to another potential increase to housing demand. The theory is pretty simple based on most of population being asked to stay at home:

  • toward the end of this year/early 2021, there will be a baby boom.
  • there will more than likely be an uptick in divorce filings.
  • many families will want homes with better home office space.

If extremely low inventory wasn’t frustrating enough, the market could see even more buyers coming into it for the reasons listed above. How can one make their offer stand out in such a competitive market?

As mentioned on this blog in previous posts, the best way to make an offer on a home is with a credit approved offer letter. Simply apply for the loan with a “TBD address.” We’ll collect bank statements, pay stubs, tax returns, and submit the file for an underwriting review.

Once approved, the offer letter to the seller will say the file has been reviewed and approved by underwriting. All in the way of getting a loan approval is an appraisal, home insurance, and clear title. Doing this will set your offer apart from others.

Ready to buy in the delayed but not hopping spring market? Want to set your offer apart from others? If buying in the state of Georgia, contact me today! We can get started, pre-underwrite your file, and help you make a strong offer to purchase your next home.

Will home values drop?

May 12, 2020

Will home values drop? Many, many people want to know as the housing market is a major economic indicator for the U.S. If a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is true, we may not experience much of a decline in values.

While home buyers hope values will reduce given the Covid-19 situation, the NAR survey seems to indicate values will hold steady for a few reasons:

  • available homes for sale are lower than normal due to the pandemic impact on the market. A lower supply of homes will mitigate a dramatic drop of home values.
  • NAR expects the normal Spring market activity will shift to later in 2020 as the country/economy/our lives/etc. shift back toward “normal.”
  • with forbearance and most people who filed for unemployment benefits in the “furlough” and not “laid off” category, there is not the concern over high numbers of foreclosures.

So far sellers are holding firm to their list prices with roughly 70% saying they have not lowered prices to attract buyers. About 60% of sellers in the survey admit Covid is only delaying them selling their home this year at their originally intended list price.

In the same survey, about 60% of buyers felt home values would drop due to less competition of people out looking to purchase homes. While the demand for those looking may be down, the supply of homes is also down. As I mentioned earlier in this post, the lack of available homes may mitigate any drop of home values.

What should a buyer do? This is a national survey, so let me address more of the local market.

My advice to buyers is always this… if you find the home meeting your needs, go ahead and make an offer on the home. You cannot always count on the next home being there, or hoping values drop, or hoping mortgage rates stay low. If the home is the right one, go for it!

Buyers are heading back out into the market place. Over the past two weeks, I’ve had several clients go under contract to purchase their new home. The homes under contract went for near, at, or more than the list price. Some of my clients were involved in multiple offer situations.

In other words, in metro Atlanta, it appears recently listed home values are holding and buyers are headed back out into the market. I had one agent tell me there is one home for every three buyers in the metro Atlanta market. If the statement is true, it is still a seller’s market and home values may not come crashing down as some hope (at least not in the near term).

Looking to get out into the delayed Spring market? The housing market is coming back to life! If you are buying in the state of Georgia, contact me today! We can get you prequalified in a few minutes, and you’ll be ready to purchase your new home!

More changes due to Covid

April 21, 2020

I know… I know…. we’ve had our fill of Covid related news. I hear you! I know your head is probably spinning trying to keep up. Mine too! To compensate, let’s get straight to the point!

A post from earlier in April detailed changes in the mortgage industry. One of the changes focused on the increased scrutiny of continued employment due to many layoffs/furloughs throughout the country. Since the post, we’ve experienced more changes.

  • Year to Date Profit and Loss statements are often being required for self employed borrowers. This is to show stable income in the time of Covid.
  • Those getting temporary or permanent salary reductions can still qualify for a home loan. So long as we can show the updated income (pay stub reflecting the reduced pay), and the borrower still qualifies for the loan with the reduced pay, then we can proceed as normal.
  • Investment accounts had a mandatory manual reduction of 50% from the statement balance due to the losses in the stock market (if an investment account shows $200,000, then we could only use $100,000 toward the loan). With the rebound in stocks, the manual adjustment is now 30%.

While the entire experience right now can be frustrating, underwriting has shown some flexibility:

  • P&Ls: I had a client closing where half of their income is earned in the 4th quarter. If you took the first quarter earnings and multiplied by 4 to get a yearly total, the pace would be way off! I had my client compile a P&L from the first quarter in 2019 to compare it to year to date 2020 to show income is similar when compared to the same time last year. The loan was approved.
  • Normally when there is a reduction of income/hours, we need to show the reduction has been in place for a period of time (not just one pay period). Well, we have successfully closed clients after one pay period of the reduced pay so long as they still qualify for the loan with the reduced pay.
  • Updates are happening in relatively real time as the investment account requirement updated as market conditions improved.

I feel underwriting is trying to work with us during this tough time while still meeting the agency guidelines. I’ll work with my clients to present the best case for continued stability of income for those who are in the loan process and being impacted by the fallout from Covid.

Thinking of getting a home loan right now? Rates are still low for those looking to refinance… people are still out looking for homes to purchase. The housing market is still very active. Contact me today, and we can talk about how Covid will impact your ability to purchase a home (if any impact at all). If you are looking to get the loan on a property in the state of Georgia, I can gladly help you with the loan!

An isolated event or a trend?

April 14, 2020

More Covid related news… this week a large nation wide bank stated they were changing conventional loan requirements for buyers. Instead of using Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines, now buyers will need at least 20% down and a 700 (or higher) credit score.

Is this a growing trend in the mortgage industry? Is this bank acting alone?

The real question is “what are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac saying?” Fannie and Freddie have made no changes to their guidelines in terms of existing credit scores or minimum down payments.

  • 3% is still the minimum required down payment for conventional loans
  • 620 is the minimum required credit score

While there have been changes to credit score requirements on government loans, increasing the down payment and credit score on conventional loans is not in play. Until Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac change their guidelines, this is an isolated event and not a trend.

Wanting to purchase a home in the spring market? Needing to buy a home with below average credit or a small down payment? Those loans still exist! If you are looking to buy in the state of Georgia, contact me today. I can get you prequalified in a few minutes, and we can have a talk about the landscape of the mortgage industry in the time of Covid.

Covid-19 creating more changes in mortgage industry

April 2, 2020

Covid-19’s reach extends everywhere in the world. The scope of the impact is staggering. It seems like every day there is something new. Lets try and cover some of the impacts to the mortgage industry.

If you are tired of Covid coverage, then how about something completely unrelated. Who can resist watching hamsters eat burritos!

 Previous posts touched on how Covid impacts mortgage rates and changes for appraisals and foreclosures. Today, let’s touch on more changes.

  • Verification of Employment: there is no standard policy across the board right now. Just know with all of the furloughs and layoffs across the country, documenting continued paid employment is emphasized. This can range from providing additional pay stubs (even if the loan is already approved) to multiple verbal verifications of employment up to the closing date. One good thing is employers are allowed to be called on their mobile phones for these verbal verifications. This is a great change as many offices are closed and everyone is telecommuting.
  • Government loans experienced a change to qualifying credit scores. Most banks increased the minimum credit score for government loans (FHA, VA, USDA) from 580 to 660.
  • Some banks have put caps on the amount of equity that can be taken out during a cash out refinance. Not everyone has made this change. Those who implemented the cap set a limit of $50,000 maximum cash out.
  • Many banks stopped offering Jumbo loans (a Jumbo loan is a loan amount over $510,400).
  • Almost all banks offering non-Qualified Mortgages (non-QM) have stopped funding closings altogether. A non-QM loan is any loan not backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae (FHA/VA/USDA loans).
  • The CARES Act contained language and the option for home owners impacted by Covid to request loan forbearance on their mortgage payments from their loan servicers.

A forbearance is pretty much like deferring a student loan payment. Payments do not need to be made, but interest accrues. For example, let’s say the monthly interest on a mortgage payment is $750, and six mortgage payments are deferred. This means the principal balance of the home loan is increased by $4,500.

Who qualifies? It is designed for home owners who have been directly impacted by Covid. The forbearance provision isn’t really designed for people in this category. Given the increase to one’s principal balance, forbearance also isn’t something one should use unless desperately needed.

Do you qualify? There is so much misinformation out there, be careful when investigating. I cannot stress this enough. To see if you qualify, contact your loan servicer (who you make your mortgage payment to each month). They will let you know more about applying/qualifying.

So… that is a lot!… and that is only this week. Stay tuned as The Mortgage Blog will put up more information as things unfold.

Still looking to buy a home? People are still buying and selling real estate. Looking to take advantage of historically low interest rates? If the property is in Georgia, contact me today. In a few minutes, I can get you qualified and ready for your new home loan.

Made it this far? Need a laugh? Enjoy…

Mortgage rates all over the place

March 17, 2020

Based on the amount of calls and emails I’ve received, most of you know mortgage rates moved to historic lows in March. Rates also shot up about a full point during the middle of the month only to gain some ground back the following week.

What we are experiencing as a society with Covid-19 is unbelievable. All of us are being impacted in some way. There is enough commentary out there, so this blog will stick with what it tries to do best – impacts on the mortgage industry. Some of us are sick of the roller coaster ride with the markets.

Can we get off of this ride?!?

Again, it’s no secret rates are better. The mortgage industry is at an unprecedented level of refinancing home loans. This heavy loan volume is causing underwriting times to get longer than normal. Although purchase loans are not impacted as they get special access to an underwriter. Why? Purchase loans involve moving trucks and refinances do not. Purchases get priority.

So what is moving the markets? Well, it is a lot of things actually.

  • Covid-19: This is the easiest one to focus on because of the disruption to the economy of the world. Bad economic news is usually good news for mortgage rates. This is no exception. Covid-19 pushed stocks off of their all-time highs, and all of this money flowed into bonds pushing mortgage rates lower.
  • Covid-19 trend before cases in the US: International money flowed into US bonds in late 2019 and early 2020 as from an international stand point, there were fears of an economic slow-down. International investors began buying up our bonds and pushing rates slightly down. So the impact of Covid-19, while dramatic during March, was in play for the past several months.
  • Oil Wars: Saudi Arabia and Russia took off the gloves and went at each other. Russian didn’t want to cut back production to try and stabilize oil prices. Instead, Russia wants oil prices to go lower to hurt the US Shale industry (which needs higher oil prices to remain profitable). Since Russia decided to not play nice, Saudi Arabia is flooding the market with oil to gain back market share. Oil prices plunged. Part of the 2,000 point drop of the Dow on 3/9 was the start of the oil wars within OPEC.
  • The Federal Reserve: During the month of March, the Fed cut the Federal Funds rate to zero. With the Feds dramatically lowering rates, many people thought this would directly translate to mortgage rates. So far, it has not. The Federal Funds Rate lowers second mortgages/home equity lines. Mortgages rates are still determined by bond movement. When the Fed lowered rates the first time, mortgage rates actually increased. The second time mortgage rates improved from the previous week. Not because the Fed lowered rates but due to the Fed’s pledge to purchase bonds (specifically mortgage backed security bonds). Mortgage rates improved some after this announcement.

Where are as of this post? Mortgage rates are still low, but not as low as they have been over the past few weeks. Why?

  • Part of this is bond yields improving from their historic low (making mortgage rates worse).
  • Another part is rates were at historic lows in March; meaning, there is way more room for rates to get worse than better.
  • Lastly, the industry is pretty much at capacity and cannot handle more loan volume; meaning, banks are not being as aggressive with mortgage rates as they have more business than they can handle.

Where do we go from here? Who knows! Expect mortgage rates to stay low during market uncertainty, and the market is anything but “stable” right now! I also expect rates will improve back to where they were before the week of March 9th when rates unexpectedly got much worse. Beyond being back to historic low levels, I am not sure rates would improve much more unless things got exceedingly worse with the economy and/or the capacity issue within the mortgage industry subsides.

I am currently advising my clients if they are happy with the rate and the numbers make sense, let’s get going! It is much easier for mortgage rates to get worse than better given where rates currently sit. If unhappy, I am setting target rates to contact clients if/when rates move lower and it makes more sense to refinance.

Looking to refinance while rates are super low? If the home is in the state of Georgia, contact me today. In a short phone call, we can determine if the numbers make sense to refinance today, and if not, set a target rate for when rates improve.

Home inventory hits record lows

March 11, 2020

About that last post… seems with new data coming out, the housing inventory levels will not be as good as initially thought.

Last time on The Mortgage Blog, I discussed a report with forecasts of more inventory in 2020 and a more balanced market in 2021. This may no longer be the case.

As we move into the latter part of the first quarter, all of the stats/numbers are in, finalized, and reviewed from the fourth quarter 2019. The fourth quarter wound up being a busier time than normal as home buyers purchased more homes than usual. They took advantage of stabilized home prices and lower mortgage rates. An already limited inventory selection got even worse.

In fact, inventory levels hit a record low, according to a study by realtor.com. National housing inventory fell by 13.6% in January, the sharpest year-over-year drop in more than four years. With the volume of newly listed properties down by 10.6% since last year, the housing crunch shows no signs of abating in the near future.

The news is bleaker in the metro Atlanta area where builders are way behind on new construction due to all the rain. What can a buyer do in this ultra competitive market?

The best strategy isn’t a prequalification letter… nor a pre-approval… the strongest offer letter one can give is a credit approval letter. This means the file is underwritten prior to making an offer. All the client would need to close is a satisfactory appraisal, clear title, and insurance on the home.

Going this extra step lets the seller know this buyer has been thoroughly vetted and approved pending getting under contract to buy a house.

If you are looking to purchase in the state of Georgia, contact me today. We can get you prequalified for a home loan in 10-15 minutes, and we can also start down the road of getting your file underwritten so you can make a strong offer on your new home!